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History of Sino-European Relations from Yuan Times to Opium Wars

History of Sino-European Relations from Yuan Times to Opium Wars

The Sino-European Relations is the relationship between the European Union and the Peoples Republic of China. The foreign trade in China started as early as in 206 BCE-9 CE during the reign of Western Han and existed consistently since then. China and Europe trade has a long history from the times of Yuan to the Opium wars. Mexico and Peru produced the largest portion of silver worldwide (Austermann et al. 244). This led to Europeans shipping silver from those regions to China. The silver trade had a great effect on the economy of the world. Moreover, it could be defined as the start of the global economy. The trade of other commodities was established due to the silver trade that became so prominent in China. Thus, this essay aims to critique the role played by trade during the era of Simo-European relations from the Yuan era to the Opium wars; with specific regard to the commodities that were traded and the traders involved.

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The Portuguese led the early Western European attempts to reach Asian markets. These people were at sea in the 15th century, and they reached China as trading pirates as well as a recognized group. The trading pirates communicated with the Chinese government. They even put up a stronghold on the territory of China and interfered with the already formed trade patterns. They also involved themselves in buying Chinese children that were offered by abductors. Later on, the government granted the Portuguese the trading rights for the south of Canton. The Portuguese established themselves as the chief performers in the exchanges of commodities in Asian countries and were involved in trade between China and Japan, eventually making money to buy goods that were needed back in Europe (Austermann et al. 178).

The Spanish, who were the challengers of the Portuguese for territorial and trading rights, later established themselves in the Philippines, which they claimed for Spain. This led to Manila becoming the center of the Spaniards in carrying out trade in China, while Macao was for the Portuguese. The silver that was produced by the Spaniards in their new territories ultimately traveled across the Pacific and through Manila, ending in China. Europeans could trade it for the commodities that were needed in their country (Vogt 28). Asia was the center of the economy of the world, while China had a high demand for silver.

Europeans transported silver to China, and from China they could get products such as silk, porcelain pottery, and Chinese tea. The items Europeans imported from China were in high demand in Europe, and so it made the trade between the two countries very effective. China also exported gold to Europe and other countries. The trade of silver brought about a period of profitable free enterprises and it was viewed as a link between the primitive times and the current times. China controlled the silver imports. The greater demand for silver was because Chinese used it to manufacture the currency of their country. The Chinese previously used paper money and copper as a medium of exchange. Silver was preferred as the currency since it could be assessed easily for purity, unlike the copper that was previously used. The taxes by the government had to be paid in silver, hence making silver the great resource of the economy of China. The supply of silver from Europeans continued to increase, and this contributed to the inflation of the price of the silver that ultimately led to deflation of prices of all other goods. The economy of China was wholly founded on silver, which led to the fall of the Ming dynasty (Br?dsgaard & Kirkeb?k 21).

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The silver trade between Europe and China played a major role in bringing the world together in a significant way. The trade went on for some years, but after a period Europeans stopped shipping as much silver to East Asia for their own reasons. The major reason for this was that they needed to reserve silver so that it could be used to make payments to the armed forces, because many wars were taking place at the same time. This led them to explore other things that they could export to China. However, according to the experts in China, they were no better things they could export. China at that time already excelled in the manufacturing and production industries. Later on, the Europeans eventually discovered that they could export opium to China.

The smoke-able opium was introduced to China. The opium was first used for medicinal purposes in the country. Later it was mixed with tobacco and became a newly exported commodity in China. The opium smoking spread from Southeast and with the number of opium addicts increasing, so did the demand for the drug. The opium trade was at first controlled by the Dutch. It was later taken over by the British, who traded opium for silver in the southern China. At that point the trade of opium expanded greatly to other parts of the world. The exportation of opium had a great effect on the flow of silver in India. The British and Europeans took control of the opium trade since they had a long-lasting trade imbalance in China (Br?dsgaard & Kirkeb?k 37). The high European demand for porcelain pottery, Chinese tea, and silk made it convincing for Europeans to dwell on the opium trade so as to help solve the trade imbalance that existed. With the trading of opium, the Europeans got silver from China, which in turn they used to purchase the commodities needed back in Europe. Hence, the trade imbalance ended.

Additionally, Columbia had a trade exchange with Asia and Europeans. Thy traded in crop varieties which included the potato, the sweet potato, the tomato, the peanut, corn and the chili pepper. These crops were not formerly known in Europe, Asia, and China, so it was important to trade in them. They were brought into Europe and Asia in which they were accepted quicker than in Europe. The crop was grown in the countries, and it became a part of their staple food. The potato, corn, the sweet potato, and the peanut got to China by the year 1600, and the trade picked on well in the 18th century.

The trade had a great impact on China in that there was a great increase in the number of the populace. The immensely growing population enabled an increase in the number of human beings coming to the world, people having a satisfying feeling of being alive and opportunities to live a good life according to Confucian doctrines. This marked a great success in the reign of Qing. The population growth was accomplished with unchanging standards of living due to the increased complexity of the economy. The trade had a positive effect on the technological changes, especially in agriculture, which lead to an increased population growth (Vogt 14). The trade also had an important role in the expansion of the nations of China and Europe and initiation of long-distance political and economic relations between the nations. The trade between Europe and China still exists, and they are two of the major traders in the world. Europe is the largest trading partner of China, with China being the second biggest tradeoff partner of Europe.

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The Role of Jesuits as Mediators between Chinese and European Culture and Thought

Jesuits first attempt to reach China was in 1552 through the effort of St. Francis Xavier, who was the founding member of the Society of Jesus. The attempt was not successful due to the death of Xavier on the Chinese island of Shangchuan after one year. The mission work in China has started again after three decades headed by other leading members, among whom was Matteo Ricci. The missions of Jesuits in China contributed greatly to the development of relations between China and the countries of the Western World. Therefore, this essay will analyze the roles of Jesuits as mediators between the Chinese and European cultures. The ways in which Jesuits conveyed information about China to Europe and vice versa will be analyzed as well.

The Jesuits had a very important role between the 16th and the 17th century, which included transmitting knowledge, science, and culture in China and other western countries. They also greatly influence the Christian Culture in China that is still observed up to today (Tamura et al. 71). The Jesuits also introduced mathematics, Western Science, visual arts, and astronomy to the Chinese imperial court. They also conceded on crucial inter-cultural and philosophical dialogue with the Chinese researchers, especially those who represented Confucianism. Through the influence of Jesuits, many Chinese and those who were greatly involved in Confucianism adopted Christianity, got positions as pastors, and joined the Society of Jesus, the members of which were trusted and seen as the emperors advisors who were the most reliable and treasured. They also held the most significant posts in the imperial government. The number of Jesuits totaled to 920 between 1552 and 1800. Some of them were French and Portuguese.

Jesuits had a great power of prediction in the areas of astronomy. They went ahead, recognized the gaps that existed within the Chinese knowledge, and had a great impact on changing the calendar Chinese used. A number of Jesuits decided to pursue careers as scientific advisors, writers, mapmakers, interpreters of European scientific transcripts. Some even presumed leadership roles. Some cooperated with the researchers in China to make world atlases and agreements on mechanics and astronomy. Jesuits did great works of transmitting the science from Europe and the technology to China. Their services had a positive impact on China, so they were highly recognized.

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How Jesuits conveyed information to China about Europe

The Jesuits played a major role in introducing Western science and mathematics to China. They were popularly known and acknowledged as foreign intellectuals in late Ming court circles. They were also considered remarkable experts, particularly for their knowledge in areas of astronomy, mathematics, geography, hydraulics, and calendar marking. The first book was published containing information about mechanical knowledge to a Chinese audience by the Jesuit Johann Schreck. The impact caused by this publication influenced and worked in both directions.

