Seaports, Captains, Merchants
China: Pagoda Island
° Amoy ° Fuzhou, Pagoda Island ° Canton (Gunagzhou) ° Qingdao
° Hong Kong ° Fuzhou ° Macau ° Ningbo-Zhoushan ° Qingdao ° Peking (Bejing) ° Shanghai ° Tianjin
° Tientsin ° Whampoa
° Yangzhou ° Xiamen ° Pirates in the China Seas
° The Great Wall ° Mahjong ° Opium Wars ° Shaolin (Kung Fu) ° The Jews of Kaifeng (Henan Province)
Fifteen minutes of Fuzhou lies Mawei, cradle of Chinese seamanship, and site of the famous Pagoda Anchorage. Chinese named giant rocks, Double Turtle Guarding Door, Five Tigers Defending Gate, and Warriors Leg. Sailors from Fuzhou were trading overseas before most of China knew that seas existed... and the city was an international trading port by year 618 AD.
After opening Canton consulate in July 1843, George Tradescant Lay arrived in Fuzhou in July 1844. He was forced off his ship at Pagoda Island and made to go up river in a small boat. Fuzhou authorities allocated him a house built of boards, over the river, which flooded twice a day.
Between Pagoda Anchorage and the sea, Min surged through a narrow gorge that was so tight that old salts claimed monkeys jumping from one side to or got tails caught in rigging; these were tall tales but many a ship, likeOriental in 1853 and Vision in 1857, sank in mighty Min. No one took Min for granted especially the Chinese, who were among the greatest ocean-going adventurers of our ancient world.
In 1859, Sea Serpent loaded for tea at Pagoda Island. . . her time from crossing bar of Min River to London was only 130 days—during height of adverse monsoon. She beat all clippers who anchored alongside her.
In 1866, Foochow became the starting point of Great Tea Race . . . 16 clippers were loaded tea at Pagoda Anchorage. In late May and early June, they began their race across 16,000 miles of open ocean to London Docks, arriving 99 days later.
The Taeping reached Gravesend first, followed by Ariel and Serica.
1869: There are few scenes that linger in my memory more vividly than the Pagoda Anchorage in Foochow River a day or two after the "new teas" market had opened, when the first flight of clippers was getting ready for sea.
The "opening of market" was a feature peculiar to Foochow tea trade. In city of Foochow, stocks of first pickings from teagardens in the interior had accumulated since early in May, but Chinese merchants were slow in making up their minds to sell at prices acceptable to foreign buyers.
It was perhaps known from the outset that certain foreign "hongs" — that is, mercantile houses — would eventually purchase particular "chops" of tea. A "chop" was a number of boxes of the same make and quality of leaf, variable as to weight, but usually a product of one particular garden. "Chops" bearing a well-known name were bought year after year by the same foreign merchants, yet, even so, weeks were often spent in haggling. The price was slowly and reluctantly lowered by the Chinese merchant . . . When it had been reduced sufficiently, some of more important firms were tempted to close. Then the hurry began.
As soon as it became known that Jardine's or some other well-known English firm had opened the market, all merchants began to buy their favourite "chops" at proportionate prices.
Speed was the order of day. Forty-eight hours or so were required to weigh and label tea-chests, then each "hong" made all haste to load them into lighters which waited to convey the fragrant leaf for Foochow to Pagoda Anchorage, a distance of about twelve miles . . .
Generally some three or four clippers with good records were chosen as "going ships," and combinations of shippers would concentrate on filling these . . . it was a keen contest; yet it was not always the ship considered fastest which got away first. Much depended on tonnage of the vessel and status and influence of the agents concerned . . .
It would usually happen that a dozen or more clippers would be lying ready, with holds swept and garnished, for two or three weeks perhaps. . . then one day, or one night as likely as not, immediately after the opening of market, watchmen on the waiting ships would be kept on qui vive by hearing blowing of many conch shells and a distant din on river . . . as the first "tea chops" came down. The men on board vessels kept up insistent sing-song calls, which represented, in Chinese tongue, inquiries as to where they should anchor to be near the particular vessel for which their cargo was designed.
