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Temple where the Treaty was signed July the 3rd, 1844, in the Village of Wang Heia (Wangxia) in the Vacinity [sic] of Macao (Aomen), watercolor by George R. West, July 3, 1844

George R. West accompanied Commissioner Caleb Cushing to China as the official artist of the diplomatic mission. West’s watercolor drawings documented the trip, including this Buddhist temple in Wangxia where Cushing and Qiying, the Chinese commissioner sent by the emperor, signed the historic treaty.

Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

Temple where the Treaty was signed July the 3rd, 1844, in the Village of Wang Heia (Wangxia) in the Vacinity [sic] of Macao (Aomen), watercolor by George R. West, July 3, 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.