Treatment

First Opium War (1840 - 1842)

The Opium Wars, during which Britain forced China to open its ports to international trade, including the selling of Opium, is possibly the most ignominious series of wars ever engaged in by the British Empire. The British were at the time, near the height of their power, prosperous, highly civilized, and ’socially conscientious’ enough to have enacted democratic reforms within their own realm, such as outlawing slavery and restricting child labor. The importation of Opium was in fact, illegal within Britain itself, and yet they submitted to the idea of fighting a one-sided war with China for the purpose of forcing the Opium trade upon a government that was only trying to prevent illegal foreign trafficking of a baneful substance. Some history of the historical relationship between Britain and China is necessary to understand how these highly inglorious wars came about.

For many years leading up to the Opium Wars, Britain had been frustrated in its dealings with China and had striven unsuccessfully for decades to negotiate more favorable trading terms with them. The Chinese government, based on their interactions with the European trading companies for nearly 200 years, had an exceedingly low opinion of westerners and would not consent to make treaties with their ambassadors, much less open their ports to their wares, or encourage trade in any way. Britain had already tried every conceivable diplomatic effort to increase trading opportunities, but all exertions were fruitless. The Chinese government simply wanted nothing to do with foreigners or their products.

Episode 1 - Foreign Mud

In Canton, the only port open to foreign traders in China, a small dinghy approaches the bustling trading docks with two new arrivals: Andrew Matheson, the nephew of Charles Matheson a prominent trader and partner to Taipan William Jardine, and Miss Harriett Low, the mischievous young America journalist who disguises herself as a man in order to move about Chinese society. At the dock young Andrew is misdirected by Cpt. McDougal as a joke into Hog Lane, a warren of delirious pleasure-parlors for sailors. Quickly lost and chased by strangers, the hapless Andrew, lost in the narrow alleyways, stumbles into an opium den and is horrified by the sight of the human face of opium: an emaciated addict decidedly more ghost-like than human. The addict offers Andrew his pipe and in panic he retreats. But with the addict’s pipe in hand, Andrew is chased through the streets and in his panic, falls into the river. Andrew’s sojourn in China has begun and little does he know that love, wealth and great power will eventually befall on him.

Canton’s Taipan, Jardine throws a party for the wealthy foreign traders and the scattering of missionaries in the community and it’s quickly clear that the evangelicals are vocally against the source of nearly every trader’s fortune: opium.

The catch however is that the traders financially support the missionaries and the verbal disputes lead nowhere, except in the case of one Karl Gutzlaff, a Pommerian missionary who knows that Christianity and commerce are healthy bedfellows. Gutzlaff’s Christian ambitions and his need for coin leads him into an alliance with Jardine and a plan is struck to uses his bible distribution activities as a cover to Jardine’s illegal trading voyages up the Chinese coast.

Howqua, the leading Chinese merchant authorized by the Imperial Emperor to conduct trade with all foreigners could only view Jardine’s desires for expansion outside of Canton as a threat. Despite being the richest man in the world, Howqua was powerless to stop Jardine, and caught between the traders and the Chinese officials, Howqwa can only ponder how he can benefit from these changing times.

Cpt. McDougal, celebrating the King’s birthday aboard his ship, the Lady Hughes accidentally fires a canon volley that kills a Chinese boatman. Chinese officials seeking justice, and a mother seeking revenge, unleash a series of events that end in a public riot and the mob sets the foreign warehouses ablaze. The Chinese officials demand justice and an innocent seaman is publically strangled. The stage is set, and from this minor skirmish the seeds of Chinese resistance to the most lucrative trade in the world are planted.

Episode 2 - Napier’s Follies

After the dissolution of the East India Company’s exclusive monopoly to trade in the Far East, British Foreign Minister Lord Palmerston decides to send retired naval captains Lord Napier and Charles Elliott to China to defend Britain’s vital economic interests - for their greatest source of tax revenue was from the tea trade – and to once-and-for-all establish diplomatic relations with the Emperor, while at the same time doing nothing to endanger the lucrative opium trade. Despite these conflicting instructions, Napier sees an opportunity to change history and make a name for himself as a great diplomat.

Everyone in Portuguese Macau turns out for Lord Napier’s welcoming party. Tensions between the missionaries and the traders are still running high and Jardine is confronted by Harriet over the opium trade, labelling him none better than a buccaneer. But the arrival of Gutzlaff dressed as a Mandarin lightens the mood and he is quickly the talk of the party. A demure and sultry Harriett requests an interview with Lord Napier to better understand his mission and motives, and the next day, dressed as a man for the interview, she is won over by Napier’s diplomatic vision.

