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How closed was Ming Dynasty? China's lagging behind global trend starts here

In eyes of many people, Qing Dynasty's policy of "closing country behind closed doors" is main factor why China has fallen behind global trend in modern times. However, in reality, Ming Dynasty was most closed era in China. From founding of Zhu Yuanzhang, Ming dynasty introduced an unprecedented and strict "marine ban" policy, which reached its peak during Jiajing period when Shibo department was abolished. Even during "Longqing Switch" period, when Ming Dynasty was at its most open, Ming Dynasty only allowed trade in Yuegang and did not allow trade with Japan. And most closed era of "closing country" in Qing Dynasty was also time when Guangzhou opened its doors to trade, and there were no national restrictions. This means that most open era of Ming Dynasty could not even be compared with most closed era of Qing Dynasty.

1. "Naval ban" in early 200s of Ming dynasty.

The Ming Dynasty's "marine prohibition" policy has been implemented since Zhu Yuanzhang founded Ming Dynasty. The reasons why Zhu Yuanzhang imposed a maritime ban were, firstly, deep-rooted self-sufficiency of small-scale peasant farming, and secondly, remnants of Fang Guozhen and Zhang Shicheng at that time colluded with Japanese pirates to attack long coastline of dynasty Min. Zhu Yuanzhang wrote "marine prohibition" policy into "Daming Law" of Ming Dynasty, which became main national policy of Ming Dynasty. During Zhu Yuanzhang period, severity of maritime prohibition was also unprecedented: in addition to forbidding commoners from trading with foreign countries, private individuals were even prohibited from building large ships and brigs, it was forbidden for commoners to fish in sea, and to send people from coastal areas to inland areas. Zhu Yuanzhang also incorporated Lianzuo's law into no-sea policy.

How closed was Ming Dynasty? China's lagging behind global trend starts here

Japanese Pirates Invasion

During Ming Chengzu Zhu Di period, in order to demonstrate his legitimacy, Ming Chengzu hoped to loosen maritime ban, "attract absolute power" and allow all nations to come to court to establish prestige. Thus, maritime prohibition policy was relaxed to a certain extent. But what Zhu Di weakened was only for tribute trading, such as starting to establish a tribute exchange with Japan, sending Zheng He to West, etc. in order to increase prestige of country. Private trading is still prohibited. To prevent foreign businessmen from pretending to be tribute missions, Zhu Di strictly followed trade procedures, such as implementing a survey and cooperation system for Japan.

How closed was Ming Dynasty? China's lagging behind global trend starts here

During Xuande's reign (1426–1435), Ming Dynasty policies tended to be curtailed, such as nullifying Nuer Gandu division and chief envoy Jiaozhi's division, and suspending Zheng He's travels to West. etc., and sea ban policy was tightened, "Strict prohibition on foreign relations" was promulgated, and it was clearly indicated that an informer could receive half of prisoner's property. If he did not tell, same crime would be punished. During Jiajing period, two major Japanese tribute missions had a "tribute battle" in Ningbo. The Jiajing then abolished Fujian, Zhejiang, and Guangdong Shibo departments, and tribute trade was also severely restricted. Trade tribute to Japan. The no-naval policy of Jiajing period (1522-1566) was strictest era in Chinese history.

How closed was Ming Dynasty? China's lagging behind global trend starts here
2. Comparison of Longqing switch and closed doors

In 1567, Emperor Muzong of Ming Dynasty announced abolition of "marine prohibition", and 200-year-old maritime prohibition policy since time of Zhu Yuanzhang was finally relaxed. Why is it called loosening? Because in fact ban on sea has not really been lifted. The progress of Longqing transition is to allow private trade. This is first time that Ming Dynasty merchants were able to trade with foreign countries. However, only place where sea was banned during Ming Dynasty was Fuyue Port in Zhangzhou, Fujian Province, which was a "one-port trade" policy. Also, while private trade is allowed, trade with Japan is prohibited.

How closed was Ming Dynasty? China's lagging behind global trend starts here

Even in open Yuegang, degree of opening is very limited. First, there must be strict procedures in trade, all foreign merchant ships must enter here to go through complex procedures, and from here they can load and leave port, enter port for inspection. All ships must apply for certificates such as "Ship Permit" and "Commercial Certificate" before they can go to sea. Regarding ship sizes, "the eastern and western oceans are limited to 44 ships." If time to go to sea exceeds set time, then this will be punished as crime of "passing Japanese."

How closed was Ming Dynasty? China's lagging behind global trend starts here

The Great Wall of Linhai

Of course, Longqing transition did have a huge impact on China at that time, for example, a large amount of silver flowed into China, which accelerated monetization of silver in China; conditions; contributed to introduction of Western religion and culture into China and ushered in "spread of Western learning to east," contributed to economic recovery in China's coastal regions, and so-called "germination of capitalism" appeared in certain cities and industries such as Hangzhou and Suzhou. However, it should be noted that at present, China is no longer center of gravity of world, and Spain, Portugal and Netherlands are already leading development of global trend. The change of Longqing is nothing more than China's limited integration into Western business system.

