Court Life in China
Isaac Taylor Headland
Part 3 out of 5
itself to any one outside of that mysterious Forbidden City, or
the equally mysterious spectres that come and go through its
half-open gates in the darkness of the early morning. There are
three parties to whom it may have come again and again, and to
whom we may perhaps be indebted both for the problem and the
When the deaths of both of their Imperial Majesties were
announced at the same time, the news also came that the Japanese
suspected that there had been foul play. With them, however, it
was only suspicion; none of them, so far as I know, ever
undertook to analyze the matter or unravel the mystery. There is
no doubt a reasonable explanation, but we must go for it to the
Forbidden City, the most mysterious royal dwelling in the world,
where white men have never gone except by invitation from the
throne, save on one occasion.
In 1901, while the court was in hiding at Hsianfu, the city to
which they fled when the allies entered Peking, the western half
of the Forbidden City was thrown open to the public, the only
condition being that said public have a certificate which would
serve as a pass to the American boys in blue who guarded the Wu
men, or front gate. I was fortunate enough to have that pass.
My first move was to get a Chinese photographer--the best I
could find in the city--to go with me and take pictures of
everything I wanted as well as anything else that suited his
The city of Peking is regularly laid out. Towards the south is
the Chinese city, fifteen miles in circumference. To the north is
a square, four miles on each side, and containing sixteen square
miles. In the centre of this square, enclosed by a beautifully
crenelated wall thirty feet thick at the bottom, twenty feet
thick at the top and twenty-five feet high, surrounded by a moat
one hundred feet wide, is the Forbidden City, occupying less than
one-half a square mile. In this city there dwells but one male
human being, the Emperor, who is called the "solitary man."
There is a gate in the centre of each of the four sides, that on
the south, the Wu men, being the front gate, through which the
Emperor alone is allowed to pass. The back gate, guarded by the
Japanese during the occupation, is for the Empress Dowager, the
Empress and the women of the court, while the side gates are for
the officials, merchants or others who may have business in the
Through the centre of this city, from south to north, is a
passageway about three hundred feet wide, across which, at
intervals of two hundred yards, they have erected large
buildings, such as the imperial examination hall, the hall in
which the Emperor receives his bride, the imperial library, the
imperial kitchen, and others of a like nature, all covered with
yellow titles, and known to tourists, who see them from the
Tartar City wall, as the palace buildings. These, however, are
not the buildings in which the royal family live. They are the
places where for the past five hundred years all those great
diplomatic measures--and dark deeds--of the Chinese emperors and
their great officials have been transacted between midnight and
If you will go with me at midnight to the great gate which leads
from the Tartar to the Chinese city--the Chien men--you will hear
the wailing creak of its hinges as it swings open, and in a few
moments the air will be filled with the rumbling of carts and the
clatter of the feet of the mules on the stone pavement, as they
take the officials into the audiences with their ruler. If you
will remain with me there till a little before daylight you will
see them, like silent spectres, sitting tailor-fashion on the
bottom of their springless carts, returning to their homes, but
you will ask in vain for any information as to the business they
have transacted. "They love darkness rather than light," not
perhaps "because their deeds are evil," but because it has been
the custom of the country from time immemorial.
Immediately to the north of this row of imperial palace
buildings, and just outside the north gate, there is an
artificial mound called Coal Hill, made of the dirt which was
removed to make the Lotus Lakes. It is said that in this hill
there is buried coal enough to last the city in time of siege.
This, however, was not the primary design of the hill. It has a
more mysterious meaning. There have always been spirits in the
earth, in the air, in every tree and well and stream. And in
China it has ever been found necessary to locate a house, a city
or even a cemetery in such surroundings as to protect them from
the entrance of evil spirits. "Coal Hill," therefore, was placed
to the north of these imperial palace buildings to protect them
from the evil spirits of the cold, bleak north.
Just inside of that north gate there is a beautiful garden, with
rockeries and arbours, flowering plants and limpid artificial
streams gurgling over equally artificial pebbles, though withal
making a beautiful sight and a cool shade in the hot summer days.
In the east side of this garden there is a small imperial shrine
having four doors at the four points of the compass. In front of
each of these doors there is a large cypress-tree, some of them
five hundred years old, which were split up from the root some
seven or eight feet, and planted with the two halves three feet
apart, making a living arch through which the worshipper must
pass as he enters the temple. To the north of the garden and east
of the back gate there is a most beautiful Buddhist temple, in
which only the members of the imperial family are allowed to
worship, in front of which there is also a living arch like those
described above, as may also be found before the imperial temples
in the Summer Palace. This is one of the most unique and
mysterious features of temple worship I have found anywhere in
China, and no amount of questioning ever brought me any
explanation of its meaning.
Now if you will go with me to the top of Coal Hill I will point
out to you the buildings in which their Majesties have lived.
There are six parallel rows of buildings, facing the south, each
behind the other, in the northwest quarter of this Forbidden
City, protected from the evil spirits of the north by the dagoba
on Prospect Hill.
Perhaps you would like to go with me into these homes of their
Majesties--or, as a woman's home is always more interesting than
the den of a man, let me take you through the private apartments
of the greatest woman of her race--the late Empress Dowager. She
occupied three of these rows of buildings. The first was her
drawing-room and library, the second her dining-room and
sleeping apartments, and the third her kitchen.
One was strangely impressed by what he saw here. There was no
gorgeous display of Oriental colouring, but there was beauty of a
peculiarly penetrating quality--and yet a homelike beauty.
No description that can be written of it will ever do it justice.
Not until one can see and appreciate the paintings of the old
Chinese masters of five hundred years ago hanging upon the walls,
the beautiful pieces of the best porcelain of the time of Kang
Hsi and Chien Lung, made especially for the palace, arranged in
their natural surroundings, on exquisitely carved Chinese tables
and brackets, the gorgeously embroided silk portieres over the
doorways, and the matchless tapestries which only the Chinese
could weave for their greatest rulers, can we appreciate the
beauty, the richness, and the refined elegance of the private
apartments of the great Dowager.
I went into her sleeping apartments. Others also entered there,
sat upon her couch, and had their friends photograph them. I
could not allow myself to do so. I stood silent, with head
uncovered as I gazed with wonder and admiration at the bed, with
its magnificently embroidered curtains hanging from the ceiling
to the floor, its yellow-satin mattress ten feet in length and
its great round, hard pillow, with the delicate silk spreads
turned back as though it were prepared for Her Majesty's return.
On the opposite side of the room there was a brick kang bed, such
as we find in the homes of all the Chinese of the north, where
her maids slept, or sat like silent ghosts while the only woman
that ever ruled over one-third of the human race took her rest.
The furnishings were rich but simple. No plants, no intricate
carvings to catch the dust, nothing but the two beds and a small
table, with a few simple and soothing wall decorations, and the
monotonous tick-tock of a great clock to lull her to sleep.
If Shakespeare could say with an English monarch in his mind,
"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown," we might repeat it
with added emphasis of Tze Hsi. For forty years she had to rise
at midnight, winter as well as summer, and go into the dark,
dreary, cold halls of the palace, lighted much of the time with
nothing but tallow dips, and heated only with brass braziers
filled with charcoal, and there sit behind a screen where she
could see no one, and no one could see her, and listen to the
reports of those who came to these dark audiences. Then she must,
in conjunction with them, compose edicts which were sent out to
the Peking Gazette, the oldest and poorest newspaper in the
world, to be carved on blocks, and printed, and then sent by
courier to every official in the empire. Ruling over a conquered
race, she must always be watching out for signs of discontent and
rebellion; being herself the daughter of a poor man, and
beginning as only the concubine of an emperor, and he but a weak
character, she must be alert for dissatisfaction on the part of
the princes who might have some title to the throne. She must
watch the governors in the distant provinces and the viceroys who
are in charge of great armies, that they do not direct them
against instead of in defense of the throne.
When her husband died while a fugitive two hundred miles from her
palace, she must see to it that her three-year-old child was
placed upon the throne with her own hand at the helm, and when he
died she must also be ready with a successor, who would give her
another lease of office. Even when he became of age and took the
throne she must watch over him like a guardian, to prevent his
bringing down upon their own heads the structure which she had
builded. Nay, more, when it became necessary for her to dethrone
him and rule in his name, banishing his friends and pacifying his
enemies, keeping him a prisoner in his palace, it required a
courage that was titanic to do so. But she never flinched, though
we may suppose that many of her poorest subjects, who could sleep
from dark till daylight with nothing but a brick for a pillow,
might have rested more peacefully than she.
She had a myriad of other duties to perform. She was the
mother-in-law of that imperial household, with the Emperor, the
Empress, sixty concubines, two thousand eunuchs, and any number
of court ladies and maid-servants. Their expenses were enormous
and she must keep her eye on every detail. The food they ate was
similar to that used by all the Chinese people. I happen to know
this, because one of her eunuchs who visited me frequently to ask
my assistance in a matter which he had undertaken for the
Emperor, often brought me various kinds of meat, or other
delicacies of a like nature, from the imperial kitchens.
I want you to visit three of the imperial temples in these
beautiful palace grounds. The first is a tall, three-story
building at the head of that magnificent Lotus Lake. In it there
stands a Buddhist deity with one thousand heads and one thousand
arms and hands. Standing upon the ground floor its head reaches
almost to the roof. Its body, face and arms are as white as snow.
There is nothing else in the building--nothing but this
mild-faced Buddhist divinity for that brilliant, black-eyed ruler
of Chinas millions to worship.
Standing near by is another building of far greater beauty. It is
faced all over with encaustic tiles, each made at the kiln a
thousand miles away, for the particular place it was to occupy.
Each one fits without a flaw, a suggestion to American architects
on Chinese architecture.
