Empress of China (1783)

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StateLibQld 1 149231 Empress of China (ship).jpg
Empress of China
United States
Name: Empress of China
Builder: Mr. Peck, Boston, U.S.[1][2]
Launched: 1783[3]
General characteristics
Tons burthen: 360 tons[3]
Sail plan: Full-rigged ship[3]
Complement: 34[4]
Armament: 4 × 6-pounder guns[2]

Empress of China, also known as Chinese Queen, was a three-masted, square-rigged sailing ship of 360 tons,[3] initially built in 1783 for service as a privateer.[5] After the Treaty of Paris brought a formal end to the American Revolutionary War, the vessel was refitted for commercial purposes. She became the first American ship to sail from the newly independent United States to China, opening what is known today as the Old China Trade and transporting the first official representative of the American government to Canton.[6]

First voyage[edit]

The first American merchant vessel to enter Chinese waters left New York harbor on Washington's birthday, February 22, 1784. The Empress returned to New York on May 11, 1785 after a round voyage of 14 months and 24 days. The success of the voyage encouraged others to invest in further trading with China. President Washington bought a set of Chinese porcelain tableware from the ship.[7]

The ship's captain John Green (1736–1796) was a former U.S. naval officer, its two business agents (supercargos), Samuel Shaw (1754–1794) and Thomas Randall (1723–1797), were former officers in the U.S. Continental Army, and its syndicate of owners, including Robert Morris (1734–1806) were some of the richest men in the new nation.[8]


  • In 1986, China minted a silver 5-yuan to commemorate the voyage of the Empress[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Canton Witnesses the 226th Anniversary of The Empress of China's Arrival and US-China Trade Relations Kickoff". Consulate General of the United States Guangzhou China. U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  2. ^ a b Chadwick Foster Smith, Philip (1984). The Empress of China. Philadelphia Maritime Museum. p. 28. ISBN 0-913346-09-8. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d Tantillo, Len. (2000). "Voyage of the Sloop Experiment," The Hudson River in the Age of Sail (exhibition). Hudson River Maritime Museum.
  4. ^ Markoe, Karen. "Two Hundred Years of U.S. Trade with China (1784-1984)". Asia for Educators. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  5. ^ Smith, Philip Chadwick Foster. (1984). The Empress of China, p. 25.
  6. ^ US Dept. of State, Office of the Historian: Recognition, Diplomatic, and Consular Relations, 1774-2008: China.
  7. ^ "Chinese Porcelain". George Washington's Mount Vernon.
  8. ^ Giunta, Mary A. and J. Dane Hartgrove. (1998). Documents of the Emerging Nation, p. 237; Smith, p. xvii.
  9. ^ "1986 Official Issued Chinese Coins". www.china-mint.info/. Retrieved 21 October 2014.


External links[edit]