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Imperial edict against the British, 1850

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Parkes 8/4

Scope and Contents

An undated copy of a Chinese imperial edict dating from between March and August 1850. An English note at the top of the document reads 'Enclosed in Mr Alcock's letter Aug. 9 1850' [this letter is not among the Parkes Papers]. The text begins 'Fêng shang yü kuo chia she kuan ko yu chuan ssu...' The following is a brief summary of the contents:

The [British] barbarians were permitted by Our late Father out of his compassion for humanity to engage in trade, but instead of peacefully going about their business, they have come to Tientsin and brazenly communicated with the Grand Secretary [Mu-chang-a]. They have been doing the same wherever they go: in Canton, Fukien, Chekiang, Kiangsu, Shantung, Tientsin and along the coast. The Grand Secretary must ignore them. The Governor-General of Kuang-tung and Kuang-hsi [Kwangtung and Kwangsi], Hsü Kuang-chin, knows how to handle these barbarians with their devil's entrails (kuei yü tsang fu) [dirty tricks]; in future Hsü Kuang-chin's methods must be used to deal with them.

In 1849 Hsü Kuang-chin (1797-1869) refused to allow the British to enter Canton, contrary to treaty. The British protested to Grand Secretary Mu-chang-a (1782-1856) and others. On 25 February 1850 the Tao-kuang Emperor died and was succeeded by his fourth son, aged 19 (reign title Hsien-fêng). The new emperor supported the anti-British policy of Hsü Kuang-chin and opposed the appeasers led by Mu-chang-a, who was dismissed from office later that year. This change in policy eventually led to the Second Opium War (1856-1860).


  • Creation: 1850


Conditions Governing Access

From the Fonds:

Any person wishing to consult the collection must obtain written permission from Matheson and Co. Ltd, 3 Lombard Street, London, EC3V 9AQ. Applicants may submit their request using the standard Jardine Matheson letter of application, which is available from the Manuscripts Reading Room and via the University Library web pages at They should state specifically on the form that they desire access to the Parkes Papers.


1 sheet(s) (1 sheet)

Language of Materials



Alcock's letter has not been found in the Parkes Papers. There is a letter of 9 August 1851 (1/A14), but this does not refer to the edict. The record for this item was compiled using a description produced by Charles Aylmer of the Chinese Department.

Repository Details

Part of the Cambridge University Library Repository

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