Gilbert (Zhe) Chen, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor


Contact Info

LA 4229
Tues & Thurs 2:00pm-4:00pm


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. Currently, he is working on a book manuscript project, tentatively titled Manly Monks: Sex, Family, and Community in Late Imperial China, investigating the construction of Buddhist monastic masculinity in the Qing dynasty (1644-1912). Drawing on monastic literature, popular culture, and legal archival research, Manly Monks takes seriously how ordinary monks negotiated masculine identities that straddled different normative gender regimes.

Selected Publications

“Local Matters: A Socioeconomic History of Monastic Reconstruction in Nineteenth-Century China.” Journal of Chinese Religions 50.2 (Forthcoming)

“Monastic Mobility, Social Embeddedness, and Kinship Networks: Buddhist Clerical Sexuality in Late-Qing Sichuan.” Late Imperial China 43.1 (2022): 85-126.

“Impermanent Expulsion: Monastic Discipline in Nineteenth-Century China.” Buddhism, Law & Society 6 (2020-21): 185-223.

“Castration and Connection: Kinship Organization among Ming Eunuchs.” Ming Studies 74 (2016): 27-47.

“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

Review of The Religious Ethic and Mercantile Spirit in Early Modern China, by Ying-shih Yü. China Review International. (Forthcoming)

Review of The Renewal of Buddhism in China: Zhuhong and the Late Ming Synthesis (Fortieth Anniversary Edition), by Chün-fang Yü. Reading Religion, June 30, 2022,

Review of Inside the World of the Eunuch: A Social History of the Emperor’s Servants in Qing China, by Melissa S. Dale. Orientalistische Literaturzeitung 116.1 (2021): 80-82.

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

Recent Lectures and Presentations

“Becoming a Nun in the Absence of Husband: Male Migration and Female Religiosity in Nineteenth-Century Sichuan,” Workshop on Mapping Religious Diversity in Modern Sichuan, Chicago, IL, 2022

“Entanglements in the Law: Negotiating Monastic and Familial Identities in Contemporary China,” Buddhist Identities in Twenty-First Century Asia Symposium, University of Cambridge, UK, 2022

“Local Matters: Contrasting Models of Temple Reconstruction in Mid-Qing Chongqing and the Jiangnan Region,” Jiangnan Buddhism Symposium, University of Arizona, AZ, 2021.

“A Western Model of the Clergy-Laity Relationship? Migration, Rebuilding and Monastic Landlordism in Mid- and Late Qing Chongqing,” American Association of Religion Annual Meeting, San Antonio, TX, 2021.

“The Lustful Nun: The Intersection of Law and Female Monastic Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century Western China,” the International Society for Chinese Law and History Biannual Conference, 2021.

Courses Taught

 Fall 2023
HIST 210 Urban Asia: Past & Present
HIST 315 Imperial China: The Last Dynasty
TSEM 102 Topic: China Today: Challenges and Opportunities