Dr David Pattinson

Dr David Pattinson


Originally from Melbourne, Australia, I joined East Asian Studies in the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies at Leeds in August 2000. 

I gained my PhD from the Australian National University in 1998; in my dissertation I studied letters and letter collections in seventeenth-century China, with a focus on the letter collections compiled by Zhou Lianggong (1612-1672). Before embarking on my PhD studies, I won an Australian Government scholarship to study in China between 1985 and 1988.

From 1992-1999 I worked in the Department of Translation at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, before moving to the School of Asian Studies at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

Since coming to the UK, I have twice served on the council of the British Association for Chinese Studies (BACS), including a term as Treasurer, and was the principal organiser of the BACS Annual Conference held here at Leeds in 2015.

My other interests include the guqin, the seven-stringed Chinese zither, which I could play once but am a bit rusty now, and the history of Chinese agriculture, though my own attempts to grow Chinese vegetables have been a mixed success, not least because English slugs like Chinese food too.

Research interests

My current research project is about bees, beekeeping and the the cultural representation of bees in China up to approximately the end of the imperial period. In 2012 I published a short history of beekeeping in China in the journal Agricultural History, the first such history in English by a scholar who can read Chinese. More recently I contributed a chapter 'Bees in China: A Short Cultural History' in the book Animals through Chinese History (CUP, December 2018), and am now working towards a book-length study. In the longer term, I am looking to expand into researching other animals which were prominent in agriculture, focusing on human-animal relations.

I have also been researching the social networks of a group of scholars and writers based in Ningdu and Nanfeng in Jiangxi during the early Qing, focusing on Peng Shiwang (1610-1683), a minor writer, poet and Ming loyalist. I am particularly interested in how they responded to the upheavals which followed the Qing conquest, and how they interacted with the cultural elite based the core regions of the empire to try to secure their economic and cultural status. I have also written on the Nanchang loyalist scholar Chen Hongxu (1597-1666).

I have also published on the collection of letters kept by the early Qing official, poet and calligrapher Yan Guangmin (1640-86). This collection is significant as it is one of very few collections of letters to an individual, as distinct from the more numerous collections of letters by individuals, or anthologies of the letters of many people.

I am interested in supervising PhD research into animals in pre-modern Chinese culture, especially in agricultural contexts, on letters and social networks in late imperial China, or on the translation of pre-modern or Republican period Chinese literature, or historical fiction.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD Letter Collections in Early Qing China, Australian National University
  • BA (Hons.) University of Melbourne

Professional memberships

  • British Association for Chinese Studies

Student education

Currently I mainly teach pre-modern Chinese history and literature, including Classical Chinese, and a reading course in Republican period literature. I also contribute to modules on East Asian religion and culture, and the broader pre-modern history of East Asia. I also supervise undergraduate final year dissertations and Masters-level Chinese-English translation projects.


Research groups and institutes

  • Chinese
  • East Asian Studies

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>