11. CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN LORD ELGIN AND THE PRINCE OF KUNG

CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN LORD ELGIN AND THE PRINCE OF KUNG — DESTRUCTION OF THE SUMMER PALACES BY THE BRITISH ARMY — DESCRIPTION OF THE COUNTRY AROUND HAITEEN — INDEMNITY PAID BY THE CHINESE — RECONNAISSANCES IN THE VICINITY OF THE CITY — LORD ElGIN’S STATE ENTRY INTO PEKIN — HIS INTERVIEW WITH THE PRINCE OF KUNG — RATIFICATION OF THE TIEN-TSIN TREATY — PREPARATIONS FOR THE DEPARTURE OF THE ARMY FROM PEKIN — MARCH TO TIEN-TSIN

Upon the 17th October Lord Elgin wrote to the Prince of Kung, stating that when Sir Hope Grant had written to him upon the 10th of the month, demanding possession of the An-ting Gate, and naming the terms upon which he was willing to spare Pekin, he was then ignorant of the barbarous treatment which had been practised upon our countrymen, who had been treacherously taken prisoners by them; and that his letter had been written under a belief in their safety, to which his Highness had pledged himself in many of his despatches. Since the date of that letter we had ascertained that one half of the total number captured had been barbarously murdered under the most inhuman treatment.

This deceit, practised upon us by his Highness, amply justified us in setting aside the conditions named in the general’s letter, and under which the An-ting Gate had [p. 276] been surrendered; but from an anxiety for the safety of the people, and an unwillingness to visit their rulers’ offences upon them, Lord Elgin said that he was still ready to make peace, which, he begged to remind the Prince, had not been as yet concluded, and which he had in all communications with him, subsequent to the 18th September, declared to be impossible, until the British subjects, captured when under a flag of truce, had been sent back to us. The terms upon which his Lordship would make peace were, that the sum of 300,000 taels should be handed over to us by the 22nd October, to be distributed at her Majesty’s discretion amongst those who had suffered and the families of those who had been murdered. As a further expiation of the foul crime of which the Chinese Government had been guilty, it was intended, and at once, utterly to destroy all that remained of Yuen-ming-yuen, within the precincts of which several of the British captives had been “subjected to the grossest indignities.” This did not require his Highness’s assent, as those palaces were within our power. That before the 20th of that current month, the Prince should inform Lord Elgin, in writing, that he was willing to sign the convention, and exchange the ratification of the Tien-tsin treaty on the 23rd. As owing to the late date to which perations had been prolonged, it was necessary to provide for a portion of our army remaining at Tien-tsin, the Prince was informed that an addition was to be made to the convention, providing for such an arrangement, and entitling us to keep our army at that port, until the whole of the indemnity required by the convention should [p. 277] be paid to us. His Highness was reminded that all the customs’ revenue at Canton was collected by us, and paid over to the Imperial treasury; that Shanghai was alone prevented from falling into the possession of the rebels by the allied forces stationed there; and that the grain junks carrying rice to the north were allowed to pass through our fleets unmolested. This state of things would at once cease if his Highness should refuse the terms then finally offered for acceptance, and the allies would, in that case, indemnify themselves, through the above-mentioned sources, for the expenses they had been put to. Such were the terms upon which it was alone possible to avert the doom hanging over the reigning Mantchoo dynasty. This last allusion must have had powerful effect upon all who read it and were attached to the existing government of the empire; for, at that moment, the rebel forces were reported to be within a hundred miles of Pekin, for which place they were marching. Rumours of their progress and numerous victories were openly commented upon by the Pekin citizens, who naturally considered their approach, and our hostile presence, as parts of a preconcerted arrangement and plan of operations.

Upon the 18th October, the 1st division, under the command of Major-General Sir John Michel, marched from our camp near Pekin to Yuen-ming-yuen, and set fire to all the royal palaces which lay scattered about in that neighbourhood. Throughout the whole of that day and the day following a dense cloud of black and heavy smoke hung over those scenes of former magnificence. [p. 278]

A gentle wind, blowing from the north-west, carried the mass of smoke directly over our camp into the very capital itself, to which distance even large quantities of the burnt embers were wafted, falling about the streets in showers, as silent but unmistakeable evidences of the work of destruction and retribution going on in the palace of the Emperor. In passing between our camp and Yuen-ming-yuen, upon both of those days, the light was so subdued by the overhanging clouds of smoke, that it seemed as if the sun was undergoing a lengthened eclipse. The world around looked dark with shadow.

