This Global Open Course (launched by Tsinghua University) covers the following topics:

  1. The Birth of the Century: The Position of Twentieth Century in Chinese/Global History
  2. Chinese History: Periods and Features
  3. Chinese Culture: the New Perspective
  4. Classical Chinese Rhetoric: The Sounds of Silence
  5. The Cult of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara and Sino-Tibetan Buddhism
  6. Water in Chinese History
  7. Modern China in True Voice: Lu Xun and A Madman’s Diary
  8. Do we reason alike? A logical reflection on the encounters between Chinese and Western traditions

The cultural values of a country influence its national psychology and identity. Citizens’ values and public opinions are conveyed to state leaders through the media and other information channels, both directly and indirectly influencing decisions on foreign policy. The traditional cultural values that influence the psyche of the Chinese people are harmony, benevolence, righteousness, courtesy, wisdom, honesty, loyalty, and filial piety.

“Traditional Chinese Culture” is taught by seven professors from the School of Humanities: WANG Hui, FANG Zhaohui, YUAN Ai, SHEN Weirong, NI Yuping, YUAN Xianxin, and LIU Fenrong.

Course Timetable & Registration links:

Each session will be conducted in English and will be held on every Monday and Wednesday, from 13:30 pm to 14:45 pm (GMT+8) from December 8 onwards. Students will be able to register for each individual session and are welcome to participate during the live interactive section.

In addition, with the generous support from XuetangX (co-founding member of the Global MOOC Alliance), we will convert (part of) the live lectures into a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), so that learners from all time zones can enjoy it at their own pace. You can access the MOOC on “Traditional Chinese Culture” here: https://www.xuetangx.com/page/qhqqgkk

Format of classes: one hour of lecture (will be live-streamed and available for replay) and then followed by 15 minutes of live discussion (will not be live-streamed).

Registration link: https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_5sThO3pOQLWHCZ0iCYdPUQ

If for any reason that Zoom is not accessible, you are most welcome to watch the live stream (and replay) of the lectures at (the specific link will be provided at a later date)

WANG Hui. Distinguished professor of humanities, Director of Tsinghua Institute for Advanced Study in Humanities and Social Sciences, Tsinghua University.

Lecturer:
Wang Hui is a Professor of Literature and History in the School of Humanities and Director of Tsinghua Institute for Advanced Study in Humanities and Social Sciences (TIAS) at Tsinghua University. He is a leading global scholar in the fields of Chinese intellectual history and literature. Among his influential publications are The Rise of Modern Chinese Thought (four volumes in Chinese); China’s New Order; The End of the Revolution; The Politics of Imagining Asia. Named as one of the top 100 intellectuals in the world, Foreign Policy and Prospect (2008). Winner, 2013 Luca Pacioli Prize. Wang completed his undergraduate studies at Yangzhou University and then graduate studies at Nanjing University and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences where he received his Ph.D.

This lecture will make a general review of Chinese history throughout 5,000-years, which involves two sections, ancient China and modern China.

For each major ancient period, we will focus on exploring the main characteristics and achievements in the institution, economy, technology, culture, ideology, religion, art and so on. We will talk about:

  1. the original period (approximately 2200 BC-220 BC) of China, which includes the Xia dynasty, Shang dynasty, Western Zhou dynasty, Spring-Autumn period and Warring States period;
  2. the golden period (220 BC-960 AD), from the unification of China by Qin Dynasty to the end of the Tang Dynasty, including dynasties such as Qin, Han, Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Dynasties, Sui, Tang;
  3. the conservative period (960AD-1911 AD), from Northern Song to late Qing dynasty, including Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties.

As for the modern part, we will divide it into three stages, that is,

  1. the late Qing (1840-1911),
  2. the Republic of China (1912-1949), and
  3. the People’s Republic of China (1949-present),

We will focus on the political revolutions, the social movements, the international and civil wars as well as the ideological and cultural movements, analyzing the formation of Chinese modernity from political, institutional, social and cultural dimensions.

