The Chinese University of Hong Kong Department of History Department of History
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BA (CUHK), M.St., D.Phil. (Oxon)
Department Chairman; Professor, Department of History, CUHK;
Director, Centre for Chinese History, CUHK;
Director, Centre for Comparative and Public History, CUHK

Room 122, 1/F, Fung King Hey Building, CUHK, Shatin, N.T., Hong Kong
(852) 3943 7115

The history of mankind is deeply intertwined with human desires, which have shaped the course of civilization. My research focuses on three fundamental human desires: food, land, and money. In 2008, I published a book titled “The Price of Rice,” which shed light on China’s market development during the eighteenth century. I highlighted that the rice market, being the most crucial commodity, experienced sporadic integration at that time. Another area of my research interest is land management. In 2013, I published a book on the land history of Kowloon, and in 2017, I edited a volume titled “Colonial Administration and Land Reform in East Asia.” I firmly believe that the introduction of Western property law of succession and the utilization of triangulation in land surveys significantly bolstered state power over landlords. Consequently, these developments brought about a restructuring of the social fabric in various parts of Asia. Lastly, my research delves into the realm of money. In 2024, I published a book titled “Copper Coins and the Emperor’s Wallet,” which presents a revealing history of Ming China. In this work, I argue that the breakdown of the household system necessitated the creation of new sources of income to sustain the emperor’s domain in Beijing. By examining the role of copper coins, I shed light on the economic strategies employed during that era. Through my research, I aim to provide a comprehensive understanding of how these three basic human desires—food, money, and land—have influenced historical developments and shaped societies across different periods.

Research Interests
  • Food History
  • Money History
  • Land History
Selected Publications


  • 2024. Copper Coins and the Emperor’s Wallet: The Role of Currency in Ming China, Boston, Massachusetts: Brill.
  • 2017. Colonial Administration and Land Reform in East Asia, Oxon: Routledge. (edited by Sui-Wai Cheung with an introduction and two chapters)
  • 2013. 《拆村:消逝的九龍村落》, 香港:三聯書店(香港)。
  • 2008. The Price of Rice: Market Integration in Eighteenth-Century China, Washington: Center for East Asian Studies, Western Washington University.
Research Projects
Year Research Project
2022-2024 “Whose Land? Owning, Selling, and Leasing Houses in an Imperial City: Guangzhou Prefecture in the Qing Dynasty”
General Research Fund Project (Research Grants Council)
2018-2020 Principal Investigator, “Juggling Money: Tribute-grain Riots in the Qing Dynasty”
General Research Fund Project (Research Grants Council)
2017-2018 Principal Investigator, “Navigation Technology and Changes of Trading Networks in the Seas of Asia from Sixteenth to Nineteenth Century”
France/Hong Kong Joint Research Scheme (Research Grants Council)
2013-2015 Principal Investigator, “Debased Copper Coin Circulation and Monetary Policy in the Late Ming, 1500-1644”
General Research Fund Project (Research Grants Council)
2013-2017 Co-investigator, “The Historical Anthropology of Chinese Society”
Areas of Excellence (University Grants Committee)
Awards and Honors
  • Member, Antiquities Advisory Board, since 2023
  • Received a Research Excellent Award, CUHK, 2012-13
  • Awarded the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange Dissertation Fellowship in 1998
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