Yang Shen had two book readings in April 2012, one for the Anza Borrego Desert Paleontology Society, and another at the San Diego County Public Library, both at Borrego Springs, CA. Here are answers to questions those attending brought up at the readings.
Dr. Lyn Murray wanted to know how China finally got rid of opium. To answer your question about opium in China, look at How China Got Rid of Opium. The traffic grew through the 19th century and became a huge enterprise in Shanghai in the 1920s through the 40s. As I mentioned at the reading, the trade wasn’t put down until the Communists came to power after 1949.
Librarian Eric Robinson asked how many Circuits there were in 1860 (in the Yang Shen video China in 1860 there is mention of Circuits). After finding nothing googling around in English and Chinese (typically the Internet has little depth on so specific an historical topic) I went to my personal library and found an adequate answer in the first book I opened. In The Chinese Government, W. F. Mayer discusses the position of Taotai (Daotai) on page 36, para 280, of the chapter about Provincial Government. In the 18 provinces of China at the time Mayer wrote, 1897, there were “84 Circuits in China proper, the largest number, 10, being in Kansuh.” At the reading, I also mentioned that number of Circuits in any province probably varied with geography and population.
As one illustration, the Yang Shen “Underfoot” notes that “at the time of Yang Shen, there were 84 circuits in China’s 18 provinces [actually in 1897; Mayer, The Chinese Government, p. 36-7]. In the circuit assigned to Wu Hsü [the “Shanghai taotai“], there were two prefectures and one department, and these comprised most if not all of the strategically critical eastern corner of Kiangsu Province, from Soochow north through Taitsang to the Yangtze River, and from Soochow west through Sungkiang to the coast. In the northern part of this circuit, the department of Taitsang 太倉州, containing three counties, reported directly to the provincial government. In the southwestern part of the circuit was the prefecture of Soochow 蘇州府, with three subordinate counties, and the city of Soochow as its prefectural seat. In the western section of the circuit was the prefecture of Sungkiang 松江府, with two counties, one of which was Shanghai county 上海縣, and the city of Sungkiang as prefectural seat.
In Yang Shen the Circuit Intendant, or taotai, is significant because not only did Wu Hsü wield considerable power as the highest-level Chinese government interface with Westerners at Shanghai, but he also was one of the sponsors of Fletcher’s army of Foreign Rifles.
A version of the question about circuits has been posted on the China History Forum.