Xinxian was born and raised in Suzhou, China. Her first interest in history came from looking through the biographical entries of her father’s copy of Encyclopedia Britannica and learning calligraphy from early Tang dynasty rubbings. In college, Xinxian chose to major in Chinese history after reading about Meiji Japan. Before gaining a B.A. from Nanjing University in 2007, she spent one year as an exchange student at University of Tokyo. Xinxian then earned an M.A. in History of Sino-Foreign Relations from Beijing University, where she focused her research on the forming nursing profession in China between 1880s and 1945.
After coming to Princeton in 2009, Xinxian has been developing her interest in Chinese history, Japanese history, and history of science. Her dissertation examines changing political and socio-cultural meanings of the first state-sponsored agricultural garden in China, which was established in the 1900s and has become today’s Beijing Zoo. Besides the dissertation project, Xinxian is also interested in the history of imperial hunting and falconry in Qing China.