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The Yuan dynasty (1279 - 1368 AD) collapsed almost ninety years after it had conquered and unified all over the China. While Yuan regime was defeated, the Dadu (present-day Beijing) was captured by the Ming troops and the usurpation of imperial power by Ming dynasty. Zhu Yuanzhang, more commonly known as the Hongwu Emperor of Ming dynasty (1368 - 1398 AD), finally launched the establishment of the Son of Heaven of a Great Ming dynasty in China. During this early Ming Dynasty, China was considered as one of the most prosperous economically and technologically foremost empires in the world. As Ebrey notes that Europe was not yet a force in Asia and the dynastic Chinese sustained to look on the outer world in traditional terms. China was also regarded as the center of Asia at the beginning of 15th century and the idea of “Middle Kingdom” (Zhong guo 中国 or Central Beauty, a key political term in modern China) began to accelerate at that time.1) Hongwu Emperor was not interested in expanding commercial trade at all. He implemented the Hai jin policy which the Emperor banned the maritime shipping and private foreign trade outside of the tributary system, and he chose a path of its diplomatic and tribute mission with overseas countries. In the first years of his reign, in July 1370, Hongwu Emperor rushed to dispatch envoys to overseas, including Vietnam, Java, Champa, Koryo, and Japan to announce the establishment of the new dynasty of China.2) In 1378 AD, the Emperor also sent envoys to designate prince Parameswara as a king of Srivijaya. However, Majapahit kingdom in Java regarded this action as a defiance to Majapahit’s authority and legitimacy over Srivijaya that had been under its domination since 1275 AD, and the envoys were then killed in the quarrel.3) After Hongwu Emperor passed away in 1398 AD, the record of Ming dynasty said that its foreign relation was under a vacuous stage for four years. There was a bloody four-year rebellion against his nephew, Jianwen Emperor, and in 1402 AD the Hongwu’s son, Yongle Emperor (1402 – 1424 AD) seized the throne. He began a multifaceted project to expand Ming power over land and sea. In October 1402 AD, Yongle Emperor summoned the Ministry of Rites to handle foreign relations. At the same time, the Emperor assigned a remarkable Chinese Muslim commander and navigator, Zheng He or known as Admiral Cheng Ho to organize and manage the largest ships on seven sea voyages of exploration (1405-1433 AD) to the lands around the Asia countries. Frequently portrayed as a great mariner in the legendary nautical tradition of Islam, Admiral Zheng He’s premier qualification for the position of commander-in-chief of the treasure fleets was not his expertise as a captain, but rather in his pertinacious loyalty to Yongle Emperor. As a young Chinese-Muslim boy, Zheng He had been taken into the camp of General Fu Youde as a prisoner during the Ming battles against the Mongols' troops and Yunnan was falling down under the Ming forces. He was emasculated and obliged to provide the service in Yongle’s household while the latter he was still an imperial prince and a commander in his father’s (Ma Haji) army. As Zheng He grew up, he became a great warrior of early Ming dynasty, serving with prominent bravery during his patron’s quest for the throne.4) Espoused by 62 large and 255 small ships containing 27,000 passengers deriving from different elite class, the Admiral Zheng He led 7 naval expeditions to Southeast Asia, Middle East and east coast of Africa in the span of 28 years during the Ming Dynasty. The scale of Zheng He’s fleet was unprecedented in world history. The large treasure ships used during the expeditions were purported to be 440 feet long and 180 feet wide. Throughout his voyages, Zheng He brought Chinese tea, porcelain and silk products to foreign countries and also brought back exotic goods to the Ming court such as spices, precious stones and gold. Ma Huan 馬歡 (1380–1460 AD), a Chinese translator for Zheng He’s voyages, wrote a journey book, “Yin Ya Shen Lan” (瀛涯勝覽) listing ‘blue porcelain’ as one of the products traded and reported that it was popular in Dai Viet (Now Vietnam), Java and Sumatra (present-day Indonesia), Sri Lanka, and Dovar (now the province of Zufar, Oman). He also included comments on Jingdezhen blue and white wares as highly valued in these foreign countries. Yongle Porcelain was distributed via both land and sea, often in exchange for species, precious stones and gold. The latter notice is translated variously, as “The people of this country are fond of Chinese porcelain with blue flowers, musk, flowered and plain linen or silk, glass beads, etc.5) Despite Zheng He brought back the exotic luxury goods, but his expeditions were so sumptuous that the costs exceeded the benefits. Increasing costs of voyages induced