Tea in Europe


Tea drinking is one of the great temperance customs that the East shares most generously with the West; yet it was many centuries after tea was commonly used in the Orient that Europeans learned of it. Of the world's three great temperance beverages - cocoa, tea, and coffee - cocoa was the first to be introduced into Europe, in 1528, by the Spanish. It was alomost a century later, in 1610, that the Dutch brought tea to Europe. Venetian traders introduced coffee into Europe just a few years later, in 1615.

Canaletto_BacinoDiSanMarco_1738.jpgBacino di San Marco by Canaletto (1697-1768), 1738The earliest mention of tea in the literature of Europe was in 1559. It appears as Chiai Catai (Tea of China) in Delle navigationi e viaggi (Voyages and Travels) by Giambattista Ramusio (1485-1557),a noted Venetian author who published a valuable collection of narratives voyages and discoveries in ancient and modern times. Ramusio, as secretary to the Venetian Council of Ten, collected some rare commercial informationa and met famous travelers, among whom was Hajji Mahommed, or Chaggi Memet, the Persian merchant credited with having brought first knowledge of tea to Europe. The story appears as " The Tale of Hajji Mahommed", in Ramusio's "Espositione", a preference to the second volume of Navigatione et Viaggi, a work which includes the travels of Marco Polo. The paragraph containing the tea reference reads:

The name of the narrator was Hajji Mahommed, or Chaggi Memet, a native of Chilan (Persia) on the shores of the Caspian Sea, and he himself had been to Succuir (Sakkar, India), coming afterwards, at the time when I speak of, to Venice.... He told me that all over Cathay they made use of another plant or rather of its leaves. This is called by those people Chiai Catai, and grows in the district of Cathay which is called Cacian-fu (Szechwan). This is commonly used and much esteemed over all those countries. They take of that herb, whether dry or fresh, and boil it well in water. One or two cups of this decoction taken on an empty stomach removes fever, headache, stomach ache, pain in the side or the joints, and it should be taken as hot as you can bear it. He said, besides, that it was good for no end of other ailments which he could not remember, but gout was one of them. And if it happens that one feels incommoded in the stomach for having eaten too much, one has but to take a little of this decoction, and in a short time all will be digested. And it is so highly valued and esteemed that every one going on a journey takes it with him, and those people would gladly give a sack of rhubarb for one ounce of Chai Catai. And those people of Cathay do say if in our parts of the world, in Persia, and the counry of the Franks, people only knew of it, there is no doubt that the merchants would cease altogether to buy rhubarb.

In the time of Rumusio, Venice was the center of great commercial activity due to its geographical position between East and West. Its merchants and scholars were keenly alert for any knowledge which would add to its commercial prestige or increase the wealth of its merchant princes. Notable traders or travelers who came to Venice from the veiled East were feted, entertained, and encouraged to tell of strange peoples and products. Such information had been eagerly sought ever since the memorable return of Marco Polo. At the time of Hajji Mahommed's visit, Ramusio was engaged in editing, an account of Polo's travels. It was while entertaining the Persian merchant that Ramusio first heard of the tea plant and drink.

Parenthetically, Marco Polo's account fails to mention tea, although the drink was in great favor among the Chinese at that time, 1275-92. The reason is simple. Polo spent most of his time among the hosts of Kublai Khan, the Tartar invader, and was not interested in the customs of the subject people.

Portuguese as Pioneers in Orient

Portugal_1521-1557.gifMap of the Portuguese Empire during the reign of John III (1502–1557).Following Vasco da Gama's discovery of an all-sea route to the Indies by way of the Cape of Good Hope, in 1497, the Portuguese pushed on to other discoveries and founded a settlement at Malacca on the Malay Peninsula. From Malacca, in 1516, their first ship reached China, where they found favorable opportunities for trade. These Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive in the Orient by sea. A fleet of several ships followed the next year, and an ambassador was sent to Peiping. By 1540 they reached Japan.

The Chinese, looking with suspicion upon the Portuguese, held out no welcome, but convinced the Chinese emperor that the newcomers had come to barter and exchange and not to invade. The Chinese then permitted them to settle at Macao, a narrow peninsula projecting from the island of Hiang Shang on the western side of the estuary of the Canton River.

