chapter  2
30 Pages

Opening new territory and partitioning the space

Natural and administrative geographies of the early imperial northwest
WithWicky W. K. Tse

This chapter examines the salient features of the natural geography and administrative geography of the northwestern region, corresponding roughly to the Liang province in the Han dynasties, and touches upon the militarized nature and multi-ethnic characteristics of the frontier society. Besides the physical landscape, the political landscape also constitutes an integral part of our investigation of the frontier society in the Liang province, as "administrative geography — the way a state divides space — can also tell us much about conceptions of political community and its modes of inclusion and exclusion". The adoption of imported weapons also reveals the violent character of the region and the surprising result of cultural exchange by means of warfare — both presaging the militarized nature of the region in the early imperial age. Evidence of human activities and settled communities in the northwest frontier zone can be traced back to no later than the third millennium BCE.