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History & Culture

The Emergence of Modern China

This research stream considers contemporary China as a result of indigenous and global social, economic, cultural and political processes. The scientific interest lies in the identification and explanation of these processes and their observable, contemporary effects on culture and society. Research in this field looks into both directions: from historical events to contemporary happenings as well as from contemporary happenings toward their historical roots. Global and transnational interactions and connections are also considered in order to visualize global impulses and their impacts on China as well as China's influence on global events and developments in history and today.


Colonialism constitutes a central research field regarding China's history and culture. Chinese experiences with imperialism, colonialism, the spillover and aftermath of European and Japanese colonialist politics significantly affected Chinese culture, China's perceptions of history as well as the Chinese self-image and continue to do so today. Qingdao, as a former German colony, presents a major focal point of research efforts at the institute.


At the center of this research stream, historical and contemporary constructs of gender are paramount: these encompass conceptions, ideals and perceptions of femininity and masculinity among different social strata of contemporary as well as historical China. Research looks at historical ideas, as well as contemporary perceptions and gender roles.

Business History

This research stream reconsiders historical narratives from an economic angle. By this shift of perspective, the economic dimensions behind social developments and political trends are revealed and, in turn, challenge established narratives of Chinese history. Was late Qing China truly economically isolated? Was Chinese society at that time genuinely incapable of reacting to globalizing politics? In this research field detailed case studies help creating new outlooks on China's history. 

Intellectual history

This research stream investigates the historical changes of ideological systems, their functions and relevant agents. One important focus lies on the Song dynasty and the development of Neo-Confucianism. A further focus are the transformations of knowledge systems, which took place as a response to the introduction of western scientific tradition since the end of the 19th century. Points of particular interest include the reception of western academic disciplines and concepts in modern China. The field of religion is a further important part of culture, which can also be researched with methods from historical and cultural studies (see Research Field Religion).