= Extremely rare cartes-de-visite of the officials and language students of the first Chinese diplomatic mission in history to the western civilization. SIGNED (by themselves?) in pen and ink on verso and each dated "1866", "Feng-yih attaché a la mission de china 8th June 1866", "Têh-Ming [also in chinese characters]", "Yen-Houée à Peking". Chang Te-i (or Zhang Deyi) (1847-1919) later became the Chinese minister to England from 1901 to 1905.
K. BIGGERSTAFF, The First Chinese Mission of Investigation Sent to Europe (Pacific Historical review, Vol. 6, no.4, Dec. 1937): "With the establishment of foreign legations in Peking for the first time, the creation of a Chinese Foreign Office, and the founding of the first Chinese government school for the teaching of foreign languages, the T'ung Wên Kuan, all of which took place during the years 1861-1862, a new era began in the relations between China and the West. For almost a century foreigners trading in South China had chafed under restrictions placed upon them by the Chinese, and all attempts made by Western nations to obtain from the Chinese government fairer treatment of these traders or even recognition of the equality of their diplomatic and consular representatives with local Chinese officials had met with rebuff (...). The struggle actually reached the stage of armed hostility on several occasions, and the issue was not finally settled until 1860, when China was completely humbled and her armies defeated by a combined British and French force which destroyed the Imperial Summer Palace and forced the capitulation of Peking itself (...). The Chinese Foreign Office, however, soon realized that general knowledge about the treaty powers was also needed if the newly established relations with them were to be peaceful. (....) the Chinese government was almost completely ignorant both of the actual strength of the countries with which it had to deal and of the direction their policies with regard to China were likely to take. In an effort to secure such information the Ministers of the Foreign Office frequently took council with Anson Burlingame and Sir Frederick Bruce, the first American and British ministers to be stationed in Peking; with Robert Hart, the Inspector-General of the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs; with W. A. P. Martin, a teacher in and later the president of the T'ung Wen Kuan; and with other foreigners whom they trusted. And even though the students of the T'ung Wen Kuan were assigned the task of keeping the Foreign Office supplied with translations of significant articles selected from foreign-language news-papers, the Ministers still felt that they were inadequately informed. However, when early in 1866 Robert Hart obtained leave of absence to return to his home in Ireland for a brief rest, proposing at the same time that a few of the students of the T'ung Wen Kuan who had shown some proficiency in English and French be sent with him to observe conditions in Europe, the Ministers of the Foreign Office eagerly accepted the suggestion, considering it an excellent opportunity to secure the information desired. Since the students were of low official rank no embarrassing questions regarding diplomatic etiquette would be raised, nor would there be need for an expensive entourage; yet it would be possible for them to investigate European conditions and "make a record of the geographical aspects and manners and customs of all the countries through which they [might] pass..." Three students were chosen to go: Feng I, who was a member of the Mongol division of the Plain Yellow banner, an official of the eighth grade, and a student in the English department of the T'ung Win Kuan; Chang Te-i' (also known as Te Ming), a member of the Chinese division of the Bordered Yellow banner, a ninth/eighth grade official, and also a student in the English department of the T'ung Wen Kuan; and Yen Hui, a member of the Chinese division of the Bordered Yellow banner and a student in the French department of the T'ung Wen Kuan (...)". They stayed i.a. at Windsor, where they met queen Victoria, and eventually visited St. Petersburg, Russia. Around the date given on the card, the 8th of June, the Chinese young men and their company visited the industrial cities Birmingham and Manchester, so perhaps these photographs were handed out as some kind of business card. No copies traced of these cartes-de-visite. See in extenso the article by Knight Biggerstaff, supplied with this lot. SEE ILLUSTRATION PLATE LX.