Chapter XXIII - The War With Japan And Subsequent Events

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We have seen that, up to 1892, it had been customary to receive the representatives of foreign powers in the Tse Kung Ko, or Hall of Tributary Nations. Naturally, much dissatisfaction was provoked by the selection of a place of audience which seemed to put the treaty powers on the same footing as tributary states, and, accordingly, the foreign ministers undertook to exact from the Tsungli Yamen, or Board for Foreign Affairs, the designation of a more suitable locality in the imperial city for the annual ceremony. The proposed innovation was resisted for some time; but when Sir Nicolas O'Conor was appointed British Minister at Pekin, an exception was made in his favor, and a place of superior importance to the Hall of Tributary Nations was chosen for the presentation of his credentials. The Emperor Kwangsu agreed to receive him in the Cheng Kuan Tien Palace, or pavilion which forms part of the imperial residence of Peace and Plenty within the Forbidden City. In pursuance of this arrangement, the British representative, attended by his suite, proceeded to this pavilion on December 13, 1892, and was received at the principal entrance by the high court officials. It was also noted that the emperor took a greater interest in the ceremony than on preceding occasions, and followed with attention the reading of Queen Victoria's letter, by Prince Ching, then president of the Tsungli Yamen. Thenceforth, there was observed with every year a decided improvement in the mode of receiving foreign diplomatists, and, eventually, the imperial audience was supplemented with an annual dinner given by the Board for Foreign Affairs. Through the personal reception accorded by the Emperor of China to Prince Henry of Prussia on May 15, 1898, the audience question was finally settled in favor of the right of foreign potentates to rank on an equality with the so-called Son of Heaven.

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We come now to the most memorable event in the modern history of China since the Taeping Rebellion; to wit, the war with Japan. In order to comprehend, however, the causes of this contest between the two chief races of the Far East, it is necessary to review the development of the Corean question which gave rise to it. There seems to be no doubt that Japan derived its first civilizing settlers, and most of its arts and industries, from the Corean peninsula. It is certain that, for centuries, the intercourse between the two countries was very close, and that more than one attempt was made by Japanese rulers to subjugate Corea. The latest and most strenuous endeavor to that end was made near the end of the sixteenth century, and, although it resulted in a temporary occupation of the peninsula, the Japanese troops were eventually withdrawn, and Corea resumed its former status of a kingdom tributary to the Celestial Empire. Thenceforth, for almost three centuries, Corea and Tonquin bore, in theory, precisely the same relation to the Middle Kingdom. In each instance, the practical question was whether China was strong enough to make good her nominal rights. The outcome of her resistance to French aggression in Tonquin had shown that there, at least, she had no such power. But, in the subsequent ten years, efforts had been made to organize an efficient army and navy, and the belief was entertained at Pekin that China was at all events strong enough to uphold her claims in Corea, which was, geographically and strategically, of far more importance to the Middle Kingdom than was Tonquin. Yet, while it was evident that Corea would not be renounced without a struggle, the Pekin authorities, for some years, met the Japanese encroachments with a weak and vacillating policy. As early as 1876, the Mikado's advisers entered on a course which obviously aimed at the attainment of commercial, if not, also, political, ascendency in the Hermit Kingdom. An outrage...

(The entire section contains 4811 words.)

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Chapter XXII - The Reign Of Kwangsu

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Chapter XXIV - The Future Of China