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From Muscovy to China

Three years travels from Moscow overland to China

thro' Great Ustiga, Siriania, Permia, Sibiria, Daour, Great Tartary, &c. to Peking. Containing, an exact and particular description of the extent and limits of those countries, and the customs of the barbarous inhabitants ... To which is annex'd an accurate description of China, done originally by a Chinese author ... Printed in Dutch ... and now faithfully done into English.

by Evert Ysbrandszoon Ides
Published in 1706, W. Freeman [etc.] (London)


Chap. XIV

• Arrival at the City of Kixu; and afterwards at Tunxo, where the Ambassador was received by the Governor. Description of this flourishing, Populous and trading City. The Junks or Chinese Barks described. The Market of Porcelain or China ware at Tuxco. Coming near Peking, where are magnificent Country Seats, which are further described. Stone Watch Towers. The Country described. Extraordinary good Roads. Our Entry into Peking. The Mandarins welcoming the Ambassador. How long time the whole Journey took up. The Ambassador complimented and treated by the Viceroy. Ceremonies on that occasion. Preparation for a public Audience of the Emperor. The Ambassador goes to the Court, hath Audience of the King, and is invited to a Royal Entertainment. How the Emperorís Table was set out. The Ambassador conducted close to the Imperial Throne; he and his Retinue are placed in order to Eat. How the Chinese fit at Table. The King sends a Dish from his own to the Ambassadorís Table, and causes him to be asked what Languages he understood. Three Jesuits in the Court, who are particularly described. Their Conversation with the Ambassador. The Ambassador carried up to the Emperorís Throne. What the Emperor asked him concerning the State of the chiefest Cities of Europe. The Ambassador and his Retinue treated with a certain Drink, with which the Royal Entertainment ended.

• After having passed many Towns and Villages, we came the next Day to Kixu. Here the Hills on both East and West sides of us began to disappear; though on the Mountains, on the SouthEast and Western sides we could yet see the great Wall. Going from hence we passed over a Stone Bridge on the River Xangu, and reposed that night at Xangole.

On the 2nd of November we passed through several Towns and Villages, and over a Stone Bridge over the River Tungo, which brought us to the City of Tunxo, which is fortified by a great Wall, and is situate close to the River Tungo, as represented in the Print annexed. About as far as the mentioned Bridge, the Governor of the City and Principal Officers with a great train of Horsemen, came to welcome me. The Mandarins told me that this Governor was a very great Nobleman, by Birth a Mongolian, or East Tartar: and a very affable well bred Man. He invited me and the Mandarins to Dinner, and gave us a noble Entertainment.

The City of Tunxo is very large, Populous, and a place of great Trade, by reason of the Water carriage from thence to Japan and the Provinces of Nanquing and Corea. On this River, and haled on Shore, lie a great many Junks; besides several which belong to the Emperor, and are richly adorned with carved Work, Galleries and Windows. In these Barges the Governors of Places are carried to their appointed Cities, discharged, and afterwards brought home again. Those Junks which are haled on shore are inhabited in Winter like Houses, thoí there is indeed but very little Winter here, nor doth the River ever freeze up, thoí sometimes ice appears on the shore. These Junks or Barks are indifferent large, and built strong. When they lie on the Wharfs the Joints, instead of Pitch and Tar, are stopped and smeared over with a fort of Clay mixed with some other ingredients, which once dried keeps faster and firmer than any pitch. The Masts are a fort of Bamboos, hollow within, but yet very strong. And some of them are as thick as an ordinary Manís Waist. The Sails are a certain form of Rushed Woven together, that when furled, fold up as pliable as Flags, which is somewhat surprising. The forepart of these Ships is very flat, being built arch-wise from top to bottom, and very conveniently fitted for the Sea. Insomuch that according to the report of the Inhabitants, with a good Wind in one of these, they can reach the Kareeschian Sea in three or four Days; and supposing the Wind favourable, can in four or five Days Sail from thence to the Kingdom of Japan.

Passing through this City, I rode through the China Earthen-Ware Market, where I saw vast quantities of the finest Porcelain in the world. I also observed abundance of Pagodas or Idol-Temples, and Cloisters; and after I had lodged a Night in the Suburbs, and got everything in good order, departed next Day, and proceeded forward till I entered Peking, this being the last lodging place in my way.

About ten in the morning we approached within half a mile of Peking, and went by several magnificent Country-Seats, belonging to the Inhabitants of Peking as well as Mandarins; both sides of the way were adorned with these noble buildings; before which were digged wide Channels, which served to carry off the falling Water, and small Stone-Bridges over them opposite to the Houses. The Gardens were most of them fenced with Stone-Walls, and adorned with carved Gates, and very fine Garden-Houses; the largest Paths were planted on each side with Cypresses and Cedars, which afforded a charming prospect and passage through them. The Gates of the finest Gardens were set open, I suppose purposely on my account. These pleasant Seats continued on each side the way to the Entrance of the City. It is also observable, that from the great Wall to Peking at the distance of about every half Mile are watch towers, in each of which are five or six Soldiers, who Night and Day display the Emperorís Flags and Ensigns which are yellow: these Turrets like Beacons serve on occasion of any Enemy appearing from the East, to light Fires on, in order to alarm and convey notice of it to the Emperor, which is done so expeditiously from one to another, that in a very few hours it reaches Peking.

The Land from the City of Lania hitherto is plain, and good arable ground, on which grows Rice, Barley, Millet, Wheat, Oats, Peas and Beans, but no Rye. The Roads here are very broad, strait, and very well kept; for if but one Stone be found on them, it is immediately thrown to the side by Persons expressly appointed for that purpose. In all the Villages we saw Pails filled with Water standing ready for the Camels and Asses to drink: and to my wonder, I observed that the great Roads were as noisy by reason of the multitudes of Travelers and Wagons, as if they were the crowded Streets of a Populous City.

After I had caused our Caravan with all the travelling Baggage to be dispatched into the City an Hour before, I rode on in due order with my Convoy, and those who were ordered to ride before me, making in all 90 Persons, beside several Cozacks. The crowd at the Gates, and the concourse of People with which the Streets were lined, gave us some interruption at the Entry into the City. Notwithstanding there were several of the Emperors Boschy or Wau-makers, appointed to make way for our passage, yet they had enough to do to make us bare passing room; the Chinese being very curious to see Novelties. Being come near to the Ambassadorís Court, several Mandarins came to meet and Compliment me on my arrival. Both sides of the Streets were lined with Soldiers as well as the Court. Riding through which, they brought me to my apartment, where not only myself, but all my Retinue were instantly stored with all manner of Provision and Refreshments. And we every Morning returned thanks to the great God who after a long and difficult Journey of one Year and eight Months, had at last conducted us safe and well to our desired place, without the loss of any more than one Man.

After a repose of three Days, I expected to be informed when it would please the Emperor to admit me to Audience. And, according to the Custom of this Country, that Day, the Emperorís orders came for me to appear above, and receive a welcoming Table or Meal. Upon which I prepared myself, and several Great Mandarins were appointed to conduct me up into the Castle, where the Viceroy, Sungut Doriamba, Uncle to the Emperor, and four of the greatest Lords of the Empire received and welcomed me. Here the Floor was overspread with Carpets, upon which having seated myself with them, the Viceroy in the name of the Emperor, acquainted me that the Emperor , his Lord and Master, presented me with this Table or Entertainment; and though he could not himself be present, yet desired I would accept this Meal, as a welcome after such a long journey. After which the Table was covered with cold Meats, as Roast Geese, Chickens, Port and Mutton, besides all sort of Fruit, and Confections; the Table appointed for me alone was all about Ellsquare (?), upon which the Dishes that were all of Silver, and piled one upon another, amounted as I told them, to the number of Seventy.

They were entertained with Tea, and I with Tarasoen and Rhenish wines. The Viceroy and other Lords diverted themselves by smoking Tobacco, and He made his Compliment to me in the following words. He desired, that I would accept of this Entertainment, as a testimony of the Emperorís Favour, and expect his Orders in a few Days, to bring their Czarish Majesties Credentials, and receive my public Audience; upon which rising up and thanking him for the Emperorís Favours, I returned to the Ambassadorís Court.

On the 12th of November the Viceroy send some Mandarins to give me notice to appear with their Czarish Majesties Credentials next Morning in the Castle; upon which I accordingly prepared myself. At eight in the Morning three principal Mandarins came to advise me that it was then a proper time to wait on the Emperor. Besides their common Habit, they were also dressed in Robes, which were Embroidered some with Dragons, others with Lyons, and a third fort with Tigers and Cranes on the Breast and Back worked with Gold Thread: they brought with them 50 Horses for my Retinue. According to the European Mode I advanced with their Czarish Magesties Credentials, and was attended by my Retinue in good order towards the Court.

Coming to the outer Gate of the Castle, there is a Pillar, with some Characters Engraven on it, where I was told I must alight, according to their Custom; for that I went on foot through five outer Courts to the Castle itself. I found a great number of Mandarins, at the Court, all clothed in their richest Embroidered Robes, such as they wear in the Emperorís preference, who waited on me.

After we had mutually exchanged Compliments, the Emperor appears on his throne; upon which I delivered his Czarish Majesties credentials, and after the usual Ceremonies and a short Speech, was conducted back.

On the 16th of the same Month, I was informed that I was invited to Eat before the Emperor: wherefore in the Morning accompanied with the Mandarins thereto appointed, and the chief Gentlemen of my Retinue, I rode to Court. And in the sixth Court, a great many Lords and Mandarins were standing in rows in their best Rrobes, and shortly after an order came down for us to appear above xxxxxx palace. As soon as I entered, the Emperor mounted his exalted throne, having near him some persons who played very finely on the fife, and a life-guard of twelve men with gilt halbards without any sharp point to them, but adorned with Leopards and Tigers tails. As soon as the King was seated, the music ceased, and the Halbadiers seated themselves cross legged on each side below the throne. The Emperorís table was furnished with cold Meats, Fruits and Sweet-Meats, served up in Silver Dishes, and the whole covered with yellow Damask. The Viceroy and the Emperorís Uncle and two other of the principal Nobles stood on each side of his Majesty, and I was placed on the right hand of the Throne, about four Fathom distant from the Emperor; who looking very earnestly at me, ordered the Viceroy (who received his commands on his knees) to bring me nearer. Upon which he took me by the Hand, and placed me about two fathom distant, from the Emperor: and my Retinue were placed about six behind me. The Emperor a second time sent the Viceroy to me with utmost respect, to ask for the Health of their Czarish Majesties; to which I returned the proper Answer. The he caused his Table to be uncovered by taking off the Damask covering, and desired me to Eat, a Table being spread for me only: the other Lords and Mandarins, about 200 in number, took their places according to their Quality, fitting two at each Table, in the Persian manner upon Carpets, with their Legs under them, which Custom I was obliged to comply with, as the annexed Print expresses.

