The American paddle steamer Willamette at Canton
After 1842 the end of the Opium War between Britain and China effectively opened up the five main Chinese ports of Canton, Amoy, Ningpo, Shanghai and Foochow to European traders, who needed considerable naval protection from the persistent depredations of Chinese pirates. This view across the Pearl River at Canton in southern China looks towards the European 'factories' or trading posts, which the European merchants were not allowed to leave. Canton was the centre of China's tea trade with Europe and by 1794 Britain was buying four million kilograms of tea each year, in a trade strictly controlled by China. Steam communication between Hong Kong and Canton was regularized by the Hong Kong and Canton Steam Packet Company, which was founded on 19 October 1848. Since operations commenced in spring 1849, with two small London-built steamers of 250 tons each, this helps to date the painting.
- Image reference: BHC1776
- National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
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