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The Perilous Frontier: Nomadic Empires and China
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The Perilous Frontier: Nomadic Empires and China

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  52 Ratings  ·  8 Reviews
Around 800 BC, the Eurasian steppe underwent a profound culturaltransformation that was to shape world history for the next 2,500years: the nomadic herdsmen of Inner Asia invented cavalry which, with the use of the compound bow, gave them the means to terrorizefirst their neighbors and ultimately, under Chingis Khan and hisdescendants, the whole of Asia and Europe. Why and ...more
Paperback, 325 pages
Published September 1st 1992 by Blackwell Publishers (first published September 28th 1989)
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Bryn Hammond
Jan 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This has been a must-read since it came out, because it's a book with a theory. Whether you are convinced or unconvinced by the theory of steppe history here, you have to engage with this one. As a matter of fact I'm largely unconvinced, and yet this is a terrific book for me. I thought it best on: the Hsiung-nu or Huns - can't say enough about his account of Hun history; on the Turks and Tang China; and on Chinggis Khan, particulary on his politics which went against tribal conventions - on his ...more
Jun 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who loves Chinese history, museum docents
Shelves: steppe-history
Excellent book on the steppe cultures that influenced China. Many of us who "read" Chinese history have omitted half the story from our education--that of the non-Chinese steppe cultures that have all left their mark on Chinese culture. If the names Xiong-nu, Jurchen, Liao, Yuezhi, Uyghur, Mongol, Manchu are only names to you without context; read this book. The only irritating element was its use of Wade-Giles rather than Pinyin. I hope the next edition editor converts the transliterations for ...more
Kenghis Khan
Jul 17, 2007 rated it really liked it
This was definitely one of those books I had been meaning to read for a long time but just never got around to. Every book that I've read on Inner Asia that's come out since "The Perilous Frontier" has cited it.

By and large, the book is definitely worth your time. Not only is it educational, but its scope is immense. The author surveys the entirety of China's northern frontier diplomacy from the birth of Chinese civilization until the birth of the Manchu Chi'ing dynasty and the fall of Zhungaria
Sep 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Barfield reads Inner Asian history through the lens of political anthropology of steppe societies. This allows for fascinating theories about Chinese-steppe interactions. Rather than present a simplistic steppe and sown narrative, Barfield reveals two types of steppe strategies against China (outer and inner frontier policies) and shows how Manchurian groups diverged drastically from either Chinese or steppe political formations. Manchurian groups (Manchu, Khitan, Jurchen, among others) were abl ...more
Sep 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Pretty good survey of Northern Chinese- Inner Asian Nomadic interaction. Not sold by the theory, though. Not that I have a better idea or theory, but I don't really think nomadic state-formation was entirely dependent on the extortion of a sedentary civilization, which acted as a stabilizer on the steppe.

Thomas Barfield is a pretty smart guy. He knows his stuff, but you can't make such immense presumptions based on cross-cultural analyses.

Definitely will allow future scholars the ability to buil
Sep 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
I've always been a major fan of histories of steppe cultures and the steppe frontier. This is a fine account of interactions along the grassland frontiers of the Chinese west and northwest--- a history that's been neglected by Western scholars for far too long.
Carrie Yang
Jul 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Way cool. I dig it.
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Dan Goodman
May 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Relations between nomads and China, concentrating on the nomads.
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