China Only Yesterday, 1850-1950: A Century of Change

By Emily Hahn | Go to book overview

Chapter Six

Up to autumn in 1856, life on the China coast moved in its uneasy way much as it had done for two years. Nobody was richly satisfied with the situation, but at least it was no worse. In spite of many quarrels between its officers and the traders, the new Customs System was working, and Shanghai especially turned over a lot of revenue from duty. In all the treaty ports save Canton the Christian missionaries taught and fought and infiltrated, now and then asking themselves uneasily if they shouldn't be doing more about Hung Hsiu-ch'uan. Peking remained haughtily secluded, and so did the Imperial High Commissioner Yeh Ming-ch'en in Canton. Yeh continued to supply an effective bottleneck whenever other Chinese officials' privacy seemed threatened by importunate barbarian diplomats; though the exasperated diplomats preferred to believe that this fat official was doing what he did out of personal, idiosyncratic xenophobia, there can be no doubt that Peking knew and approved of his actions. Proudly he had memorialized in September of 1855,

"First McLane came to Canton in the middle of the month; in the latter part, Bowring, with several warships, also came to Canton, and sent a man to give notice and to fix a date for an interview, insisting that it be in the yamen to accord with propriety. Your official answered that he was really so desirous of a meeting that, no matter what the place, he should consent, but as the yamen was inside the city it was virtually impossible to agree. They stayed in Canton some three weeks but never came back to repeat the request." [Swisher, p. 303.]

Always suspicious, Yeh thought the foreigners must be in league with the Taipings, but in this he was mistaken. It was however a natural error--Chinese officials were preoccupied with the Taiping

-88-

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China Only Yesterday, 1850-1950: A Century of Change
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 4
  • Acknowledgements 7
  • Chapter One 11
  • Chapter Two 28
  • Chapter Three 41
  • Chapter Four 55
  • Chapter Five 71
  • Chapter Six 88
  • Chapter Seven 107
  • Chapter Eight 125
  • Chapter Nine 146
  • Chapter Ten 162
  • Chapter Eleven 183
  • Chapter Twelve 199
  • Chapter Thirteen 217
  • Chapter Fourteen 237
  • Chapter Fifteen 253
  • Chapter Sixteen 278
  • Chapter Seventeen 295
  • Chapter Eighteen 314
  • Chapter Nineteen 332
  • Chapter Twenty 353
  • Chapter Twenty-One 368
  • Chapter Twenty-Two 383
  • Glossary 403
  • Bibliography 407
  • Index 411
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