My research focuses on the construction of lighthouses along the Chinese coast from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. A lot can be reflected on through this history. It embodies a history of technology but goes far beyond that. The systematic construction and improvement of lighthouses was initiated and led by the Chinese Maritime Customs Service. While it had long been under British control, the Customs Service did not always represent the interests of the British Empire. It has had a significant influence on modern Chinese history for nearly a century, and these influences have not been fully elucidated so far. The history of the lighthouses, therefore, is part of the complex history of the Customs Service, Sino-foreign exchange, and the modernisation of China.
Through the history of the Chinese lighthouses, I hope to explore the influence of Western countries, mainly Britain, on the modernisation of China at a macro level, the impact of the construction of lighthouses on local communities at a medium level, both in terms of technology and culture, and to trace the personal experience of foreign staff, such as engineers and technicians, who came to China through the opportunity of the lighthouse construction project at a micro level.
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