political crisis during the later years of Yongle’s reign. According to Dreyer’s analysis, “hostility to the acquisition of extraneous and superfluous items from foreign countries had been a staple of Neo-Confucian doctrine for centuries.” The elite of civil officials had built up animosity toward eunuchs as political power. Since they were against projects associated with eunuchs in general, they were also actively against Zhen He’s “thriftless” expedition project and made a general effort to reverse it. The voyages of Zheng He fostered diplomatic relations, commercial trades and cultural exchange between China and foreign countries. Though the original and main purpose of Zheng He’s expeditions to foreign countries was political and diplomatic, Emperor Yongle also intended to awe the rulers of Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean into sending tribute to China.6) In 1424, Zheng He was again sent on a mission to Palembang (Sumatra), Shi Jinqing, the governor of the Xuanweisi of Palembang, having died, Zheng He was sent to appoint his son Shih Chi-sun (his daughter according to Ma Huan), as the new Chinese governor of Palembang. Zheng He went alone in this voyage, non in command of a sea-going fleet. On August 8, 1424, the Yongle Emperor died, and it ended the consistent imperial support Zheng He’s expedition under the Yongle Emperor’s son, the Honxi Emperor洪熙 reigning from 1424 to 1425 AD. Shortly after the death of Hongxi’s Emperor, the Ming reign was under the next successor, the grandson of Yongle, Emperor Xuande (1426 – 1435 AD). The diplomatic mission and tributary system between early Ming dynasty to overseas, including Java, Malacca, Vietnam and Palembang empires through maritime was more intensified. Finally, the command of officially Zheng He’s seventh and final voyage from 1431 to 1433 was an important culmination point of mission to Java and Palembang (Sumatera) kingdoms. According to Information Office of the People's Government Fujian Province, it explores that on the 11th day of the first month of Emperor Xuande, the fleet sailed for another 25 days to arrive at Java. On June 16, it left Java and sailed for 11 days to arrive at Palembang. On July 1, the fleet left Palembang and sailed for seven days to arrive at Malacca, and on August 8, it left Malacca and sailed for 10 days to arrive at Sumatra.7) Leading six trade and diplomatic voyages launched between 1405 and 1422 AD during the Yongle reign, Zheng He was summoned to complete the Ming’s seventh and final voyage in 1431 AD under Xuande Emperor of Ming dynasty. The life of the legendary “Admiral,” Zheng He, who commanded these voyages, gives evidence of how power relationship outside the traditional channels of Confucian scholarship and government were treated by China as a threat to political stability. Zheng He’s expedition served both the internal and external political motives and interests of Yongle Emperor. He was not only as prominent admiral of Ming dynasty, but he also acted as a diplomatic representative of the early Ming court, who strove to establish the relations with the overseas sovereigns he visited and encouraged them to send tribute to Ming court. For Ming dynasty, to establish foreign tributary missions could not only reinforce the central power of China in Asia but also extended the legitimacy of the reign of Ming dynasty and domestic stability. Zheng He obtained a large amount of exotic foreign goods that could satisfy his desire and the emperor. Admiral Zheng He died in 1433 AD in the age of 62 years at his sea adventure between 1431 and 1433, and likely he was buried off the coast of India. The legacy of Zheng He’s voyages is inherited by the modern Chinese government today, and it is a political instrument to bolster and establish relations with other countries. Yours sincerely, Aminudin Asian Art and History Researcher Asian Art Relics And Culture Association Bibliography: 1. Patricia Buckley Ebrey, Cambridge Illustrated History: China, Cambridge University Press; 2nd edition, 2010, p. 209 2. G.W. Wang, Ming Taizu shilu 明太祖实录 (Ming veritable record of Emperor Taizu of the Ming dynasty), 1991, p. 112 3. Tan Ta Sen, Cheng Ho and Islam in Southeast Asia, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, 2009, pp. 175 – 176. 4. Steven L. Danver (Ed), Popular Controversies in World History: Investigating History's Intriguing Questions, Volume One, Prehistory and Early Civilizations, ABC-CLIO LLC, United State of America, 2011, p. 83. 5. Peter Francis, Asia's Maritime Bead Trade: 300 B.C. to the Present, University of Hawai Press, Honolulu, 2002, p. 70. 6. Edward L. Dreyer, Zheng He: China and the Oceans in the Early Ming Dynasty, 1405 - 1433, 2006, p. 24, 27 & 102. 7. Office of the People's Government Fujian Province, Zheng He's Voyages Down the Western Seas, China International Press, 2005, p. 44.

