Tinqua (act. 1840-1870) or studio
The Hongs of Canton with the French, American, British and Dutch factories,
between August and December 1842
Gouache on paper, laid down, 16 x 27 cm
This painting of the Hongs at Canton (the trading bases occupied by the Western merchants) was done about the time of the conclusion of the first “Opium War”. The enclosures seen here were introduced in the summer of 1839, after the blockade of the factories and the surrender of opium by the Western merchants to Commissioner Lin Zexu and the destruction of the opium.
This painting shows the “American Garden”, whose newly-planted oval flowerbeds are seen in front of the central group of hongs with the American flag. The American garden seems to have been initiated in 1842, probably after the signing of the Treaty of Nanjing on 29 August, the prime mover being Isaac Bull of Providence, Rhode Island.
In December 1842, shortly after this painting was executed, the hongs on the right side – with the British and Dutch flags – were burnt down after a brawl between Indian sailors and Chinese shopkeepers got out of hand. A large crowd of Chinese broke into the English factory and set it alight. The fire spread to the adjacent Dutch factory, which at that time was rented by an American company.
For another painting of the hongs of Canton. executed in the same period as the present one, see: Martyn Gregory, Paintings of the China trade, cat.no. 85, 2009- 10, p. 75.