Second Opium War

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The Second Opium War, also known as the Arrow War, was a war fought between the Qing Empire and a number of Western powers from 1856 to 1860.

In 1857, Dutch commissioner resident in Nagasaki Jan Hendrik Donker Curtius warned the Tokugawa shogunate that the British had burned down Canton and that the shogunate had better take this into account when considering its own interactions with the British.[1]

In 1858, the Qing signed a number of treaties with the various Western powers known collectively as the Treaty of Tientsin (or the Treaties of Tianjin), which tentatively ended the conflict; however, before the treaties could be ratified, factions within the Qing court raised criticism and opposition to the rather disadvantageous terms of these Unequal Treaties and ultimately the Court did not ratify the treaties. As a result, violence continued for another two years.

Before the end of the war, British and French armies would invade Beijing, and infamously sacked the Old Summer Palace (also known as the Yuanmingyuan), stealing or destroying many great imperial treasures.

Following the end of the war (if not also during it), the Ryukyuan royal court held state rituals praying for China.


  1. Ishin Shiryô Kôyô 維新史料綱要, vol 2 (1937), 301.