New Currents in Maritime History: Multi-language Sources and Perspectives for East Asian Waters in Imperial and Global Contexts

Title: 1235 | New Currents in Maritime History: Multi-language Sources and Perspectives for East Asian Waters in Imperial and Global Contexts
Area: Border Crossing and Inter-Area
Stream: History
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Cheng-heng Lu, Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University, United States (organizer, presenter)
Tim Romans, Emory University, United States (presenter)
Yu-Hui Shen, National Chung Hsing University, Taiwan (presenter)
Gakusho Nakajima, Kyushu University, Japan (chair)
Mark Ravina, The University of Texas at Austin, United States (discussant)


In the past half-century, maritime historians such as Iwao Seiichi, Nagazumi Yoko, Leonard Blussé, C.R. Boxer positioned the East Asia maritime world as a global crossroads. Although these scholars were pioneers in using multi-language sources, recent developments in the fields of global and comparative imperial history have opened new pathways for scholars. This "new" maritime history combines East Asian, European, and Central Asian sources as well as materials from underrepresented groups from across Asia.

Cheng-heng Lu utilizes Manchu, Chinese, and Hokkienese materials to investigate the war between the Qing Empire and pirate-king Cai Cian to reveal how this Inner Asian Empire conquered the East Asian maritime world. Tim Romans utilizes Dutch, Chinese, and Japanese sources to tell the story of the Suetsugu family of Nagasaki, a merchant household who sought to build a maritime domain in the turmoil of the seventeenth century. Yu-hui Shen investigates the intermediary role of Ryukyu between the Qing Empire and Japan by using Japanese and Chinese sources to explore the development of cultural networks between these three East Asian states.

This panel combines recent developments in global and comparative imperial history with innovative source combinations to explore new connections between Asia and the wider world.

Panel Abstracts:
The Manchu Sail East: The Qing conquest of the Taiwan Strait during Qianlong-Jiaqing Transition
The New Qing History seeks to place Qing history within the context of global, imperial, and Inner Asian history via using non-Chinese sources. In the past, scholars of the New Qing History did not establish broader connections to maritime history. Additionally, the Qianlong-Jiaqing transition has been considered a crucial period by scholarship but has been overlooked by the New Qing History. To bridge the gap between the New Qing History, maritime history, and the Qianlong-Jiaqing transition, this paper utilizes Manchu language materials to explore Manchu perspectives on the subjugation of the Taiwan Strait between 1794 and 1809. This period coincided with the war against Cai Cian (蔡牽, 1761-1809), as known as the great king of the sea, who harassed the southeastern coast and invaded Taiwan during this period. This conquest indicates that the Qing Empire now dominated the Taiwan Strait, which had been a transnational space and borderland and a middle ground since the sixteenth century. The conquest of this middle ground, the Inner Asian perspectives, and activities of the Manchu not only resulted in social transformation and Jiaqing’s statecraft at the maritime frontier, but it also resulted in cultural, religious, and ideological changes in the core of this Inner Asian empire. Therefore, through the lens of Manchu language sources and Inner Asian dynamism, this paper expects to fill a significant historiographical gap and focuses on the impact of the war against Cai Cian in the Inner Asia Empire and to the maritime frontier.

Twilight of the Last Vermilion Seal Family: The Decline of the Suetsugu Under Heizō Shigetomo (Heizō IV)
The ship Fukokuju and its 1675 expedition to explore the Ogasawara Islands represented the apogee of power for the Heizō clan of the Suetsugu in Nagasaki. As Heizō IV, Suetsugu Shigetomo, bore witness to his family's rise to the height of their power and dramatic collapse in 1676 and would be their final attempt to build a maritime domain in East Asian waters. When the Fukokuju returned to Japan in 1676, its master, Heizō IV was an inmate at Denma-chō prison and preparing for his exile to the Oki Islands. Between 1665 and 1675, Heizō IV's Chinese connections grew increasingly dangerous and Suetsugu difficulties directly corresponded to the rise of the Zheng Empire in Southeastern China and Taiwan. Although the Zheng and the Suetsugu were partners, Heizō IV proved that he was incapable of serving as an intermediary with Zheng Jing. The major inflection point for the end of the Suetsugu was the aftermath of the Zheng attack on a Ryūkyūan ship in 1670. Heizō IV's inability to broker with the Zheng and end their blockade of Japan on favorable terms resulted in international humiliation for the shogun. By 1676, the Tokugawa regime viewed Heizō IV's connections to the Zheng as a liability which prompted Edo to banish Heizō IV from Japan and destroy the Suetsugu. This paper hopes to explore why the Suetsugu, as the last of Japan's early modern maritime dynasties, could not survive Tokugawa consolidation and a changing international environment at the end of the seventeenth century.

Investigating the Transformation of Ryukyu’s Intermediary Role and the Qing-Japan Cultural Exchange in the Early Modern Era
With the experience of being invaded by the Satsuma Domain in 1609, Ryukyu started to take a strict concealment policy since the Ming-Qing transition, to ensure its autonomous status and to prevent any conflict between Qing and Japan over their differences in international systems. Standing between Qing and Japan, Ryukyu helped to transmit intelligence, commodities, antiquities, and technologies, among others, to meet the demands of Satsuma and Shogunate at Edo, and even coordinated cultural exchange activities between Qing and Japan. Different from the transmission of intelligence and objects, cultural exchange heavily depends on the social networks. Indeed, some Han Chinese interpreters and officials working for the Qing government have been found in these activities. This paper investigates the development and transformation of Ryukyu’s intermediary role, examines the cultural exchange activities between Qing and Japan that involved Chinese participation and Ryukyu’s coordination, analyzes the roles of interpreters and officials, and finally discusses the formation and significance of the exchange network between China, Ryukyu, Satsuma, and Japan

This panel is on Thursday - Session 02 - Room 3

Go to Room 3