Lamp Qing dynasty


Qing dynasty (1644-1912)
brass and glass
7.75 x 2.75 x 2.875 inches
2001.77 a/b/c

With the exception of the pipe’s contemporary handle, this pipe (see pipe) and lamp are most likely late-19th-century examples of implements used for the intake of opium, a narcotic made from the unripe seedpods of poppy flowers. Over the centuries, opium (along with its cousins such as laudanum and morphine) has been used medicinally to reduce pain and induce relaxation and sedation. However, it is highly addictive. With prolonged use it produces mental and physical deteriorations that are fatal. Poppies are native to Turkey, and opium was not introduced into China until the 7th century. The habit of smoking opium mixed with tobacco was brought to China in the 17th century via Europeans. The British purposely and knowingly traded opium for tea, silk, and other goods to balance trade payments. The relative cheapness of opium, its abundance, and its highly addictive nature brought catastrophe upon the Chinese. The Chinese government sought to ban importation and outlaw its use in the early 19th century, to no avail. By mid-century, Britain, insisting on its right to trade opium and flexing its formidable naval muscle, engaged China in the Opium Wars (1839-1842), which ended with a British victory and the ceding of Hong Kong to the British Empire. By 1900 more than 10 percent of the population of China smoked opium, and 15 million Chinese were addicts. Undoubtedly this contributed to the demise of China’s dynastic system and the end (until now) of China’s presence as a world power and influencer.

Ebrey, pp. 236-240


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