Chinese Exports

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tea exports

tea exporting business


Chinese merchants introduced tea to the British in 1666 and it quickly became a highly valued import. High quality Chinese silk and porcelain were also highly prized. 

The British early attempts to export goods to China were a failure. The Chinese allowed  limited trade only in Canton. British attempts to increase trade were consistently rebuffed. 


Chinese silkmaking

Letter From Emperor to King George III in response to the British request to trade with China:

". . . As your Ambassador can see for himself, we possess all things. I set no value on objects strange or ingenious, and have no use for your country's manufactures. . . Our Celestial Empire possesses all things in prolific abundance and lacks no product within its own borders. There was therefore no need to import the manufactures of outside barbarians in exchange for our own produce. But as the tea, silk and porcelain which the Celestial Empire produces, are absolute necessities to European nations and to yourselves, we have permitted, as a signal mark of favour, that foreign hongs [merchant firms] should be established at Canton, so that your wants might be supplied and your country thus participate in our beneficence."

Emperor Qian Long 1793

Part of The Decline of Imperial China exhibit


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