Spectrum 729. The memories of a Mandarin

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Tono kōrero mai

E.G. Cousins, aged 97, looks back on his boyhood in China, and in particular, the Boxer Rebellion of 1900.

Cousins was born in Tientsin in 1893, to a family who lived in the largest house in China at the time. He describes his family and recalls, as a child, being smuggled into a banquet where he overheard diplomats discussing missionaries who had been murdered. The Boxers were massing, and after a few weeks of tension, his mother had packed everything, preparing the family to leave.

He watched the troops march into town prepared for war and describes the clothes of different nationalities. His family prepared to evacuated Tientsin; they arrived at the train station where a battle between the Japanese and the Boxers was in progress. When it was over, the family took the last escorted train from Tientsin to the Chinese forts in Taku. The tides delayed their ship leaving so they stayed with other women and children on board. He and his mother sat on deck watching the battle, which lasted all night.

The family sailed to Shanghai to wait, and learned that their father had been shot and wounded. The siege of Tientsin between the Chinese and the Boxers lasted about 6 weeks. After the siege of Peking, the Empress Dowager, who had switched sides during the siege, tried to make amends to Tientsin by offering to make five members of the Municipal Council honorary Mandarins.

Cousins describes a precedent for this honour that was given to ‘Chinese Gordon’ who, 20 years earlier, quelled another rebellion with the Ever Victorious Army. Cousins describes the Empress’ relationship with visiting English ladies and other dignitaries she met with and his own meeting with Viceroy Li Hongzhang who was received by Queen Victoria.

Cousins' family moved to England and never returned to China. In 1912 the rank of Mandarin was abolished. Everyone who had received the title was informed that their position was no longer valid. However, Cousins’ father was in London at the time and was overlooked, thereby effectively retaining his title of Mandarin in name alone. His great-grandson is next in line to inherit the title. He can’t wait.

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Year 1991

Reference number 15296

Media type AUDIO

Collection Sound Collection

Credits RNZ Collection
COUSINS, E. G., Speaker/Kaikōrero
Owen, Alwyn (b.1926), Producer
Radio New Zealand (estab. 1989), Broadcaster

Duration 00:24:52

Date 28 Jul 1991

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