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kdavid

Graduate School in China – A History Major’s Perspective

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kdavid
That sounds atrocious! I guess that when you apply for your next program you'll have to go back to square one.

I'm not anticipating the degree I earn here will be worth much back home. However, I did have a professor at GW tell me he felt it was a strong qualification. Here's to hoping.

On the bright side, your Chinese, and familiarity with what kinds secondary sources exist in Chinese, will be wayyy better than most your classmates at an English-speaking institution!

I think my Chinese has improved as I've been speaking on topics I normally never would. I've also been exposed to a lot of history-specific terminology.

However, I don't feel I'm learning how to research in Chinese--not like a "real" historian would. The professors I've spoken with have been largely unhelpful in this regard. I've been pointed to websites (which are horribly organized and indexed), narrative histories, and to 原始资料. There seems to be a dearth of analytical and theoretical work. Of course, I just likely haven't found it yet. (Perhaps there would be more in Taiwan?)

My overall knowledge-based has been expanded largely via self-study. I don't feel I've gotten much out of my classes.

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amandagmu

Yeah, I was implying more on the Chinese-language side. Beida has some good professors and so does Huashida - but in terms of research that is analytical and theoretical I'm afraid you'll have to check out Academia Sinica in Taipei or Chinese University Hong Kong.

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amandagmu

Also, Academia Sinica, obvious reasons, is more along the lines of what you're probably thinking of in terms of "historical research." But you need to keep in mind that in China the question of history has always been one related explicitly (not subtly) to politics and debates of shi and lun. That sort of detracts from any attempt to do analytical-theoretical research of the type you've seen in English. This is a problem for me as well; I don't have any mainland Chinese sources from which I've actually gaining insight beyond some basic facts. But I have found Taiwanese sources to be useful for thinking about aspects of my work - they seem to be less glued to an official narrative there as the government is less restrictive with censorship.

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kdavid

@amandagu

Could you recommend some websites from which I could check materials online and/or book websites which have a good selection?

I'm researching the 新文化运动、五四运动, but I'm interested in anything 民国 related, especially 政治学 and 思想史.

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amandagmu

Hmmmm. Good question. For 民国 I typically only read English - my research topic is 共和国 so I'm more familiar with that period of time. However, I know you can probably find some good books on http://www.eslite.com/ (the big Taiwanese bookstore)。 I'd also try the 中央研究院 library website http://aslib.sinica.edu.tw/. Also, check out their publications listed on the Institute of Modern History website (I switched to 简体字 for you, but they also have 繁体字 - obviously - and English. I find the English to sometimes be incorrect and/or absent though).

I presume you have access to China Academic Journals from there? (I can't remember the Chinese link because I usually login in through my institution, and it really only works from the Chinese version.) It's mainland publications, and I know it's not always useful, but you can sometimes find good stuff on there. I'd imagine most universities have login access in China, although who knows.

I'd also scour kongfz.com, a site every scholar should be familiar with....!!

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kdavid

For those interested, I've updated the main post on page one.

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gato

Thanks for making the effort to update us on your experience, kdavid! It's fascinating.

Have you read books by 杨奎松? He's a professor at 华东师大 who focuses on pre-1949 CCP history. Might be relevant to your interests. His recent book "谈往阅今" is supposed to provide a good overview to his views.

http://lz.book.sohu....e-id-23418.html

杨奎松 谈往阅今——中共党史访谈录

http://www.aisixiang...angkuisong.html

杨奎松

http://lz.book.sohu....or-id-4429.html

杨奎松

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kdavid

I haven't had an opportunity to read any 杨奎松 yet. However, I see one of the links you've provided has him discussing the 五四运动, which is what I'm currently researching, so I'll be sure to read that.

I'm surprised none of his books are on 爱问....

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gato

陈永发's "中国共产革命70年" also has chapters on the student/intellectual movements around time of May 4th.

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Amy (亞美)

Dear kdavid,

I'm a history major, currently finishing my undergraduate studies in Malaysia. I really appreciate all your sharings in this topic! Am not going to do my Masters in China now LOL. :P

Anyway, here's my questions:

1. Is there any archives in China, which is open for foreign researchers?

2. Is there any historical research-based course in China? Something like a research postgrad degree, not a coursework based one.

Thanks :)

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kdavid

@Amy

Am not going to do my Masters in China now

Please don't interpret my experience as representative of China as a whole. My experience is limited to just one university, one cohort of graduate students, and a hand-full of professors. I'm confident there are many intelligent, capable individuals out there who hold themselves to very high standards. However, it's likely you'd need to visit a top-ranked institution to find such individuals. (Perhaps you'd want to look into an HK or Taiwan university first.)

If I was planning on living forever, I'd likely try to do a PhD at a major university such as BeiDa or Remin just for the experience. I'd really like to see how these "elite" universities operate. Unfortunately, life is short, and I have to move on.

1. Is there any archives in China, which is open for foreign researchers?

I'm sure there are, but I haven't arrived at that stage in my research yet. I'm going to try to visit a few archives in the next year, so I can provide more details on that later.