Portuguese Settlement in Asia

Portuguese sailors in the Age of Discovery were exploring the coasts of Africa and Asia, later established posts at Goa in 1510, and conquered Malacca in 1511, driving its Sultan of Malacca to the southern tip of the Malay Peninsular from where he kept making raids on the Portuguese.

The Portuguese under Jorge Álvares landed at Lintin Island 内伶停島 in the Pearl River 珠江 Delta of China in 1513 with a hired junk sailing from Portuguese Malacca. They erected a stone marker at Lintin Island claiming it for the King of Portugal, Manuel I. In the same year, the Indian Viceroy Afonso de Albuquerque commissioned Rafael Perestrello—a cousin of Christopher Columbus—to sail to China in order to open up trade relations; Rafael traded with the Chinese merchants in Canton 広東 in that year and in 1516, but was not allowed to move further. Portugal's king Manuel I in 1517 commissioned a diplomatic and trade mission to Canton headed by Tomé Pires and Fernão Pires de Andrade. Their embassy lasted until 1521, they even received a quick audience from emperor Zhengde 正德 in Nanjing 南京, but when Zhengde 正德 died in 1521, their embassy was further rejected by the Chinese Ming 明 court, which now became less interested in new foreign contacts, and was also influenced by reports of misbehaviour of Portuguese elsewhere in China, and by the deposed Sultan of Malacca seeking Chinese assistance to drive the Portuguese out of Malacca.

In 1521 and 1522 several more Portuguese ships reached trading island Tuen Mun 屯門 off the coast near Canton, but were forcibly driven away by the now hostile Ming authorities. Good relations between the Portuguese and Chinese Ming Dynasty resumed in the 1540s, when Portuguese aided China at eliminating coastal pirates, and could in 1549 start annual trade missions to Shangchuan Island 上川島. Diplomatic relations were finally salvaged by Leonel de Sousa in the early 1550s.

In 1557 the Ming 明 court gave consent for a permanent and official Portuguese trade base at Macau 澳門. In 1558 Leonel de Sousa became the second Portuguese Governor of Macau.

Macau 澳門

Macau 澳門 is a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China. It was administered by Portugal for 442 years, first as a trading post, and subsequently as a Portuguese territory, until its handover to China in 1999. It was the last European territory in Asia.

Macau did not develop as a major settlement until the Portuguese arrived in the 16th century.
In 1535, Portuguese traders obtained the rights to anchor ships in Macau's harbours and to carry out trading activities, though not the right to stay onshore.
Around 1552–1553, they obtained temporary permission to erect storage sheds onshore, in order to dry out goods drenched by sea water; they soon built rudimentary stone houses around the area now called Nam Van.
In 1576, Pope Gregory XIII established the Roman Catholic Diocese of Macau.

In 1557, the Ming 明 court gave consent for a permanent and official Portuguese trade base at Macau where Leonel de Sousa became the second Portuguese Governor of Macau next year. The Portuguese established a permanent settlement in Macau, paying an annual rent of 500 taels of silver. As more Portuguese settled in Macau to engage in trading, they made demands for self-administration; but this was not achieved until the 1840s.

In 1583, the Portuguese in Macau were permitted to form a Senate to handle various issues concerning their social and economic affairs under strict supervision of the Chinese authority, but there was no transfer of sovereignty. Macau prospered as a port but was the target of repeated failed attempts by the Dutch to conquer it in the 17th century.

Following the Opium War (1839–42), Portugal occupied Taipa in 1851 and Coloane in 1864 respectively.

On December 1, 1887, the Qing and Portuguese governments signed the Sino-Portuguese Treaty of Amity and Commerce, under which China ceded the right of "perpetual occupation and government of Macau by Portugal" in compliance with the statements of the Protocol of Lisbon. In return, Macau Government would cooperate with Hong Kong's smuggle of Indian opium and China would be able to increase profits through customs taxes. Portugal was also obliged "never to alienate Macau without previous agreement with China", therefore ensuring that negotiation between Portugal and France (regarding a possible exchange of Macau and Guinea with the French Congo) or with other countries would not go forward - so that the British commercial interests would be secured; Macau officially became a territory under Portuguese administration.

