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Advanced Institute for Global Chinese Studies (AIGCS)

How to Read Chinese Literature Book Series


This book series is an innovative collection of literary anthologies and language texts covering all major genres of Chinese literature. The series consists of ten volumes: six guided literary anthologies and four language texts. Usable as both stand-alone volumes and a coherent set, the ten books break down barriers between the study of literature and language learning.  By joining language acquisition with teaching students how to appreciate Chinese literature in its original form, the series seeks to transform learning and teaching of Chinese literature, language, and culture in the English-speaking world.

Six of the ten volumes are published or in press and they are changing the ways Chinese literature is taught and learned in the West (See Appendix 2). The Beijing Sanlian shudian 北京三聯書店, one of the most prominent publishers in the Mainland, is translating and publishing the six anthologies as a series, with the first two volumes due for release in early 2022.


  • Columbia University Press

Selected Issues

How to Read Chinese Poetry: A Guided AnthologyHow to Read Chinese Poetry: A Guided Anthology

Edited by Zong-qi Cai


In this "guided" anthology, experts lead students through the major genres and eras of Chinese poetry from antiquity to the modern time. The volume is divided into 6 chronological sections and features more than 140 examples of the best shi, sao, fu, ci, and qu poems. A comprehensive introduction and extensive thematic table of contents highlight the thematic, formal, and prosodic features of Chinese poetry, and each chapter is written by a scholar who specializes in a particular period or genre. Poems are presented in Chinese and English and are accompanied by a tone-marked romanized version, an explanation of Chinese linguistic and poetic conventions, and recommended reading strategies. Sound recordings of the poems are available online free of charge. These unique features facilitate an intense engagement with Chinese poetical texts and help the reader derive aesthetic pleasure and insight from these works as one could from the original.

The companion volume How to Read Chinese Poetry Workbook presents 100 famous poems (56 are new selections) in Chinese, English, and romanization, accompanied by prose translation, textual notes, commentaries, and recordings.

How to Read Chinese Poetry in Context: Poetic Culture from Antiquity through the TangHow to Read Chinese Poetry in Context: Poetic Culture from Antiquity through the Tang

Edited by Zong-qi Cai


How to Read Chinese Poetry in Context is an introduction to the golden age of Chinese poetry, spanning the earliest times through the Tang dynasty (618–907). It aims to break down barriers—between language and culture, poetry and history—that have stood in the way of teaching and learning Chinese poetry. Not only a primer in early Chinese poetry, the volume demonstrates the unique and central role of poetry in the making of Chinese culture.

Each chapter focuses on a specific theme to show the interplay between poetry and the world. Readers discover the key role that poetry played in Chinese diplomacy, court politics, empire building, and institutionalized learning; as well as how poems shed light on gender and women’s status, war and knight-errantry, Daoist and Buddhist traditions, and more. The chapters also show how people of different social classes used poetry as a means of gaining entry into officialdom, creating self-identity, fostering friendship, and airing grievances. The volume includes historical vignettes and anecdotes that contextualize individual poems, investigating how some featured texts subvert and challenge the grand narratives of Chinese history. Presenting poems in Chinese along with English translations and commentary, How to Read Chinese Poetry in Context unites teaching poetry with the social circumstances surrounding its creation, making it a pioneering and versatile text for the study of Chinese language, literature, history, and culture.

How to Read Chinese Poetry WorkbookHow to Read Chinese Poetry Workbook

Edited by Zong-qi Cai and Jie Cui


Designed to work with the acclaimed course text How to Read Chinese Poetry: A Guided Anthology, the How to Read Chinese Poetry Workbook introduces classical Chinese to advanced beginners and learners at higher levels, teaching them how to appreciate Chinese poetry in its original form. Also a remarkable stand-alone resource, the volume illuminates China's major poetic genres and themes through one hundred well-known, easy-to-recite works.

