Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian HistoryMain MenuGet to Know the SiteGuided TourShow Me HowA click-by-click guide to using this siteModulesRead the seventeen spatial stories that make up Bodies and Structures 2.0Tag MapExplore conceptsComplete Grid VisualizationDiscover connectionsGeotagged MapFind materials by geographic locationLensesCreate your own visualizationsWhat We LearnedLearn how multivocal spatial history changed how we approach our researchAboutFind information about contributors and advisory board members, citing this site, image permissions and licensing, and site documentationTroubleshootingA guide to known issuesAcknowledgmentsThank youDavid Ambaras1337d6b66b25164b57abc529e56445d238145277Kate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5fThis project was made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The Jardine Matheson Global Network
12019-11-18T17:22:58-05:00Kate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f3520A path through the Jardine Matheson global networksplash52352021-03-19T15:22:13-04:001832-1838Peter D. ThillyPeter Thilly31b16d536038527b575c94bfc34e976c8406bf42
12020-07-18T12:27:11-04:00Peter Thilly31b16d536038527b575c94bfc34e976c8406bf42Introducing the Source29Introducing the Jardine-Matheson Company and Archiveplain2021-09-30T10:56:54-04:0031.24063, 121.48999Shanghai1832Peter D. ThillyJardine, WilliamMatheson, JamesJardine-Matheson CompanyKate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f
12019-11-18T17:22:55-05:00Kate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5fExploring the Jardine-Matheson Network52Landing page for exploring the Jardine-Matheson Networkplain2021-09-30T10:58:25-04:0024.6500, 118.6667Chimmo (Shenhu Bay)22.4167, 113.8000Lintin23.1167, 113.2500Canton (Guangzhou)22.17730, 113.54689Macao1.2833, 103.8500Singapore22.5626, 88.3630Calcutta25.59409, 85.13756Patna25.3167, 83.0104Benares18.9750, 72.8258Bombay22.71956, 75.85772Malwa51.5142, -0.0931LondonPeter D. ThillyJardine-Matheson CompanyKate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f
12019-11-18T17:23:00-05:00Kate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5fThe Rees Brothers: Big and Little Li22John and Thomas Rees, aka Big and Little Li, competing opium merchantsplain2021-09-30T11:00:31-04:0024.6500, 118.6667Shenhu Bay01/21/183605/17/1836Peter D. ThillyRees, JohnRees, ThomasKate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f
12020-07-22T12:21:35-04:00Peter Thilly31b16d536038527b575c94bfc34e976c8406bf42Brokers and Middlemen15Jardine-Matheson sources on local Chinese brokers and middlemenplain2021-10-01T17:28:29-04:001834-1838Peter D. ThillyKate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f
12019-11-18T17:23:01-05:00Kate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5fExperts in the Jardine-Matheson Network28Experts in the Jardine-Matheson Networkplain2021-10-01T17:29:39-04:0022.4167, 113.8000Lintin1833-1855Peter D. ThillyJardine-MathesonRees, JohnKate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f
12020-07-14T13:35:43-04:00Peter Thilly31b16d536038527b575c94bfc34e976c8406bf42Lascars and Manilamen26The laboring people who worked on the Jardine-Matheson shipsplain2021-10-01T17:36:32-04:004.69513, 96.7493915.29932, 74.12399-6.16519, 39.19891-4.04347, 39.668211.12712, 78.6568922.5626, 88.36305.41413, 100.3287514.59951, 120.9842124.48535, 118.0885023.6567, 116.6227522.19874, 113.5438712.78549, 45.01865AcehGoaZanzibarMombasaHosurCalcuttaPenangManilaXiamenChaozhouMacaoAdenLascars1833-1835Peter D. ThillyJardine-Matheson CompanyKate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f
1media/10_-_hands_shaking_with_euro_bank_notes_inside_handshake_-_royalty_free,_without_copyright,_public_domain_photo_image_01.jpeg2019-11-18T17:22:57-05:00Kate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5fCorruption and Bribery18Jardine-Matheson sources regarding corruption and bribery in the opium tradeplain2021-10-01T17:40:39-04:0024.86830, 118.67729Quanzhou1835-1838Peter D. ThillyJardine-Matheson CompanyKate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f
12019-11-18T17:22:56-05:00Kate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5fChimmo (Shenhu) Bay29An opium depot on the China coast located between Xiamen and Quanzhou.plain2021-10-01T17:41:57-04:0024.6500, 118.6667Shenhu Bay01/18/1836Peter D. ThillyRees, JohnJardine, WilliamKate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f
12019-11-18T17:22:59-05:00Kate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5fLintin25A description of Lintin, the primary opium depot in the Pearl River Delta.plain2021-10-01T17:43:50-04:0022.4167, 113.8000Lintin1820-1839Peter D. ThillyJardine, WilliamKate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f
