A very amusing chapter in the history of official etiquette in China might be written under the heading of "The Emperor is Thanked." Many years ago the present writer was acquainted with a certain pedagogue, part of whose system of education consisted in extorting the formula, "Thank you, Sir," from his pupils in reply to any question or remark of whatsoever nature that might be addressed to them. If he asked a pupil what the time was, "Half-past two, Sir, thank you," was the correct rejoinder; and the same expression of gratitude was enforced even in acknowledgment of a severe rebuke or the imposition of a task. We may be permitted to doubt whether this practice was conducive to any very high standard of sincerity in the schoolboy mind, and to ask how much real value was attached to the compulsory employment of a formula so servile. The schoolmaster, however, was supported by a precedent of no small authority, had he only known it. The constitutional maxim that "the King can do no wrong" might be translated into the official language of China, "The Emperor can do nothing that is not benevolent." It is entertaining to study the circumstances under which thanks are offered to His Majesty, and the strange inversion of thought and language by which every relation between the Emperor and the subject is made to appear in the light of favours bestowed and received. Every edict is a benign mandate, which it is an honour, a privilege, an act of grace, to be permitted to obey. This theory extends even to the infliction of punishments. When, some years ago, the boy-Emperor T'ung Chih, in a fit of passion, thought proper to degrade his uncle from the first to the second degree of Imperial rank, the Prince humbly thanked His Majesty for permitting him still to exercise his function as a Grand Councillor. When reinstated on the following day, His Imperial Highness thanked the Emperor in still more grateful terms; and two days after, on the receipt of a bowl of bird's-nest soup, his gratitude could only find expression in a flood of tears. It may be doubted, however, whether the weeping of Prince Kung upon this affecting occasion was of a less ceremonial nature than the performance of hired women who wail and howl at funerals. The Imperial wish for the retirement of an official who is unpopular at Court is generally anticipated by the mandarin himself, who, in a memorial teeming with unpleasantly graphic details of some imaginary complaint, implores the Emperor to let him remain in private life, comparing his fidelity to that of a dog or a horse, and vowing that when his health is re-established he will be readier even than either of those useful animals to roll his head in the dust and die in his master's service. It is noteworthy that a refusal on the part of the Emperor to accede to similar requests is oftener the occasion of thanks than when His Majesty accedes. Only a short time ago the eminent statesman Pao-t'ing implored the Emperor in most moving terms to permit him to retire. The Emperor refused, sharply reproving him for ingratitude, and the snubbed official meekly thanked His Majesty for not acceding to his request. The gift of a fur cloak, especially when the fur round the neck of the animal is retained and made up, is another and more comprehensible occasion for thanksgiving; and so is the permission to ride on horseback through certain portions of the Imperial enclosure, which are sacred ground as regards less favoured servants of the Throne. One of the most amusing incidents in connection with this practice of perpetual thanksgiving occurred not very long ago. A Manchu officer of high rank, no less a personage indeed than Wulahsich'ungah, President of the Board of Ceremonies, returned thanks for the honour of having been invited to a sacrificial feast by the Emperor. Next day, however, a terrible snubbing was administered to Wulahsich'ungah. The Emperor had received his expression of gratitude with astonishment, for, as it happened, he had never been invited to the feast at all! "His name," says the Decree, "does not appear in the list of guests approved of by Us, and in thus thanking Us he has been guilty of a great piece of carelessness." The unfortunate President is then and there to be committed to the Board of Punishments for the determination of a penalty; and he will probably be less eager to thank the Emperor for invitations not accorded to him in future. It is a remarkable fact that Wulahsich'ungah does not express his gratitude either for the snubbing or the omission of his name from the list of guests; but as a loyal subject he no doubt is duly conscious of the honour done to him in both instances. If, however, the Emperor exacts all this deference and professional gratitude from his subordinates, it must be admitted that he shows equal politeness, on his side, towards Heaven. Two most auspicious occurrences were some time ago reported to the Throne—a fall of snow in the metropolitan district, nearly half a foot in depth, and the sudden setting of the wind from the north-east—a phenomenon which presages longevity and plenteous harvests. Immediately the Decree went forth, returning thanks for the timely blessing, and announcing His Majesty's intention to proceed in person to the temple outside the back-gate of the palace to offer up his acknowledgments; the imperial princes and dukes had to go to other temples for the same purpose, and the usual rewards were distributed among the Taoist priests of the Ta-kao Tien for the valuable assistance they had rendered in coaxing Heaven to send these happy and longexpected prognostications.