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The book is divided into four parts that are roughly chronological. The first part is primarily based on archeology. It was a bit of a chore to read as the author listed items to explain how the different designs showed different cultural aspects. Unfortunately, it was like walking blind through a museum with a very knowledgeable guide telling you what you saw. This approach was essential as it set up the evidence for the early part of the book. Di Cosmo posits that the nomadic tribes might not have been behind settled tribes along the developmental spectrum, indeed nomadic tribes may have been capable of evolving into nomadic peoples becausee they had undergone a sedentary period in their development.
One of di Cosmo's most interesting theories is his view that the original walls of 'The Great Wall' were not marks of a defensive posture against aggressive nomads but rather the bases for the Chinese to exercise hegemonic authority over the tribes along the frontier. The wall was not borne of fear but of a desire for conquest. This is not necessarily controversial as the Romans appreciated that walls could designate a border and also allow Roman influence to cross into barbarian lands from a firm base.
If you are looking for arguments connecting the Huns to the Hsiung-Nu, you will be disappointed because di Cosmo understandably avoids that debate as not being connected with his central hypotheses. He does, however, devote many pages to discussing the Hsiung-Nu's emergence and their rocky relationship with China.
I would strongly recommend this book to anybody interested in this field for its solid research. The book has convincingly pushed back the mists of mythology from the physical borderlands of China's historical narrative.Ancient China and its Enemies: The Rise of Nomadic Power in East Asian History Overview
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