COURT LIFE IN CHINA THE CAPITAL ITS OFFICIALS AND PEOPLE
By ISAAC TAYLOR HEADLAND Professor in the Peking University
Until within the past ten years a study of Chinese court life would have been an
impossibility. The Emperor, the Empress Dowager, and the court ladies were shut up within
the Forbidden City, away from a world they were anxious to see, and which was equally
anxious to see them. Then the Emperor instituted reform, the Empress Dowager came out from
behind the screen, and the court entered into social relations with Europeans.
For twenty years and more Mrs. Headland has been physician to the family of the Empress
Dowager's mother, the Empress' sister, and many of the princesses and high official ladies
in Peking. She has visited them in a social as well as a professional way, has taken with
her her friends, to whom the princesses have shown many favours, and they have themselves
been constant callers at our home. It is to my wife, therefore, that I am indebted for
much of the information contained in this book.
There are many who have thought that the Empress Dowager has been misrepresented. The
world has based its judgment of her character upon her greatest mistake, her participation
in the Boxer movement, which seems unjust, and has closed its eyes to the tremendous
reforms which only her mind could conceive and her hand carry out. The great Chinese
officials to a man recognized in her a mistress of every situation; the foreigners who
have come into most intimate contact with her, voice her praise; while her hostile critics
are confined for the most part to those who have never known her. It was for this reason
that a more thorough study of her life was undertaken.
It has also been thought that the Emperor has been misunderstood, being overestimated
by some, and underestimated by others, and this because of his peculiar type of mind and
character. That he was unusual, no one will deny; that he was the originator of many of
China's greatest reform measures, is equally true; but that he lacked the power to execute
what he conceived, and the ability to select great statesmen to assist him, seems to have
been his chief shortcoming.
To my wife for her help in the preparation of this volume, and to my father-in-law, Mr.
William Sinclair, M. A., for his suggestions, I am under many obligations.
I. T. H.
I. THE EMPRESS DOWAGER--HER EARLY LIFE
II. THE EMPRESS DOWAGER--HER
YEARS OF TRAINING
III. THE EMPRESS DOWAGER--AS A RULER
IV. THE EMPRESS DOWAGER--AS A
V. THE EMPRESS DOWAGER--AS A REFORMER
VI. THE EMPRESS DOWAGER--AS AN ARTIST
VII. THE EMPRESS DOWAGER--AS A WOMAN
VIII. KUANG HSU--HIS SELF DEVELOPMENT
IX. KUANG HSU--AS EMPEROR AND REFORMER
X. KUANG HSU--AS A PRISONER
XI. PRINCE CHUN--THE REGENT
XII. THE HOME OF THE
COURT--THE FORBIDDEN CITY
XIII. THE LADIES OF THE COURT
XIV. THE PRINCESSES--THEIR SCHOOLS
XV. THE CHINESE LADIES OF RANK
XVI. THE SOCIAL LIFE OF THE CHINESE
XVII. THE CHINESE LADIES--THEIR ILLS
XVIII. THE FUNERAL
CEREMONIES OF A DOWAGER PRINCESS
XIX. CHINESE PRINCES AND OFFICIALS
XX. PEKING--THE CITY OF THE COURT
XXI. THE DEATH OF KUANG
HSU AND THE EMPRESS DOWAGER
XXII. THE COURT AND THE NEW EDUCATION
I The Empress
Dowager-- Her Early Life
All the period since 1861 should be rightly recorded as the reign of Tze Hsi An, a more
eventful period than all the two hundred and forty-four reigns that had preceded her three
usurpations. It began after a conquering army had made terms of peace in her capital, and
with the Tai-ping rebellion in full swing of success. . . .
Those few who have looked upon the countenance of the Dowager describe her as a tall,
erect, fine-looking woman of distinguished and imperious bearing, with pronounced Tartar
features, the eye of an eagle, and the voice of determined authority and absolute command.
--Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore in "China, The Long-Lived Empire."
I THE EMPRESS DOWAGER -- HER EARLY LIFE
One day when one of the princesses was calling at our home in Peking, I inquired of her
where the Empress Dowager was born. She gazed at me for a moment with a queer expression
wreathing her features, as she finally said with just the faintest shadow of a smile:
"We never talk about the early history of Her Majesty." I smiled in return and
continued: "I have been told that she was born in a small house, in a narrow street
inside of the east gate of the Tartar city--the gate blown up by the Japanese when they
entered Peking in 1900." The princess nodded. "I have also heard that her
father's name was Chao, and that he was a small military official (she nodded again) who
was afterwards beheaded for some neglect of duty." To this the visitor also nodded
A few days later several well-educated young Chinese ladies, daughters of one of the
most distinguished scholars in Peking, were calling on my wife, and again I pursued my
inquiries. "Do you know anything about the early life of the Empress Dowager?" I
asked of the eldest. She hesitated a moment, with that same blank expression I had seen on
the face of the princess, and then answered very deliberately,--"Yes, everybody
knows, but nobody talks about it." And this is, no doubt, the reason why the early
life of the greatest woman of the Mongol race, and, as some who knew her best think, the
most remarkable woman of the nineteenth century, has ever been shrouded in mystery.
Whether the Empress desired thus to efface all knowledge of her childhood by refusing to
allow it to be talked about, I do not know, but I said to myself: "What everybody
knows, I can know," and I proceeded to find out.
I discovered that she was one of a family of several brothers and sisters and born
about 1834; that the financial condition of her parents was such that when a child she had
to help in caring for the younger children, carrying them on her back, as girls do in
China, and amusing them with such simple toys as are hawked about the streets or sold in
the shops for a cash or two apiece; that she and her brothers and little sisters amused
themselves with such games as blind man's buff, prisoner's base, kicking marbles and
flying kites in company with the other children of their neighbourhood. During these early
years she was as fond of the puppet plays, trained mice shows, bear shows, and "Punch
and Judy" as she was in later years of the theatrical performances with which she
entertained her visitors at the palace. She was compelled to run errands for her mother,
going to the shops, as occasion required, for the daily supply of oils, onions, garlic,
and other vegetables that constituted the larger portion of their food. I found out also
that there is not the slightest foundation for the story that in her childhood she was
sold as a slave and taken to the south of China.
The outdoor life she led, the games she played, and the work she was forced to do in
the absence of household servants, gave to the little girl a well-developed body, a strong
constitution and a fund of experience and information which can be obtained in no other
way. She was one of the great middle class. She knew the troubles and trials of the poor.
She had felt the pangs of hunger. She could sympathize with the millions of ambitious
girls struggling to be freed from the trammels of ignorance and the age-old customs of the
past--a combat which was the more real because it must be carried on in silence. And who
can say that it was not the struggles and privations of her own childhood which led to the
wish in her last years that "the girls of my empire may be educated"?
When little Miss Chao had reached the age of fourteen or fifteen she was taken by her
parents to an office in the northern part of the imperial city of Peking where her name,
age, personal appearance, and estimated degree of intelligence and potential ability were
registered, as is done in the case of all the daughters of the Manchu people. The reason
for this singular proceeding is that when the time comes for the selection of a wife or a
concubine for the Emperor, or the choosing of serving girls for the palace, those in
charge of these matters will know where they can be obtained.
This custom is not considered an unalloyed blessing by the Manchu people, and many of
them would gladly avoid registering their daughters if only they dared. But the rule is
compulsory, and every one belonging to the eight Banners or companies into which the
Manchus are divided must have their daughters registered. Their aversion to this custom is
well illustrated in the following incident:
In one of the girls' schools in Peking there was a beautiful child, the daughter of a
Manchu woman whose husband was dead. One day this widow came to the principal of the
school and said: "A summons has come from the court for the girls of our clan to
appear before the officials that a certain number may be chosen and sent into the palace
as serving girls." "When is she to appear?" inquired the teacher. "On
the sixteenth," answered the mother. "I suppose you are anxious that she should
be one of the fortunate ones," said the teacher, "though I should be sorry to
lose her from the school." "On the contrary," said the mother, "I
should be distressed if she were chosen, and have come to consult with you as to whether
we might not hire a substitute." The teacher expressed surprise and asked her why.
"When our daughters are taken into the palace," answered the mother, "they
are dead to us until they are twenty-five, when they are allowed to return home. If they
are incompetent or dull they are often severely punished. They may contract disease and
die, and their death is not even announced to us; while if they prove themselves efficient
and win the approval of the authorities they are retained in the palace and we may never
see them or hear from them again."
At first the teacher was inclined to favour the hiring of a substitute, but on further
consideration concluded that it would be contrary to the law, and advised that the girl be
allowed to go. The mother, however, was so anxious to prevent her being chosen that she
sent her with uncombed hair, soiled clothes and a dirty face, that she might appear as
unattractive as possible.
The prospects for a concubine are even less promising than for a serving maid, as when
she once enters the palace she has little if any hope of ever leaving it. She is neither
mistress nor servant, wife nor slave, she is but one of a hundred buds in a garden of
roses which have little if any prospect of ever blooming or being plucked for the court
bouquet. When, therefore, the gates of the Forbidden City close behind the young girls who
are taken in as concubines of an emperor they shut out an attractive, busy, beautiful
world, filled with men and women, boys and girls, homes and children, green fields and
rich harvests, and confine them within the narrow limits of one square mile of brick-paved
earth, surrounded by a wall twenty-five feet high and thirty feet thick, in which there is
but one solitary man who is neither father, brother, husband nor friend to them, and whom
they may never even see.
When therefore the time came for the selection of concubines for the Emperor Hsien
Feng, and our little Miss Chao was taken into the palace, her parents, like many others,
had every reason to consider it a piece of ill-fortune which had visited their home. The
future was veiled from them. The Forbidden City, surrounded by its great crenelated wall,
may have seemed more like a prison than like a palace. True, they had other children, and
she was "only a girl, but even girls are a small blessing," as they tell us in
their proverbs. She had grown old enough to be useful in the home, and they no doubt had
cherished plans of betrothing her to the son of some merchant or official who would add
wealth or honour to their family. Neither father nor mother, brother nor sister, could
have conceived of the potential power, honour and even glory, that were wrapped up in that
girl, and that were finally to come to them as a family, as well as to many of them as
individuals. Their wildest dreams at that time could not have pictured themselves dukes
and princesses, with their daughters as empresses, duchesses, or ladies-in-waiting in the
palace. But such it proved to be.
Empress Dowager--Her Years of Training
The kindness of the Empress is as boundless as the sea. Her person too is holy, she is
like a deity. With boldness, from seclusion, she ascends the Dragon Throne, And saves her
suffering country from a fate we dare not own.
--"Yuan Fan," Translated by I. T. C.
II THE EMPRESS DOWAGER--HER YEARS OF TRAINING
The year our little Miss Chao entered the palace was a memorable one in the history of
China. The Tai-ping rebellion, which had begun in the south some three years earlier
(1850), had established its capital at Nanking, on the Yangtse River, and had sent its
"long-haired" rebels north on an expedition of conquest, the ultimate aim of
which was Peking. By the end of the year 1853 they had arrived within one hundred miles of
the capital, conquering everything before them, and leaving devastation and destruction in
Their success had been extraordinary. Starting in the southwest with an army of ten
thousand men they had eighty thousand when they arrived before the walls of Nanking. They
were an undisciplined horde, without commissariat, without drilled military leaders, but
with such reckless daring and bravery that the imperial troops were paralyzed with fear
and never dared to meet them in the open field. Thousands of common thieves and robbers
flocked to their standards with every new conquest, impelled by no higher motive than that
of pillage and gain. Rumours became rife in every village and hamlet, and as they neared
the capital the wildest tales were told in every nook and corner of the city, from the
palace of the young Emperor in the Forbidden City to the mat shed of the meanest beggar
beneath the city wall.
My wife says: "I remember just after going to China, sitting one evening on a
kang, or brick bed, with Yin-ma, an old nurse, our only light being a wick floating in a
dish of oil. Yin-ma was about the age of the Empress Dowager, but, unlike Her Majesty, her
locks were snow-white. When I entered the dimly lighted room she was sitting in the midst
of a group of women and girls--patients in the hospital--who listened with bated breath as
she told them of the horrors of the Tai-ping rebellion.
" 'Why!' said the old nurse, 'all that the rebels had to do on their way to
Peking, was to cut out as many paper soldiers as they wanted, put them in boxes, and
breathe upon them when they met the imperial troops, and they were transformed into such
fierce warriors that no one was able to withstand them. Then when the battle was over and
they had come off victors they only needed to breathe upon them again, when they were
changed into paper images and packed in their boxes, requiring neither food nor clothing.
Indeed the spirits of the rebels were everywhere, and no matter who cut out paper troops
they could change them into real soldiers.'
" 'But, Yin-ma, you do not believe those superstitions, do you?'
" 'These are not superstitions, doctor, these are facts, which everybody believed
in those days, and it was not safe for a woman to be seen with scissors and paper, lest
her neighbours report that she was cutting out troops for the rebels. The country was
filled with all kinds of rumours, and every one had to be very careful of all their
conduct, and of everything they said, lest they be arrested for sympathizing with the
" 'But, Yin-ma, did you ever see any of these paper images transformed into
" 'No, I never did myself, but there was an old woman lived near our place, who
was said to be in sympathy with the rebels. One night my father saw soldiers going into
her house and when he had followed them he could find nothing but paper images. You may
not have anything of this kind happen in America, but very many people saw them in those
terrible days of pillage and bloodshed here.' "
Such stories are common in all parts of China during every period of rebellion, war,
riot or disturbance of any kind. The people go about with fear on their faces, and horror
in their voices, telling each other in undertones of what some one, somewhere, is said to
have seen or heard. Nor are these superstitions confined to the common people. Many of the
better classes believe them and are filled with fear.
As the Tai-ping rebellion broke out when Miss Chao was about fifteen or sixteen years
of age, she would hear these stories for two or three years before she entered the palace.
After she had been taken into the Forbidden City she would continue to hear them, brought
in by the eunuchs and circulated not only among all the women of the palace, but among
their own associates as well, and here they would take on a more mysterious and alarming
aspect to these people shut away from the world, as ghost stories become more terrifying
when told in the dim twilight. May this not account in some measure for the attitude
assumed by the Empress Dowager towards the Boxer superstitions of 1900, and their
pretentions to be able at will to call to their aid legions of spirit-soldiers, while at
the same time they were themselves invulnerable to the bullets of their enemies?
It was when Miss Chao was ten years old that the conflict known as the Opium War was
brought to an end. It has been said that when the Emperor was asked to sanction the
importation of opium, he answered, "I will never legalize a traffic that will be an
injury to my people," but whether this be true or not, it is admitted by all that the
central government was strongly opposed to the sale and use of the drug within its
domains. It is unfortunate, to say the least, that the first time the Chinese came into
collision with European governments was over a matter of this kind, and it is to the
credit of the Chinese commissioner when the twenty thousand chests of opium, over which
the dispute arose, were handed over to him, he mixed it with quicklime in huge vats that
it might be utterly destroyed rather than be an injury to his people. They may have
exhibited an ignorance of international law, they may have manifested an unwise contempt
for the foreigner, but it remains a fact of history that they were ready to suffer great
financial loss rather than get revenue from the ruin of their subjects, and that England
went to war for the purpose of securing indemnity for the opium destroyed.
The common name for opium among the Chinese is yang yen--foreign tobacco, and my wife
says: "When calling at the Chinese homes, I have frequently been offered the
opium-pipe, and when I refused it the ladies expressed surprise, saying that they were
under the impression that all foreigners used it."
What now were the results of the Opium War as viewed from the standpoint of the Chinese
people, and what impression would it make upon them as a whole? Great Britain demanded an
indemnity of $21,000,000, the cession to them of Hongkong, an island on the southern
coast, and the opening of five ports to British trade. China lost her standing as suzerain
among the peoples of the Orient and got her first glimpse of the White Peril from the
Although the Empress Dowager was but a child of ten at this time she would receive her
first impression of the foreigner, which was that he was a pirate who had come to carry
away their wealth, to filch from them their land, and to overrun their country. He became
a veritable bugaboo to men, women and children alike, and this impression was crystallized
in the expression yang huei, "foreign devil," which is the only term among a
large proportion of the Chinese by which the foreigner is known. One day when walking on
the street in Peking I met a woman with a child of two years in her arms, and as I passed
them, the child patted its mother on the cheek and said in an undertone,--"The
foreign devil's coming," which led the frightened mother to cover its eyes with her
hand that it might not be injured by the sight.
On one occasion a friend was travelling through the country when a Chinese gentleman,
dressed in silk and wearing an official hat, called on him at the inn where he was
stopping and with a profound bow addressed him as "Old Mr. Foreign Devil."
My wife says that: "Not infrequently when I have been called for the first time to
the homes of the better classes I have seen the children run into the house from the outer
court exclaiming, --'The devil doctor's coming.' Indeed, I have heard the women use this
term in speaking of me to my assistant until I objected, when they asked with
surprise,--'Doesn't she like to be called foreign devil?' " And so the Empress
Dowager's first impression of the foreigner would be that of a devil.
Colonel Denby tells us that "A Frenchman and his wife were carried off from
Tonquin by bandits who took refuge in China. The Chinese government was asked to rescue
these prisoners and restore them to liberty. China sent a brigade of troops, who pursued
the bandits to their den and recovered the prisoners. The French government thanked the
Chinese government for its assistance, and bestowed the decoration of the Legion of Honour
on the brigade commander, and then shortly afterwards demanded the payment of an enormous
indemnity for the outrage on the ground that China had delayed to effect the rescue. The
Chinese were aghast, but they paid the money."
This incident does not stand alone, but is one of a number of similar experiences which
the Chinese government had in her relation with the powers of Europe, and which have been
reported by such writers as Holcomb, Beresford, Gorst Colquhoun and others in trying to
account for the feelings the Chinese have towards us, all of which was embodied in the
years of training of our little concubine.
It should be remembered that many concubines are selected whom the Emperor never takes
the trouble to see. After being taken in, their temper and disposition are carefully
noted, their faithfulness in the duties assigned them, their diligence in the performance
of their tasks, their kindness to their inferiors, their treatment of their equals, and
their politeness and obedience to their superiors, and upon all these things, with many
others, as we shall see, their promotion will finally depend.
When Miss Chao entered the palace, like most girls of her class or station in life, she
was uneducated. She may have studied the small "Classic for Girls" in which she
"You should rise from bed as early in the morning as the sun, Nor retire at
evening's closing till your work is wholly done."
Or, further, she may have been told,
When the wheel of life's at fifteen, Or when twenty years have passed, As a girl with
home and kindred these will surely be your last; While expert in all employments that
compose a woman's life, You should study as a daughter all the duties of a wife."
Or she may have read the "Filial Piety Classic for Girls" in which she
learned the importance of the attitude she assumed towards those who were in authority
over her, but certain it is she was not educated.
She had, however, what was better than education--a disposition to learn. And so when
she had the good fortune,--or shall we say misfortune,-- for as we have seen it is
variously regarded by Chinese parents to be taken into the palace, she found there
educated eunuchs who were set aside as teachers of the imperial harem. She was bright,
attractive, and I think I may add without fear of contradiction, very ambitious, and this
in no bad sense. She devoted herself to her studies with such energy and diligence as not
only to attract the attention of the teacher, but to make herself a fair scholar, a good
penman, and an exceptional painter, and it was not long until, from among all the
concubines, she had gained the attention and won the admiration--and shall we say
affection--not only of the Empress, but of the Emperor himself, and she was selected as
the first concubine or kuei fei, and from that time until the death of the Empress the two
women were the staunchest of friends.
The new favourite had been a healthy and vigorous girl, with plenty of outdoor life in
childhood, and it was not long before she became the happy mother of Hsien Feng's only
son. She was thenceforward known as the Empress-mother. In a short time she was raised to
the position of wife, and given the title of Western Empress, as the other was known as
the Eastern, from which time the two women were equal in rank, and, in the eyes of the
world, equal in power.
The first Empress was a pampered daughter of wealth, neither vigorous of body nor
strong of mind, caring nothing for political power if only she might have ease and
comfort, and there is nothing that exhibits the Empress Dowager's real greatness more
convincingly than the fact that she was able to live for thirty years the more fortunate
mother of her country's ruler, and, in power, the mistress of her superior, without
arousing the latter's envy, jealousy, anger, or enmity. Let any woman who reads this
imagine, if she can, herself placed in the position of either of these ladies without
being inclined to despise the less fortunate, ease-loving Empress if she be the dowager,
or hating the more powerful dowager if she be the Empress. Such a state of affairs as
these two women lived in for more than a quarter of a century is almost if not entirely
unique in history.
Perhaps the incident which made most impression upon her was one which happened in 1860
and is recorded in history as the Arrow War. A few years before a number of Chinese, who
owned a boat called the Arrow, had it registered in Hongkong and hence were allowed to
sail under the British flag. There is no question I think but that these Chinese were
committing acts of piracy, and as this was one of the causes of disturbance on that
southern coast for centuries past, the viceroy decided to rid the country of this pest.
Nine days after the time for which the boat had been registered, but while it continued
unlawfully to float the British colours, the viceroy seized the boat, imprisoned all her
crew, and dragged down the British flag. This was an insult which Great Britain could not
or would not brook and so the viceroy was ordered to release the prisoners, all of whom
were Chinese subjects, on penalty of being blown up in his own yamen if he refused.
Frightened at the threat, and remembering the result of the former war, the viceroy
sent the prisoners to the consulate in chains without proper apologies for his insult to
the flag. This angered the consul and he returned them to the viceroy, who promptly cut
off their heads without so much as the semblance of a trial, and Britain, anxious, as she
was, to have every door of the Chinese empire opened to foreign trade, found in this
another pretext for war. We do not pretend to argue that this was not the best thing for
China and for the world, but it can only be considered so from the bitter medicine, and
corporal punishment point of view, neither of which are agreeable to either the patient or
Britain went to war. The viceroy was taken a prisoner to India, whence he never
returned. As though ashamed to enter upon a second unprovoked and unjust war alone, she
invited France, Russia, and America to join her. France was quite ready to do so in the
hope of strengthening her position in Indo-China, and with nothing more than the murder of
a missionary in Kuangsi as a pretext she put a body of troops in the field large enough to
enable her to checkmate England, or humiliate China as the exigencies of the occasion, and
her own interests, might demand. America and Russia having no cause for war, no wrongs to
redress, and no desire for territory, refused to join her in sending troops, but gave her
such sympathy and support as would enable her to bring about a more satisfactory
arrangement of China's foreign relations--that is more satisfactory to themselves
regardless of the wishes, though not perhaps the interests, of China.
We know how the British and French marched upon Peking in 1860; how the summer palace
was left a heap of ruins as a punishment for the murder of a company of men under a flag
of truce; and how the Emperor Hsien Feng, with his wife, and the mother of his only son,
our Empress Dowager, were compelled to flee for the first time before a foreign invader.
Their refuge was Jehol, a fortified town, in a wild and rugged mountain pass, on the
borders of China and Tartary, a hundred miles northeast of Peking. At this place the
Emperor died, whether of disease, chagrin, or of a broken heart--or of all combined, it is
impossible to say, and the Empress-mother was left AN EXILE AND A WIDOW, with the capital
and the throne for the first time at the mercy of the Western barbarian.
This was the beginning of two important phases of the Empress Dowager's life--her
affliction and her power, and her greatness is exhibited as well by the way in which she
bore the one as by the way in which she wielded the other. In most cases a woman would
have been so overcome by sorrow at the loss of her husband, as to have forgotten the
affairs of state, or to have placed them for the time in the hands of others. Not so with
this great woman. Prince Kung the brother of Hsien Feng, had been left in Peking to
arrange a treaty with the Europeans, which he succeeded in doing to the satisfaction of
both the Chinese and the foreigners.
On the death of the Emperor, a regency was organized by two of the princes, which did
not include Prince Kung, and disregarded both of the dowagers, and it seemed as though
Prince Kung was doomed. His father-in-law, however, the old statesman who had signed the
treaties, urged him to be the first to get the ear of the two women on their return to the
capital. This he did, and as it seemed evident that the regency and the council had been
organized for the express purpose of tyrannizing over the Empresses and the child, they
were at once arrested, the leader beheaded, and the others condemned to exile or to
suicide. The child had been placed upon the throne as "good-luck," but now a new
regency was formed, consisting of the two dowagers, with Prince Kung as joint regent, and
the title of the reign was changed to Tung Chih or "joint government." Thus
ended the Empress Dowager's years of training.
III The Empress
Dowager--As a Ruler
That a Manchu woman who had had such narrow opportunities of obtaining a knowledge of
things as they really are, in distinction from the tissue of shams which constitute the
warp and the woof of an Oriental Palace, should have been able to hold her own in every
situation, and never be crushed by the opposing forces about her, is a phenomenon in
itself only to be explained by due recognition of the influence of individual qualities in
a ruler even in the semi-absolutism of China. --Arthur H. Smith in "China in
III THE EMPRESS DOWAGER--AS A RULER
In considering the policy pursued by the Empress-mother after her accession to the
regency, one cannot but feel that she was fully aware of the fact that she had been the
wife of an emperor, and was the mother of the heir, of a decaying house. Of the 218 years
that her dynasty had been in power, 120 had been occupied by the reigns of two emperors,
and only seven monarchs had sat upon the throne, a smaller number than ever ruled during
the same period in all Chinese history. These two Emperors, Kang Hsi and Chien Lung, the
second and fourth, had each reigned for sixty years, the most brilliant period of the
"Great Pure Dynasty," unless we except the last six years of the Empress
Dowager's regency. The other ninety-eight years saw five rulers rise and pass away, each
one becoming weaker than his predecessor both in character and in physique, until with the
death of her son, Tung Chih, the dynasty was left without a direct heir.
The decay of the imperial house, the encroachments of the foreigner, and the opposition
of the native Chinese to the rule of the Manchus, awoke the Empress Dowager to a
realization of the fact that a stronger hand than that of her husband must be at the helm
if the dynasty of her people were to be preserved. "It may be said with
emphasis," says Colonel Denby, who was for thirteen years minister to China,
"that the Empress Dowager has been the first of her race to apprehend the problem of
the relation of China to the outer world, and to make use of this relation to strengthen
her dynasty and to promote material progress." She was fortunate in having Prince
Kung associated with her in the regency, a man tall, handsome and dignified, and the
greatest statesman that has come from the royal house since the time of Chien Lung.
Here appears one of the chief characteristics of the Empress Dowager as a ruler--her
ability to choose the greatest statesmen, the wisest advisers, the safest leaders, and the
best guides, from the great mass of Chinese officials, whether progressive or
conservative. Prince Kung was for forty years the leading figure of the Chinese capital
outside of the Forbidden City. He appeared first, at the age of twenty-six, as a member of
the commission that tried the minister who failed to make good his promise to induce Lord
Elgin and his men-of-war to withdraw from Tientsin in 1858. The following year he was made
a member of the Colonial Board that controlled the affairs of the "outer
Barbarians," and a year later was left in Peking, when the court fled, to arrange a
treaty of peace with the victorious British and French after they had taken the capital.
"In these trying circumstances," says Professor Giles, "the tact and
resource of Prince Kung won the admiration of his opponents," and when the Foreign
Office was formed in 1861, it began with the Prince as its first president, a position
which he continued to hold for many years.
It was he, as we have seen, who succeeded in outwitting and overthrowing the
self-constituted regency on the death of his brother Hsien Feng, and, with the Empress
Dowager, seated her infant son upon the throne, with the two Empresses and himself as
joint regents. This condition continued for some years, with the senior Empress exercising
no authority, and Prince Kung continually growing in power. The arrangement seemed
satisfactory to all but one--the Empress-mother. To her it appeared as though he were fast
becoming the government, and she and the Empress were as rapidly receding into the
background, while in reality the design had been to make him "joint regent" with
them. In all the receptions of the officials by the court, Prince Kung alone could see
them face to face, while the ladies were compelled to remain behind a screen, listening to
the deliberations but without taking any part therein, other than by such suggestions as
they might make.
Being the visible head of the government, and the only avenue to positions of
preferment, he would naturally be flattered by the Chinese officials. This led him to
assume an air of importance which consciously or unconsciously he carried into the
presence of their Majesties, and one morning he awoke to find himself stripped of all his
rank and power, and confined and guarded a prisoner in his palace, by a joint decree from
the two Empresses accusing him of "lack of respect for their Majesties." The
deposed Prince at once begged their forgiveness, whereupon all his honours were restored
with their accompanying dignities, but none of his former power as joint regent, and thus
the first obstacle to her reestablishment of the dynasty was eliminated by the
Empress-mother. To show Prince Kung, however, that they bore him no ill will, the
Empresses adopted his daughter as their own, raising her to the rank of an imperial
princess, and though the Prince has long since passed away his daughter still lives, and
next to the Empress Dowager has been the leading figure in court circles during the past
ten years' association with the foreigners.
During her son's minority, after the dismissal of Prince Kung as joint regent, the
Empress-mother year by year took a more active part in the affairs of state, while the
Empress as gradually sank into the background. She was far-sighted. Having but one son,
and knowing the uncertainty of life, she originated a plan to secure the succession to her
family. To this end she arranged for the marriage of her younger sister to her husband's
younger brother commonly known as the Seventh Prince, in the hope that from this union
there might come a son who would be a worthy occupant of the dragon throne in case her own
son died without issue. She felt that the country needed a great central figure capable of
inspiring confidence and banishing uncertainty, a strong, well-balanced, broad-minded,
self-abnegating chief executive, and she proposed to furnish one. Whether she would
succeed or not must be left to the future to reveal, but the one great task set by destiny
for her to accomplish was to prepare the mind of a worthy successor to meet openly and
intelligently the problems which had been too vast, too new and too complicated for her
predecessors, if not for herself, to solve.
When her son was seventeen years old he was married to Alute, a young Manchu lady of
one of the best families in Peking and was nominally given the reins of power, though as a
matter of fact the supreme control of affairs was still in the hands of his more powerful
mother. The ministers of the European countries, England, France, Germany, Russia and the
United States, now resident at Peking, thought this a good time for bringing up the matter
of an audience with the new ruler, and after a long discussion with Prince Kung and the
Empress-mother, the matter was arranged without the ceremony of prostration which all
previous rulers had demanded.
The married life of this young couple was a short one. Three years after their wedding
ceremonies the young monarch contracted smallpox and died without issue, and was followed
shortly afterwards by his young wife who heeded literally the instruction of one of their
female teachers in her duty to her husband to
Share his joy as well as sorrow, riches, poverty or guilt, And in death be buried with
him, as in life you shared his guilt.
That her nearest relatives did not believe, as has often been suggested, that there was
any "foul play" in regard to her death, is evident from the fact that her father
continued to hold office until the time of the Boxer uprising, at which time he followed
the fleeing court as far as Paotingfu, where having heard that the capital was in the
hands of the hated foreigners, he sent word back to his family that he would neither eat
the foreigners' bread nor drink their water, but would prefer to die by his own hand. When
his family received this message they commanded their servants to dig a great pit in their
own court in which they all lay and ordered the coolies to bury them. This they at first
refused to do, but they were finally prevailed upon, and thus perished all the male
members of her father's household except one child that was rescued and carried away by a
When Tung Chih died there was a formidable party in the palace opposed to the two
dowagers, anxious to oust them and their party and place upon the throne a dissolute son
of Prince Kung. But it would require a master mind from the outside to learn of the death
of her son and select and proclaim a successor quicker than the Empress Dowager herself
could do so from the inside. She first sent a secret messenger to Li Hung-chang whom she
had appointed viceroy of the metropolitan province at Tientsin eighty miles away,
informing him of the illness of her son and urging him to come to Peking with his troops
post-haste and be ready to prevent any disturbance in case of his death and the
announcement of a successor.
When Li Hung-chang received her orders, he began at once to put them into execution.
Taking with him four thousand of his most reliable Anhui men, all well-armed horse, foot
and artillery, he made a secret forced march to Peking. The distance of eighty miles was
covered in thirty-six hours and he planned to arrive at midnight. Exactly on the hour Li
and his picked guard were admitted, and in dead silence they marched into the Forbidden
City. Every man had in his mouth a wooden bit to prevent talking, while the metal
trappings of the horses were muffled to deaden all sound. When they arrived at the
forbidden precincts, the Manchu Bannermen on guard at the various city gates were replaced
by Li's Anhui braves, and as the Empress Dowager had sent eunuchs to point out the palace
troops which were doubtful or that had openly declared for the conspirators, these were at
once disarmed, bound and sent to prison. The artillery were ordered to guard the gates of
the Forbidden City, the cavalry to patrol the grounds, and the foot-soldiers to pick up
any stray conspirators that could be found. A strong detachment was stationed so as to
surround the Empress Dowager and the child whom she had selected as a successor to her
son, and when the morning sun rose bright and clear over the Forbidden City the surprise
of the conspirators who had slept the night away was complete. Of the disaffected that
remained, some were put in prison and others sent into perpetual exile to the Amoor beyond
their native borders, and when the Empress Dowager announced the death of her son, she
proclaimed the son of her sister, Kuang Hsu, as his successor, with herself and the
Empress as regents during his minority. When everything was settled, Li folded his tent
like the Arab, and stole away as silently as he had come.
The wisdom and greatness of the Empress Dowager were thus manifested in binding to the
throne the greatest men not only in the capital but in the provinces. Li Hung-chang had
won his title to greatness during the Tai-ping rebellion, for his part in the final
extinction of which he was ennobled as an Earl. From this time onward she placed him in
the highest positions of honour and power within sufficient proximity to the capital to
have his services within easy reach. For twenty-four years he was kept as viceroy of the
metropolitan province of Chihli, with the largest and best drilled army at his command
that China had ever had, and yet during all this time he realized that he was watched with
the eyes of an eagle lest he manifest any signs of rebellion, while his nephew was kept in
the capital as a hostage for his good conduct. Once and again when he had reached the
zenith of his power, or had been feted by foreign potentates enough to turn the head of a
bronze Buddha, his yellow jacket and peacock feather were kindly but firmly removed to
remind him that there was a power in Peking on whom he was dependent.
Li Hung-chang's greatness made him many enemies. Those whom he defeated, those whom he
would not or could not help, those whom he punished or put out of office, and those whose
enmity was the result of jealousy. When the war with Japan closed and the Chinese
government sent Chang Yin-huan to negotiate a treaty of peace, the Japanese refused to
accept him, nor were they willing to take up the matter until "Li Hung-chang was
appointed envoy, chiefly because of his great influence over the government, and the
respect in which he was held by the people." We all know how he went, how he was shot
in the face by a Japanese fanatic, the ball lodging under the left eye, where it remained
a memento which he carried to the grave. We all know how he recovered from the wound, and
how because of his sufferings he was able to negotiate a better treaty than he could
otherwise have done. Then he returned home, and only "the friendship of the Empress
and his own personal sufferings saved his life," says Colonel Denby, for "the
new treaty was urgently denounced in China" by carping critics who would not have
been recognized as envoys by their Japanese enemies.
In 1896 he was appointed to attend the coronation of the Czar at Moscow, and thence
continued his trip around the world. Never before nor since has a Chinese statesman or
even a prince been feted as he was in every country through which he passed. When he was
about to start, at his request I had a round fan painted for him, with a map of the
Eastern hemisphere on one side and the Western on the other, on which all the steamship
lines and railroads over which he was to travel were clearly marked, with all the ports
and cities at which he expected to stop. He was photographed with Gladstone, and hailed as
the "Bismarck of the East," but when he returned to Peking, for no reason but
jealousy, "he was treated as an extinct volcano." The Empress Dowager invited
him to the Summer Palace where he was shown about the place by the eunuchs, treated to tea
and pipes, and led into pavilions where only Her Majesty was allowed to enter, and then
denounced to the Board of Punishments who were against him to a man. And now this Grand
Secretary whom kings and courts had honoured, whom emperors and presidents had feted, and
our own government had spent thirty thousand dollars in entertaining, was once more
stripped of his yellow jacket and peacock feather, and fined the half of a year's salary
as a member of the Foreign Office, which was the amusing sum of forty-five taels or about
thirty-five dollars gold, and it was said in Peking at the time that only the intercession
of the Empress Dowager saved him from imprisonment or further disgrace.
During the whole regency of the Empress Dowager only two men have occupied the position
of President of the Grand Council--Prince Kung and Prince Ching. While the former was
degraded many times and had his honours all taken from him, the latter "has kept
himself on top of a rolling log for thirty years" without losing any of the honours
which were originally conferred upon him. The same is true of Chang Chih-tung, Liu Kun-yi
and Wang Wen-shao, three great viceroys and Grand Secretaries whom the Empress Dowager has
never allowed to be without an important office, but whom she has never degraded. Need we
ask the reason why? The answer is not far to seek. They were the most eminent progressive
officials she had in her empire, but none of them were great enough to be a menace to her
dynasty, and hence need not be reminded that there was a power above them which by a
stroke of her pen could transfer them from stars in the official firmament to dandelions
in the grass. Not so with Yuan Shih-kai--but we will speak of him in another chapter.
All the great officials thus far mentioned have belonged to the progressive rather than
the conservative party, all of them the favourites of the Empress Dowager, placed in
positions of influence and kept in office by her, all of them working for progress and
reform, and yet she has been constantly spoken of by European writers as a reactionary.
Nothing could be farther from the truth, as we shall see. Nevertheless she kept some of
the great conservative officials in office either as viceroys or Grand Secretaries that
she might be able to hear both sides of all important questions.
One of these conservatives was Jung Lu, the father-in-law of the present Regent. When
she placed Yuan Shih-kai in charge of the army of north China, she also appointed Jung Lu
as Governor-General of the metropolitan province of Chihli. One was a progressive, the
other a conservative. Neither could make any important move without the knowledge and
consent of the other. Whether the Empress Dowager foresaw the danger that was likely to
arise, we do not know, but she provided against it. We refer to the occasion when in 1898
the Emperor ordered Yuan Shih-kai to bring his troops to Peking, guard the Empress Dowager
a prisoner in the Summer Palace, and protect him in his efforts at reform. The story
belongs in another chapter, but we refer to it here to show how the Empress Dowager played
one official against another, and one party against another, to prevent any such calamity
or surprise. It would have been impossible for Yuan Shih-kai to have taken his troops to
Peking for any purpose without first informing his superior officer Jung Lu unless he put
him to death, much less to have gone on such a mission as that of imprisoning as important
a personage as the Empress Dowager, to whom they were both indebted for their office.
Another instance of the way in which the Empress Dowager played one party against
another was the appointment of Prince Tuan as a member of the Foreign Office. After his
son had been selected as the heir-apparent it seemed to the Empress Dowager that for his
own education and development he should be made to come in contact with the foreigners.
Most of the foreigners considered the appointment objectionable on account of the
"Prince's anti- foreign tendencies. But to my mind," says Sir Robert Hart,
"it was a good one; the Empress Dowager had probably said to the Prince, 'You and
your party pull one way, Prince Ching and his another--what am I to do between you? You,
however, are the father of the future Emperor, and have your son's interests to take care
of; you are also head of the Boxers and chief of the Peking Field Force, and ought
therefore to know what can and what cannot be done. I therefore appoint you to the yamen;
do what you consider most expedient, and take care that the throne of your ancestors
descends untarnished to your son, and their empire undiminished! yours is the
power,--yours the responsibility--and yours the chief interests!' I can imagine the
Empress Dowager taking this line with the Prince, and, inasmuch as various ministers who
had been very anti-foreign before entering the yamen had turned round and behaved very
sensibly afterwards, I felt sure that responsibility and actual personal dealings with
foreigners would be a good experience and a useful education for this Prince, and that he
would eventually be one of the sturdiest supporters of progress and good relations."
