Mr. Conger to Mr. Hay.
Peking, China, December 14, 1898.
Sir: I have the honor to report that on yesterday, the 13th instant, the wives of all the foreign ministers in Peking paid a visit to the Empress Dowager.[Page 224]
They were received in the “I Luan Hall” in the presence of the Emperor, and were most cordially welcomed. A brief address was made by the wife of the British minister, she being of senior rank, and responded to by the Empress Dowager, copies of which are inclosed.
They were then entertained at a most sumptuous breakfast, with Prince and Princess Ching and several other princesses, at the conclusion of which the Empress Dowager appeared again and presented the Empress; afterwards with some theatricals, at which the Empress Dowager was also present; and finally they returned to the banquet hall, where, over cups of fragrant tea and other Chinese delicacies, a cordial leave-taking occurred.
This is the first time in the history of China that an Empress or an Empress Dowager has met foreign ladies, and it is to be hoped that some good may result therefrom.
It is believed that it will inspire within the Imperial Palace a desire to see and know more of Western people and Western things; and that when it is once known by the Chinese people generally that the Empress Dowager is herself willing to see and entertain foreigners, some of their antipathy will be allayed.
This audience was brought about, primarily, from a suggestion made last spring to the Empress Dowager by. Prince Henry of-Prussia, and followed finally by a request made on behalf of the ladies by the dean of the diplomatic corps.
The visit on the part of the ladies was originally intended, and the audience requested, for the purpose of felicitating the Empress Dowager on her 64th birthday, which occurred the 23d ultimo; but because of the absence of one of the ladies, and the fact that the new Russian minister had hot then presented his credentials, it was postponed; however, to be made for the same purpose.
The occasion is wholly unique, and the record of it worth preserving.
I inclose a copy of the ceremonial conditions previously agreed upon, and which were substantially carried out.
I have, etc.,