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China. The Canton Trade.

° 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)

The Opium Wars

The Opium Wars arose from China’s attempts to suppress the opium trade. Foreign traders (primarily British) had been illegally exporting opium mainly from India to China since the 18th century, but that trade grew dramatically from about 1820. The resulting widespread addiction in China was causing serious social and economic disruption there.

In March 1839 the Chinese government confiscated and destroyed more than 20,000 chests of opium — some 1,400 tons of the drug — that were warehoused at Canton (Guangzhou) by British merchants. The antagonism between the two sides increased a few days later when some drunken British sailors killed a Chinese villager. The British government, which did not wish its subjects to be tried in the Chinese legal system, refused to turn the accused men over to the Chinese courts. China.Opium.Hostilities broke out several months later when British warships destroyed a Chinese blockade of the Pearl River (Zhu Jiang) estuary at Hong Kong. The British government decided in early 1840 to send an expeditionary force to China, which arrived at Hong Kong in June.

The British fleet proceeded up the Pearl River estuary to Canton, and, after months of negotiations there, attacked and occupied the city in May 1841. Subsequent British campaigns over the next year were likewise successful against the inferior Qing forces, despite a determined counterattack by Chinese troops in the spring of 1842. The British held out and captured Nanjing (Nanking) in late August, which put an end to the fighting. Peace negotiations proceeded quickly, resulting in the Treaty of Nanjing, signed on August 29. By its provisions, China was required to pay Britain a large indemnity, cede Hong Kong Island to the British, and increase the number of treaty ports where the British could trade and reside from one (Canton) to five. Among the four additional designated ports was Shanghai, and the new access to foreigners there marked the beginning of the city’s transformation into one of China’s major commercial entrepôts.

Opium.Opium Wars. Author W. Travis Hanes.

The British Supplementary Treaty of the Bogue (Humen), signed October 8, 1843, gave British citizens extraterritoriality (the right to be tried by British courts) and most-favoured-nation status (Britain was granted any rights in China that might be granted to other foreign countries). Other Western countries quickly demanded and were given similar privileges.

In early October 1856 some Chinese officials boarded the British-registered ship Arrow while it was docked in Canton, arrested several Chinese crew members (who were later released), and allegedly lowered the British flag. Later that month a British warship sailed up the Pearl River estuary and began bombarding Canton, and there were skirmishes between British and Chinese troops. Trading ceased as a stalemate ensued. In December Chinese in Canton burned foreign factories (trading warehouses) there, and tensions escalated.

August 8, 1856, Marysville Daily Herald, Marysville, California, U.S.A.

The British East India Company was organized in 1690 for strictly commerce purposes. Now it governs 150,000,000 of people and indirectly 50,000,000 more -- supports an army of 300,000 ---has an annual revenue of $138,000,000 of which $23,000,000 are a tax on opium which the English government compels China to buy and to allow her people to use. England is Christian and China pagan. England sends her opium and missionaries to the benighted Celestials, and good men say well done and the Christian English make money and lay up treasure in Heave by the same operation.

November 10, 1857, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California

Later from China

San Francisco, November 9, 1857

The clipper bark Early Bird, Cook, arrived this evening in 50 days from Hong Kong, with merchandise to Edwards & Bailey. I send the most important items of news by this arrival.

Twenty-five junks were captured by the British on the 29th and 30th August, two of which had on board $75,000 worth of silks and opium. Two hundred war boats were being built by the Chinese at Canton. The difficulty at Ningpo, between the Chinese and Portuguese was in a fair way of being adjusted.

November 10, 1858, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

The Chinese Treaties.