IV The Empress
Dowager--As a Reactionist
The most interesting personage in China during the past thirty years has been and still
is without doubt the lady whom we style the Empress Dowager. The character of the
Empress's rule can only be judged by what it was during the regency, when she was at the
head of every movement that partook of the character of reform. Foreign diplomacy has
failed, for want of a definite centre of volition and sensation to act upon. It had no
fulcrum for its lever. Hence only force has ever succeeded in China. With a woman like the
Empress might it not be possible really to transact business? --Blackwood's Magazine.
IV THE EMPRESS DOWAGER--AS A REACTIONIST
It was between November 1, 1897, and April 16, 1898, that Germany, Russia, France and
England wrested from the weak hands of the Emperor Kuang Hsu the four best ports in the
Chinese empire, leaving China without a place to rendezvous a fleet. The whole empire was
aroused to indignation, and even in our Christian schools, every essay, oration, dialogue
or debate was a discussion of some phase of the subject, "How to reform and
strengthen China." The students all thought, the young reformers all thought, and the
foreigners all thought that Kuang Hsu had struck the right track. The great Chinese
officials, however, were in doubt, and it was because of their doubt--progressives as well
as conservatives--that the Empress Dowager was again called to the throne.
Now may I request the enemies of the Empress Dowager to ask themselves what they would
have done if they had been placed at the head of their own government when it was thus
being filched from them? You say she was anti-foreign--would you have been very much in
love with Germany, Russia, France and England under those circumstances? That she acted
unwisely in placing herself in the hands of the conservatives and allying herself with the
superstitious Boxers, we must all frankly admit. But what would you have done? Might you
not--I do not say you would with your intelligence--but might you not have been induced to
have clutched at as great a log as the patriotic Boxers seemed to present, if you had been
as near drowning as she was?
"It is generally supposed," says one of her critics, "that Kang Yu-wei
suggested to the Emperor, that if he would render his own position secure, he must retire
the Empress Dowager, and decapitate Jung Lu." If that be true, and I think it very
reasonable, the condition must have been desperate, when the reformers had to begin
killing the greatest of their opponents, and imprisoning those who had given them their
power, though neither of these at that time had raised a hand against them. Have you
noticed how ready we are to forgive those on our side for doing that for which we would
bitterly condemn our opponents? The same people who condemn the Empress Dowager for
beheading the six young reformers stand ready to forgive Kuang Hsu for ordering the
decapitation of Jung Lu, and the imprisonment of his foster-mother.
There were two powerful factions in Peking, the progressives, headed by Prince Ching;
and the conservatives, headed by Jung Lu. Now the Empress Dowager may have reasoned thus:
"The progressives and reformers have had their day. They have tried their plans and
they have failed. The only result they have secured is peace--but peace always at the
expense of territory. Now I propose to try another plan. I will part with no more ports,
and I will resist to the death every encroachment." She therefore took up Li
Ping-heng, who had been deposed from the governorship of Shantung at the time of the
murder of the German missionaries, and appointed him Generalissimo of the forces of the
Yangtse, where he no doubt promised to resist to the last all encroachments of the
foreigners in that part of the empire while Jung Lu was retained in Peking as head of all
the forces of the province of Chihli and the Northern Squadron. She then appointed Kang
Yi, another conservative, equally as anti-foreign as Li Ping-heng, to inspect the
fortifications and garrisons of the empire, and to raise an immense sum of money for the
depleted treasury. In his visits to the southern provinces, Kang Yi at this time raised
not less than two million taels, which was no doubt spent in the purchase of guns and
ammunition and other preparations for war. Yu Hsien, another equally conservative Manchu,
she appointed Governor of Shantung to succeed Li Ping-heng, and it is to him the whole
Boxer uprising is due. Moreover when he, at the repeated requests of the foreigners, was
removed from Shantung, she received him in audience at Peking, conferred upon him
additional honours and appointed him Governor of the adjoining province of Shansi, where,
and under whose jurisdiction, almost all the massacres were committed. Indeed Yu Hsien may
be considered the whole Boxer movement, for this seems to have been his plan for getting
rid of the foreigners.
But while thus allying herself with the conservatives, the Empress Dowager did not cut
herself off from the progressives. Li Hung-chang was appointed Viceroy of Kuangtung, Yuan
Shih-kai Governor of Shantung and Tuan Fang of Shensi while Liu Kun-yi, Chang Chih-tung,
and Kuei Chun were kept at their posts, so that she had all the greatest men of both
parties once more in her service. Then she began sending out edicts, retracting those
issued by Kuang Hsu, and what could be more considerate of the feelings of the Emperor, or
more diplomatic as a state paper than the following, issued in the name of Kuang Hsu,
September 26, 1898.
"Our real desire was to make away with superfluous posts for the sake of economy:
whereas, on the contrary, we find rumours flying abroad that we intended to change
wholesale the customs of the empire, and, in consequence, innumerable impossible
suggestions of reform have been presented to us. If we allowed this to go on, none of us
would know to what pass matters would come. Hence, unless we hasten to put our present
wishes clearly before all, we greatly fear that the petty yamen officials and their
underlings will put their own construction on what commands have gone before, and create a
ferment in the midst of the usual calm of the people. This will indeed be contrary to our
desire, and put our reforms for strengthening and enriching our empire to naught.
"We therefore hereby command that the Supervisorate of Instruction and other five
minor Courts and Boards, which were recently abolished by us and their duties amalgamated
with other Boards for the sake of economy, etc., be forthwith restored to their original
state and duties, because we have learned that the process of amalgamation contains many
difficulties and will require too much labour. We think, therefore, it is best that these
offices be not abolished at all, there being no actual necessity for doing this. As for
the provincial bureaus and official posts ordered to be abolished, the work in this
connection can go on as usual, and the viceroys and governors are exhorted to work
earnestly and diligently in the above duty. Again as to the edict ordering the
establishment of an official newspaper, the Chinese Progress, and the privilege granted to
all scholars and commoners to memorialize us on reforms, etc., this was issued in order
that a way might be opened by which we could come into touch with our subjects, high and
low. But as we have also given extra liberty to our censors and high officers to report to
us on all matters pertaining to the people and their government, any reforms necessary,
suggested by these officers, will be attended to at once by us. Hence we consider that our
former edict allowing all persons to report to us is, for obvious reasons, superfluous,
with the present legitimate machinery at hand. And we now command that the privilege be
withdrawn, and only the proper officers be permitted to report to us as to what is going
on in our empire. As for the newspaper Chinese Progress, it is really of no use to the
government, while, on the other hand, it will excite the masses to evil; hence we command
the said paper to be suppressed.
"With regard to the proposed Peking University and the middle schools in the
provincial capitals, they may go on as usual, as they are a nursery for the perfection of
true ability and talents. But with reference to the lower schools in the sub-prefectures
and districts there need be no compulsion, full liberty being given to the people thereof
to do what they please in this connection. As for the unofficial Buddhist, Taoist, and
memorial temples which were ordered to be turned into district schools, etc., so long as
these institutions have not broken the laws by any improper conduct of the inmates, or the
deities worshipped in them are not of the seditious kind, they are hereby excused from the
edict above noted. At the present moment, when the country is undergoing a crisis of
danger and difficulty, we must be careful of what may be done, or what may not, and select
only such measures as may be really of benefit to the empire."
I submit the above edict to the reader requesting him to study it, and, if necessary to
its understanding, to copy it, and see if the Empress Dowager has not preserved the best
there is in it, viz., "the Peking University, and the middle schools in the
provincial capitals," "full liberty being given to the people with reference to
the lower schools in the sub-prefectures and districts to do as they please." How
much oil would be cast on how many troubled waters can only be realized by the unfortunate
priests and dismissed officials and people upon whom "there need be no
Three days after the foregoing, on September 29th, she issued another edict purporting
to come from the Emperor, ordering the punishment of Kang Yu-wei and others of his
confreres. Now, if it is true that Kang Yu-wei advised the Emperor to behead Jung Lu and
imprison the Empress Dowager, for no cause whatsoever, how would you have been inclined to
treat him supposing you had been in her place? The decree says:
"All know that we try to rule this empire by our filial piety towards the Empress
Dowager; but Kang Yu-wei's doctrines have always been opposed to the ancient Confucian
tenets. Owing, however, to the ability shown by the said Kang Yu-wei in modern and
practical matters, we sought to take advantage of it by appointing him a secretary of the
Foreign Office, and subsequently ordered him to Shanghai to direct the management of the
official newspaper there. Instead of this, however, he dared to remain in Peking pursuing
his nefarious designs against the dynasty, and had it not been for the protection given by
the spirits of our ancestors he certainly would have succeeded. Kang Yu-wei is therefore
the arch conspirator, and his chief assistant is Liang Chi-tsao, M. A., and they are both
to be immediately arrested and punished for the crime of rebellion. The other principal
conspirators, namely, the Censor Yang Shen-hsin, Kang Kuang-jen--the brother of Kang
Yu-wei--and the four secretaries of the Tsungli Yamen, Tan Sze-tung, Liu Hsin, Yang Jui,
and Liu Kuang-ti, we immediately ordered to be arrested and imprisoned by the Board of
Punishments: but fearing that if any delay ensued in sentencing them they would endeavour
to entangle a number of others, we accordingly commanded yesterday (September 28th) their
immediate execution, so as to close the matter entirely and prevent further
This with the execution of one or two other officials is the greatest crime that can be
laid at the door of the Empress Dowager--great enough in all conscience--yet not to be
compared to those of "good Queen Bess."
We now come to what is said to have been a secret edict issued by the Empress Dowager
to her viceroys, governors, Tartar generals and the commanders-in-chief of the provinces,
dated November 21, 1899. And this I regard as one of the greatest and most daring things
that great woman ever undertook.
After the Empress Dowager had taken the throne, Italy, following the example set by the
other powers, demanded the cession of Sanmen Bay in the province of Chekiang. But she
found a different ruler on the throne, and to her great surprise, as well as that of every
one else, China returned a stubborn refusal. Moreover, she began to prepare to resist the
demand, and it soon became evident that to obtain it, Italy must go to war. This she had
not the stomach for and so the demand was withdrawn. This explanation will go far towards
helping us to understand the following secret edict of November 21st, to which I have
"Our empire is now labouring under great difficulties which are becoming daily
more and more serious. The various Powers cast upon us looks of tiger-like voracity,
hustling each other in their endeavours to be the first to seize upon our innermost
territories. They think that China, having neither money nor troops, would never venture
to go to war with them. They fail to understand, however, that there are certain things
that this empire can never consent to, and that, if hardly pressed upon, we have no
alternative but to rely upon the justice of our cause, the knowledge of which in our
breasts strengthens our resolves and steels us to present a united front against our
aggressors. No one can guarantee, under such circumstances, who will be the victor and who
the vanquished in the end. But there is an evil habit which has become almost a custom
among our viceroys and governors which, however, must be eradicated at all costs. For
instance, whenever these high officials have had on their hands cases of international
dispute, all their actions seem to be guided by the belief in their breasts that such
cases would eventually be 'amicably arranged.' These words seem never to be out of their
thoughts: hence, when matters do come to a crisis, they, of course, find themselves
utterly unprepared to resist any hostile aggressions on the part of the foreigner. We,
indeed, consider this the most serious failure in the duty which the highest provincial
authorities owe to the throne, and we now find it incumbent upon ourselves to censure such
conduct in the most severe terms.
"It is our special command, therefore, that should any high official find himself
so hard pressed by circumstances that nothing short of war would settle matters, he is
expected to set himself resolutely to work out his duty to this end. Or, perhaps, it would
be that war has already actually been declared; under such circumstances there is no
possible chance of the imperial government consenting to an immediate conference for the
restoration of peace. It behooves, therefore, that our viceroys, governors, and
commanders-in-chief throughout the whole empire unite forces and act together without
distinction or particularizing of jurisdictions so as to present a combined front to the
enemy, exhorting and encouraging their officers and soldiers in person to fight for the
preservation of their homes and native soil from the encroaching footsteps of the foreign
aggressor. Never should the word 'Peace' fall from the mouths of our high officials, nor
should they even allow it to rest for a moment within their breasts. With such a country
as ours, with her vast area, stretching out several tens of thousands of li, her immense
natural resources, and her hundreds of millions of inhabitants, if only each and all of
you would prove his loyalty to his Emperor and love of country, what, indeed, is there to
fear from any invader? Let no one think of making peace, but let each strive to preserve
from destruction and spoliation his ancestral home and graves from the ruthless hands of
One of her critics, referring to the last sentence of the above edict, asks: "Do
not these words throw down the gauntlet?" And we answer, yes. Did not the thirteen
colonies throw down the gauntlet to England for less cause? Did not Japan throw down the
gauntlet to Russia for less cause than the Empress Dowager had for desiring that
"each strive TO PRESERVE FROM DESTRUCTION AND SPOLIATION HIS ANCESTRAL HOME AND
GRAVES"? It was not for conquest but for self-preservation the Empress Dowager was
ready to go to war; not for glory but for home; not against a taunting neighbour, but
against a "ruthless invader." Her unwisdom did not consist in her being ready to
go to war, but in allowing herself to be allied to, and depend upon, the superstitious
rabble of Boxers, and to believe that her "hundreds of millions" of
undisciplined "inhabitants" could withstand the thousands or tens of thousands
of well-drilled, well-led, intelligent soldiers from the West.
That she was ready to go to war rather than weakly yield to the demands for territory
from the European powers is further evidenced by the following edict issued by the Tsungli
Yamen to the viceroys and governors:
"This yamen has received the special commands of her Imperial Majesty the Empress
Dowager, and his Imperial Majesty the Emperor, to grant you full power and liberty to
resist by force of arms all aggressions upon your several jurisdictions, proclaiming a
state of war, if necessary, without first asking instructions from Peking; for this loss
of time may be fatal to your security, and enable the enemy to make good his footing
against your forces."
In order to strengthen her position she appointed two commissioners whom she sent to
Japan in the hope of forming a secret defensive alliance with that nation against the
White Peril from the West. For once, however, she made a mistake in the selection of her
men, for these commissioners, unlike what we usually find the yellow man, revealed too
much of the important mission on which they were bent, and were recalled in disgrace, and
the treaty came to naught.
V The Empress Dowager--As a
Taught by the failure of a reaction on which she had staked her life and her throne,
the Dowager has become a convert to the policy of progress. She has, in fact, outstripped
her nephew. "Long may she live!" "Late may she rule us!" During her
lifetime she may be counted on to carry forward the cause she has so ardently espoused.
She grasps the reins with a firm hand; and her courage is such that she does not hesitate
to drive the chariot of state over many a new and untried road. She knows she can rely on
the support of her viceroys--men of her own appointment. She knows too that the spirit of
reform is abroad in the land, and that the heart of the people is with her. --W. A. P.
Martin in "The Awakening of China."
V THE EMPRESS DOWAGER--AS A REFORMER
In June, 1902, soon after the return of the court from Hsian to Peking, a company of
ladies from the various legations in Peking who had received invitations to an audience
and a banquet with the Empress Dowager were asked to meet at one of the legations for the
purpose of consultation. The meeting was unusual. Many of those who were present had no
higher motive than the ordinary tourist who goes sightseeing. With the exception of one or
two who had been in once before, none of these ladies had ever been present at an
audience. Several of them however had passed through the Boxer siege of 1900, had
witnessed the guns from the wall of the Imperial City pouring shot and shell into the
British legation, where they were confined during those eight memorable weeks of June,
July and August, and had come out with their hearts filled with resentment. One of them
had received a decoration from her government for her bravery in standing beside her
husband on the fortifications when buildings were crumbling and walls falling, and her
husband was buried by an exploding mine, and then vomited out unhurt by a second
explosion. Among the number were several recent arrivals in Peking who had had none of
these bitter experiences, but had heard much of the Empress Dowager, and above all things
else they were anxious to see her whom they called the "She Dragon."
The presiding officer had been longest in Peking, and as doyen of these diplomatic
ladies, she acted as chairman of the meeting. The first question to be decided was the
mode of conveyance to the "Forbidden City." Without much discussion it was
decided to use the sedan chair, as being the most dignified, and used only by Chinese
ladies of rank. The chairman then called for an expression of opinion as to the method of
procedure in presentation to the throne. One suggested that they have no ceremony about
it, but all go up to the throne together, for in this way none would take precedence, but
all would have an equal opportunity of satisfying their curiosity and scrutinizing this
female dragon ad libitum. Another said: "It will be broiling hot on that June day,
and it will be better to keep at a safe distance from her, with plenty of guards to
protect us, or we may be broiled in more senses than one." The chairman looked
worried at these suggestions, but still kept her dignity and her equilibrium. Then a mild
voice suggested that it was customary in all audiences for those presented to courtesy to
the one on the throne. "Courtesy!" broke in an indignant voice, "it would
be more appropriate for her to prostrate herself at our feet and beg us to forgive her for
trying to shoot us, than for us to courtesy to her." It was finally decided, however,
that the same formalities be observed as were followed by the ministers when received at
court. I give these incidents to show the temper that prevailed among the members of some
of the legations at Peking at the time of this first audience.
"When a few days later we followed the long line of richly-robed princesses into
the audience-hall, all this was changed. As we looked at the Empress Dowager seated upon
her throne on a raised dais, with the Emperor to her left and members of the Grand Council
kneeling beside her, and these dignified, stately princesses courtesying until their knees
touched the floor, we forgot the resentful feeling expressed in the meeting a few days
before, and, awed by her majestic bearing and surroundings, we involuntarily gave the
three courtesies required from those entering the imperial presence. We could not but feel
that this stately woman who sat upon the throne was every inch an empress. In her hands
rested the weal or woe of one-third of the human race. Her brilliant black eyes seemed to
read our thoughts. Indeed she prides herself upon the fact that at a glance she can read
the character of every one that appears before her."
After the ladies had taken their position in order of their rank, the doyen presented
their good wishes to Her Majesty, which was replied to by a few gracious words from the
throne. Each lady's name was then announced and as she was formally presented she ascended
the dais, and as she courtesied, the Empress Dowager extended her hand which she took, and
then passed to the left to be introduced in a similar way to the Emperor.
It was thus she began her reforms in the customs of the court, which up to this time
had kept her ever behind the screen, compelled to wield the sceptre from her place of
concealment, equally shut out from the eyes of the world and blind to the needs of her
people. Up to her time the people and the nation were the slaves of age-old customs, but
before the power of her personality rites and ceremonies became the servants of the
people. In the words of the poet she seemed to feel that
"Rules Are well; but never fear to break The scaffolding of other souls; It was
not meant for thee to mount, Though it may serve thee."
Without taking away from the Emperor the credit of introducing the railroad, the
telegraph, the telephone, the new system of education, and many other reforms, we must
still admit that it was the personality, power and statesmanship of the Empress Dowager
that brought about the realization of his dreams. The movement towards female education as
described in another chapter must ever be placed to the credit of this great woman. From
the time she came from behind the screen, and allowed her portrait to be painted, the
freedom of woman was assured.
One day when calling at the American legation I was shown two large photographs of Her
Majesty. One some three feet square was to be sent to President Roosevelt, the other was a
gift to Major Conger. Similar photographs had been sent to all the ministers and rulers
represented at Peking, and I said to myself: "The Empress Dowager is shrewd. She
knows that false pictures of her have gone forth. She knows that the painted portrait is
not a good likeness, and so she proposes to have genuine pictures in the possession of all
civilized governments." This shrewdness was not necessarily native on her part, but
was engendered by the arguments that had been used by those who induced her to be the
first Chinese monarch to have her portrait painted by a foreign artist.
A few years ago the Empress Dowager had a dream, which, like every act of hers, was
greater than any of those of her brilliant nephew. This dream was to give a constitution
to China. Of course, if this were done it would have to be by the Manchus, as the
government was theirs, and any radical changes that were made would have to be made by the
people in power. The Empress Dowager, however, wanted the honour of this move to reflect
upon herself, and hoped to be able to bring it to a successful issue during her lifetime.
There was strenuous opposition, and this most vigorous in the party in which she had
placed herself when she dethroned Kuang Hsu. The conservatives regarded this as the
wildest venture that had yet been made, and were ready to use all their influence to
prevent it; nevertheless the Empress Dowager called to her aid the greatest and most
progressive of the Manchus, the Viceroy Tuan Fang, and appointed him head of a commission
which she proposed to send on a tour of the world to examine carefully the various forms
of government, with the purpose of advising her, on their return, as to the possibility of
giving a constitution to China.
A special train was provided to take the commission from Peking to Tientsin. It was
drawn up at the station just outside the gate in front of the Emperor's palace. The
commission had entered the car, and the narrow hall or aisle along the side was crowded
with those who had come to see them off, when, BANG, there was an explosion, the side of
the car was blown out, several were injured, including slight wounds to some of the
members of the commission, and the man carrying the bomb was blown into an unrecognizable
mass. For a few days the city was in an uproar. Guards were placed at all the gates,
especially those leading to the palace, and every possible effort was made to identify the
nihilist. But as all efforts failed, and nothing further transpired to indicate that he
had accomplices, the commission separated and departing individually without display,
reunited at Tientsin and started on their tour of inspection.
This commission was splendidly entertained wherever it went, given every possible
opportunity to examine the constitutions of the countries through which it passed, and on
its return to Peking the report of the trip was published in one hundred and twenty
volumes, the most important item of which was that a constitution, modelled after that of
Japan, should be given to China at as early a date as possible.
The leader of this expedition, His Excellency the Viceroy Tuan Fang, is one of the
greatest, if not the greatest living Manchu statesman. Like Yuan Shih-kai, during the
Boxer uprising, he protected all the foreigners within his domains. That he appreciates
the work done by Americans in the opening up of China is evidenced by a statement made in
his address at the Waldorf Astoria, in February, 1906, in which he said:
"We take pleasure this evening in bearing testimony to the part taken by American
missionaries in promoting the progress of the Chinese people. They have borne the light of
Western civilization into every nook and corner of the empire. They have rendered
inestimable service to China by the laborious task of translating into the Chinese
language religious and scientific works of the West. They help us to bring happiness and
comfort to the poor and the suffering, by the establishment of hospitals and schools. The
awakening of China, which now seems to be at hand, may be traced in no small measure to
the influence of the missionary. For this service you will find China not
Some may think that this was simply a sentiment expressed on this particular occasion
because he happened to be surrounded by secretaries and others interested in this cause.
That this is not the case is further indicated by the fact that since that time he has on
two separate occasions attended the commencement exercises of the Nanking University, on
one of which he addressed the students as follows:
"This is the second time I have attended the commencement exercises of your
school. I appreciate the good order I find here. I rejoice at the evidences I see of your
knowledge of the proprieties, the depth of your learning, and the character of the
students of this institution. I am deeply grateful to the president and faculty for the
goodness manifested to these my people. I have seen evidences of it in every detail. It is
my hope that when these graduates go out into the world, they will remember the love of
their teachers, and will practice that virtue in their dealing with others. The
fundamental principle of all great teachers whether of the East or the West is love, and
it remains for you, young gentlemen, to practice this virtue. Thus your knowledge will be
practical and your talents useful."
I have given these quotations as evidences of the breadth of the man whom the Empress
Dowager selected as the head of this commission. It is not generally known, however, that
Duke Tse, another important member of this commission, is married to a sister of the young
Empress Yehonala, and consequently a niece of the Empress Dowager. Such relations existed
between Her Majesty and the viceroy, as ruler and subject, that it would be impossible for
him to give her the intimate account of their trip that a relative could give. It would be
equally impossible, with all her other duties, to wade through a report such as they
published after their return of one hundred and twenty volumes. But it would be a delight
to call in this nephew-in-law, and have him sit or kneel, and may we not believe she
allowed him to sit? and give her a full and intimate account of the trip and the countries
through which they passed. She was anxious that this constitution should be given to the
people before she passed away. This, however, could not be. Whether it will be adopted
within the time allotted is a question which the future alone can answer.
The next great reform undertaken by the Empress Dowager was her crusade against opium.
The importance of this can only be estimated when we consider the prevalence of the use of
the drug throughout the empire. The Chinese tell us that thirty to forty per cent. of the
adult population are addicted to the use of the drug.
One day while walking along the street in Peking, I passed a gateway from which there
came an odour that was not only offensive but sickening. I went on a little distance
further and entered one of the best curio shops of the city, and going into the back room,
I found the odour of the street emphasized tenfold, as one of the employees of the firm
had just finished his smoke. I left this shop and went to another where the proprietor had
entirely ruined his business by his use of the drug, and it was about this time that the
Empress Dowager issued the following edict:
"Since the first prohibition of opium, almost the whole of China has been flooded
with the poison. Smokers of opium have wasted their time, neglected their employment,
ruined their constitutions, and impoverished their households. For several decades
therefore China has presented a spectacle of increasing poverty and weakness. To merely
mention the matter, arouses our indignation. The court has now determined to make China
powerful, and to this end we urge our people to reformation in this respect.
"We, therefore, decree that within a limit of ten years this injurious filth shall
be completely swept away. We further order the Council of State to consider means of
prohibition both of growing the poppy and smoking the opium."
The Council of State at once drew up regulations designed to carry out this decree.
They were among others:
That all opium-smokers be required to report and take out a license.
Officials using the drug were divided into two classes. Young men must be cured of the
habit within six months, while for old men no limit was fixed. But both classes, while
under treatment, must furnish satisfactory substitutes, at their own expense, to attend to
the duties of their office.
All opium dens must be closed within six months, after which time no opium-pipes nor
lamps may be either made or sold. Though shops for the sale of the drug may continue for
ten years, the limit of the traffic.
The government promises to provide medicine for the cure of the habit, and encourages
the formation of anti-opium societies, but will not allow these societies to discuss other
Next to China Great Britain is the party most affected by this movement towards reform.
When this edict was issued Great Britain was shipping annually fifty thousand chests of
opium to the Chinese market, but at once agreed that if China was sincere in her desire
for reform, and cut off her own domestic productions at the rate of ten per cent. per
annum, she would decrease her trade at a similar rate. It is unfortunate that the Empress
Dowager should have died before this reform had been carried to a successful culmination,
but whatever may be the result of the movement the fact and the credit of its initiation
will ever belong to her.
Such are some of the special reform measures instituted by the Empress Dowager, but in
addition to these she has seen to it that the Emperor's efforts to establish a Board of
Railroads, a Board of Mines, educational institutions on the plans of those of the West,
should all be carried out. She has not only done away with the old system of examinations,
but has introduced a new scheme by which all those who have graduated from American or
European colleges may obtain Chinese degrees and be entitled to hold office under the
government, by passing satisfactory examinations, not a small part of which is the diploma
or diplomas which they hold. Such an examination has already been held and a large number
of Western graduates, most of them Christian, were given the Chu-jen or Han-lin degrees.
VI The Empress Dowager--As
There is no genre that the Chinese artist has not attempted. They have treated in turn
mythological, religious and historical subjects of every kind; they have painted scenes of
daily familiar life, as well as those inspired by poetry and romance; sketched still life,
landscapes and portraits. Their highest achievements, perhaps, have been in landscapes,
which reveal a passionate love for nature, and show with how delicate a charm, how sincere
and lively a poetic feeling, they have interpreted its every aspect. They have excelled
too at all periods in the painting of animals and birds, especially of birds and flying
insects in conjunction with flowers. --S. W. Bushell in "Chinese Art."
VI THE EMPRESS DOWAGER--AS AN ARTIST
One day the head eunuch from the palace of the Princess Shun called at our home to ask
Mrs. Headland to go and see the Princess. While sitting in my study and looking at the
Chinese paintings hanging on the wall, two of which were from the brush of Her Majesty, he
"You are fond of Chinese art?"
"I am indeed fond of it," I answered.
"I notice you have some pictures painted by the Old Buddha," he continued,
referring to the Empress Dowager by a name by which she is popularly known in Peking.
"Yes, I have seven pictures from her brush," I answered.
"Do you happen to have any from the brush of the Lady Miao, her painting
teacher?" he inquired.
"I am sorry to say I have not," I replied. "I have tried repeatedly to
secure one, but thus far have failed. I have inquired at all the best stores on Liu Li
Chang, the great curio street, but they have none, and cannot tell me where I can find
"No, you cannot get them in the stores; she does not paint for the trade," he
"I am sorry," I continued, "for I should like very much to get one. I am
told she is a very good artist."
"Oh, yes, she paints very well," he went on in a careless way. "She
lives over near our palace. We have a good many of her paintings. They are very easily
"It may be easy for you to get them," I replied, "but it is no small
task for me."
"If you want some," he volunteered, "I'll get some for you."
"That would be very kind of you," I answered, "but how would you
undertake to get them?"
"Oh, I would just steal a few and bring them over to you."
It is hardly necessary to assure my readers as I did him that I could not approve of
this method of obtaining paintings from the Lady Miao's brush. However he must have told
the Princess of my desire, for the next time Mrs. Headland called at the palace the
Princess entertained her by showing her a number of paintings by the Lady Miao, together
with others from the brush of the Empress Dowager.
"And these are really the work of Her Majesty?" said Mrs. Headland with a
"Yes, indeed," replied the Princess. "I watched her at work on them.
They are genuine."
It was some weeks thereafter that Mrs. Headland was again invited to call and see the
Princess, and to her surprise she was introduced to the Lady Miao, with whom and the
Princess she spent a very pleasant social hour or two. When she was about to leave, the
Princess, who is the youngest sister of the Empress Yehonala, brought out a picture of a
cock about to catch a beetle, which she said she had asked Lady Miao to paint, and which
she begged Mrs. Headland to receive as a present from the artist and herself.
During the conversation Mrs. Headland remarked that the Empress Dowager must have begun
her study of art many years ago.
"Yes," said Lady Miao. "We were both young when she began. Shortly after
she was taken into the palace she began the study of books, and partly as a diversion, but
largely out of her love for art, she took up the brush. She studied the old masters as
they have been reproduced by woodcuts in books, and from the paintings that have been
preserved in the palace collection, and soon she exhibited rare talent. I was then a young
woman, my brothers were artists, my husband had passed away, and I was ordered to appear
in the palace and work with her."
"You are a Chinese, are you not, Lady Miao?"
"Yes," she replied, "and as it has not been customary for Chinese ladies
to appear at court during the present dynasty, I was allowed to unbind my feet, comb my
hair in the Manchu style, and wear the gowns of her people."
"And did you go into the palace every day?"
"When I was young I did. Ten Thousand Years"--another method of speaking of
the Empress Dowager--"was very enthusiastic over her art work in those days, and
often we spent a large part of the day either with our brushes, or studying the history of
art, the examples in the books, or the works of the old masters in the gallery. One of her
favourite presents to her friends, as you probably know, is a picture from her own brush,
decorated with the impress of her great jade seal, the date, and an appropriate poem by
one of the members of the College of Inscriptions. And no presents that she ever gives are
prized more highly by the recipients than these paintings."
I had seen pictures painted by Her Majesty decorating the walls of the palaces of
several of the princes, as well as the homes of a number of my official friends. Some of
them I thought very attractive, and they seemed to be well done. They were highly prized
by their owners, but I was anxious to know what the Lady Miao thought of her ability as an
artist, and so I asked:
"Do you consider the Empress Dowager a good painter?"
"The Empress Dowager is a great woman," she answered. "Of course, as an
artist, she is an amateur rather than a professional. Had she devoted herself wholly to
art, hers would have been one of the great names among our artists. She wields her brush
with a power and precision which only genius added to practice can give. She has a keen
appreciation of art, and it is a pity that the cares of state might not have been borne by
others, leaving her free to develop her instinct for art."
The Empress Dowager kept eighteen court painters, selected from among the best artists
of the country, and appointed by herself, whose whole duty it was to paint for her. They
were divided into three groups, and each group of six persons was required to be on duty
ten days of each month. As I was deeply interested in the study of Chinese art I became
intimately acquainted with most of the court painters and knew the character of their
work. The head of this group was Mr. Kuan. I called on him one day, knowing that he was
not well enough to be on duty in the palace, and I found him hard at work. Like the small
boy who told his mother that he was too sick to go to school but not sick enough to go to
bed, so he assured me that his troubles were not such as to prevent his working, but only
such as make it impossible for him to appear at court. Incidentally I learned that the
drain on his purse from the squeezes to the eunuchs aggravated his disease.
"When Her Majesty excused me from appearing at the palace," he explained,
"she required that I paint for her a minimum of sixty pictures a year, to be sent in
about the time of the leading feasts. These she decorates with her seals, and with
appropriate sentiments written by members of the College of Inscriptions, and she gives
them, as she gives her own, as presents during the feasts." Mr. Kuan and I became
intimate friends and he painted three pictures which he presented to me for my collection.
One day another of the court painters came to call on me and during the conversation
told me that he was painting a picture of the Empress Dowager as the goddess of mercy. Up
to that time I had not been accustomed to think of her as a goddess of mercy, but he told
me that she not infrequently copied the gospel of that goddess with her own pen, had her
portrait painted in the form of the goddess which she used as a frontispiece, bound the
whole up in yellow silk or satin and gave it as a present to her favourite officials. Of
course I thought at once of my collection of paintings, and said:
"How much I should like to have a picture of the Empress Dowager as the goddess of
"I'll paint one for you," said he.
All this conversation I soon discovered was only a diplomatic preliminary to what he
had really come to tell me, which was that he had been eating fish in the palace a few
days before, and had swallowed a fish-bone which had unfortunately stuck in his throat. He
said that the court physicians had given him medicine to dissolve the fish-bone, but it
had not been effective; he therefore wondered whether one of the physicians of my
honourable country could remove it. I took him to my friend Dr. Hopkins who lived near by,
and told him of the dilemma. The doctor set him down in front of the window, had him open
his mouth, looked into his throat where he saw a small red spot, and with a pair of
tweezers removed the offending fish-bone. And had it not been for this service on the part
of Dr. Hopkins, I am afraid I should never have received the promised picture, for he
hesitated as to the propriety of him, a court painter, doing pictures of Her Majesty for
his friends. However as he often thereafter found it necessary to call Mrs. Headland to
minister to his wife and children he came to the conclusion that it was proper for him to
do so, and one day he brought me the picture.
The Empress Dowager not only loved to be painted as the goddess of mercy, but she
clothed herself in the garments suitable to that deity, dressed certain ladies of the
court as her attendants, with the head eunuch Li Lien-ying as their protector, ordered the
court artists to paint appropriate foreground and background and then called young Yu, her
court photographer, to snap his camera and allow Old Sol the great artist of the universe
with a pencil of his light to paint her as she was.
One day while visiting a curio store on Liu Li Chang, the great book street of Peking,
my attention was called by the dealer to four small paintings of peach blossoms in black
and white, from the brush of the Empress Dowager. These pictures had been in the panels of
the partition between two of the rooms of Her Majesty's apartments in the Summer Palace,
and so I considered myself fortunate in securing them.
"You notice," said he, "that each section of these branches must be
drawn by a single stroke of the brush. This is no easy task. She must be able to ink her
brush in such a way as to give a clear outline of the limb, and at the same time to
produce such shading as she may desire. Should her outline be defective, she dare not
retouch it; should her shading be too heavy or insufficient, she cannot take from it and
she may not add to it, as this would make it defective in the matter of calligraphy. A
stroke once placed upon her paper, for they are done on paper, is there forever. This
style of work is among the most difficult in Chinese art."
After securing these paintings, I showed them to a number of the best artists of the
present day in Peking, and they all pronounced them good specimens of plum blossom work in
monochrome, and they agreed with Lady Miao, that if the Empress Dowager had given her
whole time to painting she would have passed into history as one of the great artists of
the present dynasty.
One day when one of her court painters called I showed him these pictures. He agreed
with all the others as to the quality of her brush work, but called my attention to a
diamond shaped twining of the branches in one of them.
"That," said he, "is proof positive that it is her work."
"Why?" I inquired.
"Because a professional artist would never twine the twigs in that fashion."
"And why not?"
"They would not do it," he replied. "It is not artistic."
"And why do not her friends call her attention to this fact?" I inquired.
"Who would do it?" was his counter question.
VII The Empress Dowager--As
The first audience given by Her Imperial Majesty to the seven ladies of the Diplomatic
Corps was sought and urged by the foreign ministers. After the troubles of 1900 and the
return of the court, Her Majesty assumed a different attitude, and, of her own accord,
issued many invitations for audiences, and these invitations were accepted. Then followed
my tiffin to the court princesses and their tiffin in return. This opened the way for
other princesses and wives of high officials to call, receive calls, to entertain and be
entertained. In many cases arrangements were made through our mutual friend Mrs. Headland,
an accepted physician and beloved friend of many of the higher Chinese families; and
through her innate tact, broad thought, and great love for the good she may do, I have
been able to come into personal touch with many of these Chinese ladies. --Mrs. E. H.
Conger in "Letters from China.
VII THE EMPRESS DOWAGER-AS A WOMAN
Although the great Dowager has passed away, it may be interesting to know something
about her life and character as a woman as those saw her who came in contact with her in
public and private audiences. In order to appreciate how quick she was to adopt foreign
customs, let me give in some detail the difference in her table decorations at the earlier
and later audiences as they have been related by my wife.
"At the close of the formalities of our introduction to the Empress Dowager and
the Emperor at one of the first audiences, we, with the ladies of the court, repaired to
the banqueting hall. After we were seated, each with a princess beside her, the great
Dowager appeared. We rose and remained standing while she took her place at the head of
the table, with the Emperor standing at her left a little distance behind her. As she sat
down she requested us to be seated, though the princesses and the Emperor all remained
standing, it being improper for them to sit in the presence of Her Majesty. Long-robed
eunuchs then appeared with an elaborate Chinese banquet, and the one who served the
Empress Dowager always knelt when presenting her with a dish.
"After we had eaten for some little time, the doyen asked if the princesses might
not be seated. The Empress Dowager first turned to the Emperor, and said, 'Your Majesty,
please be seated'; then turning to the princesses and waving her hand, she told them to
sit down. They sat down in a timid, rather uncomfortable way on the edge of the chair, but
did not presume to touch any of the food.
"The conversation ran upon various topics, and, among others, the Boxer troubles.
One of the ladies wore a badge. The Empress Dowager noticing it, asked what it meant.
" 'Your Majesty,' was the reply, 'this was presented to me by my Emperor because I
was wounded in the Boxer insurrection.'
"The Empress Dowager took the hands of this lady in both her own, and as the tears
stood in her eyes, she said:
" 'I deeply regret all that occurred during those troublous times. The Boxers for
a time overpowered the government, and even brought their guns in and placed them on the
walls of the palace. Such a thing shall never occur again.'
"The table was covered with brilliantly coloured oilcloth, and was without
tablecloth or napkins properly so called, but we used as napkins square, coloured bits of
calico about the size of a large bandana handkerchief. There were no flowers, the table
decorations consisting of large stands of cakes and fruit. I speak of this because it was
all changed at future audiences, when the table was spread with snow-white cloths, and
smiled with its load of most gorgeous flowers. Especially was this true after the
luncheons given to the princesses and ladies of the court by Mrs. Conger at the American
legation, showing that the eyes of these ladies were open to receive whatever suggestions
might come to them even in so small a matter as the spreading and decoration of a table.
