Chapter 1. The Thirteen Factories: An Architecture of Sino-Western Collaboration and Confrontation

Not the least remarkable feature of Old Canton life was the “Factory,” as the common dwelling and common place of business of all the members, old and young, of a commercial house.1

—William C. Hunter, 1882

The era of the Thirteen Factories of Canton defined the first phase of long-term Western habitation within a Chinese city. It lasted through much of the later eighteenth century into the 1850s, and was characterized by a population of Western traders living and working side by side with their Chinese employees and mercantile peers in a dense urban environment. The neighborhood and even the buildings the Western traders inhabited were essentially Chinese, or more specifically Cantonese, but the foreign presence was announced by foreign flags and applied neoclassical façades in a steady march along the riverbank. Hybrid structures housed a collaborative existence, where the business of acquiring teas, silks, spices, and other luxury goods for shipment to the West was the constant objective. Despite barriers of language and culture, good-natured curiosity and tolerance were characteristic of the daily cross-cultural encounters performed here. With the rise of geopolitical concerns in the imperial centers far from Guangzhou, including distress in London over trade imbalances, anti-opium reforms issuing from Beijing, and a rising distrust of their own dynasty and fear of foreigners on the part of many common Chinese, the Thirteen Factories of Canton were later transformed, increasingly amidst acts of violence. The story of the buildings and spaces of the Thirteen Factories illustrates and shapes the collaboration for mutually beneficent trade and the transformation and alienation wrought by cross-cultural tensions.

In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the Westerners who came to Guangzhou were introduced to their new environment on a boat trip from the main deep-sea port at Whampoa along the broad but busy Pearl River. Their destination was a series of long, low buildings facing the riverfront, which apart from their distinctive façades resembled much of the rest of the general panorama of the city. The several hundred merchants who took up seasonal residence in Guangzhou starting in the mid-eighteenth century represented the most regular and largest presence of Western traders yet seen within the bounds of the Qing Empire, excluding the sleepy Portuguese colony of Macao.2 The foreign habitations in Guangzhou for the century between the 1750s and the 1850s were the primary focus of everyday interaction, both cooperative and confrontational, between the Cantonese and citizens of the majority of Western powers.

The buildings allotted for foreign residence, called the “factories,” housed all of the residential and business facilities in which the substantial international trade occurred. The factories inhabited by the foreigners occupied a stretch of riverbank usually estimated between 800 and 1,000 feet long.3 The appellation of factory was rooted in the eighteenth-century world of great national joint stock companies (the British East India Company, et al.). By the mid-nineteenth century, writers felt that the term needed explanation as a synonym for “agency” rather than “manufactory.”4 The Chinese also had a name for these buildings indistinguishable from similar buildings of native merchants, which was hang, often spelled hong by Westerners, meaning a business or firm in general, hence the common Mandarin Chinese name for the site, Shisan Hang, or Thirteen Factories.


The site allocated to Western habitation by the Chinese imperial government reflects the role Westerners would play in Guangzhou over the course of the nineteenth and into the twentieth century. The factories occupied the riverbank within the southwestern suburbs of the city. The oldest section of the city, the largest area enclosed by the city wall, had, after the Qing dynasty consolidation of power over the city, been allocated to Manchu high officials and military officers, as well as governmental functions more generally. The indigenous Cantonese and also merchants from other provinces largely occupied the neighborhoods of the southern or “new” city and the western suburbs. The Westerners’ factories nestled closely among the Chinese merchants’ hangs (Pl. 1, Fig. 1.1) and were situated just south of a bustling neighborhood of skilled tradesmen and manufacturers. Thus, in both physical and social terms, Westerners occupied a place that was, on the one hand, peripheral to political and cultural life, yet, on the other hand, increasingly central to the commercial life of the provincial metropolis.

Each of the Thirteen Factories had its own particular appellation, both in English and Chinese. Using typical Western nomenclature, from left to right were the Danish Factory, the Spanish Factory, the French Factory, Chunqua’s (later Mingqua’s) Hong, the American Factory, the Paoushun Factory, the Imperial Factory, the Swedish Hong, the Old English Factory, the Chowchow Factory, the English or New English Factory, the Dutch Factory, and the Creek Factory (Pl. 1, Fig. 1.1).5 After 1841, the so-called “New English Factories” completely replaced what were the English (East India Company) Factory, the Dutch Factory, and the Creek Factory. Each factory with a European name also had a Chinese name, with a meaning either inspired by or meant to bestow prosperity on its inhabitants.6 The factory between the French and American factories was the premises of a merchant who rented to some Western tenants. The Paoushun and the Chowchow factories maintained their Cantonese names in foreign writings.

Figure 1-1

Fig. 1.1

Map of the city of Canton and its suburbs, 1840, drawn by W. Bramston, engraved by James Wyld, with inset of foreign factories. This map indicates the location of the Thirteen Factories in the bottom left hand corner of the city, and then provides an insert showing the footprints of the buildings, labeled with frequently used names to distinguish the individual buildings. Used with the permission of the Hong Kong Museum of Art (AH1964.0115).

The naming of many of the factories after Western nationalities had its roots in the eighteenth century, when many traders were tied to national “East India” companies, and the whole factory would be occupied by one nationality. Technically, various hong merchants to whom ground rents were paid owned the factories themselves.7 In the mid-eighteenth century, in an era when very little is known about the factory buildings themselves and a few ships might represent foreign trade from a country for the entire season, habitation was segregated by nationality. Pehr Osbeck, the chaplain of a Swedish East India Company ship, wrote during his voyage of 1750–51, “Commonly each ship takes a factory for itself; but sometimes two ships of a nation may be together.”8 By the end of the first quarter of the nineteenth century, however, the British East India Company dominated the European-bound trade. The Americans had arrived in the mid-1780s and within a couple of decades were easily the second most flourishing foreign traders on the ground in Guangzhou. In the beginning, most of the foreign traders quite literally arrived with the trading season and left when the season ended, returning to their home countries. A vague census taken by the British East India Company in April 1815 still revealed relatively few people whose continuous occupation warranted them the title “Foreign Residents.” Other than the “Honorable Company’s” staff, these included three Dutch supercargoes, a Dutch surgeon, the Swedish Consul, a Prussian consul and vice-consul, the American consul and other Americans simply specified as “several individuals.”9 The Chinese imperial government required departure during the summer, but by the 1820s, it was common practice for most of the resident merchants to simply board a ship down river to Macao for an “off-season” vacation.10 The procession of boats ferrying the British East India Company down the Macao Reach of the Pearl River delta was accompanied by a rather festive mood, complete with a chorus of gongs and firecrackers.11 Some American traders eventually began to remain year round contrary to regulations, but were generally overlooked or tolerated.12

By the early nineteenth century, the traditional names of the individual factories often had little to do with the nationalities of those who inhabited them. Consuls in residence flew national flags in front of their factories. While late eighteenth-century views might show that the official representatives of Denmark, Spain, France, Sweden, Britain, and Holland were in residence (see Pl. 1), early and mid-nineteenth century views often show only the “flowery flag” (as the Cantonese are recorded to have identified it) of the United States and the British Union Jack, perhaps accompanied by the Dutch or Danish flags (Pl. 4, 8, 10). Note that even if the appropriate flags were flying, persons of that nationality might not be present in the factories—the Scots principals of the firm Jardine, Matheson & Company had regular long-term appointments as the consuls for Denmark, and American merchant Gideon Nye acted as consul for Chile, among other instances.13

By the 1830s, the tendency was for the factories at either end of the site to be predominantly British-occupied, while the center factories had a notable American presence, in the American, Imperial, and Swedish factories in particular.14 Though this general pattern varied from year to year, as different merchants arrived, left, or switched addresses, the trend was notable enough so that Dr. Melchior Yvan, a French visitor of the 1840s, asserted that the Americans had “absorbed within their limits” all of the factories in the central block except for the Chowchow.15 A thriving Parsee community, operating under British protection and indeed outnumbering the Americans, also inhabited blocks scattered throughout the factories, though the Chowchow and French factories sheltered the preponderance. The front block of the Dutch factory, until its destruction in 1841, continued to house the small staff of the Dutch East India Company, or Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie. Europeans of other nationalities generally took up residence in no evident pattern.

Entrepreneurs also leased parts of the factories to run as hotels, largely to accommodate supercargoes and ship captains.16 Evidence of this comes from Bryant Parrott Tilden, an American supercargo.17 He spent trading seasons in Guangzhou in the 1810s, when he resided at a “factory hotel” run by Rhode Islander William Magee, and in the 1830s he rented his premises from Englishman Charles Markwick, whose premises occupied Numbers 4–6 of the Imperial Factory.18 With few brief and chronologically late (i.e., post–Opium War) exceptions, the inhabitants of the Thirteen Factories, regardless of their nationality, were exclusively male as the Chinese imperial government did not allow Western women to take up residence in the country.

Origins and Materials

The factory buildings were initially directly derived from the general patterns of Cantonese urban vernacular design. They resembled in construction, though not necessarily in patterns of habitation, the neighboring business premises of substantial Chinese merchants. The precise date of construction remains a mystery. Not many detailed representations predate the last third of the eighteenth century. By that point it is clear that the buildings resemble their Cantonese neighbors except in the addition of Western-style “classicizing” façades, in particular the two-story verandahs of the buildings, sporting columns and pediments, inhabited by the English and Dutch East India companies (Fig. 1.1 and Pl. 2—far right).

The foreign factories were built overwhelmingly of local materials. The walls of these structures largely consisted of locally produced bricks. During the first half of the nineteenth century, three types of bricks were commonly used in Guangzhou. While the first type, which was simply sun dried, possessed a pale brown color, thoroughly kiln-baked red bricks were also present, and bricks of a bluish-gray hue, fired for a short time only, were the most common.19 From the evidence of contemporary paintings of the Thirteen Factories, the last type seems to have been the predominant brick used for the foreign factories, presumably indicating their middling status in terms of Guangzhou’s overall urban fabric.

Very few written documents regarding the materials and construction of the factories survive. Bryant P. Tilden recollected his general impression of the buildings: “The factories make a handsome show from the river, & square in front, and are built of stone & sun burnt bricks as are all the other buildings at Canton and the steep roofings are covered with fire baked tile.”20 A catastrophic fire in 1822 necessitated the rebuilding of all the factories; a list of materials and estimates for the reconstruction of the British East India Company–inhabited factories survives in the company’s “agency consultations.”21 The British East India Company employed their comprador (manager of all a company’s Chinese-speaking laborers and general chief business go-between), who was known as Aming, to estimate the cost of rebuilding their facilities. Besides brick, materials on the list included tile for roofs and drains, wood for framing, stone for paving and probably door frames, chunam (a word apparently borrowed from India for lime, and used in the Guangzhou context to refer to materials made with it, such as exterior stucco/plaster, some sort of paving material, and perhaps mortar), iron nails and “work,” lead and tin, marble for chimney pieces and fittings for a “bathing room,” and a “bamboo house.”22 This last structure was erected as a sort of roofed scaffolding for support and shade during building, and this craft still lives in the construction of Cantonese opera theaters in the region today. The main residential factory for the Honorable East India Company also included the specialized structures of a verandah with “stone columns below,” “outer columns above of stone,” and “inner ones of wood,” along with an underground substantial masonry “treasury.”23

While the British company buildings were the most sumptuous, the materials used in them were probably fairly representative of the composition of the Thirteen Factories overall. Earlier in their history, the factory buildings appear to have had more wooden components, particularly interior partitions and upper, verandah-decked stories, as can be seen in early paintings where some of the buildings had yet to obtain classical-influenced façades (Pl. 1).24 In the eighteenth century, many of the windows were apparently made of mother-of-pearl or shells.25 By the beginning of the nineteenth century, however, the presence of more typically Western glazing is notable in many visual representations.

Façades—Changes and Continuities

The façades of the factories all eventually become Westernized, though little is known about this process. These neoclassical fronts, while giving the appearance of European-style buildings, were actually disguises of a sort. This is evident in a painting from around the first decade of the nineteenth century, which shows a closer view of the Imperial, Swedish, Old English, Chowchow, and New English Factories (Pl. 2).26 This work shows the very regular, neoclassical façades, displaying a heavy, sometimes rusticated, ground floor and columns and arched openings surmounted by keystones articulating an airier piano nobile on the Italian palazzo model. What lies behind the southern elevation of these buildings, however, is belied by the presence of the narrow, end-gabled tile roofs typical of Cantonese architecture. Particularly informative is the portrayal of the New English Factory, which behind its substantial classical verandah is a gray brick edifice complete with applied gable decoration that is part and parcel of the local building idiom.

From the late eighteenth through mid-nineteenth centuries, a series of changes do take place in the factories’ southern elevations, witnessed by the continually popular paintings of views from the perspective of the Pearl River. Though very sparsely documented, these changes have provided a baseline for dating topographical views.27 Sometime around 1800, the first floor of the verandahs of the New English and Dutch Factories became more enclosed, with masonry arches supporting the airy terrace above. The Old English Factory acquired a pediment and a second-story recessed porch, flanked by two enclosed rooms, probably in the 1810s. The catastrophic fire of 1822 meant that all of the factory buildings had to be rebuilt (Pl. 3).

The 1820s rebuilding left all, with the exceptions of Chunqua/Mingqua’s Factory and the French Factory, with thoroughly classical elevations, and even the former acquired a neoclassical pavilion appended to its otherwise very traditional form (Pl. 4, Fig. 1.2). The Spanish, Swedish, Imperial, and Old English Factories were left with column-adorned upper stories that now made reference to a classicism that was in a heavier Greek Revival vein than the preceding Georgian neo-Palladianism. A mezzanine floor seems to have been added to Number 1 Imperial Factory. The New English and Dutch Factories were reconstructed with similar verandahs, although the portico of the latter was considered by one foreign observer to be “a humble imitation, in very bad taste.”28 Both of these now had armorial escutcheons in their pediments, the former bearing the arms of England and the motto Pro Regis et Senatus Angliae (“for the king and parliament of England”) and the latter with the Dutch national arms and the motto Je maintiendrai (“I will endure”).29 The New English, Dutch, and Creek factories were destroyed in the riot and fire of December 1842, in the wake of the Opium War. For a few years afterwards, very little in the way of construction occurred on the site of the three easternmost factories, though the development of the “American Garden” and the addition of a third, flat-roofed story to the Old English Factory took place during these years (Pl. 5). In late October 1843, the Danish, Spanish, and French factories were destroyed in an accidental fire, but were shortly rebuilt to more or less resemble their previous states.30

Figure 1-2

Fig. 1.2

View of the factories, 1839–40, anonymous (ink on paper). This is perhaps one of the most accurate delineations of the factories between the 1822 fire and the destruction of the eastern factories in 1842. It also illustrates the increasing enclosure of the square in front of the factories on the eve of the Opium War. Used with the permission of the Peabody Essex Museum (E81458).

The typology of all of the foreign factories up until the 1840s continued to fit comfortably within the range of urban, South China variants of the traditional courtyard dwelling. In contrast to the ample, spreading, four-sided courtyard houses of North China, the urban pressures of Guangdong led to the development of buildings with very narrow and deep footprints, where the courtyards were sometimes shrunken to mere light wells. Though fewer and fewer examples of traditional Cantonese urban dwellings may be seen in Guangzhou, smaller examples exist, notably of the “bamboo tube” type of house (Pl. 6).31 While these single- to two-story dwellings are sometimes only one bay wide, and thus on a rather smaller scale than the factory buildings, they share the common urban pattern of late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century suburban Guangzhou holdings in being much deeper than wide. They also share the small courtyards and skylights that were part of the traditional construction features used in the Thirteen Factories. The structures most comparable to the original foreign factories were probably the urban premises of the “hong merchants,” the small group of Chinese merchants who were granted a monopoly for supplying the foreigners with the most valuable trade commodities, such as tea and silk.

By 1845, the Chinese Repository asserted that building activity on “houses of a new and much improved order” was underway on the eastern end of the site, apparently starting with a new British Consulate.32 The consulate was the first constructed of a double row consisting of fourteen detached buildings to be built between 1845 and 1847. These structures warrant a separate discussion later, as they mark a transition between the initial Western accommodation within essentially Cantonese structures and the more Western construction of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A survey by British military officers, dated April 1847, gives presumably a very accurate impression of the arrangement of the factories at this particular moment (Pl. 7).33 In addition to buildings’ footprints, the plan illustrates patterns of occupation, showing European residences in red (now faded to pink), Chinese residences in black, public streets in brown (now tan), and private passages left white. Work began on a church in front of the factories in 1848. The last phase of the Thirteen Factories lasts from 1848 to the total burning of the site in 1856, during the Arrow War. A relatively large number of paintings can be found to illustrate this final phase (Pl. 8, 9). In addition to the new eastern factories and the churches, the American and Paoushun Factories seem to have acquired a third story the Old English and Chowchow Factories were renovated with an additional story; and a new, narrow three-story building was constructed in what formerly was a street dubbed “Hog Lane.” On the western end of the site, new factories were added in front of the Danish, French, and Mingqua’s Factories (dubbed “New Hong, New French Hong, and Mingqua’s New Hong”).34 Mingqua’s New Hong appears to be a Westernized, verandah-clad block much like the New British factories on the east end of the site, set in front of a two-courtyard unit of traditional Cantonese domestic architecture. Finally, two new buildings housing amenities for the foreign community, a pleasure-boat house and library, are added more or less in front of the American and Mingqua’s Factories.

The classicizing southern elevations of the Thirteen Factories contrasted the residences of foreigners with the rest of the city fabric. The verandahs of the British and Dutch East India Companies, into the 1840s, also projected the power and identity of the powerful national joint stock companies, allowing their inhabitants plenty of room to survey the goings-on in the confined neighborhood of friends and competitors. Initially, most of the rest of the factories were fairly homogeneous with regard to their public faces in an era when the quarters rented by a particular firm would change frequently. As American firms settled in particular quarters in the center of the factory site, the façades of their buildings also began to take on an individual identity. A Chinese merchant living among the foreigners and renting rooms to them in his own dwelling experimented with a combination of Eastern and Western forms in a way that allowed Cantonese contractors to develop skills that would serve them in the future. In the 1840s, the British rebuilt their factories using a new typology that would contribute expansive verandahs and hipped roofs, which later influenced the architecture of foreigners in Guangzhou for most of the rest of the nineteenth century.

