Crossroads Research

Lecture Series: The Maritime Environment around Taiwan: Perception and Reality, by Paola Calanca

May 31, 2022: 15:00 CEST via zoom.

The Maritime Environment around Taiwan: Perception and Reality

The purpose of this lecture is to better understand how the nautical environment around Taiwan was described in Chinese sources and perceived by Chinese sailors. This investigation focuses on key expressions that are difficult to interpret but may be instructive. The chosen terms are: wanshui chaodong 萬水朝東 (where ten thousand waters [i.e. all the waters] converge to the East), luoji 落漈 (dive into the abyss/deep ditch), ruoshui 弱水 (weak waters), gou 溝, which in this framework designates three currents in the Taiwan Strait: the Hongshui gou 紅水溝 (the Red stream) and the two Heishui gou 黑水溝 (the Black stream and a branch of the Kuroshio). Whenever possible, the analysis of the sailing conditions of this maritime area is undertaken by comparing relevant quotations about sea crossings taken from Chinese literature dating mostly from 16th to 18th centuries with hydrographic features known to modern science.


Paola Calanca, after carried out studies in History and Chinese studies, is currently Associate Professor at the École française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO) and teaches research seminars at the School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS, Paris). Her research mainly focuses on maritime history, with special interests in Ming-Qing sea coastal defense, the interaction between civil and military population in coastal areas, and navigation knowledge (shipbuilding and nautical practices). She has coordinated a five-year research program (ANR-MOST, 2014–2019) on Maritime knowledge for China Seas in the 16th–18th century with Chen Kuo-tung (IHP, Academia Sinica) and currently the Navigation practices in Asian Seas (16th-19th centuries)’ project funded by the CCK Foundation.


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