Research Programs: Fellowships for University Teachers

Period of Performance

7/1/2017 - 6/30/2018

Funding Totals

$50,400.00 (approved)
$50,400.00 (awarded)

The Jiankang Empire in Chinese and World History, 200-600 CE

FAIN: FA-233327-16

Andrew Barclay Chittick
Eckerd College (St. Petersburg, FL 33711-4744)

The writing of a book-length history of the Jiankiang Empire in China, 200-600 CE.

This project studies the evolution of the ethnic identity of the Han Chinese by focusing on a vitally important period in its development, the early medieval era (200-600 CE) which followed the fall of the Han Empire. Using insights from critical Han studies as well as GIS-based spatial analysis, I will analyze the environmental, cultural, military, and political genesis of the Jiankang Empire, a southern successor to the Han Empire which was one of the great Asian empires of its time. Its history has been submerged by traditional historiography’s focus on the political and military history of northern China, and the emphasis on cultural and ethnic unity. The resulting book will demonstrate the contingency of the evolution of a Han Chinese ethnicity and polity, the very real prospect of alternative ethnogenesis in East Asia, and the significance of this development for Chinese, East Asian, and world history.

Media Coverage

Journal of Chinese History 中國歷史學刊 Article contents Abstract References The Jiankang Empire in Chinese and World History By Andrew Chittick. New York: Oxford University Press, 2020. xi + 411 pp. $85.00 (cloth). (Review)
Author(s): Charles Holcombe
Publication: Journal of Chinese History
Date: 7/23/2020

The Jiankang Empire in Chinese and World History Andrew Chittick, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020. xi, 430 pp. (Review)
Author(s): Scott Pearce
Publication: Early Medieval China
Date: 9/11/2018

Reviewed Work: The Jiankang Empire in Chinese and World History by Andrew Chittick (Review)
Author(s): Sebastian Eicher
Publication: Journal of Asian History v54 #2
Date: 12/9/2020

Associated Products

The Jiankang Empire in Chinese and World History (Book)
Title: The Jiankang Empire in Chinese and World History
Author: Andrew Chittick
Abstract: This work offers a sweeping re-assessment of the Jiankang Empire (3rd-6th centuries CE), known as the Chinese "Southern Dynasties." It shows how, although one of the medieval world's largest empires, Jiankang has been rendered politically invisible by the standard narrative of Chinese nationalist history, and proposes a new framework and terminology for writing about medieval East Asia. The book pays particular attention to the problem of ethnic identification, rejecting the idea of "ethnic Chinese," and delineating several other, more useful ethnographic categories, using case studies in agriculture/foodways and vernacular languages. The most important, the Wuren of the lower Yangzi region, were believed to be inherently different from the peoples of the Central Plains, and the rest of the book addresses the extent of their ethnogenesis in the medieval era. It assesses the political culture of the Jiankang Empire, emphasizing military strategy, institutional cultures, and political economy, showing how it differed from Central Plains-based empires, while having significant similarities to Southeast Asian regimes. It then explores how the Jiankang monarchs deployed three distinct repertoires of political legitimation (vernacular, Sinitic universalist, and Buddhist), arguing that the Sinitic repertoire was largely eclipsed in the sixth century, rendering the regime yet more similar to neighboring South Seas states. The conclusion points out how the research re-orients our understanding of acculturation and ethnic identification in medieval East Asia, generates new insights into the Tang-Song transition period, and offers new avenues of comparison with Southeast Asian and medieval European history.
Year: 2020
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 9780190937546

Thinking Regionally in Early Medieval Studies: A Manifesto (Article)
Title: Thinking Regionally in Early Medieval Studies: A Manifesto
Author: Andrew Chittick
Abstract: In a recent leading article in the Journal of Asian Studies, Hugh Clark critiques the teleological construct of a unified China, arguing that, at least up through the tenth century, the unified regimes of Qin/Han and Sui/Tang were a “superficial overlay” atop an East Asia comprised of many diverse cultural regions. I believe that scholars should take up Clark’s critique as an invitation: to write meaningful histories of East Asian cultural regions, their distinctive peoples, and their diverse cultural and political identities, without relying on the teleological construct of “China” and the “Chinese” (or Han) people and culture. Scholars of the early medieval period have exceptionally rich opportunities to do this sort of work, yet we mostly have not taken sufficient advantage of them. This essay uses my own work on the Wuren as a case study to propose some useful frameworks and methodologies available to us, such as re-thinking the concept of “empire,” and writing regional histories. Thinking regionally, especially when done in collaboration with scholars of other periods of fragmentation, will allow scholars of the early medieval era to make distinctive and important contributions to the broader fields of East Asian and comparative World history.
Year: 2020
Format: Journal
Publisher: Early Medieval China