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Pop is about speaking everybody's language.The imagery and iconography we instantly recognize. When you can rely on things that the public already knows, you're dealing with Pop. (Nuno Roque)
ASIA 319
Contemporary Chinese Popular Cultures
UBC Asian Centre, Bell Shrine, Winter 2013.JPG
Course Info
Instructor: Dr. Renren Yang
2022 Wiki Projects
Help & Resources

Welcome to the "Keywords in Chinese Popular Culture" project for ASIA 319: Contemporary Chinese Popular Cultures.

In his book Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, Raymond Williams described “keywords” as important elements in a living vocabulary which not simply reflects social and cultural problems, but also participates in the transformations of society and history[1]. New kinds of relationship, and new ways of seeing existing relationships, often first appear and occur within vocabulary: in the invention of new terms, in the adaptation and alteration of older terms, and in continuous extension or transfer of existing terms. Keywords invite research and reflection because debates about media, culture, and society can be enhanced by an increased understanding of the multiple genealogies of their structuring terms and the diverse conflicts and disagreements embedded in differing usages of those terms.

What are the Keywords?

The keywords are by no means specialized vocabulary of a specialized discipline, but the vocabulary we share with others when we discuss many of the central aspects of our common life. In terms of its functions, the keyword is 1) the significant binding word in certain activities, whose usage bound together certain ways of seeing culture and society; 2) the word indicative of certain forms of thoughts (political beliefs and ideologies), and 3) the enabler for any cultural, social and political analysis, problem-solving, and interpretations.

Why Compile a Keyword Wiki?

Locating and studying keywords for the moment is a way of recording, investigating, and presenting problems of meaning in our era. Taking keywords at the level of their general usages will contribute to enhancing our aesthetic awareness, cultural sensitivity, and cognitive capacity for clarification. An exploration of the living vocabulary in our social and cultural discussion will also enable us to be more conscious and critical of the precise historical conditions where the keyword emerges. We neither posit any fixed tradition to be learned nor a consensus to be reached, but recognize this Keyword Wiki as a force that shapes and reshapes, in real circumstances of Chinese popular culture, and from profoundly different yet important perspectives, a living vocabulary to examine our own life and recreate our own language, identity, and history.  

Project Guidelines


This project asks each group to construct a keyword entry of around at least 3,000 words in length (exclusive of references, diagrams, photographs), focusing on a term or word/s in scenes of contemporary Chinese popular cultures. In 2021-22 WT2, we are investigating a list of one-word aesthetic categories in Chinese Popular Culture.


Your objective in this assignment is to trace, review, and describe, with citations from the primary and secondary materials (be it printed or digital), how a number of authors, mediators, and audience utilize a particular keyword in what kinds of context, and how divergent even contradictory voices converge in the deployment of this keyword. You should identify a network of usages, references, and perspectives that are in history and for the moment, as well as the internal development and external context of the concept the keyword represents or indexes. More importantly, you should articulate what inquiry-oriented questions emerge from your group’s investigations into this keyword and its multiple significance in a scholarly discussion. You should demonstrate your ability to extract, summarize, and synthesize relevant facts, comments, discussions, and arguments, as well as your capacity to rationalize and present logical suggestions for further studies on some aspect of contemporary Chinese popular culture. As such, the keywords' entries are not simply “opinion pieces” nor comprehensive summaries, but a thoughtful and logical documentations on how the keyword is used and reused, accompanied by ongoing questions raised by the keyword. You are not required to make an original argument and elaborate on that in this project (reserve that for your individual final project).


  1. Instructors select a number of keywords in contemporary Chinese popular cultures.
  2. Students group themselves by each signing up for the keyword they want to contribute to. (Under "People" on Canvas menu bar).
  3. Student be introduced to Keyword wiki and how to construct entries. A workshop may be organized on what it means to contribute in Open space, and how to edit Wiki project by Educational Resources Developers at UBC Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology.
  4. Student work in groups to contribute to the Keyword Wiki. You may want to document each group meeting you have over the course of your collaboration. In the first meeting, each group should create and sign off a team contract: specify the division of labor; specify the roles of each group member: facilitator, questioner, recorder, spokesperson, reflector. In your second meeting, you should build a list of potential questions you plan to explore based on the confirmed topic, a good number of reliable primary and secondary sources (you can post them in the group discussion board for everyone's reference). Ideally, each group member should locate and write on at least one primary source and one secondary source. You can also divide labor among different teammates according to different sections of this Wiki page.
  5. Add your keyword to the Index, alphabetically. Create a New Page for that keyword. Post your keyword entry text and image to the New Page. Link the Keyword in the Index to the New Page you just created.
  6. Student submit the URL of their Wiki article on Canvas as a group. Together with the URL, each student will also write a short memo on their group work experience to describe what they experienced and learned as a team at the beginning, development and completion stages of the project (More instructions on Canvas assignment page).
  7. Students fill out anonymous peer evaluation via I-Peer.

