London. His Majesty's Stationery Office. June1911. Stock ID #142940
Despatches from Sir A.Hosie: 23pp. Original wrappers, lower corners and edges, little creased, very good. Quarto. These papers contain reports on the suppression of opium cultivation in the opium producing provinces of China, assembled by Consul-General Sir Alexander Hosie (1853-1925) one of the leading members of the British consular service in China of his time. They cover the provinces of Shansi, Shensi, and Kansu, together with other reports from Szechuan and Yunnan. Based partly on his own journeys and observations, they also contain contributions from long resident British miss-ionaries in the several provinces.
A remarkable change was taking place in China at this time. This is explained in the contemporary account given at pp.409-410 of Samuel Couling’s Encyclopaedia Sinica (Shanghai, Kelly and Walsh, 1917) which provides the necessary back-ground to Hosie’s reports. There had been a gradual spread of opium cultivation within China and Manchuria in the later 19th century, with a shift in both public consumption and taste away from the Indian opium imported largely by British and Indian firms from the 18th century on. At the same time, a strong anti-opium movement had been developing in China during the final decades of the Manchu dynasty, and by 1906 had obliged the Court to issue an edict ordering the abolition of opium smoking within ten years. Also, and in the same year, the British parliament had entered into a ten year agreement with China whereby the export of opium from India was to be reduced by one-tenth annually, in return for a similar reduction in opium production there. An Inter-national Opium Commission sat at Shanghai in 1909 and agreed to assist China in its efforts to stop opium trade and cultivation, and it met again at The Hague in 1911. Both the movement and the change of attitude among officials and people were genuine. Hosie himself considered that “No question has ever stirred the Chinese Empire so profoundly as that of opium suppression”, and the detailed reports contained in these papers seem to bear this out. By then, too, Couling added, a stigma was now being universally attached to opium smoking.
Unfortunately, the change of government brought about by the Chinese Revolution of 1911-12, and the Warlord Era which followed would disrupt the work: but even so, Britain discontinued the export of Indian opium before the ten year agreement had ended. Couling’s Encyclopaedia Sinica was reprinted by Oxford University Press, Hong Kong in 1983. (When referring to this item please quote stockid 142940).