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Xuemei Wu
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14 People of Atlantic Countries

During the reign of the Yongle emperor of the Ming, several dozen countries, including Calicut and Hormuz, came to the imperial court to present tribute. Afterward many of them did not return. During the Wanli period, Matteo Ricci, a person from the West, navigated the seas to come to China. He called himself a man of Italy. During the sixth year of the Kangxi emperor’s reign (1666) of the present dynasty, some Atlantic countries made contact and presented tribute at the court.16 During the third year of the Yongzheng emperor’s reign (1725), the pope sent tribute.17 In the fifth year of the same reign, Portugal sent tribute.18 In the eighteenth year of the Qianlong emperor’s reign (1752), they came again.19

Their people observe Catholicism. They are skilled at commerce and many are wealthy and influential. Their flesh is white, their noses are prominent, and their eyes deeply set and greenish blue. They do not grow their hair or beards, but fashion wigs of false hair to cover their heads with instead.20 They wear three-cornered hats of black felt, short upper garments, and leather shoes. Their trousers and stockings are bound tightly together as if fastened with cord. Women dress their hair in ringlets. Around their necks they suspend necklaces of gold or precious stones. They wear separate garments on the top and bottom parts of their bodies, and cover their backs with embroidered silk capes that they call jinman. According to their custom women are valued more highly than men. Marriages are based on mutual affection.

Some sojourn abroad in Macao in Xiangshan County (xian).21 They are governed by a foreign chief and pay an annual land tax.

15 People of the Province of Helvetia (Switzerland)

The province of Helvetia is under the jurisdiction of the Holy Roman Empire. Its people have strong broad bodies. They are extremely loyal; if they are shown goodness they must repay it. In the countryside they establish schools supported by public funds. Of those who study, more than half are trained in military preparedness, and they have traveled to other countries. Those who are the very best are used as imperial bodyguards.

Their land is mountainous. The winter months are extremely cold. They are good at building houses. The women are pure and of upright disposition. They are skillful in their work. They are able to make interlocking golden fabric by hand. They do not use loom or shuttle. The cloth is light and fine.

Their earth produces gold. When digging a well, one regularly obtains lumps of gold. The riverbeds often contain pea-sized nuggets of gold. The mountains produce roebuck, deer, rabbits, and leopards. They raise beef at home as a special food.

16 People of the Country of Hungary

The country of Hungary is south of Poland. Its people resemble Mongols. Their upper garments are quite short. They fasten their pants and socks together as if bound with cord. They are extremely clever and esteem good manners. Their youth practice riding. They have short necks and are good at going fast. They regularly carry a curved sword that is four feet long.22 They brandish it on horseback.

Women can understand written language. They work skillfully at embroidery. When they go out they must conceal their faces with a thin silk veil. Their local products are extremely abundant. They can supply cattle and sheep for the use of other regions. They obtain gold, silver, copper, and iron without exhausting their supply.

17 People of the Country of Poland

The country of Poland is to the northeast of the Holy Roman Empire.23 Its people resemble Mongols. They have moustaches but no beards. They remove most of their hair, leaving only what is on the very top of their heads, letting that portion fall down behind. Their region is cold and wintry. From early autumn to early summer all their clothing is made from animal skins, such as fox, badger, sable, and squirrel. Their furs are so long they conceal their feet. They also wear animal-skin hats on their heads. They are fond of fencing and raise bears domestically for use in entertainment. Women are talented and capable. They manage household affairs unassisted, keeping the interior and exterior in order. Local products include bees, forests, amber, cattle, and sheep.

18 Black Demon Slaves of the Atlantic Countries24

The black demon slaves kept by foreigners are the same as what were called “Kunlun” slaves in Tang times.25 The Ming History also records that those in the service of the Dutch were referred to as black demons. Born on various islands overseas, when they arrive they are given cooked food for many days, which goes right through them. This is called huanchang, “changing the bowels/removing the feelings.”26 Some sicken and die. Those who do not die can be kept for a long time.27

Their whole bodies are black as lacquer. Only their lips are red and teeth are white. They wear red woolen hats. Their clothing—short robes of coarse fabric—is of miscellaneous colors. They often grasp a large staff. Women drape colorful cloth below the nape of their neck, baring their chest and exposing their back. They wear short skirts without trousers, bracelets on their hands, and anklets on their feet. Both men and women connect strips of black leather for shoes, which makes it convenient to walk quickly.

Foreigners come together and sit to take meals served by black slaves. The leftovers are poured into one dish like a horse’s trough for the black slaves, both men and women, who go after the food with their hands. Most foreigners’ dwellings have several stories, with the slaves living downstairs. If the master despises them he can keep them restrained their whole lives, not allowing them to find mates so they would not reproduce their kind.28

19 Monks and Nuns of the Atlantic Countries

In the Atlantic countries they have two rulers, one for religious and one for secular matters. All trade and commerce are in the secular category. Monks are in the religious category. They serve the image of Jesus, Lord of Heaven. Foreigners revere and believe in him. When there are important matters, such as a case at law that cannot be decided, they must ask the will of God.

Their religious leaders cut their hair and grow their beards.29 They wear square black hats and black robes. When they come and go they open up a large umbrella and erect streamers. The young monks protect them. On seeing them, men and women at once bow down respectfully. Only after the procession has passed do they stand up. All those who understand astronomical and scientific theories and travel to the capital let their moustaches and beards grow long. They understand Chinese and are able to make scientific instruments.30

Nuns wrap themselves in white cloth from the neck to the chest, and otherwise wear a plain black cape over a black robe as well as a leather belt and shoes. Foreigners have more respect for nuns than for monks. When one woman becomes a nun, a whole family supports the church. If a person incurs a heavy punishment, they can be forgiven by obtaining an indulgence from a nun. When a woman first becomes a nun she must contribute a substantial amount of money to the church. Once she enters a convent she will not emerge for her whole life.

