Scott Pearce

Visiting Research Scholar, Spring & Summer 2022

Scott Pearce took his PhD in East Asian Studies from Princeton in 1987, and since then has taught at Western Washington University, in Bellingham, Washington. He specializes in the intersection of Chinese and Inner Asian histories in the medieval period.

To this end he has recently completed a volume on the Northern Wei dynasty (386-534), soon forthcoming from Oxford University Press, in which he traces the dynasty’s origins back to the third century, when various new polities began to take shape in the vacuum left open in the Yinshan frontier zone by disintegration of both the Xiongnu empire in Inner Asia and the Chinese Han empire to the south. Over time, Wei rulers reorganized their nomadic followers into an army of horseback archers, which in the late fourth century began moving south to conquer the Yellow River plains, core regions of the now-defunct Han empire. This is the original model of a kind of empire familiar in East Asian history: regimes of Inner Asian origin that seized control of part or all of the enormously productive farmlands to the south. In this, Pearce gives particular attention to issues of historiography: of how the history of this regime of Inner Asian origin was recorded in the Chinese language, from within the Chinese historiographical tradition, and the care needed in use of such texts. 

In his time at ISAW, Pearce will begin work on a second volume concerning successor states of Northern Wei (the so-called “Later Northern Dynasties”), which after Northern Wei’s collapse in the early sixth century were established by people from what was left of the Northern Wei military establishment. These regimes would create a synthesis of traditions from which rose the Tang empire, just two or three generations later.