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Empire and Nation in Comparative Perspective: Frontier Administration in Eighteenth-Century China

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image of Journal of Early Modern History

R. Bin Wong espouses the principle of symmetry in comparative analysis.35 If we are to view China through European eyes, we should equally view Europe through Chinese eyes. This leads him to develop new perspectives on both regions. What is a major focus of attention in one society may only be a minor key in another. Even though the repertory of human perceptions, administrative structures, or economic modes of production is finite, different forms take prominence in different places. What happens if we apply, even crudely, the principle of symmetry to the Qing-Ottoman comparison? An Ottoman administrator looking at the Qing would find much that was strangely familiar. The Mongolian jasak confirmed lands by the Qing look very much like yurts, "summer and winter pasturelands the limits of which were determined and were entered in the imperial registers. "36 The "feudatories" of the early Qing [sanfan] were large-scale timars. Both were grants of large territories to provincial military rulers in return for service to the state. And coerced population movements [sürgün] were prominent features of the Ottoman and Qing states.37 Both of these states, during times of expansion and conquest, chose analogous methods of controlling the newly incorporated populations. For administering conquered nomads, it was convenient to

Affiliations: 1: Massachusetts Institute of Technology


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