This introductory chapter begins with a background on the Chinese Maritime Customs Service. The Customs Service was an agency of the Chinese state, headed by the Inspector General. It was one of the most, if not the most, powerful bureaucracies operating in China between the Taiping Rebellion from 1850 to 1864 and the Communist Revolution of 1949; it was the only one that did so uninterruptedly and across most of China. It facilitated trade and helped give rise to modern cities like Shanghai, where people and commodities from diverse origins were brought together into a new configuration. The chapter then sets out the book's purpose, which is to analyze and narrate the long history of Chinese Maritime Customs Service. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.
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