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Jos [sic] House on Canton River (Zhu Jiang), watercolor by George R. West, 1844

George R. West accompanied Commissioner Caleb Cushing to China as the official artist of the diplomatic mission. West documented the historic trip with watercolor drawings such as this scene of a joss house, or small temple, on the Canton River near Macao (Aomen).

Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

Jos [sic] House on Canton River (Zhu Jiang), watercolor by George R. West, 1844

The First Treaty with China

After Britain’s Opium War with China opened Chinese ports to British commerce in 1842, U.S. merchants petitioned Congress to obtain equal trade rights. In 1844 Representative Caleb Cushing of Massachusetts resigned to become America’s first commissioner to China and negotiated a trade treaty with the Ta Tsing (Qing) Empire. The Treaty of Wangxia, named for the village where it was signed, was the first treaty between the U.S. and China.