Trade in the East and South China Seas, 600 CE to 1800 CE
Summary and Keywords
In the period from 600 ce to 1800 ce, the countries bordering the East and South China Seas were in frequent maritime communication, sharing in the process cultural practices and commodities. This article focuses on Chinese trade, with some attention to Japanese, Korean, Ryūkyūan, and Southeast Asian trade as well. In the early 7th century, Chinese Emperor Sui Yangdi expanded Chinese diplomatic connections in a variety of ways and overtook central Vietnam. During the ensuing Tang dynasty, south and west Asian maritime traders dominated the importing of aromatics, rare goods, and foodstuffs into China and the westward export of Chinese goods such as ceramics and silks. South Chinese ports such as Guangzhou were thriving international emporia. In the Five Dynasties, Song, and Yuan periods, Chinese shipping increased, and trade between China and Japan, as well as between China and Koryŏ, Korea, flourished. At the start of the Ming dynasty, a maritime trade ban was enacted, which led to an increase in tribute trade to China (which was not banned), as well as a high degree of contraband shipping. In 1567 the Chinese ban was lifted, and a period of vibrant China Seas trade ensued, which included Japanese red seal ships to Southeast Asia and Korea, and an increasing number of European merchants. In the mid-17th century, the Zheng family played a major role in intra-Asian trade, negotiating for advantage with both Japan and Spain, and largely competing with the Dutch VOC. With the consolidation of Qing dynasty power, China reopened her ports in 1684 and eventually established a central location for European trade in Canton, while allowing for Asian trade from other ports.
Geographical Area Covered by the East China Sea and South China Sea
For the purposes of this entry, the East China Sea will be defined as the ocean area below the Yellow Sea. This area begins on mainland China in the area below the Shandong peninsula with ports in Jiangsu and Zhejiang, extending East to the Southern tip of Korea and the shores of the Southern Japanese island of Kyūshū, along the Ryūkyu islands to Central Taiwan, and inland to the China coast from these points.
The South China Sea, sometimes referred to in Chinese as the Nanhai or Nanyang area, will be considered to comprise the waters starting at their northern point in central Taiwan, following south and east from Taiwan down the western side of the Philippines to the Sabah and Sarawak coasts on the northern part of the large island of Borneo. From there the area goes down to Jakarta (earlier Batavia) on northwest Java, proceeding to the northeastern part of Sumatra and inland from there to parts of continental Southeast Asia (modern Singapore and above that the southern part of the Malaysian peninsula), skipping the gulf of Thailand and jumping north and east to the coast of Vietnam. Then it extends upward along Vietnam to China and follows along the south coast of China to the north and east, proceeding along the shores of Guangxi and Guangdong provinces, to the coast of Fujian across from Taiwan (see Figure 1 for map).
Due to the multinodal nature of merchant networks and merchant empires, our discussion will at times extend to further parts of Indonesia and to the port of Melaka on the west coast of Malaysia, as that port served as the endpoint of many Nanyang routes.
It is difficult to separate trade in the Yellow Sea, the waters between the Chinese Shandong peninsula and Korea, from trade in the East China Sea, since in practice the two seas merged fluidly into each other, especially where Chinese-Korean trade was concerned.1 For space reasons, however, this article will be limited, as much as possible, to the waters below the Yellow Sea.
Tribute Embassies and Trade in the East Asian Circuits
One central dimension of maritime trade in the East Asian circuits was the Chinese system of demanding tribute embassies, at least in some periods, in order to establish the legitimacy of commercial trade exchange. This system began as a means of regulating relations with Central Asian peoples such as the Xiongnu and was first developed during the rule of Chinese Emperor Han Wudi (r. 141 bce to 87 bce).2 The symbolism of the tribute ritual stemmed from the conceit that China was the cultural and moral center of the acknowledged world, surrounded by barbarian states. These “outlying” states brought the Chinese ruler exotic goods local to their area as gifts, in the process acknowledging the superiority of the Chinese ruler through written and spoken statements and bowing down. The Chinese ruler then magnanimously offered return gifts to the foreign embassies and vested their leader with a title by which to rule in the outlying area (with an understood allegiance to the Chinese center). In theory, commercial exchange was meant to follow only after these rituals had been completed and within a system whereby they were periodically renewed. Edward Schafer notes that in the Tang dynasty, an agent from the Chinese Department of Arms met with tribute envoys to gather information about geography and current events pertaining to their home states, providing some of the data about foreign lands that appeared in maps and written sources.3
The tribute model, while developed in China, was at times taken on by Korea, Japan, and Vietnam vis-à-vis their neighbors as well.4 The tribute institution is one of the distinctive aspects of trade relations in the East and South China Seas, lending commercial contacts a hierarchical, moralizing gloss not evident in other parts of the world.
When considering East Asian maritime trade in a broad sense, however, it is important to note that there were many periods when these tribute exchanges were not insisted upon by the Chinese state. There were also innumerable moments when trade—even if not “officially” allowed by one or another of the governments in the East Asian sphere—continued unofficially, sometimes to prodigious degrees. The ongoing counterpoint between official trade relations and unofficial mercantile ventures is one that threads throughout the following narrative.
Sui Dynasty Maritime Initiatives
In the East China Sea, there had been intermittent maritime contacts between China, Korea, and Japan from at least the time of the Chinese Han dynasty (206 bce–220 ce). In the South China Sea, before 500 ce, the southern maritime route between South China and Southeast Asia was dominated by Southeast Asian and Indonesian seamen.5
A change in the tenor of Chinese state power took place with the Sui dynasty (581–618 ce), and this included a new stance toward maritime interactions. The Sui rulers, having reunified China after a period of disunion, took an assertive approach to bringing their authority to outlying countries. The Sui Emperor Yangdi (r. 604–618 ce), in an attempt to expand his empire and his influence, authorized maritime expeditions to the Ryūkyū Islands and Taiwan. He was also interested in acquiring aromatics, gold, Buddhist scriptures, and Buddhist objects from the lands of Southeast Asia. Chinese records state that in 607 ce he sent an embassy to the Southeast Asian kingdom of “Chitu,” bearing five thousand rolls of silk as a gift for the Chitu ruler; the Southeast Asian kingdom, seemingly either in Malaysia or Sumatra, responded in 610 ce by sending a “Chitu” prince to have an audience with Sui Yangdi.6 Yangdi also sent a military expedition to conquer the central and southern part of Vietnam (then called Champa), though this enterprise proved to be short lived.
In addition, in 605 ce, Sui Yangdi sent a message to the Japanese court inquiring after the sovereign of Wa (an early name for Japan). Prince Shotoku (Regent 593–622 ce), serving as regent under Empress Suiko (r. 593–628 ce), then sponsored a mission led by Ono no Imoko to the Sui Emperor in 607 ce, including a missive which read “From the Sovereign of the Land of the Rising Sun to the Sovereign of the Land of the Setting Sun.” (This is the earliest use of the term “Nihon” [where the sun rises]—for Japan.) Although this phrasing was not well received by Sui Yangdi, it ushered in a series of tribute contacts. Ono no Imoko led a second mission to China in 608 ce. A total of six Japanese missions were sent to China in the 7th century.
Maritime Trade with and from Tang Dynasty China (618 ce–907 ce)
China-Japan-Korea Trade in the East China Sea
In the 660s ce, the Korean Kingdom of Silla (Later Silla 668–935 ce) emerged victorious against the Korean kingdoms of Koguryŏ and Paekche. In the 7th century, the Korean Silla Kingdom and Japanese merchants sailing from Hizen, Japan, both conducted trade across the Yellow Sea, disembarking in China on the Shandong peninsula. When Japan and Silla developed an enmity in the later 7th century, Japanese ships sometimes sailed further south to the mouth of the Yangzi River, or the Hangzhou area of China in Zhejiang province, in order to avoid confrontations with Korean boats, which dominated these waters.7 In addition, there were Tang Chinese ships sailing for Japan from Zhejiang and Fujian provinces.8
In terms of diplomatic contact, between 630 ce and the mid-9th century, the Japanese court periodically sent large missions, usually of between 250 and 600 people, to the Tang dynasty capital, dispatching a total of thirteen missions during this period.9 Japanese missions to Sui and Tang China were central in creating intellectual and material connections between China and Asuka (552–645 ce), Hakuho (645–710 ce), Nara (710–794 ce), and early Heian (794–1185 ce) Japan.
Many Tang Chinese objects are preserved in the Japanese royal Shōsōin treasure storehouse on the grounds of the Tōdaiji temple in the city of Nara (see Figure 2). Trade and contact between Nara Japan and Tang China also significantly affected the Nara-period Buddhist, governmental, and literary spheres. Likewise, until the Japanese Heian court discontinued tribute missions to China after the 838 ce mission, there was also considerable official contact between Tang-period China and Heian Japan. Buddhist students, monks, and envoys from Japan traveled by sea to mainland China and made their way to the north-central city of Chang’an. Due to the thriving overland silk roads, Chang’an was a cosmopolitan center, with residents from central Asia as well as points east of China.
Modern scholar Donald Fuqua suggests that the upturn in Korea-Japan and China-Japan private trade in the mid-800s may have been a factor in making the Japanese tribute missions to these countries less critical.10 After the 838 ce mission to China, Japan discontinued tribute trade to China for more than five hundred years; however, significantly, there were still private merchants conducting trade between China and Japan, and some Buddhist organizations were involved in trade as well.11
The South China Sea and the Maritime Silk Road
The overland silk roads of the Chinese Tang dynasty, stretching from the capital, Chang’an, to the Mediterranean, have long enjoyed fame; sea routes from China westward provide a parallel to the overland routes and have sometimes been called the “maritime silk road.”
Beginning in the late 7th century, south and west Asian maritime traders settled in south Chinese ports. By the early 700s (if not before) there was a thriving sea trade between the Middle East and the port of Guangzhou. The 21st century excavation of the Belitung shipwreck off the southeastern coast of Sumatra revealed an Arabian-made ship—based on shipbuilding techniques possibly from the Oman area—returning from China with some sixty-thousand objects, including ceramic bowls and ewers, gold and silver objects, and even foodstuffs such as anise.12 The radiocarbon dating of the anise and other organic materials, the dating of coins on board, and an inscription on one of the bowls suggest a date of the 830s or 840s for the voyage. The ceramics came from a number of different kilns in China, and some of the ceramic vessels appear to have been commissioned or tailored to their market, since they reveal elements of Arab or Persian taste. Strikingly, even some blue and white ceramic plates were among the cargo items, dating such designs to a much earlier period than previously assumed (see Figure 3). In that period, Chinese craftsmen were already mass producing goods for export to distant regions.
It is notable that in the Belitung case a relatively small Arabian ship (about fifty-eight feet long) was carrying sixty-thousand Chinese items great distances. The Abbasid caliphate was a thriving world center at the time, and objects in motion between the regions of 9th-century Iran and Iraq and China would have passed through the Southeast Asian regions dominated by the Srivijaya Kingdom, suggesting multifaceted (and in some cases multi-segmented) trade connections between these three regions. This preserved shipwreck helps provide insight into the role of west Asian (most likely Arab) maritime traders in this early period in bringing goods from China into Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean. In addition, modern scholar Zhang Bincun notes that Indian merchants had long been exporting Indian textiles to greater Southeast Asia and bringing back spices and other tropical goods to India—at least since the early years of the Common era; they were joined in this trade by Middle Eastern (later Muslim) traders. For these Indian and Central Asian merchants trading to Southeast Asia it was simply an extension of their Indian Ocean activities when they ventured further to bring Indian, Southeast Asian, and other goods to south Chinese ports.13 They returned with Chinese goods over what was likely a two-year period.
Radiocarbon dating of timbers and goods from five ships sunk off Mindanao in the Philippines, seems to confirm the ships were of Southeast Asian origin, dating to between the 8th and 10th centuries ce. Along with Chinese testimony about thriving south Chinese ports, this marine archaeology makes clear that Southeast Asian maritime merchants conducted trade to the Philippines and south China in the Tang through Song dynasty (960–1279 ce) periods.14
Modern scholar John Chaffee suggests that after the mid-Tang crisis brought on by the An Lushan rebellion (also called the Anshi rebellion, 755 to 762 ce), structural changes (such as increased farming of south China and expanded private land ownership) led to an upswing in commercial productivity. Despite outbreaks of unrest at some Chinese ports at the end of the Tang, the southern states in the Five Dynasties period returned to maritime enterprise and commercial expansion.15
In the Tang dynasty there were some Chinese maritime traders as well, though they were not as dominant on the seas as south Asian and west Asian traders. The Chinese official and geographer Jia Dan (b. 729–d. 805) wrote about two maritime routes, one from the Chinese Bohai sea (north of the Shandong peninsula) to Korea, and the other from Guangzhou in South China to Melaka, on the west coast of Malaysia; onward to India; and beyond into the Arabian Sea.16 Another Chinese scholar and author, Duan Chengshi (9th century) described the goods available on the east coast of Africa, probably in modern-day Ethiopia and Somalia. Duan lists African trade items including slaves, ivory, and ambergris. Scholars note that Chinese ceramics were apparently highly valued even in Cairo (then Fustat), Egypt, in this period.17
Overall, as Angela Schottenhammer writes:
During the T’ang dynasty, Chinese trade with overseas countries underwent a remarkable expansion, but this happened mainly through the intermediacy of Persian and Arab merchants, who reached China via Southeast Asia. Although China had early developed shipbuilding and established trading contacts with other peoples, until the tenth to eleventh centuries Chinese merchants rarely went to sea themselves and were, as a rule, relatively inactive in the maritime trade with Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean—at least as far as we can tell from the sources. This situation changed fundamentally in the course of the Sung and Yuan (1260–1368 ce) dynasties, when the maritime trade of China reached unprecedented heights.18
Chinese Trade Expansion under the Five Dynasties and the Song Dynasty
During the trade disruptions of the Five Dynasties period (907–960 ce), the southern kingdoms looked to maritime trade as a critical source of revenue.19 The presence of strong steppe kingdoms in the Northern Song period (960–1127 ce) further necessitated this turn toward the sea.20 Indeed, John Chaffee argues that a period of extensive knitted-together Asian maritime trade began as early as the 900s through the 1200s.21 Modern scholar Janet Abu-Lughod has described a broadly interfaced Eurasian world system, including both land and sea trade, which she places a little later at 1250 to 1350.22
For the first sixty years of the Northern Song, the rituals of tribute missions were essential to opening broader-based trade. But as the Song developed, maritime trade became less tribute centered.23 Over time, the Song maritime trade offices were brought more closely into state control, although the state took care not to stifle trade profits.24 Some authors have suggested that in the 1000s, Chinese junks began to replace (or at least join in some numbers) the Arab dhows in some China Seas and Indian Ocean circuits.25 Southeast Asian ships continued to call at south Chinese ports, as revealed by an excavated Java Sea Wreck dated to the late 12th or early 13th century, loaded with Chinese porcelains.26 In the East China Sea routes, Korea also became increasingly involved in maritime trade with China in the Koryŏ period (918 ce–1392 ce).27
During the Song dynasty, trade offices were set up in key port cities. By 971 a maritime trade office (shibosi) was established in Guangzhou for merchants arriving from the South China Sea routes, originating from as far as Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and points west. In addition, in 989 a Hangzhou office was created, and in 992 a Mingzhou (modern Ningbo, Zhejiang province) office was added. Chinese trade with Japan; Koryŏ, Korea; and the Ryūkyū Islands dominated the port of Mingzhou.28 Although the Fujian port of Quanzhou (also called Fuzhou, “City of Wealth”) had been actively involved in early Song dynasty trade, it was not until 1087 that a maritime trade office was set up there. As modern scholar Li Qingxin notes: “At the beginning of the 13th century, there were over 30 countries and regions doing business with the city of Quanzhou and this number soon increased to more than 50.”29 When the 1127 invasion of Jurchen (later called Jin) Tartars forced the Chinese court to flee south to Hangzhou (this new capital was called Lin’an, the “temporary capital”), the importance of Hangzhou as a trading location naturally increased. Both domestic and foreign trade items destined for Hangzhou were sometimes funneled through the port of Ganpu to the east of the capital.30 Even more important was the port of Ningbo, east of Hangzhou, which became the dominant Chinese 13th century port before 1279, with rich trade connections to Hakata, Japan, and Korea.31
The 11th through 14th centuries (Northern Song through Yuan periods in China) offer an expansive environment for maritime trade and thus a golden age for Chinese maritime merchants and foreign merchants. Three important Chinese exports were ceramics, silks, and copper coins. A wide variety of cotton cloths, woods, aromatics, spices, medicines, and rarities were imported into China.
Especially in key Song dynasty port cities such as Quanzhou, as John Chaffee points out: “[There was] a thriving merchant culture, in which Chinese traders mixed with Arabs, Srivijayans, Tamils, Cholas, Koreans, Ryūkyūans, and Japanese.”32 The florescence of Song maritime commerce created in turn an expansive commercial era in Southeast Asia, as documented by Geoff Wade.33
From the late 12th century, at first under the auspices of the Taira clan in Japan, and then with the support of the Shōguns of the Kamakura period (1185–1333 ce), Japanese official trade with China was reestablished. From the Kamakura period into the Muromachi period (1336–1573 ce), Chinese Southern Song culture, including Zen (Ch: Chan) thought and Zen art, strongly impacted Japanese visual styles. This included the Chinese proclivity to relate poetry and painting common to the later Song intellectual context (see Figure 4).34
Maritime Trade Endorsed by the Yuan (Mongol) Dynasty in China
Due in part to the Pax Mongolica, resulting from the nearly complete unification of the Asian landmass as far west as the Black Sea by the Mongols, and the expansionary and commercial ambitions of the Mongol government, maritime trade was even more vigorous in the Yuan period (1260–1368 ce) than it had been previously in the Song. The Yuan established their own maritime trade office in 1277 at Quanzhou, in Fujian, and Quanzhou subsequently came to eclipse Guangzhou as the dominant port in the Nanyang trade.35 Although there were fluctuations in the Yuan policy on maritime trade, after 1322 the court steadily supported the “open seas” (kai hai) policy. Zhang Bincun argues that until the end of the Yuan, south and west Asian maritime traders were still dominant in the Sino-Southeast Asian trade, partly due to special trade privileges offered them by the Mongols.36
The Yuan ruler Kublai Khan twice sent extensive armadas to invade Japan, in 1274 and 1281, but both times they were driven back. Mongol-sponsored trade with Japan rebounded surprisingly quickly after these events.
The Yuan dynasty narrative of Wang Dayuan, called the Daoyi zhilue (“Description of the Barbarians of the Isles”), published in 1349, is an important source of information on the many lands along the Nanyang sea route, including Longya men [Dragon tooth gate] (modern-day Singapore) and places as far as Africa.37 Singapore began to be developed as an emporium in the early 14th century. In 1323, Bintan Island (an Indonesian island off modern-day Singapore) sent tribute to the Chinese court, and in 1325 Singapore sent tribute to China as well.
Chinese Maritime Trade in the Early and Middle Ming Period: Seeking Controls
As modern scholar Angela Schottenhammer points out, the first Chinese Ming dynasty emperor (the Hongwu emperor: r. 1368–1398) sought to reestablish a traditional agrarian-based empire and hoped to minimize threats to his empire and the depredations of pirates by enacting a maritime ban (haijin). This was a ban on Chinese maritime merchants going abroad to trade and on foreign maritime merchants bringing goods to China, unless the foreign merchants were part of a tribute embassy to the Chinese court. The third Ming ruler, the Yongle emperor (r. 1402–1424), sponsored a large armada of Chinese ships captained by Muslim eunuch Zheng He in a series of expeditions from 1405 to 1433. Although this was during the period of the haijin, the goal of these expeditions was not trade per se but the assertive declaration of Chinese cultural centrality, bringing that message to the world—and in that sense facilitating tribute, vis-à-vis outlying states as far as the eastern shores of Africa.38 Zheng He brought Melaka into the fold of Chinese tributary countries, resulting in strong Chinese-Melaka connections throughout the 1400s.39 Some scholars also assert that Zheng He contributed to the spread of Islam in Indonesia by bolstering the appointment of Islamic rulers there.40
Gradually, Ming emperors began to sanction a “tally trade,” whereby ships associated with tribute missions were given Chinese government “tallies” allowing them to trade.
Japanese Trade in the Muromachi Period (1336–1573 ce): Multiple Outward Ties
It is significant that the third Muromachi Shōgun, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (b. 1358–d. 1408), in 1401 ce sent a tribute embassy to China, the first official tribute embassy since Japanese rulers had stopped sending them after the 838 ce mission. These Japanese embassies to China continued periodically for 150 years, through the mid-16th century. The eighth Muromachi Shōgun, Ashikaga Yoshimasa (r. 1449–1473), for example, sent a Zen monk to China named Tenuyo Seikei, who kept a record of his journey, including in this written record an image of the tally that authenticated his Japanese ship as sanctioned by the Chinese government.41 (The Chinese officials divided the printed tally—half was recorded in their book, and half was given to the ship captains—so the two halves could be laid alongside each other to make sure the ship owner had in fact an authentic “permission” to trade.) Meanwhile, the Japanese lords of the island of Tsushima handled much of the trade with Korea. The Kyehae Treaty of 1443 limited Japanese ships to Korea at fifty per year.42 As Kawazoe Shōji has pointed out, there were more tribute missions from Japan to Korea in the 15th century than from Japan to China, even if the amount of cargo associated with individual Korean missions was smaller.43 As Shōji writes: “The main items exported from Japan to Korea included cinnabar and other Southeast Asian dyes, medicines, sulfur, and spices; metals such as brass, gold, tin, and lead; and military and cultural items like swords and folding screens.”44 Trade from the Ryūkyūs, and Chosŏn, Korea, to the Japanese port of Hakata (modern Fukuoka), was another route by which goods were exchanged.
There was a fascination with Chinese goods throughout much of the Muromachi period, though material exchanges with Korea were significant as well. With both countries, official missions and Buddhist monastic exchanges, among others, provided for the material flow of goods central to the Japanese taste of the time.
Chinese Maritime Trade in the Middle and Later Ming Period: Global Contacts
Zhang Bincun argues that the maritime ban on private trade put in place by the first Ming dynasty emperor dealt a death blow to the strength of south and west Asian maritime traders plying the route between Southeast Asia and China. Since tribute trade was still allowable, Chinese advisers and middlemen were enlisted in Southeast Asian tribute missions to China. Zhang argues this was the beginning of the rise of Chinese overseas merchants, particularly in Southeast Asia.45 Other scholars take a different view, asserting that the florescence of Song and Yuan maritime trade was greatly diminished by the early Ming maritime ban.46 As contemporary scholar Gang Zhao has pointed out, in the first half of the 16th century there were numerous private south Chinese merchants running trade with Southeast Asia and other locations, even though, technically, there was a ban on private shipping by the Chinese government that was only lifted in 1567.47
Tonio Andrade and Xing Hang posit that prior to 1567 the 16th century was a period of considerable unlawful shipping, as smugglers put together multi-ethnic crews, often establishing themselves in inland waterways in Japan, sometimes under the protection of particular regional Daimyo. In the late Muromachi (c. 1467–1573), local lords fought with other lords to expand their power, and the central Shōgunate was ineffectual. This decentralized situation provided a degree of refuge for the pirates.
The lifting of the Chinese maritime ban in 1567, the reunification of Japan at the start of the Momoyama period under Oda Nobunaga beginning in 1574, and the establishment of Manila as an East Asian trade base by the Spanish in 1571 all contributed to shifting the East Asian maritime pattern away from illegal shipping and smuggling toward state-endorsed ventures. It should be pointed out, however, that the release of the maritime ban still did not allow for direct China-Japan trade; consequently Sino-Japanese trade often took place in Hôi An, central Vietnam (under the Nguyen regime), or in ports of the Red River Delta in the Tonkin Gulf of North Vietnam (under the Trinh regime), until the suspension of the Japanese red seal ships in 1633.48
Initial European Involvement in East Asian Maritime Trade, 1500–1640
Beginning in the 16th century, the European powers of Portugal and Spain expanded into the East Asian maritime circuits, followed by the Dutch and English in c. 1600. Each of these powers established different commercial centers in Asia, and proceeded by slightly different routes.
Portuguese and Spanish Expansion into the China Seas
In 1488 the Portuguese Bartolomeu Dias sailed down the west coast of Africa and around the Cape of Good Hope (then called the “Cape of Storms”) into the Indian Ocean. In 1494 Portugal was granted its claim to the eastward route to Asia by Pope Alexander VI in the Treaty of Tordesillas, and Spain, building on Columbus’s discoveries, was granted the rights to westward routes.
The Portuguese conquered Melaka (in modern-day Malaysia) in 1511, and arrived in the Pearl River Delta of south China in 1513, but they made slow initial progress in attempts to establish trade with China. After aiding the Chinese against coastal pirates, in 1549 they were allowed to trade through Shangchuan Island and then Lampaçau Island. In 1557 they were allowed a permanent trade base at Macau from 1582, paying an annual land lease and also annual tribute up until 1863.49 By the later 1500s, Catholic missionaries also set up an important base in Macau. Macau may be considered an entrepôt, a trading base within a larger system of discrete locations linked by a variety of exchange routes.
Portuguese maritime merchants in Macau ran one circuit westward through Melaka on to Goa, India, and another eastward to Nagasaki, Japan. The golden years of the Portuguese Nagasaki trade were 1580 to 1640, during which time the Spanish and Portuguese crowns were unified, and the Portuguese could bring Chinese silks to Japan and bring back Japanese silver to China.50 By 1637, Iberians were barred from trade with Japan, and in 1641 the Portuguese lost Melaka to the Dutch. After this time Portuguese merchant trade based in Macau shifted to Makassar, Banjarmasin, and other Indonesian locations. As Roderich Ptak points out, some of this revised Macau trade became unofficial, akin to the old “shadow empire” Portuguese merchants had established in the Bay of Bengal at some distance from Goa, the official Portuguese administrative center.51 Another Portuguese circuit ran from Macau to Manila (in the Philippines) and from there to Mexico.
While the Portuguese laid claim to eastern ports, Magellan and his crew sailed west for Spain, departing in 1519 and proceeding down South America, through the straits of Magellan, and across the vast Pacific Ocean to the Philippines. Later in the 16th century, having taken parts of Central and South America under their control, the Spanish began operating a shipping route from the Americas to the Philippines and back, known as the Manila galleon trade. The backbone of this endeavor was exporting silver from South America (primarily Potosi, in modern-day Bolivia) into the Asian circuits and importing Asian goods back to New Spain; a further leg of the journey brought Asian goods overland across Central America and shipped them from there back to Europe. There was also overland and sea trade from the viceroyalty of New Spain (Mexico) to the viceroyalty of Peru, much of it contraband. Following the 1567 lifting of the Chinese haijin and the 1571 Spanish establishment of Manila, the vigor of East-West and intra-Asian trade expanded greatly. Silver flowed into China both from Spanish New World sources and from Japan via tertiary locations, with the period 1590 to 1630 providing a high point for silver imports into China. As modern scholar Richard von Glahn has shown, in this period Chinese silver imports from Japan were greater than their silver imports from the New World viceroyalties.
At this time, the late Ming period Chinese economy was running on silver by weight, with smaller items ordinarily purchased in bronze coins. Contributing to the importance of silver, over the course of the later 1500s, the Chinese government shifted from taxing the Chinese people in kind to taxing them (in the “single whip tax”) in silver.
Dutch Expansion into the South and East China Seas
The Iberians were soon to be joined in Asia by the Dutch. Having declared independence from Spain in 1579–1581, the northern Netherlands established a republic and embraced Protestantism. Some Dutch merchants and clerks shipped out with the Portuguese in the late 1500s, such as Jan Huyghen van Linschoten (b. 1563–d. 1611), and some captained their own ships, such as Joris van Spilbergen (b. 1568–d. 1620). Upon their return from Asia, both men produced illustrated books documenting their journeys; these books served, in a sense, as how-to manuals and suggested that Dutch entrepreneurs invest in Asian trade enterprises. In order to cushion against the risk of devastating losses on any one journey, and in order to avoid one Dutch merchant undercutting another by flooding the market with particular products, the state-sanctioned Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, or VOC) was created in 1602. Following the fortieth parallel from the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa across to Indonesia, they set up their first center of operations at Bantam (on Java) and then moved their port base further north and east to Batavia. By 1617, this was their commercial center in Asia.
Dutch merchants arrived at Nagasaki, Japan, in the early 1600s and gradually turned the tide in their favor; by 1614 the Jesuits were banished from Japan, and by 1639 all Iberians were expelled.52 Of the Europeans, only the Dutch were allowed to remain in Japan to conduct trade. Despite this privilege, the Dutch were limited to living on the island of Deshima in Nagasaki harbor. An exception to this residency was granted when Dutch envoys periodically journeyed to bring tribute gifts to the Shōgun.
China-Japan-Southeast Asia Trade, 1500 through 1640
In Japan, the Momoyama period, which began in 1573, was one of feudal military strength. It was an urbanizing era laced with initial fascination with the Iberian Catholics (both merchants and missionaries) followed by guarded wariness. Japanese Nanban (“Southern Barbarian”) screen sets from the Momoyama period show the Portuguese arriving at the port of Nagasaki at left (see Figure 5), with the unloading of goods and the parade of ship’s officers, missionaries, and deckhands to the right. Often, the Jesuit compound is depicted at the far right.
Kyūshū, the Southern island of the Japanese archipelago, which was home to the port of Nagasaki, was also the location of the port of Hirado, which had a Chinese community and had been significant in China-Japan trade for some time.53 As Hiroko Nishida points out, the port of Hakata had also been critical in Japanese trade with China and the Korean peninsula from about the 8th century ce. Nishida writes: “By 1471, the Ōtomo Clan took over control of the port of Hakata . . . They used this as their base for trade with the Korean Peninsula.”54 In the late 1500s, the Christian Daimyo Ōtomo Sōrin (b. 1530–d. 1587) sent ships from Funai, on Kyūshū, to Southeast Asia and Korea as well.55
The Momoyama period military leader Hideyoshi (b. 1537–d. 1598) began issuing “red seal” permits for designated ships to conduct trade with Southeast Asia—the first reference to this system is in a document dated 1592. The first “red seal” permit that survives was issued in 1604 by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first Shōgun of the Edo period. Ieyasu extended his protection to Japanese ships given this permit, promising to track down any “red seal” ship assailants. Three hundred red seals were issued for Japanese ships between 1604 and 1635.56 In southern Vietnam, the Nguyen family had a particular interest in trade with Japan in the early part of the 17th century.57 There was a significant Japanese community in the early 17th century in Hôi An, the most important trading port for the Nguyen regime.58
Trade between Japanese merchants and a range of commercial agents in the Philippines reveals an additional dimension of trade in this period. Modern scholar Ubaldo Iaccarino documents trade between Japanese merchants, Chinese merchants at times arriving from Japan, and Spaniards in Manila beginning at least in the early 1580s. Iaccarino suggests that Japanese traders were interested in silk, cotton, porcelains, ceramics, printed books, medicines, and special plants from the Chinese merchants of Fujian and Guangdong. They also sought Southeast Asian pepper and (from Philippine sources) gold, deer hides, wax, Sappan wood for dyes, and civet cats (for the “musk” perfume obtained from their glands).59
Contemporary scholar Hung-guk Cho reminds us that in fact the trade in this period between China and Japan and Southeast Asia often reveals an extremely plural structure. Ships departing from Ayutthaya, Thailand, for example, might travel to Melaka and Indonesia and the Philippines before stopping at south Chinese ports and Japan. Private Chinese and Japanese merchant ships in this period might follow a similarly diverse set of destinations, making East Asian trade circuits not just triangular but many times more complex (for some of these routes, see Figure 6).60
In 1615, the glamor and military flavor of the Momoyama period gave way to the thriving, peaceable, and cosmopolitan Edo period, with the city of Edo (today Tokyo) as one of its capitals. After the Japanese seclusion policies of the 1630s, most of the Japanese based in Vietnam returned home or at any rate saw the trade in which they were invested tapering off.61
Merchants on the Ryūkyū Islands (now Okinawa) served as critical middlemen in the China-Japan-Southeast Asia trade from the late 1300s through to about 1567. From the initial Ming period haijin edict up until 1567, there was a pronounced need for intermediary points in which to trade. After Chinese private trade was reopened in 1567, and the red seal ships began to travel directly from Japan to Southeast Asia, the trade passing through Ryūkyū rapidly declined. In 1609, the Satsuma region Daimyo invaded the Ryūkyū Islands and absorbed them. Because the Ryūkyū Kingdom had tribute relations with China—Japan, in the Edo period, did not—it was convenient for the Satsuma Daimyo to maintain the fiction that the Ryūkyū Kingdom was independent in order to continue active Japanese trade with China.
Under the seclusion edicts in Japan, Japanese citizens were also not allowed to travel abroad. Although, after 1639, international trade was circumscribed, merchants from China and Korea continued to conduct considerable trade with Japan. Each year the Chinese had ship tonnages outweighing those of the Dutch.
The Zheng Family Era: Trade in the East and South China Seas 1640–1684
Although the Ming dynasty in China fell to the Qing dynasty in 1644, there were still some Ming loyalist forces active in south and southeast China. Among these must be included the half- Chinese/half-Japanese maritime general Zheng Chenggong (Westernized as Koxinga), who was opposed to the Qing dynasty and actively dominated sea trade off the China coast. Anxious about these forms of resistance, and at first continuing earlier restrictive policies, the new Qing regime retained a haijin edict outlawing private Chinese sea trade. At the same time, in 1639, Japan finalized the “seclusion” policies, expelling the Iberian Catholics and limiting trade with other countries. The Japanese “red seal” trade that had proliferated in the early 1600s was discontinued. These developments provided an opening for the Dutch to expand their trade between Japan, China, and Southeast Asia.62 Unable to establish a regular foothold in south China, the Dutch in 1624 took over Taiwan in order to create an eastern trade center there, and they continued to use this base until 1662 when Koxinga forced them to surrender Taiwan to him.63 Koxinga died in 1662, and the Zheng multifaceted business organization was transferred to his son Zheng Jing.
Some scholars have argued that the particular trade structures of the late Ming and early Qing in fact led to some novel innovations and forms of contact. For example, for the first half of the 1600s private Chinese and Japanese trade with Southeast Asia was fairly active, although Chinese tributary trade from that area was constrained.64 In the period from 1655 to 1684, under the Qing haijin restrictions, the private trade with Southeast Asia was conversely constrained, and the official tributary trade between Southeast Asian countries and China rebounded.65 From 1663 to 1672, Zheng Jing developed agrarian sources of income on Taiwan and continued to trade with Japan, Manila, and Southeast Asia.66 In this era, the Zheng regime flourished in spite of a mainland Chinese coastal evacuation policy. We should keep in mind, too, that the Dutch continued to bring goods into Japan throughout this period—European optical equipment and maps but also exotic animals and Indonesian textiles and other goods.
The British chartered their East India Company in 1600. At first the company director was based in Batavia, on Java. The British set up factories in Ayutthaya, Thailand, in 1612 and in Hirado, Japan, in 1613, hoping to sell British products there; however, both settlements were withdrawn in 1623 by order of the English East India Company president in Batavia.67 The British removed themselves from Batavia to their new center at Bantam, Western Java, in 1628, a territory under the overall authority of the Sultanate of Bantam. Coming under periodic attack from the Dutch, the British intermittently maintained this base until the Dutch took Bantam in 1682.68 In an event that was significant for British trade aspirations, the English sent a ship to try and reopen trade with Japan in 1673, but the Tokugawa Shōgunate refused them.69
As mentioned above, in 1662, stymied elsewhere, Koxinga took over Taiwan from the Dutch and was succeeded by his son Zheng Jing. The EIC president Henry Dacres and British sea captain Ellis Crisp concluded a treaty with Zheng Jing in 1671 that allowed the British to trade with Taiwan and to start setting up a factory there. In 1683 Zheng Jing finally surrendered to Qing dynasty general Shilang.70 The British originally were able to start trading through Amoy and Canton under the Zheng regime; when the Qing officers took over, the British were allowed to continue trading through those south Chinese ports under this new administration. As modern scholar Bassett points out, the directors of the EIC did not shift their attention from Japan to China until the period 1674–1684.71 Due to the clear rejection of their overtures to Japan, the British began attempting to develop more thorough trading relations with China.
Qing China, Edo Japan, and the European Powers: Trade in the East and South China Seas 1684 to 1800
In 1684 the Chinese Qing dynasty Kangxi emperor lifted the haijin maritime trade ban that had been in place since the early years of the dynasty, having finally prevailed against the rebel faction of Zheng Chenggong.72 This led to a surge in exports of Chinese products such as lacquer screens, porcelain, and silk to the West; Chinese trade also rebounded with Southeast Asia, particularly Thailand. For example, from 1685 to 1688, the French missionary Nicolas Gervaise recorded that each year between fifteen and twenty Chinese ships would arrive at Ayutthaya, Thailand.73 In 1688, the Palace Coup in Thailand led to the banning of all Europeans from Thai trade except for the Dutch, while Thai trade with China was reinforced.74
After prevailing over the Zheng regime, the Kangxi emperor also learned of the profitable exchanges that had taken place between Japan and the Zheng regime in Taiwan.75 Thus in 1685 the Kangxi emperor ordered thirteen ships from Fuzhou and Xiamen to sail to Japan loaded with sugar.76 Considerable shipping to Japan ensued, until in 1715 Japan took steps to limit the export of copper. Japan had been linked into productive trade networks in Asia based partly on first gold exports, then silver exports—and, after 1685 (due to restrictions on silver export) copper exports.77 As William S. Atwell noted, the resurgence of Chinese trade with Japan in 1684 and after was likely one factor that led to the cultural flowering of the Japanese Genroku period (1688–1704), especially in the cities of Kyoto, Osaka, and Edo.
In 1715 the excessive export of copper also became a concern in Japan, and new regulations limited Dutch trade to two ships, and Chinese trade to thirty ships annually.78 Again out of concern for copper exports, in 1736 Chinese shipping from Nagasaki was limited even further to only twenty-five ships a year. Trade with Korea continued to be managed through the island of Tsushima.
As noted, Canton (the English term for Guangzhou) had been among the ports European powers visited for trade since the late 1600s. In 1699 the Chinese emperor officially permitted the English to trade at Guangzhou. Due to periodic frustrations with the prices in Canton, or the controls exercised by the designated foreign trade merchants, European traders occasionally looked for better trade conditions in more northern Chinese ports such as Ningbo. To systematize the trade system, and to maintain the vigor of Canton trade, in 1757 the Qing dynasty Qianlong emperor declared that all foreign traders had to buy and sell their wares in Canton. The fully developed system of foreign trade through Canton continued from 1757 through to 1842. It is notable that Chinese ships had a wide range of ports available and were not restricted in the way European ships were.79
Since the 16th century, the Portuguese had been drawn into some degree of involvement with European traders and the foreigners in China as funneled through their port of Macau near Canton; this European outpost continued to serve many important functions.80
As Paul Van Dyke and Maria Mok have recently documented in detail, there were many rules applying to the Canton system.81 Ships had to have saleable cargo to be allowed up the Pearl River; they had to apply for a Chinese navigator to accompany their ship upriver; and they had to have a full cargo and a grand chop (authorizing paper with a seal) before they would be allowed to leave.82 Chinese tea and porcelain were important commodities for foreign markets, though lacquerware, silk, rattan furniture, and painted wall hangings were also significant export items. Factory (warehouse) space had to be rented. The British were delighted when, in 1753, they were at last able to secure a factory (hong) rental for two years. From the 1760s onward, there were seventeen different hongs that foreign companies could rent.83 As Van Dyke and Mok point out, from the years 1760 to 1822 it was typical to have eight to twelve Hong merchants active each year, renting factories and working as essential middlemen to conduct the trade. These Hong merchants were also required to pay the fees and taxes for each ship they worked with.84 It took more than four months to unload the large ships.85 The foreign merchants responsible for selling, buying, and packing goods were called supercargoes (in Chinese daban). Van Dyke and Mok note: “All of these officers stayed in the factories in the foreigner quarter.”86 Beginning in the 1760s, some companies had supercargoes resident in the Canton area. For supercargoes staying after their ships left, they were required, after a two-week grace period, to stay in Macau until their next ship arrived.87
Orders for tea were perennially expanding, and the tea needed to be purchased with silver. As a result, the British turned increasingly to smuggling in opium to obtain silver from the Chinese, which otherwise was hard to come by.88 In order to keep profits up, the customs superintendent in Canton (called the Hoppo [Mandarin: hubu] or jiandu) would often turn a blind eye to these infractions.
Hoping to negotiate better trade policies, the Dutch VOC and the British sent several tribute embassies north to the Forbidden City in Beijing in the later 18th century, but neither resulted in improved trade conditions. The last European embassy during the Qing dynasty was a Dutch embassy in 1796 celebrating the sixtieth year of Emperor Qianlong’s reign. The Qianlong emperor died in 1799, and the Dutch East India Company was also dissolved in 1799. The ongoing industrialization of England, and the years of insistent British trade pressure on China had begun.
Discussion of the Literature
One overall trend in scholarship concerning the China Seas has been to trace backward the flourishing trade and exchange of later times, demonstrating that global connectedness is in some ways not all that new. For example, the 2017 exhibit at the Asia Society Gallery, New York, of the Belitung shipwreck off Sumatra, provides an example from the 830s ce, during Tang dynasty, of an extensive range of ceramics made in China for export to the Abbasid Empire centered in modern-day Iraq, a sea trade apparently carried by Arab sea traders.89
Three areas where differing interpretations have been offered are: the extent of Chinese trading ships in the South China Seas during the Song period, vis-à-vis south and west Asian shipping in those same seas;90 the impact on Chinese maritime merchants of the Ming dynasty maritime trade ban; and the “openness” of Qing dynasty trade as compared to Song and Yuan trade.91
Until relatively recently, 16th- to 18th-century East Asian maritime trade circuits were treated by European scholars as an extension of emerging European global dominance. Andre Gunder Frank’s 1998 book ReOrient initiated a shift toward recognizing that clear European dominance only began later, in about 1800, and acknowledging the contributions of East Asian trade in building a global trade network.92 Although Frank shifted the central agency for the developing global economic machine from Europe to China in the early modern period—thereby overcompensating in a sense by developing a radically China-heavy vision—this was a necessary corrective. Studies since 2000 have come to posit the “interactive emergences” of modernizing economic structures, brought about by interactions between the European sectors, the Indian Ocean sectors, and the East Asian and New World sectors.93
A variety of models have been employed for framing trade in the East and South China Seas. One model Angela Schottenhammer has utilized is built upon Fernand Braudel’s analysis of the Mediterranean as a maritime space between sovereign nations, creating a common space of sorts and providing opportunities for exchange.94 Roderich Ptak offers a finessed version of this idea:
One important assumption associated with [Braudel’s notion of maritime exchange] is that the circulation of ‘things’ across the sea, from coast to coast, was more important for a particular port or seashore—qualitatively and quantitatively—than the circulation of ‘things’ from that same location to its respective hinterland, via overland routes.95
In other words, the ports involved were looking to ocean trade for their identity and economic livelihood. To a greater extent than other localities, they also tended to be ethnically hybrid zones.
Tonio Andrade and Xing Hang have argued that the East and South China Seas have their own quirky features distinguishing them from other maritime models that may come to mind, such as the Mediterranean. They suggest one key feature in the China Seas is, in fact, the dominance of China throughout the region.96 China’s trade orientation tended to affect other countries in the area; they point out, for instance, that “when China boomed, the ports of Southeast Asia also tended to thrive.”97 They also note that China’s traditional linking of tribute embassies with commercial trade, and China’s periodic maritime trade bans, are also unlike the types of state management of trade seen elsewhere.98
Twenty-first century historical and cultural scholarship has tended to shift focus from national frames to transnational frames, a movement conducive to studying maritime trade; and this scholarship has emphasized, as in a mirror reflecting backward, the steps leading to our contemporary globalized environment. For the early modern period, there are many competing narratives about the key elements contributing to a truly global interconnectedness. A convincing case has been made that China’s need for silver, and the reciprocal export of Japanese and South American silver in the 16th and 17th centuries, were crucial early factors in forging global trade ties. The role of the Manila Galleons, under Spanish administration, in promoting early modern globalization, for example, has been examined.99 Alongside silver, and especially after the availability of silver diminished, other commodities were important, too: ceramics, cotton textiles, silk, copper, tea, and opium, to name a few. Asian textiles (from many regions), ceramics, and tea transformed European material culture. On the other hand, in East Asia, there was great interest in European mapping and in acquiring new forms of knowledge relating to mathematics and mathematically based technologies.
It is undeniable that the arrival of the Europeans in the Asian maritime circuits had huge impacts in financial and structural terms. However, their relative weight in terms of the actual trade conducted can be easily overestimated. Chinese trade into Edo-period Japan, for example, far exceeded that of the Dutch in the 17th and 18th centuries. The trade empire of the Zheng family in the mid-17th century, and the financial instruments they employed, seem to have worked as well in those circuits—at least for a time—as the methods of the VOC.100 Much work remains to be done in weighing the relative significance of different parts of the early modern East Asian maritime system.
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(1.) Likewise, trade across the Bohai Sea, the northwesternmost segment of the Yellow Sea, cannot be treated fully in this essay.
(2.) See Yingshi Yu, Trade and Expansion in Han China: A Study in the Structure of Sino-Barbarian Economic Relations (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1967), 43–44.
(3.) Edward H. Schafer, The Golden Peaches of Samarkand: A Study of T’ang Exotics (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1963), 27.
(4.) Angela Schottenhammer, ed., The East Asian Maritime World 1400–1800: Its Fabrics of Power and Dynamics of Exchanges (Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2007), 8.
(5.) Kenneth Hall writes: “Early Chinese records make it clear that Malayo-Austronesian seamen (kunlun) and ships (kunlunpo) based in Southeast Asia, with the ships described as extending to two hundred feet in length . . . and said to be able to hold from six hundred to seven hundred passengers . . . sailed the route between Southeast Asia and China.” Kenneth R. Hall, A History of Early Southeast Asia: Maritime Trade and Societal Development, 100–1500 (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2011), 44; Hall cites Wolters (1967), 154; Manguin (1994); and Miksic (2003), 22.
(6.) Sui Shu [Book of Sui], compiled by Zheng Wei with Yan Shigu, Kong Yingda and Zhangsun Wuji (original edition 636CE. Reprint. Shanghai: Tongwen shuju, 1884), 82, 3a; Wang Gungwu, The Nanhai Trade: The Early History of Chinese Trade in the South China Sea, 2nd ed. (Singapore: Times Academic Press, 1998), 61; Qingxin Li, Maritime Silk Road, trans. William W. Wang (Beijing: China Intercontinental Press, 2006), 39–40; and Qingxin Li cites the “Story of Chitu” in the Sui Shu.
(7.) Schafer, Golden Peaches, 11; E. O. Reischauer, “Notes on T’ang Dynasty Sea Routes,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 5, no. 2 (June 1940), 157.
(8.) Schafer, Golden Peaches, 11; Reischauer, “Notes on T’ang Dynasty Sea Routes,” 155–156.
(9.) In the period from Emperor Jomei (r. 629–641) to Emperor Saimei (r. 655–661), envoys were sent four times. Under Emperor Tenji (r. 662–671), envoys were dispatched to Chang’an to resolve a dispute over Paekche. In the period from Emperor Mommu (r. 697–707) to Emperor Koken (r. 749–758) envoys were sent four times. In the period from Emperor Konin (r. 770–780) to Emperor Nimmyo (r. 834–850) envoys were sent three times; see Li, Maritime Silk Road, 70. A mission was prepared in 894, but in the end it was not sent.
(10.) Douglas Sherwin Fuqua, The Japanese Missions to Tang China and Maritime Exchange in East Asia, 7th–9th Centuries (PhD diss., University of Hawai’i, 2004), 163–164. In terms of an upturn in Korean private trade in the 850s, Angela Schottenhammer writes: “Up to the middle of the ninth century, Silla’s foreign trade was basically carried on as official tribute trade; only after that did private trading activities begin to flourish.” See Angela Schottenhammer, “China’s Emergence as a Maritime Power,” in The Cambridge History of China: Sung China, 960–1279, ed. Denis Twitchett and John Chaffee, vol. 5, part 2 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 440–441.
(11.) See chapter 4, “The End of the Kentôshi Missions and the Beginnings of Merchant Trade,” in Fuqua, Japanese Missions to Tang China, 162–200. In addition, according to Chaffee, once the Heian court discontinued sending tribute missions to China, “relations between Japan and the continent were therefore left to private merchants (mainly Chinese) operating under the supervision of the governmental headquarters (daizaifu 大宰府) at Hakata” (see John William Chaffee, “Song China and the Multi-State and Commercial World of East Asia.” Crossroads: Studies on the History of Exchange Relations in the East Asian World 1 (2010), 44); Chaffee references William McCullough, “The Heian Court, 784–1070,” in The Cambridge History of Japan: Heian Japan, ed. Donald Shively and William McCullough, vol. 2 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 20–96. Chaffee further notes: “The volume of trade was appreciable; von Verschuer estimates that about one Chinese ship per year came to Japan throughout the Heian period. Her estimate is based upon the nearly annual arrival of Chinese ships that pertained during the well documented period of 980–1020” (see Chaffee, “Multi-State and Commercial World,” 44); and Chaffee also cites Charlotte von Verschuer, Across the Perilous Sea: Japanese Trade with China and Korea from the Seventh to the Sixteenth Century, trans. Kristen Lee Hunter (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University East Asia Program, 2006), 47.
(12.) The objects recovered from this marine excavation were the subject of a 2017 exhibition co-sponsored by the Asia Society in New York and the Asian Civilizations Museum in Singapore. The show was titled “Secrets of the Sea: A Tang Shipwreck and Early Trade in Asia” and ran at the Asia Society Museum in New York from March 7 to June 4, 2017.
(13.) Zhang Bincun, “The Rise of Chinese Mercantile Power in Maritime South Asia, 1400–1700,” Crossroads: Studies on the History of Exchange Relations in the East Asian World 6 (October 2012): 207.
(15.) Chaffee, “Multi-State and Commercial World,” 33–54. Unrest closed the south Chinese port of Guangzhou from about 758 to 808 ce, during which time merchants often traded through Hanoi, Vietnam, instead; see Schafer, Golden Peaches, 16; and Wang Gungwu, “The Nanhai Trade: A Study of the Early History of Chinese Trade in the South China Sea,” Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 31, no. 2 (June 1958): 82–84. The sacking of Guangzhou in 879 ce probably led to a constriction of trade through south China though the end of the Tang in 907 ce.
(16.) Jia Dan’s text is partly reproduced in Ouyang Xiu and Song Qi, eds., Xin Tang Shu (Beijing, China: Zhonghua shu ju, 1975), 58, 1506.
(17.) Fuwei Shen, Cultural Flow Between China and the Outside World (Beijing, China: Foreign Languages Press, 1996), 158.
(18.) Schottenhammer, “China’s Emergence as a Maritime Power,” 438; Kenneth Hall, A History of Early Southeast Asia, 44.
(19.) See Chaffee, “Multi-State and Commercial World,” 34; according to Schottenhammer, “China’s Emergence as a Maritime Power,” 462–463: “Starting in the tenth century, rulers and emperors began to treat maritime trade as a way to underpin the economic foundation of their regimes . . . The dynasty of the Southern Han in Guangdong; the Min kingdom (910–946) in Fujian and later the kingdom of the independent Quanzhou rulers in Minnan, Fujian; and the kingdom of Wuyue (902–978) in Zhejiang may serve as examples” (Wade-Giles romanization changed to Pinyin). Schottenhammer later adds: “The Wuyue kingdom mainly traded with Japan and Korea, whereas the Min and Nan Han kingdoms traded primarily with countries in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean” (see Schottenhammer, “China’s Emergence as a Maritime Power,” 464).
(20.) Schottenhammer, “China’s Emergence as a Maritime Power,” 440.
