SC1 – Chinese Documents on Trade Regulations with the English

Within our Special Collections are a set of three documents written in Chinese dating to the early nineteenth century. These have been catalogued on to Archives Hub. But this has only been possible due to the work of Dr Fu Yang who translated the documents into modern Chinese and then provided English abstracts. These are provided below.


Negotiations for the language (terminologies) to be used between foreign traders and the Qing government. Generally,  foreigners do not know Chinese perfectly but based on a meeting we had with Mr. John Fullerton Elphinstone (1778-1854) today, they would like to learn to speak and write Chinese, therefore, we should follow up inquiries from foreigners and allow them to do so. Their official letters should be sealed with the foreign company’s chop.

On matters of local official letters where the words man and yi were used, whether these two words convey meanings of scorn and insult.

I checked:  man and yi are two words in the title for all foreign countries. In the south they are called man and in the west they are called yi which is the same as the people living in the central plains called Han [Chinese].  It is the only term [used] for a title, which do not [contain] scorn and insult meanings any longer. Macau belongs with Xiangshan province, people come from different countries to trade there.  Local officers are in charge of negotiations for different matters. They should [pay attention to] words or sentences which cause delay of trade.

[On the matter of] local officers should inform [any] action before the arrival [of these foreign traders].

I have checked: [the reason] local officers went to check factories to prevent criminals from the central plains [trading]. [On the matter of] delaying foreign trade should not be [because of] questioning. [Local officers] also claimed they give notice before acting [which is] for the convenience between Chinese officers and foreign traders. The searching by local officers did not interrupt foreign trade in fact. [In this case, if] local officers willing to check [foreign trade in future] please do fellow the details [of official notice sent to foreign traders which] would be helpful to give notice [to foreign traders] in advance.

[On the matter of] could police officer stop sampan drives by foreign traders to customs.

I have checked: since [Qing government] allowed foreign trade [in China] [also authorized] [their sampan] return to customs in case of any inquiry. Police officers check [that] the boats travelling in and out comply with customs policy. [We should] check and compare this case to old policy to avoid trouble.

[On the matter of] a foreign bushiness coming to Canton [who are] required to employ local people as porters [and] guards, [there are] hundreds of people [which would be] employed. If foreign traders [only] employ foreign [labours] this may cause problems with local labours.

I have checked: The Thirteen Factories and Macau companies usually employ porters, guards, servants, cooks and buyers which are essential and could increase. [We should] based on the policy of allowing the employment [of locals]. The only exception is a personal assistant.  Shawen is not included in this regulation which should be rejected based on the old regulation.

[On the matter of] These escort ships and warships moored in chuanbi xiaoyi lingding [and] jijing waters (ports) [which are] based [there] for the purpose of catching the wind [for departure], please apply old regulation authorising compradors[1] [to these ships].

I have checked: There are specific bays for the mooring of these escort ships which accompany trading ships to Canton. On the third month of tenth years of Jiaqin reign (April 1798) the local leader and Governor-General Viceroy orders were reported and recorded [this matter]. [Therefore] we should refer to the old regulation in dealing [with this matter]. [However] if the escort ship arrived with the cargo ship they should depart with cargo ship.

After a cargo ship has left [port], inspection of the ship on the high seas[2] may cause protest from other foreign traders. [We should] according to regulation, allow authorised British ships as escort ship to come in and go out with cargo ship. Before [British] cargo ships leave, [we could] authorise a comprador. Based on the old [version] regulation, if a cargo ship has already left [Qing border], these inspection ships cannot stay on the high seas.

[On the matter of] [When British] cargo ships moor in territorial waters [and] escort ships remain on the high seas [that] require a sampan[3] to communicate [with each other], the policy is to not stop [sampan] please.

I have checked: sampan used by guard ships or sampans used by cargo ships are difficult to distinguish from one another.  Only way is to search for any contraband or illegal goods  carried by the sampan. In future, when British cargo ships arrive into territorial waters, if [they need to use] a sampan to deliver a message, the sampans staying in territorial waters should go to Provincial Hall or Huangpu Hall to report and check; the sampan staying on the high seas should go to Hengdang Taxations Hall to report and check. If the sampan do not have weapons nor smuggled goods then Taxations Hall should authorize a pass. The Qing warship [and] artillery battery nearby should let sampan pass and not stop them. If the sampan is carrying violation things then [Qing government] should reject the authorization pass.

