China: Memorial to Chinese Patriot and Anti-Opium Crusader Lin Zexu

Stature of heroic peasants challenging foreign opium traders at the Opium War Musuem in Humen, Dongguan, China. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

Statue of heroic peasants challenging foreign opium traders at the Opium War Musuem in Humen, Dongguan, China. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.
Sightseeing

Most people have heard of the Opium War – or wars, depending on which version of modern Chinese history you subscribe to. But how many people remember where – or how – the Opium War(s) actually got started? In 1839, Lin Zexu (1785 – 1850), the imperial commissioner to Canton, now known in English as Guangzhou, was entrusted with the task of cracking down on opium.

Among the many strategies that Lin decided to carry out was an order that 20,000 chests of opium be turned over by foreigners engaged in the opium trade so that they could be destroyed.

Opium War Museum

The spot where this dramatic event took place is now home to a memorial. The trenches in which the opium – mixed with lime and salt – was flushed out to sea have been cleaned jup and planted with lotus.

There is a heroic statue in classic Socialist Realist style of heavily muscled Chinese peasants wielding pitchforks and standing atop a canon as they angrily confront the foreign peddlers of the poisonous weed, with the inscription, “[They] will never be forgotten!”

Next is a dignified stature of Lin Zexu himself. Then some cannons. And then there is the Opium War Museum.

The Opium War Museum’s main attraction is the Exhibition Building, which covers 2,400 square meters. It displays an exhibitions on the history of Lin Zexu, his attempts to destroy opium, and the Opium War(s).

Special Requests

When my hosts at the Sofitel Dongguan Humen asked if I had any special requests, I said, “Yes! I’d like to check out the Opium War Museum.”

I thought that they would provide me with a map and directions on how to get there.

Instead, the hotel’s assistant marketing and communication manager came to work on her day off to escort me to the historic site.

The museum is a National AAAA Tourist Attraction as well as one of the 100 National Patriotism Education Base Models.

Eight Key Exhibitions

  • Circumstances in China before the first Opium War
  • Import of opium into China
  • Lin Zexu’s destruction of opium
  • Britain launching of the Opium War
  • People in Guangdong and other coastal provinces fighting British forces
  • End of the Opium War and Chinese people’s anti-invasion activities.

I found the displays in the Opium War Memorial Museum to be both professional and interesting, and I would definitely recommend a trip to the museum to anyone visiting this part of China.

As for the historical accuracy of some of the exhibitions, however, I have a few doubts.

According to my understanding of modern Chinese history, for example, this was hardly a popular uprising, and I believe that peasants were kept at distance when the opium was destroyed.

An understanding of the Opium War is key to an understanding of the Chinese psyche. It’s best to read what several historians have to say to get a balanced view of the conflict – and how it has come to define the way the Chinese see themselves, their relationships with other nationalities, and their unique place in the world.

Top 10 Books on the Opium War

This list contains the 10 most popular books on the Opium War according to Amazon.com. Hover over the titles for more information on each one of these books.

  1. The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China
  2. Opium War, 1840-1842: Barbarians in the Celestial Empire in the Early Part of the Nineteenth Century and the War by Which They Forced Her Gates
  3. The Opium Wars: The Addiction of One Empire and the Corruption of Another
  4. The Opium War Through Chinese Eyes
  5. The Chinese Opium Wars
  6. Foreign Mud: Being an Account of the Opium Imbroglio at Canton in the 1830s and the Anglo-Chinese War That Followed (New Directions Classics)
  7. Through the Looking Glass: China’s Foreign Journalists from Opium Wars to Mao
  8. The Opium Wars: The Addiction of One Empire and the Corruption of Another
  9. Modernization and Revolution in China: From the Opium Wars to the Olympics (East Gate Books)
  10. Drugging a Nation The Story of China and the Opium Curse

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