(21.) Distinguishing the Five Dynasties and Northern Song from the Tang period, Chaffee writes: “The trade that . . . appeared under the pro-trade policies of the Southern Kingdoms and the early Song can be distinguished from that of the Tang by its far larger size, the greater variety of commodities, the participation of new groups in the trade, and even the nature of the ships, thanks to the spread of Chinese junks” (see Chaffee, “Multi-State and Commercial World,” 37); addressing the maritime dimension of Abu-Lughod’s world system model, Chaffee writes “insofar as China is concerned, the maritime trade system as described by Abu-Lughod was a phenomenon of the tenth through thirteenth centuries.” Schottenhammer elaborates on this: “The maritime trade system of the tenth to thirteenth centuries handled a great volume of goods and involved numerous countries and states from Africa and the Middle East across the Indian Ocean to Southeast and East Asia” (see Schottenhammer, “China’s Emergence as a Maritime Power,” 491).
(22.) Janet Abu-Lughod, Before European Hegemony: The World System A.D. 1250–1350 (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1991).
(23.) Chaffee, “Multi-State and Commercial World,” 40.
(24.) Schottenhammer, “China’s Emergence as a Maritime Power,” 479.
(25.) See Chaffee, “Multi-State and Commercial World,” 40–42; Chaffee also cites Tansen Sen, Buddhism, Diplomacy, and Trade: The Realignment of Sino-Indian Relations, 600–1400 (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i, 2003), 177–178; Zhang Bincun argues, to the contrary, that Chinese merchants, even in the Southeast Asia to China trade, were still outnumbered during the Song and Yuan by South and West Asian maritime merchants (the West Asian group including Arab and Persian traders). Zhang writes: “We may conclude that in [the eleventh to fourteenth centuries] for the first time Chinese were able to share the profits deriving from mercantile services in maritime foreign trade, which were previously monopolized by the South and West Asians. Even so, Chinese traders were but a minor sharer among them.” Zhang sees this situation as shifting dramatically in the early 1400s, writing: “[After the end of the fourteenth century, the] South and West Asians continued to carry out maritime trade in Southeast Asia, but their business was now limited to the side of the Indian Ocean” (see Zhang, “Rise of Chinese Mercantile Power,” 209).
(26.) Kimura Jun, “Maritime Archaeological Perspectives on Seaborne Trade in the South China Sea and East China Sea Between the Seventh and Thirteenth Centuries,” Crossroads: Studies on the History of Exchange Relations in the East Asian World 11 (April 2015), 57.
(27.) Chaffee, “Multi-State and Commercial World,” 44.
(28.) Li, Maritime Silk Road, 93.
(29.) Li, Maritime Silk Road, 91. Li Qingxin cites Liao Dake, History of Fujian’s Foreign Communications (Fujian, China: Fujian People’s Publishing, 2002), 87.
(30.) Li, Maritime Silk Road, 92–93.
(31.) See Richard Von Glahn, “The Ningbo-Hakata Merchant Network and the Reorientation of East Asian Maritime Trade, 1150–1300,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 74, no. 2 (2014): 251–281.
(32.) Chaffee, “Multi-State and Commercial World,” 42; see also the essays in Angela Schottenhammer, ed., The Emporium of the World: Maritime Quanzhou, 1000–1400 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2001).
(33.) Geoff Wade, “An Earlier Age of Commerce in Southeast Asia: 900–1300 ce?” in Dynamic Rimlands and Open Heartlands: Maritime Asia as a Site of Interactions, ed. Fujiko Kayoko, Makino Naoko, and Matsumoto Mayumi (Osaka, Japan: Research Cluster on Global History and Maritime Asia, Osaka University, 2007), 71–75.
(34.) As noted in Chaffee “Multi-State and Commercial World,” 43: “In the view of Momoki Shiro and Hasuda Takashi, ‘Northeast Asia [including Japan] was deeply incorporated into international trade networks for the first time’ during the eleventh through fourteenth centuries”; Shiro and Hasuda Takashi, “A Review of the Periodization of Southeast Asian Medieval/Early Modern History, in Comparison with That of Northeast Asia,” in Dynamic Rimlands and Open Heartlands: Maritime Asia as a Site of Interactions (Osaka, Japan: Research Cluster on Global History and Maritime Asia, Osaka University, 2007), 5.
(35.) Li, Maritime Silk Road, 91.
(36.) Zhang, “Rise of Chinese Mercantile Power,” 209.
(38.) Schottenhammer, Fabrics of Power, 21.
(39.) Leo Suryadinata, ed., Admiral Zheng He and Southeast Asia (Singapore: Institute for Southeast Asian Studies [ISEAS], 2005), xii.
(40.) Suryadinata, Admiral Zheng He, xiv–xv.
(42.) Schottenhammer, Fabrics of Power, 51.
(43.) Kawazoe Shōji, “Japan and East Asia,” trans. G. Cameron Hurst III, in The Cambridge History of Japan, ed. John W. Hall, Marius B. Jansen, Madoka Kanai, and Denis Twitchett, vol. 3 (Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 443.
(44.) Shōji, “Japan and East Asia,” 443.
(45.) Zhang, “Rise of Chinese Mercantile Power,” 224.
(46.) Chaffee, “Multi-State and Commercial World,” 48: “It is clear that the Ming [haijin] restrictions, while never complete, nevertheless resulted in a severe restriction in trade between China and the rest of maritime Asia.”; Chaffee cites Roderich Ptak, “Ming Maritime Trade to Southeast Asia, 1368–1567,” in From the Mediterranean to the China Sea: Miscellaneous Notes, ed. Claude Guillot, Denys Lombard, and Roderich Ptak (Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz, 1998), 157–191.
(47.) Hung-guk Cho, “The Trade Between China, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia in the 14th Century through the 17th Century Period,” International Area Review 3, no. 2 (Winter 2000), 76; Cho also cites Wang Gungwu, China and the Chinese Overseas (Singapore: Times Academic Press, 1991), 113–114.
(48.) See Richard Von Glahn, “The Maritime Trading World of East Asia from the Thirteenth to the Seventeenth Centuries” (forthcoming), in Picturing Commerce in and from the East Asian Maritime Circuits 1550–1800, ed. Tamara H. Bentley (Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Amsterdam University Press, 2018).
(49.) Spanish Jesuit Francisco Xavier intentionally landed a Chinese junk at Kagoshima on Kyūshū in 1549, and following this event many Portuguese carracks and Catholic missionaries journeyed to Japan. See Angelo Cattaneo, “The Mutual Emplacement of Japan and Europe During the Nanban Century” in Portugal, Jesuits, and Japan: Spiritual Beliefs and Earthly Goods, ed. Victoria Weston (Boston, MA: McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College, 2013), 27.
(50.) Also, as Prasannan Parthasarathi explains: “The Jesuits themselves were active participants in the silk trade from Macao to Japan in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Charles Boxer has shown that the Jesuits earned substantial profits from the trade, which financed their mission in Japan. Even after their expulsion [from Japan] in 1614, the Jesuits continued to engage in commerce, shipping their goods to Nagasaki under other names.” See Prasannan Parthasarathi, “The Portuguese Textile Trade in Asia,” in Weston, Portugal, Jesuits, and Japan, 59; see also Charles Ralph Boxer, The Christian Century in Japan, 1549–1650 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1951), 117.
(51.) Roderich Ptak, “Rethinking Exchange and Empires: From the Mediterranean Idea to Seventeenth-Century Macau and Fort Zeelandia,” Crossroads: Studies on the History of Exchange Relations in the East Asian World 7 (April 2013), 86.
(52.) The “sakoku” closed-country edicts in Japan were modeled partly on the Chinese haijin edicts. This approach was adopted in China as way of controlling pirates and political resistance and in Japan as a way to curb foreign influence and the excessive outflow of precious metals. The term “sakoku” was invented later; the Japanese term used at the time was the equivalent of “haijin.”
(53.) See Von Glahn, “Maritime Trading World” (forthcoming).
(54.) See Hiroko Nishida, “Asian Trade sponsored by the Christian Daimyo Ōtomo Sōrin” (forthcoming), Picturing Commerce in and from the East Asian Maritime Circuits 1550–1800, ed. Tamara H. Bentley (Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Amsterdam University Press, 2018).
(55.) For archaeological evidence, see Hiroko Nishida, “Trade Sponsored by Ōtomo Sōrin,” (forthcoming).
(56.) Schottenhammer, Fabrics of Power, 37; George Samson, A History of Japan, 1615–1867 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1963), 35.
(57.) Cho, “Trade Between China, Japan,” 80.
(58.) Cho, “Trade Between China, Japan,” 80.
(59.) Ubaldo Iaccarino, “Merchants, Missionaries and Marauders: Trade and Traffic between Kyūshū (Japan) and Luzon (Philippines) in the Late Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Centuries,” Crossroads: Studies on the History of Exchange Relations in the East Asian World 10 (2014): 155.
(60.) Cho, “Trade between China, Japan,” 101; Sarasin Viraphol, Tribute and Profit: Sino-Siamese Trade, 1652–1853 (Cambridge, MA: Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1977), 60; and Yoneo Ishii, ed., The Junk Trade from Southeast Asia. Translated from the Tosen Fusetsu-gaki, 1674–1723 (Singapore: ISEAS, 1998), 21.
(61.) Cho, “Trade Between China, Japan,” 80.