"Cotton is King!" says one; "Gold is King!" says another; "Labor is King!" says another; and "Commerce is King!" says Carlyle, whose dictum is, perhaps as sound as any of the others. If commerce was the reigning sovereign of the world, superior to all other earthly masters, prior to the negotiation of the treaties between China and the four great leading powers of the globe, its reign has been strengthened and its power increased vastly, since that period. The magnitude and importance of the event has excited the earnest attention of all the leading nations of the earth, and the European and American press both teem with speculative essays upon its future bearing upon the commercial relations of all nations. There are very few among them that fail to recognize the important position occupied by California, and especially by San Francisco, as the great entrepotof Asiatic commodities.

China.Global Opium and Drug Production. 1907.

The treaties, if they mean anything at all, if, in fact, they have been entered into in good faith on the part of the Emperor of China, and their provisions are adhered to, give a range for the ships of England, France, Russia and America, "of two thousand miles of sea-coast between Canton and the Gulf of Pechelee, and access to rivers like the Yang-tse-Kiang, said to water a country of a hundred millions of inhabitants." Such is the acquisition made to commerce by one single concession from an Oriental nation that has heretofore locked itself up behind the brazen gates of heathenish exclusiveness. (Map: 1907 Global Map of Opium and other drug production.)

China.Tea Addiction, Explotation, Exmpire. Author Roy Moxham.

The statistics of the China trade for the past half a century, carried on under all the disadvantages to which it has been subjected by this barbarous people, will furnish any inquiring mind at a glance, a criterion by which the immense importance of the recent treaty acquisitions may be realized. These statistics we are unable to lay before our readers in this connection, but in order to show the increase of the trade since the opium war, we may mention that " the quantity of tea exported from China to England and the United States, within the last seven years, has been increased from 65,000,000 pounds in rough numbers, to 131,000,000 pounds, and that the number of bales of silk exported to England alone within eleven years, has been increased from 10,000 to 60,000, and as remarked by a writer in Hunt's Merchants' Magazine, from whom we compile these figures, this evidence of augmented interest in foreign trade, indicates that the people are ready to avail themselves of the privileges now thrown open. Competition in their principal markets, the proper regulation of trade by a superior system of exchanges, will do the work."


The population of China is variously estimated at from three to four hundred millions. If we estimate it at the minimum of these figures, we should find it quite large enough to demonstrate the fact that the treaties are to have a wonderful effect upon the commercial relations of the world, our own country in particular. The consumption of foreign cotton goods has exhibited an enormous increase within a few years.

"In 1842, England and the United States sent thither 46,000,000 yards. In 1853, the United States sent 28,000,000 yards, and England, 156,000,000 yards." And this marvellous increase in the short space of ten years, was brought about by the opening of the five ports, as one of the results of the opium war.

Other branches of trade exhibit an increase in a like ratio. Taking this as a precedent and a criterion, what have we not a right to look forward to, under the new concessions?

It is known that the demand for goods in Eastern Asia, is far greater than the surplus cotton they produce will make. The consumption being now superior to the supply, must be greatly augmented through the introduction of railroads and other enterprises that will follow in the wake of the treaties. The proposition then presented, is thus pointedly set forth by the writer whom we have before quoted:

"The supply of goods to China must then devolve upon that country which can supply that style of goods the cheapest. It has been the case long since, that the United States cottons can command the market anywhere, over all other goods. Massachusetts goods have even found a market in Manchester; and a steady market in China, backed by a Pacific railroad, promises to he an absorbing point for the United States crops. In 1853, the value of cottons sold in China, paid for half the tea importation, and the progressive increase in the consumption of that article, by no means equals the prospective wants of China for clothing."

Without estimating the importance of this throwing open of China to our commerce, then, in other respects, it is easy to see what vast results are to follow, by a consideration of this one article of cotton manufactures alone. If as has been shown, England monopolizes under the former existing condition of affairs so large a preponderance of the trade, supplying China, as 1853, with 156,000,000 yards of cotton goods, against 28,000,000 furnished by the United States, and if, as has been stated above, the United States backed by a Pacific Railroad can lay down these fabrics in China at a far less figure than can be done by England, the splendid results that are to follow are actually beyond the reach of ordinary human calculation. The cotton fields of the south, and the manufacturing districts or the north, will alike tell the benefits arising out of it, while the extent and value of both will be vastly enhanced. The whole industrial interests of the country will thus be wonderfully increased, and the nation reap advantages such as have never yet accrued to any other, as the result of a like diplomatic concession, obtained from any power or powers on earth.

