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Chinese Account


Opium War.






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Chinese Account


Opium War.



Chinese Account


Opium War.-


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/ "T^HE following story of the Opium War is to all
intents and purposes a translation of the last
two chapters of the Slimg Wu-ki y or " Military-
Operations of the present Dynasty." The author
is Wei Yuan, a Chinese who held, about forty years
ago, the post of Department Magistrate at Kao-yu,
north of Yangchow ; and Wei Yuan's style has been
followed in the translation. Dates have been altered
so as to convey definite ideas of time to European
readers, and in some cases the Cantonese or other
popular pronunciation is given to the names of places
and persons well known in the south. In some parts
the original is digested, and wearisome portions have
been omitted.

The paper illustrates the extraordinary faithful-
ness with which the Chinese endeavour to perfect


their histories ; and this seems to have always been a
national characteristic. In the work of solving the
riddles of ancient and mediaeval history, the Chinese
records (if correctly translated) are likely to be
found as faithful as any, though there may be





THE Manchu Annals introduce the history of the
English opium war with a statement that, early
in the summer of 1838, the Director of the Court of
State Ceremonial, Hwang Tsioh-tsz," represented in
a Memorial to the Throne that the growing consump-
tion of foreign opium was at the root of all China's
troubles. Silver, — and coined dollars proportionately,
— was becoming scarce and relatively dear, the tael
having advanced from 1,000 to 1,600 cash in price; b
the revenue was in confusion, peculation rife, and
trade disorganized. Opium, he said, came from
England ; but, though those foreigners were ready
enough to weaken China and absorb her wealth by
encouraging its use, so severely did they forbid
smoking amongst themselves that offending ships
were sunk by heavy guns. They had possessed
themselves of [Koh-liu-pa or c ] Java by this means,
and had endeavoured to seduce Ann am, which state,

b Dobell says the Spanish dollar was worth 750 cash in
A.D. 1800.

e S§E

2 Chinese Account of the Opium War.

however, had firmly discouraged any relations with
them. They were now ruining the bodies and the
fortunes of the Chinese with their abominable poison ;
and the memorialist proposed that the penalty of
death should be decreed against all offenders. In
consequence of this the Emperor at once remitted
the matter to the consideration of all the high
provincial authorities. Without a single exception,
those officers recommended the most stringent
measures ; and he amongst them who wrote the most
uncompromisingly was Lin TsEH-su, a Viceroy of
Hu Kwang, who w T as at once sent for to Peking,
whence, after receiving the Emperor's instructions,
he was despatched as Special Imperial Commissioner to
Canton, armed with full Admiral's powers in addition.
A hundred and fifty years or so earlier, opium
had been admitted into China and taxed as an
ordinary drug ; but, previous to the year 1765, the
annual import had never exceeded 200 chests. In
consequence of the rapidly increasing number of
smokers, the import was first forbidden in 1796. Not-
withstanding this prohibition, the annual clandestine
sales had, by the year 1820, reached nearly 4,000
chests. First stored at Macao, the opium gradually
gravitated to Whampoa; but, after the publication of
the first severe prohibitions in the u thirties," it was
finally stowed in hulks lying off the Ling-ting 6

Chinese Account of the Ojnum War. 3

Islands, a convenient spot commanding several water-
routes. The foreign ships used to deposit their
opium here, and then proceed to the ports with the
rest of their cargoes. The Foochow, Ningpo, and
Shanghai junks imported their opium from the high
seas, whilst the Canton merchants used to arrange
the price in Canton, and then bring it from the hulks.
At first there were only five of these hulks, and the
maximum quantity of opium on board did not exceed
from 4,000 to 5,000 chests, so that the whole might
easily have been set on fire ; but, as the Viceroy Juan
Yuan a had asked for some delay, in order to devise
a plan for driving the hulks away, time went on
until there were as many as twenty-five hulks, and
20,000 chests of opium. This was in the year 1826,
some time after the Viceroy Li. Hung-pin b had
established his service of cruising junks. These junks,
for a monthly bribe of Tls. 36,0(J0, allowed the opium
to pass freely into port.

