Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Fall of Imperial China - Opium Wars

Europeans had land trade with China for centuries. When Marco Polo traveled to China, he found European at the court of the Great Khan. Priests such as the Italian Matteo Ricci tried to make their religion more acceptable to the Chinese. Oceanic trade began at the sixteenth century. For many years the system was acceptable to both the Chinese and the Europeans. Although the tea trade was quite profitable, the British East India Company was not satisfied with the terms of trade.  King George III (1738-1820) of England sent Macartney to convince the Chinese emperor to open northern port cities to British traders and to allow British ships to be repaired on Chinese territory. Macartney arrived in Beijing in a warship with a retinue of 95, an artillery of 50 redcoats, and 600 packages of magnificent presents that required 90 wagons, 40 barrows, 200 horses, and 3,000 porters to carry them. Yet the best gifts of England had to offer seemed insignificant beside the splendors of the Chinese court. As the demand for tea increased and the Industrial Revolution, the British tried to expand their trade and establish Western-style diplomatic relations. But the British traders soon found that they had little to offer the Chinese other than silver and opium
Opium Wars
The Qing Emperor tried to ban the use of opium; he started with his own family, but failed. The Empire issued the following decree in 1810:
“Opium has a harm. Opium is a poison, undermining our good customs and morality. Law prohibits its use. Now the commoner, Yang, dares to bring it into the Forbidden City. Indeed, he flouts the law! However, recently the purchasers, eaters, and consumers of opium have become numerous. Deceitful merchants buy and sell it to gain profit. The customs house at the Ch'ung-wen Gate was originally set up to supervise the collection of imports (it had no responsibility with regard to opium smuggling). If we confine our search for opium to the seaports, we fear the search will not be sufficiently thorough. We should also order the general commandant of the police and police- censors at the five gates to prohibit opium and to search for it at all gates. If they capture any violators, they should immediately punish them and should destroy the opium at once. As to Kwangtung and Fukien, the provinces from which opium comes, we order their viceroys, governors, and superintendents of the maritime customs to conduct a thorough search for opium, and cut off its supply. They should in no ways consider this order a dead letter and allow opium to be smuggled out!”
The Qing government, seated in Beijing in the north of China, was unable to halt opium smuggling in the southern provinces. A nearly open Chinese border and local demand encouraged this activity from the East India Company, which had its monopoly on opium trade recognized by the British government. The company itself wanted silver. By the 1820s, China was importing 900 tons of Bengali opium annually.
Commissioner Lin Zexu (林则徐) was sent by Emperor Daoguang to Guangdong to halt the sale of opium. In 1839, Lin Zexu wrote an open letter to Queen Victoria:
“His Majesty the Emperor comforts and cherishes foreigners as well as Chinese: he loves all the people in the world without discrimination. Whenever profit is found, he wishes to share it with all men; whenever harm appears, he likewise will eliminate it on behalf of all of mankind. His heart is in fact the heart of the whole universe.
Generally speaking, the succeeding rulers of your honorable country have been respectful and obedient. Time and again they have sent petitions to China, saying: "We are grateful to His Majesty the Emperor for the impartial and favorable treatment he has granted to the citizens of my country who have come to China to trade," etc. I am pleased to learn that you, as the ruler of your honorable country, are thoroughly familiar with the principle of righteousness and are grateful for the favor that His Majesty the Emperor has bestowed upon your subjects. Because of this fact, the Celestial Empire, following its traditional policy of treating foreigners with kindness, has been doubly considerate towards the people from England. You have traded in China for almost 200 years, and as a result, your country has become wealthy and prosperous.
As this trade has lasted for a long time, there are bound to be unscrupulous as well as honest traders. Among the unscrupulous are those who bring opium to China to harm the Chinese; they succeed so well that this poison has spread far and wide in all the provinces. You, I hope, will certainly agree that people who pursue material gains to the great detriment of the welfare of others can be neither tolerated by Heaven nor endured by men...
