A Narrative of the British Embassy to China. 2

  • Info
  • Pages
  • Transcript
  • Related
A Narrative of the British Embassy to China. 2
A narrative of the British Embassy to China, in the years 1792, 1793 and 1794:containing the various circumstances of the embassy; with accounts of the customs and manners of the Chinese; and a description of the country towns, cities, etc.
Aeneas Anderson
London: Debrett
Page 1
Page 2
Page 3

At the same time, to prove the high regard and esteem the Emperor of
China entertained for the King of Great Britain, his Imperial Majesty
delivered, from his own hand, into that of the Ambassador, a very
valuable box, containing the miniature pictures of all the preceding
emperors; to which is annexed, a description in verse by each emperor,
descriptive of himself and the principal features of his government, as
well as a line of conduct recommended to their several successors.

The Emperor, on presenting this gift to the Ambassador, spoke to the
following purport:

“Deliver this casket to the King your master, with your own hand, and
tell him; though the present may appear to be small, it is, in my
estimation, the most valuable that I can give, or my empire can furnish;
for it has been transmitted to me through a long line of my
predecessors, and is the last token of affection which I had reserved to
bequeath to my son and successor; as a tablet of the virtues of his
ancestors, which he had only to peruse, as I should hope, to inspire him
with the noble resolution to follow such bright examples; and, as they
had done, to make it the grand object of his life to exalt the honour of
the Imperial throne, and advance the happiness and prosperity of his

Such were the words delivered by the Emperor on the occasion, as
communicated by Mr. Plumb, the interpreter, and which occasioned, as may
be imagined, no small degree of speculation among the gentlemen of the

The Ambassador returned to dinner, and soon after repaired to the
Imperial palace, with his whole suite and attendants, to see a play
which was expressly performed as a particular mark of respect to the

This dramatic entertainment was represented in one of the inner courts
of the palace, on a temporary stage erected for the purpose. It was
decorated with a profusion of silk, ribbons, and streamers, and
illuminated with great splendour and elegance.

The performance consisted of a great variety of mock battles and
military engagements; lofty tumbling, as it is expressed with us, and
dancing both on the tight and slack ropes ; and in all these exercises
that agility was displayed, which would have done no discredit to the
gymnastic amusements of Sadler’s Wells or Astley’s amphitheatre: but the
skill of the performers was more particularly astonishing in the art of
balancing, in which they excelled any thing of the kind I had ever seen.
By an imperceptible motion, as it appeared, of the joints of their arms
and legs, they gave to basons, jugs, glasses, &c. an apparent power of
loco-motion, and produced a progressive equilibrium, by which these
vessels changed their portions from one part to another of the bodies of
the balancers, in a manner so extraordinary, that I almost suspected the
correctness of my own senses.

The succession of entertainments was concluded by a variety of curious
deceptions by slight of hand, which the almost magical activity of
Breslaw or Comus has never exceeded: and, as a proof of assertion, I
shall mention one of them, which, I must own, astonished me, and seemed
to have an equal effect on the rest of the spectators.

The performer began by exhibiting a large bason in every possible
position, when he suddenly placed it on the stage with the hollow part
downwards, and instantly taking it up again, discovered a large rabbit,
which escaped from the performer, who attempted to catch it, by taking
refuge among the spectators. This deception was perfectly unaccountable
to me, as there were no visible means whatever of communication, by
which it was possible to convey so large an animal to the spot: the
stage was also covered with matting, so that it could not be conveyed
through the floor, which if that had been the case, must have been
discovered by those, and there were many of them, who were within three
yards of the spot; besides, the whole display of the trick occupied a
few seconds. Several other deceptions of a similar kind prolonged our
amusement. The whole of the entertainment was accompanied by a band of
musicians, placed on the stage.

The theatre was filled with persons of distinction, and formed a very
splendid appearance. The Ambassador and his suite returned about nine
o’clock, having been very much gratified by the entertainment of the