The Limits of Empire: The Sino-Nepalese War and Qing Imperialism, 1788 to 1850


Henry Luce Foundation/ACLS Program in China Studies Predissertation-Summer Travel Grants


Inner Asian and Altaic Studies


Abstract: My project examines the Sino-Nepalese War (1788–1792), fought between the Qing Empire and the Gurkha Kingdom, and its legacy. I argue that the War marks the last stage of the era of the Qing expansion and thus is crucial in understanding Qing imperialism, embodied by the Qianlong court’s strategic calculation, decision-making, and military operations in an expansionist context and a frontier setting. The project also explores the subsequent ideological meaning-making and intellectual construction of the image of the War as a spectacular success of the empire in defending Tibet against the intruding Gurkhas and an emblem of legitimacy of the Qing rule over Tibet. By examining sources in five languages (Chinese, Manchu, Tibetan, Nepalese, and English), the project bridges the disparate historiographies of East Asia and South Asia and provides a trans-Himalayan paradigm of studying the network of polities and peoples in early modern Asia.