Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

"Barbarized" Han/Hua Chinese - 'De-sinification'?


  • Please log in to reply
39 replies to this topic

#1 General_Zhaoyun

General_Zhaoyun

    Grand Valiant General of Imperial Han Army

  • Owner
  • 12,284 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Singapore (Taiwanese/Singapore Permanent Resident)
  • Interests:Chinese History, Chinese Philosophy and Religion, Chinese languages, Minnan/Taiwanese language, Classical Chinese, General Chinese Culture
  • Languages spoken:Mandarin, Taiwanese (Hokkien), English, German, Singlish
  • Ethnic Groups or Race:Han Chinese (Taiwanese Hoklo)
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    General Chinese Culture
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    Chinese Language, History and Culture

Posted 27 June 2006 - 09:40 PM

Does anyone have more information about chinese who had assimilated and adopted nomadic "barbarian" culture such as the Xianbei?

I don't know what the term is, but the term "Xianbeihua 鲜卑化" or "Hu hua 胡化" refers to assimilation of the local han-chinese into Xianbei during the age of fragmentation. When the Xianbei ruled northern China, it was likely that some han-chinese also grew up speaking the Xianbei language (instead of chinese) and adopt Xianbei culture.

Are there any chinese historical figures who is a "barbarianized" chinese? Any info is appreciated.
Posted ImagePosted Image

"夫君子之行:靜以修身,儉以養德;非淡泊無以明志,非寧靜無以致遠。" - 諸葛亮

One should seek serenity to cultivate the body, thriftiness to cultivate the morals. If you are not simple and frugal, your ambition will not sparkle. If you are not calm and cool, you will not reach far. - Zhugeliang

#2 Liang Jieming

Liang Jieming

    Ingénieur chinois de siège

  • CHF Han Lin Scholar
  • 7,251 posts
  • Location:in the distant past, changing your future...
  • Interests:Ancient History with emphasis on the sciences, technological and engineering achievements and milestones. Areas of interest include Mesopotamian, Chinese, Roman, English and Central American history.
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Ancient Chinese Arsenals
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    Ancient Siege Weaponry

Posted 27 June 2006 - 11:06 PM

I think it was during the Tang when the Xianbei really became truly sincized due to the ruling family. Li Shimin was part-Han and part-Xianbei. Practically disappeared after the Tang.

#3 General_Zhaoyun

General_Zhaoyun

    Grand Valiant General of Imperial Han Army

  • Owner
  • 12,284 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Singapore (Taiwanese/Singapore Permanent Resident)
  • Interests:Chinese History, Chinese Philosophy and Religion, Chinese languages, Minnan/Taiwanese language, Classical Chinese, General Chinese Culture
  • Languages spoken:Mandarin, Taiwanese (Hokkien), English, German, Singlish
  • Ethnic Groups or Race:Han Chinese (Taiwanese Hoklo)
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    General Chinese Culture
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    Chinese Language, History and Culture

Posted 28 June 2006 - 12:43 AM

Uhmm.. I'm not asking about the sinification of Xianbei into 'chinese', but rather 'han-chinese' who grew up and become assimilated to be like the Xianbei (adopting the 'nomadic' culture). It's what I call "de-sinification".
Posted ImagePosted Image

"夫君子之行:靜以修身,儉以養德;非淡泊無以明志,非寧靜無以致遠。" - 諸葛亮

One should seek serenity to cultivate the body, thriftiness to cultivate the morals. If you are not simple and frugal, your ambition will not sparkle. If you are not calm and cool, you will not reach far. - Zhugeliang

#4 Liang Jieming

Liang Jieming

    Ingénieur chinois de siège

  • CHF Han Lin Scholar
  • 7,251 posts
  • Location:in the distant past, changing your future...
  • Interests:Ancient History with emphasis on the sciences, technological and engineering achievements and milestones. Areas of interest include Mesopotamian, Chinese, Roman, English and Central American history.
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Ancient Chinese Arsenals
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    Ancient Siege Weaponry

Posted 28 June 2006 - 02:06 AM

Oops. Misread your title. Sorry.

Ok, how about westernisation of today's Chinese (especially overseas Chinese)? Dress, food, styles, language, names, religion?

Edited by Liang Jieming, 28 June 2006 - 02:06 AM.


