List of tributaries of Imperial China

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This list of tributary states of imperial China encompasses suzerain kingdoms from China in East Asia.[1]

The Portraits of Periodical Offering of Liang. 6th-century painting in National Museum of China. Ambassadors from right to left: Uar (Hephthalites); Persia; Baekje (Korea); Qiuci; Wo (Japan); Langkasuka (in present-day Malaysia); Dengzhi (邓至) (Qiang) Ngawa; Zhouguke (周古柯), Hebatan (呵跋檀), Humidan (胡密丹), Baiti (白題, of similar Hephthalite people), who dwell close to Hephthalite; Mo (Qiemo).

List of tributaries[edit]

A status hierarchy was an explicit element of the tributary system in which Korea and Vietnam were ranked higher than others, including Japan, the Ryukyus, Siam, and others.[2] All diplomatic and trade missions were construed in the context of a tributary relationship with Imperial China,[3] including:

By dynasty[edit]

Western Han[edit]

  • Internal vassals (206 BC - ?) – Upon the founding of the dynasty, the first emperor awarded up to one-half of territory of Han as fiefdoms to various relatives, who ruled as princes. These fiefdoms collected their own taxes and established their own laws and were not directly administered by imperial government. Consolidation and centralization by succeeding emperors increased imperial controls, gradually dissolving the princedoms.
  • Dayuan (102 BC) – Kingdom located in the Fergana Valley. Hearing tales of their high-quality horses, which would be of great utility in combatting the Xiongnu, Emperor Wu of Han dispatched an expedition to acquire their submission and the horses. The first expedition of 3,000 was woefully undermanned, but the second, numbering 100,000 besieged the capital, bringing them into submission after negotiations. The expedition returned with 10,000 horses along with a promise to pay an annual tribute in horses[citation needed].
  • Dian Kingdom (109 BC) – A kingdom located in modern-day Yunnan province. Brought into subjugation by Emperor Wu of Han, who annexed the kingdom into an imperial commandary but allowed local rulers to remain in power.
  • Jushi (108 BC) – City-state in modern-day Turpan. Brought into submission by an imperial expedition dispatched by Emperor Wu of Han.[46]
  • Loulan (108 BC) – Located along the northeastern edge of the Taklamakan Desert in modern-day Xinjiang province. Brought into submission by an imperial expedition dispatched by Emperor Wu of Han.[46]
  • Minyue (138 BC - ?) – A Baiyue people situated in modern-day Fujian province. After an attack by the Minyue people, Emperor Wu of Han launched a massive expedition, and forced their entire population to relocate within imperial borders.
  • Nanyue (211 BC - 111 BC) – A kingdom situated today's northern Vietnam, and the provinces of Guangdong and Guangxi founded by a former Chinese general, Zhao Tuo. Under Zhao Tuo it paid nominal tribute to Han but his successors lost more and more power. After a coup d'état against the king, Han directly conquered the kingdom and directly administered it from then on.[46]
  • Xiongnu (53 BC - 10) – A nomadic confederation/empire in Central Asia and modern day Mongolia and extending their control to territories as far as Siberia, western Manchuria, the areas along the Caspian Sea, and modern day Chinese provinces of Inner Mongolia, Gansu and Xinjiang. They entered tributory relations with the Han after several defeats, territorial losses, and internal conflicts[citation needed]. Tributory relationships terminated as a result of diplomatic fumblings during the reign of Wang Mang. Xinjiang passed to Chinese control after their defeat.[46]
  • Wusun (105 BC - ?) – Central Asian people. Bitter enemies with the Xiongnu, they entered a military alliance with the Han. In 53 BC, the kingdom split into two following a succession dispute. Both continued to recognize Han sovereignty and remained faithful vassals[citation needed].


During Wang Mang's reign, relations with many of the empire's allies and tributories deteriorated, due in large part to Wang Mang's arrogance and inept diplomacy.

Eastern Han[edit]

  • Southern Xiongnu (50 - 220) – The Xiongnu split into northern and southern factions. The southern Xiongnu brought themselves into tributory relations with the Han. They were resettled along with large numbers of Chinese immigrants in frontier regions. Economically dependent on Han, they were obliged to provide military services under a tightened tributory system with greater direct imperial supervision.

