The Chinese University of Hong Kong Department of History Department of History
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HIST4180RH 中國近代史專題研究:平凡的聲音,不尋常的故事:紀錄片與傳記中的歷史與記憶

Semester 1 (2021-2022)

Lecture TimeThursday 3:30pm - 5:15pm

VenueSB UG06

LanguageCantonese

Lecturer Professor Rowena Xiaoqing He ((852)3943 7128 / rowenahe@cuhk.edu.hk)
https://www.history.cuhk.edu.hk/profile/he-xiaoqing-rowena/

Teaching Assistant 劉詩軒 (1155147178@link.cuhk.edu.hk)

Course Description

Those who control the past control the future; those who control the present control the past.
                                                                                                                        ― George Orwell, 1984


Lin Zhao, a Beijing University student, and a Christian, condemned as counterrevolutionary “Rightist,” executed in 1968

Memories of shared historical experiences serve as lessons for societies to learn from the past and inform the present. However, individual memories of ordinary people often become obscured behind the grand narratives of the official accounts of history. This is especially true in societies where history is not just an academic discipline, or a search for historical truth, but a powerful political weapon manipulated by state power to promote historical amnesia, and to impede critical examination of historical tragedies and injustice.
Citizens understand their responsibilities for the future by debating the moral meaning of history. While those in power can erase history or distort memories of the past, the hijacking of history is followed by distortions of all kinds in politics, society, and identity. Public opinion pertaining to democracy and nationalism is inseparable from a collective memory of the nation’s past, be it truthful, selective, or manipulated.
This course will be an intellectual exploration of individual stories and voices, through the lenses of independent documentaries, memoires, biographies, and oral histories, in major historical events throughout the PRC period of modern Chinese history. In parallel to the discussions of the narratives, we would also have the opportunity to speak to authors and documentary film makers who decided to document those stories that would otherwise be invisible and unheard. Milan Kundera describes the struggle of man against power as the struggle of memory against forgetting. An important element of this course will be the critical examination of the contemporary relevance of China’s past, the challenges of the ongoing contest between state-imposed interpretations of history and the independent pursuit of historical knowledge, and its implications on China’s future and its relationship with rest of the world.

Assessment & Assignments

CLASS PARTICIPATION AND ACTIVITIES

This is a student-centered class grounded in the concept of “flipped learning.” Students are expected to be actively engaged in class and to work with other students. Class activities include group discussions, presentations, lectures, documentary/film screenings, and reenactment of historical scenes.
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 avoid core issues; it does not absolve us from our responsibility to engage in critical thinking and honest intellectual debates while treating each other with courtesy and respect. I also recognize that each of us has 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.

Discussion Teams and Team Leaders

At the beginning of the semester, the class will be divided into discussion teams and team members will take turns to be leaders of their team during the semester. Each student learns to take responsibility as a leader as well as work as a team member under the leadership of another student. We all learn both as individuals and as members of groups to which we belong.

Group Discussions

Each class will start with group discussions. We will divide into small groups to discuss major issues relating to the reading materials of the day. In order to participate in group discussions, you will have to finish reading and or watching the required materials before coming to class, know the basic facts, and establish their relations to the larger context. Students will have the chance to work with their own discussion team members as well as other students in the class. By the end of the semester, you will have worked with other classmates in your teamwork. Towards the end of each class, we will vote for the best discussant of the day – one team one vote!

News Presentation on Current Affairs or on Tutorial Topics

Students are expected to keep abreast of news reporting on current developments in China. The present is shaped by the past. The present also continually shapes and reshapes our understanding of the past. Past and present are not separate, but co-exist, sometimes in harmony, sometimes in tension. Students will present with their groups to the class the background (historical, social, political, and/or cultural) of the topic you are presenting, the core facts of the issue (who/what/how/when), the implications, and your critical response. The main challenge is to try to understand the current developments in light of the broader picture, and to discover the historical undercurrents that continue to shape the present. You are encouraged to conduct more research on the issues you are presenting. Imagine that you were the professor and you were to teach your students what you have learned from the materials. After the presentation, students are encouraged to ask questions and provide feedback to the presenters.