The destruction of the palaces appears to have struck the Pekin authorities with awe. It was the stamp which gave an unmistakeable reality to our work of vengeance, proving that Lord Elgin’s last letter was no idle threat, and warning them of what they might expect in the capital itself, unless they accepted our proffered terms. The Imperial palace within the city still remained untouched, and if they wished to save that last remaining palace for their master, it behoved them to lose no time I feel convinced that the burning of Yuen-ming-yuen considerably hastened the final settlement of affairs, and strengthened our ambassador’s position. Our allies, who had looted all and destroyed some of the buildings of that place, objected to our putting the coup de grace to their work. It was averred that the complete destruction of the palaces would be a Gothlike act of barbarism. It seems strange that this idea did not occur to the generally quick perceptions of our Gallic allies before they had shorn the place of all its beauty and ornament, [p. 279] by the removal or reckless destruction of everything that was valuable within its precincts, leaving us, indeed, little more than the bare shell of the buildings on which to wreak our vengeance for the cruelties practised therein upon our ill-fated countrymen.

By the evening of the 19th October, the summer palaces had ceased to exist, and in their immediate vicinity, the very face of nature seemed changed: some blackened gables and piles of burnt timbers alone indicating where the royal palaces had stood. In many places the inflammable pine trees near the buildings had been consumed with them, leaving nothing but their charred trunks to mark the site. When we first entered the gardens they reminded one of those magic grounds described in fairy tales; we marched from them upon the 19th October, leaving them a dreary waste of ruined nothings. The burning of the palaces was an act of vengeance pre-eminently calculated to fulfil all the purposes which circumstances required. The people themselves were at all times most friendly towards us, and have but little affection for the ruling dynasty. Their rulers alone were answerable for the murder of the prisoners which they had taken. To have required a very large sum of money as a reparation for that crime, would have been a punishment which must eventually have fallen principally upon the people, and their ability to pay any such largely increased demand was highly problematical. To have demanded that those who had actually caused the death of our murdered comrades should be delivered over to us for punishment, would have led only to some few petty and perhaps innocent officials being sent to us, whom [p. 280] it would have been as difficult to convict as it would have been unjust to punish.

Sang-ko-lin-sin was really of all others most responsible for the crime for which we sought reparation, but to have demanded his surrender to us for trial would have been asking for what every one knew the Chinese Government would not, and perhaps could not, grant. Lord Elgin’s knowledge of human nature, and of Chinese dispositions in particular, pointed out to him the only really substantial method then within his power of taking vengeance for the crime in question. The great vulnerable point in a Mandarin’s character lies in his pride, and the destruction of Yuen-ming-yuen was the most crushing of all blows which could be levelled at his Majesty’s inflated notions of universal supremacy. His property was deemed as sacred as his person, so much so, that when the French first approached the palace gates upon the 6th October, the few eunuchs who remained there as the sole guard of the place rushed out to meet our allies, calling out to them, “Don’t commit sacrilege, don’t come within the sacred precincts of his Majesty’s palace.” As such was the commonly received notion regarding everything belonging to the Emperor, the destruction of his favourite residence was the strongest proof of our superior strength; it served to undeceive all Chinamen in their absurd conviction of their monarch’s universal sovereignty.

In order that the greatest possible publicity might be given to our reasons for destroying Yuen-ming-yuen, proclamations in Chinese were prepared by our interpreters, and posted up in all public places to which we [p. 281] had access. This prevented the authorities from giving a false colouring to our actions, as they would no doubt have otherwise endeavoured to spread abroad the impression of our having destroyed that place simply for the sake of plunder.

