This path follows the case against a man named Shi Hou laid out in a memorial from the Fujian-Zhejiang Governor General Zhong Xiang and the Provincial Governor Wei Yuanlang, dated 15 December, 1838. As we shall see, Shi Hou was charged with being the first person in southern Fujian to illegally escort British opium ships north into Fujian from the Canton Delta.
Junji chu hanwen lufu zhouzhe (Grand Council Chinese-Language Palace Memorial Copies), Beijing: First Historical Archives, 03-4007-048, DG 18.10.29
This page has paths:
- 1 2019-11-18T17:22:58-05:00 Kate McDonald 306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f The Coastal Opium Trade in 1830s Fujian Kate McDonald 74 Peter D. Thilly image_header 4897 2021-09-30T10:33:29-04:00 Lintin 22.4167, 113.8000 Xiamen 24.48535, 118.08850 24.4167, 118.12743 24.35603, 118.15146 Shenhu Bay 24.6500, 118.6667 Canton 23.1167, 113.2500 22.40468, 113.80462 22.39706, 113.63021 22.28973, 113.94126 22.4142, 113.91534 Bombay 18.9750, 72.8258 London 51.5142, -0.0931 Quanzhou 24.86830, 118.67729 24.60943, 118.45738 24.52075, 118.56243 24.63106, 118.66553 24.66804, 118.67326 24.84062, 118.70554 24.82504, 118.76116 24.87738, 118.89505 25.03177, 119.05092 Yakou 24.66782, 118.64392 Beijing 39.92284, 116.40120 Shantou 23.35219, 116.67682 23.43193, 117.09911 Macao 22.17730, 113.54689 Yakou Village, Shenhu Bay 24.663469444444, 118.64524166667 Fuzhou 26.0614, 119.3061 Shanghai 31.24063, 121.48999 Singapore 1.2833, 103.8500 Calcutta 22.5626, 88.3630 Patna 25.59409, 85.13756 Benares 25.3167, 83.0104 Malwa 22.71956, 75.85772 Aceh 4.69513, 96.74939 Goa 15.29932, 74.12399 Zanzibar -6.16519, 39.19891 Mombasa -4.04347, 39.6682 Hosur 11.12712, 78.65689 Penang 5.41413, 100.32875 Manila 14.59951, 120.98421 Chaozhou 23.6567, 116.62275 Aden 22.19874, 113.54387 Lascars 12.78549, 45.01865 1832-1838 Peter D. Thilly Jardine-Matheson Yakou Village Fujian Jinjiang County Opium War Kate McDonald 306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f
Contents of this path:
- 1 2019-11-18T17:22:58-05:00 Kate McDonald 306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f Introducing the Source 40 Introducing "The Case Against Shi Hou" plain 2021-09-30T10:41:28-04:00 39.92284, 116.40120 Beijing 24.6500, 118.6667 Shenhu Bay 24.66782, 118.64392 Yakou Peter D. Thilly Shi Hou Zheng Chenggong Kate McDonald 306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f
- 1 2019-11-18T17:23:01-05:00 Kate McDonald 306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f Shi Hou and his kinsmen enter the opium game 30 Shi Hou and his kinsmen enter the opium game plain 3486 2021-09-30T10:42:57-04:00 23.35219, 116.67682 22.17730, 113.54689 24.66782, 118.64392 Shantou Macao Yakou 1835 1822 Peter D. Thilly Shi Hou Kate McDonald 306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f
- 1 2019-11-18T17:22:55-05:00 Kate McDonald 306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f A Deal is Struck at Lintin, Shi Shubao becomes a Translator 36 The Shi Family convinces Big and Little Li to bring their ships north to sell opium in Fujian. plain 2021-09-30T10:45:53-04:00 22.4167, 113.8000 Lintin 22.17730, 113.54689 Macao 06/1835 Peter D. Thilly Shi Hou Rees, John Rees, Thomas Kate McDonald 306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f
- 1 2019-11-18T17:22:55-05:00 Kate McDonald 306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f Yakou becomes a smuggling depot, attracting extortionists 35 Shi Hou hires employees to facilitate the opium trade with Big and Little Li at Yakou. plain 3481 2021-09-30T10:47:01-04:00 24.66782, 118.64392 Yakou 24.6500, 118.6667 Shenhu Bay 24.86830, 118.67729 Quanzhou 1835 Peter D. Thilly Shi Hou Shi Shubao Kate McDonald 306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f
- 1 2019-11-18T17:23:01-05:00 Kate McDonald 306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f A gentry-owned opium den, and 10-tael brokerage fees 29 An opium den, and an attempted extortion plain 2021-09-30T10:47:57-04:00 24.66782, 118.64392 Yakou 24.6500, 118.6667 Shenhu Bay 12/1835-01/1837 Peter D. Thilly Shi Hou Kate McDonald 306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f
- 1 2019-11-18T17:22:55-05:00 Kate McDonald 306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f The Crackdown 24 The raid on Yakou and arrest of Shi Hou and his compatriots plain 2021-09-30T10:49:02-04:00 24.66782, 118.64392 Yakou 12/1836 Peter D. Thilly Shi Hou Kate McDonald 306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f
- 1 2019-11-18T17:23:01-05:00 Kate McDonald 306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f Arrest Statistics and Labor Relations 30 Breaking down labor relations in the coastal opium network plain 2021-09-30T10:50:11-04:00 24.66782, 118.64392 Yakou 02/1837 Peter D. Thilly Shi Hou Jinjiang County Kate McDonald 306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f
- 1 2019-11-18T17:22:57-05:00 Kate McDonald 306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f What really happened to Shi Hou? 46 Questions about the final result of the Qing memorial on Shi Hou plain 2021-09-30T10:52:03-04:00 24.66782, 118.64392 Yakou 24.6500, 118.6667 Shenhu Bay 24.86830, 118.67729 Quanzhou 02/24/1839 Peter D. Thilly Shi Hou Kate McDonald 306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f
- 1 2019-11-18T17:23:00-05:00 Kate McDonald 306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f Spatialities of Qing Power in Southern Fujian 43 Exploring the structure of Qing authority in the region google_maps 5244 2021-09-30T10:53:16-04:00 39.92284, 116.40120 Beijing 26.0614, 119.3061 Fuzhou 24.86830, 118.67729 Quanzhou 24.48535, 118.08850 Xiamen 1837 Peter D. Thilly Shi Hou Kate McDonald 306bb1134bc892ab2ada669bed7aecb100ef7d5f
This page is referenced by:
The Coastal Opium Trade in 1830s Fujian
Peter D. Thilly
Yakou Village, Shenhu Bay
Peter D. Thilly
This module tells the story of how a transnational coalition of maritime traders came together to operate one of the largest illicit drug markets in history. The importation of opium into China prior to 1832 occurred exclusively in the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong Province, where Fujianese and Cantonese ships would load up on the drug for delivery to other parts of the empire.
