Modern China presents a dual image: a society transforming itself through economic development and infrastructure investment that aspires to global leadership; and the world's largest and oldest bureaucratic state, with multiple traditions in its cultural, economic, and political life. The modern society and state that is emerging in China bears the indelible imprint of China's historical experience, of its patterns of philosophy and religion, and of its social and political thought. These themes are discussed in order to understand China in the twenty-­first century and as a great world civilization that developed along lines different from those of the Mediterranean.

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ChinaX introduces new features to make the riches of Harvard's collections, including art, rare books, interactive maps, Harvard in-class footage, and Harvard Business School cases, as well as the expertise of its faculty more accessible to learners worldwide. ChinaX will also take you on virtual “Field Trips,” where you will have the opportunity to meet Chinese entrepreneurs, writers, artists, botanists, administrators, among others, as they give you on-the-ground perspectives on such topics as infrastructure, higher education, agriculture and the environment.

We will engage intellectual and religious trends, material and political culture, the local diversity and the national unity, art and literature, and China’s economic and political transformation— past, present and future.


ChinaX Parts 1 through 10 span over 6,000 years of history. Each part consists of 4 to 8 weekly "units," each with videos, readings, interactive engagements, assessments, and discussion forums. There are a total of 52 units in ChinaX. 

Parts 1-5 make up China: Civilization and Empire, taught by Professor Peter K. Bol. Parts 6-10 make up China and the Modern World, taught by Professor William C. Kirby.

China: Civilization and Empire

China (Parts 1-5) explores the development of this great civilization from the Neolithic to the last dynasty. We see the formation of political structures and social practices that have lasted into the present; we learn to appreciate artistic and literary traditions of sophistication and refinement; we inquire into its philosophical and religious legacies and their significance for our own lives; and we trace the creation of the largest economy in world history.

You can also take China: Civilization and Empire as a XSeries Program and earn a personalized XSeries Certificate.

China and the Modern World

China (Parts 6-10) explores the building of contemporary China – a new country built on the bedrock of a great and ancient civilization. ChinaX addresses what “modern China” means; when modern Chinese history begins; and enduring issues such as unity, population growth, environmental costs, social constraints, and commercialization.

You can also take China and the Modern World as a xSeries Program and earn a personalized xSeries Certificate. 

Meet The Faculty

Peter K. Bol

Peter K. Bol

Charles H. Carswell Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University

Peter K. Bol is the Vice Provost for Advances in Learning, the Charles H. Carswell Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, and the founding director of the Harvard Center for Geographic Analysis. He holds degrees from the University of Leiden and Princeton University. He began teaching at Harvard in 1985 and was named a Harvard College Professor for excellence in teaching. Bol and Kirby have been teaching the history of China together since 1992.

William C. Kirby

William C. Kirby

T. M. Chang Professor of China Studies

William C. Kirby is T. M. Chang Professor of China Studies at Harvard University and Spangler Family Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. He is a Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor. He serves as chairman of the Harvard China Fund and served as director of the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies from 2006 to 2013.

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