The Jesuits went ahead and made translation of western mathematics together with the works of astronomy into Chinese. This made the Chinese people and researchers develop a great interest in getting to learn more about the sciences. The Jesuits made great astronomical surveillance which was very widespread and approved of the major up-to-date cartographic work in China (O’Malley 286). They were known in Europe for the scientific achievements of the ancient Chinese culture. The European scientists learned about the Chinese science and culture through these mediators. Between 1575 and 1620, Matteo Ricci together with Sabatino de Ursis achieved great works, which include working on the Chinese transformation of Euclids elements, printed books in Chinese on Western Hydraulics, and forecasting an eclipse which the space scientists of China had not expected earlier. They also worked on opening the door to the alteration of the Chinese calendar, rewriting it using western calculation techniques.

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German Jesuit named Johann Adam Schall was a missionary to China. He established missionary work, which was very successful. This led to him becoming a reliable counselor of the Shunzhi Emperor of the Qing Dynasty. He went ahead and became a public servant, holding a significant position in line with the mathematical school. He greatly contributed to the progress of the Chinese calendar and the astronomical studies. In 1645, he also contributed to the beginning of calculation of the motions of both the sun and the moon with sinusoids in Shixian Calendar also referred to as the Book of the Conformity of Time (Stockwell 71). Through the position he held, he was able to give the Jesuits a go-ahead on behalf of the emperor to build churches and preach all over the country. His missions came to an end when he passed on after being imprisoned and released due to the many hardships he had gone through. The Western calendar was adapted by the court due to the things Schall achieved during his reign. All his documents were collected and kept in the Vatican library.

Jesuits also managed to construct churches and established the Western Architectural classes. A number of churches came to be. These include the Nantang or Southern Church which was established in 1605, the Dongtang or Eastern Church which was established in 1655, and the Beitang or Northern Church established in the year 1703.

How Jesuits conveyed information to Europe about China

Jesuits also played a major role in transferring Chinese knowledge from China to Europe, which involved decoding the works of Confucius into European languages. Ricci played a big part in reporting the thoughts of Confucius. Together with Michelle Ruggieri, he attempted a translation of the Four Books which were the standard introduction into the Confucian Canon. All the works generated by the Jesuits generations on the classics of Confucius ended up with Fathers Phillipe Couplet, Prospero Intorcetta et.al publishing Confucius Sinarum Philosophy in Paris in 1687 (Tamura et al. 96).This book was an explained Latin conversion of the Four Books plus the autobiography of Confucius. These workings had a great significance to the thinkers of Europe during that time, particularly the ones who had an interest in the incorporation of the arrangement of morals of Confucius into Christianity.

European philosophers, such as Leibniz, were attracted to the developed detailed accounts of the principles of Yin-Yang and the eight trigrams when they appeared in Europe in the mid-17th century. Jesuits also reported the Chinese sciences and technologies to the West. A French Jesuit by name Joseph Marie Amiot published a Manchu dictionary in 1789. It was a work of great value. He used a language that had not been known in Europe before. He also wrote other collections. His twelfth volume of the collection, Vie de Confucius, was the best among all of his forerunners regarding accuracy and completeness.

The Jesuits mapmakers traveled throughout the Chinese empire at the beginning of the 18th century. They carried out observations and defined the latitude and the longitude in relation to Beijing and other regions. They also sketched maps. All these workings were put in summary in the four- volume book published by Jean-Baptiste Du Halde in Paris in 1735. Additionally, a map was compiled which was published in 1734 by Jean Baptiste Bourguignon dAnville (O’Malley 344).

Considering the ways Jesuits conveyed the information about China to Europe and about Europe to China, it feels that telling China about Europe had a greater significance historically. Many developments that had never existed before were brought to China are still relevant today. Additionally, setting up of churches in China had a great significance, and Chinese came to know more about Christianity as preached by Jesuits.

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