The second of these temples stands to the west of the Coal Hill,
immediately to the north of the homes of their Majesties. One day
while passing through the forbidden grounds I came upon this
temple from the rear. In the dome of one of the buildings is a
circular space some ten feet in diameter, carved and gilded in
the form of two magnificent dragons after the fabled pearl. It is
to this place the Emperor goes in time of drought to confess his
sins, for he confesses to the gods that the drought is all his
doing, and to pray for forgiveness, and for rain to enrich the
thirsty land. The towers on the corners of the wall of the
Forbidden City are the same style of architecture as the small
pavilion in the front court of this temple.
Now as the buds of spring are bursting and the eaves on the
mulberry-trees are beginning to develop, will you go with the
Empress Dowager or the Empress into a temple on Prospect Hill,
between the Coal Hill and the Lotus Lake, where she offers
sacrifices to the god of the silkworm and prays for a prosperous
year on the work of that little insect? Above it stands one of
the most hideous bronze deities I have ever seen--male and
naked--in a beautiful little shrine, every tile of which is made
in the form of a Buddha's head. During the occupation tourists
were allowed to visit this place freely, and their desire for
curios overcoming their discretion, they knocked the heads off
these tiles until, when the place was closed, there was not a
single tile which had not been defaced.
One other building in the Forbidden City is worthy of our
attention. It is the art gallery. It is not generally known that
China is the parent of all Oriental art. We know something of the
art of Japan but little about that of China. And yet the best
Japanese artists have never hoped for anything better than to
equal their Chinese teacher. In this art gallery there are stored
away the finest specimens of the old masters for ten centuries or
more, together with portraits of all the noted emperors. Among
these portraits we may now find two of the Empress Dowager, one
painted by Miss Carl, and another by Mr. Vos, a well-known
American portrait painter.
The Ladies of the Court
I love to talk with my people of their Majesties, the princesses,
and the Chinese ladies, as I have seen and known them. Your
friendship I will always remember. Her Majesty, your imperial
sister, found a warm place in my heart and is treasured there.
Please extend to the Imperial Princess my cordial greetings and
to the other princesses my best of good wishes.
--Mrs. E. H. Conger, in a letter to the Princess Shun.
THE LADIES OF THE COURT
The leading figure of the court is Yehonala, wife of the late
Emperor Kuang Hsu. She has always been called the Young Empress,
but is now the Empress Dowager. After the great Dowager was made
the concubine of Hsien Feng, she succeeded in arranging a
marriage, as we have seen, between her younger sister and the
younger brother of her husband, the Seventh Prince, as he was
called, father of Kuang Hsu and the present regent.
The world knows how, in order to keep the succession in her own
family, she took the son of this younger sister, when her own son
the Emperor Tung Chih died, and made him the Emperor Kuang Hsu
when he was but little more than three years of age. When the
time came for him to wed, she arranged that he should marry his
cousin, Yehonala, the daughter of her favourite brother, Duke
Kuei. This Kuang Hsu was not inclined to do, as his affections
seem to have been centred on another. The great Dowager, however,
insisted upon it, and he finally made her Empress, and to
satisfy,--or shall we say appease him?--she allowed him to take
as his first concubine the lady he wanted as his wife; and it was
currently reported in court circles that when Yehonala came into
his presence he not infrequently kicked off his shoe at her, a
bit of conduct that is quite in keeping with the temper usually
attributed to Kuang Hsu during those early years. This may
perhaps explain why she stood by the great Dowager through all
the troublous times of 1898 and 1900, in spite of the fact that
her imperial aunt had taken her husband's throne.
Mrs. Headland tells me that "Yehonala is not at all beautiful,
though she has a sad, gentle face. She is rather stooped,
extremely thin, her face long and sallow, and her teeth very much
decayed. Gentle in disposition, she is without self-assertion,
and if at any of the audiences we were to greet her she would
return the greeting, but would never venture a remark. At the
audiences given to the ladies she was always present, but never
in the immediate vicinity of either the Empress Dowager or the
Emperor. She would sometimes come inside the great hall where
they were, but she always stood in some inconspicuous place in
the rear, with her waiting women about her, and as soon as she
could do so without attracting attention, she would withdraw into
the court or to some other room. In the summer-time we sometimes
saw her with her servants wandering aimlessly about the court.
She had the appearance of a gentle, quiet, kindly person who was
always afraid of intruding and had no place or part in anything.
And now she is the Empress Dowager! It seems a travesty on the
English language to call this kindly, gentle soul by the same
title that we have been accustomed to use in speaking of the
woman who has just passed away."
My wife tells me that,--"A number of years ago I was called to
see Mrs. Chang Hsu who was suffering from a nervous breakdown due
to worry and sleeplessness. On inquiry I discovered that her two
daughters had been taken into the palace as concubines of the
Emperor Kuang Hsu. Her friends feared a mental breakdown, and
begged me to do all I could for her. She took me by the hand,
pulled me down on the brick bed beside her, and told me in a
pathetic way how both of her daughters had been taken from her in
a single day.
" 'But they have been taken into the palace,' I urged, to try to
comfort her, 'and I have heard that the Emperor is very fond of
your eldest daughter, and wanted to make her his empress.'
" 'Quite right,' she replied, 'but what consolation is there in
that? They are only concubines, and once in the palace they are
dead to me. No matter what they suffer, I can never see them or
offer them a word of comfort. I am afraid of the court intrigues,
and they are only children and cannot understand the duplicity of
court life--I fear for them, I fear for them,' and she swayed
back and forth on her brick bed.
"Time, however, the great healer with a little medicine and
sympathy to quiet her nerves, brought about a speedy recovery,
though in the end her fears proved all too true."
In 1897 the brother of this first concubine met Kang Yu-wei in
the south, and became one of his disciples. Upon his return to
Peking, knowing of the Emperor's desire for reform, and his
affection for his sister, he found means of communicating with
her about the young reformer.
At the time of the coup d'etat, and the imprisonment of the
Emperor, this first concubine was degraded and imprisoned on the
ground of having been the means of introducing Kang Yu-wei to the
notice of the Emperor, and thus interfering in state affairs. She
continued in solitary confinement from that time until the flight
of the court in 1900 when in their haste to get away from the
allies she was overlooked and left in the palace. When she
discovered that she was alone with the eunuchs, fearing that she
might become a victim to the foreign soldiers, she took her life
by jumping into a well. On the return of the court in 1902, the
Empress Dowager bestowed upon her posthumous honours, in
recognition of her conduct in thus taking her life and protecting
Some conception of the haste and disorder with which the court
left the capital on that memorable August morning may be gleaned
from the fact that her sister was also overlooked and with a
eunuch fled on foot in the wake of the departing court. She was
overtaken by Prince Chuang who was returning in his chair from
the palace, where, with Prince Ching, he had been to inform their
Majesties that the allies were in possession of the city. The
eunuch, recognizing him, called his attention to the fleeing
concubine, who, when he had alighted and greeted her, begged him
to find her a cart that she might follow the court. Presently a
dilapidated vehicle came by in which sat an old man. The Prince
ordered him to give the cart to the concubine and sent her to his
palace where a proper conveyance was secured, and she overtook
the court at the Nankow pass.
At the audiences, this concubine was always in company with the
Empress Yehonala, standing at her left. She, however, lacked both
the beauty and intelligence of her sister.
The ladies of the court, who were constantly associated with the
Empress Dowager as her ladies in waiting, are first, the Imperial
Princess, the daughter of the late Prince Kung, the sixth brother
of the Empress Dowager's husband. Out of friendship for her
father, the Empress Dowagers adopted her as their daughter,
giving her all the rights, privileges and titles of the daughter
of an empress. She is the only one in the empire who is entitled
to ride in a yellow chair such as is used by the Empress Dowager,
the Emperor or Empress. The highest of the princes--even Prince
Ching himself--has to descend from his chair if he meet her. Yet
when this lady is in the palace, no matter how she may be
suffering, she dare not sit down in the presence of Her Majesty.
"One day when we were in the palace," says Mrs. Headland, "the
Imperial Princess was suffering from such a severe attack of
lumbago, that she could scarcely stand. I suggested to her that
she retire to the rear of the room, behind some of the pillars
and rest a while.
" 'I dare not do that,' she replied; 'we have no such a custom in
She is austere in manner, plain in appearance, dignified in
bearing, about sixty-five years of age, and is noted for her
accomplishment in making the most graceful courtesy of any lady
in the court.
During the Boxer troubles and the occupation, her palace was
plundered and very much injured, and she escaped in her stocking
feet through a side door. At the first luncheon given at her
palace thereafter, she apologized for its desolate appearance,
saying that it had been looted by the Boxers, though we knew it
had been looted by the allies. At later luncheons, however, she
had procured such ornaments as restored in some measure its
original beauty and grandeur, though none of these dismantled
palaces will regain their former splendour for many years to
Next to the Imperial Princess are the two sisters of Yehonala,
one of whom is married to Duke Tse, who was head of the
commission that made the tour of the world to inquire as to the
best form of government to be adopted by China in her efforts at
renovation and reform. It is not too much to suppose that it was
because the Duke was married to the Empress Dowager's niece that
he was made the head of this commission, which after its return
advised the adoption of a constitution. The other sister is the
wife of Prince Shun, and is the opposite of the Empress. She is
stout, but beautiful. She has always been the favourite niece of
the Empress Dowager, appeared at all the functions, and though
very sedate when foreign ladies were present at an audience, I
was told by the Chinese that when the imperial family were alone
together she was the life of the company. She would even stand
behind the Empress Dowager's chair "making such grimaces," the
Chinese expressed it, as to make it almost impossible for the
others to retain their equilibrium. As she was the youngest of
the three sisters, and because of her happy disposition, the
Chinese nicknamed her hsiao kuniang, "the little girl." These
three sisters are all childless.
