Chinese law & custom

This chapter contains articles about Chinese administration of the foreign trade and some annual festivals and customs. There is a profound revelation of the Great Learning in an article dated 3rd May 1836 below that is worthy of careful attention.

Several articles reproduced hereunder were historical at the time of publication and are included to illustrate something of the legal background to the China trade. Principally, the concern of the foreigners was the application of Chinese Law to them, most particularly in respect of homicide.

There was a complete unwillingness by the Company’s ship captains to regulate their crews whilst ashore at Whampoa and Canton. It may be due to the Captain’s own absence from the ship to negotiate the terms of sale of his privileged tonnage and to buy return cargo, although why the other officers could not make suitable arrangements is unclear. Quite likely, had any regulation of the seamen been ordered, that duty would fall on those officers themselves. The officers on India Company ships of course were all merchants in their own right with goods to buy and sell although it appears from some newspaper articles that the officers often delegated authority to their Captain to make their sales and purchases.

In the event, there were regular predictable affrays between groups of unsupervised foreign sailors and groups of young Chinese usually relating to wine, women and money. People were injured on both sides but the fatalities all seemed to occur to Chinese and, unless the Company learned of it early and compromised the next-of-kin with compensation, this almost always led to trade being stopped whilst the case was investigated and the culprits searched for.

Chinese Law was broadly similar to English Law. Intentional killing was a capital offence but many of these affrays were drunken affairs, in so far as the foreigners were concerned, where the intent was often unclear. The subsequent deaths are portrayed quite plausibly in the Canton Register as more in the nature of manslaughter at English Law.

This hint of uncertainty was combined with rare and infrequent examples of capital sentences for what the foreigners did not consider to be capital crimes. Every British history recites them and they are sufficiently well-known to need no further identification but details are in the main text (in the China chapters). They occurred over a long period and were clearly exceptional but were recited to each new foreigner on arrival thus creating and nurturing his fear and uncertainty of Chinese justice. One strange and anomalous aspect is that almost every dispute at Canton involved the English and only very rarely the people of other European nations. It was the case that British trade formed a majority of the Canton maritime trade and was still half the total business in 1830s.

It will be noted that the basic difference between the Western traders and the Chinese officials administering them concerned the concept of growth. The Westerners invariably wanted more year after year whilst the Chinese were mainly concerned to preserve tranquillity. They were satisfied with what was customarily available.

The following articles are mostly from the 1830s when smuggling was the major part of the entire trade, violence had become routine and the usual commercial relationship was breaking down in prospect of the end of the Company’s monopoly and the beginnings of the confrontational free-trade period leading into war.

Vol 1 No 8 – Monday 18th Feb 1828

Lunar New Year is the most important holiday of the year. The seals of government officials are locked away by Imperial command on 20th of 12th moon and the caskets are not re-opened until 20th of 1st moon. Only extraordinary cases are dealt with during this month. All debts incurred in the year are to be discharged and those who cannot pay are abused whilst occasionally others have had their furniture broken.

At the end of the year the people perform various chores. They sweep the hearth and worship the fire god. On New Year’s Eve they heat water perfumed with dried Wong Pei and Pomelo leaves and bathe in it.[1] They then wear their best clothes and caps, kneel down and perform the great Imperial ceremony of triple kow-tow. They light as many candles as they can afford, felicitate all their domestic idols, then travel the neighbourhood temples, burning incense, candles, paper gifts and kneeling and praying. At dawn they conclude their service to the Gods and commence visiting friends and neighbours leaving a red paper card at each house. Some stay at home to receive visitors. Family members, servants and slaves all dress and congratulate the head of house on the advent of a new year. The month is spent visiting, eating and drinking. All shops are shut and artisans unavailable.

Vol 1 No 8 – Monday 18th Feb 1828

Crime and punishment – A clerk at the Board of Revenue has been convicted of forging an Imperial edict and publishing the forgery to another with intent to gain. The tariff is decapitation.

Forging the commands of the Empress or Heir Apparent merits strangulation; those of Governors and Judges and other officials earn 100 blows or transportation for three years depending on the rank of the officer.

Vol 1 No 8 – Monday 18th Feb 1828

4th February this year is Ying Chun, the eve of Spring. The following day is Lap Chun.

On Ying Chun the Chief Magistrate is carried around the district in procession. On Lap Chun he goes to the parade ground to the east of the city. A buffalo is dragged through the streets and stoned all the way supposedly to impel its labours. It is brought to the parade ground and stoned to death. This propitiates an abundant harvest.

Vol 1 No 10 – 8th March 1828

In China the law permits torture to a defined extent but the magistrates often exceed the limits. Compressing men’s ankles and women’s fingers between wooden levers is a common permitted form but there are other illegal methods and there are regular reports of suspects dying in custody. We suspect many of these die from the effects of torture.

For example, an appeal is presently before the Emperor concerning a magistrate in Hupeh province who tortured a murder suspect to death.

Vol 1 No 10 – 8th March 1828

Chinese prisons can be very comfortable to those with money – you can have private apartments, servants and all sorts of food and wine. Chains and fetters are removed except during the daily rounds.

Those with no money live woefully. Their punishment is increased to encourage them to call on friends and relatives to pay on their behalf. These importunities are called ‘buying offerings for the God of the jail’. The convict may be tied and suspended and flogged. At night neck, wrists and ankles are fettered to a board laid on the ground amongst the ordure where rats can do as they please with the restrained body.

Vol 1 No 12 – Sat 22nd March 1828

Letter to the Editor – 17th March is the Fuk Shing To Dei Taan. Taan normally means an anniversary but in religious affairs it is the date when a mortal becomes a God.

Foreigners will see little niches on the street corners of Canton containing stone figures of a bearded old man and an old woman sitting together. These are the To Dei Pau Saat, the earth god and goddess.

On Fuk Shing To Dei Taan all the officials and public wear smart clothes, set off crackers, light candles and make offerings to the To Dei Pau Saat. A complete wardrobe of paper clothes is placed in a paper trunk and burnt to transmit it through the ether to the Gods. The thing most dreaded on this day is rain as it indicates its opposite will characterise the coming year. This belief is recalled in Cantonese poetry :

Daap sup tow dei yee chai, 

Yat pak yat sai

Make the god’s clothes wet, 

One hundred days to dry

The officials perform the three kneelings and nine knocks – ‘Saam Wai Gau Kau’ – and at ceremonies in government offices a master of ceremonies calls out the tasks sequentially – approach the altar, kneel, knock head once, rise, kneel, knock head twice, etc. Whilst performing the ceremony the people often mutter incantations to the God requesting prosperity, for ‘fat choy’ (fortune) is the first petition of a trader’s prayer. Afterwards theatricals are performed for several days. The people set off an enormous rocket called a Fa Pau (flower cannon). A piece of straw mat is placed on top and propelled to considerable height. Whoever it falls on receives extreme good luck and consequently there is considerable competition to obtain possession. He who gets possession of it must provide the Fa Pau for the next year’s festivities. Some invest as much as $100.

This celebration approximates the custom at the new and full moons every lunar month. The 1st and 2nd new moons of each year are particularly important with considerable sacrificing, burnt offerings, wine drinking and lucky money gifts.

The Viceroy announced today that on the 2nd new moon this year he went early to Wan Cheung Pau Saat and offered incense. He then went to the Imperial (red walled, yellow tiled) temple to hear the Sacred Edict.[2] He then went to the Tau Mo Kung to burn incense before returning to his quarters where he received the congratulations of all his subordinates.

The Foo Yuen (literally Soother of the People, the Governor) also attended the Imperial hall. There are sixteen sacred duties that have been read and re-read for the last 30 years. They were written for the use of the people but very few commoners attend. The Governor and his senior staff are obliged to attend so they collect the merit to themselves.

When the Viceroy got home the Hong merchants and Salt merchants were there to congratulate him.

A considerable amount of official visiting is allowed in the Chinese system and this permits acquaintances to develop into friendships and facilitates the discussion of all sorts of business.[3]

Vol 1 No 15 – Sat 12th April 1828

Ching Ming (pure and bright) Festival occurs generally in early April and all persons go to the tombs of their ancestors to weed the area, sweep the grave, make sacrifice, burn paper offerings and joss sticks, share a meal with the deceased and worship the ancestors.

The benevolent seek out tombs of people with no posterity and reverence them too. In Java and in other colonies of overseas Chinese they form societies to honour the destitute dead who would otherwise not be honoured. It is a great fear for a Chinese to have no posterity to care about him.

On Ching Ming Festival, those who suspect their ancestors are interred at an inappropriate location will remove the remains to another place. The bones are collected, wrapped in paper and placed in an urn to be taken to the new location. The old coffin or what remains of it is thrown away.

In Macau recently the Mong Ha (Mandarin – Wang Hea) villagers took advantage of the festival and over one hundred tombs were opened and the occupants removed by their descendants to make way for the new road.

The Macau Road Committee paid each family $6 compensation whether they removed the bones or not. The government will not compel removal.[4]

Vol 1 No 15 – Sat 12th April 1828

Some confused Christians have been saying that bright and colourful Chinese religious parades are preferable to our own lugubrious processions.

In Sun Wui district on 22nd day of 2nd moon they worshipped Confucius, to whose tomb the Emperor sends a Legate annually to worship. A statue of Confucius was carried around the Sun Wui market. Eight stewards were Masters of Ceremonies. Many curious and antique things were brought out and paraded, scores of gongs and drums were sounded, comic theatricals were staged. In the evening ten illuminated flower boats proceeded down the river.

Vol 1 No 21 – Sat 24th May 1828

Sir G T Staunton translated the Laws of the Ching Dynasty. He said he only intended to reveal the spirit of the law and was not making a strict translation.

Part XXXIV deals with the laws relating to foreigners and says they will be punished the same as Chinese. He says this was employed in Macau and at Whampoa but in our opinion it should only apply to those foreigners who have become voluntary subjects of China, or as the law puts it ‘submitted to be transformed, converted or civilised.’ The foreign merchant who does not wish to become Chinese should not be subject to this law.

On Page 523 of Staunton’s translation is an entry that palliative circumstances justify a murder suspect being returned to his own country.

At Page 238 in Section CCXXV there is a heading ‘Illegal export of goods’ (literally “going beyond the frontier and contrary to the prohibition going down to the sea” with or without goods), under which 37 clauses explain the law. This is the section under which all the Canton commerce with foreigners is regulated.

A friend who reads Chinese says these 37 clauses say more about foreigners than any other part of the Laws. But Chinese law continually evolves with each new decision of the Emperor and, as such, Sir George’s translation is already well out of date. China is a country governed by law. Only the Emperor is above the law.

Effectively all foreigners are seen as potential enemies and no intercourse is to be had with them. China chooses to keep her affairs secret from foreigners. Only licensed Chinese can trade with them and all others who contact them are traitors, indeed anyone suspected of giving advice to a foreigner is a traitor. Chinese who teach their language to foreigners, or write a petition for them, or direct a foreigner who is lost – they are all traitors.

The Guangdong Governor in his reply to the Americans, which has been widely published, says he will treat the outside men as traitors. The tariff for treason is, at best, decapitation.[5]

Vol 3 No 11 – Tues 1st June 1830

In 1751 Peter Osbeck, a follower of Linnaeus and himself the Rector of Hasloff, came to Canton as chaplain of the Swedish ship Prince Charles. While here, he was required to tend the foreign community, read morning and evening prayers, confess the people, administer the Lord’s supper, catechise, visit the sick, bury the dead and preach on Sundays and Holidays. He kept a diary during his stay which we quote from hereunder:

In those days the foreign ships landed their cargoes at Whampoa into mat-sheds called Bangsal in Swedish (French Bancasal, English Bankshall). He says on arrival you see a field of rice along the bank on the right. At the river’s edge is a warehouse for English, Swedish and Danish ships. The foreigners had recently made a stone quay with their ships’ ballast where large boats could moor. The French warehouse is on French Island on the left and a little nearer to Canton. The Dutch are required to limit their visits to one ship at a time and they are forbidden to land baggage. Previously they tried to bring cannon ashore but were discovered and are no longer trusted. They finally got their own bankshall in 1761.

Within the bankshalls, which are bamboo frame, mat covered, temporary structures, the foreigners stored their spare marine stores and live chickens and pigs. The structures are open at each end. They contain two rooms for the chief mate and he deploys sailors at each end to guard the contents. It has become the habit of the various nations to cry out ‘all’s well’ from bankshall to bankshall through the night to demonstrate their vigilance. Some also beat a gong. Previously they shot at any thieves who came near but this is no longer permitted. When a ship is about to depart, the cows and pigs for the voyage are killed in the bankshall.

The Rev Osbeck records that during 1751 at Whampoa there were 2 Swedish, 1 Danish, 2 French, 4 Dutch and 9 English ships.

The factories at Canton were then very inferior structures. The factories were warehouses and, whilst they contained our goods, the entrances were guarded by foreign sailors with swords. Armed sailors also went with the chop boats. The European ships stayed for 5 – 12 months. Money was lent to the Chinese traders but only those from whom the trader had borrowed considerably himself, otherwise a debt might be sought in vain.

Rev Osbeck’s ship was obliged to have a fiador (security merchant) who was a rich merchant and was answerable to compromise any claims for damages by either side on the other.

On going up to Canton, the half-way pagoda was then called the Brandy Pagoda because the boat crews were entitled to a tot of brandy when they came abreast of it.

Osbeck recalls going over to the Honam Josshouse to study the local flora and being met by a Chinese who smilingly offered him a pipe of tobacco. He then sought to have Osbeck surrender his silver knee buckles in payment. Osbeck had to flee pursued by a group of children who pelted him with small stones. On another occasion he tried to walk around the city walls but was seen and pelted again.

On 12th October he went by palanquin (costing 2 mace 5 candareens) about 3 miles up river for the funeral of the Dutch supercargo Roberts. The European cemetery was a hillside without fence and indistinguishable from the other hills around it. The tomb inscriptions were not legible and the graves uncared for but he could discern that some Swedish supercargoes and captains had been buried there before. The Chinese merchants who attended mourned with white cotton cloth tied over their ordinary clothes. The widow, who had been born at Batavia, distributed these cloths to the mourners.

Osbeck noted the locals considered foreign ladies like contraband goods. On 17th December Osbeck buried the purser of his own ship at the same place.

Editor’s note – The present generation of foreigners, some with up to 20 years residence, are unaware of this cemetery.

Vol 4 No 16 – Mon 15th August 1831

In 1743 Commodore Anson was admitted to an audience with the Canton Governor.