#5 Yun

Yun

    Sage-King

  • CHF Han Lin Scholar
  • 9,057 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Singapore/USA
  • Interests:Ancient Chinese history, with a focus on the Age of Fragmentation. Chinese ethnicities, religion, philosophy, music, and art and material culture. Military history in general.
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Chinese History
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    Three Kingdoms, Age of Fragmentation, Sui-Tang

Posted 28 June 2006 - 05:15 AM

I would actually disagree with the use of the terms 'sinification' (which wrongly assumes there was a fixed 'Chinese' or 'Sinic' ethnic or cultural identity at the time) and 'Han Chinese' (which wrongly assumes that there was a fixed 'Han' ethnic identity throughout Chinese history from the Han dynasty onwards). They create the impression that culture was defined primarily in ethnic terms during the Age of Fragmentation. In fact, the rhetoric of the Age of Fragmentation (and earlier periods) viewed cultures in terms of the 'civilized' (Hua 华) and the 'barbarian' (Yi 夷 or Hu 胡). It did not see the process of changing a cultural identity in terms of ethnic assimilation (i.e. 'becoming a Han' or 'becoming a Xianbei'). Furthermore, 'Han' as an ethnic label was only introduced as a term of insult by the Gao family, a family that had arguably been 'barbarized' and embraced a Xianbei identity. It quickly went out of fashion after the late 6th century, only to be revived by the Yuan and Qing dynasties. People of the Tang and Song dynasties would almost never have called themselves 'Han', if the historical sources are a reliable guide.

So the terms I would now prefer to use to translate 华化 (but NOT 汉化) and 胡化 (but preferably not 鲜卑化) are Central-Civilized, i.e. being converted to the civilization of the Central State (中国), and Frontier-Barbarized, i.e. being converted to the 'barbarian' culture from beyond the frontier of the Central State. Note that being Frontier-Barbarized did not necessarily mean one adopted nomadism. None of the people I will describe below led a nomadic life, for example, and neither did many of the Xianbei themselves after they established bureaucratic states in the late 3rd and early 4th centuries.

The Age of Fragmentation figures I know of who adopted a Xianbei cultural identity despite not having full Xianbei ancestry were:

Feng Ba 冯跋, ruler of the Northern Yan state, and his sons.
- Feng's father and grandfather had served the Murong Xianbei as generals, and according to the Jin Shu 《晋书》, they "then accepted barbarian customs" (遂同夷俗). In 407, Feng overthrew the tyrannical last emperor of the Later Yan state, Murong Xi 慕容熙, and replaced him with the general Gao Yun 高云 (who was of Koguryo descent but had been adopted into the Murong clan and taken the surname 'Murong'). But in 409 Feng Ba deposed Gao Yun and took the throne himself. The state he founded is known as the Northern Yan, although Gao Yun is usually considered the first Northern Yan emperor.

Gao Huan 高欢, de facto ruler of the Eastern Wei state, and his sons who founded and ruled the Northern Qi state.
- Gao married an aristocratic Xianbei woman, Lou Zhaojun 娄昭君. He grew up among Xianbei soldiers, and the majority of his followers were Xianbei. He seems to have introduced the term 'Han' to refer to the majority ethnic group of the Central Plains (who called themselves by the more flattering name of Hua 华), and while he claimed to be descended from an aristocratic 'Han' clan, most of his sons (under the influence of their mother) detested the culture of the 'Han' and prided themselves as Xianbei.

Han Feng 韩凤 (better known by his personal name Changluan 长鸾)
- A trusted general of the last Northern Qi emperor Gao Wei 高玮 (or the last real emperor anyway, since Gao Wei passed the throne to his young son Gao Heng 高恒 just 24 days before they were both captured by Northern Zhou troops). Han was a native of Changli 昌黎 prefecture (possibly the same clan that later produced the famous Tang writer and xenophobe Han Yu 韩愈 [Han Changli 韩昌黎]), and had a mother from the Turkic Gaoche/Tiele/Dingling Xianyu 鲜于 clan. He excelled in the military arts and despised civil officials, especially those from prestigious 'Han' literati families, and evidently saw himself as a Xianbei. He successfully persuaded Gao Wei to execute a large number of 'Han' civil officials during the last days of the Northern Qi, on the charge that they were disloyal. Han contemptuously referred to these men as Han dogs (狗汉) and little Han (汉儿).

Note that the 'confused' identities of all the above people have previously led at least one historian to theorize that they were in fact 'full' Xianbei who falsely claimed to have at least some 'Han' ancestry.

