BECK index

Qing Dynasty Fall 1875-1912

by Sanderson Beck

China under Cixi 1875-98
Kang's Reforms of 1898
Boxer Uprising of 1900
Late Qing Reforms 1901-10
Sun Yat-sen and Revolutionaries
Chinese Revolution 1911-12

This chapter has been published in the book EAST ASIA 1800-1949.
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China under Cixi 1875-98

Qing Decline 1799-1875

After the Dowager Empress Cixi as regent appointed her three-year-old nephew Guangxu to be emperor in January 1875, some Confucians complained that being of the same generation as Tongzhi he would not be able to mourn him as an ancestor; one official even committed suicide outside of Tongzhi’s tomb in protest. Cixi would remain the power behind the screen even after she “retired” in 1889.

Hoping to open a trade route from Burma, the British consul Augustus Margary ignored Chinese warnings about guerrillas on the frontier and ventured up the Yangzi River to wait for Col. H. A. Brown. Governor Cen Yuying of Yunnan sent an assassin to murder Margary at Dengyue and blame it on local tribesmen, and Margary was killed in an ambush on February 21, 1875. The British demanded that Chinese officials take responsibility, and Thomas Wade called for an investigation and an indemnity. The Chinese court sent a mission led by Guo Songdao to apologize to Queen Victoria while Robert Hart went to Shanghai to persuade Wade to negotiate with Li Hongzhang. Meeting in the summer resort at Zhefu on September 13, 1876 Li agreed that China would pay an indemnity of 200,000 taels to Margary’s family and permit the opening of four more treaty ports. The English would be allowed to set up a court in Shanghai and send an official to sit in on trials of British citizens at any trading port. After transit dues were paid on foreign goods at ports, no lijin tax should be imposed. Steamers were allowed on inland rivers, and the duty on opium was increased. The United States, France, and Russia opposed the unilateral convention, and India complained about the increase on the opium tax; the British did not ratify it until 1885. Guo presented his letter to Queen Victoria on February 8, 1877 and set up the first Chinese embassy in London. In the next two years the Chinese established legations in Paris, Berlin, Spain, Washington, Tokyo, and St. Petersburg.

Conservatives opposed relations with Europeans. Prince Chun (Yihuan) suggested that the court should set an example by abandoning anything that is foreign. In 1880 some officials warned against letting foreigners construct a tall building in Beijing that could be used for spying. When the Zongli Yamen published Guo Songdao’s diary praising European civilization in 1877, the court ordered the printing blocks destroyed. Under pressure he resigned in 1879, and the conservative councilors Li Hongzao and Jinghian would not allow Guo to work in the Zongli Yamen. Conservatives also blocked the development of railways and even had the first one near Shanghai torn out in 1877.

Guo Songdao began the process of reforming China’s legal system in 1877 to make punishments less severe, and this effort was continued by He Gai and Hu Liyuan in 1887, Zheng Guanying in 1892, and Song Yuren in 1895. These reforms were necessary if Europeans were to be persuaded to give up their extraterritorial rights in China. Guo Songdao was elected honorary vice president by the Association for the Reform and Codification of the Law of Nations at their London meeting in 1878. That year Ma Jianzhong studied international law in Paris, and he explained the European theory for balancing power. Chen Qiu proposed in 1893 that international law could be enforced by a world organization composed of all states, which he predicted would occur within thirty years. Zheng Guanying also wrote about international law, and he favored adjusting to changing times by developing commerce and industry. He proposed reforming the examination system and establishing technological and professional schools, mining natural resources, modernizing agriculture, and promoting trade by abolishing local tariffs and expanding exports and imports. He especially recommended improving the processes for producing tea and silk, China’s most lucrative export products. John Fryer edited a Chinese scientific magazine from 1876 to 1892.

Li Hongzhang was governor-general of the capital province of Zhili, and his steamship company was making money shipping government tax grain from central China to Beijing. He ordered four gunboats from England in 1875 for the navy and four more in 1877. That year he expanded the coal mines near Tianjin to supply China’s new navy of steamships.  In 1877 Zuo Zongtang applied steam power in a woolen mill at Lanzhou in Gansu, and the next year Li’s cotton cloth mill at Shanghai was given a ten-year monopoly on foreign textile machinery to save China money on importing textiles. In 1880 he requested permission to build four railway lines. That year the Imperial Telegraph Administration was established, and the School of Telegraphy began in Tianjin. In 1881 Li founded a navy academy at Tianjin and developed arsenals there to manufacture ammunition for Remington and Krupp guns. By 1882 the Chinese navy had fifty steam warships. Li had sent a few boys to Hartford, Connecticut to be educated, but he was disappointed that the United States would not accept Chinese students in their military academies at West Point and Annapolis. So the educational mission in the US was closed, and they returned in 1881. Li began sending students to enroll in military academies in England, France, and Germany. The Shanghai Electric Company began in 1882.

Zuo Zongtang was appointed imperial commissioner for a campaign in the western territory of Xinjiang in 1875. The following March he moved his headquarters forward to Suzhou. General Liu Jintang conquered northern Xinjiang by November. Zuo received 26.7 million taels in three years for the war, and he distributed thousands of European rifles and steel cannons made by Krupp that could destroy cavalry from a distance. Ya‘qub Beg still held southern Xinjiang with an army of 45,360 men trained by Turkish instructors. He offered to pay China tribute and sent an envoy to London asking for British mediation. Ya‘qub retreated to Korla in April 1877, and he died on May 29, probably by suicide. His sons fought on, but by the end of the year the Chinese had recovered all of Xinjiang except Ili, which was occupied by Russians.

Chonghou agreed to the Treaty of Livadia which ceded 70% of Ili to Russia and promised to pay them an indemnity of five million rubles; it also gave Russia the right to have seven consulates and navigate the Sungari River. Learning what he had given away, the Zongli Yamen (Foreign Office) quickly cabled him not to sign the treaty; but Chonghou believed he was committed and signed it on October 2, 1879. Zhang Zhidong demanded that China reject the treaty and decapitate Chonghou even if it meant war. Zeng Goufan’s son, the Marquis Zeng Jize, went to Russia, and finally on February 24, 1881 he signed a treaty in St. Petersburg in which the Russians agreed to return much of Ili.  By that year Zuo had been given another 25.6 million taels in revenue assistance. China made their large western territory the province of Xinjiang in 1884 with Liu Jintang as its first governor.

The Chinese had received about fifty missions of tribute from Annam (central Vietnam) in the previous two centuries and about five hundred from Korea. China refused to recognize the treaty that Annam made with France in 1874 and was concerned when the French occupied Hanoi and Haiphong in 1880. An irregular Black Flag army fought the French in 1882 on the frontier. Some younger politicians calling themselves the Purist party (Qingliu) led by Zhang Zhidong wanted to fight the French. Li Hongzhang and Prince Gong were more cautious and wanted to negotiate; but the French rebuffed Zeng Jize’s efforts in Paris because they did not recognize China’s right to speak for Annam. Li and the French minister Bourée agreed on a joint protectorate, but this was rejected in Paris.

After the French defeated the Black Flag army at Sontay in December 1883, Li assured French navy captain F. E. Fournier that China would recognize French treaties with Annam and would withdraw its troops from  Tonkin (northern Vietnam) in exchange for France not demanding an indemnity nor invading China nor making undignified references to China in future treaties with Annam. The French parliament rejected this agreement because the last point implied Chinese sovereignty over Annam. Thus the Chinese did not withdraw from Tonkin by the ultimatum date of July 12, 1884. In June the Chinese army led by Wang Debang defeated the French near Baché, and in August forces under Liu Mingchuan in the Keelung forts on Taiwan held off the French assault led by Admiral Lespes. Li sent Ma Jianzhong to sell his merchant steamship fleet to the American-owned Russell and Company to protect them by international law. They were not damaged in the war, and then the Chinese repurchased them.

The Chinese court sent the two Qingliu Dang leaders, Zhang Zhidong as governor and Zhang Peilun as commander of the Fujian fleet. The French fleet of twelve ships moved into the harbor at Fuzhou near China’s southern fleet and opened fire on August 22. In one hour they sank or damaged every Chinese ship, destroying the docks and the arsenal. The Chinese lost 521 men with 51 missing while only five French died. Zhang Peilun quickly fled and was banished. While China and France decided to accept the Li-Fournier agreement, the Chinese army did better on land, defeating the French near Damsu in October and at Langson in March 1885. Li Hongzhang and the French made a treaty in June recognizing the French treaties with Annam, but the French withdrew from Taiwan and the Pescadores Islands. China did not have to pay an indemnity but had spent 100 million taels on the war and borrowed 20 million more.

In April 1884 the regent Cixi had reacted to a censor’s criticism of Prince Gong for his weak policy against France by dismissing everyone on the Grand Council and replacing them with five new members led by Prince Li (Shido). Prince Ching also replaced Prince Gong in the Zongli Yamen. In October 1885 Prince Chun was made minister of naval affairs, and a Navy Yamen was established in Beijing.

