‘Glocalisation’ in Medieval China?

The Global and the Local under the Tang
2:00 pm – 3:45 pm
Room B

  • Michael Höckelmann, “Civilising Mission: Local and Global as Colonial Spaces in Tang Visions of Empire”
  • Kelsey Granger, “Intercultural Marriage in Tang China: An Intersection between ‘Global’ and ‘Local’ Concerns”
  • Chen Xue, “Foreigners or Natives? The Diverse Interpretations of the Identity of ‘Shatuo Turks’ from the Late Ninth to the Eleventh Century”
  • Lance Pursey, “’A Sea of Rhymes, a Mirror of Sources’: The Eclectic Literary Scene in Huzhou in the Dali Era (766–779) as a Test of High-Mid Tang ‘Glocalisation’”

Scholars have labelled the Tang 唐 (618–907) ‘China’s Cosmopolitan Empire’ (Lewis 2009). Tang elites were exceptionally open to global influences in arts, music, and religion, while a great number of foreigners served in its civil and military services. Aside from the foreign, the local played a huge role in Tang society, too: While cultural and political life centred on the capitals Chang’an 長安 and Luoyang 洛陽 in the north, the population began shifting to the south and thus prepared the economic revolution of the eleventh through thirteenth centuries. During much of the first half of the dynasty, the court was perambulating between Chang’an and Luoyang every year, and most members of the official service spent considerable parts if not all of their careers in one of the countless prefectures and counties of the realm. While the court from the mid-eighth century onwards remained entrenched in Chang’an—the occasional flight from rebels or invaders aside—many literati turned to the surrogate courts of provincial commissioners in the hope for better career prospects. At the same time, foreign invaders and traders remained a constant presence in most regions of the empire. What impact did the ‘global’ and the ‘local’ have on the social, cultural, and political life of the Tang? Is it appropriate to consider the Tang part of a ‘Global Middle Ages’ (Holmes and Standen 2018), emphasising its interconnectedness with the wider world, or is it necessary to employ other concepts in the analysis of this interplay?

Michael Höckelmann, “Civilising Mission: Local and Global as Colonial Spaces in Tang Visions of Empire

Despite Tang China’s (618–907) alleged cosmopolitanism, contemporary writings such as frontier poems (biansai shi 邊塞詩) depict the local and the global as dismal places, where an official only ended up as a punishment. Areas like the South (Lingnan 嶺南), the Protectorate to Pacify the West (Anxi duhufu 安西都護府), and the many bridle-and-halter prefectures (jimi zhou 羈縻州) scattered throughout the realm all served as frontiers or counterpoints to the civilised centres of the court and capital(s). The ‘locals’ were the stereotypical other, uncouth, raw, even barbarian, upon which the magistrate, prefect or commissioner (and his aides), who came from the centre, exerted a civilising influence much like colonial officials. The interplay of global and local is evident in the chapters on prefectures (zhoujun 州郡) and borderlands (bianfang 邊防) that appear back to back in Du You’s 杜佑 (734–812) Tongdian 通典. Geographic treatises such as Li Jifu’s 李吉甫 (758–814) Yuanhe junxian tuzhi 元和郡縣圖志 were a way of gaining textual control over a hinterland of which large swaths were still undiscovered country. This paper looks at contemporary writings on local and border administration such as those above, institutional histories, and inscriptions (e.g., ting biji 廳壁記), to highlight the interplay between local and global as frontier zones or colonial spaces in the framing of bureaucracy and empire in the Tang period.

