Academic Staff

Dr Xun Zhou

Staff positionReader
Telephone01206 872232

Born in Sichuan province, China, Dr. Xun Zhou received her PhD from the University of London in 1998. In the past 20 years, she has lived in London, Jerusalem, Beijing and Hong Kong. Between January 2001 and December 2007 she was a Research Fellow at the History Department at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. From December 2007 to December 2012 she was Research Assistant Professor at the School of Humanities, University of Hong Kong. Dr Zhou has also a long track record of media activities. Her most recent media appearance include the new French Documentary film Mao’s Great Famine (2012) and BBC Radio 4 programme As History is My Witness (October 2012). She also writes a regular Op-Ed Column for South China Morning Post.


BA Sichuan, MA London, PhD; London

Current research

Dr. Zhou has recently begun a new research project 'Between State and the Community -- Public Health Campaigns and Local Healing Practics in Socialist Asia, 1950-1980: Mao's China, a Case Study'. The project is funded by the European Commission. Capitalizing on the recently opening of party archives as well as newly collected oral interviews, this project intends to move away from a narrow focus on party politics and policy formulation by examining the reality of health care at the local level and the challenges faced by local authorities and individuals as the campaigns evolved. It promises to break new ground in our knowledge of the conditions of health care from below. The overall aim of the project is to understand the processes through which better standards of health care were conceived and the different contexts in which they have and can be evaluated. It will not only help us to develop a more nuanced understanding of Chinese approaches to health, it will also contribute essential background to policy formation by generating practical resources for reviewing the more comprehensive issue of global health and provide further understanding for the global health policy debate concerning the use of primary healthcare to reduce global health care disparity.

Research interests

In the past years her research has ranged across topics such as

  • ‘History of Chinese Perceptions of Jews’,
  • ‘Social History of Opiates in China’,
  • ‘Material Culture and Everyday life Modern China (1870-1950)’,
  • ‘Social History of Photography in Modern China’,
  • ‘Health and Modernity in 20th Century China: a visual history’, and
  • ‘Food and Foodways in China'. 

In addition to modern Chinese history Dr. Zhou has an outstanding track record in trans-cultural/global history. She has worked on wide range of topics from

  • ‘Narcotic Culture’, ‘Global History of Smoking’ and‘Global History of Karaoke’
  • 'Global Health', 'Disease, Healing and Religion'
  • ‘Race and Ethnicity in Asia and Europe’ and ‘Cultural Nationalism’.

She is one of an increasing number of historians who are pioneering the history of the People's Republic of China through the use of new oral and archival evidence.  From 2007 to 2012, she worked on a project of key importance to the history of the twentieth century, namely the Great Famine in China under Mao. Her book The Great Famine in China, 1957-1962: A Documentary History (2012), published by Yale University Press, is the labour of her research in those five years. It contains over hundred documents from the Chinese archives. These documents, all being translated into English, will give readers and students a better view of how and why the catastrophe unfolded, as well as the enormity and sheer horror of what took place. Based on over hundred interviews she has collected across China, Forgotten Voices of Mao’s Great Famine ,1958-1961: an Oral History (2014), also published by Yale University Press, is a remarable oral history of modern China’s greatest tragedy, survivors of the cataclysm share their memories of the devastation and loss. 

Teaching responsibilities

HR645: From Liberation to the Tiananmen Massacre: China from Mao to Deng Xiaoping, 1949-1992

HR226: China: The Long Twentieth Century

HR100: The Making of the Modern World, 1776-1989



1. Forgotten Voices of Mao's Great Famine, 1958-1962: An Oral History, Y (2014), New Haven & London: Yale University Press

1. The Great Famine in China: A Documentary History, 1958-1962 (2012), New Haven & London: Yale University Press

2. Karaoke: the Global Phenomenon (2007), co-authored with Francesca Tarocco, London: Reaktion Books; Chicago: University of Chicago Press

3. Narcotic Culture: A Social History of Drug Consumption in modern China(2004), co-authored with Frank Dikötter and Lars Laamann, London: Hurst & Co.; Chicago: University of Chicago Press

4. Wisdom of Confucians (2001), co-authored with T H Barrett, Oxford: OneWorld Books

5. History of Youtai: Chinese Perceptions of Jews and Judaism (2001), London: Routledge-Curzon

Edited Books

1. Smoke: A Global History of Smoking (2004), co-edited with Sander L Gilman, London: Reaktion Books

2. Disease, Religion and Healing in Asia: Collaborations and Collisions (2014), co-edited with Ivette M. Vargas-O'Bryan


1. 'But We Never Talked about it', co-authored with Sander Gilman, in History Workshop Online, Special Feacture: Timeliness and (Holocaust) Memory , Oct. 6, 2014,

2, ‘“Kitchen Knowledge”, Desperate Foods and Ritual Healing in Everyday Survival Strategies during the Great Famine in China’ (2014), in Asian Medicine, Volume 7 Issue 2: 384-404

3. 'Evidence of Mao's Hidden Famine, Inside China's State Archive' (2012), in History Workshop Online, November29,

4. 'Fitness and Modernity in Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century China’ (2012), in Perfect Bodies: Sport, Medicine and Immortality edited by Vivienne Lo, London: The British Museum, pp. 143-56.

