Literature and Culture

Study of the literature and culture of China have never been stronger at the Fairbank Center. The Center has numerous affiliated scholars focusing on a wide variety of periods and subjects ranging from the ancient Chinese poetry to modern Chinese literature. Prof. David Wang is a particularly active member of the community and is responsible for many of the Center’s events on this subject, including bringing the Nobel laureate, Mo Yan, and acclaimed author Ha Jin to speak at Harvard and designing a successful symposium held last year entitled “The Cultural Revolution and Cinema.”


Karen Thornber
Karen Thornber

Karen Thornber 唐丽园

Harry Tuchman Levin Professor in Literature and Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations

Karen Thornber’s primary areas of research and teaching are world literature and the literatures and cultures of East Asia, particularly Japan, as well as the Indian Ocean Rim.

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Harvard University Asia Center | CGIS South S222 | 1730 Cambridge Street | Cambridge, MA 02138
Jie Li
Jie Li

Jie Li 李潔

Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations

As a scholar of literary, film, and cultural studies, Jie Li’s research interests center on the mediation of memories in modern China.

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david wang
david wang

David Der-Wei Wang 王德威

Edward C. Henderson Professor of Chinese Literature

David Der-wei Wang holds a joint appointment in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations and the Department of Comparative Literature.

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leonard van derkuijp
leonard van derkuijp

Leonard van der Kuijp 范德康

Professor of Tibetan and Himalayan Studies

Leonard van der Kuijp is professor of Tibetan and Himalayan Studies and chairs the Committee on Inner Asian and Altaic Studies. Best known for his studies of Buddhist epistemology, he is the author of numerous works on Tibet and TibetanRead More

Department of South Asian Studies | Inner Asian and Altaic Studies | 1 Bow St. | Cambridge
Ellen Widmer
Ellen Widmer

Ellen Widmer 魏爱莲

Mayling Song Professor of Chinese Studies, Wellesley College

Professor Ellen Widmer studies traditional Chinese fiction, history of Chinese women's writing, history of the book in China, and missionaries to East Asia.

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stephen owen
stephen owen

Stephen Owen 宇文所安

James Bryant Conant University Professor, Professor of Comparative Literature, Emeritus

Stephen Owen is a sinologist specializing in premodern literature, lyric poetry, and comparative poetics. Much of his work has focused on the middle period of Chinese literature (200-1200), however, he has also written on literature of the early period andRead More

Thomas Kelly
Thomas Kelly

Thomas Kelly 陶明

Assistant Professor of Pre-Modern Chinese Literature

Thomas Kelly is the Assistant Professor of Pre-Modern Chinese Literature at the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations. He is a scholar of late imperial Chinese literature. His research attends to the interplay between the literary imagination and ChineseRead More

2 Divinity Avenue | Cambridge MA 02138
Waiyee li
Waiyee li

Wai-Yee Li 李惠仪

Professor of Chinese Literature

Wai-yee Li has been Professor of Chinese Literature at Harvard since 2000. Li earned her B.A. from the University of Hong Kong and her Ph.D. from Princeton University (1987), where she was associate professor from 1996 to 2000.

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Wilt Idema 伊維德

Professor of Chinese Literature, Emeritus

Wilt L. Idema (b. 1944) obtained his BA, MA and PhD from Leiden University. Following a two years’ stay in Japan and Hong Kong (1968-1970) he taught at Leiden University from 1970 to 1999. From 2000 to 2013 he taughtRead More

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Research Projects

Funded Tarikh-i Hamidi Reading Group

In addition to funding large-scale conferences, the Center also supports smaller, focused modes of inquiry. Last year, the Fairbank Center funded Eric Schluessel, a Ph.D. candidate in Harvard’s History and East Asian Languages department, to form a reading group for the examination and partial translation of Tārīkh-i Ḥamīdī (1908) by Mullā Mūsà. The text itself is the most important Turkic-language source for the history of Xinjiang in the nineteenth century and is considered a masterwork of Uyghur history.

Jeffery R. Gu Memorial Fund for Study in Taiwan

The Jeffery R. Gu Memorial Fund for Study in Taiwan is awarded to Harvard College students who wish to study Chinese language and culture in Taiwan. For more information and to apply, see here.

Mo Yan as Storyteller

In the fall of 2014, Prof. David Der-wei Wang moderated a conversation between author and Nobel laureate Mo Yan and the acclaimed novelist Ha Jin on their creative processes and the sharing of Chinese stories with a global audience.

China in Translation: Theory, History, Practice

This workshop, funded by the Fairbank Center and organized by Harvard professors Mark C. Elliott and David Wang in conjunction with Uganda Sze Pui Kwan, assistant professor at the Chinese Division of nanyang Technological University, examined the place of translation and translators in the making of modern China. It studied China through the lens of translation, and translation through the lens of China. It sought to contextualize an examination of knowledge production both in China and of China since the nineteenth century, and to trace the sources of the enduring tension between Sinocentric and Eurocentric worldviews.

The Cultural Revolution and Cinema

This symposium asked the question: what was cultural about the Cultural Revolution, or was the decade only a cultural desert? Upon the fiftieth anniversary of the Cultural Revolution, this symposium considered the cinematic production and reception, practices and legacies of that tumultuous decade. These issues were addressed through three panels—Revolution through Cinema, Revolutionary Aesthetics, and Cinematic Memories—plus a roundtable discussion.

For more on Cultural Revolution cinema, see here

Shen Congwen and Modern China International Symposium (2015-2016)

Shen Congwen (December 28, 1902 – May 10, 1988) was one of the greatest modern Chinese writers cum scholars on par with Lu Xun. Yet, for decades, Shen Congwen was overlooked by literary historians in the People’s Republic of China due to his stylistic iconoclasm and ideological nonconformism. The symposium situated Shen Congwen in the tumultuous historical context from the early Republican era to the Cultural Revolution, and rethought the contested process by which a modern Chinese intellectual writer came to terms with his time as well as his own life.

For more on Cultural Revolution cinema, see here

Latest News

Professor Stephen Owen awarded 2020 Stanislas Julien Prize

Just a Song: Chinese Lyrics from the Eleventh and Early Twelfth Centuries by Stephen Owen wins 2020 Stanislas Julien Prize Congratulations to Professor Stephen Owen, James Bryant Conant University Professor, Emeritus, who has been awarded the prestigious 2020...

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