Siam as Chinese Utopia
Overseas Chinese, Colonialism, and Race in the 17th-Century Chinese Novel The Sequel to the Water Margin
This article considers how Siam became the locus of utopian imagination for the Chinese cultural elite residing in China and overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia in the 17th century. The settlement of overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia and the kingdom of Ayutthaya proffered sources of imagination for Chen Chen (1615–1670) to compose the novel The Sequel to the Water Margin (Shuihu houzhuan). He channeled ideas and ideals on free trade, refuge, colonialism, and Han Chinese racialism into a story on Chinese pirates’ conquest of Siam. The emergence of such utopian imagination was bound up with late Ming ideals of passion, love, and self-invention and the 17th-century Chinese discourse of oceans and pirates.
On the catastrophic impact of the Qing invasion and the downfall of the Ming on the Chinese people, see, for example, Lynn A. Struve, “Confucian PTSD: Reading Trauma in a Chinese Youngster’s Memoir of 1653,” in History & Memory, 16, no. 2 (fall/winter 2004), 14–31.
Lynn A. Struve, The Southern Ming 1644-1662 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984).
Hang Xing, Conflicts and Commerce in Maritime East Asia: The Zheng Family and the Shaping of the Modern World, c.1620-1720, Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016).
For Chinese settlements in Indonesia in the 15th century, see Anthony Reid, “Hybrid Identities in the 15th-Century Straits,” in Geoff Wade and Sun Laichen, eds., Southeast Asia in the Fifteenth Century: The China Factor (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2010), 307-332. For a study on the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia during the Ming-Qing transition, see, for example, Hang Xing, “Soaring dragon amid dynastic transition: dates and legitimacy among the post-Ming Chinese diaspora,” in Kenneth Swope, ed., The Ming World (London and New York: Routledge, 2019), 279–303.
Wang Gungwu, The Chinese Overseas: From Earthbound China to the Quest for Autonomy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010), 41, 46.
For existing scholarship on the Water Margin, see, for example, Andrew Plaks, The Four Masterworks of the Ming Novel: Ssu ta ch’i-shu (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), and Ge Liangyan, Out of the Margins: The Rise of Chinese Vernacular Fiction (Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2001).
Shi Nai’an and Luo Guanzhong, Outlaws of the Marsh, trans. Sidney Shapiro (Bloomington and Beijing: Indiana University Press and Foreign Languages Press, 1999) Vol. 1: 1; Luo Guanzhong and Shi Nai’an, Shuihu zhuan (Beijing: Renmin wenxue chuban she, 1990), 1.
On Jin Shengtan’s recension of the Water Margin, see David Rolston’s “Chin Sheng-t’an on How to Read the Shui-hu chuan (The Water Margin),” in Traditional Chinese Fiction and Fiction Commentary: How to Read Between the Lines (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), 19–50.
On a scholarly study of sequels in late imperial Chinese literature, see Martin W. Huang, ed. Snakes’ Legs: Sequels, Continuations, Rewritings, and Chinese Fiction (Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2004).
I thank one anonymous reviewer for this information. For a preliminary study of the Thai translation of Chinese stories, see Prapin Manomaivibool, “Thai Translations of Chinese Literary Works,” in Claudine Salmon, ed., Literary Migrations: Traditional Chinese Fiction in Asia (17th¬–20th Century) (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asia Studies, 2013), 196-198.
Ellen Widmer, Margins of Utopia: Shui-hu hou-chuan and the Literature of Ming Loyalism (Cambridge, MA: Harvard East Asia Center, 1987); Huang, 32¬–33.
David Der-wei Wang, Fin-de-siecle Splendor: Repressed Modernities of Late Qing Fiction, 1849–1911 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), 289.
Anthony Reid, Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1993), 19.
My forthcoming book is devoted to discussing this Chinese discourse of pirates and the sea in the 17th century. See Yuanfei Wang, Writing Pirates: Vernacular Fiction and Oceans in Seventeenth-Century China (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2021).
Charnvit Kasetsiri and Michael Wright, Discovering Ayutthaya (Bangkok: Social Sciences and Humanities Textbooks Foundation, 2019), 22.
Kasetsiri and Wright, 138–177.
Chen Chen, Shuihu houzhuan, in Yang Jialuo, ed., Zhongguo tongsu xiaoshuo minzhu diyi ji, disan ce (Taipei: shijie shuju, 1968), 80. All translation in this article is mine, unless otherwise noted.
