IMPERIAL PHANTASMAGORIA – A BRIEF LOOK AT THE OPIUM WARS2In the September 1821 issue of the “London Magazine”, amongst the advertisements for Gentlemen’s Beaver hats, Buckwight compasses, and a rendering of William Hilton the Younger’s “Nature Blowing Bubbles for her Children” there appeared a narrative which is widely regarded by modern literati as the earliest example of what would eventually be classifiedas Western addiction literature. English essayist Thomas De Quincey’s “Confessions Of An English Opium-Eater: Being An Extract From The Life Of A Scholar” is a chronicle of both the pleasures and pains associated with Opium addiction which, De Quincy noted leads any man who begins an addiction to the tears of the poppy to an existence of: “penitential loneliness” (Wordsworth, 1859, para.9). Eighteen years after De Quincy published his treatise on the evils associated with Opium use, Chinese official Lin Zexu ordered the seizure and burning of 20,000 crates of opium that had been imported to his country by British merchants. With this act, Zexu lit the fuse on the first of the Opium wars which would last until the signing of the treaty of Nanjing and would see 90 percent of the Chinese male population addicted to opium, the rise of British Imperialism, and the relinquishment of the City of Hong Kong and trading rights in the ports of Canton and Shanghai to the British Empire in 1842 (Gray, 20002, p.68). The rise of British imperialism in China because of the Opium wars began with an economic crisis. Four centuries before the opium wars, the east to west trade routes traveled along the Silk Road in order to acquire Chinese tea, silk and porcelain. However, by the 19thcentury, the British government had a problem – they no longer possessed sufficient silver to trade with the Qing Empire. In order to maintain their trade alliances, the British government began a policy of bartering with Chinese merchants, trading Indian opium for Chinese goods.