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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)


Peking is an older English name for Beijing. The term originated with French missionaries four hundred years ago. The earliest remnants of human habitation in the Beijing municipality are found in the caves of Dragon Bone Hill near the village of Zhoukoudian in Fangshan District, where the Peking Man lived. Homo erectus fossils from the caves date to 230,000 to 250,000 years ago. Paleolithic homo sapiens also lived there about 27,000 years ago. There were cities in the vicinities of Beijing by the 1st millennium BC, and the capital of the State of Yan, one of the powers of the Warring States Period (473-221 BC), Ji, was established in present-day Beijing.

The fossil remains of Peking man, his stone tools and evidence of use of fire, as well as later tools of 18,000 years ago, bone needles and article of adornment from the age of Upper Cave Man are the earliest cultural relics on record in China today.

Gardens of the Imperial Palace, Peking.
Gardens of the Imperial Palace

William Alexander (10 April 1767 23 July 1816) was an English painter, illustrator and engraver. The hallmarks of his work, usually executed in watercolours, were clearness and harmony of colour, simplicity and taste in composition, grace of outline, and delicacy of execution. He accompanied the Macartney Embassy to China in 1792. Alexander was born in Maidstone, Kent, the son of Harry Alexander, a coachmaker. He was educated at Maidstone Grammar School. In 1782, at the age of 15, he moved to London to study art, initially under William Pars, and subsequently Julius Caesar Ibbetson. In February 1784, he was admitted to the Royal Academy Schools. He applied himself to the mastery of his painting, obtaining the notice and approbation of Sir Joshua Reynolds. In 1792, he was appointed as a draughtsmen to the Macartney Embassy to China. He accompanied the Earl of Macartney to Peking where he made drawings for the plates which accompanied Sir George Staunton's account of the embassy (published in 1797).

Extensive reconstruction work was carried out in Beijing during the first years of the Ming Dynasty. The northern city walls were shifted 2.5 kilometers to the south. Evidence of great advances in city planning is the district known as the Inner (Tartar) City. The Outer or Chinese City to the south was built during the reign of Emperor Jiajing (1522-1566), adding to the rectangular city a slightly wider "base" in the south. By the 15th century, Beijing had essentially taken its current shape. It is believed that Beijing was the largest city in the world from 1425 to 1650 and from 1710 to 1825.

When the Manchus founded the Qing Dynasty in 1644, they began to build suburban gardens, the most famous of which was Yuanmingyuan. Construction over the course of an entire century, the imposing columned palaces and open-air pavilions blended with the serenity of wellplanned gardens to create a masterpiece of garden architecture unrivaled in the history of China.

Camels Watering. Peking.
Camels Watering in front of the
Gates of Peking

A city plan was first laid out in the Yuan Dynasty. Yet only after extensive reconstruction during the Ming and Qing (1644-1911), did the city emerge as an architectural masterpiece fit to serve as the capital of the Chinese empire. A north-south axis bisects the city with the Imperial Palace was knows as Danei (The Great Within).

In the Ming, it was renamed the Forbidden City (Zijincheng), and more recently it has come to be called the Palace Museum (Gugong Bowuyuan). Designed with thousands of halls and gates arranged symmetrically around a north-south axis, its dimensions and luxuriance are a fitting symbol of the power and greatness of traditional China.

Early in the 19th century, British merchants began smuggling opium into China in order to balance their purchases of tea for export to Britain. In 1839, China enforced its prohibitions on the importation of opium by destroying a large quantity of opium confiscated from British merchants. Great Britain, which had been looking to end China's restrictions on foreign trade, responded by sending gunboats to attack several Chinese coastal cities.

January 29, 1896, Echo, London, United Kingdom

Imperial Porcelain Stolen

Peking.Selling Opium.
Opium Traffic: Chinese Selling Opium
The Illustrated London News
February 4, 1882
English School

A considerable robbery of some priceless porcelain from the Imperial Palace at Pekin has recently come to light. It is alleged that over 300 large and small pieces of green jade, peach blow, sang de boeuf, rose pink egg shell, black hawthorn, and other rarities are missing. The principal curio shops in Pekin are said to have been closed, and their owners arrested, while a number of pieces have been recovered from foreign collectors at Tientsin and Pekin. A well-known Pekin dealer who has been in Shanghai for about a month has left for the north, overland, at the summons of the authorities, to answer for his subordinates. Oue execution is already reported.

