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Nomads as Agents of Cultural ChangeThe Mongols and Their Eurasian Predecessors$
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Reuven Amitai and Michal Biran

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780824839789

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824839789.001.0001

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The Mongols and Nomadic Identity

The Mongols and Nomadic Identity

The Case of the Kitans in China

(p.152) Seven The Mongols and Nomadic Identity
Nomads as Agents of Cultural Change

Michal Biran

University of Hawai'i Press

This paper examines the Mongol ethnic reconfiguration of the Eurasian steppe people through the case study of the Kitans in China. It argues that Mongol imperial policies played a crucial role in determining the direction of identity change among their nomadic population and contributed to the Kitan assimilation in China. While in the United Empire period many Kitans soldiers and administrators joined the Mongol ranks and “became Mongols,” in the long run, most of them ended up assimilating into China. This was due to Mongol policies of dissolving the Kitan political frameworks; their geographical dispersion and their classification with the northern Chinese (not with the Mongols or steppe people). The penetration of Mongolian social norms—that were similar to the Kitans’—into Yuan China, facilitated this process. The paper reviews and analyzes the Kitans’ process of identity change and its expressions, comparing the Kitans in China to their counterparts in Iran.

Keywords:   Kitans, assimilation, Mongol empire, China, acculturation, identity, nomadic people, Jin dynasty, Yuan dynasty, migration

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