Terebess Asia Online (TAO)


The Princess Der Ling


THE author of the following narrative has peculiar qualifications
for her task. She is a daughter of Lord Yu Keng, a member of the
Manchu White Banner Corps, and one of the most advanced and
progressive Chinese officials of his generation. Lord Yu Keng
entered the army when very young, and served in the Taiping
rebellion and the Formosan war with France, and as Vice Minister
of War during the China-Japan war in 1895. Later he was Minister
to Japan, which post he quitted in 1898 to become President of the
Tsung-li-yamen (Chinese Foreign Office). In 1899 he was appointed
Minister to France, where he remained four years. At a period when
the Chinese Government was extremely conservative and reactionary,
Lord Yu Keng labored indefatigably for reform. He was instrumental
in reorganizing China's postal service on modern lines, but failed
in efforts to revise the revenue system and modernize the army and
navy, from being ahead of his times. He died in 1905. The
progressive spirit of Lord Yu Keng was shown in the education of
his children. When it became known that his daughters were
receiving a foreign education--then an almost unheard--of
proceeding among high Manchu officials-attempts were made to
impeach him as pro-foreign and revolutionary, but he was not
deterred. His children got their early education in missionary
schools, and the daughters later attended a convent in France,
where the author of this work finished her schooling and entered
society. On returning to China, she became First Lady-in-Waiting
to the Empress Dowager, and while serving at the Court in that
capacity she received the impressions which provide the
subject-matter of this book. Her opportunity to observe and
estimate the characteristics of the remarkable woman who ruled
China for so long was unique, and her narrative throws a new light
on one of the most extraordinary personalities of modern times.
While on leave from her duties to attend upon her father, who was
fatally ill in Shanghai, Princess Der Ling took a step which
terminated connexion with the Chinese Court. This was her
engagement to Mr. Thaddeus C. White, an American, to whom she was
married on May 21, 1907. Yielding to the urgent solicitation of
friends, she consented to put some of her experiences into
literary form, and the following chronicle, in which the most
famous of Chinese women, the customs and atmosphere of her Court
are portrayed by an intimate of the same race, is a result.



MY father and mother, Lord and Lady Yu Keng, and family, together
with our suite consisting of the First Secretary, Second
Secretary, Naval and Military Attaches, Chancellors, their
families, servants, etc.,--altogether fifty-five people,--arrived
in Shanghai on January 2, 1903, on the S.S. "Annam" from Paris,
where for four years my father had been Chinese Minister. Our
arrival was anything but pleasant, as the rain came down in
torrents, and we had the greatest difficulty getting our numerous
retinue landed and safely housed, not to mention the tons of
baggage that had to be looked after. We had found from previous
experience that none of our Legation people or servants could be
depended upon to do anything when travelling, in consequence of
which the entire charge devolved upon my mother, who was without
doubt the genius of the party in arranging matters and
straightening out difficulties.

When the launch from the steamer arrived at the jetty off the
French Bund, we were met by the Shanghai Taotai (the highest
official in the city), the Shanghai Magistrate and numerous other
officials, all dressed in their official robes. The Taotai told my
father that he had prepared the Tien Ho Gung (Temple of the Queen
of Heaven) for us to reside in during our stay in Shanghai, but my
father refused the offer, saying that he had telegraphed from Hong
Kong and made all arrangements to go to the Hotel des Colonies in
the French Concession. We had had previous experience staying in
this temple while on our way to Japan, where my father went as
Minister in 1895, and did not care to try it a second time. The
building is very old and very much out of repair. It was a
beautiful place in its prime, but had been allowed to go to rack
and ruin. The custom is that the magistrate has to find a place
and supply the food, etc., for high officials when passing
through, and it is not exactly the thing to refuse their kind
offer, but my father was always very independent and politely
declined all proffers of assistance.

At last we did safely arrive in the Hotel des Colonies, where my
father found awaiting him two telegrams from the Imperial Palace.
These telegrams ordered my father to go to Peking at once, but, as
the river to Tientsin was frozen, it was out of the question for
us to go by that route, and as my father was very old and quite
ill at that time, in fact constantly under the doctor's care, the
only accessible way, via Chinwangtao, was equally out of the
question, as it was a long and most tedious journey and quite
beyond his strength. In view of all these difficulties, he
telegraphed that, after the ice had broken up in the Peiho River,
we would come by the first steamer leaving Shanghai for Tientsin.

We left Shanghai on the 22d of February and arrived at Tientsin on
the 26th, and, as before, were met by the Customs Taotai of the
port and numerous other officials (the same as when we arrived at

There is a very curious custom of reverence, which must be
performed by all high officials on their return from abroad.
Immediately upon landing on the shores of China, arrangements are
made with the nearest Viceroy or Governor to receive their
obeisance to Ching Sheng An (to worship the Emperor of Peace), a
Taotai being considered of too low a rank for such an honor. As
soon as we arrived, Yuan Shih Kai, who was then Viceroy of Chihli
Province at Tientsin, sent an official to my father to prepare the
time and place for this function, which is an extremely pretty
one. When arrangements had been made, both my father and Yuan Shih
Kai dressed in their full ceremonial robes, which is the dragon
long robe, with a reddish black three-quarter length coat over it,
chao chu (amber beads), hat with peacock feather and red coral
button, and repaired at once to the Wan Shou Kung (10,000 years
palace), which is especially built for functions of this kind,
where they were met by a large number of officials of the lower
grades. At the back centre of this Temple, or Palace, stands a
very long narrow table on which are placed the tablets of the
Emperor and Empress Dowager, on which is written, "Wan sway, wan
sway, wan wan sway" (10,000 years times 10,000 years times 10,000
10,000 years). The Viceroy, or in this case Yuan Shih Kai, and the
other officials arrived first. Yuan stood at the left side of this
table and the others arranged themselves in two diminishing lines
starting from the front corners of the table. Soon afterward my
father came and knelt directly in front of the centre of the table
and said, "Ah ha Ching Sheng An" (Your servant gives you
greeting). After this ceremony was over my father immediately
arose and inquired after Their Majesties' health, and Yuan replied
that they were quite well. This closed the function.

We stayed in Tientsin for three days, arriving in Peking on the
twenty-ninth. My father's condition was much worse and he begged
for four months' leave of absence, in which to recuperate, which
was granted by Her Majesty, the Empress Dowager. As our beautiful
mansion, which we had built and furnished just before leaving for
Paris, was burned during the Boxer Rising of 1900, entailing a
loss of over taels 100,000, we rented and moved into a Chinese
house. Our old house was not entirely new. When we bought the
place there was a very fine but old Chinese house, the palace of a
Duke, standing on the ground, and by some clever re-arrangement
and building on, it was transformed into a beautiful foreign style
house with all the fine hardwood carving of the old house worked
into it. By using the words "foreign style," it is meant that, in
so far as the Chinese house could be made to look like a foreign
house, without tearing it down entirely, it was changed, that is
the doors and windows, passageways, furnishings, etc., were
foreign, but the arrangement of the house itself and courtyard was
Chinese. This, like all Chinese houses in Peking, was built in a
very rambling fashion, and with the gardens, covered about ten
acres of ground. We had just finished furnishing it and moved in
only four days when we left for Paris; and it has always been a
great sorrow to my family that we should lose this magnificent
place, after having spent so much time and money in building and
beautifying it. However, this is only one of the many trials that
a high official in China is called upon to bear.

The houses in Peking are built in a very rambling fashion,
covering a large amount of ground, and our former house was no
exception to the rule. It had sixteen small houses. one story
high, containing about 175 rooms, arranged in quadrangles facing
the courtyard, which went to make up the whole; and so placed,
that without having to actually go out of doors, you could go from
one to the other by verandas built along the front and enclosed in
glass. My reader will wonder what possible use we could make of
all of these rooms; but what with our large family, numerous
secretaries, Chinese writers, messengers, servants, mafoos
(coachmen), and chair coolies, it was not a difficult task to use

The gardens surrounding the houses were arranged in the Chinese
way, with small lakes, stocked with gold fish, and in which the
beautiful lotus flower grew; crossed by bridges; large weeping
willows along the banks; and many different varieties of flowers
in prettily arranged flower beds, running along winding paths,
which wound in and out between the lakes. At the time we left for
Paris, in the month of June, 1899, the gardens were a solid mass
of flowers and foliage, and much admired by all who saw them.

As we now had no place of our own in Peking we did not know where
to go, so, while we were at Tientsin, my father telegraphed to one
of his friends to find him a house. After some little trouble one
was secured, and it turned out to be a very famous place indeed.
It was the house where Li Hung Chang signed the treaties with the
Foreign Powers after the Boxer Rising and also where he died. We
were the first people to live there since the death of Li Hung
Chang, as the Chinese people were very superstitious and were
afraid that, if they went there to live, something dreadful would
happen to them. We soon made ourselves very comfortable, and while
we lived there, none of the dreadful things happened to us that
all of our good friends told us would be visited upon us if we
dared to take this place. However, in view of our having lost our
place by fire, I am inclined to think that their fears were well

The loss sustained by having this house burned we never recovered,
as my father, being an official of the Government, it would have
been very bad form to have tried to recover this money, besides a
possible loss of standing, as Government officials are supposed
never to consider themselves or families in the service of their
country, and any private losses in the service must be borne
without complaint.

On the first of March, 1903, Prince Ching and his son, Prince Tsai
Chen, came to see us and told us that Her Majesty wished to see my
mother, my sister, and myself at once; that we should be at the
Summer Palace (Wan Shou Shan) at six o'clock the following
morning. My mother told Prince Ching that we had been wearing
foreign clothes all these years, while abroad, and had no suitable
Manchu clothes to wear. He replied that he had told Her Majesty
all about us and also mentioned that he had seen us in European
attire and she had said that it would not be necessary for us to
wear Manchu costume to go to the Palace, that she would be glad to
have us wear foreign clothes, as it would give her an opportunity
to study the foreign way of dressing. Both my sister and myself
had a very difficult time deciding what we should wear for this
occasion; she wished to wear her pale blue velvet gown, as she
thought that color suited her the best. My mother had always made
us dress exactly alike, ever since we were little girls. I said
that I preferred to wear my red velvet gown, as I had the idea it
might please Her Majesty. After a long discussion I had my way. We
had lovely red hats trimmed with plumes and the same color shoes,
and stockings to match. My mother wore a lovely gown of sea green
chiffon cloth embroidered with pale mauve iris and trimmed with
mauve velvet; she wore her large black velvet hat with long white

As we lived in the central part of the city and the only means of
travel was by sedan chair and the distance from our house to the
Palace was about thirty-six Chinese li (a three-hour ride), we had
to start at three o'clock in the morning, in order to be there at
six. As this was our first visit to the Palace, Prince Ching's
message threw us into a great state of excitement, and we were
naturally anxious to look our best and to be there on time. It had
been the dream of my life to go to the Palace and see what it was
like, and up to this time I had never had an opportunity, as most
of my life had been spent out of Peking,--in fact, out of China.
Another reason why this chance had never come before was, that my
father had never registered our names (my sister and myself) in
the Government book for the registration of births of Manchu
children, in consequence of which the Empress Dowager did not know
until we came back from Paris that Lord Yu Keng had any daughters.
My father told me the reason why he did not put our names in this
book was, that he wished to give us the best education obtainable,
and the only way he could do it was not to let the Empress Dowager
know. Besides this, according to the Manchu custom, the daughters
of all Manchu officials of the second rank and above, after
reaching the age of fourteen years, should go to the Palace, in
order that the Emperor may select them for secondary wives if he
so desires, and my father had other plans and ambitions for us. It
was in this way that the late Empress Dowager was selected by the
Emperor Hsien Feng.

