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Eirkson, Christopher (2019) IDEAS OF EMPIRE IN EARLY MING CHINA: THE LEGACY OF THE MONGOL EMPIRE IN CHINESE IMPERIAL VISIONS, 1368-1500. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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In the mid-fourteenth century the branch of the Mongol empire in China, the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368), collapsed. In its wake arose a new political order, the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), the last imperial state in China founded by Chinese. The cultural and ethnic differences between the rulers and courts of these two dynasties suggests stark differences between them, and the rhetoric of early Ming rulers, when read at face value, indicates that the Ming represented the resurgence of native sovereignty and the rejection of Mongol Yuan administrative practices, military endeavors, and expansive models of imperial rule. Over the last two decades, innovative research has questioned these assumptions, but there remain unappreciated connections between the Yuan and Ming that reveal the complex ways in which Ming rulers adapted Yuan state-building practices and understood the Ming dynasty’s relationship with its Mongol past.

Building on world historical methodology and recent work in the field of Yuan-Ming studies, this dissertation argues that early Ming rulers and statesmen viewed their empire as the successor of the Yuan and readily incorporated Mongol-generated imperial language, practices, and state-building methods into the new Ming polity. Early Ming emperors consciously redeployed steppe state-building traditions. They sought to re-establish Yuan patterns of hegemony over continental East Asia, and in pursuit of these goals, designed strategic policies and commissioned representations that mirrored Yuan imperial visions. When discussing Mongol subjects of the Ming and relations with Mongol groups in the steppe, Ming court language carefully distinguished between cultural and political identities. It was not until the 1440s that Ming rulers, facing military disaster in conflict with Mongols, curtailed their broad ideas of empire, a strategic decision that culminated in the construction of what we know today as the Great Wall. In a larger Eurasian context, this study places the Ming dynasty closer to other contemporary post-Mongol empires, including Muscovite Russia and the Ottomans. In China, as elsewhere in Eurasia, the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries witnessed the adaptation and modification of Mongol imperial ideas rather than the rejection of the Mongol past.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Eirkson, Christopherceirkson@pitt.educee18
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairMostern,
Committee CoChairRawski,
Committee MemberVincent,
Committee MemberRøge,
Committee MemberWeiner,
Date: 30 January 2019
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 27 August 2018
Approval Date: 30 January 2019
Submission Date: 25 September 2018
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 255
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: China, Ming, history, Mongol, empire, early-modern, late imperial
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2019 21:59
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2019 21:59


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