Grant's world tour China. Hong Kong. Fountain, gardens, and welcome arch. May 16, 1879
- Upscale 2x7680x5870
Photograph shows pool, fountain, and welcome arch in garden.
Title from item.
In the 19th century, British trade of Chinese commodities like tea, silk, and porcelain was high but Chinese interest in European manufactured goods was insignificant so that Chinese goods could only be bought with precious metals. To reduce the trade imbalance, the British sold large amounts of Indian opium to China. In 1839, the Daoguang Emperor rejected proposals to legalize and tax opium and ordered imperial commissioner Lin Zexu to eradicate the opium trade. The commissioner destroyed opium stockpiles and halted all foreign trade, triggering a British military response and the First Opium War. The Qing surrendered early in the war and ceded Hong Kong Island to the United Kingdom in 1842. Piracy, disease, and hostile Qing policies initially prevented the government from attracting commerce. Conditions on the island improved during the Taiping Rebellion in the 1850s, when many Chinese refugees, including wealthy merchants, fled mainland turbulence and settled in the colony. Further tensions between the British and Qing over the opium trade escalated into the Second Opium War. The Qing were again defeated, and forced to give up the Kowloon Peninsula and Stonecutter's Island in the Convention of Peking. By the end of this war, Hong Kong had evolved from a transient colonial outpost into a major port. The colony was further expanded in 1898 when Britain obtained a 99-year lease of the New Territories. Hong Kong was transferred to China on 1 July 1997, after 156 years of British rule.