May 26, 2022

S2-E13 - A Cruise on an Opium Clipper to Takao (Kaohsiung)

S2-E13 - A Cruise on an Opium Clipper to Takao (Kaohsiung)

Kaohsiung Harbor was, in the late twentieth century, one of the world's busiest ports, but back during the time of the Opium Wars, it was still a rather secluded and hard-to-find place. Based on the somewhat embellished "A Cruise in an Opium Clipper," this is the story of how a British merchant ship carrying chests of opium found its way to Takao -- modern-day Kaohsiung. Today, of course, opium is mostly illegal, but as you'll hear... back then it was quite popular, and considered by many to be no worse than alcohol. So, trim the mainsail, hard to starboard... and another barrel of grog! We're sailing to 'Ta-ku'!

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The former name of Kaohsiung has been spelled different ways by different people throughout history. One can find: Takau, Takao, Takow, Tankoyaby the Dutch, and 'Ta-Ku' by the opium traders in this episode.  

Cover image: Painting by William John Huggins - Via Sotheby's

Above: The ‘Streatham’ with the opium clipper ‘Red Rover’ are shown at anchor in the Hooghly River, Calcutta - National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London. Ships such as these were important as they got tea (and opium) to their destinations as fast as was then possible. 

NOTE: The Takao Club website has some fabulous images, pictures and info about Kaohsiung and its role as a harbor...from the Qing era to the early post Japanese years. 

Below: An early photograph of the harbor area allegedly taken by William Pickering around 1867. (Via the Takao Club)

Below: One of those '"receiving ships" John mentions (Via the Takao Club)

Below: The modern port of Kaohsiung (Via Port of Kaohsiung authorities) 

Below: An opium cake and a photo of a man smoking opium, taken by John Hill in 1979 -- Both via Wikimedia Commons

Below: The rock that once sat at the mouth of the harbor - (Entrance to Takow Harbor in the 1860s – Collingwood, 1868 – Via the Takao Club)