The lovely jar featured on the cover of this issue of the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies is an example of Satsuma 薩摩 ware, a style of Japanese ceramics. This piece dates from the late nineteenth century. Satsuma ware originated in the province of the same name on the southern island of Kyushu around the beginning of the seventeenth century, when seventy-some Koreans captured by invading Japanese troops during the Imjin War 壬辰戦争 (1592–1598) established kilns in Naeshirogawa 苗代川 and several other locations. The original Satsuma ware was rustic and unadorned, but during the eighteenth century some kilns began to produce fine white porcelain, to which they later adapted innovative techniques from Kyoto, particularly the application of brocade painting (nishikide 錦手), as seen on the piece on the cover.
White Satsuma ware won acclaim at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1867 and enjoyed tremendous popularity on the export market for decades thereafter.1 As a result, workshops in Kyoto, Yokohama, and elsewhere began to produce work in the Satsuma style in quantities that swamped the output of the Kyushu kilns. Over time, the market was flooded with garish, mass-produced, faux Satsuma pieces, much to the detriment of the style’s reputation. The British diplomat Ernest Satow wrote in 1878 that “it would perhaps not be too much to say that nothing worthy of the collector’s attention has been produced since 1868.”2 He was surely too quick to judge, however. Satsuma ware continued to win awards at world expositions in Vienna (1875), Paris (1878), and Chicago (1893), and artisans in Naeshirogawa never stopped producing the high-quality wares that had first captured the Western world’s attention in Paris. Satsuma ware is by no means the only style of ceramics with roots in communities of artisans forcibly brought to Japan. Indeed, renowned kilns throughout western Japan—at Arita 有田, Karatsu 唐津, Hagi 萩, and elsewhere—were founded by Koreans.3 Satsuma ware is particularly noteworthy, however, because the Satsuma domain followed a policy of generally isolating Naeshirogawa’s community from outsiders and doing all it could to have them maintain Korean dress, language, and customs.
Korean potters brought to Japan during the Imjin War are often labeled “prisoners,” but they were not combatants and hence not prisoners of war in the conventional sense. Let us call them instead what they were: enslaved people, trafficked to Japan along with tens of thousands of their compatriots during a bloody, cruel, and pointless invasion. Potters were targeted in particular because their skills were prized: warriors throughout Japan avidly collected Korean tea bowls and other ceramics. They were the human equivalent of looted artworks.
To be sure, after the initial trauma of their resettlement in Japan, the people of Naeshirogawa were not treated as slaves.4 They did not labor under the direction of putative “owners.” They were not trafficked within Japan or sold abroad. They did not live in the fear that their children or spouses would be taken from them. The village’s population grew steadily until leveling off at about fourteen hundred in the late eighteenth century. Most of these supported themselves through agriculture, supplemented perhaps by part-time work at a kiln.
Even if they were not enslaved, neither were they free agents, even by the modest standards of Tokugawa Japan. They did not enjoy freedom of residence—Satsuma authorities occasionally moved entire communities of Koreans within the domain and even beyond, to Ryukyu—and although outsiders could marry into the community, the domain prohibited exogamy. Still, their commoner neighbors complained that the domain favored them with special treatment, including grants of land, exemption from land taxes, and occasional material support. Moreover, Naeshirogawa’s leading families were accorded the status of rural samurai (gōshi 郷士)—not a rare privilege in Satsuma, but nonetheless a sign of their secure place within domain society— even as other community members were legally registered as Naeshirogawa-mono 苗代川者, a marginal status category distinct from ordinary commoners (hyakushō 百姓).
