In Chinese history, the Tang and Song dynasties are often contrasted for their attitude to the foreign: a cosmopolitan Tang, its late turn to xenophobia, succeeded by a proto-nationalist Song. Changes in attitude tend to be explained by political events, most frequently by the dynasties’ brushes with foreigners. In The Way of the Barbarians, Shao-Yun Yang wants to detach intellectual history from this political determinism.

Humanism, secularism, pluralism: these were the spirit of the age in the exchange system known as the Mongol Empire. So Roxann Prazniak finds in Sudden Appearances: The Mongol Turn in Commerce, Belief, and Art. Prazniak’s starting place is art history, but her study of artistic exchange opens out into a wide view of the intellectual and cultural world under Mongol globalization in the 13th century.