By Hong Kong Maritime Museum

The Dragon and The Eagle: American Traders in China

A Century of Trade from 1784 to 1900

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'Empress of China' arriving at Whampoa (1987) by Raymond MasseyHong Kong Maritime Museum

I) Dreaming of the East: America's Early Adventures to China

Shortly after the Revolutionary War ended in September 1783, with the signing of the Treaty of Paris, the young nation of American, in search of opportunity and riches, saw 'Express of China' first set sail from New York on February 22, 1784.The ship sailed to Canton, officially beginning maritime trade between China and the United States. (Painting on the left is from the collection of The Kelton Foundation)

'Empress of China' arriving at Whampoa Anchorage (1980/1999) by Thomas Wesley FreemanHong Kong Maritime Museum

The Pazhou pagoda of Whampoa, as shown in the background, is one of the landmarks that survives in Canton today, and it offers a clue regarding the painting's location and historical context.

In the foreground, there is a traditional sampan on which the Chinese sculler with a ponytail is controlling the paddle. It directs the gaze of the viewers towards the large ship.

'Empress of China' was the first American ship to enter Chinese waters.

'Empress of China' flies two American flags, marking a new chapter in global trade between China and the United States. (From the collection of The Hong Kong Maritime Museum)

Health and Sailing Clearance for 'Empress of China' (1784-01-25) by George ClintonHong Kong Maritime Museum

This Health and Sailing Clearance was handwritten with ink on parchment and executed with the seal of the Governor of New York, George Clinton.

It contains a cut paper star floret. The Clearance was signed on January 25, 1784 and delivered to 'Empress of China' on the same day. (From the collection of The Independence Seaport Museum, Philadelphia)

Sea-letters requesting safe passage for the 'Empress of China' (1984-01-25) by George ClintonHong Kong Maritime Museum

Essentially, these letters functioned as passports during times of wars and unrest to protect merchant ships of neutral states from privateers and navies of belligerent ones. The case for 'Empress of China' was no different, especially as it was on a voyage halfway around the world, representing an infant nation. (From the collection of The Independence Seaport Museum, Philadelphia)

Lemon Basket (1820/1875)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

Lemon Basket (1820/1875)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

The two-part dish, like two others at Winterthur, bears a "MADE IN FRANCE" inscription in paint on the underside of the removable basket.

The base of the example shown here is unmarked and appears to be Chinese in origin. (From the collection of The Winterthur Museum)

Cap Francoise (Hispaniola) in the Caribbean archipelago by Unknown Chinese artistHong Kong Maritime Museum

(From the collection of the Kelton Foundation)

Reverse glass painting of ship 'Columbia', late 18th or early 19th century (1790/1815)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

I.II) Voyages Following the First Success

Inspired by the success of Empress of China's first voyage, more American merchants began to invest in long-distance voyages despite the risks. The trade fever also stimulated the growth of capitalism as financiers began selling shares to investors to finance long-distance trade ventures.

Whaling Barque 'Harmony' of Hull (1928) by William John HugginsHong Kong Maritime Museum

The maritime fur trade flourished through the acquiring of furs of sea otters and animals from America's Pacific Northwest Coast, and Alaska. The furs were mostly traded in China in exchange for tea, silks, porcelain, and other Chinese goods, which were then sold in Europe and the U.S. (From the collection of The Kelton Foundation)

Declaration of Independence (1817) by John TrumbullHong Kong Maritime Museum

I.III) From the Boston Tea Party to the United States Declaration of Independence

The Americans had a deep affection for tea. The British monopolized the tea trade and imposed tea taxes on American colonies, causing the relationship between both sides to continue to deteriorate. On December 16, 1773, American colonists boarded three vessels owned by the East India Company and dumped 342 chests of tea into the sea; this political protest came to be known as the Boston Tea Party. Soon after that, destruction of tea successively occurred in other areas including New York and New Jersey, leading to the outbreak of the American War of Independence.

The North American colonial merchants' opposition to the British economic strategy of colonization led to the American War of Independence. In the end, the British had to abandon the colonies, and sign the Treaty of Paris with the Americans. The Americans, confronted with post-war economic depression, adopted overseas trade amongst several solutions to revitalise the economy. The eagerness for trading opportunities and the prospects of wealth from the Far East encouraged American merchants to set off on voyages to China, and so they sailed to distant shores on the other side of the world chasing their dreams.

