The Changing Significance of Latin American Silver in The Chinese Economy, 16th–19th Centuries

Abstract: The important role of Chinese demand for silver in stimulating worldwide silver-mining and shaping the first truly global trading system has become commonly recognised in the world history scholarship. The commercial dynamism of China during the 16th-19th centuries was integrally related to the importation of foreign silver, initially from Japan but principally from Latin America. Yet the significance of imports of Latin American silver for the Chinese economy changed substantially over these three centuries in tandem with the rhythms of China's domestic economy as well as the global trading system. This article traces these changes, including the adoption of a new standard money of account—the yuan—derived from the Spanish silver peso coin.