Naeshirogawa served three purposes for the Satsuma domain. First, it was a trophy. Having a community of Korean subjects enhanced Satsuma’s standing vis-à-vis other daimyo domains and the shogunate itself, just as its dominion over the Ryukyu Kingdom, conquered in 1609, did. Beginning in 1676, the Satsuma lords regularly stopped at Naeshirogawa when traveling to and from Edo to attend on the shogun.5 Villagers dressed in Korean clothing performed Korean dances and songs and offered the daimyo nominally Korean-style food, such as skewered chicken and venison. In 1691, the daimyo Shimazu Tsunataka 島津綱貴 had three Naeshirogawa boys “costumed in the Korean manner” join his retinue as pages for the journey to Edo.6 The domain made similar use of Ryukyuan princes.
Naeshirogawa’s second purpose was as a center of ceramic production, but the domain offered inconsistent support for the kilns. It presented Satsuma ware as gifts to the shogun and other dignitaries but did not intervene during a period in the eighteenth century when ceramic production declined to the verge of extinction. Like other warlords during the invasion of Korea, Shimazu Yoshihiro 島津義弘 enslaved Korean potters because the wares they produced were coveted by Japanese practitioners of the tea ceremony. Yet tea bowls from Naeshirogawa never enjoyed much favor. Rather, connoisseurs continued to value imports from Korea over domestically produced ware, notwithstanding the putative Korean identity of Naeshirogawa’s potters.7
Finally, Naeshirogawa supplied Korean-language interpreters to the domain throughout the Tokugawa period. Records are spotty, but between 1698 and 1822, the domain summoned interpreters from the village at least nineteen times to communicate with Korean shipwreck victims. After the first two or three generations, few members of the community could speak Korean fluently, if at all. As a result, interpretation became the ken of four specialist families. The rest of the people learned song lyrics and ritual phrases by rote and internalized a few other words into their local Japanese dialect, farting in Korean (panggu 방구), for instance, without realizing it.8
Visitors emphasized the residents’ alterity—“seeing these unfamiliar people (みなれぬ人) makes me feel I have traveled to an unknown country (しらぬ国ゆくここち),” as the nativist scholar Shirao Kunihashira 白尾国柱 put it in 1795—even as they admitted that they were nearly indistinguishable from their commoner neighbors except for the differences of clothing and hairstyle mandated by the domain.9 If anything, Meiji-period observers were even keener to imagine Naeshirogawa as a foreign enclave. In 1898, an educator named Hontomi Yasushirō 本富安四郎 declared that “everyone in the village is Korean. For ages they have had no contact or intermarriage with others and have thereby preserved their pure Korean bloodline.”10
In fact, however, the villagers began to shed the visible markers of their Korean identity as soon as they were freed from the Satsuma domain’s control.11 Satow, who visited Naeshirogawa in 1877, remarked, “There is nothing distinctive in the appearance of the people or in the architecture of their houses to attract the notice of a passing traveller; they all speak Japanese as their native tongue, and wear Japanese dress; [Naeshirogawa] is in fact just like any other village.”12 Residents resorted to legal tricks to acquire Japanese-style surnames and hide their origins when seeking opportunities beyond the community. Some attained prominence in twentieth-century society, none more so than Tōgō Shigenori 東郷茂徳 (1883–1950), who served as the Japanese foreign minister during World War II. During the postwar period, locals successfully lobbied to erase the toponym Naeshirogawa from the map. Nowadays, few people recall that the deity originally enshrined at the local Tamayama 玉山 shrine was Tan’gun 檀君, the mythical founder of Korea. The alacrity with which many members of the community forsook their heritage reflects both the stigma that had long attached to their Korean identities and the extent to which those identities had been reduced to a performative obligation to domain officials and gawking tourists.
