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Research Colloquium on Narratives of Free Trade in Early Sino-American Relations
Date: 15-17 June 2009 

Research Colloquium on Narratives of Free Trade in Early Sino-American Relations

In 1844, Caleb Cushing, the United States Commissioner to China, negotiated The Treaty of Wangxia. In the wake of England's victory over China in the Opium War, the treaty supposedly established "Relations of peace and amity between the United States and China" and guaranteed that vessels of the United States would be "admitted to trade freely to and from the five ports of China open to foreign commerce..." (Article 22)

This interdisciplinary research colloquium focuses on the accounts of commerce between China and the United States in decades before this treaty and in the subsequent two centuries. To what extent was there a common language of commerce? Was "trade" ever "free"? How were the stories of early Sino-American commerce told in newspapers, in biographies, in fiction? What issues of translation or communication were important to the negotiation of commerce and how do these issues affect how we understand these accounts to this day?

The goal of the conference is to bring together scholars from across various disciplines, nationalities, and institutions to consider these questions. The paper topic include:
• "America, China, and Macanese Identity in the Works of Felipe B. Nery (1920-)" (Dr. Joseph Abraham Levi, University of Hong Kong)
• "American Commissioners and Chinese Participation in Expositions Held in the U.S.A" (Dr. Aili Li, Sun Yat-sen University)
• "The American Women Diarists of Macau"  (Dr. Rogerio Puga, University of Macau)
• "China and the 'American System':  From Henry Adams to Wen Jiabao" (Dr. Paul Bové, University of Pittsburgh)
• "China of the American Imagination: The Influence of Trade on U.S. Portrayals of China, 1820 to 1860" (Dr. John R. Haddad, Penn State University)
• "Chopsticks or Cutlery?: How Canton Hong Merchants Entertained Their Foreign Guests in the 18th and 19th Centuries" (Dr. May Bo Ching, Sun Yat-sen University)
• "Compradors, Co-hongs and the American:  A Study of Trading Networks of Early Sino-American Commerce" (Dr. Vincent Ho, Chinese University of Hong Kong)
• "Deities of Commercial Negotiation in Canton" (Dr. Khun Eng Kuah-Pearce, University of Hong Kong)
• "The Face of Diplomacy in 19th Century China: Qi Ying's Portrait Gifts" (Dr. Y. W. Koon, University of Hong Kong)
• "Ginseng, Genre, and the Speculative Romance of Early Sino-American Commerce" (Dr. Kendall Johnson, Swarthmore College)
• "The Studios of Cantonese Painters During the Qing Dynasty" (Dr. Yinghe Jiang, Sun Yat-sen University)
• "Narratives of Privacy Between America and China" (Dr. Max Cavitch, University of Pennsylania)
• "Russell and Company and the Imperialism of Free Trade" (Dr. Sibing He, Instituto Cultural, Macao)
• "Were All Those Books Necessary?:  The Bookkeeping Practices of American and European China Traders Compared"  (Dr. Paul Van Dyke University of Macau)

Date  & Venue :
15-16 June - Room 218, Convocation Room, Main Building
17 June - Room 515, K. K. Leung Building

Session Format:
The colloquium will consist of one-hour sessions during which time a participant will present his or her paper and discuss the essay with the group.

Contact Person:
Dr. Kendall Johnson at [ ]
Ms Christy Ho at [ ]

For more information, please visit

The event is sponsored by:
The American Studies Program, School of Modern Languages and Cultures
China-West Studies, Strategic Theme of the University of Hong Kong
The Hong Kong America Center
Instituto Cultural do Governo da R.A.E. de Macau
School of Asia-Pacific Studies, Sun Yat-sen University
Department of History, Sun Yat-sen University

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