Writing Empire: Culture, Politics, and the Representation of Cultural Others in the Mongol-Yuan Dynasty
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Hui, Ming Tak Ted
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CitationHui, Ming Tak Ted. 2020. Writing Empire: Culture, Politics, and the Representation of Cultural Others in the Mongol-Yuan Dynasty. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation explores the intersection of literary and cultural identities by examining the representation of cultural others during the Mongol-Yuan dynasty from the 13th to the mid-14th century. With a ruling class that was Mongol, not Han Chinese, the dynasty reunified northern and southern Chinese territories for the first time in over a century. In a period characterized by a high degree of ethnic antagonism, political division, and intricate cultural negotiation, the representation of cultural others became highly contested. Examining Yuan poetry and prose alongside travelogues written by religious leaders, and edicts issued to foreign states, I discuss how the literati, driven by social and political considerations, fashioned their cultural identity, re-enforcing the dominance of Han cultural values in some texts and inventing a shared history that cut across various ethnic groups in others. This dissertation discusses how royal power and policies are represented in discursive forms and considers how these processes create a heightened sense of ethnic identity.
The first chapter discusses how travel narratives strategically renegotiate cultural boundaries. It studies the travelogues composed by Li Zhichang and Yelü Chucai. Through rhetorical maneuvers, social elites are able to define “self” and “others” and anchor themselves within an imagined cultural lineage. The second chapter investigates how the Hua-Yi distinction (sometimes translated as the “Sino-Barbarian” dichotomy) was evoked during the early Yuan. Using the literary writings of three northern scholars, Hao Jing, Xu Heng and Liu Yin as a point of entry, I examine how the configuration of Han and non-Han were consciously applied to the confrontation between the Mongol-Yuan and the Southern Song and used in political persuasions targeted at the Mongol ruler. Language policy is the topic of the third chapter, in which I examine the promulgation of the ’Phags-pa alphabets by the Mongol-Yuan dynasty and the emergence of a hybrid language which brought about a heightened awareness of the difference between various cultural groups. The fourth chapter moves to the conflicts and diplomacy between the Mongol-Yuan and other foreign entities including Annam and the Roman Catholic church. The juxtaposition allows us to trace how the representatives of the dynasty present diplomacy and cultural encounters and how the understanding of the world is shaped by literary conventions.
While the Mongol-Yuan dynasty is often considered a dark period for literary production, this project argues that the cultural dynamics of this era significantly determined how later dynasties produced new conceptions of identities and communities. Drawing on various disciplines such as linguistics, history and literary analysis, this dissertation seeks to intervene in the ongoing debate over the formation of a Chinese identity.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37365865
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