Associate Professor of Practice
(Urban Heritage and Sustainability)
School of Humanities, HKU

Fellow
Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences

Research Fellow
Urban Systems Institute, HKU

Senior Resident Tutor
College II (Postgraduate), Jockey Club Students Village IV (Wong Chuk Hang), HKU

YI SAMUEL CHEN

BA, Hillsdale College; AM/MA, Harvard; DPhil/PhD, Oxford

yischen@hku.hk

Dr Samuel Chen’s research deals with the history of urbanism and planning. It starts from early Western Asia which gave rise to some of the earliest and most prominent, enduring, and influential urban civilisations (e.g., Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian) in history. He has so far worked on the origins and evolution of ancient Western Asian traditions concerning the rise, collapse, and restoration of early urban civilisations and the constructions of time and history and their social and cultural functions in a wide range of urban societies from different parts of the ancient world. His recent research, which also covers regions and periods beyond ancient Western Asia, has devoted more attention to the spatial aspect of urban development, with a particular focus on planning history and historiography. He aims to contribute to our understanding of urban resilience and sustainability, pivotal for the UNSDGs, from the perspectives of the longue durée and medium- and short-term planning and development. In teaching, he covers urban and planning history broadly, with a selection of urbanisms, including ancient Western Asia, imperial China, ancient Greece and Rome, medieval Europe, early modern Europe, the industrialised and capitalist West, and contemporary megacities and megaregions.

Dr Chen received his BA in Philosophy and Religion (Hillsdale College, Michigan) and his AM/MA (Harvard) and DPhil/PhD (Oxford) in Near Eastern/Western Asian Languages and Civilisations. Prior to joining the University of Hong Kong, he researched and taught at different branches of the University of Oxford, including the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, Worcester College, and Wolfson College. He is a member of the Ancient World Research Cluster, Wolfson College and a Research Affiliate of the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography (PEAK-Urban Programme) and the Oxford Network for the Future of Cities at the University of Oxford.

He has also served as a consultant in urban and rural heritage conservation and sustainable (urban) development for research institutions, business and industry organisations, and local governments in Hong Kong, Mainland China, and the UK.

RESEARCH

His involvement in multidisciplinary modern urban studies projects at the University of Oxford and Peking University since 2016 has led to a more interdisciplinary and integrated approach to historical urbanism. He seeks to investigate pertinent data from a variety of sources (e.g., archaeological, philological) and apply relevant methodologies, theories, and insights from diverse fields for the study of historical urban establishments, to test our previous understanding of urban evolution and unravel different aspects of historical urban development and their interlocking systems and complex whole. 

Whilst interested in the cultural, (geo-)political, socio-economic, technological, and spatial factors, processes, and dynamics involved in the emergence, growth, decline, transformation, and sustainability of historical urban establishments in general, he is drawn to the following areas of research: (1) the diverse and evolving roles religious traditions and institutions played in socio-economic, cultural and spatial development of cities and the impact of urban development on religion; (2) the development of the cultural, physical, social, and technological infrastructure of the networks and hubs involved in the flow of people, capital, goods, ideas, practices, technologies, and services at intra-city, inter-city and transregional levels that enable production, trade, consumption, knowledge dissemination, cultural exchange, innovation, regional development and connectivity, and imperial expansion; (3) the relationship between state and empire building and urban and regional development; (4) the impact of urbanism, with its growing capacity to regulate and manage time, space, human and natural resources, on individuals, societies, and the environment, at both existential and perceived levels, not just in vicinity but also far afield, and in both contemporary and future societies. 

For his main research project, he works on urban and regional planning and development in ancient West Asian city-states and empires. 

Focusing on early West Asian urban civilisations which started with the rise of urban clusters in Southern and Northern Iraq around 3,500 BC, he also aims to engage with scholars working on paralleled urban developments in other cultures for comparative studies. This covers the broader region that links West Asia, Northeast Africa, and Southern Europe, around the Mediterranean World (e.g., Egypt, the Levant, Anatolia, Greece, and Rome). The comparative scope is also extended to urban developments in other regions, such as South Asia (e.g., India) and East Asia (e.g., China). A combination of synchronic, diachronic, and comparative studies will help examine similar and distinct features of historical cities, explore diverse forms of urbanism with different historical trajectories, and assess the resilience and fragility of various urban establishments.

