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ChinaX Book Club: Five Novelists, Five Novels, Five Views of China

Embark on a literary endeavor that explores the dynamics of contemporary China.

Start Date: Sep 28, 2016
Duration: 8 weeks
Price: $195

Course Description

How do we understand the dynamics of contemporary China, its historical vicissitudes, its cultural transformations, and its imaginary and actual engagements in everyday life?

This course, taught in English by Harvard faculty member Professor David Wang, features five world-renowned Chinese authors who illuminate through their writing, in either Chinese or English (translations provided), five aspects of contemporary China. Yu Hua guides us to understand Chinese politics in ten keywords; the Nobel Laureate Mo Yan introduces Chinese native soil literature in terms of magical realism; Yan Lianke exposes the Chinese economic dream as a carnival of the darkest kind; Ha Jin describes the sentimental journey of Chinese men and women in search of love; Wang Anyi chronicles the ups and downs of Shanghai in modern times through a former Miss Shanghai’s adventure.

Through reading the select works of these five authors, we will discuss China in drastic changes, explore issues that concern the Chinese people, and ponder the power (and limitation) of literature in imagining China anew.

What You'll Learn

  • An understanding of why literature matters so much in contemporary China from political, ethical, cultural, and gender perspectives.
  • Methods for developing your own approaches to literature and history and gain a critical appreciation of China’s literary, political, cultural, and gender discourses.
  • Some of the most pressing issues in China: authoritarianism and individual freedom; traditional bonding and revolutionary mandate; literary articulation and political intervention.
  • Chinese cultural phenomena from a global, comparative perspective.
  • Methods for explaining how Chinese civilization underwent metamorphoses in modern times.
  • Methods for the analysis of literary texts and cultural discourses.
  • Methods of critical reading to modern scholarship.
  • Methods for expressing ideas more clearly and confidently; thinking analytically and critically through the study of primary and secondary sources.


David Der-Wei Wang 王德威

David Der-Wei Wang 王德威 Edward C. Henderson Professor of Chinese Literature

Mo Yan 莫言

Mo Yan 莫言 Nobel Prize

Yan Lianke 阎连科

Yan Lianke 阎连科 Franz Kafka Prize

Wang Anyi 王安忆

Wang Anyi 王安忆 Mao Dun Prize

Ha Jin 哈金

Ha Jin 哈金 American Book Prize and Hemingway Prize

Yu Hua 余华

Yu Hua 余华 James Joyce Award



In signing up for this course, you will embark on a literary adventure that spans across China geographically and temporally. The course is meant to be an intensive dive into five contemporary novels, providing a lens to understand contemporary China from a literary perspective. You may choose which novels of the five you wish to explore or explore all five.

The course will cover each novel in a one to two week period beginning with Yu Hua and ending with Wang Anyi. Within the two week period learners are expected to watch the introduction videos and interview of the author, participate in the close reading exercises, and reflect, discuss and engage closely with the reading and each other.

Through this process learners will discover how fiction can be brought to bear on China's history.


If you enroll in the Book Club, you will be responsible for purchasing, borrowing, or otherwise obtaining the books yourself. We have provided purchase links below, but you can also buy the books from your preferred seller, rent them as an e-book, or borrow them from your local library.

Red Sorghum: A Novel of China, by Mo Yan (ISBN: 978-0-14-016854-9)

Available at: *|Publication Site|WorldCat

Lenin's Kisses, by Yan Lianke (ISBN: 978-0-8021-2177-6)

Available at: *|Publication Site|WorldCat

The Song of Everlasting Sorrow, by Wang Anyi (ISBN: 978-0231143431)

Available at: *|Publication Site|WorldCat

Waiting, by Ha Jin (ISBN: 978-0-375-70641-7)

Available at: *|Publication Site|WorldCat

China in 10 Words, by Yu Hua (ISBN: 978-0-307-73979-7)

Available at: *|Publication Site|WorldCat

*Disclosure: will pay a commission to HarvardX for each purchase using the affiliate links above. Thank you for supporting the HarvardX mission.


