China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
The goal of this panel to contextualize recent writing about China’s littoral with regard to cultural dissemination, trade, and political power into a broader sweep of Chinese maritime history. Although many of those living along China’s littoral are often stereotyped as greedy and violent pirates, these people were in fact part of a vibrant socially complex world in which religious, social, and political connections changed over time, revealing maritime-orientated people’s participation in the shifting dynamics of contact zones from the Later Tang and Song dynasty, Yuan dynasty, to the late Ming.
The first presentation by Hugh Clark investigates the diffusion of the Mazu cult among local trading networks, and then its expansion into foreign ecumene while sustaining the Chinese identity of its adherents. The second paper by John Chaffee examines the way in which patronage connections thrust one-time deviant coastal predators of the late Southern Song period into the role of powerful regional officials in the early Yuan, a transformation which in itself challenged the governing authority of a centralized empire. The third presentation by Harriet Zurndorfer focuses on how the Portuguese, who had been banned from China in 1521, were able within 33 years to earn the trust of Guangdong officialdom who bestowed Macao and trading rights in perpetuity to these Europeans. The last paper by Travis Shutz analyzes the roles of Chinese non-state actors, i.e. smuggler-pirates and overseas traders, transacting with Philippine-based Spanish authorities eager to gain access to the Chinese market.