Southern and Northern, Tang[edit]

The Chinese retaliated against Cham which was raiding the Rinan coast around 430s-440s by seizing Qusu, and then plundering the capital of the Cham around Huế. Around 100,000 jin in gold was the amount of plunder. Lin Yi then paid 10,000 jin in gold, 100,000 jin in silver, and 300,000 jin in copper in 445 as tribute to China. The final tribute paid to China from Lin Yi was in 749, among the items were 100 strings of pearls, 30 jin gharuwood, baidi, and 20 elephants.[47]

Enslaved people from tributary countries were sent to Tang China by various groups, the Cambodians sent albinos, the Uyghurs sent Turkic Karluks, the Japanese sent Ainu, and Turkish (Tujue) and Tibetan girls were also sent to China.[48] Tang dynasty China received 11 Japanese girl dancers as tribute from Balhae in 777.[49]


The Song dynasty received 302 tribute missions from other countries. Vietnamese missions consisted of 45 of them, another 56 were from Champa. More tribute was sent by Champa in order to curry favor from China against Vietnam.[50] Champa brought as tribute Champa rice, a fast-growing rice strain, to China, which massively increased Chinese yields of rice.[51][52]


Under the Ming dynasty, countries that wanted to have any form of relationship with China, political, economic or otherwise, had to enter the tribute system. As a result, tribute was often paid for opportunistic reasons rather than as a serious gesture of allegiance to the Chinese emperor, and the mere fact that tribute was paid may not be understood in a way that China had political leverage over its tributary.[53] Also some tribute missions may just have been up by ingenious traders. A number of countries only paid tribute once, as a result of Zheng He's expeditions. As of 1587, in Chinese sources the following countries are listed to have paid tribute to the Ming emperors:[54] The Hongwu Emperor started tributary relations in 1368, emissaries being sent to countries like Korea, Vietnam, Champa, Japan, of which Korea, Vietnam, and Champa sent back tribute in 1369. During Hongwu's rule, Liuch'iu sent 20, Korean sent 20, Champa sent 19, Siam sent 18, and Vietnam sent 14 tribute missions.[55]

The 1471 Vietnamese invasion of Champa and Ming Turpan Border Wars were either started by or marked by disruptions in the tribute system.