12019-11-18T17:22:56-05:00Kate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5fCanton (Guangzhou)22The foreign factories at Canton were key sites for negotiation between British firms and Chinese merchantsplain2021-10-01T17:45:06-04:0023.1167, 113.2500Canton (Guangzhou)1832Peter D. ThillyJardine, WilliamKate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f
12019-11-18T17:22:59-05:00Kate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5fMacao21Macao was a central location for Anglo-Chinese networking in the opium tradeplain2021-10-01T17:46:11-04:0022.17730, 113.54689Macao05/27/1835Peter D. ThillyJardine, WilliamKate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f
12019-11-18T17:22:59-05:00Kate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5fSingapore22Singapore was the key point of transshipment between India and Chinaplain2021-10-01T17:47:19-04:001.2833, 103.8500Singapore02/26/1836Peter D. ThillyJardine, WilliamKate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f
1media/redRover.Cropped.jpg2019-11-18T17:22:56-05:00Kate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5fCalcutta (Kolkata)24Calcutta was the site of auction for Bengal opium from the Patna and Benares regions.plain2021-10-01T17:48:15-04:0022.5626, 88.3630Calcutta (Kolkata)08/19/1837Peter D. ThillyJardine, WilliamRees, JohnKate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f
12019-11-18T17:22:59-05:00Kate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5fPatna16A description of opium production in Patna, Indiaplain2021-10-01T17:49:40-04:0025.59409, 85.13756Patna04/26/1834Peter D. ThillyJardine, WilliamKate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f
12019-11-18T17:22:55-05:00Kate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5fBenares (Varanasi)16Benares (Varanasi) was one of the primary opium growing regions supplying the Calcutta opium market.plain2021-10-01T17:50:41-04:0025.3167, 83.0104Benares (Varanasi)10/19/1834Peter D. ThillyRees, JohnJardine, WilliamKate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f
12019-11-18T17:22:55-05:00Kate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5fBombay (Mumbai)20Bombay was the site of auction for Malwa opium bound for China.plain2021-10-01T17:52:38-04:0018.9750, 72.8258Bombay (Mumbai)1838-1843Peter D. ThillyJardine, WilliamKate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f
12019-11-18T17:22:59-05:00Kate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5fMalwa17Malwa was an alternate site of opium production in India, competing with BEIC product from Patna and Benares.plain2021-10-01T18:02:24-04:0022.71956, 75.85772Malwa06/15/1836Peter D. ThillyJardine, WilliamKate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f
12019-11-18T17:22:59-05:00Kate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5fLondon17London was the political and financial center of Jardine-Matheson's operationsplain2021-10-01T18:03:32-04:0051.5142, -0.0931London1837-1839Peter D. ThillyMatheson, JamesKate McDonald306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f
This module tells the story of how a transnational coalition of maritime traders came together to operate one of the largest illicit drug markets in history. The importation of opium into China prior to 1832 occurred exclusively in the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong Province, where Fujianese and Cantonese ships would load up on the drug for delivery to other parts of the empire.
By the late 1830s, a huge portion of the import trade had migrated north into Fujian province. Every day after 1834 or so there were around a dozen British ships permanently anchored in strategic bays along the Fujian coast, importing tens of thousands of chests of opium directly into Fujian and exporting jaw-dropping quantities of treasure.
This module allows users to explore this dramatic explosion in the Fujianese opium trade, by focusing on the local story of Shenhu Bay in Jinjiang County, and the interactions between the Shi Lineage of Yakou Village and the Rees brothers of Jardine-Matheson and Dent & Co.
Navigating Sources and Mapping the Opium Trade. Introduces the goals of the module, provides necessary background information, and summarizes my interpretation of the archival sources that make up the two main body paths of the module.
The Case Against Shi Hou: A Qing Document. Constructed out of a primary source from the Qing territorial administration, a criminal case against a man called Shi Hou for escorting British opium ships to his hometown of Yakou Village.
The Jardine-Matheson Global Network. A re-creation of the largest and most influential British opium-trading firm, divided up conceptually and geographically, interspersed with images, videos, and primary source text from the Jardine-Matheson archive.
A Spatial History of Profit. Three short essays on a spatial history of profit and corruption on the Qing maritime frontier.
