Macau, Macau

Workshop 2011:

"China Trade" Merchants and Artists

Main Themes

  • The Dutch, British, Swedish, Danish, and other East India companies and their headquarters and main trading interests and merchandise in Guangzhou
  • The East India Companies and their headquarters in Macau
  • The relations between the 公行 Cohong and Western merchants after 1760
  • Unstudied aspects of the Thirteen Factories of Guangzhou
  • The demise of the Lisbon-Macau-Guangzhou Portuguese trade, and the trans-Pacific Acapulco-Manila Spanish trade
  • Export painting and art made for the China trade
  • "China Trade" art in Guangzhou, Macau, Hong Kong and elsewhere in China
  • China trade museum collections in China and the West
  • Shipwrecks, rescue and restoration projects that throw light on the China trade
  • Individual personalities, art collectors and chroniclers of the China trade
  • Contemporary literature and publications in Macau


  • 02 to 03 March, 2011


  • Auditorium, Team Building, Institute for Tourism Studies, Macau


  • English


In his article, “A Seller of ‘Sing-Songs’”, on the foreign trade conducted in Guangzhou and Macau in the first half of the nineteenth century, J.M. Braga rhetorically asked if the activities of the London merchant John Henry Cox had “contributed not a little to the spread of those notions of free trade which took hold of the consciousness of an industrialized Britain and, in course of time, to an awakening of the East”.

Since Braga’s pioneering article was published by the University of Hong Kong in 1964, a spate of publications has appeared, discussing not only the goods, but also the art that was produced for export to the West. Following Carl Crossman’s 1970s writings on the decorative arts of the China trade, art collections and art exhibitions of significant cultural value have mushroomed in China, Europe and the U.S., as well as in Hong Kong and Macau. They attest to the importance of an era that has had such a dramatic impact on the world that we know today.

The present Workshop invites papers that discuss, preferably as a result of recent research, historical, economic and artistic developments that took place from approximately the 1760s to the 1860s in Guangzhou, Macau and Hong Kong. The first decade has been chosen as starting point because of its historical implications. The Chinese guild trading system known to Westerners as the 公行 Cohong had existed since the mid-seventeenth century. However, it was the restriction of the European trade to Guangzhou from 1759 on, up to the Treaty of Nanjing in 1842 that resulted in a more politically complex system of trade between China, Europe and the Americas, a trade that also gave rise to a large variety of luxury items and artifacts. The 1860s have been chosen as cut-off date because it was the preceding century that saw the production of most of the works of art and craftsmanship that have come to define the art of the China trade today.

Organising Institutions



  • Diocese de Macau
  • Banco Nacional Ultramarino
  • San You Development Company Limited
  • Companhia de Electricidade de Macau S.A.
  • Banco Delta Ásia S.A.R.L.
  • CESL Asia - Investments & Services, Limited

Rogério Miguel PUGA

The Establishment of the English East India Company in the Pearl River Delta and Macao's Importance for the Old China Trade

After the foundation of the East India Company (EIC), in 1600, England started a long process of commercial and colonial expansion in Asia, where her trade objectives clashed with the Portuguese and Dutch interests. The Macao Portuguese administration, mainly after the end of the city's trade with Japan (1639-40), tried, at all costs, to defend its commercial monopoly in China. From 1700 onwards the English presence in China became a permanent one, forcing the Portuguese and Chinese administrations to adapt to a new reality, while the enclave's community became more and more dependent on the trade and economic activities of the EIC supercargoes and foreign private agents, whose business rapidly surpassed that of the Portuguese in the region. Anglo-Portuguese relations in the south of China also influenced the relations between the Portuguese governor, the Macao Senate and the Chinese mandarins, while the Portuguese authorities were forced to defend their interests in four fronts: Goa, Canton/Beijing, Lisbon and London.

This paper deals with the early history of the English presence in Macao between 1635 and 1793, and, to a lesser degree, in Japan, between 1613 and 1623, from where the English EIC supercargoes tried, in vain, to establish direct trade with China. The use of English, Portuguese and Chinese sources gives us a three-dimensional image of the British presence in the Sino-Portuguese enclave during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The consulted archive materials allow us to reconstruct and study the first local/regional results of the EIC China trade, the several East India Company attempts to establish a commercial presence in China, searching for a 'Macao of its own', and the consequent increase of the English influence in the Chinese territory under Portuguese administration. It also analyzes the establishment and development of Anglo-Portuguese relations in Macao especially in the eighteenth century, up to the first British embassy to China, which would contribute both to the change of the image of China in Europe and to the change of the British commercial strategy in the Pearl River Delta.


