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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

East Asian Studies
University Associate Professor in the Study of Late Imperial China
Email address: 
+44 (0)1223 765071
Fellow of: 
Sidney Sussex College
Director of Studies at: 
Sidney Sussex College

I am a scholar of the humanities specializing in cultural history of late imperial China. My main fields of research are literature, religion, and history of the book during the Ming and Qing dynasties (ca. 1400-1900). I am particularly interested in the interplay between writing and worship in late-Ming print culture, as well as the impact of hagiographic writing on pilgrimage and travel.

Before joining AMES in 2019, I received my PhD from Columbia University in New York City (2018) and taught courses on China at Boston University as a Visiting Assistant Professor. My first book, Origin Narratives: Hagiographic Literature and Religious Practice in Late Ming China, examines a subgenre of commercially-published books celebrating the lives of heroes, gods, and immortals. Through the prism of these books, I explore the role that commercial publishing played in reshaping the reverence of cultural icons, while raising questions about our understanding of book consumption and the concept of literature in late-imperial China.

My second book project, currently in its early stages of preparation, examines the conceptualization of death and the afterlife in late imperial China. The main focus of this project is King Yama (yanluowang 閻羅王), a central figure in religio-cultural practices surrounding death and a recurring trope in Ming-Qing literature and drama.


I organize two lecture series at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Cambridge:

1. "Book Culture in Buddhism and Beyond," sponsored by the Glorisun Global Buddhist Network.

2. "Yin-Cheng Distinguished Lecture Series on Buddhism," sponsored by the Tzu Chi Foundation.

Teaching responsibilities: 

I teach undergraduate and graduate classes on Chinese history, literature, and religion, as well as Classical Chinese.

Supervision information: 

I welcome proposals for graduate work in the areas of late-imperial Chinese literature, print culture, and Chinese religions.

Research interests: 

Chinese history, premodern Chinese literature, religious practice in China, print culture and history of the book, travel and pilgrimage, and popular culture. I am particularly interested in the interplay between literature and religion in late-imperial China (primarily during the Ming and Qing dynasties). I am also interested in the history of the book, travel and pilgrimage, popular culture, and religious practice.

Current book projects:

  • Origin Narratives: Hagiographic Literature and Religious Practice in Late Ming Book Culture
  • King Yama: Afterlife Justice in Chinese Conceptions of the Netherworld 

Book chapters in edited volumes:

  • "Religion and Thought," in Paul Vierthaler ed., A Cultural History of Chinese Literatures, Volume 4: the Age of Expansion (1400-1650) (forthcoming with Bloomsbury)
  • "The Zha Chopper," in Adam Yuet Chau ed., Chinese Religious Culture in 100 Objects [a collaborative project initiated by the Society for the Study of Chinese Religions (SSCR)] (forthcoming)

Articles in preparation:

  • "Traces of the Immortal: Pictorial Hagiographies of Xu Xun"
  • "Ritual Appendices in Late-Ming Narrative Texts (xiaoshuo)"

Current PhD students

Ilay Golan: The Religious Tradition of Overseas Sailors in Late Imperial China
Yizhuo Li: Unfeminine Heroines: The Woman Warrior on Stage in Nineteenth Century China

Articles, Book Chapters etc

Popular Reverence and Commercial Publishing in Late Ming Hagiographic Literature Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies, Vol. 6, Number 2 pp. 18–29 (2023)
Writing and Worship in Deng Zhimo’s Saints Trilogy Religions (Basel, Switzerland), Vol. 13 (2) pp. 128 (2022)
Book review: Master of Silent Whistle Studio, Further Adventures on the Journey to the West. Translated by Qiancheng Li and Robert E. Hegel (University of Washington Press, 2020) Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London pp. 412-413 (2021)
Journeys Through the Netherworld in Late-Ming Hagiographic Narratives Late imperial China, 2021, Vol.42 (2) pp. 137-178 (2021)
Jigong Brill’s Encyclopedia of Buddhism (2019)
Book Review: Barend J. Ter Haar. Guan Yu: The Religious Afterlife of a Failed Hero (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017) Journal of Chinese Religions, Volume 46, No 2 pp. 219-221 (2018)
Baogong as King Yama in the Literature and Religious Worship of Late-Imperial China Asia Major, Third Series, Vol. 28, No. 2 pp. 39-75 (2015)
Review of the exhibition “Theater, Life, and the Afterlife: Tomb Decor of the Jin Dynasty from Shanxi,” at the China Institute, New York (February 9 - June 17, 2012) CHINOPERL, Vol. 31 (1) pp. 207-210 (2013)