Edward Harper Parker.

China, her history, diplomacy, and commerce, from the earliest times to the present day online

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{sao ta-tsz), their historians frankly admit that
" Hu-pilie " (as they call him) ruled over a
vaster empire than any other Chinese sovereign
had ever done before.

But the Mongols soon became quarrelsom^e and
degenerate after Kublai' s death. A young bonze
named Chu Yiian-chang, from an obscure village
not very far from the Han founder's birthplace,
raised a patriotic force of " Boxers," and drove
the Mongols back to their pristine deserts. He
speedily established friendly relations with Corea,
united the whole of the Eighteen Provinces once
more under a native Chinese dynasty, sent a
Frank messenger back to Europe to notify the
change, and summoned all the petty powers of
the southern seas to their " duty." Never was
there such m.arine activity in China as during
the early reigns of the Ming dynasty (1368-1424).
Chinese junks, under the command of a very
distinguished eunuch, amply supplied with funds,


36 HISTORY [chap, ii

ammunition, and fighting men, went as far as
the Arabian and African coasts ; the Red Sea
was first vaguely heard of, and tribute was for
some time regularly sent from Arabia, Ma'abar
or Malabar, Ceylon, Sumatra, the Malay states,
Siam, Java, Sulu, Loochoo, and Borneo, besides
innumerable other petty island rulers too insig-
nificant to enumerate here. Towards the end of
the sixteenth century the armies of the great
Japanese Napoleon, Hideyoshi, overran Corea,
his ultimate aim being to conquer China. The
Ming dynasty, though already decrepit, rendered
signal aid to Corea in driving the Japanese out.
During the two preceding centuries the Japanese
pirates had actively harassed the Chinese coasts,
and in 1609 they temporarily carried off China's
tributary, the King of Loochoo. Manchuria is
scarcely even mentioned during the 280 years
this house of Ming occupied the throne. There
were frequent wars with the Mongols, and it
was in the course of this isolated period that
the obscure power of the Western Mongols
or Eleuths had time to grow. One Chinese
emperor was taken captive by their ruler Essen
at a place (still so called) just outside the Great
Wall styled T'umu, and was detained by that
chief for some years. Bell of Antermony gives
us the best account of the Eleuth doings with

Luzon (Manila) is first mentioned in 1410 as
sending tribute to China ; but nothing more is
heard of the place until 1576, when the sea-borne
Franks (Fulangki) begin to attract serious atten-
tion. At first this term was applied indiffer-
ently to the Portuguese, Spaniards, and French ;
but the Dutch (Ho-lan), and afterwards the
English, were specially known as " Red-hairs."
Chinese influence had almost disappeared from
the South Seas before Europeans put in an appear-


ance, and after the settlement of Malacca by the
Portuguese, the whole political field was practi-
cally abandoned ; the Chinese traders there
willingly submitted to the government of natives
and Europeans without attempting to secure the
protection of either the Ming or the Manchu
power- — in fact, the latter was always disposed
to view trading emigrants in the light of pirates
or traitors. In one case, however, the Manchus
put their foot firmly down : they secured pos-
session of Formosa, whence the Dutch were
ignominiously driven. Since the "Boxer"
affair of 1900 the Manchu and Republican
governments in turn have shown more solicitude
for the welfare and dignity of their subjects

The Ming dynasty waged a long war with
Burma and the Shan states under the latter's
protection ; on the whole successfully. It also
maintained a preponderating influence in Annam,
Siam, Ciampa, and Cambodgia. Tribute was
occasionally sent from Arabia, Samarcand, the
Pamir states, and various parts of Turkestan ;
but in the main Chinese influence in Tibet and
all places west of it and of the Yellow River was
fitful and feeble. In spite of the vigour of the
founder of the Ming dynasty and of his warlike
son, who in 1421 finally transferred the capital
from Nanking to his own appanage Peking, on the
whole no impression of affection or respect has
been left upon the Chinese mind by this ruling
house, the emperors of which soon dropped into
the hands of eunuchs and favourites ; and it
perhaps ended as pitifully and contemptibly as
any Chinese dynasty ever did.

