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Laura Hostetler
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Xuemei Wu
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24 People of the Country of Japan

In ancient times, Japan was the country of Wonu.35 In the Tang dynasty the name changed to Japan, riben.36 It was so named because it was close to where the sun rises over the eastern sea. Its land is surrounded by sea. It has five imperial domains, seven circuits, and three islands. Japan had contact with China before Song times. From the beginning of the reign of the Hongwu emperor during the Ming dynasty, it often sent local goods as tribute.

Japan’s people are crafty and cunning by nature. They often plunder coastal departments and counties. They frequently rebel. It is their custom to worship Buddha and they also believe in shamans. They like to drink and place little value on life. They also study Chinese written characters, but they read them according to their native pronunciation. Their laws are very strict. Lawsuits and theft are rare. They have old customs pertaining to their dwelling places, food, and drink. Their utensils are made with clever workmanship. Natural products are abundant. Men shave the tops of their heads and go barefoot. Their upper garments have high collars and cloth belt fastenings.37 Coming and going they wear a knife and sword at their waist. Married women wear their hair up and insert a hairpin. They dress in wide upper garments, long skirts, and red shoes. They are able to weave silk cloth.

25 People of the Country of Machen (Malaysia)

Machen Guo is the same as Wenlang Machen.38 It is in the southeastern sea. According to legend, the people are descendants of the soldiers of Ma Yuan’s southern conquests during the Han dynasty. Their lands are mostly covered by water. Only their leader lives on land; the common people live on the water on rafts, which they cover with boards to make dwellings.

By custom they are Buddhist, and by nature they are strong and fierce. Men and women do not dare to have illicit sexual relations. They gather rattan and collect pepper to make a living. The men cut their hair and bind it with red silk. They encircle their waists with patterned fabric. Coming and going they wear a dagger or sword at their side. They often wear a small bamboo basket on their back to carry the pepper. Women expose their bodies and go barefoot. Their wraparound cloth skirts reach to their knees. They cover the front and back of their chest with a piece of silk. They collect water in earthenware jars that they carry on their heads.

26 People of the Country of Brunei (Wenlai)

Brunei was the country of Poluo (Borneo) in Tang times. This place is where the East ends and the West begins. During the reign of the Yongle emperor of the Ming dynasty they often submitted tribute. According to legend, their leader was from Fujian and he originally came here with Zheng He and conquered this place.39

The posterior is mountainous. The anterior faces the sea. They worship the Buddha. They revile murderers and favor charity. They do not eat pork. Those who eat pork are put to death. They cut lumber and collect rattan for a living. Men cut their hair and wrap their heads with deep red silk. They shave their beards but allow their moustaches to grow, as do those in the Sulu Archipelago. Women let their hair down over their shoulders. They tie a piece of cloth around the back of their neck and shoulders. They wear upper garments and skirts, but go barefoot.

27 People of the Country of Johor (Roufu)

The country of Johor is in the southwest sea. Its lands contain the eastern and western Zhu mountains. The people live in grass houses and their cities are made of lumber. Their land does not produce grain. They often trade with their neighbors. By custom they are Buddhist. They go for many months without eating meat. When the stars come out they begin to eat.40 They write by carving into the leaves of aquatic grasses and reeds with a knife. They marry those of the same social class.

Men cut their hair and go barefoot. Their hats are like overturned bowls. To make the hats they use bronze wire to make a frame and cover it with white cloth. Both their upper garments and trousers are short. They encircle their waist with patterned cloth and always wear a knife on their body. Women wear their hair up and their feet bare. Their upper garments are short and their skirts are long. They wear brocade silk around their shoulders. They are similar to those in the Sulu Archipelago. They are good at weaving mats.

28 People of the Country of Holland

Holland is also known as Hongmaofan.41 Its lands are close to Portugal and Spain. During the Wanli period of the Ming dynasty the Dutch often rode in big war vessels, which they anchored in Xiangshan harbor. They requested a trading relationship with China, but it did not happen. Therefore, they entered Fujian and took possession of Penghu and encroached upon Taiwan’s land.42 In the tenth year of the reign of the Shunzhi emperor during the present dynasty (1653), they first made contact, bearing tribute by way of Guangdong.43 During the early years of the reign of the Kangxi emperor, they assisted imperial troops in reducing Taiwan to submission. They were successful. Subsequently tribute and trade have not been interrupted. Their tribute route changed to be by way of Fujian.

The men use black felt for caps. When they meet someone, they take off their hat and put it under their arm to show good manners. They wear embroidered brocade upper garments and usually hold a staff and wear a sword at their waist. The women use a dark kerchief to cover their dressed hair.44 Their collars are surrounded by pearls and stones. They wrap an unadorned kerchief around their shoulders. An open upper garment exposes their chest. It is attached to a long skirt. Their shoes are of vermillion leather.

Otherwise they have Java as base in the southern sea. They can be further subdivided according to the names Swedish and English.