The Emperor sent me from his table, a Roast Goose, a Pig, a Loin of very good Mutton, and soon after several Dishes of Fruit, and a fort of Drink composed of boiled Tea, fried Meal and Butter which looked not unlike Bean or Coffee decoction. Having received all which, with due respect, his Majesty ordered the Viceroy to ask me, what European languages I understood? To which I answered, I could speak the Muscovite, German, Low Dutch, and a little Italian. Upon which he immediately dispatched some servants to the hinder part of the Palace, which done , there instantly appeared three Jesuits, who approached the Throne. And after kneeling, and performing their reverence to the Emperor, he commanded them to arise. One of these was Father John Francis Gerbillon, a French man; and the two others were Portuguese, one of them called Father Anthony Thomas. The Emperor ordered Father Gerbillon to me; who coming towards me speaking Italian, asked me in the Emperorís name how long I had been travelling from Mosco to Peking, and which way I came, by Wagon, on Horseback, or by Water? To which I returned satisfactory answers: on which returning to his Majesty, he informed him: who immediately answered, Gowa, Gowa, which is very well. The King then ordered the Viceroy to acquaint me that it was his most Gracious Pleasure that I should approach nearer the Presence by coming up to the Throne; upon which I arising, the Viceroy taking me by the Hand, after having led me up six steps, set me at the Table opposite to the Emperor. After I had paid my most humble respects to his Majesty, he talked with Father Gerbillon, who again asked me how long I had been on the way hither, in what manner I travelled, and in what Latitude Mojco was situate, and how far distant from Poland, France, Italy, Portugal or Holland? To all which I observed my answer proved very satisfactory. Upon which he gave the Viceroy a Gold Cup of Tartiarian liquor called Kumis, in order to hand it to me; which with due respect I accepted, and having tasted, returned it. This Kumis according to the report of the Attendants is a fort of Brandy distilled from Mareís Milk. After this the Emperor ordered my Retinue to advance within three Fathom of his Throne, and entertained them with the same Liquor; which being done, I paid my compliment in the European manner, and the Viceroy took me by the Hand, conducting me to my former place, where after fitting for a quarter of an Hour, I was desired to rise.

Chapter XV

The Emperor riseth, and enquires after a certain Jesuit; to which the Ambassador answers, and returns to his Apartment. The Palace, Throne and great Hall described, where the Throne is placed; the Avenues, and Supports. A Description of the Emperorís Person, Robes and other Appurtenances. The Decorum and Silence observed during the entertainment. Two Mandarins ordered by the Emperor to conduct the Ambassador to the Play house. How he and his followers were treated there, and a particular description of the various and diverting Farces with which he was entertained. Description of the Chinese Comedy. Agility of two Chinese young Women and two Boys. The Emperor goes a Tiger-hunting. The Ambassador invited to an Entertainment by the Viceroy. The Furniture and Ornaments of the Tables. Chairs of the Tarsarian fashion. Of their drinking of Tea. Of their several Courses. The acting of a Comedy. Of the Viceroyís Wife and Daughter. The conclusion of the Meal. The Ambassador entertained by the Treasurer of the Empire. The Magnificence of the Hall. The Ambassador conducted all about the City by the Lord, and to the Emperorís Dispensary. A Toy Shop. A fine Garden House. Gold coloured Fibres. Of their Markets, Shops, Fish Market, and the Market of all sorts of Wild Game. The Annual Feast of the Chinese, which lasts three Weeks, introduced with a great deal of Pomp. The Procession and carrying about of the Images of the Devil. Vast concourse of People to this Festival, especially of some Women. The Ambassador invited by the King to his Audience of leave before Day. How he was treated in the outer Court. Of Chineses Courtiers. The Emperor comes to the Ambassador. The Proclamation of the Emperorís Herald. Drums and Music about the Emperorís Person. The Ambassador conducted to him, and treated with a Dish of Coffee, over which he takes his leave. How the Emperorís Life Guard are Clothed and Armed. How the White Horses and Elephants are Equipped. Castles on the Elephants backs. As also Elephants Yoaked to the Kingís Waggons.

After this the Emperor arose, and having saluted me, descended from his Throne, and went out of the Audience Hall, by a Door on the Left Hand, in order to go to his Royal Apartment. As he was leaving the Hall he sent the Viceroy to ask me whether I had heard any News out of Europe concerning Father Grimaldi, who had been dispatched thither on the Emperorís Affairs: to which I answered, that when I left Mosco, I was informed that he with a Retinue of 25 Persons arrived at Smirna, and resolved to prosecute his Travels through Persia and India. He replied, he is safe arrived at Goa, and is upon his departure thence in order to his return hither, and it is seven Years since he left China. Hereupon I took my leave and retired to my Apartment.

Designing to take another opportunity to give an account of what I could observe concerning the Court, I shall at present only describe the outside of the Palace, and the Throne on which the Emperor sat. The Palace is an oblong Quadrangular Brick building, which is twice as long as broad, and the Roof covered with yellow glazed Tiles, on which were fixed Lyons, Dragons and all sorts of Imagery: the height of this building to the Roof was about eight Fathom; the Ascent to the Hall was up several Steps, and the father part or entrance of it was provided with small, open places or Windows, which were not glazed but peaked with Paper. At the ends of this Hall were two Doors, the tops of which were adorned with a fort of carved work, somewhat like a Crown, which was extraordinary well gilt. This building hath neither any Room over it or arched Roof, but the height of the Room is to the very top of the Roof, which was composed of curious Panels beautifully coloured, Japanned and finely gilded. This Hall is about 30 Fathom long, and 10 broad. The floor according to the Tartarian mode was covered with Carpets, adorned with Landskips and Figures.

The Throne is placed opposite to the Eastern Entrance, against the hind Wall, and is about three Fathom broad, and as many long; before it are two Ascents with six Steps each, adorned with Rails and cast representations of Leaves very well gift: On the right and left sides were also Rails of cast Imagery, which form report to be Gold, and others Silver; which are also extraordinary well gilt. Exactly in the middle of this raised place is a Throne somewhat like an Altar, which opens with two Doors: And in it the Emperorís seat about an Ell high, covered with black Sables, on which he sat with his Legs across under him. This Monarch was then Aged about 50 Years, his Meen was very agreeable, he had large black Eyes, and his Nose was somewhat raised; he wore small black Mustachioís, but had very little or no Beard on the lower part of his Face; he was very much pitted with the Small Pox, and of a middling Stature. His Dress consisted of a common dark-coloured Damask Waistcoat, a Coat of deep blue Sattin, adorned with Ermins, besides which he had a String of Coral hanging about his Neck, and down on his Breast. A warm Cap on turned up with Sable, to which was added a red Silk Knot, and fome Peacocks Feathers hanging down backwards. He Hair, plaited into one Lock, hung behind him. He had no Gold nor Jewels about him. He had Boots on, which were made of black Velvet.

Whilst he was at Dinner, such an orderly and profound Silence was observed amongst the Mandarins, that not only no Noise was heard, but they forbore so much as speaking to one another, all sitting very still with modest down-cast Eyes.

On the next Day the Emperor sent Two Mandarins, with 50 Horses, for my Retinue, and a Message, importing, it was his Majestyís Pleasure, that if I desired to see the City, all that was worth my View should be showed me. Pursuant to which, I caused my Horse to be saddled, and rode out with these Mandarins, who, by the Kingís Command, brought me to a fort of Play-house, or Court of Diversion, which was a very lofty and large Building. In it was a great State adorned with carved Imagery, finely painted, which the Players had the Use of for an Annual Rent. In the middle of this Palace, was an open Place encompassed with Galleries, in which the Mandarins desired us to sit down on Chairs; and having entertained me with Tea and Tharasin, Wine, I, and all my Retinue, were treated with a Comedy, and the Diversion of seeing a great many different sorts of exquisite Jugglers, who, by a dexterous slight of Hand, seem to produce, not only all sorts of Fruit, as Oranges, Lemons, Grapes, etc. but live Birds, and Crabs, and perform all the Dexterities of that kid practiced in Europe: Others so nicely played with round Glass balls as big as a Manís Head, at the Point of a Sharp Stick, tossing them several ways, without breaking or letting them fall, that it was really surprising: After this , a Bamboo Cane about Seven Foot high, was held upright by Six Men, and a Boy about Ten Years old crept up to the top of it in as nimbly as a Monkey, and laid himself on his Belly upon the Point or End of it, turning himself several times around, after which, rising up, he set one Foot on the Bamboo, holding fast to it with one Hand, and then losing his hold, clapped his Hands together, and run very swiftly down; and shewed several other Feats of Agility which were very wonderful.

The Comedies also appeared very well, by reason they were acted by the Emperorís Players. They frequently appeared in Changes of very rich Dresses, embroidered in Gold and Silver; and the Plat turned on the Story of a Triumphant Hero, in which was brought in their Idols, and a late Emperor, whose Face was painted of a Blood-Colour; which was interlaced with a Farce, or diverting Entertainment, of Two young Women richly dressed, who stood each on a Manís Shoulder, and nicely played with their Fans, bowing to one another, and keeping time to the Music as exactly as if they had danced on the Ground. Two little Boys played as Hosticki, in very fantastical Habits, and recited their Parts very well. After the End of the whole, I thanked the Mandarins, and returned Home. On the same Day the King went out a Tiger-hunting, without the great Wall, pursuant to his Annual Custom, and returned the same Day to Keking.

