Research in East Asian Studies

View pages in this document
Since its founding in 1963 as the Department of Chinese under Professor Owen Lattimore, East Asian Studies at Leeds has developed into a dynamic centre for research in a range of disciplines covering China, Japan, Thailand and East Asia generally. Our particular strengths include international relations, religion, development, contemporary society, contemporary and pre-modern literature, and theatre.

We are particularly interested in receiving applications to pursue research, at either the doctoral or Master’s level, in the following ‘research hub’ areas, with key topics in each of these listed:

Language, Literature and Translation

  • Literary translation (Yang Lan, Frances Weightman, Sarah Dodd, David Pattinson, Li Ruru, Mark Williams)
  • Chinese literature (Li Ruru, Frances Weightman, Sarah Dodd, Yang Lan, David Pattinson)
  • Japanese literature (Irena Hayter, Mark Williams, Mikael Bauer)

For examples of our researchers’ current projects in these fields, click here

Writing Chinese: authors, authorship and authority (Dr Frances Weightman)

This is a new project, funded by the AHRC through WREAC, on contemporary Chinese writers. We are particularly interested in exploring the following questions: how the academic discourse on authorship in China (both traditional and modern; both domestic and international) relates to the lived experience of authors today; about the respective roles of authors, translators, publishers and other agents in journeys from story to book and from East to West; and the market for new Chinese writing in translation, and how it is shaped. Public engagement is key to this project - find out more about our network, public events, online book club, translation contest etc. on the Writing Chinese website. 

Imag(in)ing the Asia-Pacific War in Japan (Professor Mark Williams)

Building on the Brill volume of this title that I co-edited with Professor David Stahl (Binghamton) in 2010, a collection of essays analysing the multifaceted literary and filmic response to political developments in Japan in the 1930-40s, I am now focusing more specifically on the series of authors who followed their experience of committing tenkō (‘political apostasy’/ forced conversion from left-wing sympathies) at the outset of this period by working through this experience in their subsequent literary corpus. In this project, I am examining the core works produced by some of these authors in an attempt to identify underlying causes for these disparate responses. 

Letter-writing and social networks in late imperial China (Dr David Pattinson)

This project focuses on letters and their role in creating and maintaining social networks in late Ming and particularly early Qing China. I am currently developing my earlier work on the letters written to the early Qing official, poet and calligrapher Yan Guangmin (1640-1686), focusing on how the letters written to him reflect the reach and functions of his social network, and the role those letters played in maintaining them.


  • Buddhism (Mikael Bauer, Martin Seeger)
  • Christianity (Caroline Fielder, Mark Williams)
  • Development of faith-based organisations (Caroline Fielder, Martin Seeger)
  • Impact of religion on society, politics and economy in East Asia (Martin Seeger, Caroline Fielder, Mark Williams)

  • For examples of our researchers’ current projects in these fields, click here

    Doctrine, ritual and state formation in classical and medieval Japan (Dr Mikael Bauer)

    My current two research projects deal with the relation between doctrine, ritual and state formation in Japan’s classical and medieval periods. First, I am currently working on the religious and institutional policies of the 8th century courtier Fujiwara no Nakamaro. In this research, I mainly focus on the usage of historical memory to provide legitimacy to the sovereign and his main servants, the Fujiwara. Second, I connect my work on Nakamaro with the foundation and the ritual developments of Kofukuji temple. What is different in this second project, is that we have shifted from a state formulated in Confucian terms to one thoroughly embedded in Buddhist imagery. By connecting my two projects I ultimately aim at a comprehensive study of the relation between state formation and the development of thought in pre-modern Japan.

    International Relations and Development

    • Foreign policy and security (Caroline Rose, Vannarith Chheang, Christopher Dent, Kweku Ampiah)
    • Domestic politics and global-local links (Caroline Fielder, Caroline Rose, Kweku Ampiah)
    • Economic and social development, energy and climate-change (Christopher Dent, Heather Zhang, Caroline Fielder)

    For examples of our researchers’ current projects in these fields, click here

    Renewable Energy Development in East Asia (Professor Christopher Dent)

    Professor Dent has recently published his book on this subject and is continuing research in this area. As a region, East Asia has become the world’s largest market and producer of renewables, as well as the largest investor region. Renewable energy has become vital to East Asia for various environmental, energy security and strategic industry reasons. In his work, Professor Dent is examining how renewable energy development is being promoted in East Asia through a combination of revitalised state capacity approaches and ecological modernisation thinking, to form what he calls ‘new developmentalism’. He is looking at this critically from a low carbon development perspective, and the future prospects for renewables in East Asia. More details about his work and book can be found here

    History and Citizenship Education in China and Japan (Professor Caroline Rose)

    This project compares curriculum reform in China and Japan in the early 21st century with a view to tracing the ways in which each government is using history and citizenship as a means of national identity (re-)formation. It then considers the impact of such changes on mutual images and perceptions, and the potential influence on Sino-Japanese relations. Professor Rose is also a member of the Sino-Japanese Relations Research Network.