[On the matter of] A few days ago, a Hong Kong cargo ship [which had] already received a red pass [which allowed them to depart to the high seas], however [our] warship opened fire [on the Hong Kong cargo ship]. Please make a regulation to avoid this in future.

I have checked: [when] a cargo ship receives a red pass [to go through] [it means the cargo ship] should not be stopped [for any reasons]. [In general, after] a cargo ship has been to the taxation department to report, then the taxation department should notify the artillery battery which [specific] cargo ship is authorised to go to the high sea. The Taxation department should [also] notify the soldiers [who] work at the artillery battery. This would avoid miscommunication between each other.

[On the matter of] the United States and Britain having trouble with each other, if a British cargo ship can be looted by American. Please stop Americans selling the looted British goods.

I checked: cargo ships of different nationalities coming to Canton should bring the authorized certificates from their country. When ships arrive in Wanshan, the inspector should check and examine the ship and its cargo.  After confirming the sources of the goods, the ships should go to Macau to report arrival, then leave to Humen to check and report, [at last] arriving in  Huangpu. It is an old regulation which had been followed for a long period. Through inspection, if it is a cargo ship and authorized by their country, [which] can be confirmed, [we should] not make any trouble that could cause problems. That does not relate to the special care rules from our great emperor. We should deal with this matter based on old regulation.

We are not sure on the matter of whether or not there are arguments between foreign countries. We should not in future discuss. I, Fu and Pang explained all the details above to George Thomas Staunton. All foreign heads fully understand and thanked us for  the explanations [to them]. [All foreign traders] are waiting for future instruction. The trade between China and foreign countries [has been for a] long period, in my opinion, it is impossible not to check the old regulations, [however] the old regulation needs to change when [we face a new] situation. There are some other things to inquire about and to report by end of this letter:

District magistrate ordered:

[On the matter of] the British report written in Chinese with special care for our great emperor, for convenient purpose, we shall allow [British business reports to be] written in English? [On the matter of] British business confidential reports are important. These general reports should please be delivered to the closest office. All foreign business coming to Canton shall be managed by Customs.  If the business is related to a different region, the business in Macau is managed by the Xiangshan province; the one in Huangpu is managed by Fanyu and Jiaotang to check, inspection or management should be done in the most convenient way.

Only British cargo ships have escort ships [Royal Naval escorts] which can be checked by [Chinese] artillery battery and warships at any time. Their sampans should report to Taxation Hall [upon arrival], then authorised to pass. We should treat this foreign business with respect. British senior business executive Mr. John Fullerton Elphinstone is authorised by the King of Great Britain. All the reports from him should be treated in the same way as reports from inland, [you] should not show [special] favour [for him]. All foreign business reports should be judged to see [whether] the matter is worth reporting or not, but not if the cargo hold has been opened. Even if there is a delay, it is their responsibility. [We] should not investigate. By doing it this way, the complaints could stop.

[One the matter of] people who have had offence from inland areas which is not related with foreign trade but circulate rumours which easily agitate. If the [legal] case is related to foreigners [we] should receive an official letter. Then the foreign trader will deal the legalities; if there is no official letter then it means the legal case is not related to foreign trade and foreign traders should not ask.


督同南海縣知縣龔 谨 禀








卑府等伏查: 蠻夷二字係外國統稱,在南曰蠻,在西曰夷,猶内地民人曰漢人。祗係稱呼並無輕侮之意。况奧門係香山縣,地方各國夷人往来貿易,遇有交涉事務不能不由地方官查考。豈可推敲字句致碍辦公?應請毋庸議。






