Court Life in China
Isaac Taylor Headland
Part 4 out of 5
"Yes," they continued, "we will see that it is dressed."
After attending to the woman, and again urging them to dress the
child, I wrapped my warm cloak around me and started home, though
I could not forget the child.
"It is a cold night," I said to the driver as we started on our
"Yes," he answered, "there will be some uncomfortable people in
the city to-night."
"In that house we just left," I continued, for I could not banish
the child from my thoughts, "there was a little child playing on
the bed without a shred of trousers on."
"Quite right," said he; "they pawned the trousers of that child
to get money to pay me for taking you to see the sick woman."
"To pay you!" said I, with indignation, and yet with admiration
for the character of the people for whom I was giving my
services--"to pay you! Then drive right back and give them their
money and tell them to go and redeem those trousers and put them
on the child!"
"The city gate will be closed before we can reach it if I
return," said he, "and we will not be able to get in to-night."
"No matter about that," I insisted, "go back and give them the
He turned around with many mutterings, lashed up his mule at the
top of his speed, gave them the money, and then started on a
gallop for the city gate. It was a rough ride in that springless
cart over the rutty roads. But my house seemed warmer that night
and my bed seemed softer after I had paid the carter myself.
Among my friends and patients none are more interesting than the
Misses Hsu. They are very intelligent, and after I had become
well acquainted with them I said to them one day:
"How is it that you have done such wide reading?"
"You know, of course," they said, "that our father is a chuang
I asked them the meaning of a chuang yuan. Then I learned that
under the Chinese system a great many students enter the
examinations, and those who secure their degree are called hsiu
tsai; a year or two later these are examined again, and those who
pass are given the degree of chu jen; once more these latter are
examined and the successful candidates are called chin shih, and
are then ready for official position. They continue to study,
however, and are allowed to go into the palace, where they are
examined in the presence of the Emperor, and those who pass are
called han lin, or forest of pencils. Once in three years these
han lins are examined and one is allowed to obtain a degree--he
is a chuang yuan.
Out of four hundred million people but one is allowed this degree
once in three years.
"Your father must be a very great scholar," I remarked.
"He has always been a diligent student," they answered, modestly.
"What is his given name?" I inquired, one day.
"If you will give me a pencil I will write it for you; we never
speak the given name of our father in China," said the eldest,
and she wrote it down.
"How many sisters are there in your family--eight, are there
"Yes. You know, of course, that number five was engaged when a
child of six to the son of Li Hung-chang."
"No, I was not aware of the fact; and were they married?"
"No, they were never married. The young man died before they were
old enough to wed. When word of his death was brought to her,
child that she was, she went to our mother and told her she must
never engage her to any one else, as she meant to live and die
the widow of this boy."
"And did she go to Li Hung-chang's home?"
"No, the old Viceroy wanted to take her to his home, build a
suite of rooms for her, and treat her as his daughter-in-law, but
our parents objected because she was so young. The Viceroy loved
her very much, and his eyes often filled with tears as he spoke
of her and the son who had passed away. When the Viceroy died she
wanted to go and kotow at his funeral, and all his family except
the eldest son were anxious to have her do so, and thus be
recognized as one of the family. But this son objected, and
though Lady Li knocked her head on the coffin until it bled he
would not yield, lest she might want her portion."
"And what has become of your sister? How is it that I have never
"She withdrew to a small court, where she has lived with none but
her women servants, not even seeing our father or brothers, and
not allowing a male servant to go near her. And she will not
permit the word Li to be spoken in her presence."
"And what does she do?" I asked. "How does she employ herself?"
"Studying, reading, painting, and embroidery. When young Li
refused to allow her to attend his father's funeral her sense of
self-respect was outraged and she cut off her hair and threatened
to commit suicide. She often fasts for a week, and has tried on
several occasions to take her own life."
I asked them if they did not fear that she might succeed finally
in this attempt to kill herself.
"Yes, we have constant apprehensions. But then, what if she did?
It would only emphasize her virtue."
It was some months after the young ladies told me what I have
just related that they called, for they had taken up the study of
English and I had agreed to help them a bit.
"How is your sister?" I inquired, for the sad fate of this young
girl weighed like a burden on my heart.
"She fasted more than usual during the early summer, but she
bathed daily and changed her clothes, dressing herself in her
most beautiful garments. She had not been sleeping well for some
time, and one day she ordered her women to leave her and not
return until they were called. They remained away until a married
sister and a sister-in-law-a niece of Li Hung-chang--called and
wanted to see her. We went to her room but found it locked. We
knocked but received no answer. We finally punched a hole through
the paper window and saw her sitting on her brick bed, her head
bolstered up with cushions and her eyes closed. We supposed she
was sleeping, but on forcing open the door we found that she had
gone to join her boy husband, though her colour and appearance
was that of a living person."
"And are you sure she had not swooned?"
"She remained in this condition for twenty-two hours without
pulse or heart beat, and so we put her in her casket."
I could not but feel sad that I had not been in the city, and had
had an opportunity to help them to ascertain whether her life had
really gone out. But the girls seemed proud of the distinction of
having had a sister of such consummate virtue. Numerous
embroidered scrolls and laudatory inscriptions were sent her from
friends of the Li family as well as of their own, and it is
expected that the throne will order a memorial arch erected to
On another occasion I was requested to go to the palace of one of
the princes. The fourth Princess, a beautiful little child of
five, was ill with diphtheria, and the first greeting of the
mother as I went in was that she "was homesick to see me." The
child had been ill for several days before they sent for me, and
I told them at once that the case was dangerous. I wanted to do
all I could for them and at the same time protect my own children
from the danger of infection. After the first treatment with
antitoxin she seemed to rally, her throat cleared up, but I soon
found that the poison had pervaded her entire system, and so I
stayed with her day and night.
I found that the child had contracted the disease from another
about her own age, who was both her playmate and her slave. It is
the custom among the wealthy to purchase for each daughter a
companion who plays with her as a child, becomes a companion in
youth and her maid when she marries. These slaves are usually
treated well, and when this one became ill the members of the
family visited her often, taking her such dainties as might tempt
her appetite. As a result I had to administer antitoxin to eight
of the younger members of the household, so careless had they
been about the spread of this disease; indeed I have found that
the isolation of patients suffering from contagious diseases is
wholly unknown in China.
One of the most attractive of all my Chinese lady friends and
patients is the niece of the great Viceroy, Li Hung-chang, the
daughter of his brother, Li Han-chang, who is himself a viceroy.
I have been her physician for eighteen years or more and hence
have become intimately acquainted with her. She has visited me
very often in my home and, of all the women I have ever known, of
any race or people, I have never met one whom I thought more
cultured or refined than she. This may seem a strange statement,
but the quiet dignity that she manifested on all occasions and
her charming manners are not often met with. I have never felt on
entering a drawing-room such an atmosphere of refinement as
seemed to surround her.
That the Chinese take very kindly to foreign medicine there is no
doubt, though it is sometimes amusing how they go back to their
own native methods.
One day my husband brought home a physiological chart about the
size of an ordinary man. It was covered with black spots and I
asked him the reason for them.
"That is what I asked the dealer from whom I bought it," he
replied, "and he told me that those spots indicate where the
needle can be inserted in treatment by acupuncture without
killing the patient."
When a Chinese is ill the doctor generally concludes that the
only way to cure him is to stick a long needle into him and let
out the pain or set up counter irritation. If the patient dies it
is evident he stuck the needle into the wrong spot. And this
chart has been made up from millions of experiments during the
past two or three thousand years from patients who have died or
This was practically illustrated by a woman who was brought to
the hospital. Having had pain in the knee she sent for a Chinese
physician who concluded that the only method of relieving her was
by acupuncture. He therefore inserted a needle which
unfortunately pierced the synovial sac causing inflammation which
finally resulted in complete destruction of the joint. Such cases
are not infrequent both among adults and children in all grades
of society, due to this method of treatment.
One day I was called to see a lady who was in immediate need of
surgical treatment. She had three sons who were in high official
positions in the palace, and if their mother died they would have
to withdraw from official life and go into mourning for three
years. When men are thus compelled to resign the new incumbent is
not inclined to restore the office when the period of mourning is
over. They were therefore doubly anxious to have their mother
recover. They had tried all kinds of Chinese physicians and
finally sent for me.
I explained the nature of the operation necessary, and gave them
every reason to hope for a speedy recovery, while without
surgical treatment she must surely die. They consented and the
operation was successful. She recovered rapidly for a few days
until I regarded her as practically out of danger. But one day
when I called I found her bathed in perspiration, shaking with
fear, weeping and depressed. Her wound was in an excellent
condition and I could find no reason for her despondency. I
cheered her up, laughed and talked with her, gave her such
articles of diet as she craved, and left her happy. The next day
I again found her in the same nervous condition.
"Something is wrong with your mother of which you have not told
me," I said to her son.
"Before we sent for you," he said, "we had called a spirit
doctor, who went into a sort of trance, claimed to have descended
into the spirit world where he saw them making a coffin which he
said my mother would occupy before the fifteenth of the month. It
is because that time is approaching that she is filled with
I talked with the lady, showed her how her wound was healing,
encouraged her to rest easy until the fifteenth, when I would
spend the day with her, after which she immediately began gaining
strength and soon recovered.
At another time I was called to see the wife of the president of
the Board of Punishments. I found an operation necessary. The
next day I found the patient delirious with a fever, and asked
the husband if my directions had been followed.
"I assure you they have," he answered. "But the cause of the
fever is this: Last evening while the servants were taking their
meal she was left alone for a short time. While they were absent,
her sister who lived on this street, a short distance from here,
committed suicide. When the servant discovered it she ran
directly to my wife's room, and told her of the tragedy. My wife
began to tremble, had a severe chill, and soon became delirious.
I suspect that her sister's spirit accompanied the servant and
entered my wife."
In spite of this explanation I cleaned and dressed the wound and
left her more comfortable. The next morning she was somewhat
better, without fever and in her right mind.
"What kind of a night did she have?" I asked her husband.
"Oh, very good," he answered. "I managed to get the spirit out of
"How did you do it?" I inquired.
