• Class Number 4468
  • Term Code 3230
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In-Person and Online
    • Dr Esther Klein
    • Dr Esther Klein
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 21/02/2022
  • Class End Date 27/05/2022
  • Census Date 31/03/2022
  • Last Date to Enrol 28/02/2022
SELT Survey Results

This is an introductory course in Chinese philosophy. Drawing on the Chinese philosophical tradition from early Confucian and Daoist thought through to late imperial China, the course demonstrates that Chinese philosophical approaches are both interesting in their own right and potentially relevant to contemporary philosophical problems. Students will be introduced to some of the major Chinese philosophical ideas and concepts, with a focus on learning to accurately apply these ideas in real-world contexts. An understanding of the foundations of Chinese thought helps us to make explicit and self-conscious some of the radically different assumptions of Western intellectual traditions. It also provides background knowledge crucial to an informed understanding of many developments in modern and contemporary China.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the key concepts and approaches in Chinese philosophy;
  2. Accurately apply theoretical knowledge to empirical examples drawn from present-day issues;
  3. Compare philosophical thought developed in Chinese contexts with that of other intellectual traditions;
  4. Articulate and critique contrasting philosophical perspectives on a problem in the context of respectful peer interaction and debate;
  5. Create an effective and balanced presentation of a philosophical issue that employs resources from the Chinese philosophical tradition.

Research-Led Teaching

This course prompts students to actively apply resources of the premodern Chinese philosophical tradition to issues of broad contemporary relevance. The topics are designed to fit the fast-changing circumstances of the today's world, and are also drawn from current and proposed interdisciplinary research projects in philosophy and Chinese studies. The course also represents a recent shift in the nature of Chinese philosophy as a discipline, away from a purely historical or comparative approach and toward a more problem-solving based engagement with the contemporary world.

Required Resources

No prior knowledge of Chinese language or culture is required for this course. Required readings will be available electronically, with a selection of additional readings listed on Wattle. Students may choose to engage with primary sources in English translation, the original Classical Chinese, or in modern Chinese translation (where available). All required secondary source readings will be available in English.

Course updates and announcements will appear on Wattle. It is important that students regularly consult the course site and check their University email accounts for notifications.

Some sample readings (not a complete list; in the case of whole books, assigned readings will be short excerpts only)

Angle, S. C. (2012). Contemporary Confucian Political Philosophy (1st edition). Polity.

Chan, J. (2014). Confucian Perfectionism. Princeton University Press.

Confucius. (2000). The Analects (D.C. Lau, Trans.). The Chinese University Press.

Flavel, S. and Hall, B. (2020). “State Maternalism: Rethinking Anarchist Readings of the Daodejing.” Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy, 19.3, 353-369.

Huang, Y. (2010). The Ethics of Difference in the Zhuangzi. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 78(1), 65–99.

LaFargue, M. (1994). Tao and Method: A Reasoned Approach to the Tao Te Ching. SUNY Press.

Mencius. (1970). Mencius (D.C. Lau, Trans.). Penguin UK.

Mozi. (2013). Mozi: A study and translation of the ethical and political writings (J. Knoblock & J. K. Riegel, Trans.). Institute of East Asian Studies, UC Berkeley.

Olberding, A. (2015). From Corpses to Courtesy: Xunzi’s Defense of Etiquette. The Journal of Value Inquiry, 49(1–2), 145–159.

Pines, Y. (2005). “Beasts or Humans: Pre-Imperial Origins of Sino-Barbarian Dichotomy.” In Amitai and Biran eds., Mongols, Turks, and others: Eurasian nomads and the sedentary world. 59-102.

Pines, Y. (2012). Alienating Rhetoric in the Book of Lord Shang and its Moderation. Extrême-Orient Extrême-Occident, 34, 79–110.

Puett, M. (2005). Listening to Sages: Divination, Omens, and the Rhetoric of Antiquity in Wang Chong’s Lunheng. Oriens Extremus, 45, 271–281.

Puett, M., & Gross-Loh, C. (2016). The Path: A New Way to Think About Everything. Penguin UK.

Shang, Y. (2017). The book of Lord Shang: Apologetics of state power in early China. (Yuri Pines, trans.). Columbia University Press.

Sima, Q. (1993). Records of the Grand Historian: Han Dynasty II. (Burton Watson, trans.). Renditions - Columbia University Press.

Wang C. (1907). Lun-heng: Part I: Philosophical Essays of Wang Ch’ung (A. Forke, trans.). Otto Harrassowitz.

Xiang, S. (2019). Why the Confucians had no concept of race (Part I): The antiessentialist cultural understanding of self. Philosophy Compass, 14(10).

Xiang, S. (2019). Why the Confucians had no concept of race (Part II): Cultural difference, environment, and achievement. Philosophy Compass, 14(10).