The banquets thereafter were made up of alternating courses of Chinese and foreign food.
"With but one exception, the Empress Dowager thereafter never appeared at table
with her guests. But at the close of the formal audiences, after descending from the
throne, and speaking to those whom she had formerly met, she requested her guests to enter
the banquet hall and enjoy the feast with the princesses, saying that the customs of her
country forbade their being seated or partaking of food if she were present. After the
banquet, however, the Empress Dowager always appeared and conversed cordially with her
"Her failure to appear at table may have been influenced by the following
incident: One of the leading lady guests, anxious, no doubt, to obtain a unique curio,
requested the Empress Dowager to present her with the bowl from which Her Majesty was
eating--a bowl which was different from those used by her guests, as the dishes from which
her food was served were never the same as those used by others at the table!
"After an instant's hesitation she turned to a eunuch and said:
" 'We cannot give her one bowl [the Chinese custom being always to give things in
pairs]; go and prepare her two.'
"Then, turning to her guests, she continued apologetically:
" 'I should be glad to give bowls to each of you, but the Foreign Office has
requested me not to give presents at this audience.' It had been her custom to give each
of her guests some small gift with her own hands and afterwards to send presents by her
eunuchs to their homes.
"On another occasion the lady referred to above took an ornament from a cabinet
and was carrying it away when the person in charge of these things requested that it be
restored, saying that she was responsible for everything in the room and would be punished
if anything were missing.
"The above incidents do not stand alone. It was not uncommon for some of the
Continental guests, in the presence of the court ladies, to make uncomplimentary remarks
about the food, which was Chinese, and often not very palatable to the foreigner. These
remarks, of course, were not supposed to be understood, though the Empress Dowager always
had her own interpreter at table. One often felt that some of these ladies, in their
efforts to see all and get all, forgot what was due their own country as well as their
"One can understand the enormity of such an offense in a court the etiquette of
which is so exacting that none of her own subjects ever dared appear in her presence until
they had been properly instructed in court etiquette in the 'Board of Rites,' a course of
instruction which may extend over a period of from a week to six months. These breaches of
politeness on the part of these foreign ladies may have been overlooked by Her Majesty and
the princesses, but, if so, it was on the old belief that all outside of China were
"All the ladies who attended these audiences, however, were not of this character.
There were those who realized the importance of those occasions in the opening up of
China, and were scrupulous in their efforts to conform to the most exacting customs of the
court. And who can doubt that the warm friendship which the Empress Dowager conceived for
Mrs. Conger, the wife of our American minister, who did more than any other person ever
did, or ever can do, towards the opening up of the Chinese court to the people of the
West, was because of her appreciation of the fact that Mrs. Conger was anxious to show the
Empress Dowager the honour due to her position.
"It was in her private audiences that this great woman's tact, womanliness,
fascination and charm as a hostess appeared. Taking her guest by the hand, she would ask
in the most solicitous way whether we were not tired with our journey to the palace; she
would deplore the heat in summer or the cold in winter; she would express her anxiety lest
the refreshments might not have been to our taste; she would tell us in the sincerest
accents that it was a propitious fate that had made our paths meet; and she would charm
each of her guests, even though they had been formerly prejudiced against her, with little
separate attentions, which exhibited her complete power as a hostess.
"When opportunity offered, she was always anxious to learn of foreign ways and
institutions. On one occasion while in the theatre, she called me to her side, and, giving
me a chair, inquired at length into the system of female education in America.
" 'I have heard,' she said, 'that in your honourable country all the girls are
taught to read.'
" 'Quite so, Your Majesty.'
" 'And are they taught the same branches of study as the boys?'
" 'In the public schools they are.'
" 'I wish very much that the girls in China might also be taught, but the people
have great difficulty in educating their boys.'
"I then explained in a few words our public-school system, to which she replied:
" 'The taxes in China are so heavy at present that it would be impossible to add
another expense such as this would be.'
"It was not long thereafter, however, before an edict was issued commending female
education, and at the present time hundreds of girls' schools have been established by
private persons both in Peking and throughout the empire.
"On another occasion, while the ladies were having refreshments, the Empress
Dowager requested me to come to her private apartments, and while we two were alone
together, with only a eunuch standing by fanning with a large peacock-feather fan, she
asked me to tell her about the church. It was apparent from the beginning of her
conversation that she made no distinction between Roman Catholics and Protestants, calling
them all the Chiao. I explained to her that the object of the church was the intellectual,
moral, and spiritual development of the people, making them both better sons and better
"Few women are more superstitious than the Empress Dowager. Her whole life was
influenced by her belief in fate, charms, good and evil spirits, gods and demons.
"When it was first proposed that she have her portrait painted for the St. Louis
Exposition, she was dumfounded. After a long conversation, however, in which Mrs. Conger
explained that portraits of many of the rulers of Europe would be there, including a
portrait of Queen Victoria, and that such a painting would in a way counteract the false
pictures of her that had gone abroad, she said that she would consult with Prince Ching
about the matter. This looked very much as though it had been tabled. Not long thereafter,
however, she sent word to Mrs. Conger, asking that Miss Carl be invited to come to Peking
and paint her portrait.
"We all know how this portrait had to be begun on an auspicious day; how a
railroad had to be built to the Foreign Office rather than have the portrait carried out
on men's shoulders, as though she were dead; how she celebrated her seventieth birthday
when she was sixty-nine, to defeat the gods and prevent their bringing such a calamity
during the celebration as had occurred when she was sixty, when the Japanese war disturbed
her festivities. On her clothes she wore the ideographs for 'Long Life and 'Happiness,'
and most of the presents she gave were emblematic of some good fortune. Her palace was
decorated with great plates of apples, which by a play on words mean 'Peace,' and with
plates of peaches, which mean 'Longevity.' On her person she wore charms, one of which she
took from her neck and placed on the neck of Mrs. Conger when she was about to leave
China, saying that she hoped it might protect her during her journey across the ocean, as
it had protected herself during her wanderings in 1900, and she would not allow any one to
appear in her presence who had any semblance of mourning about her clothing.
"It is a well-known fact that no Manchu woman ever binds her feet, and the Empress
Dowager was as much opposed to foot-binding as any other living woman. Nevertheless, she
would not allow a subject to presume to suggest to her ways in which she should interfere
in the social customs of the Chinese, as one of her subjects did. This lady was the wife
of a Chinese minister to a foreign country, and had adopted both for herself and her
daughters the most ultra style of European dress. She one day said to Her Majesty, 'The
bound feet of the Chinese woman make us the laughing-stock of the world.'
" 'I have heard,' said the Empress Dowager, 'that the foreigners have a custom
which is not above reproach, and now since there are no outsiders here, I should like to
see what the foreign ladies use in binding their waist.'
"The lady was very stout, and had the appearance of an hour-glass, and turning to
her daughter, a tall and slender maiden, she said:
" 'Daughter, you show Her Majesty.'
"The young lady demurred until finally the Empress Dowager said:
" 'Do you not realize that a request coming from me is the same as a command?'
"After having had her curiosity satisfied, she sent for the Grand Secretary and
ordered that proper Manchu outfits be secured for the lady's daughters, saying:
" 'It is truly pathetic what foreign women have to endure. They are bound up with
steel bars until they can scarcely breathe. Pitiable! Pitiable!'
"The following day this young lady did not appear at court, and the Empress
Dowager asked her mother the reason of her absence.
" 'She is ill to-day,' the mother replied.
" 'I am not surprised,' replied Her Majesty, 'for it must require some time after
the bandages have been removed before she can again compress herself into the same
proportions,' indicating that the Empress Dowager supposed that foreign women slept with
their waists bound, just as the Chinese women do with their feet."
The first winter I spent in China, twenty years ago, was one of great excitement in
Peking. The time of the regency of the Empress Dowager for the boy-emperor had ended. I
have explained how a prince is not allowed to marry a princess because she is his
relative, or even a commoner his cousin for the same reason. That is the rule. But rules
were made to be broken, and when the time came for Kuang Hsu's betrothal the Empress
Dowager decided to marry this son of her sister to the daughter of her brother. It
mattered not that the young man was opposed to the match and wanted another for his wife.
The Empress Dowager had set her heart upon this union, and she would not allow her plans
to be frustrated, so an edict was issued that all people should remain within their homes
on a certain night, for the bride was to be taken in her red chair from her father's home
to the palace. So that in this as in all other things her will was law for all those about
She was a bit below the average height, but she wore shoes, in the centre of whose
soles there were--heels, shall we call them?--six inches high. These, together with her
Manchu garments, which hang from the shoulders, gave her a tall and stately appearance and
made her seem, as she was, every inch an empress. Her figure was perfect, her carriage
quick and graceful, and she lacked nothing physically to make her a splendid type of
womanhood and ruler. Her features were more vivacious and pleasing than they were really
beautiful; her complexion was of an olive tint, and her face illumined by orbs of jet half
hidden by dark lashes, behind which lurked the smiles of favour or the lightning flashes
When seated upon the throne she was majesty itself, but the moment she stepped down
from the august seat, and took ones hand in both of hers, saying with the most amiable of
smiles: "What a kind fate it is that has allowed you to come and see me again. I hope
you are not over-weary with the long journey," one felt that she was, above all, a
woman, a companion, a friend--yet for all that the mistress of every situation, whether
diplomatic, business, or social.
I wish her mental characteristics could be described as completely as Japanese and
other photographers have given us pictures of her person. But perhaps if this were
possible she would seem less interesting. And it may be that in the relation of these few
incidents of her career there may have been revealed something of the patriotism, the
statesmanship, the imperious will, and the ambitions that brought about the
reeestablishment and the continuation of the dynasty of her people. We have seen how the
enemies of her country fell before her sword. Dangerous statesmen fell before her pen, and
if they were fortunate enough to rise again with all their honour it was to be divested of
all their former power. Every obstacle in her path was overcome either by diplomacy or by
The Empress Dowager has no double in Chinese history, if indeed in the history of the
world. She not only guided the ship of state during the last half century, but she guided
it well, and put into operation all the greatest reforms that have ever been thought of by
Chinese statesmen. Compared with her own people, she stands head and shoulders above any
other woman of the Mongol race. And what shall we say of her compared with the great women
of other races? In strength of character and ability she will certainly not suffer in any
comparison that can be made. We cannot, therefore, help admiring that young girl, who
formerly ran errands for her mother who, being made the concubine of an emperor, became
the mother of an emperor, the wife of an emperor, the maker of an emperor, the dethroner
of an emperor, and the ruler of China for nearly half a century--all this in a land where
woman has no standing or power. Is it too much to say that she was the greatest woman of
the last half century?
VIII Kuang Hsu--His
The Emperor Kuang Hsu is slight and delicate, almost childish in appearance, of pale
olive complexion, and with great, melancholy eyes. There is a gentleness in his expression
that speaks rather of dreaming than of the power to turn dreams into acts. It is strange
to find a personality so etherial among the descendants of the Mongol hordes; yet the
Emperor Kuaug Hsu might sit as a model for some Oriental saint on the threshold of the
highest beatitude. --Charles Johnston in "The Crisis in China."
VIII KUANG HSU--HIS SELF-DEVELOPMENT
On the night that the son of the Empress Dowager "ascended upon the dragon to be a
guest on high," two sedan chairs were borne out of the west gate of the Forbidden
City, through the Imperial City, and into the western part of the Tartar City, in one of
which sat the senior Empress and in the other the Empress-mother. The streets were dimly
lighted, but the chairs, each carried by four bearers, were preceded and followed by
outriders bearing large silk lanterns in which were tallow-candles, while a heavy cart
with relays of bearers brought up the rear. The errand upon which they were bent was an
important one--the making of an emperor--for by the death of Tung Chih, the throne, for
the first time in the history of the dynasty, was left without an heir. Their destination
was the home of the Seventh Prince, the younger brother of their husband, to whom as we
have already said the Empress Dowager had succeeded in marrying her younger sister, who
was at that time the happy mother of two sons.
She took the elder of these, a not very sturdy boy of three years and more, from his
comfortable bed to make him emperor, and one can imagine they hear him whining with a
half-sleepy yawn: "I don't want to be emperor. I want to sleep." But she bundled
little Tsai Tien up in comfortable wraps, took him out of a happy home, from a loving
father and mother, and a jolly little baby brother,--out of a big beautiful world, where
he would have freedom to go and come at will, toys to play with, children to contend with
him in games, and everything in a home of wealth that is dear to the heart of a child. And
for what? She folded him in her arms, adopted him as her own son, and carried him into the
Forbidden--and no doubt to him forbidding--City, where his world was one mile square,
without freedom, without another child within its great bare walls, where he was the one
lone, solitary man among thousands of eunuchs and women. The next morning when the
imperial clan assembled to condole with her on the death of her son, she bore little Tsai
Tien into their midst declaring: "Here is your emperor."
At that time there were situated on Legation Street, in Peking, two foreign stores that
had been opened without the consent of the Chinese government, for in those days the
capital had not been opened to foreign trade. As the stores were small, and in such close
proximity to the various legations, the most of whose supplies they furnished, they seem
to have been too unimportant to attract official attention, though they were destined to
have a mighty influence on the future of China. One of them was kept by a Dane, who sold
foreign toys, notions, dry-goods and groceries such as might please the Chinese or be of
use to the scanty European population of the great capital. By chance some of the eunuchs
from the imperial palace, wandering about the city in search of something to please little
Tsai Tien, dropped into this store on Legation Street and bought some of these foreign
toys for his infant Majesty.
They had already ransacked the city for Chinese toys. They had gone to every fair,
visited every toy-shop, called upon every private dealer, and paid high prices for samples
of their best work made especially for the royal child. There were crowing cocks and
cackling hens; barking dogs and crying infants; music balls and music carts; horns, drums,
diabolos and tops; there were gingham dogs and calico cats; camels, elephants and fierce
tigers; and a thousand other toys, if only he had had other children to share them with
him. But none of them pleased him. They lacked that subtile something which was necessary
to minister to the peculiar genius of the child.
Among the foreign toys there were some in which there was concealed a secret spring
which seemed to impart life to the otherwise dead plaything. Wind them up and they would
move of their own energy. This was what the boy needed,--something to appeal to that
machine-loving disposition which nature had given him, and Budge and Toddy were never more
curious to know "what made the wheels go round" than was little Tsai Tien. He
played with them as toys until overcome by curiosity, when, like many another child, he
tore them apart and discovered the secret spring. This was as much of a revelation to the
eunuchs as to the child, and they went and bought other toys of a more curious pattern,
and a more intricate design, and it was not long until, at the instigation of the
enterprising Dane, the toy-shops of Europe were manufacturing playthings specially
designed to please the almond-eyed baby Emperor in the yellow-tiled palace in Peking.
As the child grew the business of the Dane shopkeeper increased. His stock became
larger and more varied, and Tsai Tien continued to be a profitable customer. There were
music boxes and music carts--real music carts, not like those from the Chinese
shops,--trains of cars, wheeled boats, striking clocks and Swiss watches which, when the
stem was pulled, would strike the hour or half or quarter, and all these were bought in
turn by the eunuchs and taken into the palace. As the Emperor grew to boyhood the Danish
shopkeeper supplied toys suitable to his years from his inexhaustible shelves, until all
the most intricate and wonderful toys of Europe, suitable for a boy, had passed through
the hands of Kuang Hsu,--"continued brilliancy," as his name implied--and he
seemed to be making good the meaning of his name.
We would not lead any one to believe that Kuang Hsu was an ideal child. He was not. If
we may credit the reports that came from the palace in those days, he had a temper of his
own. If he were denied anything he wanted, he would lie down on his baby back on the dirty
ground and kick and scream and literally "raise the dust" until he got it. My
wife tells me that not infrequently when she called at the Chinese homes, and they set
before her a dish of which she was especially fond, and she had eaten of it as much as she
thought she ought, the ladies would ask in a good-natured way in reply to some of her
remarks about her voracious appetite, "Shall we get down and knock our heads on the
floor, and beg you not to eat too much, and make yourself sick, like the eunuchs do to the
Emperor?" There is nothing to wonder at that Kuang Hsu, without parental restraint,
and fawned upon by cringing eunuchs and serving maids, should have been a spoiled child;
the wonder is that he was not worse than he was.
One day in 1901 while the court was absent at Hsian, and the front gate of the
Forbidden City was guarded by our "boys in blue," I obtained a pass and visited
the imperial palace. The apartments of the Emperor consisted of a series of one-story
Chinese buildings, with paper windows around a large central pane of glass, tile roof and
brick floor. The east part of the building appeared to be the living-room, about twenty by
twenty-five feet. The window on the south side extended the entire length of the room, and
was filled with clocks from end to end. There were clocks of every description from the
finest French cloisonne to the most intricate cuckoo clocks from which a bird hopped forth
to announce the hour, and each ticking its own time regardless of every other. Tables were
placed in various parts of the room, on each of which were one, two or three clocks. Swiss
watches of the most curious and unique designs hung about the walls. Two sofas sat back to
back in the centre of the room, and a beautiful little gilt desk on which was the most
wonderful of all his clocks, with several large foreign chairs upholstered in plush and
velvet, completed the furniture. I sat down in one of these chairs to rest, for it was a
hot summer day, and immediately there proceeded from beneath me sweet strains of music
from a box concealed beneath the cushion. It was not only a surprise, it was soothing and
restful; and I was prepared to see an electric fan pop out of somewhere and fan me to
sleep. It was really an Oriental fairy tale of an apartment.
As Kuang Hsu grew to boyhood he heard that out in this great wonderful world, which he
had never seen except with the eyes of a child, there was a method of sending messages to
distant cities and provinces with the rapidity of a flash of lightning. For centuries he
and his ancestors had been sending their edicts, and their Peking Gazette or court
newspaper--the oldest journal in the world--by runner, or relays of post horses, and the
possibility of sending them by a lightning flash appealed to him. He believed in doing
things, and, as we shall see later, he wanted to do them as rapidly as they could be done.
He therefore ordered that a telegraph outfit be secured for him, which he "played
with" as he had done with his most ingenious toys, and the telegraph was soon
established for court use throughout the empire.
One day a number of officials came to us at the Peking University and in the course of
a conversation they said:
"The Emperor has heard that the foreigners have invented a talk box. Is that
"Quite true," we replied, "and as we have one in the physical laboratory
of the college we will let you see it."
We had one of the old Edison phonographs which worked with a pedal, and looked very
much like a sewing-machine, and we took them to the laboratory, allowed one of them to
talk into it, and then set the machine to repeating what had been told it. The officials
were delighted and it was not long until they again appeared and insisted on buying it as
a present for the Emperor, for in this way better than any other they might hope to obtain
official recognition and position.
The Emperor then heard that the foreigners had invented a "fire-wheel cart,"
but whether he had ever been informed that they had built a small railroad at Wu-Sung near
Shanghai, and that the Chinese had bought it, and then torn it up and thrown it into the
river we cannot say. There are many things the officials and people do which never reach
the imperial ears. However that may be, when Kuang Hsu heard of the railroad and the carts
that were run by fire, he wanted one, and he would not be satisfied until they had built a
narrow gauge railroad along the west shore of the lotus lake in the Forbidden City, and
the factories of Europe had made two small cars and an engine on which he could take the
court ladies for a ride on this unusual merry-go-round. The road and the cars and the
engine were still there when I visited the Forbidden City in 1901, but they were carried
away to Europe by some of the allies as precious bits of loot, before the court returned.
Not long after he had heard of the railroads, he was told that the foreigners also had
"fire-wheel boats." Of course he wanted some, and as I crossed the beautiful
marble bridge that spans the lotus lake, I saw anchored near by three small steam launches
which had evidently been used a good deal. I saw similar launches in the lake at the
Summer Palace, and was told that in the play days of his boyhood, Kuang Hsu would have
these launches hitched to the imperial barges and take the ladies of the court for
pleasure trips about the lake in the cool of the summer evenings, as the Empress Dowager
did her foreign visitors in later times.
The Emperor in those days was on the lookout for everything foreign that was of a
mechanical nature. Indeed every invention interested him. In this respect he was
diametrically opposite to the genius of the whole Chinese people. Their faces had ever
been turned backward, and their highest hopes were that they might approximate the golden
ages of the past, and be equal in virtue to their ancestors. This feeling was so strong
that a hundred years before he mounted the throne, his forefather, Chien Lung, when he had
completed his cycle of sixty years as a ruler, vacated in favour of his son lest he should
reign longer than his grandfather. Kuang Hsu was therefore the first occupant of the
dragon throne whose face was turned to the future, and whose chief aim was to possess and
to master every method that had enabled the peoples of the West to humiliate his people.
When he heard that the foreigners had a method of talking to a distance of ten, twenty,
fifty or five hundred miles, he did not say like the old farmer is reported to have
said,--"It caint be trew, because my son John kin holler as loud as any man in all
this country, an' he caint be heerd mor'n two miles." Kuang Hsu believed it, and at
once ordered that a telephone be secured for him.
In 1894 the Christian women of China decided to present a New Testament to the Empress
Dowager on her sixtieth birthday which occurred the following year. New type was prepared,
the finest foreign paper secured, and the book was made after the best style of the
printer's art, with gilt borders, gilt edges, and bound in silver of an embossed bamboo
pattern and encased in a silver box. It was then enclosed in a red plush box,--red being
the colour indicating happiness, --which was in turn encased in a beautifully carved
teak-wood box, and this was enclosed in an ordinary box and taken by the English and
American ministers to the Foreign Office to be sent in to Her Majesty
The next day the Emperor sent to the American Bible Society for copies of the Old and
New Testaments, such as were being sold to his people. A few days thereafter a Chinese
friend--a horticulturist and gardener who went daily to the palace with flowers and
vegetables--came to me in confidence as though bearing an important secret, and said:
"Something of unusual importance is taking place in the palace."
"Indeed?" said I; "what makes you think so?"
"Heretofore when I have gone into the palace," said he, "the eunuchs
have treated me with indifference. Yesterday they sat down and talked in a most familiar
and friendly way, asking me all about Christianity. I told them what I could and they
continued their conversation until long after noon. I finally became so hungry that I
arose to come home. They urged me to stay, bringing in a feast, and inviting me to dine
with them, and they kept me there till evening. One of them told me that the Emperor is
studying the Gospel of Luke."
"How does he know that?" I inquired.
"That is what I asked him," he answered, "and he told me that he is one
of the Emperor's private servants, and that His Majesty has a part of the Gospel copied in
large characters on a sheet of paper each day, which he spreads out on the table before
him, and this eunuch, standing behind his chair, can read what he is studying."
On further inquiry I discovered that there was no other way that the eunuch could have
learned about the Gospel, except in the way indicated. This man was invited to dine with
the eunuchs day after day until he had told them all he knew about Christianity, after
which they requested him to bring in the pastor of the church of which he was a member,
and who was one of my former pupils, to dine with them and tell them more about the
Gospel. The pastor hesitated to accept the invitation, but as it was repeated day after
day, he finally accompanied the horticulturist.
When offered wine at dinner the pastor refused it, at which the eunuch remarked:
"Oh, yes, I have heard that you Christians do not drink wine," and like a polite
host, the wine was put aside and none was drunk at the dinner. During the afternoon they
took their guests to visit some of the imperial buildings, advanced the sum of three
hundred dollars to the horticulturist to enlarge his plant, and gave various presents to
It must not be inferred from this that the Emperor was becoming a Christian. Very far
from it, though the interest he took in the Christian doctrine set the people to studying
about it, not only in Peking but throughout many of the provinces, as was indicated at the
time by the number of Christian books sold. As early as 1891 he issued a strong edict
ordering the protection of the missionaries in which he made the following statement:
"The religions of the West have for their object the inculcation of virtue, and,
though our people become converted, they continue to be Chinese subjects. There is no
reason why there should not be harmony between the people and the adherents of foreign
religions." The Chinese reported that he sometimes examined the eunuchs, lining them
up in classes and catechising them from the books read.
One day three of the eunuchs called on me with this same horticulturist, for the
purpose no doubt of seeing a foreigner, and to get a glimpse of the home in which he
lived. One of them was younger than the other two and above the average intelligence of
his class. A few days later the horticulturist told me a story which illustrates a phase
of the Emperor's character which we have already hinted at--his impulsive nature and
ungovernable temper. He had ordered a number of the eunuchs to appear before him, all of
whom except this young man were unable to come, because engaged in other duties. When the
eunuch got down on his hands and knees to kotow or knock his head to His Majesty, the
latter kicked him in the mouth, cutting his lip and otherwise injuring him, and my
"What kind of a man is that to govern a country, a man who punishes those who obey
his orders?" Indeed there was a good deal of feeling among the Chinese at that time
that the Empress Dowager ought to punish the Emperor as a good mother does a bad child,
though in the light of all the other things he did, he was to be pitied more than blamed
for a disposition thus inherited and developed.
It was about this time he began the study of English. He ordered that two teachers be
appointed, and contrary to all former customs he allowed them to sit rather than kneel
while they taught him. At the time they were selected I was exchanging lessons in English
for Chinese with the grandson of one of these teachers, and learned a good deal about the
progress the young man was making. He was in such a hurry to begin that he could not wait
to send to England or America for books, and so the officials visited the various schools
and missions in search of proper primers for a beginner. When they visited us we made a
thorough search and finally Dr. Marcus L. Taft discovered an attractively illustrated
primer which he had taken to China with him for his little daughter Frances, and this was
sent to Kuang Hsu.
One day a eunuch called on me saying that the Emperor had learned that the various
institutions of learning, educational associations, tract and other societies had
published a number of books in Chinese which they had translated from the European
languages. I was at that time the custodian of two or three of these societies and had a
great variety of Chinese books in my possession. I therefore sent him copies of our
astronomy, geology, zoology, physiology and various other scientific books which I was at
that time teaching in the university.
The next day he called again, accompanied by a coolie who brought me a present of a ham
cooked at the imperial kitchen, together with boxes of fruit and cakes, which, not being a
man of large appetite, I thanked him for, tipped the coolie, and after he had gone, turned
them over to our servants, who assured me that imperial meat was very palatable. Day after
day for six weeks this eunuch visited me, and would never leave until I had found some new
book for His Majesty. They might be literary, scientific or religious works, and he made
no distinction between the books of any sect or society, institution or body, but with an
equal zeal he sought them all. I was sometimes reduced to a sheet tract, and finally I was
forced to take my wife's Chinese medical books out of her private library and send them in
to the Emperor. I learned that other eunuchs were visiting other persons in charge of
other books, and that at this time Kuang Hsu bought every book that had been translated
from any European language and published in the Chinese.
One day the eunuch saw my wife's bicycle standing on the veranda and said:
"What kind of a cart is that?"
"That is a self-moving cart," I answered.
"How do you ride it?" he inquired.
I took the bicycle off the veranda, rode about the court a time or two, while he gazed
at me with open mouth, and when I stopped he ejaculated:
"That's queer; why doesn't it fall down?"
"When a thing's moving," I answered, "it can't fall down," which
might apply to other things than bicycles.
The next day when he called he said:
"The Emperor would like that bicycle," and my wife allowed him to take it in
to Kuang Hsu, and it was not long thereafter until it was reported that the Emperor had
been trying to ride the bicycle, that his queue had become entangled in the rear wheel,
and that he had had a not very royal tumble, and had given it up,--as many another one has
IX Kuang Hsu--As Emperor
In 1891 the present Emperor Kuang Hsu issued a very strong edict commanding good
treatment of the missionaries. He therein made the following statement: "The
religions of the West have for their object the inculcation of virtue, and, though our
people become converted, they continue to be Chinese subjects. There is no reason why
there should not be harmony between the people and the adherents of foreign
religions." --Hon. Charles Denby in "China and Her People."
IX KUANG HSU--AS EMPEROR AND REFORMER
AS a man, there are few characters in Chinese history that are more interesting than
Kuang Hsu. He had all the caprices of genius with their corresponding weakness and
strength. He could wield a pen with the vigour of a Caesar, threaten his greatest
viceroys, dismiss his leading conservative officials, introduce the most sweeping and
far-reaching reforms that have ever been thought of by the Chinese people, and then run
from a woman as though the very devil was after him.
He has been variously rated as a genius, an imbecile and a fool. Let us grant that he
was not brilliant. Let us rate him as an imbecile, and then let us try to account for his
having brought into the palace every ingenious toy and every wonderful and useful
invention and discovery of the past twenty or thirty years with the exception of the
X-rays and liquid air. Let us try to explain why it was that an imbecile would purchase
every book that had been printed in the Chinese language, concerning foreign subjects of
learning, up to the time when he was dethroned. Let us tell why it was that an imbecile
would study all those foreign books without help, without an assistant, without a teacher,
for three years, from the time he bought them in 1895 till 1898, before he began issuing
the most remarkable series of edicts that have ever come from the pen of an Oriental
monarch in the same length of time. And let us explain how it was that an imbecile could
embody in his edicts of two or three months all the important principles that were
necessary to launch the great reforms of the past ten years.
I doubt if any Chinese monarch has ever had a more far-reaching influence over the
minds of the young men of the empire than Kuang Hsu had from 1895 till 1898. The
preparation for this influence had been going on for twenty or thirty years previously in
the educational institutions established by the missions and the government. From these
schools there had gone out a great number of young men who had taken positions in all
departments of business, and many of the state, and revealed to the officials as well as
to many of the people the power of foreign education. An imperial college had been
established by the customs service for the special education of young men for diplomatic
and other positions, from which there had gone out young men who were the representatives
of the government as consuls or ministers in the various countries of Europe and America.
The fever for reading the same books that Kuang Hsu had read was so great as to tax to
the utmost the presses of the port cities to supply the demand, and the leaders of some of
the publication societies feared that a condition had arisen for which they were
unprepared. Books written by such men as Drs. Allen, Mateer, Martin, Williams and Legge
were brought out in pirated photographic reproductions by the bookshops of Shanghai and
sold for one-tenth the cost of the original work. Authors, to protect themselves,
compelled the pirates to deliver over the stereotype plates they had made on penalty of
being brought before the officials in litigation if they refused. But during the three
years the Emperor had been studying these foreign books, hundreds of thousands of young
scholars all over the empire had been doing the same, preparing themselves for whatever
emergency the studies of the young Emperor might bring about.
One day during the early spring a young Chinese reformer came to me to get a list of
the best newspapers and periodicals published in both England and America. I inquired the
reason for this strange move, and he said:
"The young Chinese reformers in Peking have organized a Reform Club. Some of them
read and speak English, others French, others German and still others Russian, and we are
providing ourselves with all the leading periodicals of these various countries that we
may read and study them. We have rented a building, prepared rooms, and propose to have a
club where we can assemble whenever we have leisure, for conversation, discussion,
reading, lectures or whatever will best contribute to the ends we have in view."
"And what are those ends?" I inquired.
"The bringing about of a new regime in China," he answered. "Our recent
defeat by the Japanese has shown us that unless some radical changes are made we must take
a second place among the peoples of the Orient."
"This is a new move in Peking, is it not?"
"New in Peking," he answered, "but not new in the empire. Reform clubs
are being organized in all the great cities and capitals. In Hsian, books have been
purchased by all classes from the governor of the province down to the humblest scholar,
and the aristocracy have organized classes, and are inviting the foreigners to lecture to
them. Every one, except a few of the oldest conservative scholars, are discarding their
Confucian theories and reconstructing their ideas in view of present day problems. There
is an intellectual fermentation now going on from which a new China is certain to be
evolved, and we propose to be ready for it when it comes."
The leader of this reform party was Kang Yu-wei, a young Cantonese, who had made a
thorough study of the reforms of Peter the Great in Russia, and the more recent reforms in
Japan, the history of which he had prepared in two volumes which he sent to the Emperor.
He had made a reputation for himself in his native place as a "Modern Sage and
Reformer," was hailed as a "young Confucius," was appointed a third-class
secretary in the Board of Works, and as the Emperor and he had been studying on the same
lines, Kang, through the influence of the brother of the chief concubine, was introduced
to His Majesty. He had a three hours' conference with the Foreign Office, in which he
urged that China should imitate Japan, and that the old conservative ministers and
viceroys should be replaced by young men imbued with Western ideas, who might confer with
the Emperor daily in regard to all kinds of reform measures.
This interview was reported to Kuang Hsu by Prince Kung and Jung Lu, who both being
old, and one of them the greatest of the conservatives, could hardly be expected to
approve of his theories. Kang, however, was asked to embody his suggestions in a memorial,
was later given an audience with the Emperor, and finally called into the palace to assist
him in the reforms he had already undertaken. And if Kang Yu-wei had been as great a
statesman as he was reformer, Kuang Hsu might never have been deposed.
The crisis came during the summer of 1898. I had taken my family to the seashore to
spend our summer vacation. A young Chinese scholar--a Hanlin--who had been studying in the
university for some years, and with whom I was translating a work on psychology, had gone
with me. He took the Peking Gazette, which he read daily, and commented upon with more or
less interest, until June 23d, when an edict was issued abolishing the literary essay of
the old regime as a part of the government examination, and substituting therefor various
branches of the new learning. "We have been compelled to issue this decree,"
said the Emperor, "because our examinations have reached the lowest ebb, and we see
no remedy for these matters except to change entirely the old methods for a new course of
"What do you think of that?" I asked the Hanlin.
"The greatest step that has ever yet been taken," he replied.
This Hanlin was not a radical reformer, but one of a long line of officials who were
deeply interested in the preservation of their country which had weathered the storms of
so many centuries,--storms which had wrecked Assyria, Babylonia, Media, Egypt, Greece and
Rome, while China, though growing but little, had still lived. He was one of those
progressive statesmen who have always been found among a strong minority in the Middle
The Peking Gazette continued to come daily bringing with it the following twenty-seven
decrees in a little more than twice that many days. I will give an epitome of the decrees
that the reader at a glance may see what the Emperor undertook to do. Summarized they are
1. The establishment of a university at Peking.
2. The sending of imperial clansmen to foreign countries to study the forms and
conditions of European and American government.
3. The encouragement of the arts, sciences and modern agriculture.
4. The Emperor expressed himself as willing to hear the objections of the conservatives
to progress and reform.
5. Abolished the literary essay as a prominent part of the governmental examinations.
6. Censured those who attempted to delay the establishment of the Peking Imperial
7. Urged that the Lu-Han railway should be prosecuted with more vigour and expedition.
8. Advised the adoption of Western arms and drill for all the Tartar troops.
9. Ordered the establishment of agricultural schools in all the provinces to teach the
farmers improved methods of agriculture.
10. Ordered the introduction of patent and copyright laws.
11. The Board of War and Foreign Office were ordered to report on the reform of the
12. Special rewards were offered to inventors and authors.
13. The officials were ordered to encourage trade and assist merchants.
14. School boards were ordered established in every city in the empire.
15. Bureaus of Mines and Railroads were established.
16. Journalists were encouraged to write on all political subjects.
17. Naval academies and training-ships were ordered.
18. The ministers and provincial authorities were called upon to assist--nay, were
begged to make some effort to understand what he was trying to do and help him in his
efforts at reform.
19. Schools were ordered in connection with all the Chinese legations in foreign
countries for the benefit of the children of Chinese in those places.
20. Commercial bureaus were ordered in Shanghai for the encouragement of trade.
21. Six useless Boards in Peking were abolished.
22. The right to memorialize the throne in sealed memorials was granted to all who
desired to do so.
23. Two presidents and four vice-presidents of the Board of Rites were dismissed for
disobeying the Emperor's orders that memorials should be allowed to come to him unopened.
24. The governorships of Hupeh, Kuangtung, and Yunnan were abolished as being a useless
expense to the country.
25. Schools of instruction in the preparation of tea and silk were ordered established.
26. The slow courier posts were abolished in favour of the Imperial Customs Post.
27. A system of budgets as in Western countries was approved.
I have given these decrees in this epitomized form so that all those who are interested
in the character of this reform movement in China may understand something of the
influence the young Emperor's study had had upon him. Grant that they followed one another
in too close proximity, yet still it must be admitted by every careful student of them,
that there is not one that would not have been of the greatest possible benefit to the
country if they had been put into operation. If the Emperor had been allowed to proceed,
making them all as effective as he did the Imperial University, and if the ministers and
provincial authorities had responded to his call, and had made "some effort to
understand what he was trying to do," China might have by this time been close upon
the heels of Japan in the adoption of Western ideas.
As the edicts continued to come out in such quick succession my Hanlin friend became
alarmed. He came to me one day after the Emperor had censured the officials for trying to
delay the establishment of the Imperial University and said:
"I must return to Peking."
"Why return so soon?" I inquired.
"There is going to be trouble if the Emperor continues his reform at this rate of
speed," he answered.
It was when the Emperor had issued the sixth of his twenty-seven decrees that this
young Chinese statesman made this observation. If his most intimate advisers had had the
perspicuity to have foreseen the final outcome of such precipitance might they not have
advised the Emperor to have proceeded more deliberately? When one remembers how China had
been worsted by Japan, how all her prestige was swept away, how, from having been the
parent of the Oriental family of nations, a desirable friend or a dangerous enemy, she was
stripped of all her glory, and left a helpless giant with neither strength nor power, one
can easily understand the eagerness of this boy of twenty-seven to restore her to the
pedestal from which she had been ruthlessly torn.
Another reason for his haste may be found in the seizure of his territory by the
European powers. A few months before he began his reforms two German priests were murdered
by an irresponsible mob in the province of Shantung. With this as an excuse Germany landed
a battalion of marines at Kiaochou, a port of that province, which she took with fifty
miles of the surrounding territory. As though this were not enough, she demanded the right
to build all the railroads and open all the mines in the entire province, and compelled
the Chinese to pay an indemnity to the families of the murdered priests and rebuild the
church and houses the mob had destroyed. China appealed to Russia who had promised to
protect her against all invaders. Instead of coming to her aid, however, Russia demanded a
similar cession of Port Arthur, Talienwan and the surrounding territory which she had
refused to allow Japan to retain two years before. Not to be outdone by the others, France
demanded and received a similar strip of territory at Kuang-chou-wan; and England found
that Wei-hai-wei would be indispensable as a kennel from which she could guard the Russian
bear on the opposite shore, but why she should have found it necessary also to demand from
China four hundred miles of land and water around Hongkong was no doubt difficult for
Kuang Hsu to understand.
When the Empress Dowager turned over the reins of government to her nephew she did it
very much as a father would place the reins in the hands of a child whom he was teaching
to drive an important vehicle on a dangerous road --she sat behind him still holding the
reins. Among the things reserved were that he should kotow to her once every five days
whether she were in Peking or at the Summer Place, and she reserved such seals of office
as made it necessary for all the highest officials to come and express their obligations
to her at the same time they came to thank the Emperor. While Kuang Hsu may have been
reconciled to the performance of these duties at eighteen, they became irksome at
twenty-seven and he demanded and received full liberty in the affairs of state.
We have seen how he used his liberty,--not wisely, perhaps, as a reformer, and yet the
reformation of China can never be written without giving the credit of its inception to
Kuang Hsu. He was very different from Hsien Feng, the husband of the Empress Dowager,
before whose death we are told "the whole administrative power was vested in the
hands of a council of eight, whilst he himself spent his time in ways that were by no
means consistent with those that ought to have characterized the ruler of a great and
powerful nation." Whatever else may be said of Kuang Hsu, he cannot be accused of
indolence, extravagance, or indifference to the welfare of his country or his people.