  • Alani
  • Almalik (?)
  • Altan Khan (annually since 1570)
  • Anding(?) (beginning in 1374)
  • Annam (every three years since 1369)
  • Arabia (Tienfang, identical to Mecca?) (somewhere between 1426 and 1435, 1517, sometimes between 1522 and 1566)
  • Aru (1407)
  • Badakhshan
  • Bai(?)
  • Baihua(?) (1378)
  • Baiyin(?)
  • Balkh
  • Bengal (1408, 1414, 1438)
  • Borneo (Solo?) (1406)
  • Brunei (1371, 1405, 1408, 1414, 1425)
  • Bukhara(?)
  • Cambodia (Chenla, since 1371)
  • Cail, Djofar, Maldives, Burma (Yawa), Lambri (Nanwuli, on Sumatra), Kelantan, Qilani(?), Xialabi (Arabia?), Kuchani (?), Wushelatang(?), Aden, Rum, Bengal, Shelaqi(?), Bakoyi(?), Coimbatore, Heigada(?), Lasa(?), Barawa, Mogadishu, Qianlida(?), Kannur (all somewhere between 1403 and 1425)
  • Calicut (1405, 1407, 1409)
  • Chalish
  • Ceylon (1411, 1412, 1445, 1459)
  • Champa (every three years since 1369)
  • Chijin (another group of Mongols?) (beginning in 1404, every five years since 1563)
  • Chola (1370, 1372, 1403)
  • Cochin (1404, 1412)
  • Coimbatore (1411)
  • Dahui(?) (1405)
  • Danba(?) (1377)
  • Doyan(?), Fuyü(?), Taining(?) (1388, twice a year from 1403)
  • Ejijie(?), Hashin(?) (somewhere between 1522 and 1566)
  • Ganshi(?)
  • Gumala (?) (1420)
  • Guosasü(?)
  • Gulibanzu (Pansur?) (1405)
  • Hadilan (Khotelan?)
  • Halie'er(?)
  • Hami (beginning in 1404, annually from 1465, every five years from 1475)
  • Handong(?) (?)
  • Hasan(?)
  • Herat (1402, 1409, 1437)
  • Hotan (1408?)
  • Huotan (identical to Khujand?)
  • Ilbalik and Beshbalik (1391, 1406, 1413, 1418(?), 1437, 1457ff)
  • Jaunpur (1420)
  • Japan (every 10 years)[2]
  • Java (1372, 1381, 1404, 1407, every three years for some time after 1443)
  • Jienzhou(?) (annually)
  • Jong(?)
  • Jurchens and other tribes in the northeast (irregularly)
  • Karakhodjo (1409, 1430, afterwards together with Turfan)
  • Kashgar
  • Kashmir
  • Khorasan (1432)
  • Khujand
  • Kollam (1407)
  • Koqie(?)
  • Korea (annually)[2]
  • Kucha
  • Kuncheng (Kunduz?)
  • Lanbang(?) (1376, 1403–1435)
  • Liuchen(?) (1430, afterwards together with Turfan)
  • Liuqiu (Ryukyu Islands, every two years since 1368)
  • Malacca (1405, 1411, 1412, 1414, 1424, 1434, 1445ff, 1459)
  • Melinde (1414)
  • Niekoli (or Miekoli) (?)
  • Medina (somewhere between 1426 and 1435)
  • Nishapur
  • Ormus (1405)
  • Pahang (1378, 1414)
  • Pala(?)
  • Palembang (1368, 1371, 1373, 1375, 1377)
  • Samudra (1383, 1405, 1407, 1431, 1435)
  • Philippines (1372, 1405, 1576)
  • Quxian (1437)
  • Rum (after 1524 every five years)
  • Sairam
  • Samarkand (1387, 1389, 1391 etc., after 1523 every five years)
  • Saolan (identical to Sairam?)
  • Shadiman(?)
  • Shehei(?)
  • Shiraz
  • Siam (every three years since 1371)
  • Sulu (1417, 1421)
  • Syria (Fulin?, 1371)
  • Tabriz
  • Tamerlane (1387, 1391)[citation needed]
  • Tieli (?), Zhiloxiashi (?), Marinduque (1405)
  • Togmak
  • Turfan (1430, 1497, 1509, 1510, every 5 years since 1523)
  • Wala (Oirads) (beginning in 1403, annually, with interruptions, since 1458)
  • Wulun(?)
  • Yarkand
  • Yaxi(?)
  • Yesücheng(?)
  • Zhilo(?), Badakhshan, Andkhui, Isfahan, Shiraz.[56] (somewhere between 1403 and 1424)
  • A number of Tibetan temples and tribes from the Tibetan border or the southwest.

Much tribute paid consisted of native products, e.g. elephants from Siam, or eunuchs and virgin girls from Korea, Annam, or the Ryukyu Islands.[57] Young Korean virgin girls, and eunuchs were occasionally demanded as tribute by the Ming Emperor for the imperial harem. Total of 98 virgins and 198 eunuchs were sent.[58] Korean girls age 13 to 25 were recruited to be sent to China.[59][60][61][62][63]


"Moghul embassy", seen by the Dutch visitors in Beijing in 1656. According to Lach & Kley (1993), modern historians (namely, Luciano Petech) think that the emissaries portrayed had actually come from Turfan, and not all the way from the Moghul India.

This list covers states that sent tribute between 1662 and 1875, and were not covered under the Lifanyuan. Therefore, Tibet or the Khalkha are not included, although they did send tribute in the period given:[64]

  • Annam (annually, every three years on
  • Dzungars (1681, 1685, 1735, 1738, 1742, 1743, 1745, 1746, 1752, and 1753)
  • Great Britain (1793, no tribute presented in 1795, 1805, and 1816)
  • Khanate of Kokand (between 1774–1798)[citation needed]
  • Kirgiz (1757 and 1758)
  • Korea (three or four times a year;[65][66] 435 embassies, 1637-1881[2])
  • Ku er le Beg (1762)
  • Laos (17 times)
  • Netherlands (1663(?), 1667, 1686, and 1795).[67][68]
  • Nepal (1732(?), 1792, 1794, 1795, 1823, 1842, and 1865)
  • Portugal (1670, 1678, 1752, and 1753)
  • Ryukyu (every two years on average, 122 times in total between 1662 and 1875)
  • Siam (48 times, most of them after 1780 and before the reign of Rama IV)
  • Sikkim (since 1791 )
  • Sulu (1726, 1733, 1743, 1747, 1752, 1753, and 1754)
  • Turpan (1673 and 1686)

