The carriage had stopped inside
the Meridian Gate. The square was filled with imperial guards and
foot soldiers. Something was happening. Heather was unaccustomed to
such military presence and felt extremely frightened and overwhelmed.
One of the Guards of Honor saw them standing gazing in amazement at
the palace and approached the carriage.
Ni jiao shenme mingzi (What is your name?)
Sir. I am Mr. Buchanan and this is my daughter Heather. We are here
at the request of his highness Emperor Ch`ung-chen.
The guard turns and motions to three soldiers to come
to the carriage. Three foot soldiers run over and the guard instructs
them to take the baggage to the guest quarters. They bow and quickly
grab the luggage off of the top of the carriage and from the rear.
One of the soldiers glimpses over at Heather and smiles. She returns
his gesture. The Guard of Honor speaks to her father in Chinese. She
can hear portions of the conversations. The guard explained that he
was going to escort them to the Grand Secretaryís office.
Come Heather. We are being taken to the Grand Secretary. Do not say
a word unless spoken to. Remember?
Of course Father. Not one word.
Heather and her father follow
the imperial guard. She is in awe of the grand palace. She gathers
her skirts and walks briskly towards the Palace of Heavenly Purity.
They go into the rear of the building and are met by two grand looking
but very dangerous palace eunuchs. The Guard of Honor announces them
and the guards lower there broad swords to allow them to pass. Heather
glances at her father and notices that he appears terribly worried.
Her knees begin to shake and she feels nauscious. They are led to
the Grand Secretaryís chambers and are instructed to wait inside and
not to leave. After seeing the eunuchs it is very much understood
that one slip and they would both be in deep trouble. No one was going
frail man with a very traditional long wirey beard and moustache
and a very odd looking hat)
Welcome to Palace. I trust you traveled at ease Mr. Buchanan?
Yes. Thank you.
Heather noticed that The Grand
Secretary appeared very regal indeed. However, he also appeared
very nervous. Her father noticed this alsoÖ
Sire. Have we arrived at an inopportune time?
Grand Secretary(Throws his hands up in excitement)
Not at all! Not at all! We are going to be having a grand celebration
tomorrow. The Emperor wishes to celebrate his most recent victory
against the Mongol troops in the North. You have arrived at a most
wonderful time. Now I believe, you must rest from your journey. Your
daughter is being given some maids to tend to her needs and they will
instruct her on the palace customs.
This is very generous of you. Thank you.
Grand Secretary(Walks over to Heather)
Do you speak Chinese?
Yes. I have been tutored in Chinese for the last three years.
Grand Secretary(Startled by her fluency)
Excellent. I am sure you will have no problems settling in.
(Rings a bell)
Two eunuchs open the doors and
the Grand Secretary requests an escort to take the two guests to
their chambers. The eunuchs nod and one walks off to find an escort.
Within minutes a servant arrives.
There is going to be a banquet this evening in the Hall of Protective
Harmony. I ask that you both attend in formal attire. I am sure the
Emperor will wish to meet you as soon as possible. Tonight will be
the most opportune time. Well.. I must get back to my affairs of business.
If you need anything at all please tell your escort. His name is "Han".
Please follow me Sir..Madame
Heather and her father follow
Han through the long corridors. They pass the Hall of Earthly Peace
which appears silent and neglected. (Heather makes a mental note
They make a right turn and come to the guest quarters.
Her fatherís chamber is directly across from her own. Heather breaths
a sigh of relief. All of her luggage had already been placed inside
and three young maids were standing waiting at the doorway. They
appear eager to please her but sheís too exhausted to even notice
so she slips off her slippers and throws herself down on the western
styled bed. The three maids giggle with excitement. Heather peeks
out of one of her eyes and notices one of the maids admiring her
Heather (Sits up)
Tell me that you have not all been resigned to care for my needs?
Ms. Lan(Is an attractive gentle soft spoken woman dressed
in a beautiful gray silk garment. Her hair braided and neatly tied
with a grey silk ribbon)
Yes. My lady.
Well. I believe thee shall have an easy duty then. I do not pretend
to want three women pestering over my needs. Although I wouldnít mind
a hot bath right now.
We have already predicted that you may desire to bathe after your
Thank goodness. Where is it?
ĎTis just in the next chamber over.
We have already been instructed as to your agenda for this evening.
Which gown would you like to wear for the banquet ? We will prepare
it for you.
Thank you. I will be wearing the green gown with the blue tartan sach.
Can you show me to the bathing room?
I will take you there and stay with you. I have been instructed not
to allow you out of my sight until you comprehend the palace customs.
Why all the fuss? I donít understand.