Practically disappeared after the Tang.


The Xianbei didn't 'disappear' - they just went under a different name, i.e. Huaren 华人 or Zhongguoren 中国人, since they finally got recognized as being 'Central-Civilized'.

It's like Chinese who migrate to the US don't have to stop being Chinese after they become US citizens.
The dead have passed beyond our power to honour or dishonour them, but not beyond our ability to try and understand.

#6 General_Zhaoyun

General_Zhaoyun

    Grand Valiant General of Imperial Han Army

  • Owner
  • 12,284 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Singapore (Taiwanese/Singapore Permanent Resident)
  • Interests:Chinese History, Chinese Philosophy and Religion, Chinese languages, Minnan/Taiwanese language, Classical Chinese, General Chinese Culture
  • Languages spoken:Mandarin, Taiwanese (Hokkien), English, German, Singlish
  • Ethnic Groups or Race:Han Chinese (Taiwanese Hoklo)
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    General Chinese Culture
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    Chinese Language, History and Culture

Posted 28 June 2006 - 11:35 AM

Very well explained.. Yun.. thanks for the info..:)
Posted ImagePosted Image

"夫君子之行:靜以修身,儉以養德;非淡泊無以明志,非寧靜無以致遠。" - 諸葛亮

One should seek serenity to cultivate the body, thriftiness to cultivate the morals. If you are not simple and frugal, your ambition will not sparkle. If you are not calm and cool, you will not reach far. - Zhugeliang

#7 Guest_chinghiz_*

Guest_chinghiz_*
  • Guest

Posted 29 June 2006 - 06:03 PM

Gao Huan 高欢, de facto ruler of the Eastern Wei state, and his sons who founded and ruled the Northern Qi state.
- Gao married an aristocratic Xianbei woman, Lou Zhaojun 娄昭君. He grew up among Xianbei soldiers, and the majority of his followers were Xianbei. He seems to have introduced the term 'Han' to refer to the majority ethnic group of the Central Plains (who called themselves by the more flattering name of Hua 华), and while he claimed to be descended from an aristocratic 'Han' clan, most of his sons (under the influence of their mother) detested the culture of the 'Han' and prided themselves as Xianbei.


I appreciate your ideas. But, I disagree with your assumption that Gao Huan (高 歡), the first emperor of Northern Qi (齊 ), was a Han (Chinese) man. I don't understand why you assume that he was a Han (Chinese)?

The records are silent on his ethnic back ground, though he or his ancestors might not have been Sianbi (Xianbei) people becuase it is recorded that he was Sianbi-nized. I think he was either a Tungus (-Manchu, later) or an ancient Korean man.

#8 Yun

Yun

    Sage-King

  • CHF Han Lin Scholar
  • 9,057 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Singapore/USA
  • Interests:Ancient Chinese history, with a focus on the Age of Fragmentation. Chinese ethnicities, religion, philosophy, music, and art and material culture. Military history in general.
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Chinese History
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    Three Kingdoms, Age of Fragmentation, Sui-Tang

Posted 30 June 2006 - 02:55 AM

The records are not silent - the Beiqi Shu clearly says his ancestors were from Xiu county, Bohai prefecture, in present-day Hebei, and were once officials under the Han and Western Jin dynasties before one of his ancestors committed a crime and was exiled to the border garrisons. In his army, there were a few generals - Gao Qian, Gao Ang and Gao Longzhi - who did come from this clan and were clearly not Xianbei.

But as I have pointed out before (and also in this thread - see the sentence "Note that the 'confused' identities of all the above people have previously led at least one historian to theorize that they were in fact 'full' Xianbei who falsely claimed to have at least some 'Han' ancestry"), Gao Huan's ancestry is much debated. Since as early as the 1950s, if not before, historians from Japan and China have theorized that he was really a Xianbei, based on his other name Heliuhun and the fact that his sons all saw themselves as Xianbei. Jennifer Holmgren also supports the argument that the Gao were Xianbei who falsified a 'Hua' ancestry to increase their prestige.

This is similar to Yang Jian of the Sui, who did have some true members of the Hongnong Yang clan (e.g. Yang Su) in his court, but may not have been a real Hongnong Yang himself. Many historians have suspected that he was at least partially Xianbei.
The dead have passed beyond our power to honour or dishonour them, but not beyond our ability to try and understand.