October 9, 1898, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.


The United States has ordered the cruiser Baltimore to Tien-tain to protect American interests, endangered by the acute political situation at Peking, and foreign ships of war are gathering there also.

Tien-tsln is the port of Peking, lying at the confluence of the Yuen Ling and the Peking rivers, seventy miles from the capital.

Edwin Conger

Edwin Conger became envoy in 1898, just as China was seething with anti-foreign sentiment. Conger, a native of Illinois, moved to Iowa in 1868 after serving in the Civil War and getting his law degree.

He served as ambassador to Brazil before being sent to Peking (Beijing). In the drought-choked Chinese countryside, anti-imperialist fighters called the Boxers were attacking Christians. Conger sent a cable to Washington saying, "the whole country is swarming with hungry, discontented, hopeless idlers."

By June 1900, clashes between the Boxers and foreigners had increased, and Western militaries moved in. The Empress Dowager Cixi declared war against all foreign powers. Conger, his family, other Westerners and Chinese Christians retreated to the Beijing Legation Quarter. Chinese fighters surrounded the embassies, set fires and began firing bullets and artillery into the compound.

A New York Evening World headline on June 21 screamed, “Americans in Peking MASSACRED. Minister Conger among the slain.” It was fake news. The group survived by eating mule, Conger's wife, Sarah Pike Conger, later wrote.

The envoy eventually was able to contact the Chinese government, and on July 17, an armistice was declared. But the siege didn’t end until mid-August, when an eight-nation army of 20,000 troops arrived in Peking. The siege had lasted 55 days. Edwin Conger was honored for his bravery.

January 16, 1900, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

Japan Will Attempt to Make Soldiers of the Chinese.

PEKING, Jan. 15. A significant sign in the part Japan hopes to play in the future of China is that the Japanese Government has definitely offered to establish a military academy at Peking to educate Chinese under Japanese officers. It is said that, China is favorably impresses by this proposition.

August 8, 1900, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

Minister Conger Cables That the Bombardment Was Renewed After an Attempt to Drive the Envoys to Certain Death

Residence of the French and English Ambassadors

Washington, Aug. 7. The following cablegram from Minister Conger was received tonight by the state department: "TSI NAN, Yamen, Aug, 7 Secretary of State# Washington! We are still besieged. The situation is more precarious. The Chinese government is insisting upon our leaving Peking, which would be certain death. There is rifle firing upon us daily by imperial troops. We have abundant courage, but little ammunition or provisions. Two progressive yamen ministers have been beheaded. All the persons connected with the legation of the United States are well at the present moment.

The word "yamen" following the name of the city, Tsi Nan, at which the cablegram from Minister Conger was put on the wires, as understood here, probably refers to the official building or residence from which it was transmitted, or at which it was received by courier from Peking.

Shanghai, Aug. 7. The Japanese consul here received by wire today a message to the effect that the foreign ministers at Peking were safe on August 1, but that they expected a renewal of the attack by the Chinese at any moment. It was added that only twenty-five cartridges each and six days' provisions were left. It was also said that the Japanese secretary had died of his wounds.

August 27, 1900, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.


Villagers Are Flocking to Tien Tsin 
Emperor Kwang Hsu Was Not Captured 
Fate of the Forbidden City Is to Be Referred to Europe More Missionaries Have Been Massacred


London, Aug. 27, 4 a. m. The latest news from Peking indicates that the situation there is unchanged. The imperial city is still invested, but has not yet been occupied. The allies, when the last message left, were still refraining from aggressive action, pending instructions from their governments.

An attack from 30,000 Boxers was anticipated, and to meet this the whole American force and the British artillery, according to a dispatch to the Morning Post from Peking, dated August 18th, was moved to the outer city wall. The Boxers were reported comng from the south.

Gen. Dorward, in his report of the engagement outside of Tien Tsin August 19th, when the Americans, British and Japanese signally defeated a large force of Boxers, killing over three hundred, says, in a dispatch dated August 25th:

"The lines of communication near Tien Tsin are now free from danger. The enemy had been treating the villagers badly. Several decapitated bodies were found near their camp.

