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had been fulfilled and the pictiure begun
at the auspicious moment. She added that
she knew I must be tired from our long
drive out from Peking, as well as from my
work. She said I must rest and we must
partake of some refreshments. She then
descended from the throne and came over
to look at the sketch.

I had blocked in the whole figure and
had drawn the head with some accuracy.
So strong and impressive is her personality
that I had been able to get enough of her
character into this rough whole to make it
a sort of likeness. After looking critically
at it for a few moments, she expressed her-
self as well pleased with what had been
done, and paid me some compliments on
my talent as an artist. I felt instinctively,
however, that this was due more to her
natvual courtesy — her desire to put me at
ease— than to an actual expression of her
opinion. After she had looked at the por-
trait, she called Mrs." Conger and the prin-
cesses to see what had been done, and it
was discussed for a few moments. Then
she turned to me and said the portrait in-



terested her greatly, that she should like
to see it go on. She asked me, looking
straight into my eyes the while, if I would
care to remain at the palace for a few days,
that she might give me sittings at her
leisure.

This invitation filled me with joy. The
reports I had heard of her Majesty's hatred
of the foreigner had been dispelled by this
first audience and what I had seen there.
I felt that the most consimunate actress
could not so belie her personality, and I
accepted, without a moment's hesitation,
the invitation so graciously tendered. I
thought that thus I should be able to get a
good beginning for a satisfactory likeness
of this most remarkable and interesting
woman. My sanguine heart even leaped
forward to the possibility of finishing the
portrait entirely at the palace. Her Maj-
esty seemed pleased at my acceptance and
said she would try to make me happy. She
then withdrew, and we were served with
luncheon.

The Empress Dowager always eats
alone. When she has guests, the Princess
Imperial, as the first of the ladies of the
palace, acts as hostess. The guests of
honor are placed at her right and left. The
princesses, Ladies Yu-Keng, Mrs. Conger,
and I formed the guests on this occa-
sion.

The table, decorated with flowers and
fruits, groaned under the many Chinese
dishes placed thereon. Foreign dishes
were served h la Russe, The Chinese
dishes, attractive to the eye as well as to
the senses of smell and taste, appealed to
me at once, though I had been told one
must cultivate a taste for them. There
were foreign table-waters and wines as well
as Chinese drinks. We did full justice to
the viands, tasting everything and trying
to use the chop-sticks, though knives and
forks were also placed for each of the
guests.

After the repast, her Majesty and the
young Empress, the first wife of the Em-
peror Kwang-Hsu, came in. Her Majesty
presented the young Empress with the
same grace with which she had indicated
the Emperor at the morning audience,
repeating her title, " The Empress," as she
did so. Immediately behind the young
Empress was the only secondary wife of
the Emperor, who was also presented by
the Empress Dowager.



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WITH THE EMPRESS DOWAGER



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Then her Majesty told Mrs. Conger she
had her players at the theater that day, and
invited us to come and hear them. The
Empress Dowager and Mrs. Conger led
the way, and I followed with the young
Empress and the princesses. We passed
through several courts, all gay with
flowers, and finally reached the largest of
all, the court of the theater. The theater
projects into this rectangular court and
consists of a covered rostrum, open on
three sides, with doors at the back for the
entrance and exit of the actors. In front
of the stage and across the open, flower-
filled court, with splendid bronze orna-
ments here and there, is a building which
might be called the imperial loge. This is
from sixty to eighty feet long, with a pil-
lared stone veranda, and occupies one
entire side of 'the court. Huge panes of
plate glass, the full height of the building,
enable her Majesty and the Emperor to
see, from within, all that passes on the
stage, and they can, of course, hear every-
thing perfectly. 'ITie buildings which form
the other sides of this court, those which
run at right angles to the imperial loge,
are divided into small stalls, each about
the size of an ordinary opera-box. ITiere
are no chairs in these boxes ; the occupants
sit Turkish fashion upon the floor, for no
courtier can occupy a chair when in the
presence of their Majesties. These side
rooms are for the use of the high officials
and princes who are sometimes invited by
their Majesties to be present at the im-
perial theatrical representations.

