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Across the Perilous Sea: Japanese Trade with China and Korea from the Seventh to the Sixteenth Centuries

133 Across the Perilous Sea
Charlotte VON VERSCHUER, translated by Kristen LEE HUNTER
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Originally published as Le commerce extérieur du Japon des origines au XVIe siècle in 1988, this new edition of the landmark French study chronicles Japan’s transformation from an importer of continental luxury items, raw materials, and techniques to an exporter of high-quality merchandise over nearly a millennium. The vicissitudes of foreign trade policy, as well as the volume and balance of trade, are examined within the context of regional political and economic developments. All aspects of state-sanctioned and unofficial external commerce are considered. Indeed, this volume reveals that proliferation of private foreign trade constituted a vital link between Japan and its neighbors throughout the suspension of diplomatic relations from the ninth to the fourteenth century. Evidence culled from Japanese, Chinese, and Korean annals and administrative compendia, archaeological excavations, classic literature, artifact collections, and monk and courtier diaries attests to the spectacular diversity of foreign trade goods and their significance in pre-Tokugawa Japanese society. | 244 pages


  • Preface
  • Tributary Exchanges From the Seventh to the Ninth Centuries
  • The Rush for Foreign Goods From the Ninth to the Twelfth Centuries
  • Trade Commodities
  • Free Trade From the Twelfth to the Fourteenth Centuries
  • Growing Exports From the Late Fourteenth to the Sixteenth Centuries
  • Notes
  • Appendices  
  • Appendix 1 Map of Asia  
  • Appendix 2 Map of China and Korea  
  • Appendix 3 Map of Japan  
  • Appendix 4 Comparative Number of Japanese and Foreign Groups Exchanged, Seventh to Sixteenth Centuries  
  • Appendix 5 Comparison of Official Systems of Foreign Trade in the Eleventh Century  
  • Appendix 6 Comparative Organization of Foreign Trade in the Fifteenth Century  
  • Appendix 7 Table of Principal Trade Goods  
  • Appendix 8 Lists of Products
  • Bibliography
  • Index

  • Methodically revised, and featuring an updated, expanded bibliography and redesigned maps, as well as a précis on the state of the field since the original publication, the 2006 English edition is an indispensable resource for scholars and the teaching of premodern East Asian regional history. PRAISE for the FRENCH EDITION "A valuable addition to the limited documentation in Western languages on Japan’s external trade and exchange before the Edo period. Its treatment of exchange with China and Korea is particularly detailed." — Journal of Asian Studies
  • "This is the first effort to present a coherent overview of an extended period … the range of material brought to our attention is impressive … a well-researched overview and a timely contribution of real value. Not only does it provide a good guide to foreign contacts, but it suggests many new areas of research. We should be gratified by its publication." — Monumenta Nipponica 

Author and Translator 
  • Charlotte von Verschuer is Professor of Japanese history and philology at École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris, conducts research on ancient and medieval Japanese foreign relations and material culture. Her other books include Les relations officielles du Japon avec la Chine aux VIIIe et IXe siècles (Droz, 1985) and Le riz dans la culture de Heian, mythe et réalité (Collège de France, 2003). She is currently co-editing a forthcoming publication, Dictionary of Sources of Classical Japan, with Joan Piggott, Ineke Van Put, Ivo Smits and Michel Vieillard-Baron.
  • Kristen Lee Hunter authored the translation while she was a doctoral candidate in medieval Chinese history at Cornell University researching Chinese tributary diplomacy with Korea and Japan during the Tang dynasty.

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