PUBLICATIONS, PRESENTATIONS, AND LECTURES

2026. The Routledge Handbook of Urban Evolution in Ancient Western Asia and North Africa: The Lives of Cities, ed. Shane M Thompson (North Carolina Wesleyan University, USA), Yi Samuel Chen, and Laura Battini (CNRS-Paris Sciences et Lettres University, France). Routledge. (under contract)

Historical Consciousness and the Use of the Past in the Ancient World 
[co-edited with John Baines, Henriette van der Blom, and Tim Rood] 
2019, Sheffield: Equinox.

This volume grew out of a research conference and project initiated and led by Dr Chen at Merton College, University of Oxford in 2014. The project was jointly sponsored by the Faculty of Classics, the Faculty of Oriental Studies, The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities, and the John Fell Fund at the University of Oxford; and the Maison Française d’Oxford & the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). For the funding sources of this research project, please view the selected research grants & scholarships listed below.

The Primeval Flood Catastrophe: Origins and Early Development in Mesopotamian Traditions
Oxford Oriental Monographs. 
2013, Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Articles and Chapters in Historical Studies: 

(Forthcoming). “The Interplay between Nomadism, Sedentism, and Urbanism in the Patriarchal Narratives of the Book of Genesis.” (First author, co-authored with Shane Thompson).

Forthcoming. “Societal Conditions and Conditioning Associated with State Building Projects in Ancient Mesopotamia.”

2023. ‘Neo-Assyrian Urban and Regional Development and Governance on the Frontiers of the Empire’. Orientalia 92 : 71-129. 

2013. ‘Major Literary Traditions Involved in the Making of Mesopotamian Flood Traditions’. In Opening Heaven’s Floodgates: The Genesis Flood Narrative, Its Contexts and Reception, ed. Jason M. Silverman, 159–208. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias.

2012. ‘The Flood Motif as a Stylistic and Temporal Device in Sumerian Literary Traditions’. Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions. 12: 158–89. (The article won the runner-up award for the International Association for Assyriology’s 2014 competition.) 

Articles and Chapters in Modern Studies: 

2024. “Building a Government-owned Open Data Platform for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles,” co-authored with Handuo Deng, Qi Hu, Chenghe Guan, and Monica Menendez. Cities 149: 1-16.

2023. “Urban Infrastructure Design Principles for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: A Case Study of Oxford, UK’,” co-authored with Huazhen Liu, Miao Yang, Chenghe Guan, Michael Keith, Meizi You, and Monica Menendez. Computational Urban Science 3: 34 1-21.

*The above articles are revised policy reports generated for Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council from the research & development project-based courses Dr Chen designed and directed at the University of Oxford Network for the Future of Cities in summer 2019 (please view the courses below). 

2023 (26 January). “Three-Dimensional Ambition: The Domestic, Regional and National Challenges for Hong Kong’s Greater Bay Area Integration Strategy.” (First author; co-authored with Xiaoling Zhang. AsiaGlobal Online. Asia Global Institute. The University of Hong Kong.

Selected Presentations and Lectures in Historical Studies:

2024. “Planning in the Neo-Assyrian Empire: A Philological and Historiographical Study.” 20th Biennial Conference of the International Planning History Society, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong. 2–6 July. 

2024. “Societal Conditions and Conditioning Measures Associated with Public Building Projects in Ancient Mesopotamia.” Early Encounters Between Europe and Asia Lecture Series. Jao Tsung-I Academy of Sinology,  Faculty of Arts, Hong Kong Baptist University. 5 January. 

2023. “Societal Conditions and Conditioning Measures Associated with Public Building Projects in Ancient Mesopotamia” (poster session). The 68th Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale “Inequality in the Ancient Near East”, University of Leiden, Leiden. 17–20 July.

2023. “The Making of Capital Cities through Imperial Expansion in the Neo-Assyrian Empire.” World History Seminar Series. Chinese University of Hong Kong (co-hosted by the Divinity School of Chung Chi College and the Department of History). 2 February.

2022. “Nomadism and Urbanism in the Patriarchal Narratives of the Book of Genesis.” “On the Move. Migration in Antiquity” Conference, Monte Verità, Ascona, Switzerland, organised by Mirko Novák and Annick Payne, University of Bern, Switzerland. 10-15 April.