(comment: li is 1/3 mile or 1/2 km)

We started at three o'clock that morning in total darkness riding
in four coolie sedan chairs, one on each side of the chair. In
going such a long distance it was necessary to have two relays of
chair coolies. This meant twenty-four coolies for the three
chairs, not counting an extra coolie for each chair who acted as a
sort of head chair bearer. Besides this there were three military
officers on horses, one for each chair and two servants riding at
the back of each chair. In addition there were three big Chinese
carts following behind for the chair coolies to ride in and rest.
This made a cavalcade consisting of fortyfive men, nine horses and
three carts.

I had a rather nervous feeling riding along in the chair
surrounded by inky blackness, with nothing to relieve the
stillness of the night but the rough voices of the chair bearers
calling back and forth to each other to be careful of stones and
holes in the road, which was very uneven, and the clump, clump of
the horses. To my readers who have never had the experience of
riding a long distance in a sedan chair I would say that it is a
most uncomfortable conveyance, as you have to sit perfectly still
and absolutely straight, otherwise the chair is liable to upset.
This ride was a very long one and I felt quite stiff and tired by
the time I reached the Palace gates.


WHEN we reached the City gates, which were about half way between
our house and the Summer Palace, they were wide open for us to
pass. This quite surprised us, as all gates are closed at seven
o'clock in the evening and are not opened except on special
occasions until daylight. We inquired of the guard why this was,
and were told that orders had been given for the gates to be
opened for us to pass. The officials who had charge were standing
in a double line dressed in full official dress and saluted us as
we passed.

It was still quite dark when we had passed through the gate and I
thought of the many experiences of my short life; but this was by
far the strangest of them all. I wondered what Her Majesty would
be like and whether she would like me or not. We were told that
probably we would be asked to stay at the Court, and I thought
that if that came to pass, I would possibly be able to influence
Her Majesty in favor of reform and so be of valuable assistance to
China. These thoughts made me feel happy and I made up my mind
then and there that I would do all I could and use any influence I
might have in the future towards the advancement of China and for
her welfare. While I was still dreaming of these pleasant
prospects, a faint red line appeared on the horizon heralding the
coming of a most perfect day, and so it proved. As the light grew
brighter and I could distinguish objects, a very pretty view
gradually opened to me, and as we came nearer to the Palace I
could see a high red wall which zigzagged from hill to hill and
enclosed the Palace grounds. The tops of the wall and buildings
were covered with yellow and green tiles and made a most dazzling
picture in the bright sunlight. Pagodas of different sizes and
styles were passed, and when we arrived at the village of Hai
Tien, about four li from the Palace gates, we were told by the
officers we only had a short distance further to go. This was good
news, as I began to think we would never get there. This village
was quite a pretty country place of one-story houses built of
brick, which were very neat and clean as are most of the houses in
the northern part of China. The children trouped out to see the
procession pass, and I heard one remark to another: "Those ladies
are going to the Palace to become Empresses," which amused me very

Soon after leaving Hai Tien we came to a pai lou (archway), a very
beautiful piece of old Chinese architecture and carved work, and
from here got our first view of the Palace gates, which were about
100 yards ahead. These gates are cut into the solid wall
surrounding the Palace and consist of one very large gate in the
center and two smaller ones on each side. The center gate is only
opened when their Majesties pass in and out of the Palace. Our
chairs were set down in front of the left gate, which was open.
Outside of these gates, at a distance of about 500 yards, were two
buildings where the guard stayed at night.

Just as we arrived I saw a number of officials talking excitedly,
and some of them went into the gate shouting "Li la, doula" (have
come, have arrived). When we got out of our chairs, we were met by
two eunuchs of the fourth rank (chrystal button and feather). This
feather which is worn by eunuchs of the fourth rank, comes from a
bird called the magh (horse-fowl) which is found in Szechuen
Province. They are grey and are dyed black, and are much wider
than the peacock feather. These two eunuchs were accompanied by
ten small eunuchs carrying yellow silk screens, which they placed
around our chairs when we alighted. It appeared that Her Majesty
had given orders that these screens (huang wai mor) should be
brought to us. This is considered a great honor. They were ten
feet long and twenty feet high and were held by two eunuchs.

These two eunuchs of high rank were extremely polite and stood at
each side of the gate and invited us to enter. Passing through
this gate we came into a very large paved courtyard about three
hundred feet square, in which there were a great many small flower
beds and old pine trees from which hung all kinds of birds in
cages. On the side opposite to the gates we had entered was a red
brick wall with three gates exactly like the others; on the right
and left side were long rows of low buildings each containing
twelve rooms, used as waiting rooms. The courtyard was full of
people dressed in official robes of the different ranks, and,
after the Chinese fashion, all seemed to be very busy doing
nothing. When they saw us they stood still and stared. The two
eunuchs who were showing us the way conducted us to one of these
rooms. This room was about twenty feet square, just ordinarily
furnished in black wood furniture with red cloth cushions and silk
curtains hanging from the three windows. We were not in this room
more than five minutes when a gorgeously dressed eunuch came and
said: "Imperial Edict says to invite Yu tai tai (Lady Yu) and
young ladies to wait in the East side Palace." On his saying this,
the two eunuchs who were with us knelt down and replied "Jur"
(Yes). Whenever Her Majesty gives an order it is considered an
Imperial Edict or command and all servants are required to kneel
when any command is transmitted to them the same as they would if
in Her Majesty's presence, Then they told us to follow them and we
went through another left gate to another courtyard laid out
exactly the same as the former, except that the Ren Shou Dien
(audience hall) is situated on the north side and the other
buildings were a little larger. The eunuchs showed us into the
east side building, which was beautifully furnished with reddish
blackwood exquisitely carved, the chairs and tables covered with
blue satin and the walls hung with the same material. In different
parts of the room were fourteen clocks of all sizes and shapes. I
know this, for I counted them.

In a little while two servant girls came and waited on us and told
us that Her Majesty was dressing and that we were to wait a little
time. This little time proved to be a matter of more than two
hours and a half, but as this is considered nothing in China, we
did not get impatient. From time to time eunuchs came and brought
milk to drink and about twenty or more dishes of various kinds of
food which Her Majesty sent. She also sent us each a gold ring
with a large pearl in the center. Later the chief eunuch, Li Lien
Ying, came dressed in his official clothes. He was of the second
rank and wore a red button and peacock feather and was the only
eunuch that was ever allowed to wear the peacock feather. He was a
very ugly man, very old and his face was full of wrinkles; but he
had beautiful manners and said that Her Majesty would receive us
in a little while, and brought us each a jade ring which she had
sent us. We were very much surprised that she should give us such
beautiful presents before she had even seen us, and felt most
kindly disposed toward her for her generosity.

Soon after Li Lien Ying had gone, two court ladies, daughters of
Prince Ching, came in and asked the eunuchs who were attending us
if we could speak Chinese, which we thought a great joke. I was
the first one to speak, and told them of course we could speak our
own language, although we knew several others. They were very much
surprised and said: "Oh! how funny, they can talk the language as
well as we do." We in turn were very much surprised to find such
ignorant people in the Imperial Palace and concluded that their
opportunities for acquiring knowledge were very limited. Then they
told us Her Majesty was waiting to receive us, and we went

After walking through three courtyards very similar to those we
had previously passed through, we came to a magnificent building
just one mass of exquisite carving. Large lanterns made of buffalo
horns hung all over the veranda covered with red silk from which
red silk tassels were hanging and from each of these tassels was
suspended a beautiful piece of jade. There were two smaller
buildings flanking this large one, also one mass of carvings and
hung with lanterns.

At the door of the large building we met a lady, dressed the same
as Prince Ching's daughters, with the exception that she had a
phoenix in the center of her headdress which distinguished her
from the others. This lady came out to meet us, smiling, and shook
hands with us in the most approved foreign fashion. We were told
later that this was the Young Empress, wife of the Emperor Kwang
Hsu. She said: "Her Majesty has sent me to meet you," and was very
sweet and polite, and had beautiful manners; but was not very
pretty. Then we heard a loud voice from the hall saying, "Tell
them to come in at once." We went into this hall immediately and
saw an old lady dressed in a beautiful yellow satin gown
embroidered all over with pink peonies, and wearing the same kind
of headdress with flowers on each side made of pearls and jade, a
pearl tassel on the left side and a beautiful phoenix in the
center made of purest jade. Over her gown she wore a cape, the
most magnificent and costly thing I ever saw. This cape was made
of about three thousand five hundred pearls the size of a canary
bird's egg, all exactly alike in color and perfectly round. It was
made on the fish net pattern and had a fringe of jade pendants and
was joined with two pure jade clasps. In addition to this Her
Majesty wore two pairs of pearl bracelets, one pair of jade
bracelets, several jade rings and on her third and little fingers
of her right hand she wore gold finger nail protectors about three
inches long and on the left hand two finger nail protectors made
of jade and about the same length. Her shoes were trimmed with
small tassels made of pearls and embroidered with tiny pieces of
different colored jade.

Her Majesty stood up when she saw us and shook hands with us. She
had a most fascinating smile and was very much surprised that we
knew the Court etiquette so well. After she had greeted us, she
said to my mother: "Yu tai tai (Lady Yu), you are a wonder the way
you have brought your daughters up. They speak Chinese just as
well as I do, although I know they have been abroad for so many
years, and how is it that they have such beautiful manners?"
"Their father was always very strict with them," my mother
replied; "he made them study their own language first and they had
to study very hard." "I am pleased to hear their father has been
so careful with them," Her Majesty said, "and given them such a
fine education." She took my hands and looked into my face and
smiled and kissed me on both cheeks and said to my mother: "I wish
to have your daughters and hope they will stay with me." We were
very much pleased at this and thanked her for her kindness. Her
Majesty asked all sorts of questions about our Paris gowns and
said we must wear them all the time, as she had very little chance
to see them at the Court. She was particularly in love with our
Louis XV high heel shoes. While we were talking to her we saw a
gentleman standing at a little distance and after a while she
said, "Let me introduce you to the Emperor Kwang Hsu, but you must
call him Wan Sway Yeh (Master of 10,000 years) and call me Lao Tsu
Tsung (the Great Ancestor)." His Majesty shyly shook hands with
us. He was a man about five feet, seven inches in height, very
thin, but with very strong features; high nose and forehead,
large, brilliant black eyes, strong mouth, very white, even teeth;
altogether good looking. I noticed he had a very sad look,
although he was smiling all the time we were there. At this
juncture the head eunuch came, knelt down on the marble floor and
announced that Her Majesty's chair was ready and she asked us to
go with her to the Audience Hall, distant about two minutes' walk,
where she was going to receive the heads of the different Boards.
It was a beautiful day and her open chair was waiting. This chair
is carried by eight eunuchs all dressed in official robes, a most
unusual sight. The head eunuch walked on her left side and the
second eunuch on her right side, each with a steadying hand on the
chair pole. Four eunuchs of the fifth rank in front and twelve
eunuchs of the sixth rank walked behind. Each eunuch carried
something in his hand, such as Her Majesty's clothes, shoes,
handkerchiefs, combs, brushes, powder boxes, looking glasses of
different sizes, perfumes, pins, black and red ink, yellow paper,
cigarettes, water pipes, and the last one carried her yellow
satin-covered stool. Besides this there were two amahs (old women
servants) and four servant girls all carrying something. This
procession was most interesting to see and made one think it a
lady's dressing room on legs. The Emperor walked on Her Majesty's
right and the Young Empress on the left, as did also the Court

The Audience Hall was about two hundred feet long by about one
hundred and fifty feet wide, and at the left side was a long table
covered with yellow satin. When Her Majesty came down from the
chair she went into the Hall and mounted her throne just behind
this table, and His Majesty mounted a smaller one at her left
side, the Ministers all kneeling on the floor in front of her and
on the opposite side of the table.

At the back of the Hall was a large dais about twenty feet long by
about eighteen feet wide, enclosed by a magnificently carved
railing about two feet high running all the way round, open only
in the front in two places just large enough for a person to pass
through. These two openings were reached by a flight of six steps.
At the back of this dais was a small screen and immediately in
front of this, in the center, was Her Majesty's throne.
Immediately behind was an immense carved wood screen, the most
beautiful thing I ever saw, twenty feet long by ten feet high. In
front of Her Majesty's throne was a long narrow table. At the left
side was a smaller throne for the Emperor.

