Frances Wood

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Frances Wood being honoured in 2015 at the graduation ceremony of SOAS

Frances Wood (Chinese name Wú Fāngsī 吴芳思; born 1948) is an English librarian, sinologue and historian known for her writings on Chinese history, including Marco Polo, life in the Chinese treaty ports, and the First Emperor of China.


Wood was born in London in 1948, and went to art school in Liverpool in 1967, before going to Newnham College, Cambridge University, where she studied Chinese. She went to China to study Chinese at Peking University in 1975–1976.[2]

Frances Wood (standing) with Russian Tangutologist Ksenia Kepping in March 2001

Wood joined the staff of the British Library in London in 1977 as a junior curator, and later served as curator of Chinese collections until her retirement in 2013.[3][4] She is also a member of the steering committee of the International Dunhuang Project,[5] and the editor of the Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society.[3] She was also a governor of Ashmount Primary School for 20 years, relinquishing this post on the completion of her current term of office in July 2014.

She has argued in her 1995 book, Did Marco Polo go to China?, that the book of Marco Polo (Il Milione) is not the account of a single person, but is a collection of travellers' tales.

In May 2012, she appeared on In Our Time on Radio Four, talking about Marco Polo; she appeared again in the 2015 episode on Chinese legalism. In December 2012 she appeared on the Christmas University Challenge special as a member of the Newnham College, Cambridge team.



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