The tribute system did not dissolve in 1875, but tribute embassies became less frequent and regular: twelve more Korean embassies until 1894, one more (abortive one) from Liuqiu in 1877, three more from Annam, and four from Nepal, the last one in 1908.[64]

In 1886 after Britain took over Burma, they maintained the sending of tribute to China, putting themselves in a lower status than in their previous relations.[69] It was agreed in the Burmah convention in 1886, that China would recognize Britain's occupation of Upper Burmah while Britain continued the Burmese payment of tribute every ten years to Beijing.[70]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Gundry, R. S. "China and her Tributaries," National Review (United Kingdom), No. 17, July 1884, pp. 605-619., p. 605, at Google Books
  2. ^ a b c d Kang, David C. (2010). East Asia Before the West: Five Centuries of Trade and Tribute, p. 59., p. 59, at Google Books
  3. ^ Wang, Zhenping. (2005). Ambassadors from the islands of immortals: China-Japan relations in the Han-Tang period, pp. 4-5, p. 4, at Google Books; excerpt, criticizing "the western tributary theory, which sees the world only from the viewpoint of the Chinese and overly simplifies the intricate domestic and international situations ...."
  4. ^ a b c "Tribute and Trade", Retrieved on 30-01-2007.
  5. ^ Gundry, "Annam," pp. 613-615., p. 613, at Google Books
  6. ^ a b Shambaugh, David L. et al. (2008). International Relations of Asia, p. 54 n15., p. 54, at Google Books citing the 1818 Collected Statutes of the Qing Dynasty (DaQing hui-tien)
  7. ^ "Funan". Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  8. ^ "The Kingdom of Funan and Chenla (First to Eighth Century AD)". Archived from the original on 2006-05-03. Retrieved 2007-06-06. 
  9. ^ Chisholm, Hugh. (1911). The Encyclopædia Britannica, Vol. 15, p. 224, p. 224, at Google Books
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  11. ^ According to the Book of Later Han vol. 85, Records of Three Kingdoms vol. 30 and Book of Jin, vol. 97, 2 tribute missions in 1st century, 4 tribute missions in 3rd century, 10 tribute missions in 5th century was sent to Imperial China.
  12. ^ Yoda, p. 40., p. 40, at Google Books; excerpt, "... King Na was awarded the seal of the Monarch of the Kingdom of Wa during the Chinese Han dynasty, and Queen Himiko, who had sent a tribute mission to the Wei Dynasty (third century) was followed by the five kings of Wa who also offered tribute to the Wei. This evidence points to the fact that at this period Japan was inside the Chinese tribute system ...."
  13. ^ a b Book of Sui, vol. 81
  14. ^ The Early Relations between China and Japan
  15. ^ Delmer M. Brown, John Whitney Hall. The Cambridge History of Japan: Ancient Japan, pp. 280-283., p. 280, at Google Books
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  17. ^ Yoda, p. 40., p. 40, at Google Books; excerpt, "... Japanese missions to the Sui [Dynasty] (581-604) ... were recognized by the Chinese as bearers of imperial tribute ...."
  18. ^ Imperial envoys made perilous passages on kentoshi-sen ships to Tang China "The cross-cultural exchanges began with 5 missions between 600 and 614, initially to Sui China (on kenzuishi-sen), and at least 18 or 19 missions were sent to T’ang China from 630 to 894 although not all of them were designated kentoshi."
  19. ^ Fogel, Joshua A. (2009). Articulating the Sinosphere: Sino-Japanese Relations in Space and Time, pp. 102-107., p. 102, at Google Books
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  26. ^ Kwak, Tae-Hwan et al. (2003). The Korean peace process and the four powers, p. 100., p. 100, at Google Books; excerpt, "The tributary relations between China and Korea came to an end when China was defeated in the Sino-Japanese war of 1894-1895."
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  29. ^ a b Korean History Project, Unified Silla.
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  32. ^ Kang, David C. (2010). East Asia Before the West: Five Centuries of Trade and Tribute. Columbia University Press. p. 59. ISBN 978-0-231-15318-8. thus, between 1637 and 1881, Korea sent 435 special embassies to the Qing court, or an average of almost 1.5 embassies per year. 