The theme of the carving and furnishings of this dais was the
phoenix and peony most exquisitely carved in ebony wood, in fact
the theme of the entire room was the same. On each side of Her
Majesty's throne were two upright ebony poles on the top of which
were peacock feathers made into the shape of a fan The upholstery
was entirely of yellow Chinese velvet.

Just before Her Majesty took her seat on her throne she ordered us
to go behind this screen with the Young Empress and the Court
ladies. This we did, and could hear the conversation between Her
Majesty and the Ministers very plainly, and as my readers will see
later, I made good use of this.


THIS day to me was a medley of brilliant impressions. I was a
great novelty among these exclusive Court ladies, brought up
rigidly apart from foreign life and customs, and I was subjected
to a rapid fire of questions. I soon found that these women were
the same as others the world over in point of curiosity and love
of gossip. The fourth daughter of Prince Ching (Sze Gurgur), a
young widow and a strikingly handsome woman, spoke to me. "Were
you brought up in Europe and educated?" she asked. "I am told that
when people go to that country and drink the water there, they
quickly forget their own country. Did you really study to acquire
all those languages or was it drinking the water that gave them to
you?" I mentioned that I met her brother, Prince Tsai Chen, in
Paris on his way to London for the coronation of King Edward, and
that we should have liked to have gone also, as my father had a
special invitation, but were prevented from doing so by his urgent
duties in Paris in settling the Yunnan question, to which the
Princess replied: "Is there a king in England? I had thought that
our Empress Dowager was Queen of the world." Her sister, wife of
the brother of the Young Empress, a most intelligent, quiet and
dignified lady, stood by smiling and listening to the eager
questions. After numerous questions had been asked the Young
Empress finally said: "How ignorant you are. I know that each
country has its ruler and that some countries are republics. The
United States is a republic and very friendly toward us, but I am
sorry that such a common class of people go there, as they will
think we are all the same. What I should like to see is some of
our good Manchu people go, as then they would see what we really
are." She afterwards told me she had been reading a history of the
different countries, which had been translated into Chinese, and
she seemed to be very well informed.

After the Audience was over, Her Majesty called us out from behind
the screen and told us to go with her to see the theatre. She
said, as it was such a beautiful day, she preferred to walk, so we
started, walking a little behind her, as is the custom. Along the
way she pointed out from time to time different places and things
that were her particular favorites, and as she had to keep turning
around all the time, she finally told us to come and walk
alongside of her. This, as I afterwards found out, was a great
condescension on her part and a thing that she very seldom ever
did. She, like everybody else, had her pets and hobbies, such as
flowers, trees, plants, dogs, horses, etc., and there was one dog
in particular that was her favorite pet. This dog was with Her
Majesty always and followed her wherever she went, and a more
homely dog I never saw. It had absolutely nothing to recommend it
in any way. Her Majesty thought it beautiful, and called it Shui
Ta (Sea Otter).

A short distance from the Audience Hall we came to a large
courtyard. On each side of this courtyard were two immense baskets
fifteen feet in height, built of natural logs and literally
covered with purple wisteria. They were simply gorgeous and great
favorites of Her Majesty. She was always very proud of them when
in bloom and took great delight in showing them to the people.

From this courtyard we entered a sort of passageway which ran
along the sides of a big hill and led directly to the theatre,
where we soon arrived. This theatre is quite unlike anything that
you can imagine. It is built around the four sides of an open
courtyard, each side being separate and distinct. The building has
five stories. It is entirely open on the front and has two stages,
one above the other. The three top stories are used for holding
the drops and for store rooms. The stage on the first floor is of
the ordinary kind; but that on the second floor is built to
represent a temple and used when playing religious plays, of which
Her Majesty was very fond.

On the two sides were long, low buildings with large verandas
running their entire length, where the Princes and Ministers sat
when invited by Her Majesty to witness the play. Directly opposite
this stage was a spacious building, containing three large rooms,
which was used exclusively by Her Majesty. The floor was raised
about ten feet above the ground, which brought it on a level with
the stage. Large glass windows ran along in front, so made that
they could be removed in the summer and replaced with pale blue
gauze screens. Two of these rooms were used as sitting rooms and
the third, the one on the right, she used as a bedroom, and it had
a long couch running across the front, on which she used to sit or
lie according to her mood. This day she invited us to go to this
room with her. Later I was told that she would very often come to
this room, look at the play for a while and then take her siesta.
She could certainly sleep soundly, for the din and noise did not
disturb her in the least. If any of my readers have ever been to a
Chinese theatre, they can well imagine how difficult it would be
to woo the God of Sleep in such a pandemonium.

As soon as we were in this bedroom the play commenced. It was a
religious play called "The Empress of Heaven's Party or Feast to
all the Buddhist Priests to eat her famous peaches and drink her
best wine." This party or feast is given on the third day of the
third moon of each year.

The first act opens with a Buddhist Priest, dressed in a yellow
coat robe with a red scarf draped over his left shoulder,
descending in a cloud from Heaven to invite all the priests to
this party. I was very much surprised to see this actor apparently
suspended in the air and actually floating on this cloud, which
was made of cotton. The clever way in which they moved the
scenery, etc., was most interesting, and before the play was
finished I concluded that any theatre manager could well take
lessons from these people; and it was all done without the
slightest bit of machinery.

As this Buddhist Priest was descending, a large pagoda began to
slowly rise from the center of the stage in which was a buddha
singing and holding an incense burner in front of him. Then four
other smaller pagodas slowly rose from the four corners of the
stage, each containing a buddha the same as the first. When the
first Buddhist Priest had descended, the five buddhas came out of
the pagodas, which immediately disappeared, and walked about the
stage, still singing. Gradually from the wing came numbers of
buddhas singing until the stage was full, and they all formed into
a ring. Then I saw a large lotus flower, made of pink silk, and
two large green leaves appearing from the bottom of the stage, and
as it rose the petals and leaves gradually opened and I saw a
beautiful lady buddha (Goddess of Mercy) dressed all in white
silk, with a white hood on her head, standing in the center of
this flower. As the leaves opened I saw a girl and a boy in the
center of them. When the petals of the lotus flower were wide open
this lady buddha began to gradually ascend herself, and as she
ascended, the petals closed until she seemed to be standing on a
lotus bud. The girl standing in the leaf on the Goddess' right
side held a bottle made of jade and a willow branch. The legend of
this is that if the Goddess dips the willow branch into the jade
bottle and spreads it over a dead person it will bring the person
to life. The boy and the girl are the two attendants of the

Finally the three came down from the flower and leaves and joined
the rest of the buddhas. Then the Empress of Heaven came, a good
old lady with snow-white hair, dressed from head to foot in
Imperial yellow, followed by many attendants, and ascended the
throne, which was in the center of the stage, and said: "We will
go to the banquet hall." This ended the first scene.

The second scene opened with tables set for the feast to be given
by the Empress of Heaven. These tables were loaded down with
peaches and wine and four attendants guarding them. Suddenly a bee
came buzzing near and scattered a powder under the nostrils of the
attendants, which made them sleepy. When they had fallen asleep,
this bee transformed itself into a big monkey and this monkey ate
all the peaches and drank all the wine. As soon as he had finished
he disappeared.

A blast of trumpets announced the coming of the Empress of Heaven
and she soon arrived accompanied by all the Buddhist Priests and
their attendants. When the Empress of Heaven saw all the peaches
and wine had disappeared, she woke the attendants and asked them
why they were asleep and where the peaches and wine had gone. They
said that they did not know, that they were waiting for her to
come and fell asleep. Then one of the guests suggested that she
should find out what had become of the feast, and attendants were
sent out to the guard to find out from the soldiers if anyone had
gone out of the gate recently. Before the messenger had time to
return, the Guard of Heaven came and informed the Empress that a
big monkey, who was very drunk and carrying a big stick, had just
gone out of the gate. When she was told this, she ordered the
soldiers of heaven and several buddhas to go and find him at his
place. It seems that this monkey had originally been made from a
piece of stone and lived in a large hole in a mountain on the
earth. He was endowed with supernatural powers and could walk on
the clouds. He was allowed to come to heaven and the Empress of
Heaven gave him a position looking after the Imperial orchards.

When they got to his place on the earth, they found that he had
taken some of the peaches with him and he, with other monkeys, was
having a feast. The soldiers challenged him to come out and fight.
He immediately accepted this challenge, but the soldiers could do
nothing with him. He pulled the hair out of his coat and
transformed each hair into a little monkey and each monkey had an
iron rod in its hand. He himself had a special iron rod, which had
been given to him by the King of Sea Dragons. This rod he could
make any size he wanted from a needle to a crowbar.

Among the buddhas who had gone with the soldiers was one named Erh
Lang Yeh, who was the most powerful of them all and had three
eyes. This buddha had a dog which was very powerful and he told
the dog to bite this monkey, which he did, and the monkey fell
down and they caught him and brought him up to heaven. When they
got there the Empress of Heaven ordered that he should be handed
to Lao Chun, an old taoist god, and that he should burn him in his
incense burner. The incense burner was very large, and when they
took the monkey to him he placed him inside this burner and
watched him very carefully to see that he did not get out. After
he had watched for a long time he thought the monkey must be dead
and went out for a few minutes. The monkey, however, was not dead
and as soon as Lao Chun went out, he escaped and stole some golden
pills which Lao Chun kept in a gourd and went back to his hole in
the mountains. These pills were very powerful and if one of them
were eaten it would give eternal life, and the monkey knew this.
The monkey ate one and it tasted good and he gave the little
monkeys some. When Lao Chun came back and found both the monkey
and the pills gone he went and informed the Empress of Heaven.
This ended the second scene.

The third scene opened with the buddhas and soldiers at the
monkey's place in the mountains and they again asked him to come
out and fight. The monkey said: "What! Coming again?" and laughed
at them. They started to fight again, but he was so strong they
could not get the best of him. Even the dog who had bit him before
was powerless this time, and they finally gave it up and returned
to heaven and told the Empress of Heaven that they could not
capture him the second time, as he was too strong. Then the
Empress of Heaven called a little god about fifteen years old by
the name of Neur Cha, who had supernatural powers, and told him to
go down to earth to the monkey's place and see if he could finish
him. This god was made of lotus flowers and leaves, that is, his
bones were made of flowers and his flesh made of leaves and he
could transform himself into anything that he wished. When Neur
Cha got to the monkey's place and the monkey saw him, he said:
"What! A little boy like you come to fight me? Well, if you think
you can beat me, come on," and the boy transformed himself into an
immense man with three heads and six arms. When the monkey saw
this, he transformed himself also into the same thing. When the
little god saw that this would not do, he transformed himself into
a very big man and started to take the monkey, but the monkey
transformed himself into a very large sword and cut this man into
two pieces. The little god again transformed himself into fire to
burn the monkey, but the monkey transformed himself into water and
put the fire out. Again the little god transformed himself, this
time into a very fierce lion, but the monkey transformed himself
into a big net to catch the lion. So this little god, seeing that
he could not get the best of the monkey, gave it up and went back
to heaven, and told the Empress of Heaven that the monkey was too
strong for him. The Empress of Heaven was in despair, so she sent
for Ju Li, an old ancestor of the buddhas, who was the
all-powerful one of them all; and Kuan Yin, Goddess of Mercy, and
sent them down to the monkey's place to see if they could capture
him. When they arrived at the hole in the mountain the monkey came
out and looked at Ju Li, but did not say a word, as he knew who
this god was. This god pointed a finger at him and he knelt down
and submitted. Ju Li said: "Come with me," and took the monkey and
put him under another mountain and told him he would have to stay
there until he promised he would be good. Ju Li said: "You stay
here until one day I lift this mountain up for you to come out to
go with a Buddhist Priest to the West side of heaven and demand
the prayer books that are kept there. You will have to suffer a
great deal on the way and face many dangers, but if you come back
with this Buddhist Priest and the prayer books, by that time your
savage temper will be gone and you will be put in a nice place in
heaven and enjoy life forever afterwards."

