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Traditional East Asian Structure from the Perspective of Sino-Korean Relations
Unformatted Document Text:  Ming China gradually displaced Korea as the dominant influence over the Jurchens. The Yongle emperor first courted the Jianzhou Jurchens, the most congenial of the various tribes. He used people of Jurchen origin and recently surrendered Jurchens as envoys in his missions. In 1403 he dispatched an embassy to Ahachu, who responded favourably to Ming overture. The Jianzhou commandery was then established in the same year. In early 1405 the emperor sent a second mission to Menggetimur. But the Jurchen chieftain refused to submit to China at first on the grounds that he was invested by Korea as “myriarch of Odoli” in 1404. The Chinese penetration into Jurchen territories set off alarm bells in Korea. The Koreans mounted a serious challenge to Chinese encroachment on what was believed to be Korea’s “sphere of influence.” As Menggetimur refused to recognize Chinese authority, the Koreans at short interval sent three missions with instructions and presents for him and other Jurchen tribal leaders. Meanwhile another Chinese mission arrived in April 1405 to invite Menggetimur to go to Nanjing with presents and promise of Chinese ranks and rewards should he submit to China. The Koreans immediately sent an official to persuade him not to yield to Chinese pressure, and the Korean king spoke of Menggetimur as of “a bulwark in the northeast.” A Korean mission also went to Nanjing in June 1405 to inform the Ming court that Menggetimur had declared that he was not able to leave his territory and that he and other Jurchen chieftains whom the Chinese envoys had tried to win over lived on Korean territory, in effect asking China to leave Menggetimur alone. Meanwhile the Koreans tried to forestall Ming’s invitation to Menggetimur with a mission in August 1405. Yet all of these intensive efforts were eventually to prove futile: Menggetimur finally went to the Ming capital in October 1405 and was rewarded with the Left Jianzhou commandery under his direction. By 1406 it seemed that China had won the competition with Korea over the Jurchens. Considering the vast disparities of power resources between Korea and China, it is not surprising that Korea lost the contest. What is most interesting, however, is that the Koreans, despite their political submission to the Ming, displayed impressive determination to counter Chinese penetration into Manchuria. One must wonder what “submission to China” actually entailed in relations between China and its tributaries. As Henry Serruys wrote, what the Chinese did with regard to the Jurchens (such as taking them into their service, receiving tribute and giving presents and rewards for the tribute and for the service rendered) the Koreans did that too. 131 The Koreans considered the Jurchens as living on their soil. Their border officials saw Chinese penetration as a threat. 132 In July 1407 a Korean statesman even spoke of “the threat from 131 Ibid., pp. 50-58. 132 Ibid., p. 47. 30

Authors: Zhang, Feng.
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Ming China gradually displaced Korea as the dominant influence over the
Jurchens. The Yongle emperor first courted the Jianzhou Jurchens, the most
congenial of the various tribes. He used people of Jurchen origin and recently
surrendered Jurchens as envoys in his missions. In 1403 he dispatched an
embassy to Ahachu, who responded favourably to Ming overture. The Jianzhou
commandery was then established in the same year. In early 1405 the emperor
sent a second mission to Menggetimur. But the Jurchen chieftain refused to
submit to China at first on the grounds that he was invested by Korea as
“myriarch of Odoli” in 1404.
The Chinese penetration into Jurchen territories set off alarm bells in Korea.
The Koreans mounted a serious challenge to Chinese encroachment on what
was believed to be Korea’s “sphere of influence.” As Menggetimur refused to
recognize Chinese authority, the Koreans at short interval sent three missions
with instructions and presents for him and other Jurchen tribal leaders.
Meanwhile another Chinese mission arrived in April 1405 to invite
Menggetimur to go to Nanjing with presents and promise of Chinese ranks and
rewards should he submit to China. The Koreans immediately sent an official
to persuade him not to yield to Chinese pressure, and the Korean king spoke of
Menggetimur as of “a bulwark in the northeast.” A Korean mission also went to
Nanjing in June 1405 to inform the Ming court that Menggetimur had declared
that he was not able to leave his territory and that he and other Jurchen
chieftains whom the Chinese envoys had tried to win over lived on Korean
territory, in effect asking China to leave Menggetimur alone. Meanwhile the
Koreans tried to forestall Ming’s invitation to Menggetimur with a mission in
August 1405. Yet all of these intensive efforts were eventually to prove futile:
Menggetimur finally went to the Ming capital in October 1405 and was
rewarded with the Left Jianzhou commandery under his direction. By 1406 it
seemed that China had won the competition with Korea over the Jurchens.
Considering the vast disparities of power resources between Korea and China,
it is not surprising that Korea lost the contest. What is most interesting,
however, is that the Koreans, despite their political submission to the Ming,
displayed impressive determination to counter Chinese penetration into
Manchuria. One must wonder what “submission to China” actually entailed in
relations between China and its tributaries. As Henry Serruys wrote, what the
Chinese did with regard to the Jurchens (such as taking them into their service,
receiving tribute and giving presents and rewards for the tribute and for the
service rendered) the Koreans did that too.
The Koreans considered the
Jurchens as living on their soil. Their border officials saw Chinese penetration
as a threat.
In July 1407 a Korean statesman even spoke of “the threat from
131
Ibid., pp. 50-58.
132
Ibid., p. 47.
30


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