During the mayhem of the earlier riots, Andrew’s dalliance with the beautiful servant girl Mei Wong has now led to the birth of a boy. Learning that Andrew is the father Lt. Wong, Mei’s brother, sends the child to Macau and leaves it on the doorstep of missionary Morrison’s house.

Governor Lu sends an edict to Napier in Macau stating that despite his status as an official representative of His Majesty’s Government, that he cannot proceed to Canton without permission. Napier ignores protocol and sends Elliott with a letter to the Governor but no Chinese official will accept it. Napier decides to go directly to the Chinese people with placards to announce his intentions to establish diplomatic relations and open the country to free-trade. In response, a furious Governor Lu sends a flowery-language edict immediately blocking all foreign trade, with severe physical penalties threatened should his orders not be followed. A conciliatory meeting is attempted but Napier, exasperated by waiting for hours fails to get the Chinese officials to understand his motives and the meeting ends in an impasse.

In response, Napier sends Elliott to bring his two frigates to Canton. Passing the Bogue Forts en route gunfire is exchange, severely damaging the forts and as the ships continues to move upstream the Chinese scuttle small boats filled with rocks to strand the British ships in the shallow river. Lu relents and allows Napier, now seriously ill, to return to Macao but not without humiliating him by escorting him under armed guard. In Macau, Napier succumbs to fever and with his death, the last chance of true diplomatic relations between the Empires is forever lost

Episode 3 - The Great Debate

In the Forbidden City the Imperial Emperor is burnishing his considerable archery skills when he is informed by his Chief Eunuch that a court prince has become heavily addicted to opium. Frustrated by opium’s presence in his very court, he tells his advisor to write to all the Governors to solicit their opinions whether to crush the opium trade definitively, or to legalize it.

Reporting on his very successful trip up the coast selling opium with Gutzlaff, Cpt. McKay regales Taipan Jardine with reports of the missionary’s adept negotiating abilities, but he also warns of Gutzlaff’s Christian internal conflicts. Jardine wryly replies that Gutzlaff’s God loves sliver as much as any man.

Governor Lin Zexu, nicknamed "clear sky" because of his incorruptibility, writes a comprehensive report supporting the eliminating of the opium trade and in it, he outlines plans for rehabilitation, progressive punishment and most importantly, the cessation of the smuggling trade.

Mamasan’s brothel and opium den in a personal quest to enter into the muse state. The servant girl Mei, now childless, works for Mamasan and in exchange for help in finding her missing son. Mei prepares an opium pipe for Harriet, and in her dream state, the muses don’t arrive, just an overwhelming desire to physically bond with Mei.

Howqua hires a local judge to lobby for the legalization of opium as the indifferent newlyappointed Governor Teng pragmatically believes that eliminating opium is no different than banning tea. At the same time, Matheson, Jardine’s partner, is in London lobbying for protection of the traders and he commissions a well-known writer to pen a pro-opium treatise. In response, the opposing Chartist newspapers publish articles on the opium scourge based on missionary’s reports and all of London debates the issue as laudanum was legal, and much prized as a universal cure-all, though heavily abused across British society.

As the Imperial Emperor doesn’t want opium scourge to be his legacy he decides, against the opinions of his Governors for legalization, to summons Lin Zexu to Peking to put his plans to eradicate opium into action.

Episode 4 - Clear Sky

In a tense meeting hosted by Taipan Jardine, the traders and their Chinese counterparts discuss what might happen when Lin Zexu arrives. Now facing punishment or even execution for partaking in the opium trade all of the traders have reason to be on edge as already local Chinese opium dens are being shut, and even the lowly addicts’ opium pipes confiscated. The anxiety in the remaining opium dens runs high as the addicts partake of their last puff, and the frantic traders try to offload their remaining stock at inflated prices, Captain Charles Elliot, now the official British Superintendent-of-Trade, taking an anti-opium stance goes head-tohead with the traders but he doesn’t go so far as to ban the smuggling trade and consequently the missionaries shun him and the traders ignore him.

