Painting by Ahn Gyeon (안견/安堅), Dream Journey to the Peach Blossom Land (몽유도원도/夢遊桃源圖), 1447.


From 'Tianxia' to the 'Treaty System'

Notwithstanding the Treaty of Nerchinsk, China's perspective on international relations remained totally Sinocentric.
The world at large -- Tianxia (天下), literally 'All under Heaven' -- was nominally under the suzerainty of the Chinese Emperor, the 'Son of Heaven'.
Other nations were considered Barbarian and could only enter into subordinated, tributary relations with the Middle Kingdom. Diplomatic relations in the Western tradition were unacceptable, as they entailed the formal equality of all countries 'under Heaven', something that was anathema to the Chinese mindset.
For generations of Europeans, the failure of Lord Macartney's mission to the Qianlong Emperor, in 1793, epitomised Chinese ethnocentrism.
The image below illustrates such a worldview:

As does this 17th century mappa mundi by the  Jesuit Giulio Aleni, the Wanguo Quantu (萬國全圖), literally "Complete Map of the Ten Thousand Countries", with China at its centre (click to enlarge):

All things eventually come to an end. And sometimes followed by their antithesis...
In the 19th century, the decline of the Late Qing dynasty ushered in a long period of humiliation by foreign powers, which would continue unabated until the Second World War.
Beginning with the Treaty of Nanking, in 1842, China's sovereign jurisdiction over countless areas, known variously as Treaty Ports, Settlements, Concessions and Colonies, was ceded to a host of nations, numbering a dozen by 1914.
In addition, a grand total of 18 nations enjoyed extraterritorial privileges, including consular courts, for their citizens.
The next map shows the geographical extent of the 'Treaty System', foreign Colonies not included (click to enlarge):

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