Why this book?
Everyone knows about how the People’s Republic of China treats Tibetans and Uighurs today, but how many know about premodern China’s response to people it considered foreign, barbarian, or Black? Don Wyatt’s book shows how people in Southeast Asia—Sumatra, Java, the Malay archipelago—were considered by China as Black, alongside actual Africans. An excellent companion book to read together with this is Shao-yun Yang’s The Way of the Barbarians: Redrawing Ethnic Boundaries in Tang and Song China. Many books on race before the modern era focus on the West, but how about race elsewhere? How about China, a country that’s fast becoming a world power?
The Blacks of Premodern China
Why should I read it?
1 author picked The Blacks of Premodern China as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.
What is this book about?
Premodern Chinese described a great variety of the peoples they encountered as "black." The earliest and most frequent of these encounters were with their Southeast Asian neighbors, specifically the Malayans. But by the midimperial times of the seventh through seventeenth centuries C.E., exposure to peoples from Africa, chiefly slaves arriving from the area of modern Somalia, Kenya, and Tanzania, gradually displaced the original Asian "blacks" in Chinese consciousness. In The Blacks of Premodern China, Don J. Wyatt presents the previously unexamined story of the earliest Chinese encounters with this succession of peoples they have historically regarded as black.