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, 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 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, 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, miscellanies notes, and correspondence, this research investigates the production, consumption, and regulation of silk textiles as they circulated through the social worlds and trade networks. This work was funded by NCSU's Junior Faculty Development Award. The manuscript is contracted with Rowman & Littlefield Press in the series “Empires and Entanglements in the Early Modern World.” She is currently working on a teaching module based on this research project for History for the 21st Century.

Duan is currently working with Dr. Noboru Matsuda from the Department of Computer Science 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 the OPEN incubator research grant. Check out two recently published webpage that is 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 xduan4@ncsu.edu 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 experience in Europe and East Asia.

Funded Research

An Object of Seduction: Chinese Silk in the Early Modern Trans-Pacific Trade

Proactive Map of West Lake

Extension and Community Engagement

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 https://ichinesereader.com/



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.

Electronic/Web-based Publication

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

Book Reviews

  • 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, 1127-1279. Journal 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 Centuries. Journal 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 in the global history of tourism and place studies.

Current master's student: Sharon Zhan Zhang. “Travel to the East: The Visit of Christian Missionaries to Mongol-Yuan China”


Department's Curriculum Committee


  • 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