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The Portuguese were the only Europeans allowed by the Chinese state into its ports. They had set up a trading place at Macao in the 1550s. In 1622 the Dutch established Fort Zeelandia on nearby Taiwan. They were expelled by Koxinga in 1661, and the Company took over their base. As the Ch’ing Government relaxed trade controls they moved to the mainland.

The Company’s first trading post in China was at Amoy. Goods on offer here included fans, porcelain figures of animals and deities, screens, cabinets and painted sheets of wallpaper.

Later factories were set up at Chusan, an island near Shanghai, and at the great city of Canton on the Pearl River.

Once trade at Canton was established, the Company focused on tea, silk and porcelain.

  canton interactive    

The waterfront at Canton from an 8-metre-long scroll of the Pearl River from Whampoa to the city, painted by a Chinese artist
c 1760

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