Hosung Shim is a PhD Candidate in Central Eurasian Studies. This spring semester, he is conducting dissertation research in Beijing as part of the Sinor Inner Asian Studies Research Exchange program. He agreed to write about his research and experience for the IAUNRC newsletter.
For the spring semester of 2017, I have been staying in Beijing, China as the Sinor Inner Asian Studies Research Exchange student. With the generous support of the CEUS department and the Tang foundation, I am currently doing my dissertation research at Peking University and the First Historical Archive of China.
My dissertation project discusses the internal dynamics of state-formation and state-management in the Central Asian steppe of the 17th and 18th centuries. To be specific, my research tackles the history of the Zunghar principality, the last independent nomadic state of the Central Eurasian steppe. The main purpose of this project is to prove the political agency of the Zunghars (i.e. Mongolic nomads in the Central Asian steppe) over the course of the rise and fall of their own state during the 17th and 18th centuries. Since the Zunghars were considered the arch-rivals of the Qing Dynasty in Central Eurasia and were then finally destroyed by the same dynasty, China has contained the most numerous and detailed historical sources regarding the Zunghar principality. Therefore, China, especially Beijing, is the most appropriate place to develop my dissertation research considerably.
Peking University (PKU), as one of the most prestigious and the oldest universities in China, has a great research environment including its beautiful campus and wonderful library holdings. The PKU was established in 1898, and the current campus is located in a former imperial garden of the Qing Dynasty. For this reason, the libraries of the university have retained a considerable amount of old rare books, and the campus is full of traditional Chinese-style buildings and landmarks which have made the campus of the PKU one of the most famous tourist attractions in Beijing. Thus, it has been and will be a very pleasant experience for me to conduct research here.
My second research site in Beijing is the First Historical Archive of China (FHA). The FHA is one of the two biggest historical archives in China and holds a colossal amount of historical documents–mostly produced by the Qing Dynasty and its neighbors–in many languages, such as Chinese, Manchu, Mongolian, Tibetan, Chaghatay Turkic, Persian, Russian, and so on. Therefore, the FHA is one of the most important archives for researchers of early modern Central Eurasian history. In addition, the FHA is placed inside of the Forbidden City (i.e. the official imperial palace of the Qing Dynasty), which is a huge palace complex. Hence, whenever I enter the archive to read historical documents, I have a strong feeling that I am interacting with and even participating in the history which the archive has long preserved. For me, it is one of the most exciting experiences as a historian.
As a long-time capital city of several Chinese dynasties, Beijing has a number of museums and historical sites. Thus far, I have not been to these important places because I have focused mainly on archival research. During the second half of the spring semester to come (as per the Chinese academic system), I would like to fully enjoy my sojourn in Beijing by visiting these historical venues in addition to the PKU and the FHA.
A generous outside donation facilitates an agreement between IU CEUS and the Peking University History Department. The aim of the Sinor Inner Asian Studies Research Exchange is to promote scholarly exchange between China and the United States in the field of Inner Asian Studies in the pre-modern imperial period (from the Han dynasty to 1840) plus its impact on contemporary matters. Inner Asia is defined as the cultures and peoples of the Eurasian steppe belt, the oases cities from Dunhuang to Iran, and the Tibetan plateau. More particularly, this program aims to use mutually beneficial academic exchanges between IU CEUS and the PKU History department to help PKU nurture and develop Inner Asian Studies in China on a holistic basis, integrating Inner Asian studies with the historical study of China's dynasties from Han to Qing and/or to contemporary times. This exchange is part of a larger IU-PKU relationship which entered a new stage in May 2013, when a new agreement of exchange was signed during IU President McRobbie's visit to PKU.