China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Violent, uncivilized, and insubordinate – these are familiar tropes of foreigners commonly found in the Chinese narrative tradition. Fixed archetypes of the non-Chinese population were a product of traditional Sinocentric worldview and served as a convenient tool in the development of official foreign policy. The purported immutability of the outside world was also advantageous in maintaining a semblance of stability and order in the Chinese imperial realm itself. The simplified framework, however, concealed a variety and complexity of interactions between Chinese and non-Chinese.
This panel explores alternative narratives and readings of borderlands and non-Chinese people inhabiting them. It traces representations of non-Chinese population along northwestern, northern and northeastern borders in material culture and transmitted and excavated textual sources from Han to Tang dynasties. Masha Kobzeva examines the function of the records in the Chinese standard histories on different northeastern groups during the Wei-Jin period. Through objects and excavated manuscripts from the northern border of Han China, Fanghan Wang discusses stereotypical perception on the subsistence of Xiongnu as recorded in Han chronicles. Charles Sanft’s presentation deals with the Han bureaucratic documents excavated from Xuanquanzhi site concerning non-Chinese persons in the region. Finally, Tineke D’Haeseleer explores perception of early Korean polities in the historical records of the Tang dynasty.
By putting these papers in conversation with one another, our goal is to go beyond formulaic descriptions of the foreigners and, instead, attempt to reconstruct a multidimensional view of Sino-foreign exchanges.