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Victoria Cass specializes in the religions and literature of China. She received her Masters in Far Eastern Languages and Literatures from Yale University and her Doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley. Her book Dangerous Women, Warriors, Grannies and Geishas of the Ming was published in 1999 by Rowman and Littlefield to considerable review attention, and is used currently in college courses. It is in its second printing. Her current book is In the Realm of the Gods, Lands, Myths, and Legends of China. Victoria Cass has contributed to scholarly journals, as well as textbooks and encyclopedias, including the lead essay on women in religion for the Encyclopedia of Religion.

She has given public presentations at a variety of venues: universities and other public forum, teaching workshops, television, bookstores and radio. She lectures on the subjects of women in traditional Chinese culture, especially the infamous women of China-- female mystics, courtesans, healers and warriors-- as well as on urban popular culture of traditional China and on the popular religions of China. She has taught the Mandarin Chinese Language sequence as well as Classical Chinese Language, and has taught courses on Chinese literature and courses on Chinese culture. She received from the University of Minnesota the Distinguished Teacher Award in 1984. She was Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota in the Department of East Asian Civilizations for nine years and Associate Professor at the University of Colorado in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations for nineteen years.

She has studied and worked in China since 1963, when she first studied Mandarin Chinese at the Mandarin Language Institute in Taibei and lived with a Chinese family. Since then she has completed additional language studies, graduate work, research projects and employment in China. For this project she traveled to Shanghai, Beijing, Suzhou and Chongqing to meet with photographers to gather images for the book.

Photo by Grant Leighton


Education and Degrees

University of California at Berkeley (September 1969-June 1979)
Degree: Ph.D.
Major: Oriental Languages
Dissertation: "Celebrations at the Gate of Death: Symbol and Structure in Chin P'ing Mei"
Yale University (September 1967-June 1969)
Degree: M.A.
Major: Far Eastern Languages and Literatures
Cornell University (September 1963-June 1967)
Degree: B.A.
Major: Asian Studies

Study and Research in China

1963 - Taipei Language Institute, Taipei, Taiwan
1971-72 - Inter-University Program for Chinese Studies, Taipei, Taiwan
1980-2006 - Numerous trips for research: Beijing, Shanghai, Suzhou, Chongqing.


2010-2014 - Visiting Associate Professor, Humanities Center, Johns Hopkins University
2012 April - Academic Leader for Smithsonian Museum Trip to China and Tibet
1988-2007 - Associate Professor of Chinese, University of Colorado, Boulder (currently emeritus)
1979-1988 - Assistant Professor of Chinese, University of Minnesota
1980 - Assistant Director, Minnesota-Nankai Summer Intensive Language Institute, Tianjjn, China
1979 - Assistant Instructor of Chinese, University of California at Berkeley
1971-78 - Graduate Assistant for Chinese Language Teaching, University of California at Berkeley
1975 - Lecturer in Chinese, University of Washington (1975)
1999-2000 - Consultant to the Social Science Education Consortium, Inc., Boulder, Colorado


Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellowship: 2012-13


In the Realm of the Gods: Lands, Myths and Legends of China, South San Francisco, CA, Long River Press, 2008; and Beijing, Foreign Languages Press, 2007.

Dangerous Women: Warriors, Grannies, and Geishas of the Ming, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999. Second edition, 2005.

Current Book Project

Playing for Time: Actresses and Actors in Traditional China. Anticipated date of submission: 2014.

Public Lectures and Interviews

February 2013

Johns Hopkins Odyssey Program, Lecture: "Acres of Gardens in Grandiose Suzhou: Sacred Journeys and Ruthless Competitions."

February 2013

Lecture on religious context of Chinese gardens; OASIS lecture Series. Washington D.C.

April-May 2012

Four formal lectures as study leader for "Smithsonian Journeys: Classic China and Tibet":

  • "10,000 Temples: Money and Gods in Late Imperial Beijing,"
  • "The Ancient Kingdoms: from Theocracy to a State of Permanent War;"
  • "The Medieval Powerhouse: China and the Silk Route Economies;"
  • "The Private, the Eccentric and the Mad: Creativity in the Yangtze River Cultures."

March 2012

American Oriental Society: Lecture: "Players in the New Cityscapes: Actresses and Theater Culture in the Ming." Chair of Panel: "Ancient Literatures of China."

February 2012

Johns Hopkins Odyssey Program, Lecture: "Where the gods Visit: Sacred and Demonic Places in China and the Legends that Inform Them."

Fall 2010

Johns Hopkins, Odyssey Class: Two lectures on China.

  • "Late Imperial China: From Economic Dominance to the Edge of the Precipice."
  • "Urban Culture in the 20th Century: 'May Fourth' Artists and Beyond."

September 2009

Johns Hopkins Odyssey Program: "Chinese Popular Culture: A Thousand Years of Chinese History". Mini course on Chinese urban popular art forms, from ceramics, to opera to film. September 22, 29, October 6.

