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Unbounded Loyalty

Unbounded Loyalty: Frontier Crossings in Liao China

Naomi Standen
Copyright Date: 2007
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  • Book Info
    Unbounded Loyalty
    Book Description:

    Unbounded Loyalty investigates how frontiers worked before the modern nation-state was invented. The perspective is that of the people in the borderlands who shifted their allegiance from the post-Tang regimes in North China to the new Liao empire (907–1125). Naomi Standen offers new ways of thinking about borders, loyalty, and identity in premodern China. She takes as her starting point the recognition that, at the time, "China" did not exist as a coherent entity, neither politically nor geographically, neither ethnically nor ideologically. Political borders were not the fixed geographical divisions of the modern world, but a function of relationships between leaders and followers. When local leaders changed allegiance, the borderline moved with them. Cultural identity did not determine people’s actions: Ethnicity did not exist. In this context, she argues, collaboration, resistance, and accommodation were not meaningful concepts, and tenth-century understandings of loyalty were broad and various. Unbounded Loyalty sheds fresh light on the Tang-Song transition by focusing on the much-neglected tenth century and by treating the Liao as the preeminent Tang successor state. It fills several important gaps in scholarship on premodern China as well as uncovering new questions regarding the early modern period. It will be regarded as critically important to all scholars of the Tang, Liao, Five Dynasties, and Song periods and will be read widely by those working on Chinese history from the Han to the Qing.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6535-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Maps, Figures, and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    The reality of China as it exists today is impossible to ignore. But that should not lead us to imagine that China—or its borders—were a historical inevitability. When An Lushan rebelled against the Tang dynasty in 755, the Chinese empire fell apart.¹ We know that eventually—over two centuries later—another Chinese empire came into being. Hindsight feeds neatly into the modern narrative of nationalism, and together they impel us to seek the origins of what is generally called the reunification of some implicitly indestructible entity called “China.”² But in fact, during those two hundred years following An...

  6. Part I Borders, Boundaries, and Frontier Crossers:: Concepts and Background

    • CHAPTER 1 You Can’t Get There from Here: Rethinking Categories
      (pp. 15-40)

      There are surely many issues whose definition according to later terms hinders our understanding of the tenth century, but those relevant to this study may be placed under three headings. First,borders: here research questions have tended to focus on why the Song were unable to be the expansive empire that the Tang had been. Were the Song—and by extension the Five Dynasties—weak or strong in relation to their neighbors? More immediately, how could the Song—and the Five Dynasties—keep out the conquerors from the north, starting with the Liao? Second,ethnicity: scholars have noted a strong...

    • CHAPTER 2 Fed or Dead: Notions and Uses of Loyalty (zhong)
      (pp. 41-63)

      If our modern categories are of little help, then we must try to establish what ideas were available to the tenth-century frontier crossers as they made their decisions. The central concept is loyalty, translated from the Chinese wordzhong. That this was understood differently in the early imperial period than in later times is clear, but its exact content before the Song dynasty is a topic largely untouched by scholarship in any language, although recently there have been some investigations of the pre-imperial period.¹ While it is impossible to do justice to the subject within the present project, a preliminary...

    • CHAPTER 3 Crossing Boundaries and Shifting Borders: The First-generation Liao Southerners
      (pp. 64-104)

      It is hard to overestimate the difference between the eleventh-century judgments and prescriptions of Ouyang Xiu and Sima Guang and the overwhelming uncertainties of the late Tang and early Five Dynasties. In 1005 the treaty of Shanyuan laid down a well-defined borderline between Liao and Song, marking the beginning of 120 years of diplomatically maintained peace between two states that accepted a relationship of equality. The demarcated line was carefully mapped and was expected to determine allegiances. It was possible for individuals to feel themselves to be on the “wrong” side of the border, not just politically and geographically but...

  7. Part II Woking for the Liao:: Life Stories

    • CHAPTER 4 Loyalties in the Borderlands: The Founder and the Confucian
      (pp. 107-123)

      Han Yanhui and Zhang Li topped and tailed the earliest phase of Liao relations with the Southern regimes (c. 900–936), when the frontier region was very much a borderland. Han Yanhui crossed to the young Liao dynasty and made important contributions there establishing the institutions of a Tang-style administration. Zhang Li would go to Liao at the end of this period, but at this time he crossed between regimes in the South and made a name for himself as a model of Confucian probity. The two of them must have come to know each other when they served together...

    • CHAPTER 5 An Emerging Boundary: Two Approaches to Serving the Liao
      (pp. 124-148)

      Zhang Li crossed to Liao in 936 alongside his superior Zhao Yanshou. Zhang and Zhao served alongside Han Yanhui at the Liao court of the 930s and 940s, until both died in the late 940s. Zhao Yanshou was half a generation younger than Han Yanhui and Zhang Li, but in a fashion similar to them, he was living under his fourth different regime by the time he received his first recorded post in the 920s. Zhao Yanshou, however, was raised in very different circumstances from his older counterpart, which shaped the opportunities he sought and the choices he made.


    • CHAPTER 6 Drawing the Line: Redefinitions of Loyalty
      (pp. 149-171)

      In the half-century between the crossing of Li Huan in 947 and that of Wang Jizhong in 1003, the definition of the frontier changed greatly and in several aspects. In mid-century, Li Huan could still work on the premise that persuading one official to transfer his loyalty would have geopolitical significance, but by 1003 individual choices of allegiance no longer had any impact on borderlines, whether at the level of localities or courts.

      Li Huan was among the Jin officials selected by Wuyu in 947 to continue to Liao after most of the bureaucrats were left behind at Zhenzhou. Li...

  8. CONCLUSION Locating Borders: Then, Now, and In Between
    (pp. 172-186)

    In the opening decades of the tenth century the existence of multiple political centers in our frontier zone favored a highly pragmatic approach to borders and loyalty. Allegiances and boundaries were both largely personal or political in nature, and borders between regimes in the frontier zone were determined largely by the shifting and contingent allegiances of individual commanders and regional officials. But whereas spatial, political, and ideological boundaries in the North did not coincide at all in 900, by 1005 and the treaty of Shanyuan there was a great deal more convergence. By then, two powerful states had developed in...

  9. Appendix: Frontier crossings arranged by date
    (pp. 187-210)
  10. Abbreviations
    (pp. 211-212)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 213-240)
  12. Glossary
    (pp. 241-250)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 251-270)
  14. Index
    (pp. 271-280)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 281-282)