The Thirteen Factories or Thirteen Hongs, also known as the Canton Factories, was a neighborhood along the Pearl River in southwestern Guangzhou in the Qing Empire from c. 1684 to 1856. These warehouses and stores were the principal and sole legal site of most Western trade with China from 1757 to 1842. The factories were destroyed by fire in 1822 by accident, in 1841 amid the First Opium War, and in 1856 at the onset of the Second Opium War. The factories' importance diminished after the opening of the treaty ports and the end of the Canton System under the terms of the 1842 Anglo-Chinese Treaty of Nanking. After the Second Opium War, the factories were not rebuilt at their former site south of Guangzhou's old walled city but moved, first to Henan Island across the Pearl River and then to Shamian Island south of Guangzhou's western suburbs. Their former site is now Guangzhou's Wenhua Park.
The "factories" were not building in which goods were manufactured but the trading posts and warehouses of foreign factors, that is, mercantile agents who bought and sold goods for their principals on a commission basis. Chinese officials often referred to the foriegners as (Chinese: 夷; Sidney Lau: yi4), which the British translated as "barbarian, perhaps to underline their claim that Chinese opposition to British trade arose from xenophobia. 
The foreign agents were known at the time as "supercargos" in English and as daban (大班) in Chinese. This term's Cantonese pronunciation, taipan, only came into common English use after the rise of private trading from 1834 on. A private captain might be his own supercargo; a large East Indiamen might have five or more, which were ranked "chief supercargo", "2nd supercargo", &c. A team of supercargos divided their work, some overseeing sales, others tea purchases, silk purchases, &c. Permanent supercargos might divide their work by the order ships arrived. The bookkeepers who attended them were called "writers"; those serving with the ship, who also checked these accounts, "pursers".
"Hong" is the Cantonese pronunciation of 行, the Chinese term for a properly-licensed business. By analogy, it was applied to its chief, the Hong merchant, and its property, the factories themselves. It was also employed as a contraction of "Cohong", the guild of merchants dealt with by the supercargos.
Since the Ming dynasty, a series of sea bans (haijin) restricted China's foreign commerce, at times attempting to ban it completely. In 1684, the Kangxi Emperor of the Qing Dynasty allowed foreigners to trade with China in the four cities of Guangzhou, Xiamen, Songjiang, and Ningpo. In the case of Guangzhou, early traders were obliged to follow the monsoon winds, arriving between June and September, conducting their business, and then departing between November and February. The foreign ships were anchored downstream at Pazhou (then known as "Whampoa"), with business conducted in the city's western suburbs. Western traders were further required to work through Chinese merchants who would guarantee their good behavior and tax obligations; they were also the owners and landlords of the warehouses and apartments the traders were obliged to use. In practice, private traders could often avoid these restrictions but the hoppo was always careful to enforce them upon large-volume purchasers such as the East India Company. Typically, cargo was ferried from the ships by its own crew and to the ships at the expense of the Chinese merchants on their "chop boats" (lighters). To avoid theft or piracy, foreign traders began assigning a few of their own seamen to these ships as guards.
In 1686, Westerners were allowed to rent accommodations in the factory quarter to avoid the necessity of shuttling back to Pazhou each night. For the most part, the supercargos, their assistants, and the bookkeepers stayed at the factories, the crew—except for a few guards or those on shore leave—stayed with the ships, and the captains continued to ferry between the two. A Chinese comprador hired each factory's staff of Chinese servants and bought its provisions from local vendors; senior supercargos sometimes brought their own staff or slaves as well. Another comprador dealt with the ship's provisions at Pazhou, where sampan ladies crowded around the ships to do laundry and odd jobs for the sailors. A few weeks before departure, the crew came to the factories in shifts of a few days each for shore leave, chaperoned by some of the ship's officers. Hog Lane was lined with open-fronted booths and shops catering to them, selling food, drink, clothing, and "chowchows" (novelties), and was policed by Chinese guards stationed at both ends of the alley. At first the supercargos came and left with the ships, but over the course of the 18th century companies began to rent their factory spaces year-round to avoid being displaced on their return. The supercargos were then permitted to outstay their company's ships a few weeks to conduct business for the next season; after that, they were obliged to remove themselves to Macao through the spring and summer until the appearance of the next ship. By the 1760s, every East India company had permanent supercargos and rooms were being rented in Macao year-round as well.