You will learn soon enough. There are areas which you are forbidden
to enter. Not only because you are a woman but also because you are
a foreigner. There are also social customs that you must abide to
as a woman. Please try to understand.
Oh.. I understand perfectly. Not too worry. I have seen those eunuchs!
Yes. One must be very careful around them.
Heather and Ms. Lan walk next
door to the bathing room.
Heather is happy to rid herself of the heavy dress
and undergarments. Ms. Lan sits silently in the corner while Heather
slips into the tub. Heather sighs and relaxes in the hot steaming
So what do you do for fun around here?
Well. We do not really have too much time for fun ..as you say. I
enjoy reading, embroidery , watching the palace scholars work and
helping now and then in the Imperial Gardens.
Yes. I have heard of the gardens. They say the aroma will stay with
Yes. We have some wonderful flowers in full bloom right now. If we
have time we can visit the garden before your first lesson.
That sounds wonderful. Ahh.. This bath feels great. Forgive me for
being presumptious but I think we are going to get along just fine
Ms. Lan smiles and takes a robe
over to Heather.
We only have a small amount of time. I need to give you some instructions
for this evening.
Heather(Wraps the robe around herself and follows Ms. Lan
Alright. Father has already told me that I am not to speak until I
am spoken to.
That is correct. Also, you must never stand taller than the Emperor.
Whenever he speaks directly to you. You must give the customary bow
and address him like so.." Yes.. Your Royal Highness" Itís
easy if you follow others lead. I will be there with you. This is
a very large celebration so there will be many officials there. I
will be there to assist you.
Thank goodness. I was worried that I would have no one with me. I
know Father will be busy with the other gentlemen.
Yes. He should be leaving soon to join the others. Your father must
be a special gentleman. The Emperor is not known to embrace Western
My Father and I have been in China for the last six years. He and
the Emperor both have mutual acquaintance in the trading business
and of course ..the King. This friend recommended my Father to the
Emperor and the King made a personal request to undertake the position.
Father has taught English to several Chinese Gentry already. It was
more of a hobby for him though until now.
Your Father must be a kind man.
Yes. He has a kind heart. He loves China..the people.. the culture.
The other two maids arrive with Heatherís gown. Ms.
Lan careful combs Heatherís long golden hair. The other women watch
in amazement. They had never seen a blonde woman before.
Heather(Tickled by their curiosity)
You can touch it if you like.
They walk over and gently touch
They said it looks like gold but it is as soft as lambís wool.
I have to leave you for a moment to prepare for this evening. I will
be back soon.
They maids finish arranging her hair and bring a looking
glass for Heather to view herself. Heather is impressed and the
maids bring her gown.
Heather steps into her gown and arranges her sach
in proper Scottish fashion. She slips on her green satin slippers
and glances one more time in the looking glass. Heather puts a little
more powder on her face and while she waits for Ms. Lan she looks
out of the window. She can see the wall of the Imperial Garden and
one of the four Watch Towers in the distance.
Ms. Lan(Dressed in a beautiful formal Chinese rose coloured
silk gown. Her face is powdered and her hair braided and adorned
with Chinese combs)
Are you ready to leave?
Yes. I believe so. Promise you will not leave my side.
They leave Heatherís chambers and make their way to The Hall of Protective
Harmony. The bells are ringing triumphantly from the Meridian Gate.
The entrance to the Hall is decorated with colorful paper lanterns
and flags. Heather notices that there are a large number of eunuchs
surrounding the Hall and Guards of Honor swarm the area.
Why so many guards?
Just the usual heightened security because of the number of guests.
There are many traitors who would like to see the Emperor depart this
life as soon as possible.
Ahh.... I understand.
They join a large group of officials
and are announced. When Heather is announced heads turn from every
direction and one could have heard a pin drop.
Heather whispers in Ms. Lanís ear.
Is there something wrong?
Not at all. They are in awe of your beauty child. Just nod and receive
their kind gestures.
Heather nods and follows Ms.
Heather is introduced to many Chinese Officials and
their spouses. She notices her father in the far corner of the room
and asks Ms. Lan if she may join him.
Yes. I think that would be agreeable. The Emperor will be joining
Heather walks over to her father and his eyes sparkle
Well.. Lassy. Donít ye look positively breath taking this evening.
Thank you Father. You look positively handsome this evening too.
Thank you. Well.. what do you think so far?
I am still a little overwhelmed . Give me a few days.
Father. I would like to introduce you to Ms. Lan. She is my companion
and teacher while we are here as guests.
Father bows and greets Ms. Lan.
Would it be alright if I sit? I am a little tired.
No. You cannot sit until after the Emperor sits. Donít worry I can
see they are about to announce him.
