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opium trade, in Chinese background, the web traffic that developed in the 18th and 1nine centuries in which Western nations, mostly Great Britain, exported opium grvery own in India and sold it to China. The British used the profits from the sale of opium to purchase such Chinese high-end items as porcelain, silk, and also tea, which were in good demand in the West, while addiction to opium came to be widespread in China, resulting in social and also financial problems tright here.

Background of the opium trade

Opium, a narcotic drug that is derived from the unripe seedpods of the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum), was indigenous to what is currently the country of Turkey. It was first presented to China by Turkish and Arab traders in the late 6th or at an early stage 7th century ce. Taken orally to relieve tension and pain, the drug was used in limited quantities until the 17th century. At that allude, the practice of smoking tobacco spreview from The United States and Canada to China, and also opium smoking shortly ended up being famous throughout the country. Opium addiction increased, and opium importations thrived swiftly during the first century of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911/12). By 1729 it had become such a difficulty that the Yongzheng emperor (ruled 1722–35) prohibited the sale and smoking of opium. That faibrought about hamper the profession, and also in 1796 the Jiaqing emperor outlawed opium importation and cultivation. In spite of such decrees, however, the opium profession continued to prosper.

Early in the 18th century the Portuguese discovered that they could import opium from India and sell it in China at a significant profit. By 1773 the British had uncovered the profession, and that year they came to be the leading providers of the Chinese sector. The British East India Company kind of establiburned a monopoly on opium cultivation in the Indian province of Bengal, wbelow they developed an approach of thriving opium poppies cheaply and also abundantly. Other Western nations additionally joined in the trade, consisting of the United States, which dealt in Turkish and Indian opium.

Britain and also other European countries embarked on the opium profession because of their chronic profession imbalance with China. Tright here was incredible demand in Europe for Chinese tea, silks, and porcelain ceramic, however there was correspondingly bit demand also in China for Europe’s manufactured goods and various other profession items. Consequently, Europeans had to pay for Chinese assets with gold or silver. The opium profession, which created a secure demand among Chinese addicts for opium imported by the West, solved this chronic profession imbalance.


The East India Company did not lug the opium itself. Because of the Chinese ban, the company fequipped it out to “nation traders”—i.e., personal traders that were licensed by the agency to take goods from India to China. The nation traders sold the opium to smugglers alengthy the Chinese coastline. The gold and also silver the traders obtained from those sales were then turned over to the East India Company type of. In China the agency provided the gold and also silver it obtained to purchase items that might be sold profitably in England also.


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opium smoker
Chinese man smoking opium, 19th-century lumber engraving.
Encyclopædia slrfc.org, Inc.

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The amount of opium imported into China increased from about 200 chests annually in 1729 to around 1,000 chests in 1767 and also then to around 10,000 per year between 1820 and 1830. The weight of each chest varied somewhat—depending on suggest of origin—but averaged approximately 140 pounds (63.5 kg). By 1838 the amount had actually grown to some 40,000 chests imported into China every year. The balance of payments for the initially time began to run versus China and also in favour of Britain. On the other hand, a network of opium circulation had actually developed throughout China, often through the connivance of corrupt officials. Levels of opium addiction flourished so high that it started to impact the royal troops and the main classes.