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The Kingdoms of Nanzhong China's Southwest Border Region Prior to the Eighth Century

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This article utilizes recent ethno-historical scholarship and archaeological discoveries in southwest China to examine the accuracy of the earliest Chinese historical sources dealing with the peoples and cultures in Nanzhong, the most common name for the southwest region (Yunnan, Guizhou, and southern Sichuan) prior to the Tang dynasty. Archaeology makes clear that Nanzhong was a settled border region with several highly sophisticated and divergent cultures. Early Chinese incursions into Nanzhong left an indelible mark on the peoples living there, but these brief and generally unsuccessful forays also influenced the views of China's elites regarding China's relations with this region. Since at least the Qin and Han, China's scholar-officials considered Nanzhong not only as an inhospitable frontier populated with uncivilized barbarians (manyi), but also as a peripheral part of China where intrepid commanders such as Tang Meng in the second century BCE and Zhuge Liang at the beginning of the third century CE had staked China's claim. This article casts doubt on the historical fiction of a staked claim. Cet article s'appuie sur les recherches ethno-historiques et des découvertes archéologiques récentes pour vérifier l'exactitude des sources chinoises les plus anciennes concernant les peuples et les cultures du Nanzhong, comme était communément appelé le Sud-Ouest (le Yunnan, le Guizhou et le sud du Sichuan) avant la dynastie des Tang. L'archéologie montre à l'évidence que le Nanzhong était une région frontière habitée, siège de plusieurs cultures hautement sophistiquées et différenciées. Si les premières incursions chinoises dans le Nanzhong ont laissé une empreinte indélébile sur les populations locales, ces campagnes brèves et en général infructueuses ont également influencé l'opinion des élites chinoises concernant les relations de la Chine avec le Sud-Ouest. Depuis au moins les Qin et les Han les lettrés-fonctionnaires chinois considéraient le Nanzhong non seulement comme une frontière inhospitalière peuplée de barbares dénués de civilisation (manyi), mais aussi comme un territoire périphérique de la Chine où des généraux intrépides comme Tang Meng au iie siècle avant notre ère et Zhuge Liang au début du iiie siècle de notre ère avaient établi des droits pour la Chine. L'article met en doute cette fiction historique d'un droit établi.

Affiliations: 1: Virginia Commonwealth University


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