12 Apr 2012

Lunch meeting: The Legation quarter: 100 years of foreign presence in the heart of Peking. (Speaker: Rtn Charles Lagrange)

VP Rebecca presided over the meeting today, as President Martin was unable to attend.  Our speaker was our very own Rtn Charles Lagrange, and his topic was “The Legation Quarter: 100 years of foreign presence in the heart of Peking”.  What follows is an excerpt from his presentation, which was also distributed via e-mail to our members.

The Legation Quarter is located S.E of the Tien An Men square, and was bordered by what is today the square (to the west), Qianmen Dongdajie (to the south), Chongwenmen (to the east) and Chang’an (to the north).

In 1727, a Russian delegation was even allowed to establish a permanent mission, in addition to the church and cemetery they were already occupying inside the N.E corner of the Tartar City Wall and where the embassy is located today.

As the 1858 the Emperor did not countersign Tientsin treaty and its clauses not adhered to, French and British troops attacked Peking and ransacked the Summer palace. One of the peace treaty clauses was the authorisation for foreign powers to establish a permanent diplomatic post within the Imperial City.  The British rented the palace of Prince Su, a Manchu official who needed some additional income.  The French rented Prince Yang’s nearby palace. The Americans settled in a disused Taoist temple, right across the Russians, and the other Nations found some accommodations along the street.  The foreigners built a racecourse outside the City Wall and foreign merchants settled in the area to ensure proper supply of goods for this new cosmopolitan community.  The Boxer rebellion put an end to this peaceful life…

The 55 days siege saw the loss of 67 lives among the Foreigners, but above all, more than 3000 Chinese men, women and children.  After the siege and the occupation of Peking by foreign troops until end of 1901, the Legation Quarter was entirely rebuilt, each legation enlarged its property and the area became a dedicated diplomatic compound.

Today, the Legation Quarter kept its « exclusivity »as the Ministry of Justice, the police forces or high dignitaries of the regime, occupies most residences.  Only the American legation has been “privatised”, and the « Deutsches Lazareth » progressively became one of the most important hospital in Peking.

PP George collected HK$750 for raffle and fines.  VP Rebecca won the raffle prize: a bottle of red wine.