2012. “The Economic Nature of Wisdom in the Book of Proverbs.” The “Wisdom in Israelite and Cognate Traditions” Section, Annual Society of Biblical Literature Meeting, Chicago, Illinois, USA. 17–20 November. 

2011. “The Flood: from a Symbol of Catastrophe to a Watershed in History.” Research Seminar Series “Signs and Symbols,” London Centre for the Ancient Near East, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. 12 December. 

2011. “Development of Understanding of Early World History in Ancient Mesopotamia.” Research Seminar Series, Wolfson College, University of Oxford, UK. 1 March.

2010. “Comparative Studies of Mesopotamian and Biblical Flood Stories and the Comparative Method.” The “Bible, Myth, and Myth Theory” Section, Annual Society of Biblical Literature Meeting, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. 20–23 November. 2010. “The Primeval Flood Catastrophe.” The 56th Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale “Time and History in the Ancient Near East,” University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain. 26–30 July.

Selected Presentations and Lectures in Modern Studies: 

2024. “Inter-City Governance of Hong Kong and Shenzhen within the Greater Bay Area of the Pearl River Delta from a Historical and Global Perspective.” Co-authored with Xi Zhang (University of Oxford). 10th Tsinghua University Frontier Theories and Methodologies in Political Science Symposium “Foundation of Political Science of Chinese-Style Modernisation”, Beijing. 26–27 April.

2023. ‘Introduction to Lewis Mumford’s The City in History: Its Origins, Its Transformations, and Its Prospects.’ “Flourishing Cities: Past, Present, and Future” Reading Group and Research Workshop, Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, The University of Hong Kong. 29 September. 

2023. ‘Major Stages of Hong Kong’s Urban Development since 1841 and the Northern Metropolis Development Today’. ‘Urban Design: Hong Kong and the Commonwealth’, Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce Webinar. 22 May. 

2023. ‘Sustainability from a Perspective of Planetary and Urban History’. New College, The University of Hong Kong. 26 February. 

2021. ‘Future of Cities and Future Cities’. The Guangzhou-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Management Forum & Future Cities Smart Management and Development Symposium, 16th Annual China Management Studies Conference, Shenzhen, China. 5 November.

2020. ‘Museum Development and the Future of Cities’. Frontier of Cultural Development Symposium, Global Engagement Academy, Shandong University (Weihai Campus). 12 December.

Selected Media Presentations:

2022. The ‘Lost Cities of the Bible’ documentary film series, for Discovery Science via the Discovery Channel (first released in the US in April 2022), produced by Windfall Films Ltd, an award-winning filmmaker based in London, UK, March. (Contributor and Consultant)

2014. ‘A Different Noah, but the Same God’. Oxford University Press Blog. Sunday 17 May. 

Digital Humanities Projects Involved and Contributed to: 

2010–11. The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology Cuneiform Collection Project, the Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature (ETCSL) Project, and the Cuneiform Digital Library (CDLI) Project, Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford, UK.

Selected Research & Development Projects Contributed to: 

2023- “Flourishing Cities: Past, Present, and Future” Research Group, Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences, The University of Hong Kong (Co-organiser with Dr Ji Li

2021- Hong Kong Northern Metropolis Project Steering Group. Institute for the Environment. Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (Steering Group Member on Urban and Regional Planning and Development)

2021- Future Cities Research Centre, Southern University of Science and Technology, Shenzhen, China (Group Member)

2020. The ‘New Technologies and New Economies‘ session during the 10th World Urban Forum, Abu Dhabi, UAE, 10 February (co-initiator and co-organiser, in collaboration with UN-Habitat, the UN Environment Programme, UK Research and Innovation, Oxfordshire County Council’s Mobility Team and Innovation Hub, Tsinghua University’s Academy of Arts and Design, ETH Zürich, Carnegie Mellow University’s Learning Environments Lab, Peking University’s Institute of New Structural Economics, Chengdu Municipal Government and its Institute of New Economic Development with a research and consultancy report produced)

2018. The UK-China Future Cities and Contemporary Urban Studies Workshop hosted by the University of Oxford Network for the Future of Citiesthe Urban Transformation Programme, and the Kaifeng Research Institute at Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, 11–12 July (Principal Organiser) 