"Soon after you left yesterday, I dressed myself in my official
garments, came into my wife's apartments, and asked the spirit if
it would not like to go with me to the yamen, adding that we
would have some interesting cases to settle. I felt a strange
sensation come over me and I knew the spirit had entered me. I
got into my cart, drove down to the home of my sister-in-law,
went in where the corpse lay, and told the spirit that it would
be a disgrace to have a woman at the Board of Punishments. 'This
is your place,' I said, in an angry voice; 'get out of me and
stay where you belong.' I felt the spirit leaving me, my fingers
became stiff and I felt faint. I had only been at the Board a
short time when they sent a servant to tell me that my wife was
quiet and sleeping. When I returned in the evening the fever was
gone and she was rational."
The Funeral Ceremonies of a Dowager Princess
There are five degrees of mourning, as follows:--For parents,
grandparents and great-grandparents; for brothers and sisters;
for uncles and aunts; and for distant relatives. In the first
sackcloth without hem or border; in the second with hem or
border; in the third, fourth and fifth, pieces of sackcloth on
parts of the dress. When sackcloth is worn, after the third
interval of seven days is over the mourners can cast it off, and
wear plain colours, such as white, gray, black and blue. For a
parent the period is nominally three years, but really
twenty-seven months, during all which time no silk can be worn;
during this time officials have to resign their appointments, and
retire from public life. --Dyer Ball in "Things Chinese."
THE FUNERAL CEREMONIES OF A DOWAGER PRINCESS
 Taken from Mrs. Headland's note-book.
One day I received a large sheet of white paper on which was
written in Chinese characters the announcement of the death of
the Dowager Princess Su, and inviting me to the "third-day
exercises." The real meaning of this "chieh san" I did not
comprehend, but I knew that those who were invited sent presents
of cakes or fruit, or baskets of paper flowers, incense, gold and
silver ingots made of paper, or rolls of paper silk, all of which
were intended for the use of the spirit of the departed. The
paper presents were all burned on the evening of the third day,
while the spirit feasted upon the flavour of the fruit and cakes.
As I did not feel that it was appropriate for me to send these
things, I had a beautiful wreath of white chrysanthemum flowers
made, and sent that instead. While I appreciated the invitation,
I thought it was probably given only as a matter of form, and
that I was not expected to attend the exercises, and so I sent my
Chinese maid with the wreath, saying that as I did not understand
their customs I would not go.
It was not long until the maid returned saying that they were
anxious to have me come, that under no circumstances must I
refuse, as they wished me to see their funeral ceremonies. The
Princess sent her cart for me, and according to the Chinese
custom, I took my maid seated upon the front, and set out for
Prince Su's palace. As we neared our destination we passed
numerous carts and chairs of princes who had been at the palace
to pay their respects. The street leading off the great
thoroughfare was filled with carts, chairs, servants and
outriders, but the utmost order prevailed. There were scores of
soldiers and special police, the latter dressed in long garments
of gray with a short jacket of white on the breast of which was
his number in black. These gray and white uniforms were mourning
colours, and were given by the Prince.
As we entered the gate we saw white-robed servants everywhere,
each with a sober face and a dignified bearing, waiting to be of
use. My name was announced and two servants stepped out from the
crowd, clothed from head to feet in white sackcloth, one
presenting his arm to help me through the court, as though I were
a bound-footed woman, and the other led the way. We were taken
by a roundabout path, through numerous courts and passages, the
front being reserved for the male guests, and were finally
ushered into a room filled with white-robed women servants, who
with one accord bent their knee in a low courtesy.
We were there met by the first and third Princesses, daughters of
the Dowager who had just passed away. They were dressed in white,
their hair being put up in the Manchu fashion. Instead of the
jewels and bright flowers, however, it was crossed and recrossed
with bands of white folded sackcloth. As these two ladies were
married daughters, and had left this home, their sackcloth was
not so coarse as that of the daughters-in-law and granddaughters
who dwelt in the palace. It was they who received the guests and
conducted them into the room where the mourners were kneeling.
As the white door screen was raised I saw two rows of white-robed
figures kneeling on the floor, and as I entered they all bent
forward and touched their head to the ground, giving forth as
they did it a low, wailing chant.
Not knowing their customs I went up and stooped over, speaking
first to the Princess and then to the ladies as best I could. I
afterwards watched the other lady visitors and saw that they put
their right hand up near their head as our soldiers salute, and
courtesied to the Princess, her daughter-in-law and her eldest
daughter. They then went over to a little table on which was a
silver sacrificial set, consisting of a wine tankard, a great
bowl, and a number of tiny cups holding but two tablespoonfuls.
They took the cup in its little saucer, and, facing the beautiful
canopied catafalque where the Dowager Princess was lying in
state, they raised the cup as high as their head three times,
emptying and refilling it each time. The mourners prostrated
themselves and gave forth a mournful wail each time the cup was
poured, after which the visitor arose and came over to where we
were, and the ceremony was over.
The third daughter of the late Dowager seemed to regard me as her
special friend and guest, and insisted on my coming over to a
white curtain that separated us from the view of the gentlemen,
and from there I watched the proceedings of princes and officials
who went through a similar ceremony. There was this difference
with them, however, as they entered through the great canopied
court, they were conducted by white-robed servants directly to
the altar, and there kneeling, they made their obeisance to the
spirit of the departed, after which they went into the room where
the Prince and the other male descendants of the dead Dowager
were kneeling and prostrating themselves.
There was a heavy yellow curtain over the door that led into the
sacrificial hall, and when the servants from without announced a
visitor, this curtain was drawn aside, and as the guest and a
flood of light entered, the mourners began their wailing which
they continued until he had departed. These visitors remained but
a moment, while the ladies who were there were all near
relatives, and were dressed either entirely or partially in
The room in which these ladies knelt was draped in white. The
cushions were all covered with white, and all porcelain and other
decorations had been removed. The floor was covered with a heavy
rope matting, on which the ladies knelt--all except the Princess,
for whom was prepared a small dark blue felt cushion. The
Princess knelt at the northwest corner of the room, directly in
front of the curtain which separated them from the sacrificial
hall. Several of the very near male relatives entered and gave
the low Manchu courtesy to the Princess, the son's wife, and the
eldest daughter, though none of the other kneeling ladies were
recognized. They left immediately without, so far as I noticed,
raising their eyes.
The Prince, his sons and the other mourners in the men's room
were clothed in white fur, and the servants too, who stood in the
sacrificial hall, and at intervals along the way towards the
hall, wore white fur coats instead of sackcloth.
To the left of the Princess there knelt in succession all the
secondary wives of Prince Su, and if I mistake not there were
five of these concubines. Behind the Princess knelt her son's
wife--the future Princess Su, and on her left, the daughters and
granddaughters of the Prince knelt in succession. The Princess
and secondary princesses had bands of sackcloth wound around
their heads, though their hair hung down their backs in two long
braids, and as I had never seen these princesses except when
clothed in beautifully embroidered satin garments, with hair put
up in elaborate coiffures, decked with jewels and flowers, and
faces painted and powdered in the proper Manchu fashion, it was
not easy to recognize them in these white-robed, yellow-faced
women, with hair hanging down their backs.
The grandson's wife and granddaughters, on the other hand, had
their hair combed, but the long hairpin was of silver instead of
jade or gold, and instead of being decorated with jewels and
flowers, and a red cord, it was crossed and recrossed with bands
of folded sackcloth an inch and a half in width. It was neat and
very effective--the black hair and white cloth making a pretty
contrast to the Western eye, though it would probably not be so
considered by the Chinese.
After I had watched them for a few moments I said to the princess
who accompanied me:
"I must not intrude upon your time longer; you have been very
kind to allow me to witness all these interesting customs."
"Oh, but you must not go now," she insisted; "you must remain and
see the arrival of the priests, and the burning of the paper
houses, goods, chattels, and images on the great street. I want
you to understand all our customs, and this is the greatest and
most interesting day of the funeral ceremonies."
I urged that I ought not to intrude myself upon them at this
"No, no," she said, "you must not say that. It is not intrusion;
you must stay and dine with us this evening."
When I still insisted upon going she said that if I went they
would feel that I did not care for them, and she was so
persistent that I consented to remain if the maid might be sent
home to the children, which they at once arranged for.
In the interval between the arrival of male guests, the ladies
took me out into a large canopied court to see the decorations,
and into the sacrificial hall. These ceremonies were all
conducted in the house and court which the Dowager Princess had
occupied, and where I had often gone to see her when she wanted
to thank me for some medical attention I had given her children
As we passed through the great gate, I noticed that the court was
covered with a mat pavilion making a room about one hundred and
fifty feet square, lighted by great squares of glass near the
top, and decorated with banners of rich brocade silks or satins,
of sober colours, blue, gray or white, on which were texts
extolling the virtues of the late Dowager or her family. These
were the gifts of friends, who had been coming and would continue
to come for days if not weeks.
At the north end as one came in at the gate was a gallery running
the whole length of the northern court, fitted up with special
hangings which separated it into different compartments. Many
elegant banners and decorations gave it a striking effect. This
was the place where the priests, who had not yet arrived, were to
say their prayers day and night until the funeral ceremonies were
Directly in front of the catafalque, in the gallery, there was a
table on which I afterwards saw the priests place a silver vessel
which the head priest carried, and the others regarded with much
From the gateway leading into the sacrificial hall the floor of
the court had been raised even with the door of the house and the
gate, a height of about five feet, and forty feet wide, and was
covered with the same kind of rope matting that was on the
floors. On the canopied verandas there were stacks of cakes,
incense, fruit and money. These were the most novel sights I have
ever seen in China. They were ten or twelve feet high. They were
a very pretty sight, and it required some scrutiny to discover
that they were made of cakes and fruit. How they were able to
build them thus, tier upon tier, and prevent their falling when
they were touched is beyond my comprehension. What magic there is
in it I do not know.
As one entered the door of the sacrificial hall, towering above
everything else, was the great catafalque, draped in cloth of
gold, and in front of it were stacks of these sacrificial cakes.
Near them there was a table on which there were great white,
square candles, five inches or more in diameter, the four sides
of which were stamped with figures of fairies and immortals. On
this table there were also various savoury dishes, together with
cakes and fruit, prepared to feed the spirit of the dead. In
front of this table again there was another about a foot high on
which were placed the sacrificial wine vessels, and before which
the guests knelt. As we entered I saw the gentlemen kneeling to
the left, while the ladies, separated from them by white
curtains, were kneeling to the right.
