Southeast Asia in the Ming Shi-lu

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The Ming Shi-lu (明實錄) (also known as the Veritable Records of the Ming Dynasty) is a collective name for the successive reign annals of the emperors of Ming China (1368-1644). Each of the shi-lu comprises an account of one emperor's reign, and was compiled after that emperor's death on the basis of a number of sources created during the reign. These collected texts, which run to close to 40,000 pages of unpunctuated, manuscript Classical Chinese constitute one of the most important primary texts of the Ming dynasty, and contain a wealth of materials unrecorded in other sources.

Among the unique materials contained within the Ming Shi-lu (MSL) are a wide range of references to polities and societies which today we consider to be parts of "Southeast Asia". Given the annalistic nature of the MSL and the difficulties of searching such a huge corpus, many of these have long remained unknown. This work identifies all of the references to Southeast Asia contained within the MSL and provides them to readers in English-language translation. In addition to the more obvious Southeast Asian polities of maritime and mainland Southeast Asia, this database also includes references to the many Yunnan Tai polities which have subsequently been incorporated within the Chinese state. The fact that many of these references predate European sources on Southeast Asia underlines their importance to historians of the region.

The collection can be browsed chronologically by Western date or by reign date, or searched by specific terms. To assist in searches, an index of personal and place names, with their Chinese equivalents appended, is provided separately. The earlier edition of this database used entry numbers as the permanent addresses for each entry; this edition uses the reign date in the URL. However the old URLs with entry numbers will redirect to the correct entry.

Additional information on the Ming Shi-lu as a source for historical research into Southeast Asia is available, as well as a user's guide which conveys basic information on the conventions and standards used in the database. 

NUS Press and the Asia Research Institute have committed to maintaining this database as an freely available open access resource, and it is hoped that readers will help improve it by submitting comments, criticisms, corrections and additions. Correspondence relating to the database should be addressed to Geoff Wade at:

Image Credit: Emperor Chengzu of the Ming Dynasty, hanging scroll, ink and color on silk, 220 x 150 cm. Located at the National Palace Museum, Taipei.