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Huitong-guan

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  • Other Names: 会同四訳館 (huìtóng sì yì guǎn), 四訳館 (sì yì guǎn)
  • Chinese/Japanese: 會同館 (huìtóng guǎn / kaidoukan)

The Huitong-guan was a shared lodging in Beijing for housing visiting tributary envoys from foreign countries.

Located in the Inner City of Beijing, on the west side of the Jade River Bridge (Yùhéqiáo, 玉河橋), and near the “downtown” area just inside the Zhèngyáng Gate 正陽門, the Huitong-guan was enclosed within a series of fences, and housed ambassadors from the Ryûkyû Kingdom, Korea, Siam, Laos, Vietnam, Nepal, and beyond.

Portuguese Jesuit missionary Alvaro Semedo wrote of the Huitong-guan in the early 17th century that the visiting ambassadors were kept under close watch and were not permitted to leave the compound, except on official business, but that they received lavish hospitality while resident there. Officials of the Board of Rites (Lǐbù) ensured that all was done according to proper protocols. Semedo wrote that this isolation was enforced in large part in order to prevent the foreigners - if they were to roam around the city freely - from witnessing or recording anything which might be unflattering or even dangerous to the regime.

Historian Maehira Fusaaki writes that this enforced isolation surely contributed to the envoys' stress, and that there were surely incidents in which that stress led to unfortunate incidents. He points to one in 1448, recorded in the Ming shi-lu, in which a Ryukyuan envoy got into a fight with another foreigner just outside of the Huitong-guan; the fight was serious enough that one of the men was severely injured. The incident was brought to the attention of the Emperor, and rumors of it also spread widely within the city.

References

  • Maehira Fusaaki, Ryûkyû shisetsu no ikoku taiken 琉球使節の異国体験, Kokusai kôryû 国際交流 59 (1992), 62-63.
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