Xunzi. (1988). Xunzi: A translation and study of the complete works (J. Knoblock, Trans.). Stanford University Press.

Zhuangzi. (2020). Zhuangzi: The Complete Writings (B. Ziporyn, Trans.). Hackett Publishing.

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • written comments
  • verbal comments
  • feedback to whole class, groups, individuals, focus group etc

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Introduction and Background: The Robber Zhi Problem online quiz
2 Introduction and Background: What are we starting with? online quiz
3 Moral Cultivation 1: What is the best (and worst) we can do? online quiz
4 Moral Cultivation 2: How do we get there? (part 1) online quiz
5 Moral Cultivation 3: How do we get there? (part 2) online quiz
6 Moral Cultivation 4: How do we get there? (part 3) online quiz
7 Hierarchy 1: What are hierarchies based on? online quiz, short essay or recording
8 Hierarchy 2: Why (not) meritocracy? online quiz
9 Hierarchy 3: What is the role of the state? online quiz
10 Collectivity 1: Why and how does the origin of the universe matter? online quiz
11 Collectivity 2: How can we deal with problems with freedom and disagreement? online quiz
12 Collectivity 3: What are the consequences of traditional Chinese concepts of race and ethnicity? online quiz

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Learning Outcomes
Class participation 10 % * 1, 2, 3, 4
Online quizzes 20 % * 1, 2, 3
Short writing 20 % 08/04/2022 1, 2, 3, 5
Final writing 35 % 02/06/2022 1, 2, 3, 5
Oral examination 15 % * 1, 2, 3, 5

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the Academic Integrity . In rare cases where online submission using Turnitin software is not technically possible; or where not using Turnitin software has been justified by the Course Convener and approved by the Associate Dean (Education) on the basis of the teaching model being employed; students shall submit assessment online via ‘Wattle’ outside of Turnitin, or failing that in hard copy, or through a combination of submission methods as approved by the Associate Dean (Education). The submission method is detailed below.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.


Participation is required in all three class hours (there will be no traditional lecture). To receive a mark for this aspect of participation (see Assessment 1 above), a student must be present in class, prepared, and willing to speak. Time will be allotted at the end of the third hour for peer interviews and reflection. This will also form part of the participation mark, and can be arranged outside of class if the student is unable to attend the third hour.


An individual oral examination will be scheduled at the convenience of the student and instructor during the final examination period. The examination will take around 15-20 minutes and will be comprehensive, including all topics covered in the course.

Assessment Task 1

Value: 10 %
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 3, 4

Class participation

The mark will consist of a weekly peer interview and brief written reflection, as well as active participation in all classes.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 20 %
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 3

Online quizzes

Quizzes will be given weekly and will assess preparedness—whether you did the reading and thought about it—and must be completed by the end of the first day of class each week. Out of twelve quizzes, only the top ten quiz marks will count toward the final mark.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 20 %
Due Date: 08/04/2022
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 3, 5

Short writing

One short piece of writing (1500 words) will be due after week 6 (“Cultivation” topic). This will involve both an analytical component and a component of personal engagement.

Assessment Task 4

Value: 35 %
Due Date: 02/06/2022
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 3, 5

Final writing

A slightly longer writing assignment (2000 words) will be due on the first day of the examination period ("Hierarchy" and "Collectivity" topics). This will involve both an analytical component and a component of personal engagement.

Assessment Task 5

Value: 15 %
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 3, 5

Oral examination

An oral examination will be scheduled individually during the final examination period. It will be comprehensive and give students the opportunity to reflect on what they have learned about Chinese philosophical tradition and its relevance to contemporary issues.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of the ANU culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically, committing to honest and responsible scholarly practice and upholding these values with respect and fairness.

The ANU commits to assisting all members of our community to understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to be familiar with the academic integrity principle and Academic Misconduct Rule, uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with.

The Academic Misconduct Rule is in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Very minor breaches of the academic integrity principle may result in a reduction of marks of up to 10% of the total marks available for the assessment. The ANU offers a number of online and in person services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. Visit the Academic Skills website for more information about academic integrity, your responsibilities and for assistance with your assignments, writing skills and study.

Online Submission

You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of the assignment for your records. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) submission must be through Turnitin.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

Online quizzes, class participation, oral interview: late submission is not permitted.

Short and medium writings: late submission of essays/recordings without an extension is penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item.

Referencing Requirements

Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. Extensions may be granted for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information.
In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service – including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy.
If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes.

Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).

Dr Esther Klein
02 6125 3207

Research Interests

Chinese philosophy, pre-modern Chinese historiography, gender in Chinese literature

Dr Esther Klein

By Appointment
Dr Esther Klein
02 6125 3207

Research Interests

Dr Esther Klein

By Appointment

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions