Council on East Asian Studies: “Law and the Formation of a Cosmopolitan Empire: Subjecthood in Early Tang”

Event time: 
Wednesday, October 4, 2023 - 12:00pm
Rosenkranz Hall, Room 202 See map
115 Prospect Street
New Haven, CT 06520
Event description: 

The Council on East Asian Studies presents Victor Fong - Postdoctoral Associate in East Asian Studies and Lecturer in History: 

“Law and the Formation of a Cosmopolitan Empire: Subjecthood in Early Tang.”

Globalization and massive transnational movements have profoundly challenged people’s nation-based identities. This, in turn, has encouraged scholars to re-examine the idea of citizenship. Historians in particular have concerned themselves with how people in different times and places defined their communities and their relationships with the state. This talk presents a case study from the early Tang empire of China. At its largest extent, the Tang’s territory spanned the Korean peninsula to present-day Afghanistan, governing a large multi-ethnic population. It also attracted many foreigners, who included Sogdian merchants, Indian Buddhist monks, Japanese students, and Korean sailors. How did the state classify these non-Chinese foreigners? How did the Tang court define subjecthood—‘us’ and ‘others’—at the time? And how did it govern such a diverse population? In answering these questions, this talk explores the formation of a cosmopolitan polity before the time of nation-states. It shows how imperial laws created systems to absorb non-Chinese into the empire on the one hand and impose harsh restrictions over its subjects on the other. It reassesses the openness of the Tang empire while shedding new light on the later dynasties in Japan, Korea, and Vietnam that emulated the Tang and adopted much of its legal framework.

Dr. Fong’s research interests primarily lie in law and the flow of people and ideas between China and the world. He co-authored his first monograph, The Spread and Restrictions of Catholicism under the Judicial Perspective in Ming and Qing China, to discuss how the imperial Chinese law regulated as well as negotiated with European missionaries and Catholicism during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) periods. His doctoral project examines the early Tang (618-755) conceptions and institutions of subjecthood to explore how the Tang law and administration asserted control over a large multi-ethnic population with immigrants from the Türk highlands, Sogdiana, Persia, as well as present-day Japan, and Korea. Dr. Fong earned his BA and MPhil degrees from Hong Kong Baptist University and his Ph.D. from the Australian National University.

Open to: 
General Public