Legacy of Zheng He’s Foremost Voyages: The Great Martime Expeditions of Trade and Diplomacy of Early Ming Dynasty to Southeast Asia Sovereigns

The Yuan dynasty (1279 – 1368 AD) collapsed almost ninety years after it had conquered and unified all over the China. While Yuan regime was defeated, the Dadu (present-day Beijing) was captured by the Ming troops and the usurpation of imperial power by Ming dynasty. Zhu Yuanzhang, more commonly known as the Hongwu Emperor of Ming dynasty (1368 – 1398 AD), finally launched the establishment of the Son of Heaven of a Great Ming dynasty in China.  During this early Ming Dynasty, China was considered as one of the most prosperous economically and technologically foremost empires in the world. As Ebrey notes that Europe was not yet a force in Asia and the dynastic Chinese sustained to look on the outer world in traditional terms. China was also regarded as the center of Asia at the beginning of 15th century and the idea of “Middle Kingdom” (Zhong guo 中国 or Central Beauty, a key political term in modern China) began to accelerate at that time.1) Hongwu Emperor was not interested in expanding commercial trade at all. He implemented the Hai jin policy which the Emperor banned the maritime shipping and private foreign trade outside of the tributary system, and he […]

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After Riot and Civil War Between Ming and Qing Dynasties: An Impressive Underglaze Blue and Copper-Red ‘Deer and Cranes’ Dish

After Riot and Civil War Between Ming and Qing Dynasties: An Impressive Underglaze Blue and Copper-Red ‘Deer and Cranes’ Dish

Description of shallow rounded sides, thick and sturdy body with a flared everted iron-brown dressed rim, standing with the unglazed channeled foot ring, naturally decorated on overall interior of milky white glaze with underglaze wash blue in purplish tone and copper-red with a broadly scene of three deer standing beneath an old leafy pine tree growing from rock around bamboo and fungus, all looking up  a pair of cranes in flight around ruyi clouds, the exterior with powder blue glaze, and the glazed base written vertically underglaze blue six characters of Kangxi reign mark. Research & Essay Ming reign lasted for nearly three centuries, from 1368 to 1644, in China. By the early 1600s, however, the Ming dynasty began in powerlessly rule and its government was under rampantly corruption. In Chinese political and religious doctrine, the Ming dynasty had lost the Mandate of Heaven to govern China. Moreover, in 1644 AD, Manchurian troops assaulted to seize Ming’s power with the armament of gunpowder. After a long scramble of rebellion by Manchus, the Ming dynasty finally collapsed, and a new regime, Qing dynasty, ruled in China from 1644 to 1911 AD. However, in the 1640s, chaos surrounding the Ming loyalists and […]

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A Painting in Western Technique and Chinese Art Format: Gibbon with Her Babies on Rockwork and Tree

A Painting in Western Technique and Chinese Art Format: Gibbon with Her Babies on Rockwork and Tree

Research & Essay The painting art can be traced back to pre-historic periods, which the human’s fingers were used as a paintbrush on the cave walls. When it comes to a steady movement of painting art world in nineteenth century, Indonesian artists learned and mastered the styles of European painting. Watercolors is one the most frequently medium to use, and their works bare the gorgeous landscape and romantic themes, which was similar to European paintings. In modern era, there were numerous talented watercolor artists in Indonesia, and they increased on daily basis in the post-war II eras. However, there was a unique style of painting that combines the European art techniques with Chinese art format, like what a Chinese-born artist, Lee Man Fong executed on the present work. This artist’s oeuvre was considered as one of the newly born works in post-war era influenced by real rendering technique, ink philosophy, Western technique of oil on canvas, social change of surrounding environment but it was composed in Chinese art format. The present artwork was acquired by the father’s owner directly from the artist in 1964, one year prior to the turbulence and assassination of members of the Indonesian Communist Party in […]

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The Enduring Legacy of The Song Dynasty and Srivijaya Empire: A Unique Archaeological Jizhou ‘Tortoiseshell and Molded-Frogs Sprig’ Pattern Jar

The Enduring Legacy of The Song Dynasty and Srivijaya Empire: A Unique Archaeological Jizhou ‘Tortoiseshell and Molded-Frogs Sprig’ Pattern Jar