This finished the play, which was very interesting, and I enjoyed
it from beginning to end. It was acted very cleverly and quite
realistic, and I was very much surprised to know that the eunuchs
could act so well. Her Majesty told us that the scenery was all
painted by the eunuchs and that she had taught them about all they
knew. Unlike most theatres in China, it had a curtain which was
closed between the acts, also wing slides and drop scenes. Her
Majesty had never seen a foreign theatre and I could not
understand where she got all her ideas from. She was very fond of
reading religious books and fairy tales, and wrote them into plays
and staged them herself, and was extremely proud of her

Her Majesty sat talking, we standing, for some little time and she
asked me if I understood the play, and I told her that I did and
she seemed quite pleased. Then she said in such a charming way:
"Oh! I am so interested in talking with you that I have forgotten
to order my lunch. Are you hungry? Could you get Chinese food when
you were abroad, and were you homesick? I know I would be if I
left my own country for so long a time; but the reason why you
were abroad so long was not your fault. It was my order that sent
Yu Keng to Paris and I am not a bit sorry, for you see how much
you can help me now, and I am proud of you and will show you to
the foreigners that they may see our Manchu ladies can speak other
languages than their own." While she was talking I noticed that
the eunuchs were laying three large tables with nice white table
cloths, and I could see a number of other eunuchs standing in the
courtyard with boxes of food. These boxes or trays are made of
wood painted yellow and are large enough to hold four small and
two large bowls of food. After the tables were laid ready, the
eunuchs outside formed themselves into a double line from the
courtyard to a little gate running into another courtyard and
passed these trays from one to the other up to the entrance of the
room, where they were taken by four nicely dressed eunuchs and
placed on the tables.

It seems that it was a habit of Her Majesty to take her meals
wherever she happened to be, so that there was no particular place
that she used as a dining room. I should also mention that these
bowls were of Imperial yellow with silver covers. Some were
ornamented with green dragons and some with the Chinese character
Shou (Long Life).

There were about one hundred and fifty different kinds of food,
for I counted them. They were placed in long rows, one row of
large bowls and one row of small plates, and then another row of
small bowls, and so on. As the setting of the tables was going on,
two Court ladies came into the bedroom, each carrying a large
yellow box. I was very much surprised to see Court ladies doing
this kind of work and I said to myself, if I come here will I have
to do this sort of thing? Although these boxes appeared to be
quite heavy, they brought them in very gracefully. Two small
tables were placed in front of Her Majesty, then they opened the
boxes and placed a number of very cute plates containing all sorts
of sweets, lotus flower seeds, dried and cooked with sugar,
watermelon seeds, walnuts cooked in different ways, and fruits of
the season cut and sliced. As these plates were being placed on
the tables Her Majesty said that she liked these dainties better
than meat and gave us some and told us to make ourselves at home.
We thanked her for her kindness and enjoyed them very much. I
noticed that she ate quite a quantity from the different plates
and wondered how she would be able to eat her lunch. When she had
finished, two of the Court ladies came and took the plates away
and Her Majesty told us that she always gave what was left to the
Court ladies after she had finished eating.

After this a eunuch came in carrying a cup of tea. This tea cup
was made of pure white jade and the saucer and cover was of solid
gold. Then another eunuch came in carrying a silver tray on which
were two jade cups similar to the others, one containing
honeysuckle flowers and the other rose petals. He also brought a
pair of gold chopsticks. They both knelt on the floor in front of
Her Majesty and held the trays up so that she could reach them.
She took the golden cover off of the cup containing tea and took
some of the honeysuckle flowers and placed them in the tea. While
she was doing this and sipping the tea, she was telling how fond
she was of flowers and what a delicate flavor they gave to the
tea. Then she said: "I will let you taste some of my tea and see
if you like it," and ordered one of the eunuchs to bring us some
tea, the same as she was drinking. When it came, she put some of
the honeysuckle flowers in the cup for us and watched us drink it.
It was the most delicious tea I had ever tasted and the putting of
flowers in it gave it an extremely delicate flavour.


WHEN we had finished drinking tea, she told us to go with her
into the next room, where the tables had been prepared for lunch,
and I wondered if she had any room for lunch, after all that she
had just eaten, but I soon found out. As soon as she was inside
the room, she ordered the covers to be removed and they were all
taken off at one time. Then she took her seat at the head of the
table and told us to stand at the foot. She then said: "generally
the Emperor takes lunch with me when we have the theatre, but he
is shy to-day, as you are all new to him. I hope he will get over
it and not be so bashful. You three had better eat with me
to-day." Of course, we knew that this was an especial favor, and
thanked her by kowtowing before we commenced to eat. This
kowtowing, or bowing our heads to the ground, was very tiring at
first and made us dizzy, until we got used to it.

When we commenced to eat, Her Majesty ordered the eunuchs to place
plates for us and give us silver chopsticks, spoons, etc., and

"I am sorry you have to eat standing, but I cannot break the law
of our great ancestors. Even the Young Empress cannot sit in my
presence. I am sure the foreigners must think we are barbarians to
treat our Court ladies in this way and I don't wish them to know
anything about our customs. You will see how differently I act in
their presence, so that they cannot see my true self."

I was watching her while she was talking to my mother and
marvelled to see how she could eat, after having eaten such a
quantity of candy, walnuts, etc., while in her bedroom.

Beef was a thing that was tabooed within the precincts of the
Palace, as it was considered a great sin to kill and eat animals
that were used as beasts of burden. The food consisted mostly of
pork, mutton and game, fowls and vegetables. This day we had pork
cooked in ten different ways, such as meat balls, sliced cold in
two different ways, red and white, the red being cooked with a
special kind of sauce made of beans which gives it the red color
and has a delicious taste. Chopped pork with chopped bamboo
shoots, pork cut in cubes and cooked with cherries and pork cooked
with onions and sliced thin. This last dish was Her Majesty's
favorite and I must say it was good. Then there was a sort of
pancake made of eggs, pork and mushrooms chopped fine and fried,
also pork cooked with cabbage and another dish cooked with
turnips. The fowl and mutton was cooked in several different ways.
In the center of the table was a very large bowl about two feet in
diameter of the same yellow porcelain, in which there was a
chicken, a duck and some shark fins in a clear soup. Shark fins
are considered a great delicacy in China. Besides this there was
roast chicken, boneless chicken and roast duck. Ducks and chickens
are stuffed with little pine needles to give them a fine flavor
and roasted in open air ovens.

There was another dish that Her Majesty was very fond of and that
was the skin of roast pork cut into very small slices and fried
until it curls up like a rasher of bacon.

As a rule the Manchu people seldom eat rice, but are very fond of
bread and this day we had bread, made in a number of different
ways, such as baked, steamed, fried, some with sugar and some with
salt and pepper, cut in fancy shapes or made in fancy moulds such
as dragons, butterflies, flowers, etc., and one kind was made with
mincemeat inside. Then we had a number of different kinds of
pickles, of which Her Majesty was very fond. Then there was beans
and green peas, and peanuts made into cakes and served with
sugarcane syrup.

I did not eat very much, as I was too busy watching Her Majesty
and listening to what she said, although she told us to eat all we
could. In addition to all I have mentioned, we had many different
kinds of porridge, some made of sweet corn and some with tiny
yellow rice (like bird seed), and Her Majesty said that we must
all eat porridge after our meat.

After we had finally finished eating, Her Majesty rose from the
table and said: "Come into my bedroom and you will see the Young
Empress and the Court ladies eat; they always eat after I am
finished." We went with her and I stood near the door between the
two rooms and saw the Young Empress and Court ladies come in and
stand around the table eating very quietly. They were never
allowed to sit down and eat their food.

All this time the theatre had been going on playing some fairy
tales, but they were not near as interesting as the first play
that we had seen. Her Majesty sat on her long couch in the bedroom
and the eunuch brought her some tea and she ordered some brought
for us. My reader can imagine how delighted I was to be treated in
this way. In China the people think their sovereign is the supreme
being and that her word is law. One must never raise their eyes
when talking to her. This is a sign of great respect. I thought
these extreme favors must be most unusual. I had been told that
Her Majesty had a very fierce temper, but seeing her so kind and
gracious to us and talking to us in such a motherly way, I thought
my informant must be wrong and that she was the sweetest woman in
the world.

When Her Majesty had rested a while, she told us that it was time
we were returning to the city, as it was getting late. She gave us
eight big yellow boxes of fruit and cakes to take home with us.
She said to my mother: "Tell Yu Keng (my father) to get better
soon and tell him to take the medicine I am sending by you and to
rest well. Also give him these eight boxes of fruit and cakes." I
thought my father, who had been quite ill since we returned from
Paris, would not be much benefited if he ate all those cakes.
However, I knew he would appreciate her kind thoughtfulness even
if it were detrimental to his health.

As perhaps most of my readers know, it is the custom to kowtow
when Her Majesty gives presents and we kowtowed to her when she
gave us the fruit and cakes and thanked her for her kindness.

Just as we were leaving, Her Majesty said to my mother that she
liked us very much and wanted us to come and be her Court ladies
and stay at the Palace. We thought this was another great favor
and again thanked her, and she asked us when we could come and
told us to bring our clothes and things only, as she would fix
everything for us and showed us the house we would live in when we
came and told us to come back inside of two days. This house
contained three very large rooms and was situated on the right
side of her own or private Palace. This Palace Ler Shou Tong (Ever
Happy Palace) is situated on the shores of the lake and was Her
Majesty's favorite place and where she spent most of her time,
reading and resting and when the spirit moved her she would go for
a sail on the lake. In this Palace she had quite a number of
bedrooms and made use of them all.

When she had finished showing us this house we took leave of Her
Majesty, the Young Empress and the Court ladies, and after a long
and tiresome ride, reached home exhausted but happy, after the
most eventful day of our lives. When we got into the house, we
were surprised to find several eunuchs waiting our return. They
had brought us each four rolls of Imperial brocade from Her
Majesty. Once more we had to bend to custom in thanking her for
these gifts. This time, the gift having been sent to the house, we
placed the silk on a table in the center of the room and kowtowed
to thank Her Majesty and told the eunuchs to tell Her Majesty how
grateful we were to her for all her kindness and for the beautiful

There is another thing that had to be done according to the
custom, and that was to give the eunuchs a present or tip, and we
had to give each of the eunuchs ten taels for their trouble. We
afterwards found out that when eunuchs went anywhere to take
presents for Her Majesty, they were required to report to her when
they returned how the recipient had thanked her and what had been
given them, which she allowed them to keep. She also asked them
numerous questions about our house, whether we were pleased with
her, etc. These people are extremely fond of talking and after we
had returned to the Palace again, they told us what Her Majesty
had said about us the first day we were there.

My mother felt very much worried to go to the Palace and leave my
father all alone owing to his being in poor health, but we could
not disobey Her Majesty's order, so we returned to the Palace
three days later.

Our first day there was a busy one for us. When we first arrived
we went and thanked Her Majesty for the present that she had sent
us. She told us that she was very busy to-day, as she was going to
receive a Russian lady, Madame Plancon, wife of the Russian
Minister to China, who was bringing a miniature portrait of the
Czar and Czarina and family as a present from the Czar to her, the
Empress Dowager. She asked me if I could speak Russian. I told her
that I could not, but that most Russians spoke French, which
seemed to satisfy her. She, however, said: "Why don't you tell me
you speak Russian, I won't know or be able to find out," and at
the same time was looking at one of the Court ladies. I concluded
that someone must be fooling her, for she seemed to appreciate the
fact that I had told her the truth. This afterwards proved to be
true and one of the Court ladies was dismissed for pretending she
could talk foreign languages when she could not speak a word.

