Feng Ba and his brother Feng Hong of the Northern Yan dynasty, were they considered to be of Xianbei ethnicity?

Sep 2012
1,102
Taiwan
#2
Depends on what framework you use to interpret ethnicity I suppose; its not a particularly clear cut science. His brother apparently did not consider them to be Xianbei, as he draws a distinction between themselves and the Six Barbarians (liuyi 六夷), when the Rouran wanted an Imperial bride (Jinshu 125). Feng Ba rebuts him and says that they revere different cultures (chongxin shusu 崇信殊俗), which suggests he has foreign sympathies, but not really that he counted himself as such. His alleged Xianbei name (Qizhifa 乞直伐) is cited as evidence, although plenty of native people took or received foreign names in this period, so its not the best yardstick to use perhaps.
 
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Likes: stevapalooza
Sep 2012
1,102
Taiwan
#4
Perhaps. Again, it really depends on how you view ethnicity and what paradigm you employ to analyse it. Some people take the view that blood trumps culture, others vice versa. Personally, I sit somewhere in the middle. If he walks and talks like a Xianbei, thinks himself a Xianbei and has others think him a Xianbei, I'd happily concede him Xianbei-ised to a degree. I'm not sure the evidence is entirely all there for that though (although I've only skim read the relevant section of the JS, the Sixteen Kingdoms was never my forte). Although we must bear in mind the sources might be trying to downplay his ethnicity and portray him as more 'Chinese' than he might otherwise have been, but that's a point of conjecture.

His mother was called Lady Zhang, and all we know about her is that he made her dowager princess when he took the throne. We might presume from her name that she was a native, as opposed to a Xianbei, which again is a rather imprecise way of judging such things, but the best we can really do.
 
Sep 2012
1,102
Taiwan
#5
I'd recommend Jennifer Holmgren's article 'Social Mobility in the Northern Dynasties: a case study of the Feng of Northern Yen'. She discusses the Feng family genealogy in some depth. She postulates that Ba's ancestors were Xianbei, although her reasoning is somewhat conjectural. Interesting paper though, particularly in regards to the aforementioned potential downplaying by later historians.
 
Oct 2015
10
Oceania
#7
I'd recommend Jennifer Holmgren's article 'Social Mobility in the Northern Dynasties: a case study of the Feng of Northern Yen'. She discusses the Feng family genealogy in some depth. She postulates that Ba's ancestors were Xianbei, although her reasoning is somewhat conjectural. Interesting paper though, particularly in regards to the aforementioned potential downplaying by later historians.
Thanks for the heads up, I will definitely be looking into it.
 
Sep 2012
1,102
Taiwan
#8
You're welcome! Sorry I'm a bit muddled on these things; I don't know Feng Ba or his family much at all, and I don't have too much time to give the sources more than a cursory look right now. I did a lot of work on Northern Dynasties ethnology and Xianbei studies in the past though, so its always fun to look back over this area.
 

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