Lorenz LANGE (1690-1752)


Journal of the residence of Mr de Lange,

Agent of his imperial majesty of all the Russias Peter The First,

at the court of Pekin,

during the years 1721, 1722


Translated from the french, printed at Leyden by Abraham Kallewier, in MDCCXXVI,
in : John Bell, Travels from St. Petersburg, in Russia, to diverse parts of Asia, vol. 2, pages 169-321. 


Preface to the reader : This journal is a very curious and an authentic piece, and certainly merits the attention of the public, as well for its use as the novelty of the subject it treats of...

... as other differences, on the frontiers, still subsisted [entre la Chine et la Russie], the court of Russia sent again, in 1719, an envoy extraordinary to Pekin, to regulate entirely what remained to be adjusted between the two empires ; and seeing, that by means of these differences, the commerce of the caravans was much lessened, the true object of his negotiation was to re-establish that commerce ; and, to that end, to try to induce the court of China to consent to the residence of an agent, from Russia, at the court of Pekin, who might take care to watch over the affairs of the caravan, and so preserve a good understanding between the two empires. The envoy of Russia, having happily executed the last part of his commission, left, at his departure from Pekin, Mr. de Lange, as agent of Russia at the court of Pekin, who was the author of the following journal.


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1721. March

Mr. de Ismayloff, ambassador and envoy extraordinary of his Czarish Majesty, having fixed his departure from Pekin to be on the 2d of March, after having finished his negotiations at the court of China in the best manner he possibly could, I took the resolution of accompanying him to the wall of China ; but the gentlemen of the ministry thought proper to refuse me a passport ; pretending, that, as I was ordered by his Czarish Majesty to reside at the court of the Chan, it was necessary that I should have permission of the Bogdoi-Chan himself ; not only for going as far as the Grand Wall, but also, for every time that I would go to stay a night without the walls of Pekin ; to the intent, that the court might always be assured that no ill accident should happen to me, being a foreigner. And, as the Bogdoi-Chan had already quitted his residence of Pekin, to take the diversion of hunting, it was not without a good deal of trouble that I obtained permission to accompany Mr. de Ismayloff as far as Czampinsa, which is a town 60 ly  distant from Pekin, from whence I returned, being escorted by a clerk of the council for the affairs of the Mongalls, and some soldiers ; and thus came back to Pekin on the 6th.


The 2nd, according to custom, the birthday of his Majesty should have been celebrated, with the utmost magnificence, at Czchan-zchumnienne ; but, inasmuch as his Majesty was still displeased with his ministers, he only received the ordinary compliments on that occasion, without any other ceremony ; after which every body retired to their own houses. I had, among others, the honour of paying my compliments to his Majesty on that occasion. That which appeared, to me, most worthy of observation, at that time, was 3,000 old men, the youngest of which was above 60 years old ; which, by express order of the emperor, had been brought, to Pekin, from all the provinces of the empire. They were all dressed in yellow, which is the colour of the imperial liveries, and marched, in parade, to Czchan-zchumnienne, where they ranged themselves in the court of the castle, and had the honour of making their compliments to the emperor ; after which his Majesty distributed to every one, without distinction, 4 laen of silver, and sent them home....

There are at Pekin a great number of small merchants, or rather pedlars, who, as soon as they hear of any foreigners being arrived from Russia, or other parts, bring to their quarters all sorts of merchandise, which they get partly from the brokers, and partly from other houses of different sorts of people, who may have any goods which they would be willing to dispose of ; and it is often better to deal with these pedlars, for all sorts of curiosities, and for made silks, than with the shop-keepers ; for which reason I bid some of these people bring to my house, from time to time, what they should light upon most curious in its kind, whether in rich silks, or jewels, or other goods of value, to the end that I might acquire a competent knowledge of all the sorts of merchandise to be got in this city. Upon which they represented to me, that I might well believe that they fought nothing more than to gain a little money, it being their trade ; and of consequence they would not fail of doing as I desired them, if my house was occupied by different persons ; because what goods were not liked by one might find a buyer in another, and so they might probably always sell something ; but as I alone occupied the house, and had such a numerous guard at the gate, they did not know how to do it ; because, before they were permitted to enter my house, they were obliged to agree with the soldiers of the guard, how much they were to pay them on their going out ; and, whether they sold any thing or not, they were equally obliged to pay the money they agreed to for the permission of entry...


