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Feng Li

Assistant Professor of Early Chinese Cultural History
407 Kent Hall Ea Mail Code: 3907

1 212-854-2510


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Feng Li
Associate Director
Assistant Professor of Early Chinese Cultural History
Columbia University

East Asian


I am both an archaeologist and a historian focusing primarily on Bronze Age China. Believing that our true knowledge of the past can be achieved on the basis of impartial understanding of all surviving evidence, archaeological, inscriptional, and textual, I look for a way to integrate the material form of evidence and the written records in the study of the early Chinese states.  

As an archaeologist, my early field work dates back to 1983-1990 when I was a research fellow in the Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing, excavating the capital sites Feng and Hao of the Western Zhou dynasty (1045–771 B.C.) in Shaanxi province. In recent years, my attention has been moved from such central sites to the periphery of the Zhou world. I am interested in cross-region communications, particularly in the way that different cultures responded to each other.   

In the last ten years, I have spent much of my time on analyzing the bronze inscriptions from the Western Zhou period and on exploring their implications for Western Zhou history. In particular, my research in the bronze inscriptions has developed in two directions. The first examines evidence for the political structure of the Western Zhou state as well as the origin of bureaucratic government in China, while the second considers calligraphy and technical features of the bronze inscriptions as a way to understand their background of creation.

I am currently co-chairing the Columbia Early China Seminar, an inter-university forum for the study of China from the beginning of the Neolithic to the end of the Han dynasty (A.D. 220). All interested Columbia instructors and graduate students are welcome to attend the meetings. The current and past programs can be found at the seminar's homepage located at: 

Landscape and Power in Early China: The Crisis and Fall of the Western Zhou (1045-771 B.C.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, March 2006.
This book addresses the complex relationship between geography and political power in the special context of the crisis and fall of the Western Zhou. Drawing on the latest archaeological discoveries, the book shows how inscribed bronze vessels can be used to reveal changes in political space, and how the three disciplines, archaeology, history, and geography can work together to achieve a coherent understanding of the Bronze Age past. Embracing an interdisciplinary approach and enhanced by the full coverage of sources, the book thoroughly reinterprets late Western Zhou history and questions deeply into the causes of its gradual decline and eventual fall.

“Transmitting Antiquity: The Origin and Paradigmization of the ‘Five Ranks’” (in English). In Dieter Kuhn ed., Perceptions of Antiquity of China’s Civilization. Germany: forthcoming.  
“A Cultural Ecology of the Northwestern Frontier of the Western Zhou State” (in Chinese). Taiwan: forthcoming.
“Rethinking European ‘Feudalism’ and Its Implications to the Periodization of Chinese History” (in Chinese). China: forthcoming.
“The City of Zheng, the Eastward Migration of the State of Zheng, and Related Historical Issues” (in Chinese). China: forthcoming. 
“Succession and Promotion: Elite Mobility during the Western Zhou.” Monumenta Serica (Germany) 52 (2004). Pp. 1-35.
“Textual Criticism and Western Zhou Bronze Inscriptions: The Example of the Mu Gui” (in English). In Essay in Honour of An Zhimin. Hong Kong: Chinese University of Hong Kong Press, 2004. Pp. 280-97.  
“Feudalism and Western Zhou China: A Criticism” (in English). Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 63.1 (June 2003). Pp. 115-44. 
“Literacy Crossing Cultural Borders: Evidence from the Bronze Inscriptions of the Western Zhou Period (1045-771 B.C.)” (in English). Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquity (Sweden) 74 (June 2002). Pp. 210-42.
“‘Offices’ in Bronze Inscriptions and Western Zhou Government Administration” (in English). Early China 26-27 (2001-2002). Pp. 1-72.  
“Solving the Historical-Geographical Problems of the Inscription of the Duoyou Ding” (in Japanese). In Chûgoku kodai no moji to bunka (Writing and Culture in Ancient China). Tokyo: Kyûko shoin, 1999. Pp. 179-206. 
“Ancient Reproductions and Calligraphic Variations: Studies of Western Zhou Bronzes with 'Identical' Inscriptions” (in English). Early China 22 (1997). Pp. 1-41.
“A Chronological Study of Late Shang Bronze Inscriptions with Year Notations” (in Japanese). Research paper published by the Kobayashi Setsutaro Foundation, Fuji Xerox Company. Tokyo, Japan. Pp. 1-39.
“On the Contents and the Origins of the Predynastic Zhou Culture” (in Chinese). Kaogu xuebao 1991.3. Pp. 265-84. 
“Japanese Studies of Chinese Archaeology” (in Chinese). In Zhongguo kaoguxue nianjian (The Yearbook of Chinese Archaeology), 1990. Beijing: Wenwu Press, 1991. Pp. 140-50.
“On the Inscription of the Silver Ingot of the 2nd Year of the Jianhe Era, Later Han” (in Chinese; co-authored with Matsumaru Michio). Shanghai qianbi tongxun 20 (1990.8).
“The Characteristics of Tomb No.1 at Qiangjia” (in Chinese). Wenbo 1989.3. Pp. 35, 46-48. 
“Periodization and Dates of the Ritual Bronze Vessels from Western Zhou Tombs in the Valley of the Yellow River” (in Chinese). Kaogu xuebao 1988.4. Pp. 383-419. 
“Periodization of Bronzes from the Cemetery of the State of Guo and Related Historical Questions” (in Chinese). Kaogu 1988.11. Pp. 1035-43.
“Periodization and Regionalization of Shang-Dynasty Bronzes from Shaanxi Province” (in Chinese). Kaogu yu wenwu 1986.3. Pp. 53-63. 
“New Trends in European and American Archaeology: Rethinking Theory and Methodology” (in Chinese; co-authored with Yuan Jing; translation of Japanese article by Goto Akira). Prehistory (Xi’an) 1-2 (1986). Pp. 172-200.

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