Kwang-chih Chang


Kwang-chih Chang (15 April, 1931 – January 3, 2001), commonly known as K. C. Chang, was a Chinese / Taiwanese-American archaeologist and sinologist. He was the John E. Hudson Professor of archaeology at Harvard University, Vice-President of the Academia Sinica, and a curator at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. He helped to bring modern, western methods of archaeology to the study of ancient Chinese history. He also introduced new discoveries in Chinese archaeology to western audiences by translating works from Chinese to English. He pioneered the study of Taiwanese archaeology, encouraged multi-disciplinal anthropological archaeological research, and urged archaeologists to conceive of East Asian prehistory (China, Korea, and Japan) as a pluralistic whole.

Kwang-chih Chang
K.C. Chang, wearing black sweater among white background, sourced from Boston University's AsianARC.jpg
BornApril 15, 1931 (1931-04-15)
DiedJanuary 3, 2001(2001-01-03) (aged 69–70)
Other namesK.C. Chang
OccupationArchaeologist, sinologist, professor, translator
Known forPioneering Taiwanese archaeology, multi-disciplinary anthropological archaeology
AwardsAAS Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies (1996)
Academic background
EducationNational Taiwan University
Harvard University
Thesis'Prehistoric Settlements in China: A Study in Archaeological Method and Theory' (1960)
Academic advisorsLi Ji (archeologist)
Academic work
DisciplineArchaeology, anthropology, sinology, Asian studies
Sub-disciplinePrehistory of Taiwan, Chinese prehistory, East Asian prehistory, archaeological theory, settlement archaeology
InstitutionsYale University
Harvard University
National Academy of Sciences
Academia Sinica
Notable studentsRobin D.S. Yates, Lothar von Falkenhausen, Wu Hung, Bruce Trigger, Richard J. Pearson, Choi Mong-lyong, Li Liu
Main interestsEast Asia prehistory, multi-disciplinary archaeology, shamanism, archaeological theory, Bronze Age society

Early lifeEdit

Chang's paternal grandfather was a farmer in Taiwan. His father, Chang Wo-chün (張我軍), moved to Beijing in 1921 to pursue his education, where he met and married Chang's mother. His father later became a professor of Japanese literature and language at Peking University and also established some fame as a leading literary figure. Born in Beijing as the second son in a family of four children, he moved to Taiwan with his family in 1946; the family's eldest son remained in mainland China. Because of that association, the 17-year-old Chang spent a year in prison during Taiwan's White Terror period.[1]

He enrolled in National Taiwan University in 1950, where he studied anthropology and archaeology. He chose archaeology because "it is fun". He graduated in 1954 and moved to the United States to pursue his graduate studies at Harvard University. He earned his Ph.D in 1960; his dissertation was entitled Prehistoric Settlements in China: A Study in Archaeological Method and Theory.


Chang began his teaching career in the Anthropology Department at Yale University and later became the chair of the department. In 1977, he returned to Harvard to chair its Department of Anthropology.[2] He became a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences in 1979 and the John E. Hudson Professor of Archaeology at Harvard in 1984. He was a Vice-President of Taiwan's Academia Sinica from 1994 to 1996.[2] He trained many students over the years including distinguished archaeologists such as Bruce Trigger, Richard J. Pearson, and Choi Mong-lyong.

Chang's main research interests included Chinese prehistory, archaeological theory, settlement archaeology, shamanism, Bronze Age society, and the development of and interaction between regional archaeological cultures in China.

He died in 2001 from complications due to Parkinson's disease. Most of his books of personal research are preserved in the International Center for East Asian Archaeology and Cultural History, Boston University.[3]

Selected worksEdit

In a statistical overview derived from writings by and about Chang, OCLC/WorldCat encompasses more than 100 works in more than 200 publications in 9 languages and more than 9000 library holdings.[4]

  • The Archaeology of Ancient China (1963), 2nd ed. (1968), 3rd ed. (1977), 4th ed. (1986)
  • Kwang-chih Chang (1966). Robert J. Braidwood and Gordon R. Willey (ed.). China. Courses Toward Urban Life. Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company – via Internet Archive.
  • Rethinking Archaeology (1967)
  • Settlement Archaeology (1968)
  • Fengpitou, Tapenkeng, and the Prehistory of Taiwan (1969)
  • Chang Kwang-chih (1972). Major Aspects of Ch'u Archaeology. Early Chinese Art and its Possible Influence in the Pacific Basin. New York, Intercultural Arts Press – via Internet Archive.
  • Early Chinese Civilization: Anthropological Perspectives (1976)
  • Food in Chinese Culture: Anthropological and Historical Perspectives (1977)
  • Shang Civilization (1980)
  • The Cambridge History of Ancient China: From the Origins of Civilization to 221 BC (1999)
  • "The Chinese Bronze Age: A Modern Synthesis", in Fong, Wen, ed. (1980). The great bronze age of China: an exhibition from the People's Republic of China. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. pp. 35–50. ISBN 0-87099-226-0.
  • Art, Myth and Ritual: the Path to Political Authority in Ancient China (1983)
  • "The Rise of Kings and the Formation of City-states", in Allan, Sarah, ed. (2002). The Formation of Chinese Civilization: an archaeological perspective. Yale University Press. pp. 125–139. ISBN 978-0-300-09382-7.



  1. ^ Kang-i Sun Chang (2006). Journey Through the White Terror. Taipei: National Taiwan University Press. pp. 59–60. ISBN 9789860056990.
  2. ^ a b Keightley (2001), p. 619.
  3. ^ "International Center for East Asian Archaeology & Cultural History | Boston University". Retrieved 2015-09-05.
  4. ^ Chang, Kwang-chih, OCLC WorldCat Identities.
  5. ^ Wilson, Jon. "AAS Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies". Association for Asian Studies (AAS). Archived from the original on 2008-05-17. Retrieved 2011-06-06.


  • Ferrie, Helke (1995). "A Conversation With K. C. Chang". Current Anthropology. 36 (2): 307–325. doi:10.1086/204362. JSTOR 2744116. S2CID 145672853.
  • Keightley, David N. (2001). "Kwang-Chih Chang (1931–2001)". The Journal of Asian Studies. 60 (2): 619–621. doi:10.1017/S0021911800009396. JSTOR 2659775.
  • Murowchick, Robert E. (2012). Kwang-Chih Chang 1931-2001 (PDF). National Academy of Sciences.
  • von Falkenhausen, Lothar (2001), "Kwang-Chih Chang 15 April 1931-3 January 2001", Artibus Asiae, 61 (1): 120–38, JSTOR 3249964

External linksEdit

  • Short Biography with a link to K.C. Chang's complete bibliography