The way the Manchu dynasty came into being
was this. During the Mongol times (1260-1368)
the warlike spirit of the Tungusic hunting tribes
had been kept up to the mark by employment

88 HISTORY [chap, il

on a large scale in the expeditions against Quel-
paert and Japan. As we have seen, the Ming
dynasty left the whole region of what we now
call Manchuria very much to itself ; as it bore
the Mongol name Uriangkha, it seems likely
that when the Mongols were driven out of China


Name of Dynasty
or Period.


Number of





Two effective nilers only. A
wonderfully active dynasty.





Five Dynasties


Average two

Three of the five were of Turkish


origin. The Kitans ruled to the
north of them all. South and
West China was nearly inde-
pendent of them aU, and under
separate rulers known as the
" Sixteen States,"



Eighteen r

There is no such name at this date
as " North and South Djmas-

Kitans, ^v

ties," but there ought to be.


^ The Chinese affect to regard

Niichens, 1
1117-1232 r


Twenty- "

^ Sung alone as historical Chma ;
but from 1127 the Simg had to


abandon aU China north of the

1229-1260 >'

Yang-tsze, and for 300 years the


Peking plain was inTartar hands.




Kublai and liis successors first
occupied the Peking throne.




The first native dynasty to rule the
north since 450 years.




As with the Mongol Khans pre-
vious to Kublai, so with the
Manchu Khans previous to 1 644
— they do not count as " Sons
of Heaven."

they, and more especially the Uriangkha tribe,
retained political influence in Prince Nayen's
old appanage, which had in Kublai's time been
practically modern Manchuria. The name of
the celebrated Mongol general, Uriangkhadai,
simply means " man of Uriangkha." The only
occasions on which the people in these parts


seem to have had friendly intercourse with the
Ming power was when they took advantage of
frontier fairs to bring down horses, furs, and skins
for sale or barter to the Chinese. During this
obscure period of imperial inaction, the tribes
now grouped together as the Manchu race must
have had ample opportunity to develop ; but
the Manchus themselves are not able to tell us
much of their own origin and doings previous
to the time when their chief Nurhachi conceived
and carried out the bold idea of welding all the
Tunguses into one nation. Some of the southern
chiefs, tinged with Mongol blood, objected to
this fusion, and either took refuge in or intrigued
with China. This led to frontier wars and
recriminations, and finally to the conquest of
the Chinese borderlands by Nurhachi's son,
Abkhai. Meanwhile a great rebellion broke out
in degenerate China, and the Ming general,
Wu San-kwei, who had been sent against the
Manchus, was recalled to quell it. Peking fell
into rebel hands, and Manchu assistance was
foolishly sought by Wu San-kwei. The Chinese
Emperor having meanwhile committed suicide,
and there being no proper heirs, the Manchus
saw their opportunity, and promptly took it.
Abkhai' s son and successor became the first
Manchu Emperor of China in 1644. Previous
to this Corea and Eastern Mongolia had been
reduced to submission, and special measures
were now taken to draft the capable Mongol
troops into the Manchu military organisation.
The Coreans were allowed to govern themselves
on the tacit condition of furnishing troops when
called for. China was soon conquered, and then
came the turn of the overweening Wu San-
kwei and other revolted Chinese satraps, the
Western Mongols, the Kalkhas and Eleuths,
Kokonor, and Tibet. By the time of the

40 HISTORY [chap, ii

Emperor K'ien-lung (1736-1795) the Chinese
Empire had reached its cHmax. The necessity
of completely subduing the Eleuths and Dzun-
garian Kalmucks led to the conquest of Hi and
Kashgaria. The wars with Tibet similarly led
up to the conquest or pacification of Nepaul.
There were also long wars with Annam and
Burma, in which the Manchus often came off
second best, but which resulted in a more or
less genuine recognition of Chinese suzerainty ;
an authoritative tone was assumed even over
Siam when that country became involved in the
peninsular question. Of course these southern
nations knew next to nothing of Manchu-Chinese
distinctions. The Manchus have always left
Japan severely alone, but in Loochoo they
found a faithful vassal (equally complaisant to
Japan) until about forty years ago, when Japan,
in consequence of Formosa disputes, uncere-
moniously gave the Chinese notice to quit. The
Sultans of Sulu have also been respectfully dis-
posed towards the Manchus, and the tomb of
one of them who visited Peking and died in
Shan Tung has been kept up at the public charge
down to our own times. With these exceptions
the Manchu dynasty, which had no real aptitude
for the ocean, always, following the example of its
kinsmen the Kitans and Niichens, cut itself off
entirely from political relations with the Southern
Seas. It was only after the Japanese and
" Boxer " wars of 1894 and 1900 that China's
pride began to be touched on the subject of
" bullying " her emigrants in the South Seas
and America. As a land power, however, the
Manchus have been even more solidly estab-
lished than the Mongols were ; for although the
immediate successors of Genghiz commanded
the personal attendance before their desert throne
of Russian, Armenian, and Persian princes, the