Liu Mingchuan became governor of Taiwan and was given funds to modernize and defend the island. Immigrants increased the population of Taiwan to 2.5 million people, and he was allowed to construct railways in 1887. He had a force of 22,000 men and two European drill instructors by 1888. That year Liu was allowed to choose his own county magistrates for three years, and he made the Keelung coal mine a government agency. He raised revenues with new land taxes that provoked an uprising in Zhanghua. Liu directed forty campaigns against insurgents. In October 1890 conservative officials had him removed because they suspected he was bringing in foreign investors.

The Portuguese annexed the port of Macao in 1887. Li Hongzhang received the new cruisers from Germany in 1888 and reorganized the northern navy. The former commander Liu Bingzhang governed Sichuan 1886-94 and opposed Western learning. A paper mill opened in Shanghai in 1891, followed by a cotton-weaving mill the next year.

In 1882 the United States had passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which prohibited the immigration of Chinese workers for ten years, required the Chinese to register and carry passports, and excluded them from becoming citizens. Four years later the Geary law extended the act for ten years, denied the Chinese bail, and penalized failure to register with imprisonment or deportation. In September 1885 a mob in the Wyoming territory had killed 28 Chinese miners, and in June 1887 ten Chinese miners were murdered near Snake River, Oregon. In 1894 US Secretary of State Walter Q. Gresham made a treaty with Yang Ru, the Chinese minister in Washington, excluding Chinese immigrants for ten years and restricting Chinese who return to the United States.

In 1876 the Chinese court urged Korea to negotiate with Japan, and the Koreans signed the Treaty of Kangwha, which recognized Japanese rights in Korea. The Ryukyu Islands, which the Chinese called Liuqiu, had been paying tribute every other year to the Qing court. After Japan annexed them in 1879 and named the prefecture Okinawa, the Chinese court put Li Hongzhang in charge of the Korean situation. In 1882 he sent Ma Jianzhong to France and Admiral Ding Ruchang to Korea with three warships, and they applied the theory of balancing power by urging Korea to open itself to trade by making treaties with the United States, England, France, and Germany. After Korea signed a treaty with Japan in 1882, Li recommended several steps. The German P. G. von Mollendorf was sent to reform Korean customs offices, and Yuan Shikai went to train the Korean army. China had six battalions in Korea, and Chinese naval strength was increased along with the defense of Liaodong. They intended to keep the Russians out of Korea. Li also appointed his friend Judge Denny, who had been consul at Tianjin, to advise the Korean king, but he urged Korea to be independent.

When China withdrew three battalions to fight the French in the south in 1884, the Japanese attempted a coup at Seoul on December 4 during a banquet. Two days later Yuan Shikai and Wu Zhaoyu led two Korean battalions they had trained in an attack on the palace and rescued the Taewongon. The Japanese burned their embassy to destroy the evidence and fled with Kim Ok-kyun and other Korean rebels to Japan. Tokyo sent an emissary demanding Korea pay $110,000 for their losses and reconstruct their embassy. Ito Hirobumi met with Li Hongzhang at Tianjin (Tientsin), and they agreed that both China and Japan should withdraw their troops from Korea within four months and that neither would train Korean troops. Li returned the Taewongon and appointed Yuan Shikai as the Chinese resident. Japan refused to extradite Kim Ok-kyun. When the British occupied Port Hamilton in 1885, Li negotiated a secret alliance with the Russian minister; but the British evacuated Port Hamilton the next year, and the Russian alliance was never ratified.

In March 1894 Kim Ok-kyun left Japan and went to Shanghai, where he was assassinated by a Korean whose father had been killed in 1884 during the attempted coup. When Korea’s monarchy became unstable in 1894 because of the Tonghak rebellion, the Korean government asked both China and Japan to send troops to protect the royal family. The Japanese got there first with more than 7,000 men and seized the palace on July 21, appointing a regent. That day the British provided three steamers to carry 1,200 Chinese troops along with three Chinese warships to Korea. Four days later the Japanese navy intercepted and sank the British-chartered steamer Kowshing, killing 950 Chinese soldiers. Japan also attacked Chinese forces at Yashan. China and Japan declared war on each other on August 1.

In September off the Yalu River mouth the Japanese also damaged China’s northern fleet, destroying four ships and killing more than a thousand men while losing only one ship. The Japanese army defeated the Chinese in several battles around Seoul and Pyongyang, and in October they crossed the Yalu into Chinese territory. The next month another Japanese army fortified the harbor at Lushun. The Chinese navy retreated to its port at Weihaiwei on the north side of the Shandong peninsula. However, in January 1895 a Japanese army of 20,000 troops and 10,000 field workers arrived by land and captured the defensive forts at Weihaiwei. Then they used the Chinese guns to destroy one Chinese battleship and four cruisers. Admiral Ding committed suicide, and his subordinates surrendered eleven ships. Some Qing commandants in the forts also took their own lives.

In this bleak situation Prince Gong and the disgraced Li Hongzhang were sent to negotiate in Japan, which had refused to talk with lesser officials. Li was shot in the face by a Japanese assassin on March 24, and in sympathy the Japanese reduced the indemnity demanded from 300 million taels to 200 million. Also in the Treaty of Shimonoseki signed on April 17, 1895 China recognized Korea’s independence and the end of its paying tribute to China, which ceded to Japan the Pescadores, Taiwan, and Liaodong in southern Manchuria. Four more treaty ports were added, including Chongqing way up the Yangzi River in Sichuan, and the Japanese could also build factories in any treaty port area. The Russians wanted the ice-free ports of Dairen and Port Arthur in Liaodong. They withdrew 29 warships from Chinese and Japanese harbors and made Vladivostok a war zone. The Russians with support from the French and Germans persuaded the Japanese to retrocede Liaodong for an additional 30 million taels on November 4, 1895.

The people of Taiwan refused to accept Japanese sovereignty and declared an independent republic on May 25, 1895, but a week later the Chinese court sent Li Hongzhang’s son Li Jingfang to turn over the island to the arriving Japanese forces, who suppressed the resistance by October. Li Hongzhang was criticized for choosing his subordinates based on loyalty to him. Many of them embezzled funds to bribe the chief eunuch Li Lianying. Sheng Xuanhuai was backed by Li and Zhang Zhidong, and he founded Beiyang College in Tianjin in 1895 and Nanyang College in Shanghai in 1896 as technical institutes.

Beijing borrowed 400 million francs from a Franco-Russian Banking Consortium at 4% interest, and Count Witte pledged Russian assets as security. In 1896 and 1898 China borrowed £16 million from a British-German Consortium at 5% and 4.5%. Li Hongzhang was invited to the coronation of Czar Nicholas II in 1896, and Prince Ukhtomski was sent to escort him from Suez to Odessa so that he would not visit western Europe. Count Witte negotiated the building of a railway through northern Mongolia and Manchuria to Vladivostok that would be managed by the private Chinese Eastern Railway Corporation. China would cede a strip of land that they could buy back after 36 years and that would revert to China freely after 80 years. China and Russia also agreed to defend each other against any Japanese attack on China, Korea, or Russian territory.

In 1897 Kaiser Wilhelm II visited Russia and gained permission from Czar Nicholas to make Jiaozhou a navy base. When two German missionaries were murdered in Shandong in November, Germans seized Jiaozhou and forced China to lease it for 99 years with a concession to build two railways in Shandong. This encouraged Russia to take over Dairen and Port Arthur the next month. In March the Russians imposed a treaty on China to lease the area around these ports for 25 years and build the Southern Manchuria Railway from them to the Chinese Eastern Railway. Witte later claimed that he bribed Li Hongzhang with 500,000 rubles and Zhang Yinhuan with 250,000 rubles. Thus the Russians gained the Liaodong peninsula. The British leased Weihaiwei for 25 years and Kaulung for 99 years while exacting a promise that China would not let any other power control the Yangzi Valley. Japan gained a similar promise in regard to the Fujian province. France leased Guangzhou Bay and made the southern Guangdong-Guangxi-Yunnan area their sphere of influence.

Christian missionaries were influential and by 1889 had educated 16,000 Chinese. Young J. Allen published The Globe Magazine (Wanguo gongbao) in Shanghai 1875-83 and 1889-1907. The Society for the Diffusion of Christian and General Knowledge among the Chinese (SDK) had been founded in 1887 in Shanghai, and they promoted Western civilization through Chinese translations. Timothy Richard became secretary in 1891 and Beijing representative in 1895. He wrote about the reforms of  Peter in Russia and Emperor Meiji in Japan, published New Views on Current Affairs, and translated Robert MacKenzie’s Nineteenth Century: A History. After the Sino-Japanese War ended in 1895, many scholars argued that China needed to change its policies. Li Hongzhang lost favor and was replaced by Zhang Zhidong, who now advocated modernizing. The Confucian Weng Tonghe was Emperor Guangxu’s tutor and gave him Feng Guifen’s Protest from the Jiaobin Studio in 1889, when he began ruling. Guangxu read translations of Western literature and started learning English in 1891.

