Dunhuang Envoys:

World Connectors on the Silk Road

Xin Wen

ISAW Visiting Research Scholar

Xin Wen is a historian of medieval China and Inner Asia. He is a Visiting Research Scholar at ISAW and Assistant Professor of East Asian Studies and History at Princeton University. He received his PhD in Inner Asian and Altaic Studies at Harvard University in 2017.

Wen’s current book project Silk Road Diplomats: Dunhuang manuscripts, transregional travelers, and the integration of medieval Eurasia examines the history of state-sponsored travelers in medieval Eurasia. By reading multilingual (primarily Chinese, Tibetan, Khotanese) manuscripts discovered in the “Library Cave” in Dunhuang, this book reconstructs the world of medieval diplomats from various states of Eastern Eurasia. It traces how officials and commoners transformed themselves into diplomats; how, while on the road, they formed reciprocal relations with their host through verbal negotiation and gift exchange; and how they acted as transmitters of goods and information in the process. He plans to complete the manuscript of this book in his year as a Visiting Research Scholar at ISAW.

Wen’s second book project untangles the historical palimpsest of the city Chang’an, which served as the capital of China in the early imperial and much of the medieval periods. This millennium of history of being the imperial capital left indelible marks on the urban space of Chang’an. This book begins in the tenth century, when Chang’an permanently lost its status as the capital, and examines how later residents and visitors of Chang’an dealt with these historical marks, and in the process created a space of the “Capital of the Past” that existed between the past and the present. He has started the research and writing for this project, and plans to make more progress while at ISAW. 

In addition to these two book-length projects, Wen has published on wide-ranging topics including the making of household registers in the Tang dynasty, the military conscription in Turfan, the social life in a Khotanese village, the appropriation of surnames by Central Asians in medieval China, and the literary agenda of the Jurchen language examination system. These works appear in journals such as T’oung Pao, T’ang Studies, Lishi yanjiu, Dunhuang Tulufan yanjiu.

Registration is required at isaw.nyu.edu/rsvp

Admission to lecture closes 10 minutes after scheduled start time.

Please check isaw.nyu.edu for event updates.

ISAW is committed to providing a positive and educational experience for all guests and participants who attend our public programming. We ask that all attendees follow the guidelines listed in our community standards policy.