The Way of the Barbarians
Redrawing Ethnic Boundaries in Tang and Song China
- PUBLISHED: October 2019
- SUBJECT LISTING: Asian Studies / China, Anthropology
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 248 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 0 illustrations
- ISBN: 9780295746036
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.
Authors & Contributors
Shao-yun Yang is assistant professor of East Asian history at Denison University.
[A]n important contribution to an evolving discourse on a critical era in both Chinese history specifically and East Asian history more broadly.- Journal of Chinese Studies
The book would be worth reading just for its thoughtful accounts of how various writers (Han Yu, Sun Fu, Liu Chang, Cheng Yi, etc.) addressed the distinction in their studies of the Annals, but it has a much larger argument to make.- Journal of Chinese History
[A]n important contribution to the study of ethni‐city and changing rhetorical strategies involving the ever-evolving construction of Chinese identity in premodern China.- H-Net
Yang has expertly painted a picture of Confucian ideological and intellectual orthodoxy, the rise of Neo-Confucianism, and the subsequent intellectual discourse that took place during the Tang-Song transition period. Those with an interest in Chinese religion have much to gain from this.- Religious Studies Review
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”
Based on painstaking research and deeply informed, insightful analysis of both well-known and less familiar texts, The Way of the Barbarians significantly adds to the intellectual history of the late Tang and Northern Song.- Linda Walton, professor emerita of history, Portland State University