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Xiaolin Duan

Assoc Professor


Department of History

Withers Hall 464

View CV 


Xiaolin Duan is an Associate Professor of Chinese history in the Department of History at North Carolina State University. Duan studies socio-cultural history in medieval and early modern China, particularly urban history, popular religion, and visual/material culture.

She is the author of articles and book chapters on topics ranging from the cultural geography and visual culture in premodern China to early modern China-New Spain silk trade. She also published journal articles on history pedagogical research and translated varies works in pre-modern and modern Chinese history and art history. She has also contributed to digital humanities and -12 education projects, including History for 21st Century, OER World History project, Chinese Text, and the Getty Center project “Seattle Art Museum Online Catalog of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy.”

Duan teaches Chinese and East Asian history, including topical courses on the globalization of China, material culture, popular religion, women’s history and environmental history.

Teaching and Research Interests

China, East Asia, World History, Social and Cultural History, Urban Studies, Popular Religion, Material Culture.


Duan’s book, Rise of West Lake: A Cultural Landmark in the Song Dynasty (University of Washington Press, 2020), examines how West Lake, a cultural landmark next to the city of Hangzhou, was conceptualized and contextualized from 800 to 1400. This study uses varying types of gazetteers and travel-focused visual materials to elaborate on the ways in which West Lake was a subjective and socially constructed site. It shows that while the Lake was built into the fabric of Hangzhou’s urban life both ecologically and economically, it was also captured rhetorically as an idealized nature. This work reveals that the Song dynasty’s West Lake marked a significant moment in Chinese history during which the natural landscape moved from the periphery of the practice of power to become a critical element in the wider construction of cultural identity. This work was funded by the Hsiao Fellowship and the Hultquist Fellowship.

Her second book, An Object of Seduction: Chinese Silk in the Early Modern Trans-Pacific Trade, is on the trade of Chinese silk to New Spain via Manila during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This topic contributes to the discussion on the transforming nature of the Ming empire by investigating relations between state and society in the context of Pacific trade-centered globalization. Using local gazetteers, miscellaneous notes, and correspondence, this research investigates the production, consumption, and regulation of silk textiles as they circulate through the social worlds and trade networks. This work was funded by NCSU’s Junior Faculty Development Award.

Her new project, Three Cities of the Early Modern Pacific: Connections and Conflicts between the Ming Dynasty and the Spanish Empire, investigates the influence of early modern trans-Pacific trade on urban spaces and city life in key ports: Zhangzhou, Manila, and Acapulco. This project is funded by the Geiss and Hsu Foundation through the National Humanities Center during 2023-24. The research posits that this unprecedented form of globalization generated intimate connections at the everyday life level while simultaneously giving rise to conflicts at the state and empire levels. The manuscript is contracted with Amsterdam University Press.

She is also working on another project about Place and Product co-branding in Middle Period China, looking into how place identification became an essential referencing framework in China’s Middle Period for organizing and generating knowledge and, ultimately, for understanding the surrounding world. This work contributes to a better understanding of the interconnectedness between people, products, and places in Middle Period China from the perspective of mobility. This work is pre-contracted with the University of Washington Press.

Duan is collaborating with a researcher from Granada University on an edited volume about the landscape culture of West Lake following an interdisciplinary workshop held in January 2024. We bring together experts from multiple disciplines and different regions to create a broad-based volume to showcase the complex cultural layers and long history of West Lake. This edited volume explores West Lake not merely as a single cultural landscape but as a case study to promote landscape studies further, the history of China in the world, and the crucial role of visual/material culture in East Asia.

