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date: 21 April 2019

The Canton Trade, 1700–1842

Summary and Keywords

In 1684, China reopened its doors to trade with the outside world, which had a huge impact on the development of global commerce. Canton quickly emerged as one of the few ports in the world where everyone was welcomed and where everyone (except Japanese and Russians) had access to everything including tea, silk, and porcelain. Unlike other ports, individual traders in Canton could buy and sell the same high-quality products as those handled by the East India companies. As the Canton trade grew, international networks became more sophisticated; as more ships went to China, new forms of remittance such as Letters of Credit and Bills of Exchange became standard, which streamlined international finance; as more money flowed into Canton, more goods were distributed worldwide, which gave rise to globalization; as economies in both the eastern and western hemispheres became more integrated with the Chinese market, there was a parallel decline in the risks of conducting trade, which encouraged the advancement of private enterprise. One by one the large East India companies found it increasingly more difficult to compete and went broke.

However, the success of the Canton trade was also its weakness. Because the legal trade was so dependent on silver collected from opium sales, and because a decline in opium sales would likely lead to a decline in rice imports, only minimal efforts were made by local officials to stop the smuggling. Foreigners were eventually able to overcome the system with the outbreak of war in the late 1830s, but this happened because the system had already defeated itself.

Keywords: Canton, capitalism, international trade, global commerce, Qing dynasty, China, East–West interactions

Forging the Canton System

After the Kangxi emperor gained control over southern China and Taiwan in 1682, the regulations forbidding overseas trade were lifted (1684) and a customs bureau was established to manage and control maritime commerce. A customs office was established in the provinces of Guangdong, Fujian, Zhejiang, and Jiangnan, and a customs superintendant (jiandu 监督‎, more commonly referred to as Hoppo, or hubu 户部‎) was appointed by the Imperial Board of Revenue (neiwufu 内务府‎) in Beijing to manage each office. The Guangdong customs office was called the Yue Haiguan 粤海关‎.1

From the late 1680s to the early years of the 18th century, foreign ships began to arrive in the new ports to test the trade. By 1700, Canton had emerged as a place where favorable terms could be arranged. The Hoppo, together with the governor-general (zongdu 总督‎) of Guangdong and Guangxi provinces, were responsible for managing the trade and maintaining harmony. As will be discussed below, recent research has shown that the Qing government openly promoted trade and implemented policies to encourage economic growth, all of which runs contrary to previous notions of the Chinese administration being anti-commercial and xenophobic.

All foreign ships were required to anchor twenty kilometers downriver from Canton at Whampoa (Huangpu 黄埔‎) Island (Fig. 1).

The Canton Trade, 1700–1842Click to view larger

Figure 1. View of Whampoa ca. 1802

(Courtesy of Martyn Gregory Gallery, London)

By the early 1720s, the trade had become more or less standardized to the point that foreigners knew beforehand how much it would cost for all types of expenses, including the hiring of Chinese pilots (yinshui ren 引水人‎), compradors (maiban 买办‎, provision purveyor), and linguists’ (tongshi 通事‎) fees, the port entrance fees, transport and tollhouse fees between Canton and Whampoa, as well as import and export duties. With greater transparency came greater trust, and the trade gradually continued to grow.

In order to better control the movement of foreigners in the Pearl River Delta and Macao, a military post (Junminfu 军民府‎) was established in 1731 at Qianshan 前山‎, just north of Macao. At about the same time, the pilots, compradors, and linguists were licensed so they could be more easily monitored and controlled.2 Macao pilots were the only persons allowed to guide foreign ships up and down the Pearl River, which required permission from the local magistrate. Ships needed to have some trade goods aboard (not including silver coins) in order to be allowed upriver, and all fees and duties had to be paid before they were allowed to leave. The Hoppos used their control over the pilots to ensure that no ships came or went without their permission.3

The East India companies’ ships usually had 100 to 150 seamen aboard, which meant they consumed a huge amount of provisions every day. Each ship at Whampoa and each trading house at Canton (called a “factory”) were required to hire a licensed comprador to supply them with the provisions they needed. These men were known as the factory and ship compradors, respectively.

Linguists were licensed to mediate between foreigners and Chinese officials and to obtain all the permission slips that were needed in trade. A small group of Chinese merchants (called Hong merchants, or hangshangren 行商人‎) were licensed to trade with foreigners. Eventually, a system was worked out where one Hong merchant was appointed to stand security for each ship (known as a fiador, security merchant, or baoshangren 保商人‎). It was his responsibility to ensure that the foreigners under his charge behaved themselves. If they did not, then the security merchant might be punished or fined.

Foreigners always insisted on the freedom to choose their merchants, linguists, compradors, and pilots. While they could only select from the licensed men, there were always a number of them in each group who competed with each other for that business. Qing officials were keen to maintain competition among these men and usually responded quickly to any type of combination that they might try to form. There were exceptions to this rule when officials appointed Hong merchants to stand security for certain ships, but for the most part foreigners had the freedom to select the persons they preferred. The Hong merchants and linguists were responsible to ensure that all fees and duties were collected before ships were allowed to leave. In order to ensure that no smuggling was done, two customs officials (tidewaiters) were attached to the side of each ship at Whampoa to keep a constant watch on the movement of trade goods.4

The Canton Trade, 1700–1842Click to view larger

Figure 2. View of the Canton Factories ca. 1789

(Courtesy of Martyn Gregory Gallery, London)

Foreigners were allowed to rent apartments in a designated area in the western suburb (Xiguan 西关‎) of Canton, which the Chinese called the Thirteen Factories (Shisan Hang 十三行‎). These buildings (Fig. 2) were positioned along the riverfront and were usually owned by the Hong merchants. Macao was the only place where foreign traders could reside year-round, with some exceptions. During most of the 18th century, the Portuguese government at Macao only allowed non-Iberians to stay in the city when they had no ships at Whampoa. As soon as their next ship arrived, the non-Iberian male occupants were obligated to leave again for Canton. If they were not expecting a ship in the immediate future, then they were compelled to leave Macao, because residency was restricted to Portuguese nationals only (but Spaniards and Chinese from Manila were often allowed to reside there). Foreign females were forbidden upriver, so they stayed at Macao while the ships they arrived on were being loaded at Whampoa.

By the late 18th century, the Macao government had relaxed its residency requirements and many non-Iberian males and females began to stay year-round. Ghaut serangs from India provided accommodations and job finding services in Macao to Lascar seamen;5 the Dutch and Swedish consuls sometimes stayed there year-round;6 and the famous painter George Chinnery set up shop in Macao in the 1820s.7

Traders could move up and downriver between Canton and Whampoa, as was needed to unload and load their ships, but they were forbidden from entering the walled city or from going to places outside of the Xiguan area. These restrictions, however, were not always enforced with the same rigor each year. There are examples in some years of foreigners wandering about the Chinese countryside, but they are exceptions.8

Supercargos (merchants, also called Taipans 大班‎), captains, and their assistants were allowed to traverse the river without stopping at the three tollhouses between Canton and Whampoa so long as they displayed their national flag on their boat. They were not allowed to carry trade goods in these boats, only luggage. But as might be expected, many foreign officers abused this privilege and smuggled goods and money in and out of Canton in the bottom of these “flag boats.” Tollhouse keepers could sometimes see that there were goods in the boats or that there were no officers aboard (determined from their dress), which gave rise to many disputes. Qing officials sometimes tried to remove the flag boat privilege, but in the end it was more or less tolerated every year.

All cargo boats (called lighters or “chop boats”) were required to stop at each tollhouse to have their papers and contents inspected and to pay a fee. It was the linguists’ duty to obtain the appropriate permission papers (called “chops”) for each shipment and to ensure that all of the tollhouse fees were paid. By holding Chinese responsible for all fees, and punishing them for infractions instead of foreigners, Qing officials minimized the potential for conflicts arising with their guests.