    History, Society and Culture

    • Pre-modern history of East Asia (Mikael Bauer, Ian Caldwell, David Pattinson)
    • Contemporary societies in East Asia (Heather Zhang, Caroline Fielder, Frances Weightman, Martin Seeger)
    • Theatre, cinema and visual cultures (Li Ruru, Irena Hayter)

    For examples of our researchers’ current projects in these fields, click here

    Modernism, gender and visuality in interwar Japan (Dr Irena Hayter)

    My current research takes place at the intersection between literature, visuality and cultural history. The overarching concern is with the perceptual changes of the 1920s and 1930s in Japan and their effects not only on aesthetic practice, but on the whole politico-ideological domain, particularly on the writing of gender and subjectivity. These are explored in three journal articles: one in progress, one forthcoming in positions: asia critique (‘Figures of the Visual: Japanese Modernism, Technology, Vitalism’) and one published in Japan Forum (‘Modernism, Gender and Consumer Spectacle in 1920s Tokyo’).

    Understanding homelessness in Chinese cities (Dr Heather Xiaoquan Zhang)

    This project is an international collaboration with Fudan University, Shanghai, and Nankai University, Tianjin, China, supported by the British Academy and the EU Framework Programme 7 (FP7). It examines the increasingly visible but much overlooked problem of homelessness in Chinese cities. The project aims at generating new data, insights and knowledge about urban homelessness through case studies in Shanghai and Tianjin. It seeks to provide a strong evidence base for formulating effective policies and strategies to combat homelessness in China and beyond. 

    Contemporary Chinese Theatre (Professor Li Ruru)

    My research interest lies in comparative and intercultural theatre studies. My recent research work has been focusing on contemporary theatre (both modern and traditional theatre) in the social and political context, which explores how to develop robust cross-disciplinary approaches studying theatre and performance. I regard regular contact with the theatre as essential to my academic work and I therefore run workshops on Beijing Opera and work with various theatre companies. Please have a look at our Staging China website.

    Other ongoing research projects 

    Other ongoing research projects in East Asian Studies include:

    • Development of the religious and secular non-profit sector in China (Dr Caroline Fielder)
    • The origin of complex society in South Sulawesi (Dr Ian Caldwell)
    • Japan's approach to international development (Dr Kweku Ampiah)
    • Beekeeping and the representation of bees in pre-modern China (Dr David Pattinson)

    ‘White Rose’ Collaborations and Connections

    White Rose East Asia Centre: East Asian Studies at Leeds is a founding member, along with the School of East Asian Studies at the University of Sheffield, of the White Rose East Asia Centre (WREAC), a national Centre of Excellence in East Asian Studies devoted to the study of East Asian societies from a multi-disciplinary perspective. WREAC comprises the National Institute for Chinese Studies (NICS) and the National Institute for Japanese Studies (NIJS) and, since its inception in 2006, has supported a variety of activities, including financial support for a number of PhD students and for a series of research projects aimed at offering a more nuanced understanding of some of the issues confronting East Asia today. Such projects include:

    • Writing Chinese: a network for anyone interested in the production, publication and translation of new Chinese writing, especially (but not exclusively) fiction;
    • Staging China: an international practice-led research network, aimed at reinvigorating Chinese theatre as a practice-led, cross-disciplinary subject;
    • The Symposiums and the Association for Supervision of Postgraduates in TCSOL (teaching Chinese to speakers of other languages): an international network of scholars and institutes engaged in developing high-level international Chinese teaching and research for advanced-level undergraduates and postgraduate students especially for supervising PhD students.

    White Rose Doctoral Training Centre: We are also a core member of the White Rose Doctoral Training Centre, an ESRC-sponsored collaboration between the Universities of Leeds, York and Sheffield that provides first-class researcher training and vibrant intellectual environments for postgraduate researchers enabling them to participate in national and international networks of industrial partners, opinion formers, policy makers and academics.

    White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities: In addition, we are actively involved in the White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities (WRoCAH), a Leeds, Sheffield, York initiative, building on the respective and complementary strengths of the three major Yorkshire Universities, to ensure the ongoing support of a critical mass of cutting-edge, East Asia-related research in the Arts and Humanities.

    Other Research Activities

    We have a large, thriving community of PhD and other postgraduate research students. Details of their research and background will be added here soon.

    We host regular research seminars delivered by visiting academics, prominent writers and cultural figures, and other guests with professional expertise in areas of interest to our staff and students. During term time, we also run an informal 'Tea and Talk' seminar in which our research staff and postgraduate students discuss their ongoing research.

    Our undergraduate students’ society, the East Asian Research Society (EARS), also invites guest speakers, as well as organising film screenings, outings and other events. As a component unit of the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies (LCS), our research is supported by the Leeds Humanities Research Institute (LHRI) within the Faculty of Arts.

      Please come back to check for updates to our research profile. Details of our interests and publications can be found at our staff profile pages. 

      Pages in this document

      1. Research in East Asian Studies
      2. White Rose East Asia Centre
      3. University of Leeds Japan Forum