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Ethnic Memory and Space: Legends of Zhuge Liang in Southwest China

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In recent Western and Chinese scholarship on discourses of ethnicity in south-west China, there has been an emergent interest in the mechanism of memory and forgetting in relation to formations of ethnicities and frontier space. In Southwest China, perhaps no figure has been more important than Zhuge Liang, a famous strategist during the Three Kingdom Period (220–280 AD), whose Nanzheng (Southern Expeditions) military operation left many legends among ethnic minorities in the region, often associated with the origins of a multiplicity of place names and cultural attributes. However, in the melodrama of ethnic unity after 1949, Zhuge Liang has been championed as a benevolent figure whose ethnic policy successfully transformed the historically volatile southwestern minority regions and brought them into the fold of the Chinese nation. Based on archives and oral interviews, this paper examines the twists and turns in official and indigenous interpretations of Zhuge Liang's legacies in southwest China. It analyses oral traditions of Zhuge Liang in the Tibetan border city of Kangding as well as in Yi and Han places. The paper intends to highlight individual and specific aspects related to the construction of frontier space and memory in conjunction with the negotiation and contestation of visions of local and official histories.


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