Sivut kuvina

Commerce of the Chinese.

It is probable that the applications made in remote times to the rulers of China for liberty to trade with their subjects, partook in their opinion very much of the nature of an acknowledgment of their power, and the presents accompanying the request were regarded as tribute; the traders themselves probably also looked upon the intercourse in somewhat the same light. The commerce then consisted mainly of the silks and porcelain of China, in exchange for the medicines, gems, precious metals, and furs of the people on the west and south. The records of the origin and early course of this trade are lost to a great extent, but the Chinese annals furnish proof of its existence, and their own trafficking spirit would develope it as much as possible. The restrictions and charges upon this trade were of small amount at this early period; as it extended, the cupidity of local officers led them to burden it with numerous illegal fees, which gradually reduced its value, and finally, in some instances, drove it away altogether. The succeeding chapter contains a brief detail of the various changes attending this traffic, down to the time when it was entirely remodelled according to the stipulations of the treaty of Nanking, and placed upon a better understood basis than ever before, so that the manner in which it was carried on before that time, now possesses less interest to the general reader than formerly. Its principal items of export and import have not materially changed during the last century; the splendid fabrics of the Chinese looms, their tea, their lacquered ware, and the produce of their kilns, being still bartered for the cottons, metals, furs, and gems of the west. A succinct description of such articles as possess peculiar interest, and have not been already described, together with a few notices respecting the present extent and mode of conducting the trade, will suffice to explain its general features. The history of the tea trade has been often written, and the story told of Lady Pumphraston, who, receiving a small sample, complained she “could not make these foreign greens soft, either by frying or stewing them;” and its history is instructive too, as it shows how Providence brings nations together by ties and impulses of mutual advantage and desires, and makes them better acquainted when otherwise they would, perhaps, have quarrelled with or despised each other. The first thing which attracts attention in the table of trade with China, is the opium traffic, whose growth and momentous consequences require a detailed account. The use of opium as a medicine has not long been known to Chinese doctors, though, from the way the poppy is mentioned in the Chinese Herbal, there is reason to suppose it to be indigenous; the drug is called apien, in imitation of the word opium : other names given to it are, “smoking dirt,” “foreign poison,” “black commodity,” and “black earth,” while the plant is called afuyung, a foreign name said by the Chinese to signify “our hibiscus.” The compiler of the Herbal, who wrote two centuries ago, speaks of both the plant and its inspissated juice, saying both were formerly but little known; and then concisely describes the mode of collecting it, which almost leads to the inference that it was then used in medicine. None was imported coastwise for scores of years after that date, but as the natives of Assam and the adjoining region have used opium for a long period, it is not unlikely that it was made known to the Chinese from that quarter. The poppy is now grown in the eastern and southern provinces, and memorials to the emperor, requesting him to prohibit the cultivation, were presented from the governors of all these provinces. One censor, in 1830, says that it is produced over one half of Chehkiang; but he gives no statement as to the amount. The juice is collected and prepared, judging from his account, in much the same manner as in India, and by the people themselves for their own consumption. He observes, that “within less than ten years, the evil had spread over a large part of that province, not only bringing injury on the good, but greatly retarding the work of the husbandmen.” It is not improbable that the native cultivation of the plant was in a good degree stopped in the eastern provinces, for no mention is made of it in subsequent memorials; but in Kweichau, Yunnan, and contiguous parts, it is still grown and prepared,—Chu Tsun,