Besides this audience there was the theatre and the engagement
ceremony of Her Majesty's nephew, Ter Ju. The engagement ceremony,
according to the Manchu custom, is performed by two of the
Princesses of the Royal family going to the house of the
prospective bride, who sits on her bed cross-legged, her eyes
closed and awaits their coming. When they arrive at the house,
they go to her bedroom and place a symbol called Ru Yee, made of
pure jade about one and a half feet long, in her lap and suspend
two small bags made of silk and beautifully embroidered, each
containing a gold coin, from the buttons of her gown, and place
two gold rings on her fingers, on which is carved the characters
Ta Hsi (Great Happiness). The meaning of the symbol or sceptre Ru
Yee is "May all joy be yours."

During this entire ceremony absolute silence is maintained and
immediately they have finished, they return to the Palace and
inform Her Majesty that the ceremony has been completed.


No one informed us the day before that there was to be an
audience to receive the Russian Minister's wife on that very day.
We told Her Majesty that we must go and change our clothes in
order to receive this lady. The dresses we wore that day were very
simply made and short. The reason we wore this kind of costume was
that there was no carpet and the bare brick floor had ruined our
beautiful red velvet gowns, also the clumsy eunuchs had kept
stepping on our trains all the time. We had made up our minds that
short dresses for general wear every day would be more practical.
Her Majesty said: "Why must you change your clothes? I see you
look much better without that tail dragging behind you on the
floor. I laughed at the idea of having a tail on one's dresses. I
noticed that the first day when you came to the Court." Before we
had time to explain to her, she said: "I see, dresses with tails
behind must be more dignified than short ones, am I right?" We
told her it was so. Then she said: "Go and put on your most
beautiful gowns at once." We immediately went and changed. My
sister and myself wore our pink crepe de chine gowns, trimmed with
Brussels lace and transparent yokes of the same color chiffon. My
mother wore her gray crepe de chine embroidered with black roses
and a little touch of pale blue satin on her collar and belt. We
dressed in a great hurry, as Her Majesty had sent eunuchs to see
if we were ready. When she saw us she exclaimed: "Here are three
fairies with long tails." Then she asked us: "Is it very tiring to
hold half of your dress in your hand when you are walking? The
costume is pretty, but I do dislike the tail, there is no sense
having a thing like that. I wonder what these foreigners will
think of me having you dressed in their costume. I am sure they
won't like the idea. My reason is this: I want them to see you in
foreign clothes in order to let them understand I know something
about the way they dress. I must say that no foreign ladies have
yet been presented to me dressed in such lovely gowns as you three
have. I don't believe foreigners are as wealthy as the Chinese. I
also notice they wear very little jewelry. I was told that I have
more jewelry than any sovereign in the world and yet I am getting
more all the time."

We were very busy getting ready to receive Mdme. Plancon, who
arrived about eleven o'clock and was received in the waiting room
of the first courtyard by my sister and from there conducted to
the audience hall, Ren Shou Dien, where she was received by Her
Majesty, who was sitting on her big throne on the raised dais. The
Emperor was present, sitting on Her Majesty's left hand and I
stood on her right to interpret for her. Her Majesty was dressed
in a yellow transparent satin brocade gown, embroidered with
hollyhocks and the Chinese character "Shou" (Long Life) and
trimmed with gold braid. She wore her big pearl, which is about
the size and shape of an egg, suspended from the button of her
dress, also numerous bracelets and rings and gold finger nail
protectors. Her hair was dressed in the same style as usual.

When Mdme. Plancon entered the hall, my sister brought her to the
steps of the dais and she courtesied to Her Majesty. I then went
forward and brought her up onto the dais and Her Majesty shook
hands with her and she presented the photograph which she had
brought to Her Majesty. Her Majesty made a very pretty speech of
acceptance, expressing her appreciation of the gift of their
Majesties, the Czar and Czarina. I interpreted this speech in
French to Mdme. Plancon, as she could not speak English. After
this, Her Majesty told me to take Mdme. Plancon to the Emperor,
which I did. He stood up when she came near and shook hands with
her and asked after their Majesties' health. This over, Her
Majesty stepped down from her throne and took Mdme. Plancon to her
own Palace, the one with so many bedrooms, and when they arrived,
Her Majesty asked her to sit down, and they talked together for
about ten minutes, I interpreting for them, after which I took her
to see the Young Empress.

The Manchu law is very strict as regards the mother-in-law and the
daughter-in-law, and the Young Empress had been sitting behind the
screen at the back of the throne during the audience, and it was
there that I found her. From there we went to the banquet hall,
where luncheon was served in Manchu style.

Here I must explain the difference between the Chinese way of
eating and the Manchu. The Chinese place the bowls of food, one at
a time, in the center of the table and everyone eats out of these
bowls, sticking their chopsticks in and helping themselves to what
they want. The Manchus eat quite differently and are served with
individual bowls and dishes, the same as in any other country. Her
Majesty was very proud of this and said that it saved time, not to
mention being cleaner. The food in the Palace was always very good
and clean, especially when we had foreign guests, and of course we
had a variety of dishes for such occasions, such as sharkfins,
birds' nest pudding, not to mention a great quantity of other

Her Majesty had given me the order that morning to have the tables
nicely decorated and they did look very nice when we sat down.
Besides the usual tableware, we had gold dragon menu holders,
little peach-shaped silver saucers filled with almonds and dried
watermelon seeds, and knives and forks in addition to chopsticks.

Her Majesty and the Emperor never ate with guests, so Mdme.
Plancon was entertained by the Imperial Princess and the Court
ladies. When luncheon was half over a eunuch came and told me that
Her Majesty wanted to see me at once. The thought flashed through
my head that something had gone wrong, or that some of the eunuchs
had been making false reports, a bad habit of the Court; and I was
much surprised to find her all smiles. She told me what a nice,
polite lady Mdme. Plancon was, that she had seen many ladies who
had come to the Court, but none with manners like this one, that
she was sorry to say that some of the ladies who came did not
behave very well. She said: "They seem to think we are only
Chinese and do not know anything, and look down upon us. I notice
these things very quickly and am surprised to see people who claim
to be well educated and civilized acting the way they do. I think
we whom they call barbarians are much more civilized and have
better manners." She was always very polite to the foreign ladies,
no matter how badly they behaved, but after they had gone, she
would tell us who was nice and who was not. After she had finished
saying this, she gave me a beautiful piece of green jade to give
to Madame Plancon. When I gave it to her, she said she wished to
thank Her Majesty, and I took her to the Palace again.

When we had finished luncheon, she told me how pleased she was
with her reception and the kindness that Her Majesty had shown
her, and took her departure, we accompanying her to the courtyard
of the Audience Hall, where her chair was waiting.

Her Majesty had made a rule or custom that after all guests had
departed, we must go to her and report everything. I suppose she
was like all women, a bit of a gossip as well as the rest; it
appeared so at any rate. She wanted to know what Mdme. Plancon
said, whether she liked the jade and whether she enjoyed her
luncheon, etc.

Her Majesty was very well pleased that I had interpreted so well
for her and said: "I have never had anyone to interpret for me
this way before. Although I don't understand the language, I can
see that you speak it fluently. How did you learn? I will never
let you go away from me any more. Sometimes the foreign ladies
bring their own interpreters, but I can't understand their Chinese
and have to guess at what they are saying, especially some of the
missionaries Mrs. Conger brings with her. I am very happy to have
you and want you to stay with me as long as I live and I will
arrange a marriage for you, but won't tell you just now."

I felt very happy at what Her Majesty had said and thought I had
made my debut under very favorable auspices, and was very glad
that Her Majesty liked me; but this marriage question worried me,
for nothing was farther from my mind than this. I afterwards told
my mother about it and she told me not to worry, as I could always
refuse when the time came.

When we had told Her Majesty all that Mdme. Plancon had said, she
told us we could go to our rooms, that as we had risen early that
morning and had worked very hard, we must be tired and needed
rest, that she would not need us any more that day. We courtesied
to her according to the custom when saying good night, and


THE building where we had our rooms, as I have said before,
contained four large rooms and a hall, and we three, my mother,
sister and myself, each took a room and gave the fourth to our
maids. Her Majesty had ordered a eunuch to accompany us and this
eunuch told us that Her Majesty had ordered four young eunuchs to
attend on us and that if they did not behave, we should tell him.
He also said his name was Li, but as there were so many by this
name, including the head eunuch, it was very hard to tell them

When we arrived, which took some time, he pointed to a building on
our right and said that it was Her Majesty's own Palace and the
one which we had just left. I could not understand why it had
taken us so long to come, when the Palace was so near, and asked
him about it. He told us that our little buildings were at the
left side of the Emperor's Palace and that Her Majesty had had the
entrance leading from our place to her Palace closed up for
certain reasons which he would not tell, but said: "You see this
place ought to face East instead of towards the lake." The view on
the lake was beautiful and I told him I liked it much better the
way it was. He smiled and said: "You will have to learn a lot
before you find out this wicked place." I was surprised at what
the eunuch said, but did not like to ask him any questions. He
also told us that the Emperor's Palace was just behind our place
and was a large building similar to Her Majesty's Palace. We
looked and could see the trees of his courtyard above the roof.
Then he pointed to another building behind the Emperor's, which
was larger but lower than the Emperor's Palace, and also had a
large courtyard, and said it was the Young Empress's Palace. It
had two buildings flanking it on each side and the eunuch told us
that the one on the left was the Secondary Wife's bedroom. That
there had been an entrance between the two Palaces, but that Lao
Fo Yeh (The great old Buddha), as the eunuchs called Her Majesty,
had blocked it up so that the Emperor and Empress could not
communicate with each other, except through Her Majesty's own
Palace. I suppose this was the way she kept watch over them and
knew at all times what they were doing. This was all news to me
and I did not know what to think of it. I was afraid that this
eunuch Li would tell me more of these curious things, so I told
him I was tired and would go to my room and rest, and he went

When I finally got inside my room and had a chance to look around,
I saw that it was very prettily furnished with ebonywood
furniture, which was covered with red satin cushions and the
windows were hung with red silk curtains. All the bedrooms were
just alike. The kong (bed) was made of brick covered with the same
kind of wood and ran along the wall under the front window. It had
high teaster posts with slats running across on which red curtains
were hung. These kongs are very curiously built. They are made of
brick and have a hole in the front center in which fire is placed
to heat the brick in winter time. During the day a sort of table
is placed on top of the kong and removed again at night.

Shortly after we had gone to our rooms, some eunuchs came and
brought our dinner, which they placed on a table in the center of
the hall. They told us the food had been sent by Her Majesty and
that she had ordered them to tell us to make ourselves
comfortable. We were so tired that we could not eat very much and
were about to retire for the night when this eunuch Li came again
and told us that we must be up at five o'clock, not later, so I
told my eunuch to knock on my window at five. Immediately after
this we went to bed, but did not sleep immediately, as we wanted
to talk over the events of the day, which had been many and
strange. After we did finally get to bed, it seemed as if we had
just fallen asleep when I heard someone knocking on my window. I
woke up with a start and asked what the matter was and a eunuch
told me it was five o'clock and time to get up.

I immediately got up and opened my window and looked out. The day
was just dawning and the sky was a beautiful deep red which was
reflected in the lake, which was perfectly calm. The scenery was
lovely and in the distance I could see Her Majesty's peony
mountain, which was literally covered with these beautiful
flowers. I dressed at once and went to Her Majesty's Palace and
there met the Young Empress sitting on the veranda. I courtesied
to her as a good morning salute. The Emperor's Secondary wife was
there also, but we had been ordered not to courtesy to her, as she
was considered not to have any standing there. There was also a
number of young Court ladies, many of whom I had never seen
before. The Young Empress introduced me to them, saying that they
were also Court ladies. They were daughters of high Manchu
officials and some were very pretty and bright. The Young Empress
told me that these ten (there were just ten there) were never
allowed to go near Her Majesty, as they were just learning the
court etiquette. They were all dressed very nicely in pretty
Manchu gowns, the same design as that worn by the Young Empress.

