China and Inner Asia

Organized Panel Session

1 - Frontier backfire: Early Ming Religious Policies and the Geo-political Change in the 16th Century Sino-Tibetan Borderland

Friday, July 6
2:40 PM - 4:10 PM
Location: Magnolia, Lower Ground Floor

For a long time, Ming China was considered an introverted state whose cultural realm was strictly confined by the ideology of Chinese-barbarian distinction. However, this claim is only partially true for it underestimates the transformative nature of Ming China’s relationship with the outside world. This paper looks specifically at early Ming’s policies toward its western contact zone with Tibet to investigate how an ethnic course was perceived at the time to re-characterize the Ming’s statecraft. Before the middle 15th century, Ming China vigorously interacted with Tibetan religious powers and even patronized their religious activities along the Ming-Tibet borderland. By rewarding those Tibetan monks who were capable of pacifying borderland rifts, the Ming gradually, and to some extent ironically, Tibetanized its western frontier. What did Tibetan Buddhism mean for the Ming court and the Chinese borderland soldiers? Why did the political boundaries of early Ming not align with the geographic extent of the Han ethno-culture? This paper seeks the rationales behind early Ming’s realistic while controversial frontier policy. Through examining a long-forgotten process of how the boundaries in a middle ground were pushed back and forth, this paper intends to engage with the dynamics of the formation of Chineseness through a marginal prism.


 

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1 - Frontier backfire: Early Ming Religious Policies and the Geo-political Change in the 16th Century Sino-Tibetan Borderland



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