There is too much that I do not know anything about and the role that opium played in the history of China is one of them.\nWere it not for a textile-evoked curiosity I might have remained unenlightened in the cultural history forever.\nEvery now and then I open up the wardrobes and casually glance through the assets to ensure their well-being. During one such audit that was expected to take no more than 5 minutes I was struck once again by the man with his opium pipe.\nThe shawl attracted me for the many folk scenes embroidered on it that depict the lifestyle of the time.\nAnd the motif of the man enjoying his opium pipe is perhaps the most striking one.\n\nThe curiosity drew me in to read up on the subject of the opium culture and trade.\nAnd as usual Wikipedia offered me my first lesson in the item that became the fulcrum of the wars between Britain & China.\nA summary according to Wikipedia:\n\u201cIn the 17th and 18th centuries, the demand for Chinese goods (particularly silk, porcelain, and tea) in Europe created a trade imbalance between Qing Imperial China and Great Britain.\u00a0European silver flowed into China\u00a0through the\u00a0Canton System, which confined incoming foreign trade to the southern port city of\u00a0Canton. To counter this imbalance, the\u00a0British East India Company\u00a0began to auction\u00a0opium\u00a0grown in India to independent foreign traders in exchange for silver, and in doing so strengthened its trading influence in Asia. This opium was transported to the Chinese coast, where local middlemen made massive profits selling the drug inside China. The influx of narcotics reversed the Chinese\u00a0trade surplus, drained the economy of silver, and increased the numbers of opium addicts inside the country, outcomes that worried Chinese officials.\nIn 1839, the\u00a0Daoguang Emperor, rejecting proposals to legalize and tax opium, appointed\u00a0viceroy\u00a0Lin Zexuto solve the problem by completely banning the opium trade (various forms of opium had been prohibited in China since 1729)\u00a0without offering compensation and ordered a blockade of foreign trade in Canton. Lin confiscated 20,283 chests of opium (approximately 1210\u00a0tons or 2.66\u00a0million\u00a0pounds)\u00a0after confining the foreign traders to the\u00a0Canton Factories\u00a0and cutting off their supplies. The British government did not question China\u2019s right to prohibit opium, but it objected to the way this was handled; it viewed the sudden strict enforcement as laying a trap for the traders, and the confinement of the British with their supplies cut off was tantamount to starving them into submission or death. They dispatched a military force to China and in the ensuing conflict, the\u00a0Royal Navy\u00a0used its naval and gunnery power to inflict a series of decisive defeats on the Chinese Empire,\u00a0a tactic later referred to as\u00a0gunboat diplomacy.\nIn 1842, the Qing dynasty was forced to sign the\u00a0Treaty of Nanking\u2014the first of what the Chinese later called the\u00a0unequal treaties\u2014which granted an\u00a0indemnity\u00a0and\u00a0extraterritoriality\u00a0to Britain, opened five\u00a0treaty ports\u00a0to foreign merchants, and ceded\u00a0Hong Kong Island\u00a0to the British Empire. The failure of the treaty to satisfy British goals of improved trade and diplomatic relations led to the\u00a0Second Opium War(1856\u201360), and the perceived weakness of the Qing dynasty resulted in social unrest within China, namely the\u00a0Taiping Rebellion.\u00a0In China, the war is considered the beginning of modern Chinese history.\u201d\n\u00a0\nAm sure if history had been taught to me through art in school, the hours, the effort and the money spent on the education would have yielded much greater success!\n***\nSee more of this asset \u2013 1149 Antique Cantonese Shawl here on wovensouls.com\njm\nDecember 2018\n\nThe post Opium Culture \u2013 History in Art appeared first on The Art Blog by WOVENSOULS.COM.