Ph.D., Chinese, University of Oregon, 2006
M.A., Asian Studies, University of Oregon, 2001
B.A., History, University of Washington, 1997
Professor Wells received his Ph.D. in Chinese from the University of Oregon in 2006 where he was a student of Dr. Stephen Durrant. Before coming to the University of Kentucky in 2009, Professor Wells taught Asian and world history at Eastern Oregon University (2006-2009). Dr. Wells also taught at the University of California, Berkeley in 2016 in the Department of History. From 2021 to 2023, he was the Director of Research of the Elling Eide Center, where he organized and facilitated conferences, workshops, and individual research projects to support research in the field of early China studies.
Professor Wells has lived and worked extensively in China. In 1998-1999, he attended the Central University for Nationalities 中央民族大学 in Beijing, where he studied intensive Chinese language and early Chinese religious history. In 2001-2002, with the support of a Fulbright-Hays dissertation research grant, he studied at Xiamen University 厦门大学 in the Department of Philosophy. In 2005-2006, Dr. Wells worked as a visiting instructor for CET's Service Learning and Chinese Studies program at Capital Normal University 首都师范大学 in Beijing, where he taught courses on art, literature and religion. In 2013 he was a research fellow at Academia Sinica 中央研究院 in Taipei, and in 2016 he was a visiting scholar at National Taiwan University in the Department of Chinese Literature 中國文學系.
In addition, Dr. Wells has given papers at conferences in China, including the 1st International Conference on Ge Hong and Chinese Culture in Ningbo (2003); conducted research in Hangzhou (2007) and Taiwan (2010, 2013, 2015) on topics such as Daoism, historiography, and Chinese language pedagogy; and led the University of Kentucky conversational Chinese program at Shanghai University and Zhejiang University (2011, 2014, 2015).
When not studying and teaching, Professor Wells enjoys spending time with his wife and menagerie of animals, fly fishing, photography, camping, working out, and reading.
Professor Wells' research interests include life writing (autobiography, biography, and hagiography), Daoism, and early Chinese historiography and literary theory.
He is currently working on a translation and study of the early Shangqing 上清 Daoist hagiographies attributed to Yang Xi 楊羲 (330-386), the spirit medium of the Mao clan. This is a collaborative project with Dr. Jonathan Pettit of the University of Hawai'i Department of Religion and is slated for publication in 2024. He is also working on several articles related to the cultural and intellectual world of Wang Dao 王導 (276-339), the most powerful minister in China's early medieval period. Future projects include the historiography and historical perspective of Daoist texts and continued research in the autobiographical writing of the premodern world.
M.A., Asian Studies, University of Oregon, 2001. Ph.D., Chinese, University of Oregon, 2006
Monographs and Translations
Early Daoist Hagiographies: The Revelations of Yang Xi. With J.E.E. Pettit, University of Hawai'i. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2024
To Die and Not Decay: Autobiography and the Pursuit of Immortality in Early China. Ann Arbor: Association for Asian Studies, 2009.
Refereed Journal Articles, Book Chapters and Essays
"One's Self in Another: Collective Auto-Hagiography in the Shangqing Tradition" A/B: Auto/Biography 40.3 (2025)
"Revelation in Early Daoist Hagiography: A Study of the Tradition of Lord Pei." With J.E.E. Pettit. Asia Major, 3rd Series 33.2 (2020)
“From Spirited Youth to Loyal Official: Life Narrative and Didacticism in the Jinshu Biography of Wang Dao.” Early Medieval China 21 (2015)
“Captured in Words: The Functions and Limits of Autobiographical Expression in Early Chinese Epistolary Literature,” in Handbook of Chinese Letter Writing. Antje Richter, ed. Leiden: Brill Press, 2015.
“Seeing is Believing: Faith, Doubt and Self-Presentation in Ge Hong’s Baopuzi Neipian.” Lifewriting Annual 4 (2014).
“(Mis)conceiving the Self in Early China: Memory and Truth in Early Chinese Autobiographical Writing.” Beating Devils and Burning Their Books, Anthony E. Clark, ed. Ann Arbor: Association for Asian Studies, 2010.
“Self as Historical Artifact: Ge Hong and Early Chinese Autobiography.” Early Medieval China 9 (2004).
Encyclopedia, Sourcebook, and Dictionary Chapters
“Baopuzi,” in Early Medieval Chinese Texts: A Bibliographical Guide. Cynthia L. Chennault, Keith N. Knapp, Alan J. Berkowitz, Albert E. Dien, eds. Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, 2014.
“Ge Hong.” Bio-critical article for Dictionary of Literary Biography: Classical Chinese Writers, Pre- Tang Era (-598), ed. Curtis Dean Smith. Columbia, SC: Bruccoli Clark Layman, 2011.
“Ji Kang.” Bio-critical article for Dictionary of Literary Biography: Classical Chinese Writers, Pre- Tang Era (-598), ed. Curtis Dean Smith. Columbia, SC: Bruccoli Clark Layman, 2011.
“Gan Bao.” Bio-critical article for Dictionary of Literary Biography: Classical Chinese Writers, Pre- Tang Era (-598), ed. Curtis Dean Smith. Columbia, SC: Bruccoli Clark Layman, 2011.