Beyond the Bronze Pillars: Envoy Poetry and the Sino-Vietnamese Relationship
288pp. January 2005
Beyond the Bronze Pillars: Envoy Poetry and the Sino-Vietnamese Relationship
Author: Kelley, Liam C.;
Beyond the Bronze Pillars is an innovative and iconoclastic look at the politico-cultural relationship between Vietnam and China in the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. Overturning the established view that historically the Vietnamese sought to maintain a separate cultural identity and engaged in tributary relations with the Middle Kingdom solely to avoid invasion, Liam Kelley shows how Vietnamese literati sought to unify their cultural practices with those in China while fully recognizing their country’s political subservience. He does so by examining a body of writings known as Vietnamese "envoy poetry."

Far from advocating their own cultural distinctiveness, Vietnamese envoy poets expressed a profound identification with what we would now call the Sinitic world and their political status as vassals in it. In mining a body of rich primary sources that no Western historian has previously employed, Kelley provides startling insights into the pre-modern Vietnamese view of their world and its politico-cultural relationship with China.

Asian Interactions and Comparisons Series
Published jointly with the Association for Asian Studies
“An extraordinary book based on some truly impressive research. . . . It offers fascinating glimpses of the political and literary worlds of Vietnamese scholars who traveled to China as envoys representing Vietnam’s vassal kings. Kelley’s work is remarkable for its erudition and for what it reveals about tributary ties between China and Vietnam from the late sixteenth to the early nineteenth centuries. . . . Absolutely original and deserves to be widely read.” —American Historical Review (December 2006)

"Students of Vietnamese history will appreciate Kelley’s erudite discussion of envoy poetry within the intellectual milieu of early modern East Asia and will appreciate this alternative narrative to the discourse on Vietnamese historical identity." —Journal of Vietnamese Studies (1:1), 2006

"Liam Kelley has given us a rich and excellent portrayal of Vietnamese literati in the early modern era, how they formed part of East Asian culture, and their literary responses to visiting China and its emperor. He well shows the thoughts, concerns, and knowledge of these ‘Southern’ scholars through their poetry as they proceeded to and from Beijing." —John K. Whitmore, University of Michigan

Author: Kelley, Liam C.;
Liam C. Kelley is assistant professor of history at the University of Hawaii.
Read the introduction (PDF).