Assistant Professor


BA, MA UBC; PhD Harvard

Office: 10.44, Run Run Shaw Towerq0

Javier Cha is a digital historian and medievalist who specializes in the intellectual and cultural history of East Asia. He divides his research time between translations of essays written in classical Chinese into English, the application of graph database technology in historical scholarship, and experimental humanities projects that address the challenges posed by big data and artificial intelligence.

He has been awarded grants and fellowships from the Hong Kong Research Grants Council, the Academy of Korean Studies, the Korea Foundation, the Big Data Institute at Seoul National University, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Prior to joining the University of Hong Kong, he was a founding member of the Leiden University Centre for Digital Humanities and taught at the interdisciplinary College of Liberal Studies at Seoul National University.


Medieval Korea

As an intellectual and cultural historian of medieval Korea, Javier is currently completing two monographs. The first one argues for the medieval origins of a Korean collective identity and the role that post-Tang Confucianism played in that process. The second book is a longitudinal study of the various figures and clans involved in Korea’s medieval identity formation and its transformation into a Confucian society. To facilitate this research, he has developed a Neo4j graph database that interconnects tens of thousands of biographical and bibliographical records drawn from South Korea’s impressive collection of digitized primary sources.

Big Data Studies Lab

Since 2019, Javier has led a digital humanities research group called Big Data Studies Lab (BDSL). BDSL conducts experimental research that rethinks the fundamentals of the humanities in the Zettabyte era. How do we deal with sources distributed across millions of servers? Or digital artifacts that increasingly take the form of audiovisual content, 3D point clouds, and holograms? BDSL’s search for the new normal in the humanities is currently supported by the Dean’s Development Fund in the Faculty of Arts, the Seed Fund for Basic Research for New Staff, and the Seed Fund for Collaborative Research at the University of Hong Kong. From 2019 to 2022, BDSL received the generous support of Seoul National University’s prestigious Innovative and Pioneering Young Researchers Scheme.

Research Interests

  • intellectual and cultural history of East Asia
  • digital history
  • comparative studies of data centers and the cloud industry
  • big data energetics
  • artificial intelligence and the humanities
  • cultural analytics



Cha, Javier. 2023. “Big Data Studies: The Humanities in Uncharted Waters.” Korean Studies 47: 274-299.

Na, Robin Wooyeong, and Javier Cha. 2021. “Snakes or Ladders? Measuring the Intergenerational Performance of Chosŏn’s Munkwa Exam Candidates.” International Journal of Korean History 26, no. 1: 145-176. ttps://

Cha, Javier. 2019. “To Build a Centralizing Regime: Yangban Aristocracy and Medieval Patrimonialism.” Seoul Journal of Korean Studies 32, no. 1: 35-80.

Cha, Javier. 2018. “Digital Korean Studies: Recent Advances and New Frontiers.” Digital Library Perspectives 34, no. 3: 227-244. (Chinese translation: Cha, Javier. 2021. “Shuzi Han’guoxue yanjiu: xin jinzhan yu xin qianyan 数字韩国学研究:新进展与新前沿.” Translated by Liu Feiying and proofread by Ren Zhijun. Shuzi renwen 数字人文 5.

Cha, Javier. 2017. “The Dynamics of Elite Domination in Early Modern Korea.” Sungkyun Journal of East Asian Studies 17, no. 1: 93-109.

Cha, Javier. 2015. “Digital / Humanities: New Media and Old Ways in South Korea.” Asiascape: Digital Asia 2, no. 1-2: 126-147.

Journal Special Issues and Sections

Cha, Javier, and Barbara Wall, eds. 2023. “Digital Korean Studies.” Special section, Korean Studies 47: 1-311.

Cha, Javier, ed. 2019. “Bridging Korea, Old and New.” Special issue, Seoul Journal of Korean Studies 32, no. 3: 1-146.

Keynote and Plenary Lectures

Cha, Javier. 2023. “Digital Korean Studies and Its Sister Disciplines.” Plenary Lecture, Tools of the Trade, Harvard University, 14 March 2023.

Cha, Javier. 2022a. “Fine-Tuning the Historian’s Macroscope: Data Reuse and Medieval Korean Biographical Records in Neo4j.” Plenary Lecture, Digital Humanities in Latvia, 27 July 2022.

Cha, Javier. 2022b. “Digital Approaches to Hanmun Sources.” Keynote Lecture, Bochum EPEL Hanmun Workshop, Ruhr Universität Bochum, 30 June 2022.

Cha, Javier. 2021a. “Big Data and the Transformation of Historical Practice.” Plenary Lecture, Fall Symposium on Digital Scholarship 2021, Hong Kong Baptist University, 19 October 2021.

Cha, Javier. 2021b. “The Digital Turn in Korean Studies: Trends, Challenges, and Prospects.” Keynote Lecture, 9. Tagung der Vereinigung für Koreaforschung (VfK) e.V. im deutschsprachigen Raum, 1 October 2021.

Cha, Javier. 2021c. “The Digital Turn in Korean Studies: Trends, Challenges, and Prospects.” Distinguished Lecture, 89th Societas Koreana Lecture, Academy of Korean Studies, 15 September 2021.


HKU Bulletin (May 2023): An Historian Who Looks to the Future