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Peripheral Kingdoms


Ian_Lee
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Other than the 24 dynasties that dominated Chinese history, actually there were a lot of peripheral kingdoms that usually just lasted a few decades during the rise and fall of dynasties.

However, unlike those "orthodox" dynasties that got detailed coverage, these small potatoes usually just received scant attention from the historians.

Out of all those peropheral kingdoms, I like Dali (大理) most. Here are the reasons:

(1) Of course 大理 is famous because of Jin Yong's martial art novel "Tian Long Bai Bu".

Other than that,

(2) 大理 -- the town -- still exists as of nowadays and it is located at western Yunnan which is really close to Shangri-la.

(3) Its people -- the ethnic group 白 -- still exists today. And like its name, this group always likes to dress in White color. In this aspect, they behave like the Koreans.

(4) And interestingly, the kings of 大理 always loved to abdicate their thrones to become monks in the monastery. On this aspect, it seems they behave like the Thai Royal Family.

(5) Hmmm....And if you are building a fancy house and cannot afford the imported marble from Italy. Of course you will choose 大理石.

(6) Surprisingly the Dali Kingdom co-existed peacefully, harmoniously and adjacently with the Song Dynasty for a very long time. This is not the norm though. My guess is that Song always preoccupied with grave threat from the north -- Khitan/Jurchen/Mongol.

(7) Dali seemed very highly civilized and culturally distinct. But why hadn't it turned into another Vietnam or Korea?

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Pardon me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Dali a Thai kingdom? Their descendants went south to modern-day Thailand and founded new kingdoms. Or have I got my history wrong?

To quote:

"For many centuries, Dali was the principal city of Yunnan, far more important than Kunming. Dali was the capital of the Nanchao Kingdom which made its power felt deep into China.

Still now, Dali is predominantly inhabited by Bai people, one of the strongest ethnic minorities in Yunnan province. The Bais are closely related to the Thais of Thailand, as well as to another ethnic minority in Yunnan province, the Dais.

Actually, the Thais of Thailand only became an ethnic group distinct from the Bais and Dais of Yunnan after Kublai Khan had defeated the Nanchao Kingdom. At that time, a large number of the Nanchao aristocracy, together with many of their subjects, migrated south, into Southeast Asia and present-day Thailand where they dislodged the Khmers who at that time were ruling over much of Southeast Asia.

The Thai group of people now classified as Thais, Dais, Bais, and under various other names, had been settling the Dali area for more than 3,000 years. Even today, there is much awareness among Thais that Yunnan is where they originate from. "

This is from http://www.cockatoo.com/english/yunnan/yunnan_dali.htm

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wasn't Dali a Thai kingdom? Their descendants went south to modern-day Thailand and founded new kingdoms. Or have I got my history wrong?

To quote:

"For many centuries, Dali was the principal city of Yunnan, far more important than Kunming. Dali was the capital of the Nanchao Kingdom which made its power felt deep into China.

You're right... The Thais (from Thailand and Laos) came from Yunnan.

The Nan Chao (Nam Chiếu in Vietnamese) was an old kingdom, and not so peaceful under the Tang dynasty...

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Dali and Nanchao are two separate kingdoms.

In A.D. 937, 段思平 toppled the Nanchao kingdom and established the kingdom of Dali in modern day Yunnan. The 段 regime lasted 22 rulers and 316 years.

Dali was highly sinicized like Korea and Vietnam were and did not share any attribute with modern Thailand except they are/were both devout Buddhist kingdoms.

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Dali and Nanchao are two separate kingdoms.

Dali was highly sinicized ... and did not share any attribute with modern Thailand

The Dali kingdom was the successor of the NanZhao kingdom and geographically occupied the same region and the same capital (just like the SOng were the Tang's successors...)

Besides, the word "Zhao" 照 was a chinese phonetic transcription for the thai word meaning "king" (the same word as in "Chao Anou " in Laotian ) for the Thais.

The Mongols overran the Dali kingdom in the 13th century, and renamed it Yunnan, and the Thais then migrated to the South, founding several Thai kingdoms in Laos and Thailand.

Vietnam could have known the same ending as the Dali kingdom if the Mongols had not been defeated 3 times by the Tran dynasty.

Jin Yong is a great novelist, but no historian...

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Fenlan:

I don't know the case about Vietnam. But Korea is much more sinicized than just "using the characters" as you said.

Korea was totally immersed in Chinese culture (Confucian and Buddhist). In fact, Korea nowadays boasts itself as the most Confucian of all East Asian societies.

In the case of Japan, they use the Chinese character -- but they twist the meaning of them that few Chinese can recognize.

