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Title: Translation of empire : Mongol legacy, language policy, and the early Ming world order, 1368-1453
Author: Lotze, Johannes
ISNI:       0000 0004 6498 204X
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis approaches two perennial and interrelated problems in the historiography of China - the question of the openness or self-isolation of (Ming) Chinese society, as well as the nature and extent of the Mongol legacy in the (early) Ming - from a new angle. In spite of a growing body of scholarship on political, military, and institutional aspects of the transition from 'foreign' Mongol Yuan (1271-1368) to 'native' Ming (1368-1644) rule, there is one aspect that has received little attention so far: language, or rather languages in the plural, and translation between them. By bringing the various multilingual dimensions of the early Ming to the foreground of analysis and studying them against the backdrop of the Mongol legacy, this thesis covers new ground. While recognising that not all activities with which it is concerned would have been seen as connected by early Ming actors, this thesis argues that they do collectively constitute a realm of action with a common purpose, which we can comprehend as 'language policy.' This perspective is significant, because Yuan continuities on macro levels (administrative, institutional, political) can only be truly grasped through a systematic investigation of micro levels, such as language. To achieve these aims, the thesis blends concepts and methods from history, sinological philology, and Linguistic Landscape Studies (LLS). My argument is threefold. First, the Mongol heritage was not just perceptible in institutions and newly absorbed territory but also on the level of language. Second, the early Ming, far from being 'fiercely anti-Mongol' (as one authority recently put it), consciously attempted to imitate and surpass the Yuan, and multilingualism - for both communicative and emblematic reasons - played an important part in this endeavour. Third, and most importantly, the year 1368 marked neither a 'revolutionary' rupture nor a 'business as usual' continuation of Mongol legacies. Rather, the new dynasty attempted to strike a difficult balance, in which language and translation policies were instrumental in harmonising the needs for both continuity with and a break from the past. The Ming continued Yuan traditions such as the production of multilingual steles and edicts to symbolise and enforce their universal imperial claim, while Chinese was (not de jure, but de facto) reinstituted as the major imperial language, as opposed to one imperial language among many, as in Mongol times. The very notion of universal empire, continued from Yuan to Ming, would beat odds with monolingualism, and consequently, the Ming could not have been monolingual, even if they had so desired. While the distinction between 'multilingual foreign' dynasties (Yuan, Qing) and 'monolingual Chinese' ones (Ming) is not outright wrong, it does need considerable refinement, in order to understand the Ming's place in the larger Yuan-Ming-Qing transition. 'Translation of empire' has a double meaning in this thesis. First, it is meant literally in the sense of language mediation: textual legacies of the Yuan were translated from languages such as Mongolian or Persian into Chinese, while the new empire translated its claim to power into other languages. Second, it is a metaphor alluding to the political concept of translatio imperii, known from Western Eurasian history and comparable to the Chinese 'dynastic cycle' narrative: fundamentally the idea of cultural mobility, with knowledge and power moving from empire to empire. How did the Yuan-Ming transition work as a translatio imperii in both senses of the word and what can we conclude from it regarding the nature of the early Ming?
Supervisor: Zheng, Yang-Wen Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Mongol Empire ; Language Policy ; Linguistic Landscapes ; China ; Universal Empire ; Ming Dynasty ; Translation ; Multilingualism