Chinese Mixed Race Communities in Eastern Java and Their Regional Connections: The Shaping of a Maritime Silk Road Corridor, 1400-1900

  • LIU, Oiyan (PI)

    Project: Research project

    Project Details


    This proposed project will examine how and why the Sino-Malay cultural zone – an area that expanded from the port cities in Eastern Java to Makassar, Palembang, Melaka, and Singapore – became an important corridor within the wider Maritime Silk Road. Instead of approaching the formation of this corridor from state-centric perspectives, I will look at the history of trade exchanges, interactions, and movements of Chinese mixed race communities between 1400 and 1900. In so doing, I will question China’s role as the primary agent for developing the Maritime Silk Road throughout history. Although China’s tributary relations with Southeast Asia declined significantly since the 1400s, my proposed project hypothesizes that 1400-1900 was the formative period for shaping the Sino-Malay zone within the Maritime Silk Road. Focusing on Eastern Java as a nodal point I will examine how this zone was forged, shaped, and expanded by Chinese mixed race communities who dominated the trade networks along the Indonesian and Malaysian coasts. The geographical reach of this zone, therefore, is not formed by states’ fixity of borders but is shaped and continuously reshaped by movements of the trade diaspora and their networks.

    This project investigates the shaping and consolidation of the Sino-Malay zone by scrutinizing various Dutch, Malay, Indonesian, Chinese, and English textual sources and material culture from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, China, and the Netherlands. This project has two main purposes. First: to position and evaluate the significance of this Sino-Malay corridor as a unit within the larger Maritime Silk Road that stretched from China to Europe. Second: to deconstruct the Sino-Malay zone as a culturally homogenous zone from within by comparing port cities in the Eastern trade circuit (encompassing Eastern Java and Makassar) with those in the Western trade circuit (stretching from Eastern Java to Palembang, Singapore, and Melaka). I hypothesize that this zone, connected via Eastern Java, can be best understood as a unified multi-zonal system in which each port city contained both common Sino-Malay characteristics as well as distinctive traits due to political, socioeconomic, and ecological uniqueness. This distinctiveness, I suggest, can be observed by examining the histories and blended cultural heritage of trade diaspora of mixed Chinese and indigenous descent. By emphasizing their ‘mixedness’ rather than ‘Chineseness’ for forging the Sino-Malay cultural zone this proposed project will not only help shape Maritime Silk Road Studies but will also help further refine existing paradigms for Chinese Diaspora Studies.
    Effective start/end date1/01/1931/12/22


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