Ethnicity is produced by socio-political orders that are stratified by associations of certain regions and certain cultural institutions with the “normal,” “classic,” or “formal.” The importance of being precise in the use of these terms becomes clear when one turns to the period between 1600 and 1800. The Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1636–1912) empires were profoundly different with respect to their perceived structure of national and ethnic populations. In the Ming period, a national group within the empire happened to be very clearly defined, usually by culture, but in some instances by genealogy. The Qing structure was quite different, particularly before the nineteenth century. The lingering centralities and marginalities of the Ming period remained identifiable, and many regions vigorous, beneath the formal, newly historicized hierarchies of the Qing conquest.
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