The importation of opium smoking in the Chinese manner to the West came with some of the thousands of Chinese sojourners who arrived in California during the Gold Rush that began in 1848. Within twenty years, recreational opium smoking (as opposed to the already established practice of taking opium in medicinal elixirs) had spread over much of North America. Similar migrations of Chinese to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa brought opium smoking to these places, but the habit failed to catch on with non-Chinese. The Chinese style of opium smoking arrived in Europe for the most part with Europeans returning home from their colonies in Asia or from treaty ports on the China coast. Only in France did opium smoking take hold in Europe, and the photographer Brassai captured images of an opium-smoking session in his famous photographic study of Parisian nightlife. The existence of opium smoking in London was, and continues to be, highly exaggerated. The complete lack of photographic evidence of opium smoking in London strongly suggests that tales of posh debauchery in London's Limehouse district are nothing more than literary fantasy.
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