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. 

Ernest Billings Brewster
Ernest Billings Brewster  |  Abstract
In the Ming Dynasty (1373-1644) Buddhism underwent a radical transformation in response to challenges from Western science and religion. My dissertation aims to answer the question: In order to ensure its survival, how was Chinese Buddhism reoriented toward a scientific and practical direction? I argue that it was Yogacara that provided the ideal strategy to counter the challenges from the Jesuits, for its scientific logic and epistemology in its explanation of reality, which was as rigorous as Western analytic philosophy. And most importantly, I will account for how the Ming Buddhist scholars reconfigured their own tradition, and carried it into modernity.

Doctoral Student, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University  -  Between Faith and Logic: Buddhist Philosophy of Religion in Ming China

Stephanie Michelle Montgomery
Stephanie Michelle Montgomery  |  Abstract
My research on female prisoners in Tianjin, Qingdao and Shanghai prisons from 1928-1953 will contribute to our understanding of a disenfranchised group of women whose lives touched on national issues of criminality, citizen-making, and gender. By looking at internal prison records in the municipal archives of all three cities, I will explore the material lives of these women, their wardens and caretakers, and the discourse that surrounded their reform.

Doctoral Student, History, University of California, Santa Cruz  -  Gender, Criminality, and the Prison in China, 1928 to 1953

Kent Cao
Kent Cao  |  Abstract
This dissertation seeks to jump outside the traditional historiography centred on the Yellow River societies, and explore the middle Yangtze bronze industries in the eleventh and tenth centuries BCE on their own terms. First recognising the catalytic role that Panlongcheng (c. 1500 BCE) and similar sites played in disseminating casting technology and Zhengzhou bronze repertoire in the south, the main discussion will focus on the Erligang-stimulated middle Yangtze cultures, and their interactions with the newly risen Zhou sphere looming from the north.

Doctoral Student, Art and Archaeology, Princeton University  -  Follow the Zhou?: The Middle Yangtze River Region in the Western Zhou Period

Joohee Suh
Joohee Suh  |  Abstract
In the Qing dynasty, the fear of stiff corpses that do not decay (jiangshi) was expressed in a variety of venues, such as literary tales, anecdotes, local histories, and even lawsuits. This collective anxiety over animated dead bodies reveals that, in the late imperial conception of the worlds of the living and the dead, the dead body was far from lifeless but constituted an active part of social conflicts. My dissertation attempts to identify the social foundation of the fear of animated corpses by examining the interplay between the practice of burial, the knowledge of human physiology, and the elite discourse of social degeneration. In so doing, I take an interdisciplinary approach by drawing upon several different fields—literature, medicine, death ritual, and social history.

Doctoral Student, History, Washington University in St. Louis  -  The Afterlife of Corpses: The Fear of Animated Dead Bodies (jiangshi) and the Qing (1644 to 1911) Culture of the Macabre

Yen-ling Chen
Yen-ling Chen  |  Abstract
This dissertation aims to provide a thorough investigation of different varieties of Ong-Be, a Kradai language spoken in northwestern Hainan. It is intended to provide a grammatical description of Ong-Be based on data collected during fieldwork. Moreover, it will also explore the linguistic position of Ong-Be within Kradai as well as the reconstruction of its phoneme inventory using a bottom-up approach. A wordlist containing extensive lexical items fundamental to Proto-Kradai reconstruction will be provided in the appendix. This dissertation may also serve as material for comparison between Ong-Be and local Chinese vernaculars in a contact perspective.

Doctoral Student, Linguistics, University of Hawaii at Manoa  -  A Grammar of Ong-Be

Kuan-Chi Wang
Kuan-Chi Wang  |  Abstract
The proliferation of food trade is restructuring agriculture in East Asia. This research uses edamame trade as a test case to compare China and Taiwan, the two main producers of edamame for the lucrative Japanese market. In the context of growing demand, and with China playing a larger role in food exports with ostensibly lower production costs, how is it that China has lost market share to Taiwan? Answering this question will contribute to our understanding of the growing importance of China in global trade, and how Taiwan and China are actively remaking the East Asia food capitalism that Japan dominated for a century.

Doctoral Student, Geography, University of Oregon  -  The Search for Green Border: Political Economy and Ecology of Vegetable Trade among China, Taiwan, and Japan

Mark Frank
Mark Frank  |  Abstract
My project examines the role of material factors in the establishment and dissolution of Xikang Province (1939-1955), situated in present-day Western Sichuan at the foothills of the Tibetan Plateau. I focus on Xikang’s modern economic, legal and educational institutions, through which the abstract notion of the province as a political entity was rooted in the unique topography and economy of this region. My project aims not merely to chronicle the history of a single province, but to provide insight into how national modernization projects in general are influenced by material factors.

