2006 Annual Meeting: Border-Crossing Sessions



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Rhetoric and Practice in Qing Regional Relations

Organizer: Saeyoung Park, Johns Hopkins University

Chair: Ronald Toby, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign

Discussant: Joshua A. Fogel, York University

Imperial rhetoric concerning the outside world has often given the impression that the international relations in East Asia were governed by rigidly ideological, and often isolationist, schema. All the papers in this panel demonstrate that statesmen on both sides deftly shaped discourses to suit pragmatic concerns. This panel also utilizes a transnational perspective to challenge received wisdom on Chinese international trade, border security and Qing-Choson relations. Gang Zhao's paper argues against the prevailing view that the Qing trade policy was restrictive. The author proposes that Kangxi constructed his maritime policy according to the dictates of economic advantage, while carefully negotiating hostile neo-Confucian rhetoric. Saeyoung Park examines the Korean experience during the Manchu invasion (pyongja horan), and the contentious narrative that has subsequently become part of Korean historical consciousness. Seonmin Kim explores the tension between rhetoric and practice in the defining and policing of the Qing-Choson border. She also highlights multiple cultural and economic motives that underlied Qing border strictures.

This panel also explores the multiple faces of China: as the fount of civilization, an economic competitor in the mad dash for precious ginseng, and a menacing military threat. From the viewpoint of the states and its officials, the gap between the various nested images provided space to press their own agendas. As these papers will show, examining China in a transnational context reveals a fluid and complex interaction between regional actors that is a remarkable testament to the creativity of statesmen in bridging rhetoric and practice.

Kangxi and the Making of the 1684 Open Trade Policy

Gang Zhao, Johns Hopkins University

In the early 16th century, private Chinese merchants began to play a central role in the emerging global economy, dominating the transnational maritime trade in East Asia. This prompted an extensive reconsideration of the pre-existing maritime policy among the Han and Manchu elites. Many of them shifted their position, embracing maritime trade as a new approach to wealth and power. As a result, the Qing court eventually made the most open trade policy in imperial Chinese history, which was carried out until the early 19th century and contributed to the development of the East Asian trade network.

The ultimate architect of the 1684 open trade policy was the Kangxi emperor, but his role in the policy making process has remained unstudied. By examining how Kangxi, persuaded by both Manchu and Han elites, constructed and insisted on the new open trade policy in response to the increasingly economic links between China and foreign world, this paper will examine a hitherto unexplored aspect of the Qing maritime history. After gradually becoming aware of the significance of overseas trade for the Chinese economy, Kangxi decided to lift the maritime ban against the private traders while opening the Chinese ports to foreigners. During the ensuing thirty years, Kangxi insisted on his open policy despite a variety of opposition. The case of Kangxi, the paper argues, shows that, unlike the widely-accepted view, the Qing court was not passive and closed, but rather active, open, and creative in the face of the impact of the emerging global economy.

Shame and Meaning: The Manchu Invasion of Korea

Saeyoung Park, Johns Hopkins University

The Ming-Qing transition fractured the cultural and political consciousness of China and Korea. Students of China know of the event as a primary ordering concept, but there has been little study of the regional impact of the transition. More than any previous war, the Ming-Qing transition commanded the attention and provoked profound self reflection in the neighboring countries it affected. This was the Great War of the period, and no country  in the 'Confucian sphere' escaped the reverberations of this conflict.

From the Korean perspective, the Ming-Qing transition comes to its conclusion with the successful invasion of Korea in 1636. This paper examines the Korean experience during the Manchu invasion (pyongja horan), and the narrative that has subsequently become part of Korean historical consciousness. The motifs that dominate this account, such as: the invasion by a less civilized people, being torn between honor and survival, the flight to Namhan Castle, the bitter humiliation of defeat, have coalesced into a narrative of

'shame' that has continued to structure Korean historical understanding. The Manchu invasion of Korea holds a place in a triplica of shame: the Japanese invasion of 1592 (imjin waeran), the Manchu invasion of 1636 and the later Japanese colonization. Rather than emerging as a coherent plotline created in the service of nationalism in the 20th century, this paper argues that the genesis of this narrative can be found in the 18th century, and has continued to be a fruitful site of multiple meanings and memories.

Closed Frontier, Disturbed Borders: Ginseng and Border Trespassing between Qing

Seonmin Kim, Duke University

In the relations between Qing China and Choson Korea, few things were more decisive than the fact that they were physically adjacent to each other. Their borders, the Changbaishan and the Yalu and Tumen rivers, were highly respected by both the Chinese and the Koreans, because the mountains and the shores of the rivers were rich in natural resources, especially ginseng. Moreover, the Changbaishan and the northeast frontier were declared as the sacred birth place of the Manchu, a claim that arguably superseded the economic merits of the region in the eyes of the Qing court. Regardless of Qing efforts to restrict access to this region, Koreans persisted in crossing the borderland so long as ginseng was available. Constantly annoyed by rampant Korean border trespassing, the Qing had to take actions to protect the borderland and ginseng from its neighbor.

By examining the Manchu efforts to eliminate Korean illegal access to the borderland, this paper aims to explicate a new dimension of Qing-Choson relations. Unlike our conventional understanding that economic interests were less significant in Qing international policy, the Manchu emperors continued to push the Koreans to enforce border security and initiated the investigation of the Changbaishan, in order to protect the precious roots. This paper will also examine several unsuccessful attempts to position Qing soldiers along the shore of the Yalu River in the 1740s, and what it tells us about Qing concerns about the security of its borders with Choson.