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Hu Shih Distinguished Lecture

Dorothy Ko

On the 100th anniversary of the world-changing philosopher and statesman’s graduation from Cornell, the EAP initiated an annual distinguished lecture in his name. Leading scholars of Chinese and East Asian studies are invited to give a lecture on critical issues in their field of research. 

This lecture series is video archived as a resource for the Cornell community and beyond. For full-length lecture videos and highlights: The videos and programs are also permanently archived in the Cornell eCommons archive at

The 2019-2020 Hu Shih Distinguished Lecture was given by Professor Dorothy Ko (Barnard College) on October 3, 2019.  Her lecture titled, Gender and Material Culture: The Female Artisan Gu Erniang and the Craft of Inkstone-Making in Early Modern China was co-sponsored by the Department of History.  Professor Ko writes: Specifically, this talk focuses on the career of Gu Erniang, the most famous female inkstone-maker in the history of the craft, as well as her relationship with her male patrons and collectors. The collaboration between artisans and scholars announced a new social order in which the hierarchy of head over hand no longer predominated.

The 2018-2019 Hu Shih Distinguished Lecture was given by Professor Victor Mair (University of Pennsylvania) on October 25, 2018. Professor Mair is a philologist specializing in Sinitic and Indo-European languages, and holds the position of Professor of Chinese Language and Literature in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a specialist on classical and medieval Chinese literature, Dunhuang excavations and manuscript culture, and early Chinese archaeology, and translator of such canonical pre-Qin texts as Sun Zi’s The Art of War and the Daodejing.

The 2017-2018 Hu Shih Distinguished Lecture was given by Professor P. Steven Sangren (Cornell University) on November 9, 2017. Professor Sangren is a socio-cultural anthropologist whose research focuses on Taiwan and China. His talk is entitled "Filial Piety and Its Discontents." 

The 2016-2017 Hu Shih Distinguished Lecture was given by Professor Francesca Bray (University of Edinburgh; President of the international Society for the History of Technology) on April 20, 2017. Francesca Bray is a social anthropologist who works on the history of agriculture and of science, technology and medicine in China, and the macro- and micro-politics of everyday technologies (including food, housing, communications and hygiene) in many other parts of the world. Her talk is entitled "Hail the Maintainers: Rethinking Technology in Chinese History"

Our 2015-2016 Hu Shih Distinguished Lecture was given by Professor Evelyn Rawski (University of Pittsburgh) on October 1, 2015. Her talk is titled "Moving from Nation to Region: China in Northeast Asian History." Professor Rawski incorporates China into regional and world history to highlight the importance of Northeast Asia regional history. 

The inaugural Hu Shih Distinguished Lecture was given by Professor Benjamin Elman (Princeton University), one of the leading figures in Chinese history, on April 10, 2015. Professor Elman used the occasion to speak on the grand historical narrative of China’s decline and Japan’s rise at the end of the nineteenth century, showing how China’s dynamic technological and economic modernizing during that time has been submerged beneath a story of defeat in international rivalry. His lecture, “The Great Reversal: China, Korea, and Japan in the Early Modern World”, was delivered to a capacity audience of 80 from Cornell and many regional universities.



Hu Shih, the greatest Cornellian

Sherman Cochran, the Hu Shih Professor of Chinese History Emeritus, presented the Cornell Contemporary China Initiative's inaugural lecture Nov. 20, 2015, making the case for Hu Shih, Class of 1914, as the 'greatest Cornellian.' Cochran framed his lecture as a comparison between Shih and other Cornell graduates: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg '54, novelist Thomas Pynchon '59, and professional football player and actor Ed Marinaro '72.