John E. WILLS Jr.

An early Qing dynasty illustration portrays nomadic representatives offering tribute to Chinese officials.

In premodern China foreign relations were both hierarchical, with all foreign rulers paying tribute to the Chinese emperor as their superior, and systematic, conducted through a single set of bureaucratic rules and institutions. The forms taken by these relations varied greatly over the centuries; only from about 1425 to 1550 were all foreign relations actually managed through a single set of

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