Understanding China through the humanities

Dorothy P James, Salve Regina University


This study examines the educational value of the humanities in reaching a comprehensive appreciation of China both as an ancient culture and as an important world power. Through the humanities we can begin to understand the essential qualities of a people--what they value, how they think, and how they express themselves through religion, philosophy, art, and literature. The importance of examining China's heritage in its historical and geographical context is further determined by global pressures. In a world of rapidly changing technology, of shifting ideologies and growing economic rivalries, the practical application of this approach to international understanding demands serious consideration. Today China gives every evidence of becoming a dominant economic force in the world, but her relations with the United States and other concerned countries continue to be plagued by misunderstanding and conflict. Both China's military power and environmental problems raised by massive industrialization continue to disturb her Asian neighbors and the world. Many Westerners are only superficially aware of the way an age-old civilization has shaped the Chinese character and attitudes. Even in academia, research and teaching in this area are often limited to a graduate specialty, but this study suggests that a humanities curriculum on China would offer a pragmatic response to this academic deficiency. The means proposed for this course of study is to examine the major elements of the humanities in the Chinese culture to discover the basis for insight and understanding. This method will give the nonspecialist an appreciation of this civilization's humane and liberal learning that will foster comprehension of humankind's similarities, compatibilities, and linkages. To highlight the relevance of this method, a comparative study of the diverse cultures of Russia and the United States in relation to China will further demonstrate the value of this approach.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|History|Social studies education

Recommended Citation

James, Dorothy P, "Understanding China through the humanities" (1997). Doctoral Dissertations. AAI9813176.