Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Our Kind of Tibetans: The Political Life and Times of Liu Manqing, 1906–1942
by Zhang, Huasha, Ph.D., Yale University, 2019, 280; 13809996
Abstract (Summary)

Liu Manqing (1906–1942) was born in Qing-dominated Tibet to a family of Chinese and Tibetan heritage. She spent her initial years in Lhasa before the implosion of the Qing Empire (1636–1911) drove the Lius first to the Himalayas and then to the Republic of China (1912–1949). After a decade living and studying in China, Manqing became a politician in the Chinese Nationalist government (1927–1949), and she worked on behalf of, traveled across, and wrote about China and Tibet between 1928 and 1940. In the contemporary academic realm of the Sino-Tibetan relationship, Manqing is known as a remarkable figure who, through her 1929–1930 mission from Nanjing to Lhasa and her meetings with the Thirteenth Dalai Lama (1876–1933) during the mission, contributed to the rebuilding of the Sino-Tibetan communicative channel that was severed after the Qing collapsed and Tibet achieved autonomous status. She is also known for her multicultural background, her multilingual abilities, and the myths and contentions regarding her political, ethnic, and gender identities.

Despite Manqing's growing popularity in China and internationally in recent years, few studies have examined her beyond her role as a Chinese government emissary or used her abundant written texts to understand the author rather than the early-twentieth-century Sino-Tibetan political and social situations that she recorded. In response to this academic direction, in the present work, I situate Manqing's missions and writings within the context of her turbulent personal history. I also situate Manqing's personal experiences in the Liu family, who carried out multi-generational migrations across China and Tibet from the mid-Qing to the twentieth century, adopting multiple ethnic, cultural, and linguist identities along the way.

In addition to sketching a portrait of a family and an individual who traversed great geographical and cultural distances and claimed the ownership of various identities (Chapters 2 and 3), I pay special attention to Manqing's two legendary missions across China and Tibet in 1929–1930 (Chapters 3 and 4) and in 1939 (Chapter 5). During the missions, Manqing engaged with not only the intricate Sino-Tibetan political and social landscapes but also her own identities through her performances on the road and through the narratives that she crafted in reflection of her experiences. I also scrutinize Manqing's resurrections and reinterpretations in the People's Republic of China (1949–present, Chapter 6).

By investigating Manqing's production of distinctive political, ethnic, and gender identities via physical, literary, and visual means, I explore the tensions among state-, community-, familial-, and individual-level agents. By interrogating Manqing's transformations of her identities under different times and situations, I discuss the influences of temporal and spatial factors in the definition of an individual's political, ethnic, and gender identities. I also evaluate the forces that shaped and reshaped the relationship between China and Tibet in both the modern and contemporary eras through the experiences of someone who, in addition to being impacted by, contributed to and reacted against such forces. My findings demonstrate that a thorough investigation of Manqing reveals as much about the ever-evolving modern-to-contemporary history of the Sino-Tibetan relationship as it does about her as a significant actor in it.

My examination of Manqing illuminates a symbiosis between Manqing and the Chinese state on the Tibet front—a symbiosis that is as mutually beneficial as it is detrimental to both parties—that existed during Manqing's lifetime, has been perpetuated in the contemporary era, and is about to take a new form in the second decade of the twenty-first century. Such an unlikely but persistent mutualism between an authoritarian state and a mere individual testifies to the precarious distance between China's imagined and realistic connections with Tibet. It also testifies to Manqing's unique position in deciphering the conundrum that is the modern-to-contemporary history of the Sino-Tibetan relationship.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Perdue, Peter C.
Commitee: Quintman, Andrew, Ho, Denise Y.
School: Yale University
Department: History
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-A 81/3(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Asian History, Biographies
Keywords: China, Ethnicity, Gender, Manqing, Liu, Sino-Tibetan relationship, Tibet, Qing Dynasty, Thirteenth Dalai Lama
Publication Number: 13809996
ISBN: 9781088315644
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