By the late 1830s, a huge portion of the import trade had migrated north into Fujian province. Every day after 1834 or so there were around a dozen British ships permanently anchored in strategic bays along the Fujian coast, importing tens of thousands of chests of opium directly into Fujian and exporting jaw-dropping quantities of treasure.
This module allows users to explore this dramatic explosion in the Fujianese opium trade, by focusing on the local story of Shenhu Bay in Jinjiang County, and the interactions between the Shi Lineage of Yakou Village and the Rees brothers of Jardine-Matheson and Dent & Co.
- Navigating Sources and Mapping the Opium Trade. Introduces the goals of the module, provides necessary background information, and summarizes my interpretation of the archival sources that make up the two main body paths of the module.
- The Case Against Shi Hou: A Qing Document. Constructed out of a primary source from the Qing territorial administration, a criminal case against a man called Shi Hou for escorting British opium ships to his hometown of Yakou Village.
- The Jardine-Matheson Global Network. A re-creation of the largest and most influential British opium-trading firm, divided up conceptually and geographically, interspersed with images, videos, and primary source text from the Jardine-Matheson archive.
- A Spatial History of Profit. Three short essays on a spatial history of profit and corruption on the Qing maritime frontier.
- Conclusion: Space as Process. The concluding page to the module.
Link: Jardine-Matheson Archives Catalog (holdings are at the Cambridge University Library)
Link: First Historical Archives in Beijing
Click here for a list of references for this module, which is also available from the module's Conclusion page.
Environment and Physical Geography
The role of environment and physical geography in opium profits
Chimmo (Shenhu) Bay
Peter D. Thilly
Environment and physical geography played key roles in how actors sought to maximize their opium profits. Below I discuss one aspect of this history that appears within the sources, and gesture towards another that is relevant to this story but not included in this module. Visitors to the module are encouraged to find additional ways that environment and physical geography might have affected the history of the opium trade, and to use this concept to link this module to the others.
Where mountains meet the sea
The Fujian littoral is a place of jagged coastline, small bays, scatterings of islands, winding peninsulas, and steep mountains that ascend from the shoreline. In short, it was and remains an extremely difficult place for states to keep watch over. The region's first foreign Commissioner of Customs, F. Nevill May, wrote in 1865 that Fujian’s mountains and rivers present “so many obstacles to the construction of canals and railways that they will probably never be introduced into this part of China.”* Fuzhou and Wenzhou—a large city in coastal Zhejiang only 207 miles north of Fuzhou—were only recently connected by rail, in 2003. The construction necessitated the excavation of no fewer than 53 tunnels.
The map below is geotagged to Xiamen, Shenhu Bay, Quanzhou, and Fuzhou in order to enable users to view the entirety of the Fujian coast from above (much like how the Japanese state sought to use airplanes to achieve a new view of Inner Asia). Zoom in and consider for yourself how difficult it must have been for the Qing state to try and keep powerful lineages like the Yakou Shi from breaking maritime laws.
The jagged and winding nature of the Fujian littoral was clearly an important part of the success of the Chinese and foreign network of opium traders discussed in this module. Because the opium trade was nominally illegal, the ideal scenario for people like Shi Hou and John Rees was to keep their dealings entirely invisible from the state. Arranging clandestine meetups offshore was clearly the way to go.
As the years went on, it became impossible for a trade of this volume to go on without any government awareness. Recall the video of Shenhu Bay: any person in any of the villages that overlook the bay and any person that travelled to the bay would have been able to see the British opium ships and the boats of their Chinese opium customers. It simply isn't that big of a place. Thus, as discussed more extensively elsewhere in this module, the opium smugglers of Yakou village and their British partners offshore arranged for systematic bribery of local officials to keep the trade going. At that point, the utility of a geographic location like Shenhu Bay was that it was not visible from other, more well-garrisoned parts of the coast. Officials who took bribes, it should be remembered, also needed to keep their secrets.