As for those in Macao, the monks are at temples in Sanba, Longsong, and other places. The nuns have established other temples. Their discipline is quite strict.

20 People of the Country of Goa31

Goa is 10,000 li from the central lands. It is under the jurisdiction of the Atlantic countries, which sent a foreign chief to hold it.32 In their clothing and general appearance they are more or less like the Atlantic countries. They usually wear cloaks that conceal their weapons. Foreign women use dark kerchiefs to cover their heads and they wear long upper garments with a piece of brocade at the front. They fold their sleeves back and wear leather shoes. They enjoy embroidering and they use sample books containing embroidery patterns in order to practice their needlework.

21 People of the Country of England

England is a tributary of Holland.33 The clothing and ornaments of their people are similar. The country is rather wealthy. Men mostly wear woolens and are fond of drinking. Women bind their waists before marriage, desiring them to be thin. They spread their hair out, letting it fall to their shoulders. They wear short upper garments and long skirts. When going out they add an overcoat. They use a golden thread for their stash of snuff, which they keep on their person.

22 People of the Country of Portugal (Falanxi)

Falanxi is also called Fulangxi. During the Ming it was called Folangji. From ancient times they did not have contact with China. During the reign of the Zhengde emperor they sent an emissary requesting a fief. However, tributary relations were not established. Later, without permission, they entered Xiangshan’s Macao.

Their men are strong, fierce, and versed in weaponry. They have repeatedly taken Malacca and Luzon by storm and have divided the Moluccan Islands equally with the Dutch. On their own, without authority, they exhaust the profits of the coastal areas near Fujian and Guangdong. At first they followed Buddhism and later Christianity.34 For these reasons the market in Macao has completely been taken possession of by Atlantic countries. Their chief, who lives in Luzon, recently had a protracted struggle with the English for supremacy, and Portugal was somewhat weakened.

These foreigners wear white kerchiefs on their heads and also black-felt caps. They take off their hats to be polite. In dress and adornment they are similar to those in Portugal, Goa, and Luzon, but both men and women are more restrained, rather like the kingdoms of Holland.

23 People of the Country of Sweden

Sweden is also a tributary of Holland. It engages in trade in Guangdong. The Swedes take off their caps to show good manners. They are like the Dutch. They wear short upper garments and leather shoes and usually grasp a rattan staff for protection. The women have square collars that expose their chests. They fasten their skirts on the outside of their shirts. Rolled-up sleeves are loose-fitting and comfortable. They use leather for shoes, connecting a square piece of wood on the bottom as a patten. They like to use a small container of golden thread for their stash of snuff. Now and then they inhale some.


Fu Lo-shu, A Documentary Chronicle of Sino-Western Relations (1644–1820) (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1966), 1: 40–41. Fu describes a visit from both a Dutch and a Portuguese embassy during the sixth year of the reign of the Yongzheng emperor. The Portuguese population on Macao is also mentioned in a discussion concerning piracy in the area. For a monograph on Dutch and Portuguese envoys to the court of Kangxi, see John E. Wills Jr., Embassies and Illusions: Dutch and Portuguese Envoys to Kang-hsi, 1666–1687 (Cambridge, MA: Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1984).


The details of the papal embassy are recorded in Fu, Documentary Chronicle, 1: 142–45. The embassy did indeed present tribute gifts, a list of which was sent to the Board of Rites, and in turn received gifts of brocade, satin, and silk.


Cf. Fu, Documentary Chronicle, 1: 156–57.


Cf. Fu, Documentary Chronicle, 1: 189–90.


Literally, “plait false hair to cover their heads.”


Literally, “Xiangshan County’s Aumen.”


Four Chinese feet, or chi, that is. A chi is equivalent to one-third of a meter.


The Siku quanshu version reads “to the east” rather than “to the northeast.”


The word translated here as “demon” is the same character (gui ) used in the expression yangguizi (洋鬼子)—sometimes translated as “foreign devils”—used to refer to light-skinned foreigners from Europe and the United States.


The Chinese characters for Kunlun (崑崙) are those for the Kunlun mountain range in Tibet.


The expression huanchang (換腸) has a double meaning. Huan can be translated either as “to change” or “to remove.” Chang can refer both to the bowels and to the feelings or affections; therefore, “changing the bowels” is equated with “removing the feelings,” thus enabling them to serve as slaves without rebelling. It may also be a reference to the “bloody flux,” a type of dysentery that affected many of those transported on slave ships.


The word translated here as “kept” (xu ) is also used to mean to rear or to feed domesticated animals.


Within the Confucian worldview that valued filial piety and family bonds and relied on descendants to perform ancestral sacrifices, denying someone the right to have children was the cruelest possible punishment.


Fawang (法王), translated here as “religious leaders,” is a term that normally refers to Buddhist law. In fact, the terminology used throughout is derived from Buddhism but applied here to Christianity.


An allusion to Jesuit missionaries active at the court, including at the Bureau of Astronomy during the late imperial period.


Depending on context, Xiao Xiyang (小西洋) can refer to Goa specifically or to the area of the Indian Ocean more generally.


Fu, Documentary Chronicle, sometimes identifies Da Xiyang (大西洋) as Portugal. However, since the Portuguese are treated separately in the Huang Qing zhigong tu (see entry 22), we prefer the broader rendering, “Atlantic countries,” here.


The entry on the English reflects the period after 1689 when Prince William III of Orange (1650–1702), Stadtholder of the Netherlands, also ruled Great Britain.


This may have been (erroneously) deduced from the fact that when Jesuit priests first arrived in China they adopted the garb of Buddhist monks. Later they decided the robes worn by Confucian scholars would be more appropriate.

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