The Princess Shun and Princess Tsai Chen, only daughter-in-law of
Prince Ching, herself the daughter of a viceroy, were very
congenial, and the most intimate friends of all those in court
circles. The latter is beautiful, brilliant, quick, tactful, and
graceful. Of all the ladies of the court she is the most witty
and, with Princess Shun, the most interesting. These two more
than any others made the court ladies easy to entertain at all
public functions, for they were full of enthusiasm and tried to
help things along. They seemed to feel that they were personally
responsible for the success of the audience or the luncheon as a
Lady Yuan is one of two of these court ladies who dwelt with the
Empress Dowager in the palace, the other being Prince Ching's
fourth daughter. She is a niece by marriage of the Empress
Dowager, though she really was never married. The nephew of the
Empress Dowager, to whom she was engaged, though she had never
seen him, died before they were married. After his death, but
before his funeral, she dressed herself as a widow, and in a
chair covered with white sackcloth went to his home, where she
performed the ceremonies proper for a widow, which entitled her
to take her position as his wife. Such an act is regarded as very
meritorious in the eyes of the Chinese, and no women are more
highly honoured than those who have given themselves in this way
to a life of chastity.
The second of these ladies who remained in the palace with the
Empress Dowager is the fourth daughter of Prince Ching. Married
to the son of a viceroy, their wedded life lasted only a few
months. She was taken into the palace, and being a widow, she
neither wears bright colours nor uses cosmetics. She is a fine
scholar, very devout, and spends much of her time in studying the
Buddhist classics. She is considered the most beautiful of the
The Empress Dowager took charge of most of the domestic matters
of all her relatives, taking into the palace and associating with
her as court ladies some who were widowed in their youth, and
keeping constantly with her only those whom she has elevated to
positions of rank, or members of her own family. Nor was she too
busy with state affairs to stop and settle domestic quarrels.
Among the court ladies there was one who was married to a prince
of the second order. Her husband is still living, but as they
were not congenial in their wedded life, the Empress Dowager made
herself a kind of foster-mother to the Princess and banished her
husband to Mongolia, an incident which reveals to us another
phase of the great Dowager's character--that of dealing with
The Princesses--Their Schools
The position accorded to woman in Chinese society is strictly a
domestic one, and, as is the case in other Eastern countries, she
is denied the liberty which threatens to attain such amazing
proportions in the West. There is no reason to suppose that woman
in China is treated worse than elsewhere; but people can of
course paint her condition just as fancy seizes them. They are
rarely admitted into the domestic surroundings of Chinese homes,
therefore there is nothing to curb the imagination. The truth is
that just as much may be said on one side as on the other.
Domestic happiness is in China--as everywhere else the world
over--a lottery. The parents invariably select partners in
marriage for their sons and daughters, and sometimes make as
great blunders as the young people would if left to themselves.
--Harold E. Gorst in "China."
THE PRINCESSES--THEIR SCHOOLS
 Taken from Mrs. Headland's note-book.
One day while making a professional call on the Princess Su our
conversation turned to female education in China. I was deeply
interested in the subject, and was aware that the Prince had
established a school for the education of his daughters and the
women of his palace, and was naturally pleased when the Princess
"Would you care to visit our school when it is in session?"
"Nothing would please me more," I answered. "When may I do so?"
"Could you come to-morrow morning?" she inquired.
"With pleasure; at what time?"
"I will send my cart for you."
The following morning the Prince's cart appeared. It was lined
with fur, upholstered in satin, furnished with cushions, and
encircled by a red band which indicated the rank of its owner. A
venerable eunuch, the head of the palace servants, preceded it as
an outrider, and assisted me in mounting and dismounting, while
the driver in red-tasselled hat walked decorously by the side.
The school occupies a large court in the palace grounds. Another
evidence of Western influence in the same court is a large
two-story house of foreign architecture where the Prince receives
his guests. Prince Su was the first to have this foreign
reception hall, but he has been followed in this respect by other
officials and princes as well as by the Empress Dowager.
"This is not unlike our foreign compounds," I remarked to the
Princess as we entered the court.
"Yes," she replied, "the Prince does not care to have the court
paved, but prefers to have it sodded and filled with flowers and
The school building was evidently designed for that purpose,
being light and airy with the whole southern exposure made into
windows, and covered with a thin white paper which gives a soft,
restful light and shuts out the glare of the sun. The floor is
covered with a heavy rope matting while the walls are hung with
botanical, zoological and other charts. Besides the usual
furniture for a well-equipped schoolroom, it was heated with a
foreign stove, had glass cases for their embroidery and drawing
materials, and a good American organ to direct them in singing,
dancing and calisthenics.
I arrived at recess. The Princess took me into the teacher's den,
which was cut off from the main room by a beautifully carved
screen. Here I was introduced to the Japanese lady teacher and
served with tea. She spoke no English and but little Chinese, and
the embarrassment of our effort to converse was only relieved by
the ringing of the bell for school. The pupils, consisting of the
secondary wives and daughters of the Prince, his son's wife, and
the wives and daughters of his dead brother who make their home
with him, entered in an orderly way and took their seats. When
the teacher came into the room the ladies all arose and remained
standing until she took her place before her desk and made a low
bow to which they all responded in unison. This is the custom in
all of the schools I have visited. Even where the superintendent
is Chinese, the pupils stand and make a low Japanese bow at the
beginning and close of each recitation.
"How long has the school been in session?" I asked the Princess.
"Three and a half months," she replied.
"And they have done all this embroidery and painting in that
"They have, and in addition have pursued their Western studies,"
In arithmetic the teacher placed the examples on the board, the
pupils worked them on their slates, after which each was called
upon for an explanation, which she gave in Japanese. While this
class was reciting the Prince came in and asked if we might not
have calisthenics, evidently thinking that I would enjoy the
drill more than the mathematics. It was interesting to see those
Manchu ladies stand and go through a thorough physical drill to
the tune of a lively march on a foreign organ. The Japanese are
masters in matters of physical drill, and in the schools I have
visited I have been pleased at the quiet dignity, and the reserve
force and sweetness of their Japanese teachers. The precision and
unanimity with which orders were executed both surprised and
delighted me. Everything about these schools was good except the
singing, which was excruciatingly poor. The Chinese have
naturally clear, sweet voices, with a tendency to a minor tone,
which, with proper training, admit of fair development. But the
Japanese teacher dragged and sang in a nasal tone, in which the
pupils followed her, evidently thinking it was proper Western
music. I was rather amused to see the younger pupils go through a
dignified dance or march to the familiar strains of "Shall we
gather at the river," which the eldest daughter played on the
"The young ladies do not comb their hair in the regular Manchu
style," I observed to the Princess.
"No," she answered, "we do not think that best. It is not very
convenient, and so we have them dress it in the small coil on top
of the head as you see. Neither do we allow them to wear flowers
in their hair, nor to paint or powder, or wear shoes with centre
elevations on the soles. We try to give them the greatest
possible convenience and comfort."
They were proud of their bits of crocheting and embroidery, each
of which was marked with the name of the person who did it and
the date when it was completed. Many of them were made of pretty
silk thread in a very intricate pattern, though I admired their
drawing and painting still more.
"Of what does their course of study consist?" I asked the
She went to the wall and took down a neat gilt frame which
contained their curriculum, and which she asked her eldest
daughter to copy for me. They had five studies each day, six days
of the week, Sunday being a holiday. They began with arithmetic,
followed it up with Japanese language, needlework, music and
calisthenics, then took Chinese language, drawing, and Chinese
history with the writing of the ideographs of their own language,
which was one of the most difficult tasks they had to perform.
The dignified way in which the pupils conducted themselves, the
respect which they showed their teacher, and the way in which
they went about their work, delighted me. The discipline it gave
them, the self-respect it engendered, and the power of
acquisition that came with it were worth more perhaps than the
knowledge they acquired, useful as that information must have
The Princess Ka-la-chin, the fifth sister of Prince Su, is
married to the Mongolian Prince Ka-la. It is a rule among the
Manchus that no prince can marry a princess of their own people,
but like the Emperor himself, must seek their wives from among
the untitled. These ladies after their marriage are raised to the
rank of their husbands. It is the same with the daughters of a
prince. Their husbands must come from among the people, but
unlike the princes they cannot raise them to their own rank, and
so their children have no place in the imperial clan. Many of the
princesses therefore prefer to marry Mongolian princes, by which
they retain their rank as well as that of their children.
Naturally a marriage of this kind brings changes into the life of
the princess. She has been brought up in a palace in the capital,
lives on Chinese food, and is not inured to hardships. When she
marries a Mongol prince, she is taken to the Mongolian plains, is
not infrequently compelled to live in a tent, and her food
consists largely of milk, butter, cheese and meat, most of which
are an abomination to the Chinese. They especially loathe butter
and cheese, and not infrequently speak of the foreigner smelling
like the Mongol--an odour which they say is the result of these
two articles of diet.
Prince Su's fifth sister was fortunate in being married to a
Mongol prince who was not a nomad. He had established a sort of
village capital of his possessions, the chief feature of which
was his own palace. Here he lives during the summers and part of
the winters; though once in three years he is compelled to spend
at least three months in his palace in Peking when he comes to do
homage to the Emperor.
During one of these visits to Peking the Princess sent for me to
come to her palace. I naturally supposed she was ill, and so took
with me my medical outfit, but her first greeting was:
"I am not ill, nor is any member of my family, but I wanted to
see you to have a talk with you about foreign countries."
She had prepared elaborate refreshments, and while we sat eating,
she directed the conversation towards mines and mining, and then
"My husband, the Prince, is very much interested in this subject,
and believes that there are rich stores of ore on his
principality in Mongolia."
"Indeed, that is very interesting," I answered.
