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Empire at the Margins

Empire at the Margins: Culture, Ethnicity, and Frontier in Early Modern China

Pamela Kyle Crossley
Helen F. Siu
Donald S. Sutton
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Pages: 388
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  • Book Info
    Empire at the Margins
    Book Description:

    Focusing on the Ming (1368-1644) and (especially) the Qing (1364-1912) eras, this book analyzes crucial moments in the formation of cultural, regional, and religious identities. The contributors examine the role of the state in a variety of environments on China's "peripheries," paying attention to shifts in law, trade, social stratification, and cultural dialogue. They find that local communities were critical participants in the shaping of their own identities and consciousness as well as the character and behavior of the state. At certain times the state was institutionally definitive, but it could also be symbolic and contingent. They demonstrate how the imperial discourse is many-faceted, rather than a monolithic agent of cultural assimilation.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92753-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)
    Pamela Kyle Crossley, Helen F. Siu and Donald S. Sutton

    Ethnicity is a process, which implies beginnings and endings. Some peoples, such as the Avars and the Kitans, have few or no descendants who claim their identities. Others, such as the Uyghurs, and the Qiang and Miao, have adopted the names and the historical claims of much earlier peoples to whom they have at best a problematic connection. Still others, such as the Manchus, cannot be traced before the early modern period. Ethnic phenomena not only are dynamic across time, but are produced by intertwining acts of naming others and naming oneself, using distinctly “ethnic” institutions of language, religion, economic...


    • 1 Ethnicity in the Qing Eight Banners
      (pp. 27-57)
      Mark C. Elliott

      There is nothing like being an imperial people to make a population conscious of its collective existence as such.¹

      Very early in 1737, a strange request came to the attention of the Qianlong emperor, then twenty-five years old and barely twelve months into his sixty-year reign. The request was in a palace memorial submitted by Arsai, a member of the Hanjun Plain Yellow Banner and commander of the Eight Banner garrison at the southeast coastal city of Fuzhou.² Arsai, it seems, wanted to change his name.

      He prefaced his appeal by reminding the emperor of an exchange between them during...

    • 2 Making Mongols
      (pp. 58-82)
      Pamela Kyle Crossley

      Of the diverse processes of identity formation in the very late Ming and early Qing eras, the emergence of the “Mongols” bears a striking resemblance to the emergence of the “Manchus,” in this way: it shows, more overtly than many other cases examined in this volume, the persistent and deliberate imprint of the state. To a certain degree this is an artifact of the documentation. The Mongols, like the Manchus but unlike the Yao, Dan, or She, were the objects of direct historicizing by the Qing, with extensive narrative, linguistic, and geographical treatises devoted to them under imperial sponsorship in...

    • 3 “A Fierce and Brutal People”: On Islam and Muslims in Qing Law
      (pp. 83-110)
      Jonathan N. Lipman

      Qing local and metropolitan officials in the military, foreign relations, revenue, and legal bureaucracies addressed the multiple dilemmas of ethnocultural difference as their offices demanded, but they did not work within a single system of categories or vocabulary, nor did they have a unified and consistent system of precedents to guide them. Rather, they acted upon and responded to difference across the empire and to change over time with a variety of categorization and perceptual schemes. Emperors and officials did have a commitment to continuity, but the policies handed down from the past—that is, the lessons of history—could...


    • 4 The Qing and Islam on the Western Frontier
      (pp. 113-134)
      James A. Millward and Laura J. Newby

      By the late eighteenth century, the Manchu imperial expansion had constructed a realm that was not only territorially vast but ethnically diverse, incorporating territories within other cultural spheres besides that of the Chinese. At one geographic extreme, in the highlands of southern China and along the southern coast, the Qing ruled peoples who shared cultural affinities with groups in mainland and pelagic Southeast Asia. To the north and west, Buddhist and shamanist nomads pursuing a pastoral economy had joined or been incorporated militarily into the Qing confederation. And in the northwestern reaches of the empire, to the west of the...

    • 5 The Cant of Conquest: Tusi Offices and China’s Political Incorporation of the Southwest Frontier
      (pp. 135-168)
      John E. Herman

      Between 1400 and 1800, China’s Southwest Frontier (the present-day provinces of Guizhou, Yunnan, and the southern part of Sichuan province) was transformed from a poorly understood and seldom visited semiperiphery into an integral part of the Chinese empire.¹ During these four hundred years China’s Southwest Frontier changed in dramatic and fundamental ways, from an economically undeveloped and sparsely settled rural frontier inhabited almost exclusively by indigenous non-Han peoples to an increasingly commercialized region populated predominantly by Han in-migrants living in urban centers. It also changed from a frontier governed during the Yuan (1271–1368) and Ming (1368–1644) dynasties by...


