China During the Opium Wars


Opium Trade in China

Tensions Emerge

First Opium War

Second Opium War

Lasting Effects

Works Cited




Opium, a narcotic drug derived from the poppy seed plant, has been in use since approximately 3400 B.C. It was originally used for medicinal purposes in many ancient cultures. During the early 1500’s the smoking of opium came into fashion in Europe, but was considered a barbaric practice by the Chinese. Gradually, the practice of smoking opium through a tobacco pipe became popular in China. The British realized that importing opium to China could yield a huge profit and started exporting the drug from India in mass amounts.


Opium import to China was not deterred by sanctions against it implemented by the emperor. The issue of trading opium spurred two wars between China and England. These conflicts had a lasting effect on international relations, Chinese economy and society, and opened many ports in China to international trade.


Shandra Goldfinger © 2006.  Created for World Politics 116, Mount Holyoke College.  Contact: goldf20s at mtholyoke dot edu.

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