Imperial China had a long tradition of foreign relations. From the Qin
dynasty until the Qing dynasty,
Chinese culture had influenced
neighboring and distant countries, while gradually being transformed
by outside influences as well. For the later history after 1800 see
Foreign relations of China#History.
2 Qin Dynasty
3 Han dynasty
4 Period of Disunity
4.1 Three Kingdoms
4.2 Jin dynasty
4.3 Southern and Northern dynasties
5 Sui dynasty
6 Tang dynasty
7 Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms
8 Song dynasty
9 Yuan dynasty
10 Ming dynasty
11 Early Qing dynasty
12 See also
14 Further reading
14.1 Primary sources
15 External links
Yongle Emperor (r. 1402–1424). During his reign, Admiral Zheng
He led a gigantic maritime tributary fleet abroad on the seven
In premodern times, the theory of foreign relations of China held that
the Chinese Empire was the Celestial Dynasty, the center of world
civilization, with the
Emperor of China
Emperor of China being the leader of the
civilized world. This view saw China as equivalent to "all under
heaven". All other states were considered to be tributaries, under the
suzerain rule of China. Some were direct vassals. Theoretically, the
lands around the imperial capital were regarded as "five zones of
submission", - the circular areas differentiated according to the
strength of the benevolent influence from the Son of Heaven.
There were several periods when Chinese foreign policy took on
isolationist tones, because of the view that the rest of the world was
poor and backward with little to offer.
Nevertheless, China was a center of trade from early on in its
history. Many of China's interactions with the outside world came via
the Silk Road. This included, during the 2nd century AD, contact with
representatives of the Roman Empire, and during the 13th century, the
visits of Venetian traveler Marco Polo.
Chinese foreign policy was usually aimed at containing the threat of
so-called "barbarian" invaders (such as the Xiongnu, Mongols, and
Jurchen) from the north. This could be done by military means, such as
an active offense (campaigns into the north) or a more passive defense
(as exemplified by the Great Wall of China). The Chinese also arranged
marriage alliances known as heqin, or "peace marriages."
Chinese officers distinguished between "matured/familiar barbarians"
(foreigners influenced by Chinese culture) and "raw
In many periods, Chinese foreign policy was especially assertive. One
such case was exemplified by the treasure voyages of Admiral Zheng He
during the Ming dynasty.
Boundaries of the
Qin dynasty in 210 BC.
Although many kings of the Shang and Zhou dynasties ruled beforehand,
in 221 BC, the ruler of the Qin state, Ying Zheng (Qin Shi Huang), was
the first to conquer the different vassal states under the Zhou
dynasty, as well as other non-sinicized states. He was able to
transform these different states into a relatively unified and uniform
empire, the Qin Empire. Under his leadership and a society modelled
around strict adherence to legalist philosophy, his once backwater
western frontier state conquered all of the rivaling
Warring States in
ancient China. The Chinese domain was also extended into Inner
Manchuria to the north, and with naval expeditions sent
to the south, the indigenous
Baiyue of modern-day
Vietnam (the latter called Jiaozhi, and then Annam during the
Tang dynasty) were also quelled and brought under Chinese rule.
Main article: History of the Han dynasty
Further information: Sino-Roman relations
The time of the
Han dynasty (202 BC–AD 220) was a groundbreaking era
in the history of Imperial China's foreign relations, during the long
Emperor Wu of Han
Emperor Wu of Han (r. 141–87 BC), the travels of the
Zhang Qian opened up China's relations with many different
Asian territories for the first time. While traveling to the Western
Regions in order to seek out an alliance with the
Yuezhi against the
Zhang Qian was imprisoned by the
Xiongnu for many years, but
he brought back detailed reports of lands that had been previously
unknown to the Chinese. This included details of his travels to the
Greek-Hellenized kingdoms of
Fergana (Dayuan) and the Greco-Bactrian
Kingdom (Daxia), as well as reports of Anxi (
Persian Empire of
Parthia), Tiaozhi (Mesopotamia), Shendu (India), and the
Asian nomads. After his travels, the famous land trading route of the
Silk Road leading from China to the
Roman Empire was established.