#9 xifangren

xifangren

    Provincial Governor (Cishi 刺史)

  • CHF Rookie Member
  • 30 posts

Posted 30 June 2006 - 03:12 AM

"The Xianbei didn't 'disappear' - they just went under a different name, i.e. Huaren 华人 or Zhongguoren 中国人, since they finally got recognized as being 'Central-Civilized'."

"It's like Chinese who migrate to the US don't have to stop being Chinese after they become US citizens."

The sense of the analogy is misapplied, just the opposite. Really think about it.

Besides, if I were to say it was like the Germans who immigrated to the USA, what would one expect to be the absolutely natural consequence? Their offspring stopped being German.

Edited by xifangren, 30 June 2006 - 03:14 AM.


#10 Yun

Yun

    Sage-King

  • CHF Han Lin Scholar
  • 9,057 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Singapore/USA
  • Interests:Ancient Chinese history, with a focus on the Age of Fragmentation. Chinese ethnicities, religion, philosophy, music, and art and material culture. Military history in general.
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Chinese History
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    Three Kingdoms, Age of Fragmentation, Sui-Tang

Posted 30 June 2006 - 03:45 AM

Their offspring stopped being German.


They can still be called Americans of German descent, or sometimes German-Americans if they want to be known as such, just like there are Irish-Americans, African-Americans, Chinese-Americans, and so on. We even have the term 'American-born Chinese' or ABCs. Most US citizens of Chinese descent clearly do not wish to stop identifying themselves at least partly as Chinese. If 100 years later, none of their descendants thinks of himself/herself as Chinese (just like many Americans of German descent now have no link to German culture apart from their names), we can't jump to the conclusion that any sense of Chinese identity 'disappeared' after these Chinese migrated to the USA in the 19th and 20th centuries. Assimilation and acculturation do take place, but dual or multiple identities are everywhere in evidence whether in ancient history or in modern times.

We don't know enough from the historical sources to conclude that Xianbei culture and Xianbei identity completely disappeared during the Tang. We do know that the culture, identity and language don't exist anymore today (unless you believe that Mongol culture, identity and language is a continuation of the Xianbei). But to assume they were quickly swallowed up by a 'Han' culture and identity is too simplistic; the process was definitely more complex and two-way. The Xianbei language died out, of course, and this probably played a big part in the extinction of Xianbei culture and identity. But when, and how, did this dying out take place? Was it a result of not having a written script? Did the Middle Chinese spoken in the Tang carry elements of the Xianbei language, and if so, how much? These are questions that still need to be explored.
The dead have passed beyond our power to honour or dishonour them, but not beyond our ability to try and understand.

#11 lifezard

lifezard

    Grand Marshal (Da Sima/Taiwei 大司马/太尉)

  • CHF Grand Historian Award
  • 1,330 posts
  • Location:@?
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Chinese History

Posted 25 July 2006 - 04:47 AM

They can still be called Americans of German descent, or sometimes German-Americans if they want to be known as such, just like there are Irish-Americans, African-Americans, Chinese-Americans, and so on. We even have the term 'American-born Chinese' or ABCs. Most US citizens of Chinese descent clearly do not wish to stop identifying themselves at least partly as Chinese. If 100 years later, none of their descendants thinks of himself/herself as Chinese (just like many Americans of German descent now have no link to German culture apart from their names), we can't jump to the conclusion that any sense of Chinese identity 'disappeared' after these Chinese migrated to the USA in the 19th and 20th centuries. Assimilation and acculturation do take place, but dual or multiple identities are everywhere in evidence whether in ancient history or in modern times.

We don't know enough from the historical sources to conclude that Xianbei culture and Xianbei identity completely disappeared during the Tang. We do know that the culture, identity and language don't exist anymore today (unless you believe that Mongol culture, identity and language is a continuation of the Xianbei). But to assume they were quickly swallowed up by a 'Han' culture and identity is too simplistic; the process was definitely more complex and two-way. The Xianbei language died out, of course, and this probably played a big part in the extinction of Xianbei culture and identity. But when, and how, did this dying out take place? Was it a result of not having a written script? Did the Middle Chinese spoken in the Tang carry elements of the Xianbei language, and if so, how much? These are questions that still need to be explored.


unfortunately, how many of the Chinese today can we call Chinese of Xianbei descent, of Jurchen descent of Khitan descent etc?... very few, save those of surname Murong, Wanyan etc..the rest probably lost their peculiar culture when they adopted a Chinese surname and after a few generations, especially if they take part in migrations to other places.. their memories of a homeland probably become imprinted with the last place they came from.
plain amateur, here to make mistakes, make a fool of ownself, and hopefully learn something in the process