29 Officials of Russia

Russia’s lands are to the extreme north. During Han times they were called Jiankun and Dingling. During Tang times they were called Xiajiasi and Guligan. During Yuan times the Aluosi, Jilijisi, and other tribes were in this place. For the three hundred years of the Ming dynasty they did not have contact with China. In the fifteenth year of the reign of the Kangxi emperor of the Qing dynasty (1676), they entered tributary status. In the twenty-eighth year of the same reign (1689), the Qing sent an interior minister, Suo’e’tu, with others who, together with Russia’s ambassador, Fyodor Golovin, and his entourage, decided on the Argun River as the border. From that time on, tribute and trade occurred on an annual or biannual basis.45

Their foreign officials leave their hair down and they wear three-cornered black-felt hats. They wear narrow sleeves, short upper garments, and leather shoes. When they go out they always have a knife or sword at their side. Officials’ wives wear red three-cornered hats and bind their waists with long, barrel-shaped skirts of five colors. They wear short, sleeveless upper garments of woven silk around their shoulders. Some are lined with marten fur. It is their custom to cut their hair short to be elegant. They uncover their heads to show respect.

30 People of Russia

Russian territory comprises eight circuits called sike.46 Each circuit is divided into smaller circuits. Each is governed by an official. Their people live together in walled fortresses. The places in which they live have houses. On the water they use boats, and on land they use carts. Their clothing is made of felt. They are fond of drinking alcohol. They crush grain into powder to make cakes; they do not eat rice. They are conceited and greedy by nature. Following Buddhist practice, over the course of four seasons both the king and commoners observe a vegetarian diet for several tens of days.

31 People of the Country of Songjulao

Songjulao is a dependency of Siam. For the most part, its people make a living by farming and fishing. They are narrow-minded and hurried by nature. Monks raise elephants, as in Siam. Men grow their hair, shave their beard, and attach a pheasant tail to the top of their head. They wrap a piece of silk around their waist. Their upper garments are short and trousers narrow. They do not wear shoes and socks. They always wear a sword or knife by their side. Women wear their hair up and go barefoot. They have short upper garments and long skirts. They wear a cloth around their shoulders. They are highly skilled at spinning.

32 People of the Country of Jianpuzhai (Cambodia)47

Jianpuzhai is the same as the country of Zhenla. It is located between Annam and Siam. In Sui, Tang, and Song times it paid tribute. In the early years of the Ming dynasty it also did so regularly. Early in the Ming it was called Ganbeizhi. During the reign of the Wanli emperor it took on its current name. By nature the people are meek. They are good at raising elephants. They can train them for battle in order to resist their enemies. They often wear a sword at their side to go into the mountains to cut rhinoceros horns to give to their chief. Men cut their hair and bind their heads. They go naked on top, their clothes covering only their lower body. Women wear their hair up. Their arms and elbows are uncovered; they only cover their breasts. They wear wraparound skirts and go barefoot. They collect mulberries and raise silkworms. They are also able to weave mats.

33 People of the Country of Luzon (the Philippines)

Luzon is located in the southern sea, quite close to Fujian Province’s Zhangzhou.48 In the beginning of the Ming dynasty they paid tribute. During the reign of the Wanli emperor they were conquered by the Portuguese but their country retained its name. Portugal is located to the southwest of Champa. First the Portuguese conquered Malacca, and then divided Maluku with the Dutch.49 Then they conquered Luzon, always gaining more strength. Many Portuguese dwell in Macao’s Xiangshan, engaging in trade.50

The foreigners living in Luzon are tall. They have prominent noses, the eyes of a cat, and mouth of a hawk. In clothing and adornment they are similar to those in the Atlantic countries and in Goa. Women coil their hair up and wear hairpins and earrings. They have square collars that reveal the chest. Their upper garments are short and their skirts are long. Inside their skirts they wear two or three layers of petticoats. They often use their handkerchief to cover their hair.

34 People of the Country of Java

Java was originally the ancient land of Zhaowa. It was conquered by Holland. Many of the Chinese who engage in trade overseas stay here. By nature they are skilled at their work and full of resourcefulness. Their houses are magnificent, the furnishings exquisite. The Javanese wrap their heads in colorful cloth. Their upper garments are short and tied at the waist. They wrap a large piece of cloth around them to make a skirt. They go barefoot and hold a wooden staff in their hand. Those who have a noble rank have writing carved into the staff to distinguish themselves. Women wear a topknot, hairpins, and earrings. They use colorful cloth to wrap their upper body and wear short upper garments and long skirts. They expose their chests and have bare feet. They are good at cutting fabric and sewing it together. They like to eat fruit.

35 Foreigners from the Country of Malacca (Maliujia)

Maliujia is the same as Manlajia. It is south of Champa. At the beginning of the Ming it belonged to Siam. During the reign of the Yongle emperor its chief sent an ambassador to seek tributary status. He was consequently enfeoffed as king. They carved a stele at Zhenshan in their country to commemorate the event. Later the kingdom was invaded by Portugal. During the time of the Jiajing emperor, Portugal was asked to relinquish Malacca, but they did not comply. Presently it is under the jurisdiction of Holland.

