Transformation, Integration, and Confrontation in Late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Eastern Tibet (Kham)

AHA Session 168
Saturday, January 8, 2011: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Grand Ballroom Salon C (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
Tsering Shakya, Asia Institute for Asian Research, University of British Columbia

Session Abstract

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the Sino-Tibetan frontier in Southwestern China became a particularly lively zone of contact between the Chinese government, Chinese migrants and the myriad ethnically Tibetan kingdoms across the region. This panel seeks to explore the region as a site of civilizing missions by the entrance of Chinese, Euro-Americans, and Muslim Chinese along the contentious Tibetan-Chinese borderland of Kham.

A primary focus of the panel is how migrants, officials, missionaries, and various other interlopers sought to redefine the region and how non-Tibetans adapted to the alien cultural social and religious environment they encountered.  Specifically, the papers taken as a whole seek to show that turn-of-the-century Kham should not be portrayed as a site of unidirectional sinicization -- that is to say monolithically influenced by the imperial Qing government or early Republican efforts to bring the region under its political, cultural, and military purview--but also how Kham emerges as a heterogeneous society that deftly assimilated, integrated and co-opted many of the outside forces.

The Chinese-Tibetan contact in Kham reveal complex, if at times violent, compromises and concessions.  Relyea’s paper underscores the culturally biased framing of Kham by Qing China’s and Western missionaries' civilizing missions, while Yudru and Atwill’s examinations highlight the Chinese Han and Muslim Hui’s roles as cultural and commercial brokers. The emergent ideologies fostered by such interactions created new pressures on the local Tibetan Buddhist and Tibetan political communities but also fueling a potent new Kham identity.

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