Suggested Structure

This is only a suggested structure. It is very likely that you will need to modify this structure to fit your topic:

  1. Introduction: an inquiry into an area of general meanings and connections of meaning. Why an inquiry into this keyword is important? Why should people care about your Wiki page?
  2. The genesis of the keyword: How does it emerge in Chinese popular culture? How does it become popular in Chinese popular culture?
  3. A brief glossary of its explicit dictionary or traditional or official meanings: its general and variable usages, philological and etymological roots, and dictionary histories of definitions of the word, paying attention to the continuity and discontinuity in its historical usages (be brief, no need to copy and paste entries from dictionary, as this part is less exciting or relevant to pop culture as the following part);
  4. An elaboration of its variegated new meanings, new usages, and newly emergent value-loaded implications in Contemporary Chinese popular culture, to be substantiated with concrete verbal, audio, and visual examples. The keyword's actual and living meanings and their implications in Chinese pop culture are typically diverse and variable (and occasionally contradictory). The keyword's most active meanings are always embedded in its actual usages. The section can be further divided into five:
    1. The multiple explicit meanings and implicit connections people make when they use the keywords in their everyday life to discuss and debate over popular culture events, personas, and scenes. For instance, find out how the keyword is used in popular press, online forum, bullet curtain (danmaku), and other online venues by providing short citations (with linked references);
    2. A shared body of other words (or a world cloud) associated with the keyword (could be synonyms and antonyms or hypernyms), all gleaned from Chinese audience's general conversations of Chinese popular culture and society;
    3. Can you find a counterpart term or concept in any Western or non-Chinese popular cultures? Compare the multiple terms from different languages that to some degree share a similar meaning. The counterpart term could be a direct correspondence to or translation of the Chinese term, but in most cases, it could be a different term that expresses similar meanings that the Chinese term tries to convey.
    4. Compare and summarize multiple meanings of the keyword in divergent yet distinct contexts while digging into a range of ideas and values implied in these assorted usage;
    5. How the dictionary/official/conventional meanings discussed in the third part are transferred, distorted, or subverted? For example, how does the keyword originate in one language and migrate to another language? How does the keyword originate in one context and get subverted, misused, or renewed in another context? Can you describe the particular historical context for their misuse or new usages? For instance, the Chinese word tongzhi was a socialist word for comrades, but now become a synonyms for queer/gay after migrating via different cultural spheres and regions. After its origination in the Chinese popular culture scene, what about the international reception and appropriation of the keyword? The original meanings of words are always interesting but what is more interesting is the subsequent variations across geopolitical and geographical boundaries. .
  5. What social, cultural, and political problems are suggested through the multiple usages of the term? The keywords, indicative of elements of different problems, become a way for cultural producers and consumers to think through and reflect on what kinds of larger social, political, and intellectual issues and conflicts. Tip: Focus on the moments when scholars, journalists, reviewers, or the public make complaints over the practice, institution, or perspective implied by the keyword. Those moments are often very telling occasions for you to diagnose the actual developments and meanings of the term, especially their extension, variation and transfer. The "political problems" mentioned here include but extend beyond the realm of the government's censorship or the state's policy; sometimes, the subcultural communities' relationship to the mainstream culture (like Hollywood) or to the dominant ideology (like consumerism) could also be political (we call it subculture's politics). In this section, you should look for the deeper social, cultural, and political reasons for the popularity of this particular keyword in the contemporary Chinese societies.
  6. Review, summarize, and synthesize existing secondary studies related to the keywords. Incorporate scholarships from several different disciplines, such as literary studies, cultural studies, anthropology, psychology, sociology, etc. Discuss how several disciplines converge into your investigation of the keyword. Make sure all the secondary scholarly studies you cite are relevant to popular culture studies. The scholarly studies you review in this section do not have to be solely about China or Chinese-speaking societies or communities. They could be studies on popular cultural scenes in a non-Chinese speaking community but you find there is a strong sense of formal affinity or theoretical resonance with the cultural phenomena you are describing here in the Wiki entry. Of course, you could comment on the existing studies and recommend amendment, correction and addition as your scholarly responses (but this is entire optional and should not be the focus of this project); Please incorporate at least three to four studies that are related to our deeper understanding of the keyword.
  7. Conclusion: You should conclude your Wiki paper by summarizing the topic, or some aspect of the topic, and if possible, briefly suggest a position or a direction for future investigation or research.


