Jue Guo (郭珏)

Assistant Professor, AMEC

Co-Chair, Columbia Early China Seminar

Areas of Specialization and Research Interests

  • Archaeologically Excavated Manuscripts and Objects in Early and Medieval China
  • Religion, Society, and Material Culture in Early and Medieval China
  • Funerary Rituals and Burial Practices in Early and Medieval China
  • Microhistory and Object Biographies
  • Archaeology of Religion
  • Material Culture and Thing Theories
  • Cultural History, Cultural Archaeology, and Cultural Anthropology
Academic Focus: 

I specialize in Early China, especially from the Warring States period to Han times (5th century B.C.E.-3rd century C.E.). My research interests are primarily in ritual practices, material culture, and social, religious, and cultural history of early societies. Using both received history and archaeological sources, I am interested in looking at the intersection and interaction between writing and object, and studying topics including divination, sacrifice, spirits, the dead and death rituals, tombs and burials, and everyday life in early to medieval China from anthropological and historical perspectives, as well as the way they are theorized in comparative studies.

I am currently finishing my first book manuscript, titled A Life on Display: Reconstructing the Worlds of a Chu Official in Early China, an attempt at providing a microhistorical and biographical account of an individual from Early China. I examine how this fourth-century B.C.E. high-ranking minister of the Warring States Kingdom of Chu, Shao Tuo, navigated and negotiated the social, political, personal, and religious realms of his lifeworlds, using the materials excavated from his intact tomb, known as the Baoshan Tomb 2 (dated to 316 B.C.E.) in combination with other archaeological sources and received literature.

Concurrently I am also working a few article-length studies of figurative representations from Neolithic to Medieval China; funerary talismanic objects  from 5th century B.C.E. to 5th century C.E. China, and the concepts of and practices regarding the dead in ancient China.


At Barnard and Columbia, I teach undergraduate courses on Chinese civilization, major texts from East Asian traditions, and graduate courses on early Chinese history, texts, and excavated manuscripts.

  • ASCE UN1359 Introduction to East Asian Civilizations: China
  • AH UN1400 Colloquium on Major Texts: East Asia
  • EAAS UG4202 The Dead in Ancient China: Conceptions and Practices
  • HSEA GR5013 Readings in Early Chinese Texts     
  • HSEA GR9844 Archaeology of Everyday Lifeworld in Early China
Awards & Honors: 
  • 2015-2016 Visiting Research Scholar Fellowship, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW), New York University, New York
  • 2012-2013 Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, Cluster of Excellence: Asia and Europe, Universität Heidelberg, Germany
  • 2007-2008 ACLS/Henry Luce Foundation Dissertation Fellowship in East Asian Archaeology and Early History
  • 2007-2008 Dissertation Fellowship, University of Wisconsin-Madison   
Presentations / Recent Lectures: 

“Figurative Representations from Warring States Chu Tombs,” invited talk at the Institute of Fine Arts (IFA), New York University, New York, March 3, 2017.

曾侯乙墓中的殉人、 人形及“俑” (Death Attendants, Wooden Human Shape, and “Human Figurines” in the Tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng), International Conference on Archaeology and Study of the State of Zeng 曾國考古發現與研究國際學術研討會, Jingshan, Hubei, China, December 16-19, 2016.

“Textualized Object and Objectified Text: Exploring the Boundaries between Writing and Object in Early and Medieval China,” invited talk for the East Asian Art and Archaeology Lecture Series, Brown University, Providence, December 1, 2016.

“The Ordinary Dead of the Empire: Individual Strategies in the Making of the Dead from Han China,” International Conference on Empires and Religions in Comparison: The Graeco-Roman World and Early China (4th century BCE -5th century CE), The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong, September 14-15, 2016

“Nothing is more than being Brothers”: Familial Relations as seen in the Warring States Chu Legal Cases from Baoshan Tomb 2, XXI Biennial Conference of the European Association of Chinese Studies, St. Petersburg, Russia, August 22-28, 2016

 “Close Reading of Tang chuyu Tangqiu,” International Conference on Human Nature, Morality, and Fate in the Tsinghua University Bamboo Manuscripts, Internationales Kolleg für Geisteswissenschaftliche Forschung, Friederich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Erlangen, Germany, May 10-12, 2016.

“Excavating One Man’s Lifeworlds in Early China,” Visiting Research Scholar Lecture at Institute for the Study of Ancient World (ISAW), New York University, New York, February 2, 2016.

“Chu Archaeology and Chu Studies in the West,” Invited presentation at the International Conference on the Discovery and Excavation of Ji’nan City. Jingzhou, Hubei, China, Nov. 27-29, 2015.