On my first day at court there were no
other invited guests ; the players had been
summoned in our honor. Her Majesty sat
in a yellow-covered chair on the red-pil-
lared veranda of the imperial loge. The
Emperor was seated on a yellow stool at
her left, the place of honor in China. Mrs.
Conger and I were on her Majesty's right,
the young Empress, princesses, and ladies-
in-waiting standing around. After seeing
two or three acts of a play of which we un-
derstood little more than the pantomime,
but which was interesting from its very
novelty, Mrs. Conger arose to take leave
of their Majesties and the princesses. After
this was accomplished, I accompanied her
to one of the outer courts and there told
her good-by.

When she left, I was alone in the palace,
the first foreigner to be domiciled in any



residence of a Son of Heaven since the
time of Marco Polo, and the only foreigner
who had ever been within the women's pre-
cincts. I had a curious feeling of having
been transported into a strange world. A
sense of loneliness crept over me, and I
feared the strangeness of my position might
affect my work, and that, after all, I should
not accomplish what I had remained in
the palace to do. I stood for a few min-
utes pondering my position, but was soon
joined by the Ladies Yu-Keng, with a
message from the Empress Dowager that
I need not return to the theater, as she
had gone to rest. She sent word that she
thought it would be well for me to go to
my apartments and try to sleep a little.
She hoped I would be happy in the palace
and find the pavilion she had set aside for
me comfortable.- She added that I must
not hesitate to order anything I wished
and must make myself perfectly at home.

The Summer Palace, like all Chinese
palaces and temples, and even the dwell-
ing- houses of the rich, consists of a series
of verandaed buildings, built on stone
foundations which rise about eight feet
from the ground, generally of one story,
around the four sides of rectangular or
square courts, connected by open veranda-
like corridors. The apartments set aside
for my private use, while in the precincts,
were to the left of the Empress Dowager's
throne-room and near it, in order that I
might be within easy reach of my paint-
ing. These apartments occupied an entire
pavilion. They were charming. Their shin-
ing marble floors and beautifully carved
partitions, their painted walls and charming
outlook over flowery courts, made them a
delightful retreat. These pavilions at the
palace have movable partitions, and the
rooms may be made as small as closets or
as large as the whole building.

My pavilion consisted of two sitting-
rooms, a dining-room, and a charming
bedroom, separated from one another by
screen-like walls of beautifully carved open
woodwork, with blue silk showing through
the interstices. In the larger spaces were
artistic panels of flowers painted on white
silk, alternating with poems and quotations
from the classics, in the picturesque, ideo-
graphic writing of the Chinese. On one of
the solid walls was a large water-color
painting on white silk, representing a realis-
tically painted peafowl in a flowery field ;



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an immense mirror formed the other solid
wall. The plate-glass lower windows had
blue silken curtains, the upper windows, of
white Corean paper, were rolled down, and
the rich perfume of the flowers in the court
came in. In my honor, several foreign objets
de vertu adorned the tables and window-
shelves. The bed, a couch built into an
alcove, was covered with blue satin cush-
ions ; and the windows were shaded from
the outside by blue silken awnings, which
gave a soft, subdued light to the room, that
made it very cool and restful-looking. I
found the couch so inviting that I was soon
really resting, and the events of the day
passed before my mental vision in kaleido-
scopic array. Although the cushions of the
bed were harder than I had been accus-
tomed to, and the dozen or more eimuchs
who had been set aside -for my service
were whispering just outside my window,
ready for any call, I soon fell asleep from
sheer exhaustion and reaction from the
unusual events of the day.

At five o'clock one of the Ladies Yu-
Keng knocked at my door to tell me the
Empress Dowager was awake, and had
asked that I come up to the throne-room
as soon as I was ready. When we went
up, she called me to her side and said
she hoped I had rested well and found
my apartments comfortable ; she repeated
again the wish that I should be happy with
her. She said we would not paint any
more for that day, but on the morrow we
would have another and longer sitting for
the portrait. She begged me to let her
know if there was anything I cared for
particularly, in order that she might order
it for me.

The Empress Dowager then dined alone,
after which the young Empress and the
princesses led me into the throne-room,
and we dined at her Majesty's table, her
seat being left vacant. The young Em-
press occupied the place at the left of this
vacant seat, and had me on her left. When
we had finished dinner, at which the young
Empress and the ladies were most con-
siderate of me, seeming to try to make me
feel at ease, we went up to take our leave
of the Empress Dowager. After this was
accomplished, we left the throne-room and
made our adieus to the young Empress
and princesses, and left the imperial in-
closure for the palace of the Emperor's
father, which her Majesty had set aside



for the use of the Ladies Yu-Keng and
myself while I was at work on the portrait.



