The Merchant of Prato by Iris Oringo, a document describing everyday life in the Tuscan region of mediaeval Italy based on some 150,000 letters, contains the following description of the medicines used from the fourteenth century to the beginning of the fifteenth century: _By far the most common items on the bills of an apothecary in Florence were spices of various types -saffron, pepper, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and quassia. Of these, orders for saffron and pepper were the most common, and the highest priced. This is because these included pills for the plague._A century later, in 1621, the Englishman Thomas Mann?? wrote, _Spices maintain health and because they cure diseases there was tremendous demand for them everywhere and at all times._
Various seafaring peoples at both extremes of the Eurasian continent, from western Europe to Japan, sought and acquired medicines from the islands of Southeast Asia. Maritime Asia consequently became a region of dynamic exchange among these peoples, including the Europeans and Japanese, who became the main protagonists in the new age that emerged against the backdrop of the oceans of Asia. Southeast Asia thus entered an age of commerce. The dynamism of maritime Asia originated in the experience of endemic disease that brought about interchange among the major civilizations. From this time onwards, the main stage of global history shifted to maritime Asia. Located at the westernmost and easternmost extremes of the vast Eurasian Continent, Britain and Japan, which were to become the first industrialized nations in the west and the East, had followed completely unconnected historical paths until they came to share the same time and space through the emergence of maritime Asia. This was the real dawn of modern world history, and the nucleus of this dynamic interchange was the Southeast Asia sea region.
(2) The Shared Experience of Southeast Asia
For humankind, the earth is one vast archipelago. Most of the islands of this archipelago are concentrated in the West Pacific Ocean. These islands are distributed over a crescent-shaped area extending from the southwest islands (the Kurile Islands, Sakhalin, Japan, Okinawa, etc.) to Southeast Asia (Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, etc.), Melanesia, and Oceania. Japan is located at the northern tip of this area and Southeast Asia, which contains most of the islands, lies at its center - the nucleus of the West Pacific region. Let us first of all focus on Southeast Asia.
On 30 April 1994, the number of members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) reached ten countries. When ASEAN was founded in 1967, the Indochinese peninsula as a whole was moving in the direction of communism. ASEAN was established as an anti-communist bloc to ensure the security and political stability of the region. After the end of the Cold War, Vietnam (in 1995), Laos and Cambodia (in 1997) became members of ASEAN, removing its anti-communist character, heralding a new start as a free economic bloc. With the participation of Cambodia, the ASEAN market expanded to 500 million people.
Southeast Asia as the Nucleus of Maritime Asia
Why did Southeast Asia become the nucleus of maritime Asia?
First, Southeast Asia_s geographical location was of critical importance. Situated at the meeting point between maritime Islam and maritime China, it constituted the sea crossroads between Eastern and Western civilizations. In the 14th century, Islamic culture flourished in the Indian Ocean region (maritime Islam), which the Arabs crossed in their dhows. The China sea region (maritime China), on the other hand, was the province of the Chinese, who went back and forth in their junks. Southeast Asia did not simply form the boundary between these two worlds; its development became inextricably linked with them through the process of extensive trade and deepening cultural exchange.
Second, Southeast Asia was the source of products that humankind needed for its very survival. The pepper and spices produced in this region were required in both the West and the East.