Inner Asia

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Inner Asia refers to regions within East Asia and North Asia that are today part of Western China, Mongolia and eastern Russia. It overlaps with some definitions of Central Asia, mostly the historical ones, but certain regions of Inner Asia (such as Northeast China) are not considered a part of Central Asia by any of its definitions. Inner Asia may be considered as the "frontier" of China, and as bounded by East Asia, which consists of China, Japan, and Korea. [1]

In geography, regions are areas that are broadly divided by physical characteristics, human impact characteristics, and the interaction of humanity and the environment. Geographic regions and sub-regions are mostly described by their imprecisely defined, and sometimes transitory boundaries, except in human geography, where jurisdiction areas such as national borders are defined in law.

East Asia Subregion of Asia

East Asia is the eastern subregion of Asia, defined in either geographical or ethno-cultural terms. China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam belong to the East Asian cultural sphere. Geographically and geopolitically, the region includes China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Japan, Mongolia, North Korea, and South Korea.

North Asia subregion of Asia

North Asia or Northern Asia, sometimes also referred to as Siberia or Eurasia, is partly a subregion of Asia, consisting of the Russian regions east of the Ural Mountains: Siberia, Ural and the Russian Far East. The region is sometimes also known as Asian Russia. North Asia is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the west by Eastern Europe, to the south by Central and East Asia and to the east by the Pacific Ocean and North America. North Asia covers an area of approximately 13,100,000 square kilometres (5,100,000 sq mi) or 8.8% of the earth's land area, or 1.5 times the size of Brazil. It is the largest subregion of Asia by area, but is also the least populated, with an approximate total population of only 33 million people or 0.74% of Asia’s population. North Asia is solely administrated by Russia, and makes up more than 75% of the territory of the country, but only 22% of its population, at a density of 2.5 people per km2. The region of Western Siberia and occasionally Kazakhstan is usually called Northwestern Asia or Northwest Asia;, although the name sometimes refers to Caucasus or nearby provinces.


The extent of Inner Asia was seen differently in different periods. "Inner Asia" is sometimes contrasted to "China Proper", that is, the original provinces, those with majority Han Chinese populations. In 1800 it consisted of four main areas, namely Manchuria (modern Northeast China and Outer Manchuria), Mongolia (Inner and Outer), Xinjiang and Tibet. These areas had been recently conquered by the Qing dynasty but were governed through different administrative structure [2] not as regular provinces during most of the Qing period. The Qing government agency known as the Lifan Yuan was established to supervise the empire's Inner Asian regions.

Han Chinese ethnic group

The Han Chinese, Hanzu, Han people, are an East Asian ethnic group and nation native to China. They constitute the world's largest ethnic group, making up about 18% of the global population. The estimated 1.3 billion Han Chinese people are mostly concentrated in mainland China and in Taiwan. Han Chinese people also make up three quarters of the total population of Singapore.

Manchuria geographic region in Northeast Asia

Manchuria is a name first used in the 17th century by Japanese people to refer to a large geographic region in Northeast Asia. Depending on the context, Manchuria can either refer to a region that falls entirely within the People's Republic of China or a larger region divided between China and Russia. "Manchuria" is widely used outside China to denote the geographical and historical region. This region is the traditional homeland of the Koreans, Xianbei, Khitan, and Jurchen peoples, who built several states within the area historically.

Outer Manchuria

Outer Manchuria is an unofficial term for a territory in Northeast Asia that was formerly controlled by the Qing dynasty and now belongs to Russia. It is considered part of Manchuria by some definitions. Russia officially received this territory by way of the Treaty of Aigun in 1858 and the Treaty of Peking in 1860. The northern part of the area was also in dispute between 1643 and 1689.