Trades along Guangzhou-Macau-Nagasaki route

After Portuguese permanent settlement in Macau, both Chinese and Portuguese merchants flocked to Macau 澳門, although the Portuguese where never numerous (numbering just 900 in 1583 and only 1,200 out of 26,000 in 1640). It quickly became an important node in the development of Portugal's trade along three major routes:

The Guangzhou 廣州-Macau 澳門-Nagasaki 長崎 route was particularly profitable because the Portuguese acted as middlemen, shipping Chinese silks to Japan and Japanese silver to China, pocketing huge markups in the process. This already lucrative trade became even more so when Chinese officials handed Macau's Portuguese traders a monopoly by banning direct trade with Japan in 1547, due to piracy by Chinese and Japanese nationals.

Macau's golden age coincided with the union of the Spanish and Portuguese crowns, between 1580 and 1640. King Philip II of Spain was encouraged to not harm the status quo, to allow trade to continue between Portuguese Macau 澳門 and Spanish Manila, and to not interfere with Portuguese trade with China. In 1587, Philip promoted Macau from "Settlement or Port of the Name of God" to "City of the Name of God" (Cidade do Nome de Deus de Macau).

The alliance of Portugal with Spain meant that Portuguese colonies became targets for the Netherlands, which was embroiled at the time in a lengthy struggle for its independence from Spain, the Eighty Years' War. After the Dutch East India Company was founded in 1602, the Dutch unsuccessfully attacked Macau several times, culminating in a full scale invasion attempt in 1622, when 800 attackers were successfully repelled by 150 Macanese and Portuguese defenders. One of the first actions of Macau's first governor, who arrived the following year, was to strengthen the city's defenses, which included the construction of the Guia Fortress.

Religious activity

As well as being an important trading post, Macau 澳門 was a center of activity for Catholic missionaries, as it was seen as a gateway for the conversion of the vast populations of China and Japan. Jesuits had first arrived in the 1560s and were followed by Dominicans in the 1580s. Both orders soon set about constructing churches and schools, the most notable of which were the Jesuit Cathedral of Saint Paul and the St. Dominic’s Church built by the Dominicans. In 1576, Macau was established as an episcopal see by Pope Gregory XIII with Melchior Carneiro appointed as the first bishop.

Mention by Priests and Travelers

During the early years of European commerce with China and Japan there is no record of tea having been transported, but the Jesuit missionaries, who early penetrated both countries, became acquainted with the tea drink and sent accounts of it to Europe. Of these missionaries, Father Gasper da Cruz, a Portuguese, is said to have been the first to preach the Catholic doctrines in China, having there in 1556. Returning to Portugal about 1560, he published the first notice of tea in Portuguese. It reads:

Whatsoever person or persons come to any man's house of quality, hee hath a custome to offer him.... a kind of drinke called "ch'a", which is somewhat bitter, red, and medicinall, which they are wont to make with a certayne concoction of herbes.

Further news of tea reached Italy in 1565 in a letter from Father Louise Almeida, a missionary to Japan. Father Almeida wrote:

The Japanese are very fond of an herb agreeable to the taste, which they call "chia".

Two years later, in 1567, the first account of tea reached Russia. The news was carried there by Ivan Petroff and Boornash Yalysheff upon their return from travels in China. Their reference to tea was a casual one. They described the tea plant as a wonder of China, but they brought back neither specimens of the bush nor samples of tea.

Although an account of tea had been published at Venice in 1559, it was not until 1588 that it was again noted in an Italian work. This was when Gionanni Maffei, an eminent Italian author, printed at Florence Father Almeida's 1565 letter an extensive collection of partners, titled Four Books of Selected Letters from India. In Maffei's frequently quated Historica Indica, published at Rome in 1588, are two other references to tea.

The beverage of the Japanese is a juice extracted from an herb called "chia" which they boil to drink, and which is extremely wholesome. It protects them from pituitary troubles, heaviness in the head, and ailments of the eyes; it makes them live long years almost without languor. The Japanese have as yet no use for grapes, but they make a kind of wine from rice. But that which before all they delight to drink is water almost boiling, mingled with the powdered chia. They are particular about having it well made. The most eminent sometimes make it with their own hands, taking the troubles to regulate the portions and to make the mixture for their friends. They even have certain rooms in their homes reserved for that alone. There is always at hand a kind of covered chafing-dish from which they offer their friends a drink on arriving or taking leave.