2. Is there any historical research-based course in China? Something like a research postgrad degree, not a coursework based one.

Are you looking for a course which will teach you to research, or are you looking for resources?

Honestly, my greatest teachers have been my books, and my greatest resource has been the internet. While everything I need may not be available online, I can generally find out where to get what I need.

If you're looking for a course, it would probably be best if you found a historian who specializes or is conversant in your field/period. They'd be able to help much more than a general course.

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amandagmu

Regarding archival research in China open to foreign researchers, the best place to check is the dissertationreviews.org website under the "Fresh from the Archives" heading:

http://dissertationr...om-the-archives

They have since added other countries, but if you scroll down there are a few for China. For foreign researchers it is important to note that archival research access in China depends a lot on: 1) providing a letter certifying your affiliation status with a reputable university or organization (a basic 证明), 2) sometimes also providing a 介绍信, 3) in some cases 关系, and 4) in some cases whether or not the archive is even open to non-mainland-Chinese. It it worth noting that archival access and regulations can also differ depending on unique situations (i.e., are you on a journalist/press visa? are you an unknown student?) and timing (i.e. it's better not to visit during CCP anniversaries), and they can change rapidly. For example: a researcher visiting during the 18th Party congress may not have had access to something he or she could have accessed a few months or a year prior, or the photocopying privileges may have become stricter or looser depending on time you have spent in the archive getting to know the archivists.

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Brian US
If I was planning on living forever, I'd likely try to do a PhD at a major university such as BeiDa or Remin just for the experience. I'd really like to see how these "elite" universities operate.

I've had a very similar experience as an accounting graduate student at Renmin. Classes are organized the same, i.e. no syllabus, no required reading, no textbooks. Classes go from 2.5 to 3.5 hours with the teacher going through powerpoint slides. Most exams cover about 1000 powerpoint slides and answer essay questions, long essay questions, like my classmates cramming out 12-15 pages handwritten. I never anticipated accounting classes to be mostly about papers and essays.

The math classes are also intense. Luckily I only had to take a statistics class, which was entirely on the computer, so I was saved from writing out formulas and calculations by hand. Yet, my Canadian friend is required to take at least 4 math classes as an undergraduate management student. We are talking advanced calculus, algebra, and stats for a management major...in Chinese. He has failed every math class he has taken so far, and possibly won't graduate. The Korean students appear to have their own program where math is taught in Korean. To make it through my lessons, I was looking up guides on SPSS from several engineering programs in the US.

Classes designed for foreigners and taught in English are much more organized with most of the teachers having studied abroad. I still roll my eyes and bite my tongue when international student's biggest complaint is their class doesn't have a syllabus.

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kdavid
He has failed every math class he has taken so far, and possibly won't graduate.

So they are failing students?

In my first semester, I busted my hump for my two term papers. We had two months off between semesters. I started researching a month before the semester ended and then spend the entire break doing further research, writing, and translating.

These papers were *never* returned to me. One professor gave me no feedback whatsoever (my advisor!). The feedback the other professor gave was, "I didn't think it was very interesting." !!!!!

When I expressed my chagrin to my classmates regarding the paucity of feedback, they laughed that I had spent so much time and effort on the process.

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Brian US

Yea, no feedback on papers or tests. Normally only have a final exam and a paper, but I never see anything but my final grade at the end of the semester.

I tried to get the class schedule before starting my studies, but even after getting it a couple months before the first semester, all the requirments/classes were different when I finally started. It's also difficult to connect with all teachers since I had about 7-8 classes each semester and some undergraduate students (friend) have 10-15 classes each semester.

Other international students doing humanities generally have a lighter load of 2-3 classes and only papers to turn in. I'm fine with papers, but what kills me are the in class exams that are all handwritten essays. We don't do reviews, and don't know what questions to prepare for. My exam for 'Accounting Theory' this Tuesday covers 11 main topics explained through 700 powerpoint slides.

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kdavid

You've got it rough.

I took an exam this past Friday for my 中国概况 class. The teacher let me use my book.

I've got a 古代文学 exam tomorrow afternoon. The professor gave us all of the questions to study ahead of time.

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kdavid

Updated, but not edited.

Will edit and add some more later.

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gato
And, of course, my advisor sent me a newly "edited" proposal, which scotched all elements of 思想, radicalism, etc., and instead was, in addition to the statistical data, now included sub-chapters such as "clothes and food," none of which, of course, I was interested in.

Sounds like political censorship unfortunately.

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tooironic

@kdavid Thanks again for the very interesting and incredibly useful posts. I have a question though: were you required to attain a HSK5 or 6 to apply for your Master's in China? (Forgive me if you mentioned this before, I may have missed it.) And if so, how did you prepare for it? Did you find it tough? Thanks.

Edit: OK, I looked back at your original post and you did indeed mention that requirement. But did you end up taking the new HSK or just the old one? And how did you prepare for it?

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