China Makes Expiation For The Death Of Baron Von Ketteler
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
MISSION of expiation was sent by the Emperor of China to the Emperor of Germany during the summer of 1901, to make atonement for the murder of Baron Von Ketteler, in Pekin, during the Boxer uprising. Prince Chun, the brother of the Emperor, was the chief envoy. Accompanied by the new Chinese minister, Kien-Chang and General Von Hoepfner, he rode in an imperial carriage to the palace. Following were four other carriages containing the Chinese dignitaries of the envoy's suite. The Prince, on going to the audience, passed through Jasper gallery, between lines of guards. In the mean-while a guard of honor had been drawn up outside the palace, and presented arms, with the band playing. The Envoy passed down the lines of troops, saluting in Chinese fashion, with folded hands. The Prince was led to the throne-room, and the six Chinese dignitaries of the highest rank, who were halted in the ante-room, remained motionless and speechless, awaiting Prince Chun's return with evident anxiety.
Assembled in the throne-room were the royal princes, Baron Von Richthofen, the principal ministers and generals and the court dignitaries. Prince Chun read the following letter, written in yellow ink :
"The Great Emperor of the Chinese Empire to His Majesty the Great German Emperor, Greeting:
" Ever since the empires have been mutually represented by permanent legations, we have stood uninterrupted in friendly relationship with one another, especially since the visit of Prince Henry, whom I had the privilege of receiving frequently and treating with on intimate terms. Unfortunately, in the fifth month of last year, the Boxers rebelliously penetrated into Pekin, and the soldiers joined them. The result was the murder of your Majesty's minister, Baron Von Ketteler, a man who, as long as he occupied his post at Pekin, paid careful attention to the interests of your countries, and to whom we are bound to pay our especial acknowledgments. We regret most deeply that Baron von Ketteler met so terrible an end among us. The fact that we were not in a position to take due protective measures was painful to our sense of responsibility. It was this feeling of responsibility which prompted us to erect a monument on the spot, as a sign that the crime should not remain unexpiated. Further, we have sent to Germany, with this letter, the Imperial Prince Chun Tsai Fong, heading a special mission. Prince Shun, our own brother, will assure your Majesty how deeply the events of the last year have grieved us, and how deeply feelings of penitence and shame still animate us. Your Majesty sent your troops from a far distance, put down the Boxers' rebellion and restored peace, for the welfare of our nation. We have therefore commanded Prince Chun to ex-press personally to your Majesty our thanks for your efforts in promoting peace. We cherish the hope that your Majesty's indignation will be replaced by the old friendship. That the relations between our empires will be even more extensive and of a more intimate and beneficent character than hitherto, is our firm assurance."
Prince Chun, in delivering the letter, said:
" I am in a position to assure your Majesty that the Emperor, my most gracious master, stood aloof from these complications which brought misfortune upon China and loss and care upon Germany. Nevertheless, in accordance with the customs of thousands of years, the Emperor of China has taken the blame on his own sacred person. I have, therefore, the task of expressing to your Majesty the most cordial feelings of the Emperor, my illustrious master, toward your Imperial Majesty and the whole Imperial family. I hope the passing cloud will only intensify the succeeding sunshine and mutual friendship of the two great empires when they understand the value of each other better."
Emperor William in reply, said :
" It is no joyous or festive occasion, nor the fulfilment of a simple act of courtesy which brings your Imperial Highness to me, but a deeply melancholy and very serious event. My minister to the court of the Emperor of China has been slain in the capital of China by the murderous weapon of an imperial Chinese soldier, acting under superior command—an unheard of crime, which is branded as infamous by international law and by the usages of all nations. From the mouth of your Imperial Highness I have just received an expression of the deep regret of the Emperor of China. I readily believe your imperial brother personally stood aloof from this crime and the subsequent acts of violence against the inviolable legations and peaceful foreigners. All the greater the guilt resting on his advisers and government. The latter must not delude themselves with the belief that they are able to obtain atonement and pardon for their guilt by the expiatory mission alone. They will be judged by their future conduct, in accordance with the laws of nations. If the Emperor of China conducts the government of his great empire henceforth strictly in the spirit of these prescriptions, then will his hopes be fulfilled and the results of the complications of the last year will be overcome, and between Germany and China, as formerly, peaceful and friendly relations will again prevail. In the sincere wish that this may be so, I bid your Imperial Highness welcome."
The Kaiser received him seated. The buttons and epaulettes of his Majesty's white uniform were covered with crape.
Emperor William remained seated during the reading of the Chinese address. Afterward, however, he relaxed his stern demeanor and welcomed the envoy courteously, and subsequently, accompanied by his adjutant, he called upon Prince Chun at the Orangery. Later in the evening the Emperor, Prince Chun and a dozen members of the mission took tea on an island in the Havel.
The Emperor had evidently arranged the entire ceremony with a view of impressing Prince Chun with the feeling that the ceremony meant expiation for a foul crime, and that only through expiation had Prince Chun acquired the right to be treated with princely honors. Not until after the ceremony did the atmosphere change. Then, the troops outside having saluted, and the band having played, hussars escorted Prince Chun back to the Orangery.
It is one of the deepest instincts of the human soul that sin ought to be punished, that it will be punished. Since the earliest times men have offered sacrifice to the gods, to atone for sin ; during patriarchal times these sacrifices were offered to Jehovah. By divine appointment during the mosaic dispensation, these offerings became an important part of the divine service. They typified the Spotless " Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world."
The mission of expiation was only a faint type of the atonement which Christ made for the sins of the world. Had the German Emperor taken the Crown Prince and offered him as a sacrifice by an ignominious death, to bring about harmony between the Chinese and German Empires, there would have been more nearly a picture of the harmony brought about between the human heart and the Divine Government by the death of Christ on the Cross.