The Info List - Foreign Relations Of Imperial China

--- Advertisement ---

Imperial China had a long tradition of foreign relations. From the Qin dynasty until the Qing dynasty, Chinese culture
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.


1 Background 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 13 Notes 14 Further reading

14.1 Primary sources

15 External links


The Yongle Emperor
Yongle Emperor
(r. 1402–1424). During his reign, Admiral Zheng He led a gigantic maritime tributary fleet abroad on the seven treasure voyages.

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 barbarians".[citation needed] 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. Qin Dynasty[edit]

Boundaries of the Qin dynasty
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
Warring States
in ancient China. The Chinese domain was also extended into Inner Mongolia and Manchuria
to the north, and with naval expeditions sent to the south, the indigenous Baiyue
of modern-day Guangdong
and northern Vietnam
(the latter called Jiaozhi, and then Annam during the Tang dynasty) were also quelled and brought under Chinese rule. Han dynasty[edit] Main article: History of the Han dynasty Further information: Sino-Roman relations The time of the Han dynasty
Han dynasty
(202 BC–AD 220) was a groundbreaking era in the history of Imperial China's foreign relations, during the long reign of Emperor Wu of Han
Emperor Wu of Han
(r. 141–87 BC), the travels of the diplomat Zhang Qian
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 Xiongnu, Zhang Qian
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
Persian Empire
of Parthia), Tiaozhi (Mesopotamia), Shendu (India), and the Wusun
Central Asian nomads. After his travels, the famous land trading route of the Silk Road
Silk Road
leading from China to the Roman Empire
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
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
War. Nanyue
was ruled by the Triệu dynasty
Triệu dynasty
since the Qin naval officer Zhao Tuo
Zhao Tuo
had broken ties with mainland rule in the fall of Qin and establishment of Han.[1][2]

The Han dynasty
Han dynasty
in 87 BC, after the territorial expansion and establishment of the Silk Road
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 sailed past Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
and into the Indian Ocean, reaching India and Sri Lanka
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 translate from 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, including Yuezhi
missionaries and Kushan
Buddhist missionaries from northern India who introduced Buddhism
to China. Emperor Ming establishing the 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 Vietnam. The Han general Ban Chao
Ban Chao
(AD 32-102) reconquered the states in the Western Regions
Western Regions
(the modern day Tarim Basin
Tarim Basin
in Xinjiang) after pushing the 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 (Daqin). 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
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 of Daqin
(Rome)". Although, as Antoninus Pius
Antoninus Pius
died in 161, leaving the empire to his adoptive son Marcus Aurelius
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[edit]

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. From China, Buddhism
entered 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[edit] The Three 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
Shu Han
in the west conquered the Hmong people
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. Jin dynasty[edit] 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
Eastern Wu
in 280, thus ending the Three Kingdoms era. However, the state was weakened and left vulnerable with the War of the Eight Princes
War of the Eight Princes
from 291 to 306. This allowed for sinicized Xiongnu
nomads to capture both of China's historical capitals at 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
Han Zhao
kingdom. The Jin dynasty period saw a continuing flourishing of Buddhism
and Buddhist travel. Southern and Northern dynasties[edit] The Southern and Northern dynasties
Southern and Northern dynasties
(420-589) period was a period consumed by warfare like the Three Kingdoms
Three Kingdoms
period before it, yet this period saw the flourishing of Buddhist sites along the Silk Road
Silk Road
like never before. This includes Buddhist sites such as the Yungang Grottoes, the Longmen Grottoes, and the Mogao Caves. Sui dynasty[edit]

Prince Shōtoku
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 conquered the Chen dynasty
Chen dynasty
in the south by 589, hence reunifying China under the Sui dynasty
Sui dynasty
(581–618). He and his successor Emperor Yang initiated several military campaigns. Northern Vietnam
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 during the Three Kingdoms
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 river traffic. 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 AD 607. Prince Shōtoku
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. Tang dynasty[edit] Further information: Sino-Arab relations
Sino-Arab relations
and Africa-China relations The Tang dynasty
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
Western Turks
in 657, led by the Turkic qaghan Ashina Helu, with an army under the command of General Su Dingfang.[3] In a formidable alliance with the Korean kingdom Silla, a combined Tang- 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 their Unified 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 northern Korea
that had been lost since Goguryeo
captured it from the Jin dynasty in the 313. However, Goguryeo's territory fell into the hands of Silla
and Balhae
instead of the Tang Empire.