On the same Day I was invited to a Repast by the Vice-Roy, or Sungut Doriamba, with which Invitation I complied, and after some Discourse passing betwixt us, he led me by the Hand out of his Bed-Chamber, into his best Hall, or Parlour, where several Tables and Stools stood ready: The Tables were adorned with rich Tapestry Carpets of Silk and Gold, which were full wrought with Figures. I was seated on one, and the Mandarins on the other, side of Viceroy. The Tables were also set off with very fine Flower-pots, full of Flowers of all sorts of Colours, worked in Silk, which not only looked very beautiful, but very natural; Crimson-Velvets, and the most charming coloured Silks, being chosen, to make them, it being Winter, when no natural Flowers were to be gathered: On the forepart of these Tables were also placed Silver-Cups, in which was laid lighted Pieces of the fragrant Wood Kalamba, which afforded a very good Perfume; next which stood fine wooden Images, and variety of small Figures, or Puppets, finely painted and gilded. The Chairs, or Stools, on which the Vice-Roy and I sat, were, according to the Tartarian Fashion, hung at the Backs with Leopard and Tiger-Skins, which appeared very magnificent; and a larger Dish of Tea than ordinary, in which was put peeled Walnuts and Hazel-nuts, with a little Iron-Spoon, to take them out on occasion, was placed before each Person. After the Tea was drank off, which tasted very agreeably, several little Agate Cups, filled with Brandy mixed with distilled Waters, were served about; and after that, several Dishes, or rather Cups, of fried or broiled Fish, cut into small Pieces, were set in Heaps one upon another, garnished with fine Herbs and Flowers, and, as an Ornament, set on the forepart of the Table in a row; by them were placed Six Cups of very agreeable Soups, dished up with fine stewed Flesh and Fish; and when we had eaten of these, we were regaled with several Courses of the richest Edibles, which were followed by all sorts of fine baked Meats; and after this last Course, all sorts of delicious Confects as candied Grapes, Lemons, Oranges, Chestnuts and Shelled-nuts.

During our sitting at Table, n the Room where we eat, was acted a Play, interlarded with Songs and Dances by little Boys dressed in Girls Clothes, who very skillfully measured their Steps in Proportion to the Time of the Song, and played on the Flute, withal, distorting their Bodies into Antic Postures, and playing with a Fan in their Hands. His Lady and Daughter also appeared at the farther Part of the Hall, standing at a Door, which was but half open: They were very richly dressed according to the Mode of the Mongolian Tartars. After I had very divertingly spent about Three Hours there, accompanied by my Retinue, I rode to my Apartment.

Some time after, I was invited to the House of the Treasurer of the Empire, who is called Schiloy, where I was splendidly entertained. His Hall was very well furnished according to the Chinese Fashion: The Floor of it was laid with a fort of fine Stone; at Three Corners of which, on Ebony Feet, were Three extraordinary White Marble Tables, naturally shaded with black Veins, which represented beautiful Woods, Mountains, and Rivers: On these Tables were placed high Silver Flower-Pots, very naturally adorned with all sort of fine Flowers. The Pillars, clear up to the Roof, were painted with very fine Colours. While we sat at the Table we were entertained with a Ball, and, after this very agreeable Entertainment, I arose and took leave.

When this Lord accompanied and conducted me through the principal Markets, where Silk, Cloath, Gold and Silver, Jewels, and all sort of fine Manufactures, were sold, I was desired to a-light, and conducted to the Emperorís Dispensary, which I was willing to make some Scrutiny into, it being full stocked with all sorts of Roots, Herbs, and Medicines. I was here treated with a Dish of Tea, and observed, while I stayed there, that, according to the European Custom, several Prescriptions of Physicians were brought in, which were accordingly prepared. Next to this was a Toy-Shop, which I entered, and bought what I liked. The Master of it had a very fine Garden-House, in which were all sorts of Flowers, young Stocks, and Lemon Trees, in Pots: And amongst other-things, he shewed me a large Glass full of Water, in which were several living Fish about a Fingerís length, which naturally looked as if they had been gilt with the finest Gold; and the Scales of some of them being fallen off, discovered, to my great Surprise, the Colour of their Bodies to be the most beautiful Crimson in the World.

After we departed from thence, we went through all the Markets; each Shop hath a great Board set before it, on which is very orderly written the Shopkeeperís Name, and the Commodities which he deals in. We also went through the Fish Market, in which are all sorts of living Fish, but more especially Carps, Caroesses and Water-Snakes (which they eat here), Crabs, Shrimps, etc. all of which stand in Tubs to be sold, in great abundance. Passing through another Market, I saw great numbers of Harts, Roebucks, Hares, Pheasants, Partridges, etc. and several other wild Game, to be sold.

On the 7th of January the customary Annual Festival happened, which they observe for three Weeks. It began late at Night with the appearance of the New Moon, and fist the great Bell at the Kingís Court was rung, and their large Drums, expressly kept for, and used, in their Idolatrous Worship, were beaten, and several Cannon discharged; upon which all the People in the City, of what Degree forever, according to their Ability, expressed their Joy by Rackets, Serpents, and all sorts of Fire-works, to which they also added the beating of an infinite quantity of Drums, and according to their Custom, the founding of Trumpets by the Lamaís, or Idolatrous Priests, in their most innumerable Temples and Cloisters; insomuch, that from Ten at Night till next Day Noon, there was as great a Noise, as if two Armies of One hundred thousand Men were in the heat of Battle against one another. In the Day-time the Streets were crowded with all sorts of Processions, with their Idols, which were carried in various Shapes, and the Lamaís marched by them with Incense-Pots, and Strings of Beads; the Drums and Kettle-Drums beating, Trumpets sounding, and other Music playing , was endless. The carrying of these Diabolical mages, followed by a great Train of People, as well as a vast number of Lamaís, or Monks, which preceded them, lasted three Days, during which time all the Shops were shut, and all merchandizing forbidden, on Penalty or severe Punishments. During this time also the Streets were crowded with People of both Sexes, but more especially Women, who rode on Asses, or Chaises with two Wheels, covered all round, only before left open. The Servant Maids which sat behind, sung, some of them, whilst others blew on a sort of Horn-Pipe; and some Ladies sat publicly taking a Pipe of Tobacco. The Women never appear in public in all China, except the Province of Peking only, and more especially the City, which is inhabited by Tartars; the Chinese being obliged to live all about the City Wall, and the Suburbs, where all the chief Markets, and public Places of Sale, are.

Some Days after this, the Emperor sent two Mandarins to desire me to be ready to receive my Audience of Leave the next Morning two Hours before Day: And accordingly three Hours before Day, three Mandarins came to me on Horseback, and we rode to the usual alighting Place; when being conducted to the third Court, and desired to sit down, I was entertained with a sort of Bean Decoction or Coffee, usually drank here in the Mornings. In the fourth Court appeared all the principal Officers in their richest Robes, dressed after the East Tartarian, or Mongolian, Mode. At break of Day I was introduced into the fourth Court, and seated amongst the Mandarins, who, according to the particular Rank of each of them, were placed on the East and South sides of the Court. After waiting half an Hour, we heard the Emperor approaching, accompanied with an agreeable Consort of Fifes, and a fort of Lutes. This was not the Hall in which I had my former Audience, but here was a Throne erected, and hung with yellow Damask, on this occasion. On each side of it were two great Drams, curiously gilt and painted, each of which being two Fathom and a half long, they lay upon a Stool made on purpose for them. After the Emperor was seated, by his Command, the Herald which stood before the Throne, went to the Presence-Chamber Door, directed himself to the Lords which sat without in the Court, and uttering some Words with a shrill Voice, he thrice successively cried, Stand up, bow to the Earth. Whilst this was three times done one after another, the Bells were rung, the Drums were beaten, the Lute was touched, and three Pipes, made for that purpose, were very loudly founded. Then two principal Lords were, by the Emperor, sent to acquaint me, That it was his Majestyís Pleasure, that I should approach nearer the Presence; accordingly they led me, by the Hand, from the Place where I was, being about eight Fathom distant from the Throne, where my Retinue were left fitting: And I sat down on one side, about three Fathom from the Royal Throne, betwixt two great Lords, which were Wannes or Princes, and by Birth Tartarians; and after having paid a respectful Complement to the Emperor, his great Bell was rung, and the large Drums, on each side, were beaten, which made as great a Noise as a Volley of Guns; the Flutes were also played on, and the before-mentioned Pipes nine times founded: Upon which I was desired to sit down: which having done, a Dish of Coffee, or Bean Decoction, was presented to me, which I accepted, and drank up. And after I had dispatched the Affairs of their Czarrish Majesties, with the Emperor, I rose up, and having paid my Complement to him, he also arose from his Throne, and went out at the West-Door to his Apartment.

The Emperorís Life-Guard stood in this fourth Court; they were cloathed in red Callicoe, printed with red Figures as big as a Rix-dollar; they wore small Hats adorned with yellow Feathers, that being the Imperial Livery Colour. They were armed with Scimiters by their Sides, and fine Lances, with Colours fixed to them, and stood ranked at a distance from the Throne, on each side of the Court, where also stood eight white Saddle-Horses for Shew. In the third Court of State, were also placed four extraordinary large Elephants, one of which was white. They were all covered with rich Gold-embroidered Cloaths; and all their Trappings, as Bridles, Cruppers, etc. were covered with Silver, and gilt; and on their Backs was placed a very fine carved wooden Castle, or Gallery, spacious enough for eight Persons to fit in. In this Court also stood the Emperorís Wagons with two Wheels, and his Chaises, all hung with yellow Damask Curtains: Besides all which, there were there placed several Stands, or Stools, for Drums, Kettle-Drums, Idolatrous Instruments, etc.

Being got out of the Castle, I mounted one of the Emperorís Waggons and was drawn to my Apartment by an Elephant; on each side of which ran ten Persons, with a thick Rope in their Hands, fastened to each side of the Elephantís Mouth, by the help of which they lead and govern him: On his Neck also sat a Man whith an Iron Hook in his Hand, which also contributes to hold him in and guide him. He went but his ordinary Pace, which put his Leaders to run as swift as possibly they could in order to keep Pace with him.

