Fujian Arsenal: Cradle of Modern Chinese Navy
03 November 2006 – 25 July 2007
One of the key reasons for China's crushing defeat in the Opium Wars is that China's then antiquated military technology was no match for the heavily fortified gunships of the West. In the face of the increasing threats of the foreign powers, the more progressive elements in the Chinese government advocated reforms to strengthen China's economic might and military prowess. Earlier on, Lin Zexu and Wei Yuan had promoted the idea of mastering Western technology to beat the Westerners at their own game, which resulted in the implementation of the Self-strengthening Movement. In 1866, the Qing court approved the recommendation of Zuo Zongtang that a large shipyard be established in Mawei in the city of Fuzhou, where eventually became China's first modern naval base. An Arsenal was then set up to oversee, among other things, shipbuilding, training of naval personnel and the establishing of a modern fleet. It can well be considered the pioneer in the nation's industrial development and the cradle of China's modern navy.
The Fujian Arsenal was founded in 1866 and decommissioned in 1907. Although it was in operation for only 40 years, it encapsulated modern China's progress in the areas of technology, industrial manufacturing, modern education, naval training and the introduction of Western thought and culture into China.