Christopher P. Atwood, "The Rise of the Mongols: Five Chinese Sources" (Hackett, 2021)


In this interview we deep dive into the historiographical issues of the texts in The Rise of the Mongols: Five Chinese Sources (Hackett, 2021), edited and translated by Christopher P. Atwood, with Lynn Struve. For a complementary, more general interview of the book dealing with the period under discussion listeners can also check out the July 2023 interview with Professor Atwood over at the Chinese Literature Podcast. 

Rise of the Mongols offers readers a selection of five important works that detail the rise of the Mongol Empire from a Chinese perspective. Three of these works were written by officials of South China's Southern Song dynasty and two are from officials from North China writing in the service of the Mongol rulers. Together, these accounts offer a view of the early Mongol Empire very different not just from those of Muslim and Christian travelers and chroniclers, but also from the Mongol tradition embodied in The Secret History of Mongols.

The five Chinese source texts (in English translation, each with their own preface):

  • Selections from Random Notes from Court and Country since the Jianyan Years, vol.2, by Li Xinchuan
  • "A Memorandum on the Mong-Tatars," by Zhao Gong
  • "A Sketch of the Black Tatars," by Peng Daya and Xu Ting
  • "Spirit-Path Stele for His Honor Yelü, Director of the Secretariat," by Song Zizhen
  • "Notes on a Journey," by Zhang Dehui

Also included are an introduction, index, bibliography, and appendices covering notes on the texts, tables and charts, and a glossary of Chinese and transcribed terms.

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Lance Pursey

Lance Pursey is a postdoctoral research fellow at Waseda University, where they work on the social history and archaeology of the Liao dynasty. They are interested in questions of identity, and the complexities of working with different kinds of sources textually and materially.
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