Introduction: The Huang Qing zhigong tu as a Cultural Cartography of Empire

In: Qing Imperial Illustrations of Tributary Peoples (Huang Qing zhigong tu)
Editors / Translators:
Laura Hostetler
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Xuemei Wu
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A beautifully illustrated ethnographic document depicting over three hundred different peoples with whom the Qing dynasty had contact, Xie Sui’s Huang Qing zhigong tu (皇清職貢圖) defined the Qing empire as a diverse and multiethnic polity rooted in dynastic history with connections to lands and peoples beyond its actual jurisdiction. Commissioned by the Qianlong emperor in the middle of the eighteenth century, the Qing Imperial Illustrations of Tributary Peoples constitutes both a captivating work of art and an ideological statement of universal rule undergirded by imperial power. We are pleased to present here the first full English-language translation of the ethnographic texts as well as a full-color reproduction of the artwork from the Xie Sui edition held in the National Palace Museum, Taipei.1

Each segment of the scroll pairs an illustration depicting a male and a female figure in distinctive costume with descriptive text in both Classical Chinese and Manchu.2 The overall focus is on the diversity of peoples, the history of their contact with dynastic China, the administrative systems by which they are governed, and their distinctive cultural traits. The broad geographic scope of its textual content, ethnographic detail, refined artistry, and the timing of its commissioning together make it the single-most important and comprehensive statement of Qing imperial ideology vis-à-vis the empire’s internal others, frontier populations, and representatives of foreign countries.

The Huang Qing zhigong tu is the product of the logic and ideology of universal empire. The Qianlong emperor is portrayed as a supreme power toward whom all peoples naturally turned due to his innate superiority and the universality of the moral authority that he wielded. Peter Bang and Dariusz Kołodziejczyk define “universal emperor” as a ruler who “staked out a claim to be the supreme monarch in the sea of contentious and rival lordships; all others ranked below him and were thus, in a sense, part of his hegemony, even if they eluded direct control…. Behind the idea of world rule were imperial conglomerates comprising a vast variety of relationships and degrees of submission, from directly controlled territories, to client kings and tribal chieftains, as well as distant kingdoms that might occasionally send an embassy bringing gifts symbolically to confirm their allegiance or recognition of the emperor.”3

The deployment of the concept of universal empire, which so well captures the logics behind the Qing Imperial Illustrations of Tributary Peoples, was not unique to the Qing. The Ottoman, Mughal, and Hapsburg empires, all made similar claims, employing iconographies of empire and universal rule in their self-definition and representation.4 In the words of Bang and Kołodziejczyk, “conflation of empire and the civilized part of the earth is a recurrent phenomenon.”5

Another recurring dynamic in the construction of universal empire is to pair invocation of legitimacy in relation to the past with claims to superiority over other regimes in the present. In the cultural realm of dynastic China, the overarching concept of the Mandate of Heaven had legitimized rule of tianxia (天下), “all under heaven,” for millennia. As Evelyn Rawski has noted, for the Qing, whose Manchu leaders originally came from outside the Chinese cultural system, adoption of its various trappings was especially useful as “a rebuttal of the ethnic issue to claim the Mandate and rule China from a Confucian structure of legitimacy.”6 Like other universal monarchs, the Qianlong emperor situated his own realm within a lineage of former imperial achievements even as he sought to showcase the glories of his own realm at a very particular moment in time. Queen Victoria would do the same when she claimed the title “Empress of India” in 1877.7

There has been some debate among Qing historians about whether the term “tributary system,” as coined by John K. Fairbank and Teng Ssu-yu in their seminal study, “On the Ch’ing Tributary System,” is an appropriate rubric through which to capture the complex diplomatic and ceremonial relationships that existed between the Qing court and those who participated in various ways.8 The concern is that using a single all-encompassing term to describe the great variety that characterized Qing diplomatic relationships may too easily limit our understanding of its nuances and complexity.9 My hope is that this translation will enhance our understanding of the variety of diplomatic protocols and administrative relationships that existed between the Qing and those represented therein. At the same time, we can increase our awareness of how the Qing drew on existing tropes of diplomatic relationships to enhance its own power and prestige by inserting itself into, and thereby perpetuating, the idea of an “unbroken” line of dynastic succession.

Approaching the Qing Imperial Illustrations of Tributary Peoples as a kind of cultural cartography of empire may be helpful in more fully understanding its content. Those represented are mapped out not only geographically but also in terms of the nature of the polities they inhabited; the history of those polities as they relate to the Qing and preceding imperial formations; and ethnographically—with significant attention to their appearance and costumes, customs and beliefs, natures and proclivities.

The commissioning edict of 1751 expressed the explicit desire to collect and compile likeness of all the various peoples from the frontier areas, both within and outside of the jurisdiction of China’s provinces, that they might classified and submitted for imperial review.

My dynasty has united the vast expanses. Of all various peoples from within and beyond [內外苗夷] our domains, there are none who have not sincerely turned toward Us and been transformed. As for their clothing, caps, appearance, and bearing, each has its differences. Now although we have likenesses from several places, they are not yet uniform and complete. Gather together the several models that we now have, and deliver them to each of the governors and governors-general near the borders. Order them to take the Miao, Yao, Li, and Zhuang within their jurisdictions, as well as the myriad Yi and Fan beyond, and according to these examples copy their appearance, bearing, clothing, and ornaments, make illustrations and send them to the Grand Council for classification and arrangement for presentation and inspection.10

Completed only after the defeat of the Zunghars in Central Asia in 1759, this document was made expressly as a testament to the height of Qing influence in the world at large.

Exploring the document as an instance of cultural cartography elucidates the ways in which it fits into other conceptions or framings of Qing imperial self-definition. Like any work of visual representation, the compendium is both selective and strategic in what it details. Furthermore, as with any map, there is a complex relationship between the types of content it includes, and the overall claims—both implicit and explicit—that it makes; through its pictorial images the work suggests visually an (unsubstantiated) equivalency among the various peoples portrayed in terms of their relationship to the Qing empire—precisely the kind of oversimplified “system” that some historians argue the use of phrase “tribute system” implies.11 Any such impression is, however, belied by the complex relationships to imperial power detailed in the text, including variation in terms for submitting and offering allegiance, as well as the nomenclature of the different groups themselves. Nonetheless the pictorial suggestion remains paramount. Such is the nature of cartographic claims.

Two geographical maps commissioned at the apogee of Qing territorial expansion and power under the Qianlong emperor may help to situate the context in which the idea for the Qing Illustrations of Tributary Peoples was conceived. The Da Qing wannian yitong tianxia quantu (大清萬年一統天下全圖) was aimed toward a literati audience shaped by traditions of classical Chinese learning and would be reprinted frequently throughout the next century. By contrast, the Qianlong expansion of the Kangxi era Huangyu quanlan tu (皇輿全覽圖) was designed more for administrators and functionaries who prized scaled accuracy in representation and faithfulness to the coordinate system, as well as conversancy with an emerging early modern language of mapping worldwide. What is important for our purposes here is that the territorial reach of the maps was extended significantly—well beyond areas of Qing control or even influence—and in such a way that precisely what was being claimed was unclear.12 Neither map was geographically bounded or stopped at the limits of the Qing empire, leaving open the possibility for even further expansion. In any case, both of these geographic works showcased the grandeur of the Qing and its ever-widening reach.

