The author, the book and the context
1. About the author : Wang Zaijin王在晉 ( ?- 1643) was born in Tai Cang, Jiangsu Province (江苏太仓), and became jinshi 進士 in 1592. He was then affected to the ministry of transport and irrigation (工部). In 1600, he became deputy inspector (副使) in Fujian. In 1607, he was transferred to the province of Huguang (湖广副使). From 1610 through to 1616, he was stationed in Zhejiang.
2 . The book : Yue Juan越镌 was published in 1611（万历三十九年), while Wang Zaijin was on duty in Zhejiang Province. The book is part of the compilation called “Siku jinhui shu congkan” 四庫禁毀書叢刊 (Books Listed as “To Be Banned or Destroyed” (by the Editors of the Complete Collection) of the Four Treasures), published by Beijing chubanshe in 2000.
The Yue Juan relates observations and political proposals made by the author between 1610 and 1611. In particular, it includes five records of court cases against merchants (and others) trading with Japan at the end of the Ming dynasty. I choose 3 of these 5 cases, which reveal the complex mechanism of pooling capital and cargoes before venturing for overseas trade. They also describe in a very vivid way the role of local administration in terms of a still prohibited trade with Japan.
3. The context : the maritime trade. From 1567 (隆庆元年) on, the central government lifted the ban on maritime trade (海 禁) in the Fujian Province. Although merchants obtained the permission to undertake overseas commercial operations, trade with Japan was still prohibited. (See Dong Xi yang kao东西洋考, juan 7, pp. 131-132).