Night 3

Alright, much more product and that is what I need exactly! Sure last night had been a bust, but at least now I am far enough along to be putting together coherent thoughts. I blew through a series of books this afternoon over a light lunch on campus. I took an especially hard look at my newest, in terms of publication date, book that I have. Ruan Yuan by Betty Wei. It is a very impressive biography about an established Qing Scholar-official who had died before the opium war, yet his own life set down a number of the precedents for the war. She argues that we as more than general readers need to see China in new ways beyond a China struggling against Western dominance, that in fact this is a very limited vantage point. We attempt to write history in the wrong fashion. Her work gave me a lot to think about as I craft my own mini-research paper. Every word I read further establishes my own thoughts for the work. I feel like I have cheated the game by not allowing enough time for the paper to come to its full fruition. With a normal classload and a handful of extracurriculars, I created an atmosphere that does not lend itself way to getting projects done any sooner than on time, but never late.

I also checked out a few other books of interest. Frederic Wakeman has a section in Strangers at the Gate that talks about the merchants being the traitors of their own people which I found particularly interesting. The Hong merchants dealing with the foreigners had such a hefty hand that eventually people began to despise them, although let's be honest they were already considered a fairly low class of people in the eyes of the scholar officials taking the exams. Even when someone granted the Hong a rank, it is artificial, and perhaps it was there to give them access to powers or functions they needed to complete a certain task. Sounds like a stretch actually.

Since we are talking about the sort of newer end of scholarship on Opium, Timothy Brooks and Bob Wakabayashi put out a collection of essays focused on the opium trade titled Opium Regimes: China, Britain, and Japan, 1839-1842. It contains an expansive set of essays that cover a variety of pressing questions about the nature of opium as it cropped up in different economies. Some of the essays also summarize the complications from an Opium War. They essentially ask if opium really even had a hand at all in the war. "On this reading, opium was the item that just happened to be in demand, but the war could have been over molasses if the Chinese government had been impeding access to a market for that." I believe that opium had a very special role to play as one of the very few to perk the ears of the Chinese economy when all else had failed. The two essays I found particularly helpful for this subject were David Bello's "Opium in Xinjiang and Beyond" and Gregory Blue "Opium for China: The British Connection". Over all it presents some interesting facts and theories about the events transpiring at that time.

I really want to pursue those hong merchants who, according to Fairbank, have very little written on them. I am armed and ready for tomorrow evening's writing foray! Thank you and good night people.

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