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24 June 2011 @ 09:46 am
Consulting the Hive Mind: all the Tea in China  
While discussing Renaissance history and culture for our upcoming Ironclaw campaign, kohai_tiger asked a question that surprised me -- in no small part because I realized I had never really thought to ask it before.

The question:

Europe traded with China, and got silk, tea, spices and all sorts of things.

What did China get from Europe?

Of course, my Eurocentric US-ian education didn't have an answer for that ... and, to my annoyance, my Google Fu hasn't proven equal to the task of getting an answer.

I turn to you, O Loyal Readers. Can anyone provide links and references to tell us just what it was the successors to Marco Polo were delivering to the Middle Kingdom in return for all those well-known luxury goods?

I feel: curiouscurious
Odieodiedragon on June 24th, 2011 04:52 pm (UTC)
Gold and the strong economy that comes from goods production, I presume. Same as today.
ab3ndab3nd on June 24th, 2011 05:15 pm (UTC)
Initially, yes, also silver, at rates that alarmed some people in Europe. They tried trading corn and tobacco (New world products, and so ones that China didn't have a lot of access to), but the real money-maker was opium.

The wikipedia article on the Opium Wars covers an overview of how it went down, but mostly it was that European demand for Chinese stuff was very high, and the Chinese only wanted silver, and so Europe's silver reserves were quickly getting sent to China. Opium kind of creates its own demand, and has broad consumer appeal, so that demand reversed the silver flow.

TL;DR: Hard money, then drugs.
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Your Obedient Serpentathelind on June 24th, 2011 09:24 pm (UTC)
Thankfully, all that opium awfulness is a couple centuries after the era that concerns me.

Silver it is, then, unless the Calabrese have other desirable commodities that their European counterparts didn't share.
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Iridium Wolfiridium_wolf on June 24th, 2011 11:08 pm (UTC)
This may be from before the time you're looking at, but Triskellian is Rome in all but name pretty much.

"High-quality glass from Roman manufactures in Alexandria and Syria were exported to many parts of Asia, including Han China. Further Roman luxury items which were greatly esteemed by the Chinese were gold-embroidered rugs and gold-coloured cloth, asbestos cloth and sea silk, a cloth made from the silk-like hairs of certain Mediterranean shell-fish, the Pinna nobilis." (from Wikipedia)

It's more difficult finding information on later trade.
Your Obedient Serpent: clawathelind on June 24th, 2011 11:34 pm (UTC)
Ooh, this is good. Thank you! I hadn't realized that Rome had active trade with China.

(Triskellian is really more Venice in all but name, but that just makes it work better when you consider Venetian glass!)
Ursula Messerschmittsnobahr on June 26th, 2011 01:33 am (UTC)
Yeah, I was just about to mention Venetian glass... :D