Kerosene

"The seventies and early eighties were years of relative stagnation in China trading, years in which Chinese demand for the traditional staples of the import trade seemed to have reached its upper limit. During these years, therefore, Jardine's and others experimented with miscellaneous imports ranging from iron rods to mirrors, but only one of these, kerosene oil, became a major trade item and changed ancient ways Pudong, Shanghai throughout China. The firm sold small amounts of Russian oil, carried via Suez, at Shanghai in the early seventies. This oil did not, to any great extent, replace vegetable oils normally used for lighting because its price was not yet competitive. Yet imports grew, reaching 250,000 gallons by 1880.

The oil was concentrated at Shanghai and was distributed by Chinese dealers to nearby villages and up the Yangtze. Lamps had been expensive until, in 1882, a cheap lamp was produced by Chinese manufacturers at Canton and sold at a price which could be met by millions. This innovation created new demand, raising imports from 384,000 gallons in 1883, to 839,000 in 1884. A report stated: 'The chief portion... is due to provincial demand, 511,770 gallons having been sent into the interior under transit pass (112 of import duty), of which 380,780 gallons were sent by Chinese. The above facts are remarkable as showing no prejudice against the foreign origin of any article will prevent a ready sale, provided its price, quality and general utility show it is adapted to the wants and purses of the most numerous class of consumer.'" - Western Enterprise in Late Ch'ing China