Winter Special: Classical Chinese V

Winter Special: Classical Chinese V

Classical Chinese V: A Rare Linguistic Gem

– Taught by Ben Wang, Senior Lecturer

Tuesdays, 6:30-8:30pm
10 sessions (20 hours)
January 9 – March 13
Tuition: $465 members / $505 non-members
(plus a $30 non-refundable registration fee)

Required Textbook: A First Course in Literary Chinese, Volume 1 & 2, by Harold Shadick, Cornell University Press

Requirements for taking this course: Knowledge of basic grammar points and reading characters of the vernacular Chinese, which is at least one year Chinese study at a university or college Chinese program, or similar proficiency level. For those who did not attend the first 3 sessions of this course, it is highly recommended that you contact the office for an assessment.

In the lives of all those interested in world cultures, there is surely a moment when the door to classical Chinese must be open for them to come to better understand the poetry, literature, music, drama, and fine arts. Far from being a demised and vanished (or vanishing) language, classical Chinese, at its ripe age of more than 3,000 years, glows not only as a sine-qua-non to the appreciation of classical written matters in Chinese, it is used by all writers to this day in composing fine modern poetry, novels, essays, and journalistic reports and comments. Most importantly, classical Chinese language, sound and alive, makes an astonishing appearance in daily conversations often embellished by countless common sayings and proverbs in classical (or semi-classical) Chinese. These are as much an indispensable and integral part of both the spoken and written Chinese as they are the most popular and favorite phrases to all Chinese language speakers and writers.

Marked by its succinctness and expressiveness, classical Chinese manifests fully the unique characteristic of the visceral language, which is an uncanny blending of music and painting, in that spoken Chinese is music and written Chinese, painting. It is only in classical Chinese that the visceral comes to meet with the cerebral, leading to an enchanted garden of poetry and other fine cultural genres. Studying it is an inspiring and joyful language-study experience that acquaints the students with the beginning and heights of the Chinese culture, thus expanding their mind and heart; learning it is essential to the discovery and creation of new realms in world culture.

An ancient saying of wisdom in Chinese states that “Only through learning the past can one discover the future” (温故而知新), which finds its Western brethren in what Muriel Spark so knowingly states, “The glory of the past is the inspiration for the future.”

And so it is, wait no more: Come to study classical Chinese at China Institute: the citadel of Chinese culture in America, the cultural and linguistic bridge to bring together the two countries. (By Ben Wang)

If you have any questions, please contact Tina Fang at [email protected], call 212-744-8181, ext. 150, or submit your information through our contact form online.


Ben Wang is Senior Lecturer in Language and Humanities at China Institute, Co-Chair of the Renwen Society of China Institute, and Instructor of Chinese at the United Nations Language Program. An award-winning published translator, Ben Wang has taught and lectured on the Chinese language, calligraphy, and classical Chinese literature at Yale, Columbia, Barnard, Williams, U.C. Berkeley, the Smithsonian, the National Gallery of Art, Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Seattle Art Museum, Museum of Fine Arts of Boston, ABC Nightline, the BBC, among other academic and cultural institutions. Ben Wang taught Chinese and translation at Columbia University and New York University between 1969 and 1991.

Instructor: Ben Wang