The exception to this rule was crimes that were committed upon Chinese by foreigners, such as theft or property damage, bodily injuries, and/or death. In those cases, Qing officials usually insisted on the foreign suspects being tried, sentenced, and punished in a Chinese court of law. It was also customary to provide the families of the Chinese victims with a monetary remuneration to compensate them for their loss. The linguist and/or Hong merchant assigned to those respective foreigners was responsible to pay the sum in the event that foreigners refused to comply. The respective security merchants were usually fined as well for not preventing the incidents from occurring. Hoppos also withheld the ship’s exit permit (called a Grand Chop 大船牌‎) until everything was settled to their satisfaction.9

The Search for Stability

By the early 1730s, the managing of trade had become standardized but the volume and number of ships arriving each year was very erratic. There could be upwards of 50 percent increases and decreases in the volume from one year to the next, which created an unstable and volatile market. In years when fewer ships arrived, weak demand pushed prices down and left warehouses full of unsold goods. In years when more ships arrived than expected, strong demand pushed prices up and strained supplies, leaving some ships without enough cargo. A number of vessels from the 1720s to the 1750s were much delayed in their departures to the point that a few had to lay over an entire season in order to obtain enough cargo to fill their holds. This outcome was very costly because captains had to support the crew of 100 to 150 men during those months and the delay tied up the ship so that it could not be used for other voyages. The additional expenses and loss of future profits weighed heavily on balance sheets and would continue to have a negative impact on growth if something was not done to ensure supplies kept up with demand.10

The volatility of the market is what led the English East India Company (EIC) to venture out to other Chinese ports from 1755 to 1758. Because there was no way of telling from one year to the next how many ships would arrive, there was no way to know whether prices would be high or low or whether there would be enough goods available for the ships to sail home on schedule. The English hoped to remedy this situation by establishing trade in a second Chinese port.11

Fearful of Canton losing its status as the center of trade, the Qianlong emperor issued a decree in 1757 forbidding foreign vessels from going to other ports. Of course, forcing everyone to trade only at Canton was not going to make the problem of volatility go away. The 74 percent drop in trade from 1755 to 1757, for example, was largely the result of the Seven Years War (1754–1763) and only partially the result of the EIC sending a couple of its ships to other ports.

This huge decline in trade in the late 1750s brought about the failure of one of Canton’s prominent Hong merchants, Beaukeequa (Li Kaiguan 黎開觀‎), who died insolvent in September 1758. His failure, in turn, created panic among the remaining Hong merchants who were looking for any means possible to shore up their positions. These pressures led to three of the prominent houses, Yifeng Hang 義豐行‎, Guangshun Hang 廣順行‎, and Taihe Hang 泰和行‎, joining together in partnership, which gave them control of about one-third of the export trade. The three men agreed to buy and sell their goods at the same price so that they would not compete with each other. By pooling their resources together, they gained more control over inland supplies, which enabled them to guarantee to their customers’ that their ships would leave on schedule. Although Qing officials were very attentive to preventing combinations, they allowed this partnership to continue because it brought more stability and regularity to the collection of the emperor’s import and export duties.

The Hong merchants Poankeequa and Swequa were adversely affected by the three-family partnership and sought ways to limit the consortium. In 1760, the two men convinced Qing officials that they needed more control over trade so that growth would not be hindered, which brought about the establishment of the Cohong (gonghang 公行‎) that year. The number of Hong merchants was reduced to ten men, and the four top merchants among them became the chief officers of the new administrative body. The members of the Cohong are shown in Table 1. Their job was to set the terms and prices of the trade each year according to the highs and lows of the market, while at the same time ensuring that competition prevailed so that growth was not hindered.12

Table 1. Members of the Cohong, 1760–1771







Poankeequa (Pan Zhencheng 潘振承‎) and brother Sequa (Pan Seguan 潘瑟官‎)

Tongwen Hang 同文行‎



Chetqua (Chen Jieguan 陳捷官‎) and brothers Tinqua (Chen Dengguan 陳登官‎) and Coqua (Chen Keguan 陳科官‎)

Guangshun Hang 廣順行‎


Tax Accountant

Swetia (Yan Ruishe 顏瑞舍‎) and brother Ingsia (Yan Yingshe 顏瑛舍‎)

Taihe Hang 泰和行‎



Semqua (Qiu Kun 邱昆‎), partner Hunqua (Cai Huangguan 蔡煌官‎) and his sons including Tsjonqua (Cai Xiangguan 蔡相官‎)

Yifeng Hang 義豐行‎



Swequa (Cai Ruiguan 蔡瑞官‎) and brother Tjobqua (Cai Yuguan 蔡玉官‎)

Jufeng Hang 聚豐行‎



Chowqua (Chen Zuguan 陳祖官‎) and later son Locqua (Chen Junhua 陳鈞華‎)

Yuanquan Hang 源泉行‎



Consentia Giqua (Ye Yiguan 葉義官‎) and son Tiauqua (Ye Chaoguan 葉朝官‎)

Guangyuan Hang 廣源行‎



Foutia (Zhang Shixun 张世勳‎) and brother Kousia (Zhang Tianqiu 张天球‎)

Yuyuan Hang 裕源行‎



Teunqua (Cai Yongjie 蔡永接‎) and son Monqua (Cai Wenguan 蔡文官‎)

Fengyuan Hang 逢源行‎ later renamed to Wanhe Hang 萬和行‎



Fat Hunqua (Chen Xiongguan 陳雄官‎) and son Conqua (Chen Shiji 陳世積‎)

Yuanlai Hang 遠來行‎

The Cohong basically operated as follows: after the foreign ships began to arrive, enquiries were made as to how many company and private vessels were expected that year. After the number of ships could be confirmed, an estimate was made of the approximate quantity of imports that would arrive, such as cotton, pepper, and European fabrics. The volume of exports such as tea, silk, and porcelain could then also be approximated. With this information, the four men could determine what the high and low prices for imports and exports might be that year and then come up with a set price for each commodity. They also standardized the terms of trade such as the weights that everyone had to use to weigh the silver and the trade goods, the exact size of the picul, the exchange rate for silver coins, etc.

One of the most important duties of the Cohong was the standardizing of foreign advances. In the past, the amount given in advance to secure a sale could range widely from one transaction to another. This money was forwarded to inland suppliers in the off-season (February to June) to place orders for the coming season (July to January). The price of Bohea tea, for example, was usually set by the Cohong at somewhere between 14 to 18 taels per picul, but the amount that had to be paid up front was set at a standard 10 taels per picul. The Cohong ensured that all foreigners paid the same amount. In general, the more expensive the tea, the more money that was required up front.

The advances were key factors in enabling inland suppliers to expand or reduce their production in unison with demand. Foreigners had control over how many ships would arrive each year, and if they wanted to ensure that they would have enough cargo to load them, they needed to give money in advance to secure the purchases. In this way, the Cohong transferred the risks of expanding inland production to the foreigners, which was a very smart move. After 1760, it is rare to find a ship having to lay over a season owing to insufficient cargo being available.

Qing officials were also involved in the decision-making process within the Cohong. They were well aware that if prices were set too low for imports or too high for exports, it would discourage foreigners from returning to China and have a negative impact on growth. Consequently, officials reviewed all of the terms each year and insisted that the prices fall within the range of the market.

