Chinese Account of the Opium War

Mar 13, 2013 by

opium warAn exact reproduction from an original copy of the book Chinese Account of the Opium War by E. H. Parker, originally published in 1888 and is a translation of the last two chapters of Sheng Wu-ki or “Military Operations of the Present Dynasty.”  The author is Wei Yuan who held in the 1840’s the post of Department Magistrate at Kao-yu, north of Yangehow ; and Wei Yuan’s style has been followed in this translation.

From the Preface:

“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 faithfulness with which the Chinese endeavor 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 mistakes.

“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 consumption 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; 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 Java by this means, and had endeavoured to seduce Annam, which state however had firmly discouraged any relations with them.”

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