In a similar vein, the Qing Imperial Illustrations of Tributary Peoples aimed to capture—or rather to project—Qing glory, but from the standpoint of the human diversity and fealty of those in the various rings of its orbit. Examining the work as a cultural cartography of empire in the context of these other geographic maps clarifies that the image the work implied of the Qianlong emperor as located at the center of the world was understood as an ideological projection, not a geographical reality. Yet, at the same time, the extended claims of these geographic and cultural cartographies, which were rooted in military conquest and the ritualized submission of specific groups of people, served to shore each other up.13

Another pictorial work, the Illustrations of Tilling and Weaving, or gengzhi tu (耕織圖), provides an additional perspective from which we can better understand the significance of the illustrations of tributary peoples, or zhigong tu (職貢圖), as a genre.14 Originally appearing in the Song dynasty, the album laid out the processes involved in the practice of paddy agriculture and sericulture, which were considered foundational to Chinese civilization.15 Production of cloth and grain also directly supported the empire as they were the original the medium of taxation in dynastic China. These productive agricultural activities became strong markers of Chinese cultural identity, weaving rural life into the fabric of empire for millennia.16 In 1696 the Kangxi emperor commissioned a new edition, contributing prefatory poems in his own hand. A woodblock version was also produced for wider circulation. Clearly, this Qing edition of the work was an attempt to inscribe Qing rule into a much longer tradition of dynastic succession, as well as to uphold the rural virtues that continued to foster stability and fund the imperial purse.

Like the Illustrations of Tilling and Weaving, tributary illustrations had existed as a genre long before the Qing dynasty. There are allusions to such as early as the sixth century, and exemplars made during the Song dynasty are still extant.17 The Qing editions surely differ in a variety of ways from earlier documents with similar titles. However, the invocation of the term zhigong tu, as for the gengzhi tu, self-consciously inscribed the work into a much longer tradition of imperial history. In both instances, Qing imperial leadership claimed the mantle of tradition as a way to strengthen its imperial profile in the present. Furthermore, it is no coincidence that many of the textual descriptions in the zhigong tu remark on the proclivity for tilling and weaving among various frontier peoples as a marker of their acculturation and industriousness.

While the Qing Imperial Illustrations of Tributary Peoples can be understood through the rubric of universal empire, which was not limited to any specific time period, there are also ways in which its classification of peoples seems to engage aspects of early modernity. According to Sanjay Subrahmanyam, unifying features of this epoch included “a new sense of the limits of the inhabited world,” “the expansion in a number of cultures of travel,” the burgeoning of travel literature, “changing conceptions of space and thus cartography,” and also the emergence of “new empirical ‘ethnographies’” brought about through increased contact and exchange.18 In the context of diplomacy, ethnographic descriptions characteristic of the early modern period may be explored through the dual lenses of imperial expansion into frontier areas, and the appearance of “others” at the imperial center, whether in person or through publication.19 In the first instance, government officials, or explorers, were sent to the frontiers to gather and compile information. In the second, ethnographic representations were made of distant others who either presented themselves in the context of diplomatic ceremonial or whose images otherwise circulated in the context of the imperial center. In both of these instances, hierarchies of difference were instantiated even as reciprocal relations were developed. The potential for exploration of this topic is nearly boundless; I will bring up only a few examples here to illustrate my point and suggest areas for future comparative research.

In the 1570s, under Philip II of Spain (r. 1556–1598), a questionnaire was drawn up with the aim of compiling more information about New Spain to be included in a project known as the Relationes Geográphicas. Regarding the inhabitants of New Spain, it queried: “Are there many or few Indians? Were there more or fewer at other times, and what are the known causes of this? Are they presently settled in planned and permanent towns? Describe the degree and quality of their intelligence, inclinations, and way of life. Are there different languages in the province or a general language that all speak?” Other queries required that maps be drawn up, and asked specifically about lakes and waterways, trees and fruits, grains and seed plants, herbs and aromatic plants, animals and birds, silver mines and much more.20 Having been delegated largely to indigenous artists to carry out, the responses came back in a variety of languages and styles of mapping that the Spanish found difficult, if not impossible, to understand. Yet, similarities to the types of inquiries made by the Qianlong emperor in his commissioning edict and the discussion of livelihood and natural products seen in the Qing Imperial Illustrations of Tributary Peoples is noteworthy.

The tribute scroll also includes an amalgam of different kinds of information collected and reported in ways that, as for the Relaciones Geográphicas, was not entirely systematized or internally consistent. For example, the section on Gansu, which is organized around military commanderies, names many individual commanders. Reports on Ili, by contrast, identify officials according to their titles only, not by name. In another example, authors responsible for some regions are more concerned with issues of taxation than others, or at least mention it more consistently. Some put this information toward the beginning of their descriptions, others toward the end. Some refer to an “annual grain tax,” others simply to a “grain tax.” These discrepancies may reflect both different conditions on the ground and the varied authorship of the original.

Different conventions also seem to have applied to polities within China’s provinces and areas beyond. Women’s dress is widely described throughout the scroll. However, within the provinces the range of other topics is relatively circumscribed, limited primarily to their industry—although occasionally remarking on their sexual morays or marriage practices. The interest in foreign women from other kingdoms was somewhat more extensive than for other parts of the scroll, although still limited. Helvetian women are noted for their weaving, which undoubtedly showed them to be “like” good women in the interior. Those of Hungary are described as literate. They are also remarked on for covering their faces with a veil as well as for their embroidery. The women of Poland, the reader learns, “manage household affairs unassisted, keeping interior and exterior in order.” For England, standards of beauty are mentioned. “Women, before they are married, bind their waists desiring them to be thin.” Those in Cambodia “collect mulberries and raise silkworms, and are also able to weave mats.” Only two entries, those from the farthest reaches of Tibet and Nepal, include no mention of women at all, following a general pattern of more cursory information for remote areas.

Generally speaking, comments on schooling and acculturation are reserved for those living in the provinces, and not applied to frontier areas beyond. Mention of illicit sexual relations before marriage is brought up only in relation to groups resident within the provinces of the interior—except for Machen (now Malaysia) where it is mentioned as not happening—suggesting a different standard for what it was appropriate to discuss for which regions. The texts on Guizhou show a significant amount of attention to where tusi had been abolished and where they were still in existence.

Turning now to descriptions of diplomatic ceremonial in the context of the imperial center, whether at the Qing or European courts, we see significant attention to details of setting and costume. According to William Roosen, “the early modern sense of propriety required that the whole setting of the event should be appropriate and all the parts should be properly consistent with each other. For example, rich clothing should be worn by the participants, movements should be stately, the personal status of the more important participants should be high enough for the occasion, and music should be solemn.”21 To illustrate his point, Roosen cites a passage written by John Evelyn, eyewitness to the 1662 initial audience of the Russian ambassador in London. The members of the ambassador’s retinue, he details, were “clad in vests of several colours, with buskins, after the Eastern manner! their caps of fur, tunics, richly embroidered with gold and pearls, made a glorious show.”22 He then goes on to further detail the costume of the king, and the gifts that were presented to the strains of music emanating from above.

The passage bears a striking resemblance to the preoccupations of the description of the first audience made by the son of one of the Muslim Begs to Chengde. “During the twenty-third year of the reign of the Qianlong emperor (1758) Ush city’s Huojisi Beg sent his son Muzaffar (Mozapa’er) to the capital to pay respects. His head was wrapped with brocade cloth into which a golden spike in the shape of flowers and leaves was inserted. When he walked it made a sound like the tinkling of jade. He wore robes and a belt of brocade, and colorful leather boots. This is the same kind of clothing customarily worn by the Hui nobility.”23 Although not many of the entries of the scroll provide descriptions of an actual audience, we see here a striking amount of attention to costume and decorum, which showed respect for both the solemnity and the festive nature of the occasion, as well as for the imperial presence. It seems ironic to read intricately descriptive passages of the individuals who—whether due to travel or as appearing in pictorial representation—had been removed from their normal contexts—but perhaps demonstrating the power to move people, to decontextualize them from the milieus that gave them meaning and to inscribe a new frame of reference, along with new loyalties, was precisely the point.

In a discussion of the frontispiece of Thomas Osborne’s Collection of Voyages and Travels, entitled “Description of the Habits of Most Countries in the World, 1747,” Snait Gissis argues that “implicit gradations of civility—expressed in clothing, hairstyle, the positioning of male and female vis-à-vis one another with emblematic gender differences—formed the underlying grid of difference and similarity within each grouping of couples and among the various groupings.”24 I think it is safe to say that, as in representations of peoples from various lands published in early modern Europe, at the Qing court too, clothing, decorum, and relative positioning were all important. It is no coincidence, for example, that in the tribute scroll the sequences for entries on peoples of Tibet are organized from most urbane to most remote and farthest from civilization.

Let us now turn our attention exclusively to the Qing Imperial Illustrations of Tributary Peoples. The organization of contents of the work appears to be determined by the dual logics of polity and geography. In terms of polities it moves from outer to inner—or more independent to more closely attached—beginning with kingdoms, or guo (), continuing with various groups on the Qing frontier, and ending with culturally non-Chinese peoples found in the provinces of Fujian, Hunan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Gansu, Sichuan, Yunnan, and Guizhou.

The guo, or kingdoms, described begin with countries in east and southeast Asia, namely, Korea, the Ryukyus, Annam (now Vietnam), Siam, the Sulu Archipelago, Nanzhang (now Laos), and Miandian (now Myanmar). In the translation we have labeled this section “Kingdoms on Qing China’s Periphery.” For most of these locations separate entries are devoted to the officials and the common people. One exception to this general pattern is Annam, for which a third entry describes the Laji, a specific ethnic group. Another exception to this pattern is that only one entry is devoted to each Siam and Miandian, on “the people.”

The scroll itself includes the heading “Atlantic Countries,” daxiyang guo (大西洋國). This section, entries 14 through 23, describes only the people of the countries, not their officials, presumably because their officials did not appear at the court in person, or were not specifically invested in any way by the Qing. The entries under the heading “Atlantic Countries” represent Helvetia (which is described as a province), Hungary, Poland, Goa, England, Portugal, and Sweden, and also include illustrations and annotations of Black slaves and religious figures.

Following this foray into the Atlantic world, the scroll returns to what I have termed “Countries with a Presence in Asia.” This portion of the scroll (entries 24 to 37) describes the peoples of Japan, Malaysia, Brunei, Johor, Holland, Songjulao, Cambodia, the Philippines, Java, Malacca, Sumatra, and Armenia (!). With the exception of Russia, which is not identified specifically as a guo, and for whom there are entries both on officials and commoners, only peoples (yiren 夷人) are represented, not officials (yiguan 夷官).

After describing the various kingdoms with which the Qing had contact, the scroll turns its attention to peoples who are identified primarily either as Fan (); according to their location (Ili); by their ethnic or religious identity (Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Hui, Torghud); or some combination of the above. In regard to the usage of “Fan,” we have chosen to retain the original term rather than to attempt to capture its meaning through translation.25 Charles Hucker remarks that the term is used for those who undertake a period of active service in rotational sequence.26 While clearly the scroll uses Fan in a broader sense than this, for both Gansu and Sichuan, where (nearly) all those described are mentioned in the context of military organization such as brigades and battalions, the term “Fan” is frequently used to identify groups, sometimes in combination with a specific ethnonym. Peoples from the most remote regions whether to the west of Tibet and Yunnan or in the far northeast are always referred to by specific ethnonyms rather than as Fan. Neither Hunan, Guangdong, Guangxi, nor Guizhou include Fan of any sort.

The naming that occurs within specific provinces has its own complexities. In the context of Fujian province, with the exception of the Shemin described in the first two entries, all of the entries are for groups in Taiwan, which was under the administrative jurisdiction of Fujian at this time. Of the peoples represented for Taiwan, all are identified as either Shengfan or Shufan, that is to say “wild” or “acculturated” Fan. Taiwan also boasted three groups of Guihua Shengfan, which translates loosely as wild Fan who had affirmed allegiance—perhaps indicating a status somewhere in between wild and acculturated Fan. For Hunan, various types of Miao and Yao are described, as well as one type of Turen.27 In Guangdong , we see mostly Yaoren, but Tongren, Shanmin, and Liren also appear. The entries for Guangxi mostly describe various types of Yao, but also include Tongren, Miaoren, Langren, Yaren, and Nongren, Minren, Yangren, and Turen.

In the thirty-four entries for Gansu (166–132) we see numerous types of Fan as part of a dizzying array of ethnonyms. The chart below, organized according to columns representing min (), fan (), and ren (), captures a sense of the rubrics for categorization. It is possible that these different categories each represent a different relationship to the state such as min being tax-paying subjects, fan having military obligations, and ren as peoples not fitting neatly into either category. However, it is premature to make such a definitive claim. Interestingly, there are no Fanren in Gansu, unlike for Tibet, only Fanmin.

Table 1
Table 1

Types of fan, min, and ren appearing in the section of the scroll on Gansu province

The final two provinces covered in the scroll, Yunnan and Guizhou, are organized according to prefectures, departments, and “other places,” as are Hunan, Guangxi, and Guangdong. For Yunnan, sixteen types of Man () are listed, ten more ethnonyms carrying the suffix ren (), seven groups of Luoluo, and one group, the Boyi, with the suffix yi (). The term “Fan” appears only in relation to the Guzong Fan of Heqing and the Xifan of Yongbei. As for Guizhou, its forty-one entries (260–301) include twenty-three classified as types of Miao, three entries for the Luoluo, six Gelao, and various other groups namely, Gedou, Mulao, six groups in Libo county alone, the Bafan, Liu Ezi, and five additional groups carrying the suffix ren. What specific significance these suffixes may carry is not clear.

Careful analysis of the entire scroll has produced some insights on terminology describing the submission of tribute, and the subjugation of peoples, worth detailing here. The expression rugong (入貢) always denotes the first instance of a polity offering tribute, whether during the Ming or Qing (or at least the first instance in a very long time). It is used in regard to the various kingdoms (), Russia, the Torghuds on their return from the Volga region, and Kokand, all in the context of establishing an ongoing relationship. Hence, “to be admitted into tributary status” appears to the most apt rendering. Chaogong (朝貢) has a different usage. Described for both the Ming and Qing, it was performed by various kingdoms, as well as Russia, and headmen from Taiwan. With the exception of Russia, where it is invoked in the context of ongoing trade and tribute, the term is used when the presentation of tribute occurred once but did not become regular.

Terms for submission, and the affirmation of allegiance to imperial power, also have specific usages. The term guihua (歸化) is used uniquely in the context of Sichuan province, where it is invoked no less than thirty-eight times in regard to groups governed by either brigades, battalions, or garrisons reaffirming their allegiance to imperial authority under the Qing.28 The administration and living situation of these peoples varied. Some lived in stockades and were under the direction of the pacification commission, or occasionally a temple, as in Jinchuan. Some are described as paying tax or tribute, sometimes commuted to silver, usually to a local authority. These taxes are sometimes mentioned specifically as being earmarked for the support of the locality or its soldiers. Only one group, the Nagun Fanmin under the Jurisdiction of Fuhe Brigade—who reaffirmed their allegiance during the Kangxi reign—are specifically mentioned as not paying tax or submitting tribute.

In contrast to guihua, the term guishun (歸順) is most often used in relation to Gansu, and usually in the context of the first formal recognition of imperial rule, whether during the Ming or Qing. Before that time these groups are described as having constituted tribes, having been under the administration of a temple, or already affiliated with imperial China going back as early as the Yuan. The term also appears at several other locations in the scroll: in the textual interlude describing the submission of the Fan in Taiwan; for the Yaoren of Guangdong; and also for one group in Yunnan. Unlike guihua, it is not limited to military contexts. We have translated this term simply as “to submit.”

Guicheng (歸誠) appears in the context of Central Asia (twice) and Gansu (once). We have rendered it as “to sincerely submit,” or “submit sincerely.” Laigui (來歸) is translated as “to come over and affirm allegiance”; toucheng (投誠), as “to surrender”; and toucheng neifu (投誠內附), as “surrender and become part of the interior.”

Terms regarding territory also have very specific usages. Except for one instance in which an administrative adjustment during the Yongzheng period caused a change in jurisdiction, guifu (歸附) is used in the context of the Yuan/Ming transition and earlier. Four such instances are detailed for Gansu, one for Yunnan, and one for Guangxi. We have rendered it as “to come under imperial authority.” For xiang nei (向內), we use “to turn toward the interior”; for neifu (內附), “to become part of the interior”; and for lie bantu (列版圖), “to become attached to our domain.”

For us now, operating under the diplomatic logic of a system of sovereign nation-states, it may be surprising to find that the Qing Imperial Illustrations of Tributary Peoples includes such a wide range of political entities from independent, or largely independent, countries; to loosely affiliated Central Asian polities; affiliated tribal peoples; groups living so far distant that only the sketchiest information could be provided; as well as populations residing within the interior. However, the Qing court operated under a different set of assumptions regarding foreign policy than we do today. Its logic was that of a tributary state, which allowed for the existence of nested sovereignties.

Premodern conceptions of the imperial logics that governed tributary relationships in China can be found in schematic representations of the Nine Domains of the Zhou, reprinted throughout different eras of history, that show the imperial center as surrounded by concentric rings, or sometimes squares, each of which represented a degree of barbarism that increased along with the distance from the imperial center. These perceived zones did not correlate in any fixed way with actual distance as a fixed or territorial measure, but were used as a way to describe—and thus to enhance—the self-referential power of the cultural and political system that it perpetuated. As in the case of other self-described universal empires before the modern period, sovereignties could be multiple and nested, and were not linked to territorial integrity, which is a fundamental tenet of national sovereignty today.29 However, the logic of universal empire did require that every known polity with whom the empire had contact be represented.

In the past several decades, the study of Qing history has given increasing attention to the role of ethnicity in Qing rule, and begun to consider Qing China’s interactions with the wider world from new perspectives. The field has honed its thinking on how Manchu identity was formed, claimed, understood, and used in regard to imperial rule; explored how ethnic identity was characterized and experienced in frontier contexts where the main dynamic was not between Manchu conquerors and members of the dominant Han Chinese culture but rather with a variety of other non-Han, ethnic groups; and demonstrated how ethnic difference could play into concrete questions of frontier administration.30 At the same time, the field has come to view the Qing empire not only as a continuation of earlier Chinese dynastic history, but as an early modern empire with significant interaction and ties to other polities.31 The Qing court strategically deployed cartographic science and military technologies introduced via Western Europeans and struggled with challenges of population growth, frontier management, and the control of information, issues that also faced the Russian, Ottoman, and Mughal empires.32

To date, Qing studies dealing with ethnicity have focused primarily either on Manchu ethnicity and its relationship to Qing rule, or on one specific region or area of the empire. The geographical scope of the Qing Imperial Illustrations of Tributary Peoples allows us, by contrast, to explore how the Qing polity construed different groups in relationship to each other and gives us an overview of the various types of terminology used in the Qing conceptions of their relationships to the center.

While in some ways an ideological construction of the Qing as a universal empire and inheritor of the Chinese imperial dynastic legacy, the Qing Imperial Illustrations of Tributary Peoples is not simply an ethnocentric record of a dynastic system that would all too soon prove untenable, but also—even simultaneously—a document where expanding knowledge of a diversely populated world and its potential could be ordered and recorded. While invested in projecting an idealized world order into the future, the Qing was also not blind to potential dangers posed by the peoples represented, and was well aware of foreign colonial and trading activities in Asia. We read, for example, that the Dutch “entered Fujian and took possession of Penghu and encroached upon Taiwan’s land,” and that they held Java as a base in the southern sea. The Portuguese, as a marshal people, were known especially for their storming of Manila.

We encourage readers to recognize and to explore the Qing Imperial Illustrations of Tributary Peoples from a variety of angles, including the document’s place within the Chinese dynastic historical record, the specificity of the Qing context, and global history. We hope that this study will further our understanding of the significance of the framing of the work in the context of dynastic history over the long durée, lend insight to the formation and deployment of ethnic identity in the Qing, and contextualize the Qing representation of itself as a universal empire within the context of the early modern world. A list of suggested readings list on empire, ethnography, and diplomacy during the early modern period is appended for readers interested in further exploring these topics.

Suggested Readings on Empire, Ethnography, and Diplomacy during the Early Modern Period

Empire and Early Modernity

Goldstone, Jack A. “The Problem of the ‘Early Modern’ World.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 41, no. 3 (January 1998): 249–284.

Hostetler, Laura. “A Mirror for the Monarch: A Literary Portrait of China in Eighteenth- Century France.” Asia Major 19, no. 1/2 (January 1, 2006): 349–376.

İslamoğlu-İnan, Huri, and Peter C. Perdue. Shared Histories of Modernity: China, India and the Ottoman Empire. London: Routledge, 2009.

Khodarkovsky, Michael. Russia’s Steppe Frontier: The Making of a Colonial Empire, 1500–1800. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002.

Kontler, László, Antonella Romano, Silvia Sebastiani, and Borbála Zsuzsanna Török, eds. Negotiating Knowledge in Early-Modern Empires: A Decentered View. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

Raj, Kapil. Relocating Modern Science: Circulation and the Construction of Knowledge in South Asia and Europe, 1650–1900. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

Rumpf, Georg Eberhard, and E. M. Beekman. The Ambonese Herbal: Being a Description of the Most Noteworthy Trees, Shrubs, Herbs, Land- and Water-Plants Which Are Found in Amboina and the Surrounding Islands according to Their Shape, Various Names, Cultivation, and Use; Together with Several Insects and Animals. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press and National Tropical Botanical Garden, 2011.

Sen, Tansen, and Wang Gungwu. India, China, and the World: A Connected History. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2017.

Smith, Pamela, and Paula Findlen, eds. Merchants and Marvels: Commerce, Science, and Art in Early Modern Europe. New York: Routledge, 2001.

Standaert, Nicolas. The Interweaving of Rituals: Funerals in the Cultural Exchange between China and Europe. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2008.

Subramanyam, Sanjay. Three Ways to Be Alien: Travails and Encounters in the Early Modern World. Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press, 2011.

Tagliacozzo, Eric, and Wen-chin Chang, eds. Chinese Circulations: Capital, Commodities, and Networks in Southeast Asia. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011.

Early Modern Ethnography

Allison, Thomas. An Account of a Voyage from Archangel in Russia, in the Year 1697 of the Ship and Company Wintering near the North Cape in the Latitude of 71, Their Manner of Living, and What They Suffered by the Extream Cold; Also, Remarkable Observations of the Climate. London, 1699.

Ballantyne, Tony, and Antoinette Burton. Bodies in Contact: Rethinking Colonial Encounters in World History. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005.

Banier, M. l’abbé, Jean Baptiste Le Mascrier, Bernard Picart, Rollin fis, and Jean Frédéric Bernard. Histoire générale des cérémonies, moeurs, et coutumes religieuses de tous les peuples du monde. Paris: Rollin fis, 1741.

Davies, Surekha. Renaissance Ethnography and the Invention of the Human: New Worlds, Maps, and Monsters. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016.

Deal, David M., and Laura Hostetler, trans. The Art of Ethnography: A Chinese “Miao Album.” Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2006.

Devéria, G. La frontière sino-annamite, description géographique et ethnographique. Paris, 1886.

Du Halde, J.-B. Description géographique historique, chronologique, politique, et physique de l’empire de la Chine et de la Tartarie chinoise: enrichie des cartes géneralés et particulieres de ces pays, de la carte générale & des cartes particulieres du Thibet, & de la Corée, & ornée d’un grand nombre de figures & vignettes gravées en tailledouce. Paris: Chez P. G. Le Mercier, 1735.

Fletcher, Giles. History of Russia, or, The Government of the Emperour of Muscovia with the Manners & Fashions of the People of That Countrey. London, 1643.

Georgi, Johann Gottlieb. Beschreibung aller Nationen des russischen Reichs ihrer Lebensart, Religion, Gebräuche, Wohnungen, Kleidungen und übrigen Merkwürdigkeiten. Vols. 1–4. St. Petersburg: C. W. Müller, 1776.

Georgi, Johann Gottlieb. Russia: Or, a Compleat Historical Account of All the Nations Which Compose That Empire. London: Printed for J. Nichols: T. Cadell; H. Payne; and N. Conant, 1780.

Gissis, Snait B. “Visualizing ‘Race’ in the Eighteenth Century.” Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 41, no. 1 (February 2011): 41–103.

Goeree, Jan, and Pieter van der Aa, eds. Habillemens de plusieurs nations: représentez au naturel, en cent trente-sept belles figures. Leiden: Se vend à Leide, chez Pierre vander Aa, Eighteenth Century.

Gruber, J. G. Sitten, Gebräuche, und Kleidung der Russen, in St. Petersburg, dargestellt in Gemählden mit Beschreibungen. Leipzig: Im Industrie Comptoir, 1801.

Hodgen, Margaret T. Early Anthropology in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1964 (repr. 1998).

Hostetler, Laura. “Imperial Competition in Eurasia: Russia and China.” In The Cambridge World History. Volume 6: The Construction of a Global World, 1400–1800 CE, Part 1, Foundations, edited by Jerry H. Bentley, Sanjay Subrahmanyam, and Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, 297–322. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Hostetler, Laura. Qing Colonial Enterprise: Ethnography and Cartography in Early Modern China. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Hostetler, Laura. “Qing Connections to the Early Modern World: Ethnography and Cartography in Eighteenth-Century China.” Modern Asian Studies 34, no. 3 (July 2000): 623–662.

Hunt, Lynn, Margaret C. Jacob, and Wijnand Mijnhardt. The Book That Changed Europe: Picart and Bernard’s Religious Ceremonies of the World. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010.

Leitch, Stephanie. Mapping Ethnography in Early Modern Germany: New Worlds in Print Culture. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

Linschoten, Jan Huygen van, and Bernard Paludanus. Itinerario, Voyage ofte Schipvaert, van Ian Huygen van Linschoten Naer Oost ofte Portugaels Indien, inhoudende een Corte Beschryvinghe der Selver Landen ende Zee-Custen. t’Amstelredam [Amsterdam]: By Cornelis Claesz, 1596.

Montanus, Arnoldus, and John Ogilby. Atlas Japannensis: Being Remarkable Addresses by Way of Embassy from the East-India Company of the United Provinces, to the Emperor of Japan. Containing a Description of Their Several Territories, Cities, Temples, and Fortresses; Their Religions, Laws and Customs; Their Prodigious Wealth, and Gorgeous Habits; the Nature of Their Soil, Plants, Beasts, Hills, Rivers, and Fountains. With the Character of the Ancient and Modern Japanners. London, 1670.

Padrón, Ricardo. The Spacious Word: Cartography, Literature, and Empire in Early Modern Spain. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004.

Picart, Bernard, Jean Frédéric Bernard, Antoine Augustin Bruzen de La Martinière, Leone Modena, and John Lockman. The Ceremonies and Religious Customs of the Various Nations of the Known World: Together with Historical Annotations and Several Curious Discourses Equally Instructive and Entertaining. London, 1733.

Ravenstein, Ernest George, and Roger S. Baskes Collection (Newberry Library). The Russians on the Amur: Its Discovery, Conquest, and Colonization, with a Description of the Country, Its Inhabitants, Productions, and Commercial Capabilities and Personal Accounts of Russian Travellers. London: Trübner and Co., 1861.

Rubiés, Joan Pau. Travel and Ethnology in the Renaissance: South India through European Eyes, 1250–1625. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Rubiés, Joan-Pau, and Ollé Manuel. “The Comparative History of a Genre: The Production and Circulation of Books on Travel and Ethnographies in Early Modern Europe and China.” Modern Asian Studies 50, no. 1 (January 2016): 259–309.

Strahlenberg, Philipp Johann von. An Historico-Geographical Description of the North and Eastern Parts of Europe and Asia, but More Particularly of Russia, Siberia, and Great Tartary; Both in Their Ancient and Modern State: Together with an Entire New Polyglot-Table of the Dialects of 32 Tartarian Nations. London: W. Innys and R. Manby, 1738.

Tapp, Nicholas, and Don Cohn. The Tribal Peoples of Southwest China: Chinese Views of the Other Within. Bangkok: White Lotus Press, 2003.

Zhu Jing. Visualising Ethnicity in the Southwest Borderlands: Gender and Representation in Late Imperial and Republican China. Leiden: Brill, 2020.

Early Modern Diplomacy

Baddeley, John F. Russia, Mongolia, China; Being Some Record of the Relations between Them from the Beginning of the XVIIth Century to the Death of the Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich, A.D. 1602–1676; Rendered Mainly in the Form of Narratives Dictated or Written by the Envoys Sent by the Russian Tsars, or Their Voevodas in Siberia, to the Kalmuk and Mongol Khans & Princes, and to the Emperors of China; with Introductions, Historical and Geographical; Also a Series of Maps Showing the Progress of Geographical Knowledge in Regard to Northern Asia during the XVIth, XVIIth & Early XVIIIth Centuries. The Texts Taken More Especially from Manuscripts in the Moscow Foreign Office Archives. New York: B. Franklin, 1964.

Baĭkov, Fedor Isakovich, and Zacharias Wagner. An Account of Two Voyages: The First of Feodor Iskowitz Backhoff, the Muscovite Envoy, into China: The Second of Mr. Zachary Wagener, a Native of Dresden in Misnia, Thro’ a Great Part of the World, as Also in China. Henry Lintot and John Osborn, 1744.

Bang, Peter, and Christopher Bayly. Tributary Empires in Global History. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

Biedermann, Zoltán, Anne Gerritsen, and Giorgio Riello, eds. Global Gifts: The Material Culture of Diplomacy in Early Modern Eurasia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Brand, Adam. A Journal of the Embassy from Their Majesties John and Peter Alexievitz, Emperors of Muscovy, & c. over Land into China, through the Provinces of Ustiugha, Siberia, Dauri, and the Great Tartary, to Peking, the Capital City of the Chinese Empire. London: Printed for D. Brown, 1698.

Brook, Timothy, Michael van Walt van Praag, and Miek Boltjes, eds. Sacred Mandates: Asian International Relations since Chinggis Khan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018.

Cahen, Gaston. History of the Relations of Russia and China under Peter the Great, 1689–1730. Bangor, ME: University Prints-Reprints, 1967.

Chia Ning. “Lifanyuan and Libu in the Qing Tribute System.” In Managing Frontiers in Qing China: The Lifanyuan and Libu Revisited, edited by Dittmar Schorkowitz and Chia Ning, 144–184. Leiden: Brill, 2017.

Chia Ning. “The Lifanyuan and the Inner Asian Rituals in the Early Qing (1644–1795).” Late Imperial China 14, no. 1 (1993): 60–92.

Chia Ning. “The Qing Lifanyuan and the Solon People of the 17th–18th Centuries.” Athens Journal of History 1, no. 4 (September 2015): 253–266.

Di Cosmo, Nicola, and Don J. Wyatt. Political Frontiers, Ethnic Boundaries, and Human Geographies in Chinese History. New York: Routledge, 2003.

Dumasy, Jacques. La France et la Chine 1248–2014: de la méconnaissance à la reconnaissance. Paris: Chaudun, 2014.

Fairbank, John King, and Ta-tuan Ch’en. The Chinese World Order: Traditional China’s Foreign Relations. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968.

Farquhar, David Miller. “The Ch’ing Administration of Mongolia up to the Nineteenth Century.” PhD diss. Harvard University, 1960.

Gesterkamp, Lennert. “Heavenly Horses from Holland: A Tribute Painting of ‘Dutch Attendants, Oxen, and Horses’ at the Kangxi Court of 1667 and a Failed Dutch Embassy.” Meishushi Yanjiu Jikan 美術史研究集刊, no. 48 (2020): 91–298.

Hao. “Schall and the First Dutch Diplomatic Mission to the Qing Empire.” In Western Learning and Christianity in China: The Contribution and Impact of Johan Adam Schall von Bell, S.J. (1592–1666), 141–154. Sankt Augustin: China-Zentrum and Monumenta Serica Institute, 1998.

Hevia, James. “Lamas, Emperors, and Rituals: Political Implications in Qing Imperial Ceremonies.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 16, no. 2 (1993): 243–278.

Hostetler, Laura. “Central Asians in the Eighteenth Century Qing ‘Illustrations of Tributary Peoples.” In Writing Travel in Central Asian History, edited by Nile Green, 89–112. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014.

Hostetler, Laura. “Mapping Dutch Travels to and Translations of China: Jan Nieuhof’s Account of the First East.” Horizons: Seoul Journal of Humanities 1, no. 2 (2010): 147–173.

Ides, Evert Ysbrants. Three Years Travels from Moscow Over-Land to China: Thro’ Great Ustiga, Siriania, Permia, Sibiria, Daour, Great Tartary, &c. to Peking. London: W. Freeman, 1706.

Irving, David R. M. “Lully in Siam: Music and Diplomacy in French-Siamese Cultural Exchanges, 1680–1690.” Early Music 40, no. 3 (2012): 393–420.

Jin Noda, and Onuma Takashiro. A Collection of Documents from the Kazakh Sultans to the Qing Dynasty. Tokyo: University of Tokyo, 2010.

Kang, David C. East Asia before the West: Five Centuries of Trade and Tribute. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010.

Keevak, Michael. Embassies to China: Diplomacy and Cultural Encounters before the Opium War. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.

Khodarkovsky, Michael. Where Two Worlds Met: The Russian State and the Kalmyk Nomads, 1600–1771. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992.

Mancall, Mark. China at the Center: 300 Years of Foreign Policy. New York: Free Press, 1984.

Mancall, Mark. “The Ch’ing Tribute System: An Interpretive Essay.” In The Chinese World Order: Traditional China’s Foreign Relations, edited by John K. Fairbank, 63–89. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968.

Mancall, Mark. Russia and China: Their Diplomatic Relations to 1728. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971.

National Palace Museum. Emperor Ch’ien-Lung’s Grand Cultural Enterprise/Qianlong Huangdi de Wenhua Daji. Taipei: National Palace Museum, 1991.

Nieuhof, Johannes, and Nederlandsche Oost-Indische Compagnie. An Embassy from the East-India Company of the United Provinces, to the Grand Tartar Cham, Emperour of China, Delivered by Their Excellencies Peter de Goyer and Jacob de Keyzer, at His Imperial City of Peking. London, 1669.

Petech, Luciano. China and Tibet in the Early 18th Century: History of the Establishment of Chinese Protectorate in Tibet. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1950.

Rawski, Evelyn S. “The Non-Han Peoples in Chinese History.” East Asia Library Journal (2001): 107–222.

Rawski, Evelyn S. “Sons of Heaven: The Qing Appropriation of the Chinese Model of Universal Empire.” In Universal Empire: A Comparative Approach to Imperial Culture and Representation in Eurasian History, edited by Peter Fibiger Bang and Dariusz Kołodziejczyk, 233–249. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016.

Schlesinger, Jonathan. A World Trimmed with Fur: Wild Things, Pristine Places, and the Natural Fringes of Qing Rule. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2017.

Schorkowitz, Dittmar. “The Ranked Tributary Client System (Kyshtym) in Southern Siberia as the Decisive Point in the Foreign Relations of the Kalmluks and the Oyrats in the First Half of the Seventeenth Century.” Russian History 19, no. 1–4 (1992): 459–474.

Schorkowitz, Dittmar, and Ning Chia, eds. Managing Frontiers in Qing China: The Lifanyuan and Libu Revisited. Leiden: Brill, 2017.

Subrahmanyam, Sanjay. Courtly Encounters: Translating Courtliness and Violence in Early Modern Eurasia. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012.

Tong Ying 佟 颖. “Qingdai Qianqi Chaogong Guanxi Kaoban” 清代前期朝贡关系考辨 [The picture album of subordinate peoples of the Qing dynasty]. Manchu Studies 满语研究 52, no. 1 (2011): 26–33.

Veit, Veronika. Die vier Qane von Qalqa: ein Beitrag zur Kenntnis der politischen Bedeutung der nordmongolischen Aristokratie in den Regierungsperioden Kʾang-hsi bis Chʾien-lung (1661–1796) anhand des biographischen Handbuches Iledkel šastir aus dem Jahre 1795. Wiesbaden: O. Harrassowitz, 1990.

Walle, W. Vande, and Noel Golvers, eds. The History of the Relations between the Low Countries and China in the Qing Era. Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2003.

Walravens, Hartmut. “Symbolism of Sovereignty in the Context of the Dzungar Campaigns of the Qianlong Emperor.” Written Monuments of the Orient 3, no. 1 (December 15, 2017): 73–90.

Wills, John E. Jr. China and Maritime Europe, 1500–1800: Trade, Settlement, Diplomacy, and Missions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Wills, John E. Jr. Pepper, Guns, and Parleys: The Dutch East India Company and China, 1622–1681. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974.

Wills, John E. Jr. “Tribute, Defensiveness, and Dependency: Uses and Limits of Some Basic Ideas about Mid-Qing Foreign Relations.” American Neptune 48 (1988): 225–229.

Wu Ch’i-yu. “Who Were the Oirats?” Yenching Journal of Social Studies 3, no. 2 (1941): 174–219.

Yang Shao-yun. “Fan and Han: The Origins and Uses of a Conceptual Dichotomy in Mid-Imperial China, ca. 500–1200.” In Political Strategies of Identity-Building in Non- Han Empires in China, edited by Francesca Fiaschetti and Julia Schneider, 9–35. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2014.


The Xie Sui edition of the Huang Qing zhigong tu consists of four hand scrolls of various lengths, each measuring just shy of 34 centimeters in height. The work was reproduced in various formats including both color albums and black-and-white woodblock print editions. While the entirely of the annotated illustrations are reproduced and translated, we have not reproduced the colophons. We have translated the first of the poems they contain to give the reader a flavor of their nature.


Exceptions are entry 44, “Balebu Headman with Servant,” in which both figures portrayed are male; entry 70, “Xian’ganghong, Headman of Jinghai,” which represents two male figures from beyond the far border of Yunnan; and entry 205, “Shenbian Fan Women Governed by the Assistant Left Brigade of Taining,” which represents two women from a family line originally from Jiangxi province later residing in Gansu.


Peter Fibiger Bang and Dariusz Kołodziejczyk, “‘Elephant of India’: Universal Empire through Time and across Cultures,” in Universal Empire: A Comparative Approach to Imperial Culture and Representation in Eurasian History, ed. Peter Fibiger Bang and Dariusz Kołodziejczyk (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 11–12.


Bang and Kołodziejczyk, “‘Elephant of India,’” 9.


Bang and Kołodziejczyk, “‘Elephant of India,’” 32.


Evelyn S. Rawski, “Sons of Heaven: The Qing Appropriation of the Chinese Model of Universal Empire,” in Bang and Kołodziejczyk, Universal Empire, 233.


Bang and Kolodziejczyk, “‘Elephant of India,’” 1–6.


John K. Fairbank and Teng Ssu-yu, “On the Ch’ing Tributary System,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 6, no. 2 (June 1, 1941): 135–246. This essay also appeared in John K. Fairbank and Ssu-Yu Teng, eds., Ch’ing Administration: Three Studies (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1960).


See especially James A. Millward, “Review of Mühlhahn, Making China Modern,”; Peter C. Perdue, “The Tenacious Tributary System,” Journal of Contemporary China 24 (2015): 1002–14; and the introduction to James Hevia, Cherishing Men from Afar: Qing Guest Ritual and the Macartney Embassy of 1793 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995).


Da Qing lichao shilu: Qing Gaozong chun huangdi shilu 大清歷朝實錄: 清高宗純皇帝實錄 390: 8–9. Translation adapted from Laura Hostetler, Qing Colonial Enterprise: Ethnography and Cartography in Early Modern China (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), 46.


For a response to the question of whether there was a tributary “system” in the Qing, and a description of maps that contained text descriptive of tributary peoples, see Richard J. Smith, “Mapping China and the Question of a China-Centered Tributary System,” Asia- Pacific Journal 11, no. 3 (2013): 1–18. Further readings on tribute, as well as early modern ethnography and the early modern world are found in a list of suggested readings at the end of this essay.


Laura Hostetler, “Early Modern Mapping at the Qing Court: Survey Maps of the Kangxi, Yongzheng, and Qianlong Reign Periods,” in Chinese History in Geographical Perspective, ed. Jeff Kyong-McClain and Du Yongtao (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2013), 15–32; and Richard A. Pegg, Cartographic Traditions in East Asian Maps (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2014), 18–27.


See especially the textual interludes following entries 60, 65, 68, and 92, which detail specific instances of first-time tribute missions and displays of fealty to the court during the reign of the Qianlong emperor.


Zhigong tu can be translated either as “tribute illustrations” or “illustrations of services and gifts.” I have also seen it phrased as “portraits of periodical offering,” which is James Millward’s preferred rendering (see Millward, “Review of Mühlhahn”). Because the illustrations are so prominently of people, I find that “illustrations of tributary peoples” most clearly describes the genre. This is not to say that all of those represented would necessarily have agreed with their characterization as tributaries, or agreed upon the implications of their offering or gifts. Yet this kind of slippage was not uncommon in tributary relationships. For an example among the Ainu and centralizing powers in Japan, see Laura Hostetler, “Early Modern Ethnography in Comparative Historical Perspective,” in The Art of Ethnography: A Chinese “Miao Album,” trans. David M. Deal and Laura Hostetler (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2006), xvii–lxvii, esp. li. The illustrated albums that depict up to eight-two different ethnic groups residing in Guizhou and some other southern provinces, carry the parallel generic name of miaoman tu (苗蠻圖).


For a recent study, see Roslyn Lee Hammers, Pictures of Tilling and Weaving: Art, Labor, and Technology in Song and Yuan China (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2011). See also Nathalie Monnet, Le Gengzhitu: Le livre du riz et de la soie (Paris: Editions Jean- Claude Lattès, 2003).


Women’s work, weaving in particular, was considered an important contribution to both the domestic and the imperial economies. See Francesca Bray, Technology and Gender: Fabrics of Power in Late Imperial China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997); and Susan Mann, Precious Records: Women in China’s Long Eighteenth Century (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1997), esp. chap. 6, “Work.”


Ge Zhaoguang, “Imagining a Universal Empire: A Study of the Illustrations of the Tributary States of the Myriad Regions Attributed to Li Gonglin,” trans. Ady Van den Stock, Journal of Chinese Humanities 5 (2019): 124–48.


Sanjay Subrahmanyam, “Connected Histories: Notes towards a Reconfiguration of Early Modern Eurasia,” Modern Asian Studies 31, no. 3 (July 1997): 737. For a study on the expansion of travel in Qing China, see Chen Huiying, “On the Road in Eighteenth-Century China” (PhD diss. University of Illinois at Chicago, 2020). For my own earlier work on comparative early modern ethnography, see Deal and Hostetler, Art of Ethnography; Hostetler, Qing Colonial Enterprise; Laura Hostetler, “Qing Connections to the Early Modern World: Ethnography and Cartography in Eighteenth-Century China,” Modern Asian Studies 34, no. 3 (2000): 623–62; and Laura Hostetler, “Global or Local? Exploring Connections between Chinese and European Geographical Knowledge during the Early Modern Period,” East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine 26, no. 1 (June 2007): 117–35.


As Lai Yu-chih points out in a study of the transformation of early drafts into finished product, the accuracy of ethnographic representation—which is always a fraught issue—was not uncompromised in the creation of this representative typology. Lai Yu-chih, “Costuming the Empire: A Study on the Production of Tributary Paintings at the Qianlong Court in Eighteenth-Century China,” in Visual Typologies from the Early Modern to the Contemporary: Local Contexts and Global Practices, ed. Tara Zanardi and Lynda Klich, 90–103 (New York: Routledge, 2019). The illustrations have indeed been used as ethnographic source material. See Irina Popova, “Depictions of Tributaries of the August Qing 皇清職貢圖 and Hyacinth Bichurin’s First Album,” in East Asian Studies: Festschrift in Honor of the Retirement of Professor Takata Tokio, 401–15 (Kyoto: Rinsen Shoten, 2014).


Barbara E. Mundy, The Mapping of New Spain: Indigenous Cartography and the Maps of the Relaciones Geográficas (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 227–30.


William Roosen, “Early Modern Diplomatic Ceremonial: A Systems Approach,” Journal of Modern History 52, no. 3 (1980): 467.


Roosen, “Early Modern Diplomatic Ceremonial,” 467–68.


Huang Qing zhigong tu, entry 53, Hui Leaders of Ush (Wushi), Kucha, Aksu, and Other Cities.


Snait B. Gissis, “Visualizing ‘Race’ in the Eighteenth Century,” Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 41, no. 1 (February 2011): 70. For another remarkable account of the importance of decorum in European diplomatic ceremonial, see the discussion of diplomacy between the court of Louis XIV and Siam in the concluding chapter of Ellen McClure, The Logic of Idolatry in Seventeenth-Century French Literature (Rochester, NY: Boydell and Brewer, 2020).


There is quite a bit of debate, and scant agreement, in the literature regarding how precisely to translate Fan, including dependent subject, vassal, and other renderings. For an entrée into these discussions, see Laura Hostetler, “The Qing Court and Peoples of Central and Inner Asia: Representations of Tributary Relationships from the Huang Qing Zhigong Tu,” in Managing Frontiers in Qing China: The Lifanyuan and Libu Revisited, ed. Dittmar Schorkowitz and Chia Ning (Leiden: Brill, 2017), 192n15; and Laura J. Newby, The Empire and the Khanate: A Political History of Qing Relations with Khoqand c. 1760–1860 (Leiden: Brill, 2005), 3n6. See also Cheng Chongde 成崇德, “Qingchao yu zhongya de ‘Fanshu’ de guanxi” 清朝与中亚的藩属的关系, Minzu shi yanjiu 民族史研究 (2002): 318–28.


Charles O. Hucker, A Dictionary of Official Titles in Imperial China (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1985), 207 (entry #1862).


“Turen” translates as “local people,” but was also used as an ethnonym.


The term does, however, appear in the name Guihua Shengfan (歸化生番) in Fujian, also under the Qing (entries 88–90).


For an excellent overview of this distinction and how the transition played out in Siam/Thailand, see Thongchai Winichakul, Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-Body of a Nation (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1994).


On imperial rule, see Pamela Crossley, “Thinking about Ethnicity in Early Modern China,” Late Imperial China 11, no. 1 (June 1990): 1–35; Pamela Crossley, A Translucent Mirror: History and Identity in Qing Imperial Ideology (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999); and Mark Elliott, The Manchu Way: The Eight Banners and Ethnic Identity in Late Imperial China (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001). On ethnic identity, see Pamela Crossley, Helen F. Siu, and Donald Sutton, eds., Empire at the Margins: Culture, Ethnicity, and Frontier in Early Modern China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005); Emma Teng, Taiwan’s Imagined Geography: Chinese Colonial Travel Writing and Pictures, 1683–1895 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2004); Leo K. Shin, The Making of the Chinese State: Ethnicity and Expansion on the Ming Borderlands (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006); James A. Millward, Beyond the Pass: Economy, Ethnicity, and Empire in Qing Central Asia, 1759–1864 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998); and Jodi Weinstein, Empire and Identity in Guizhou: Local Resistance to Qing Expansion (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2013). On frontier administration, see Nicola Di Cosmo, “Qing Colonial Administration in Inner Asia,” International History Review 20, no. 2 (1998): 287–309; Newby, Empire and the Khanate; Laura J. Newby, “The Begs of Xinjiang: Between Two Worlds,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 61, no. 2 (1998): 278–97; John E. Herman, Amid the Clouds and Mist: China’s Colonization of Guizhou, 1200–1700 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2007); and John E. Herman, “Empire in the Southwest: Early Qing Reforms to the Native Chieftain System,” Journal of Asian Studies 56, no. 1 (1997): 47–74.


Hostetler, Qing Colonial Enterprise; Joanna Waley-Cohen, “China and Western Technology in the Late Eighteenth Century,” American Historical Review 98, no. 5 (1993): 1525–44; Joanna Waley-Cohen, The Sextants of Beijing: Global Currents in Chinese History (New York: W. W. Norton, 1999); Dai Yingcong, The Sichuan Frontier and Tibet: Imperial Strategy in the Early Qing (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2009); and Matthew Mosca, From Frontier Policy to Foreign Policy: The Question of India and the Transformation of Geopolitics in Qing China (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013).


Peter C. Perdue, China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005); and Peter C. Perdue, “Empire and Nation in Comparative Perspective: Frontier Administration in 18th Century China,” Journal of Early Modern History 5, no. 4 (2001), 283–304.

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