The social life of Opium

A film waiting to be made

Asia Research Institute Lecture
The Social Life of Opium in China by Dr Zheng Yangwen
29 November 2006, 7:00pm
National Library, Possibility Room, FREE but register 6516 8787

Recreational smoking was foreign to China, as was opium itself (like tea to England). How and when, then, did opium smoking come to lodge itself within the sophisticated Chinese consumer culture? I trace opium’s transformation over a period of 500 years to show how the Chinese people of different classes and regions redefined a foreign way of leisure and developed a complex culture of consumption around its use. From aphrodisiac to popular culture, from social identity to political economy, Mr. Opium lived a colourful social life and played a role larger than himself in the theatre of modern China.