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In Session: The Collision of the State, the Local, and Space/Place: Historical Lessons from Southwest China and Northern Vietnam
3: The Territorial Disputes over the Tu Long Mine and the Birth of a Sino-Vietnamese Borderland, 1725-1728
Thursday, March 25, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
Luan D. Vu
Institute of Vietnamese Studies and Development Science, Vietnam National University-Hanoi, Vietnam
Prior to the mid-seventeenth century, a stretch of land between present-day Yunnan (China) and Hà Giang (Vietnam) was of no interest to the Chinese rulers nor to their Vietnamese counterparts. Less than a century later, this area witnessed an increasing imposition of state control by both Qing China and Le-Trinh Vietnam, and a Sino-Vietnamese borderland was born out of this process. This study argues that the states’ initiatives were, however, only the last stage of a longer conflict. During the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, the mining boom turned this area into a site of competition for control. Focusing on the heated conflicts over the Tụ Long/Julong, an important copper mine that was located in this area, I demonstrate that mining foremen and leaders of the semi-autonomous “native office” (thổ ti/ tusi) initially took the lead. Through mining activities, Tụ Long/Julong became a place that facilitated transregional trade and migration. But economic and territorial conflicts also triggered social unrest. As disturbances in the region put the Qing court on notice, a series of territorial disputes between the Qing and Le-Trinh governments exploded from 1725 to 1728. While the local roots of these conflicts essentially lay in mineral resources, the authorities of both states pursued a political cause. It was not until after a political resolution was achieved in 1728 that the border-making process began. In short, before the site of Tụ Long/Julong was engulfed into a Sino-Vietnamese borderland, this local place underwent its own economic, political, and social transformations.