Emperor Wu was also known for his conquests and successful campaigns
against the Xiongnu. He warred against the Kingdom of
Wiman Joseon in
order to establish the
Four Commanderies of Han
Four Commanderies of Han in Manchuria, one of
which was established in northern Korea, the Lelang Commandery. The
empire began expanding into southern China and northern Vietnam, then
the territory of the
Baiyue kingdoms. The Han Empire absorbed Minyue
after defeating the state, and annexed the Dian in Yunnan. By 111 BC,
Emperor Wu conquered the
Nanyue kingdom in the Han–
Nanyue was ruled by the
Triệu dynasty since the Qin naval officer
Zhao Tuo had broken ties with mainland rule in the fall of Qin and
establishment of Han.
Han dynasty in 87 BC, after the territorial expansion and
establishment of the
Silk Road during the reign of Emperor Wu.
Yet Chinese trading missions to follow were not limited to travelling
across land and terrain. During the 2nd century BC, the Chinese had
Southeast Asia and into the Indian Ocean, reaching India
Sri Lanka by sea before the Romans. This sea route became well
traveled not only by merchants and diplomats, but also Chinese
religious missionaries in search of further Indian Buddhist texts to
Sanskrit to Chinese. In AD 148, the Parthian prince
known as An Shigao was the first to translate Buddhist scriptures into
Chinese. There were many other Buddhist missionaries as well,
Yuezhi missionaries and
Kushan Buddhist missionaries from
northern India who introduced
Buddhism to China. Emperor Ming
White Horse Temple
White Horse Temple in the 1st century AD is
demarcated by the 6th-century Chinese writer
Yang Xuanzhi as the
official introduction of
Buddhism to China. Also by the 1st century
AD, the Chinese made sea contacts with Yayoi Japan, inhabited by what
the Chinese termed as the Wa people. By the 1st century, the Chinese
also established relations with the Kingdom of Funan, centered in what
is now Cambodia, but stretched partly into Burma, Laos, Thailand, and
The Han general
Ban Chao (AD 32-102) reconquered the states in the
Western Regions (the modern day
Tarim Basin in Xinjiang) after pushing
Xiongnu out of the region. This included the kingdoms of Kashgar,
Loulan, and Khotan, which were returned to Chinese control. He also
sent his emissary
Gan Ying even further in order to reach Rome
Gan Ying perhaps made it as far as the Black Sea and
Roman-era Syria, but turned back. He did however bring back reports of
the Roman Empire, and there is evidence that subsequent Roman
embassies to China took place.
The first diplomatic contact between China and the West occurred with
the expansion of the
Roman Empire in the Middle-East during the 2nd
century, the Romans gained the capability to develop shipping and
trade in the Indian Ocean. The first group of people claiming to be an
embassy of Romans to China is recorded in 166, sixty years after the
expeditions to the west of the Chinese general Ban Chao. It came to
Emperor Huan of Han China, "from Antun (Emperor Antoninus Pius), king
Daqin (Rome)". Although, as
Antoninus Pius died in 161, leaving the
empire to his adoptive son
Marcus Aurelius (Antoninus), the convoy
arrived in 166, and the both Emperor being "Antonius" the confusion
arises about who sent the embassy.
Period of Disunity
Statues of the Yungang Grottoes, one of many cultural symbols
displaying China's embracement of Buddhism.
Although introduced during the Han dynasty, the chaotic, divisionary
Period of Disunity
Period of Disunity (220-589) saw a flourishing of
Buddhism and travels
to foreign regions inspired by Buddhist missionaries. There were
Indian monks such as
Kumarajiva (344-413) from
Kucha who traveled to
China in order to translate
Sanskrit texts into Chinese. There were
also many Chinese who traveled abroad in order to obtain and translate
Buddhist sutras into Chinese, such as the Chinese monk Faxian
(337-422), who in his old age traveled to Sri Lanka, India, and Nepal.
Korea by 372. It was first practiced in
the northern state of Goguryeo, and would eventually develop into
distinctive Korean Buddhism. As recorded in the Nihon Shoki, Buddhism
in Japan was introduced by 552 with a religious mission sent by Seong
of Baekje, ruler of one of the three Korean kingdoms.
