Tusi (Chinese: 土司; pinyin: tǔsī; Wade–Giles: t'u3szu1; Manchu: ᠠᡳᠮᠠᠨ ᡳ ᡥᠠᡶᠠᠨ; Vietnamese: Thổ ty) often translated "headmen" or "chieftains", were hereditary tribal leaders recognized as imperial officials by the Yuan, Ming, and Qing-era Chinese governments and by the Lê and Nguyễn dynasties of Vietnam. They ruled certain ethnic minorities in southwest China and Indochinese peninsula, nominally on behalf of the central government. This arrangement is generally known as the Tusi System or Native Chieftain System (Chinese: 土司制度; pinyin: Tǔsī Zhìdù). It should not to be confused with tributary system or Jimi system.
Chiefdom of Lijiang's Palace Chamber
|Vietnamese alphabet||Thổ ty|
|Manchu script||ᠠᡳᠮᠠᠨ ᡳ |
|Möllendorff||aiman i hafan|
It has been described on at least one occasion as sharing similarities with the "U.S. federal government's recognition of some Native American tribes as in some ways sovereign entities." Tusi were located primarily in the province of Yunnan and in the regions of Guizhou, Tibet, Sichuan and Chongqing, Xiangxi Prefecture of Hunan, and Enshi Prefecture of Hubei. Tusi also existed in the historic dependencies of China in what is today northern Myanmar, Laos, and northern Thailand. Vietnam also implemented a tusi system under the Nguyễn dynasty (1802–1945).
The history of native chieftaincy system started from Yuan Dynasty. It was later inherited by Ming and Qing rulers. Although both Ming and Qing dynasty made some efforts to replace the native chieftains with regular officials(“改土歸流”), a large number of native chieftains still existed even after the Qing empire was replaced by the Republic of China. Because of the difference of its reach to each province, the central government of Republic of China continued the process of turning native rule into regular administrations while maintained the native chieftains in specific regions.  It was after the foundation of People’s Republic of China in 1949 that the native chieftaincy system got completely abolished.
The Native Chieftain system was inspired by the Jimi system (Chinese: 羈縻制度) implemented in regions of ethnic minorities groups during the Tang dynasty. It was established as a specific political term during the Yuan dynasty and was used as a political institution to administer newly acquired territories following their conquest of the Kingdom of Dali in 1253.
The former ruling Duan dynasty were appointed as governors generals with nominal authority using the title "Dali chief steward" (Chinese: 大理總管, p Dàlǐ Zǒngguǎn), and local leaders were co-opted under a variety of titles as administrators of the region. Some credit the Turkoman governor Sayyid Ajjal Shams al-Din Omar with introducing the system into China. Duan Xingzhi, the last king of Dali, was appointed as the first local ruler, and he accepted the stationing of a pacification commissioner there. Duan Xingzhi offered the Yuan maps of Yunnan and led a considerable army to serve as guides for the Yuan army. By the end of 1256 Yunnan was considered to have been pacified.
Under the Yuan, the native official, or tusi, was the client of a patron-client relationship. The patron, the Yuan ruler, exercised jurisdictional control over the client, but not his/her territory itself.
The Tusi chieftains and local tribe leaders and kingdoms in Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan submitted to Yuan rule and were allowed to keep their titles. The Han Chinese Yang family ruling the Chiefdom of Bozhou which was recognized by the Song dynasty and Tang dynasty also received recognition by the Mongols in the Yuan dynasty and later by the Ming dynasty. The Luo clan in Shuixi led by Ahua were recognized by the Yuan emperors, as they were by the Song emperors when led by Pugui and Tang emperors when led by Apei. They descended from the Shu Han era king Huoji who helped Zhuge Liang against Meng Huo. They were also recognized by the Ming dynasty.
In 1364, Zhu Yuanzhang conquered Huguang. Rather than building a bureaucratic system of his own in Huguang, Zhu Yuanzhang chose to keep the native chieftaincy system implemented by the Yuan rulers. He just reappointed many tusi to the same posts as they had during Yuan . Later, when he reunified China, Zhu Yuanzhang brought this practice to the entire southern border zone of his country. 
In 1381, the Ming Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang sent a force against the last remnant of the forces of the Yuan Dynasty, led by the Prince of Liang Basalawarmi, who committed suicide. This left Duan Gong, a successor of Duan Xingzhi, as the last representative of remnant Yuan forces. He refused to surrender and attempted to have the former Dali kingdom recognized as a tributary state. When he was defeated in battle, the surviving Duan brothers were taken captive and escorted to the capital. There they were given an insignificant office in the interior. From then on, "permanent chieftains were replaced by transferable officials," formally appointed by the Ming court.
Local leaders were obliged to provide troops, suppress local rebellions, and pay tribute to Beijing annually, biennially, or triennially according to their distance. The post was hereditary as opposed to the examination system in China proper, but succession, promotion, and demotion were all controlled by the Ming administration which required each tusi to use a seal and an official charter. To establish legitimate successions, tusi were ordered to list their sons and nephews in AD 1436, to redo the list in quadruplicate in 1441, and to renew the list triennially in 1441 and again in 1485. The Ming also took over regencies of children younger than 15 in 1489.
Tusi chiefs could sometimes be female according to local customs and had full authority over their own tribesmen, but were kept under supervision by the Ming Ministry of Personnel or Ministry of War. Areas of tusi administration tended to explode into violence or turmoil intermittently and would invariably provoke Ming military intervention. However these incidents are generally attributed to provocations by Chinese settlers or corrupt officials and not the fault of the tribes themselves.
The native chieftain system was a mutual-beneficial cooperation between the central government and native chieftains. For a quite long time after the foundation of Ming, the rulers knew that the central government could only use limited amount of resources. Having a large number of armies stationed in southern borderland, an area with harsh natural environment and large number of Non-Han people, was too costly for Ming rulers. Thus, they decided to transfer part of ruling power to those local political rulers in exchange for their defense of the border zone.
Different kinds of Tusi in Ming dynastyEdit
There are two kinds of Tusi in Ming China: civilian-rank tusi and military-rank tusi.
The civilian-rank Tusi were given the titles of Tu Zhifu(native prefecture), Tu Zhizhou(native department) and Tu Zhixian(native county) according to the size and population of their domains. Nominally, they have the same rank as their counterparts in the regular administration system
The central government gave more autonomy to those military-rank Tusi because these Tusi were controlling areas with fewer Han-Chinese immigrants and more underdeveloped infrastructure. They pledged loyalty to the Ming emperor but had almost unfettered power within their domains.
All the native chieftains were nominally subordinate to Pacification Commissioners (Xuanfushi, Xuanweishi, Anfushi). The Pacification Commissioners were also native chieftains who received their title from the Ming court. As a way of checking their power, Pacification Commissioners were put under the supervision of the Ministry of War .
In 276 years of Ming history, there were a total of 1608 Tusi titles in total given by Ming court. Among these Tusi titles, 960 were military-rank and 648 were civilian-rank .Most of Tusi titles were given to chieftains in Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan.
In Tibet,Qinghai and Sichuan, the Ming court sometimes gave both tusi titles and religious titles to religious leaders. As a result, those tusi had double identities. They played both the role of political leaders and religious leaders within their domains. For example, during the reign of Yongle emperor, the leader of Jinchuan monastery assisted Ming army in a battle of resisting the Mongol invasion. The leader was later given the title Yanhua Chanshi(“演化禅师”) and power to rule 15 villages as his domain as a reward.
Power and privileges of TusiEdit
Each Tusi was given a hereditary title that can be passed down to an heir.
After a chieftain got recognized by the central government as a Tusi, he would receive a patent of appointment, a bronze official seal, a belt decorated with gold, and a formal attire as uniform. 
The entire clan of a tusi enjoyed privileges within the domain. In Ming China, The clan of a Tusi was called Guanzu(“Official Clan”).
Members of the official clan had higher social ranks than commoners and slaves. Only members of official clan, Han Chinese, and descendants of former officials were allowed to receive education and take examinations.
Each Tusi could build and live in a Yamen（“衙门”）. A Yamen is the headquarter of local officials that contained the many functional infrastructures, such as the courtroom, sacrificial altar，ancestral hall, granary, offices, and the living quarters of official’s family.
The structure of government and way of adjudication varied in each domain because of the diversity of tusi’s cultural backgrounds. Normally, there were no statute law in the domain. The will of tusi was the law.A tusi had court and jail in his Yamen and could imprison or punish his subjects as long as he thought it was necessary. For instance, Li Depu, the native official of Anping subprefecture in Guangxi province, brutally punished a serf for wearing white stockings because according to his dress rule only official clans were allowed to do so.Commoners ruled by tusi often called them Tu Huangdi (“Local Emperor”).This analogy between tusi and emperors in some way reflected the almost unfettered judicial power of a tusi in his domain.
Tusi were given the power of collecting tax in their domain. For seasonal religious rituals or sacrifices, Tusi had rights to collect rice and copper coins from each local household. As the head of clan, each tusi had right to disposal the property of his clan. 
Apart from bodyguards, tusi were allowed to maintain a private military power to better defend the borderland and suppress rebellion. The size of the private army depended on the resources each tusi could provide in their domain.
Responsibilities of native chieftains in Ming timeEdit
Once they received their titles from Ming court, they were considered as vassals of the Ming Emperor. They enjoyed autonomy or semi-autonomy in their domains, but were no longer leaders of independent regimes.
The main responsibilities of native chieftains were maintaining order within their domains and defending the border zones for the state.
When the Ming court wanted to start any campaign near their domains, the chieftains were required to lead their private armies and assist the Ming army in the battle. Those soldiers supplied by Tusi were called Tu Bing (“Native Soldier”). In the campaign against Annam, the Ming court recruited a large number of native soldiers from the southern provinces.
Also, Tusi were required to pay tributes to the Ming court. The periodic tribute goods sent by native chieftains contained various goods:
1. animals, such as horses and elephants
2. products made from rare wild animals, such as elephant tusks and rhinoceros’ horns
3. medicinal herbs
5. silver utensils
6. minerals, such as tin
Path into the occupation in Ming ChinaEdit
Normally, a tusi was required to hand over his post to the eldest son of his principal wife. But the Ming rulers also agreed that the heir of a tusi could be other family members as long as the arrangement of heir fits the local culture and the heir is trustworthy. Thus, there were multiple ways of passing the tusi title down in Ming time:
1. The most common situation is passing the title to the eldest son of the principal wife.
2. A chieftaincy can be passed from older brother to younger brother
3. A chieftaincy can be passed from uncle to nephew
4. A tusi can pass his chieftain to a close relative in his clan, such a cousin
5. It was possible for a tusi to pass his title to his daughter or wife
6. Some women became tusi by inheriting the title from their sons
7. A tusi who was also a local religious leader may not have any family member. But he can pass his title to one of his disciples 
Income of TusiEdit
Unlike their counterparts in the regular administration system, tusi received no regular salary or stipend from the government. But they were allowed to collect tax from their subjects. These taxes can be paid with crops, textiles and money.
Some tusi required their subjects to pay them copper coin and chickens as gifts at some specific events of their clan. For example, in Anping of Guangxi province, each household was required to donate 400 copper coins during weddings and funerals of members of the tusi's family.
Tusi could get paid by the government for their assistance in the battles, but this did not happen regularly. 
During the Ming dynasty there were 179 tusi and 255 tuguan (Chinese: 土官, "native civilian commanders") in Yunnan and titles were generally retained with the exception of punishment for severe crimes. The tusi were greatly reduced during the Ming-Qing era. By the time of the Yongzheng Emperor, there were only 22 left: Cheli, Gengma, Longchuan, Ganya (modern Yingjiang), Nandian, Menglian, Zhefang, Zhanda, Lujiang, Mangshi, Mengmao (Ruili), Nalou, Kuirong, Shierguan, Menghua, Jingdong, Mengding, Yongning, Fuzhou, Wandian, Zhenkang, and Beishengzhou.
Under Ming administration, the jurisdictional authority of tusi began to be replaced with state territorial authority. The tusi acted as stop gaps until enough Chinese settlers arrived for a "tipping point" to be reached, and they were then converted into official prefectures and counties to be fully annexed into the central bureaucratic system of the Ming dynasty. This process was known as gaitu guiliu (simplified Chinese: 改土归流; traditional Chinese: 改土歸流), or "turning native rule into regular administration." The most notable example of this was the consolidation of southwestern tusi chiefdoms into the province of Guizhou in 1413.
Building upon the Yuan precedent, the Ming began its colonization of the southwest in the 1370s, and though its military strength waxed and waned, it was able to eliminate the largest autonomous kingdoms in the southwest by the early decades of the seventeenth century. By the time of the Ming-Qing transition, what remained in the southwest were only a few small autonomous polities, and the Rebellion of the Three Feudatories (sanfan zhi luan; 1673-81) did much to erase these from the landscape. In short, the Yongzheng emperor's appointment of his trusted Manchu official Ortai (1680-1745) and the aggressive campaign against tusi offices they initiated in the 1720s in the southwest should be seen as the end point, not the beginning, of China's colonization of the southwest.— John E. Herman
In sum, gaitu guiliu was the process of replacing tusi with state-appointed officials, the transition from jurisdictional sovereignty to territorial sovereignty, and the start of formal empire rather than informal.
In 1397 the Ming intervened in a Mong Mao succession dispute, known as the Ming–Mong Mao Intervention.
In 1438 the Mong Mao rebelled again and their leader Si Renfa attacked local tusi along the Yunnan border. Si Renfa was defeated in 1442 and captured by the Ava king, who turned him over to Ming custody, where he died in 1446.
Native Chieftain titlesEdit
The native chieftain system also fit in the Nine Ranks system(Jiu Pin "九品").The Nine Ranks system is a system of gradations used by regimes from post-Han to Qing.Under this system, all the officials in the bureaucracy were put into nine major categories: upper-upper,upper-middle,upper-lower,middle-upper,middle-middle,middle-lower,lower-upper,lower-middle, and lower-lower. Each category was given a rank numbered from 1 to 9. The rank 1 is the highest rank and the rank 9 is the lowest. Each rank was divided into two grades: upper(正) and lower（從).
The central government gave different titles to native chieftains and these titles had different ranks in the Nine Ranks system:
|7||Tu Zhifu (土知府)||4a|
|8||Tu Zhizhou (土知州)||5b|
|9||Tu Zhixian (土知縣)||6b or 7b|
List of TusiEdit
- Chiang Hung, ruled Sipsong Panna (present day Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture)
- Mong Mao
- Meng Xon (ᥛᥫᥒᥰ ᥑᥩᥢᥴ), or Chiefdom of Mangshi (Chinese: 芒市土司), ruled Mangshi
- Chiefdom of Bozhou (Chinese: 播州土司), ruled Bozhou (present day Zunyi)
- Chiefdom of Lijiang (Chinese: 麗江土司), ruled Lijiang
