Nancy S. Steinhardt

Headshot of Nancy S. Steinhardt In Front Of A Bookcase

Professor, East Asian ArtCurator of Chinese Art, PENN Museum


853 Williams Hall

NANCY S. STEINHARDT is Professor of East Asian Art and Curator of Chinese Art at the University of Pennsylvania where she has taught since 1982.  She received her PhD at Harvard in 1981 and  was a Junior Fellow at Harvard from 1978-81. Steinhardt taught at Bryn Mawr from 1981-1982. She has broad research interests in the art and architecture of China and China’s border regions, particularly problems that result from the interaction between Chinese art and that of peoples to the North, Northeast, and Northwest.

Steinhardt is author or co-editor of Chinese Traditional Architecture (1984), Chinese Imperial City Planning (1990), Liao Architecture (1997), Chinese Architecture (2003), Reader in Traditional Chinese Culture (2005), Chinese Architecture and the Beaux-Arts (2011), Chinese Architecture in an Age of Turmoil, 200-600 (2014), The Chinese Mosque (2015), Chinese Architecture: Twelve Lectures (2017), China: an Architectural History (2019),  The Borders of Chinese Architecture (2022), and Yuan: Chinese Architecture in a Mongol Empire (2023) and more than 100 articles. She is a recipient of grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, Institute for Advanced Study, National Endowment for the Humanities, American Council of Learned Societies, Getty Foundation, Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation, Social Science Research Council, American Philosophical Society, Graham Foundation for Advanced Study in the Fine Arts, Van Berchem Foundation, and Metropolitan Center for Far Eastern Art.  She has given more than 400 public lectures or conference talks. Steinhardt is involved in international collaborations in China, Korea, Japan, Mongolia, and Russia.  She has been an advisor, guest curator, or author for exhibitions at China Institute, Asia Society, the Metropolitan Museum, Japan Society, Chicago Art Institute, Smart Museum, and the Penn Museum. She has been a board member of the Society of Architectural Historians.

Steinhardt won both the Distinguished Teaching of Art History Award from the College Art Association and the Provost's Award for Distinguished Ph. D Teaching and Mentoring from Penn in 2019.  In 2021 she won the Alice David Hitchcock  Book Award from the Society of Architectural Historians for Chinese Architecture: A History.

Office Hours
Fall 2023: Mondays 11-2 and by appointment

PhD, Harvard University, 1981

Research Interests

My research focuses on the art, architecture, and archaeology of China, Korea, and Japan from the second through fourteenth centuries. I have done fieldwork in all three countries. I am particularly interested in how Chinese art is borrowed, adopted, adapted, and reinterpreted at China's borders.

Current research projects are "Mongolia: Architecture and Archaeology" and "Modern Chinese Architecture: 180 Years."

My affiliations at Penn are: the Departments of East Asian Languages and Civilization, History of Art, Architecture, and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

Recent Penn Conferences:

  • "Middle-Period Archaeology in Mongolia," October 2019
  • "The Future of Historic Preservation in China," January 2016
  • "Global Cities," April 2011
  • "Uygur Art - Tang Art," May 2009
  • "New Directions in Yuan Painting," December 2, 2006
  • "Life and Death in Ancient China and Ancient Egypt," March 2005
  • "Paul Crèt, Chinese Architecture, and the Beaux Arts," October 2003
Courses Taught

Chinese Archaeology; Life and Death in Ancient China and Ancient Egypt; East Asian Art and Civilization; Arts of China; Arts of Japan; Chinese Architecture; Japanese Architecture; Chinese Painting; Chinese Art under the Mongols; Life and Death in Han China; The Chinese City; Archaeology of Central Asia; East Asian Funerary Arts; Chinese Wall Painting; Tang China and Nara Japan; Art of the Northern and Southern Dynasties; Liao Art and Architecture; Yuan Art and Architecture; The East Asian Monastery; Modern Chinese Architecture

