Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History
This page was created by Peter Thilly. The last update was by Kandra Polatis.
Discrete Physical Spaces
People pursued opium profits within discrete physical spaces. These spaces shaped decision making, instilling confidence or exposing vulnerabilities, embodying opportunities to enhance profitability, decrease risk, or manipulate the competition. Below is a list of some of the spaces that I have identified as important to the spatial history of profit. Visitors to the module are encouraged to compile their own lists, and to connect the significance of some of these physical spaces to those occurring in other modules.
- The receiving ships at Lintin and in Shenhu Bay and along the coast. These were stationary vessels captained by British employees of Jardine-Matheson and their competitors, and crewed by sailors from all over the world. These ships rarely moved locations, and operated as floating warehouses. One of the fullest pictures of life on these receiving ships can be found in a travelogue by the American dentist, B.L. Bell (this account is from over a decade after the events of this module take place).
- Smaller, fast ships like the Fairy that made rapid and repeated voyages between the receiving ships anchored on the coast in places like Shenhu Bay and the company's central receiving ship at Lintin.
- Opium clippers like the Red Rover that voyaged between India (Calcutta or Bombay), Singapore, and the receiving ships at Lintin. Perhaps the most exciting examination of life aboard these opium clippers can be found in the Ibis Trilogy by author Amitav Ghosh.
Villages, Towns, and Cities:
- Yakou Village, a small coastal town dominated by the Shi lineage. This is where Shi Hou and his kinsmen operated a massive smuggling ring, positioning themselves as middlemen between Chinese buyers and British opium importers.
- Macao, a Portuguese colonial outpost in the Pearl River Delta near Lintin. One important function of Macao as a physical space was as a meeting place and job market for Chinese brokers to link up with British ship captains like the Rees Brothers to arrange trips up the coast.
- The Canton Factories, just outside of the Guangzhou city gates. This is where the leadership of the Jardine-Matheson company kept their offices, arranging deals with prominent Chinese merchants, interacting with the representatives of the Qing state, and overseeing the correspondence of the company's global network.
- Other cities like Calcutta, Singapore, Bombay, and London.
- Neither fully on shore, nor fully out at sea, anchorages like Shenhu Bay and Lintin were also important physical spaces in this story. As the video I took from the beach at Yakou demonstrates, the anchorages were in plain sight of the shore. In the 1830s, a veritable fleet of fishing and trading sailboats would have passed back and forth past them each day.