The Crossing: Captivity, Trafficking, and Migration on 16th-century Chinese Frontiers

Talk by Professor Siyen Fei, UPenn

Photo for The Crossing: Captivity, Trafficking, and
Thursday, February 27, 2020
4:00 PM - 5:30 PM
Bunche Hall 10383

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The Crossing: Captivity, Trafficking, and Migration on 16th-century Chinese Frontiers uncovers a lost moment in history when tens of thousands Ming imperial subjects—men, women, and children—were abducted across border by nomads, pirates, and indigenes. The high number of human captives fueled trans-Pacific slavery trade, populated pocket colonies between Japan and Indonesia, and served as a conduit for exporting knowledge, technology and statecraft to rival regimes across the Great Wall and beyond. This talk will focus on the coastal frontier and give a new reading of the famous story of Wang Cuiqiao who was captured and kept by an infamous pirate lord Xu Hai in mid 16thcentury China. In the wake of Xu’s death, Wang’s story came alive and drew attention well beyond China. As the saga evolved across Ming-Qing transition and traveled to Vietnam, Japan, and Korea, Cuiqiao’s character became open to multiple and often contradictory interpretations. This talk will take a different position and consider her in the context of cross border population flow, a view that shall bring to focus the nexus of captivity, trafficking, and migration.

Siyen Fei
teaches and researches Chinese history at Penn. Her work to date is primarily concerned with the political and cultural activism of sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Ming dynasty China (1368-1644): a patriarchal system subverted by court-promoted control of female sexuality; an idealized rural empire facing drastic waves of urbanization; a self-proclaimed Han-native Chinese polity destabilized by cross-border migration and resultant de-sinicization. Excavating these paradoxical historical movements, her books uncover fascinating stories about the interplay of structure and agency.

Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies