In the late 19th century, the Qing government experienced political turmoil both domestically and externally. The long established closed-door policy hindered the diplomatic skills of the Qing government. After losing the two Opium War, the way to deal and negotiate with the western powers became an immense and difficult problem for China.
Li Hongzhang was an important official and chief advocate of the Self-Strengthening Movement of the late Qing government. Being concerned to be the most suitable person to deal with the western powers, he became the dean of diplomatic corps and stepped up to the world stage. In 1896, Li, in his seventies, spent 190 days to visit eight countries, including the Russian Empire, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Belgium, the Great Britain, the United States and Canada. In his journey, he learnt about different cultures, military power, political and economic structures in the west.
During his trip, Li received warm welcomes from ministers, officials, and people from all social classes. In the Netherlands, the Queen of the Netherlands welcomed him by a special firework to greet him longevity; in the U.S., the “New York Times” reported more than two thousands pieces of news about him. However, he felt humiliated when he saw the national treasures from the Old Summer Palace (Yuan Ming Yuan) became “exhibits” in the British Museum...
Our crew follows the path which Li Hongzhang has gone through a hundred years ago, to trace what Li has left behind in the foreign land.