Reverse Glass Portrait of George Washington (1805) by Unkown Chinese artistHong Kong Maritime Museum

The technique of painting on glass seems to have been introduced to China by the Jesuit priests, especially Father Castiglione, around 1715. The earliest Chinese reverse glass paintings generally consisted of Chinese subject matter and examples of this type have been dated to at least the 1760s.(From the collection of The Kelton Foundation)

Jug (pitcher) with a Portrait of George Washington (1800/1810)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

Close inspection of the image of Washington on the jug indicates that the Chinese artisan who reproduced the printed portrait imitated the cross-hatched shading of the engraving. (From the collection of The Winterthur Museum)

Porcelain Spoon with the Scene of 'Declaration of Independence' (1926)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

The interior side of the spoon has a curious illustration of the Founding Fathers and Declaration of Independence signers gathered around a table. The execution in terms of calligraphy and spelling on the spoon was undoubtedly from a Chinese artist's hand.

The thirteen blue stars above the eagle serve as symbols of the thirteen states, representing the liberty and independence of the newly-founded nation. (From the collection of The Hong Kong Maritime Museum)

Pair of Wine Coasters (1835)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

Designed for the bases of wine bottles, this pair of circular coasters feature a laurel pattern in relief on their borders and a husk chain on their bellies.

Bearing the engraved hallmark "Khecheong" on their feet, they were amongst the American-style export silver sets of the early nineteenth century.

They belonged to the collection of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. (From the collection of Anthony J. Hardy)

The arms of William Alexander by Lord StirlingHong Kong Maritime Museum

I.IV) A Symbol of Identity: Armorial Porcelain

From the time of the sixteenth century, the act of commissioning porcelain decorated with the family's coat of arms had become a popular social trend in the West. A genre of export porcelain, armorial porcelain was produced by Chinese potters based on patterns offered by foreign traders, blending traditional Chinese craftsmanship with Western decorative styles. (Image on the right is from the collection of Anthony J. Hardy)

Coats of ArmsHong Kong Maritime Museum

Image taken from the exhibition catalogue set, "The Dragon and The Eagle: American Traders in China, a Century of Trade from 1784 to 1900, Vol I"

Small Sauce Tureen and Oval Dish (1784/1785)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

Among most iconic ceramics produced for the American China trade are the objects which are associated with the Society of Cincinnati, which was founded in 1783 as a fraternity of officers who served during the Revolutionary War. (From the collection of The Winterthur Museum)

World Map (1811/1830) by Coloured by thirteen-year-old George FreemanHong Kong Maritime Museum

This world map is a piece of geography homework that was popular in middle schools during the 19th century in North America and UK. The shape of the continents and borders of nations were printed; the rest of the map was left to be colored in by students. (Collection from K.L. Tam, on loan to HKMM)

In this map, we can see the then territory of the United States; the whole region of the Mississippi River was merged and extended to the border of Canada at around forty-two degrees north latitude.

However, California, Arizona, Colorado and the areas which are currently known in the present day as New Mexico, Texas, and other states, were under Spanish control.

The Hongs of Canton (1830) by Unknown Chinese artistHong Kong Maritime Museum

II) Treaty Ports: Sino-American Trade and Treaties

Canton was considered a very important region due to its advantages in terms of position, wealth, and elegance.Until the first Opium War ended, all western trade with China was restricted to Canton (present-day Guangzhou). (Painting is from the collection of The Kelton Foundation)

Permission to Export and Notice of Export Taxes (1855)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

Commerce with the West was tightly regulated by the Chinese government, especially under the Canton trade system in effect from the 1750 to the 1840s. This document certified that taxes were paid in full and served as an exit permit. (From the collection of The Baker Library, Harvard Business School)

Pair of Hong Bowls (1780/1785)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

This pair of punch bowls is decorated with a continuous scene of the European and American trading centres, known as Hongs in Cantonese. Punch bowls decoraed with scenes of thirteen Hongs appeared approximately in 1780.

Pair of Hong Bowls (1780/1785)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

In the 18th century, European and American trade with China was carried out in a tightly-controlled environment along a narrow strip beside the Pearl River in Canton. 13 Hongs were located there, each of which served as the combined office, warehouse, and residence for European merchants.