Zhang Zhidong published Exhortation to Learning in 1898 and emphasized that China should understand five things—that they had fallen behind Japan, Turkey, Siam, and Cuba; that they should avoid the fate of Vietnam, Burma, Korea, Egypt, and Poland; that machines cannot be improved without better methods; that Chinese learning is practical and that Western politics should be studied more than its technology; and that they should not forget their country when traveling or their family when studying foreign customs or disregard the sages. Zhang’s motto was that Chinese learning should be the foundation for applying Western learning.

Kang's Reforms of 1898

Kang Youwei was born on March 19, 1858 in a scholarly family and studied with his grandfather, a famous Neo-Confucian. After his death Kang meditated on a mountain for two years, and he realized that he had a spiritual self existing outside of his body that is one with everything. He made goodness the center of his philosophy and aimed to follow the will of Heaven to bring about a unity of nations, races, and religions with equality for men and women and universal laws for everyone. He visited Hong Kong and Shanghai and was impressed by British efficiency. He began studying Western writings in translation and abandoned the civil service examinations. In 1883 he tried to ban in his village the binding of women’s feet. In 1887 Kang wrote his Universal Principles of Humanity (Renlei gongli). In this socialist utopia he advocated abolishing the nations and organizing the entire world under one elected government with regional governments also popularly elected. Education should begin with prenatal care and go from nurseries and kindergarten up. The government should provide jobs, public dormitories and dining halls, hospitals, and retirement homes. Rewards should be given for inventions and discoveries.

Kang completed his Book of Great Unity (Datongshu) in 1902 at Darjeeling, but it was not published until 1935, eight years after his death. This book described his visionary ideas for the third and final phase of civilization he called the Age of Universal Peace in which humanity and wisdom would make equality a reality and overcome all restrictions. The Age of Disorder was despotic, but the Age of Rising Peace developed constitutional monarchies. Kang described various kinds of suffering. His eight sufferings from human feelings are stupidity, hatred, lust, imposing burdens, toil, desires, oppression, and class distinctions. Kang’s five sufferings of government are punishment, oppressive taxes, military conscription, the state, and the family. He prophesied that nations would join regional confederations and then under pressure merge into a world parliament with a universal language and complete disarmament of all the former nations.

The way of Great Unity is based on perfect equality, impartiality, humanity, and the best government. This Great Community would end all conflicts based on nations, class, race, gender, family, occupation, chaos, species, and suffering. Kang suggested doing away with all these distinctions that had come from slavery, caste, and feudal institutions. He hoped that when there are no divisions into nations and no differences between races, there would be no war. The world government would organize agriculture, industry, commerce, mining, road building, and reclaiming deserts without competition. When all people are equal, wisdom and humanity may be promoted for the benefit of all people. Kang described humanity as “the mind that cannot bear to see the suffering of others,” and he considered it the root of all benevolent governmental measures.

Kang predicted that in a hundred years the world’s major problem would be the struggle between the rich and poor. He believed that the only way to solve that conflict was to eliminate the family and people’s drive for private property. He foresaw that racial intermarriages on a global scale would eventually merge humanity into one race. In his Great Community the state would distribute resources and provide education from before birth through twenty years of schooling, life-long health care, and homes for the dying. Kang emphasized the equality of men and women, and he castigated men for not letting women participate in social and political life. After the age of twenty any person could choose a marriage contract for not less than one month nor for more than one year, although contracts could be renewed annually. Those of the same sex could also make such contracts. Kang realized that his ideas were too advanced for his time and so only shared them with a few students.

Without being qualified Kang boldly submitted a memorial in 1888 urging China to modernize like Japan, but the Imperial College refused to forward his memorial. So Kang taught in Guangdong, and young Liang Qichao became his best student. Kang opened a new school at Guangzhou in 1891. That year he wrote A Study of the Forged Classics of the Xin Period, adopting the New Text theory that the ancient classics that appeared after the Qin book-burning were forgeries. His Study of Confucius as a Reformer (1897) interpreted the master not as a conservative backer of the status quo but as an uncrowned king intent on improving society just as the Zhou founders had reformed the ancient Shang. This book was banned.

In 1895 Kang and Liang went to Beijing to take the triennial exams. They wrote a 10,000-word memorial and gathered 602 signatures from graduates in eighteen provinces to urge rejection of the peace treaty. They proposed moving the capital, continuing the war, and initiating major reforms that included increasing taxes on the rich, building a railway network to improve commerce, developing industry and shipping, exploiting China’s mineral resources in coal, iron, lead, and tin, unifying and stabilizing Chinese currency, and establishing a national postal system. Liang’s exam paper was rejected as the most radical, and Kang was appointed only a secondary secretary on the Board of Public Works. Kang rejected this and wrote a series of memorials. His third memorial was forwarded to the throne on June 3, 1895, and the Emperor ordered some copies made for a few authorities. Kang’s fourth memorial suggested a parliament and was blocked by the Censorate and the Board of Public Works. Kang Youwei and his brother Kang Guangren founded the Anti-Foot-binding Association in Guangdong.

Kang Youwei and Liang organized the Society for the Study of National Strengthening in September 1895, and Zhang Zhidong contributed 5,000 taels. Liang edited the daily Chinese Global Magazine (Wanguo gongbao), which had a circulation of 2,000, and they were influenced by the missionary Timothy Richard. Kang went to Shanghai to open a branch and began publishing the Journal of National Strengthening. Zhang offered to contribute again, but he objected to their using a calendar from the reign of Confucius instead of the Qing dynasty. In January 1896 the Chinese court ordered the organization closed. In August they began publishing the weekly Current Affairs, and in a few months circulation passed 10,000. Kang traveled and helped found study societies, schools, and newspapers in Hunan, Jiangsu, Guangdong, and Beijing. Within three years 76 study societies had formed.

In November 1897 Yan Fu began editing the daily National Review (Guowen bao) in Tianjin and a weekly magazine. He translated Evolution and Ethics by Thomas Huxley, On Liberty and Logic by John Stuart Mill, A Study of Sociology by Herbert Spencer, The Spirit of the Laws by Montesquieu, and Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. Yan had observed the English and believed that Western policies needed democratic institutions that would allow social evolution. He criticized the examination system and wanted to replace Confucianism with Western ideas. He believed that China must develop scientific education and nationalism. Of the 567 works translated into Chinese in the second half of the 19th century 78% were on the various sciences, whereas before that an even larger percentage had been religious books. Lin Shu was a prolific translator of Western literature, and he worked with a partner who translated orally as he wrote in Chinese style versions of novels by Charles Dickens, Rider Haggard, Walter Scott, Alexander Dumas, and others, a total of 159 books. In his introductions he promoted better human relations, social progress, and patriotism.

Hunan was reformed by Governor Wu Dacheng (1892-95), and he was succeeded by the progressive Chen Baozhen. His Bureau of Protection and Defense established a modern police force, and effort was made to reform and educate criminals. The China Reform Association published The Hunan Daily and the Hunan Journal. Jiang Biao was commissioner of education in Hunan from 1895 to 1897, and he emphasized a balance between Chinese traditions and Western knowledge. The School of Current Affairs began at Changsha in the fall of 1897. Liang became a chief lecturer, and he was assisted by Kang’s disciples. Xu Renzhu succeeded Jiang as commissioner and was even more devoted to Kang’s teachings. Liang had thousands of copies printed of books that criticized despotism and Manchu atrocities. He urged the Governor to declare Hunan independent just as Satsuma and Choshu had seceded from Tokugawa Japan prior to the Meiji reforms. They formed the Southern Study Society, which grew to 1,200 members. Those opposed drafted the Scholars’ Compact of Hunan in the summer of 1898. Most of the gentry did not want the Qing dynasty to collapse, denounced equality, and petitioned Governor Chen to expel Liang and his friends. Chen asked the Chinese court to ban Kang’s Confucius as a Reformer. Huang Zunxian published his History of Japan in 1897, and he invited Liang to Shanghai to edit a journal for the Self-Strengthening Society.

After Germans grabbed Jiaozhou in 1897, Emperor Guangxu told Prince Gong that if he was not given the power to initiate reforms, he would abdicate. Kang presented his fifth memorial, warning that China could be partitioned and urging reforms like those of Peter in Russia and the Meiji in Japan. The memorial was blocked but became known, and the tutor Weng arranged for Kang to have an imperial audience on January 11, 1898. Prince Gong objected it was not permitted, and Kang was sent to the Zongli Yamen on January 24. Kang recommended changing the governmental institutions as circumstances require.

Five days later Emperor Guangxu ordered that Kang could present memorials directly any time, and on that day he presented his sixth memorial suggesting a bureau to draft a constitution and twelve administrative bureaus. Each province should have a People’s Bureau with district branches. With his seventh memorial in February he included studies of the reforms made by Meiji and Peter and Richard’s translation of “An Outline of New Western History.” During the triennial exams in April he organized the National Protection Society, which was joined by hundreds of graduates and government officials. Their goals were to protect the people, religion, sovereignty and territory of China, promote institutional reform, discuss foreign relations, and study political economy. Many Manchu officials feared they wanted to protect China but not the Qing dynasty, and conservative attacks reduced attendance.