A.D. 1250-1850] MONGOL AND MANCHU 41

most powerful Mongol Emperor, Kublai, really
ruled in an efiective sense over the Eighteen
Provinces alone, and was at perpetual logger-
heads with his vassal relatives of Persia, Mon-
golia, and Manchuria ; moreover, the Mongols
were not the intellectual or literary equals of
the Manchus, and never had either the same
prudence or the same financial grasp of the
country's resources. As to the relations of
Europe with the Manchu Empire, that subject
requires a special chapter. It only needs to be
remembered at this point that Chinese struggles
with the nomads and Tartars begin with the
dawn of history, and are carried down to our
own day, when the " Boxers " and reformers
have succeeded between them in securing what
the Taipings just missed — the regaining of China
for the Chinese. The Taiping rebellion began
at a place called Kin-t'ien (Siin-chou Fu) in
Kwang Si, and is considered by the Chinese to
have been owing, like the earlier " Boxer "
revolt of 1808-16, to the influence of foreign



The history of Chinese trade, hke their general
history, only becomes really interesting to most
of us in its relation to foreign countries. From
the very first the trader seems to have taken
rank with our conventional usurer, and to have
been regarded as a small-minded person whose
main object in life was, not to increase the
public wealth, but to corner supplies ; nor does
the abstract idea of more legitimate trade appear
ever to have been conceived in the sense of
" mutual exchange for the furtherance of com-
fort and luxury," but rather in that of " steps
to keep the needy from starving, and the armies
supplied with food and weapons." The Book
of History says : "Do not overvalue strange
commodities, and then foreigners will be only
too glad to bring them." In purely mythical
and semi-historical times there are traditions of
islanders bringing tribute from the south, and
of tattooed tribes from part of Yiieh (modern
Wenchow) carrying swords, shields, and fish-
skin boxes for sale or barter. The so-called
" tribute " of ancient times seems to have practi-
cally meant " trade," for each province was sup-
posed to bring to the metropolis the superfluity
of that which it produced easiest and best,
receiving bounties or presents in return. Swords,
gold and|silver, piece-goods, tortoise-shells, and,



later, copper coins were used as currency, the
chief preoccupation of the Government appar-
ently being to keep the people supplied with a
sufficiency of this primitive money. The swords
seem to have become gradually symbolical in the
shape of " knife coins." To this very day the
majority of the Burmese are as indifferent to
private wealth as we are led to believe the
Chinese once were. It was well before Confucius'
time — the period of the Rival (princely) States
under the nominal hegemony of the Emperors
or Kings — that the idea of accumulating profit
seems to have energeticallypossessed men's minds.
One statesman (Kwan Chung, died 643 B.C.) is
said to have invented a kind of Iwpanar where
trading visitors from neighbouring states were
encouraged by " Babylonian women " to leave
their gains behind them ; thus this enterprising
(Ts'i) state sold its goods at a profit, and got
the money back in part. As the historian says :
" Roguery and violence now began to take
precedence of right and justice : greed for the
possession of riches replaced modesty and
humility in men's minds : huge fortunes were
made by some callous ones, whilst others were
starving before their eyes." In 522 B.C. customs
barriers and duties are mentioned in consider-
able detail.

When the great Ts'in conqueror, the self-
styled " First " Emperor (221-209 B.C.), united
the empire into one whole, the currency is stated
to have consisted in pounds of unminted gold,
and half-ounces of some kind of copper coinage.
Silver, pewter, jcAvels, cowries, and tortoise-
shell all had their fluctuating market values, but
were not legal currency. The long-continued
efforts made to repel the northern nomads had
greatly exhausted the Empire ; and when, in
addition to all this, the struggle of competing


