Chinese culture has a rich history going back thousands of years. This lecture series examines one of the enduring and most resilient hallmarks of Chinese culture—its architecture—before seeing how the modern era was represented in silent films of the early 20th century. Moving into the second half of the 20th century, the series delves into the sweeping cultural changes enacted under the new political ideology of communism.
Justin M. Jacobs, a professor of Chinese history at American University, is the author of several books, including The Compensations of Plunder: How China Lost Its Treasures.
November 7 Chinese Architecture
Jacobs explores the astonishingly resilient forms of Chinese architecture over the past 3,000 years. He examines the components of a traditional Chinese building, including building materials, interior and exterior decoration, and modular structure. Attention is paid to how Chinese architecture has adapted to the importation of new designs from abroad, such as Buddhist pagodas, Islamic mosques, and even Baroque buildings.
November 28 Chinese Silent Films
Chinese cinema is nearly as old as Hollywood itself. During this session, view two short silent movies from China’s first golden age of film in the 1920s and ‘30s: Romance of the Fruit Peddler (1922) and Song of China (1935). Jacobs provides historical and cultural context for scenes and explains how these films reflect the turbulent milieu of early 20th-century China.
December 19 Cultural Reform under Mao
Traditional Chinese culture stretches back more than 3,000 years, but it underwent a host of fundamental reforms during the early decades of the Communist era. Jacobs examines the sweeping and ambitious changes enacted in the realms of gender, language, education, and architecture during the Mao years (1949–1976), highlighting the ways in which Chinese society on the mainland began to diverge in significant ways from other Chinese communities around the world.