Contesting the Yellow Dragon

Ethnicity, Religion, and the State in the Sino-Tibetan Borderland, 1379-2009


Winner of the 2016 Choice Outstanding Academic Title Award

This book is the first long-term study of the Sino-Tibetan borderland. It traces relationships and mutual influence among Tibetans, Chinese, Hui Muslims, Qiang and others over some 600 years, focusing on the old Chinese garrison city of Songpan and the nearby religious center of Huanglong, or Yellow Dragon. Combining historical research and fieldwork, Xiaofei Kang and Donald Sutton examine the cultural politics of northern Sichuan from early Ming through Communist revolution to the age of global tourism, bringing to light creative local adaptations in culture, ethnicity and religion as successive regimes in Beijing struggle to control and transform this distant frontier.

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Xiaofei Kang received her Ph.D. from Columbia University. She is Associate Professor of Religion at the George Washington University. She has published on religion, ethnicity, tourism, and gender, including The Cult of the Fox: Power, Gender and Popular Religion in Late Imperial and Modern China (Columbia, 2006).

Donald Sutton (Ph.D. Cambridge) is Professor Emeritus of History and Anthropology at Carnegie Mellon University. He has published books on 20th century warlordism and popular religion in Taiwan, and numerous articles on the 18th century Miao in west Hunan and on ritual in past and recent Chinese societies.
"Contesting the Yellow Dragon presents a masterful account of the mutual accommodation between Tibetan and Chinese religious traditions in Southwest China as seen in the processes by which the scenic area of Huanglong was transformed into a World Heritage site. The authors vividly portray the paramount place of religion in Chinese life, which today encompasses roles played by tourists and local women. This book will be of tremendous benefit to scholars in fields like history, anthropology, religious studies, etc."
Paul R. Katz, Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica

"[This volume] brings a much-needed investigation of the Sino-Tibetan area. [...] Groundbreaking and fascinating to scholars of religion as well as of culture, modern ecology, and tourism, this work serves as an important contribution to the understanding of relations between the areas and cultures of China."
Linda L. Lam-Easton, California State University, Northridge, Choice (January 2017)
Acknowledgments vii
List of Figures and Photographs x
Abbreviations xi
Note on Ming shilu and Qing shilu xii
Note on Tibetan Terms xiii
Introduction 1
1 Garrison City in the Ming: Indigenes and the State in Greater Songpan 16
2 Qing Songpan: Recovery, Over-extension and Disaster 69
3 Guns, Gold, Gown, and Poppy: Ethnic Frontier in a Failing Republic 123
4 Sharing a Sacred Center: Conch Mountain of the East, Yellow Dragon, and Chinese and Tibetan Culture 171
5 Songpan, the State and Social Revolution, 1950–78 223
6 Opening Up the Borderland I: The Politics of Tourist Development and Environmental Protection 277
7 Opening Up the Borderland II: Ethnicity for Tourists 311
8 Contesting the Yellow Dragon in the Age of Reform: Local Initiatives and Responses 334
9 Ethnoreligion, Ethnic Identity and Regional Consciousness at Songpan 375
Conclusion 410
Bibliography 425
Appendix: Religious Activities in the Songpan Region 457
Tibetan Glossary 468
Index 471
Scholars and graduate students who are interested in late imperial and modern Chinese history, Chinese politics and culture, religion and ethnicity on China’s borderlands, religion and politics, Sini-Tibetan relations, ethnicity, tourism, environmental studies
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