Exchange Database

February 22, 1784
A ship called the Empress of China became the first vessel to sail from the United States to China, arriving in Guangzhou (Canton) in August. The vessel’s supercargo, Samuel Shaw, had been appointed as an unofficial consul by the U.S. Congress, but he did not make contact with Chinese officials or gain diplomatic recognition for the United States.
August 9, 1785
Three Chinese sailors arrived in Baltimore, where they were stranded on shore by the trading ship that brought them there from Guangzhou.
January 1, 1821
A Chinese woman selling items to an American ship was killed when a sailor on the American vessel threw a pitcher overboard that struck her, knocking her out of her small boat into the water, where she drowned. Local authorities demanded that the guilty party be surrendered for trial and punishment, but at first the ship’s captain and other merchants refused to comply.
February 1, 1830
The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, one of the earliest missionary organizations of the United States, sent the first two American missionaries to China, the Reverends Elijah Bridgman and David Abeel. They reached Guangzhou in February of 1830.
November 4, 1835
In 1834, Dr. Peter Parker arrived at Guangzhou as America’s pioneer medical missionary. After spending some time in Singapore studying language, he returned to Guangzhou and on November 4, 1835, established a small dispensary in the foreign quarter.
January 1, 1839
After spending 12 years in the China trade, Philadelphia merchant Nathan Dunn returned from China with an enormous collection of art, artifacts, botanical samples, and other items. In 1839 he put them on display in his native city in a “Chinese Museum” that was designed to present the items in as natural a manner as possible, so as to give visitors a picture of life in China.
July 3, 1844
In 1843, Secretary of State Daniel Webster sent Caleb Cushing to China as Minister Plenipotentiary to negotiate a treaty with the Qing. Cushing hoped to journey to Beijing to conduct these negotiations, but the Qing refused to grant an imperial audience, which delayed the negotiations. He thus spent several months waiting in Macao for permission to travel to Beijing before finally giving up on that hope. Once he did so, the Qing negotiator, Qi Ying, quickly agreed to all the American terms (which were mostly the same as the British) and the two countries signed a treaty.
January 1, 1858
Under the threat of an attack on Beijing from British and French forces, the Qing court agreed to sign new treaties with several foreign powers, including the United States.
January 1, 1862
For two decades the chief U.S. representative in China had resided in either Guangzhou or Shanghai (along with all of the other foreign ministers), but after the implementation of the Treaties of Tianjin foreign legations were finally set up in the capital.
January 28, 1867
In 1867 the Qing decided to send China’s first diplomatic mission to the Western nations in order to renegotiate its treaties, and asked U.S. envoy Anson Burlingame to head the mission. With permission from the U.S. Government, Burlingame resigned his post and led two Qing officials to the United States and Europe.

Contribute to Database

Please tell us about U.S.-China exchanges that are not yet included in the database.

Commission Report

Polls show Americans and Chinese are becoming less trustful of each other’s country. The Commission assesses the problem and offers recommendations to foster greater U.S.-China collaboration and understanding.

Sign up for our mailing list