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Tiger Profile: Katharine P. Burnett

Updated: Jul 23, 2022

Founding Director, Global Tea Initiative for the Study of Tea Culture and Science; Professor, Chinese Art History, Department of Art and Art History, University of California, Davis

Katharine “discovered” China in a Chinese Art History class her junior year at Wellesley. A classmate encouraged her to study Chinese, which she did with Helen Lin her senior year in college. With Mrs. Lin’s encouragement, she attended the Middlebury Chinese Summer Language Program and then lived in Taiwan for three years, working as the Wellesley College Intern at the NPM for two years, and at the Taipei Art Guild for two years, where she served as Director for the last year. When she returned to the US, she earned her doctorate in Art History at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. She returned to Taipei for a Fulbright year of dissertation research as a doctoral student, again at the NPM.

Katharine Burnett is currently Professor and Chair, Department of Art History; and Founder and Director of the Global Tea Initiative for the Study of Tea Culture and Science (GTI) at the University of California, Davis. In research and teaching, she explores definitions of culture and how culture is formed. Her publications include Shaping Chinese Art History: Pang Yuanji and His Painting Collection (2020), one of Book Authority’s 16 Best New Art History Books To Read In 2021,; and Dimensions of Originality: Essays on Seventeenth-Century Chinese Art Theory and Criticism (2013; Chinese version forthcoming 2023). Her new projects include research into Art History without the Art: The Curious Case of Sino-Vietnamese Teapots before 1700. Indeed, it was a fascination with teapots and the philosophy and politics involved in shaping them that led her to found GTI. Dr. Burnett’s efforts for GTI have been recognized locally by UC Davis (Chancellor’s Award for International Engagement, Global Affairs, 2021); nationally by the US/Canada tea industry (Best Tea Health Advocate, World Tea Expo, 2018), and internationally (O-Cha Pioneer Award, World Green Tea Association, Shizuoka Prefectural Government, Japan, 2021).

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