Three Prisms for the Swedish East India Companyʼs Social Relations in Canton and Macao

The Swedish East India Company was established in 1731 and active in some form until 1813. There has been considerable research of the companyʼs activities in Sweden, as well as of the practicalities of the long trip from Gothenburg to Canton. But the time the company employees spent in China can be summarised as ”and then, they traded”.

The focus of my thesis is the social relations between the Chinese and the company employees under this exact time. I see this relation as mutual, and as one having two active parts, each with its own agenda, presuppositions and strategies.

For this presentation, I will study the social relations of Canton and Macao through three examples, three ʻprismsʼ through which we can see many different aspects. These are the supercargoes Charles Irvine, Olof Lindahl and Anders Ljungstedt. They were of different ethnicities, background and came to Canton at very different times, both considering the Swedish and the Chinese context.

Just like prisms, the three examples can spread light in many different directions, and show the (relative) flexibility, multitude and changes in these early modern international contacts.

Jonathan WATTIS

The Influence of Canton on the Architecture of William Chambers

William Chambers was the greatest official architect of his day in England and he produced the first study of Chinese buildings from an architectural point of view. He designed the layout of Kew Gardens and was instrumental in the setting up of the Royal Academy of Arts in London by obtaining the patronage of King George III.

He was born in Gothenburg, Sweden to Scottish parents. His father was a trader and partner in business whose success could be measured by their accounts, which record supplying stores to the armies of King Charles XII of Sweden. He was sent to school in Yorkshire returning to Sweden in 1739.

In 1743 while working for the Swedish East India Company, Chambers set off on a two and a half year trip to the Far East and China. He spent several months in the European quarters in Canton, where he was able to observe Chinese customs and manners. A few years later he was to embark on another voyage to Canton, this time as a ranking officer, which gave him more freedom to explore the environs and more time to pursue his architectural studies, and to explore and sample more fully Chinese life.

He brought back to Europe many notes and drawings of China from these trips and soon earnt a reputation as an amateur sinologist. This eventually led him to both Count Scheffer, a Confucian scholar in Paris, and to Frederick, Prince of Wales in London, who commissioned him to do the designs for the House of Confucius at Kew.

Between 1749 and 1755 he studied both architecture and art in Paris and Rome, where he met many of the leading French and Italian figures such as, LeGeay, Le Doux and Piranesi.

In 1755 he moved to London and the following year, he was encouraged by the Prince of Wales, an admirer of the fashionable chinoiserie, to produce a book on Chinese buildings. Designs of Chinese buildings, furniture, dresses, machines, and utensils : to which is annexed a description of their temples, houses, gardens, &c (London) 1757.

Later in 1761, he was commissioned to design the gardens in Kew in memory of the recently deceased Prince. William Chambers was the first architect to return from China with drawings of the buildings and he was the first to publish them.

Patrick CONNER

William Alexander & the Daniells in Canton, 1793-1794

For a few weeks in late 1793 and early 1794 three professional British artists found themselves in Guangzhou (or at least at the anchorage at Whampoa): William Alexander, Thomas Daniell, and his young nephew William Daniell. Alexander was the official draughtsman on Lord Macartney’s embassy to China, which by this time was on its homeward journey; Thomas and William Daniell had come to the China coast after their extensive travels in India, in order to pick up an Indiaman bound for London. They were all to return in the same convoy.

Between them these three artists left tantalisingly few drawings of Guangzhou and its vicinity; but this paper brings together what they did, together with the Daniells’ large paintings of the Western hongs, which were executed a few years later. Their pictures are considered in relation to Cantonese export painting of the time. Alexander’s unpublished journal (in the British Library) records his visits to the studios of two Cantonese ‘export’ artists; his reactions and observations are discussed. Finally the question is raised: did the Daniells’ spectacular views of the ‘hongs of Canton’ owe more to the Chinese ‘export’ artists than to his own on-the-spot sketches?

程美宝 CHING May-bo

Drawing Nature: Botanical and Zoological Illustrations in Canton from the Late Eighteenth through the Mid-Nineteenth Century

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, when a considerable number of Europeans and Americans came to Canton to trade, many of them, being enthusiastic naturalists, were simultaneously engaged in the exploration of indigenous botanical and zoological knowledge. Some British naturalists, such as John Bradby Blake (1745-1773, a supercargo to East India Company) and John Reeves (1774-1856, a tea inspector for the Canton Factory of the East India Company), employed local craftsmen to draw botanical and zoological illustrations for them. Thousands of these illustrations were produced as a result. It is true that all these illustrations have been sent back to the West without leaving a trace in Canton, let alone other parts of China. However, if we consider the fact that these pictures were produced by men who were also involved in the production of a variety of export art items, it seems impossible that this particular genre of drawings did not leave any impact on current artistic tradition and early twentieth-century industrial design, which was often labeled “Lingnan Fashion”. Textual and visual evidences for approaching these questions are fragmented. How we might connect various traces together and whether the interpretations are proper are main questions to which an answer is attempted in this paper.