Pair of Hong Bowls (1780/1785)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

The flags depicted on the bowls, representing Danish, French, Austrian Imperial, Sweden, British, and Dutch factories, respectively, without the American flag, suggest their dating. (From the collection of Anthony J. Hardy, on loan to HKMM)

Salver (1847) by Chinese, for export to the American marketHong Kong Maritime Museum

The large rectangular salver has a molded rim with incurved corners. It sits on four cast splayed dragon mask-and-paw feet. The front surface is engraved with a scene of the foreign factories' site at Canton and the American Garden. (From the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

View from the American Hong, Canton by Unknown artistHong Kong Maritime Museum

This view from the inside the American Hong is unusual since most depictions of the Canton factories are from the perspective of a visitor looking at the enclave from a distance. (From the collection of HSBC Archives)

View of the waterfront at Canton with the paddle steamer 'Spark' (1855) by Tingqua studio (Guan Lianchang (fl. 1840-1870)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

This painting captures a view of the city and foreign factories at Canton, which was a popular subject matter that can be found in trade paintings produced between 18th and 19th centuries. Viewers are presented with a view of the Pearl River towards the foreign factories from the island of Honam.

Chinese coolies (workers) in the foreground load tea onto a chop boat's chests using bamboo carrying poles or just their heads. (From the collection of The Hong Kong Maritime Museum)

Portrait of Howqua II (Wu Bingjian) (1840) by Lamqua (Guan Qiaochang)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

This is an oil portrait of the senior Hong merchant Howqua II (Wu Bingjian) by Lamque.
It is an iconic image, a scene Howqua is seen at waist-length. (From the collection of Frederic D. Grant, Jr.)

Houqua's summer Mandarin garment (1850)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

(From the collection of The Kelton Foundation)

Letter from Houqua to Messers Lorman and Milnor of BaltimoreHong Kong Maritime Museum

The letter is an interesting and rare letter from the most famous Chinese merchant in the early nineteenth century, Houqua (Wu Bingjian). At his death in 1843, Houqua was considered to have been one of the wealthiest men in the world.

This letter shows that Houqua, with the help of the Perkins, was carrying out extensive business ventures on his own account separate from his primary business as a Hong merchant. (From the collection of Edward G. Tiedemann, Jr.)

Portrait of Mowqua (Lu Wenjin) (1828) by George ChinneryHong Kong Maritime Museum

The subject of this painting was Lu Wenjin, known colloquially as "Mowqua", one of the most prosperous Hong merchants. He wears robes indicating his official rank. The Hong merchants did not receive official degrees through regular examination system; instead, they obtained their posts by purchasing them at high prices from regular officials. (From the Collection of HSBC Archives)

Portrait of a Hong Merchant Holding a Snuff Bottle by SpoilumHong Kong Maritime Museum

The Cantonese artist known as Spoilum seems to have been pioneer in the painting of portraits (for Western clients) in oils on canvas - a characteristically Western medium which had little place in traditional Chinese art. (From the collection of Anthony J. Hardy)

Portrait of Stephen Girard (1847) by Alonzo ChappelHong Kong Maritime Museum

Girard was Philadelpia's most famous merchant and philanthropist as well as one of America's earliest millionaires.

Following ventures in West Indian trade, Girard capitalized on the blossoming America-China trade, built a fleet of merchant ships, and participated in the illicit opium trade. (From the collection of The Independence Seaport Museum)

Iron-bound Strongbox (1840/1849)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

Strongboxes were indispensable to the wealthy for the safe transport of their valuables in a time when traveling could be dangerous on the roads and at sea. (From the collection of The Independence Seaport Museum)

Bourdalou (Lady's Urinal) (1811)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

Although it may seem unusual to consumers today, the original owners acquired this bardaloue (lady's urinal) along with a matching coffee and tea service. (From the collection of The Winterthur Museum)

Service (1790/1795) by Chinese, made for the American marketHong Kong Maritime Museum

Decorated in poly-chrome enamel and gold, the service has bands, stars, and spearheads at the rim, as well as central armorial image monogrammed with SHE, SH, HH, MH, and WH, mostly encircled by a husk chain.

Samuel Howell, Jr. was a prominent Philadelphia merchant who was involved in China trade. He used this set, among other sample cups and saucers, to show his customers the patterns available when purchasing a Chinese porcelain service.