  • In-depth video introductions of the novels and their significance with each author.
  • General framework for close readings.
  • 10 general reading guide questions for each novel.
  • Close reading exercises using annotatable passages with instructor questions, contextualization, and comments embedded into the learning platform.
  • A comprehensive glossary with relevant literary and historical terms and quotations to reference throughout reading each novel.
  • Individual and peer-to-peer engagements, reflections, discussions.
  • Informal office hour videos with Professor David Wang and a graduate student.
  • Supportive peer-to-peer learning environment.


Week 1: Introduction to Contemporary Chinese Literature and Post-Capitalist China

  • Introduction to ChinaX Book Club
  • Introduction to Yu Hua
  • China in Ten Words
  • Office Hours

Week 2: Introduction to Chinese Native Soil Literature

  • Introduction to Mo Yan
  • Red Sorghum
  • Office Hours

Week 3-4: Introduction to Post-Socialist China

  • Introduction to Yan Lianke
  • Lenin's Kisses
  • Office Hours

Week 5: Introduction to Chinese Literature in Diaspora

  • Introduction to Ha Jin
  • Waiting
  • Office Hours

Week 6-7: Introduction to Women's Voice in Chinese Literature

  • Introduction to Wang Anyi
  • Song of Everlasting Sorrow
  • Office Hours

Week 8: Conclusion

  • Conclusion to the ChinaX Book Club


HarvardXPLUS is online learning reimagined, with you in mind. All HarvardXPLUS courses are taught by Harvard faculty members. Smaller cohorts enable a higher level of peer-to-peer learning and increased engagement with faculty and teaching assistants. Learners who successfully complete the course will earn a unique and valuable HarvardXPLUS branded credential highlighting the skills and knowledge mastered in the course.


This course is opened to anyone who is interested in understanding contemporary China.

  • You may be a high school or college student looking to expand your knowledge of Chinese literature and contemporary Chinese history.
  • You may be a high school or college faculty member who is looking to use some of the materials to think of new ways of teaching online or in the classroom, or to support professional development growth.
  • You may be alumni looking to build your community, a library or book club group that is interested in using the material for your own hybrid learning experience.
  • You may be a lifelong learner interested in better understanding contemporary China.

Whether you are looking for a rigorous intellectual experience or a more flexible path through the novels and novelists, we hope you join us in September!


What is HarvardXPLUS?

HarvardXPLUS is online learning reimagined - with you in mind. With this new initiative as one of the pioneers of high-quality online education, HarvardXPLUS has set out to create an unprecedented online learning experience, one that leverages the immersive content of HarvardX courses, and also features a high-touch community with your peers and with Harvard faculty and teaching assistants. Expectations and academic rigor remain a key element for HarvardXPLUS courses. With smaller cohorts than traditional MOOCs, these limited enrollment courses will offer you a chance for a deeper connection, more peer-to-peer engagement and the opportunity to develop a strong network with fellow learners.

What kind of commitment is required for a HarvardXPLUS course?

The HarvardXPLUS programs offers courses in multiple disciplines that require an eight-week commitment from each learner. Each week learners can anticipate dedicating four to six hours to the course, which includes course readings, discussion forums, videos and assessments.

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Individual and group registrations must be completed within one week of the course start date. Please note that once registration has closed, no late registrations will be granted.

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HarvardXPLUS is designed to create a high touch online learning experience by connecting our learners to Harvard faculty and encouraging peer-to-peer networking. As a result, learners are encouraged to follow the recommended pacing of the course rather than working ahead.

Will I have access to the course materials after I complete it?

Registered and paid learners will have access to the archived course for 90 days. This includes videos, discussion boards, and content. No extensions are granted.

What happens if I do not finish my course on time?

HarvardX Credentials are awarded to students who complete the course successfully in the scheduled time as indicated on the course details page.

How should I list the HarvardXPLUS Credential on my LinkedIn profile?

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How should I list the HarvardXPLUS Credential on my resume?

When you have earned your HarvardX Credential, list it on your resume with the date of completion as follows:

Fall 2016

HarvardXPLUS Credential, ChinaX Book CLub: Five Novelists, Five Novels, Five Views of China

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