Encountering Chinese Culture

A First-Year Ampersand Program

Encountering Chinese Culture: A Performative Perspective on Chinese Culture and Identity

Building bridges of understanding between the United States and the Republic of China in Taiwan, this course will introduce students to the variety and rich history of Chinese visual and performance cultures on the Chinese mainland, in Taiwan, and throughout the Chinese diaspora. A collaboration between the East Asian Languages and Cultures and Performing Arts departments, this course explores Chinese cultural narratives in relation to how they have been performed--on stage in traditional forms of dance-drama, on screen in film, and as lived in the practice of everyday life--from the late Imperial period to the present. Combining creative and critical assignments, the course invites students to conduct interviews, stage plays, rehearse dance forms, and make videos that demonstrate their developing knowledge of historical and contemporary Chinese-language literature, dance-drama, and film. Students may participate in a culminating spring break trip to Taiwan.

How to Apply

The application process for first-year programs and seminars opens on Thursday, May 12, at 4 p.m. (CT) and closes on Monday, May 16, at noon (CT). You will need your WUSTL Key to apply, so please be sure to sign up for your WUSTL Key by Tuesday, May 10 to give it 24 hours to activate. There will be a link to the application webform on the First-Year Programs homepage during this time for you to sign up. A statement of interest (no more than 500 words) is required when you submit your application online.

First-Year Program Homepage

The Courses

Encounters with Chinese Performing Cultures (L61 107 & L61 1080)


This two-semester freshman course focuses on the cultures of China and the Chinese diaspora. It is divided into four themed units: Hybridity, Interculturalism, Histories, and Contemporary China. The first two units structure the readings and assignments of the fall semester course, with students exploring the narratives of Chinese immigrants and Chinese-Americans in works of literature, dance, drama and film. The second two units structure the readings and assignments of the spring semester course, with students studying the history of China in literary and theatrical representations before considering the emergence of the modern nation as represented in literature, dance, drama and film.

The two-semester sequence concludes with an optional trip to China in May. The first half of the spring semester course (on "Histories") will explore the history, literature and dance dramas of late Imperial China, focusing on the circulation of narratives and the performance of dance-dramas at the courts of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, and tracing the emergence of film and modernist literary forms in the Early Republic and beyond the May Fourth Movement. The second half of the semester (on "Contemporary China") picks up from the founding of the Free and People's Republics of China to the present, looking at the reinterpretation of traditional operatic forms through the doctrine of socialist realism during Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution and contemporary postmodern Chinese literature. The course concludes with a showcase of an original student-devised dance-drama and an original student-directed film that survey the year's course materials in preparation for the trip to China in May.

The Trip

*This Ampersand Program typically has an international travel component, which could be affected by federal and local guidelines related to health, safety, and security considerations. This program's main academic component will not be affected.


An spring break trip to Taiwan is meant to accomplish three goals: 1) to immerse students in the Chinese culture of Taiwan, allowing them to test their classroom knowledge against their real-world experiences; 2) to familiarize them with the contemporary performing arts scene in Taiwan, with a focus on dance and drama; and 3) to introduce them to a "performance studies" approach to understanding cultural difference by experiencing the everyday performance cultures practiced by people in Taiwan (e.g., taking public transportation, shopping at the market, etc.).

Here is a partial itinerary for this trip:

-Attend Cloud Gate II (雲門 II) performance.

-Attend Formosa Circus Art (福爾摩沙馬戲團) in National Theater and Concert Hall兩廳院 performance.

-Visit Fata'an Wetland (馬太鞍濕) and Tafalong (太巴) in to learn about Amis-Tribe's culture and history.

-Bike and stroll through the picturesque Chihshang (池上鄉) of East Rift Valley in Taidong.


An additional bonus to the Ampersand trip is the ability to experience this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with the close cohort of fellow students, all learning together.