the arC of historiCal CommerCial
relations between China and southeast asia
Wen-Chin Chang and Eric Tagliacozzo
Theoretical review
Chinese merchants have been trading down to Southeast Asia for centuries,
sojourning—and sometimes settling—during the course of their voyages.
These ventures have taken place by land and by sea, linking the wider orbit of
the Chinese homeland with vast stretches of Southeast Asia in a broad, mer-
cantile embrace. The present volume aims to examine these contacts, trans-
actions, and transmissions over what the great French historian Fernand
Braudel called the longue durée. Despite the presence of several foundational
volumes by Wang Gungwu and others, which have charted the directions of
this field of study over the past several decades, the field of Chinese trade
in Southeast Asia has become so large and so complex that a syncretic book
on its parameters seems long overdue.1 We hope to build on past achieve-
ments and outline the scope, diversity, and complexity of Chinese trade
interactions over a vast geography and an equally broad temporal spectrum.
Because the languages, archives, and sources needed to master a task such
as this are beyond the grasp of any one person, we hope that this book will
make a signal contribution to the field, in summarizing where our knowl-
edge now stands and where future directions of research may wish to go.
The idea of networks as being crucial to the linking of human societies
has received much attention in the past several decades. Philip Curtin was
among the first to point this out in his broad and wide-ranging study Cross-
Cultural Trade in World History.2 In that book, he linked the Phoenicians of
Mediterranean antiquity, the Hanseatic merchants of the early-modern Bal-
tic, and Bugis traders of modern Indonesia in a single, coherent narrative,
showing how merchant diasporas could be analyzed with theoretical rigor
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