In 1814 we made a trade agreement (called the ‘Treaty of 1814’ by the Canton Register editor) that is reproduced below. In consideration of the relative bargaining positions of the parties it is a good agreement. The present position is a derogation from 1814. It is clear the foreign community was held in higher respect formerly than now:

Conference in 1814 between Sir George Staunton and others of the Select and various officials deputed by the Governor. Staunton started the proceedings by producing a letter from the Company’s Taipan Elphinstone, President of the Select Committee, listing the Company’s grievances:

  • Complaint 1 – Our petitions are in English but the Linguists misinterpret them.
  • Answer 1 – Your chief may petition in Chinese (later extended to others ‘writing on the order of the Chief’) but it must be in proper form and language. If improper it will be rejected. It will refer only to matters of importance. Any matters concerning trade must be taken up with the Hoppo not the Viceroy. Matters concerning the Tung Che of Macau, the Heung Shan Heen or the Macau Tso Tong should be addressed directly to those officers. At Whampoa foreign enquiries are dealt with by the Poon Yu Heen and the overseer of Kau Tong Sze. Memorials to the Emperor must be in foreign language to maintain our national dignity.
  • Grievance 2 – The terms man and yee describing foreigners in official communications are contemptuous and should not be used.
  • Answer 2 – Man describes natives of the south seas and Yee natives of the West seas just as Han describes Chinese. They are only names without contempt. Moreover Macau is under the jurisdiction of the Heung Shan heen whose orders cannot be disregarded for phraseology. Refused.
  • Grievance 3 – Local officials do not give foreigners any notice of their visits to the factories
  • Answer 3 – Officials go to the factories to prevent traitorous Chinese from troubling the foreigners. It is not suspicious. If prior notice is required we shall give it.
  • Grievance 4 – The Company’s captains going up and down the river on business are stopped at the Customs Houses.
  • Answer 4 – the inspection is to prevent smuggling. In future they will be searched at the Canton Customs House. If clear, they may go up and down the river without restraint. If found smuggling they will be checked at every Customs House en route to their destination.
  • Grievance 5 – The foreigners require several hundred servants for trade. If we employ Indians, disputes may arise with the Chinese.
  • Answer 5 – The coolies, gatekeepers, cooks, tea-makers and compradors are essential to the foreigners in Macau and Canton and should be allowed. Footmen are not allowed. The Hoppo will check the numbers of men required at the 13 factories here and the Company’s factory in Macau and register their names and numbers.
  • Grievance 6 – The warships that convoy our merchantmen anchor at Chuen Pi, Kau Yee Chau, Lintin and / or Cabrita Point but when the wind changes they must move their anchorage. They always stay together. They require compradors as before.
  • Answer 6 – A fixed anchorage for warships was established by Governor Na in consultation with the Emperor in 1805. Only the Company’s ships come under convoy. If warships on convoy duty anchor at the fixed place they may have compradors while the merchants ships remain at Whampoa but as soon as they leave, the warships must relinquish their compradors and go too.
  • Grievance 7 – When merchant ships are at Whampoa and the warships are outside the river, we need boats to communicate between the two. These boats should not have to report to Customs Houses or war junks.
  • Answer 7 – the Customs House staff do not know which vessel is a warship’s boat and which a merchant’s boat. They are only concerned to stop smuggling. If boats go from Canton or Whampoa to deliver letters they need only be searched once at their respective point of departure. Boats coming from outside the river with letters will be checked at Wong Tong Customs House (at the Bogue). If the boat is not smuggling, they will be given a permit to show on the way that will exempt them from search.
  • Grievance 8 – A country ship with Port Clearance was leaving port when she was fired on by a war junk. This should be prohibited.
  • Answer 8 – When a cleared vessel is leaving the Customs House will in future send information to the forts so they can expect her departure.
  • Grievance 9 – When England is at war and our enemy takes our ships as prizes, the cargoes should not be allowed to be sold in China.
  • Answer 9 – When a foreign ships arrives at the Ladrones a pilot boards and checks where she comes from and if she really has cargo. He then takes her to Macau for registration. He then takes her to the Bogue where she is examined and another pilot takes her up the river. That has long been the regulation. If the foreign ships fight at sea that is nothing to do with China. When a foreign ship comes to Canton we ask only to see its licence. We do not ask where the cargo comes from.

Further unilateral note from the Chinese side:

  • When we accuse and try natives, the foreigners sometimes try to involve themselves. In future, if foreigners are implicated in a criminal matter, a letter will be sent to the Company’s factory requiring enquiries. If no such document is sent, the matter does not involve foreigners and they should not enquire about it.

The Treasurer says – Elphinstone’s petition is not foolish or improper. Most of what he wants is already given him under the old regulations but foreigners are suspicious and create non-existent doubts. He may be reassured as above.

The governor approves and remits the case to the Hoppo.

The Hoppo approves and sends the instructions to the English chief.

Document dated 2nd December 1814

Vol 3 No 16 – Wed 18th August 1830

The foreign trade system in 1770’s – We have perused an old Chinese document from 1759 concerning foreigners in China. This lists the motives for the present trading regulations.

Recently the government alleged the system of Security Merchants, Linguists, Compradors, etc., was for the benefit of foreigners. But Governor Lee revealed its true purpose was to oppress and discourage us.

The government appoints Hong merchants over foreigners and natives. The Hong merchants select Linguists for the approval of government. Then both groups ensnare the foreigners in a ring of hucksters. Foreigners are not allowed to hire local servants without the Comprador’s approval. That approval relies on the sanction of the Linguist and eventually the Hong merchant. The foreigner resides in the Hong merchant’s warehouse surrounded by these people. Coolies of the Hong merchant wait outside to stop the foreigner as we are not supposed to have any contact with Chinese people. Is this for the benefit of foreigners? Why do we not feel the benevolent compassion of this Empire towards us? Having said all that, here is a statement that the Hong merchants made to Foo Yuen (Governor) Lee in 1777:

The Foo Yuen starts by saying he is appointed acting Hoppo. As the Hong merchants regulate foreign trade since the new law of 1759,[6] he wishes to ask questions of them.

Q. When the foreign ship arrives and discharges its cargo to the Hong merchant, do you delay its departure by delaying agreement on the price to be paid?

A. 20-30 ships come and go in 4-5 months each year. The value of the imports is immense. We have to both warehouse the goods here and send them off to the provinces for sale on behalf of the foreigners. Only after sale can we pay for them. Consequently since 1759 (the year Kien Lung moved trade to Canton under restrictive regulations – ‘tea reins’ as he called them) a few foreigners of each nation are allowed to live here to settle accounts and after that they go to Macau until the ships return. When the ships come back, these representatives return from Macau and we pay them for last year’s goods. Although we cannot sell goods immediately, we never intentionally delay payment.

Q. Do the foreigners live in the Hong merchants factories? Do the Hong merchants prevent them meeting with treacherous natives? May the foreigners hire servants?

A. The foreigners live in the factories and a new street has been made (New China Street) containing some small shops where the miscellaneous items that foreign merchants and seamen need are available. By this means they have no reason to venture away from the factories. We have stationed men at street corners to prevent them wandering off and to prevent natives from wandering in. The foreigners do employ coolies and porters. They also deal with shopkeepers for their daily food and vegetables. All these Chinese servants and compradors are approved by the Linguists who have bonded themselves to us to be responsible for them.

Q. Are there any faithless Hong merchants who sell goods to the foreigners too cheaply in order to gain their goodwill and thus undersell their brother merchants? Are there any who cause the prices to fall when selling the foreigners’ goods? Are there any indebted to the foreigners? Are there any who mix good articles with bad and cause the foreigners to complain?

A. We always try to act justly. Occasionally someone may buy (exports) dear and sell (imports) cheap at the foreigners’ expense. If we find any one of us doing that we report him to the government. We never mix bad with good but it is possible that some tea gets adulterated. The supply comes from Wu Yi Hills in Fukien and Waichow in Keangnan, far from Canton. The chests are many and not every single chest can be observed on every moment of its journey. Sometimes it happens that the porters open a chest, exchange the contents and shut it up as before. None of us knows of the fraud until the foreigner arrives at his own country and opens the chest. Then they bring the chest back. This is uncommon and we always fully compensate them. We would not involve ourselves in this because our customers are always the same people and we have to maintain our reputation.

Q. As the foreigners live in your factories, no Chinese may visit them, neither can you or your staff befriend them. If I find shopmen have borrowed money from them or received money to buy goods for them, both the shopman and you will be seized and prosecuted for the shopman’s debts.

A. It is a good law that we Hong merchants should be responsible for the foreign trade and stop natives forming improper relationships with foreigners. If a Hong merchant was remiss in watching foreigners, the shopmen would take the opportunity to catch his business. It would help us if you issue an order as soon as the first foreign ships arrive warning all the people from connecting with foreigners.[7] Those wild shopmen who importune foreigners in their lodgings are just peddlers with a few items for sale. They could not trade in large amounts and are clearly unworthy of loans. They certainly could not go to the interior to buy goods for the foreigners as we do. Nevertheless, we will use our best efforts to prevent foreigners from meeting Chinese and any we catch will be seized for punishment. We will tell the foreigners that there are many bad people who are beyond trust but who will seek them out to take their money. If we thus warn them against the peddlers etc., it will keep the foreigners from liaising with Chinese.

After Foo Yuen Lee received this advice from the Co-Hong he ordered as follows:

“Even if the foreigners bring vast amounts of goods which cannot be sold at once, still there are many merchants coming to Canton from other provinces to buy. If you paid the foreigners the money you received on sale immediately, you would not give them an excuse to tarry. You do not have to send the goods to other provinces to sell. You can sell them at your own factories. You have misled me to help the foreigners to stay longer. There must be no craftiness or deceit.
You are responsible to keep the foreigners from liaising with Chinese. Don’t tell me about shopmen trading with them in mere trifles when right now you have debts to the foreigners of ten of thousands of dollars. Your partners and others have borrowed foreigners’ money intending to set up Hongs of their own. They have not restrained their borrowings and, because they are your partners, the foreigners trust them and lend to them. All goods are sold at the factories and pass through your hands. How can you say you are ignorant of it.
If any shopman fails to pay his debts to foreigners, you Hong merchants alone will be answerable. At the same time you will let the shopmen know they are strictly forbidden to enter the lodgings of the foreigners. This proclamation is recorded in the Hoppo’s office. It will be well for you to comply.

Vol 3 No 17 – Wed 25th Aug 1830

There is a single instance of a foreigner making an appeal to the Emperor. This occurred at about the same time (early 1760’s when trade was first confined to Canton). It was the case of Flint, a Eurasian working for the English Company, who was instructed by the Select to request that trade at Canton end and the former trade at Ningpo recommence. He sailed to Tientsin with a complaint against the Cantonese Provincial government and an Imperial Commissioner (Kin Chai) was sent to investigate.

The interpreter Liu Ah Pin who accompanied Flint on the journey was seized and executed. Flint himself was imprisoned three years at Casa Branca and then banished.

The Company admitted he acted on their order and should be liberated but the Canton government refused. After he had served his term, the Canton Viceroy Soo and the Foo Yuen Ming wrote to the Company:

‘Hung Jin Wui (Flint) is a foreign trader at Canton. He conspired with the traitor Liu Ah Pin to reopen Ningpo to foreign trade. He went to Tientsin to complain the Canton government to the Emperor. He was tried by an Imperial Commissioner and found guilty. He should thank the Emperor that only Liu’s head was taken and displayed. Now this year his 3-year sentence is complete. You previously asked that he be returned to your country. The Emperor now consents. He will be delivered to Pe Chew (Pigou), the Taipan of the English merchants, to be taken back on the first available ship.[8] All you foreigners have been especially favoured by the compassion of the Emperor, not just Flint. You should leap for joy and turn towards China for civilisation.

We expect you to transmit this document to your King to ensure Flint is restrained and does not again enter China. We also expect your King to command those coming to China for trade to exhibit reverence and respect, to keep to their stations, to trade quietly and cause no trouble so they do not become enmeshed in the net of the Law.

It is imperative this command reach your King, for whom it is intended.

Vol 3 No 21 – Sat 16th Oct 1830

We publish another tale of Chinese jurisdiction over foreigners. In December 1780 a French sailor of the country ship Success Galley killed a Portuguese sailor from the Stormont in Sen Qua’s Hong in Canton. The man took refuge with the French Consul for several days but was finally surrendered and strangled on the Foo Yuen’s order. We think this was the first incident of a foreigner being tried in a Chinese court for the murder of another foreigner. It makes a dangerous precedent.

Foreigners generally suppose that they do not come within Chinese law and may not enjoy such privileges as are accorded to the Chinese. They are managed under rules devised by the provincial government and no problems have arisen because money paid by the Security Merchants solves all problems. It seems bribery is fundamental to our security.

Vol 3 No 21 – Sat 16th Oct 1830

Another case of foreigners submitting to Chinese criminal jurisdiction was in about 1790 when a British gunner was ordered to scale his gun by his officer. When the wadding was shot through the barrel, it caused the death of a Chinese boatman nearby. The gunner was delivered up for trial and soon afterwards was returned dead for burial.

We are mentioning these old cases because a Select Committee of the British House of Commons is presently investigating the China trade and has taken the view that a man accused of murder should be tried in the country having jurisdiction over him.

Our readers should know that the American consul in the Terranova affair (Wilcocks) resigned his position in disgust at the failure of the American flag to provide protection to the man.

Vol 3 No 22 – Tues 2nd November 1830

George Staunton in his Penal Laws of China says ‘foreigners almost from the first have been exempt from Chinese criminal law except in capital cases’. In such cases, he notes an exception declared by the Hoppo in the 1808 case of Edward Sheen whereby the offender was returned to his own nationals for punishment.

In all other cases Chinese law makes it incumbent on the head of the involved foreign nation to identify the man and deliver him to justice. The Chinese insist on our obedience to their homicide laws without permitting us to learn their language and customs so we might understand how the law is applied. Chinese courts are not open to foreigners. We cannot obtain any protection from them for our grievances.[9] Their punishments are horrendous. We should not submit to their criminal law unless we have access to their civil law.

Vol 3 No 23 – Mon 15th November 1830

Letter to the Editor (from ‘an Englishman’):

The application of Chinese criminal law to foreigners is a difficult subject and your article last week is useful. I think the British government should provide a court with jurisdiction over foreigners in China to replace the injustice that is available from the Chinese themselves.

Staunton’s Penal Laws of China indicates a line whereat on the one side submission is disgraceful while on the other resistance is unjustifiable. This uncertainty produces a want of confidence in which we have sometimes surrendered important privileges and at others responded excessively, bringing our valuable trade to the brink of destruction.

I append an old European record of a case in which the Chinese waived their jurisdiction:

In December 1762 a sailor from the Dutch ship Achat quarrelled with a friend, took out a knife and plunged it into the friend’s heart causing instant death. He was immediately hurried back on board and put in irons to prevent Chinese interference (as had occurred 12 years previously when Block was Director of the VOC at Canton). After the boat had cast off, a message was sent to the Security Merchant reporting the case. Only Chit Qua could be found and he merely said to preserve the scene until the officials can be informed. On the following afternoon, the Nam Hoi Magistrate came to view the body and, after examination of the depth of the wound, it was buried on Honam. The Magistrate proposed serious punishment for the culprit and demanded the surrender of the knife but neither man nor implement could be found.

On the following day a French baker, who had been confined 6 years, was given 50 strokes and released. His offence had been to strike a Chinese on the head which injury unexpectedly caused his later death.

Vol 4 No 15 – Tues 2nd August 1831

Editorial – In a recent issue concerning the current dispute over trading conditions, a reference was made to Captain Murray Maxwell who in 1816 in HMS Alceste passed the Bogue and entered the river under fire of forts and junks.

His justification for doing so is questionable. The Chinese are skilful in insults. They inflict humiliation but shop short of those acts that would manifestly require retribution.

Consider the matter of property – the officials avoid entering houses to take it but create rules that cannot be complied with and thus entrap a man into bringing his property within their ambit.

In Maxwell’s case the British embassy remained in China and might have been held responsible for his actions. He was in no danger from the guns, not because they were defective but for want of skill in Chinese use of them.

