Silver Medal Commemorating Commodore Perry’s Opening of Japan at Stack’s Bowers Hong Kong Auction

 Silver Medal Commemorating Opening of Japan at Stack's Bowers Hong Kong Auction

By Jeremy BostwickSenior Numismatist & Cataloger, Stack’s Bowers ……
The rapid industrialization of the western world in the 19th century led to an ongoing need to open new markets, with the Far East providing a prime opportunity for both selling and buying. To this end, the United States under President Millard Fillmore sent Commodore Matthew Perry of the U.S. Navy to Japan in 1853. In July of that year, Perry arrived in Tokyo harbor with the intent of engaging in “battleship diplomacy”, a type of negotiation that actually involved no real negotiating but instead entailed an ultimatum through threats of hostile aggression.

Japan at the time was ruled by the Tokugawa shogun (great general), as the Tokugawa family had seized power by defeating other feudal families around the empire two centuries prior. Though still technically governed by the emperor, Japan was under the de facto control of

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How reservoirs, hastened by cheap imports, marked the end of agriculture in Hong Kong

a close up of a cow: The Plover Cove Reservoir in Tai Po. Photo: Government Information Services

The Plover Cove Reservoir in Tai Po. Photo: Government Information Services

Wherever rice is grown, a reliable water supply is vital. Over centuries, rivulets were channelled from hillside streams to irrigate entire agricultural valleys. Rice will not grow in stagnant water, so constant flow was essential. Any water diversion could have catastrophic consequences further downstream.

Period memoirs by district officials, right across Asia, invariably mention water rights issues. When violent inter-village disputes erupted – and New Territories history is littered with these conflicts – water was the usual flashpoint.

Water diversion for reservoir construc-tion in the New Territories was the princi-pal underlying cause of rice cultivation disappearing from Hong Kong, beginning with the Shing Mun Reservoir in the late 1930s. Accelerating the process were the post-war Tai Lam Chung and Shek Pik reservoirs, completed in the 50s and 60s, respectively.

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