Final Project

The final project can be a traditional research paper focusing on a topic of your choice within the period of time we study, a reflective piece integrating primary and secondary source materials, or a creative/artistic project. Students in the past have created projects such as a painting, a poster, a play script, a documentary, a website, a work of fiction, and other creative work. If you are going to work on a creative project, a written introduction needs to be submitted accompanying the actual project, including primary and secondary source materials of the historical/social background, and the why, how, and what of your project. Final projects must follow academic writing styles such as APA, Chicago, and include academic citations.

GRADING
• Attendance and Participation (30%)
• News Presentation (10%)
• Final Project (60%)

References

COURSE MATERIALS

Each week’s materials will focus on one theme/topic. The documentaries and biographies aim to facilitate students’ understanding of history through human experiences, 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. In addition to the films and biographies, we would also read a core text along the way on the uses and abuses of history at different periods of history throughout the world to develop comparative perspectives in time and space.

Books

Veg, Sebastian, ed. (2019). Popular Memories of the Mao Era: From Critical Debate to Reassessing History. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.
MacMillan, Margaret (2010). Dangerous Games: The Uses and Abuses of History (New York: A Modern Library Chronicles Book).
Chang, Jun (1991). Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China
Lian, Xi (2018). Blood Letters: The Untold Story of Lin Zhao, a Martyr in Mao’s China. New York: Basic Books.
Cheng, Nien. Life and Death in Shanghai
Fang, Lizhi (2017). The Most Wanted Man in China: My Journey from Scientist to Enemy of the State.
He, Rowena (2014). Tiananmen Exiles: Voices of the Struggle for Democracy in China
Xu, Youyu, Hua, Ze (2013). In the Shadow of the Rising Dragon: Stories of Repression in the New China.

Independent documentaries:

The Hurricane (2005, about the Land Reform of the late 1940s and early 1950s), Jiang Yue and Duan Jinchuan, 89 minutes.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBZ82iNEsdk
The Spark (2013, about a group of Lanzhou University students who started a publication after being sent to rural areas as Rightists in Gansu Province and witnessed the mass starvation and deaths of the Great Famine, and who eventually were all arrested and given long prison sentences). Hu Jie, 100 minutes.
Searching for Lin Zhao’s Soul (2005, about a Beijing University student turned Rightist who was eventually executed during the Cultural Revolution after being kept in prison for eight years), Hu Jie, 125 minutes.
Though I Am Gone (2006, about Bian Zhongyun, a vice principal of a high school in Beijing who was beaten to death by students in August 1966 at the beginning of the Cultural Revolution), Hu Jie, 75 minutes.

Supplementary

Buried (2009, about the forecast of the Tangshan earthquake of 1976), Wang Libo, 100 minutes.
Karamay (2009, about the great fire of Karamay), Xu Xin.
Our Children (2009, about the experiences of parents whose children were killed when their schools collapsed during 2008 earthquake), Ai Xiaoming, 73 minutes.
Sanlidong (2007, about the lives of more than 300 youths from Shanghai going to Sanlidong Coal Mine for their dreams to contributing to the Construction of the Great Northwest in 1955), Lin Xin, 172 minutes.

Others

How to Succeed in This Course?

• Actively engage in class discussions and activities. Please note that attending classes and finishing all assignments are necessary, but not sufficient conditions for getting a good grade. It is the quality of work that counts, just as in class it is the engagement in class activities that matter.

• Finish all required assignments.

• Finish reading assignments before coming to class. It will help you to contribute to discussions.

• Take notes in class. These notes will help your final projects as well as your other research requirements later such as your graduation thesis.

• Be attentive when other students are presenting and speaking. Share your feedback and learn from each other. We speak with the possibility of being heard; we listen with the possibility of being changed.

Think critically and prepare to be challenged. When you challenge others, do so respectfully and with an open mind. I will provide feedback in class on your presentations, participations, and projects. This way, everyone can benefit from others’ achievements and mistakes. The feedback is not meant to embarrass you but to help improve your learning. Please be prepared that learning can be uncomfortable and you need to step out of your comfort zone.

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 http://www.cuhk.edu.hk/policy/academichonesty/.

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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