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The Opium War (1997)
"Yapian zhanzheng" (original title)

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Historical Drama starting in 1839 in Guangzhou where British merchants dealing with opium are to be executed because the opium is destroying the Empire. After the burning of 20,000 boxes of... See full summary »



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Credited cast:
Guoan Bao ...
Debra Beaumont ...
Rob Freeman ...
Emma Griffiths Malin ...
Mary Denton
Jiang Hua ...
Guan Tianpei
Captain White
Hsiang Ting Ko ...
Yi Shan
Shilong Li ...
Han Zhaoqing
Weixin Li ...
Deng Tingzhen
Liankun Lin ...
Qi Shan
Sihung Lung ...
He Jingrong (as Xiong Lang)


Historical Drama starting in 1839 in Guangzhou where British merchants dealing with opium are to be executed because the opium is destroying the Empire. After the burning of 20,000 boxes of opium by the Chinese England declares war, because the burned opium was the property of the British commercial attache who had bought it from the British merchants. Written by Marco Radke <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | History | War


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Release Date:

13 June 1997 (Hong Kong)  »

Also Known As:

The Opium War  »

Filming Locations:


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Technical Specs


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Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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User Reviews

A fairly accurate depiction of the origins of the Opium War
27 April 2005 | by (Paris & NYC) – See all my reviews

The Opium War is an historical event that heralded the beginning of the end for the Qing Dynasty and the Chinese Empire as a whole. However, despite its name, the roots of Opium War do not only lie in the drug or its addiction. Opium, corruption, mismanagement, and a gross underestimate of the West's projection power are only some of the many complex reasons that led to the First Opium War.

In Yapian Zhanzheng (Opium War), historical events are depicted in a fairly accurate manner, concentrating on the main facts and events. Different aspects of the situation are presented: the Emperor's dilemmas, British/Western interests, Commissioner Lin's character, the opium merchant, the corrupt officials, etc... The film however lacks depth and emotion. The viewer is kept on the outside, and cannot identify with any character, bar young He who is forced into the story so as to add a human dimension to the story.

From a historical perspective, the film also tends to simplify certain aspects of the situation. One would think that there only were half a dozen merchants in Canton, and that the whole war was caused by Captain Elliott. The power of merchants and their trade is briefly mentioned, but only incidentally, as are power politics at the Imperial Court and at Parliament, internal turmoil, national and international political strategy, and many other factors that led to the War.

Overall, viewing of this film is recommended to gain a overview of major events; certain scenes are also quite spectacular. But do not watch for an in-depth historical analysis or representation of the Opium War.

16 of 19 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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