FANG Zhaohui. Professor, Department of History, School of Humanities, Tsinghua University

Lecturer:
FANG Zhaohui received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Fudan University and worked in the Central Compilation & Translation Bureau and the Chinese National Academy of Arts. He has worked in the Department of history of Tsinghua University since April 1996., as well as director of the International Federation of Confucianism (since 2014), director of the Chinese Confucius Society (since 2015), and Taishan Scholar of Shandong Province (since 2020). Fang is currently a full professor in the School of Humanities at Tsinghua University

This lecture will try to explore how to understand Chinese culture on basis of the contemporary culture studies (such as those in cultural anthropology and cultural psychology), focusing on the analysis of three important elements of Chinese culture, that is:

  1. language – the characteristics of the Chinese language and its function in making the earlier maturity of Chinese culture;
  2. religions – the characteristics of traditional Chinese religions such as Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and folk religions and their harmonious coexistences in Chinese history; and
  3. philosophy – traditional Chinese schools of thoughts, including Chinese cosmology, worldview, ethics and logic.

The second part of this report will make a comparative study between Chinese culture and the major world cultures including Western culture, Islamic culture and Indian culture, proposing to understand Chinese culture with three main characteristics, namely, this-worldliness, relationship dominance(guanxi-ism) and collectivism.

Finally, with a review of the intellectual movement of modern China since the end of 19th century, the report will look into the connection between traditional Chinese culture and modernity with some conclusive remarks.

FANG Zhaohui. Professor, Department of History, School of Humanities, Tsinghua University

Lecturer:
FANG Zhaohui received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Fudan University and worked in the Central Compilation & Translation Bureau and the Chinese National Academy of Arts. He has worked in the Department of history of Tsinghua University since April 1996., as well as director of the International Federation of Confucianism (since 2014), director of the Chinese Confucius Society (since 2015), and Taishan Scholar of Shandong Province (since 2020). Fang is currently a full professor in the School of Humanities at Tsinghua University

Effective expression has been studied across the globe since ancient times. What is Chinese rhetoric and how do we explain its distinctive features? This talk will take the rhetoric of “silence” as a key idea to look into various texts from the Chinese classics and probe into their philosophical, political, and historical narratives on the “sounds of silence”. A deeper understanding of classical Chinese rhetoric will not only enable us to appreciate distinct ways to persuade, inform, and motivate audiences. More importantly, a comprehensive understanding of Chinese rhetoric equips us with means of demonstrating our personal and social characters, moral values, and personal integrity.

In this talk, we discuss the development of Chinese rhetoric from a comparative perspective, showing how Chinese rhetoric has been studied in China and the West. Second, we direct our attention towards the rhetoric of silence in early Confucian and Daoist texts, and explore their attitudes towards and functions of silence. Third, we analyze the features of silence in classical Chinese narrative to reveal the dominant ideas on silence in early China. Last, we compare the use of silence with “the rhetoric of laughter” to discuss how and why classical Chinese texts would use non-verbal communication for expression. An in-depth engagement with elements from classical Chinese rhetoric such as silence and laughter have been a crucial way to communicate effectively and sincerely even to this day.

YUAN Ai. Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, School of Humanities, Tsinghua University

Lecturer:
YUAN Ai obtained her D.Phil in Oriental Studies from the University of Oxford in 2018. She was then appointed as an assistant professor at Tsinghua University in the department of philosophy, school of humanities in 2019. Her main research interests include early Chinese intellectual history, Daoist philosophy, and comparative ethics.

In both Han Chinese and Tibetan Buddhism, Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara is undoubtedly the most worshipped and popular deity. Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, the embodiment of compassion, has a thousand hands and thousand eyes, saves the world’s sentient beings out of the boundless sea of suffering to the blissful world of Buddha Amitabha. In the two Mahayana Buddhist belief systems of Han Chinese Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism, the cult of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara has an important position, but its manifestations are very different, highlighting the differences between Sino-Tibetan and Exoteric-Esoteric Buddhist traditions from teachings to rituals.

This talk will proceed from the interpretation of the six-syllable mantra “Om mani padme hum” and its practice rituals, and introduce the different forms of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara worship and their religious meanings and symbolism, so as to explain the common origins of the Han Chinese and Tibetan Buddhist traditions and the history of their evolution and development.

SHEN Weirong, Professor, Department of Chinese Language and Literature, School of Humanities, Tsinghua University.

