Before coming to Stanford in 2009, Haiyan Lee taught at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Hong Kong, and held post-doctoral fellowships at Cornell University and Harvard University. Her first book, _Revolution of the Heart: A Genealogy of Love in China, 1900-1950_, is a critical genealogy of the idea of “love” (qing) in modern Chinese literary and cultural history. It is the first recipient of the Joseph Levenson Prize in the field of modern Chinese literature. Her second book, _The Stranger and the Chinese Moral Imagination_, examines how the figure of “the stranger”—foreigner, migrant, class enemy, woman, animal, ghost—in Chinese fiction, film, television, and exhibition culture tests the moral limits of a society known for the primacy of consanguinity and familiarity. Her new book, _A Certain Justice: Toward an Ecology of the Chinese Legal Imagination_ investigates Chinese visions of “justice” at the intersection of narrative, law, and ethics. For more about her work, see “Social Science Research Council (SSRC): New Voices,” “Stanford Report: The Human Experience Feature Story,” and "Stanford Humanities Center Research News."

Academic Appointments

  • Professor, East Asian Languages and Cultures
  • Professor, Comparative Literature

Administrative Appointments

  • Chair, East Asian Languages and Cultures (2020 - Present)

Honors & Awards

  • Humanities Seed Grant, Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences (2023-2025)
  • William and Dorothy Kaye University Fellow in Undergraduate Education, Stanford University (2022-2027)
  • Ellen Andrews Wright Fellowship, Stanford Humanities Center (2019-2020)
  • Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowship, American Council of Learned Societies (2015-2016)
  • Residential fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (2015-2016)
  • Joseph Levenson Book Prize, The Association for Asian Studies (2009)
  • An Wang Postdoctoral Fellowship, John K. Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University (2006-2007)
  • Eugene M. Kayden Manuscript Prize, University of Colorado (2005)
  • Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in comparative literature, Cornell Society for the Humanities (2002-2003)
  • Committee on Scholarly Communication with China (CSCC) Graduate Fellowship, American Council of Learned Societies (1998-1999)

Boards, Advisory Committees, Professional Organizations

  • Member of the TC Cognitive and Affect Studies Forum Executive Committee, Modern Language Association of America (2024 - Present)
  • Member of the Annual Meeting Program Committee, Modern Language Association of America (2018 - 2021)
  • Elected member of the Modern and Contemporary Chinese LLC Forum Executive Committee, Modern Language Association of America (2017 - 2022)
  • Editorial board member and associate editor, Journal of Asian Studies (2012 - 2015)
  • Elected member of the China and Inner Asia Council, Association for Asian Studies (2012 - 2015)
  • Editorial board member, Journal of Posthumanism, Modern China, Journal of World Literature, Chinese Literature Today (2010 - Present)
  • Consultant and jury coordinator of the inaugural Newman Prize for Chinese Literature, World Literature Today and the Institute for US-China Issues, University of Oklahoma (2008 - 2009)
  • Member of the Annual Meeting Program Committee, Association for Asian Studies (2007 - 2009)

Program Affiliations

  • Center for East Asian Studies
  • Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
  • Modern Thought and Literature
  • Philosophy and Literature

Professional Education

  • B.A., Peking University, Philosophy and Religious Studies (1990)
  • M.A., University of Chicago, East Asian Languages and Civilizations (1994)
  • Ph.D., Cornell University, East Asian Literature (2002)

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

Research interests: Modern Chinese literature and popular culture; philosophy and literature; law and literature; cognitive science; affect studies; cultural studies of gender, sexuality, race, and religion; human-animal relations and environmental humanities

My new book, titled "A Certain Justice: Toward an Ecology of the Chinese Legal Imagination," is the first book-length study of the Chinese legal imagination pivoted on the idea of justice as a juridical, ethical, aesthetic, ecological, and cosmological concept. See


China has an image as a realm of Oriental despotism where law is at best window-dressing and at worst an instrument of coercion and tyranny. The rule of law seems an elusive ideal in the face of entrenched obstacles baked, as it were, into China’s cultural and political DNA. In this highly original contribution to the interdisciplinary field of law and humanities, Haiyan Lee contends that this image arises from an ahistorical understanding of China’s political-legal culture, particularly the failure to distinguish what she calls high justice and low justice.

In the Chinese legal imagination, Lee shows, justice is a vertical concept, with low justice between individuals firmly subordinated to the high justice of the state. Lee’s book uses high and low justice as the organizing concepts to make sense of a political-legal culture that is marked by a mistrust of law’s ability to deliver justice and a privileging of substantive over procedural justice. Lee illustrates the hierarchy of high and low justice with an array of justice narratives, from spy thrillers that enchant the state to tales of not playing fair, from reformation of war criminals to mice suing cats in underworld courts.