It had previously been the rule that no silver
was to go out of the country, and that merchandise
was to be exchanged for merchandise : as much
bullion as $500,000 a year was brought by foreign
traders to adjust the balance : but it gradually came
to pass that a balance of silver had to be annually
made up on the Chinese side. To remedy this, t]ie
Viceroy Lu K'un c abolished the cruisers altogether

4 Chinese Account of the Opium War.

in 1832. In 1837 the Viceroy Teng T'ing-cheng"
re-established the cruising navy; but the Commodore
Han Shao-k'ing & arranged with the foreign ships
to convoy the opium for a percentage, which
percentage he represented as being captured opium,
and even undertook the import of opium himself.
For these eminent services he received a peacock's
feather, and was made a rear-admiral ; in consequence
of which the yearly import gradually reached a
figure of 40,000 or 50,000 chests. The suggestion
made by certain Peking officials that this opium
should be regularly taxed as a drug was rejected ;
and in the spring of 1839 Commissioner LiN
appeared upon the scene.

LiN called upon the hong merchant Ng I-wo c
[Howqua] to deliver up Chatun^ [Jardine] and
Tinti* [Dent], who had been for many years in the
habit of dealing in opium. Chatun, having got wind
of this, had already made his escape, but Tinti came
with the English Company's Consul Ilut-^ [Elliot]
from Macao to the Canton Foreign Factory. Lin
Tseh-su sent a body of soldiers to keep a watch upon
them there and to surround the Liptak^ Fort, in the
Canton Kiver, with a cordon of rafts, so as to prevent
communication therewith. He then ordered the
surrender, within a given date, of all the opium on

a mmm b mmm c u^m *&m
e mm f mm °mm

Chinese Account of the Opium War. 5

board the 25 hulks at Ling-ting, and a free pardon,
failing which, he threatened to stop supplies of fuel
and water, and to prevent trade. He proceeded to
catechise the young gentry attached to the local
university, and learnt from their unanimous testimony
that the failure of the opium laws was entirely owing
to the connivance of the navy. Han Shao-k'ing was
cashiered at his recommendation; but it was im-
possible to punish him capitally or according to his
full deserts, as the Viceroy Trng had recommended
him for the post.

The "Company's Consul"" was a foreign official
despatched by the King of England to superintend
trading operations. Foreign traders of other nation-
alities looked after their own trade as individuals.
England alone had a separate company, consisting
of the richest merchants in the kingdom, who had
subscribed a capital of $30,000,000 ; and the King
sent this consular officer to manage the whole concern.
All the holding-out for rights and the overbearing
demands made upon China were the doing of this
Consul. Hence the traders of the other countries
were as the individual salt-dealers of China, whilst the
Company was like the salt-monopolists. Their charter
was first for 30 years, but was afterwards renewed for
60 years. In 1833 the Company's charter ceased
to be exclusive in China, and there was no longer a

6 Chinese Account of the Opium War,

Consul at Canton. This was the first great change in
foreign affairs. When the Viceroy Lu K'un first
came to Canton, he was ignorant of our true interests,
gave ear to the suggestions of the foreign traders,
and sent a despatch to England directing a Consul
to be sent as before. The first was Lo LuTPi a [Lord
Napier] who forced his ships past the Bogue, began
hostilities, and was finally constrained to return home.
The next was Elliot, who had been at Canton for
three years when he was besieged in the factory as
above described. Within a week or two he sent in
an official petition, offering to surrender the opium as
instructed, and also to send back to Canton all the
opium-ships on their way to Japan. The total
number of chests thus surrendered was 20,283, or,
at 120 catties apiece, 2,376,000 catties of the drug.
Lin Tseh-su and the Viceroy Teng proceeded to the
Bogue to superintend the delivery, which was
completed in the month of May. It was agreed to
bestow three catties of tea for each one of opium,
and the opium was ordered by the Emperor to be
destroyed, instead of being sent to Peking as
proposed, — the object being to impress the people by
this public spectacle. This destruction was carried
out at the Bogue in the presence of Lin Tseh-su,
the Viceroy, and the Governor. At an elevated spot
on the shore a space was barricaded in ; here a pit

Chinese Account of the Opium War, 7

was dug, and filled with opium mixed with brine:
into this, again, lime was thrown, forming a scalding
furnace, which made a kind of boiling soup of the opium.
In the evening the mixture was let out by sluices,
and allowed to flow out to sea with the ebb tide.