generals for the succession had ended in the
triumph of the Han house, the price of grain and
of horses had become fabulously high. The
founder of this active dynasty may have been
a great man, but he was certainly not a refined
one. In order to show his contempt as a
sovereign for " writing fellows," he more than
once deliberately used the hat of a literary man
for the basest of purposes ; and to evince his
hatred as a legislator for huckstering, he " for-
bade merchants to wear silk or ride in carriages,
piling upon them taxes and charges of all kinds,
in order to humiliate and make them miser-
able." His wife and son after his death some-
what alleviated these burdens as the Empire
gradually settled down into a better financial
condition ; but the sons of " merchants were still
unable to occupy any official post,"- — an inci-
dental statement of the historian which leads
us to infer that traders were under a social tabu.
The chief subject for commercial speculation
was grain for the armies, and the trader of the
period appears to have been the same objection-
able kind of person as the ubiquitous army pur-
veyor and commissary so detested by Napoleon
during his Italian campaigns. Other fortunes
were made by " melting iron and evaporating
salt " ; the rich so manipulated their wealth
that, like Orgetorix, they got the poor into their
power as serfs. Later on, provincial satraps and
wily officials exploited " copper mountains "
for their own profit ; clandestine coinage reduced
the value of the standard currency ; and so on.
The famous Emperor Wu Ti, of the early Han
dynasty (141-87 B.C.), whose military activity
first opened the West to China, and in whose
time the prestige of China was at its climax,
adopted the arbitrary methods of some of our
English kings : he sent commissioners round to


levy fines and benevolences upon the rich, even
to confiscate fortunes which were shamefully
large. An officer was established at the capital
whose functions were, like those of a Baron
Potocki, to " prevent traders and shopkeepers
from making huge profits, to take charge of all
transport and delivery, to place artisans under
official control, and to keep all prices of com-
modities steady."

These are only a few of the devices employed
by the early Chinese legislators to evince their
suspicion of and contempt for traders, and it is
evident from even the meagre details which go
to make up the above account that merchants
in those days were viewed much as Jews were
regarded by King Edward I. It does not give
us much insight into the methods of early
trade, nor is there a word said about organised
foreign commerce. But, as hundredweights of
grain and pieces of silk goods are counted by the
five or six million in prosperous years, we may
assume that the backbone of revenue and also
of internal trade consisted in grain for armies
and poor districts ; salt to make the grain
palatable as food ; iron to make pans for boiling
the brine, and to manufacture weapons for the
soldiers ; horses, provender, and carts for mili-
tary transport ; silk for clothing and wadding
(no cotton in those days) ; and copper for
common currency. Gems of all kinds were
purely articles of luxury, used then, as now, for
hoarding purposes. There is nothing extra-
ordinary in all this. Even now the only wealth
in many prosperous Chinese villages consists in
a woman, a " water buffalo," a pig, and a few
fowls ; iron pans for cooking, a rough spinning
machine, a few strings of cash, and suits of silk
or cotton clothes ; with lumps of salt or (at all
events until the recent prohibition of smoking


and poppy growing) ounces of opium for barter.
The up-to-date novelties are cotton, kerosene,
cigarettes, spirits, fancy soap, perfumes, and
beer. This being the condition of Chinese
wealth as I have myself (1869-1894) seen it in a
dozen different provinces, it may be easily ima-
gined what the degrees of poverty m^ust be, even
allowing for ultra-modern republican progress.

So soon as ever foreign nations are mentioned
in Chinese history, we hear first of exchange
presents between equals, or tribute from
inferiors, both of which are merely trade in its
earliest form. In offering his hand and heart
to the Chinese Empress-Dowager, the poetical
if not Rabelaisian Hiung-nu Khan Mehteh
(209-173 B.C.) said : " I should like to exchange
what I have for what I have not." He probably
hinted at trade, though the Empress, woman-
like, construing the offer in a more personal
sense, protested that her bodily charms- — more
especially her hair and her teeth — were inade-
quate ; probably she knew of the Tartar custom
of " taking over " a deceased father's wives ;
at any rate, a " girl of the blood " was sent to
him for his immediate needs. He himself sent
camels, horses, and carts, receiving as an equal
in return wadded and silk clothes, buckles, hair-
pins, embroidery, etc. Sonietimes the Hiung-nu
were able to insist on regular subsidies of grain
and yeast besides these complimentary presents ;
for even then the Tartars were drunkards, and
loved to vary their native kumiss with Chinese
samshu. But frontier " fairs " and even clan-
destine trade are also specifically mentioned as
early as 140 B.C. The nomads used to bring
horses and beasts for sale ; more especially the
" 300 mile a day " or " blood-sweating " horses
of Kokand were highly prized. Horses, pearls,
sables, and excellent wood for making arms are


