Thinking About the 'Ming China' Anew: The Ethnocultural Space In A Diverse Empire-With Special Reference to the 'Miao Territory'
Journal of Chinese History
Final Published Version
By examining the cultural identity of China's Ming dynasty, this essay challenges two prevalent perceptions of the Ming in existing literature: to presume a monolithic socio-ethno-cultural Chinese empire and to equate the Ming Empire with China (Zhongguo, the “middle kingdom”). It shows that the Ming constructed China as an ethnocultural space rather than a political entity. In essence, China was defined as a Han domain that the Han people inhabited and where Han values were produced, practiced, and preserved in contrast to those of non-Han “barbarians,” be they domestic or foreign. The “Great Ming”—the dynastic title—cannot be confused with China, the ethnocultural space. For the Ming ruling elite, the “Miao territory” in western Huguang and eastern Guizhou provinces represented a land “beyond the pale of civilization” (huawai), which was outside and different from China. The Ming construction of the ethnocultural China connects the imperial heritage to China's modern identity.
Jiang, Y. 2018. "Thinking About the 'Ming China' Anew: The Ethnocultural Space In A Diverse Empire-With Special Reference to the 'Miao Territory'." Journal of Chinese History 2.1: 27-78.