Opium is of four sorts : the best is Kung pan t 6 ou a
[or Patna] ; the PakVou 1 * [or Malwa] comes next,
and the Kern fa t c ou c \_chin hwa t l u or Persian] next
again; each chest containing 40 balls. Besides these,
there is a dearer sort called the smaller Kung pan.
They all come from Bengal and [ ? Madras]** in India*.
At the Indian auctions as many as 12,000 chests are
sometimes sold in a month. Though some of this
goes to countries farther south, the greater part goes
to China, which takes from 50,000 to 60,000 chests
a year. Its price in India is about $250 a
chest, which price is more than doubled by the time
it reaches Canton. Thus, the destruction of property
was from $5,000,000 to $6,000,000 cost price, or
over $10,000,000 including the profit. A number
of traders from other countries came to witness the
spectacle, and composed eulogistic essays upon the
excellence of China's policy in this matter.

Commissioner Lin then issued orders for the
ejection of all the opium hulks, and also of the
disloyal traders at Macao, who were forbidden to
tarry upon Chinese soil. Ships arriving with opium

8 Chinese Account of the Opium War.

would not be interfered with if they at once turned
round and went back, and all ships entering port
must give bonds agreeing that those found smug-
gling opium should be confiscated with their cargoes,
and that the individuals concerned should be executed
at once. These orders were, however, far too stringent,
and, anyhow, contrary to the law which provides that
u Mongols, and other persons beyond the pale of
" civilization, Shall be at liberty to ransom capital
" offences by a fine payable in cattle." The American
and other nations, however, gave the bonds required.
On this, Elliot went down from Canton to Macao,
and sent in a petition asking that a deputy might be
despatched to Macao to discuss with him a set of
rules under which a stop might be permanently put
to the opium trade; and enlarging upon the abuses
of the hulk system. He also requested that British
ships might be permitted to anchor and discharge at
Macao. This was the second great turning-point in
foreign affairs. Lin, however, resolutely objected
to this proposal, grounding his objections on the
fact that twenty-five ships were the fixed number
sanctioned for Macao ; and that, if the British did
not come to Whampoa, the Maritime Customs would
have no work to do, nor would there be any means
of putting a check upon opium smuggling. To this
Elliot replied that, unless permission were granted
to anchor at Macao, there would be no basis for an

Chinese Account of the Opium War. 9

understanding. He declined either to receive the
tea bestowed upon him, or to give bonds; and said he
must await instructions from his Government before
he could allow ships to enter port. Elliot had
already sent despatches home by a trading ship, to
which a reply might be expected in six months, so
that a little delay would have made no difference.
But in the month of July there occurred the Tsim-
sha Point a case, in which a Chinese, named Lin
Wei-hi, 6 was killed by a foreign sailor [7th July].
Orders were sent to Elliot to surrender the offender in
satisfaction ; but Elliot — who, however, had no in-
tention of deliberately disobeying — only had up for ex-
amination five black barbarians, not the real criminals,
whilst he offered rewards to any who should come
forward as informers. In August the Commissioner
Lin and the Viceroy Teng, in accordance with law,
cut off the supply of fuel and provisions from Macao.
They also held that, as the foreigners resident in
Macao were there for purposes of trade, they had no
right to tarry at Macao, seeing that they no longer
entered port to trade. On this Elliot, together with his
family and compatriots at Macao, fifty-seven families
in all, removed from Macao, and took quarters on
board the trading ships at Tsim-sha Point. Elliot,
now being exasperated, then secretly sent for two men-
of-war from the foreign ports, and, with three large

a 2S ^ 3§ (opposite Hongkong). b $ B S

10 Chinese Account of the Opium War.

trading ships fitted up as cruisers, proceeded to
Cowloon, where, under pretext of demanding food, he
engaged our naval force in battle. Captain Lai En-
tsioh" succeeded in sinking a two-masted foreign
ship, two sampans, and a Spanish hulk hired by the
British. In the eighth moon [October] Elliot got
the Europeans at Macao to send a message for him,
to the effect that he was willing to send away the
hulks and the disloyal traders, and also that the
trading ships were willing to give bonds agreeing to
the confiscation of ship and cargo in cases of smug-
gling [opium]; but he objected to the words " the
" individuals concerned to be executed at once."
This was the third turning-point in Canton affairs.
Lin Tseh-su, however, insisted upon the insertion
of these words, so that the bonds of all nationalities
might be alike ; and, moreover, demanded the sur-
render of the murderer. Shortly after this, two
English trading ships did sign bonds as required,
but Elliot sent two men-of-war [the "Volage" and
" Hyacinth"] after them to prevent it. He also peti-
tioned us not to attack and destroy the ships at Tsim-
sha Point, so that he might await despatches from
England: but Admiral Kwan T'ien-p'ei 6 returned
his petition because the murderer was not given up.
During these premises, five of our war-ships went to
preserve order on the sea-board, and, the petition

