skip to primary navigationskip to content

Dr Justin Winslett

The extrahuman and supernatural in pre-modern texts, especially the Early Imperial period and including Warring States manuscripts to Qing dynasty biji

Teaching Associate in Classical and Literary Chinese

Office Phone: 01223 765071


At Cambridge, I am responsible for teaching Classical and Literary Chinese and contributing to classes and lectures with a focus on premodern China. This year, I am responsible for or contributed to:

Second Year Classical and Literary Chinese (C6)

History of Dynastic China (C7)

Fourth Year Classical and Literary Chinese (C13)

Introduction to East Asian History (EAS1)  


I have particularly sustained and extensive experience in teaching Classical and Literary Chinese, having taught at both Oxford and Manchester. In all my teaching, I place a strong emphasis on text-based instruction and on encouraging students to view Classical Chinese not simply as an ossified language of the elite, but rather as a working language which has been used by peoples across East Asia for centuries and that continues to shape the cultures and languages of the region today.

Research Interests

My research is concerned with the extrahuman and supernatural in texts from the premodern period. My work has ranged from Warring States manuscripts to Qing dynasty biji, but I have a particular interest in material from the Early Imperial period (221 BCE-10TH C CE).

Currently, I am converting my thesis into a monograph titled Understanding the Gods: The representation of the extrahuman in Early China which is a comprehensive survey of extrahuman agents in early Chinese materials. Additionally, I am contributing to a book project with several other colleagues titled Concepts of Divinity: High Gods in Pre-Qin China that explores issues of divinity and religiosity in texts from the Classical Period. This project is part of the larger ‘Is Religion Natural? The Chinese Challenge’-project.

Upon completion of these, I will be engaging in a second book-length project that will explore space and time in connection to the supernatural- monsters, demons, gods- in the tales of the Taiping guangji 太平廣記.

Other Professional Activities

I have a secondary interest in Manchu and Mongolian and the Mongol and Qing Empires, particularly how these texts construct their own notions of Empire and the World. I am currently learning Sanskrit, and have experience teaching Mandarin and Japanese.

Key Publications


Understanding the Gods: The representation of the extrahuman in Early China (Forthcoming)

 Concepts of Divinity: High Gods in Pre-Qin China. With Kelly James Clark. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Forthcoming)

 Articles and Book Chapters

“Speaking of Gods: The Intellectual History of the Extrahuman in Early Chinese Texts”. Journal of the British Association for Chinese Studies, Jan 2016.

“Deities and the Extrahuman in Pre-Qin China: Lesser Deities in the Zuozhuan and the Guoyu”. Journal of the American Academy of Religion first published online July 6, 2014 doi:10.1093/jaarel/lfu035

“The Representation and Understanding of the High Deities in Pre-Qin Texts”. With Kelly James Clark in The China Conundrum. Barret, Justin and Hornbeck, Ryan eds. Oxford: Oxford University Press (Forthcoming)

“The Evolutionary Psychology of Chinese Religion: Pre-Qin High Gods as Punishers and Rewarders”. With
Kelly James Clark.
Journal of the American Academy of Religion (2011) 79 (4): 928-960 first published online August 22, 2011 doi:10.1093/jaarel/lfr018