After we had seen the various customs without, I was taken into
the dining-room, where I sat down with the young Princess and her
two aunts, daughters of the Dowager. They were very kind and
polite, and did all in their power to make me feel at home. We
were attended by white-robed eunuchs, who knelt when they spoke
to the Princess. There was such a lot of them.
"How many servants do you use ordinarily?" I asked the eldest
"About four hundred," she replied.
I thought of the task of robing four hundred servants in new
white sackcloth, and attending to all the other things that I had
seen, in the forty-eight hours since the death of the Dowager
Princess. Even the bread, instead of being dotted with red as it
is ordinarily, was dotted with black!
As we were finishing our supper we heard the horns of the priests
and went to see them arrive. Prince Su, and the other male
members of the family, went out to the door to receive them, but
we remained within. They first went to the gallery, then the head
priest came down into the sacrificial hall and made nine
prostrations before the catafalque, without, however, pouring or
offering wine. After each third prostration he stood up and
raised his clasped hands to a level with his eyes. They then
began their weird music, standing on the two sides of the raised
platform between the gate and the house, thus allowing a
passageway between them for the guests.
The Princess told me that they were about to form a procession to
go to the great street. I therefore took my leave in order that I
might precede them and see the procession arrive, and witness the
burning of the presents for the spirit.
When I arrived on the great street I there beheld a paper cart
and horses which were intended to transport the spirit to the
eastern heaven. There was a sedan chair for her use after her
arrival, numerous servants, money, silk, and a beautiful, big
house for her to dwell in, all made of paper. I had not long to
wait for the procession, which was headed by the priests playing
mournful, wailing music on large and small horns and drums. The
priests were followed by the mourners and their friends. When
they arrived at the place of the burning, the mourners prostrated
themselves upon white cushions before the paper furnishings amid
the shrieks of the instruments, the wailing of the hired
mourners, and the petitions of the priests for the spirits to
assist the departed on her way.
While this was going on, fire was applied to various parts of the
paper pile, and in a moment a great flame sprang up into the
air--a flame that could be seen from miles around, and in less
time than it takes to tell it the whole was a heap of glowing
ashes, the mourners had departed, and the little street children
were stirring it up with long sticks.
The first three days after death, the spirit is supposed to visit
the different temples, going, as it were, from official court to
official court receiving judgment, and cards of merit or demerit
to take with it, for the deeds done in the body. On the third day
it returns to say farewell to the home, and then leaves for its
long journey, and all this paper furniture is sent on ahead.
They continue forty-nine days of prayers by the priests,
alternating three days by the Buddhists, three by the Lamas, and
three by the Taoists, after which the Buddhists take their turn
again. Everything else remains much as I have described it. The
family, servants, everybody in mourning, and all business put
aside to make way for this ceremony of mourning, mourning,
mourning, when they ought to be rejoicing, for the poor old
Princess had been a paralytic for years and was far better out of
The Princess frequently sent her cart for me during these days.
Once when I was going through the court where there were vast
quantities of things to be burned for the spirit, all made of
paper, I noticed some that were so natural that I was unable to
distinguish between them and the real things. Especially was this
true of the furniture and flowers like that which had been in her
apartments. There were great ebony chairs with fantastically
marked marble seats, cabinets, and all the furniture necessary
for her use. Among these things I noticed on the table a pack of
cards and a set of dice, of which she had been very fond, and a
chair like the one in which the eunuchs had carried the crippled
old Princess about the court, and I said to the young Princess
who accompanied me:
"You do not think your grandmother will require these things in
the spirit world, do you?"
"Perhaps not," she replied, "but she enjoyed her cards and dice,
and the chair was such a necessity, that, whether she needs them
or not, it is a comfort to us to get and send her everything she
liked while she lived, and it helps us bear our sorrows."
Chinese Princes and Officials
In any estimate of the forces which lead and control public
opinion in China, everywhere from the knot of peasants in the
hamlet to the highest officers of state and the Emperor himself,
the literati, or educated class, must be given a prominent
position. They form an immense body, increased each year by the
government examinations. They are at the head of the social
order. Every civil officer in the empire must be chosen from
their number. They constitute the basis of an elaborate system of
civil service, well equipped with checks and balances which, if
corrected and brought into touch with modern life and thought,
would easily command the admiration of the world.
--Chester Holcomb in "The Real Chinese Question."
CHINESE PRINCES AND OFFICIALS
One day while the head eunuch from the palace of one of the
leading princes in Peking was sitting in my study he said:
"It is drawing near to the New Year. Do you celebrate the New
Year in your honourable country?"
"Yes," I replied, "though not quite the same as you do here."
"Do you fire off crackers?"
"Yes, in the matter of firecrackers, we celebrate very much the
same as you do."
"And do you settle up all your debts as we do here?"
"I am afraid we do not. That is not a part of our New Year
"Our Prince is going to take on two more concubines this New
Year," he volunteered.
"Ah, indeed, I thought he had three concubines already."
"So he does, but he is entitled to five."
"I should think it would make trouble in a family for one man to
have so many women," I ventured.
He waved his hand in that peculiar way the Chinese have of
saying, don't mention it, as he answered:
"That is a difficult matter to discuss. Naturally if this woman
sees the Prince talking to that one, this one is going to eat
vinegar," which gives us a glimpse of some of the domestic
difficulties in Chinese high life. However it is a fact worth
remembering that the Manchu prince does not receive his full
stipend from the government until he has five concubines, each of
whom is the mother of a son.
The leading princes of the new regime are Ching, Su, and Pu-lun.
Prince Ching has been the leader of the Manchus ever since the
downfall of Prince Kung. He has held almost every office it was
in the power of the Empress Dowager to give, "though disliked by
the Emperor." He was made president of the Tsung-li Yamen in
1884, and from that time until the present has never been
degraded, or in any way lost the imperial favour. He is small in
stature, has none of the elements of the great man that
characterized Li Hung-chang and Chang Chih-tung, or Prince Kung,
but he has always been characterized by that diplomacy which has
kept him one of the most useful officials in close connection
with the Empress Dowager. It is to his credit moreover that the
legations were preserved from the Boxers in the siege of 1900.
Prince Su is the only one of the eight hereditary princes who
holds any office that brings him into intimate contact with the
foreigners. During the Boxer siege he gave his palace for the use
of the native Christians, and at the close was made collector of
the customs duties (octoroi) at the city gates. Never had there
been any one in charge of this post who turned in as large
proportion of the total collections as he. This excited the
jealousy of the other officials, and they said to each other: "If
Prince Su is allowed to hold this position for any length of time
there will never be anything in it for any one else." They
therefore sought for a ground of accusation, and they found it,
in the eyes of the conservatives, in the fact that he rode in a
foreign carriage, built himself a house after the foreign style
of architecture, furnished it with foreign furniture, employed an
Englishman to teach his boys, and as we have seen opened a school
for the women and girls of his family. He therefore lost his
position, but it is to the credit of Prince Chun, the new Regent,
and his progressive policy, that Prince Su has been made chief of
the naval department, of which Prince Ching is only an adviser.
The most important person among either princes or officials that
has been connected with the new regime is Yuan Shih-kai. He was
born in the province of Honan, that province south of the Yellow
River which is almost annually flooded by that great muddy stream
which is called "China's Sorrow." As a boy he was a diligent
student of the Chinese classics and of such foreign books as had
been translated into the Chinese language, but he has never
studied a foreign tongue nor visited a foreign country. Here then
rests the first element of his greatness--that without any
knowledge of foreign language, foreign law, foreign literature,
science of government, or the history of progress and of
civilization, he has occupied the highest and most responsible
positions in the gift of the empire, has steered the ship of
state on a straight course between the shoals of conservatism on
the one hand and radical reform on the other until he has brought
her near to the harbour of a safe progressive policy.
He has always been what the Chinese call the tu-ti or pupil of Li
Hung-chang, and it may be that it was from him he learned his
statecraft. Certain it is that he always basked in the favour of
the great Viceroy, and it may be that he had more or less
influence with him in his earlier appointments, for he rose
rapidly and in spite of all other officials.
On his return from Korea he was made a judge. He was then put in
charge of the army of the metropolitan province, and with the
assistance of German officers he succeeded in drilling 12,500
troops after the European fashion.
It was about this time that the Emperor conceived the plan of
instituting and carrying out one of the most stupendous reforms
that has ever been undertaken in human government--that of
transforming four thousand years of conservatism of four hundred
millions of people in the short space of a few months.
Given: A people who cannot make a nail, to build a railroad.
Given: A people who dare not plow a deep furrow for fear of
disturbing the spirits of the place, to open gold, silver, iron
and coal mines.
Given: A people who in 4,000 years did not have the genius to
develop a decent high school, to open a university in the capital
of every province.
These are three of the score or more of equally difficult
problems that the Emperor undertook to solve in twice as many
days. In order to the solution of these problems there was
organized in Peking a Reform Party of hot-headed, radical young
scholars not one of whom has ever turned out to be a statesman.
They were brilliant young men, many of them, but they so lost
their heads in their enthusiasm for reform that they forgot that
their government was in the hands of the same old conservative
leaders under whom it had been for forty centuries.
They introduced into the palace as the private adviser of the
Emperor, Kang Yu-wei, as we have already shown, to whom was thus
offered one of the greatest opportunities that was ever given to
a human being--that of being the leader in this great reform. He
was hailed as a young Confucius, but his popularity was
short-lived, for he so lacked all statesmanship as to allow the
young Emperor to issue twenty-seven edicts, disposing of
twenty-seven difficult problems such as I have given above in
about twice that many days, and it is this hot-headed and
unstatesman-like young "Confucius" who now calls Yuan Shih-kai
an opportunist and a traitor because he did not enter into the
After the Emperor had dismissed two conservative vice-presidents
of a Board, two governors of provinces, and a half dozen other
useless conservative leaders, they plotted to overthrow him by
appealing to the ambition of the Empress Dowager and induce her
to dethrone him and again assume the reins of government. They
argued that "he was her adopted son, it was she who had placed
him on the throne, and she was therefore responsible for his
mistakes." They complimented her on "the wisdom which she had
manifested, and the statesmanship she had exhibited" during the
thirty years and more of her regency. To all which she listened
with a greedy ear, but still she made no move.
