Today, inhabitants of major cities, particularly in Europe and America, take linguistic diversity for granted. To some extent, this has been true for a long time. On the streets of imperial Rome or Ottoman Constantinople, one would have heard dozens of languages spoken. But for uniqueness of landscape, as well as influence on future linguistic development, no city in history matches Chang’an during its golden age as the capital of China’s Tang Dynasty.

At first blush, this may be surprising. China is famous for its homogeneity. I worked for a summer in Shenzhen, a metropolis of twelve million built on…

Sam Quillen

Former economist at Magdalen College, Oxford; current investment bank analyst writing to stay sane

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