Areas of Study
Email Address
Kirner-Johnson 140

Thomas Wilson has written extensively about Confucian ritual and the cult of Confucius and is working on book titled Confucian Gods: An Intellectual History of Devotional Practice funded by a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies. He also received National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships in 1999-2000 and 2006-07. He has been a member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, in Princeton, N.J. and conducted research in Taiwan and the People's Republic of China on Fulbright-Hays grants in 1992-93. He earned his doctorate from the University of Chicago.

Recent Courses Taught

Confucian Traditions
Exploring Culture in the Great Cities of Asia
Foucault: History, Sexuality, and Power
History of Gods
Imperial China
Modernity and Nationhood in China
Sages of the Tao in Chinese History

Selected Publications

  • “The Ritual Construction of Confucian Gods in Imperial China: The Case of Vast Heaven High God,” History of Religions 61 (Nov. 2022)
  • Spirits and the Soul in Confucian Ritual Discourse,” Journal of Chinese Religions 42 (November 2014) 2: 185-212.
  • “Reading the Analects in the Sage’s Courtyard: A Modern Diner’s Guide to an Ancient Feast,” The Analects: A Norton Critical Edition, edited by Michael Nylan (Norton, 2014).
  • “Sacrifices to Confucius and Confucian ritual thought,” Collection of Western scholarship on Chinese history (Shanghai Classics Publishing House). 2012 (translation by Zhang Cong of revised version of “Culture, Society, Politics, and the Cult of Confucius,” in On Sacred Grounds.
  • Lives of Confucius, co-authored with Michael Nylan (Doubleday, 2010), Chinese translation under review by the Chinese University of Hong Kong Press.
  • “Confucianism: The Imperial Cult,” Encyclopedia of Religion 2nd Edition (Macmillan Reference, 2004), 3: 1910-1916.
  • On Sacred Grounds: Culture, Society, Politics, and the Formation of the Cult of Confucius, Thomas A. Wilson, ed. (Institute for East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 2003).
  • “Ritualizing Confucius/Kongzi: The Family and State Cults of the Sage of Culture in Imperial China,” in Thomas A. Wilson, ed., On Sacred Grounds: Culture, Society, Politics, and the Formation of the Cult of Confucius (Institute for East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 2003), 43-94.
  • “Culture, Society, Politics, and the Cult of Confucius,” in Wilson, ed., On Sacred Grounds, 1-40.
  • “Sacrifice and the Imperial Cult of Confucius,” History of Religions 41 (Feb. 2002) 3: 251-87.
  • “Temple of Confucius,” “Sacrifice to Confucius,” etc. (38 entries, approximately 12,500 words) Encyclopaedia of Confucianism (Routledge/Curzon Press, 2003).
  • Genealogy of the Way: The Construction and Uses of the Confucian Tradition in Late Imperial China (Stanford University Press, 1995).

College Service

  • Director of the Humanities Center
  • Chair, Committee on Academic Policy, 2011-12, 2013-14
  • Member, Committee on Academic Policy, 2011-14
  • Director, Asian Studies, 1996-98, 2000-03, 2010-13, 2016-23
  • Chair, Department of History, 2005-09
  • Principal investigator, Freeman Foundation Grant initiatives, 2001-05
  • Member, Committee on Academic Policy, 2000-01
  • Chair, Committee on Academic Policy subcommittee on Hamilton’s curricular mission, 1996-97
  • Faculty advisor, Asian Cultural Society, 1994-96; 1998-99
  • Member, Academic Council, 1991-92

Professional Affiliations

East Asian Associates in Research, Cornell University
Association of Asian Studies
American Academy of Religion
American Historical Association

Appointed to the Faculty


Educational Background

Ph.D., University of Chicago
M.A., University of Chicago
B.A., University of Connecticut, Storrs

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