Your country is more than 60,000 li from China. The purpose of your ships in coming to China is to realize a large profit. Since this profit is realized in China and is in fact taken away from the Chinese people, how can foreigners return injury for the benefit they have received by sending this poison to harm their benefactors? They may not intend to harm others on purpose, but the fact remains that they are so obsessed with material gain that they have no concern whatever for the harm they can cause to others. Have they no conscience? I have heard that you strictly prohibit opium in your own country, indicating unmistakably that you know how harmful opium is. You do not wish opium to harm your own country, but you choose to bring that harm to other countries such as China. Why?
The products that originate from China are all useful items. They are good for food and other purposes and are easy to sell. Has China produced one item that is harmful to foreign countries? For instance, tea and rhubarb are so important to foreigners’ livelihood that they have to consume them every day. Were China to concern herself only with her own advantage without showing any regard for other people's welfare, how could foreigners continue to live? Foreign products like woolen cloth and beiges rely on Chinese raw materials such as silk for their manufacturing. Had China sought only her own advantage, where would the foreigners’ profit come from? The products that foreign countries need and have to import from China are too numerous to enumerate: from food products such molasses, ginger, and cassia to useful necessities such as silk and porcelain. The imported goods from foreign countries, on the other hand, are merely playthings which can be easily dispensed with without causing any ill effect. Since we do not need these things really, what harm would come if we should decide to stop foreign trade altogether? The reason why we unhesitantly allow foreigners to ship out such Chinese products as tea and silk is that we feel that wherever there is an advantage, it should be shared by all the people in the world....
I have heard that you are a kind, compassionate monarch. I am sure that you will not do to others what you yourself do not desire. I have also heard that you have instructed every British ship that sails for Guangzhou not to bring any prohibited goods to China. It seems that your policy is as enlightened as it is proper. The fact that British ships have continued to bring opium to China results perhaps from the impossibility of making a thorough inspection of all of them owing to their large numbers. I am sending you this letter to reiterate the seriousness with which we enforce the law of the Celestial Empire and to make sure that merchants from your honorable country will not attempt to violate it again.
I have heard that the areas under your direct jurisdiction such as London, Scotland, and Ireland do not produce opium; it is produced instead in your Indian possessions such as Bengal, Madras, Bombay, Patna, and Malwa. In these possessions the English people not only plant opium poppies that stretch from one mountain to another but also open factories to manufacture this terrible drug. As months accumulate and years pass by, the poison they have produced increases in its wicked intensity, and its repugnant odor reaches as high as the sky. Heaven is furious with anger, and all the gods are moaning with pain! It is hereby suggested that you destroy and plow under all of these opium plants and grow food crops instead, while issuing an order to punish severely anyone who dares to plant opium poppies again. If you adopt this your policy of love so as to produce good and exterminate evil, Heaven will protect you, and gods will bring you good fortune. Moreover, you will enjoy a long life and be rewarded with a multitude of children and grandchildren! In short, by taking this one measure, you can bring great happiness to others as well as yourself. Why do you not do it?
The right of foreigners to reside in China is a special favor granted by the Celestial Empire, and the profits they have made are those realized all in China. As time passes by, some of them stay in China for a longer period than they do in their own country. For every government, past or present, one of its primary functions is to educate all the people living within its jurisdiction, foreigners as well as its own citizens, about the law and to punish them if they choose to violate it. Since a foreigner who goes to England to trade has to obey the English law, how can an Englishman not obey the Chinese law when he is physically within China? The present law calls for the imposition of the death sentence on any Chinese who has peddled or smoked opium. Since a Chinese could not peddle or smoke opium if foreigners had not brought it to China, it is clear that the true culprits of a Chinese's death as a result of an opium conviction are the opium traders from foreign countries. Being the cause of other people's death, why should they themselves be spared from capital punishment? A murderer of one person is subject to the death sentence; just imagine how many people opium has killed! This is the rationale behind the new law which says that any foreigner who brings opium to China will be sentenced to death by hanging or beheading. Our purpose is to eliminate this poison once and for all and to the benefit of all mankind.
