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A port city in Northeast China: Dengzhou in the Long eighteenth century

Abstract

AbstractIf we were asked to recall a coastal city of early modern China, most of us would choose Shanghai, Canton, Xiamen, or Macau. These port cities became famous for facilitating trans-regional sea trade that linked the Qing Empire to the rest of the world. Attentive observers know that all of these cities are located on the Southeast China coast, by which we mean the coastal areas south of Shanghai. Taking Shanghai as the dividing line between the northeastern and southeastern coastlines, the port cities of the south are far more likely to be familiar to us than are those of the north. I consider this phenomenon (i.e. the focus on the coast of early modern China) to be a “Southeast China centrism.” And although we might all concede that some southeastern seaports were vital to transoceanic interactions, it is shortsighted to ignore the northern port cities and the role they played in connecting China with the maritime world. In this article I investigate the importance of Northeast China's port cities by focusing particular attention on the less familiar coastal seaport of Dengzhou. By detailing and examining the political and economic importance of this port city in the early modern period, I will show that Qing China's northeastern coast was no less important than the southeast. Even if China's northern port cities might not have been as economically vibrant as those in the south, we should not overlook their functions and histories. Indeed, they also attained unique patterns of political and economic development throughout the long eighteenth century.</jats:p

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