The method in vogue was to chant in a long drawn-out wail Chinese name of the "hong" which owned tea. Thus Jardine Mathieson's employees would wail out: "Ee-wo! Ee-wo!"; those in Turner and Company would snap back a discordant "Wha-kee! Wha-kee!" . . .
The finest display of clippers that I ever remember seeing waiting for market to open was in 1869. In that year, no less than fifteen of these beauties, more like yachts than merchantmen, lay moored off Pagoda, with holds ready, ballast levelled, ground chop stowed, waiting for new teas. I do not suppose that in any port in the world one could have seen such a fleet of beautiful craft as were assembled in the River Min on that occasion.
Among them were Thermopyle, Leander, Windhover and Kaisow, all on their first trip;Spindrift and Lahloo on their second; the proven and noted flyers Sir Lancelot, Ariel, Taeping, and Serica; as well as somewhat older but still handsome vessels Black Prince, Falcon, Min, Flying Spur and little Ziba. . .
Ariel and Taeping
The Tea Race of 1866 caused an enormous stir in the sporting and nautical circles of Britain. Ariel and Taeping had left Fuzhou together and arrived home on the other side of the globe still together, Ariel‘s winning time being seven thousandths of one percent faster than her rival’s. The Tea Race was never so close again in its 30-year history.
Hundreds of clipper ships were built between 1845 and 1875, mostly in the U.S. and Scotland, and tested against each other in what became highly publicized “tea races” as they vied to be first home with the new season’s cargo. The clippers were distinguished, first, by the rakish bows that gave them their name, which swept forward at an angle of up to 50 degrees and lent the vessels a lean and eager look, and, second, by their narrow beam and lofty sail plans. Below the waterline they boasted radical new lines, with knife-edge stems, narrow foreparts, a long flat run aft to the rudder, and a sharp “rise of floor”— the slope at which the hull angles outward from the central keel to the ship’s sides.
Tea was one of the very few commodities carried at speed in the heyday of sail. Other cargoes were either too bulky or insufficiently valuable to make it worth risking a whole ship and crew in racing through the typhoons and the shoals of the South China Sea with all sails set, just to be able to dock in the Port of London a few hours or days ahead of the pack. But in the middle of the 19th century, demand for fresh tea was such that the first vessel home from Fuzhou or Shanghai could command a premium of at least 10 percent for her wares, and a clipper ship that cost perhaps £12,000 or £15,000 to build might bring home a cargo worth almost £3,000 on her first voyage.
Captain John Keay, master of the new British clipper ship Ariel, had secured the first cargo of tea to come to market at the great Chinese port of Foochow in 1866 — 560 tons of first and second pickings, freighted at the high price of £7 a ton: the very finest leaves available. The cargo had been floated out to him in lighters, packed in more than 12,000 hand-made tea chests, and stowed below decks in the record time of just four days. Now Ariel was weighing anchor at 5 p.m. on the evening of May 28–the first tea clipper to sail for London that season.
Thus it went at Foochow, and Foochow in sixties was the premier port for shipment of teas. Though it had been opened to foreign trade as far back as 1842, for a number of years afterwards Canton, or Whampoa, was the more important place. "Orange" and "Flowery Pekoe," "Scented Capers" and or choice teas were those for which this port was famous.
Great Days of Sail
Part of the trials and tribulations of these ports were pirates . . . each year several cases of piracy -- attempted or accomplished -- were recorded. There were thieves among the seafaring population all along China coast, but reportedly none were as bloodthirsty as Cantonese and their neighbors.
By 1871 newer steamships began to replace these great ships. Tea Clippers were vital to tea trade until the opening of Suez Canal in 1869 and were in operation until the end of 1880's.
On a Saturday morning in August 1884, the French destroyed the Chinese fleet in about half an hour. The French commander had warned foreign consulates and the Chinese day before, but international law required at least 30 days notice.
The French refused China's request for one more day to prepare, they attacked, and seven hundred Chinese seamen went to a mass grave beside Memorial Hall of Majiang River Naval Battle.
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