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The Female Chieftain's Tribute

Taiwan Studies Lecture by Hu Siao-chen, Academia Sinica

Tuesday, April 12, 2016
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM
6275 Bunche Hall

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During the long history of encounters between the Han and non-Han people, the Han writers produced many texts that represent the non-Han as the other. These texts are in the genres of local gazetteers, travelogues and miscellaneous notes, and they narrate about the geographical, institutional and social traits of the non-Han regions and people. Among the profuse information they provide, the description of local produce and food often goes beyond factual record and is loaded with feeling and imagination. This essay centers around texts about the negotiation between She Xiang, a female chieftain in Guizhou, and the first emperor of the Ming dynasty, and discusses how clothing and food are represented as symbolic tokens of political exchanges between the leaders of the court and the borderland. As buckwheat, the main food crop of the region, is used to make the “golden crispy cake” that bears the pattern of nine dragons and presented to the emperor himself as the female chieftain’s tribute, the story of She Xiang is transformed from strategic negotiation between the central authority and borderland power to a side dish of exotic flavor in the feast of "multi-ethnic unified empire."

The UCLA Taiwan Studies Lectureship is a joint program of the UCLA Asia Institute and the Dean of Humanities and is made possible with funding from the Department of International and Cross-Strait Education, Ministry of Education, Taiwan, represented by the Education Division, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Los Angeles.

Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies, Asia Pacific Center, UCLA Dean of Humanities, Taipei Economic and Cultural Organization in Los Angeles