Let us return at last to the jar pictured on the cover. It bears the stamp of the Taizan 帯山 kiln on its base, which marks it as a work of Kyō-Satsuma 京薩摩 ware, most likely produced sometime between 1878 and 1884 at the Kyoto workshop of Taizan Yohei IX 帯山与兵 衛 (1856–1922), an important figure in the production of high-quality wares for export. Its genealogy begins with the enslavement of Korean artisans, whose descendants two centuries later adapted techniques from Kyoto into their work. Nearly another century later, their wares attracted such favorable attention in a newly emergent global market that ceramicists in Kyoto and elsewhere produced imitations designed with the tastes of American and European collectors in mind. Thus, potters enslaved to sate Shimazu Yoshihiro’s appetite for tea bowls founded a lineage of artistry that, through multiple mutations, found its way into a collection of “paintings, articles of bric-a-brac and Indian, Chinese and Japanese jewellery, curios, carvings, and other curiosities” bequeathed to Harvard in 1891 by Elizabeth Fogg in honor of her late husband, William, who had made his fortune as the president of a company involved in trade with China and Japan.13
The articles in this special issue of HJAS all focus on the history of slavery in East, Inner, and Southeast Asia during the early modern era. Each of our authors has tried to bring to light the stories of enslaved people and the social, political, and economic structures that sustained their enslavement. Like the vessel pictured here, whose connection to the history of slavery in East Asia has been obscured by time, the institution of slavery itself has too often been overlooked, ignored, or euphemized away in narratives of the early modern era. HJAS thanks the Harvard Art Museums for their kind permission to reproduce the image.
1 Gisela Jähn, Meiji Ceramics: The Art of Japanese Export Porcelain and Satsuma Ware, 1868–1912, trans. Michael Foster (Stuttgart: Arnoldsche, 2004).
2 Ernest Satow, “The Korean Potters in Satsuma,” Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, 1st ser., 6.2 (1878): 195.
3 An online exhibition curated by Rebekah Clements and Seung Yeun Sang, Stories of Clay: Discovering Chosŏn Korean Potters in Tokugawa Japan, accessed March 4, 2022, https:// aftermath.uab.cat/stories-of-clay/, provides an excellent and richly illustrated overview of the origins and influence of Korean potters brought to Japan after the Imjin War.
4 This discussion of Naeshirogawa during the Tokugawa period is drawn from Kurushima Hiroshi 久留島浩, “Kinsei no Naeshirogawa” 近世の苗代川, in Satsuma Chōsen tōkōmura no yonhyakunen 薩摩朝鮮陶工村の四百年, ed. Kurushima Hiroshi, Suda Tsutomu 須田努, and Chō Keitatsu 趙景達 (Tokyo: Iwanami shoten, 2014), pp. 3–57.
5 Rebekah Clements, “Daimyo Processions and Satsuma’s Korean Village: A Note on the Reliability of Local History Materials,” Japan Review 35 (2021): 219–30.
6 Kurushima Hiroshi, “Kinsei no Naeshirogawa,” pp. 18–19.
7 Nam-lin Hur, “Korean Tea Bowls (Kōrai chawan) and Japanese Wabicha: A Story of Acculturation in Premodern Northeast Asia,” Korean Studies 39 (2015): 1–22.
8 Chō Keitatsu, “Naeshirogawa no kindaishi” 苗代川の近代史, in Kurushima Hiroshi et al., Chōsen tōkōmura no yonhyakunen, p. 81.
9 Shirao Kunihashira, Geihan meishōkō 麑藩名勝考 (1795), quoted in Kurushima Hiroshi, “Kinsei no Naeshirogawa,” p. 42.
10 Hontomi Yasushirō, Satsuma kenbunki 薩摩見聞記 (Tokyo: Tōyōdō shoten, 1902 ), p. 51, quoted in Chō Keitatsu, “Naeshirogawa no kindaishi,” p. 66.
11 For a survey of Naeshirogawa since the Meiji Restoration, see Chō Keitatsu, “Naeshirogawa no kindaishi,” pp. 59–93.
12 Satow, “The Korean Potters in Satsuma,” p. 196.
13 Fogg bequest, cited in Kimberley A. Orcutt, “Personal Collecting Meets Institutional Vision: The Origins of Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum,” Journal of the History of Collections 18.2 (2006): 276.
