You are on page 1of 2

2016-17 NHD Process Paper

OPIUM ON HUMEN BEACH: THE


LAST STAND OF A FALLING EMPIRE

Nearly five years of education in China taught me the nations deep humiliation in the
face of western powers. My life in China led me to see traditions struggling against the
forces of globalization, to see a nation still recovering from the ashes of war two
centuries ago. The Chinese blamed the decline of the Qing Dynasty for the end of
prosperity, yet they seemed to uniformly praise one man, Lin Zexu and his destruction
of British opium on Humen Beach as heroic or courageous. Lin Zexus having the same
family name as me furthered my interest in him - he seemed to be the great bureaucrat
to be revered for eternity. Thus, I decided to conduct my research on Lin Zexu and his
conducts with western opium, because I am Chinese, I am the legacy of western
influence on China, and I was perhaps distantly related to Lin in some way.
My topic also excites me because of its adherence to the annual theme. Lins
attempt to enact strong measures in Canton is a stand against foreign trade and opium.
However, in a broader context, Lin's actions also embodies Qing's stand against
western aggressions, a stand for national prestige, but also arguably a stand against
free trade, open borders, and integration in the future.
From the beginning, my sources of research divided into two major categories:
English or Chinese. I started with basic, secondary information and then dived deeper to
primary sources. In Chinese, I read through Lins memorials, letters, diaries, and in
English, I visited the writings of foreign merchants or Captain Charles Elliot. The text of
the Treaty of Nanjing, existing in both languages, turned out helpful as well. I also
thought that it was crucial to analyze photographs or paintings that reflected the
occurring events. Research articles and scholarly papers in Chinese and English gave
me some insight into my own analysis of this topic, allowing me to draw conclusions
from the research.
I was surprised at the discrepancy between eastern and western sources and the
changes in my perceptions. I found Lin to be too aggressive, only partially successful.
Some of his actions, though grounded in honorable intentions, seemed arbitrary or even
unjust.
To present my research and analysis, I decided to choose the website category,
since it offered a dynamic, engaging way of presenting all types of sources, ranging
from quotes ,to images ,to audios, and to videos. I believed that with a website, I can
make this piece of history truly interesting and memorable.