Environment, topography, and opium cultivation
The cultivation of opium poppies and production of opium is another side of the history of opium profits, which for the most part is not touched on within the sources included in this module. Historian Rolf Bauer's new book The Peasant Production of Opium in Nineteenth-Century India (Brill, 2019) is a fantastic place to start for anyone interested in this side of the story. Bauer's research into the production of Patna opium in India is exhaustive and wide-ranging, including detailed analyses of social formations, labor practices, and the changing interactions between peasant cultivators and the physical landscape over a century of opium production. Consider the following passage on irrigation in two environmentally very similar parts of India: Gaya, an opium producing region just south of the city of Patna, and Saran, just to the north of Patna. As Bauer shows us, there are rich possibilities for a spatial history of opium production, tracing out the interactions between human actors and the physical environment in the pursuit of opium profits:
Gaya's agriculturalists constructed irrigation facilities because the natural conditions basically forced them to. Saran's agriculturalists were less pressed to do so because the district's soil easily retained moisture… How can we explain this difference despite the similar conditions? Saran's relative progress was ascribed to the ambition of the local sub-deputy opium agent, then a Mr. Tytler, who was known for encouraging the construction of wells. On the one hand, this must be seen as a positive investment in Saran's infrastructure. On the other hand, the contracts for the construction of wells were a powerful tool to further press the cultivators.**
*Chinese Maritime Customs Microfilm, Reel 4, “Return on Trade at the Port of Foochow for the Year 1865.”
**Rolf Bauer, The Peasant Production of Opium in Nineteenth-Century India (Brill, 2019), p. 107.
Introducing the Source
Introducing the Jardine-Matheson Company and Archive
Peter D. Thilly
Jardine-Matheson & Company was founded in 1832 by the Scottish merchants William Jardine and James Matheson. Upon the dissolution of the British East India Company's monopoly over the China trade in 1834, Jardine-Matheson quickly became the most important firm in the opium trade between India and China. The company archive is currently held at the University of Cambridge library in the United Kingdom.
The structure of this path differs significantly from The Case Against Shi Hou. Where the first path is a relatively linear navigation through a single legal case about a collection of Chinese opium traders, this path recreates the global network that a British firm created and adapted in order to pursue profits in the opium business. The next page includes a map and menu that enable visitors to circumvent the linear path format and pursue their own unique journeys through the network.
Spatial History Questions for the Jardine-Matheson Global Network
What is the spatiality of profit for a company with this kind of a global network? How did the Jardine-Matheson company managers and opium ship captains make their money?
What discrete physical spaces (boats, bays, buildings, towns) were important to the operation and evolution of the Jardine-Matheson Company? What are the different ways one could evaluate the significance of spaces like the opium receiving ships, Shenhu Bay, and Macao?
How did environment and physical geography influence the company's operations and methods of seeking profit? How did Jardine-Matheson manipulate time and distance to their advantage, whether in terms of acquiring opium, selling opium, or selling insurance on opium?
This portion of the module is an ideal place to consider the concept of “space as process.” What different connections and transformations can we document as arising through the actions of the people involved in the Jardine-Matheson Global Network? How did William Jardine, James Matheson, John Rees and the other actors described in this path build and transform different geographies of profit?
Manipulating Space and Time
The intersection of technology, time, and profit
Peter D. Thilly
Time was an essential component of how actors calculated their actions in the pursuit of opium profits. Below I explore two avenues through which to understand the role of time in a spatial history of the opium trade, but visitors are encouraged to develop their own arguments about time and to use the materials in this module to link up with the others.
Monsoon seasons and Asian commerce in the age of sail
In the age of sail, the movement of people, objects, and boats between China, Southeast Asia, and the Indian Subcontinent was almost entirely dependent on the yearly pattern of monsoon winds. A single boat could only make the journey from India to China and back (or the reverse) but one time per year. This is because travelers going from India to China could only set sail during the southwest summer monsoon, and the trip would take two to three months. Likewise, the journey from China to India had to take place during the northeast winter monsoon, and again this trip would take nearly three months. The monsoon seasons therefore structured and limited trade between China, Southeast Asia, and India for most of recorded history.
Then, in 1832, the leadership of Jardine-Matheson and a coalition of other opium merchants got together to purchase an opium clipper known as the “Red Rover,” which quickly became the first ship in recorded history to sail to China from India against the wind. This new technology enabled firms like Jardine-Matheson to bring ever-increasing quantities of opium from India to China, at record speed. As discussed below, one important consequence of more rapid connections between India and China was that it changed the calculus of opium pricing in Lintin and along the China coast.
Opium prices, the movement of information, and a race against time
Directly related to the history of sail technology and the centrality of the monsoon to Asian trading patterns, opium profits were highly dependent on taking advantage of differences in opium prices between locations. One example of this from the module is the quote from Captain Rees that headlines the Malwa page. In that example, Captain Rees discusses how the brokers in Shenhu Bay had managed to acquire information about the price of Malwa opium at Lintin and were consequently purchasing large amounts. For Captain Rees, setting prices was a matter of constant anxiety, as he was under pressure to sell as much opium as possible but at as high a price as could be obtained. The ability of his customers in Yakou Village to keep abreast of the price at Lintin limited Rees' ability to sell at inflated prices. For both parties, buying and selling opium was a constant race against time for the latest and best information.
