Xiaolin Duan

Assistant Professor

Picture of Xiaolin Duan


Xiaolin Duan is an Assistant Professor of Chinese history in the Department of History at the 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 visual culture in premodern China to early modern China-Mexico silk trade. She also translated varies works in pre-modern and modern Chinese history and art history. She has also contributed to the Seattle Art Museum’s project "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 manuscript, Leisure and Nature: Sightseeing around Hangzhou’s West Lake, 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 in what ways 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 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 new research project, “Fashion, State and Social Changes: Silk Trade in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century,” explores the connections between the global demand for silk and its relationship to the changing relationships between state and social power. It traces the operation, regulation, and consumption of silk textiles in early modern China and Mexico. The striking similarities and intricate connectedness of the silk industry in China and Mexico suggested that the growing silk trade inspired new desires and thus challenged the traditional world in many ways, including social hierarchy, economic structures, and diplomatic regulations. 

Xiaolin Duan is currently working with collaborators from Carnegie Mellon Univ., Swarthmore College, and UCSD on a digital translation/interactive map project of One Hundred Poems on West Lake. This project aims to translate a thirteenth-century scholar Dong Sigao’s poems on West Lake and to integrate these poems with an interactive digital map and painting images from the tenth to the thirteenth century China. This project facilitates a unique opportunity for cultural exchange and collaboration between and among scholars in Chinese history, literature, geography, religion, and art history. It hopes to contribute to teaching and learning in Chinese literature classes, Chinese history classes, as well as courses on global history that seeks to explore the meanings of urban experience and placemaking. 


Book Chapters and Articles
  • “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.

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 in the global history of tourism and place studies.


  • Ph. D. in History from University of Washington, Seattle, 2014
  • M.A. in History from University of Washington, Seattle, 2010
  • B.A. in History and Sociology from Beijing University, 2008