Appreciating the difficulty of securing an expression of opinion from those opposed to
his views, and thus getting both sides of the question, in his fourth edict he requested
the conservatives to send in their objections to his schemes for progress and reform, and
then as if to get the broadest possible expression of opinion he adopted a Shanghai
journal called Chinese Progress as the official organ of the government. But lest this be
insufficient, in his twenty-second edict he gave the right to all officials to address the
throne in sealed memorials.
There was at this time a third-class secretary of the Board of Rites named Wang Chao
who sent in a memorial in which he advocated:
1. The abolition of the queue.
2. The changing of the Chinese style of dress to that of the West.
3. The adoption of Christianity as a state religion.
4. A prospective national parliament.
5. A journey to Japan by the Emperor and Empress Dowager.
The Board of Rites opened and read this memorial, and, astounded at its boldness, they
summoned the offender before them, and ordered him to withdraw his paper. This he refused
to do and the two presidents and four vice-presidents of the Board accompanied it with a
counter memorial denouncing him to the Emperor as a man who was making narrow-minded and
wild suggestions to His Majesty.
Partly because they had opened and read the memorial and partly because of their effort
to prevent freedom of speech, Kuang Hsu issued another edict explaining why he had invited
sealed memorials, and censuring them for explaining to him what was narrow-minded and
wild, as if he lacked the intelligence to grasp that feature of the paper. He then turned
them all over to the Board of Civil Office ordering that body to decide upon a suitable
punishment for their offense, and assuring them that if they made it too mild, his
righteous wrath would fall upon them. The latter decided that they be degraded three steps
and removed to posts befitting their lowered rank, but the Emperor revised the sentence
and dismissed them all from office, and this was the beginning of his downfall.
The Empress Dowager had been spending the hot season at the Summer Palace, and during
the two months and more that the Emperor had been struggling with his reform measures, she
gave no indication, either by word or deed, that she was opposed to anything that he had
done. And I think that all her acts, from that time till the close of the Boxer
insurrection, can be explained without placing her in opposition to his theories of
progress and reform.
So long as the Emperor devoted himself to the creation of new offices he found little
active opposition on the part of the conservatives, while the reformers did everything in
their power to encourage him. The extent of the movement it is not easy to estimate. It
opened up the intensely anti-foreign province of Hupeh, and transformed it into a section
where railroads were to be built connecting the north with the south. It opened up the
great mining province of Shansi and the lumber regions of Manchuria. It started railroads
which are now lines of trade for the whole empire.
When he issued the fifth edict substituting Western science for the literary essay in
the great examinations, letters and telegrams began to pour in upon us at the Peking
University from all parts of the empire, asking us to reserve room for the senders in the
school. Their tuition was enclosed in their letters, and among those who came were the
grandson of the Emperor's tutor, graduates of various degrees, men of rank, and the sons
of wealthy gentlemen who had not yet obtained degrees. Numerous requests came to our
graduates to teach English in official families, one being employed to teach the grandson
of Li Hung-chang, and another the sons of a relative of the royal family.
But when his reforms led the Emperor to dispense with useless offices, as in his
twenty-first, twenty-fourth and twenty-sixth edicts, for the purpose of retrenchment, and
to dismiss recalcitrant officials for disobedience to his commands, a howl arose which was
heard throughout the empire. The six members of the Board of Rites dismissed in edict
twenty-three, with certain sympathizers to give them face, went to the Empress Dowager at
the Summer Palace, represented to her that the boy whom she had placed upon the throne was
steering the ship of state to certain destruction, and begged that she would come and once
more take the helm. She listened to them with the attention and deference for which she
has always been famed, and then dismissed them without any intimation as to what her
course would be.
When the Emperor heard what they were doing, he sent a courier post-haste to call Yuan
Shih-kai for an interview at the palace. When Yuan came, he ordered him to return to
Tien-tsin, dispose of his superior officer, the Governor-General Jung Lu, and bring the
army corps of 12,500 troops of which he was in charge to Peking, surround the Summer
Palace, preventing any one from going in or coming out, thus making the Empress Dowager a
prisoner, and allowing him to go on with his work of reform.
It is just here that we see the difference in the statesmanship of the Empress Dowager
and the Emperor. When she appointed these two officials, one a liberal in charge of the
army, she placed the other, a conservative, as his superior officer, so that one could not
move without the knowledge and consent of the other, thus forestalling just such an order
as this. To obey this order of the boy Emperor, Yuan must commit two great crimes, murder
and treason, the one on a superior officer, and the other against her who had appointed
him to office and who had been the ruler of the country for thirty-seven years, either of
which would have been sufficient to have execrated him not only in the eyes of his own
people but of history and of the world. Nay more, had he obeyed this order, the
conservatives would have raised the cry of rebellion, and an army ten times greater than
he could have mustered, would have crushed Yuan and his little company of 12,500 men, on
the plea that he was about to take the throne.
Yuan then did the only wise thing he could have done. He went to Jung Lu, without whose
consent he had no right to move, showed him the order, and asked for his commands. Jung Lu
told him to leave the order with him, and as soon as Yuan had departed he took the train
for Peking, called on Prince Ching, and they two went to the Summer Palace and showed the
order to Her Majesty, suggesting to her that it might be well for her to come into the
city and give him a few lessons in government.
As the Empress Dowager had been behaving herself so circumspectly during all the summer
months, allowing the Emperor to test himself as a ruler, one can scarcely blame her for
not wanting to be bottled up in the Summer Palace when she had done nothing to deserve it.
When therefore this second delegation of officials, consisting of the two highest in rank
in the empire, came to request her to once more take charge of the government, she called
her sedan chair and started for the capital. She went without an army, but was accompanied
by those of her palace eunuchs on whom she could implicitly depend, and enough of them to
overcome those of the Emperor in case there should be trouble. That force was necessary is
evident from the fact that she condemned to death a number of his servants after she had
taken the throne.
When the Emperor heard that she was coming he sent a messenger with letters urging Kang
Yu-wei to flee, and to devise some means for saving the situation, while he attempted to
find refuge for himself in the foreign legations. This however he failed to do, but was
taken by the Empress Dowager, and his career as a ruler ended, and his life as a prisoner
X Kuang Hsu--As a Prisoner
Kuang Hsu deserves a place in history as the prize iconoclast. He sent a cold shiver
down the spine of the literati by declaring that a man's fitness for office should not
depend upon his ability to write a poem, or upon the elegance of his penmanship. This was
too much. The literati argued that at the rate at which the Emperor was going, it might be
expected that he would do away with chop-sticks and dispense with the queue. --Rounsevelle
Wildman in "China's Open Door."
X KUANG HSU--AS A PRISONER
The year that Kuang Hsu ascended the throne a great calamity occurred in Peking. The
Temple of Heaven--the greatest of the imperial temples, the one at which the Emperor
announces his accession, confesses his sins, prays and gives thanks for an abundant
harvest, was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. When the Emperor worships here
it is as the representative of the people, the high priest of the nation, and his prayers
are offered for his country and not for himself. There are no idols in this temple, and
his prayers go up to Shang-ti the Supreme Being "by whom kings reign and princes
decree justice." When therefore instead of giving rain Heaven sent down a fiery bolt
to destroy the temple at which the Son of Heaven prays, the people were struck with
The pale faces of the women, the apprehensive noddings of the men, and the hushed
voices of our old Confucian teachers as they spoke of the matter, indicated the concern
with which they viewed it. Here was a boy who had been placed upon the throne by a woman;
he was the same generation as the Emperor who had preceded him, and hence could not
worship him as his ancestor. It augured ill both for the Emperor and the empire, and so
the boy Emperor began his reign in the midst of evil forebodings.
During the nine years that Kuang Hsu had nominal control of affairs a series of dire
calamities befell the empire. Famines as the result of drought, floods from the overflow
of "China's Sorrow," war with Japan, filching of territory by the European
countries, while editorials appeared daily in the English papers of the port cities to the
effect that China was to be divided up among the powers. Then too Kuang Hsu was childless
and there was no hope of his giving an heir to the throne.
Times and seasons have their meanings for the Chinese. Anything inauspicious happening
on New Year's day is indicative of calamity. Mr. Chen, a friend of mine, had become a
Christian contrary to his mother's wishes. When his first child was born it was a girl,
born on New Year's day. His mother shook her head, looked distressed, and said that
nothing but calamity would come to his home. His second child was a boy, but the old woman
shook her head again and sighed saying that it would take more than one boy to avert the
calamity of ones first baby being a girl born on New Year's day, and it was not until he
had five boys in succession that she was finally convinced.
There was an eclipse of the sun on New Year's day of 1898 which foreboded calamity to
the Emperor. During the summer of this year he began his great reform, and in September
the Empress Dowager took control of the affairs of state and Kuang Hsu was put in prison,
never again to occupy the throne. His prison was his winter palace, where, for many
months, he was confined in a gilded cage of a house, on a small island, with the Empress
Dowager's eunuchs to guard him. These were changed daily lest they might sympathize with
their unhappy monarch and devise some means for his liberation. Each day when the guard
was changed, the drawbridge connecting the island with the mainland was removed, leaving
the Emperor to wander about in the court of his palace-prison, or sit on the southern
terrace where it overlooked the lotus lake, waiting, hoping and perhaps expecting that his
last appeal to Kang Yu-wei in which he said: "My heart is filled with a great sorrow
which pen and ink cannot describe; you must go abroad at once and without a moment's delay
devise some means to save me," might bring forth some fruit.
Whether this confinement interfered with the health of the Emperor or not it is
impossible to say, but from the first he was made to pose as an invalid. As his failing
health was constantly referred to in the Peking Gazette, the foreigners began to fear that
it was the intention to dispose of the Emperor, and such pressure was brought to bear on
the government as led them to allow the physician attached to the French legation to enter
the palace and make an examination of His Majesty. He found nothing that fresh air and
exercise would not remedy and assured the government that there was no cause for alarm,
and from that time we heard nothing more of his precarious condition.
One day not long after the coup d'etat a eunuch came rushing into our compound, his
face scratched and bleeding, and knocking his head on the ground before me, begged me to
save his life.
"What is the matter?" I inquired.
"Oh! let me join the church!" he pleaded.
"What do you want to join the church for?" I asked.
"To save my life," he answered.
"But what is this all about?" I urged, raising him to his feet.
"You know the eunuch who came to you to buy books," he said.
I assured him that I knew him.
"Well," he continued, "I am a friend of his. The Empress Dowager has
banished him, burned all the books he bought for the Emperor, and I am in danger of losing
my head. Let me join the church, and thus save my life."
All I could do was to inform him that this was not the business of the church, and
after further conversation he left and I never saw him again.
Day after day as the Emperor received the Peking Gazette on his lonely island he saw
one after another of his coveted reforms vanish like mist before the pen of his august
aunt. Nor was this all, for often the rescinding edicts appeared under his own name, and
by the New Year, when he was brought forth to receive the foreign ministers accredited to
his court, scarcely anything remained of all his reforms but the Peking University and the
provincial and other schools. It is not to be wondered at therefore that he was reticent
and despondent. What promises of good behaviour it was necessary for him to make before he
was even allowed this much liberty, it is useless for us to conjecture.
Following this audience the Empress Dowager, who up to this time had been seen by no
foreigner except Prince Henry of Prussia, decided to receive the wives of the foreign
ministers. Her motives for this new move it is impossible to determine. It may have been
to ascertain how the foreign governments would treat her who had been reported to have
calmly ousted "their great and good friend the Emperor," to whom their ministers
were accredited. Or it may have been that she hoped by this stroke of diplomacy to gain
some measure of recognition as head of the government. She would at least see how she was
The audience was an unqualified success. The seven ladies received were charmed by the
gracious manner of their imperial hostess, who assured them each as she touched her lips
to the tea which she presented to them that "we are all one family," and up to
that period of her life there was nothing to indicate that she did not feel that the
sentiment she expressed was true. Up to the time of the coup d'etat, as Dr. Martin says,
"she herself was noted for progressive ideas." "It will not be denied by
any one," says Colonel Denby, "that the improvement and progress" described
in his first volume, "are mainly due to the will and power of the Empress Regent. To
her own people, up to this period in her career, she was kind and merciful, and to
foreigners she was just." From the time of her return to the capital after their
flight in 1900 till the time of her death she became one of the greatest reformers, if not
the greatest, that has ever sat upon the dragon throne. One cannot but wish therefore in
the interests of sentiment that it were possible to overlook many things she did from 1898
to 1900, which in the interests of truth it will be impossible to disregard. Nevertheless
we should remember that she was driven to these things by the filching of her territory by
the foreigners, and by the false pretentions of the superstitious Boxers and their
leaders, and in the hope of preserving her country.
Her first act after imprisoning Kuang Hsu was to offer a large reward for his adviser
Kang Yu-wei either alive or dead. Failing to get him, "she seized his younger brother
Kang Kuang-jen, and with five other noble and patriotic young men of ability and high
promise, he was beheaded September 28th, while protesting that though they might easily be
slain, multitudes of others would arise to take their places." One of my young
Chinese friends who watched this procession on its way to the execution grounds told me
"The scene was impossible to describe. These five young reformers," after
expressing the sentiments quoted above from Dr. Smith, "reviled the Empress Dowager
and the conservatives in the most blood-curdling manner."
I have already spoken of Wang Chao the secretary of the Board of Rites who presented
the memorial which caused the dismissal of the six officials of that body, and,
indirectly, the fall of the Emperor. Some time before writing this petition he called at
our home requesting Mrs. Headland to go and see his mother who was ill. When his mother
recovered he sent her to Shanghai, and at the time of the coup d'etat he failed to get out
of the city and went into hiding. Some days afterwards a closed cart drove up to our home
and to our astonishment he stepped forth. We expressed our surprise that he was still in
Peking, and asked:
"Has the Empress Dowager ceased prosecuting her search for you reformers?"
"Not yet," he answered.
"And what is she doing?" we inquired.
"Killing some, banishing others, driving many away from the capital, while still
others are going into self-imposed exile."
"Does the Emperor know anything about this?" we inquired.
"No doubt," he replied. "Everybody knows it, why not he?"
"That will make his imprisonment all the harder to bear," we suggested.
"Quite right," he answered.
"There is general alarm in the city that the Emperor himself will be disposed of;
what do you think about it?"
"Who can tell? He has not a friend in the palace except the first concubine, and,
I am told, that she like himself is kept in close confinement. The Empress stands by her
aunt, the Empress Dowager, while the eunuchs now are all her tools. The officials who go
into the palace to audiences are all conservative and hence against him, though I suppose
they never see him."
"Do you suppose he ever sees the edicts issued in his name?"
"Not at all. They are made by the conservatives and the Empress Dowager and issued
without his knowledge."
"And what do you propose to do?" we inquired.
"I shall leave for Shanghai as soon as I can safely do so," he replied.
Before the year had passed the Empress Dowager had been induced or compelled to select
a new Emperor. We cannot believe that she did it of her own free will, and for several
reasons. First, the child selected was the son and the grandson of ultra conservative
princes, and we cannot but believe that as she had placed herself in the hands of the
conservative party, it was their selection rather than hers. Second, it must have been a
humiliation to her ever since she discovered that her nephew, whom she had selected and
placed upon the throne in order to keep the succession in her own family, being the same
generation as her son who had died, could not worship him as his ancestor, and hence could
not legally occupy the throne, though as a matter of fact such a condition is not unknown
in Chinese history.
But if her humiliation was great, that of our boy-prisoner was still greater, for he
was compelled to witness an edict, proclaimed in his own name, which made him say that as
there was no hope of his having a child of his own to succeed him, he had requested the
Empress Dowager to select a suitable person who should be proclaimed as the successor of
Tung Chih, his predecessor, thus turning himself out of the imperial line. That this could
not have been her choice is evidenced, further, by the fact that just as soon as she had
once more regained her power, she surrounded herself with progressive officials, turned
out all the great conservatives except Jung Lu, and dispossessing the son of Prince Tuan,
at the time of her death selected her sister's grandchild and proclaimed him successor to
her son and heir to the Emperor Kuang Hsu, in the following edict:
"Inasmuch as the Emperor Tung Chih had no issue, on the fifth day of the twelfth
moon of that reign (January 12, 1875) an edict was promulgated to the effect that if the
late Emperor Kuang Hsu should have a son, the said Prince should carry on the succession
as the heir of Tung Chih. But now the late Emperor has ascended upon the dragon to be a
guest on high, leaving no son, and there is no course open but to appoint Pu I, the son of
Tsai Feng, the Prince Regent, as the successor to Tung Chih, and also as heir to the
Emperor Kuang Hsu," which is quite in keeping with the conduct and character of the
Empress Dowager all her life except those two bad years.
During the days and weeks following the dispossession of Kuang Hsu of the throne, in
1899 many decrees appeared which signified that at no distant date he would be superseded
by the son of Prince Tuan. The foreign ministers began again to look grave. They spoke
openly of their fear that Kuang Hsu's days were numbered. They pressed their desire for
the usual New Year's audience, and once more the imprisoned monarch was brought forth and
made to sit upon the throne and receive them. But when the ladies asked for an audience
they were refused, the Empress Dowager being too busy with affairs of state. She was at
that time seriously considering whether or not the government should cast in its lot with
the Boxers and drive all the foreigners with all their productions into the eastern sea.
One of the princesses told Mrs. Headland that before coming to a decision the Empress
Dowager called the hereditary and imperial princes into the palace to consult with them as
to what they would better do. She met them all face to face, the Emperor and Prince Tuan
standing near the throne. She explained to them the ravages of the foreigners, how they
were gradually taking one piece after another of Chinese territory.
"And now," she continued, "we have these patriotic braves who claim to
be impervious to swords and bullets; what shall we do? Shall we cast in our lot with their
millions and drive all these foreigners out of China or not?"
Prince Tuan, as father of the heir-apparent, uneducated, superstitious and ignorant of
all foreign affairs, then spoke. He said:
"I have seen the Boxers drilling, I have heard their incantations, and I believe
that they will be able to effect this much desired end. They will either kill the
foreigners or drive them out of the country and no more will dare to come, and thus we
will be rid of them."
The hereditary princes were then asked for an expression of opinion. The majority of
them knew little of foreigners and foreign countries, and as Prince Tuan, the father of
the future Emperor, had expressed himself so strongly, they hesitated to offer an adverse
opinion. But when it came to Prince Su, a man of strong character, widely versed in
foreign affairs, and of independent thought, he opposed the measure most vigorously.
"Who," he asked, "are these Boxers? Who are their leaders? How can they,
a mere rabble, hope to vanquish the armies of foreign nations?'
Prince Tuan answered that "by their incantations they were able to produce
Prince Su denounced such superstition as childish. But when after further argument
between him and Prince Tuan the Empress Dowager assured him that she had had them in the
palace and had witnessed their prowess, he said no more.
The imperial princes were then consulted, but seeing how Prince Su had fared they were
either in favour of the measure or non-committal. Finally the Empress Dowager appealed to
Prince Ching who, more diplomatic than the younger princes, answered:
"I consider it a most dangerous undertaking, and I would advise against it. But if
Your Majesty decides to cast in your lot with the Boxers I will do all in my power to
further your wishes."
It is not a matter of wonder therefore that the Empress Dowager should be led into such
a foolish measure as the Boxer movement, when the Prince who had been president of the
Foreign Office for twenty-five years could so weakly acquiesce in such an undertaking.
"The Emperor," said the Princess, "was not asked for an expression of
his opinion on this occasion, but when he saw that the Boxer leaders had won the day he
burst into tears and left the room."
Similar meetings were held in the palace on two other occasions, when the Emperor
implored that they make no attempt to fight all the foreign nations, for said he,
"the foreigners are stronger than we, both in money and in arms, while their soldiers
are much better drilled and equipped in every way. If we undertake this and fail as we are
sure to do, it will be impossible to make peace with the foreigners and our country will
be divided up amongst them." His pleadings, however, were disregarded, and after the
meeting was over, he had to return to his little island, where for eight weeks he was
compelled to sit listening to the rattling guns, booming cannons and bursting
firecrackers, for the Boxers seemed to hope to exterminate the foreigners by noise. He
must have felt from the books he had studied that it could only result in disaster to his
When the allies reached Peking and the Boxers capitulated the Emperor was taken out of
his prison and compelled to flee with the court.
"What do you think of your bullet-proof Boxers now?" one can imagine they
hear him saying to his august aunt, as he sees her cutting off her long finger nails,
dressing herself in blue cotton garments, and climbing into a common street cart as an
ordinary servant. "Wouldn't it have been better to have taken my advice and that of
Hsu Ching-cheng and Yuan Chang instead of having put them to death for endeavouring in
their earnestness to save the country? What about your old conservative friends? Can they
be depended upon as pillars of state?" Or some other "I-told-you-so"
language of this kind.
From their exile in Hsian decrees continued to be issued in his name, and when affairs
began to be adjusted, and the allies insisted on setting aside forever the pretentions of
the anti-foreign Prince Tuan and his son, banishing the former to perpetual exile, our
hopes ran high that the Emperor would be restored to his throne. But to our disappointment
the framers of the Protocol contented themselves with the clause that: "Rational
intercourse shall be permitted with the Emperor as in Western countries," and with
the return of the court in 1902 he was still a prisoner.
Every one who has written about audiences with the Empress Dowager tells how "the
Emperor was seated near, though a little below her," but they never tell why. The
reason is not far to seek. The world must not know that he was a prisoner in the palace.
They must see him near the throne, but they may not speak to him. The addresses of the
ministers were passed to her by her kneeling statesmen, and it was they who replied. No
notice was taken of the Emperor though he seemed to be in excellent health. The Empress
Dowager however still relieved him of the burdens of the government, and continued to
"teach him how to govern."
"I have seen the Emperor many times," Mrs. Headland tells me, "and have
spent many hours in his presence, and every time we were in the palace the Emperor
accompanied the Empress Dowager--not by her side but a few steps behind her. When she sat,
he always remained standing a few paces in the rear, and never presumed to sit unless
asked by her to do so. He was a lonely person, with his delicate, well-bred features and
his simple dark robes, and in the midst of these fawning eunuchs, brilliant court ladies,
and bejewelled Empress Dowager he was an inconspicuous figure. No minister of state
touched forehead to floor as he spoke in hushed and trembling voice to him, no obsequious
eunuchs knelt when coming into his presence; but on the contrary I have again and again
seen him crowded against the wall by these cringing servants of Her Majesty.
"One day while we were in the palace a pompous eunuch had stepped before the
Emperor quite obliterating him. I saw Kuang Hsu put his hands on the large man's
shoulders, and quietly turn him around, that he might see before whom he stood. There were
no signs of anger on his face, but rather a gentle, pathetic smile as he looked up at the
big servant. I expected to see him fall upon his knees before the Emperor, but instead, he
only moved a few inches to the left, and remained still in front of His Majesty. Never
when in the palace have I seen a knee bend to the Emperor, except that of the foreigner
when greeting him or bidding him farewell. This was the more noticeable as statesmen and
eunuchs alike fell upon their knees every time they spoke to the Empress Dowager.
"The first time I saw him his great, pathetic, wistful eyes followed me for days.
I could not forget them, and I determined that if I ever had opportunity I would say a few
words to him letting him know that the world was resting in hope of his carrying out the
great reforms he had instituted. But he was so carefully guarded and kept under such
strict surveillance that I never found an opportunity to speak to him. Nor did he ever
speak to the visitors, court ladies, the Empress Dowager, or attendants during all the
hours we remained.
"One of the ministers told me that one day after an audience, when the Empress
Dowager and the Emperor had stepped down from the dais, Her Majesty was engaged in
conversation with one of his colleagues, and as the Emperor stood near by, he made some
remark to him. Immediately the Empress Dowager turned from the one to whom she had been
talking and made answer for the Emperor.
"On one occasion when there were but four of us in the palace, and we were all
comfortably seated, the Emperor standing a few paces behind the Empress Dowager, she began
discussing the Boxer movement, lamenting the loss of her long finger nails, and various
good-luck gourds of which she was fond. The Emperor, probably becoming weary of a
conversation in which he had no part, quietly withdrew by a side entrance to the theatre
which was playing at the time. For some moments the Empress Dowager did not notice his
absence, but the instant she discovered he was gone, a look of anxiety overspread her
features, and she turned to the head eunuch, Li Lien-ying, and in an authoritative tone
asked: 'Where is the Emperor?' There was a scurry among the eunuchs, and they were sent
hither and thither to inquire. After a few moments they returned, saying that he was in
the theatre. The look of anxiety passed from her face as a cloud passes from before the
sun--and several of the eunuchs remained at the theatre.
"I am told that at times the Empress Dowager invites the Emperor to dine with her,
and on such occasions he is forced to kneel at the table at which she is seated, eating
only what she gives him. It is an honour which he does not covet, but which he dare not
decline for fear of giving offense.
XI Prince Chun--The Regent
Prince Chun the Regent of China gave a remarkable luncheon at the Winter Palace to-day
to the foreign envoys who gathered here to attend the funeral ceremonies of the late
Emperor Kuang Hsu. The repast was served in foreign style. Among the Chinese present were
Prince Ching, former president of the Board of Foreign Affairs and now adviser to the
Naval Department; Prince Tsai Chen, a son of Prince Ching, who was at one time president
of the Board of Commerce; Prince Su, chief of the Naval Department; and Liaing Tung-yen,
president of the Board of Foreign Affairs. After the entertainment the envoys expressed
themselves as unusually impressed with the personality of the Regent. --Daily Press.
XI PRINCE CHUN--THE REGENT
The selection of Prince Chun as Regent for the Chinese empire during the minority of
his son, Pu I, the new Emperor, would seem to be the wisest choice that could be made at
the present time. In the first place, he is the younger brother of Kuang Hsu, the late
Emperor, and was in sympathy with all the reforms the latter undertook to introduce in
1898. If Kuang Hsu had chosen his successor, having no son of his own, there is no reason
why he should not have selected Pu I to occupy the throne, with Prince Chun as Regent, for
there is no other prince in whom he could have reposed greater confidence of having all
his reform measures carried to a successful issue; and a brother with whom he had always
lived in sympathy would be more likely to continue his policy than any one else.
But, in the second place, as we may suppose, Prince Chun was selected by the Empress
Dowager, whatever the edicts issued, and will thus have the confidence of the party of
which she has been the leader. It is quite wrong to suppose that this is the conservative
party, or even a conservative party. China has both reform and conservative parties, but,
in addition to these, she has many wise men and great officials who are neither radical
reformers nor ultra-conservatives. It was these men with whom the Empress Dowager allied
herself after the Boxer troubles of 1900.
These men were Li Hung-chang, Chang Chih-tung, Yuan Shih-kai, Prince Ching, and others,
and it is they who, in ten years, with the Empress Dowager, put into operation, in a
statesmanlike way, all the reforms that Kuang Hsu, with his hot-headed young radical
advisers, attempted to force upon the country in as many weeks. There is every reason to
believe that Prince Chun, the present Regent, has the support of all the wiser and better
element of the Reform party, as well as those great men who have been successful in tiding
China over the ten most difficult years of her history, while the ultra-conservatives at
this late date are too few or too weak to deserve serious consideration. We, therefore,
think that the choice of Pu I as Emperor, with Prince Chun as Regent, whether by the
Empress Dowager, the Emperor, or both, was, all things considered, the best selection that
could have been made.
Prince Chun is the son of the Seventh Prince, the nephew of the Emperor Hsien Feng and
the Empress Dowager, and grandson of the Emperor Tao Kuang. He has a fine face, clear eye,
firm mouth, with a tendency to reticence. He carries himself very straight, and while
below the average in height, is every inch a prince. He is dignified, intelligent, and,
though not loquacious, never at a loss for a topic of conversation. He is not inclined to
small talk, but when among men of his own rank, he does not hesitate to indulge in bits of
This was rather amusingly illustrated at a dinner given by the late Major Conger,
American minister to China. Major and Mrs. Conger introduced many innovations into the
social life of Peking, and none more important than the dinners and luncheons given to the
princes and high officials, and also to the princesses and ladies of the court. In 1904, I
was invited to dine with Major Conger and help entertain Prince Chun, Prince Pu Lun,
Prince Ching, Governor Hu, Na T'ung, and a number of other princes and officials of high
rank. I sat between Prince Chun and Governor Hu. Having met them both on several former
occasions, I was not a stranger to either of them, and as they were well acquainted with
each other, though one was a Manchu prince and the other a Chinese official, conversation
was easy and natural.
We talked, of course, in Chinese only, of the improvements and advantages that
railroads bring to a country, for Governor Hu, among other things, was the superintendent
of the Imperial Railways of north China. This led us to speak of the relative comforts of
travel by land and by sea, for Prince Chun had gone half round the world and back. We
listened to the American minister toasting the young Emperor of China, his princes, and
his subjects; and then to Prince Ching toasting the young President of the United States,
his officials, and his people, in a most dignified and eloquent manner. And then as the
buzz of conversation went round the table again, and perhaps because of their having
spoken of the YOUNG Emperor and the young President, I turned to Governor Hu, who had an
unusually long, white beard which reached almost to his waist as he sat at table, and
"Your Excellency, what is your honourable age?"
"I was seventy years old my last birthday," he replied.
"And he is still as strong as either of us young men," said I, turning to
"Oh, yes," said the Prince; "he is good for ten years yet, and by that
time he can use his beard as an apron."
"It is an ill wind that blows no one good," says the proverb, and this was
never more forcibly illustrated than in the case of the death of the lamented Baron von
Kettler. Had it not been for this unfortunate occurrence, Prince Chun would not have been
sent to Germany to convey the apologies of the Chinese government to the German Emperor,
and he would thus never have had the opportunity of a trip to Europe; and the world might
once more have beheld a regent on the dragon throne who had never seen anything a hundred
miles from his own capital.
Prince Chun started on this journey with such a retinue as only the Chinese government
can furnish. He had educated foreign physicians and interpreters, and, like the great
Viceroy Li Hung- chang, he had a round fan with the Eastern hemisphere painted on one side
and the Western on the other, and the route he was to travel distinctly outlined on both,
with all the places he was to pass through, or to stop at on the trip, plainly marked. He
was intelligent enough to observe everything of importance in the ports through which he
passed, and it was interesting to hear him tell of the things he had seen, and his
characterization of some of the people he had visited.
"What did Your Highness think of the relative characteristics of the Germans and
the French, as you saw them?" I asked him at the same dinner.
"The people in Berlin," said he, "get up early in the morning and go to
their business, while the people in Paris get up in the evening and go to the
This may have been a bit exaggerated, but it indicated that the Prince did not travel,
as many do on their first trip, with his mouth open and his eyes closed.
After his return to Peking he purchased a brougham, as did most of the other leading
officials and princes at the close of the Boxer troubles, and driving about in this
carriage, he has been a familiar figure from that time until the present. As straws show
the direction of the wind, these incidents ought to indicate that Prince Chun will not be
a conservative to the detriment of his government, or to the hindrance of Chinas progress.
It is a well-known fact that the Empress Dowager, in addition to her other duties, took
charge of the arrangement of the marriages of all her nieces and nephews. One of her
favourite Manchu officials, and indeed one of the greatest Manchus of recent years, though
very conservative, and hence little associated with foreigners, was Jung Lu. As the
affianced bride of Prince Chun had drowned herself in a well during the Boxer troubles,
the Empress Dowager engaged him to the daughter of the lady who had been Jung Lu's first
concubine, but who, as his consort was dead, was raised to the position of wife.
"This Lady Jung," says Mrs. Headland, "is some forty years of age, very
pretty, talkative, and vivacious, and she told me with a good deal of pride, on one
occasion, of the engagement of her son to the sixth daughter of Prince Ching. And then
with equal enthusiasm she told me how her daughter had been married to Prince Chun, 'which
of course relates me with the two most powerful families of the empire.'
"I have met the Princess Chun on several occasions at the audiences in the palace,
at luncheons with Mrs. Conger, at a feast with the Imperial Princess, at a tea with the
Princess Tsai Chen, and at the palaces of many of the princesses. She is a very quiet
little woman, and looked almost infantile as she gazed at one with her big, black eyes.
She is very circumspect in her movements, and with such a mother and father as she had, I
should think may be very brilliant. Naturally she had to be specially dignified and sedate
at these public functions, as she and the Imperial Princess were the only ones belonging
to the old imperial household, the descendants of Tao Kuang, who were intimately
associated with the Empress Dowager's court. She is small, but pretty, and, as I have
indicated, quiet and reticent. She was fond of her father, and naturally fond of the
Empress Dowager, who selected her as a wife for her favourite nephew, Prince Chun, to whom
she promised the succession at the time of their marriage. After her father's death, and
while she was in mourning, she was invited into the palace by the Empress Dowager, where
she appeared wearing blue shoes, the colour used in second mourning.
" 'Why do you wear blue shoes?' asked Her Majesty.
" 'On account of the death of my father,' replied the Princess.
" 'And do you mourn over your dead father more than you rejoice over being in the
presence of your living ruler?' the Empress Dowager inquired.
"It is unnecessary to add that the Princess 'changed the blue shoes for red ones
while she remained in the palace, so careful has the Empress Dowager always been of the
respect due to her dignity and position."
Having promised the regency to Prince Chun, we may infer that the Empress Dowager would
do all in her power to prepare him to occupy the position with credit to himself, and in
the hope that he would continue the policy which she has followed during the last ten
years. Whenever, therefore, opportunity offered for a prince to represent the government
at any public function with which foreigners were connected, Prince Chun was asked or
appointed to attend. I have said that it was the murder of the German minister, Baron von
Kettler, that gave Prince Chun his opportunity to see the world. And just here I might add
that an account of the massacre of Von Kettler, sent from Canton, was published in a New
York paper three days before it occurred. This indicates that his death had been
premeditated and ordered by some high authorities,--perhaps Prince Tuan or Prince Chuang,
Boxer leaders,--because the Germans had taken the port of Kiaochou, and had compelled the
Chinese government to promise to allow them to open all the mines and build all the
railroads in the province of Shantung.
After the Boxer troubles were settled, the Germans, at the expense of the Chinese
government, erected a large stone memorial arch on the spot where Von Kettler fell. At its
dedication, members of the diplomatic corps of all the legations in Peking were present,
including ladies and children, together with a large number of Chinese officials
representing the city, the government, and the Foreign Office, and Prince Chun was
selected to pour the sacrificial wine. He did it with all the dignity of a prince, however
much he may or may not have enjoyed it. On this occasion he used one of the ancient,
three-legged, sacrificial wine-cups, which he held in both hands, while Na Tung, President
of the Foreign Office, poured the wine into the cup from a tankard of a very beautiful and
unique design. It is the only occasion on which I have seen the Prince when he did not
seem to enjoy what he was doing. I ought to add just here that I have heard the Chinese
refer to this arch as the monument erected by the Chinese government in memory of the man
who murdered Baron von Kettler!
It is a well-known fact that the Boxers destroyed all buildings that had any indication
of a foreign style of architecture, whether they belonged to Chinese or foreigner,
Christian or non-Christian, legation, merchant, or missionary. In the rebuilding of the
Peking legations, missions, and educational institutions, there were naturally a large
number of dedicatory services. Many of the Chinese officials attended them, but I shall
refer to only one or two at which I remember meeting Prince Chun. I believe it was the
design of the Empress Dowager, as soon as she had decided upon him as the Regent, to give
him as liberal an education in foreign affairs as the facilities in Peking would allow.
For many years the Methodist mission had tried to secure funds from America to erect a
hospital and medical school in connection with the mission and the Peking University. This
they found to be impossible, and finally Dr. N. S. Hopkins of Massachusetts, who was in
charge of that work, consulted with his brother and brother-in-law, who subscribed the
funds and built the institution. This act of benevolence on the part of Dr. Hopkins and
his friends appealed to the Chinese sense of generosity, and when the building was
completed, a large number of Chinese officials, together with Prince Chun and Prince Pu
Lun, were present at its dedication. A number of addresses were made by such men as Major
Conger, the American minister, Bishop Moore, Na Tung, Governor Hu, General Chiang, and
others of the older representatives, in which they expressed their appreciation of the
generosity which prompted a man like Dr. Hopkins to give not only himself, but his money,
for the education of the Chinese youth and the healing of their poor. And I might add that
Dr. Hopkins is physician to many of the princes and officials in Peking at the present
During this reconstruction, a number of the colleges of north China united to form a
union educational institution. One part of this scheme was a union medical college,
situated on the Ha- ta-men great street not a hundred yards north of the Von Kettler
memorial arch. To the erection of this building the wealthy officials of Peking subscribed
liberally, and the Empress Dowager sent her check for 11,000 taels, equal to $9,000 in
American gold, and appointed Prince Chun to represent the Chinese government at its
dedication. At this meeting Sir Robert Hart made an address on behalf of the foreigners,
and Na Tung on behalf of the Chinese. Although Prince Chun took no public part in the
exercises, he privately expressed his gratification at seeing the completion of such an
up-to-date hospital and medical school in the Chinese capital.
I have given these incidents in the life of Prince Chun to show that he has had
facilities for knowing the world better than any other Chinese monarch or regent that has
ever sat upon the dragon throne, and that he has grasped the opportunities as they came to
him. He has been intimately associated with the diplomatic life of the various legations,
which is perhaps the most important knowledge he has acquired in dealing with foreign
affairs, as these ministers are the channels through which he must come in contact with
foreign governments. He has been present at the dedication of a number of missionary
educational institutions, and hence from personal contact he will have some comprehension
of the animus and work of missions and the character of the men engaged in that work. He
may have as a councillor, if he so desires, the Prince Pu Lun, who has had a trip around
the world, with the best possible facilities for seeing Japan, America, Great Britain,
Germany, France, and Italy, and who has been in even more intimate contact with the
diplomats and other foreigners than has Prince Chun himself. My wife and I have dined with
him and the Princess both at the American legation and at his own palace, and when we left
China, they came together in their brougham to bid us good-bye, a thing which could not
have happened a few years ago, and an indication of how wide open the doors in China are
On the whole, therefore, Prince Chun begins his regency with a brighter outlook for his
foreign relations than any other ruler China has ever had. What shall we say of his
Chinese relations? Being the brother of Kuang Hsu, and himself a progressive young man, he
ought to have the support of the Reform party, and being the choice of the Empress
Dowager, he will have the support of the great progressive officials who have had the
conduct of affairs for the last quarter of a century and more, and especially for the past
ten years, since the Emperor Kuang Hsu was deposed.
XII The Home of
the Court--The Forbidden City
The innermost enclosure is the Forbidden City and contains the palace and its
surrounding buildings. The wall is less solid and high than the city wall, is covered with
bright yellow tiles, and surrounded by a deep, wide moat. Two gates on the east and west
afford access to the interior of this habitation of the Emperor, as well as the space and
rooms appertaining, which furnish lodgment to the guard defending the approach to the
dragon's throne. --S. Wells Williams in "The Middle Kingdom."
XII THE HOME OF THE COURT--THE FORBIDDEN CITY
During the past ten years, since the dethronement of the late Emperor Kuang Hsu, I have
often been asked by Europeans visiting Peking:
"What would happen if the Emperor should die?"
