Chinese Circulations

Capital, Commodities, and Networks in Southeast Asia

Chinese Circulations

Book Pages: 552 Illustrations: 22 photos, 25 tables, 15 maps, 5 figures Published: April 2011

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Asian Studies > Southeast Asia, History > Asian History

Chinese merchants have traded with Southeast Asia for centuries, sojourning and sometimes settling, during their voyages. These ventures have taken place by land and by sea, over mountains and across deserts, linking China with vast stretches of Southeast Asia in a broad, mercantile embrace. Chinese Circulations provides an unprecedented overview of this trade, its scope, diversity, and complexity. This collection of twenty groundbreaking essays foregrounds the commodities that have linked China and Southeast Asia over the centuries, including fish, jade, metal, textiles, cotton, rice, opium, timber, books, and edible birds’ nests. Human labor, the Bible, and the coins used in regional trade are among the more unexpected commodities considered. In addition to focusing on a certain time period or geographic area, each of the essays explores a particular commodity or class of commodities, following its trajectory from production, through exchange and distribution, to consumption. The first four pieces put Chinese mercantile trade with Southeast Asia in broad historical perspective; the other essays appear in chronologically ordered sections covering the precolonial period to the present. Incorporating research conducted in Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Burmese, Malay, Indonesian, and several Western languages, Chinese Circulations is a major contribution not only to Sino-Southeast Asian studies but also to the analysis of globalization past and present.

Contributors. Leonard Blussé, Wen-Chin Chang, Lucille Chia, Bien Chiang, Nola Cooke, Jean DeBernardi, C. Patterson Giersch, Takeshi Hamashita, Kwee Hui Kian, Li Tana, Lin Man-houng, Masuda Erika, Adam McKeown, Anthony Reid , Sun Laichen, Heather Sutherland, Eric Tagliacozzo, Carl A. Trocki, Wang Gungwu, Kevin Woods, Wu Xiao


“[T]his volume [is] importan[t] as a showcase of the study of the overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia, and, as such, the editors and authors should be congratulated.” — Derek Heng, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

“On the whole, this well-written book will be an important reference not only to those who are interested in Sino-Southeast Asian studies, but will also attract readers exploring the historical development of globalization, particularly from the perspective of how commodity, information, capital and human beings have been circulating and intertwining together for many centuries. Moreover, I am confident that this book will have particular value given the increased interest in studying China’s rise at present, on the basis of enormous amounts of exported commodities and millions of emigrants, which has affected and will further affect Southeast Asia and the wider world.” — Li Minghuan, Asian Anthropology

“This book offers a kaleidoscopic view of the origins and development of China’s commodity trade with Southeast Asia. Each of 20 contributors presents a detailed case study of a particular commodity chain, that is, the “total trajectory” of a commodity, from its initial extraction to production, distribution, exchange and final consumption.” — David Rosenberg, China Review

“This collection of essays offers the most comprehensive and updated examination of the flow of commodities, capital, and people between China and Southeast Asia…. [W]ith unmatched breadth and depth, [it] sheds new light on the dynamic and complex trade relations between China and Southeast Asia.” — Hongshan Li, The Historian

“This impressive study is an opportune contribution to the literature on a contentious concept, “Chinese capitalism.” This book is exceptional because of the method adopted to draw insights into how Chinese communities and their enterprises in Southeast Asia have evolved over centuries. In the process, this volume reviews major theoretical propositions in analyses of a Chinese form of capitalism.” — Edmund Terence Gomez, Pacific Affairs

“This is a substantive volume ... that, in the best revisionist tradition, forces historians, anthropologists, sociologists, economists, and others to reevaluate the power, influence, and dominance of local Southeast Asian agencies against the earlier proposals of Chinese and Western predominance of overseas and regional trade after 1600. ... [T]his book should be mandatory reading among scholars and graduate students who specialize in the diverse aspects of Southeast Asian, Chinese, and colonial-era history, and also those who variously study diasporas, servitude, immigration, and economic, maritime, and borderlands topics. As noted above, the book has great importance in its potential to allow scholars and diplomats to draw on the past to envision China’s future relationships within Asia and beyond.” — Kenneth R. Hall, China Review International

“[T]his book is a relevant and valuable read for scholars and advanced students of not only Chinese and Southeast Asian studies, but also of global, economic, environmental, diaspora and socio-political histories. By combining the usually disparate sub-fields of Southeast Asian studies–the wide range of Asian and European languages alone required to tackle primary sources renders any kind of regional expertise near impossible–and linking them with the twisted strands of Chinese commercial activity, this volume is reminiscent of Silk Road studies in its scope and richness. The multi-dimensional, diverse, yet mutually informed perspectives offered by this book are perhaps its most significant contribution, and this is precisely what an edited volume such as this is supposed to achieve.” — Karen M. Teoh, Journal of International and Global Studies

“[The] essays . . . form a composite picture of the China trade and its effects on Southeast Asian societies that covers a wide swathe of the past and throws light on present relations. . . . This high-quality collection widens the understanding of Southeast Asia and reminds us of the weakness of the nation-state approach by being willing to transcend (or ignore) state borders, Skinnerian macroregions, or ethnic boundaries. . . .” — Mary Somers Heidhues, Asian Studies Review

“In the end, it is the broad scope offered by this work that counts—or, put differently, the editors’ courage to combine a particular region with a set of ‘things’ on the move, the idea of a structured time frame, and the role of China (or the Chinese) as a major player, all tied to a bag of simple models and interpretative tools. Voilà, if taken in that way, this collection makes an illuminating compendium, recommendable to specialists and a general audience alike.”
— Roderich Ptak, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