It was a noble act for him to personally fire the first gun. This removed the fear of the seamen that if they shot at the Chinese they might later be surrendered for execution. The fact is that Europeans in China will not be respected until they exhibit the sense of honour that Maxwell exhibited.

Vol 4 No 20 – Sat 15th October 1831

We review here the matter of Admiral Drury’s visit to China from a book written immediately after the event and from the evidence given by Marjoribanks to Parliament on the China trade.[10] Whatever Drury’s orders were, the incident left the appearance that Drury’s (and British) determination failed before Chinese inflexibility:

The landing of British troops at Macau produced a Chinese order for cessation of all trade and communication with the English. No explanation was accepted by the Chinese. The position of the Viceroy of the Two Kwong was ‘withdraw your troops and trade will recommence’. No negotiations were allowed until this preliminary step was taken. Throughout October and November 1808 repeated attempts to negotiate were frustrated by the Chinese. In early November two frigates (HMS Phaeton and Dedaigeneuse) were moved up from Macau to Whampoa whilst a capital ship, the Russell (74), was anchored at 2nd bar.

Drury had meetings with various officials but could not see the Viceroy. The Hong merchants had promised him an interview with the Viceroy but, as he was a King’s officer and not of the Company’s Select Committee, the officials declined to arrange it.

The Admiral went to Canton and said he would enter the Viceroy’s yamen anyway in 30 minutes. The Viceroy told him not to come but to turn back. The Select explained to the Chinese officials at Macau that Drury was not under their control but the officials replied that Drury’s warships came and took prizes which were unfriendly acts and then they took possession of Macau which was totally unacceptable and the Admiral must withdraw his force from Chinese soil before we will speak with you.

In mid-November the Admiral went up to Whampoa and, escorted by all the armed boats of the Company and country ships anchored there, continued to Canton where he stayed for 2 days. By that time the Chinese had assembled a large body of troops around Canton and brought up a large number of warjunks which they filled with soldiers and moored across the river 2-3 miles below the town. Some foreigners feared for their safety but this was discounted.

On 21st November Drury withdrew the British community from Canton and took them to Whampoa (with over $1,000,000 in property). The Chinese prevented any articles made in China and any sycee silver from being taken away.

On 29th November the Admiral returned to Canton purportedly to collect a consignment of liquor from one of the factories for the shipping but more likely to see if the Chinese would oppose him and to see the disposition of their forces. Every Company and country ship sent two boats fully manned and armed with carronades, etc., to escort him. About 3 miles from Canton they met a row of war junks across the river and came under grapeshot fire from a fort. The admiral stopped his little fleet and proceeded alone with a Portuguese priest as interpreter. As he approached the leading war junk, the interpreter stood up and was fired on. Each time the interpreter tried to speak, the Chinese responded with shooting and one of the foreign seamen in Drury’s boat was wounded. The admiral then ordered the attack but none of the boats in his flotilla responded. He did not repeat his order.

Marjoribanks gave evidence that he believed Drury to be a courageous man but lacking in the cool judgement necessary to carry the day. He thinks the attempt should never have been made because in China a threat once made, if not executed, diminishes one’s prospects of success. Drury returned with his fleet to Whampoa and the troops were withdrawn from Macau on 16th December.

The stoppage of trade and communications was lifted on 22nd December. Throughout the hostilities, the English at Macau, Whampoa and Canton received supplies from their compradors but only on day-to-day basis and the servants were all supposed to be withdrawn although some continued at their posts by remaining constantly indoors.

We conclude that it was fortunate that no bloodshed occurred throughout the confrontation. After Drury’s withdrawal the Chinese built a pagoda at Macau to commemorate their victory.

Vol 5 No 4 – Thurs 16th February 1832

Letter to the Editor:

You recently published some information about Taiwan. I subsequently made a study of two Chinese texts – one a statistical account of Chinese productions in Taiwan and the other about the city of Taiwan, its capital (Tai Chung). It seems inconceivable that such a large island should not have been discovered by the Chinese until the 15th century as alleged by European historians (Grosier et al) or the mid 14th century as asserted by Chinese writers – the northern part is on the trade route from Fukien to the Loo Choo islands.

There are also very ancient references in Chinese texts to seeing the Pescadores from the mainland (which lie three quarters of the way to Taiwan). These Peng Hu islands are mentioned in the annals of the Kai Hwang Emperor of the Sui dynasty (589 – 601AD) wherein it says they are near to Pe Sha Na, an island of naked savages speaking an unintelligible language. These people were recorded to be fond of iron and attached a cord to their javelins to ensure they did not lose the iron tip. The present aborigines of Taiwan attach cords to their javelins too. The Kai Hwang Emperor sent an officer to inspect the Peng Hu islands. He found 36 islands and the inhabitants lived solely on fish although their land was suitable pasture for sheep and cattle.

Taiwan is not again mentioned in the Chinese records until the end of the Yuan dynasty (mid-14th century) when it came under mainland control. M Klaproth (in his Memoire of Asia) suspects the Chinese did not claim Taiwan as Chinese territory because the inhabitants were barbarous and sent neither tribute nor ambassador to the Emperor. It was part of the Hwang Fu.[11]

In the Ming the occupants of Peng Hu were first all removed to Fukien to deny facilities to pirates. Pirates nevertheless occupied those islands and China sent a force to drive them out. It re-peopled the islands and fortified some. In 1430 the eunuch Wang Shan Pau was shipwrecked on Taiwan and reported his experiences. In 1563-1564 the pirate Lin Tau Keen led Japanese wako to rob along the Chinese coast and Admiral Yu Ta Yew pursued him to Peng Hu and drove him out to Taiwan. Lin Tau Keen was involved in fighting with the Taiwan aborigines until he left for Canton.

In 1620 a Chinese, who held an official position in Japan, landed at Taiwan with Japanese supporters and joined Cheng Jee Lung, the father of Koxinga (Cheng Sing Kung). Chinese emigration to Taiwan dates mainly from about that time. Concurrently the Dutch arrived. An amusing story is told of how they obtained land from the Chinese. In 1621 they first asked for land for a factory but were told the area requested was too large. They then asked for a piece of land that could be enclosed by an oxhide and offered a high price for it. The Chinese official agreed. The Dutch then cut a hide into thin strips, joined them end to end and used this to enclose a piece of ground adequate for a building which they called Fort Zeelandia. The following year they occupied the main island of Peng Hu and built another fort there.

On the accession of the Ching dynasty, Ming loyalists based in Fukien and led by Cheng Sing Kung (Koxinga) tried for 11 years to expel the Manchu but eventually required a place of sanctuary and occupied Taiwan from whence they expelled the Dutch. After his death, Koxinga’s son and grandson successively controlled Taiwan. The Kang Hsi Emperor overcame the grandson in 1682 by pardoning all the Ming loyalists on Taiwan and allowing them back provided they shaved the front of their heads and wore the queue as tokens of submission. With the loss of most of his supporters, the grandson was unable to withstand a Chinese assault on the Peng Hu islands and submitted to the Emperor.

Kang Hsi was unsure if he wanted Taiwan. The Fukien admiral who subdued Peng Hu pressed the Emperor to take Taiwan as it could easily be accomplished and by listing the pros and cons, influenced the Emperor to retain it. His irrefutable point was that its conquest would bring the Taiwan straits totally under Chinese control, permitting a smaller naval force at Chekiang and Fukien. This would in turn reduce piracy, increase productivity and more tax would flow to the court. Finally he thought that the island could not subsequently be used as a centre for subversion. He said Koxinga’s grandson Cheng Huk Song had ten sons of whom one or two might be talented. If they took the whole island and allied with foreigners (spectre of the Dutch) they would become problematic.

Since then Taiwan has seldom figured in mainline Chinese thinking except to prevent it becoming a refuge for alienated Chinese. To this end formal emigration was made peculiarly difficult. The island is the scene of frequent insurrections and the Chinese occupants (in the western plains) wage a continual war with the aborigines (in the eastern hills). Signed – Anonymous

Vol 5 No 4 – Thurs 16th February 1832

Historical note of a successful negotiation with the Chinese:

18th October 1716 – The Ann from Madras came to Canton bringing a seized Chinese junk from Amoy as security for a claim in damages of 15,000 Taels sustained at that port. The government was appraised, enquiries made and the Amoy officials were found to have cheated the foreigners. 27 months later, on 16th January 1719, an Imperial Order required the Amoy officials to give restitution. It confiscated some of their estates to the government.

The supercargo of the Susanna at Canton, who reported the matter, noted the occurrence of this investigation caused the provincial officials to ‘treat us better’. Trade became so good that by 1719, Madras sent two ships.

Vol 5 No 5 – Thurs 8thMarch 1832

Historical note of another successful negotiation with the Chinese from Captain King’s Voyage in HMS Discovery, 1780:

A few weeks before our arrival in China, Captain Panton of HMS Seahorse (24) had arrived at Canton from Madras to collect a debt of nearly £1,000,000 (mainly compound interest) owing to various British subjects of India and Europe.[12] He was ordered to insist on an interview with the Viceroy which by threats he obtained. He received a satisfactory answer and shortly after he left, an Edict was published to the European houses prohibiting any foreigners from lending to Chinese. The prohibition was placarded in the streets so Chinese would not solicit loans from foreigners. The Consoo fund was then inaugurated to tax the foreign trade and settle the principal sum of the debt by instalments. This was the last time a British officer met the Viceroy to discuss trade.

The Chinese merchants who had incurred the debts were terrified. If the Emperor found out, they might lose their lives as well as their Estates. The Select Committee was also reluctant, percipiently fearing its involvement might make trading more difficult in future. The then President of the Select said the Canton officials repeatedly threatened to stop trade on inconsequential pretexts and the Company had to pay to get the restraint removed.

These occasional squeezes were increasing and it was feared the Company would either have to abandon China-trade or submit to the sort of conditions that the Dutch accepted in Japan.[13]

Vol 5 No 6 – Sat 17thMarch 1832

A friend of the Editor’s is acquainted with Staunton who arrived in China as a boy 50 years ago and was called to the Viceroy’s yamen as they had never seen a foreign child before.

Staunton still recalls his shock at seeing the thick rouge on the face of the Viceroy’s lady. She waved a kerchief over his face to see if it was also powdered. Later she pushed up his coat sleeve to examine the colour of his skin.

He subsequently received good attention from the Viceroy. When the Viceroy was embarking from the Company’s steps later to visit a Cochin China ambassador, he called for the youth and received him kindly.

Vol 5 No 6 – Sat 17thMarch 1832

  • Company records for the 1719-20 season note that the officials had organised merchants that trade with foreigners into an association under the control of the Hoppo. The Company’s supercargoes feared it would damage trade.
  • In the season 1720-21 the supercargoes found the new association of Chinese merchants a pernicious thing. All those smaller merchants that were excluded from the association told the India Company they had to pay the Hoppo 40% on teas and 30% on everything else that they sold to foreigners. The supercargoes of the Morice, Frances Cadogon and Macclesfield then kept their ships out of port. All attempts to settle the matter failed until they applied to the Viceroy who dissolved the Association whereupon the Hoppo reverted to the customary basis of trade.
  • In the 1739-40 season an unidentified Chinese tried to force his way into the English factory and was wounded by the sentry. The matter was resolved by paying the man’s medical bills.
  • In the 1741-42 season a new Foo Yuen was appointed and the Hoppo was also transferred. Many privileges were then withdrawn from the foreigners who all agreed to stop trade after which the new restrictions were removed.

It seems from these examples that the history of foreign trade at Canton is a series of attempts by officials to increase their exactions followed by the foreigners’ threat to remove trade to another port (several were still open then). This always coaxed the Canton officials into accommodating the foreigners to protect their existing income rather than lose-out altogether. We cannot find out when the practice of placing armed guards at the factories was discontinued but it was a misfortune for us.

Vol 5 No 6 – Sat 17thMarch 1832

More extracts from the Company’s records:

In 1736 the new Kien Lung Emperor revoked the 10% duty. The Company officials were called into the Governor’s yamen to hear the Edict read (they were ordered to kneel but successfully resisted the order). A reference, later in the same archival year, notes that no audience could be had with the Viceroy without kneeling.

In 1744 Commodore Anson visited and had an audience with the Governor but this event is missing from the Company’s records.

In 1747-48 a Company officer refused to submit his writing case to the Hoppo’s men for search. The involved Linguist was put in chains. On learning this, the officer surrendered his writing case which was found at that time to contain nothing of interest. The Governor demanded the officer be surrendered for punishment. He was refused and trade was stopped. An interview with the Viceroy was requested and agreed but finally the supercargoes were told that the Linguist had been released and the Viceroy was too busy to see them.

In 1755-56 the supercargoes waited 7 hours to see the Governor to present a petition requesting they be permitted to trade with outside men and not be restricted to Hong merchants. They were allowed to trade with outside men for small things but the company’s trade continued to be through the Hongs.

In 1789 two members of the factory were invited by the Hoppo to join a deputation to Peking to celebrate the Emperor’s 80th birthday.[14]

Vol 6 Nos 15 & 16 – Thurs 24thOctober 1833

A correspondent has offered to send us information on Chinese law. We all know that it is the disobedience of Imperial law by local officials at Canton that causes the difficulties for foreigners in China. We have previously mentioned the laws of the Tang and Sung dynasties. The Yuan (Mongol) were particularly friendly to foreigners. Even the Manchu Kang Hsi Emperor was fair minded about us. It should not offend the Chinese to be reminded of the principles of their ancestors.

However, it is regrettable that the Jesuits, who had access to the government archives and even the Emperor, never assisted their countries by explaining and introducing their own national customs to the Court.

Now English commentators are pressing us to obey the laws of China, we might reasonably ask ‘what are they’? In the autocratic Chinese system the Emperor’s edict is law. Those edicts that concern foreigners should have been sent to Canton for our information. They should be published to put an end to fraud and deception. We deplore the fact that for so many years we have not referred to them in our disputes with provincial officials.

It is also the case that there is no customs tariff published in English. Both the imperial edicts and the Chinese customs tariff are in our possession and we hope to see translations of the relevant parts before long.[15] Kang Hsi granted extensive liberties and privileges to foreigners trading at the principal emporiums along the coast. We should like to publish that document as well. So long as our actions are founded on the instructions of the Emperor we can expect justice on our side. This can prevent future misunderstanding until such time as the situation between our countries is settled.

Vol 6 No 17 – Fri 15th November 1833

Taiwan – when people say the Dutch occupied this island in 17th century they really mean the Dutch had some forts on the coast while the island in fact remained with the natives, an inoffensive tribe of aboriginals speaking a language similar to that of the northern Philippines. There were never enough Dutch to develop the production of Taiwan and they were fighting with the Spanish and Portuguese for hegemony as well as the natives.

A great increase in Taiwan’s population followed the Manchu conquest of China. Fukienese farmers and artisans sailed across the straits and were welcomed by the few Dutch. The Governor at Batavia nevertheless increased the garrison at Zeelandia to 1,200 men as the settlers became politicised by Koxinga. Armed disputes broke out but were resolved.

The Dutch meanwhile built a second fort at Taiwan Foo (Tai Chung). In 1633 a Dutch embassy went to Peking and Koxinga was deeply resentful of it. He attacked Nanking unsuccessfully but routed the Manchu fleet on his way back and pirated a few Dutch ships at Peng Hu. The Dutch complained of the level of duty charged by Koxinga’s officials at the ports he controlled. The parties became estranged and embittered. Meanwhile the Chinese settlers in Taiwan fell increasingly under the influence of Koxinga’s representatives there.