The 10th, my mandarins being come to see me, one of them took leave of me ; being, as he told me, named by the court to go, in quality of envoy, to the Delay-Lama  ; and the other gave me positive assurances, that, early the next morning, the workmen should begin to repair my quarters ; and that they had already provided the materials necessary for that purpose. In regard to my two memorials, concerning the debts above mentioned, he gave me for answer, "That the president would not receive them ; not finding it proper to meddle with such trifling things ; as he had before hand told Mr. de Ismayloff himself, that the council would absolutely not embarrass themselves with any affair of debts ; that, nevertheless, he had ordered his mandarin to press the debtors to discharge their debts, in case they were in a condition of paying such sums."

The 20th, my mandarin coming, flopped at my gate, and having learned that my apartment remained still in the same condition, he sent one of his servants to make his excuses to me, for not coming to see me ; alledging, that the great heat approaching at noon would, he feared, incommode him. But I caused him to be told, for my whole answer, "That I did not understand such a compliment ; and that I wished, with all my heart, that, in time to come, he would dispense with coming to my house at all."

Upon this answer he thought fit to come himself to me, and to complain much of the negligence of the college, which had the care of the buildings, in not adverting to the repair of my house, notwithstanding he had wrote to them, several times, on the subject, in the most pressing terms. I demanded of him, "What he believed the Czar, my master, would think of such usage as he showed me ; and, if he was not afraid, that, in time, he might be made responsible for such treatment."

But he, laughing, told me,"That there passed many other things with them, and of more importance than this was, without daring to carry complaints to the Chan, and he did not doubt but that it was the same at our court."

Nevertheless the brigadier of my guard, on being informed of the affair, went to the mandarins of that college, and threatened them with his going himself to acquaint the emperor, that, by their negligence, they contributed to the diminution of his glory in foreign countries, if they did not, without further delay, cause my house to be repaired the very next day....


The 22nd, being to go in the morning to court, the emperor sent the master of ceremonies to require of me passports for some mandarins, which were to pass the frontiers of Russia ; but, as I could well penetrate the grounds of their errand, I thought it my duty to refuse the passports demanded. Nevertheless, notwithstanding all my excuses, which I could muster up, to exempt me from giving them, the master of the ceremonies came to declare to me, in the cleared terms, the next day, which was the 23rd, "That the emperor was, at one time, resolved to send those people away, whether I would give them passports or not ; but that I ought to consider, that, in such case, I might expect an absolute denial to every thing which I might have to propose."

Which convinced me, that it was absolutely necessary for me, on this occasion, to conform to his Majesty’s pleasure, if I would retain the least hopes of succeeding in my desire of opposing the designs of the minister. For this reason,
On the 24th, when the master of the ceremonies came again to speak with me on this affair, I put into his hands a letter, addressed to the officers commandants on our frontiers, in the form he desired to have it ; to which I joined the condition, that our caravan should not be hindered from coming to Pekin directly ; and that our commissary should, on his arrival at Pekin, immediately be at liberty to begin his commerce, without being shut up, for a certain time, as had at some times been practised. The master of the ceremonies promised to speak to his Majesty about it ; who had not only the goodness to give his consent immediately, but he, at the same time, gave strict orders to the president of the council, that he should take special care that no person whatsoever should go about in any manner to interrupt the commissary in his business...


The four mandarins, deputed from the court, finding, at length, that we rather chose to have our confinement continue, than to submit to their unreasonable pretentions ; and that, on the other hand, the grand marshal of the court interested himself strongly in our favour, and would absolutely have an end of this affair, the interdict on our house was at last taken off. And,

The 2nd of this month, the council made publication, that it was permitted to all persons to come and trade with us ; but they used one piece of chicanery, which hurt us much, and really kept off all the merchants ; for when they perceived the merchants began to resort to our house, they made known to them, "That no person should carry out the least thing, of what they bought at our house, without showing it first to the four mandarins-deputies, to the end that they might take what they found proper for the use of the court."