"You know, of course, it is a rule," she went on to say, "that no
prince of the realm is allowed to go more than a few miles from
the capital without special permission from the throne."
"No, I was not aware of that fact."
She then went on to say that her husband was anxious to attend
the St. Louis Exposition, and study this subject in America, but
so long as these hindrances remained it was impossible for him to
do so. She then said:
"I am very much interested in the educational system of your
honourable country, and especially in your method of conducting
"Would you not like to come and visit our girls' high school?" I
"I should be delighted," she replied.
This she did, and before leaving the capital she sent for a
Japanese lady teacher whom she took with her to her Mongolian
home, where she established a school for Mongolian girls.
In this school she had a regular system of rules, which did not
tally with the undisciplined methods of the Mongolians, and it
was amusing to hear her tell how it was often necessary for the
Prince to go about in the morning and wake up the girls in order
to get them into school at nine o'clock.
The next time she came to Peking she brought with her seventeen
of her brightest girls to see the sights of the city and visit
some of the girls' schools, both Christian and non-Christian.
Everything was new to them and it was interesting to hear their
remarks as I showed them through our home and our high school.
When the Princess returned to Mongolia she took with her a
cultured young Chinese lady of unusual literary attainments to
teach the Chinese classics in the school. This is the only school
I have known that was established by a Manchu princess, for
Mongolian girls, and taught by Chinese and Japanese teachers.
This young lady was the daughter of the president of the Board of
Rites, head examiner for literary degrees for all China, and was
himself a chuang yuan, or graduate of the highest standing.
Before going, this Chinese teacher had small bound feet, but she
had not been long on the plains before she unbound her feet,
dressed herself in suitable clothing, and went with the Princess
and the Japanese teacher for a horseback ride across the plains
in the early morning, a thing which a Chinese lady, under
ordinary circumstances, is never known to do. The school is still
growing in size and usefulness.
Prince Su's third sister is married to a commoner, but as is
usual with these ladies who marry beneath their own rank, she
retains her maiden title of Third Princess, by which she is
"How did you obtain your education?" I once asked her.
"During my childhood," she answered, "my mother was opposed to
having her daughters learn to read, but like most wealthy
families, she had old men come into the palace to read stories or
recite poetry for our entertainment. I not infrequently followed
the old men out, bought the books from which they read, and then
bribed some of the eunuchs to teach me to read them. In this way
I obtained a fair knowledge of the Chinese character."
She is as deeply interested in the new educational movement among
girls as is her sister. When this desire for Western education
began, she organized a school, in which she has eighty girls or
more, taken from various grades of society, whom she and some of
her friends, in addition to employing teachers and providing the
school-rooms, gave a good part of their time to teaching the
Chinese classics, while a Japanese lady taught them calisthenics
and the rudiments of Western mathematics.
She is aggressively pro-foreign, and is ready to do anything that
will contribute to the success of the new educational movement,
and the freedom of the Chinese woman. On one occasion when the
Chinese in Peking undertook to raise a fund for famine relief,
they called a large public meeting to which men and women were
alike invited, the first meeting of the kind ever held in Peking.
Such a gathering could not have occurred before the Boxer
rebellion. The Third Princess, having promised to help provide
the programme, took a number of her girls, and on a large
rostrum, had them go through their calisthenic exercises for the
entertainment of the audience. On another occasion she took all
her girls to a private box at a Chinese circus, where men and
women acrobats and horseback riders performed in a ring not
unlike that of our own circus riders. In this circus small-footed
women rode horseback as well as the women in our own circus, and
one woman with bound feet lay down on her back, balanced a
cart-wheel, weighing at least a hundred pounds, on her feet,
whirling it rapidly all the time, and then after it stopped she
continued to hold it while two women and a child climbed on top.
The Princess was determined to allow her girls to have all the
advantages the city afforded.
At the school of this Third Princess I once attended a unique
memorial service. A lady of Hang Chou, finding it impossible to
secure sufficient money by ordinary methods for the support of a
school that she had established, cut a deep gash in her arm and
then sat in the temple court during the day of the fair, with a
board beside her on which was inscribed the explanation of her
unusual conduct. This brought her in some three hundred ounces of
silver with which she provided for her school the first year.
When it was exhausted and she could get no more, she wrote
letters to the officials of her province, in which she asked for
subscriptions and urged the importance of female education, to
which she said she was willing to give her life. To her appeal
the officials paid no heed, and she finally wrote other letters
renewing her request for help to establish the school, after
which she committed suicide. The letters were sent, and later
published in the local and general newspapers. Memorial services
were held in various parts of the empire at all of which funds
were gathered not only for her school but for establishing other
schools throughout the provinces.
The school of the Third Princess at which this service was held
was profusely decorated. Chinese flags floated over the gates and
door-ways. Beautifully written scrolls, telling the reason for
the service and lauding the virtues of the lady, covered the
walls of the schoolroom. At the second entrance there was a table
at which sat a scribe who took our name and address and gave us a
copy of the "order of exercises." Here we were met by the Third
Princess, who conducted us into the main hall. Opposite the
doorway was hung a portrait of the lady, wreathed in artificial
flowers, and painted by a Chinese artist. A table stood before it
on which was a plate of fragrant quinces, candles, and burning
incense, giving it the appearance of a shrine. Pots of flowers
were arranged about the room, which was unusually clean and
beautiful. The Chinese guests bowed three times before the
picture on entering the room, which I thought a very pretty
The girls of this school, to the number of about sixty, appeared
in blue uniform, courtesying to the guests. Sixteen other girls'
schools of Peking were represented either by teachers or pupils
or both. One of the boys' schools came en masse, dressed in
military uniform, led by a band, and a drillmaster with a sword
dangling at his side. Addresses were made by both ladies and
gentlemen, chief among whom were the Third Princess and the
editress of the Woman's Daily Newspaper, the only woman's daily
at that time in the world, who urged the importance of the
establishment and endowment of schools for the education of girls
throughout the empire.
The Chinese Ladies of Rank
Though your husband may be wealthy,
You should never be profuse;
There should always be a limit
To the things you eat and use.
If your husband should be needy,
You should gladly share the same,
And be diligent and thrifty,
And no other people blame.
--"The Primer for Girls," Translated by I. T. H.
THE CHINESE LADIES OF RANK
 Taken from Mrs. Headland's note-book.
The Manchu lady's ideal of beauty is dignity, and to this both
her deportment and her costume contribute in a well-nigh equal
degree. Her hair, put up on silver or jade jewelled hairpins,
decorated with many flowers, is very heavy, and easily tilted to
one side or the other if not carried with the utmost sedateness.
Her long garments, reaching from her shoulders to the floor, give
to her tall figure an added height, and the central elevation of
from four to six inches to the soles of her daintily embroidered
slippers, compel her to stand erect and walk slowly and
majestically. She laughs but little, seldom jests, but preserves
a serious air in whatever she does.
The Chinese lady, on the contrary, aspires to be petite, winsome,
affable and helpless. She laughs much, enjoys a joke, and is
always good-natured and chatty.
One of their poets thus describes a noted beauty:
"At one moment with tears her bright eyes would be swimming,
The next with mischief and fun they'd be brimming.
Thousands of sonnets were written in praise of them,
Li Po wrote a song for each separate phase of them.
"Bashfully, swimmingly, pleadingly, scoffingly,
Temptingly, languidly, lovingly, laughingly,
Witchingly, roguishly, playfully, naughtily,
Willfully, waywardly, meltingly, haughtily,
Gleamed the eyes of Yang Kuei Fei.
"Her ruby lips and peach-bloom cheeks,
Would match the rose in hue,
If one were kissed the other speaks,
With blushes, kiss me too."
She combs her hair in a neat coil on the back of her head, uses
few flowers, but instead prefers profuse decorations of pearls.
Her upper garment extends but little below her knees, and her
lower garment is an accordion-plaited skirt, from beneath which
the pointed toes of her small bound feet appear as she walks or
sways on her "golden lilies," as if she were a flower blown by
the wind, to which the Chinese love to compare her. Her waist is
a "willow waist" in poetry, and her "golden lilies," as her tiny
feet are often called, are not more than two or three inches
long--so small that it not infrequently requires the assistance
of a servant or two to help her to walk at all. And though she
may not need them she affects to be so helpless as to require
Until very recently education was discouraged rather than sought
by the Manchu lady. Many of the princesses could not read the
simplest book nor write a letter to a friend, but depended upon
educated eunuchs to perform these services for them. The Chinese
lady on the contrary can usually read and write with ease, and
the education of some of them is equal to that of a Hanlin.
Socially the ladies of these two classes never meet. Their
husbands may be of equal rank and well known to each other in
official life, but the ladies have no wish to meet each other.
One day while the granddaughter of one of the Chinese Grand
Secretaries was calling upon me, the sisters of Prince Ching and
Prince Su were announced. When they entered I introduced them.
The dignity of the two princesses when presented led me to fear
that we would have a cold time together. I explained who my
Chinese lady friend was, and they answered in a formal way (wai t
ou tou jen te, li to'u k'e pu jen te) "the gentlemen of our
respective households are well acquainted, not so the ladies,"
but the ice did not melt. For a time I did my best to find a
topic of mutual interest, but it was like trying to mix oil and
water. I was about to give up in despair when my little Chinese
friend, observing the dilemma in which I was placed, and the
effort I was making to relieve the situation, threw herself into
the conversation with such vigour and vivacity, and suggested
topics of such interest to the others as to charm these reserved
princesses, and it was not long until they were talking together
in a most animated way.
