Fashion, a field of study that is often derided as frivolous and peripheral, reclaims its position at the center of history in BuYun Chen's new book on the Tang Empire (618-907 CE). The production of silk, as well as the hems of skirts, sustained the vast empire's economy and social structures. More importantly, as the author contends, it was through dress and textiles that Tang subjects engaged with questions of political and ethnic identity, gender, and the passage of time. Fashion provided the empire a way to think about itself as a cosmopolitan Chinese regime. As historians have frequently reminded us, silk was not just a luxury commodity traded on the...

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