The Dutch recognised the likely outcome of the situation and sent a large fleet from Batavia to confront Koxinga and hopefully solicit an agreement. Koxinga was evasive and dilatory but came to Batavia for talks. Meanwhile the fleet left. On his return Koxinga laid siege to Taiwan Foo. The accidental blowing-up of a Dutch man-of-war helped. The Dutch governor offered to cede the greater part of the Dutch claim to Koxinga if he would end the siege. Koxinga insisted on the surrender of all the Dutch forts. This was intolerable and the Dutch organised a sortie and spiked many of the Chinese guns. Eventually a relief force arrived the following year (1661) finding the fort half in Dutch and half in Chinese hands. The Viceroy of Fukien made an alliance with the Dutch to destroy Koxinga. The Dutch then dispersed their fleet (apparently to take Koxinga’s ports and thus his revenue) Koxinga pressed his attack on Taiwan Foo more strenuously and breached the walls. The defenders then capitulated in February 1662 and were allowed to withdraw with all their property. Since then the Dutch have not tried to recover the island.

It is a valuable island but the inhabitants are ungovernable. The rebellion at the end of Kien Lung’s reign was the fiercest and cruellest. Now the officials complain the stubbornness of the people while the people complain the injustice of the authorities.

Vol 7 No 1 – Tues 7th January 1834

American China trade – The first ship sent from the United States to China was the Empress with a crew of 43 under Capt John Green. The supercargo, Samuel Shaw, wrote a report on the voyage on 19th May 1785. She sailed from New York in Feb 1784 and arrived at Macau in August. Shaw reached Canton on 30th August and stayed until 27th December 1784. No details of the cargo are provided.

Shaw says:

“On arrival at Macau the French Consul Vieillard and some attendants boarded to welcome us and introduce us to the Portuguese governor. We spent all our time with these French and the Swedes and Imperialists (Austrians) who still remained in Macau. The other Europeans had already gone up to Canton. We also proceeded there and took quarters with the French. They provided men, boats and anchors so we could secure our ship safely.

“For the next three days we were visited by the Hong merchants and the foreign traders. The Chinese were very welcoming and called us the ‘new people’. When we told them the extent of our country and its population, they were pleased at the prospect of new customers for their goods.

“The situation of Europeans at Canton is well known. The good understanding usually subsisting between them and the Chinese has recently been interrupted by two events.

“Firstly, the officials are strict and the Europeans are kept within very narrow limits. These limits have latterly been encroached upon and the foreign community had resolved to demand redress from the Hoppo. Representatives of every nation and I, as the representative of the new country, met the Hoppo on an English ship and explained the complaint which was then rectified.

“The second event was the surrender of the gunner of the Lady Hughes last year (1784). On 25th November an English ship gave a salute to some people who were leaving after dinner. In doing so one Chinese was killed and two others wounded. They had been in an official boat tied alongside. Chinese law demands a life for a life. The operator of the gun that had caused the death was required to be surrendered for execution. There were immediate and repeated conferences between the English and Chinese and eventually it appeared the matter had been settled.

“Notwithstanding this, on 27th November the ship’s supercargo, Smith, whilst ashore was seized, pushed into a sedan chair and carried into the city where he was imprisoned. The foreign community was outraged and unanimously agreed to bring up their ships’ boats with armed men to Canton for protection until the matter had been resolved. As the boats came up they were fired upon and a man wounded. The Chinese stopped all trade and their warjunks appeared in the river opposite the factories. Provincial troops then collected around the factories. The Chinese insisted to trade Smith for the gunner. Chinese servants in the factories were withdrawn. The gates connecting the factories to the suburbs were closed and the troops on the warjunks were embarked in boats for landing.

“The Chinese then asked for a conference with all nations except the English. We met the Foo Yuen (Provincial Governor) who told us of his power and insisted the gunner be surrendered in three days. He told us if the gunner was surrendered, he would be impartially examined before a legal tribunal and, if the death he had caused was determined to be accidental, he would be released. He then authorised the trade of every nation except the English to be resumed. He gave us each two pieces of silk. After this the foreign nations sent away their boats one by one under Chinese flags. In this way the English were isolated and induced to submit.

“I am pleased to say that America was the last country to send its boats back (without a Chinese flag) and that I did so only when the English advised me to do so. They delivered up the gunner and Smith was released. The English were then required to publicly apologise before the assembled international community after which their trade was restored. The English chief and four assistants visited each foreign factory in turn and gave thanks for the help rendered. The gunner meanwhile remained in Chinese custody.”

Shaw’s report ends thus. He left Canton after Christmas and apparently the gunner was still imprisoned, a month after his surrender. There is no mention of the date of the gunner’s execution. We are checking his narrative against the Company records and will report any inconsistencies in due course.

Vol 7 No 2 – Tues 14th January 1834

The Constitution of China – from a contributor

In our lifetimes we have seen the feudal system that was pressed upon us by our Germanic ancestors destroyed. The rule of Kings and aristocrats is ruined. Europe is in confusion. In the Americas many countries have gained independence. The strongholds of despotism in central and eastern Europe and in Asia will be swept away by the march of intellect. Our national constitutions are changing. Let us not look back with regret nor be elated by the new order but wisely accommodate ourselves to change and improvement by constant alteration.

The Chinese empire alone, though repeatedly subdued, has remained unchanged for ages. The barbarians who conquered Rome also conquered here. But they never changed the political institutions. Thus Chinese authorities still practise the theory of patriarchal government.[16]

The Pope arrogates a divine supremacy on Earth. So does the Chinese Emperor. The Chinese call their country Tien Ha (literally ‘under the sky’ – conceivably the entire globe), and the Emperor studies the stars to predict the future (particularly eclipses, comets and meteor showers). He maintains justice on earth as the instrument of Heaven.[17] While the whole world is his, he permits independent states peopled by barbarians. They are insignificant as the periphery cannot compare with the heartland. Occasionally his celestial majesty warns his neighbours but compassion is the ruling principle with the ultimate aim of pacifying the whole world. Only the disobedient and stubborn westerners resist the will of Heaven. The will of Heaven is the holy decree of the Emperor from whom all authority is derived. All Kings should be invested by the Emperor and bring tribute to Him for sharing His civilisation with them. But outer barbarians are too stupid to understand the magnitude of the gift being bestowed upon them. They cling to their vices, claim to be in possession of true civilisation and repudiate the healing transformation that could be theirs from China. Thus only a few have profited and the era of general happiness that will ensue after Chinese culture has been adopted world-wide is still far away.

Other countries have made similar assertions in the past but only the Chinese continue to press their civilisation on foreigners. It is because they have a large country and a large population and their law, literature and institutions have existed for so long. This induces them to conclude they are the arbiters of the world. When Kubilai ruled China his Khan controlled all of Asia, Russia and eastern Europe. The present Empire is smaller but still one of the largest ever assembled. Since the Manchu conquest (completed by a handful of men) there has been peace generally although the conquerors have since lost their martial spirit and the Chinese army and navy are not now formidable. The Jesuit mission caused all Europe to believe Chinese power was insuperable but now we know the Empire maintains its dignity because no one queries it.

What would happen if English maritime power dictated a commercial treaty? The policies of the Chinese have repeatedly been subverted by a handful of Europeans. How could the Emperor believe others will obey his law if he does not hold the military power to enforce it? His whole navy, believed to be about 1,000 warjunks, could not match a single frigate. When English ships approached the Pei Ho, the Ka Hing (Kea King) Emperor was apprehensive they would dictate a commercial treaty. He expected that those with the power to demand would not spend time petitioning. The fierceness and valour of the barbarian is as well known as his lying and craftiness. When they did not make use of their power, He pursued the usual course of humbling them before His people, attributing the ignominious treatment of Macartney to His officials whom He said had misled him. Nevertheless He clearly dreads us. The celestial Empire may be invincible according to its own records but the foreigners can still cause occasional humiliations which are just as dreadful as droughts and floods.[18]

The Emperor is the umpire of the world, father of all people, sent by heaven to cherish them and inculcate filial piety. He is responsible only to heaven for His acts. To heaven He makes his petitions and from heaven He receives his orders. All authority emanates from Him alone. Only the feeble voice of the censors can influence Him. China philosophically is a paternal government. The Emperor shares this with His provincial governors and with the magistrates of each Foo and Heen. But their tyrannical despotism and arbitrary acts reveal the true state of affairs. This only endures because the Chinese people suffer oppression patiently.

The Emperor’s own family are taught Manchu and Chinese. They learn horsemanship, archery and military exercises. There are annual examinations of their prowess and competent officers rise in rank. There is a treasury, independent of the Imperial treasury, for their maintenance. Orphans are maintained, marriages and funerals paid for out of this fund but the amounts are small. It is astonishing that the Imperial family can be demoted, that they may receive corporal punishment (although their punishments can be commuted into fines). The present dynasty has accorded 12 levels of nobility on its family and allows inheritance of titles but over the centuries some members have sunk so low they have become indistinguishable from commoners. The ladies also have their ranks. But being in the Royal family does not accord wealth – it is Imperial favour that gives this. The Privy Council or Lui Ko determines all important matters but must obtain both Imperial sanction and the agreement of the presidents of the six tribunals before a policy can be implemented. At the head of the Privy Council are two prime ministers, a Manchu and a Chinese. In the army Manchu officers outnumber Chinese. The Privy Council has to obtain a consensus to its recommendations. This takes time. They spend most of their remaining time dealing with matters of state ritual.

All government officials, whether civil or military, are divided into nine ranks but the military, having become disrespected, is inferior to the civil. Each rank has a ball to attach to the hat and a silk square placed on the front and back of the tunic. The buttons of the first rank is ruby, the second is red or flowery coral, the third aquamarine, the fourth sapphire, the fifth crystal, the sixth white stone and the inferior ranks have gold, gilded or brass buttons. The ranks are additionally classified as first class and second class. No other government has such precise classifications. As a result every officer has a clear knowledge of the limits of his power and his duties.

Provincial officials are regularly called back to Peking to prostrate themselves and remember who is boss. This inculcates a strong team spirit and loyalty. No one may serve in his native province to deter nepotism and all are frequently transferred to prevent their forming liaisons and becoming a threat to the integrity of the Empire. To ensure complete submission, each man is made responsible for the acts of that part of the population under his control. The Emperor is responsible for natural disasters and the provincial officials are likewise responsible in their own provinces. Even the highest mandarin is susceptible to corporal punishment although he can invariably have the award commuted to a fine. It is the same system as in a Chinese family with the father replaced by the Emperor and the eldest son replaced by senior officials…..

The report continues into details of the six Boards, qualifications of officials etc.[19]

Vol 7 No 4 – Tues 28th January 1834

The recent expulsion of the Catholic missionaries from Macau was based on an old Portuguese law that no missionary can visit Macau without the King of Portugal’s permission. The law derived from Bulls of Popes Gregory XIII and Clement VIII which required all priests proceeding east or west to get the permission of the King of the respective authority – Portugal (in the east) or Spain (in the west) – before proceeding on their missions.

Since the arrival of Dutch, French, Danish and English in the east and the west, Urban VIII revoked the Bulls considering it inappropriate for a King to license missionaries whom he was no longer able to protect. The Portuguese insisted and in 1688 promulgated a right to license the priests. It required them to make oath in Lisbon before proceeding to India / Macau. The Vatican opposed this and re-issued its ban in 1733. Nevertheless as a practical matter the priests did attend in Lisbon on their way to the east. This excludes the French who in 1779 were allowed by the Portuguese to visit Macau and request for help there before proceeding on their missions.

Editor – why do English Catholics not form missions to China? This would be the easiest way of extending our influence now that Protestant missionaries are so jealously excluded. It is well known that missionaries enjoy access throughout the Chinese Empire in spite of the vigilance of officials.

Vol 7 No 5 – Tues 4th Feb 1834

Ancient Macau – Apparently the islands adjoining Macau were formerly part of the enclave. Twee Lien Shan (Lappa or Priests’ Island) was part of the colony. There is a ruined Roman Catholic church on the S W corner of Lappa attesting to previous Portuguese occupation.

Green Island (Ilha Verde) in the inner harbour was formerly the domain of the Jesuit mission and was fully cultivated. The mission was sold in good order in 1780 for $25,000. Now it is abandoned to weeds. A few years ago the Fathers of San Jose’s College bought it for $2,000. After a fight with some local fishermen who claimed squatting rights, the college is slowly recovering the island from nature.

These reverses may be connected with the violent suppression of the Jesuits by Pombal in 1757. Whatever one’s opinion of the Jesuits may be, it is regrettable that their skill in promoting orderly industry has been lost. We hope Anders Ljungstedt will address this subject soon.[20] He has recently said his research is continuing. In the meantime we extract an item from his papers concerning the execution of Francis Scott in 1773:

A Chinese was found murdered in Macau and suspicion centred on Scott. The Portuguese arrested and imprisoned him. The case was tried. Scott was examined along with some witnesses and acquitted.

The Chinese officials requested his surrender to them and threatened the city’s trade. A town meeting was held at which Manuel de Araujo Roza said “The man is innocent. We must explain to the Chinese why we cannot give him up”. Francis Vaz said “The man should surrender himself to protect the others”. The Procurador considered that the absence of provisions traders (kept away by the officials during the dispute) threatened the entire community and sided with Vaz.

Scott was then handed over and later executed.

Vol 7 No 11 – Tues 18th March 1834

We publish below correspondence from 1754 between the French representatives in China and the Company’s Select Committee concerning the Frenchman Francis Louis Richemond who was executed by the Chinese for the murder of an Englishman at Whampoa. The letters were obtained from the VOC factory records, having been translated from French into Dutch, and are now further translated into English by ourselves. A Dutch official collected the papers for his personal study when he learned they were intended for destruction. (Note – the Dutch Factory became residential in 1762. Before that year, Dutch officials retired to Batavia after each season). Here is the exchange:

France to England – Our countries are at peace and yet your sailors at Whampoa are continually hostile to ours. Every Sunday our sailors go ashore on French Island where our bankshall is located far from the bankshalls of other nations. But your sailors seek ours out and insult them. We hope this is personal wrangling and not national animosity. Your ship commanders told ours that your men would be restrained but it has not occurred. On 29th September (yesterday) your sailors came ashore. They insulted their own officers and caused disputes. Now one of your sailors is dead and another is arrested by us. We will return him upon receipt of your agreement to properly restrain your people. We cannot afford to argue in China – the officials here will cause us both trouble. Sgd Dumont, Jazu and Van Quelin

France to England – Protest to the captains, supercargoes and officers of English ships :

The hostilities are all started by English sailors. Please try to live in harmony with us. Sgd Dumont, Jazu and Boisneuf.

France to England – we are ordered by the Canton Governor to surrender the Englishman we are holding on our commodore’s ship at Whampoa. European countries trading in China should not permit Chinese jurisdiction over their national affairs. We do not understand why you will not cooperate with us, why you ignore our letters. We will send the prisoner onto your commodore’s ship tomorrow. Sgd Dumont, Jazu, Boisneuf, Van Quelin, Defosser, Pecherin, D’Orbeck, Chimotee.

