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Merchants of Canton and Macao

Politics and Strategies in Eighteenth-Century Chinese Trade

Paul A. Van Dyke

Publication Year: 2011

Paul Van Dyke works in many languages and archives to uncover the history of Peark River trade. This two-volume work is likely to be the most definitive reference work on the major trading families of Guangzhou. Organized as a series of family studies, this first volume includes exhaustive profiles of nine of the dominant hongs and their founding patriarchs for which good information survives: Tan Suqua, Tan Hunqua, Cai and Qiu, Beaukeequa, Yan, Mandarin Quiqua, Ye and Tacqua Amoy, Zhang, and Liang.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

List of Tables

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pp. vii

List of Appendixes

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pp. ix-xi

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pp. xiii-xx

In the past 20 years, two major studies have been done on the merchants of Canton, so one might ask why we need another one now.1 This present study developed very much out of my research on The Canton Trade: Life and Enterprise on the China Coast 1700–1845 (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University...

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pp. xxi-xxii

I would like to thank the many persons who were instrumental in making this work possible. First and foremost is Ph.D. advisor John E. Wills, Jr. who has provided endless support over the years. My former professor Edwin Perkins spent weeks of grinding through the final draft, offering many suggestions...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xxiii-xxxii


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pp. xxxiii

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Introduction: Capitalism Canton Style

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pp. 1-6

Great changes took place in international trade in the eighteenth century, and China was one of the centres driving the transformation. The shift from large monopolies controlling trade routes — with almost singular access to markets, key ports and commodities — to trade becoming more open on all levels was largely...

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1. The Trading Environment

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pp. 7-30

In order to understand Hong merchants’ businesses it is important to first understand the trading environment in which they operated. Four levels of officials were in charge of the trade and foreigners: governor-generals, customs superintendents, governors and magistrates. There were three basic merchant...

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2. Contacts and Trade

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pp. 31-48

In this chapter, I analyze trade contracts in Canton, using the 64 examples in the plate section for reference. These documents are little known among scholars, primarily because none of them have survived in China. To my knowledge, the only detailed contracts from the Canton trade are found in foreign archives. They...

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3. Growing Pains, Partnerships, and the Co-Hong

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pp. 49-66

As mentioned in the introduction, the establishment of the Co-hong, in 1760, traditionally has been seen by historians as a monopolistic organization that forced itself on the trade, with the objective of hindering and restricting competition and commerce. If restricting trade was truly the Co-hong’s objective...

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4. Merchants and the Canton Junks

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pp. 67-77

Until recently, little was known about the Canton junk trade to Southeast Asia. We had no reliable data on the number or sizes of junks, or who sponsored and managed them. It has been long known that Hong merchants were involved with the junks, but with few specific details. This picture was again due to there being...

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5. Tan Suqua 陳壽官and Family 1716-1778

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pp. 79-102

Tan Suqua and sons were at the centre of the commerce in Canton for more than 60 years (ca. 1716 to 1778) influencing the overall course of trade.1 Suqua was considered by contemporaries (Chinese and foreigners alike) as one of the most trusted and respected merchants of his time, with high business standards and top...

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6. Tan Hunqua 陳芳觀 and Family 1713–1781

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pp. 103-121

Tan Hunqua1 should rightfully be classed among the founding fathers of the trade. His family business paralleled that of Tan Suqua’s almost from beginning to end. He never reached the wealth and prestige of Suqua, but was by far, the greatest free trade advocate of all his contemporaries, including those who came before him...

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7. Cai and Qiu Enterprises 蔡邱企業 1730-1784

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pp. 123-136

Cai Hunqua and Gau Semqua were partners who entered the trade in the early 1730s during the Tan Suqua and Tan Hunqua controversy.1 Cai Hunqua’s name is unknown, but he was a member of the Cai 蔡 family.2 Semqua’s name was Qiu Kun 邱崑. The two partners traded out of the...

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8. Beaukeequa 黎開觀 and Family 1726–1758

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pp. 137-147

Beaukeequa’s story is exceptional among his peers. No other merchant had more influence on trade in the mid-eighteenth century than he did. As Chapters 5 and 6 reveal, Tan Suqua and Tan Hunqua had significant impact on the commerce, and the latter tried very hard to push through reforms in the 1730s. In Chapters 3 and 7...

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9. Yan 顏 Family 1734–1780s

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pp. 149-167

Texia and his partner Simon began trading in Canton in 1734, during the conflict between Tan Suqua and Tan Hunqua, and at about the same time that Cudgin and Beaukeequa left the trade.1 Texia’s Chinese name was Yan Deshe ( 顏德舍), but, according to the family genealogy, he also went by the names Yan Liangzhou...

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10. Mandarin Quiqua 陳魁官 and Family 1724–1794

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pp. 169-179

Mandarin Quiqua’s Chinese name was Chen Kuiguan 陳魁官, but he was also known as Chen Kuaiguan 陳快官.1 He originated from Amoy. He was a midlevel merchant who began in the early 1720s and whose business endured until 1794. His story is one of the rare examples we have of a smaller merchant family...

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11. Ye 葉 Merchants and Tacqua Amoy 長茂榮 1720–1804

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pp. 181-197

Cudgin1 is the earliest of the Ye merchants about whom we have information. His Chinese name is unknown, but we know he was a member of the Ye family. The name of his business was the Duanhe Hang 端和行. Nothing is known of his early years in trade, but he was probably involved in the junk trade in Fujian...

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12. Zhang 張 Merchants 1721–1780

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pp. 199-205

Little has been written about the Zhang merchants in Canton, partly because they were not among the most wealthy or powerful men in trade, and partly because of a lack of information about them in English and Chinese sources. Like Leunqua and Consentia Giqua in Chapter 11, the Zhangs’ successes show that small to...

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13. Liang 梁 Merchants 1729–1756

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pp. 207-211

The Liang merchants who were active in Canton in the first half of the nineteenth century have received much attention in the historical literature. These men traded out of the Tianbao Hang 天寶行. Their ancestral home in Whampoa is a favourite site today for historians to...

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Conclusion: The Limits of Commerce

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pp. 213-225

The merchants of Canton and Macao were central to the rise and advancement of international trade and commerce in the eighteenth century. They were the mediators between China’s supplies of tea, porcelain and silk and foreign demands for more of those products. Demand for Chinese products in Europe, India, and...


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pp. 227-432


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pp. 433-482


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pp. 483-517


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pp. 519-545

Image Plates

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E-ISBN-13: 9789888053773
Print-ISBN-13: 9789888028917

Page Count: 500
Illustrations: 150-180 images
Publication Year: 2011