In August 1764, there were fears in Beijing that the four officers in the Cohong had gained too much power and influence over trade. So the emperor granted permission for inland tea dealers to negotiate directly with foreigners and contract up to 30 percent of the total tea exports. Those sales had to be channeled through one of the ten Hong merchant houses, and the terms of trade such as the amount of the advances, the exchange rate for silver coins, the weight of the picul, etc. had to conform to the Cohong’s standards. But the prices were negotiated between the inland tea men and their foreigner buyers, without Cohong interference. Qing officials used the inland agents’ prices as a gauge to determine whether or not the Cohong’s prices were reasonable and competitive.13

Thus, even though the number of Hong merchants was limited to ten, and the prices were set each year, the trade still fluctuated according to the pressures of supply and demand. This was not a monopoly in the true sense of the word, but rather a privately run—government-controlled—management group. Its main purpose was to bring more stability to the trade by standardizing the terms and advances so that more funds could be forwarded to inland producers, which in turn encouraged suppliers to expand or reduce production in unison with demand. At the same time, however, the government ensured that competitive prices were maintained so that growth was not hindered.

It was never easy for the four officers in the Cohong to agree on the terms each year. There were two opposing factions, one of which was headed by the president Poankeequa and the other by Semqua’s partner Cai Hunqua. They often spent many days arguing over the prices for imports and exports. Nevertheless, the competition between these two groups helped to ensure that the terms they agreed upon would be good for growth. The remaining six houses in the Cohong complained endlessly that they had no voice and that the four large houses were deciding everything to their detriment. Foreigners also petitioned continuously against the Cohong and wanted the trade to return to the way it operated before 1760. Even though each of the East India companies restricted trade and controlled prices in their own ports, they did not want the Chinese merchants or officials in Canton having the same powers.

The Cohong was an experiment that had a huge influence on the way trade was controlled and conducted in Canton thereafter. Although the organization was abolished in February 1771, the lessons learned from this experiment endured to the end of the Canton system in 1842.

Deregulation, Debts, and Contraband

The Cohong accomplished what it was meant to, but by the early 1770s, the circumstances surrounding trade had changed significantly. Cai Hunqua, the dominant voice in the Cohong who had opposed Poankeequa, died in May 1770. There was no one among the remaining Hong merchants who could stand up to Poankeequa, which meant there was nothing stopping him from controlling everything. Inland suppliers were now keeping up with demand so there was no longer a concern that the trade needed to be controlled to protect the emperor’s revenues. Governor general Li Shiyao 李侍堯‎ declared that the Cohong was now “nothing but a name, unable to do what it was intended to do.”14 If it continued operating, Poankeequa would soon be running everything, so an imperial decree ended the organization in February 1771.

After the removal of the Cohong, the Qing government continued to keep around eight to twelve licensed Hong merchants in operation each year, but those men could no longer set the terms and prices as they had done before. Every man negotiated the trade to his best advantage, which ensured that no single merchant or group controlled parts of the commerce. Some of the restrictions on the outside merchants, such as trading in tea, were also removed, but those men still had to channel their sales through one of the licensed houses.

The increase in competition that followed the end of the Cohong gave rise to several Hong merchant failures. Periodic exactions from the government as well as the lack of a formal credit institution that could offer loans to Hong merchants led to many of them seeking high-interest private loans from foreigners. These loans were illegal but nonetheless continued to increase until they had grown to more than 4 million dollars (ca. 3 million taels) by 1779. Table 2 shows the Hong merchants who failed in the 1770s and early 1780s. All seven of the Hong merchant houses shown in Table 2 were members of the Cohong in the 1760s. After they failed, other men were appointed to take their place. By 1796, two more of the original ten houses had failed, leaving only Poankeequa’s firm surviving into the 19th century. The debts of the failed men were distributed to the remaining Hong merchants. In return for assuming those debts, the foreign companies granted the new men the shares of trade that the failed houses had previously enjoyed. The profits from that trade gave the men additional income to make the payments.15

Table 2. Hong Merchant Failures, 1772–1785



Merchant’s name

Trade name

Hong name



Cai Yuguan 蔡玉官‎

Yokqua, Tjobqua

Jufeng Hang 聚豐行‎



Ye Chaoguan 葉朝官‎

Teowqua, Tiauqua

Guangyuan Hang 廣源行‎



Chen Keguan 陳科官‎


Guangshun Hang 廣順行‎



Yan Yingshe 顏瑛舍‎

Yngshaw, Ingsia

Taihe Hang 泰和行‎



Zhang Tianqiu 張天球‎

Kewshaw, Kousia

Yuyuan Hang 裕源行‎



Chen Shiji 陳世積‎


Yuanlai Hang 遠來行‎



Cai Xiangguan 蔡相官‎

Seunqua, Tsjonqua

Yifeng Hang 義豐行‎

Qing officials forbade merchants from borrowing from foreigners, but there was no alternative money available, so these transactions continued. The intense focus on growth resulted in policies continuing to favor foreign traders to the detriment of Chinese merchants. If the revenues collected from the trade declined, Hoppos would very likely be called to question by the emperor, which is something they diligently tried to avoid. As long as there were other men who could be licensed to keep the trade moving forward, there was no need to be overly concerned about policies that disadvantaged Hong merchants. It was more important to maintain policies that encouraged foreigners to return to China.

If ships arrived in China with damaged goods owing to water leakage, Hoppos sometimes pressured the security merchant to pay the duties on those products, even though they were worthless. Officials did not want to report a ship arriving without a cargo, because it could raise suspicions in Beijing that smuggling had occurred. Likewise, if a foreign ship left Whampoa without permission after the imports were unloaded and sold to the Portuguese in Macao (which sometimes happened), Hong merchants might be forced to pay the estimated export duties on that ship according to what it could have loaded (for the same reasons as above).16 To some extent, these were legitimate demands because all foreign ships were required to arrive with some trade goods, and they were required to load with exports before they were allowed to leave. If for some reason there were no imports and/or the ships left without exports, then the security merchants of those vessels were responsible.

In the late 18th century and early 19th century, all of the royally chartered East India companies eventually left the China trade, largely because they were not able to compete with the more efficient operations of the private ships. And during years of war, such as in 1782, 1791, 1799, 1804, and 1809, there might be a reduction in the number of ships sent to China. Whenever there was a decline in the amount of revenues collected from the trade, Hoppos were put to the test to find ways to compensate for the shortages.

In the 1770s, there began a dramatic influx of private traders to Canton, which continued into the 1840s. There had always been some private ships arriving at Whampoa since the early years of the eighteenth century. Their numbers, however, were usually only one or two ships, with a couple years rising to as many as five or six private ships. In many years there were no private vessels at Whampoa.

By the early 19th century in some years as many as thirty to sixty private ships were trading at Canton. Many of these vessels were owned by Americans, but a large percentage of them were also owned and/or operated by private Englishmen based in India. The latter vessels might be owned and/or commanded by British captains but were often financed and/or commissioned by Asian sponsors, such as Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Armenians, and Parsees. Private vessels were usually much smaller than company ships, so it took two, three, or four of them to make up for just one of the latter. Table 3 shows that the average number of ship arrivals increased in each ten-year period up to the 1800s; during the war years of 1810 to 1819, there was a decline in the numbers, but then the arrivals resumed their inclining trend in the 1820s.

Table 3. Ship Arrivals at Whampoa by Decade, 1750–1829




























Source: Louis Dermigny, La Chine et l’Occident. Le Commerce à Canton au XVIII Siècle 1719–1833. 3 vols. and album (Paris: S.E.V.P.E.N., 1964), 522–525.