One of the Manchu ladies expressed regret at the falling of her
hair and the fact that she was getting bald. "Why," said my
little Chinese friend, "after a severe illness not long since, I
lost all my hair, but I received a prescription from a friend
which restored it all, and just look at the result," she
continued turning her pretty head with its great coils of shiny
black hair. "I will be delighted to let you have it." The Manchu
princesses finally rose to depart, and in their leave-taking,
they were as cordial to my little Chinese friend, who had made
herself so agreeable, as they were to me, for which I shall ever
After they had gone I asked:
"Why is it that the Manchu and Chinese ladies do not intermingle
in a social way?"
"The cause dates back to the beginning of the Manchu dynasty,"
she responded. "When the Chinese men adopted the Manchu style of
wearing the queue, it was stipulated that they should not
interfere with the style of the woman's dress, and that no
Chinese should be taken to the palace as concubines or slaves to
the Emperor. We have therefore always held ourselves aloof from
the Manchus. Our men did this to protect us, and as a result no
Chinese lady has ever been received at court, except, of course,
the painting teacher of the Empress Dowager, who, before she
could enter the palace, was compelled to unbind her feet, adopt
the Manchu style of dress and take a Manchu name."
"Is not the Empress Dowager very much opposed to foot-binding?
Why has she not forbidden it?"
"She has issued edicts recommending them to give it up, but to
forbid it is beyond her power. That would be interfering with the
Chinese ladies' dress."
"Do the Manchus consider themselves superior to the Chinese?"
"It is a poor rule that will not work both ways. Have you never
noticed that in his edicts the Emperor speaks of his Manchu
slaves and his Chinese subjects?"
Among my lady friends is one whose father died when she was a
child, and she was brought up in the home of her grandfather who
was himself a viceroy. She had always been accustomed to every
luxury that wealth could buy. Clothed in the richest embroidered
silks and satins, decorated with the rarest pearls and precious
stones, she had serving women and slave girls to wait upon her,
and humour her every whim. One day when we were talking of the
Boxer insurrection she told me the following story:
"Some years ago," she said, "my steward brought me a slave girl
whom he had bought from her father on the street. She was a
bright intelligent and obedient little girl, and I soon became
very fond of her. She told me one day that her grandmother was a
Christian, and that she had been baptized and attended a
Christian school. Her father, however, was an opium-smoker, and
had pawned everything he had, and finally when her grandmother
was absent had taken her and sold her to get money to buy opium.
She asked me to send a messenger to her grandmother and tell her
that she had a good home.
"I was delighted to do so for I knew the old woman would be
distressed lest the child had been sold to a life of shame, or
had found a cruel mistress. Unfortunately, however, my messenger
could find no trace of the grandmother, as the neighbours
informed him that she had left shortly after the disappearance of
"As the years passed the child grew into womanhood. She was very
capable, kind and thoughtful for others and I learned to depend
upon her in many ways. She was very devoted to me, and sought to
please me in every way she could. She always spoke of herself as
a Christian and refused to worship our gods. When the Boxer
troubles began I took my house-servants and went to my
grandfather's home thinking that the Boxers would not dare
disturb the households of such great officials as the viceroys.
But I soon found that they respected no one who had liberal
"One day there was a proclamation posted to the effect that all
Christians were to be turned over to them, and that any one found
concealing a Christian would themselves be put to death. My
grandmother came to my apartments and wanted me to send my slave
girl to the Boxers. We talked about it for some time but I
steadfastly refused. When the Boxers had procured all they could
by that method they announced that they were about to make a
house-to-house search, and any household harbouring Christians
would be annihilated."
"But how would they know that your slave was a Christian?" I
"Have you not heard," she asked, "that the Boxers claimed that
after going through certain incantations, they could see a cross
upon the forehead of any who had been baptized?"
"And did you believe they could?"
"I did then but I do not now. Indeed we all did. My grandmother
came to me and positively forbade me to keep the slave in her
home. After she had gone the girl came and knelt at my feet and
begged me to save her! How could I send her out to death when she
had been so kind and faithful to me? I finally decided upon a
plan to save her. I determined to flee with her to the home of an
uncle who lived in a town a hundred miles or more from Peking,
where I hoped the Boxers were less powerful than they were at the
"This uncle was the lieutenant-governor of the province and had
always been very fond of me, and I knew if I could reach him I
should win his sympathy and his aid. But how was this to be done?
All travellers were suspected, searched and examined. For two
women to be travelling alone, when the country was in such a
state of unrest, could not but bring upon themselves suspicion,
and should we be searched, the cross upon the forehead would
surely be found, and we would be condemned to the cruel tortures
in which the Boxers were said to delight.
"After much thought and planning the only possible method seemed
to be to flee as beggars. You know women beggars are found upon
the roads at all times and they excite little suspicion. Then in
the hot summer it is not uncommon for them to wrap their head and
forehead in a piece of cloth to protect them from the fierce rays
of the sun. In this way I hoped to conceal the cross from
observation in case we came into the presence of the Boxers. We
confided our plans to a couple of the women servants whom we
could trust, and asked them to procure proper outfits for us.
They did so, and oh! what dirty old rags they were. The servants
wept as they took off and folded up my silk garments and clad me
in this beggar's garb."
"But your skin is so soft and fair, not at all like the skin of a
woman exposed to the sun; and your black, shiny hair is not at
all rusty and dirty like the hair of a beggar woman. I should
think these facts would have caused your detection," I urged.
"That was easily remedied. We stained our faces, necks, hands and
arms, and we took down our hair and literally rolled it in dust
which the servants brought from the street. Oh! but it was nasty!
such an odour! It was only the saving of the life of that
faithful slave that could have induced me to do it. I had to take
off my little slippers and wrap my feet in dirty rags such as
beggars wear. We could take but a little copper cash with us. To
be seen with silver or gold would have at once brought suspicion
upon us, while bank-notes were useless in those days.
"In the early morning, before any one was astir we were let out
of a back gate. It was the first time I had ever walked on the
street. I had always been accustomed to going in my closed cart
with outriders and servants. I shrank from staring eyes, and
thought every glance was suspicious. My slave was more timid than
I and so I must take the initiative. I had been accustomed to
seeing street beggars from behind the screened windows of my cart
ever since I was a child and so I knew how I ought to act, but at
first it was difficult indeed. Soon, however, we learned to play
our part, though it seems now like a hideous dream. We kept on
towards the great gate through which we passed out of the city on
to the highway which led to our destination.
"The first time we met a Boxer procession my knees knocked
together in my fear of detection but they passed by without
giving us a glance. We met them often after this, and before we
finished our journey I learned to doubt their claim to detect
Christians by the sign of the cross.
"We ate at the roadside booths, slept often in a gateway or by
the side of a wall under the open sky, and after several days'
wandering, we reached the yamen of my uncle. But we dare not
enter and reveal our identity, lest we implicate them, for we
found the Boxers strong everywhere, and even the officials feared
their prowess. We hung about the yamen begging in such a way as
not to arouse suspicion, until an old servant who had been in the
family for many years, and whom I knew well, came upon the
street. I followed him begging until we were out of earshot of
others, and then told him in a singsong, whining tone, such as
beggars use, who I was and why I was there, and asked him to let
my uncle know, and said that if they would open the small gate in
the evening we would be near and could enter unobserved.
"At first he could not believe it was I, for by this time we
indeed looked like veritable beggars, but he was finally
convinced and promised to tell my uncle. After nightfall he
opened the gate and led us in by a back passage to my aunt's
apartments where she and my uncle were waiting for me. They both
burst into tears as they beheld my plight. Two old serving women,
who had been many years in the family, helped us to change our
clothes and gave us a bath and food. My feet had suffered the
most. They were swollen and ulcerated and the dirty rags and dust
adhering to the sores had left them in a wretched condition. It
took many baths before we were clean, and weeks before my feet
"We remained with my uncle until the close of the Boxer trouble,
and until my grandfather's return from Hsian where he had gone
with the Empress Dowager and the court, and then I came back to
"Your grandmother must have felt ashamed when she heard how hard
it had gone with you," I remarked.
"We never mentioned the matter when talking together. That was a
time when every one was for himself. Death stared us all in the
"Where is your slave girl now? I should like to see her," I
"After the troubles were over I married her to a young man of my
uncle's household. I will send for her and bring her to see you."
She did so. I found she had forgotten much of what she had
learned of Christianity, but she remembered that there was but
one God and that Jesus Christ was His Son to whom alone she
should pray. She also remembered that as a small child she had
been baptized, and that in school she had been taught that "we
should love one another"; this was about the extent of her
Gospel, but it had touched the heart of her charming little
mistress and had saved her life.
There were sometimes amusing things happened when these Chinese
ladies called. My husband among other things taught astronomy in
the university. He had a small telescope with which he and the
students often examined the planets, and they were especially
interested in Jupiter and his moons. One evening, contrary to her
custom, this same friend was calling after dark, and when the
students had finished with Jupiter and his moons, my husband
invited us to view them, as they were especially clear on that
After she had looked at them for a while, and as my husband was
closing up the telescope, she exclaimed: "That is the kind of an
instrument that some foreigners sent as a present to my
grandfather while he was viceroy, but it was larger than this
"And did he use it?" asked my husband.
"No, we did not know what it was for. Besides my grandfather was
too busy with the affairs of the government to try to understand
"And where is it now?" asked Mr. Headland, thinking that the
viceroy might be willing to donate it to the college.
"I do not know," she answered. "The servants thought it was a
pump and tried to pump water with it, but it would not work. It
is probably among the junk in some of the back rooms."
"I wonder if we could not find it and fix it up," my husband
"I am afraid not," she answered. "The last I saw of it, the
servants had taken the glass out of the small end and were using
it to look at insects on the bed."
One day when one of my friends came to call I said to her: "It is
a long time since I have seen you. Have you been out of the
"Yes, I have been spending some months with my father-in-law, the
viceroy of the Canton provinces. His wife has died, and I have
returned to Peking to get him a concubine."
"How old is he?" I inquired.
"Seventy-two years," she replied.
