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The Tribute System in Action

In both articles, “The Tribute System in Action” and “The Columbian Exchange” (presuming they were written by different people) the authors remain anonymous as there is no mention of their names. In “The Tribute System in Action” one reads of the decree of the Emperor Qialong addressed to George III, then king of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and his court.

In the Emperor’s decree, though he commends the effort of the king to send a special envoy to China’s celestial court due to an inclination towards Chinese civilization, the Emperor reaffirms his power and authority as ruler of his empire to the English king, his subjects, and other foreign powers when he insists that the king’s request cannot be permitted as it is “not in harmony with the state system of our dynasty (as cited in Duiker and Spielvogel, 2004). ”

On the other hand the comparative essay, “The Columbian Exchange” appears to be addressed to a general audience of readers, not merely those in the academe but even to “lay” readers. In a way it appears to be a critical textbook material which presets two sides of the story regarding the European conquest of the Western hemisphere. In terms of the recipients of the two works, in my opinion the audience is specified in the first essay “The Tribute System in Action,” as manifested in the document “A Decree of Emperor Qianlong” while there is no such intended reader specified in “The Columbian Exchange.

” The document scrutinized in “The Tribute System of Action” appears to be an official decree which contains much insight about China and Chinese culture in the time of the named emperor Qianlong, i. e. the late 18th century. From culture of the Chinese with its strong Confucian influence which has been a major force in the development of the Eastern part of the globe, the document addresses its ‘counterpart’ so to speak in the Western hemisphere – the court of George III and the British empire.

The said document apparently was written in the closing years of the 18th century, 1793 to be exact (as noted in the textbook), wherein the English and many other foreign powers sought to establish trade with the Chinese empire. As gleaned from the text of the decree, it appears that the English desired to win the Chinese emperor’s favor in seeking to send an Englishman, Lord Macartney, to the celestial court of the Chinese dynasty in power. The document is of significant historical value not only to scholars and historians but to both the Chinese and the English as well.

For the Chinese, it would appear as historical proof and reminder of the power of the Chinese empire in the 18th century and how its emperor refused to accommodate the wishes of a foreign power (the English monarch nonetheless) because it runs counter to the established norms of the Chinese celestial court at that particular historical period. To the English, it is a significant historical resource which establishes as empirical fact that by the 18th century there were already efforts to establish cordial relations with China.

There is a need to read and study the document for its historical value, particularly for the story it tells of that particular historical period – there were efforts to send an English trade and legal ‘ambassador’ (of sorts) to the court of the Chinese emperor Qianlong in 1793 but this was politely but firmly refused by the said monarch for reasons of state and compliance with the existing cultural norms of 18th century Chinese society.

Work Cited

Duiker, William J. and Jackson J. Spielvogel. Wadsworth Publishing, 2004.

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