Document 19.1: A Chinese Response to Lord Macartney
Q. What reasons does Emperor Qianlong give for rejecting British requests?
• British requests ran counter to long-established policies in the Empire.
• The Chinese Emperor did not wish to increase trade and only allowed trade because other areas of the world needed Chinese porcelain, tea, and silk, and because treating strangers from afar with indulgence allowed China to project a pacifying control over them.
• China produced all it needs and therefore had no need to import foreign manufactures.
• If he were to make this concession to England then other foreign nations would demand similar treatment.
• He could not grant Britain an island near Chusan because trade was not allowed in that region.
• Other barbarian nations would wish for the same.
• There was no need in China for new religious ideas, as they already had their Confucian beliefs, and the Emperor had forbidden any missionary activities.
Q. What does this document reveal about the Chinese view of trade in general?
• China had no pressing need for foreign trade since it produced all that it needed in abundance.
• It therefore had no desire to expand trade.
• China had no use for European manufactured goods.
• It only conducted trade as a favor to the rest of the world, which lacks tea, silk, and porcelain.
• China used trade to exercise a pacifying control over barbarian tribes.
Q. What does it show about China’s relations with foreign “barbarians,” and about China’s understanding of its place in the world?
• The opening of the document articulates
an assumption by the Chinese Emperor that Macartney’s mission was primarily designed
to secure his blessing through submission and to secure the cultural benefits of coming into closer contact with Chinese civilization (in a manner reminiscent of China’s long-standing tradition of viewing itself as the middle kingdom to which all other states seek peaceful relations through submission).
• The emperor notes his hope of using trade to secure a pacifying control over barbarians abroad, and of providing, out of beneficence, sought-after supplies of silk, tea, and porcelain to the rest of the world.
• He also makes clear that China has its own belief system and has no need for European missionaries.
Q. In what historical context does the Chinese emperor understand Macartney’s mission?
• The emperor frames Macartney’s mission in the context of China’s long-standing position as a preeminent power.
• He sees Macartney’s mission in the context of those regularly received from neighboring and trading powers, some of which were to pay tribute and others that merely sought relations with China.
• He also notes that this mission is from a power more distant than most, which may explain why Macartney made such impossible and impolitic requests.
Documents 19.2 and 19.3: Debating the Opium Problem
Q. What arguments are made for each position? On what issues did they disagree?
• In arguing for legalization, Xu Naiji claims that the more severe the interdicts against the drug, the more widely the evil spreads.
• He believes foreign trade cannot be cut off because it will be too disruptive to the Chinese economy along the coast; even if China cut off trade, opium will still make it into the country by other means.
• Naiji posits that the lowest and laziest sort in Chinese society that became addicted to opium and so are not a great loss to the productivity of the country.
• Naiji believes a series of reforms should be undertaken that raise custom revenue in silver off of the imports and that limit trade so that opium may only be exchanged for goods. Such reforms are likely to work because the custom duty will be less than the bribes currently paid by European merchants, and the harsh punishment of offenders will also strengthen the new regime.
• Within society, common people will be allowed to use opium, but if government officials, scholars, and members of the military use it they will be punished by loss of office. This policy will protect the government from the impact of the drug.
• In support of suppression, Yuan Yulin argues that the success or failure of government is judged by its ability to distinguish between right and wrong and take strong action to secure what is right for society.
• He points out that the state has already declared opium illegal, and it remains as evil as it was when it was banned.
• According to Yulin, partial prohibitions or partial legalization is a confusion of rules and makes compliance difficult.
• The duties on opium will not amount to much.
• What is required, he believes, is better surveillance of trade; this will stop the drain of silver and limit the opium trade.
• Growing opium in China has costs in that it limits other agricultural production.
• If opium is legalized its use will spread, potentially weakening or even leading to the
collapse of families, society, and the army; in fact, legalized opium use might grow completely out of control.
• Xu Naiji and Yuan Yulin disagree about whether stricter enforcement will succeed in limiting the trade; what impact legalization will have on the level of use; whether a partial legalization and a partial prohibition is workable; how much revenue would be raised if custom duties were imposed on the trade; and the impact that opium use by commoners will have on Chinese society.
Q. How might each respond to the arguments of the other?
• Xu Naiji might point to current failures to enforce opium laws to question Yuan Yulin’s arguments.
