Asian Studies Program

Chinese Australia

Opium: Use and abuse


Unit title:
Opium: Use and abuse

Year level:
Middle secondary

Key learning areas:
Studies of society and environment
Health and physical education

Curriculum emphases:
From: Studies in Asia: A Statement for Australian Schools:
- Challenging stereotypes
- Contemporary Issues

Duration:
Two - three 50 minute lessons

Description:
Students investigate the issue of opium smoking amongst Chinese communities during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They look at how opium use was used to create ill-feeling towards Chinese people. Students analyse whether the stereotypical view of the Chinese as opium addicts was justified. They may use this as historical background to then undertake a study of the use of opium in society today.

Teacher background material:
The following links provide an introduction and overview of the topics covered in this unit:
- Brief History of the Chinese in Australia on the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website.

Information on opium and the Opium Wars:
- 'Opium' entry on Encyclopedia.com website
- 'Opium' and 'Opium wars' entries on Encarta MSN website

Student outcomes:
Students will:
- identify the social and physical effects of opium addiction
- investigate the role of opium in the animosity felt by many European Australians towards the Chinese
- describe the steps taken by members of the Chinese community to stop the opium trade
- evaluate the fairness or otherwise of the stereotypical view of the Chinese in relation to the opium issue at the turn of the twentieth century.

Materials required:
- Computer/s with internet access. Alternatively could use a cached version of the site or print the relevant pages and copy onto overheads or handouts.

Procedure:
Part 1:
Ask students to read the following:
- 'Opium' entry on Encyclopedia.com website
- 'Opium' and 'Opium wars' entries on Encarta MSN website
- 'Opium issue in Australia' on the Harvest of Endurance Scroll website.
- paragraph headed State and Commonwealth Legislation of the 'Drugs and Our Community: Report of the Premier's Advisory Council 1996' on the Department of Health Services website.
- first 13 paragraphs of 'Australian gold rush sparks customs chaos' by Fletch Heinemann on the Australian Customs Service website.

and answer the questions below:
- What is opium?
- What effects does it have on the user?
- How did the habit of opium smoking first come to Australia?
- When was opium made illegal in Australia? [importation and/or use]

Part 2:
Ask students to read the following:
- Handout 2: 'Extract from World Book Encyclopedia: China - Clash with the Western Powers'
- 'Gambling and opium and the opinions of White Australia' on the Harvest of Endurance Scroll website
- 'Mei Quong Tart' on the Harvest of Endurance Scroll website
- 'Opium' on the Harvest of Endurance Scroll website

and answer the questions below:
- What role did the British merchants play in the use of opium in China?
- Why do you think the Chinese men in Australia smoked opium?
- Did all Chinese men smoke opium?
- How did this affect the image of Chinese in Australia? Was this fair?
- Who was Quong Tart?

Part 3:
Ask students to read the following:
- Document 58: Chinese storekeepers in Darwin protest over accusations of opium trafficking, 1907 from the Digitised Historic Documents database on the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website. (Note: Palmerston is the former name of Darwin)

and answer the questions below:
- What has prompted the writers of this letter to write to the Northern Territory Times and Gazette?
- On what issue do the letter writers agree with 'Anti-Drug'?
- On what issue do they disagree with 'Anti-Drug'?
- What arguments are presented to defend the Chinese community over the opium issue?

Now read the following:
- Document 1138: Quong Tart, A Plea for the Abolition of the Importation of Opium from the Digitised Historic Documents database on the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website

Using the 'Full Document Caption' (a summary of the pamphlet) make a diagrammatic representation (mind-map, flow chart) of the effects of opium on the user and the community, and how the banning of opium would affect the users, the rest of the Chinese community, the community in general and the government.

Extension activities:
Investigate the issue of opium production in the world today.
- Where is it grown?
- Should production be stopped?
- What would the effect of this be?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of banning a potentially harmful substance?

Acknowledgements:
World Book Encyclopedia, World Book Inc, Chicago, 1995 (also available online at http://www.worldbookonline.com)

Author:
Karen Dowling

Handouts:
Download handout 1: 'Extract from World Book Encyclopedia: China - Clash with the Western Powers' (37kb word document).

Summary of websites used in this lesson:
Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation website - http
- Brief History of the Chinese in Australia - education/history.htm
- Historical backgrounds - education/about.htm

- Digitised Historic Documents database - docs_home.htm

'Harvest of Endurance Scroll' on the National Museum of Australia website - http://www.nma.gov.au/harvest/html/

Encyclopedia.com website - http://www.encyclopedia.com

Encarta MSN website - http://encarta.msn.com

Department of Health Services website - http://www.dhs.vic.gov.au

Australian Customs Service website - http://www.customs.gov.au