Transcript Ming China
TRADING EMPIRES: MING CHINA
Remarkable new transoceanic maritime reconnaissance occurred between
1450 and 1750.
A. Official Chinese maritime activity expanded into the Indian Ocean
region with the naval voyages led by Ming Admiral Zheng He, which
enhanced Chinese prestige
B. Portuguese development of a school for navigation led to increased
travel to and trade with West Africa, and resulted in the construction
of a global trading-post empire.
C. Spanish sponsorship of the first Columbian and subsequent voyages
across the Atlantic and Pacific dramatically increased European
interest in transoceanic travel and trade.
D. North Atlantic crossings for fishing and settlements continued and
spurred European searches for multiple routes to Asia.
Big Picture Question:
Based on these images, which culture do you think would
dominate the seas? Explain your reasoning.
Zheng He and the Chinese “Discovery” of the World
Zheng He is wrongly labeled by many as a Chinese Columbus, or as an
explorer. He was not exploring the unknown. Rather, he was on diplomatic &
economic voyages to lands that China wished to profit from and add to its
sphere of influence. China at this time was ruled by the Ming Dynasty – the last
great native Chinese imperial dynasty beginning in the 14th century.
Bringing Tribute to the Ming Court
After their defeat of the Mongols, the Ming wished to reassert Chinese
traditional cultural and political influence throughout Asia.
The Golden Throne
of the Ming
China expected all
and rulers to pay
tribute to the golden
throne – thus acknowledging
the superiority of Chinese
Zheng He’s voyages were
one method for the Ming
emperor to exclaim his greatness
and convince others to pay
tribute to China.
In his voyages, Zheng He would give gifts and extract tribute.
Gifts: Chinese porcelain – valued
the world over for its quality,
relative durability, & beauty.
Tribute: Zheng He’s giraffe given by an
East African ruler as tribute. It was
believed to be the mythical quirin, ki-lin,
or ch'i-lin – the “Chinese unicorn.”
Extent of Zheng He’s Voyages, 1405-1433
Current historical debate centers around further voyages
that might have gone to Australia and the Americas.
Why did the Chinese not dominate the world since they seemingly
had a 50-100 year head start on European exploration (Columbus &
Vasco da Gama are in the 1490s)?
• Each had different conceptions of the world and each societies’ place
• Each had different attitudes towards merchants, the class that drives
the engines of trade and travel.
Early European Conception of the World AD 1030
What do you see in the center of this world that is
critical to the European perception of their heritage?
A duty of
to actively spread
to spread the
inquiry into the
Korean Kangnido Map (1402) – Illustrates Chinese worldview
What do you observe about the rest of the world in relation to China?
(hint: it’s in the center)
As the “Middle Kingdom,” China was the cultural and political
center of the world. All outsiders were barbarians. Little of value
was seen to exist abroad.
“Zhong guo” Middle Kingdom
What about the beliefs of Confucius support the conclusions from the previous
slides? Recall your knowledge of Confucianism.
Confucius – 5th Century BC
Founder of Confucianism: the belief
system that will dominate officialcircles
in China for thousands of years.
Traditional interpretations of his
beliefs are seen to:
1) Discourage travel/life abroad.
2) Stigmatize the career of merchants.
Confucian Beliefs Regarding Merchants –
• If one is guided by profit in one’s action, one will incur much ill will.
• The gentleman is versed in what is moral. The small man is versed in what is
• Mencius went to see King Hui of Liang. ‘Sir,’ said the King. ‘You have come all
this distance, thinking nothing of a thousand li. You must surely have some
way of profiting my state?’ ‘Your Majesty,’ answered Mencius. ‘What is the
point of mentioning the word "profit"? All that matters is that there should be
benevolence and rightness. If Your Majesty says, "How can I profit my state?"
and the Counselors say, "How can I profit my family?" and the Gentlemen and
Commoners say, "How can I profit my person?" then those above and those
below will be trying to profit at the expense of one another and the state will be
• Wealth and high station are what men desire, but unless I got them in the right
way I would not abide in them.7
• If one’s aim is wealth, one cannot be benevolent; if one’s aim is benevolence,
one cannot be wealthy.8
Chan, Jonathan, “Confucian Business Ethics and the Nature of Business Decisions”, Hong Kong Baptist University,
http://www.stthom.edu/cbes/oje/articles/chan.html, accessed 6 June, 2003.
England's Treasure by Foreign Trade
Thomas Mun (1571-1641) was one of the directors of the British East India Company, one of the
largest companies engaged in colonial trade. His England's Treasure by Foreign Trade, written
in the 1630s, but not published until 1664, was a classic statement of the economic doctrine know
The Qualities Which Are Required In A Perfect Merchant Of Foreign Trade
“The love and service of our Country consisteth not so much in the knowledge of those duties
which are to be performed by others, as in the skilful practice of that which is done by our selves;
and therefore (my Son) it is now fit that I say something of the Merchant, which I hope in due
time shall be thy Vocation: Yet herein are my thoughts free from all Ambition, although I rank
thee in a place of so high estimation; for the Merchant is worthily called The Steward of the
Kingdoms Stock, by way of Commerce with other Nations; a work of no less Reputation than
Trust, which ought to be performed with great skill and conscience, that so the private gain may
ever accompany the publique good. And because the nobleness of this Profession may the better
stir up thy desires and endeavors to obtain those abilities which may effect it worthily, I will
briefly set down the excellent qualities which are required in a perfect Merchant.
1. He ought to be a good Penman, a good Arithmetician, and a good Accomptant, by that noble
order of Debtor and Creditor, which is used onely amongst Merchants; also to be expert in the
order and form of Charter-parties, Bills of Lading, Invoices, Contracts, Bills of Exchange, and
Policies of Insurance.”
1433 – Zheng He dies
Fourth Ming Emperor bans further foreign travel
1492 – Columbus “sails the ocean blue”
1498 – Vasco da Gama reaches India
1511 – the Portuguese seize Malacca, an area that during the
time of Zheng He, paid tribute to the Ming
Europe, due in part to their attitudes towards foreign travel
and trade, and due to the absence of a formidable naval
rival in the seas of Asia, quickly begins to build an oceanic
empire in areas briefly under the influence of China.