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HIST241: Pre-Modern Northeast Asia

Unit 7: East Asia in a New Global  

When Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese explorer, discovered trading routes to Asia in the fifteenth century, it revolutionized the European world.  However, the Chinese and Japanese were only marginally affected by European contact.  While Europeans were keen to procure Asian goods—paper, silk, cotton textiles, glass, gunpowder—the peoples of China, Japan, and Korea had little interest in Europeans or their trade goods.

As strong maritime powers, the Portuguese, Dutch, and English exerted control over much of the trading network that stretched from the Middle East to East Asia.  However, while Europeans were able to control the seas, they made few gains on land.  The state and military prowess of China and Japan presented formidable challenges to Europeans.  Even in southeast Asia, where weaker states were more vulnerable to European influence, European tribute systems and missionary efforts had only a limited impact upon native peoples.

In this unit, you will consider how Europeans came to dominate the Asian trading network between 1500 and 1700.  However, you will also see that East Asian peoples were only marginally affected by this phenomenon—Europeans had few ideas, goods, or religious beliefs that East Asian peoples wanted to embrace.

Unit 7 Time Advisory
Time Advisory: This unit should take you 11 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 7.1: 3.5 hours

☐    Subunit 7.2: 3.5 hours

☐    Subunit 7.3: 3.5 hours

☐    Subunit 7.4: 0.5 hour

Unit7 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:
- Draw connections between European trading networks and East Asian societies. - Distinguish between the transmission of goods, ideas, and disease along the Eurasian trade routes. - Compare the types of Asian goods Europeans desired with the relative lack of desire by Asians for European commodities. - Connect the points by which technological innovations were transmitted from the East to the West. - Compare the types of commodities and colonial methods used by Portuguese, English and Dutch traders and explorers operating in South and East Asia

7.1 Portuguese and the Age of Discovery   - Reading: Smithsonian Institution: Freer & Sackler Galleries’ Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries Online Exhibit, “The Age of Discovery” Link: Smithsonian Institution: Freer & Sackler Galleries’ Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries Online Exhibit,
“The Age of Discovery” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click on the links on the left-hand side of the screen entitled “Introduction,” “World Views,” and “Lisbon & the Voyages.”  Read each section in its entirety to understand how the small kingdom Portugal became one of the most influential powers in Europe thanks to its voyages of exploration and control of the sea trade in the Indian Ocean Basin and beyond.  Click on each of the images presented on each page to view maps, paintings, and other depictions of Portuguese life during the period.  You should spend approximately 30 minutes reading the text and examining the images.
 
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7.1.1 Vasco da Gama and the Estado da India   - Reading: Smithsonian Institution: Freer & Sackler Galleries’ Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries Online Exhibit, “The Indian Ocean from Muscat to Spice Islands” Link: Smithsonian Institution: Freer & Sackler Galleries’ Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries Online Exhibit, “The Indian Ocean from Muscat to Spice Islands” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click on the links on the left-hand side of the screen entitled “Introduction,” “The Fight for the Indian Ocean,” and “The Indian Viewpoint.”  Read each section in its entirety to explore the Portuguese attempts at monopolizing and dominating the sea trade in the Indian Ocean basin.  Be sure to click on the images in each section to examine the visual differing depictions of both Europeans and Indians of the period.  You should spend approximately 30 minutes reading this text and carefully examining the images.
 
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  • Reading: Fordham University’s Modern History Sourcebook: Paul Halsall’s version of Vasco da Gama’s Round Africa to India, 1497-1498 CE Link: Fordham University’s Modern History Sourcebook: Paul Halsall’s version of Vasco da Gama’s Round Africa to India, 1497-1498 CE (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read this entire account of the voyages of Vasco da Gama, as written by the explorer.  While you read, keep in mind the following questions: How does da Gama view the people of India in comparison with Europeans?  In what ways does religion come into play in his discussion of the trade networks?  What commodities does he value?  How does technology play a role in his establishment of trade networks?  This reading and these questions should take you approximately 3 hours to complete.
     
