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Dr Qin Cao 

Curator: Chinese collections, Oriental Museum 

Telephone: +44 (0)191 334 5694  



Dr Qin Cao is the Curator of Chinese Collections at the Oriental Myseum, and her specialisms are Chinese Bronze Age material culture and numismatics. Through her work and research, she aims to promote and deepen understanding of China through museum objects, how collections reflect the circumstances and historical contexts of their collecting, and their relevance to the present.  

Currently, she is the lead-curator for the re-display of the Malcolm MacDonald Gallery of China, funded by the UK government (DCMS/Wolfson), to be opened in Spring 2025.


Qin studied Archaeology for both her BA at Nanjing University and her MA at University College London. She obtained a DPhil on the subject of Shang dynasty weapons from the University of Oxford in collaboration with the British Museum, funded by the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Awards. Dr Cao has interned and worked at a number of heritage institutions, including the Bangkok office of UNESCO, Jinsha Site Museum (Chengdu, China) and the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford). In 2011, she joined the British Museum as part of their Future Curators programme, which also saw her spend time working at the Manchester Museum. 

Prior to her joining the Oriental Museum in 2022, Dr. Cao was a Senior Curator at National Museums Scotland with responsibility for the Chinese, Korean, Himalayan and Mongolian collections. She served as lead curator for the permanent ‘Exploring East Asia’ gallery’s China displays as part of a major capital development funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and curated the 'Chinese Oracle Bones' exhibition (2019). She provided specialist support to the East Asian Collections Review National Programme which surveyed 36 organisations across Scotland, and co-curated exhibitions at 3 Scottish museums (Perth, Aberdeen and Dunfermline). She acted as a specialist ‘talking head’ and contributed to content development for the Chinese Warrior Queen- Fuhao documentary, Smithsonian channel (2022). 

Research interests 

  • Chinese Bronze Age material culture 
  • Chinese numismatics 
  • Collection provenances  
  • Museum display and interpretations 


Affiliations and Research Groups 

  • Trustee, Compton Verney Collection Settlement Trust  
  • Affiliate staff, School of Culture & Creative Arts, University of Glasgow   
  • Member, Oxford Centre for Asian Archaeology, Art & Culture, University of Oxford 
  • Member, The Oriental Numismatic Society 
  • Member, Scottish Centre for China Research  
  • Member, Society for East Asian Archaeology  

Selected publications   

Cao, Q. (2023a) ‘Review of Yung-ti Li. 2022. Kingly crafts: the archaeology of craft production in late Shang China. New York: Columbia University Press; 978-0-231-19204-0 hardback £50.’, Antiquity, 97(394), pp. 1047–1049. 

Cao, Q. (2023b) Weapons in Late Shang (c.1250-1050 BCE) China: Beyond Typology and Ritual. Oxford and New York: Routledge. 

Frame, G. and Cao, Q. (2021) ‘The Ann Paludan Archive of Historical Chinese Sculptures’, Arts of Asia, (Summer), pp. 96–103. 

Liu, R., Pollard, A.M., Cao, Q., Sainsbury, V., Howarth, P., Bray, P., Huan, L., Yao, B., Fu, Y., Tang, J., Liu, C., 2020. ‘Social Hierarchy and the Choice of Metal Recycling at Anyang, the Last Bronze Age Capital of Shang Bronze Age China’. Nature: Scientific Reports, (10), 18794. 

Cao, Q. (2019a) ‘By the Mandate of Heaven: A Kingfisher Headdress in the National Museum of Scotland’, Orientations, 50(March/April), pp. 74–81. 

Cao, Q. (2019b) ‘Displaying China in the National Museum of Scotland 苏格兰国家博物馆里的中国印记’, Orientations (Chinese) 美成在久, 27(Jan/Feb), pp. 90–95. 

Cao, Q. (2018) ‘Ritual or Lethal? Bronze Weapons in Late Shang China’, in A. Dolfini et al. (eds) Prehistoric Warfare and Violence: Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches. London: Springer, pp. 225–245. 

Jankowski, L. and Cao, Q. (2017) ‘Special Display of Chinese Coins at the Museum of Art and Archaeology of the University of Oxford 牛津大学艺术与考古博物馆举办中国钱币特展’, Chinese Numismatics 中国钱币, 147(4), p. 80. 

Cao, Q. (2015) ‘Sanxingdui; Warring State Philosophy; Astronomy and Calendar; Military and Weapons; Textile and Clothing; the Art of War’, in Y. Zhuang (ed.) 30-second Ancient China. Lewes: Ivy Press. 

Cao, Q. (2014) An Introduction and Identification Guide to Chinese Qing Dynasty Coins, Money and Medals Network website. 

Cao, Q. (2012a) ‘A Chinese Coin Hoard from Barrow’, Journal of the Oriental Numismatic Society, (211), pp. 33–37. 

Cao, Q. (2012b) ‘Asian Numismatic Collection’, in D. Logunov and N. Merriman (eds) The Manchester Museum: Window to the World. Manchester: Third Millennium, pp. 62–64. 

Sichuan Guanghan Sanxingdui Museum and Chengdu Jinsha Site Museum (eds) (2010) Sanxingdui and Jinsha: Two Peaks in the Ancient Shu Culture. Translated by Q. Cao. Chengdu: Sichuan Renmin Chubanshe. 

Cao, Q. (2006) ‘A Brief Analysis of the Types of World Heritage Properties in China 浅析中国世界遗产的类别’, Sichuan Cultural Heritage 四川文物, (1), pp. 86–90. 

Blog post: 

Trade, taste and tea bowls: uncovering Chinese ceramics in the collections of National Museums Scotland 

Supervision Students 

Tullia Faser, PhD candidate in History of Art, Shaping Taste, Building Knowledge: Collecting China in Scotland in the early 20th Century, University of Glasgow in collaboration with National Museums Scotland and Durham University, funded by AHRC SGSAH Collaborative Doctoral Awards.