Duan is working with Dr. Noboru Matsuda from the Department of Computer Science on using advanced technology for history education. We are designing an interactive map comparison tool to promote students’ learning of ancient maps. We propose that such an online learning platform could help students better understand different countries’ geopolitical perceptions. We also want to develop a proactive map for Hangzhou’s West Lake, which is linked with a Global Positioning System (GPS). This map would include information including stories about the place, relevant visual images, and digital narratives that students crafted. The completion of this proactive map model will permit access for research and education purposes by both NCSU undergraduate and graduate students. We expect this platform to carry both real-world and pedagogical functions centered on “place studies.” This work is funded by the Non-laboratory Scholarship/Research Grant and the OPEN Incubator research grant, and FRPD grant from the College of Engineering (2022-23). Check out two recently published webpages that are related to this project: Ten Views of West Lake and Naming Views of West Lake (Song -Present) (collaborated with history graduate student Sharon Zhan Zhang). *We are looking for both graduate and undergraduate research students who are interested in computer science, education, historical geography, map studies, and data science. Please contact for further details.

Xiaolin Duan and researchers from Carnegie Mellon Univ., Swarthmore College, and UCSB are applying for the NEH “Scholarly Editions and Translations Grant” to support our translation project on a thirteenth-century poetry collection One Hundred Poems on West Lake. We propose to make it available through a web-based gazetteer map. This platform could be used in Chinese history and literature classes, as well as classes that seek to compare urban experiences in Europe and East Asia.

Funded Research

Three Cities of the Early Modern Pacific: Connections and Conflicts between the Ming Dynasty and the Spanish Empire

Spring Dawn on the Su Causeway: The History and Landscape Culture of West Lake

Proactive Map of West Lake

Extension and Community Engagement

In 2022, Duan developed a teaching module on the Pacific trade of Chinese silk for the History of the 21st Century.

In 2021, Duan made an educational video, “Song Dynasty and Silk,” for the OER World History Project. Check out

Duan has also contributed short essays on Chinese history and cultural landmarks for K-12 Chinese language education. Topics include the first emperor of the Qin dynasty, the Mongols, the Great Wall, famous poets LI Bai and Su Shi, West Lake, Xi’an, Suzhou, Silk Road, etc.. Check out



Book Chapters and Articles

  • Japanese Gozan Monks and Hangzhou’s West Lake: Visualizing Cultural Appropriation in Middle Period East Asia,” Journal of European Association for Chinese Studies, fall 2023.
  • “Mulberry Trees, Shipwrecks, and Silver:  The Silk Raising and the Decline of the Ming Dynasty,” Ming Qing yanjiu, volume 26, issue 1 (2022): 1-26.
  • “Remembering West Lake: Place, Mobility, and Geographical Knowledge in Ming China,” Ming Qing Studies, forthcoming Fall 2021.
  • “Beyond the Scroll: Landscape Images and Environmental Changes of the Ming Dynasty West Lake (Huajuan zhiwai: Mingdai Xihu de jingguan tuxiang he huaxiang bianqian),” Journal of West Lake Museum, no. 11, December (2020): 22-28.
  • “Interdisciplinary Pedagogical Approaches to Building Place-oriented Undergraduate Research in Study Abroad Experience (co-author with Sharon Zhan Zhang and Noboru Matsuda),” Perspectives on Undergraduate Research & Mentoring, 9.1 (2020).
  • “Natural Environment and the Technical Circulation: Chinese and Mexican Silk in the 16-18th Century Trans-Pacific Trade (Ziran huanjing he jishu liutong: Shiliu dao shiba shiji Zhong de Zhongguo he Moxige sichou),” Quanqiu shi pinglun 14 (June 2018): 132-155.
  • “Bringing Study Abroad back to Campus: A Collaborative Student Project on Acquiring, Researching and Exhibiting Artifacts,” Perspectives on Undergraduate Research & Mentoring (October 2018).
  • “Ten Views of West Lake,” Susan Shi-shan Huang & Patricia Ebrey ed., Visual and Material Cultures in Middle Age China, 800-1400, Brill Press, 2017, 151-89.
  • “A Comparative Study of Two Series of Printed West Lake Ten Views,” Li Song & Ding Ning, ed., Meishuxue boshisheng guoji xueshuLuntan lunwenji (Shaanxi Normal University Press, 2012), 224-249.
  • “Appreciation and Enjoyment: Zhang Dai and Tourism in Late Ming China,” Scottish Journal of Arts, Social Sciences and Scientific Studies, October 2013, Vol. 16, 130-137.

