The Ancient Highlands of Southwest China: From the Bronze Age to the Han Empire

Hardcover | January 15, 2016

byAlice Yao

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Although long considered to be a barren region on the periphery of ancient Chinese civilization, the southwest massif was once the political heartland of numerous Bronze Age polities. Their distinctive material tradition - intricately cast bronze kettle drums and cowrie shell containers - hasgiven archaeologists and historians a glimpse of the extraordinary wealth, artistry, and power exercised by highland leaders over the course of the first millennium BC. In the first century BC, Han imperial conquest reduced local power and began a process of cultural assimilation.Instead of a clash between center and periphery or barbarism and civilization, this book examines the classic study of imperial rule as a confrontation between different political temporalities. The author provides an archaeological account of the southwest where Bronze Age landscape formations andfunerary traditions bring to light a history of competing warrior cultures and kingly genealogies. In particular, the book illustrates how mourners used funerals and cemetery mounds to transmit social biographies and tribal affiliations across successive generations. Han incorporation thus entangledthe orders of state time with the generational cycles of local factions, foregrounding the role of time in the production of power relations in imperial frontiers. The book extends approaches to empires to show how prehistoric time frames continue to shape the futures of frontier subjects despiteimperial efforts to unify space and histories.

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Although long considered to be a barren region on the periphery of ancient Chinese civilization, the southwest massif was once the political heartland of numerous Bronze Age polities. Their distinctive material tradition - intricately cast bronze kettle drums and cowrie shell containers - hasgiven archaeologists and historians a glimps...

Alice Yao is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:288 pages, 9.41 × 6.3 × 0.79 inPublished:January 15, 2016Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199367345

ISBN - 13:9780199367344

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Table of Contents

Introduction The Han and the Southern ReachesPart I De-centering a Historicity of the Periphery1. History Regained in Prehistory2. Death and Funerary Ritual: Where Multiple Time Frames ConvergePart II Bronze Age Histories3. Time and Place in the Early Bronze Age4. Bronze Kettledrums: Emergence of an Iconic Regional Tradition5. A Southwest Political TimePart III Native Subjects and Han Rule6. A Divided and Entangled Imperial Frontier7. The D(eb)atability of the PastConcluding Remarks on Historiography of FrontiersBibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

"This archaeological history of Han China's southern frontier explores local elites' confrontation with the state's imperial reach through time. In synthesizing textual and archaeological materials from Southwest China, Yao's mortuary and landscape study offers valuable insights forcomparative studies of agents who alternately created, sustained, and resisted ancient empires." --Miriam T. Stark, University of Hawai'i, Manoa