The two readings discuss one of the most prominent relations in the history of Asian countries, namely, the connections between Korea and Ming China. It is emphasized by both authors that the nature of such relations was tributary (Clark 272; Wang 1). Clark distinguishes between several stages in Sino-Korean tributary affinity (273). In the beginning, the relationships were the most difficult.
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Further, there was a phase of stability, followed by the phase of devastation after the war of the 16th century. Then, there was the stage when the Jurchen invaded Korea, and a so-called triangle between Korea, Ming China, and the Jurchen tribes was formed (Clark 285). The last but one step was when even under the Jurchen invasion, Korea kept acknowledging the Ming dynasty. The final phase was marked by the fall of the Ming dynasty (Clark 299). Thus, it is noted that the relationships between Korea and Ming China were not easy, but they were the basis of shaping diplomatic relations.
Particular prominence in both readings is given to the role of eunuchs in the Korean-Ming affinity. Both authors acknowledge the significance of Ming embassies to Korea. Clark remarks that Ming embassies pursued various purposes, such as investigating and inquiring, conveying edicts, or declaring the imperial succession (282). The eunuchs that performed the function of envoys used to be a “part of the fourteenth-century traffic in human beings” (Clark 282).
Wang remarks that the tradition to employ eunuchs as diplomats originated in Ming China (12). The primary mission of eunuchs both in Korea and the Ming was the protection of the monarch’s harem. However, in the Ming, those men also became administrators, ritual specialists, diplomats, and soldiers (Wang 12). Still, as Clark remarks, the conduct of such ambassadors was frequently rude, and they caused trouble to the relationships while the purpose of their visit was improving the connections (282-283). Therefore, diplomatic links between Ming China and Korea depended on envoys, whose behavior often caused trouble and inconveniences.
Overall, the two articles discuss various political and military processes that took place between Korea, Ming China, and other countries. It is mentioned by both authors that even despite the tributary character of Ming-Korean relations, Korea felt particular admiration towards the Ming since they used to help it in many ways (Clark 300; Wang 2). As Clark mentions, China’s strict rules enabled Koreans to develop their country and, what is more important, to preserve its national values (300). Thus, the readings help to understand the nature of Ming-Korean historic relations.
Which of Korean missions to Beijing do you consider the most important and why?
The answer to this question can help to understand the relationships between the two countries and their diplomats better. Depending on the reply, it will be possible to make conclusions about the development of Ming-Korean connections and understand whether the most crucial aspects were discussed during the initial missions or in the course of later ones.
Clark, Donald N. “Sino-Korean Tributary Relations Under the Ming.” The Cambridge History of China, Vol. 8, edited by Denis Twitchett and Frederick W. Mote, Cambridge University Press, 1998, pp. 272-300.
Wang, Sixiang. “Korean Eunuchs as Imperial Envoys: Relations with Chosŏn Through the Zhengde Reign,” pp. 1-27.