to Mr. Evarts
Peking , February 9, 1881. (Received April 14.)
Sir: I have to announce to you that his excellency Shen Kuei-fen, assistant grand secretary of state, president of the board of war, and, after Prince Kung, the leading member of the foreign office, died after a brief illness, on January 29. I inclose the Imperial decree, a copy of which was communicated to me by Prince Kung, which sets forth his merits and shows the esteem in which he was held by the government, and a copy of my response. He belonged to the party which is least unfriendly to foreigners and to foreign ideas, though he was too cautious or too timid to be very demonstrative.
He brought a most amiable temper to all negotiations, but, when occasion required, was master of those “arts of delay” which characterize Chinese diplomacy.
In the negotiation of the recent treaties with the commission plenipotentiary the deceased minister took a much more active part than the Chinese commissioners who were especially appointed. It seemed to be largely due to his desire to expedite the work that we were able to complete it in so short a time.
It will be fortunate for China and for foreign powers if a man as well disposed to foreign nations succeeds to Shen Kuei-fen’s position of influence in the Tsung-li Yamên.
I have, &c.,
- A kind of silken pair with Buddhist prayers inscribed upon it.↩
- The Hsien Liang-tsz are government buildings in which the tablets inscribed with the names and titles of meritorious officers are placed after their death and before which the district officers offer sacrifice in the spring and autumn.↩