Our Celestial Empire towers over all other countries in virtue and possesses a power great and awesome enough to carry out its wishes. But we will not prosecute a person without warning him in advance; that is why we have made our law explicit and clear. If the merchants of honorable country wish to enjoy trade with us on a permanent basis, they must fearfully observe our law by cutting off, once and for all, the supply of opium. Under no circumstance should they test our intention to enforce the law by deliberately violating it. You, as the ruler of your honorable country, should do your part to uncover the hidden and unmask the wicked. It is hoped that you will continue to enjoy your country and become more and more respectful and obeisant. How wonderful it is that we can enjoy the blessing of peace!”
It is unknown if the Queen ever read the letter. The refusal of the British merchants made Lin take drastic steps. He arrested the English traders and blocked the foreigners until they agreed to hand over the opium. Over twenty thousand chests of opium were destroyed by Lin. The British government sent a fleet and mobilized Indian troops, a flotilla of almost fifty ships in late 1839. Over 20,000 Chinese men died, 69 British died/wounded since China did not have gun yet (China invented gun powder, yet most of them were used for fire works). China lost the First Opium War (March 18, 1839 - August 29, 1842).
The Treaty of Nanjing (1842) after the first opium war allowed British merchants to freely trade in China. It exempted British nationals from Chinese law. This clause also gave foreign invaders the legal right to setup and protect their spy and criminal networks. For the first time, foreign warships were allowed free entrance to Chinese waters. The Nanjing Treaty allowed British merchants to bring their families to live in the treaty ports. It also stated that Chinese local authorities must provide housing or other foundations which British merchants could rent. This system was used to establish concession areas by foreigners in the treaty ports. The Qing government paid six million silver taels for the opium confiscated by Lin Zexu in 1839 (Article IV), three million taels debt compensation that Hong merchants in Canton owed British merchants (Article V), and a further 12 million dollars in compensation for the cost of the war (VI). A total of 21 million dollars was to be paid in installments over three years, with an annual interest rate of 5% for the money that was not paid in a timely manner (Article VII). The British also gained extraterritorial rights and the cessation of Hong Kong to Great Britain. The Treaty of Nanjing even included the "most favored nation" clause for Great Britain. Later, the "most favored nation" clause was extended to all foreign countries that dealt with China. In the 1990s, continued "most favored nation" status for China by the United States created controversy because of its sales of sensitive military technology. China's MFN status was made permanent on December 27, 2001.
The Second Opium War (October 23, 1856 - October 18, 1860), approximately 2,900 killed or wounded on British and French side. China, 12,000 - 30,000 killed or wounded. It took 3,500 British and French troops to set the The Old Summer Palace (圆明园) on fire, taking a total of three days to burn. More than 300 eunuchs, maids, and workers of the palace died in the fire. English and French troops were also allowed to loot the complex. Many treasures dated back to the Shang, Zhou, and Han dynasties, and were up to 3,600 years old. They burned them to hide the fact that they were stolen. The Treaty of Tianjin (1858) allowed France, the United Kingdom, Russia, and the United States to freely trade in China. These treaties opened more Chinese ports, permitted foreign legal systems in the Chinese capital Beijing, allowed for Christian missionary activity, and legalized the import of opium. Foreign vessels, including warships, could travel freely on the Yangzi River. China paid an indemnity to Britain and France in 2 million taels of silver respectively and compensation to British merchants in 3 million taels of silver. Official documents banned the use of the character "yi" (夷 means barbarian) to describe the British. Their actions spoke louder than the ban of the use of barbarian in my opinion.
Emperor Kangxi (康熙) built The Old Summer Palace (圆明园) in 1707 and it continued to be expanded and perfected over the next 150 years. The Old Palace was made up of three gardens: the Garden of Perfect Brightness proper, the Garden of Eternal Spring, and the Elegant Spring Garden. They were almost five times the size of the Forbidden City and eight times larger than Vatican City. Although 95% of the buildings were Chinese-style, there were also buildings in Tibetan and Mongolian styles, as well as European-style palaces, such as Xiyanglou (西洋楼). Emperor Qianlong (乾隆) hired Italian painter Giuseppe Castiglione (郎世宁1688-1766), a Jesuit, and Michel Benoist to design a series of palaces. Emperor Qianlong gave the Italian painter Giuseppe Castiglione the Chinese name Lang Shi Ning (郎世宁), which means “world peace.” He told him that he respected his religion and asked him to respect China’s as well. He was hired as a painter only, not as a Jesuit priest. The Emperor appointed him in 1750 as mandarin of the third rank with its full benefits, yet no official duty except to paint.
