The Dong World: A Proposal for Analyzing the Highlands Between the Yangzi Valley and the Southeast Asian Lowlands

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
James A. Anderson, Associate Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: We propose the concept of a Dong World, a mountainous territory lying south of the Yangzi valley and north of the lowlands of mainland Southeast Asia. In the highland valleys (dong) across this rugged terrain with its upland peoples, there emerged multiple communities based on wet rice agriculture and led by their chieftains. Much local rivalry, as well as conflict with more distant external powers, resulted among these chieftains. Using archaeological studies, Chinese texts, and other recent texts, we follow the history of the Dong World from the early last millennium BCE to the present day. We also establish a distinct periodization in this world's development. After the dominance of the Nanzhao realm (seventh-ninth centuries CE) and of Dali (tenth to thirteenth centuries), came the Mongol invasions and Ming (1368-1644) dominance, which split this world into its northern (Chinese) and southern (Southeast Asian) sectors. Since the early eighteenth century, lowland states (China, Burma, Thailand, and Vietnam) have carved out their pieces of this world, first with indirect rule (for China, tusi) before switching to direct rule (for China, gaitu guiliu) where possible. The result today is a world increasingly forced to cope with and benefit from external political and economic demands. The inhabitants of the dong communities are also in the process of accepting, rejecting, and/or accommodating these demands.

Additional Information

Asian Highlands Perspectives 44:8-71
Language: English
Date: 2017
chiefdoms, China, Dali, Dong communities, highland history, mountain trade and communications, Nanzhao, Southeast Asia

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