Whilst the work of demolition was going on, we had ample opportunity of inspecting the country around the palaces and that lying between them and the hills, which, as offshoots from the high range of Tibet, abut upon the plains near Yuen-ming-yuen. A well-kept paved road extends from the principal palace to that known as the Golden Palace, a distance of about three miles. It passes for some distance along the bank of a dried-up canal, the sides of which were tastefully adorned with ornamental rockery, which forms such an essential feature in all Chinese landscape gardening. Upon each side of the canal there were high embankments of earth covered with cedar and pine trees, and here and there some little grotto of stonework. After leaving Yuen-ming-yuen, and when proceeding to the Golden Palace, our road at first wound through a series of small official residences standing within walled enclosures and small parks; and then, passing over several grotesquely-built stone bridges, it crossed a number of little canals, some completely dry, others filled only with stagnant water, and almost covered up with water lilies and rushes. The remains of what were once, no doubt, very pretty little cascades testify to the care taken in the embellishment of the place and to the poverty of the present government, which has allowed them to become what they are. Some fine joss-houses or temples lay scattered about, the rich colour- [p. 282] ing of which contrasted well with the dark green foliage of the cedars. At the distance of about a mile along this paved road stood one of the entrances to the Wanshow-yuen, a palace situated upon a hog’s-back-like hill overlooking a fine lake. This hill was enclosed by a high park wall, the space within being tastefully laid out with gardens, shrubberies and plantations, having tea-houses scattered about — some perched upon rocky knolls commanding good views of the surrounding country, others almost hidden by the dense foliage of the trees, with terraces and flights of steps leading down to the water’s edge. Crowning the highest point of the hill was the only building, of all the palaces, constructed exclusively of stone, and consequently the only one upon which the general conflagration took but little effect.

The view from this building was charming. Stretching away from it in the direction of Pekin there was a most substantial and well-finished embankment faced all over with slabs of cut granite. It was built for the purpose of damming up the waters of the streams which poured down from the hills, so as to form the various lakes and artificial ponds, constituting such an important feature in the landscape there. By this means the water was always at a much higher level than the ground upon which Pekin stood, so that a good water supply was at all seasons thus provided for the citizens of that city. Jutting out from this dam into the lake, at about half a mile’s distance from the Wan-show gardens, was a long bridge with seventeen arches of beautiful proportions, richly decorated with stone carvings and balustradings, and leading to a small island upon which [p. 283] stood a water-palace closely surrounded with trees, the picturesque gables and upturned roofs of which were faithfully reflected in the calm water beneath. Standing upon the dam at the end of the bridge was a wooden building supported upon pillars, with all the sides open and seemingly intended merely as a resting-place in which the wearied wanderer might find shelter from the sun during a temporary halt. Close by there was the representation, in bronze, of a cow in a recumbent position, so truly lifelike, that all who saw it mistook it for a veritable animal until they had actually approached it.

The edge of the lake beneath the Wan-show palaces was laid out in terraces, one rising above the other, the lowest one washed by the water, and having a balustrading of small stone pillars extending along its entire length. Handsome flights of stairs led down from it to the lake, at some of which were boat-houses for the protection of the imperial barges.

Upon leaving the Wan-show-yuen the road passes under a low stone archway, beyond which for about the next half mile it is lined on both sides with shops. They end upon the bank of an insignificant little river, over which the road crosses by an old masonry bridge, the parapet walls of which were sadly ruinous, but exhibited traces of considerable beauty and elaborate carving. This stream is one of the many feeders of the lakes, into the largest of which it discharges itself close by the bridge. Upon its opposite bank is the village of Tsung-lung-cheaou, called after the bridge itself, through which the paved road passes, and debouching from which it winds round between some undulating ground upon [p. 284] the right, and the low inundated fields upon the left, which extend to the margin of a series of small lakes in that direction. For the distance of a mile beyond the bridge the road is closely lined upon the right hand with farmhouses and enclosures, the country further back still in that direction being thickly studded with small villages and groups of Tartar barracks, which are very numerous. The paved road ends at the gates of the Golden Palace, which lies at the foot of a small hill, detached from all the others, and which is included within the park walls surrounding the palace itself. Standing upon the highest point of this hill is a tall white pagoda, which forms the great landmark of the locality, and from whence the finest view is to be had of the many palaces and gardens of Hai-teen, by which name the entire place is generally known. The pagoda resembles most others met with everywhere in the empire. It is ascended by a winding staircase, but has none of those projecting balconies common in such buildings generally. Looking out from it, the eye wanders over as fair and lovely a scene as can well be imagined. The thickly-wooded parks of the palaces are shown off to the best advantage by the intervening lakes and numerous ponds within them. The little islands, wooded to the water’s edge, send out their tremulous, wavy reflections along the glass-like lakes; here and there the oddly shaped spires and minarets of a summer-house peer above the variegated foliage, whilst the neglected temples from their half-ruinous condition add much to the scenic effect; and, lastly, may be seen buildings of all sizes, from joss-houses of the most stately proportions with their many courtyards and richly ornamented roofs, down to [p. 285] the tiniest of roadside sanctuaries, nestling here and there amidst clumps of trees, and resembling more closely a child’s baby-house than an edifice intended for the worship of some idol.

