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China and Inner Asia
In Session: Frontier Encounters and Knowledge Production in Qing Inner Asia: Competing Narratives between the Qing State and Travellers to Frontiers
3: Travels and Frontier in Eighteenth-century China
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
8:30am – 10:00am EDT
University of Illinois, Chicago, United States
This paper explores the prescriptive policies and the lived experience of frontier travel in eighteenth-century Qing China. From both the commercial and state perspectives, i.e. the commercial travel guides and the legal codes, the paper first examines the perceptions of travel pass and frontier. The control of travel was loosened in general from Ming to Qing, and the regulation about frontier travel is complicated and under constant scrutiny under the Qing. Moving from general to specific, the second section of the paper focuses on the narrative of a Shaanxi Tungan, the life stories of himself and beyond that were drawn from the case files of Gao Pu. In an attempt to find a personal perspective about travel and frontier, this paper then revisits the case of Gao Pu from the perspective of common travelers, the merchants, hired runners, carriage drivers, hotel operators, etc., who were active in the long or short distance of travel at the frontier and became intertwined with the Gao Pu case voluntarily or not. The allures of the frontier for the common travelers, as this chapter uncovers, reside not on imperialist view of enlarged sovereignty; the distinction of the frontiers was soon recognized and embraced by the everyday traveler as an extended market, benefiting for both sides, for everyone with a will to profit. The profit lies at the frontier, yet more importantly lies on the road.