mentioned amongst the earliest products of
North Corca, which then extended far into
Manchuria ; the same thing, plus flax or hemp,
of the Tunguses bordering thereon ; the buck-
thorn arrows with petrified resin or lapis-lazuli
tips brought by the latter were known by report
even in Confucius' time (550-480 B.C.). In the
eastern part of the Corean peninsula iron was
the sole currency : both the Japanese and the
other Corean states used to purchase their iron
there. When the Emperor of China was en-
gaged in turning the flank of the Hiung-nu, he
sent the now celebrated traveller Chang K'ien
(160-110 B.C.) on a mission to some of their
enemies whom they had driven to modern Hi.
Before the envoy got there, these nomads had
been driven by the occupiers of Hi to Grseco-
Bactria, and after driving over the Oxus the
Aryan people of that state, already enfeebled
by Parthian attacks, had possessed themselves
of the country ; thence they crossed the Oxus,
and subsequently formed (150 B.C. to a.d. 50)
the Indo-Scythian empire, one of the kings of
which, Vasudeva, actually accepted a Chinese
title a century or two later (a.d! 229). The
last Greek seems to have been Hermaios, con-
quered in A.D. 50 by Kadphises; but Gondophares
of Parthia a few years later still had a few minor
Greek kinglets under his sway. Chang K'ien,
taken prisoner by the Hiung-nu, escaped after
ten years' captivity to modern Kokand, whence
he found his way into Grseco-Bactria. On his
return to China he brought a report upon West
Asia from Mesopotamia to the Pamirs. He
narrated his having seen Chinese goods in
Bactria, and having ascertained that they came
through India. This led to his being sent on
a second mission to Hi and Kokand, which
country was at last conquered and forced to


accept suzerainty. Attention was also given to
Yiin Nan and Canton, the first because it was
expected to lead to India, the second because
it was found that Yiin Nan produce came to
Canton by river : this led by degrees to the
conquest of both regions, and to the better
knowledge of several new trade routes ; but to
this day the hoped-for southern line of posts
extending from Canton to Bactria has never
been achieved. In the negotiations which pre-
ceded the conquest of Canton (110 B.C.), the
King of South Yiieh complained that he was
not allowed to import iron, agricultural imple-
ments, or female animals. His return presents
include such things as rhinoceros horns and
peacocks, which probably came northwards to
Canton by sea in the way of trade. From all
this we may gather a tolerably accurate notion
of what the ancient land commerce of China
must have been. For clearness' sake I use the
modern names of some places.

The Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Syrians
were already old hands at conducting sea trade
when China under the Han dynasty first found
herself with an unbroken line of coast, and it is
abundantly clear from the works of Pliny and
Ptolemy that an active trade between Alexan-
dria and the Far East had already been in exist-
ence for some centuries before our era. Katti-
gara was the extreme point known to the Red
Sea navigators, and of course each specialist has
his own theory as to whether Rangoon, Singapore,
Canton, or some other modern mart is meant.
It is also a knotty point to decide whether
" King Antun's " messengers already mentioned
reached China in a.d. 166 by way of Rangoon
or by way of " Faifo " in Annam : I have
wandered on foot over and examined both these
places, and also inspected nearly every business

B.C. 200-A.D. 100] INDIAN OCEAN TRADE 49

port of importance on the coasts of Burma,
Siam, the Malay Peninsula, and Indo-China,
besides reading up the special ancient lore of
each place. Conditions of tide, sandbanks, cur-
rent, alluvion, etc., change with each generation,
just as do the vicissitudes of government. All
trade ports become so because the embouchure
of some great river facilitates distribution, be-
cause the anchorage is spacious and safe, or for
other similar reasons ; and the num-ber of such
desirable sites must then, as now, have been
limited to a narrow choice. I am disposed to
think that trade went on between the Syrian
merchants and the natives exactly as it does
now, and probably at most of the same places,
between Canton and the coasts of India ; but
as the Burmese, Annamese, and Siamese as we
now know them had not then reached the
countries in which we at present find them ;

Online LibraryEdward Harper ParkerChina, her history, diplomacy, and commerce, from the earliest times to the present day → online text (page 6 of 35)