Each of the volume's twenty units contains four to six classical poems in Chinese, English, and tone-marked pinyin romanization, with comprehensive vocabulary notes and prose poem translations in modern Chinese. Subsequent comprehension questions and comments focus on the artistic aspects of the poems, while exercises test readers' grasp of both classical and modern Chinese words, phrases, and syntax. An extensive glossary cross-references classical and modern Chinese usage, characters and compounds, and multiple character meanings, and online sound recordings are provided for each poem and its prose translation free of charge. A list of literary issues addressed throughout completes the volume, along with phonetic transcriptions for entering-tone characters, which appear in Tang and Song–regulated shi poems and lyric songs.

How to Read Chinese Prose A Guided AnthologyHow to Read Chinese Prose A Guided Anthology

Edited by Zong-qi Cai


This book offers a guided introduction to Chinese nonfictional prose and its literary and cultural significance. It features more than one hundred major texts from antiquity through the Qing dynasty that exemplify major genres, styles, and forms of traditional Chinese prose. For each work, the book presents an English translation, the Chinese original, and accessible critical commentary by leading scholars.

How to Read Chinese Prose teaches readers to appreciate the literary merits, stylistic devices, rhetorical choices, and argumentative techniques of a wide range of nonfictional writing. It emphasizes the interconnections among individual texts and across eras, helping readers understand the development of the literary tradition and what makes particular texts formative or distinctive within it. Organized by dynastic period and genre, the book identifies and examines four broad categories of prose—narrative, expository, descriptive, and communicative.

How to Read Chinese Prose is suitable for a range of courses in Chinese literature, history, religion, and philosophy, as well as for scholars and interested readers seeking to deepen their knowledge of the Chinese prose tradition. A companion book, How to Read Chinese Prose in Chinese, is designed for Chinese-language learners and features many of the same texts.

How to Read Chinese Prose in Chinese A Course in Classical ChineseHow to Read Chinese Prose in Chinese A Course in Classical Chinese

Edited by Jie Cui, Liu Yucai, and Zong-qi Cai


This book is at once a guided introduction to Chinese nonfictional prose and an innovative textbook for the study of classical Chinese. It is a companion volume to How to Read Chinese Prose: A Guided Anthology, designed for Chinese-language learners.

How to Read Chinese Prose in Chinese presents more than forty prose works, either excerpts or in full, from antiquity through the Qing dynasty. While teaching readers how to appreciate the rich tradition of Chinese prose in its original form, the book uses these texts to introduce classical Chinese to advanced learners, helping them develop reading comprehension and vocabulary. It offers a systematic guide to classical Chinese grammar and abundant notes on vocabulary, and features an extensive network of notes, exercises, and cross-references. The book includes modern translations of the forty prose works in simplified Chinese, presented alongside the original texts in traditional Chinese. It also includes expert commentaries on each text’s distinctive aesthetic qualities as well as historical and cultural contexts.

The book comprises thirty-eight lessons within eight units, organized chronologically to reflect the emergence of major prose genres. It is a major contribution to the teaching and study of classical Chinese language and literature.

How to Read Chinese Drama A Guided AnthologyHow to Read Chinese Drama A Guided Anthology

Edited by Patricia Sieber and Regina S. Llamas


This book is a comprehensive and inviting introduction to the literary forms and cultural significance of Chinese drama as both text and performance. Each chapter offers an accessible overview and critical analysis of one or more plays—canonical as well as less frequently studied works—and their historical contexts. How to Read Chinese Drama highlights how each play sheds light on key aspects of the dramatic tradition, including genre conventions, staging practices, musical performance, audience participation, and political resonances, emphasizing interconnections among chapters. It brings together leading scholars spanning anthropology, art history, ethnomusicology, history, literature, and theater studies.

How to Read Chinese Drama is straightforward, clear, and concise, written for undergraduate students and their instructors as well as a wider audience interested in world theater. For students of Chinese literature and language, the book provides questions to explore when reading, watching, and listening to plays, and it features bilingual excerpts. For teachers, an analytical table of contents, a theater-specific chronology of events, and lists of visual resources and translations provide pedagogical resources for exploring Chinese theater within broader cultural and comparative contexts. For theater practitioners, the volume offers deeply researched readings of important plays together with background on historical performance conventions, audience responses, and select modern adaptations.