Annie Chan

Assistant Professor, Department of Asian Studies, Institute of SinologyLudwig Maximilian University of Munich


Annie Chan is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of the Sciences of Antiquity at University of Geneva and a Visiting Scholar at University of Pennsylvania where she received her PhD in 2017. Her current research explores cross-cultural transmissions in Inner Asian steppe antiquity and the geographies of exchange with dynastic China through an integration of archaeological and historical methods of study. The themes surround materiality, cultural identity, and the sociology of space use. Since her doctoral research for which she conducted extensive archaeological fieldwork in Xinjiang, she has worked on Bronze Age steppe architecture and the spatial strategies and social customs of animal husbandry. As well as her InterAsia project, she is preparing an edited volume of papers on recent archaeological findings across Xinjiang, southern Siberia and Mongolia. She is most recently published in the Journal of Ethnobiology where she explores the heritage and sustainability of extant modern day Mongol and Kazakh artisanal pastoral crafts through ethnography.

Award Information

Transregional Research Junior Scholar Fellowship: InterAsian Contexts and Connections (2017-2018)

Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of the Sciences of AntiquityUniversity of Geneva

Tribute, Truce and Tutelage: Chinese Objects in early Medieval Steppe Geopolitics

It can be argued that a volatile periphery is an inevitable terrain of a centralized layout of governance that upholds the Mandate of Heaven - a divine ordinance validating the timely and justly succession of Chinese dynastic rule. The formative period of Tang Dynasty (618-755) witnessed an unprecedented enlargement of China’s political territory following economic growth and military success, but also challenges in maintaining an ethnocentric yet cosmopolitan kingship. This project explores the capricious interfaces between Tang China and the Turkic peoples in the Western Regions through an archaeological study of objects of Chinese origin and inspired designs discovered in Turkic steppe burials discovered in western China and southern Siberia. Building on the collage of object biographies constructed from artifacts such as bronze mirrors, textiles, lacquerware and coins, the project traces the undercurrents in Tang China’s diplomatic relations with Turkic populations beyond the provisions of the laws governing truce, tribute and tutelage. It assesses the economy and symbolisms of these foreign Chinese objects as funerary articles in elite burials, and the implications of this form of patronage for the Turkic Khanate. I posit that these tacit flows of assimilation and disintegration had softened the categorical divides in culture and ideology that were geographically delineated. It was the decentralization of power and the diversification of trade and cultural activities toward the “periphery” that altered the geographies of liminality and opened new nexus of exchange that made up the powerful mandate of Tang rulership.