China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Scholars usually assume that rebellions reflected and contributed to state weakness. It stemmed from the state’s failure to provide effective governance, from government corruption and abuses, and from social inequalities that the state failed to remedy, or even aggravated. Scholars calculate rebellions’ consequences in terms of the amount spent quelling it, of how the state’s power and prestige was weakened, and of how it contributed to the state’s collapse. This mainstream scholarly view of rebellions is commonly applied to the Ming and Qing, two dynasties that were heavily affected by rebellions. This panel, however, focuses on how rebellions benefited the state and promoted creative thought and statecraft during the Ming-Qing period, challenging the assumption that rebellions meant weakness and decline. Haiwei Liu redefines the late-Yuan messianic Red Turban Rebellion as a state-building Confucian restoration movement. George L. Israel analyzes how Wang Yangming’s policies to quell rebellions in southern China strengthened the Ming state and how it related to his philosophical ideas. Yiming Ha investigates the way a small mutiny in Gansu in 1521 strengthened the Ming vis-à-vis the Central Asian state of Turfan and affected factional debates at court. Yiying Pan examines the restructuring of imperial knowledge of the Sichuan-Shaanxi-Hubei trans-provincial highlands by comparing how the Ming and Qing managed recurrent rebellions there (in 1465 and 1796). The panel follows an innovative format: brief presentations by each panelist; discussion with the audience; follow-up presentations that may focus on audience questions; comments by the discussant; and final discussion with the audience.