Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Kaske

Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Kaske


Gesellschaft und Kultur des modernen China
Schillerstraße 6, Room S 310
04109 Leipzig

Phone: +49 341 97-37152
Fax: +49 341 97-37159


Elisabeth Kaske has joined Leipzig University as professor of modern Chinese society and culture in April 2017, after studying and teaching in Berlin, Beijing, Heidelberg, Frankfurt, Boston, Vienna, Pittsburgh, Taipei, and Princeton. As a historian of late Qing and early Republican China she is interested in China’s rugged path towards modernization. Her studies include the history of German-Chinese military exchange and technology transfer, the emergence of new concepts of language and education, the sale of rank and public office by the late imperial state, and the fiscal regime of the Qing dynasty. After having long focused on bureaucratic elites, she has recently become fascinated with how new professional elites, particularly engineers, imagined the nation and their own role in it.

Professional career

  • 09/2006 - 07/2010
    Junior Professor of Sinology, Frankfurt University
  • 09/2008 - 08/2009
    An Wang postdoctoral fellowship, Harvard University, Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies
  • 09/2009 - 02/2010
    visiting professor, Institute for East Asian Studies, Vienna University (winter term)
  • 08/2010 - 07/2012
    Assistant Professor of Chinese Studies, Department of Modern Languages, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh
  • 08/2012 - 03/2017
    Associate Professor of Chinese Studies, Department of Modern Languages, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh
  • 01/2014 - 12/2014
    Taiwan Fellowship, visiting scholar at the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica, Taiwan
  • 09/2016 - 03/2017
    The Starr Foundation East Asian Studies Endowment Fund Member at the Institute for Advanced Study, School of Historical Studies, Princeton
  • since 04/2017
    Professor of Modern Chinese Society and Culture, Leipzig University


  • 10/2002 - 07/2006
    Ph.D. dissertation in Sinology, Heidelberg University

As a historian of China, Elisabeth Kaske studies China’s process of adapting to the Western-dominated modern world order during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Bismarcks Missionäre: Deutsche Militärinstrukteure in China, 1884-1890 (2001) is a microhistory of a group of German military instructors hired in Berlin in 1884. It explores the causes of failed technology transfer and questions the tropes of “semi-colonialism” and “imperialism” in the context of late Qing military reforms. The Politics of Language in Chinese Education, 1895-1919 (2007) combines political and intellectual history with sociolinguistics to study the language question (“la questione della lingua”). It shows that, when Chinese intellectuals realized that the classical language was no longer fit to provide general education and ensure national cohesion in the face of new challenges, their various schemes for a new written and spoken language for China were closely related to the authors’ visions of a future nation. For the last couple of years, Kaske has focused on the phenomenon of office selling in late imperial China and its repercussions in the fiscal and bureaucratic system. She is preparing a monograph entitled The Twilight of the Mandarins: Office Selling and the End of Imperial China. In the future, she plans to combine her interest in technology with her fascination with elites to study the rise of new professional elites of engineers and technicians in the twentieth century.

  • Kaske, E.
    The Pitfalls of Transnational Distinction: A Royal Exchange of Honors and Contested Sovereignty in Late Qing China
    In: Mittler, B.; Yeh, C. V.; Gentz, N.; Gentz, J. (Eds.)
    China and the World—the World and China—A transcultural Perspective. Heidelberg: Universitätsverlag. 2019. pp. 137–169.
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  • Kaske, E.
    Taxation, Trust, and Government Debt: State-Elite Relations in Sichuan, 1850-1911
    Modern China. 2019. 45 (3). pp. 239–294.
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  • Kaske, E.; Lin, M.-l.
    Public Finance, 1800-1950
    In: Ma, D.; von Glahn, R. (Eds.)
    Cambridge Economic History of China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2022. pp. 244–279.
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  • Kaske, E.
    Justifying Office-selling for Famine Relief in Nineteenth-century Qing China
    In: Amelung, I.; Schefold, B. (Eds.)
    European and Chinese Histories of Economic Thought: Theories and Images of Good Governance. London: Routledge. 2021. pp. 19–32.
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  • Kaske, E.
    Austerity in times of war: government finance in early nineteenth-century China
    Financial History Review. 2018. 25 (S1). pp. 71–96.
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more publications

Elisabeth Kaske teaches the social and cultural history of modern China since 1800. Classes explore the contemporary meaning of the past, and the historical roots of the present, and construe Chinese history as part of world history.

For a past teaching project see:

Kaske, Elisabeth. “Shi Lang Dajiangjun 施琅大将军 Admiral Shi Lang (TV-Drama, PR China 2006).” Representations of History in Chinese Film and Television, 2008.

  • 03-SIN-0105 Basismodul Sinologie II Geschichte Chinas I

  • 03-SIN-0206 Basismodul Sinologie II Geschichte Chinas II

  • The Art of the State: Narratives of the State, Bureaucrats, and Corruption in China

  • China and the Great Divergence: Economy, Society, Environment

  • Infrastructure, Empire and Nation in China and Asia

  • Environment, State, and Society in Chinese History

  • National Language Movements in China and Asia