The Lifan Yuan (Chinese: 理藩院; pinyin: Lǐfànyuàn; Manchu: Tulergi golo be darasa jurgan; Mongolian: γadaγdu mongγul un törü-yi jasaqu jabudal-un jamun) was an agency in the Qing government which supervised the Qing Empire's Mongolian dependencies and oversaw the appointments of Ambans in Tibet. It was first created in the 17th century. It has various translations in English, e.g. Board for National Minority Affairs, Court of Territorial Affairs, Board for the Administration of Outlying Regions, Office for Relations with Principalities, Office of Barbarian Control, Office of Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs and Court of Colonial Affairs, etc.
Prior to the establishment of the Zongli Yamen, the Court also supervised the empire's relation with Russia under the treaties of Nerchinsk and Kyakhta. Lifan Yuan was exclusively staffed with members from the Eight Banners. The predecessor of the Court was the Mongol Yamen (Manchu: Monggo jurgan). Lifan Yuan was the closest administrative office that the Qing Dynasty had that would have been comparable with a foreign policy department, although the Qing Dynasty cared little about relations with countries that did not border its domain.
Guests of the Lifan Yuan were housed in the Bureau of Interpreters (Chinese: 會同館; pinyin: Huitong Guan; Wade–Giles: Hui-t'ung Kuan) in the southeast part of the Tatar City, later also known as the Russian hostel (Chinese: 俄羅斯館; pinyin: Eluosi Guan; Wade–Giles: O-lo-ssu Kuan) due to the predominance of Russian visitors there. It was also called the ‘south pavilion’ (南館 nan kuan) to distinguish it from the ‘north pavilion’ (北館 pei kuan) where the Albazinians lived. From the Treaty of Kyakhta this residence became permanent.
There was also a Russian Language Institute (Chinese: 俄羅斯文館; pinyin: Eluosi Wenuan; Wade–Giles: O-lo-ssu Wen-kuan), which was a school where Manchus learned to speak Russian. Founded in 1708, it was incorporated into the newly founded Tongwen Guan in 1862.
The Lifan Yuan is to be distinguished from the Board of Rites, which was the traditional Chinese institution for dealing with outsiders. The Lifan Yuan was established at the time of Huang Taiji to deal with the Mongols. After the establishment to the Qing dynasty it continued to be a separate institution for dealing with Mongols and Russians. Both were replaced by the Zongli Yamen in 1861.
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