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Sealords live in vain : Fujian and the making of a maritime frontier in seventeenth-century China

  • Author(s): Ho, Dahpon David
  • et al.
Abstract

From 1661 to 1683, the province of Fujian in southeast China was the scene of the most devastating scorched earth campaign in early-modern history. A thousand-mile stretch of coast lay in wreckage, and the smoke of burning towns darkened the sky for days. Hundreds of thousands were killed, and hundreds of thousands more were uprooted as the Qing state, in the midst of its conquest of China, fought a total war to defeat the sealord Koxinga (Zheng Chenggong). The present dissertation seeks to uncover the history of the Qing Coastal Depopulation (Qianjie) and the sealords of Fujian. It also aims at an interpretation, through the Fujianese historical experience, of an East Asian maritime system that may furnish a working vocabulary for integrating the Chinese littoral with early -modern world history. It begins by placing Fujian province and her seafaring peoples in the context of a century of evolution from the Wako pirate wars of the mid- 1500s to the brutal depopulation of the Chinese coast of the 1660s. It describes how the Seaban or maritime prohibitions of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) militarized the Chinese coast and inadvertently encouraged oligopoly (by a confederation of smuggler-pirates) and then monopoly (in the rise of a sealord). It ends with the brutal story of how the Qing state created a maritime frontier, destroyed the autonomous coastal powers, and reshuffled Fujian into a provincial administration

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