England to France – We honour your country and would not insult you. Our sailors go to your bankshall on invitation to buy your strong liquors. If they then become disorderly it is due to your provision of those liquors. Our sailors often go to French Island. They are unarmed which indicates they hold no ill will. At the time of the affray most had returned to their ships and the last boat was departing when one of our sailors was killed by one of yours. We have referred the matter to the Chinese government and cannot intervene. We are happy to live harmoniously with you but you have detained our sailor in irons without cause. Sgd Thomson, Harrison, Liell, Misenor, Blount, Sandys, Torin, Garland, Walker, Horner, Burrows, Hume and Mapleton.

France to England – Your sailors have misled you. Liquor has never been sold in our bankshall. We do not allow alcohol there. Three weeks ago we expelled a Chinese from there who was trying to sell Sam Shoo.[21] We insisted to the Chinese officials that he be punished and no further sellers be permitted to approach us. When we send provisions to the sailors ashore we insure they cannot accumulate their rations and insist they consume their allowances daily. We keep an officer in the bankshall of every French ship who inter alia watches over the men and prevents disorders. With these precautions, how could liquor sales suddenly occur just now?

We have to tell you that most of your sailors routinely come ashore with 2 – 3 bottles of strong liquor each. Everybody knows that. We also note that whilst the community on French island is international, our sailors only have disputes with yours. No-one else has ever suggested we are selling liquor in our bankshalls. It seems it requires a fatal affray to elicit these complaints from you. We also have the daily complaints from the captains of our ships anchored near to yours. On 21st September our captains had to jointly request your officers to restrain their men from shouting insults. Why do your officers not do so?

We do not prevent your sailors coming to French Island. Everyone is welcome. We only contest their predilection for violence. How can we tolerate your people, the only ones to cause trouble with our sailors, the only ones who can do as they like? We have a right to protect ourselves when they attack us in our own premises.

We now consider the equity in our detaining the author of the quarrel. We arrested him to bring an end to the tumult. We always intended to restore him to you but hoped the matter might allow us to set our relationship on more just terms. Do you offer a promise to punish him when we return him? Will you end the hostility of your sailors? Should we surrender him to the Chinese? They might bring about the justice that you deny us!

The Chinese have not requested we surrender your man; they were merely concerned to punish those who caused the affray. We would never deliver him as it would be wrong to allow the inference of their jurisdiction in such cases. This would lead inevitably to their increasing interference in foreign affairs.

This man came to attack us in our bankshall. We complained about him in our previous letter to you. Eight days before the fatal attack he ill-treated our sailors and defied our officers. He pulled back his shirt and proffered his bared breast saying he neither cared for nor feared us.

You say you have reported the matter to the Chinese authorities and requested they give you justice. We suppose you intend to injure our trade. Had we acted like you we might have requested the Chinese to protect our bankshall and prevent your sailors from coming. Your man was killed in our bankshall when we repulsed force with force. Many Chinese witnesses were present and it was a provincial official who seized the culprit and bound him in irons. If we had thought the Chinese capable of administering justice, we would not have waited this long to request for it. We rejected that course of action as prejudicial to the foreign interests at Canton. But we reserve the right to raise this matter in Europe. We hope you will withdraw your complaint to the Chinese authorities and not embarrass us all. We hope you will end this affair amicably. Sgd as before

England to France – You have not changed your mind. We have nothing more to say.

France To Holland – We are writing now (23rd December) as your ships are about to leave for Batavia. A man arrived at Macau from Batavia in the British ship Ilchester. He then came up to Whampoa in a Danish ship. He has admitted killing an Englishman in our bankshall. He has been taken by Chinese officials and told them he is a French officer. Our investigation has failed to identify him beyond the belief that he is French. We do not know why he surrendered himself to the Chinese. We sent the Chinese a letter requesting his particulars.

They have sent us a letter from him (dated October 1754 but received January 1755) saying he was born in Brest, Bretagne. He says he was well educated but a wastrel. He joined the army 3 years ago but deserted after 3 months and went to Holland and joined the VOC. He was posted to Batavia and required to learn engineering but ran away after 9 months. He joined Captain Parker’s ship Ilchester for Whampoa. He says he visited the French factory for help but was refused. Then he went up to Canton for help and wandered the streets until evening when he sat on the river bank and cried. Three Chinese approached him and asked if he was the Frenchman who shot dead an Englishman at Whampoa. He said he was. He has sent us a letter saying if we tell the Chinese that he is one of our sailors they will release him to us. There is a friendly official in the gaol who gives him food and encouragement and only wants a letter from us to release him. If we refuse him he says he is a dead man. With tears in his eyes he humbly requests us to not abandon him. His name is Francis Louis Richemond

(Richemond had been judicially strangled before his plea was sent to the French.)

Vol 7 No 14 – Tues 8th April 1834

Edited excerpt from Chapter 13 of the History of the Tartar Conquest of China (in Spanish, apparently written in mid to late 17th century). This concerns the Portuguese in Macau and their relationship with the Manchu:

Macau requires Chinese approval for its existence. In spite of its valuable trade it cannot produce the food necessary to feed the people which comes from Heung Shan.[22] China can recover the place without firing a shot by withholding food. The Portuguese have accordingly been tactful and are now considered neighbours and naturalised citizens. The Chinese trust them more than any other Europeans. This almost caused the loss of the colony when the Portuguese had to choose between their Chinese friends and the new Tartars. Many were inclined to favour the Chinese, particularly when a Chinese King was crowned at Canton, but the Portuguese maintained their neutrality and the Tartars approved. They took no action against Macau.

The provincial government of Canton was always attracted by Macau’s wealth. It traded with Japan and Manila which places would normally trade at Chapu and Amoy. The Japanese traders brought silver for their purchases. Macau charged a 10% duty on sales. This produced $400,000 each year for the Portuguese King. The Manila trade was one year worth over $1,000,000. But for the last eight years the rebellion in Portugal has caused the Spanish in Manila to eschew Macau’s trade and the situation in the home market is equally bad for the same reason. They had no money to buy goods for the Japanese and that trade stopped as well. All the Portuguese colonies of India share this trait – their wealth is not based on agriculture but trade. If their trade stops they start to sell their ships and after two or three years they are finished. But should commerce resume they recover equally quickly. This reputation for wealth was known to the Tartars and excited the provincial government officials’ greed. They thought the entire city was full of silver.

But Macau has been protected by God. It sends out His missionaries to China, Japan and elsewhere. Not ten years ago Macau in one day had 60 crowns of martyrs which was pleasing to the Lord and so He preserved her. Now the Tartar chief has agreed to resume trade as it was under the Chinese. An official Tartar edict has been received in Macau inviting the Portuguese to Canton for trade as formerly or offering to bring the goods to Macau. The Portuguese wanted to send an embassy to Canton and on to Peking but rampant piracy in the river prevented their setting out to sea as Macau lacks sufficient force to provide protection. Nevertheless, the Tartars seem to like the Portuguese and God supports them.

Vol 7 No 15 – Tues 15th April 1834

Chinese law – The substance of the body of Chinese laws is generally excellent. We only lament that it is the officials who construe it in their own peculiar ways. The law allows any subject to appeal right up to the Emperor. The Emperor does hear some cases and pronounces judgements but a system is as good as the people who administer it and bribery and injustice are daily occurrences in China. The law is used to extort apparent legally and to intimidate or implicate the innocent. A man may be arrested for one offence but tried on another if it looks more promising. Money alone buys justice and protects against punishment. Only in China can a man, sentenced to death, buy another to substitute for him. This ‘flexibility’ in the system makes it impossible for an honest man to act impartially. When a provincial judge’s award is appealed, he solicits the appeal judge’s favour.

Chinese law is patriarchal but even in China that filial feeling that could alone make it work is insufficient. So the magistrates have frequently to deny their professed paternal love and punish heavily. Otherwise the law would be disregarded and the readiness of these abjectly poor people to rebel under intolerable conditions is well documented. The factors in popular consideration are the threat of torture and death by government against the threat of disease, famine, drought and death from natural causes – it is finely balanced. No wonder these people are capable of inhumanity from time to time (female infanticide, kidnapping for sale, the mui tsai system, etc).

The officials are practically above the law and the system encourages them to work together for their protection (from the Emperor and from the people). It is a reign of terror ameliorated only by the rare but conceivable intervention of the Censorate (Tiu Cha Yuen). Only the Romans had a similar institution. This, while often abused and perverted, still reflects great honour on China. An autocrat may not like the censor’s voice but he can hardly stop him talking.

If the Chinese were as spirited as the Romans they could be living free under the present despotic system. It is interesting to note there is no precise Chinese term for freedom.

Vol 7 No 16 – Tues 22nd April 1834

The Great Wall separating the Chinese from foreigners is tottering. It will soon fall. This will shake the Empire and all sorts of unpredictable events might ensue. We are weary of war. Our enlightened times should do away with it. Europe should set an example by enforcing peace.

We hold this hope for a general pacification eventually. We particularly hope the Chinese are too wise to resist our insistence on friendly trade. It would disgrace the Celestial Empire which rules over all the peoples of the four seas if, by dint of barbarian ‘fierceness’ and ‘craftiness’, the structure of national exclusion was overthrown.

Enlightened Chinese have thought about this and recognise the dilemma of barbarians dictating a commercial treaty instead of two equals joining in an amicable arrangement. The present administration would go far to avoid a collision. They may be arrogant but they know their strength. The people are too poor to give reliable loyalty. For all these reasons the prospect of war is unfounded. On the other hand it is necessary to show the Son of Heaven that we are not his vassals. A high-minded independent course of conduct inspires respect in Chinese while submission meets with contempt.

We can open free intercourse by introducing Christianity and our arts and sciences. Our Christian religion inculcates love for all. Science clears the mind. Some say the Chinese cannot accept improvements from foreigners because of their contempt for us. They commonly pretend an indifference to our inventions.[23] They are mainly interested in collecting silver. Great as the difficulties may be, they are not insurmountable.

If we ask why have the Chinese changed so little during the time we have known them, it is because we have done so little for their improvement. A well-digested plan to dispel their mental darkness, whilst an enormous task, should meet with success. Canton is not all China. If we can excite a wonder of science in their minds we will secure public opinion to our favour. This would be the surest way to lay a foundation of permanent friendship. We hope the foreign community at Canton will not disdain or neglect this proposal. And it would produce more opportunities for both sides.

Vol 7 No 16 – Tues 22nd April 1834

The Military Board – The Chinese view of war is that it can usually be avoided and they accordingly express more interest in agriculture. They are a peaceful and industrious race. The Emperor professes magnanimity to the whole world. They have an army of over 1,000,000 troops, a formidable number that even Russia must take note of. The core of the army are the 8 banners. Then there are the Mongolian auxiliaries from Manchuria and Turkestan and the numerous men of the provincial militias.

Many thousands of these soldiers exist only on paper as part of innumerable provincial scams but the overall numbers remain huge. A foreigner seeing the ranks of Chinese troops for the first time sees a bunch of scruffy farmers but their ability to subsist on little and tolerate adverse conditions is high.

The Mongol cavalry and the armies along the western frontiers are the most experienced and the bravest. The martial qualities of the Manchu army have diminished. Army law is strict but so strict it cannot be readily enforced. Capital punishment is the normal award for most offences.

It is the army that provides the police runners in peace time. The strength of the Chinese army is in archery. Their artillery and small arms are inferior and training in their use is poor.

Vol 7 No 16 – Tues 22nd April 1834

The Chinese Navy – This is comprised of over 1,000 ships, large and small. Probably it is the largest navy in existence. The Emperor believes it is invincible. Chinese warjunks are similar to trading junks in appearance. Some carry many guns but the largest is no bigger than a sloop-of-war.

Naval officers are not exclusively trained for sea duties – they might have to command land units, indeed Generals and Admirals are interchangeable.

The provincial fleets seldom cruise beyond their own coastal waters. Like the provincial armies they are not routinely allowed to operate outside their province, such operations require express Imperial sanction.

Vol 7 No 16 – Tues 22nd April 1834

Editorial – We are changing our system of dealing with the Chinese which inevitably requires that they change their system as well. Our best interest and duty is to smooth the changes that facilitate our communications with the Chinese. A new proposal to commence a Society for Really Useful Knowledge locally and publish information in Chinese is a step in the right direction. We trust all foreign residents will support the initiative.

Vol 7 No 16 – Tues 22nd April 1834

From the Jesuits we learned much of Chinese governmental theory and admired the system as a model of wisdom but we have since learned that the system on paper is not the system in practise. When the Chinese are allowed to exercise their innate genius we will wonder at the great changes that take place and exult China as the first empire in the world. Under the present system they need a Kubilai or a Kang Hsi but when the Emperor is weak the whole country suffers. It should not be the destiny of China to remain isolated and exclusive. At some future date she will have to run a different course.

Vol 7 No 22 – Tues 3rd June 1834

‘On entering a country, enquire what are its laws’ said Confucius. Entering China is very difficult for foreigners who little know its laws. Sir George Staunton translated the Chinese penal code in 1810 but his work is known only to some Company officers and a handful of China scholars.

Now that the British parliament has authorised us to visit the ports of China and trade in all sorts of Chinese production, subject to British regulations, we should review the state of Chinese law as it applies to foreigners. We provide the information from Staunton’s translation of the Penal Code of China below:

Sec XXXIV – offences by foreigners

Foreigners in China must comply with Chinese law and will be tried and sentenced according to those laws. The Lei Fan Yuen (Foreign Office) will be guided by the laws applied to the government of Mongol tribes.

Editor – this section has been quoted to Europeans in Canton and Macau but the law has never been enforced against us except with considerable allowances in our favour. The Chinese prefer to prevent crime by restricting and circumscribing foreigners. If foreign crime is discovered, it is the Chinese co-conspirators who are punished. The difference in manners, habits and language of the Chinese leaves the proper arrangement of regulation for foreigners untouched. Some sort of regulation is indispensable and will be in the interests of both sides.

Sec CCXXIV – detection and examination of suspects

If people are found smuggling out Chinese inventions or if spies try to enter the country, they are to be strictly examined upon conviction and beheaded after the usual period of confinement. If any Chinese conceals such offenders he will be banished. To deter improper communication with foreigners, the islands lying along the coast are not to be inhabited or built upon.

Editor – the want of an effective navy has caused this last provision to lapse and the islands have since become the regular haunts of fishermen and pirates.

Vol 7 No 23 – Tues 10th June 1834

Chinese law for foreigners. (edited from Staunton and reproduced in the Chinese Repository, May 1834)

In China we are not wholly subject to Chinese law nor wholly relieved of our obligations under it. When contention arises there is generally a line, on one side of which submission is unthinkable and on the other resistance unjustifiable. Failure to identify this line has caused our occasional unnecessary surrender of just and reasonable privileges or has brought the trade to the brink of destruction.

The following imperial edict issued in 1808 favourably resolved an enduring problem the Company had with the Canton provincial government. The dispute concerned a group of British seamen who fought with some Chinese and killed one. The actual perpetrator amongst the group was unknown but one sailor was arrested and an account of his culpability was devised. The magistrate could not ignore the perjured evidence of his colleagues and convicted. If he had acquitted the man he would have effectively convicted the Provincial administration of injustice. The security merchant of the sailor’s ship paid almost £50,000 to conclude the affair. Here is the Edict of the Nam Hoi magistrate:

“Edward Sheen was opening a window in the Fung Tai Hong factory when he slipped and dropped the window stick which struck Lau Ah Teng who was shopping below. Lau was given treatment but died the next day. The Hong merchants were ordered to deliver Sheen but he was sick. After repeated requests he was finally produced for examination.