During this time were the Emperor and his young "Confucius" idle?
By no means. They had hatched a counterplot, and had decided that
what they could not do by moral suasion and statesmanship they
would do by force, and so they sent an order to Yuan Shih-kai,
who as we have said had drilled and was in charge of 12,500 of
the best troops in the empire, urging him to "hasten to the
capital at once, place the Empress Dowager under guard in the
Summer Palace so that she may not be allowed to interfere in the
affairs of the government, and protect him in his reform
The Emperor knew that nothing could be done without the command
of the army which was largely in the hands of a great
conservative friend of the Empress Dowager (Jung Lu) the
father-in-law of the present Regent. Yuan was in charge of an
army corps of 12,500 troops, but for him to have taken them even
at the command of the Emperor, without informing his superior
officer, would have meant the loss of his head at once. The first
thing then for him to do was to take this order to Jung Lu. Yuan
was in favour of reform, though he may not have approved of the
Emperor's methods. Jung Lu hastened to Prince Ching and they two
sped to the Empress Dowager in the Summer Palace where they laid
the whole matter before her. She hurried to Peking, boldly faced
and denounced the Emperor, took from him his seal of state, and
confined him a prisoner in the Winter Palace. Kang Yu-wei, the
young "Confucius," fled, but the Empress Dowager seized his
brother and five other patriotic young reformers, and ordered
them beheaded on the public execution grounds in Peking.
Naturally the Empress Dowager approved of the "wise and
statesmanlike methods" of Yuan in thus protecting instead of
imprisoning her, and thus placing the reins of government once
more in her hands, and she appointed him Junior Vice-President of
the Board of Works, and when she was compelled to remove the
Governor of Shantung who had organized the Boxer Society, she
appointed Yuan Acting Governor in his stead. "Yuan," says Arthur
H. Smith, was "a man of a wholly different stripe" from the one
removed, and "if left to himself he would speedily have
exterminated the whole Boxer brood, but being hampered by
'confidential instructions' from the palace, he could do little
but issue poetical proclamations, and revile his subordinates for
failure to do their duty."
When Yuan was made Governor of Shantung a number of the Boxer
leaders called upon him expecting to find in him a sympathizer
worthy of his predecessor. They told him of their great powers
and possibilities, and of how they were proof against the spears,
swords and bullets of their enemies. Yuan listened to them with
patience and interest, and invited them to dine with him and
other official friends in the near future.
During the dinner the Governor directed the conversation towards
the Boxer leaders and their prowess, and led them once more to
relate to all his friends their powers of resistance. He fed them
well, and after the dinner was over he suggested that they give
an exhibition of their wonderful powers to the friends whom he
had invited. This they could not well refuse to do after the
braggadocio way in which they had talked, and so the Governor
lined them up, called forth a number of his best marksmen, and
proceeded with the exhibition, and it is unnecessary to add that
if the Empress Dowager had invited Yuan to the meeting with the
princes when they discussed the advisability of joining the
Boxers on account of a belief in their supernatural powers, she
might have been spared the humiliation of 1900.
We shall soon see that Yuan cared no more for the "confidential
instructions" of the Empress Dowager, when his statesmanship was
involved, than for the orders of the Emperor. His business was to
govern and protect the people of his province, and thanks to his
wise statesmanship and strong character "there was not only no
foreigner killed during the troubled season of anxiety and
flight" of 1900, and "comparatively little of the suffering
elsewhere so common."
And now we come to another plot which indicates the character of
Yuan and two other great viceroys, Chang Chih-tung, now Grand
Secretary, and Liu Kun-yi, Viceroy of the Yangtse-kiang
provinces. It is a well-known fact that during the Boxer
rebellion the Empress Dowager was so influenced by the promises
of the Boxers to drive out all the foreigners that she sent out
some very unwise edicts that they should be massacred in the
provinces. Yuan and his two confreres secretly stipulated that if
the foreign men of war would keep away from the ports of their
provinces they would maintain peace and protect the foreigners no
matter what orders came from the throne. So that when these
confidential instructions came from the palace to massacre the
foreigners, in order to gain time they pretended to believe that
no such orders could have come from the throne. They must be
forgeries of the Boxers. They therefore refused to believe them
until they had sent their own special messenger all the way to
Peking to get the edict from the hands of Her Majesty and bring
it to them in their provinces. This messenger was also secretly
instructed to find out what the contents of the edict were, and
if it was contrary to the desires of the Governor, he was to
dilly-dally on the way home until the Boxer trouble was ended or
until the foreigners had all been removed from the territory. And
it was such conduct as this on the part of three Chinese and one
Manchu viceroys that saved China from being divided up among the
Powers in 1900, a fact which the Empress Dowager was not slow to
understand and reward.
In 1900 Yuan was made Governor of the Shantung province, and the
court was compelled to flee to Hsian. It was while the court was
thus in hiding that an incident occurred which indicates the
fertility of the Empress Dowager and the elasticity of all
Chinese social customs. Governor Yuan's mother died. In a case of
this kind customs dictate, and the rules of filial affection
demand, that a man shall resign all his official positions and go
into mourning for a period of three years. Yuan therefore sent
his resignation to the Empress Dowager, while "weeping tears of
The country was of course in desperate straits and could ill
afford to lose, for three years, for a mere sentiment, the
services of one of her greatest and most powerful statesmen.
However much he may have regretted to give up such a brilliant
career which was just well begun, Yuan no doubt expected to do
so. What was his surprise therefore to receive from Her Majesty a
message of condolence in which she praised his mother in the
highest terms for having given the world such a brilliant and
able son. Under the circumstances, however, it would be
impossible to accept his resignation as his services to the
country just at this juncture were indispensable. She would,
however, appoint a substitute to go into mourning for him, and
this with the knowledge that she had borne a son whose services
were so necessary to the safety of the government and the
country, would be a sufficient comfort to the spirit of his
departed mother, and Yuan was forced to continue in his official
position as Governor of the province without the intermission of
a single day of mourning. Such is the elasticity and adaptability
of the unchanging laws and customs of the Oriental when in the
hands of a master--or a mistress--like Her Majesty the Empress
One can imagine that in proportion as the Empress Dowager was
pleased with the statesmanship manifested by Yuan Shih-kai in
unintentionally reseating her upon the throne, in a like
proportion the Emperor would be dissatisfied with it as being the
cause of his dethronement. This was not, however, against Yuan
alone but against the father-in-law of the present Regent and
even Prince Ching as well. During the whole ten years, from 1898
until his death, while he was a prisoner "his heart boiled with
wrath" against those who had been the cause of his downfall.
It was not until the Boxer troubles of 1900 were over, and Yuan,
by the masterly way in which he had disregarded the imperial
edicts, had protected and preserved the lives of all the
foreigners in his province, keeping peace the while, that honours
began to be heaped upon him. And this not without reason as we
shall proceed to show.
In 1901 he was made Governor-General of the metropolitan
province, and Junior Guardian of the Heir Apparent. In 1902 he
was decorated with the Yellow Jacket, placed in charge of the
affairs of the Northern Railway, and consulting minister to
counsel the government. Wherever he was he gave as much attention
to the city government as to that of the province or the nation,
and in spite of his having no foreign education himself, he began
building up a system of public schools in his province like which
there is nothing else in the whole of China. Let us remember also
that during ail this time there was suspended over his head, from
the palace, a sword of Damocles which was liable to fall at any
time. But we will explain that further on as it is the last act
of the drama.
When Yuan went to Tientsin as Viceroy of the metropolitan
province he found there Dr. C. D. Tenny, the president of the
Tientsin University which had been begun by Li Hung-chang some
ten or a dozen years before. It had a good course of study and
was turning out a large number of young graduates for whom there
ought to be a better future than that of interpreters in the
various business houses of that and other cities. He therefore
called Dr. Tenny to him and inquired particularly about the
system of public school education throughout the United States.
"What is to prevent our putting into operation such a system
throughout this province?" asked the Viceroy.
"Nothing," answered Dr. Tenny, "except to be willing to submit to
"And what are those conditions?" asked His Excellency.
"They are that you open schools in every important town, place in
them well-educated, competent teachers, whom you are willing to
pay a salary equal to what they may reasonably expect to get if
they enter business."
"May I ask if you would be willing to undertake the development
of such a system?" he asked further.
"On one condition," answered Dr. Tenny.
"And what is that?"
"That you allow me to open a school wherever I think there should
be one, call my teachers from whatsoever source I please to call
them, pay them whatever salary I think they deserve, sending all
the bills to Your Excellency, and you pay them without question."
The Viceroy had known Dr. Tenny for years, had always had the
most implicit confidence both in his ability and his honesty, and
so, lightening up his duties in the Tientsin and Paotingfu Uni-
versities, he commissioned him to establish what may be termed
the first public school system of education on modern lines in
the whole empire. This one act, if he had done no other, was
reason enough for a wise regent to have continued him in office
even though he "had rheumatism of the leg." But it may be that
there are extenuating circumstances in this act of the Regent as
we shall point out later.
There is one phase of the Boxer uprising that I have never yet
seen properly represented in any book or magazine. We all know
how the ministers of the various European governments with their
wives and children, the customs officials, missionaries, business
men, and tourists who happened to be in Peking at the time, with
all the Chinese Christians, were confined in the British legation
and Prince Su's palace. We know how they barricaded their
defense. We know how they were fired upon day and night for six
weeks by the Boxer leaders and the army of the conservatives
under the leadership of their general, Tung Fu-hsiang. But the
thing which we do not know, or at least which has not been
adequately told, is the most interesting secret plot of the
liberal progressives, under the leadership of "Prince Ching and
others," to thwart the Empress Dowager and the Boxer leaders, the
conservatives and their army, and protect the most noted company
of prisoners that have ever been confined in a legation quarter.