Plans and Room Use

Spatial arrangements proved to have more continuity over time than the factories’ façades. The most common plan of the factory building was a series of two- to three-storied blocks of rooms, separated by courtyards linked by an open central passage running through the structure. Baltimore native Osmond Tiffany expressed as much after his 1844 visit: “The hongs are entered by means of a wide passage-way running the whole length of the building, and each are composed of numbers of houses detached from each other, yet all serving their turn like the distinct glasses in a telescope.”35 Each block of rooms was numbered, so that an address for a foreign merchant in residence might be expressed as “Number 1 American Hong” or “Number 3 Imperial Hong.” A rough diagram of this arrangement is shown in the inset of the 1840 Bramston map of Canton (Fig. 1.1). This diagram, while useful for clarifying where various persons and firms situated themselves within the factory grounds, has a regularity in its steady progression of masses and voids that does not reflect the real geometry of the buildings, both before and after rebuilding following the 1822 fire. A painting by an unknown Cantonese artist reveals this by taking its unusual viewpoint from the roof of the Dutch Hong, facing to the southwest over the roofs of the British East India Company factory, the Chowchow Hong, and beyond (Pl. 10). The irregular roofline of the East India Company’s factory and the varying sizes of the blocks and courtyards of the factories beyond are clearly illustrated. The 1847 Lieutenant Da Costa plan of the factories (Pl. 7) was the result of a survey post-dating the rebuilding of the new Western-appearing British factories on the eastern end of the site. The remaining factories in this plan, however, still maintained their Cantonese vernacular footprint, with their long, narrow lots and fairly irregularly interspersed courtyards.

Descriptions of the interior of the factory buildings are rare. Presumably the resident merchants’ familiarity bred lack of interest, for short-term visitors are the ones who left us with most of the detailed descriptions of the interiors. Osmond Tiffany enumerated types of rooms within the factory as consisting of “counting rooms, an establishment for the tea tasters, of dining and sleeping rooms, and in some are nicely furnished parlors.”36 Fitch W. Taylor, chaplain to the American East India Squadron that circumnavigated the globe commencing in 1838, stated of the American Factory, where he briefly stayed:

Within this range of walls are the store-rooms, and rooms occupied by the comprador, coolies, and other servants attached to the hong, comprising the basement stairs or ground-floor, and the second story affording fine drawing-rooms and chambers, both spacious and airy, two requisites for comfort in this climate.37

A visitor for several seasons, supercargo Tilden states of the factories in his description “each having its go-down or store room, kitchen, & other lower story accommodations for servants, coolies, & c. & c.”38 Tilden was the one visitor to leave a plan of an individual factory with the rooms labeled (Fig. 1.3).39 This building, the Imperial Factory as it was in the mid-1830s, was shared by resident firms (notably the American firm of Wetmore & Co. in Number 1) and the English-run Markwick’s Hotel in Numbers 4 through 6. The drawing, while idiosyncratic, reveals how factories housed the social institutions and mechanisms by which business and everyday life were carried out.

Figure 1-3

Fig. 1.3

Plan of Imperial Factory, Canton, copy of sketch c. 1831–37, by Bryant Parrot Tilden. The plan of the ground floor is on the left, the upper story is to the right. South is to the top of the page, therefore No. 1 (Wetmore & Co.) is indicated by the block on the top of the drawing. No. 5 Imperial Factory is not shown but is indicated at the bottom of the page as “with same accommodations as No. 4.” Used with the permission of the Phillips Library of the Peabody Essex Museum (MH219).

The sketch, which reflects Tilden’s memories from 1833 to 1837, survives as a copy of the original sketch pasted into a copied journal. It shows the first and second stories of the factory side by side and joined by lines that result from a desire to make both have equal dimensions. The plan shows the first four residential blocks, and asserts that the fifth block is three stories high and “last in the range, with same accommodations as N. 4.”40 Other sources indicate that the Imperial Factory actually had six units—perhaps Tilden simply never ventured beyond the fifth.41 The ground-floor plans show the familiar arrangement of a long, arched passageway running the full length of the building, in this instance apparently 500 feet, and joining the courtyards between blocks labeled by Tilden simply as “open space.” The American firm of Wetmore & Co. occupied the most commodious quarters, in Number 1 Imperial Factory. Wetmore & Co., composed primarily of Philadelphians and Rhode Islanders, was the successor to the Quaker firm of Nathan Dunn & Co.42 Retaining some of its Quaker flavor, the firm generally stayed out of the opium trade, but on the other hand was known to be inclined to somewhat sumptuous living.43

Immediately upon entering the Imperial Factory from the square to the south, a visitor of the 1830s would find himself surrounded by the service rooms of Wetmore & Co. To his right is the company’s godown, or warehouse. A visitor to the factories during the 1820s noted:

The internal construction of the houses is very similar to our own, with the exception of large rooms, purposely made for storing merchandise, and called, as in Bengal, Go-downs. In these, goods are deposited on wooden frames or sleepers, raised several inches above the floor, the supports surrounded by rice chaff, tar, or quick lime as a defense against the white ants, which are very destructive.44

These dark rooms, stacked high with tea crates and other containers waiting to be counted and transported to the foreign ships at Whampoa, were relatively plain and functional.

To his left, the visitor to the Imperial Factory would find the dwelling rooms of the locals hired to handle much of Wetmore & Co.’s business with the outside world. These included the comprador, the purser (the man in charge of keeping track of the firm’s cash), and the cooleys (then used as a term without the current negative connotation to indicate general laborers who transported goods and ran lesser errands). These men lived in close quarters, perhaps separated by little more than simple partitions. The cooleys lived in a somewhat barracks-like organization. Osmond Tiffany describes how men of this class were accommodated in a Chinese merchant’s hong:

On the sides of the building, at considerable elevation from the ground, were some twenty or thirty shelves, intended for beds, arranged like the berth in a steamboat, consisting of rough boards with square wooden blocks for pillows. Each was inclosed by a coarse, blue mosquito netting, suspended on bamboo poles.45

Although the cooleys employed by the foreign merchants were fewer, and therefore their accommodations on a smaller scale, in all likelihood their place of rest was very similar. Tilden does not draw in any partitions in the Chinese staff’s rooms, which could indicate either the lack of any substantial room divisions or that he failed to venture into these chambers. Though in this plan there is no evidence for a particular person being assigned to serve as a watchman, Tiffany recorded of factories in general, “The gate-keepers sit in grim majesty in a little pigeon hole, just within the entrance door, and only wide enough to turn around in and accommodate a bed.”46 Although Tilden’s plan has no such feature, the presence of the firm’s servants just inside the door would have served to restrict access or announce the arrival of a visitor, as the individual instance required. The front western room of Wetmore & Co.’s building also contained a treasury or “money vault,” probably with iron doors and stone walls, which was under the charge of the comprador.47

Beyond the “outdoor” Chinese workers’ rooms on the left was where servants and cooks who supported the domestic comfort of the merchants found their accommodation. On the right, beyond the godown, the visitor might smell the evolving results of the cooks’ labors and hear the banging of kitchen pantries. Before continuing, he might need to visit the “outhouses” in the courtyard behind Number 1, which here is almost certainly synonymous with “privies.” If the visitor had been lucky enough to obtain an invitation to the bountiful table of Wetmore & Co., he would then proceed up an interior stairway, located between the kitchen and godown, to the second floor.

The downstairs realm of the Chinese staff was assuredly plain, decorated perhaps with a few personal items that senior members might possess, Cantonese lower- and middle-class tastes in interior furnishing being sparser than that of Westerners of the mid-nineteenth century. The upstairs/downstairs arrangement appears configured to some vague notions in the foreigners’ minds about Renaissance palazzos filtered through eighteenth-century neo-Palladianism. It might also indicate notions about climatic desirability, as the top rooms were better situated to receive a cooling breeze off the river. On the other hand, there are plenty of still, sunny, and sweltering days in Guangzhou during which the Chinese staff would be more content to be in the darker, perhaps slightly damp, lower rooms. Cantonese traditional dwellings may seem rather too dark by Western standards for this very reason.

The visitor of the 1830s, upon his arrival at the top of the flight of the stairs, is greeted by a partner in the firm, perhaps the ample, stiff-collared, and red-headed visage of William S. Wetmore himself. The guest has the accommodations of the American businessmen quickly pointed out to him. He peeks through the slightly ajar door of the second room on the right to the gleaming china cabinet and storeroom of goods for the household’s consumption. Ignoring the other four rooms on the right (Tilden labels each of these simply as “room”), the host points out the private chambers of the American staff and shows him the two counting rooms where these men spend most of their days. The host then leads the guest back to the center of this southern line of rooms, where they enter the dinner hall, as Tilden terms it. After dinner, the rest of the evening probably passes in an attempt to keep cool in the shade of the marble-paved verandah, the green shutters of which are positioned to deflect the last rays of the setting sun or opened to observe the activity of the square and the river beyond.48

The interiors of the factories’ rooms are very sparsely documented. An exceedingly rare visual portrayal of an interior is a watercolor of the tea taster’s office in Wetmore & Co.’s hong (Pl. 11), painted by Warner Varnham, an Englishman employed as Wetmore’s tea taster. This room is on the second story, due to the fact that the top of a balustrade is visible through the window. It may have been one of the undesignated “rooms” indicated by Tilden on the north side of No. 1’s central passageway, although the plan indicates no verandah on the rear of the block, or it could be one of the “counting rooms,” or alternatively it could be rooms rented in No. 2 Imperial Hong by the company. There is no record of the latter, but the balustrade and architectural backdrop that can be seen sketchily indicated through the window are suggestive of such a situation. The interior is very spare, with white walls, a single Western-style sash window surmounted by a fanlight, chair rails and baseboards running around the room where shelves and drawers do not hide them, crown molding, and the hint of a skylight. Varnham’s local assistant sits in a delicate neoclassical chair, probably of Chinese or Indian manufacture. Turned legs set off the tea-taster’s desk, but the drawers and shelves have a generally unadorned, functional appearance. Granted, this is a workspace rather than a dwelling space, but surviving descriptions indicate a standard room in the factories would not look dissimilar. The counting rooms of the factories made their impression on Tiffany mainly through their atmosphere rather than their physical features; he noted that “one of the pleasures of the counting-room is smoking,” resulting in the “clouds of vapor that float around one.”49

There is sparse evidence for Westerners’ dwelling rooms in the factories. One gouache in private hands is believed to be a dwelling room in the British or Paoushun Factory.50 It shows an uninhabited interior with a white dado, simple chair rail, light-blue upper wall, and a restrained neoclassical marble (or marbleized) mantle. Wedge-shaped writing desks occupy the tops of three tables, and three rush-bottomed chairs, a stool, a black-and-white-striped sofa or recamier, and a rattan armchair complete the room’s contents.

Additional evidence is textual. The finicky Charles Downing was not impressed with his bedchamber at Markwick’s Hotel, the same establishment in which Tilden lodged during his last three voyages to Guangzhou. Complaining of the lack of unspecified things “which to an Englishman are considered essential,” Downing describes his room:

The walls are perfectly bare without the slightest attempt at ornament, and the window is generally without any blind or screen to free you from the observation of your opposite neighbour. A fourpost bedstead stands on one side of the room, with a mattress and bolster spread with a couple of sheets, and encircled by a large green mosquito-curtain. A small table, a chair or two, and a washbasin without soap or towel, complete the furniture of this desolate apartment. There is no looking-glass on the table or carpet on the floor.51

During his stay there on his last three China journeys, the facilities at Markwick’s seem not to have excited comment by Tilden, one way or another. Nathaniel Kinsman, an employee of Wetmore & Co. in the 1840s, found his quarters in No. 1 Imperial Factory rather gloomy, as “the walls here were painted dark green & are now nearly black.”52 By the late 1840s, the strict confinement of Westerners to the Thirteen Factories had started to break down somewhat. During the year 1849, William Melrose, the Guangzhou buying agent for a Scottish wholesale tea business run by his father Andrew, described quarters he rented in Mowqua’s hong, the second building to the east beyond the Creek Factory:

It is one of the old Hong merchants’ houses (Mowqua) but done up in English style. I have two bedrooms—one I sleep in and in the other I have my bath and shower-bath—office, tea room, dining room, and a veranda.53

Melrose used the opportunity offered him by a Chinese merchant to move out of crowded quarters in the factories to a comfortable suite. Though he gives little detail of how the interiors of what was a fairly traditional Cantonese building—he in fact calls it a “China house”—the phrase “done up in English style” is suggestive.54 While the exterior of the building likely reflected the Cantonese urban vernacular, the interior was furnished with Western furniture, and perhaps a few minor architectural details.

The dining room was the center of social life within the foreign firms. The first memory upon arrival of young John Heard, nephew of the principal of Massachusetts firm Augustine Heard & Co., was of the firm’s dining table at the Creek Hong:

We got to Canton about 3 PM, a few minutes before dinner was announced, and this was quite a revelation to me. There must have been more than a dozen at the table, as partners and clerks all sat down together, and there were always stray captains from Whampoa. The first thing that struck my attention was that a bottle of wine was placed at each plate. “Ah” said I to myself, “no more short corners here” . . . the whole dinner was on a satisfactory scale of abundance.55

The factory inhabitants used the communal space of the dining room around four times per day, for an early breakfast, a light lunch around noon, a large dinner around three or four in the afternoon, and often a “tea” in the evening.56 The main furnishing for this room was a table and chairs, capable of seating all of the firm’s Western employees as well as a number of guests. The other major feature of this room was the punkah:

This is an immense fan suspended by the two ends of the ceiling, and kept in motion by means of a rope alternately pulled and slackened by a machine in shape of a cooley, who stands outside of the dining room, and who never thinks of stopping until he is told to, should the dinner continue six hours.57

This feature, looking like a large, square, cloth sail stretched on a wooden frame above the middle of the table, seems to have been imported by the British from India and was soon in use by almost all the foreign houses. William C. Hunter described the New English Factory, under its original occupant the East India Company, as having the most elaborate dining and leisure facilities:

Their dining room was of vast dimensions, opening upon the terrace overlooking the river. On the left was a library, amply stocked, the librarian of which was Dr. Pierson; on the right a billiard room. At one extremity of the dining room was a life-sized portrait of George IV in royal robes, with crown and sceptre, the same that had been taken by the Embassy of Lord Amherst to Pekin, offered and refused by the Emperor Keen-Lung, and brought to Canton overland. Opposite to it hung a smaller full-length portrait of Lord Amherst. From the ceiling depended a row of huge chandeliers, with wax lights; the table bore candelabra, reflecting a choice service amidst quantities of silver plate.58

Another source indicates that the George IV portrait was full-length and done by no less a talent than Sir Thomas Lawrence.59 The East India Company dining room was extraordinary in its scale and lavishness.

The buildings that composed the factories almost universally sported verandahs. These, sometimes dubbed “terraces,” were obvious features of the New English and Dutch factories, as they projected far into the space in front of the buildings. The other factories had narrower verandahs recessed behind their even façades. These spaces served both climatic and social functions. They were places for relaxing escape from the often hot and close atmosphere within the factory interiors, and for this purpose were furnished with light furniture, in some instances “India cane” chairs.60 Close views of the verandahs in Guangzhou are relatively scarce, though a view of the factories from the first decade of the nineteenth century (Pl. 2) shows Westerners peering out of their classicized settings. Renters always most prized the first blocks of factory buildings, both because they had the most undiminished breeze off of the river, and because the view presented a constantly changing scene of passers-by.

Although the imaginary tour through Wetmore & Co.’s quarters in Number 1 Imperial Factory allowed a view of features common to all foreign dwellings, there was also, as we have seen from the discussion of the East India Company’s New English Factory, variation from dwelling to dwelling. Even in Tilden’s plan of the Imperial Factory (Fig. 1.3), this variation is clear. Numbers 2 and 3 are smaller than Number 1 and have the counting rooms downstairs among the servants’ quarters. They also have only a single row of rooms on the second story, accessed by a stairway that leads up to the verandah. Markwick’s Hotel, occupying the northern end of the factory, has blocks with plans more resembling Number 1, but having to accommodate more functions. Here, all servants are accommodated in one downstairs room. On the left, the counting room shares space with a shop. Markwick apparently included in his hotel a sort of general store, dubbed the “Europe Bazar [sic].”61 Also downstairs at Markwick’s was a room simply labeled “Billiard & other rooms.” All that it took to set up a billiard room was a game table, as reflected by William Melrose’s anxiety about his peaceful residence just beyond the Thirteen Factories’ bounds:

I heard some Americans intend taking the next door (the one house is part of the other) as a billiard room, which I did not relish; however, I got it put a stop to. I would rather take it and pay the rent than be bothered with them. They would be there at all hours half seas over and making a terrible noise. The Chinaman who has the letting of the hong (I do business with him) would not give it without my consent.62

Among the other spaces for amusement in the foreign neighborhood was a billiard room in the New English Factory, which before the fire of 1822 also sported a small racquet court.63 In the East India Company days, the New English Factory also had a specially built chapel with a short spire that held Guangzhou’s first public clock, a library, and a “reception room.”64 As previously mentioned, the 1850s also saw the burgeoning of recreational and edifying facilities in the grounds in front of the Thirteen Factories. In addition to the already mentioned church, the diary of Caroline Stoddard, young daughter of the captain of the clipper ship Cathay, enumerated the following in her 1856 diary:

Lately the foreigners have erected a very nice building, upon the water’s edge and directly in front of the gardens. Underneath is a boat house, where all the gentlemen keep their fine boats. In the next story is the Canton Library, and they have a very nice collection of books. Next that is the concert room, and next that the Free Masons have their quarters, on top the house there is a very nice walk, and an excellent view of the river, and all the life thereon.65

Unfortunately, this and the panoramic oil paintings from the 1850s provide the only evidence that remains for this short-lived building. Finally, somewhere around the factory site was a space that the twenty-five members of the Canton Bowling Club used as their “club house,” though it is hard to say from scanty evidence whether this was a bowling alley or simply a shed at the edge of a bowling green.66

The new factories constructed on the eastern end of the site in the second half of the 1840s seem to have presented a more wholly Westernized appearance than the older factories. As the 1847 plan of the factories shows (Pl. 7), they consisted of two rows of detached, rectangular houses, with the largest being at the southern end of the lot towards the riverfront, and the smallest being at the northern end. Notably, the elongated lot for the new factories determined that the foreigners would still live in tiered buildings, even though lanes rather than courtyards now separated them. This scheme was laid out in late 1843 by “Messrs. Gordon and Cleverly,” the former being the land officer and the latter the deputy surveyor of the new colony of Hong Kong.67 Although of different sizes, the new factories were all apparently intended to be relatively similar in appearance, as indicated by an 1843 press release issued from Hong Kong by the British superintendent of trade, announcing the intended leasing of the grounds:

It is not intended that any part of the said Ground should be occupied by Warehouses (exclusively) and it will be expected that all Firms or Individuals to whom lots may be assigned, will bind themselves to build Houses according to a regular plan which will be laid down and communicated to them the day of the allotment of the ground takes place.68

As this posting contains proscriptions of buildings to act only as warehouses, it is probable that the trading community was feeling real pressure to find additional workspace. An 1854 commercial announcement by Adam Scott indicates that foreigners had gone in search of warehouse space well beyond the factory boundaries, as it advertises a packhouse “ready to receive goods on storage and for laying down teas” across the river on Honam Island.69 Paintings indicate that the new factories, at least those that faced the riverfront, were three-storied, hipped-roof structures with front and rear verandahs (Pl. 9, 12). Of the information surviving on these buildings, much comes from the records of the firm of Augustine Heard & Co., in many ways the American trading house most closely allied with British interests, in particular with Jardine Matheson & Co., for whom they acted as agents during the British expulsion from the city during the Opium War.70 Heard’s firm inhabited at least three different buildings in the new factories at different points in time.

