Exploring Chinese History
- Government Documents -

Imperial Decrees



KIYING of the imperial clan, Junior Guardian of the heir- apparent, a vice high chancellor, a President of the Board of War, a member of the Censorate, governor-general the Two Kwang, etc., etc., and Hwang, Vice- President of the Board of War, governor of Kwangtung, etc., etc., having respectfully copied out, promulgate the following imperial decree, received the 20th of February, 1846, in reply to a memorial laid before the throne for the purpose of securing immunity to those who profess the religion of the Lord of Heaven.

“On a former occasion Kiying and others laid before US a memorial, requesting immunity from punishment for those who, doing well, profess the religion of heaven's Lord; and that those who erect churches, assemble together for worship, venerate the cross and pictures and images, read and explain sacred books, he not prohibited from so doing.  This was granted.  The religion of the Lord of Heaven, instructing and guiding men in well- doing, differs widely from heterodox and illicit sects; and the tolerance thereof has already been allowed. That which has been requested on a subsequent occasion, it is right in like manner to grant.

“Let all the ancient houses throughout the provinces, which were built in the reign of Kanghi, and have been preserved to the present time, and which, on personal examination by the proper authorities, are clearly found to be their bona fide possessions, be restored to the professors of this religion in their respective places, excepting only those churches which have been converted into temples and dwelling houses for the people.

“If, after the promulgation of this decree throughout the provinces, local officers irregularly prosecute and seize any of the professors of the religion of the Lord of Heaven, who are not bandits, upon all such the just penalties of the law shall be meted out.

"If any under a profession of this religion do evil, or congregate people from distant towns seducing and binding them together; or if any other sect or bandits, borrowing the name of the religion of the Lord of Heaven create disturbances, transgress the laws or excite rebellion, they shall be punished according to their respective crimes, each being dealt with as the existing statutes of the empire direct.

"Also, in order to make apparent the proper distinctions, foreigners of every nation are, in accordance, with existing regulations, prohibited from going into the country to propagate religion.

"For these purposes this decree is given. Cause it to be made known.  From the emperor."

As it behoveth us, we, having copied out, promulgate the decree. Let all the officers, the military and the people understand and yield the obedience that is due. Oppose not.

A special proclamation. March 18, 1846.


Kiying, imperial commissioner, minister of state, and governor-general of Kwangtung and Kwangsi, respectfully addresses the throne by memorial. On examination it appears, that the religion of the Lord of Heaven is that professed by all the nations of the west; that the main object is to encourage the good and suppress the wicked; that, since its introduction to China during the Ming dynasty, it has never been interdicted; that subsequently, when Chinese, practicing this religion, often made it a covert for wickedness, even to the seducing of wives and daughters, and to the deceitful extraction of the pupils from the eyes of the sick, government made investigation and inflicted punishment, as is on record; and that, in the reign of Kiying, special laws were first enacted for the punishment of the guilty. The prohibition therefore was directed against evildoing under the covert of religion, and not against the religion professed by western foreign nations.

Now the request of the French Ambassador, Lagrené, that those Chinese who, doing well, practice this religion, be exempt from criminality, seems feasible. It is right, therefore, to make request, and earnestly to crave celestial favor, to grant that, henceforth, all natives and foreigners without distinction, who learn and practice the religion of the Lord of Heaven, and do not excite trouble by improper conduct, be exempted from the charge of criminality. If there be any who seduce wives and daughters, or deceitfully take the pupils from the eyes of the sick, walking in their former paths, or are otherwise guilty of criminal acts, let them be dealt with according to the old laws. As to those of the French and other foreign nations, who practice the religion, let them only be permitted to build Churches at the five ports opened for commercial intercourse. They must not presume to enter the country to propagate religion. Should any act in opposition, turn their backs upon the treaties, and rashly overstep the boundaries, the local officers will at once seize and deliver them to their respective consuls for restraint and correction. Capital punishment is not to be rashly inflicted, in order that the exercise of gentleness may be displayed. Thus peradventure the good and the profligate will not be blended, while the equity of mild laws will be exhibited.

This request, that well-doers practicing the religion may be exempt from the charge of criminality, he (Kiying), in accordance with reason and his bounded duty, respectfully lays before the throne, earnestly praying the august Emperor graciously to grant that it may be carried into effect.

A respectful memorial.

Taokwang, 24th year, 11th month, 19th day (December 28th, 1844), was received the rescript from the vermilion pencil, "Let it be according to the counsel (of Kiying)." This from the Emperor.


Scroll to Top