OPIUM: The Flower of Evil


OPIUM: The Flower of Evil

DONALD WIGAL    Book Number: 90336    Product format: Hardback

Jean Cocteau said, 'Everything one does in life, even love, occurs in an express train racing towards death. To smoke opium is to get out of the train while it is still moving. It is to concern oneself with something other than life or death.' Opium may have been introduced into China by Arab importers around the year 400 and it was not until 1500 that the practice of 'smoking' opium begins. By the late 1600s the custom of smoking in tobacco pipes is brought to China by the Dutch and the practice spreads to Europe and America throughout the 1800s. Thomas de Quincey's 'Confessions of An English Opium-Eater' is published and for the first time opium, rather than addicts, is portrayed as the hero. In the years 1839 to 1842 the First Opium War boosts exports. The British force the importation of opium from India into China where it is illegal. Demand for the addictive product intensifies, and China orders all British opium to be destroyed. The British declare war and a year later China surrenders, being forced to give the important part of Hong Kong to the British. Under British rule, opium becomes the main product of Hong Kong. The Second Opium War lasted four years from 1856 and by the 1860s the hypodermic syringe is perfected. Patients with chronic pain are given morphine and a syringe, while physicians mistakenly believe that injecting morphine by syringe could cure opium-eating addiction. In 1898 heroin is discovered. In 1945 American General Douglas McArthur in charge of occupied Japan forbids Japanese farmers to cultivate opium and stops all narcotic production. In 1949 the UN Narcotics Commission establishes a committee in Turkey to control and supervise the trading of opium throughout the world. To Kill A Mocking Bird portrays a middle class white woman addicted to opium after it is prescribed for medicinal use and of course Oscar Wilde and many English gentlefolk frequented Chinatown and the opium dens of Limehouse in the East End to partake of this new hobby and often addiction. By the 2000s opium production in Afghanistan, the world's largest producer of the drug, reaches record high levels, peaking in 2007. However, this is a picture book, crammed with fantastic artefacts, ornate pipes in silver and ivory, woodcuts, images and paintings of opium dens, poppy pickers, the Parisian opium scene, Chinese paintings on rice paper, a Chinese sailor smoking in his junk, the method and images of drying opium, assortments of opium boxes with dog-lions and plants, Chinese glass paintings, several shown in full page and then detailed close-ups to explain the imagery, and at the beginning of the book the opium poppy in beautiful botanical watercolours. Towards the end of the book are book covers and stills from films featuring opium. 256 compact pages in square heavyweight hardback, dripping with colour. 15 x 17cm.
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ISBN 9781783100187
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