San Francisco will thus take the position designed for her by nature, and her commercial advantages will, in a brief period, elevate her to the position of one of the first commercial cities of the world. Making her, as it must, the western terminus of the continental railroad, at the point at which the fleet employed in the Asiatic trade most take from and lay down at, their valuable cargoes of merchandize, it is worthy the contemplation of every mind to consider well the future that is in store for her as a great commercial emporium.

These are some of the direct results that must inevitably flow from the Chinese treaties if, as we have before remarked, their stipulations are fully adhered to. The people of the north and south cannot long remain blind to the true facts, and the advantages that accrue to both, through this medium alone, without estimating those to be acquired by uniting the national possessions on both oceans, can scarcely fail of bringing about the unity of action at the next Congress, that will result in that long-prayed-for desideratum, the passage of a Pacific railroad bill. But when these results are consummated, what shall we say then is king; — gold, commerce or cotton?

February 3, 1860, Daily Alta California, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

There seems to be no ground for doubting any longer that the cultivation of the poppy is rapidly extending in China. A correspondent of the North China Herald states that opium is becoming the winter crop of several provinces, especially of Yunan, Honan, and Che-Keang, and that the growers are yearly bringing it to greater perfection. This year it can be used without a mixture of Bengal or Malwa, and the native drug already, we are told, supersedes Turkey, and the inferior classes of Malwa.

It is grown in a fine light soil on a slope, where the moisture can easily drain off. In cultivating, the Chinese look more to quantity than quality, and, therefore, force the poppy till the heads are truly enormous. In April the juice is ready for gathering. On the head four delicate cuts upwards are made, leaving the wound covered by the overhanging skin, as a protection against dews and beat. Early in the morning each wound is scraped by a piece of blunt bamboo, the juice being deposited in a hollow bamboo at the gatherer's side; a process repeated every morning till the flow ceases. The juice has a very acrid taste, and at present is is chiefly used for mixing with the dearer Patna and Malwa.

China.The China War of 1860.

A field of poppies standing on the hillside, seven feet high, and flaunting its gaudy blossoms in contrast with the rich green of the leaves and stalks, is, we may well believe, a beautiful sight. Pity it is that death larks in every flower, and that the misdirected art of man contrives to develop its presence. Whether the home growth of the poppy will exercise an appreciable influence upon the demand for the Indian drug will depend upon the quality of the Chinese product. The opium trade is of far more moment to India than most persons imagine, and it is with unfeigned satisfaction that we recognize in the rapid growth of our general export trade the promise of our future independence of the opium duty for meeting our expenditure. 

China.China. When China Ruled the Seas: 
The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405-1433
Louise Levathes
A hundred years before Columbus and his fellow Europeans began making their way to the New World, fleets of giant Chinese junks commanded by the eunuch admiral Zheng He and filled with the empire's finest porcelains, lacquerware, and silk ventured to the edge of the world's "four corners." It was a time of exploration and conquest, but it ended in a retrenchment so complete that less than a century later, it was a crime to go to sea in a multimasted ship.

Khubilai Khan's Lost Fleet 
In Search of a Legendary Armada
James P., Delgado 
In 1279, near what is now Hong Kong, Mongol ruler Khubilai Khan fulfilled the dream of his grandfather, Genghis Khan, by conquering China. The Grand Khan now ruled the largest empire the world has ever seen—one that stretched from the China Sea to the plains of Hungary. He also inherited the world's largest navy—more than seven hundred ships. Yet within fifteen years, Khubilai Khan's massive fleet was gone. What actually happened to the Mongol navy, considered for seven centuries to be little more than legend, has finally been revealed. Renowned archaeologist and historian James P. Delgado has gone diving with a Japanese team currently studying the remains of the Khan's lost fleet. Delgado pieces together the fascinating tale of Khubilai Khan's maritime forays and unravels one of history's greatest mysteries: What sank the great Mongol fleet?

