China conversations are happening everywhere at the moment, at every minute of every day. It doesn’t matter where you are, or who you are with, China’s rise is on everyone’s lips. Whether it is the Belt and Road Initiative, COVID-19, or the South China Sea, China seems to have piqued everyone’s interest. So, have you ever stopped to think about how China first came into contact with the wider world? Or what happened when it did?
The earliest known evidence of Sino-foreign maritime contact comes from the Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE), when Emperor Wu sent envoys to Southeast Asia in 111 BCE. Over the next 2,000 years, the sea routes they used grew into an economic architecture that extended well beyond trade to transfer culture, knowledge, people, technology, language and traditions. In short, a shift in geopolitical power that contributed to the development of many of the world’s great civilisations.
That’s the topic I’m exploring in a new book on Sino-foreign maritime cultural exchange. Through archaeology, art history, and material culture studies, the book tells the story of the globalisation of Sino-foreign maritime cultural exchange and the networks that facilitated it. It sheds new light on how Sino-foreign social relations were constituted, reproduced, or altered through material forms. Our aim is to develop a new theory of the globalisation of Sino-foreign Maritime Cultural Exchange.
The book will be jam-packed with information on:
- dry docks and shipyards;
- ports, harbours and landing places;
- maritime cultural landscapes;
- artworks, artefacts or isolated finds;
- technological transfer, hybridisation and exchange; and the
- trade of goods, knowledge, information, legal systems, languages, social practice, ritual and religion, from the earliest times to the present day.
A collaboration between Helsinki University and Dalian Maritime University, the book is co-edited by my colleagues Dr Veronica Walker-Vadillo and Professor Liu Yingchun. It presents new evidence for Sino-foreign maritime cultural exchange from the earliest times to the present day. We have contributions from Abu Dhabi, Australia, Bulgaria, China, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, Portugal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and the USA, to name but a few. It is the first volume of its kind to be published in English, and we are pretty darn excited about it. The publication is expected to be released on 30 December 2021, so watch this space!