Three Kingdoms era (220-280) was a period of Chinese history
consumed by incessant warfare amongst a triad of rival claimants to
the Han legacy. The triple schism of China into three warring states
made engaging in costly conflict a necessity, so they could not
heavily commit themselves to issues and concerns of traveling abroad.
The state of
Shu Han in the west conquered the
Hmong people to the
southwest, then known as the Nanman. There was another recorded Roman
embassy to China that visited the court of
Cao Rui (226-239) in the
northern state of Cao Wei, most likely sent by Alexander Severus.
Another Roman embassy was recorded in 284, most likely sent by Carus;
this was the last Sino-Roman contact recorded by the Chinese.
The Jin dynasty was established in 265 (after conquering Shu Han) by
the noble Sima family that had once served the state of Cao Wei, and
conquered the state of
Eastern Wu in 280, thus ending the Three
Kingdoms era. However, the state was weakened and left vulnerable with
War of the Eight Princes
War of the Eight Princes from 291 to 306. This allowed for
Xiongnu nomads to capture both of China's historical
Luoyang and Chang'an, forcing the remnants of the Jin
court to flee south to
Jiankang (present-day Nanjing). The Xiongnu
then established rule in the north under the
Han Zhao kingdom. The Jin
dynasty period saw a continuing flourishing of
Buddhism and Buddhist
Southern and Northern dynasties
Southern and Northern dynasties
Southern and Northern dynasties (420-589) period was a period
consumed by warfare like the
Three Kingdoms period before it, yet this
period saw the flourishing of Buddhist sites along the
Silk Road like
never before. This includes Buddhist sites such as the Yungang
Grottoes, the Longmen Grottoes, and the Mogao Caves.
Prince Shōtoku (574-622) was a regent and a politician of the
Imperial Court in Japan.
Yang Jian (Emperor Wen) ruled in northern China from 581, and
Chen dynasty in the south by 589, hence reunifying China
Sui dynasty (581–618). He and his successor Emperor Yang
initiated several military campaigns.
Northern Vietnam was retaken by conquest, while there was a temporary
occupation of the
Champa kingdom in southern Vietnam. They launched
unsuccessful campaigns against the northern Korean kingdom Goguryeo
Three Kingdoms of Korea, depleting not only troops but
ultimately much of the government's revenue.
The Grand Canal was completed during the Sui dynasty, enhancing
indigenous trade between northern and southern China by canal and
One of the diplomatic highlights of this short-lived dynastic period
was Prince Shōtoku's Japanese embassy to China led by
Ono no Imoko in
Prince Shōtoku made his queen Suiko call herself Empress, and claimed
an equal footing with the Chinese Emperor who regarded himself as the
only Emperor in the world at that time. Thus Shōtoku broke with
Chinese principle that a non-Chinese sovereign was only allowed to
call himself king but not emperor.
Emperor Yang thought of this Japanese behavior as 'insolent', because
it opposed his Sinocentric worldview, but finally, he had to accept it
and send an embassy to Japan in the next year as he had to avoid
conflict with Japan to prepare for the conquest of Goguryeo.
Sino-Arab relations and Africa-China relations
Tang dynasty (618-907) represents another high point for China in
terms of its military might, conquest and establishment of vassals and
tributaries, foreign trade, and its central political position and
preeminent cultural status in East Asia.
One of the most ambitious rulers of the dynasty was Emperor Taizong
(r. 626-649). He initiated several significant war campaigns in
Chinese history, most of them against powerful Turkic groups of
Central Asia. This includes campaigns against Eastern Tujue, Tuyuhun,
and the Xueyantuo. Armies were dispatched to invade the oasis states
of the Tarim Basin. The kingdom of
Karasahr was captured by Tang
forces in 644 and the kingdom of
Kucha was conquered in 649. The
western expansion of the Tang Empire continued under Emperor Taizong's
successor, Emperor Gaozong, who conquered the
Western Turks in 657,
led by the Turkic qaghan Ashina Helu, with an army under the command
of General Su Dingfang.
