• Total units 24 Units
  • Areas of interest Asian Languages, Asian Studies, Language Studies
  • Specialisation code LCHN-SPEC
  • Academic career Postgraduate
Literary Chinese language and culture Specialisation

Literary Chinese is a written language that matured long before the Qin dynasty (221-206 B.C.), when China first became an empire. It continued to be used by China's governing and elite cultures for nearly three millennia. A command of Literary Chinese is therefore indispensable for the study of any aspect of Chinese literature, thought, history, politics, or society before the twentieth century. 

The idioms, syntax, style, and allusions of Literary Chinese continue to pervade the modern language. Its enduring influence results from the fact that the great legacies of Chinese culture, right down to the present day, have been largely preserved in this medium. Contemporary Chinese political and social discourse, and education, places increasing emphasis on knowledge of pre-modern Chinese culture and on familiarity with texts written in Literary Chinese. So without a grounding in Literary Chinese, it is impossible to gain a full understanding of the language or content of newspaper articles, literary works, and scholarly prose written in contemporary Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the People's Republic of China. Texts written in Literary Chinese have also shaped the linguistic and cultural traditions of Korea, Japan, and Vietnam.

The Literary Chinese specialisation offers a way into these rich worlds, past and present, through their primary sources. It begins with an introduction to the main sentence patterns and grammatical features of texts from the pre-Qin (before 221 BC) and Han (206 BC to 220 AD) periods. It expands its focus to texts from different periods of the imperial era. It culminates with close study of the registers of language specific to a range of different types of text. Throughout, the focus is on philological translation. The specialisation therefore introduces students to the Sinological reference tools and the contextual knowledge necessary for a full appreciation of the texts under study.

A student may not take a course if that course is a prerequisite for another course which they have already passed, or a course that is a lower level than a course they have already passed.
Students with prior knowledge of the language will be required to take a placement test.

Learning Outcomes

On satisfying the requirements of this specialisation, students will have the knowledge and skills to at an Advanced level of Literary Chinese to:

1. Hypothesise on, analyse, and appraise vocabulary used in different types of Literary Chinese text, with the use of general and specialist dictionaries.

2. Identify and analyse the grammar and sentence structures evident in Literary Chinese texts from pre-imperial and imperial times; and consider their contributions to stylistic and other effects.

3. Analyse linguistic registers used in texts written in complex forms of Literary Chinese and reproduce them in appropriate registers of English.

Other Information

A student may not take a course that is a prerequisite or a lower level than a course which they have already passed.

Students that are commencing language studies who have prior knowledge of the language will be required to take a placement test before enrolling for the first time. Students will not be permitted to enrol in a course at a lower than the level they achieve in the placement test, and may be exempted from compulsory courses.

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This specialisation requires the completion of 24 units, which must consist of

A minimum of 18 units from completion of courses from the following list:

CHIN6530 Literary Chinese 1
CHIN6531 Literary Chinese 2
CHIN6015 Advanced Literary Chinese

A maximum of 6 units may come from completion of courses from the following list:

LANG6001 Translation across Languages: The Translation of Literary Texts
LANG6002 Translation across Languages: Specialised Materials
LANG6016 Translation Project

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