Yunxiang Yan


Interim Director, Center for Chinese Studies
Professor, Anthropology

Department: Department of Anthropology
366 Haines Hall
375 Portola Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095
Campus Mail Code: 155303
Phone: 310-267-4336
Fax: 310-206-7833

Keywords: China, Cultural Anthropology


Socio-Cultural Anthropology


Ph.D., Social Anthropology, Harvard University, 1993.


Economic anthropology, social change and development, family and kinship, exchange theory, peasant study, and cultural globalization.

For more on Yunxiang Yan:

Guggenheim Fellowship
Levenson Prize-winning Research
Inaugural Shanghai Global Institute



2009  The Individualization of Chinese Society. Oxford: Berg. (Chinese translation published in 2011 by Yiwen Publishers, Shanghai).

2003   Private Life under Socialism: Love, Intimacy, and Family Change in a Chinese Village, 1949-1999. Stanford University Press. (Chinese translation published in 2006 by Shanghai Shudian Chubanshe.)

1996 The Flow of Gifts: Reciprocity and Social Networks in a Chinese Village. Stanford University Press.

2011   Deep China: The Moral Life of the Person, What anthropology and psychiatry tell us about China today. Team-authored by Arthur Kleinman, Yunxiang Yan, Jing Jun, Sing Lee, Everett Zhang, Pan Tianshu, Wu Fei, and Guo Jinhua. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Selected Recent Articles

2018 “The Ethics and Politics of Patient-Physician Mistrust in Contemporary China.” Developing World Bioethics 18(1): 7-15.

2017a “Doing Personhood in Chinese Culture: The Desiring Individual, Moralist Self, and Relational Person.” The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology, 35(2): 1-17.

2017b. “The Disenchantment of the Gift.” In Andrew Sanchez et al. “‘The Indian Gift’: A Critical Debate.” History and Anthropology 28 (5): 576-580.

2016a “Civility, Taiwanese Civility, and the Taiwanese Civility Reconstructed by Mainland Chinese.” In Steve Tsang (ed.) Taiwan’s Impact on China, pp. . London: Palgrave Macmillan.

2016b “Intergenerational Intimacy and Descending Familism in Rural North China.” American Anthropologist, 118(2): 244-257.

2016c “Between Morals and Markets: The Diversification of the Moral and Social Landscapes in China,” In Robertson-von Trotha, Caroline Y. (ed.): Die Zwischengesellschaft. Aufbrüche zwischen Tradition und Moderne? (= Interdisciplinary Studies on Culture and Society, Vol. 10), pp. 131-145. Baden-Baden, Germany: Nomos.

2016d “Old and New Moralities in Changing China.” Anthropology of This Century, Issue 15, pp. 1-7.

2015a “Moral Hierarchy and Social Egoism in a Networked Society: The Chaxugeju Thesis Revisited.” Korean Journal of Sociology, 49(3): 39-58.

2015b “From Food Poisoning to Poisonous Food: The Spectrum of Food-Safety Problems in Contemporary China.” In Kwang Ok Kim (ed.) Re-Orienting Cuisine: East Asian Foodways in the Twenty-First Century, pp. 263-286. New York/Oxford: Berghahn Books.

2015c “Parents-driven Divorce and Individualization among Urban Chinese Youth.” International Social Science Journal, Issues 213/214, pp. 317-330.

2014a “Hershatter’s Analysis of Virtues and the Construction of the Self.” The PRC History Review 1(1): 20-21.

2014b “Small Field-site and Big Issues: Exploring the World through Ethnography.” World Ethnology (in Chinese), no. 1, pp. 55-58 (2014).

2014c “The Moral Implications of Immorality: The Chinese Case for a New Anthropology of Morality,” Journal of Religious Ethics, 42(3): 460-493.

2013 “The Drive for Success and the Ethics of the Striving Individual.” In Charles Stafford (ed.) Ordinary Ethics in China Today, pp. 263-291. London: Bloomsbury.

2012a “Food Safety and Social Risk in Contemporary China.” The Journal of Asian Studies 70(3): 705-729.

2012b “Of the Individual and Individualization: the Striving Individual in China and the Theoretical Implications.” In Michael Heinlein, Cordula Kropp, Judith Neumer, Angelika Poferl and Regina Romhild (eds.) Futures of Modernity: Challenges for Cosmopolitical Thought and Practice, pp. 177-194. Bielefeld, Germany: Transcript Publishers. 

2011a “The Changing Moral Landscape.” In Arthur Kleinman, Yunxiang Yan, Jing Jun, Sing Lee, Everett Zhang, Pan Tianshu, Wu Fei, and Guo Jinhua. Deep China: The Moral Life of the Person, What anthropology and psychiatry tell us about China today, pp. 36-77. Berkeley: University of California Press.

2011  "The Individualization of the Family in Rural China." boundary 2 38.1: 203-209.

2010  "The Chinese Path to Individualization." British Journal of Sociology 61.3: 489-512.

2009  "The Good Samaritan's New Trouble: A Study of the Changing Moral Landscape in Contemporary China." Social Anthropology 17.1: 9-24.

2008  "Introduction: Understanding the Chinese Individual." European Journal of Asian Studies 7.1: 1-9.

2007  "Managing Cultural Conflicts: State Power and Alternative Globalization in China." In Helmut Anheier and Y. R. Isar (eds.), Conflicts and Tensions. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.