Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies: Predissertation-Summer Travel Grants

The Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies seeks to maintain the vitality of China Studies in the US and Canada through fellowships and grants designed primarily for scholars early in their careers.  Studies on and in China have developed over the last 30 years in North America into a robust field, but current conditions pose daunting problems, especially for scholars just before and just after the dissertation.

Predissertation travel grants provide funding for graduate students to explore venues and make preliminary research arrangements, and to gain advice from potential collaborators regarding subsequent research in China.

This program is made possible by a generous grant from The Henry Luce Foundation.

Read more about this fellowship program.

Please note: affiliations shown are as of time of award. Please click on fellows' names for current information.

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Watch "Emerging Themes and Methods of Research: A Discussion with ACLS Fellows," an annual meeting session featuring recent ACLS fellows. 

Larry Au
Larry Au  |  Abstract
My proposed dissertation will examine the contemporary scientific research by the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) community in China and the United States. The dissertation will be organized around the concept of boundary work and will look at how boundary crossing is made possible under different organizational and institutional settings. Through interviews and analytical methods offered by field theory, network analysis, and actor network theory, the project will examine how TCM is selectively integrated with different disciplines within the biomedical sciences. The findings of this research will reveal not just how TCM's knowledge and practices are made scientific, but also how scientific innovation occurs through the incorporation of diverse forms of expertise.

Doctoral Student, Sociology, Columbia University  -  Making Traditional Chinese Medicine Scientific

Matthew Lowenstein
Matthew Lowenstein  |  Abstract
This project explores the nature of Chinese banking and money under high socialism (1949-1978). It charts the evolution of finance in Beijing, Sichuan, and Chongqing from the state monopolization of banking in 1949, through the heady bubble economy of the first five year plan, attempts to reintroduce independent finance after the Great Leap, and the fragmentation of the monetary system in the 1970s. By mining archives of local actors such as People's Bank regional branches, this dissertation constructs a history of finance from the bottom up. It examines how different rural and urban social groups interfaced with and constituted the financial system. In doing so, it sheds light on the fundamental question of what socialist money is, and how it structured social relations after 1949.

Doctoral Student, History, University of Chicago  -  The People’s Bank: A Social History of Banking and Money in Mao’s China

Peter W. Braden
Peter W. Braden  |  Abstract
I am studying how domesticated animals experienced the profound changes in human institutions (markets, laws, husbandry practices, and customs) that accompanied the Chinese revolution of 1949 and the transition to socialism. How were animals' inner lives affected by tumult and transformation in the realm of humans? I will examine the eradication of the cattle disease rinderpest, and the effects of changes in livestock raising and slaughtering on animals' welfare and sexuality. Our understanding of China's history is incomplete as long as we ignore the experiences of its billions of intelligent animals during this pivotal period.

Doctoral Student, History, University of California, San Diego  -  Did Animals Have a Chinese Revolution? : Animal Experiences During China's Post-War Transition to Socialism

Alifu Mierxiati
Alifu Mierxiati  |  Abstract
Does mother tongue proficiency have any affect on the acquisition of second languages? Mother tongue education is becoming a crucial matter in a multilingual region, where it can be associated with minority rights and indigenous rights. This dissertation research sets out to determine the correlation between mother tongue proficiency and second language acquisition in Xinjiang, China. The Chinese government abolished the Uyghur education system and implemented a Mandarin dominant bilingual education system in Xinjiang in the early 2000s (Schluessel, 2007). This dissertation project will investigate the development and the outcome of decreased mother tongue education on Uyghur students' second language acquiring abilities.

Doctoral Student, Anthropology, Indiana University Bloomington  -  Mother Tongue Proficiency, Second Language Acquisition in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region

Thomas Chan
Thomas Chan  |  Abstract
My proposed dissertation project examines how Chinese Communist Party leaders infused Maotai, a hard liquor from Guizhou province, with ideological and cultural meanings in order to bolster support for their new regime. I argue that Maotai's state-led development shows how globalization, violence, and market forces played prominent roles in the creation and maintenance of the Maoist regime. In doing so, I argue that in certain aspects, China's era of high socialism possessed capitalist characteristics. My research draws on the internal archives of the Maotai factory, oral histories of the workers and residents of Maotai village, government policy documents regarding the distribution and sale of Maotai, advertisements, propaganda stories, newspaper articles, and factory export records.

Doctoral Student, History, University of California, San Diego  -  Bottoms-Up History: Maoism, Maotai, and the Building of the Chinese Nation, 1949 to 1976

Qichen (Barton) Qian
Qichen (Barton) Qian  |  Abstract
This dissertation aims to study the organization of Tibetan military force during the eighteenth century. The Tibetan military led by Polhané, an Tibetan aristocrat, was actively defending the Tibetan territory and deterring the enemies during the first half of eighteenth century. Through Polhané's active conscription and training, the Tibetan military professed vibrant military prowess. By delving into data such as military organization, size of the central government army, rituals and exercises; this dissertation seeks to uncover new materials on Tibetan military history and interactions with Inner Asia during the early eighteenth century.