A painting portraying Emperor Taizong of the Tang dynasty
Tang dynasty
by painter Yan Liben
Yan Liben
(c. 600–673).

Chinese trade relations during the Tang dynasty
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 seaport at 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.[4] The Tang capital city of 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 Chinese. 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
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
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[edit] The 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
Greek Fire
(or a formula similar to the original) from Chinese contacts in Arabia. Greek Fire
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[edit]

The Northern Song dynasty
Song dynasty
(960-1127), with neighboring Western Xia
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
Song dynasty
(960-1279). During the Northern Song dynasty
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 the Liao dynasty
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
Song dynasty
(1127–1279) was then forced to acknowledge the Jurchen rulers of the Jin dynasty as their superiors. The Mongols
conquered the Jin dynasty in 1234 with the aid of the Song dynasty, which itself was also conquered by the Mongols under Kublai Khan
Kublai Khan
by 1279.

Southern Song dynasty
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
Song dynasty
was forced to engage in skillful diplomacy. The famous statesmen and scientists Shen Kuo
Shen Kuo
(1031–1095) and Su Song
Su Song
(1020–1101) were both sent as Song ambassadors to the Liao dynasty
Liao dynasty
in order to settle border disputes. Shen Kuo
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 Liao dynasties. Su Song
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 embassy of Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah
Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah
of Fatimid
to the court of Emperor Zhenzong in 1008, as well as the embassy of Kulothunga Chola I of the Indian Chola dynasty
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 included the Zen
Buddhist monk Wuzhun Shifan
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. Yuan dynasty[edit]

Painting of Kublai Khan
Kublai Khan
on a hunting expedition, by artist Liu Guandao, c. 1280.

Further information: Europeans in Medieval China The Yuan dynasty
Yuan dynasty
(1271–1368) of China was the easternmost part of the vast Mongol Empire
Mongol Empire
(stretching from East Asia
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
Hulagu Khan
were able to conquer the Tangut-led Western Xia
Western Xia
kingdom and the Jurchen-led Jin dynasty in northern China, as well as invading Korea
under the Goryeo
dynasty, 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
Kublai Khan
who finally conquered the Southern Song dynasty
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. The Yuan dynasty
Yuan dynasty
continued the maritime trading legacy of the Tang and Song dynasties. The Yuan ship captain known as Wang Dayuan
(fl. 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 Cambodian Khmer Empire
Khmer Empire
under Indravarman III, led by the envoy Zhou Daguan (1266–1346) from the years 1296 to 1297. In his report to the Yuan court, Zhou Daguan described places such as Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat
and everyday life of the Khmer Empire. It was during the early years of Kublai Khan's reign that Marco Polo
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. Ming dynasty[edit]

Travel of some of the envoys of the Yongle and Xuande emperors: Zheng He and Hong Bao
Hong Bao
(1405–1433, black), Yishiha
(1412–1433, blue), Chen Cheng (1414–1420, green)

Further information: Sino-Tibetan relations during the Ming dynasty 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
Hongwu Emperor
(r. 1368–1398), was the head of the Red Turban Rebellion when he routed the rival rebel Chinese leaders and then forced the Mongols
of the Yuan dynasty
Yuan dynasty
to flee north, back into the Mongolian steppe. The Ming dynasty
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
Tumu Crisis
in 1449, where the Zhengtong Emperor
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 (1414).

The Hongwu Emperor
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 Persia
and 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 other's country. The greatest diplomatic highlights of the Ming period were the enormous maritime tributary missions and expeditions of the admiral Zheng He
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
Yongle Emperor
invaded northern Vietnam
in 1402, and remained there until 1428, when Lê Lợi
Lê Lợi
led a successful native rebellion against the Chinese occupiers.[5] 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.[6] The Chinese also traded avidly with the Spanish, sending numerous trade ships annually to the Philippines
in 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.[7] In 1524, Beijing
was visited by representatives of the Ottoman Empire.[8]

Matteo Ricci
Matteo Ricci
(left) and Xu Guangqi
Xu Guangqi
(right) in the Chinese edition of Euclid's Elements
Euclid's Elements
published in 1607.

