Southeast Asia

Organized Panel Session

3 - A Genealogy of Sino-Mongolian Ecology: From Dragon Descendants to Wolf Totem

Saturday, July 7
12:10 PM - 1:40 PM
Location: Marigold, New Building

When Chinese writer Jiang Rong invented the myth of a Sino-Mongolian genealogy in Wolf Totem (2004), the historical novel became as celebrated as it is controversial: it critiques Confucianism in light of militarism, calls for environmental protection and sustainability according to the law of the jungle, and advocates peaceful survival of the fittest through territorial expansion and space race. The author concludes his grand narrative that the Chinese people are not so much “descendants of the dragon” as “disciples of the wolf” and that nomads are the ancestors of the Han farming people. Seeking a barbarian civilization in the term “civilized wolf” as a modern transition from ancient “civilized sheep” to future “civilized man,” he advocates the need to nomadize peasant mentality and the necessity to Mongolianize Han culture.


Geographically, with population growth and the desertification of twenty-eight percent of the Chinese territory, Jiang Rong condemns Han Chinese colonizers for continuously cultivating the fragile grasslands into farmlands. Cultivation contaminates the pure landscape and tames its wild nature. The loss of naturalness in the destructive process of Mao Zedong’s development campaigns followed by Deng Xiaoping’s materialistic modernization is related to the withering of militaristic morale in Jiang Rong’s ecopoetics. While the grains-and-greens Chinese diet is regarded as the reason for regression of the Chinese people, Sinicized Mongols are denigrated for having been deprived of their wolfishness and having become “sheep-like” farming communities. Ironically, in such a genealogy, ecological and expansionist worldviews are not opposed to but rather complement each other.

Howard Y. F. Choy

Wittenberg University, United States

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3 - A Genealogy of Sino-Mongolian Ecology: From Dragon Descendants to Wolf Totem



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