A Journey from St Petersburg to Pekin, 1719-22†

by John Bell


Bell, John. A Journey from St Petersburg to Pekin. 1763; reprint edition, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1965. pp. 118ff

Having travelled about six or eight miles, we arrived at the famous wall of China. We entered at a great gate, which is shut every night, and always guarded by a thousand men, under the command of two officers of distinction, one a Chinese, and the other a Mantzur Tartar; for, it is an established custom in China, and has prevailed ever since the conquest of the Tartars, that, in all places of publick trust, there must be a Chinese and a Tartar invested with equal power. This rule is observed both in civil and military affairs. The Chinese pretend, that, two in an office are a sort of spies upon one another’s actions, and thereby many fraudulent practices are either prevented or detected.

Chapter VIII

From the wall of CHINA to PEKIN; Our entry into that city

As soon as we had entered the gate, these two officers, and many subalterns, came to compliment the ambassador on his safe arrival; and asked the favour of him to walk into the guard-room and drink a dish of tea. We accordingly dismounted, and went into a spacious hall on the south side of the gate. This apartment was very clean, having benches all around; and is kept on purpose for the reception of persons of distinction. We were entertained with variety of fruits and confections, and several sorts of tea. After staying about half an hour, the ambassador took leave of the gentlemen, and we proceeded on our journey. We travelled about four miles farther, and came to a considerable town named Kalgan [Zhangjiakou]. At some distance from the place, we were met by the commandant, and the Mandarin Tulishin [Tulishen], who had paid us a visit at Selinginsky. They accompanied the ambassador to his lodgings; which were in houses a-part from the rest of the town; and provisions were sent us in great plenty.

From the wall to this place, the country, to the north, begins to open; and contains some villages, corn-fields, and gardens.

The same evening, the ambassador and the gentlemen of the retinue were invited to sup at the commandant’s house; and horses were sent to carry us thither. We alighted in the outer-court, where the commandant in person waited for us; and conducted us, through a neat inner-court, into a hall, in the middle of which stood a large brass chaffing-dish, in shape of an urn, with a fire of charcoal in it. The floor was covered with mats, and the room quite set round with chairs, and little square japanned tables. The ambassador sat at a table by himself, and the rest of the company at separate tables, by two and two. We were first entertained with tea, and a dram of hot arrack; after which supper was brought, and placed on the tables, without either table-cloth, napkins, knives, or forks. Instead of forks, were laid down, to every person, a couple of ivory-sticks, with which the Chinese take up their meat. The dishes were small, and placed upon the table in the most regular manner; the vacancies being filled with saucers, containing pickles and bitter herbs. The entertainment consisted of pork, mutton, fowls, and two roasted pigs. The carver sits upon the floor, and executes his office with great dexterity. He cuts the flesh into such small bits, as may easily be taken up by the guests, without further trouble. The meat being cut up, is given to the footmen, who supply the empty dishes on the tables. The whole is served in China-ware; and neither gold nor silver is to be seen. All the servants perform their duty with the utmost regularity, and without the least noise. I must confess, I was never better pleased with any entertainment.

The victuals being removed, the desert was placed on the tables in the same order; and consisted of a variety of fruits and confections. In the mean time a band of musick was called in, which consisted of ten or twelve performers, on various, but chiefly wind-instruments, so different from those of that class in Europe, that I shall not pretend to describe them. The musick was accompanied with dancing, which was very entertaining. The dancers were nearly as numerous as the musicians. Their performances were only a kind of gesticulation, consisting of many ridiculous postures; for they seldom moved from the same place. The evening being pretty far spent, we took leave, and returned to our lodgings.

The 6th, a great fall of snow, and a cold frosty wind, obliged us to halt at this place.

Next day, the frost and snow still continued; notwithstanding, we set out, and passed over a stone-bridge, near this place, paved, not with small stones, but, with large, square, free stones, neatly joined. After travelling eastward about thirty English miles, we reached a large and populous city called Siang-Fu [Xuanhua]. We were met, without the gate, by some of the principal inhabitants, and conducted to our lodgings.

When we arrived, the governor was out a-hunting with one of the Emperor’s sons. As soon as he returned in the evening, he waited on the ambassador, and complimented him in a very polite manner; excusing himself for not waiting on him sooner. At the same time, he gave his excellency a formal invitation to supper; for it is appointed, by the court, that foreign ambassadors should be magnificently entertained in all the towns through which they pass. But the ambassador, being somewhat indisposed, desired to be excused.

Our route, this day, was through a fine champaign country, well cultivated, but containing very few trees. We passed several small towns, and many villages, well built, and inclosed with walls. The roads were well made, and in good order; running always in straight lines, where the ground will allow. I had heard a great deal of the order and oeconomy of these people; but found my information far short of what I daily saw in all their works and actions. The streets of every village run in straight lines.

Upon the road we met with many turrets, called post-houses, erected at certain distances from one another, with a flag-staff, on which is hoisted the imperial pendant. These places are guarded by a few soldiers, who run a-foot, from one post to another, with great speed; carrying letters or dispatches that concern the Emperor. The turrets are so contrived, as to be in sight of one another; and, by signals, they can convey intelligence of any remarkable event. By this means the court is informed, in the speediest manner imaginable, of whatever disturbance may happen in the most remote provinces of the empire. These posts are also very useful, by keeping the country free from highwaymen; for should a person escape at one house, on a signal being made, he would certainly be stopped at the next. The distance of one post-house from another is usually five Chinese li, or miles; each li consisting of five hundred bow-lengths. I compute five of their miles to be about two and an half English.

The 8th, we halted at this place. As we could not be present at the entertainment to which we were invited, last night, by the governor, he had resolved that the delicacies, prepared on that occasion, should not be lost; and therefore sent into our court twelve tables, whereon were placed, by a number of people, all the victuals that were dressed the preceding night, with the desert, and several sorts of tea. The whole was afterwards brought into the hall; and there placed, in form, upon the tables. When this was done, an officer of distinction came to desire the ambassador to taste of his Imperial Majesty’s bounty. We accordingly sat down at the tables in great order. Every thing was very good, but mostly cold; having been carried through the streets to some distance. After we had removed from the table, the person, who had the direction of the entertainment, called our servants, and ordered them to sit down at the tables, and eat. This produced a very diverting scene; but, had it not been complied with, the governor would have thought himself highly affronted.

In the evening, the Emperor’s third son went through this city, on his way towards the capital. He was carried, upon men’s shoulders, in a palankin; a vehicle very easy for the traveller, and well known in European settlements in India. The Emperor’s sons have no other names than those of first, second, third, &c. This prince had only a small retinue of a few horsemen.

Our new conductor, Tulishin, invited the ambassador and his retinue to pass the evening at his lodgings. His excellency excused himself, as he had not been at the governor’s. All the gentlemen, however, accepted the invitation. The entertainment was elegant, and something like that I formerly described, accompanied with dancing and musick, and quail-fighting. It is surprising to see how these little birds fly at one another, as soon as they are set upon the table; and fight, like game-cocks, to death. The Chinese are very fond of this diversion; and bet as high on their quails, as the English do on cocks. They are also great lovers of cock-fighting; but it is reckoned among the vulgar sports. The quails are generally parted before they hurt one another too much; and reserved, in cages, till another occasion.

The 9th, having sent off the baggage in the morning, the ambassador returned the governor’s visit. We only staid to drink tea; after which we immediately mounted, and pursued our journey to a small town called Juny [ ]; where we arrived in the evening. Near this place is a steep rock, standing on a plain, inaccessible on all sides, except to the west; where a narrow winding path is cut in the rock, which leads to a Pagan temple and nunnery, built upon the top of it. These edifices make a pretty appearance from the plain; and, as the story goes, were built, from the foundation, in one night, by a lady, on the following occasion. This lady was very beautiful, virtuous, and rich; and had many powerful princes for her suitors. She told them, she intended to build a temple and a monastery, of certain dimensions, with her own hands, in one night, on the top of this rock; and whoever would undertake to build a stone-bridge, over a river in the neighbourhood, in the same space of time, him she promised to accept for a husband. All the lovers, having heard the difficult task imposed on them, returned to their respective dominions; except one stranger, who undertook to perform the hard condition. The lover and the lady began their labour at the same time; and the lady completed her part before the light appeared; but, as soon as the sun was risen, she saw, from the top of the rock, that her lover had not half-finished his bridge; having raised only the pillars for the arches. Failing, therefore, in his part of the performance, he also was obliged to depart to his own country; and the lady passed the remainder of her days in her own monastery.

The river is about a quarter of a mile from the rock, and the pillars still remain about five or six feet above the water; they are six or eight in number, and good substantial work. This tale I relate as a specimen of many fabulous stories, which I heard every day, and the people firmly believe. In the monastery there are, at present, many monks and nuns.

The chain of mountains running to the north, which bound this plain to the west, are very high, rugged, and barren. Their breadth, from the desert to the plain habitable country of China, I compute not to exceed fifteen or twenty miles, and in many places it is much less. But their length, I am informed, is above one thousand English miles. They encompass all, or the greatest part of the empire of China, to the north and west. These impregnable bulwarks, together with the almost impassable deserts, have, in my opinion, so long preserved this nation from being over-run by the western heroes. One would imagine, that a country, so fortified by nature, had little need of such a strong wall for its defence; for, if all the passes of the mountains are as narrow and difficult as that where we entered, a small number of men might defend it against a mighty army.

Juny is but a small place; it suffered greatly by the earthquake that happened in the month of July the preceding year [July 12, 1720; epicenter: Shacheng]; above one half of it being thereby laid in ruins. Indeed more than one half of the towns and villages, through which we travelled this day, had suffered much on the same occasion; and vast numbers of people had been buried in the ruins. I must confess, it was a dismal scene to see, every where, such heaps of rubbish.

