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Second China War Medal, with bars for Fatshan 1857, Canton 1857, Taku Forts 1858 & Taku Forts 1860, issued 1861

Second China War Medal, 1861

Obverse, a bust of Queen Victoria

Second China War Medal, 1861

Reverse, a collection of war trophies including a royal shield below palm tree

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Second China War Medal, 1861 (Second Anglo-Chinese War, Second Opium War)

Increasing competition from the USA and France for Chinese trade concessions, against a background of extreme Chinese reluctance to co-operate with British trading interests after the First Opium War, led Britain to demand new trading concessions of China in 1854 to secure its `most favoured nation' status. China rejected this demand, and resentment on the ground eventually came to a boil with the seizure by Chinese authorities of a Hong Kong steamer, the Arrow, which the British claimed as a breach of their rights. In retaliation British forces seized the fort of Guangzhou (Canton), with help from US naval vessels, but were driven out of the city when its people and soldiery ignored their governor's order not to resist. Reinforcements for the British were soon sent from India, although slowly because of the concurrent First War of Indian Independence (usually known as the Indian Mutiny). In the meantime the naval forces on station destroyed what Chinese vessels they could locate, including a small fleet at the battle of Fatshan Creek (Foshan) in May 1857.
Similar tensions and incidents led to France joining Britain in the war, and coalition forces once massed took Guangzhou in 1857, exiling the governor, Ye Mingshen, to India where he died of self-imposed starvation. An initial treaty was settled between France, Russia, the USA and Britain at Tientsin in 1858, although the Taku Forts that guard the entry to the Hai He River had had to be captured to permit this.
This treaty had laid down that Britain and France should have access to, and ambassadors in, the closed Chinese Imperial capital of Peking (Beijing). Attempts to make good on this in 1859 were however met with resistance from the forts at Taku, at the mouth of the Hai He River, which rendered the attempt impossible. The British and French governments therefore amassed a new coalition force that arrived in China in 1860, its first objective being the capture of the Taku Forts, which was achieved. The force then pressed on to Beijing, whence the Qing Emperor was driven in October 1860, and his summer palace there burnt and looted. A treaty was reached soon afterwards which re-established a precarious peace, and British forces withdrew from Beijing to the coast. War was however to resume in 1900.
The bars on this medal indicate that its recipient was involved in not only the 1857 battle of Fatshan Creek and the capture of Guanzhong later in the year but also in both the 1858 and 1860 campaigns that briefly took the Taku Forts each time. The bar for Fatshan Creek means that the recipient must have been a sailor or marine, but the medal is unnamed and no further identification can be made. The medal was purchased by Lester Watson from the London dealers Spink in 1928.