Alternate History

Orient-Oceania 1525 - 1675 (Vicuña of the East)

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This page covers the main divergences and events of history in the Vicuña of the East timeline from 1525 to 1675 in Southeast Asia, East Asia, and Oceania.

Conflict in Indochina

Cochin-China Map (VOE)

Cochinchina under Spanish rule

The first Spanish and Portuguese Catholic missionaries arrived in Indochina around 1548. They occupied the area of the Camao peninsula, forcing out the existing Khmer Empire. By 1555, missionaries had instalments as far as Hanoi and Oudong. They called the area Cochinchina after the Malay word kuchi combined with "China."

Taking advantage of the weakening Khmer (Jemer) Empire, Spain began expanding its base in Camao. Spain communicated with the Khmer king, demanding access to the mineral resources of the mountains. Slowly, the Khmers began conceding more and more wealth until they had lost the port of Prey Nokor (Pasco in Spanish). Soon after, Spain annexed the city of Panduragña in 1617, by forcing the king of Champa to submit to the Spanish crown. This act of aggression alarmed the Gñuien Lords of Cochin. The Gñuien feared the Spanish would begin taking over Gñuien lands, so in 1620, the Triñ lords in Tonquin launched an invasion of Panduragña in attempt to expel the Spanish. The Khmer Empire allied itself with the Gñuien lords, hoping to regain Pasco. The Triñ lord offered support to Spain, believing there was a chance of regaining the Gñuien-controlled areas known to the Spanish as Anam. Although they believed Catholicism was a threat to their power, the lords used the opportunity to gain Spanish technology. In addition to the existing artillery the Triñ had purchased from Danish and British traders, the Triñ were exposed to technology that significantly assisted the Triñ cause.

The Gñuien rulers won the battle of Panduragña after weeks of fighting. The Gñuien-Khmer army was successful in chasing the Spanish army to Camao. However, as a shipment of extra military supplies caused the tables to turn at the battle of Angkor Bodei. Spain fully annexed the Khmer Empire as well as the Gñuien-owned teritory by the Battle of Udong Meanchey. The Khmer king was reduced to a puppet. The Triñ-Gñuien conflict ended with the Spanish annexing the Gñuien zone of influence. The Triñ and Gñuien lords and the Khmer Empire were forced to accept the terms of the Treaty of Faifo, which ceded the entire Khmer Empire and the territory of the Gñuien lords to the Spanish. It also gave Spanish missionaries the right to preach in the three nations.

The Triñ under Trịñ Tráng were unhappy with the outcome. The Triñ were forced to accept annexation of the ports of Puxuantambo (Phú Xuân), Duruguantambo (Indrapura), and Faifo by the Spanish, as well as having to allow the Spanish to protelyze in the area. Further tensions erupted in the Spanish-Vietnamese War in 1644. From the outset, the Spanish were at a disadvantage because of the lack of military resources. Siam joined the conflict in 1645, and also gained access to the Danish cannons owned by the Triñ. In 1648, the underequipped Spanish were forced to concede Duruguantambo and Puxuantambo to the Triñ. The defeat shocked Europe, as many believed the Spanish Empire with so much influence in Europe could not be defeated overseas.

Although Spain had conquered a large part of Indochina, Spanish rule was inherently ineffective, and damaging to the local economy. Landowning Spanish settlers were provided with haciendas and any local inhabitants, but only a small handful responded to the advertisements due to the distance between Spain and Indochina, and because no gold was discovered in the area. Spain's main objective was to crush any pagan leadership, but Spanish rule was mainly in the interest of Spanish trade, while doing little to exercise authority except crushing local attempts to gain power.

Danes Discover Australia

The first European to sight Australia was Jens Munk, who, after living in Brazil for four years, was transferred to the Danish East Indies. He made an ambitious attempt to reach the islands via the Tjintja Islands of Peru, and as a result discovered what is known as the Munk Strait (OTL Torres Strait) in 1597. He was not aware he had discovered a new continent, but is credited with the discovery nevertheless.

Vilhem Johansen, Danish explorer of Dutch descent, was exploring in the Danish East Indies in 1610, and sailed west departing from Kristiansborg (Djakarta) on Ny Sjaelland (OTL Java). He traveled into the OTL Gulf of Carpenteria and claimed to have discovered a new continent, which he claimed for the Danish East Indies, although this was later rejected due to the low possibility of making a profit.

