As the exotic guest at a colloquy on conversion in Late Antiquity, a Sinologist may be expected to draw comparative insights from the exploration of distant East Asian realities, or simply tender parallels that catholic historians of the ‘West’ will then plot into their own narratives or models. I would, however, be reluctant to undertake such a task, insofar as it should rest on a view of Late Antiquity as a self-contained historical universe, clamped onto the Mediterranean and its Middle Eastern inlands; a universe, as it happens, overlapping with the locales and labours of the three Abrahamic religions, at least in Peter Brown’s extensive formulation.1 Even recent reassessments of ‘Late Antiquity’, while noting the early use of this concept by an art historian such as Alois Riegl (1858-1905), are seemingly oblivious of its coherent application, in the first half of the twentieth century, to the crepuscular forms of Graeco-Roman style in the Buddhist art of north-western India and Central Asia.2 Yet, the Euclidean commonplace that

1 From the second to the eighth century: see Brown’s The World of Late Antiquity, AD 150-750 (London, 1971), and for a critical review, Arnaldo Marcone, ‘A Long Late Antiquity? Considerations on a Controversial Periodization’, Journal of Late Antiquity, 1.1 (2008): pp. 4-19. That the birth of Judaism (and Christianity) predates Late Antiquity is predictably arguable, but increasingly challenged by a trend of scholarship that I will shortly address below.