Elya Zhang Headshot

Elya J. Zhang

  • History Senior Lecturer

PhD, University of California, San Diego

418 Rush Rhees Library
(585) 275-9358

Office Hours: Zoom office hours: Wed 1:30-2:30PM


Curriculum Vitae

Research Overview

Interests: Chinese History, Financial History, Spatial History, and Network Studies

Maps, foreign loans, and East Asian History are my specialty. In my research and teaching, I explore the financial and spatial history of capitalism, with China as my corner stone. I have taught fourteen different Asia-related courses and have completed a book manuscript on China’s foreign borrowing from America. As a teacher-scholar, I have also systematically tested the integration of scientific map-making into undergraduate research and have attracted 252 students from 51 majors to experiment outside their comfort zones.

Awards and Grants

  • [2016-18] Student Course Development Projects Grant, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, University of Rochester.
  • [2015-17] Working Group Grant, Central New York Humanities Corridor Program, “The Chinese Quest for Modernity.”
  • [2014] American Council of Learned Society, ACLS Fellowship.
  • [2012] Abraham J. Karp Teaching Award, University of Rochester.
  • [2010] Faculty Research Grant, Fordham University.
  • [2009] An Wang Postdoctoral Fellowship, Fairbank Center, Harvard University.

GIS Mapping Projects

Running theme: the spatial history of global capitalism (in China)

  1. [Fall 2020] Seven Global Pandemics and the Recovery
  2. [Fall 2019] China in Africa: The Socialist and Capitalist Stories
  3. [Fall 2019] The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere: 1943 and Now
  4. [Spring 2019] The Historical Silk Road and the Current “Belt and Road” Initiative
  5. [Fall 2018] Empires on Railways: Great Britain, the U.S., and China
  6. [Spring 2018] The World That Trade Created: Fifteen Global Commodities
  7. [Spring 2018] How Did China Get So Big?: 24 Historical Periods
  8. [Fall 2017] The Yellow and Yangtze Rivers: A Water Story
  9. [Spring 2017] Rich China, Poor China: Twelve Chinese Macro Regions
  10. [Fall 2016] Mapping China’s Economic Miracle, 1970s-2000s

Participants:200+ students from 51 undergraduate majors. Creative works viewable here: http://zhang.digitalscholar.rochester.edu/mapping/

Other Digital Projects

[2015, 2016, 2018] Visualizing Traditional China
Students picked up Adobe Creative Suite to create a personal “living history” of distant land. Creative works viewable here: http://zhang.digitalscholar.rochester.edu/china/

[2016-19] Debating Japan: A Class Project
Students confronted current dilemmas on camera and shared their arguments and evidence online in a vivid intellectual confrontation. Site: http://zhang.digitalscholar.rochester.edu/japan/

Graduate Research Fields

I offer the following fields for graduate research: Chinese History,  Economic History. For more information on our MA and PhD programs, see our graduate program page.


I am not accepting new graduate student advisees for our MA and PhD programs.

Courses Offered (subject to change)

  • HIS 140:  Traditional East Asia
  • HIST 142:  Traditional China, Syllabus
  • HIST 143:  Modern China 1600-present, Syllabus
  • HIST 145:  Modern Japan
  • HIST 236A:  Digital History: Twelve Chinese Macro Regions
  • HIST 236B:  Digital History: The Yellow and Yangtze Rivers
  • HIST 244:  China in Africa: The Socialist and Capitalist Stories, Syllabus
  • HIST 246A:  Digital History: The World That Trade Created
  • HIST 246B:  Empire on Railways: Britain, the U.S., and China
  • HIST 246C:  The Silk Road, Old and New
  • HIST 246(W):  Seven Global Pandemics and the Recovery, Syllabus
  • HIST 293:  China and the U.S. since 1900
  • HIST 342W:  Rich China, Poor China

Selected Publications