The Clothing and Costuming Project

This is a project that grew out of my dissertation completed at Yale University in 2015. I published a book and a few articles addressing some related issues in Chinese literature and history.


The book studies the political and cultural significance of clothing and costuming in early Qing drama (texts, performances, and visual representations) against the Ming-Qing transition and Manchu government’s hair and dress regulations. The book argues that the Ming-Qing transition turned theatrical costuming into a unique way to reassemble the disrupted body, clothes, and individual identities during the dynastic transition. This book introduces an interdisciplinary method to integrate texts, performances, history, and critical questions in the study of Chinese drama.

Support and Honors:
Brooks McNamara Publishing Subvention, American Society for Theatre Research, 2019
James P. Geiss and Margaret Y. Hsu Foundation Publication Subvention Award, 2019
Association of Asian Studies First Book Subvention (2018)
Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Postdoc Fellowship in China Studies (2017-18);


  • “The Prefatory Self: Images of the Author in Traditional Chinese Drama,” T’oung Pao 2021.

This paper considers representations of Chinese opera authors in the prefatory space of their theatrical works. Instead of treating authorship as a type of ownership, this paper studies the multifaceted nature of authorial images by examining the depiction of the authors’ hairstyles and clothing alongside other content in the front matter of those plays. Situating the phenomenon within the histories of Chinese drama, clothing, and book culture, this paper argues that authors increasingly appeared in late imperial Chinese drama in their social roles––from the prefatory space to the drama script proper.

  • “Absent Presence: Costuming and Identity in Qing Drama A Ten-thousand Li Reunion,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 2019.

The paper explores the relation between costuming and identity in Qing drama through the case of Wanli yuan 萬里圓 (A Ten-thousand Li Reunion), a play about a Chinese family separated and then reunited through the dynastic transition. The paper examines textual fragments, visual representations, and performance records to demonstrate how the drama dresses its characters as members of a Chinese family and subjects of changing states. The study shows that theatrical costuming in Qing drama provided a productive way of reshaping body, clothing, and individual identities that were constantly in tension with historical changes.

  • “Dressing Self and Others in the Poetry of Kong Shangren,” CLEAR, 2019.

This paper studies the representation of hairstyle and clothing in Kong Shangren’s poetry. It argues that through writing about different modes of dressing in the Manchu and Han styles, Kong probed the boundaries between the poetic and social worlds to represent different dimensions of being a man of letters in early Qing China. This paper provides a material approach to revisit the relationship between authors, literature, and society in a specific historical context.

  • “The Inconvenient Imperial Visit: Writing Clothing and Ethnicity in 1684 Qufu”, Late Imperial China, 2016. (2017 SEC/AAS Article Prize)

The Manchu-style costumes employed at Confucius ritual performances in early Qing China signified an inherent paradox: whereas Confucian rituals sinicized the Manchus, Manchu costumes colonized Confucian rituals. This paper examines the Kong family’s writings about clothing and body on display during the Kangxi emperor’s visit to Qufu in 1684. It shows that literati scholars of the Kong family integrated Manchu clothing into Confucian ritual through their strategic writing and interpretation. On a larger scale, the paper suggests that the sartorial transition embodies the hybrid process of sinicization and Manchuization which characterizes early Qing history.