Ecological space and ethnic administration in Manchuria, 17th-19th centuries.


American Research in the Humanities in China




The Qing empire developed a number of distinct regional administrative structures specially modified to incorporate ethnic and environmental diversity into a more manageable bureaucratic uniformity. I am specifically in examining instances when this incorporation was compromised as well as incorporation’s transformative effects on local ethnicities and environments. Manchuria’s rich, and in some cases unique, natural resources decisively influenced Qing frontier policies, which were intended to reorder indigenous ethnic identities and their ways of life in order to maximize dynastic exploitation valuable forest flora and fauna. The Qing delineation of ‘’ginseng mountains’’,’’pearl rivers’’ and hunting preserves, all maintained for the imperial house’s exclusive consumption, was accompanied by the new organization of specialized groups of indigenous people, particularly the ‘’Butha Ula’’, assigned to maintain these enclaves. Natural riches also attracted rival military powers, most notably Tsarist Russia, to Manchuria, and the Qing response was again the formation of ethnic identities, namely ‘’New Manchu’’military units raised from several indigenous ethnicities.