• Both might disagree as to whether partial legalizations and prohibitions are unworkable.
• They might disagree with one another’s assessments as to how disruptive to society opium use would prove and how widespread its use would be if it were legalized.
• They would disagree over the potential revenues to be raised by taxing the trade.
• They might agree that opium was problematic to the balance of trade, and that its import was draining silver from the kingdom.
Q. What similarities and differences do
you see between this debate within the Chinese
court of the 1830s and contemporary discussion about the legalization of marijuana in the United States?
• Whether laws prohibiting drugs can be enforced to such an extent as to suppress drug use is still a topic of debate.
• The potential damage to society of legalizing marijuana is still being debated.
• The United States is still debating whether the potential taxes raised should be taken into account when deciding what to do.
• Also being discussed is whether people holding government offices should be held to a stricter standard than others.
Document 19.4: A Moral Appeal to Queen Victoria
Q. On what basis does Commissioner Lin appeal to Queen Victoria?
• He appeals to her conscience in facilitating the spread of a harmful product and to her reason concerning the trade’s harm and why he must punishing harshly those who continue to participate in it.
Q. How might you compare this letter with that of Document 19.1? What similarities and differences can you notice?
• In the opening paragraph of both documents, the idea of the emperor as a powerful person who uses his influence to pacify foreign countries is emphasized.
• In both documents, the Chinese government expresses a disinterest in trading for economic gain, explaining that they sanction trade because foreigners need China’s products.
• Both authors write to the English monarch
as if his or her lack of knowledge about China is
the reason for the friction between the two
Q. What assumptions about the West does this letter reveal? Which were accurate and which represented misunderstandings?
• The letter accurately assumes that the West seeks to trade opium for profit regardless of the impact that it might have on Chinese society.
• It also accurately states that Chinese products were much sought after in the West and did not cause problems similar to opium.
• The letter does not realize that opium was not strictly forbidden in Britain and was instead widely used in society.
• It mistakenly believes that Queen Victoria would place the well-being of the Chinese people above the business interests of British traders, and that she would support the harsh punishment of British traders that persisted.
Q. Although there is no evidence of a response to the letter, how might you imagine British reaction to it?
• The queen may have dismissed it as another attempt by China to limit trade.
• She may have been touched by the potential impact on the people of China but been convinced by her ministers or British merchants to disregard it because of the importance of opium for British trade.
• She may have been moved to look into the affair because of Lin’s appeals to her conscience.
• She may have taken offense at the tone of its final lines.
Document 19.5: War and Defeat
Q. What were the major provisions of the treaty? Why do you think that opium, ostensibly the cause of the conflict, was rarely mentioned in the treaty?
• A major provision of the treaty was that the Chinese emperor allow the British to trade in many more ports than before the war.
• The emperor must cede a naval base to the British so that they can more easily maintain a naval presence in the region.
• Also, the emperor must pay reparations for various actions by his officials that sparked the war, for economic damages to British merchants caused by the war, and for the cost of the war.
• The British must be allowed to trade with any Chinese merchant, not just those approved by the emperor, and these Chinese merchants will be allowed to trade in British goods anywhere in China.
• The British will withdraw their military forces in stages as the Chinese comply with the treaty.
• Opium is not mentioned specifically because the trade item is covered under more general categories in the treaty, and the real concerns of British merchants, as reflected in Document 19.1 is the loosening of trade restrictions on all products.
Q. In what respects did the treaty signal an unequal relationship between China and Great Britain? What aspects of Chinese independence were lost or compromised by the treaty?
• The treaty requires the Chinese to accept all responsibility for the war and pay reparations for it.
• It secures the withdrawal of British troops only when China complies with the treaty’s terms.
• Chinese independence was lost or compromised because the British dictate in the treaty which ports will be opened and how trade between British and Chinese merchants will occur; these are two aspects of trade that the Chinese controlled before the war.
• The British will also dictate how and where British goods can be traded by Chinese merchants in China.
• The Chinese are forced to release all British citizens held under Chinese laws.
• They must cede sovereign Chinese territory to the British.
Q. What provisions of the treaty most clearly challenged traditional Chinese understandings of their place in the world?
• The provisions that clearly challenge Chinese understandings are those that dictate which ports the British will trade in and that dismantle the Hong system of traders. These are both features of the previous trade system that was based on the munificence of the Chinese emperor, as laid out in Document 19.1.
