Snapdragons: A History of Warring Factions

Bettmann / CORBIS

This undated illustration depicts the bombardment of Canton during the Chinese War, December 28, 1857

Not in snow-flecked Peking, not in tropical Canton, and not in any of the thousands of square miles that lie between did Chinese cry to one another, last week, Rung Hor Sun Hay! ("Happy New Year!"). Reasons: in the second place, very few Chinese had legitimate cause for happiness; and, in the first place, their "new year" does not come until February—when it is observed with fireworks. Thus the thoughts of the docile, unoffensive people of China were not lightened by holiday fripperies, last week,...

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