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BuYun Chen

Associate Professor


Asian Studies


  2. Phone: (610) 690-3978
  3. Trotter Hall 207
  4. Office Hours: Tuesdays & Thursdays, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Professor BuYun Chen


BuYun Chen is a historian of premodern China with broad interests in gender, science and technology, craft, and material cultures. She is the author of Empire of Style: Silk and Fashion in Tang China (University of Washington Press, 2019). Her current research explores the relationship between craft production and statecraft practices in the independent Ryukyu Kingdom (modern-day Okinawa, Japan) from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. 

Professor Chen teaches a variety of courses at Swarthmore, including surveys of Chinese history, an upper-division course on fashion theory and history, and a first-year seminar on the global history of science and technology. In teaching, as in research, she emphasizes interdisciplinary approaches to the study of history.


B.A., Barnard College
M.A., Ph.D., Columbia University

Selected Publications

“Towards a History of Fashion without Origins,” in The Cambridge Global History of Fashion, ed. Chris Breward, Beverly Lemire, and Giorgio Riello (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming). 

“The Craft of Color and the Chemistry of Dyes: Textile Technology in the Ryukyu Kingdom, 1700–1900,” Technology and Culture 63, no. 1 (2022). 

Empire of Style: Silk and Fashion in Tang China (University of Washington Press, 2019).

“Needham, Matter, Form and Us,” Isis 110, no. 1 (2019) [Also published in Technology and Culture 60, no. 2 (2019)]

Fellowships and Awards

2021-2022 External fellow, Stanford Humanities Center

2016-2018 Visiting scholar, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin

2015 Henry Luce Foundation/ ACLS Program in China Studies Collaborative Reading-Workshop Grant

Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies Collaborative Reading-Workshop Grants 2015

The American Council of Learned Societies provided a grant to Professor Chen for a reading workshop on women at work in China. 

Read more.

Makers and Markets: Drivers of Fashion in Chinese History

Professor Chen, along with two other colleagues, presented in February of 2015 at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University. 

This link has both pictures and audio.

Professor Chen weighs in on library renovations

As a member of the Library Committee, Professor Chen has had input with regard to McCabe renovations. 

You can read more in this Phoenix article.