Conclusion: Space as Process. The concluding page to the module.
Click here for a list of references for this module, which is also available from the module's Conclusion page.
12019-11-18T17:22:57-05:00What really happened to Shi Hou?46Questions about the final result of the Qing memorial on Shi Houplain2021-09-30T10:52:03-04:0024.66782, 118.64392Yakou24.6500, 118.6667Shenhu Bay24.86830, 118.67729Quanzhou02/24/1839Peter D. ThillyShi Hou
The memorial states that Shi Hou was sentenced to immediate strangulation for his crimes, but it also notes at one point that Shi Hou “died of illness” while in custody and awaiting sentencing, along with fourteen other unlucky prisoners. His sentence was posthumous.
Did the “real” Shi Hou die in jail?
Can we take the document at its word that the person the Qing officials arrested was indeed Shi Hou? Do we actually know that the person who was arrested under the name Shi Hou was the ringleader of the opium network? Was a person named Shi Hou really in charge of the Shi lineage smuggling operations at Yakou?
These questions are worth asking. I believe that there was an actual person who at some point went by the name Shi Hou. Here are two plausible stories about him:
Shi Hou was a minor figure in the opium ring.The Yakou Shi lineage was large enough that it contained internal class differences, between wealthy elites and the laboring poor. Perhaps Shi Hou was employed by someone from the top of the lineage hierarchy, and the Qing state's decision to charge him as ringleader was a compromise, a clear and symbolic punishment of the lineage as a whole, sacrificing an expendable member of the lower stratum of the lineage.
If this were the case, the suspect’s decision to confess makes sense. By claiming that he had been the head criminal, and it had been his idea to bring Big and Little Li to Fujian, he acknowledged his grim fate and studiously implicated nobody else in the lineage. Such loyalty was the kind of thing that might ensure financial compensation for his family.
Shi Hou was the name of an important figure in the opium trade. Perhaps he was actually an instrumental figure in helping Jardine-Matheson establish themselves in Shenhu Bay. It is true that his name appears across a number of years and sources in Qing archives. Different people within the coastal administration knew this person’s name.
If Shi Hou had been a high-level figure in the trade, with the requisite connections and finances, it would be reasonable to suspect that the prisoner “Shi Hou” who died in jail was a stand-in, a lower strata lineage member whose family would have been paid for his service as a substitute prisoner. This practice was not uncommon in late Qing Fujian.
Is Shi Hou in the Jardine-Matheson Archive?
I have found reference to the names of just four people in the Jardine-Matheson archive that can be reliably connected to the Shi lineage.
The first three names come from a letter in Chinese that the brokers at Yakou Village sent to Captain Rees, who they refer to as “Captain Li” (李船主). The letter is signed by three people, offering only given names and no surname: Yayang (亞樣), Yabo (亞伯) and Yazhen (亞朕). The second one, Yabo, is almost certainly the “Mr. Yabe” that appears throughout the Jardine-Matheson materials as a middleman between the ship and local brokerage firms. I was unable to find any of these three names (or indeed any of the names in the memorial) in unpublished Shi lineage genealogies.
The other reference is more intriguing: a man named Shik Po who spent a lot of time aboard the Jardine-Matheson receiving ships. One representative example of Shik Po's appearance in the sources is when Captain Forbes, visiting Shenhu bay in 1839 (two years after the arrest of Shi Hou), remarked that “Shik Po the Yakow man who took refuge with us last year has again come off and is now living on board.”* Could this not be the “real” Shi Hou? Based on local pronunciation it seems more plausible that Shik Po could have been Shi Shubao, the kinsman of Shi Hou who had learned English and was never captured.
The realms of possibility
The value in this kind of speculation is thinking through the webs of different structures that a man like Shi Hou would have been enmeshed with. The lineage structure of coastal Fujianese society would have been the most dominant structure in his life. But his illegal activity also placed him in the grasp of the political-military structures of the Qing state in his region. Qing officials like the Jinjiang magistrate and the Quanzhou prefect were outsiders—people who grew up in other provinces and were appointed to Fujian from Beijing. Meanwhile, the Fujian navy was a far more local institution, as the Manchu rulers from the northeast Asian hinterland were forced to rely on locals who knew how to sail and navigate the difficult Fujian coast.
