Naval Technology, State Power, and the Influence of Qi Jiguang In the Late Ming

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Book Chapter

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This essay examines the relationship between naval power and central authority in the late Ming period, 1560–1640. While the late Ming is often compared unfavourably with the dynasty’s early decades with respect to naval power, in fact the dynasty’s final decades witnessed a resurgence of interest in naval affairs as the Ming sought to defend its coast against raiders and invaders and protect vital shipping lanes. In particular the Ming revived its navy to combat pirates in the 1560s and then greatly expanded it in the 1590s to aid its vassal state of Chosŏn against a Japanese invasion. Naval power continued to play an important role through the end of the dynasty as the Ming found itself confronted with the rising might of the Manchus in the northeast and the challenge of armed European traders in the southeast. Though not always completely effective in achieving the aims of the state, the Ming navy remained a key component of state power and was often at the cutting edge (so to speak) of technological innovation. This shows that far from being xenophobic and culturally biased against technological innovation, the Ming eagerly adapted new technologies pursuant to its military and policy goals.

Publication Title

The Maritime Defence of China

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