August 29th 1842: Treaty of Nanking signed

On this day in 1842, the Treaty of Nanking was signed by the United Kingdom and China. The treaty ended the First Opium War which began in 1939 and resulted in the defeat of Qing China by the British. The war was fought over the smuggling of European opium into China, and was sparked when Chinese officials confiscated around 20,000 chests of the drug from British traders. With China defeated, the two sides met aboard the HMS Cornwallis moored at Nanking and their representatives signed the treaty. The agreement, considered unequal by the Chinese as they received no concessions, mostly concerned trade and gave the British more control over Chinese trade. It also provided for the Qing government to pay reparations for the confiscated opium and the cost of the war. Very importantly, the treaty also saw the Chinese cede the territory of Hong Kong to the British, which only returned to Chinese rule in 1997.