Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History

Fuqing peddlers in Japan

In 1899, the Japanese state, fearing the influx of low-wage Chinese workers, enacted specific measures to control Chinese migration, which had first grown dramatically after the establishment of the treaty ports and foreign concessions in the mid-nineteenth century. Following the revision of the Ansei (unequal) treaties and abolition of extraterritoriality (as well as Japan’s 1895 victory over the Qing), the government issued Imperial Ordinance 352 and Home Ministry Ordinance 42, which prevented most Chinese laborers from moving beyond the former treaty ports and concessions. These orders did permit the entry of itinerant peddlers, provided that they registered with the police in their various destinations (Ōsato 1998; Yamawaki 1994).

Peddlers from Fuqing constituted one of the most important groups who entered under these conditions. Their routes extended across the archipelago, and were part of a far larger network of Fuqing migration routes in the Qing and Republican eras.

According to historian Shiba Yoshinobu, the peddling of medicinal products, silk, cotton cloth, and sundry goods was in particular the specialized operation of groups centered on Fuqing's Gaoshan area and on southern Zhejiang. This Sino-Japanese trade in medicinal products, woven cloth, and sundry goods dated back to the Nagasaki era, and the extent of Japanese demand for Chinese goods led many Chinese to migrate to Japan in the Meiji era with the intention of opening up hinterland markets. The Japanese colloquially called these peddlers “furoshiki Nankin” (China bundlers), supposedly because of the bundles of cloth they carried on their routes (Shiba 1983, esp. 86-87).

See also: Descriptions of Fuqing.

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