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 accepting applications for the MA/PhD program in Chinese History for fall of 2021. APPLY NOW


Personal Statement:

I am a cultural and intellectual historian of middle and late imperial China. My research focuses on epistemology, i.e., how pre-modern Chinese people pursued knowledge and generated new beliefs, and my discussion of epistemology extends from science as conventionally defined into areas such as political philosophy, ethics, cosmology, and the history of emotions. 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 a study of historical epistemology, which presents a version of empiricism that opens up a new avenue for comparing Chinese and Western thought. I have also authored several articles which engage a wide and diverse spectrum of topics, such as sensory history, book history, and the history of emotions. 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. 

Research and Teaching Interests:

History of Middle and Late Imperial China

Intellectual and Cultural History

History of Science, Technology, and Medicine

Chinese Philosophy

History of Emotions

Current Projects:

A Cultural History of Tears in China

Selected Publications:


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:

“Counting Books by the Juan: Material and Conceptual Aspects of the Chinese Book,” forthcoming in Asia Major (2022).

“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:

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. 

Courses Taught:

  • 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

Honors and Professional Activities:

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

  • 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