Reimagining the World Order: Chinese Literary Conventions and the Representation of International Relations in the Mongol Yuan Dynasty

The relationship between the Mongol Yuan dynasty and the Kingdom of Annam (northern Vietnam) in the 13th and 14th centuries was previously believed to have been defined by the tributary system of foreign relations inherited from preceding Chinese dynasties. While scholars are aware of the necessity to incorporate historical accounts from Annam when discussing the diplomatic relations of the period, there is less emphasis on how these diplomatic relationships were represented by documents crafted in accordance with Chinese literary conventions. This presentation argues that Chinese linguistic conventions determined how foreign relations were negotiated and recorded, creating an illusion of continuity that ignores the multilingual dimension of the Mongol Empire. This presentation seeks to explore the intricate relationship between literary conventions and the understanding of the foreign world through the works of two Yuan Dynasty envoys, Chen Fu 陳孚 (1259-1309) and Fu Ruojin 傅若金 (1303-1342). On the one hand, Dr Hui argues that Chinese literary conventions mask potential changes in the Sino-Vietnamese relationship. And on the other hand, through a closed reading of these envoys’ poetry, he shows how the generic conventions of Chinese poetry were challenged by the envoys’ attempts to write about their experience in the foreign land. With a case study of the literary works pertaining to Yuan-Annam relations, this presentation reflects upon the role of Chinese literary conventions in the representation of cultural others.