"And how will you undertake to secure a concubine for such an old
"I shall probably buy one."
A few weeks afterwards she called again having with her a
good-looking young woman of about seventeen, her hair beautifully
combed, her face powdered and painted, and clothed in rich silk
and satin garments, whom she introduced as the young lady
procured for her father-in-law. She explained that she had
bought her from a poor country family for three hundred and fifty
ounces of silver.
"Don't you think it is cruel for parents to sell their daughters
in this way?" I asked.
"Perhaps," she answered. "But with the money they received for
her, they can buy land enough to furnish them a good support all
their life. She will always have rich food, fine clothing and an
easy time, with nothing to do but enjoy herself, while if she had
remained at home she must have married some poor man who might or
might not have treated her well, and for whom she would have to
work like a slave. Now she is nominally a slave with nothing to
do and with every comfort, in addition to what she has done for
While we were having tea she asked to see Mr. Headland, as many
of the older of my friends did. I invited him in, and as he
entered the dining-room the young woman stepped out into the
My friend greeted my husband, and with a mysterious nod of her
head in the direction of the young woman she said: "Chiu shih na
The Social Life of the Chinese Woman
The manners and customs of the Chinese, and their social
characteristics, have employed many pens and many tongues, and
will continue to furnish all inexhaustible field for students of
sociology, of religion, of philosophy, of civilization, for
centuries to come. Such studies, however, scarcely touch the
province of the practical, at least as yet, for one principal
reason--that the subject is so vast, the data are so infinite, as
to overwhelm the student rather than assist him in sound
--A. R. Colquhoun in "China in Transformation."
THE SOCIAL LIFE OF THE CHINESE WOMAN
The home life of a people is too sacred to be touched except by
the hand of friendship. Our doors are closed to strangers, locked
to enemies, and opened only to those of our own race who are in
harmony and sympathy with us. What then shall we say when people
of an alien race come seeking admission? They must bring some
social distinction,--letters of introduction, or an ability to
help us in ways in which we cannot help ourselves.
In the case of a people as exclusive as the Chinese this is
especially true, so that with the exception of one or two women
physicians and the wife of one of our diplomats no one has ever
been admitted in a social as well as professional way to the
women's apartments of the homes of the better class of the
A Chinese home is different from our own. It is composed of many
one-story buildings, around open courts, one behind the other,
and sometimes covers several acres of ground. Then it is divided
into men's and women's apartments, the men receiving their
friends in theirs and the women likewise receiving their friends
by a side gate in their own apartments, which are at the rear of
the dwelling. A wealthy man usually, in addition to his wife, has
one or more concubines, and each of these ladies has an apartment
of her own for herself and her children,--though all the children
of all the concubines reckon as belonging to the first wife.
I have heard Sir Robert Hart tell an amusing incident which
occurred in Peking. He said that the Chinese minister appointed
to the court of Saint James came to call on him before setting
out upon his journey. After conversing for some time he said:
"I should be glad to see Lady Hart. I believe it is customary in
calling on a foreign gentleman to see his lady, is it not?"
"It is," said Sir Robert, "and I should be delighted to have you
see her, but Lady Hart is in England with our children, and has
not been here for twenty years."
"Ah, indeed, then perhaps I might see your second wife."
"That you might, if I had one. But the customs of our country do
not allow us to have a second wife. Indeed they would imprison us
if we were to have two wives."
"How singular," said the official with a nod of his head. "You do
not appreciate the advantages of this custom of ours."
That there are advantages in this custom from the Chinese point
of view, I have no doubt. But from certain things I have heard I
fear there are disadvantages as well. One day the head eunuch
from the palace of one of the leading princes in Peking came to
ask my wife, who was their physician, to go to see some of the
women or children who were ill. It was drawing near to the New
Year festival and, of course, they had their own absorbing topics
of conversation in the servants' courts. I said to him:
"The Prince has a good many children, has he not?"
"Twenty-three," he answered.
"How many concubines has he?" I inquired.
"Three," he replied, "but he expects to take on two more after
"Doesn't it cause trouble in a family for a man to have so many
women about? I should think they would be jealous of each other."
"Ah," said he, with a wave of his hand and a shake of his head,
"that is a topic that is difficult to discuss. Naturally if this
woman sees him taking to that woman, this one is going to eat
They do "eat vinegar," but perhaps as little of it as any people
who live in the way in which they live, for the Chinese have
organized their home life as nearly on a governmental basis as
any people in the world.
In addition to the wife and concubines, each son when he marries
brings his wife home to a parental court, and all these
sisters-in-law, or daughters-in-law add so much to the
complications of living, for each must have her own retinue of
Young people in China are all engaged by their parents without
their knowledge or consent. This was very unsatisfactory to the
young people of the old regime, and it is being modified in the
new. One day one of my students in discussing this matter said to
"Our method of getting a wife is very much better than either the
old Chinese method or your foreign method."
"How is that?" I asked.
"Well," said he, "according to the old Chinese custom a man could
never see his wife until she was brought to his house. But we can
see the girls in public meetings, we have sisters in the girls'
school, they have brothers in the college, and when we go home
during vacation we can learn all about each other."
"But how do you consider it better than our method?" I persisted.
"Why, you see, when you have found the girl you want, you have to
go and get her yourself, while we can send a middleman to do it
I still argued that by our method we could become better
acquainted with the young lady.
"Yes," he said, "that is true; but doesn't it make you awfully
mad if you ask a lady to marry you and she refuses?" and it must
be confessed that this was a difficult question to answer without
compromising one's self.
The rigour of the old regime was apparently modified by giving
the young lady a chance to refuse. About ten days before the
marriage, two ladies are selected by the mother of the young man
to carry a peculiar ornament made of ebony and jade, or jade
alone, or red lacquer, to the home of the prospective bride. This
ornament is called the ju yi, which means "According to my
wishes." If the lady receives it into her own hands it signifies
her willingness to become his bride; if she rejects it, the
negotiations are at an end, though I have never heard of a girl
who refused the ju yi.
 The remainder of the chapter is from Mrs. Headland's
Very erroneous ideas of the life and occupations of the Chinese
ladies of the noble and official classes are held by those not
conversant with their home life. The Chinese woman is commonly
regarded as little better than a secluded slave, who whiles away
the tedious hours at an embroidery frame, where with her needle
she works those delicate and intricate pieces of embroidery for
which she is famous throughout the world. In reality, a Chinese
lady has little time to give to such work. Her life is full of
the most exacting social duties. Few American ladies in the whirl
of society in Washington or New York have more social functions
to attend or duties to perform. I have often been present in the
evening when the head eunuch brought to the ruling lady of the
home (and the head of the home in China is the woman, not the
man) an ebony tablet on which was written in red ink the list of
social functions the ladies were to attend the following day.
She would select from the list such as she and her unmarried
daughters could attend,--the daughters always going with their
mother and not with their sisters-in-law,--then she would
apportion the other engagements to her daughters-in-law, who
would attend them in her stead.
The Chinese lady in Peking sleeps upon a brick bed, one half of
the room being built up a foot and a half above the floor, with
flues running through it; and in the winter a fire is built under
the bed, so that, instead of having one hot brick in her bed, she
has a hundred. She rises about eight. She has a large number of
women servants, a few slave girls, and if she belongs to the
family of a prince, she has several eunuchs, these latter to do
the heavy work about the household. Each servant has her own
special duties, and resents being asked to perform those of
another. When my lady awakes a servant brings her a cup of hot
tea and a cake made of wheat or rice flour. After eating this a
slave girl presents her with a tiny pipe with a long stem from
which she takes a few whiffs. Two servants then appear with a
large polished brass basin of very hot water, towels, soaps,
preparations of honey to be used on her face and hands while they
are still warm and moist from the bathing. After the bath they
remove the things and disappear, and two other women take their
places, with a tray on which are combs, brushes, hair-pomades,
and the framework and accessories needed for combing her hair.
Then begins a long and tedious operation that may continue for
two hours. Finally the hair is ready for the ornaments, jewels
and flowers which are brought by another servant on a large tray.
The mistress selects the ones she wishes, placing them in her
hair with her own hands.
Some of these flowers are exquisite. The Chinese are expert at
making artificial flowers which are true to nature in every
detail. Often above the flower a beautiful butterfly is poised on
a delicate spring, and looks so natural that it is easy to be
deceived into believing it to be alive. When the jasmine is in
bloom beautiful creations are made of these tiny flowers by means
of standards from which protrude fine wires on which the flowers
are strung in the shape of butterflies or other symbols, and the
flowers massed in this way make a very effective ornament. With
the exception of the jasmine the flowers used in the hair are all
artificial, though natural flowers are worn in season--roses in
summer, orchids in late summer, and chrysanthemums in autumn.
The prevailing idea with the Chinese ladies is that the foreign
woman does not comb her hair. I have often heard my friends
apologizing to ladies whom they have brought to see me for the
first time, and on whom they wanted me to make a good impression,
"You must not mind her hair; she is really so busy she has no
time to comb it. All her time is spent in acts of benevolence."
At the first audience when the Empress Dowager received the
foreign ladies, she presented each of them with two boxes of
combs, one ivory inlaid with gold, the other ordinary hard wood,
and the set was complete even to the fine comb. One cannot but
wonder if Her Majesty had not heard of the untidy locks of the
foreign woman, which she attributed to a lack of proper combs.
After the hair has been properly combed and ornamented, cosmetics
of white and carmine are brought for the face and neck. The
Manchu lady uses these in great profusion, her Chinese sister
more sparingly. No Chinese lady, unless a widow or a woman past
sixty, is supposed to appear in the presence of her family
without a full coating of powder and paint. A lady one day
complained to me of difficulty in lifting her eyelids, and
consulted me as to the reason.