Special Issue: Slavery in Early Modern East, Inner, and Southeast Asia
In Memoriam, Albert M. Craig, 1927–2021, and Edwin A. Cranston, 1932–2021
The Widespread Invisibility of Slavery in Early Modern Asia
The Slaves of Widow Tsieko
Chinese Slaveholders in the Dutch Empire
This article shifts the focus from European to Chinese slave owners in the Dutch empire. We examine Ambon Island, where a resilient Chinese community was documented in detailed seventeenth-century censuses that allow us to peer into individual households. These records show that slave ownership was ubiquitous, with some Chinese residents owning dozens of enslaved people. These slaveholders included Chinese women, such as the Widow Tsieko, who were former slaves themselves. Although the census records provide important insights including striking examples of female mobility, they illuminate only one part of a wider spectrum of lived experience, hiding what everyday life was like for many Chinese-owned slaves. Eighteenth-century legal records reveal the routinized violence that was so intertwined with the lives of enslaved people in Chinese households under Dutch rule.
十七世紀的荷屬安汶島上的華人，普遍擁有奴隸： 278 華人居民就擁有 600 名奴隸，其中最特別的，是本身即是奴隸出身的寡婦 Tsieko。華人社群男女比例極度不平衡，加上荷蘭的遺產法律，使得少數女性擁有特別的上升流動管道，但是這樣的流動性是來自於殖民社會多元法律習俗的斡旋，與奴隸勞動的制度性暴力仍同時並存。
Domestic Law and Slavery in Late Imperial China
Glimpses from Lineage Registers
Over the past century, the late imperial Chinese nubi system has been the subject of numerous studies. Depicted as a highly exploitative mode of labor coercion, it has nonetheless been radically differentiated from slavery. In this article, I explore how nubi were conceptualized in late imperial China through the lens of lineages’ domestic regulations and admonitions. Nubi bondage was first and foremost a living experience of strong asymmetric dependency. However, as a de jure institution, its conceptual and normative dimensions do matter as they justified the enslavement of human beings and contributed to shaping household practices. Domestic regulations reveal a process that transformed outsiders into absolute inferiors. This consideration alone is an incentive to reconsider the alleged disqualification of nubi as a form of “slavery” and to engage broader comparisons with slavery in a more global perspective.
Japan’s Invasion of Chosŏn Korea and Abduction of Koreans
The Japanese invasion of Chosŏn, known as the Imjin War (K. Imjin waeran 壬辰倭亂, 1592–1598), ravaged Korea. Japanese troops abducted twenty to one hundred thousand or more Koreans to Japan. Although a fraction were repatriated, most abductees lived their lives in slavery in Japan or beyond. I argue that the Japanese abduction of Koreans was an extension of Japanese “pillage and violence” (J. ranbō rōzeki 濫妨狼藉) wartime practices that had emerged during the extended period of civil war during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Moreover, the increase in abductions during the final years of the war derived from Japan’s failing military campaign. The Japanese abduction and treatment of Koreans reflects the slavery and human-trafficking practices that were still robust in Japanese society during the early seventeenth century.
임란에서 일본군은 2만에서 10만 혹은 그 이상으로 추산되는 조선인을 노획물로 납치했다. 조선인의 대량 납치는 일본 전국시대의 약탈 관행과 실패로 끝나가는 침략 전쟁에의 좌절 그리고 보상 심리에 연유했다. 조선인은 납치된 후 일본사회의 만연한 노예 노동 및 인신매매의 희생물이 되었다.
Slavery and Genre in The Plum in the Golden Vase
In this article, I argue for a reading of the long fiction Plum in the Golden Vase that does not simply excavate the text for facts but instead considers the genres of Ming imaginative literature as theories of social hierarchy. The novel’s sui generis form can be understood, I argue, as a socially symbolic act, particularly relating to the trafficking of human beings and especially of women. The Plum in the Golden Vase places at the very core of society the radical transactability of women. Finally, I interpret seventeenth-century debates about the text—namely, how to rehabilitate the text from its sexual content by reading these debates as relating not merely to aesthetics but also to social theory.