PERSONAL APPEARANCE OF THE EMPRESS
DOWAGER— A CHINESE REPAST— BOATING

I WAS eager to be off the next morning,
to have the promised long sitting from her
Majesty. The sitting of the day before
had only whetted my desire for further
work on the portrait. When we arrived
within the precincts, we met the Empress
Dowager and the Emperor coming out of
the great audience-hall from their joint
audience. When her Majesty saw us she
stopped, as did the whole train of her at-
tendant ladies and eunuchs. She called
me up to her side, took my hand, and
asked me how I had rested' and whether
I felt ready for work. This question
showed her penetration, for she had seen
the day before, from my eagerness and the
breathless haste with which I used every
moment, that my work was my first object,
and she smiled when she put the query. I
walked along by her side from the audi-
ence-hall to the throne-room where I had
begun the portrait of the day before.
When we reached the throne-room, she
was divested of her official garments, took
a cup of tea, and called one of her tiring-
women to bring her the dress and orna-
ments worn the day before, and she pre-
pared to sit for me the second time.

At this second sitting I looked at the
Empress Dowager critically. I feared that
the agreeable impression of her and of her
personal appearance that I had formed the
day before had probably been too hasty,
the result of the unusual glamour in which
I had begun the portrait. I thought per-
haps the Oriental environment had dazzled
me and prevented my seeing the Empress
Dowager as she really was, and I looked
forward to a disillusion. As she sat there
upon the throne, before she was quite
ready for me to begin, before she had
transfixed me with her penetrating glance,
before she knew I was looking at her, I
scanned her person and face with all the
penetration I could bring to bear, and this
is what I saw :

A perfectly proportioned figure, with
head well set upon her shoulders and
a fine presence; really beautiful hands,
daintily small and high-bred in shape ; a



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symmetrical, well-formed head, with a
good development above the rather large
ears; jet-black hair, smoothly parted over
a fine, broad brow; delicate, well-arched
eyebrows ; brilliant black eyes, set perfectly
straight in the head; a high nose of the
type the Chinese call " noble," broad be-
tween the eyes and on a line with the
forehead ; an upper lip of great firmness ;
a rather large but beautiful mouth, with
mobile red hps, which, when parted over
her firm white teeth, gave her smile a rare
charm ; a strong chin, but not of exagge-
rated firmness, and with no marks of ob-
stinacy.^ Had I not known she was nearing
her sixty-ninth year, I should have thought
her a well-preserved woman of forty.
Being a widow, she used no cosmetics.
Her face had the natural glow of health,
and one could see that exquisite care and
attention were bestowed upon everything
concerning her toilet. Personal neatness
and an excellent taste in the choice of be-
coming colors and ornaments enhanced
this wonderfully youthful appearance, and
a look of keen interest in her surroundings
and remarkable intelligence crowned all
these physical qualities and made an un-
usually attractive personality.

When I was so far in my study of her
appearance, the Empress Dowager had
finished speaking to her attendants, had
settled herself to her satisfaction on the
throne, and she tm-ned to me and asked
what part of the portrait I was to work
on. I had been told she would be much
pleased if I would paint in the face.
Thinking it was important to please her
at the outset, instead of advancing and
perfecting the drawing of the whole figure,
as I should have done, I began on the

1 In the firmament of the Son of Heaven
A brilliant new star has risen I—
Sapple as the neck of the swan,
Is the charm of her graceful form.

From the firm contour of charming chin
Springs the faultless oval of her fair face,
Crowned by the harmonious arch
Of a broad and noble brow.

The stately profile, chiseled clear,
Is dominated by the pure line of noble nose.
Straight and slender and singularly mobile,
Sensitive to all the impressions of the soul.

