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Caricature Box of 'Anti-Opium Commissioner Yeh'


Caricature Box of 'Anti-Opium Commissioner Yeh', presumably England, second half of the 19th century


Keith Stevens (1927–2015) Collection, Hong Kong and Kent, England

Detail Description

Caricature Box of ‘Anti-Opium Commissioner Yeh’

Presumably England. Second half 19th century

Stone composite; oval interior container pewter

H35.5 x W14 x D17 cm (14 x 5 1/2 x 6 11/16 in.)

‘Commissioner Yeh’ (Ye Mingchen, 1807–1859) was lampooned in Western media of the late 19th century as the embodiment of Chinese nationalism for his stance against opium and his antagonism to the British, who were trading in it. The conceit of the sculpture is the torso, which lifts up to reveal a ‘secret’ container for opium.

Ye Mingchen is described in Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing Period (1644–1912), edited by Arthur W. Hummel, (1970), as “tall and bulky with little or no refinement of appearance or manner. Like many officials of his day, he was fortunate in passing the routine government examinations, and was then placed in positions of responsibility for which he was not fitted”.  Captured by the British in 1856 after the Allied bombardment of Guangzhou, Ye was taken by the British, in violation of diplomatic procedure, as a prisoner of war to Fort William, Calcutta in British India, where he died a year later from an ailment at Tolly Gunge, just outside Calcutta.


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Caricature Box of 'Anti-Opium Commissioner Yeh'