Features Podcast

Ethnicity and empire in China and Byzantium, with Shao-yun Yang and Ying Zhang

China and Byzantium both saw themselves as civilizations menaced by “barbarians,” and periodically established empires that ruled over them. In this episode, Ying Zhang moderates a discussion between Anthony Kaldellis and Shao-yun Yang.

They examine questions such as:

  • How do imperial societies talk about barbarian or ethnic groups?
  • How might we identify those groups, when they are used so often in the rhetorical construction of Chinese / Roman “orthodox” identities?
  • Can our two fields find a common language in which to discuss these questions?

Shao-yun Yang is an Associate Professor at Denison University, where he studies the intellectual history of medieval China, with particular interest in Chinese perceptions of and interactions with other ethnocultural groups. His latest book is The Way of the Barbarians: Redrawing Ethnic Boundaries in Tang and Song China (University of Washington Press, 2019). Click here to see his page on 


See also his online translation of Zhufan zhi (Gazetteer of Foreign Lands), a 13th-century ethnographic and geographical description of nearly sixty foreign countries known to the Chinese.

Ying Zhang is Associate Professor and Director of the Institute for Chinese Studies at Ohio State University. She is a historian of medieval and early modern China (14-18th centuries), with her current focus on the intersection of bureaucracy, law, and society in the Ming dynasty. Click here to view her university webpage or follow her on Twitter @utopiamatcha

Byzantium & Friends is hosted by Anthony Kaldellis, Professor and Chair of the Department of Classics at The Ohio State University. You can follow him on his personal website.


You can listen to more episodes of Byzantium & Friends through Podbean.

Top Image: Da Ming yu di tu – a 16th century map of Ming China. Image courtesy the Library of Congress. Click here to see more.



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