The text of this path is drawn from File Number 03-4007-048 (DG 18/10/29) in the Number One Historical Archives in Beijing, in the Grand Council Chinese-Language Palace Memorial Copies collection (junji chu Hanwen lufu zouzhe).
This source is a Qing memorial: a report from a Provincial Governor to higher officials in Beijing. A memorial on a legal case like this is the final wrapped-up version of the case, written almost a year after the events it describes took place, based on the Governor’s reading of reports and documents on the case from the county, prefecture, and provincial judicial administration. The person who wrote this source was not present for the arrest or original interrogation of the subjects, and relied on reports forwarded from local officials. Documents like this can flatten testimony into judicial tropes, and can obscure information that might have created trouble for the lower officials who conducted the original arrests and interrogations, especially when there were potential implications of bribery and corruption.
The memorial that forms the base of this path describes the opium operations of a man named Shi Hou (Monkey Shi), a native of Yakou Village, Jinjiang County, Fujian Province. The memorial describes how Shi Hou and his fellow Shi lineage members “enticed” foreign opium merchants “Big and Little Li” north from Guangdong into Fujian in order to establish a smuggling depot in Shenhu Bay. At the end of the case, 111 individuals are listed as having been arrested or “at large” and wanted for opium crimes related to the case.
A note about the main character:
Shi Hou, along with many of the other people tied up in this case, were members of a large territorial lineage known as the Yakou Shi. Even today, the Shi lineage are the dominant surname group in Yakou village. In the Qing dynasty, the Yakou Shi occupied a position of power and privilege, dating back to the patriarch Shi Lang (1621-1696), who was the first Admiral (shuishi tidu) of the Xiamen Navy and helped the Qing put down Zheng Chenggong's maritime rebellion. By the early nineteenth century, maritime lineages like the Yakou Shi were a powerful and fiercely independent forces in local society. They were economically and politically diversified, sending off sons and nephews to Confucian academies or the Navy, or alternatively packing them on boats bound for Macao or Singapore. It is not irrelevant to this case that the lineage that Shi Hou came from was incredibly powerful, and lineage members continued opium trading after the arrests described here.
Spatial History questions for The Case Against Shi Hou
What is the spatiality of profit in this branch of the opium trade? What is the role of space in the methods used by the actors in this path (Shi Hou et al) to make their money?
Thinking in terms of the environment and physical geography that makes up the spatial setting of this story, how do the people in this case manipulate distances to their advantage, whether in terms of acquiring opium, selling opium, extorting money, or evading arrest?
Thinking in terms of discrete physical spaces (a boat, a small bay, a village, etc), what spaces are important to this history? What are the different ways one could evaluate the significance of spaces like the opium receiving ships, Shenhu Bay, and Yakou village?
Thinking more critically about applying the notion of “space as process” to this case, what different connections and transformations can we document as arising through the actions of the people in this case? How did Shi Hou, Big and Little Li, and the other actors described in this case build and transform different geographies of profit?