In the mid-1750s, the East India Company realized that the fees and prices were both better at Ningbo; it was also nearer the main centers of Chinese tea production and silk manufacture. The impact of their shift on Guangzhou's tax receipts and a fear of a second Macao being created prompted attempts to force Ningbo to make itself less attractive. When that failed, the Qianlong Emperor issued a 1757 edict closing all ports but Guangzhou's to most Westerners.[n 1] In order to keep the traders in the factory area and out of the rest of the western suburbs, the 17 Chinese merchants of the port were obliged to establish the Cohong in 1760, each paying an entrance fee of around 10,000 Spanish dollars (74,000 tls.) and submitting to a levy of about 3% on their future business. Ten of the merchants did so, the fees establishing the Consoo Fund and Hall, walkways, and a new street which small-scale merchants were obliged to move to in order to continue selling to the foreign traders.[n 2] Since the new street was particularly full of porcelain dealers, it came to be known as China Street. The Hong merchants included Howqua (Wu Bingjian), Puankhequa, Mowqua, Goqua, Fatqua, Kingqua, Sunshing, Mingqua, Saoqua, and Punboqua. Despite the existence of Sinophones such as Robert Morrison and the linguists usually accompanying each ship, foreigners were notionally banned by imperial decree from learning the Chinese language; the four official translators for the port were known as Atom, Achow, Atung, and Akang. The foreign traders—despite most working for government monopolies themselves—protested strongly at the Cohong's control over prices, advances, and exchange rates and predicted the death of trade with China. In fact, the Cohong helped ensure Chinese production met the traders' needs—some ships had previously been obliged to wait as much as a year to be fully stocked—and by 1769, the area was being expanded to make up for an extreme shortness of apartments. In 1748, there had only been eight factories, but there were seventeen by 1770, a number kept up until the great fire of 1822.
It was discovered that, rather than depending on the monsoon winds, ships could arrive or depart at any time of year by rounding the Philippines. This opened the trade for smaller craft who might only need a few weeks to complete a visit, where the large company vessels still needed 4 to 5 months at minimum. Subsequently, the British and Americans typically always had ships anchored off Pazhou, allowing them to keep their supercargos and staff in the Guangzhou factories all year. During the 1780s, the Spanish also began to send several ships from Manila each year rather than the single vessel they had previously used; they began renting a permanent factory in 1788. (In practice, senior supercargos tended to prefer Macao during the summer regardless and to send their junior officers to deal with off-season trade.)
In 1793, George III sent George Macartney to request that ports in northern China be opened to trade, but his delegation refused to kowtow and the emperor refused their request. A second embassy under Lord Amherst fared no better in 1816–7. The growth of European (particularly British) tea consumption supplemented the port's heavy trade in silk and porcelain. The disinterest of China in European goods, however, required large outflows of bullion prior to the spread of Chinese opium use.
In 1835, the medical missionary Peter Parker opened an ophthalmic hospital in the area. Parker commissioned Lam Qua, a Western-trained Chinese painter who also had workshops in the area, to paint pre-operative portraits of patients who had large tumors or other major deformities.
The viceroy Lin Zexu's vigorous suppression of the British opium trade precipitated the First Opium War (1839–42), during which the factories were burnt to the ground. The 1842 Treaty of Nanking ending that war forced the lease of Hong Kong Island to the British and opened the treaty ports of Shanghai, Ningbo ("Ningpo"), Xiamen ("Amoy"), and Fuzhou ("Fuchow"). It nominally opened the walled city of Guangzhou to the foreigners, but this was subsequently resisted by the cities' viceroys on a number of pretexts. The factories were rebuilt at their former location but, with their diminished importance, they were not rebuilt a third time after their destruction at the onset of the Second Opium War. Instead, the foreign traders first operated off of Henan Island on the other side of the Pearl River and then, after the war's conclusion, rebuilt their Guangzhou operations at a new enclave on the Shamian sandbar south of the city's western suburbs.
Under the Canton System, between 1757 and 1842, Western merchants in China were required to conduct their business only in the approved area of the port of Guangzhou and only through a government-approved merchant house. These hongs—first established by Pan Zhencheng (潘振成) and nine others in 1760—were granted a lucrative monopoly on foreign trade in exchange for various payments and obligations to the Qing state. The hongs were organized into a guild known as the cohong, which also oversaw the Thai and domestic trade in the South China Sea. The hoppo (Chinese: t 戶部, s 户部, p hùbù; Cantonese: sl woo6bo6), fully the "Yue Sea Customs Minister" (t 粵海關部, s 粤海关部, p Yuèhǎi Guānbù; sl Yuet6-hoi2 Kwaan1-bo6), was appointed by the emperor to oversee taxation and customs collection; he also oversaw disputes among the merchants, in an attempt to restrain the foreigners from contacting the imperial government in Beijing directly.
The Western merchants were allowed to occupy two- or three-story buildings set back about 100 yards (91 m) from the river. Each factory contained a number of houses. The warehouses occupied the first floors; the upper floors were taken up by living areas. The square in front of the factories was fenced off, with Chinese access restricted.
The area was bound on the north by Thirteen Factory Street, on the west by Pwanting Street, and on the east by a small creek.[which?] Old China Street, New China Street, and Hog Lane divided the groups of factories from one another and were lined by retail stores selling a wide variety of Chinese goods. Peter Parker's hospital was located at 3 Hog Lane.
The exact number of factories originally varied, but by the early 19th century it became stable at 13. From east to west:
|English name||Chinese name||Cantonese name|
|Creek Factory||小溪館||小溪馆||Xiǎoxī Guǎn||怡和行||Yi⁴-wo⁴ Hong⁴|
|Dutch Factory||荷蘭館||荷兰馆||Hélán Guǎn||集義行||Jaap⁶-yi⁶ Hong⁴|
(New English Factory)
|新英國館||新英国馆||Xīn Yīngguó Guǎn||保和行||Bo²-wo⁴ Hong⁴|
|Old English Factory||舊英國館||旧英国馆||Jiù Yīngguó Guǎn||隆順行||Lung⁴-sun⁶ Hong⁴|
|Swedish Factory||瑞典館||瑞典馆||Ruìdiǎn Guǎn||瑞行||Sui⁶ Hong⁴|
|帝國館||帝国馆||Dìguó Guǎn||孖鹰行||Ma¹-ying¹ Hong⁴|
|Paoushun Factory||寶順館||宝顺馆||Bǎoshùn Guǎn||寶順行||Bo²-sun⁶ Hong⁴|
|American Factory||美國館||美国馆||Měiguó Guǎn||廣源行||Gwong²-yuen⁴ Hong⁴|
|Mingqua's Factory||明官館||明官馆||Míngguān Guǎn||中和行||Jung¹-wo⁴ Hong⁴|
|French Factory||法蘭西館||法兰西馆||Fǎlánxī Guǎn||高公行||Go¹-gung¹ Hong⁴|
|Spanish Factory||西班牙館||西班牙馆||Xībānyá Guǎn||大呂宋行||Daai⁶ Lui⁵-sung³ Hong⁴|
|Danish Factory||丹麥館||丹麦馆||Dānmài Guǎn||得興行||Dak¹-hing¹ Hong⁴|
The Chow-Chow Factory was indirectly linked to the British East India Company.
The former site of the thirteen factories is now Wenhua Park. Thirteen Factories Street, which ran north of the enclave, is now named Shisanhang Road.
- Canton System & Old China Trade
- Hong & Cohong
- Henan, Pazhou, Changzhou, & Xiaoguwei islands
- Dejima & Zaibatsu, Japanese equivalents
- Economy of China & the Economic history of imperial China
- Korean and Japanese trade was organized separately at Zhapu in Zhejiang; Russians, due to their presence on China's northern borders, traded first at Beijing and then at Kyakhta.
- Shops also lined 13 Factories Street between Hog Lane and China Street, creating a horseshoe-shaped path for the traders and seamen to browse along.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Thirteen Factories.|
- Farris, Johnathan A., "Thirteen Factories of Canton" (PDF), Buildings & Landscapes, Vol. 14.
- "Regulations Governing Foreign Trade up to 1840" (PDF), Howard Scott.
- "The First Opium War", Visualizing Cultures, Cambridge: MIT.