This talk will examine the migration and settlement of Han farmers in Inner Mongolia during the Qing period (1644–1911). The presence of Han settlements in great numbers was an outcome desired by none of the concerned parties: the Qing court, the Mongolian banners and the Han settlers themselves.
For the Qing court, the inter-mingling of its Han and Mongolian subjects was a source of ethnic tensions that it had endeavoured to prevent from the outset. For the Mongols, the permanent loss of their lands to Han tillers was an outcome they had never foreseen when they first recruited the latter as a source of cheap labour. For the Han migrants, the decision to break with their own roots and settle in an alien land was against their own wish, which was “to go, to earn and to return.” In short, rather than any imperial design or grand strategy, this was the product of the convergence of diverse factors: geography, social condition, human greed and an instinct to survive.
This is a topic that has rarely been dealt with in depth in the English literature on Qing or Mongolian history. Yet, I would argue that the presence of large numbers of Han settlers has been one of the major historical forces that have transformed modern Inner Mongolia as well as China, and its effects are still palpable today.
Dr. Cyrus Yee is an Associate Research Fellow I of History at the Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China. He received his PhD (History) from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (2017) and two MA (in Comparative and Public History; Literary and Cultural Studies) and one MPhil (History) degrees from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the University of Hong Kong respectively. He lectured at the University of Hong Kong and HKU SPACE before his present appointment. His areas of interest include China’s frontier studies, History of the Mongol Empire, History of Modern China, History and Politics of Taiwan, Cross-Strait Relations, History of China’s foreign relations, and Comparative study of Chinese and Western Culture. His important publications include “Han Migrant Farmers in Qing Inner Mongolia: Reluctant Pioneers or Human Great Wall?” (Forthcoming) and “Wither Mongolian Consciousness? Or, Ethnic Politics in Mongolia in Early 20th Century”.
All attendees are invited to join us in the CIW Tea House from 3.30pm for an informal discussion with the guest speaker before the seminar.
The ANU China Seminar Series is supported by the China Institute and the Australian Centre on China in the World at The Australian National University’s College of Asia & the Pacific.