Chinese Studies


Lecture: Wang Lianming, "Walking Elephants to Beijing: Mobility and Political Authority in Southwest Qing China"

Prof. Dr. Wang Lianming (City University of Hong Kong), "Walking Elephants to Beijing: Mobility and Political Authority in Southwest Qing China", a lecture in the colloquium "History and Culture of China"

Dienstag (Tue), 6 Jun 2023, at 4:15 pm in room 30 of the Department of Chinese and Korean Studies in Tübingen, Wilhelmstraße 133.

Meeting Link:

Meeting ID: 951 7308 7284
Passcode: 757403

Abstract. In 1729, Ortai, the Governor-general of Yunnan, Guizhou, and Guangxi reported to the Yongzheng Emperor (reigned 1723-35) that Nan Zhang (Lan Sang; nowadays northern part of Laos) pledged its allegiance to the Qing empire through an elephant tribute. Through the propagation of Ortai’s memorials and related court records, the event has been established as an indisputable historical fact that was circulated widely throughout Chinese historiography. This talk attempts to challenge this claim’s authenticity through a comparative reading of Qing memorials, military communication documents, and personal accounts. Putting the “tribute mission” into the context of the Qing’s annexation of Sipsong Panna, the talk reveals how the frontier governors manipulated the correspondence between the em-peror and native headmen to respond to a political crisis resulting from the Qing’s pacification of Yunnan. Particularly, it demonstrates how the Yunnan authority took the Moeng Ham Revolt (1727) as an opportunity to fabricate such a tribute mission within a series of auspicious omens propagated by Ortai and his followers. The regular tributes of elephants and their cross-border mobility, as the author argues, were instrumental in establishing the Qing’s authority in its borderlands.
Bio. Wang Lianming (Ph.D., Heidelberg 2014) is an Associate Professor at the Department of Chinese and History, City University of Hong Kong. His primary areas of interest include but are not limited to global encounters of arts and architecture in early modernity, animal trade, exchange of objects and diplomatic gifts, export art, Ming-Qing gardens, and Qing imperial workshops. His latest volume, Jesuitenerbe in Peking: Sakralbauten und transkulturelle Räume, 1600–1800 (Winter Verlag, 2020) was awarded the 2012 Academy Prize by the Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften and shortlisted for the 2021 ICAS Book Prize – German Language Edition. Currently, Wang is conducting a Gerda Henkel Stiftung-sponsored project on Qing global animals. * The paper was finished during Wang’s Balzan Junior Fellowship in Global Environmental History (Prof. Dr. J. Osterhammel) at Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies, the University of Freiburg i.Br.