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Shotoku shinrei

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  • Date: 1715
  • Other Names: 海舶互市新例 (kaihaku goushi shinrei)
  • Japanese: 正徳新例 (shoutoku shinrei)

The Shôtoku shinrei were a series of export and trade reforms implemented by the Tokugawa shogunate in 1715 at the suggestion of Arai Hakuseki.

Restrictions are placed on the export of copper, reducing, at least at first, the amount of copper being exported to China. However, at the same time, the shinrei increased the amount of copper being purchased directly by shogunate agents from the mines, to be funneled more directly into shogunate-managed circulation and sale.

The number of Chinese ships allowed to trade at Nagasaki was also reduced from 80 to 30, Chinese in Nagasaki were made subject to Japanese law, and a system of licenses similar to the tally trade system is implemented. These new licenses, known as shinpai (信牌), or a wōzhào (倭照) in the Chinese records, were sold for 8000-9000 silver taels, and authorized the holder to trade legally at the port. Further, Chinese merchants were from then on to communicate with certain low-ranking officials, and not directly with shogunate administrators.

Competition for the licenses was fierce, and the policies severely disrupted trade at Nagasaki, though only very temporarily. No Chinese ships traveled to Nagasaki in 1715-1716, and no copper was exported to China; this caused the price of copper in China to rise dramatically, and though the number of ships permitted to trade was later increased to 40, the total volume of copper imported into China from Japan never recovered, causing considerable losses for Chinese copper merchants.

A number of officials memorialized the throne complaining about the new licenses; some even asserted that acceptance of the licenses was a recognition of Japanese authority, and hence a violation of principle and a crime, and that any Chinese merchants holding such licenses should be severely punished. The Kangxi Emperor, however, mistook the licenses as merely being brand marks (jihao), such as might be added by a given merchant to mark his goods, and so thought them of little import. Kangxi's choice in this matter to not see it as an insult to Chinese pride has been identified by historians as a significant decision, allowing relatively friendly relations to continue.

References

  • Schottenhammer, Angela. “Empire and Periphery? The Qing Empire’s Relations with Japan and the Ryūkyūs (1644–c. 1800), a Comparison.” The Medieval History Journal 16, no. 1 (April 1, 2013): 162-164.
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