The British East India Company opium auctions in Calcutta were another place where Jardine-Matheson and their competitors had to engage in complex calculations about time. The company's purchasing agents in Calcutta, like Rees in his station on the China coast, were under constant pressure from William Jardine in Guangzhou to make advantageous purchasing decisions, a calculation that could change unpredictably based on the activities of Chinese purchasers and government officials thousands of miles away. In the quote that headlines the Calcutta page of this module, we see Jardine complaining to Rees about the company agent in Calcutta's lack of awareness in failing to ship enough Patna and Benares opium to Lintin. On other occasions, Jardine became furious when the Calcutta agent sent too much opium to China and brought down prices.
It is easy to imagine an organization like the Shi lineage engaging in a similar range of time and price calculation. Like Jardine-Matheson, the Yakou Shi were a diversified and complex business organization, purchasing opium in Shenhu Bay for shipment to places like Taiwan, Ningbo, and ports in North China. A full range of sources do not exist to demonstrate the point, though the combination of materials in the British and Chinese archives do enough to give a clear sense of the size and scope of the Shi lineage's opium operations.
The Rees Brothers: Big and Little Li
John and Thomas Rees, aka Big and Little Li, competing opium merchants
Peter D. Thilly
“We transshipped to the Col Young some opium and then proceeded to Chinchew bay to sell. Had been there about a week when Rees came up and requested me to go to Chimmo bay as he found it unpleasant to be near to his brother who he was very sorry to inform me was not a man of his word, that he had arranged prices with him and then undersold him.”
Captain Mackay to William Jardine, January 21st, 1836.*
The two men referred to in the Case against Shi Hou as “Macao-born foreigners Big and Little Li” were John and Thomas Rees, estranged brothers who were captains in the opium fleets of the rival firms Jardine-Matheson (John) and Dent & Co. (Thomas). Thomas, the elder brother, had been the captain of the “Lord Amherst” voyage of 1832, a trip organized by a coalition of British opium merchants to scout and map the Chinese coast for the purposes of commercial expansion.
During the mid-1830s, the two brothers were frequently stationed at the Shenhu Bay anchorage at the same time, competing with each other for the business of the brokers on shore. In the above quote, Jardine-Matheson's Captain Mackay discusses the tense relationship between the two Rees brothers, who were constantly feuding with one another over opium pricing in Shenhu Bay.
In the summer of 1836, the Rees brothers had become fed up with each other. There had been a constant string of lies and broken promises between the two men, and they decided to draw up a written contract to equalize sales and prices in Shenhu Bay. As noted in the text of the contract, the agreement accounts for “Manderrine fees of $10 per chest. (sic)”
John Rees erected Lexden Terrace in Tenby, Wales, upon his return from China. It remains today as a visible legacy of the Rees brothers' opium fortunes.
*Source: JM:B2 7 [R. 495, No. 76] MacKay to Jardine, 1.21.1836
What We Learned
Learn how multivocal spatial history changed how we approach our research
David R. Ambaras
Bodies and Structures helps me to think comparatively about the kinopolitics of the Japanese empire and the larger region to which it related. The officially-organized movement of Chinese settler-migrants into the Xing An frontier zone differed from the pilgrimages to the Japanese metropole of elite colonial students like Cai Peihuo, or the journeys along informal migration circuits, often improvised and sometimes clandestine, of marginal men from Fuqing to Japan and Japanese women to Fuqing. But together, they make us think about the dislocations, large and small, that made people (as subjects or as bodies) available for incorporation into new projects of spatial control, while at times putting new forms of pressure on state territorial imperatives. Reading across modules also prompted me to think about how to situate the world inhabited by my Fuqing peddlers, who sometimes sold medicine alongside cloth and other sundries, in relation to the emerging spatiality of modern drug store franchise networks, and to that of the core urban department stores that offered different kinds of textiles and commodified dreams from those that were carried on foot into remote villages across the archipelago. Each of these commercial networks produced its own contact zones: the juxtaposition of modules opens possibilities for comparing them.
Working on this project has also enabled me to reflect more fully on the materiality of movement and the frictions attendant on it. Not only can one compare the experiences of the mobile bodies in the above examples; one can also think about the subjectivities of those who attempt to capture space as they move through and record it: the self-confident excursions of Charles Gail through the physical and social terrain of occupied Okinawa (but how was he seen?); the more tentative incursions of Japanese consular police officers into the unstable Fujianese hinterland; the positioning of Kon Wajirō and his modernologist students at their assigned stations as they sought to represent bodies in motion through a burgeoning urban consumer zone; or Ishikawa Kōyō's remarkably disciplined movements (conditioned by the protocols of civil defense) as he photographed Tokyo's transformation into a site of utter terror and devastation (this a stark contrast to the sense of complete spatial domination affected by American air raid planners and B-29 crews).
Going beyond the subject matter itself, can one draw on our varied reflections to create a different kind of narrative or analytical space? Clearly, Scalar offers the possibility for hyperlinked, nonlinear presentations involving a rich variety of sources. Each of us has explored some aspect of this digital writing process in our own modules, and the tag map and grid offer the possibility for visualizing crossings and connections. While developing these approaches further, I would like to see the collective start to experiment actively with the construction and performance of narratives and arguments that build from the ground up with elements from multiple modules.
In my module I set out to investigate the social history of biological warfare in the Red River Delta during the First Indochina War. This project called for writing about the voices of Viet Minh officials, medical and agricultural experts, and local cadres, which I could access through published and archival materials. My project also called for writing about the perspectives of famers and others in the delta who did not leave lasting written traces. Reading the archives against the grain helped, but as I found out from participating in Bodies and Structures, there was a lot to learn about the collective experience of biological warfare from spatial methods.
