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Shanghai and Tea: Shanghai Emerges from the Opium Wars

The Emergence of 'Semi-colonial' Shanghai

In order to understand the emergence of the tea house in Shanghai and some its unique features, it is important to briefly touch on how seismic changes in the wider environment directly influenced its development. 

Although Shanghai was an important local trading centre, with a population of around 200,000, it was strategically unimportant and largely overshadowed by the wealth and size of nearby towns, such as Hangzhou, Suzhou, and Ningbo. Shanghai's significance changed dramatically, however, in the aftermath of the Opium Wars.

The first of these two Opium Wars, (which, equally, could be called the "Tea Trade Wars" given the underlying motives behind the conflict), ended with the signing of the Treaty of Nanjing, concluded in 1842, which included, amongst other things, exclusive trading rights for the British and opening of Five Treaty Ports, Guangzhou, Xiamen. Fuzhou, Ningbo and Shanghai.

This treaty, though in the short-term punishing in the extreme to the ruling Qing set in motion the beginning of China's wider integration into the global economic system; in doing so Shanghai, as a testing ground for foreign commercial ventures in China, underwent striking change: within 60 years of this treaty Shanghai had become a global trading centre, and was deeply embedded into the global trading network.

 Shanghai view and the Shanghai raceclub c 1840

Shanghai Raceclub 1840 -


 More from our Shanghai tea house series.

1. Shanghai Tea Houses: A timeline

2. Brief Introduction

3. Shanghai Emerges from Aftermath of the Opium War(s).

4. Emergence of the teahouse in Shanghai

5. Speaking Tea - a function of tea houses in Shanghai.

6. Early 20th Century Tea houses.

7. Afternoon tea and Cosmopolitan Shanghai in the 30s.

8. Teahouses in Contemporary Shanghai


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