Xiaobai Hu

Ph.D. Candidate

Asia, Trans-Regional, Frontier, Urban


"Unruly Mountain: Transformative Encounters in the Chinese-Tibetan Borderland, 1371-1701"
My dissertation examines a three-century struggle in a West China mountain range stretching through contemporary southern Gansu, western Sichuan, and northern Yunnan. From 1371 to 1701, both the Chinese and Tibetans proactively moved into this Chinese-Tibetan borderland region and encountered the mountain dwellers. While the ways that the Chinese and Tibetans expanded to, claimed sovereignty over, and established control of the borderland region have yet to be closely examined, neither side was able to implement full penetration. Therefore, the mountain society was, in fact, operating on its own terms. Power was negotiated on the ground in multiple ways, creating a political, religious and economic spectrum on the borderland that was reflected through cultural and spatial hierarchies. Investigating the dynamic interaction between the Chinese, the Tibetans, and the mountain dwellers in a borderland region, this dissertation casts light on the contingent ethnic discourse and territory perception in late imperial China, the transformative vision of Buddhist community of the Tibetans, and the borderland people’s improvisation between superficial obedience and subversive resistance. Taking a bottom-up perspective to study the dynamic forming and transforming processes of a frontier society with specific attention to its centrality, agency, and fluidity, this dissertation grants centrality to the Chinese-Tibetan borderland society as one way to escape from the center-periphery dichotomy.


M.Phil., History and Anthropology, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (2014) BA., Chinese Language and Literature, Nanjing University (2012)


Late Imperial & Modern China, Comparative Empires and Imperialism, Modern Japan


Siyen Fei (Advisor)

Christopher Atwood

Frederick Dickinson

Research Interests

Late Imperial China,
Sino-Tibetan Interaction,
Comparative Frontier History,
Urban History and Culture


Graduate Representative of Society of Ming Studies
Member of The Association for Asian Studies
Member of The Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies

CV (file)