Hardships from the Arabian Gulf to China: The Challenges that Faced Foreign Merchants Between the Seventh and Thirteenth Centuries

Number: 57
Wan Lei

The article is a study of the hardships faced by foreign merchants from the Arabian Gulf who travelled to China between the seventh and the thirteenth centuries (coinciding with the Tang and Song dynasties). It highlights the stories of both well-known and more obscure foreign merchants by relying on accounts primarily drawn from classical Chinese historical documents and the foreign travel literature. The discussion is thematically divided into five sub-topics, each focusing on a particular hardship that merchants had to contend with: the dangers at sea; the troubles from warlords and pirates; imperial monopolies, duty-levies, and prohibitions; the corruption of Chinese officialdom; and legal discrimination in China.