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John William Chaffee

TRIP Courtesy Title; Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus

Translation Research and Instruction Program (TRIP); History; Department of Asian and Asian American Studies


John Chaffee is a Chinese historian with a research focus on the social and institutional history of the Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE). His undergraduate courses include a survey of modern East Asia, Chinese history from its beginnings to 1400, and a history of Sino-European interactions from 1200 to 1945. His graduate seminars (often cross-listed as senior seminars) deal with maritime Asia, the history of Chinese women, and a colloquium on middle period China, and he works individually with graduate students in Chinese history on their own research areas. His first two books – The Thorny Gates of Learning: A Social History of Examinations (1985, 1995) and Branches of Heaven: A History of the Sung Imperial Clan (1999) – dealt with the history of the Song dynasty (960-1279). His newest book, The Muslim Merchants of Premodern China: The Social History of a Trade Diaspora, 700-1400 (2018) has taken him into Chinese maritime history.


  • PhD, MA, University of Chicago
  • BA, Swarthmore College

Research Interests

  • East Asia
  • Chinese social history

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Curriculum Vitae

Curriculum Vitae