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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.

Subject groups/Research projects

Chinese Studies:

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