Bibliography: Christian Daniels


Nanzhao as a Southeast Asian kingdom, c.738–902


Upland leaders of the internal frontier and Ming governance of western Yunnan, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries


Abstract: This chapter investigates internal frontiers, that is, spaces not controlled by the state directly, or administered indirectly through native officials. It examines why the Ming state failed to control the internal frontier of Iron Chain Gorge, a conglomeration of autonomous upland ethnic communities in western Yunnan, for almost 200 years. Focusing on the agency of these upland communities in maintaining their own autonomy, the author clarifies the nature of political organisation within the internal frontier, and shows how fierce opposition by upland leaders limited Ming control of surrounding lowland areas until the conquest of Iron Chain Gorge in 1574. The survival of an internal frontier compelled Ming bureaucrats to heavily rely on co-administration with hereditary native officials. Co-administration was not simply a product of the uneven coming together of regular bureaucrats and hereditary native officials, but can be interpreted as the Ming state’s recognition of the limited extent of their governance. The author concludes that this administrative infrastructure prolonged the existence of the Iron Chain Gorge internal frontier, and that it restricted the reach of social reconstruction. The concept of internal frontiers is reviewed in the context of James Scott’s Zomia, and the implications it has for the history of Southwest China are discussed.

Introduction: The agency of local elites in the transformation of western Yunnan during the Ming dynasty


Abstract: By investigating Southwest China within the framework of the traditional centre–local dichotomy, previous scholarship has categorised it as a borderland. Scholars have interpreted the expansion of the Chinese state to the periphery as a civilisation project, which coupled with state-encouraged assimilation and acculturation ultimately aimed to turn ethnic populations into subjects of the emperor. Adopting the approach of historical anthropology and selecting local society as the focus of analysis instead of the state, this volume demonstrates the agency of local elites in reconstructing their own communities to adapt to Ming state institutions and ideologies. By emphasizing local agency, the authors show how shifts in state policies created fluidity between social boundaries and ethnic identities which in turn provided local elites with the leeward to manoeuvre and manipulate institutions to their own advantage. Daniels and Ma outline the new military and civilian institutions introduced by the Ming that formed the backdrop to the transformation of pre-1382 Yunnan society into an imperial province. They elucidate how protraction of the Dali kingdom’s socio-political-religious culture until 1382 arose out of peculiar historical circumstances during the Mongol-Yuan period, and discuss recent scholarship on the role of Buddhism and political power in the Dali kingdom period.

The Transformation of Yunnan in Ming China

From the Dali Kingdom to Imperial Province


This book examines how the Ming state transformed the multi-ethnic society of Yunnan into a province. Yunnan had remained outside the ambit of central government when ruled by the Dali kingdom, 937-1253, and its foundation as a province by the Yuan regime in 1276 did not disrupt Dali kingdom style political, social and religious institutions. It was the Ming state in the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries through its institutions for military and civilian control which brought about profound changes and truly transformed local society into a province. In contrast to other studies which have portrayed Yunnan as a non-Han frontier region waiting to be colonised, this book, by focusing on changes in local society, casts off the idea of Yunnan as a border area far from civilisation.

Blocking the Path of Feral Pigs with Rotten Bamboo

The Role of Upland Peoples in the Crisis of a Tay Polity in Southwest Yunnan, 1792 to 1836


Abstract: This paper challenges James Scott’s thesis of state evasion and state prevention as the basic features of lowland-upland relationships. It scrutinizes the validity of Scott’s assumptions by examining the case of prolonged violent conflict in a tiny Tay polity feudatory to China during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Civil war broke out in the Mäng2 Khön1 polity (Mangshi, Dehong Autonomous Region in southwest Yunnan, China) due to mismanagement by the monarch of two upland peoples, the Jingpo and the Ta’aang. The analysis of the hostilities furnishes no evidence to validate Scott’s thesis of mountain areas as refuge zones for migrants from lowland oppression. What it does expose, however, is the symbiotic side to upland-lowland relationships. It concludes that symbiosis of upland and lowland was a central issue for the maintenance of political and social stability. Rather than viewing diametric opposition as the main characteristic of upland-lowland relations as Scott does, this study demonstrates the role of interdependence and cooperation, and reveals that relationships between upland peoples and Tay polities shifted according to changing politicosocial circumstances. It also identifies the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries as a tumultuous period for upland and lowland, when the migration of new ethnic groups forced basin polities to readjust their strategies.

Environmental Degradation, Forest Protection and Ethno-History in Yunnan: The Uprising of the Swidden Agriculturalists in 1821