Doctoral Student, East Asian Languages and Cultures, Columbia University  -  Benign Bellicosity: Tibetan Military History in the Eighteenth Century

Xiang Chi
Xiang Chi  |  Abstract
My dissertation project aims at offering a comparative analysis of the emergences, practices and values of state rationality in terms of the capacity to exert control over timber resources in Northeast China between the Japanese and Chinese forestry regime-making in the early 20th century, focusing on the state planning, the government-firm relation, Korean migration, and the forest species hierarchy change in Fengtian and Jilin provinces during 1901-1937. The interplay between Japanese merchants, Chinese huozhan leaders, and Korean migration showed the multi-layered sovereignty conceptions. The involvement of the Mitsui timber firms changed the hierarchy of the forest species and contributed to the efficiency growth in the 1930s that the PRC government inherited.

Doctoral Student, History, University of California, Los Angeles  -  Sovereignty, War, and Natural Resource: Northeast China’s Economic Development (1901 to 1937)

Hope Reidun St. John
Hope Reidun St. John  |  Abstract
In this project, I examine the production of architectural images and urban socio-spatial relations in contemporary China. As such, I explore architecture and architectural imagery as a means of interpreting material conditions in the (re)formulation and (re)development of Chinese cities and the positioning of urban citizen-subjects within them in relation to global understandings of urban development and competitive place-making. I subsequently focus on two primary aspects: architectural photography as an imaginative and speculative representation of urban spaces and architectural photographers as mediators of aspirations of global prominence, power, and achievement through their position within a growing class of creative urban professionals.

Doctoral Student, Anthropology (Sociocultural), University of Washington  -  Designing China: Architecture, Architectural Photography and the Imagination of the Chinese City

Kyuhyun Han
Kyuhyun Han  |  Abstract
My dissertation explores wildlife protection and forestry in Heilongjiang from 1949 to 1965. An important question animating this research is how historians should interpret the destructive environmental consequences of policies in the Mao era (1949 – 1976). The environmental degradation during the early PRC has overshadowed state attempts to promote wildlife protection in the early 1960s, which failed to protect biodiversity. My research traces the central state promulgation, local government implementation, and ultimate failure of state conservation policies in Heilongjiang. I will investigate how the center-periphery tensions in enforcing state policy and the role of local indigenous people altered state-initiated conservation policy, leading to the severe loss of biodiversity.

Doctoral Student, History, University of California, Santa Cruz  -  Seeing the Forest Like a State: Forest Management, Wildlife Conservation, and Center-Periphery Relations in Northeast China, 1949 to 1965

Spencer D. Stewart
Spencer D. Stewart  |  Abstract
My dissertation looks beyond popular discourses on science in Republican China (1912-1949) to address issues of credibility and authority among the rural farming population. With the emergence of an agricultural scientific community and the establishment of scientific institutions aimed at improving agriculture, agronomists employed the methods of cooperative agricultural extension from the United States in an attempt to legitimize new discoveries and cultivate scientifically-minded farmers. My project illustrates the transnational context in which the farming household was being reimagined by agronomists through extension work, and how extension work shaped popular views of science and impacted the rural economy throughout the Republican era.

Doctoral Student, History, University of Chicago  -  Cultivating a Scientific Farmer: Agricultural Science and the Search for Legitimacy in Republican China

Qingfan Jiang
Qingfan Jiang  |  Abstract
My dissertation explores the processes of information circulation and knowledge formation in the eighteenth century from the important and underexplored perspective of music. Situating the transmission of musical knowledge in a global rather than regional context, my project questions the Eurocentric interpretation of the Enlightenment by bringing to light the important role China played in shaping the Encyclopedic Century. Specifically, my dissertation focuses on two musical treatises written by two Jesuit missionaries serving at the Qing court, and the Chinese and French encyclopedias in which these treatises were incorporated. I argue that Enlightenment was cultivated in both China and France and was shaped and reshaped by deep and frequent missionary contact.

Doctoral Student, Historical Musicology, Columbia University  -  Toward a Global Enlightenment: Missionaries, Musical Knowledge, and the Making of Encyclopedias in Eighteenth-Century China and France

Liying Wang
Liying Wang  |  Abstract
Indigenous settlements in Northeastern Taiwan suggest relatively complex social systems around the 17th century, which corresponds to the same time as European contact. This research focuses on the question of whether European contact and their effect on the local trade networks stimulated an increase in social inequality, and eventually led to social change more broadly in Northeastern Taiwan communities. The hypothesis is that if European colonization created trade monopolies for a small number of people, and stimulated the accumulation of individual power, then the following changes should be observed: how people marked their status in burials, controlled the quality of prestige goods, emphasized feasting through pottery production, and built up personal networks.

