China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
The rapid success of the Mongol Empire’s projection of military power and influence across the heart of Eurasia is a well-documented historical event. Less well-documented are Mongol engagements with peoples and polities along and below China’s southern frontier. In this region Mongol forces would topple and replace the Dali Kingdom and threaten states in Mainland Southeast Asia, but the lasting territorial impact of these military conquests would be restricted to modern-day Southwest China. This panel examines Mongol overland efforts in the Southwest and maritime excursions into Southeast Asia with the goal of understanding where and why limits to Mongol control appeared and how the rulers of the Yuan dynasty handled these limitations. The papers begin with Mongol maritime attempts to expand southward into Southeast Asia. We then explore Mongol projections of power in Southwest China, including the tusi 土司local administrative mechanisms. Finally, we shift west to consider the challenges of administering the 14th-century Sino-Burmese frontier. These studies of Mongol power on the ground allow us to plot negotiations for control along and below China’s southern frontier to illustrate the limits of military conquest and alternatives presented by economic exchange in this region of the vast Mongol Empire.