Source 3b

Letter to British representatives in China from Chen Huacheng, Commander-in-Chief of the naval forces in Fukien [province on the southeast coast of China] and of the troops of Formosa [former name for the island of Taiwan], and Dou Zhenbiao, Commander in Kinmen and surrounding areas. 1 September 1837. (FO 682/2462/41)

Translated transcript

Chen [Huacheng], Commander-in-Chief of the Naval Forces in Fukien and of the Troops of Formosa, and Dou [Zhenbiao], Commander in Kinmen and Surrounding Areas,


Again issue their clear commands:


According to the statutes of the Celestial Court, your foreign ships are only allowed to trade in Guangdong; you are not allowed to cross over to other provinces. The established rules have set down these restrictions. But instead of abiding by the regulations, you foreigners repeatedly cruise about off the coast of Fukien. Your coming and going, even if you do not stop in a single place, is already against the law, not to mention the fact that you are trading opium.


I, the Admiral, have been at sea observing your movements for twenty days. You have been sailing up and down the coast, all the while refusing to return southwards to Guangdong. When the naval vessels arrive in pursuit of you, you sail away, but as soon as you have drawn them away to open water, you approach the coast again. You appear to be respectful and dutiful, but you are in fact crafty and deceitful. It would not be difficult for me, the Admiral, to command the fleet to come together and round you up, so that the problem may be resolved once and for all. But considering that you may still be ignorant, this order is now issued again. All of your foreign ships must immediately return southwards and, in compliance with the law, head for Guangdong to trade. Not a single ship will be allowed to tarry. If you dare continue to disobey the rules by lingering here, by fleeing to a different place after being driven away, or by your going and then coming again, I, the Admiral, will have no choice but to order my fleet to open fire on you. Do not say that you have not been informed in advance. Be warned.


A special order given in the seventeenth year of Daoguang, on the second day of the eighth month [1 September 1837].


« Return to Hong Kong and the Opium Wars
  1. Look at Source 3a. Who do you think wrote it and who do you think translated it?
  2. Based on this text, name two reasons why the opium smuggling is a problem for the Chinese government.
  3. What is the author implying by listing the places where the opium is coming from?
  4. Look at Source 3b. Who do you think wrote it, and who do you think it’s addressed to?
  5. According to this letter, what are the British doing? Why is the Chinese government unhappy with this?
  6. The First Opium War started about two years after this letter. Does it give us any clues about why the war started? What do you think might have happened in those two years?