|In the 1842 Treaty of Nanking, the first treaty in the modern history of China, London gained Hong Kong island as a reparation from the Qing Court, desperate to stave off escalation of the military conflict then underway. (The image to the left is a fragment of that treaty.) One particularly important document which led to the Opium War (and, ultimately, this conference and site) was drafted over 150 years ago: Commissioner Lin's Letter of Advice to Queen Victoria, decrying the evils of Britain's opium trade with China, and demanding its termination. Click here to read that letter.|
China News Digest's outlined history of the Quing Dynasty may be a good starting place for information on the Opium War as an historical event , or set of events. (A good pictorial history of the era is available through China.COM.) Several other general historical accounts are available on the web: see, for example, this account at CNN's HK97 site ... or this account at the Public Broadcasting System site... or this one posted by Fox News... or this article, at Asiaweek. The U.S. Library of Congress Federal Research Division offers its own brief historical account of the Opium War, as part of its publication, CHINA - A Country Study.
Individuals, too, have posted their own historical accounts (such as those found here, here, here, here, and here), and at least one account speaks more generally on the history of opium in China. Bits and pieces of the history are scattered about the web: one small site includes, at the bottom, some interesting statistics on the number of crates of opium smuggled into China during the period before the Opium War began; another teaches an analytical history of the opium monopoly in China.
The San Francisco-based Pacific News Service has posted an account of one person's return to Hong Kong to witness its "... liberation from a shameful history that began with the Opium War." That liberation was in part celebrated by telling a story of the Opium War, through film.
The Opium War (Yapian Zhanzheng), directed by 74-year-old Chinese director Xie Jin, was released in Beijing on July 1, 1997, set to coincide with the transfer of Hong Kong from Britain back to China. Xie Jin described the film as a "special gift for the motherland and the people ... to ensure we and our descendants forever remember the humiliation the nation once suffered."
Several reviews of the film such as that by the Hong Kong Film Critics Society or publicly posted reviews at the Internet Movie Database are scattered about the web, as are other interesting pieces of information (including information on its 1997 debut at the Montreal Film Festival).
Perhaps closer to the core of the Digital China/Harvard project are the reports of the film's initial screening in China and Hong Kong, and its further reception elsewhere. We find one such report by Jonathan Mirsky of the London Times, and another such report by the Associated Press. A Japanese correspondent, Tetsuya Chikushi, visited Hong Kong to view the film's premiere there: his report is also available online. (Rather unfortunately, several reports of the film's first screening, previously online at the Hong Kong Standard, have disappeared from the Web.)
Xie Jin's own words on the film and its construction are particularly noteworthy.
Please feel free to add your remarks on The Opium War to the threaded discussion board at this site. (For more direction, view the questions posed to the conference in general). And, if you've found a link on the Opium War, whether the history or the film, add it to this site!
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