The Kingdoms of Nanzhong China's Southwest Border Region Prior to the Eighth Century

John E. Herman
T'oung Pao, 2009 vol. 9 no 4
Online version
DOI: 10.1163/008254309X507052
Abstract: This article utilizes recent ethno-historical scholarship and archaeological discoveries in southwest China to examine the accuracy of the earliest Chinese historical sources dealing with the peoples and cultures in Nanzhong, the most common name for the southwest region (Yunnan, Guizhou, and southern Sichuan) prior to the Tang dynasty. Archaeology makes clear that Nanzhong was a settled border region with several highly sophisticated and divergent cultures. Early Chinese incursions into Nanzhong left an indelible mark on the peoples living there, but these brief and generally unsuccessful forays also influenced the views of China's elites regarding China's relations with this region. Since at least the Qin and Han, China's scholar-officials considered Nanzhong not only as an inhospitable frontier populated with uncivilized barbarians (manyi), but also as a peripheral part of China where intrepid commanders such as Tang Meng in the second century BCE and Zhuge Liang at the beginning of the third century CE had staked China's claim. This article casts doubt on the historical fiction of a staked claim.