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'NEM' .. . • 111
Fig. 3_ Glass. An interior-painted portrait snuff Fig. 4. The reverse of fig. 3, with signature bottle of Li Hung-chang. (Coll. Cardinal Point) and seal of Ma Shao-hsuan; 1914.
His supremacy in China's foreign affairs rested on his concurrent appointments as Viceroy of Chihli province and Commissioner of Trade for the northern ports, posts Li Hung-chang kept for over t wenty-five years. These put his headquarters in Tientsin, where any
question involving the West came to his attention. Although Li's prestige and respect among the foreigners in China was unequalled, some did charge him with being avaricious and stingy. Li Hung-chang took exception only to the latter, for his venality•a weakness he shared with Tz'u-hsi was legendary.
Money was the means to power in China, a fact Li understood too well. Any official who did not fortify his position in Peking with gifts to the throne soon lost his backing and station. Li shrewdly sent Tz'u-hsi lavish presents and never wavered in his loyalty. At first Tzu-hsi was
disturbed by Li's crude Anhwei accent and brusque manner, but she soon discovered that this was merely an affectation to overawe his
opponents, particularly if they were Westerners. And overawe them he did, for at some six feet in height, Li Hung-chang was an imposing figure, his physique giving the impression of vigor and his bearing stately.