chapter
16 Pages

Introduction

There is no such thing as “China.” In the same sense, there is also no such thing as “Europe.” By this I mean that the terms “China” and “Europe” do not refer to specific, unchanging territories, or static, monolithic cultures. And while there are places and aspects of culture that are undeniably Chinese, in whatever sense we wish to understand this, there are also places, and aspects of culture, that have less clear pedigrees. This is not to say that the term is useless or meaningless, only that it is not neutral and needs to be defined. A given dynasty’s territorial and cultural claims were political statements and must be understood as such. The extent to which those claims corresponded to what a government actually controlled was a military question. In every dynasty since the Qin (221-206 bce), “China” was an inherently imperial term, defined politically and enforced militarily.2