All the best houses being thrown down by the earthquake, we were lodged in the priests’ apartments of a temple, which had escaped the general devastation. Our conductor treated the monks with very little ceremony, and desired them to seek other lodgings for themselves. These priests were not at all superstitious, as appeared sufficiently from the little reverence they paid to their idols, and statues of reputed saints. They conducted us into the temple, and several apartments adjoining, where stood many images of saints, some of which were monstrous figures of stone and plaister. One of the priests gave us the history of some of them; which I thought too absurd to be inserted. We then returned into the temple, which was a small but neat building. In one end of it we saw an altar, rising by steps to the cieling, on which were placed a number of small images, cast chiefly in brass, resembling men and women, birds and beasts. We were entertained in the temple with tea, till the priests had removed their beds. At the entrance is hung a large bell, attended by a priest, who tolls it on seeing passengers, in order to invite them to say their prayers; which having done, they generally leave a small gratuity to the temple.

In the night, we were a little alarmed with the shock of an earthquake, which awakened all our people, but did no damage.

Next day, our conductor notified to the ambassador, that he could proceed no farther till he received an answer to some dispatches he had sent to court. These news were not altogether agreeable, as we apprehended another shock of an earthquake. Nothing, however, of that kind happened during the two days we were obliged to remain at this place.

The 12th, we continued our journey to a little town, where we lodged. This, and most of the towns, and villages, through which we passed today, had suffered greatly by the earthquake; particularly one considerable walled town, where very few houses remained, and the walls were levelled with the ground.

About noon, next day, we came to a large, populous, and well built city [Shacheng?], with broad streets, as straight as a line. Near this place runs a fine river, which appears navigable; having a-cross it a noble stone bridge, of several arches, and paved with large square stones. In the evening, we arrived at a small town, after passing through a very pleasant and fruitful country.

On the 14th, we halted at this little town. But our baggage, and his majesty’s presents, advanced a stage farther. These, by order of the Mandarin, our conductor, were carried on men’s shoulders, covered with pieces of yellow silk; as every thing is which hath any connexion with the court. Whatever is distinguished by this badge is looked on as sacred. And he who has the care of any thing belonging to the Emperor needs no other protection: such is the reverence paid him all over the empire. The yellow colour is chosen by the Emperor, because, among the Chinese, it is the emblem of the sun, to which he is compared.

The following day, our road, lying over some rocks, was very rugged. In some places it was cut, for a considerable length, above twenty feet deep, through the solid rock; which appears to have been a work of great labour and expence. But no people, I ever saw, take such pains to make their streets, and high-ways, easy to travellers, as the Chinese. In some places of the rocks were cut out images of Chinese saints; but the workmanship very mean.

Near this place, we passed through six or eight strong semicircular walls [Badaling], within one another, which have the endless wall for their common diameter, and take in a great compass. In all these walls there are large well built gates, guarded by a constant watch, both in times of peace and war. At one of them, the ambassador was saluted with three great guns, from a tower over the gate-way. These walls seem to be of the same materials and architecture with the long wall; having square towers at the distance of a bow-shot from each other. While we stopped at one of the gates to refresh ourselves, I took the opportunity to walk into one of these towers, where I saw some hundreds of old iron cannon thrown together as useless. On examination, I found them to be composed of three or four pieces of hammered iron, joined, and fastened together with hoops of the same metal. The Chinese have, however, now learned to cast as fine brass cannon as are any where to be found. From this tower I was led, by a broad stone-stair, to the top of the wall, which is above twenty feet in breadth, and paved with large square stones, closely joined, and cemented with strong mortar. I walked along this flat, till I came to a rock, where I found a high stair of above a thousand steps, the whole breadth of the wall, which led to a tower on the summit, from whence I could see a like stair, on the other side, forming a descent to a narrow passage between two rocks. I observed also, that the wall was neither so high nor broad where it was carried over another rock, to the south-west, as at the place where I stood. But time not allowing me to go farther, I returned, by the same way, to our company; and, after staying a few hours, we proceeded, this afternoon, to the town of Zulinguang [Juyongguan], where we lodged.

The next day, after travelling about two hours, we came to the last semicircular wall. Here ended all the hills and mountains. Our road now lay through a fine champaign country, interspersed with many small towns and villages. In the evening, we reached a large neat city called Zang-Ping-Jew [Changping-zhou]. In the market place, stood a triumphal arch, whereon were hung a number of streamers, and silken pendants, of various colours. The streets were clean, straight, and broad; in some places covered with gravel, in others paved with flat square stones.

As soon as we had reached our lodgings, the governor of the place came to salute the ambassador, and invited him to an entertainment, prepared by order of his majesty.

The invitation was accepted, and we immediately went to the governor’s palace. The entertainment was very magnificent, somewhat of the same kind with that I formerly described, and accompanied with musick and dancing. This place is situated in a fruitful plain, about thirty English miles northward of Pekin.

The 17th, after travelling about a dozen of miles, we came to a small town called Shach [Shahe]. The weather being very fine and warm, the governor came to meet the ambassador, and desired him to refresh himself a little by drinking tea. Here we halted about an hour, and then proceeded six or eight miles farther, to a small village [Qinghe?], about four miles from the capital; where we lodged.

Next morning, two Mandarins came from court to congratulate the ambassador on his arrival, and brought some horses, on which he and his retinue were to make their entry. The furniture of the horses was very simple, and far inferior to the costly trappings of the Persians.

My lodgings, in this village, happened to be at a cook’s house; which gave me an opportunity of observing the ingenuity of these people, even on trifling occasions. My landlord being in his shop, I paid him a visit; where I found six kettles, placed in a row on furnaces, having a separate opening under each of them, for receiving the fewel, which consisted of a few small sticks and straw. On his pulling a thong, he blew a pair of bellows, which made all his kettles boil in a very short time. They are indeed very thin, and made of cast iron, being extremely smooth both within and without. The scarcity of fewel, near such a populous city, prompts people to contrive the easiest methods of dressing their victuals, and keeping themselves warm during the winter, which is severe for two months.

About ten of the clock, we mounted, and proceeded towards the city, in the following order.

An officer, with his sword drawn.

Three soldiers.

One kettle-drummer.

Twenty four soldiers, three in a rank.

The steward.

Twelve footmen.

Two pages.

Three interpreters.

The ambassador, and a Mandarin of distinction.

Two secretaries.

Six gentlemen, two and two.

Servants and attendants.

The whole retinue was drest in their best apparel. The soldiers in uniform, carrying their muskets like horsemen standing centry; drawn swords being refused by our conductor, the officer only had that priviledge.

We travelled from the village, along a fine road, through a cloud of dust and multitudes of spectators; and, in two hours, entered the city at the great north gate [Deshengmen]; which opened into a spacious street, perfectly straight, as far as the eye-sight could reach. We found it all sprinkled with water, which was very refreshing after the dust we had passed through.

A guard of five hundred Chinese horsemen was appointed to clear the way; notwithstanding which, we found it very difficult to get through the crowd. One would have imagined all the people in Pekin were assembled to see us; though I was informed that only a small part of the inhabitants of the city were present. I observed also great crowds of women unveiled; but they kept in the windows, doors, and in corners of the street. The soldiers did not behave with roughness to the people, as in some other places of the east; but treated them with great mildness and humanity. Indeed the people, of themselves, made as much way as was possible for them, considering their numbers. After a march of two hours from the gate where we entered; we, at last, came to our lodgings, in that part of the city called the Tartar’s town; which is near the center of Pekin, and not far from the Emperor’s palace.

We lodged in what is called the Russia-house [Eluosi-guan]. It was allotted, by the present Emperor, for the accommodation of the caravans from Moscovy; and is surrounded with a high wall of brick, which incloses three courts. The first, from the street, is appointed for the guard of Chinese soldiers. The second is a spacious square, on the sides whereof are apartments for servants. The third is divided from the second by a high brick-wall, through which you enter by a great gate. Opposite to this gate is the great hall, which rises a few steps above the level of the court. The floor is neatly paved with white and black marble; and, on the same floor, to the right and left of the hall, are two small bed-chambers. This hall was occupied by the ambassador. In the same court are two large houses, divided into apartments, in which the retinue was lodged. All these structures are but of one story, with large windows of lettice-work, on which is pasted white paper. The cielings are very slight and airy; consisting only of strong laths, with reeds laid a-cross them, and done over on the in-side with paper. The roofs project considerably over the walls, and are covered with fine, light, glazed tiles; which, as far as I could learn, are of a quality to last ages. The bed-chambers only of the hall are neatly finished with lath and plaister.

The same evening, the master of the ceremonies came to compliment the ambassador. He, in the Emperor’s name, enquired into the chief subject of his commission; and, having received a satisfactory answer, retired.

This gentleman, named Aloy,[i] was, by birth, a Mongall Tartar; and a great favourite of the Emperor. He was a person of great politeness; and a good friend to the Christians, especially the missionaries, who received fresh marks of his kindness every day. In his youth he conversed much with the Jesuits, who taught him geography, and some other branches of science; which contributed not a little to raise his character among the Chinese, and recommend him to the notice and favour of the Emperor.

Thus we happily arrived at the famous and long wished for city of Pekin, the capital of this mighty empire, after a tedious journey of exactly sixteen months. It is, indeed, very long; yet may be performed in much less time. I am of opinion that travellers might go from St Petersburg to Pekin, and return, in the space of six months; which, were it necessary, I think I could easily demonstrate.[ii]

After the departure of the master of the ceremonies, the aleggada, or prime minister, sent an officer to salute the ambassador, and excuse himself for not paying him a visit immediately, as it was then late in the night; but promised to see him next day. At the same time he sent great variety of fruits and provisions, as a mark of respect, notwithstanding we were abundantly supplied with these things by those appointed for that purpose.

At ten of the clock at night, the officer on guard, in the outer-court, locked our gate, and sealed it with the Emperor’s seal; that no person might go out, or come in, during the night. The ambassador, not approving of this proceeding, as soon as the gate was opened in the morning, sent his secretary, and an interpreter, to the prime minister, to complain of his being confined. The aleggada said he was altogether ignorant of what had happened; but expressly forbid any such behaviour for the future. In Persia, indeed, and some other nations of the east, it is the custom to restrain foreign ministers from conversing with the inhabitants, till they have had an audience of the prince.

