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 2024. 


I am a cultural and intellectual historian of middle and late imperial China, and my work is highly interdisciplinary. My publications cross various subfields in historical studies, including intellectual history, the history of science, technology, and medicine, the history of emotions, gender studies, sensory history, and the history of the book. My interdisciplinary interests afford a broad and inclusive perspective for exploring ideas and knowledge in pre-modern China. My first monograph, Shen Gua’s Empiricism (Harvard University Asia Center, 2018) is the first book-length study in English of Shen Gua, the best known Renaissance man in medieval China and the author of Brush Talks from Dream Brook (Mengxi bitan), an old text featuring a gamut of remarkable “scientific” discoveries and thus seemingly ahead of its time. In addition to providing an in-depth analysis of Shen, my book is simultaneously a study of historical epistemology, which illuminates a version of empiricism on the basis of an original reading of Neo-Confucian theory of knowledge. Currently, I am working on a monograph on tears and crying in Chinese history. 

I was a tenured professor at Bowdoin College before coming to UCSB in 2020. Click here for more on my academic background. 

History of Middle and Late Imperial China

Intellectual and Cultural History

History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

Chinese Philosophy

History of Emotions

A Cultural History of Tears in China


Shen Gua’s Empiricism, Harvard University Asia Center and Harvard University Press, the Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph Series 113, 2018. 

Click here for more on the book. 

Journal Articles:

“Collecting Tears: Lachrymation and Emotions in the Taiping Collectanea,” Oriens Extremus 59 (2022): 225–279.

“Counting Books by the Juan: Material and Conceptual Aspects of the Chinese Book,” Asia Major 35.1 (2022): 33–73.

“Male Tears in Song China (960–1279),” Journal of Chinese Studies 73 (2021), 33–79.

“Zhang Zai’s (1020–1077) Critique of the Senses,” Journal of Chinese History 3 (2019): 83–111.

“‘Ru’ versus ‘Li’: The Divergence between the Generalist and the Specialist in the Northern Song (960−1127),” Journal of Song-Yuan Studies 44 (2014): 83–137.

“Beisong shu lun” 北宋數論 (Discourse on Number in the Northern Song), Tang Yanjiu 唐研究 (The Tang Studies) 18 (2012): 475–506.

“The Production of Written Knowledge under the Rubric of Jiyi,” East Asian Science, Technology, and Society 4 (2010): 255–273.

Edited Volume Contributions:

“Keeping Your Ear to the Cosmos: Coherence as the Standard of Good Music in the Northern Song (960−1127) Music Reforms,” in Powerful Arguments: Standards of Validity in Late Imperial China, edited by Ari D. Levine, Joachim Kurtz, and Martin Hofmann (Leiden: Brill Academic Publishing, 2020), 277–309.

“Whence Came Sad Tears?,” article with new media elements, in Fluid Matter(s): Flow and Transformation in the History of the Body, edited by Natalie Köhle and Shigehisa Kuriyama. Asian Studies Monograph Series 14 (Canberra: Australian National University Press, 2020). Link

Check out the entire volume here

Short Scholarly Articles: 

Appreciation of “Another Look at Li” by Willard J. Peterson, Special Golden Anniversary Section, Journal of Song-Yuan Studies 50 (2021): 219-220.

Pedagogy Essays:

“The Peach Blossom Fan with a Modern Twist,” as part of the group project “Outside the Box: Teaching East Asian History with Digital Media, Technological Artifacts, and Performative Activities,” Education about Asia 24.3 (2019): 49.

Book Reviews:

Peter K. Bol, Localizing Learning: The Literati Enterprise in Wuzhou, 11001600 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Asia Center, 2022), Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, forthcoming.

Shengqing Wu and Xuelei Huang eds., Sensing China: Modern Transformations of Sensory Culture (London and New York: Routledge, 2023), Asian Studies Review.

Yunchiahn C. Sena, Bronze and Stone: The Cult of Antiquity in Song Dynasty China (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2019), East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine 54 (2022)): 320–321.

Peter Lorge, Imperial China (London: Oneworld Publications, 2021), China Review International 27.2 (2020): 127–130.

Philip J. Ivanhoe, Three Streams: Confucian Reflections on Learning and the Moral Heart-Mind in China, Korea, and Japan (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), China and Asia: A Journal in Historical Studies 1(2019): 265–270.

Click here for more information on my research and publications. 

  • HIST 184B History of China (sixth to seventeenth centuries) 
  • HIST 184T History of Traditional Chinese Thought
  • HIST 184R History of Chinese Medicine
  • HIST 184M China’s Historical Minorities
  • HIST 2B World History

President, Society for Song, Yuan, and Conquest Dynasties Studies 

Editorial Board Member, Global Chinese Histories Series, Amsterdam University Press

  • 2023-24, Stanford University Humanities Center Fellowship
  • 2022-23 Research Focus Group Grant, Emotions in History, the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center, UCSB (primary investigator, in collaboration with Dr. Hongbo Yu [Psychological and Brain Sciences, UCSB, Yu Emotion Science Lab])
  • 2021-22 UCSB College of Letters and Science Conference Grant
  • 2020-21 Regents’ Humanities Faculty Fellowship Award, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • 2020 Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies Collaborative Reading Workshop Grant (Primary investigator; in collaboration with Ellen Zhang and Ari Levine)
  • 2019 Elizabeth Watkins Porter and Robert Chamberlain Porter Research Award
  • 2018 Award from the Society for Song, Yuan, and Conquest Dynasties Studies for Paper Presentation at the Annual Conference of the Association for Asian Studies                                                                                                                                     
  • 2016 Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship                                              
  • 2015 Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • 2011 Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation Doctoral Fellowship             
  • 2010 Ph.D. Writing Completion Fellowship, Program of East Asian Studies, Princeton University                                                                                                 
  • 2004–2006 Merit Prize, Department of East Asian Studies, Princeton University