Augustine Heard’s nephew John, a clerk and later partner in the firm, recalled from his experiences around 1848:

I think it was about, or before this time that we left the French Hong, and moved into a new house built by Nye, on the grounds occupied formerly by the Company’s and Dutch factories. This ground had been leased by the British Government on a perpetual lease, and lots were sold under this lease conveying the same rights. Nye had built on the third lot from the front, on speculation. The house and position were less good than our old Dutch factory, but they were better than the place we had been for the past few years. And we were nearer the other residences,—more in the swim! We also took part of the house in front of us, the other part being taken by Mr. Moses. This gave us very good offices.71

Heard goes on to add that, while his uncle made a trip home to Massachusetts from 1850 to 1852, he took the liberty of renting new offices in the front building of the row from Jardine Matheson.72 It is assuredly this latter building that the painter Tingqua portrayed in a detailed view (Pl. 12). The watercolor shows a three-story building with a masonry basement punctuated by arches, and two verandah-decked upper stories. Columns with Cantonese interpretations of Ionic capitals divide most of the bays, while rectangular piers punctuate the ends and divide the fifth and sixth bays. In between the supports are railings with turned balusters and folding louvered shutters. The tiled, hipped roof and a number of chimneys are visible behind the roof parapet.

Heard’s first quarters in the new factories are little recorded beyond what John Heard had written. Heard’s discussion does hint at why the buildings take on a more Western aspect. American Gideon Nye, who himself comfortably remained in the old-fashioned Number 1 Old English Hong during the entire period between the Opium and Arrow Wars, was apparently the speculative builder of this house. These houses were all apparently constructed under the direct supervision of the Western merchants, whereas, before, the hong monopolists, who owned the land on which the factories were built, had often been intermediary forces in construction. The builders and tradesmen were uniformly Chinese, though. Notably, in July 1847, the Chinese contractor “Yik Shing” completed the British Consulate’s building, the first in the left (west) row of buildings.73

After Heard & Co. moved into the front building in the row, mysterious plans and descriptions of an upper and lower story of a building in Guangzhou are included in the company’s records.74 These documents, dated 1855, are puzzling in at least two ways. First, they make reference to a “wharf” (including “front verandah projects over wharf”), making no immediate architectural sense, and certainly making little sense with regard to the new factory site. It is possible that the reference is simply to the ground beneath the factories, so that the entire site is considered a wharf. Second, the descriptions take both the tone of the specifications for an existing building as well as the voice of orders for construction. The drawings indicate overall proportions and measurements that closely match the footprint of the second eastern building from the front indicated on the 1847 Da Costa plan of the factories. Assuming that the plans do in fact represent this building, they could well be for desired renovations or larger scale rebuilding.

The drawings definitely reveal that, although the new factories were more Westernized in external appearance, the patterns of room use remained much the same as in the older factories. Below were large spaces dedicated to storage and rooms for “coolies” and “boys.” One hopes there were not many servants, as the indoor and outdoor servants were accommodated in two twelve-by-fourteen-foot rooms. The lack of a kitchen probably results from the fact that Heard & Co. was at this point occupying more than one building. On the second floor, the verandahs provided much of the circulation between rooms, and two tiers of four bedrooms were divided by the stair passage from a household storage, a parlor and dining room, and two offices. An interesting climatic adaptation is indicated, with doors between abutting bedrooms that could be opened to provide cross-ventilation. That the parlor and dining room were connected and considered a suite of sorts is indicated by the statement, “Instead of door between parlor & dining room put two ornamental pillars & hang a curtain which may be drawn entirely aside.”75

Although the foreign factories of the Shisan Hang were modified, rebuilt, and replaced, the continuities in spatial organization were emphatic. Even after the new “British” factories were built as detached, hipped-roof houses, servants’ rooms and warehouse spaces were kept on the first floor, while the habitations of the foreign merchants remained on the piano nobile. Spatial usage reflects social usage, so the next task at hand is to populate the factory rooms.

Everyday Life: Inhabitants and Rituals

The primary relationship inside the walls of the factories between the foreigners (both Westerners and Parsees) and the Chinese was of employer and assistant.76 This relationship is articulated in the upstairs/downstairs hierarchy of room use. The Chinese inhabitants of the factories were subordinate, in the sense that they served at the pleasure of the foreign merchants. They also, however, served according to their own pleasure, and their service was mediated by the institutions of the foreigners’ protectors, the monopolist merchants with whom they had their most substantial dealings and the chief servant, the comprador.

The spatial hierarchy of the factory interior demonstrates how much the foreign merchants valued and trusted their local staff, with whom they worked closely and on a daily basis. Chief among these was the comprador. William C. Hunter writes:

The most important Chinese within the factory was the Compradore. He was secured by a Hong merchant in all that related to good conduct generally, honesty and capability. All Chinese employed in any factory, whether as his own “pursers,” or in the capacity of servants, cooks, or coolies, were the Compradore’s “own people”; they rendered to him every “allegiance,” and he “secured” them as regards to good behavior and honesty. This was another feature that contributed to the admirable order and safety which characterised life at Canton. The Compradore also exercised a general surveillance over everything that related to the internal economy of the “house” as well as over outside shopmen, mechanics, or tradespeople employed by it. With the aid of his assistants, the house and private accounts of the members were kept. He was purveyor for the table, and generally of the personal wants of the “Tai-pans” and pursers.77

Hunter continues to explain the responsibilities of the comprador in very concrete terms, noting that he was often in charge of enormous quantities of cash, totaling between a hundred and fifty thousand dollars and over a million.78 The comprador earned his money by taking a percentage of each transaction between the foreign firm and the Chinese merchants and tradesmen from whom he procured goods and services.79 The responsibility of this position could not be borne lightly. The comprador had to answer to the “Hong merchant” who procured him for the foreign house, who was generally one of the wealthiest and most influential people in the city, outside of the imperial government. He always had to insure replacement should something go missing from the house. Osmond Tiffany recounted that the table silver was once stolen from his factory’s table after dinner was over, and new substitutes were in use by the following teatime.80 A highly responsible position, the comprador’s position could also be quite a profitable one—Augustine Heard & Co.’s comprador apparently accumulated $70,000 (the modern equivalent of over $2 million) from his arrival in 1840 to his death in 1846.81 The purser mentioned in Tilden’s plan of the Imperial Factory is probably in this instance the immediate assistant of the comprador, who acted as an in-house shroff, or money changer.

The “cooleys” whose quarters were adjacent to the comprador’s, and who were like all of the other servants hired by him, carried out most of the heavy manual labor surrounding the foreign firm, as well as sometimes running errands. Tiffany describes them as “strong backed, nimble men” who “perform every office connected with the hongs.”82 Perhaps the most important job for these men was to act as porters, as described by Englishman Charles Downing:

That work of conveyance, which is generally assigned to horses, is here performed by vast numbers of coolies or porters, who carry on their shoulders a bamboo, having half of the load hanging in slings or baskets from either end. Another way is to have the weight suspended from the middle of the pole and a man at each end.83

Although members of the cooley class rarely emerge as individuals in Western accounts, some of particularly long and devoted service did come to be considered members of the foreigners’ commercial family, such as Russell & Co.’s devoted workman “Old Qui.”84 Even the more transient supercargoes were impressed with how trustworthy this laboring class was. Bryant Tilden stated:

In our estimation the factory porters and coolies are about the most happy class of celestials [i.e., Chinese] we see at Canton. They are always ready, within call, and work cheerfully and but seldom quarrel. We freely trust them while carrying specie or merchandise from place to place, and they know as well as we do how much treasure is in the factory money vaults.85

Though generally the American merchants tended to be more effusive in their praise of their Chinese working men than other (especially British) merchants, the cooley class frequently displayed great loyalty and service to their foreign employers, even in times of natural disaster or civil disturbance, as will be discussed later.

In Wetmore & Co.’s house at the time of Tilden’s visit, the house servants and cooks occupied the ground-floor room behind the comprador and cooleys’ room, facing the interior courtyard. Of the cooks, very little description remains. Their job was chiefly hidden in the kitchen, where if Westerners went they left no description of its goings-on. Osmond Tiffany notes with relish, however, the work of the invisible Chinese cooks, proclaiming, “The Chinese show their imitative powers in nothing more than in the ease with which they emulate European dishes, and every meal could not have been more completely like home had it been transported by lightning line.”86 The house servants, or valets, or “boys,” as they were variably called, were a much more visible presence. Each foreigner of sufficient station to acquire quarters among the Thirteen Factories was assigned one of these servants, probably a young man in his teens or twenties. He would typically have been neatly dressed in a blue tunic with baggy sleeves, with white undergarments and stockings covering his legs.87 A portrait by the professional British artist George Chinnery of a wealthy Parsee merchant also depicts his Chinese servant, who sports exactly such a costume.88 This class of servants had some independent standing, and considered themselves answerable only to the comprador and their employer.89 Osmond Tiffany seems somewhat astonished as he writes of the attentiveness of his “marvellous boy,” from waking him in the morning to attending him at all meals.90 The station of these young men, however, was quite defined, as Tiffany notes:

The varlet [sic] thinks it no degradation to bring fresh water and make up your bed, but he would consider it humiliating in the last degree to be forced to sweep the room out. He is a gentleman, and has a cooley under him to do the dirty work; and though he will go on errands, he would scorn to carry a bundle.91

In fact, when supercargo Tilden weighs in about manservants, he asserts, “if a bundle, or pack, is to be sent, Mr. Servant calls a house cooley & directs him to follow.”92 At dinner, the valet would echo the behavior of his employer, changing into finer clothing, and would wait on only his employer, ignoring the other foreigners at the table should they request anything of him.93

Visitors thought of Chinese servants variably as wonderfully helpful or completely frustrating, perhaps simply as a fulfillment of prejudicial views. Only in his twenties at the time of his visit and apparently the guest of Russell & Co. (then the most important American firm), Tiffany was evidently quite pampered. This contrasts with the attitude towards his valet of Englishman Charles Downing. Downing expresses exasperation at frequently not being able to find his valet and having to speak pidgin English to him.94 Although Tiffany and Downing assessed their experiences with their valet with different degrees of satisfaction, both men emphasized the handsome, well-groomed, and somewhat haughty character of this class of men, indicating that among servants they had a very particular and “hand-chosen” identity.

Though many of the foreign visitors and residents found their relationships with Chinese staff quite satisfactory, a budding racist consciousness of the staff as a frustrating or even vaguely threatening “other” also occurs in a few writings. Downing has several passages in his writings that intimate these feelings. Recalling his entrance into the Imperial Factory to find accommodations at Markwick’s Hotel, he discusses the staff:

Seated on the steps, or loitering about, are crowds of natives who are the servants belonging to the establishment, or the domestics of private individuals.

. . . after walking about for some time and wearying himself to no purpose, he is fortunate if he is able to find a native who can talk a little broken English. To your repeated inquiries after the landlord, you receive perhaps only a vacant stare, and the words, “No saa-vez,” accompanied with a slow shake of the head, until you meet with some gifted personage, who comes up in a very independent manner and asks, “What thing you want-shee?” Upon telling him you want a room, he runs away after he has uttered his grand word of assent, “Can.” After leaving you for some time, to be stared at by the idlers about the house, he returns and walks away before you at a quick rate down the passage, holding a key in his hand at the same time.

Great numbers of servants lounge about the walls of the passages, or squat down in the corners of the landing-places, on the stairs. Some are seated before the doors of the rooms, keeping the dishes warm over a pan of charcoal, until required by the company within.95

The numbers of servants, the fact that they are apparently idle, and that they seem to be keeping watch over him, bothers Downing. He interprets their behavior as idle and impudent. This clearly reflects upon his expectations as much as it does the behaviors of house servants and cooleys. His use of the phrase “belonging to the establishment” is somewhat telling—he interprets their status as nearly chattel. In reality, however, they are independent employees, and whether indoor or outdoor servants, a large part of the job of such men was to wait patiently until needed by their employers. The stares he feels as rude are also protective surveillance and attentiveness that would be considered desirable by their employers. Finally, the hotel orderly who briskly leads Downing down the passage to his room is merely being efficient, not knowing his guest expected him to behave like an English servant by using diffident manners of which he had never been informed.

While the Chinese working in the factories had been hired to make the work and desires of their employers their primary concern, the foreign merchants led a fairly self-absorbed life of hard work, plentiful social dining, and generally routine, if restricted, exercise. Who were the foreigners housed by the Shisan Hang? The Western and, to some extent, South Asian merchants were mostly men of a middling status in their home countries. They generally derived from families with mercantile or maritime connections. The American merchants were frequently poorer relations of moderately substantial families already engaged in long-distance commerce elsewhere.96 In the days before the dissolution of the East India Company’s monopoly, the British merchants in China occupied a social position a level or two above the typical American, as their appointments had an official and political aspect that required some well-placed connections. This was probably true of other European merchants as well. The enormous, hierarchical staff of the British East India Company included the resident company chief, several of his subordinate officers, and company captains living in the New English Factory, and the “2nd and 3rd supercargoes, the secretary, the chaplain, tea inspectors, and other officers” in the Old English Factory.97 Later, the independent British traders came from a range of backgrounds—for instance, William Jardine was more or less a self-made man hailing from small farmers in rural Scotland, while his partner, James Matheson, grew up in a large mercantile family with connections around the globe.98 Towards mid-century, an increasing number of British and American missionaries that shared factory accommodations with the merchants might come from modest backgrounds indeed, but also by their vocation were necessarily well educated. Even among the South Asians, the later fabulously wealthy Parsee, Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, emerged from humble beginnings working as an assistant in his uncle’s bottle shop.99 Excepting the British who had previously served the Honorable Company in India, it is largely safe to say that most of the foreign merchants in Guangzhou had not previously been used to a life with services like having their own valet.

The staff of American and later “independent” European establishments generally featured a handful of junior clerks, often one or two mid-level employees consisting of specialized professionals such as tea tasters, and the senior “on-site” partners of the firms. Then there were the seasonal visitors of ships’ captains and supercargoes, who could either be associated with a resident firm or independent traders. John Heard, a junior clerk for his uncle Augustine Heard’s firm at the time they were acting for Jardine & Matheson during the Opium War, described the employees of a fairly typical American resident firm. The clerks were John himself, who looked after the actual counting and loading/unloading of merchandise, a Mr. Roberts who kept the books, and a Portuguese clerk named Gutierrez, who “wrote a beautiful hand but was very slow and could do nothing but write.”100 John’s conception of the activities of the other employees was somewhat more vague:

Mr. Coolidge had charge of important business of the house—my uncle bought all the teas, and Mr. Dixwell took charge of things generally. Mr. Ryand did nothing but draw his share of the commission account. Jardines sent up a tea-taster Mr. Humpstan—didn’t do much but grade teas.101

During the peak of the trading season, all the merchants kept long, monotonous, and often uncomfortable hours doing the paperwork of global trade in their offices. In Heard’s firm, the pervasive New England work ethic combined with his uncle’s belief in the benefits of exercise to allow very little sleep for the young John, who noted, “The fact that Mr. Coolidge used to keep me up [doing accounts] till past 12 o’clock was not a good preparation for a row at five o’clock the next morning.”102 According to Osmond Tiffany’s estimate:

The immense amount of work performed in one of the large Canton houses is indescribable, and the clerks are occupied on an average of from twelve to fifteen hours a day. They seldom quit the desks before midnight, being all the time occupied in the various processes of receiving and dispatching cargoes, of making out sales and interest calculations, copying letters, filing away papers, and the perpetual round of business employments.103

The senior partners, mid-level specialists, and independent agents might have slightly less monotonous occupations, with duties requiring them at least to move from room to room or among different buildings in the factories and the Chinese merchants’ warehouses. These might not always be pleasant errands, though. Independent tea buyer William Melrose recounted one experience in the 1850s of a business visit to a building in the new British factories:

I went into Turner’s tea room the other day to see some of the Shanghai samples but it was terribly hot; the sun was coming right down the skylight. I looked at two or three of them but said it was so hot I could not stay in it any longer. Their tea taster said, you’re quite right, young Thorburn when he was in here one day got a stroke of the sun and had to get his head blistered afterwards, so I took care not to go back again. But when Thorburn was in, the shade was not drawn so it must have been much hotter than when I was in.104

The close quarters of the tea warehouses could obviously be uncomfortable and even hazardous. The ship captains and supercargoes seem to have had the least confined work life.105 Their household concerns while in the city were already arranged by either the resident house hosting them or, if they were independent, by one of the factory “hotels” that existed at different points in time. Their main concern was with a single cargo, and while waiting for it to be assembled or for the best timing for purchasing (prices fluctuated, sometimes wildly, during the season) they had, at least comparatively, a relaxed schedule.