Beyond the precincts of the royal grounds the country looked richly cultivated, dotted over with farmhouses and Tartar villages, the homes of the several banners by whom the military duties of the place were performed, and the guards furnished for his Majesty’s protection during his residence at the Summer Palace. These villages were mostly built with all the regularity of barracks. To the north was a range of hills, bold in outline, upon which plantations and patches of cultivation seemed to contest possession with stony slopes and rugged cliffs. The commanding points of these hills were crowned with imposing looking buildings of castellated style and essentially un-Chinese in appearance. Far off to the north-east was a conically shaped hill, with a fortified military post upon it. To the west were the palaces of Tsain-tai extending up the sides of the Sian mountains, which stretch away south from the principal range. Between those palaces and the Yuen-ming-yuen a well-built aqueduct extended, by means of which the gardens of the Golden Palace were supplied with water. The massive gate towers of Pekin, and its several pagodas and cupolas, with (in some places) a small extent of the walls themselves, bounded the view to the south-east, completing the panorama. Taken as a whole, that is, including all the palaces and adjoining gardens, Hai-teen was certainly well suited for the residence of a monarch ruling over such a great nation. Chinamen may well have [p. 286] reckoned it the alpha and omega of all that was lovely on earth, leaving nothing to be wished for according to their notions of what is beautiful and magnificent.

Generation after generation of emperors had added to its works of art and artificial beauty. From thence mighty kings have issued their commands to the widest empire ever yet ruled by any one man; but the very gorgeousness of the scene has been one great promoting cause of the luxury and effeminacy which have served to debase the late rulers of China, causing the descendants of fierce warriors to degenerate into mere enervated debauchees, alike incapable of wielding the sword themselves or commanding in the field those who could. After a childhood passed in the seclusion of such palaces, the greatest exercise allowed being a daily stroll amidst the luxurious gardens around, it is scarcely to be wondered at that the royal heir should grow up into an indolent, dreamy, and unpractical manhood. After being assured from earliest childhood that he was immeasurably superior to all other human beings, and but little removed from Deity itself, it is no strange matter that such a monarch should believe his absolute power to be as much a part of himself as his hands or feet, or, in fact, as indisputable as his very existence. Sir Henry Pottinger’s treaty was the first historical fact which must have caused some suspicion to cross the Imperial mind as to the reality of his imiversal sovereignty, by proving that there was a Western nation able to dictate terms to the Chinese Government. Such knowledge, however, came too late. It fell upon insensible ears, which knew not how to profit by the [p. 287] lesson we had taught them. They persisted in resting upon the history of their former greatness, refusing to believe that they were far behind us in the art or appliances of war, and attributing their defeat to any but the true causes. Possessing within the confines of their vast empire every requisite essential for the formation of powerful armies, with great internal wealth and an overteeming population of brave, active, and intelligent people, they, par excellence the greatest of all copyists under heaven, were too obstinate or too stupid to adopt our arms or military organisation; and, indeed, as far as we know, even to appreciate the advantages of muskets over cross-bows, or of discipline over disorder.

