It is often argued that the following mechanism heavily contributed to the commencement of the opium trade between the Qing and British Empires (you are welcome to correct my understanding):
- Certain Qing taxes had to be paid in silver
- Foreign trade transactions in the Qing Empire were only allowed in silver
- Britain had a significant trade deficit with regard to Qing
- This severely depleted European silver reserves
- Britain sought to reverse that by introducing a new trade, the opium trade.
It has proven very difficult for me to find citable evidence for parts of the above. For the earlier Ming Dynasty I found some more concrete claims here, though it’s unclear upon what they are based:
Silver was required to pay provincial taxes in 1465, the salt tax in 1475, and corvée exemptions in 1485.
This website about Qing economy claims that:
During the Qing period, all Chinese people had to pay part of their taxes to the government in money (usually copper coins or silver) as opposed to goods-in-kind
making it sound like there was no obligation to use silver! Perhaps it was more a consequence of the copper coin’s low value, that is a practical consideration?
It appears that I have found such a law for the earlier Ming Dynasty. The Wikipedia article on the Single Whip Law states:
The unit of tax collection was changed from rice to silver, which led to an increase in the import of silver into China from Japan and Spanish-controlled America.
Around 1839, which types of taxes were required by Qing law to be paid in silver?
Did this apply to everyone, including peasants in remote regions? I will welcome answers pointing to scientific articles, but particularly hope for references to a Chinese source from the period or translation thereof.