Synopses & Reviews
First published in 1946 and long out of print, Foreign Mud is a marvelous historical reconstruction of the events surrounding the illegal trade of opium in Canton during the 1830s and the Opium Wars between Britain and China that followed. Based largely on voluminous documents written by British doctors, missionaries, merchants, and government officials, Collis's tale, far from being a dry assemblage of dates and facts, is a fascinating example of twentieth-century Orientalist literature: ."..you must picture the broad river puckered with little waves, the green sweep of the rice, on the horizon blue hills; you must conjure the many sorts of passing craft, the Mandarin house-boats, dainty and lacquered, the streamers and lanterns of passenger boats, the high tilted junks with demon-painted sterns; and you must plunge these images into a light more intense than we know in these countries, into a warmer wind and an air, purer and more scented than we can sniff except in dreams."
Collis describes, in all its complexities, a moment in time when China is forced, after more than two thousand years of self-contained sufficiency, to open its doors to the culture, commerce, and evangelization of the West -- the casus belli, foreign mud: the opium the British grew and shipped from India. Interspersed with various maps, plans, and illustrations, Foreign Mud is a historical narrative the reader will find more entertaining than any Spielberg film.