Taipan Jardine is seen off by with a rousing farewell party for his voyage to London. With a secretly developed war plan complete with military requirements, maps, charts and battle strategy, Jardine’s plan is to whip-up anti-Chinese sentiment in the name of free trade. After his departure, an anti-war group lead by the American Warren Delano emerges within the trading community

Lin Zexu stages an elaborate arrival in his ceremonial boat and sails by Canton’s foreign factories to project his status. Upon arriving, he issues three anti-opium edicts and posters are circulated warning of penalties for anyone caught smoking or trading opium. Lin tells the Chinese officials and merchants that they are complicit, and their wealth, illicitly gained. As he burns a chest of opium in the compound many merchants start to sweat after inhaling the fumes, and their shame mounts as their addiction to the ’foreign mud’ is visibly betrayed.

But Lin’s eradication campaign has only just begun and writes to Queen Victoria, appealing to her good conscience by explaining that millions of Chinese addicts have been created by the British-supported opium trade and that it must cease immediately. As blockades are established and bongs banged to intimidate the local community, the foreigner’s servants are forcefully conscripted into a Chinese militia. Lin confers with naval Admiral Quan about military preparedness as Howqua and his partner Mowqua are sent to the foreign trader’s compound locked in chains in a visceral show of Lin’s sweeping authority.

Episode 5 - Drumbeats

After a great debate among all of the traders, Superintendent Elliot promises that the British government will take responsibility to pay for the pending confiscation of their opium– nearly a billion dollars in today’s currency – providing the traders surrender the whole year’s supply of 20,283 chests of opium to him. Most agree, but a few traders angrily walk out.

Harriet Low introduces Mei to Mrs Gutzlaff, proposing her as a nanny for the Gutzlaff’s school for blind children. Karl Gutzlaff quotes a Chinese proverb stating "do not employ handsome servants", though his base nature has other thoughts.

At night a suspicious Lt. Wong secretly meets with the Chinese-American sailor and Comprador to Delano, BostonJack at a deserted temple. BostonJack tells him that he can persuade the Americans to help the Chinese procure weapons and ships to fight the British should it come to that.

Howqua, now released from prison, visits Superintendent Elliot and he is visibly upset by Elliot’s offer to hand over all the opium to Lin as this will also ruin the Chinese merchants, Howqua states flatly "Why he pay all opium, no wantee so muchee".

Lin inspects the first chests that have been surrendered and in turn, negotiates the terms when the foreigners can leave Canton. Most of the foreigners depart, especially the British traders who refuse to sign the pledge foregoing opium. Delano starts to buy large amounts of tea and silk, sends it down river to British ships, charging exorbitant rates for his services.

Two missionaries witness Lin’s elaborate ceremony at Chuenpi destroying the opium by mixing it with lime and dumping it into the river. But at Lintin Island, Viceroy Lu’s crab boats come up as the new season’s opium crop is being off loaded. Gutzlaff has bribed upcountry officials to trade on Jardine’s behalf and despite everything; the great Taipan Jardine comes out on top.

Episode 6 - Jardine’s War

The Imperial Emperor sends impressive gifts and promotes Lin for a job well done. Howqua, now owed millions by the departed foreign traders is squeezed by Lin for money to rebuild the destroyed river forts.

The news of Lin’s massive confiscation reaches London. Energized by this stroke of fortune, the war-mongering Jardine shares his military plans with an equally offended Lord Palmerson. In secret, Palmerston oversteps his authority and writes to the armed forces in India and to Elliott to start preparing for war without cabinet approval.

Lin’s chief rival in Peking, the Chief Eunuch, jealous of Lin’s successes, informs the Imperial Emperor that is no stopping the foreigners from trading opium along the coast but the Emperor still backs Lin.

Tensions are rising, and near Macau a small ship is attacked. Captain McDougal’s ear is cut off and stuffed into his mouth. The Chinese post anti-opium placards and their army surrounds Macau as the British hastily evacuate, escaping to the secure port at Hong Kong Island. The Gutzlaffs also escape but Mei remains behind to care for the blind children.

British and American sailors go ashore in Kowloon, steal liquor and demolished a small temple, and kill an innocent villager. Lin demands the murder be atoned for but Elliot leads a small expedition force to Kowloon, with Gutzlaff pressed into service as translator to obtain provisions. Gutzlaff tries to reason his way out of this, but he is refused. Shots are exchanged but the battle is quickly over and little damage done. The British retreat to Hong Kong Island and the ineffectual Chinese war junks give mock chase.

