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Overview

The Tangut or Western Xia Empire flourished in north-west China and southern Mongolia between 1038 and 1227, when it was destroyed by Genghis Khan (c.1162-1227). Tangut, the language of the Western Xia, had its own script. Relations between Tangut and Chinese speakers within the empire were not always harmonious, but as Gule Maocai suggests in entry 1, these animosities could be overcome if only it were recognized that all languages, despite their differences, “share a common purpose” and “sages of all periods have the same morals to teach”, a statement echoed some two hundred years later by the early Ming scholar Wu Bozong, who observed (in entry 5) that different astronomical traditions yield similar results because “the ultimate mysteries of the universe are the same everywhere”. The assumption of similarity or commonality despite apparent differences constitutes the condition of possibility of all translating.