The Danger of Arrogance (4/5)

August 17, 2010

China’s 18th century arrogance is evident in the letter the Qianlong Emperor wrote to King George III.

Emperor Qianlong’s letter to King George III says, “As your Ambassador can see for himself, we possess all things. I see no value on objects strange or ingenious, and have no use for your country’s manufactures.…

“Hitherto, all European nations, including your own country’s barbarian merchants, have carried on their trade with our Celestial Empire at Canton. Such has been the procedure for many years, although 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 should be established at Canton, so that your wants might be supplied and your country thus participate in our beneficence.”

At the end of the letter, Emperor Qianlong warns King George III what will happen to any merchants who try to circumvent his laws and says, “Do not say that you were not warned in due time! Tremblingly obey and show no negligence! A special mandate!”

This exchange took place in 1793.  At that time, the Chinese didn’t need anything from any country.  In fact, for more than a thousand years, the Chinese had been more technologically advanced in printing, paper production, weaponry, etc than any country on the planet.

See Foreign Devils and Barbarians or return to the Danger of Arrogance – Part 3


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

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