KOREA AND THE MING TRIBUTE SYSTEM IN KHATAYI’S BOOK OF CHINA|
Vol. 21 No. 1
pp. 81~111 (all 31 pages)
Silk Road, tribute system, Ottoman Empire, Ming, Chosŏn
The Book of China (Khataynameh), a description of China written in 1516, in Persian, for the Ottoman court by a Central Asian merchant, includes a brief section on Korea in the chapter on the twelve provinces of China, which describes habitual interaction between Muslim and Korean merchants. The brevity of this notice and the mis-categorization of Korea as a province of the Ming state might appear to indicate that the author was largely uninformed about Korea and its political relationship to China. However, the didactic and political nature of the text, which presented a utopian image of China as a model to be emulated by a nascent Ottoman Empire, as well as the author’s more general familiarity with East Asian cultural and political circumstances, suggest that his subsuming of the Chosŏn state into the Ming empire was more an ideologically-motivated choice than a manifestation of negligence or ignorance. The image of economic and military power conveyed through the Ming tribute system formed the basis of a political ideal of universal empire; conveying this ideal was the principal goal of the text. The author’s fealty to an idealized formulation of imperial authority echoes the Chosŏn elite’s own strategy for balancing political independence with material support and cooperation from the Ming, by adhering closely to a Sinocentric Neo-Confucian ideology. The Book of China thus attests to, and constitutes part of, a global process of political communication that connected the Ottoman Empire with Central Asia, China, and Korea.