Innovation Transfer during the Warring States Period: Considering the Importance of Early China’s Relationship with the Steppes

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Abstract

This paper focuses on the contact between pre-imperial China and the peoples living on the steppes in her vicinity. For all the obscurity that had been shrouding the steppe inhabitants throughout centuries of historical scholarship, archaeological discoveries during the past century attest to their highly developed culture and economy and, what is more, make obvious that they had been entertaining close relations with the Chinese from as early as the second millennium BCE. Following a line of scholarship which has set out to redefine the role of the steppes in world history on the basis of this new data, this paper aims to demonstrate certain aspects of the important role they played in the history of China. Several very impactful innovations diffused to early China through interactions with the steppes, influencing Chinese history to a major degree. The paper specifically concentrates on a timeframe surrounding the Warring States Period (c. 500- 221 BCE), during which a couple of key innovations can be shown to have been adopted from the steppes. Furthermore, it illustrates the impact of these innovations on historical developments within China, thereby reinforcing the argument that the role of the steppes in Chinese history was one of tremendous importance.

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