Opium Wars

(redirected from Opium War)
Also found in: Dictionary.

Opium Wars,

1839–42 and 1856–60, two wars between China and Western countries. The first was between Great Britain and China. Early in the 19th cent., British merchants began smuggling opium into China in order to balance their purchases of tea for export to Britain. In 1839, China enforced its prohibitions on the importation of opium by destroying at Guangzhou (Canton) a large quantity of opium confiscated from British merchants. Great Britain, which had been looking to end China's restrictions on foreign trade, responded by sending gunboats to attack several Chinese coastal cities. China, unable to withstand modern arms, was defeated and forced to sign the Treaty of Nanjing (1842) and the British Supplementary Treaty of the Bogue (1843). These provided that the ports of Guangzhou, Jinmen, Fuzhou, Ningbo, and Shanghai should be open to British trade and residence; in addition Hong Kong was ceded to the British. Within a few years other Western powers signed similar treaties with China and received commercial and residential privileges, and the Western domination of China's treaty ports began. In 1856 a second war broke out following an allegedly illegal Chinese search of a British-registered ship, the Arrow, in Guangzhou. British and French troops took Guangzhou and Tianjin and compelled the Chinese to accept the treaties of Tianjin (1858), to which France, Russia, and the United States were also party. China agreed to open 11 more ports, permit foreign legations in Beijing, sanction Christian missionary activity, and legalize the import of opium. China's subsequent attempt to block the entry of diplomats into Beijing as well as Britain's determination to enforce the new treaty terms led to a renewal of the war in 1859. This time the British and French occupied Beijing and burned the imperial summer palace (Yuan ming yuan). The Beijing conventions of 1860, by which China was forced to reaffirm the terms of the Treaty of Tianjin and make additional concessions, concluded the hostilities.


See A. Waley, The Opium War through Chinese Eyes (1958, repr. 1968); H.-P. Chang, Commissioner Lin and the Opium War (1964); P. W. Fay, The Opium War, 1840–1842 (1975).

References in periodicals archive ?
In 1860, during the Second Opium War, British and French armies looted and burned the palace, and the bronze heads were taken from their stone bases and went along with the retreating armies.
Dirk Struan is the main character in James Clavell's 1966 novel "Tai-Pan," about a bitter rivalry between powerful traders in Hong Kong after the end of the First Opium War.
That was Caleb Cushing, who served, 1843-44, in the wake of the first Opium War.
From the First Opium War in 1840 to the foundation of the Peoples Republic in 1949, China suffered more than 470 offenses and invasions that came from the seas.
Hong Kong, July 18, 2011 - (ACN Newswire) - The Opium War of 1839 to 1842 is being given a fresh viewing in a new book by British writer Julia Lovell.
Set at the outbreak of the first Opium War, it takes us back to September 1838, when a storm breaks out on the Indian Ocean.
Set at the outbreak of the first Opium War, Ghosh's River Of Smoke takes us back to September 1838, when a storm breaks out on the Indian Ocean.
The bronze heads - of a rabbit and a rat - disappeared from the summer Imperial Palace on the outskirts of Beijing when French and British forces sacked it at the close of the second Opium War in 1860.
Or as the liberal Captain Chillingworth, bitterly opposed to the "butchery" of the impending opium war, says: "Men do what their power permits them to do.
The additional 1895 indemnity to Japan and the 1901 Boxer Indemnity to the Western powers, combined with the limitations on Chinese financial resources created by the Opium War unequal treaties, combined to bankrupt the Chinese government from 1896 on, thereby preventing it from being able to continue to support Chinese economic development efforts.
15pm) looks at Britain's opium war with Afghanistan.
He outlines the growth of poppy cultivation in the Indian subcontinent and the forcing open of Chinese markets in the Opium War of 1840-42, as well as highlighting contemporary scientific explanations of the physiological effects of the drug itself.