University of Pittsburgh.
Katheryn M. Linduff.
The period of Six Dynasties (221-581CE) has traditionally been thought of as a time when "the Five Barbarians brought disorder to China." During this period, present-day Northern China was ruled by non-Han leaders, including the Xianbei, a pastoral people from China's northern frontier who founded the Northern Zhou Dynasty. In addition, Chinese historical texts from the Six Dynasties refer to "merchant barbarians" generally assumed to be Sogdians, who lived in oasis states in Central Asia in present-day Uzbekistan and came to China across the Silk Road. Most scholarship has assumed that the period of Northern Zhou ruled by non-Chinese leaders was "sinicized," and the adoption of Chinese features in burial and artifacts in foreigners' tombs is evidence of that acculturation process.
This dissertation, however, uses newly excavated materials from tombs dated to the Northern Zhou period, including the tombs of Xianbei leaders, Xianbei and Chinese generals, and Sogdian merchants, and proposes that visual arts and mortuary ritual played a role in creating and/or maintaining multiple sociopolitical and cultural identities for these residents of Northern Zhou. The theorization of power, agency, and cultural identity in recent publications has helped me analyze the processes involved in the construction of individual identity, group boundaries, and the interrelationships between socio-cultural groups. Theories of agency have helped me focus on choices made by different social and occupational groups.
This dissertation has explored how the patterns of use of mortuary objects documented multiple identities for these three classes listed above with specific ethnic backgrounds: the sovereigns who were Xianbei; the military class of Xianbei and Han-Chinese; and the merchant class of Sogdians. I have discussed how aspects of political, military, and merchant life in the Northern Zhou period created a setting that contributed to multiple roles and identities in each group. My study has demonstrated the construction of multiple identities among elites and how they consistently distinguished themselves from other members of society. This dissertation will be the first contextual analysis focused on the visualization of class, social roles and cultural affiliation by examining mortuary art in the Northern Zhou.