Chinese Culture: Tradition

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Owing to its rapid development in recent years, China has moved into the spotlight of the international arena. While understanding modern China's economy, technology and politics is important, knowing its cultural roots and evolution is no less crucial for seeing a full picture of Chinese culture. This course introduces 5 interesting aspects of traditional Chinese culture.

Key questions of the course

  • What was the origin of ancient Confucianism? How does ancient Confucian wisdom help us address the modern human predicament?
  • How does Daoism enlighten us with a butterfly and fish? What is the connection between Daoism and the equality of all living organisms?
  • Why does Buddhism see our present lifetime to be nothing but suffering? How do the Four Noble Truths help liberate us from suffering?
  • What is special about Chinese ancient warfare? Who is Sunzi? What is his book The Art of War about? What can we learn from this famous book?
  • What are the main styles and themes of the paintings in the Song dynasty? Who were the famous painters in that period? How did they collectively usher in a new era of artistic achievement for Chinese traditional paintings?

Course Design

  • A team of 5 experts in Chinese culture has designed the course. They are, in alphabetical order, Dr Chen, Dr Muelenbeld, Dr Fok, Dr Tse and Dr Wan.
  • The compact design of the mini-lectures suits the busy schedule of edX learners.
  • Introductions by animation hosts highlight the key questions of each unit.
  • Illustrations and maps are designed to liven up the mini-lectures.
  • Self-learning is supported by review questions and forums.
  • Cross-referencing enhances a fruitful learning experience across the units of the HKPolyUx series on Chinese culture.


Lang Chen
Lang Chen

Dr Lang Chen’s research interests focus on the religious ideas, praxis, and pursuits of urban, educated Chinese from the late imperial period on. Her book project aims to uncover the often-neglected history of Tiantai Buddhism in the 16th to 17th century. It examines the lay and clerical networks centering on the leading Tiantai monk Youxi Chuandeng (1554-1628) and their interactions with Chan Buddhism. Contrary to the widespread impression of Tiantai as a school for detached pundits, her research shows that it was supported by many liberal literati to be an alternative approach to Chan, seeking to make Buddhist doctrines and practices comprehensible for average people. Dr Chen’s side projects explore how the religious tradition of Chinese literati seen in the 16-17th century has been influencing and adapted in modern and contemporary China. For example, in her journal articles, she situates contemporary writer Shi Tiesheng (1951-2010)’s “syncretic,” non-institutional religious thought within this historical context, showing the continuity of Chinese literati's religious life.

Silvia Fok
Silvia Fok

Dr Silvia Fok received her B.A., M. Phil., and Ph.D. from the University of Hong Kong. Her primary research is contemporary Chinese art. She taught courses of modern and contemporary art history in the Hong Kong Art School and participated in the Hong Kong Art Archive project as the project coordinator from 2002 to 2004. She worked as part-time Lecturer at the Department of Fine Arts, HKU, and the Department of Cultural and Religious Studies, CUHK in 2009 before joining the General Education Centre, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University in January 2010. She has joined the Department of Chinese and Bilingual Studies, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University since 1 July 2020.

Dr Mark Meulenbeld
Dr Mark Meulenbeld

Dr Mark Meulenbeld earned degrees from Leiden University (MA) and Princeton University (PhD). Currently he is Associate Professor in the Department of Chinese Culture and Associate Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He is interested in Chinese religious phenomena, especially the interplay between Daoism and popular religion. Within that field he concretely focuses on demons and gods, ritual lore, and related narrative traditions such as traditional novels, local legends, and theatre.

Wicky Tse
Wicky Tse

Dr Wicky Tse is interested in the military and social history of China in the period between the third century BC and the sixth century AD. His research mainly follows five tracks. The first asks the question of what violence meant and how notions of violence competed with one another. The second focuses on how warfare shaped, and was being shaped by, various social, cultural, and political factors. The third explores how real and imagined frontiers formed and the factors determined their shifting. The four examines the emergence of regional cultures and identities under the façade of a unified empire. The fifth concerns how the above four aspects associated with the development of political culture in early and early medieval China.

David Wan
David Wan

An awardee of teaching awards, Dr David Wan was formerly a teaching fellow in the Department of Chinese Culture. His academic interests include Comparative Religious Studies, Neo-Confucianism, the theory of self-cultivation, metaphysics, and ethics. He is also a certified Philosophical Counsellor.