(62.) D. K. Bassett, “Trade of the English East India Company in the Far East, 1623–1684,” in European Commercial Expansion in Early Modern Asia, ed. Om Prakash (Aldershot, UK: Variorum, 1997), 212.
(63.) Bassett, “English East India Company,” 212.
(64.) Cho, “Trade Between China, Japan,” 76.
(65.) Cho, “Trade Between China, Japan,” 77.
(66.) Xing Hang argues that in 1663–1672 the Zheng organization earned a profit, in taels of silver, comparable to the profits of the VOC over the same period; see Xing Hang, Conflict and Commerce in Maritime East Asia: The Zheng Family and the Shaping of the Modern World, c. 1620–1720 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 167–170; See quote in Hang, Conflict and Commerce, 172: “For the Zheng organization . . . Japan remained a market of primary importance. Unlike the days of his father, Jing could supplement his shipments of silk [to Japan] with sugar and deerskin from Taiwan, as well as Southeast Asia. These primary products made up practically his entire cargo during certain years. From Nagasaki, his ships still procured weapons, but he mostly carried gold, copper, and lead, which had substantial resale value in the mainland coast, Manila, and the Western Ocean.”
(67.) Bassett, “English East India Company,” 210–211.
(68.) Bassett writes: “In fact, it was from Bantam that English activities in Siam [Thailand], Tongking [North Vietnam], Formosa [Taiwan], China, and Japan were directed after 1670.” Bassett, “English East India Company,” 213.
(69.) Bassett, “English East India Company,” 223.
(70.) Bassett, “English East India Company,” 235.
(71.) Bassett, “English East India Company,” 235: “From these beginnings . . . was to grow a branch of the English Company’s commerce that was to eclipse all others and form the mainstay of the Company’s finances by the end of the eighteenth century.”
(72.) As part of the lifting of trade restrictions in 1684, the Kangxi emperor proclaimed that even non-tribute sending countries were now welcome to trade with China, and he separated the ritual practice of official tribute from the more pedestrian conduct of trade. See Gang Zhao, The Qing Opening to the Ocean: Chinese Maritime Policies, 1684–1757 (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2013), 111.
(73.) See Cho, “Trade Between China, Japan,” 78; Cho cites Nicolas Gervaise, Histoire naturelle et politique du royaume de Siam (Paris: Claude Barbin, 1688), 76.
(74.) There was a large community of Chinese merchants living in Ayutthaya, and they had traditionally played a significant role in Thai merchant policy. Some of these Chinese expatriates became close advisors to the Thai Kings; see Cho, “Trade Between China, Japan,” 78.
(75.) Schottenhammer, Fabrics of Power, 29.
(76.) Schottenhammer, Fabrics of Power, 29.
(77.) In 1685, the Japanese Shōgunate set caps on the total yearly value of cargoes allowable to particular carriers: they allowed a total value of 600,000 taels to be exported to China; 300,000 taels for the VOC, and 40,000 taels for the private trade of VOC personnel. This was called the gojodaka system. See Fujita Kayoko, Shiro Momoki, and Anthony Reid, Offshore Asia: Maritime Interactions in Eastern Asia Before Steamships (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2013), 271; see also Yasuko Suzuki, Japan-Netherlands Trade 1600–1800: The Dutch East India Company and Beyond (Kyoto, Japan: Kyoto University Press, 2012), 70. While this system had an overall dampening effect, the 1680s began a period of reinvigorated China-Japan trade, and there was a sizeable spike in Chinese junks exporting Japanese copper during the period 1680 to 1715: see Ryuto Shimada, The Intra-Asian Trade in Japanese Copper by the Dutch East India Company During the Eighteenth Century (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2006).
(78.) Constantine Nomikos Vaporis, “Timeline of Japanese History” in Voices of Early Modern Japan: Contemporary Accounts of Daily Life During the Age of the Shoguns (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2012), xlviii.
(79.) For more on Chinese Qing-dynasty shipping, see Gang Zhao, Qing Opening to the Ocean.
(80.) A number of scholars have developed indispensable descriptions and interpretations of early modern trade through Canton and Macau. Louis Dermigny’s book Le Commerce a Canton (1964) provides data on the numbers of Western ships conducting trade there and on the large volume of goods transported. See Paul A. Van Dyke, The Canton Trade: Life and Enterprise on the China Coast, 1700–1845 (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2007), xiv: “[Dermigny’s] book reveals the importance of Canton trade to any history of the global 18th and early 19th centuries.” Another scholar, George Bryan Souza, provides extensive trade details in his book Portuguese Trade in Asia (1986). A recent volume outlining many features of this trade, encompassing both Canton and Macau, is Van Dyke’s The Canton Trade.
(81.) See the Paul A. Van Dyke, “The Canton Trade, 1700–1842.” In the online Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Asian History, ed. David Ludden (May 2017). See also Van Dyke’s The Canton Trade and Paul A. Van Dyke and Maria Kar-wing Mok, Images of the Canton Factories 1760–1822 (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2015).
(82.) Van Dyke and Mok, Images of the Canton Factories, xv.
(83.) Van Dyke and Mok, Images of the Canton Factories, xv.
(84.) Van Dyke and Mok, Images of the Canton Factories, xv.
(85.) Van Dyke and Mok, Images of the Canton Factories, xvi.
(86.) Van Dyke and Mok, Images of the Canton Factories, xvi.
(87.) Van Dyke and Mok, Images of the Canton Factories, xvii.
(88.) Van Dyke, The Canton Trade, 161–162. On the early opium trade from Southeast Asia to China see Carl A. Trocki, “Opium as a Commodity in the Chinese Nanyang Trade,” in Chinese Circulations: Capital, Commodities, and Networks in Southeast Asia, ed. Eric Tagliacozzo and Wen-Chin Chang (Durham, NC: Duke University Press), 84–104.
(89.) See exhibit “Secrets of the Sea: A Tang Shipwreck and early Trade in Asia,” March 7 to June 4, 2017, Asia Society Gallery in New York.
(90.) Both John Chaffee and Tansen Sen argue there was a prolific expansion of Chinese maritime merchants in the Song dynasty and that they began to challenge other merchants (see Chaffee, “Multi-State and Commercial World,” 40–42); Tansen Sen, Buddhism, Diplomacy, and Trade: The Realignment of Sino-Indian Relations, 600–1400 (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2003), 177–178 and note 21; and Zhang Bincun argues that Chinese merchants were still outnumbered during the Song and Yuan by South and West Asian maritime merchants. See Zhang, “Rise of Chinese Mercantile Power,” 209.
(91.) See Zhang, “Rise of Chinese Mercantile Power,” 224. Zhang posits that the early Ming maritime trade ban created opportunities for Chinese merchants involved in tribute trade from Southeast Asia to China; Chaffee writes that the early Ming trade restrictions put an end to the high point of Chinese maritime trade (see Chaffee, “Multi-State and Commercial World,” 48, see also note 27); Zhao, Qing Opening to the Ocean, 18: “Qing trade policy was the most open in Chinese history in terms of encouraging private traders and opening ports”; and Chaffee, contra Zhao, writes: “Even though China [after the Song and Yuan] subsequently experienced periods of active maritime commerce—for example, following the lifting of restrictions in 1567 and again in 1717, never again in imperial Chinese history do we see government encouragement of trade or the levels of maritime commerce that existed during the Song and Yuan” (Chaffee, “Multi-State and Commercial World,” 48).
(92.) Andre Gunder Frank, ReOrient: Global Economy in the Asian Age (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1998).
(93.) See John E. Wills Jr., introduction to China and Maritime Europe, 1500–1800: Trade, Settlement, Diplomacy, and Missions, ed. John E. Wills Jr. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 1–23; Tonio Andrade and Xing Hang, eds., Sea Rovers, Silver, and Samurai: Maritime East Asia in Global History, 1550–1700 (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2016), 22.
(94.) Angela Schottenhammer, ed., Trade and Transfer across the East Asian “Mediterranean.” (Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz, 2005). Schottenhammer is the editor in chief of the journal Crossroads: Studies on the History of Exchange Relations in the East Asian World, which since 2010 has been an essential voice in presenting studies from scholars of diverse nationalities on the issue of East Asian maritime trade and other forms of cross-cultural contact.
(95.) Roderich Ptak, “Rethinking Exchange and Empires: From the Mediterranean Idea to Seventeenth-Century Macau and Fort Zeelandia,” in Crossroads: Studies on the History of Exchange Relations in the East Asian World 7 (April 2013), 65–66.
(96.) Andrade and Hang, Sea Rovers, 3.
(97.) Andrade and Hang, Sea Rovers, 3.
(98.) Andrade and Hang point out that, at times, Korea and Japan adopted maritime prohibitions on the Chinese model. See Andrade and Hang, Sea Rovers, 3–5.
(99.) Arturo Giraldez, The Age of Trade: The Manila Galleons and the Dawn of the Global Economy (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015).
(100.) Hang, Conflict and Commerce.