Doctoral Student, Anthropology, University of Washington  -  Change in prehistoric social organization in Northeastern Taiwan during the European colonization period

Yupeng Jiao
Yupeng Jiao  |  Abstract
When the Chinese Communist Party came to power in 1949, the official statistics counted thirteen million huidaomen members. “Huidaomen” refers to all the autonomous organizations. Most were secret societies and popular religious sects. Scholarly knowledge of these social entities remains almost null. Archival sources are hardly accessible to scholars. Thanks to the new availability of sources at Stanford East Asia Library and Shanghai Jiaotong University, it is a perfect time to improve our understanding of heterodox organizations. My project extends the existing scholarship on huidaomen from late imperial China to the early PRC. I argue that huidaomen were a major power nexus in rural China and represent one form of self-governance independent from the national power center.

Doctoral Student, History, University of California, San Diego  -  Self-Governance Confronts Communism: Popular Religious Sects, Secret Societies, and the Reorganization of Rural Society in the Early People’s Republic of China

Wenpeng Xu
Wenpeng Xu  |  Abstract
My dissertation examines the dynamic patterns of Quanzhou ceramic production from a centuries-long perspective that emphasizes the fluidity of economic responses of the producers to varied local esthetic preferences and cultural contexts of porcelain use among the diverse consumers. An examination of the geographic locations and geological contexts of kiln sites will provide clue to competitive interactions with other porcelain producers for foreign markets. Geochemical analysis will be conducted to study diachronic changes and sub-regional variation of the ceramic production in Quanzhou. This project will also explore how local porcelain manufacture responded to economic and political pressures (e.g., political turbulence and maritime prohibition periods).

Doctoral Student, Anthropology, University of Illinois at Chicago  -  Porcelains for the World: Landscape, Technology, and Market Strategies of Ceramic Production in Quanzhou, China (Tenth to Seventeenth Centuries)

Carl Ernest Kubler
Carl Ernest Kubler  |  Abstract
Most histories have painted a bleak portrait of the 19th-century Sino-Western encounter, with legal disputes, bureaucratic restrictions, and opium taking the fore in a conflict-centered account of the pre-Opium War period. My dissertation, however, argues that everyday conflict and misunderstanding were far less typical than scholars believe. Via a bottom-up reexamination of the daily lives and incentives of people living on the global margins of the South China Coast, my dissertation shows how problem solving and cooperation, not conflict, were in fact the norm. I both reframe the story of pre-Opium War relations by telling it from the ground up, and also open up broader historiographic questions about how we understand and narrate causality in an entangled, multinational context.

Doctoral Student, History, University of Chicago  -  Living on Empire's Edge: Europe, America, and the South China Coast, 1780 to 1844

Yinyin Xue
Yinyin Xue  |  Abstract
This project looks at the discourses and narratives of science and technology in PRC via the lens of media and cultural studies. Salvaging long ignored primary sources of imported and domestic science fiction in different media forms, including printed popular literature, radio drama, film, and TV drama, this project, with transmedia storytelling of science fiction as the central axis, explores the intricate relation between mass culture and state ideology of China during the Cold War era. Considering science fiction as the meeting point of science and literature, of state ideology and consumer culture, and of competing foreign cultural influences, this project activates science fiction as a productive space to rethink the interaction between the state and popular culture.

Doctoral Student, Chinese, University of Wisconsin-Madison  -  Not a Utopia: Science Fiction, Transmedia Storytelling, and Imagined Socialism in Cold War China

Anh S. Le
Anh S. Le  |  Abstract
My dissertation is a social and economic history of the intra-oceanic junk trade between Southern China’s entrepots and the riverine trading emporia of the Mekong Delta in French Cochinchina from 1860 until 1940. Utilizing Chinese, French, and Vietnamese sources, I explore how junk networks were constituted and operated between China's port cities and Cochinchina (southern Vietnam); how the ebbs and flows of capital, migration, and culture contributed to the development of political economies in Southern China and Vietnam; and how junk economy and the migratory patterns it shaped affected local societies. Bridging the disjuncture in 19th-century historiography of maritime China, Vietnam, and colonialism, I demonstrate the centrality of the junk trade to the making of Nanyang as a contiguous ocean, and to the development of Chinese capitalism in the Greater China Sea as a historically unifying and interconnected maritime region.

Doctoral Student, History, Michigan State University  -  Traversing the Nanyang: Merchant Enclaves, Chinese Junk Networks, and the Making of the Colonial Capitalism in French Cochinchina (1860 to 1940)

Leqi Yu
Leqi Yu  |  Abstract
Architectural painting, or jiehua, occupies a special position in the history of Chinese painting. However, this genre has not attracted the attention it deserves, and the limited scholarship concentrates on the periods of Song and Qing. My dissertation attempts to develop a systematic study of Yuan jiehua, and particularly explores how Yuan jiehua could flourish despite the literati's belittlement and why Yuan architectural painters put emphasis on technical virtuosity. My study focuses on the professional painter Xia Yong (active mid-14th c.), who could bring multiple layers of Yuan jiehua into an integrated entity that involves issues of literati ideals under Mongol rule, the relation between Yuan court painters and craftsmanship, and Yuan's relation to Song jiehua tradition.

Doctoral Student, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Pennsylvania  -  Xia Yong and Architectural Painting Traditions in Yuan China