Kelsey Granger, “Intercultural Marriage in Tang China: An Intersection between ‘Global’ and ‘Local’ Concerns

Research on Tang China is often rooted in considering global and/or local concerns within areas of daily life. Being a period noted both for its early cosmopolitanism and its later xenophobia as well as the complex interplay between identity, ethnicity, and cultural norms on a global and local scale, it is surprising that little attention has been paid to intercultural marriage within this framework. Much scholarship assumes that legal restrictions set out in Tang lüshu yi 唐律疏議 were fully implemented and followed in daily life, whereas my research seeks to prove that there were differences between state and popular perceptions of intercultural marriages as can be seen when comparing several extant xiaoshuo 小說 with accounts from the official histories. Equally, it can be tempting to assume that, amongst the increasingly intolerant legislation and outlook of the late Tang period, that intercultural marriages were heavily discouraged. Again, my research seeks to prove that these marriages often inhabited ‘grey areas’ of cross-cultural interactions, with accounts of such unions continuing to be written throughout the Tang period albeit producing differing reactions in authors and historians. Finally, each account studied herein is shaped not only by its author and its textual history but also by the geopolitical local atmosphere at its conception. By means of contextualising each case-study, I, therefore, hope to bring nuances therein to light and expand on the global and local anxieties, agendas, and agency at play within these accounts.

Chen Xue, “Foreigners or Natives? The Diverse Interpretations of the Identity of ‘Shatuo Turks’ from the Late Ninth to the Eleventh Century

This paper questions the ethnic binary between Shatuo Turks and Chinese of the Five Dynasties’ ruling families. In modern historiography, Later Tang, Later Jin and Later Han were normally depicted being of Turkic origin, and historians tend to believe that this supposed ethnic difference determined historical figures’ choices and behaviours at the time. Many key events, such as the fictive kinships between Liao emperors and the so-called Shatuo monarchs, Shi Jingtang’s cession of the Sixteen Prefectures to Liao, and Later Zhou and Song’s determination to reclaim these territories, have constantly been explained via their ethnic differences. By examining sources especially tomb epitaphs and historical writings of late Tang, the Five Dynasties, Liao, and Northern Song, this paper argues that the educated elites at the time, including the so-called Shatuo imperial families of the tenth century, in fact had no consensus on who bore the Shatuo Turkic identity. Rather, the ‘Shatuo Turkic’ emperors and their forebears appeared in their contemporary discourses as having diverse geographical, cultural, or ethnic origins. Their ‘barbarian’ identity was more a later Song construction than a historical reality. The paper emphasises that ethnicity was only one of many discourses that shaped the ninth- to eleventh-century figures’ ideologies and behaviours, underscoring the fluidity of identities at the time which the Turkic–Chinese dichotomy fails to account for.

Lance Pursey, “’A Sea of Rhymes, a Mirror of Sources’: The Eclectic Literary Scene in Huzhou in the Dali Era (766–779) as a Test of High-Mid Tang ‘Glocalisation’”

The vision of cosmopolitan, even globalised, Tang empire disproportionately focuses on its capitals and its north and western frontier relations, whereas much of the southeast of China is neglected.
This paper examines five literary figures who crossed paths in the Jiangnan city of Huzhou in the Dali era to show that educated members of society were productive and influential outside the capitals and outside of officialdom. By examining the geographical places and textual allusions in the lives and works of the official Yan Zhenqing, the “tea saint” Lu Yu, the critic and poet Buddhist monk Jiaoran, the Daoist nun poet Li Ye, and the reclusive painter Zhang Zhihe I will reveal a cultural sensibility that was not directed towards the court and capitals, nor to a ‘globalised’ world beyond.
Rather, Jiangnan was becoming a revived cultural centre to rival the capitals of Chang’an and Luoyang, a centre that drew not on political prominence and cosmopolitanism but on eclectic traditions and innovation. And connected to other areas in the empire outside of the capitals.
If not everywhere in the Tang is cosmopolitan does it earn the title cosmopolitan empire? I argue that the Tang was an eclectic empire whose literati in different regional and official spheres drew in different degrees upon rich cultural heritages from both home and abroad. This eclecticism manifests in their literary output which resembles the title of Yan Zhenqing’s lost leishu, “A sea of rhymes, a mirror of sources”.

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Room B
The Global and the Local under the Tang