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What I know: During the period leading up to the Opium Wars, trade into China from Europe was locked down to 13 buildings in Canton known as the 13 factories. European merchants were only permitted to do business in the 13 factories.


What I want to know: What title were the merchants who had authorization to deal with the europeans in the 13 factories called? Was there a title for these merchants who were allowed to deal with the outsiders? Was this even a special privilege, or could anyone walk into the 13 factories and strike a deal?

While we're at it, what's a better name than "the period leading up to the Opium Wars" for this period in Chinese history? That's obviously a eurocentric way to specify the time period, and I'd rather not do that.


I'm shamelessly crossposting this with the History Stack Exchange, because I can't figure out which one is the "right" place to put this question. If there's a clear policy on which one I should have used, please accept my apologies in advance and educate me.

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    Found some reference on google: zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/… They're called 廣州十三行 (Thirteen Factories or Thirteen Hongs of Canton) – Alex Mar 22 at 20:16
  • With help from gTranslate, it looks like the article says the merchants were called "牙行商人", which it is translating as "tooth merchant"? The mystery deepens. – baudot Mar 22 at 21:04
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    "牙" was a typo from "互" in the Tang Dynasty as the words were similar. "互" has a meaning of 'exchange'. So basically the thirteen 'factories', according to this wiki, is indeed the agents and the only agents allowed trading with the western, i.e. if you're a trader from England you cannot contact the local official directly but through these agents. – Alex Mar 22 at 22:06
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What title were the merchants who had authorization to deal with the europeans in the 13 factories called

they're called 行商 (hong/factory merchant)

indeed, there're several chinese books about the thirteen hongs (十三行); for an english one, have a look of "the 'fan kwae' at canton before treaty days, 1825-1844"

if you can read literary chinese, try the book 夷氛聞記, by 梁廷枏:

https://zh.wikisource.org/wiki/夷氛聞記/卷01

what's a better name than "the period leading up to the Opium Wars" for this period in Chinese history?

in westerner's term, i think "before treaty days" is quite good.

in chinese's term, i would suggest:

嘉道年間 (1796-1850)

道光年間 (1821-1850)

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