Description well potted with an ovoid body tapering to a narrow base and a short straight neck flanked by four double-strap ruyi-shaped handles applied to the shoulder below the wide mouth, around the exterior crisply appliquéd and molded with sprig of four paired-toads model confronted each other, covered with a lustrous dark brownish-black glaze liberally flecked with natural expressionistic patterns in beige tones simulating tortoiseshell in varying sizes stopping above the foot exposing the buff body and the base partly applied with a small glaze. Research & Essay In the periods between the collapse of Tang dynasty and the emergence of Song dynasty in the first half on the tenth century, there was  boisterous trade relation between the overseas and the independent empires in China, such as Fujian kingdom of Min (reigning from 909 to 945 AD) and the rich Guangdong kingdom of Nan Han (Southern Han reigning from 917 to 971 AD). As a central of powerful maritime trade entrepôt, Srivijaya kingdom unquestionably savored this situation, which it gained the abundant revenue and achieved its prosperity. A 10th-century Muslim Persian writer ‘Ahmad ibn Rustah Isfahani’ (احمد ابن رسته اصفهانی) was so astonished with the affluence of Buddhist Srivijaya ruler […]

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Tradition of Collecting Chinese Ceramic: Its Reborn Period Smashing World Auction Record in Today’s China – Hong Kong Art Market

Tradition of Collecting Chinese Ceramic: Its Reborn Period Smashing World Auction Record in Today’s China – Hong Kong Art Market

The blast of Chinese art market in 2000s will be recalled as one of the most influential milestone periods in the Chinese art history. Chinese art dates back to around 10,000 B.C during Neolithic periods, and it boomed rapidly in the later periods that was full of turbulences in scramble of power and influence. During Sui (581 – 618 AD) and Tang dynasties (618-907 AD), China began successfully to unify and create a prosperity period and a prolific art and literature market. During this period, art reflected many different cultural backgrounds around China with some influences from abroad, particularly Southeast Asia and Middle East or Arabia peninsula. The Chinese arts were exported and exchanged, and they included Buddhist sculptures, paintings, calligraphies, metalworks and ceramics. Chinese ceramics were exclusively appreciated, and tradition of collecting was considered as a Solomonic vigor. After the collapse of Tang dynasty, the Song dynasty (960–1279 AD) emerged and ruled the dynastic state in China. The Song dynasty was marked as an era establishing Chinese culture. The Song court proceeded the earlier art market that focused on ceramics and textiles for trade and exchange. Many scholars and poets rapidly bloomed, and they wrote and compared the virtues […]

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Artwork Forgery and Fakes: The Challenge for Art Historians to Ascertain Authenticity of Artwork

Artwork Forgery and Fakes: The Challenge for Art Historians to Ascertain Authenticity of Artwork

In the world of art, the collectors are considered as integral part of creation of the art value. Their collection can be used as a form of their expression and prestigious adventure to belong it. Their collection may also become their distinctive obsession as a medium that realizes all of their ambition and resources into it when competing with one another to acquire it. For some collectors, to collect and preserve artwork will gain knowledge about it that delivers a glorious direction for their life and surroundings. In a specific case, some collectors also establish their collection to become a sacred object. However, along with a high escalation in demand for artworks, it is encouraging an industry in fakes of forgeries. Although being supported by some art and antique dealers interested only in their personal profit, much of artworks are frequently questionable on their authenticity. Since the beginning of existence of artwork fakes and forgery, collecting artwork has been a riskily endeavor for collectors or art institutions. Art forgery issues date back more than two thousand years. The well-known art lawyer, Joshua Kauffman, notes that in ancient Rome history, the forgeries of artwork have been recorded since its ancient periods. […]

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The Establishment of Malacca Sultanate: From the Triumph of Commerce to the Conquest of Malacca from Early 15th to 16th Centuries

The Establishment of Malacca Sultanate: From the Triumph of Commerce to the Conquest of Malacca from Early 15th to 16th Centuries

