Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

3 - Consolidating Power and Engendering Identity: Marriage Practices of the Ruling Class During the Return to Allegiance Army (guiyijun) Period in Dunhuang

Friday, July 6
2:40 PM - 4:10 PM
Location: Willow, First Floor

The Return to Allegiance Army (guiyijun 歸義軍) is known for the military outpost established during the Tang dynasty in Dunhuang. Even though there were military outposts in other eras under the supervision of military governors, guiyijun had distinct traits. Firstly, it was centered in Dunhuang, a frontier society with various cultural layers of peoples. Secondly, it survived for two centuries (848-1039) in a semiautonomous status from the influence of the Middle Kingdoms, during the Tang, Five Dynasties and Song periods.


Previous scholarship has focused on the unique marriage practices of the Sogdian descendants in Dunhuang but often neglected their link to those of Chinese dynasties. This paper explores the cultural connection between Dunhuang and contemporary Chinese dynasties centered around their respective marriage practices from a comparative perspective. Utilizing the excavated manuscripts and ritualistic Buddhist murals in Dunhuang, this paper focuses on Dunhuang people’s exposure to different cultures and their constructed identities therein, specifically through the lens of polygyny practices amongst the ruling families of guiyijun; this stands in stark contrast with the Chinese dynasties that enforced the custom of monogamy with the allowance of concubinage.


By comparing the marriage practices of the Dunhuang ruling family to those of the Tang military governors and Sogdian descendants, I argue that the practice of polygyny reveals not only the acculturation of Dunhuang culture but also the process of achieving rulership in this region.

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3 - Consolidating Power and Engendering Identity: Marriage Practices of the Ruling Class During the Return to Allegiance Army (guiyijun) Period in Dunhuang



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