#12 Yun

Yun

    Sage-King

  • CHF Han Lin Scholar
  • 9,057 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Singapore/USA
  • Interests:Ancient Chinese history, with a focus on the Age of Fragmentation. Chinese ethnicities, religion, philosophy, music, and art and material culture. Military history in general.
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Chinese History
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    Three Kingdoms, Age of Fragmentation, Sui-Tang

Posted 25 July 2006 - 05:34 AM

the rest probably lost their peculiar culture when they adopted a Chinese surname and after a few generations, especially if they take part in migrations to other places


I feel that the surname is not the most important thing - many 'barbarians' in the Age of Fragmentation had already adopted a 'Chinese' surname, but still retained their ethnic identity. There were also 'Chinese' who retained their surname but adopted a Xianbei cultural identity. And in one exceptional case, the Jin (Jurchen) dynasty scholar Yuan Haowen could still be traced back to the Northern Wei imperial clan (the Tuoba), partly because it was known that the Yuan surname, while now regarded as 'Chinese', was actually invented by the Tuoba and adopted in the 490s.

To me, the crucial factor is the gradual loss of one's native language. Language plays a very big part in transmitting cultural identity.
The dead have passed beyond our power to honour or dishonour them, but not beyond our ability to try and understand.

#13 lifezard

lifezard

    Grand Marshal (Da Sima/Taiwei 大司马/太尉)

  • CHF Grand Historian Award
  • 1,330 posts
  • Location:@?
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Chinese History

Posted 25 July 2006 - 05:45 AM

I feel that the surname is not the most important thing - many 'barbarians' in the Age of Fragmentation had already adopted a 'Chinese' surname, but still retained their ethnic identity. There were also 'Chinese' who retained their surname but adopted a Xianbei cultural identity. And in one exceptional case, the Jin (Jurchen) dynasty scholar Yuan Haowen could still be traced back to the Northern Wei imperial clan (the Tuoba), partly because it was known that the Yuan surname, while now regarded as 'Chinese', was actually invented by the Tuoba and adopted in the 490s.

To me, the crucial factor is the gradual loss of one's native language. Language plays a very big part in transmitting cultural identity.



yes, language is more crucial to the transmission of a culture, but in the case of China or even the US, given names are often the last clues which might tell you who your ancestors might be after you or your forebears have been assmilated into the general culture of the majority..

Your example is rather clear: Yuan Haowen could knew that his ancestors were the Tuobas because Yuan (I supposed it is this 元?) because that was a unique surname, even if it is Chinese sounding... however, if his ancestors just adopted the various Lis , Wangs, Chens , Lius as many probably did in times of upheaval... even this last clue might be lost forever.
plain amateur, here to make mistakes, make a fool of ownself, and hopefully learn something in the process

#14 qrasy

qrasy

    Emperor (Huangdi 皇帝)

  • CHF Han Lin Scholar
  • 4,743 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Interests:Physics, Chemistry, Maths, Biology, Languages, Ethnicity, History, etc.
  • Languages spoken:Mandarin Chinese, Indonesian, English, Cantonese
  • Ethnic Groups or Race:Han Chinese (Southeastern)
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Other Interests
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    Chinese Linguistics

Posted 25 July 2006 - 08:29 AM

yes, language is more crucial to the transmission of a culture, but in the case of China or even the US, given names are often the last clues which might tell you who your ancestors might be after you or your forebears have been assmilated into the general culture of the majority..

You mean surname/last name, right? :P Aren't the Western given names quite popular (in the case of US)?

Your example is rather clear: Yuan Haowen could knew that his ancestors were the Tuobas because Yuan (I supposed it is this 元?) because that was a unique surname, even if it is Chinese sounding...

Yes, it is that Yuan. But it's ambiguous with 袁 if written in Pinyin.

however, if his ancestors just adopted the various Lis , Wangs, Chens , Lius as many probably did in times of upheaval... even this last clue might be lost forever.