Slave Donations to Buddhist Parishes in Qing Mongolia
Donations of slaves to Buddhist parishes in Qing Mongolia contributed to growing parish populations and wealth in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. I argue that Buddhist parish institutions thus benefited from the practice of slavery by encouraging donations of slaves and providing a refuge for former slaves. Mongolian archival testaments document slaveholders—both women and men—offering people, livestock, and other property to parishes. Slaveholders’ stated motivations for donation include protecting the formerly enslaved from predation and re-enslavement, fulfilling an enslaved person’s request to enroll in a parish, and generating merit for donors. Buddhist parishes’ self-interested administration of the transition between slave and nonslave nevertheless led to moderation of some of the worst practices of slavery and to a reduction in the number of enslaved people.
Чин улсын эрхшээл дорх Монгол оронд гэрийн боолчуудыг хутагтууд шавь болгон өргөх болсон нь шавийн захиргааны хүн ам болон эд баялгийг ихээхэн нэмэгдүүлж болсон. Монголын архивт буй өргөдөл, гэрээс бичгүүдэд боолын эзэд нь боолчуудаа өмч, малын хамтаар шавьд өргөж байсныг тэмдэглэжээ. Гэрийн боолыг нь хожим хойно хэн нэгэн дарлах, боолчлохоос хамгаалах буюу эсхүл боол болсон хүний шавьд багтах өөрийнх нь хүсэл, эзэн хүний хойтын буян гэх мэт сэдлээр боолчуудыг шавь болгон өргөж байв. Шавийн захиргаа нь өөрийн эрх ашгийн үүднээс боолын чөлөөлөгдөх явцыг зохицуулж байсан нь тухайн үеийн боолчлолын зарим нэг хүнд хэлбэр хувьсч өөрчлөгдөхөд нэмэр болсон байна.
Resilience of Korean Slavery
Tyrannical Owners, Resourceful Slaves, and the Equivocal State
In this article, I seek to understand the longevity of Korean slavery, the social and economic foundation of Chosŏn Korea (1392–1910). The tension of the competing economic needs of the state and yangban elites versus the state’s ideological commitment to benevolent governance led the state to formulate pliable policies on slavery. Legal cases concerning slaves’ oppression by slave owners reveal that owners exercised tyrannical power over their slaves. Yet laws also restrained slave owners in their dealings with slaves. Slaves, though subject to constant exploitation and unjust social conditions, took advantage of their economic, social, and familial resources as well as their legal rights in managing their precarious lives. This structural malleability enabling slaves’ agency created a form of slavery in Korea that endured for centuries.
이 논문은 조선왕조의 사회 경제적 근간을 이룬 노비제도가 장기지속된 원인을 노비들이 자신들이 갖고 있는 사회 경제적 자원과 법적 수단들을 이용하여 자신들의 삶을 주체적으로 영위해 나갈 수 있게 한 구조적 유연성에서 찾는다.
Self-Enslavement as Resistance to the State?
Siamese Early Modern Laws on Slavery
I examine slavery laws, as reproduced in the 1805 Three Seals Code, as well as accounts of Europeans, to compare the legal conditions of enslaved people and serfs in early modern Siam. I argue that the Siamese kingdom of Ayutthaya (1350–1767) was a slave society where contractual self-enslavement was a widespread means for serfs to escape required corvée and military service to the state. I also suggest that differentiating indigenous contractual slaves (temporary, collateral, and permanent), who were protected to various degrees by the law, from enslaved foreign war captives, who were potentially outside of any legal framework, invites us to rethink freedom and slavery as a continuum rather than a dichotomy.
