The Sichuan Frontier and Tibet

Imperial Strategy in the Early Qing

Yingcong Dai

  • Published: 2010
  • Subject Listing: Asian Studies / China; History
  • Bibliographic information: pp., 1-2 maps, 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

During China's last dynasty, the Qing (1644-1911), the empire's remote, bleak, and politically insignificant Southwest rose to become a strategically vital area. This study of the imperial government's handling of the southwestern frontier illuminates issues of considerable importance in Chinese history and foreign relations: Sichuan's rise as a key strategic area in relation to the complicated struggle between the Zunghar Mongols and China over Tibet, Sichuan's neighbor to the west, and consequent developments in governance and taxation of the area.

Through analysis of government documents, gazetteers, and private accounts, Yingcong Dai explores the intersections of political and social history, arguing that imperial strategy toward the southwestern frontier was pivotal in changing Sichuan's socioeconomic landscape. Government policies resulted in light taxation, immigration into Sichuan, and a military market for local products, thus altering Sichuan but ironically contributing toward the eventual demise of the Qing.

Dai's detailed, objective analysis of China's historical relationship with Tibet will be useful for readers seeking to understand debates concerning Tibet's sovereignty, Tibetan theocratic government, and the political dimension of the system of incarnate Tibetan lamas (of which the Dalai Lama is one).
Yingcong Dai is associate professor of history at William Paterson University of New Jersey.

"... an opportunity for non-specialists interested in Tibet to understand the historical narrative and analytical context that informs domestic scholarly opinion on that region in China today."
-American Historical Review, American Historical Review

"Collecting and scrutinizing imperial archives in Taipei, Beijing, Chongqing, and even Paris, as well as in some major East Asian libraries in the United States, Dai successfully presents a solid and comprehensive study on a previously ignored region of the Qing Dynasty."
-The Chinese Historical Review, The Chinese Historical Review

"This pioneering work is a well-crafted narrative which shows the extensive local effects of central court decisions. Most important, it demonstrates clearly the fundamental importance of military institutions and policies for the formation of the empire."
-Peter C. Perdue, Yale University

"An excellent contribution to the field of Qing history. This is regional history at its best. Dai's study both engages and transcends local concerns, showing how regional histories are directly affected by national and international considerations."
-Laura Hostetler, University of Illinois at Chicago

Reign Dates of the Qing Dynasty, 1636-1911
1. A Humble Beginning, 1640-1696
2. A Strategic Turn from the Steppe to Tibet, 1696-1701
3. The Formative Era, 1701-1722
4. Realignment in the Yongzheng Period, 1723-1735
5. The Shaping of Independence in the Qianlong Period, 1736-1795
6. The Military Presence in Society and Economy
7. The Benefit and Cost of Imperial Strategy
Abbreviations Used in Notes and Bibliography

"This excellent narrative proves that the dynamic process of imperial strategy exhibited on the Sichuan frontier and Tibet during the early Qing is critical to understanding the history of Qing as a whole, making this book an essential reading for all specialists."
-Tianxiang Jiang, Journal of Chinese Military History, 1.2012

"Dai's revisionist work forces us to reconsider two sacred tropes in Chinese history, the predominance of civilian over military values, and that Qing success rested on blind adherence to Chinese administrative norms."
-Blaine Chiasson, Canadian Journal of History, Volume XLVI

"Dai has provided us with a highly informative study of how state policies and military institutions shaped the socioeconomic reconstruction of eighteenth-century Sichuan . . . . [and] has provided us with a valuable study of how state policy and military institutions led to the dramatic reconstruction of Sichuan province during the eighteenth century."
-John Herman, Pacific Affairs, June 2011

"Provides a fresh explanation of Sichuan's place in the Qing system based on the empire's strategic endeavor in the Tibetan and Mongolian regions of Inner Asia."
-Journal of Asian Studies

"Dai's vivid study of Sichuan allows us to see in some detail the ways in which Qing expansion into Dzungharia and Tibet profoundly militarized the economies and the political elites of Sichuan, Gansu and Shaanxi, while nurturing the intertwining of mobilization and corruption that made the empire as incapable of containing rebellion in the heartland as it was further extending its conquests at the borders."
-The China Quarterly

"This is a wonderful, meticulously-documented and tersely written work on the Sichuan frontier and, more broadly, on Qing China's empire building in the Southwest. It is also a welcome addition to the exciting literature on the history of the Qing frontier."
-Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society

"This book is a brilliant study of the interplay between regional and central governments during a pivotal period as China expanded into Tibet and Xingjiang. Summing up: Essential."