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Anti-British War Travel Destinations for the Fourth of July
by Mitch Blatt - Jul 6, 2015
My first year in China I was the only American in a subleased apartment with eight Chinese people when the Fourth of July came around. July 4 celebrates America’s Independence Day, marking the anniversary of the approval of the Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed the colonies’ separation from Great Britain. As a lone American, how can you celebrate your national day in China?
In America we celebrate with barbecues, picnics, fireworks, and outdoor events. In major Chinese cities, there are usually some bars offering BBQ specials, but those kind of events organized by foreign restaurants can’t recreate the atmosphere ten thousand kilometers away. Celebrate Chinese style; it will feel more real. My first year, I had brought a bottle of Jim Beam whisky from America. My new roommates were happy to try an esteemed American product. Afterwards, we went to eat hot pot, which is a metaphor for America’s immigrant society, I think, as I write, but at the time was just good food. The next year, I spent the Fourth of July drinking beer with friends on a red Coca-Cola-branded picnic table outside a convenience store in Guangzhou. When it comes right down to it, booze and friends are the best way to celebrate anything, and America inserted parts of itself into most countries.
Fireworks at Diego Bay on the fourth of July
For travelers, you might even think about visiting some interesting travel spots to commemorate our war of revolution against Britain. America’s victory in the Revolutionary War is what ultimately won us independence. China, like America and so many other countries, also fought against Britain in history. Following is a list of some interesting tourist sites relating to the Opium Wars from 1839-42 and 1856-60:
Humen, Guangdong (广东虎门)
Opium War Museum (Yāpiàn Zhànzhēng Bówùguǎn; 鸦片战争博物馆)
Address: 113 Jiefang Rd, Humen, Dongguan, Guangdong (广东省东莞市虎门镇解放路113号)
Opening time: 8:30 am - 5:00 pm (Mon to Sun)
Opium War Museum entrance
It was in Humen, a port city within Dongguan municipality, that Lin Zexu (林则徐) apprehended the foreign opium traders and forced them to handover 1,188,127 kilograms (2,619,372 pounds) of opium that he destroyed. The Opium War Museum, a National Patriotism Education base and AAAA Tourist Attraction, includes information about the history of the opium trade and the wars. Opium smoking sets are among the relics on display there, which are rarely found today in any country.
Also nearby the museum are the Shajiao Emplacement (Shājiǎo Pàotái; 沙角炮台) and the Weiyuan Emplacement (Wēiyuǎn Pàotái; 威远炮台), forts from which the Chinese defended the country, with old cannons at the walls; and the ruins of the site where Lin Zexu destroyed the opium. The site is also called the “Lin Zexu Memorial (Lín Zéxú Jì’niànguǎn; 林则徐纪念馆).” The traders were released from house arrest after forfeiting their opium, but many of them went home to Britain and lobbied for war.
Naval Battle Museum (Hǎizhàn Bówùguǎn; 海战博物馆)
Address: across the bridge from the Opium War Museum
Opening time: 8:30 am - 5:00 pm (Mon to Sun)
Naval Battle Museum
On Weiyuan Island, on the coast of the Shizi Ocean (Shīzi Yáng; 狮子洋), the Naval Battle Museum lays out the history of the battles during the Opium Wars. The museum includes portions of the old walls, with their age visible in the cracks and damage. It is actually built next to the Jingyuan Battery (Jìngyuǎn Pàotái; 靖远炮台) and the Weiyuan Battery right on the mouth of the Humen estuary.
Area map of Opium War Museum
How to get to Humen
Human has a train station with trains from Changsha South, Wuhan, Xi’an North, Guangzhou South, Shenzhen North, and other stations. Human Railway Station is about 6 km away from the Opium War Museum (an hour by bus). Bus 5 runs on Baisha Central N Rd to Zhenxing Rd where visitors should alight and walk down Zhenkou Rd to the museum. There is also a ferry port at Humen Ferry Wharf (虎门轮渡码头) with boats from the Hong Kong Airport.
Zhoushan Island, Zhejiang (浙江舟山群岛)
Just off the coast of Ningbo is a string of hundreds of beautiful islands with lovely beaches. The biggest of those islands is Zhoushan, and Zhoushan was also the site of a major battle in the first Opium War. In addition, Zhoushan was also a final stand of the Southern Ming’s resistance against the Qing dynasty.