During years of decline, Hoppos did what they could to make up for the shortfall in revenues. They might pressure the dozens of customs posts along the many branches of the Pearl River to do more with less, which is probably why some of them began raising the fees they collected from foreigners during their trips between Canton and Macao.17 Licensing fees were sometimes raised as well, and new extraneous charges were introduced that affected not only the Hong merchants but also outside merchants, linguists, compradors, pilots, and everyone else under the Hoppos’ control. In the 1780s and 1790s, for example, duties were raised on porcelain and silk exports to generate more funds, and some of the outside merchants were asked to pay the outstanding duties of a failed Hong merchant.18

These were all locally based exactions done by officials in Canton, but requests from the emperor for “contributions” continued as well. In such an environment, it is perhaps not surprising to find customs officers supplementing their incomes with bribes and merchants engaging in the contraband trade. In the early 18th century, gold was the commodity that everyone wanted to smuggle out of China, which was mostly paid for with silver. Because gold purchases often required foreigners to pay 100 percent of the sale price in advance, Hong merchants could realize their profits immediately and many months before they actually delivered the product.

By the 1760s, the relative price between silver and gold began to narrow to the point that many foreigners left the trade. Hong merchants lost their ability to replenish their funds with a sale in gold, but a new contraband article quickly emerged—opium. From the 1750s onward, opium imports began to grow rapidly. It was the only commodity other than gold that could replenish silver supplies quickly. However, if more opium arrived than expected, the market became saturated and prices dropped, which meant that it had to be warehoused until prices rose again. But in good years, a merchant could purchase a quantity of opium in the morning and sell it in the evening for a large profit, thereby replenishing his capital reserves.

Like gold, it was very easy to smuggle opium in Macao and Canton. In fact, because Whampoa and Macao, and later Lintin Island, competed with each other, the connivance fees that were charged quickly became standardized at about 20 taels per chest. If officials charged too much, the smugglers simply moved to another port. Some customs officers as well as Chinese pilots and compradors were also involved directly in the trade by offering to carry the opium chests into Canton in their own vessels in exchange for a connivance fee. The many Chinese junks that returned each year from Southeast Asia carried opium to ports all along China’s coast, so not just Canton and Macao were involved in this illegal commerce.19

Growth, Shortcomings, Decay, and Collapse

Even though there were many up and down years in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, on the whole the legal trade in tea and other goods continued to grow decade after decade. The duties that were collected from 1828 to the mid-1830s, for example, nearly doubled from 780,000 taels to over 1.2 million taels. This growth gave the appearance that the Canton system was working the way it was intended to, which camouflaged the problems that were weakening the system from within.20

Large amounts of silver coin were needed to purchase exports, which created a problem for the EIC because it ceased sending money to China in the early 1790s. Opium provided the solution. The EIC had a monopoly on Bengal opium, and China had a growing demand for that product. All of the East India companies forbade officers from carrying opium to China, because they were afraid it would cause problems in their tea trade. The private ships that sailed from India to China every year, however, did not have those concerns. Private traders purchased opium in India from the EIC, and other suppliers and then smuggled it into China in exchange for silver. Some of those men then deposited the silver they received from opium into the EIC’s treasury in Canton to pay off the debts that they owed to the Company in India. By the 1820s, there was also a lot of silver being exported from China as well, all of which was largely the result of opium sales.

In 1830, the first foreign steamship arrived in the delta, which completely changed the rules of the game. Steamers sailed under their own power and had shallow drafts of between five to ten or twelve feet, which meant they could go up and down the Pearl River whenever they wanted and without a pilot. They could also sail to Canton via the West River branch (see Figure 4), which was inaccessible to the deep drafted sailing vessels. The steamship shifted the balance of power in favor of foreigners, but very little attention was paid to those machines by the Qing government. Despite their obvious military advantages, Qing officials treated steamers just like their earlier wind-driven counterparts. Consequently, no countermeasures were initiated by the Qing navy to match the superior maneuverability of the steamships or to reinforce the fortifications along the river.

The Canton Trade, 1700–1842Click to view larger

Figure 3. Drawing of a Fast Crab (From Haghe, London, printed by Smith, Elder & Co.)

In addition to these changes, in the late 18th century, South China suffered from crop failures, which resulted in insufficient rice being produced to feed the population. This situation reached crisis proportions in the late 1780s resulting in many people dying of starvation. Hong merchants in Canton were asked to encourage their foreign customers to bring rice to China. The port fees for ships carrying rice were greatly reduced, which had the desired effect. Because part of the port fees on non-rice ships was a fixed amount that did not fluctuate with the size of the ships, it was very expensive for small vessels to go upriver to Whampoa. The port fees for a ship of 200 tons, for example, might amount to as much as 12 taels per ton of cargo, while the port fees for a ship of 1,400 tons came to only 3 taels per ton. Consequently, the reduction in the port fees for ships carrying rice was a way for small ships to avoid the high costs.21

In order to optimize the profits from a voyage, all ships needed to have cargo going to and from China and not to just sail in ballast. Thus, after small smuggling ships secretly unloaded their opium in the Pearl River Delta, they purchased a quantity of rice from ships that brought it from Java, Malaysia, the Philippines, and other places in Southeast Asia. Once their holds were filled with that grain, they could go upriver as rice ships and then purchase goods to take back to India. The ships that brought rice to China also returned to their destinations with a backhaul, picked up more rice, and repeated the process.

By the early 1840s, there were upwards of 30 foreign ships bringing rice to Canton every year. Everyone knew about these linkages between rice and the opium smugglers. In fact, beginning in 1827, the number of ships carrying opium and rice to China was published regularly in the English-language newspaper the Canton Register, which could be purchased in Canton and Macao.22

The Canton Trade, 1700–1842Click to view larger

Figure 4. Map of the Canton River

By the early 1830s, there were more than thirty-five to forty smuggling boats in operation in the delta carrying contraband in and out of China with about as much regularity as a postal service. These smuggling boats were equipped with large sails and manned with twenty to thirty rowers on each side so they could outrun most of the government patrols. They were called various names, such as “fast crabs,” “centipedes,” and “scrambling dragons,” because of their resemblance to those creatures (see Figure 3). Chinese patrols might catch one of these boats from time to time to extract money from them but then let them go so that they could be tapped again in the future.23

These linkages between silver, tea, opium, and rice explain why governor generals and Hoppos were reluctant to interfere with the opium trade. Any decline in the smuggling would likely lead to a corresponding decline in both rice imports and tea exports, which would not be good for those officials’ careers. Prior to 1835, Beijing was so ill-informed of the extend of the opium trade in South China that it was rather easy for top officials to keep quiet about the smuggling and then let the tea exports and rice imports continue unabated, which made them look good in the eyes of the emperor. They just needed to give an appearance of keeping smuggling under control by issuing a crackdown now and then and leave it at that. The extent of the opium trade would eventually reveal itself in due time, which would hopefully happen in the next official’s term and not theirs.

The growing outflow of silver gradually led to an insufficient supply within China to meet government budgets. In the mid-1830s Beijing launched an investigation to determine the reasons for the lack of silver. In 1835, a very detailed report was handed to the emperor of the rampant opium smuggling that was going on in the Pearl River Delta, which was seen as one of the reasons for the outflow of silver. There was much discussion in the Imperial Court as to how to resolve the problem. They even considered legalizing opium, but in the end decided that it would be impossible to control.

In 1836 a series of crackdowns were initiated to squash the smuggling, which increased over time. Many chests of opium were confiscated, and the future of the Canton trade was thrown into turmoil. Private traders were now in control of the trade because the EIC’s monopoly on the China trade ended in 1833. As tensions escalated and smugglers lost more of their investments owing to confiscation, they became increasingly anxious to push through reforms in China’s trade management. Details about these issues were published in English in the Canton Register and Canton Press, so all of the foreigners were now very well informed about the problems. Tensions continued to grow until the outbreak of war in 1839 and the consequential signing of the Nanking Treaty in 1842, which brought an end to the Canton system.24

The collapse of the Canton system was very much the result of internal decay within the administrative structures. The Qing government had launched many initiatives to clean up smuggling and corruption within its ranks before the outbreak of war in 1839, but all of those efforts were much too little in scope and/or too late in application. Before 1835, officials in Beijing were so ill-informed about the extent and complexity of the problems that even when they did launch initiatives, they were often ill-matched to the situation at hand. In the end, foreigners were able to overcome the system but that happened primarily because the system had already defeated itself.