After I had been introduced to these young ladies and talked with
them a while, I went inside with the Young Empress and there met
Sze Gurgur, fourth daughter of Prince Ching and a young widow
twenty-four years of age, Yuen Da Nai Nai, widow of Her Majesty's
nephew. Both were busy getting things ready for Her Majesty. The
Young Empress told us that we must go at once to Her Majesty's
bedroom and assist Her Majesty to dress, so we went at once and
courtesied to her and said: "Lao Tsu Tsung Chi Hsiang" (old
ancestor, all joy be with you). Her Majesty was still in bed and
smiled to us and asked us if we had slept well. We told her the
rooms were very comfortable, etc. I thought to myself, we had
slept very well for the little time we had, but I had not had half
enough. The day before had been very hard for us and we were quite
unused to it and it had made us very lame and sore running around
so much.

She asked us if we had had any breakfast and we told her not yet.
She scolded Li for not having given the order for our breakfast to
be brought to our rooms and said: "You must not feel like
strangers, order anything you may want." Then she arose and
started to dress. She put on her white silk socks first, having
slept in her pantaloons as is the custom, and tied them at the
ankle with pretty ribbon. I must tell you here that although she
always slept in her clothes, she changed them for clean ones every
day. Then she put on a pale pink shirt of soft material and over
that a short silk gown, that was embroidered with bamboo leaves,
as she always wore low heeled shoes in the morning and
consequently could not wear her long gowns. After she had dressed
she walked over to a window in front of which were two long tables
covered with toilet articles of every kind and description.

As she was washing her face and dressing her hair, she said to my
mother that she could not bear to have the servant girls, eunuchs,
or old women, touch her bed, that they were dirty, so the Court
ladies must make it. When she said this she turned to my sister
and myself, we were standing a little to one side, and said: "You
two must not think for a moment that the Court ladies do servant's
work, but you know I am an old woman and could easily be your
grandmother and it will do you no harm to work a little for me.
When it comes your turn, you can superintend the others and don't
have to do the work with your own hands." Then Her Majesty said to
me: "Der Ling you are a great help to me in every way and I make
you my first lady-in-waiting. You must not work too much for you
will have to make all the arrangements for the audiences for
foreigners and you will have to interpret for me. I also want you
to look after my jewels and don't want you to do rough work at
all. Roon Ling (my sister) can choose what she likes to do. I have
two more besides you, Sze Gurgur and Yuen Da Nai Nai, making four
altogether and you must all work together. It is not necessary to
be too polite to them and if they are not nice to you, you let me
know." Although I was very happy at receiving this appointment, I
knew that according to custom I must refuse it, so I thanked Her
Majesty very kindly for the honor she had given me and said that I
did not know enough to hold such an important position and would
prefer to be just an ordinary Court lady, and that I would learn
as quickly as possible to be useful to her. She hardly let me
finish what I was saying, when she laughed and said: "Stop! don't
say anything like that; you are too modest, which shows you are
very clever and not a bit conceited. I am surprised to see what a
perfect little Manchu lady you are, knowing even such small
etiquette as this, although you have spent many years outside of
China." She was very fond of making fun and liked very much to
tease, and said that I could try and if she saw that I could not
do the work, she would scold me and put someone else in my place.
After all this that she had said, I accepted the appointment and
went over to her bed to see how it was made, and I found that it
was very easy work to do. As this would be one of my duties, I
watched while the bed was being fixed. First of all, after Her
Majesty had risen, the bedclothes were taken out into the
courtyard by the eunuchs and aired, then the bed, which was made
of beautifully carved wood, was brushed off with a sort of
whiskbroom, and a piece of felt placed over it. Then three thick
mattresses made of yellow brocade were placed over the felt. After
this came the sheets made of different colored soft silk, and over
the whole thing was placed a covering of plain yellow satin
embroidered with gold dragons and blue clouds. She had a great
many pillows, all beautifully embroidered, which were placed on
the bed during the daytime; but had a particular one stuffed with
tea leaves on which she slept. It is said that stuffing the pillow
on which you sleep with tea leaves is good for the eyes. In
addition to all these, she had another very curiously shaped
pillow about twelve inches long in the middle of which was a hole
about three inches square. It was stuffed with dried flowers, and
the idea of the hole was that when she laid on it she could place
her ear in this hole and in this way hear any and every sound. I
suppose in that way no one could come on her unawares.

Besides this last yellow embroidered cover, there were six covers
of different colors, pale mauve, blue, pink, green and violet, and
were placed one on top of the other. Over the top of the bed was a
frame of wood handsomely carved and from this frame white crepe
curtains, beautifully embroidered, hung, and numerous little gauze
silk bags filled with scent were suspended from the carved work of
the frame. The odor from these bags was very strong and made one
feel sick until they became used to it. Her Majesty was also very
fond of musk and used it on all occasions.

It took us about fifteen minutes to make the bed, and when I had
finished, I turned around and saw that Her Majesty was dressing
her hair. I stood beside her Majesty while the eunuch was dressing
it and saw that as old as she was, she still had beautiful long
hair which was as soft as velvet and raven black. She parted it in
the center and brought it low at the back of her ears, and the
back braid was brushed up on the top of her head and made it into
a tight knot. When she had finished doing this, she was ready to
have the Gu'un Dzan (Manchu headdress) placed on and pinned
through the knot with two large pins. Her Majesty always dressed
her hair first and then washed her face. She was as fussy and
particular as a young girl and would give it to the eunuch if he
did not get it just to suit her. She had dozens of bottles of all
kinds of perfume, also perfumed soap. When she had finished
washing her face, she dried it on a soft towel and sprayed it with
a kind of glycerine made of honey and flower petals. After that
she put some kind of strong scented pink powder on her face.

When she had completed her toilet, she turned to me and said: "It
must seem to you quite funny to see an old lady like me taking so
much care and pains in dressing and fixing up. Well! I like to
dress myself up and to see others dress nicely. It always gives me
pleasure to see pretty girls dressed nicely; it makes you want to
be young again yourself." I told her that she looked quite young
and was still beautiful, and that although we were young we would
never dare compare ourselves with her. This pleased her very much,
as she was very fond of compliments, and I took great pains that
morning to study her and to find out what she liked and what she

After this Her Majesty took me into another room and showed me
where her jewels were kept. This room was covered with shelves on
three sides of the room from top to bottom, on which were placed
piles of ebony boxes all containing jewels. Small yellow strips
were pasted on some of the boxes on which was written the
contents. Her Majesty pointed to a row of boxes on the right side
of the room and said: "Here is where I keep my favorite everyday
jewels, and some day you must go over them and see that they are
all there. The rest are all jewels which I wear on special
occasions. There are about three thousand boxes in this room and I
have a lot more locked up in my safety room, which I will show you
when I am not busy." Then she said: "I am sorry you cannot read
and write Chinese, otherwise I would give you a list of these
things and you could keep a check on them." I was very much
surprised at this and wondered who had told her I couldn't. I was
anxious to know, but did not dare to ask her, so I told her that
although I was not a scholar, I had studied Chinese for some time
and could read and write a little, that if she would give me a
list I would try and read it. She said: "That is funny, someone
told me the first day you were here, I forget now who it was, that
you could not read or write your own language at all." While she
was saying this, she was looking all around the room and I was
sure she knew who it was that had told her, but she would not tell
me. Then she said: "When we have time this afternoon, I will go
over this list with you. Bring me those five boxes on the first
row of shelves." I brought the boxes to her room and placed them
on the table. She opened the first one and it contained a most
beautiful peony made of coral and jade and each petal trembled
like a real flower. This flower was made by stringing the petals
which were made of coral on very fine brass wire, also the leaves
which were made of pure jade. She took this flower and placed it
on the right side of her headdress. Then she opened another box
and took from it a magnificent jade butterfly made in the same
way. This was an invention of her own and it was done by carving
the coral and jade into petals and leaves and boring holes in the
lower ends through which brass wire was run. The other two boxes
contained bracelets and rings of different patterns. There was a
pair of gold bracelets set with pearls, another pair set with
jade, with a piece of jade hanging from the end of a small gold
chain, etc. The last two contained chains of pearls, the like of
which I never saw before, and I fell in love with them at once.
Her Majesty took one which was made into a plum blossom string by
winding a circle of five pearls around a larger one, then one
single pearl, then another circle of five pearls around a large
one, and so on, making quite a long chain, which she suspended
from one of the buttons of her gown.

At this juncture one of the Court ladies came in carrying several
gowns for Her Majesty to select from. She looked at them and said
that none of them suited her, to take them back and bring more. I
had a look at them and thought they were perfectly lovely, such
pretty colors and so beautifully embroidered. In a short while the
same Court lady came back carrying more, and from these Her
Majesty selected a sea-green one embroidered all over with white
storks. She put this gown on and looked at herself in the mirror
for a while, then took off her jade butterfly. She said: "You see
I am very particular about little details. The jade butterfly is
too green and it kills my gown. Put it back in the box and bring
me a pearl stork in No. 35 box." I went back to the jewel room and
fortunately found No. 35 box and brought it to her. She opened the
box and took from it a stork made entirely of pearls set in
silver, the bird's bill being made of coral. The pearls making the
body of the bird were so cleverly set that the silver could not be
seen at all unless one looked at it very closely. It was a most
magnificent piece of workmanship and the pearls were of perfect
color and shape. Her Majesty took it and placed it in her hair and
did look very graceful and pretty. Then she picked out a
mauve-colored short jacket, also embroidered with storks, which
she put on over her gown. Her handkerchief and shoes were also
embroidered with storks and when she was entirely dressed she
looked like the stork lady.

Just as she had finished dressing, the Emperor Kwang Hsu came into
the bedroom dressed in his official clothes. These clothes were
exactly like other official clothes, except that he had no button
on his hat and did not wear the peacock feather. He knelt down
before Her Majesty and said: "Chin Baba, Chi Hsiang" (dear father,
all joy be with you). It may seem curious that the Emperor and all
of us should call Her Majesty father, and the reason why this was
done was because Her Majesty always wanted to be a man and
compelled everyone to address her as if she were actually one.
This was only one of her many peculiarities.

I did not know whether to courtesy to the Emperor or not, not
having received any orders as to what I should do. However, I
thought it better to be too polite than not enough, so I waited
until either he or Her Majesty went out of the room, as we were
not allowed to salute or courtesy to anyone in her presence. In a
little while the Emperor went out and I followed him out into the
hall and just as I was in the act of courtesying Her Majesty came
out. She looked at me in a very peculiar way, as if she did not
approve of what I had done, but said nothing. I felt very
uncomfortable and made up my mind that being too polite did not
always pay after all.

I then returned to the room again and saw a small eunuch placing
several yellow boxes on a table at the left side of the room. Her
Majesty seated herself in a large chair, which was called her
little throne, and this eunuch opened the boxes, took a yellow
envelope from each box and handed them to Her Majesty. She opened
these envelopes with an ivory paper knife and read their contents.
They were memorials from the heads of the different Boards, or
from the Viceroys of the different Provinces. The Emperor had come
back and was standing at the side of this table and after she had
finished reading, she handed them over to him. While all this was
being done I stood at the back of her chair. I watched the Emperor
as the different papers were handed to him and noticed that it did
not take him very long to finish reading their contents. After he
was finished reading the papers, they were placed back in the
boxes. During all this time absolute silence was maintained. Just
as they had finished the head eunuch came in, knelt down and
announced that Her Majesty's chair was ready. She immediately got
up and went out of the house, we following her, and I took her arm
while she was descending the steps to go to her chair. When she
had entered the chair to go to the Audience Hall, the Emperor and
Young Empress and we all followed in our usual places, the
eunuchs, amahs and servant girls carrying all the things exactly
the same as was done the first day I came to the Palace. When we
arrived at the Audience Hall, we took our places behind the big
screen and the audience commenced. I was very curious to find out
just how the audiences were conducted and wanted to listen to what
was going on, but the Court ladies would not leave me alone.
However, when they were all talking together with my sister, I
stole away into a corner where I could sit and rest and listen to
the conversation between the different Ministers and Her Majesty.
Trust a woman for being inquisitive.

