“Dying Mongol and Reborn Tibetan”: Otherness and Integration of Foreigners in the Landscape of Amdo
Valentina Punzi [+]
In the nowadays politically fragmented territory of ethnic Tibet, Amdo Tibetans occupy the northeastern area of the Tibetan plateau, now included in the Chinese province of Qinghai. From the thirteenth century onwards, this vast area of grasslands and mountain peaks has been under the discontinuous rule of Mongols. A clear trace of this foreign occupation is still detectable in the oral descriptions of the landscape and the belief narratives retold in the nomadic county of Zekok in southeastern Qinghai Province. Based on ten oral narrations, recorded between 2011 and 2014 in Zekok about the Mongol ancestry of a local Tibetan protector god, I aim to explore the narrative strategies implemented in deconstructing the historical Mongol presence in the area and reconstructing it into a belief narrative. By analysing the relationship between the autochthonous Tibetan agency of a protector god with the advent of the Mongol army, this paper explores how these narratives contribute to elaborate the Mongol presence in Amdo within a Tibetan cultural frame. These belief narratives show how by transposing an historical event into a legendary setting, Mongols’ foreign identity has been first stereotyped and then gradually incorporated in the Tibetan landscape.