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The Hong merchant’s Gardens during the Canton System and the aftermath of the Opium Wars

Richard, Josepha (2017) The Hong merchant’s Gardens during the Canton System and the aftermath of the Opium Wars. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Thesis final .pdf
Restricted until 5 July 2021.


The increase in revenue related to the Sino-Western and Junk Trade has been an important factor in the development of Guangzhou as a cultural hub during the end of the 18th and beginning of 19th centuries. After 1759, all Western trade was restricted to Guangzhou and left in the hands of the Hong merchants, inaugurating the Canton System period (1757-1842). If they avoided bankruptcy, the Hong merchants could acquire a fortune in the China Trade, which was partly spent in the construction of splendid gardens. The Hong merchants were not only trade intermediaries, but also strived to maintain cordial relationships with their foreign counterparts. For this reason, the Hong merchants allowed their Western trade partners to visit various sites around Guangzhou, including their own residences with gardens. Therefore, numerous Western descriptions of the period focused on the gardens of Hong merchants and the nearby plant nurseries. Chinese export paintings representing those gardens were also produced to satisfy Western demand for souvenirs. As a result, 18th and 19th century Hong merchants’ gardens are exceptionally well documented. This thesis constitutes the first in-depth attempt to research the Hong merchants’ gardens in a Western language. The thesis starts by explaining how these gardens came to be understudied in both Chinese and Western publications. Then two case studies are used to showcase the importance of the topic: more specifically, the gardens owned in Panyu County by the two most important Hong merchant’s families, the Wu and the Pan. By comparing contemporary Western descriptions and Chinese sources, these gardens’ functions can be analysed from both point of views. The thesis shows how the gardens are the ideal reflection of their owners’ social ambitions, and of Guangzhou’s urban history. The deterioration of the Sino-Western relations had a direct impact on the fortune of garden owners, through the demise of the Canton System after the first Opium War and the Treaty of Nanjing in 1842. The gardens’ appearance at the time is visualised by analysing systematically, while reflecting on the differences with other Chinese gardens.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: China, Chinese garden, Chinese landscape, Chinese urban history, Guangzhou, Canton System, East India Company, China Trade, Chinese export art, Hong merchant, Guangdong
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield)
The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > Landscape (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Dr Josepha Richard
Date Deposited: 16 Jul 2018 13:57
Last Modified: 03 Oct 2019 12:58
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/20874

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