Chinese World Order

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The Chinese World Order: From Tribute to Treaties

Submitted by: MEISNAM RAJESHWOR MEITEI
M.A EAST ASIAN STUDIES
2nd semester

Introduction

Chinese civilization with nearly five-thousand years of recorded history is one of the oldest in the world. China’s vast historical record have well documented about the so called Chinese world order (china’s relation with others neighboring and foreign countries). Chinese world order was fundamentally based on the very idea of middle kingdom. Tang dynasty had been the golden age of Chinese contact with foreign civilization. Age, culture, size and wealth had made China the natural center of East Asia and perchance, also one of the most powerful countries in the world, until the middle of the Qing Dynasty (1644—1911). Geographical barriers kept the whole region of East Asia separate from the rest of the world. The Chinese did not comprehend their world the same way the Westerners did. Thus Chinese view of East Asia is different from rest of the world. For china East Asia became Tianxia, literally, "all under Heaven," of which Chinese grasp itself to be the very center, betoken a sense of "the central country" or Middle Kingdom which embraced the whole world known to it. Such traditional Chinese understanding of its place in the world is what Western historians have meant by the term, "Sinocentrism", which in general is used to characterize traditional China's relations with other nations. Thus, China was named, Zhonghua.

Historical background of Chinese world order

China's self-image as the center of the world is a spurious notion in modern geographical terms. This area was sequestered from the rest of the world by geographical impediment, and surrounded by nonage tribal groups, Man, Ti, Xiong and Di, the four quarters. They were "alien" people, or the "barbarian," to use the Chinese term, which were either discarded from the Chinese domain or admitted into the Chinese world. According to Chinese “He was barbarian who did not accept Chinese civilization and who knew not the refinement of ceremony, music, and culture.” When these tribes accept the elements of Chinese culture, they did so for their own reasons, and the Chinese were always stimulating those who desired to transmute themselves into members of civilization. A hypothesis was created that China remained the center of civilization, and the Chinese form of civilization was superior. Moreover, as Fairbank notes, the Chinese were impressed that their superiority was not one of more material power but of culture. Indeed, so great was their virtue, so overwhelming the achievements of the Middle Kingdom in art and letters and the art of living, that no barbarian could long resist them. Associated with the sinocentrism was a misty but perspicacious sense of all embracing unity of the Chinese tianxia, in which the Chinese emperor postulated to be “Tianzi” (the Son of Heaven), who had supreme power to reign and rule over all human affairs. The Book of Poetry expressed this sentiment in the following words:”Under the wide heaven, there is no land that is not the Emperor's, and within the sea-boundaries of the land, there is none who is not a subject of the Emperor.” A universal state ruled by a universal emperor had long antedated, the first effective political unification of the Chinese world and persevered throughout Chinese history. What the Chinese evolved after years of anchorite splendor as the center of Eastern Asia may be delineated as a spirit of culturalism, which mattered only with the distinction between civilization and barbarity. The maritime expeditions led by Zheng He between 1405 and 1433, during the Ming Dynasty, stretched as far as the east coast of Africa. The primal impulse of these voyages was to propagate the Ming...
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