First, engaging with the Bodies and Structures project pushed my thinking forward on the terms and concepts of my project. The combination of instant communication and increased time to reflect enabled by sharing virtual space took some getting used to—but I found hashing out hashtags over Slack and on other platforms really interesting. These conversations helped me get closer to what I wanted to say about the boundaries between, say, bodies and structures in the Red River Delta. For example, I found debates about keywords associated with the airplane and the kinds of viewing it enabled, and necessitated, very enlightening. I was also encouraged to look at how the concepts of the Sinosphere and of the borderlands shaped the official and popular responses to the threat of biological warfare.
Second, I learned a lot methodologically from how other scholars mapped the movement of smallpox vaccinators, marginal migrants, and of opium smugglers, and then used those maps to say something unexpected about the relevant societies. In terms of reading sources, I drew inspiration from the analysis of images reproduced in print material from Qing China and those contained in colonial Taiwanese libraries, along with images produced by a mid-century Japanese father-photographer and a mid-century US army captain.
Third, participating in Bodies and Structures allowed me to think about narrative in the digital humanities. The project forced me to struggle with how to translate grounded, rooted places into timeless, digital scalar space. The approaches of participants writing about riverine communities, religious communities, drug stores, and department stores all provided grist for the mill. If it sounds like I learned a lot from this project—I did!
Bodies and Structures lets me “read across places” in collaboration rather than in isolation. The modules present a range of different spatialities: peddler routes, ruinscapes, militarized borders, contested empire, island, and retail floor plans. Exploring my collaborators’ spatial arguments helped to open up and at the same time anchor the rapidly multiplying types of spaces bubbling up from the two-dimensional journal pages with which I began this project. Before Bodies and Structures, I had been focusing on the challenges of developing a coherent narrative regarding the conflicted nature of Mitsukoshi’s wartime journals. However, working with my collaborators helped me begin to catch glimpses of faintly visible maps hovering over and in the journal pages. It turns out a New Year’s gift box is not just about class and nation, but also the production and distribution networks necessary to put together the collection of savories and sweets. Such a ghost map might look a little like Ambaras’ peddler itineraries or Yang’s franchise store network. A running series on daughters of elite households offers data points to trace the contours of neighborhoods where the wealthy clustered, their ephemeral spatiality resonating with that of Wright’s vanished Okinawan sites. Reportage from the Japanese front lines starts to demand triangulation with the locations of Chinese and guerrilla forces, while essays celebrating luxury cruises to Southeast Asia reinscribe the imagined geography of empire contested by McDonald’s Cai Peihuo. Not only did the multiplicity of spatialities claimed by Mitsukoshi Department Store become increasingly apparent to me, but the method of spatializing our analysis made it possible for me to present the journal series in more depth, with more accuracy, and with more embeddedness than traditional narrative has hitherto allowed.
When I began to work on my module for Bodies and Structures, I expected that it would give me an opportunity to express spatial aspects of my research that had been latent within earlier versions of it. It certainly did that, and it productively forced me to rethink my ideas about territory, boundaries, and scale, and to make explicit my own process of “deep-mapping” the city of Jilong (Keelung). Much of this reconsideration and conceptual evolution took place in the context of discussions with the project’s collaborators. For example, I came in with a sense of the intersection of divine and earthly space in the act of the raojing or the process of defining a deity’s local cult by parading its likeness through the city streets. Through the project, I developed a clearer definition of sacred geography as a flat space, where place, time, and distance have no meaning; and a form of imaginative geography created by human societies and imbued with organizing principles that allow it to interact with and influence their everyday lives. Perhaps most illuminating at the conceptual level was our collective effort to grapple with issues of scale (local, national, regional, state, individual, etc.) without applying fixed hierarchies to the relationships between the different layers. Working on the project also enabled me to see my sources as things that historical actors had created in order to define and make sense of their worlds, and which I then used to map the physical and imaginative spaces of Jilong.
The other important thing that I learned from Bodies and Structures was about spatial history. The modules cover a remarkably disparate range of topics, linked only by a particular metageographical concept (the region of East Asia) and a vague periodization (the nineteenth and twentieth centuries). As examples of narrative history, many of them could not meaningfully speak to each other, but as spatial histories, they overlap in often unexpected, but productive, dialogue. Reading Maren Ehlers’ module about disease-control strategies in late Tokugawa Japan, I saw clear connections to my own in terms of concerns with the reinforcement and erasure of boundaries in relation to things that could not be seen. Similarly, the process of crossing or transgressing borders, by the opium smugglers in Petery Thilly’s module or the Okinawan migrants in Hiroko Matsuda’s, reinforced my sense of boundary construction as a contested process. Also, the ways that science and technology provided mastery over space (or at least the illusion of mastery) in the modules by Sakura Christmas (on the aerial view of territory), Nathaniel Isaacson (on the mobility of images of trains), and Mitch Aso (on biological warfare), helped me to rethink the leaders of the religious festivals in my module and to link scientists, engineers, publishers, and spiritual leaders in a common category of people who made socially acceptable claims of being able to bring order to the world.
This project has been educational for me in many ways, but perhaps my biggest take-away was that spatial humanities can help integrate questions and sources we often locate in separate dimensions: microscopic biological processes, material artifacts, physical geography and built environments, written and visual media, and social structures as well as other constructs of the human imagination. The conceptual vocabulary gradually developed by Kate and David (and to some extent also by us) had the effect of flattening some of the categories I had long considered natural in my work. For example, I started to imagine both human bodies and written texts as “vehicles,” and decided to subsume various social structures under a broad notion of “network.”
