CCCH9005 China: Culture, State and Society

The Chinese Cultural Revolution

[This course is under the thematic cluster of ‘Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth’.]


Course Description

The Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) was a defining episode in modern China. In ten years, it dismantled the state, party, and economy with widespread social upheaval and violence, followed by unrelenting oppressive campaigns. It dramatically exploded the inherent contradictions of the Communist State. It has exerted a major impact on the direction of Chinese politics, economic reforms, and public protests. This course explores the causes, processes, and impact of the Cultural Revolution (CR), asking why millions of people participated in the CR, who were the agents responsible for the CR, what determined the CR’s multifaceted courses, and what legacy the CR left for the following reform era and the coming future. It introduces students to key intellectual ideas and methodologies from multi-disciplines – history, political and social science, literature, and film. Students will learn to critically assess sources and statements, through which to discover how history is continuously constructed and contested.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a broad understanding of political change, mass movement, revolution, and the fundamental difference between dictatorship and democracy.
  2. Distinguish various disciplinary methodologies involved in the study of the Cultural Revolution.
  3. Show enhanced skills for team work and debate.
  4. Demonstrate enhanced critical thinking.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Courses will be offered four times
Section 1 – First semester (Wed); Section 2 – First semester (Wed); Section 3 – Second semester (Wed); Section 4 – Second semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 8
Reading / Self-study 56
Film viewing, internet research 19
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 16
Assessment: Presentations (incl preparation) 12
Assessment: In-class test 2
Total: 137

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
In-class discussion 25
Tutorial discussion and debate 30
Online discussion 5
In-class test 40

Required Reading

  • MacFarquhar, R., & Schoenhals, M. (2006). Mao’s last revolution. Cambridge, MA; London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. [pp. 1-13, 102-116, 239-262, 301-307, 358-373]
  • Dikötter, F. (2016). The Cultural Revolution: A people’s history, 1962-1976. Bloomsbuy Press. [Chap. 11]
  • Walder, A. G., & Su, Y. (2003). The Cultural Revolution in the countryside: Scope, timing and human impact. The China Quarterly, 173, 74-99. [e-journal]
  • White, L. T. (1989). Policies of chaos: The organizational causes of violence in China’s Cultural Revolution. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. [pp. 3-18]

Online course reading pack. [Containing selected pages from key texts]

Required Film Viewing

  • Gordon, R., & Hinton, C. (Directors). (1996). The gate of heavenly peace [天安門].
  • Hinton, C., Barmé, G., & Gordon, R. (Directors). (2003/2005). Morning sun [八九點鐘的太陽].
  • Jiang, W. (Director). (1994). 陽光燦爛的日子 [In the heat of the sun].
  • Tian, Z. (Director). (1993). 藍風箏 [The blue kite].

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr A. Wang
School of Chinese, Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 7308
Email: awang@hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr A. Wang
School of Chinese, Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 7308
Email: awang@hku.hk