Organizer: Nicola Di Cosmo, Harvard University
Chair and Discussant: Peter Perdue, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Qing government, through a relentless series of diplomatic and military maneuvers spanning over the reign periods of three emperors, established political control over Tibet, Mongolia, and Xinjiang. Both the circumstances of Qing expansion, and the challenges statesmen were confronted with, bear significant resemblance to the policies of European powers in America, Africa, and Asia. Historians have developed a variety of conceptual tools to analyze the dynamics of colonial rule. Would the use of these tools benefit our understanding of, first, the establishment of Manchu rule in these areas, and, second, the Manchus' ability in maintaining that rule to the end of the dynasty?
The "colonial" perspective appears promising with respect to the relationship between metropolitan government and local elites. Although the solutions adopted were often different, the problem appeared always in the same terms, namely, what policy concerning the local elite would most benefit the foreign power? Sperling confronts this question by presenting the case of a prominent Tibetan monk.
Moreover, possible comparisons can be found concerning the debates over economic issues. Eighteenth and nineteenth century European arguments over expenditures toward the maintenance of administrative and military bodies relate closely to some Qing debates over Xinjiang, as seen in Millward's paper.
Finally, imperial powers were concerned with the transmission of metropolitan "values" to the colonies. This was attempted through the establishment of religious, educational, and legal institutions. Heuschert addresses this issue by looking at the transmission of Qing legal codes to Mongolia.
Qing Expansion in Inner Asia in the Age of Colonial Empires
Nicola Di Cosmo, Harvard University
A most notable phenomenon in 18th and 19th century world history is the territorial expansion of empires and their establishment of colonial rule over technologically less advanced, militarily weaker nations and peoples. Manchu-ruled China also pushed its continental boundaries beyond those held by the previous dynasty, and the Qing emperors were successful in establishing and holding their rule over a variety of foreign peoples.
While expanding into Inner Asia, the Qing government had to face several challenges. It had to create the institutional agencies for the administration of these territories, find efficient ways of dealing with the local elites, finance its military and civil apparatus in these regions, and introduce metropolitan standards of conduct and "values" in very different social and political systems.
Though European colonial empires had different goals, strategies, and solutions, they often had to face similar problems. Tasks performed by the colonial ministries of Britain, France, and Russia, are not inconsistent with those of the Lifanyuan, the Qing agency for the administration of the outer regions. The European adoption of policies of "indirect rule" when dealing with African and Asian local elites resemble closely, both in principle and in actual fact, Qing policies in Xinjiang and Mongolia.
Within a broad world-history perspective, can Qing China be regarded as a colonial empire? And, more importantly, can the use of conceptual frameworks and historical methods developed in the study of European colonialism help clarify the dynamics of Qing expansionism?
Dga'-bzhi Bstan-'dzin dpal-'byor-A Tibetan Aristocrat at the Court of Qianlong
Elliot Sperling, Indiana University
The publication during the 1980s of two different editions of the family history of the Tibetan aristocrat and minister, Dga'-bzhi Bstan-'dzin dpal-'byor, has allowed us to examine certain aspects of Qing-Tibetan relations in a new light. One such aspect concerns the role of the Tibetan elite within the Qing Empire, and on this subject Bstan-'dzin dpal-'byor's autobiographical account of his own career offers interesting details and a unique perspective (since the bulk of what we have on the period in question comes from biographical writings by and about religious figures). In 1791, Bstan-'dzin dpal-'byor was one of the primary Tibetan ministers dispatched to deal with the Gurkhas who had earlier invaded Tibet and forced a financially onerous treaty upon the Tibetan government. In short order he was detained by the Gurkhas and then placed under a cloud of suspicion upon his release. His rehabilitation involved a trip to the Qing court and meetings with the Qianlong Emperor. Bstan-'dzin dpal-'byor's record of all these events-particularly his experience at court -constitutes an important document showing that the court's evolving relationship with lay Tibetan elite figures (as opposed to the well-known church-state relationship between the throne and Tibet's major religious hierarchs) was a significant element during this climactic period in the extension Qing dominion over Tibet. Bstan-'dzin dpal-'byor's account also allows us to make some comparative observations about the use of local elites in the construction of empire.
Qing Legislation for the Mongols: Reorganizing Jurisdiction in Mongolia in the
17th and 18th Century
Dorothea Heuschert, Bonn University
The act of submission of Southern and Northern Mongols to the Manchu emperor-respectively in 1636 and 1691-laid the foundation for Qing rule over Inner and Outer Mongolia. On the occasion of the first "peace contracts," the Manchus already attempted to exert an influence on the administration of justice among the Mongols. Later, as the Qing granted ranks to them, the judicial functions of the princes gradually no longer resulted from their leading position within the tribe, but became part of their office.
This paper will address the steps taken by the Qing to restrict the judicial powers of the Mongolian nobility. Since 1643 Mongolian princes were supposed to dispense justice on the basis of a written code, which was compiled and regularly revised by central government agencies. This collection of laws was to a large extent a codification of Mongolian customary law. In later editions, however, Chinese law became more and more predominant, and Mongolian legal customs were gradually superseded by Chinese law.
With the respective establishment of the Siberian Prikaz in 1637, and of the Lifanyuan in 1638, the Russian and the Qing governments almost simultaneously created the institutional framework to administer their Inner Asian frontier regions. Comparing Qing rule in Mongolia with Russian rule in Siberia, I will discuss how the Qing succeeded in inducing the Mongolian nobility to feel part of the Qing elite and to largely identify with it.
The Economics of Qing Empire in Xinjiang
James Millward, University of Arizona
From the time of Hobson's formulation of the concept, definitions of modern imperialism have generally taken economic factors into account. The Manchu conquest and consolidation of Xinjiang, however, has seldom been considered in economic terms. Chinese scholars tend to treat it, nationalistically, as a return to ancient Chinese boundaries. Western scholars, to the extent that they have heeded the expansion at all, see it solely in strategic terms, as a response-and ultimately a solution-to the Zunghar menace on the north and west. What were the economic implications to the Qing empire, if any, of this annexation and maintenance of a territory three times the size of France?
The Qing conquest and rule of Zungharia and Altishahr were controversial; debates over Xinjiang policy began in the 1750s and recurred sporadically until the 1880s, resulting in a discursive record which reveals much about the ideology of Qing imperialism. Qianlong had not read Lenin, he nonetheless defended his adventure in economic terms, just as his critics decried the squandered treasure and large standing armies they believed expansion to entail. This debate and its subsequent echoes established from the 1760s a political imperative for fiscal innovation in Xinjiang, in order to minimize the territory's reliance on silver from China proper. Private Han merchants, too, sought profit from commercial opportunities in Xinjiang. This paper will survey these aspects of Xinjiang's imperial economy, against the background of the discourse over Xinjiang's place in the empire.