Visit of Duke Zaize
24th May 1906

[See: C. Aylmer (ed.) ‘The Memoirs of H.A. Giles’, East Asian History 13-14
(Canberra, 1997), pp. 86-87.]

On 20th September 1905, a bomb exploded at Peking railway station, as a delegation of five Imperial Commissioners was preparing to leave on a journey to the west. Their mission was to study systems of government with a view to possible reforms in China. The bomb killed Wu Yue 吴樾, a fanatical opponent of the Manchu regime, who was carrying it, disguised as an attendant. Two of the Commissioners were injured, and the delegation was obliged to postpone its departure until 19th December 1905. Travelling via Japan to the United States, the Commissioners were received at the White House on 24th January. They left for Europe on 15th February and spent four months there, visiting Britain, France, Belgium, Italy, Germany and Russia. On their return to China they produced a report Lie guo zheng yao 列国政要 which urged the necessity of establishing constitutional government in China.

One of the Commissioners injured in the bomb attack was Zaize 载泽 (1868-1928), grandson of the Jiaqing 嘉庆 Emperor. He kept a diary during the mission, Kao cha zheng zhi ri ji 考察政治日记, which was published in 1909 and reprinted in 1986 in the series Zou xiang shi jie cong shu 走向世界丛书. In the following extract, dated Guangxu 32nd year, intercalary 4th moon 2nd day (24th May 1906), he describes his visit to Cambridge to receive an honorary doctorate.

Extract from the Diary of Zaize


午初,偕尚、汪二使率参赞柏锐乘火车,行六十馀英里,至谦伯里区大学堂。 府知事及中文教员等相迓。副校长导观藏书楼,卷轴之富,于英伦居第三。 所藏中国书一室,有七经、廿四史、诸子集之属,云为前驻华公使威妥玛所 赠。既请午宴毕,入校长室少坐,进博士绯衣,亦赠尚、汪二使以文科博士、 柏锐文科学士之号。鸣钟辟门,循次升堂。观者云集,鼓掌如雷。校长导入 坐,一博士立诵腊丁文准书,礼成而出。往观妞汉女学堂。四围环以园林, 堂舍精洁,气象淑清。自日、美历英、法观女学数十,应以此校为胜地也。 申正二刻,登车行,酉初二刻至伦敦使馆。

At 11 a.m. with Ministers Shang [Qiheng] 尚其亨 and Wang [Daxie] 汪大燮 and accompanied by Secretary Borui 柏锐, I boarded a train and travelled over 60 miles to Cambridge University. We were met by the Mayor and the Professor of Chinese. The Vice-Chancellor showed us the Library, which holds the third place in England in terms of the richness of its books. In the room where Chinese books are kept were the Seven Classics, the Twenty-four Histories and collected works of the philosophers, said to have been presented by Thomas Wade, the former Minister to China. After luncheon, we retired to the Master’s Lodge, where I was vested with the scarlet robes of a Doctor. Ministers Shang and Wang were made honorary Doctors of Letters, and Borui a Master of Arts. The door opened amid the strains of music, and we entered the hall [Senate House] in procession. Thunderous applause came from the crowds of spectators. The Chancellor conducted us to our places, and a doctor stood to recite my diploma in Latin. After the ceremony we left to visit Newnham College for women. Surrounded by gardens and woods, the college buildings are spotlessly clean and possess an aura of purity and chastity. I have viewed dozens of women’s academies on our travels through Japan, America, England and France, but this was the finest. Boarding the train at 4.30 p.m., we reached the Embassy in London at 5.30.

Extract from the Memoirs of H.A. Giles

On 2 April I went to a lunch at the Mansion House to meet the Duke Tsai Tsê and the Imperial Commissioners who had been sent on a mission for the purpose of studying the details of representative Government; and on 24 May the Duke, the Chinese Minister, and the Commissioners with their suite, came down to Cambridge, where honorary degrees were conferred, previous to which they were entertained at lunch by the Vice-Chancellor, who asked me to make a speech to them on his behalf in Chinese. This I did, as follows:-

‘His Majesty, the Emperor of China, has dispatched your Imperial Highness and your Excellencies the Imperial High Commissioners, over many thousand leagues of ocean, to investigate the government, laws, education, and such institutions of the Far West. Great indeed is your responsibility, and difficult it will be to fulfil your mission in such a way as to satisfy the desire of his Majesty, the Emperor. Cambridge, ever since the days of the Mongol Dynasty, now more than six hundred years ago, has always been a famous centre for the cultivation of learning, and has now no fewer than three thousand students upon her books. That your Imperial Highness and your Excellencies should have paid this visit to Cambridge is a source of much gratification to the Vice-Chancellor, who now calls upon all present to drink the health of your Imperial Highness, and of their Excellencies the Chinese Minister and the Imperial Commissioners, in the fervent hope that from this date henceforth the sovereigns of our respective countries, the officials, and the people of those countries, may live in amity with one another.’

I took some trouble with the composition of this speech which I learnt by heart, but was careful to carry with me the Chinese text in my pocket. [A copy of the Chinese text is in my scrap-book.] I was reassured immediately after the function by receiving whispered congratulations from Mr Byron Brenan, C.M.G., who came with the Duke and is well known himself to be an excellent speaker of Chinese. Our Librarian told me afterwards that he had asked one of the Commissioners, through an interpreter, if he had understood what I had said, and was surprised to receive an enthusiastically affirmative answer. So ignorant is the general public in this country of recent advances in Chinese studies, or indeed of anything at all about China and her people.