When Prince Gong died on May 30, Kang urged Weng to begin the reforms; but he had turned against Kang and told him to leave Beijing. Kang presented his eighth memorial on June 8, and three days later Emperor Guangxu decreed the first reform by urging officials and commoners to study useful knowledge. Weng had been accused of crimes and was removed on June 15. Guangxu gave Kang an audience the next day, and he urged complete reforms. Kang was appointed secretary of the Zongli Yamen, and three days later his memorial requested national reform. Guangxu asked for Kang’s works directly, and the period of reform began. Kang submitted his books on the reforms in Japan, France, Germany, and England. He proposed revising the examination system and the legal code, establishing the government bureaus, creating a parliament in Beijing and a national assembly, and adopting a constitution authorizing executive, legislative, and judicial functions. Liang was appointed head of the translation bureau, and four progressives were made secretaries in the Grand Council.

China’s “New Deal” (Xinzheng) was implemented in 103 days from June to September. In June missionaries were protected, and officials were encouraged to travel in foreign countries. The “eight-legged” examination essay was replaced by essays on current affairs, and the Imperial University at Beijing was founded. Agriculture, industry, commerce, and railway construction were promoted. Administration was to be simplified without delays. In July inventions were encouraged, and both Chinese and Western studies were to be taught in elementary schools, high schools, and colleges. A special exam on political economy was opened. An official newspaper was published, and legal codes were to be simplified and improved. In August the Yellow River was given a director-generalship, and intendants were assigned to grain transport and salt. In September progressives were appointed in government. The capital was to be beautified. A medical school was added to the University. Suggestions by private citizens were to be immediately forwarded to government offices. Manchus were given permission to engage in commerce, and on September 16 a budget was to be prepared.

Most high officials boycotted the reforms, and the Board of Rites objected to changing the exams. The reforms were delayed or blocked in every province except Hunan. The main obstacle was the Empress Dowager Cixi. She was not opposed to reforms and had told her nephew she would not interfere as along as he did not burn the ancestral tablets or cut off his queue. She was alarmed by the elimination of three governorships and the sinecure of offices as well as by the exam changes. The Emperor’s mother died in June and could no longer mediate. The progressives would not tolerate the corruption of the chief eunuch Li Lianying, who was supported by the conservatives and the powerful Governor Ronglu of Zhili, head of the northern army.

The Emperor dismissed the presidents of the Board of Rites on September 1, and six days later Li Hongzhang was removed from the Zongli Yamen. Conservatives asked Cixi to take control, but she declined. So they went to Ronglu and plotted a coup during a troop review at Tianjin in October. Hearing rumors, Kang suggested that Guangxu make Shanghai his capital, cut off his queue, change his clothes, and adopt a new reign title. Yuan Shikai met with the Emperor on September 16 and was made a vice-president. Two days later Guangxu learned that Cixi was upset, and he called upon the reformers to save him. That night Tan Sitong asked Yuan Shikai in Beijing to bring his army of 7,000 to Tianjin. Ronglu transferred troops to Beijing and ordered Yuan to return. The Emperor made Yuan a secret promise, but Yuan returned to Tianjin and sided with Ronglu and Cixi.

On September 21 Cixi had the palace raided to remove all reform documents, and she announced that Guangxu was so ill that she had to take over the administration. Kang fled to Shanghai, and a British warship took him to Hong Kong. Liang took refuge in the Japanese consulate in Tianjin, and he and Kang both went to Japan. Kang’s brother Guangren, the censor, and the four reformers in the Grand Council were executed without a trial. Twenty-two reformers lost their property and were banished, and Kang’s writings were banned. Most of the reforms were reversed except some remained in the schools. Societies were prohibited, and publishers and editors were arrested. Cixi said she favored some reforms but that Kang’s reforms were bad. The reforms had been undone by officials, scholars, army officers, eunuchs, monks, and the Manchus.

Tan Sitong, only 33, was one of the reformers who was arrested and executed, and many believed that he refused to flee so that he would be a martyr for China. Tan had written On the Study of Humanity in 1896-97; but it was only shown to friends such as Liang Qichao, and it was not published until after his death. Tan agreed with Kang that Confucius was a reformer and wrote,

When Confucius first set forth his teachings,
he discarded the ancient learning,
reformed existing institutions,
rejected monarchism, advocated republicanism,
and transformed inequality into equality.1

Tan wrote that the scholars who followed Xun-zi lost the true meaning of the teachings of Confucius and allowed rulers to use Confucianism to control the country. They added the four bonds that made the minister subordinate to the ruler, the son to the father, the wife to the husband, and the younger brother to the older brother. These relationships of authoritarian domination shackle people’s minds so that they are afraid to think or speak. The husband considers himself a master and so does not treat his wife as an equal. In ancient China the wife did not lose her right to be a master because she could ask for a divorce. The fifth Confucian relationship of friendship is the only one that is freely chosen and based on equality, making it most beneficial and least harmful. Tan commented that the ruler is not superior physically nor mentally, and yet he uses his power to oppress four hundred million people. Tan wrote, “If public affairs are not well managed, it is a universal principle that the ruler should be replaced.”2 He advocated a universal community with the moral idealism of Mo-zi, Mahayana Buddhism, Neo-Confucianism, and Christianity combined with the industrial commercialism of the modern West.

Boxer Uprising of 1900

In February 1899 the Italians demanded the cession of Sanmen Bay in Zhejiang. The customs inspector-general Robert Hart rejected their claim, and the Empress Dowager Cixi ordered the governor to fight them. The Italians withdrew their claim in October. On November 21 Cixi instructed all the provincial governors to unite their forces, forget peace, and fight any invaders. Meanwhile the Christian missionaries had been converting many Chinese, defending them in courts, and giving them subsidies for subsistence. Some Chinese resented this proselytizing and said that those who live off the church “eat by religion.”

After the German occupation of Jiaozhou hundreds of conflicts arose over railways, mines, and churches. Since 1861 China was being exploited by foreign capital, and in 1899 the trade deficit was 69 million taels and the government deficit 12 million taels. Taxes had to be increased on the people. The Yellow River had flooded again in 1898, and in 1900 northern China suffered a severe drought. Some religious Chinese blamed the natural catastrophes on the foreign religion in their country.

In Shandong the Big Sword Society was organized against foreigners, and in March 1898 posters were distributed urging people to kill foreigners and traitorous Chinese and burn their homes. Governor Li Bingheng of Shandong encouraged them, and those in the secret society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists were called Boxers by Europeans. The Qian Fists, Kan Fists, and Kun Fists were also called Boxers, and they all wore red. The Boxers called foreigners Primary Hairy Men, Chinese Christians Secondary Hairy Men, and those using foreign goods Tertiary Hairy Men, and they were opposed to all of them. The Boxers believed that their martial arts were magical and that they were invulnerable. They rejected foreign guns and used traditional swords, lances, and daggers. Only the white band remained anti-Qing, but the other Boxers adopted the slogan “Support the Qing and exterminate the foreigners.” Yuxian became governor of Shandong in March 1899, and he changed their name to the Righteous and Harmonious Militia. He ignored complaints about the Boxers and the Big Sword Society and even subsidized them with silver to set up more than eight hundred training centers for teaching his soldiers to box.

In December 1899 the foreigners got Yuxian replaced, but he went to Beijing and complained that suppressing the Boxers was against China’s interest. The reactionary Prince Duan, Prince Zhuang, and Grand Secretary Gang Yi were persuaded, and they recommended that the Empress Dowager Cixi make use of them. Yuxian was appointed governor of Shanxi. The strict Yuan Shikai, the acting governor of Shandong, was warned in December and again in January 1900 not to punish the Boxers, but he continued to suppress the criminal actions of the Boxers. On January 12 the court decreed that those who drilled to protect villages were not to be considered bandits. Again on April 17 the court proclaimed that organized militias should not be prohibited. In May the Boxers killed 68 Chinese Christians and burned 75 houses in the Gaoluo village in Zhili. Governor Yulu took no action against them, and the court was afraid to provoke a catastrophe. The Boxers began destroying railroads and telegraph lines. The court wanted to organize the Boxers into a militia, but Yuan Shikai and Yulu both opposed this. The Dowager summoned some Boxers to the palace, and in a demonstration of their skill they persuaded her of their invulnerability. Princes and nobles invited Boxers into their homes as guards, and about half the government troops joined the Boxers.

