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Milk, Game or Grain for a Manchurian Outpost

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Providing for Hulun Buir’s Multi-Environmental Garrison in an Eighteenth-Century Borderland

image of Inner Asia

The long record of imperial China’s Inner Asian borderland relations is not simply multi-ethnic, but ‘multi-environmental’. Human dependencies on livestock, wild animals and cereal cultivars were the prerequisite environmental relations for borderland incorporation. This paper examines such dependencies during the Qing Dynasty’s (1644–1912) establishment of the Manchurian garrison of Hulun Buir near the Qing border with Russia. Garrison logistics proved challenging because provisioning involved several indigenous groups—Solon-Ewenki, Bargut and Dagur (Daur)—who did not uniformly subsist on livestock, game or grain, but instead exhibited several, sometimes overlapping, practices not always confined within a single ethnicity. Ensuing deliberations reveal official convictions, some of which can be traced back to the preceding Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), regarding the variable effects of these practices on the formation of Inner Asian military identities. Such issues were distinctive of Qing borderland dynamics that constructed ‘Chinese’ empire not only in more diverse human society, but also in more diverse ecological spheres.

Affiliations: 1: History Department, Washington & Lee UniversityUSA


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