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Sarah Schneewind


Sarah Schneewind holds degrees from Cornell University, Yale University, and Columbia University.  She has studied the relations between state and society during the Ming era (1368-1644) in three books. Community Schools and the State in Ming China shows change over time in the local implementation of one policy, arguing that the center did not determine the policy’s course.  A Tale of Two Melons traces the way the first Ming emperor, his advisors, and people at the local level interpreted one lucky omen. Shrines to Living Men in the Ming Political Cosmos argues that shrines to living officials (生祠) constituted, among many other things, a legitimate way for commoners to participate in politics under the autocratic, bureaucratic Ming monarchy. Schneewind has also edited a collection of essays on the image of the Ming founder through today, Long Live the Emperor! She teaches a lower-division survey course on Chinese, Japanese, and Korean history from 1200 BC to AD 1200, and upper division and graduate courses on Chinese history and on pedagogy.  Schneewind has been President of the Society for Ming Studies, and runs a website called "The Ming History English Translation Project."     She has also developed a digital tool called The Late Imperial Primer Literacy Sieve (

  • Shrines to Living Men in the Ming Political Cosmos, Harvard Asia Center Press, 2018.
  • A Tale of Two Melons: Emperor and Subject in Ming China, Hackett Publishers, 2006.
  • Long Live the Emperor! The Uses of the Ming Founder across Six Centuries of East Asian History, Society for Ming Studies, 2008.
  • Community Schools and the State in Ming China, Stanford University Press, 2006.
  • “Peculiar Living Shrines and Yuan Governance as Background to Ming Populism,” Frontiers of History in China2 (2019)
  • “Beyond Flattery: Legitimating Political Participation in a Ming Living Shrine,” Journal of Asian Studies 2 (May 2013): 345-366.
  • “The Panopticon Comes Full Circle?,” World History Bulletin 32.2 (Fall 2016): 25-29.
  • “Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence and King Wu’s First Great Pronouncement,” Journal of American-East Asian Relations 19.1 (2012): 75-91.
  • “The Book of the Five Relationships: Thoughts on Mid-Fifteenth-Century Court Confucianism,” in Ming China: Courts and Contacts 1400-1450, ed. Craig Clunas, Jessica Harrison-Hall and Yu-ping Luk (British Museum, 2016), pp. 219-227.
  • “Clean Politics: Race and Class, Imperialism and Nationalism, Etiquette and Consumption in the Chinese and American Revolutions,” The Asia-Pacific Journal, volume 45-3-09.
  • “Is Ren Gui Really Filial?,” Ming Studies 20 (2009): 115-120
  • “Reduce, Re-use, Recycle: Imperial Autocracy and Scholar-Official Autonomy in the Background to the Ming History Biography of Early Ming Scholar-Official Fang Keqin (1326-1376),” Oriens Extremus 48:103-152.
  • The Analects in the Classroom: Book Four as a First Step,"  Education about Asia 16.1 (2011): 33-35.
  • “Visions and Revisions: Village Policies of the Ming Founder in Seven Phases,” T'oung Pao 87 (2002): 1-43.
  • “Competing Institutions: Community Schools and ‘Improper Shrines’ in Sixteenth Century China,” Late Imperial China 20.1 (June 1999): 85-106.
  • “Reconsidering ‘Sati in Universal Context’,” Journal of World History 18.3 (2007): 253-60.
  • “Who Did What in A Chinese Lady’s Autobiography: A Text and Lesson Plan on Li Qingzhao’s Ambiguous Narrative,” Education about Asia 22.1 (2017): 50-55.


  • HILD 10. East Asia: The Great Tradition: Early History and Cultures of China, Korea, and Japan.
  • HIEA 122. Late Imperial Chinese Culture and Society.
  • HIEA 123. China under the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644)
  • HIEA 124. Life in Ming China (1368-1644)
  • HIEA 129. Faces of the Chinese Past
  • HIEA 164/264. Seminar in Late Imperial Chinese History
  • HIEA 166/266. Creating Ming Histories
  • HITO 87. Freshman Seminar, the History and Philosophy of Confucius, co-taught with Professor Monte Johnson of Philosophy
  • HITO 87. Freshman Seminar, Ming China in Short Stories
  • HITO 196 History Honors Seminar
  • HIGR 209. Historical Pedagogy
  • HIGR 217A-B-C. Historical Scholarship on Premodern Chinese History I, II, III
  • HIGR 292. Chinese Classics Reading Group

"Our Dead"

They said to me:

We keep our dead among us, buried in the fields.
We plough around their mounds;
noontimes, we lie in their shade, chatting.
The occasional spadeful keeps them with us.
In stubble days, goats climb their modest height.

Until in rain and forgetfulness,
a great-grandson's ox ploughs through,
and their bones return to ours.

And I replied:

I keep myself among my dead, their endtables and sofas.
I dust around their tchotchkes;
evenings, I lean against their cushions, chatting.
The occasional mending keeps them with me.
In troubled nights, ghosts strum my modest memories.

Until in a change of fashion's season
some great-granddaughter will plough through,
and donate all our love to charity.

Cumberland Poetry Review, vol. 17.1 (Fall 1997).

Second-place winner of Robert Penn Warren Poetry Competition

© Sarah Schneewind 1997


would leap,
I had thought,
faithfully onto my shoulder
and consecrate my ear
with wild imaginings in regulated verse.

it meanders down the driveway at a dignified distance
on careful paws
stopping now for a chew of blade,
now to doze in the shade of the barn

or it bleats indignantly,
butting against the fence
of my preoccupations

or shifts under my toes like the scant sand
or prods my feet sharply like the gravel
of this road

or, as it drives by,
waves politely from a beat-up pick-up
leaving me
in a shuffle of dust.

Cumberland Poetry Review 18.1 (Fall 1998)

© Sarah Schneewind 1998

"The Bride One Summer Evening"

Waiting for the grind of tires, barefoot,
not sure just where I ought to snip, or if,
his rose bushes long planted, long ignored,
I heard an unfamiliar cry and turned

to face the moon. It rose from ruddy clay,
uncanny, earthy, red, full, and so low
my shears could almost reach. Instead I found
the perfect angle for those clean smooth cuts,

goodbyes to last year's unseen crimson blooms.
I severed thorny brown from green to let
red growth replace the woman I had been.
The moon still loomed orange above the pines,

but faded, before he got home, to white.
He said that whippoorwill could whoop all night.

Cumberland Poetry Review 18.1 (Fall 1998)

© Sarah Schneewind 1998

"Minoan Gold"

Stalactites of honey; catacomb
of waxen hive where generous holy swarms
for centuries have worked in stony womb,

where fragrant humming air each morning warms
and melts for Cretan tongues the ancient stores
each one of us tastes of and never harms

as it seeps from mid-cliff through rocky pores.
So narrow-waisted bees, since Midas' day,
have sweetened this down-trodden people's chores.

A sailor, once, scoffed at our Cretan way,
scaled the hill, and rapelled down to take
a vessel full to sell.

 Can insects pray?
The twisted cord became a hissing snake --
or so he shouted, fumbling with his sheath --
and swinging in air he slashed and fell, to break

in screams upon the flowering rock beneath.
Doge, Sultan, Führer: despoilers come
and leave. We live on what the gods bequeath.

Cumberland Poetry Review 18.1 (Fall 1998)

© Sarah Schneewind 1998