Within the factories, as mentioned earlier, the scarce social time of the clerks and partners centered on the dining table. One need only look at the diary-like letters of Robert Bennet Forbes of the American firm Russell & Co. to get a taste for this prominent feature of social life. Selected excerpts below are from just after his arrival as an in-residence agent of the firm in 1838:

12 Octo—Yesterday called on several residences & received calls dined with Frank Hathaway, Mr. Nye & Mr. Everet [American merchants] & had a hearty meal, Mutton & c.

13 Octo—Made calls till 2, mostly on English people—dined at home

14 Octo Sunday—callers in the morning prevented my going to meeting—then dined with Delano with Hathaway, Howland, Nye & c.

16 Octo . . . I am to dine with Dent & Co. today

18 Octo—I dined with Dent accordingly a party of 25—& as I was placed on the right of the host I conclude the other guest & dinner were for my a/c [account]—eate & drank a good deal & staid to Whist until midnight.106

The last entry is indicative of some recognition of rank and honor in the environment of the dinner table in terms of seating, even if the American Forbes only infers the Englishman Dent’s meaning in inviting him to sit on his right. Social activity around the Christmas season included two especially notable occasions for Forbes. At one dinner he was one of the twenty-six guests at Wetmore & Co. where they drank tea rather than wine seemingly because of the presence of two reverends, who, however, went home early.107 The next day, he attended a dinner at Lindsey’s, an English merchant who was a “remnant” of the days of the Honorable Company, where Forbes was much impressed by the china service, silver, glass, and general style of living.108 Alcohol in fair quantities usually contributed to the sociability of these occasions, and a dry day at Wetmore’s would be rare indeed:

You can form no idea of the enormous extravagance of this house, the consumption of the article of Beer alone would suffice to maintain one family comfortable in Salem. Our young men finish an entire bottle each at dinner, a dozen bottles are drank at the table on ordinary occasions & frequently 1-1/2 dozen bottles. W[etmore] is in the habit of calling for beer 5 or 6 times during the day and evening, and a fresh bottle is always opened, from which he takes one glass, the residue is thrown away or drank by the servants! I mention this as an example in the article of Beer. Every thing else is pretty much in the same ratio.109

To confirm this picture of Wetmore’s hospitality, a younger Wetmore relative who joined the firm in the 1850s recalled that “bachelors’ dinners were the chief entertainments; and, everyone liking to keep under the punkah as long as possible, they were kept up until a late hour of the night, . . . the wine flowed freely, notwithstanding the heat of the climate.”110 Drinking and singing songs like “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” and “We Won’t Go Home till the Morning” seem to have passed the time around the dinner table during these long evenings.111 Though it is safe to say that such merry-making was an important part of life at the Guangzhou factories, a less bibulous and more biblical time was more typical of Olyphant & Co.’s dining and drawing rooms in No. 1 American Factory. David W. C. Olyphant, dubbed by the chronicler Hunter “one of the quietest men in the world,” and his partners were primary sponsors of the American missionaries in Canton, and sermons were perhaps likelier than songs to be heard emanating from their dining room.112

Generally speaking, the rounds of dinner parties were given by Westerners for other Westerners. To some extent this seems to have been irrespective of nationality. Parsee and possibly other Indian merchants on rare occasions received invitations to “special event” dinners, presumably with allowances made for dietary restrictions by their Western hosts, such as at the feast held in the New English Factory in honor of William Jardine upon his departure from Guangzhou in 1838.113 As will be discussed later, the Chinese hong merchants fairly frequently hosted dinner parties for the Western merchants; however, few descriptions exist of foreigners inviting Chinese whom they considered social equals to dinner in the factories. The comparatively small size of entertainment facilities in the foreign factories versus the extensive houses and gardens of the hong merchants, or the prejudices that some Chinese merchants and officials held against things Western might perhaps explain this.

Only a few recorded instances reveal that the hospitality mechanisms established by Westerners among themselves could also be utilized for Chinese guests. Hunter, having an unusual social ability as one of the few foreigners who could speak Cantonese, recalled hosting a son of one of the merchants of the Chinese salt monopoly and his friend to dinner.114 Unfortunately, the host does not describe the event per se, but records the young man, a Mr. Lo, bringing a possibly contrived letter that his friend wrote to relatives in Beijing. The friend’s written reaction to the event, an object of mirth shared by the host and Lo, was one of shock at the taste of Western food. Hunter also recorded that the merchant Mingqua was an able whist player and a frequent guest for games in the foreign factories.115 Bryant Tilden recorded being visited by tea merchants and strangers from “the interior” who wanted to see how foreigners lived.116 Apparently an agreeable sort, Tilden said he was always “well compensated by their politeness, remarks, and questions, as interpreted by the servant; they always retired well pleased, at seeing how comfortably we lived.”117

Tilden also recorded a more formally organized event with lively details. He was lodging at Magee’s hotel during the 1818–19 trading season, when a son of the merchant Paunkeiqua asked if he could bring some friends to Magee’s to hear foreign music.118 Magee arranged to have a large dinner party, to which he invited a number of musically talented foreigners; the amusing events that transpired were as follows:

Our instrumental music consisted of a base viol, flute, violin, and my clarinet as an accompaniment to a dozen fanquie sing-song-sters which the celestials seemed to enjoy, keeping perfect silence. A short while after, Paunkeiqua Jr. and his friends signified that they had heard of, and would like to “make see dat too much culious fanquie dance pidgin so fashion”—and for our own as well as their amusement, by way of sport, mustered a cotillion set & having no ladies as partners had to imitate them as well as we could, but by no means so cleverly as the Chinese boys do the women characters in their sing-song theatres. “Olo Magay”—as master of ceremonies—after a Scotch reel had been got through with, seeing that the dancers flagged—said “D-n your eyes! Ladies and gentlemen you don’t know how to dance! . . . Tilden give us a fisher’s hornpipe, and I’ll show’em how its done.” & sure enough he shuffled & danced it handsomely in the true sailor fashion, much to the amusement of guests—servants, cooks, and house coolies, who had mustered upstairs to see the sport, which they enjoyed as much as we do, when Indians entertain us with a war dance, on visiting our cities. Indeed our gentlemen not having ladies as partners, danced very much like savages. However, after supper we pleased our guests, with very good English song-singing, which they liked “more better” than our dancing; and retired as they came attended by their lantern bearers at midnight having chinchinned [sic, bade farewell to, probably with some gesture, the clasping of hands in front of the chest and a short bow] all of us at parting.119

This event, by breaking down social barriers with frivolity, created bonds of goodwill not only amongst hosts and guests, but apparently with the local staff as well. After long hours at the account books, the foreign merchants could rely on the release brought by the atmosphere of the dining room. Dinner parties in the factories served to strengthen the community of foreign merchants, who during the day were highly competitive with each other. In rarer instances, the festive atmosphere was broadened to include Parsee colleagues and representatives of Chinese trading families. If the net of hospitality could have broadened to include Chinese officials, and if they had accepted the invitations, one wonders if some of the tragic conflicts of the mid-nineteenth century might have been avoided.

After the festivities of the dining room on a hot day, the foreign merchants were apt to retreat to the very surfaces of the factories. The foreigners routinely occupied the verandahs and the platforms built upon the roofs of some of the houses as leisure-time retreats. While the shelter of the factory buildings led to a rather self-contained everyday existence, these spaces were initial vantage points for interacting with the Chinese people around them. Chinese merchants might give the foreigners an after-dinner social call, and would during some seasons of the year join the factory inhabitants for discussion on the verandah. Seated behind the porch piers of No. 1 American Factory, Mr. Olyphant was known frequently to conduct prolonged if friendly theological debates with an “outside” (i.e., not cohong government-appointed monopolists) Chinese merchant named Quanshing, without either having much success in converting the other.120 The former hong merchant Kingqua, when he urgently needed to discuss matters involving the Taiping Rebellion, was led up to a napping William C. Hunter on the verandah of his then residence, No. 1 Mingqua’s Hong, where they would then consider matters of great import.121

The verandahs and roof decks provided also an important post for surveillance. The view from these elevated areas allowed merchants to size up the shipments going into their competitors’ factories, to keep a watch out for fires, which in Guangzhou as in many other nineteenth-century cities were endemic, and to see the goings-on in the river and surrounding city. These vantage points worked two ways, though. As recorded by Fitch W. Taylor during his visit on the eve of the Opium War, the foreigners could be on display in ways they did not particularly anticipate:

The front windows of the American hong overlook the wide flagging running in front of the factories. From the windows of the second story, therefore, in front of the drawing-room, we have a fine view of the passers-by as they come down in streams from old China-street. It is amusing to witness the insuppressible and unbounded curiosity of these celestials when they find us at the windows. They make a full halt. The boys, who have early been taught to repeat the term “Fanqui,” in contempt of the foreigner, gaze, where they are better bred, gravely, and then pass on; while the more mischievous cry aloud “Fanqui! Fanqui!” and, with a shout, are again on the way. The elder pause, some with a smile, while perhaps a thin and long-bearded old man approaches, and hesitates his step with grave reflections on the past, and with undefined musings in connection with the future. The late transactions here, make the foreigner more than ever an object of curiosity both to the citizen and to the visitors from the interior.122

The Westerners were objects of observation, and even tourist attractions, to the residents of and Chinese visitors to Guangzhou. Though sequestered in the Thirteen Factories, the foreigners and the broader Chinese world would interact profoundly. The frontiers of this interaction were the river and the spaces surrounding the buildings of the factories themselves, which would form the primary connection between the factories and the broader life of the city.

The Pearl River: Transportation, Habitation, and Linkages

The Pearl River (Zhujiang) created the commercial highway that gave the trading community in Guangzhou its raison d’être. Beyond this, however, it was an urban extension of the city itself. It connected the Thirteen Factories, the traditional city and suburbs, and the primary portage for ocean-going ships, Whampoa (Mandarin Huangpu). Beyond this, it was inhabited by a boat-bound population of Chinese ethnic minorities and foreign mariners. Finally, it was a place of both recreation and refuge for the resident foreign merchants. That the topographical views of the Thirteen Factories generally contain depictions of the river crowded with Chinese vessels and, beginning in the 1840s, with Western steamships as well, attests to the Pearl River’s thorough integration into the foreigner’s spatial experience of Guangzhou.

At the eastern end of the “urban” experience of the river lay the ten-mile-or-so distant anchorage at Whampoa (Pl. 13). Whampoa, it should be pointed out, is a district rather than a precise point on the map; in Western conceptions, it included the areas around a series of small islands (dubbed “Dane’s,” “French,” etc., after the nationalities that used these as loading stations in the eighteenth century) as well as the eastern tip of Honam (Mandarin Henan) island that stretched miles to the west along the south bank facing the city. Whampoa was the closest that many mariners ever came to the metropolis, apart perhaps from a few rare excursions to Hog Lane, a narrow alley within the factories that catered to their particular consumer desires. The primary impression of Whampoa rendered by topographical views is a few low-lying islands, with pagodas in the background, dominated by the tall masts of Western vessels forming a sort of floating village. Sailors and sometimes even their captains lived aboard ship during their entire stay in China. For extended stays, the boats would actually be transformed into stationary, floating residential quarters. A conflict between foreign powers, the War of 1812, resulted in the blockading of the American ships in the port by a British war fleet. Against this backdrop, the typical transformation of the dormant vessels was described by US seaman George Newell:

Orders came from Canton to strip the ship of her masts & rigging, which being done, a frame of bamboo was built over head and covered with mats, which served to protect both from the sun and rain. The mouth of the river was soon blockaded by two English frigates, and by all appearances our fate was sealed during the war. In the spring of the year 1813 the English E. I. Company fleet of 18 large ships arrived and anchored below the American ships, of which there were then a dozen dismantled like ourselves.123

This transformation was not simply an emergency measure, though. The best visual records of these “dismantled” vessels are the views of “Hunt’s fleet” dating from the late 1840s or 1850s (Pl. 14). Thomas Hunt was a mariner who had through trade earned enough to settle down with his wife in a floating residence at Whampoa. He started his own prosperous ship’s provisioning business and attained official status as American consular agent at the portage and resident US marshal.124

Hunt was hardly alone in the ships’ provisioning business at Whampoa. Briefly, during the mid-nineteenth century, Whampoa contained the largest docking facilities in East Asia. Englishman John Couper’s ship repair facilities, including a still-extant stone dry dock, did a brisk business.125 The transient community of sailors and ships’ captains at Whampoa also left a permanent trace in the form of a cemetery, where those who had passed away on their trip to China or while waiting for their ships’ cargo to be loaded were interred (Pl. 15). British and Americans mainly used this site, erecting stone obelisks and table tombs that were often standard forms for grave markers in their home countries. The site remains today, in a very recognizable state on the hillside depicted in mid-nineteenth-century paintings. Traces of a much less intact Parsee cemetery can also be found on another hilltop on the island.126

From the eighteenth century, a Chinese “bamboo town” existed along the shore to supply the maritime industry with equipment and provisions, though little can be told about it from existing descriptions or views. It was apparently quite modest; as Tiffany noted, “The shops were mean and dirty, and their proprietors evidently very poor; they seem to have nothing to sell beyond joss sticks [sic, incense], cheap tea, and ordinary rice.”127 The rural inhabitants of the village seem to have gone about their business with little or no disruption to excite comment. Besides ship maintenance and provisioning, much of the time at the anchorage was simply spent waiting for cargo to arrive and socializing with other Westerners, both mariners from other ships and visiting factory residents. As Captain Low pointed out, “with no business to do we had leisure for dinner parties.”128 All in all, life at Whampoa was usually peaceful and uneventful, as maritime discipline was generally enforced.

At Whampoa, interaction between Westerners and Chinese was generally strictly transactional. Chinese customs officials performed cargo inspections, though they might also be bought off during the course of smuggling transactions.129 Compradors were then assigned to take charge of getting the vessels all they needed in terms of necessary provisions and equipment. Some freelance Chinese provisioners, such as a favorite supplier of livestock to Americans and dubbed by them “Boston Jack,” would come on board to supply their wares.130 Local laundresses and doctors also seem to have supplied essential services aboard ships during their stay in the port.131 The final cross-cultural experience the foreigners were likely to have during their stay was the loading of their cargo:

After the ship is cleared of rats and roaches, the ballast is trimmed and the Chinese stevedores take charge of the hold; and it is interesting to see them stow the tea away with boxes of firecrackers and mats of cassia. They make such close stowing that you can hardly get a case knife between the chests.132

Besides these shipboard interactions, the only other local people that the foreign mariner might interact with were the large, ethnically distinct population who spent most of their lives on boats in the river.

The boat people (or South Sea people), traditionally and disparagingly termed tanka by the land-dwelling Cantonese, dwelt upon the river in great numbers, and few escaped foreign visitors’ mention. While looked down upon by other Chinese, the boat people appealed to something in the Western psyche and in travelers’ writings are mysterious and always present. Tiffany asserted, “There is no spectacle in the world more wonderful to a stranger’s eyes than the river population of the Celestial Empire.”133 Downing agrees that “Nothing strikes the stranger with more astonishment on his first visit to China, than the almost endless variety of craft which is seen upon the river.”134 With this introduction, the Englishman embarked on a lengthy contemplation of the nature of living one’s whole life on the water, followed by a description of the flotation devices that the boat women attached to their toddlers, and continuing his chapter with an extended catalogue of ship types to be seen on the river.135 Fitch W. Taylor concurs, “Here was a scene of life that no other stream of the world, probably, exhibits.”136 The responses given by Western travelers to the boat people and the dense traffic of the Pearl River were generally superlative, betrayed great curiosity, and, finally, infected with a profoundly orientalizing gaze. The boat people, who would continue practicing their unique lifestyles until after the Second World War, are in some ways perceived as completely without analogy in the West. Western authors’ treatments of the boat people ranged from interest and affection to pity and distress, but they were by and large viewed as a benign presence.

There is some evidence that the boat people were not always kept at arms’ length by the foreigners, particularly the long-term residents of the factories. The women in particular seem to have drawn interest from certain Westerners. Tiffany mentions that in the evenings it was common to see young clerks “talking to the boat girls.”137 This seems to imply that some members of the boat communities transacted enough business with the foreigners that they knew at least some pidgin. It is also highly likely that many young and not-so-young residents in the factories took a sexual interest in the boat women. Deprived of the company of Western females, and with little access to middle- and upper-class Chinese women, the boat women were a natural draw for the foreigners. Although some merchants did at times have wives and families resident in Macao, most were without ready access to such conventional relationships. Parenthetically, some foreigners were also quite content to live as bachelors in an all-male community. In one instance, Samuel Russell, founder of Russell & Co., wrote of a peer, “My friend Wm R. Talbot seems to like what he has seen of Canton very much & I think it just the place for such a confirmed Old Bachelor.”138 The precise implications of this statement may be matter for speculation. Besides celibacy, and perhaps homosexuality, the main opportunities for relationships seem to have been with the boat women. Chronicler William Hunter is known to have had a long-term, “responsible” relationship with a mistress of boat people ethnicity.139 Because the Chinese authorities had little interest in the boat people, foreigners were able to have freer interactions with them.