Chinese Account of the Opium War. 11

having been rejected, the English mistook our red
flags for a declaration of war, and opened fire ; — for
in Europe a red flag means war, and a white one peace.
Admiral Kw t an returned their fire, and knocked
the figure-head off one ship, causing the death by
drowning of many European soldiers. In November
they next unsuccessfully attacked our fort north
of Tsim-sha Point ; but, as we had poisoned the wells,
and they feared a night attack, they made off to
their ships again.

On receipt of the news of the Cowloon affair, the
Emperor wrote on the memorialists' report: — "I do
1 not fear your rashness, gentlemen, so much as I fear
' your cowardice." The Imperial Edict of the 8th of
the 11th moon (December) ran : — " The English, ever
6 since the opium interdiction, have been vacillating
' in their conduct. It is no longer consistent with
6 dignity to continue to permit their trade. The
i trifle of customs duties is of no importance to us.
i Our dynasty, in conciliating foreigners, has shewn
i kindness exceeding deep; but the English, instead
* of being grateful for this, have indulged in ferocious
6 violence, so that they are in the wrong whilst we in
' the right, as all the world must know. As they have
i placed themselves outside the pale of our favour,
' they are not entitled to pity. Let, therefore, the
' English trade be at once stopped." In the original
memorial there was a proposal that those ships which

12 Chinese Account oj the Opium War.

obeyed the law should receive protection, whilst those
which were recalcitrant should suffer by being repelled,
on which the Emperor wrote: — "They are all men
" of the same country : if they are dealt with
" differently, there must be inconsistency in it."
The above is the history of the cutting-off of
English trade, owing to the opium prohibition'.

Meanwhile, one Tseng Wang-yen,** Director of
the Revision Court, had recommended the Emperor
to close the Customs Houses, and put a complete stop
to sea-going trade with all countries. This suggestion
was referred to Commissioner Lin, who strongly
objected to it, arguing that, if those who had not
broken the prohibition were excluded from trade
without reason, they would join in a general attack
upon us. The matter then dropped.

After the closing of the ports to the English, from
twenty to thirty ships arrived, none of which were
allowed to enter, much to the chagrin of everybody.
Elliot now sent in a second petition, saying that
he had served some years at Canton, and was really
desirous of peace ; that he was very much distressed
at the confusion into which affairs had drifted ; that
he would be very pleased to act in obedience to the
laws of the Great Pure Dynasty, so long as he had
not to break his own country's laws : and he begged
that his countrymen might be allowed to return to

Chinese Account of the Opium War. 13

Macao pending the arrival of instructions from home,
when trade could be re-opened. This is the fourth
turning-point in Canton affairs.

Lin Tseh-su held, however, in view of the Em-
peror's recent instructions, that any divergence there-
from was inexpedient, and therefore repeated the
interdiction in the strongest terms. Over ten ships
then weighed anchor and went out to L6-man Shan, a
where, in company with a number of new arrivals,
they gave opium in exchange for provisions brought
to them by the fishing boats. Lin Tseh-su was
now made Viceroy, and arranged with Admiral
Kwan a plan for utilizing the tanka boatmen and
fishing-craft in an attack upon the disloyal junks,
the Chinese war-junks being unfitted for the high
seas. A number of boats were disposed in the
various creeks and inlets, and it was arranged that
an attack should be made simultaneously from four
directions, going out and returning on one tide.
Twenty-three junks, engaged in exchanging supplies
for opium, were burnt at Ch'ang-sha Wan, 6 in the
month of March, a number of disloyal Chinese were
burnt in their huts on shore, or drowned ; and a dozen
or so were taken prisoners. The foreign ships hurriedly
moved off to escape the fire-boats. The eighteen
months' law condemning opium-smokers to strangula-
tion, and opium-dealers to decapitation had now been in

