Yanxiao He

Yanxiao He
Advisor(s): Richard Payne
Ancient Near Eastern History
Research Interests: Social and Cultural History of the Hellenistic World, Rome and the East, Global/Eurasian Late Antiquity, Popular Culture and Narrative

Yanxiao He is a doctoral candidate in the ancient history program. Focusing on Greek and Chinese ethnographic knowledge of the outside world, his current dissertation project, “Empires, Merchants, and Religions in the Post-Hellenistic East: Greco-Chinese Ethnography and the Making of the Silk Road,” examines how imperial interactions, mercantile networks, and religious missionaries shaped trans-regional communications from Syria to China between the late 2nd century BCE and the 3rd century CE and how these communications led to what we call the "Silk Road."


He has a strong interest in popular performance and dance studies. He is developing two related projects on it. The first project, “From Seleucid Mime to Roman Pantomime: Eurasian Imperial Interactions, Global Bodies, and Phenomenology of Popular Performance,” aims to highlight the agency of popular performance in cultural exchange in antiquity and its impact on imperial Greek literary representations based on the performance dimension in his current dissertation project. By drawing on case studies from both antiquity (i.e. textual and archaeological analyses of Roman pantomime performers in ancient China) and modernity (i.e. ethnographic fieldwork on K-pop cover dancers in contemporary China), the second project, “The Kinesthetic Southwest: Music and Performance on the Southern Silk Road,” plans to provide a longue durée account of southwestern China’s role in mediating global performance/music cultures between China and the outside world. In light of the embodied turn in humanities and social science research, both projects aim to rethink the body-mind dichotomy.


He got an honorable mention for the 2021 John J. Winkler Memorial Prize by contributing the first essay on a Hellenistic topic to it. He won the 2021 Erich S. Gruen Prize which recognizes his use of K-pop scholarship to understand ancient Mediterranean popular performances.