My thinking about space evolved a lot while working on my module. When I started out, I was focused mainly on issues of territorial fragmentation and integration in late Tokugawa Japan. But as a result of our discussions, I reorganized my module so it would no longer privilege any particular spatial problem or perspective. I put the smallest possible agent—the cowpox virus/vaccine—at the center and followed its travels through various material, geographic, social, and imaginary environments. Although the cowpox virus was entirely ignorant of human designs to perpetuate it, its movement through space and time actually sharpens our understanding of human constructs, including the status order and the territoriality of samurai rule.
I found our conversations between contributors very enlightening, perhaps in part because we all dealt with different times and places. Peter Thilly's module probably felt the most familiar to mine as it also looks at the movement of a substance (in his case opium) across borders, passed along by legitimate and illegitimate handlers at a time of relatively weak state control. I found unexpected common ground with Evan Dawley's module about sacred geographies in colonial Taiwan, especially the role of professionals in redrawing boundaries in the context of a transition to a new order. Tim Yang's and Noriko Aso's modules inspired me to explore the role of built environments in perpetuating smallpox vaccinations. And Mitch Aso's and Sakura Christmas' modules helped me think about the spatial implications of scientific practice as well as the possibility of ephemeral networks, which could emerge between bodies as well as points in physical space. The innovative software environment also motivated me to experiment with new forms of narration and presentation and annotate, for example, a vaccination flyer and a clinic floor plan.
Before I joined Bodies and Structures, my research focused on law, outlaws, and local communities. I was studying a “pirate queen,” Huang Bamei (1906–1982), who had wide connections with competing powers on the sea. I was also conducting research on a village man, Zhang Gang (1860–1942), who had recorded almost everything in his life for over 50 years, including his experiences with the rivers around his village. However, I had not explored the spatial aspect of all these projects and an important arena in which actors could manipulate local politics and social relations, namely, the water. Thanks to the organizers and contributors of Bodies and Structures, whose modules cover a wide range of topics that analyze space from different angles, I have put together some sources and developed a project on the spatial history of water in Wenzhou, a southeast Chinese city with extensive experiences with rivers and oceans. Through the process of mapping the activities on Wenzhou’s water, I have come to see water as a space, which is produced, reproduced, and manipulated in both physical and imagined ways and serves as a boundary for demarcating and connecting places, people, and social practices. By reading other contributors’ works, including Hiroko Matsuda’s module on borders of the Japanese Empire and Peter Thilly’s module on the maritime trade of opium, I have also learned that water in Wenzhou not only intensified encounters and confrontations but also embodied a process by which regimes and local actors reconstituted spatiality through various activities and agendas.
Strictly speaking, I am a scholar of literary and cultural studies, rather than a historian. Getting to be in dialogue with other scholars working on very different projects is what I love most about academia. I think that the “crisis” in the humanities is best confronted by doing a better job sharing what we do with an audience outside of academia, though. The biggest impact on my research has been to make me think about how to conduct and communicate humanities research that is accessible to a broader audience, and to think about the media we communicate in.
I want my work to be widely available, and to use new media in ways that allow people to get a deeper sense of the material than they would be able to get from traditional print. It turns out that this is really hard to do, and for all kinds of reasons. The limits of print are apparent—there’s no sound, no video, and you are lucky if you get one or two low-quality images. But, working outside of the linear mode of essays and books and creating something that allows your audience to explore freely turned out to be really hard. It felt like writing a dissertation all over again, where you are doing the research and learning a new form of composition at the same time, and you don’t actually have much of a handle on what you are doing until you’ve finished it.
Assuming we do learn to use websites, podcasts, video essays and the like to do all the things that a monograph can’t, the educational infrastructure is mostly built around print. If I publish a book, it will be in a library somewhere, and people can hopefully find it. It’s not as clear how digital materials will be maintained and curated. Tenured faculty also need to consider how they are going to use their privilege to make sure that work like this counts on junior faculty members’ CVs.
Bodies and Structures has given me the language and tools to explore the making of Japan’s imperial art world in a new way. Place is often taken for granted in historical research. Also, it tends to be seen as a fixed category. In contrast, Bodies and Structures emphasizes how place-making is a process and makes that process visible. The modules themselves have diverse architectures. They work with different scales and do not privilege any one type or agent of place-making. By dissecting a conventional research paper into a multitude of interconnected pages, media, sources, and tags, the modules bring to the fore the messy, fragmentary, and always incomplete process of writing history.
My module is based on my dissertation research. I had conflicted feelings about it. On one hand, I wanted to bring attention to the long disavowed involvement of Japan’s art world to empire-building. To excavate the infrastructures connecting Japan’s art world and those of Korea and Taiwan, to show the movement of artists (and artworks and art journals…) within the empire, and how the empire shaped artistic imagination. On the other hand, I did not want to create a sweeping narrative that would simply replicate the cultural imperialism present in so many writings and institutions of the time. The fragmentary nature of the module and connections with other existing and future modules help deflect any such reading. There are always more stories to tell about a place. Mine is just one story. I think that it is a worthwhile story to tell because it pushes us to think harder about how the presence of Taiwanese Chinese artists in Japan’s art world can change our understanding of Japanese art history and modern art in general.