- Chiefdom of Yongning (Chinese: 永寧土司), ruled Yongning (present day Ninglang Yi Autonomous County)
- Chiefdom of Yao'an (Chinese: 姚安土司), ruled Yao'an County, descendants of Gao Shengtai
- Chiefdom of Heqing (Chinese: 鶴慶土司), ruled Heqing County, descendants of Gao Shengtai
- Chiefdom of Chuchen, or Chiefdom of Da Jinchuan (Chinese: 大金川土司), ruled present day Jinchuan County, annexed by Qing China in Jinchuan campaigns
- Chiefdom of Tsanlha (Tibetan: བཙན་ལྷ་རྒྱལ་པོ, Wylie: btsan lha rgyal po), or Chiefdom of Xiao Jinchuan (Chinese: 小金川土司), ruled present day Xiaojin County, annexed by Qing China in Jinchuan campaigns
- Chiefdom of Bathang (Tibetan: འབའ་ཐང་རྒྱལ་པོ, Wylie: vbav thang rgyal po, Chinese: 巴塘土司), ruled Batang County, revolted against Qing China in 1905 and was annexed in the next year
- Chiefdom of Lithang (Tibetan: ལི་ཐང་རྒྱལ་པོ, Wylie: li thang rgyal po, Chinese: 理塘土司), ruled Litang County, revolted against Qing China in 1905 and was annexed in the next year
- Chiefdom of Béri (Tibetan: བེ་རི་རྒྱལ་པོ, Wylie: be ri rgyal po) or Chiefdom of Baili (Chinese: 白利土司), ruled Béri (present day part of Garzê County)
- Kingdom of Chakla (Tibetan: ལྕགས་ལ་རྒྱལ་པོ, Wylie: lcags la rgyal po) or Chiefdom of Mingzheng (Chinese: 明正土司), ruled Dartsedo (present day Kangding)
- Kingdom of Derge (Tibetan: སྡེ་དགེ་རྒྱལ་པོ, Wylie: sde dge rgyal po; Chinese: 德格土司), ruled Dêgê County
- Chiefdom of Muli (Tibetan: སྨི་ལི་རྒྱལ་པོ, Wylie: smi li rgyal po; Chinese: 木里土司), ruled present day Muli Tibetan Autonomous County
- Kingdom of Powo (Tibetan: ཀཿགནམ་རྒྱ་པོ, Wylie: ka: gnam rgyal po; Chinese: 波密土王), ruled present day Bomê County, annexed by Tibet in 1928. Descendants of Drigum Tsenpo.
|Look up 土司 in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- Möllendorff: aiman i hafan
- Dardess 2012, p. 3.
- 缅甸土司制度的兴衰(1287—1959年): cnki.com.cn
- Ming Shilu - 《明实录》 or History of Ming 《明史·老挝传》
- 傣族的土司制度与傣族文化: mzb.com.cn or cnki.com.cn
- Journal of Guangxi Teachers Education University (Philosophy and Social Sciences Edition) Vol.37 No.1 (Jan. 2016) - 《越南阮朝土司制度探析》, see docin.com
- 李, 超 (2017). "民国时期的土司与土司政治". 三峡大学学报(人文社会科学版). 39 (01): 38–41+74, p.43.
- 中国土司制度 - 云南民族出版社 - 1992年出版 (作者: 龚荫) - ISBN 7-5367-0509-3: nulog.cn or sfyey.net
- 土司制度基本概念辨析 - 《云南师范大学学报：哲学社会科学版》2014年1期（作者：李世愉）: mzb.com.cn, cssn.cn or wenku (baidu)
- Dardess 2012, p. 6.
- Bin Yang. Between Winds and Clouds: The Making of Yunnan, Ch. 4. Columbia University Press.
- Atwood, C. P. Encyclopedia of Mongolia and the Mongols. p. 613.
- Herman 2007, p. 11.
- Herman, John. E. (2005). Di Cosmo, Nicola; Wyatt, Don J (eds.). Political Frontiers, Ethnic Boundaries and Human Geographies in Chinese History (illustrated ed.). Routledge. p. 260. ISBN 1135790957.
- Crossley, Pamela Kyle; Siu, Helen F.; Sutton, Donald S., eds. (2006). Empire at the Margins: Culture, Ethnicity, and Frontier in Early Modern China. 28 of Studies on China (illustrated ed.). University of California Press. p. 143. ISBN 0520230159.
- Shin,Leo Kwok-yueh,The making of the Chinese state: ethnicity and expansion on the Ming borderlands. (New York: Cambridge University Press,2006), p. 58.