Upon the evening of the 19th October the Prince of Kung’s answer to Lord Elgin’s ultimatum of the 17th of that month reached our camp. In it his Highness humbly declared himself willing to perform all we had demanded. In answer to a letter from Sir Hope Grant, requesting that Captain Brabazon might be accounted for, the Prince stated that he could not give any information about him or the Abbe de Luc, as he knew nothing whatever of them.

Between the 19th and 23rd October frequent meetings took place between the officers of our embassy and the Chinese authorities, during which all the points regarding the etiquette to be observed at the grand conference of the plenipotentiaries was agreed upon. The 300,000 taels of indemnity money was paid into our commissariat treasure chest upon the evening of the 22nd. It had been at first arranged that the convention, &c. &c., was to be signed the following [p. 288] day, but as there was a considerable amount of writing to be got through in preparing the treaties, both in Chinese and English, the meeting was postponed until the 24th October.

Rumours were afloat that a large army was assembling to the west of Pekin, and treacherous intentions were attributed to the Prince of Kung by general consent, the reports coming from Chinese sources. It was said that our ambassador was to be inveigled into the city, and then murdered, &c. &c. Every Chinaman is a newsmonger by nature; and, if we may judge from the number of stories current daily in Pekin during our stay in its vicinity, they prefer false intelligence to none at all. Eeconnoitring parties of our cavalry made daily explorations into the country around our camp, so that no large army could well be assembled near us without the circumstance coming to our knowledge. Owing to the rumour of a large camp being established to the west of Pekin, our cavalry patrolled in that direction upon the 22nd October, and during their march came suddenly upon an entrenched position, close to the city walls, near the point where the Tartar and Chinese cities unite. There was apparently a considerable force within the works, which turned out as our cavalry approached, not knowing what was our intention. A Mandarin came up to ask us what we wanted. Major Probyn, who commanded the party, brought him to our camp, for the purpose of gaining some information from him, as he appeared a sharp fellow. He stated that Mr. Parkes’s capture was an act of premeditated revenge for the seizure of the prefect at Tien-tsin by Sir Kobert Napier. The cir- [p. 289] cumstances under which that seizure was made are as follows : — Shortly after the main part of our force had left Tien-tsin, Sir Robert Napier foimd the Chinese authorities far from civil, and very averse to afford us any assistance in collecting carriage or supplies for our troops. The prefect of the city was the chief person there. He was ordered to present himself at the English general’s tent; but he failed to do so. He had, however, most thoroughly mistaken the man he had to deal with. Sir Robert Napier’s long experience in India, had taught him the only true method by which Asiatics can be managed; which is determination, backed by sufficient force to carry out all declared intentions. Acting upon this principle, a party was sent into Tien-tsin, with orders to bring out the refractory mandarin, who protested loudly against the proceeding, but was obhged to yield. He was treated with all possible courtesy, and lodged in a tent next the general’s; and our ability to enforce compliance with all demands which we might make upon him, and our evident determination to use force, if necessary, having been thus clearly impressed upon him and the other civic authorities of the place, he was released.

The Prince of Kung, who had been residing at some distance from Pekin, happened to be on his way into the city, when our cavalry made their appearance at the entrenched camp. Weak nerves and a guilty conscience caused him to couple their presence, between him and the capital, with some treacherous design upon his person. No doubt he thought that we were desirous of avenging our murdered countrymen, by punishing liim. He at once, therefore, took fright, and [p. 290] bolted back in the direction from which he had started, not deeming himself safe until he had placed about twenty miles between himself and us. He wrote to General Ignatieff that evening, asking what we were aiming at, and seemed evidently nervous about his personal safety.

At one o’clock, p.m., upon the 24th October, Lord Elgin started from our camp for Pekin, where it had been arranged that the meeting between him and the Prince of Kung was to take place. Every possible military precaution had been previously taken to guard against any treachery upon the part of the Chinese. An officer of the Quartermaster-General’s department had been sent into the city the preceding evening, for the purpose of examining the building in which the conference was to be held. It was very improbable that any treachery would be attempted; but as rumours were afloat that infernal machines had been prepared to blow up our ambassador and his party, it would have been highly culpable, after so many recent instances of Chinese ill-faith, to disregard any attainable precaution, or to fail in providing for all possible contingencies. Had any misfortune occurred to Lord Elgin, the blame of such would have fallen upon the Commander-in-Chief. It seemed to be a general impression amongst all who were acquainted with China but upon whom no responsibility would have rested in the event of any treachery being practised, that the display of a large force within Pekin might so frighten the timid Prince of Kung and his advisers, that they would all suspect us of similar motives, and fly from the place, or in other words, that our military precau- [p. 291] tions against treachery would be construed into intended treachery on our part by the suspicious Chinese.

