Ukanju and the Changing Political Order of Northeastern Asia in the 17th Century

Ukanju and the Changing Political Order of Northeastern Asia in the 17th Century


  • Journal title: International Journal of Korean History
  • ISSN: 1598-2041 (print) 2508-5921 (online)
  • Publisher: Korea University, Center for Korean History
  • Country of publisher: korea, republic of
  • Date added to EuroPub: 2018/May/12

Subject and more

  • LCC Subject Category: History
  • Publisher's keywords: ukanju, fleeing, border-crossing, international relations in pre-modern Northeastern Asia
  • Language of fulltext: english
  • Full-text formats available: PDF


    Meng Heng Lee



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For decades, historians defined the ukanju, also known as taoren (逃人) in the Chinese-language archives of the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911A.C.), as the Manchu’s ethnic Han-Chinese slaves or escapees. However, this definition fails to explain why ukanju served as the catalyst for the Manchu invasions of Chosŏn in 1627 and 1636 and why so many ukanju with considerable ethnic diversity emerged in the first half of the 17th century. Also, the question of what roles the ukanju played in the Ming-Qing transition (1616–1644 A.C.) is still unexplored. In this essay, I will redefine ukanju as, rather than merely slaves, a person or group of people who fled from their own country to another place (or crossed the borders). I will also point out the overlooked relationship between the ukanju and the transition of the political order in Northeastern Asia during the 17th century – including the reversal of outcomes in battles between the Qing and the Ming, the legal shift regarding state boundaries and the act of fleeing in the Chosŏn legal code. To achieve this goal, I will utilize Manchu archives as well as Qing and Chosŏn archives written in classical Chinese as the main sources of this essay. This study, therefore, contributes to Korean and Chinese history, international relations in pre-modern Northeastern Asia, and Manchu studies.

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