The Lifan Yuan (Chinese: 理藩院; pinyin: Lǐfànyuàn; Manchu: Tulergi golo be dasara jurgan; Mongolian: γadaγdu mongγul un törü-yi jasaqu jabudal-un jamun) 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.
The name Lifan Yuan has various translations in English, including the 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. The office was initially known as the Mongol Yamen (Chinese: 蒙古衙門; pinyin: Měnggŭ Yámén; Manchu: Monggo jurgan, lit. the Mongol department) when it was first created in the early 17th century. In 1636 the name was changed to "Lifan Yuan" in Chinese and "Tulergi golo be dasara jurgan" in Manchu. The Manchu name literally means the department for the administration of outlying regions. During the period of the Late Qing Reform or New Policies, the name was changed again to Lifan Ministry (Chinese: 理藩部; pinyin: Lǐfànbù) in 1907 and existed until the end of the Qing dynasty in 1912.
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. 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: Huìtóng Guǎn; 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: Éluósī Guǎn; 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: Éluósī Wénguăn; 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 was roughly a Qing version of Xuanzheng Yuan (Chinese: 宣政院; pinyin: Xuānzhèngyuàn) or Bureau of Buddhist and Tibetan Affairs, instituted by the Mongol Yuan dynasty for administering affairs beyond the borders of China proper. It is to be distinguished from the Ministry of Rites, which was the traditional Chinese institution for dealing with all outsiders during the Ming dynasty. The Qing used the Board of Rites to deal with the tributary countries to the south and east like Joseon Korea, Nguyen dynasty Vietnam, the Ryukyu Kingdom and western peoples who came by sea like the Dutch and the English. 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 and other Inner Asian peoples to the north and west. It was replaced by the Zongli Yamen for the conducting of foreign relations in 1861.
- Similar institutions
- Bureau of Buddhist and Tibetan Affairs (Yuan dynasty)
- Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission (Republic of China)
- State Ethnic Affairs Commission (People's Republic of China)
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