By Valerie Hansen
Connections among the different regions of the world lie at the heart of world history, but many historians of China—whether writing in English or Chinese—minimize them, particularly when they indicate outside influence on China. Overland and sea routes connected China to the rest of the world; Buddhist missionaries and teachings entered China by these routes, which also carried Chinese inventions to Eurasia and beyond. Along with Europe, West Asia, and India, China was one of the world’s most heavily populated regions, home to roughly one-quarter of the world’s population between 300 and 1500. Comparative history, as the French historian Marc Bloch pointed out long ago, can suggest new questions about well-worked topics, and this brief overview of Chinese history in this period hopes to do exactly that.