Lords of the Marches: Imperial Identity on the Margins in Early Fourth-Century China
Chinese identity, Liu Kun, Sixteen Kingdoms, Tuoba, Wang Jun, Western Jin dynasty, Xianbei
Early Medieval China
This study explores group identity perception in early medieval China at a time of peak ethno-cultural complexity, as north China was falling under the control of multiple ostensibly “non-Chinese” peoples in the early fourth century. The subject is approached through an examination of the careers of two especially significant northern frontier officials, Liu Kun (271–318) and Wang Jun (252–314), and their interactions with neighboring Xianbei peoples, as well as with the Jin dynasty imperial court. We conclude that, although there were ethno-cultural differences and multiple distinct, separately named, population groups, the crucial factor for identity formation—at least as portrayed in the surviving textual sources—was the dynastic state. Also important to identity formation was the embodiment of civilizational norms. Jin dynasty people were distinguished from non-Jin “others,” yet some of the non-Jin others behaved more like true participants in the ideals of Chinese civilization than some of the native-born Jin people.
Department of History
Original Publication Date
DOI of published version
Holcombe, Charles, "Lords of the Marches: Imperial Identity on the Margins in Early Fourth-Century China" (2022). Faculty Publications. 5330.