The East Asian ‘Mediterranean’, c. 1500-1800:
A New Quality in the Development of its Neighbouring Countries
Research project has been sponsored by the VW-Foundation, May 2002 – July 2009
The project, carried out at the Department for Asian Studies at Munich University (LMU), Germany, between May 2002 and July 2009, brought together scholars and PhD students working the field of East Asia’s manifold historical exchange relations. Whereas previous research had, with few exceptions, basically documented the history of a specific region or the trade relations between two areas, this project – on the basis of written and archaeological sources of all integrated regions and countries, above all China, Japan, Korea, and the Ryukyus – analyzed supra-regional and international socio-economic, commercial, and cultural exchange relations and interaction within the macro-region of greater East Asia. The concept of an East Asian “Mediterranean” as a medium of exchange has been borrowed from Fernand Braudel’s work on the European Mediterranean, “la Méditerranée” (Ch. dizhonghai 地中海). Although by far not all conceptual elements of Braudel’s model can and should be “transferred” to the Far Eastern context, the concept can be applied in order to underline different forms of political, commercial and cultural interaction between China, Taiwan, the Ryūkyū Islands, Japan, and Korea, in order to put the emphasis of analysis on the history of exchange relations rather than that of more or less isolated (nation) states or countries. Braudel’s concept can also be used to enlarge our view on a macro-region that was only superficially characterized by a strict antagonism between a “centre” (China) and “peripheries” in East Asia.