From the Tang Dynasty to the Ming Dynasty, opium had been used as medicine for over 600 years. Yet, as opium smoking became popular, opium turned out to be a drug that did great harm to human beings.
Since the middle and late 18th century, western capitalist countries led by Britain intensified the policy of trade expansion and unexpectedly used opium as a steppingstone to enter China's market. Armed opium smuggling and dumping brought China into a world of black stream and poisonous fog. It became a huge tumor of the Qing Dynasty and tremendously endangered the Chinese nation.
In 1839, Chinese people represented by Lin Zexu launched the first large-scale anti-opium campaign in human history. Over 1,150,000 kg of opium was destroyed publicly on the beach of Humen, Guangdong. The world was shocked. It started the first page of Chinese modern history and added a great chapter to global history of anti-opium campaigns.
I． Opium Smuggling
Since the late 15th century, England was representative of the Wests active pursuit of mercantile policies to explore foreign markets. It was eager to open the door to the Chinese market. At that time, China pursued a policy to restrain commerce by restricting trade with the West,. Early on, in trade with Britain, China always held a surplus position. In order to reverse the trade deficit, the British colonists turned to profiteering, and armed smuggling led to the dumping of a large amount of opium in China.
Since the fifteenth century in Europe, there was prevailing “mercantilism” to encourage foreign plunder and trade. Queen Elizabeth chartered the British East India Company to monopolize national trade east of the Cape. Before the Opium War, trade between China and Britain was mainly carried out by the East India Company.
In the middle of the 18th century, tea already became nationally popular in Britain. This is a handbill of an English tea shop. It includes tea caddies, coffee boxes and other products. A Chinese head portrait was usually found on the mark of an English tea shop.
In the 18th century, porcelain was the second most important product after tea among all products exported from Guangzhou. Chinese porcelain was not only popular in the west, but also easy to ship. Thus, foreign merchant ships were often loaded with porcelain on their return trips.
The products imported from Britain to China were mainly cotton, woolen, watches, clocks and other metalwork. These products were impractical and expensive for many Chinese people.
II. Harm of Opium
The evils of the opium trade caused untold suffering to the Chinese people, battered their health, and resulting in an increase in social and moral disintegration, corrupt officialdom, and had a negative impact on the nation's military and treasury. The Chinese nation was facing a major crisis.
Opium smuggling filled the country with opium everywhere. In the 1830s, almost every social class of China was addicted to opium smoking.
III. Anti-Opium Campaigns
Since the 7th year of the Yongzheng Reign, the Qing Dynasty had been implementing anti-opium policies, but things went contrary to wishes. Opium problems got more and more serious. In a nationwide anti-opium debate, Emperor Daoguang showed stronger determination against opium, and people’s view of anti-opium campaign was united gradually.
IV. Humen Opium Destruction
Introductory couplet: 【部导言】“蛮烟一扫海如镜，清气长此留炎州”
“Once the smoke was swept out, the sea was as a mirror; The breath of pure air remained across the once 'Inflamed Region.”
1839, Lin Zixu ordered Fu Yue to take bold and effective measures - in a blow-by-blow struggle against the British colonists. They seized more than More than two hundred kilograms of opium from Britain and other countries and, concentrated it at Humen Beach where it was publicly destroyed.
June 3, 1839, an important day recorded both in Chinese history and world’s history. Humen beach witnessed the burning of opium stocks on that day. It is a brave song for Chinese people to resist foreign aggression, and the most splendid chapter in the history of drug prohibition.
However, we still have a heavy heart, with lots of questions churning in our brains: When western countries developed their overseas trade, why did they only sell lots of opium to China? Why was opium flooded only in the Qing Dynasty while it spread over the world? Why did the opium which could be used as a medicinal material become a narcotic causing huge social harm? Why was it so hard to prohibit opium in the Qing Dynasty even with strict anti-opium regulations? As an anti-opium hero, why was Lin Zexu still demoted and exiled by the government?
总策划 — 张建雄 馆长
陈列大纲 — 丁学志 副主任
作品挑选 — 曲庆龄 副主任
作品提供 — 万娟 副主任
沟通协调 — 李亮文 主任
外联 — 郑灼明 副主任
展览编辑 — 郑灼明 盘秋红
资料编辑 — 李景常