THE author of the following narrative has peculiar qualifications for her task. She is a daughter of Lord Yu Keng, a member of the Manchu White Banner Corps, and one of the most advanced and progressive Chinese officials of his generation. Lord Yu Keng entered the army when very young, and served in the Taiping rebellion and the Formosan war with France, and as Vice Minister of War during the China-Japan war in 1895. Later he was Minister to Japan, which post he quitted in 1898 to become President of the Tsung-li-yamen (Chinese Foreign Office). In 1899 he was appointed Minister to France, where he remained four years. At a period when the Chinese Government was extremely conservative and reactionary, Lord Yu Keng labored indefatigably for reform. He was instrumental in reorganizing China's postal service on modern lines, but failed in efforts to revise the revenue system and modernize the army and navy, from being ahead of his times. He died in 1905. The progressive spirit of Lord Yu Keng was shown in the education of his children. When it became known that his daughters were receiving a foreign education -- then an almost unheard -- of proceeding among high Manchu officials-attempts were made to impeach him as pro-foreign and revolutionary, but he was not deterred. His children got their early education in missionary schools, and the daughters later attended a convent in France, where the author of this work finished her schooling and entered society. On returning to China, she became First Lady-in-Waiting to the Empress Dowager, and while serving at the Court in that capacity she received the impressions which provide the subject-matter of this book. Her opportunity to observe and estimate the characteristics of the remarkable woman who ruled China for so long was unique, and her narrative throws a new light on one of the most extraordinary personalities of modern times. While on leave from her duties to attend upon her father, who was fatally ill in Shanghai, Princess Der Ling took a step which terminated connexion with the Chinese Court. This was her engagement to Mr. Thaddeus C. White, an American, to whom she was married on May 21, 1907. Yielding to the urgent solicitation of friends, she consented to put some of her experiences into literary form, and the following chronicle, in which the most famous of Chinese women, the customs and atmosphere of her Court are portrayed by an intimate of the same race, is a result.

SHANGHAI, July 24, 1911. first chapter