In a formidable alliance with the Korean kingdom Silla, a combined
Silla fleet made a decisive victory over the Korean kingdom
Baekje and her Yamato Japanese allies in the naval Battle of Baekgang
in 663. Emperor Taizong also invaded
Goguryeo in an effort to help
Silla ally crush its rival, Goguryeo, to the north.
Emperor Taizong's other intention in invading northern
Korea was to
secure territory of Lelang Commandery, an old Chinese commandery in
Korea that had been lost since
Goguryeo captured it from the
Jin dynasty in the 313. However, Goguryeo's territory fell into the
Balhae instead of the Tang Empire.
A painting portraying Emperor Taizong of the
Tang dynasty by painter
Yan Liben (c. 600–673).
Chinese trade relations during the
Tang dynasty was extended further
west to the Arabian Peninsula, East Africa, and Egypt. Many
contemporary writers from foreign countries described Chinese ships,
Chinese goods brought to foreign ports, as well as Chinese seaports.
Amongst the Chinese authors, the writer
Duan Chengshi (died 863)
described trade in
Somalia and between 785 and 805 the Chinese
geographer Jia Dan described lighthouses that were erected in the
Persian Gulf, confirmed later by Muslim writers al-Mas'udi and
al-Muqaddasi. The introduction of
Islam in China
Islam in China began during the
reign of Emperor Gaozong (r. 649–683), with missionaries such as
Sa'd ibn Abi Waqqas, a maternal uncle to the Prophet Muhammad. The
Guangzhou in southern China became one of the largest
seaports in the world, hosting foreign travelers throughout maritime
Asia. At the time,
Guangzhou was a major port along the maritime silk
road and involved in heavy trade with Japan. The Tang capital city
Chang'an became well known as a multicultural metropolis filled
with foreign travelers, dignitaries, merchants, emissaries, and
missionaries. Chinese Buddhist monks such as
Xuanzang (died 664)
continued to travel abroad to places like India in order to gain
wisdom, collect Buddhist relics, and translate additional sutras into
Although the reign of Emperor Xuanzong (r. 712–756) is seen as the
zenith point of the Tang dynasty, it was during the last years of his
reign that one of the most destructive rebellions in Chinese history
occurred. The Tang Empire had recruited many Central Asian Turks into
their armed forces. One of these was
An Lushan (703–757), a
Sogdian-Turk who became a military commander and personal favorite of
Emperor Xuanzong's concubine Consort Yang. He instigated the An Lushan
Rebellion, which caused the deaths of millions of people, cost the
Tang dynasty their Central Asian possessions, and allowed the Tibetans
to invade China and temporarily occupy the capital, Chang'an. The Tang
dynasty recovered under Emperor Xianzong (805-820) but it never
achieved its former martial and political strength. The unintended
effect of the rebellion, however, was the loosening of government
restrictions on trade. Although the 9th century was politically
turbulent, the economy of China actually continued to thrive,
bolstered still by foreign trade. The Japanese were sending embassies
to the Tang Empire as late as 894, which was finally halted by Emperor
Uda by the persuasion of Sugawara no Michizane.
Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms
Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms
Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (907-960) period was an age of
division and Chinese civil war between the unified Tang and Song
dynasties. It is notable for the introduction of
Greek Fire (or a
formula similar to the original) from Chinese contacts in Arabia.
Greek Fire was then applied to the new Chinese invention of the
double-piston pump flamethrower, used in battle during the Five
Dynasties era and Song dynasty.
Song dynasty (960-1127), with neighboring
Western Xia and
Liao dynasties to the north.
The Chinese political theory of China being the center of world
diplomacy was largely accepted in East Asia, except in periods of
Chinese weakness such as the
Song dynasty (960-1279).
During the Northern
Song dynasty (960-1279), the Chinese emperors were
forced to accept the Khitan Khaghan, ruler of the Khitan-led Liao
dynasty, as their equals. After the Jurchen-led Jin dynasty toppled
Liao dynasty in a rebellion aided by the Song dynasty, they turned
against Song and conquered northern China as far south as the Huai
River in the Jin–Song Wars.