Bodies and Structures changed how I understood Cai Peihuo and the spatial politics of empire. In my own work, I put Cai Peihuo into conversation with other political activists and organizations of his era, including the imperial tourism industry. Through the process of conceptually mapping Bodies and Structures, however, I saw that Cai’s argument was in conversation with other modes of ordering and representing space. Some are fairly obvious. Cai’s proposal to recognize the unique character of Taiwan as a place and grant self-rule on that basis is one case of using spatial ordering to make a political claim, as is Mitsukoshi’s reporting on Asia. Others, however, only came to light when we completed the conceptual mapping process. Cai’s claims for self-rule are part of a discourse of “peopling place,” to use Aso’s phrase, that also included Kon Wajirō, a figure associated with consumer modernity in the metropole rather than empire. And, when seen alongside Dustin Wright’s critical reading of Charles Gail’s photographs of Okinawa, the conservative nature of Cai’s approach to the politics of place becomes clear.
Juxtaposing Cai’s spatial politics alongside other modules underscored the particularity of Cai’s approach to space and place and more fundamental issues that structured spatial experiences in the era. Juxtaposing the mobility of Cai as a student against David Ambaras’s Fuqing peddlers illuminates how the elite nature of Cai’s encounter with empire shaped his approach to political activism. The juxtaposition of Kon’s representation of the gateway to the department store as the embodiment of the egalitarian nature of consumption with the intra-empire borders that colonized students faced, makes clear how the state and capital constituted people as both consumer-subjects and imperial-subjects – and that these identities were not two parts of a coherent whole “self” but which emerged in the encounter between a given body and a particular structure.
My approach to using maps in my writing and my thinking about space as a historian have evolved over the two years of working on Bodies and Structures. Working in collaboration with the other authors has taught me to become more intentional about identifying different coexisting spatial logics among the people and networks in my research, and has helped me find new ways to employ spatial insights to tell stories with maps. In “The Case Against Shi Hou,” the narrative and accompanying maps together serve to explain the development of a maritime lineage’s opium operations from incubation to an almost kingpin regional status, drawing out the ways in which the migration of the opium trade from Guangdong to Fujian in the 1830s was built on preexisting coastal trading networks. And in the “Jardine Matheson Global Network” path, maps and non-linear narrative text serve to explain that organization’s logics of profit: from production, shipping, insurance, political lobbying, right down to the receiving ships anchored off the shore of Fujian’s southern coast.
In the collaborative environment that Kate and David created for the authors of this project, we constantly churned through different articulations of spatial logics, and hashed how one might create a map or tell a story from the perspective of an imperial airline, a disease, a technology, or a religious institution. The way that these logics and maps change over time make up the stuff of the historical narratives that bring this site to life. That these modules were created in an interconnected fashion—both in their web presentation and in their actual germination, writing, and revision—means that visitors have a genuine opportunity to build on our work, perceive new connections, and interpret our evidence in new ways.
Okinawa is a place built on networks, some more obvious than others. Putting the photographs from The Okinawa Memories Initiative into dialogue with the other modules of Bodies and Structures has helped me to see more clearly the ways in which colonial and capitalist networks in postwar Okinawa shared many characteristics with similar prewar structures throughout East Asia. Okinawans today will often proudly tell you about their islands’ histories from centuries past, when the Ryukyu Kingdom was an important trade node and cultural transmitter between peoples throughout East Asia. This is no less the case when looking at the modern history of the islands. Anyone with an interest in Okinawan history will necessarily find themselves slipping into wormholes that deliver them to Tokyo, Honolulu, Beijing, and beyond.
While I’m excited to highlight these networks, Bodies and Structures also helped me to focus more on the things in Gail’s photos. The networks of consumption and commerce that appear in many of Gail’s photos of Okinawan markets and shops, some filled with repurposed American products, remind me of Timothy Yang’s insight in “The Global Space of a Drugstore.” While Japanese companies like Hoshi Pharmaceuticals drew inspiration from a marketplace of ideas and were inspired by American corporate practices, Okinawan shopkeepers and small business owners relied on American military products and military currency to survive. Both the pharmaceutical giant on the Japanese mainland and the humble shopkeeper in American-occupied Okinawa were deeply connected to global commodities and contemporary business practices.
In thinking about Okinawans themselves (Gail’s preferred subjects), I was drawn to the concluding section of David Fedman’s module on the destruction of Tokyo, in which he considers how new approaches to mapping historical experience might allow us “to probe the nature of total war more generally.” The dehumanization of the enemy gave license to the targeting of Japanese civilians. Gail, in his own way, tried to rehumanize a people who only seven years earlier were targeted by the U.S. military and killed en masse during the bloodiest battle of the entirely of World War II. The Okinawa Memories Initiative, perhaps, helps to show that total war lingered in Okinawa long after the fighting ceased.
Working with Bodies and Structures has given me a much more complex and multi-dimensional understanding of the Japanese Empire by illustrating the multiple parallel and intersecting pathways of development and points of friction in the making of empire—multiple spatialities that the simple map cannot accommodate. In turn, following these pathways has led me to really think about the meaning of “deep mapping” and the importance of spatiality to history. It is one thing to see in a group of Chinese officers who set up a settlement in the borderlands between Chinese, Soviet, and Japanese interests as an example of counter-imperialist imperialism. The physical isolation of the Shing An Tunken zone, however, did not mean that it was not connected to the larger undercurrents of empire and empire-making. Working on Bodies and Structures has made me see much more clearly these undercurrents.
