Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue

Charles Sanft

Professor, Associate Head


Charles Sanft’s research focuses on the political thought and practice of early imperial China, from around the late third century BCE into the first century CE. He has published articles on legal history, ritual, and translations and studies of paleographic materials from the time in journals including Early China, Environmental HistoryAsia MajorFrontiers of History in China, and others.

In his first book, Communication and Cooperation in Early Imperial China: Publicizing the Qin Dynasty (2014), Sanft combined received history, the results of archaeological excavation, and current secondary scholarship to argue for the importance of non-coercive government under the early empire. In his second, Literate Community in Early Imperial China, he drew upon excavated materials and interdisciplinary research to argue for understanding interaction with text to have been a group matter, not solely the province of individuals.


July 2011 Habilitation, Chinese Studies, University of Muenster.

August 2005 PhD, summa cum laude, Chinese Studies, University of Muenster

June 2000 MA, Chinese, University of Minnesota.

March 1996 BA, History and East Asian Studies, University of Minnesota.

Selected Publications


  • Literate Community in Early Imperial China: The Northwest During Han Times (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2019).
  • Communication and Cooperation in Early Imperial China (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2014).

Articles and Chapters

  • “Questions about the Qi Lunyu,” T’oung Pao 104.1-2 (2018): 189-194.
  • “The Qin Dynasty (221-206  BCE),” in Routledge Handbook of Imperial Chinese History, ed. Victor Cunrui Xiong and Kenneth J. Hammond (London: Routledge, 2018), 12-24.
  • “The Qin Dynasty,” in Routledge Handbook of Early Chinese History, ed. Paul R. Goldin (London: Routledge, 2018), 146-59.
  • “Concepts of Law in the Shangshu,” in Origins of Chinese Political Philosophy: Studies in the Composition and Thought of the Shangshu (Classic of Documents), ed. Martin Kern and Dirk Meyer (Leiden: Brill, 2017), 446-74.
  • “Jia Yi and the Management of the Populace,” Asia Major (third series) 29.2 (2016): 47-71.
  • “Evaluating Swords: Introduction and Translation of a How-to Guide from the Han-Xin Period,” Early China 39 (2016): 231-53.
  • “Population Records from Liye: Ideology in Practice,” in Ideology of Power and Power of Ideology in Early China, ed. Yuri Pines, Paul R. Goldin, and Martin Kern (Leiden: Brill, 2015), 249-69.
  • “Paleographic Evidence of Qin Religious Practice from Liye and Zhoujiatai,” Early China 37 (2014): 327-358.
  • “Shang Yang Was a Cooperator,” Philosophy East and West 64.1 (2014): 174-91.
  • “Qin Government: Structures, Principles, and Practices,” in Qin – the Eternal Emperor and his Terracotta Warriors, ed. Maria Khayutina (Zürich: Neue Zürcher Zeitung Libro, 2013), 118-29.
  • “Debating the Route of the Qin Direct Road (Zhidao): Text and Excavation,” Frontiers of History in China 6.3 (2011): 323-46.
  • “The Moment of Dying: Representations in Liu Xiang’s Anthologies Xin xu and Shuo yuan,” Asia Major (third series) 24.1 (2011): 127-58.
  • Dong Zhongshu’s Chunqiu jueyu Reconsidered: On the Legal Interest in Subjective States and the Privilege of Hiding Family Members’ Crimes as Developments from Earlier Practice,” Early China 33-34 (2010-11): 141-69.
  • “Categories and Legal Reasoning in Early Imperial China: The Meaning of Fa in Recovered Texts,” with Miranda Brown, Oriens Extremus 49 (2010): 283-306.
  • “Environment and Law in Early Imperial China (3rd c. BCE – 1st c. CE): Qin and Han Statutes Concerning Natural Resources,” Environmental History 15.4 (2010): 701-21.
  • “Law and Communication in Qin and Western Han China,” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 53.5 (2010): 679-711.
  • “Edict of Monthly Ordinances for the Four Seasons in Fifty Articles from 5 C.E.: Introduction to the Wall Inscription Discovered at Xuanquanzhi, with Annotated Translation,” Early China 32 (2008-9): 125-208.
  • “The Construction and Deconstruction of Epanggong: Notes from the Crossroads of History and Poetry,” Oriens Extremus 47 (2008): 160-76.
  • “Notes on Penal Ritual and Subjective Truth under the Qin,” Asia Major (third series) 22.1 (2008): 35-57. Published in Chinese as “Qiantan Qin-Handai de xingfa yishi yu zhuguan zhenshi,” transl. Wu Wenling, in Jianbo yanjiu 2010, ed. Bu Xianqun and Yang Zhenhong (Guilin: Guangxi shifan daxue chubanshe, 2012), 43-58.
  • “Bow Control in Han China: Yuqiu Shouwang on Self-Defense,” Journal of Asian History 42.2 (2008): 143-64.
  • “Progress and Publicity in Early China: Qin Shihuang, Ritual, and Common Knowledge,” Journal of Ritual Studies 22.1 (2008): 21-43.
  • “Jia Yi on the Law,” Zinbun: Annals of the Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University 40 (2007): 53-70.
  • “Rituals that Don’t Reach, Punishments that Don’t Impugn: Jia Yi on the Exclusions from Punishment and Ritual,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 125.1 (2005): 31-44.
  • “Six of One, Two Dozen of the Other: The Abatement of Mutilating Punishments under Han Emperor Wen,” Asia Major (third series) 18.1 (2005): 79-100.

Contact Information