Mr. Conger to Mr. Hay.

No. 114.]

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.

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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.,

E. H. Conger.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 114.]

May it please Your Imperial Majesty:

It is with the deepest feelings of respect and pleasure that we, the wives of the foreign representatives at Pekin, have received Your Imperial Majesty’s gracious permission to offer personally our congratulations upon the 64th birthday of Your Imperial Majesty.

We rejoice exceedingly that Your Imperial Majesty has taken this first step toward a personal acquaintance with the ladies of foreign nations. We venture to express the hope that your august example will be followed by the ladies of China, and that the peoples of the East and West will continue to draw nearer to each other in social intercourse.

Permit us, in conclusion, to express our most respectful and sincere wishes for Your Imperial Majesty’s long-continued health and happiness.

  • Lady MacDonald, British Legation.
  • Baroness Heyking, German Legation.
  • Madame Yano, Japanese Legation.
  • Madame Pichon, French Legation.
  • Madame Conger, United States Legation.
  • Madame de Giers. Russian Legation.
  • Madame Knobel, Netherlands Legation.
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A reverent record of the Empress Dowager’s reply:

The wives of the foreign representatives this day received by me in audience have presented their united congratulations. Their words were propitious and pleased me greatly.

China and foreign nations are now in harmony, and the world is at peace. My sincere wish is that the wives of the foreign representatives may find their sojourn in China agreeable, and that all their affairs may prosper.

[Inclosure 2 in No. 114.]

Ceremonies to be observed on the occasion of the wives of the foreign ministers calling upon the Empress Dowager.

In accordance with the ceremonies fixed upon at the request sent to the Tsung-li Yamên by the clean for the various foreign ministers requesting an audience, and for the Empress Dowager to fix a clay for the same, the Tsung-li Yamên returns the reply:
At the time fixed upon the Tsung-li Yamên will send a guard to each legation to escort the ladies.
Each of the ladies and their interpreters will leave their chairs at the “Chiao Yuan Gate.” Thence the interpreters will proceed on foot; the ladies will take chairs, carried by two bearers, across the bridge to the “Fu Hua Gate.” (This distance between gates is about 100 paces.) Thence they will be conveyed in wheeled vehicles to the “Ying Hsiu Gate.”
Outside of the “Ying Hsiu Gate,” at the imperial rest house, they will be met by the chief eunuch and ladies in waiting and served with tea. At the proper time they will proceed (walk) to the “I Luan Hall,” the interpreters accompanying.
On entering the “I Luan Hall” each will bow toward the Empress Dowager, and then proceed from the right toward the left and stand in regular order, and then their interpreters will hand the names of each to Prince Ching to present to the Empress, Dowager. The lady of senior rank will read the address, to which the Empress Dowager will reply. The interpreters will conduct the ladies to the steps of the throne, and each will ascend from right to left to the side of the Empress Dowager, where the Empress Dowager will address a few remarks to them, and the interpreters will stand near the steps to interpret. When the ceremony ends the Empress Dowager will signify her desire for them to retire.
The princesses will conduct the ladies to the banqueting hall. After the banquet the Empress Dowager will come in her chair to this hall. The interpreters will banquet at a separate table in the same hall. There will be Chinese interpreters to interpret into English and French for each lady, and the conversation will beat their pleasure.
There must be at least three foreign interpreters.
The interpreter of the lady of senior rank shall, if desired, accompany each lady to the “Chiao Yuan Gate,” where they leave their sedans; and also to the “Fu Hua Gate,” where they take the wheeled carriages.
The ministers of the Tsung-li Yamên will banquet with the interpreters.
At the close of the audience each of the ladies will again take the carriages and the chairs, carried by two bearers, to the “Chiao Yuan Gate,” where they take up their sedans.