The Zongli Yamen tried to limit each foreign legation to 30 guards, but in the first three days of June troops arriving in Beijing from Tianjin included 75 British, 75 French, 50 Americans, 40 Italians, and 25 Japanese. On June 3 the Boxers destroyed the railway line between these two cities. Governor Zhang Zhidong and Railways and Telegraphs director Sheng Xuanhuai pleaded with the court to suppress the Boxers before it was too late but to no avail. When General Nie Shicheng’s soldiers killed some Boxers, Commander-in-chief Ronglu was reprimanded. Prince Duan had become head of the Zongli Yamen, and two more reactionary ministers were appointed. The  British urgently asked Admiral Edward Seymour to send reinforcements from Tianjin, but on June 10 the train with 2,100 men was stopped halfway at Langfang by the Boxers. They cut the telegraph lines and burned the British summer legation in the West Hills. The next day troops under General Dong Fuxiang killed Sugiyama, the chancellor of the Japanese legation.

On June 13 the court told the foreigners that their embassies were adequately protected and needed no more foreign troops in Beijing. Governor Yulu and General Nie were ordered to stop Admiral Seymour’s men. Boxers rampaged into Beijing, killing Chinese Christians and burning churches and foreign residences. The next day legation guards were attacked. The Boxers broke into prisons and freed inmates, and they took weapons from government arsenals. Foreign forces from ships attacked the Dagu forts on June 16 and occupied them the next day. Seymour’s forces fought their way back to Tianjin. The first imperial war council began on June 16, and two days later Empress Cixi decided to fight the foreign powers with the Boxers. The foreign diplomats were told to leave Beijing within 24 hours under a Chinese military escort; they refused. On June 20 the German minister Clemens von Ketteler was killed. Yulu sent an optimistic memorial about Tianjin and the Dagu forts, and on June 21 the court declared war on the foreign powers. Prince Zhuang and Gang Yi were put in command of 30,000 Boxers, and Prince Duan was in charge of 1,400 bands with more than a hundred men in each. These joined with government troops under General Dong Fuxiang in attacking the legations and the Northern Roman Catholic Cathedral. Prince Zhuang offered rewards for every foreign male, female, and child captured.

Learning of the war declaration, the governors Li Hongzhang of Guangzhou, Zhang Zhidong in Wuhan, and Yuan Shikai in Shandong were united in refusing to recognize its legitimacy, and they even formed a pact with the consuls at Shanghai to protect foreigners and their property while suppressing the Boxers in their provinces.

The legation quarter was near the palace in the Forbidden City and had about 450 guards, 475 civilians, 2,300 Chinese Christians, and 50 servants. They appealed to Commander Ronglu; but he replied that he could not control the Boxers because they had infiltrated his army. Sheng Xuanhuai urged Yuan Shikai to march on Beijing, but he declined. On July 3 Cixi issued a decree that provincial authorities should not use the word “peace.” On July 14 the foreign troops took control of Tianjin, and thirteen southeastern provincial authorities pleaded with the Empress to suppress the Boxers and protect foreigners. The court became conciliatory for the next twelve days, and the Zongli Yamen offered foreigners refuge, which they declined. On July 18 the court asked Li Hongzhang to inform foreign diplomats abroad that their legations were safe. The next week the Yamen sent two cartloads of food to the legations. Li Bingheng arrived on July 26, and he and Gang Yi persuaded Cixi that they must fight to gain a reasonable settlement. The war policy was confirmed, and five officials were executed for counseling peace.

On August 4 an international force left Tianjin with 8,000 Japanese, 4,800 Russians, 3,000 British, 2,100 Americans, 800 French, 58 Austrians, and 53 Italians. The  Germans had not yet arrived. They marched toward Beijing and decisively defeated the Chinese, causing Yulu to commit suicide on August 6 and Li Bingheng on August 11. The allies entered Beijing on August 14 and relieved the besieged legations. Ronglu had not openly opposed Cixi, but he had fired empty guns against the legations and withheld his better cannons. The Dowager forced Emperor Guangxu to flee with her in disguise, and for the first time in her life she faced physical hardship. On August 20 she decreed that she was responsible for China’s catastrophe. With a small group after a long journey they arrived at Xian on October 23. The Boxers had killed 231 foreigners and many more Chinese Christians. The province of Shanxi suffered more disturbances because Yuxian was governor there.

Li Hongzhang had declined several requests to go to Beijing in July but instead went to Shanghai. He had argued that the siege of the legations should be lifted and that the diplomats should be given safe conduct to Tianjin. After the court agreed to appoint Prince Qing and Ronglu to join him in peace negotiations, Li went to Tianjin in September. The Allies refused to negotiate with Ronglu, and so Li sent him to Xian to advise the court in exile that was still under the influence of the war policy of Prince Duan and Gang Yi. Zhang Zhidong informed the British consul at Hankou that the Dowager would not return as long as foreign troops were in Beijing. The southern leaders persuaded the court to punish nine ministers who had supported the Boxers, but General Dong Fuxiang still commanded 15,000 troops at Xian.

The United States had announced its Open Door Policy to support Chinese territory for permanent safety and peace in March 1900 and reiterated it on July 3. On October 16 England and Germany agreed to refrain from seizing territory in China, and other powers were invited to adhere to this policy. Field Marshal Waldersee arrived at Beijing with 7,000 Germans on October 17 and used the palace as his quarters. He led the allies in a punitive campaign to punish the areas with the most Boxer activity. The British supported the German attempt to stop the Russian advance in China as the Russians hoped to gain Manchuria.

The Allies agreed on December 24, and the court accepted the terms on January 16, 1901. Twelve officials were to be punished with death, and 119 in the provinces were also punished. China was to pay an indemnity of 450 million taels at 4% interest over the next 39 years with Russia receiving 29%, Germany 20%, France 16%, Britain 11%, Japan 8%, the United States 7%, and Italy 6%. The legations were to have their own permanent guards and could station troops between Beijing and the sea. All the forts in that area were to be destroyed. China was not allowed to import arms for two years. Provinces where the Boxers had been active were not to have examinations for five years. The final Boxer Protocol was signed by Li Hongzhang, Prince Qing, and representatives of the eleven powers on September 7. Ten days later the Allied troops evacuated Beijing. Li died at the age of 78 in November and was succeeded as governor-general of Zhili by Yuan Shikai. The court returned to Beijing on January 7, 1902.

The Russians had sent 200,000 troops into Manchuria in July 1900, and they overcame about 200,000 people in local bands to control it by October. On November 30 Admiral Alexiev, governor of Liaodong, compelled the Manchu military governor of Mukden to disband all his troops and surrender all forts and arsenals in Manchuria to the Russians, but the Qing court refused to accept the agreement and a later treaty. Finally in April 1902 the Russians agreed to evacuate Manchuria in three stages, but a year later in the second stage they had their soldiers put on new uniforms as “railway guards.”

Late Qing Reforms 1901-10

On January 19, 1901 the Dowager Cixi asked for advice from her ministers on political reform, and eight days later Emperor Guangxu’s edict warned against selfishness and precedent that suffocates. On April 21 the Bureau of Government Affairs was instituted under Ronglu to formulate a program. The Yangzi Valley governor-generals Zhang Zhidong and Liu Kunyi presented three memorials in July. The first recommended modern schools that mixed the Chinese classics with Western history, politics, science, and technology. They wanted to end military examinations, and they encouraged travel and study abroad. Their second paper urged the stopping of corruption and reducing the number of useless scribes and clerks in the government. The third memorial proposed expanding the military and promoting agriculture, industry, and technology with regulations in mining, railroads, and commerce. They suggested using the silver dollar, improving the postal service, and translating more foreign books.

Empress Cixi reluctantly ordered many of these reforms implemented in the next four years. The sale of offices was ended in August, and provincial military academies were planned. Education was reorganized into elementary schools, middle schools, and colleges, and provincial authorities were ordered to select students to study abroad. The “eight-legged” essay was replaced by current topics in exams. In 1902 the ban against marriage between a Manchu male and a Chinese female was lifted, and women were liberated from foot-binding. By the end of 1903 provincial taxes on tobacco and liquor were imposed, and palace expenses were reduced in 1904. That year school administration was standardized according to a Japanese model. The silver tael was made the standard currency in 1905, and only five mints were allowed to produce them. Between 1900 and 1905 foreigners constructed 3,222 miles of railways in China compared to only 280 miles in 1896-99. Chinese entrepreneurs began investing in railways, and nineteen local groups had been chartered by 1907.

In 1902 Governor Zhao Erxun in Shanxi experimented with smaller administrative units with more local participation. Yuan Shikai in Tianjin trained a modern police force to strengthen local control. The New Army had 36 divisions with 12,500 men in each division formed from men who had to serve for three years. Then they were in the First Call Reserves for three years, followed by the Second Call Reserves for four years. The Army Ministry took over four divisions from the Beiyang Army, leaving Yuan Shikai with two divisions. In 1907 Zhang Zhidong and Yuan Shikai were transferred from being governor-generals to be grand councilors in Beijing. These changes gave the Manchus more central control over the army.

In treaties of 1902 and 1903 England, the United States, and Japan demanded that China revise their laws. Punishments such as slow slicing, display of heads, tattooing, flogging, torture, and collective punishment were abolished. A new criminal code based on the German-influenced Japanese code of laws was completed by 1908. Complaints that punishments were not severe enough for some crimes caused changes to be made. The Qing Code was promulgated in 1910 and lasted until 1928.