During the late 16th and early 17th centuries, many traders found themselves in Australia after sailing too far south en route to the Danish East Indies. In 1627, Danish navigator Franz Madssen, coming from Cape of Good Hope, inadvertently landed in Australia on the ship Den Gyldne Søhest (Golden Seahorse). This expedition was critical in discovering that Australia was in fact its own continent, and not part of a larger southern continent. By this time, most of the west coast of Australia had been mapped and explored. The continent was named Frederikslund after the king of Denmark at the time.

The most famous explorer to Australia was Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman who commanded the ships Engel and Kanal. Allured by tales of the gold rich land of "Beach" (which, due to several transcription errors, was equivalent to the Thai kingdom of Lop Buri that was visited by Marco Polo), Tasman set out to make a fortune. Although he did not discover "Beach" he landed in Tasmania and soon after, OTL New Zealand, encountering the native Maori Peoples. On the return journey, he made several discoveries in Oceania. On his second journey, which traversed the north of Australia, he was disappointed to have not found a new trade route nor a fortune.

Missionary Activity in East Asia

Catholic missionary activity played an important role in the development of the countries of Tonquin, Sesuvia, China, Korea, and Japan. The effort was led by the Spanish who held strongholds in Macao, Formosa, the Philippines, and Cochinchina. Most notably among converts, Spain won the Chongzhen Emperor of China and King Surinya Vongsa I of Sesuvia.

The first permanent mission in China was founded by St. Francis Xavier, native of Navarra, Spain. He had been stationed in Cochinchina but travelled north and landed in Macao in 1542. Despite lacking permissions to do so, he began missionary activity in China. He was brought to the authorities at Pequin (Beijing) in 1554. The Jiajing emperor was impressed by his western knowledge and allowed the Spanish to permanently settle in Macao. Francis Xavier died in 1570 of fever but during his lifetime, he secured over 7,000 converts in China and Cochinchina.

The Catholic Church gained following in China for the next few centuries. While many followed in Francis Xavier's footsteps and held strict to Catholic ways and not giving leeway for local customs that were considered non-Catholic, Italian Jesuit Matteo Ricci began researching to reconcile Confucianism with Christianity, stating that unlike in Cochinchina and South Asia, there were common threads between the Analects and the Bible. Ricci's followers, the Jesuits, appealed to the upper class of Confucian-educated scholars, but followers of Francis Xavier and the Dominicans continued to be larger in number. The conflict between the two rites led to what was known as the Chinese Rites Controversy, which continued throughout the century.

By the early 1600s, the Jesuits had gained their first converts in the imperial family. Fr. Juan Diego de Leyte, working in Pequin, succeeded in gaining the favour of the Chongzhen Emperor through introduction of western science and astronomy. By 1644, the Chongzhen Emperor had destroyed his idols and was baptized under the name of Josué (Joshua). By then Catholicism was the religion of over 1,000,000 Chinese. Emperor Chongzhen executed the members of his family that refused to follow him in this religion. He also appointed Jesuits to his imperial court. These reforms angered many Chinese who held to the practices of Buddhism and its worship of idols.

Rebellions erupted throughout China in 1644, when Li Zicheng invaded Pequin. Faced with the option of capture or escape, Chongzhen ordered his family members to hasten an escape to Dali (later Xijing) in Yunnan, where he planned to raise a large army. In what later became known as the Long March, the Chongzhen Emperor faced difficult conditions including especially cold winters that cost many lives. Within the following days after his escape, a coalition led by anti-Ming leaders Li Zicheng and Manchu general Nurhachi encroached on and took over northern China. The Spanish believed if the "non-scholarly" and "barbarous" Manchus under Nurhaci controlled China, it would pose a threat to Spanish control of Formosa and the Philippines. As a result, Spain offered artillery to the Ming remnants, and helped the emperor reunite the Southern Mings who held strongholds in Fujian and Guangdong. Many loyalists also retreated to Formosa, where they were aided by the Spanish.

With Spanish assistance, the Mings launched a counter-offensive and rapidly spread throughout China in 1648. The self-proclaimed Manchu, or later Jin dynasty, was expelled to Corea, where they set up a government in Ryugyeong. Despite their success, the next few years saw constant rebellions and rapid decline of the remnants of the Ming dynasty. In 1667, Chongzhen Emperor died and was succeeded by his son Zhu Cihuan, who took the era name of Wenzhi (穩治) and declared himself Wenzhi Emperor, meaning "stable control." By 1675 there were over 28,000,000 Catholics in China, mainly concentrated around Yunnan and the capital of Xijing, Guangdong, Guangxi, and Sichuan.