Next in point of time was Giovanni Botero, a Venetian ecclesiast and author, who, in 1589, in his work On the Causes of Greatness in Cities, states:

The Chinese have an herb from which they press a delicate juice which serves them instead of wine. It also preserves the health and frees them from all those evils that the immoderate use of wine doth breed in us.

At this time tea had been a medicinal and social beverage in China for approximately eight hundred years, so it is fairly certain that this author is reffering tea.

Writing thirteen years after Giovanni Botero, in 1602, on the etiquette of China, Father Diego de Pantoia, another Portuguese missionary, makes this reference to tea:

When they have ended their salutations, they straightway cause a drink to be brought, which they call "ch'a", which is water boyled with a certaine herbe, which they much esteem....and they must drink of it twice or thrice.

The next tea reference to appear is perhaps the most important of all early accounts, for it gives not only the details as to the price of tea, but briefly contrasts the Chinese and Japanese methods of making the drink. It was found among the letters of an Italian missionary, Padre Matteo Ricci(1552-1610), a scientific adviser to the Chinese court at Peiping from 1601 until his death. The letter were published in 1610 by Padre Nicolas Trigault (1577-1628), French Jesuit. The account reads:

I cannot pass by some rarities, as their shrub whence they make their Cia [tea-obs. Ital.]. They gather the leaves in the shadow, and keep it for daily decoration, using it at meals, and as often as any guest comes to their house; yea, twice or thrice if he make any tarrying. This beverage is always drunk or rather sipped hot, and on account of a peculiar mild bitterness is not disagreeable to the taste; but on the contrary is positively wholesome for many ailments if used often. And there is not alone a single quality of excellence in the leaf, for one surpasses the other, and thus you will buy some at one gold escu [five francs], or even two or three escus a pound, if it is rated as the best. The most excellent is sold at ten and more, often at twelve gold escus a pound in Japan, where its use is also somewhat different from that of China; the Japanese mix the leaves reduced to a powder, in a cup of boiling water to the amount of two or three tablespoonfuls and swallow this potion mixed in this manner; but the Chinese throw a few leaves into a pot of boiling water, then when it is tinctured with the strength and virtue of the same, they drink it quite hot and leave the leaves.

The same year, 1610, in which Matteo Ricci's account apperared in Italy, a Portguese traveler and scholar published An Account of the Kings of Persia and Ormuz which contained a notice of tea, reading:

Cha is a small leaf of a herb, from a certain plant brought from Tartary which was shown me while I was at Malacca.

Over thirty years elapsed before the next tea reference appeared. It was mentioned by Father Alvaro Semendo (1585-1658), a Portguese Jesuit, in The History of the Great and Renowned Monarchy of China, a work first published in Italian at Rome in 1643, and later in English at London in 1655.

The next three accounts of tea were all by French missionaries. The first was Father Alexander de Rohdes (1591-1660) who gave tea a notice in his Voyages et Missions Apostoliques, published at Paris in 1653, reading:

One of the things contributing to the great health of these (Chinese) people, who frequently reach extreme old age, is tay, which is commonly used throughout the Orient.

The second of the French missionaries was Jacques de Bourges, who stated in his Relation of the Voyage of the Bishop of Beryte to Cochinchina, published in Paris in 1666:

During our abode at Siam, after our dinner....we dranke some tea....we found it very wholesome, and comparing the effects of this tea with those of wine....it is doubtful which of these two may obtain the preeminence if not this leaf.

The last of the three was an account by the Jesuit missionary Father Louis Lecompte (1655-1728), in his Memoirs and Observations Made in a Late Journey Through China, published at Paris in 1696. It reads:

In China ther are subject to neither gout, sciatica, nor stone; and many imagine that thee preserves them against all these distempers.

Arrival of Dutch in Orient

The Portuguese had the sea trade of the Orient to themselves up to 1596, carrying silks and other rich produce on their return voyages to Lisbon, where Dutch ships became the principal carriers to the ports of France, the Netherlands, and the Baltic.

