“I was in Shanghai recently, where Twitter is blocked, and yet there were ads and billboards across town with hashtags on them.” – Dick Costolo

The Bund is a 1.6 km riverside promenade in Shanghai, along the Huangpu River (you might know the Huangpu due to Chinese farmers dropping dead pigs in it in 2013 – Careful, this article does actually show pictures of dead pigs). The Bund is pretty famous for it’s view of the Pudong (east side of Shanghai) skyline.

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What fewer people seem interested in photographing are the buildings along the other side of the promenade. To be fair, most of them are banks, with heavily western-influenced façades. But I want to talk about this one:

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This is the Jardine Matheson building. Pretty unassuming, right? You can read more about the multi-billion dollar conglomerate here, but I won’t give you the whole history in one post. What you need to know about Jardine Matheson is that they started their trade business in Shanghai by smuggling a few commodities like tea and cotton. Oh, and also opium.

That’s right, opium. The stuff heroin is made of. (To be fair there are plenty of valid, medicinal uses for synthetic opioids, but I doubt the good Misters William Jardine and James Matheson were the Robin Hoods of the Opium Trade.)

The University of Edinburgh grads (where my brother studies, incidentally) quickly diversified their business, which, given that opium smuggling does generate a lot of untaxed capital, isn’t all that surprising.

Anyway I’m not condemning the conglomerate or even the founders: I just felt like sharing a little history. The message here is also NOT “just sell opium, guys.” Your respective governments WILL catch you, and I don’t want you saying “Samwise told me to!”

Though I guess if you could go back in time, smuggling opium could eventually get you a company worth almost $60 billion.

If you need a reminder of the scale of 1 billion dollars, see this Tumblr post)

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