Following its annexation of Cochinchina, Spain sent missionaries inland in hopes of gaining an ally of the mountain Kingdom of Sesuvia (Lan Xang). Spanish missionaries had difficulties in the devout Buddhist country, but after several years, Jesuits under Hernando de Sevila succeeded in converting the king Surinya Vongsa I using a combination of military pressure and a promise of alliance.

The first efforts to protelysize in Japan were made by Alessandro Valignano, Neapolitan Jesuit who arrived in 1579. Like Matteo Ricci, his main strategy was to adapt Christianity to local beliefs. Local lords were intrigued by the new religion, seeing it as a new sect of Buddhism. After landing in Kagoshima, Valignano was able to gather converts throughout Japan, mainly on the island of Kyushu. The early shoguns such as Toyotomi Hideyoshi found favor with the religion, but when the Tokugawa shoguns came to power, Christianity fell in favor. The shoguns did not want the Japanese to be loyal to a foreign ruler, the Pope.

The Shinabaru rebellion near Nagasaki, a rebellion of predominantly Christian peasants, angered the shoguns. By decrees by Tokugawa Iemitsu, all Christians were forced to publicly renounce their religion, and all foreigners were expelled. Very little missionary activty occurred during what was called the sakoku period. However, many Japanese by then were practicing in secret.

In addition to missionary activity in China, Japan, and Sesuvia, notable missions existed in Tonquin and Korea. In both countries, Christianity was suppressed by the government. When Korea fell under Manchu rule, Christianity was made illegal to practice, and many martyrs were sentenced to death. Spain had missionaries in Tonquin until Spain's defeat in the Spanish-Triñ war.

A notable Protestant community in East Asia developed in the mid-1600s composed of Lutherans from Denmark, but it failed to gain members due to the insufficient quality and number of missionaries.

Portuguese Seize Mirauco

Alarmed by rapid expansion by Spain in Southeast Asia, Portugal decided to take a direct route to gaining a foothold with access to China. Portugal, which had established trading relationship with the Kingdom of Mirauco (Mrauk-U), launched an invasion of the city of Mirauco in 1598. Despite holding down the opposition for several months, a large amount of Portuguese mercenaries defected, causing the invasion to fail.

In 1612, Portugal launched a second invasion, this time having communicated with Burma. Using its advanced navy and artillery, Portugal captured Tcheduba Island, and using it as a strategic base for encroaching on Arakanese territory. Portugal and Burma began jointly annexing the kingdom from the south. Arakan's petition for help was rejected by the Chinese Emperor, and the Mirauco Kingdom was forced to rely on Portuguese mercenaries for the majority of its battles. A slow annexation of Mirauco ensued, with the Portuguese slowly capturing various small provinces from the south to the north. The final battle for the capital city of Mirauco took place in 1635. The king, Thiri Thudhamma, and his family were held captive given the choice of converting to Christianity or being executed. They chose the former option, but were nevertheless forcibly expelled, taking refuge in Tripura and then Bhutan.

The Portuguese occupied the city and set up a colonial administration. In order to combat the traditional Arakan society, a series of Jesuit reductions were put in place. All Miraucanos were officially subject to a Christian education, despite the Portuguese inability to carry out this decree in vast parts of the empire. In 1640, the colonial city of São João was founded north of OTL Thandwe, which attracted thousands of Portuguese interested in starting a new life in the trade of spices and other commodities. Mirauco served as the main outlet for European trade with Bengal for centuries.

Scramble for the Spice Islands

Danish New Zealand (VOE)

Danish settlements in Ny Sjælland

During the 16th and 17th centuries, the spice trade was extremely lucrative, and was the source of conflict for several countries. Prior to the 16th century, the spice trade was dominated by Venice, which had ties to the Arab nations, but later other nations sought to break the monopoly and collect spices from the source, the Maluku Islands in Oceania, also known as the Spice Islands.

The first country to reach the Spice Islands was Portugal, who administered them from the island of Ambon. Despite continuous conflict with the local Bandanese people, they safeguarded their possessions, some of the only islands that produced nutmeg or cloves in the entire world. In 1526, under the treaty of Zaragoza, the world was partitioned into a Spanish and Portuguese hemisphere. Although the Maluku Islands were on the Spanish side, they were ceded to Portugal at the price of 150 million ducats.

