History – Basic Timeline

Tang, song, and yuan Dynasties (618-1368 C.E.)
  • Opium was not used recreationally
  • Opium was widely used as a medicine in oral form, prescribed by physicians and herbalists for a variety of ailments
  • For medical use, opium was grown and harvested domestically within China
Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
  • Opium continued to be used orally as a medicine as in earlier dynasties
  • In the early 1400s, imperial treasure fleets started to receive opium from abroad as tribute
  • By the reign of the Chenghua Emperor (reign 1464-1487) opium taken orally had become had become a component of aphrodisiacs in the imperial court
  • Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish sailors and traders spread the knowledge of tobacco smoking to other parts of the world during the first half of the 16th century
  • The first archaeological evidence of tobacco smoking in China dates from 1550
  • The Wanli Emperor (reign 1572-1620) was addicted to oral use of opium, impacting his leadership to a large degree
  • Opium smoking, mixed with tobacco, was observed in Bantan (present-day Java) in 1602 and Macao in 1626
  • Tobacco smoking was normalized in much of China by the 1620’s and 1630’s
  • The Jiangnan region begun to be associated with opium, as wealthy gentlemen and scholars planted it in their gardens
  • By the end of the Ming dynasty, the use of opium for pleasure was the province of alchemists and royalty, and opium was associated with sex, rejuvenation, feminine beauty, and attraction


More sections to follow…