Main content



Chief Coordinator: Ya-ju Cheng

The sections of anthropology and ethnographic materials were created at the founding of the Institute of History and Philology in 1928, and conducted physical anthropological surveys in Guangzhou and Yunnan provinces.  The next year, they were incorporated into the Archaeology Department.  In 1933, the Institute of Social Sciences at Academia Sinica was incorporated into the IHP, only to leave after one year in order to join the Peking Institute of Social Investigation.  The Institute of Social Sciences’ Department of Ethnology however, remained with the IHP, as the Department of Anthropology with Wu Ting Liang as its chair.  Wu later established the Institute of Physical Anthropology, and the chairmanship of the Department of Anthropology passed to Ling Chun-sheng.  In 1955, the Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica was founded and appointed Ling Chun-Sheng as its director, but the IHP’s Department of Anthropology continued to operate.

The former Department of Ethnology of the Institute of Social Sciences had focused its research on the primitive cultures of ethnic minorities in the northeast and southwest regions of China.  After becoming the Department of Anthropology, however, it began to value cultural and physical anthropology equally.  Owing to the Japanese occupation of northeastern China at the time, however, it had to focus solely on ethnographic surveys of the ethnic minorities in the Southwest.  After Academia Sinica established the Institute of Ethnology, the Department of Anthropology continued its work on physical anthropology, but confined its work in the sub-field of cultural anthropology to ethnohistory.

After 1980, the Anthropology Department began to pursue new research topics and methodological directions.  The focus of the research shifted to the effort to use the study of contemporary ethnographic artifacts and data collected during fieldwork with historical materials as to pursue social history, ethnohistory, the history of religion, history of medicine, and the study of folkways.  Subsequently, most research was related to medical and therapeutic culture, folkways, religion, ethnohistory, and cross-cultural comparison.  The Department employed the methodologies of history and anthropology, and other social science theories, to attend to topics seldom explored by historians, working with a large amount of data from fieldwork (texts, photographs, and videos) in addition to traditional texts and artifacts and field notes from archeological excavations.

Over the past few decades, the work of the Department has attended to the history of “the neglected middle,” a field which overcomes the dichotomy of official and non-official to include the basis for the shared social practice of members of different classes.  Another burgeoning area of interest is the creation of orthodoxy, such as in the establishment of classical medicine and gynecology.  Department researchers have also enjoyed much success in exploring the question of the relationship between the “center” and the “periphery,” whether it be the Han vis-à-vis the cultures of border regions, or empire and colonies.

Dialogues among research fellows in the Department are frequent and fruitful, facilitated by the collaborative research environment created by various research centers such as the History of Health and Healing Research Center; Custom, Religion and Daily Life Research Center; and World History Research Center in IHP.  In addition to pursuing personal historical interests, researchers also periodically reflect on and write about developments in related fields.  Research promoted over the last decade in the areas of history of healing, religious beliefs, and ethnic groups has been a catalyst for new research in Taiwan, and moreover played a leading role in the international Sinological community.  The achievements of the Department’s research on the history of healing are recently being published in the series The History of Health and Healing.

In response to the new recruits’ research directions over the past two decades, the Department has added ancient civilization, gender history, European medical history, and Japanese medical history to its areas of research. Specific research topics include ancient history of East Asia, British history of tropical medicine, medical history of missionaries in China, modern museums in China and natural history, history of Psy Sciences in East Asia, modern psychotherapy in Japan, as well as medical and material culture. Moreover, many colleagues of the Department also focus on topics relating to Medieval China, such as the history of women, socio-cultural history, gender and law, medicine and knowledge, imperial powers and sacrificial rites, and tomb images.