The 2nd division was skillfully disposed by Sir R. Napier along the line of march to be taken by the procession through the city, so that all avenues of approach leading to it were commanded by our troops. An escort of 100 cavalry and 400 infantry, together with a numerous retinue of officers from all corps, accompanied Lord Elgin for his immediate protection. It was a fine day, bright and warm, there being no wind to drive the dust about, and the sun shining pleasantly, showing off the soldiers’ uniforms and appointments to the best advantage. His Lordship travelled in a sedan chair of large proportions, painted red, and hung about with long streaming tassels of many colours, after the most approved Chinese fashion. Eight Chinese coolies, decked out in gorgeous scarlet clothing, carried the chair.

A military procession is at all times an imposing sight; but it is seldom that so many circumstances combine to give it effect and importance, as upon that occasion. The representative of our sovereign, surrounded by a crowd of soldiers, so lately victorious in the field, marching into a great city which had just capitulated to us, for the purpose of obtaining a public admission of our national superiority and a concession of all those demands which we had made before the war commenced — was a circumstance truly gratifying to all who took part in it, and a very just source of pride to every British subject. The inhabitants of the place thronged in upon all sides to see the “barbarians” in their triumphal march; all were civil and respectful. [p. 292]

The presence of a large body of troops marching with confidence through the capital, with colours flying, bands playing, and every outward sign of victory, must have, indeed, impressed all with the reality of their own defeat. I believe that the military display then made will have far more important and beneficial influence in our future dealings with China than all the treaties now ratified or that may be hereafter concluded. The fame of it will be the best relative security, which our merchants residing at the ungarrisoned ports could have. It was an undeniable assertion of our victory, and will be a warning to Imperial officials in their intercourse with our authorities, causing them to hesitate before they again subject their far-famed seat of government to the presence of an armed force within its walls. Our ability to take vengeance for all breaches of faith, thus convincingly established, will, I have every reason to hope, be the means of stopping for ever those acts of arrogance, insolence and oppression to which our mercantile communities at Canton and elsewhere have been subjected, in the absence of any force to prevent them, and which have been the immediate cause of all the warlike operations carried on by foreigners in China since 1838.

The procession entered the city by the An-ting gate, where a strong reserve of troops was posted. In case of any treachery being attempted, three guns were to have been fired from thence as a signal for the 1st division to leave camp and march into the city. As the Hall of Audience, in which the Prince of Kung was to meet Lord Elgin, lay in the southern quarter of the Tartar city, our procession had to pass directly through [p. 293] its entire length, a distance of about three miles and a half. A straight street led direct from the An-ting gate south towards the Chinese city, along which our column proceeded, turning sharp towards the west as Ave approached the wall dividing the Chinese from the Tartar city. Following that direction for about half a mile, we entered the narrow street in which most of the public offices stood. They were all prettily built, very much alike, and with but little to distinguish them from any of the many temples or official buildings met with elsewhere. They were in a most dilapidated condition, some looking as if they might tumble down at any moment, and one had already done so — it was the Board of Finance; and the unsightly heap of ruins, into which it had sunk, might be taken as a fair indication of national financial prospects. As we entered the high wooden portals of the Hall of Audience, it was most amusing to watch the vigorous efforts made by the city police to keep back the inquisitive crowd that pressed in, with all the eagerness of London cockneys upon Lord Mayor’s day, to catch even a passing glimpse of the show. The Chinese police are certainly A1 at such work, and use their heavy thong-whips unmercifully upon the shoulders and backs of all who do not obey them quickly. Having passed through two courtyards, we found ourselves opposite a spacious hall, of which the side nearest to us as we approached was completely open. Lord Elgin’s guard of honour drew up on one side of the court, presenting arms as his Lordship passed on.