The foreigners increasingly were able to mingle small recreational craft among the “floating city,” as the mid-nineteenth century approached. Technically, there was a provision amongst the “eight regulations” dating from 1760 that forbade foreigners from boating on the river for leisure.140 This regulation, along with restrictions on visits to the great Buddhist temple on Honam and the Fati (Huadi) gardens on the other side of the river, were often disregarded by foreigners and subject to only sporadic enforcement.141 In 1837, some foreign merchants established the Canton Regatta Club, and the final attempt to restrict activities such as boat racing is indicated by a letter from the hong merchants expressing anxiety about collisions with Chinese boats.142 In the wake of the Opium War and the resultant shift of the balance of power, the 1840s saw river excursions develop as a regular and important part of life in the factories. The less athletically inclined of the community typically took after-dinner floats on pleasure barges, and, “when they come to the Macao passage, they anchor for half an hour, and have a comfortable snooze.”143

The Pearl River became an extension of the dwelling space of the factories. Increasingly a place of respite for the foreigners, it offered opportunities to find interesting and less restricted interactions with the Chinese boat population. It also formed an escape hatch from tensions and dangers ashore. As will be discussed later, the inevitable way of escape and rescuing of goods and cash during disturbances was to rush, arms laden, to the river. Finally, the British would find it an indispensable path in controlling the city during the conflicts of the mid-century. These disruptions, however, belie the comparative peace presented by the river during the daily life of the fan kwae.

Connecting Fabric: The Square, the Streets, and Regulating Relations

All access between the foreign factories and the city proper was generally conducted through three streets that ran off “Thirteen Factories Street” in the rear of the buildings and ended in the square in front. Some of the factories also had rear doors that opened up directly onto the street in the rear, but these were sometimes sealed in times of tension between the foreigners and Cantonese citizens. The square in front of the factories was the primary outdoor space where foreigners were free to roam without special arrangements, and was often the focus of tensions and negotiations with regard to the foreigners’ control of their immediate environment. The river, crowded with the residential vessels of the boat people, formed the foreigners’ primary access to the outside world. It provided a contested ground for foreign recreation as well. A study of these urban spaces and their evolution reveals an ongoing spatial conflict and negotiation that formed part of the everyday life in the Shisan Hang. It also forms a backdrop for the popular protests and broader conflicts of foreigners with Chinese administrations.

The three streets that linked the square and front entrances of the factories to the city were dubbed by their foreign inhabitants New China Street, Old China Street, and Hog Lane. New China Street, between the Danish and Spanish factories in the west, and Old China Street, between Mingqua’s Hong and the American Factory, were both gated commercial thoroughfares. Old China Street was the broadest street. It terminated to the north in a widening of Thirteen Factories Street in front of the “Consoo” house, the council house of the monopolist hong merchants. Old China Street had gates at both ends to regulate traffic, as well as a guardhouse whose location shifted over time. The south end of the thoroughfare ended in the broadest river landing steps serving the factories. New China Street had one gate, towards its southern end. Both of these streets were lined with fairly respectable shops selling souvenirs and luxury goods to the foreigners. Initially, they apparently had special permission to sell to Westerners, but later when the long-term residents might go further into the suburbs to find good deals they still made a healthy profit from visitors and ship captains whose experience of the city went only as far as their gates. The third, most narrow street, Hog Lane, was filled with vendors of booze and cheap trinkets catering to Western sailors on “Liberty Day” from their ships at Whampoa. It seems never to have had gates and, given its lack of regulation and its clientele, there seems to have been a lot of truth behind John Heard’s assertion that “Nearly all the troubles at the factories originated there.”144 Also, after 1838, missionary Dr. Peter Parker ran a hospital in the Chowchow Hong that had an entrance on Hog Lane, which was undoubtedly convenient for locals needing care. Heard characterized Old China Street as containing “most of the decent shops of the silk men, and the sellers of matting, fire crackers, and all sorts of chowchow [i.e., miscellaneous luxuries and novelties]” and as “respectable as Hog Lane was the reverse.”145 It appears that Old and New China Streets had fairly substantial shop cubicles within them, while Hog Lane was inhabited by fairly temporary frame structures. Western shoppers in these streets will be discussed later with a broader discussion of the foreign experience of the rest of the city.

The square in front of the factories underwent several transformations from the late eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries. From what pictorial evidence exists, the space between the river and the factories was open and unadorned through much of the eighteenth century, except for flagpoles usually indicating the presence of a foreign consul. Chinese export porcelain punch bowls from around the 1790s start to delineate a gated fence along the riverbank and paving in front of the factories leading to the landing steps, as does at least one contemporary oil painting. More detailed oil paintings around 1810–22 show individual fenced-off yards in front of the New British Factory and Dutch Factory, while a large square enclosure in front of the entire middle block of factories is also depicted. No such barriers existed in front of the Creek Factory to the east, nor in front of any of the factories west of Old China Street. The great fire of 1822 resulted in the removal of all fences in the square (Pl. 3). Following the fire, the square was left undivided and occupied by a sizable pile of rubbish until 1828, when the pile was removed and the square once more enclosed.146

During the course of the 1830s, the enclosures in front of the New British and Dutch gardens were rebuilt. The resident British planted the space in front of their most high-profile residence with shrubs and trees, composing a long, narrow garden leading from their portico-bedecked “terrace” all the way to the river. A view dated to 1839–40 (Fig. 1.2) shows the British Garden, as well as the central enclosure of the square, and an additional fenced-in yard in front of the factories to the west of Old China Street.147 This drawing shows highly confined circulation, with not only the separate enclosures in front of the factories, but also gates at the river end of Hog Lane and Old China Street, as well as gates subdividing the walks in front of the different blocks of factories. The enclosure in front of the western factories apparently resulted from some post-fire land reclamation, of which no documentary record has yet been found. In front of the Danish Factory, there is also now a smaller masonry walled enclosure. At some point, another walled yard was built in front of this where foreigners’ livestock, such as cows, sheep, goats, and chickens, were kept. In the wake of the destruction of all but the central factories in the early 1840s, the western enclosures vanished as new factories were built on the site.

From around 1800 to around 1850, small customs houses occupied the river’s edge in front of the factories. Here, Chinese officers examined the goods coming in and out of the factories. These buildings seem to have been fairly temporary in construction, and they seem to shift about in the painted views of the factories. William Hunter’s plan of the factories indicates three such buildings, one in front of the Creek Factory, one in front of the square, and one beyond and west of the Danish Factory.148 In the mid-1830s, two customs houses stood on the square, one of which underwent a transformation described in the Chinese Repository: “First there was a small bamboo shed; next some posts; and by and by, brick walls appeared, and last year, a large mat shed came over the whole, and after a few weeks when it was removed it disclosed a neat brick house.”149 In most representations of the factories, the customs office in front of the central part of the square seems to have been a simple structure with walls of matting. The functions performed by these structures seem to have been taken elsewhere by the last few years of the Shisan Hang, as they do not appear in some of the paintings from the 1850s.

The last decade of the existence of the Thirteen Factories saw the square’s final and most elaborate design phase. The planting of the so-called American Garden in the central enclosure (Pl. 5) commenced the final phase of the square. Writing in what was probably the initial year of the garden’s existence, Nathaniel Kinsman of Wetmore & Co. stated:

the square or park—is a great improvement and great credit is due to those who designed the plan, and to Mr. Bull who devoted his time to oversee and complete the work of laying out the ground, ornamenting, & c. It is literally Yankee Square, for I believe the English, who did very little toward it, seldom avail of the place to promenade.150

Mr. Bull was the American merchant Isaac M. Bull of Providence, Rhode Island, and it is to him apparently that both the design and the contracting out of the garden were mostly due. The design that Mr. Bull and his partners in the enterprise produced seems a climate-adapted take on the “Gardenesque” of British landscape architect John Claudius Loudon. A year after Kinsman’s letter, Tiffany summarized the basic garden concept as “neatly laid out into walks and plats of grass, and great efforts have been made to induce trees to grow, but they have hitherto obstinately resisted the most assiduous nursing.”151 Paintings show the gardens with very defined, off-white walks surrounding rounded beds of grass with a scattering of willow trees and younger deciduous plantings, as well as flowerpots on stands. Tiffany specified that the garden walks were made of the aforementioned chunam, which he describes as “a kind of hard, bluish plaster, which is greatly used for covering houses, and is waterproof.”152

The material for the walks was not the only environmentally adapted feature of the garden. The most detailed view of the early phase of the garden (Pl. 5) shows the pragmatic plantings that resulted from efforts to find plants that would thrive. In addition to the trees, bamboo, cotton, and (apparently) banana palms appeared.153 The potted flowers remained, and were drawn from a common traditional practice in Cantonese gardens (still in use today), where the green permanent vegetation was supplemented by portable seasonal flowers in pots. This view also shows the stone benches that were installed in shady spots of the garden as well as female visitors, the latter appearing with any frequency for the first time after the Opium War. Around the time of the building of the New English Factories in the mid-1840s, a wall was built around the entire eastern end of the ground in front of the factories, excepting the riverfront. After the construction of the church and the closure of Hog Lane around 1848, the walls between the American Garden and the New English Factories were demolished, and the garden was extended across the entire remaining frontage of the factories (Pl. 8, 9). At this point, the size of the garden was estimated at two and a half acres.154 The general views from the river give the predominant impression of a tree-bedecked riverfront, but one closer view (Pl. 8) reveals that the chunam walks continued to provide structure for the gardens.

The square was an active place, a focus both for leisure and for contesting boundaries. Besides the comings and goings of foreigners and goods, the square hosted Chinese visitors and street vendors, and witnessed the daily rounds of speed-walking foreign clerks. Before the advent of the American Garden, the square was sometimes known as Respondentia Walk, apparently a common title for promenades in British colonial cities. The foreigners relied on the square as a place for exercise, or “their only breathing place” after a long day at the counting desk. 155 Before breakfast or at sunset, Osmond Tiffany noted, “A never failing amusement, or rather pilgrimage, for the sake of exercise, is performed daily, and consists in walking violently around the square in front of the factories.”156 Besides walking, at least one merchant found another form of exercise in the space in front of the factories. The enclosures of circa 1830 in front of the Danish Factory, besides acting as the pen for Dr. Richard Cox’s sources of goat milk and cheese, also housed Augustine Heard’s pony, which he rode around in circles.157 Besides exercise, the merchants also used the square as a place to simply relax out of doors. Tilden recalls the visibility of the Parsee merchants:

On fair weather days, they assemble after dinner in the factory square and near the river landing, where a few lounge, & smoke, reclining upon bamboo settees brought from boats; or stand, always in circles, of from five and more, with folded arms, and converse freely, but never more than one speaking at a time.158

Some Westerners, like Tilden, do not appear to have ever tried to insert themselves in these Parsee conversation circles, but Tiffany apparently introduced himself, as he notes, “Many of them speak English well, and all are very courteous in their manners.”159 The cultivation of gardens was an attempt to make this area more pleasant for walking and lingering, but at least one factory inhabitant still complained of “circling around, in and out, through the shrubberies, in a walk almost as monotonous as that of pacing up and down the deck of a ship.”160

The Western sense of entitlement to, or even ownership of, the square was continually challenged by the presence of certain classes. In the period following the 1822 fire, the lack of partitions in the square drew vendors and beggars. This was to some extent predictable, as in traditional Chinese cities open squares tended to serve as markets. William Hunter recounted that during the 1820s, the square, hitherto reserved for the foreigners, drew food vendors, minstrels, jugglers, cobblers, tailors, and hat salesmen, among others.161 The local employees of the factories also probably used the square in off hours, perhaps standing in a circle playing a game in which they kicked, as the Westerners termed it, a “shuttlecock” between them—a precursor to twentieth-century “hacky-sack.”162 This crowd is apparent in some of the factory views of the era (Pl. 4). Hunter further explained, however, that when the foreigners became too annoyed at the motley crowd after several days of stifled exercise, a message could be sent to the office of the chief linguist officer, who would alert the police.163 The Chinese policemen, armed with whips, would appear from the guardhouse at Old China Street and handily disperse the crowd.164 After a few weeks of this enforcement, which never seems to have happened without an explicit request, the vendors, entertainers, and beggars would begin to trickle back into the square and the cycle would start again.165

The six or so years after the fire also saw some reluctance on the part of the authorities to restrict the square or otherwise make it more pleasant for the foreigners. Besides the crowds, a primary issue of the mid-1820s was a large pile of refuse from the fire:

The bricks and rubbish of the fire, formed for a long time an offensive mound of earth and filth, the gradual accumulations of the scavengers for several years, and latterly was considered so serious an annoyance, as to induce the residents to petition the city authorities for its removal. In process of time it had increased to such a degree as to encroach upon the square, and was receiving daily formidable additions from the labours of the collectors of street dirt.166

W. W. Wood’s mention of the petitions for the removal of the unsavory pile was further elaborated upon by William C. Hunter. He explained that after complaining to the hong merchants, who made little headway, a large group of foreigners progressed to the “petition gate” of the walled city to complain to civic officials, an action “discouraged by the authorities.”167 This seemed to obtain the desired response, and the sanitary hazard was cleaned up in 1828.

The removal of the refuse was followed by another dispute between foreigners and officials regarding the square. The East India Company, near the end of its occupancy of the New British Factory, built its private garden, and in 1831 sought to expand it towards the river. Locals took this expansion as an encroachment on access to the river, and the “Hoppo,” or top ranking Guangdong imperial customs official, was then summoned, and a debate ensued. According to varying accounts, the British then reduced the garden to its former size, or alternatively the Chinese officials had the walls demolished when the company was in Macao and the garden was subsequently rebuilt.168 Whichever occurred, it is clear that possession of and access to the square was an actively contested issue between foreigners and locals.

Everyday tensions were sometimes created by Western resentment of a sort of Chinese gaze. As mentioned previously, Westerners occupying factory verandahs were objects of interest to visiting Chinese. This was even truer of the foreigners exercising in the square. French Catholic envoy Abbé Huc noted from his experiences in South China in 1846:

The Chinese of the interior, whom business takes to Canton or Macao, always go the first thing to look at the Europeans on the promenade. It is one of the most interesting sights for them. They squat in rows along the sides of the quays, smoking their pipes and fanning themselves, contemplating all the while with a satirical and contemptuous eye the English and Americans who promenade up and down from one end to the other, keeping time with admirable precision.169

When they see Europeans spend hours in walking for the mere sake of exercise, they ask if it is not more comfortable to civilized ideas to sit down quietly to smoke and drink tea when you have nothing else to do, or still better, to go to bed at once.170

The spectator/unwilling performer relationship even went a step further in the case of Augustine Heard exercising his pony around the square. Gideon Nye records that Heard’s “riding a pony up and down” was “to the intense amusement of Chinese spectators in a native restaurant overlooking it [the enclosure in front of the Danish Factory]—where seats were sold—so rare it was to see the antics of a barbarian’s pony.”171

While many of the foreigners, particularly the Americans, took their status as spectacles in their stride, the tensions that the basically non-aggressive practice of these Chinese observers brought forth in the unnerved foreigners could sometimes explode. The notably sympathetic Paul S. Forbes recounts one such incident in his diary for May 15, 1843:

Last evening, however, there was something of a row in front of the factories, in consequence of the overbearing impudence of the foreigners as much as any blame of the Chinese. The garden of the factories is surrounded by a high garden railing 8 feet high & when walking inside you can see outside. The humble Chinese looking through the rails with respect—but it is the fashion to brand them as villains, & rascals & that is enough—as one or two were looking in at the gate, some would be nerves [sic] felt their dignity compromised by the simple curiosity of the Chinamen and slammed it in their faces, the Chinese pushed it open, very properly—as they had done nothing to provoke this insult & immediately were threatened with sticks—their reply was a shower of brick bats & of course the foreigners were glad to get into their factories—but this is laid all to the Chinese! Where is the country where a parcel of insolent foreigners would have got off as easily?172

The scuffle Forbes recounts admittedly occurred in the aftermath of the disruptions of the Opium War, but it certainly reinforces the image of the square as contested ground. Furthermore, his discussion recognizes that one of the reasons behind the creation of the garden was to have a segregated space for foreign recreation. The fenced garden, far from being a simple aesthetic endeavor in botany, served the purpose of removing in a more permanent way what to some Westerners were undesirables from the space before the factories. The Chinese authorities initially confined the foreign traders to the Shisan Hang, but the foreigners continually attempted to have greater control within its bounds.

The confinement of the foreigners to the Thirteen Factories followed a centuries-old tradition of Chinese planning restricting foreign traders to particular parts of a city. Increasingly, though, this restriction seems an attempt by the Chinese authorities to maintain civic harmony by buffering the interaction of their own populace with the foreigners. The gates of New and Old China Streets, the guardhouses, and the clearing of the square of nuisances on request were attempts to maintain the benefits of the foreign merchants in residence while minimizing disruptions in the traditional functioning of the city. The Westerners, while continuing to rely heavily on trusted Chinese servants and colleagues, increasingly appreciated this separation, as they created an environment that gradually conformed more closely to contemporary Euro-American ideas of domesticity. The everyday functioning of the carefully managed existence of the foreigners, however, would prove to be disrupted by the pull of the factories on Chinese citizens both curious and angry, as well as by the pull of the hidden Chinese polis and its wealth-creating potential on the foreigners.

Violated Boundaries and the Factory as Fortress

Tensions between foreigners (particularly British), the Chinese government, and local Cantonese periodically erupted into acts of violence over the first sixty years of the nineteenth century. During these disruptions, carefully regulated boundaries of everyday life were crossed and buildings became targets for attack. The factories suffered periodic assaults by Cantonese protesters from at least the 1810s up until the Arrow War (1856). An examination of such events reveals that, while the causes of violent outbreaks may be cloudy, the meanings of actions are clearly communicated. The collective action in the vicinity of the factories was directed and intelligible as a form of non-verbal communication, pointedly sending a message of resistance to specific foreigners. Additionally, foreigners began to transform the factory environs as the perceived need for more security became a part of their shared psyches.

