Photo of a ceramic figurine of a robed person carrying a red shield.

Figurine of a warrior holding a shield; Earthenware, 50.2 cm high; from a 4th century tomb in Fuguishan, Nanjing.; from Art in a Time of Chaos: Masterworks from the Six Dynasties (New York: China Institute Gallery, 2016): 305, fig. #65

Maritime Commodity Trade with the Jiankang Empire

Andrew Chittick

ISAW Visiting Research Scholar

This lecture will take place in person at ISAW.

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Our perception of Chinese engagement with "exotic" maritime commodities is strongly colored by the work of Edward Schafer (Golden Peaches of Samarkand; Vermilion Bird), who focused on the experience of connoisseurs during the Tang Empire. Though Schafer's work was groundbreaking for its time, it has left us with some misperceptions. The system of maritime commodity trade was in fact developed under the Jiankang Empire (a.k.a. the Chinese southern dynasties, 3rd-6th centuries CE), whose ruling class had much closer ties to the Southeast Asian traders who actually built and operated the network. This talk will present an overview of that network: its geography, its operation, and the growth of large-scale commodity trading prior to the establishment of Tang rule in the early seventh century. The focus will be on aromatics and medicinal substances, which were the most important and valuable products imported to Jiankang, and on silk, the primary export.

Andrew Chittick is a Visiting Research Scholar at ISAW for the 2022-23 academic year. He is also the E. Leslie Peter Professor of East Asian Humanities and History at Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, FL. A native of California, he received his PhD in History from the University of Michigan in 1997. He is the author of over twenty published articles and two full-length books: Patronage and Community in Medieval China: The Xiangyang Garrison, 400-600 CE (SUNY Press, 2010) and The Jiankang Empire in Chinese and World History (Oxford University Press, 2020). The latter book introduced a ground-breaking new perspective on the history and political identity of what is now south China in the early medieval period (3rd-6th centuries CE), including its evolving ethnic identity, innovative military and economic systems, and engagement with broader Sino-Southeast Asian and Buddhist cultures.

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