Chapter IX

Occurrences at PEKIN, audience of the ambassador, Etc.

The 19th, the prime minister, accompanied with the master of the ceremonies and five Jesuits, came to compliment the ambassador. As soon as they entered the gate, two of their attendants walked before them, at some distance, making a humming noise; the usual sign that some person of distinction is coming. Aloy desired the ambassador would give him a copy of his credentials; which was not easily complied with, till these ministers absolutely insisted on it; alledging that the Emperor never received any letters from his best friends, among whom he reckoned his Czarish Majesty the chief, without knowing the contents. The Latin copy was at last produced, the original being in the Russian language; and the master of the ceremonies and the missionaries having translated it into Chinese, took their leave. But the aleggada remained for the space of three hours, talking on different subjects. This minister, it seems, was a great sportsman. He asked to see the ambassador’s dogs, which were a few grey-hounds, and some French buck-hounds. He was desired to receive, in a present, any of them which pleased him best; but he would accept only of a couple of grey-hounds.

In the mean time, the Emperor sent an officer to enquire after the ambassador’s health; who brought along with him a table, carried by four men, and covered with yellow silk, on which was placed variety of fruits and confections; and, in the middle, a large piece of excellent mutton. The officer acquainted the ambassador that these provisions were brought from the Emperor’s own table; and therefore hoped he would eat of them. This circumstance was accounted a singular mark of the Emperor’s favour.

The day following, the ambassador had a visit from the president of the council for western affairs, called Asschinoma, accompanied by four missionaries, two of which were messieurs Paranim and Fridelli.[iii] The conversation turned chiefly on the ceremonial of the ambassador’s introduction to the Emperor, which was a matter not easily settled. The principal points, insisted on by the ambassador, were, that he might deliver his credentials into the Emperor’s own hands, and be excused from bowing thrice three times on entering his Majesty’s presence; to which custom all must submit who appear before the Emperor. The president, on the contrary, asserted, that the constant practice in China, for many ages past, was directly opposite to these demands; that their Emperors never received letters of credence with their own hands; that the custom was for the ambassador to lay them on a table, at some distance from the throne, or the place where the Emperor may happen to sit; after which they were delivered to the Emperor by the officer appointed for that purpose.

At the same time, the president invited the ambassador to an entertainment, to be given at a palace in the city, where, he said, the Emperor would be present, and speak with him. His excellency replied, he would accept of the invitation, provided he might, on that occasion, deliver the Czar his master’s letter. He was told this was neither a proper place nor time for that purpose; but that the Emperor intended to give him a publick audience very soon, and receive his credentials in form.

The ambassador was apprehensive, that, the Emperor having already seen a copy of his credentials, should he also see himself at the entertainment, his publick audience might thereby be retarded; and therefore declined the invitation. It appeared, however, afterwards, that this suspicion was without foundation; and that the Emperor intended nothing more than to do honour to the ambassador.

The 21st, the aleggada paid a second visit. His servants brought tea ready made, some jars of arrack, with fruits and confections. From this day little material happened, except daily messages from court relating to the ceremonial, till the 27th; when this affair was, at last, adjusted on the following terms. ‘That the ambassador should comply with the established customs of the court of China; and, when the Emperor sent a minister to Russia, he should have instructions to conform himself, in every respect, to the ceremonies in use at that court.’ This affair gave the ministry at Pekin much trouble; and, I must confess, the missionaries took great pains to soften matters on both sides.

On the 28th, the day appointed for the ambassador’s publick audience of the Emperor, horses were brought to our lodgings for the ambassador and his retinue; the Emperor being then at a country house, called Tzan-Shu-Yang [Changchun Yuan],[iv] about six miles westward from Pekin. We mounted at eight in the morning, and about ten arrived at court; where we alighted, at the gate, which was guarded by a strong party of soldiers. The commanding officers conducted us into a large room, where we drank tea, and staid about half an hour till the Emperor was ready to receive us. We then entered a spacious court, enclosed with high brick-walls, and regularly planted with several rows of forest-trees, about eight inches diameter, which I took to be limes. The walks are spread with small gravel; and the great walk is terminated by the hall of audience, behind which are the Emperor’s private apartments. On each side of the great walk are fine flower-pots and canals. As we advanced, we found all the ministers of state, and officers belonging to the court, seated upon fur cushions, cross legged, before the hall, in the open air; among these, places were appointed for the ambassador and his retinue; and in this situation we remained, in a cold frosty morning, till the Emperor came into the hall. During this interval, there were only two or three servants in the hall, and not the least noise was heard from any quarter. The entry to the hall is by seven marble steps, the whole length of the building. The floor is finely paved with a neat checker-work of white and black marble. The edifice is quite open to the south; and the roof supported by a row of handsome wooden pillars, octangular, and finely polished; before which is hung a large canvass, as a shelter from the heat of the sun, or inclemencies of the weather.

After we had waited about a quarter of an hour, the Emperor entered the hall at a back-door, and seated himself upon the throne; upon which all the company stood. The master of the ceremonies now desired the ambassador, who was at some distance from the rest, to walk into the hall; and conducted him by one hand, while he held his credentials in the other. Having ascended the steps, the letter was laid on a table placed for that purpose, as had been previously agreed; but the Emperor beckoned to the ambassador, and directed him to approach; which he no sooner perceived, than he took up the credentials, and, attended by Aloy, walked up to the throne, and, kneeling, laid them before the Emperor; who touched them with his hand, and inquired after his Czarish Majesty’s health. He then told the ambassador, that the love and friendship he entertained for his majesty were such, that he had even dispensed with an established custom of the empire in receiving his letter.[v]

During this part of the ceremony, which was not long, the retinue continued standing without the hall; and we imagined, the letter being delivered, all was over. But the master of the ceremonies brought back the ambassador; and then ordered all the company to kneel, and make obeisance nine times to the Emperor. At every third time we stood up, and kneeled again. Great pains were taken to avoid this piece of homage, but without success. The master of the ceremonies stood by, and delivered his orders in the Tartar language, by pronouncing the words morgu and boss; the first meaning to bow, and the other to stand; two words which I cannot soon forget.

This piece of formality being ended, the master of the ceremonies conducted the ambassador, and the six gentlemen of the retinue, with one interpreter, into the hall. Our clerks, inferior officers, and servants, remained still without; together with many courtiers and officers of distinction. We were seated on our own cushions, in a row upon the floor, to the right of the throne, about six yards distance. And immediately behind us sat three missionaries, dressed in Chinese habits, who constantly attend the court. On this occasion, they served, by turns, as interpreters.

Soon after we were admitted, the Emperor called the ambassador to him, took him by the hand, and talked very familiarly on various subjects. Among other things, he told him, that, he was informed his Czarish Majesty exposed his person to many dangers, particularly by water; at which he was much surprised; but desired he would take the advice of an old man; and not hazard his life, by committing himself to the rage of the merciless waves and winds, where no valour could avail. We were near enough to hear this piece of friendly and wholesome advice.

This conversation being finished, the Emperor gave the ambassador, with his own hand, a gold cup full of warm tarassun; a sweet fermented liquor, made of various sorts of grain, as pure and strong as Canary wine, of a disagreeable smell, though not unpleasant to the taste. This cup was brought about to the gentlemen; and all of us drank the Emperor’s health; who observed, that this liquor would warm us that cold morning. His Majesty also found many faults with our dress, as improper for a cold climate; and, I must confess, I thought him in the right.

On the left side of the throne sat five Princes, sons to the Emperor; together with all the ministers and grandees of the court. The tarassun, however, was handed about to none but ourselves, and the Jesuits behind us. Eight or ten of the Emperor’s grandsons now entered the hall. They were very handsome, and plainly dressed; having nothing to distinguish them, but the dragon with five claws, woven into their outer garments, and a yellow tunic of sattin, bearing the same device, with little caps on their heads faced with sable. After them came the musicians carrying their instruments. By this time the hall was pretty full; and, what is surprising, there was not the least noise, hurry, or confusion. Every one perfectly knows his own business; and the thick paper soles of the Chinese boots prevent any noise from their walking on the floor. By these means every thing goes on with great regularity; but at the same time with wonderful quickness. In short, the characteristic of the court of Pekin is order and decency, rather than grandeur and magnificence.

The Emperor sat cross-legged on his throne. He was dressed in a short loose coat of sable, having the fur outward, lined with lamb-skin; under which he wore a long tunic of yellow silk, interwoven with figures of golden dragons with five claws; which device no person is allowed to bear except the imperial family. On his head was a little round cap, faced with black fox-skin; on the top of which I observed a large beautiful pearl in the shape of a pear, which, together with a tassel of red-silk tied below the pearl, was all the ornament I saw about this mighty monarch. The throne also was very simple, being made of wood; but of neat workmanship. It is raised five easy steps from the floor, is open towards the company; but has a large japanned screen on each side to defend it from the wind.

The master of the ceremonies, and a few officers of the household, were dressed in robes of state, of gold and silver stuffs, with monstrous dragons on their backs and breasts. Most of the ministers of state were dressed very plain, having nothing like ornaments about them; a few only had large rubies, sapphires, and emeralds. These precious stones are cut into the shape of pears, through which a hole is drilled, to fix them on the top of their bonnets. These holes diminish the value of the stones, one half at least, at an European market. I once saw, however, one of these rubies, with a hole drilled through it, which was bought at Pekin for a trifle, valued at ten thousand pounds Sterling in Europe.[vi] But such bargains are rarely to be met with; this being a stone of the first class, for bigness and purity. As for diamonds, the Chinese, it seems, do not much esteem them; for few diamonds are found in China, and these very rudely cut and shaped; and so, indeed, are all their coloured stones.