Turf Disputes

The earliest riots appear to have been triggered by British encroachments on the square in front of the factories, to which some Cantonese apparently felt they had a claim. Bryant Tilden wrote of an instance of violence against buildings, apparently during the trading season of 1817. In a somewhat sketchy sequence, the initial action was rioting by commoners, perhaps including boat people, described by the supercargo Tilden as follows:

But on returning at nine o’clock with a few friends from Mr. Ammidon’s where we had dined, we were assaulted with a shower of mud & stones & finally were driven inside Magee’s Hotel. . . . the blinds and window glass having been all smashed with stones. Finding ourselves strong as to numbers—our veteran friend, and Mandarin Captain of the “Flying Stars” surrounded by his trusty Malays—whom the coolies fear as much as their Quie—or evil spirit—sallied out at the head of about forty of us barbarians—armed only with canes, and we soon cleared our way through the rascally rabble as far as the chop, or guard house at the lower end of China Street. On stating our grievances, the soldier Mandarin on duty detached two police men, only two—armed with common whips and rattling chain each—who cracked about the fellows on their bare backs awhile & completely dispersed the whole gang. This formidable guard then triumphantly escorted us back to our delapidated quarters and were rewarded with a bottle of Samshu or gin & then left us with many chin-chins.173

Tilden and his fellow supercargoes staying at Magee’s Hotel were surprised by a riot of whose origins they were unsure. He believed the main constituents of the crowd to be common laborers and boat people, but his perception may not have done justice to the heterogeneity of the crowd. The attacks were perpetrated, with non-fatal intent, by the throwing of mud and stones. The crowd attacked the building’s windows and blinds, the easiest parts of the structure to destroy. The collective action was tentative. When Magee led his somehow intimidating Malay employees out at the head of a large group of captains with their walking sticks, token resistance was given but no serious incidents occurred. Two policemen, holding significant legal power over the fates of those whom they might arrest, successfully dispersed the crowds and were given liquor presumably, both as thanks and as a down payment for additional aid in the future.

The incident was not over though. In the evening, presumably under some cover of darkness, “the mob,” as Tilden calls them, returned. They “amused themselves by breaking more blinds and windows of nearly all, but particularly those at the new and elegantly finished British factories, the white walls of which they pelted with river mud and filth.”174 Here, there can be no doubt that the buildings are acting as surrogate, or symbolic, bodies—representing the foreign (particularly British) presence. The penalties and moral consequences for these sorts of attacks were notably less than for bodily assault, but yet the message of the nonverbal communication was pointed. Tilden notes, “It did not escape the notice of all foreigners that the mob first gathered in front of Magee’s factory hotel the resort of English country ship officers, and finally ended more furiously by an attack upon the Hon’ble Company factories—and garden ground newly finished along the river shore.”175 The violence, then, was specific in its goal. Though all the factories may have suffered some sort of minor damage during the events, it is clear that those traditionally housing the British bore the brunt of the assaults. Tilden recounted that he later found out the incident had apparently resulted from the attempt of the British to construct a garden wall surrounding their river frontage.176

In 1831, Chinese authorities and commoners united to oppose British “improvements” in the front of the New English Factory. The account of the incidents by the British East India Company, which was then at Macao, reveals a complex picture of what occurred. According to the Hon. Company’s inquiries, their gardens were actually destroyed on order of the fuyuan (district official):

On our arrival in Canton this morning we found that the orders of the Fooyuen had been already put into execution and that the ground in front of the Company’s Factory was a scene of devastation. On the morning of the 13th [of May] Inst. workmen had commenced to pull down the Walls, uproot the Trees, and on the evening of the 15th the Stone Quay for the landing of our Cargoes was begun to be destroyed . . . Howqua informed us that on the morning of the 12th the Fooyuen proceeded to the Hon’ble Company’s Factory accompanied by the Hoppo; and quite unexpected by the Hong Merchants, while walking in the Gardens he ordered his attendants to uncover the late King’s picture, and seating himself before it, sent for the Linguists.177

Both the linguists and the hong merchants had been threatened with severe punishment for allowing the construction of the gardens to proceed. High district officials therefore sanctioned the objection to and violence against the symbols of the British, both in terms of architecture and, to a lesser extent, in the unveiling of George IV’s portrait. Here, it is clear that the garden riots of 1831 featured both construction as their point of origin (a perceived encroachment on what was previously held by some locals to be common space) and intentional damage to buildings and barriers as their result, echoing the riot recorded by Tilden in 1817.

Westerners also began to use symbolic violence to communicate in the several years leading up to the Opium War. James Inness, a notoriously hotheaded Scots independent merchant, caused the British establishment (i.e., the Honorable Company) some embarrassment in April 1833.178 Mr. Inness, occupant of No. 1 Creek Hong, was variously known as “old iron-toothed rat” to the Chinese and “the Laird” to the foreign community.179 His tenacious and tactlessly haughty behavior proves that his monikers were well deserved. Much annoyed by workmen chopping firewood by the customs house near his quarters, he marched up to complain to the customs officer.180 According to varying versions, on the first or second time he was either assaulted by a cooley or inserted himself into a physical altercation. He went to complain of the assault and the chopping to Howqua (chief hong merchant, Wu Bingjian), who did not act quickly enough for his tastes. Taking matters into his own hands, he threatened to set fire to the customs house. He barricaded himself in his factory residence, and, “from the foreign upper story, shot fire arrows, and burnt the lanterns at the Custom house, he also threw combustible tubes into the custom house, which the people all saw and at that moment extinguished them.”181 Only through the intervention of the higher-ups of the Honorable Company and the arrival of Howqua himself was Inness’s siege of the customs house put to an end. Inness went unchastised, the cooley that had assaulted him was clapped in a cangue, a heavy wooden collar for often-fatal public humiliation, and the Honorable Company lost more of its dignity on the eve of the abolition of its monopoly in China. For the purposes of this essay, though, the significance of the event is that at least one Westerner set about asserting his point of view with a non-verbal attack on a building. This pattern of the symbolic attacks on structures escalated a few years later, during the Opium War.

Tensions Boil, Crowds Erupt

In the winter of 1838–39, Chinese authorities sent a dramatic message to Westerners and Chinese involved in opium smuggling by executing Chinese involved in the drug trade in the factory square.182 Foreigners repeatedly attempted to intervene in these displays. Initially, they had some success in peacefully resolving the crisis, but in the end set off another riot. Crowds had gathered around the evolving dispute. At some point, perhaps at the assault by the British mariners, they became involved in the affray. The British Canton Agency Consultations assert:

Throughout their proceedings, up to this point, the foreigners had carried with them the sympathies of the people, but then the intemperate conduct of a few individuals, soon after engaged them in a collision with the mob, which after a few broken heads, resulted in their retreating to their factories; a few native police made their appearance and attempted to keep the peace, but they were driven off the field, and the factories were reassailed for several hours, at first only with stones and brickbats, but as the mob grew more excited, they tore up the rails in front of the houses, applied the cross-beams as battering rams to the factory gates, and about 4 o’clock succeeded in breaking into the “Lung Shun” [i.e., Old English] Hong. Had they not at this moment checked themselves, and refrained from rushing in, blood would certainly have been spilt, but before any further violence could be committed, a party of soldiery came on the ground, which they cleared in a short space of time, and tranquility was restored.183

Hunter’s point of view during the events of that long afternoon came from inside the central block of factories. Hunter and other occupants of the Swedish Hong had strewn broken bottles around the entrance, to impede a partially barefoot crowd, and pushed large casks of coal up against their doors. 184 The desire of Chinese officials to maintain civic order apparently triumphed at the end with the dispersal of the crowd with troops.

The events of the winter of 1838–39 had highly symbolic implications for both the Western and Chinese populace. The imperial authorities wanted to send a clear message that could be understood regardless of the language or dialect spoken by onlookers. The foreign merchants took affront at these actions as insults to and invasions of the square, their primary outdoor space of respite.

The riot of the commoners on December 12, 1838, however, is more ambiguous than the symbolic dialogue between officials and foreigners. According to both the Agency Consultations and Nye’s recollections, the crowd did not at first oppose the foreigners’ actions, and was even construed as slightly supportive. As in any riotous crowd, it was composed of individuals who might have had distinctly separate motives for participation.185 What seems to have triggered the collective action, however, was the assault by English sailors and perhaps other foreigners on the execution party. This action could have been interpreted any number of ways—an assault on order, an assault on a fellow Chinese, or an act outside of reasonable social norms. The retreat of the Westerners into the factories was the logical move for self-protection of a minority group. They retreated into the space over which they could claim the most official and personal ownership and which contained their belongings and their business affairs. The factories become fortresses, equipped with barricading and other defensive possibilities. They also become effective symbols and strategic targets for the crowd to attack.

By breaking windows and battering doors, the crowd attacked a surrogate body.186 Notably absent from any accounts of the riot are actual physical injuries to Westerners. Throwing bricks and stones at a building did not risk the moral or legal implications of actual injury or death to a foreigner. These might have resulted in capital punishment, meted out by the authorities that the crowd had actually protected. This suspicion, if not initially in place, would have been confirmed by the appearance of the soldiers who cleared the factory square. The importance of symbolic behavior, and the rationality of the crowd, is further reinforced by the Agency Consultation’s note of the fact that the crowd had decided not to enter the Old English Factory after having broken down the door. The threat of being able to penetrate the factory was sufficient, while the abstention from such an act also communicated that, though the foreigners should beware their behavior, they were not considered mortal enemies. Unfortunately for the Chinese, this perception of their foreign guests as less-than-mortal enemies did not prove accurate, as military machines and global political maneuvering took control of a situation that had formerly been negotiated without massive loss of life.

The Opium War (1839–42), including a massive siege of Guangzhou by the British, followed soon on the heels of this incident. The dominance of Britain’s “high-tech” military resulted in a string of Chinese military defeats and a considerable, if intentionally restrained, destructive impact on civilian parts of the city. In the absence of British troops, who were occupied with maneuvers downstream, the Cantonese were permitted, or perhaps encouraged, by the officials to loot the predominantly British factories on the eastern end of the site:

There was a reckless destruction of property which could not be removed, even after every article of furniture, as well as merchandise, had been carried away. Doors and windows were soon disposed of, and the very staircases and stone floorings were broken up and destroyed. In the old Company’s, or British Factory, the confusion was most terrible, because in it there remained a greater number of valuable objects to destroy. The beautiful chandeliers and fine looking-glasses were soon annihilated and carried off piecemeal, and the noble large marble statue which stood in the great hall served as an object of especial vengeance, as if it contained within itself the very germs or symbols of all the barbarian nations of the earth, and could communicate to them a portion of the insults now heaped upon it as it lay prostrate in the hall.187

Though several factories were damaged, the New English, Dutch, and Creek Factories bore the brunt of the attack, to the extent that they were almost in ruins.188 Frustrated Chinese, seeing their defenses crumble, offered what resistance they could by the symbolic demolition of some of the British factories. Once again, the symbolic destruction of windows and doors, the barriers to entry, communicated that the inhabitants of the city had the power to enter the merchant residences at will. This time, though, the abandoned factories were entered. Though no bodily harm was threatened to the foreigners themselves, fragile objects like the chandeliers and mirrors let forth viscerally satisfying crashes upon their destruction. Apparently, though, the most literal copy and surrogate of a Westerner, a statue, incited particular wrath.

During the sacking of the eastern end factories, a curious symbolic reversal also took place. Some American citizens, viewing themselves as neutral parties in the conflict, attempted to conduct business as usual. American merchants Coolidge and Morss, and two clerks, were thus still in the factories. Morss made a clean getaway, but Coolidge and the clerks were captured. These men’s national status may have been somewhat clouded to the Chinese, as Coolidge was the agent for Heard & Co. and lived in the Dutch Hong surrounded by English companies. The status of Coolidge as an American, and hence citizen of a neutral power, was an important distinction that the Chinese recognized, as indicated by the fact that “when an Englishman gets into trouble there [Canton], he most commonly declares himself to be an American.”189 Coolidge was rescued from a mob that did not care for such distinctions by a “red button” (referring to hat ornament) Chinese official.190 Coolidge and his fellow prisoners were probably protected from torture, interrogation, or even execution by their citizenship, but they were, on the other hand, detained for two days in prison. When they were finally released, they were carried, probably still bound, “in chairs to the ruined Factories, where they were planted among the ruins just as if they had been portions of the marble statue which had been destroyed.”191 Hence, the persons of foreigners were placed unharmed among the remains of structures and objects that had been destroyed in lieu of personal assault. The message of Chinese respect for the person over the object was succinctly displayed. This did not prevent the ultimate British victory in Guangzhou by complete military dominance of the city.

In the immediate aftermath of the Opium War, some segments of the population were yet smoldering in resentment over their defeat by the British. On December 7, 1842, a scuffle between lascars (South Asian sailors) on shore leave and local fruit merchants triggered a conflict that would ultimately result in the complete destruction of the New British, Dutch, and Creek Factories.192 About three British firms had returned to repair and inhabit the eastern block of factories, as well as the American firm of Heard & Co., then handling Jardine & Matheson’s business and inhabiting the Dutch Hong.

The sailors fled to a refuge in the otherwise uninhabited Creek Factory.193 The investigative report of British military commander Hugh Gough asserts that “the mob soon got the upper hand, drove off the Chinese soldiers who had arrived on the applications of the merchants to the local authorities, entered the factories, plundered the treasuries, and carrying out furniture, placed it around the British flagstaff, which was opposite to the old Company’s factory, and set fire to it.”194 This incident seems to have occurred in the early evening. The attack on the flagstaff was a destruction of what the Chinese had learned was held as a key symbol by the British: “a shout from the mob when it fell told their triumph.”195 What happened between the initial incident and the renewed rioting remains cloudy, except that according to the Canton Repository during this time period the brick wall on the western side of the British garden was pulled down, a symbolic restatement of events in 1817 and 1831.196

The account of John Heard omits the flagstaff incident, because he and “Uncle Augustine” had already fled from the Chowchow Factory, where they had been busy weighing teas, to the interior of their offices and residences in the Dutch Factory.197 Though American, the staff of Heard & Co. was now in the uncomfortable position of being between the now despised British Factory and the lascar-occupied Creek factory. The whole eastern block of factories came under sustained attack.

Heard’s perspective from inside the Dutch Factory portrays the mechanics of the miniature siege from the foreign defenders’ point of view. The first order of business for the inhabitants of the factory, including Chinese employees, was to barricade the doors and find what arms they could, which apparently included three old flintlock rifles and a brace of pistols.198 These were previously banned in the foreign factories, but in the wake of the Opium War, they must have been viewed as convenient for the Americans’ personal security. The first order of business for Heard & Co. was an only partially successful attempt to save as much of the company’s books and the cash in the treasury, which including both theirs and Jardine & Matheson’s amounted to half a million dollars.199 The situation grew more desperate as the fire had been carried from around the flagpole to the British and Creek Factories. John Heard, then just a boy of eighteen, was placed with a few others at the Dutch Factory entrance with a musket. The foreigners would occasionally let loose with a volley apparently aimed for effect rather than deadliness, and the crowd would fall back, only to surge forth again to continue its efforts at dismantling the barricades.200

The crowd gradually succeeded in tearing down the barricade, but were prevented from further advance by some quick-thinking Chinese employees, as rendered in pidgin by John Heard: “The Hong coolies who were with us also made an excellent suggestion. They said ‘He no got shoe, no got stockings, suppose make broke bottley he no can walkee.’ This was very effectual in stopping their rushes.”201 After some time fighting the crowd on the one hand and the fires in adjacent factories on the other, Heard & Co. ultimately decided to abandon the factory, counting on the fact that the fire would protect the cash in the treasury vault from theft. Surrounded by “faithful coolies,” who incidentally were mostly enlisted from the Chowchow Factory, as many of Heard & Co.’s Chinese employees had already fled, the foreigners of the Dutch Factory made a dash for it out the less fully mobbed rear entrance of the factory and through adjacent back streets.202 The lascars in the Creek Factory, Heard records, did not manage to escape and were captured by the Cantonese rioters, though their fate after this is not mentioned.203

Another perspective on events during the riot was offered by the Governor General of the Two Guangs (i.e., Guangdong and Guangxi Provinces), Ke-kung, who himself arrived with fire engines and hoses sometime around nine in the evening in an attempt to extinguish the fires.204 His summary of events gives a very different perspective:

[Of the fire] But being in the depth of night, and in a confined situation, it was impossible at once to extinguish it. And the people collected to put out the fire being very many, lawless ones mingled themselves among them, and took occasion to rob and plunder. The government troops were therefore ordered to fire on them, and to apprehend offenders. High civil and military officers were also deputed (the death-mandate having been reverently applied for) to repair to the spot, and suppress the riot. Upwards of ten plunderers were in consequence successively seized, when the rest of the lawless people fled and dispersed.205

The regional Chinese government had mobilized to help the factories, but initially their concern and understanding of the situation revolved more around the fire rather than the citizens who had undertaken the assault on the factories. This may in fact be because helpful people rather than rioters were first encountered from the streets to the walled city. Here, the officials and troops would have witnessed fewer of the rioters, by that point dominating the factory square, but rather the shopkeepers of Hog Lane and the owners and workers of nearby shops and warehouses who would be very concerned indeed about the buildings ablaze nearby.

