The Seven-Centuries History of a Tai Aristocratic Family of Dali, Yunnan Province: An Analysis Based on Epigraphic and Documentary Records of the “Ah” Family”
Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology, Thammasat University
The article presents a set of primary records to reveal the history of the aristocratic “Ah” family of Deng-chuan, a township in the Dali principality of Yunnan China. Being designated by the imperial court, the family hereditarily ruled the township from 1382 CE, in the first reign of the Ming dynasty, until coming to the end of the system in 1728 CE, during the Yung-cheng reign of the Qing dynasty. The records include two long lithic inscriptions of the family history (dated 1508 and 1577 CE), a number of tomb inscriptions, and a record of the family genealogy, woodblock printed in 1843 CE — during the Tao-kuang reign of the Qing dynasty. An analysis of these records reveals the origin of the “Ah” family to be ethnically “Pai-ae” (Tai), closely linked by blood with the Tai ruling class of the Salween Valley. It was for centuries, from the late Yuan to early Qing, that the “Ah” rulers of Dengchuan had actively engaged in the political changes of Yunnan. Although being heavily absorbed into the Chinese cultural domain, the family had still maintained its “Tai” ethnic consciousness, truly in a politically dependent manner, as reflected by its maintenance of marriage relationship with the ruling classes of various Tai groups in the Mae-khong and Red River valleys.