Meanwhile, the Chinese under the Wanli Emperor
Wanli Emperor
(r. 1572–1620) became engaged in a somewhat costly war defending Korea
against Japan. The Japanese regent Toyotomi Hideyoshi
Toyotomi Hideyoshi
(1537–1598) and his predecessor Oda Nobunaga
Oda Nobunaga
(1534–1582) brought about the prosperous Azuchi-Momoyama period
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
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 land into Korea
and bolstering the Korean navy in battles such as the Battle of Noryang Point. The Japanese were finally defeated and withdrew.[9] 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
Li Zicheng
(1606–1644), and the Ming dynasty
Ming dynasty
fell in 1644. The Ming general Wu Sangui
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.[10] The first Jesuit
missionaries to visit China did so during the Ming dynasty. The most prominent one was the Italian Jesuit
Matteo Ricci (1552–1610). 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 another Jesuit
father, he was the first European to enter the Forbidden City
Forbidden City
of Beijing
during the reign of the Wanli Emperor. Matteo Ricci
Matteo Ricci
and his baptized Chinese colleague, the mathematician, astronomer, and agronomist Xu Guangqi
Xu Guangqi
(1562–1633), were the first to translate the ancient Greek mathematical] treatise of Euclid's Elements into Chinese.[11] Early Qing dynasty[edit]

"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 from 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
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 Tributary
Affairs, 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
Qianlong Emperor
in 1795 — Isaac Titsingh
Isaac Titsingh
(seated European with hat, far left) and A.E. van Braam Houckgeest (seated European without hat).

In 1793, the Qianlong Emperor
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.[12]

The former residence of envoy Wu Tingfang
Wu Tingfang
and the Office of the Qing Legation
to the United States, in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

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.[13] The Titsingh delegation also included the Dutch-American Andreas Everardus van Braam Houckgeest,[14] 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
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 See also[edit]

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 Zongli Yamen Portraits of Periodical Offering Sino-Roman relations China-Iran relations


^ Lorge, Peter (2012). Graff, David Andrew; Higham, Robin D. S., eds. A Military History of China. University Press of Kentucky. p. 85. ISBN 978-0-8131-3584-7.  ^ Ebrey, Patricia Buckley (2010). The Cambridge Illustrated History of China. Cambridge University Press. p. 86. ISBN 978-0-521-12433-1.  ^ Skaff, Jonathan Karem (2009). Nicola Di Cosmo, ed. Military Culture in Imperial China. Harvard University Press. pp. 183–185. ISBN 978-0-674-03109-8.  ^ Thomas, R. D. A trip on the West River: new going and coming = 新往來. Canton: China Baptist Publication Society, 1903. Call no: DS710 T366 1903. ^ Geoff Wade, "The Zheng He
Zheng He
voyages: a reassessment." Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society (2005): 37-58. in JSTOR ^ George Bryan Souza, The Survival of Empire: Portuguese Trade and Society in China and the South China Sea 1630-1754 (2004). ^ Richard Von Glahn, "Myth and reality of China's seventeenth-century monetary crisis." Journal of Economic History 56#2 (1996): 429-454. ^ Chase 2003, p. 141. ^ Samuel Hawley, The Imjin War: Japan's Sixteenth-Century Invasion of Korea
and Attempt to Conquer China (2014). ^ Angela N.S. Hsi, "Wu San-kuei in 1644: a Reappraisal." Journal of Asian Studies 34#2 (1975): 443-453. ^ Florence C. Hsia, Sojourners in a strange land: Jesuits and their scientific missions in late imperial China (U of Chicago Press, 2009). ^ O'Neil, Patricia O. (1995). Missed Opportunities: Late 18th Century Chinese Relations with England and the Netherlands. [Ph.D. dissertation, University of Washington] ^ Duyvendak, J.J.L. (1937). 'The Last Dutch Embassy to the Chinese Court (1794–1795).' T'oung Pao 33:1-137. ^ van Braam Houckgeest, A.E. (1797). Voyage de l'ambassade de la Compagnie des Indes Orientales hollandaises vers l'empereur de la Chine, dans les années 1794 et 1795 Philadelphia; _____. (1798). An authentic account of the embassy of the Dutch East-India Company, to the court of the emperor of China, in the years 1794 and 1795. London.

