Barend J. ter Haar


Run Run Shaw Professor of Chinese 

Faculty / College Address:

China Centre / University College


Research Interests:

Although first of all a social and cultural historian, the religious dimension is so central to Chinese traditional life that much of my research up to now has dealt with religious phenomena. In addition, I have worked extensively on issues of ethnic identity, violence and fear, oral culture and social organization. An important concern of mine is to demonstrate that traditional culture and cultural patterns are still relevant today, as becomes visible for instance in the case of the Falun Gong or the ongoing role of exorcist violence in political contexts throughout the twentieth century.

Current Projects:

I am presently writing two books. One is a bigger study on the vexing question "where are China's witches". The question should be of some interest to a larger audience of historians as well, since it is remarkable that the stigmatization and persecution of people as witches in traditional China is so limited as compared with the West and many other parts of the world. In the meantime I am also writing a short book on the relationship between violence and religious culture in traditional China. In the long run I will be working increasingly on questions of orality and literacy throughout the imperial period.

Courses Taught:

Over the last decades I have taught almost everything in the field of Chinese studies, including introductory courses to modern and classical Chinese on all levels, seminars on cannibalism and violence, orality, textuality, local religious culture, Daoism and Buddhism, and so on. I especially love teaching research seminars in which I try to make people learn to do their own little research projects.

Recent Publications (selection):

  • Guan Yu: The Religious Afterlife of a Failed Hero (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017)
  • "The Religious Core of Local Social Organization", in: Michael Szonyi ed., Blackwell Companion to Chinese History (Blackwell: Oxford, 2016) 304-314.
  • "State and Samgha in the Qing Period: A New Look at Old Figures", in: T. Jülch ed., The Middle Kingdom and the Dharma Wheel: Aspects of the Relationship Between the Buddhist Samgha and the State in Chinese History (Brill: Leiden, 2016) 379-408.
  • "From Field to Text in the Study of Chinese Religion", in: Kiri Paramore ed., Religion and Orientalism in Asian Studies (Bloomsbury: London, 2016) 85-105
  • "Patriarch Luo as a Writer and Reader: Speculating about the Creative Process behind the Five Books in Six Volumes", Sungkyun Journal of East Asian Studies Vol.15 No.1 (2015) 21-44.
  • "The Sutra of the Five Lords: manuscript and oral tradition", Studies in Chinese Religions (accepted, to appear in June 2015)

  • Practicing Scripture: A Lay Buddhist Movement in Late Imperial China (Honolulu: Hawai’i University Press, 2014)

  • "Rediscovering Chinese religion and contemporary China", two contributions to Wilt L. Idema ed., 'Chinese Studies in the Netherlands: Past, Present and Future (Brill: Leiden, 2014) 105-126.

  • "Between the Dutch Indies and philology, 1919-1974", in: Wilt L. Idema ed., Chinese Studies in the Netherlands: Past, Present and Future (Brill: Leiden, 2014) 69-102.

  • "Chinese new religious groups and religious freedom", in: Perry Schmidt-Leukel and Joachim Gentz eds., Religious Diversity in Chinese Thought (Palgrave Macmillan: New York, 2013) 243-257.

  • "Divine violence to uphold moral values: The casebook of an Emperor Guan temple in Hunan province in 1851-1852", in: Duindam, J., Harries, J., Humfress, C. and Hurvitz, N., Law and Empire (Brill: Leiden, 2013) 314-338.

  • “Towards Retrieving Early Oral Traditions: Some Ruminations on Orality and Textuality in Early Chinese Culture”, in: Cheng Pei-Kai and Fan Ka Wai eds., New Perspectives on the Research of Chinese Culture (Springer Science and Business Media: Singapore, 2013), pp.  45-61

Further Info:

Also visit my website at or me personally in the China Centre at St Hugh's College

Photograph of Barend ter Haar
List of site pages