The orchestra stops playing
and the drums announce the Emperorís arrival. Everyone drops to
their knees and bows in recognition.. He is followed by his Grand
Secretary and several eunuchs and a young gentleman.
Ms. Lan whispers in Heatherís ear.
Thatís the Emperorís son. His name is Xin.
Heather looks upward to see the young man.
Itís him! Heís the Emperorís son. His hair is long and braided. His
clothes are different but itís him alright!
The Emperor sits on his throne
and makes himself comfortable. His son joins the most distinguished
guests on the opposite site of the Hall facing Heather. She glances
over and notices that he is looking her direction. He smiles. Heather
blushes and turns her eyes back in the Emperorís direction. Ms.
Lan witnesses the exchange and smiles at Heather.
Father is asked by the Grand Secretary to introduce
him self to Emperor Ch`ung-chen. He moves briskly to the front and
kneels down. Heather could not hear the conversation but she could
tell by the facial expressions that he was well received. The Emperor
glanced over at Heather. Ms. Lan gently grasps Heatherís arm and
moves her to the front also.
Welcome Miss Buchanan. I trust you find my palace accomodating?
Yes. Your Highness. It is truly magnificent.
Yes. It is.
(He dismisses them with a glance)
Ms. Lan and Heather move slowly back into the crowd.
Heatherís Father joins them afterwards.
Seems quite jolly doesnít he?
Well this evening he is very happy indeed.
Shortly afterwards while Ms.
Lan introduces Heather to some more Officials she glances over and
see Xin conversing with the Grand Secretary. The Grand Secretary
nods and looks in Heatherís direction. He moves towards them with
Xin at his side.
Mr. Buchanan. Miss. Buchanan.
I would like to introduce you to his Highness Prince Ch`ung
Xin(Bows and smiles)
Thank you. I am looking forward to assisting your Father.
Yes. I was surprised my father has taken on this interest of learning
English. I understand I will also be tutored.
Xin(Glances at the Grand Secretary)
I have to warn you I am not as studious as some would presume.
You will not have any problems your Highness.
Thank you for your vote of confidence Mr. Buchanan.
Now Miss. Buchanan. I understand you speak Chinese fluently?
Yes Sir. I have been tutored for the last three years.
Excellent. Well. I fear I must attend to affairs. It was a pleasure
meeting you both. I look forward to hearing about the social circles
Oh. I am afraid I know very little about social circles. My daughter
Heather is more in tune to the social life.
Xin(Smiles devilishly at Heather)
I look forward to meeting you both again soon.
Thank you ..your Highness.
Heather and Ms. Lan sit and watch a Lion
Dance and some other spectacular musical demonstrations. Heather watches
the Prince carefully. She admires his strenght but can tell he must
give the Emperor much stress as he appears to be one that may not
comply with rules too easily.
After the Emperor leave Heather quickly requests to retire early.
Ms. Lan agrees and escorts her back to her room. On the way Heather
asks to see the Imperial Garden.
Would you mind terribly if go into the garden this evening instead
I donít see why not. The garden is most beautiful under a full moon
when the air is cool. Be careful with your footing though. Itís hard
to manuoevre around it in some places.
Iíll be fine.
They open the large gate to
the garden. Heather is immediatedly stuck by a beautiful honeysuckle
aroma. They walk to the center of the Garden where the large incense
urn burns eternally.
Itís so beautiful. Can we sit for a while?
Sure. I have to take care of something for tomorrow. Would you mind
sitting her for a moment.
Of course not. Itís so peaceful here. I should love to sit and listen
to the fountain and the crickets.
Alright. I will be right back.
Heather breathes a sigh of relief and and
wanders around the garden until she comes to a bench that is well
lit under the moon light. She puts her head back gently and closes
Beautiful garden. Isnít it?
Yes. Your Highness. It is.
I appologize for startling you.
I often come here to relax and escape.
I understand. The company, the music.. it is all so glorious but I
am so tired from my journey.
I imagine so. Where has Ms. Lan gone?
She said that she would return in a moment.
Ah.. I see.
The palace is so beautiful.
Yes. It echoes the voices of the my ancestors. One peaceful nights
you can hear their whispers in the wind.
I wonder what they would say about a Western woman trodding around
in their palace.
I think they would say ..thank goodness for the beautiful blessing.
Ms. Buchanan are you there?
Yes. I am right here with..
Heather looks around and Xin is no where to be seen.
I see you now. Thank you for waiting patiently.
Not at all. You could leave me here all evening and I would not complain.
Do you smell that?
Yes. Itís Jasmine. Itís coming from over there.
Well. I guess itís time to retire.
Heather picks up her skirts and as she is walking
away from the garden she looks to see if she can see Xin.. but he
is nowhere to be found.
Written by Isabel Hodge