Mr. Denby to Mr. Gresham.

No. 1649.]

Sir: The Chicago Exposition has created an immense demand in the United States for information concerning China. This legation has supplied this information touching many matters affecting the laws, customs, and trade of China. As the most of these subjects have been discussed in dispatches to the Department, I have not deemed it necessary to treat them again.

It does not, however, appear that the Peking police system” has ever been described in any communication to the Department. Having had occasion recently to send an account thereof to one of my numerous correspondents, I think it advisable to send it to the Department so that other inquirers may avail themselves thereof,

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the police system.

The police system of Peking is conducted by what is termed the office of the gendarmerie, under which a force recruited from the Eight Banner Corps is placed. The men of this force, numbering from 15,000 to 20,000 are distributed in squads at guard stations throughout the city and suburbs. The head of the police is an officer of the first rank styled General commandant of the gendarmerie. He has charge of the nine gates of Peking. This officer is generally a president or vice-president of one of the metropolitan boards.

staff of the commandant.

This officer is supported by the following staff, viz:

  • Two police provosts, officers of the second rank.
  • One deputy provost of third rank A.
  • One assistant deputy provost of third rank B.
  • One major of police, fourth rank A.
  • One captain of police, fifth rank A.
  • One lieutenant of police, fifth rank B.
  • One deputy lieutenant, sixth rank A.
  • One controller of alarm signals of fourth rank A. This officer fires a gun, when, in case of emergency, all the members of the force are required to turn out.

the general commandant.

The general commandant is a Manchu, named Fu Kun. This officer is a grand secretary, minister of the foreign office, chief controller of the board of revenue, and controller of the imperial household,


The salaries paid these officers per annum are as follows:

Taels. Piculs of rice.
General commandant 1,884 90
2 police provosts each 1,254 75
2 deputy provosts do 984 65
2 assistant provosts do 984 65
24 majors do 782 52½
24 captains do 384 40
336 lieutenants do 348 40
72 deputy lieutenants do 308 30
1 controller of alarm signals 782 52½

officers of police in outer city.

The officers of the police in the outer city and their salaries are as follows, viz:

Taels. Piculs of rice.
1 colonel 1,354 77½
4 lieutenant-colonols 984 65
5 majors 884 65
5 first captains 782 52½
17 second captains 348 40
46 lieutenants 348 40
92 sergeants 226 22½
105 second sergeants (being senior and junior sergeants) 94 to 164 17 to 20

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police stations.

There are 719 stations and 1,300 sub-stations, including stations outside of the imperial city and in the outer city. About 14,000 men are distributed among these stations. In the Imperial city there are 8 special stations, each in charge of a lieutenant with a detachment of 120 men.

The pay of a policeman is 1½ taels per month with a small rice allowance.

arrests and crimes.

It is impossible to furnish statistics of the number of arrests during any given year, or of the number and kind of crimes committed, as none are published. From the crowded condition of the prisons and the number of public executions it is safe to say that crime is very prevalent.


As to drunkenness, which has been particularly inquired about, it does not exist to as great an extent as in western countries, the use of opium having greatly superseded the consumption of intoxicating liquors.

Liquors are sold in Peking without license, but an octroi or likin duty is paid on them when they are brought through the city gates.

police signals.

The signals of the police from station to station are made by word of mouth—that is, by loud cries or yells. No telegraphic or other modern system, such as exists in western cities, is in use in Peking.

punishments for crime.

The punishments now inflicted for an infringement of the law are:

Flogging with the bamboo.
Banishment within a limited distance for a limited time or permanently.
Death, of which there are three modes—slicing or cutting to pieces, strangling, and decapitation.

Some minor punishments are inflicted by the use of manacles of wood or iron fetters, and by the cangue, a species of stock, consisting of a heavy framework of wood, in which the neck and hands are confined. An instrument for compressing the ankle bones and lingers maybe lawfully used for torture, but many other curious modes of torture are also used.


There are a great many prisons in China. Every prefectural and magisterial city and many others have prisons. These are as cheerless as anyplace can be. The prisoners are all huddled together. There are no furniture nor any comforts provided, and the fare is usually nothing but millet. It not infrequently happens that prisoners freeze to death.


The board of punishments has the control and direction of punishments throughout the Empire, and has also civil jurisdiction to some [Page 230]extent. In connection with the court of censors and grand court of revision (which department exercises a general supervision over the administration of the criminal law), the board of punishments is the highest or supreme court of the Empire, though the cases brought before it are mostly criminal.

If the judges are not unanimous in their decisions, these must be reported to the Emperor, who will pass final judgment.

In the provinces, the judicial commissioner or judge constitutes the highest court, but in some cases an appeal lies to the governor-general or governor of the province, who pronounces judgment. An appeal then lies to Peking.

Courts inferior to the court of the provincial judge are those of the intendant, prefect, and local magistrate.

The right of appeal from lower to higher courts is recognized and constantly exercised.

There are no juries in court procedures. It is believed that the Chinese do not desire juries.

population of peking

The population of Peking, including the outer, or what is commonly called the “Chinese City,” is estimated at 1,300,000.

I have, etc.,

Charles Denby.