During the 16th century, the spice trade was dominated by the Portuguese who used Lisbon as a staple port. Before the Dutch Revolt, Antwerp had played an important role as a distribution center in northern Europe, but after 1591 the Portuguese used an international syndicate of the German Fuggers and Welsers, and Spanish and Italian firms that used Hamburg as its northern staple, to distribute their goods, thereby cutting out Dutch merchants. At the same time, the Portuguese trade system was so inefficient that it was unable to supply growing demand, in particular the demand for pepper. The demand for spices was relatively inelastic, and the lagging supply of pepper therefore caused a sharp rise in pepper prices at the time. Likewise, as Portugal had been "united" with the Spanish crown, with which the Dutch Republic was at war, in 1580, the Portuguese Empire became an appropriate target for military incursions. These three factors formed motive for Dutch merchants to enter the intercontinental spice trade themselves at this time. Finally, a number of Dutchmen like Jan Hugo van Linschooten and Cornelius de Houtman obtained first hand knowledge of the "secret" Portuguese trade routes and practices, thereby providing opportunity.

In 1595-96 Jan Hugo van Linschooten (1563-1633), a Dutch navigator who had sailed to India with the Portuguese, published an account of his travels, a work which fired the Dutch merchants and ship captains with a desire for a share of the rich Oriental trade. His account is notable because it contains the first notice of tea [as chaa] in the Dutch language, and throws an informing light on early Japanese manners and customs. In his English translation, printed in London in 1598, Linschooten says, in part:

Their manner of eating and drinking is: Everie man hath a table alone, without tablecloths or napkins, and eateth with two piece of wood like the men of China: they drinke wine of Rice, wherewith they drink themselves drunke, and after their meat use a certaine drinke, which is a pot with hote water, which they drinke as hote as ever they may indure, whether it be Winter or Summer....the aforesaid warme water is made with the powder of a certain hearbe called Chaa, which is much esteemed, and is well accounted of among them, and al such as of any countenance or habilite have the said water kept for them in a secret place, and the gentlemen make it whemselves; and when they will entertain any of their friends, they give him some of that warme water to drinke: for the pots wherein they sieth it, and whrein hearbe is kept, with the earthen cups which they drinke it in, they esteems as much of them as we doe of Diamants, Rubies and other precious stones, and they are not esteemed for their newnes, but for their oldnes, and for that they were made by a good workman: and to know and keepe such by themselves, they take great and speciall care, as also of such as are the valewers of them, and skillfull in them, as with us the goldsmith priseth and valueth silver and gold, and Jewellers all kindes of precious stones: so if their pots & cuppes be of an old & excellet workmans making, they are worth 4 or 5 thousand ducats or more the piece. The King of Bungo [one of the ancient kingdoms of Japan] did give for such a pot, having three feet, 14 thousand ducats, and a Iapan being a Chieftian in the town of Sacay, gave for such a pot 1400 ducats, and yet it had 3 pieces upon it.... These things doe they keepe and esteeme for their Jewels as we esteeme our Jewels and precious stones.

Continuing now with the history of the Dutch trade, we come to 1595, the year in which the Portuguese closed their harbors to Dutch shipping. Thereupon the Dutch sent four ships to the Indies under the command of Cornelius de Houtman (1565-1599). In June of the following year the fleet reached Bantam, in Java, where they established a depot for collecting and loading homeward bound cargoes of oriental products. The Dutch found the natives everywhere ready to trade with them and returned home with such rich cargoes that direct trading with the Indies was given a tremendous impetus. Before the first fleet had returned to the roads of Texel, a second fleet of eight ships set out, and by 1602 more than sixty-five Dutch ships had completed voyages to the Indies. A ruinous competition among themselves resulted.

United East Indies Company

DutchEastIndianCompany_Bond.jpgA bond issued by the Dutch East India Company, dating from 7 November 1623, for the amount of 2,400 florins.At the time, it was customary for a company to be set up only for the duration of a single voyage, and to be liquidated right after the return of the fleet. Investment in these expeditions was a very high-risk venture, not only because of the usual dangers of piracy, disease and shipwreck, but also because the interplay of inelastic demand and relatively elastic supply of spices could make prices tumble at just the wrong moment, thereby ruining prospects of profitability. To manage such risk the forming of a cartel to control supply would seem logical. This first occurred to the English, who bundled their forces into a monopoly enterprise, the East India Company in 1600, thereby threatening their Dutch competitors with ruin.

