Mapping Routes, Exchange, And Transformation Along The Borderlands Of Laos, China, And Vietnam: The Lanten Case

Post Author(s)

Political and, often, scholarly, boundaries divide Asia artificially into units, such as Southeast Asia and China. This modern division often contributes to masking ongoing processes of exchange and flow of persons, goods and ideas, and societies inhabiting the borderlands. Such is the case of the Lanten communities (Landian Yao or Yao Mun) who have settled in the highlands across the Sino-Lao-Viet borderlands over the past centuries. Sino-Southeast Asian overland interactions have shaped the so-called Golden Quadrangle for centuries. However, this research focuses on mapping and studying the routes and exchanges taking place in two particular periods: The 1890s, right before the creation of the modern state boundaries when highly dynamic corridors and dozens of trade-routes interconnected Southeast Asia with the Tea and Horses (Silk-)Road in China; and the 2020s, which are defined by the various ongoing infrastructure-projects (e.g. highways, railways) and Special Economic Zones (Golden Triangle, Green Triangle) associated with the One Belt One Road Initiative (BRI/ New Silk Road). Of particular interest are the impacts of these developments upon the Lanten communities and their response to such transformations. The Lanten practicing a form of religion with heavy Daoist elements connecting them to a Chinese imperial cosmology, changing boundaries and circulations lead to continuities and divergences in cosmological and religious understandings and practices.

The Laos sub-project is carrying out archival research with a focus on diaries and travelogues written by early those Europeans explorers who first visited Luang Namtha. These early explorers had been commanded with the task of mapping the region so boundaries could be created between the British and French Empires. The Laos sub-project is, thus, contributing to bridging a historical gap: The mapping of the overland trade-routes and interactions between China and Southeast Asia in the 1890s. The ongoing research is employing infographics, and the fructiferous cooperation between a visual artist and the team-members of the BRINFAITH project is providing various maps to assist visualising the Silk Road in this specific region. At the same time, companion maps based on contemporary sources and the scheduled BRI development-plans serve to articulate a mapping of the BRI based on selected sites and infrastructures. This approach enables comparison and provides the necessary socio-historical background and framework for this case. Other maps provide crucial information about the location of the Lanten settlements. These maps combine ethnographic data, state census, and linguistic atlas, to establish the distribution of the speakers of the Kim Mun language (i.e. Lanten communities) in China, Laos, and Vietnam.

Joseba Estevez, David A. Palmer and Zhang Mengting: “Overland interactions in the Golden Quadrangle: The Silk Road in the 1890s vs the BRI in the 2020s

Joseba Estevez, David A. Palmer and Sun Jiayue: A road of stories: The dynamic exchange of written and oral stories amongst the Lanten ritual experts along the borderlands of China, Vietnam, and Laos. 

Parallels And Paradoxes: New Religious Formations In Response To The BRI In Sri Lanka

Since the end of the civil war in 2009, Sri Lanka has attracted significant volumes of foreign investment. The vast majority of this investment has come from Chinese companies, which have committed loans amounting to over US$ 7 billion so far. Much of this investment has been used to finance large-scale infrastructure projects, including the...

Alternative Healing Methods And China’s Health Silk Road: Chinese Muslim Medical Enterprises And Practitioners In Dubai

China has gained more prominence in terms of its global health leadership during the coronavirus pandemic. The state dispatched medical teams and supplies to many Belt and Road countries in the last six months. Sinopharm, a large state-owned Chinese pharmaceutical company, established its first overseas COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial program in...

Building Inter-Asia New Age Networks: Balancing Heterodoxy And Patriotism In Chinese Spiritual Tourism To India

The recent military clashes between India and China in the Galwan Valley resulted in the Sino-Indian border heating up to levels unseen in recent years. Meanwhile, India continues to downplay China’s Belt and Road Initiative and refuses to sign a BRI Memorandum of Understanding. In June 2020, parallel to the reports on these tensions, Chinese...

Modern China And The Question Of Muslim Sectarianism In The Context Of Inter-Asian Religious Circulations

Sinophone Islam, as found in the Xibei (Xinjiang, Gansu, Qinghai and Ningxia), is characterized by sectarian (jiaopai) divisions among four groupings: the Qadim, the Sufi orders (menhuan), the Ikhwan, and the Salafis. With the exception of the latter, all of these sects adhere to a common doctrinal and legalistic tradition, shared by their...

Religious Circulation, Transportation Routes, And Urban Space: Christianity In Late Imperial And Modern China

This project studies the intricate and largely overlooked relationship between religious circulation, transportation routes and urban space in the historical context of state building and global connection in mid-eighteenth to mid-twentieth-century China. Focusing on the case of Christianity, it examines three cities and regions that have played...

Buddhism At The Borders Of Trade: Colonial And Post-Colonial Discourses On Trans-Himalayan Economic Networks And Connectivity

The expansion of international trade exerted and continues to exert considerable influence on the negotiation of nation-state borders and on the formation of cultural, social, and religious identities. While the relationship between religion and trade is undeniably complex and multifaceted, it has been suggested that commercial connectivity has...

Muslim Humanitarian Networks and Chinese Infrastructures in Northern Pakistan

This project investigates the intersection of Muslim humanitarian networks and Chinese-built infrastructures in Gilgit-Baltistan in northern Pakistan. The central aim of the project is to examine how at this meeting point of material and social entities that are often seen as disjointed new meanings emerge which alter the use and poetics of...

Inter-Asian Learning And Teaching Across The Belt And Road: In-Between Pakistani Madrasah And Chinese School

Driven by the steady increase of the Muslim population, ethnic Muslims in Hong Kong have been desperately seeking physical space for daily prayer and reciting Qur’an. Out of the strong religious aspiration, many small-scale madrasah (‘housques’) have been flourishing in many parts of Hong Kong in recent years. Based on my ongoing ethnographic...

State-Building In Religious Society: A Comparative Study Of Religious Control In Belt And Road Countries

This research aims to study state policies of the religious control in Belt and Road countries in Central Asia, including China (Xinjiang province), Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Tajikistan. Through a comparative study of the religious policies in these countries, this study seeks to reveal how the socialist or post-socialist...

Mapping the online discourse on the BRI in social media: general context and religious factors

This data mining project investigates the changing and contested narratives of the BRI in social media, focusing on sentimental and networking characteristics in online communication platforms. In an interim outcome, this work has firstly framed a systematic approach to analyse the discourse on the BRI in social networking platforms; with further...