It was now about noon; at which time our entertainment began to be served up; (of which I shall also give some account.) There were first brought neat little tables, covered with variety of fruits and confections, and placed before all the company. It seems to be the fashion in this country to bring the desert first; at least that was the case at all the entertainments where I was present. In this, as in many other things, the behaviour of the Chinese is quite contrary to that of the Europeans. Soon after the fruits, the victuals were served in the same manner, and placed on small tables before the guests. They consisted of fowls, mutton, and pork, all very good of their kinds; and the whole was either boiled, or stewed with pickles; but nothing roasted. The Emperor sent several dishes from his own table to the ambassador, particularly some boiled pheasants; which were very agreeable.

The musick played all the time of dinner. The chief instruments were flutes, harps, and lutes, all tuned to the Chinese taste. There was also some vocal musick; an old Tartar, in particular, sung a warlike song, to which he beat time, by striking, with two ivory rods, upon a chime of little bells that hung before him. A young Tartar sung a call to war, dancing at the same time, and keeping time by drawing the head of an arrow a-cross his shield. Then entered two little girls, who danced and sung while the instruments played. After them came tumblers, who performed various feats of activity, in the court before the hall. These were succeeded by wrestlers, fencers, and other performers of the same species. The Emperor sent frequently to the ambassador, to ask how he liked the musick, dancing, and other entertainments. He also inquired about several princes and states of Europe, with whose power, by sea and land, he was not unacquainted. But, above all, he wondered how the kingdom of Sweden could hold out so long against so great a power as that of Russia. After this conversation, the Emperor informed the ambassador that he would soon send for him again; but, as the night was cold, he would detain him no longer at present; and immediately stept from his throne, and returned to his private apartments by the same passage he left them. We also mounted, and repaired to our lodgings in the city, so well satisfied with the gracious and friendly reception of the Emperor, that all our former hardships were almost forgot.

The 29th, the Mandarin Tulishin came to our lodgings, with two clerks, and took a list of the presents, sent by the Czar to the Emperor. These consisted of various rich furs, clocks, repeating watches set in diamonds, mirrors; and the battle of Poltava, nicely turned in ivory, done by his Czarish Majesty’s own hands, and set in a curious frame. The ambassador, at the same time, delivered to the Mandarin, as a present from himself to the Emperor, several toys of value, a fine managed horse, some grey-hounds, and large buckhounds.

Every thing was entered in a book, very exactly, even the names and qualities of each particular dog. There was also tied about the neck of each dog, a yellow silk-cord, drawn through a hole in a little bit of wood, which hung from the dogs neck, as a mark of its belonging to the court. The Chinese, in general, are very fond of little harlequin dogs that play monkey tricks. A servant of ours had one of that kind, which he sold for an hundred ounces of silver.

The same day, all the fruits and confections of the entertainment given at the audience, which remained, were sent to the ambassador’s lodgings. They were carried in great state through the streets, covered with yellow silk; and an officer of the court walked before the procession.

Next day, the Emperor sent to our lodgings several large dishes of massive gold, containing a kind of delicate fish, called mu, already dressed; but in such a manner that I did not know to what to compare it. Also some bowls filled with excellent vermicelli; and a sort of pastry-puffs, baked over the steam of boiling water, exceeding, in whiteness, any thing of that kind I ever saw. All these things were sent from his Majesty’s own table; an honour which he grants but seldom. It seems he was resolved we should have provisions in abundance; for, besides all these, we received our daily allowance, in which we were by no means stinted.

After dinner, the master of the ceremonies, accompanied with the captain of the eunuchs, and three Jesuits, came to visit the ambassador. This eunuch was a great favourite of the Emperor, on account of the knowledge he had acquired in mathematics and mechanics. He made the ambassador a present of a small enamelled gold-watch, and a wind-gun, both of his own making. The Emperor himself is a great lover of the arts, so far, that, whoever distinguishes himself, in any useful branch of them, is sure to meet with proper encouragement. The eunuch also made a present, to the ambassador, of a steel to strike fire; and then desired to see the presents; which was granted. At taking leave, Aloy told the ambassador, that the Emperor intended to give him a Chinese dress, which was more convenient and warmer than the European.

December the first, Merin-Sanguin, a general officer, and brother to the first minister of state, came to visit the ambassador. Notwithstanding the high rank of this military gentleman, he had no sword about him; for, at Pekin, no person, not even officers and soldiers, except when on duty, wears a sword, or any other weapon, in the city.

The day following, the ambassador had a second audience of the Emperor, at the same palace. On this occasion the Czar’s presents were carried to court, by a number of people sent for that purpose. The Emperor viewed them all at a distance; after which they were delivered to an officer appointed by his majesty to receive them. This audience was held in a private hall within the inner-court, where only the officers of the houshold, and the gentlemen of the retinue, were present. We were entertained in the same manner as before. The Emperor conversed very familiarly with the ambassador, on various subjects; and talked of peace and war, in particular, in the style of a philosopher. In the evening, we returned to the city, in a cold north wind, which blew the dust about in clouds. Scarcely had we arrived, when the fruits and confections, according to custom, were sent to our lodgings.

This evening, one of the Emperor’s grandsons came to visit the ambassador. He was a genteel youth, about fourteen years of age, and had not above half a dozen of attendants.

Next day, the weather continued cold and frosty. The sky was clear, and a strong wind at north-west, blowing the dust about. I observed that the north-west winds are the coldest in this place; as they come over the vast tracts of ice and snow in Siberia.

The 4th, there was a fall of snow, to the deepness of seven or eight inches; which was immediately thrown into heaps, and the streets clean swept. This day the missionaries sent a present to the ambassador, consisting of several sorts of venison, and wild-fowl, and a greater variety of fine fruits, and confections, than I ever saw in any country; together with a couple of jars of wine made by themselves. Among the fruits there were some species which I had never before seen; particularly a sort of apple, about the size of a common orange, with a smooth skin of a yellowish colour, very soft and sweet, or rather luscious; also a fruit about the bigness of a walnut, but quite round, resembling in taste a prune, but far more delicious; it contains a smooth hard stone; and the whole is covered with a thin brownish shell, so brittle that it is easily broken between the finger and thumb. Some of these shells are rough, and others smooth. They serve to prevent the tender fruit from being devoured by birds, and from flying dust; and, what is something uncommon, the fruit does not adhere to the shell, but a small vacuity is left between them. It is not only pleasant to the taste, but is accounted very wholesome [Chinese dates].

The 5th, the ambassador had a third audience of the Emperor, in the palace at Pekin. As some affairs relating to the two empires were to be discussed, the secretary only, M. de Lange, accompanied the ambassador. After he was introduced, the Emperor told him, he had given orders to the tribunal for western affairs to hear the subject of his commission; and then retired to his own apartments, leaving his ministers to transact the business; which was soon finished on this occasion; and the ambassador returned to his lodgings.

The 6th, being St Nicolas’ day, a great festival in the Greek church, the ambassador went to the Russian chapel in Pekin to hear divine service. This house stands within the city, under the east wall; and was built, by the bounty of the present Emperor Kamhi, on the following occasion.

About the year 1688, there happened a difference betwixt the government of Siberia and the Chinese, about a small fort, called Albazin, which the Russians had built upon the banks of the river Amoor [Heilong]. The Chinese alledged the fort was erected on their territories; and, jealous of the approach of such powerful neighbours, made several fruitless representations to the governor of Siberia to have it demolished. The Emperor, at last, impatient of longer delay, sent an army of above one hundred thousand men, to do by force what could not be accomplished by negotiation. They invested the place on all sides, and raised batteries against it. After a vigorous defence, the garrison, consisting of about three or four hundred Cossacks, was obliged to surrender for want of provisions. No terms could be obtained; and all the Russians were made prisoners of war. In consequence of which they were carried to Pekin, where the Emperor generously assigned them houses apart from the rest of the inhabitants, permitted the free exercise of their religion, and gave them a daily allowance equal with his own soldiers. By this mild treatment they were enabled to build the little chapel, which they still possess. The descendents of these prisoners are pretty numerous, and useful to their countrymen the Russians as interpreters. I formerly mentioned that these disputes were ended on the following terms; the prisoners on both sides were to remain unexchanged, and the fort of Albazin to be destroyed; since which time the two empires have continued in good correspondence. The inhabitants of Siberia, indeed, regret much the loss of their fort; as it stood in a fine climate, gave them possession of a large extent of country northward from the Amoor; and, besides, opened a passage down that river to the Japanese ocean. It was, however, the occasion of establishing the Greek church in China; which still continues to flourish, though its members are not very numerous. As one priest dies, another from Siberia succeeds him; who minds chiefly his own small flock, and thinks very little of making converts. This circumstance prevents their being obnoxious to the Roman missionaries, who can have no suspicion of their interfering with the interests of their church. These missionaries are constantly employed in making proselytes, and their endeavours have been attended with some success.

The 7th, we dined at the aleggada’s, where we were magnificently entertained. There was no other company but ourselves, and we staid the whole day. This was the most elegant and complete entertainment of any I saw in China.

About ten o’clock in the morning, chairs were sent for the ambassador and gentlemen of the retinue, and horses for the servants, though the prime minister’s house was very near our lodgings. The chairs were carried through two courts, and set down at the entry into a hall, where the aleggada waited to receive the ambassador. After entering the hall, we were seated on neat cane chairs, with japanned frames, inlaid with mother of pearl. The apartment itself was very simple, open to the south, and the roof supported, on that side, by a row of well turned wooden pillars. It had no cieling; but the rafters appeared finely polished, and perfectly clean. The floor was paved with a checker-work of white and black marble; and in the middle of it stood a large brass chafing-dish, in shape of an urn, full of charcoal. At the entry were placed two large China-cisterns, filled with pure water, in which played some scores of small fishes, catching at crumbs of bread thrown into the water. These fishes are about the size of a minnow, but of a different shape, and beautifully varied with red, white, and yellow spots; and therefore called the gold and silver fish.[vii] I never saw any of them out of this country; though, I imagine, they might easily be brought to Europe, as they are by no means of the tender kind. I had about twenty of them standing in a window at my lodgings; in a morning, after a frosty night, I found all the water frozen, most of the fishes stiff, and seemingly dead; but, on putting them into cold fresh water, they all recovered, except two or three.