in a memorial written in 1836, says to the extent of several thousand chests in Yunnan alone. Barrow refers to the prevalent use of the drug by officials and others in the upper ranks of society, but neither the gentlemen of the last Dutch, nor of the two English ambassies, mention having seen the poppy growing; though this is not surprising, inasmuch as their route mostly lay along the Grand canal and rivers, the banks of which are not favorable to its cultivation. The mode of raising the poppy in the Patna district in India, is thus described: “The ryot or cultivator having selected a piece of ground, always preferring (catteris paribus) that which is nearest his house, fences it in. He then, by repeated ploughings, makes it completely fine, and removes all the weeds and grass. Next, he divides the field into two or more beds by small dikes of mould, running lengthwise and crosswise according to the slope and nature of the ground, and again into smaller squares by other dikes leading from the principal ones. A tank is dug about ten feet deep at one end of the field, from which by a leathern bucket, water is raised into one of the principal dikes and carried to every part as required; this irrigation is necessary because the cultivation is carried on in the dry weather. The seed is sown in November, and the juice collected in February and March, during a period, usually, of about six weeks; weeding and watering commence as soon as the plants spring up, and are continued till the poppies come to maturity. Cuts are then made in the rind of the seed vessel, with a small shell ; from them the juice exudes during the night, and is scraped off in the morning; when the heads are exhausted, they become whitish. The cultivator is assisted by his family, and must deliver a certain quantity at such a price to the collector, the amount being fixed by a survey of the field when in bloom; he receives about $1,65 for a seer (1 lb. 13 oz.) of the poppy juice, which must be of a certain consistence. The ryot has, in most cases, already received the advance money for the opium, and if he sell it to any other than the collector, or if he fail to deliver the estimated quantity, and there is reason for supposing he has embezzled it, he is liable to punishment. In all the territories belonging to the Company, the cultivation of the poppy, the preparation of the drug, and the traffic in it until it is sold at auction for exportation, are under a strict monopoly. Should an individual undertake the cultivation without having entered into engagements with the government to deliver the produce at the fixed rate, his property would be immediately attached, and he compelled either to destroy the poppies, or give security for the faithful delivery of the product. The cultivation of the plant is compulsory, for if the ryot refuse the advance for the year's crop, the simple plan of throwing the rupees into his house is adopted; should he attempt to abscond, the agents seize him, tie the advance up in his clothes, and push him into his house. There being then no remedy, he applies himself as he may to the fulfilment of his contract. Vast tracts of the very best land in Benares, Bahar, and elsewhere in the northern and central parts of India, are now covered with poppies; and other plants used for food or clothing, grown from time immemorial, have nearly been driven out. In Turkey, Persia, India and China, many myriads of acres and millions of people are employed in the cultivation of poppies.” The preparation of the opium for the Chinese market is superintended by examiners appointed by the government, and is a business of some difficulty from the many substances put into the juice by the ryots to adulterate or increase its weight. Wetting it so that the mass shall be more fluid than it naturally is, mixing sand, soft clayey mud, sugar, coarse molasses, cow-dung, pounded poppy-seeds, and the juice of stramony, quinces, and other plants, are all resorted to, although with the almost certain result of detection and loss. When taken from the cultivator and native collector, the crude mass undergoes careful examination, and is rolled into small balls with a covering of leuca or opium paste mixed with the petals of the poppy. When the juice gathered from the plant has been dried properly in a cool shade, to about 70 per cent. spissitude, it appears coppery brown in the mass, and when spread thin on a white plate, shows considerable translucency, with a gallstone yellow color and a slightly granular texture. When cut with a knife it exhibits sharp edges without drawing out into threads; and is tremulous like strawberry-jam, to which it has been aptly compared. It has considerable adhesiveness, a handful of it not dropping from the inverted hand for some seconds. All the opium grown in the Company's territories is brought to

* Chinese Repository, Vol. V., page 472.


Calcutta and stored in government warehouses, until it is exposed for sale at auction, in lots of five chests each, at an upset price, graduated according to the market price in China. It is supposed not to cost much more than 700 rupees a chest, and is sold at 1000 rupees and upwards, yielding a net annual revenue of over

two millions sterling. Care is taken to suit the taste of the Chi.

nese ; and on one occasion, the Company refunded part of the price on a lot which had been differently prepared, to try whether that people would prefer it. There are four sorts of opium: Tur. key, which sells cheapest in China, and is brought chiefly from Smyrna; Patna and Benares, which are grown in the Company’s territories, and sold at Calcutta; and Malwa, which is cultivated out of their jurisdiction, but pays them a revenue of about 200 rupees each chest for its transit to Bombay, where it is shipped. The Portuguese also export a small quantity from their settlement in Damaun. The drug is rolled in balls, and then packed in strong boxes, weighing from 116 lbs. for Patna, to 134 lbs. or 140 lbs. for Malwa. The Malwa opium is grown and prepared entirely by natives, and is often so extensively adulterated as to be worthless. There are between 400 and 500 cakes in a chest of Malwa, and the cultivator there receives double the wages of the ryot in Bengal. The chests of Patna and Benares are made of mango wood, and consist of two stories or parts, in each of which there are twenty partitions; the forty balls to fill these partitions are carefully rolled in dried poppy leaves. The chest is covered with hides or gunny bags, and the seams closed so as to render it as impervious to the air as possible, but considerable allowance is made for dryage. After the drug is sold at Calcutta, it is shipped in small fastsailing vessels for China, more than half of the export from that and other ports in India being sent off in these clippers. The use of opium among the Chinese two centuries ago must have been very little, or the writings of the Romish missionaries, from 1580 down to the beginning of the nineteenth century, would certainly have contained some account of it. It was not till the year 1767, that the importation reached a thousand chests, and continued at that rate for some years, most of the trade being in the hands of the Portuguese. The East India Company made a small adventure in 1773; and seven years after, a dépôt of two small vessels was established by the English in Lark's bay, south WOL. II. 18

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