Dr David Pattinson

Dr David Pattinson

Lecturer in Chinese Language and Literature; Director of East Asian Studies;
Programme Manager for Chinese

0113 3433468

Summary: Bees and beekeeping in Chinese culture before 1900; Letter writing and collections in China, especially late Ming and early Qing; Social networks in late imperial China, especially in Jiangxi.

Location: 4.25 Michael Sadler Building

About Dr David Pattinson

Originally from Melbourne, Australia, I joined East Asian Studies at Leeds in August 2000, having previously worked at Lingnan University in Hong Kong and the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

My current research project is about bees, beekeeping and the the cultural representation of bees in China up to the end of the imperial period. In 2012 I published a short history of beekeeping in China in the journal Agricultural History, the first such history in English by a scholar who can read Chinese. I also have a forthcoming chapter 'Bees in China: A Short Cultural History' in the book Animals through Chinese History (forthcoming, CUP), and am now working on a longer project.

At the same time I have been researching the social networks of a group of scholars and writers based in Ningdu and Nanfeng in Jiangxi, and Ninghua in Fujian, during the early Qing. I am particularly interested in how they responded to the upheavals which followed the Qing conquest, and how they interacted with the cultural elite based the core regions of the empire to try to secure their economic and cultural status.

I have also been working on the collection of letters kept by the early Qing official, poet and calligrapher Yan Guangmin (1640-86), and I will be extending this to look at Yan's social networks more generally. My PhD thesis was a study of letter-writing in pre-modern China, focusing on the letter collections which became popular in the late Ming and early Qing, particularly those compiled by Zhou Lianggong (1612-1672). 

My other interests include the guqin, the seven-stringed Chinese zither, which I could play once but am a bit rusty now, and in the history of Chinese agriculture, particularly fruit and vegetable growing, though my own attempts to grow Chinese vegetables have been a mixed success, not least because English slugs like Chinese food too.

I am currently Director of East Asian Studies and Programme Manager for Chinese at in the East Asian Studies department at Leeds. I am a member of the British Association for Chinese Studies.

Recent Activities

  • Gave an invited talk 'The Beekeeper in Pre-modern China' at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge, 25 October 2017.
  • Presented a paper 'Virtuous Bees and Unprincipled Humans in Middle Period China' at the International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds, 3-6 July 2017.
  • Presented a paper 'Bees and Humans in Pre-modern China' at the the workshop: 'Bee in Transition: On New Attentions for Bees in Social Anthropology Zürich, Switzerland 11-13 May 2017.
  • Gave a talk 'Bees and Beekeeping in Pre-modern China' as part of the Leeds Humanities Research Institute's Moveable Feast series Animal Encounters, University of Leeds, 23 February 2016.
  • Presented a paper 'Letters and Core-Periphery Social networks in Early Qing China' at the British Association for Chinese Studies Annual Conference, University of Leeds, 2-4 September 2015.
  • Presented an invited paper 'Letters and Empire in Seventeenth-Century China' to the Networks, Power and Empire Conference, University College London, 26 May 2015.
  • Presented a paper 'Private Correspondence, Public Consumption?' at the workshop Letters and Notebooks as Sources for Elite Communication in Chinese History, 900-1300, Pembroke College, Oxford, 9-10 January 2014.
  • Presented a paper 'Letters and the Social network of Yan Guangmin' at the workshop Letters and Epistolary Culture in China held at the University of Colorado at Boulder, 17-18 August, 2012.
  • Appointed to the working party for the National Justice and Peace Network Conference 2012, organised by Cultural Exchange with China, with the theme of the role of the Church in China today.
  • Presented a paper entitled 'Peng Shiwang's Social Network as Symbolic Capital', British Association for Chinese Studies conference, University of Bristol, 8-9 September 2010.
  • Invited to present a paper entitled 'Bees in Chinese Culture' at the Research Training in Old Chinese: History and Historiography workshop, University of Cambridge, 24-28 March 2010.