จากการตรวจสอบ “พระไอยการทาษ” ซึ่งตีพิมพ์ใหม่ในกฎหมายตราสามดวง (1805) และบันทึกของคณะมิสชันนารีจากยุโรปที่เดินทางมาอยุธยา ผู้เขียนนำเสนอหลักเกณฑ์เงื่อนไขทางกฎหมายของทาสในอาณาจักรเปรียบเทียบกับหลักเกณฑ์เงื่อนไขของไพร่ประเภทต่างๆ โดยผู้เขียนได้ชี้ให้เห็นว่าในสังคมทาสของอยุธยานั้น การขายตัวลงเป็นทาสด้วยการตกลงทำสัญญา หรือ “ทาสสินไถ่” คือ วิธีการทั่วไปของไพร่ในการต่อต้านรัฐเพื่อใช้หลีกหนีจากการเกณฑ์แรงงานหรือการเกณฑ์ทหาร นอกจากนี้ ผู้เขียนเสนอว่าจำเป็นต้องศึกษาวิจัยเพิ่มเติมต่อไปในประเด็นความแตกต่างระหว่างทาสสินไถ่ที่ได้รับความคุ้มครองตามกฎหมาย กับเชลยสงครามซึ่งน่าจะอยู่นอกกรอบกฎหมาย
The Commensurability of Slavery in Macau and South China
On September 12, 1672, an eighteen-year-old Chinese slave called Ângela was sold by a low-level Qing official to a Portuguese merchant at Macau’s northern gate, or so her limited-term servitude certificate claims. At that moment, Ângela moved from one part of a loosely integrated global market to another, crossing linguistic and cultural boundaries that shaped both her legal status and lived experience. This move was facilitated by fundamental similarities in the ways human beings were commodified in the Iberian world and early Qing China, which were in turn undergirded by overlapping ideas about degraded status and loosely equivalent customs surrounding property and contracts. As a contribution to the global history of early modern slavery, this article makes extensive use of both Chinese and Western sources to explore the limits of such commensurability and what it might have meant for Chinese women like Ângela who were sold in Macau.
Temporarily for Your Majesty
Debates on Abolishing Courtesan Slavery in Chosŏn Korea
I identify the institution of government courtesans in Chosŏn Korea as state slavery. Government courtesans, like other government slaves and like private household slaves, were legally defined as chattel property in Chosŏn. Yet courtesans differed from those other types of slaves because their performances—labor mandated by the state—were constantly questioned and delegitimized by the government of nearly every Chosŏn king. Based on an examination of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century court debates about abolishing the courtesan system, I argue that the government’s repeated failures to abolish the use of courtesans produced the Chosŏn courtesan system as an illegitimate, temporary, and dispensable state apparatus. Paradoxically, the repeated designation of ongoing courtesan participation in royal, diplomatic, and military events as temporary in fact perpetuated courtesan slavery, even as the nominal illegitimacy removed any legal, social, or moral justification for the system.
이 논문은 조선 정부에서 국가 노예제인 관기 제도를 폐지하기 위한 논쟁을 거듭했으나 매번 실패하는 지속적 과정이 관기 제도를 부적절하고, 임시적이며, 제거 가능한 조직으로 만드는 담론적 효과를 창출했으며, 이를 통해 역설적으로 국가 노예제의 권력 위계 질서를 영속화했다는 점에 대해 살펴본다.
Remember Girl Zero
Asia-Pacific Patriliny and Female Slavery
In 1872, Maria Luz, a Peruvian ship transporting indentured Chinese “coolies” from Macau to Peru, stopped in the international treaty port of Yokohama, Japan. Amid intense international scrutiny, governor Ōe Taku investigated and then liberated all male coolies on board. However, Ōe left the ship’s captain, Ricardo Hereiro, in possession of an unnamed girl he had purchased in Macau. Since 1872, the Maria Luz incident has been incessantly narrated as a triumph of global abolitionism and evidence of Japan’s progress toward civilization and enlightenment. Historical amnesia has reigned regarding the unliberated girl. Rethinking the incident from this girl’s perspective reveals less rupture than continuity in the flourishing Asia-Pacific traffic in women and girls—framed as patrilineal kinship and licensed by abolitionists’ gendered double standards. The resulting moral and legal blind spots continue to obscure female enslavement in present-day scholarship.