This brief article begins with a nod to the Japanese scholar Toru Saguchi and his work dating back to the 1960s, which uses trade as a lens through which to view Kazakh-Chinese relations in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Noda J. mines rare historical and more recent published sources to lay out some aspects of this topic. It demonstrates the key role that Kazakh Sultans played in the caravan trade. Beginning in 1757, sultans and clan leaders in the eastern steppe became subjects of the Qing Empire, whose officials then gathered statistical information about them, including names of tribal and clan groupings and their numbers. This information was utilised in controlling movement of caravans. Only those caravans that brought with them gifts for local Qing officials and a letter from a Kazakh Sultan were allowed to pass through Ili (Ghulja) and Tarbagatai (Chuguchak) to conduct trade in Qing territory. Merchants from Kokand were also permitted into Xinjiang, especially Kashghar, in this way. Merchants from the Russian Empire had no official permission to enter Qing territory, but unofficially they traded if they had letters from Kazakh Sultans. Thus, as Noda J. concludes, “Kazakh Sultans played the role of intermediaries between Russia and China, which was advantageous to them” (p. 38). This position declined toward the middle of the nineteenth century and ceased with the 1851 Ili Treaty. Noda notes that further research on this topic must rely on Qing archival documents, most of which are written in the Manchu language. Noda’s more recent research (as seen in the as-yet unpublished article, “Russo-Chinese Trade through Central Asia: Regulation and Reality,” which he presented at the 2007 Winter Symposium of Hokkaido University’s Slavic Research Centre in Sapporo) reflects the great potential for pursuing this topic.

Virginia Martin, University of Wisconsin, Madison
CER: II-3.4.B-261