- Du Yuting; Chen Lufan (1989). "Did Kublai Khan's Conquest of the Dali Kingdom Give Rise to the Mass Migration of the Thai People to the South?" (free). Journal of the Siam Society. Siam Heritage Trust. JSS Vol. 77.1c (digital). images 2–4. Retrieved March 17, 2013.
- Wellens, Koen. Religious Revival in the Tibetan Borderlands: The Premi of Southwest China, pp. 29 ff. Studies on Ethnic Groups in China. University of Washington Press, 2010. ISBN 0-295-99069-4.
- Shin, The making of the Chinese state, p. 57.
- Pamela Kyle Crossley, Helen F. Siu, Donald S.Sutton (2006). Empire at the Margins:Culture,Ethnicity,and Frontier in Early Modern China. (Berkeley: University of California Press,2006), pp. 136.
- Shin, The making of the Chinese state, p. 61.
- Crossley, Empire at the Margins, p. 137.
- 邹, 立波 (2010). "从土司封号看嘉绒藏族土司与宗教的关系". 西南民族大学学报(人文社科版). 31 (02): 11–15, p. 11.
- Shin, The making of the Chinese state, p. 62.
- Jennifer Took, A Native Chieftaincy in Southwest China: Franchising a Tai Chieftaincy Under the Tusi System of Late Imperial China. (Danvers: BRILL,2005). p. 93.
- Took, A Native Chieftaincy in Southwest China, p. 99.
- Took, A Native Chieftaincy in Southwest China, p. 102.
- Took, A Native Chieftaincy in Southwest China, p. 115.
- Took, A Native Chieftaincy in Southwest China, p. 176.
- Took, Jennifer, A Native Chieftaincy in Southwest China: Franchising a Tai Chieftaincy Under the Tusi System of Late Imperial China. (Danvers: BRILL,2005). pp.90.
- Took, A Native Chieftaincy in Southwest China, p. 98.
- Shin, The making of the Chinese state, p. 64.
- 廖, 丽 (2014). "从女性土司的设置及承袭看明代土司制度——以商胜、奢香、秦良玉为例". 宁夏师范学院学报. 35 (04): 47–54. p. 47.
- 邹, 立波 (2010). "从土司封号看嘉绒藏族土司与宗教的关系". 西南民族大学学报(人文社科版). 31 (02): 11–15, p. 11.
- Took, A Native Chieftaincy in Southwest China, p. 97.
- Herman 2007, p. 12.
- Herman 2007, p. 16.
- Dardess 2012, p. 7.
- Dardess 2012, p. 4.
- Dardess 2012, p. 8.
- Charles O,Hucker. A dictionary of official titles in Imperial China. (Stanford : Stanford University Press, 1985),p. 4-5.
- 杨,虎得；柏,桦(2016).“明代宣慰与宣抚司”. 西南大学学报(社会科学版).42:173-180.p.182.
- Hucker, Charles O. A dictionary of official titles in Imperial China. (Stanford : Stanford University Press, 1985),pp.104
- Hucker, A dictionary of official titles in Imperial China, p.117.
- Hucker, A dictionary of official titles in Imperial China, p. 254.
- Hucker, A dictionary of official titles in Imperial China, p.158.
- Hucker, A dictionary of official titles in Imperial China, p.157.
- Hucker, A dictionary of official titles in Imperial China, p. 110.
- Dardess, John (2012), Ming China 1368-1644 A Concise History of A Resilient Empire, Roman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
- Herman, John E. (2007), Amid the Clouds and Mist China's Colonization of Guizhou, 1200-1700, Harvard University Asia Center
- Leo Kwok-yueh, Shin(2006), The making of the Chinese state: ethnicity and expansion on the Ming borderlands，Cambridge University Press
- Took Jennifer(2005), A Native Chieftaincy in Southwest China: Franchising a Tai Chieftaincy under Tusi System of Late Imperial China,BRILL
- Hucker, Charles O(1985), A dictionary of official titles in Imperial China, Stanford University Press