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Erica Fox Brindley . Ancient China and the Yue: Perceptions and Identities on the Southern Frontier, c. 400 BCE–50 CE. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. xxii + 279 pp.

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      Erica Fox Brindley . Ancient China and the Yue: Perceptions and Identities on the Southern Frontier, c. 400 BCE–50 CE. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. xxii + 279 pp.
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      Erica Fox Brindley . Ancient China and the Yue: Perceptions and Identities on the Southern Frontier, c. 400 BCE–50 CE. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. xxii + 279 pp.
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      Erica Fox Brindley . Ancient China and the Yue: Perceptions and Identities on the Southern Frontier, c. 400 BCE–50 CE. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. xxii + 279 pp.
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Abstract

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1. Despite the excellent work of Francis Allard and others, there are still no English-language monographs on the post-Neolithic archaeology of any region of southeast China. There are two recent studies on Yunnan and Northern Vietnam: Yao, Alice, The Ancient Highlands of Southwest China: From the Bronze Age to the Han Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015); Kim, Nam C., The Origins of Ancient Vietnam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).

2. Given that it is becoming increasingly necessary for scholars of Early China to employ both texts and archaeology, it is worth noting that archaeologists tend to have much better appreciation of the explanatory power of images and maps, and are trained to produce them. We historians should emulate this or, even better, collaborate with archaeologists.

3. Brindley surprisingly never questions whether the concept of ethnicity corresponds with how authors of early texts thought about non-Hua Xia peoples, despite acknowledging that it may not: “intriguingly, this ethnicity is not defined along biological, hereditary lines: it can be acquired and passed on through culture” (p. 126). The authors of early Chinese texts seem to have considered the Yue and other neighboring peoples physiologically identical to themselves, but culturally barbaric. They understood the world as having one cultured group (themselves) surrounded by those without proper culture. Perhaps the concept of ethnicity, based as it is on modern ideas of evolution and genetics, is not very useful for the study of Early Chinese ideas.

4. Sima Qian's habit of tracing the lineage of royal houses (even that of the Yue and Xiongnu) back to the sage kings instead reveals how he thought about aristocratic lineages and political power. His “although the Yue are southern barbarians 越雖蠻夷” passage argues that the Yue ruling lineage was successful because of the ongoing influence of the virtue accumulated by Yu the Great (i.e., precisely because they are not fully Yue), and is not an argument about Yue ethnic identity” (p. 135). Shi ji 史記 (Beijing: Zhonghua, 1959), 114.2984.

5. Such as that seen in Puren, Feng 馮普仁, Wu Yue wenhua 吳越文化 (Beijing: Wenwu, 2007).

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