Secondary Literature

Because the events that occurred in Canton in the 18th and early 19th centuries are so important for explaining the outcome of not only China’s history but world history in general, it has been a popular topic of research for more than 150 years. The records are massive in volume, located in many different countries and written in many different languages. Because the British played a dominant role in the trade, were intricately involved in the Opium Wars, and have the most complete set of records, it is not surprising that most of the studies have focused on that nation’s trade with China.

H. B. Morse (1909–1931), Earl Pritchard (1929–1936), Michael Greenberg (1951–), and Louis Dermigny (1964–) were among the earliest scholars to focus specifically on the Canton trade.25 Their publications are very well known and have been used by scholars for many decades so they require little introduction. It should be noted, however, that Morse, Pritchard, and Greenberg were concerned primarily with Anglo-Chinese trade and exchanges, which means other persons involved in the commerce received only marginal attention. While Dermigny’s study is more all-encompassing, with an attempt to include everyone, and he expanded the research to include French and other European sources, he nonetheless relies heavily on British records for much of his interpretation. Most of his discussion about the Sino-American trade, for example, is taken from British sources.

These publications were followed by detailed studies of each of the European companies trading in Asia, including the British, French, Ostend, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, Imperial (Austrian), Prussian, Hamburg, and Spanish companies. Many of these books and articles include discussions of China.26 There have also been many studies done on the trade at Macao, which of course had very close connections to Canton.27

There has been a lot of interest in the Opium Wars, which has been the subject of many articles and books. Most of these studies are more narrowly focused on opium, political interactions, and reasons for the outbreak of wars and less concerned about the trade in general. They nonetheless help us understand the events leading up to the signing of the Nanking Treaty in 1842, all of which had a huge impact on the trade.28

In 1995, Chen and Huang published a multi-volume study of the Canton trade using Chinese sources and secondary English language sources.29 In 2005, Van Dyke expanded the study on the port to include other primary sources, which brought out new aspects of the commerce, such as the Chinese junk trade to Southeast Asia, which had been almost entirely overlooked before. New data show that the Canton junk trade was just as important, in terms of volume, as that of the EIC and that private foreigners were much involved in financing those Chinese voyages.30

The study of the Chinese merchants has expanded in recent years as well. The stories of many of these men had previously been misrepresented and/or confused owing to the difficulty in identifying them. Recent studies have now clarified many of their identities and show that their operations were much more expansive than previously thought.31 A few new studies have also been done on the Yue Haiguan and the Chinese administration of the trade.32 All of these new studies show that the Qing government was not as anti-trade–oriented as what was previously believed.

In recent years, there has been a shift in focus from the East India companies to the hundreds of private traders involved at Canton, which, of course, includes Americans. British and American private traders were popular topics in the late 20th century, which has continued into the 21st century.33 Since 2000, however, the research has expanded enormously and now includes Armenians, Muslims, Parsees, Jews, Greeks, Swedes, French, Spaniards, and many more.34 These private individuals were previously thought to be just marginal players, but now we know they channeled huge amounts of private capital into the Canton trade, which enabled it to grow. All of the large East India companies were dependent on these private investments to the point that they would have ceased or greatly reduced their trade had they not had access to those funds. While our understanding of the role these men played is still developing, we at least have some representation now of their involvement.

Finally, there is a huge body of literature on Chinese export art, which is part of the Canton trade as well. While the greatest share of these publications is in the form of catalogues that provide brief details of the objects for sale in auctions and/or on display in museums, there is a parallel body of very well-researched academic studies on trade art. One of the more significant findings that has emerged from this research is the level of reliability of paintings of Canton. In the past it was thought that these trade paintings were reproduced from templates in an assembly-line fashion, with little reference to concurrency. We know now that onsite observation was used in many of these paintings. Even minute details such as changes in trimming, names on lanterns, and the raising and lowering of flags can be matched perfectly with written records. Chinese artists and shopkeepers were intensely focused on meeting the demand of the market, which concurs with new ideas of how commercially oriented Canton was and runs contrary to old ideas of the Qing government wanting only to restrict and hinder trade. This field is thriving, with many new publications coming out every year.35

Primary Sources

Primary sources of the Canton trade are enormous in quantity, diverse in languages and scattered throughout China, Europe and the United States. A detailed list of these sources can be found in the two volumes of Paul A. Van Dyke (MCM 1 and 2).36 A few records exist in India, Southeast Asia, Australia, and other places as well, but they are marginal to the collections in the three areas above.

Chinese Records

Most of the Chinese documents concerning the management of trade at Canton and Macao have been published and/or digitized. Many of them are now available via digital databases. The published records are listed in the bibliographies of MCM 1 and 2. There are now more than a dozen digitized databases of Qing dynasty records that are available at subscribing libraries and can be easily searched. Four useful databases for the Canton trade include the Zhongguo fang zhi ku 中國方志庫‎, Ming Qing shi lu 明清實錄‎, Zhongguo lei shu ku 中國類書庫‎, and Zhongguo ji ben gu jie kun 中國基本古藉庫‎. These collections allow searches to be narrowed by dynasty, emperor, and/or province. Chinese records are available in Taiwan as well, which are included in the Ming Qing yu Min Guo dang’an 明清與民國檔案‎.

There are many Chinese records from Canton in the British National Archive in London. While the majority of these documents are from the first half of the 19th century, the collection contains some documents from the 18th century. Many scholars have been using these records in recent years, which have been extensively indexed.37

European China Trade Records

The European China trade documents are written in many different languages and scattered throughout Europe. The East India companies’ records are by far the most extensive, but several private collections have survived as well. I have summarized these collections in the Preface of MCM 2 and listed them in detail in the bibliography of that book. The most prominent collections are in Britain, France, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, and Belgium. A few China trade records exist in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, and other places, some of which were used by Louis Dermigny and are listed in his book La Chine et l’Occident.38 Macao was an important component of the China trade, and many records (in Portuguese) are available in that city and in Portugal, which discuss various aspects of the commerce—especially its management.

American China Trade Records

Most of the American China trade records are held in the New England area. The largest collections are in Salem, Boston, Providence, and Philadelphia, but there are many other records scattered throughout the United States (see bibliographies in MCM 1 and 2). The Americans entered the China trade in 1784, so their records cover the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The volume of these records is enormous, but Americans did not operate under a single company so their accounting and bookkeeping practices are diverse (as is their handwriting) with little consistency in the types of records that were kept or their contents. Jacques Downs has done the most extensive study of the Sino-American trade, and his bibliography is the most complete.39

Further Reading

Conner, Patrick. The Hongs of Canton. Western Merchants in South China 1700–1900, as Seen in Chinese Export Paintings. London: English Art Books, 2009.Find this resource:

Dermigny, Louis. La Chine et l’Occident. Le Commerce à Canton au XVIII Siècle 1719–1833. 3 vols. and album. Paris: S.E.V.P.E.N., 1964.Find this resource:

Downs, Jacques. The Golden Ghetto. The American Commercial Community at Canton and the Shaping of American China Policy, 1784–1844. Bethlehem, PA: Lehigh University Press, 1997; reprint, Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2014.Find this resource:

Goldstein, Jonathan. Stephen Girard’s Trade with China 1787–1824. Portland, ME: Merwin, 2011.Find this resource:

