He Bian (Ch. 邊和) is a historian of late imperial / early modern China. Her research interests span many topics pertaining to the question of authority and variation in China’s traditional culture, particularly in medicine and the natural sciences, between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. Overall, her passion lies in writing a new kind of Chinese cultural history that foregrounds knowledge of all kinds, and is also rigorously contextualized by institutional, social, and economic conditions of the day.
Professor Bian's first book, Know Your Remedies: Pharmacy and Early Modern Culture in China, 1500-1800 is near completion under contract with the Princeton University Press. This book investigates the career of pharmaceutical objecthood – the idea that all things in the world could be viewed as medicines – in late imperial China. By following the transformation and diversification of the encyclopedic pharmacopeia known as bencao (materia medica), the book shows how three distinct visions of objecthood emerged as a result of the broadly-defined Ming-Qing transition: namely natural history, professional pharmacology, and medicine as commodity. In addition, the book reveals a rich aspect of social life in late imperial China that grew out of the pursuit of medical remedies.
Future research plans include a social history of printed recipe collections in late imperial China, a series of articles on the Investigation of Things (gewu) during the High Qing era, and a long-term study of vernacular culture in the Old Manchu Archive (Jiu Manzhou dang).
At Princeton, Professor Bian teaches introductory courses to Modern East Asia (HIS 208) and Early Modern China (HIS 324), an upper-level seminar on Medicine and Society in China (HIS 472), and a range of graduate seminars. She advises undergraduate and graduate students on topics related to Ming-Qing history and East Asian science, technology and medicine. She has also recently offered an intensive summer course on the Introduction to Manchu and Manjuristics at UC Berkeley, Institute of East Asian Studies.
“Re-Collecting the Glorious Age: Yang Fuji and the Disciplining of Zhaodai congshu,” forthcoming in Late Imperial China.
“An Ever-Expanding Pharmacy: Zhao Xuemin and the Conditions for New Knowledge in Eighteenth-Century China,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 77.2 (2017): 287-319.
“Documenting Medications: Patients’ Demand, Physicians’ Virtuosity, and Genre-Mixing of Prescription-Cases (Fang’an) in Seventeenth-Century China,” Early Science & Medicine 22.1 (2017): 1-21.4.
“Shui zhu yao shi: Zhongguo gudai yiyao fenye de zai tantao [Who are the masters of the pharmaceutical chamber? On the division of labor between physicians and pharmacists in Chinese history]”, Xin Shixue [New History] (Beijing 2017).
Invited review essay, “Xifang yiliao shi yanjiu de yaowu zhuanxiang [The Turn to Pharmaceuticals in Western Historiography of Medicine],” Lishi yanjiu [Historical Research] (2015.2): 27-33.
“Too Sick to Serve: Politics of Illness in Qing Civil Bureaucracy,” Late Imperial China 33.2 (December 2012): 40-75.