"They would put a new Emperor on the throne," was my invariable answer. They
usually followed this with another question:
"What would happen if the Empress Dowager should die?"
"In that case the Emperor, of course, would again resume the throne," I
always replied without hesitation. But during those ten years, not one of my friends ever
thought to propound the question, nor did I have the wit to ask myself:
"What would happen if the Emperor and the Empress Dowager should both suddenly
snap the frail cord of life at or about the same time?"
Had such a question come to me, I confess I should not have known how to answer it. It
is a problem that probably never presented itself to any one outside of that mysterious
Forbidden City, or the equally mysterious spectres that come and go through its half-open
gates in the darkness of the early morning. There are three parties to whom it may have
come again and again, and to whom we may perhaps be indebted both for the problem and the
When the deaths of both of their Imperial Majesties were announced at the same time,
the news also came that the Japanese suspected that there had been foul play. With them,
however, it was only suspicion; none of them, so far as I know, ever undertook to analyze
the matter or unravel the mystery. There is no doubt a reasonable explanation, but we must
go for it to the Forbidden City, the most mysterious royal dwelling in the world, where
white men have never gone except by invitation from the throne, save on one occasion.
In 1901, while the court was in hiding at Hsianfu, the city to which they fled when the
allies entered Peking, the western half of the Forbidden City was thrown open to the
public, the only condition being that said public have a certificate which would serve as
a pass to the American boys in blue who guarded the Wu men, or front gate. I was fortunate
enough to have that pass.
My first move was to get a Chinese photographer--the best I could find in the city--to
go with me and take pictures of everything I wanted as well as anything else that suited
The city of Peking is regularly laid out. Towards the south is the Chinese city,
fifteen miles in circumference. To the north is a square, four miles on each side, and
containing sixteen square miles. In the centre of this square, enclosed by a beautifully
crenelated wall thirty feet thick at the bottom, twenty feet thick at the top and
twenty-five feet high, surrounded by a moat one hundred feet wide, is the Forbidden City,
occupying less than one-half a square mile. In this city there dwells but one male human
being, the Emperor, who is called the "solitary man."
There is a gate in the centre of each of the four sides, that on the south, the Wu men,
being the front gate, through which the Emperor alone is allowed to pass. The back gate,
guarded by the Japanese during the occupation, is for the Empress Dowager, the Empress and
the women of the court, while the side gates are for the officials, merchants or others
who may have business in the palace.
Through the centre of this city, from south to north, is a passageway about three
hundred feet wide, across which, at intervals of two hundred yards, they have erected
large buildings, such as the imperial examination hall, the hall in which the Emperor
receives his bride, the imperial library, the imperial kitchen, and others of a like
nature, all covered with yellow titles, and known to tourists, who see them from the
Tartar City wall, as the palace buildings. These, however, are not the buildings in which
the royal family live. They are the places where for the past five hundred years all those
great diplomatic measures--and dark deeds--of the Chinese emperors and their great
officials have been transacted between midnight and daylight.
If you will go with me at midnight to the great gate which leads from the Tartar to the
Chinese city--the Chien men--you will hear the wailing creak of its hinges as it swings
open, and in a few moments the air will be filled with the rumbling of carts and the
clatter of the feet of the mules on the stone pavement, as they take the officials into
the audiences with their ruler. If you will remain with me there till a little before
daylight you will see them, like silent spectres, sitting tailor-fashion on the bottom of
their springless carts, returning to their homes, but you will ask in vain for any
information as to the business they have transacted. "They love darkness rather than
light," not perhaps "because their deeds are evil," but because it has been
the custom of the country from time immemorial.
Immediately to the north of this row of imperial palace buildings, and just outside the
north gate, there is an artificial mound called Coal Hill, made of the dirt which was
removed to make the Lotus Lakes. It is said that in this hill there is buried coal enough
to last the city in time of siege. This, however, was not the primary design of the hill.
It has a more mysterious meaning. There have always been spirits in the earth, in the air,
in every tree and well and stream. And in China it has ever been found necessary to locate
a house, a city or even a cemetery in such surroundings as to protect them from the
entrance of evil spirits. "Coal Hill," therefore, was placed to the north of
these imperial palace buildings to protect them from the evil spirits of the cold, bleak
Just inside of that north gate there is a beautiful garden, with rockeries and arbours,
flowering plants and limpid artificial streams gurgling over equally artificial pebbles,
though withal making a beautiful sight and a cool shade in the hot summer days. In the
east side of this garden there is a small imperial shrine having four doors at the four
points of the compass. In front of each of these doors there is a large cypress-tree, some
of them five hundred years old, which were split up from the root some seven or eight
feet, and planted with the two halves three feet apart, making a living arch through which
the worshipper must pass as he enters the temple. To the north of the garden and east of
the back gate there is a most beautiful Buddhist temple, in which only the members of the
imperial family are allowed to worship, in front of which there is also a living arch like
those described above, as may also be found before the imperial temples in the Summer
Palace. This is one of the most unique and mysterious features of temple worship I have
found anywhere in China, and no amount of questioning ever brought me any explanation of
Now if you will go with me to the top of Coal Hill I will point out to you the
buildings in which their Majesties have lived. There are six parallel rows of buildings,
facing the south, each behind the other, in the northwest quarter of this Forbidden City,
protected from the evil spirits of the north by the dagoba on Prospect Hill.
Perhaps you would like to go with me into these homes of their Majesties--or, as a
woman's home is always more interesting than the den of a man, let me take you through the
private apartments of the greatest woman of her race--the late Empress Dowager. She
occupied three of these rows of buildings. The first was her drawing-room and library, the
second her dining-room and sleeping apartments, and the third her kitchen.
One was strangely impressed by what he saw here. There was no gorgeous display of
Oriental colouring, but there was beauty of a peculiarly penetrating quality--and yet a
No description that can be written of it will ever do it justice. Not until one can see
and appreciate the paintings of the old Chinese masters of five hundred years ago hanging
upon the walls, the beautiful pieces of the best porcelain of the time of Kang Hsi and
Chien Lung, made especially for the palace, arranged in their natural surroundings, on
exquisitely carved Chinese tables and brackets, the gorgeously embroided silk portieres
over the doorways, and the matchless tapestries which only the Chinese could weave for
their greatest rulers, can we appreciate the beauty, the richness, and the refined
elegance of the private apartments of the great Dowager.
I went into her sleeping apartments. Others also entered there, sat upon her couch, and
had their friends photograph them. I could not allow myself to do so. I stood silent, with
head uncovered as I gazed with wonder and admiration at the bed, with its magnificently
embroidered curtains hanging from the ceiling to the floor, its yellow-satin mattress ten
feet in length and its great round, hard pillow, with the delicate silk spreads turned
back as though it were prepared for Her Majesty's return. On the opposite side of the room
there was a brick kang bed, such as we find in the homes of all the Chinese of the north,
where her maids slept, or sat like silent ghosts while the only woman that ever ruled over
one-third of the human race took her rest. The furnishings were rich but simple. No
plants, no intricate carvings to catch the dust, nothing but the two beds and a small
table, with a few simple and soothing wall decorations, and the monotonous tick-tock of a
great clock to lull her to sleep.
If Shakespeare could say with an English monarch in his mind, "Uneasy lies the
head that wears a crown," we might repeat it with added emphasis of Tze Hsi. For
forty years she had to rise at midnight, winter as well as summer, and go into the dark,
dreary, cold halls of the palace, lighted much of the time with nothing but tallow dips,
and heated only with brass braziers filled with charcoal, and there sit behind a screen
where she could see no one, and no one could see her, and listen to the reports of those
who came to these dark audiences. Then she must, in conjunction with them, compose edicts
which were sent out to the Peking Gazette, the oldest and poorest newspaper in the world,
to be carved on blocks, and printed, and then sent by courier to every official in the
empire. Ruling over a conquered race, she must always be watching out for signs of
discontent and rebellion; being herself the daughter of a poor man, and beginning as only
the concubine of an emperor, and he but a weak character, she must be alert for
dissatisfaction on the part of the princes who might have some title to the throne. She
must watch the governors in the distant provinces and the viceroys who are in charge of
great armies, that they do not direct them against instead of in defense of the throne.
When her husband died while a fugitive two hundred miles from her palace, she must see
to it that her three-year-old child was placed upon the throne with her own hand at the
helm, and when he died she must also be ready with a successor, who would give her another
lease of office. Even when he became of age and took the throne she must watch over him
like a guardian, to prevent his bringing down upon their own heads the structure which she
had builded. Nay, more, when it became necessary for her to dethrone him and rule in his
name, banishing his friends and pacifying his enemies, keeping him a prisoner in his
palace, it required a courage that was titanic to do so. But she never flinched, though we
may suppose that many of her poorest subjects, who could sleep from dark till daylight
with nothing but a brick for a pillow, might have rested more peacefully than she.
She had a myriad of other duties to perform. She was the mother-in-law of that imperial
household, with the Emperor, the Empress, sixty concubines, two thousand eunuchs, and any
number of court ladies and maid-servants. Their expenses were enormous and she must keep
her eye on every detail. The food they ate was similar to that used by all the Chinese
people. I happen to know this, because one of her eunuchs who visited me frequently to ask
my assistance in a matter which he had undertaken for the Emperor, often brought me
various kinds of meat, or other delicacies of a like nature, from the imperial kitchens.
I want you to visit three of the imperial temples in these beautiful palace grounds.
The first is a tall, three-story building at the head of that magnificent Lotus Lake. In
it there stands a Buddhist deity with one thousand heads and one thousand arms and hands.
Standing upon the ground floor its head reaches almost to the roof. Its body, face and
arms are as white as snow. There is nothing else in the building--nothing but this
mild-faced Buddhist divinity for that brilliant, black-eyed ruler of Chinas millions to
Standing near by is another building of far greater beauty. It is faced all over with
encaustic tiles, each made at the kiln a thousand miles away, for the particular place it
was to occupy. Each one fits without a flaw, a suggestion to American architects on
The second of these temples stands to the west of the Coal Hill, immediately to the
north of the homes of their Majesties. One day while passing through the forbidden grounds
I came upon this temple from the rear. In the dome of one of the buildings is a circular
space some ten feet in diameter, carved and gilded in the form of two magnificent dragons
after the fabled pearl. It is to this place the Emperor goes in time of drought to confess
his sins, for he confesses to the gods that the drought is all his doing, and to pray for
forgiveness, and for rain to enrich the thirsty land. The towers on the corners of the
wall of the Forbidden City are the same style of architecture as the small pavilion in the
front court of this temple.
Now as the buds of spring are bursting and the eaves on the mulberry-trees are
beginning to develop, will you go with the Empress Dowager or the Empress into a temple on
Prospect Hill, between the Coal Hill and the Lotus Lake, where she offers sacrifices to
the god of the silkworm and prays for a prosperous year on the work of that little insect?
Above it stands one of the most hideous bronze deities I have ever seen--male and
naked--in a beautiful little shrine, every tile of which is made in the form of a Buddha's
head. During the occupation tourists were allowed to visit this place freely, and their
desire for curios overcoming their discretion, they knocked the heads off these tiles
until, when the place was closed, there was not a single tile which had not been defaced.
One other building in the Forbidden City is worthy of our attention. It is the art
gallery. It is not generally known that China is the parent of all Oriental art. We know
something of the art of Japan but little about that of China. And yet the best Japanese
artists have never hoped for anything better than to equal their Chinese teacher. In this
art gallery there are stored away the finest specimens of the old masters for ten
centuries or more, together with portraits of all the noted emperors. Among these
portraits we may now find two of the Empress Dowager, one painted by Miss Carl, and
another by Mr. Vos, a well-known American portrait painter.
XIII The Ladies of the Court
I love to talk with my people of their Majesties, the princesses, and the Chinese
ladies, as I have seen and known them. Your friendship I will always remember. Her
Majesty, your imperial sister, found a warm place in my heart and is treasured there.
Please extend to the Imperial Princess my cordial greetings and to the other princesses my
best of good wishes. --Mrs. E. H. Conger, in a letter to the Princess Shun.
XIII THE LADIES OF THE COURT
The leading figure of the court is Yehonala, wife of the late Emperor Kuang Hsu. She
has always been called the Young Empress, but is now the Empress Dowager. After the great
Dowager was made the concubine of Hsien Feng, she succeeded in arranging a marriage, as we
have seen, between her younger sister and the younger brother of her husband, the Seventh
Prince, as he was called, father of Kuang Hsu and the present regent.
The world knows how, in order to keep the succession in her own family, she took the
son of this younger sister, when her own son the Emperor Tung Chih died, and made him the
Emperor Kuang Hsu when he was but little more than three years of age. When the time came
for him to wed, she arranged that he should marry his cousin, Yehonala, the daughter of
her favourite brother, Duke Kuei. This Kuang Hsu was not inclined to do, as his affections
seem to have been centred on another. The great Dowager, however, insisted upon it, and he
finally made her Empress, and to satisfy,--or shall we say appease him?--she allowed him
to take as his first concubine the lady he wanted as his wife; and it was currently
reported in court circles that when Yehonala came into his presence he not infrequently
kicked off his shoe at her, a bit of conduct that is quite in keeping with the temper
usually attributed to Kuang Hsu during those early years. This may perhaps explain why she
stood by the great Dowager through all the troublous times of 1898 and 1900, in spite of
the fact that her imperial aunt had taken her husband's throne.
Mrs. Headland tells me that "Yehonala is not at all beautiful, though she has a
sad, gentle face. She is rather stooped, extremely thin, her face long and sallow, and her
teeth very much decayed. Gentle in disposition, she is without self-assertion, and if at
any of the audiences we were to greet her she would return the greeting, but would never
venture a remark. At the audiences given to the ladies she was always present, but never
in the immediate vicinity of either the Empress Dowager or the Emperor. She would
sometimes come inside the great hall where they were, but she always stood in some
inconspicuous place in the rear, with her waiting women about her, and as soon as she
could do so without attracting attention, she would withdraw into the court or to some
other room. In the summer-time we sometimes saw her with her servants wandering aimlessly
about the court. She had the appearance of a gentle, quiet, kindly person who was always
afraid of intruding and had no place or part in anything. And now she is the Empress
Dowager! It seems a travesty on the English language to call this kindly, gentle soul by
the same title that we have been accustomed to use in speaking of the woman who has just
My wife tells me that,--"A number of years ago I was called to see Mrs. Chang Hsu
who was suffering from a nervous breakdown due to worry and sleeplessness. On inquiry I
discovered that her two daughters had been taken into the palace as concubines of the
Emperor Kuang Hsu. Her friends feared a mental breakdown, and begged me to do all I could
for her. She took me by the hand, pulled me down on the brick bed beside her, and told me
in a pathetic way how both of her daughters had been taken from her in a single day.
" 'But they have been taken into the palace,' I urged, to try to comfort her, 'and
I have heard that the Emperor is very fond of your eldest daughter, and wanted to make her
" 'Quite right,' she replied, 'but what consolation is there in that? They are
only concubines, and once in the palace they are dead to me. No matter what they suffer, I
can never see them or offer them a word of comfort. I am afraid of the court intrigues,
and they are only children and cannot understand the duplicity of court life--I fear for
them, I fear for them,' and she swayed back and forth on her brick bed.
"Time, however, the great healer with a little medicine and sympathy to quiet her
nerves, brought about a speedy recovery, though in the end her fears proved all too
In 1897 the brother of this first concubine met Kang Yu-wei in the south, and became
one of his disciples. Upon his return to Peking, knowing of the Emperor's desire for
reform, and his affection for his sister, he found means of communicating with her about
the young reformer.
At the time of the coup d'etat, and the imprisonment of the Emperor, this first
concubine was degraded and imprisoned on the ground of having been the means of
introducing Kang Yu-wei to the notice of the Emperor, and thus interfering in state
affairs. She continued in solitary confinement from that time until the flight of the
court in 1900 when in their haste to get away from the allies she was overlooked and left
in the palace. When she discovered that she was alone with the eunuchs, fearing that she
might become a victim to the foreign soldiers, she took her life by jumping into a well.
On the return of the court in 1902, the Empress Dowager bestowed upon her posthumous
honours, in recognition of her conduct in thus taking her life and protecting her virtue.
Some conception of the haste and disorder with which the court left the capital on that
memorable August morning may be gleaned from the fact that her sister was also overlooked
and with a eunuch fled on foot in the wake of the departing court. She was overtaken by
Prince Chuang who was returning in his chair from the palace, where, with Prince Ching, he
had been to inform their Majesties that the allies were in possession of the city. The
eunuch, recognizing him, called his attention to the fleeing concubine, who, when he had
alighted and greeted her, begged him to find her a cart that she might follow the court.
Presently a dilapidated vehicle came by in which sat an old man. The Prince ordered him to
give the cart to the concubine and sent her to his palace where a proper conveyance was
secured, and she overtook the court at the Nankow pass.
At the audiences, this concubine was always in company with the Empress Yehonala,
standing at her left. She, however, lacked both the beauty and intelligence of her sister.
The ladies of the court, who were constantly associated with the Empress Dowager as her
ladies in waiting, are first, the Imperial Princess, the daughter of the late Prince Kung,
the sixth brother of the Empress Dowager's husband. Out of friendship for her father, the
Empress Dowagers adopted her as their daughter, giving her all the rights, privileges and
titles of the daughter of an empress. She is the only one in the empire who is entitled to
ride in a yellow chair such as is used by the Empress Dowager, the Emperor or Empress. The
highest of the princes--even Prince Ching himself--has to descend from his chair if he
meet her. Yet when this lady is in the palace, no matter how she may be suffering, she
dare not sit down in the presence of Her Majesty.
"One day when we were in the palace," says Mrs. Headland, "the Imperial
Princess was suffering from such a severe attack of lumbago, that she could scarcely
stand. I suggested to her that she retire to the rear of the room, behind some of the
pillars and rest a while.
" 'I dare not do that,' she replied; 'we have no such a custom in China.' "
She is austere in manner, plain in appearance, dignified in bearing, about sixty-five
years of age, and is noted for her accomplishment in making the most graceful courtesy of
any lady in the court.
During the Boxer troubles and the occupation, her palace was plundered and very much
injured, and she escaped in her stocking feet through a side door. At the first luncheon
given at her palace thereafter, she apologized for its desolate appearance, saying that it
had been looted by the Boxers, though we knew it had been looted by the allies. At later
luncheons, however, she had procured such ornaments as restored in some measure its
original beauty and grandeur, though none of these dismantled palaces will regain their
former splendour for many years to come.
Next to the Imperial Princess are the two sisters of Yehonala, one of whom is married
to Duke Tse, who was head of the commission that made the tour of the world to inquire as
to the best form of government to be adopted by China in her efforts at renovation and
reform. It is not too much to suppose that it was because the Duke was married to the
Empress Dowager's niece that he was made the head of this commission, which after its
return advised the adoption of a constitution. The other sister is the wife of Prince
Shun, and is the opposite of the Empress. She is stout, but beautiful. She has always been
the favourite niece of the Empress Dowager, appeared at all the functions, and though very
sedate when foreign ladies were present at an audience, I was told by the Chinese that
when the imperial family were alone together she was the life of the company. She would
even stand behind the Empress Dowager's chair "making such grimaces," the
Chinese expressed it, as to make it almost impossible for the others to retain their
equilibrium. As she was the youngest of the three sisters, and because of her happy
disposition, the Chinese nicknamed her hsiao kuniang, "the little girl." These
three sisters are all childless.
The Princess Shun and Princess Tsai Chen, only daughter-in-law of Prince Ching, herself
the daughter of a viceroy, were very congenial, and the most intimate friends of all those
in court circles. The latter is beautiful, brilliant, quick, tactful, and graceful. Of all
the ladies of the court she is the most witty and, with Princess Shun, the most
interesting. These two more than any others made the court ladies easy to entertain at all
public functions, for they were full of enthusiasm and tried to help things along. They
seemed to feel that they were personally responsible for the success of the audience or
the luncheon as a social undertaking.
Lady Yuan is one of two of these court ladies who dwelt with the Empress Dowager in the
palace, the other being Prince Ching's fourth daughter. She is a niece by marriage of the
Empress Dowager, though she really was never married. The nephew of the Empress Dowager,
to whom she was engaged, though she had never seen him, died before they were married.
After his death, but before his funeral, she dressed herself as a widow, and in a chair
covered with white sackcloth went to his home, where she performed the ceremonies proper
for a widow, which entitled her to take her position as his wife. Such an act is regarded
as very meritorious in the eyes of the Chinese, and no women are more highly honoured than
those who have given themselves in this way to a life of chastity.
The second of these ladies who remained in the palace with the Empress Dowager is the
fourth daughter of Prince Ching. Married to the son of a viceroy, their wedded life lasted
only a few months. She was taken into the palace, and being a widow, she neither wears
bright colours nor uses cosmetics. She is a fine scholar, very devout, and spends much of
her time in studying the Buddhist classics. She is considered the most beautiful of the
The Empress Dowager took charge of most of the domestic matters of all her relatives,
taking into the palace and associating with her as court ladies some who were widowed in
their youth, and keeping constantly with her only those whom she has elevated to positions
of rank, or members of her own family. Nor was she too busy with state affairs to stop and
settle domestic quarrels.
Among the court ladies there was one who was married to a prince of the second order.
Her husband is still living, but as they were not congenial in their wedded life, the
Empress Dowager made herself a kind of foster-mother to the Princess and banished her
husband to Mongolia, an incident which reveals to us another phase of the great Dowager's
character--that of dealing with fractious husbands.
XIV The Princesses--Their
The position accorded to woman in Chinese society is strictly a domestic one, and, as
is the case in other Eastern countries, she is denied the liberty which threatens to
attain such amazing proportions in the West. There is no reason to suppose that woman in
China is treated worse than elsewhere; but people can of course paint her condition just
as fancy seizes them. They are rarely admitted into the domestic surroundings of Chinese
homes, therefore there is nothing to curb the imagination. The truth is that just as much
may be said on one side as on the other. Domestic happiness is in China--as everywhere
else the world over--a lottery. The parents invariably select partners in marriage for
their sons and daughters, and sometimes make as great blunders as the young people would
if left to themselves. --Harold E. Gorst in "China."
XIV THE PRINCESSES--THEIR SCHOOLS
 Taken from Mrs. Headland's note-book.
One day while making a professional call on the Princess Su our conversation turned to
female education in China. I was deeply interested in the subject, and was aware that the
Prince had established a school for the education of his daughters and the women of his
palace, and was naturally pleased when the Princess asked:
"Would you care to visit our school when it is in session?"
"Nothing would please me more," I answered. "When may I do so?"
"Could you come to-morrow morning?" she inquired.
"With pleasure; at what time?"
"I will send my cart for you."
The following morning the Prince's cart appeared. It was lined with fur, upholstered in
satin, furnished with cushions, and encircled by a red band which indicated the rank of
its owner. A venerable eunuch, the head of the palace servants, preceded it as an
outrider, and assisted me in mounting and dismounting, while the driver in red-tasselled
hat walked decorously by the side.
The school occupies a large court in the palace grounds. Another evidence of Western
influence in the same court is a large two-story house of foreign architecture where the
Prince receives his guests. Prince Su was the first to have this foreign reception hall,
but he has been followed in this respect by other officials and princes as well as by the
"This is not unlike our foreign compounds," I remarked to the Princess as we
entered the court.
"Yes," she replied, "the Prince does not care to have the court paved,
but prefers to have it sodded and filled with flowers and shrubs."
The school building was evidently designed for that purpose, being light and airy with
the whole southern exposure made into windows, and covered with a thin white paper which
gives a soft, restful light and shuts out the glare of the sun. The floor is covered with
a heavy rope matting while the walls are hung with botanical, zoological and other charts.
Besides the usual furniture for a well-equipped schoolroom, it was heated with a foreign
stove, had glass cases for their embroidery and drawing materials, and a good American
organ to direct them in singing, dancing and calisthenics.
I arrived at recess. The Princess took me into the teacher's den, which was cut off
from the main room by a beautifully carved screen. Here I was introduced to the Japanese
lady teacher and served with tea. She spoke no English and but little Chinese, and the
embarrassment of our effort to converse was only relieved by the ringing of the bell for
school. The pupils, consisting of the secondary wives and daughters of the Prince, his
son's wife, and the wives and daughters of his dead brother who make their home with him,
entered in an orderly way and took their seats. When the teacher came into the room the
ladies all arose and remained standing until she took her place before her desk and made a
low bow to which they all responded in unison. This is the custom in all of the schools I
have visited. Even where the superintendent is Chinese, the pupils stand and make a low
Japanese bow at the beginning and close of each recitation.
"How long has the school been in session?" I asked the Princess.
"Three and a half months," she replied.
"And they have done all this embroidery and painting in that time?"
"They have, and in addition have pursued their Western studies," she
In arithmetic the teacher placed the examples on the board, the pupils worked them on
their slates, after which each was called upon for an explanation, which she gave in
Japanese. While this class was reciting the Prince came in and asked if we might not have
calisthenics, evidently thinking that I would enjoy the drill more than the mathematics.
It was interesting to see those Manchu ladies stand and go through a thorough physical
drill to the tune of a lively march on a foreign organ. The Japanese are masters in
matters of physical drill, and in the schools I have visited I have been pleased at the
quiet dignity, and the reserve force and sweetness of their Japanese teachers. The
precision and unanimity with which orders were executed both surprised and delighted me.
Everything about these schools was good except the singing, which was excruciatingly poor.
The Chinese have naturally clear, sweet voices, with a tendency to a minor tone, which,
with proper training, admit of fair development. But the Japanese teacher dragged and sang
in a nasal tone, in which the pupils followed her, evidently thinking it was proper
Western music. I was rather amused to see the younger pupils go through a dignified dance
or march to the familiar strains of "Shall we gather at the river," which the
eldest daughter played on the organ.
"The young ladies do not comb their hair in the regular Manchu style," I
observed to the Princess.
"No," she answered, "we do not think that best. It is not very
convenient, and so we have them dress it in the small coil on top of the head as you see.
Neither do we allow them to wear flowers in their hair, nor to paint or powder, or wear
shoes with centre elevations on the soles. We try to give them the greatest possible
convenience and comfort."
They were proud of their bits of crocheting and embroidery, each of which was marked
with the name of the person who did it and the date when it was completed. Many of them
were made of pretty silk thread in a very intricate pattern, though I admired their
drawing and painting still more.
"Of what does their course of study consist?" I asked the Princess.
She went to the wall and took down a neat gilt frame which contained their curriculum,
and which she asked her eldest daughter to copy for me. They had five studies each day,
six days of the week, Sunday being a holiday. They began with arithmetic, followed it up
with Japanese language, needlework, music and calisthenics, then took Chinese language,
drawing, and Chinese history with the writing of the ideographs of their own language,
which was one of the most difficult tasks they had to perform. The dignified way in which
the pupils conducted themselves, the respect which they showed their teacher, and the way
in which they went about their work, delighted me. The discipline it gave them, the
self-respect it engendered, and the power of acquisition that came with it were worth more
perhaps than the knowledge they acquired, useful as that information must have been.
The Princess Ka-la-chin, the fifth sister of Prince Su, is married to the Mongolian
Prince Ka-la. It is a rule among the Manchus that no prince can marry a princess of their
own people, but like the Emperor himself, must seek their wives from among the untitled.
These ladies after their marriage are raised to the rank of their husbands. It is the same
with the daughters of a prince. Their husbands must come from among the people, but unlike
the princes they cannot raise them to their own rank, and so their children have no place
in the imperial clan. Many of the princesses therefore prefer to marry Mongolian princes,
by which they retain their rank as well as that of their children.
Naturally a marriage of this kind brings changes into the life of the princess. She has
been brought up in a palace in the capital, lives on Chinese food, and is not inured to
hardships. When she marries a Mongol prince, she is taken to the Mongolian plains, is not
infrequently compelled to live in a tent, and her food consists largely of milk, butter,
cheese and meat, most of which are an abomination to the Chinese. They especially loathe
butter and cheese, and not infrequently speak of the foreigner smelling like the
Mongol--an odour which they say is the result of these two articles of diet.
Prince Su's fifth sister was fortunate in being married to a Mongol prince who was not
a nomad. He had established a sort of village capital of his possessions, the chief
feature of which was his own palace. Here he lives during the summers and part of the
winters; though once in three years he is compelled to spend at least three months in his
palace in Peking when he comes to do homage to the Emperor.
During one of these visits to Peking the Princess sent for me to come to her palace. I
naturally supposed she was ill, and so took with me my medical outfit, but her first
"I am not ill, nor is any member of my family, but I wanted to see you to have a
talk with you about foreign countries."
She had prepared elaborate refreshments, and while we sat eating, she directed the
conversation towards mines and mining, and then said:
"My husband, the Prince, is very much interested in this subject, and believes
that there are rich stores of ore on his principality in Mongolia."
"Indeed, that is very interesting," I answered.
"You know, of course, it is a rule," she went on to say, "that no prince
of the realm is allowed to go more than a few miles from the capital without special
permission from the throne."
"No, I was not aware of that fact."
She then went on to say that her husband was anxious to attend the St. Louis
Exposition, and study this subject in America, but so long as these hindrances remained it
was impossible for him to do so. She then said:
"I am very much interested in the educational system of your honourable country,
and especially in your method of conducting girls' schools."
"Would you not like to come and visit our girls' high school?" I asked.
"I should be delighted," she replied.
This she did, and before leaving the capital she sent for a Japanese lady teacher whom
she took with her to her Mongolian home, where she established a school for Mongolian
In this school she had a regular system of rules, which did not tally with the
undisciplined methods of the Mongolians, and it was amusing to hear her tell how it was
often necessary for the Prince to go about in the morning and wake up the girls in order
to get them into school at nine o'clock.
The next time she came to Peking she brought with her seventeen of her brightest girls
to see the sights of the city and visit some of the girls' schools, both Christian and
non-Christian. Everything was new to them and it was interesting to hear their remarks as
I showed them through our home and our high school. When the Princess returned to Mongolia
she took with her a cultured young Chinese lady of unusual literary attainments to teach
the Chinese classics in the school. This is the only school I have known that was
established by a Manchu princess, for Mongolian girls, and taught by Chinese and Japanese
teachers. This young lady was the daughter of the president of the Board of Rites, head
examiner for literary degrees for all China, and was himself a chuang yuan, or graduate of
the highest standing. Before going, this Chinese teacher had small bound feet, but she had
not been long on the plains before she unbound her feet, dressed herself in suitable
clothing, and went with the Princess and the Japanese teacher for a horseback ride across
the plains in the early morning, a thing which a Chinese lady, under ordinary
circumstances, is never known to do. The school is still growing in size and usefulness.
Prince Su's third sister is married to a commoner, but as is usual with these ladies
who marry beneath their own rank, she retains her maiden title of Third Princess, by which
she is always addressed.
"How did you obtain your education?" I once asked her.
"During my childhood," she answered, "my mother was opposed to having
her daughters learn to read, but like most wealthy families, she had old men come into the
palace to read stories or recite poetry for our entertainment. I not infrequently followed
the old men out, bought the books from which they read, and then bribed some of the
eunuchs to teach me to read them. In this way I obtained a fair knowledge of the Chinese
She is as deeply interested in the new educational movement among girls as is her
sister. When this desire for Western education began, she organized a school, in which she
has eighty girls or more, taken from various grades of society, whom she and some of her
friends, in addition to employing teachers and providing the school-rooms, gave a good
part of their time to teaching the Chinese classics, while a Japanese lady taught them
calisthenics and the rudiments of Western mathematics.
She is aggressively pro-foreign, and is ready to do anything that will contribute to
the success of the new educational movement, and the freedom of the Chinese woman. On one
occasion when the Chinese in Peking undertook to raise a fund for famine relief, they
called a large public meeting to which men and women were alike invited, the first meeting
of the kind ever held in Peking. Such a gathering could not have occurred before the Boxer
rebellion. The Third Princess, having promised to help provide the programme, took a
number of her girls, and on a large rostrum, had them go through their calisthenic
exercises for the entertainment of the audience. On another occasion she took all her
girls to a private box at a Chinese circus, where men and women acrobats and horseback
riders performed in a ring not unlike that of our own circus riders. In this circus
small-footed women rode horseback as well as the women in our own circus, and one woman
with bound feet lay down on her back, balanced a cart-wheel, weighing at least a hundred
pounds, on her feet, whirling it rapidly all the time, and then after it stopped she
continued to hold it while two women and a child climbed on top. The Princess was
determined to allow her girls to have all the advantages the city afforded.
At the school of this Third Princess I once attended a unique memorial service. A lady
of Hang Chou, finding it impossible to secure sufficient money by ordinary methods for the
support of a school that she had established, cut a deep gash in her arm and then sat in
the temple court during the day of the fair, with a board beside her on which was
inscribed the explanation of her unusual conduct. This brought her in some three hundred
ounces of silver with which she provided for her school the first year. When it was
exhausted and she could get no more, she wrote letters to the officials of her province,
in which she asked for subscriptions and urged the importance of female education, to
which she said she was willing to give her life. To her appeal the officials paid no heed,
and she finally wrote other letters renewing her request for help to establish the school,
after which she committed suicide. The letters were sent, and later published in the local
and general newspapers. Memorial services were held in various parts of the empire at all
of which funds were gathered not only for her school but for establishing other schools
throughout the provinces.
The school of the Third Princess at which this service was held was profusely
decorated. Chinese flags floated over the gates and door-ways. Beautifully written
scrolls, telling the reason for the service and lauding the virtues of the lady, covered
the walls of the schoolroom. At the second entrance there was a table at which sat a
scribe who took our name and address and gave us a copy of the "order of
exercises." Here we were met by the Third Princess, who conducted us into the main
hall. Opposite the doorway was hung a portrait of the lady, wreathed in artificial
flowers, and painted by a Chinese artist. A table stood before it on which was a plate of
fragrant quinces, candles, and burning incense, giving it the appearance of a shrine. Pots
of flowers were arranged about the room, which was unusually clean and beautiful. The
Chinese guests bowed three times before the picture on entering the room, which I thought
a very pretty ceremony.
The girls of this school, to the number of about sixty, appeared in blue uniform,
courtesying to the guests. Sixteen other girls' schools of Peking were represented either
by teachers or pupils or both. One of the boys' schools came en masse, dressed in military
uniform, led by a band, and a drillmaster with a sword dangling at his side. Addresses
were made by both ladies and gentlemen, chief among whom were the Third Princess and the
editress of the Woman's Daily Newspaper, the only woman's daily at that time in the world,
who urged the importance of the establishment and endowment of schools for the education
of girls throughout the empire.
XV The Chinese Ladies of Rank
Though your husband may be wealthy, You should never be profuse; There should always be
a limit To the things you eat and use. If your husband should be needy, You should gladly
share the same, And be diligent and thrifty, And no other people blame. --"The Primer
for Girls," Translated by I. T. H.
XV THE CHINESE LADIES OF RANK
 Taken from Mrs. Headland's note-book.
The Manchu lady's ideal of beauty is dignity, and to this both her deportment and her
costume contribute in a well-nigh equal degree. Her hair, put up on silver or jade
jewelled hairpins, decorated with many flowers, is very heavy, and easily tilted to one
side or the other if not carried with the utmost sedateness. Her long garments, reaching
from her shoulders to the floor, give to her tall figure an added height, and the central
elevation of from four to six inches to the soles of her daintily embroidered slippers,
compel her to stand erect and walk slowly and majestically. She laughs but little, seldom
jests, but preserves a serious air in whatever she does.
The Chinese lady, on the contrary, aspires to be petite, winsome, affable and helpless.
She laughs much, enjoys a joke, and is always good-natured and chatty.
One of their poets thus describes a noted beauty:
"At one moment with tears her bright eyes would be swimming, The next with
mischief and fun they'd be brimming. Thousands of sonnets were written in praise of them,
Li Po wrote a song for each separate phase of them.
"Bashfully, swimmingly, pleadingly, scoffingly, Temptingly, languidly, lovingly,
laughingly, Witchingly, roguishly, playfully, naughtily, Willfully, waywardly, meltingly,
haughtily, Gleamed the eyes of Yang Kuei Fei.
"Her ruby lips and peach-bloom cheeks,
Would match the rose in hue, If one were kissed the other speaks, With blushes, kiss me
She combs her hair in a neat coil on the back of her head, uses few flowers, but
instead prefers profuse decorations of pearls. Her upper garment extends but little below
her knees, and her lower garment is an accordion-plaited skirt, from beneath which the
pointed toes of her small bound feet appear as she walks or sways on her "golden
lilies," as if she were a flower blown by the wind, to which the Chinese love to
compare her. Her waist is a "willow waist" in poetry, and her "golden
lilies," as her tiny feet are often called, are not more than two or three inches
long--so small that it not infrequently requires the assistance of a servant or two to
help her to walk at all. And though she may not need them she affects to be so helpless as
to require their aid.
Until very recently education was discouraged rather than sought by the Manchu lady.
Many of the princesses could not read the simplest book nor write a letter to a friend,
but depended upon educated eunuchs to perform these services for them. The Chinese lady on
the contrary can usually read and write with ease, and the education of some of them is
equal to that of a Hanlin.
Socially the ladies of these two classes never meet. Their husbands may be of equal
rank and well known to each other in official life, but the ladies have no wish to meet
each other. One day while the granddaughter of one of the Chinese Grand Secretaries was
calling upon me, the sisters of Prince Ching and Prince Su were announced. When they
entered I introduced them. The dignity of the two princesses when presented led me to fear
that we would have a cold time together. I explained who my Chinese lady friend was, and
they answered in a formal way (wai t ou tou jen te, li to'u k'e pu jen te) "the
gentlemen of our respective households are well acquainted, not so the ladies," but
the ice did not melt. For a time I did my best to find a topic of mutual interest, but it
was like trying to mix oil and water. I was about to give up in despair when my little
Chinese friend, observing the dilemma in which I was placed, and the effort I was making
to relieve the situation, threw herself into the conversation with such vigour and
vivacity, and suggested topics of such interest to the others as to charm these reserved
princesses, and it was not long until they were talking together in a most animated way.
One of the Manchu ladies expressed regret at the falling of her hair and the fact that
she was getting bald. "Why," said my little Chinese friend, "after a severe
illness not long since, I lost all my hair, but I received a prescription from a friend
which restored it all, and just look at the result," she continued turning her pretty
head with its great coils of shiny black hair. "I will be delighted to let you have
it." The Manchu princesses finally rose to depart, and in their leave-taking, they
were as cordial to my little Chinese friend, who had made herself so agreeable, as they
were to me, for which I shall ever be grateful.
After they had gone I asked:
"Why is it that the Manchu and Chinese ladies do not intermingle in a social
"The cause dates back to the beginning of the Manchu dynasty," she responded.
"When the Chinese men adopted the Manchu style of wearing the queue, it was
stipulated that they should not interfere with the style of the woman's dress, and that no
Chinese should be taken to the palace as concubines or slaves to the Emperor. We have
therefore always held ourselves aloof from the Manchus. Our men did this to protect us,
and as a result no Chinese lady has ever been received at court, except, of course, the
painting teacher of the Empress Dowager, who, before she could enter the palace, was
compelled to unbind her feet, adopt the Manchu style of dress and take a Manchu
"Is not the Empress Dowager very much opposed to foot-binding? Why has she not
"She has issued edicts recommending them to give it up, but to forbid it is beyond
her power. That would be interfering with the Chinese ladies' dress."