His sedan chair was put down at the edge of the carpet spread upon the hall, and, as he entered, the [p. 294] Prince advanced to meet him, making a stiff bow and shaking his own hands vigorously, after the ordinary manner of Chinese etiquette. Both of the national representatives then moved slowly towards the chairs which had been prepared for them, each seeming to eye the other narrowly, lest by some sudden movement he might get the least in advance. They appeared willing to treat each other as equals, but not as superiors.

Upon reaching their respective chairs, it was of great importance that both should sit down exactly at the same moment: a feat which was most satisfactorily accomplished.

The room in which the conference took place resembled exactly the principal apartment of a temple from which the hideous idols had been removed. A sort of thick red felting had been laid down instead of carpets. Lamps of all sizes and shapes were hung up around, with, in some places, insignificant attempts at decorations in the shape of drapery and long scrolls of ornamented paper.

The English officers were provided with seats upon the right of the hall as we entered; the Chinese officials upon the side opposite. In front of Lord Elgin, Sir Hope Grant, and a few others, there were small tables; the Prince of Kung and his principal officers being similarly accommodated.

The Prince was of middle stature, his face cleanly shaven, with a naturally high forehead, which looked still loftier from the manner in which he wore his tumed-up mandarin hat, far back upon his shaven crown. His features were good, being far more regular [p. 295] than is usual with Chinamen, but his eyes were small and on a level with his forehead, which is the great peculiarity of the race, who may almost be said to have no eyelids and very small apertures for their eyeballs to appear through. He looked round upon the assembled “barbarians” almost with a scowl; but this supercilious sneering expression may have partly resulted from his most strangely set eyes. He was dressed in mandarin robes, the only peculiarity in his clothes being that there were figures of the Imperial dragon embroidered upon his sleeves and shoulders, and that instead of a coral or other button upon the top of his hat, he wore only a small twisted knot, made of scarlet silk, very much like that upon the Emperor’s cap, found on his bed in the Summer Palace. It is most difficult to give an accurate estimate of his age from his face, as the absence of all hair upon it gave him a youthful ak, which, however, was contradicted, upon examining him more closely, by a worn-out expression indicative of debauchery, so very common with Asiatic potentates. He might have been, in fact, any age from twenty up to five and thirty, and I believe that his exact number of years was a mean between those two figures. He looked a boy, as well as a gentleman, amongst the crowd of bihous, bloated, small-pock-marked, and hideous-looking faces of the mandarins who surrounded him, and with whom he frequently took counsel during the course of the proceedings. A very young man, unless of royal buth, seldom holds any great office of importance in China; and as rank is to be had citlier by purchase or competitive examination, it is frequently enjoyed by the very com- [p. 296] monest of the people. On this account many of the mandarins are ill-bred in manners, and have none of that easy air or those fine features, the birthright of gentle blood, which in most countries generally characterise the governing classes. I do not remember having ever seen a less pleasing-looking collection of mortals assembled in one place than was grouped around the Prince of Kung upon that occasion.

At all such ceremonies of state, a banquet, after business is concluded, forms a part of the programme; but as the inspection of the Prince of Kung’s “power to treat,” and the signing of the convention and ratification of the old treaty had occupied a considerable time, Lord Elgin declined partaking of it. Tea of the usual hot-water-tasting properties was, however, handed round during the ceremony.

Everything being satisfactorily concluded, the meeting was broken up, the same formalities being gone through at leave-taking as had been observed at the opening of the conference, the Prince accompanying Lord Elgin from his seat to the edge of the carpet, where his Lordship’s chair stood ready for his reception.

It was late in the evening before we got back to camp, and although the “Board of Works” had taken some trouble in watering the streets, yet the dust was so deep upon them that the upper surface only was affected by it; consequently, the number of men and horses passing over it soon caused the dust to rise in dense masses, covering every one of our party.