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7.1.2 A Chinese Desire for Silver, Not Manufactured Goods   - Reading: Columbia University: Asia for Educators’ “The Silver Trade, Part 1” Link: Columbia University: Asia for Educators’ “The Silver Trade, Part 1”(HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read this entire page (up to, but not including the section “Silver turns to Opium”) to understand the trade relationship between China and the European powers to the west.  Traditionally, scholars viewed China as being disinterested in European goods, but instead it was silver, a precious metal that could be used for currency, that the Chinese sought through its global trade networks.  Also, watch the video “The Chinese Demand for Silver,” and view the interactive graphic “The Silver Flow” located on the page.  This reading should take you approximately 30 minutes to complete.
 
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7.2 The World of Asian Trade 7.2 The World of Asian Trade   7.2.1 The Impact of Arab Traders   - Reading: Hofstra University: Department of Global Studies & Geography: Dr. Jean-Paul Rodrigue’s The Geography of Transport Systems: “The Silk Road and Arab Sea Routes” Link: Hofstra University: Department of Global Studies & Geography: Dr. Jean-Paul Rodrigue’s The Geography of Transport Systems: “The Silk Road and Arab Sea Routes” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read this brief essay and view the accompanying map to understand the impact of Arab trade routes in the Middle East beginning in the 7th century.  How do these networks compare with our previous study of the Silk Road in China?  You should dedicate approximately 30 minutes to read the text, study the map, and answer the question above.
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7.2.2 Trade in the Indian Ocean Basin   - Reading: Smithsonian Institution: Freer & Sackler Galleries’ Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries Online Exhibit, “The Indian Ocean from Muscat to Spice Islands” Link: Smithsonian Institution: Freer & Sackler Galleries’ Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries Online Exhibit, “The Indian Ocean from Muscat to Spice Islands” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click on the links on the left-hand side of the screen entitled, “Goa and Gujarat” and “Sri Lanka.”  Read each section in its entirety to get a basic context for the luxury goods and trading centers used by the Portuguese in India.  Be sure to click on the images in each section to examine some of the objects of material culture that would have been traded in this region.  This reading should take you approximately 15 minutes to complete.
 
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7.2.3 From Porcelain to Paper to Silk: Prized Commodities from China   - Web Media: Columbia University: Asia for Educators’ “Timeline of Chinese Inventions” and “China’s Gifts to the West” Link: Columbia University: Asia for Educators’ “Timeline of Chinese Inventions” (HTML) and “China's Gifts to the West” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please review this timeline and article to get a sense of the range of technological innovations and commodities produced by the Chinese that became a vital part of the trade overland (the Silk Road) and at sea (the Indian Ocean Basin).  The timeline covers a wide expanse of dates from 1300 BCE to 1700 CE and gives a brief comparative look at when some of the same innovations appeared in the West.  Then, read the article “China’s Gifts to the West,” which addresses several of these commodities and innovations (such as silk, paper and porcelain) in greater detail.  As you read, consider the following questions: How did these items affect the trade routes of the Silk Road and the Indian Ocean Basin?  In what ways did European kingdoms and empires benefit from the establishment of trading networks with the East?  This reading and these questions should take you approximately 2 hours to complete.
 
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  • Reading: Fordham University’s East Asian History Sourcebook: Paul Halsall’s version of Matteo Ricci’s “The Art of Printing” Link: Fordham University’s East Asian History Sourcebook: Paul Halsall’s version of Matteo Ricci’s “The Art of Printing” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read this 16th century C.E. excerpt from the diary of a Jesuit missionary, Matteo (or Matthew) Ricci.  The entry discusses the history Chinese printing and the processes by which the Chinese produce printed materials.  This reading should take you approximately 15 minutes to complete.
     
