No. 166.
Mr. Denby to Mr. Bayard.

No. 551.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith a translation of a letter from the King of Corea to the Viceroy Li Hung Chang, which appeared [Page 249] in the Shih pao, a Chinese paper published at Tientsin, January 13, 1888.

The King states that as soon as his envoys have performed the duty of offering their congratulations, he intends to recall them and leave chargés d’affaires in their places; that they will be instructed to show the greatest respect towards the minister of China.

He recites the imperial decree in which it was laid down that the position of Corea toward China, as well as her international relationship, must be preserved the etiquette of a dependent country must be observed in intercourse with the ministers of China by consulting them in all matters not expressly provided for. He cites the rules laid down by the Viceroy that the Corean envoy should present himself first at the Chinese legation and ask an introduction on his arrival; that the Corean minister must take his place after the Chinese minister on official occasions, and must be guided in all matters by the Chinese minister. These, he says, are the duties of a dependent nation towards its suzerain.

He goes on to cite other comments of the Viceroy, all enforcing vassalage of Corea to China. He assures the Viceroy of his intention to maintain his position towards China as well as his international relations, and promises conformity to the views of the Viceroy and renews his admiration, etc.

He has adopted the rules laid down for him and ordered his envoys to be guided by them.

I have, etc.,

Charles Denby.
[Inclosure in No. 551—Letter from King of Corea to Viceroy Li Hung Chang, published in Shih-pao January 13, 1888.]

The King of Corea makes a communication.

On the 11th of November our foreign secretary, Chao Pingwu, reported to us the arrival on that day of a dispatch addressed to him by Yuan, Chinese resident in Corea. It appeared from the dispatch that on the 9th of November, at 8 p.m., the resident had received a telegram from your excellency in reply to one sent earlier by himself. Your excellency took note of the statement made by us, that the appointment of ministers plenipotentiary to European courts having already been announced to the representatives of those courts in Corea and reported by them to their respective Governments, it would be unadvisable to change the title of our envoys, as such a proceeding would appear strange, but as soon as our envoys had performed the duty of offering our congratulations, it was our intention to recall them and leave chargé’s d’affaires in their places, as being a more economical plan, and we should instruct our envoys on arriving in any foreign country scrupulously to adhere to the old etiquette and show the greatest respect towards the minister for China.

Your excellency was pleased with our compliant tone, and desired to make a special effort to accommodate our wishes. An imperial decree, however, had been issued to you in which it was laid down that, when the envoys were dispatched, both the position of Corea towards China and her international relationships must alike be preserved; the envoys must observe the etiquette of a dependent country in all their intercourse with the ministers for China, consulting them and making reference to them in all matters not expressly provided for, so that perfect harmony might be maintained. Your excellency therefore felt bound to lose no time in framing three rules; first, that a Corean envoy on reaching any country should present himself at the Chinese legation to announce his arrival, and request the Chinese minister to introduce him at the foreign office, but afterwards it would not be necessary to follow this course; secondly, that at receptions at court, official banquets and other entertainments, the Corean minister must take his place after the Chinese minister; and, thirdly, that in international matters of serious importance the Corean minister must privately consult the Chinese minister beforehand and be guided by his views.

These, your excellency said, were all matters regarding the relations of a dependent nation with its suzerain, in which other powers were not concerned and with which they could not interfere; and they were what was meant in the decree above quoted when it spoke of matters not expressly provided for, and of the maintenance of perfect harmony.

[Page 250]

Your excellency added, that the welfare of Corea was inseparable from, that of China. The Chinese ministers were honorable men in high position, who would not fail to show complete courtesy to their Corean colleagues. Your excellency desired the resident here to make this known to our foreign secretary in order that it might be communicated to us, and that we might, without fail, issue instructions to our envoys in the sense desired. On the arrival of our dispatch itself, your excellency would again send us a reply.

Your excellency’s letter shows that you have followed His Majesty the Emperor’s kindly policy of protecting the weak, sympathizing as much as possible with our country in its troubles and graciously assenting to our request for the retention of the title of the envoys, so that our faith may be preserved in the eyes of the world and no grounds be given for suspicion to foreign nations.

Henceforth both our position toward China and our international relations will be maintained, the gods of our country will enjoy perpetual peace, and a stop will be put to troublesome remarks.

All this is due to your excellency’s unceasing desire for the complete protection of our interests, for which we shall ever feel the most lively gratitude.

At the end of this month we shall give orders for the departure, first of Pu Ting-Yang, our envoy plenipotentiary to the United States, and then of Chao Chen-hsi, our envoy plenipotentiary to Great Britain, Germany, Russia, Italy, and France, in order that they may perform their appointed duties.

We have carefully studied the three rules drawn up by your excellency in conformity with the Imperial decree, and we are more than ever filled with admiration at their adequacy and completeness.

We have directed our foreign secretary to reply to the resident, informing him of our immediate adoption of the rules, and we have ordered the two envoys to be guided by them. We at the same time feel bound to convey our thanks direct to your excellency, and request you to address His Majesty the Emperor on our behalf, in accordance with the terms of this letter.