Shao-yun Yang

Shao-yun Yang

Associate Professor
Chair of East Asian Studies
Position Type
- Present
East Asian History
He / Him / His

Shao-yun Yang studies the intellectual history of medieval China (between 200 and 1600 CE), with particular interest in ideas relating to the relationship between empire and ethnicity. He is the author of The Way of the Barbarians: Redrawing Ethnic Boundaries in Tang and Song China (2019), which explores the ways in which the medieval Chinese interpreted and utilized the so-called “Chinese-barbarian dichotomy,” a longstanding belief that the peoples of the world were fundamentally divided between superior Chinese and inferior barbarians.

Dr. Yang’s recent publications include two titles on Tang-dynasty China in the born-digital Cambridge series Elements in the Global Middle Ages, as well as Daoist Master Changchun’s Journey to the West, a new English translation (co-authored with Ruth Dunnell and Stephen West) of a thirteenth-century account of a Chinese Daoist priest’s journey through Mongolia and Central Asia to meet with Chinggis Khan (Genghis Khan), founder of the Mongol empire. His current projects include a book on the relationship between Confucian thought, empire-building, and ethnic identity in Chinese history, and a volume of translated primary sources on ethnicity in imperial China.

Since 2018, Dr. Yang has used the ArcGIS StoryMaps platform to present historical research and translations in a multimedia format built around interactive digital maps. Links to his StoryMaps projects can be found in his CV. Students who want to learn how to make a StoryMap are encouraged to ask Dr. Yang about his digital humanities course “Global Maritime History.”

PhD History (UC Berkeley, 2014), MA History (UC Berkeley, 2009), MA History (National University of Singapore, 2007), BA History (National University of Singapore, 2005)

Learning & Teaching

  • HIST 111/EAST 141: Traditional East Asian Civilization
  • HIST 112/EAST 142: Modern East Asian Civilization
  • HIST 205: Ancient Chinese Civilization
  • HIST/EAST 211: Modern East Asia at War
  • HIST 210/EAST 264: The History of Chinese Political Culture
  • HIST 312/EAST 342: China’s Golden Age? The Tang Dynasty
  • HIST 260/DH 200: Global Maritime History




The Way of the Barbarians: Redrawing Ethnic Boundaries in Tang and Song China (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2019)

Cambridge Elements

  • Early Tang China and the World, 618–750 CE (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2023)
  • Late Tang China and the World, 750–907 CE (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2023)

Co-authored translations

  • With Ruth Dunnell and Stephen H. West, Daoist Master Changchun’s Journey to the West (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2023) [a new translation of the Changchun zhenren xiyouji 長春真人西游記]

Articles and book chapters

  • “Tang ‘Cosmopolitanism’: Toward a Critical and Holistic Approach,” Modern Asian Studies (forthcoming, 2024).
  • “The Song-Jurchen Conflict in Chinese Intellectual History.” In War and Collective Identifications in the Middle Ages: East, West, and Beyond, ed. Yannis Stouraitis (Leeds: ARC Humanities Press, 2023), 169–190.
  • “Unauthorized Exchanges: Restrictions on Foreign Trade and Intermarriage in the Tang and Northern Song Empires,” T’oung Pao 108 (2022), 588–645.
  • “Shi Xiaozhang’s Spirit Road Stele and the Rhetorical ‘Barbarization’ of Late Tang Hebei.” Tang Studies 36 (2018), 57–81.
  • “Letting the Troops Loose: Pillage, Massacres, and Enslavement in Early Tang Warfare.” Journal of Chinese Military History 6.1 (2017), 1–52. [Awarded the inaugural Edward L. Dreyer Prize for best article in Chinese military history by an early-career scholar]
  • “‘Stubbornly Chinese?’ Clothing Styles and the Question of Tang Loyalism in Ninth-Century Dunhuang.” International Journal of Eurasian Studies 歐亞學刊 5 (2016), 152–187.
  • “‘Their Lands are Peripheral and Their Qi is Blocked Up’: The Uses of Environmental Determinism in Han and Tang Chinese Interpretations of the ‘Barbarians.’” In The Routledge Handbook of Identity and the Environment in the Classical and Medieval Worlds, eds. Rebecca Futo Kennedy and Molly Jones-Lewis (New York: Routledge, 2016), 390–412.
  • “The Politics of Omenology in Chengdi’s Reign.” In Chang’an 26 BCE: An Augustan Age in China, eds. Michael Nylan and Griet Vankeerberghen (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2015), 323–346.
  • “Fan and Han: The Origins and Uses of a Conceptual Dichotomy in Mid-Imperial China, 500–1200.” In Political Strategies of Identity-building in Non-Han Empires in China, eds. Francesca Fiaschetti and Julia Schneider (Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz Verlag, 2014), 9–35.
  • “What Do Barbarians Know of Gratitude? — The Stereotype of Barbarian Perfidy and its Uses in Tang Foreign Policy Rhetoric.” Tang Studies 31 (2013), 28–74.


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