To ensure success brokers must be employed—I was quite helpless without them and before again sailing for that or any new market I must procure from Macao at least a couple.
Captain Mackay in Fuzhou to William Jardine in Canton, May 27th, 1835.*
The rules of trade at Guangzhou mandated that foreign merchants like Jardine and Matheson were only allowed to come to the foreign factories upriver near the walled city of Guangzhou during the summer months. Nearby Macao, under the de facto control of the Portuguese, served as a crucial place of residence and business for the foreign merchants in China during the rest of the year.
The above quote, from Captain MacKay of the Jardine-Matheson vessel The Fairy, indicates that Macao also served as a sort of job marketplace for Chinese brokers and interpreters to link up with foreign opium merchants. In The Case Against Shi Hou, we saw this happen as well, when the middleman Wang Mazhi took Shi Hou and his companions to Macao to meet the Rees brothers.
Source: JM:B2 7 [R. 495, No. 50] MacKay, Fuzhou, 5.27.1835
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Exploring the Jardine-Matheson Network
Landing page for exploring the Jardine-Matheson Network
Chimmo (Shenhu Bay)
Peter D. Thilly
There are multiple ways to explore the materials I've assembled for this path. First-time visitors and anyone wishing to get the “whole story” should consider clicking through in order, but non-linear exploration is encouraged. To that end, on this page I've grouped the entire contents of the path to serve as a menu and map of the contents. The first six pages of the path center around the people and practices, and the remaining pages are built around locations of importance within the Jardine-Matheson global network.
People and Practices
- The Rees Brothers: Big and Little Li
- The Receiving Ship System
- Brokers and Middlemen
- Experts and Specialists
- Lascars and Manilamen
- Corruption and Bribery
- Chimmo (Shenhu Bay)
- Canton (Guangzhou)
- Benares (Varanasi)
- Bombay (Mumbai)
Introducing the Source
Introducing "The Case Against Shi Hou"
Peter D. Thilly
The text of this path is drawn from File Number 03-4007-048 (DG 18/10/29) in the Number One Historical Archives in Beijing, in the Grand Council Chinese-Language Palace Memorial Copies collection (junji chu Hanwen lufu zouzhe).
This source is a Qing memorial: a report from a Provincial Governor to higher officials in Beijing. A memorial on a legal case like this is the final wrapped-up version of the case, written almost a year after the events it describes took place, based on the Governor’s reading of reports and documents on the case from the county, prefecture, and provincial judicial administration. The person who wrote this source was not present for the arrest or original interrogation of the subjects, and relied on reports forwarded from local officials. Documents like this can flatten testimony into judicial tropes, and can obscure information that might have created trouble for the lower officials who conducted the original arrests and interrogations, especially when there were potential implications of bribery and corruption.
The memorial that forms the base of this path describes the opium operations of a man named Shi Hou (Monkey Shi), a native of Yakou Village, Jinjiang County, Fujian Province. The memorial describes how Shi Hou and his fellow Shi lineage members “enticed” foreign opium merchants “Big and Little Li” north from Guangdong into Fujian in order to establish a smuggling depot in Shenhu Bay. At the end of the case, 111 individuals are listed as having been arrested or “at large” and wanted for opium crimes related to the case.
A note about the main character:
Shi Hou, along with many of the other people tied up in this case, were members of a large territorial lineage known as the Yakou Shi. Even today, the Shi lineage are the dominant surname group in Yakou village. In the Qing dynasty, the Yakou Shi occupied a position of power and privilege, dating back to the patriarch Shi Lang (1621-1696), who was the first Admiral (shuishi tidu) of the Xiamen Navy and helped the Qing put down Zheng Chenggong's maritime rebellion. By the early nineteenth century, maritime lineages like the Yakou Shi were a powerful and fiercely independent forces in local society. They were economically and politically diversified, sending off sons and nephews to Confucian academies or the Navy, or alternatively packing them on boats bound for Macao or Singapore. It is not irrelevant to this case that the lineage that Shi Hou came from was incredibly powerful, and lineage members continued opium trading after the arrests described here.
Spatial History questions for The Case Against Shi Hou
What is the spatiality of profit in this branch of the opium trade? What is the role of space in the methods used by the actors in this path (Shi Hou et al) to make their money?
Thinking in terms of the environment and physical geography that makes up the spatial setting of this story, how do the people in this case manipulate distances to their advantage, whether in terms of acquiring opium, selling opium, extorting money, or evading arrest?
Thinking in terms of discrete physical spaces (a boat, a small bay, a village, etc), what spaces are important to this history? What are the different ways one could evaluate the significance of spaces like the opium receiving ships, Shenhu Bay, and Yakou village?
Thinking more critically about applying the notion of “space as process” to this case, what different connections and transformations can we document as arising through the actions of the people in this case? How did Shi Hou, Big and Little Li, and the other actors described in this case build and transform different geographies of profit?
A Deal is Struck at Lintin, Shi Shubao becomes a Translator
The Shi Family convinces Big and Little Li to bring their ships north to sell opium in Fujian.
Peter D. Thilly
In the sixth month of the fifteenth year of Daoguang (June of 1835), Shi Hou decided that transporting the opium himself was too inconvenient, and contrived the idea of enticing the foreign boats to come anchor off the Fujian coast and sell opium. He shared the idea with Shi Shubao, and each invested 1,600 in silver taels.
They brought the money to Lintin near Macao and gave it to the foreigners Big and Little Li, who had set a price of 480 taels of silver per chest (each containing 40 bricks of opium). Shi Hou and the others handed over their 3,200 taels, and began trying to figure out how to transport and sell the opium.
Big and Little Li had just then purchased a lorcha, and they invited on two other Chinese middlemen (Chen A-Tiao and Yang Ming) who were just then thinking of starting a business. When Wang Mazhi heard about this, he too bought a large amount of opium and hired Chen A-Tiao to rent a “Redhead Boat” [a boat from Chaozhou, in Guangdong Province] and travel along with the others up the coast.
Shi Shubao, due to prolonged interaction with foreigners, gradually learned to speak and comprehend the foreign language. He became intimately acquainted with the Macao-born red-hair foreigners Big and Little Li.
Source: Junji chu Hanwen lufu zouzhe (Grand Council Chinese-Language Palace Memorial Copies, often cited as LFZZ), Beijing: First Historical Archives, 03–4007–048, DG 18.10.29.
Discrete Physical Spaces
A list of some of the discrete physical spaces important to the spatial history of profit
Chimmo (Shenhu) Bay
Peter D. Thilly
People pursued opium profits within discrete physical spaces. These spaces shaped decision making, instilling confidence or exposing vulnerabilities, embodying opportunities to enhance profitability, decrease risk, or manipulate the competition. Below is a list of some of the spaces that I have identified as important to the spatial history of profit. Visitors to the module are encouraged to compile their own lists, and to connect the significance of some of these physical spaces to those occurring in other modules.
- The receiving ships at Lintin and in Shenhu Bay and along the coast. These were stationary vessels captained by British employees of Jardine-Matheson and their competitors, and crewed by sailors from all over the world. These ships rarely moved locations, and operated as floating warehouses. One of the fullest pictures of life on these receiving ships can be found in a travelogue by the American dentist, B.L. Bell (this account is from over a decade after the events of this module take place).
- Smaller, fast ships like the Fairy that made rapid and repeated voyages between the receiving ships anchored on the coast in places like Shenhu Bay and the company's central receiving ship at Lintin.
- Opium clippers like the Red Rover that voyaged between India (Calcutta or Bombay), Singapore, and the receiving ships at Lintin. Perhaps the most exciting examination of life aboard these opium clippers can be found in the Ibis Trilogy by author Amitav Ghosh.
Villages, Towns, and Cities:
- Yakou Village, a small coastal town dominated by the Shi lineage. This is where Shi Hou and his kinsmen operated a massive smuggling ring, positioning themselves as middlemen between Chinese buyers and British opium importers.
- Macao, a Portuguese colonial outpost in the Pearl River Delta near Lintin. One important function of Macao as a physical space was as a meeting place and job market for Chinese brokers to link up with British ship captains like the Rees Brothers to arrange trips up the coast.
- The Canton Factories, just outside of the Guangzhou city gates. This is where the leadership of the Jardine-Matheson company kept their offices, arranging deals with prominent Chinese merchants, interacting with the representatives of the Qing state, and overseeing the correspondence of the company's global network.
- Other cities like Calcutta, Singapore, Bombay, and London.
- Neither fully on shore, nor fully out at sea, anchorages like Shenhu Bay and Lintin were also important physical spaces in this story. As the video I took from the beach at Yakou demonstrates, the anchorages were in plain sight of the shore. In the 1830s, a veritable fleet of fishing and trading sailboats would have passed back and forth past them each day.
The foreign factories at Canton were key sites for negotiation between British firms and Chinese merchants
Peter D. Thilly
Our friend Allum, the opium broker, has come to represent to us that a friend of his is building a smuggling boat somewhere in your neighbourhood, and requests that we will ask the favour of you to endeavour to afford him any protection which may be in your power, in the event of his being molested by the Mandarins. You must not of course go to the length of committing any acts of violence against the Mandarins, but he thinks the Mandarins will be deterred from giving annoyance by a mere show on your part of a disposition to protect the boat building operation.
