CCCH5054 China: Culture, State and Society
Mothering China: From the Womb to the Nation (Online)

This course is under the thematic cluster(s) of:

  • Gender, Sexuality, and Diversity (GSD)


Course Description

[Lectures and tutorials of this course will be delivered online.]

Why are there so many ‘Tiger Moms’ in China? Why are many Chinese women obsessed with having children, if not a male heir? How did the reforms and revolutions in China shape the notion of motherhood? What does it mean to be a mother in China today? Mothering China seeks to answer these questions from the perspectives of the state, elites, NGOs, and both women who are and are not mothers. The course explores how motherhood in China transformed from a personal experience to a national duty and the question of how national leaders and social elites constructed, sustained and altered the image of mothers between the late nineteenth century and now, a period marked by rapid sociopolitical changes in China. Through a variety of disciplinary lenses, and using dominant trends of mainland China as well as cases of mothering practices in Hong Kong and Taiwan, we will discuss a wide range of material including texts, films and adverts in order to align the changing image of Chinese mothers with the broader history of China’s twentieth-century revolutions.​

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Analyze the historical role of the state in institutionalizing motherhood.
  2. Evaluate the consequences of state-initiated propaganda campaigns, women’s health and population programmes on mothers’ status.
  3. Examine how mothers in China conformed and resisted to the state’s intervention of their sexual, reproductive and mothering experience at different historical points.
  4. Assess how China’s twentieth-century reforms and revolutions shaped mothers’ changing image and experience.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

First semester (Wed)

Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 8
Reading / Self-study 38
Assessment: Group video production and presentation 40
Assessment: Reflection writing 10
Total: 120

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Tutorial presentations and debates 40
In-class assessments 20
Video essay 40

Required Reading

Selections from:

  • Davis, D., & Friedman, S. (Eds.). (2014). Wives, husbands, and lovers: Marriage and sexuality in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and urban China. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
  • Diamant, N. J. (2000). Revolutionizing the family: Politics, love, and divorce in urban and rural China, 1949-1968. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Dikötter, F. (1998). Imperfect conceptions: Medical knowledge, birth defects, and eugenics in China. London: Hurst & Co.
  • Evans, H. (2008). The subject of gender: Daughters and mothers in Urban China. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield.
  • Goldman, M., & Perry, E. J. (Eds.). (2002). Changing meanings of citizenship in modern China. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
  • Johnson, K. A. (2016). China’s hidden children: Abandonment, adoption, and the human costs of the one-child policy. Chicago and London: Chicago University Press.
  • Johnson, T. P. (2011). Childbirth in Republican China: Delivering modernity. Lanham, Md: Lexington Books.
  • Kuo, M. (2012). Intolerable cruelty: Marriage, law, and society in early twentieth-century China. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
  • Lieberman, S. T. (1998). The mother and narrative politics in modern China. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia.
  • Liu, J. (2007). Gender and work in urban China: Women workers of the unlucky generation. London; New York: Routledge.
  • Schneider, M. M. (2014). The ugly wife is a treasure at home: True stories of love and marriage in communist China. Lincoln: Potomac Books.
  • Thiagarajan, M. (2016). Beyond the tiger mom: East-west parenting for the global age. Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing.
  • To, S. (2015). China’s leftover women: Late marriage among professional women and its consequences. Abingdon, Oxon, UK; New York, NY: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.
  • Twine, F. W. (2011). Outsourcing the womb: Race, class and gestational surrogacy in a global market. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Winter, J. M., & Teitelbaum, M. S. (Eds.) (2013). The global spread of fertility decline: Population, fear, and uncertainty. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr C.L. Tsang
School of Humanities (History), Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 2864
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr C.L. Tsang
School of Humanities (History), Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 2864