Definition and usage

Inner Asia has a range of definitions and usages. [3] One such is how Denis Sinor used Inner Asia in contrast to agricultural civilizations, noting its changing borders, such as when a Roman province was taken by the Huns, areas of North China was occupied by the Mongols, or when Anatolia came under Turkish influence, eradicating Hellenistic culture. [4]

Denis Sinor was a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Central Asian Studies at the Department of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University and a tenured lecturer at Cambridge University between 1948 and 1962, and was one of the world's leading scholars for the history of Central Asia. Under his directorship, the Central Asian Studies at Indiana University became one of the world's foremost centers for Central Asian history, languages and linguistics. He grew up in Hungary and Switzerland and went to university in Budapest. During the Second World War, he was a member of the French resistance, served in the French army, and became a French citizen. Sinor wrote eight books and edited an additional thirteen. He authored more than 160 articles in several languages such as English, German, French, Hungarian, Russian and many other, more than 150 book reviews, and also contributed to Encyclopædia Britannica. Sinor also served as editor of the Journal of Asian History starting with the publication's inception in 1967.

North China Place

North China is a geographical region of China, lying North of the Qinling Huaihe Line.

The Mongols are an East-Central Asian ethnic group native to Mongolia and to China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. They also live as minorities in other regions of China, as well as in Russia. Mongolian people belonging to the Buryat and Kalmyk subgroups live predominantly in the Russian federal subjects of Buryatia and Kalmykia.

Another is how scholars or historians of the Qing dynasty such as those of the New Qing History often use the term "Inner Asia" when studying Qing interests or reigns outside China proper. [5]

Qing dynasty former empire in Eastern Asia, last imperial regime of China

The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing, was the last imperial dynasty of China. It was established in 1636, and ruled China proper from 1644 to 1912. It was preceded by the Ming dynasty and succeeded by the Republic of China. The Qing multi-cultural empire lasted for almost three centuries and formed the territorial base for modern China. It was the fifth largest empire in world history. The dynasty was founded by the Manchu Aisin Gioro clan in Manchuria. In the late sixteenth century, Nurhaci, originally a Ming Jianzhou Guard vassal, began organizing "Banners", military-social units that included Manchu, Han, and Mongol elements. Nurhaci formed the Manchu clans into a unified entity. By 1636, his son Hong Taiji began driving Ming forces out of the Liaodong Peninsula and declared a new dynasty, the Qing.

The New Qing History is a school of thought that gained prominence in the United States in the mid-1990s by offering a wide-ranging revision of history of the Manchu Qing dynasty. Earlier historians had emphasized the power of Han Chinese to “sinicize” their conquerors, that is, to assimilate and make them Chinese in their thought and institutions. In the 1980s and early 1990s, American scholars began to learn Manchu and took advantage of newly opened Chinese- and Manchu-language archives. This research found that the Manchu rulers were savvy in manipulating their subjects and from the 1630s through at least the 18th century, emperors developed a sense of Manchu identity and used Central Asian models of rule as much as they did Confucian ones. According to some scholars, at the height of their power, the Qing regarded "China" as only a part, although a very important part, of a much wider empire that extended into the Inner Asian territories of Mongolia, Tibet, the Northeast and Xinjiang, or Chinese (Eastern) Turkestan.

China proper Geopolitical term

China proper, Inner China or the Eighteen Provinces was a term used by Western writers on the Manchu Qing dynasty to express a distinction between the core and frontier regions of China. There is no fixed extent for China proper, as many administrative, cultural, and linguistic shifts have occurred in Chinese history. One definition refers to the original area of Chinese civilization, the Central Plain ; another to the "Eighteen Provinces" system of the Qing dynasty. There is no direct translation for "China proper" in the Chinese language due to differences in terminology used by the Qing to refer to the regions and the expression is controversial among scholars, particularly in China, due to national territorial claims.