The second destruction of the Old Summer Palace happened in 1900 during the Eight-Nation Alliance (Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) invasion, the Empress Cixi took her little Emperor ran to Xian (西安) and nothing survived after that. 
The Old Summer Palace was a "Garden of Gardens" for the Qing Emperor, since they did not have freedom in the Forbidden City. The founding father of the Qing Dynasty had set up the rule that they (Manchu) could not mix with Han or any others except the Manchu. Therefore, all the wives and concubines had to be Manchu. Furthermore, concubines were intentionally selected not to distract the emperor, so Manchu could pass on the power to later generations. At the Old Summer Palace, away from the Forbidden City, the Emperor had Han, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Middle Eastern, and European concubines. The Garden of the Gardens fit all those nationalities with all the treasures around the world.
The Qing Dynasty was trying to integrate with Chinese culture after initial painful struggles. When the six-year-old Shunzhi Emperor (順治) ascended to the throne, his uncle Dorgon's "Haircutting Order" forced all adult Han Chinese men to shave the front of their heads and comb and braid the remaining hair into a pony-tail. The slogan was, "to keep the hair, you lose the head, to keep your head, you cut the hair." For the Manchus, this policy was a test of loyalty and an aid in telling friends from foes. For the Han Chinese, it was a humiliating reminder of the Qing authority that challenged traditional Han identity. In Liaodong, the rebellion of Han Chinese in 1622 and 1625 resulted in more than 500,000 deaths. For example, there was a triple massacre at Jiading. (嘉定). General Li Chengdong, a Han Chinese general who previously served the Ming Dynasty and later surrendered to the Qing, he ordered troops to carry out three separate massacres resulting in tens of thousands of deaths. There was hardly any living person left in the city. I never knew why Chinese men used to have a tail of braided hair and shaved head, a really bad hairstyle in my view. No wonder Chinese men would rather lose their heads.
The Shunzhi Emperor (順治) did not like his uncle’s ruling. As a result, he invited Han Chinese to his government. He hired Han Chinese to teach his children. He even accepted advice from Johann Adam Schall von Bell (湯若望), a Jesuit from Germany. After his favorite concubine, Donggo, suddenly died in childbirth, he died soon after her from smallpox at age twenty-four. His death has always been a mystery. Some say he became a monk because he could not get over the loss of his love. Other say he became a monk so he could ask forgiveness of all the Han Chinese his uncle killed, so his sons could rule China with care and success. His son, Kangxi (康熙), went to the temple many times and made huge contributions to the rebuilding effort. Buildings have dragon and phoenix symbols, which could only used by the Emperor. The recent discovery of two paintings of a monk who had dragon clothes and shoes sitting on a dragon chair suggests that the story could be true.
Kangxi's (康熙) reign of sixty-one years was the longest in Chinese history and one of the longest in the world. China's boundaries reached their greatest extent, encompassing Mongolia, Tibet, Nepal, Taiwan, and portions of Central Asia. In the first half of his reign, agriculture was more advanced than in Europe. Taxes were low and education was good throughout China.  Yongzheng (雍正) Emperor ruled for thirteen years before dying suddenly in 1735 at age 56. He was much more open to the Han Chinese and he had many Han Concubines. Imperial Noble Consort Dunsu (敦肅皇貴妃) was the sister of Nian Gengyao. Her rank was just behind the Empress. She bore three sons and a daughter, but none survived adulthood in the Manchu world. Dunsu (敦肅) was Yongzheng's most favorite concubine and he even took her 12 paintings in different Chinese dresses and backgrounds from The Old Summer Palace (圆明园) to his office in the Forbidden City.  Those paintings survived.
