1636 The China Venture – Snippet 16

Chapter 11

June 1634


“Mr. Ambassador,” said Martina, “permit me to introduce you to your staff.”

“Please do so,” said Johann Alder Salvius. Emperor Gustav Adolf’s pick to head the USE mission was a man in his mid-forties, and taller than average for a Swede of the time. He was heavily-built, with a paunch and a thick-featured face. Above the Van Dyck beard loomed a large nose and greenish eyes which protruded a little.

“This is Eric Garlow, of USE Army Intelligence,” Martina continued. “He speaks Chinese and studied Chinese history at the University of Pittsburgh, up-time.

“My husband, James Victor Saluzzo. He is a physicist and astronomer.” The latter was not entirely true; he had just taken one course in astronomy in college. But when he was in high school in Grantville, he had spent quite a few hours observing with Johnnie Farrell, Grantville’s resident amateur astronomer, in order to earn the Boy Scouts of America Astronomy merit badge.

“He will be casting our horoscopes?” asked the ambassador.

“I said ‘astronomer,’ not ‘astrologer,'” Martina explained, as her husband’s face reddened. “We in Grantville do not believe that the stars and planets have any effect on human destiny.”

Eric coughed. “At the imperial Chinese court, the calendar–by which they mean not only the rising and setting of the sun and moon, but also the configurations of the planets–is considered of great political significance.”

“Well, of course it is!” Salvius exclaimed. “I am surprised that emperor Gustav does not employ a court astrologer.”

Jim Saluzzo rolled his eyes but said nothing.

“My point,” said Eric, “was that the emperor has a vested interest in accurate astronomical prediction, whatever the merits of the Chinese interpretation of the significance of astronomical events. Hence, Jim’s role is very important. Martina, please continue your introduction of the USE and SEAC mission staff.”

Martina nodded. “Insofar as his astronomical duties are concerned, Jim will be assisted by Jacob Bartsch. He is very familiar with, um, period astronomical instruments, having been Doctor Johannes Kepler’s assistant.” And having married the boss’ daughter, Martina added mentally. So he is a Kepler, by marriage. Too bad for him that the boss died in 1630.

“Doctor Bartsch is trained in medicine as well as mathematics, so we are very fortunate he chose to come to Grantville in 1633.” Fortunate for him, too, thought Martina, since one of the up-time books in Grantville indicated that Bartsch died of the plague in Luban later that year. “He then went to Magdeburg to offer his services to the emperor, and he was there or in Stockholm, working on navigational issues, until recently.”

“Oh, before I forget; Jim is also our radio expert.”

The ambassador stared at Jim. “I have heard of your radio. Can it really permit communication between China and Europe?”

“Oh, no,” said Jim. “Not yet. Eventually we’ll have moon bounce stations that will make that possible, but it’ll take some years to reverse-engineer the tubes and so forth. But what we can do is set up communications between stations a few miles apart. That way, if we take lodging in a town, we can still communicate with the ship.”

“I will serve as correspondence secretary for the three of you.” Martina made a face. “To think I complained of learning secretary hand. Now I will have to cope with Chinese hanzi.”

“If you need help,” said Mike Song, “just ask.”

She pointed to him. “Mike Song is, obviously, of Chinese descent and a native Chinese speaker. He grew up in Taiwan.”

The ambassador frowned. “I thought … isn’t that Dutch? Or Spanish?”

“Both, in the here and now,” said Mike. “There were Spanish in the north, Dutch in the south, and the headhunting aborigines in-between. And Chinese settlers and traders here and there on the western coast, with their numbers increasing greatly after the Manchu invasion of the mainland. The Dutch kicked out the Spanish in 1642, and then Koxinga came over from Fujian province in 1662 and kicked out the Dutch in turn. But my family came to Taiwan in 1949.”

“Thank you, Mike,” said Martina. “Mike, of course, will be our chief translator, and he will be giving language lessons while we are en route. He also has a technical background and will work with Jim in demonstrating our technological goodies. Jacob and Eva Huber are on our Geological Survey Team. They are from Zwickau and are from a mining family. They have been trained in Grantville. We also have Zacharias Wagaenaer, most recently employed in Amsterdam by the cartographer William Blaeu. Fortunately for us, he was out of town on a surveying mission when the Spanish put Amsterdam under siege, and he made his way here to Grantville. He and Jacob will do the mapping, and Eva the chemical analyses.

