Course Code


Course Name

The Male Bond in Traditional China


Monday, 11:30 am – 2:15 pm


YIA 403


Prof. TAM King Fai

Teaching Assistant

Mavis Siu

Course Description

Romance of Three Kingdoms (Sankuo yanyi) and Outlaws of the Marsh (Shuihu zhuan), two masterpieces of classical Chinese fiction, are treasure troves of traditional Chinese values. This course will focus on the phenomenon of male bonding, an important facet of masculinity, as illustrated in these two works. Through a close study of major selections from the novels, their filmic adaptations, background materials and critical literature, students will come to understand the nature of close relationships between men in Chinese culture, observable in many social situations even today.

Course Outline

WEEK 1 (January 8) Organizational Meeting

WEEK 2 (January 15) Theme and Structure of SGYY and SHZh

  • C. T. Hsia, “Introduction,” The Classic Chinese Novel, Hong Kong: Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2016, pp. 3-32.
  • Andrew Plaks. “The Literati Novel: Historical Background” and “Neo-Confucian Interpretations of the Four Masterworks,” Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987, pp. 3-54 and 497-513.
    SHZh summary
    SSYY summary

WEEK 3 (January 22) The Study of Femininity and Masculinity in China

  • Susan Brownell and Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, “Introduction: Theorizing Femininities and Masculinities,” in edited Brownell and Wassertronm, Chinese Femininity, Chinese Masculinities, Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002, pp. 1-42.
  • Gail Hershatter and Zheng Wang, “Chinese History: A Useful Category of Gender Analysis,” The American Historical Review, Volume 113, No. 5 (December 2008), 1404- 1421.

WEEK 4 (January 29) Traditional View of Friendship and the Five Ethical Bonds

  • Wei-ming Tu “Probing the Three Bonds and Five Relationships in Confucian Humanism,” in ed.
  • Walter H. Slote and George A D Vosi, Confucianism and the Family; A Study of Indo Tibetan Scholasticism, Albany: SUNY Press, 1998, pp. 121-136
  • Norman Kutcher, “The Fifth Relationship: Dangerous Friendships in the Confucian Context,” The American Historical Review, Volume 105, No. 5 (December 2000), 1615-1629

WEEK 5 (February 5) Good and Bad Women

  • Diana Zhou, “Exploration of Chinese ‘Dangerous Woman’: Femme Fatale or Anti-Heroine?” Sino-Platonic papers, No. 193 (November 2009), 51-60
  • Victoria Cass, “Predators,” Dangerous Women: Warriors, Grannies, and Geishas of the Ming, New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 1999, pp. 87-104
    投名狀 (2007)
  • Women who kills, killing women, Chapters on 楊雄、 石秀、潘金蓮

WEEK 6 (February 12) Chinese New Year, no class

WEEK 7 (February 19) Male Bonding

  • Susan Mann, “The Male Bond in Chinese History and Culture,” The American Historical Review, Vol. 105, No. 5 (December 2000), 1600-1614
  • Eric Henry, “The Motif of Recognition in Early China,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Volune 47, No. 1 (June, 1987): 5-30

*** February 26 Short Assignment due ***

WEEK 8 (February 26) The Sworn Brotherhood

  • Robert Antony, “Brotherhoods, Secret Societies and the Law in Qing-dynasty China,” in ed. David Ownby and Mary Somers Heidhues, Secret Societies Reconsidered: Perspectives on the Social History of Modern South China and Southeast Asia, New York: M. E. Sharpe, 1993.
  • David Jordan, “Sworn Brothers: A Study in Chinese Ritual Kinship,” in ed. Jihchang Hsih and Ying-Chang Chuang, The Chinese Family and Its Ritual Behavior, Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica Monograph Series B, 15, 1985

WEEK 9 (March 4) Reading Week

WEEK 10 (March 11) Friendship in Rivalry

  • H. M. Ling, “Romancing Westphalia: Westphalian IR and Romance of the Three Kingdoms,” Perceptions, Spring 2014, XIX, 1, pp.167-181
  • Tom Burns, “Friends, Enemies and the Polite Fiction,” American Sociological Review, 19, 6 (December 1953, pp. 654-662
  • Paul Corcoran, “Liaison dangereuses: Friends, Enemies and Others,” Paper delivered at Australian Political Studies Association Conference, 6 – 9 July 2008.

WEEK 11 (March 18) Loyalty: Making Friends with Your Boss

  • Chapters on諸葛亮 and 劉備, 宋江 and 花榮 , 柴進 as a patron but not a friend Kathleen Higgins, “Loyalty from a Confucian Perspective,” American Society for Political and Legal Philosophy, 54 (2013): 22-38
    三國之見龍卸甲 (2008)

WEEK 12 (March 25) The Man and His Alter-ego

  • 楊修chapters
  • 張艷: 宋江- 李逵式人物組合的意義闡釋
  • 王紅彩,王玲玲: 淺析宋江鴆殺李逵原因
  • 陳東林: 從宋江與李逵的關係看水滸主題思想的表現與矛盾性
  • Joyce Carol Oates, “Jekyll/Hyde” The Hudson Review, Vol. 40, No. 4 (Winter, 1988), pp. 603-608

WEEK13 (April 1) Easter Holiday

WEEK 14 (April 8) Virtual and Real Kinship

  • Xie Yuanlu, “Virtual Kinship in ancient Chinese society,” Frontier of History of China, 2008,Volume 3, no. 1 (2008):12-40
  • Chapters on呂布and 董卓、貂蟬and 王允、阮氏三雄、 袁紹、 袁術、諸葛brothers

WEEK 15 (April 15) Filmic Adaptations of SGYY and SHZh

  • 投名狀 (2007)
    • Optional:
    • 水滸傳之英雄本色 (1993)
    • 水滸傳 (1972)
    • 赤壁 (2008)
  • 三國電影攻略,
  • Barton Palmer, “Review: Film Adaptation and Its Discontents by Thomas Leitch,” Film Quarterly, Vol. 61, no. 1 (Fall 2009), pp. 83-84

Week 16 (TBA) Summation

*** April 20 Final paper due ***

Assessment & Assignments

Participation 10%
Presentation 25%
Short Assignment 25%
Final Paper 40%

Honesty in Academic Work

Attention is drawn to University policy and regulations on honesty in academic work, and to the disciplinary guidelines and procedures applicable to breaches of such policy and regulations. Details may be found at With each assignment, students will be required to submit a signed declaration that they are aware of the policies, regulations and procedures.