Call for Papers: Workshop on the History and Practice of Archaeology in China

22–24th Aug 2022
University of Oxford
Hybrid: Online and in Person
Deadline: 3rd Dec 2021

Organizers: Anke Hein (University of Oxford) & Julia Lovell (Birkbeck College, University of London)
Steering Committee and Discussants: Chen Xingcan, Lothar von Falkenhausen, Rowan Flad, Ye Wa

This call for papers invites contributions for a workshop to prepare an edited volume on the topic “The History and Practice of Archaeology in China”. If you are interested in being involved in this project, please submit an abstract (250-300 words) and a biographical note (50-100 words) to Anke Hein ( and Julia Lovell ( The deadline for submission of abstracts is 3 December 2021 and submissions will be reviewed by mid-January 2022.

The successful applicants will participate in a workshop to be held at the University of Oxford 22-24 August 2022. Depending on the situation, the workshop may be in person, online, or in a hybrid format. The organizers are currently looking into sources of funding, but the presenters may have to cover their own airfare and accommodation; the organizers can help with providing information on travel itineraries and housing. The presenters are expected to prepare written drafts of their papers ahead of time to circulate among the group for feedback and comments as well as cross-referencing. After the conference, the presenters will rework their initial draft and prepare their work for inclusion in an edited volume. The final papers are to be submitted in January 2023.


As proclaimed recently in the Washington Post, this is a golden age for Chinese archaeology. Major discoveries such as the new object pits at Sanxingdui receive extensive press coverage in China and to a lesser extent abroad, and articles reporting archaeological research in China are becoming increasingly common in scholarly journals around the world. Yet, these English-language articles represent only a tiny proportion of the archaeological work that is done in China and much of the archaeological process behind it is unknown to foreigners. Few outside specialist circles are aware that China is currently celebrating 100 years of Chinese archaeology, and with a pomp and investment of time, money, and media coverage that archaeologists in other countries can only dream of. It is thus clear that archaeology is of great importance in China, promoted by the government and followed eagerly by the public; this phenomenon needs to be better understood outside China.

To be sure, international interest in Chinese archaeology and cultural heritage management is growing, with more universities in the UK and the US in particular offering options in that field. While there is now an increasing number of textbooks on Chinese Archaeology to choose from, these largely focus on the presentation of prehistoric and early historic cultural developments; the history and practice of archaeology in China is discussed at most in passing in a short introductory chapter. There are a few overview papers on the history of Chinese archaeology, but these are largely from the 1990s and there is a definite need for new analyses. There is only one major book publication on this topic, in Chinese and covering only the period up to 1949. There is a flood of recent papers in Chinese, all published in connection with the 100-year anniversary of Chinese archaeology, but little in English. All in all, western archaeologists (be they established scholars or students) are very often unaware that China has its own particular approaches to archaeological research, both in terms of cultural heritage administration and interpretation. This lack of awareness and understanding on the part of non-specialists often leads to misjudgements of articles written by Chinese scholars, which are dismissed as too material-focused or unaware of archaeological method and theory.

This workshop and edited volume aim to promote better understanding of the way archaeology is practised in China, and of the history of the discipline. We propose to develop an edited volume that provides an overview of and that discusses various aspects of the history, practice, and sociology of archaeology of China, focusing on the complex interactions of multiple actors, objectives, and concerns, between Chinese archaeologists, institutions, and public reception. Such a collection will illuminate the particular cultural, institutional and political context of the history and contemporary practice of archaeology in China, while placing this context within a comparative framework for understanding the global history and practice of archaeology.
The volume will be structured in a series of thematically linked sections, to include: chronological analysis of the precursors to and history of modern Chinese archaeology; the development of influential theories and methods; studies of key institutions and influential regional excavations; analysis of the sociology and technologies of archaeology in China, including gendered experience of fieldwork; the interactions between specialist academic and public archaeology, including treatment of archaeological discoveries in museums and media.
The following is an indicative but not exhaustive list of possible section and chapter topics:

I. The early history of archaeology
• Understanding the past through material objects prior to kaoguxue
• Early geological collaborations and the development of archaeological method and practice; training of Chinese archaeologists outside China
• European explorers and adventurers and their impact on Sino-foreign relations

II. Establishing structures and institutions of archaeological work in China and Taiwan from the 1920s
• Academica Sinica
• The development and expansion of universities with archaeology degrees and departments before and after 1949
• Publishing houses and journals before and after 1949
• Changing structures of archaeological practice 1949-present day: national, provincial, municipal and local bureaus; museums; academies and institutes.

III. Development of method and theory
• The central plains, the theory of a unitary Chinese civilization and rise of the interaction sphere
• Chinese archaeology and its relationship with textual histories and art history; the impact of excavated texts
• Marxism-Leninism and Soviet-Chinese relations in archaeology
• Xia Nai and control of the archaeological process
• Translations of non-Chinese theoretical literature and their reflection in archaeological practice in China
• History and practice of archaeological sciences in China
• Xi Jinping and archaeology with “Chinese characteristics”

IV. Fieldwork practice and publications
• Geology and archaeology
• Regionalization in Chinese archaeological practice – comparing archaeology on the central plains and in frontier regions
• Sociology of fieldwork
• Gendered experience of fieldwork
• The experience of foreign collaboration
• The National Cultural Relics Survey 全国文物普查
• Relations between fieldwork, social communities and (rural and urban) development projects
• Chinese archaeology goes global: Chinese projects on foreign soil
• Publication practices and pressures

V. Public archaeology and outreach
• Conferences
• Archaeology in the media
• Archaeology in pop culture: pop songs, movies, series
• Museums, exhibitions: domestic and foreign collaborations
• China’s Archaeology Oscars: The 10 Great Archaeological Discoveries
• Archaeology and tourism

VI. Landmark projects as reflections of changes in Chinese archaeology over time
• Anyang
• Banpo
• Sanxingdui
• Mausoleum of the First Emperor
• Shuanghuaishu

Download this announcement as PDF: Practice_Archaeology_China_Workshop_Aug2022 (English), 中国考古学历史与实践学术研讨会征文通知_牛津大学_中文1 (Chinese)
Download this announcement’s short version as PDF: Practice_Archaeology_China_Workshop_short (English), 中国考古学历史与实践学术研讨会征文通知_牛津大学_中文 (Chinese)