In 1602, the Dutch government followed suit, sponsoring the creation of a single "United East Indies Company" that was also granted a monopoly over the Asian trade. The charter of the new company empowered it to build forts, maintain armies, and conclude treaties with Asian rulers. It provided for a venture that would continue for 21 years, with a financial accounting only at the end of each decade.

First Dutch Man in Japan

Dutch_fleets.jpgThe Liefde, Jan Joosten van Lodensteijn and William Adams's ship. 17th century engravingIn 1600 the first Dutch ship from Java reached Japan. The Dutch ship De Liefde departed Rotterdam in 1598, on a trading voyage and attempted a circumnavigation of the globe. It was wrecked in Japan in 1600.

The 24 survivors were received by Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543–1616) who questioned them at length on European politics and foreign affairs. Among them Jan Joosten van Lodensteijn (1560–1623), a native of Delft, and William Adams (1564–1620), English navigator, were selected to be a confidant of the Shogun on foreign and military affairs, and he contributed to the development of relations between the Netherlands and Japan, thereby weakening the influence of Portugal and Spain.

For the Shogun's services, Jan Joosten van Lodensteijn was granted a house in Edo (now Tokyo) in a part of the city that came to be called "Yayosu Quay" after him — his name was pronounced yan yōsuten in Japanese (short: Yayōsu (耶楊子)) — and the name exists in the name of Yaesu 八重洲 side of Tokyo Station.

Although not allowed to return to the Netherlands, Jan Joosten van Lodensteijn was allowed to take a Japanese wife and he was privileged to wear the two swords of the samurai and received an annual stipend which placed him (along with Adams) among the ranks of the hatamoto or direct retainers of the Shogun. Joosten was said to be a drunk with a choleric temperament, and at one point was not welcome at Ieyasu's court.

Jan Joosten van Lodensteijn was given a permit to engage in foreign trade. He is reported to have made a fortune in trade between Japan and Southeast Asia, chartering several Red Seal Ships under license from Tokugawa Ieyasu. He was reported by Dutch traders in Ayutthaya to be aboard junks carrying rich cargoes in early 1613. After the establishment of the Dutch Factory in Hirado, he became a middleman between Dutch merchants and the Shogunate.

He is also said to have been to Siam on one of his ships, with the Japanese adventurer and author Tenjiku Tokubei. Later, he attempted to return to the Netherlands, but after reaching Batavia, he was denied permission by Dutch authorities to proceed further. He drowned in the South China Sea in 1623 when his ship sank as he was returning to Japan.

Japanese Red Seal Ships Trade

Foreign affairs and trade were monopolized by the Tokugawa shogunate 徳川幕府, yielding a huge profit. The visits of the Nanban ships 南蛮船 from Portugal were at first the main vector of trade exchanges, followed by the addition of Dutch, English and sometimes Spanish ships. From 1603 onward, Japan started to participate actively in foreign trade.

Dutch-Japanese_trading_pass_1609.jpgRed Sealed Trade Pass for Dutch, issued in the name of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the Japan Shogun. The text commands: "Dutch ships are allowed to travel to Japan, and they can disembark on any coast, without any reserve. From now on this regulation must be observed, and the Dutch left free to sail where they want throughout Japan. No offenses to them will be allowed, such as on previous occasions" - dated August 24, 1609 with the red-seal of the Shogun.Red Seal ships (朱印船 Shuinsen) were Japanese armed merchant sailing ships bound for southeast Asian ports with a red-sealed patent issued by the early Tokugawa shogunate in the first half of the 17th century. Between 1600 and 1635, more than 350 Japanese ships went overseas under this permit system.

The Red Seal system appears from at least 1592, under Toyotomi Hideyoshi 豊臣秀吉 (1536-1598), date of the first known mention of the system in a document. The first actually preserved Red Seal Permit (朱印状 shuinjyou) is dated to 1604, under Tokugawa Ieyasu 徳川家康 (1543–1616) , first ruler of Tokugawa shogunate 徳川幕府. Tokugawa issued red-sealed permits to his favourite feudal lords and principal merchants who were interested in foreign trade. By doing so, he was able to control Japanese traders and reduce Japanese piracy in the South Sea. His seal also guaranteed the protection of the ships, since he vowed to pursue any pirate or nation who would violate it. Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, English ships and Asian rulers basically protected Japanese red seal ships, since they had diplomatic relations with the Japanese shogun. Only Ming China had nothing to do with this practice, because the Empire officially prohibited Japanese ships from entering Chinese ports. (But Ming officials were not able to stop Chinese smugglers from setting sail to Japan.)

