Contested histories of Ming agency in the Java Sea, Straits of Melaka, and Bay of Bengal region

Authored by: Kenneth R. Hall

The Ming World

Print publication date:  August  2019
Online publication date:  August  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138190986
eBook ISBN: 9780429318719
Adobe ISBN:


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Past Indian Ocean scholarship focusing on the Ming era has been prejudicial to the China to South India to Middle East passageway of the Indian Ocean trade, with little substantive evidence documenting the details of the Bay of Bengal, Straits of Melaka, and Java Sea passageway between eastern India and China. Clearly the Southeast Asian region was a major landfall on the pre-sixteenth-century international East–West maritime route connecting the Middle East and China, by way of India, as documented most notably in archeological recoveries of shipwreck cargoes and contemporary ceramic production sites in Vietnam and Thailand. Recent scholarship focus on the Ming trade has specifically addressed the Southeast Asia engagements of Chinese maritime diaspora. 1 In doing so revisionists have focused on Ming encounters with resident maritime trade communities in Southeast Asia as they have re-conceptualized the maritime network itself, breaking free from the prejudicial scholarly focus dominating Indian, Chinese, and the Middle Eastern marketplaces and agencies that has constrained prior studies. Today international maritime trade and transit from the South Asian shoreline of the Bay of Bengal to the South China and Java Sea is conceived to have temporarily produced an inclusive extended eastern Indian Ocean borderless zone of contact before European presence became a factor, in a period often dated from the fall of Melaka to the Portuguese in 1511.

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