Small Dish (1786/1795)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

The central motif on this dish is one of several stylized imitations of the arms of the State of New York, which were commissioned by Governor DeWitt Clinton in 1778.

Liberty is featured on the left, holding a staff topped by a Liberty Cap. Justice, at the right, stands blindfolded and holds up a set of scales. (From the collection of The Winterthur Museum)

Pair of Porcelain Candlesticks (1800/1840)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

The armorial crest on this pair of candlesticks, painted in overglaze polychrome, is adapted from the Great Seal of the United States.

While the American coat of arms shield of the spread-wing eagle clutching arrows (military force) and an olive branch (peace) serve as symbols of the United States, the sun rays encircling the eagle's head symbolize the arms of New York City.

Scattered on the neck and base are traditional patterns of flowers in pink and red, a common motif found on export porcelain for Americans during the late Qing dynasty in the nineteenth century. (From the collection of Anthony J. Hardy, on loan to HKMM)

Painted Shipmodel of the 'Friendship of Salem' (1890)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

This three-masted ship model with a wooden stand, painted in black and white on a green hull, is fully rigged and fitted with a rowboat hanging off the stern and rowboat on the deck.

Painted Shipmodel of the 'Friendship of Salem' (1890)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

It has a figurehead of a Classical female figure holding a wreath and sword, and inscribed across the back of the stern are the words, "FRIENDSHIP OF SALEM". (From the collection of The Hong Kong Maritime Museum)

Photograph of George W. HeardHong Kong Maritime Museum

(From the collection of The Baker Library, Harvard Business School)

George Heard's Pocket Notebook (1859/1880)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

This small, red leather pocket notebook was used by George Heard, during his 1859 voyage from Paris to Hong Kong. In addition to ports he stopped during the course of his journey, Heard listed the clothing and other supplies he would bring to China. (From the collection of The Baker Library, Harvard Business School)

Silk Samples (1850) by Heard Family Business Records, carton 30Hong Kong Maritime Museum

Chinese silk, along with tea and fine porcelain, was one of the products most in demand by Western traders. This document, with original silk samples attached, is an order for silk fabric requested by Augustine Heard & Co., circa 1850. The writer requested a custom order, asking that specific changes in colour and pattern be made to the sample fabrics. (From the collection of The Baker Library, Harvard Business School)

Rent Account Book (1867) by Russell and Co. RecordsHong Kong Maritime Museum

This rent account book records payment for wharfage access made by the American trading firm Russell & Co., probably on the Canton riverfront. (From the collection of The Baker Library, Harvard Business School)

Cleveland-Perkins Marriage Settlement (1838) by Forbes Family Business RecordsHong Kong Maritime Museum

(From the collection of The Baker Library, Harvard Business School)

Fuzhou: Pagoda Anchorage (1865) by Unknown Chinese artistHong Kong Maritime Museum

Although Fuzhou was one of the Treaty Ports designated by the Treaty of Nanjing (1842), the city itself could not be reached by Western ships, which anchored downstream at Mawei, in the channel known as "Pagoda Anchorage".

The pagoda still stands - although no longer n an island - as do some of the buildings from the 1860s.

In the 1860s, Pagoda Anchorage became the starting-point for the "tea races", in which tea-clippers competed to bring home their cargoes supplied from the Bohea tea-growing districts close by. They Brought tea not only to Britain but also to the U.S. and Australia. (From the collection of Anthony J. Hardy)

Hong Kong City and Victoria Harbour (1870/1875) by Unknown Chinese artistHong Kong Maritime Museum

This interesting painting shows the central harbour at the point when Hong Kong was taking off as a port from its slow growing early years.

A close look shows ships from Britain, the USA, France and the Netherlands, as well as a host of Chinese vessels off Western District.

The American ship -an auxiliary steam warship- is interesting since it helps us date the painting to early 1870s. The ship is likely to be USS Colorado, the flagship of the US Navy's Asiatic Squadron, formed in 1868 to replace the preceding East Indies Squadron.(From the collection of Anthony J. Hardy, on loan to HKMM)

The 'Boston' in Hong Kong Harbour (1850/1860) by Chinese artistHong Kong Maritime Museum

Chinese portrait artists routinely depicted ships in Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour with Victoria Peak prominent in the background, give the popularity of paintings in the genre of ship portraits intended for the European and American traders and diplomats. (From the collection of The Peabody Essex Museum)

