Smoking opium in Penang, 1854


During the 19th century, opium became the scourge of the Chinese, not only in China itself, but throughout the Far East, Penang included. It destroyed countless lives and countless families, and came to be associated with Chinese culture despite the trade being run largely by the British as part of their colonial commerce. As with the slave trade, where Africans were captured by British ships for shipment to America, the opium trade was built on the plant being grown and harvested in India to be smuggled into China. The obvious effects of these industries were not visible to the citizens of Britain. Supply came from one continent to satisfy a created demand on another.

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