The conflict intensified in the early 1600s, with the Danish and British entering the conflict. Denmark-Norway had begun settling the islands of Java (Ny Sjælland) and Madura early in the century, setting up what it called the Danish East India Company. At first, they operated out of the Indian fort of Trankebar, trading with the natives, but in order to gain a fuller grasp on the riches of the island, Danish settlers set up the city of Kristiansborg on the western half of the island. Danish settlers collected large estates and settled in various parts of the island. The city became known as "the Big Durian" and became a rival only to Manila in grandeur and colonial style in Southeast Asia. It became a hub for European trade with the Spice Islands.

Denmark-Norway also establish nominal control in most coastlines in the Asian half of the Indonesian Archipelago. However, this control was limited to Danish merchants, ports, and trade. In reality, the existing kingdoms and sultanates were delegated most of the control. This was true in Ny Sjælland as well as other parts. In order to subjugate these monarchies, the Danish were forced to engage in a complex web of alliances to impel them to be loyal to the Dutch East India Company. The Danish also took control of Malaka, then the centre of trade in Southeast Asia.

Portuguese colonial rule in the Portuguese East Indies, or the Spice Islands, was marked by a simultaneous quest for both domination of the spice trade and missionary activity. Having lost Macao to the Spanish following the Iberian Union, the Portuguese used the island of Tidore as a stop-off point for Portuguese evangelists travelling to China, Korea, and Japan. Later in the 17th century, Portugal continued to expand to include the Bird's Head Peninsula of the island of New Guinea and the eastern part of the island of Timor.

The Portuguese and Danish were in constant conflict over trading rights in the Spice Islands. As a result, violent conflicts often resulted among Danish and Portuguese ships, with each hiring pirates to attack the other side. Violent conflicts often plagued the area, often including the native Bandanese who were resentful against the Portuguese. However, both sides continued to profit through the 17th century.

Britain also conducted trade but its conquests were mostly economic rather than territorial. At the time Britain was only an emerging power. Spanish and Dutch merchants also engaged in minor trade, although far less than the British, Portuguese, and Danish. Spanish merchants created a small trading post on the Malay Peninsula known as Terengano, for the purpose of being able to have access to the Indonesian archipelago, thus attracting many adventurous merchants. The traditional trading partners of the Spice Islands, such as China, were cut off by the Europeans, who struggled to maintain monopolies in the islands.

Siam's Foreign Relations

Siam's foreign relations have been notable in that Siam established relations with many foreign powers as well as Peru. The first contacts were made with the Spanish and Portuguese, who set up missions in Burma and Cochinchina.

In 1560, a fleet of Peruvian ships arrived in Ayutthaya, with emissaries of Ninan Kujutji Inka. They were warmly welcomed by the Siamese King Maha Chakkrapat. During that period of time, Siam was undergoing a succession crisis, and Ayutthaya was under threat of invasion by Burma. Siam was helpless against the Burmese, with their Portuguese mercenaries, and massive vassal armies collected from newly-conquered Sukhothai. Thailand hired several Spanish and Danish mercenaries, but was gratified to find that the Peruvian Inca was willing to send men from its Amazon regions to engage in guerrilla warfare, on terms of alliance. The party also introduced Danish-style artillery and muskets to Siam to give it a technological advantage. When the Burmese attacked Ayutthaya, the Siamese people caught the Burmese off guard with newly-gained technology. In this way, Siam earned a defensive victory and was able to prevent a possible fate of vassalage by the Burmese.

As Indochina began to become more and more sought-after by European powers, France sought to gain prominence in the region. However, lacking the ability to transport materials at such a great distance, the French simply wished to gain a powerful ally in Indochina. The first French trade relations were established in 1657 under King Louis XIV. The ikat textiles of Siam piqued the interest of French royalty.

Under King Narai, Siam established foreign relations with arms outstretched, as far as England, France, Denmark, and the Vatican. He did not feel threatened by European efforts to create missions in Siam, and allowed Europeans to positions of power in his government, including many British, Portuguese, and French rulers. Most notably, Constantine Phaulkon, Greek traveller, was King Narai's prime minister, and later succeeded him as king.

Siam's relations, however, were strained with Spain and Portugal. Siam denounced Portugal's support of Burma in the Thai-Burmese Wars. Siam also struggled as Spain gained large amounts of territory in Cochinchina. On one occasion, a battle broke out between Siam and Spain over the temple of Preah Vihear, known to the Spanish as San Vicente. A major display of power against Spain was demonstrated during the Dagohoy Rebellions in the Philippines, when Siamese troops showed intent on capturing the Philippine city of Cebu in 1660, before retreating shortly after. Relations with Portugal slowly improved after King Narai came to power (Constantine Paulkon's wife was part Portuguese), but most relations were limited to trade.