    • 6 The Yao Wars in the Mid-Ming and Their Impact on Yao Ethnicity
      (pp. 171-189)
      David Faure

      In the Ming dynasty, the 1465 Battle of Great Vine Gorge(Dateng xia)was legendary. So was the reputation of philosopher Chen Baisha. At Great Vine Gorge in Guangxi province, Commander Han Yong defeated the Yao. For the next twenty years, Chen Baisha taught a philosophy of the mind as well as practical administration in the Xinhui county in Guangdong province. These two seemingly unconnected events were linked in the person of Tao Lu, who held the fairly junior position of assistant magistrate at Xinhui in 1462, but who rose to prominence by the 1470s. As assistant magistrate, Tao had...

    • 7 Ethnicity and the Miao Frontier in the Eighteenth Century
      (pp. 190-228)
      Donald S. Sutton

      When the Miao of the west Hunan/Guizhou border rose in revolt in 1795, the long decline of the Qing dynasty had already begun. The fabric of the largest China-based empire in history was beginning to fray at the edges. The revolt turns our attention back to the early years of the century, when this remote region was incorporated administratively(gaitu guiliu)with little understanding of the difficulties of properly absorbing it in the imperial system. This chapter traces official frontier policies (especially routine and legislative actions) and their repercussions as the frontier was opened and developed. It also treats the...

    • 8 Ethnicity, Conflict, and the State in the Early to Mid-Qing: The Hainan Highlands, 1644–1800
      (pp. 229-252)
      Anne Csete

      Beginning in the Qin dynasty (221–206 bce), Chinese traders, colonists, and officials from the mainland settled on Hainan’s northern and coastal lowlands, where they encountered the people now known as the Li, the earliest known inhabitants of the island. The Li historically made a living by fishing, hunting, trading, and growing dry rice and yams using swidden agriculture. Li resistance to Han Chinese rule, along with Hainan’s remote location, difficult climate, and lack of strategic or economic importance, meant that in spite of steady mainland immigration, state administration of the lowlands was indirect and partial until the Song dynasty....


    • 9 Ethnic Labels in a Mountainous Region: The Case of She “Bandits”
      (pp. 255-284)
      Wing-hoi Chan

      The She is an ethnic group living in some mountainous areas of South China.¹ In the earliest reports, She settlements were described in the borderlands of the provinces of Guangdong, Fujian, and Jiangxi,² especially in Zhangzhou and Chaozhou prefectures (see Map 5). Today some She live in these areas, but most are found in northern Fujian and western Zhejiang. It is generally believed that they moved to those areas from the borderland during the Ming dynasty.³

      Most of the modern She refer to themselves using the termshanke, usually translated as “sojourners of the mountain.” The She are divided into...

    • 10 Lineage, Market, Pirate, and Dan: Ethnicity in the Pearl River Delta of South China
      (pp. 285-310)
      Helen F. Siu and Liu Zhiwei

      Chaolian Xiang is a community on an island off the coast of the regional city of Jiangmen, on the western edge of the Pearl River delta (see Map 6).Chaolian xiangzhi(1946) describes its settlement history in a familiar scenario: It was an isolated island in the Xi river. The early inhabitants were indigenous peoples(tuzhu)and fishermen with numerous surnames. They eventually disappeared without a trace. The present residents claim that their ancestors migrated from Zhujixiang in Nanxiong subprefecture in northern Guangdong.

      Local gazetteers of the delta area recorded similar narratives. On a stone stele celebrating the renovation of...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 311-320)

    Other than China, no empire of such cultural and ethnic diversity has survived modern statehood and the twentieth century in one piece. It has not been without difficulty. The history of “ethnic” conflict in nineteenth- and twentieth-century China is well known, from the Hakka connections of the Taipings, through the wars associated with Yakub Beg’s rebellion, to the slaughter of Eight Banner garrison populations in 1911, through the ethnictinged events of the revolution of 1949 and the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s. We hope these episodes, and the less familiar conditions that gave rise to them, can be revisited in...

    (pp. 321-324)
    (pp. 325-346)
    (pp. 347-366)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 367-378)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 379-380)