"Perhaps," said I, "they are partially paralyzed by the lead in
your cosmetics. Wash off the paint and see if the nerves do not
recover their tone."
"But," said she, "I would not dare appear in the presence of my
husband or family without paint and powder; it would not be
The final touch to the face is the deep carmine spot on the lower
The robing then begins. And what beautiful robes they are! the
softest silks, over which are worn in summer the most delicate of
embroidered grenadines, or in winter, rich satins lined with
costly furs, each season calling for a certain number and kind.
She then decorates herself with her jewels,--earrings,
bracelets, beads, rings, charms, embroidered bags holding the
betel-nut, and the tiny mirror in its embroidered case with silk
tassels. When these are hung on the buttons of her dress her
outfit is complete, and she arises from her couch a wonderful
creation, from her glossy head, with every hair in place, to the
toe of her tiny embroidered slipper. But it has taken the time of
a half-dozen servants for three hours to get these results.
To one accustomed to the Chinese or Manchu mode of dress, she
appears very beautiful. The rich array of colours, the
embroidered gowns, and the bright head-dress, make a striking
picture. Often as the ladies of a home or palace came out on the
veranda to greet me, or bid me adieu, I have been impressed with
their wonderful beauty, to which our own dull colours, and cloth
goods, suffer greatly in comparison, and I could not blame these
good ladies for looking upon our toilets with more or less
It is now after eleven o'clock and her breakfast is ready to be
served in another room. Word that the leading lady of the
household is about to appear is sent to the other apartments.
Hurried finishing touches are given to toilets, for all
daughters, daughters-in-law and grandchildren must be ready to
receive her in the outer room when she appears leaning on the
arms of two eunuchs if she is a princess, or on two stout serving
women if a Chinese.
According to her rank, each one in turn takes a step towards her
and gives a low courtesy in which the left knee touches the
floor. Even the children go through this same formality. All are
gaily dressed, with hair bedecked and faces painted like her own.
She inclines her head but slightly. These are the members of her
household over whom she has sway--her little realm. While her
mother-in-law lived she was under the same rigorous rule.
In China where there are so many women in the home it is
necessary to have a head--one who without dispute rules with
autocratic sway. This is the mother-in-law. When she dies the
first wife takes her place as head of the family. A concubine may
be the favourite of the husband. He may give her fine apartments
to live in, many servants to wait on her, and every luxury he can
afford; but there his power ends. The first wife is head of the
household, is legally mother of all the children born to any or
all of the concubines her husband possesses. The children all
call her mother, and the inferior wives recognize her as their
mistress. She and her daughters, and daughters-in-law, attend
social functions, receive friends, extend hospitality; but the
concubines have no place in this, unless by her permission. When
the time comes for selecting wives for her sons, it is the first
wife who does it, although she may be childless herself. It is to
her the brides of these sons are brought, and to her all
deference is due. In rare cases, where the concubine has had the
good fortune to supply the heir to the throne or to a princely
family, she is raised to the position of empress or princess. But
this is seldom done, and is usually remembered against the woman.
She is never received with the same feeling as if she had been
One day I was asked to go to a palace to see a concubine who was
ill. In such cases I always went directly to the Princess, and
she took me to see the sick one. As we entered the room there was
a nurse standing with a child in her arms, and the Princess
called my attention to a blemish on its face.
"Can it be removed?" she asked.
I looked at it and, seeing that it would require but a minor
operation, told her it could.
While attending to the patient, the nurse, fearing that the child
would be hurt, left the room and another entered with another
"Now," said the Princess when we had finished with the patient,
"we will attend to the child." And she called the woman to her.
"But," said the woman, "this is not the child."
"There," said the Princess, "you see I do not know my own
But I left our friend receiving the morning salutations of her
household. These over, she dismisses them to their own
apartments, where each mother sits down with her own children to
her morning meal, waited on by her own servants. If there are
still unmarried daughters, they remain with their mother; if
none, she eats alone.
Since Peking is in the same latitude as Philadelphia my lady has
the same kinds of fruit--apples, peaches, pears, apricots, the
most delicious grapes, and persimmons as large as the biggest
tomato you ever saw; indeed, the Chinese call the tomato the
western red persimmon. She has mutton from the Mongolian sheep
(the finest I have ever eaten), beef, pork or lamb; chicken,
goose or duck; hare, pheasant or deer, or fish of whatever kind
she may choose. Of course these are all prepared after the
Chinese style, and be it said to the credit of their cooks that
our children are always ready to leave our own table to partake
of Chinese food.
After her meal she lingers for a few minutes over her cup of tea
and her pipe. In the meantime her cart or sedan chair is
prepared. Her outriders are ready with their horses; the eunuchs,
women and slave girls who are to attend her, don their proper
clothing and prepare the changes of raiment needed for the
various functions of the day. One takes a basin and towels,
another powder and rouge-boxes, another the pipe and embroidered
tobacco pouch, not even forgetting the silver cuspidor, all of
which will be needed. When she eats, a servant gives her a napkin
to spread over her gown; after she has finished, another brings a
basin of hot water, from which a towel is wrung with which she
gently wipes her mouth and hands. Another brings her a glass of
water, or she washes out her mouth with tea, and finally with the
little mirror and rouge-box, while she still sits at table, she
touches up her face with powder and she puts the paint upon her
lip if it has disappeared.
When ready to start, her cart or chair is drawn up as close as
possible to the gate of the women's apartments. A screen of blue
silk eighteen or twenty feet long and six feet high, fastened to
two wooden standards, is held by eunuchs to screen her while she
enters the cart. The chair can be used only by princesses or
wives of viceroys or members of the Grand Council. But whether
chair or cart it is lined and cushioned with scarlet satin in
summer, and in winter with fur. It is an accomplishment to enter
a cart gracefully, but years of practice enable her to do so, and
as soon as she is seated in Buddhist fashion, the curtain is
dropped; her attendant seats herself cross-legged in front;
several male servants rush up, seize the shafts of the cart,
place the mule between them, fasten the buckles (it reminds one
of the fire department), the driver takes his place at the lines,
two other male servants take hold of the sides of the mule's
bridle, and all is in readiness to start. Female servants and
slave girls crowd into other carts, outriders mount their mules,
and the cavalcade starts with my lady's cart ahead.
As they pass along the streets they are remarked upon by all
foot-passengers, and as they near their destination, a courier on
horseback spurs up his steed, makes a wild dash forward, leaps
from his horse, and announces to the gate-keeper that the
Princess will soon arrive. The news is at once taken to the
servants of the women's apartments, where the name is given to a
eunuch, who bears it to his mistress.
In the meantime the party has arrived. The mule is unhitched,
cart drawn to the gate, screen spread, servant descends from
front, and the Princess with the help of a couple of eunuchs is
escorted through a long covered walk into the court, where the
ladies of the household are waiting on the veranda to receive
her. As she enters the gateway the hostess begins slowly to
descend the steps. The others follow, and they meet in the centre
of the court. Low courtesies are made by each and formal
inquiries as to each other's health. There is a short stop and
certain formalities before the guest will ascend the steps ahead
of the hostess. The same occurs again on entering the reception
hall, and taking the seat of honour. The luckless foreigner
sometimes makes the mistake of conceding to her guest's modesty
and allows her to take a lower seat, which is a grievous offense,
and she is only pardoned on the plea that she is an outside
barbarian, and does not understand the rules of polite society.
After she is seated tea is served, and servants bring in trays of
sweetmeats, fruit, nuts, dried melon seeds, candied fruits and
small cakes. One of these nuts is unique. It is an "English
walnut" in which, after the outer hull is removed, the shell is
self-cracked, and folds back in places so that the kernel
appears. While partaking of these delicacies the object of the
visit is announced, which is that her son is to be married on a
certain date. Of course official announcements will be sent
later, but she wishes to ask if her hostess will act as one of
her representatives to carry the ju yi to the young lady's home.
After the ladies have chatted for a time about the latest
official appointments, some court gossip, the latest fashion in
robe ornamentation, and the newspaper news at home and
abroad--for the Chinese have ten or a dozen newspapers in Peking,
among which is the first woman's daily in the world--the hostess
invites her guest to see her garden. They pass through a gateway
into a court in which are great trees, shrubbery, fish-ponds
spanned by marble bridges, covered walks, beautiful rockeries,
wisteria vines laden with long clusters of blossoms,
summer-houses, miniature mountains, and flowers of all kinds--a
dream of beauty and loveliness. After returning to the house
another cup of tea is served, and the guest rises to leave. But
before doing so her servants bring in a bundle of clothing, and
there in the presence of her hostess her outer robes are changed
for others of a more official character.
Her next call is at the birthday celebration of the mother of one
of the highest officials in the capital. I was present when she
arrived. Instead of entering by the front gate, she went by a
private entrance directly to the apartments of her hostess. Many
guests (all gentlemen) were assembled in the front court, which
was covered by a mat pavilion and converted into a theatre. The
court was several feet lower than the adjoining house, the front
windows of which were all removed and it was used for the
accommodation of the lady guests. On the walls of the temporary
structure hung red satin and silk banners on which were pinned
ideographs cut out of gold foil or black velvet, expressive of
beautiful sentiments and good wishes for many happy returns of
the day. The Emperor, wishing to do this official honour, has
informed him that on his mother's birthday an imperial present
will be sent her which is a greater compliment than if sent to
the official himself.
It was a gala scene. Fresh guests arrived every minute. The
ladies in their most graceful and dignified courtesies were
constantly bending as other guests were announced, while the
gentlemen, with low bows and each shaking his own hands, received
their friends. The clothes of the men, though of a more sombre
hue, were richer in texture than those of the women. Heavy silks
and satins, embroidered with dragons in gold thread, indicated
that this one was a member of the imperial clan, while others
equally rich were worn by the other gentlemen, each embroidered
with the insignia of his rank. Hats adorned with red tassels,
peacock feathers in jade holders, and the button denoting the
rank of the wearer, were worn by all, as it would be a breach of
etiquette to remove the hat in the presence of one's host.