Further reading[edit]

Catchpole, Brian. Map History of Modern China (1977) over 100 new schematic historical maps Chen, Jian. Mao's China and the Cold War (2001) online Duyvendak, J.J.L. (1937). "The Last Dutch Embassy to the Chinese Court (1794–1795)." T'oung Pao, 33:1-137. Hsu, Immanuel C. Y. The Rise of Modern China (6th ed. 2000) excerpt Keevak, Michael (2017). Embassies to China: Diplomacy and Cultural Encounters Before the Opium Wars (Palgrave Macmillan). Kim, Bongjin. "Rethinking of the Pre-Modern East Asian Region Order." Journal of East Asian Studies 2.02 (2002): 67-101. Lee, Ji-Young. China's Hegemony: Four Hundred Years of East Asian Domination (Columbia UP, 2016). Mancall, Mark. China at the center: 300 years of foreign policy (1984). O'Neil, Patricia O. (1995). Missed Opportunities: Late 18th Century Chinese Relations with England and the Netherlands. (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Washington). Erik Ringmar, "Liberal Barbarism and the Oriental Sublime: The European Destruction of the Emperor's Summer Palace", Millennium, 34:3, 2006. pp. 917–33. Rockhill, William Woodville. "Diplomatic Missions to the Court of China: The Kotow Question I," The American Historical Review, Vol. 2, No. 3 (April, 1897), pp. 427–442.

Rockhill, William Woodville. "Diplomatic Missions to the Court of China: The Kotow Question II," The American Historical Review, Vol. 2, No. 4 (July, 1897), pp. 627–643.

Westad, Odd Arne. Restless Empire: China and the World since 1750 (2012) 515pp excerpt Zhang, Feng. Chinese hegemony: Grand strategy and international institutions in East Asian history (Stanford UP, 2015).

Primary sources[edit]

van Braam Houckgeest, Andreas Everardus. (1798). An authentic account of the embassy of the Dutch East-India Company, to the court of the emperor of China, in the years 1794 and 1795. London. Vol. I. Digitized by University of Hong Kong
University of Hong Kong
Libraries, Digital Initiatives, "China Through Western Eyes." de Guignes, Chrétien-Louis-Joseph (1808). Voyage a Pékin, Manille et l'Ile de France. Paris. Robbins, Helen Henrietta Macartney (1908). Our First Ambassador to China: An Account of the Life of George, Earl of Macartney with Extracts from His Letters, and the Narrative of His Experiences in China, as Told by Himself, 1737–1806, from Hitherto Unpublished Correspondence and Documents. London : John Murray. [digitized by University of Hong Kong
University of Hong Kong
Libraries, Digital Initiatives, "China Through Western Eyes." ] Satow, Ernest, (2006). The Diaries of Sir Ernest Satow, British Envoy in Peking (1900–06). New York.

External links[edit]

Hevia, James L. (1995). Qing Guest Ritual and Macartney Embassy Of 1793. Durham.

v t e

Foreign relations of Asia

Sovereign states

Afghanistan Armenia Azerbaijan Bahrain Bangladesh Bhutan Brunei Cambodia China Cyprus East Timor (Timor-Leste) Egypt Georgia India Indonesia Iran Iraq Israel Japan Jordan Kazakhstan North Korea South Korea Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Laos Lebanon Malaysia Maldives Mongolia Myanmar Nepal Oman Pakistan Philippines Qatar Russia Saudi Arabia Singapore Sri Lanka Syria Tajikistan Thailand Turkey Turkmenistan United Arab Emirates Uzbekistan Vietnam Yemen

States with limited recognition

Abkhazia Artsakh Northern Cyprus Palestine South Ossetia Taiwan

Dependencies and other territories

British Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
Territory Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Hong Kong Macau

History of Imperial China portal Internationa