"Do the Manchus consider themselves superior to the Chinese?"
"It is a poor rule that will not work both ways. Have you never noticed that in
his edicts the Emperor speaks of his Manchu slaves and his Chinese subjects?"
Among my lady friends is one whose father died when she was a child, and she was
brought up in the home of her grandfather who was himself a viceroy. She had always been
accustomed to every luxury that wealth could buy. Clothed in the richest embroidered silks
and satins, decorated with the rarest pearls and precious stones, she had serving women
and slave girls to wait upon her, and humour her every whim. One day when we were talking
of the Boxer insurrection she told me the following story:
"Some years ago," she said, "my steward brought me a slave girl whom he
had bought from her father on the street. She was a bright intelligent and obedient little
girl, and I soon became very fond of her. She told me one day that her grandmother was a
Christian, and that she had been baptized and attended a Christian school. Her father,
however, was an opium-smoker, and had pawned everything he had, and finally when her
grandmother was absent had taken her and sold her to get money to buy opium. She asked me
to send a messenger to her grandmother and tell her that she had a good home.
"I was delighted to do so for I knew the old woman would be distressed lest the
child had been sold to a life of shame, or had found a cruel mistress. Unfortunately,
however, my messenger could find no trace of the grandmother, as the neighbours informed
him that she had left shortly after the disappearance of the child.
"As the years passed the child grew into womanhood. She was very capable, kind and
thoughtful for others and I learned to depend upon her in many ways. She was very devoted
to me, and sought to please me in every way she could. She always spoke of herself as a
Christian and refused to worship our gods. When the Boxer troubles began I took my
house-servants and went to my grandfather's home thinking that the Boxers would not dare
disturb the households of such great officials as the viceroys. But I soon found that they
respected no one who had liberal tendencies.
"One day there was a proclamation posted to the effect that all Christians were to
be turned over to them, and that any one found concealing a Christian would themselves be
put to death. My grandmother came to my apartments and wanted me to send my slave girl to
the Boxers. We talked about it for some time but I steadfastly refused. When the Boxers
had procured all they could by that method they announced that they were about to make a
house-to-house search, and any household harbouring Christians would be annihilated."
"But how would they know that your slave was a Christian?" I inquired.
"Have you not heard," she asked, "that the Boxers claimed that after
going through certain incantations, they could see a cross upon the forehead of any who
had been baptized?"
"And did you believe they could?"
"I did then but I do not now. Indeed we all did. My grandmother came to me and
positively forbade me to keep the slave in her home. After she had gone the girl came and
knelt at my feet and begged me to save her! How could I send her out to death when she had
been so kind and faithful to me? I finally decided upon a plan to save her. I determined
to flee with her to the home of an uncle who lived in a town a hundred miles or more from
Peking, where I hoped the Boxers were less powerful than they were at the capital.
"This uncle was the lieutenant-governor of the province and had always been very
fond of me, and I knew if I could reach him I should win his sympathy and his aid. But how
was this to be done? All travellers were suspected, searched and examined. For two women
to be travelling alone, when the country was in such a state of unrest, could not but
bring upon themselves suspicion, and should we be searched, the cross upon the forehead
would surely be found, and we would be condemned to the cruel tortures in which the Boxers
were said to delight.
"After much thought and planning the only possible method seemed to be to flee as
beggars. You know women beggars are found upon the roads at all times and they excite
little suspicion. Then in the hot summer it is not uncommon for them to wrap their head
and forehead in a piece of cloth to protect them from the fierce rays of the sun. In this
way I hoped to conceal the cross from observation in case we came into the presence of the
Boxers. We confided our plans to a couple of the women servants whom we could trust, and
asked them to procure proper outfits for us. They did so, and oh! what dirty old rags they
were. The servants wept as they took off and folded up my silk garments and clad me in
this beggar's garb."
"But your skin is so soft and fair, not at all like the skin of a woman exposed to
the sun; and your black, shiny hair is not at all rusty and dirty like the hair of a
beggar woman. I should think these facts would have caused your detection," I urged.
"That was easily remedied. We stained our faces, necks, hands and arms, and we
took down our hair and literally rolled it in dust which the servants brought from the
street. Oh! but it was nasty! such an odour! It was only the saving of the life of that
faithful slave that could have induced me to do it. I had to take off my little slippers
and wrap my feet in dirty rags such as beggars wear. We could take but a little copper
cash with us. To be seen with silver or gold would have at once brought suspicion upon us,
while bank-notes were useless in those days.
"In the early morning, before any one was astir we were let out of a back gate. It
was the first time I had ever walked on the street. I had always been accustomed to going
in my closed cart with outriders and servants. I shrank from staring eyes, and thought
every glance was suspicious. My slave was more timid than I and so I must take the
initiative. I had been accustomed to seeing street beggars from behind the screened
windows of my cart ever since I was a child and so I knew how I ought to act, but at first
it was difficult indeed. Soon, however, we learned to play our part, though it seems now
like a hideous dream. We kept on towards the great gate through which we passed out of the
city on to the highway which led to our destination.
"The first time we met a Boxer procession my knees knocked together in my fear of
detection but they passed by without giving us a glance. We met them often after this, and
before we finished our journey I learned to doubt their claim to detect Christians by the
sign of the cross.
"We ate at the roadside booths, slept often in a gateway or by the side of a wall
under the open sky, and after several days' wandering, we reached the yamen of my uncle.
But we dare not enter and reveal our identity, lest we implicate them, for we found the
Boxers strong everywhere, and even the officials feared their prowess. We hung about the
yamen begging in such a way as not to arouse suspicion, until an old servant who had been
in the family for many years, and whom I knew well, came upon the street. I followed him
begging until we were out of earshot of others, and then told him in a singsong, whining
tone, such as beggars use, who I was and why I was there, and asked him to let my uncle
know, and said that if they would open the small gate in the evening we would be near and
could enter unobserved.
"At first he could not believe it was I, for by this time we indeed looked like
veritable beggars, but he was finally convinced and promised to tell my uncle. After
nightfall he opened the gate and led us in by a back passage to my aunt's apartments where
she and my uncle were waiting for me. They both burst into tears as they beheld my plight.
Two old serving women, who had been many years in the family, helped us to change our
clothes and gave us a bath and food. My feet had suffered the most. They were swollen and
ulcerated and the dirty rags and dust adhering to the sores had left them in a wretched
condition. It took many baths before we were clean, and weeks before my feet were healed.
"We remained with my uncle until the close of the Boxer trouble, and until my
grandfather's return from Hsian where he had gone with the Empress Dowager and the court,
and then I came back to Peking."
"Your grandmother must have felt ashamed when she heard how hard it had gone with
you," I remarked.
"We never mentioned the matter when talking together. That was a time when every
one was for himself. Death stared us all in the face."
"Where is your slave girl now? I should like to see her," I remarked.
"After the troubles were over I married her to a young man of my uncle's
household. I will send for her and bring her to see you."
She did so. I found she had forgotten much of what she had learned of Christianity, but
she remembered that there was but one God and that Jesus Christ was His Son to whom alone
she should pray. She also remembered that as a small child she had been baptized, and that
in school she had been taught that "we should love one another"; this was about
the extent of her Gospel, but it had touched the heart of her charming little mistress and
had saved her life.
There were sometimes amusing things happened when these Chinese ladies called. My
husband among other things taught astronomy in the university. He had a small telescope
with which he and the students often examined the planets, and they were especially
interested in Jupiter and his moons. One evening, contrary to her custom, this same friend
was calling after dark, and when the students had finished with Jupiter and his moons, my
husband invited us to view them, as they were especially clear on that particular evening.
After she had looked at them for a while, and as my husband was closing up the
telescope, she exclaimed: "That is the kind of an instrument that some foreigners
sent as a present to my grandfather while he was viceroy, but it was larger than this
"And did he use it?" asked my husband.
"No, we did not know what it was for. Besides my grandfather was too busy with the
affairs of the government to try to understand it."
"And where is it now?" asked Mr. Headland, thinking that the viceroy might be
willing to donate it to the college.
"I do not know," she answered. "The servants thought it was a pump and
tried to pump water with it, but it would not work. It is probably among the junk in some
of the back rooms."
"I wonder if we could not find it and fix it up," my husband persisted.
"I am afraid not," she answered. "The last I saw of it, the servants had
taken the glass out of the small end and were using it to look at insects on the
One day when one of my friends came to call I said to her: "It is a long time
since I have seen you. Have you been out of the city?"
"Yes, I have been spending some months with my father-in-law, the viceroy of the
Canton provinces. His wife has died, and I have returned to Peking to get him a
"How old is he?" I inquired.
"Seventy-two years," she replied.
"And how will you undertake to secure a concubine for such an old man?"
"I shall probably buy one."
A few weeks afterwards she called again having with her a good-looking young woman of
about seventeen, her hair beautifully combed, her face powdered and painted, and clothed
in rich silk and satin garments, whom she introduced as the young lady procured for her
father-in-law. She explained that she had bought her from a poor country family for three
hundred and fifty ounces of silver.
"Don't you think it is cruel for parents to sell their daughters in this
way?" I asked.
"Perhaps," she answered. "But with the money they received for her, they
can buy land enough to furnish them a good support all their life. She will always have
rich food, fine clothing and an easy time, with nothing to do but enjoy herself, while if
she had remained at home she must have married some poor man who might or might not have
treated her well, and for whom she would have to work like a slave. Now she is nominally a
slave with nothing to do and with every comfort, in addition to what she has done for her
While we were having tea she asked to see Mr. Headland, as many of the older of my
friends did. I invited him in, and as he entered the dining-room the young woman stepped
out into the hall.
My friend greeted my husband, and with a mysterious nod of her head in the direction of
the young woman she said: "Chiu shih na ke,--that's it."
XVI The Social Life of
the Chinese Woman
The manners and customs of the Chinese, and their social characteristics, have employed
many pens and many tongues, and will continue to furnish all inexhaustible field for
students of sociology, of religion, of philosophy, of civilization, for centuries to come.
Such studies, however, scarcely touch the province of the practical, at least as yet, for
one principal reason--that the subject is so vast, the data are so infinite, as to
overwhelm the student rather than assist him in sound generalizations. --A. R. Colquhoun
in "China in Transformation."
XVI THE SOCIAL LIFE OF THE CHINESE WOMAN
The home life of a people is too sacred to be touched except by the hand of friendship.
Our doors are closed to strangers, locked to enemies, and opened only to those of our own
race who are in harmony and sympathy with us. What then shall we say when people of an
alien race come seeking admission? They must bring some social distinction,--letters of
introduction, or an ability to help us in ways in which we cannot help ourselves.
In the case of a people as exclusive as the Chinese this is especially true, so that
with the exception of one or two women physicians and the wife of one of our diplomats no
one has ever been admitted in a social as well as professional way to the women's
apartments of the homes of the better class of the Chinese people.
A Chinese home is different from our own. It is composed of many one-story buildings,
around open courts, one behind the other, and sometimes covers several acres of ground.
Then it is divided into men's and women's apartments, the men receiving their friends in
theirs and the women likewise receiving their friends by a side gate in their own
apartments, which are at the rear of the dwelling. A wealthy man usually, in addition to
his wife, has one or more concubines, and each of these ladies has an apartment of her own
for herself and her children,--though all the children of all the concubines reckon as
belonging to the first wife.
I have heard Sir Robert Hart tell an amusing incident which occurred in Peking. He said
that the Chinese minister appointed to the court of Saint James came to call on him before
setting out upon his journey. After conversing for some time he said:
"I should be glad to see Lady Hart. I believe it is customary in calling on a
foreign gentleman to see his lady, is it not?"
"It is," said Sir Robert, "and I should be delighted to have you see
her, but Lady Hart is in England with our children, and has not been here for twenty
"Ah, indeed, then perhaps I might see your second wife."
"That you might, if I had one. But the customs of our country do not allow us to
have a second wife. Indeed they would imprison us if we were to have two wives."
"How singular," said the official with a nod of his head. "You do not
appreciate the advantages of this custom of ours."
That there are advantages in this custom from the Chinese point of view, I have no
doubt. But from certain things I have heard I fear there are disadvantages as well. One
day the head eunuch from the palace of one of the leading princes in Peking came to ask my
wife, who was their physician, to go to see some of the women or children who were ill. It
was drawing near to the New Year festival and, of course, they had their own absorbing
topics of conversation in the servants' courts. I said to him:
"The Prince has a good many children, has he not?"
"Twenty-three," he answered.
"How many concubines has he?" I inquired.
"Three," he replied, "but he expects to take on two more after the
"Doesn't it cause trouble in a family for a man to have so many women about? I
should think they would be jealous of each other."
"Ah," said he, with a wave of his hand and a shake of his head, "that is
a topic that is difficult to discuss. Naturally if this woman sees him taking to that
woman, this one is going to eat vinegar."
They do "eat vinegar," but perhaps as little of it as any people who live in
the way in which they live, for the Chinese have organized their home life as nearly on a
governmental basis as any people in the world.
In addition to the wife and concubines, each son when he marries brings his wife home
to a parental court, and all these sisters-in-law, or daughters-in-law add so much to the
complications of living, for each must have her own retinue of servants.
Young people in China are all engaged by their parents without their knowledge or
consent. This was very unsatisfactory to the young people of the old regime, and it is
being modified in the new. One day one of my students in discussing this matter said to
"Our method of getting a wife is very much better than either the old Chinese
method or your foreign method."
"How is that?" I asked.
"Well," said he, "according to the old Chinese custom a man could never
see his wife until she was brought to his house. But we can see the girls in public
meetings, we have sisters in the girls' school, they have brothers in the college, and
when we go home during vacation we can learn all about each other."
"But how do you consider it better than our method?" I persisted.
"Why, you see, when you have found the girl you want, you have to go and get her
yourself, while we can send a middleman to do it for us."
I still argued that by our method we could become better acquainted with the young
"Yes," he said, "that is true; but doesn't it make you awfully mad if
you ask a lady to marry you and she refuses?" and it must be confessed that this was
a difficult question to answer without compromising one's self.
The rigour of the old regime was apparently modified by giving the young lady a chance
to refuse. About ten days before the marriage, two ladies are selected by the mother of
the young man to carry a peculiar ornament made of ebony and jade, or jade alone, or red
lacquer, to the home of the prospective bride. This ornament is called the ju yi, which
means "According to my wishes." If the lady receives it into her own hands it
signifies her willingness to become his bride; if she rejects it, the negotiations are at
an end, though I have never heard of a girl who refused the ju yi.
 The remainder of the chapter is from Mrs. Headland's note-book.
Very erroneous ideas of the life and occupations of the Chinese ladies of the noble and
official classes are held by those not conversant with their home life. The Chinese woman
is commonly regarded as little better than a secluded slave, who whiles away the tedious
hours at an embroidery frame, where with her needle she works those delicate and intricate
pieces of embroidery for which she is famous throughout the world. In reality, a Chinese
lady has little time to give to such work. Her life is full of the most exacting social
duties. Few American ladies in the whirl of society in Washington or New York have more
social functions to attend or duties to perform. I have often been present in the evening
when the head eunuch brought to the ruling lady of the home (and the head of the home in
China is the woman, not the man) an ebony tablet on which was written in red ink the list
of social functions the ladies were to attend the following day.
She would select from the list such as she and her unmarried daughters could
attend,--the daughters always going with their mother and not with their
sisters-in-law,--then she would apportion the other engagements to her daughters-in-law,
who would attend them in her stead.
The Chinese lady in Peking sleeps upon a brick bed, one half of the room being built up
a foot and a half above the floor, with flues running through it; and in the winter a fire
is built under the bed, so that, instead of having one hot brick in her bed, she has a
hundred. She rises about eight. She has a large number of women servants, a few slave
girls, and if she belongs to the family of a prince, she has several eunuchs, these latter
to do the heavy work about the household. Each servant has her own special duties, and
resents being asked to perform those of another. When my lady awakes a servant brings her
a cup of hot tea and a cake made of wheat or rice flour. After eating this a slave girl
presents her with a tiny pipe with a long stem from which she takes a few whiffs. Two
servants then appear with a large polished brass basin of very hot water, towels, soaps,
preparations of honey to be used on her face and hands while they are still warm and moist
from the bathing. After the bath they remove the things and disappear, and two other women
take their places, with a tray on which are combs, brushes, hair-pomades, and the
framework and accessories needed for combing her hair. Then begins a long and tedious
operation that may continue for two hours. Finally the hair is ready for the ornaments,
jewels and flowers which are brought by another servant on a large tray. The mistress
selects the ones she wishes, placing them in her hair with her own hands.
Some of these flowers are exquisite. The Chinese are expert at making artificial
flowers which are true to nature in every detail. Often above the flower a beautiful
butterfly is poised on a delicate spring, and looks so natural that it is easy to be
deceived into believing it to be alive. When the jasmine is in bloom beautiful creations
are made of these tiny flowers by means of standards from which protrude fine wires on
which the flowers are strung in the shape of butterflies or other symbols, and the flowers
massed in this way make a very effective ornament. With the exception of the jasmine the
flowers used in the hair are all artificial, though natural flowers are worn in
season--roses in summer, orchids in late summer, and chrysanthemums in autumn.
The prevailing idea with the Chinese ladies is that the foreign woman does not comb her
hair. I have often heard my friends apologizing to ladies whom they have brought to see me
for the first time, and on whom they wanted me to make a good impression, by saying:
"You must not mind her hair; she is really so busy she has no time to comb it. All
her time is spent in acts of benevolence."
At the first audience when the Empress Dowager received the foreign ladies, she
presented each of them with two boxes of combs, one ivory inlaid with gold, the other
ordinary hard wood, and the set was complete even to the fine comb. One cannot but wonder
if Her Majesty had not heard of the untidy locks of the foreign woman, which she
attributed to a lack of proper combs.
After the hair has been properly combed and ornamented, cosmetics of white and carmine
are brought for the face and neck. The Manchu lady uses these in great profusion, her
Chinese sister more sparingly. No Chinese lady, unless a widow or a woman past sixty, is
supposed to appear in the presence of her family without a full coating of powder and
paint. A lady one day complained to me of difficulty in lifting her eyelids, and consulted
me as to the reason.
"Perhaps," said I, "they are partially paralyzed by the lead in your
cosmetics. Wash off the paint and see if the nerves do not recover their tone."
"But," said she, "I would not dare appear in the presence of my husband
or family without paint and powder; it would not be respectable."
The final touch to the face is the deep carmine spot on the lower lip.
The robing then begins. And what beautiful robes they are! the softest silks, over
which are worn in summer the most delicate of embroidered grenadines, or in winter, rich
satins lined with costly furs, each season calling for a certain number and kind. She then
decorates herself with her jewels,--earrings, bracelets, beads, rings, charms, embroidered
bags holding the betel-nut, and the tiny mirror in its embroidered case with silk tassels.
When these are hung on the buttons of her dress her outfit is complete, and she arises
from her couch a wonderful creation, from her glossy head, with every hair in place, to
the toe of her tiny embroidered slipper. But it has taken the time of a half-dozen
servants for three hours to get these results.
To one accustomed to the Chinese or Manchu mode of dress, she appears very beautiful.
The rich array of colours, the embroidered gowns, and the bright head-dress, make a
striking picture. Often as the ladies of a home or palace came out on the veranda to greet
me, or bid me adieu, I have been impressed with their wonderful beauty, to which our own
dull colours, and cloth goods, suffer greatly in comparison, and I could not blame these
good ladies for looking upon our toilets with more or less disdain.
It is now after eleven o'clock and her breakfast is ready to be served in another room.
Word that the leading lady of the household is about to appear is sent to the other
apartments. Hurried finishing touches are given to toilets, for all daughters,
daughters-in-law and grandchildren must be ready to receive her in the outer room when she
appears leaning on the arms of two eunuchs if she is a princess, or on two stout serving
women if a Chinese.
According to her rank, each one in turn takes a step towards her and gives a low
courtesy in which the left knee touches the floor. Even the children go through this same
formality. All are gaily dressed, with hair bedecked and faces painted like her own. She
inclines her head but slightly. These are the members of her household over whom she has
sway--her little realm. While her mother-in-law lived she was under the same rigorous
In China where there are so many women in the home it is necessary to have a head--one
who without dispute rules with autocratic sway. This is the mother-in-law. When she dies
the first wife takes her place as head of the family. A concubine may be the favourite of
the husband. He may give her fine apartments to live in, many servants to wait on her, and
every luxury he can afford; but there his power ends. The first wife is head of the
household, is legally mother of all the children born to any or all of the concubines her
husband possesses. The children all call her mother, and the inferior wives recognize her
as their mistress. She and her daughters, and daughters-in-law, attend social functions,
receive friends, extend hospitality; but the concubines have no place in this, unless by
her permission. When the time comes for selecting wives for her sons, it is the first wife
who does it, although she may be childless herself. It is to her the brides of these sons
are brought, and to her all deference is due. In rare cases, where the concubine has had
the good fortune to supply the heir to the throne or to a princely family, she is raised
to the position of empress or princess. But this is seldom done, and is usually remembered
against the woman. She is never received with the same feeling as if she had been first
One day I was asked to go to a palace to see a concubine who was ill. In such cases I
always went directly to the Princess, and she took me to see the sick one. As we entered
the room there was a nurse standing with a child in her arms, and the Princess called my
attention to a blemish on its face.
"Can it be removed?" she asked.
I looked at it and, seeing that it would require but a minor operation, told her it
While attending to the patient, the nurse, fearing that the child would be hurt, left
the room and another entered with another child.
"Now," said the Princess when we had finished with the patient, "we will
attend to the child." And she called the woman to her.
"But," said the woman, "this is not the child."
"There," said the Princess, "you see I do not know my own
But I left our friend receiving the morning salutations of her household. These over,
she dismisses them to their own apartments, where each mother sits down with her own
children to her morning meal, waited on by her own servants. If there are still unmarried
daughters, they remain with their mother; if none, she eats alone.
Since Peking is in the same latitude as Philadelphia my lady has the same kinds of
fruit--apples, peaches, pears, apricots, the most delicious grapes, and persimmons as
large as the biggest tomato you ever saw; indeed, the Chinese call the tomato the western
red persimmon. She has mutton from the Mongolian sheep (the finest I have ever eaten),
beef, pork or lamb; chicken, goose or duck; hare, pheasant or deer, or fish of whatever
kind she may choose. Of course these are all prepared after the Chinese style, and be it
said to the credit of their cooks that our children are always ready to leave our own
table to partake of Chinese food.
After her meal she lingers for a few minutes over her cup of tea and her pipe. In the
meantime her cart or sedan chair is prepared. Her outriders are ready with their horses;
the eunuchs, women and slave girls who are to attend her, don their proper clothing and
prepare the changes of raiment needed for the various functions of the day. One takes a
basin and towels, another powder and rouge-boxes, another the pipe and embroidered tobacco
pouch, not even forgetting the silver cuspidor, all of which will be needed. When she
eats, a servant gives her a napkin to spread over her gown; after she has finished,
another brings a basin of hot water, from which a towel is wrung with which she gently
wipes her mouth and hands. Another brings her a glass of water, or she washes out her
mouth with tea, and finally with the little mirror and rouge-box, while she still sits at
table, she touches up her face with powder and she puts the paint upon her lip if it has
When ready to start, her cart or chair is drawn up as close as possible to the gate of
the women's apartments. A screen of blue silk eighteen or twenty feet long and six feet
high, fastened to two wooden standards, is held by eunuchs to screen her while she enters
the cart. The chair can be used only by princesses or wives of viceroys or members of the
Grand Council. But whether chair or cart it is lined and cushioned with scarlet satin in
summer, and in winter with fur. It is an accomplishment to enter a cart gracefully, but
years of practice enable her to do so, and as soon as she is seated in Buddhist fashion,
the curtain is dropped; her attendant seats herself cross-legged in front; several male
servants rush up, seize the shafts of the cart, place the mule between them, fasten the
buckles (it reminds one of the fire department), the driver takes his place at the lines,
two other male servants take hold of the sides of the mule's bridle, and all is in
readiness to start. Female servants and slave girls crowd into other carts, outriders
mount their mules, and the cavalcade starts with my lady's cart ahead.
As they pass along the streets they are remarked upon by all foot-passengers, and as
they near their destination, a courier on horseback spurs up his steed, makes a wild dash
forward, leaps from his horse, and announces to the gate-keeper that the Princess will
soon arrive. The news is at once taken to the servants of the women's apartments, where
the name is given to a eunuch, who bears it to his mistress.
In the meantime the party has arrived. The mule is unhitched, cart drawn to the gate,
screen spread, servant descends from front, and the Princess with the help of a couple of
eunuchs is escorted through a long covered walk into the court, where the ladies of the
household are waiting on the veranda to receive her. As she enters the gateway the hostess
begins slowly to descend the steps. The others follow, and they meet in the centre of the
court. Low courtesies are made by each and formal inquiries as to each other's health.
There is a short stop and certain formalities before the guest will ascend the steps ahead
of the hostess. The same occurs again on entering the reception hall, and taking the seat
of honour. The luckless foreigner sometimes makes the mistake of conceding to her guest's
modesty and allows her to take a lower seat, which is a grievous offense, and she is only
pardoned on the plea that she is an outside barbarian, and does not understand the rules
of polite society.
After she is seated tea is served, and servants bring in trays of sweetmeats, fruit,
nuts, dried melon seeds, candied fruits and small cakes. One of these nuts is unique. It
is an "English walnut" in which, after the outer hull is removed, the shell is
self-cracked, and folds back in places so that the kernel appears. While partaking of
these delicacies the object of the visit is announced, which is that her son is to be
married on a certain date. Of course official announcements will be sent later, but she
wishes to ask if her hostess will act as one of her representatives to carry the ju yi to
the young lady's home.
After the ladies have chatted for a time about the latest official appointments, some
court gossip, the latest fashion in robe ornamentation, and the newspaper news at home and
abroad--for the Chinese have ten or a dozen newspapers in Peking, among which is the first
woman's daily in the world--the hostess invites her guest to see her garden. They pass
through a gateway into a court in which are great trees, shrubbery, fish-ponds spanned by
marble bridges, covered walks, beautiful rockeries, wisteria vines laden with long
clusters of blossoms, summer-houses, miniature mountains, and flowers of all kinds--a
dream of beauty and loveliness. After returning to the house another cup of tea is served,
and the guest rises to leave. But before doing so her servants bring in a bundle of
clothing, and there in the presence of her hostess her outer robes are changed for others
of a more official character.
Her next call is at the birthday celebration of the mother of one of the highest
officials in the capital. I was present when she arrived. Instead of entering by the front
gate, she went by a private entrance directly to the apartments of her hostess. Many
guests (all gentlemen) were assembled in the front court, which was covered by a mat
pavilion and converted into a theatre. The court was several feet lower than the adjoining
house, the front windows of which were all removed and it was used for the accommodation
of the lady guests. On the walls of the temporary structure hung red satin and silk
banners on which were pinned ideographs cut out of gold foil or black velvet, expressive
of beautiful sentiments and good wishes for many happy returns of the day. The Emperor,
wishing to do this official honour, has informed him that on his mother's birthday an
imperial present will be sent her which is a greater compliment than if sent to the
It was a gala scene. Fresh guests arrived every minute. The ladies in their most
graceful and dignified courtesies were constantly bending as other guests were announced,
while the gentlemen, with low bows and each shaking his own hands, received their friends.
The clothes of the men, though of a more sombre hue, were richer in texture than those of
the women. Heavy silks and satins, embroidered with dragons in gold thread, indicated that
this one was a member of the imperial clan, while others equally rich were worn by the
other gentlemen, each embroidered with the insignia of his rank. Hats adorned with red
tassels, peacock feathers in jade holders, and the button denoting the rank of the wearer,
were worn by all, as it would be a breach of etiquette to remove the hat in the presence
of one's host.
It would also be bad form for the gentlemen to raise their eyes to where the ladies
were seated; just as the latter, who must look over the heads of the men to view the
theatre, would not be caught allowing their eyes to dwell upon any one. But no doubt these
gentle little ladies have their own curiosity, and some means of finding out who's who
among that court full of dragon- draped pillars of state; for I have never failed to
receive a ready answer when I inquired as to the name of some handsome or
distinguished-looking guest whose identity I wished to learn.
The theatre goes on interminably. Like my lady, they change their clothes, and the
scenery, in full view of the audience. The plays are mostly historical, the women's parts
being taken by men, as women are not allowed to go on the stage. One daring company, in
imitation of the foreign custom, had a woman take one of the parts; but a special order
from the viceroy put the company out of commission, and the leader in prison.
The guests were not expected to sit quietly watching the play, but moved about greeting
each other and chatting at will. Servants brought tea and sweetmeats and finally a banquet
was served. Near the close of the feast it was announced that the imperial present was
coming, and the members of the household disappeared. The deep boom of the drums and the
honk of the great horns were heard distinctly as they entered the street, and soon the
yellow imperial chair, with its thirty-six bearers in the royal livery, moved slowly
towards us between two rows of the male members of the household who had gone out and were
kneeling on both sides of the street, knocking their heads as the chair passed them. The
great gates were thrown open and there in the gateway the female members of the family
knelt and kotowed as the chair passed by.
The presents were taken into a room specially prepared for their reception. The head
imperial eunuch placed them in position, and, with a low obeisance, departed, the richer
by several hundred ounces of silver. The gentlemen guests were first invited to view these
tokens of imperial favour. In order of their rank they entered, prostrating themselves
before them. Later we ladies were invited into the room, where the Chinese all kotowed.
What now were these wonderful gifts before which these men and women of rank and noble
birth were falling upon their faces?
They were two squares of red paper, eighteen inches across, printed in outline of the
imperial dragon, on which the characters for long life and happiness were written with the
imperial pen; and a small yellow satin box in which sat a little gold Buddha not more than
an inch in height! It was the thought, not the value, which elicited all this
Shall we go with this busy little princess to another festal occasion? I was with her
again. It was at the home of the sister of one of the sweetest little princesses in the
whole empire. Her baby was a month old and she was celebrating what they call the full
month feast. Instead, however, of having the usual feasting and theatricals, the mother,
who, for days after her child was born, lay at death's door, sent out invitations to her
friends to come and fast and give thanks to the gods for sparing her life.
Though the child was a month old the mother was too wan and weak to leave her couch.
She was dressed, however, in festal robes, and received her guests with many gracious
words and apologies. Of course only ladies were present. The great covered court was
converted into a large shrine. One could imagine they were looking into the main hall of a
temple, only that everything was so clean and beautiful. From the centre of the shrine a
Goddess of Mercy looked down complacently upon the array of fruit, nuts, sweetmeats and
cakes spread out before her. Many candles in their tall candlesticks were burning on every
side. Before her was a great bronze incense-burner, from which many sticks of incense sent
out their fragrant odour on the air. As each guest passed through the court, she took a
stick from the pile, lit it, and, with a word of prayer, added it to the number.
After the guests had all arrived a princess--sister of the hostess--accompanied by two
of the leading guests, descended into the paved court and took her place before the altar.
Deep-toned bells were touched by small boys whose shaven heads and priestly robes denoted
that they, like little Samuel, were being brought up within the courts of the temple. The
Princess took a great bunch of incense in her two hands, one of her attendants lit it with
a torch prepared for that purpose, the flame and smoke ascended amid the deep tones of the
bells, as she prostrated herself before the goddess. She looked like a beautiful fairy
herself as she stood with the flaming bunch of incense held high above her head. Three
times she prostrated herself and nine times she bent forward, fulfilling all the
requirements of the law.
At the close of this ceremony the ladies were invited to partake of a feast prepared
wholly of vegetables and vegetable oils. It requires much more skill to prepare such a
feast than when meat and animal oils are used. The food furnished interesting topics for
discussion. Most of it was prepared by various temples, each being celebrated for some
particular dish, which it was asked to provide for the occasion.
It is not uncommon for a Chinese lady to take upon herself a vow in which she promises
the gods to observe certain days of each month as fast days, on condition that they
restore to health a mother, father, husband or child. No matter what banquet she attends
she need only mention to her hostess that she has a vow and she is made the chief guest,
helping others but eating nothing herself. After this full month feast the baby was seen,
its presents admired, the last cup of tea drunk, the farewells said, and we all returned
XVII The Chinese
My home is girdled by a limpid stream, And there in summer days life's movements pause,
Save where some swallow flits from beam to beam, And the wild sea-gull near and nearer
The good wife rules a paper board for chess; The children beat a fish-hook out of wire;
My ailments call for physic more or less, What else should this poor frame of mine
require? --"Tu Fu," Translated.
XVII THE CHINESE LADIES--THEIR ILLS
 Taken from Mrs. Headland's note-book.
One day a eunuch dashed into the back gate of our compound in Peking, rode up to the
door of the library, dismounted from his horse, and handed a letter in a red envelope to
the house servant who met him on the steps.
"What is the matter?" asked the boy.
"The Princess is ill," replied the servant.
"What Princess?" further inquired the boy.
"Our Princess," was the reply.
"Oh, you are from the palace near the west gate?"
"Yes," and the boy and the servant continued their conversation until the
former had learned all that the letter contained, whereupon he brought me the message.
I opened the letter, written in the Chinese ideographs, and called the messenger in.
"Is the Princess very ill?" I inquired.
"Not very," he answered, "but she has been indisposed for several
"When does she want me to go?" I inquired, for I had long ago learned that a
few inquiries often brought out interesting and valuable information.
"At once," he answered; "the cart will be here in a few minutes."
By the time I had made ready my medical outfit the cart had arrived. It was very much
like a great Saratoga trunk on two wheels. It was without seat and without springs, but
filled with thick cushions, and as I had learned to sit tailor fashion it was not entirely
uncomfortable to ride in. It had gauze curtains in summer, and was lined with quilted silk
or fur in winter, and was a comfortable conveyance.
When I reached the palace I was met by the head eunuch, who conducted me at once to the
apartments of the Princess. Her reception room was handsomely furnished with rich, carved,
teak-wood furniture after the Manchu fashion, with one or two large, comfortable,
leather-covered easy chairs of foreign make. Clocks sat upon the tables and window-sills,
and fine Swiss watches hung on the walls. Beautiful jade and other rich Chinese ornaments
were arranged in a tasteful way about the room. On the wall hung a picture painted by the
Empress Dowager, a gift to the Prince on his birthday.
After a moment's waiting the Princess appeared attended by her women and slave girls.
"I beg your pardon for not having my hair properly dressed," she said, as she
took my hands in hers, the custom of these Manchu princesses and even the Empress Dowager
herself, in greeting foreign ladies. "I welcome you back to Peking after your summer
When the usual salutations had been passed she told me her trouble and I gave her the
proper medicine, with minute instructions as to how to take it, which I also repeated to
"The cause of my illness," she explained, "is over-fatigue. I had to be
present at court on the eighth of the eighth month and I became very tired from standing
"But could you not sit down?" I asked.
"Not in the presence of the Empress Dowager," she replied.
"Of course, I know you could not sit down in the presence of Her Majesty, but
could you not withdraw and rest a while?" I inquired.
"Not that day. It was a busy and tiresome day for us all," she replied.
While we were talking the young Princess, her son's wife, came in and greeted her
mother-in-law in a formal but kindly way, and gave her hands to me just as the Princess
had done. She remained standing all the time she was in the room, as did four of the
secondary princesses or wives of her husband. They were all beautifully dressed, but they
are beneath the Princess in rank, and so must stand in her presence. If the Prince's
mother had come in, as she often did when I was there, the Princess would have to stand
and wait on her. All Manchu families are very particular in this respect.
"You will be interested," said the Princess, "in one phase of our visit
to the palace." Then turning to one of her women she said: "Bring me those two
pairs of shoes."
"These," she explained, "are like some made by my mother-in-law and
myself as presents for the Empress Dowager. On the eighth of the eighth month we have a
feast, when the ladies of the royal household are invited into the palace, and our custom
is for each of us to present Her Majesty with a pair of shoes."
The shoes were daintily embroidered, though not so pretty as some I have seen the
Empress Dowager wear. Some of her shoes are decorated with beautiful pearls and others are
covered with precious stones.
"The Empress Dowager," continued the Princess, "is very vain of her
small feet; though," she continued, as she put her own foot out, encased in the
daintiest little embroidered slipper of light-blue satin, "it is not so small as my
It seemed very human to hear this delicate little Princess make a remark of this kind.
Of course, both she and the Empress Dowager have natural feet.
It was late in the afternoon, some months after my visit to the Princess, that a very
different call came for my services.
The boy came in and told me that a man wanted me to go to see his wife, who lived in
the southern city outside the Ha-ta gate. It has always been my custom never to refuse any
one whether they be rich or poor, and so I told him to call a cart.
It was in midwinter and a bitter cold night, the room was without fire and yet there
was a child of three or four toddling about upon the kang or brick bed whose only garment
was a long coat.
"You should put a pair of trousers on that child," I said, "or it will
catch cold and I will soon have to come again."
"Yes," they said, "we will put trousers on it."
"You had better do it at once," I insisted.
"Yes," they continued, "we will see that it is dressed."
After attending to the woman, and again urging them to dress the child, I wrapped my
warm cloak around me and started home, though I could not forget the child.
"It is a cold night," I said to the driver as we started on our way.
"Yes," he answered, "there will be some uncomfortable people in the city
"In that house we just left," I continued, for I could not banish the child
from my thoughts, "there was a little child playing on the bed without a shred of
"Quite right," said he; "they pawned the trousers of that child to get
money to pay me for taking you to see the sick woman."
"To pay you!" said I, with indignation, and yet with admiration for the
character of the people for whom I was giving my services--"to pay you! Then drive
right back and give them their money and tell them to go and redeem those trousers and put
them on the child!"
"The city gate will be closed before we can reach it if I return," said he,
"and we will not be able to get in to-night."
"No matter about that," I insisted, "go back and give them the
He turned around with many mutterings, lashed up his mule at the top of his speed, gave
them the money, and then started on a gallop for the city gate. It was a rough ride in
that springless cart over the rutty roads. But my house seemed warmer that night and my
bed seemed softer after I had paid the carter myself.
Among my friends and patients none are more interesting than the Misses Hsu. They are
very intelligent, and after I had become well acquainted with them I said to them one day:
"How is it that you have done such wide reading?"
"You know, of course," they said, "that our father is a chuang
I asked them the meaning of a chuang yuan. Then I learned that under the Chinese system
a great many students enter the examinations, and those who secure their degree are called
hsiu tsai; a year or two later these are examined again, and those who pass are given the
degree of chu jen; once more these latter are examined and the successful candidates are
called chin shih, and are then ready for official position. They continue to study,
however, and are allowed to go into the palace, where they are examined in the presence of
the Emperor, and those who pass are called han lin, or forest of pencils. Once in three
years these han lins are examined and one is allowed to obtain a degree--he is a chuang
Out of four hundred million people but one is allowed this degree once in three years.
"Your father must be a very great scholar," I remarked.
"He has always been a diligent student," they answered, modestly.
"What is his given name?" I inquired, one day.
"If you will give me a pencil I will write it for you; we never speak the given
name of our father in China," said the eldest, and she wrote it down.