Different languages

In French, "Asie centrale" can mean both "Central Asia" and "Inner Asia"; Mongolia and Tibet by themselves are termed "Haute-Asie" (High Asia, or Upper Asia). [6]

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

The terms meaning "Inner Asia" in the languages of Inner Asian peoples are all modern loan translations of European, mostly Russian, terms.[ citation needed ]

Central Asia

"Central Asia" normally denotes the western, Islamic part of Inner Asia; that is, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan, with Afghanistan sometimes also included as part of Central Asia. However, The Library of Congress subject classification system treats "Central Asia" and Inner Asia as synonymous. [7]

Central Eurasia

According to Morris Rossabi, the term "Inner Asia" is the well-established term for the area in the literature. However, because of its deficiencies, including the implication of an "Outer Asia" that does not exist, Denis Sinor has proposed the neologism "Central Eurasia", which emphasizes the role of the area in intercontinental exchange. [8] According to Sinor: [9]

The definition that can be given of Central Eurasia in space is negative. It is that part of the continent of Eurasia that lies beyond the borders of the great sedentary civilizations.... Although the area of Central Eurasia is subject to fluctuations, the general trend is that of diminution. With the territorial growth of the sedentary civilizations, their borderline extends and offers a larger surface on which new layers of barbarians will be deposited.

See also

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History of Manchuria

Manchuria is a region in East Asia. Depending on the definition of its extent, Manchuria can either refer to a region falling entirely within China, or a larger region today divided between Northeast China and the Russian Far East. To differentiate between the two parts following the latter definition, the Russian part is also known as Outer Manchuria, while the Chinese part is known as Inner Manchuria.


Taranchi is a term denoting the Muslim sedentary population living in oases around the Tarim Basin in today's Xinjiang, whose native language is Turkic Karluk, and whose ancestral heritages include Iranian and Tocharian populations of Tarim and the later Turkic peoples such as the Uyghurs, Karluks, Yaghmas, Chigils, Basmyls and lastly, the Mongolic tribes of the Chagatai Khanate.

Jimsar County County in Xinjiang, Peoples Republic of China

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The Lifan Yuan was an agency in the government of the Qing dynasty which supervised the Qing Empire's frontier Inner Asia regions such as its Mongolian dependencies and oversaw the appointments of Ambans in Tibet.

Eurasian Steppe steppe

The Eurasian Steppe, also called the Great Steppe or the steppes, is the vast steppe ecoregion of Eurasia in the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome. It stretches from Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova through Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Xinjiang, and Mongolia to Manchuria, with one major exclave, the Pannonian steppe or Puszta, located mostly in Hungary and partially in Serbia and Croatia.

Pan-Mongolism Irredentist political view

Pan-Mongolism is an irredentist idea that advocates cultural and political solidarity of Mongols. The proposed territory, called "Greater Mongolia", usually includes the independent state of Mongolia, the Chinese regions of Inner Mongolia and Dzungaria, and the Russian republic of Buryatia. Sometimes Tuva, the Altai Republic and parts of Zabaykalsky Krai and Irkutsk Oblast are included as well. As of 2006, all areas in Greater Mongolia except Mongolia have non-Mongol majorities.

Mongolia under Qing rule

Mongolia under Qing rule was the rule of the Qing dynasty of China over the Mongolian steppe, including the Outer Mongolian 4 aimags and Inner Mongolian 6 leagues from the 17th century to the end of the dynasty. "Mongolia" here is understood in the broader historical sense. The last Mongol Khagan Ligden saw much of his power weakened in his quarrels with the Mongol tribes and was defeated by the Manchus, he died soon afterwards. His son Ejei Khan gave Hong Taiji the imperial authority, ending the rule of Northern Yuan dynasty then centered in Inner Mongolia by 1635. However, the Khalkha Mongols in Outer Mongolia continued to rule until they were overrun by the Dzungars in 1690, and they submitted to the Qing dynasty in 1691.

