2005 Annual Meeting: Border-Crossing Sessions


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Session 15: Mapping Indigenous Inner Asian Cultures in the Qing Period China Historical Geographic Information System

Organizer: Gray Tuttle, Yale University

Chair: Johan Elverskog, Southern Methodist University

Discussant: Merrick Lex Berman, Harvard University

Keywords: history, religion, Qing, Tibet, Mongolia, political administration, monasteries, banners, GIS.

This panel will focus on research directed toward mapping indigenous Inner Asian cultural patterns, such as in religion and land tenure systems of Mongol and Tibetan peoples in relation to actual limits of the traditional Chinese field administration during late imperial times and its immediate aftermath. The long-term goals are to create geo-referenced historical digital map layers for integration with the existing Qing period China Historical Geographic Information System (CHGIS).

However, because the CHGIS project is focused on the regular administrative divisions officially designated within the Chinese political system, this project has yet to incorporate available information on the political divisions within Inner Asian regions that were independent of, only loosely integrated with, or gradually being absorbed within traditional forms of Chinese rule. Indeed, an examination of the earlier printed maps that served as the basis for CHGIS shows no internal divisions for many of the frontier areas, which were often designated as tributary vassal states by the Chinese, but had their own internal conception of administrative divisions that went unknown or unmentioned in the Chinese sources.

Panel participants focus on territorial conceptions and mapping the indigenous Mongol and Tibetan administrative systems during the Qing period and its immediate aftermath. These efforts are of great importance for the study of China and Inner Asia, because available historical atlases portray Mongolian and Tibetan cultural regions as integral parts of the Manchu empire during the Qing period despite the often enduring indigenous territorial systems developed by these cultures.

Cartographic and Textual Sources for the Amdo Tibetan Buddhist Monastery GIS: A Spatial Survey of New Research Findings

Karl E. Ryavec, University of Wisconsin, Steven’s Point

Recent books published in China since the 1980s on surveys of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries offer new research prospects for studying the historical geography of the spread of Buddhism. These texts, however, usually do not provide geographic coordinates for the locations of sites. At best, the local administrative division each site is in is merely listed. Utilizing these textual data, in tandem with Chinese administrative maps and census data, and western topographic maps, the approximate geographic coordinates of each monastery were ascertained. This paper describes how these diverse cartographic and textual sources for the Amdo (northeastern Tibet) cultural region divided between areas in the Chinese provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, and Sichuan, were integrated into a geographic information system (GIS) of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries. Preliminary findings on spatial patterns of the diffusion of monastery foundings are presented. Also, interrelationships with environmental factors, such as agrarian and pastoral resources, and socioeconomic factors, such as trades routes and ethnic geographies, are examined.

The Amdo Tibetan Buddhist Monastery Database: Interpreting Geographic Information in Light of Historic Events

Gray Tuttle, Yale University

Modern fieldwork, information collection and culling from historic sources on Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in Amdo (Qinghai and Gansu) has yielded an immense amount of geo-referenced information on cycles of monastic foundation, renovation, destruction and revival for some 750 religious institutions. This material has been most concisely published in two sources: Pu Wencheng’s Gan-Qing Zangchuan Fojiao siyuan [Gansu and Qinghai Tibetan Buddhist Temples] (Xining: Qinghai renmin chubanshe, 1990) and Nian Zhihai and Bai Zhengdeng’s Qinghai zangchuan fojiao siyuan ming jian [The Clear Mirror of Tibetan Buddhist Temples of Qinghai] (Lanzhou: Gansu minzu chubanshe, 1993), which serve as the foundation for the Amdo Tibetan Buddhist Monastery Database.

This geo-referenced religious institutional material allows for a broad analysis of the social and political history of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in Amdo. The impact of specific historic trends—from the rise of Gelukpa influence in the region in the 17th century, to the early 18th century "rebellion" of Mongol princes and Tibetan monasteries against Manchu Qing rule (and subsequent Qing patronage), to the late 19th century Muslim uprisings—all effected various regions differently. These patterns of destruction and renewal of Tibetan Buddhist institutions also continued into the 20th century. These spatial organized data are used to illustrate these effects, as well as the important role of ethnicity in influencing the nature and affiliation of certain monasteries. For example, the historic place of the Monguor local rulers, as well as their Chinese subjects, is examined in light of their continued parishioner affiliation to Tibetan Buddhist temples.

The Limits of Space: Perceptions of Borders in the Labrang Monastery Community

Paul Nietupski, John Carroll University

In Labrang Monastery’s (founded 1709) properties Qing Dynasty and pre-1958 Chinese authority were nominal. As a result, the community was not integrated with the greater Qing "empire" or later Chinese republics in any significant way, by law, tax revenues, military occupation, economy or ideology. In particular, the boundaries of the Labrang community were an internal matter, and provincial borders of Qinghai, Gansu and Sichuan had little meaning for the local residents. Expedient alliances with neighbors were commonplace, but the monastery was the most prominent authority in this region up to 1958. This project studies the extent of the community’s territory and borders in this region. It will focus on the perceptions of boundaries and the 1927 boundary shift when, by Labrang community request, the borders of Qinghai and Gansu Provinces were changed so that the monastery’s core properties were shifted from Qinghai to Gansu. Inclusion in an outside authority’s domain was of little consequence to the Labrang Tibetans; alliances, including the 1927 alliance, were often temporary arrangements, made in years past with Mongol and Tibetan groups, later with the Manchus, local Chinese and Muslims, and in 1927 with the Nationalists.

Between Banner and County: Mapping Intermediary Qing Administrative Forms in Inner Mongolia

Ellen McGill, Columbia University

Qing administrative innovation—most especially the banner system—has been widely recognized as a key factor in the dynasty’s relative success at incorporating Mongolia into a China-based empire. Distinct from both the county-province system of China and the Eight Banners developed in Manchuria, the Mongolian banners were defined by territory and by descent. From the eighteenth century on, however, growing Han immigration into southern, or Inner, Mongolia challenged the banner form as imagined by the court. These pressures forced the court to develop supplementary or alternate forms of governance, such as appointing officials for Mongol affairs to the borders with China and the transformation of banner lands into subprefectures or even counties. The result was a highly complicated network of overlapping administrations. This paper describes the evolution of these institutions in the 18th and 19th centuries with particular attention to the Ordos region of western Inner Mongolia. Closer examination of the process of administrative innovation in Inner Mongolia sheds light on the Qing court’s changing concerns in this region, on the comparability of Qing policy towards the Mongols with its approaches along other frontiers, and on the role played by Qing administrative structures in shaping modern Mongol identity and society. The long-term goal is to employ GIS to demonstrate graphically the complexity of Qing administrative networks and hierarchies in Inner Mongolia.