Water Borders: The Opium War and the Transition of China’s Littorals

Derived from my doctoral dissertation, “The Opium War, Overlapping Empires, and China’s Water Borders,” this book examines the profound impact of the Opium War (1839–1842) or the first Opium War on China’s littorals, which include both coastal and riverine regions, at local, regional, empirewide, and transnational levels. The first part of the book reinterprets the Opium War by revealing its three “inner” layers, namely Qing control over the sea frontier (haijiang), British imperial rule in littoral China, and the Qing-British conflict over governing the Chinese maritime and river population. In the second part of the book, I look at three localities during the war and in its aftermath, namely the lower Pearl River Estuary in Guangdong province, Xiamen and Gulangyu Islands in Fujian province, and eastern Zhejiang province.