The Red Seal ships (朱印船 Shuinsen) were managed by rich trading families such as the Sumikura, Araki, Chaya and Sueyoshi, or by individual adventurers such as Suetsugo Heizo, Yamada Nagamasa, Murayama Toan, or European William Adams and Jan Joosten van Lodensteijn. Besides Japanese traders, 12 European and 11 Chinese residents are known to have received permits. At one point after 1621, Jan Joosten van Lodensteijn is recorded to have possessed 10 Red Seal Ships for commerce.

Japanese merchants mainly exported silver, diamonds, copper, swords and other artifacts, and imported Chinese silk as well as some Southeast Asian products (like sugar and deer skins). Pepper and spices were rarely imported into Japan, where people did not eat a great deal of meat due to the local preponderance of adherents to the Buddhist belief system. Southeast Asian ports provided meeting places for Japanese and Chinese ships. Major Southeast Asian ports, including Spanish Manila, Vietnamese Hoi An, Siamese Ayutthaya, Malay Pattani, welcomed the Japanese merchant ships, and many Japanese settled in these ports, forming small Japanese enclaves.

The funds for the purchase of merchandise in Asia were loaned to the managers of the expedition for an interest of 35% to 55% per trip, going as high as 100% in the case of Siam.

Dutch-Japanese_export.jpgThe 350 Red Seal ships recorded between 1604 and 1634, averaging about 10 ships per year, have to be compared to the single Portuguese carrack visiting Nagasaki from Macau every year, although the carrack was large in tonnage (between 2 to 3 times a single Red Seal ship), and has a rich cargo of silk directly obtained from China.
Also in comparison, the English factory in Hirado only received 4 ships from England during its existence between 1613 and 1623, with generally non-valuable cargo. To survive, the factory actually had to resort to trade between Japan and Southeast Asia under the Red Seal system, organizing 7 expeditions, 4 of which were handled by William Adams.

The Japanese Shogun was very defiant of Spain, and Spain very reluctant to divert shipping resources between distant territories, so that besides the few shipwrecks of the Manila galleon on the Japanese coast, only about one Spanish ship was dispatched to Japan every year for trade. They had a small base in Uraga, where William Adams was put in charge of selling the cargo on several occasions.

Only Chinese shipping seems to have been quite important during the last years of the Ming dynasty. Richard Cocks, head of the English factory in Hirado, reported that 60 to 70 Chinese junks visited Nagasaki in 1614, sailed by Fukienese smugglers.
In 1612, overall, Padre Valentim de Carvalho, head of the Jesuit mission, stated that the annual "Great Ship" from Macau brought 1,300 quintals of silk, whereas 5,000 quintals were brought in Red Seal ships and ships from China and Manila.

In 1635, the Tokugawa shogunate, fearful of Christian influence, prohibited Japanese nationals from overseas travel, thus ending the period of red-seal trade. This measure was tacitly approved of by Europeans, especially the Dutch East India Company, who saw their competition reduced. After 1635 and the introduction of Seclusion laws, only inbound ships were allowed, from China, Korea, and the Netherlands.

Sakoku (鎖国 literally locked country, or chained country) was the foreign relations policy of Japan under which no foreigner could enter nor could any Japanese leave the country on penalty of death. The policy was enacted by the Tokugawa shogunate under Tokugawa Iemitsu through a number of edicts and policies from 1633-1639 and remained in effect until 1853 with the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry (1794–1858) and the opening of Japan. It was still illegal to leave Japan until the Meiji Restoration in 1868.
Japan was not completely isolated under the sakoku policy. It was a system in which strict regulations were applied to commerce and foreign relations by the shogunate, and by certain feudal domains (han).
The policy stated that the only European influence permitted was the Dutch factory (trading post) at Deshima in Nagasaki.
Trade with China was also handled at Nagasaki.
Trade with Korea was limited to the Tsushima Domain (today part of Nagasaki Prefecture).
Trade with the Ainu people was limited to the Matsumae Domain in Hokkaidō.
Trade with the Ryūkyū Kingdom took place in Satsuma Domain (present-day Kagoshima Prefecture).
Apart from these direct commercial contacts in peripheral provinces, trading countries sent regular missions to the shogun in Edo.

