Chen Shen

Dr. Chen Shen, Vice President, Senior Curator, Bishop White Chair of East Asian Archaeology

Chen Shen

Vice President, Senior Curator of Chinese Art and Cultures

Area: World Cultures, Ancient Cultures, World Art & Culture

Interests: Palaeolithic Archaeology and Human Origins; Art and Archaeology of Early China; Technology and Material Cultures of Ancient China

Exhibitions & Galleries: Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Gallery of China; Gallery of Korea; Prince Takamado Gallery of Japan; Gallery of Chinese Architectures


B.A., Archaeology, Wuhan University, China, 1987
M.A., Archaeology, University of Tulsa, OK, 1992
Ph.D., Anthropological Archaeology, University of Toronto, 1997

Dr. Shen joined the ROM in 1997 as the first Bishop White Curator of East Asian Archaeology, an endowed curatorship, and began his Canadian-Chinese collaborative archaeological fieldwork in China. Currently, Dr. Shen is leading several projects in Pleistocene archaeology in Northern China - Nihewan, Luonan, and Shandong projects. His research focuses on human origins and lithic technology development in East Asia. These projects are supported by research grants from Canada's Social Sciences and Humanity Research Council, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research (U.S.), the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the ROM Governors. The work of Dr. Shen’s team in East Asia has revealed the earliest hominid site, approximately 1.66 million years old. Since 2009, in collaboration with scientists from Beijing’s Chinese Academy of Sciences, Dr. Shen’s fieldwork involves excavations at the Zhoukoudian site, renowned for the discovery of the Peking Man fossils in the early 20th century as well as being a central location for the study of human evolution.

Dr. Shen is responsible for the development of the ROM's Chinese galleries, exhibitions, and collection management. His research focuses on the study of prehistoric stone tools and pottery, Bronze-Age archaeological materials including bone, jade and bronze artifacts, as well as coin and mirror collections. Dr. Shen has curated numerous exhibitions at the ROM, including the critically acclaimed Treasures from a Lost Civilization: Ancient Chinese Art from Sichuan (2002), and The Warrior Emperor and China’s Terracotta Army (2010).  Dr. Shen has also been integral in fostering working relationships between the ROM and numerous renowned museums in China, including the Palace Museum and the National Museum of China (both in Beijing), and Nanjing Museum (Jiangsu Province). 

Currently, he is involved in organizing workshops and symposiums on cultural heritage management and preservation in China. Dr. Shen is an Academic Trustee of the Archaeological Institute of America. Dr. Shen is a professor at the Anthropology Centre of the Eastern Asian Study Department at the University of Toronto, where he teaches courses in Art and Archaeology of Early China, and Technology and Material Culture in Ancient China. He is the author of Anyang and Sanxingdui: Unveiling the Mysterious of Ancient Chinese Civilizations and the senior editor of Current Research in Chinese Pleistocene Archaeology. Dr. Shen has published many academic papers in both English and Chinese languages.

Forbidden City: Inside the Court of China's Emperors

ROM Blogs:

Magpies, Hand axe, and Highway - Dr. Chen Shen and the ROM-China Luonan Project
ROM’s archaeologists at the Maya ruins of Ka’Kabish and Lamanai in Belize

Recent Publications

Year Publication
2012 "L'estremo Oriente fra il Pleistocene e la transizione all’Olocen. Preistoria e origini della civiltà cinese : A cura di Roberto Ciarla e Maurizio Scarpari." Giulio Einaudi Editore, 7-47.
2011 Huayu Lu, Hongyan Zhang, Shejiang Wang, Richard Cosgrove, Xuefeng Sun, Jun Zhao, Donghuai Sun, Cunfa Zhao, Ming Wei and. "Multiphase timing of hominin occupations and the paleoenvironment in Luonan Basin, Central China." Quaternary Research (76)
2011 "Dating a lower Palaeolithic site in the Luonan Basin and Implications for Palaeoenvironment of homini occupations in North China." Quaternary Research SAR TT-OSL
2010 Li Z Y. "Use-wear analysis confirms the use of Palaeolithic bone tools by the Lingjing Xuchang early human." Chinese Science Bulletin

Research Projects

During the Han Dynasty, stone and brick tombs of the wealthy were subterranean residences adorned with decorated walls and furnished with everything the occupant might n

Upper Palaeolithic microblade technology

Lower Palaeolithic settlement of the Middle Pleistocene

The Early Pleistocene hominid occupations in East Asia (1.8 – 1 million years ago)

The ROM is one of few museums in the world with a collection of comprehensive Chinese coins.

The James Menzies Chinese Research Fellowship was established in 2009 to promote scholarly research as it relates to the Royal Ontario Museum's Chinese collection, with particular emphasis on t

In 2015 the ROM was awarded funding from the National Museum of Korea, this organization supports programs for Korean galleries in overseas museums.


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