Mr. Bendy to Mr. Blaine.

No. 841.]

Sir: You are no doubt aware that under Chinese usage foreigners are not permitted to take any part in public ceremonies.

On the occasion of the Emperor’s marriage on the 26th ultimo the foreign ministers were ignored except that formal notice was sent to them of the approaching event.

Practically foreigners see and know nothing of what transpires in the “Forbidden City” when the ceremonies are had.

The bride resided with her father in the northeastern part of the city. Upon the announcement of her selection as Empress eunuchs took possession of the family residence, guards were posted in the grounds, and the utmost seclusion was maintained.

At 1 o’clock in the morning of the 26th ultimo the lady was conveyed to the palace. There were reports that she had serious objections to [Page 103] the marriage, but the truth thereof can not be ascertained. She is represented as being several years older than the Emperor, and as being very intelligent.

I inclose from the North China Daily News an account of the imperial marriage ceremony. This description was prepared especially for the News after the ceremony was arranged at Peking. I have made inquiries of competent persons as to the accuracy of this account, and have been assured that it is faithful and correct.

I have, etc.,

Charles Denby.
[Inclosure in No. 841.]

the imperial marriage ceremony.

The marriage of the Emperor of China, Kuang-sü to Yeh-ho-na-la, niece of the Empress Dowager and cousin of the Emperor, takes place to-day, and the following account of the ceremony enjoined by precedents has been specially sent to us from Peking.

A few days before the actual wedding the servants of the office of equipments will carry to the imperial palaces, with all ceremony, the hundreds of articles for the use of the Emperor and his bride that have been prepared previously by the board of the imperial household and kept in the Empress’s palace. These articles comprise jewelry, head-dresses, clothes and accessories, embroideries, needlework, fine chinaware, gold and silver work, furniture, carved and inlaid upholstery, personal ornaments, stationery, etc.

On the 24th of February the high officers, by the Emperor’s command, should go to worship at the temples of Heaven, Earth, and the Gods, and announce the approaching nuptials. On the 25th of February the necessary arrangements should be made in the palace. The officers of the office of equipments should reverentially bring out the Empress’s sedan chair, yellow chairs, and her chariot to which an elephant is harnessed—this last being merely formal. The accompanying paraphernalia are:

  • Two pairs of yellow silk umbrellas, embroidered with dragons.
  • One pair of crooked handled umbrellas, embroidered with phoenixes.
  • A pair of large fans.
  • Ten colored umbrellas.
  • Four umbrellas worked with gold thread.
  • A pair of plain red umbrellas.
  • Eight banners decorated with dragons and phoenixes.
  • Two embroidered flags.
  • Eight fans embroidered with dragons.
  • Eight yellow fans shaped like a pheasant’s tail.

At the proper time the gold scepter inlaid with jade, with a dragon character on it, should be brought out from the imperial palace and received by the two ministers of the imperial household at the Chien-ching palace, in order that it may be placed in the Empress’s sedan chair. The same ministers must prepare two pavilions in the court yard of the Chung-tsui palace, to contain the Empress’s wedding dresses. A leading eunuch then requests the appointed princesses to put the dresses in the pavilions, which are then carried by eunuchs to the gate of the Shun-chen palace, and handed to the office of equipments, who dispatch them to the Empress’s residence, attended by four princesses. On their arrival they are handed to the eunuchs of the residence, the princesses remaining to be ready for their next duties. On the same day yellow tables are arranged by the chief eunuchs at the Chiao-tai palace, on the right and left hand, and on them the marriage contract and gold seal are placed.

The Emperor then repairs to the Tzüning palace, where he kotows nine times to the Empress Dowager, after which he goes to the Tai-ho palace, where the yellow tables are placed, and reads over the marriage contract. Here two pavilions have been prepared and the chief commissioner takes the gold scepter and puts it in one pavilion, while the assistant commissioner puts the marriage contract and gold seal in the other. The office of equipments then carries these pavilions in procession from the Tai-ho palace through the middle gate of the palace, and out at the Ta Ching gate to the Empress’s residence. On their arrival the Empress’s sedan chair is placed temporarily in front of the hall, with these pavilions on the right and left of it. Meantime the board of works has arranged three yellow tables in the hall, one in the middle, the others on either side, the chief commissioner placing the gold scepter [Page 104] on the center table, and the marriage contract and gold seals on the side tables. The two commissioners then retire and leave the arrangements in charge of the eunuchs belonging to the Empress’s residence.

