This week (February 3) saw the start of Chinese New Year celebrations. To mark the occasion, we thought we’d highlight an interesting China-related item in our collections. Our great staff that work with our closed stacks located the Treaty of Peace, Amity, and Commerce, Between the United States of America and the Chinese Empire (commonly known as the Treaty of Wanghia).
The treaty, which was signed in 1844, officially established diplomatic relations between the two countries and granted most-favored-nation trade status to the U.S. Caleb Cushing, the first U.S. commissioner to China, signed the treaty on behalf of the U.S., and Qiying, a Chinese official and member of the imperial family, signed on behalf of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). The treaty provided for:
- Extraterritorial jurisdiction, meaning that U.S. citizens in China would only be able to be tried by U.S. consular officers;
- The tariffs on specific goods to be imported and exported by the U.S. at the five treaty ports;
- The right to buy land at the five ports and erect churches and hospitals on that land;
- The right of U.S. citizens to learn Chinese (thereby abolishing a law that forbade foreigners to do so);
- A declaration that trade in opium was illegal, with the U.S. agreeing to hand over offenders to Chinese officials.