2017–2022. PEAK-Urban Programme, an international research and development project funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund of the UK Research and Innovation, which involved the University of Oxford (UK), Peking University (China), the Indian Institute for Human Settlement (India), University of Cape Town (South Africa), and the Universidad EAFIT (Columbia) (Research Fellow)

2017–2018. ‘Spatial Planning and Policy–the Making of Urban Agglomerations in China: A Research Dialogue between the West and China’, a collaborative research and consultancy project between the Oxford Network for the Future of Cities & Oxford University Innovation; and Tsinghua University’s Institute or China Sustainable Urbanisation, funded by the Institute for China Sustainable Urbanisation) with a consultancy report ‘Urban Agglomeration in China Based on Western Urban Agglomeration Theory: Case Studies of Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Coordinated Development and Xiong’an New District’ produced for the Institute for China Sustainable Urbanisation (Initiator and Project Manager)

2016- Oxford Network for the Future of Cities, Institute for Science, Innovation, and Society, University of Oxford (Research Associate

2016– Oxford Water Network, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford (Member)

2014–19. ‘Historical Consciousness and Historiography’ international & interdisciplinary research project, in collaboration with the Classics Faculty, the Oriental Studies Faculty, The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities and the John Fell Fund at the University of Oxford; and the Maison Française d’Oxford & the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) (Principal Investigator)

2014. ‘Civilisations in Dialogue’ conference, St John’s College, University of Oxford in September 2014, in collaboration with Professor Weiming Tu at Harvard’s Department of East Asian Studies and Peking University’s Institute of Advanced Humanistic Studies, and the Faculty of Theology and Religion and the China Centre at the University of Oxford (Principal Organizer)

2010– Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford (Associate Faculty Member)

2009. ‘China’s Development in the 20th century’ International Conference, the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. & the University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA, 17–18 September (Principal Organizer, in collaboration with the Library of Congress and the University of Maryland)

TEACHING QUALIFICATION(s) aND COURSES DESIGNED, DIRECTED, AND tAUGHT

Teaching Qualification(s):
2022. Fellow of Advance HE, UK (received at the University of Hong Kong) 

University Undergraduate and Postgraduate Courses Taught or Tutored:

2023–. The University of Hong Kong Institute for China Business Summer School. The “Evolution of Modern Society” Module: “Urban Evolution and Human Flourishing’. (Course Designer and Lecturer)

2023–. University of Hong Kong Common Core Course 
CCGL9070 Global Issues: ‘The Birth of the City and the Shaping of Societies’ , Spring Semester (Course Designer and Lecturer)

2022. University of Hong Kong Common Core Course 
CCHU9065 Arts and Humanities: ‘A Life Worth Living’, Spring Semester (Tutor)

2019. Doctoral Research Seminar. Sichuan University, China, Fall Semester (Visiting Scholar)

2013. Summer Course ‘History of Civilisation’, Examination Schools, University of Oxford (Course Lecturer)

2013–2017. Tutorials: Historical and Historiographical Research, Wolfson College, University of Oxford (Tutor)

2011. Undergraduate Tutorial: Mesopotamian (Sumerian and Babylonian) and Biblical Literature, Balliol College, University of Oxford (Tutor)

2010. MPhil Sumerian Literature Reading Class. Oriental Studies Faculty, University of Oxford, UK, Hilary Term (Tutor)

2005–2012. Tutorials: Classical Hebrew and Literature. Worcester College & Wolfson College, University of Oxford (Tutor)

Urban Research & Development Project-based Courses Designed and Directed: 

2016–21. Oxford Network for the Future of Cities Research & Development Project-based Courses, Institute for Science, Innovation and Society, University of Oxford (Course Founder & Director)

2021
• ‘Global Challenges for the Future of Humanity’ (online)
• ‘Global Leadership for the Future of Cities’ (online)
• ‘Cultural Leadership: Tradition & Innovation’ (online)

2019
• ‘Global Leadership for the Future of Cities: Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAV) and Drones’,  Christ Church College & Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford
• Collaborating institutions and organisations: the University of Oxford, UCL, Warwick University, Transport for London, Fosters + Partners, and the local councils in Oxford
• 13 Policy reports produced for Oxford County Council and Oxford City Council

