Surrender Rituals and Constructing the Qing Polity

Friday, January 4, 2019: 8:30 AM
Chicago Room (Palmer House Hilton)
Macabe Keliher, West Virginia University
As the Qing dynasty (1636-1912) formed in the seventeenth century, Manchu state-makers confronted an ever-pressing problem of how to make outsiders insiders. In order to build a military and administrative apparatus to conquer and rule, they needed to integrate non-Manchu subjects, and in particular, incorporate Chinese generals and troops. Arguing against a conventional understanding of the Qing conquest as a singular effort of a cohesive Manchu elite, this paper highlights the divisive conflicts among Manchu political actors and explores the different visions for an inclusive or exclusive Qing state. On the one side were the disaggregated voices of the senior imperial relatives, who envisioned a loose confederation of autonomous Manchus militaries. On the other side was the Manchu ruler and his supporters, who pushed for an tax-office state that would occupy and administer territory and subject populations. These two visions came into direct conflict in the late 1620s and early 1630s as the Manchus conquered territory and the ruler sought to absorb Chinese military units.

Through the use of Chinese- and Manchu-language archives, this paper finds that the Manchu ruler used ritual to define the position of the surrendered in the existing order and to structure their interpersonal relations and activity within it. At the same time, the rituals re-created political order so that the interactions and roles of existing political actors and the Manchu military elite were adjusted to accommodate these outsiders and their positions in the polity. The use of surrender rituals was a first step not only in the making of outsiders insiders, but also in constructing the Qing state.

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