The plot was this:
When Prince Ching and his progressive associates in Peking
discovered that they could not vote down the Boxer princes, they
dared not openly oppose them, but they secretly decided that the
representatives of the Powers must not be massacred else the doom
of China was sealed. When they discovered that Yuan Shih-kai and
the other great viceroys had decided by stratagem to foil the
Boxers even though they must set all the imperial edicts at
naught, they decided, for the sake of the protection of the
legations and the preservation of the empire, that they would do
the same. They secretly sent supplies of food to the besieged,
which the latter feared to use lest they be poisoned. But more
than that they kept their own armies in Peking as a guard and as
a final resort in case there was danger of the legation being
overcome, and as a matter of fact there were regular pitched
battles between the troops of Prince Ching and his associates and
those of the Boxer leader, Tung Fu-hsiang. Had the Boxers finally
succeeded, Yuan Shih-kai and Prince Ching and their associates
would have lost their heads, but as the Boxers failed it was they
who went to their graves by the short process of the
So Yuan was between two fires. He had disobeyed the commands of
the Emperor in not coming to Peking and had therefore incurred
his displeasure and caused his downfall. He had disobeyed the
Empress Dowager in not putting to death the foreigners in his
province, and if the Boxers were successful he would surely lose
his head on that account. The Boxers, however, were not
successful and as his disobedience had helped to save the empire,
Yuan, so long as the Dowager remained in power, was safe.
But a day of reckoning must inevitably come. The Empress Dowager
was an old woman, the Emperor was a young man. In all human
probabilities she would be the first to die, while his only hope
was in her outliving the Emperor, who had sworn vengeance on all
those who had been instrumental in his imprisonment.
I have a friend in Peking who is also a friend of one of the
greatest Chinese officials. This official has gone into the
palace daily for a dozen years past and knows every plot and
counterplot that has been hatched in that nest of seclusion
during all that time, though he has been implicated in none of
them. He has held the highest positions in the gift of the empire
without ever once having been degraded. One day when he was in
the palace the Emperor unburdened his heart to him, thinking that
what he said would never reach the ears of his enemies.
"You have no idea," said the Emperor, "what I suffer here."
"Indeed?" was the only reply of the official.
"Yes," continued the Emperor, "I am not allowed to speak to any
one from outside. I am without power, without companions, and
even the eunuchs act as though they are under no obligations to
respect me. The position of the lowest servant in the palace is
more desirable than mine." Then lowering his voice he continued,
"But there is a day of reckoning to come. The Empress Dowager
cannot live forever, and if ever I get my throne again I will see
to it that those who put me here will suffer as I have done."
It is not unlikely that this conversation of the Emperor reached
the ears of Yuan Shih-kai. Walls have ears in China. Everything
has ears, and every part of nature has a tongue. If so, here was
the occasion for the last plot in the drama of the Emperor's
life, and next to the last in the official life of Yuan Shih-kai.
The problem is to so manipulate the laws of nature as to prevent
the Emperor outliving the Empress Dowager, and not allow the
world to know that you have been trifling with occult forces. He
must die a natural death, a death which is above suspicion. He
must not die one day after the Empress Dowager as that would
create talk. And he ought to die some time before her. The death
fuse is one which often burns very much longer than we expect--
was it not one of the English kings who said "I fear I am a very
long time a-dying, gentlemen" --and sometimes it burns out sooner
than is intended. There were two imperial death fuses burning at
the same time in that Forbidden City of Peking. The Empress
Dowager had "had a stroke." Hers was undoubtedly nature's own
work. But the enemies of Yuan Shih-kai tell us that the Emperor
had "had a Chinese doctor," to whom the great Viceroy paid
$33,000 for his services. We are told that the Empress Dowager in
reality died first and then the Emperor, though the Emperor's
death was first announced, and the next day that of the Dowager.
What then are we to infer? That the Emperor was poisoned? Let it
be so. That is what the Japanese believed at the time. But who
did it? Most assuredly no one man. One might have employed a
Chinese physician for him, but the last man whose physician the
Emperor would have accepted would have been Yuan Shih-kai's. Had
you or I been ill would we have allowed the man who was the cause
of our fall to select our physician? But granted that Yuan
Shih-kai did employ his physician, and that his death was the
result of slow poisoning, could Yuan Shih-kai have so manipulated
Prince Ching, the Regent (who is the late Emperor's brother), the
ladies of the court, and all those thousands of eunuchs, to
remain silent as to the death of the Empress Dowager until he had
completed the slow process on His Majesty? No! If the Emperor was
poisoned--and the world believes he was--there are a number of
others whose skirts are as badly stained as those of the great
Viceroy, or long ere this his body would have been sent home a
headless corpse instead of with "rheumatism of the leg."
What then is the explanation? It may be this, that the court, and
the officials as a whole, felt that the Emperor was an unsafe
person to resume the throne, and that it were better that one man
should perish than that the whole regime should be upset. They
even refused to allow a foreign physician to go in to see him,
saying that of his own free will he had turned again to the
Chinese, all of which indicates that it was not the plot of any
Why then should Yuan Shih-kai have been made the scapegoat of the
court and the officials, and branded as a murderer in the face of
the whole world? That may be another plot. The radical reformers,
followers of Kang Yu-wei, have been making such a hubbub about
the matter ever since the death of the Emperor and the Empress
Dowager that somebody had to be punished. They said that Yuan had
been a traitor to the cause of reform, that he had not only
betrayed his sovereign in 1898, but that now he had encompassed
Now to satisfy these enemies, the Prince Regent may have decided
that the best thing to do was to dismiss Yuan for a time. I think
that the trivial excuse he gives for doing so favours my
theory--with "rheumatism of the leg," to which is added, "Thus
our clemency is manifest"--a sentence which may be severe or may
mean nothing, and when the storm has blown over and the sky is
clear again, Yuan may be once more brought to the front as Li
Hung-chang and others have been in the past. Which is a
consummation, I think, devoutly to be wished.
Peking--The City of the Court
The position of Peking at the present time is one of peculiar
interest, for all the different forces that are now at work to
make or mar China issue from, or converge towards, the capital.
There, on the dragon throne, beside, or rather above, the
powerless and unhappy Emperor, the father of his people and their
god, sits the astute and ever-watchful lady whose word is law to
Emperor, minister and clown alike. There dwell the heads of the
government boards, the leaders of the Manchu aristocracy, and the
great political parties, the drafters of new constitutions and
imperial decrees, and the keen-witted diplomatists who know so
well how to play against European antagonists the great game of
--R. F. Johnston in "From Peking to Mandelay."
PEKING--THE CITY OF THE COURT
In the place where Peking now stands there has been a city for
three thousand years. Five centuries before Christ it was the
capital of a small state, but was destroyed three centuries later
by the builder of the great wall. It was soon rebuilt, however,
and has continued from that time until the present, with varied
fortunes, as the capital of a state, the chief city of a
department, or the dwelling-place of the court.
It is the greatest and best preserved walled city in the empire,
if not in the world. The Tartar City is sixteen miles in
circumference, surrounded by a wall sixty feet thick at the
bottom, fifty feet thick at the top and forty feet high, with six
feet of balustrade on the outside, beautifully crenelated and
loopholed, and in a good state of preservation. The streets are
sixty feet wide,--or even more in places,--well macadamized, and
lit with electric light. The chief mode of conveyance is the
'ricksha, though carriages may be hired by the week, day or hour
at various livery stables in proximity to the hotels, which, by
the way, furnish as good accommodation to their guests as the
hotels of other Oriental cities.
In the centre of the Tartar City is the Imperial City, eight
miles in circumference, encircled by a wall six feet thick and
fifteen feet high, pierced by four gates at the points of the
compass; and in the centre of this again is the Forbidden City,
occupying less than half a square mile, the home of the court.
Fairs are held, at various temples, fourteen days of every month,
distributed in such a way as to bring them almost on alternate
days, while at certain times there are two fairs on the same day.
It is a mistake to suppose that the Chinese women in the capital
are very much secluded. They may be seen on the streets at almost
any time, while the temple courts and adjacent streets, on fair
days, are crowded with women and girls, dressed in the most
gorgeous colours, their hair decorated with all kinds of
artificial flowers, followed by little boys and girls as gaily
dressed as themselves. Here they find all kinds of toys, curios,
and articles of general use, from a top to a broom, from bits of
jade or other precious stones, to a snuff bottle hollowed out of
a solid quartz crystal, or a market basket or a dust-pan made of
Peking being the city of the court, and the headquarters of many
of the greatest officials, is the receptacle of the finest
products of the oldest and greatest non-Christian people the
world has ever known. China easily leads the world in the making
of porcelain, the best of which has always gone to Peking for use
in the palace, and so we can find here the best products of every
reign from the time of Kang Hsi, as well as those of the former
dynasties, to that of Kuang Hsu and the Empress Dowager. The same
is true of her brass and bronze incense-burners and images, her
wood and ivory carvings, her beautiful embroideries, her
magnificent tapestries, and her paintings by old masters of six
or eight hundred years ago. Here we can find the finest Oriental
rugs, in a good state of preservation, with the "tone' that only
age can give, made long before the time of Washington.
There is no better market for fine bits of embroidery, mandarin
coats, and all the better products of needle, silk and floss, of
which the Chinese have been masters for centuries, than the city
of the court. The population consists largely of great officials
and their families, whose cast-off clothing, toned down by the
use of years, often without a blemish or a spot, finds its way
into the hands of dealers. The finest furs,--seal, otter,
squirrel, sable and ermine,--are brought from Siberia, Manchuria
and elsewhere, for the officials and the court, and can be
secured for less than half what they would cost in America.
Pearls, of which the Chinese ladies and the court are more fond
than of diamonds, may be found in abundance in all the bazars,
which are many, and judging from the way they are purchased by
tourists, are both cheaper and better than elsewhere.
The Chinese have little appreciation of diamonds as jewelry. On
one occasion there was offered to me a beautiful ring containing
a large sapphire encircled by twenty diamonds. When I offered the
dealer less than he asked for it, he said: "No, rather than sell
it for that price, I will tear it apart, and sell the diamonds
separately for drill-points to the tinkers who mend dishes. I can
make more from it in that way, only I dislike to spoil the ring."
