He Bian

Assistant Professor of History and East Asian Studies
Email Address: 
Office Location: 
203 Dickinson Hall
Office Hours: 
9:30 am-11:30 am
  • Ph.D. in History of Science, Harvard University
  • M.S. in Human Nutrition, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • B.S. in Biological Science, Peking University

He Bian (Ch. 邊和) is a historian of late imperial / early modern China. Her research interests span many topics pertaining to the question of authority and variation in China’s traditional culture, particularly in medicine and the natural sciences, between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. Overall, her passion lies in writing a new kind of Chinese cultural history that foregrounds knowledge of all kinds, and is also rigorously contextualized by institutional, social, and economic conditions of the day.

Professor Bian's first book, Know Your Remedies: Pharmacy and Early Modern Culture in China, 1500-1800 is near completion under contract with the Princeton University Press. This book sheds new light on China’s early modern condition by investigating the transformation and diversification of the encyclopedic pharmacopeia known as bencao (materia medica). In so doing, this study also reveals the material underpinnings of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) from the perspective of its pharmacy, and argues that the expansion of TCM into an integrated cultural and business enterprise in fact had its recent origin in the 17th-18th centuries.

Future research plans include a social history of medical recipes in late imperial China, a study of humans and objects in the Old Manchu Archive (Jiu Manzhou dang), and Chinese medicinal trade in the long nineteenth century.

At Princeton, Professor Bian teaches introductory courses to Modern East Asia (HIS 208) and Early Modern China (HIS 324), as well as seminars on special topics such as Medicine and Health in China (HIS 472). She advises undergraduate and graduate students on topics related to Ming-Qing history and East Asian science, technology and medicine. In Spring 2018 she will be a visiting scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG).

Publications List: 
  • “An Ever-Expanding Pharmacy: Zhao Xuemin and the Conditions for New Knowledge in Eighteenth-Century China,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies [Forthcoming in December 2017]
  • “Documenting Medications: Patients’ Demand, Physicians’ Virtuosity, and Genre-Mixing of Prescription-Cases (Fang’an) in Seventeenth-Century China,” Early Science & Medicine 22.1 (2017): 1-21.
  • “Shui zhu yao shi: Zhongguo gudai yiyao fenye de zai tantao [Who are the masters of the pharmaceutical chamber? On the division of labor between physicians and pharmacists in Chinese history]”, Xin Shixue [New History], forthcoming in 2017
  • “Too Sick to Serve: Politics of Illness in Qing Civil Bureaucracy,” Late Imperial China 33.2 (December 2012): 40-75.