Journal of World Prehistory

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 179–213 | Cite as

The Landscape of China’s Participation in the Bronze Age Eurasian Network

  • Li Jaang


In the last decade, much has been learned about the network of interactions in Bronze Age Eurasia, and the importance of the steppe pastoralists in the creation of this network. However, the mechanisms that enabled societies in ancient China (both those bordering on and distant from the steppe) to participate in the Bronze Age Eurasian arena are still poorly understood. Based on the latest archaeological discoveries in China, this article focuses on the participation of four regions of ancient China: the Ejin River Transfer Zone (ERTZ); the western Hexi corridor; central Inner Mongolia; and the middle Yellow River valley. The article analyzes all significant innovations, materials, and technologies transmitted via the Eurasian network and adopted in ancient China, with an emphasis on metallurgy and the variations in the mechanism of its adoption across different societies during the Bronze Age. The introduction of metallurgy into the ERTZ was an economic imperative, although it was profoundly affected by the political landscape in the middle Yellow River valley. Through analysis and comparison, this paper argues that the participation of different societies of ancient China in the Bronze Age Eurasian network can best be understood in the local and regional contexts, which were deeply embedded in their natural and cultural landscapes, rather than as the result of the pull from the steppe pastoralists alone.


Ejin River Transfer Zone Bronze Age Eurasian Network Regional landscape Metallurgy 



This research was supported by the National Funds of Social Science, China (Grant No. 15CKG007). I am deeply grateful for the support I received during the writing and revising of this article as a postdoctoral fellow, first at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University, and then at the Forum Transregionale Studien, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. I am deeply grateful for the comments by Jan Bremmer, Roderick Campbell, Nicola Di Cosmo, Michael Frachetti, Emily Hammer, Min Li, Vincent Pigott, and Lothar von Falkenhausen. In China, I thank Guoke Chen, Xu Liu, Jing Shao, Zhouyong Sun, Hui Wang, Zhiyong Yu, and Liangren Zhang for their hospitality and insight during my research trips to sites in Gansu, Qinghai, Shaanxi, and Xinjiang.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of HistoryZhengzhou UniversityZhengzhouChina
  2. 2.Forum Transregionale StudienWissenschaftskolleg zu BerlinBerlinGermany

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