“Once in a while some groundbreaking efforts on regional studies are carried out to cheer the hearts of the specialists and general readers.
Chinese Circulations falls into this mould and contributes significantly to the unraveling of the multifaceted maritime and overland trade and exchanges between China and Southeast Asia during the past few centuries.” — Voon Phin Keong, China Review

“This collection is a significant addition to the growing body of research on the connections between China and Southeast Asia, and the influence of Chinese merchants in this region. In addition, these essays help illuminate the ways in which trade in commodities has influenced processes of globalisation” — Ashley Wright, Itinerario

“This is an important landmark contribution to the study of China-Southeast Asia interactions highlighting the possibilities of synthesis and synergy and the reframing of these interactions through new concepts and approaches. It will be of interest and appeal to readers from a broad range of fields, from Southeast Asian economic and socio-cultural history to the history of Chinese migration, trade, and business in the region." — Keng We Koh, Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde

“This impressive collection of research papers is a major contribution to recent efforts to break down a dysfunctional barrier between the study of the history of China and that of the history of Southeast Asia….So we have here an excellent big volume that gives much food for thought and that contributes very substantially to our understanding of the multiple circulations of people and commodities that made the early modern world.” — John E. Wills Jr., Journal of Economic History

“This book offers business historians a fine compendium of leading scholarship on the rise of commerce across Southeast Asia.” — Geoffrey C. Gunn, Business History Review

“Tagliacozzo and Chang have successfully co-edited a very important work on the involvement of China and the overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia across different time periods. The works by the different authors in the book add new knowledge to our understanding of the presence of the Chinese in Southeast Asia and how different commodities traded reveal the crucial role played by China and the overseas Chinese for and in the region.”  — Jason Lim, Anthropological Forum

“Collectively, the chapters provide a longue durée view of how Chinese circulations have historically shaped the economic landscape and buoyancy of the Southeast Asia region. By tracking disparate flows of actors, objects, ideas, and practices, the authors show how the kinship-based commercial capitalism originating in China cumulatively created conditions for meeting the challenges of European industrial capitalism and, more recently, contemporary globalization.” — Aihwa Ong, author of Flexible Citizenship: The Cultural Logics of Transnationality

“Focused exclusively on Chinese commodity trades in Southeast Asia, Chinese Circulations is a pioneering investigation of an important region.” — Peter C. Perdue, author of China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia

“The authors have used their great professional skills to paint a picture of extensive and precarious trading activity that illuminates the underpinnings of Southeast Asian economic development for the last millennium. It is their success in doing so that recommends this collection to all who wish to understand why the region is what it is today.” — Wang Gungwu, from the foreword


Availability: In stock
Price: $33.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Eric Tagliacozzo is Associate Professor of History at Cornell University. He is the author of Secret Trades, Porous Borders: Smuggling and States Along a Southeast Asian Frontier and co-editor of The Indonesia Reader: History, Culture, Politics, also published by Duke University Press.

Wen-Chin Chang is an Associate Research Fellow at the Center for Asia-Pacific Area Studies at the Academia Sinica in Taiwan.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Maps ix

Foreword / Wang Gungwu xi

Introduction: The Arc of Historical Commercial Relations between China and Southeast Asia / Wen-Chin Chang and Eric Tagliacozzo 1

Part I. Theoretical/Longue Durée

Chinese on the Mining Frontier in Southeast Asia / Anthony Reid 21

Cotton, Copper, and Caravans: Trade and the Transformation of Southwest China / C. Patterson Giersch 37

The Social Life of Chinese Labor / Adam McKeown 62

Opium as a Commodity in the Chinese Nanyang Trade / Carl A. Trocki 84

Part II. Precolonial

The Lidai Baoan and the Ryukyu Maritime Tributary Trade Network with China and Southeast Asia, the Fourteenth to Seventeenth Centuries / Takeshi Hamashita 107

Cochinchinese Coin Casting and Circulating in Eighteenth-Century Southeast Asia / Li Tana 131

Import of Prosperity: Luxurious Items Imported from China to Siam during the Thonburi and Early Rattanakosin Periods (1767–1854) / Masuda Erika 149

A Sino-Indonesian Commodity Chain: The Trade in Tortoiseshell in the Late Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries / Heather Sutherland 172

Part III. Early Colonial

From Baoshi to Feicui: Qing-Burmese Gem Trade, c. 1644–1800 / Sun Laichen 203

Junks to Java: Chinese Shipping to the Nanyang in the Second Half of the Eighteenth Century / Leonard Blussé 221

Chinese Books and Printing in the Early Spanish Philippines / Lucille Chia 259

The End of the "Age of Commerce"?: Javanese Cotton Trade Industry from the Seventeenth to the Eighteenth Centuries / Kwee Hiu Kian 283

Part IV. High Colonial

The Power of Culture and Its Limits: Taiwanese Merchants' Asian Commodity Flows, 1895–1945 / Lin Man-houng 305

Rice Trade and Chinese Rice Millers in the Late-Nineteenth and Early-Twentieth Centuries: The Case of British Malaya / Wu Xiao An 336

Tonle Sap Processed Fish: From Khmer Subsistence Staple to Colonial Export Commodity / Nola Cooke 360

Moses' Rod: The Bible as a Commodity in Southeast Asia and China / Jean DeBernardi 380

Part V. Postcolonial

Market Price, Labor Input, and Relation of Production in Sarawak's Edible Brids' Nest Trade / Bien Chiang 407

A Sino-Southeast Asian Circuit: Ethnohistories of the Marine Goods Trade / Eric Tagliacozzo 432

From a Shiji Episode to the Forbidden Jade Tree during the Socialist Regime in Burma / Wen-Chin Chang 455

Conflict Timber along the China-Burma Border: Connecting the Global Timber Consumer with Violent Extraction Sites / Kevin Woods 480

Contributors 507

Index 509

Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4903-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4881-8
Publicity material