Torheim-Sandvik, Ove Pils
University of Oslo
This is a historiographical study of English language texts concerning history of the Northern Wei Dynasty. Based on available and relevant texts about Chinese history from the end of the nineteenth century until 2010, I will show in this paper how the view of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386–534), in North China, has developed. I will show that there are two main currents: One, starting around 1914, describes Northern Wei as a dynasty that was culturally transformed into a Chinese empire. This means that the accounts of the history of the Northern Wei Dynasty suggests the sinicization of the Empire. This school of thought lasts until 2010, and is especially prominent in the general history books on China. This position is not static, but evolves in the course of the twentieth century. I will also show that this current is inspired by Chinese nationalist movements in the early 1900s, but later evolved to become a generally accepted explanation of the empire. The other school of thought started in the second half of the 1970s, and is both an active and passive resistance to sinicization as an explanation of the Northern Wei Dynasty’s historical development. This resistance came as a result of historical developments in Western science, where historians and the social sciences at this time confronted and questioned the established truths and the great narratives. I will show that this second direction is not uniform, but that one is trying to find new ways to explain the narrative of the Northern Wei Dynasty. Generally, I will show that prior to 1913 there is no unified narrative, but that with the introduction of the narration of sinicization there is a unity until the end of the 1970s. From this point develop several different trends with narratives that explain the Northern Wei Dynasty’s historical development.