Michael Szonyi

January 2020


  • 2016- present Director, Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies
  • 2009- present Professor of Chinese History, Harvard University
  • 2011- 2016  Chair, Committee on Regional Studies - East Asia, Harvard University
  • 2010- 2013  Director of Undergraduate Studies, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University
  • 2005-2009  Associate Professor of Chinese History, Harvard University
  • 2001-2005  Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Toronto
  • 1998-2001  Assistant Professor, Department of History, University of Toronto
  • 1994-1998 Assistant Professor, Department of History, McGill University


  • 1990-5   University of Oxford, Faculty of Oriental Studies.  D.Phil.
  • 1992-3   Xiamen University, P.R.C., Advanced Research Student
  • 1988-90   National Taiwan University, Departments of History and Philosophy, Visiting Student
  • 1985-88   University of Toronto.  B.A. with High Distinction, Chinese Studies and International Relations

Selected Publications:


Jennifer Rudolph and Michael Szonyi, eds. The China Questions: Critical Insights into a Rising Power. Harvard 2018

The Art of Being Governed: Everyday Politics in Late Imperial China. Princeton 2017

A Companion to Chinese History. Wiley-Blackwell, 2017.

Zheng Yangwen, Liu Hong and Michael Szonyi, eds.  The Cold War in Asia: The Battle for Hearts and Minds. 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). 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.  Stanford University Press, 2002.

Zheng Zhenman, Family and Lineage Organization and Social Change in Ming-Qing Fujian, translated and with an introduction by Michael Szonyi. University of Hawai'i Press, 2001.


            Refereed Articles

“Militarization and Jinmen (Quemoy) Society, 1949-92,” in James Flath and Norman Smith, eds., Beyond Suffering: Recounting War in Modern China (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2011), 80-103.

  • Revised Japanese version published as “Gunjika, kioku, Jinmen shakai - 1949-1992,” Chiiki kenkyu (Japan Center for Area Studies Review)  11.1 (2011), 62-87.

“Secularization theories and the study of Chinese religions,” Social Compass 56.3 (2009), 312-327.

“Making Claims about Standardization and Orthopraxy in Late Imperial China: Rituals and Cults in the Fuzhou Region in Light of Watson’s Theories,” Modern China 33.1 (2007), 47-71.

“Mothers, Sons, and Lovers: Fidelity and Frugality in the Overseas Chinese Divided Family before 1949,” Journal of Chinese Overseas 1.1 (2005), 43-64.

“The Virgin and the Chinese State: The Cult of Wang Yulan and the Politics of Local Identity on Jinmen (Quemoy),” Journal of Ritual Studies 19.2 (2005), 87-98.

  • Reprinted in Pamela Stewart and Andrew Strathern, eds., Asian Ritual Systems: Syncretisms and Ruptures, Durham NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2007, 183-208.

“The Graveyard of Huang Xiulang: Early Twentieth Century Perspectives on the Role of Overseas Chinese in Chinese Modernization,” Asian and Pacific Migration Journal 10.1 (2001), 81-98. 

  • Revised Chinese version published as “Huang Xiulang muzhi: 20 shiji chuqi de huaqiao, qiaoxiang yu xiandaihua,” Haijiaoshi yanjiu (Maritime History Studies), 43 (2003), 100-106. 
  • Revised version published as “The cemetery of Huang Xiulang: Transnationalism and the overseas Chinese in the early twentieth century,” in Eric Fong and Chiu Luk eds., Chinese Ethnic Business, New York: Routledge, 2007, 132-146.

“Local cult, Lijia, and Lineage: Religious and Social Organization in Ming and Qing Fujian,”  Journal of Chinese Religions, 28 (2000), 93-126. 

  • Revised Chinese version published as “Citang, cunmiao, yamen:  jianlun Ming-Qing shiqi Fuzhou diqu minjian xinyang yu wenhua tonghe,” in Jinmen lishi, wenhua yu shengtai guoji xueshu yantaohui lunwenji (Proceedings of the International Conference on the History, Culture and Ecology of Quemoy), ed Wang Qiukui.  Taipei: Shih Ho-cheng Cultural Foundation, 2004.

“China: The Years Ahead,” International Journal, 55.3 (August, 2000), 475-484

“The Cult of Hu Tianbao and the Eighteenth Century Discourse of Homosexuality," Late Imperial China, 19.1 (June, 1998), 1-25. 

  • Revised Chinese version published as “Hu Tianbao yu Qing zhongye tongxinglian
  • huayu,” Lishi renleixue (Journal of History and Anthropology), 1:1 (2003), 67-82.

“The Illusion of Standardizing the Gods: The Cult of the Five Emperors in Late Imperial China,” Journal of Asian Studies, 56.1 (February, 1997), 113-135.

Grants and Awards (selected):

2009                “A Digital Archive for Chinese Local History,” Harvard China Fund. $150,000 (Co-principal investigator with James Robson)

2008                Fellow, Public Intellectuals Program, National Committee on US-China Relations

2006                “A Comparative Study of Chinese Local Society in Historical Perspective,” Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange Standard Research Grant (Co-investigator; Principal Investigator Steven Harrell, University of Washington). $30,000

Visiting Fellow, National University of Singapore, OAP (Inbound) Program

2004                “Islands on the Frontline: A Social and Cultural History of Jinmen (Quemoy) in the Cold War,” Canada Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Standard Research Grant. $65,500

2002                Republic of China Ministry of Education Faculty Research Award. $5,000

1996                “Aetiologies and Treatments of Epidemics in Fujian Province, China, from the 16th to 20th Century,”  Hannah Institute for the History of Medicine. $11,475

                        “Gérer la culture: rituels, culture locale et histoire de la Chine moderne,”  Programme soutien aux équipes de recherche, Fonds pour la Formation de Chercheurs et l'Aide à la Recherche. (Co-investigator with Kenneth Dean, McGill and David Ownby, Université de Montréal).  $195,000

1990                Rhodes Scholarship


Other Professional Activities

China and Inner Asia Council, Association of Asian Studies, 2015-2018

Academic Committee, Chinese University of Hong Kong - Sun Yat-sen University Centre for Historical Anthropology (2010 - present)

Editorial board, Huaren yanjiu guoji xuebao (International Journal of Diasporic Chinese Studies), Singapore (2010 - present)

Board of Directors, Society for Ming Studies (2009 – 2013)

Editorial board, Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies (2009 – present)

English language editor, Lishi renleixue (History and Anthropology), Guangzhou (2002 – present)