No. 150.
Mr. Angell to Mr. Evarts.

No. 109.]

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.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 109.]

Prince Rung to Mr. Angell.

Prince Kung, chief secretary of state for foreign affairs, herewith makes a communication.

Upon the 1st instant I was honored by the receipt of an edict from His Imperial Majesty, in terms as follows: “Shen Kuei-fen, late assistant grand secretary of state and president of the board of war, a man of pure heart, cautious in his disposition, a loyal statesman, of sedulous habits, tried ability, an upright nature, respectful and attentive to his duties, commenced his career as a Han Lin (member of the Imperial Academy) and gradually rose to the distinction of subdirector of one of the lower courts. He was then made one of the high provincial officers. In the reign of our predecessor, Tung Chin, he was chosen to be one of the counselors in the grand council and was subsequently made president of one of the boards. After our accession to the throne, relying greatly on his integrity and ability, we raised him to the rank of assistant grand secretary of state. In the management of all state affairs he always exerted himself with his whole mind and strength, and when wearied and exhausted did not seek to be excused. Recently, because he had met with a slight ailment we granted him leave to nurse his health, but the unexpected intelligence of his death which has now reached Us, has smitten Us with profound grief. Let there be given him a “To Lo Ching-pei”.* Let the Bei Le (prince of the third rank) Tsai Yi conduct ten officers of the Imperial guard and forthwith proceed to his house to offer a libation; and as an addition of Our favor, let there be conferred upon him the posthumous title of ‘grand tutor of the heir apparent,’ and let the same honors be done to his memory as if he were a grand secretary of state. Let his tablet be placed in the Hsien Liang-tsz. Let all his shortcomings during his official career be blotted out and [Page 234] forgotten. Let a grant of 2,000 taels from the Imperial treasury be made towards defraying his funeral expenses. Let the proper Yamên study the regulations for honoring the dead and memorialize as to what is due to his memory, and when the deceased officer’s body is being conveyed to his birthplace, let the authorities on the road do what the circumstances may require. Let the decree of Chii fen (provincial graduate) be bestowed upon his son, Shen-men-t’ao, and let him be accorded the same privilege of competing at the metropolitan examinations which belongs to that class of students. Let his grandson, Shen hsi kuei, born with hereditary distinction of the first rank, be granted the position of senior secretary of a board.

“The foregoing edict is made known as a proof of the high estimation in which the deceased officer’s virtues and abilities were held by Us.

“Respect this!”

It becomes my duty to transmit a copy of this edict for the information of your excellency.

Peking, February 7, 1881.

His Excellency James B. Angell, &c., &c., &c.

[Inclosure 2 in No. 109.]

Mr. Angell to Prince Kung.

Your Imperial Highness: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt this morning, of Your Imperial Highness’s communication of the 7th instant, inclosing an edict from His Imperial Majesty concerning the death of his excellency Shen Kuei-fen, assistant grand secretary of state, and president of the board of war.

I desire to express to you, my high appreciation of his signal merits and my sincere Borrow at his decease. In my brief acquaintance with him, I was much impressed with his ready grasp of all subjects brought before him, his perfect mastery of details, his singularly retentive memory, and the courteous and amiable spirit which he evinced in the most earnest discussions. The empire may well mourn the loss, while in the full vigor of his intellectual strength, of one who has performed so many eminent public services, who was so wise a counselor to His Imperial Majesty, and who was so esteemed by all the representatives of foreign powers.

I shall communicate the edict of His Imperial Majesty to my government, who will, with deep regret, receive the sad tidings of the decease of the distinguished statesman, whose name has become so well known to them.

I have, &c.,

  1. A kind of silken pair with Buddhist prayers inscribed upon it.
  2. 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.