After we had drunk a dish of tea, a collation of broths and victuals was placed on the tables, intermixed with variety of fruits and confections. Every person had a table a-part, and all were served in the same manner. This repast, it seems, was only breakfast, though it might well have passed for dinner.

After this entertainment the aleggada carried us first to see his dogs, of which he had great variety. I formerly observed that this gentleman was a great sportsman. He took greater pleasure in talking of hounds than politicks; though, at the same time, he had the character of a very able minister, and an honest man.

We were now conducted through all the different apartments of his house, excepting only those of the ladies, to which none have access but himself, and the eunuchs who attend them. We saw a noble collection of many curiosities, both natural and artificial; particularly a large quantity of old porcelain or China-ware, made in China and Japan; and, at present, to be found only in the cabinets of the curious. They consisted chiefly of a great number of jars of different sizes. He took much pleasure in telling when and where they were manufactured; and, as far as I can remember, many of them were above two thousand years old. He added, that, both in China and Japan, they had lost the art of making porcelain in that perfection they did in former times;[viii] and the fault, in his opinion, lay in the preparation of the materials. These curiosities were piled up on shelves to the very roof of the house, and in such order and symmetry as had a pretty effect.

From the house we went into a little garden, enclosed with a high brick-wall. In the middle of it stood a small basin, full of water, surrounded with several old crooked trees and shrubs; among which I saw that which produces the famous tea. The climate about Pekin being too cold for this shrub, there are only a few bushes of it to be found in the gardens of the curious. I shall not at present enlarge on this useful plant, which appeared like a currant-bush, as an opportunity will occur of giving a fuller account of it before I leave this place. There was a walk round the garden, which, together with that in the middle, was covered with small gravel. At each end of the middle-walk was a piece of artificial rock-work, with water running under it, through holes so natural they looked as if made by the current of the stream. The rocks were about seven feet high, and shaded with some old bended trees. This garden, and many other things in China, display the taste of the inhabitants for imitating nature.

From the garden we were called to dinner, where we found a plentiful and elegant entertainment, set out in the finest order, far exceeding any thing of that kind we had seen before. We had no musick nor dancing, and the whole was conducted with surprising decency and regularity. The entertainment lasted about two hours, after which we returned to our lodgings.

This day, our gates were opened to people of all characters, and merchants and others allowed to go in and out at pleasure. Though all communication was not prohibited before this time; it was, however, difficult; and not to be obtained without permission of the proper officer.

The 8th, we dined at the south convent [Nan Tang], where the Italian missionaries generally reside. Here all the Jesuits in the place, to the number of ten or twelve, were assembled. We met with a friendly reception, and a most splendid entertainment.

This convent stands within the city, upon a piece of ground given to the fathers by the Emperor. He gave also ten thousand ounces of silver towards building and adorning the chapel; which is, indeed, very neat; and handsomely decorated with pictures of saints, and scripture-pieces, by the best hands. An account of this remarkable benefaction of the Emperor Kamhi [Kang Xi] is cut out, in the Chinese language, in letters of gold, and fixed above the great gate; which makes the place more respected. When we arrived, one of the priests was officiating in the chapel, where were assembled about one hundred Chinese converts. At dinner we had a few bottles of wine, made in the convent; but I cannot say it was good; though the grapes were fine, and of an agreeable taste.

After dinner, we were conducted to the Emperor’s stables, where the elephants are kept. The keeper asked the ambassador to walk into his apartments, till they were equipped; then we went into the court, and saw these huge animals richly caparisoned in gold and silver stuffs. Each had a rider on his back, who held in their hands small battle-axes, with a sharp pike at one end, to drive and guide them. We stood about an hour admiring those sagacious animals; some of them were very large, who, passing before us at equal distances, returned again behind the stables; and so on round and round, till there seemed to be no end of the procession. The plot, however, was at last discovered, by the features and dress of the riders; and the chief keeper told us there were only sixty of them. The climate about Pekin is too cold for them to breed; and all these were brought from warmer countries. The Emperor keeps them only for show, and makes no use of them, at least in these northern parts. Some of them were brought near to the place where we sat, and made obeisance to us, by kneeling and making a dreadful noise; others sucked up water from vessels, and spouted it through their trunks, among the mob, or wherever the rider directed. The sagacity of these animals is most surprising, and approaches so near to reason, that, in this respect, they surpass all the brute creation. After this show, we took leave of the Jesuits, who had accompanied us hither, and returned to our lodgings.

Next day, all the gentlemen dined at the palace of the Emperor’s ninth son, in consequence of an invitation from his chief eunuch, who is a great friend to the Russia-house. As the invitation was not from the Prince, the ambassador would not accept of it. Our entertainment was very magnificent, and accompanied with musick, dancing, and a kind of comedy, which lasted most part of the day. The comedians were of both sexes; if the women’s parts were not performed by boys dressed like actresses. As the play was in the Chinese language, I could understand nothing of it, except from the gesture and action of the performers. It seemed to be a parcel of detached dissimilar interludes, without any principal end, or unity of design. I shall, therefore, only mention one scene, which appeared to me the most extraordinary. There entered, on the stage, seven warriors, all in armour, with different weapons in their hands, and terrible vizards on their faces. After they had taken a few turns about the stage, and surveyed each others armour, they, at last, fell a quarrelling; and, in the encounter, one of the heroes was slain. Then an angel descended from the clouds, in a flash of lightning, with a monstrous sword in his hand, and soon parted the combatants, by driving them all off the stage; which done, he ascended in the same manner he came down, in a cloud of fire and smoke. This scene was succeeded by several comical farces, which, to me, seemed very diverting, though in a language I did not understand. The last character that appeared on the stage, was a European gentleman, completely dressed, having all his cloaths bedawbed with gold and silver lace. He pulled off his hat, and made a profound reverence to all that passed him. I shall leave it to any one to imagine, what an aukward figure a Chinese must make in this ridiculous habit. This scene was interrupted, and the performers dismissed, by the master of the feast, from a suspicion that his guests might take offence. The play being finished, we were entertained with jugglers, who exhibited a variety of legerdemain tricks with great dexterity.

The banquet was prolonged the whole day, excepting the time spent in these interludes. No sooner was one course carried off, than another was instantly placed upon the tables; and the whole concluded with deserts of fruits and sweetmeats. One would scarce have imagined, that luxury had made such progress among the sober and industrious Chinese. It must, indeed, be observed, that, there is almost no drinking at their entertainments, as they use no liquor, on these occasions, but tea, and, now and then, a dram of hot arrack. The Chinese handle the two ivory or wooden pins, which they use instead of forks, with such dexterity, that they can even take up needles with them. In place of napkins they sometimes employ a few square pieces of paper.

† For a modern account of this embassy, see Mark Mancall, Russia & China: Their Diplomatic Relations to 1728 (Cambridge, Mass., Harvard UP, 1971), pp. 217-24.]

[i] ‘Aloy’ was an official title ( = Master of Ceremonies), not a personal name. [This person was almost certainly Tegute, Manchu/Mongol ‘President’ of the Li-fan Yuan]

[ii] The Jesuit Father Avril, who made two unsuccessful attempts to open up for his Order an overland route through Siberia to China, would have accepted this conclusion He noted in 1692 that the Russian merchants ‘font presentement ce voyage si surement & en si peu de tems, qu’il ne leur faut ordinairement que quatre mois pour aller à Pekin & pour revenir à Moskou...’. I think Father Avril must mean four months each way. His reasoning — based on careful interrogations, not on personal experience — may be studied in his Voyage en divers états d’Europe et d’Asiie, Entreprils pour découvrir un nouveau chemin à la Chine, Paris, 1692.

[iii] Father D. Parrenin was also to play a key role in the next Russian Embassy to Peking after Ismailov’s. Both he and Father E. X. Fridelli had been prominent among the Jesuit map-makers whose astonishing labours in this field had done so much to win for their order the Emperor’s favours. See Baddeley, Russia, Mongolia, China, p. clxxxvi et. seq.

[iv] i.e. the Ch’ang-ch’un Yüan, the garden and palace which K’ang Hsi built (or restored) to the west of Peking in 1687, and where it was his practice when possible to spend several months every year. The Jesuit missionaries were granted a residence near by, and K’ang Hsi is said to have studied mathematics with them there. On the relationship between the Ch’ang-ch’un Yüan and later Imperial retreats to the west of Peking (including the present-day ‘Summer Palace’) see C. B. Malone, History of the Peking Summer Palaces under the Ch’ing Dynasty.

[v] According to the Jesuit de Mailla, the text of Izmailov’s letter (written ‘en langue Russe, en Latin & en Mongou’) was as follows. ‘A l’Emperor des vastes contrées de l’Asie, au souverain monarque de Bogdo, a la Suprème Majesté de Kitai; amitié et salut. Dans le dessein où je suis d’entretenir & d’augmenter l’amitié & les liaisons étroites qui ont été etablies depuis long temps entre Votre Majesté, mes prédécesseurs & moi, j’ai jugé à propos d’envoyer a votre Cour, en qualité d’ambassadeur extraortinaire, Léon Ismailof, capitaine de mes gardes. Je vous prie de le recevoir d’une manière conforme au caractère dont il est revêtu; d’avoir égard & d’ajouter foi à ce qu’il vous dira par rapport aux affaires qu’il a à traiter comme si je vous parlois moi-même, & de lui permettre de demeurer à votre cour de Pe-king jusqu’à ce que je le rappelle. De Votre Majeste, le bon ami, Pierre’ (Histoire Generale de la Chine, xl, p. 335).

[vi] Baddeley, Russia, Mongolia, China, p. 431, identifies this ruby as one which Istopnikov brought back from Peking from the caravan of 1706 which he led, and which became one of the greatest gems of the Russian Crown. But if Istopnikov really got it ‘for a trifle’ there was something odd about the transaction. The Chinese were not ignorant of the value of rubies.

[vii] The Chinese had been artificially rearing gold-fish since at least the eleventh century, and large tubs with many strange varieties in them are still to be seen in the public parks of Peking today [1965].

[viii] This observation will fall strangely on the eyes of modern readers who share the widely held view that the K’ang Hsi era was the golden age of Chinese porcelain.