Mr. Denby to Mr. Blaine.
Peking, March 8, 1889. (Received April 23.)
Sir: I have the honor to report that yesterday, the 7th of the month, I went with my suite, as also the entire diplomatic corps, to the Tsung-li Yamên, in answer to their invitation to a dinner, ordered by the decree of Her Majesty, the Empress Regent, Tzi An.
The affair, as by a royal decree, was a very unusual one. From a native stand-point the preparations were of a most elaborate nature, and to any eye cultured or artistic were extremely picturesque. Special buildings had been erected for the banquet at a reported cost exceeding 6,000 taels.
On entering the outer gates of the inclosure large panels of lacquered wood were discovered, bearing gilt and red Chinese characters wishing us all “prosperity” longevity,” “happiness” and “official promotion.” [Page 106]His Imperial Highness, Prince Ching, a second cousin to His Majesty and the president of the Tsung-li Yamên, welcomed us cordially, and after him all the ministers and secretaries, clad in their robes of rank and office.
Arriving in the first or reception-room, everything showed pains and expense in preparation, Old decorations had given place to new and handsomer ones, and whether in compliment to their guests or in keeping with their ideas of luxury, foreign carpets covered the floors.
In the center of this room, on handsomely lacquered and painted tables, were exhibited a large number of presents, intended for the several foreign ministers, of scepters of jade carved in bas relief, satins, and embroidered trinkets for personal use.
The banqueting hall was built of woods richly painted and frescoed, glass of fantastic shape and design, the whole being profusely hung with rare native paintings, mottoes of friendly purport and stuff in wool and silk, the imperial color, yellow, largely prevailing. All the tables and seats were covered with valuable embroideries, and the service of silver, porcelain, and glass was entirely new for the occasion. Ivory “kwai tsz,” i. e., “nimble lads” or “chop sticks “were at each cover, and the ménu comprised such national delicacies as. “birds’ nests soup,” “shark’s fins,” and “bamboo shoots”—these last from the valuable furniture wood of that name in its earlier and tender stage.
The place of honor, the left of his Imperial Highness, according to Chinese etiquette, was given of course to our Doyen, the next on his right to myself.
I inclose herewith a copy of his Imperial Highness’ speech of welcome, and also the Doyen’s toast to the health of Her Majesty the Empress Dowager and His Majesty the Emperor, and my own to his highness Prince Ching and their excellencies the ministers of the Tsung-li Yamên.
I have, etc.,