“Sheen is a seaman in Buchanan’s ship which arrived from England in the 12th month of 11th year of Kea King (1806/7). Sheen and others were dwelling in the upper floor of Fung Tai Hong, the factory of the ship’s security merchant, until their return cargo should be received. The windows are covered by hinged shutters. On 18th day of 1st moon of 12th year of Kea King, Sheen used a stick to prop the shutter open but the stick fell down. Lau Ah Teng was shopping in Thirteen Factories Street below with his brother–in-law. He was struck on the left temple and collapsed. A friend nearby took him home and arranged medical treatment but he died.

“Sheen admits all the facts. He may be sentenced to pay the usual fine or redeem himself by strangulation.

“Now the Emperor having received this report notes that all foreigners are subject to Chinese law and the law in cases of accidental death is that the offender can redeem himself with a fine. He also notes that in the 8th year of Kien Lung it was ordered in all cases of affrays between foreigners and Chinese whereby a foreigner is subject to the death penalty, that the papers be sent to the Viceroy and Governor to repeat the magistrate’s investigation. If they uphold his verdict, the Chief of the foreign nation will be informed and the foreigner will be executed. In all other cases where there is mitigation, the offender will be punished by his own countrymen.

“The consequences of Sheen’s act were unforeseeable and he will be fined 12 Taels 4 fen silver; compensate £4 3s 0d to the next-of-kin of the deceased for burial expenses and he will be sent back to his own country.”

(Editor – this is the clearest authority we have found on the subject)

Staunton continues …… European and Chinese society differ and require amicable accommodation on both sides. The Chinese are prejudiced against non-Chinese and consider themselves superior. In cases of murder (which in China is divided into six types called ‘luk sat’ – premeditated murder, intentional murder on the spur of the moment, murder resulting from an affray, murder in the course of dangerous sport, murder by mistake [killing the wrong person] and accidental murder) of a Chinese by a European, the latter incurs a debt which can only be discharged in kind – a life for a life.

This is the general rule.

English law distinguishes an intentional killing from an accidental one. Chinese law does not except in the 6th case. An unintended death in China merits a milder execution. An accidental death is not usually a capital offence. The relationship of the parties is also important. A man killing his slave may commit no offence. A woman who kills her rapist is justified but not if the rapist is her father-in-law to whom she must submit. A husband killing his wife and / or her lover is justified (the relationship is more fundamental than the criminal act). A policeman killing a suspect who resists arrest is justified. A householder who kills a burglar in his house is justified.

Foreigners killing each other may be tried by their national law. But in Kien Lung’s time, after some foreign murders in Macau, He required the foreigners be intimidated and give a life for a life without application of any extenuating circumstances that would have been available to a Chinese murderer.

In a pending case today Viceroy Loo has assured us that the principle of ‘a life for a life’ will not be applied as the death was accidental but, as a general statement, the law is ‘a life for a life’.

Vol 7 No 30 – Tues 29th July 1834

Peter Auber, the secretary to the Company’s Court of Directors, has produced a book “China”. He must have had all the information in the archives but has published little of it. This is a mere compilation of praises of successive Company officers with some meaningless extracts from their letters.

There is only one surprise – the Court of Directors ordered their resident supercargo to reside at Canton permanently in 1770 when it was already illegal. It is from about that time that the conditions of foreigners started to deteriorate.

In 1760 the Court sent out Capt Skottowe in the Royal George. It had been unable to address the officials at Canton since Flint’s failed attempt to trade at Ningpo and Scottowe was to change that.

He was given a letter addressed to the Tsung Duk (Cantonese for Viceroy). He was told not to be seen buying things in the street but to get some other merchant to buy for him so he would not be seen undressed (informally dressed) in public. He was to be called Mr Scottowe not Captain. It was put about that he was the brother of the King’s under-Secretary of State who was responsible for writing the King’s letters. He was to request the liberation of Flint and to protest the exclusion from Ningpo. He was particularly to request:

  • Cancellation of 1,950 Taels measurement fee
  • Cancellation of the silver assay charge – 6% on imports and 2% on exports.
  • The Company to be allowed to pay its own duties instead of paying to the Hong merchant in a grossed-up sum.
  • That the Hoppo should always be available for representations and that a right of appeal to the Viceroy against the Hoppo’s decisions be allowed.

None of these points were conceded to Scottowe. How simple was the cunning of the 24 Directors of the Company in presenting them.

The restriction of trade to Canton in 1757 was not brought about by the Canton officials. It was wholly political. The activities of the people in Fukien were a constant source of alarm to the Imperial clan. Even when the rest of the empire had been subdued, the Fukienese continued their opposition in their own province and in Taiwan. This could not be overlooked. These high spirited and enterprising people were to be separated from the influence of Europeans.

Auber writes of the ‘perils and difficulties’ of the Company’s establishment in China. Its perils were imaginary and its difficulties were solved by bribes. As regards its inflated costs, the British nation paid for that. Auber says ‘if free trade fails, England can only blame itself’.

We have to confront the Chinese authorities and tame them. ‘Conciliation’, that oft repeated word in the Company’s instructions, cannot be the duty of the King’s superintendents nor the wish of the country. We will blame the government if the new initiative fails because they have not selected the most prestigious officers (in China’s estimation) that they could have done.

Napier’s appointment is wise; the appointment of ex-Company officials is not. We are shocked to see men who had formerly prevented free trade now being put in charge of it. When Robinson was offered the post of 3rd Superintendent, he simply said his Company experience qualified him for the job. These Company people get promoted by seniority. Their appointments are reviewed and renewed annually. When in 1830 the Company thought it appropriate to supersede their committee here, and to severely censure their new President over the following few years, it made us (and the Chinese) think these people had failed. What will the Canton officials think of Davis and Robinson now they have been brought back? This injudicious mixture of officials and traders is unlikely to bring honour to free trade.

Vol 7 No 52 – Tues 30th December 1834

Benkowsky escaped from Russians on Kamchatka and fled to Taiwan in 1771. His Journal was published in London in 1790. At that time the eastern side of Taiwan was occupied by aborigines and the Chinese were only ensconced along three river valleys in the west.

In August 1771 he was visited by Hieronimo Pacheco, a Spaniard from Manila, formerly captain of Cavite in Manila Bay. The Spaniard proposed to drive out the Chinese and capture Taiwan. Benkowsky writes:

“I anchored in a bay and prepared my boats and small arms. At 4 am M/s Kuzneczow and Wynbladth took two boats with 16 men ashore. We heard constant musket shots. At 9.30 am the boats returned. Three of my men were shot by arrows and five natives had been captured. The following day I sent men for water but they did not return. I sent Kuzneczow with 8 men and he soon returned with our two boats in tow covered in blood. My men had arrows sticking out of them and M/s Panow and Loginow were not amongst them. Kuzneczow said Panow and Loginow were dead. The first casualty was John Popow who went swimming while the others were filling the casks. As soon as he took off his guns and clothes, about twenty natives surrounded and killed him. The whole watering party would have been annihilated had not Volinsky and Andre retired to the canoe and fired on the natives.”

To be continued …..

Vol 8 No 7 – 17th February 1835

Benkowsky’s Journal, continued …..

I arrived at Macau on 22nd September 1771 and was received by the Governor Sr de Saldanha. Two days later I dined with the French Bishop M. le Bon and agreed to accept the protection of the French flag (and the Bishop) for my impending voyage to Europe.

On 3rd October Mr Gohr of the English factory visited and offered inducements and a free passage to Europe if I would give him the manuscript copy of my discoveries, enter the English East India Company’s service and agree to keep these terms (and my discoveries) secret.

I told him any employment for me must extend to my crew and that I had already accepted a French Company offer. He left in a huff.

On 4th October I got a letter from M. L’Heureux, the director of the Dutch Company, with presents and $2,000. He offered passage to Batavia and a job in the VOC. I declined and returned his presents (except the liqueurs).

On 6th October M/s Jackson and Bayz (of the English Company) visited and offered 15,000 guineas and a job for the manuscript. I asked for a pension of £4,000 p a, revertible to my children, £100 for each of my officers and £30 for each crewman together with assistance in forming trade stations beyond China.

That evening the Macau Governor warned me the English were winning over my men but it was not so. On 12th October M. de Bobien of the French factory said he had two ships to receive me and my men. The same day one of my officers was discovered to have agreed with the English to steal my manuscript and supply it to them for £5,000. I transferred my papers from my chest to the Bishop for safe-keeping.

On 25th November, when my health had recovered, the Macau Governor said the Chinese were creating difficulties as the English had told them I was a pirate and Russian deserter. The Governor of Canton had ordered my delivery to him and I should depart Macau immediately. I did not want to trouble the Macanese so next day I sent a couple of men to Canton with a memorial for the Viceroy. They returned on 3rd December with a passport to visit the Viceroy. He sent a magnificent barge with 64 oars and a letter saying he knew the English charges were false and China know how to treat heroes like me. This was flattering until on 5th December the Chinese Customs officer at Macau told me that unless I continued to Peking it was useless to go to Canton as the Viceroy had nothing to say to me (the Viceroy thinks I am a tribute-bearer from Hungary). I wanted to go to Peking to look around but that would mean postponing my return to Europe. I finally declined the offer.

On 26th December I was told to get a passport to enter the river. I sent a man who paid $450 for a paper permitting three boats. On 14th January we left Macau to a 21-gun salute and went to the river mouth where an officer refused to let us land until he saw my purse. He then offered us lodgings in his Fort.

We remained there enjoying horse-riding with the Manchus until 22nd January when the French ships Dauphin and La Verdi arrived and took us to Mauritius.

Vol 8 No 9 – Tues 3rd March 1835

A Brief Review of the Manchu Conquest:

The Manchu conquest of China is extraordinary. How did a few border tribes achieve it? There is little recorded history of the Manchu until they conquered China. This suggests their insignificance and barbarism.

The Ming drove the Mongols (Yuan dynasty) out and pursued them to the deserts of Tsitsihar. Eventually they returned to the borders of Liaotung to trade cattle for manufactures. This trade was characterised by Chinese injustice and oppression of the type we are familiar with. The Mongols were not respected and Chinese policy was to keep them divided and utterly subjected.

One Manchu chief was prevented from marrying the princess of his choice and became discontented. The son of another chief, whose father had been executed by Chinese officials, took up arms in revenge. Manchu resentment of Chinese frontier provocations led to war. Border skirmishing became serious fighting in 1616. Having captured the town of Kai Yuen, the Manchu chief (the one who was fighting in revenge of his father’s death) wrote the Wan Lei Emperor complaining of the insult. Peking was indignant at this insolence and ignored him.

The Manchu allowed themselves to get daily more incensed as time passed without a reply and eventually the prince swore to appease his father’s death. He marched into Liaotung and the other Manchu and Mongol tribes followed him, eager for loot.

He overran the province, crossed the wall between Liaotung and Chih Li, and brought his forces to within 7 miles of Peking. The opposing Chinese infantry are said to have removed their uniforms and departed before his arrival.

In 1618 the prince was persuaded that Liaotung was insufficient compensation and proclaimed himself the Tien Ming Emperor, intent on assuming control of all China. His men had abused the Liaotung natives and he preferred fear to popularity to control the Chinese people. He finally engaged a huge Chinese force sent against him and overcame it in a bloody battle. He was unable to besiege Peking and instead ravaged the surrounding countryside to deny food to the Pekinese.

This mindless violence inspired a popular backlash but the Ming officials could not recognise the advantage it offered them, such was their low opinion of the common people. The Wan Lei Emperor was preparing to go ‘on tour’ when divisions and fighting commenced amongst the Manchu hordes in Manchuria and their victorious invading army had to be recalled to the tribal homeland.

China with Korean support gradually recovered parts of Liaotung. This caused the Manchu tribes to paper-over their differences and recover the Liaotung capital. The conquerors this time proclaimed an amnesty if the inhabitants would shave their heads and wear the queue as a visible token of their submission. In this way the Manchu distinguished their Chinese friends from Chinese foes.

Manchu communications were harassed by a Chinese detachment at the Yalu River mouth which was equipped with Dutch-made cannon. An attempted siege of a strategically important town also failed. These reverses provoked the Manchu into a wild display of genocide in murdering the entire garrison of a nearby island.

The so-called Tien Ming Emperor died in 1627 but the martial spirit of the Manchus had been roused. A tremendous battle ensued on the Korean frontier involving Chinese, Manchu and Koreans after which the Manchu withdrew to Liaotung and the Chinese Emperor proposed peace. The Imperial commissioner, Yee Wan, sent to negotiate terms concluded an ignominious agreement that infuriated the Court and was not ratified. Yee Wan saw non-ratification as a Chinese breach of trust. He himself suggested to the Manchus that they renegotiate under the walls of Peking. In 1630 they arrived and Yee Wan was executed. The Manchu chiefs did not restrain their men who plundered as far south as Shantung. Meanwhile the Chinese soldiery was unpaid and became mutinous. Several loyal Chinese officers who had failed to evict the Manchu were executed. The remaining Chinese forces despaired and many accepted remuneration and refuge in Manchuria.

China is a tranquil country. The constant wars of European nations occur less in China. This is from the obedience of Chinese and their abhorrence of violence. But in the event of famine, drought, flood, etc., when want drives the people to desperate measures, they can become the fiercest people in the world. The last Ming Emperors neglected the people and on an infestation of locusts, thepopulace joined bandit gangs for food. The first uprisings were in Szechuan and Kweichow. The bandits ravaged Shensi and entered Hunan. The rebel leader Lee Kung took the title Shun Wong Emperor in 1641 and sought the Imperial mandate by remitting taxes and punishing officials for corruption. At that time the court was under the influence of an unprincipled eunuch but on the accession of a new Emperor, Tsung Ching, that eunuch lost power. When Lee Kung crossed the Yellow River, the Imperial army sent against him, deserted to Lee and joined him on the march to Peking. Lee Kung already had supporters at Court. The Tsung Ching Emperor was not informed of the imminent danger and only had time to kill his daughter before hanging himself. Many other statesmen did likewise and the trees of the imperial gardens were dreadfully decorated with their pendant bodies. Thus Lee Kung entered Peking. He allowed his soldiers to plunder the city.

An Imperial army remained in Liaotung commanded by Wu San Kwei. With Lee Kung’s bandits already in Peking, Wu took the extreme measure of requesting Manchu assistance in removing them and offered a great reward. The Manchu instantly joined the Chinese forces and Lee Kung was soon forced to abandon Peking and flee. He was pursued by Manchus in Imperial service who wanted his baggage train of loot. When they finally returned to Peking they abrogated their agreement with Wu San Kwei and set up their own puppet on the throne. As reinforcements arrived from the north, they consolidated their hold.

This extraordinary reversal of the usual result brought fame to the Manchu amongst the tribes of Central Asia who willingly submitted to the new dynasty in anticipation of advantage. Wu San Kwei was proclaimed Emperor by the Chinese faction at Court but could not match the support that the Manchu had obtained. The southern provinces recalled their grain tribute and proclaimed the late Ming Emperor’s brother Heun Kwang as Emperor.

He offered the Manchus half of the Empire but was refused. He made no attempt to increase his power or confront the Manchus but instead spent his time trying to remove other Chinese pretenders to the throne. This dissension encouraged the Manchu to cross the Yellow River and occupy more of the country.