According to the Canton Repository account, “such fire-engines as arrived were ordered off by the mob.” Soon after the inhabitants of the Dutch Factory fled, around eleven in the evening, the whole block of factories was consumed by fire.206 Both the newspaper and British Foreign Office accounts agree that the rest of the foreign factories were saved from fire by the fact that the wind was from the west.207 They also agree that the rioters were satisfied with the destruction of the eastern block of factories and made no attempt to damage or plunder the other foreign factories.208 In the foreigners’ assessment, there were several indications of a premeditated attack. According to Heard, “The Company’s factory, as it was always called, was an object of hatred to the Cantonese, and had always been associated in their minds with all their quarrels with the English. For several days threats had been freely uttered by the populace that it should never be occupied again.”209 The presence of visible ringleaders and the fact that many of the rioters were armed with “short swords” (weapons implying forethought) suggested this as well.210

The preceding summaries reveal just how complex an event the riot of December 7, 1842, was. On the defensive, British firms and a closely allied American firm attempted to fight off the crowds with the help of loyal Cantonese employees. The fact that the cooleys hired by the Parsees of the Chowchow Hong stayed to help Heard & Co. longer than their own employees certainly hints that the foreigner/employee relationship was even more complex than may be recovered from the historical record. There were also the sailors from the Indian subcontinent, who, unaware of the tense atmosphere around them, unexpectedly triggered the event over a minor issue. Outside the factory walls, the assailing crowd was a heterogeneous bunch. Some of them were simply friends and supporters of the fruit merchant who had been injured in the initial dispute. Far more of the crowd appears to have been made up of everyday Cantonese resentful of the British attack on their city. Some of these locals were highly organized, perhaps martial arts–trained members of secret societies or peasant militias. Yet other rioters seem to have been simply opportunistic, tempted by the prospect of lifting some quick cash. There were the Chinese who attempted to come to the rescue. These included neighboring shopkeepers and merchants, who neither wanted a disruption in trade with the foreigners nor desired to see their premises go up in the spreading flames. Then there were the police, responsible for ensuring civil tranquility. Finally, there were the high government officials and their Manchu troops, who, having so recently seen humiliation as a result of British military action, had no desire to trigger foreign retaliation on the city for such an event.

Despite these diversities, several assertions can be made about the meaning of this episode of urban violence. First and foremost, the New English (or as Heard says, “the Company’s”) Factory had acquired by this time such a profound, repressive association in the eyes of the Cantonese that its destruction could serve both as an emotional release from the humiliation the city had endured during the previous war and as a clear message for the British to “go home.” To the assault on the building was added the burning of the British flagpole in the square, which served to reinforce such meanings. On the other hand, it is notable that this event, though a new escalation in violence, featured few fatalities. During the riots themselves, it seems that no Westerners at all were killed, but five Chinese (it is unclear whether these were on the offensive or the defensive) lost their lives.211 The arrests of looters by the imperial authorities could well have resulted in more severe physical punishment or even deaths than the riots themselves. The fact that, even in the presence of swords and guns, violence was mainly halted when it threatened destruction of life rather than property still reveals urban conflicts were at this point articulated by loss of property rather than of life.

Defensible Space and Its Final Vanity

In the aftermath of this incident, the American Garden was constructed, limiting traffic in the square, while the British spent several years on the project of constructing the New British Factories, channeling traffic into defensible corridors in the 1830s and early 1840s. In the summer of 1846, a belligerent English merchant’s despicable assaults on local vendors in and around Old China Street led to yet another riot.212 This took the form of an attack on the factory where the merchant was hiding, basically in conduct resembling the previous riots. Armed Westerners and neighboring Chinese merchants quelled this outbreak with the walled-in corridors that now regulated admittance to the factories.

H. M. British Consul Macgregor and Dr. Parker assembled a group of volunteer foreigners, bearing firearms, in the walled American garden. These were mainly British and American merchants, but a German and several Parsees turned out as well.213 Initially, the foreign assembly was protected by the gate to the lane in front of the middle block of factories and the solid wall surrounding the garden. With orders not to fire on the crowd without direct orders from the consuls, the foreign militia burst from the gate and proceeded directly towards the crowd outside of Mingqua’s Hong.214 The crowd briefly rallied to turn on the foreigners with a volley of stones, but then broke and retreated along the architecturally controlled access routes to the factories.215 The rioters split into three groups. The smallest and perhaps cleverest group fled south on Old China Street towards the river, where they escaped without being pursued by foreigners.216 One set fled down the gated lane in front of the western block of factories. This group then proceeded to turn down New China Street, where they were trapped between the foreigners occupying the southern gate of the street and a barricade set up by the shopkeepers at the northern gate.217 One larger group made a stand at the southern entrance to Old China Street, only to be dispersed by some foreigners discharging firearms without orders from the consuls.218 Also of their own accord, the foreigners near the Danish Factory at the end of New China Street opened fire.219

The foreigners claimed to have fired in self-defense when the rioters turned to rally on them. The end result was three men dead and six wounded.220 Malice was probably not the intent of the foreigners, since they fired into the crowd in what were, by this time, fairly dark streets. Far from being simply vagabonds and rabble, the Chinese casualties were regularly employed citizens, though of more or less the laborer and lower-skilled tradesman class; they seem to have hailed from the surrounding districts as much as from the city itself.221 The foreigners, once they had established control over most of the streets around the factories, were not without mercy, and carried two of the wounded Chinese left at the entrance to Old China Street to Dr. Parker’s hospital in Hog Lane.222 The Chinese authorities responded to the riot, albeit after the fact, by stationing troops around the factories.

This last major civil disturbance before the Arrow War reveals the foreigners and even local shopkeepers had by this point developed mechanisms for responding to these riots. The foreigners had constructed barriers that defended their environment beyond the envelope of the walls of the factory buildings. Gates and, now, more confined street corridors controlled traffic, could be shut and even barricaded. Protection of property united foreign and Chinese merchants of the Western suburbs in their defensive stance. The Chinese authorities, while continuing in foreign eyes to be slow to respond to these emergencies (perhaps because troops had first to be mustered and then conveyed from the walled city), had an interest in maintaining civic harmony and keeping the foreigners content that they were honoring their treaties. It seems that the laborers and tradesmen, whose honest sense of justice and perhaps underlying fear of the foreigners had managed to escalate a minor event triggered by a bellicose Englishman into a major incident, could now be effectively quelled by the tentatively united propertied classes in a subtly fortified environment.

After the construction of the new factories on the eastern end of the site, the effectively restricted access prevented any further major incidents of urban violence. British and French imperial aspirations, however, led to the Arrow War (1856–58). The factories were evacuated during this conflict, with a small British force looking after them while military operations were conducted elsewhere. Around eleven on the evening of December 14, 1856, the demise of the Thirteen Factories was set in motion. Some Chinese set fire to houses on Thirteen Factories Street immediately to the rear of the foreign residences.223 They were fired upon by the British guards, but not captured. The British believed that the fire was “preconcerted by the Chinese authorities.”224 The primary evidence for this was that firemen and engines were apparently on hand to stop the fire from spreading through the suburbs.225 Though the British had started to clear buildings from around the factories, they had only fully accomplished the removal of the booths from Hog Lane. The fire therefore proved unstoppable:

Working parties were quickly on the spot, with engines and all available means for extinguishing fire; but owing to the inflammable materials of the houses and the scarcity of water—the tide being low—the flames soon reached Old China Street and the back premises of Messrs. Dent and Co. [at this time behind the American factory], whilst the sparks set fire to the matting over several of the houses in the contiguous hongs. The strong current of the wind up the vaulted passages, or hongs, over which the houses were constructed, caused the fire to spread with amazing rapidity and fierceness. Each hong became a furnace, and it was utterly impossible, from the extreme heat and the masses of burning material which were continually falling, to remain in the neighborhood of the fire. It was soon felt that all endeavours to save what were called the ‘Foreign Factories’ would be in vain, and that our only hope was in Hog Lane cutting off the fire from the British Factory. The corner house in the contiguous block being in a dangerous proximity, it was most successfully and completely blown down about noon on the 15th, which greatly raised our hopes of the ultimate safety of the remaining portion of the factories.

By this time the flames had entirely consumed Old and New China Streets and the whole of Mingqua’s hong down to the river side, at the other end of the factories, and it was only by the most strenuous exertions that we were able to save the club-house, occupied as barracks and stores.

About 3 o’clock P. M., flames burst out most suddenly and furiously from the ruins of the house which had been blown down, and though both officers and men vied with each other, for two hours, in their exertions to extinguish them, smoke was then seen to issue from the roof of the Oriental Bank, a large building surrounded by a wooden verandah, and situated in the middle of the British factory. All hopes of saving any portions of the factory were then abandoned, and after eighteen hours of remitting labour the people were withdrawn. The sick were embarked from the temporary hospital, as well as a portion of the force, guns, ammunition, & c.; and arrangements were made for holding the gardens during the night. The following morning a heap of ruins was all that remained of the factories, one house excepted.226

So ended the first era of foreign life in Guangzhou. The remaining merchants and consular staff removed to Macao for the rest of the trading season. The remaining house collapsed after a few days, leaving only the church and the boat/club house standing. A pencil sketch in the Peabody Essex Museum survives to illustrate the aftermath of the fire (Fig. 1.4). The little transplanted English parish church steeple, waving the Union Jack, pops up above the still intact pastoral gardens, while the walls and chimneys of the factory ruins punctuate the background. The ground behind the church had been transformed into a redoubt—the British military were not at this point willing to give up the traditional foreign foothold in the city’s commercial districts. This was not, as perhaps some Chinese officials had hoped, the end of the Arrow War in Guangzhou. It was, however, an action that transformed what had been traditionally symbolic assaults on the factories into a tactic of their complete annihilation, echoing foreign destruction of the forts along the river.

Figure 1-2

Fig. 1.4

View of English church and ruins of factories, c. 1857–58, anonymous British or American. Behind the still-extant garden and Anglican church (sporting the Union Jack) peek the charred remains of the Thirteen Factories, never to be rebuilt after this final destruction during the Arrow War. Used with the permission of the Peabody Essex Museum (M9758.36b).

Subsequent to the Arrow War, the allied British and French victory led to an extended foreign military occupation of the city. This was the end of the periodic cycles of violence around the foreign residences. As the military power brought to bear on cross-cultural conflict grew, the urban violence in Guangzhou became more dramatic, in the end rendering void the symbolic exchange that had been maintained and regulated in earlier incidents. The fear and disruption caused by the display of British military power during the Opium War created an environment where absolute destruction, not just defenestration, of the factories became a perceived option. Fire was introduced in the 1842 destruction of the British Factories and in the subsequent riots triggered by British assaults on fruit vendors. In the end, British violation of the city, which included destruction of the gates, triggered the response of setting fire to the factories, directly removing the physical presence of foreign merchants from the city. Beyond these architecturally destructive events, it must be acknowledged that the wars triggered dire humanitarian crises among the Cantonese. It is a testament to the regional pride and cosmopolitan broad-mindedness of the Cantonese as much as to the coercion of the foreigners that the Arrow War was not the end of peaceful foreign habitation in the city. In the end, however, the violence of the mid-century fundamentally changed the way that foreigners dwelt in the city. In many ways, the destruction of the factories marked the end of the most cross-culturally collaborative space constructed in China until the dawn of the twentieth century. The result of a traumatic history of mutual antagonism was a spatial and social separation that would last into the twentieth century. The history of the Thirteen Factories, however, is an initial demonstration of an important lesson: cross-cultural relations are spatial relations, and they can be read both in the buildings and exterior spaces the foreigner occupies.

1. William C. Hunter, The ‘Fan Kwae’ at Canton Before Treaty Days 1825–1844 (Shanghai: Kelly and Walsh, 1911—second edition is the version used here), p. 124. A native of Kentucky, Hunter was sent in his teens to Guangzhou in 1825 and resided there seasonally for nearly twenty years. His highly readable reminiscences are considered a standard source for the period.

2. For more details on why Canton was chosen as the main site for Sino-Western trade rather than other cities, see Paul A. Van Dyke, The Canton Trade: Life and Enterprise on the China Coast, 1700–1845 (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2005), Chapter 1.

3. The 1,000-foot estimate is mentioned by Hunter in William C. Hunter, The ‘Fan Kwae’ at Canton, p. 20. Downing estimated that the factory site did “not exceed seven or eight hundred feet facing the river,” in Charles T. Downing, The Fan-qui, or Foreigner in China (London: Henry Colburn, 1840), Vol. 3, p. 123. Perhaps the most reliable source, a survey map done by British military officers dated April 19, 1847, indicates the site’s length along the river was closer to, but slightly less than, Hunter’s estimate of 1,000 feet [Foreign Office, Political and Other Departments, General Correspondence before 1906, China, FO 17/127, Public Records Office, Kew, United Kingdom].

4. Hunter, The ‘Fan Kwae’ at Canton, p. 20.

5. The names of the factories are repeated in numerous sources and on several maps or diagrams. A useful chart of the appearances of names over time can be found in Liang Jiabin, Guangdong Shisan Hang kao (Guangzhou: Guangdong renmin chubanshe, 1999), pp. 348–49.

6. The Danish Factory was the Huangqi hang (in the nineteenth-century spelling of the local dialect, the Tehing Kai, meaning the “yellow flag factory.” The Spanish Factory was dubbed the Da Lüsong hang, or “big Luzon factory.” This factory received its name from the presence of the Philippine Company; the Chinese simply named the Spaniards who traded for it until 1832 after the island of Luzon, Da Lüsong meaning “big Luzon” and referring to Spanish traders rather than Philippine islanders, who were referred to as “small Luzon.” French Factory was known as either the Gao Gong (“high public”) or Fa Lan Xi hang (reflecting a phonetic translation of France). The Westerners named the fourth factory from the left after the hong merchant who owned or utilized it, but it was known in Chinese as the Zhong He hang (locally, chung ho, meaning “middle peace”). The American Factory was the Guang Yuan (Kwang-yuen) hang, the meaning of which was translated by contemporary English speakers as “wide fountain.” The Paoushun hong (Bao Shun hang), as it was always known, was “precious and agreeable.” Next to it, the Imperial (in this context referring to Austro-Hungarian) Factory was spelled Ma-ying by contemporaries, probably referring to the two-headed bird that was part of the Austrian crest. The Swedish Factory was the Sui hong (Mandarin Rui hang), which was both an example of local pronunciation of “Swede” and could be translated also as “lucky factory.” The Old English Factory was given the appellation Lung-shun (Mandarin Long Shun), the “thriving and agreeable factory.” The Chowchow Hong received its name from the pidgin language that was used for most transactions between the English and local Chinese. “Chowchow” in this context meant “assorted,” and referred to the diverse origins of its South Asian inhabitants, “representatives of every description of native from the three Presidencies—Calcutta, Bombay, and Madreas [sic]—consisting of Malwarees, Persians, Moors, Jews, and Parsees.” The Chowchow was also called in Chinese the Fungtai (Mandarin Fengtai) hang, “abundant greatest” or “great and affluent.” The New British Factory was the Pauho (Mandarin Baohe), meaning “protecting or ensuring tranquility.” The Dutch Factory was the Tsih-I hong (Jiyi hang), well translated at the time as “collected justice factory.” Finally, the Creek Factory, whose English name simply resulted from the body of water that abutted it to the east, was named the I’ho (Yihe) or “justice and peace hong.”

7. Hunter, The ‘Fan Kwae’ at Canton, p. 24.

8. Pehr Osbeck, A Voyage to China and the East Indies (London: Benjamin White, 1771), Vo1. 1, p. 204.

9. Mui Hoh-cheung and Lorna H. Mui (eds.), William Melrose in China, 1845–1855 (Edinburgh: T. and A. Constable, Ltd. for Scottish History Society, 1973), p. 10.

10. Downing, The Fan-qui, or Foreigner in China, pp. 210–17.

11. Hunter, The ‘Fan Kwae’ at Canton, pp. 82–85.

12. Ibid., pp. 85–86.

13. Maggie Keswick (ed.), The Thistle and the Jade (London: Octopus Books, 1982), p. 63, and Chinese Repository, Vol. 16 (1847), p. 11.

14. A good indication of the patterns of habitation of the factories may be found in the lists of foreign residents at Canton in the Chinese Repository (Canton, China: 1837), a particularly early one being Vol. 5, p. 429.

15. Melchior Yvan, Inside Canton (London: Henry Vizetelly, 1858), p. 39.

16. Jacques M. Downs, The Golden Ghetto: The American Commercial Community at Canton and the Shaping of American Policy (Bethlehem, PA: Lehigh University Press, 1997), pp. 90–91.

17. A supercargo in this era was a merchant attached to a particular ship or set of ships who managed purchasing and other transactions. The supercargo would leave when his ships did. This is opposed to the resident merchants, permanent inhabitants of ports that acted as year-round agents for foreign companies.

18. Benjamin Parrott Tilden, Father’s Journals (unpublished manuscript, Peabody Essex Museum) Vol. 1 (second voyage), pp. 201–2, Vol. 2 (seventh voyage), pp. 127–29. Two copies exist of Benjamin Tilden’s handwritten volumes of his father, Bryant’s, journals. The copies appear to date from around the 1870s. While the original journal does not seem to have survived, the detailed nature of this source, including copies of Bryant Tilden’s sketches, makes the source very credible. Bryant Tilden’s stays in Canton included three trading seasons in the 1810s and four in the 1830s.

19. The Chinese Repository (Canton, China: 1833), Vol. 2, pp. 195–96.

20. Tilden, Father’s Journals, Vol. 2 (seventh voyage), p. 127.

21. India Office Records, Canton Agency Consultations Season 1823–24 (consultations of November through early February), Vol. 2, G 12/229, British Library.

22. Ibid., specifically February 2, 1824 consultation. For the translation of chunam as lime, see Hunter, The ‘Fan Kwae’ at Canton, p. 62.

23. Ibid.

24. Osbeck, A Voyage to China and the East Indes, Vol. 1, p. 205.

25. Ibid, pp. 204–5.

26. See Peabody Essex Museum and Hong Kong Museum of Art, Views of the Pearl River Delta: Macau, Canton, and Hong Kong (Hong Kong: Urban Council of Hong Kong, 1996), pp. 168–69.

27. The standard source for this is Appendix C to Carl L. Crossman, The China Trade: Export Paintings, Furniture, Silver, and Other Objects (Princeton: The Pyne Press, 1972), pp. 259–65.

28. W. W. Wood, Sketches of China (Philadelphia: Carey & Lear, 1830), p. 67.

29. Hunter, The ‘Fan Kwae’ at Canton, p. 22.

30. The Chinese Repository, Vol. 14 (1845), p. 348, and Paul S. Forbes Diary, Forbes Collection (Baker Library, Harvard University), Box 6, folder 65, entry for October 24, 1843.

