Physical realm: methods and ways in the studies of ancient China’s borderland history
【Abstract】The formation and evolution of ancient China’s borderlands have been the focus of academic research since the middle of the 19th century. At present, China’s “academic community for borderland studies” pays more attention to the summary of theories and methods of borderland studies besides the basic empirical research, with particular emphasis on constructing the discipline system of borderland studies with Chinese characteristics. Under this goal, the research method of the history of ancient China’s borderlands is the first problem that needs to be faced. However, in the existing literature, the summary and analysis of the research on the history of ancient China’s borderlands at the methodological level are still weak. This paper investigates and summarizes the research methods of the history of ancient China’s borderlands and puts forward that it should be studied from three levels, namely, micro, meso and macro levels, which respectively correspond to three research perspectives, namely, regional history, dynastic history and total history. Specific materials can be divided into three parts. First of all, the differences in the natural geographical environment in ancient China’s borderlands caused great differences in the production and lifestyle of border ethnic groups, which requires a “fragmented” micro-study of borderlands and border ethnic groups from the perspective of regional history. On the basis of sufficient micro-empirical research, researchers can have a general grasp of the characteristics and commonness of ancient China’s borderlands, and then build a solid theoretical system of ancient China’s borderlands. Secondly, for China as a unified multi-ethnic country with vast borderlands, its border ethnic groups determined the “borders” of ancient China. The formation of ancient China’s borderlands is a process of interaction and blending between inland ethnic groups and border ethnic groups for thousands of years, and it is also a process of accumulating natural layered fabrications. In view of this characteristic, researchers should pay attention to the meso-level research of the evolution of China’s borderlands in different periods from the perspective of dynastic history, and then straighten out the evolution of accumulating “layered fabrications” of ancient China’s borderlands; and on this basis, it is possible to complete the compilation of the total history of the evolution of ancient China’s borderlands. Finally, the study of ancient China’s borderlands from the perspective of regional history and dynastic history is a fragmented micro or meso study. The study of the history of ancient China’s borderlands still needs a full-scale and long-term investigation, and the fragmented empirical study makes it possible to study the subject from the perspective of total history. When studying the total history of the borderland evolution, researchers should not only pay attention to the evolution of China’s borderlands in the grand unified dynasties such as Qin and Han dynasties, Sui and Tang dynasties, as well as Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties but also attach importance to the Northern and Southern Dynasties, the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, Liao, Song, Jin and Western Xia Dynasties in the process of accumulating “layered fabrications” of borderlands. On this basis, it is possible to clarify the essential connotation and development law of the history of ancient China’s borderlands and establish the Chinese discourse system of “academic community for borderland studies.” Compared with the previous studies, this paper demonstrates a certain expansion in the summary of research methods. Firstly, it summarizes the relevant academic research into three levels, namely, micro, meso and macro levels, and corresponds the three levels to the three research perspectives of regional history, dynastic history and total history; secondly, three levels of research methods are formally put forward, and the research ideas from micro to macro, from fragmentation to total, and from empirical research to theoretical summary are indicated. To a certain extent, the research of this paper reveals the overall thinking and internal logic of the study of the history of ancient China’s borderlands, which has referential implications for not only the specific study of borderland history but also the construction of the disciplinary system of borderland studies with Chinese characteristics.
【Keywords】 ancient China; borderland studies; methodological system;