"The East Asian 'Mediterranean', c. 1500-1800:
A New Quality in the Development of its Neighbouring Countries"

Research project sponsored by the VW-Foundation

The project started in May 2002. Whereas previous research has, with few exceptions, basically documented the history of a specific region or the trade relations between two areas, it is intended - on the basis of written and archaeological sources of all integrated regions and countries, above all China, Japan, Korea, and the Ryu-kyus – to analyze and expound the supra-regional and international economic (and cultural) exchange within the region of greater East Asia. In the sense of Fernand Braudel we speak of an "East Asian Mediterranean" as a region which was characterized more by connecting than separating factors, even during times of official "seclusion". The project, therefore, lays emphasis on both the geographic concept of greater East Asia and an interdisciplinary approach.

As part of the Institute for Chinese Studies, we have cooperations with German and foreign institutes and work together primarily with Japanese and Korean Studies, Archaeology, European Colonial History, Southeast Asian Studies, and the Institute for the History of Medicine in Munich - medical products being one of the major trade items in Asia during the time period to be investigated. We try to focus our research especially albeit not exclusively on private networks and the interrelationship of 'private' and 'official' channels – which does not mean that official contacts are not taken into consideration, as they can for many reasons simply not be omitted.

In addition, we want to lay particular emphasis on the exchange of technologies and the encounter of scientific and technological knowledge (e.g. medicine, shipbuilding etc.), as normally not much attention is paid to related issues and aspects. The particular case studies (cf. below) will eventually be placed into the geographic concept of a larger trade and exchange network within East Asia.

In addition, we work on a project-database, which will contain all related data of the project participants.

An international conference is planned for the future.