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Public Life in Urban China, 1900-2000


Please enroll at Blackboard: Public Life in Urban China, 1900-2000 (GESCHKULT_K_14931_15S)
TypeResearch Seminar
InstructorDi Wang
InstitutionTexas A&M University
Visiting Professor
RoomHittorfstr. 18 0.17
StartMay 08, 2015 | 10:00 AM
endMay 10, 2015 | 06:00 PM

Bloc Seminar:

Friday (May 8th, 2015) 10 am - 6 pm

Saturday (May 9th, 2015) 10 am - 6 pm

Sunday (May 10th, 2015) 10 am - 6 pm

Student Profile

PhD and MA Students

Course Description:

Chinese cities experienced profound social transformation in the twentieth centuries. In this seminar, students will examine this transformation with a perspective of micro-history by reading three books and three articles on Chengdu—the capital of Sichuan province rather than to observe modern Chinese cities in general. Through class discussion and completion of class works, students will explore the relationship between public space and public life through the window of streets and teahouses, the most popular public space in the city. Public space and public life, as strong expressions of local culture, have always played a central role in the life of Chinese cities, in which urban residents participated in social and political activities. These books and articles will take students into the depths of a city and give students an opportunity to explore urban society under a “microscope.” This seminar will also teach theories and methodologies of studying popular culture, lower-class people, and everyday life.

Course Objectives:

Understand the major themes in studies of the Chinese city

Develop critical thinking of primary and secondary sources

Master research methodologies

Improve academic writing skills



Di Wang, Street Culture in Chengdu: Public Space, Urban Commoners, and Local Politics, 1870-1930. Stanford University Press, 2003.

Di Wang, The Teahouse: Small Business, Everyday Culture, and Public Politics in Chengdu, 1900-1950. Stanford University Press, 2008.

Di Wang, Public Life under Socialism: Teahouses and Political Culture in Urban China, 1950-2000. Forthcoming (a PDF file will be provided by the instructor).


Di Wang, “The Rhythm of the City: Everyday Chengdu in Nineteenth-Century Bamboo-Branch Poetry.” Late Imperial China, 22.1 (June 2003): 33-78.

Di Wang, “The Idle and the Busy: Teahouses and Public Life in Early Twentieth-Century Chengdu.” Journal of Urban History 26.4 (May 2000): 411-437.

Di Wang, “Mahjong and Urban Life: Individual Rights, Collective Interests, and City Image in Post-Mao China.” International Journal of Asian Studies, 11.2 (July 2014): 187-210.



Because of the high concentrated class time, it is important for students to prepare class well in advance. All course works, except the final version of the research paper, should be done before May 8, 2015.

1. Timely, thorough and careful reading of the assigned books and articles and active participation in class discussions, which will be worth 20% of the final course grade, including three questions raised from the readings in each section (5%. Except Section 4 of each day, the there are total 9 reading sections), an oral report on the readings (10-15 minutes, assigned in advance) and leading discussion (10%), and oral reports on the progress of the research paper (5%) on Section 4, May 8.

2. A research paper proposal and a bibliography will be worth 10% of the final course grade (5% each), which is due on Section 4, May 8.

3. A peer review report will be worth 10% of the final course grade, which is due on Section 4, May 9. Each student is required to review another student’s paper and to write a one-page report, which should include:

            To summarize the paper

            To discuss the main ideas and arguments

            To discuss strengths and weaknesses of the paper

            To discuss sources

            To suggest how to improve the paper  

4. Oral presentation of the paper will be worth 10% of the final course grade. The presentation is schedule on Section 4, May 10.

5. Each student is required to write a research paper based on his/her own choice. The topic should have a focus, as specific as possible and should avoid a large and vague topic. An approach of micro-history or new cultural history is encouraged. The topic should, however, at least meet two of the following criterion:

            Popular culture

            Public life


            Everyday life




The research paper should be typed, double-spaced, approximately 15 pages in length (3,250 words or longer). This paper will be worth 50% of the final course grade. The draft (20%) will be due on May 8, and students must revise the paper based on the instructor’s written and oral comments on the draft and classmates’ feedback from peer review. Although the draft will not be graded, a late draft will result in half a letter grade reduction. The final version of the paper will be due on May 31, and no late paper will be accepted. Students should use primary sources to support their research papers. Those considered as primary sources can include edited and published documents, original coverage in newspapers and magazines, government documents, and translations of documents from other languages into English.