Bap­tised by Gun­fire

That's China - - The Garden On The Sea -

Bri­tish ships be­gan to ap­pear spo­rad­i­cally around the coasts of China from 1635 on­wards; and with­out es­tab­lish­ing for­mal re­la­tions through the trib­u­tary sys­tem, Bri­tish mer­chants were al­lowed to trade at the ports of to­day’s Zhoushan and Xi­a­men in ad­di­tion to Guangzhou. In June 1840, an ex­pe­di­tionary force of Bri­tish troops aboard 15 bar­racks ships, four steam-pow­ered gun­boats and 25 smaller boats reached the mouth of the Pearl River, declar­ing an ul­ti­ma­tum de­mand­ing the Qing Gov­ern­ment pay com­pen­sa­tion for losses suf­fered from in­ter­rupted trade and the de­struc­tion of opium. With the Bri­tish ex­pe­di­tionary force now in place, a com­bined naval and ground as­sault was launched on the Chu­san Ar­chi­pel­ago. Zhoushan Is­land, the largest and best de­fended of the is­lands be­came the pri­mary tar­get for the at­tack, as was its vi­tal port of Ding­hai. July 5 saw the fall of Ding­hai af­ter the heroic death of three com­man­ders – Ge Yun­fei, Wang Xipeng and Zheng Guo­hong, whose daunt­less souls now rest in peace on the peak of the Xiaofeng Hill in down­town Ding­hai and form the crown jewel of the his­tor­i­cal pride of Ding­hai.

To ac­cess the Opium War mon­u­ment and mu­seum, one must first as­cend a mul­ti­tude of mount­ing stairs shel­tered by the shade of green fo­liage. At the peak vis­i­tors are greeted by a wide-scop­ing ex­hi­bi­tion ex­plain­ing the se­ries of events that un­folded within Ding­hai dur­ing the bat­tles against the Bri­tish. Once all the knowl­edge is soaked up from the dis­plays within the build­ing, the rooftop pro­vides a pic­turesque land­scape view of the coast, con­jur­ing pos­si­ble bat­tle scenes that were pre­vi­ously fought along the sea­side and amongst the tree-cov­ered hills.

Mem­o­ries of the past are scat­tered around town, evok­ing emo­tional his­tor­i­cal ac­counts. The Li­u­fang Well on Li­u­fang Road in down­town Ding­hai was re­molded from a river, where army sec­re­tary Li Changda and his wife jumped to their death af­ter learn­ing Ding­hai was lost to the Bri­tish army.

A spe­cial fig­ure in the blood­i­est bat­tle in the his­tory of Ding­hai is a farmer known as Bao Zu­cai. See­ing sev­eral Bri­tish in­vaders sur­vey­ing the city to make maps, a fu­ri­ous Bao Zu­cai dashed from his sweet po­tato farm and axed one of the sol­diers to death. He then held an­other one cap­tive, shoved him into a wicker bas­ket and pre­sented the tro­phy to the bar­rack in Zhen­hai. A stone tablet com­mem­o­rat­ing the man’s heroic deeds can still be seen in the vil­lage by to­day’s peo­ple.

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