Famine Threatened

"The villagers are now flocking to Tien Tsin at the rate of about a thousand a day. There is not more than a month's food supplies, there is every prospect of a famine shortly."

This declaration that famine is imminent, in consequence of the inadequacy of provisions for the hordes of refugees at Tien Tsin, adds a new element of peril to the situation. Shanghai advices say the report of the capture of the emperor, Kwang Hsu by the Japanese was erroneous. It was a case of mistaken identity.

Empress Fled Westward

Forbidden City: Imperial Treasures from the Palace Museum, Bejing. Li Jian, author.

The Peking correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, wiring August 19th, reasserts that the empress dowager fled westward, and adds: "She has a body guard of 1,500, and as the mountainous character of the country would prevent artillery from following, it is believed she will not be pursued."

This correspondent reports everything quiet on the date of his dispatch, but a telegram to the same paper from Tien Tsin, dated August 24th, asserts that a thousand Russians, Germans and Japanese had pushed forward from Peking with the intention, it was assumed, of pursuing the fleeing empress dowager.

Referred to Europe

At a conference of ministers and generals, held Friday, it was decided, according to the Daily Telegraph, to refer the fate of the forbidden city to Europe. Tien Tsin dispatches to Berlin, dated August 23d, say: "The Japanese troops are in possession of the walls around the innermost part of the forbidden city, but have not yet made their way to the imperial palace, owing to lack of government instructions."

Gen. Linevitch, commander of the First Siberian army corps, cabling to St. Petersburg, under date of August 16th, says:

"There are no longer any Boxers in Peking. They were driven out today by the French and Russians, whose flags are hoisted over the imperial ci'ty. The empress dowager, the emperor, 'the heirapparent and the whole court have fled to the province of Shan Si."

Still at Shanghai

Li Hung Chang, according to a Shanghai dispatch dated yesterday, has once more postponed his departure for the north. The Japanese have landed more blue jackets at Amoy, where order is maintained in spite of the great excitement.

"Conspicuous galiantry was displayed by Captain Gausson of the Bengal cavalry," the Shanghai correspondent of the Standard, "while under heavy flre in the recent flght at Tien Tsin. Captain Gausson stooped and picked up an American trooper, lifted him into the saddle and rode off in safety."

The Shanghai correspondent of the Times, wiring August 24, says:

"Li Hung Chang has received a message from Peking that the Japanese alone will occupy the imperial palace. The Japanese government has renewed Its assurance that ft will protect the persons of the emperor and empress dowager.

"Mr. Morgan of the China inland mission, who had arrived here from Si Ngan Fu reports that 37 foreign missionaries and 30 converts have been massacred at Tay Tuen Fu."

Plenipotentiaries Suggested

The Japanese government has notified Earl Li that negotiations will be impossible until plenipotentiaries acceptabfe to the powers are accepted. Japan suggests the viceroys of Nankin and Wu Chang, and Earl Li. If these are appointed and China expresses a willingness to make indemnity, Japan is ready to assist to the utmost.

The Politische Correspondenz of Vienna, often employed as the mouthpiece of the Prussian foreign office, asserts emphatically that Russia has not declared war against China and does not contemplate taking such a step alone. The Cologne Gazette, in an article which is said to forecast Germany's attitude regarding compensation, claims that the necessary indemnity can be secured by increasing "the maritime customs, the powers assuming complete control of China's finances, including the financial administration of the provinces."

June 23, 1901, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

United States Takes No Part In the French Claims

WASHINGTON, Jun 22. The United States government has taken no part in the fresh demands made upon China and is disposed to do everything possible to discourage them. Our government will not for a moment countenance the claim that the maintenance of the legation guards in Peking Is properly chargeable to the Chinese government and the United States will present no bill on that score.

Emperor's Return to Peking

PARIS, June 22. A dispatch received here from Peking says an official proclamation has been issued there announcing that the emperor will return to Peking in October, arriving at the capital by railroad from Pao Ting Fu.

The Qing dynasty collapsed in the revolution of 1911 and the Nationalist party ostensibly seized control. In reality, true power remained in the hands of the warlords, who carved up China into their own fiefdoms.

