Please wait a minute...

Frontiers of History in China

Front. Hist. China    2017, Vol. 12 Issue (2) : 301-327
Orginal Article |
Were the Miao Kings “Prophets of Renewal”? The Case of the 1795–1797 Hunan Miao Revolt
Daniel McMahon()
Department of History, Fu Jen Catholic University, New Taipei City 24205, Taiwan, China
Download: PDF(306 KB)  
Export: BibTeX | EndNote | Reference Manager | ProCite | RefWorks

This essay considers the concept of “prophets of renewal” introduced by James Scott in The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia (2009), as seen in the context of the 1795–97 Miao revolt along China’s Hunan-Guizhou border. The appearance of a “Miao King” and four “Wu kings” centering anti-Qing resistance in an intractable highland—utilizing native legends, spirit possession, investment of officials, and multi-ethnic recruitment—suggests a case of “Zomia” (the vast Southeast Asian Massif) prophets in action, as Scott himself suggests. Closer examination, however, reveals a more complex and uncertain picture, characterized by division between rival lords and an overall dearth of institutional, ideological, or cosmological elaboration, all further obscured by a paucity of historical sources. The Miao kings might be seen as prophets of renewal in a general sense, but the fit is inexact. There is still value, however, in considering Scott’s model in the study of this event. It enables a sharper conceptualization of the agency of the Miao people, while offering a case for comparison with analogous instances of religiously-based native resistance on other Qing frontiers.

Keywords James Scott      prophets of renewal      Miao Frontier      Miao      1795–97 Hunan Miao revolt      Miao King      Wu King     
Issue Date: 21 August 2017
 Cite this article:   
Daniel McMahon. Were the Miao Kings “Prophets of Renewal”? The Case of the 1795–1797 Hunan Miao Revolt[J]. Front. Hist. China, 2017, 12(2): 301-327.
E-mail this article
E-mail Alert
Articles by authors
Daniel McMahon
Related articles from Frontiers Journals
[1] Jianwei Zhang. A Study of the Three Buddhist Copper Hall Projects, 1602–1607[J]. Front. Hist. China, 2015, 10(2): 289-322.
[2] Guo Wu. Accommodation and Conflict: The Incorporation of Miao Territory and Construction of Cultural Difference during the High Qing Era1[J]. Front Hist Chin, 2012, 7(2): 240-260.
Full text