Starting from 1573, silk textiles from China traveled not only to Europe but also eastward to New Spain via the Manila Galleons. This foreign trade was dependent on and fueled the development of sericulture and silk manufacturing. The extensive wearing of silk textiles astonished and was criticized by both Chinese scholars and Spanish elites as a violation of the sumptuary law. Soon the Spanish crown attempted, and eventually failed, to restrict the arrival of Manila galleons as a way to protect the local silk industry. By looking into the circulation of silk—during its production, for use in emerging fashions, and in trade— this research looks into how a commodity became “global.” It suggests that the desire for the silk shaped the early modern Pacific-trade in Chinese silk, which consequently fostered the utilization of the environment and challenged traditional social structures in different regions.
is an Assistant Professor of Chinese history in the Department of History at the North Carolina State University. Duan earned her Ph.D. from the University of Washington, Seattle in Chinese history and a Bachelor’s degree from Peking University. Her research specialization focuses on socio-cultural history in medieval and early modern China, particularly urban history, popular religion, and visual/material culture. Her book manuscript, Leisure and Nature: Sightseeing around Hangzhou’s West Lake
, examines how West Lake, a cultural landmark next to the city of Hangzhou, was conceptualized and contextualized in Middle Period China. Her new research project explores the trans-Pacific trade of silk textile in the sixteenth and the seventeenth century.