Welcome!

My name is Xin Yu (余欣), a fourth-year PhD student in history at Washington University in St. Louis. My research interests include migration, the history of the family, book history, printing technology, visual and material culture, and the digital humanities.

My research topics converge at the Chinese genealogy, a form of text that started to be popular around 1500 and became possibly the most widespread book form in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. I got interested in genealogies when I was 13 and started to collect and read genealogies since high school. Genealogies have shaped my life trajectory: I chose history as my major in college; went to Shanghai (the Shanghai Library has the largest collection of Chinese genealogies) to pursue my M. A. degree; and came to the U. S. to write a dissertation on genealogies.

I was originally interested in the narratives of migration that feature every genealogy and wanted to use them for research on migration and population. (See my M.A. Thesis) As I read more genealogies, I grew more interested in the history of the genealogy itself. We have so many monographs using genealogies for social and economic history, but we do not have a systematic evaluation of the genre per se. Therefore, I intend to fill this gap in my dissertation. My intention to examine the genealogy as a book genre that has a life of its own fits neatly with the field of book that situates the book in its circle of production, circulation, and consumption, so the history of books has been a perennial source of inspiration. As I dug deeper, I realized the importance of tools outside the discipline of history, such as art history and the digital humanities. Since images, mostly maps of villages and grave sites and ancestor portraits, constitute a key part in almost every genealogy, visual analysis is crucial to my research and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work with Professor Kristina Kleutghen here at WashU. In the meantime, as I learned the concept of distant reading in the Humanities Digital Workshop at WashU, all of a sudden, the 400-odd genealogies produced in the late Ming reappeared as an invaluable set of data that I can analyze with digital tools. As a result, these two fields, art history and the digital humanities, have become the methodological cornerstones of my work.

This website is built to introduce my research, present my latest ideas, and visualize my research findings. If you are interested in genealogies, or in digital projects, please feel free to reach out to me at xinyu110@wustl.edu.