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Diplomatic Credentials: Diplomatic Credentials from the Ch'ing Court to France
Anonymous, Kuang-hsu Reign (1875-1908), Ch'ing dynasty (1644-1911)
34.5 x 269 cm

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Diplomatic credentials are official documents sent by the head of state, as representative of his government, to the head of another country. As instruments in international negotiations, they were sent by special emissaries. As credentials of appointment or dismissal of foreign envoys, they were presented by the envoy himself. The diplomatic credentials in the National Palace Museum collection include dispatches to the United Kingdom, France, Russia, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Japan, the Vatican, Korea, Annam, Burma, and Siam, among others. Following the Opium War and the campaign against the allied English and French forces, the Ch'ing government began to change its attitude towards foreign affairs in an attempt to adapt to the new political climate. After the Tientsin Massacre in 1870, the court sent Chung-hou, the Superintendent of Trade for the Three Northern Ports and Left Palace Attendant of the Ministry of War, to France to seek reconciliation over the incident. In 1875, the court appointed Kuo Sung-tao, the Attendant Vice Minister of War, as its envoy to Britain. In 1884, Hsu Ching-ch'eng, an expositor-in-waiting, was sent on diplomatic missions to France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Austria in the capacity of Grand Minister. In 1905, the Grand Ministers Tai Tse, Tai Hung-ts'u, Hsu Shih-ch'ang, Tuan Fang, and Shao Ying were sent to western and eastern countries on political fact-finding missions. At 10:00 a.m. on September 24 of the same year, Wu Yüeh, a member of the Revolutionary Party, attempted to assassinate the five ministers at a train station in Peking. The bomb blast wounded Tai Tse and Shao Ying and cost Wu his life. The mission was subsequently delayed and the diplomatic documents were returned to the court. On October 26 that year, the government dispatched a new mission, on which Shang Ch'i-heng, the Shantung Provincial Administrative Commissioner, and Li Sheng-tuo, the vice-magistrate of Tien-shun Prefecture joined Tai Tse, Tai Hung-ts'u and Tuan Fang of the original delegation. This document is a diplomatic credential presented by the Ch'ing court to France. It is 269cm long and 34.5cm tall, written in Manchu on the left side and in Chinese on the right in vertical running script. The document bears the imperial seal. Acting Left Vice Minster of War Hsu Shi-ch'ang, Defender Duke Tai Tse, and Left Assistant of the Board of Trade Shao Ying jointly presented the letter as a message of friendship and goodwill. It also served as mutual testimony of the delegation's visit. The letter is in album form with outer covers adorned with a double-coiling dragon-and-pearl design.
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