Project Description


I specialize in Early China, especially from the Warring States period to Han times (5th century B.C.E.-3rd century C.E.). My research interests are primarily in ritual practices, material culture, and social, religious, and cultural history of early societies. Using both received history and archaeological sources, I am interested in looking at the intersection and interaction between writing and object, and studying topics including divination, sacrifice, spirits, the dead and death rituals, tombs and burials, and everyday life in early to medieval China from anthropological and historical perspectives, as well as the way they are theorized in comparative studies.

I am currently finishing my first book manuscript, titled A Life on Display: Reconstructing the Worlds of a Chu Official in Early China, an attempt at providing a microhistorical and biographical account of an individual from Early China. I examine how this fourth-century B.C.E. high-ranking minister of the Warring States Kingdom of Chu, Shao Tuo, navigated and negotiated the social, political, personal, and religious realms of his lifeworlds, using the materials excavated from his intact tomb, known as the Baoshan Tomb 2 (dated to 316 B.C.E.) in combination with other archaeological sources and received literature.

Concurrently I am also working a few article-length studies of figurative representations from Neolithic to Medieval China; funerary talismanic objects from 5th century B.C.E. to 5th century C.E. China, and the concepts of and practices regarding the dead in ancient China.

Areas of Specialization and Research Interests

  • Archaeologically Excavated Manuscripts and Objects in Early and Medieval China
  • Religion, Society, and Material Culture in Early and Medieval China
  • Funerary Rituals and Burial Practices in Early and Medieval China
  • Microhistory and Object Biographies
  • Archaeology of Religion
  • Material Culture and Thing Theories
  • Cultural History, Cultural Archaeology, and Cultural Anthropology


At Barnard and Columbia, I teach undergraduate courses on Chinese civilization, major texts from East Asian traditions, and graduate courses on early Chinese history, texts, and excavated manuscripts.

  • ASCE UN1359 Introduction to East Asian Civilizations: China
  • AH UN1400 Colloquium on Major Texts: East Asia
  • EAAS UG4202 The Dead in Ancient China: Conceptions and Practices
  • HSEA GR5013 Readings in Early Chinese Texts
  • HSEA GR9844 Archaeology of Everyday Lifeworld in Early China

Office: 317 Milbank Hall
Office Hours: W 12-2 or by appointment
Teaching Hours: MW 10:10-11:25, W 2:10-4:00
Phone: (212) 854-9538