Contemporary Chinese Societies: Continuity and Change

"This CD-ROM provides a multimedia presentation of the diversity of modern China in the context of its traditional roots. It combines imagery, music, and the spoken language with text" (text from
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Columbia University Press
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Average: 4 (2 votes)


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Review of Contemporary Chinese Societies

Field of Interest/Specialty: Chinese History
Posted On: 07/26/2012

Review by Dr. David Kenley
History is the simplification of our chaotic past. This CD resource divides Chinese history and society into manageable topics, while providing students with opportunities to question, analyze, and engage many of the debates surrounding Chinese history. Perhaps more importantly, this approach helps form a basis for cross-cultural comparison and understanding.
Some historians may find the topical arrangement of these works irreconcilable with the traditional chronological approach to teaching history. Indeed, teachers that are looking for a diachronic account of China’s meta-narratives—say, for instance, the rise of communism—may be somewhat disappointed with this work. On the other hand, those willing to experiment with a topical approach will find this to be a wonderful resource and learning aid.
The CD Contemporary Chinese Societies is organized into particular topics—such as ethnicity, economics, religion, or identity—that can be similarly analyzed in other area-studies courses. These topics are pre-arranged into both “units” and “pathways.” The topics within the “units” and “pathways” are the same, simply organized differently. Furthermore, the instructor can develop alternative “units” or “pathways” of his or her own choosing. For ease of use, the CD has a “journey log” that allows the user to record his or her route through the material. With a little creativity, numerous routes are possible. Students can easily retrace thematically organized routes, encountering along the way several topics with dozens of images, charts, and tables. They will also enjoy viewing videos, listening to songs and poetry recitations, and taking “links” to ancillary materials (such as timelines, maps, or the glossary). Not surprisingly, these entice the student to browse, take detours, and form new mental connections. Furthermore, the accompanying review sections, bibliographies, and essay questions help the teacher create additional assignments. After completing a few of these pathways, students will have the foundation and the framework necessary to create similar “pathways” in their other history and social science courses.
Contemporary Chinese Societies looks primarily at China during the past 100 years, though it does contain introductory material covering imperial China beginning with the Qin (221 B.C.E.). High school and undergraduate teachers will find it to be a helpful and visually enticing tool for the study of China. Perhaps most importantly, the organization encourages cross-cultural comparison and interdisciplinary investigation. It is flexible enough to use in a variety of ways, yet it encourages our students, and us, to conceptualize history thematically. This thematic approach allows our students to take the information from a Chinese history course and consider it from a transnational and interdisciplinary perspective.