The li, also known as the Chinese mile, was historically about one-third of a mile.
The jin or catty historically equated to about 604 g, but is now equal to 500 g in China.
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Tang Lixing, Merchants and Society in Modern China: From Guild to Chamber of Commerce (London: Routledge, 2017), 9–20. Also see Hang Xing’s conference paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association of Asian Studies in 2018, “The Enigma of Lin Daoqian: The Pirate and Historical Memory in Maritime East Asia.”
Ilicia J. Sprey, “International Maritime-Based Trade in the Thai Realm of Ayutthaya in the Sixteenth Through Eighteenth Centuries: Deer Hide Trade Asian Access Point for Re-Evaluation,” in Kenneth R. Hall, Rila Mukherjee, Suchandra Ghosh, eds., Subversive Sovereigns Across the Seas: Indian Ocean Ports-of-Trade from Early Historic Times to Late Colonialism (Kolkata: The Asiatic Society, 2017), 109–145.
Kenneth R. Hall, “Identity and Spatiality in Indian Ocean Ports-of-Trade c. 1400–800,” in Hall, Mukherjee, Ghosh, eds., Subversive Sovereigns Across the Seas, 49.
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Ryuto Shimada, “Economic Links with Ayutthaya: Changes in Networks between Japan, China, and Siam in the Early Modern Period,” Itinerario, 37.3 (2013), 92–104; Iwao Seiichi, “Reopening of the diplomatic and commercial relations between Japan and Siam during the Tokugawa period.” Acta Asiatica 4 (1963), 1–31; and Iwao Seiichi, “Japanese foreign trade in the 16th and 17th centuries,” Acta Asiatica 30 (1976), 1–8.
Kasetsiri and Wright, 152.
Yoneo Ishii, “Seventeenth Century Japanese Documents about Siam,”; and Cesare Polenghi, Samurai of Ayutthaya: Yamada Nagamasa, Japanese Warrior and Merchant in Early Seventeenth-Century Siam (Bangkok: White Lotus Press, 2009).
Chen Chen, Cai Yuanfang pindian shuihu houzhuan, in Mingqing shanben xiaoshuo congkan chubian (tianyi chubanshe, 1985), vol. 9: 46.
Wang Zongzai, Siyi guankao (Beijing: Dongfang xuehui, 1924), vol. 2: 19–24.
Kuan-Hsing Chen, Asia as Method: Toward Deimperialization (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010), 4. Also see Fiona Lee, “Han Chinese racism and Malaysian contexts: cosmopolitan racial formations in Tan Twan Eng's ‘The Garden of Evening Mists,’” in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 20 (2), 220–237.
Feng Chengjun, Xingcha shenglan (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1954), 11–12.
Ania Loomba, Shakespeare, Race, and Colonialism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 29.
Ma Huan, Ying-yai sheng-lan: “The Overall Survey of the Ocean’s Shores ,” trans. J.V.G. Mills (London: Cambridge University Press, 1970), 104.
Engseng Ho, “Inter-Asian Concepts for Mobile Societies,” Journal of Asian Studies 76, no. 4 (November, 2017), 907–928.
Michael Vickery, “Funan Reviewed: Deconstructing the Ancients,” Bulletin de l’École française d’Extrême-Orient, 2003-2004 vol.90/91 (2003-2004), 101-143.
Kenneth Hall, “Commodity Flows, Diaspora Networking, and Contested Agency in the Eastern Indian Ocean c. 1000-1500,” TRaNS: Trans-Regional and -National Studies of Southeast Asia 4, no. 2 (July 2016), 387–417.
Étienne Balibar, “Is There a Neo-racism?”, in Étienne Balibar and Immanuel Wallerstein, Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities (London: Verso, 1991), 17–28.
See Huang, Desire and Fictional Narrative in Late Imperial China (Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, distributed by Harvard University Press, 2001), Harvard East Asian Monographs 202: 5–85.
Sun Laichen, “Burmese bells and Chinese eroticism: Southeast Asia’s cultural influence on China,” Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 38, no. 2 (2007), 259.
See Huang, Desire and Fictional Narrative, 101, and Shang Wei, “The Making of the Everyday World: Jin Ping Mei cihua and Encyclopedias for Daily Use,” in Dynastic Crisis and Cultural Innovation: From the Late Ming to the Late Qing and Beyond (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005), 89.