  • Session One: "Storytellers and the Merchant Class: Long Scrolls and Long Tales: China depicts in print and image her own urban culture and urban expansion in the Song and Yuan Dynasties."
  • Session Two: "The Great Ceramic Centers Drive the Economy: Innovations by the artisan class draw eager collectors from the upper classes of Asia and Europe."
  • Session Three: "High Status for Lowly People: Actors and Actresses in urban theaters in the Late Imperial Periods. Urban theater of the Ming and Qing leads to the new medium of film in the twentieth century."

April-May 2009

The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore: Three two-hour lectures for Adult Programs, Art 201: Asia:

  • 4/29: "The Foundations of Chinese Civilization: Magic and Religion in Service to the State."
  • 5/6: "Where the Silk Route Begins: Court LIfe and Court Authority in the Chinese Medieval World."
  • 5/13: "When China Ruled the Seas: Merchant Princes and Literati Style in Late Imperial China."

March 17, 2009

The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore: Evening Lecture Series to the Friends of the Collection, "Commerce and the Arts in Late Imperial China."

September 2008

Hilliard Lecture Series, University of Nevada, Reno.

April-August 2008

Promotional work for In the Realm of the Gods:

  • Fourteen radio interviews for stations in New York, California, Colorado, Florida, Connecticut
  • Television: "Bay Sunday" May 16, CBS 5, San Francisco
  • Television: "Good Day Colorado" April 15, KDVR-TV FOX, Denver
  • Television: "Colorado and Company" April 17 KUSA-TV, Denver
  • Television: Two Book signings in Denver (The Tattered Cover) and San Francisco (Books Inc.)
  • Television: Interview for magazine, Women's World
  • Television: Interview for "Eye on Books" with Bill Thompson, Website.

August 2005

International Conference of Asia Scholars, Shanghai China: "Goddesses by Default: the Origins of Courtesan Lore in the Religions of China."

March 2004

Association for Asian Studies, Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA: Chair of Panel; "New Forms of Epistemology in Late Imperial China."

March 6, 2003

"Shanghai Women"--Interviewed by Christina Wong of Canadian Broadcasting, Vancouver Public Radio for media piece on women of the early twentieth century in China.

Feb. 3, 2004

"On the Street: City Life in Sixteenth Century China" Workshop for Teaching East Asia, Social Science Education Consortium, Inc., Boulder, Colorado.

January 28, 2004

"Ming Streets; Business and Pleasure in a City." Workshop for Teaching East Asia, Social Science Education Consortium, Inc., Boulder, Colorado.

September 24, 2003

"Song City Life: Materials for Teaching About China,' Overview lecture for workshop on the Song Dynasty, Workshop for Teaching East Asia, Social Science Education Consortium, Inc., Denver, Colorado.

January 2003

"Urban Change and Ideological Stasis, the Paradox of the Song and Ming States, Workshop for Teaching East Asia, Social Science Education Consortium, Inc., Denver, Colorado.

Oct. 2001

"Ming Cities: Power, Pleasure, and Money." Workshop for Teaching East Asia, Social Science Education Consortium, Inc., Boulder, Colorado.

Oct. 2000

"Courtesan Radicals of the Twentieth Century," Mills College, Oakland, California.

May 2000

Guest on the "West Coast Live" radio program with Sedge Thompson, interview, San Francisco, California.

May 2000

Interviewed on Boulder, Colorado, radio station KGNU.

Dec. 1999-

"Women with Swords: Bad Girls of China," Tattered Cover Bookstore, Denver Colorado

February 2000-

September 2000

Six lecture-slide presentations at bookstores in: 1. Cambridge, Mass.; 2. Chicago; 3. San Francisco; 4. Sonoma, Calif. 5. Berkeley, Calif.; 6. Reno, Nev.

April 2000

"Women on the Edge: Courtesan Radicals of the Modern Periods," Hillyard Lecture Series, University of Nevada, Reno.

March 2000

"Shamanism and the Origins of an Archetype," Washington College, Chestertown, Maryland.


Various lectures for both professional organizations and public venues on popular culture and women's culture in Traditional China

Articles and Chapters

"Foreword" for Chinese Ghost Stories by Lafcadio Hearn, Tuttle Publishing, North Clarendon Vermont, 2011.

"Foreword" and Herbert Giles "Biography" for Pu Songling, Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, Herbert Giles trans. Tuttle Publishing, North Clarendon Vermont, 2010.

"The Qiao Sisters," Journal of the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society, Winter 2009, pp. 38-39.

"Gu Mei and the Courtesan Ideal of Beauty," short article in 100,000 Years of Beauty, 5 volumes, edited by Angela Demian, Paris: Babylone Conseil, published in French and English. Forthcoming in 2009.

"Gender and Chinese Religions," overview essay on women in Chinese religion and myth for The Encyclopedia of Religion, Second Edition, Editor-in-Chief, Lindsay Jones, Macmillan Reference, Thomson Gale Publishers, Michigan, 2004.

"Feng Menglong yu qing jiao," for Academy Translation Series of International Scholarship in Chinese Studies, Hua-yuan Li Mowry, editor. Fall 2006.

"Ming China: An Overview," Chapter 4 of Ming China (1368-1644): Political Stability, Economic Prosperity and Cultural Vitality. A Humanities Approach to Chinese History, Part II. Ed. Marco Martino and Wang Ping (Boulder, CO: Social Science Education Consortium, 2002).

"Feng Menglong and the Articulation of Sentiment." Chinese Oral and Performance Literature, October 1999.

Overview Essay, "Women in Asian Religions," Encyclopedia of Women in World Religions, Editor-in- chief, Serinity Young (New York: Macmillan, 1999).

"Female Healers in Ming Beijing and the Lodge of Ritual and Ceremony," Journal of the American Oriental Society 106 (1986): 233-240.

"Pei li chih," The Indiana Companion to Traditional Chinese Literature, ed. Nienhauser (Indiana University Press, 1985), p. 650.

"Studies of Pollution and Piety: Recent Scholarship on Women in Traditional China," in Barbara D. Miller (ed.), Women in Asia and Asian Studies. Committee on Women in Asian Studies Monograph Series 1: (Summer 1984), pp.96-114.

Encyclopedia Articles: "Gongsun Long," in A.T. Embree (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Asian History (New York, NY: Scribners, 1988), 2pp. "Zou Yan," in A.T. Embree (ed.), ibid., 3pp. "Qu Yuan," in A.T. Embree (ed.), ibid., 4pp.

"Revels of a Gaudy Night," Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, and Reviews 4 (Spring 1982): 213-231.

"A Comparative Essay on Two Novels: Chin P'ing Mei and Adolphe," Phi Theta Papers 14 (1977): 20- 41.

"Li Pai-yao and the Events of His Time: Annotated Translation from the New History of the T'ang," Phi Theta Papers 13 (1975): 3-41.

Editing and Service (selected)


Chair, Committee on Women in Asian Studies of the Association for Asian Studies


Editor, Newsletter of the Committee on Women in Asian Studies


Numerous reviews of Chinese translation projects for National Endowment for the Humanities


Review Committee, Committee on Scholarly Communications with the People's Republic of China


Editor, Phi Theta Papers, Department of Oriental Languages, Berkeley (1976-79)

Awards and Grants (selected)

"Award of Highest Distinction" from Soka Women's College, Soka University, Hachioji-city, Tokyo, Japan; February 2004

Sabbatical leave (1997-98)

Faculty Travel Grant for research in Shanghai, China (Spring 1993)

Summer Research Grant from the University of Colorado CCHE, Harvard Yenching Library on Female Mystics of the Ming (1992)

Faculty Summer Research Appointment, University of Minnesota (July-August 1985)

Distinguished Teacher Award, College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota (June 1984)

Courses Taught

Using Materials in Chinese:
Mandarin Chinese Language Sequence (first through fourth year)
Classical Chinese Language
Literatures of the Ming and Qing periods (1368-1911)
Sources on Women
Sources on Ancient Mythology
Research methodology: the use of Late Imperial Sources for the study of literature and history

Using Materials in English:

Literatures in Translation:

  1. Literature of the Ancient Period
  2. Literature of the Late Imperial Period
  3. Modern and Contemporary Literature of China
  4. Women in Chinese Literature

Introduction to the Civilization of China

  1. Ancient and Medieval Periods
  2. Late Imperial and Modern Periods

Comparative Literature Seminars on literature of the cities: the novel in China, England and Europe.

Recent Reviews

Review of Carol Benedict, Golden Silk Smoke, A History of Tobacco in China, 1550-2010, Journal of the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society.

Review of Yi-Li Wu, Reproducing Women, Medicine, Metaphor, and Childbirth in Late Imperial China, for The American Historical Review, Fall 2012.

Review of Anthony J. Barbieri-Low. Artisans in Early Imperial China, in Journal of the International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society, Winter 2009. pp. 40-41.

Telling Stories, Witchcraft and Scapegoating in Chinese History by Barend J. ter Haar, for Asian Studies Review, 2008.

Aching for Beauty, Footbinding in China, by Wang Ping for Intersections: Gender, Culture and History in the Asian Context, 2007

Snakes Legs, Sequels, Continuations and Rewritings in Chinese, Fiction, Martin Huang Ed., for China Review International, 2005

Maxine Hong Kingston, by E.O. Huntley, for Journal of Asian Studies (June 2002)

Transcendence and Divine Passion: The Queen Mother of the West in Medieval China, by Suzanne Cahill (Stanford, 1995), in Journal of Chinese Religion 24 (Fall 1996): 169-71

The Journey to the West, by Anthony Y, in Journal of Asian Studies 45.4 (August 1986): 837-39

Film Review

"Small Happiness: Women of a Chinese Village," by Carma Hinton and Richard Gordon, Newsletter of the Committee on Women in Asian Studies 3 (June 1985) 4: 6.