A British merchant ship carrying a legitimate cargo, signs the anti-opium bond and is permitted to travel up river to trade. Aboard the newly arrived naval sloop Hyacinth and frigate Volage Elliot tries to stop the merchant ship from proceeding by shooting across her bow. Over twenty Chinese war junks and fire ships quickly respond, in the ensuing confusion and feeling threatened, the Hyacinth fires, mistakenly starting a full-on battle. Admiral Guan standing erect before the mast wielding his sword yells: "Death to deserters". But victory was not to be his as most of the war junks were sunk or damaged.

Under Lt. Wong’s urging, Lin buys the heavily-armed merchant ship Cambridge through Delano. In a frantic effort by the Chinese to modernize their forces to better combat the British firepower, new cannons were bought, and many more forged with the assistance of foreign spies.

After the losing battle, Lin is summoned to Beijing, as the Emperor has now lost faith in him. As the Chinese regroup, Jardine and Elliott send a survey team to Hong Kong Island to evaluate it as a base of military operations for the coming war.

Episode 7 - Clear Sky

Macau - Captain Charles Elliot, now the official British Superintendent-of-Trade, takes an anti-opium stance going head-to-head with the traders. He becomes isolated since he doesn’t go so far as to ban the smuggling trade and consequently the missionaries shun him and the traders ignore him.

Canton - Taipan Jardine is seen off by with a rousing farewell party for his voyage to London. With a secretly developed war plan complete with military requirements, maps, charts and battle strategy, Jardine’s plan is to whip-up anti-Chinese sentiment in the name of free trade. After his departure, an anti-war group lead by the American Warren Delano emerges within the trading community

Lin Zexu stages an elaborate arrival in his ceremonial boat and sails by Canton’s foreign factories to project his status. Upon arriving, he issues three anti-opium edicts and posters are circulated warning of penalties for anyone caught smoking or trading opium. Lin tells the Chinese officials and merchants that they are complicit, and their wealth, illicitly gained. When he burns a chest of opium in the compound, many merchants start to sweat after inhaling the fumes, and their shame mounts as their addiction to the "foreign mud" is visibly betrayed.

London - But Lin’s eradication campaign has only just begun and he writes a letter to Queen Victoria, which is published in the London Times, appealing to her good conscience by explaining that, "millions of Chinese addicts have been created by the British-supported opium trade and that it must cease immediately".

Canton - As blockades are established and bongs banged to intimidate the local community, the foreigner’s servants are forcefully conscripted into a Chinese militia and drilled outside the compound.

Bogue Forts - Lin inspects the forts with naval Admiral Guan and Captain Wong but when they have to kick soldiers awake, it obvious they are addicted to opium.

Canton - Lin sends Howqua and his partner Mowqua to the foreign trader’s compound locked in chains in a visceral show of Lin’s sweeping authority.

Episode 8 - Drumbeats

Canton - Lin Zexu suspends trading, orders the godowns surrounded, cuts off supplies and orders the servants to leave. Some traders led by Innes respond with a few shots before cooler heads prevail.

The traders without their servants are forced to fend for themselves, cooking, cleaning as the condition of the compound deteriorates. They offer a token of opium of 1,500 chests but it is rejected. Angry demonstrations outside the compound continue the loud bonging of the drums is driving the traders crazy. Matteson surveying the waterfront has fire arrows aimed at him.

Macau - Harriet Low introduces Mei to Mrs. Gutzlaff, proposing her as a nanny for the Gutzlaff’s school for blind children. Karl Gutzlaff quotes a Chinese proverb stating, "do not employ handsome servants", though his base nature has other thoughts. Harry Parkes, the 13-year-old arrogant, orphaned cousin of Mary Gutzlaff arrives, he begs Gutzlaff to learn Chinese.

Canton - Elliot sends letters to Lin for a compromise but they are refused. Chinese selling provisions to foreigners are beaten. The trader’s servants are being drilled as a militia. In a week Lin has upset everyone in town.

After a great debate among all of the traders, Superintendent Elliot promises that the British government will take responsibility to pay for the pending confiscation of their opium– nearly a billion dollars in today’s currency – providing the traders surrender the whole year’s supply of 20,283 chests of opium to him. Most agree, but a few traders angrily walk out.

At night a suspicious Cpt. Wong secretly meets with the Chinese-American sailor and Comprador to Delano, Boston Jack at a deserted temple. Boston Jack tells him that he can persuade the Americans to help the Chinese procure weapons and ships to fight the British should it come to that.

Howqua, now released from prison, visits Superintendent Elliot and he is visibly upset by Elliot’s offer to hand over all the opium to Lin as this will also ruin the Chinese merchants, Howqua states flatly "Why he pay all opium, no wantee so muchee".