At the Yangtse they confronted a Chinese fleet and were unable to cross until the Chinese admiral was killed by his own men who had declared for the invaders. The Southern Emperor Heun Kwang was taken to Peking and hanged from the walls. The Manchu then consolidated their hold on Keangsi, Hukwang and Kwangtung.

The Chinese regrouped in Chekiang and made their new capital at Hangchow but only for three days. Then the Manchu arrived, the Chinese force mutinied and its officers surrendered. The Manchu slaughtered the entire force but spared the city to engage the affection of the people. They merely required the Chinese to shave their heads and wear the queue to evidence submission but this was resented and the Manchu occupation moved forwards only slowly.

With the help of the pirate Chin Lung (possibly Cheng Sing Kung) they subdued Fukien and Kwangtung and were approaching complete domination when they suffered a serious military defeat in Keang Si. This encouraged the Chinese to proclaim Tung Lei, a nephew of the former Emperor, as King and invest him at Canton. His mother and wife were Catholics and he may also have been one.

Meanwhile a revolution was commenced in the north-west by patriotic Chinese who had been provoked by the excesses of some Manchu officers. Shun Chih, the Manchu occupying the Imperial throne, had the difficult task of undermining a popular and patriotic leader. The Chinese leader was surrounded in a city near the great wall and in attempting to raise the siege he was slain. With him died Chinese liberty.

Another bed of anti-Manchu subversion was in Szechuan where the brutal Chang Heen Chung held sway. He killed tens of thousands of officials, eunuchs and priests. One effective measure of Chang’s was to declare an Imperial examination and invite the literati to attend whom he then massacred. One of his armies, which failed to reduce Nan Chung, was spectacularly punished. Many soldiers were skinned alive and their hides stuffed with straw and sent to their native villages. When he received news of the location of the Manchu army, he killed all the men, women and children in his headquarters to prevent their rebellion during his absence and to ensure he had a base to return to. Even his soldiers’ wives were not spared. His failure to command the loyalty of his men encouraged his army to disperse. His lieutenants were one by one bought-over or killed and Canton finally surrendered after a siege.

The Chinese King, Tung Lei, fled to Yunnan and eventually to the lands of the King of Pegu (in eastern Burma) who was so appalled by the approach of the Manchu that he readily surrendered the young Emperor who was soon strangled.

Wu San Kwei had meanwhile been made viceroy of Yunnan and Kweichow. He engineered the support of the Governors of the Two Kwongs and Fukien and won the assistance of the famous pirate Cheng Sing Kung. This alliance might have defied the Manchu had it been united but jealousy caused them to act independently and they fell one by one to the Manchu. The Kang Hsi Emperor was then on the throne. His Generalship was superior to any of the Chinese patriots. The last descendant of the pirate Cheng surrendered in 1683 having been reduced to the possession of Taiwan. From that time, Manchu control of the Chinese empire was complete.

Vol 8 No 10 – Tuesday 10th March 1835

We copy from the Oriental Repository some notes on China Trade by Mr Pigou, the British factory chief in 1754-58 and some similar notes by Mr A Dalrymple. Pigou sought to arrange a British Embassy to Peking. Readers will note Pigou’s difficulties then duplicate ours today.

Remarks on the Trade of Canton, by Frederick Pigou, 1754:

Canton trade suffers from several new duties, like the cumshaw charge of 1,950 Taels per ship and the 6% duty. Other bad customs have also been introduced to our prejudice and we should consider an embassy to Peking.

The ambassador should come in the King’s name but travel in a Company ship. He should be unknown to the Chinese or, if known, at least not in connection with the Company or any ship. He must be a man of rank (an army officer would do) and understanding and probity. He should not be haughty. He can be attended by Mr Flint as a secretary. We can discover the necessary Court ceremonials from Lisbon.

We can land the ambassador at Macau and let him wait there for a passport to go to Peking but the embassy should commence from Amoy or Canton, This is because whichever Chinese port the ambassador arrives at (in a ship carrying the appropriate flag denoting an ambassador is aboard) the officials of that port have to entertain him and send notice to Peking which will send an official escort to that port to bring him to the capital. Either the ambassador or one of his secretaries should speak and write Latin. He must bring presents for the Emperor – our finest cloth, wrought silks, wrought plate, wrought glass, looking glasses, fine large round undrilled pearls of uniform size and a fine yellow tent with a yellow rain cover.

A ship bringing an ambassador pays no duties on the cargo it brings and takes away provided it is all landed and shipped in the ambassador’s name. As this makes him appear to be a merchant, the last Portuguese ambassador would not allow it, for merchants are not respected in the Chinese system. Even if no cargo is carried, the measurement duty and cumshaw is still waived and the tribute gifts do not attract duty. If a different ship takes the ambassador home, it is also exempt from measurement charge and cumshaw provided it declares its purpose on arrival.

If the ambassador comes via Canton he should stop at the river mouth (Bocca Tigris) and hoist the appropriate flag there. He should request for privileges and favours for all the foreign trade not just ourselves.

Not being used to this has hitherto lost us many advantages.

In March or April 1751 the Emperor’s mother was 60 years old and it was thus a proper time for soliciting Imperial favours. The British community at Canton asked Misenor (the then British chief) to send Flint to Nanking to interview the Emperor there and request the annulment of the 1,950 Tael charge per ship and some other fees. The Chinese in turn offered to pay for his journey and for his presents to the Emperor. Misenor refused to use this opportunity lest other countries should obtain benefit from our action.

Had Mr de la Barre stayed one more year, the merchants think he would have gone himself to petition the Emperor for relief from the evils that obstruct our trade, and they think he might have succeeded.

If more than one port is opened to foreigners we think the officials would be more obliging. Some competition would develop between them as to who returned the largest revenue to the Emperor and the most congenial trade regime would attract the most ships.

The ambassador should solicit leave for the Company’s constant residence in China and for permission to build residences and warehouses for our trade wherever we settle.

The Chinese have recorded us in their books as a warlike people who always invade the Asian countries to which we first come purporting to be traders.[24] This is why we are not allowed to stay in China except by the connivance of the provincial government officials, and why we are not allowed to buy or build houses (in case they become fortified).

A Resident at Peking would be useful to us but he should not be a missionary. He might usefully be a skilled physician, surgeon, painter, sculptor or musician as these arts might in time produce an Imperial audience. If he was to marry there and have children he might expect more privileges than the Jesuits get (their progress is retarded because they have no children). If we can get permission for one Resident, we might soon expect to get others accepted as well. We think they might better enter China in the north rather than in the south but the first will have to accompany the ambassador.

The ambassador should be instructed to solicit:

• Continuation of our trade

• Cancellation of the 6% duty that has been imposed since settling the first tariff

• Cancellation of the 1,950 Taels charge per ship.

• That duties on imports and exports do not exceed the Emperor’s tariff, i.e. are the same as the duty paid by Chinese overseas traders.

• That the people who handle our trade (compradors and Linguists) and serve us, enjoy the same freedoms as other Chinese (at present the officials force the Chinese merchants to give them presents and the Chinese servants to pay them money)

• That the officials protect us from abuse by the common people

• That we should no longer pay duty on our own provisions and other necessaries of life,

• That our goods be protected and not pilfered whilst in the ship.

• That we ourselves no longer have to pay presents to the officials

• That we may walk about the town and go to other places like Macau without being detained or required to pay for a passport.

• That access to officials be made easy and that they be ordered to receive us and redress our grievances.

• That we may reside at Canton for our trade.

For our part we should agree to make no disturbance.

Vol 8 No 10 – Tuesday 10th March 1835

Towards the end of Pigou’s appointment, in 1758, another alteration was made in the trade regulations to cater for the business of the country merchants. Trade became permissible only with a Hong merchant. The Hong merchant was made security for the ship and responsible to collect the duty due to government and to ship our goods.

This innovation was hurtful to the Hong merchant. Prior to it, the Chinese government received its duties direct from the foreigner. As we were ignorant of the complete details, we surrendered the responsibility to pay these charges to the Hong merchant. This became the custom at Canton although at Ningpo we continued to pay direct ourselves. The Canton Hong merchants were squeezed by the local officials for presents and this exposed them to great expense which they could not recover from their suppliers (tea and silk merchants) as they were then very few. As a result the Hong merchants became brokers between the real merchants, mainly in Nanking, and the foreigners.

From the first the Hongs traded jointly. They informed each other of the deals they made with us so they were effectively all offering the same prices.

We are uncertain if this Co-hong was established by the Emperor or by the Canton Viceroy. In 1770 we paid 100,000 Taels to have the Co-Hong abolished and suspect it could not have been done if it had been established by the Emperor. Since then the Hongs traded separately but remained organised in a guild. They still assemble regularly to discuss matters of general concern. These are usually how much each should contribute to official requests for presents.

Chinese trade is disadvantaged by the regulations under which it is done. We would obtain great advantage from a settlement of our own near China to which Chinese junks had access. I (Pigou) previously published a pamphlet promoting Balambangan as an appropriate place to settle our China trade.[25]

Vol 8 No 24 – Tues 16th June 1835

Journal Asiatique, July 1834 edition – The difficulty for foreigners trying to understand Chinese culture is the apparent fact that it sprang fully-formed from the wisdom of Yau and Shun four thousand years ago. There is no history of its development from which to derive an understanding. This culture is strong enough to have withstood the revolutionary temptations of some Emperors, the ardent zeal of the early Buddhists and more recently the Christians.

It seems the sons of Yau and Shun have only simple vices – vanity and presumption – and these flow from the popular belief that no better system is conceivable. This assertion of national superiority has existed for over three thousand years. Chinese never renounce the world like Hindus or some Christians. They are constantly engaged in it and persevere with society. They are devoted to social virtues, obey the laws and honour the usages of their ancestors.

Chinese deride anything that cannot be intellectually analysed. It is for this reason that the indigenous religion of the Tao never achieved much of a following amongst the mass of the people. The concepts introduced by the Tao are analogous to those of the Buddha in India. He achieved his insights by a process of self-examination.

The Chinese prefer the practicalities of Confucius[26] who simply tried to make the best of mortality. He taught that perfection had been achieved by the old Chinese Kings and one merely had to emulate their system. Confucius excluded from his writing all reference to those Emperors that had observed the Tao. He never speculated about a divine-being superior to man. God is represented in the Chinese system by Nature which is regulated by virtue and vice. If the Emperor is virtuous, the seasons follow their regular course, harvests are plentiful and social responsibility diffuses peace and harmony throughout the land. A vicious ruler attracts drought, flood, earthquake, plague and famine.

Failure in duty to parents, dead or alive, is the greatest Chinese crime. The Emperor is the son of Heaven. He duplicates the role of the father in a family but His family is the entire nation. The people reciprocate His care and love as if He was their father. But should He neglect His duty to Heaven, He may be displaced by another.

The Western preoccupation with innovation and improvement exists in China but the writings of these people fade away almost instantly leaving only Confucianism as the guiding philosophy of the country. Only knowledge of Confucius’ teachings is tested in the public examinations, whether one wishes to be a lowly functionary or a minister of state. Anyone prepared to study the texts can achieve high office – the father of the present Viceroy Loo was a tailor. This fossilisation of culture is maintained by the language. The way characters are written has evolved but the meanings attributable to them have not.

The proper fields of study for the Chinese are history, geography, mathematics, poetry, political economy and explanations of the ancient texts. Literature is considered frivolous although there is a considerable volume of such works (the authors write anonymously). The only exception is the moral tale, of which there are many.

Chinese literature has been introduced to Europe almost exclusively by Catholic missionaries. During the 17th and 18th centuries they were permitted to roam throughout the Empire. They were the first Westerners to understand the language. All today’s sinologists should be grateful to the learned Jesuits and Dominicans for showing the way.

The Russians enjoy residence at Peking by treaty and spend their time examining the old translations of the missionaries. They seem to do little that is new. There have been exceptions – Leontiev, Lipovtsov and Hyacinth – but their work remains mainly in Russian and thus inaccessible to most of us. Only Father Hyacinth’s ‘Description of Peking’ appeared in French and his ‘Memoirs of the Mongols’ in German.

England’s interest in other nations is commercial. We are a ‘nation of shopkeepers’ but our merchants also lead the world in intellectual pursuits. Other European nations have traded with China but little information is available from them except for the occasional travel book. The English Company spent £6,000 on preparing and printing a Chinese dictionary and gave an annuity of £100 to any employee at Canton who studied Chinese language and literature. Since the commencement of the 19th century this has produced Staunton, Morrison, Davis, Medhurst, Milne and Thom.

Vol 9 No 3 – 19th January 1836

Early foreign trade – The first records of foreign trade date from the Tang dynasty when Kwangtung had just been subsumed into the Chinese empire. The vessels came from Sulu and Manila and carried only 200-300 piculs of goods each. When the Arabs joined this trade the ports of Fukien and Chekiang Provinces were also opened to them. They brought ivory, coral, pearls, gems, crystal, cloth, sapanwood (also known as Brazilwood, from which a red dye is extracted) and drugs. They took metals, silk and gold in return. Trade was a government monopoly. Trade in various items was restricted but the traders found ways of evading the regulations.

The regulations then imposed on foreign trade at Canton were strict. Ships bringing tribute had to land their cargoes and wait for the conclusion of harvest. 120 houses were built along the river bank for the accommodation of foreigners during their stay. Many centuries have since elapsed but the basic principles remain unchanged.

Vol 9 No 11 – Tues 15th March 1836

In a populous country like China, where life and labour have such low value, slavery is mainly consensual. The government permits Manchu soldiers of the eight banners to buy slaves subject only to registration. Poor people may sell children for it is better that they live than starve. Merchants may buy slaves but civil servants are forbidden to traffic in people under their care. Every slave owner is obliged to promote the marriage of his slaves. Any children of such marriages belong to the slave owner although the parents may redeem themselves. Slaves may not marry freemen. Slaves who redeem themselves may become full citizens if their behaviour is deemed appropriate. Slaves are treated as minors.

The owner is expected to treat his slaves well. He cannot beat his slaves unless it is approved by the magistrate. Frontier tribes and Miao people are often enslaved but this is in fact illegal.

Slavery extends amongst all classes in China but the more sophisticated the slave the better his conditions. Even senior Manchu officials designate themselves slaves in correspondence with the Emperor who seems to be the only freeman in China. Nevertheless, slavery in China is not generally oppressive. It is unlike slavery in Siam and Cochin China where the Kings force their people to work 4-6 months a year for the state.

In China people are more commonly oppressed by taxation. The Emperor owns all land and taxes its use. All activity is taxed. The Chinese government does not invite insurrection by making exorbitant demands on the people. The Emperor does not directly tax His people but farms the revenue collection to officials. They are obliged to return a fixed sum each year but can and do quibble if there are natural disasters. If they oppress the people and complaints arise, the official is at risk of losing everything by confiscation. In this way the people are kept in a sufficiency at subsistence levels whilst any surplus is accumulated by the coterie of officials. A farm labourer can never become wealthy. He is just maintained so the system perpetuates itself in an unchanging way. There are few large landowners in China because the profits obtained from the land are so small. Capital is better deployed in other endeavours.

This is the great secret of Chinese political administration – it explains so much. The people are both slaves and freemen. They are kept at subsistence level but are satisfied and love their paternal government. It seems paradoxical to a foreigner. The government routinely explains its actions clearly and openly and often acknowledges the neglect of its officials. But the people accept the system and do not complain against it. Though annually exposed to the effects of flood, drought, famine and plague these are natural disasters not invariably attributable to misrule. And the Emperor always tries to assist when times are hard.

