Dr. Moonsil L. Kim

Moonsil Lee Kim
Department, Office, or School
Department of History
  • Associate Professor

I was born in Boston, but my family moved back to Korea when I was two years old. I was raised and educated in Seoul, Korea, and received my B.A. in Asian History from Korea University (1996–2000). In 2001, I came back to the U.S. and completed my M.A. degree in East Asian Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I continued into the Ph.D. program in the Art and Archaeology Department at the University of Pittsburgh, but later transferred to the University of California, Santa Barbara, to continue working with my advisor, Dr. Anthony Barbieri, who had moved to UC Santa Barbara. At UCSB, I was able to specialize in ancient Chinese history and philology, and learn deeply and broadly about topics ranging from East Asian (Chinese, Korean, Japanese) history, Chinese literature, and ancient Mediterranean history to Anthropology and Archaeology. I completed my Ph.D. in the History department at UCSB focusing on ancient Chinese cultural, material, and legal history. My dissertation research was about the food redistribution system of the Qin and Han periods (221 BCE–220 CE) of China. The dissertation introduces the various channels through which food resources were redistributed to subjects after being collected as tax or tribute – salaries, rations, relief, gifts, and feasts – and investigates whether food redistribution regulations were observed according to their ideal purposes in early Imperial China.

Before joining the History Department at Rhode Island College, I conducted research as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Smithsonian Institution (2014–15), where I was able to work with ancient Chinese vessels. Since 2015, I have been teaching East Asian History at RIC. I have also been working as a Director of Global Studies to educate and encourage RIC students to become global leaders. Even before the pandemic, I had developed and taught some of my classes online, and I was able to maximize the benefits of the synchronous and asynchronous online classes during the pandemic. In 2022–23, during my sabbatical year, I was able to spend one year as a visiting scholar at the Academia Sinica in Taiwan, supported by the Center for Chinese Studies of the National Central Library of Taiwan. For one year in Taiwan, I conducted research on bronze vessels of the Qing dynasty’s imperial collection, and the feasts of ancient China. While I spent time in libraries and museums for my research, I also had the chance to visit many historic places not only in Taiwan, but also other Asian countries such as Korea, Japan, and Singapore with my family. I am looking forward to sharing my experiences from Taiwan and other countries with my students in my classes. I also hope my experiences can encourage and motivate students to explore the world outside of this smallest state.


Selected Publications

I am currently working on a book manuscript, tentatively titled Feasts of Early China through Texts, Law, and Archaeology. My research interests include the social, cultural, legal, and material culture and history of ancient China and East Asia with a particular focus on food redistribution, dietary conditions, the use-context of bronze vessels, and East Asian food for medicine. My recent publications include:

“The Capacity of Vessels: From Catalogues, Inscriptions, and Objects”, Ars Orientalis, expected in 2023–2024.

“The Great Wall of China” in World Architecture and Society, ABC-CLIO, 2021.

“Food Redistribution for the People: Welfare Food and Feast” in Rulers and Ruled in Ancient Greece, Rome, and China, Cambridge University Press, 2021.

“History of Fermented Foods in Northeast Asia” in Ethnic Fermented Foods and Alcoholic Beverages of Asia, Springer, 2016.

“Discrepancy between Laws and their Implementation: An Analysis of Granaries, Statutes, and Rations during China's Qin and Han Periods” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 59.4 (2016), 555–89.


HIST 102: Multiple Voices: Asia in the World
History 102 is a general education history course that satisfies the history distribution requirement of Rhode Island College’s General Education Program. This course will guide you through an engaging flow of learning activities (lectures, videos, readings, assignments, group activities, discussions, and presentations) to understand the nature of historical sources and various views on the historical events, religions, culture, and people of ancient East Asia as well as the interactions between East Asia and the world in the process of globalization in modern times.

