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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Emeritus Lecturer in Chinese Studies
East Asian Studies
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Michael Loewe, Ph.D. (1963), University Lecturer in Chinese Studies, Cambridge 1963 -1990, has concentrated on the history of China’s early empires (221 BCE – 220 CE), taking account of both literary and material evidence, and believing that dynastic developments cannot be separated from religious and intellectual changes.  A study of records of administration showed how official documents were compiled and how the officials of Han government performed their duties.  Recently found literary texts and profuse archaeological discoveries have raised questions of the authenticity of our received versions; others have enriched our knowledge of the beliefs and ideas of Han China, illustrated as these are by the icons and symbolism on objects found in tombs.  Loewe has worked on the forms and practice of imperial government, and subjects such as the ideas of immortality, methods of divination and force of mythology.  His recent work is being addressed to re-assessing the contributions of certain figures to the growth of China’s cultural heritage.      

Date of birth:   2 November 1922

Education:       1936-41 Perse School, Cambridge (Foundation scholar)

                      1941 Magdalen College, Oxford (Demy: i.e. undergraduate scholar) (residence interrupted by attendance at the first course in Japanese language, followed by war service 1942-5)

 Degrees:        1951 BA London: First Class Honours in Classical Chinese (external student)

                      1963 PhD London; title of dissertation 'The Han Documents from Chü-yen'

                      1963 MA University of Cambridge

                      2012 Doctor of letters, honoris causa, University of East Anglia

 Appointments:  1942-56 Specialist officer in Government Communications Headquarters

                        1956-63 Lecturer in the History of the Far East, University of London

                        1963-90 University Lecturer in Chinese Studies, University of Cambridge

                        1976      Visiting Professor, University of Stockholm

                        1990      Visiting Professor, Harvard University

                        1991      Visiting Professor, University of Chicago

                        1990-2   Deputy Director, Needham Research Institute, Cambridge

                        2014    Visiting professor University of California, Berkeley, October to November.

Fellowships:      1968-90 Official Fellow, Clare Hall, Cambridge

                        1972-     Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, London

                        1988-     Corresponding Fellow, Istituto Studii Medio e Estremo Oriente, Rome

                        2002-   Foreign Honorary Member, American Academy of Arts and Sciences

                        2010    Distinguished Adjuct Researcher, Renmin University, Beijing                               

 Director of Studies (Oriental Studies):

                        1969-90 Queens' College Cambridge

                        1972-90 Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge

                        1972-90 Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge

                        1981-90 Wolfson College, Cambridge

 College membership

                        St John’s College, Cambridge (since 2009)

                        Peterhouse, Cambridge (since 2009)

Teaching experience:

(1)  Public lectures to the following learned societies: The Society of Antiquaries, London; The British Association of Chinese Studies; The China Society of London; The European Association of Chinese Studies; The Folklore Society of London; the Royal Asiatic Society.

(2)  Postgraduate teaching: courses in Chinese bibliography, and advanced criticism of and reading in historical texts; supervision of candidates for higher degrees.

(3)  Undergraduate teaching; traditional language and texts at all levels, starting with beginners in Chinese Studies; supervision (i.e. person to person teaching) at all levels; readings in Kambun; survey courses in the history of China up to 1840; specialised courses in the history of early imperial China; archaeology of the early imperial periods; essay classes and seminars.

Visits to East Asia:

China:  1947: Posted for language training as Vice-Consul, British Consulate, Peiping                   

            1974: Leader of the delegation of British sinologists to PRC

            1986, 1988: Exchange scholar, accredited to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

            2001; 2009; 2010; 2012; 2013           

Taiwan: 1961, 1970, 1980, 1992, 1993, 1994: visits to Academia Sinica, Taipei, National Taiwan University and other institutions

Japan:   1960-61 Guest scholar, accredited to the Jimbun kagaku kenkyûjo, Kyoto

             1970:  Guest scholar, accredited to Kansai Daigaku

             1979:  Guest scholar, invited by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (Gakujutsu shinkôkai)

             1986   Visitor to institutes in Kyoto and Osaka

             1992; 1994

Some Media and Web Resources:

Lecture at the Collège de France (2011) "Values and Confucian Practices in Han China"

Interview at the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures ("Dr Michael Loewe in remembrance of Carmen Blacker")

Talk at the Royal Asiatic Society (2016) "Problems of Han Administration" (book launch event)

Research Interests

The Han Dynasty