Orders had been previously despatched to Shanghai for Mr. Bruce, the English minister there, who was to remain in China as our representative after Lord [p. 297] Elgin’s departure. He was directed to proceed to Pekin with all speed, so that, if possible, he might be introduced to the Prince of Kung before Lord Elgin left. By Article IX. of the Pekin Convention, it was agreed that the convention should receive the Imperial sanction by the publication of a decree, for which it was necessary to send to Jeho, where his Majesty had taken up his residence* As nine or ten days must have elapsed before an answer could be returned from that place, it was determined to keep the army at Pekin imtil the 8 th November, which was considered by the Commander-in-Chief as the latest date to which we could with safety remain there. The cold winter was setting in rapidly, and the roads in rear being unmetalled, no reliance could be placed upon them in bad weather. About the 10th October, the weather changed perceptibly, the nights being intensely cold, and biting winds rendering even the days far from pleasant for those under canvas. All native reports led us to beheve that the ice set in upon the river towards the beginning of November; and as we had to depend greatly upon it for transport purposes, to have remained beyond the 8th of that month at Pekin would have been a highly dangerous experiment. Upon the 22nd October our siege train was sent off to Tien-tsin, for which place Colonel Mackenzie, our Quartermaster General, started to get everything ready there for the reception of the garrison which it was intended to leave there for the winter, and for the embarkation of the remaining part of our army for home and India. All our sick and heavy stores were sent by carts to Tung-chow, where they were placed in boats and sent [p. 298] down the river to Tien-tsin, making the journey in three days.

Baron Gros having signed the French treaty upon the 25th October, General Montauban left Pekin upon the 1st November with his army, leaving one battalion behind for Baron Gros’s protection.

Upon the 27th October Lord Elgin moved from camp into the city, where the Prince of Y’s residence had been fitted up for his reception. Visits of ceremony were exchanged between him and the Prince of Kung, who improved upon acquaintance. He talked hopefully of the future, and seemed to consider that the direct communication henceforward to be maintained by our minister in China with the Pekin Government would conduce to a friendliness of intercourse, and prevent those bickerings and misunderstandings which had formerly taken place so frequently between the servants of the two nations. He even discussed the advisability of a Chinese ambassador being sent to England. The notification of the convention having received the Imperial sanction was made to Lord Elgin upon the 2nd November, and the treaty and it were immediately published in the Pekin Gazette.

Mr. Bruce reached Pekin upon the 7th November, and was introduced to the Prince of Kung.

It was arranged that, until a suitable residence could be prepared for the British embassy, Mr. Bruce should reside at Tien-tsin, where Baron Gros had directed M. de Bourboulon, the French minister, to reside for the winter. In order, however, to accustom the Chinese authorities to the presence of our officials within the capital, and to prevent them from imagining that we [p. 299] intended to concede the long disputed question of residence there, Mr. Adkins of the Consular Service was left in Pekin to superintend tlie arrangements necessary for the establishment of our diplomatic mission there in the spring following.

Before the departure of our army from Pekin, the winter had set in very severely. There were several days of heavy rain, with hard frost every night. Cold northerly winds rendered out-of-door lie very disagreeable, and our native Indian followers were suffering severely in consequence. A considerable supply of blankets and warm clothing had arrived in camp upon the 21st October, which was immediately distributed amongst the troops. No army in the field has ever been healthier or better cared for in every respect than our troops before Pekin; the men looked well and happy. The commissariat, under the superintendence of Mr. Turner, deserves every credit for the manner in which we were supplied with all that we could expect. French bread of the best quality was served out to us daily, and of beef and mutton there was abundance. Good markets had been established within the An-ting gate, where fruit and vegetables were procurable every day at a cheap rate. The most sickly regiment of our force was the 60th Rifles, which was composed chiefly of young soldiers. Its sick-hst, however, never exceeded five per cent. The medical arrangements had been aU through the campaign ably attended to by Dr. Muir, C.B., who, whilst most careful at all times for the comfort of those in his charge, was never carried away by unpractical ideas, which have become so [300] fashionable of late years with many of our medical officers.

Upon the 7th November the 2nd division under Sir Robert Napier left Pekin, the 1st division under Sir John Michel following the day after. The Commander-in-Chief accompanied the latter. A flotilla of boats kept pace upon the river with the army during its march, for the conveyance of any men falling sick, or in the event of any other casualties. [301]