East Asian Seas

An Age of Discovery

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, expeditions around the world picked up the pace to an inspirational level, seeking to find land, resources, and new cultures to trade goods with. At this time, a large portion of the Earth was mapped with an impressive degree of accuracy; though there were still many unexplored regions. Cartographers detailed shapes of Africa, South America, Asia, Malaysia, and North America, that greatly improved world navigation by ship. Progression through the mapped world leads to an understanding that North America and the Arctic were a single land mass, as well as Australia and Antarctica. Finely detailed coastlines were usually those frequented by exploration efforts and often leveraged in trade operations. One region demonstrating this impeccable detail examines the coastlines of Malaysia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and the Southern China seas.

Silk Trade Textiles
Silk Trade Textiles

Exploration of East Asian seas revolutionized the world by opening up methods of trading and discovery. In fact, it is the amped exploration of East Asian seas and the Indian Ocean responsible for initiating the historical Age of Discovery. Water-bound expeditions cascaded even further around the planet thanks to flourishing trade in the East and a necessity to expand into new territories. The northern land route, known as the Silk Road, connected China to major trading hubs in India, Persia, and the Mediterranean. Precious goods and spices flowed across the Asian continent for thousands of years until Ottoman and Byzantine conflict forced merchants to find an alternate route. To compare with the Silk Road success, the route needed to be capable of crossing thousands of miles without interference.

Shipping routes in the south seas were long established, moving cargo between the Red Sea, India, and Malaysia. Success of these sea routes attracted Silk Road merchants as an alternative way to reach destinations without having to worry about the Ottoman and other resistances. The spice trade now flowed mostly unhindered, crossing oceans instead of land, and consequentially it created a boom in Eastern trade. Traveling by the East Asian Seas enabled spice traders to easily reach cultures in Malaysia and southern passage to India, Africa, Egypt, Arabia, or Red Sea without having to extend the Silk Road further and further north. Navigating the East Asian Seas were not without challenge, as the following articles demonstrate:

Eventually, by the ninth century, prosperous sea routes expanded around Africa, up to Europe, and across to South America. From busy outposts in Lisbon, Seville, and Antwerp, trading extended across the Atlantic into the Caribbean Seas with some return routes crossing the Pacific to Manila on different ships. European discovery of North America, by inspiration of East Asian exploration, opened an entirely new realm of possibility. Hundreds of trade ships sail the globe by the early sixteen century, and spice traders made this possible. Even-though wars broke out between nations, and significant amounts of cultural heritage were lost, societies from around the world adapted and shared knowledge from foreign lands which helped to set a foundation for a cultural melting pot named North America.