HIST 238: Early Imperial China
This class is designed to introduce and practice critical study of a variety of sources (textual, visual, and material) and methods for historical research on early imperial China. Students will critically read selections of Han official histories and recently excavated documents by considering the source of the record, the purpose of the writing, the political situation, the author’s personal experience and perspective, as well as the value of the record. Also, students examine visual images that describe historical events and ritualistic traditions to discuss how these historical events were understood, interpreted, and evaluated by contemporaries and how the ancient Chinese people actually lived, which is difficult to discern when engaging with only the textual records. Online catalogues, object information from major museums, and various digital sources are utilized in this class to practice and learn digital history.

HIST 239: Japanese History through Art and Literature
This course examines the Japanese history from the ancient to Meiji period (-1912) focusing on the social and cultural development of Japan using various methods, including archaeological remains, visual materials, art, and literature. In addition to using translated written documents, literature, and history articles, students will be trained to analyze and interpret visual images such as drawings, paintings, and printings as primary sources for studying Japanese history before the Meiji Restoration. This interdisciplinary method of visualizing history will introduce students to the new field of history research and teaching.

HIST 345: Conflict, Globalization, and Modern East Asia
History of modern China in the 19th and 20th centuries is full of conflicts internally and externally due to the influences of Western and Japanese Imperialism over East Asia. This course examines the Modern history of East Asia (China, Korea, and Japan) focusing on the political, social, and cultural struggles and the wars that East Asian people experienced during the processes of modernization and globalization. Students examine the transitions and reformations of East Asian societies through the Opium Wars, Sino-Japanese Wars, Russo-Japanese War, Japanese invasions of China and Korea, Chinese Civil War, World War II, and Korean War from the 19th century to the 20th century. Students also investigate war crimes during World War II in East Asia that have been rarely discussed in history textbooks.

HIST 390: Directed Study
Topics can be decided based on students’ interests after discussing with the professor. Previous topics cover various places, periods, events, and fields such as “Korean History and Culture”, “Cambodian Civil War and Genocide”, “History of East Asian Medicine”, and “Modern East Asian History."

FYS 100: Food and Medicine of East Asia
Students examine the food culture, dietary habits, and medical traditions of East Asia (China, Korea, and Japan) from anthropological and historical perspectives. Students learn about the concept of health and health foods, examining East Asian philosophical and cultural traditions. Also, the class deals with East Asian medical practices as alternative medicine in the western world, such as herbal medicine, reflexology, and acupuncture.

GLOB 200 Global Studies and the World
In this interdisciplinary introduction course to global studies, students will be able to understand current global issues, analyze and integrate the information critically, and apply multiple disciplines in the investigation of a concept, culture, idea, or problem related to diverse regions of the world. This course focuses on comprehending the complex and dynamic nature of international systems and institutions, as well as understanding the interrelationship between and among their social, political, cultural, and historical elements. From this class, students will learn to understand the historical context of current issues as well as appreciate other cultures and people.

This class is also aimed to collaborate with the RIC Study Abroad office and the International Education Committees to satisfy the increasing expectations and needs of students who are interested in study and/or travel abroad. Students will examine the topics and regions of their own interests closely and share them with the class in the form of workshops. In this class, students will be introduced to various international education opportunities and a faculty member who can guide and advise them while they prepare for their trip and while they are abroad. Students who have returned from study abroad can also benefit from taking this class as they can apply their experiences and knowledge from foreign countries to academic discourses of global studies. International students will also be welcome to join this class so that they can share what they have learned and experienced in their own country, and meet students who are willing to learn and appreciate their culture.

This class is a required core course for Global Studies majors and minors, but students from any discipline can take this class as an elective so that they can be equipped with global leadership and international visions that eventually contribute to their own fields of study and workplaces in the future.

Teaching Fields

Ancient and Early Imperial China

East Asian History

Japanese History and Culture

History, Culture, and Language of Korea

Food and Medicine of East Asia

Introduction to Global Studies

Digital Humanity for History