Orphans of the Empire: Lhasa’s Chinese Community from the Qing Era to the Early Twentieth Century

Huasha Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article analyzes the transformation of Lhasa’s Chinese community from the embodiment of an expansionist power in the early eighteenth century to the orphan of a fallen regime after the Qing Empire’s demise in 1911. Throughout the imperial era, this remote Chinese enclave represented Qing authority in Tibet and remained under the metropole’s strong political and social influence. Its members intermarried with the locals and adopted many Tibetan cultural traits. During the years surrounding the 1911 Xinhai Revolution, this community played a significant role in a series of interconnected political and ethnic confrontations that gave birth to the two antagonistic national bodies of Tibet and China. The community’s history and experiences challenge not only the academic assessment that Tibet’s Chinese population had fully assimilated into Tibetan society by the twentieth century but also the widespread image of pre-1951 Lhasa as a harmonious town of peaceful ethnic coexistence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)388-419
Number of pages32
JournalModern China
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Mar

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research received financial support from the Council on East Asian Studies at Yale University.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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