The Empress Dowager during her late years, and many of the ladies
and gentlemen of the more progressive type, affected, whether
genuinely or not, an appreciation of the diamond as a piece of
jewelry, especially in the form of rings, though coloured stones,
polished, but not cut, have always been more popular with the
Chinese. The turquoise, the emerald, the sapphire, the ruby and
the other precious stones with colour have, therefore, always
graced the tables of the bazars in the capital, while the diamond
until very recently was relegated to the point of the tinker's
There is another method of bringing bits of their ancient
handiwork to the capital which most of those living in Peking,
even, know nothing about. A company, whose headquarters is at an
inn, called the Hsing Lung Tien, sends agents all over the
empire, to purchase and bring to them everything in the nature of
a curio, whether porcelain, painting, embroidery, pottery or even
an ancient tile or inkstone, which they then, at public auction,
sell to the dealers. The sale is at noon each day. The first time
I visited it was with a friend from Iowa who was anxious to get
some unique bits of porcelain. The auctioneer does not "cry" the
wares. Neither buyer nor seller says a word. Nobody knows what
anybody else has offered. The goods are passed out of a closed
room from a high window where the crowd can see them, and then
each one wanting them tries to be first in securing the hand of
the auctioneer, which is ensconced in his long sleeve, where, by
squeezing his fingers, they tell him how much they will give for
the particular piece. It is the only real case of "talking in the
sleeve' I have ever seen, and each piece is sold to the first
person offering a fair profit on the money invested, though he
might get much more by allowing them to bid against each other.
Among the attractive sights in Peking, none are quite so
interesting as the places where His Majesty worships, and of
these the most beautiful in architecture, the grandest in
conception, and the one laid out on the most magnificent scale,
is the Temple of Heaven.
Think of six hundred and forty acres of valuable city property
being set aside for the grounds of a single temple, as compared
with the way our own great churches are crowded into small city
lots of scarcely as many square feet, and over-shadowed by great
business blocks costing a hundred times as much, and we can get
some conception of the magnificence of the scale on which this
temple is laid out. A large part of the grounds is covered with
cedars, many of which are not less than five hundred years old,
while other parts are used to pasture a flock of black cattle
from which they select the sacrifice for a burnt offering. The
grounds are not well kept like those of our own parks and
churches, but the original conception of a temple on such a large
scale is worthy of a great people.
The worship at this temple is the most important of all the
religious observances of the empire, and constitutes a most
interesting remnant of the ancient monotheistic cultus which
prevailed in China before the rationalism of Confucius and the
polytheistic superstition of Buddhism predominated among the
people. While the ceremonies of the sacrifices are very
complicated, they are kept with the strictest severity. The chief
of these is at the winter solstice. On December 21st the Emperor
goes in a sedan chair, covered with yellow silk, and carried by
thirty-two men, preceded by a band of musicians, and followed by
an immense retinue of princes and officials on horseback. He
first goes to the tablet-chapel, where he offers incense to
Shang Ti, the God above, and to his ancestors, with three
kneelings and nine prostrations. Then going to the great altar he
inspects the offerings, after which he repairs to the Palace of
Abstinence, where he spends the night in fasting and prayer. The
next morning at 5:45 A. M. he dons his sacrificial robes,
proceeds to the open altar, where he kneels and burns incense,
offers a prayer to Shang Ti, and incense to his ancestors whose
shrines and tablets are arranged on the northeast and northwest
portions of the altar.
There are two altars in the temple, a quarter of a mile apart,
the covered and the open altar, and this latter is one of the
grandest religious conceptions of the human mind. It is a triple
circular marble terrace, 210 feet wide at the base, 150 feet in
the middle, and ninety feet at the top, ascended at the points of
the compass by three flights of nine steps each. A circular stone
is in the centre of the top, around which are nine stones in the
first circle, eighteen in the second, twenty-seven in the third,
etc., and eighty-one in the ninth, or last circle. The Emperor
kneels on the circular stone, surrounded by the circles of
stones, then by the circles of the terraces, and finally by the
horizon, and thus seems to himself and his retinue to be in the
centre of the universe, his only walls being the skies, and his
only covering, the shining dome.
There are no images of any kind connected with the temple or the
worship, the only offerings being a bullock, the various
productions of the soil, and a cylindrical piece of jade about a
foot long, formerly used as a symbol of sovereignty. Twelve
bundles of cloth are offered to Heaven, and only one to each of
the emperors, and to the sun and moon. The bullocks must be two
years old, the best of their kind, without blemish, and while
they were formerly killed by the Emperor they are now slaughtered
by an official appointed for that purpose.
The covered altar is, I think, the most beautiful piece of
architecture in China. It is smaller than the one already
described but has erected upon it a lofty, circular triple-roofed
temple ninety-nine feet in height, roofed with blue tiles, the
eaves painted in brilliant colours and protected from the birds
by a wire netting. In the centre, immediately in front of the
altar, is a circular stone, as in the open altar. The ceiling is
covered with gilded dragons in high relief, and the whole is
supported by immense pillars. It was this building that was
struck by lightning in 1890, but it was restored during the ten
years that followed. Being made the camp of the British during
the occupation of 1900, it received some small injuries from
curio seekers, but none of any consequence. The Sikh soldiers who
died during this period were cremated in the furnace connected
with the open altar.
The Chinese have been an agricultural people for thirty centuries
or more, and this characteristic is embodied in the Temple of
Agriculture, which occupies a park of not less than three hundred
and twenty acres of city property opposite the Temple of Heaven.
It has four great altars, with their adjacent halls, to the
spirits of Heaven, Earth, the Year, and the Ancestral Husbandman,
Shen Nung, to whom the temple is dedicated. It was used as the
camp of the American soldiers in 1900, and was well cared for. At
one time some of the soldiers upset one of the urns, and when it
was reported to the officer in command, the whole company was
called out and the urn properly replaced, after which the men
were lectured on the matter of injuring any property belonging to
There are several large plots of ground in this enclosure, one of
which the Emperor ploughs, while another is marked "City
Magistrate," another "Prefect," and on these bits of land the
"five kinds of grain" are sown. One cannot view these imperial
temples without being impressed with the potential greatness of a
people who do things on such a magnificent scale. But one, at the
same time, also feels that these temples, and the great Oriental
religions which inspire and support them have failed in a measure
to accomplish their design, which ought to be to educate and
develop the people. This they can hardly be said to have done,
especially if we consider their condition in their lack of all
phases of scientific development, for as the sciences stand
to-day they are all the product of the Christian peoples.
There are three other imperial temples on the same large scale as
those just described. The Temple of the Sun east of the city,
that of the Moon on the west, and that of the Earth on the north,
though it must be confessed that the worship at these has been
allowed to lapse. In the Tartar City there are two others, the
Lama Temple and the Confucian Temple, in the former of which
there is a statue of Buddha seventy-five feet high, and from
thirteen to fifteen hundred priests who worship daily at his
shrine. This statue is made of stucco, over a framework, and not
of wood as some have told us, and as the guide will assure us at
the present day. One can ascend to a level with its head by
several flights of stairs, where a lamp is lit when the Emperor
visits the temple. In the east wing of this same building is a
prayer-wheel, which reaches up through several successive
stories, and is kept in motion while the Emperor is present.
In the east side buildings there are a few interesting, though in
some cases very disgusting idols, such for instance as those
illustrating the creation, but over these draperies have been
thrown during recent years, which make them a trifle more
The temple is very imposing. At the entrance there are two large
arches covered with yellow tiles, from which a broad paved court
leads to the front gate, on the two sides of which are the
residences of the Lamas or Mongol priests. At the hour of prayer,
which is about nine o'clock, they may be seen going in crowds,
clothed in yellow robes, to the various halls of worship where
they chant their prayers.
Very different from this is the Confucian Temple only a quarter
of a mile away. Here we find neither priest nor idol--nothing but
a small board tablet to "Confucius, the teacher of ten thousand
ages" with those of his most faithful and worthy disciples. In
the court on each side are rows of buildings--that on the east
containing the tablets of seventy-eight virtuous men; that on the
west the tablets of fifty-four learned men; eighty-six of these
were pupils of the Sage, while the remainder were men who
accepted his teachings. No Taoists, however learned; no
Buddhists, however pure; no original thinkers, however great may
have been their following, are allowed a place here. It is a
Temple of Fame for Confucianists alone.
I have been in this temple when a whole bullock, the skin and
entrails having been removed, was kneeling upon a table facing
the tablet of the Sage, while sheep and pigs were similarly
arranged facing the tablets of his disciples.
For twenty-four centuries China has had Taoism preached within
her dominions; for twenty-three centuries she has worshipped at
the shrine of Confucius; for eighteen centuries she has had
Buddhism, and for twelve centuries Mohammedanism: and during all
this time if we believe the statements of her own people, she has
slept. Does it not therefore seem significant, that less than a
century after the Gospel of Jesus Christ had been preached to her
people, and the Bible circulated freely throughout her dominions,
she opened her court to the world, began to build railroads, open
mines, erect educational institutions, adopt the telegraph and
the telephone, and step into line with the industrial methods of
the most progressive nations of the Western world?
The Death of Kuang Hsu and the Empress Dowager
Who knows whether the Dowager Empress will ever repose in the
magnificent tomb she has built for herself at such a cost, or
whether a new dynasty may not rifle its riches to embellish its
own? Tze-Hsi is growing old! According to nature's immutable law
her faculties must soon fail her; her iron will must bend and her
far-seeing eye grow dim, and after her who will resist the tide
of foreign aggression and stem the torrent of inward revolt?
--Lady Susan Townley in "My Chinese Note Book."
THE DEATH OF KUANG HSU AND THE EMPRESS DOWAGER
During mid-November of 1908 the Forbidden City of Peking was a
blind stage before which an expectant world sat as an audience.
It had not long to wait, for on the fifteenth and sixteenth it
learned that Kuang Hsu and the Empress Dowager, less than
twenty-four hours apart, had taken "the fairy ride and ascended
upon the dragon to be guests on high." The world looked on in
awe. It expected a demonstration if not a revolution but nothing
of the kind happened. But on the other hand one of the most
difficult diplomatic problems of her history was solved in a
quiet and peaceable, if not a statesman-like way, by the aged
Dowager and her officials, and China once more had upon her
throne an emperor, though only a child, about whose succession
there was no question. And all this was done with less commotion
than is caused by the election of a mayor in New York or Chicago,
which may or may not be to the credit of an absolute monarchy
over a republican form of government.
