Ancestral Lands?: The western highlands of the Chengdu Plain in southwestern China, a talk by Kuei-chen Lin (Harvard Anthro)


Thursday, September 30, 2021, 12:00pm to 1:30pm


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Abstract: From the late Neolithic period, the Hengduan Mountains on the eastern edge of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the valleys that run through them have become a channel for the flows of animal and plant species, material cultures, human populations, technologies, and inventions. The culture prevailing in the highlands might have been a source to influence the development of the Chengdu Plain. However, albeit the pivotal position of the Hengduan Mountains, in the process of the rise of complex societies on the Chengdu Plain, the highlands were seemingly gradually marginalized. The mountainous communities are seen as passive recipients of foreign objects, directly or indirectly through the Chengdu Plain, especially during the Bronze Age (1700-600 BCE).

This project attempts to distinguish the responses of different communities in the mountains to external influences, and to understand them in the perspective of regional interactions. In particular, it compares burials with unobvious and significant social differentiation in their burial forms, and the ways material cultures of different origins were deposited. This comparison helps us identify the regional relationships and how non-locals, imported objects, and technologies were used and recognized locally. It also considers the social conditions and choices of what was thought to be the weaker party.


Kuei-chen Lin has been an assistant research fellow at the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica since 2015. She received her PhD degree from UCLA in 2013 and conducted postdoctoral research in Academia Sinica from 2014 to 2015. Her research focuses on craft production and its relationships to social complexity during the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age in the southwestern China, especially how multiple social groups managed their tensions and social conditions through craft and ritual activities. She is interested in identifying the presence of diverse social groups, for example, through divisions of space, technological traditions, and subsistence and dietary patterns. She is currently working on the Chengdu Plain Archaeological Survey Report (2005-2010).