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ASIA 2170 Lecture Notes - Lin Zexu, First Opium War, Biblioteca Europea Di Informazione E Cultura


Asian Studies
Course Code
ASIA 2170

of 3
The First Opium War
-also known as the First Anglo-Chinese War
time period: 1839-1842
British East India Company and the Qing Dynasty of China
-BEIC declared war to force China to allow free trade, particularly in Opium
19th Century
-trades from China was profitable for the Chinese and Europeans merchants
-due to the Qing Dynasty’s trade restrictions
(international trade was only allowed to take place in Canton(Guangzhou)
(conducted by imperially sanctioned monopolies)
-became unprofitable to trade in low-value manufactured consumer products that an
Average Chinese could buy from the British (like the Indians did)
-the Sino-British trade became dominate by high-value luxury items: tea (from China to Britain) and
Silver (from Britain to China)
Britain as the Gold Standard since 18th Century
-had to purchase silver from continental Europeans to supply silver to them
-costly process
-looked for other ways to reverse the flow of silver out of the country and into China
-discovered Opium
-a medicinal ingredient was documented during the Ming Dynasty
-was also used as recreational use
-was limited
-there were laws in place against the abuse of it
-produced in a region in India(Bengal) which was under the British government monopoly
-was sold on the condition that it be shipped by British traders to China in Malwa
Britain and Opium
-Opium was introduced to Britain through mass quantities
-motivated the British to start an opium trade by the equalization of trade
-the drug became powerful
-large amount trades from the British started from 1781
-between 1821 and 1837, import increased five times
-the Chinese government ignored the problem until the drug had spread widely in Chinese society
The Chinese government and the opium
-became alarmed by the reverse in silver flow and the widespread of addiction
-2million Chinese habitual users
-the Qing government attempted to end the opium trade
-complicated by corrupt local officials (including the ruler of Canton)
-“in 1818, the Laurel carried word to Sydney of a US ship laden with opium and treasure
which was invaded by Chinese pirates”
-the crew of the US vessel were all killed except the first mate
Lin Zexu
-in 1839, the qing government appointed him as the governor of Canton
-appointed him to reduce and eliminate the opium trade
-on his arrival
-banned the sale of Opium
-asked to take all the Opiums to the Chinese authorities
-asked all foreign traders to sign a ‘no opium trade’ agreement or a death sentence would be
-forced the british traders hostage in Canton
-the british chief superintendent, Charles Elliot got the British traders to agree to hand over the
opium stock
-promised eventual compensation for their loss from the british government
-20 000 approx. chests (each holding 55kg) were destroyed In the beginning of June 3rd,1839
-following the opium destruction, “Lin Zexu wrote a “memorial” to the queen of great Britain in
an unsuccessful attempt to stop the trade of the drug as it had poisoned thousands of Chinese
civilians “
- never reached the queen