By bringing stories about crime and punishment, subterfuge and exposé, guilt and redemption from a non-liberal tradition into conversation with moral, political, and legal philosophy, A Certain Justice helps us recognize the fight for justice outside the familiar arenas of liberal democracy and in terms other than those furnished by the rule of law.


High Justice and Low Justice
Law and Chinese Literature
Law and Morality
Chinese Justice between Law and Morality
“Harmony above Justice”
Chapter Outline

Chapter 1. High Justice
“The Center Cannot Hold”
“Every Country Has Its Secrets”
“Society Must Be Defended”

Chapter 2. Low Justice
Everybody Is a Hypocrite
Pseudo-Virtue and Pseudo-Vice
Communist Antihypocrisy
Performing the Socialist Public Transcript
Everybody Is a Cynic
The Community of Complicity

Chapter 3. Transitional Justice
Revolutionary Justice: Trying the Remote Past (and Future)
Bureaucratic Justice: Trying the Immediate Past (and Future)
Socialist Rule of Law: Trying the Present
We Have Always Been Just

Chapter 4. Exceptional Justice
Devils to Men
Foes to Friends
Excursus: A Translingual History of Brainwashing

Chapter 5. Poetic Justice
The Magic of Collective Action
The Magic of Multiple Worlds
The Magic of Fiction

Chapter 6. Multispecies Justice
The Trophic Order and the Moral Order
A Wrinkle in the Universe
Public Things
The Tibetan Mastiff
The Stolen Bicycle and A Grassland Zoo
The Chinese Tiger
Ecological High and Low Justice

A Larger Loyalty, a Higher Loyalty
Horizontal Justice, Vertical Justice
What Does Qiuju Want?
A Certain Justice

See a Q&A on my research at Stanford Humanities Center Research News:’t-fall-love

Watch my lecture at the University of Notre Dame titled "A Murder in Manchuria":

2023-24 Courses

Stanford Advisees

All Publications

  • The Longest Transitional Justice: An Immigrant Scholar Defends Affirmative Action Lee, H. Arcade: Humanities in the World. Stanford Humanities Center. 2023


    In June '23, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down race-conscious affirmative action in college admissions, provoking a range of reactions. In this blog, Haiyan Lee offers a response from the perspective of an immigrant scholar with background in legal humanities and China studies.

  • The Importance of Not Being Honest Law and Literature Lee, H. 2023; 35 (2): 201-220
  • Apples and Oranges? An Idiosyncratic Comparison of Literature and Anthropology Dibur Literary Journal Lee, H. 2022: 107-119
  • Utopian Ruins: A Memorial Museum of the Mao Era (Book Review) JOURNAL OF ASIAN STUDIES Book Review Authored by: Lee, H. 2021; 80 (4): 1069-1070
  • How Things Count as the Same: Memory, Mimesis, and Metaphor. (Book Review) CRITICAL INQUIRY Book Review Authored by: Lee, H. 2021; 47 (2): 416

    View details for DOI 10.1086/712135

    View details for Web of Science ID 000600991800016

  • Commentary on "Overnight Urbanization and Changing Spirits Disturbed Ecosystems in Southern Jiangsu" by Robert Weller and Keping Wu Lee, H. Current Anthropology. 2021 ; 62 (5):
  • Latour, Tiananmen, and Glass Slippers; or, What We Talk about When We Talk about Chinese Studies PRISM-THEORY AND MODERN CHINESE LITERATURE Lee, H. 2020; 17 (2): 457-474
  • "Measuring the Stomach of a Gentleman with the Heart-Mind of a Pipsqueak": On the Ubiquity and Utility of Theory of Mind in Literature, Mostly POETICS TODAY Lee, H. 2020; 41 (2): 205–22
  • Déjà Vu: Revisiting Hu Fayun’s SARS Novel during the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic Lee, H. MCLC Resource Center Publication. Ohio State University. 2020
  • A Sino-Jewish Encounter, A Humanitarian Fantasy Verge: Studies in Global Asias Lee, H. 2020; 6 (1): 142-167
  • When Nothing Is True, Everything Is Possible: On Truth and Power by Way of Socialist Realism PMLA-PUBLICATIONS OF THE MODERN LANGUAGE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA Lee, H. 2019; 134 (5): 1157–64
  • Class Feeling AFTERLIVES OF CHINESE COMMUNISM: POLITICAL CONCEPTS FROM MAO TO XI Lee, H., Sorace, C., Franceschini, Loubere, N. 2019: 23-+
  • The Lives and Troubles of Others Mouse v. Cat in Chinese Literature Idema, W. L. University of Washington Press. 2019: vii-xiv
  • The Silence of Animals: Writing on the Edge of Anthropomorphism in Contemporary Chinese Literature ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment Lee, H. 2019; 26 (1): 145-164