Yuan dynasty former Mongolian-ruled empire in Eastern and Northeastern Asia

The Yuan dynasty, officially the Great Yuan, was the empire or ruling dynasty of China established by Kublai Khan, leader of the Mongolian Borjigin clan. It followed the Song dynasty and preceded the Ming dynasty. Although the Mongols had ruled territories including modern-day North China for decades, it was not until 1271 that Kublai Khan officially proclaimed the dynasty in the traditional Chinese style, and the conquest was not complete until 1279. His realm was, by this point, isolated from the other khanates and controlled most of modern-day China and its surrounding areas, including modern Mongolia. It was the first foreign dynasty to rule all of China and lasted until 1368 which ended in Ming dynasty defeating the Yuan dynasty, the rebuked Genghisid rulers retreated to their Mongolian homeland and continued to rule the Northern Yuan dynasty. Some of the Mongolian Emperors of the Yuan mastered the Chinese language, while others only used their native language and the 'Phags-pa script.

Northern Yuan dynasty former empire in East Asia

The Northern Yuan, was a Mongol regime based in the Mongolian homeland. It operated after the fall of the Yuan dynasty of China in 1368 and lasted until the emergence of Manchu-led Later Jin in 17th century which would later become the Qing dynasty. The Northern Yuan dynasty began with the end of Mongol rule in China and the retreat of the Mongols to the Mongolian steppe. This period featured factional struggles and the role of the Great Khan.

Tibet under Yuan rule time period in Tibet from approximately 1270 to 1350

Tibet under Yuan rule refers to the Yuan dynasty's rule over Tibet from approximately 1270 to 1354. During the Yuan rule of Tibet, the region was structurally, militarily and administratively controlled by the Mongol Yuan dynasty, a division of the Mongol Empire. In the history of Tibet, The Mongol rule was established after Sakya Pandita got power in Tibet from the Mongols in 1244, following the 1240 Mongol conquest of Tibet led by the Mongol general with the title doord darkhan. It is also called the Sakya dynasty after the favored Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Dzungar–Qing Wars Century-long conquest of the Dzungar Khanate

The Dzungar–Qing Wars (1687–1757) were a decades-long series of conflicts that pitted the Dzungar Khanate against the Qing dynasty of China and their Mongolian vassals. Fighting took place over a wide swath of Inner Asia, from present-day central and eastern Mongolia to Tibet, Qinghai, and Xinjiang regions of present-day China. Qing victories ultimately led to the incorporation of Outer Mongolia, Tibet and Xinjiang into the Qing Empire that was to last until the fall of the dynasty in 1911–1912, and the extermination of much of the Dzungar population in conquered areas.

Dzungar genocide mass extermination of the Mongol Buddhist Dzungar people at the hands of the Manchu Qing dynasty of China and the Uyghurs of Xinjiang

The Dzungar genocide was the mass extermination of the Mongol Buddhist Dzungar people, sometimes referred as "Zunghars", at the hands of the Manchu Qing dynasty of China. The Qianlong Emperor ordered the genocide due to the rebellion in 1755 by Dzungar leader Amursana against Qing rule, after the dynasty first conquered the Dzungar Khanate with Amursana's support. The genocide was perpetrated by Manchu generals of the Qing army sent to crush the Dzungars, supported by allies and vassals like Uyghur leader Khoja Emin due to the Uyghurs revolt against Dzungar rule.

The Qing dynasty was founded by the Jurchen Aisin Gioro clan in Manchuria in the 17th century and became known by various names. Although it was established by the Manchu people, a Tungusic people ethnically unrelated to the native Chinese, it was widely known in English as China or the Chinese Empire both during its existence, especially internationally, and after the fall of the dynasty.

