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Foochow Arsenal, 1870s

The Foochow Arsenal (Chinese: 福州造船廠), also Mawei Arsenal (Chinese: 馬尾造船廠) was one of several shipyards in China built under orders from Li Hongzhang and Zuo Zongtang, leaders of the Qing government's Self-Strengthening Movement (Zìqiáng, 自强) during the mid to late 19th century. The shipyard was situated in Mamoi (now Mawei), a port town within the jurisdiction of Foochow (now Fuzhou), which is several miles up the Min River.[1]

The Foochow Arsenal under construction, between 1867 and 1871. Three albumen prints joined to form a panorama.

Planning for the shipyard, the naval school (船政学堂), and other facilities began in 1866 and construction began in 1867. Two French Naval officers, Prosper Giquel and Paul d'Aiguebelle, both on leave from the French Imperial Navy, were contracted to recruit a staff of about forty European engineers and mechanics, and to oversee the construction of a metal-working forge, the creation of a Western-style naval dockyard, the construction of eleven transports and five gunboats, and the establishment of schools for training in navigation and marine engineering - all within a five-year period.[2] Chinese authorities provided the materials and labour;[3] the operating cost over the five years was estimated at 3 million taels, and the cost of maintenance of the ships produced was partly funded by revenue from duties on the import of opium.[4] The first ship produced at the Arsenal, the 150 horsepower Wan-nien Ch'ing (Ch'ing Forever), was launched in June 1869.[5]

The shipyard was almost entirely destroyed by French forces in 1884 during the Sino-French War of 1883-1885,[6] in the battle of Fuzhou. A modern shipyard was later rebuilt on the site.[7]


  1. ^ Seltzer, 1133; Hong Kong Port and Maritime Board.
  2. ^ Pong, 123; Thomson, vol II, pl. XV; Viénet; The 1911 Edition Encyclopedia.
  3. ^ Pong, 123. The number of labourers rose from an initial figure of 1600 to more than 2000 by 1872. Pong, 144.
  4. ^ Pong, 124, 127.
  5. ^ Pong, 127.
  6. ^ Viénet.
  7. ^ http://www.chinapictorial.com.cn/en/culture/txt/2011-09/01/content_387537.htm

Further reading[edit]

  • James F. Roche, L. L. Cowen (1884). The French at Foochow. Printed at the "Celestial Empire" Office. p. 49. Retrieved 2011-07-06. 


  • Hong Kong Port and Maritime Board. "Chinese Ports 1996: Fuzhou; Harbour Plan". Accessed 26 September 2002.
  • The 1911 Edition Encyclopedia. "Fuchow". Accessed 24 September 2002.
  • Pong, David. "Keeping the Foochow Navy Yard Afloat: Government Finance and China's Early Modern Defence Industry, 1866-75". In Modern Asian Studies, vol. 21, no. 1 (Cambridge University Press, 1987).
  • Ovenden, Richard. John Thomson (1837-1921): Photographer (Edinburgh: National Library of Scotland, The Stationary Office, 1997), 17-18.
  • Seltzer, Leon E., ed. The Columbia Lippincott Gazetteer of the World (New York: Columbia University Press, 1952).
  • Thomson, John. China and its People in Early Photographs: An Unabridged Reprint of the Classic 1873/4 Work (reprint, New York: Dover Publications, 1982).
  • Viénet, René. L'épisode français peu connu des Pescadores. Accessed 24 September 2002.
  • White, Stephen. John Thomson: Life and Photographs (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1985), 20-23.

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