The Silk Road is a historically important international trade route between China and the Mediterranean. Because silk comprised a large proportion of trade along this road, in 1877, it was named 'the Silk Road' by Ferdinand von Richthofen, an eminent German geographer. From the time Zhang Qian opened up the world-famous Silk Road during the Han Dynasty, until the collapse of the Yuan Dynasty, it enjoyed a history of about 1,600 years.

Singapore and the Silk Road of the Sea, 1300-1800The Silk Road of the Sea.
John N. Miksic
The Silk Road of the Sea.This book synthesizes 25 years of archaeological research to reconstruct the 14th-century port of Singapore in great detail. The picture that emerges 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. Fully 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 in the years 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.

China.Dragon Lady: The Life and Legend of the Last Empress of ChinaThe Last Empress of China.
Sterling Seagrave

China.1421: The Year China Discovered America
Gavin Menzies
On March 8, 1421, the largest fleet the world had ever seen set sail from China to "proceed all the way to the ends of the earth to collect tribute from the barbarians beyond the seas." When the fleet returned home in October 1423, the emperor had fallen, leaving China in political and economic chaos. The great ships were left to rot at their moorings and the records of their journeys were destroyed. Lost in the long, self-imposed isolation that followed was the knowledge that Chinese ships had reached America seventy years before Columbus and had circumnavigated the globe a century before Magellan. And they colonized America before the Europeans, transplanting the principal economic crops that have since fed and clothed the world.

Pacific Crossings. Chinese Immigration in the 1800s. Pacific Crossing: California Gold, Chinese Migration, and the Making of Hong KongPacific Crossing. California Gold, Chinese Migration. Elizabeth Sinn.
During the nineteenth century, tens of thousands of Chinese men and women crossed the Pacific to work, trade, and settle in California. Drawn by the gold rush, they brought with them skills and goods and a view of the world that, though still Chinese, was transformed by their long journeys back and forth. They in turn transformed Hong Kong, their main point of embarkation, from a struggling, infant colony into a prosperous, international port and the cultural center of a far-ranging Chinese diaspora.

Making use of extensive research in archives around the world, Pacific Crossing charts the rise of Chinese Gold Mountain firms engaged in all kinds of trans-Pacific trade, especially the lucrative export of prepared opium and other luxury goods. Challenging the traditional view that this migration was primarily a "coolie trade," Elizabeth Sinn uncovers leadership and agency among the many Chinese who made the crossing. In presenting Hong Kong as an "in-between place" of repeated journeys and continuous movement, Sinn also offers a fresh view of the British colony and a new paradigm for migration studies.

A Cruise in Chinese Waters: Being the Log of "The Fortuna." (c 1882)
Augustus F. Lindley
Cornell University Library Print Collections

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.

China.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 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?

Chinese Maritime Activities and Socioeconomic Development, c. 2100 B.C. - 1900 A.D.
(Contributions in Economics and Economic History)
K. Gang Deng

Chinese Sailed to America Before Columbus: More Secrets from the Dr. Hendon M. Harris, Jr. Map CollectionChina.
Charlotte Harris Rees

Silk and Religion
An Exploration of Material Life and the Thought of People, AD 600-1200

(Oxford India Paperbacks)
Xinru Liu

China. A Century of Travels in ChinaChina.
Douglas Kerr, Julia Kuehn, Editors
Hong Kong University Press

China: The World's Oldest Living Civilization.
China: The World's Oldest Living Civilization Revealed.China: The World's Oldest Living Civilization Revealed.
Thames & Hudson Publishers
China's recorded history dates back more than 3,500 years. "China" examines the turbulent history of this immense nation, including the inventiveness of the Bronze Age society, the Barbarian invasions, the conquest by Genghis Khan, the rise and fall of the dynasties, and the Opium Wars. It takes in the architecture of the emperors; the magnificent buildings of the Forbidden City; the imperial tombs, and the mysterious entombed warriors

A Borrowed Place:
The History of Hong Kong
Frank Welsh
The tumultuous history of Britain's last major colony. In 1842 a "barren island" was reluctantly ceded by China to an unenthusiastic Britain. "Hong Kong", grumbled Palmerston, "will never be a mart of trade". But from the outset the new colony prospered, its early growth owing much to the energy and resourcefulness of opium traders, who soon diversified in more respectable directions. In 1859 the Kowloon Peninsula was sold to Britain, and in 1898 a further area of the mainland, the "New Territories", was leased to Britain for 99 years.

