You are here

An “Offshore” Perspective on 1683: Minh Hương and the Development of Chan Buddhism in Vietnam

Charles J. WHEELER (The University of Hong Kong)
Full Text Download (PDF): 

1683 marks a watershed date in Chinese political and economic history. In that year, the Qing Dynasty sent an armada against the island of Taiwan and forced the surrender of loyalists who had fought in vain to resurrect the Ming house that Qing armies had destroyed almost forty years before. Meanwhile across the sea, a different story unfolded. A Chinese Chan (Zen) master who the Vietnamese call Nguyên Thiêu arrived at the court of the Cochinchina (or Ðàng Trong), which like its defeated Taiwanese counterpart had risen from obscurity to become a wealthy sea trading state. At the same time, a fleet of Ming loyalists sailors, soldiers and traders-anchored near the capital and submitted themselves to the Cochinchinese court as vassals of the Vietnamese lord. This, then, marks an important year for different people in disparate places across the sea. In this article, master Nguyên Thiêu and the Ming loyalists are used to illustrate 1683's long-term and wide-ranging impact. By identifying the larger "social field of the sea" in which they operated, we can begin to see how the collapse of one trading empire, the Ming loyalist regime under the Zheng clan, invigorated the expansion of another trading empire, and encouraged a merchant- monastic alliance that projected monastic lineages based in Chinese port cities across the Asian maritime.

Journal of History and Anthropology