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'Worshiping Grace': The Language of Loyalty in Qing Mongolia

From: Late Imperial China
Volume 21, Number 2, December 2000
pp. 86-139 | 10.1353/late.2000.0006

In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

"Worshiping Grace":
The Language of Loyalty in Qing Mongolia

The link between the Chinese realm and the Inner Asian realm constitutes one of the most important points in understanding the nature of the Qing imperium. Past studies have highlighted how the institutions of rule in Mongolia, Tibet, and elsewhere in Inner Asia differed dramatically from those in the eighteen provinces of China. Ning Chia, for example, in her study of the Lifan Yuan or Court of Colonial Affairs, reiterated how that organization was the focus of government institutions that were unique in Chinese governmental history. She writes, "The Li-fan Yuan could not possibly exist if the sinocentric 'exclusivist' attitude had continued to dominate imperial policy . . . The Li-fan Yuan was thus a specifically Manchu creation, and a Manchu contribution to the historical development of the Chinese imperial system" (Chia 1992: 103-104).

Institutional differences, particularly when those institutions are embedded in a thick cultural context, may also be expected to have correlates in the more affective elements of rule. Particularly in a system that is so profoundly centered on the person of the emperor, institutional differences would presumably also involve difference in the presentation of the person of the emperor to different publics among the different peoples of the empire. Here, too, previous research has strongly emphasized how the Qing emperors adopted dramatically different personas in order to appeal to each realm in the multinational Qing empire. Building on such materials, David Farquhar's classic study of the Mañjušrī incarnation idea in the image of the Qing monarchy stressed how the Qianlong emperor and his predecessors and successors had to appeal to the Mongols and Tibetans purely within the indigenous political practices, thus imposing a sort of political split personality on the monarchs who had to be both Chinese Confucian and Mongolian Buddhist at the same time. [End Page 86]

The Manchu rulers had early decided that . . . their most visible religio-political image was to be Chinese and Confucian . . . But the Ch'ing emperors were also the rulers of the Mongols, who . . . had very different notions about the proper image for their emperors; they expected them to be grand patrons of their religious establishments. . . . The two [imperial] personas were nevertheless consistently and successfully cultivated for nearly two hundred years

(Farquhar 1978: 33-34).

Angela Zito, drawing heavily on Farqhuar for her assessment of the Qing rulers' relations with the Inner Asian peoples, states baldly that "the throne's relations with its Mongolian and Tibetan subjects proceeded in the idiom of Buddhist practice." After discussing how the imperial portraits gave a Buddhist reading of the imperial institution, she adds: "That the Chinese literati were notoriously unwilling to do so [that is, read the portraits in a Buddhist way] was not the emperor's problem. He had other attitudes to model for them" (Zito 1997: 23). Evelyn Rawski in her social history of the Qing institutions concurs: "The Qing empire was founded on multiethnic coalitions and its rulers sought to perpetuate these alliances by addressing each of the constituent peoples that come under Qing rule in their own cultural vocabularies. . . .They courted the Han literati in the language of Confucianism and cast Manchu rulers as dharmarāja in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition" (Rawski 1998: 17). Pamela Crossley, accepting Joseph Fletcher's model of a distinctive Turco-Mongol kingship, goes on to say that "But in the case of the Qing, it is clear that while the khan became an emperor, he also remained a khan." She writes that in the Qing empire "a single person, in a single era, embodied magisterial bureaucratic government, universal dominance inherited from the Mongolian great-khans, and the sagely kingship of the Chinese community" (Crossley 1992: 1474, 1468).

Similarly, writers on Sino-Tibetan relations during the Qing have also emphasized how the Offering-Site and Alms-Master (often abbreviated as "Priest-Patron") relationship governed Tibetan ideas about the relations between the Qing emperors and the Tibetan ruling class gathered round the Dalai Lama. This language and tradition of rule differed dramatically from that current among the Chinese, and the difference bred differing expectations about the status of Tibet between Chinese and...