Professional and Biographical Information


Ph.D., Stanford University, CA
M.A., Stanford University, CA
B.A., Fudan University, China

Research Interests

As a historian of late imperial China, I am most interested in uncovering the interconnectedness and interactions between economic forces, political developments, and socio-cultural factors that shaped market institutions and molded the behavior of economic actors. I also aim to understand how people’s economic activities and business institutions help to change political configurations and transform socio-cultural landscapes. To illustrate, my current research traces the historical process through which the Shanxi merchants created the most powerful long-distance trading network in pre-modern China during the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. I argue that the success of these merchants could be attributed to the new political economy on the frontier that resulted from the Qing Empire’s westward expansion, but their success also exerted profound impacts on the empire. On the one hand, these merchants created new business and social institutions to take advantage of the new market opportunities, and their activities also facilitated the socioeconomic integration between peripheral and core regions of the empire, thereby consolidating imperial rule in the borderlands. On the other hand, the new institutions helped the merchants to create an alternative social order—one that empowered businessmen and challenged the orthodox Confucian ideology promoted by the empire, which discriminated against merchants and profit-seeking activities. 

Teaching Interests

While my research focuses on late imperial China, my teaching encompasses the full span of Chinese history, from antiquity to the present. I offer two survey courses, one on pre-modern and the other on modern China. These courses are designed to introduce students to the general contour of Chinese history as well as familiarize them with the defining narratives and themes in Chinese culture. In addition, I offer mid and upper-level seminar courses that are designed to provide students with a solid foundation to further their studies in Chinese history. 

My understanding of economic activities as dynamic processes embedded in political, social, and cultural contexts motivates both my research and teaching. I will teach classes on the history of East Asian capitalism. The goal of my teaching is to not only cultivate students’ interests in the past but also to help them understand the historical origins and socio-political consequences of economic institutions and business practices. I strongly believe that a liberal arts education should prepare all students—regardless of their career choices—to attend to the political and ethical implications of economic activities.     

Besides my scholarly role as a socio-economic historian, I am a photographer and I am deeply interested in exploring ways to use photographs and other visual materials in historical research and teaching. I will offer a class titled “Photograph Modern China” in the near future. 

Honors and Awards

The Freeman Spogli Institute Dissertation Fellowship

Whiting Foundation Dissertation Fellowship

The Freeman Spogli Institute Dissertation Fellowship

Kwok Foundation Fellowship

Fellowship for the Studies of Women in Asia