  33. ^ a b Kerr, George. (2000). Okinawa: The History of an Island People, p. 65., p. 65, at Google Books
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  35. ^ Chinese Sui Dynasty annals
  36. ^ Kadaram and Kataha
  37. ^ Kelantan
  38. ^ First Ruler of Melaka : Parameswara 1394-1414
  39. ^ The Political Economy of Philippines- China Relations
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  45. ^ Gundry, "Tibet," pp. 610-611., p. 610, at Google Books
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  49. ^ Schafer 1963, p. 66.
  50. ^ Brantly Womack (2006). China and Vietnam: the politics of asymmetry. Cambridge University Press. p. 121. ISBN 0-521-61834-7. Retrieved 2010-11-28. 
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  52. ^ Lynda Noreen Shaffer, A Concrete Panoply of Intercultural Exchange: Asia in World History (1997) in Asia in Western and World History, edited by Ainslie T. Embree and Carol Gluck (Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe), p. 839-840.
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  55. ^ Edward L. Dreyer (1982). Early Ming China: a political history, 1355-1435. Stanford University Press. p. 116. ISBN 0-8047-1105-4. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  56. ^ E. Bretschneider (1888). Mediæval Researches from Eastern Asiatic Sources: Fragments Toward the Knowledge of the Geography and History of Central and Western Asia from the 13th to the 17th Century, Volume 2. LONDON: Trübner & Co. p. 291. Retrieved 2011-06-09. (Original from the New York Public Library)
  57. ^ Shih-shan Henry Tsai (1996). The eunuchs in the Ming dynasty. SUNY Press. p. 16. ISBN 0-7914-2687-4. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  58. ^ 김한규 (1999). 한중관계사 II. 아르케. pp. 581~585. ISBN 89-88791-02-9. 
  59. ^ Iain Robertson (2005). Understanding international art markets and management. Routledge. p. 182. ISBN 0-415-33956-1. Retrieved 2010-07-04. 
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  61. ^ Association for Asian Studies. Ming Biographical History Project Committee, Luther Carrington Goodrich, Chao-ying Fang (1976). Dictionary of Ming biography, 1368-1644. Columbia University Press. p. 1597. ISBN 0-231-03833-X. Retrieved 2010-07-04. 
  62. ^ Association Denis Crispin Twitchett, John King Fairbank (1978). The Cambridge history of China, Volume 2; Volume 8. Cambridge University Press. p. 284. ISBN 0-521-24333-5. Retrieved 2010-07-04. 
  63. ^ O. Harrassowitz (1991). Journal of Asian history, Volume 25. p. 130. Retrieved 2010-07-04. 
  64. ^ a b John K. Fairbank and Têng Ssu-yü: On the Ch'ing Tributary System, in: Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 6, no. 2 (1941), p. 193ff
  65. ^ Kang, Jae-un (2006). The land of scholars: two thousand years of Korean Confucianism. Homa & Sekey Books. ISBN 1-931907-30-7. Joseon requested to send a tribute "thrice each year" or "four times per year" instead and achieved it. 
  66. ^ Robinson, Martin; Bender, Andrew (2004). Korea. Lonely Planet. ISBN 1-74059-449-5. The tribute taken to Beijing three or four times a year during most of the Joseon period provides an interesting insight into Korean products at this time.  |first3= missing |last3= in Authors list (help)
  67. ^ van Braam Houckgeest, Andreas Everardus. (1797). Voyage de l'ambassade de la Compagnie des Indes Orientales hollandaises vers l'empereur de la Chine, dans les années 1794 et 1794; see also 1798 English translation: An authentic account of the embassy of the Dutch East-India company, to the court of the emperor of China, in the years 1974 and 1795, Vol. I.
  68. ^ de Guignes, Chrétien-Louis-Joseph (1808). Voyage a Pékin, Manille et l'Ile de France.
  69. ^ Alfred Stead (1901). China and her mysteries. LONDON: Hood, Douglas, & Howard. p. 100. Retrieved February 19, 2011. (Original from the University of California)
  70. ^ William Woodville Rockhill (1905). China's intercourse with Korea from the XVth century to 1895. LONDON: Luzac & Co. p. 5. Retrieved February 19, 2011. (Colonial period Korea ; WWC-5)(Original from the University of California)


External links[edit]