New structures with new spatialities had also advanced into the world of Shi Hou. The rising tide of British imperialism undergirded an institution like Jardine-Matheson and enabled people like William Jardine and James Matheson to source their opium and hire labor for their ships and factories. By entering into a relationship with the Rees brothers, Shi Hou and his lineage members were thus also drawn into the rapidly transforming structures of the British empire. But Rees and his employers in Guangzhou did not see themselves as empire-builders: these men were engaged in the single-minded pursuit of profit. They were pioneers in one of the formative moments and contexts for the rise of global capitalism. This too structured the possibilities for a man like Shi Hou.
*JM B2.7, Reel 495, No. 247, Forbes to Jardine, 24 February 1839
12019-12-09T13:14:00-05:00Discrete Physical Spaces29A list of some of the discrete physical spaces important to the spatial history of profitplain2021-10-01T18:08:26-04:0024.6500, 118.6667Chimmo (Shenhu) Bay22.4167, 113.8000Lintin22.5626, 88.3630Calcutta (Kolkata)18.9750, 72.8258Bombay (Mumbai)1.2833, 103.8500Singapore24.66767, 118.64379Yakou22.1667, 113.5500Macao51.5142, -0.0931LondonPeter 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.
12019-12-11T09:17:51-05:00Manipulating Space and Time26The intersection of technology, time, and profitplain2021-10-01T18:06:58-04:0022.71956, 75.85772Malwa22.4167, 113.8000Lintin24.6500, 118.6667Shenhu Bay22.5626, 88.3630Calcutta23.1167, 113.2500Canton24.66782, 118.64392Yakou1832Peter D. ThillyJardine-MathesonYakou Shi
Time was an essential component of how actors calculated their actions in the pursuit of opium profits. Below I explore two avenues through which to understand the role of time in a spatial history of the opium trade, but visitors are encouraged to develop their own arguments about time and to use the materials in this module to link up with the others.
Monsoon seasons and Asian commerce in the age of sail
In the age of sail, the movement of people, objects, and boats between China, Southeast Asia, and the Indian Subcontinent was almost entirely dependent on the yearly pattern of monsoon winds. A single boat could only make the journey from India to China and back (or the reverse) but one time per year. This is because travelers going from India to China could only set sail during the southwest summer monsoon, and the trip would take two to three months. Likewise, the journey from China to India had to take place during the northeast winter monsoon, and again this trip would take nearly three months. The monsoon seasons therefore structured and limited trade between China, Southeast Asia, and India for most of recorded history.
Then, in 1832, the leadership of Jardine-Matheson and a coalition of other opium merchants got together to purchase an opium clipper known as the “Red Rover,” which quickly became the first ship in recorded history to sail to China from India against the wind. This new technology enabled firms like Jardine-Matheson to bring ever-increasing quantities of opium from India to China, at record speed. As discussed below, one important consequence of more rapid connections between India and China was that it changed the calculus of opium pricing in Lintin and along the China coast.
Opium prices, the movement of information, and a race against time
Directly related to the history of sail technology and the centrality of the monsoon to Asian trading patterns, opium profits were highly dependent on taking advantage of differences in opium prices between locations. One example of this from the module is the quote from Captain Rees that headlines the Malwa page. In that example, Captain Rees discusses how the brokers in Shenhu Bay had managed to acquire information about the price of Malwa opium at Lintin and were consequently purchasing large amounts. For Captain Rees, setting prices was a matter of constant anxiety, as he was under pressure to sell as much opium as possible but at as high a price as could be obtained. The ability of his customers in Yakou Village to keep abreast of the price at Lintin limited Rees' ability to sell at inflated prices. For both parties, buying and selling opium was a constant race against time for the latest and best information.
The British East India Company opium auctions in Calcutta were another place where Jardine-Matheson and their competitors had to engage in complex calculations about time. The company's purchasing agents in Calcutta, like Rees in his station on the China coast, were under constant pressure from William Jardine in Guangzhou to make advantageous purchasing decisions, a calculation that could change unpredictably based on the activities of Chinese purchasers and government officials thousands of miles away. In the quote that headlines the Calcutta page of this module, we see Jardine complaining to Rees about the company agent in Calcutta's lack of awareness in failing to ship enough Patna and Benares opium to Lintin. On other occasions, Jardine became furious when the Calcutta agent sent too much opium to China and brought down prices.
It is easy to imagine an organization like the Shi lineage engaging in a similar range of time and price calculation. Like Jardine-Matheson, the Yakou Shi were a diversified and complex business organization, purchasing opium in Shenhu Bay for shipment to places like Taiwan, Ningbo, and ports in North China. A full range of sources do not exist to demonstrate the point, though the combination of materials in the British and Chinese archives do enough to give a clear sense of the size and scope of the Shi lineage's opium operations.