The imperial court of the Southern
Song dynasty (1127–1279) was then
forced to acknowledge the Jurchen rulers of the Jin dynasty as their
Mongols conquered the Jin dynasty in 1234 with the aid
of the Song dynasty, which itself was also conquered by the Mongols
Kublai Khan by 1279.
Song dynasty (1127–1279) after the Jin dynasty's conquest
of the north.
With powerful sinicized kingdoms to its north such as the Tangut-led
Western Xia, the
Song dynasty was forced to engage in skillful
diplomacy. The famous statesmen and scientists
Shen Kuo (1031–1095)
Su Song (1020–1101) were both sent as Song ambassadors to the
Liao dynasty in order to settle border disputes.
Shen Kuo asserted the
Song dynasty's rightful borders in the north by dredging up old
archived court documents and signed agreements between the Song and
Su Song asserted the Song dynasty's rightful borders
in a similar way, only he used his extensive knowledge of cartography
and maps to solve a heated border dispute.
Chinese maritime trade increased dramatically during the Song dynasty,
with the bustling seaport at
Quanzhou taking the lead. Maritime trade
abroad was augmented by a booming shipbuilding industry in Fujian
province. It was also enhanced by an economic revolution in Song China
and the presence of many wealthy, willing investors of maritime trade
missions. There were several notable diplomatic missions sent to China
from foreign countries during the Song dynasty. This included the
Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah
Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah of
Egypt to the court of
Emperor Zhenzong in 1008, as well as the embassy of Kulothunga Chola I
of the Indian
Chola dynasty to the court of Emperor Shenzong in 1077.
Although the golden age of Chinese
Buddhism ended during the Tang
dynasty, there were still influential Chinese Buddhist monks. This
Zen Buddhist monk
Wuzhun Shifan (1178–1249), who taught
Japanese disciples such as Enni Ben'en (1201–1280). After returning
to Japan from China, the latter contributed to the spread of Zen
teaching in Japan and aided in the establishment of Tōfuku-ji.
Kublai Khan on a hunting expedition, by artist Liu
Guandao, c. 1280.
Further information: Europeans in Medieval China
Yuan dynasty (1271–1368) of China was the easternmost part of
Mongol Empire (stretching from
East Asia to Eastern Europe),
which became politically separated into four khanates beginning with
the succession war in 1260. The Mongol leaders Genghis Khan, Ögedei
Khan, Möngke Khan, and
Hulagu Khan were able to conquer the
Western Xia kingdom and the Jurchen-led Jin dynasty in
northern China, as well as invading
Korea under the
turning it into a vassal state that was ruled indirectly. The Mongols
withdrew after Korean monarchs agreed to move its capital back to the
mainland from Ganghwa Island.
It was the Mongol leader
Kublai Khan who finally conquered the
Song dynasty in 1279. Kublai was an ambitious leader who used
Korean, Chinese, and Mongol troops to invade Japan on two separate
occasions, yet both campaigns were ultimately failures.
Yuan dynasty continued the maritime trading legacy of the Tang and
Song dynasties. The Yuan ship captain known as Wang
1328–1339) was the first from China to travel by sea through the
Mediterranean upon his visit to
Morocco in North Africa. One of the
diplomatic highlights of this period was the Chinese embassy to the
Khmer Empire under Indravarman III, led by the envoy Zhou
Daguan (1266–1346) from the years 1296 to 1297. In his report to the
Zhou Daguan described places such as
Angkor Wat and
everyday life of the Khmer Empire. It was during the early years of
Kublai Khan's reign that
Marco Polo (1254–1324) visited China,
presumably as far as the previous Song capital at Hangzhou, which he
described with a great deal of admiration for its scenic beauty.
