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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies


Introduction to Chinese at Cambridge

Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken language today by a very long way. It is spoken by around a billion people worldwide. So it’s not surprising that many people are looking to learn this language as an important route into commerce, politics or international relations.

However, the study of this great language opens up a much broader world and a rich cultural heritage.

At Cambridge, we teach

  • extensive writting and spoken abilities in modern Chinese
  • a solid grounding in classical and literary Chinese
  • a critical understanding of the rich variety of Chinese culture

Please be aware that this course is intended for students who do not speak Chinese as their mother-tongue. We will consider applications from students who wish to learn Chinese from scratch as well as those who have studied Chinese at secondary school and / or sixth form college.


Do you know that a basket of mangoes can change the course of history? That’s exactly what happened in August 1968. Chairman Mao gave a basket of mangoes, a gift from the Pakistani foreign minister, to the Workers’ Mao Zedong Thought Propaganda Team. These workers had been sent to university campuses to quell the escalating armed Red-Guard factionalism and violence. The mangoes, rare in China at the time, were seen as sign of a shift in power from the Red Guard to the workers and peasants. Tens of thousands mango replicas travelled up and down the country in reliquary-like containers held in parades by reverential revolutionary-committee members. Dr Adam Yuet Chau has written extensively about this episode and is just one of the lecturers whose fascinating research informs our East Asian Studies course.