6245. The Russian embassy to China 1805-06 in manuscript

Object description
THE RUSSIAN EMBASSY TO CHINA 1805-1806. SUCHTELEN, ROCHUS VAN. An apparently hitherto unpublished account of the Russian embassy to China in 1805-1806, written by the embassy's historiographer Rochus van Suchtelen, manuscript in French in the author's hand, c. 400x305 mm. 80 pp. (including 3 blank pages and one with only two lines of text).

Brown calf-backed boards covered with marbled paper in imitation of tree calf, somewhat worn, spine lettered in gold. Engraved armorial bookplate of Jan Peter van Suchtelen.

Provenance: Jan Peter van Suchtelen, count of Liikkala (1751-1836) with engraved armorial bookplate and inscription on front fly-lef (in English translation): "This account is in the hand of my uncle the education official Roch van Suchtelen - historiographer attached to the embassy".

Löwendahl: China illustrata nova. Supplement, MS7.
Another manuscript copy of Suchtelen's diary is kept in RGADA (Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv diplomaticheskikh aktov) ?188, Manuscript collection, op. 5. no. 425.

The Russian minister of commerce, Nikolai Rumiantsev, was the strong supporter of a policy to continue the work of his father, Marshal Rumiantsev, in fostering the Russian advance in the Southern Frontier, and he was determined to challenge Japan in the Pacific segment of the Eastern Frontier and ready to assert Russia's authority in the entire overland frontier from the Kazakh steppe to the Pacific. (Le Donne, p. 173).
"In January 1805, [Nikolai Rumiantsev] advised Alexander I to broaden the scope of an expedition to Peking... The embassy would seek China's agreement to open up both Canton and Nanking to Russian trade, to allow that trade not only on the tiny Bukhtarma but also along the entire Irtysh Line, and to let Russian caravans cross Chinese Turkestan on their way to India through the Karakoram Pass. The choice of an ambassador fell on Count Iurii Golovkin... His instructions incorporated several of Rumiantsev's proposals. They also called for the opening of trade at Ili and Tarbagatai, the opening of the Amus to Russian shipping and the appointment of a consul at the river's mouth, the establishment of diplomatic relations with Peking with an ambassador in the Chinese capital, and the sending of 'supervisors' with Kalmyk pilgrims going to Lhasa in Tibet" (LeDonne, p. 174).
However, Golovkin's mission was, in fact, an absolute failure. The Chinese kept the ambassador waiting at the border, parleying over the size of the party (more than 200 men), for some weeks. Then, after the embassy had finally proceeded to Urga, problems of protocol arose which were so complex that the entire Russian party turned around and returned to Siberia.

But scientific research was made during the expedition by some participating scholars and scientists, and it gave an impetus to further important research afterwards, and therefore, the expedition was not without importence from a scientific point of view. The most noteworthy are the German scholar Heinrich Julius Klaproth, who accompanied the embassy as interpreter, Nikita Yakovlevich Bichurin, whos is generally regarded as the founder of Russian Sinology, Joseph Rehmann, and the botanist Ivan Ivanovich Redovski.

John P. LeDonne: The Russian Empire and the World, 1700-1917. The Geopolitics of Expansion and Containment, New York & Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1997.

From the library of Swedish antiquarian bookdealer Björn Löwendahl (1941-2013).