Profile picture of Michael Fishlen

Michael Fishlen

Associate Professor Emeritus, Chinese Literature
Asian Studies, East Asian Languages
Office: 308 Friendly Hall


My research interests include Tang dynasty (618-906) and earlier poetry (and history and philosophy). I describe it this way because to understand the Tang one must know what came before, and to understand the poetry (or literature) one must consider the relevant history, philosophy, religion, etc. Traditional Chinese culture is a unity, and no part or no period is complete by itself or explains itself. It is also my approach that the classical works of Chinese poetry are not understood all that well, and the later poets serve as readers and interpreters of what came before. My interests also extend to traditional and modern Chinese law, to nationalities in China and in the United States, and so to federal Indian law as well. This is explained somewhat by my background.

I was trained in classical sinology at Indiana University in the late 1960’s, where my focus was on late Tang poetry and my dissertation on mythological themes in the poetry of Li He (791-817). A secondary interest at Indiana was classical Tibetan, which included due attention to the relevant history and art, and to Buddhism. This much would explain the articles on Tang poetry I wrote in the 1970’s, with a slight shift of attention from Li He to his contemporary, Du Mu (803-52), and my first dozen years or so in the field. But then, for a variety of reasons, in the mid 1980’s I acquired a law degree, and from the spring of 1989 to the fall of 1990 I taught at two law schools in China and then worked as a lawyer in Shanghai. Prior to this I had lived in China on two occasions and visited several times as well. While in Beijing in 1992, I became acquainted with the minority communities there, and led a study-tour to Xinjiang. Since then I have presented papers on nationalities in China and, following corollary tangents, have books nearing completion on the major early Indian law cases, federal and state, and on the poetry of Du Mu.

I usually teach the middle segments of the undergraduate survey of Chinese literature (Chn 306) and of the graduate seminar Issues in Medieval Chinese Literature (524). My other courses include Literary Chinese (436,7) and seminars in Early and Tang Poetry (554,5) and Traditional Chinese Law and Literature (556).


“Wine, Poetry and History: Du Mu’s ‘Pouring Alone at the Prefectural Residence,'” Toung Pao 80.4-5 (1994): 260-297.
Review of Haun Saussy’s The Problem of a Chinese Aesthetic, The Journal of Asian Studies 55.1 (1996): 187-191.