It is this iron law of necessity that keeps everyone submissive. It underlies Chinese contentment and Chinese abhorrence of disorder.

Vol 9 No 18 – 3rd May 1836

The Great Learning:

1. The method of practising the Great Learning consists of developing the innate moral faculty we have received from Heaven; in renewing men and making perfection our final destination.

2. We must identify the destination, then arouse the determination. Then with a calm and tranquil mind we can enjoy the unchanging permanent repose. From this state of consciousness we can meditate the right judgment about things and develop our moral faculty.

3. Everything changes due to causes and effects. Actions have a start and an end. To recognise the law of causality is to see the world from first principles.

4. The ancients sought to develop this heavenly moral faculty by good government. They introduced it in their families but first they corrected themselves. By establishing uprightness in their hearts they made their actions pure and sincere. Thus they perfected their knowledge. This is how you penetrate to the fundamental meanings of things.

5. When things are understood properly, knowledge becomes perfect and intentions pure and sincere. This reinforces the mind in uprightness. The man is corrected, his family becomes well-ordered, the kingdom becomes well-governed and the world enjoys peace and harmony.

6. From the Emperor to the lowest person, the duty is the same – to correct and perfect oneself. This is the basis of all advancement and moral development.

7. It is natural for things to appear disordered. How can order be derived from disorder. To regard the important as unimportant and the unimportant as important is a false principle.

Vol 9 No 20 – Tues 17th May 1836

The Manchu conquests of 17th century astounded Europe. Their empire was larger than Napoleon’s at its height. This awakened British interest in China. We learned the Manchus were nomadic tribesmen who had been uncharacteristically united by common interest under one leader. The Manchus distinguished themselves from the other nomads and claimed a separate homeland but this history seems to have been specious.

From the Chinese records we find Manchus serving in the Chinese and Korean armies from the 8th century on. With generals trained by the Chinese and familiar with China’s topography and with the Sung dynasty weak and inactive, they easily occupied north China and extended their border to the Yangtse (in 1118 AD). The Chinese called in the Mongols to help them remove the Manchus. This was achieved in 1225 and the Manchus became dispossessed nomads for 400 years unaware of the heroic actions of their forefathers.

They became traders of horses in return for Chinese manufactures, particularly tea cake. Finally a leader arose who had the character and forcefulness to unit twelve tribes. China remained militarily weak and he was able to incrementally occupy Liaotung. In 1615 he resolved on the conquest of China, a task his son completed and his grandson became the first Ching Emperor.

Vol 9 No 27 – Tuesday 5th July 1836

In 1814, the Canton government, following the example set in Peking, refused to receive correspondence direct from the Select.[27] Chinese servants of foreigners were characterised at traitors and imprisoned. The ship HMS Alceste entered the river unauthorisedly and was fired upon at the river mouth which fire was returned. Captain Maxwell continued up to Whampoa for an explanation and ‘learned’ foreign warships were routinely excluded from the rivers of China. Shortly afterwards no violence was offered HMS Lyra when she likewise passed the forts en route to Whampoa.

The result of this action was an instruction from the Directors to the Select at Canton to observe the utmost moderation in their dealings with the Canton government in spite of the abrogation of the 1814 agreement between the Select and the then Viceroy (to permit direct correspondence in Chinese between Staunton and Viceroy Sung). The Select were instructed to be moderate and forbearing in their dealings – “all allowance for the known habits of the Chinese should be made” they were told.

We should send a mission to China with the following objects:

  • Recognition of the English King as the independent King of a civilised country,
  • An apology for Napier’s treatment
  • Compensation for the trade stoppage.
  • Chinese agreement that British subjects cannot be punished for crimes more severely than they would be in England
  • No payments to be required in trade beyond the Imperial tariff.
  • Pilotage, provisions, marine stores and labour to be available at normal rates. People providing the same not to be taxed or extorted.
  • Ships to pay port charges according to their size.
  • British subjects to bring their families, reside where they like and use such vehicles as they like, same as Chinese. The Briton, announcing his arrival and residential address to the local magistrate, wherever he may be, is not to be harassed in his pursuits.
  • Passports to visit any part of China to be available on application.
  • British shipping allowed to use any port having an Imperial customs house and be free to land and ship goods on no worse terms than those envisaged for Canton under this agreement.
  • British traders permitted to use boats and chairs to travel the country paying no more than the existing transit duties

Vol 9 No 52 – Tuesday 27th December 1836

The treaty between Russia and China signed in 1727 was written in Manchu and translated into Latin and Russian. It proclaims peace and delimits the frontiers. The terms are:

• Each party will keep its nationals in order and preserve the peace.

• Everything that formerly occurred between the countries will be overlooked. Nationals of one that now reside in the other’s lands shall not again be demanded for surrender, but all future migration will be prevented.

• The land between the guardhouse at Kiakhta and the summit of Mount Orkhoitou is to be equally shared. A market shall be opened on the new frontier. To the east, the frontier is through the summit of Bourgoutei to the guardhouse at Kiran then through Tsiktei, Arou Kidoure, Arou Khadangson in a straight line along the River Tchonkon (Tchikoi) and thence to the White Mountain, etc. To the west, ….. etc.

• Free commerce is established. Up to 200 merchants may go to Peking each year. No tax is to be exacted from either seller or buyer. Houses shall be established for trade at Kiakhta and Nerchinsk and surrounded by palisades. Traders will go directly to and from the houses.

• A Russian Orthodox church is erected in Peking and a senior priest with three junior priests will live there. They may freely practise their religion. Four Russian boys, speakers of Latin and Russian, will attend the church to learn Chinese. The cost will be paid by Russia and they may return whenever they are called to do so.

• The empires will correspond by sealed letters sent to Kiakhta

• If commissioners are sent by one party to the other they will announce themselves at the frontier. The receiving party will send escorts to them and provisions for their stay. They are not to be detained. They may bring merchandise if the mission arrives in that part of the year when commerce is allowed.

• Anyone migrating to the other country will be apprehended and executed on the spot. Deserting soldiers are to be beheaded, etc.

Subsequently it was found that illegal migration in either direction was uncontrollable. In 1766 Russia asked for renegotiation. The amendment confirmed the eleven previous articles inviolate. The frontier was again realigned to follow the crest-line of the mountains. Errors in the translations were corrected. The last article was deemed impractical and concealed; instead each party agreed to do its best to prevent migration.

Vol 11 No 19 – 8th May 1838

Excerpt from Dent’s ‘The Chinese Security Merchants in Canton and their Debts’:

In 1771 the Co-hong that had been established by Edict was dissolved by the Canton Viceroy on the application of the foreign trade (by payment of a 100,000 Tael bribe). A question arose as to whether the system of joint liability continued and whether it could be extended to debts with outside men on trade which was expressly illegal.[28]

Captain Panton of HMS Seahorse effected nothing on his first visit. He returned to Madras to have frequent communication with the creditors and the authorities. As of 31st December 1779 the debts of the Hongs under 208 bonds (in Spanish dollars) were:













The debts of the outside men under another 41 bonds were $494,063 making a total of $4,296,650 (just over £1 millions).

The Emperor’s decision was that the debts of Coqua and Seunqua were old and no accumulation of interest could be allowed. Only Yngshaw and Kewshaw’s debts were approved as they both acknowledged receipt of small loans and one half of their total debt was ordered to be paid. A distinction between bond debts (loans) and trading debts was made and joint liability was admitted.

The Hongs were ordered to find ways of repayment and export duty of 1 Tael 2 mace was added to green teas, 6 mace 2 candareens to black teas and 6% on raw silk to create a settlement fund for Capt Panton’s customers.[29]

Vol 11 No 25 – 19th June 1838

Commodore Anson’s visit to Canton is missing from the India Company’s records but a version is recorded in Harris’ Voyages. He arrived in Macau roads in 1743. He found it inconvenient for watering and provisions and moved to the Bogue and anchored off Tiger Island (where the Sha Jiao Fort is located). He sent a lieutenant with 19 men in his barge to Canton with a letter for the Viceroy explaining his act and asking for provisions. The lieutenant returned with the barge full of provisions and news that a senior official would soon come. The official arrived and asked that the formal salute be foregone as the noise was unpleasant. He invited Anson (and the captain of the other ship present) to come to Canton and he delivered a licence for provisioning.

He said China does not distinguish between merchant ships and national ships and Anson would be expected to pay the measurement fee etc. Anson said his instructions prohibited his paying to anchor anywhere. The official departed and a few days later the Port Entry licence arrived anyway. Anson moved over the bar and anchored in 30 feet of water. The next day he moved up-river and anchored off the Customs House at Whampoa where he discharged his Chinese pilots.

However the licence for provisioning at Whampoa was withheld and Anson determined on an audience with the Viceroy to request food. Fearful of putting himself in the power of the officials, he appointed Brett to be Captain of the Centurion, and ordered him to take the ship out of the river should he not return. Anson also informed the captains of the other foreign ships then at Whampoa – English, Swedish and Danish – of his intentions. He arranged a barge with sailors in smarter new clothes to transport him and the merchant ship captains to Canton. They landed at Canton and marched to the Viceroy’s yamen, Anson himself in a chair, believing the Chinese would be impressed by discipline and appearance. They found thousands of soldiers outside the yamen.

Anson was received by the Viceroy who provided a huge feast of small dishes and dried fruits and allowed all that he asked. The Viceroy gave Anson some small gifts but declined to receive any in return saying it was illegal. The resident European community was amazed. They had predicted the Port Entry fee would be insisted on.

The Admiral got his provisions and returned to Whampoa where he was saluted by all the shipping (except the French). He entertained the merchant captains who had assisted him in obtaining the Viceregal audience and, after a stay of five months, he left the river.


Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Pomelo is well-known. Wong Pei is Cantonese for ‘yellow skin’ – a delicious small fruit, the size of a large olive, grown throughout Guangdong province. The tree and leaves have the same fragrance as the fruit and have many uses.
  2. The Hong Hei Emperor’s (Kang Hsi) poetic instruction on the 16 political and social duties of His subjects to raise morality and social harmony. Each line is a 7-character aphorism. It is an important aspect of Ching dynasty administration.
  3. To Dei shrines are still common in Hong Kong particularly in the villages. It is also common for village youths to offer assistance to shop-keepers in respect of which they collect regular payments called To Dei fees.
  4. See the China chapter for better details of this lengthy dispute between the Portuguese and the Provincial government.
  5. See the China chapters for ‘outside men’ – they are unlicensed traders from whom the foreigners are allowed to buy small personal items. They are raised, largely by the Americans and Parsees, into competitors and collaborators with Hong merchants.
  6. The law establishing a monopoly of licensed Chinese merchants to confront the monopolistic national companies of the foreigners.
  7. The birth of the annual Edict directing foreigners inter alia not to resort to flower girls and boys – it is deeply resented by the merchants.
  8. Taipan (great merchant) – the honorific accorded by the Chinese to the President of the India Company’s Select Committee, a group of usually five writers who each paid up to £10,000 for the job. Frederick Pigou was of Huguenot stock. He later became a Director of the Company and a principal tea supplier to the American colonies.
  9. This is misleading – criminal offences against Europeans are routinely investigated by the Chinese whilst the civil jurisdiction is provided by officials in their judicial capacities with ‘judgments’ issued in Edicts. This variation caused the foreigners to allege they could not obtain justice in civil claims.
  10. Once the British had removed the House of Braganza from Lisbon and escorted them to Rio de Janeiro, they assumed the administration of Portugal in consultation with the expatriated King. It was expected that all Portuguese colonies would accept British protection for the duration of British control of the motherland however sovereignty of Macau had never been Portuguese hence Drury’s difficulty in assuming control of the place. There is some more on the bluff Admiral in the Asia and China chapters.
  11. The ancient Chinese division of the world into five concentric parts – the cultured lands extending 500 Li in all directions from the Imperial palace and forming China proper, the baronies surrounding those lands, the tranquillised lands where the soothing art (Chinese culture) was practised, the lands of restraint containing barbarians and the desert lands or Hwang Fu containing savages.
  12. The capitalists of Madras operated a high-compound interest loans business with their local rulers that was extended to China on the understanding the Chinese government was responsible for Hong merchant debts as it was the licensing authority. The Madras loans to the Nabob of the Carnatic were exposed by Lord Hobart whilst Governor (see the Asia chapter) and the outstandings later settled with public money by the British legislature after which the business became solely domestic in India. Nevertheless, loans by foreigners remained the key means of ensuring co-operation from Chinese exporters.
  13. These repeated assertions of willingly abandoning China-trade are nonsensical and signify only posturing. It should be recalled that the Company sells its tea in London for at least eight times cost price and its Select Committee in China all pay handsomely for the job for the financial opportunities it gives them.
  14. The invitation was quickly withdrawn.
  15. Ten years later, when Pottinger was settling the terms of the commercial treaty post-war, the merchants told him they had never seen the Chinese Customs tariff.
  16. This unchanging nature of Asia was the complaint of the Westerners who had themselves adopted ‘growth’ as their national policy.
  17. A fascinating example of this occurred towards the end of the Hong Hei Emperor’s (Kang Hsi) reign when a black meteor fell in Sinkiang with the appearance of the character for ‘life’ in red within it. It was understood to be a message from Heaven. Shortly after its presentation at the capital, the Emperor became unwell and died.
  18. This paragraph catches the basic difference between East and West. The English merchants expect to be punished for infringing the law – they must be ruled by misrule – whereas others can be usually counselled and reformed.
  19. It is my supposition that the Ching, being a foreign dynasty, had a particular problem with acceptance. Their senior Chinese officials constantly came face-to-face with Manchu and with the reality of being vassals; that a Chinese Emperor might have acted differently from time to time. Their co-operation came at a price and the Manchu deal appears to have been ‘you Chinese can manage this or that province provided you preserve the peace.
    It will be recalled that all officials were examined and periodically re-examined on their understanding of propriety. They were expected to exercise self-restraint in their administrations. This expectation was reinforced by a camaraderie amongst these illuminati. This was the way power was delegated in Ching China.
  20. He is about to produce his history of Macau.
  21. Sam Shoo (thrice distilled) is rice wine with a high alcohol content.
  22. Now called Chung Shan – the island of which Macau is a southern appendage.
  23. The astronomical equipment and the carriages sent with Macartney in late 18th century were found unused in storage at the Yuen Ming Yuen 60+ years later by Elgin in the 2nd Opium War. On the other hand the ‘sing-songs’ of 18th century trade and all small cute things were very popular in the Peking Court. There was a general interest and willingness to try anything new. The Western things that were not of much interest in China were those designed for time-saving and convenience.
  24. Peking knows of English activities in India and South East Asia.
  25. An island off the north of Sabah to which the India Company obtained occupation in 1760.
  26. Who is anecdotally said to have visited Lao Tse (they were contemporaries) and been scolded by him for wasting time.
  27. Apparently a reference to the abortive Amherst embassy although there was also deep Provincial resentment to British prize-taking in the Canton River.
  28. The outside men are shopkeepers in the foreign factory area, supposedly providing minor goods and domestic services to the foreigners but many have become traders.
  29. The deal was that the Admiral at Madras would receive 10% of whatever he could recover for the British creditors at Madras and this would satisfy the naval contingent. The Consoo fund might better be called Panton’s tax.

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