No. 128.
Mr. Denby to Mr. Bayard.

No. 212.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith a translation of the reply of the Tsung-li yamên to my communication of September 14, relating to the Chungking riot, and my answer to their reply.

The yamên set out a report from the governor-general, wherein he asserts that the buildings of the American missionaries interfered with the feng shui and excited the people.

The yamên observes that in the eastern part of Szechuan the Chinese and the native converts have gotten on badly together; that the present affair was a surprise; that the local authorities desired but were unable to afford protection, and that, in view of the events which transpire in western countries, my charge that the conduct of the authorities showed willful neglect of duty is too severe. The yamên states that an imperial decree has already been issued to investigate the matter and do justice.

In my answer to this communication I combat the idea that the riot originated because the American missionaries had built in an improper place, I show, by quoting from the proclamations of the local magistrate, that they had not interfered with the feng shui, and that this charge against them is an afterthought. And I express the hope that in both countries these difficulties are temporary. * * *

[Page 164]

It will be seen from the perusal of the communication of the yamên that it is couched in phraseology which is very non-committal. There is no distinct intimation that damages will be paid. * * *

For the present the yamên has declined to issue passports to foreigners to visit Chungking, on the plea that it would be dangerous. I have not acquiesced in this determination so far as commercial travelers are concerned, but am insisting that passports be issued.

I have, etc.,

Charles Denby.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 212.—Translation.]

The Tsung-li yamên to Mr. Denby.

Your Excellency: Upon the 14th of September the prince and ministers had the honor to receive your excellency’s communication in relation to the loss of property belonging to the American missionaries at Chungking, wherein you asked for redress for the same, and requested that measures be taken, as may be necessary, for their protection, as well as prevent the recurrence of similar outrages in future, etc.

With reference to this case the acting governor-general of Szechuan, Yu, presented a report bearing upon it some time ago, as follows:

The English and American missionaries acquired property and erected buildings thereon in the Pa district. This interfered with the feng shui, and was not in harmony with the public feeling. In consequence, a largo concourse of persons passed to and from the place. It was observed that a foreign lady was carrying a gun for the purpose of frightening the people, which act incurred their displeasure and led to a disturbance between them. Afterwards the crowd disappeared. This was at the time of the military examinations, and the local authorities, fearing lest trouble would likely follow, admonished the missionaries to temporarily suspend work.

Unexpectedly the people [assembled together] in great numbers; this produced a grave condition of affairs, which afterwards assumed such an excessively excited aspect as to render it difficult for the local authorities to suppress [the temper of the crowd] and the buildings and houses of the foreigners were destroyed. Fortunately the missionaries were all protected and not injured. At present prompt measures are being taken to investigate and take action in the premises.

The prince and ministers would observe that it appears that in the eastern part of the province of Szechuan (Chuan Tung) the temper and general feeling of the people are passionate and imperious, and hitherto the Chinese and native converts have not lived together harmoniously. The present affair, however, was a surprise and assumed an aspect as though the country was in a state of rebellion. While the local authorities were desirous of according protection [to the missionary property] they found that they were powerless to do so. This state of affairs happens rather too often in western countries, and your excellency’s observation in regard to a “willful failure on the part of the local authorities to furnish aid and protection (to the missionaries) which the treaties call for,” seems to the prince and ministers as a needlessly severe criticism.

An imperial decree has already been issued from the throne instructing the governor-general of Szechuan to carefully and minutely investigate the case and to deal with it in accordance with justice and equity; and, as a matter of course, that officer will surely understand all the circumstances attending it and render satisfactory aid. When the governor-general’s report has been received the prince and minister will again address your excellency.

A necessary communication in reply, etc.

[Inclosure 2 in No. 212.]

Mr. Denby to the Tsung-li yamên.

Your Imperial Highness and Your Excellencies:

Upon the 23d September instant I had the honor to receive the reply of your Imperial highness and your excellencies to my communication touching the loss of property of the citizens of the United States at Chungking, wherein your imperial highness [Page 165] and your excellencies give a copy of the report of the acting governor-general concerning the alleged cause of the riot, together with a statement that an imperial decree has issued from the throne instructing the governor-general to investigate the case and to deal with it in accordance with justice and equity.

I return thanks for the assurances given in your communication and for the general tone of justice which pervades it. But you will permit me to remark that, in my opinion, too much stress is laid upon the idea that Americans had erected buildings in improper places.

I have before me a copy of the magistrate’s reply to certain petitioners before the riot, as well as copies of proclamations issued by that officer after the riot. From the former (issued some days before) I make the following extracts:

“This thing of the Americans purchasing and building is in accordance with the treaties. When the work was begun I went myself to investigate things. They had not disturbed a single stone or in any way injured the geomantic influence of the place. This is sufficient witness that they understood things.” * * * “To wait, until after the sale to object is not equitable.” * * * “If there were indeed any injury from building in these places I, the local magistrate, would long ago have investigated it and forbidden them.”

In a proclamation issued by the magistrate, dated July 2, he says:

“These foreigners are building houses in accordance with permission given in the treaties.”

After the riot this same magistrate, in another proclamation, dated the 3d of July, uses the following language:

“It (the trouble) arose because the Americans at O Hsiang Ching, Liang-feng-Ya, and Tsung-Shu-Pai—three places—were building houses and usurping important places controlling the feng shui.”

These utterances are entirely contradictory and look to me as if an effort were made to throw the blame of the riot on the Americans, which is not in accordance with just conduct. As your Imperial highness and your excellencies pertinently remark, sudden riots will occur in all countries. They are a part of the labor troubles that have, notably in recent months, prevailed in many countries. I believe that this condition of things is temporary, and I have the highest confidence that the wisdom and love of justice which so eminently belong to your Imperial highness and your excellencies will find a remedy for such lamentable occurrences in China, as I believe that my Government will in the United States.

Your Imperial highness and your excellencies ascribe the riot at Chungking partly to jealousy between the Chinese and native converts. Such jealousy can hardly exist against native converts to any of the religious creeds represented by Americans, as such converts are probably not numerous enough to attract attention.

I have, etc.,

Charles Denby.