Qing dynasty in Inner Asia Historical territories of the Manchu-led Qing empire

The Qing dynasty in Inner Asia was the expansion of the Qing dynasty's realm in Inner Asia in the 17th and the 18th century AD, including both Inner and Outer Mongolia, Manchuria, Tibet, Qinghai and Xinjiang. Wars were fought primarily against the Northern Yuan dynasty and the Dzungar Khanate (1687–1758). Even before the conquest of China proper, the Manchus had controlled Manchuria and Inner Mongolia, with the latter being previously controlled by the Mongols under Ligdan Khan. After suppressing the Revolt of the Three Feudatories and the conquest of Taiwan as well as ending the Sino-Russian border conflicts in the 1680s, the Dzungar–Qing War broken out. This eventually led to Qing conquests of Outer Mongolia, Tibet, Qinghai and Xinjiang. All of them became part of the Qing Empire and were garrisoned by Qing forces, but they were governed through several different types of administrative structure and also retained many of their existing institutions. Furthermore, they were not governed as regular provinces, but instead were supervised by the Lifan Yuan, a Qing government agency that oversaw the empire's frontier regions.

Yuan dynasty in Inner Asia

The Yuan dynasty in Inner Asia was the domination of the Yuan dynasty in Inner Asia in the 13th and the 14th centuries. The Genghisid rulers of the Yuan came from the Mongolian steppe, and the Mongols under Kublai Khan established the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) based in Khanbaliq, a Chinese-style dynasty that incorporated many aspects of Mongolian and Inner Asian political and military institutions. Actual Yuan rule extended to Manchuria, Mongolia, the Tibetan Plateau and parts of Xinjiang. People from these Inner Asian regions other than the Mongols usually belonged to the Semu class. In addition, the Yuan emperors held nominal suzerainty over the three western Mongol khanates, but they were essentially autonomous and ruled separately due to the division of the Mongol Empire since the Toluid Civil War in the 1260s.

Mongolia under Yuan rule

The Yuan dynasty ruled over the Mongolian steppe, including both Inner and Outer Mongolia as well as part of southern Siberia, for roughly a century between 1271 and 1368. The Mongolian Plateau is where the ruling Mongols of the Yuan dynasty as founded by Kublai Khan came from, thus it enjoyed a somewhat special status during the Mongol Yuan dynasty, division of the Mongol Empire, although the capital of the dynasty had been moved from Karakorum to Khanbaliq since the beginning of Kublai Khan's reign, and Mongolia had been turned into a province by the early 14th century.

History of the eastern steppe

This article summarizes the History of the eastern steppe:, the eastern third of the Eurasian Steppe, that is, the grasslands of Mongolia and northern China. It is a companion to History of the central steppe and History of the western steppe. Most of its recorded history deals with conflicts between the Chinese and the steppe nomads. Most of the sources are Chinese.



  1. Bulag, Uradyn E. (October 2005). "Where is East Asia? Central Asian and Inner Asian Perspectives on Regionalism". Japan Focus.
  2. The Cambridge History of China: Volume 10, Part 1, by John K. Fairbank, p37
  3. Book Abstaract: "Inner Asia: Making a Long-Term U.S. Commitment." Authors: Carol D. Clair; Army War Coll Carlisle Barracks Pa. Retrieved: 22 August 2009.
  4. The Cambridge history of early Inner Asia, Volume 1 By Denis Sinor. Retrieved: 22 August 2009.
  5. New Qing Imperial History: The Making of Inner Asian Empire at Qing Chengde, edited by Ruth W. Dunnell, Mark C. Elliott, Philippe Foret, James A Millward
  6. Research Institute for Inner Asian Studies (RIFIAS). Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana . Retrieved: 22 August 2009.
  7. Research Institute for Inner Asian Studies (RIFIAS). Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana . Retrieved: 22 August 2009.
  8. Rossabi, Morris (1975). China and Inner Asia: from 1368 to the present day. Pica Press. p. 10.
  9. Sinor, Denis (1997). Inner Asia: History, civilization, languages: a syllabus. p. 4.


  • Di Cosmo, Nicola. 1999. "State Formation and Periodization in Inner Asian History". Journal of World History 10 (1). University of Hawai'i Press: 1–40.
  • Rogers, J. Daniel. 2012. "Inner Asian States and Empires: Theories and Synthesis". Journal of Archaeological Research 20 (3). Springer: 205–56.