• Also challenging are those articles that dictate reparations to the British and acceptance of the British understanding of the conflict. These articles clearly define the Chinese as the defeated power rather than the greatest power in the world, and undermine the Chinese empire’s understanding of itself as the preeminent power in international relations.
Visual Sources Essay Questions
Visual Source 19.1: The Black Ships
Q. What general impression of the American intrusion did the artist seek to convey?
• The American intrusion was forced on the Japanese, and was undertaken using technologically advanced ships.
• The image also has a fanciful side that suggests physical ugliness and demonic or supernatural powers.
Q. What specific features of the image help the artist make his case?
• the prominence of mounted canon
• the steam technology
• the anthromorphic features of the ship, which give it a ominous personality
Q. Why might the artist have chosen to depict the gunfire coming from the American ship as streams of light?
• The streams of light suggest fire and therefore wanton destruction.
• The depiction makes the cannon appear more powerful than traditional cannons.
Visual Source 19.2: Depicting the Americans
Q. What overall impression of the Americans was the artist seeking to communicate?
• The artist was depicting the Americans as foreign, serious, and even threatening figures.
Q. What features of this image seem intended to show the Americans as “other” or different from the Japanese?
• the prominent nose
• the beard
• the facial lines
• the shape of the eyes
Q. The Japanese had long portrayed a particular kind of goblin, known as tengu, with long noses and viewed them as dangerous, demonic, and warlike. What aspects of this depiction of the Americans suggest that the artist sought to associate them with tengu?
• The artist depicted the figures with prominent noses and facial wrinkles to associate them with tengu.
• The open mouth of the figure on the
right makes him appear particularly
Q. But not all portrayals of the Americans displayed such gross and negative features. Compare this image with the woodblock on page 897.How would you describe the difference between the two portrayals of the Americans? How might you account for the difference?
• The image on page 897 is a naturalistic depiction of the commodore. He is participating in a diplomatic ceremony, displaying correct behavior according to diplomatic protocol.
• In Visual Source 19.2 he is depicted as a caricature and is not placed in a scene.
• The image on page 897 is intended to chronicle a formal Japanese state event; therefore, Perry’s interaction with the Japanese emperor may have shaped his depiction.
• Visual Source 19.2 was for popular viewing and was designed to raise doubts or increase fears about Americans.
Visual Source 19.3: Women and Westernization
Q. What elements of Western culture can you identify in this visual source?
• the piano
• the hats and dresses of the women
• their hairstyles
• the military uniform on the boy
• the architecture of the building on the right
• possibly the chair in the central foreground
Q. In what ways does this print reflect the continuing appeal of Japanese culture? Pay attention to the scenery, the tree, and the flowers.
• The background is a garden of Japanese inspiration with a pond, cherry or plum trees, and a small, circular shelter toward the right of the background scene.
• The layered dress of the woman in the middle of the scene reflects Japanese influence.
• The vase holding flowers to the right of the scene is of eastern, probably Chinese, origin.
Q. Why were so many Japanese so enamored of Western culture during this time? And why did the Japanese government so actively encourage their interest?
• The Japanese were committed to creating a new culture based on Western models to revive Japan.
• Many Japanese students during this period traveled or lived in the West.
• The Japanese court embraced Western fashion.
• The government sought to catch up with the economic and military might of the Western powers and believed that copying some aspects of Western culture would facilitate this.
Visual Source 19.4: Kobayashi Kiyochika’s Critique of Wholesale Westernization
Q. What specific aspects of Japan’s efforts at Westernization is the artist mocking?
• The artist is mocking the slavish copying of Western dress.
• He also ridiculing the belief that copying Western fashions in clothing would help the Japanese catch up with Western economic and military power.
Q. Why might the artist have used a Western scientific theory (Darwinian evolution) to criticize excessive Westernization in Japan?
• Perhaps the artist wished to associate what he believed was a ridiculous Western theory to the equally ridiculous copying of Western fashion;
• Alternatively, he may have wanted to
highlight the difference between embracing useful Western scientific knowledge and the copying of Western fashion, which did not in itself strengthen Japan.
Q. Why do you think a reaction set in against the cultural imitation of Europe?
• A reason for the reaction may have been cultural pride.