黄韵然 Winnie WONG

Imagining the Great Painting Factory in the Studio of Lam Qua

This paper sets out the Euro-American cultural imaginary of the "Great Painting Factory" and its centrality in the consumption of Chinese paintings produced during the Canton Trade. It explores how early nineteenth-century consumers and traders located Chinese painting production within a certain conception of the fine and mechanical arts, and reassesses Charles-Hubert Lavollée's (b. 1823) influential account of the studio of Lam Qua (b.1801-02). It argues that Canton export paintings served its buyers as a locus of cross-cultural translation, but also, as empirical evidence of cultural differences themselves, differences crucial to an emerging American consumer culture of originality and the copy.

白芳 BAI Fang

Chinese Export Fans in the 18th and 19th Centuries

This presentation discusses one of the most important China Trade export items: export fans. As regards colors Chinese traditional fans are simple and elegant, but export fans were colorful and brilliant. As to their designs Chinese traditional fans depict Chinese landscapes and calligraphy, but export fans are fancy and exotic, mixing a flavor of East and West. ► Chinese traditional fans are still used in modern times, but export fans were fashionable only in the 18th and 19th centuries.

In the early times (from the end of 17th century to mid 18th century), Chinese export fans show a strong feeling for European style. In fact, craftsmen copied the images from imported European prints. In the middle times, from the end of 18th century to early 19th century, Brisé fans appeared. Brisé fans consist only of sticks that get continuously wider from the rivet to the top, forming one solid surface. They are held together by a fabric band. The materials are of ivory, tortoiseshell, sandalwood, feather, silver, mother-of-pearl, lacquer and so on. The patterns are combination of the styles of eastern and western. In the last period, which goes from the mid to the end of the 19th century, mandarin fans became popular. It was also called the, “one hundred faces” fan. The leaf is made of paper; the stick is made of ivory, tortoiseshell, lacquer, silver, sandalwood and so on, or sometimes a combination of all these materials. The design of the leaf is always a painted Chinese pavilion and garden scenes with numerous figures. Their robes are made of silk and their heads are of painted ivory.

A large quantity of skillful craftsmen appeared in Canton, and they improved the level of the art. This way they contributed to Canton’s historical role as a center for the exchange of culture between China and western countries.

Paul A. VAN DYKE 范岱克

References to Chinese Painters in European and American Records from the 1730s to 1830s

There are very few references to Chinese export painters and image makers in written records from Canton from 1700 to 1850. This is the case because export mirrors, wall paper, paintings, figurines and other such items were purchased by private individuals in Canton, and few of those men kept records of their transactions. A couple brief mentions to painters can be found in East India companies’ records, but that is more the result of happenstance than of an intentional desire to record them. The companies usually did not purchase these types of items so painters were not part of their regular business dealings. For some of these Canton painters the only references we have had to them in the past are from their inscriptions on the products they produced. Those notations, however, tend to be very brief, often consisting of a Romanized name or a couple Chinese characters scratched on the bottom or back of an object. Although the references presented in this study are also very brief in content, they nonetheless provide us with information we previously did not have. They bring together bits and pieces of information that help to expand our understanding of these men and their craft. So far the earliest references that I have found are from the 1730s of mirror painters making items for export. From this time to the 1850s, scattered notations appear which help provide a tiny window into this hidden and obscure world of Canton’s commercial past.

商偉立 William SHANG

Chinese Export Paintings in the G.E. Morrison Collection of the Toyo Bunko (the Oriental Library)

The Toyo Bunko’s Morrison Collection is known to a handful of researchers, especially to Chinnery scholars, but the vast collection of Chinese export paintings, mostly prints, and original drawings by William Alexander (1767-1816) such as the Costume of China and other drawings related to the Macartney Embassy (1792-94) to China are most likely unknown. The collection of visual records gathered by Dr. George Ernest Morrison (1862-1920) formerly with the Times of London is a small portion of the 24,000 volume library purchased by Baron Iwasaki Hisaya, the founder in August 1917 of present day Mitsubishi Corporation. Over the years, the Morrison collection became known as a significant collection of source materials expanding Chinese research in Japan.

