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In Session: Trade Networks, Maps, and Literatures in Early Modern South China Seas and Malay Archipelago (Song – Qing Dynasty)
3: Shifting Perspectives of Island Southeast Asia Through the Eyes of the Chinese Diaspora, Tenth to Fifteenth centuries
Monday, March 22, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
Northern Arizona University, United States
Over the course of the tenth to fourteenth centuries, as the Song (960 – 1278) and Yuan (1278 – 1368) courts progressively freed up China’s maritime trade into private hands, the frequency of Chinese travelling to Southeast Asia to trade and sojourn intensified. This paper seeks to explore the changing perspectives of Island Southeast Asian ports and societies in the eyes of the Chinese who visited the region, based on Chinese historical documents of the period in question, and to trace the shift in view of Southeast Asia and its cultures from being of esoteric interest in the tenth century, to becoming an extension of the Chinese’s perception of the Sinosphere by the mid fourteenth century. This shift in perspective of Island Southeast Asia became so pervasive that it culminated, by the fifteenth century, in the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644) regarding Island Southeast Asia to be part of the larger Sinosphere that stretched from the Straits of Melaka in the west, through to the Japanese Archipelago in the east.