2018
• ‘Global Leadership for the Future of Cities: Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ)‘, Christ Church College & Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford 
• Collaborating institutions: the University of Oxford, Imperial College London, Transport for London, EDF energy, Atkins, Fosters + Partners, and the local councils in Oxford 
• 7 Policy reports produced for Oxford County Council and Oxford City Council

2017
• ‘Future of Cities: Cultural Leadership’, Christ Church College, University of Oxford 
• Collaborating institutions or organisations: Gardens, Libraries, and Museums, University of Oxford 
• A public engagement app produced for the four University of Oxford Museums: the Ashmolean Museum, the Natural History Museumthe Pitt Rivers Museum, and the History of Science Museum

2016
• ‘Future of Cities: Best Sustainable Practice’, Christ Church College, University of Oxford

GRANTS, SCHOLARSHIPS AND AWARDS

Selected Research Grants & Scholarships:

2023 Co-recipient (with Dr Ji Li) of the Louis Cha Fund for Chinese Studies (for running the ‘Cities in Crisis’ International Symposium on 14 September 2024), Faculty of Arts, University of Hong Kong

2017-2022. Co-recipient of a major research grant (£8,000,000) from the Global Challenge Research Fund, UK Research and Innovation for running the University of Oxford-led research & development programme PEAK-Urban related to sustainable urban development in the UK, China, India, South Africa and Columbia (Research Fellow)

2017-2018. Co-recipient of a grant from the Open Fund provided by Tsinghua University’s Institute for China Sustainable Urbanisation for running the University of Oxford-led international research and consultancy project on comparative urban and regional development in China and UK (Initiator and Project Manager)

2014. Recipient of grants from the following sources for running the research project on ‘Historical Consciousness and the Use of the Past in the Ancient World’: the Faculty of Classics; the Craven Fund; The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities; the John Fell Fund; the Jowett Copyright Trust; the Lancelyn Green Fund, Merton College; the Lorne Thyssen Research Fund Scholarship for Ancient World Topics, Wolfson College, the Corpus Christi College Centre for the Study of Greek and Roman Antiquity, University Oxford; the Maison Française d’Oxford & the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS); the Hellenic Society; and the Classical Association (Principle Investigator)

2012 & 2016. Recipient of a research grant from the Lorne Thyssen Fund, Ancient World Research Cluster, Wolfson College

2003–2009. Recipient of a Langham Research Scholarship, UK 

2003–2009. Recipient of a research scholarship from the Christian International Scholarship Foundation

2004–2009. Recipient of a research scholarship from the Pusey and Ellerton Fund, Oriental Studies Faculty, University of Oxford

2004–2007. Harvey Fellowship Grant, Mustard Seed Foundation

2001–2008. Recipient of a research grant from the Blessings Foundation, US

Other Relevant Grants, Prizes & Rewards:

2022. Recipient of a Common Core Teaching Development Grant, University of Hong Kong

2014. Runner-up from the International Association for Assyriology’s 2014 competition for the best articles first published after PhD dissertations

2013. Recipient of an Innovate UK grant for promoting smart cities projects

2013. Recipient of a grant from the UK Department of Innovation Trade for promoting and facilitating international collaboration between the UK and China

CONSULTANCY WORK

ACADEMIC AND EDITORIAL ADVISORY EXPERIENCE

2024–. External Design Consultant for MArch Theses (related to urban & rural cultural heritage conservation as well as urban resilience and sustainability design in response to climate change in Hong Kong, Mainland Chinese cities, and other Asian cities, including Jakarta and Bangkok), Faculty of Architecture, University of Hong Kong.

2023–  Academic Advisor to Old World: Journal of Ancient Africa and Eurasia (published by Brill).

Relevant Consultancy Work:

2015–2016. Guangdong Association of Environmental Protection Industry, China

2015–2016. Shanghai Lingang District Administration, China

2014–2016. Low Carbon Committee, Shanghai Services Federation, China

2014–2016. Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Natural Environment Research Council, UK

2013–2017. ASEM Water, Hunan Provincial Department of Science and Technology, China

2013–2016. Intelligent Urban Water Management System, UK & Europe (a project supported by the European Commission)

LATEST PUBLICATION

Historical Consciousness and the Use of the Past in the Ancient World

Equinox Publishing 

Publication Date:
2019

UNSDGs relevant to Dr Chen’s work