The Ethnic Groups and History of Southwest China

LecturerKenichiro HAYASHI, Associate Professor
DepartmentSchool of Letters / Graduate School of Letters, 2014 Fall
Recommended for:Sophomores and up of school of letters Master students of graduate school of letters Juniors and up of the other school (21.5 hours / session One session / week 15 weeks / term)

Course Aims

The minority ethnic groups in Southwest China which we are going to look into in this course was around Chinese traditional dynasties and always formed their own history and culture connecting with Chinese civilization. Historical sources are always written from the perspective of the majority, that is, in this case written from the perspective of the Chinese dynasties. However, I would like to find with students that what we can see in those historical sources when we reread those ones from the perspective of the minority group. Moreover, I think it is beneficial for us to have that kind of a way to look into histories to think of the relationship between China and other Asian countries or between the modern West countries and Asian countries.

Key Feature

I suppose that students will imagine that they consistently focus on transcribing what I write on a blackboard in a class when they attend class of the school of literature, especially history class. I am happy that students take notes of lectures very neatly. I do understand that students feel uneasy when they don't take notes because almost all references which relate to this course are not written in Japanese.

However, it is not the goal of this course to memorize the things which I write on a blackboard, such as important incidents, the years when they happened, the name of places and the name of important people. Memorizing those things is not the purpose to achieve in this course and also not what university students are expected to learn in the history class. I would like students to perceive "the flow of history" that how the things change at certain times and places and how those things affect the later history.

So, in this course I will use slides instead of blackboard to show students important matters. I will prepare for a lot of maps and pictures to let students feel the core topic of this course, the province of Yunnan, China. Students can see the slides after each class, so you do not have to bother to write all notes in a class. Students can focus on the contents of a class and think of old Yunnan.

Contents of this class

This course has following goals:

  1. to understand the existence of the ethnic minority of the southwest China and the outline of its history.
  2. to understand the dawn of the political unification and ethnic consciousness in the surrounding of Chinese civilization.
  3. to deepen the awareness that the same movements with 2 were happening everywhere in parallel.
  4. to broaden your intellectual horizons through this course to consider the history and culture of China and other Asian countries from a range of viewpoints.

The history of the study of Chinese history, The study of the historiography of Chinese history.

Charles Backus, The Nan-chao kingdom and T'ang China's southwestern frontier, Cambridge University Press, 1981


The following are the questions of the past final exams. (Depending on the year, the contents of this course are a little different.)

  • The school year of 2002

    Question 1: (1) Who was the person who told Wudi (Emperor Wu) of the Han to open up the route from Yunnan to India?
    (2) What is the most famous achievement done by that person?
    Question 2: (1) Who is the person of the Tang side who took the lead in contending with the Nanzhao during the Tianbao period (742-756)?
    (2) What kind of circumstances made this person have a great deal of influence in the Imperial Court of the Tang?
    Question 3: Write a short essay about the role of Tibet on the history of the construction of the Nanzhao.
  • The school year of 2003

    Question 1: Consider the historical background which made the Nanzhao (or the Meng famlily) unify Yunnan and write an short essay about it. (There were various ethnic groups and political powers in the Yunnan area from old times. However, the Meng family was the first one who succeeded in constructing the unified political power laid across both the eastern part (Dianchi region) of the Yunnan area and the western part (Erhai region). What were the conditions which made it possible?)
    Question 2: Compare the way of exercising the political power in the Nanzhao with that in the Dali kingdom. What is the biggest difference between them?
  • The school year of 2004

    Question 1: Write about the relationship between the action of the Han Chinese/the penetration of the Han Chinese culture and the natives in Yunnan area before the rule of Tang.
    Question 2: Write about the relationship between Tang and Yunnan area from the latter half of AD8c to AD9c. You have to make sure that:
    (1) You define the appropriate classification of time.
    (2) You mention the relationship (including indirect negotiations) on that time between Tang and the other East Asian countries.
  • The school year of 2005

    Question 1: Write about the influence which the situation of the Northwest China gave to the history of the Yunnan area. You have to give specific examples.
    Question 2: Consider the characteristics of institutions of the Nanzhao and the Dali kingdom through comparing them with the institutions of any country and era which you pick up by yourself.

Course Schedule

Session Contents
1 The general situation of Southwest China and that ethnic group
2 The Southwest Chinese ethnic groups in the Qin and Han era (BC3c-AD3c)  (part 1) 
3 The Southwest Chinese ethnic groups in the Qin and Han era (BC3c-AD3c)  (part 2) 
4 The Southwest Chinese ethnic groups in the Three Kingdoms and the Jin era (AD3-4c) 
5 The Southwest Chinese ethnic groups from the end of the Six Dynasties to the beginning of the Sui and Tang (AD5-7c) 
6 The unification of Yunnan by the Nanzhao kingdom (the latter half of AD8c-the first half of 9c) 
7 The construction of the Nanzhao Kingdom (the latter half of AD8c-9c) 
8 The re-establishment of the alliance between Nanzhao and Tang, and the formation of Bai People (the end of AD8c-the beginning of AD9c) 
9 Change in the relationship between the Tang and the Nanzhao (the first half of AD9c) 
10 The foreign expeditions in the latter half of the Nanzhao kingdom (the latter half of AD9)  (part 1) 
11 The foreign expeditions in the latter half of the Nanzhao kingdom (the latter half of AD9)  (part 2) 
12 The fall of the Nanzhao and the formation of the Dali kingdom (the end of AD9c-10c) 
13 The discontinuation of the Dali kingdom and the government of the Gao family which had full power (AD11c-12c) 
14 The national structure of the latter half of the Dali kingdom and the fall of the Dali kingdom (-the first half of AD13c) 
15 The Yunnan under the rule of the Mongol dynasty (the latter half of AD13c-14c) 

Lecture Handouts

All files are in Japanese.

Session 1

Session 2 - 3

Session 4

Session 5

Session 6

Session 7

Session 8

Session 9

Session 10 - 11

Session 12

Session 13

Session 14

Session 15


It is important for students to understand the historical overview, not learn detailed matters by your hearts. So students will not get small assignments. The evaluation of this course will be done by a final examination which is an essay-type test.

Students can bring your notebook which is written by you during classes, (not the photocopies of other students) and the materials which were distributed in a class to the final exam. It will not be the exam which tests your memory. Students have to be prepared for writing your opinion in the exam based on the things you learned in class. That will be the most important point in the final exam.

Last updated

May 08, 2020