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The Politics of Writing History in China: A Comparison of Official and Private Histories

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This paper examines the ways in which ‘history’ is recorded, written or narrated, thereby exploring the interface between history and anthropology. The discussion focuses on the Hui Muslim Rebellion in the Qing period, which broke out at the end of the 19th century, spreading over a vast area in the northwest of the empire and Central Asia. State-sponsored publications of history such as Tong shi (General History) or others describe the Hui Rebellion as a ‘revolt by an ethnic minority against the Qing dynasty’. They do not describe the pillage, atrocities and massacres perpetrated by the insurgent Hui troops. However, regional history books compiled in various localities describe the serious destruction caused by the Hui rebel army. The paper also explores the diverse representations of the rebellion by Mongol and Hui historians. While recognising the courage of the Hui insurgents whom the Mongolian army fought, the privately written Mongolian chronicles describe the rise and fall of the Rebellion in a relatively neutral and objective manner. Hui historical sources provide an entirely different perspective, revealing the religious motivation of the rebellion, and providing the basis for the sort of ethnohistorical project that Zhang calls a ‘history of people's way of life’. Given these widely differing perspectives in the historical records, the paper urges the exploration of the commonality between the anthropological approach to history and Zhang's ‘history of a way of life’ approach so as to better elucidate historical incidents that have had a major impact on history.

10.1163/146481701793647688
/content/journals/10.1163/146481701793647688
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/content/journals/10.1163/146481701793647688
2001-01-01
2016-12-04

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