Understanding China, One Blog at a Time

An American in China

Ancient China’s Opium Addiction

Posted by w_thames_the_d on July 3, 2011


Here is an excerpt from a book written about ancient China’s problem with opium. The book can be downloaded for free from Amazon, and is decent but not earth-shatteringly good.
From Drugging a Nation The Story of China and the Opium Curse (Samuel Merwin)

Twenty-five years ago, when the consumption of opium in China could hardly have been more than half what it is to-day, a British consul estimated the proportion of smokers in the region he had visited as follows: “Labourers and small farmers, ten per cent.; small shopkeepers, twenty per cent.; soldiers, thirty per cent.; merchants, eighty per cent.; officials and their staff, ninety per cent.; actors, prostitutes, vagrants, thieves, ninety-five per cent.” The labourers and farmers, the real strength of China, as of every other land, had not yet been overwhelmed—but they were going under, even then. The most startling news to-day is from these lower classes, even from the country villages, the last to give way. Dr. Parker, the American Methodist missionary at Shanghai, informed me that reports to this effect were coming in steadily from up country; and during my own journey I heard the same bad news almost everywhere along a route which measured, before I left China, something more than four thousand miles.

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