The module “Cai Peihuo’s Inner Territory,” for example, uses Cai’s 1928 manifesto to critique the spatial hierarchy of the Japanese empire. Along the way, Cai’s path intersects with the development of colonial science and unexpectedly takes the reader to other points of resistance. Cai Peihuo followed a very different life trajectory from Ogura Nobu and her Chinese husband Chen Zhaopin in the “Border Controls” module, and even more dramatically different from the Chinese officers, who attempted to modernize an isolated frontier territory using the latest globally circulating ideas in agricultural science, geology, and economic development. To navigate these pathways is to find oneself taken unexpectedly across the physical space of empire and along flows of ideas, peoples, and energy.
The deliberately comparative nature of Bodies and Structures improved my understanding of the spatial politics of circulation and consumption. My module, “The Drugstore as Contact Zone,” analyzes how Hoshi Pharmaceuticals, like other drug companies of the day, attempted to control the space of a drugstore in order to create consumer-subjects who believed in an ethos of self-medication and participated in capitalist modernity. When read alongside Noriko Aso's module, the similarities between the idealized Hoshi drugstore and the Mitsukoshi department store are strikingly obvious and undoubtedly intentional -- it shows how drugstores and department stores were spaces that cultivated freedom of consumption and how medicines often proved to be no different from any other commodity. When viewed in conjunction with Shellen Wu's module, Hoshi's efforts to control the fraught point of contact between producer and consumer overlaps with Chinese officers' efforts to police the Shing An borderland, both of which notably depend on globally-circulating advances in social science. And when seen with Kate McDonald's analysis of Cai Peihuo's colonized imaginary of the inner territory, the importance of the middleman (in my case, the drugstore clerk) as gatekeeper, arbiter, and potential resister becomes apparent.
Macao was a central location for Anglo-Chinese networking in the opium trade
Peter D. Thilly
To ensure success brokers must be employed—I was quite helpless without them and before again sailing for that or any new market I must procure from Macao at least a couple.
Captain Mackay in Fuzhou to William Jardine in Canton, May 27th, 1835.*
The rules of trade at Guangzhou mandated that foreign merchants like Jardine and Matheson were only allowed to come to the foreign factories upriver near the walled city of Guangzhou during the summer months. Nearby Macao, under the de facto control of the Portuguese, served as a crucial place of residence and business for the foreign merchants in China during the rest of the year.
The above quote, from Captain MacKay of the Jardine-Matheson vessel The Fairy, indicates that Macao also served as a sort of job marketplace for Chinese brokers and interpreters to link up with foreign opium merchants. In The Case Against Shi Hou, we saw this happen as well, when the middleman Wang Mazhi took Shi Hou and his companions to Macao to meet the Rees brothers.
Source: JM:B2 7 [R. 495, No. 50] MacKay, Fuzhou, 5.27.1835
Corruption and Bribery
Jardine-Matheson sources regarding corruption and bribery in the opium trade
Peter D. Thilly
The smugglers and Mandarins have come to an arrangement in this place, that they are to be paid $10 for every chest we deliver. Captain Hadley and myself agreed to it, and accordingly rose the prices of all that much. In my opinion is the best thing that could have happened, for all parties. We have a man put on board, who receives the cash and a chop has been delivered to me.
Captain Mackay in Chimmo Bay to William Jardine in Canton, November 29th, 1835.*
Most of the business which has been conducted in Chimmo bay has been carried on by the parties which traded with us two years ago. We do not pay the $10 fee but give the mandarins of the station a present now and then.
Captain Rees in Chimmo Bay to William Jardine in Canton, May 19th, 1838.**
In The Case Against Shi Hou, the government officials who prosecuted the case noted that Shi Hou was in the practice of charging a $10 commission for every chest sold to customers that he brought out to Big and Little Li's ships in Shenhu Bay. As the above quotations illustrate, the Jardine-Matheson records also feature the practice of somebody charging $10 fees for every chest sold. But whereas in the Qing account the practice is coded as a brokerage fee that captured suspect Shi Hou was charging other Chinese merchants for access to the foreign ships, in the Jardine records the British opium captains portray the fee as part of a government protection scheme, which is consistent with the records from other anchorages.
The matter of the ten-dollar fee in Shenhu Bay was part of a broader pattern of corruption and bribery developing between the British opium ship captains, the coastal lineages, and the Qing civil and military authorities in Xiamen and Quanzhou. During May and June of 1836, for instance, Rees went into negotiations with an official with jurisdiction over Shenhu Bay known in the Jardine sources as “Luo Toa” (laoda, local parlance for “elder brother” or “the big man”). In May, Rees reported having negotiated with his brother to fix prices for the bay and subsequently combine together to offer the laoda an annual fee of $20,000 in order to secure the trade and also “not to allow strangers to trade” (i.e. not allow competing British, Parsee, and American opium ships into the bay).***
Jardine-Matheson captains were in direct negotiation with local authorities on the coast. A month later Rees reported that the laoda had “sent off to say he cannot accept less than $24,000 fees for accommodation for both ships. For this sum he says he can protect the trade in case strange ships should come in … He is certainly authorized to treat with us by the authorities at Chinchew [Quanzhou].” Negotiations like this appear repeatedly throughout the Jardine-Matheson archive.****
*Source: JM B2 7, Reel 495, No. 69, November 29, 1835
**Source: JM B2 7, Reel 495, No. 194, Rees to Jardine, May 19, 1838
***Source: JM B2.7, Reel 495, No. 99, May 21, 1836.
****Source: JM B2.7, Reel 495, No. 102, June 15, 1836.