GE1501 Chinese Civilisation - History and Philosophy

Course Objectives

  1. Introduce basic knowledge, key concepts and major events in Chinese history and philosophy
  2. Introduce the assessment of source materials
  3. Train critical thinking in historical and philosophical analysis and interpretation
  4. Help students identify the “self” in the modern world

No English sections will be offered to students in Summer Term.


Tutorial group project themes for Semester B 2021/22

Tutorial class section Name of tutorial tutor Group project themes
TB1 BLIX Bjoern Aage Coombes

Student groups are free to choose their own themes for this course (subject to approval). Every student, of every group, must submit individual coursework that is relevant to their group’s theme. Below is a short list of suggested group themes for the tutorial.

  • Group A: Yin and Yang (The Idea of Chinese Origin and Philosophy of Change) 
  • Group B: Mandate of Heaven (The Dynastic Cycle—Rise and Fall; “Politics”, “Leadership”) 
  • Group C: Chinese Spiritual Life (Divination, Sacrifice, Alchemy, Chinese Medicine and so on)  
  • Group D: Chinese Freedom (of belief, election, speech and so on) 
  • Group E: Chinese Family

Students are free to choose their own topics related to the philosopher of the week. 

  • Group A: Confucius
    The meaning of ritual (li 禮) in Confucianism 
    The meaning of sacrifice and spirits in Confucianism: relation with the dead
    Confucianism and the notion of an exemplary person (junzi 君子)
    Relational self: Confucianism and the importance of relationships
    Personal identity. What is the role of individual in Confucian society? 
    Jesuits and the problem of “Westernised” Chinese philosophy
  • Group B: Mozi
    Mozi and the order of the world based on rewards and punishments
    Mozi and the idea of universal love (impartial caring) jian ai 兼愛
    Mozi in comparison to Utilitarianism
    Mozi and moral psychology: what prevents us from donating more to charities?
  • Group C: Mencius 
    Mencius on human nature
    Mencius and the concept of the four sprouts (siduan 四端)
    Mencius debate with Xunzi on human nature: is human nature good or bad?
    Mencius and moral psychology: what “a child falling into a well” tells us about human nature?
  • Group D: Daodejing (Laozi)
    The concept of dao: order of the universe
    The paradox of wu-wei (無為)
    Laozi and the Philosophy of Flow (Spontaneity)
    Laozi: How should ideal society look like? 
  • Group E: Zhuangzi
    Zhuangzi and the use of language
    Zhuangzi and the plurality of perspectives
    Zhuangzi and the story of a butterfly
    Zhuangzi’s perspective on death 
TB3 MINEEVA Aleksandra Olegovna
  1. The concept of “learning” in Confucianism
  2. Yin and Yang metaphysics in early Chinese philosophy   
  3. Historical situation and development of philosophy in Pre-Qin China 
  4. Dynastic cycle and alternative ways to look at Chinese history 
  5. Bureaucracy and its role in the development of Chinese civilization 
  6. Needham Puzzle – does it make sense and what are the ways to answer it?
  7. The Concept of Change in Chinese culture 
  8. Chinese aesthetics – what is beautiful and why?
  9. Traditional Chinese family: what is special about it, how is it similar or different from the traditional family system in your country? 
  10. A portrait of a great ruler. Compare Confucian, Daoist and Legalist perspectives. 
Rickard Sebastian GUSTAVSSON
  • Group A: The Chinese Family  
  • Group B: Chinese Language and Script  
  • Group C: Examination Culture in Imperial China  
  • Group D: Chinese Science and Technology  
  • Group E: Chinese Philosophy
TC4 LI Yiwen
  • Group A: Families in Chinese History  
  • Group B: Chinese Religious Beliefs  
  • Group C: Chinese Science and Technology  
  • Group D: Chinese Arts  
  • Group E: Cities in Chinese History

Click here to view the official course information

Please note that the Cantonese, Putonghua and English sections of GE1501 Chinese Civilisation - History and Philosphy will continue to be offered. Student are encouraged to take GE 1501 according to their study plan.