Trip to Humen to Learn About the Opium War

Humen FortSo last week I told you I made a trip to Humen to the Sea Battle Museum for the Opium Wars here in China. It’s actually a pretty boring museum. There are not really any displays just large papers hung on the walls to inform about the history of the Opium Wars in China. This museum is also the headquarters for the modern fight against drug use in China. There is one room that is dedicated to all of the horrible things that can happen as a result of drug use, including preserved, misshapen fetuses on display. I actually didn’t go in there, having been forewarned by someone else. Humen Fort non-refurbished.The fort located outside the Sea Battle Museum was closed to foreigners that day for some reason unclear to us, but they let us go in and take a small look around. I got a couple of good pictures there.

While the museum was lack-luster the examples of propaganda were stellar. Starting with our “approved” tour guide who informed us that the people of Guangzhou are more free to travel abroad than people from other areas of China, and that the people of GZ are very friendly. Yes they are “all about making friends and making money”. (It’s quite true, the people of Guangzhou are friendlier than in other parts of the country.)

She pointed out the lychee orchards near the road we traveled on. Huge! Lychee is a very popular fruit here in China.

The Nansha Port located near one end of the Very Long Humen Bridge will be bigger than the Hong Kong Port when it is completed. (Bigger is always better, of course.)

Humen Bridge
It was a very hazy day.

The Humen Suspension Bridge took six years to build.

There are two Silk Roads. The land Silk Road and the sea Silk Road. Guangzhou is the starting point of the Silk Road of the sea.

Lin Zexu was the hero general of the fight against the opium that was being forced upon China by the British. Here is a photo of one location where they used chemicals to damage the opium so that is was no longer any good as a drug. Opium damaging pitThis drug war was truly terrible. Men would sell their wives and children in order to feed their opium addiction.

The short run-down on the cause of the opium wars is this:

The British had (have) an insatiable demand for tea. At the time, specifically Chinese tea, but the Chinese government was restricting trade with all foreigners and wouldn’t sell as much tea as the British wanted.

Destroying the opium. It couldn't be burned, it had to be chemically destroyed.

In order to force open the Chinese market, they tried to get the Chinese addicted to opium produced in India, and they wanted also to sell to the Chinese British silver (don’t know the origin of the silver). The Chinese put up a strong defense of the Canton (Guangdong) harbor to prevent British ships from landing, but a British commander managed to sneak spies by night onto the mainland to investigate the true capacity of the Chinese forts.

Canon at Humen
This canon mount is cement, but the wood ones looked similar.

They discovered that the Chinese guns (canons) were all aimed at the British ships in the harbor. They also discovered that the canons were mounted on stationary platforms which could not be easily moved or adjusted for aim.

The wood mounts looked just like this.

The British spies reported this back to their commander and a large number of soldiers were moved onto the mainland under cover of darkness, along with heavy guns. They positioned themselves behind the Humen Fort and attacked the weakest side, easily overpowering the larger numbers of Chinese troops. Having taken over the Humen Fort, the British repositioned the canons of the fort, aiming the guns toward the other forts in the area, thus bringing them to their knees as well. Two words: Innovation. Works.

This battle forced the Chinese to sign the treaty giving Britain rule over Hong Kong for 100 years, and further opened the Chinese market to the rest of the world. (It also means that people in HK have been raised with good manners and don’t have to be taught them through television and radio commercials when something like the Olympics comes to their city.)

Here is what one of the placards at the museum said:

Lin Zexu statue. BIG hero.

“Emporer Daoguang 1782-1850. he ascended the throne in 1820. During his reign, he sent Lin Zexu to Guangdong to ban opium… When the war started he he (the emporer) exhausted his whole bag of tricks… and was forced to sign the Nanjing treaty which is betrayal and humiliation of the nation. China was reduced to semi-feudal and semi-colonial society.”

"With their bloods and lives, they upheld the national dignity."

Another placard: “With their bloods and lives, they upheld the national dignity.” (They lost, but their dignity was intact.)

Other random facts I learned on this trip include:

The water the tofu is made with affects the flavor.

The Chinese value the more active parts of an animal for food, such as the feet or head (think chicken), or the fish head or tail.

The Guangzhou to Foshan metro line is open! Don’t know what number that line is though – possibly line 8.

I saw a man riding a bicycle with the rack loaded with six or eight roasted dogs. That was a new sight for me. Ironically, it didn’t even phase me. It was my new-to-China friend who pointed out that it was unusual.

My parting advice to you today is taken from a furniture store ad on the side of a building: “When the happiness knock on the door, choose top furniture.”

winner-winner, chicken dinner 🙂

P.S. The short history of the Opium War is my general recollection based on conversations with Mr. Hot Stuff, not based on anything our guide told us. She either lacked a large enough English vocabulary or she simply wasn’t fully aware of the whole story. This battle of the Opium War as told in China paints Lin Zexu as such a huge hero that people here often forget that China lost the war because of it.

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