Kowtow and get out: How I was almost ejected from the Forbidden City

In 1793, the British diplomat Lord George Macartney nearly scuttled his trade mission when he famously refused to kowtow to the Qianlong Emperor. When representatives from the Qing court informed Macartney they expected the standard protocol of submission in imperial audiences, the pompous British envoy riposted, “I will get on two knees before my God, and one knee before my king, but the idea of a British gentleman prostrating himself before an Asiatic barbarian is preposterous!

Macartney was just one in a long line of foreign visitors to China who had to make the decision of whether to take a deep knee bend and satisfy imperial etiquette or remain standing and risk looking like a pretentious barbarian.

After all this drama getting foreigners to perform a kowtow at the palace, imagine my shock when last week a kowtow nearly got this foreigner thrown out of the Forbidden City.