When recollecting the establishment of Malacca sultanate, we should trace it back to the ancient sources of Srivijaya kingdom and Ming reign of China dynasty. When the triumph of Srivijaya Kingdom declined and Majapahit had dominated over Java and Srivijaya archipelago, it changed a dramatically life of the young prince Parameswara of Srivijaya kingdom. In 1378 AD, the Emperor Hongwu, a founder of Ming dynasty in China, sent envoys to designate the prince as a king of Srivijaya. Majapahit regarded this action as a defiance to Majapahit’s authority and legitimacy over Srivijaya that had been under its domination since 1275 AD, and the envoys were killed in the quarrel.1) To avoid the threat from Majapahit, the prince Parameswara was forced to flee to Temasek island (present-today Singapore). As a fifth-generation descendant of the Palembang prince Seri Tri Buana, who had founded Temasek (Singapore) in the thirteenth century, prince Parameswara sought a refuge from the prince Temagi of Siam, the regent of Temasek and allay of Majapahit. After a few years, he set an uncompromisable dispute to Majapahit by killing prince Temagi of Siam. This carless action made King Siamese King Ayyuthaya in Siam (now Thailand) and Majapahit kingdom in Java furious. […]

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From Turmoil towards Imperial Taste of Southern Song dynasty: A Molded ‘Guan Yao’ Archaic-Shaped Vase

From Turmoil towards Imperial Taste of Southern Song dynasty: A Molded ‘Guan Yao’ Archaic-Shaped Vase

Description finely potted with pear-shaped body rising elegantly from a short recessed foot to the flaring trumpet-shaped neck and mouth, softly molded and relief design around the body with a wide band of scrolling peonies above a border of upright chrysanthemum petals, the waisted neck flanked by a pair of double loop suspending ring handles, covered overall with a lustrous bluish-celadon glaze suffused with a network of luminous golden-beige crackles thinning at the extremities saving for the unglazed footring showing iron black body. Research & Essay In the 12th to 13th centuries, the Song dynasty moved towards to leading China to be the first country in the world to sense industrialization due to its economic affluence through its trade and diplomacy with other countries. Along with prosperity of Southern Song dynasty, Java and Srivijaya kingdoms provided their prosperity by their participation in an increasingly vibrant and lucrative international trade and diplomacy for China, where their resources were in high demand. Based on the ancient Chinese archive, Lin Qingqin concludes that in the Southern Song (Chinese: 南宋; 1127–1279), there were dozens of merchant ships from Champa (Vietnam), Siem Reap (Cambodia), Samboja (around the Jambi, Sumatra), Shepo (Java), and other countries every […]

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A Visible Soul of Painting Art: Panari Baris or Baris Dancer by S. Sudjojono

A Visible Soul of Painting Art: Panari Baris or Baris Dancer by S. Sudjojono

Research & Essay Artists have different life in different places, where they create their works. They also have the way to put themselves into their works, either literally or figuratively that can be a metaphor to their lives and what they went through. For certain artists, art is integral to socio-culture far and wide because it can represent not just the artists’ own expressions encapsulated within their works but the people of that socio-culture. like on the present work, the artist, S. Sudjojono, allowed us to see what is there in his work and also what is not seen beyond his work, what commonly Sudjojono said “Jiwo Ketok” or Visible Soul. The present work is one of S. Sudjojono’s oeuvres expressing his will and the way he puts himself as a revolutionary artist in his contemporaries. Now, the present work is collected by a renowned collector from Jakarta. Sudjojono was born in Kisaran, North Sumatra on 14th of December 1913 and died in Jakarta on 25th of March, 1985. As one of the renowned artists in Southeast Asia, Sindudarsono Sudjojono or S. Sudjojono was one of the most important personages in the history of modern Indonesian art. His family was […]

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An Affection of a Father: The Way of Hendra Gunawan To Express the Role of a Father's Affection in Familial Survival

An Affection of a Father: The Way of Hendra Gunawan To Express the Role of a Father’s Affection in Familial Survival

Research & Essay As a celebrated Indonesian painter, Hendra Gunawan (1918 – 1983 AD), uses different ways of outward expression to illustrate who he is in the society. He put himself into his work, even without command from others to do so. There are many reasons why Hendra takes to art and there are also many ways for him to become an artist. The painting art helped bring him closer and allows him to communicate without words, but instead with his works. Hendra produced painting arts throughout his career that has given us a large knowledge about the meaning of life. His works have impacted the way we live, the way we see things, and the artist has helped us to understand his art of expression about the meaning as a father in a familial survival. Born to Raden Prawiranegara and Raden Odah Tejaningsih on June 11th 1918 in Bandung – West Java, Dutch East Indies (present-day Indonesia), Hendra Gunawan (1918 – 1983 AD) was famously recognized for his colorful style of painting with caricaturistic subject that draws on an Expressionist background. In 1935, together with his close friends, Sudarso (1914 — 2006) and Barli Sasmitawinata (1921 — ), Hendra […]

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