Stories of the Missions of the Church: Journey in China by Lord McCartney

Inventory Number: 23780

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This volume is an account of the trip of the English ambassador Lord Macartney who, appointed by King George III, traveled to the Chinese imperial court of Emperor Qian Long as well as countries of the tartars. This is the first Italian translation published in Venice and is followed by a second edition in Florence.

The voyage (1792-94) had a primarily commercial objective, but it did not have a positive outcome. The Chinese emperor considered the economic conditions proposed by the English inappropriate, and the British delegates sparked a series of diplomatic “incidents” when they refused to perform the kou tou (beating the forehead against the earth numerous times as a sign of prostration in front of the emperor).

In his response letter to George III, the Chinese emperor, “sovereign of the most expansive realm on earth, self-sufficient and not a subject of the west,” maintained an arrogant tone that completely precluded any possibility of agreements. “Were I obliged to carry the entire world, I would select just one goal: maintain an ideal government and compete the duties of my rank.  Unknown and expensive objects do not interest me. If I gave orders for the gifts offered by you as a sign of homage to be accepted, this was only with consideration to the spirit with which you sent them from so far away. As your ambassador can notice of a person, we here have all kinds of products. I do not recognize the value of strange and clever objects, and I do not see any reason for the use of products of your industry.”

Sir George Leonard Staunton (April 10, 1737- January 14, 1801), a botanist, was employed by the East India Company. He served as secretary during the mission to the Chinese imperial court and was entrusted with the first draft of the final report. The document material was comprised of the memories of Lord Maccauley and of Sir Erasmus Gower, who were placed at the head of the expedition. The illustrations were completed by Sir Joseph Banks, President of the Royal Society.