Mr. Denby to Mr. Sherman.

No. 2829.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose a newspaper clipping, setting forth an ancient superstition existing in China that an eclipse of the sun portends disaster.

[Page 110]

Such an eclipse will occur the first day of the twenty-fourth year of the reign of Kuang Hsu, and the Emperor is filled with forebodings as to its effects.

I have, etc.,

Charles Denby.
[Inclosure in No. 2829.—Abstract of Peking Gazette.—Specially translated for the North China Daily News, 3d September.]

imperial decrees.

(1) According to the Ch’unch’iu (or Spring and Autumn Annals—Translator) it has been stated that an eclipse of the sun on the first day of “the year betokens an impending calamity, hence the sovereigns of every dynasty which has preceded us have always made it a point, whenever an eclipse of the sun is prognosticated, to undergo self-abasement and humble themselves before heaven in order to avert the wrath from above. In the case of our own imperial dynasty, for instance, during the reigns of Their Majesties K’ang Hsi and Ch’ien Lung (1662–1794) there were observed two eclipses of the sun which fell on a New Year’s Day; and now, according to the board of astronomy, the first day of the twenty-fourth year of our reign (22d January, 1898) there will be yet another eclipse of the sun. We are filled with forebodings at this news and hasten to seek within ourselves for sins which may have thus brought the wrath of high heaven upon the land. We further command that the ceremonies of congratulation usually held on New Year’s Day in the Taiho throne hall be curtailed and only ordinary obeisances be made, the place being changed to the Ch’ientsing throne hall. The banquet usually given to imperial clansmen on New Year’s Day must also be stopped, and when the eclipse occurs let all the members of the court wear sober garments and assemble in the inner palace before the altar set up to heaven, to pray for forbearance and mercy to the country at large. This is so far as shall concern ourselves, to show our desire to propitiate high heaven; but, as Her Majesty the Empress Dowager is an elder and senior, it is but right that the full ceremonies be observed in paying the court’s obeisances to her majesty on New Year’s Day. Let all the Yamêns concerned take note.