A curious point in connexion with this function was that although Cambridge got in its invitation to the Duke before the Oxford authorities, the latter University managed to arrange that the first visit for the conferment of degrees should be to Oxford. The Nemesis of haste, due to professional jealousy, came with no lagging foot. The Oxford authorities, under the guidance of Professor Bullock, made the serious diplomatic blunder of leaving out the Chinese Minister, an error which they had to repair by afterwards asking the Minister down to receive an Honorary Degree all by his lonesome self.

An amusing incident occurred while I was driving in the Mayor’s carriage round the Backs with the Duke and the Chinese Minister. As we passed the horse-pond a number of children began to cheer wildly. ‘They are calling us’, said the Duke to the Minister, ‘foreign devils.’

The official record of the ceremony includes the Latin oration whose apposite references were clearly inspired by Giles:

Extract from the Cambridge University Reporter, 29 May 1906 (Notes from Orationes et epistolae Cantabrigienses (1876-1909), London, Macmillan, 1910, 197-198.)

A second Congregation was held at 3 P.M.

The Public Orator [John Edwin Sandys] spoke as follows in presenting His Imperial Highness, the Duke Tsai Tse, and His Excellency the Chinese Minister, Wang Tahsieh, for the honorary degree of Doctor of Law; His Excellency the High Commissioner, Shang Chi-heng, for that of Doctor of Letters; and the Secretary of the Commission, the Honourable Po Jui, for that of Master of Arts.

Imperii Sinensis inter legatos insignes, Imperatoris consobrinum illustrem, virum genere antiquo et nobili oriundum, qui, velut alter Anacharsis, gentium exterarum institutis explorandis designatus, ad litora nostra nuper feliciter advectus est, Academiae totius nomine ea qua par est observantia iubemus salvere. Abhinc annos plus quam sexcentos, quo tempore Collegiorum nostrorum omnium antiquissimum conditum est, Mongolorum imperium inter Sinenses nuper constitutum atque confirmatum fuisse constat [1]. Etiam tempore illo sacro, ex quo saeculi nostri anni numerantur, in tellure illa antiqua vigebat ratio fere eadem doctrinae et probandae et exornandae, quae, in imperii illius tot ministris per annos plurimos examinandis et tum demum eligendis, adhuc conservatur. Nos interim Socratis praeceptum, vitam examinationis expertem homini non esse vivendam [2], iuventuti quidem Academicae commendamus, senectuti autem nostrae tormenta tam severa condonamus. Atqui Sinensium sapientiam antiquam etiam nosmet ipsi admiramur; librorum Sinensium bibliotheca nostra, a legato insigni olim comparata [3], quamquam opera quaedam insignia desiderantur, tamen occidentales saltem inter orbis terrarum regiones locum primum obtinere perhibetur. Ceterum, neque occidentali neque orientali tantum in regione, sed in toto terrarum orbe sapientes omnes doctrinae amore communi inter sese sunt coniuncti. Occidentali quidem in orbis regione, operis praeclari in ipso limine, dixit olim Aristoteles, omnes homines sciendi desiderium habere a natura insitum [4]. Orientali vero in tellure, libri sui celeberrimi in eodem loco, affirmavit Confucius, nihil esse pulchrius quam discere, atque ea quae didiceris, vitae in usum convertere [5]. Orbis autem in utraque parte, nihil praestantius dici potest, quam philosophi eiusdem verba illa, generis humani amoris plenissima:- in orbe terrarum toto sumus omnes fratres [6].

Animi nostri fraterni in testimonium praesento vobis Ducem illustrem, TSAI TSE, Imperii Sinensis inter Britannos legatus illustris.

Incedit proximus, vir litterarum et philosophiae in studiis praeclarus, WANG TAHSIEH, Imperatoris Sinensis inter Britannos legatus illustris.

Sequitur deinceps vir insignis, SHANG CHI-HENG, Imperii Sinensis e legatis extraordinariis unus.

Seriem claudit PO JUI, vir eximius, legationis euisdem litteris conscribendis praepositus.


[1] Capital of Kublai Khan established at Peking, 1264.

[2] Plato, Apology 38 A.

[3] Sir Thomas Wade.

[4] Aristotle, Metaphysics i 1.

[5] ‘To acquire knowledge, and (as occasion demands) to put it into practice, is that not delightful?’ [学而时习之,不亦说乎。] Confucian Analects , I 1.

[6] ‘If the superior man is careful of his own conduct, while treating others with a respectful propriety, - then all within the Four Seas will be brothers.’ [君子敬而无失,与人恭而有礼;四海之内, 皆兄弟也。] ib. XII 5. This rendering (due to Professor Giles) shows that one of the popular versions, followed in the text here, is not precise.


Duke Zaize (right) accompanied by Dr. H.M. Butler, Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University (centre) and others, during his visit to Cambridge on 24th May 1906. The party has just entered Senate House Yard; in the background can be seen the ivy-clad wall of Caius College. (From a contemporary postcard issued by the local firm of J.P. Gray & Son.)


The Chinese Room at Cambridge University Library, as prepared for the visit of Duke Zaize on 24th May 1906. On the blackboard are verses in the hand of H.A. Giles:


(王粲《七哀诗》see《文选》(北京, 1977), 卷23, p.329)

A lovely land ... I could not bear,
If not mine own, to linger there.


(薛道衡 see《先秦汉魏南北朝诗》(北京, 1983), p.2686)

If home with the wild geese of autumn we're going,
Our hearts will be off ere the spring flowers are blowing.

(Photograph by Mr W.F. Dunn of Cambridge University Library, from ‘The Chinese Library at Cambridge’, Adversaria Sinica 7 (1909), p.207).