Jonathan D. Spence Professor of Comparative Literature & East Asian Languages and Literatures

A 2023 Pulitzer Finalist and Guggenheim Fellow, Jing Tsu is a cultural historian and literary scholar of modern China. She is a member of the Jackson School of Global Affairs and the Paul Tsai China Center at the Yale Law School, and is on the Board of Directors at the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and the Museum of Chinese in America and the Advisory Committee for the Yale Center in Beijing. Tsu has written for The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, and Financial Times, and she and her works have been profiled in Lunch with the FTCNN/PBS's Amanpour, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, The New Yorker, The Economist, Wired, Science, Nature, Physics World,  The TimesThe Spectator, The Telegraph, The Guardian, Times Literary Supplement, London Review of Books, South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), NRC (The Netherlands), Frankfurter Allgemeine (Germany), among others. She has received distinctions and honors from, among others, the Society of Fellows (Harvard), Woodrow Wilson Foundation, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (Stanford), the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (Harvard), New Directions Fellowship from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), and John Simon Guggenheim Foundation.

Tsu's research spans literature, intellectual history, science and technology, diaspora and migration studies, and global affairs and international studies. Her first book, Failure, Nationalism, and Literature: The Making of Modern Chinese Identity, 1895-1937 (Stanford University Press 2005), explains the rise of modern Chinese nationalism through different cultural perspectives on the ideology of failure and memory of humiliation. Her second book, Sound and Script in Chinese Diaspora (Harvard University Press 2010), analyzes how different Chinese communities in the world--from Europe to Southeast Asia--negotiate their relationship to China through questions of identity, language policies, and cultural belonging in different political and social contexts. Global Chinese Literature: Critical Essays (Brill 2010) extends that perspective into Sinophone studies, while Science and Technology in Modern China, 1880s–1940s (Brill 2014) looks at the different paths of China's long quest for technological sovereignty in the 20th century.

Tsu's most recent book, Kingdom of Characters: The Language Revolution That Made China Modern (Riverhead, 2022), was named Pulitzer Finalist in General Nonfiction and among the "100 Notable Books of 2022" by The New York Times and  "Best Nonfiction of 2022" by The Washington Post. It was short-listed for the British Academy Book Prize for Global Cultural Understanding, and long-listed for the Cundhill History Book Prize and the Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction. The book tells the dramatic story of how China and its language entered the information age dominated by the western alphabet, from telegraphy to artificial intelligence.

At Yale, Tsu is a member and former Chair (2014-2021) of the Council on East Asian Studies, and affiliated faculty of the Jackson School for Global Affairs and International Security Studies. She is a Senior Research Fellow at the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies and serves on the Advisory Committee for the Yale Center Beijing. She has also served on of the Executive Committee of the Whitney Humanities Center, the Executive Committee of the Humanities Program, the Executive Committee of Film & Media Studies Program, as well as the Provost's Advisory Committee on International Activities, the Humanities Planning Committee, Humanities Tenures & Appointments Committee, and the Provost's Standing Advisory Appointments Committee for the Arts Schools. In spring 2023, she delivered Yale's William Clyde DeVane lecture series, entitled "China in Six Keys," which explains modern and contemporary China through the lens of six recent headlines, examined in a deep historical and cultural context.

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