In 1904 the Qing court informed the United States that they would not renew the 1894 treaty without a change. On October 11, 1903 the Boston police had raided Chinatown and arrested 234 people, and at the St. Louis Exposition in 1904 the Chinese delegation of two hundred merchants had suffered discriminatory treatment. On May 10, 1905 the Shanghai Chamber of Commerce resolved to begin a boycott if the American government did not correct its exclusionary policy against the Chinese. In June the merchants in Guangzhou, Shanghai, and other places began to boycott American goods. On July 16 Feng Xiawei took poison and died in front of the American consulate. In his two suicide notes he asked the Chinese people to protest and boycott American goods until the treaty was rectified. The Qing officials intervened in the north, and on August 31 the court gave in to American pressure and proclaimed the boycott illegal. Three men were arrested in Guangzhou (Canton) in September and were not released until October 1906, when the boycott was cancelled. In 1908 the United States decided to remit most of the money owed from the Boxer indemnity by applying it to scholarships for Chinese students in American universities.

China was being exploited by foreign trade, and the trade deficit reached a peak of 219 million taels in 1905. Foreigners controlled 84% of Chinese shipping and all of iron production in 1907. In December 1905 China recognized Japan’s control over the parts of Manchuria they had taken from Russia in their war.

Cixi appointed three prominent Manchus and two Chinese to a study group to travel abroad. On August 26, 1905 as their train was leaving Beijing, it was blown up by a revolutionary. Two commissioners were injured, and the assassin was killed. The mission was delayed and reached Washington DC in January 1906. They also visited Europe and Japan. The Manchu leader Zaize suggested that a constitution within five years could diminish internal unrest, please foreign powers, and preserve the Qing dynasty. After hearing their report, in September the Dowager promised a constitution and administrative reform, and in November a decree defined the names of the new ministries as Foreign Affairs, Education, Civil Offices, Finance, Civil Affairs (police), the Army, Justice, Rites, Dependencies (colonies), and Agriculture, Industry and Commerce. A National Assembly was to express public opinion. However, only four of the thirteen members of the Grand Council were from the vast majority of Han Chinese. Thus the Manchus maintained their anti-Chinese hold on power.

Many believed that Japan’s victory over Russia proved that modern constitutionalism is better than autocracy. Finally in 1905 after thirteen centuries the government examinations were abolished. That year copper workers went on strike. Mint employees went out in 1907, and the next year thousands of street vendors and shop assistants were on strike. In 1906 opium worth £7 million was being imported by the British from India, but by then Chinese production of opium was three times that. That year an imperial edict prohibited opium with a plan to wipe it out in ten years, and in 1908 the British agreed to reduce the opium they imported by ten percent. However, the economic interests involved in opium were difficult to stop. By 1906 Yuan Shikai had established schools for self-government, and in 1907 he approved an election for a Tianjin council. That year the government gave the Manchus land and allowed them to engage in agriculture and commerce.

The first thirteen Chinese students had gone to Japan in 1896, and by 1899 there were more than a hundred. The Determination Society was founded in 1900, and the Youth Society was dedicated to nationalism. In the largest movement of students in history thus far the numbers peaked in 1906 at about 13,000. The Qing court tried to control their studies, but this only made some students more rebellious. In 1905 nearly all the Chinese students in Japan were on strike; but in December a student committed suicide after warning against being self-indulgent and mean. About two thousand returned to China, but the strike continued. In January 1906 a Sino-Japanese Student Association was formed, and in 1907 the best higher schools in Japan were opened to Chinese students.

Many Chinese students read books translated from Japanese which made up more than half of all translations in the first decade of the twentieth century. About a third of these were on natural and applied sciences, a quarter on social sciences, and a quarter on history and geography. In 1904 China had only 4,222 schools with 92,169 students, and the Government emphasized the importance of honoring Confucianism and the Qing empire. Schools replaced the examinations, and the gentry enrolled their sons. In 1907 laws prohibited students from being involved in political affairs or attending mass meetings. In 1909 there were 52,348 schools with 1,560,270 students, but only about 13,000 were girls. Most of the Chinese teachers still did not have modern educations, and so traditional Confucianism was still the main curriculum.

Constitution-Protection Clubs sprang up, and on August 27, 1908 the court announced an outline for a constitution but indicated it would take nine years. Yet all of the executive, legislative, and judicial powers still were controlled by the emperor. To vote for the Provincial Assembly one had to be a male at least 25 years old and either have an education or be a civil official or military officer or own 5,000 yuan. Cixi was 73 and became ill. She was determined that her nephew Guangxu would not outlive her, and the Emperor died one day before she died on November 15, 1908. Many suspected that she had him poisoned. Her three-year-old grand-nephew became Emperor Puyi, and his father, the second Prince Chun, became regent. By the beginning of 1909 he had forced Yuan Shikai to retire.

In February 1909 the Regent ordered the first election for the provincial assemblies, and they met for the first time in October. The votes of the Assemblymen electing the local council depended on how much property they owned. The Qing court announced that a provisional national assembly would meet in October 1910. During that year representatives from sixteen provinces went to Beijing three times with petitions for a constitutional parliament bearing 200,000 signatures in January, 300,000 in June, and 25,000,000 in October. They met in secret conclaves and discussed revolution. The National Assembly that was inaugurated on October 3 had one hundred members elected and one hundred appointed by the Emperor. The silver tael system was abolished, and the silver dollar became the standard coin. The Finance Ministry planned a budget with 296 million taels in revenue and expenditure of 376 million taels.

Also in 1910 Yinchang was appointed minister of War, and he promulgated a new code of military law. Qing forces invaded Tibet and made it the province of Xikang, occupying Lhasa. Chinese soldiers learned how to salute and were allowed to cut off their queues. In 1910 the military budget was eight times what it had been in 1905, and military expenditures accounted for about one-third of the 1911 budget. The national assembly cut 30 million taels from the army budget, but taxes had to be increased on agriculture, real estate, transit dues, and duties on tea, wine, salt, and tobacco. Heavy rains in the Yangzi and Huai valleys in 1910 and 1911 caused floods that destroyed crops and resulted in about 2,500,000 deaths and millions of refugees going to cities. On November 4, 1910 Prince Chun decreed that a parliament would convene in 1913.

Sun Yat-sen and Revolutionaries

Sun Yat-sen was born on November 12, 1866 near Guangzhou in a peasant family. His older brother Sun Mei started a business in Honolulu, and in 1879 Yat-sen and his mother went there. He continued his education at an Anglican boarding school and became a Christian. He graduated from Oahu College in 1883. Sun Yat-sen went to Hong Kong, improved his English, and enrolled in Queen’s College. After marrying in 1885 he studied at a medical school in Guangzhou. There his friend Zheng Shiliang had connections with secret societies. Sun also studied Chinese history and discussed revolution. In 1887 he transferred to the College of Medicine for Chinese in Hong Kong, where he graduated first in his class in 1892. After practicing medicine for a year in Macao, Sun moved to Guangzhou and learned more about secret societies. In 1894 he went to Tianjin with a reform memorial for Li Hongzhang, offering his services, but he was not allowed to meet with him. So Sun went to Honolulu, and on November 24 he and his brother founded the Revive China Society (Xingzhonghui) with 112 members. They aimed to publish newspapers, open schools, build water-conservation systems, improve people’s livelihoods, and get rid of bad habits.

Sun Yat-sen went back to Hong Kong and established the Revive China Society headquarters there in February 1895. The radical Literary Society for the Development of Benevolence led by Yang Quyun merged with the Revive China Society. Branches formed in the provinces, and their goals were to overthrow the Manchus and establish a federal republic. Sun and Yang tried to organize an uprising with Sanyuanli militia; but when Yang telegraphed on October 26 that his shipment of weapons would be delayed, Sun disbanded his mercenaries. However, Sun’s telegram to Yang in Hong Kong arrived too late. Yang’s ship with the weapons and 400 men were met by the garrison in Guangzhou, and they lost 48 lives and the munitions. After six months the Revive China Society in Hong Kong disbanded.

Sun had fled to Hong Kong, but the British put a price on his head and banned him for five years. So he went to Japan, where he was hailed as a revolutionary and established a Revive China Society branch at Yokohama. Sun cut off his queue and began wearing Western clothes. After visiting Honolulu, Sun went to London, where he visited the Chinese legation on October 11. They held him prisoner for twelve days, but his old professor and friend Dr. Cantlie got the Foreign Office to secure his release. The story was given much publicity on October 23 and made Sun famous. He gave interviews, wrote letters to newspapers, and published Kidnapped in London in English in early 1897.