By nature the people are very smart. Their household utensils are exquisite, second only to those in Java. Men use colored cloth to wrap their heads. Their upper garments are long and their trousers are short, exposing their lower calves. They wear slip-on shoes. Women wear their hair in a topknot and go barefoot. They wear pearl necklaces, short upper garments, and long skirts. They are rather good at sewing.

36 People of the Country of Sumatra (Sula)

The country of Sumatra (Sula) is a Muslim country. It is in the southwest. Originally it was also called Sumendala. During the Han dynasty it was Tiaozhi, and during the Tang dynasty it was part of the territory of both Persia (bosi) and Arabia (dashi). The climate is warm. Its people do not have wheat, but grow rice. They harvest two crops a year. Many of them produce precious stones and fragrant medicine. By custom they are rather simple, and by nature kind. Men use white cloth to bind their heads, and let their beards grow. They wear white silk clothing and a colorful piece of cloth around their shoulders. They bind their waist and wear a sword at their side. Women wear their hair down and do not dress it. They ornament the area below their necks and their chests with gold and jewels. At home they often like to bare their bodies and feet, but when they go out they cover themselves with cloth from head to foot.

37 People of the Country of Armenia (Yaliwan)51

Armenia is an Atlantic country. It is located close to Muslim countries. Its climate is warm, and its customs are simple. The men wear eight-cornered hats and long outer garments with colorful stripes. Their written language resembles willow branches. Their sleeves are narrow and they bind their waist. They wear leather shoes. The women wear their hair down and do not dress it. They use a black kerchief to cover their head and back. Their collars are decorated with gold and silver. They wear long garments, and often hold a basin for washing hands. They are good at women’s work.


Wonu (倭奴) remains a derogatory term for the Japanese. It translates literally as “dwarf slaves.” For more on Japanese relations with the high Qing, see Angela Schottenhammer, “Japan—the Tiny Dwarf? Sino-Japanese Relations from the Kangxi to the Early Qianlong Reigns,” in The East Asian Mediterranean: Maritime Crossroads of Culture, Commerce, and Human Migration, ed. Angela Schottenhammer, 331–88 (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 2008).


The characters for Japan, riben (日本), translate literally as “origin of the sun,” referring to the east.


The Xie Sui version reads gao ling (高領), “high collars.” The Siku quanshu version reads fanglin (放領), or “square collars.”


In the Siku quanshu edition, the last character in Wenglan Mashen is written as the character for spirit, shen () rather than chen () as it appears here.


Zheng He was the captain of the imperially sponsored “treasure fleets” during the reign of the Yongle emperor; some reached as far as the Persian Gulf and Africa.


These two sentences are clearly a reference to Muslim observance of Ramadan, despite the reference to Buddhism.


Literally, “Red-Haired Fan.”


For more information on this incident, see Leonard Blussé, “The Dutch Occupation of the Pescadores, 1622–1624,” Transactions of the International Conference of Orientalists in Japan 18 (1987): 28–44. For a study of the Dutch in Taiwan, where they had a foothold from 1624 to 1662, see Tonio Andrade, How Taiwan Became Chinese: Dutch, Spanish, and Han Colonization in the Seventeenth Century (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008).


See Fu, Documentary Chronicle, 1: 11–12. According to the records that Fu translates, the tribute was not accepted. There was no precedent in the Huidian for accepting tribute from this kingdom.


The Siku quanshu version reads “covered head,” meng tou (蒙頭), rather than “dressed hair,” mengji (蒙髺).


The Siku quanshu edition reads “every other year.”


From the Russian tsikl.


The Xie Sui edition reads “Dongpuzhai,” but the current name is Jianpuzhai so we use that transliteration here. Jianpuzhai also appears in the Siku quanshu edition.


The Siku quanshu edition reads slightly differently: “Luzon ju naihai zhong” (呂宋居南海中), i.e., “[the people of] Luzon inhabit the southern seas,” rather than “Luzon guo nanhai” (呂宋國南海) as rendered here.


The Portuguese took Malacca, which occupied a strategic location on the trade route between China and India, in 1511. An archipelago of eastern Indonesia, Maluku (or the Moluccas) are also known as the Spice Islands for their production of nutmeg, mace, and cloves. They were the object of a war between the Dutch and the Portuguese that began in 1608.


In some entries, the text refers to Xiangshan’s Macao, and in others to Macao’s Xiangshan. We have remained faithful to the original.


Armenian traders lived in Guangzhou and the Pearl River Delta of China, which may explain their location in this portion of the scroll. See Yang Xi, “Some Possible Chinese Records about Armenia and the Armenians in Mid-Qing Dynasty,” Iran and the Caucasus 13, no. 2 (2009): 229–37.

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