Chen Shen

Professor, Status-Only & Senior Curator at the Royal Ontario Museum
Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)


Areas of Interest

  • Art and archaeology of Early China
  • Technology and material culture in Ancient China
  • Relevance of culture heritage in contemporary society
  • Best practices of the 21st century museum
  • Paleolithic archaeology
  • Human evolution in East Asia


As the Senior Curator of Chinese Art and Culture, Dr. Shen is responsible for managing and researching over 41,000 Chinese artifacts. The ROM preserves the largest collection of Chinese artifacts among North American museums, and the second outside China (next to the British Museum, London). Dr. Shen’s curatorial research focuses on making ancient Chinese objects relevant to our understanding of Chinese cultures in contemporary society.

Dr. Shen views objects in the museum galleries and storage rooms as communication tools to bridge the past into the future. Recently at ROM, Dr. Shen have organized the international workshops: Relevance and Application of Heritage in Contemporary Society (2017), and Chinese Object Study Workshop: Objects in Archaeological Context (2019).

Dr. Shen has curated many exhibitions at the ROM, including 2002’s critically acclaimed Treasures from a Lost Civilization: Ancient Chinese Art from Sichuan, and The Warrior Emperor and China’s Terracotta Army (2010) which garnered one of the best attendances in ROM’s history. The most recent exhibition from China is Forbidden City: Inside the Court of China’s Emperors (2014). Dr. Shen, working with ROM colleagues and his Chinese museum partners, has successfully organized ROM’s Egyptian art and culture exhibitions at the Nanjing Museum (2016), Jinsha Archaeological Site Museum (2017), and the Xuzhou Museum (2019).

As an archaeologist and scholar, Dr. Chen Shen has organized and participated in multiple archaeological digs in China, US, and Canada. He continues excavations at several sites in northern China, including field investigation at the World Heritage Zhoukoudian (Peking Man) site near Beijing. Dr. Shen began Canadian-Chinese collaborative fieldwork projects in Paleolithic archaeology in 1997. Over the past two decades, his team discovered and studied the earliest hominid occupation site in East Asia, dated 1.6 million years ago.

Since 2011, Dr. Chen Shen serves as the Vice President of Art & Culture at ROM, responsible for research and management of a collection comprising nearly one million artifacts, representing cultures from around the world across the centuries into the modern era. Dr. Shen is a member of ROM’s senior management team, in this capacity he champions and organizes activities and programs at the Art and Culture Department, especially educational programs for the public. He promotes inter-disciplinary scholarship at the ROM and academic exchanges with other global institutions. Dr. Shen collaborates with the ROM Governors to manage the 3 million dollar per year department budget, cultivate donors and improve the museum’s ability to serve the community – all this with an eye towards the security and preservation of the museum’s irreplaceable collection. Dr. Shen also serves on the Board of Directors for the Chinese Culture Centre of Great Toronto, the largest non-profit community organization promoting Chinese culture in Canada. He served as an Academic Trustee member at the Archaeological Institute of America from 2010 to 2016.

In addition to his other appointments, Dr. Chen Shen is a professor at the University of Toronto, teaching two popular courses in the Department of East Asian Studies: Art and Archaeology of Early China and Technology and Cultural Materials in Ancient China. Dr. Shen is the author of Anyang and Sanxingdui: Unveiling the Mysteries of Ancient Chinese Civilizations and Ancient Chinese Jades from the Royal Ontario Museum. He serves as the co-editor of Current Research in Chinese Pleistocene Archaeology, The Forbidden City: Inside the Court of China’s Emperors and Relevance and Application of Heritage in Contemporary Society. He has published numerous academic papers in both English and Chinese journals focusing on the field of prehistoric technology, Palaeolithic archaeology, human evolution in East Asia, culture heritage and museum studies. His most recent book: Entering the World of Wonder: Thoughts on Contemporary Museums (2019 printed in Chinese) has become popular reading in China.

For more about Professor Shen, check out his profile on the ROM's website.


PhD, Anthropology, University of Toronto
MA, Anthropology, The Tulsa University
BA, History, Wuhan University