Levenson Prize

Joseph Levenson Prize – Pre-1900 and Post-1900

The Merlin Foundation, established by the late Audrey Sheldon, has provided for the two awards, one for works whose main focus is on China before 1900 and the other for works on post-1900 China. The prizes will be awarded to the English-language books that make the greatest contribution to increasing understanding of the history, culture, society, politics, or economy of China. In keeping with the broad scholarly interests of Joseph Levenson, special consideration will be given to books that, through comparative insights or groundbreaking research, promote the relevance of scholarship on China to the wider world of intellectual discourse


The AAS China and Inner Asia Council will offer two $1,000 Joseph Levenson Prizes for nonfiction scholarly books on China published in 2021.

$1,000 – Pre-1900 prize winner

$1,000 – Post-1900 prize winner

Guidelines for Submission

  • Works in all disciplines and in all periods of Chinese history are eligible, but anthologies, edited works, and pamphlets will not be considered.
  • Only books bearing a copyright date of 2021 will be eligible for the 2023 awards.
  • Publishers must complete the book nomination form. Each press may nominate a maximum of three books per Levenson Prize competition (pre-1900 and post-1900 are separate competitions).
  • Only publishers may nominate books.
  • Upon receipt of a completed nomination form, publishers will be provided with addresses for prize committee members. A copy of each entry, clearly labeled “Joseph Levenson Prize,” must be sent to each member of the appropriate committee.


Nominations must be received by June 30, 2022 to be eligible for the 2023 awards.

Pre-1900 Committee

Patricia Ebrey (Chair)
University of Washington

James Benn
McMaster University

JP Park
University of Oxford

Post-1900 Committee

Joel Andreas
Johns Hopkins University

Letty Chen
Washington University in St. Louis

Victor Shih
University of California, San Diego

2022 Awards

Pre-1900 Winner and Citation

Robert Ford Campany, The Chinese Dreamscape 300 BCE – 800 CE (Harvard University Asia Center, 2020)

Robert Ford Campany’s The Chinese Dreamscape 300 BCE-800 CE is a brilliant and deeply empathetic study of how people in China from the Warring States period to the Tang thought about dreams. Campany brings a wide array of texts—divination records, dream interpretation manuals, religious scriptures, liturgical instructions, treatises, verse, official histories, and anecdotes—into conversation with studies of dreams across the globe. He also invites us to turn the lens back on ourselves and reflect on our own ideas about dreaming. The Chinese Dreamscape thus raises important questions about the nature of the self and the place of a person, perhaps equipped with multiple souls, in a larger interconnected cosmos. The book draws on Campany’s deep knowledge of the sources, both well-known and obscure, as well as his profoundly humanistic approach to the study of Chinese culture and religions. Campany provides a variety of frameworks in which the sources may be meaningfully read, and gives center stage to the texts themselves by providing richly annotated translations. The specialist will find much to appreciate, but the book reaches out beyond the world of Sinology to encompass the broader humanities. It is an exemplary piece of scholarship and a beautifully written book. 

Pre-1900 Honorable Mention

He Bian, Know Your Remedies: Pharmacy and Culture in Early Modern China (Princeton University Press, 2020)

Post-1900 Winner and Citation

Cover of Silvia M. Lindtner, Prototype Nation: China and the Contested Promise of Innovation

Silvia M. LindtnerPrototype Nation: China and the Contested Promise of Innovation (Princeton University Press, 2020)

In Prototype Nation: China and the Contested Promise of Innovation, Silvia M. Lindtner illuminates how the aspirations of a transnational maker movement intersect with the transformation of China’s image into a leading force of technological innovation. Based on extensive fieldwork primarily conducted in hacker- and makerspaces in Shenzhen, the book argues that the yearnings for equality, participation, and social justice that inspired the maker movement (and that the author provocatively calls “the socialist pitch”) produce feelings of change and imbue technological innovation with countercultural value, while in fact occluding enduring race and gender discrimination. Theoretically engaging and clearly written, Prototype Nation provides thick ethnographies of individuals and groups committed to alternative ways of producing technologies, while at the same time uncovering the colonial tropes and exploitative labor practices that undergird their work and that sustain the ongoing expansion of finance capitalism. The book thus puts China at the center of a global story of labor precarization, offering insights and provocations on the future tasks of critical scholarship beyond China.

Past Awards

Pre-1900 Category

1987 Frederic Wakeman Jr., The Great Enterprise: The Manchu Reconstruction of Imperial Order in Seventeenth Century China

1988 Robert Hymes, Statesmen and Gentlemen: The Elite of Fu-Chou Chiang-Hsi, in Northern and Southern Sung

1989 Andrew H. Plaks, The Four Masterworks of the Ming Novel

1990 Patrick Hanan, The Invention of Li Yu

1991 Wu Hung, The Wu Liang Shrine: The Ideology of Early Chinese Pictorial Art

1992 Philip A. Kuhn, Soulstealers: The Chinese Sorcery Scare of 1768

1993 Martin J. Powers, Art and Political Expression in Early China

1994 Jing Wang, The Story of Stone: Intertextuality, Ancient Chinese Stone Lore, and the Stone Symbolism of Dream of the Red Chamber, Water Margin, and The Journey to the West

