Court Life in China
Isaac Taylor Headland

Part 1 out of 5

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Court Life in China: The Capital Its Officials and People.

The Chinese Boy and Girl

Chinese Mother Goose Rhymes


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.




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."



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 assent.

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.


The 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.



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 wake.

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 enemy.'

" 'But, Yin-ma, did you ever see any of these paper images
transformed into soldiers?'

" '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

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 learned:

"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

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 the pupil.

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

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

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.


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 Convulsion."



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

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 faithful nurse.

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."


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.



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

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,

"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 compulsion"!

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 troubles."

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 already referred.

"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 the

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
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.


The Empress Dowager--As a Reformer

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."



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

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

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

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 ungrateful."

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

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

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

"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

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 political

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.


The Empress Dowager--As an Artist

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."



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 remarked:

"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 explained.

"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 gotten."

"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

"And these are really the work of Her Majesty?" said Mrs.
Headland with a rising inflection.

"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

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 mercy!"

"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

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

"Who would do it?" was his counter question.


The Empress Dowager--As a Woman

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.



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

"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 guests.

"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:


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