ASIA AND ITS INHABITANTS
The valley of Zhe Hol, where the emperor possesses a summer palace and garden, was at length reached. This residence is called "The abode of pleasant freshness," and the park surrounding it is named the "Garden of innumerable trees." The embassy was received with military honours, amid an immense crowd of people, many of whom were dressed in yellow. These were inferior lamas or monks of the order of Fo, to which the emperor also belonged.
The disputes as to prostration before the emperor begun in Pekin were continued here. At last Tchien Lung consented to content himself with the respectful salutation with which English nobles are accustomed to greet their own sovereign. The reception accordingly took place, with every imaginable pomp and ceremony.
The narrative says,—
"Shortly after daybreak the sound of many instruments, and the confused voices of distant crowds, announced the approach of the emperor. He soon appeared, issuing from behind a high mountain, bordered with trees, as if from a sacred grove, and preceded by a number of men who proclaimed his virtues and power in loud voices. He was seated in a chair carried by sixteen men; his guards, the officers of his household, standard and umbrella bearers, and musicians accompanied him. He was clothed in a robe of sombre-coloured silk, and wore a velvet cap, very similar in shape to that of Scotch mountaineers. A large pearl was conspicuous on his forehead, and was the only jewel or ornament he wore."
Upon entering the tent, the emperor mounted the steps of the throne, which he alone is allowed to ascend. The first minister, Ho Choo-Tang, and two of the chief officers of his household, remained near, and never addressed him but in a kneeling position. When the princes of royal blood, the tributary princes, and state officers, were in their places, the president of the customs conducted Macartney within a foot of the left-hand side of the throne, which in the Chinese court is considered the place of honour. The ambassador was accompanied by the minister plenipotentiary, and followed by his page and interpreter.
Macartney, in accordance with the instructions given him by the president, raised above his head the magnificent square golden box studded with diamonds, which contained the King of England's letter to the emperor. Then mounting the few steps leading to the throne, he bowed the knee, and, with a short prefatory compliment, presented the box to his Imperial Majesty. The Chinese monarch received it graciously, and said, as he placed it on one side, "that he experienced much satisfaction at the token of esteem and friendship offered by his Britannic Majesty in sending to him an embassy with a letter and rich gifts; that, for his part, he had the like friendly feelings towards the King of Great Britain, and he hoped the same harmony would always continue between their respective subjects."
After a few moments of private conversation with the ambassador, the emperor presented gifts to him and to the minister plenipotentiary. They were then conducted to cushions, in front of which were tables covered with a number of vessels containing meat and fruits. The emperor also partook of these, and continued to overwhelm the ambassadors with expressions of regard and esteem, which had a great effect in raising the English in the estimation of the Chinese public. Macartney and his suite were later invited to visit the gardens of Zhe Hol. During their walk in the grounds, the English met the emperor, who stopped to receive their respectful salutations, and order his first minister, who was looked upon as little less than a vice-emperor, and several other grandees to accompany them.
|Chinese Prime Minister.
(Fac-simile of early engraving.)
The Chinese conducted the English over a portion of the grounds laid out as pleasure-gardens, which formed only a small portion of the vast enclosure. The rest is sacred to the use of the women of the imperial family, and was as rigorously closed to the Chinese ministers as to the English embassy.
Macartney was then led through a fertile valley, in which there were many trees, chiefly willows of enormous size. Grass grows abundantly between the trees, and its luxuriance is not diminished by cattle or interfered with by mowing. Arriving upon the shores of an irregular lake, of vast extent, the whole party embarked in yachts, and proceeded to a bridge which is thrown across the narrowest part of the lake, and beyond which it appeared to stretch away indefinitely.
Upon the 17th of September Macartney and his suite were present at a ceremony which took place upon the anniversary of the emperor's birthday. Upon the morrow and following days splendid fêtes succeeded each other, Tchien Lung participating in them with great zest. Dancers on the tight-rope, tumblers, conjurors (of unrivalled skill), and wrestlers, performed in succession. The natives of various portions of the empire appeared in their distinctive costumes and exhibited the different productions of their provinces. Music and dancing were succeeded by fireworks, which were very effective, although they were let off in daylight.
The narrative says,—