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In Session: Sociocultural Dimensions of Transregional Intelligence Gathering in East Asia, 1450-1850
1: Mapping a Japanese Pirate Lair: Cross-Cultural Cartographic Representations of the Gotō Islands in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries
Friday, March 26, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
University of Illinois, Springfield, United States
The threat posed by Japanese pirates in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries pushed the courts of Joseon Korea and Ming China to collect intelligence on the Japanese archipelago and its seafarers. Their emissaries voyaged to Japan and their officials debriefed arrivals from the archipelago, enabling dialogue with a variety of Japanese warlords, monks, and mariners. This intelligence gathering and exchange inspired cultural production, including new cross-cultural, hybrid forms of maritime mapping that modified the land- and state-centric forms of mapping dominant in the cultural cores across fifteenth- and sixteenth-century East Asia. This paper traces the resulting evolving spatial conceptions in cartographic representations by focusing on the Gotō Islands, a center of transregional piracy and navigational pivot point on the sea-lanes of East Asia. It examine maps in a 1471 Korean handbook on Japan and Ryukyu, a 1561 Chinese military treatise on Japanese pirates, anda 1565 Chinese travelogue. Remote from political cores in Japan and enjoying considerable political autonomy, the Gotō Islands represented the first and last landfall in the Japanese archipelago, a gateway to the shortest sea-route to the Chinese coast, and the intersection point between archipelagic sailing and voyaging dependent on seasonal winds. The Joseon court focused on Gotō as a nest of the Japanese piracy that had devastated the Korean peninsula in the fourteenth century but also as a source of maritime trade. For Ming Chinese officials, Gotō became associated with piracy after mid-sixteenth-century Chinese-merchant leaders of Japanese pirates established a base and multi-ethnic diaspora there.