卑府等伏查: 夷船既准貿易,自應准其遇事往来闗口,巡役查看往来船隻事蒞闗部,應請移咨查照舊章辦理,免滋紛擾。






卑府等伏查:巡船護送貨船往来粤省,向有一定灣泊地方。業于嘉庆十年三月。經 前憲,前督憲 那 具奏在案。自應照舊章辦理。但護送貨来,即當護送貨往。若貨船已经囬国,巡船即不得逗遛外洋,致啟他國夷商口實。應請嗣後英吉利巡船准令,照舊護送貨船往来。貨船未經囬國以前,准其給舆買辦。若货船已經囬國,巡船即不得逗遛外洋,以符舊例。



卑府等伏查: 巡船三板舆貨船三板往来闗口斷難一一辨識。稽查之法惟論有無違禁夹带情獘,應請嗣後英吉利貨船進口後,如有送信三板往来,在内出者赴省城税館、黄埔税館報騐(yan 4) ;在外入者赴横檔税館報騐。騐明并無軍械私貨,由税館给舆照票知会。赴近師船炮台准予放行,不必禁阻。其有違禁夹带者照例阻止。






卑府等伏查: 各國船隻来粤貿易,均有原領各國批照,可據是以船至萬山,湏用引水,看過船隻實有貨物,問明来歴,始赴澳門掛號。掛號後引至虎門報騐,方始引進黄埔。舊例相循已久。若騐明既係货船又有批照,另于舊例外别生枝莭,便易滋擾。非天朝懐柔逺人之意。應請仍照舊章辦理。至夷洋有無互相争執,内地無從查考。應無庸議,以上各欵均經卑職 福 龔面舆嘶噹咚等反覆剖辨,各夷目均属明白感激。相應據由轉禀聽侯批示。飭遵惟查中外貿易日久相安,既不可不申舊章,亦不可不因時調劑。卑府等管窺之見,尚有筹議事宜數條理合一併禀请:







一内地辦理犯法民人,本舆外夷無涉而以訛傳訛,最易煽惑。應請嗣後辦案,如有交涉外夷之處,必先有文書,飭行公司館查明,如無文書即不干外夷之事,该夷商等無湏詢問。卑府等爲绥靖外夷起見,謬議如斯是否有當理合一併禀。侯 憲台查核除禀

督憲暨  粮藩臬 憲外卑府健等謹禀

[1] Agents, usually Chinese

[2] That is, international waters, not territorial seas.

[3] Dinghy or small rowing boat.




An  investigaton into a court case that merchants sold opium at high sea in the nineteenth year of Jiaqing reign (1814). Based on a statement from Chinese merchants:

In the third month, seventh month and eighth month in the nineteenth year of Jiaqing reign (1814), Chinese merchants Ningzuo Zhu,  Zhetang Zhu, Rongxi Chen and Mingyang Xu went to Marco and sold tea and textiles to the foreign merchant Andolini; in the seventh month of nineteenth years of Jiaqing reign, Xiuguan Xu went to Marco and sold sugar to  the foreign merchant Andolini. Andolini used pepper and preserved sea food to exchanged tea, textiles and sugar but still owed three thousand four hundred silver to Ningzuo Zhu, two thousand three hundred silver to Zhetang Zhu, twelve hundred silver to Mingyang Xu, and twelve hundred silver to Xiuguan Xu. Until the date of departure these Chinese merchants hadn’t received their unpaid money.

When they heard that the Andolini cargo ship would depart, they chased and stopped Andolini on high sea and asked for the unpaid money. Andolini didn’t have any silver but only could borrow opium from another cargo ship to pay his debt. Under this circumstance, those merchants accepted the opium and then sold it to other ships or cargo ships on the high sea and did not keep record buyer’s details. We decided to confiscate that money to government. Trade in opium is a serious criminal offence in China, thus these merchants should be locked in jail for a month and then sent to the frontier as soldiers.

Based on this case, we should send notification to all foreign companies; and ban Andolini’s business in China in future. If any foreign business smuggles opium into China there will be a serious charge penalty. In future, when foreign cargo arrives in China, custom should inquire for a list of goods. Only allow the ship to unload goods after checking and confirming the lists. In addition, we must clarify the system of reward and punishment required to regulate the law.











奏再鴉片一項產自外夷,流入内地,而無頼之徒,私相買食,自残身命,迷而不晤,仰蒙聖主痌癏在抱屡飭沿海各省查究禁遏。臣等身任地方尤當实力奉行,以異稍紓宸厪,伏查粤東州縣瀕海者十居六七,而香山是属奥門地方,為西洋夷人賃居之所。向来西洋夷船赴别國販貨囬奥並不經関查騐,即將貨物運貯奥地,俟賣貨時方行報騐,納税難保無夹带,違禁之事。臣等舆海関监督。臣祥熟商。嗣後西洋船運貨到奥,先令将所販各貨開单报明海関,逐件查騐後始准卸載。仍俟售賣貨物納餉以符舊制而絶弊端。至鴉片,雖未自外夷其販賣,实由於漢奸。如果漢奸畏法,則鴉片豈惟無聞。今流弊已非一日,或地方文武能不脴而走,慮及從前失察處,分恐拏獲販賣匪徒到案。供出歷年舊案,是未受獲犯之功,先受失察之咎。瞻頋因循势所難免,非明立賞罰,無以鼓其氣。而堅其心。應請嗣後拏獲鴉片之案,如係本任失察,能将囚販首犯拏獲,並獲犯及半者免其議處。其前任之員,弁除得規,故縱仍照律办理。外如止失于覺察,准其减等,議處並非該管之員,弁能将隣境兵販首犯及鴉片一并拏獲,應許獲烟斤数給予紀錄一次,每千斤給予一級,以次第加,賞獲至五千斤以上者,准其送部。引見恭候钦定,若軍民人等能将人烟並獲送官,亦将所獲鴉片烟斤数酌以加賞,每烟一百斤賞银十两,次第加賞,即着落失察之地方賠繳,仍将失察職名咨部議處。倘地方官及管関守口員弁胆敢得,受陋規狥情,故縱立即提。恭拏問兵差人等,挟嫌誣拏即治以誣良為盗,此次議定條規,庶各知惩勸而查禁亦昭慎密矣。臣等管見所及謹附片陳明伏乞 訊示

SC1/3 – This document is in three sections.


British warships entered internal Chinese waters triggering a series of investigations regarding foreign businesses in the Canton area. The local government, based on Jiaqing period law, rules that there are two issues pertaining to foreign business, which included architectural forms of foreign shops, and prohibiting all locals from contacting with or working for foreigners or foreign business without government approval.

Through his investigations, the local commander also found certain compradors, who represented the Chinese government, negotiated business with and borrowed funds from, foreign businesses.  Additionally, a number of compradors were not properly qualified to handle the position.  Of these compradors, Youdu Pan, whilst already retired, continued to received profit distributions as part of his income. The government ordered Youdu Pan to return to work to serve his country in this difficult time.

For security purposes, the local government also recorded George Thomas Staunton’s background including his contacts, length of stay, personal experiences and language skills. The local government also monitored Staunton’s social activities for security and safety purposes.





近聞,英吉利舆米利坚彼此搆釁(xin 1) 時相刮奪貨財,此係洋商傳聞之詞,且事在夷洋不值過問。本年夏間,有米利坚國貨船一隻進口,随有英吉利國罷盡仁兵船随带之,小快船卸尾,駛進経守口,員弁登時将該船逐出外洋。


臣等當飭洋商通事,嚴詰(jie 2)英吉利大班益花臣因何不行约束?令其切寔禀覆。旋因英吉利及米利坚國時有貨船駛至,而英吉利之護貨兵船雖不敢駛入内洋,時至虎門外海口往来逰奕,屡経驅逐,倏去倏 ( shu1)来,情形詭譎(jue 4),必湏示之以威。臣等當即,就近調齊中路巡洋舟,帥排列虎門海口,檄令提標,中軍参将吴紹麟等督率各偹弁申明號令,整肃隊伍,連環操演鎗砲,以壮聲威。一靣傳檄辦事明幹之佛岡同知,福蔭長偕同香山縣知縣馬德滋,親赴奥門。飭傳該大班益花臣面加詰責。據通事譯:據该大班禀称,寔因米利坚曾在外洋搶過該國貨船,挟有仇隙。希圖棄間报復等語。



























軍机大臣字寄两廣縂督蒋 廣東巡撫董