Dr Michael Schimmelpfennig

MA, PhD (University of Heidelberg)
Senior Lecturer
ANU College of Asia and the Pacific

Research interests

In a quite traditional way I regard myself as a sinologist that does hardly fit present-day categories of being a specialist in a single field of history or philosophy, language or literature. I began with Chinese archeaology, developed a deep interest in traditional Chinese literature and poetry with an emphasis on the history of reception and commentary. My more recent work concentrates on the history of conceptual ideas, in particular those concerning human relations in and beyond the family in China's past and present. Even more recently I became intrigued by certain aspects of Chinese social history as reflected in handbooks for government officials. Combined with this interest is the intention to explore the possibilities on how to meaningfully employ algorithms in the terminological examination of fulltext databases of these handbooks.


After finishing my dissertation at the University of Heidelberg on the early commentaries to the Lisao and the Songs of Chu, I moved to the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg to coordinate a graduate school for Chinese and Japanese postgraduates with the research topic "Knowledge Transfer between Europe and China". Later I became "Akademischer Rat“, i. e. a lecturer, at the Chair of Chinese studies at Erlangen, teaching classical Chinese, introductions to research tools in Sinology, and graduate seminars on various topics in Chinese literature, history, and society. Before coming to ANU in 2013, I also had the chance to test my abilities as interim professor in Chinese studies at the University of Frankfurt.

Researcher's projects

1) “Delicate Ties: Notions of Loyalty in Traditional and Contemporary Chinese Sources“ Postdoc- project (Habilitation), monograph in English, near to completion.

By means of a genealogical approach I retrieve the various meanings of the term that can be observed in a range of pre-Qin texts like Zuozhuan, Lunyu, Mozi, certain Guodian texts, the minister chapter of Xunzi, Han Feizi, and the Xiaojing, the Zhongjing and the Chengui, the latter attributed to empress Wu Zetian of the Tang dynasty, and current handbooks for Chinese entrepreneurs on guanxi and loyalty. To avoid the limitations of a narrow terminological study, the survey also concentrates on descriptions of loyal behavior and trust in search of the variant terminology used to describe such behavior, and the behaviors themselves in search of possible conceptual differences to our ideas of loyalty.

2) Exegetical History of the Songs of Chu

Aims at understanding the later development of the parameters that – so the hypothesis – among certain other influences guide and restrict research on the Songs of Chu (Chuci) until the present day. Contrary to Laurence Schneider’s excellent but out-dated book on the subject, the study will concentrate on the hermeneutical techniques and aims of exegesis of certain Song dynasty and later commentators in opposition to their predecessors, with the aim of tracing their possible impact on current Chuci research, especially in the PRC.

3) Handbooks for Officials (Guanzhen shu).

With the help of a small research group of graduate students at Erlangen we are trying to find out, how digital fulltext analysis must be ideally designed to trace the development of administrative terminology in this particular genre of texts, and of course whether and how this terminology had to be adapted to a bureaucracy dealing with increasingly complex issues.

Current student projects

PhD candidates:

Eugenie Enquist ANU "Wushan in the Tang Dynasty" (co-supervisor)

Michael Broughton (University of Melbourne) "Exploring Sound Symbolism in Old Chinese" (co-supervisor) application postponed


Past student projects

PhD candidates:

Chen Jiandong (UTS) "Local Authority in the Han Dynasty with a Focus on the San Lao" (completed 2018) [external examiner & external advisor for resubmission]

Honours students:

Samuel Vancea Harrison

Topic: "Yang Xiong and the Politics of Sagehood: A Reading of Fayan Chapter Eight" (completed 2017) [co-supervisor with Mark Strange]

William (Shu Cheng) Zou

Topic: "Thinking Beyond Filiality and Unfiliality: The Son's Limited Agency in the Xunzi" (completed 2014)

Jose Timothy Voltaire S Salinas

Topic: "Moral Autonomy in Confucianism. With a focus on Xunzi" (completed 2015)



Return to top

Updated:  26 April 2019 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers