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Panel A: Imperial History

Location: Rm. 1005

Jason Castro, “‘Performing Loyalty’: a case study on early Qing-Ryukyu Relations (1644-1653)”

PhD Student, Department of History, UNC-Chapel Hill

The fall of Beijing in the spring of 1644 had a profound impact not only on Chinese intellectuals but also on the overseas tributary states of the former Ming Empire. The Ryukyu Kingdom, located across the East China Sea, grappled with staying informed about the rapidly changing situation in mainland China. To navigate this unpredictable environment, the Ryukyu court adopted a policy of appeasement towards all East Asian states, while refraining from aligning itself with any Chinese regimes. This paper will first explore how Ryukyu re-established diplomatic relations with the Qing Empire and analyze the external pressures that led to its defection. It will then scrutinize two critical incidents by examining Ryukyuan sources and cultural traditions. In an attempt to appease an enraged Chinese ambassador, the Ryukyu court recorded an embassy that existed only on paper and invented a historical tradition claiming that all Ryukyu King’s appointment edicts were buried with their predecessors. However, after detailed reviews of historical materials, this paper argues that the Ryukyu court fabricated these two events as a diplomatic strategy in the context of Sino-Ryukyuan relations in the late-1640s and early-1650s. Next, the paper will delve into Ryukyu’s survival strategy and the challenges faced by this island kingdom. The study of Ryukyu’s “fabricated documents” and its adaptable diplomatic strategy can shed light on how a commercial state navigated through the tumultuous early-to-mid-seventeenth century. Ryukyu’s experience offers a fresh perspective on how tributary systems were redeveloped and sustained amidst external forces during this significant period in East Asian history.

Yi Huang, “Empires and Opium: The Dynamics of Production and Trade in 19th Century Xinjiang”

Graduate Student, Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, UNC-Chapel Hill

As an essential intermediary in China’s exchanges with the West in the nineteenth century, opium has long been of interest to researchers, who have focused mainly on its trade and cultivation in China’s coastal regions. However, the Xinjiang region, because of its close links with Russia and Central Asia, was an equally important gateway for the opium trade and an essential base for production. This paper intends to explore the cultivation and trade of opium in Xinjiang in the 19th century, as well as the social and environmental impacts of opium poppy transplantation in the region.

Tanner Lucas, “Statey Matrons: The Han Imperial Harem as a Social Class”

Graduate Student, Department of History, UNC-Greensboro

Keywords: harem, Han Dynasty

Women of the harem within the Han imperial court existed as a social group separate from any other standard classification, a group that redefined standard societal gender norms by forging a distinctive social identity that not only influenced the court’s dynamics but also shifted societal perceptions and expectations for the larger body of Chinese women and gender relations in the Confucian ideal. Using Geoffman’s frame analysis, this paper studies the importance and influence of palace placement in the Early Han capital of Chang’an, the political functions and reality of life in the harem, and the development of intellectual works on women that occur in this dynastic period to argue for the classification of the harem as a social class of female bureaucrats in the imperial court.