This highly detailed China Trade painting contains a wealth of historical maritime data. The view centers on the western ships at anchor in the harbor surrounding the main island of Whampoa. Buildings and sailing junks line the shore waiting to be employed in moving the Western trade along the 12-mile stretch of the Pearl River to and from Canton. Three separate custom’s inspections would take place, one near the venerated nine-stage Whampoa Pagoda, shown left. The unsigned artist completes the work with a billowing, full atmosphere of color-tinged clouds and sky over the background hills.
Upon inspection, the flags and naval ensigns of the United States, Great Britain, France and Prussia may be seen flying from the mastheads of the ships anchored in Whampoa Reach. At far right Junk Island and River may be seen, with a Royal junk underway, bearing the colorful stern board artistry which indicates it is under command of a member of the Chinese nobility. The Dane’s Island Cemetery for westerners fated to remain in China is in view.
Whampoa was an instrumental part of the earliest Western shipping trade in China, in congress with the first landfall of Macao, the opium headquarters of Lintin Island, and the Boca Tigrus mouth of the Yellow River. All led to the importance of canton as the main point of conducting business in the tea trade. After war concessions in 1842 opened Hong Kong and Shanghai, Whampoa and Canton continued to hold importance to the shipping interests of the West. A ship chandlery was established at Whampoa by Thomas Hunt & Co. to serve the sailors and ships - at least one ship under the British flag in the 1850s would be theirs.
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