Mr. Denby to Mr. Blaine.
Peking, December 28, 1891. (Received February 24, 1892.)
Sir: It may be of some interest to you as indicative of progress in China to know that the Emperor has commenced the study of the English language. Two students of the Tung-wen college are his teachers. They attend him every morning at 1 o’clock. For several days they were required to kneel in his presence, but latterly they have been permitted to stand while giving him his lesson. It is said that he has a remarkable memory and is learning fast. This addition to his ordinary labors shows that he is possessed of considerable firmness and determination. I suppose that he does more work than any other sovereign in the world. His day commences at 12 p.m. He first sees the members of his privy council; then he devotes an hour to the study of the Manchurian language; then he studies English; then receives one or more members of the various boards, and then the governors, viceroys, and other officials who have come to Peking to be presented and for instructions.
Whenever any of the numerous boards has anything to communicate to the Emperor, two of their number go to the palace at 2 a.m. They wait sometimes two hours before one of them is ordered to the imperial presence. The Emperor receives them alone. He is seated on a raised platform; they are on their knees. It is said that the ministers who thus attend the Emperor take some pains to pad their knees with cushions. The Manchurian teacher of the Emperor is Prince Ching, the head of the Tsungli-yamên. He goes to the palace every day at 12 o’clock p.m., and remains there until 4 a.m. It is said that he is consulted by the Emperor on all the questions that come before him. After the receptions are over the Emperor rides on horseback and practices shooting with the bow and arrow. These exercises are de rigueur; they are prescribed and can not be avoided. A given period of time is allotted to them by ancient custom which amounts to law. The Emperor [Page 82] retires about 2 p.m. His journeyings to the various temples where he officiates are always made in the early morning. The diet of the Emperor is rigorously prescribed. It is supposed that he takes his meals alone. Should he desire to partake of any article not on the menu, the board having charge of the imperial table must be consulted before he is supplied. A son of Prince Ching is also studying English under a competent teacher. It is a matter of regret to foreigners that the Emperor is not physically strong, and that there is danger that he will not be long-lived. It is believed that he favors progress.
I trust that these details will not be considered as too undignified for transmission.
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