The great enemy of the truth is very often not the liedeliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. - JFK

One thing is for certain: the more profoundly baffled you have been in your life, the more open your mind becomes to new ideas. - Neil deGrasse Tyson

#15 Yun

Yun

    Sage-King

  • CHF Han Lin Scholar
  • 9,057 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Singapore/USA
  • Interests:Ancient Chinese history, with a focus on the Age of Fragmentation. Chinese ethnicities, religion, philosophy, music, and art and material culture. Military history in general.
  • Main Interest in CHF:
    Chinese History
  • Specialisation / Expertise:
    Three Kingdoms, Age of Fragmentation, Sui-Tang

Posted 25 July 2006 - 10:14 AM

Yuan Haowen could knew that his ancestors were the Tuobas because Yuan (I supposed it is this 元?) because that was a unique surname, even if it is Chinese sounding

Good point there!

however, if his ancestors just adopted the various Lis , Wangs, Chens , Lius as many probably did in times of upheaval... even this last clue might be lost forever.


However, the Age of Fragmentation saw Xiongnu who had voluntarily adopted the surnames Liu 刘, Qiao 乔, Cao 曹, Jin 靳, and Chen 陈; Qiang 羌 who had adopted the surnames Yao 姚, Dang 党 and Lei 雷; Di 氐 who adopted the surnames Fu 苻 (originally Pu 蒲), Qiang 强, and Lu 吕; and Jie 羯 who adopted the surname Shi 石. They did not lose their ethnic identity despite using new surnames, and probably still retained their old names when conversing in their native language. They even adopted 'Chinese' given names: for example, Tuoba Folifa 拓跋佛狸伐 was known as Tuoba Tao 拓跋焘 to the 'Chinese' (Hua). Many of these people were bilingual or multi-lingual. It was only when their descendants stopped using their native language and practicing their native customs that they became indistinguishable from the Hua.

I've just read an interesting article by Lin Meicun 林梅村 about a man named Yu Hong 虞弘 who died in 592 and whose grave was discovered in Taiyuan 太原 in 1999. The grave inscription indicates he was from the kingdom of Yu 鱼 (Fish), which Lin believes was the Turkic Buluoji 步落稽 tribe (commonly known at that time as Ji Hu 稽胡) - Lin links Buluoji with Balaq, which means 'fish' in Turkic. The record of a Sui general named Yu Qingze 虞庆则 who was originally surnamed Yu 鱼 leads Lin to infer that Yu Hong was also initially called 鱼弘, or Yu Mopan 鱼莫潘 in his own language (Mopan is recorded in the grave inscription as his style name or zi 字). There was another Sui general from the same region as Yu Qingze, named Yu Juluo 鱼俱罗. Furthermore, Yu 鱼 is recorded as one of the three prominent surnames in Taiyuan in the Tang dynasty.

This suggests that while Yu Hong had changed his surname to Yu 虞 when serving as a minister under the Northern Qi, Northern Zhou and Sui dynasties, others from the Buluoji tribe in Taiyuan stuck to the old Yu 鱼. Lin Meicun argues that the shift from Yu 鱼 to Yu 虞 reflects a desire to blend in with Hua ('Chinese') culture. But I am not sure it was not just a matter of personal preference - Yu 鱼, after all, is also known as a 'Chinese' surname, for example the Tang eunuch Yu Chao'en 鱼朝恩 whose family came from Sichuan.

Another revelation from the grave inscription is that Yu Hong was a Zoroastrian and an official in charge of the Zoroastrian community in the Northern Zhou. Before joining the Northern Qi court, he had served the Rouran 柔然 khaganate up to its destruction by the Turks in the 550s. During his time as a Rouran official, he had served as an envoy to the Tuyuhun 吐谷浑 kingdom and Persia, in the latter case probably getting the assignment because of his religion. But instead of having his corpse exposed and eaten by birds or animals in the Zoroastrian custom, Yu Hong chose to be buried in a stone coffin in 'Chinese' style, with an inscription in the Chinese script. This may reflect the Northern Zhou dynastic history's acount that the Ji Hu were roughly similar to the Chinese (Zhongxia 中夏) in men's clothing and burial customs, and that their chieftains were quite proficient in the Chinese script, although they still spoke their own 'barbarian' language. The Ji Hu women also preserved a custom of decorating their ears and necks with clam shells.

Yu Hong's case shows that sometimes a lot more was going on than just a change in surnames. These 'non-Chinese' people were quite multicultural, and their customs changed only gradually. It is far too simple to say that cultural assimilation followed naturally from the adoption of a 'Chinese' surname.
The dead have passed beyond our power to honour or dishonour them, but not beyond our ability to try and understand.




1 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 1 guests, 0 anonymous users