China Trade Portrait of the American Clipper Ship 'Bunker Hill' Entering Hong Kong Harbour (1805/1850) by Unknown Chinese artistHong Kong Maritime Museum

(From the collection of The Hong Kong Maritime Museum)

Punch Bowl (1800/1815)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

III) Speeding up the Trade: Clippers and Steamers

The need for commercial trade with the East stimulated the development of American shipbuilding, Port cities including Salem, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia became shipbuilding centers, where the industries of shipping and ship construction flourished. (Bowl on the right is from the collection of The Winterthur Museum)

Ship's Medicine Chest for the American Vessel 'Caroline' (1840/1860)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

A ship's medicine chest contained all kinds of ointments, lotions, and herbs, as well as dressings and bandages.

This faux-grained box is painted on the exterior with the ship's name "Caroline". (From the collection of The Hong Kong Maritime Museum)

Private Signals of the Merchants of Boston (1855) by John T. SmithHong Kong Maritime Museum

This 19th century broadside identifies the private house flags of all the major shipowners operating out of the city of Boston, home port for many American clipper ships in China trade.

It depicts 112 different Boston merchant flags with the names of each firm printed below. These private signals were worn at a ship's masthead to identify the vessel's owners to other ships at sea or associates on shore when arriving offshore at their destination. (From the collection of The Kelton Foundation)

Plate (1850/1875)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

The unusual central decoration is of a side-wheeler paddle steamer in the Pearl River surrounded by smaller Chinese trading craft, with a rowing boat manned by three European oarsmen in the right foreground.

In the background, the tops of masts and a Chinese village appear behind distant hills.

The first recorded paddle steamer to arrive in Canton appears to have been 'Forbes', chartered from Calcutta in 1830 by Jame Matheson as part of a lottery venture. The Chinese were unimpressed, calling it an 'outside walkee' vessel. Five years later, she was followed by 'Jardine' in the hope of selling the model, but the new 'smokeship' was again banned by the local authorities, with some reason as the engine room subsequently caught fire following a picnic. However, with the arrival of the first British steam-powered warship 'Nemesis' in 1840 to devastating result during the First Opium War, it became clear that the new technology could no longer be ignored. (From the collection of the Hong Kong Maritime Museum)

Embroidered Silk Vest with Maritime Motif (1860) by Unknown Chinese artistHong Kong Maritime Museum

The intricately embroidered silk gentleman's waistcoat bears a maritime motif incorporating paddle-wheel steam-sail vessels on both front and reverse panels.

This garment was obviously made for a sea captain or shipowner. The panels were likely embroidered in China and sent to the west to uncut to be mounted and lined. (From the collection of The Kelton Foundation)

U.S.S Brooklyn in Rough Seas (1899/1902)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

What is puzzling about this painting are its inaccuracies, as can be readily seen from the placement of guns on the side of the ship. These kind of paintings were usually sold to sailors and officers of the ship, who would not have been satisfied with a painting that did not accurately represent their ship. (From the collection of Edward G. Tiedemann, Jr.)

Embroidered Parasol with an Ivory Handle (1810/1880)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

IV) Exotic Tastes: Collecting Chinese Export Commodities in American Households

Many American traders in China were obsessed with all things Chinese. They purchased and collected plenty of antiques and curiosities from China, and built Chinese museums and gardens that were open to the general public in the United States. (Artifact on the right is from the collection of Chris Hall)

Henry Francis du Pont's RoomHong Kong Maritime Museum

Henry Francis du Pont (1880-1969), a member of the wealthy Du Pont family that was known for their success in the U.S. manufacturing industry, filled his rooms with his burgeoning collections of Chinese export furniture, porcelains and textile for the U.S. market. He opened his house to the public as a museum and garden in the 1950s.

Chinese Imperial Dragon Barge (1890/1910)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

(From the collection of The Hong Kong Maritime Museum)

Jug with Floral and Butterfly Motifs (1805/1820)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

With a copper core, the jug (or pitcher) has an oval body and a restrained neck. Flowers, melons, and butterflies are painted on a white ground.

The pumpkin motif was a popular decorative element that could be found on Canton export commodities such as porcelains and lacquerware.