How closed was Ming Dynasty? China's lagging behind global trend starts here


In 22nd year of Qianlong reign (1757), Qing Dynasty began policy of "closing country and closing country". Customs trade: Strict restrictions on Chinese merchants going to sea, such as registering merchants going to sea, obtaining supporting documents, obtaining ship guides and waist cards indicating size of vessel, name of merchant, age of person on board, place of departure and position at sea From , what goods to carry, trade in a certain place, date of return, etc. Require merchants and civilians who have gone abroad to return on time, and impose fines or restrictions on those who do not return home on time. From above, it can be seen that content of "closed doors and closed countries" is almost same as policy of "switching Longqing", and "closed closed countries" can also trade in Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Fujian and other places, with more a wide range, and there are no rules prohibiting trade with Japan.

How closed was Ming Dynasty? China's lagging behind global trend starts here

Guangzhou, thirteen lines

The impact of Qing Dynasty foreign trade on China was also similar to that of Longqing switch. If a large amount of silver flowed to China, Britain, maritime hegemon of time, did not take advantage of trade with Qing Dynasty. As a result, Western religious ideas were brought to China from Guangzhou and elsewhere. In addition, we can see scale of foreign trade of Qing Dynasty based on scale of merchant ships of Qing Dynasty. Prior to Opium War, total number of coastal merchant ships of Qing Dynasty was about 10,000 vessels with a displacement of 1.5 million tons. There are more than 21,500 ships of various sizes in United Kingdom with a total displacement of 2.4 million tons, in USA - 1.35 million tons of ships. It can be seen that Qing Dynasty was still one of countries with largest foreign trade scale in world at that time.

Thirdly, tributary trade of "thin to fat"

In eyes of many people, Ming Dynasty is an era of access to sea. The reason is that Zheng He's travels to West and so-called "all peoples are suing" in Ming Dynasty. The Ming Dynasty was not a landlocked era. Zhu Yuanzhang once listed 15 neighboring countries as "countries that cannot be conquered", and created group's motto: "All barbarians in four directions are limited by mountains and seas. in corner; get their land. It is not enough to supply, and not enough to command your people. If he does not think about it and worries our side, this is a bad omen. It is not a problem for China, and it is not a good omen for me to gather troops and attack easily. Actually, this is just an official tribute trade to Ming Dynasty, not a private trade. In order to allow neighboring countries to "pay tribute" to Ming Dynasty, Ming Dynasty pursued a policy of "more and more flourishing exchanges". This policy is in line with maritime prohibition.

How closed was Ming Dynasty? China's lagging behind global trend starts here

First of all, Ming Dynasty introduced a "marine ban" and banned private trade. Then, if a foreign country wants to trade with China, it can only go through official tribute trade. The Danish trade is to ask all countries to express their surrender to Ming dynasty and then send envoys to pay their respects to "heavenly dynasty". Generally speaking, foreign countries are unwilling to lower their status to pay homage to Ming Dynasty, but Ming Dynasty government has implemented "more and more prosperity" method to attract other countries with huge benefits. Regardless of country, as long as it pays tribute to Ming Dynasty in accordance with rules, a certain number of rare items and animals, Ming Dynasty is sure to "reward" 4 or 5 times more.

How closed was Ming Dynasty? China's lagging behind global trend starts here

Such as Zheng He's travels to West, he promoted this type of trade. Because of huge rewards, countries along coast rushed to "pay tribute", and even barren and backward countries of Africa also captured local wild animals to pay tribute. The royal family of Ming Dynasty could mine rare and exotic items such as pearls, coral, spices, wood, and wild animals. All this was intended for royal family for pleasure and squandering, and basically did not contribute to economic development of Ming dynasty. Due to large number of rewards to tributary authors, China's copper coins continued to flow, leading to a shortage of domestic copper coins and depreciation of paper money (Daming Baochao). During Xuande's reign, price of rice, cotton cloth, and other materials rose 50 times compared to Hongwu's, and price of cloth increased more than 300 times. Inflation seriously hit development of industry and trade, and also seriously damaged interests of ordinary people. It is for this reason that Ming dynasty was forced to pursue a policy of limiting amount and size of tribute from different countries. The voyage to West was eventually canceled because country's finances could not support it.

How closed was Ming Dynasty? China's lagging behind global trend starts here

Zheng He's travels

For neighboring countries, paying tribute to Ming Dynasty is a way to get funds. For example, Japan was unwilling to demand tribute and pay tribute in early days, but later experienced wars, economic depression and an empty treasury, so it paid tribute in order to obtain funds for economic development. Later, Japan paid more and more tribute to Ming Dynasty, and scale got bigger and bigger. There was even a "tributary battle" between two Japanese families to compete for right to pay tribute to Ming Dynasty. At that time, in order to raise funds for birthday banquets, some Japanese shogunate tried to solve problem by sending tribute ships. For neighboring countries, Ming Dynasty was an inexhaustible cash cow.

How closed was Ming Dynasty? China's lagging behind global trend starts here

Battle of Memory

There are thus many countries paying tribute to Ming Dynasty, reaching over 140 at same time. Some western colonies and merchants also claimed to be tribute trading missions with Ming dynasty, for example Ming dynasty actually considered merchants from Spain, Netherlands and Portugal to pay tribute. During late Ming Dynasty, Matteo Ricci came to China and learned about tribute trading system. He believes that tribute trade is world's tribute to China at first glance, but in reality it is China's tribute to other countries of world. At end of Ming Dynasty, due to empty treasury of Ming Dynasty, tribute trading could hardly be sustained, so tribute trading was also severely restricted.

How closed was Ming Dynasty? China's lagging behind global trend starts here

Tribute to Africa

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