The Man Who Loved China.
The Man Who Loved China:
The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom
The Man Who Loved China.
Simon Winchester

China. An Empire of Plants: People and Plants That Changed the WorldChina.
Toby Musgrave, Will Musgrave
Stories of seven plants - tea, tobacco, sugar, opium, quinine, cotton and rubber - whose discovery and cultivation changed the destinies of countries from America to China, India to Brazil. It investigates the complex legacy of trade routes overseas, the engine and imperative for colonial expansion, and shows how great fortunes were built upon a dark history of espionage, slavery, danger and conflict. Illustrated.

China and Maritime Europe 1500-1800: Trade, Settlement, Diplomacy, and MissionsChina. China and Maritime Europe.China.
John E. Wills, Jr., John Cranmer-Byng
A view of China in some of its most complicated and intriguing relations with a world of increasing global interconnection. New World silver, Chinese tea, Jesuit astronomers at the Chinese court, and merchants and marauders play important roles here. A full and clear summary, based on sources in Chinese and in European languages, making this information accessible to students and scholars interested in the growing connections among continents and civilizations in the early modern period.

China.When America First Met China:
An Exotic History of Tea, Drugs, and Money in the Age of Sail
Eric Jay Dolin
Ancient China collides with America in this epic tale of opium smugglers, sea pirates, and dueling clipper ships. Brilliantly illuminating one of the least-understood areas of American history, best-selling author Eric Jay Dolin traces our fraught relationship with China back to its roots: the unforgiving nineteenth-century seas that separated brash, rising naval powers from ancient empires. It is a prescient fable for our time, one that surprisingly continues to shed light on our modern relationship with China. Indeed, 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 the "Financier of the Revolution" Robert Morris to the Chinese emperor Qianlong, 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 Mayflower or Mark Kurlansky's Cod. Two maps, and 16 pages of color and 83 black-and-white illustrations.

Historical Fiction

The Dream of the Red Chamber Chinese Literature.China. Dream Of The Red Chamber
Hung Lou Meng: Book I

Cao Xeugin
Translated by H. Bencraft Joly
First appearing 1791, it is a masterpiece of Chinese literature and one of China's Four Great classical novels. It was composed during the Qing Dynasty and is generally acknowledged to be a pinnacle of Chinese fiction. The novel is believed to be semi-autobiographical, mirroring the rise and decay of author's own family and, by extension, of the Qing Dynasty. It is intended to be a memorial to the women the author knew in his youth - friends, relatives and servants. At the center of the story is Bao-yu, a precocious boy and his romantic affinity to his poetry-loving, orphaned cousin, Dai-yu. The novel is remarkable for its huge cast of characters and psychological scope, its precise and detailed observation of the life and social structures typical of 18th-century Chinese aristocracy.

The Honored Dead by Robert N. Macomber.The Honored DeadChina.
Robert N. Macomber
Seventh in the award-winning Honor Series. Lt. Cmdr. Peter Wake, in French Indochina in 1883, meets up with opium warlords, Chinese-Malay pirates, and French gangsters. Perfect for armchair historians and adventurers. It has been compared to the best historical sea fiction ever written by Patrick O'Brian and C.S. Forester as well as the historical fiction of Bernard Cornwell.

China. Pearl S. Buck and Stories of ChinaChina.
Pearl Comfort Sydenstricker was born on June 26, 1892, in Hillsboro, West Virginia. Her parents were Southern Presbyterian missionaries, most often stationed in China. From childhood, Pearl spoke both English and Chinese. She returned to China shortly after graduation from Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg, Virginia, in 1914, and the following year, she met a young agricultural economist named John Lossing Buck. They married in 1917, and moved to Nanhsuchou in rural Anhwei province. In this impoverished community, Pearl Buck gathered the material that she would later use in her other stories of China. Her first novel, East Wind, West Wind, was published in 1930.

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



Merchant Shipping

Merchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.  
History of Merchant Shipping and Ancient CommerceMerchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.
W. S. Lindsay

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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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