Doctoral Student, East Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign  -  The Rooted State: Materiality in the Making of Modern China's Xikang Province

Jesse Watson
Jesse Watson  |  Abstract
My dissertation challenges the widespread assumption that excavated archives imply totalizing imperial control from the center. Instead, I argue that imperial power was exercised and had its basis at the local level. To do this, I use case studies drawn from the early empires of Qin and Han (221 BCE-220 CE) that focus on four key aspects of imperial presence on the local level—law, ritual, transport, and imperial discourse.

Doctoral Student, History, University of California, Berkeley  -  The Empire as Local: New Perspectives on Early Chinese Empires from Excavated Documents (221 BC-AD 220)

James J. Gerien-Chen
James J. Gerien-Chen  |  Abstract
My project examines the role of Taiwanese settlers in Japanese imperial efforts to establish a modern legal order in South China between 1895 and 1945. I analyze policies which encouraged Taiwanese migration to treaty-ports across South China and especially Xiamen to show the role of Taiwanese settlers in the formulation of legal imperial personhood based on Chinese ethnicity. Taiwanese were central to Japanese imperial strategies of appealing to regional ethnic Chinese elites, and I highlight especially Chinese and Taiwanese individuals’ participation in the formation of this imperial order through claims to law and ethnicity, and their roles in co-creating Japanese Empire across the South China Sea region.

Doctoral Student, East Asian History, Columbia University  -  Between Empire and Nation: Taiwanese Settlers and the Making of Japanese Empire in China

Eloise E. Wright
Eloise E. Wright  |  Abstract
In the city of Dali, colonized successively by the Mongol and Ming empires, local elites sought access to power using tools of the imperial system. My thesis will examine one of these tools, literacy in Classical Chinese, the language of government and elite culture throughout the empire. I will use gazetteers, inscriptions, and local archives to identify the institutions that mediated indigenous elites’ access to political power in Dali in a changing political climate, to situate these institutions within Dali society, and to delineate the networks of literati that formed around them. The compilation and production of collaborative works like gazetteers via these networks further shows the transformation of the linguistic and cultural identities of Dali local elites under colonial rule.

Doctoral Student, History, University of California, Berkeley  -  Colonial Language Acquisition: Literati Institutions and Textual Practices in Dali, Yunnan, 1253 to 1659

Tyler Harlan
Tyler Harlan  |  Abstract
This project investigates how China’s ‘Grain for Green’ program is evaluated, packaged, and exported as an international policy model for rural green development. It also aims to understand why Chinese officials and experts participate in this process, and how it connects with the central government’s broader international discourse of green development. From June to September 2015, I will travel to Beijing and Kunming for pre-dissertation fieldwork to make connections with academics and NGOs, establish affiliations, and conduct pilot interviews with officials who have worked on the Grain for Green program. Upon completion, I will have the on-the-ground knowledge, networks, and affiliations necessary to revise and implement my overall project for fieldwork beginning October 2015.

Doctoral Student, Geography, University of California, Los Angeles  -  From Periphery to Policy Model: Exporting China’s Green Development

Qingfei Yin
Qingfei Yin  |  Abstract
This project studies the interplay between the Cold War and expansion of two Communist states in transforming China’s southern border with Vietnam in Guangxi, including shared access to the Gulf of Tonkin and a land border ranging from coastal lowland to mountain highland, from 1949 to 1969. I identify three levels of tensions shaping the area: 1)The Cold War gave rise to the politics of aid and problem of “face” in the management of China-Vietnam relations at the border. 2)While adhering to the concept of “socialist brotherhood,” the two Communist states nonetheless attempted at creating respective identities on each side of the border and competed for resources in frontier. 3)There was tension between increasing state manipulation of local society and continuing cross-border networks.

Doctoral Student, History, The George Washington University  -  Redrawing the Boundaries: Arrival of the Cold War, Expansion of the Communist States, and Transformation of the Land-Maritime Border Region in Southwestern China

Charles R. Kraus
Charles R. Kraus  |  Abstract
One hundred thousand middle and high school graduates from Shanghai were mobilized by the Chinese state to move to the frontier from 1963-1966. Known as Shanghai’s “educated youth," these adolescent men and women were sent to work on farms and factories in Xinjiang in far northwest China. Most would not return home until the era of Opening and Reform, and when they did, they were no longer known as “educated youth.” Having grown into adulthood, they became the “youth who had aided the border region." It is the history of this massive, urban-to-rural population transfer program—its underlying causes, the mechanics of its execution, the experiences of its participants, and its lasting legacies and impacts—which this dissertation project seeks to reveal.

Doctoral Student, History, The George Washington University  -  Transforming People and Place: Shanghai’s “Educated Youth” on the Chinese Frontier, 1963 to 1981