Tea Trade

Dutch-Japanese_HiradoFactory.jpgThe Dutch VOC trading factory in Hirado. It was said to have been much larger than the English one. 17th century engraving.In 1607 some tea was transported from Macao to the depot in Java. This, incidentally, is the earliest recorded transportation of tea by any of the Europeans stationed in the East.

By 1609, the first ships of the Dutch East Indian Company reached the island of Hirado off the coast of Japan. It was from this island that the Dutch began to take tea in 1610 to Bantam, in Java, where it was transshipped to Europe.

This date, while somewhat conjectural, has been generally accepted as correct. Gaspard Bauhin (1560-1624), a celebrated Swiss anatomist and naturalist, writing in 1623, more or less corroborates the 1610 date by asserting that "the Dutch were the first to take tea from Japan and China to Europe at the beginning of the 17th century."

That the first teas to reach Europe were green teas is indicated by Thomas Short (1690?-1772), a Scottish physicians and medical writer, who states that "the Europeans contracted their first acquaintance with the green tea: then Bohea took its place."

In the next year, 1611, the Dutch company obtained from the Japanese Shougun the priviledged of trading factory on the island of Hirado.

By confining their activities to trading, the Dutch found favor with the Japanese, while the earlier arrivals, Portuguese priests, so embittered the natives by their usurpation of temporal powers that several armed conflicts resulted, The emperor, alarmed at this, decreed that all Europeans be expelled.

The Portuguese and their converts took refuge in a walled settlement on a high rock overlooking the harbor. The soldiers of the emperor could not dislodge them from stronghold. The Dutch joined forces with the Japanese and with their ships' guns leveled the Portuguese compound. For their assistance the Dutch were permitted to remain, but under the humiliating conditions. They were removed from Hirado to Deshima, an island in the harbor at Nagasaki, and there were virtually made prisoners within stone walls.

Under such conditions the Dutch tea trade with Japan dwindled, and they obtained their supplies from China instead.

The English Reach the Far East

AmboynaFort1655.jpgThe Dutch and English enclaves at Amboyna (top) and Banda-Neira (bottom). 1655 engraving.At the turn of the seventeenth century the Dutch had almost complete mastery of the rich spice trade with the Indies. By 1619 they had founded the city of Batavia in Java as a new base for reaching their great eastern objective - the Spice, or Molucca Islands.

In the meantime, the English East India Company was creeping out to the East.

In their early voyages the English had pushed as far as Japan, and had established friendly relations at the Chinese court. By 1610-11 they had founded factories in India at Masulipatam and Pettapoli, and had settled on the island of Amboyna, in the Spice group, where the Dutch were already established.

Massacre of Amboyna

The territorial right of the English in the Indian Archipelago was disputed by the Dutch traders, who considered they had prior rights. The contention that developed culminated in 1623 in the "massacre of Amboyna", the immediate effect of which was to force the English company to admit the Dutch claim to a monopoly of the Far Eastern trade, followed by their retirement to the mainland of India and the adjoining coutries.

This is the reason the first teas used in England in 1657 and thereafter came from Dutch sources, though they arrived, in compliance with the Navigation Act of 1651, in ships of English registry.

If we disregard two small gifts of tea for the English king in 1664 and 1666, the first importation of tea by the English East India Company was in 1669, when that company brought 143.5 pounds from Bantam in Java. So began an importation into England which in time was to build fortunes and dot the seas with tea ships.

Laster, Charles IIrechartered the English company, granting it powers usually enjoyed only by governments. The company then proceeded to build up an oriental trade which soon far outstripped its rivals - the Dutch and the Portuguese.

By a series of five charters, Charles granted the British East India Companythe rights to autonomous territorial acquisitions, to mint money, to command fortresses and troops, to form alliances, to make war and peace, and to exercise both civil and criminal jurisdiction over the acquired areas in India. Earlier in 1668 he leased the islands of Bombay for a nominal sum of £10 paid in gold. The Portuguese territories that Catherine of Braganza brought with her as dowry had proved too expensive to maintain; Tangier was abandoned.

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