Department of History of Art and Archaeology & School of Arts

Professor Shane McCausland

Key information

Department of History of Art and Archaeology Percival David Professor of the History of Art China Institute Academic Staff School of Arts Department Research & Knowledge Exchange Convenor
MA (Cantab), MA PhD (Princeton), FRSA, SFHEA
Russell Square: College Buildings
Email address
Telephone number
+44 (0)20 7898 4705
Support hours
Tuesdays, 4:00pm–5:00pm


Shane McCausland is an historian and curator of visual arts and material culture with interests ranging across the arts produced in China over the last two millennia as well as arts of Mongol-ruled Eurasia in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

His work regularly addresses the interpretation of aesthetic forms, traces, media and materials, and how these are contextualised in terms of visual and disciplinary debates. Themes in his research and teaching have included post-formalism, critical iconology and mediality; the socio-political and localised agency of artistic form; artist oeuvres and development, including studio and workshop practices and selfhood; ceramics and reprographic media in China’s visual culture; collecting, connoisseurship and canon formation; didactic, narrative and figural art; transcultural dynamics and appropriation, notably under the Mongol empire across Eurasia; abstraction in contemporary painting practice in China; and Chinese calligraphy, paleography, intertextuality and visual literacy.

As an undergraduate at Cambridge University, McCausland read Oriental Studies (Chinese) before working at Christie’s Chinese department in London and on assignment in Hong Kong in the early 1990s. Entering the graduate programme at Princeton University in 1993, he trained in Art History with East Asian Studies under Wen C. Fong (1930-2018). He guest curated his first Asian art exhibition, on Chinese landscape painting, at Princeton University Art Museum (1998). He completed his doctoral thesis on the art of the southern Chinese polymath Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322) during a fellowship in the Asian Art department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1999.

Returning to the British Isles, he held a string of posts in London, as a postdoctoral fellow in the Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, then still at 53, Gordon Square in Bloomsbury (1999-2002); as a lecturer in the history of Chinese art at SOAS (2002-03); and as a research fellow in the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures (SISJAC), based at SOAS (2003-04). During that time much of his research was geared toward the ‘Admonitions of the Court Instructress’ picture-scroll attributed to Gu Kaizhi (c. 344-c. 406) in the British Museum, the topic of a conference he organised at the British Museum in 2001 and subsequent publications. In 2004, he joined the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin, under the directorship of Michael F. Ryan, as Curator of the East Asian Collections and latterly also Head of Collections.

He has continued to curate exhibitions including a loan show at the Chester Beatty Library, ‘Telling Images of China: Narrative and Figure Paintings, 15th-20th Century, from the Shanghai Museum’ (2010) and ‘Ding Yi: What’s Left to Appear’ (2015), a mid-career solo exhibition of the work of the Shanghai abstract painter, Ding Yi (b. 1962), at the Long Museum (West Bund) in Shanghai.

In 2009, Shane McCausland returned to SOAS as a lecturer in the history of Chinese art in the renamed Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, becoming Senior Lecturer in 2010, Reader in 2012 and Percival David Professor of the History of Art in 2015. He has served as a member of the Peer Review College of the Arts & Humanities Research Council (2012-19) and as a trustee of the Council of the Sir Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art (2014-2021).

From 2018-22, he was Head of the School of Arts and a member of the SOAS Executive Board. In 2022-23 he is on sabbatical, working on an exhibition on the arts of the Mongol world to be held at a major venue in London in 2026-27.

Inaugural Lecture

Research interests

Arts of dynastic, modern and contemporary China; arts of the Mongol world. 

PhD Supervision


Charlotte Chin-chi YANG, ‘Canon Formation: The Painting of Xu Wei and the Daxieyi Painting Lineage’,   

Yang FU, ʻRitual Furniture from the Qing Imperial Mausoleum -- a Reinterpretation of a Miaojin Box Set from the Yongzheng Period (1723-35)ʼ

Name Title
Janet Jin Re-imagining the 1323 Buddhist Literary Banquet: Sensoria of Painted silks, Gift-giving and Foodways at the Mongol mid-Yuan court
Helena Cantone Decolonising the Visual Archive of Salvatore Fiume (1915-1997): Italian Encounters with Postcolonial Africa
Jennifer Chih-Chieh Chang Intertextual Presentation of Individuality in Qing Biography Landscape: A Reinvention of Ming Wu School Sobriquet Painting (working title)
Chih-En Chen The Origin, Development and Classification of Trompe L’oeil Porcelain in High Qing China
Ms Naama Eisenstein Reshaping Ideals: Visualising the Genpei War (1180-1185) in Early Modern Japan
Yingbai Fu Dressing up the Manchu Way: Visual Representations of Women’s Hair and Dress in China and Beyond, 1850s-1940s
Ferren Gipson
Miss Maeve Nolan Early Silk Road photography: A case study of how and why Dr. Maynard Owen Williams, Litt. D. (1888-1963) photographed the Silk Road during the Citroen-Haardt Trans-Asiatic Expedition (1931-1932)
Alexandre Claude Ouairy Hidden in Plain Sight: Contemporary Art Practices of Resistance in China, 2007-2018.
Yuxi Pan
Yitao Qian The Faking Game: Understanding Notions of Authenticity of Chinese Painting through Early Chinese Collections at the British Museum Acquired between 1881 and 1910
Elizabeth Reid An investigation into the meaning and significance of the exhibitions of Chinese art at the Whitechapel Art Gallery between 1901 and 1934
Ziyi Shao The Pantheon of the Emperor: Exploring the Translation and Adaptation of Tibetan Buddhist Iconographic Pantheons in Three Hundred Deities, Eulogies to the Sacred Images of the Buddhas, and Fanhualou
Yuet Heng (Janet) Wong The Public Disseminations of Chao Shao-an (1905-1998)’s Art and the Construction of Geographical Identities among Cantonese communities across Asia-Pacific, c. 1950s-2010s.


Contact Shane