The Sinitic Encounter in Southeast China through the First Millennium CE
284pp. November 2015
The Sinitic Encounter in Southeast China through the First Millennium CE
Author: Clark, Hugh R.;
This work engages two of the most neglected themes in China’s long history: the integration of lands south of the Yangtze River into China and its impact on Chinese culture. The roots of Chinese civilization are commonly traced to the North. For millennia after the foundations of the northern culture had been laid, the South was not part of its mandate, and long after the imperial center had claimed political control in the late first millennium BCE, it remained culturally distinct. Yet for the past one thousand years the South has been the cultural, demographic, economic—and, on occasion, political—center of China. The process whereby this was accomplished has long been overlooked in Chinese historiography.

Hugh Clark offers a new perspective on the process of assimilation and accommodation that led to the new alignment. He begins by focusing on the stages of encounter between the sinitic north and the culturally diverse and alien south. Initially northerners and southerners looked on each other with antipathy: To the former, the non-sinitic inhabitants of the South were “barbarians.” To these “barbarians,” northerners were arrogantly hegemonic. Such attitudes led to patterns of resistance and alienation across the South that endured for many centuries until, as Clark suggests, the South grew in importance within the empire—a development that was finally recognized under the Song.

Clark’s approach to the second theme poses a fundamental challenge to what is meant by “Chinese culture.” Drawing on his long familiarity with southern Fujian, he closely examines the pre-sinitic cultural and religious heritage as well as later cults on the southeast coast to argue that an enduring legacy of pre-sinitic indigenous southern culture contributed significantly to late imperial and modern China, effectively challenging the paradigm of northern cultural hegemony that has dominated Chinese history for centuries.

The Sinitic Encounter in Southeast China is a path-breaking book that puts long-neglected issues back on the historian’s table for further investigation.

2 black & white illustrations
Author: Clark, Hugh R.;
Hugh R. Clark is professor of history and East Asian studies at Ursinus College.