"How many sisters are there in your family--eight, are there not?"
"Yes. You know, of course, that number five was engaged when a child of six to the
son of Li Hung-chang."
"No, I was not aware of the fact; and were they married?"
"No, they were never married. The young man died before they were old enough to
wed. When word of his death was brought to her, child that she was, she went to our mother
and told her she must never engage her to any one else, as she meant to live and die the
widow of this boy."
"And did she go to Li Hung-chang's home?"
"No, the old Viceroy wanted to take her to his home, build a suite of rooms for
her, and treat her as his daughter-in-law, but our parents objected because she was so
young. The Viceroy loved her very much, and his eyes often filled with tears as he spoke
of her and the son who had passed away. When the Viceroy died she wanted to go and kotow
at his funeral, and all his family except the eldest son were anxious to have her do so,
and thus be recognized as one of the family. But this son objected, and though Lady Li
knocked her head on the coffin until it bled he would not yield, lest she might want her
"And what has become of your sister? How is it that I have never seen her?"
"She withdrew to a small court, where she has lived with none but her women
servants, not even seeing our father or brothers, and not allowing a male servant to go
near her. And she will not permit the word Li to be spoken in her presence."
"And what does she do?" I asked. "How does she employ herself?"
"Studying, reading, painting, and embroidery. When young Li refused to allow her
to attend his father's funeral her sense of self-respect was outraged and she cut off her
hair and threatened to commit suicide. She often fasts for a week, and has tried on
several occasions to take her own life."
I asked them if they did not fear that she might succeed finally in this attempt to
"Yes, we have constant apprehensions. But then, what if she did? It would only
emphasize her virtue."
It was some months after the young ladies told me what I have just related that they
called, for they had taken up the study of English and I had agreed to help them a bit.
"How is your sister?" I inquired, for the sad fate of this young girl weighed
like a burden on my heart.
"She fasted more than usual during the early summer, but she bathed daily and
changed her clothes, dressing herself in her most beautiful garments. She had not been
sleeping well for some time, and one day she ordered her women to leave her and not return
until they were called. They remained away until a married sister and a sister-in-law-a
niece of Li Hung-chang--called and wanted to see her. We went to her room but found it
locked. We knocked but received no answer. We finally punched a hole through the paper
window and saw her sitting on her brick bed, her head bolstered up with cushions and her
eyes closed. We supposed she was sleeping, but on forcing open the door we found that she
had gone to join her boy husband, though her colour and appearance was that of a living
"And are you sure she had not swooned?"
"She remained in this condition for twenty-two hours without pulse or heart beat,
and so we put her in her casket."
I could not but feel sad that I had not been in the city, and had had an opportunity to
help them to ascertain whether her life had really gone out. But the girls seemed proud of
the distinction of having had a sister of such consummate virtue. Numerous embroidered
scrolls and laudatory inscriptions were sent her from friends of the Li family as well as
of their own, and it is expected that the throne will order a memorial arch erected to her
On another occasion I was requested to go to the palace of one of the princes. The
fourth Princess, a beautiful little child of five, was ill with diphtheria, and the first
greeting of the mother as I went in was that she "was homesick to see me." The
child had been ill for several days before they sent for me, and I told them at once that
the case was dangerous. I wanted to do all I could for them and at the same time protect
my own children from the danger of infection. After the first treatment with antitoxin she
seemed to rally, her throat cleared up, but I soon found that the poison had pervaded her
entire system, and so I stayed with her day and night.
I found that the child had contracted the disease from another about her own age, who
was both her playmate and her slave. It is the custom among the wealthy to purchase for
each daughter a companion who plays with her as a child, becomes a companion in youth and
her maid when she marries. These slaves are usually treated well, and when this one became
ill the members of the family visited her often, taking her such dainties as might tempt
her appetite. As a result I had to administer antitoxin to eight of the younger members of
the household, so careless had they been about the spread of this disease; indeed I have
found that the isolation of patients suffering from contagious diseases is wholly unknown
One of the most attractive of all my Chinese lady friends and patients is the niece of
the great Viceroy, Li Hung-chang, the daughter of his brother, Li Han-chang, who is
himself a viceroy. I have been her physician for eighteen years or more and hence have
become intimately acquainted with her. She has visited me very often in my home and, of
all the women I have ever known, of any race or people, I have never met one whom I
thought more cultured or refined than she. This may seem a strange statement, but the
quiet dignity that she manifested on all occasions and her charming manners are not often
met with. I have never felt on entering a drawing-room such an atmosphere of refinement as
seemed to surround her.
That the Chinese take very kindly to foreign medicine there is no doubt, though it is
sometimes amusing how they go back to their own native methods.
One day my husband brought home a physiological chart about the size of an ordinary
man. It was covered with black spots and I asked him the reason for them.
"That is what I asked the dealer from whom I bought it," he replied,
"and he told me that those spots indicate where the needle can be inserted in
treatment by acupuncture without killing the patient."
When a Chinese is ill the doctor generally concludes that the only way to cure him is
to stick a long needle into him and let out the pain or set up counter irritation. If the
patient dies it is evident he stuck the needle into the wrong spot. And this chart has
been made up from millions of experiments during the past two or three thousand years from
patients who have died or recovered.
This was practically illustrated by a woman who was brought to the hospital. Having had
pain in the knee she sent for a Chinese physician who concluded that the only method of
relieving her was by acupuncture. He therefore inserted a needle which unfortunately
pierced the synovial sac causing inflammation which finally resulted in complete
destruction of the joint. Such cases are not infrequent both among adults and children in
all grades of society, due to this method of treatment.
One day I was called to see a lady who was in immediate need of surgical treatment. She
had three sons who were in high official positions in the palace, and if their mother died
they would have to withdraw from official life and go into mourning for three years. When
men are thus compelled to resign the new incumbent is not inclined to restore the office
when the period of mourning is over. They were therefore doubly anxious to have their
mother recover. They had tried all kinds of Chinese physicians and finally sent for me.
I explained the nature of the operation necessary, and gave them every reason to hope
for a speedy recovery, while without surgical treatment she must surely die. They
consented and the operation was successful. She recovered rapidly for a few days until I
regarded her as practically out of danger. But one day when I called I found her bathed in
perspiration, shaking with fear, weeping and depressed. Her wound was in an excellent
condition and I could find no reason for her despondency. I cheered her up, laughed and
talked with her, gave her such articles of diet as she craved, and left her happy. The
next day I again found her in the same nervous condition.
"Something is wrong with your mother of which you have not told me," I said
to her son.
"Before we sent for you," he said, "we had called a spirit doctor, who
went into a sort of trance, claimed to have descended into the spirit world where he saw
them making a coffin which he said my mother would occupy before the fifteenth of the
month. It is because that time is approaching that she is filled with fear."
I talked with the lady, showed her how her wound was healing, encouraged her to rest
easy until the fifteenth, when I would spend the day with her, after which she immediately
began gaining strength and soon recovered.
At another time I was called to see the wife of the president of the Board of
Punishments. I found an operation necessary. The next day I found the patient delirious
with a fever, and asked the husband if my directions had been followed.
"I assure you they have," he answered. "But the cause of the fever is
this: Last evening while the servants were taking their meal she was left alone for a
short time. While they were absent, her sister who lived on this street, a short distance
from here, committed suicide. When the servant discovered it she ran directly to my wife's
room, and told her of the tragedy. My wife began to tremble, had a severe chill, and soon
became delirious. I suspect that her sister's spirit accompanied the servant and entered
In spite of this explanation I cleaned and dressed the wound and left her more
comfortable. The next morning she was somewhat better, without fever and in her right
"What kind of a night did she have?" I asked her husband.
"Oh, very good," he answered. "I managed to get the spirit out of
"How did you do it?" I inquired.
"Soon after you left yesterday, I dressed myself in my official garments, came
into my wife's apartments, and asked the spirit if it would not like to go with me to the
yamen, adding that we would have some interesting cases to settle. I felt a strange
sensation come over me and I knew the spirit had entered me. I got into my cart, drove
down to the home of my sister-in-law, went in where the corpse lay, and told the spirit
that it would be a disgrace to have a woman at the Board of Punishments. 'This is your
place,' I said, in an angry voice; 'get out of me and stay where you belong.' I felt the
spirit leaving me, my fingers became stiff and I felt faint. I had only been at the Board
a short time when they sent a servant to tell me that my wife was quiet and sleeping. When
I returned in the evening the fever was gone and she was rational."
Funeral Ceremonies of a Dowager Princess
There are five degrees of mourning, as follows:--For parents, grandparents and
great-grandparents; for brothers and sisters; for uncles and aunts; and for distant
relatives. In the first sackcloth without hem or border; in the second with hem or border;
in the third, fourth and fifth, pieces of sackcloth on parts of the dress. When sackcloth
is worn, after the third interval of seven days is over the mourners can cast it off, and
wear plain colours, such as white, gray, black and blue. For a parent the period is
nominally three years, but really twenty-seven months, during all which time no silk can
be worn; during this time officials have to resign their appointments, and retire from
public life. --Dyer Ball in "Things Chinese."
XVIII THE FUNERAL CEREMONIES OF A DOWAGER PRINCESS
 Taken from Mrs. Headland's note-book.
One day I received a large sheet of white paper on which was written in Chinese
characters the announcement of the death of the Dowager Princess Su, and inviting me to
the "third-day exercises." The real meaning of this "chieh san" I did
not comprehend, but I knew that those who were invited sent presents of cakes or fruit, or
baskets of paper flowers, incense, gold and silver ingots made of paper, or rolls of paper
silk, all of which were intended for the use of the spirit of the departed. The paper
presents were all burned on the evening of the third day, while the spirit feasted upon
the flavour of the fruit and cakes.
As I did not feel that it was appropriate for me to send these things, I had a
beautiful wreath of white chrysanthemum flowers made, and sent that instead. While I
appreciated the invitation, I thought it was probably given only as a matter of form, and
that I was not expected to attend the exercises, and so I sent my Chinese maid with the
wreath, saying that as I did not understand their customs I would not go.
It was not long until the maid returned saying that they were anxious to have me come,
that under no circumstances must I refuse, as they wished me to see their funeral
ceremonies. The Princess sent her cart for me, and according to the Chinese custom, I took
my maid seated upon the front, and set out for Prince Su's palace. As we neared our
destination we passed numerous carts and chairs of princes who had been at the palace to
pay their respects. The street leading off the great thoroughfare was filled with carts,
chairs, servants and outriders, but the utmost order prevailed. There were scores of
soldiers and special police, the latter dressed in long garments of gray with a short
jacket of white on the breast of which was his number in black. These gray and white
uniforms were mourning colours, and were given by the Prince.
As we entered the gate we saw white-robed servants everywhere, each with a sober face
and a dignified bearing, waiting to be of use. My name was announced and two servants
stepped out from the crowd, clothed from head to feet in white sackcloth, one presenting
his arm to help me through the court, as though I were a bound-footed woman, and the other
led the way. We were taken by a roundabout path, through numerous courts and passages, the
front being reserved for the male guests, and were finally ushered into a room filled with
white-robed women servants, who with one accord bent their knee in a low courtesy.
We were there met by the first and third Princesses, daughters of the Dowager who had
just passed away. They were dressed in white, their hair being put up in the Manchu
fashion. Instead of the jewels and bright flowers, however, it was crossed and recrossed
with bands of white folded sackcloth. As these two ladies were married daughters, and had
left this home, their sackcloth was not so coarse as that of the daughters-in-law and
granddaughters who dwelt in the palace. It was they who received the guests and conducted
them into the room where the mourners were kneeling.
As the white door screen was raised I saw two rows of white-robed figures kneeling on
the floor, and as I entered they all bent forward and touched their head to the ground,
giving forth as they did it a low, wailing chant.
Not knowing their customs I went up and stooped over, speaking first to the Princess
and then to the ladies as best I could. I afterwards watched the other lady visitors and
saw that they put their right hand up near their head as our soldiers salute, and
courtesied to the Princess, her daughter-in-law and her eldest daughter. They then went
over to a little table on which was a silver sacrificial set, consisting of a wine
tankard, a great bowl, and a number of tiny cups holding but two tablespoonfuls. They took
the cup in its little saucer, and, facing the beautiful canopied catafalque where the
Dowager Princess was lying in state, they raised the cup as high as their head three
times, emptying and refilling it each time. The mourners prostrated themselves and gave
forth a mournful wail each time the cup was poured, after which the visitor arose and came
over to where we were, and the ceremony was over.
The third daughter of the late Dowager seemed to regard me as her special friend and
guest, and insisted on my coming over to a white curtain that separated us from the view
of the gentlemen, and from there I watched the proceedings of princes and officials who
went through a similar ceremony. There was this difference with them, however, as they
entered through the great canopied court, they were conducted by white-robed servants
directly to the altar, and there kneeling, they made their obeisance to the spirit of the
departed, after which they went into the room where the Prince and the other male
descendants of the dead Dowager were kneeling and prostrating themselves.
There was a heavy yellow curtain over the door that led into the sacrificial hall, and
when the servants from without announced a visitor, this curtain was drawn aside, and as
the guest and a flood of light entered, the mourners began their wailing which they
continued until he had departed. These visitors remained but a moment, while the ladies
who were there were all near relatives, and were dressed either entirely or partially in
The room in which these ladies knelt was draped in white. The cushions were all covered
with white, and all porcelain and other decorations had been removed. The floor was
covered with a heavy rope matting, on which the ladies knelt--all except the Princess, for
whom was prepared a small dark blue felt cushion. The Princess knelt at the northwest
corner of the room, directly in front of the curtain which separated them from the
sacrificial hall. Several of the very near male relatives entered and gave the low Manchu
courtesy to the Princess, the son's wife, and the eldest daughter, though none of the
other kneeling ladies were recognized. They left immediately without, so far as I noticed,
raising their eyes.
The Prince, his sons and the other mourners in the men's room were clothed in white
fur, and the servants too, who stood in the sacrificial hall, and at intervals along the
way towards the hall, wore white fur coats instead of sackcloth.
To the left of the Princess there knelt in succession all the secondary wives of Prince
Su, and if I mistake not there were five of these concubines. Behind the Princess knelt
her son's wife--the future Princess Su, and on her left, the daughters and granddaughters
of the Prince knelt in succession. The Princess and secondary princesses had bands of
sackcloth wound around their heads, though their hair hung down their backs in two long
braids, and as I had never seen these princesses except when clothed in beautifully
embroidered satin garments, with hair put up in elaborate coiffures, decked with jewels
and flowers, and faces painted and powdered in the proper Manchu fashion, it was not easy
to recognize them in these white-robed, yellow-faced women, with hair hanging down their
The grandson's wife and granddaughters, on the other hand, had their hair combed, but
the long hairpin was of silver instead of jade or gold, and instead of being decorated
with jewels and flowers, and a red cord, it was crossed and recrossed with bands of folded
sackcloth an inch and a half in width. It was neat and very effective--the black hair and
white cloth making a pretty contrast to the Western eye, though it would probably not be
so considered by the Chinese.
After I had watched them for a few moments I said to the princess who accompanied me:
"I must not intrude upon your time longer; you have been very kind to allow me to
witness all these interesting customs."
"Oh, but you must not go now," she insisted; "you must remain and see
the arrival of the priests, and the burning of the paper houses, goods, chattels, and
images on the great street. I want you to understand all our customs, and this is the
greatest and most interesting day of the funeral ceremonies."
I urged that I ought not to intrude myself upon them at this time.
"No, no," she said, "you must not say that. It is not intrusion; you
must stay and dine with us this evening."
When I still insisted upon going she said that if I went they would feel that I did not
care for them, and she was so persistent that I consented to remain if the maid might be
sent home to the children, which they at once arranged for.
In the interval between the arrival of male guests, the ladies took me out into a large
canopied court to see the decorations, and into the sacrificial hall. These ceremonies
were all conducted in the house and court which the Dowager Princess had occupied, and
where I had often gone to see her when she wanted to thank me for some medical attention I
had given her children or grandchildren.
As we passed through the great gate, I noticed that the court was covered with a mat
pavilion making a room about one hundred and fifty feet square, lighted by great squares
of glass near the top, and decorated with banners of rich brocade silks or satins, of
sober colours, blue, gray or white, on which were texts extolling the virtues of the late
Dowager or her family. These were the gifts of friends, who had been coming and would
continue to come for days if not weeks.
At the north end as one came in at the gate was a gallery running the whole length of
the northern court, fitted up with special hangings which separated it into different
compartments. Many elegant banners and decorations gave it a striking effect. This was the
place where the priests, who had not yet arrived, were to say their prayers day and night
until the funeral ceremonies were over.
Directly in front of the catafalque, in the gallery, there was a table on which I
afterwards saw the priests place a silver vessel which the head priest carried, and the
others regarded with much solemnity.
From the gateway leading into the sacrificial hall the floor of the court had been
raised even with the door of the house and the gate, a height of about five feet, and
forty feet wide, and was covered with the same kind of rope matting that was on the
floors. On the canopied verandas there were stacks of cakes, incense, fruit and money.
These were the most novel sights I have ever seen in China. They were ten or twelve feet
high. They were a very pretty sight, and it required some scrutiny to discover that they
were made of cakes and fruit. How they were able to build them thus, tier upon tier, and
prevent their falling when they were touched is beyond my comprehension. What magic there
is in it I do not know.
As one entered the door of the sacrificial hall, towering above everything else, was
the great catafalque, draped in cloth of gold, and in front of it were stacks of these
sacrificial cakes. Near them there was a table on which there were great white, square
candles, five inches or more in diameter, the four sides of which were stamped with
figures of fairies and immortals. On this table there were also various savoury dishes,
together with cakes and fruit, prepared to feed the spirit of the dead. In front of this
table again there was another about a foot high on which were placed the sacrificial wine
vessels, and before which the guests knelt. As we entered I saw the gentlemen kneeling to
the left, while the ladies, separated from them by white curtains, were kneeling to the
After we had seen the various customs without, I was taken into the dining-room, where
I sat down with the young Princess and her two aunts, daughters of the Dowager. They were
very kind and polite, and did all in their power to make me feel at home. We were attended
by white-robed eunuchs, who knelt when they spoke to the Princess. There was such a lot of
"How many servants do you use ordinarily?" I asked the eldest daughter.
"About four hundred," she replied.
I thought of the task of robing four hundred servants in new white sackcloth, and
attending to all the other things that I had seen, in the forty-eight hours since the
death of the Dowager Princess. Even the bread, instead of being dotted with red as it is
ordinarily, was dotted with black!
As we were finishing our supper we heard the horns of the priests and went to see them
arrive. Prince Su, and the other male members of the family, went out to the door to
receive them, but we remained within. They first went to the gallery, then the head priest
came down into the sacrificial hall and made nine prostrations before the catafalque,
without, however, pouring or offering wine. After each third prostration he stood up and
raised his clasped hands to a level with his eyes. They then began their weird music,
standing on the two sides of the raised platform between the gate and the house, thus
allowing a passageway between them for the guests.
The Princess told me that they were about to form a procession to go to the great
street. I therefore took my leave in order that I might precede them and see the
procession arrive, and witness the burning of the presents for the spirit.
When I arrived on the great street I there beheld a paper cart and horses which were
intended to transport the spirit to the eastern heaven. There was a sedan chair for her
use after her arrival, numerous servants, money, silk, and a beautiful, big house for her
to dwell in, all made of paper. I had not long to wait for the procession, which was
headed by the priests playing mournful, wailing music on large and small horns and drums.
The priests were followed by the mourners and their friends. When they arrived at the
place of the burning, the mourners prostrated themselves upon white cushions before the
paper furnishings amid the shrieks of the instruments, the wailing of the hired mourners,
and the petitions of the priests for the spirits to assist the departed on her way.
While this was going on, fire was applied to various parts of the paper pile, and in a
moment a great flame sprang up into the air--a flame that could be seen from miles around,
and in less time than it takes to tell it the whole was a heap of glowing ashes, the
mourners had departed, and the little street children were stirring it up with long
The first three days after death, the spirit is supposed to visit the different
temples, going, as it were, from official court to official court receiving judgment, and
cards of merit or demerit to take with it, for the deeds done in the body. On the third
day it returns to say farewell to the home, and then leaves for its long journey, and all
this paper furniture is sent on ahead.
They continue forty-nine days of prayers by the priests, alternating three days by the
Buddhists, three by the Lamas, and three by the Taoists, after which the Buddhists take
their turn again. Everything else remains much as I have described it. The family,
servants, everybody in mourning, and all business put aside to make way for this ceremony
of mourning, mourning, mourning, when they ought to be rejoicing, for the poor old
Princess had been a paralytic for years and was far better out of her misery.
The Princess frequently sent her cart for me during these days. Once when I was going
through the court where there were vast quantities of things to be burned for the spirit,
all made of paper, I noticed some that were so natural that I was unable to distinguish
between them and the real things. Especially was this true of the furniture and flowers
like that which had been in her apartments. There were great ebony chairs with
fantastically marked marble seats, cabinets, and all the furniture necessary for her use.
Among these things I noticed on the table a pack of cards and a set of dice, of which she
had been very fond, and a chair like the one in which the eunuchs had carried the crippled
old Princess about the court, and I said to the young Princess who accompanied me:
"You do not think your grandmother will require these things in the spirit world,
"Perhaps not," she replied, "but she enjoyed her cards and dice, and the
chair was such a necessity, that, whether she needs them or not, it is a comfort to us to
get and send her everything she liked while she lived, and it helps us bear our
XIX Chinese Princes and
In any estimate of the forces which lead and control public opinion in China,
everywhere from the knot of peasants in the hamlet to the highest officers of state and
the Emperor himself, the literati, or educated class, must be given a prominent position.
They form an immense body, increased each year by the government examinations. They are at
the head of the social order. Every civil officer in the empire must be chosen from their
number. They constitute the basis of an elaborate system of civil service, well equipped
with checks and balances which, if corrected and brought into touch with modern life and
thought, would easily command the admiration of the world. --Chester Holcomb in "The
Real Chinese Question."
XIX CHINESE PRINCES AND OFFICIALS
One day while the head eunuch from the palace of one of the leading princes in Peking
was sitting in my study he said:
"It is drawing near to the New Year. Do you celebrate the New Year in your
"Yes," I replied, "though not quite the same as you do here."
"Do you fire off crackers?"
"Yes, in the matter of firecrackers, we celebrate very much the same as you
"And do you settle up all your debts as we do here?"
"I am afraid we do not. That is not a part of our New Year celebration."
"Our Prince is going to take on two more concubines this New Year," he
"Ah, indeed, I thought he had three concubines already."
"So he does, but he is entitled to five."
"I should think it would make trouble in a family for one man to have so many
women," I ventured.
He waved his hand in that peculiar way the Chinese have of saying, don't mention it, as
"That is a difficult matter to discuss. Naturally if this woman sees the Prince
talking to that one, this one is going to eat vinegar," which gives us a glimpse of
some of the domestic difficulties in Chinese high life. However it is a fact worth
remembering that the Manchu prince does not receive his full stipend from the government
until he has five concubines, each of whom is the mother of a son.
The leading princes of the new regime are Ching, Su, and Pu-lun. Prince Ching has been
the leader of the Manchus ever since the downfall of Prince Kung. He has held almost every
office it was in the power of the Empress Dowager to give, "though disliked by the
Emperor." He was made president of the Tsung-li Yamen in 1884, and from that time
until the present has never been degraded, or in any way lost the imperial favour. He is
small in stature, has none of the elements of the great man that characterized Li
Hung-chang and Chang Chih-tung, or Prince Kung, but he has always been characterized by
that diplomacy which has kept him one of the most useful officials in close connection
with the Empress Dowager. It is to his credit moreover that the legations were preserved
from the Boxers in the siege of 1900.
Prince Su is the only one of the eight hereditary princes who holds any office that
brings him into intimate contact with the foreigners. During the Boxer siege he gave his
palace for the use of the native Christians, and at the close was made collector of the
customs duties (octoroi) at the city gates. Never had there been any one in charge of this
post who turned in as large proportion of the total collections as he. This excited the
jealousy of the other officials, and they said to each other: "If Prince Su is
allowed to hold this position for any length of time there will never be anything in it
for any one else." They therefore sought for a ground of accusation, and they found
it, in the eyes of the conservatives, in the fact that he rode in a foreign carriage,
built himself a house after the foreign style of architecture, furnished it with foreign
furniture, employed an Englishman to teach his boys, and as we have seen opened a school
for the women and girls of his family. He therefore lost his position, but it is to the
credit of Prince Chun, the new Regent, and his progressive policy, that Prince Su has been
made chief of the naval department, of which Prince Ching is only an adviser.
The most important person among either princes or officials that has been connected
with the new regime is Yuan Shih-kai. He was born in the province of Honan, that province
south of the Yellow River which is almost annually flooded by that great muddy stream
which is called "China's Sorrow." As a boy he was a diligent student of the
Chinese classics and of such foreign books as had been translated into the Chinese
language, but he has never studied a foreign tongue nor visited a foreign country. Here
then rests the first element of his greatness--that without any knowledge of foreign
language, foreign law, foreign literature, science of government, or the history of
progress and of civilization, he has occupied the highest and most responsible positions
in the gift of the empire, has steered the ship of state on a straight course between the
shoals of conservatism on the one hand and radical reform on the other until he has
brought her near to the harbour of a safe progressive policy.
He has always been what the Chinese call the tu-ti or pupil of Li Hung-chang, and it
may be that it was from him he learned his statecraft. Certain it is that he always basked
in the favour of the great Viceroy, and it may be that he had more or less influence with
him in his earlier appointments, for he rose rapidly and in spite of all other officials.
On his return from Korea he was made a judge. He was then put in charge of the army of
the metropolitan province, and with the assistance of German officers he succeeded in
drilling 12,500 troops after the European fashion.
It was about this time that the Emperor conceived the plan of instituting and carrying
out one of the most stupendous reforms that has ever been undertaken in human
government--that of transforming four thousand years of conservatism of four hundred
millions of people in the short space of a few months.
Given: A people who cannot make a nail, to build a railroad.
Given: A people who dare not plow a deep furrow for fear of disturbing the spirits of
the place, to open gold, silver, iron and coal mines.
Given: A people who in 4,000 years did not have the genius to develop a decent high
school, to open a university in the capital of every province.
These are three of the score or more of equally difficult problems that the Emperor
undertook to solve in twice as many days. In order to the solution of these problems there
was organized in Peking a Reform Party of hot-headed, radical young scholars not one of
whom has ever turned out to be a statesman. They were brilliant young men, many of them,
but they so lost their heads in their enthusiasm for reform that they forgot that their
government was in the hands of the same old conservative leaders under whom it had been
for forty centuries.
They introduced into the palace as the private adviser of the Emperor, Kang Yu-wei, as
we have already shown, to whom was thus offered one of the greatest opportunities that was
ever given to a human being--that of being the leader in this great reform. He was hailed
as a young Confucius, but his popularity was short-lived, for he so lacked all
statesmanship as to allow the young Emperor to issue twenty-seven edicts, disposing of
twenty-seven difficult problems such as I have given above in about twice that many days,
and it is this hot-headed and unstatesman-like young "Confucius" who now calls
Yuan Shih-kai an opportunist and a traitor because he did not enter into the following
After the Emperor had dismissed two conservative vice-presidents of a Board, two
governors of provinces, and a half dozen other useless conservative leaders, they plotted
to overthrow him by appealing to the ambition of the Empress Dowager and induce her to
dethrone him and again assume the reins of government. They argued that "he was her
adopted son, it was she who had placed him on the throne, and she was therefore
responsible for his mistakes." They complimented her on "the wisdom which she
had manifested, and the statesmanship she had exhibited" during the thirty years and
more of her regency. To all which she listened with a greedy ear, but still she made no
During this time were the Emperor and his young "Confucius" idle? By no
means. They had hatched a counterplot, and had decided that what they could not do by
moral suasion and statesmanship they would do by force, and so they sent an order to Yuan
Shih-kai, who as we have said had drilled and was in charge of 12,500 of the best troops
in the empire, urging him to "hasten to the capital at once, place the Empress
Dowager under guard in the Summer Palace so that she may not be allowed to interfere in
the affairs of the government, and protect him in his reform measures."
The Emperor knew that nothing could be done without the command of the army which was
largely in the hands of a great conservative friend of the Empress Dowager (Jung Lu) the
father-in-law of the present Regent. Yuan was in charge of an army corps of 12,500 troops,
but for him to have taken them even at the command of the Emperor, without informing his
superior officer, would have meant the loss of his head at once. The first thing then for
him to do was to take this order to Jung Lu. Yuan was in favour of reform, though he may
not have approved of the Emperor's methods. Jung Lu hastened to Prince Ching and they two
sped to the Empress Dowager in the Summer Palace where they laid the whole matter before
her. She hurried to Peking, boldly faced and denounced the Emperor, took from him his seal
of state, and confined him a prisoner in the Winter Palace. Kang Yu-wei, the young
"Confucius," fled, but the Empress Dowager seized his brother and five other
patriotic young reformers, and ordered them beheaded on the public execution grounds in
Naturally the Empress Dowager approved of the "wise and statesmanlike
methods" of Yuan in thus protecting instead of imprisoning her, and thus placing the
reins of government once more in her hands, and she appointed him Junior Vice-President of
the Board of Works, and when she was compelled to remove the Governor of Shantung who had
organized the Boxer Society, she appointed Yuan Acting Governor in his stead.
"Yuan," says Arthur H. Smith, was "a man of a wholly different stripe"
from the one removed, and "if left to himself he would speedily have exterminated the
whole Boxer brood, but being hampered by 'confidential instructions' from the palace, he
could do little but issue poetical proclamations, and revile his subordinates for failure
to do their duty."
When Yuan was made Governor of Shantung a number of the Boxer leaders called upon him
expecting to find in him a sympathizer worthy of his predecessor. They told him of their
great powers and possibilities, and of how they were proof against the spears, swords and
bullets of their enemies. Yuan listened to them with patience and interest, and invited
them to dine with him and other official friends in the near future.
During the dinner the Governor directed the conversation towards the Boxer leaders and
their prowess, and led them once more to relate to all his friends their powers of
resistance. He fed them well, and after the dinner was over he suggested that they give an
exhibition of their wonderful powers to the friends whom he had invited. This they could
not well refuse to do after the braggadocio way in which they had talked, and so the
Governor lined them up, called forth a number of his best marksmen, and proceeded with the
exhibition, and it is unnecessary to add that if the Empress Dowager had invited Yuan to
the meeting with the princes when they discussed the advisability of joining the Boxers on
account of a belief in their supernatural powers, she might have been spared the
humiliation of 1900.
We shall soon see that Yuan cared no more for the "confidential instructions"
of the Empress Dowager, when his statesmanship was involved, than for the orders of the
Emperor. His business was to govern and protect the people of his province, and thanks to
his wise statesmanship and strong character "there was not only no foreigner killed
during the troubled season of anxiety and flight" of 1900, and "comparatively
little of the suffering elsewhere so common."
And now we come to another plot which indicates the character of Yuan and two other
great viceroys, Chang Chih-tung, now Grand Secretary, and Liu Kun-yi, Viceroy of the
Yangtse-kiang provinces. It is a well-known fact that during the Boxer rebellion the
Empress Dowager was so influenced by the promises of the Boxers to drive out all the
foreigners that she sent out some very unwise edicts that they should be massacred in the
provinces. Yuan and his two confreres secretly stipulated that if the foreign men of war
would keep away from the ports of their provinces they would maintain peace and protect
the foreigners no matter what orders came from the throne. So that when these confidential
instructions came from the palace to massacre the foreigners, in order to gain time they
pretended to believe that no such orders could have come from the throne. They must be
forgeries of the Boxers. They therefore refused to believe them until they had sent their
own special messenger all the way to Peking to get the edict from the hands of Her Majesty
and bring it to them in their provinces. This messenger was also secretly instructed to
find out what the contents of the edict were, and if it was contrary to the desires of the
Governor, he was to dilly-dally on the way home until the Boxer trouble was ended or until
the foreigners had all been removed from the territory. And it was such conduct as this on
the part of three Chinese and one Manchu viceroys that saved China from being divided up
among the Powers in 1900, a fact which the Empress Dowager was not slow to understand and
In 1900 Yuan was made Governor of the Shantung province, and the court was compelled to
flee to Hsian. It was while the court was thus in hiding that an incident occurred which
indicates the fertility of the Empress Dowager and the elasticity of all Chinese social
customs. Governor Yuan's mother died. In a case of this kind customs dictate, and the
rules of filial affection demand, that a man shall resign all his official positions and
go into mourning for a period of three years. Yuan therefore sent his resignation to the
Empress Dowager, while "weeping tears of blood."
The country was of course in desperate straits and could ill afford to lose, for three
years, for a mere sentiment, the services of one of her greatest and most powerful
statesmen. However much he may have regretted to give up such a brilliant career which was
just well begun, Yuan no doubt expected to do so. What was his surprise therefore to
receive from Her Majesty a message of condolence in which she praised his mother in the
highest terms for having given the world such a brilliant and able son. Under the
circumstances, however, it would be impossible to accept his resignation as his services
to the country just at this juncture were indispensable. She would, however, appoint a
substitute to go into mourning for him, and this with the knowledge that she had borne a
son whose services were so necessary to the safety of the government and the country,
would be a sufficient comfort to the spirit of his departed mother, and Yuan was forced to
continue in his official position as Governor of the province without the intermission of
a single day of mourning. Such is the elasticity and adaptability of the unchanging laws
and customs of the Oriental when in the hands of a master--or a mistress--like Her Majesty
the Empress Dowager.
One can imagine that in proportion as the Empress Dowager was pleased with the
statesmanship manifested by Yuan Shih-kai in unintentionally reseating her upon the
throne, in a like proportion the Emperor would be dissatisfied with it as being the cause
of his dethronement. This was not, however, against Yuan alone but against the
father-in-law of the present Regent and even Prince Ching as well. During the whole ten
years, from 1898 until his death, while he was a prisoner "his heart boiled with
wrath" against those who had been the cause of his downfall.
It was not until the Boxer troubles of 1900 were over, and Yuan, by the masterly way in
which he had disregarded the imperial edicts, had protected and preserved the lives of all
the foreigners in his province, keeping peace the while, that honours began to be heaped
upon him. And this not without reason as we shall proceed to show.
In 1901 he was made Governor-General of the metropolitan province, and Junior Guardian
of the Heir Apparent. In 1902 he was decorated with the Yellow Jacket, placed in charge of
the affairs of the Northern Railway, and consulting minister to counsel the government.
Wherever he was he gave as much attention to the city government as to that of the
province or the nation, and in spite of his having no foreign education himself, he began
building up a system of public schools in his province like which there is nothing else in
the whole of China. Let us remember also that during ail this time there was suspended
over his head, from the palace, a sword of Damocles which was liable to fall at any time.
But we will explain that further on as it is the last act of the drama.
When Yuan went to Tientsin as Viceroy of the metropolitan province he found there Dr.
C. D. Tenny, the president of the Tientsin University which had been begun by Li
Hung-chang some ten or a dozen years before. It had a good course of study and was turning
out a large number of young graduates for whom there ought to be a better future than that
of interpreters in the various business houses of that and other cities. He therefore
called Dr. Tenny to him and inquired particularly about the system of public school
education throughout the United States.
"What is to prevent our putting into operation such a system throughout this
province?" asked the Viceroy.
"Nothing," answered Dr. Tenny, "except to be willing to submit to the
"And what are those conditions?" asked His Excellency.
"They are that you open schools in every important town, place in them
well-educated, competent teachers, whom you are willing to pay a salary equal to what they
may reasonably expect to get if they enter business."
"May I ask if you would be willing to undertake the development of such a
system?" he asked further.
"On one condition," answered Dr. Tenny.
"And what is that?"
"That you allow me to open a school wherever I think there should be one, call my
teachers from whatsoever source I please to call them, pay them whatever salary I think
they deserve, sending all the bills to Your Excellency, and you pay them without
The Viceroy had known Dr. Tenny for years, had always had the most implicit confidence
both in his ability and his honesty, and so, lightening up his duties in the Tientsin and
Paotingfu Uni- versities, he commissioned him to establish what may be termed the first
public school system of education on modern lines in the whole empire. This one act, if he
had done no other, was reason enough for a wise regent to have continued him in office
even though he "had rheumatism of the leg." But it may be that there are
extenuating circumstances in this act of the Regent as we shall point out later.
There is one phase of the Boxer uprising that I have never yet seen properly
represented in any book or magazine. We all know how the ministers of the various European
governments with their wives and children, the customs officials, missionaries, business
men, and tourists who happened to be in Peking at the time, with all the Chinese
Christians, were confined in the British legation and Prince Su's palace. We know how they
barricaded their defense. We know how they were fired upon day and night for six weeks by
the Boxer leaders and the army of the conservatives under the leadership of their general,
Tung Fu-hsiang. But the thing which we do not know, or at least which has not been
adequately told, is the most interesting secret plot of the liberal progressives, under
the leadership of "Prince Ching and others," to thwart the Empress Dowager and
the Boxer leaders, the conservatives and their army, and protect the most noted company of
prisoners that have ever been confined in a legation quarter. The plot was this:
When Prince Ching and his progressive associates in Peking discovered that they could
not vote down the Boxer princes, they dared not openly oppose them, but they secretly
decided that the representatives of the Powers must not be massacred else the doom of
China was sealed. When they discovered that Yuan Shih-kai and the other great viceroys had
decided by stratagem to foil the Boxers even though they must set all the imperial edicts
at naught, they decided, for the sake of the protection of the legations and the
preservation of the empire, that they would do the same. They secretly sent supplies of
food to the besieged, which the latter feared to use lest they be poisoned. But more than
that they kept their own armies in Peking as a guard and as a final resort in case there
was danger of the legation being overcome, and as a matter of fact there were regular
pitched battles between the troops of Prince Ching and his associates and those of the
Boxer leader, Tung Fu-hsiang. Had the Boxers finally succeeded, Yuan Shih-kai and Prince
Ching and their associates would have lost their heads, but as the Boxers failed it was
they who went to their graves by the short process of the executioner's knife.
So Yuan was between two fires. He had disobeyed the commands of the Emperor in not
coming to Peking and had therefore incurred his displeasure and caused his downfall. He
had disobeyed the Empress Dowager in not putting to death the foreigners in his province,
and if the Boxers were successful he would surely lose his head on that account. The
Boxers, however, were not successful and as his disobedience had helped to save the
empire, Yuan, so long as the Dowager remained in power, was safe.
But a day of reckoning must inevitably come. The Empress Dowager was an old woman, the
Emperor was a young man. In all human probabilities she would be the first to die, while
his only hope was in her outliving the Emperor, who had sworn vengeance on all those who
had been instrumental in his imprisonment.
I have a friend in Peking who is also a friend of one of the greatest Chinese
officials. This official has gone into the palace daily for a dozen years past and knows
every plot and counterplot that has been hatched in that nest of seclusion during all that
time, though he has been implicated in none of them. He has held the highest positions in
the gift of the empire without ever once having been degraded. One day when he was in the
palace the Emperor unburdened his heart to him, thinking that what he said would never
reach the ears of his enemies.
"You have no idea," said the Emperor, "what I suffer here."
"Indeed?" was the only reply of the official.