The techniques of enamel famille rose were first introduced in Canton, where objects decorated in this manner were purchased by the Canton Customs, and became part of the local tribute dedicated to Qing emperors for use at the imperial court. (From the collection of Rosemary S. Vietor)

Pitcher (1833) by Tucker Factory, PhiladelphiaHong Kong Maritime Museum

The emblem of the eagle first appeared on Chinese export porcelain for the American market to celebrate the newly-founded country in the late eighteenth century. (From the collection of The Philadelphia Museum of Art)

Illustrated Page from 'China Factory Pattern Book' (1832/1838) by Thomas TuckerHong Kong Maritime Museum

As examples pf Tucker Factory's product design, the illustrated pattern book includes two different designs of a porcelain vase that feature flowers and landscapes in watercolor as side decoration respectively; with gilt neck, base, and handles painted in brown. (From the collection of The Philadelphia Museum of Art)

Urn with Cover (1780/1800)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

The urn exemplifies how the Neoclassical design was incorporated into Chinese export porcelain acquired by the American market at the turn of the nineteenth century.

(From the collection of The Philadelphia Museum of Art)

Women's DressesHong Kong Maritime Museum

Image taken from the exhibition catalogue set "The Dragon and the Eagle: American Traders in China, A Century of Trade from 1784 to 1900 Vol I" p.446-447

Canton Lacquer Shop (1847) by Tingqua (Guan Liachang)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

An open Canton lacquer shop is shown with gilt and black boxes and serving dishes packed on its shelves. The visual impact of the shops in Canton and the attractiveness of their displays were factors that created a genre by itself in Chinese export painting.

The emergence of these scenes as popular memorabilia confirms that visiting these shops as an exceptional experience for the Western visitor. (From the collection of The Kelton Foundation)

Black Lacquered and Gilt-decorated Furniture (1805/1815)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

The furniture shares the characteristics of Chinese lacquered furniture made in the fist half of the nineteenth century.

Black Lacquered and Gilt-decorated Furniture (1805/1815)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

It's fully decorated with gilt decorations, featuring Chinese figures, garden scenes, and floral designs, over black lacquered exterior surfaces. It's explicitly Western design and functions were combined with East Asian lacquering techniques. (From the collection of The Hong Kong Maritime Museum)

American Settlement in the Shanghai Bund (1855) by Unknown Chinese artistHong Kong Maritime Museum

V) Building a Community: American Settlements in China

After the Opium Wars, Shanghai developed into an important trading port where American merchants transferred from elsewhere established settlements. (Painting on the right is from the collection of Conrad Chen and Chelsea Chen, on loan to HKMM)

Shanghai: The Premises of Hiram Fogg & Co. (1860) by Attributed to Chow KwaHong Kong Maritime Museum

Edmund Hiram Fogg (1812-1860) was one of the first Americans to trade in Shanghai; he founded Hiram Fogg & Co., general merchants and auctioneers, in 1848. The building shown here completed in 1859, at the western end of the Bund near the French settlement; in the same year, Fogg returned to the United States, where he died shortly afterwards. (From the collection of Martyn Gregory)

Nathaniel Kinsman's Residence at Macau (1843) by LamquaHong Kong Maritime Museum

Nathaniel Kinsman was a Salem, Massachusetts-based shipping merchant. He started his career as a clerk and then became a supercargo for William Gray, Jr., one of the largest shipowners in Salem. From 1830 to 1832, he was the supercargo on the ship 'Parachute', of which he was part-owner. (From the collection of Edward G. Tiedemann, Jr.)

Nathaniel Kinsman's Residence at Macau (1843) by LamquaHong Kong Maritime Museum

Nathaniel left Salem for China in July 1843 with his wife and some family members. The family arrived in Macau, China, in October 1843. (From the collection of Edward G. Tiedemann, Jr.)

Verandah Chair with Headrest and Extension for Legs (1810/1890)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

The verandah chair was particularly suitable for citizens in tropical cities such as Canton, Macao, and Hong Kong, and they were among popular commodities in Europe and America as well. (From the collection of The Hong Kong Maritime Museum)

Portrait of Harriet Low in a Blue Dress with White Collar (1847) by George ChinneryHong Kong Maritime Museum

V.III) Women in the China Trade

Interwoven with the history of Sino-American trade are stories of women from both China and America. In 1831 the Qing Government imposed the "Eight regulations for dealing with foreigners", asserting that "foreign women are forbidden to be brought (by foreign traders) in the Hongs and to sit on the palanquin."