Of course, even though Korea was highly sinicized in the past, it does not imply that it was a part of the Chinese Empire.

And the kings of 大理 had received official titles from the Song Court. You cannot say that the kingdom had nothing to do with Chinese history.

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Nnt:

The Dai group definitely has strong tie with the Thai. But I doubt if the Bai group does.

Bai group likes to dress in white. But hardly do I notice any Thai likes to dress in white color.

There are dozens of minority groups in Yunnan and not all of them are related to Thailand. Some larger groups, like Naxi, have their distinct culture like written characters in the form of pictographs.

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Bai group likes to dress in white. But hardly do I notice any Thai likes to dress in white color.

"White Thai" ("Thai Khao") minorities in Vietnam were called so according to the colour of the women blouses.

Besides, I do not know if the Nan Zhao kingdom was exlusively reduced to the Bai people (perhaps they were the ruling minority...)

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  • 6 months later...

Recently I read about the Dali kingdom while browsing at a bookstore. Dali, like Vietnam and Korea, was a commandery under the Han empire during Han Wudi's reign.

Dali, like Silla, also defeated Tang forces. A reason why the Bai were able to do so was because they took advantage of Sichuan's mountaineous terrain. That is why Sichuan has historically been an important, strategic base during times of conflict.

Legend says that the Mongols succeeded in conquering Dali because a Bai traitor led them through the mountain passes and into Dali.

What really sinicized Dali was the immersion of Han emigrants with the Bai, and intermarriage. After Ming armies reconquered Dali, Ming generals brought their families from the eastern coastal provinces with them into Dali and settled there.

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Vietnam could have known the same ending as the Dali kingdom if the Mongols had not been defeated 3 times by the Tran dynasty.

The same could be said of Korea had Koguryo not defeated Sui, and had Silla not defeated Tang.

Ming was able to replicate the Mongol's conquest of Dali, but had difficulties subjugating Annam (as Vietnam was called at that time). Ming infantry got bogged down in the jungles there, just like what happened to the French and Americans more than four centuries later.

Both Vietnam and Japan had the advantage of terrain and weather in defeating the enemy, the latter with the aid of typhoon.

Dali's geographic location also aided it in repelling outside invasions, until the Mongols and Ming came to the scene.

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After Ming armies reconquered Dali, Ming generals brought their families from the eastern coastal provinces with them into Dali and settled there.

Not quite correct.

In early Ming, thousands of households in current day Jiangsu were ordered to relocate to sparsely populated and faraway former Bai kingdom territory (current day Yunnan).

Why? Because Jiangsu was the pwer base of another anti-Yuan revolutionary -- 張士誠.

After the demise of 張士誠, Zhu YuanChang moved his supporters far away from their home turf.

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I know very very very little history. All I know about Dali is from Jinyong's novel 天龍八部. So what about the Duan (段) dynasty of Dali during the time of the Chinese Song Dynasty? I think the Duans were from China originally (not sure if it is fiction or history though).

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Since I live in Yunnan, I figured I'd offer something to the table.

I have many friends who are Baizu, and quite a few who are Daizu, from Jing Hong and the surrounding areas.

If you visit Xishuangbanna, you will immediately see the similarities with them and Thai. Like many have said, the Thai people in Thailand are relatives, and it can be seen in the language and characters Dai people use. Beautiful place and nice people!

Dali, on the other hand, seems to be on it's own. None of my Bai friends ever mentioned anything about a relationship with Thai people, and there isn't much of a physical similarity as there is with the Dai.

When the Yuan Dynasty was established and the Mongols populated parts of Yunnan, the Dali kingdom was indeed destroyed. It was already a shell of it's former self by that time anyways - I've heard the story as well about a traitor showing the Mongols the way through the mountains to the kingdom.

Interestingly enough, if you visit a small place called Tong Hai in Yunnan, about 3.5 hours away from Kunming, there is a small village of ethnic Mongols - direct descendants of those who didn't leave. There must not be much intermarriage because the physical appearances are much different than local Han people or other minorities - many of them are quite tall.

If anyone feels like taking a visit there, I'm game 8) There is a beautiful mountain there called Xiu Shan, which dozens of temples from varying dynasties - really beautiful.

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Yunnan and the surrounding southwestern region had quite an interesting history besides being the locale for Dali. During 三藩 it was the setting for the conflict between Kangxi and the former Ming turncoat generals.

In WWII, planes that travelled over the Hump took off from airfields in Yunnan built by local farmers. The Fourteenth Air Force had its base of operations in Yunnan.

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