Flag of the Chinese Imperial Navy

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Essential information

Opening times: 
National Maritime Museum, First floor, Traders gallery

China has a naval tradition that stretches back for more than nine centuries.

It's war junks made the Chinese navy a powerful and formidable force. By the mid-1800s, however, these vessels were no longer a match for steam-powered, iron warships. After the Second Anglo-Chinese War, 1856-60, China adopted this new technology and modernized its navy.

This flag of the Chinese Imperial Navy show a winged tiger holding lightning bolts. Tongues of flame are shown around the border.

Robert John Le Mesurier McClure of the Royal Navy took this flag during the Second Anglo-Chinese War. This war was also known as the Second Opium War due to the East India Companies practice of supporting illegal opium smuggling to China. This helped fund the growing tea-trade but it broke Chinese law and led to two wars in the 19th century.

"A war more unjust in its origins, a war more calculated... to cover this country with disgrace, I do not know and have not read of." William Gladstone, British politician.