Siam had complex relations with Japan. Japan and Siam initiated relations in 1611 due to contacts via Peruvian traders. Despite the sakoku period policy of kaikin, or isolation, Siam was allowed to trade through a joint Peruvian-Siamese trading mission at Sugashima (Sukasima) via the Toba clan. However, the Tokugawa shogunate was consistently angered by Siamese efforts to enter the mainland. Japan refused to send trading missions to Siam, despite Siamese efforts at coaxing Japan to open up its ports. Siam wanted a powerful ally to defend against the Spanish, but was denied this request. Only once did Japan appear to show signs of ending its kaikin policy, when Japan sent its first foreign mission to Ayuthaya in 1658, although it later recalled ships for unknown reasons.

Spanish East Indies

Spanish East Indies (VOE)

Map showing the regions of the Spanish East Indies

Following the Treaty of Zaragoza, the Spanish crown saw the opportunity to begin missionary activity in East Asia. The newly-discovered Philippines and Formosa lay within the territory allotted to the Spanish. The city of Manila became the capital in 1571, but the administration took place in Mexico City until the Spanish East Indies, Macao, Dechima, and Spanish Indochina were split from the Mexico City Administration in favour of local Manila Administration by 1581.

In 1557, with the permission of Ming China, Spain created the small trading outpost of Macao, which was administered from Manila. This marked the beginning of a string of Catholic missions entering China. Although the Spanish were not allowed to spread Christianity so under the agreement with China, most missions escaped the notice of the Emperor. Soon, the Spanish realized Macao did not put Spain in an adequate position to convert the whole of China, so Spain began settling the island of Formosa to the north. The first settlement was known as Santissima Trinidad, as well as several other forts. Formosa was deemed attractive to the Spanish due to the possibilities for trade with Japan, the Philippines, China, and Indochina. Additionally, the natives were more friendly to Spanish rule than those found elsewhere in the empire. As a result, the port of Santissima Trinidad became a major trading hub in the area. The Spanish taught the natives to adapt western-style life and established Catholic systems of education, as well as promoting the Spanish language.

In 1638, the Danish, envious of Spanish influence in East Asia, launched a campaign against Spain to gain the northern half of Formosa, as part of the Danish-Portuguese War. The Spanish emerged victorious, leading colonial authorities to commit more resources into turning Formosa into a location for many wealthy Spaniards. More cities were constructed along the west coast during this period. A major native uprising took place in Pongsoya, on the south-western coast, against the encomienda system. The Spanish took the opportunity to enslave many of the local aborigines as a result of fear of further invasion, causing widespread fear of the Spanish among the natives.

The Spanish captured the island of Guam in 1664, and proceeded to annex the surrounding islands over the next several years.

Tokugawa Japan's Trade Relations

The Tokugawa clan took over Japan after the rule of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Unlike the rule of Toyotomi, however, early Tokugawa rule was marked by a general distrust of foreigners, especially of Christianity. However, several countries maintained trade with Japan one way or another. At first, Christianity intrigued several lords, who saw it as a type of Buddhism. Later, under Tokugawa Iemitsu, Christianity was banned, and all foreigners were expelled.

Peruvian missions visited Japan in 1580, initiated by Ljuq'i Q'aqja. This was the second trade mission established with Asia, after Siam. The Japanese did not feel threatened by Peruvian presence, because the Peruvians did not wish to further implant culture on Japan. Thus, at the beginning of the sakoku period, Peru was allowed to trade through the island of Sugashima, via the Toba Clan in Shima Province. Siam also managed certain trade through the island. However, Japan's relations were often strained by attempts by both countries to enter Japan.

A second major port of foreign trade was Dejima near Nagasaki. The port of Nagasaki itself was built in part by the Jesuits, but as Japan pursued a more isolated interior, there were plans to confine the Spanish to the island of Dejima. However, the Shimabara Rebellion of Japanese Christians caused the shogun to see a need to expel all foreigners connected with Christianity. Thus, Japan handed the island to the control of Danish traders. Chinese traders also used the port, but all imports were limited to a fixed number of ships per year.

In addition to these two "gateways," other countries were able to trade. Trade with the independent Ryukyu Kingdom was controlled by the Shimazu family on Satsuma Domain. Chinese merchants also traded through this port. Control with Korea, and later the Manchus took place through Tsushima, under the Sō clan. Through the Matsumae fief in Hokkaido, the Japanese could trade with the Ainu people. However, very little foreign activity took place on the mainland. Altogether, these five "gateways" were strictly regulated by the Emperor and the shogun.

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