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Elya Zhang

  • Assistant Professor of History

PhD, University of California, San Diego, 2008

418 Rush Rhees Library
(585) 275-9358



Global History

Research Overview

My principal interests are financial history and the dynamics of political networking in late Qing and Republican China.  My primary book project, titled Foreign Money and Chinese State: A Loan Story from 1895 to 1949, aims to survey China’s foreign borrowing before the communist takeover and to explain China’s separate lending path with its seven major creditor countries—Britain, Japan, U.S., France, Germany, Russia, and Italy.  My second book project, titled Webs of Power: Duanfang and Networking in A Decayed Age, 1900-1913, tells a story of how Manchu statesman Duanfang manipulated his personal connections to tackle immediate crises such as revenue, constitutionalism, Manchuness, and antiquity, and how his all-around curiosity flourished in an ultimately depressing era.

Graduate Fields

I offer the following fields for the PhD qualifying examination. For explanations of fields, see the "Graduate Overview" page in the Graduate Handbook.

Teaching Field:
Asian History

Research Field:
Modern China

I will not be accepting students for admission in fall 2015.

Courses Offered (subject to change)

  • HIS 142  Traditional China, Syllabus
  • HIS 140  Traditional East Asia
  • HIS 145  Modern Japan, Syllabus
  • HIS 342W  Rich China, Poor China, Syllabus

Selected Publications

  • Review of The Yellow River: The Problem of Water in Modern China, by David A. Pietz, Journal of Asian Studies, forthcoming
  • “It Never Rains in America?” Essay review of Sheldon Garon, Beyond Our Means: Why America Spends While the World Saves, in Reviews in American History 42:4 (December 2014), pp.756-764.
  • "Reform is A Bonus: The Networking of Upper-Level Officials in the Last Decade of the Qing Dynasty." Chapter 8 in Sherman Cochran and Paul G. Pickowicz eds., China on the Margins during the Qing Dynasty, The Republic and the People's Republic (Cornell University Press, 2009), pp. 102-149.
  • "To Be Somebody: Li Qinglin, Run-of-the-Mill Cultural Revolution Showstopper." Chapter 8 in Joseph W. Esherick and Andrew G. Walder, eds., The Chinese Cultural Revolution as History (Stanford University Press, 2006), pp.211-239.