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BA East Asian Studies / Course details

Year of entry: 2021

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Course unit details:
Publishing and Print Media in Modern China

Unit code CHIN35221
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Chinese Studies
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course examines the modern history of publishing and print media in China between the 1870s and the 1970s. While printing was invented in China as early as the ninth century, the introduction of new mechanised technologies and modern corporate business practices revolutionised the culture of print and drove the use of print for mass communication in modern China. Chronologically structured, the course unit addresses four main concerns: (1) the relationship between science and technology on the one hand, and the development of new modes of textual communication on the other; (2) the transmission of new print technologies and textual practices internationally and within China; (3) the use of print to portray important historical events and broader processes of cultural and social change; and (4) the impact that print has had on the development of culture in modern China. Students will investigate not just what was printed, but how, by whom, for whom, for what purposes, and with what long-term effects, by exploring the history of print technologies, major publishing houses, printers, and newspapers. The ultimate aim is to provide students a broad introduction to the vibrant and dynamic landscape of print media that characterized this period of Chinese history.



  • Provide students with a sound understanding of the history of publishing, print culture, reading practices, and print media in modern China
  • Foster greater awareness of the size and diversity of primary source material from this period, and of the conditions under which it was produced
  • Provide students with an opportunity to engage with primary Chinese-language source material in conjunction with English-language secondary sources
  • Teach students how to approach understanding media and material history, offering the opportunity to reflect on its role in other places and periods
  • Improve students’ ability to express complex ideas in oral and written form


Knowledge and understanding

  • Show familiarity with key figures and institutions in publishing and print culture in modern China, and be able to identify how these elements developed over time
  • Demonstrate how advances in technology and modes of social organization made possible the production and distribution of different types of print media
  • Illustrate how thinking through print media changes our perspective on important aspects of history

Intellectual skills

  • Read, discuss, and critically analyse materials relating to publishing and print culture history
  • Apply independent critical thinking skills when making use of historical sources
  • Make connections between different figures and institutions, and between publishing history and the larger picture of modern Chinese history
  • Express ideas about this history in the form of well-structured and well-research written essays

Practical skills

  • Think independently and analytically about writing
  • Express ideas clearly in speech and writing
  • Read effectively (both primary and secondary texts)
  • Collaborate well in groups

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Manage time effectively, self-motivate and work to deadlines
  • Communicate a coherent and critical argument of depth and complexity in written form
  • Use information and communication technology (ICT)
  • Assess the relevance and importance of the ideas of others
  • Demonstrate powers of analysis
  • Display good literacy skills in English
  • Show awareness of and responsiveness to the nature and extent of intercultural diversity.

Employability skills


Assessment methods

Essay plan Formative
Essay 50%
Final Take-Home Exam  50%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Regular oral feedback on contributions to class discussion


Feedback on essay plan, due in week 5


Feedback on Essay


Feedback on Exam



Recommended reading

  • Brokaw, Cynthia J., and Kai-wing Chow, eds. Printing and Book Culture in Late Imperial China. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.
  • Clart, Philip, and Gregory Adam Scott, eds. Religious Publishing and Print Culture in Modern China, 1800-2012. Boston; Berlin: De Gruyter, 2015.
  • Judge, Joan. Print and Politics: 'Shibao' and the Culture of Reform in Late Qing China. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996.
  • Reed, Christopher A. Gutenberg in Shanghai: Chinese Print Capitalism, 1876-1937. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2004.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 11
Seminars 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Gregory Scott Unit coordinator

Additional notes



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