Dewy lips with gracious curves
Are the portals of a dainty mouth,
Where often blooms the sweet flower
Of a most alluring smile.



face ; first correcting the drawing as far as
possible and then putting in a thin wash
of color. During the sitting the ladies,
attendants, and eunuchs were coming and
going. She took tea and conversed, but
seemed to understand that she must keep
her head in the same position, and she
would look over apologetically at me when
she moved it. I did not wish her to be
stiff, and preferred her moving a little to
sitting like a statue. Her Majesty, like all
Oriental ladies, smokes, and during the
sitting the eunuchs or some of the prin-
cesses brought her either the graceful
water-pipe, of which she would take a few
whiffs, or she would indulge in European
cigarettes. She never allowed the latter to
touch her lips, but used a long cigarette-
holder. She was extremely graceful in her
use of both the cigarette and water-pipe.

After little more than an hour's work
her Majesty decided that enough had been
done for tiie morning and that we both
needed rest. She came over to look at the
face, and it was easy to see that she liked
it much better now that the color was
being put in. She stood behind me, dis-
cussing it for some time, and said she
wished it were possible for some one else
to pose for the face, so that she might sit
and watch it grow. She thought it very
wonderful that on the flat canvas the relief
of the face could be represented. She then
turned to me and said she knew I must be
tired both mentally and bodily, as I stood
at my work, advised me to go to my pa-
vilion, have lunch, and rest, and added
that she would try to give me another
sitting in the afternoon before we went
out for some sort of promenade.

I returned to my pavilion with the

Her face is lit by black and sparkling eyes,
Whose flames, in hours of ease,
With oblique caress, envelop and thrill
That happy mortal allowed to see.

When stern circumstance demands.
Her graceful form an attitude of flrmness takes.
The soft glow of her brilliant eyes
Grows penetrating and holds one with proud
authority.

O beauty Supreme! O brilliant Star

Shining but for the Son of Heaven!

From thy glowing soul radiate

Love, daring, hope, intellect, ambition, power!

From a Chinese poet — written at a time when

the Empress Dowager was twenty-five years

old.



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Ladies Yu-Keng, whom her Majesty had
appointed to keep me company for the
meals in my own quarters. There was a
young Manchu girl at court, whose father
had been an attach^ at Berlin, who spoke
German and English ; she, also, had been
ordered by her Majesty to take her meals
with us, so that I might have pleasant
company and be able to converse in my
own language and have proper relaxation
during my meals. Besides, I did not know
enough Chinese to direct the servants or
make my wants known, and these ladies
were her Majesty's interpreters.

The meals at the palace were all of the
most lavish description, twenty or thirty
dishes being placed upon the table at the
beginning of the meal, while macaroni,
rice, and a few other things were served
from a side table. The Chinese are passed
masters in the culinary art, and the deli-
cacies seen at good Chinese tables are fit
for a repast of Lucullus. Sharks' fins, deers'
sinews, birds' tongues, rare fish, bird's-nest
soups, fish brains, shrimps' eggs, and many
other extraordinary dishes, make up the
every-day menu. No one can cook goose,
duck, and, in fact, all fowls and game, to
such perfection as -the Chinese. Their
soups are of a delicacy and flavor quite
unequaled. Their bread and cakes seem
to the foreigner, at first, the least delecta-
ble of their viands. Their bread particu-
larly, which is steamed instead of baked,
is not tempting ; but when one gets over, or,
rather, through, the raw-looking outside,
with its five cochineal spots surmounting
its pyramidal form, it is very sweet and
wholesome. It is made of gray flour, as
the Chinese do not believe in whitening
the flour as we do. They make delicious
creams, as to consistency ; and these and
their sweets generally are much esteemed
by foreigners.

At the palace th€ food is served in tall
dishes of painted Chinese porcelain, and
everything is placed upon the table at once
—soups, roast, sweets, all except the rice
and macaroni. These latter dishes the
Chinese eat boiling hot, and they are kept
on chafing-dishes until served. Each per-
son has a bowl, a small saucer, and a pair
of chop-sticks. A small square of very
soft cloth is used as a napkin. There is
never any salt upon the table. The small
saucer at the side of each guest contains a
very salty sauce; if extra salt is needed.



this sauce is used. The Chinese consider
powdered salt too coarse for seasoning
food after it is cooked.

