By 1856, largely thanks to the influence of Britain, ‘chasing the dragon’ was widespread throughout China. The term was originally coined in Cantonese in Hong Kong, and referred to the practice of inhaling opium by chasing the smoke with an opium pipe. Although by this point, the first opium war was officially over, many of the original problems remained.
Britain and China were both still dissatisfied with the unequal Treaty of Nanking and the uneasy peace that had ensued. Britain still desired that the trade of opium be legalised, and China remained deeply resentful of the concessions that they had already made to Britain and the fact that the British were continuing to sell opium illegally to their population. The question of opium remained worryingly unsettled. Britain also wanted access into the walled city of Guangzhou, another massive point of contention at this time as the interior of China was prohibited to foreigners.