The Study of Chinese History at UCSB

At UCSB, three China specialists, Anthony Barbieri (ancient), Ya Zuo (middle period), and Xiaowei Zheng (late imperial and modern) work together to cover the long history of China. We train students to have a comprehensive understanding of Chinese history. We emphasize the importance of a comparative framework, skills in the digital humanities, and the ability to build connections beyond one’s immediate field, drawing upon philosophy, archaeology, art history, political science, and literature. As one of the few UC campuses that have a complete coverage from classical to modern China, we are highly collaborative and are deeply committed to train our students to be creative thinkers, meticulous researchers, and well-rounded scholars who will flourish in both research and professional development skills.
We will be be accepting applications for the MA/PhD program in Chinese History for fall of 2023. 

Personal Statement:

Trained at Harvard (M.A., 1997) in East Asian Studies  and Princeton (Ph.D. 2001 in Chinese Art and Archaeology, I have wide-ranging interests in many aspects of Early China, including technology, organization of production, labor history, gender and social relations, legal process, visual and material culture, and state formation. I also conduct research in Egyptology as a comparative field with early China. I teach undergraduate courses in East Asian civilization, world history, and early Chinese history, and graduate courses in specialized topics related to ancient China and Egypt.

For a much more detailed presentation of my research and recordings of recent talks, see my personal research website here.


Advisor to:

Research and Teaching Interests:

  • Ancient China
    I specialize in the social, legal, economic, and material-culture history of early imperial China.
  • Chinese Archaeology and Epigraphy
  • Egyptology


Current Projects:

  • For more details on all these projects, visit my research website, here.


  • “Discourses on Salt and Iron”


  • “The Many Lives of the First Emperor of China”
    This is a book-length project which examines the Qin Dynasty of China from a variety of perspectives, including the views from archaeology, literature, and modern popular culture. (UW Press, 2022)
  • Ancient Egypt and Early China: State, Society, and Culture (UW Press, 2021)
  • “Using Video Game Engines for Archaeological Site Reconstruction”
    This is an ongoing project which experiments with using the latest in video game technology to provide more realistic reconstructions of archaeological sites.
Computer Reconstruction of Theban Tomb no. 1 of Sennedjem

Computer Reconstruction of Theban Tomb no. 1 of Sennedjem

A Short Video Walkthrough of Theban Tomb no. 1

  • “Using Photogrammetry to Ceate Models of Objects” (See below)



Ceramic Head from a Larger Horse Model by barbierilow on Sketchfab

Banshan Pot, Gansu Province, China, ca. 4000 BC by barbierilow on Sketchfab

Selected Publications:


The Many Lives of the First Emperor of China (University of Washington Press, 2022)

Ancient Egypt and Early China: State, Society, and Culture ( University of Washington Press, 2021).

Law, State, and Society in Early Imperial China (Leiden: Brill, 2015)
A study with translation of two important legal texts from the early Han Empire (written with Robin D.S. Yates)

Artisans in Early Imperial China (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2007)
A contextualized social history of artisans from the Qin and Han periods (ca. 221 BCE – 220 CE). Winner of the 2008 Breasted Prize (AHA), Morey Prize (CAA), & Levenson Prize (AAS), and ICAS Prize (IIAS)

Recarving China’s Past: Art, Architecture, and Archaeology of the “Wu Family Shrines.” New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005.
Winner of the Honorable Mention for the 2005 George Wittenborn Memorial Book Award given by the Art Libraries Society of North America.

“Wheeled Vehicles in the Chinese Bronze Age (c. 2000-741 B.C.).” Sino-Platonic Papers 99 (February 2000).


Honors and Professional Activities:


  • NEH Award for Faculty, 2023-2024
  • ACLS Fellowship, 2019-2020.
  • Honorable Mention for the Patrick Hanan Prize of the Association for Asian Studies, 2018.
  • Chiang Ching-Kuo Senior Scholar Grant, 2016-2017
  • Mellon New Directions Fellowship, 2013-2015
  • Getty Villa Residential Scholar, Getty Research Institute, 2011
  • Winner of the 2009 Joseph Levenson Book Prize of the Association for Asian Studies
  • Winner of the 2009 ICAS Book Prize, International Convention of Asia Scholars
  • Winner of the 2009 Charles Rufus Morey Book Prize of the College Art Association
  • Winner of the 2008 James Henry Breasted Book Prize of the American Historical Association
  • National Endowment for the Humanities, Collaborative Research Grant, 2007-9
  • National Endowment for the Humanities, Fellowship for University Teachers, 2004-5
  • Honorable Mention for the 2005 George Wittenborn Memorial Book Award
  • Getty Foundation, Collaborative Research Grant, 2002-4



Recorded Lectures


Research Websites

Personal Research Website
This site contains my biography, current cv, summaries of published and current research, course syllabi, upcoming public talks, and sample lectures with audio and video.

Computer- Assisted Reconstruction of the Wuzhaishan Site
This is a virtual reality tour of a Chinese family cemetery dated to about 150 CE.


Computer Reconstruction of the Wu Family Cemetery

Computer Reconstruction of the Wu Family Cemetery


A Short Video Walkthrough of the Wu Family Cemetery