1995 Patricia Ebrey, The Inner Quarters: Women and Marriage in Sung Dynasty China

1996 Stephen F. Teiser, Scripture on the Ten Kings and the Making of Purgatory in Medieval Chinese Buddhism

1997 James L. Hevia, Cherishing Men from Afar: Qing Guest Ritual and the Macartney Embassy of 1793

1998 Maggie Bickford, Ink Plum: The Making of a Scholar-Painting Genre

1999 Susan L. Mann, Precious Records: Women in China’s Long Eighteenth Century

2000 Timothy Brook, The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China

2001 Pamela Kyle Crossley, The Translucent Mirror: History and Identity in Qing Imperial Ideology

2002 Lothar Ledderose, Ten Thousand Things

2003 David Schaberg, A Patterned Past: Form and Thought in Early Chinese Historiography

2004 Robert Hymes, Way and Byway: Taoism, Local Religion, and Models of Divinity in Sung and Modern China

2005 John Makeham, Transmitters and Creators: Chinese Commentators and Commentaries on the Analects

2006 Antonia Mary Finnane, Speaking of Yangzhou: A Chinese City, 1550-1850

2007 Peter Perdue, China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia

2008 Martin J. Powers, Pattern and Person: Ornament, Society, and Self in Classical China

2009 Anthony Barbieri-Low, Artisans in Early Imperial China

2010 Robert E. Harrist Jr., The Landscape of Words: Stone Inscriptions from Early and Medieval China

2011 Eugenio Menegon, Ancestors, Virgins and Friars: Christianity as a Local Religion in Late Imperial China

2012 Christopher M. B. Nugent, Manifest in Words, Written on Paper: Producing and Circulating Poetry in Tang Dynasty China

2013 Dagmar Schäfer, The Crafting of 10,000 Things: Knowledge and Technology in Seventeenth Century China

2014 Andrea S. Goldman, Opera and the City: The Politics of Culture in Beijing, 1770-1900

2015 Yuming He, Home and the World: Editing the “Glorious Ming” in Woodblock-Printed Books of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

2016 Wai-yee Li, Women and National Trauma in Late Imperial Chinese Literature

2017 Ping Foong, The Efficacious Landscape: On the Authorities of Painting at the Northern Song Court

2018 Li Chen, Chinese Law in Imperial Eyes: Sovereignty, Justice, and Transcultural Politics

2019 Jonathan Schlesinger, A World Trimmed with Fur: Wild Things, Pristine Places, and the Natural Fringes of Qing Rule

2020 Lara Blanchard, Song Dynasty Figures of Longing and Desire: Gender and Interiority in Chinese Painting and Poetry

2021 Stephen Owen, Just a Song: Chinese Lyrics from the Eleventh and Early Twelfth Centuries

Post-1900 Category

1987 Andrew J. Nathan, Chinese Democracy

1988 Andrew G. Walder, Communist Neo-Traditionalism: Work and Authority in Chinese Industry

1989 Joseph W. Esherick, The Origins of the Boxer Uprising

1990 Prasenjit Duara, Culture, Power, and the State: Rural North China, 1900-1942

1991 David Strand, Rickshaw Beijing: City People and Politics in the 1920s

1992 Philip C. C. Huang, The Peasant Family and Rural Development in the Yangzi Delta, 1350-1988

1993 Edward Friedman, Paul G. Pickowicz, and Mark Selden, Chinese Village/Socialist State

1994 Gregor Benton, Mountain Fires: The Red Army’s Three-Year War in South China, 1934-1938

1995 Vaclav Smil, China’s Environmental Crisis: An Inquiry into the Limits of National Development

1996 Julia F. Andrews, Painters and Politics in the People’s Republic of China, 1949-1979

1997 Keith Schoppa, Blood Road: The Mystery of Shen Dingyi in Revolutionary China

1998 John J. Fitzgerald, Awakening China: Politics, Culture, and Class in the Nationalist Revolution

1999 Roderick MacFarquhar, The Origins of the Cultural Revolution, vol. 3: The Coming of the Cataclysm, 1961-66

2000 Lynn T. White III, Unstately Power: Volume I: Local Causes of China’s Economic Reforms

2001 Dorothy Solinger, Contesting Citizenship in Urban China: Peasants, Migrants, the State, and the Logic of the Market

2002 Edward J.M. Rhoads, Manchus and Han: Ethnic Relations and Political Power in Late Qing and Early Republican China, 1861-1928

2003 Lucien Bianco, Peasants Without the Party: Grass-roots Movements in 20th Century China

2004 Geremie Barmé, An Artistic Exile: A Life of Feng Zikai (1898-1975)

2005 Yan Yunxiang, Private Life Under Socialism: Love, Intimacy, and Family Changes in a Chinese Village, 1949-1999

2006 Ruth Rogaski, Hygienic Modernity: Meanings of Health and Disease in Treaty-Port China

2007 Michael Dutton, Policing Chinese Politics: A History

2008 Sherman Cochran, Chinese Medicine Men: Consumer Culture in China and Southeast Asia

2009 Haiyan Lee, Revolution of the Heart: A Genealogy of Love in China, 1900-1950

2010 Susan Greenhalgh, Just One Child: Science and Policy in Deng’s China

2011 Jacob Eyferth, Eating Rice from Bamboo Roots: The Social History of a Community of Artisans in Southwest China, 1920-2000

2012 Yomi Braester, Painting the City Red: Chinese Cinema and the Urban Contract

2013 Vincent Goossaert and David A. Palmer, The Religious Question in Modern China

2014 Joseph Allen, Taipei: City of Displacements

2015 Winnie Won Yin Wong, Van Gogh on Demand: China and the Readymade

2016 Luigi Tomba, The Government Next Door: Neighborhood Politics in Urban China

2017 Christopher Rea, The Age of Irreverence: A New History of Laughter in China

2018 Sigrid Schmalzer, Red Revolution, Green Revolution: Scientific Farming in Socialist China

2019 Ching Kwan Lee, The Specter of Global China: Politics, Labor, and Foreign Investment in Africa

2020 Sasha Welland, Experimental Beijing. Gender and Globalization in Chinese Contemporary Art

2021 Joel Andreas, Disenfranchised: The Rise and Fall of Industrial Citizenship in China