Translations of the Peking Gazette Online
Complied by Lane J. Harris, Furman University
Translations of the Peking Gazette Online is a comprehensive database of approximately 8,500 pages of English-language renderings of official edicts and memorials from the Qing dynasty that cover China’s long nineteenth century from the Macartney Mission in 1793 to the abdication of the last emperor in 1912. As the mouthpiece of the government, the Peking Gazette is the authoritative source for information about the Manchu state and its Han subjects as they collectively grappled with imperial decline, re-engaged with the wider world, and began mapping the path to China’s contemporary rise.
The Peking Gazette was a unique publication that allows contemporary readers to explore the contours, boundaries, and geographies of modern Chinese history. Contained within its pages are the voices of Manchu emperors, Han officials, gentry leaders, and peasant spokesmen as they discussed and debated the most important political, social, and cultural movements, trends, and events of their day. As such, the Gazette helps us understand the policies and attitudes of the emperors, the ideas and perspectives of the officials, and the mentality and worldviews of several hundred million Han, Mongol, Manchu, Muslim, and Tibetan subjects of the Great Qing Empire.
The dozens of British scholars, missionaries, and consular officials who created this treasure trove of translated Qing documents did so for variety of different reasons. Robert Morrison (1782-1834), the first Protestant missionary to China, honed his classical Chinese by translating the Gazette in preparation for his rendering of the Bible; Sir John Francis Davis (1795-1890), the future governor of Hong Kong, translated the Gazette for the East India Company in Canton during the height of the opium trade; the missionaries Walter Henry Medhurst and William C. Milne, by contrast, sought to understand the Christian-inspired Taiping Civil War (1851-64) by studying and translating the Gazette; the majority of the translators, however, served on the staff of the British consulate in Beijing and followed the lead of Sir Thomas Francis Wade (1818-1895), who decoded the Gazette as a form of intelligence gathering for the British government and published them for the global reading public.
Culled from a variety of publications, including the Indo-Chinese Gleaner, the Canton Register, the Chinese Repository, and the North China Herald, this full-text searchable database is the largest, most comprehensive collection of Peking Gazettes, in Chinese or English, in the world. It contains vital information on a wide range of topics, including the Opium War and other military conflicts between China and the West, the Taiping Rebellion and other peasant insurrections, the Self-Strengthening Movement and other Qing reform efforts, and thousands upon thousands of official documents that contain information about the mundane details of everyday life in nineteenth-century China and thrilling accounts of unprecedented events in late imperial times. There is no better source for readers who want to understand the interplay of complex political themes, social movements, and cultural ideas in late imperial China.
This database has been compiled by Dr. Lane J. Harris, Furman University. Dr. Harris would like to thank the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland for permission to reproduce the translations by John Francis Davis; the British Library for permission to include portions of their copy of The Cycle: A Political and Literary Review; and the Center for Research Libraries for their assistance in acquiring microfilm versions of the North China Herald, the Canton Register, and the China Mail.
As a special feature of this database, it is accompanied by a primary sourcebook, available through separate purchase, entitled The Peking Gazette: A Reader in Nineteenth-Century Chinese History by Dr. Harris. The reader contains scholarly introductions to thematic chapters organized around the most important events and themes in modern Chinese history for use in undergraduate and graduate classes.