He is a specialist in the art and archaeology of early China with a broad interest in the interconnections within Eurasia. From art historical and technical perspectives, his first monograph manuscript examines the rise of indigenous bronze industry in the Yangtze River region in the late second millennium B.C. In the 15th century B.C., the Erligang state expanded from the Central Plain, and along the way disseminated its highly established bronze art and metallurgy. Understanding how the Yangtze region digested this foreign art form and independently developed its own bronze practice enables us to re-examine the formation of China from a frontier perspective. This work reveals how the transmission of ideas and technologies occurred trans-regionally in early complex societies.
His next book project explores the revival of bronze archaism and antiquarianism in Song China and Kamakura Japan. This book aims to offer a multivalent account of the synergy of political aspirations, ritual prestige and artistic renaissance in Medieval East Asia.
Cao has a Ph.D. in East Asian art and archaeology from Princeton University, an M.St. in archaeology from the University of Oxford, and he read archaeology and anthropology at University College London and the London School of Economics and Political Science. His work has been supported by the Smithsonians, Henry Luce Foundation, Getty Research Institute, and American Council of Learned Societies.
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