The world has speculated a good deal as to what happened in the
Forbidden City of Peking during the early half of November. Will
the curious world ever know? Whether it will or not remains for
the future to determine. We have, however, the edicts issued to
the foreign legations at Peking and with these at the present we
must be content. From them we learn that it was the Empress
Dowager and not Kuang Hsu who appointed Prince Chun as Regent,
and that this appointment was made--or at least
announced--twenty-four hours before the death of the Emperor.
On the thirteenth of November the foreign diplomatic
representatives received the following edict from the great
Dowager through the regular channel of the Foreign Office of
which Prince Ching was the president:
"It is the excellent will of Tze-hsi-kuan-yu-k'ang-
great Empress Dowager that Tsai Feng, Prince of Chun, be
appointed Prince Regent (She Chang-wang)."
The above edict was soon followed by another which stated that
"Pu I, the son of Tsai Feng, should be reared in the palace and
taught in the imperial schoolroom," an indication that he was to
be the next emperor, and that Tsai Feng and not Kuang Hsu was to
occupy the throne, and all this by the "excellent will" of the
On the morning of the fourteenth the following edict came from
the Emperor himself:
"From the beginning of August of last year, our health has been
poor. We formerly ordered the Tartar generals, viceroys, and
governors of every province to recommend physicians of ability.
Thereupon the viceroys of Chihli, the Liang Kiang, Hu Kiang,
Kiangsu and Chekiang recommended and sent forward Chen Ping-chun,
Tsao Yuen-wang, Lu Yung-ping, Chow Ching-tao, Tu Chung-chun,
Shih Huan, and Chang Pang-nien, who came to Peking and treated
us. But their prescriptions have given no relief. Now the
negative and positive elements (Yin-Yang) are both failing. There
are ailments both external and internal, and the breath is
stopped up, the stomach rebellious, the back and legs painful,
appetite failing. On moving, the breath fails and there is
coughing and panting. Besides, we have chills and fever, cannot
sleep, and experience a general failure of bodily strength which
is hard to bear.
"Our heart is very impatient and now the Tartar generals,
viceroys, and governors of every province are ordered to select
capable physicians, regardless of the official rank, and to send
them quickly to Peking to await summons to give medical aid. If
any can show beneficial results he will receive extraordinary
rewards, and the Tartar generals, viceroys, and governors who
recommend them will receive special grace. Let this be
This was followed on the same day by the following edict:
"Inasmuch as the Emperor Tung Chih had no issue, on the fifth day
of the twelfth moon of that reign (January 12, 1875) an edict was
promulgated to the effect that if the late Emperor Kuang Hsu
should have a son, the said prince should carry on the succession
as the heir of Tung Chih. But now the late Emperor has ascended
upon the dragon to be a guest on high, leaving no son, and there
is no course open but to appoint Pu I, the son of Tsai Feng, the
Prince Regent, as the successor to Tung Chih and also as heir to
the Emperor Kuang Hsu."
The next day--the fifteenth--another edict, purporting to come
from little Pu I, but transcribed by Prince Ching, was sent out
to the diplomatic body and to the world. It is as follows:
"I have the honour to inform Your Excellency that on the 21st day
of the 10th moon [Nov. 14, 1908] at the yu-ke [5-7 P. M.] the
late Emperor ascended on the dragon to be a guest on high. We
have received the command of Tze-hsi, etc., the Great Empress
Dowager to enter on the succession as Emperor. We lamented to
Earth and Heaven. We stretched out our hands, wailing our
insufficiency. Prostrate we reflect on how the late Emperor
occupied the Imperial Throne for thirty-four years, reverently
following the customs of his ancestors, receiving the gracious
instruction of the Empress Dowager, exerting himself to the
utmost, not failing one day to revere Heaven and observe the laws
of his ancestors, devoting himself with diligence to the affairs
of government and loving the people, appointing the virtuous to
office, changing the laws of the land to make the country
powerful, considering new methods of government which arouse the
admiration of both Chinese and foreigners. All who have blood and
breath cannot but mourn and be moved to the extreme point. We
weep tears of blood and beat upon our heart. How can we bear to
express our feelings!
"But we think upon our heavy responsibility and our weakness, and
we must depend upon the great and small civil and military
officials of Peking and the provinces to show public spirit and
patriotism, and aid in the government. The viceroys and governors
should harmonize the people and arrange carefully methods of
government to comfort the spirit of the late Emperor in heaven.
This is our earnest expectation."
On the sixteenth day of November, three days after she had
appointed the regent, and two days after she had appointed Pu I,
the diplomatic representatives received the following from Prince
"I have the honour to inform Your Excellency that we have
reverently received the following testamentary statement of Her
Imperial Majesty Tze-hsi, etc., the Great Empress Dowager:
" 'Although of scanty merit, I received the command of His
Majesty the Emperor Wen Tsung-hsien (the posthumous title of
Hsien Feng) to occupy a throne prepared for me in the palace.
When the Emperor Mu Tsung I (Tung Chih) as a child succeeded to
the throne, violence and confusion prevailed. It was a critical
period of suppression by force. "Long-hairs" (Tai-ping rebels)
and the "twisted turbans" (Nien Fei) were in rebellion. The
Mohammedans and the aborigines had commenced to make trouble.
There were many disturbances along the seacoast. The people were
destitute. Ulcers and sores met the eye on every side.
Cooperating with the Empress Dowager Hsiao Chen-hsien, I
supported and taught the Emperor and toiled day and night.
According to the instructions contained in the testamentary
counsels of the Emperor Wen Tsung-hsien (Hsien Feng) I urged on
the officials of Peking and the provinces and all the military
commanders, determining the policy to be followed, diligently
searching the right way of governing, choosing the upright for
official positions, rescuing from calamity and pitying the
people, and so obtained the protection of Heaven, gaining peace
and tranquillity instead of distress and danger. Then the Emperor
Mu Tsung I (Tung Chih) departed this life and the late Emperor
succeeded to the throne. The times became still harder and the
people in still greater straits, sorrow within and calamity
without, confusion and noise; I had no recourse but to give
instruction in government once more.
" 'The year before last the preparatory measures for the
institution of constitutional government were published. This
year the time limits for the measures preparatory to
constitutional government have been promulgated. Attending to
these myriad affairs the strength of my heart has been exhausted.
Fortunately my constitution was originally strong and up to the
present I have stood the strain. Unexpectedly from the summer and
autumn of this year I have been ill and have not been able to
assist in the multitudinous affairs of government with
tranquillity. Appetite and the power to sleep have gone. This has
continued for a long time until my strength is exhausted and I
have not dared to rest for even a day. On the 21st of this moon
[November 14th] came the sorrow of the death of the late Emperor,
and I was unable to control myself, so that my illness increased
till I was unable to rise from my bed. I look back upon our fifty
years of sorrow and trouble. I have been continually in a state
of high tension without a moment's respite. Now a reform in the
method of government has been commenced and there begins to be a
clue to follow. The Emperor now succeeding to the throne is in
his infancy. All depends upon his instruction and guidance. The
Prince Regent and all the officials of Peking and the provinces
should exert themselves to strengthen the foundations of our
empire. Let the Emperor now succeedings to the throne make his
country's affairs of first importance and moderate his sorrow,
diligently attending to his studies so that he may in future
illustrate the instruction which he has received. This is my
devout hope. Let the mourning period be for twenty-seven days
only. Let this be proclaimed to the empire that all may know.' "
Still one more edict was necessary to complete this remarkable
list, and this was sent to the legations on the 17th of November.
It is as follows:
"I have the honour to inform Your Excellency that on the 22d of
the moon [November 15, 1908] I reverently received the following
"We received in our early childhood the love and care of Tze-hsi,
etc., the Great Empress Dowager. Our gratitude is boundless. We
have received the command to succeed to the throne and we fully
expected that the gentle Empress Dowager would be vigorous and
reach a hundred years so that we might be cherished and made glad
and reverently receive her instructions so that our government
might be established and the state made firm. But her toil by day
and night gradually weakened her. Medicine was constantly
administered in the hope that she might recover. Contrary to our
hopes, on the 21st day of the moon [November 14th] at the wei-k'o
[1-3 P.M.] she took the fairy ride and ascended to the far
country. We cried out and mourned how frantically! We learn from
her testamentary statement that the period of full mourning is to
be limited to twenty-seven days. We certainly cannot be
satisfied with this. Full mourning must be worn for one hundred
days and half mourning for twenty-seven months, by which our
grief may be partly expressed. The order to restrain grief so
that the affairs of the empire may be of first importance we dare
not disregard, as it is her parting command. We will strive to be
temperate so as to comfort the spirit of the late Empress in
We call attention to the fact that according to the fourth of
these edicts the death of the Emperor is put at from 5 to 7 P. M
on the evening of the 14th of November, while that of the Empress
Dowager is from 1 to 3 P. M. of the same day at least two hours
earlier, and that in her last edict she is made to speak of the
death of Kuang Hsu. Whether these dates have become mixed in
crossing to America we have not been able to ascertain, though we
think it more than likely that her death occurred on November
15th instead of the 14th.
The Court and the New Education
Abolish the eight-legged essay. Let the new learning be the test
of scholarship, but include the classics, history, geography and
government of China in the examinations. The true essay will then
come out. If so desired, the eight-legged essay can be studied at
home; but why trouble the school with them, and at the same time
waste time and strength that can be expended in something more
profitable? --Chang Chih-tung in "Chinas Only Hope,"
THE COURT AND THE NEW EDUCATION
The changes in the attitude of the court towards a new
educational system began, as do many great undertakings, in a
very simple way. We have already shown how the eunuchs secured
all kinds of foreign mechanical toys to entertain the baby
Emperor Kuang Hsu; how these were supplemented in his boyhood by
ingenious clocks and watches; how he became interested in the
telegraph, the telephone, steam cars, steamboats, electric light
and steam heat, and how he had them first brought into the palace
and then established throughout the empire: and how he had the
phonograph, graphophone, cinematograph, bicycle, and indeed all
the useful and unique inventions of modern times brought in for
He then began the study of English. When in 1894 a New Testament
was sent to the Empress Dowager on the occasion of her sixtieth
birthday, he at once secured from the American Bible Society a
copy of the complete Bible for himself. He began studying the
Gospel of Luke. This gave him a taste for foreign literature and
he sent his eunuchs to the various book depositories and bought
every book that had been translated from the European languages
into the Chinese. To these he bent all his energies and it soon
became noised abroad that the Emperor was studying foreign books
and was about to embrace the Christian faith. This continued from
1894 till 1898, during which time his example was followed by
tens of thousands of young Chinese scholars throughout the
empire, and Chang Chih-tung wrote his epoch-making book "China's
Only Hope" which, being sent to the young Emperor, led him to
enter upon a universal reform, the chief feature of which may be
considered the adoption of a new educational system.
