Martin Kern

Greg ('84) and Joanna (P13) Zeluck Professor in Asian Studies

Professor and Chair, Department of East Asian Studies

Department of East Asian Studies
210 Jones Hall, Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544

Assistant: Amber J. Min-Lee | 609-258-4276



My work cuts across the fields of literature, philology, history, religion, and art in ancient and medieval China, with a primary focus on poetry.

Studying the composition, reception, and canonization of early texts, I am particularly interested in three questions: the performance of texts in political and religious ritual; their role in the formation of ancient and medieval Chinese cultural memory and identity; and the presence and absence of the authorial voice in early texts. These issues lead further into the complex problems of writing and orality and to the phenomenon of texts as material artifacts, especially with newly excavated manuscripts and inscriptions.

Another major field of my interest is in Chinese poetry, its theory, aesthetics, and hermeneutic practices. I am currently spending much of my time on the early history of the Classic of Poetry and the origin and early development of Chinese literary thought. Again, newly excavated manuscripts are of central importance to rethink the fundamentals of classical Chinese poetics.

And some day, I must escape for a while from early China to write a book on Du Fus poetry. In the end, that’s why I study classical Chinese.

Among other duties, I serve as co-editor of T’oung Pao.



Current Projects

  • The Origins of Chinese Political Thought: Studies in the Classic of Documents, ed. Martin Kern and Dirk Meyer. Leiden: Brill.
  • Texts, Authors, and Performance in Early China.
  • The Analects Revisited: New Perspectives on the Dating of a Classic, ed. Michael Hunter, Martin Kern, and Oliver Weingarten. Leiden: Brill.
  • Wenben yu wenhua jiyi: Zaoqi Zhongguo de shuxie, yishi he shige yanjiu 文本與文化記憶:早期中國的書寫、儀式和詩歌研究 [Text and Cultural Memory: Studies in Early Chinese Writing, Ritual, and Poetry]. Beijing: Sanlian Publishers.

  • Shiji xue yu shijie hanxue xubian 史記學與世界漢學續編 [Essays in Shiji Studies and World Sinology, Second Series], ed. Lee Chi-hsiang 李紀祥 and Martin Kern. Taipei: Tangshan chubanshe.

  • Ideology of Power and Power of Ideology in Early China, ed. Yuri Pines, Paul Rakita Goldin, and Martin Kern. Leiden: Brill.


In my undergraduate lecture course “Introduction to Chinese Literature” (EAS 232), we survey the foundations, major genres, and masterpieces of classical Chinese literature. A new lecture course I have helped to initiate is the sequence “East Asian Humanities” (HUM/EAS/COM 233-234) with faculty from four departments. I also teach upper-level undergraduate seminars on Chinese poetry as well as on early religious ritual and its texts and artifacts (EAS/REL 327). Finally, I have recently developed a new course to rethink the issue of translation in our encounters with the civilizations of East Asia (TRA/EAS 304).

On the graduate level, I teach seminars on Chinese poetry from Zhou through Tang and Song times, but also on literary thought, commentary, historiography, and issues of canonization and anthologizing in ancient and medieval Chinese literature. Current dissertation projects of my graduate students range from pre-imperial Chinese intellectual history to medieval Chinese poetry, the reception history of early texts, classical commentary, and commemorative inscriptions.



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© 2012 Martin Kern

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