Abstract: Early Chinese texts speak of the Han state conquering the kingdom of “Dian” in southwest China in 109 B.C. The limited historical record is complemented by archaeolgical discoveries pointing to the presence in Yunnan province of a complex Bronze Age society whose association with the historical Dian has been generally accepted. Historiographic and “nonprocessual” in nature, archaeology in Yunnan has yet to generate the data needed for a deeper understanding of Dian social structure and change. Whatever its shortcomings, however, Dian archaeology plays a consistent and important role within a system of thought which gives preeminence to the historical record.
Abstract: The stylistic variation in Dian bronze art delineates the society of the Dian culture (4th century BC-1st century AD) as a hierarchical one that also had affinities to a wide range of alien cultures. Further studies of archaeological materials uncovered in Yunnan sites reveal that population movements, continual cultural assimilation, and frequent technological exchanges in and around Yunnan resulted in the creation of a hybrid bronze art, which was eventually transplanted on to the indigenous cultural stratum in east-central Yunnan.
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.
Abstract: Surface collection, exposed sections and the use of irrigation wells and channels enabled the authors to map the settlement pattern of the elusive Dian kingdom before it became a subsidiary of the Han empire. The pattern showed that the Dian were already hierarchical, with settlements of different sizes and a political centre in which ritual bronzes featured. The empire redrew the landscape, with settlement migrating away from the wetlands into the hills where it could oversee the routes of communication into Southeast Asia.