Travel of some of the envoys of the Yongle and Xuande emperors: Zheng
Hong Bao (1405–1433, black),
Yishiha (1412–1433, blue),
Chen Cheng (1414–1420, green)
Further information: Sino-Tibetan relations during the Ming dynasty
Ming dynasty (1368–1644), after the Han and Tang dynasties, was
another high point in Chinese power. The first Ming emperor, the
Hongwu Emperor (r. 1368–1398), was the head of the Red Turban
Rebellion when he routed the rival rebel Chinese leaders and then
Mongols of the
Yuan dynasty to flee north, back into the
Mongolian steppe. The
Ming dynasty made a string of conflicts with the
Mongols thereafter, some of which were successful, and others of which
were not. An example of the latter would be the
Tumu Crisis in 1449,
Zhengtong Emperor was captured by the
Mongols and not
released until a year later.
An exotic giraffe brought from
Bengal in the twelfth year of Yongle
Hongwu Emperor allowed foreign envoys to visit the capitals at
Nanjing and Beijing, but enacted strict legal prohibitions of private
maritime trade by Chinese merchants wishing to travel abroad. After
the death of Timur, who intended to invade China, the relations
between the Yongle Emperor's China and Shakhrukh's state in
Transoxania state considerably improved. Both the Chinese envoy to
Samarkand and Herat, Chen Cheng, and his opposite party, Ghiyāth
al-dīn Naqqāsh, left detailed accounts of their visits to each
The greatest diplomatic highlights of the Ming period were the
enormous maritime tributary missions and expeditions of the admiral
Zheng He (1371–1433), a favored court eunuch of the Yongle Emperor
(r. 1402–1424). Zheng He's missions docked at ports throughout much
of the Asian world, including those in Borneo, the Malay state of the
Malacca Sultanate, Sri Lanka, India, Persia, Arabia, and East Africa.
Meanwhile, the Chinese under the
Yongle Emperor invaded northern
Vietnam in 1402, and remained there until 1428, when
Lê Lợi led a
successful native rebellion against the Chinese occupiers.
Large tributary missions such as these were halted after Zheng He,
with periods of isolationism in the Ming dynasty, coupled with the
need to defend China's large eastern coastal areas against marauding
wokou pirates. Although it was severely limited by the state, trade
was overall not forbidden. After 1578, it was completely liberalized.
Upon their arrival in the early 16th century, the Portuguese traded
with the Chinese at Tuen Mun, despite some hostilities exchanged
between both sides. The Chinese also traded avidly with the
Spanish, sending numerous trade ships annually to the
order to sell them Chinese goods in exchange for mita-mined silver
from the New World colonies of Spain. There was so much Spanish silver
entering China that the Spanish minted silver currency became
commonplace in Ming China. The Chinese attempted to convert the silver
currency back to copper currency, but the economic damage was done.
Beijing was visited by representatives of the Ottoman
Matteo Ricci (left) and
Xu Guangqi (right) in the Chinese edition of
Euclid's Elements published in 1607.
Meanwhile, the Chinese under the
Wanli Emperor (r. 1572–1620) became
engaged in a somewhat costly war defending
Korea against Japan. The
Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537–1598) and his predecessor
Oda Nobunaga (1534–1582) brought about the prosperous
Azuchi-Momoyama period in feudal Japan, putting an end to the
turbulent era of the Sengoku period. However, the Japanese staged an
enormous invasion of
Korea from 1592 to 1598. The aim of the Japanese
was to ultimately invade prosperous Ming China, but in order to do so
it would need to use the
Korean Peninsula as a staging ground.
Throughout the war, though, the Ming forces suffered significant
casualties, and had spent a great deal of revenue sending troops on
Korea and bolstering the Korean navy in battles such as the
Battle of Noryang Point. The Japanese were finally defeated and
The decline of Ming China's economy by inflation was made worse by
crop failure, famine, sudden plague, and agrarian rebellion led by
those such as
Li Zicheng (1606–1644), and the
Ming dynasty fell in
1644. The Ming general
Wu Sangui (1612–1678) was going to side with
the rebels under Li, but felt betrayed when his concubine Chen
Yuanyuan was taken by Li, and so allowed the Manchus, led by Prince
Dorgon, to enter a northern pass and invade northern China from their
base in Manchuria.