He believed in the justice and rights of the British system, but he could not persuade them to let him return to Hong Kong. He based his revolution on Chinese nationalism that would not only overthrow the Manchus but also be independent of foreign powers. He favored a republican constitution without a monarch, and he began developing socialist ideas based on the single land tax of Henry George. Sun wanted to equalize land ownership, and he proposed having landlords assess the value of their property for the tax. If the assessment was low the government could buy it for that price. His “three people’s principles” had been summed up by Abraham Lincoln as “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Sun studied at the British Museum, and he met Felix Volkovsky, editor of the  monthly Free Russia. They published Kidnapped in London in a Russian translation in 1897.

Sun Yat-sen returned to Japan in 1897. Prime Minister Okuma Shigenabu formulated his doctrine that Japan should show its gratitude by helping a Chinese hero save his country. Sun met Miyazaki Torazo at the home of Chen Shaobai. Miyazaki was won over and introduced him to the liberal journalist Inukai Ki, who was Okuma’s minister of Education. They became friends, and Sun adopted the Japanese name Nakayama. Sun urged the Japanese to support the Filipino revolutionary Aguinaldo in the spring of 1898.

In November 1898 the famous Kang Youwei arrived and was received by Okuma, Prince Konoe Atsumaro, and Inukai. The Japanese funded both Kang and Sun and tried to bring them together, but Kang considered Sun an “uneducated bandit” and would not meet with him. Kang went to Canada and in July 1899 founded the Society to Protect the Emperor (Baohuanghui). His followers organized the Independence Army at Hankou, but the two insurrections they planned against Cixi in 1900 failed. The Qing court had offered a reward of 140,000 taels for Kang, and he was afraid that Sun Yat-sen had hired assassins to kill him. Kang later organized the Society for Constitutional Government. He was able to raise money that he spent lavishly traveling around the world and for an island off the coast of Sweden; other investments were lost in the Mexican Revolution.

In 1899 Sun sent Chen Shaobo to Hong Kong to found the China Daily (Zhongguo ribao). Zheng Shiliang opened a center in Hong Kong, and others met with secret societies in the Yangzi Valley, especially the powerful Society of Elder Brothers; but in the spring of 1900 the Elder Brothers changed their loyalty to Kang’s Society to Protect the Emperor.

During the Boxer uprising Zheng Shiliang organized a rebellion in his ancestral Huizhou, north of Hong Kong. The leaders of the secret societies were not Boxers but wanted to oust the Manchus. These Triads were 70% of the subversives, but most of the rest were Christians. The revolt began spontaneously in Huizhou on October 6, 1900. Zheng led several hundred men from the south; as they routed imperial troops, their numbers increased to ten thousand in ten days. On October 17 Sun directed them to make a long march toward Amoy, where he hoped for aid from the Japanese. They were harassed by imperial troops, and on October 23 they learned that Japan, fearing the Russian reaction, had backed out. Zheng and the Triad leaders fled to Hong Kong. There secret agents killed Yang Quyun in his classroom, and Zheng died of food poisoning. Shi Jianru tried to kill the governor of Guangdong with a bomb on October 28, but he was caught and beheaded. Sun was not allowed in Hong Kong and went to Formosa. The Japanese governor Kodama helped Sun until the new Japanese premier, Prince Ito, ordered him to stop that. Another rebellion in Wuhan failed because the funds and reinforcements promised by Kang did not arrive.

Kang Youwei’s leading disciple Liang Qichao settled in Japan and spread his ideas for a constitutional monarchy by publishing Public Opinion (Qingyibao) 1898-1902 and The New People’s Miscellany 1902-07. He believed in social Darwinism but called for public morality, lamenting, “Among our people there is not one who looks on national affairs as if they were his own affairs.”3 He urged people to observe the trends in the world, study what will benefit China, and create a new morality to solidify, benefit, and develop the people. Liang suggested improving foreign trade by protecting the rights of domestic trade and industry with commercial laws. Corrupt government and sycophantic learning must be replaced by a responsible government with a constitution and a parliament. Liang got along with Sun Yat-sen better than Kang did; but he suggested that if Cixi were eliminated, Emperor Guangxu could be president of the new republic. Liang went to Hawaii in 1899 and won over Sun’s brother Mei to the Society to Protect the Emperor. Liang later founded the Political Information Institute (Zhengwenshe), but the Qing court closed it in 1908. Liang also wrote novels and plays.

After the Boxer disaster, Sun Yat-sen’s ideas for revolution gained more support. Students in Japan published the Citizen’s Tribune and Twentieth-Century China to promote revolution. In 1902 Cai Yuanpei and Zhang Binglin organized the Chinese Educational Association (Zhongguo jiaoyuhui), and that year Zhang published his revised essays as Urgent Advice. His ideas on national revolution were based on the philosophy of the historian Wang Fuzhi (1619-92). Zhang argued that the Manchus had falsified the past and deprived the Chinese of their national consciousness, and so they must restore their culture and eject the Manchus. When Russia refused to evacuate southern Manchuria in 1903, Huang Xing and some Chinese students in Tokyo organized a Resist Russia Corps. When the Japanese government dissolved it, they formed the Association for Military Education.

Sun Yat-sen had asked the French ambassador Jules Harmond in Tokyo for arms in June 1900. In December 1902 Sun went to Hanoi, but in the next six months his efforts for a federal republic in southern China were thwarted. When he returned to Yokohama in June, Sun found so little support that in September he embarked for Hawaii. There he began giving speeches, and he wrote his “Refutation of the Newspapers of the Society to Protect the Emperor,” arguing for revolution. He began selling “patriotic bonds” for $10, promising they would be redeemed for $100 after the revolution. Sun joined a Hawaiian branch of the Triad society in 1904, and he was elected a general in the Hong League. This title helped him win over some Chinese communities in the United States from Kang’s Emperor Protection Society. Sun disagreed with Liang because he believed that the Manchu regime must be overthrown by revolution.

In 1903 young Zou Rong wrote The Revolutionary Army, a diatribe against the Manchus that also expressed admiration for the American and French revolutions and German and Italian unification. Zou wrote,

Revolution is a universal rule of evolution.
Revolution is a universal principle of the world.
Revolution is the essence of the struggle for survival
or destruction in a time of transition.
Revolution submits to heaven and responds to men’s needs.
Revolution rejects what is corrupt and keeps the good.
Revolution is the advance from barbarism to civilization.
Revolution turns slaves into masters.4

Zou concluded by calling for the overthrow of the Manchus, execution of the Emperor, an elected general assembly, military service for all men, equal rights for men and women, freedom of speech and the press, the right to reject an oppressive government, and a constitution and local self-government based on the American system. More than a million copies of his pamphlet were circulated.

In June the Jiangsu Gazette (Subao) published favorable reviews with editor Zhang Binglin’s forward and “Open Letter in Refutation of Kang Youwei’s Views on Revolution.” The Qing court demanded the Europeans extradite them; but the Shanghai Mixed Court only sentenced Zou to two years for distributing inflammatory writing while giving Zhang three years. However, Zou became ill in prison and died in early 1905 at the age of 19.

Huang Xing formed a China Revival Society (Huaxinghui) at Changsha in December 1903 with 500 members. They planned to take over Changsha on the Dowager’s birthday on November 16, 1904; but the plot was discovered in October,  and Huang escaped to Japan. In Shanghai revolutionaries formed a Society for the Education of a Militant Citizenry, and they secretly planned assassinations. The scholar Cai Yuanpei with students and intellectual anarchists from Zhejiang started the Restoration Society (Guangfuhui) in Shanghai; but they lacked effective leadership, and their uprisings were aborted.

Sun Yat-sen had thousands of copies of The Revolutionary Army distributed in Singapore under the title, The Fight for Survival, and he had 11,000 copies printed in San Francisco in 1904. There he had one of his disciples take over a Triad newspaper to publish the Great Harmony Daily. After visiting major cities Sun reached New York in September and published The True Solution to the Chinese Question in English, asking for support for an American-style revolution. In the spring of 1905 he visited the Brussels secretariat and affiliated his organization as a socialist party in the Second International.

Nine days after Sun returned to Japan, he spoke in the offices of the China Daily on July 28 on the need for unity and intellectuals in the revolution. Two days later seventy people (mostly students) met and decided to form the Revolutionary Alliance (Tongmenghui). On August 13 more than seven hundred students crowded into and around the Fuji Restaurant to hear Sun speak, and one week later the Revolutionary Alliance was officially founded as Sun read the charter to three hundred people in the home of a Japanese member of parliament. In 1906 they enrolled 963 members; all but one hundred of them were students in Tokyo, but they were from every province in China but one. Sun’s “Manifesto of the Military Government” explained his plan to have military rule for three years after the revolution while slavery, foot-binding, opium use, and political corruption were removed. Then in the next six years local self-government would be developed before the military government was dissolved and replaced by a constitution.

