As the negotiator of treaties and trade agreements on behalf of the Chinese government, Detring rose to become the highest-ranking Westerner in China (conferred Dingdaihauling ‘Rank One’ status by the Dowager Empress Cixi in 1896). In Tianjin – the city he made his home – he founded Tianjin University, co-published the Chinese Times, constructed the Tianjin racecourse, paved the roads of the foreign settlement and was instrumental in the construction of the City Hall.
Von Hanneken was Detring’s son-in-law, hired first as one of his military advisers and later placed in charge of modernising the Chinese army. During the Sino-Japanese War, in November 1894, the Guangxu emperor made him commander-in-chief, in the hope that a Western general could defeat the Japanese army.
One of the two men had been the recipient of this Second Class First Grade Order of the Double Dragon – a gold, silver, coral and enamel neck badge and breast star of a type issued from 1894-1901. As both men were known to have received the award, the family, and London auction house Morton & Eden (20% buyer’s premium), were unsure as to whom it had been given. It sold at £44,000 (estimate £15,000-20,000) on December 5.