31. See Wu Qingzhou, “Guangzhou (Guangdong),” in Paul Oliver (ed.), Vernacular Architecture of the World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), Vol. 2, pp. 899–900, and Lu Yuanding and Wei Yanjun, Guangdong Minju (Beijing: Zhongguo jianzhu gongye chubanshe, 1990), pp. 51–61.

32. The Chinese Repository, Vol. 14 (1845), pp. 348, 351.

33. Foreign Office, Political and Other Departments, General Correspondence before 1906, China, FO 17/127, Public Records Office, Kew, UK.

34. The Chinese Repository, Vol. 17 (1848), pp. 419–20.

35. Tiffany, The Canton Chinese, p. 214. Tiffany (b. 1823) was a merchant, government clerk, and author who studied at Harvard but did not graduate. He was author of both fiction and nonfiction; besides The Canton Chinese, he also published Brandon, A Tale of the American Colonies (1851) and Sketch of the Life of General Otho H. Williams (1851), and was editor of Patriarchs and Prophets of Biblical Story (1860).

36. Ibid., p. 215.

37. Fitch W. Taylor, A Voyage Round the World (New Haven: H. Mansfield, 1848—Ninth Edition), Vol. II, p. 138.

38. Tilden, Father’s Journals, Vol. 2 (seventh voyage), p. 127.

39. Ibid., p. 129.

40. Ibid.

41. The Bramston plan (ill. 1) and the 1837 census in Chinese Repository, Vol. 5 (1837), p. 429, indicate six tiers in the Imperial Factory.

42. Downs, The Golden Ghetto, pp. 209–21.

43. Ibid.

44. Wood, Sketches of China, p. 69.

45. Tiffany, The Canton Chinese, p. 116.

46. Ibid, p. 219.

47. Hunter, The ‘Fan Kwae’ at Canton, p. 24. Hunter also states here that usually in front of the granite treasury was “a well-paved open space, with table for scales and weights.”

48. Tiffany, The Canton Chinese, p. 214. Here, Tiffany supplies details of the marble of the floor and the color of the blinds; the latter can also be seen in Pl. 2.

49. Ibid., p. 223.

50. Patrick Conner, Paintings of the China Trade: The Sze Yuan Tang Collection of Historic Paintings (Hong Kong: Hong Kong Maritime Museum, 2013), p. 18.

51. Downing, The Fan-qui, or Foreigner in China, pp. 263–64.

52. Letter dated January 29, 1843, Kinsman Family Papers (Peabody Essex Museum, MSS 43).

53. Mui and Mui, William Melrose in China, 1845–1855, pp. 54–55.

54. Ibid., pp. 54–55, 107.

55. John Heard Diary, Heard Papers (FP-4), Baker Library, Harvard University, p. 29. This is in reality a reminiscence penned in 1881, well after Heard had returned to the United States.

56. Tiffany, The Canton Chinese, pp. 220–34, passim.

57. Ibid., p. 229.

58. Hunter, The ‘Fan-Kwae’ at Canton, p. 31.

59. Gideon Nye, Jr., The Morning of My Life in China (Macao: J. M. da Silva, 1877), p. 19.

60. Tiffany, The Canton Chinese, p. 234.

61. The Canton Register, Vol. 2, June 2, 1829, No. 1. This, an edition of the first English-language newspaper published in Guangzhou, contains the following advertisement: “Markwick & Lane have just received a small consignment of superior French Claret, which is now on sale at their Europe Bazar, No. 3 Imperial Hong Canton, and at their European Warehouse, Campo Sam Francisco, Macao.”

62. Mui and Mui, William Melrose in China, 1845–1855, p. 91.

63. This is mentioned in passing in Canton Agency Consultations, India Office Records G/12/227, Nov. 2, 1822, p. 399.

64. Hunter, The ‘Fan-Kwae’ at Canton, p. 31.

65. Caroline A. Stoddard Journal, Peabody Essex Museum (LOG 1856 K), entry for Saturday August 9, 1856.

66. Heard Papers, Baker Library, Harvard University, Case 29 (reel 170), 87-1505.

67. British Foreign Office Correspondence (FO 17/71, Dispatch 168).

68. British Foreign Office Correspondence (FO 17/71, Dispatch 168, Enclosure 3). This is dated December 12, 1843.

69. Heard & Co. Papers (Case 31), Baker Library, Harvard.

70. There would have been significantly more information on the “new factories,” erected largely under the watch of the British Consul, if not for a more recent historical incident. In January 1948, a demonstration against the British demolition of Hong Kong’s Kowloon walled city was organized in Guangzhou. The event turned unexpectedly violent, and the protestors partially demolished and burned the British Consulate compound. The building where most of the records were kept was the most badly damaged. In the Department of Works file assessing the damage afterwards, there is actually a photograph of “Archives on racks completely destroyed.” See Department of Works file (WORK) 10/301, Public Records Office, Kew, UK. For Heard’s involvement with Jardine Matheson & Co., see Downs, The Golden Ghetto, pp. 195–96.

71. John Heard Diary, Heard Papers (FP-4), Baker Library, Harvard University, pp. 63–64.

72. Ibid.

73. British Foreign Office Correspondence (FO 17/129, dispatch 136, enclosure 1).

74. Heard Papers (Case 27, folder 46), Baker Library, Harvard.

75. Ibid.

76. My discussion here focuses on the spatial relations of residents of the factories, and not on the dynamics of the “Canton system” of trade generally. For the dynamics of and participants in this commerce more generally, see Van Dyke, The Canton Trade.

77. Hunter, The ‘Fan-Kwae’ at Canton, pp. 53–54. Note that “tai-pans” were heads of the foreign trading houses and pursers were their clerks.

78. Ibid., p. 54.

79. Ibid., p. 55, and Tiffany, The Canton Chinese, pp. 215–16.

80. Tiffany, The Canton Chinese, p. 215.

81. John Heard Diary, Heard Papers (FP-4), Baker Library, Harvard, p. 33.

82. Tiffany, The Canton Chinese, p. 217. Note I have chosen to use the antiquated spelling “cooley” to signify the occupation of these men, to distinguish it from later, more derogatory usages.

83. Downing, The Fan-qui, or Foreigner in China, p. 291.

84. Tiffany, The Canton Chinese, p. 217.

85. Tilden, Father’s Journals, Vol. 1 (second voyage), p. 148.

86. Tiffany, The Canton Chinese, p. 221.

87. Downing, The Fan-qui, or Foreigner in China, p. 270.

88. This is often thought to be a portrait of Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, but recent work has shown that this is highly unlikely. See Patrick Conner, George Chinnery 1774–1852: Artist of India and the China Coast (Woodbridge, UK: Antique Collector’s Club, 1993), pp. 216–19.

89. Tiffany, The Canton Chinese, p. 216.

90. Ibid., pp. 217, 220–25.

91. Ibid., p. 217.

92. Tilden, Father’s Journals, Vol. 2 (seventh voyage), p. 132.

93. Tiffany, The Canton Chinese, pp. 217, 225.

94. Downing, The Fan-qui, or Foreigner in China, Vol. 1, pp. 264–71.

95. Ibid., pp. 260–62, passim.

96. Downs, The Golden Ghetto, pp. 222–30.

97. Nye, The Morning of My Life in China, pp. 18–19.

98. Keswick, The Thistle and the Jade, pp. 12–21, passim.

99. Ibid., p. 17.

100. John Heard Diary, Heard Papers (FP-4), pp. 37–38.

101. Ibid., p. 38.

102. Ibid., p. 39.

103. Tiffany, The Canton Chinese, p. 223.

104. Mui and Mui, William Melrose in China, 1845–1855, p. 117.

105. A good example of the experiences of a ship captain affiliated with a resident commercial house can be gleaned from Charles P. Low, Some Recollections by Captain Charles P. Low, 1847–1873 (Boston: Geo. H. Ellis, 1906).

106. Phyllis Forbes Kerr (ed.), Letters from China: The Canton-Boston Correspondence of Robert Bennet Forbes, 1838–1840 (Mystic, CT: Mystic Seaport Museum, Inc., 1996), pp. 63–64, passim.

107. Ibid., p. 79.

108. Ibid.

109. Kinsman Papers (Peabody Essex) as quoted in Downing, The Golden Ghetto, p. 218.

110. W. S. Wetmore, Recollections of Life in the Far East (Shanghai: North China Herald, 1894), pp. 56–57.

111. Ibid.

112. Downs, The Golden Ghetto, pp. 56–57. The quote appears in Hunter, The ‘Fan Kwae’ at Canton, p. 115. See also William C. Hunter, Bits of Old China (London: Kegan Paul, Trench & Co., 1885), p. 168.

113. Hunter, The ‘Fan Kwae’ at Canton, p. 135.

114. Hunter, Bits of Old China, pp. 36–40.

115. Ibid., p. 45.

116. Tilden, Father’s Journals, Vol. 2 (seventh voyage), p. 130.

117. Ibid.

118. Ibid., Vol. 1 (third voyage), pp. 212–14.

119. Ibid.

120. Hunter, Bits of Old China, pp. 169–70.

121. Ibid., pp. 88–89.

122. Taylor, A Voyage around the World, pp. 139–40. Here it is appropriate to note that fanqui, or variably fan kwae, as the nineteenth-century English and Americans more typically spelled it, was translated by them as “foreign devil,” though a more accurate interpretation might be “foreign ghost”—a comment on the strangeness of their appearance. This could be used in varying degrees of insult or benignity, and was proudly adopted by some of the “old China hands.”

123. George Newell Papers (Peabody Essex Museum, B1 F1).

124. See Chinese Repository, Vol. 20 (1851), p. 16, and Low, Some Recollections by Capt. Charles P. Low., p. 87.

125. Views of the Pearl River Delta, pp. 108–9. The dry dock is easily visible on-site, but a special guide is required to access it.

126. It has been noted that burial (rather than cremation, etc.) may have been unusual for traditional Parsees. It is unknown at this point whether the particular circumstances surrounding the Parsee community in China encouraged the practice of burial, if some had converted to Christianity, or if there was some other reason for this practice.

127. Tiffany, The Canton Chinese, p. 137.

128. Low, Some Recollections by Capt. Charles P. Low, p. 87.

129. Ibid., p. 26.

130. Tiffany, The Canton Chinese, p. 135.

131. Ibid., p. 134.

132. Low, Some Recollections by Capt. Charles P. Low, p. 29.

133. Tiffany, The Canton Chinese, p. 22.

134. Downing, The Fan-Qui or Foreigner in China, Vol. 1, p. 103.

135. Ibid., Vol. 1, Chapter 5.

136. Taylor, A Voyage around the World, p. 134.

137. Tiffany, The Canton Chinese, p. 230.

138. Records of Russell & Co. Library of Congress (MSS19, 140) microfilm--reel 4 (letter from Russell to Oliver H. Gordon, Feb. 12, 1836). Also Gideon Nye, who resided in Guangzhou for decades both before and after the Opium Wars, and Augustine Heard, founder of Heard & Co., were both lifelong bachelors.

139. See Downs, The Golden Ghetto, p. 49, also Chapter 1, note 111, and Kerr, Letters from China, pp. 270–72.

140. Hunter, The ‘Fan Kwae’ at Canton, p. 29.

141. Ibid., p. 28.

142. Ibid., p. 47.

143. Tiffany, The Canton Chinese, p. 230.

144. John Heard Diary (Baker Library, FP-4), p. 29.

145. Ibid., p. 30.

146. Wood, Sketches of China, p. 66.

147. See Views of the Pearl River Delta, pp. 172–73. The author is unsure of the basis for the precise dating of this work, but the drawing matches well documentary sources for the era.

148. Hunter, Bits of Old China, facing p. 221.

149. “Walks about Canton” in Chinese Repository, Vol. 4 (1835), p. 44.

150. Kinsman Family Papers (PEM Mss43, Box 3, F9), letter dated November 28, 1843.

151. Tiffany, The Canton Chinese, p. 243.

152. Ibid.

153. Cotton has been identified in Views of the Pearl River Delta, p. 192. The other plants are of my identification.

154. Anonymous, Passenger Journal from the Ship Eureka, March–August, 1854 (Peabody Essex LOG 1854 E3, B19), entry for April 9.

155. Ibid.

156. Tilden, Father’s Journals, Vol. 2, pp. 243–44.

157. Nye, The Morning of My Life in China, p. 29.

158. Tilden, Father’s Journals, Vol. 2 (fifth voyage). Note that Tilden refers to Parsees as Persians, but it is amply apparent from the context exactly whom he is talking about.

159. Tiffany, The Canton Chinese, p. 246.

160. Wetmore, Recollections of Life in the Far East, p. 55.

161. Hunter, Bits of Old China, p. 13.

162. A description of the “shuttlecock players” on the square is in Tilden, Father’s Journals, Vol. 2 (fifth voyage), p. 859.

163. Ibid., p. 14.

164. Ibid.

165. Ibid.

166. Wood, Sketches of China, p. 64.

167. Hunter, The ‘Fan Kwae’ at Canton, pp. 113–15.

168. For the former, see “Walks in Canton” in Chinese Repository, Vol. 4 (1835), p. 44, and for the latter, see Downing, The Fan-qui, or Foreigner in China, pp. 254–55.

169. Excerpt from E. R. Huc, The Chinese Empire. as transcribed in Chris Elder (ed.), China’s Treaty Ports: Half Love and Half Hate (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 159.

170. Ibid., p. 160.

171. Nye, The Morning of My Life in China, p. 29.

172. Paul S. Forbes Diary (Forbes Collection, Baker Library, Box 6, folder 65), entry for May 15, 1843.

173. Tilden, Father’s Journals, Vol. 2 (second voyage), pp. 135–36.

174. Ibid., p. 136.

175. Ibid., pp. 136–37. English country ship officers were those in charge of independent vessels that sailed back and forth to India—i.e., they were not engaged with direct trade to Britain, which was a monopoly reserved for the East India Company.

176. Ibid., p. 137.

177. Hosea Ballou Morse, The Chronicles of the East India Company (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1926), Vol. 4, p. 279.

178. Accounts of this incident are in Hosea Ballou Morse, The East India Company Trading to China (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1926), pp. 352–54, and IOR, 1833–34 Canton Agency Consultations, G/12/252, pp. 17–19.

179. Auguste Borget, Sketches of China and the Chinese (London: Ackermann and Henry G. Bohn, 1842), p. 9, and Downs, The Golden Ghetto, p. 56.

180. Morse, The East India Company Trading to China, p. 352.

181. IOR, 1833-34 Canton Agency Consultations, G/12/252, pp. 17–19.

182. Primary sources for the incidents of 1838–39 include Nye, The Morning of My Life in China, pp. 32–33, 50–54; IOR, Canton Agency Consultations for 1838–39, G/12/262, pp. 34–35, 43; Canton Register extra edition for December 13, 1838, and February 27, 1839; Canton Press extra February 27, 1839; and, of course, Hunter, The ‘Fan Kwae’ at Canton, pp. 73–77.

183. IOR, Canton Agency Consultations for 1838–39, G/12/262, pp. 34–35.

184. Hunter, The ‘Fan Kwae’ at Canton, p. 74.

185. My thinking on riotous behavior has been influenced by Sam Wright, Crowds and Riots: A Study in Social Organization (London: Sage Publications, 1978), in particular, the summary of approaches to crowd behavior in the preface.

186. My thinking on this issue is partially derived from Robert Blair St. George, Conversing by Signs: Poetics of Implication in Colonial New England Culture (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), Chapter Three, “Attacking Houses.”

187. W. H. Hall and W. D. Bernard, The Nemesis in China (London: Henry Coburn, 1847), p. 171.

188. Hunter, Bits of Old China, p. 149.

189. Hall and Bernard, The Nemesis in China, p. 172.

190. Nye, The Morning of My Life in China, p. 60.

191. Hall and Bernard, The Nemesis in China, p. 173.

192. Three sources for this riot are The Canton Repository, Vol. 11 (1842), pp. 687–88; John Heard Diary (Baker Library, FP-4), pp. 41–47, and British Foreign Office Correspondence (FO 17/59, dispatch 71).

193. The Canton Repository, Vol. 11 (1842), p. 687 and John Heard Diary (PEM FP-4), p. 41.

194. British Foreign Office Correspondence (FO 17/59, dispatch 71, inclosure 5).

195. The Canton Repository, Vol. 11 (1842), p. 687.

196. Ibid. This account, in contrast to others, places the commencement of rioting at 2 p.m.

197. John Heard Diary (PEM FP-4), p. 41.

198. Ibid., p. 42.

199. Ibid.

200. Ibid.

201. Ibid., p. 44.

202. Ibid., pp. 44–45.

203. Ibid.

204. British Foreign Office Correspondence (FO 17/59, dispatch 71, inclosure 11).

205. Ibid.

206. The Canton Repository, Vol. 11 (1842), p. 687.

207. Ibid., and British Foreign Office Correspondence (FO 17/59, dispatch 71, inclosure 5).

208. Ibid.

209. Ibid., p. 41.

210. British Foreign Office Correspondence (FO 17/59, dispatch 71, inclosure 5).

211. The Canton Repository, Vol. 11 (1842), p. 687.

212. The primary source for this is British Foreign Office, Papers Relating to the Riot at Canton in July 1846 (London: T. R. Harrison, 1847).

213. Ibid., pp. 5, 64. Foreigners injured in the repression of the riot were a German and a Parsee.

214. Ibid.

215. Ibid.

216. Ibid., p. 33.

217. Ibid., pp. 33, 35.

218. Ibid.

219. Ibid.

220. Ibid., p. 18.

221. Ibid.

222. Ibid., p. 5.

223. British Foreign Office, Papers relating to the Proceedings of Her Majesty’s Naval Forces at Canton (London: Harrison and Sons for the Houses of Parliament, 1857), p. 144. Also, British Foreign Office, Further Papers Relative to the Proceedings of Her Majesty’s Naval Forces at Canton (London: Harrison and Sons, 1857), p. 1, and British Foreign Office China Correspondence (FO 17/253).

224. Further Papers Relative to the Proceedings of Her Majesty’s Naval Forces at Canton, p. 2.

225. Ibid.

226. Ibid.

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