Since the institution is no longer purchasing export paintings, it stands as a research library for Asian Studies with probably the largest collection of eighteenth-nineteenth century visual records of China in Japan.

This paper is an introduction to the Morrison Collection providing information on how this collection came to Japan, and the vastness of the collection. Some rare and unique visual records as well as original drawings will be mentioned in this paper.

William R. SARGENT

The Rose Hill Album: The China Coast Sketchbook of Leonard Forbes Beckwith

Before the mid-nineteenth century, many recollections of the China coast were published, and many paintings of coastal views were created by Chinese and Western artists. As the mid-century passed, the decline of the historic China trade began, the production of paintings and drawings recording slowed, and a certain romanticism associated with the trade dissipated. Consequently the China coast of the second half of the nineteenth century often gets less attention paid to its history and its art.

An album of 64 drawings by Leonard Forbes Beckwith was recently donated to the Peabody Essex Museum. Who Beckwith was, how he came to be in China, and what he recorded in his album between 1858 and 1859 give us a personal view of one young man’s journey at a pivotal point in the history of Asian trade. Photography was introduced to China around 1842, but 1860 is considered the point at which it truly becomes widespread and readily available. Beckwith’s drawings are among the last recordings by an amateur artist of the China coast that are now iconic views of the China coast. The views taken in Macao, Canton and Hong Kong are those the young artist recorded for himself and his family.

魏白蒂 WEI Peh-T’i

Another Look at the Men in the Middle: the Hong Merchants as Quasi-foreign Service Personnel in early 19th Century Canton

Since the end of the Opium War almost 170 years ago, a large number of scholarly and general works on Canton before the Treaty days have come to light. The extreme wealth and luxurious life-style of the hong merchants and the services they provided to the foreign traders have been noted – in painting and poetry, too – so much so that there does not appear to be anything more to add. Yet, recent studies have begun to examine the hong merchants as private businessmen, and as pioneers in cultural and economic exchange between China and the West. My earlier research has touched on the role the hong merchants played as intermediaries between foreigners and local authorities in criminal cases under Chinese jurisdiction, and the outcome has depended on whether opium was involved. My attention had been on Ruan Yuan, Governor-General at Canton 1817-1826. What I would like to attempt here is to make use of contemporary Chinese documents in greater depth as well as recent scholarly findings, to see if a new perspective can be found on the hong merchants’ state of mind as they acted as quasi-foreign service personnel for the Chinese government.

白莉民 BAI Limin

Bridging East and West through the China Trade: Robert Morrison and the Thirteen Factories, 1809 – 1824

In 1809 Robert Morrison (1782 - 1834), the founding father of Protestant missions in China, took employment with the East India Company, which at the time granted him the only possible means by which he could legally live within the Thirteen Factories and undertake his mission work. However, his service to the East India Company and his appointment as the official interpreter for the Amherst Mission in 1816 and the Napier Mission in 1834 saw him being criticized as an agent of British colonial interests in China.

Was Robert Morrison an agent of British imperialism in China or a fervent promoter of Chinese language and education? This paper aims to examine this question by employing a close textual reading of a small school textbook he wrote on his voyage to England in 1824. This school book, entitled China, A Dialogue, was structured in “ten conversations between a father and his two children.” Morrison clearly stated that the purpose of this book was for the “use of schools” in England as he felt that there was “so little concerning China in the school books” at that time.

Among all Morrison’s manuscripts and publications this textbook has attracted little scholarly attention to date, yet a careful examination of it reveals a China that is seen through Morrison’s eyes. This study intends to analyze the content of the book in relation to the China Trade in Guangzhou between 1809 and 1824, along with an investigation of the writings, activities and deeds of Morrison during this period. It will argue that Morrison’s involvement in the China Trade went far beyond British commercial interests in China, as he exchanged historical, ideological and cultural knowledge between China and the West. Even though it would inevitably bear the imprint of the attitudes of his time, this small school book is unique proof that Morrison’s position and role in China trade functioned as a bridge between East and West rather than as an agent of British imperialism in China.

江滢河 JIANG Yinghe

The End of the Canton System and the American Garden in Canton

Based on a series of Cantonese export paintings and written documents this paper tries to investigate the background and construction process of the American Garden in Guangzhou from 1842 to 1857. The contemporary sources that have been studied include documents such as Chinese and American diplomatic archives of the 1840s and 1850s. It also includes journals in English published in Guangzhou such as The Chinese Repository and The Canton Register, as well as letters and diaries by some Westerners. It will show a characteristic cultural aspect of the early history of Western colonial powers in Chinese Treaty Ports.