The first part of the audience I could not hear very well, as so
many people were whispering and talking at the same time, but by
peeping through the carved-work of the screen, I could see a
General talking to Her Majesty. I also saw the members of the
Grand Council come in headed by Prince Ching, who was the
Councillor-in-Chief. After the General had finished, Her Majesty
talked with Prince Ching about the appointment of some minor
officials, a list of whose names had been handed to her. She
looked over this list and spoke about several of the people, but
Prince Ching suggested some others, saying: "Although these people
whose names have been submitted to Your Majesty should receive
appointments, those that I have suggested are better fitted for
the positions." Her Majesty said: "All right, I leave it all to
you." Then I heard Her Majesty say to the Emperor, "Is that
correct?" and he replied, "Yes." This finished the Audience for
the morning and the Ministers and Grand Councillors took their
leave. We came out from behind the screen to Her Majesty and she
said that she wanted to go for a walk to get some fresh air. The
servant girls brought her a mirror, placed it on a table, and Her
Majesty took off her heavy headdress, leaving the simple knot on
the top of her head, which was quite becoming. She wanted to
change some of the flower jewels and I opened a box which one of
the eunuchs had brought and took out some very dainty flowers made
of pearls. I handed her one which she placed at the side of this
knot, then she selected a jade dragonfly which she placed on the
other side. She said these small flowers were favorites of hers
and she liked to wear them when she took off her heavy headdress.
I was watching her very closely and wondered what I was going to
do with the flowers she had taken off. I had not brought the boxes
to put them in, as I did not know she was going to change again
after the audience, and felt a little nervous as to what was the
right thing to do, or as to what she would say. However, I saw a
eunuch come in carrying these boxes and felt much relieved. I
quickly placed the things in the boxes where they belonged.


MY first day with Her Majesty was very trying as I did not know
just what she wanted or how she wanted things done, and no one
seemed willing to tell me; but by watching very closely I was soon
able to grasp the situation. After I had finished putting the
things in the boxes I did not know whether to take them back to
the jewel room or not, or whether to wait until Her Majesty
ordered me, and again I was in a quandary. I saw she was talking
to my mother, so I waited a little time and finally made up my
mind I would risk it and take them back, which I did. As I was
returning I met Her Majesty in the big courtyard. She had just
changed her gown again and looked much shorter as she had also
changed her shoes for ones with lower heels. This gown was made of
heavy sky-blue crepe with no embroidery at all, just trimmed with
pale pink ribbons, and she looked very nice in it. When Her
Majesty saw me, she asked me: "Where have you been?" I told her
that I had just been putting her jewels away. Then she said: "Has
anyone told you to put them away as soon as I am finished with
them? I forgot to tell you this morning, although I had meant to."
I said that no one had told me anything, that I was afraid to have
the eunuchs taking such valuable things here and there, that I was
sure that she did not want to use them any more, so I thought it
would be safer to put them away in the jewel room again. Her
Majesty looked at me and said: "I can see that these girls don't
tell you anything and I am very glad to see that you have done
just the right thing. That is why I thought someone must have told
you what to do. Anything you want to know you can ask me, but
don't talk to these mean people here." I could see from this that
there must be some jealousy among them and decided that I was well
able to find my own way, as I knew Her Majesty liked me and would
help me out.

Her Majesty walked along a little way, then laughed and said to
me: "Don't I look more comfortable now? I am going for a long walk
and take lunch on the top of the hill. There is a nice place up
there and I am sure you will like it. Come, let us go."

The Emperor had gone back to his own Palace, and the head eunuch
had also disappeared. As we were walking along, Her Majesty was
talking and smiling as if she had never a care or trouble in the
world, or any important questions of state to settle. I thought
from what I had seen so far that she had a very sweet disposition.
She looked back and said: "Just see how many people are following
us." I turned and saw the same crowd that had accompanied Her
Majesty earlier in the day to the Audience Hall.

After passing out of the large courtyard on the West side, we came
to a large, long veranda running in a zig-zag fashion along the
front of the lake, and it was so long that I could not see the end
of it. It was very prettily made of solid carved work from one end
to the other. Electric lights were hanging from the ceiling at
intervals, and when they were lighted at night, made a beautiful

Her Majesty was a very fast walker and we had to step lively to
keep up with her. The eunuchs and the servant girls walked on the
right side and only one of the eunuchs was allowed to walk behind
us, and he was the one who carried Her Majesty's yellow satin
stool, which, like her dog, went everywhere she did. This stool
she used to rest on when taking a walk. We walked for quite a long
while and I began to feel tired, but Her Majesty, as old as she
was, was still walking very fast and did not appear to be the
least bit tired. She asked me if I liked the Palace and whether I
would be satisfied to live with her, etc. I told her that it was a
great pleasure for me to serve her, that it had been my dream for
years, and now that my dream had come true, I could not help but
be satisfied.

We finally arrived at the place where the marble boat was kept,
and I was about finished. I never saw such vitality in an old
woman in my life as Her Majesty had, and it was no wonder that she
had ruled this vast Empire of China so successfully for so many

This boat was magnificent, being one mass of carved work, but the
inside was all spoiled. Her Majesty showed us all over the boat,
and whilst we were looking at the ruin, she said: "Look at those
colored glasses in the windows and these beautiful paintings. They
were all spoiled by the foreign troops in 1900. I don't intend to
have it repaired as I don't want to forget the lesson I have
learned and this is a good reminder." After we had been standing
there a few minutes, a eunuch who had been carrying the famous
satin stool, came forward, and Her Majesty sat down to rest. While
we were talking I noticed two large and very fancy-looking boats
approaching us, with several smaller ones coming along behind. As
they came nearer I saw that they were also very beautifully made,
and looked like floating pagodas of beautifully carved natural
wood. The windows of the pagodas were hung with red gauze curtains
and all was trimmed with silk. Her Majesty said: "There are the
boats. We must go over to the west side of the lake and have
luncheon." Her Majesty got up and walked to the edge of the lake,
two eunuchs supporting her, one at each side. She stepped into the
boat and we all followed her example. The inside of the boat was
very nicely furnished with carved ebony furniture with blue satin
cushions, one with many pots of flowers on both sides of the
window. There were two more cabins behind this sitting room. Her
Majesty told me to go in to see those two rooms. One little room
was a dressing room full of toilet articles. The other one had two
couches and several small chairs for Her Majesty to rest whenever
she felt tired. Her Majesty sat on her throne and ordered us to
sit on the floor. The eunuchs brought in red satin cushions for us
to sit upon. To sit on the floor is all right for Chinese clothes,
but of course it was out of the question with Paris gowns, and I
felt very uncomfortable, but did not like to say so. I wanted to
change into Manchu clothes, for I knew they were comfortable and
easy to work in, but having received no order from Her Majesty, I
did not dare to suggest it. Her Majesty noticed how very
uncomfortable we looked sitting on the floor. She said: "You can
stand up if you want to and just watch those boats following us."
I put my head out of the window and noticed the Young Empress and
several other Court ladies were in the other boat. They waved to
me, and I waved back. Her Majesty laughed and said to me: "I give
you this apple to throw to them." While saying this she took one
from the big plates that stood upon the center table. I tried very
hard, but the apple did not reach the other boat, but went to the
bottom of the lake. Her Majesty laughed and told me to try again,
but I failed. Finally, she took one and threw it herself. It went
straight to the other boat and hit one of the ladies' head. We all
laughed quite heartily. Then I began to enjoy myself. There were
several open boats full of eunuchs, and another one of servant
girls, amahs and the rest with Her Majesty's luncheon. The lake
was beautiful and looked so green in the sun. I told Her Majesty
that this color reminded me of the sea. She said: "You have
travelled so much, and yet you have not had enough, but are still
thinking of the sea. You must not go abroad any more, but stay
with me. I want you to enjoy this sailing on this lake instead of
the rough sea." I promised her that I would be only too happy to
stay with her. I must say the truth, I did enjoy the lovely
scenery, the beautiful weather, superb sunshine, with Her Majesty
so kind to me and talking to me in such a motherly way made me
love her more and more every minute I was there. I was so
extremely happy there that even Paris pleasures had gone out of my
memory entirely.

At last we arrived at another part of the lake. This was more of a
stream, very narrow, just wide enough for one boat to pass. On
both sides of the bank were planted drooping willow trees that
reminded me of the Chinese Fairy tales I have read. This time I
saw the servant girls, amahs, and also eunuchs carrying boxes,
walking on both sides of the shore. Only two boats were going
then, the Young Empress' and ours. Her Majesty said: "We will
arrive at the bottom of the hill in a few minutes." When we came
near the shore I saw her yellow chair and several red chairs
waiting. We landed and walked to the chairs. I watched Her Majesty
get into hers and noticed this was not the same chair she used
this morning. This little one was, of course, of yellow, with
yellow poles, and two eunuchs carried it, with yellow rope across
their shoulders, and four eunuchs supported the poles, one on each
corner of the chair. They were just going to raise her chair up
when she said: "Yu tai tai (Lady Yu) I give you and your daughters
special favor and give you a red chair with red cord that I have
given to only a few people." The Young Empress looked at us, which
I understood at once was meant for us to kowtow to her, which we
did, and waited until the Empress got into hers. Then we went to
search for ours. To my surprise our own eunuchs were standing
waiting beside our chairs. On the poles I noticed that my name was
written and I asked our eunuch the reason. He said that Her
Majesty gave the order the night before. It was a lovely ride
going to the top of the hill. I saw Her Majesty's chair in front,
and the Young Empress'. They looked to me quite dangerous in
ascending that way, and the men at the back of the chair had to
raise the poles above their heads so as to make the chair the same
level in ascending. I was quite nervous and was very much afraid
that they might fall off and injure me. Our eunuchs were walking
beside our chairs. I said to one of them that I was afraid the
chair bearers might slip. He told me to look back of my chair,
which I did, and to my surprise they had the poles raised up also
above their heads, and I did not feel it at all. He told me that
these chair bearers practice for such purposes and that there was
no danger at all. It made my heart stop beating looking back and
seeing the other Court ladies in their chairs way below mine, the
eunuchs and servant girls walking, for fear I might fall off at
any time. At last we arrived at the top of the hill. We helped Her
Majesty to alight and followed her into the most lovely building I
ever saw, the best one in the Summer Palace to my idea (name of
this pavilion, Ching Fo Ker). This Palace had only two rooms, with
windows on every side. One could see everywhere. Her Majesty used
one large one to take her luncheon in and the other as a toilet
room. I noticed that wherever we went we found Her Majesty's
toilet room. Her Majesty took us around the compound and showed us
the lovely flowers planted everywhere. One of the young eunuchs
told me that Her Majesty's dainties were ready. That was my first
day of real work. I went out and found two large yellow boxes of
different kinds of candies and fruits, as I have before mentioned.
I carried two plates at a time, and finished in nine times,
placing them on a square table near her. She was talking to my
mother then about flowers. I noticed that although she was
talking, she was watching me at the same time. I placed the plates
upon the table very carefully, and already having noticed the day
before what were her favorite dishes, and placed these near her.
She smiled at me and said: "You have done it very nicely. And how
do you know that these are my favorites and have placed them near
me? Who told you?" I replied that no one had told me anything and
that I had noticed the day before what Lao Tsu Tsung liked
(according to the Manchu custom one must address a superior or
one's parents in the third person). Her Majesty said: "I can see
you use your heart in everything (in China people say heart
instead of head) and are not like the crowd I have here; they
haven't the brains of a bird." She was soon busy eating, and gave
me some candies, and told me to eat right there in her presence.
Of course I never forgot to thank her, for I thought I had rather
thank her too much than too little. She told me: "Whenever I give
you small things you need not kowtow. Just say: `Hsieh Lao Tsu
Tsung Shang' (Thank the old ancestor), that is enough." After a
little while she finished eating, and told me to take the dishes
away. She said: "To-day is your day, so these things are yours.
Take them out and sit down on the veranda and enjoy yourself. You
see I could not eat all. There are lots of things left. If you
like you can tell your own eunuch to send them to your room." I
placed the little dishes back in the boxes and took them to the
veranda. There I placed them upon the table and told the Young
Empress to eat some. I did not know whether it was right to offer
them to her or not and thought I could not do her any harm, even
if I tried. She said all right, that she would eat some. I took a
piece of candy and had just put it into my mouth when I heard Her
Majesty calling my name. I hurried in and found her sitting at her
table ready to take her lunch. She said: "What else did Mdme.
Plancon say yesterday? Was she really pleased? Do you think they,
the foreigners, really like me? I don't think so; on the contrary
I know they haven't forgotten the Boxer Rising in Kwang Hsu's 26th
year. I don't mind owning up that I like our old ways the best,
and I don't see any reason why we should adopt the foreign style.
Did any of the foreign ladies ever tell you that I am a
fierce-looking old woman?" I was very much surprised that she
should call me in and ask me such questions during her meal. She
looked quite serious and it seemed to me she was quite annoyed. I
assured her that no one ever said anything about Her Majesty but
nice things. The foreigners told me how nice she was, and how
graceful, etc. This seemed to please her, and she smiled and said:
"Of course they have to tell you that, just to make you feel happy
by saying that your sovereign is perfect, but I know better. I
can't worry too much, but I hate to see China in such a poor
condition. Although the people around me seem to comfort me by
telling that almost every nation feels very friendly towards
China, I don't think that is true. I hope we will be strong some
day." While she was saying this I noticed her worried expression.
I did not know what to say, but tried to comfort her by saying
that that time will come, and we are all looking forward to it. I
wanted to advise her on some points, but seeing that she was
angry, I thought I had better not make any suggestions that day,
but wait until I had another opportunity. I felt sorry for her,
and would have given anything in the world to help her by telling
what the general opinion of her was so as to let her know the
truth, which no one dared to tell her. Something told me to be
silent. I kept thinking all the time she was talking to me, and
finally made up my mind that the time was not yet ripe for me to
make any suggestion. I had grown to love her very much, so I
wanted to take care not to offend her; that would probably finish
my ambition. I wanted to study her first thoroughly and then try
to influence her to reform China.

