Skip to main content


Elya Zhang Headshot

Elya J. Zhang

  • Assistant Professor of History

PhD, University of California, San Diego

418 Rush Rhees Library
(585) 275-9358

Office Hours: By appointment



Global History

Research Overview

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 198 students from 51 majors to experiment outside their comfort zones.  

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

Participants: 198 students from 51 undergraduate majors.  Creative works viewable here:

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:

[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:

Graduate Fields

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

Teaching Field: East Asian History; International History; Economic History

Research Field: Modern China; History of Capitalism

I will not be accepting students for admission in Fall 2020.

Courses Offered (subject to change)

  • HIST 140:  Traditional East Asia
  • HIST 142:  Traditional China
  • 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
  • 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 293:  China and the U.S. since 1900
  • HIST 342W:  Rich China, Poor China

Selected Publications