5. 'Mikvah in Beijing' (2011), in The European Review of History - Revue Européenne d'Histoire, Vol. 18 (1): 123-130.  

6. ‘Ethnicity and Race’ (2009), in The Palgrave Dictionary of Transnational History, ed. by Akira Iriye and Pierre-Yves Saunier, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 347 – 351.

7. ‘Thomson’s China Photographs and the Wellcome Library’ (2009), in Through the Lens of John Thomson: 1868-1872 (exhibition catalogue), ed. by Beijing World Art Museum, Beijing: China Photographic Publishing House, pp. 16-17.

8. ‘The “Jews” in the May Fourth Period’ (2008), in Youtai-Presence and Perception of Jews and Judaism in China, 2008, ed. by Peter Kupfer, Frankfurt: Peter Lang, pp. 201-216.

9. ‘Eat, Drink and Sing, and be Modern and Global: Food, Karaoke and “Middle Class” Consumers in China’ (2008), Patterns of Middle-class Consumption in India and China, ed. by Christophe Jaffrelot and Peter van der Veer, LA/London/New Delhi/Singapore: Sage Publication, pp.1 10-126. 

10. ‘健与美:当代中国的医学和健康 ’ (Beauty and Health: Medical Imagery in 20th Century China) (2007), in 形象中医中医像研究 (Imagining Chinese Medicine),ed. by 罗为前&王淑明, 人民衛生出版社 (北京), pp. 270-274.

11. ‘China, British Imperialism, and the Myth of the “Opium Plague”’ (2007) co-authored with Frank Dikötter and Lars Laamann, Drugs and empires, ed. by James H. Mills and Patricia Barton, Basingstoke: Palgrave, pp. 19-38.

12. ‘Consuming Leisure: “middle class” and consumerism in contemporary China’ (2005), China Studies, no. 2: 19-29.

13. ‘The Kaifeng Jew Hoax: Constructing the “Chinese Jews”’ (2004), In Orientalism and Jews, ed., by Ivan Davidson Kalmar & Derek Penslar, MA: Brandeis University Press & University Press of New England, pp. 68-80.

14. ‘Counting Down to Chaos in Beijing: SARS in China’ (May 15, 2003), in Far Eastern Economic Review, p. 49.

15. ‘A History of Narcotic Consumption in Modern China’ (2002), Twentieth century China, Nov. :  21-36.

16. ‘Narcotic Culture: A Social History of Drug Consumption in China’ (2002), co-authored with Frank Dikötter & Lars Laamann, in The British Journal of Criminology, vol. 42, no. 2, Spring: 317-36.

17. ‘Discourse of Disability in Modern China’, Patterns of Prejudice (2002), vol. 36, no. 1: 104-12.

18. ‘Youtai: A History of the “Jews” in Modern China’ (2000), in Jews in China: from Kaifeng to Shanghai, ed. by Roman Malek, Monumenta Serica Monography Series XLVI, Sankt Augustin: Institut Monumenta Serica, pp. 617-634.

19. ‘The Image of the “Jews” in the May Fourth Period’, (2000) Jewish Culture and History, pp. 18-41.

20. ‘Jews in Chinese Culture: Representation and Reality’ (1999), in Jewries at Frontier, ed. by Sander L Gilman and Milton Shain, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, pp. 224-241.

21. ‘Youtai: The Myth of the Jew in Modern China’ (1997), in Construction of Racial Identities in China and Japan, ed. by Frank Dikötter, London: Hurst & Company, pp. 53-74.


1. ‘Beauty and Health: Images of Health and Illness from 20th Century China’, Imagining Chinese Medicine: Medical Illustrations in China, edited by Vivienne Lo, to be published by Brill.

2. ‘Collaborating and Conflicting: Being Jewish in Secular and Multicultural Hong Kong, from the 19th Century to the Present’, in Conflicts and Collaboration in the Abrahamic Religions in Contemporary Societies, edited by Sander Gilman, to be published by Hong Kong University Press.

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