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The Way of the Barbarians

Redrawing Ethnic Boundaries in Tang and Song China

Shao-yun Yang challenges assumptions that the cultural and socioeconomic watershed of the Tang-Song transition (800–1127 CE) was marked by a xenophobic or nationalist hardening of ethnocultural boundaries in response to growing foreign threats. In that period, reinterpretations of Chineseness and its supposed antithesis, "barbarism," were not straightforward products of political change but had their own developmental logic based in two interrelated intellectual shifts among the literati elite: the emergence of Confucian ideological and intellectual orthodoxy and the rise of neo-Confucian (daoxue) philosophy. New discourses emphasized the fluidity of the Chinese-barbarian dichotomy, subverting the centrality of cultural or ritual practices to Chinese identity and redefining the essence of Chinese civilization and its purported superiority. The key issues at stake concerned the acceptability of intellectual pluralism in a Chinese society and the importance of Confucian moral values to the integrity and continuity of the Chinese state. Through close reading of the contexts and changing geopolitical realities in which new interpretations of identity emerged, this intellectual history engages with ongoing debates over relevance of the concepts of culture, nation, and ethnicity to premodern China.

About the Author

Shao-yun Yang is assistant professor of East Asian history at Denison University.

Endorsements

"What was traditionally considered necessary to being 'really Chinese'? Yang Shao-yun's careful research and nuanced arguments, clearly expressed, make this study an outstanding contribution to contemporary debates."—T.H. Barrett, professor emeritus of East Asian History, SOAS, University of London

"As defining what it means to be 'Chinese' continues to be of concern in political, academic, and personal contexts, this study—deeply rooted in the historical and social context of the guwen and daoxue schools of thought of the late Tang and Song—will be of value and interest to a range of potential readers."—Laura Hostetler, author of The Art of Ethnography: A Chinese "Miao Album"

University of Washington Press

9780295746029 : the-way-of-the-barbarians-yang
Hardback
November 9, 2019
$95.00 USD
9780295746036 : the-way-of-the-barbarians-yang
Paperback / softback
November 9, 2019
$30.00 USD

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