Points of Departure
Huang, Qianren, Da Qing wan nian yi tong di li quan tu, Complete geographical map of the great Qing Dynasty, Map, China, ca. 1814-1816.Contributors
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There were some very distinct, local departure points.
The vast majority, an estimated 90 percent, of Chinese voyagers to Australia who left for the goldfields came from a small geographic area within a tight radius of only 200 kilometres of Guangzhou (Canton), on the South Chinese coast.
A unique and populous realm, Guangdong Province, surrounding Guangzhou (known in 1850s Australia as Canton Province), was geographically, culturally and linguistically separate from the Qing Dynasty's Imperial centre hundreds of kilometres to the north.
Guangzhou (Canton) itself was only a short river journey from the Portuguese sea port of Macau and Britain's new island sea port of Hong Kong, established in 1842 as a prize of the first Opium War.
In the century preceding the gold rush, China had been reluctant to open up trade to the western world. For nearly a hundred years, Guangzhou was the only city in China officially permitted to accept European traders. This made Guangzhou, and its surrounding province of Guangdong, a unique centre of international trade. After the first Opium War between China and Britain in 1839-1842, China was forced to open more ports to western trade.