14 Chinese Account of the Opium War.

force the best part of a year, and as the watch kept
all over the Empire was very strict, over half the
smokers were already cured. Meantime, the news of
the stoppage of trade reached England, and no one
would sell the stocks of tea at the various emporia,
which thus accumulated until famine prices were
reached, so that during this time a profitable trade
was done by Canton and Foochow junks with Singa-
pore and other places in the south. There was no
silver available in the capital of London, where the
merchants were obliged to borrow large sums from
neighbouring emporia in order to meet their engage-
ments. Elliot had sent home for troops, and the
Queen directed Parliament to deliberate upon the
matter. The official body, civil and military, were
for war, whilst the mercantile interest was for peace.
Discussion went on for several days without any
definite result, and at last lots were drawn in the
Lo Chan-sz Temple" [? division before the Lord
Chancellor] and three tickets were found in favour
of war, which was therefore decided upon. The
Queen ordered her relative by marriage, Peh-xMeh, &
[Sir Gordon Bremer] to take a dozen or so of war-
ships under his command, to which were added twenty
or thirty guard-ships from India. This was reported
to the Throne by Lin Tseh-su in the month of June;
but the Emperor still said: — u What can they do if

Chinese Account of the Opium War. 1 5

u we quietly wait on the defensive and watch their
" movements ? " During the night of the 9th of the
fifth moon [some time in June] Lin Tseh-su sent
another naval force to the sea-board off Mo-tau, a
and succeeded in burning with his fireships two
foreign sampans, besides killing four white foreigner- j
and one large foreign ship was obliged to escape the
fire by leaving its anchor behind. Eleven fishing
boats were burnt, and thirteen traitorous Chinese
taken prisoners. Towards the end of June, fifteen
British men-of-war, including three steamers, assem-
bled at the Cum-sing Moon, 6 the rest remaining at
L6-man Shan. Lin Tseh-su sent down ten fireships in
pairs, each pair connected by iron chains, which swept
down thus with the tide. The foreign ships all made
oft* hastily : but two sampans were burnt; and from
this time the English did not venture again into port.
From the time of his arrival in Canton, Lin
Tseh-su had sent out spies daily to get foreign
information, and to translate European works. He
;had also purchased newspapers, and discovered there-
from that the Europeans held the Chinese navy in the
utmost contempt, but were in great dread of our
pirates and fishermen. He therefore engaged 5,000
sturdy men at $6 a month, with #6 extra for each of
their families, which sum was defrayed by subscription
amongst the members of the co-hong, the salt-dealers,

16 Chinese Account of the Opium War.

and the Swatow merchants. He also extended a
chain barrier and a system of rafts across the Bogue,
and set up on both banks over 200 guns which he
had purchased from the different European countries.
He further hired sixty boats of various sorts, which he
equipped for righting, and also prepared 20 fire-
ships and over 100 smaller boats to attack the
foreign ships. Besides all this, he purchased an old
foreign ship, and practised his men in the art of
taking her by assault from the windward with the
neap tides in their favour. Lin Tseh-su reviewed his
fleet in person, and offered $200 for each white man,
with half the amount for each black man killed.
For Elliot's head $20,000 was offered, with
graduated amounts, according to rank, for those of
the military officers under him. Every man-of-war
captured would be prize to the captors, with the
exception of the arms and ammunition, which would
be surrendered to the viceregal government. The re-
sult of this action was, that the traitorous Chinese be-
came objects of suspicion to the English, and were all
sent away. The river inlets west of Macao and east
of the Bogue were guarded by strong detachments of
troops ; and, as all the other passages were too rocky
and shallow for the foreign ships, they went cruising
along the coasts of China. Thirty-one of them
appeared off the Che Kiang coasts, and five made an
attack upon Amoy, but one of the largest [? the

Chinese Account of the Opium War, 17

" Blonde "] was sunk through the dispositions of the
Viceroy Teng T'ing-cheng [transferred to Foochow
on the 6th of February]. He also shipped a number
of braves on board trading junks, and attacked the
foreign ships at Nainoa. For want of wind, these latter
were unable to get away, and, having no guns astern,
were unable with rifles alone to injure our junks, pro-
tected as they were with bullet-proof mantlets of hide.
We damaged their sterns, and treated them to a
volley of stink-pots and fire-balls, killing several
dozen of the barbarian soldiers. [The " Hellas " was
attacked on the 22nd of May while becalmed, and

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