The Chinese University of Hong Kong Department of History Department of History
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HIST5508C Special Topics in Chinese History: From Revolution to Reform in China, 1949-1976

Semester 2 (2019-2020)

Lecture TimeThursday 6:30pm-8:15pm

VenueYIA 411


Lecturer HE Xiaoqing Rowena ((852) 3943 7128)

Teaching Assistant TSAI Chih-hsi (

Course Description

Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China. Some leaders make such a profound impression on their times, that they appear, figuratively at least, to “possess” their own country. Mao Zedong, the founder of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), who ruled the country from 1949 until his death in 1976, was one such a figure. “The East is Red,” the 1942 song that became China’s unofficial national anthem during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960-70s, referred to Mao as “the people’s great savior,” though many people, in China and abroad, viewed him as a monster, on a par with Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.

This course focuses on the history of the PRC during the era of revolutionary transformation and profound upheaval (1949-1976) that was the hallmark of the reign of Chairman Mao Zedong. This course embraces multiple aspects of Chinese society during that period, including politics, economics, culture, art, education, foreign relations, etc. The goals, institutions, mechanisms of social control, and, not least, the enormous price paid by the Chinese people in the course of striving to achieve Mao’s utopian/dystopian vision of China will command our attention, stimulate our thinking, and provoke lively but mutually respectful discussion. One of the highlights of this course would be the opportunity to have conversations with authors of some of our readings.



This course aims to help students to develop skills to think, write, and speak critically and analytically about the past. We will work together as historians to evaluate historical evidence in primary and secondary sources, to think within historical contexts, to recognize the historical forces at work, to identify continuities and changes, and to understand the ethical dimension of historical interpretations as world citizens.

Assessment & Assignments


Final Project: 60%

Tutorial: 30%

Class Performance: 10%



A detailed list of weekly materials will be provided later

  • Bonnin, Michel, The Lost Generation: The Rustication of China’s Educated Youth, 1968-1980, Chinese University of Hong Kong Press, 2013.
  • Gao, Hua, How the Red Sun Rose: The Origin and Development of the Yan’an Rectification Movement, 1930–1945, Chinese University of Hong Kong Press, 2019.
  • Tan, Hecheng, The Killing Wind: A Chinese County’s Descent into Madness during the Cultural Revolution, Oxford University Press, 2017.
  • Fairbank, John, and Merle Goldman, China: A New History (Harvard University Press, 1999)
  • Merle Goldman, Timothy Cheek, and Carol Lee Hamrin, eds. China’s Intellectuals and the State: In Search of a New relationship (Harvard University Press, 1987).
  • MacFarquhar, Roderick, ed, The Politics of China: 1949-1989 (Cambridge University Press, 1993).
  • Bianco, Lucien, Stalin and Mao: A Comparison of the Russian and Chinese Revolutions (The Chinese University Press, 2018)
  • Chen, Jian, Mao’s China and the Cold War (University of North Carolina Press, 2001)
  • nd Paul G. Pickowicz, and Mark Selden, Chinese Village, Socialist State (Yale University Press, 1991)
  • Alexander V. Pantsov with Steven I. Levine, Mao: The Real Story (Simon & Schuster, 2012)
  • Walder, Andrew G., China under Mao: A Revolution Derailed (Harvard University Press, 2017)
  • Yang, Jisheng, Tombstone The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012)
  • Merle Goldman, Literary Dissent in Communist China (Harvard University Press, 1967).
  • Goldman, M. China’s Intellectuals: Advice and Dissent, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981.
  • MacFarquhar, R. The Hundred Flowers Campaign and the Chinese Intellectuals, London: Octagon Press, 1974.
  • MacFarquhar, R. The Origins of the Cultural Revolution, three volumes, Columbia University Press, 1974, 1983, 1997.
  • Baum, Richard and Frederick C. Teiwes, Ssu-Ch’ing: The Socialist Education Movement of 1962-1966 (Berkeley: University of California Center for Chinese Studies, 1968)
  • Leese, Daniel. Mao Cult: Rhetoric and Ritual in China’s Cultural Revolution, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
  • Esherick, Joseph W. Paul G. Pickowicz, and Andrew G. Walder, eds, The Chinese Cultural Revolution as History. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006.
  • Bernstein, T. Up to the Mountains and Down to the Villages: The Transfer of Youth from Urban to Rural China. Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1977.
  • Brown, Jeremy. City Versus Countryside in Mao’s China: Negotiating the Divide. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012.


Each week’s materials will focus on one theme/topic. These themes/topics are chronologically arranged. In addition to reading required texts, we will watch selected films and documentaries relevant to the period we study. These visual materials aim to facilitate students’ understanding of history through vivid human experience, and to eventually cultivate students’personal moral engagement as well as historical consciousness and intellectual understanding of the world. After all, the history that we are exploring is not just about dates, names, and numbers, but timeless questions such as values and choices, conflict and love, loyalty and betrayal.



This is a student-centered class. Students are expected to be actively engaged in class and to work with other students. Class activities include group discussions, reading and news presentations, lectures, and documentary screenings, and reenactment of historical scenes. I will keep my nine-year tradition of having class lunches/dinners with students who are interested in joining.

We will work together to create an environment for intellectual dialogues and to cultivate informed, responsible, and engaged citizens. Being empathetic and inclusive does not mean that we stay away from core issues; it does not absolve us from our responsibility to engage in critical thinking and honest intellectual debates. I also recognize that we human beings have our own individual differences and preferences in learning styles and strategies. I will keep that in mind and will work with each of you to bring the best out of your potential and talent.

Honesty in Academic Work

Attention is drawn to University policy and regulations on honesty in academic work, and to the disciplinary guidelines and procedures applicable to breaches of such policy and regulations. Details may be found at

With each assignment, students will be required to submit a signed declaration that they are aware of these policies, regulations, guidelines and procedures.

  • In the case of group projects, all members of the group should be asked to sign the declaration, each of whom is responsible and liable to disciplinary actions, irrespective of whether he/she has signed the declaration and whether he/she has contributed, directly or indirectly, to the problematic contents.
  • For assignments in the form of a computer-generated document that is principally text-based and submitted via VeriGuide, the statement, in the form of a receipt, will be issued by the system upon students’ uploading of the soft copy of the assignment.

Assignments without the properly signed declaration will not be graded by teachers.

Only the final version of the assignment should be submitted via VeriGuide.

The submission of a piece of work, or a part of a piece of work, for more than one purpose (e.g. to satisfy the requirements in two different courses) without declaration to this effect shall be regarded as having committed undeclared multiple submissions. It is common and acceptable to reuse a turn of phrase or a sentence or two from one’s own work; but wholesale reuse is problematic. In any case, agreement from the course teacher(s) concerned should be obtained prior to the submission of the piece of work.

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