Chinese Studies Children's Culture and Social Studies
Stephanie Hemelryk Donald, Zitong Qiu
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 April 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920082-0073


The study of childhood is crucial to understanding contemporary Chinese society and culture. Successive generations of childhood since the mid-20th century have been given the burden of succession—of revolution, of reform, and now of globalization and national pride. They have been involved in wars as child soldiers; they have found themselves at the forefront of internal struggles for the very meaning of culture; and they have been assigned the task of taking Chinese science and technology to the pinnacle of modernity. Chinese society expects a lot from its children. Nonetheless, there are relatively few academic studies of the subject, although that situation is changing in line with the increasing academic focus on Chinese media, an area where younger generations are leading the way. This bibliography seeks to provide an account of key foci in the study of childhood, while also extending the reach of the works cited to certain writings on “youth.” Childhood is a difficult category to pin down, as cultural and social norms can mean that a sixteen-year-old is a child in one place, but a working adult somewhere else. Here we keep to the United Nations Convention of the Rights of a Child (1988), of which China is a signatory, and mark infancy up to age two, and childhood up to seventeen years of age. However, we have still included titles that are concerned with youth over seventeen (approximately), when those discussions are also pertinent to an overall study of generational change. The eleven sections of this bibliography are not exhaustive, but they tease out important themes: Annual Reports, Premodern History of Children and Childhood, Modern Histories of Childhood and Youth, the Child as a Sign of Value, Youth, Music and Literature, Television and Film, Media Use, Education, Anthropology, Politics and Psychology, and Rural Children. The overwhelming impression is one of a double contradiction. The study of the child entails a focus on the future, on abrupt change, and on China’s potential in the world. At the same time, it leads us back to longstanding discourses of social value, discourses which have been forged in the political philosophies of the Confucian tradition but which have developed through the governmental necessities of imperial systems, whereby education underpinned an imperial bureaucracy that spread across the imperial sphere of influence. Indeed, the Book of Rites is clear that the job of a ten-year-old is to study. Yet it was childhood that became the working metaphor for 20th-century critiques of that tradition, whereby lost childhoods such as of that of the peasant Runtu in Lu Xun’s seminal short story “Old Home” (first published in the radical magazine New Youth, 1921; see also Lu 1972, cited under Premodern History of Children and Childhood) were taken as causes and effects of an impoverished and emasculated China.

Annual Reports

Consulting the annual reports in this section will help readers find their own leads in areas of particular interest. Fang and Liu 2008 is an annual report of Chinese children’s culture research in 2007 and can be considered a comprehensive tool book. Similarly, Fang and Liu 2009 documents the relevant research on the topic in 2008, Fang and Liu 2010 reports on 2009, and Fang 2011 on 2010. The first three are divided into four sections that focus on document reports, the academic frontier, hot issues, and an index of papers and theses, while Fang 2011 adopts a structure somewhat different from the previous annual reports. Lu, et al. 2004 collects research essays, most of which adopt a sociological perspective, and closely examines the social politics of exclusion and integration in urban space in contemporary China. Each of these includes multiple resources and disciplinary foci.

  • Fang Weiping 方卫平, ed. 2010 Zhongguo ertong wenhua yanjiu niandu baogao (2010中国儿童文化研究年度报告). Hangzhou, China: Zhejiang shaonian ertong chubanshe, 2011.

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    The 2010 report relegates documentation to the appendix. The “hot issues” of 2010 include the crisis regarding boys’ achievements in school (the fact that girls outperform them academically), adolescent Internet bullying, and school safety.

  • Fang Weiping 方卫平 and Liu Xuanwen 刘宣文, eds. 2007 Zhongguo ertong wenhua yanjiu niandu baogao (2007 中国儿童文化研究年度报告). Hangzhou, China: Zhejiang shaonian ertong chubanshe, 2008.

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    Divided into four parts; the first section of this 2007 annual report assembles legal and important government reports and documents about children. It includes academic research into children in various disciplines, including children’s studies, children’s philosophy, legal studies, sociology, education, psychology, literature, media, art, nutrition and health.

  • Fang Weiping 方卫平 and Liu Xuanwen 刘宣文, eds. 2008 Zhongguo ertong wenhua yanjiu niandu baogao (2008中国儿童文化研究年度报告). Hangzhou, China: Zhejiang shaonian ertong chubanshe, 2009.

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    Documents the comprehensive research undertaken vis-à-vis Chinese children’s culture in the year 2008. It includes hotly debated issues of 2008: left-behind and migrant children; children’s post-earthquake psychological crisis; media and children’s development; and youth popular culture.

  • Fang Weiping 方卫平 and Liu Xuanwen 刘宣文, eds. 2009 Zhongguo ertong wenhua yanjiu niandu baogao (2009中国儿童文化研究年度报告). Hangzhou, China: Zhejiang shaonian ertong chubanshe, 2010.

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    Divided into four parts; this 2009 annual report on Chinese children’s culture research emulates the structure of previous two years’ reports. The “hot issues focus” described in this report relates to research into gender education, children’s post-earthquake psychological crisis, and the problems inherent in the division between arts and sciences in high school (gaoxue) education.

  • Lu Shizhen 陆士祯, Wu Luping 吴鲁平, and Lu Deping 卢德平, eds. Zhongguo chengshi qingshaonian ruoshi qunti xianzhuang yu shehui baohu zhengce (中国城市青少年弱势群体现状与社会保护政策). Beijing: Shehui kexue chubanshe, 2004.

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    Focus is on issues pertaining to the vulnerable and/or disadvantaged social groups of urban youth and adolescents (chengshi qingshaonian); the evaluation and assessment of social policies, the legal system vis-à-vis special social protection, and suggestions regarding countermeasures. Categories include adolescents and urban college students affected by poverty, orphans and disabled children fostered by urban families, and migrant youth.

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