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Writing Histories of the "Southwest": Reconstruction and Dialogue between Two Paradigms of History

Ruizhi LIAN (National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan)
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The article discusses the political and social structure of "southwest" history. In southwest China, Dali, conquered by the Ming dynasty in 1384, had been the center of Dali kingdom. By analyzing literary genres and narratives written in the late imperial period by different social groups, this research focuses on how the past of Dali was reconstructed into two ideal historical frameworks: one that centered on narratives related to the conqueror Zhuge Liang (諸葛亮, 181-234), a framework supported by Chinese orthodox history; the other centered on ancient India, which related the visualized landscape to legends of Dali as a religious kingdom. Official documents and local gazetteers provided a longitudinal framework connecting the noble groups' past to Bo (僰) of Chinese history. Oppositely, folk legends and chaptered novels provided a synchronic mode of narratives relating their past to the Bai (白) kingdom, sacred Buddhist relics, and holy monks. This study shows that Dali's imperial officials and elites tended to support Chinese historical frameworks while the native officials and local commoners tended to reorganize their past into frameworks coherent with India's Buddhist history. Most importantly, this paper demonstrates that in a spectrum of diverse narratives between the two paradigms, based on different historical experiences, various alternative histories were innovated through chosen genres for certain social groups.

Journal of History and Anthropology