An early view of the Western Trading Port of Shanghai, opened in 1843 as part of the Treaty of Nanking, American mariners communicate with a merchant from their vessels on the river. The broker’s ship is loaded with bundled packages of tea, while at times less savory goods would be available at outer islands and less official ports. Among the commodities brought into China was a rather abundant opium supply from India, with tea and silver the primary exports.
Dominating the eye along the riverbank, the Chinese Customs House shows the nation’s traditional architectural style, with the yellow-titled roof indicating an allegiance with the Chinese Emperor, alongside several warehouses and residences of prominent 19th Century Western merchants. Numerous people walk the wharf, and most are identifiable by the style of their hats, including one Western business man in the center holding a cane. The American mariners in the sloop display the national flag and are possibly finishing a negotiation with the merchant with Chinese sailors at the oars, a servant at his side in his boat. A cutter sloop and a schooner are also on the water, while a well-dressed man rides in his rowed boat powered by to oarsmen in stark red uniform apparel with wide-brimmed white hats.
The scenic atmosphere completes this fine work with the emerald water quite still and the rising clouds filling the bright, daytime sky. This helps illuminate the delicate touches to the buildings, including the different colors of the balcony rails and slight variations of design. An original carved Chinese Chippendale frame completes this historic Chinese painting.
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