Yongzheng (雍正) Emperor's son, the Qianlong Emperor (乾隆), fourth emperor of the Qing dynasty, reigned for over sixty years. Qianlong's personal life was designed not to love any woman in particular, just like all Chinese emperors. He married before becoming emperor, to Xiao-Xian in 1727. She bore him a son who lived for only eight years. His second wife, Ula Nara (a Manchu), bore him more children, but she left him in 1765 to become a Buddhist nun. Qianlong was free to travel. He and his grandfather were the most travelled Emperors.
The salt merchants in Yangzhou funded the Kangxi and Qianlong emperors’ Southern Tours. Marco Polo might have actually been an official in the salt industry under the Mongol Emperor Kubilai Khan (1282-1287). The recent discovery of the 1342 tomb of Katarina Ilioni in Yangzhou indicates the existence of an Italian community in China. From 14th century Ming to 19th century Qing Dynasties, Yangzhou acted as a major trade exchange center for salt, rice, china, and silk. The Ming buildings still stand today.
When the Qianlong Emperor (乾隆) was old, the Qing Dynasty was on the decline already. Corruption did not help. Opium and foreign invasions made it worse. Cheap machine-made imports crushed Chinese handmade goods. The Chinese economy collapsed and poverty and drug addiction were everywhere. China was forced from being a self-sufficient, healthy, and wealthy country to becoming the “Poor and sick man of Asia,” the new name Europeans gave to China. The front gates where Europeans stayed read “Chinese and dogs not allowed.” The Taiping Rebellion (1850–1864) and the Boxer Rebellion (1899–1901) caused the downfall of the Qing Dynasty in 1912, ending China’s dynasties.
      Most of these historical artifacts are now displayed in western museums. Victor Hugo in his letter "Expédition de Chine,” described the looting as, "'two robbers breaking into a museum, devastating, looting and burning, leaving laughing hand-in-hand with their bags full of treasures; one of the robbers is called France and the other Britain." Through his letter, Hugo hoped that one day France would feel guilty and return what it had plundered from China.
     People still live off these looted artifacts, and are unlikely to return them as Victor Hugo had wished. At today's Lord Elgin family home, he showed a magnificent pair of stork sculptures in bronze, originally given by the Japanese emperor to his Chinese counterpart, and then brought back by the 8th Earl of Elgin from Beijing after his China campaign. Does he thinks art should be returned to China? "These things happen," he says of the 1860 events. "It's important to go ahead, rather than look back all the time."
     I never understood why the Chinese and others spent millions trying to buy back those lost artifacts. Putting high value on those artifacts encourages only more destruction, stealing, and robbery; buying those artifacts just encourages people to rob again. Those artifacts were wholesome and “alive” in their original habitat with people. They were born, struggled, and grew old there with the people as part of a natural process. They were priceless. Then, they were murdered, dismantled into parts, and sold to whoever offered the highest price. Museums can become places of the dead, without any living culture in them, instead as storage of evidence of crimes of the past. If you truly want to learn about another culture, go the real place, live with the real people as part of the natural process.      In the news recently, a Frenchman who owns two bronze animal head sculptures from China's Yuanmingyuan (Old Summer Palace) will return the sculptures to China. The two heads were each auctioned for 14 million euros (17.92 million U.S. dollars) in 2009, causing concern internationally and protests in China.
      The Frenchman, Francois-Henri Pinault, CEO of the PPR Foundation, said the transfer of the sculptures, of a rabbit head and rat head respectively, will be completed within the second half of 2013. So far, 7 animal heads have been returned, dragon might be in Taiwan, but the whereabouts of the four others are still unknown (the snake, the sheep, the rooster, and the dog).
Two Edicts from the Qianlong Emperor on the Occasion of Lord Macartney's Mission to China, September 1973 [PDF]
The palace of shame that makes China angry By Chris Bowlby
The Opium War 
 The Stories of Concessions Part 4
 The Stories of Concessions Part 5
The Stories of Concessions Part 6
The Stories of Concessions Part 7

The Stories of Concessions Part 8
The Stories of Concessions Part 9