But now let us notice the animus of Kuang Hsu. He has been
praised without stint for his leaning towards foreign affairs,
when in reality was it not simply an effort on the part of the
young man to make China strong enough to resist the incursions of
the European powers? Germany had taken Kiaochou, Russia had taken
Port Arthur, Japan had taken Formosa, Great Britain had taken
Weihaiwei, France had taken Kuangchouwan, and even Italy was
anxious to have a slice of his territory, while all the English
papers in the port cities were talking of China being divided up
amongst the Powers, and it was these things which led the Emperor
to enter upon his work of reform.
In the summer of 1898 therefore he sent out an edict to the
effect that: "Our scholars are now without solid and practical
education; our artisans are without scientific instructors; when
compared with other countries WE SOON SEE HOW WEAK WE ARE. DOES
ANY ONE THINK THAT OUR TROOPS ARE AS WELL DRILLED OR AS WELL LED
AS THOSE OF THE FOREIGN ARMIES? OR THAT WE CAN SUCCESSFULLY STAND
AGAINST THEM? Changes must be made to accord with the necessities
of the times. . . . Keeping in mind the morals of the sages and
wise men, we must make them the basis on which to build newer and
better structures. WE MUST SUBSTITUTE MODERN ARMS AND WESTERN
ORGANIZATION FOR OUR OLD REGIME; WE MUST SELECT OUR MILITARY
OFFICERS ACCORDING TO WESTERN METHODS OF MILITARY EDUCATION; we
must establish elementary and high schools, colleges and
universities, in accordance with those of foreign countries; we
must abolish the Wen-chang (literary essay) and obtain a
knowledge of ancient and modern world-history, a right conception
of the present-day state of affairs, with special reference to
the governments and institutions of the countries of the five
great continents; and we must understand their arts and
The effect of this edict was to cause hundreds of thousands of
young aspirants for office to put aside the classics and unite in
establishing reform clubs in many of the provincial capitals,
open ports, and prefectural cities. Book depots were opened for
the sale of the same kind of literature the Emperor had been
studying, magazines and newspapers were issued and circulated in
great numbers, lectures were delivered and libraries established,
and students flocked to the mission schools ready to study
anything the course contained, literary, scientific or religious.
Christians and pastors were even invited into the palace by the
eunuchs to dine with and instruct them. But the matter that gave
the deepest concern to the boy in the palace was: "How can we so
strengthen ourselves that we will be able to resist the White
Peril from Europe?"
Among the important edicts issued in the establishment of the new
education was the one of June 11, 1898, in which he ordered that
"a great central university be established at Peking," the funds
for which were provided by the government. Among other things he
said: "Let all take advantage of the opportunities for the new
education thus open to them, so that in time we may have many who
will be competent to help us in the stupendous task of putting
our country on a level with the strongest of the western powers."
It was not wisdom the young man was after for the sake of wisdom,
but he wanted knowledge because knowledge was power, and at that
time it was the particular kind of power that was necessary to
save China from utter destruction.
On the 26th of the same month he censured the princes and
ministers who were lax in reporting upon this edict, and ordered
them to do so at once, and it was not long until a favourable
report was given and, for the first time in the history of the
empire, a great university was launched by the government,
destined, may we not hope, to accomplish the end the ambitious
boy Emperor had in view.
Kuang Hsu was aware that a single institution was not sufficient
to accomplish that end. On July 10th therefore he ordered that
"schools and colleges be established in all the provincial
capitals, prefectoral, departmental and district cities, and
allowed the viceroys and governors but two months to report upon
the number of colleges and free schools within their provinces,"
saying that "all must be changed into practical schools for the
teaching of Chinese literature, and Western learning and become
feeders to the Peking Imperial University." He ordered further
that all memorial and other temples that had been erected by the
people but which were not recorded in the list of the Board of
Rites or of Sacrificial Worship, were to be turned into schools
and colleges for the propagation of Western learning, a thought
which was quite in harmony with that advocated by Chang Chih-
tung. The funds for carrying on this work, and the establishment
of these schools, were to be provided for by the China Merchants'
Steamship Company, the Telegraph Company and the Lottery at
On August 4th he ordered that numerous preparatory schools be
established in Peking as special feeders to the university; and
on the 9th appointed Dr. W. A. P. Martin as Head of the Faculty
and approved the site suggested for the university by Sun
Chia-nai, the president. On the 16th he authorized the
establishment of a Bureau for "translating into Chinese Western
works on science, arts and literature, and textbooks for use in
schools and colleges"; and on the 19th he abolished the "Palace
examinations for Hanlins as useless, superficial and obsolete,"
thus severing the last cord that bound them to the old regime.
What, now, was the Empress Dowager doing while Kuang Hsu was
issuing all these reform edicts, which, we are told, were so
contrary to all her reactionary principles? Why did she not
stretch forth her hand and prevent them? She was spending the hot
months at the Summer Palace, fifteen miles away, without offering
either advice, objection or hindrance, and it was not until two
delegations of officials and princes had appeared before her and
plead with her to come and take control of affairs and thus save
them from being ousted or beheaded, and herself from
imprisonment, did she consent to come. By thus taking the throne
she virtually placed herself in the hands of the conservative
party, and all his reform measures, except that of the Peking
University and provincial schools, were, for the time,
countermanded, and the Boxers were allowed to test their strength
with the allied Powers.
Passing over the two bad years of the Empress Dowager, which we
have treated in another chapter, we find her again, after the
failure of the Boxer uprising, and the return of the court to
Peking, reissuing the same style of edicts that had gone out from
the pen of Kuang Hsu. On August 29, 1901, she ordered "the
abolition of essays on the Chinese classics in examinations for
literary degrees, and substituted therefor essays and articles on
some phase of modern affairs, Western laws or political economy.
This same procedure is to be followed in examination of
candidates for office."
And now notice another phase of this same edict. "The old methods
of gaining military degrees by trial of strength with stone
weights, agility with the sword, or marksmanship with the bow on
foot or on horseback, ARE OF NO USE TO MEN IN THE ARMY, WHERE
STRATEGY AND MILITARY SCIENCE ARE THE SINE QUA NON TO OFFICE, and
hence they should be done away with forever." It is, as it was
with Kuang Hsu, the strengthening of the army she has in mind in
her first efforts at reform, that she may be able to back up with
war-ships and cannon, if necessary, her refusal to allow Italy or
any other European power to filch, without reason or excuse, the
territory of her ancestors.
September 12, 1901, she issued another edict commanding that "all
the colleges in the empire should be turned into schools of
Western learning; each provincial capital should have a
university like that in Peking, whilst all the schools in the
prefectures and districts are to be schools or colleges of the
second or third class," neither more nor less than a restatement
of the edict of July 10, 1898, as issued by the deposed Emperor,
except that she confined it to the schools without taking the
September 17, 1901, she ordered "the viceroys and governors of
other provinces to follow the example of Liu Kun-yi of Liang
Kiang, Chang Chih-tung of Hukuang, and Kuei Chun (Manchu) of
Szechuan, in sending young men of scholastic promise abroad to
study any branch of Western science or art best suited to their
tastes, that in time they may return to China and place the
fruits of their knowledge at the service of the empire." Such
were some of the edicts issued by the Emperor and the Empress
Dowager in their efforts to launch this new system of education
which was to transform the old China into a strong and sturdy
youth. What now were the results?
The Imperial College in Shansi was opened with 300 students all
of whom had already taken the Chinese degree of Bachelor of Arts.
It had both Chinese and foreign departments, and after the
students had completed the first, they were allowed to pass on to
the second, which had six foreign professors who held diplomas
from Western colleges or universities, and a staff of six
translators of university textbooks into Chinese, superintended
by a foreigner. In 1901-2 ten provinces, under the wise
leadership of the Empress Dowager, opened colleges for the
support of which they raised not less than $400,000.
The following are some of the questions given at the triennial
examinations of these two years in six southern provinces:
1. "As Chinese and Western laws differ, and Western people will
not submit to Chinese punishments, what ought to be done that
China, like other nations, may be mistress in her own country?"
2. "What are the Western sources of economic prosperity, and as
China is now so poor, what should she do?"
3. "According to international law has any one a right to
interfere with the internal affairs of any foreign country?"
4. "State the advantages of constructing railways in Shantung."
5. "Of what importance is the study of chemistry to the
While Yuan Shih-kai was Governor of Shantung he induced Dr. W. M.
Hayes to resign the presidency of the Presbyterian College at
Teng Choufu and accept the presidency of the new government
college at Chinanfu the capital of the province. Dr. Hayes drew
up a working plan of grammar and high schools for Shantung which
were to be feeders to this provincial college. This was approved
by the Governor, and embodied in a memorial to the throne, copies
of which the Empress Dowager sent to the governors and viceroys
of all the provinces declaring it to be a law, and ordering the
"viceroys, governors and literary chancellors to see that it was
Dr. Hayes and Yuan Shih-kai soon split upon a regulation which
the Governor thought it best to introduce, viz., "That the
Chinese professors shall, on the first and fifteenth of each
month, conduct their classes in reverential sacrifice to the Most
Holy Confucius, and to all the former worthies and scholars of
the provinces." Dr. Hayes and his Christian teachers withdrew,
and it was not long until those who professed Christianity were
excused from this rite, while the Christian physicians who taught
in the Peking Imperial University were allowed to dispense with
the queue and wear foreign clothes, as being both more convenient
and more sanitary.
When Governor Yuan was made viceroy of Chihli, he requested Dr.
C. D. Tenny to draw up and put into operation a similar schedule
for the metropolitan province. This was done on a very much
enlarged scale, and at present (1909) "the Chihli province alone
has nine thousand schools, all of which are aiming at Western
education; while in the empire as a whole there are not less than
forty thousand schools, colleges and universities," representing
one phase of the educational changes that have been brought about
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