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Breaking with the PastThe Maritime Customs Service and the Global Origins of Modernity in China$
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Hans van de Ven

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231137386

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231137386.001.0001

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The Birth of a Chameleon

The Birth of a Chameleon

(p.22) Chapter One The Birth of a Chameleon
Breaking with the Past

Hans van de Ven

Columbia University Press

This chapter traces the history of the Customs Service from 1854 until 1864, when the Inspector General was instructed to reside permanently in Beijing. The Customs Service would never have come about were it not for the chaotic conditions of the Taiping Rebellion, the political instability resulting from the death of the Xianfeng Emperor, and the reorientation of domestic and foreign policy initiated by Prince Gong with the support of Empress Dowager Cixi. The chapter discusses the transition from Horatio Lay, who did much to pioneer the Service and became its first Inspector General, to Robert Hart, who built it up into a major bureaucracy in the decades after the Taiping Rebellion. It concludes with a discussion of China's previous methods of governing maritime trade, demonstrating that the Customs Service incorporated some of its key features.

Keywords:   Chinese Maritime Customs Service, China, Taiping Rebellion, Inspector General, Prince Gong, Horatio Lay, Robert Hart, maritime trade

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