Haddad, John Rogers. The Romance of China. Excursion to China in U.S. Culture, 1776–1876. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.Find this resource:

Morse, Hosea Ballou. The Chronicles of the East India Company Trading to China, 1635–1834. 5 vols. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1926.Find this resource:

Petersen, Willard J., ed. The Cambridge History of China: The Ch’ing Dynasty to 1800. Vol. 9. Part 2. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2016.Find this resource:

Van Dyke, Paul A. The Canton Trade: Life and Enterprise on the China Coast, 1700–1845. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2007.Find this resource:

Van Dyke, Paul A. Merchants of Canton and Macao: Politics and Strategies in Eighteenth-Century Chinese Trade. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2011.Find this resource:

Van Dyke, Paul A. Merchants of Canton and Macao: Success and Failure in Eighteenth-Century Chinese Trade. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2016.Find this resource:

Van Dyke, Paul A., and Maria Kar-wing Mok. Images of the Canton Factories 1760–1822. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Wong, John. Global Trade in the Nineteenth Century. The House of Houqua and the Canton System. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2016.Find this resource:

Wills, John E., Jr., ed. China and Maritime Europe 1500–1800. Trade, Settlement, Diplomacy, and Missions. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2011.Find this resource:


(1.) Huang Guosheng 黄国盛‎. Yapian Zhanzheng qian de Dongnan Sisheng Haiguan 鸦片战争前的东南四省海关‎ (The Customs in China’s Four Southeastern Provinces before the Opium Wars). (Fujian, China: Fujian Renmin Chuban She 福建人民出版社‎, 2000), 21–23; and Zhao Gang, The Qing Opening to the Ocean. Chinese Maritime Policies, 1684–1757 (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2013), 110–113.

(2.) Paul A. Van Dyke, The Canton Trade: Life and Enterprise on the China Coast, 1700–1845 (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2007), 19, 95.

(3.) Van Dyke, The Canton Trade, 35–49.

(4.) Van Dyke, The Canton Trade, 5–93.

(5.) Carl T. Smith and Paul A. Van Dyke, “Muslims in the Pearl River Delta, 1700 to 1930,” Review of Culture, International Edition No. 10 (April 2004): 6–15.

(6.) Paul A. Van Dyke and Maria Kar-wing Mok, Images of the Canton Factories 1760–1822: Reading History in Art (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2015).

(7.) Patrick Conner, George Chinnery 1774–1852. Artist of India and the China Coast (Woodbridge, U.K.: Antique Collectors’ Club, 1993). Some of these long-term non-Iberian residents actually stayed in Macao the rest of their lives and are buried there today. There is a Muslim cemetery in Macao, and several other foreigners are buried there, including a few Dutch officers, the Swedish consul Anders Ljungstedt, and George Chinnery. Lindsay Ride and May Ride, An East India Company Cemetery. Protestant Burials in Macao (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1996).

(8.) In 1751, for example, Pehr Osbeck visited many places in the surrounding vicinities of Canton and Whampoa. John Reinhold Forster, trans., A Voyage to China and the East Indies, by Peter Osbeck. Together with a Voyage to Suratte, by Olof Torren, and An Account of Chinese Husbandry, by Captain Charles Gustavus Eckeberg (London: Benjamin White, 1771).

(9.) The many processes and factors involved in Canton becoming the center of trade in the early 18th century are explained in Van Dyke, The Canton Trade, 5–18. For the Portuguese management of Macao from its origin in 1557 to the 18th century, and the trade that was conducted there, see George Bryan Souza, The Survival of Empire. Portuguese Trade and Society in China and the South China Sea, 1630–1754 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1986); and Zhang Tingmao 張廷茂‎. Ming Qing shi qi Aomen hai shang maoyi shi 明清时期澳门海上贸易史‎ (History of Macao’s Maritime Trade during the Ming-Qing Period) (Macao 澳门: 澳亚刊出版有限公司‎, 2004).

(10.) Paul A. Van Dyke, Merchants of Canton and Macao: Politics and Strategies in Eighteenth-Century Chinese Trade. Vol. 1 (Hong Kong, Hong Kong University Press, 2011), 53; Paul A. Van Dyke, Merchants of Canton and Macao: Success and Failure in Eighteenth-Century Chinese Trade. Vol. 2 (Hong Kong, Hong Kong University Press, 2016), 3 and 328 n. 2 (Henceforth these two volumes will be referred to as MCM 1 and MCM 2, respectively); and National Archives, The Hague (NAH): Canton 200, report dated 1749.12.18.

(11.) MCM 2: 3.

(12.) MCM 2: 19–37 and 61–96..

(13.) MCM 2: 99–102.

(14.) MCM 2: 73; and Aix en Provence: Archives Nationales d’Outre-mer (ANOM): C.1.11, 1771.02.12, p. 99v. The usual reason that historians point to for the demise of the Cohong is a bribe of 100,000 taels that the English paid to Poankeequa. I have dealt with the improbability of this happening in other places, so I will not repeat those matters here, but refer the reader to those publications. MCM 1: 49–66; and MCM 2: 61–96.

(15.) This system of transferring the debts of failed house to the remaining Hong merchants is what Fred Grant calls the “Collective Guarantee System.” Frederic D. Grant Jr., The Chinese Cornerstone of Modern Banking: The Canton Guaranty System and the Origins of Bank Deposit Insurance 1780–1933 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2014).

(16.) MCM 2: 15.

(17.) The only figures we have for the tolls that foreigners paid on the West River during their trips to and from Macao are in the Dutch archives. They show that there was a sharp increase in the fees in some years from 1763 to 1816, all of which was a way for the tollhouse keepers to supplement their administrative budgets. Paul A. Van Dyke, “Port Canton and the Pearl River Delta, 1690–1845” (PhD diss., University of Southern California, 2002), Appendix AH. Even though we do not have figures from the British, French, Swedes, Danes, or others, there are many complaints in their records of the rise in the West River fees in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

(18.) MCM 2: 129.

(19.) Van Dyke, The Canton Trade, 120–134.

(20.) Van Dyke, The Canton Trade, 113.

(21.) Van Dyke, The Canton Trade, 106.

(22.) Paul A. Van Dyke, “Smuggling Networks of the Pearl River Delta Before 1842: Implications for Macau and the American China Trade,” in Americans and Macao: Trade, Smuggling, and Diplomacy on the South China Coast, ed. Paul A. Van Dyke (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2012), 49–72.

(23.) Van Dyke, The Canton Trade, 132–134.

(24.) Van Dyke, The Canton Trade, 135–141.

(25.) H. B. Morse, The Gilds of China with an Account of the Gild Merchant or Co-Hong of Canton (London: Longmans, Green, 1909); H. B. Morse, The International Relations of the Chinese Empire. The Period of Subjection 1834–1911. 3 vols. (London: Longmans, Green, 1910); H. B. Morse, The Chronicles of the East India Company Trading to China, 1635–1834. 5 vols. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1926); and H. B. Morse, Far Eastern International Relations (Boston: Riverside Press Cambridge, 1931); 马士, 东印度公司对华贸易编年史(共五卷‎ (The Chronicles of the East India Company Trading to China, 1635–1834). 5 vols. (广州: 中山大学出版社‎ Guangzhou: Sun Yat-sen University Press, 1991); Earl H. Pritchard, Anglo-Chinese Relations During the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries (New York: Octagon Books, 1929); Earl H. Pritchard, The Crucial Years of Early Anglo-Chinese Relations 1750–1800 (New York: Octagon Books, 1936); Michael Greenberg, British Trade and the Opening of China 1800–1842 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1951); and Louis Dermigny, Le Commerce à Canton au XVIII Siècle 1719–1833. 3 vols. and album (Paris: S.E.V.P.E.N., 1964).

