Mobility, Empire and Cross Cultural Contacts in Mongol Eurasia

Kaiqi Hua spoke at the universities of Ghent and Leiden


Kaiqi Hua, member of the project, recently took part in the international conference "Network and Identity: Exchange Relations between China and the World" (Center for Buddhist Studies, Ghent University, 18-20.12.13). The title of his presented paper was "The Journey of Zhao Xian (1271-1323): From Chinese Emperor to Tibetan Monk under the Mongols”.

Besides this, Kaiqi Hua gave an invited talk on December 17th, 2013, which was hosted by the Leiden Institute for Area Studies. The topic of the talk was: "Images of Zhao Xian (1271-1323): Changing Views of a Former Song Emperor under the Mongols".

"Zhao Xian, who was the last enthroned Chinese emperor in Hangzhou, the capital of the Song Empire in 1274, spent the rest of his life in exile after the Mongols' conquest in 1276. However, he had traveled broadly from the Mongols' capital in modern day Beijing to Tibet, crossing different places all over the domain of the Mongol Yuan dynasty and various regions of Tibet. He became a Tibetan Buddhist monk who not only traveled for pilgrimage and collecting sutras, but also preaching at different monasteries. He was also a Tibetan translator of many significant Buddhist sutras. His legendary life and legacy have not yet been studied by Western scholars.

The paper tried to demonstrate the following points. First, the long distance inland travel of Zhao was only made possible in the Mongol Empire in the contemporary world thanks to the developed road system and extended transportation system, as well as the omnipresent network of Tibetan monks spreading out in China and Tibet itself. In order to studying so, I will map his travel routes and trace possible connections between each stop and stay, especially when he crossed borderlands between Mongol China and Tibet, as well as from sedentary area to nomadic region. Second, from Chinese sources, the ambiguous depiction of his dramatic life change from a Chinese emperor to the Mongol's hostage as well as the missing records of his religious accomplishments in Tibet, show that how multicultural identity and the transformation of identity were imagined and redefined through Chinese literati's writings. It questions the simple mode in historical analysis that the rise of a new identity necessarily cause the fall of another. Third, in Tibetan sources, they show the transformation of Zhao Xian's identity from a Chinese emperor to a renowned Buddhist monk known as Master Lha-btsun of the Sakya School, but still remain his background as a royal monk. Through Tibetan writers, Master Lha-btsun's Buddhist Dharma merits were not only accumulated from his translation works and numerous disciples, but also benefited from his past glory as an emperor. Thus he was also called the Royal Monk in Tibetan literature.

Through comparing the differences and similarities of Chinese and Tibetan texts, a more vivid portrait of Zhao was presented, as well as the motives and processes regarding the creation, definition and shift of identity in the giant Mongol Empire through physical migration in space and textual reproduction in time."

Kaiqi Hua, University of California and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem