Gray Tuttle
Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
Columbia University

Nationalism has dramatically influenced the writing of history in East Asia. The seminar will first introduce theories of nationalism and their application to Asia in general and China and Tibet in particular. We will then consider both Chinese and Tibetan nationalist representations of their shared history, as well as the perspectives that these two extreme ideologies serve to limit. Finally, you will turn these examples and analytical tools to the other contexts that you will explore through independent research.

By critically examining the historical arguments for and against the inclusion of Tibet as part of the modern Chinese nation-state, students will have an opportunity to compare two important cultural traditions presented as competing national entities. Together we will examine the issue of nationalist influences on representations of Asian history through the lens of Chinese and Tibetan historiography. This will serve as an analytical model for guiding students’ research on their own chosen topic. Individually, students will examine nationalist historical writing in their own country of interest or in the conflicting representations of history between two of these countries. Students will be particularly encouraged to explore previous versions of history and current controversies about how the events of the Japanese occupation of Korea, Manchurian, Inner Mongolia or parts of China Proper (e.g. the events surrounding the fall of Nanjing) are remembered.

The main requirements for the course are regular participation (on-line and in class) and the final paper. Students will rotate in their responsibility to respond to and grapple with the readings assigned. With few exceptions, the readings are not terribly difficult, butyour task is not easy: to read in a concentrated manner in order to extract significant points of analysis. An initial research proposal and preliminary bibliography for students’ chosen topics will be due in the first half of the course. A research proposal detailing the central question(s) the students will be examining is due mid-semester. Final presentations of the students’ conclusions (15-20 minutes depending on class size) will be scheduled for the last weeks of class. An independent research paper of 15-20 pages will be the culmination of the course.


  • Participation (on-line and in class) : 25%
  • Oral Presentations (rotate in class & final paper) : 25%
  • Proposal & Preliminary Bibliography (due 10/11) : 10%
  • Full Research Proposal (due 11/29) : 10%
  • Final Paper (due 12/12) : 30%

Required Reading :

  • Benedict Anderson. Imagined Communities.
  • Anthony Smith. Nations and nationalism in a global era .
  • Courseworks articles and other readings, including:
  • W. D. Shakabpa. Tibet : A Political History . New York : Potala Publications.
  • Wang Jiawei and Nyima Gyaincain. The Historic Status of China's Tibet

General Expectations:

  • As participation is such a key component of the class, attendance at all classes is expected.
  • Feel free to cooperate in preparing the rotating oral presentation summarizing and responding to the readings; for example, I especially encourage you to consider role playing or debating points of views throughout the class, and in part II in particular.
  • Your written work for the final paper should be entirely your own, with careful citation of all sources according to an accepted Manual of Style (Chicago, MLA).


September 6 : Introduction to the Class : What is a nation, nationalism? What does it have to do with the writing of history?

September 13 : What is a nation, nationalism? Old or new, invented or natural?

Benedict Anderson. Ch 1: “Introduction,” Ch 2 “Cultural Roots,” Ch 3: “The Origins of National Consciousness.” Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism . pp. 1-46.

Anthony Smith. Ch 2: “The Modernist Fallacy,” Ch 3 “An Ethno-National Revival,” Ch4: “The Crisis of the National State .” Nations and nationalism in a global era . Cambridge ( UK ): Polity Press. pp. 29-115.

September 20 : Introduction to Nationalism in Asia : Are nations/nationalisms different in Asia? What factors influenced the development of Asian nationalism?

Stein Tønnesson and Jan Antlöv. “ Asia in Theories of Nationalism and National Identity.” In Asian forms of the nation , pp. 1-40.

Michael Robinson. “Enduring Anxieties: Cultural Nationalism and Modern East Asia .” In Harumi Befu, ed. Cultural Nationalism in East Asia : Representation and Identity . pp. 167-186.

Prasenjit Duara. “Historicizing National Identity, or Who Imagines What and When, “ in Becoming National , p. 150-177.

September 27 : Introduction to Nationalist Historiography in Tibet & China : What is distinctive about the nations/nationalism of China and Tibet ? What factors influenced the development of Tibetan/Chinese nationalisms?

John Fitzgerald. “The nationless state: The search for a nation in modern Chinese nationalism.” The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs (33):75-104.

Prasenjit Duara. “De-constructing the Chinese nation,” in Chinese Nationalism , pp. 31-55.

Georges Dreyfus. “Tibetan Religious Nationalism: Western Fantasy or Empowering Vision?” in Tibet , Self and the Tibetan Diaspora . P. 37-56.

———. “Proto-Nationalism,” in Tibetan Studies , Oslo , 1994, 205-218.

Suggested Reading :

Kauko Laitinen. “Modern Discontent with the Whole Imperial System: The Birth of Early Chinese Nationalism.” in Chinese Nationalism in the late Qing Dynasty: Zhang Binglin as an Anti-Manchu Propagandist . pp. 38-54.

Yeshi Choeden. “Issues of Tibetan Nationalism and National Identity.” in Tibet , Self and the Tibetan Diaspora . P. 361-386.


Central Questions for second half of semester:

  1. How can we analyze and understand these relatively new and developing social phenomena (nation/nationalism) through the lens of writing about (sometimes ancient) history?
  2. How is the present played out in the past?

October 4 : How to think about reading the writing of history

Michel-Rolph Trouillot, “The Three Faces of Sans Souci: Glory and Silences in the Haitian Revolution.” in Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History . Pp. 31-69.

John Powers. 2004. History as Propaganda . “Old Tibet : A clash of myths,” 3-27.

October 11 : The Period of Rival Empires

Tibetan view : W. D. Shakabpa. Ch2 “The empire of the early kings of Tibet .” Tibet : A Political History . pp. 23-53.

Chinese view: Wang and Nyima. Ch 1 “Relations between the Han and the Tibetans in the Tang and Song Dynasties.” The Historic Status of China's Tibet .

Zhang Shixiong, Jiao Shuji, and Bai Yu. The ancient Tangbo Road: Princess Wen Cheng's Route to Tibet . 3-13.

Scholarly view: Christopher Beckwith. “The Tibetans in the Ordos and North China : Considerations on the Role of the Tibetan Empire in World History,” 1-11.

October 18 : Tibet and China under Mongol Domination (Yuan Dynasty)

Tibetan view : W. D. Shakabpa. Ch4 “Lamas and Patrons.” Tibet : A Political History . pp. 61-72.

Chinese view : Wang and Nyima. Ch 2 “ Relations Between the Emperor of the Yuan Dynasty and the Prince of Dharma of the Sagya Sect of Tibetan Buddhism.” The Historic Status of China's Tibet .

Rinchen trashi. “Tibetan Buddhism and the Yuan Royal Court .” Tibet Studies . 1-26.

Scholarly view: Herbert Franke. 1983. “Tibetans in Yüan China .” In China among equals: the Middle Kingdom and its neighbors, 10th-14th centuries pp. 296-328.

October 25 : Economy and Religion between China and Tibet

Tibetan view : W. D. Shakabpa. Ch5 “The Phamo Drupa, Rinpung, and Tsangpa Hegemonies.” Tibet : A Political History . pp. 73-90.

Chinese view: Wang and Nyima. Ch 3 “ Ming Dynasty's Policy of Enfieffment and Tribute-Related Trade.” The Historic Status of China's Tibet .

Du Changfeng. “The Tribute-Paying by Ü-Tsang to the Ming Court .” Tibet Studies , 2.2. 1990. pp. 84-96.

Scholarly view: Gray Tuttle. “ Using Zhu Yuanzhang's communications with Tibetans to justify PRC rule in Tibet .”

November 1 : China and Tibet under Manchu Rule (Qing Dynasty)

Tibetan view : W. D. Shakabpa. Ch9 “Beginnings of Manchu Influence,” Ch10 “War with the Gurkhas and Dogras.” Tibet : A Political History . pp. 140-183.

Chinese view: Wang and Nyima. Ch 4 “ The Sovereign-Subject Relationship Between the Qing Dynasty Emperor and the Dalai Lama.” The Historic Status of China's Tibet .

Yu Changan. “On the Policies of Administration for the Tibet Region formulated by the Central Government of the Qing Dynasty.” In Theses on Tibetology in China (II) . pp. 117-147. (see next entry as well…)

Scholarly view : Chen Qingying. “Lcang-skya Rolpavi-rdorje and Emperor Qian Long.” pp. 67-90.

November 8 : Republican China and Independent Tibet

Tibetan view : W. D. Shakabpa. Ch14: “ Tibet 's struggle to maintain her independence,” Ch15: “Further evidence of Tibetan independence,” Ch 16 “Clashes between Tibetans and Chinese in Khams.” Tibet : A Political History . pp. 224-274.

Chinese view : Wang and Nyima. Ch 5-6 “ British Invasion and the Birth of the Myth of "Tibetan Independence "” & “ Tibet Is Not an Independent Political Entity During the Period of the Republic of China .” The Historic Status of China's Tibet .

Yang Gongsu. “The Origin and Analysis of the Schemes of the so-called ‘ Independence for Tibet '.” In Theses on Tibetology in China (I) . pp. 290-353.

Scholarly view : Gray Tuttle. “Saving Republican China through religious activity: Chinese reliance on Tibetan Buddhism.” pp. 1-42.

November 15 : China and Tibet under Han Chinese Rule (PRC)

Chinese view : Wang and Nyima. Ch7-8 “ The Founding of the People's Republic of China and the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet .” & “Armed Rebellion in Tibet Opposed the Democratic Reform Through Which Serfs Win Human Rights.” The Historic Status of China's Tibet .

Dissident view: Song Liming. “Reflections on the Seventeen-point Agreement of 1951.” Tibet through Dissident Chinese Eyes: Essays on Self-Determination . pp. 55-70.

Tibetan view : W. D. Shakabpa. Ch18: “The Chinese Communist Invasion,” Ch19: “The Revolt,” Ch 20 “Conclusion.” Tibet : A Political History . pp. 299-325.

Scholarly views : Melvyn Goldstein. “On modern Tibetan history: Moving beyond stereotypes,” in Tibet and her neigbours, a history . Pp. 217-226.

*John Powers. 2004. History as Propaganda . “Family Reunion ,” 122-139.

November 22 : New Directions: “Chinese” Tibetans and Pro-Tibetan Chinese

Heather Stoddard. “Tibetan Publications and National Identity.” Resistance and Reform in Tibet . Robert Barnett and Shirin Akiner. pp. 121-156.

Wang Xiaoqiang. “The Dispute between the Tibetans and the Han.” Resistance and Reform in Tibet . Robert Barnett and Shirin Akiner. pp. 290-295.

Cao Changching. “Brainwashing the Chinese,” “ Independence : The Tibetan People's Right.” Tibet through Dissident Chinese Eyes: Essays on Self-Determination . pp. 3-31.


November 29, December 6, December 13 : Student presentations