The Rise of ‘Asian History’ in Mainland China in the 1950s: A Global Perspective

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With the decolonization of Asia since the late 1940s, ‘Asian History’ quickly rose to a prominent position in some countries. Although the People's Republic of China reformed its higher education system by following the USSR model in the 1950s, ‘Asian History’ was an exception. A Harvard-trained historian Zhou Yiliang played the leading role in developing Asian History programmes and curriculum. He re-oriented ‘Asian History’ by combining both the late imperial Chinese historiographical and educational tradition and the revolutionary historiography embedded in contemporary ideology. He introduced this new designation in Leiden in 1955 when the PRC historians were confronted with the Western Sinologists for the first time since the beginning of the Cold War. The newly designed ‘Asian History’ programme in the PRC not only served the new regime for its state building project as a rising Asian power, but also demonstrated its de-Orientalizing intellectual vigour, which undermined the USSR's Orientalist approach. Due to the Sino-Soviet split in 1960, the PRC replaced ‘Asian History’ with Asian-African History since it posited itself as a leader of African and Asian countries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)282-302
Number of pages21
JournalGlobal Intellectual History
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2022


  • Asian History
  • Cold War
  • Zhou Yiliang
  • global history
  • orientalism
  • the USSR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Library and Information Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'The Rise of ‘Asian History’ in Mainland China in the 1950s: A Global Perspective'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this