Lecturer:
SHEN Weirong served as professor and deputy dean of the School of Chinese Classics and of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Religion, Renmin University of China, director of the Institute for the Historical and Philological Studies of China’s Western Regions, and director of the Research Center for the Han-Tibetan Buddhism Study. He is now professor of TIAS (Tsinghua Institute for Advanced Study in Humanities and Social Sciences), professor and supervisor of Ph.D. candidates of the Department of Chinese Language and Literature, Tsinghua University, and pace-setter in scientific researches of the languages and literature of ethnic groups in China. He is specialized in studying the languages and history of China’s western regions, especially the history of Tibet, Tibetan Buddhism, as well as comparative study of Sino-Tibetan Buddhism.

Water has an important role in Chinese history. The Yellow River and the Yangtze River are the mother rivers of China and the cradle of Chinese civilization. Yu the Great’s control of floods and the history of conservancy of the Yellow River and the Huaihe River dynasties have contributed to a powerful and efficient administrative system in China. Water conservancy projects such as Dujiangyan, Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, and Jiangsu-Zhejiang Seawall have effectively secured China’s social and economic development. Traditions such as the Dragon Boat Festival and the Dragon King Temple are an integral part of traditional Chinese culture. China’s extensive water transportation network closely connects the unified country. The fight against drought and flood in the past dynasties has demonstrated the great and unyielding spirit of the Chinese nation.

NI Yuping. Professor, Department of History, School of Humanities, Tsinghua University.

Lecturer:
Ni Yuping completed his doctoral degree in history, postdoctoral position in economics. He was a visiting scholar at the Harvard-Yenching Institute, at Groningen University, and at UCLA. Now he is a professor and doctoral supervisor in the department of history at Tsinghua University.

The New Culture Movement and the May Fourth Movement that occurred in the 1910s were important events that gave birth to modern China. In retrospect of the May Fourth era from later generations, a frequently mentioned criticism was that it abandoned classical Chinese traditions, thus interrupting China’s heritage in culture and traditional thinking. By revisiting the first modern vernacular short story, A Madman’s Diary, by Lu Xun, one of China’s greatest modern writers, and analyzing Lu Xun’s view of language reflected in his writing, this talk attempts to answer the following questions. Does the renewal of language mean the severance of traditions? Why did a new China project have to be based on language? What principles and logic were contained in Lu Xun’s view of language? What imagination about the future of China was contained in writing?

YUAN Xianxin. Associate Professor, Department of Chinese Language and Literature, School of Humanities, Tsinghua University

Lecturer:
YUAN Xianxin is an Associate Professor of the Department of Chinese Language and Literature in the School of Humanities at Tsinghua University. Research interests: Chinese modern and contemporary literature, East Asian modern ideological and cultural history

  • Do Chinese and Westerners think and reason very differently, or do we think alike after all?
  • How has communication between us been possible throughout history?

In this lecture, I will take the logical stance, introduce Chinese ancient logic, and explain how this indigenous tradition engaged with Western ideas from the 17th century onward. I will illustrate in what sense we can meaningfully discuss the similarities, as well as differences between our two traditions.

LIU Fenrong. Professor, Department of Philosophy, School of Humanities, Tsinghua University

Lecturer:
Liu Fenrong received her Ph.D. in philosophy from the Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and her second Ph.D. in Science from the University of Amsterdam. She is currently a Professor in the Department of Philosophy (School of Humanities) at Tsinghua University; Changjiang Scholars Distinguished Professor of the Ministry of Education; Chair Professor, Amsterdam-China Logic Chair; Director, Tsinghua University-University of Amsterdam Joint Research Center for Logic.
Her major research covers modal logic, dynamic preference logic, multi-agent system, and diversity of agents. The aim is to provide abstract models for knowledge update, belief revision and preference change, and to analyze the difference between diverse agents when they carry out these mechanisms.

Registration now to attend live at https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_5sThO3pOQLWHCZ0iCYdPUQ

If for any reason that Zoom is not accessible, you are most welcome to watch the live stream (and replay) of the lectures at (the specific link will be provided at a later date)

You may also be interested in other Tsinghua University’s Global Open Courses:

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