In 1829, Harriet Low of Salem, at the age of 20, came to Macao with her aunt and uncle, a merchant. She was the first recorded American woman to arrive in China. During her stay at Macao, she made acquaintances with the rich Chinese merchant Mouqua, he East Indian Company surgeon Thomas R. Colledge, the British painter George Chinnery, and so on. In 1830, she and her aunt dressed up as boys in Canton, where foreign women were forbidden to step foot. It caused a public sensation. (From the collection of The Keldon Foundation)

Soup Tureen and Cover (1865) by Chinese, for export to the American marketHong Kong Maritime Museum

The ovoid tureen was owned by Abiel Abbot Low, grandfather of Harriet Low. It has a splayed base bordered by repousse flowers and foliage and a plain concave shoulder with an everted rim ornamented with a cast floral border. The body is decorated in repousse with scenes of Chinese soldiers in a mountainous landscape along with a pavilion, all against a matted ground.
(From the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Portrait of a Tanka boatwoman by George ChinneryHong Kong Maritime Museum

In the nineteenth century, when some women demanded for special care in Hong Kong, the Tanka woman Ng Akew of Guangdong played a key role in the movement. She was involved in opium smuggling and estate investments under James B. Endicott's cover. (From the collection of Anthony J. Hardy)

Portrait of an American Man, Chinese artist, 1800/1820, From the collection of: Hong Kong Maritime Museum
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Portrait of American Woman, Chinese artist, 1800/1820, From the collection of: Hong Kong Maritime Museum
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The picturing of one male figure and one female figure side by side to represent the people of a particular nation was a quasi-ethnographic visual device that derived from the illustrations of "Official Tribute" at the Qianlong court. (From the collection of Anthony J. Hardy)

A Mother and Child with a View of the Canton Waterfront in the Background (1870/1879) by Unknown Chinese artistHong Kong Maritime Museum

This painting, depicting a mother, an infant, and a maid, is a curious image.

Lying on a long Canton marble couch, the young woman rests her left cheek upon her left palm and crooked arm, while the infant besides her holds a circular fan.

On the fan, the snowy scene with magpie contrasts greatly with the hot summer weather of Canton.

An intriguing question arises as to whether the woman and the child are in a house along the river's shore, or resting within a "flower boat" on the river itself.

A view of a port can be seen in the upper left corner of the painting; it is not clear whether this port scene is a real-life view from a window, or if it is just a framed painting. (From the collection of The Hong Kong Maritime Museum)

Flower Boat Model with Painted Figures (1800)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

Mounted on a lacquered base with a mother-of-pearl inlay, this boat was modeled after the "flower" or "pleasure" boats used by wealthy merchants for parties in the waters between Canton and Whampoa. Boats cruising along the Pearl River tended to be highly adorned and painted barges on which many foreign merchants and seamen were amused by Chinese entertainers, as exemplified by the Chinese figures in red or green carrying musical instruments. (From the collection of The Hong Kong Maritime Museum)

Embroidered and Painted Fan with Bird Motifs (1805/1890)Hong Kong Maritime Museum

A by product of the cultural encounter between China and the West, this circular fan had a surface for both traditional silk embroidery and gouache painting.

Decorative fans were amongst the commodities intended for the export market, including those that were part of the Empress of China's cargoes shipped to the United States. (From the collection of Chris Hall)

Organizer and Sponsors, From the collection of: Hong Kong Maritime Museum
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Sponsors of the Exhibition, From the collection of: Hong Kong Maritime Museum
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List of Lenders, From the collection of: Hong Kong Maritime Museum
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Copyright credits, From the collection of: Hong Kong Maritime Museum
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Credits: Story

The Dragon and the Eagle: American Traders in China, A Century of Trade from 1784 to 1900 exhibition ran from December 14, 2018 to April 14, 2019, organised by the Hong Kong Maritime Museum and curated by Dr. Libby Chan (HKMM).


The design of the online exhibition is assisted by Mr. Huzeyfe Kiran and Ms. Astrid Kwok.

《花旗飄洋—1784 至1900 年遠航來華的美國商人》展覽為香港海事博物館策展籌劃,本館策展人為陳麗碧博士,展期為2018 年12 月14 日至2019 年4 月14 日。


網上展覽設計鳴謝Huzeyfe Kiran先生 及郭鍶淇女士協助。

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