It would also be bad form for the gentlemen to raise their eyes
to where the ladies were seated; just as the latter, who must
look over the heads of the men to view the theatre, would not be
caught allowing their eyes to dwell upon any one. But no doubt
these gentle little ladies have their own curiosity, and some
means of finding out who's who among that court full of dragon-
draped pillars of state; for I have never failed to receive a
ready answer when I inquired as to the name of some handsome or
distinguished-looking guest whose identity I wished to learn.
The theatre goes on interminably. Like my lady, they change their
clothes, and the scenery, in full view of the audience. The plays
are mostly historical, the women's parts being taken by men, as
women are not allowed to go on the stage. One daring company, in
imitation of the foreign custom, had a woman take one of the
parts; but a special order from the viceroy put the company out
of commission, and the leader in prison.
The guests were not expected to sit quietly watching the play,
but moved about greeting each other and chatting at will.
Servants brought tea and sweetmeats and finally a banquet was
served. Near the close of the feast it was announced that the
imperial present was coming, and the members of the household
disappeared. The deep boom of the drums and the honk of the great
horns were heard distinctly as they entered the street, and soon
the yellow imperial chair, with its thirty-six bearers in the
royal livery, moved slowly towards us between two rows of the
male members of the household who had gone out and were kneeling
on both sides of the street, knocking their heads as the chair
passed them. The great gates were thrown open and there in the
gateway the female members of the family knelt and kotowed as the
chair passed by.
The presents were taken into a room specially prepared for their
reception. The head imperial eunuch placed them in position, and,
with a low obeisance, departed, the richer by several hundred
ounces of silver. The gentlemen guests were first invited to view
these tokens of imperial favour. In order of their rank they
entered, prostrating themselves before them. Later we ladies were
invited into the room, where the Chinese all kotowed. What now
were these wonderful gifts before which these men and women of
rank and noble birth were falling upon their faces?
They were two squares of red paper, eighteen inches across,
printed in outline of the imperial dragon, on which the
characters for long life and happiness were written with the
imperial pen; and a small yellow satin box in which sat a little
gold Buddha not more than an inch in height! It was the thought,
not the value, which elicited all this appreciation.
Shall we go with this busy little princess to another festal
occasion? I was with her again. It was at the home of the sister
of one of the sweetest little princesses in the whole empire. Her
baby was a month old and she was celebrating what they call the
full month feast. Instead, however, of having the usual feasting
and theatricals, the mother, who, for days after her child was
born, lay at death's door, sent out invitations to her friends to
come and fast and give thanks to the gods for sparing her life.
Though the child was a month old the mother was too wan and weak
to leave her couch. She was dressed, however, in festal robes,
and received her guests with many gracious words and apologies.
Of course only ladies were present. The great covered court was
converted into a large shrine. One could imagine they were
looking into the main hall of a temple, only that everything was
so clean and beautiful. From the centre of the shrine a Goddess
of Mercy looked down complacently upon the array of fruit, nuts,
sweetmeats and cakes spread out before her. Many candles in their
tall candlesticks were burning on every side. Before her was a
great bronze incense-burner, from which many sticks of incense
sent out their fragrant odour on the air. As each guest passed
through the court, she took a stick from the pile, lit it, and,
with a word of prayer, added it to the number.
After the guests had all arrived a princess--sister of the
hostess--accompanied by two of the leading guests, descended into
the paved court and took her place before the altar. Deep-toned
bells were touched by small boys whose shaven heads and priestly
robes denoted that they, like little Samuel, were being brought
up within the courts of the temple. The Princess took a great
bunch of incense in her two hands, one of her attendants lit it
with a torch prepared for that purpose, the flame and smoke
ascended amid the deep tones of the bells, as she prostrated
herself before the goddess. She looked like a beautiful fairy
herself as she stood with the flaming bunch of incense held high
above her head. Three times she prostrated herself and nine times
she bent forward, fulfilling all the requirements of the law.
At the close of this ceremony the ladies were invited to partake
of a feast prepared wholly of vegetables and vegetable oils. It
requires much more skill to prepare such a feast than when meat
and animal oils are used. The food furnished interesting topics
for discussion. Most of it was prepared by various temples, each
being celebrated for some particular dish, which it was asked to
provide for the occasion.
It is not uncommon for a Chinese lady to take upon herself a vow
in which she promises the gods to observe certain days of each
month as fast days, on condition that they restore to health a
mother, father, husband or child. No matter what banquet she
attends she need only mention to her hostess that she has a vow
and she is made the chief guest, helping others but eating
nothing herself. After this full month feast the baby was seen,
its presents admired, the last cup of tea drunk, the farewells
said, and we all returned home.
The Chinese Ladies--Their Ills
My home is girdled by a limpid stream,
And there in summer days life's movements pause,
Save where some swallow flits from beam to beam,
And the wild sea-gull near and nearer draws.
The good wife rules a paper board for chess;
The children beat a fish-hook out of wire;
My ailments call for physic more or less,
What else should this poor frame of mine require?
--"Tu Fu," Translated.
THE CHINESE LADIES--THEIR ILLS
 Taken from Mrs. Headland's note-book.
One day a eunuch dashed into the back gate of our compound in
Peking, rode up to the door of the library, dismounted from his
horse, and handed a letter in a red envelope to the house servant
who met him on the steps.
"What is the matter?" asked the boy.
"The Princess is ill," replied the servant.
"What Princess?" further inquired the boy.
"Our Princess," was the reply.
"Oh, you are from the palace near the west gate?"
"Yes," and the boy and the servant continued their conversation
until the former had learned all that the letter contained,
whereupon he brought me the message.
I opened the letter, written in the Chinese ideographs, and
called the messenger in.
"Is the Princess very ill?" I inquired.
"Not very," he answered, "but she has been indisposed for several
"When does she want me to go?" I inquired, for I had long ago
learned that a few inquiries often brought out interesting and
"At once," he answered; "the cart will be here in a few minutes."
By the time I had made ready my medical outfit the cart had
arrived. It was very much like a great Saratoga trunk on two
wheels. It was without seat and without springs, but filled with
thick cushions, and as I had learned to sit tailor fashion it was
not entirely uncomfortable to ride in. It had gauze curtains in
summer, and was lined with quilted silk or fur in winter, and was
a comfortable conveyance.
When I reached the palace I was met by the head eunuch, who
conducted me at once to the apartments of the Princess. Her
reception room was handsomely furnished with rich, carved,
teak-wood furniture after the Manchu fashion, with one or two
large, comfortable, leather-covered easy chairs of foreign make.
Clocks sat upon the tables and window-sills, and fine Swiss
watches hung on the walls. Beautiful jade and other rich Chinese
ornaments were arranged in a tasteful way about the room. On the
wall hung a picture painted by the Empress Dowager, a gift to the
Prince on his birthday.
After a moment's waiting the Princess appeared attended by her
women and slave girls.
"I beg your pardon for not having my hair properly dressed," she
said, as she took my hands in hers, the custom of these Manchu
princesses and even the Empress Dowager herself, in greeting
foreign ladies. "I welcome you back to Peking after your summer
When the usual salutations had been passed she told me her
trouble and I gave her the proper medicine, with minute
instructions as to how to take it, which I also repeated to her
"The cause of my illness," she explained, "is over-fatigue. I had
to be present at court on the eighth of the eighth month and I
became very tired from standing all day."
"But could you not sit down?" I asked.
"Not in the presence of the Empress Dowager," she replied.
"Of course, I know you could not sit down in the presence of Her
Majesty, but could you not withdraw and rest a while?" I
"Not that day. It was a busy and tiresome day for us all," she
While we were talking the young Princess, her son's wife, came in
and greeted her mother-in-law in a formal but kindly way, and
gave her hands to me just as the Princess had done. She remained
standing all the time she was in the room, as did four of the
secondary princesses or wives of her husband. They were all
beautifully dressed, but they are beneath the Princess in rank,
and so must stand in her presence. If the Prince's mother had
come in, as she often did when I was there, the Princess would
have to stand and wait on her. All Manchu families are very
particular in this respect.
"You will be interested," said the Princess, "in one phase of our
visit to the palace." Then turning to one of her women she said:
"Bring me those two pairs of shoes."
"These," she explained, "are like some made by my mother-in-law
and myself as presents for the Empress Dowager. On the eighth of
the eighth month we have a feast, when the ladies of the royal
household are invited into the palace, and our custom is for each
of us to present Her Majesty with a pair of shoes."
The shoes were daintily embroidered, though not so pretty as some
I have seen the Empress Dowager wear. Some of her shoes are
decorated with beautiful pearls and others are covered with
"The Empress Dowager," continued the Princess, "is very vain of
her small feet; though," she continued, as she put her own foot
out, encased in the daintiest little embroidered slipper of
light-blue satin, "it is not so small as my own."
It seemed very human to hear this delicate little Princess make a
remark of this kind. Of course, both she and the Empress Dowager
have natural feet.
It was late in the afternoon, some months after my visit to the
Princess, that a very different call came for my services.
The boy came in and told me that a man wanted me to go to see his
wife, who lived in the southern city outside the Ha-ta gate. It
has always been my custom never to refuse any one whether they be
rich or poor, and so I told him to call a cart.
It was in midwinter and a bitter cold night, the room was without
fire and yet there was a child of three or four toddling about
upon the kang or brick bed whose only garment was a long coat.
"You should put a pair of trousers on that child," I said, "or it
will catch cold and I will soon have to come again."
"Yes," they said, "we will put trousers on it."
"You had better do it at once," I insisted.
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