Opium Wars.Opium Wars in China. Opium WarsOpium Wars in China. 
W. Travis Hanes
The story of the Opium Wars provides an exploration of addiction and the tragedy that can result when cultures collide. In the 19th century, Chinese society was crippled by a vast addiction to opium, which was largely supplied by British traders. For years, British and Chinese governments clashed over Britain's right to trade in China and to be treated as equals by the Chinese officials. When China tried to close its ports to opium, the British fought back, starting two of the most bizarre wars in history. Featuring astonishingly mismatched battles in which the technological might of the British steamships and artillery decimated the medieval sailing junks and arrows of the Chinese, these wars depict a painful clash in history between East and West. "The Opium Wars" presents a history that evokes the political and moral struggles of the people involved in the wars that devastated an empire and have continued to poison the ties between China and the West.

Singapore and the Silk Road of the Sea, 1300-1800The Silk Road of the Sea.
John N. Miksic
Opium.This book synthesizes 25 years of archaeological research to reconstruct the 14th-century port of Singapore in great detail. The picture is of a port where people processed raw materials, used money, and had specialized occupations. Within its defensive wall, the city was well organized and prosperous, with a cosmopolitan population that included residents from China, other parts of Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean. Illustrated, with more than 300 maps and color photos, Singapore and the Silk Road of the Sea presents Singapore's history in the context of Asia's long-distance maritime trade between 1300 and 1800. The author is Associate Professor, Southeast Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, and Head of the NSC Archaeology Unit, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

Religions of the Silk Road: Premodern Patterns of GlobalizationThe Silk Road. 
Richard Foltz
Drawing on the latest research and scholarship, this newly revised and updated edition of Religions of the Silk Road explores the fabled cities and exotic peoples that make up the colonial era while examining how cultural traditions also travelled to the people encounted on the Silk Road. The author, Richard Foltz, is a cultural historian specializing in the Iranian world. He has also worked as a musician, film critic, and travel writer. He holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University and has taught at Brown, Columbia, and the University of Florida. His work has appeared in over a dozen languages."This brief but tightly packed book is a wonderful counterweight to romanticized notions of the so-called Silk Road . . . Foltz masterfully deals with disparate histories from one point of the compass to its seeming opposite, while weaving a wonderfully lucid story of merchants, pilgrims, and missionaries." -- The Journal of Asian History

When America First Met China
An Exotic History of Tea, Drugs, and Money in the Age of Sail

Eric Jay Dolin
China.Ancient China collides with America in this tale of opium smugglers, sea pirates, and dueling clipper ships. Best-selling author Eric Jay Dolin traces our fraught relationship with China back to its roots: the unforgiving nineteenth-century seas that separated a rising naval power from a ancient empire. It is a prescient fable for our time, one that continues to shed light on our modern relationship with China. The furious trade in furs, opium, and bêche-de-mer -- a rare sea cucumber delicacy -- might have catalyzed America's emerging economy, but it also sparked an ecological and human rights catastrophe. Peopled with fascinating characters -- from Robert Morris: Financier of the American RevolutionRobert Morris, Financier of the American Revolution. to the The Glorious Reign of Emperor Qianlong: Splendors of China's Forbidden City, who considered foreigners inferior beings -- this saga of pirates and politicians, coolies and concubines becomes a must-read for any fan of Nathaniel Philbrick's MayflowerMayflower. or Mark Kurlansky'sCod.Cod, the fish that changd the world. Two maps, and 16 pages of color and 83 black-and-white illustrations.

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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