Director and Associate Professor, GIHM

Dr. Po-Fang Tsai

           Max Weber and Modern China 

Max Weber studies were revived globally around the year 2000, with a crucial indicator being the launch of the journal Max Weber Studies. The reasons for this are not only the near-finished Max Weber Gesamtausgabe and the scholar achievements in different countries, but also the establishment of the ‘Global Young Weber Scholar’, an international academic network. During the last two decades, the focus of Weber studies has moved from text-interpretation and theory-construction to contextualization of Weber-reception and the application of Weber’s thinking. 

Along with this paradigm shift, my contribution would be the fact that I not only conducted a sociology of knowledge to Weber-reception based on the materials in Chinese, but also developed a Weberian framework to examine the legal, religious, and cultural dimensions of the social transformation during the late Qing dynasty and the early Republican period.

In the contextualization of Weber-reception, my paper in 2016 scrutinized Weber’s theories in the Chinese context (both tradition and simple version), referring to the German original texts and English translated texts, to construct a development of Weber-reception in Chinese context during the 20th century. In the application of Weber’s thinking, I introduced the scholarship on traditional Chinese law into Weberian studies, and hence elaborated Weber’s concept of ‘world religion’ in order to properly fit the Chinese context. 

At present, I have conducted both the contextualization and application of Weber. In the future, I will try to develop a Weberian cross-cultural comparative sociology and construct an ‘elective affinity’ between the ethics of professionalism and the spirit of citizenship during the formative period of modern society.


Tsai, Po-Fang. (underview) ‘Revisiting the condition of possibility of “as a beruf”? Max Weber’s vocation lectures under the context of occupation/profession’ Centennial Symposium of Weber’s Vocation Lecture. (in Chinese)

Tsai, Po-Fang. (2016) The Introduction and Reception of Max Weber's Sociology in China and Taiwan. Journal of Sociology 52(1): 118–133. (SSCI)

Tsai, Po-Fang. (2014) The Legal Ethos of Late Imperial China: Two Neglected and Rival Legal Specialists. Max Weber Studies, 14, 1, 55-77.

            Citizenship Studies and Social Theory

Since my PhD studies I have attempted to analyze the contested concept of citizenship in terms of social theory.

This study firstly involved a crucial issue, which indicates a distinction and integration of normative studies and empirical studies. In the normative study, there was scholarship in political philosophy and political theory; in the empirical studies, there were also many case studies in the fields of sociology, comparative welfare regime, and migration studies. My concern is relying on the insight of social theory to reflect and compare the empirical imagination in normative studies with the normative project in empirical studies, so that they would be enriched with rather than be separated from each other. 

In addition to this thought process in social theory, I have conducted some concrete case-studies in recent years, especially relying on historical materials. One which case study involved analyzing the ‘ideal citizen’ image in the modern Chinese newspapers during the late Qing dynasty and the early Republican period. The other involved scrutinizing the discourse on professionals in modern Western society, in order to find out the implication of ’ideal citizen’ image, which consists of another way to understand the idea of citizenship. Based on these two preliminary studies, I hope of develope a dual comparative study of the concept and practice of citizenship between Western and Eastern societies.


Tsai, Po-Fang. (2019) “Citizenship, Professionalism, and Modernity: Historical Experience and Theoretical Genealogy” pp. 225-264 (ch5). in Tang Chih-Chieh ed. Modernity in Reciprocal Comparison: A Taiwanese Perspective. Taipei: National Taiwan University Press. (in Chinese)

Tsai, Po-Fang. (2016) Press Modernity and Citizenship: A Reflection on Shen Bao. Journal of Communication Research and Practice, 6(2), pp. 141-172. (in Chinese) For English version, please see: 
Tsai, Po-Fang. (2017.3). Three Images of “Good Citizen” during the Transformation of Modern China. International Sociological Association E-Symposium, 2017, vol. 1.

Tsai, Po-Fang. (2014) The Theoretical Ambition of the Sociology of Citizenship: Integrating the Normative-Empirical Research. SOCIETAS: A Journal for Philosophical Study of Public Affairs No. 51, pp. 43-91. (in Chinese)

                 Medical Humanities and Medical Education

During my service at TMU, I have had the opportunity of engaging my sociological specialty in the scholarship of medical humanities and medical education. At present, I am involved in two main topics: humanity concern in the Gross Anatomy Course and ‘on doctoring’ program in medical education.

Participating in the Gross Anatomy Course is a crucial experience for medical students, which is not only a burdened learning process, but also a rite of passage. Medical students see donated bodies for the first time, , and use them as learning materials. The TMU model of the Gross Anatomy Course includes interviewing the donor’s family members and some key rituals (such as initiation and cremation), in order to bring more humanistic knowledge to medical students. Aiming at this education project, I work with an interdisciplinary team which is composed of a biologist in the department of anatomy and cell biology, a psychologist, and a historian in the General education center. We are studying the effects of educational interventions such as family-member visiting and interviewing, some key rituals, and extra-curricular workshop on medical students. 

Medical students also take other courses about the humanities and social sciences during their basic science stage and clinical medicine stage. For example, the early clinical exposure from year-one to year-four, the ‘medicine and society’ course in year two, and the interdisciplinary clinical reflection on humanity in year-five and year-six. Those educational practices are the objects of a research team in the department of humanities in medicine, which I have also been involved with for several years. 


Chiou, Ruei-Jen, Po-Fang Tsai and Der-Yan Han. (2021) Impacts of a gross anatomy laboratory course on medical students’ emotional reactions in Taiwan--the role of high-level emotions. BMC Medical Education 21:489. (SSCI)

Tang, Kung-Pei, Chien-Yu Chen, Ming-Shun Wu, Tzu-Tao Chen, Bei-Wen Wu, and Po-Fang Tsai*. (2019) "Correlation between early clinical exposure environment, attitudes toward basic medicine, and medical students’ basic science learning performance." BMC Medical Education 19(1):183.  doi: 10.1186/s12909-019-1612-0

Chiou, Ruei-Jen, Der-Yan Han, and Po-Fang Tsai*. (2019) The Medical Humanities in Gross Anatomy Course: the Example of Interviewing Donator’s Family Members. Journal of Humanities, Social Sciences and Medicine, 6: 1-26. (in Chinese)

Chiou, Ruei-Jen, Po-Fang Tsai and Der-Yan Han. (2017) Effects of a “silent mentor” initiation ceremony and dissection on medical students’ humanity and learning. BMC Research Notes 2017, 10:483. DOI 10.1186/s13104-017-2809-0