AAS-in-Asia Report (Wonhee Cho)

Report of AAS-in-Asia 2017 on Mongol Empire Studies related panels.

The AAS-in-Asia 2017, hosted by Korea University in South Korea was an exciting experience for historians of the Mongol empire / Yuan dynasty. We had four panels organized by scholars of the Mongol empire, both who were alumni of the HUJI / ERC Mongol empire project (Soyoung Choi/ Wonhee Cho). Following are short summaries of the works presented in the four panels, followed by a list of panel that might be of interest of our group of Mongolists.

Links are provided to the originally proposed project, as found on the conference web site. Note that in some presentations, there were some changes in the actual presentation in contrast to the originally submitted proposal (including yours truly).

Panel 1: Transcending Boundaries of Identity, Religion and Dynasties in the Local Societies during the Song(Jin)-Yuan-Ming transition (1100 to 1400).


From Borderland to Ethnic Boundary: Transformation of the Ma family’s Öng’üt identity in the Mongol Empire (Ma Xiaolin)

Ma Xiaolins’s examination of the Ma family (no pun intended, and no direct relationship between the two Ma families) compares and contrast the two genealogical records written in respectively in the 13th and 14th C. The earlier version emphasized their Uyghur linage, but the later emphasized their Onggut connections. This change of emphasis in the two biography invites us to think about the fluidity of identity, and how to define the idea of “ethnicity” in early historical contexts.

Memory of Mongol Rule and Lineage Building in Ming-Qing North China (Tomoyasu Iiyama)

Tomoyasu Iiyama’s paper, a work in progress based on his fieldwork, examines the various “Genealogical Steles” and how these steles reflect the re-writing and interpretation of their ancestries. For example, a specific family claimed to be Tangguts(14C), then to Han Chinese (夏人 – of course, 夏 can have two different meaning) and then to be Tangguts and later Mongols (19C / 20C). Two questions remain unanswered: why do we only see this stele rewriting practice so clearly evident in Northern China, and why did so many people start self-claiming their Mongol origins in the 19C / 20C?

The Mongol Impact, Emerging Military Officers, and New Linkages beyond the Boundary between the North and the South China (Yoshiyuki Funada)

Yoshiyuki Funada’s presentation is a biographical research on a Han Chinese general Ning Yu. His rise of status from a low ranking Jin dynasty military official to a powerful and influential official in the Yuan around the conquest of Southern Song emphasizes the importance of individual competence, establishing ties, and their role in connecting the North and South of China.

Panel 2: Digital Humanities and Yuan Studies: Expanding Methodological Boundaries in Asian History

Movement of People and Boundaries of Power in Mongol China (Michael Brose)

Michal Brose’s preliminary research examines and compiles various data points found in the local sources (primarily gazetteers) of Jiqing. Although the data compilation is still in the early stage, the currently compiled data on tax quotas vs land quotas, ethnicity of high ranking officials, and social networks diagrams invites us to ask new questions and rethink our conceptions of a Yuan local society structure.

From History to Memory: A Stylometric Analysis of the Yuanshi (Florence Hodous)

Florence Hodous’ presentation applies the methodology of computer aided analysis of style, or stylometry (most frequent word analysis), mostly by comparing the works of Yuanshi and known contributors (such as Song Lian). The current results show that the usage of numbers, the genre of the writing among others, all reveal interesting and challenging data on how to apply use this methodology in Yuan studies and beyond.

Beyond the Han and non-Han Conflicts: A Network Analysis of the Early Fourteenth Century Yuan Officials (Wonhee Cho)

Wonhee Cho’s presentation focused his social network graph (via Gephi) of the 65 officials from the reign of the Renzong Emperor of the Yuan, i.e., the ten year period from 1311 to 1320. His analysis visualizes the importance of relatively unknown officials (such as a Hassan), and leads to new questions that were not easily noticeable and represented in traditional historical reading and writing.

Panel 3: The Mongols and the Others: Cultural and Religious Exchange in Eurasia in the 13-17th Century

A Tibetan or a Mongol: Life of Chakna Dorje (phyag na rdo rje, 1239-1267), little brother of Phagpa (‘phags pa, 1235-1280) (Soyong Choi)

Soyong Choi’s reconstructs the life of Chakna Dorje based on the various Tibetan sources, which do not present a uniformed image of him, partially due to the “Mongol” aspects of this life (costume, marriage ties and etc). In addition to shedding light on his rather unknown life, Choi’s analysis also emphasizes the diverse Tibetan views on the Mongols, that was not always necessarily positive.

The Princesses of Mongol Empire Married into the Royal Family of Koryo: Their Political Identity and Influence (Myeongmi Lee)

Myeongmi Lee’s presentation on the Mongol princess married to the Koryo family enriches our often simplistic image of the marriage relationship between the two states. Different princess played different roles, and held different official positions (including some that held none!), thus challenging the simplistic image of “Mongol oppression.”