“The Curious Case of Human-shape Objects: Transmission and Transformation of Ritual Knowledge and Technique in Early and Medieval China.” International Conference “Bowu xue and Manuscript Culture: Formation and Structure of Knowledge-Faith Tradition,” Fudan University, Shanghai, China, June 19-22, 2015.

“The Making of the Dead: Perspectives from Tombs in Early China,” invited talk at Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies of the University of Michigan (LRCCS), University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, April 14, 2015.

"Contextualizing the "Biography of Turtles and Yarrow Stalks" in the Shiji." The Technical Arts in Early Historical Writings Conference, University of California-Berkeley, Berkeley, November 6-8, 2014.

“Communication between the Living and the Dead: Ancient Egyptian 'Letters to the Dead' and Western Han 'Documents for Transferring to the Underworld' in Comparison.” International Conference on Newly Unearthed Bamboo-Strip Documents, University of Chicago, Chicago, October 24-26, 2014.

從九店日書看戰國末期楚都的社會民生. The Third International Symposium of Junior Scholars on Excavated Texts: The Contexts.  National Taiwan University and National Tsing-hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan, August 27-29, 2014.  

"From Funerary Texts to Talismanic Objects: Changing Perspective in Classifying Writings Found in Tombs." European Association for Studies of Chinese Manuscripts (EASCM) International Conference 2014, July 11-13, 2014, Heidelberg, Germany.  

"Coming to Terms with a Vulgar World: Wang Chong's Critique of Popular Religious Practices and the Realities of Practice Seen through Archaeology." Empire, Ethics, and Tradition: An International Conference on the Han Dynasty, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, May 23-24, 2014.

知死與事死: 秦漢墓葬文獻中的死亡觀念和喪葬習俗. International Symposium of Bamboo and Silk Manuscripts 2012, Wuhan University, Hubei, China, November 17-19, 2012.

“Materialized Death Ritual: Interred Texts from a Western Han Tomb.” Cluster of Excellence: Asia and Europe at Heidelberg University, Annual Conference 2012, Heidelberg, Germany, October 10-12, 2012.  

“317 B.C.E.: The Life of An Early Chinese Official on Display.” European Association of Chinese Studies (EACS) XIXth Conference, Paris, France, September 5-8, 2012.


“The Spirit World in Early China.” In Routledge Handbook of Early Chinese History, edited by Paul R. Goldin. New York: Routledge, forthcoming.

“A Hybrid Talismanic Manuscript: the 340 CE ‘Pine Man’ Wooden Tablet.” “Manuscript of the Month” for the Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC) at Universität Hamburg, Germany, January, 2015.  


Guo Jue. 2014. Chinese Common Religion: "Divinatory religion (300 BCE-8 CE)"; "Talismanic religion (100 BCE-420 CE)". Database of Religious History, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

"Qin Han chutu wenxian zhong de 'zhisi' yu 'shisi': yige jiyu 'xingcheng kuangjia' de shi fenxi ji fangfalun shang de sikao" 秦漢出土文獻中的“知死”與“事死”—一個基於“形成框架”的試分析及方法論上的思考 (in Chinese) ["Knowledge of Death" and "Serving the Dead" in Qin and Han Excavated Texts: A Preliminary Analysis Based on "Frame works" and a Methodological Discussion]. Jianbo 簡帛 [Bamboo and Silk Manuscripts], vol.8 (2013): 49-67.

“Divination.” The Blackwell Companion to Chinese Religions, ed., Randall L. Nadeau. Blackwell, 2012: 419-440.

 “Concepts of Death and the Afterlife Reflected in Newly Discovered Tomb Objects and Texts from Han China.”  In Amy L. Olberding and Philip J. Ivanhoe, eds., Mortality in Traditional Chinese Thought. SUNY, 2011: 85-115.

Review of Wiebke Denecke, The Dynamics of Masters Literature: Early Chinese Thought from Confucius to Han Feizi, Philosophy East and West 64:1 (January 2014), 240-249.

Review of Michael Nylan and Thomas Wilson, Lives of Confucius, Philosophy East and West, 62:3 (July, 2012): 429-433.

Review of Yuri Pines, Foundations of Confucian Thought: Intellectual Life in the Chunqiu Period, 722-453 B.C.E., Pacific Affairs (Summer 2003): 292-4.


317 Milbank Hall

(212) 854-9538


Office Hours: 

On Leave Fall 2017-Spring 2018


B.A. 2001, Beijing University, Philosophy

M.A. 2003 and Ph.D 2008, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Early China


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