On the 26th of February, all being ready, four princesses will proceed to the Empress’s residence at 12 o’clock a. m. (sic), to assist in robing the Empress. The robes that she will have to wear are:

  • A red silk head-dress decorated with pearls, chrysophrases, coral, rubies, carnelians, amethysts, and jasper, and blue feathers.
  • An embroidered court robe decorated with pearls, with jewels on the overlaps.
  • Two strings of coral beads.
  • A necklace decorated with coral.
  • A pair of jeweled earrings.
  • A folded handkerchief.

The Empress will rest after being robed, and then a eunuch will come to the hall and invite her to come out and receive the marriage contract and gold seal. She will be attended by two princesses, while a eunuch holds the contract in both hands and reads it to her. This done, the Empress will retire to her hall and again rest. A eunach then takes the gold scepter and seal and hands them to the chief commissioner, who replaces them in their pavilions, all the proper officers and attendants being in their places. Another eunuch will fix the auspicious time, and then eight eunuchs will carry the Empress’s chair into the hall, the chair containing a scepter inlaid with jade. This scepter will be taken out by two princesses, and handed to a eunuch who will give it to the officer of the imperial household, who will replace it in its pavilion.

The princesses will then help the Empress to take her seat in her chair, after giving her an apple, the chair having been fumigated with a piece of Thibetan incense, and having been placed in the position of “Pleasing God.” The whole procession will then escort the Empress to the imperial palace by the main front entrance, the Ta Ching gate. Princesses and noble ladies will enter by the back gate, the Shên Wu gate, and will await the arrival of the procession at the palace. On its arrival at the Chien-ching gate, the attendants must stop, and the pavilions having been replaced here, the ministers of the board of rites will take out the gold seal and marriage contract from these pavilions and place them on the tables arranged at the Chiao-tai palace, where eunuchs will be in waiting to receive them. During this time the officials of the board of music will perform, and then eight eunuchs will carry the Empress’s chair into the Chien-ching palace, where she will be requested to alight, and will be transferred to another chair decorated with peacocks’ feathers, in which she will be carried to the Chung-tsui palace. Here a brazier of live coals will have been made ready, over which her chair will be carried. The appointed princess will then ask her to alight, and present her with an apple. The scepter, inlaid with jade, will then be taken out of her chair and she will be presented with a “precious bottle” containing pearls and gold coins.

A bow and arrow and a saddle have been previously placed on the threshold of the bridal chamber, and the Emperor having arrived in full costume to meet his bride, takes the bow and arrow and shoots at the saddle on the threshold, and then removes the bride’s veil. Two princesses then conduct the Empress to the bridal chamber where the Emperor sits on the left hand of the bed, and the Empress on the right, face to face. The princesses then request the imperial couple to drink by joining their wine cups. When night comes, some of the ladies of the court offer them the pudding called the “pudding of sons and grandsons,” and the broth called the “broth of long life.” This having been done the princesses will arrange the bed, scepters inlaid with jade being put at the four corners of the bedstead.

At 3 a. m. on the 27th of February the princesses go to the bridal chamber to help the Empress to dress. The Emperor also puts on his full dress, and the proper instructions are given to the imperial couple as to kneeling, kotowing, and rising. The Emperor then conducts the Empress to worship the Gods of Heaven, Earth, and the Household, which they do by kneeling and kotowing nine times. This done, they repair to the Hwu Huang temple where they burn Tibetan incense and kotow nine times; thence to the Cheng-chien palace where they kotow nine times before the images of their grandfather, father, and brother. Thence they come to the Chu-hsü palace, where they present scepters to the Empress Dowager and kotow nine times. The Empress Dowager gives them her own scepter, and they return to the palace, where the Empress kneels to present her scepter inlaid with jade to the Emperor, and kotows nine times. The Emperor confers his scepter inlaid with jade on the Empress, who then takes her seat, and the two secondary empresses kneel down and kotow nine times to the Empress.

On the 3d of March a proclamation will make known the imperial marriage throughout the whole empire.

On the 5th of March the viceroys, governors, generals-in-chief, and brigadier-generals of the eighteen provinces, and nobles and high officials of the first and second [Page 105] rank in Peking, will congratulate the Emperor, each presenting him with a scepter inlaid with jade. On the following day the Emperor graciously gives a banquet to his ministers, and the envoys of his vassal kingdoms, which, by the gracious permission of the Empress Dowager is attended by the noble ladies of the court.

Note.—The Empress’s gold scepter, decorated with pearl, signifies that the Empress guards her virtue as hard as gold, and as pure as pearl. The Empress’s gold seal is made by the board of works, and is engraved with hieroglyphic characters as her standard authority.