Lin inspects the first chests that have been surrendered and in turn, negotiates the terms when the foreigners can leave Canton. There is a gradual return to normalcy as the opium shipments are turned over.

Most of the foreigners depart, especially the British traders who refuse to sign the pledge foregoing opium. Many traders including Delano, sign the bond are allowed to trade again. Delano starts to buy large amounts of tea and silk, sends it down river to British ships, charging exorbitant rates for his services.

Chuenpi - Two missionaries witness Lin’s elaborate ceremony at Chuenpi destroying the opium by mixing it with lime and dumping it into the river.

Lintin Island - But at Lintin Island, Viceroy Lu’s crab boats come up as the new season’s opium crop is being off loaded. Gutzlaff has bribed upcountry officials to trade on Jardine’s behalf and despite everything; the great Taipan Jardine comes out on top.

Episode 9 - Jardine’s War

Canton - The Imperial Emperor sends impressive gifts and promotes Lin for a job well done. Howqua is now owed millions by the departed foreign traders and he is also squeezed by Lin for money to rebuild the destroyed river forts.

London - The news of Lin’s massive confiscation reaches London. Energized by this stroke of fortune, the war-mongering Jardine shares his military plans with an equally offended Lord Palmerson. In secret, Palmerston oversteps his authority and writes to the armed forces in India and to Elliott to start preparing for war without cabinet approval. At a Cabinet meeting the discussion is focused on paying for the war and it is decided to have the Chinese pay for it through reparations and by ransoming cities under warship guns.

Peking - Lin’s chief rival in Peking, the Chief Eunuch, jealous of Lin’s successes, informs the Imperial Emperor that is no stopping the foreigners from trading opium along the coast but the Emperor still backs Lin.

Macau - Tensions are rising, and off Macau a small ship is attacked. Captain McDougal’s ear is cut off and stuffed into his mouth. The Chinese post anti-opium placards and their army surrounds Macau as the British hastily evacuate, escaping to the secure port at Hong Kong Island.

The Gutzlaffs also leave but Mei remains behind to care for the blind children. When Andrew is taking a walk along the shore, pirates who seek the bounty on westerners Lin Zexu has posted, kidnap him. Harriett begs Delano to intervene.

Kowloon - British and American sailors go ashore in Kowloon, steal liquor and demolished a small temple, and kill an innocent villager. Lin demands the murder be atoned for but Elliot refuses.

Hong Kong Island - The British anchored near Hong Kong live abroad ships, they bargain for provisions using opium. The water wells have been poisoned and with provisions running low Elliott leads a small expeditionary force to Kowloon, with Gutzlaff pressed into service as translator, to obtain provisions. Gutzlaff tries to reason with the Chinese naval officers but he is refused. Shots are exchanged but the battle is quickly over and little damage done. The British retreat to Hong Kong Island and the ineffectual Chinese war junks give mock chase.

Episode 10 - Wooden Walls

Canton - Cpt. Wong through an incompetent interpreter interviews a severely beaten Andrew who is in prison cell. Delano has made a condition of his help with arms, being Andrew’s release but Wong delays trying to gain some intelligence of the abilities of the British navy. Mei returning to Canton, she sees a haggard Andrew for the first time since his release from imprisonment.

Hong Kong Island - A British merchant ship carrying a legitimate cargo, signs the anti-opium bond and is permitted to travel up river to trade. Aboard the newly arrived naval sloop Hyacinth and frigate Volage, Elliot tries to stop the merchant ship from proceeding by shooting across her bow.

Over twenty Chinese war junks and fire ships quickly respond, in the ensuing confusion and feeling threatened, the Hyacinth fires, mistakenly starting a full-on battle. Admiral Guan standing erect before the mast wielding his sword yells: “Death to deserters”. Cpt. Wong is wounded. But victory was not to be his as most of the war junks were sunk or damaged.

Canton & Mallacca - Under Cpt. Wong’s urging, Lin buys the heavily armed merchant ship Cambridge through Delano. In a frantic effort by the Chinese to modernize their forces to better combat the British firepower, new cannons were bought in Malacca, and many more forged with the assistance of foreign spies.

Macau - Mei throws a party for the Gutzlaff’s blind children school, a young Mathew as her son is now named attends.

Peking & Hong Kong Island - After the losing battle, Lin is summoned to Beijing, as the Emperor has now lost faith in him. As the Chinese regroup, Matteson and Elliott send a survey team to Hong Kong Island to evaluate it as a base of military operations for the coming war.