I stood all the time while she was eating. She got up from the
table and handed me her napkin (this napkin was made of a piece of
silk a yard square, woven in many colors). One corner was turned
in, and a golden butterfly was fastened to it. It had a hook at
the back of this butterfly so as to hook on her collar. She said:
"I am sure you must be hungry. Go and tell the Young Empress and
the rest of the people to come and eat. You can eat anything you
want from these tables, so eat all you can." I was very, very
hungry. Just imagine, I had been up since 5:00 o'clock and had
only a light breakfast, and had walked a great deal. It was almost
noon when Her Majesty sat down at her table. She ate so slowly,
too. While I stood there talking to her I thought she would never
finish. She ate a good meal. The Young Empress stood at the head
of the table, and we all stood on either side. We did not like to
be forward, so we stood at the other end of the table. The food
was very much the same as the first day we were there. Her Majesty
came out from the inner room, had just finished washing her face
and hands, and had changed into another gown. This one was simple,
but very pretty. It was woven with pink and gray raw silks, which
gave it a changeable light whenever she moved. She came out and
said: "I want to see you people eat; why is it that you are
standing at the end of the table, the best dishes are not there?
All of you come over here and eat near the Young Empress." So we
moved from our end of the table to the other. Her Majesty stood
near me, and pointed to a smoked fish and wanted me to try it, as
it was her favorite, and said: "Make yourselves at home. You know
you have to fight your own battles here with this crowd. Of course
you can come and tell me if anyone does not treat you fair." Her
Majesty then went out, saying that she would walk a bit. I noticed
that some of the court ladies did not look pleased, seeing that
Her Majesty paid so much attention to us. I could see they were a
little jealous of me, but that did not worry me in the least.

After we got through our luncheon, I followed the Young Empress,
for it was all so new to me, and I did not know what I must
do--whether to join Her Majesty or not. After seeing that they
were jealous of me, I paid strict attention to everything, so as
not to make any mistake in doing my work and let them have the
satisfaction of laughing at me. I would not give them the chance.
I heard Her Majesty talking to the eunuchs who looked after the
garden, about some branches which ought to be cut down, saying
they were lazy. So we went to her. She said to us: "You see I have
to look after everything myself, if not, my flowers would be
ruined. I can't depend on them at all. I wonder what they are good
for. They ought to look around every day and cut down the dead
branches and leaves. They have not been punished for several days
and they are looking forward to it." She laughed and said: "I will
not disappoint them, but give them all they wish to have." I
thought these people must be idiots, looking forward to a
whipping, and wondered who would whip them. Her Majesty turned to
me and said: "Have you ever witnessed such an operation?" I told
her that I had, having seen the convicts being whipped at a
Magistrate's Yamen when I was a little girl living at Shansi (on
the Yangtsze). She said: "That is nothing. The convicts are not
half so wicked as these eunuchs. Of course they deserve a heavier
punishment when they are bad." Her Majesty said that I should
learn to play dice with her, as she never had enough people to
play with, so we went back to the same room where she had taken
her lunch. A square table was in the middle of this large room and
a little throne of Her Majesty's, facing south (her favorite
direction). Her Majesty sat on her throne and said to me: "I will
show you how to play this game. Do you think you know enough
Chinese to read this map?" I noticed a large map, the same size as
the table, and laid upon it, drawn in different colors. In the
center of the map was written the direction of the game. It said:
"This game is called the `Eight Fairies Travel across the Sea.'
The names are Lu Hsien, Chang Hsien, Li Hsien, Lan Hsien, Hang
Hsien, Tsao Hsien and Hain Hsien. These seven were masculine
fairies. Hor Hsien was the only lady fairy." This map was the map
of the Chinese Empire, and the names of the different provinces
were written on the drawing. There were eight pieces of round
ivory, about one inch and a half in diameter and a quarter of an
inch thick. The names of these fairies were engraved upon them.
This game could be played either by eight people or four people,
when each person had to take two fairies' places, instead of one.
A porcelain bowl was placed in the center of the map, to compare
the point by throwing six dice into the bowl. For instance, four
people play. One throws these six dice into the bowl and counts
the points on them. The highest that one could get was 36, and
should 36 be thrown the fairy should go to Hangehow to enjoy the
beautiful scenery. This person threw dice for Lu Hsien and had 36
points and placed this ivory piece of Lu Hsien on Hangehow upon
the map. The same person has to throw another time for another
fairy, so each person throws twice if four people play the game,
and once if played by eight. These different points count
different provinces. They are counted thus:--Six dice alike. One
pair in six dice, to three pairs. The lowest was the double 1, 2,
3. If any unfortunate fairy got this he should go on exile and be
left out altogether. Any one of the fairies that travelled round
the map to reach the Imperial Palace, the first, was the winner.

I read this to Her Majesty. She seemed to be quite pleased, and
said: "I had no idea that you could read so well. This game was my
own invention and I taught three Court ladies to play. I had a
very hard time teaching them. I also taught them how to read
Chinese in order to play the game, but it took them so long to
learn anything that I got quite discouraged before I got through
with them. I am sure you know how to play it now." I was very much
surprised to hear that these Court ladies were as ignorant as
this. I thought they must be excellent scholars, so did not dare
to show my knowledge of Chinese literature. We began to play the
game. Her Majesty was lucky. The two fairies held by her were way
ahead of ours. One of the Court ladies said to me: "You will be
surprised to see that Lao Tsu Tsung is always the winner." Her
Majesty smiled and said to me: "You will never be able to catch my
fairies." She said: "You are the first day here to play this game
and if any of your fairies beat any of mine I will give you a nice
present, so hurry up." I thought I could never get ahead of her
fairies, for they were so far ahead of mine, but I tried hard, as
Her Majesty told me to call out for the points I wanted. I did,
but it came out something so different that it amused her a great
deal. I had no idea how long we were playing this game. We counted
who came next, and that was one of my fairies, so Her Majesty said
to me: "I was sure you could not beat me, as no one could. Seeing
that yours are next to mine, I will give you the present just the
same." While she was saying this she told a servant girl to bring
her some embroidered handkerchiefs. This girl brought several
colored ones to her, and she asked me what color I preferred. She
handed me a pink one and a pale blue one, all embroidered with
purple wisteria, and said: "These two are the best, and I want you
to take them." I was just going to thank her by bowing to the
ground, but I found that my legs could not move. I tried hard and
succeeded finally, with difficulty. Her Majesty laughed very
heartily at me and said: "You see you are not accustomed to
standing so long and you cannot bend your knees any more."
Although my legs were sore I thought I had better not show it, but
smiled and told her that it was nothing, only my legs were a
little stiff, that was all. She said: "You must go and sit on the
veranda and rest a minute." I was only too glad to sit down, so I
went to the veranda and found the Young Empress sitting there with
several Court ladies. The Young Empress said: "You must be tired
standing so long. Come and sit near me." My legs were very stiff
and my back was tired. Of course Her Majesty did not know how
uncomfortable we were while she was sitting on her cozy throne.
Foreign attire is out of the question for the Imperial Palace of
Peking. I had hoped that Her Majesty would tell us to change into
our Manchu gowns. I noticed that she asked many questions every
day about foreign costumes, and she said: "The foreign costume is
not any prettier than ours and I should say they must be quite
uncomfortable round one's waist. I wouldn't be squeezed that way
for anything." Although she was saying such things she did not
suggest that we should give them up, so we had to wait patiently
for her orders. The Young Empress took her watch out of her
pocket, and said to me: "This game has lasted just two hours." I
said to her that it seemed to me longer than that. While we were
talking I saw our own eunuchs bringing four round boxes, made of
thin board, carried at each end of bamboo poles. They put them
down near where we sat, and one of them brought me a cup of tea.
When my mother and sister came the same eunuch brought another two
cups, and there were several Court ladies talking with us. This
eunuch did not give them any. I noticed at the other end of this
long veranda there were another two boxes, exactly the same as
these, and a big tall eunuch made tea and brought it to the Young
Empress in a yellow porcelain cup, with a silver saucer and a
silver top cover. He did not give any to the others.

I was puzzled when one of the Court ladies sitting next to me
said: "Would you mind telling Wang (our head eunuch) to give me a
cup of your tea, just to save me the trouble to go and get it from
the small room at the end of this long veranda?" I gave her such a
surprised look, for I did not know that this was our tea, but I
thought I'd just tell Wang to bring her a cup, and find out
afterwards the reason, for I would give anything in the world
rather than appear ignorant before those people. While we were
talking Her Majesty came out. Before she reached the veranda I got
up and told the Young Empress that Her Majesty was coming. I saw
her first because I sat facing her back hall. Her Majesty said to
us all: "It is almost three o'clock now, and I am going to rest a
while. Let us leave here." We all stood in a line for her to enter
her chair, and then we went to ours. It was quite a fast ride and
we got out of our chairs before arriving at the courtyard of her
own Palace. We walked ahead of her chair and formed into another
line for her to alight. She walked to her bedroom and we all
followed. A eunuch brought her a cup of hot water and another
brought a bowl of sugar. She took her golden spoon and took two
teaspoonfuls of sugar and put it into her cup of hot water, and
drank it very slowly. She said: "You know before one goes to sleep
or ever lies down, sugar water will quiet one's nerves. I always
take it, and find it very good indeed." She took the flowers off
from her headdress and I fixed them back in their boxes at once,
and placed them in the jewel-room. When I came out of this
jewel-room she was in bed already, and said to us: "You all go and
rest a while. I don't need you now."