Key Publications

  • 'Bees in China: A Brief Cultural History.' In Roel Sterckx, Martina Seibert and Dagmar Schafer, eds. Animals Through Chinese History: Earliest Times to 1911 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming January 2019).
  • 'Epistolary Networks and Practice in the Early Qing - the Letters Written to Yan Guangmin.' In Antje Richter, ed. History of Chinese Letters and Epistolary Culture. Leiden: Brill, 2015, pp. 775-826.
  • 'Pre-modern Beekeeping in China: A Short History.' In Agricultural History 86:4 (Fall 2012), 235-55.
  • 'Which Destruction: Responses to Destruction in Seventeenth-Century China.' In The Archaeology of Destruction, edited by Lila Rakoczy (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008): 90-106
  • 'The market for Letter Collections in Seventeenth-Century China.' Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews 28 (2006): 127-159.
  • 'Privacy and Letter Writing in Han and Six Dynasties China.' In Bonnie S. McDougall & Anders Hansson eds. Chinese Concepts of Privacy (Leiden: Brill, 2002): 97-118.
  • 'Zhou Lianggong and Chidu xinchao: Genre and Political Marginalisation in the Ming-Qing Transition.' East Asian History 20 (December 2000): 61-82.
  • Letters by Xie Zhaozhi, Chen Hongxu and Wang Shizhen. Translated by David Pattinson. In Renditions 41-42 (Special 21st anniversary issue: Classical Letters, Spring and Autumn 1994), 92-93, 98-101, 114-117.

Other Publications

  • Article 'Beekeeping in Pre-modern China' published in BBKA News (newsletter of the British Beekeepers' Association), no. 222 (June 2015), pp. 205-6.
  • Review of The Southern Garden Poetry Society: Literary Culture and Social Memory in Guangdong, by David B. Honey, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 77.2 (June 2014): 413-415.
  • 'The Chidu in Late Ming and Early Qing China.' Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Australian National University, 1998.
  • Yu, Feng. 'Chronicle of a City.' Translated by David Pattinson. In Martha P. Cheung ed., Hong Kong Collage: Contemporary Stories and Writing. Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1998, 18-33.


  • BBC 'Talk Mandarin' introductory Chinese language series.
  • Dictionary compilation with HarperCollins.


I mainly teach in the areas of the history and culture of China (pre-20th century), Chinese literature (pre-modern and Republican period), and Chinese-English translation.


  • EAST1051 History and Culture of Imperial China: this module provides an introduction to the philosophy, society, literature and arts of China from early times to the mid Qing dynasty (Semesters 1 & 2). It includes the single semester modules EAST1052 (Semester 1) and East 1053 (Semester 2).
  • EAST3120 Classical Chinese: this module offers an introduction to the basic grammar and syntax of Classical Chinese, as well as the opportunity to examine texts from a range of Classical Chinese genres in English (not running in 2014-15).
  • EAST3080 Chinese Literature 1912-1949: reading selected short stories and essays from the period 1912-1949 in Chinese.
  • EAST3620 Practical Chinese-English Translation.
  • I also contribute the Confucianism and Daoism elements in EAST1500 and EAST1550 which are introductions to East Asian Religions.


  • MODL5321M Specialised Chinese-English Translation: students taking translation and interpreting MA's in the Centre for Translation Studies.
  • MODL5302M Extended Translations: supervised long translation project from Chinese to English as part of the MA in Applied Translation Studies and MA in Interpreting and Translation Studies.

PhD Supervision

I am interested in supervising postgraduate research into letters and social networks in late imperial China, or into aspects of the representation of animals in China during the imperial period, especially insects or animals in agriculture.

I have co-supervised PhD research in Translation Studies and Chinese language teaching, and may be interested in supervising research on the translation of pre-modern Chinese literature, modern and contemporary literature on pre-modern themes, or related to animals and the environment.

More information on research in East Asian Studies at Leeds can be found here