Duk(纛)/ Tugh/ thug: Army Banners in the Eastern Eurasian Cultural Exchanges (Sungsoo Kim)

Sungsoo Kim’s presentation uncovers and analyses the army banners, represented by the term Duk(纛)/ Tugh/ thug found in sources from Korea to Iran. Tracing the etymology, origin and transformation of this term, Kim’s analysis sheds new light on the cultural exchanges that transcended national boundaries existed among different cultural zones all along Eurasia.

Between Buddhist Zunghar and Islamic Altishahri: A Biography of Erkebeg (d. 1681) (Sungje Yoon)

Sungje Yoon examines the life of Erkebeg, a rather unknown individual whose life overlaps the various different “cultures” – such as the Chinggisid legacy, Muslim Turks, and Buddhist Mongols – in 17th C Central Asia. His survival and success was possible by him navigating and adapting among these different traditions, but with the rise of Galdan his careere came to an abrupt end. In addition to understanding the diverse forms of authority, his end itself signifies how radical and disruptive Galdan’s rise to power was.

A Critical Examination on the Records Related to Korea in Mongolian Chronicles in the Seventeenth Century (Janggo Kim)

Janggoo Kim, one of the most prominent Mongolists in Korea, examine the records on the relationship to Korea and the Mongol empire during the 13th and 14th century written in 17th C Mongolian sources. Most of these chronicles repeat the same historically inaccurate facts (a Korean princess in the age of Chinggis Khan, Chinggis Khan’s conquest of Korea which actually happened after his death), but these inaccurately repeated accounts also highlight the importance of Korea in the minds of the chronicle writers in the 17th century.

Panel 4: To Rule a World Empire: ‘Imperial Institutions’ of the Mongol Empire

Note: ‘Imperial Institutions’ (which should have been in double quotations marks, but this is the Korean convention) indicates one of the main themes of Kim Hodong’s recent research, emphasizing the Mongol elements of the different institutional structures that the Mongols applied in their rule over different parts of the world, and identifying the consistency that stretched all around the empire.

New Imperial Time and Places of the Quriltai in the Mongol Empire (Paehwan Seol)


Paehwan Seol’s presentation on the Quriltai, based on his recent 2016 doctoral dissertation from Seoul National University, analyzes one of the Mongol centric institutions of the empire, highlightening the various political, economic and ritual aspects of the Quriltai, in addition to examining how the institution changes over time. Overall it provides a more wholistic view, and the Mongol aspects of the institution itself.

The Darughachi system of the Mongol Empire (Won Cho)

Won Cho’s (not Wonhee Cho) work on the Darugachi system is an expansion of her dissertation 2011 from Bejing University, expanding the scope of her previous research and emphasizing how the role of the Darugachis changed over time. The main emphasis of her analysis was the diversity, and adaptation of the Darugachi system, as seen in the Darugachi’s sent into the different areas of China, Korea, Vietnam and Iran.

The Adaptation and Change of Document Administration in the Mongol Empire: Focusing on the Mongolian Features (Seokhwan Kim)


Seokhwan Kim presented some early results of his doctoral research, focusing on how the Mongols used different forms of documentation to solidify their rule over different cultures. Although the Mongols learned the different customs from the pre-existing tradition of the areas they conquered, they utilized it to enhance the efficiency of their rule, such as actively using the language of the conquered to ensure their expectation and demands were directed correctly.

Research on the Seal Bearing Chinese Characters of ‘Seal of Grand Preceptor, National King and Prime Branch secretariat (太师国王都行省之印)’ – The Material of Some Official Seals of the Yuan Dynasty (Xue Lei)

Xue Lei’s project, presented in Chinese, discussed the high possibility of how a single seal of Muqali might be a forgery, but did not feel confident enough to make a definitive conclusion (even when pushed in the Q&A). Overall it was a classical example of a solid, philological analysis, but also new and innovative as the object of analysis was objects, not texts.

The Mongolian Impact: The Steppe Gene of Yuan Military Institutions (Kwanghoo Yoo)


Kwanghoon Yoo’s presentation on the Yuan dynasty military emphasizes how the military system of the Mongols, first originated on their steppe traditions, recreated a new form of military organization in the lands of China. Examples include the priority on the Mongols (“Mongol first” policy, a strange and unexpected analogy to recent American political slogans), hereditary military households, and the self supplying nature of the army.

Other potentially interesting projects and panels include the following. I was not able to attend all of the different panels and therefore will not be able to provide a detailed summary. Links are provided for convenience.

Panel: Making, Managing, and Transforming Boundaries in Early-Modern Mongolia

Panel: Reconsidering Tangut and Mongol Connections: Buddhist Visual Cultural Perspectives

Panel: Looking Beyond Borders: Medieval Chinese Perception and Interception of Non-Han Ethnic Groups and their Manifestations


Panel: Toward a World History of the Qing Empire

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