Tribute - Chinese Practice of Tributes As Trade Regulation and Authority

Chinese Practice of Tributes As Trade Regulation and Authority

See also: Imperial Chinese tributary system and List of tributaries of Imperial China

In China, the tribute system began from ancient China period to provide both an administrative means to control their interests, as well as a means of providing exclusive trading priorities to those who paid tribute from foreign regions. It was an integral part of the Confucian philosophy and was seen by the Chinese as equivalent to the familial relation of younger sons looking after older parents by devoting part of their wealth, assets, or goods to that purpose. Political marriages also existed between the Chinese empire and tribute states, such as Songtsen Gampo and Wencheng (Gyasa).

China often received tribute from the states under the influence of Confucian civilization and gave them Chinese products and recognition of their authority and sovereignty in return. There were several tribute states to the Chinese-established empires throughout ancient history, including neighboring countries such as Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Borneo, Indonesia, South Asia and Central Asia. This tributary system and relationship are well known as Jimi (羈縻) or Cefeng (冊封), or Chaogong (朝貢). In Japanese, the tributary system and relationship is referred to as Shinkou (進貢), Sakuhou (冊封) and Choukou (朝貢).

According to the Chinese Book of Han, the various tribes of Japan (constituting the nation of Wa) had already entered into tributary relationships with China by the first century. However, Japan ceased to present tribute to China and left the tributary system during the Heian period without damaging economic ties. Although Japan eventually returned to the tributary system during the Muromachi period, it did not recommence presenting tribute.

According to the Korean historical document Samguk Sagi (삼국사기, 三國史記), Goguryeo sent a diplomatic representative to the Han Dynasty in 32 AD, and the Emperor Guangwu of Han granted the official rank of Goguryeo. The tributary relationship between China and Korea was established during the Three Kingdoms of Korea. This continued until China's defeat in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895. During the period before the Japanese invasion into Korea, the geopolitics of East Asia were ruled by the Chinese tributary system. This assured them their sovereignty and the system assured China the incoming of certain valuable assets. "The theoretical justification" for this exchange was the Mandate of Heaven, that stated the fact that the Emperor of China was empowered by the heavens to rule, and with this rule the whole mankind would end up being beneficiary of good deeds. Mostly of the Asian countries would join this system voluntary.

There is a clear differentiation between the term "tribute" and "gift." The former, known as gong (貢), has important connotations. The Chinese emperors made sure that the gifts they paid to other states were known as mere gifts, not tributes. Even at times when a Chinese dynasty had to bribe nomads from raiding their border such as in the Han Dynasty and the Song Dynasty, the emperors gave "gifts" to the Xiongnu and the Khitan. The only time when a dynasty paid formal tribute to another was during the southern Song dynasty, where tribute was given to the Jin Dynasty for peace. The Jin Dynasty also saw itself as the legitimate holder of the "Mandate of Heaven".

In addition, the Zheng He expeditions also carried goods to build tribute relationships between the Ming Dynasty and newly discovered kingdoms. Tribute activities occupy several chapters in the Twenty-Four Histories.

The Islamic Caliphate introduced a new form of tribute, known as the 'jizya', that differed significantly from earlier Roman forms of tribute. According to Patricia Seed:

What distinguished jizya historically from the Roman form of tribute is that it was exclusively a tax on persons, and on adult men. Roman "tribute" was sometimes a form of borrowing as well as a tax. It could be levied on land, landowners, and slaveholders, as well as on people. Even when assessed on individuals, the amount was often determined by the value of the group's assets and did not depend—as did Islamic jizya—upon actual head counts of men of fighting age. Christian Iberian rulers would later adopt similar taxes during their reconquest of the peninsula.

Christians of the Iberian Peninsula translated the term 'jizya' as tributo. This form of tribute was later also applied by the Spanish and Portuguese empires to their territories in the New World.

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