CCCH9040 China: Culture, State and Society
Representing Contemporary China through Film


Course Description

The course looks at representations of contemporary China (1979-present) in popular Chinese-language films. The cinematic texts are read not just as a “reflection” of Chinese society but as discursive constructions, the product of variable and historically specific sets of relations within particular contexts, and with a complex relationship to social change. Centering on the dynamic interplay between film and society, class discussions encompass issues that have attracted increasing scholarly attention in the field of China Studies in recent years, such as the rise of Chinese nationalism, the emergence of middle class(es) and a consumer society, globalization and cosmopolitanism, nostalgia about the Cultural Revolution, etc. The course aims at cultivating critical thinking among students about the identity of China and Chineseness as well as an array of important cultural and social issues related to post-socialist China and the rise of China in the 21st century. It also seeks to enable students to explore the interpretive possibilities of working within a comparative framework in researching a non-western culture.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate adequate knowledge about Chinese cultural history since 1949 and the development of film in contemporary China.
  2. Apply the conceptual tools learnt from the course to critically read filmatic texts.
  3. Demonstrate skills of examining popular culture in the Chinese context.
  4. Demonstrate an awareness of major social issues in contemporary China and their significance for a globalizing world.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Second semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 10
Film viewing 24
Reading / Self-study 40
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 20
Assessment: Presentation (incl preparation) 8
Total: 126

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Group presentation 20
Class quizzes 40
Final essay 30
Tutorial participation and debate 10

Required Reading

  • Berry, C. (Ed.). (2003). Chinese films in focus: 25 new takes. London: British Film Institute.
  • Berry, C. (Ed.). (2008). Chinese films in focus II. Basingstoke, UK; New York: BFI/Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Berry, C., & Farquhar, M. (2006). China on screen. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Zhang, Y. (2002). Screening China: Critical interventions, cinematic reconfigurations, and the transnational imaginary in contemporary Chinese cinema. Ann Arbor: Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan.

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr G. Song
School of Chinese, Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 7923
Email: gsong@hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr G. Song
School of Chinese, Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 7923
Email: gsong@hku.hk