"Yes," continued the Emperor, "I am not allowed to speak to any one from
outside. I am without power, without companions, and even the eunuchs act as though they
are under no obligations to respect me. The position of the lowest servant in the palace
is more desirable than mine." Then lowering his voice he continued, "But there
is a day of reckoning to come. The Empress Dowager cannot live forever, and if ever I get
my throne again I will see to it that those who put me here will suffer as I have
It is not unlikely that this conversation of the Emperor reached the ears of Yuan
Shih-kai. Walls have ears in China. Everything has ears, and every part of nature has a
tongue. If so, here was the occasion for the last plot in the drama of the Emperor's life,
and next to the last in the official life of Yuan Shih-kai.
The problem is to so manipulate the laws of nature as to prevent the Emperor outliving
the Empress Dowager, and not allow the world to know that you have been trifling with
occult forces. He must die a natural death, a death which is above suspicion. He must not
die one day after the Empress Dowager as that would create talk. And he ought to die some
time before her. The death fuse is one which often burns very much longer than we expect--
was it not one of the English kings who said "I fear I am a very long time a-dying,
gentlemen" --and sometimes it burns out sooner than is intended. There were two
imperial death fuses burning at the same time in that Forbidden City of Peking. The
Empress Dowager had "had a stroke." Hers was undoubtedly nature's own work. But
the enemies of Yuan Shih-kai tell us that the Emperor had "had a Chinese
doctor," to whom the great Viceroy paid $33,000 for his services. We are told that
the Empress Dowager in reality died first and then the Emperor, though the Emperor's death
was first announced, and the next day that of the Dowager.
What then are we to infer? That the Emperor was poisoned? Let it be so. That is what
the Japanese believed at the time. But who did it? Most assuredly no one man. One might
have employed a Chinese physician for him, but the last man whose physician the Emperor
would have accepted would have been Yuan Shih-kai's. Had you or I been ill would we have
allowed the man who was the cause of our fall to select our physician? But granted that
Yuan Shih-kai did employ his physician, and that his death was the result of slow
poisoning, could Yuan Shih-kai have so manipulated Prince Ching, the Regent (who is the
late Emperor's brother), the ladies of the court, and all those thousands of eunuchs, to
remain silent as to the death of the Empress Dowager until he had completed the slow
process on His Majesty? No! If the Emperor was poisoned--and the world believes he
was--there are a number of others whose skirts are as badly stained as those of the great
Viceroy, or long ere this his body would have been sent home a headless corpse instead of
with "rheumatism of the leg."
What then is the explanation? It may be this, that the court, and the officials as a
whole, felt that the Emperor was an unsafe person to resume the throne, and that it were
better that one man should perish than that the whole regime should be upset. They even
refused to allow a foreign physician to go in to see him, saying that of his own free will
he had turned again to the Chinese, all of which indicates that it was not the plot of any
Why then should Yuan Shih-kai have been made the scapegoat of the court and the
officials, and branded as a murderer in the face of the whole world? That may be another
plot. The radical reformers, followers of Kang Yu-wei, have been making such a hubbub
about the matter ever since the death of the Emperor and the Empress Dowager that somebody
had to be punished. They said that Yuan had been a traitor to the cause of reform, that he
had not only betrayed his sovereign in 1898, but that now he had encompassed his death.
Now to satisfy these enemies, the Prince Regent may have decided that the best thing to
do was to dismiss Yuan for a time. I think that the trivial excuse he gives for doing so
favours my theory--with "rheumatism of the leg," to which is added, "Thus
our clemency is manifest"--a sentence which may be severe or may mean nothing, and
when the storm has blown over and the sky is clear again, Yuan may be once more brought to
the front as Li Hung-chang and others have been in the past. Which is a consummation, I
think, devoutly to be wished.
XX Peking--The City of the
The position of Peking at the present time is one of peculiar interest, for all the
different forces that are now at work to make or mar China issue from, or converge
towards, the capital. There, on the dragon throne, beside, or rather above, the powerless
and unhappy Emperor, the father of his people and their god, sits the astute and
ever-watchful lady whose word is law to Emperor, minister and clown alike. There dwell the
heads of the government boards, the leaders of the Manchu aristocracy, and the great
political parties, the drafters of new constitutions and imperial decrees, and the
keen-witted diplomatists who know so well how to play against European antagonists the
great game of international chess. --R. F. Johnston in "From Peking to
XX PEKING--THE CITY OF THE COURT
In the place where Peking now stands there has been a city for three thousand years.
Five centuries before Christ it was the capital of a small state, but was destroyed three
centuries later by the builder of the great wall. It was soon rebuilt, however, and has
continued from that time until the present, with varied fortunes, as the capital of a
state, the chief city of a department, or the dwelling-place of the court.
It is the greatest and best preserved walled city in the empire, if not in the world.
The Tartar City is sixteen miles in circumference, surrounded by a wall sixty feet thick
at the bottom, fifty feet thick at the top and forty feet high, with six feet of
balustrade on the outside, beautifully crenelated and loopholed, and in a good state of
preservation. The streets are sixty feet wide,--or even more in places,--well macadamized,
and lit with electric light. The chief mode of conveyance is the 'ricksha, though
carriages may be hired by the week, day or hour at various livery stables in proximity to
the hotels, which, by the way, furnish as good accommodation to their guests as the hotels
of other Oriental cities.
In the centre of the Tartar City is the Imperial City, eight miles in circumference,
encircled by a wall six feet thick and fifteen feet high, pierced by four gates at the
points of the compass; and in the centre of this again is the Forbidden City, occupying
less than half a square mile, the home of the court.
Fairs are held, at various temples, fourteen days of every month, distributed in such a
way as to bring them almost on alternate days, while at certain times there are two fairs
on the same day. It is a mistake to suppose that the Chinese women in the capital are very
much secluded. They may be seen on the streets at almost any time, while the temple courts
and adjacent streets, on fair days, are crowded with women and girls, dressed in the most
gorgeous colours, their hair decorated with all kinds of artificial flowers, followed by
little boys and girls as gaily dressed as themselves. Here they find all kinds of toys,
curios, and articles of general use, from a top to a broom, from bits of jade or other
precious stones, to a snuff bottle hollowed out of a solid quartz crystal, or a market
basket or a dust-pan made of reeds.
Peking being the city of the court, and the headquarters of many of the greatest
officials, is the receptacle of the finest products of the oldest and greatest
non-Christian people the world has ever known. China easily leads the world in the making
of porcelain, the best of which has always gone to Peking for use in the palace, and so we
can find here the best products of every reign from the time of Kang Hsi, as well as those
of the former dynasties, to that of Kuang Hsu and the Empress Dowager. The same is true of
her brass and bronze incense-burners and images, her wood and ivory carvings, her
beautiful embroideries, her magnificent tapestries, and her paintings by old masters of
six or eight hundred years ago. Here we can find the finest Oriental rugs, in a good state
of preservation, with the "tone' that only age can give, made long before the time of
There is no better market for fine bits of embroidery, mandarin coats, and all the
better products of needle, silk and floss, of which the Chinese have been masters for
centuries, than the city of the court. The population consists largely of great officials
and their families, whose cast-off clothing, toned down by the use of years, often without
a blemish or a spot, finds its way into the hands of dealers. The finest furs,--seal,
otter, squirrel, sable and ermine,--are brought from Siberia, Manchuria and elsewhere, for
the officials and the court, and can be secured for less than half what they would cost in
America. Pearls, of which the Chinese ladies and the court are more fond than of diamonds,
may be found in abundance in all the bazars, which are many, and judging from the way they
are purchased by tourists, are both cheaper and better than elsewhere.
The Chinese have little appreciation of diamonds as jewelry. On one occasion there was
offered to me a beautiful ring containing a large sapphire encircled by twenty diamonds.
When I offered the dealer less than he asked for it, he said: "No, rather than sell
it for that price, I will tear it apart, and sell the diamonds separately for drill-points
to the tinkers who mend dishes. I can make more from it in that way, only I dislike to
spoil the ring." The Empress Dowager during her late years, and many of the ladies
and gentlemen of the more progressive type, affected, whether genuinely or not, an
appreciation of the diamond as a piece of jewelry, especially in the form of rings, though
coloured stones, polished, but not cut, have always been more popular with the Chinese.
The turquoise, the emerald, the sapphire, the ruby and the other precious stones with
colour have, therefore, always graced the tables of the bazars in the capital, while the
diamond until very recently was relegated to the point of the tinker's drill.
There is another method of bringing bits of their ancient handiwork to the capital
which most of those living in Peking, even, know nothing about. A company, whose
headquarters is at an inn, called the Hsing Lung Tien, sends agents all over the empire,
to purchase and bring to them everything in the nature of a curio, whether porcelain,
painting, embroidery, pottery or even an ancient tile or inkstone, which they then, at
public auction, sell to the dealers. The sale is at noon each day. The first time I
visited it was with a friend from Iowa who was anxious to get some unique bits of
porcelain. The auctioneer does not "cry" the wares. Neither buyer nor seller
says a word. Nobody knows what anybody else has offered. The goods are passed out of a
closed room from a high window where the crowd can see them, and then each one wanting
them tries to be first in securing the hand of the auctioneer, which is ensconced in his
long sleeve, where, by squeezing his fingers, they tell him how much they will give for
the particular piece. It is the only real case of "talking in the sleeve' I have ever
seen, and each piece is sold to the first person offering a fair profit on the money
invested, though he might get much more by allowing them to bid against each other.
Among the attractive sights in Peking, none are quite so interesting as the places
where His Majesty worships, and of these the most beautiful in architecture, the grandest
in conception, and the one laid out on the most magnificent scale, is the Temple of
Think of six hundred and forty acres of valuable city property being set aside for the
grounds of a single temple, as compared with the way our own great churches are crowded
into small city lots of scarcely as many square feet, and over-shadowed by great business
blocks costing a hundred times as much, and we can get some conception of the magnificence
of the scale on which this temple is laid out. A large part of the grounds is covered with
cedars, many of which are not less than five hundred years old, while other parts are used
to pasture a flock of black cattle from which they select the sacrifice for a burnt
offering. The grounds are not well kept like those of our own parks and churches, but the
original conception of a temple on such a large scale is worthy of a great people.
The worship at this temple is the most important of all the religious observances of
the empire, and constitutes a most interesting remnant of the ancient monotheistic cultus
which prevailed in China before the rationalism of Confucius and the polytheistic
superstition of Buddhism predominated among the people. While the ceremonies of the
sacrifices are very complicated, they are kept with the strictest severity. The chief of
these is at the winter solstice. On December 21st the Emperor goes in a sedan chair,
covered with yellow silk, and carried by thirty-two men, preceded by a band of musicians,
and followed by an immense retinue of princes and officials on horseback. He first goes to
the tablet-chapel, where he offers incense to Shang Ti, the God above, and to his
ancestors, with three kneelings and nine prostrations. Then going to the great altar he
inspects the offerings, after which he repairs to the Palace of Abstinence, where he
spends the night in fasting and prayer. The next morning at 5:45 A. M. he dons his
sacrificial robes, proceeds to the open altar, where he kneels and burns incense, offers a
prayer to Shang Ti, and incense to his ancestors whose shrines and tablets are arranged on
the northeast and northwest portions of the altar.
There are two altars in the temple, a quarter of a mile apart, the covered and the open
altar, and this latter is one of the grandest religious conceptions of the human mind. It
is a triple circular marble terrace, 210 feet wide at the base, 150 feet in the middle,
and ninety feet at the top, ascended at the points of the compass by three flights of nine
steps each. A circular stone is in the centre of the top, around which are nine stones in
the first circle, eighteen in the second, twenty-seven in the third, etc., and eighty-one
in the ninth, or last circle. The Emperor kneels on the circular stone, surrounded by the
circles of stones, then by the circles of the terraces, and finally by the horizon, and
thus seems to himself and his retinue to be in the centre of the universe, his only walls
being the skies, and his only covering, the shining dome.
There are no images of any kind connected with the temple or the worship, the only
offerings being a bullock, the various productions of the soil, and a cylindrical piece of
jade about a foot long, formerly used as a symbol of sovereignty. Twelve bundles of cloth
are offered to Heaven, and only one to each of the emperors, and to the sun and moon. The
bullocks must be two years old, the best of their kind, without blemish, and while they
were formerly killed by the Emperor they are now slaughtered by an official appointed for
The covered altar is, I think, the most beautiful piece of architecture in China. It is
smaller than the one already described but has erected upon it a lofty, circular
triple-roofed temple ninety-nine feet in height, roofed with blue tiles, the eaves painted
in brilliant colours and protected from the birds by a wire netting. In the centre,
immediately in front of the altar, is a circular stone, as in the open altar. The ceiling
is covered with gilded dragons in high relief, and the whole is supported by immense
pillars. It was this building that was struck by lightning in 1890, but it was restored
during the ten years that followed. Being made the camp of the British during the
occupation of 1900, it received some small injuries from curio seekers, but none of any
consequence. The Sikh soldiers who died during this period were cremated in the furnace
connected with the open altar.
The Chinese have been an agricultural people for thirty centuries or more, and this
characteristic is embodied in the Temple of Agriculture, which occupies a park of not less
than three hundred and twenty acres of city property opposite the Temple of Heaven. It has
four great altars, with their adjacent halls, to the spirits of Heaven, Earth, the Year,
and the Ancestral Husbandman, Shen Nung, to whom the temple is dedicated. It was used as
the camp of the American soldiers in 1900, and was well cared for. At one time some of the
soldiers upset one of the urns, and when it was reported to the officer in command, the
whole company was called out and the urn properly replaced, after which the men were
lectured on the matter of injuring any property belonging to the temple.
There are several large plots of ground in this enclosure, one of which the Emperor
ploughs, while another is marked "City Magistrate," another "Prefect,"
and on these bits of land the "five kinds of grain" are sown. One cannot view
these imperial temples without being impressed with the potential greatness of a people
who do things on such a magnificent scale. But one, at the same time, also feels that
these temples, and the great Oriental religions which inspire and support them have failed
in a measure to accomplish their design, which ought to be to educate and develop the
people. This they can hardly be said to have done, especially if we consider their
condition in their lack of all phases of scientific development, for as the sciences stand
to-day they are all the product of the Christian peoples.
There are three other imperial temples on the same large scale as those just described.
The Temple of the Sun east of the city, that of the Moon on the west, and that of the
Earth on the north, though it must be confessed that the worship at these has been allowed
to lapse. In the Tartar City there are two others, the Lama Temple and the Confucian
Temple, in the former of which there is a statue of Buddha seventy-five feet high, and
from thirteen to fifteen hundred priests who worship daily at his shrine. This statue is
made of stucco, over a framework, and not of wood as some have told us, and as the guide
will assure us at the present day. One can ascend to a level with its head by several
flights of stairs, where a lamp is lit when the Emperor visits the temple. In the east
wing of this same building is a prayer-wheel, which reaches up through several successive
stories, and is kept in motion while the Emperor is present.
In the east side buildings there are a few interesting, though in some cases very
disgusting idols, such for instance as those illustrating the creation, but over these
draperies have been thrown during recent years, which make them a trifle more respectable.
The temple is very imposing. At the entrance there are two large arches covered with
yellow tiles, from which a broad paved court leads to the front gate, on the two sides of
which are the residences of the Lamas or Mongol priests. At the hour of prayer, which is
about nine o'clock, they may be seen going in crowds, clothed in yellow robes, to the
various halls of worship where they chant their prayers.
Very different from this is the Confucian Temple only a quarter of a mile away. Here we
find neither priest nor idol--nothing but a small board tablet to "Confucius, the
teacher of ten thousand ages" with those of his most faithful and worthy disciples.
In the court on each side are rows of buildings--that on the east containing the tablets
of seventy-eight virtuous men; that on the west the tablets of fifty-four learned men;
eighty-six of these were pupils of the Sage, while the remainder were men who accepted his
teachings. No Taoists, however learned; no Buddhists, however pure; no original thinkers,
however great may have been their following, are allowed a place here. It is a Temple of
Fame for Confucianists alone.
I have been in this temple when a whole bullock, the skin and entrails having been
removed, was kneeling upon a table facing the tablet of the Sage, while sheep and pigs
were similarly arranged facing the tablets of his disciples.
For twenty-four centuries China has had Taoism preached within her dominions; for
twenty-three centuries she has worshipped at the shrine of Confucius; for eighteen
centuries she has had Buddhism, and for twelve centuries Mohammedanism: and during all
this time if we believe the statements of her own people, she has slept. Does it not
therefore seem significant, that less than a century after the Gospel of Jesus Christ had
been preached to her people, and the Bible circulated freely throughout her dominions, she
opened her court to the world, began to build railroads, open mines, erect educational
institutions, adopt the telegraph and the telephone, and step into line with the
industrial methods of the most progressive nations of the Western world?
XXI The Death
of Kuang Hsu and the Empress Dowager
Who knows whether the Dowager Empress will ever repose in the magnificent tomb she has
built for herself at such a cost, or whether a new dynasty may not rifle its riches to
embellish its own? Tze-Hsi is growing old! According to nature's immutable law her
faculties must soon fail her; her iron will must bend and her far-seeing eye grow dim, and
after her who will resist the tide of foreign aggression and stem the torrent of inward
revolt? --Lady Susan Townley in "My Chinese Note Book."
XXI THE DEATH OF KUANG HSU AND THE EMPRESS DOWAGER
During mid-November of 1908 the Forbidden City of Peking was a blind stage before which
an expectant world sat as an audience. It had not long to wait, for on the fifteenth and
sixteenth it learned that Kuang Hsu and the Empress Dowager, less than twenty-four hours
apart, had taken "the fairy ride and ascended upon the dragon to be guests on
high." The world looked on in awe. It expected a demonstration if not a revolution
but nothing of the kind happened. But on the other hand one of the most difficult
diplomatic problems of her history was solved in a quiet and peaceable, if not a
statesman-like way, by the aged Dowager and her officials, and China once more had upon
her throne an emperor, though only a child, about whose succession there was no question.
And all this was done with less commotion than is caused by the election of a mayor in New
York or Chicago, which may or may not be to the credit of an absolute monarchy over a
republican form of government.
The world has speculated a good deal as to what happened in the Forbidden City of
Peking during the early half of November. Will the curious world ever know? Whether it
will or not remains for the future to determine. We have, however, the edicts issued to
the foreign legations at Peking and with these at the present we must be content. From
them we learn that it was the Empress Dowager and not Kuang Hsu who appointed Prince Chun
as Regent, and that this appointment was made--or at least announced--twenty-four hours
before the death of the Emperor.
On the thirteenth of November the foreign diplomatic representatives received the
following edict from the great Dowager through the regular channel of the Foreign Office
of which Prince Ching was the president:
"It is the excellent will of Tze-hsi-kuan-yu-k'ang-
i-chao-yu-chuang-ch'eng-shou-kung-ch'in-hsien-chung-hsi, the great Empress Dowager that
Tsai Feng, Prince of Chun, be appointed Prince Regent (She Chang-wang)."
The above edict was soon followed by another which stated that "Pu I, the son of
Tsai Feng, should be reared in the palace and taught in the imperial schoolroom," an
indication that he was to be the next emperor, and that Tsai Feng and not Kuang Hsu was to
occupy the throne, and all this by the "excellent will" of the Empress Dowager.
On the morning of the fourteenth the following edict came from the Emperor himself:
"From the beginning of August of last year, our health has been poor. We formerly
ordered the Tartar generals, viceroys, and governors of every province to recommend
physicians of ability. Thereupon the viceroys of Chihli, the Liang Kiang, Hu Kiang,
Kiangsu and Chekiang recommended and sent forward Chen Ping-chun, Tsao Yuen-wang, Lu
Yung-ping, Chow Ching-tao, Tu Chung-chun, Shih Huan, and Chang Pang-nien, who came to
Peking and treated us. But their prescriptions have given no relief. Now the negative and
positive elements (Yin-Yang) are both failing. There are ailments both external and
internal, and the breath is stopped up, the stomach rebellious, the back and legs painful,
appetite failing. On moving, the breath fails and there is coughing and panting. Besides,
we have chills and fever, cannot sleep, and experience a general failure of bodily
strength which is hard to bear.
"Our heart is very impatient and now the Tartar generals, viceroys, and governors
of every province are ordered to select capable physicians, regardless of the official
rank, and to send them quickly to Peking to await summons to give medical aid. If any can
show beneficial results he will receive extraordinary rewards, and the Tartar generals,
viceroys, and governors who recommend them will receive special grace. Let this be
This was followed on the same day by the following edict:
"Inasmuch as the Emperor Tung Chih had no issue, on the fifth day of the twelfth
moon of that reign (January 12, 1875) an edict was promulgated to the effect that if the
late Emperor Kuang Hsu should have a son, the said prince should carry on the succession
as the heir of Tung Chih. But now the late Emperor has ascended upon the dragon to be a
guest on high, leaving no son, and there is no course open but to appoint Pu I, the son of
Tsai Feng, the Prince Regent, as the successor to Tung Chih and also as heir to the
Emperor Kuang Hsu."
The next day--the fifteenth--another edict, purporting to come from little Pu I, but
transcribed by Prince Ching, was sent out to the diplomatic body and to the world. It is
"I have the honour to inform Your Excellency that on the 21st day of the 10th moon
[Nov. 14, 1908] at the yu-ke [5-7 P. M.] the late Emperor ascended on the dragon to be a
guest on high. We have received the command of Tze-hsi, etc., the Great Empress Dowager to
enter on the succession as Emperor. We lamented to Earth and Heaven. We stretched out our
hands, wailing our insufficiency. Prostrate we reflect on how the late Emperor occupied
the Imperial Throne for thirty-four years, reverently following the customs of his
ancestors, receiving the gracious instruction of the Empress Dowager, exerting himself to
the utmost, not failing one day to revere Heaven and observe the laws of his ancestors,
devoting himself with diligence to the affairs of government and loving the people,
appointing the virtuous to office, changing the laws of the land to make the country
powerful, considering new methods of government which arouse the admiration of both
Chinese and foreigners. All who have blood and breath cannot but mourn and be moved to the
extreme point. We weep tears of blood and beat upon our heart. How can we bear to express
"But we think upon our heavy responsibility and our weakness, and we must depend
upon the great and small civil and military officials of Peking and the provinces to show
public spirit and patriotism, and aid in the government. The viceroys and governors should
harmonize the people and arrange carefully methods of government to comfort the spirit of
the late Emperor in heaven. This is our earnest expectation."
On the sixteenth day of November, three days after she had appointed the regent, and
two days after she had appointed Pu I, the diplomatic representatives received the
following from Prince Ching:
"I have the honour to inform Your Excellency that we have reverently received the
following testamentary statement of Her Imperial Majesty Tze-hsi, etc., the Great Empress
" 'Although of scanty merit, I received the command of His Majesty the Emperor Wen
Tsung-hsien (the posthumous title of Hsien Feng) to occupy a throne prepared for me in the
palace. When the Emperor Mu Tsung I (Tung Chih) as a child succeeded to the throne,
violence and confusion prevailed. It was a critical period of suppression by force.
"Long-hairs" (Tai-ping rebels) and the "twisted turbans" (Nien Fei)
were in rebellion. The Mohammedans and the aborigines had commenced to make trouble. There
were many disturbances along the seacoast. The people were destitute. Ulcers and sores met
the eye on every side. Cooperating with the Empress Dowager Hsiao Chen-hsien, I supported
and taught the Emperor and toiled day and night. According to the instructions contained
in the testamentary counsels of the Emperor Wen Tsung-hsien (Hsien Feng) I urged on the
officials of Peking and the provinces and all the military commanders, determining the
policy to be followed, diligently searching the right way of governing, choosing the
upright for official positions, rescuing from calamity and pitying the people, and so
obtained the protection of Heaven, gaining peace and tranquillity instead of distress and
danger. Then the Emperor Mu Tsung I (Tung Chih) departed this life and the late Emperor
succeeded to the throne. The times became still harder and the people in still greater
straits, sorrow within and calamity without, confusion and noise; I had no recourse but to
give instruction in government once more.
" 'The year before last the preparatory measures for the institution of
constitutional government were published. This year the time limits for the measures
preparatory to constitutional government have been promulgated. Attending to these myriad
affairs the strength of my heart has been exhausted. Fortunately my constitution was
originally strong and up to the present I have stood the strain. Unexpectedly from the
summer and autumn of this year I have been ill and have not been able to assist in the
multitudinous affairs of government with tranquillity. Appetite and the power to sleep
have gone. This has continued for a long time until my strength is exhausted and I have
not dared to rest for even a day. On the 21st of this moon [November 14th] came the sorrow
of the death of the late Emperor, and I was unable to control myself, so that my illness
increased till I was unable to rise from my bed. I look back upon our fifty years of
sorrow and trouble. I have been continually in a state of high tension without a moment's
respite. Now a reform in the method of government has been commenced and there begins to
be a clue to follow. The Emperor now succeeding to the throne is in his infancy. All
depends upon his instruction and guidance. The Prince Regent and all the officials of
Peking and the provinces should exert themselves to strengthen the foundations of our
empire. Let the Emperor now succeedings to the throne make his country's affairs of first
importance and moderate his sorrow, diligently attending to his studies so that he may in
future illustrate the instruction which he has received. This is my devout hope. Let the
mourning period be for twenty-seven days only. Let this be proclaimed to the empire that
all may know.' "
Still one more edict was necessary to complete this remarkable list, and this was sent
to the legations on the 17th of November. It is as follows:
"I have the honour to inform Your Excellency that on the 22d of the moon [November
15, 1908] I reverently received the following edict:
"We received in our early childhood the love and care of Tze-hsi, etc., the Great
Empress Dowager. Our gratitude is boundless. We have received the command to succeed to
the throne and we fully expected that the gentle Empress Dowager would be vigorous and
reach a hundred years so that we might be cherished and made glad and reverently receive
her instructions so that our government might be established and the state made firm. But
her toil by day and night gradually weakened her. Medicine was constantly administered in
the hope that she might recover. Contrary to our hopes, on the 21st day of the moon
[November 14th] at the wei-k'o [1-3 P.M.] she took the fairy ride and ascended to the far
country. We cried out and mourned how frantically! We learn from her testamentary
statement that the period of full mourning is to be limited to twenty-seven days. We
certainly cannot be satisfied with this. Full mourning must be worn for one hundred days
and half mourning for twenty-seven months, by which our grief may be partly expressed. The
order to restrain grief so that the affairs of the empire may be of first importance we
dare not disregard, as it is her parting command. We will strive to be temperate so as to
comfort the spirit of the late Empress in Heaven."
We call attention to the fact that according to the fourth of these edicts the death of
the Emperor is put at from 5 to 7 P. M on the evening of the 14th of November, while that
of the Empress Dowager is from 1 to 3 P. M. of the same day at least two hours earlier,
and that in her last edict she is made to speak of the death of Kuang Hsu. Whether these
dates have become mixed in crossing to America we have not been able to ascertain, though
we think it more than likely that her death occurred on November 15th instead of the 14th.
XXII The Court and the New
Abolish the eight-legged essay. Let the new learning be the test of scholarship, but
include the classics, history, geography and government of China in the examinations. The
true essay will then come out. If so desired, the eight-legged essay can be studied at
home; but why trouble the school with them, and at the same time waste time and strength
that can be expended in something more profitable? --Chang Chih-tung in "Chinas Only
XXII THE COURT AND THE NEW EDUCATION
The changes in the attitude of the court towards a new educational system began, as do
many great undertakings, in a very simple way. We have already shown how the eunuchs
secured all kinds of foreign mechanical toys to entertain the baby Emperor Kuang Hsu; how
these were supplemented in his boyhood by ingenious clocks and watches; how he became
interested in the telegraph, the telephone, steam cars, steamboats, electric light and
steam heat, and how he had them first brought into the palace and then established
throughout the empire: and how he had the phonograph, graphophone, cinematograph, bicycle,
and indeed all the useful and unique inventions of modern times brought in for his
He then began the study of English. When in 1894 a New Testament was sent to the
Empress Dowager on the occasion of her sixtieth birthday, he at once secured from the
American Bible Society a copy of the complete Bible for himself. He began studying the
Gospel of Luke. This gave him a taste for foreign literature and he sent his eunuchs to
the various book depositories and bought every book that had been translated from the
European languages into the Chinese. To these he bent all his energies and it soon became
noised abroad that the Emperor was studying foreign books and was about to embrace the
Christian faith. This continued from 1894 till 1898, during which time his example was
followed by tens of thousands of young Chinese scholars throughout the empire, and Chang
Chih-tung wrote his epoch-making book "China's Only Hope" which, being sent to
the young Emperor, led him to enter upon a universal reform, the chief feature of which
may be considered the adoption of a new educational system.
But now let us notice the animus of Kuang Hsu. He has been praised without stint for
his leaning towards foreign affairs, when in reality was it not simply an effort on the
part of the young man to make China strong enough to resist the incursions of the European
powers? Germany had taken Kiaochou, Russia had taken Port Arthur, Japan had taken Formosa,
Great Britain had taken Weihaiwei, France had taken Kuangchouwan, and even Italy was
anxious to have a slice of his territory, while all the English papers in the port cities
were talking of China being divided up amongst the Powers, and it was these things which
led the Emperor to enter upon his work of reform.
In the summer of 1898 therefore he sent out an edict to the effect that:
"Our scholars are now without solid and practical education; our artisans are
without scientific instructors; when compared with other countries WE SOON SEE HOW WEAK WE
ARE. DOES ANY ONE THINK THAT OUR TROOPS ARE AS WELL DRILLED OR AS WELL LED AS THOSE OF THE
FOREIGN ARMIES? OR THAT WE CAN SUCCESSFULLY STAND AGAINST THEM? Changes must be made to
accord with the necessities of the times. . . . Keeping in mind the morals of the sages
and wise men, we must make them the basis on which to build newer and better structures.
WE MUST SUBSTITUTE MODERN ARMS AND WESTERN ORGANIZATION FOR OUR OLD REGIME; WE MUST SELECT
OUR MILITARY OFFICERS ACCORDING TO WESTERN METHODS OF MILITARY EDUCATION; we must
establish elementary and high schools, colleges and universities, in accordance with those
of foreign countries; we must abolish the Wen-chang (literary essay) and obtain a
knowledge of ancient and modern world-history, a right conception of the present-day state
of affairs, with special reference to the governments and institutions of the countries of
the five great continents; and we must understand their arts and sciences."
The effect of this edict was to cause hundreds of thousands of young aspirants for
office to put aside the classics and unite in establishing reform clubs in many of the
provincial capitals, open ports, and prefectural cities. Book depots were opened for the
sale of the same kind of literature the Emperor had been studying, magazines and
newspapers were issued and circulated in great numbers, lectures were delivered and
libraries established, and students flocked to the mission schools ready to study anything
the course contained, literary, scientific or religious. Christians and pastors were even
invited into the palace by the eunuchs to dine with and instruct them. But the matter that
gave the deepest concern to the boy in the palace was: "How can we so strengthen
ourselves that we will be able to resist the White Peril from Europe?"
Among the important edicts issued in the establishment of the new education was the one
of June 11, 1898, in which he ordered that "a great central university be established
at Peking," the funds for which were provided by the government. Among other things
he said: "Let all take advantage of the opportunities for the new education thus open
to them, so that in time we may have many who will be competent to help us in the
stupendous task of putting our country on a level with the strongest of the western
powers." It was not wisdom the young man was after for the sake of wisdom, but he
wanted knowledge because knowledge was power, and at that time it was the particular kind
of power that was necessary to save China from utter destruction.
On the 26th of the same month he censured the princes and ministers who were lax in
reporting upon this edict, and ordered them to do so at once, and it was not long until a
favourable report was given and, for the first time in the history of the empire, a great
university was launched by the government, destined, may we not hope, to accomplish the
end the ambitious boy Emperor had in view.
Kuang Hsu was aware that a single institution was not sufficient to accomplish that
end. On July 10th therefore he ordered that "schools and colleges be established in
all the provincial capitals, prefectoral, departmental and district cities, and allowed
the viceroys and governors but two months to report upon the number of colleges and free
schools within their provinces," saying that "all must be changed into practical
schools for the teaching of Chinese literature, and Western learning and become feeders to
the Peking Imperial University." He ordered further that all memorial and other
temples that had been erected by the people but which were not recorded in the list of the
Board of Rites or of Sacrificial Worship, were to be turned into schools and colleges for
the propagation of Western learning, a thought which was quite in harmony with that
advocated by Chang Chih- tung. The funds for carrying on this work, and the establishment
of these schools, were to be provided for by the China Merchants' Steamship Company, the
Telegraph Company and the Lottery at Canton.
On August 4th he ordered that numerous preparatory schools be established in Peking as
special feeders to the university; and on the 9th appointed Dr. W. A. P. Martin as Head of
the Faculty and approved the site suggested for the university by Sun Chia-nai, the
president. On the 16th he authorized the establishment of a Bureau for "translating
into Chinese Western works on science, arts and literature, and textbooks for use in
schools and colleges"; and on the 19th he abolished the "Palace examinations for
Hanlins as useless, superficial and obsolete," thus severing the last cord that bound
them to the old regime.
What, now, was the Empress Dowager doing while Kuang Hsu was issuing all these reform
edicts, which, we are told, were so contrary to all her reactionary principles? Why did
she not stretch forth her hand and prevent them? She was spending the hot months at the
Summer Palace, fifteen miles away, without offering either advice, objection or hindrance,
and it was not until two delegations of officials and princes had appeared before her and
plead with her to come and take control of affairs and thus save them from being ousted or
beheaded, and herself from imprisonment, did she consent to come. By thus taking the
throne she virtually placed herself in the hands of the conservative party, and all his
reform measures, except that of the Peking University and provincial schools, were, for
the time, countermanded, and the Boxers were allowed to test their strength with the
Passing over the two bad years of the Empress Dowager, which we have treated in another
chapter, we find her again, after the failure of the Boxer uprising, and the return of the
court to Peking, reissuing the same style of edicts that had gone out from the pen of
Kuang Hsu. On August 29, 1901, she ordered "the abolition of essays on the Chinese
classics in examinations for literary degrees, and substituted therefor essays and
articles on some phase of modern affairs, Western laws or political economy. This same
procedure is to be followed in examination of candidates for office."
And now notice another phase of this same edict. "The old methods of gaining
military degrees by trial of strength with stone weights, agility with the sword, or
marksmanship with the bow on foot or on horseback, ARE OF NO USE TO MEN IN THE ARMY, WHERE
STRATEGY AND MILITARY SCIENCE ARE THE SINE QUA NON TO OFFICE, and hence they should be
done away with forever." It is, as it was with Kuang Hsu, the strengthening of the
army she has in mind in her first efforts at reform, that she may be able to back up with
war-ships and cannon, if necessary, her refusal to allow Italy or any other European power
to filch, without reason or excuse, the territory of her ancestors.
September 12, 1901, she issued another edict commanding that "all the colleges in
the empire should be turned into schools of Western learning; each provincial capital
should have a university like that in Peking, whilst all the schools in the prefectures
and districts are to be schools or colleges of the second or third class," neither
more nor less than a restatement of the edict of July 10, 1898, as issued by the deposed
Emperor, except that she confined it to the schools without taking the temples.
September 17, 1901, she ordered "the viceroys and governors of other provinces to
follow the example of Liu Kun-yi of Liang Kiang, Chang Chih-tung of Hukuang, and Kuei Chun
(Manchu) of Szechuan, in sending young men of scholastic promise abroad to study any
branch of Western science or art best suited to their tastes, that in time they may return
to China and place the fruits of their knowledge at the service of the empire." Such
were some of the edicts issued by the Emperor and the Empress Dowager in their efforts to
launch this new system of education which was to transform the old China into a strong and
sturdy youth. What now were the results?
The Imperial College in Shansi was opened with 300 students all of whom had already
taken the Chinese degree of Bachelor of Arts. It had both Chinese and foreign departments,
and after the students had completed the first, they were allowed to pass on to the
second, which had six foreign professors who held diplomas from Western colleges or
universities, and a staff of six translators of university textbooks into Chinese,
superintended by a foreigner. In 1901-2 ten provinces, under the wise leadership of the
Empress Dowager, opened colleges for the support of which they raised not less than
The following are some of the questions given at the triennial examinations of these
two years in six southern provinces:
1. "As Chinese and Western laws differ, and Western people will not submit to
Chinese punishments, what ought to be done that China, like other nations, may be mistress
in her own country?"
2. "What are the Western sources of economic prosperity, and as China is now so
poor, what should she do?"
3. "According to international law has any one a right to interfere with the
internal affairs of any foreign country?"
4. "State the advantages of constructing railways in Shantung."
5. "Of what importance is the study of chemistry to the agriculturist?"
While Yuan Shih-kai was Governor of Shantung he induced Dr. W. M. Hayes to resign the
presidency of the Presbyterian College at Teng Choufu and accept the presidency of the new
government college at Chinanfu the capital of the province. Dr. Hayes drew up a working
plan of grammar and high schools for Shantung which were to be feeders to this provincial
college. This was approved by the Governor, and embodied in a memorial to the throne,
copies of which the Empress Dowager sent to the governors and viceroys of all the
provinces declaring it to be a law, and ordering the "viceroys, governors and
literary chancellors to see that it was obeyed."
Dr. Hayes and Yuan Shih-kai soon split upon a regulation which the Governor thought it
best to introduce, viz., "That the Chinese professors shall, on the first and
fifteenth of each month, conduct their classes in reverential sacrifice to the Most Holy
Confucius, and to all the former worthies and scholars of the provinces." Dr. Hayes
and his Christian teachers withdrew, and it was not long until those who professed
Christianity were excused from this rite, while the Christian physicians who taught in the
Peking Imperial University were allowed to dispense with the queue and wear foreign
clothes, as being both more convenient and more sanitary.
When Governor Yuan was made viceroy of Chihli, he requested Dr. C. D. Tenny to draw up
and put into operation a similar schedule for the metropolitan province. This was done on
a very much enlarged scale, and at present (1909) "the Chihli province alone has nine
thousand schools, all of which are aiming at Western education; while in the empire as a
whole there are not less than forty thousand schools, colleges and universities,"
representing one phase of the educational changes that have been brought about in China
during the last dozen years.
The changes in the new education among women promise to be even more sweeping than
those among men. Dr. Martin, expressing the sentiments then in vogue, said, as far back as
1877, "that not one in ten thousand women could read." In 1893 I began studying
the subject, and was led at once to doubt the statement. The Chinese in an offhand way
will agree with Dr. Martin. But I found that it was a Chinese woman who wrote the first
book that was ever written in any language for the instruction of girls, and that the
Chinese for many years have had "Four Books for Girls" corresponding to the
"Four Books" of the old regime, and that they were printed in large editions,
and have been read by the better class of people in almost every family. In every company
of women that came to call on my wife from 1894 to 1900, there was at least one if not
more who had read these books, while the Empress Dowager herself was a brilliant example
of what a woman of the old regime could do. Where the desire for education was so great
among women, that as soon as it became possible to do so, she launched the first woman's
daily newspaper that was published anywhere in the world, with a woman as an editor, we
may be sure that there was more than one in ten thousand during the old regime that could
read. What therefore may we expect in this new regime where women are ready to sacrifice
their lives rather than that the school which they are undertaking to establish shall be a
End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of Court Life in China
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