  1. Substantiate your summary and analysis with telling multimedia examples, be it an image, a text, or a video;
  2. Find your own appropriate examples; engage in rhetorical analysis of the particular keyword while paying attention to the social and political context;
  3. Focus on the controversies and conflicts in the multiple usages of the keyword;
  4. Identify the possible solutions or interpretations that are currently underway to tackle those controversies and conflicts identified above – if there is none, try to come up with one yourself.
  5. For a reference study on the pop culture aesthetic category of 萌 (cuteness):
  6. Check out the following two samples done by ASIA 319 students in previous years: gufeng: Course:ASIA319/2020/"Gufeng" (古風); and tian: Course:ASIA319/2020/"Sweet"(甜).


  1. Ensure that you use reliable sources (e.g. peer reviewed literature, esteemed journalistic reports, your own field-notes). Citing a reliable newspaper or media is acceptable, only when you cannot find another more reliable source;
  2. Use the Wikipedia reference style (see Wikipedia:Inline citation);
  3. Provide a citation for every sentence, statement, thought, or bit of data not your own, giving the author, year, AND page number in the reference list (if quoting textually);
  4. You can reference foreign-language sources but translate the reference to English.

A Note on included Graphics, Multimedia, and Hyperlinks:

  • EXCELLENT - Images, multimedia sources and hyperlinks enhance quality of information; all acknowledged with captions or annotations
  • GOOD - Images, multimedia sources and hyperlinks support quality of information; all acknowledged with captions or annotations
  • BASIC - Insufficient number of images, multimedia sources and hyperlinks were used to support information
  • UNACCEPTABLE - Images and graphics have little to do with the topic

Grading Rubric

The project is worth 20% of your final course grade. The grading rubric for this project is as follows: [2]

Criteria\Level Exemplary
CONTENT (3 points) Present comprehensive yet diverse critical/abstract views with appropriate balance in each section: at least three or four views are provided without much overlap or iteration; both positive and negative views are included and discussed.
(3 points) Different views are each supported and illustrated by at least one piece of concrete evidence in each section. At least three to four pieces of effective evidence/examples are provided in the article, including counterpart examples from non-Chinese cultures if possible.
ORGANIZATION (3 points) Organize the page according to the order of prescribed modules; present all the information in a logical progression; segment the Wiki page properly without overlap between different sections; well organize the thoughts and examples in each section to maintain an internal coherence.
STYLE (2 points) Use neutral language and emphasize existing facts (examples and views). Your entry should read like an encyclopedia page rather than a persuasive essay.
(2 points) Explains the key ideas clearly, concisely, and adequately with few errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling.
(2 points) Accurately cites all sources of information to support the credibility and authority of the information presented; consistently use standard bibliographic format to cite reliable sources.
(2 points) Include high-quality graphics and multimedia when appropriate to empower visual rhetoric and clarify the content. No irrelevant illustrations.
GROUP COLLABORATION (3 points) Contributes equally and responsibly with other group members in researching, writing, and editing; submit an individual memo of group project experience; submit anonymous I-Peer evaluation in time.

Sharing Your Work

All wiki project pages are openly accessible on the Internet. If you would like to give permission for other people to use them (for example, by including them on the UBC Open Case Studies Site), the project template includes a green box that allows you to add your name(s) as author(s) of the resource and indicate if you'd like to share your work via a Creative Commons license . If you would like, add a name for who or what project created the resource, add that info after the names parameters. If left blank, it will default to Course:ASIA319.

The following is all optional but if you’d like your name added to the page as author as well allowing other people to re-use it as a conservation resource, you can:

  1. Click on the edit tab to edit your page
  2. Then scroll to the bottom and click on the green box at the bottom of the page
  3. This will generate a little pop-up with an edit button. Push the edit button.
  4. In the names field, add your name if you would like to be credited as the author
  5. In the share field, add “yes” (must be lowercase) if you would like to allow other folks to be able to reuse your page, such as by including it on the UBC open case studies site at Clicking yes adds a creative commons license to the page.


  1. Williams, Raymond (2015). Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. xxxiii.
  2. Chan, Judy. "Grading Rubric for the Research and Wikipedia Project for FNH200".