Ethnic Identity in Tang China is the first work in any
language to explore comprehensively the construction of ethnicity
during the dynasty that reigned over China for roughly three
centuries, from 618 to 907. Often viewed as one of the most
cosmopolitan regimes in China's past, the Tang had roots in Inner
Asia, and its rulers continued to have complex relationships with a
population that included Turks, Tibetans, Japanese, Koreans,
Southeast Asians, Persians, and Arabs.
Marc S. Abramson's rich portrait of this complex, multiethnic
empire draws on political writings, religious texts, and other
cultural artifacts, as well as comparative examples from other
empires and frontiers. Abramson argues that various constituencies,
ranging from Confucian elites to Buddhist monks to "barbarian"
generals, sought to define ethnic boundaries for various reasons
but often in part out of discomfort with the ambiguity of their own
ethnic and cultural identity. The Tang court, meanwhile,
alternately sought to absorb some alien populations to preserve the
empire's integrity while seeking to preserve the ethnic
distinctiveness of other groups whose particular skills it valued.
Abramson demonstrates how the Tang era marked a key shift in
definitions of China and the Chinese people, a shift that
ultimately laid the foundation for the emergence of the modern
Ethnic Identity in Tang China sheds new light on one of
the most important periods in Chinese history. It also offers
broader insights on East Asian and Inner Asian history, the history
of ethnicity, and the comparative history of frontiers and
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