Thursday, March 31, 2016

Etiquette Keeps Empress Off Road

As etiquette dictated that no one was permitted to sit down in the presence of a Chinese monarch, how could any one stand up straight and drive one of the many high-powered motor cars gifted to the Chinese Empress? 

Couldn't Use Motor Cars —
Etiquette Would Not Allow Driver to Sit in Presence of Chinese Dowagar Empress

When the Dowagar Empress of China died in 1908, she left 48 motor cars, among other things, to her heirs. Most of these had been made specially for her, many were gifts from her Chinese potentates and all were gorgeous, palatial, expensive cars. Her favorite was an eight-passenger French machine, with its body painted deep orange, and its seats upholstered in violet satin brocade, edged with round flat blue turquoise stones. 

But the Dowager never rode in a motor car in her life and not one of the 48 varieties ever left the Imperial garage. It was not because there were no embryo chauffeurs in China. The young Chinese who had been in England and America imbibing Occidental college educations had learned to joyride and dozens of them might have qualified as high chancellor of the wheel in the Dowagar Empress' buzz wagon. But —no one may sit down in the presence of a Chinese monarch! And how could any one stand up straight and drive in a high-powered motor car? 

In 1908 there were not more than a dozen motor cars in all China besides the collection in the Imperial garage; today there are about 400, at least 60 percent of which are driven by Occidental traders, commercial agents and members of the various Western legations. Driving is restricted to a very few of the largest coast cities, where it is rough going at best, and there is not a road in China fit for a motor ride. — Mariposa Gazette, 1918

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Moderator and Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia