Thirteen Factories

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Thirteen Factories
Hongs at Canton.jpg
Painting of the factories, circa 1820, with flags of Denmark, Spain, the United States, Sweden, Britain, and the Netherlands
Chinese 十三行

The Thirteen Factories was an area of Guangzhou (Canton), China, where the first foreign trade was allowed in the 18th century since the hai jin (海禁) ban on maritime activities. It is also referred to as the "Thirteen Hongs" or the "Canton Factories". The factory system came to an end in 1842 with the Treaty of Nanking. The site where the factories stood is now Wenhua Park, and Thirteen Hong Street, onto which the factories backed is now named Shisanhang Road.[1]


View of the European factories, 1805-06 by William Daniell

Factories were "foreigners' quarters", or trading posts, outside the city walls in Guangzhou rather than a place in the contemporary sense where goods are manufactured. The name came from the foreign agent term of "factors",[2] who maintained offices or factories. Chinese citizens often referred to the factories as "Barbarian Houses"[2] (the Chinese word translated as "Barbarian" in English can be interpreted simply as "foreigner" as well)[3]


The Thirteen Factories, c. 1850

In 1684, the Kangxi Emperor of the Qing dynasty allowed foreigners to trade with China in four cities, including Guangzhou.[4] In 1686, Westerners were also allowed to live in the area of the factories in Canton, at the head of the Pearl River. In 1748, there were only eight factories, but the number subsequently increased to thirteen.[5] In 1757, the Qianlong Emperor limited Westerners to the port of Canton, and no other area.

In 1793, George III sent George Macartney to request that ports in northern China be opened to trade. The Qianlong Emperor refused[2] the request.

The Thirteen Factories gradually lost importance after the First Opium War (1839–42), a conflict after China banned the import of British opium. The Qing Empire was defeated by the British and, as a consequence of the Treaty of Nanking (1842), was forced to open five ports to foreigners and to cede Hong Kong Island to the British. The Thirteen Factories was no longer the sole place for foreigners to trade and live in China. The factories burned down in 1856 during the Second Opium War and the western traders relocated to warehouses across the Pearl River on Honam until the British succeeded in claiming the site of a sandbar (Shamian Island) in 1859, and it was developed to become a foreign enclave.[1]


The factories from land

Each factory was headed by a Chinese merchant, who went by such business names as Howqua (浩官), Mowqua, Puankhequa (潘启官), Goqua, Fatqua, Kingqua, Sunshing, Mingqua, Saoqua and Punboqua.[6] Together the factories formed a guild known as the cohong; the actual number of factories fluctuated over the years, before settling at thirteen in the early 19th Century.

The emperor appointed an official called the hoppo (the spelling at the time of 戶部, Hubu, which was short for 粵海關部, Yuehaiguanbu), to take charge and collect taxes for the goods traded. The position also oversaw whether trades went accordingly. The hoppo was responsible for merchant relations on behalf of the Qing court. It was an important position since Western merchants were not allowed to communicate with the emperor directly.[2]

By imperial decree, foreigners were not permitted to learn Chinese at the time[2] although the British did have Robert Morrison as a translator.[6] The four linguists representing the Chinese side included Atom, Achow, Atung and Akang.[6]

In 1835, medical missionary Peter Parker, M.D. opened an Ophthalmic Hospital at 3 Hog Lane. Parker commissioned Lam Qua, a Western-trained Chinese painter who also had workshops in the Thirteen Factories area, to paint pre-operative portraits of patients who had large tumors or other major deformities.


Plan of the factories, 1856

The Western merchants were allowed to occupy two- or three-story buildings, set back one hundred yards from the river. Each factory contained three or four houses. The warehouses occupied the first floors and elegant apartments were on the second and third floors of the houses. The square in front of the factories was fenced and reserved for foreigners. The streets immediately adjoining the factories were named Thirteen Factory Street, Old China Street, and Hog Lane. These streets were filled with retail stores selling a wide variety of Chinese goods.

Thirteen factories[edit]

The following are the factory buildings that made up the thirteen factories area in sequence from east to west.

English names Chinese names[6] Jyutping Romanization
Creek Factory 小溪館 (怡和行) yi4 wo4 hong4
Dutch Factory 荷蘭館 (集義行) jaap6 yi6 hong4
New English Factory 新英國館 (保和行) bou2 wo4 hong4
Chow-Chow Factory 炒炒館 (豐泰行、巴斯行) fung1 taai3 hong4
Old English Factory 舊英國館 (隆順行) lung4 seun6 hong4
Swedish Factory 瑞典館 (瑞行) seui6 hong4
Imperial Factory 帝國館 (孖鹰行) ma1 ying1 hong4
Paoushun Factory 寶順館 (寶順行) bou2 seun6 hong4
American Factory 美國館 (廣源行) gwong2 yun4 hong4
Mingqua's Factory 明官館 (中和行) jung1 wo4 hong4
French Factory 法蘭西館 (高公行) gou1 gung1 hong4
Spanish Factory 西班牙館 (大呂宋行) daai6 leui5 sung3 hong4
Danish Factory 丹麥館 (得興行) dak1 hing1 hong4

The Chow-Chow Factory was indirectly linked to the British East India Company.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Book review of Everything in Style: Harriet Low's Macau.
  2. ^ a b c d e Tamura, Eileen. China: Understanding its Past (1998). University of Hawaii. ISBN 0-8248-1923-3
  3. ^ Basu, Dilip K. “Chinese Xenology and the Opium War: Reflections on Sinocentrism.” The Journal of Asian Studies 73, no. 04 (November 2014): 927–40.
  4. ^ Discovery Channel guide. [2005] (1980). Insight Guide HK. APA Publications. ISBN 981-258-246-0
  5. ^ Kjellberg, Sven T. (1975). Svenska ostindiska compagnierna 1731–1813: kryddor, te, porslin, siden [The Swedish East India company 1731–1813: spice, tea, porcelain, silk] (in Swedish) (2 ed.). Malmö: Allhem. p. 99. ISBN 91-7004-058-3. Retrieved 24 September 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c d Roberts, Edmund. [1837] (1837) Embassy to the Eastern Courts of Cochin-China, Siam, and Muscat: In the U.S. Sloop-of-war Peacock. Harper & Brothers. Harvard University archive. No ISBN Digitized.


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 23°06′35″N 113°15′06″E / 23.109743°N 113.251607°E / 23.109743; 113.251607