The Info List - Sea Ban

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The HAIJIN or SEA BAN was a series of related isolationist Chinese policies restricting private maritime trading and coastal settlement during most of the Ming dynasty
Ming dynasty
and some of the Qing . First imposed to deal with Japanese piracy amid the mopping up of Yuan partisans, the sea ban was completely counterproductive: by the 16th century, piracy and smuggling were endemic and mostly consisted of Chinese who had been dispossessed by the policy. China's foreign trade was limited to irregular and expensive tribute missions , and resistance even to them among the Chinese bureaucracy led to the scrapping of Zheng He
Zheng He
's fleets. Piracy dropped to negligible levels only upon the end of the policy in 1567, but a modified form was subsequently adopted by the Qing. This produced the Canton system
Canton system
of the Thirteen Factories
Thirteen Factories
, but also the opium smuggling that led to disastrous wars with Britain and other European powers in the 19th century.

The policy was also mimicked by both Tokugawa Japan (as the Sakoku
) and Joseon Korea , which became known as the " Hermit Kingdom ", before they were opened militarily in 1853 and 1876 .


* 1 Ming

* 1.1 Background * 1.2 Policy * 1.3 Rationale * 1.4 Effects

* 2 Qing

* 2.1 Background * 2.2 Policy * 2.3 Effects

* 3 See also

* 4 References

* 4.1 Citations * 4.2 Bibliography


A map of "dwarf pirate " raiding, 14th–16th centuries. The early pirates were mostly based on outlying Japanese islands but targeted the Japanese as well as Korea and Ming China. The later ones were mostly Chinese dispossessed by Ming policy.


The 14th century was a time of chaos throughout East Asia
East Asia
. The second bubonic plague pandemic began in Mongolia around 1330 and may have killed the majority of the population in Hebei
and Shanxi
and millions elsewhere. Another epidemic raged for three years from 1351–1354. Existing revolts over the government salt monopoly and severe floods along the Yellow River
Yellow River
provoked the Red Turban Rebellion . The declaration of the Ming in 1368 did not end its wars with Mongol remnants under Toghon Temür in the north and under the Prince of Liang in the south . King Gongmin of Korea had begun freeing himself from the Mongols as well, retaking his country's northern provinces, when a Red Turban invasion devastated the areas and laid waste to Pyongyang
. In Japan, Emperor Daigo II 's Kenmu Restoration
Kenmu Restoration
succeeded in overthrowing the Kamakura shogunate but ultimately simply replaced them with the weaker Ashikaga .

The loose control over Japan's periphery led to pirates setting up bases on the realm's outlying islands, particularly Tsushima , Iki , and the Gotōs . These "dwarf pirates " raided Japan as well as Korea and China.


As a rebel leader, Zhu Yuanzhang promoted foreign trade as a source of revenue. As the Hongwu Emperor
Hongwu Emperor
, first of the Ming Dynasty
Ming Dynasty
, however, he issued the first sea ban in 1371. All foreign trade was to be conducted by official tribute missions , handled by representatives of the Ming Empire and its "vassal" states. Private foreign trade was made punishable by death, with the offender's family and neighbors exiled from their homes. A few years later, in 1384, the Maritime Trade Intendancies (Shibo Tiju Si) at Ningbo
, Guangzhou , and Quanzhou
were shuttered. Ships, docks, and shipyards were destroyed and ports sabotaged with rocks and pine stakes. Although the policy is now associated with imperial China generally, it was then at odds with Chinese tradition, which had pursued foreign trade as a source of revenue and become particularly important under the Tang , Song , and Yuan . A 1613 edict prohibited maritime trade between the lands north and south of the Yangtze River, attempting to put a stop to captains claiming to be heading to Jiangsu
and then diverting to Japan.


Although the policy has generally been ascribed to national defense against the pirates, it was so obviously counterproductive and yet carried on for so long that other explanations have been offered. The initial conception seems to have been to use the Japanese need for Chinese goods to force them to terms. Parallels with Song and Yuan measures restricting outflows of bullion have led some to argue that it was intended to support the Hongwu Emperor's printing of fiat currency , whose use was continued by his successors as late as 1450. (By 1425, rampant counterfeiting and hyperinflation meant people were already trading at about 0.014% of their original value.) Others assert that it was a side effect of a desire to elevate Confucian humaneness (仁, ren) and eliminate greed from the realm's foreign relations or a ploy to weaken the realm's southern subjects to the benefit of the central government. Nonetheless, it may have been the case that the Hongwu Emperor