(26.) K. N. Chaudhuri, The Trading World of Asia and the English East India Company 1660–1760 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1978); Suchil Chaudhuri and Michel Morineau, eds., Merchants, Companies and Trade. Europe and Asia in the Early Modern Era (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1999); H. V. Bowen, The Business of Empire: the East India Company and Imperial Britain, 1756–1833 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2006); Jean Sutton, Lords of the East. The East India Company and Its Ships (1600–1874) (London: Conway Maritime Press, 2000); Sven T. Kjellberg, Svenska Ostindiska Compagnierna 1731–1813 (Malmö, Sweden: Allhems Förlag, 1974); Erik Gøbel, “Asiatisk Kompagnis Kinafart, 1732–1833. Besejling of Bemanding” (PhD diss., University of Copenhagen, 1978); Tove Clemmensen and Mogens B. Mackeprang, Kina og Danmark 1600–1950. Kinafart og Kinamode (Copenhagen: National Museum, 1980); Christian Koninckx, The First and Second Charters of the Swedish East India Company (1731–1766) (Kortrijk, Belgium: Van Gemmert, 1980); Christiaan J. A. Jörg, Porcelain and the Dutch China Trade (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1982); J. R. Bruijn and F. S. Gaastra, eds., Ships, Sailors and Spices. East India Companies and Their Shipping in the 16th, 17th and 18th Centuries (Amsterdam: NEHA, 1993); Stephan Diller, Die Dänen in Indien, Südostasien und China (1620–1845) (Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz Verlag, 1999); Jan Parmentier, Oostende & Co. Het Verhaal van de Zuid-Nederlandse Oost-Indiëvaart 1715–1735 (Ghent, Belgium: Ludion, 2002); Femme Gaastra, The Dutch East India Company—Expansion and Decline (Zutphen, The Netherlands: Walburg Pers, 2003); Philippe Haudrère, La Compagnie Française de Indes au XVLLLe siècle. 2 vols. (Paris: Les Indes Savantes, 2005); Els M. Jacobs, Merchant in Asia. The Trade of the Dutch East India Company During the Eighteenth Century (Leiden, The Netherlands: CNWS Publications, 2006); Liu Yong, The Dutch East India Company’s Tea Trade with China 1757–1781 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2007); Hanna Hodacs, Silk and Tea in the North. Scandinavian Trade and th Market for Asian Goods in Eighteenth-Century Europe (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016); Chris Nierstrasz, Rivalry for Trade in Tea and Textiles (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016); Bernd Eberstein, Preußen und China. Eine Geschicte schwieriger Beziehungen (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 2007); Bernd Eberstein, Hamburg-China. Geschichte einer Partnerschaft (Hamburg: Christians, 1988); and Ander Permanyer-Ugartemendia, “La participación española en la economía del opio en Asia Oriental tras el fin del Galeón” (PhD diss., Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, 2013).

(27.) George Bryan Souza, The Survival of Empire. Portuguese Trade and Society in China and the South China Sea, 1630–1754 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1986); Huang Qichen 黃啟臣‎ and Zheng Weiming 鄭煒明‎, Aomen Jingji Sibai Nian 澳門經濟四百年‎ (400 Years of Economic History in Macau) (Macau: Macau Foundation, 1994); Ângela Guimarães, Uma Relação Especial Macau e as Relações Luso-Chinesas 1780–1844 (Lisbon: Edição Cies, 1996); A. M. Martins do Vale, Os Portugueses em Macau (1750–1800) (Macau: Institvto Portvgvês do Oriente, 1997); Zhang Tingmao 張廷茂‎, Ming Qing shi qi Aomen hai shang maoyi shi 明清时期澳门海上贸易史‎ (History of Macao’s Maritime Trade During the Ming-Qing Period) (Macao 澳门: 澳亚刊出版有限公司‎, 2004); George Bryan Souza, “The Portuguese Merchant Fleet at Macao in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,” in Rivalry and Conflict: European Traders and Asian Trading Networks in the 16th and 17th Centuries, eds. Ernst van Veen and Leonard Blussé (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2005), 342–369; and George Bryan Souza, “Merchants and Commerce in Asia and the Portuguese Empire over the Long 18th Century,” Review of Culture 34 (April 2010): 64–76; George Bryan Souza, Portuguese, Dutch and Chinese in Maritime Asia, c. 1585–1800: Merchants, Commodities and Commerce (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2014).

(28.) Maurice Collis, Foreign Mud. The Opium Imbroglio at Canton in the 1830’s and the Anglo-Chinese War (New York: W. W. Norton & Co. Inc., 1946); Arthur Waley, The Opium War Through Chinese Eyes (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1958); Jack Beeching, The Chinese Opium Wars (San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, 1975); Peter Ward Fay, The Opium War, 1840–1842 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1975); Carl A. Trocki, Opium, Empire and the Global Political Economy. A Study of the Asian Opium Trade 1750–1950 (London: Routledge, 1999); Frederic Wakeman Jr., “The Canton Trade and the Opium War,” in The Cambridge History of China, eds. Denis Twitchett and John K. Fairbank, vol. 10 (Taipei, Taiwan: Caves Books, 1986), 163–212; J. Y. Wong, Deadly Dreams. Opium and the Arrow War (1856–1860) in China (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1998); and Wu Yixiong 吴义雄‎, Tiaoyue kouan tizhi de yunniang 条约口岸体制的酝酿‎ (The Formation of the Treaty Port System) (Bejing 北京‎: Zhonghua shuju 中华书局‎, 2009).

(29.) Chen Bojian 陳柏堅‎ and Huang Qichen 黃启臣‎, Guangzhou Wai Mao Shi 廣州外貿史‎ (The History of Guangzhou’s Foreign Trade). 3 vols. (Guangzhou, China: Guangzhou Chubanshe 广州出版社‎, 1995).

(30.) Paul A. Van Dyke, The Canton Trade: Life and Enterprise on the China Coast, 1700–1845 (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2007).

(31.) Liang Jiabin 梁嘉彬‎, Guangdong Shisan Hang Kao 廣東十三行考‎ (Study of the Thirteen Hongs of Guangdong) (Guangzhou, China: Guangdong Renmin Chubanshe 广东人民出版社‎, 1999); Ann Bolbach White, “The Hong Merchants of Canton” (PhD diss., University of Pennsylvania, 1967); Ch’en Kuo-tung Anthony 陳國棟‎, The Insolvency of the Chinese Hong Merchants, 1760–1843. 2 vols. (Taipei: Academia Sinica, 1990); Weng Eang Cheong, Hong Merchants of Canton: Chinese Merchants in Sino-Western Trade, 1684–1798 (Copenhagen: NIAS-Curzon Press, 1997); Huang Qichen 黃啟臣‎ and Pang Xinping 龐新平‎, Ming-Qing Guangdong Shangren 明清廣東商人‎ (Guangdong Merchants in the Ming and Qing Dynasty) (Guangzhou, China: Guangdong Jingji Chuban She 廣東經濟出版社‎, 2001); Huang Qichen 黃啟臣‎, and Liang Chengye 梁承鄴‎, Guangzhou Shisan Hang zhi Yi: Liang Jingguo Tianbao Hang Shiji 廣州十三行之一梁經國天寶行史‎ (Guangzhou, China: Guangdong Gaodeng Jiaoyu Chubanshe 廣東高等教育出版社‎, 2003); Pan Gang’er 潘剛兒‎, Huang Qichen 黃啟臣‎, and Ch’en Kuo-tung 陳國棟‎. Guangzhou Shisan Hang zhi Yi Pan Tongwen (Fu) Hang 廣州十三行之一潘同文(孚) 行‎ (One of the Thirteen-Hongs in Canton. Tung-Wan/Tung-Fu Hong Puankhequa I–III) (Guangzhou, China: Huanan Ligong Daxue Chubanshe 華南理工大學出版社‎, 2006); Frederic D. Grant Jr. The Chinese Cornerstone of Modern Banking: The Canton Guaranty System and the Origins of Bank Deposit Insurance 1780–1933 (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2014); and John Wong, Global Trade in the Nineteenth Century. The House of Houqua and the Canton System (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2016); MCM 1 and 2.