    View details for DOI 10.1093/isle/isy080

  • Through Thick and Thin: The Romance of the Species in the Anthropocene International Communication of Chinese Culture Lee, H. 2018; 5 (1-2): 145-172
  • Review of The Spatiality of Emotion in Early Modern China: From Dreamscapes to Theatricality by Ling Hon Lam (Columbia University Press, 2018) Lee, H. Modern Chinese Literature and Culture Resource Center. 2018
  • Charlie Chan and the Orientalist Exception ASIA-PACIFIC JOURNAL-JAPAN FOCUS Lee, H. 2017; 15 (4)
  • Revolution and Love A New Literary History of Modern China Lee, H. edited by Wang, D. Harvard University Press. 2017: 231–236
  • Monsters to Die For: On Monster Hunt as a Ecological Fable Lee, H. Association for Chinese Animation Studies. Hong Kong. 2017
  • Review of _The Age of Irreverence: A New History of Laughter in China_ by Christopher Rea (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2015) Lee, H. Chinese Literature Today. University of Oklahoma. 2017
  • How the Chinese Fell in Love with Love, Caveats and All: Review of _When True Love Came to China_ By Lynn Pan (Hong Kong University Press, 2015) Lee, H. MCLC Resource Center. Ohio State University. 2017
  • The Rise and Fall (and Rise again) of Vernacular Happiness Journal of Modern Literature in Chinese Lee, H. 2017; 14 (1): 89-122
  • The Soft Power of the Constant Soldier; or, Why We Should Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the PLA Chinese Visions of World Order: Tianxia, Culture, and World Politics Lee, H. edited by Wang, B. Duke University Press. 2017: 237–266
  • Mao’s Two Bodies: On the Curious (Political) Art of Impersonating the Great Helmsman Red Legacies in China: Cultural Afterlives of the Communist Revolution Lee, H. edited by Li, J., Zhang, E. Harvard University Asia Center Publications. 2016
  • Chinese Paw-litics, Anyone? Lee, H. China Policy Institute, University of Nottingham. 2016
  • Guns, Fairy Tales, and Red Guards Lee, H. 2016
  • Chinese Feelings: Notes on a Ritual Theory of Emotion The Wenshan Review of Literature and Culture Lee, H. 2016; 9 (2): 1-37
  • ’Two Wongs Can Make It White’: Charlie Chan and the Orientalist Exception. Transnational Asia Lee, H. 2016; 1 (1)

