Week 10: Engagements and Entanglements

Lecture 1: China and the Wider World

I. China’s Frontiers

  1. North—Mongols … the Great Wall (changes)
  2. South—man yi 蠻夷 (“non-Chinese”) … institution of native chieftaincy

II. Zheng He 鄭和 (1371-1433) and His Voyages

  1. Background—Muslim from Yunnan … eunuch in the Yongle (r.1403–1424) court
  2. Seven voyages (1405–1433)—background … first voyage (1405–1407; 27,800 crew members; 62 large and 255 smaller vessels) … “treasure ships” … as large as 440 feet long (2,500 tons cargo capacity) … Santa Maria of Columbus (125 feet long; 280 tons) … at least 37 countries visited (from Champa to East Africa)
  3. Context—alternative to “Silk Road” … tributary system

III. China and the West

  1. Matteo Ricci (1552–1610)—Portuguese in Macao (1577) … joined Society of Jesus (1571) … studied mathematics and astronomy … arrived in China (1582) … translations … resided in Beijing (1601) … True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven (1603)
  2. Xu Guangqi [Hsü Kuang-ch’i; “Paul Su”] (1562–1633)—Shanghai … father (merchant); mother (local literati family) … ju ren (1597) … jin shi (1604) … translations

IV. Concluding Thoughts


  1. Whom (or what) was Xu Guangqi (1562–1633; Paul Su) defending?
  2. What, in Xu's view, did the "arts of the literati" and the "doctrines of the foreign courtiers" have in common?
  3. To what extent was Xu's attitude towards the teachings of the Jesuits representative of the cultural/religious climate in late-Ming China?


External links to Maps:

History in Maps | Ming Dynasty

Physical Map

Map of Modern China: Physical Geography

Source: National Museum of Chinese History, ed., A Journey into China's Antiquity, vol. 1 (Beijing: Morning Glory Publishers, 1997), pp. 8–9.


Physical Map by Satellite

Map of Modern China: Physical Geography

Administrative Map

Map of Modern China: Administrative Divisions

Source: SACU


External Links to Images:

Met Collection

Images-Porcelain 1



  • Brockey, Liam Matthew. Journey to the East: The Jesuit Mission to China, 1579–1724. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007.
  • Brook, Timothy. Vermeer's Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World. Toronto: Viking Canada, 2008.
  • Dreyer, Edward L. Zheng He: China and the Oceans in the Early Ming Dynasty, 1405–1433. New York: Pearson Longman, 2007.
  • Jami, Catherine, Peter M. Engelfriet, and Gregory Blue, eds. Statecraft and Intellectual Renewal in Late Ming China: the Cross-Cultural Synthesis of Xu Guangqi, 1562–1633. Leiden: Brill, 2001.
  • Wills, John E., Jr. 1688: A Global History. New York: W. W. Norton, 2001.


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