SOAS University of London

Tibetan Studies at SOAS

Guozhuang Trading Houses and Tibetan Middlemen in Dartsedo, the "Shanghai of Tibet"

Yudru Tsomu (Sichuan University)

Date: 20 February 2017Time: 5:30 PM

Finishes: 20 February 2017Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: 21/22 Russell Square Room: T102

Type of Event: Lecture

Within the field of Sino-Tibetan frontier studies, there is very little in-depth scholarly discussion about commerce, trade, and the people who facilitated these activities across the Sino-Tibetan border; studies in English are particularly sparse. This lecture aims to contribute to a wider and deeper understanding of the nature of trade on the Sino-Tibetan frontier and the role of women as facilitators by looking at some of the actual “dealmakers.” In the border town of Dartsedo—the “Shanghai of Tibet”—guozhuang (trading houses, Tib. achak khapa) not only evolved into convenient spaces for travelers to come to rest, but also were spaces of flux. It was in these trading houses that traditional notions of gender, class, and hierarchy were called into question and played out in unexpected ways. Women came to dominate the guozhuang because the work was likened to managing a household and therefore viewed as a lower-status occupation. This notion was reinforced in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when Chinese values and customs were introduced into the local society through frequent intermarriages between Han and Tibetan inhabitants in Dartsedo.

Yudru Tsomu is associate professor at the Center for Tibetan Studies, Sichuan University, People’s Republic of China. A native of Kham, she received her Ph.D. in 2006 from Harvard University in the field of Tibetan Studies and was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University in 2007. From 2007-2014, she served as assistant professor in the History Department at Lawrence University. Her main academic fields of interest are Tibetan history and culture from the late nineteenth century to the first half of the twentieth century, and the history of Sino-Tibetan relations. She has a long and continuing interest in the historical continuity and disjuncture that makes the relationships between the center and the periphery, and majority and minority discourse. Through her research she hopes to contribute toward an understanding of Sino-Tibetan relations not only from a political perspective, but also drawing on the larger field of historical and cultural exchanges and accommodation.