This notification took away from the merchants all desire of trading with us ; seeing they were assured of being great sufferers if they were obliged to pass through the hands of these greedy mandarins ; which made me acquainted, more than any thing else, with the misery of the profession of a merchant in China ; who are obliged to depend on the discretion of mandarins and soldiers, who have none. But the Poyamba or grand marshal of the court, having been informed of it, had the goodness to remedy this new grievance ; ordering the mandarins not to take any thing, for the use of the court, from any other person than from the commissary. For this purpose he sent, at the same time, his steward with them, to the commissary, to tell him, "That he came with them, by order of his master, to see how much, and what sorts of merchandises these gentlemen would take, to the end that they might make him an exact report."

Whereupon they were shown the goods ; but they acted so much upon the reserve, in presence of this man, that they took in all but a very middling parcel of goods. Nevertheless, this did not prevent their repairing every day to our house, to take from the chinese merchants what goods they thought proper. And the more to counteract our trade, the ministry had represented to the emperor, that there had been brought, during many years, from year to year, into his Majesty’s magazines of fur, a much greater quantity of sables than were necessary for the consumption of the court ; and that, as this quantity augmented annually, it was better that his Majesty should order some of them to be sold, than to let them lye and spoil.

The 12th, 13th, and 14th, many chinese merchants, and other persons from the great houses, and ordinary people of Pekin, having come to our house, ventured to buy some squirrel-skins, and other goods of small value, in order to discover the true designs of the mandarins who kept themselves at our house ; they did not oppose them until they had fixed their bargains ; but, when the bargains were concluded, they signified to them, that they were not to carry out any of the things they had bought, till they should chuse the best of what they had for the court...

1722. April

The 6th of this month, I sent my interpreter, at the desire of the commissary, to the mandarins which were placed at our house on account of the caravan, and let them know, that the commissary being obliged to send one of his people with money, towards the desert, in order that the people, who had the charge of the horses of the caravan, should be enabled to put them into stables, he would, for the greater security, have occasion for some soldiers, or some others, to escort this man ; and I prayed their care of this affair. Whereupon they returned me answer, that they would make their report to the council ; for, without their orders, they could do nothing in it.

The 7th, two mandarins, accompanied by a clerk, came to bring me an answer, from the president, on this affair ; and, it being wrote on a sheet of paper, they read the same to me in the following terms. "The Allegamba having been informed yesterday, that you wanted to send a message again towards the deserts, could not but imagine that it was for some other business than that of horses, that your people made such frequent journies between the deserts and Pekin ; this gives him reason to think, that, by the help of the Mongalls, you carry on a secret intelligence between this city and Selinginsky, which may give birth to complaints and threats between the two empires ; for he is not ignorant, that the Mongalls are a people capable of engaging in such affairs, and that the Russes do not grudge money on such occasions."

I asked them thereupon, "Whether this answer was from the Allegamba, or whether it was their own composition."

Upon which they assured me, that they wrote it, word for word, the same that the Allegamba gave them ; and that it was for the same reason he would not consent to the sending the person, as desired.

After this explanation, I thought necessary, for my greater security, to desire them to acquaint the Allegamba, on my behalf, "That the precaution he took was not right to take, unless with prisoners, or unless he had any intercepted letter to produce, by which he could convict me of having sought to embroil the two empires ; that bearing, as I did, a public character, I might write, as often as I pleased, without having any occasion either of the escort, or the consent of the president ; and the same, if I had a courier to dispatch for my private affairs, as he could not prevent it without an open violence."

I sent forthwith my interpreter to the council, with the mandarins, to know the determination of this minister. But he sent me word, that he had no desire to employ the horses and the people of the army of the emperor, his master, in our service, on journies which must cause them to be at expenses for which they were not furnished by their ordinary pay. Upon which I made him the proposal of being ourselves at the expense of the people for the escort which he should grant us, and that we would also mount them on our own horses, that they might have no occasion for the emperor’s ; or, if that was still not satisfactory, I would only demand a passport, and would run the risk of sending one of our own people without an escort. But he continued firm in his denial, and would not allow of one or other of the expedients ; contenting himself with letting me know, once for all, "That he would do nothing in it."

I learnt, at the same time, from my interpreter, that they had reasoned among themselves, on this occasion, in much the following manner : These foreigners come here with their commerce, to encumber us every moment with a thousand petty affairs, pretending that they ought to be favoured, on all occasions, no more nor less than if they laid an obligation on us ; and yet, we are still to receive the first answer from them on the subject of our affairs....



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