In Xanadu, Kublai Khan had a leopard. Well, it wasn’t a leopard really, it was a cheetah. And upon that fact, and upon many other anecdotes and material objects, Timothy Brook builds a bridge that connects the history of China to the history of the world around it. He demonstrates in overwhelming and fascinating detail that far from cut off from the world, China has always been in and of the world, and the world has always been coming to China.
Timothy Brook is the Republic of China Chair in the Department of History of the University of British Columbia. The general editor of Harvard University Press’ series History of Imperial China, his work has tended to focus on the Ming Dynasty, but has gone back as far at the Mongol occupation of China and forward as far as the Japanese occupation of China. He is particularly interested in China in the world, as attested to by his most recent book, The Great State: China and the World, which is the focus of our conversation today