Zhe 'Gilbert' Chen

Graduate Student in History
Status: Post-Qualification, ABD
Photo of Gilbert Chen

Gilbert Z. Chen is a doctoral candidate in Chinese history, specializing in late imperial social, cultural, and religious history. He received his BA in history from the Renmin University of China in 2012. During his undergraduate period, he also studied law at the Renmin Law School in 2008-2010.

Gilbert’s dissertation 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 dissertation 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 study, 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.


Peer-Reviewed Articles

“Castration and Connection: Kinship Organization among Ming Eunuchs.” Ming Studies (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 (2016): 84-114.

Book Reviews

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

Encyclopedia Entry

“Zheng He (1371-1433).” In Global Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History, edited by Howard Chiang et al. (Forthcoming).

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