• Class Number 3646
  • Term Code 3430
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Dr Esther Klein
    • Dr Esther Klein
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 19/02/2024
  • Class End Date 24/05/2024
  • Census Date 05/04/2024
  • Last Date to Enrol 26/02/2024
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). Feedback can also be provided to Course Conveners and teachers via the Student Experience of Learning & Teaching (SELT) feedback program. SELT surveys are confidential and also provide the Colleges and ANU Executive with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Introduction and background: Selves and selfishness reading quiz, participation
2 What are we starting with? (On human nature) reading quiz, participation
3 What is the best (or worst) we can do? (Sages and brutes) reading quiz, participation
4 Who are the major players? (Philosophers of ancient China) reading quiz, participation
5 How do we get better? (Ritual and relationships) reading quiz, participation
6 How can we flourish? (Undermining distinctions) reading quiz, participation
7 What is a hierarchy for? (On the concept of hierarchy) reading quiz, short essay, participation
8 What should hierarchies (not) be based on? (Hierarchy and society) reading quiz, oral assessment, participation
9 What is the proper role of the state? (Hierarchy and authority) reading quiz, participation
10 What lies beyond? (On religion and philosophy) reading quiz, participation
11 What is freedom and what problems does it create? (Choice and divergence) reading quiz, participation
12 What are the consequences of traditional Chinese concepts of race and ethnicity? (Problems of ethnicity) reading quiz, participation

Tutorial Registration

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Learning Outcomes
Class participation 10 % * 1, 2, 3, 4
Reading and reflection quizzes 15 % 21/02/2024 1, 2, 3
Short writing and oral assessment 25 % 15/04/2024 1, 2, 5
Final writing 25 % 30/05/2024 1, 2, 5
Final examination 25 % * 1, 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 Integrity 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 Skills website. 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 (at minimum) be present in class, prepared, and willing to speak.


An individual oral assessment (15-20 minutes) will be scheduled at the convenience of the student and instructor during weeks 7-8. A comprehensive final examination, approximately one hour in length, will be given during the examination period.

Assessment Task 1

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

Class participation

The mark will consist of active participation in both the larger group session and the tutorials, including coming to class prepared and making an effort to engage with the issues for the week during group discussion.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 15 %
Due Date: 21/02/2024
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 3

Reading and reflection quizzes

Brief reading quizzes (including a reflection component) will be given weekly and will assess preparedness regarding the week's reading assignments and thoughtful engagement with the week's material. The format is mainly multiple choice with a few free response questions.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 25 %
Due Date: 15/04/2024
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 5

Short writing and oral assessment

One short piece of writing (1000 words) will be due at the beginning of Week 7, submitted both through Turnitin and Google docs (more details in class). The mark will be based in part on the written work (content only, not style or grammar) and in part on a one-on-one oral assessment meeting (in weeks 7 or 8) discussing the written work and its relation to other topics covered in class as relevant.

Assessment Task 4

Value: 25 %
Due Date: 30/05/2024
Learning Outcomes: 1, 2, 5

Final writing

A slightly longer writing assignment (1500 words) will be due on the first day of the examination period, submitted both through Turnitin and Google docs.

Assessment Task 5

Value: 25 %
Learning Outcomes: 1, 5

Final examination

The final examination will be brief but comprehensive and will 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. The University’s students are an integral part of that community. The academic integrity principle commits all students to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support, academic integrity, and to uphold this commitment by behaving honestly, responsibly and ethically, and with respect and fairness, in scholarly practice.

The University expects all staff and students to be familiar with the academic integrity principle, the Academic Integrity Rule 2021, the Policy: Student Academic Integrity and Procedure: Student Academic Integrity, and to uphold high standards of academic integrity to ensure the quality and value of our qualifications.

The Academic Integrity Rule 2021 is a legal document that the University uses to promote academic integrity, and manage breaches of the academic integrity principle. The Policy and Procedure support the Rule by outlining overarching principles, responsibilities and processes. The Academic Integrity Rule 2021 commences on 1 December 2021 and applies to courses commencing on or after that date, as well as to research conduct occurring on or after that date. Prior to this, the Academic Misconduct Rule 2015 applies.


The University commits to assisting all students to understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. All coursework students must complete the online Academic Integrity Module (Epigeum), and Higher Degree Research (HDR) students are required to complete research integrity training. The Academic Integrity website provides information about services available to assist students with their assignments, examinations and other learning activities, as well as understanding and upholding academic integrity.

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

Reading quizzes: Given in lecture, late submission only by special arrangement.

Written work: Late submission 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.

Oral assessments: Missed appointments can be re-scheduled one time (with a penalty of 5% of the possible marks); a second missed appointment will result in a mark of zero for the oral component of the assessment.

Referencing Requirements

The Academic Skills website has information to assist you with your writing and assessments. The website includes information about Academic Integrity including referencing requirements for different disciplines. There is also information on Plagiarism and different ways to use source material.

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

Research Interests

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

Dr Esther Klein

Thursday 15:00 16:00
Thursday 14:00 15:00
Dr Esther Klein

Research Interests

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

Dr Esther Klein

Thursday 15:00 16:00
Thursday 14:00 15:00

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