Sino-Portuguese trafficking of children during the Ming Dynasty

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In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Portuguese purchased large numbers of people in China as slaves. Many of those people were children. This article considers where those children came from and why they were sold to the Portuguese. During the late Ming period, as social inequality intensified, poor farmers increasingly had to sell themselves and their offspring to rich landowners as bonded labourers. However, some farmers chose to break the law and sell to foreigners instead. Other farmers became bandits, and kidnapped other people's children to sell into bondage. Both of these criminal trends provided the Portuguese with young slaves.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
Issue number3
Early online date28 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • child trafficking
  • slavery
  • peasants
  • Portugal
  • Ming dynasty


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