Michael A. Szonyi

Frank Wen-Hsiung Wu Memorial Professor of Chinese History; Former Director of the Fairbank Center 2016 – 2022



Faculty Webpage

Michael A. Szonyi


Michael Szonyi (宋怡明) is Frank Wen-Hsiung Wu Memorial Professor of Chinese History and the former Director of the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies (2016-2022) at Harvard University. He is a social historian of late imperial and modern China who studies local society in southeast China using a combination of traditional textual sources and ethnographic-style fieldwork. He has written, translated or edited seven books, including The Art of Being Governed: Everyday Politics in Late Imperial China (2017); A Companion to Chinese History (2017), Cold War Island: Quemoy on the Front Line (2008; Chinese edition 2016) and Practicing Kinship (2002). He is also co-editor, with Jennifer Rudolph, of The China Questions: Critical Insights on a Rising Power (2018).

A frequent commentator on Chinese affairs, Szonyi is a Fellow of the Public Intellectuals Program of the National Committee on US-China relations. He recently completed a term as member of the China and Inner Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies, and served for many years as English-language editor for the journal of Historical Anthropology.

Szonyi received his BA from the University of Toronto and his D.Phil from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. He has also studied at National Taiwan University and Xiamen University. Prior to coming to Harvard in 2005, Professor Szonyi taught at McGill University and the University of Toronto.


Select Books

Jennifer Rudolf and Michael Szonyi, eds., The China Questions, 337 pages, Harvard University Press, 2018

The Art of Being Governed: Everyday Politics in Late Imperial China, 303 pages, Princeton University Press, 2017

Editor, A Companion to Chinese History. 480 pages. Wiley-Blackwell, 2017

Zheng Yangwen, Liu Hong and Michael Szonyi, eds. The Cold War in Asia: The Battle for Hearts and Minds. 268 pages. Brill, 2010

Cold War Island: Quemoy on the Front Line. 310 pages. Cambridge University Press, 2008. Chinese edition National Taiwan University Press, 2016

Ming-Qing Fujian Wudi Xinyang Ziliao Huibian (Collected Materials on Beliefs in the Five Emperors in Fujian). 265 pages. Hong Kong University of Science and Technology South China Research Centre, Hong Kong. 2006.

Practicing Kinship: Strategies of Descent and Lineage in Late Imperial China. 313 pages. Stanford University Press, 2002.

In the Media

China, Leave those Wombs Alone, Foreign Policy, 2015