An edict from the Qianlong emperor in 1757, decreeing that all trade with foreigners should be confined to Canton, was the foundation stone of a specific commercial system known as the Canton Trade, which prevailed until 1841.
The painted scene shows Danish, French, Swedish, British and Dutch factories. The sticks are decorated with European musicians playing wind instruments, putti, two birds and gold coins. The French style of the sticks is an example of the Canton craftsmen's ability to imitate foreign styles to suit a customer's demand.
Small gaming counters were the most common products, though entire shells carved with 'exotic' scenes like this one were popular decorative items. The foreground is dominated by two dragon boats - not racing but moving towards each other being watched by people on shore, on two sampans and on the bridge over the river.
Exhibit was curated by Phoebe Tong at Hong Kong Maritime Museum