“Colonel David Friedrich von Siegroth is our artillery expert; you may be familiar with his role in the development of the Swedish regimental guns, especially the three pounder, before the Ring of Fire. He has also been active in the management of copper mining at the Great Copper Mountain. He is accompanied by a gunner and assistant gunner, both Swedish. We think that there may be quite a good market for Swedish and German-made cannon in China. And our ships will be, ah, armed to impress.

“You may not be aware of this, Mr. Ambassador, but according to the history books in Grantville, in 1630 the Portuguese sent an artillery company to aid the Ming against the Manchu. And in 1642, the Jesuit Father Adam Schall von Bell was administering a cannon foundry in Beijing, helping the Chinese make cannon of western design.”

The ambassador snorted. “I hope that we don’t find that a few decades from now, those Swedish and German-made cannon are turned against us.”

“I hope so, too,” said Martina. “But if I may continue the introductions…” The ambassador motioned for her to continue.

“Then we have Doctor Johann Boehlen, formerly of the faculty of the University of Heidelberg. He is, among other things, one of our balloonists.” And, Martina recalled, according to his confidential dossier in the file of the SoTF Mounted Constabulary, he had first come to official attention when a constabulary unit had saved him from lynching by a mob that thought his controlled safety testing of a “bat suit” was a sign that he was in league with the Devil.

“The other balloonist is Mike Song. My husband Jim is in charge of the ground crew.” Martina had been quite insistent that Jim not be a balloonist himself.

“Maarten Gerritszoon Vries is our expert on current conditions in Asia. He is a surveyor and pilot, and he first sailed to Batavia in 1622. That is what up-time became Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. When he heard of the Ring of Fire, he decided that he must see Grantville and not just hear secondhand tales about it.”

Maarten offered the ambassador a somewhat casual salute. His movements were a little stiff; the result of an old injury, Martina suspected. Down-timers in general looked older than up-timers of the same chronological age, but even for a down-timer, Maarten looked older than a Dutchman born in 1589 should.

The next man in the greeting line was exotically dressed in a silk shirt with a vest and jacket, baggy trousers, and a peaked fur hat.

“Aratun the Armenian is our expert on silk. He comes especially recommended by Ambassador Nichols in Venice.” Martina knew that his family was from Julfa, or more precisely New Julfa, the Isfahan suburb to which Shah Abbas had moved the Julfans. They held the export monopoly over Iranian silk and there were Julfans in every major silk trading center, including Venice.

“For establishing cultural rapport with the Chinese, we have Judith Jansdochter Leyster, the second woman to be accorded master status by the Haarlem chapter of the Guild of Saint Luke’s. Some of the paintings she would have done in the old time line have appeared in the books that came through the Ring of Fire. Unfortunately for her, but fortunately for us, the war has virtually choked off the supply of commissions for artwork in the Netherlands.” Martina knew, but tactfully failed to add, that Judith was unmarried and her father had gone bankrupt. “We believe that her pictures will speak to the Chinese in ways that words cannot.”

Judith blushed, and curtseyed.

“Doctor Rafael Carvalhal is an experienced physician and has been studying up-time medical practice at the invitation of Balthasar Abrabanel. He is accompanied by his son Carlos.

“And finally, Peter Minuit represents the investors in the trading company that is financially supporting this mission. He is the former governor of New Amsterdam, in America.”


As the new ambassador to China chatted with the mission staff, Martina mentally reviewed what she knew about him from the intelligence report that Nasi had passed on to her. Born in 1590, son of a civil servant, studied philosophy at Rostock and Helmsted, medicine at Marburg, and law at Montpelier. Ennobled as Baron of Orneholm, 1619. In Swedish diplomatic service since 1624. Married a goldsmith’s widow, thirty years older than himself, in 1627, thereby becoming quite wealthy. Attempted peace negotiations on Gustav Adolf’s behalf in Lubeck, 1629. Lived in Hamburg, 1631-34, as general war commissioner.

It was not a term that Martina had been familiar with, but David Freidrich von Siegroth had explained it to her: “A war commissioner is in charge of conscription, collecting war contributions, obtaining provisions, paying the troops, and military discipline for a military region. A general war commissioner commands all the regional war commissioners.”

“So what’s to keep a war commissioner, or a general war commissioner, from taking bribes for preferred treatment?” Martina had asked. “Does the emperor have some kind of inspector general?”

Von Siegroth had looked at her with a mixture of pity and amusement. “A ‘war commissioner’ is a position that kings sell off to the highest bidder. The graft is the chief perquisite of the office.”

Salvius, she realized, must have been very disappointed by the quick conclusion of the Baltic War.