    View details for DOI 10.25613/x47b-h268

  • Review of _Literature the People Love: Reading Chinese Texts from the Early Maoist Period (1949-1966)_ by Krista Van Fleit Hang (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013) Lee, H. Journal of Asian Studies. 2015
  • Figuring History and Horror in a Provincial Museum: The Water Dungeon, the Rent Collection Courtyard, and the Socialist Undead The Challenge of Linear Time: Nationhood and the Politics of History in East Asia Lee, H. edited by Murthy, V., Schneider, A. Brill. 2014: 215–254
  • Woman, Sacrifice, and the Limits of Sympathy Frontiers of Literary Studies in China Lee, H. 2012; 6 (2): 184-197
  • The Ruins of Yuanmingyuan; Or, How to Enjoy a National Wound Places of Memory in Modern China: History, Politics, and Identity Lee, H. edited by Matten, M. A. Brill. 2012: 193–232
  • The Charisma of Power and the Military Sublime in Tiananmen Square JOURNAL OF ASIAN STUDIES Lee, H. 2011; 70 (2): 397-424
  • From the Iron Rice Bowl to the Beggar's Bowl: What Good Is (Chinese) Literature? TELOS Lee, H. 2010: 129-149
  • Enemy under My Skin: Eileen Chang's Lust, Caution and the Politics of Transcendence PMLA-PUBLICATIONS OF THE MODERN LANGUAGE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA Lee, H. 2010; 125 (3): 640-?
  • Nowhere in the World does There Exist Love or Hatred without Reason Words and Their Stories: Essays on the Language of the Chinese Revolution Lee, H. edited by Wang, B. Brill. 2010: 149–170
  • The Ruins of Yuanmingyuan Or, How to Enjoy a National Wound MODERN CHINA Lee, H. 2009; 35 (2): 155-190
  • Brought to You by the People’s Republic of The Onion China Beat Lee, H. 2009
  • It’s Right to Party, en Masse China in 2008: A Year of Great Significance Lee, H. edited by Merkel-Hess, K., Pomeranz, K., Wasserstrom, J. Rowman and Littlefield. 2009: 173–177
  • Kung Fu Panda, Go Home! China in 2008: A Year of Great Significance Lee, H. edited by Merkel-Hess, K., Pomeranz, K., Wasserstrom, J. Rowman and Littlefield. 2009: 241–245
  • Mo Yan, Inaugural Newman Laureate, Honored in Oklahoma China Beat Lee, H. 2009
  • The Lord of the Wolves? China Beat Lee, H. 2008
  • Woman, Demon, Human: The Spectral Journey Home Chinese Films in Focus II Lee, H. edited by Berry, C. BFI Publishing. 2008; 2nd edition: 243–249
  • Meng Jiang Nü and the May Fourth Folklore Movement Meng Jiangnu Brings down the Great Wall: Ten Versions of a Chinese Legend Lee, H. University of Washington Press. 2008: 24–41
  • Kung Fu Panda, Go Home! China Beat Lee, H. 2008
  • The Right to Party, en Masse. China Beat Lee, H. 2008
  • Painted Skin: To Scare or Not to Scare? China Beat Lee, H. 2008
  • Taking It to Heart: Emotion, Modernity, Asia Positions: asia critique Lee, H. 2008; 16 (2)
  • The Other Chinese: Romancing the Folk in May Fourth Native Soil Fiction Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies Lee, H. 2007; 33 (2): 9-34
  • Review of _The Clash of Empires: The Invention of China in Modern World Making_ by Lydia H. Liu (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004) Lee, H. The China Journal. 2007
  • Eileen Chang’s Poetics of the Social: Review of _Love in a Fallen City_ By Eileen Chang (New York Review of Books Classics, 2006) Lee, H. 2007
  • Review of _China on Screen: Cinema and Nation_ by Chris Berry and Mary Farquhar (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006) Lee, H. Nations and Nationalism. 2007
  • 'A Dime Store of Words': The Liberty Magazine and the Cultural Logic of the Popular Press Twentieth-Century China Lee, H. 2007; 33 (1): 53-80
  • Nannies for foreigners: The enchantment of Chinese womanhood in the age of millennial capitalism Workshop on the Art and Politics of East Asia Lee, H. DUKE UNIV PRESS. 2006: 507–29
  • Governmentality and the aesthetic state: A Chinese fantasia Symposium on Problem of Public Intellectuals Lee, H. DUKE UNIV PRESS. 2006: 99–129
  • The Book and the Sword: China and the U.S. in the Global Classroom Teaching China in the American Classroom: Personal Reflections of Chinese Scholars in the U.S. Lee, H. edited by Ban, W., Xueping, Z. Nanjing University Press. 2006
  • From Abroad, with Love: Transnational Texts, Local Critiques Tamkang Review Lee, H. 2006; 36 (4): 185-225
  • Tears that crumbled the great wall: The archaeology of feeling in the may fourth folklore movement Annual Meeting of the Assoication-for-Asian-Studies Lee, H. Y. CAMBRIDGE UNIV PRESS. 2005: 35–65
  • Review of _Revolution Plus Love: Literary History, Women’s Bodies, and Thematic Repetition in Twentieth-Century Chinese Fiction_ by Jianmei Liu (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2003) Lee, H. 2005
  • Sympathy, Hypocrisy, and the Trauma of Chineseness Modern Chinese Literature and Culture Lee, H. 2004; 16 (2): 76-122
  • Review of _Holding Up Half the Sky: Chinese Women Past, Present, and Future_ ed. by Tao Jie, Zheng Bijun & Shirley L. Mow (New York: The Feminist Press, 2004) Lee, H. Journal of the American Oriental Society. 2004
  • All the feelings that are fit to print - The community of sentiment and the literary public sphere in China, 1900-1918 50th Annual Meeting of the Association-for-Asian-Studies LEE, H. SAGE PUBLICATIONS INC. 2001: 291–327

    View details for Web of Science ID 000169336500001

    View details for PubMedID 18323031

  • Love or Lust? The Sentimental Self in Honglou meng Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews Lee, H. 1997; 19: 58-111