Huijun Mai

A photo of Huijun Mai
E-mail: Office: Royce 233-B

Huijun Mai is a scholar of medieval Chinese literature and culture (broadly 220–1300). She specializes in classical poetry and poetics, lyric, prose, and literary thought. Her works seek to give novel accounts of canonical writers, texts, and literary and intellectual trends by considering noncanonical sources—literary texts from genres traditionally disparaged as low brow, and nonliterary texts ranging from botanical catalogues to recipes. New findings enabled by this approach can be found in her recent article “The Double Life of the Scallop,” published in the Journal of Song-Yuan Studies, 2020. She writes on topics ranging from what she calls the “poetics of the everyday,” court culture, the poetics of space, to medieval sino-Japanese poetic and material cultural exchanges that occurred along with Buddhist monastic and commercial transactions during the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries (also known as literature of the Five Mountains). Her research has been generously supported by the Harvard-Yenching Institute, the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University Asia Center Fung Scholarship, the Reischauer Institute, and the Japan Foundation Dissertation Fellowship.  

In her research, she is particularly interested in the traffics between literary creativity and the experience of the everyday in the material, phenomenological world, foregrounding the primacy of “matter” (the body and senses, objects, technologies, and processes). She is currently at work preparing her first book manuscript, “The Gentleman in the Kitchen: The Song (960–1279) Epicure and the Birth of a Gustatory Epistemology,” based on her dissertation (Harvard University, 2020). It examines how the seemingly trivial figure of the epicure in fact epitomize hidden facets of Song discourses of knowledge and literary sensibility. Parts of this project have been published in the form of conference papers and talks, at the Western Branch American Oriental Society Annual Meeting (2017), Harvard University (2018, 2019), UCLA (2020, video recording available here:, University of Southern California (2020), and Durham University (2020). If you extend or use this work, please contact Prof. Mai ( for citation information.


Ph.D. Harvard University (East Asian Languages and Civilizations), 2020

M.A. Harvard University (Regional Studies — East Asia), 2014

B.A. Peking University, 2012


Research Articles

Mai, H. Gardening time: Horticulture and meditations on time in Song (960–1279) China. Postmedieval (2023).

Mai, H. The Technology of Enchantment: Agentive Texts and Religious Theatre at Huizong’s Court, Nanyang Journal of Chinese Literature and Culture (NJCLC), 4 (May 2023), 64–93.

Mai, H. The Double Life of the Scallop: Anthropomorphic Biography, Pulu and the Northern Song Discourse on Things, Journal of Song-Yuan Studies, vol.49 (2020), 149–205.

Mai, H. 如何歸去──談柳永的幾首羈旅行役詞 (On Liu Yong’s Travel Lyrics), Wenshi zhishi 文史知識, vol. 11, 2013.

Book Translation

Mai, H., Liu, C., Du, F. Zhishi yishou ge: shiyi shiji zhi shi’er shiji zaoqi ci 只是一首歌: 十一世紀至十二世紀早期詞 (translation of Stephen Owen, Just A Song: Chinese Lyrics from the Eleventh and Early Twelfth Century), Beijing: Sanlian, 2022.


Interview on New Books Network with Timothy Brook, on Brook, The Price of Collapse: The Little Ice Age and the Fall of Ming Dynasty (Princeton University Press, 2023). Nov 3, 2023.

Interview on New Books Network with Thomas Kelly, on Kelly, The Inscription of Things: Writing and Materiality in Early Modern China (Columbia University Press, 2023).