China: Religion, Folklore, and Arts

Fall 2015, Winter 2016 and Spring 2016 quarters

Taught by

China studies, theater
sociology, journalism, communication
visual arts, Chinese studies, human development

With China’s emergence as one of the world’s leading political players and economic powerhouses within the last four decades, there has been increasing international attention and news coverage on current Chinese political and economic developments. Today’s China, under a new generation of leadership ushering in many unprecedented reform programs, remains an enigma for most Westerners. The program aims to unravel part of that mystery through study of China's cultural roots and ideological foundations. We will dig the roots of Chinese culture by probing into Chinese religion and folklore and examining several different forms of Chinese artistic activities, including performing arts, visual arts, and arts of self-cultivation.

In fall quarter, we will study the religions and folk culture of China. We will examine the formal histories and primary tenets of Chinese “Three Teachings”: Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism. Mythology, fairy tales, and fantasies, transmitted either orally or in written texts, will also inform our study as symbolic expressions of spiritual forces and religious aspirations within the cultural psyche. The combined energy of official and popular religions, spiritual and “superstitious” practices, folk and secular activities—with their literary and visual manifestations—has affected Chinese society and political structure over centuries. By reading translated texts and viewing different religious and cultural activities on film, we will try to discover and dissect the interlocked relationships between religion, spirituality, philosophy, and folk culture in the Chinese contexts.

In winter quarter, we will focus on the arts of China, both traditional and modern. Chinese arts have long been a necessary vessel for the outpouring of spiritual and folk energy from all facets of Chinese life and society. We will read Chinese literature and drama that grew from the repertoire of popular stories, study Chinese theatre as a continuation of Chinese storytelling and acrobatic traditions, and delve into the spiritual core of Chinese visual arts. Students will read texts as well as engage in movement workshops and artistic experiments which connect cultural studies with practical, hands-on exercises.

Faculty will take interested students to China either at the end of winter quarter or in spring quarter. These students will study Chinese performing arts in one of the most prestigious theatre schools in Beijing for four weeks, and spend two more weeks traveling to the south to continue exploring Chinese culture with a focus on religion, spirituality, and folk culture. Students who do not go to China will conduct independent research projects on Evergreen's campus.

A Chinese language class will be embedded within the program. Students traveling to China will continue to study Chinese language at the institutions we will visit and through daily functions and encounters, which will provide incentives and opportunities for further language study.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

cultural studies, Chinese studies, religious studies, folklore, theatre, and visual arts.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


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Online Learning

No Required Online Learning

More information about online learning.

Required Fees

$40 in winter and spring for admission to museums and performances.

Study Abroad

Students have the opportunity to travel to China for six weeks during spring quarter; approximately $5,000. For details on study abroad, visit or contact Michael Clifthorne at .

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall); 16 (Winter); 16 (Spring)

Class standing: Freshmen–Senior; 25% of the seats are reserved for freshmen

Maximum enrollment: 48


Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 10158
So (16 credits): 10159
Jr (16 credits): 10160
Sr (16 credits): 10161

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Accepting New Students

Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 20086
So - Sr (16 credits): 20087

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Accepting New Students

Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 30055
So - Sr (16 credits): 30056

Go to to register for this program.

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