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Mining, Trade and State Formation in Early China

  • Author(s): Shi, Tao
  • Advisor(s): von Falkenhausen, Lothar
  • Li, Min
  • et al.
Abstract

This dissertation aims at exploring the trade strategy and center-periphery relations in the process of state formation in early China. The focus is the Longshan and Erlitou periods (ca. 2300-1520 BCE). Instead of a center-based perspective, this research focuses on peripheries and discusses the impact of peripheral societies on the formation of the political-economic landscape of early states. By taking resource extraction and distribution as a departure point, I discuss the production modes, economic forms and social contexts in three resource-rich regions, which were significant sources of key resources in early China. Based on my estimation on scales of mining and mining landscapes, I argue that turquoise and copper mining and mining-related productions were all local, small-scale and village-based activities during the two periods. The current evidence shows that early states did not place direct control over resource extraction and distribution in these peripheral regions. Moreover, based on the arguments and comparative cases in other regions of the world, I further argue that the strategy of resource procurement of early states was never monopolistic. Rather, the Longshan and Erlitou-period states adopted a decentralized strategy to procure key resources. By considering Erlitou as a phenomenon of regeneration after Longshan collapses, I argue that the center-periphery relations maintained a strong continuity in this transitional period.

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