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David K. Schneider

Associate Professor & Undergraduate Advisor for Chinese

David K. Schneider, Associate Professor, UMass Amherst

(413) 545-4954

442 Herter Hall


PhD, University of California, Berkeley, East Asian Languages and Cultures 
MIA, Columbia University, International Affairs 
BA, University of Colorado, Religious Studies 


I have been teaching at University of Massachusetts Amherst since 2007, having come by way of a rather circuitous route. Prior to my academic career, I was an officer of the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service, the branch of the American Foreign Service responsible for international trade and investment, with tours of duty in China and Russia. Both assignments were fascinating.

I arrived at the American Embassy in Beijing two years after the Tiananmen Incident. U.S.-China relations were still frozen and Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms had stalled. The Embassy had embarked on an effort to revive the relationship by aggressively promoting trade and investment. Soon after that, Deng travelled to Guangdong to restart the reform program. From then on my job was extremely exciting. There was something important and interesting happening every day, as China began to remake itself into the great power it is today.

Toward the end of our time in Beijing we watched the turmoil of the 1993 constitutional crisis in Moscow on the TV news, as tanks shelled the Russian White House. A little over a year later I took the position of Principal Commercial Officer at the American Consulate in St. Petersburg. It was a time of near chaotic political and economic change in Russia. Again, there was compelling work to do every day as Russians struggled to forge a new economic relationship with the world following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But I always felt well prepared both to meet and to learn from the challenges of diplomatic life. Before the Foreign Service, I had acquired a multidisciplinary approach to world affairs at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, and after that, served as an international trade analyst in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s China Office. In the private sector, I worked in international trade with China and Japan for Chindex International and Mitsubishi International Corporation, both in New York.

The world of international affairs remains even now a core area of interest in both research and teaching. For example, at Arizona State University’s School of Global Studies, where I took an appointment as a visiting assistant professor (2005-2007), I developed and taught a course in Diplomacy and Foreign Service in which I made extensive use of case study methods to explore American relations with Asian and African countries and with global institutions such as the International Criminal Court. That experience informs much of my teaching here at UMass.

My professional experiences also rekindled my older interests in literature, philosophy, religion, and culture that I had first learned about in classes at University of Colorado in Boulder. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the diplomatic life was experiencing the Chinese and Russian cultures – traveling to landmarks both great and obscure, seeing operas and ballets, and, picking up many books of classical Chinese literature. So, following my career in business and government, I decided to go to University of California, Berkeley to take a doctorate in East Asian Languages and Cultures. I studied as much of the Chinese tradition as I could, and took a lot of Japanese also as a secondary field. Finally, I concentrated my research on the relationship between political philosophy and literature, particularly in the works of the great Tang poet Du Fu (712-770). I am following that now with new research on war and diplomacy in Chinese culture, and on the relationship between religion and political thought.

Since joining the faculty here at UMass I have been pursuing three teaching tracks. The first is classical Chinese literature, and includes a course in Chinese Literature in Translation, our Elementary Classical Chinese course, and Classical Poetry. The second is religion. In that field I teach Religion in Chinese Culture, and Buddhist and Taoist Literature. The third track is political thought and international affairs, in which I teach China in World Affairs and Chinese Political Philosophy.

Research Areas

  • Classical Chinese literature*
  • Political philosophy*
  • War and diplomacy*
  • Utopianism*
  • Religion*
  • Chinese and East Asian civilizations in contemporary international affairs 

* All in comparative perspective with other traditions.



Book Chapters, Essays and Reviews

  • “Clarence Buddington Kelland’s The Cat’s-Paw:  An Image of Chinese Culture in 1930s American Politics,” book chapter forthcoming in the second issue of Studies on Chinese Cultural Images Abroad, Central Compilation & Translation Press.
  • “Seeking Immortals in the Mountains: Selected Poems of the Tang Writer Chang Jian (fl, 727),” in The Poet as Scholar: Essays and Translations in Honor of Jonathan Chaves, under review
  • Review of Jonathan Chaves, Every Rock a Universe: The Yellow Mountains and Chinese Travel Writing; Including A Record of Comprehending the Essentials of the Yellow Mountains by Wang Hongdu (Warren, CT: Floating World Editions, 2012), forthcoming in Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews 36 (2014), 244-247.
  • Review of Friedrich Bischoff, San tzu ching Explicated: the Classical Initiation to Classic Chinese Couplet I to XI (Vienna, Austrian Academy of Sciences, 2005), China Review International: Vol. 13, No. 2, Fall 2006, p. 356-363. 

Essays on International Affairs

Awards and Accolades

  • College of Humanities and Fine Arts Outstanding Teaching Award Nominee, 2009-2010 academic year
  • Distinguished Teaching Award Finalist, 2008-2009 academic year
  • Distinguished Teaching Award nominee, 2010-2011 academic year
  • Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor, 2004-2005 academic year
  • UMass Faculty Research Grant (2010-2011)
  • FLAS (Summer 1998)
  • UC Berkeley, Institute for East Asian Studies Fellowship (Summer 1998)
  • FLAS (Academic Year 1998-1999); Yang-Chao Prize (2001)
  • UC Berkeley, Dean's Normative Time Fellowship (Academic Year 2002-2003)
  • Tompkins Fellowship (Academic Year 2003-2004)
  • UC Berkeley, East Asian Languages and Cultures Department Block Grant and Tompkins Fellowship (Academic Year 2004-2005)
  • Faculty Research Grant (2010).