Jesuit missionaries to visit China did so during the Ming
dynasty. The most prominent one was the Italian
Jesuit Matteo Ricci
Matteo Ricci is famous in China and the West for many
reasons. He was the first to translate the
Chinese classic texts into
a Western language (Latin), and the first to translate the name of the
most prominent Chinese philosopher Kong Qiu as "Confucius". Along with
Jesuit father, he was the first European to enter the
Forbidden City of
Beijing during the reign of the Wanli Emperor.
Matteo Ricci and his baptized Chinese colleague, the mathematician,
astronomer, and agronomist
Xu Guangqi (1562–1633), were the first to
translate the ancient Greek mathematical] treatise of Euclid's
Elements into Chinese.
Early Qing dynasty
"Moghul embassy", seen by the Dutch visitors in
Beijing in 1656.
According to Lach & Kley (1993), modern historians (namely,
Luciano Petech) think that the emissaries portrayed had actually come
Turfan (Moghulistan), and not all the way from Moghul India.
One issue facing Western embassies to China was the act of prostration
known as the kowtow. Western diplomats understood that kowtowing meant
accepting the superiority of the
Emperor of China
Emperor of China over their own
monarchs, an act which they found unacceptable.
In 1665, Russian explorers met the Manchus in what is today
northeastern China. Using the common language of Latin, which the
Chinese knew from
Jesuit missionaries, the Kangxi
Emperor of China
Emperor of China and
Tsar Peter I of the
Russian Empire negotiated the Treaty of Nerchinsk
in 1689, which delineated the borders between Russia and China, some
sections of which still exist today.
Russia was not dealt with through the Ministry of
but rather through the same ministry as the problematic Mongols, which
served to acknowledge Russia's status as a nontributary nation. From
then on, the Chinese worldview of all other nations as tributaries
began to unravel.
Illustration depicting the last European delegation to be received at
the court of the
Qianlong Emperor in 1795 —
Isaac Titsingh (seated
European with hat, far left) and A.E. van Braam Houckgeest (seated
European without hat).
In 1793, the
Qianlong Emperor rejected an offer of expanded trade and
foreign relations by the British diplomat George Macartney.
Neither the Europeans nor the Chinese could have known that a Dutch
embassy would turn out to be the last occasion in which any European
appeared before the Chinese imperial court within the context of
traditional Chinese imperial foreign relations.
The former residence of envoy
Wu Tingfang and the Office of the Qing
Legation to the United States, in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of
Representing Dutch and
Dutch East India Company
Dutch East India Company interests, Isaac
Titsingh traveled to
Beijing in 1794–96 for celebrations marking the
60th anniversary of the Qianlong Emperor's reign. The Titsingh
delegation also included the Dutch-American Andreas Everardus van
Braam Houckgeest, whose detailed description of this embassy to
the Chinese imperial court was soon after published in the United
States and Europe. Titsingh's French translator,
Chrétien-Louis-Joseph de Guignes
Chrétien-Louis-Joseph de Guignes published his own account of the
Titsingh mission in 1808. Voyage a Pékin, Manille et l'Ile de France
provided an alternate perspective and a counterpoint to other reports
which were then circulating. Titsingh himself died before he could
publish his version of events.
The Chinese worldview changed very little during the
Qing dynasty as
China's sinocentric perspectives continued to be informed and
reinforced by deliberate policies and practices designed to minimize
any evidence of its growing weakness and West's evolving power. After
the Titsingh mission, no further non-Asian ambassadors were allowed
even to approach the Qing capital until the consequences of the First
and Second Opium Wars changed everything. For the later history see
Foreign relations of China#History
Imperial Chinese tributary system
List of tributaries of imperial China
List of recipients of tribute from China
Adoption of Chinese literary culture
History of the Great Wall of China
Portraits of Periodical Offering
^ Lorge, Peter (2012). Graff, David Andrew; Higham, Robin D. S., eds.
A Military History of China. University Press of Kentucky. p. 85.
^ Ebrey, Patricia Buckley (2010). The Cambridge Illustrated History of
China. Cambridge University Press. p. 86.
^ Skaff, Jonathan Karem (2009). Nicola Di Cosmo, ed. Military Culture
in Imperial China. Harvard University Press. pp. 183–185.
^ Thomas, R. D. A trip on the West River: new going and coming =
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