This article reconsiders the established modern Chinese writer Duanmu Hongliang and his first and most influential work, The Korchin Banner Plains (completed in 1933 and published in 1939), from a borderland perspective. The novel is set in western Manchuria, a multiethnic area of northeastern China that borders Inner Mongolia and was occupied by Japan in the early 1930s. The novel has been read by many as a realistic portrait of the natural and social landscape of the grassland and as an autobiographical account of the author's family history. This article disagrees, and treats the novel as a performative form of “territory-making” that purposefully recreates a Han-centered modern nation from its geographical margin by carefully reorganizing a web of intricate and competing multiethnic and multinational relations in the grassland. In particular, as a self-identified Manchu, Duanmu makes unconventional choices of both themes and literary styles to imply a calculated embrace of a modern nation by an ethnic other. Through a close examination of the spatial-textual negotiations in the novel, the article delineates how a classic work of nationalist literature was produced from the borderland and how this work exposes the precariousness and contradictions inherent in the grand narrative of modern nationhood.

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