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THE HONGS OF CANTON
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THE HONGS OF CANTON #bo0091

The Hongs of Canton, Western merchants in south China 1700-1900, as seen in Chinese export paintings. by Patrick Conner. 296 pages. 1st edition

Canton - modern Guangzhou - was for nearly a century the only Chinese port at which Westerners were allowed to trade. The Western merchants leased `hongs' outside the city walls - spacious waterfront buildings adapted to suit their own tastes. Here they lived and conducted their often lucrative business, sending back tea and other Chinese products to Europe and North America.

The Hongs of Canton offers, for the first time, a history of the `hongs' as seen through Chinese export paintings. These paintings, produced in Canton specifically for visitors from the West, combined Chinese and Western styles. By the 1780s some of the Cantonese export artists were making skilful use of the Western medium of oil paint. Their subjects included not only the façades and interiors of the hongs (known also `factories'), but also shopping streets, gardens, forts, regattas, seagoing junks, the devastating fire of 1822 in its successive stages, and the trial of 52 unruly British sailors.

Making extensive use of these pictures, and close-up observation of their details, this book offers a social history of the hongs and their diverse occupants. It considers their changing appearance, the merchants' everyday activities both legitimate and illicit, the rise of `free traders' at the expense of national companies, and the growing friction between the Westerners and their Chinese hosts, culminating in the two `opium wars' of the mid-nineteenth century.

After the Western hongs were finally burned down on 1856, Chinese export artists continued to paint the waterfront with its new features - steamer wharves, pawn towers and cathedral, and also the new settlement on Shamian Island, which remained a largely Western enclave until the twentieth century.

ISBN 9781870803014

£90.00

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