Jinping Wang, National University of Singapore
“In the Wake of the Mongols: The Making of a New Social Order in North China, 1200-1600”
In the two decades between 1211 and 1234, the Mongols swept through North China under the Jurchen-Jin dynasty (1125-1234), waging the most destructive war in the history of imperial China. Wiping out more than half of the population and ruining much of the farmland, the Mongols destroyed the underpinnings of the entire society in North China and caused the old order to collapse. From the early years of their conquest, instead of relying on Confucian-educated literati to rebuild local society like the Jurchens had done, the Mongols shifted financial and political support to Quanzhen Daoist and Buddhist religious orders, making their clergy one of the most powerful social groups. Men from different social levels, and a surprising number of women as well, assembled in the Buddhist and Daoist orders and played significant roles in rebuilding postwar society, reviving the economy, and reshaping social values. Clergy and their religious institutions acquired sufficient power to occupy considerable social space between family and state, which led to the emergence of a new social order in North China beginning in the Mongol-Yuan period and extending well to the following Ming dynasty (1368-1644). This distinctive social order is utterly different from the scholarly image of a literati-centered local society in imperial China after the eleventh century.