Gilbert (Zhe) Chen

Assistant Professor


Contact Info

Mon - Wed 12 p.m. - 2 p.m.
Thurs: 11 a.m.-3 p.m.


Ph.D., Washington University in St. Louis, 2019

Areas of Expertise

Late Imperial China, 14th-19th century; social history; history of religion; gender and sexuality


Gilbert Chen joined the History Department in 2019. In the same year, he earned his Phd in History from the Washington University in St. Louis for his dissertation, “Living in This World: A Social History of Buddhist Monks and Nuns in Nineteenth-Century Western China.” Dr. Chen studies the social, religious, and gender history of Chinese society during the late imperial era. Gilbert is currently working to expand his dissertation into a book that investigates the social embeddedness of rank-and-file Buddhist monks and nuns in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Chongqing, Sichuan. Drawing on the Ba County Archive, a body of sources largely neglected by religious scholars, and local gazetteers, his work examines how local Buddhist clerics’ non-liturgical activities fundamentally shaped their relationship with the local society, making them indispensable to the socioeconomic reproduction of the local community. This project, which addresses topics like monastic expulsion, Buddhism and family, temple economy, and clerical sexuality, not only expands the scope of recent empirical work on the social history of lower-class religious specialists in late imperial era, but also challenges existing scholarship on Chinese Buddhist history by highlighting the daily contradictions created by competition of different value systems that individual Buddhist clerics experienced when interacting with local residents outside the confines of the temple. Though engaging with scholarship on various themes in social history, including gender, family, economy, and legality, this project contributes to discussions beyond the field of Chinese Buddhist studies, and religious studies in general.

Selected Publications:

“Zheng He (1371-1433).” In The Global Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) History, edited by Howard Chiang et al., 1743-45. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2019.

“Castration and Connection: Kinship Organization among Ming Eunuchs.” Ming Studies 74 (2016): 1-21.

“A Confucian Iconography of Cao E (Maiden Cao): Narrative Illustrations of a Female Deity in Late Imperial China.” NAN NÜ: Men, Women and Gender in China 18.1 (2016): 84-114.

Recent Book Reviews:

Johanna S. Ransmeier, Sold People: Traffickers and Family Life in North China in China Review International 23.2 (2016): 182-87.

Recent Lectures and Presentations:

“Leaving the Family without Severing the Bond: Buddhist Monks and their Familial Relations in Late Imperial China,” Association for Asian Studies Annual Meeting, Denver, CO, 2019.

“Uncut Bonds: Buddhist Temples, Monastic Kinsmen, and Local Society in Late Imperial China,” American Association of Religion Annual Meeting, Denver, CO, 2018.

“Unlawful and Unorthodox? Buddhist Clerical Marriage in Late Imperial China,” Association for Asian Studies Annual Meeting, Washington, DC, 2018.

“Buddhist Clerical Marriage in Early Modern China,” American Association of Religion Annual Meeting, Boston, MA, 2017.

 FALL 2019
HIST 111 Modern East Asia Since the 19th Century
HIST 315 Imperial China: the Last Dynasty
TSEM 102 Towson Seminar