One period of Chinese history generally overlooked in the West is the rise of the ‘self-strengthening movement’ in the late 19th century.
Following the disasters of the Opium Wars and other setbacks, the ruling Qing Dynasty moved remarkably quickly to embrace Western technological advances.
Industry and agriculture both made great leaps forward, but military hardware was one of the first requirements of a regime that was in danger of becoming defenceless against the aggression of more advanced powers.
At first, European experts were recruited to pass on technical knowledge which was surprisingly quickly assimilated by indigenous workers in line with the self-strengthening philosophy.
Physical proof of the late 19th century modernisation of Chinese ordnance emerged at Thomas Del Mar in London on December 2, when this pair of Krupp system breech-loading rifled 6-pounder mountain guns sold at £29,000.
Dating from 1882, they were produced at the Nanjing (Nanking) Arsenal, set up in the 1860s as part of a string of modern weapon manufactories across the Chinese empire.