Electronic/Web-based Publication

  • “Historical Figures and Cultural Landmarks in Chinese History (article series),” Chinese Language Education and Research Center, 2020.

Book Reviews

  • Review: He, Qiliang. The People’s West Lake: Propaganda, Nature, and Agency in Mao’s China, 1949–1976, Studies on Asia 8 (1): 29–32.
  • Review: Liu, Yan. Healing with Poisons: Potent Medicines in Medieval China. HSci-Med-Tech, H-Net Reviews. August 2022.
  • Review: Zhang, Rouran. Chinese Heritage Sites and their Audiences: The Power of the Past. Journal of Tourism History, 13:1, 105-107.
  • Review: Cheng, Hsiao-wen. Divine, Demonic, and Disordered: Women without Men in Song Dynasty China. China Review International, 27.2 (2020): 115-119.
  • Review: Lam, Joseph Sui Ching, Shuen-fu Lin, Christian De Pee, and Martin Joseph Powers, eds., Senses of the City: Perceptions of Hangzhou and Southern Song China, 1127-1279Journal of Song-Yuan Studies, 2020.
  • Review: Shellen Wu, Empires of Coal: Fueling China’s Entry into the Modern World Order, 1860-1920, The Middle Ground Journal: World History and Global Studies.  Number 14, Spring 2017.
  • Review: “Jiangjun yu gongsi,” Quanqiu shi pinglun, 11, December 2016.
  • Review:  Yuming He, Home and the World: Editing the “Glorious Ming” in Woodblock-Printed Books of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth CenturiesJournal of Ming Studies, 25 (December 2015): 1-12.
  • Review:  Adam Clulow, The Company and the Shogun: The Dutch Encounter with Tokugawa Japan. Columbia Studies in International and Global History Series. H-War. May 2015.

Translated Works

  • trans., “Dajia chuxing: huangjia shengjing he beisong Kaifeng de shijue wenhua” (Patricia Ebrey, “Taking Out the Grand Carriage: Imperial Spectacle and the Visual Culture of Northern Song Kaifeng”), Lishi wenxian jikan 40 (2018): 131-155.
  • trans., “Difang ganbu miandui chaoziran: Zhongguo de shenshui zhengzhi, 1949-1966” (Steve P. Smith, “Local Cadres Confront the Supernatural: The Politics of Holy Water in the PRC, 1949-1966.”) in Yue Dong. Zouchu quyu yanjiu: Xifang Zhongguo jindai shilun jicui. (Beijing: Shehui kexue wenxian chubanshe, 2013), 366-392.
  • trans., “Curatorial Statement/ Form and Image: the Multi-dimensional Approaches of Chinese Contemporary Art,” Forms of the Formless: Exhibition of Chinese Contemporary Art (Heibei Fine Arts Press, 2013), 12-15.
  • trans., “Ertong de youxi: Zhonghua minguo zaoqi de Yule guannian (Susan R. Fernsebner, “Child’s Play: Notions of Amusement in Early Republican China.”). Xu, Lanjun, and Andrew F. Jones. Ertong de faxian: xiandai Zhongguo wenxue ji wenhua zhong di ertong wenti (Beijing: Beijing daxue chubanshe. 2011), 91-105.

Graduate Advising

Dr. Duan works with students in premodern Chinese and East Asian history, and the global history of tourism and place studies.


Department’s Curriculum Committee, Strategic Planning Committee, AAUP executive board


Ph.D. History University of Washington, Seattle 2014

M.A. History University of Washington, Seattle 2010

B.A. History and Sociology Beijing University 2008


View all publications 
  • National Humanities Center Fellow, 2023-2024
  • University Faculty Scholar, 2023
  • Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation Scholar Grant, 2021-22