John Tseh-han Chen

John Tseh-han Chen
Visiting Assistant Professor of History

John Chen is a global historian of China focusing on modern Chinese Muslim history. His first book examines the emergence of Islamic modernism in China and its impact on Chinese Muslim identity. Using archival and published sources in Chinese and Arabic, it explains how Chinese Muslim modernists engaged with transnational Islamic modernist thought and networks, and also demonstrates how they became involved in Chinese politics, institutions, wartime diplomacy, and frontier nation-building during the Republican (1911-49) and early PRC (1949-60) eras.

Chen earned his PhD in history from Columbia University in 2018. Before joining NYU Shanghai, Chen was a postdoctoral fellow at the Heyman Center for the Humanities and lecturer in East Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia. Since finishing college, he has spent over three years in Beijing, Cairo, and elsewhere for research and language study, with the support of Fulbright grants for China and Egypt. He is originally from Boston.

Chen has taught courses on Chinese history, China and the Islamic world, East Asian history and humanities, and global history.

Select Publications

  • “Islam’s Loneliest Cosmopolitan: Badr al-Din Hai Weiliang, the Lucknow-Cairo Connection, and the Circumscription of Islamic Transnationalism,” ReOrient: The Journal of Critical Muslim Studies 3/2 (Spring 2018): 120-39
  • Medicine and Muslim Modernity in China,” Ottoman History Podcast, July 2, 2018
  • “‘Just Like Old Friends’: The Significance of Southeast Asia to Modern Chinese Islam,” Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia (SOJOURN) 31/3 (November 2016): 685-742
  • “Re-Orientation: The Chinese Azharites between Umma and Third World, 1938-55,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and Middle East (CSSAAME) 34/1 (Spring 2014): 24-51


  • PhD and MA, History
    Columbia University (2018, 2013)
  • AB, History 
    Harvard University (2008)

Research Interests

  • History of Modern China
  • Chinese Muslim History
  • Islamic World History
  • Intellectual History
  • History of Science and Medicine

Courses Taught

  • China Encounters the World 
  • China and the Islamic World
  • The Concept of China