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  • Reading: Smithsonian Institution: Freer & Sackler Galleries’ Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries Online Exhibit, “Merchants and Missionaries in China” Link: Smithsonian Institution: Freer & Sackler Galleries’ Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries Online Exhibit, “Merchants and Missionaries in China” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the links on the left-hand side of the screen entitled “Introduction,” “Macau,” “South China,” and “Beijing.”  Read each section in its entirety to the different trading centers and commodities sought after by the Portuguese in China.  Be sure to click on the images in each section to examine some of the objects of material culture that would have been traded in this region.  Reading the text and exploring the images should take you approximately 15 minutes to complete.
     
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7.2.4 Spices   - Reading: Emory University: Postcolonial Studies: Louise Marie M. Cornillez’s “The History of the Spice Trade in India” Link: Emory University: Postcolonial Studies: Louise Marie M. Cornillez’s “The History of the Spice Trade in India” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read this essay on the spice trade in India.  Pay particular attention to the types of spices that were sought after as valuable trade commodities and which countries participated in the trade.  Think about the previous readings in this unit that highlight the role of the Portuguese in the Indian Ocean basin.  This reading should take you approximately 15 minutes to complete.
 
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7.3 Other European Empires in the Asian Trade   7.3.1 The Dutch in Asia   - Reading: Columbia University’s FATHOM Archive: Anthony Farrington’s Trading Places: The East India Company and Asia, “Session 2: Spices and the Dutch.” Link: Columbia University’s FATHOM Archive: Anthony Farrington’s Trading Places: The East India Company and Asia, “Session 2: Spices and the Dutch” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the entire transcript of Session 2 to explore the world of the 17th century Dutch spice trade in Asia.  The reading is adapted from Anthony Farrington’s book on the English East India Company.  As you read, pay particular attention to the types of spices that were highly sought after by European traders.  This reading and note-taking should take you approximately 30 minutes to complete.
 
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7.3.2 The British in Asia   - Reading: University of Wisconsin: Professor J. P. Sommerville’s “Elizabeth I: Exploration and Foreign Policy” Link: University of Wisconsin: Professor J. P. Sommerville’s “Elizabeth I: Exploration and Foreign Policy” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please read the sections entitled “Exploration” and “Trade” to explore the English interest in Asian commodities during the 16th century reign of Queen Elizabeth I.  Many terms and names appear in hypertext.  By clicking on them, you can find out more information about the prominent individuals and terms associated with the English involvement in Asian trade.  You should dedicate approximately 1 hour to read the main text and explore the associated content by clicking on any embedded hyperlinks.
 
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  • Reading: Columbia University’s FATHOM Archive: Anthony Farrington’s Trading Places: The East India Company and Asia, “Sessions 1, 4, and 5” Link: Columbia University’s FATHOM Archive: Anthony Farrington’s Trading Places: The East India Company and Asia, “Session 1,”  “Session 4,” and “Session 5” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read the entire introduction and then click on the links at the bottom of the page to read Sessions 1 (The Beginnings of the English East India Company), 4 (Trading Tea and Porcelain with China), and 5 (The Impact of the East India Company).  These readings will examine the impact of the British East Asia Company on trade in Asia from the 17th to 19th centuries.  Each session is adapted from Anthony Farrington’s exhibit and book on the English East India Company.  The sessions also feature detailed maps and images from the period that help to convey the scenery and commodities associated with the British trade in Asia.  Write a paragraph or two about how the British approach to Asian trade compares to those of the Portuguese and Dutch empires.  Reading, note-taking, and writing this paragraph should take you approximately 2 hours to complete.
     
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7.4 Missionary Efforts   - Reading: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Paul Halsall’s version of John of Monte Corvino’s “Report from China” 1305 Link: Fordham University’s Internet Medieval Sourcebook: Paul Halsall’s version of John of Monte Corvino’s “Report from China, 1305"
 
Instructions: Please read this entire letter from John of Monte Corvino, a Franciscan priest and missionary who set up a religious community in Khanbaliq (or Cambaliech as he refers to it), the Mongol (Tartar) capital built by Khubilai Khan.  Compare this account of a European interacting with the Mongols with Marco Polo’s account.  How do they differ?  How did the Mongol people respond to John’s efforts?  This reading and these questions should take you approximately 30 minutes to complete.
 
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