Ronald Suleski, PhD

Professor, History, Language & Global Culture

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On sabbatical, AY 2024-2025

Director, The Rosenberg Institute for East Asian Studies


Ronald Suleski did his undergraduate work at the University of Pittsburgh. He received his MA in Chinese Studies and his PhD in Modern Chinese History from the University of Michigan. In the course of his career, he taught at the University of Texas at Arlington and at Sophia University in Tokyo. He served as Provost of the Tokyo Campus of Huron University, and was elected President of the Asiatic Society of Japan, a venerable organization established in 1872. He held that post for eight years, the longest single tenure in the Society’s history.

As part of the adventure of life, Ron lived in Tokyo from 1980 to 1997. He was an executive in international business, working as the managing director in Asia for several US and British professional publishers, dealing with technical, medical and legal journals. This gave him the opportunity to travel widely in Asia and to see first-hand the dramatic social and economic changes that took place in the 80s and 90s. He was active with the American Chamber of Commerce in Tokyo.

But academics proved to be the strongest interest for Ron, and in 1997 he returned from Japan to be at Harvard. There he was Assistant Director of the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies until 2009, when he joined Suffolk University in Boston as Professor of History and Director of the Rosenberg Institute for East Asian Studies.

Whether working in the business world or at a university, he continued writing and publishing. Among his more recent publications are Civil Government in Warlord China: Tradition, Modernization and Manchuria (Peter Lang 2002); “Confucius: The Organization of Chinese Society,” in David Jones, ed., Confucius Now: Contemporary Encounters with the Analects (Open Court 2008); and Manshū no seishōnen zō 滿州の青少年像(Images of Youth in Manchuria) (Aichi University 2008), written and published in Japanese.

Ron has two major areas of interest for research and publishing. The first is Manchuria in the modern period, which means the history of Northeast China since the late 1800s, through the period of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo which ended in 1945 when Japan surrendered at the end of World War II. He has published on the mass suicide of a group of Japanese colonists in Manchukuo in August 1945, titled: “Salvaging Memories: The Shimoina 下伊那郡 Project, 2001-2012” in Empire and Environment in the Making of Manchuria, edited by Norman Smith, Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2016. He has also introduced an account of life in Manchukuo, titled: “Manchukuo and Beyond: The Life and Times of Zhang Meng-shi,”, International Journal of Asian Studies, 14.1 (January 2017).

A second area where Ron is very interested is dealing with the popular culture of typical people in China between 1850 to 1950. He is doing this by studying the common hand-written notebooks (minjian shouchaoben 民間手抄本) from this period that are found in the used-book markets in China. These are materials that many families in China throw away because they are old and seem unimportant. Almost no libraries in China collect these materials, and very few scholars have written about them. Yet by reading them carefully, one can begin to re-construct the lives of the common people (pingmin 平民) during that crucial century of transition between the ending of the empire and the beginning of the People’s Republic.

His book on this topic is Daily Life for the Common People of China, 1850-1950; Understanding Chaoben Culture. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2018. As preparation he has issued several articles on this topic, such as: “WanQing Minguo shiqide minjian chaoben 晚清民國時期的民間抄本” [Popular copied books in the late Qing and Republic]. Shandong tushuguanxue qikan 山東圖書館學刊 [The Library Journal of Shandong], 2.124 (2011), 89-93, 115.

His work has been published in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.


  • PhD, University of Michigan
  • MA, University of Michigan
  • BA, University of Pittsburgh
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Courses Taught

  • AS-100 - Introduction to Asian Studies
  • HST-100 - Introduction to Asian Studies
  • HST-103 - Culture/Transformation in Asia
  • HST-251 - Modern East Asia
  • HST-256 - Exploring Asia
  • HST-260 - Asian Peoples and Cultures
  • HST-510 - Independent Study
  • HST-530 - Senior Applied Learning Project
  • HST-H555 - Senior Honors Capstone