William Jardine in Canton to Captain Grant on board the Samarang at Lintin, 1832.*
Common practice in the opium trade was for Chinese buyers to pre-arrange their purchases from the ships at Lintin at the money shops in Guangzhou. For most of the 1830s, William Jardine operated out of the foreign factories in Guangzhou (pictured above), constantly interacting with local Chinese merchants as well as sending and receiving letters with his agents in Calcutta, Bombay, Singapore, London, Macao, Lintin, and along the China coast in places like Shenhu Bay.
In the quote above, William Jardine describes how one of his Chinese partners approached him in Guangzhou in order to request that Jardine's ship at Lintin protect a shipbuilding operation near Lintin from interference by the Chinese government.
* China Trade and Empire: Jardine, Matheson & Co. And the Origins of British Rule in Hong Kong 1827-1843, ed. Alain le Pichon (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 162.
Brokers and Middlemen
Jardine-Matheson sources on local Chinese brokers and middlemen
Peter D. Thilly
To ensure success brokers must be employed—I was quite helpless without them and before again sailing for that or any new market I must procure from Macao at least a couple. JM B2 7, Reel 495, 50, May 27, 1835.
In the Jardine-Matheson archive, “brokers” are the Chinese people who either facilitate opium transactions or themselves purchase the drug. In the above quote, Captain MacKay notes that brokers for trips to southern Fujianese ports like Shenhu Bay can be found in Macao. Not many of these brokers are named in the archive, but one does appear with some detail and frequency: a certain “Mr. Yabe.”
In 1834, Yabe first appears as a contact of the enigmatic Prussian missionary, Charles Gützlaff, who was then working for Jardine-Matheson as a translator. In the second quote, Yabe essentially recommends the receiving ship system, much as Shi Hou was alleged to have done a few years later.
Your correspondent Yabe of the firm Sam Toan Moh (三全茂), sighs under the wrath of the Mandarins and does not dare to come on board, he has however fulfilled a part of the contract, and I doubt not will trade more largely. JM B2 7, Reel 495, 10, February 2, 1834.
Yabe repeatedly requested Mr. G to tell me that he wished to have a ship up every month as he prefer purchasing from foreign ships than run the risks with their own boats, he also said that he has made arrangements with the Mandareens for the next arrival, they will not be troublesome unless some fresh hand come on at the station. JM K1-2, Extracts from Company Records, 10, September 8, 1834.
A few years later, in the months following the arrest of Shi Hou and his compatriots, Yabe is living in fear.
Capt. Dodd observed on the 5th Instant the Mandareen junks landing their men at Mr. Yabe's village and a fire soon after took place. The reports are that Mr. Yabe, a broker who trades largely with us, left the village in time and the Mandareen burnt his house and several other people's. JM A8 123, 12, April 1837.
There has been proposals by Mr. Yabe, but he was in such a fright the other day that he told me to go away for 10 to 14 days. JM B2 7, Reel 495, 150, June 16, 1837
In some of his final appearances in the archive, Yabe has gotten into even hotter water in connection with a lineage feud and some slain government officials.
You will observe by the enclosed occurrence that our business in both bays have been much interrupted by a large fleet of Mandarins and I have been informed that their appearance here has been in consequence of Mr. Yabe's party shooting government officers when interfering in a fight with two villages. JM B2 7, Reel 495, 188, April 21, 1838.
During the last week the brokers are under a great alarm by the arrival of the Chu Kang and another officer from Foo Chow Foo. They have come to settle a query between two large towns, and also to squeeze the party that shot a Government officer last month near Mr. Yabe’s village. I believe the latter is settled on a payment of $8000, and these officers are expected in the bay in a day or two, many of the brokers have absconded, and most of the principal ones came off to me last night to remain for protection here, and the others beg me to leave for 10-12 days, but it is quite uncertain if it is the intention of their officer to interfere with the opium dealers or not. JM B2 7, Reel 495, 224, September 24, 1838.
This page references:
- 1 2019-11-18T17:22:58-05:00 The Case Against Shi Hou: A Qing Document 28 Landing page for the path that takes readers through the Qing memorial describing the Shi lineage smuggling ring. splash 5244 2020-08-14T19:18:23-04:00 1838-12-15 Peter D. Thilly
- 1 2019-11-18T17:22:59-05:00 Macao, The Harbor and Praya Grande 4 Unknown Artist, "Macao, The Harbor and Praya Grande," Oil on Canvas, ca. 1850, Peabody Essex Museum M6336. plain 2020-09-13T17:52:40-04:00 22.19972, 113.54638 Macau, China. Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Macao,_The_Harbour_and_Praya_Grande.jpg. 1850 Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA. Copyright undetermined (http://rightsstatements.org/page/UND/1.0/?language=en). Peter D. Thilly PDT-0002