(32.) Huang Guosheng 黄国盛‎, Yapian Zhanzheng qian de Dongnan Sisheng Haiguan 鸦片战争前的东南四省海关‎ (The Customs in China’s Four Southeastern Provinces Before the Opium Wars) (Fujian, China: Fujian Renmin Chuban She 福建人民出版社‎, 2000); Ch’en Kuo-tung Anthony 陳國棟‎. Qingdai qianqi de yuehaiguan yu shisan hang 清代前期的粵海關與十三行‎ (Maritime Customs of Early Qing Dynasty and the Thirteen Hongs) (Guangzhou, China: Guangdong renmin chuban she, 2014); and Zhao Gang, The Qing Opening to the Ocean. Chinese Maritime Policies, 1684–1757 (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2013)

(33.) Jacques M. Downs, The Golden Ghetto (Bethlehem, PA: Lehigh University Press, 1997); Anne Bulley, Free Mariner: John Adolphus Pope in the East Indies 1786–1821 (London: British Association for Cemeteries in South Asia (BACSA), 1992); Anne Bulley, The Bombay Country Ships 1790–1833 (Richmond, Surrey, U.K.: Curzon Press, 2000); Patrick Kin Wai Mok, “The British Intra-Asian Trade with China, 1800–1842” (PhD diss., University of Hong Kong, 2004); Alain le Pichon, China Trade and Empire. Jardine, Matheson & Co. and the Origins of British Rule in Hong Kong 1827–1843 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006); John Rogers Haddad, The Romance of China. Excursion to China in U.S. Culture, 1776–1876 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008); Jonathan Goldstein, Stephen Girard’s Trade with China 1787–1824 (Portland, ME: Merwin, 2011); Jessica Hanser, “Mr. Smith Goes to China: British Private Traders and the Interlinking of the British Empire with China, 1757–1792” (PhD diss., Yale University, May 2012); John Rogers Haddad, America’s First Adventure in China. Trade, Treaties, Opium, and Salvation (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2013); Richard J. Grace, Opium and Empire: The Lives and Careers of William Jardine and James Matheson (Montreal: McGill Queens University Press, 2014); and He Sibing, Macao in the Making of Early Sino-American Relations 1784–1844 (Macao: Cultural Affairs Bureau of the Macao S.A.R. Government, 2015).

(34.) Carl T. Smith, “An Eighteenth-Century Macao Armenian Merchant Prince,” Review of Culture No. 6 (April 2003): 120–129; Carl T. Smith and Paul A. Van Dyke, “Armenian Footprints in Macau,” Review of Culture No. 8 (October 2003): 20–39; Carl T. Smith and Paul A. Van Dyke, “Four Armenian Families,” Review of Culture No. 8 (October 2003): 40–50; Carl T. Smith and Paul A. Van Dyke, “Muslims in the Pearl River Delta, 1700 to 1930,” Review of Culture No. 10 (April 2004): 6–15; Guo Deyan, “The Study of Parsee Merchants in Canton, Hong Kong and Macao,” Review of Culture No. 8 (October 2003): 51–69; Shalini Saksena, “Parsi Contributions to the Growth of Bombay and Hong Kong,” Review of Culture No. 10 (April 2004), 26–35; Carl T. Smith, “Parsee Merchants in the Pearl River Delta,” Review of Culture No. 10 (April 2004), 36–49; Madhavi Thampi, “Parsis in the China Trade,” Review of Culture No. 10 (April 2004), 16–25; Sebouh David Aslanian, From the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean. The Global Trade Networks of Armenian Merchants from New Julfa (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011); Permanyer-Ugartemendia, “La participación española en la economía del opio”; Susan E. Schopp, “The French in the Pearl River Delta: A Topical Case Study of Sino-European Exchanges in the Canton Trade, 1698–1840” (PhD diss., University of Macau, 2015); Lisa Hellman, “Everyday Life in Canton: The Case of the Swedish East India Company 1730–1830” (PhD diss., Stockholm University, 2015); and Paul A. Van Dyke and Susan E. Schopp, eds., The Private Side of the Canton Trade, 1700–1840 (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, forthcoming 2018.

(35.) A list of all the books and articles that deal with Chinese export art would take up many pages, so I will just list a few of the major and more recent studies here: Craig Clunas, Chinese Export Watercolours (London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 1984); Patrick Conner, The China Trade 1600–1860 (Brighton, U.K.: The Royal Pavilion, Art Gallery & Museums, 1986); Carl L. Crossman, The Decorative Arts of the China Trade. Paintings, Furnishings and Exotic Curiosities (Suffolk, U.K.: Antique Collectors’ Club, 1988); Patrick Conner, The Hongs of Canton. Western Merchants in South China 1700–1900, as Seen in Chinese Export Paintings (London: English Art Books, 2009); Hong Kong Museum of Art, Views of the Pearl River Delta. Macau, Canton and Hong Kong (Salem, MA: Peabody Essex Museum, 1997); William Shang, Historical Pictures of Qing Period China: Western Perspectives (Tokyo: Taishukan Shoten, 2001); Jiang Yinghe 江瀅河‎, Qingdai yanghua yu Guangzhou kouan 清代洋畫與廣州口岸‎ (Western Painting and Canton Port During the Qing Period) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2007); Caroline Frank, Objectifying China, Imagining America. Chinese Commodities in Early America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011); Patricia Johnston and Caroline Frank, eds., Global Trade and Visual Arts in Federal New England (Lebanon: University of New Hampshire Press, 2014); Lee Sai Chong Jack, China Trade Paintings: 1750s to 1880s (Guangzhou, China: Sun Yat-sen University Press, 2015); Petra Ten-Doesschate Chua, Nin Ding, and Lidy Jane Chu, eds., Qing Encounters. Artistic Exchanges Between China and the West (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2015); Van Dyke and Mok, Images of the Canton Factories 1760–1822; Rosalien van der Poel, “Made for Trade—Made in China. Chinese Export Paintings in Dutch Collections: Art and Commodity” (PhD diss., Leiden University, 2016); Paul A. Van Dyke, “The Hume Scroll of 1772 and the Faces Behind the Canton Factories,” Review of Culture No. 54 (April 2017), 64–102; and Maria Kar-wing Mok 莫家詠‎, “Lishi yu yishu zhi jian: Zhongguo waixiao shangguan ji Huangpu fengjinghua de chenggong geshi” 《历史与艺术之间: 中国外销商馆及黄埔风景画的成功格式》‎ (Between History and Art: The Success Formula of Chinese Export Paintings of Canton and Whampoa) 中山大学历史系博士论文‎ (PhD diss., Sun Yat-sen University, 2017).

(36.) MCM 1 and 2..

(37.) David Pong, A Critical Guide to the Kwangtung Provincial Archives, Deposited at the Public Record Office of London (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1975); and J. Y. Wong, Anglo-Chinese Relations 1839–1860. A Calendar of Chinese Documents in the British Foreign Office Records (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983).

(38.) Dermigny, Le Commerce.

(39.) Jacques Downs, The Golden Ghetto. The American Commercial Community at Canton and the Shaping of American China Policy, 1784–1844 (Bethlehem, PA: Lehigh University Press, 1997).