Selected Publications
  • "Convergence and Entanglement: Reconsidering the Mongol Architectural Narrative," Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 82, 2 (2023): 130-149.
  • "Shoroon Bumbagar," Artibus Asiae 80, 2 (2020): 167-210.
  • “The Pagoda in Kherlen Bars: New Understandings of Khitan-period Towering Pagodas,” Archives of Asian Art 66, 2 (2016).
  • "Transnational Asian Architectural History,” Ars Orientalis (2015): 141-146.
  • “Chinese Architectural History in the 21st Century,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 73,1 (2014): 45-68.
  • “Standard Architecture in a Multi-Centered, Multi-Cultural Age,” in China in a Multi-Centered Age, ed. Wu Hung (Beijing: Center for the Art of East Asia, University of Chicago, 2013), 38-69.
  • “Early Cities-China,” in The Oxford Handbook of Cities in World History, ed. Peter Clark (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 105-124.
  • “Death, Architecture, and Drama:  Jin-Yuan Tombs in Southern Shanxi,” in Theater, Life, and the Afterlife: Tomb Décor of the Jin Dynasty from Shanxi, eds. Shi Jinming and Chang, Willow W. (Beijing Science Press, 2012), 27-36.
  • “The Sixth Century in East Asian Architecture,” Ars Orientalis 39 (2011): 27-71.
  • “The Architecture of Living and Dying,” in The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty, ed. James Watt (Metropolitan Museum, 2010), 65-73.
  • “Xiangtangshan and Northern Qi Architecture,” in Echoes of the Past: the Buddhist Cave Temples of Xiangtangshan, ed. Katherine Tsiang (Chicago: Smart Museum/University of Chicag/Sackler/Smithsonian, 2010), 59-78.
  • “The Architectural Landscape of Liao and Underground Resonances,” in Gilded Splendor: Treasures of China’s Liao Empire, ed. Hsueh-man Shen (New York: Asia Society, 2006), 41-53.
  • "China's Earliest Mosques," Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 67, 3 (2008): 330-36l.
  • "Seeing Horyuji through China," in Horyuji Reconsidered (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2008), 49-97.
  • "Yuan Dynasty Tombs and Their Inscriptions, Ars Orientalis 37 (2007):138-172.
  • “Shishi, a Stone Structure Associated with Abaoji in Zuzhou,” Asia Major third series 19, 1-2 (2007): 241-266.
  • "The Tang Architectural Icon and the Politics of Chinese Architectural History," The Art Bulletin 86,2 (2004), 227-253.
  • "A Jin Hall at Jingtusi: Architecture in Search of Identity," Ars Orientalis 33 (2003): 77-119.
  • "China: Designing the Future, Venerating the Past," Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians LX,4 (2002): 537-548.
  • "Changchuan Tomb No. 1 and Its North Asian Context," Journal of East Asian Archaeology 4, 1/2 (2003): 225-292.
  • "From Koguryo to Gansu and Beyond: Funerary and Worship Space in North Asia, 4th-7th Centuries," in Between Han and Tang: Cultural and Artistic Interaction in a Transformative Period, ed. Wu Hung, (Beijing: Wenwu Press), 2001, 153-203.
  • "Beijing: City and Ritual Complex," Silk Road Art and Archaeology 7 (2001): 223-262.
  • "Taoist Architecture," in Taoism and the Arts of China, Chicago Art Institute, 2000, 56-75.
  • "The Temple to the Northern Peak in Quyang,"Artibus Asiae 58,1/2 (1998): 69-90.
  • “The Synagogue at Kaifeng: Sino-Judaic Architecture of the Diaspora,” in The Jews of China, vol. 1, M. E. Sharpe, 1997, 3-21.
  • "The Mizong Hall of Qinglong Si: Ritual, Space, and Classicism in Tang Architecture," Archives of Asian Art 44 (1991), 27-50. Translated into Japanese in Bukkyo geijutsu no220 (May 1995), 54-88. Translated into Chinese in Jianzhu lishi yu lilun 6, 7 (2000), 254-284.
  • "Imperial Architecture along the Mongolian Road to Dadu," Ars Orientalis 18 (1990), 177-189.
  • "Zhu Haogu Reconsidered: A New Date for the ROM Painting and the Southern Shanxi Buddhist-Daoist Style," Artibus Asiae 48,1 (1987), 5-38.
  • “The Plan of Khubilai Khan’s Imperial City,” Artibus Asiae 44, 2/3 (1983), 137-158.

2023 Keynote Speaker, Art and Architecture of the Golden Horde Conference, Berlin

2023 Keynote Speaker, Annual Conference of the Architectural Society of China, Ningbo

2022 Keynote Speaker, Fourth, Fifth, and Eleventh International Conferences on Science and Technology Research

2022 Keynote Speaker, National Art Education Association, New York

2021 Keynote Speaker, Christian Churches in China Conference, Whitworth University

2019 Metropolitan Center for Far Eastern Art

2017 Ailsa Mellon Bruce Senior Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery, Smithsonian

2017 Progress 100 Initiative Visitor, Fukuoka University

2017 Joanna Nichols Visiting Scholar, Taipei

2016 Dean's Fellowship, Penn

2016 Tong Enzhong Memorial Lecture, Wesleyan University

2015 Keynote Speaker, East Asian Architectural Culture Bi-annual Conference, Gwangju

2015 Guest Lectureship, Yungang Research Institute

2015, 2018 Director's Field Research Grant, Penn Museum

2014 The Edwin Reischauer Lectures, Harvard

2014 The Al Hom Lecture, Institute of Classical Architecture and Art, Philadelphia Atheneum

2013 The Sammy Lee Memorial Lecture, UCLA

2012 Max Van Berchem Foundation Award

2012, 2002 Chiang Ching-kuo Senior Scholar Research Fellowship

2010, 2015 Metropolitan Center for Far Eastern Art Studies Publication Grant

2008, 1994, 1992, 1983 NEH Fellowships

2007 Visiting Member, Institute for Advanced Study

2006, 2013, 2018 Research Foundation Award, University of Pennsylvania

2006 The Nelson Wu Memorial Lecture, St. Louis Art Museum

2006 The Paul Chih-Meng Lecture, China Institute, New York

2001 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship

2001, 1989 Graham Foundation for Advanced Study in the Fine Arts Grant

1999, 1992 American Philosophical Society Summer Travel Grant

1995 Social Science Research Council Fellowship

1990 Getty Grant Program Senior Fellowship

1989, 1984 ACLS Fellowships

1978-81 Junior Fellow, Society of Fellows, Harvard

1979 American Numismatic Society summer seminar

1976 Fulbright-Hays grant for doctoral dissertation research abroad