They rarely drink at naeals, and when
they do, only tiny cups, about the size of
a liqueur-glass, of heated wine. This is
poured out of silver teapots, and is kept
hot by being placed in receptacles con-
taining boiling water. Their wines are
more like liqueurs than ours ; they are gen-
erally distilled with flowers and herbs and
have a deUghtful "bouquet." Some of
these wines have most poetic names, such
as "dew from the early morning rose,"
and "drops from the hands of Buddha."
The Chinese never drink cold water, nor
do they take tea at meals. For me, being
a foreigner, champagne was always pro-
vided, as well as claret or Burgundy. The
Chinese do not drink coffee. After leaving
the table, they take tea without milk or
sugar.

The middle of the day is set aside for
the siesta, and during the heat of the sum-
mer every one goes to her apartments for
two hours after luncheon. As I found the
Chinese bed-cushions too hard to rest well
upon, I took to my pavilion a foreign,
eiderdown cushion, which I used for sev-
eral days, until one day, on going to my
room, I found two lovely new cushions
with pale-blue, removable silk slips. On
touching them, I found them to be soft,
and deliciously cool and flagrant as well.
They were made of tea-leaves, and had
been sent as a present from the Empress
Dowager. I found them a great improve-
ment over eiderdown or feather cushions,
especially for summer use. Though I did
not care for this long midday rest, I was
forced to go to my room and remain there,
as there was nothing else to do.

When her Majesty awakes, the news
flashes like an electric spark through all
the precincts and over the whole inclosure,
and every one is on the qui vive in a mo-
ment. The young Empress and the prin-
cesses go up to her Majesty's throne-room
to be present at her ia)er. When her after-
noon toilet is made, the Empress Dowager
comes out of her private apartments into
the throne-room and generally partakes of
some light refreshment, or drinks a cup of
tea or some fruit-juice.

She gave me a short sitting after her
nap this second day, and then ordered the
boats for a row on the lake. Attended by



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817



the young Empress and princesses, and
with the usual train of attendants and eu-
nuchs, we went out into the court of the
throne-room, and passed through a small
pavilion opening directly upon the beau-
tiful white marble terrace, with its quaintly
carved marble balustrade, which stretches
all along the southern side of the lake.
Her Majesty's own barge lay at the foot
of the marble steps, and numbers of other
barges and boats lay aroimd, forming a
little fleet. She descended the steps and
entered the barge. The young Empress,
princesses, and ladies followed. Her
Majesty sat in the yellow, throne-like chair
in the middle of the raised platform of
the barge. The young Empress, princesses,
and ladies took their places as decreed
by centviries-old tradition. They sat upon
cushions placed upon the carpeted floor
of the raised platform of the barge.

When I stepped on, her Majesty mo-
tioned me to come near her and sit at her
right. The young Empress was on her
left. Several of the high eunuchs stood
at the back of the Empress Dowager's
chair with her extra wraps, bonbons, ciga-
rettes, water-pipes, etc. There were two
rowers on the barge, who stood with their
long oars to guide it, for it was attached
by great yellow ropes to two boats, manned
by twenty-four rowers each, and was towed
along by them. Only the eunuchs of the
highest rank, her Majesty's personal at-
tendants, went on the barge with her, and
the two boatmen simply guided it. All
the palace boatmen stand to their oars,
for they cannot sit in the presence of her
Majesty, even though not upon the im-
perial barge. And it is only on the barge
that the Empress and ladies sit in the
presence of the Empress Dowager without
being invited by her to do so.

A number of flatboats followed the im-
perial barge with the army of eunuchs that
go to make up the train of their Majesties
when they move about the palace or
grounds. One boat carried portable stoves
and all the necessary arrangements for
making tea. As this is taken so frequently
by her Majesty and the ladies, it may be
called for at any time.

We were rowed across the lake to one
of the islands, and when we looked back
at the palaces, the memorial arches, the
temple-crowned hills, the curious camel-
back bridges, and the beautiful white



marble terraces jutting out into the lake
with its islands, the scene was indeed fairy-
like. We were then rowed into a field of
beautiful lotus-flowers, and her Majesty
ordered some pulled by the eunuchs to be
given to the ladies. She seemed delighted
at my sincere admiration of this beautiful
water-plant, so dear to the Chinese. After
an hour on the lake, we were rowed back



Online LibraryA. B. (Alfred Barton) RendleThe Century → online text (page 100 of 120)