Peter K. Bol

Charles H Carswell Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations; former Vice Provost for Advances in Learning


Peter K. Bol (包弼德) is the Charles H. Carswell Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations. His research is centered on the history of China’s cultural elites at the national and local levels from the 7th to the 17th century. He is the author of “This Culture of Ours”: Intellectual Transitions in T’ang and Sung China, Neo-Confucianism in History, and Localizing Learning,  coauthor of Sung Dynasty Uses of the I-ching, co-editor of Ways with Words, and various journal articles in Chinese, Japanese, and English. He led Harvard’s university-wide effort to establish support for geospatial analysis in teaching and research; in 2005 he was named the first director of the Center for Geographic Analysis.

As Vice Provost (2013/09-2018/10) he was responsible for HarvardX, the Harvard Initiative in Learning and Teaching, and research that connects online and residential learning. He also directs the China Historical Geographic Information Systems project, a collaboration between Harvard and Fudan University in Shanghai to create a GIS for 2000 years of Chinese history. In a collaboration between Harvard, Academia Sinica, and Peking University he directs the China Biographical Database project, an online relational database currently of 470,000 historical figures that is being expanded to include all biographical data in China’s historical record over the last 2000 years. Together with William Kirby he teaches ChinaX (SW12x) course, a HarvardX course with a global enrollment of over 45,000. Bol received his Ph.D. in Chinese history from Princeton in 1980.

Research Interests: history of China’s cultural elites during the Tang, Song, Yuan, and Ming dynasties; digital humanities; China Biographical Database project; Center for Geographic Analysis; China Historical Geographic Information Systems project

Selected Publications


  • Smith, Kidder, Bol, Peter K., Adler, Joseph A. and Wyatt, Don J.. Sung Dynasty Uses of the I Ching. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014. 
  • Bol, Peter K. Neo-Confucianism in History. 1st ed. Vol. 307. Harvard University Asia Center, 2008. 
  • Bol PK. “This Culture of Ours” Intellectual Transitions in T’ang and Sung China. Stanford: Stanford University Press; 1992.
  • Bol, Peter Kees. Localizing Learning: The Literati Enterprise in Wuzhou, 1100-1600. Harvard University Asia Center, 2022.

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