23 April 2012

Opium Early History

Seeds of Terror by Gretchen Peters, 2009, Excerpts

Poppy flourished along the Golden Crescent – Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran – throughout recorded history. By some accounts, Alexander the Great first introduced opium to Persia and India in 330 B.C. Moghul leader Babar wrote about smoking it when he conquered Kabul in 1504. It was consumed socially across Central Asia by the mid-sixteenth century. Through much of the twentieth century, Afghanistan’s opium trade was controlled by the ruling family, headed by Zahir Shah, and largely exported to Iran. Afghanistan became a popular stop on the “hippie trail” in the 1960s because of its cheap hashish and striking scenery.

The Last Phoenix by Carl Douglass, 1997, Excerpts

Arab traders introduced Greek opium to the receptive Han Chinese during the reign of Kublai Khan in the thirteenth century, CE. It quickly became an integral part of Chinese social life and was valued for its ritual and medicinal value. As the Chinese moved down into the hills of Southeast Asia, they brought along their poppy that thrives in the verdant high altitudes – optimum is 1000 to 1500 meters. It was cheap to grow and served as a convenient way for the hill people to meet the tax levy imposed by the Chinese overloads. Everyone prospered. In many ways it was an ideal smuggler’s contraband: light weight and low volume, nonperishable for years at a time; and year in and year out for millennia, it has retained high value.

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