Craft, Technology, and Material Culture in Early Modern Asia

Consisting of scholars of diverse disciplinary backgrounds from across North America and Asia, this group explores systems of artisanal knowledge and their social, cultural, and political significance in Asia from 1400 to 1800. An approach toward early modern science and technology through the lens of craft and material objects can lend itself to the study of diverse historical topics in both macro and micro-scales. Our group intends to build a flexible methodology of craft and materiality that can be used in the investigation of a wide range of research topics including knowledge production, artisanal community, statecraft, infrastructure, networks, commerce, environment, and foodways. We focus on the modality of craft – such as embodiment, skills, and oral transmission – as well as the material attributes of things as the locus of epistemic tension and technological appropriation through the study of texts, objects, and bodily practices. In addition, promoting perspectives of transnational, comparative, and connected histories, the working group will foster discussions about early modern empires, oceanic and silkroad connections, capitalism, migration, and border and frontier studies, which, to varying degrees, integrate (Eur-)Asia beyond the boundaries of the political states.


Please set your timezone at

Consortium Respectful Behavior Policy

Participants at Consortium activities will treat each other with respect and consideration to create a collegial, inclusive, and professional environment that is free from any form of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.

Participants will avoid any inappropriate actions or statements based on individual characteristics such as age, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, nationality, political affiliation, ability status, educational background, or any other characteristic protected by law. Disruptive or harassing behavior of any kind will not be tolerated. Harassment includes but is not limited to inappropriate or intimidating behavior and language, unwelcome jokes or comments, unwanted touching or attention, offensive images, photography without permission, and stalking.

Participants may send reports or concerns about violations of this policy to

Upcoming Meetings

  • Friday, October 6, 2023 11:00 am to 12:30 pm EDT

    Sarah Teasley, "Sticky Solutions: The Persistence of Animal Glues in Laboratories and Workshops in Twentieth-Century Japan," Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 53, no. 3 (June 2023): 278-307.
    Tom H. Fisher, "What We Touch, Touches Us: Materials, Affects, and Affordances," Design Issues (2004) 20 (4): 20–31.

  • Friday, November 3, 2023 11:00 am to 12:30 pm EDT

  • Friday, December 1, 2023 11:00 am to 12:30 pm EST

    We are going to discuss the changing concept of resources in the early modern and modern period.
    “Focus: Resources in the Early Modern World,” Isis 114, no. 3 (September 1, 2023): 599–645,
    Peter B. Lavelle, The Profits of Nature: Colonial Development and the Quest for Resources in Nineteenth-Century China (New York: Columbia University Press, 2020), Chapter 2.

  • Friday, January 5, 2024 11:00 am to 12:30 pm EST


  • Friday, February 2, 2024 11:00 am to 12:30 pm EST


  • Friday, March 1, 2024 11:00 am to 12:30 pm EST


  • Friday, April 5, 2024 11:00 am to 12:30 pm EDT


  • Friday, May 3, 2024 11:00 am to 12:30 pm EDT


Past Meetings

  • September 1, 2023

    Ruth Rogaski, Knowing Manchuria, Environments, the Senses, and Natural Knowledge on an Asian Borderland (University of Chicago Press, 2022), introduction & chapter 3.

  • May 5, 2023

    Susan Naquin, “The Bronze Ladies of Mt. Tai, 1600-1900,” in Gods of Mount Tai (Boston: Brill, 2022), 335-372.
    Dorothy Ko, “'Fire, Walk with Me': Tales of Artisanal Body (Parts) and Innovation in Early Modern China,” in Crafting Enlightenment: Artisanal histories and transnational networks, (Liverpool University Press and University of Oxford, 2021), 273-296.

  • April 7, 2023

    Rachel Silberstein, A Fashionable Century: Textile Artistry and Commerce in Late Qing (Seattle: Washington University Press, 2020), Introduction and chapter 3.

  • March 3, 2023

    Susan Naquin, "Popularization through Pictures," in Gods of Mt. Tai (Boston: Brill, 2022), 373-414.
    Kaijun Chen, "Imperial Models: Technology and Design in State Controlled Porcelain Manufacture in Early Modern China," History and Technology 38, issue 2-3 (October 2022): 1-17.

  • February 3, 2023

    Valérie Nègre, “Craft Knowledge in the Age of Encyclopedism”, in Lauren R. Cannady and Jennifer Ferng (dir.), Crafting Enlightenment. Artisanal Histories and Transnational Networks, Liverpool University Press and University of Oxford, 2021, p. 303-333.

    Valérie Nègre, “Production and circulation of Technical Knowledge on Building Sites at the End of the Eighteenth Century”, Journal of the History of Science and Technology, numéro special ‘Building Sites for Making Knowledge’, vol. 15, n° 2, December 2021, p. 17-33.

  • December 2, 2022

    Houghteling, Sylvia. The Art of Cloth in Mughal India, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2022, ch. 2.

  • November 4, 2022

    Davis Baird, Thing Knowledge: A Philosophy of Scientific Instruments (Berkeley: UC Press, 2004), chs. 2~3.

  • October 7, 2022

    Francesca Bray, "Translating the Art of Tea: Naturalizing Chinese Savoir Faire in British Assam," in Pamela Smith ed., Entangled Itineraries: Materials, Practices, and Knowledges across Eurasia (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019), 99-137.
    Kyoungjin Bae, "Export Furniture and Artisanal Translation in Eighteenth-Century Canton," Isis 113.2 (June 2022): 310-330.

  • September 9, 2022

    For this week, we will read and discuss:
    Jakobina Arch, Bringing Whales Ashore: Oceans and the Environment of Early Modern Japan (Washington University Press, 2018), introduction (3-22) and chapter 3 (79-109).

  • May 13, 2022

    For this week, we are going to read:
    Kang, Hyeok Hweon. 2022. “Cooking Niter, Prototyping Nature: Saltpeter and Artisanal Experiment in Korea, 1592—1635.” Isis, January 1.
    And we will workshop Susan Eberhard's dissertation chapter on silverware industry in Canton from the late 18th to early 19th centuries. Please email Susan Eberhard ( for the manuscript.

Group Conveners

  • kyoungjinbae's picture

    Kyoungjin Bae

    Kyoungjin Bae is James P. Storer assistant professor of Asian history at Kenyon College. She is an historian of everyday technology and material culture in early modern China. She received a Ph.D. in Global and International History from Columbia University and completed two postdoctoral fellowships at the Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies at the University of Michigan and the Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Hong Kong. Her book manuscript examines Cantonese cabinet making and carpenters’ knowledge during the eighteenth century.


  • Yijun.Wang's picture

    Yijun Wang

    Yijun Wang is Assistant Professor of History at New York University as well as a 2020-2021 ACLS-Luce China Early Career fellow. She is a historian of material culture, history of technology and gender in early modern China. Yijun is interested in the connections between knowledge, technology, power, and capitalism. Her book manuscript examines the transmissions of tin mining technology and changes in statecraft in China from 1700 to the 1850s.


  • Yulian's picture

    Yulian Wu

    Yulian Wu is Assistant Professor of the History Department at Michigan State University. She specializes in material culture, gender relations, and Manchu studies in early modern China. She published her first book, Luxurious Networks: Salt Merchants, Status, and Statecraft in Eighteenth-Century China in 2017 (Stanford University Press). Her current project titled “Crafting Jade: The Construction of Objects and Empire in Eighteenth-Century China,” explores jade production and consumption in the High Qing period.


85 Members