Opium War Memorial Park (Yāpiàn Zhànzhēng Jì’niànguǎn; 鸦片战争纪念馆)
This museum and memorial park covers 10 hectares and includes relics and information about the battles. It is another National Patriotism Education base. Outside it also has memorials to the soldiers who died. There is a statue of three generals and the Shrine of the Three Loyalists: Ge Yunfei (葛云飞), Zheng Guohong (郑国鸿), and Wang Xipeng (王锡朋), all of whom died fighting the British. The temple shrine was first built in 1846 and rebuilt in 1884. The memorial museum wasn’t opened until 1997. Also on Zhoushan Island are tables for other defenders, like Lord Yao and Mr. Li, and the ruins of Daotou town.
Zhoushan Opium War Musem
The Realm of the Tonggui (Tóngguī Yù; 同归域)
This has nothing to do with the Opium Wars, but if you are already in Zhoushan looking at war-related memorials, you should visit The Realm of the Tonggui, too. It houses the ashes of 18,000 anti-Qing fighters who defended the Ming Dynasty in its dying days, laid to rest in 1651. At the Well of Imperial Yuan Consort, the Southern Ming queen Prince of Lu jumped to death when she knew there was no chance to stop the Qing.
The Realm of the Tonggui
Both the Opium War Memorial and the Realm of the Tonggui are in the main city, Dinghai (定海), near the entrance to the port. Although there is a small Zhoushan Airport, it could be easier to get to Zhoushan from Ningbo (宁波), as there is a bridge to Zhoushan and buses or minibuses depart from Ningbo’s North and South bus stations as well as from many hotels.
Area map of Opium War Memorial Park
Dinghai District Seafront
Wusong Fort, Shanghai (上海吴淞口)
At the Battle of Wusong, the British hit Shanghai’s northern defenses. Now Wusong is in Baoshan District (宝山区) in the north of Shanghai, at Youyi Road Station on Line 3. Wusong Fort is located at the end of Youyi Road in Linjiang Park along with a memorial to General Chen Huacheng (陈化成), who died at the battle. Songhu Anti-Japanese War Memorial Hall was added to the park in 2014 as part of a national campaign to build 80 more memorial halls for the Sino-Japanese War (World War II).
Area map of Wusong Fort
Jinghai Temple, Nanjing (南京静海寺)
The British advanced and made it all the way to Nanjing by 1842. Inside the Jinghai Temple, they discussed a treaty to end the war. On August 29, 1842, they ultimately signed the Nanjing Treaty, which opened some Chinese ports for trade, ending the First Opium War.
The Jinghai Temple also has a connection to Chinese seafaring history. It was originally built in 1416 by the Yongle emperor to commemorate Zheng He (郑和), the explorer who sailed to Southeast Asia, India, and Africa on tributary trade missions. The temple commemorated Tian Hou (天后), also known as Mazu (妈祖), the Goddess of the Sea who protected Zheng He on his missions, as well. Few Tian Hou temples exist inland from the southern coast. It is built by Shizi Mountain, and on top of the mountain is the splendidly colorful Yuejiang Tower (阅江楼). Damaged by the Taiping Rebellion and the Sino-Japanese War, the temple was rebuilt in 1996, to celebrate the return of Hong Kong, and expanded to 2,800 square meters to include a large museum. In this way, the Jinghai Temple represents both the start and end of the war against Britain. It was where the treaty was signed to cede Hong Kong, and then it was rebuilt when Hong Kong returned.
Area map of Jinghai Temple
Jinghai Temple Bell Tower
Jinghai Temple Ground
Zheng He Memorial Hall at Jinghai Temple
Mitchell grew up in Cleveland, OH and graduated from Indiana University with a B.A. in journalism. He has written about music, sports, travel and culture. Since he began studying Chinese, he has become obsessed with Chinese culture and travel, and has visited over 13 provinces and plans to visit many more. In 2013, he moved to Dali, Yunnan, and launched the travel guide DestinationDali.com. When he's not writing, he enjoys singing karaoke, doing "ganbei's" with friends and strangers, attending punk concerts, and getting lost in the alleyways of ancient cities.