Assistant Professor of Chinese • Undergraduate Faculty Advisor (Chinese) • Honors Council Representative

Wednesdays 10:30-11:30am on Zoom

Katherine Alexander received her MA and PhD in East Asian Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago, prior to which she received a BA with honors in Physics and East Asian Languages and Cultures from Beloit College. Her book manuscript, Teaching and Transformation: Yu Zhi and Popular Confucian Literature in the Late Qing, is based in part on her doctoral dissertation, "Virtues of the Vernacular: Moral Reconstruction in late Qing Jiangnan and the Revitalization of Baojuan," and addresses the role of popular religious literature and culture in Jiangnan during and after the Taiping War. She explores how the traditional Confucian civilizing mission of “teaching and transformation” (jiaohua) took an inward, local turn in the late Qing and was reflected in the works of social reformers working at the grassroots level to rebuild a society in deep crisis. The perceived high stakes of moral reform – averting future disasters and shoring up the Qing against collapse – made for a fertile environment in which vernacular morality literature proliferated.

In addition to her research-related writing, she is also a steering committee member for the Chinese Religious Text Authority project (crta.info), an open-access database project seeking to create reliable, thick bibliographic descriptions of Chinese religious texts in order to reconstruct webs of relationships between textual producers, publishers, and distributors of texts before the modern/contemporary era.


  • “Teaching Through the Uncanny: Red Candle Games’ Devotion,” co-authored with Dr. Gregory Scott British Journal of Chinese Studies. 12.2 (July 2022):70-75.
  • An Excerpt from The Precious Scroll of Liu Xiang,Journal of Chinese Buddhist Studies. 34 (July 2021):27-62.

  • The Precious Scroll of Liu Xiang: late Ming Roots and late Qing Proliferation,” Journal of Chinese Religions. 49.1 (May 2021): 49-74. muse.jhu.edu/article/791147

  • “Conservative Confucian Values and the Promotion of Oral Performance Literature in late Qing Jiangnan: Yu Zhi's Influence on Two Appropriations of Liu Xiang baojuanCHINOPERL: Journal of Chinese Oral and Performing Literature 36.2 (December 2017):89-115.

  • “Cat. 48” in Zeitlin, Judith and Yuhang Li. Performing Images: Opera in Chinese Visual Culture. Chicago: Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago Press, 2014. 202-203.

Research & Teaching Interests: 

Late Imperial China: the relationship between Chinese popular literatures and popular religions; popular novels, short stories, dramas, and their oral antecedents; publication history and print cultures; status and uses of Chinese vernaculars; Taiping War Civil and postwar reconstruction, particularly in relation to didactic literature, popular religions, and elite attitudes towards social change and reform; Chinese women’s history; Taiwan history and popular religions.