• Many may have feared losing a distinct Japanese identity.
• There was likely a growing
disillusionment with Western culture and what it had to offer.
Visual Source 19.5: Japan, China, and Europe: A Reversal of Roles
Q. What overall message did the artist seek to convey in this print?
• The artist sought to convey that Japan was the dominant power in East Asia.
• Japan had outmaneuvered the other major powers in East Asia.
• The Japanese navy was critical to Japanese power.
Q. What is the significance of the Chinese figure with a chicken in hand, lying as “bait” at the bottom of the image?
• The figure represents the weakness of China; its failure to react to international threats; and its current victimization by other foreign powers.
• The lethargic nature of the Chinese character may be the cause of the opium pipe in his hand, which represents the opium epidemic in Chinese society.
Q. How is the Russia character portrayed?
• The character is portrayed as a bear diving headlong into China.
• He lacks cunning, diving headlong into the Japanese trap.
Q. What had changed in Japanese thinking about China and Europe during the nineteenth century?
• China’s cultural influence on Japan declined.
• Japan saw itself as a competitor with European powers, capable of establishing its own empire and facing off against European powers.
Using the Evidence Questions
Documents: Voices from the Opium War
1. Defining the issues in the Opium War: The Opium War was about more than opium. How would you support or challenge this statement?
• Students could argue that the Opium War
was about more than opium by noting the absence
of specific references to opium in Document
17.5, and the document’s actual stipulations of
the treaty that put forward a broad free trade
agenda. They could also note the broader
British interest in opening trade, as revealed in Document 17.1.
• Students could make the case that the Opium War was primarily about opium by noting that the Chinese crackdown specifically on the opium trade was what sparked the war. In reality, the British had few other goods aside from cotton that the Chinese wanted, so the stipulations in the treaty about trade are in fact about opium.
2. Characterizing the Opium War: In what ways might the Opium War be regarded as a clash of cultures? In what respects might it be seen as a clash of interests? Was it an inevitable conflict or were there missed opportunities for avoiding it? (Note: You may want to consider the data in the Snapshot on p.885 as well as the Documents 19.1–19.5, pp. 905–13.)
• The Opium War represented a clash of cultures in its different ideas about the purpose of foreign trade; the desire of the British to spread Christianity; and the two nations’ differing perceptions of China’s place in the world.
• The Opium War could be seen as a clash of interests in Britain’s desire to establish a profitable trade with China that did not require the transfer of large amounts of silver; the desire of the Chinese authorities to limit the use of opium by the Chinese population; and the desire of the Chinese to carefully regulate where and through which agents foreign trade took place in the Empire.
3. Interpreting the Treaty of Nanjing: In the context of British and Chinese understandings of the world, how do you understand the Treaty of Nanjing? Which country’s view of the world is more clearly reflected in that treaty?
• For the British, the treaty through its reparations addressed the unjust actions against British subjects during the Chinese government’s crackdown on the opium trade.
• It compensated British merchants and the British state for expenses incurred by the war.
• It opened up China to free market trade.
• However, for China, the treaty undermined its understanding of its preeminent position in the world.
• The treaty attacked its sovereign rights.
• It could be interpreted to fit into the older intellectual framework of Chinese preeminence making an effort to subdue and conciliate the British as they had done with barbarian invaders in the past.
• The treaty clearly reflects more of the British than the Chinese view of the world.
4. Exploring Chinese views of the British: Based on these documents, how well or how poorly did the Chinese understand the British? How might you account for their misunderstandings?
• Document 19.1 shows that the Chinese understood but rejected British demands.
• They understood the source of opium imports and the threat that they posed, and the reasons why the British were so keen to import opium.
• However, they misunderstood their relationship with the British; they tried to define it in terms of Chinese preeminence in East Asia.
• Document 19.4 reveals that China misunderstood opium use in Victorian England and underestimated the role of Britain’s powerful business interests.
• Nor did they understand the British reaction to the Chinese crackdown on opium trade.
• The Chinese misunderstood Britain’s ability to conduct successful military operations in China, as reflected in Document 19.5.
• Students can account for the misunderstandings by noting that Britain was a distant power with whom China had little direct contact.
• The Chinese government saw itself as the preeminent power in the region, and may not have been prepared for how the industrial revolution had transformed Britain’s ability to project its power far beyond its borders.