This dissertation investigates how residents in the capital of Fujiang Province—the Fuzhou City—coped with changes and challenges to their city in the seventeenth century, especially with the socio-political turbulences regarding to the dynastic transition from the Ming to the Qing Empire. The study focuses on following aspects.
First, it discusses the effects of dynastic transition from the Ming to the Qing Empire. In the early seventeenth century, the political status of Fuzhou changed a few times from the province capital city of Fujiang of the Ming Empire, to the capital city of the Longwu Regime, to a province capital city of the Manchu Empire, and then to the capital of King Jingnan’s territory. In the latter seventeenth century, the Qing Empire conquered Taiwan, and Fuzhou thence became a regional administrative center of an extensive area including Fujiang and Taiwan. In due course, the Taiwan Strait turned into internal waters of China. In this view, the status of Fuzhou changed in correspondence with the political struggle in the dynastic transition.
Second, the study examines Fuzhou from the perspective of maritime economics and trade, and finds that the city played a key role in the maritime trading network of East Asia. To put it differently, this perspective enables a different understanding of Fuzhou than the one from a terrestrial perspective or an introverting one focusing on the city per se. As Fuzhou had been demolished several times during battles and sieges in the dynastic transition in the seventeenth century, it could be shortly rebuilt and could timely regain its prosperity, largely due to its position in the East Asian trading network. The recovering capacity was inseparable from the trading economics.
Third, this research investigates challenges presented to the residents in Fuzhou in the seventeenth century. During the transitional period, Fuzhou lost a great portion of its population due to warfare, and its vicinities also suffered from large-scale destruction. The city was consequently in great peril. In the seventeenth century, Asian countries and regimes commonly underwent a reorganization process. International economics of the maritime network at the time was disrupted. Moreover, the Qing Empire’s later implementation of Haijing policy and Great Clearance further worsened the economic situation. In the end, residents in Fozhou could barely sustain their commercial activities. Nonetheless, urban merchants managed to maintain the commercial activities through smuggling trade, and retained a minimal level of such urban functions. Overall, Fuzhou encountered great difficulties in urban development, and the consistent trend of urban expansion and growth from the sixteenth century withered out in the seventeenth century.
Last, this study explores the changes of urban spaces in the seventeenth century. Since the late Ming dynasty, the urban growth largely happened in the areas outside the city walls. The commercial districts restlessly mushroomed along the Ming River. By contrast, the urban fabrics of the inner city inside the city walls largely remained the same. The Qing Empire however changed the spatial patterns of the inner city greatly in order to accommodate the needs of war during the dynastic transition. Manchus encircled an area of the inner city to be the compound of the Eight Banners. This walled city inside the inner city was known as Mancheng District. In addition, the commercial districts outside the original city walls were destroyed several times in battles and thereafter significantly diminished. These commercial districts can only gradually revived after the Qing Empire excised full control over the Fujiang Province in the latter seventeenth century.
In general, the seventeenth century is the transitional period of Chinese cities and urban development, and this study presents the challenges of urban growth and means of urban sustainability in Fuzhou in this period.