Ruochen Chen

Graduate Student in History
Status: Post-Qualification, ABD

Ruochen Chen works and teaches on modern Chinese and maritime history. He is particularly interested in the cultural construction of geopolitical entities.

His first book project, From Natural Barrier to National Symbol: Sciences, Environment, and the Remaking of the Yangzi River in Modern China, examines a series of scientific endeavors in representing and reconfiguring the Yangzi River from the 1840s through the 1970s. It argues that this historical process not only integrated the Yangzi as a national space stretching from the Tibetan Plateau to the Pacific, but was also synonymous with the formation of China as a multi-ethnic nation-state.

His research is supported by the Association for Asian Studies, and the American Council of Learned Societies.

At WashU, he teaches a course “Approaching Asian Waters in a Millennium”. This course surveys the long-term formation of Maritime Asia and its transformation by European empires. It introduces merchants who weaved overseas trading networks, pirates who wavered between being outlaws and regulators of maritime order, fishermen who made the sea their home and produced distinctive cultures, and states that tried to reconfigure the seascape and riverscape through a variety of technologies.

In his free time, Ruochen enjoys walking and meditating by rivers, lakes, and coasts (when possible).

contact info:

mailing address:

  • Washington University
  • One Brookings Drive
  • MSC: 1062-107-114
  • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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