Sun met with Huang Xing and Song Jiaoren, and in August they formed the United China League with Sun as chairman and Huang as his substitute. After Huang’s Twentieth-Century China was banned, The People’s Report (Minbao) began publishing on November 26, 1905 and put out 24 issues before it was suppressed in 1908. In their first issue they described their six goals as overthrowing the autocratic Qing regime, establishing a republican government, making China strong and united to preserve world peace, nationalizing the land, promoting friendship between the Japanese and Chinese people, and seeking international support to reconstruct China. In the second issue they published introductions to Marx and Engels with selections from the Communist Manifesto. In 1906 the Alliance explained its equalization of landownership policy as follows:

The social and economic structure of China
must be so reconstructed that the fruits of labor
will be shared by all Chinese on an equal basis.
Every tract of land in China must be assessed
to determine its fair value in monetary terms,
and this value belongs, of course, to the landowner.
Any added value,
which results from social progress after the revolution,
will, however, belong to the nation as a whole
and must be shared by all Chinese.
The ultimate goal of a responsible society is the guarantee
of a satisfactory livelihood for all of its members
and everyone, whomever he happens to be,
shall have his own means of support,
via gainful employment or some other source.
Anyone who attempts to monopolize
the livelihood of others will be ostracized.5

The People’s Report also explained the differences between the revolutionaries and the reformers. The Revolutionary Alliance stated that they believe in republicanism, constitutional democracy, the Han Chinese revolution as well as political revolution, the use of force in the revolution, and socialism. They criticized the reformers believing in monarchy and only in political revolution. Sun’s republicanism included three branches of the executive, legislative, and judicial from Montesquieu, but he added two Chinese traditions—an auditing function (censor) and an examination system for selecting officials without clientism.

A few Chinese were studying the Japanese book, Modern Socialism. Some Chinese anarchists in Paris were influenced by Bakunin and Kropotkin, and they founded the New World Society in 1906 and the journal New Era. Most of them were connected to Sun’s Revolutionary Alliance.

In 1905 Sun Yat-sen had negotiated with the French in Paris. Captain Boucabeille headed a French Intelligence Service in southern China that began in May 1905. In April 1906 Sun founded the Alliance’s Southeast Asia Bureau in Singapore, and that summer sections formed on the Malay peninsula. Sun met with Boucabeille in Shanghai on October 11; but five days later Boucabeille was recalled, and the Intelligence Service was ended. In the next two years the Revolutionary Alliance instigated at least seven revolts against the Qing regime—three in Guangdong and others in Hunan, Yunnan, Anhui, and Guangxi.

In the fall of 1904 Qiu Jin wrote an essay on behalf of the unfairly treated two hundred million women in China. She had left China for Japan after an unhappy arranged marriage. She joined the Triad secret society in Yokohama, and in the summer of 1905 became a member of the Revolutionary Alliance. She wrote to her friend Wu Zhiyang, the famous calligrapher,

Women must get educated
and strive for their own independence;
they can’t just go on asking the men for everything.
The young intellectuals are all chanting,
“Revolution, Revolution,”
but I say the revolution will have to start in our homes,
by achieving equal rights for women.6

In 1906 Qiu founded The Chinese Women’s Journal in Shanghai, taught at a girls school, and translated Japanese books on health and nursing. Her cousin Xu Xilin had joined the anarchist Restoration Society, and in 1905 he started the Datong School that hid guns and ammunition in a warehouse. In 1907 he was the head of a police academy and was given a list of names to arrest. Seeing his own code name on the list, Xu assassinated the Manchu Governor Enming of Anhui on July 6. About thirty men fought with him for about four hours before they were arrested, interrogated, and executed. One week later Qiu and some of her students tried to fight off troops in Datong, but she was arrested, tortured, and beheaded on July 15.

Zhang Binglin was released from prison in June 1906 and was welcomed as a hero. In November he began editing the People’s Report and debated Liang’s New People’s Miscellany. In the winter of 1907 Zhang sent Tao Chengzhang to Singapore to ask Sun Yat-sen for $3,000 for the People’s Report, but Sun would not give him anything and forbade Tao to raise money overseas. In 1907 the Qing court persuaded the Japanese government to expel Sun Yat-sen, but while doing so they gave him a large amount of money. He left 2,000 yen with Zhang Binglin for publishing the People’s Report in Tokyo, but Sun took even more money with him for his own operations. This caused a scandal, and Song Jiaoren criticized Sun for being “dictatorial and intransigent.” Although Sun used the money for his expenses, he did not acquire any excess wealth while working for the revolution. During the summer of 1907 the Alliance of the Oppressed Nations of East Asia, which excluded Japan as imperialistic, elected Zhang Binglin president. Zhang criticized Sun’s sponsoring insurrections for giving the revolution a terrorist image while having little chance for success.

Sun Yat-sen went with Huang Xing to Hanoi in March 1907. From there in the next year they supervised six uprisings in Guangdong, Guangxi, and Yunnan until the French also expelled the revolutionaries. In September an insurrection broke out in Guangdong’s border region with Guangxi and Tonkin. Led by Wang Heshun from a secret society, they seized Fangcheng and killed the magistrate; but reinforcements did not arrive, and they dispersed. Sun Yat-sen personally went with Huang Xing and a French army captain in December, and they captured the Zhennanguan fort for a few days. In March 1908 the Qing court persuaded the French to expel Sun from Hanoi, and in the next two months Huang Xing directed two more insurrections. For the next two years Sun operated from Singapore. There the revolutionary Renaissance Daily competed with the reformist Union Times.

Also in 1907 Sun Wu founded the Progressive Association (Gongjin Hui) in Tokyo to unite the secret societies in the Yangzi Valley, and they changed one of Sun Yat-sen’s goals from equalizing land rights to equalizing human rights. Sun Wu soon turned his efforts from secret societies to the New Army. When the Qing regime tried to stop even democratic groups from meeting openly in 1908, the Army Revolutionary Alliance became the Society for the Study of Popular Government. They published a revolutionary newspaper, and in September 1910 became the Institute for the Restoration of the Martial Spirit. In January 1911 they named their front organization the Literary Institute.

During the unrest following the death of Emperor Guangxu and Empress Cixi in November 1908, the Revolutionary Alliance tried to spread mutinies in Guangzhou, but the troops stayed loyal to the Manchus and suppressed them. Song Jiaoren began editing the influential People’s Stand in October 1910, arguing for a moderate constitutional republic.

In 1910 the Cantonese Revolutionary Alliance began a South China Bureau in Hong Kong directed by Hu Hanmin, Huang Xing, and Zhao Sheng. Sun Yat-sen sent them HK $8,000 from the United States, and Hong Kong merchants added HK $20,000 more. On June 15 Sun met Huang Xing in Yokohama and gave him a suitcase full of banknotes. In January 1911 Huang set up his headquarters in Hong Kong. Arms from Japan, Saigon, and Siam were delivered and smuggled into Guangzhou. Sun began having people swear allegiance to the Chinese Revolutionary Party while he was in California in early 1911. He sold bonds for less than half price in San Francisco, and he raised $35,000 from Canada. Between 1907 to 1911 Sun raised an estimated HK $600,000 for the revolution.

Chinese Revolution 1911-12

In late February 1911 hundreds of Chinese students in Tokyo called for armed self-defense in China because they believed the Manchu government could no longer protect China as a nation from Russia, Britain, and France. On March 3 the influential Shanghai newspaper Shaobao and the revolutionary newspaper Minlibao both reported that an international conference in Paris initiated by Japan had agreed to divide up China. This rumor spread around China in the next two months.

In 1910 in Shanghai 51 constitutionalists from sixteen provinces had formed the Federation of Provincial Assemblies. In March 1911 the leading petitioner Sun Hongyi invited the chairmen of the provincial assemblies to meet in Beijing, and that month Liang called for the overthrow of the bad government. Sun Yat-sen raised money in the United States, Canada, and Singapore and sold bonds, promising a large return on the investments after the revolution. He sent $70,000 to Hong Kong for an uprising in Guangzhou (Canton). Huang Xing took command in Guangzhou on April 23 and was wounded in the rebellion. On April 27 at Guangzhou 86 revolutionaries were executed, and they became famous as the “72 martyrs.”

On May 8, 1911 Prince Chun appointed a cabinet of thirteen ministers with five royal relatives and only four Han Chinese. The Federation of Provincial Assemblies met again and on June 4 organized a political party called the Friends of the Constitution (Xianyuhui) or the People’s Party. On July 13 the Revolutionary Alliance established a Central China Bureau in Shanghai with Song Jiaoren as leader. In Hubei the Common Advancement Society and the Military Study Society planned a united action and invited Song to lead the revolution because Sun Yat-sen was traveling in the United States. During the revolution the business community contributed more than seven million Chinese silver dollars to the United League.

Sheng Xuanhuai had taken over the China Merchants’ steamship line and Zhang Zhidong’s industries around Hankou by 1908. That year he combined the Hanyang arsenal with the Daye iron mines and the Pingxiang coal mines to form the Han-Ye-Ping Coal and Iron Company. He worked with Manchu officials to get foreign loans to build railways. Sheng proposed that Beijing nationalize all the provincial railways, and he signed a contract with the Four-Power Banking Consortium, which included England, the United States, Germany, and France. They had loaned the Qing government £10 million to develop Manchuria and reform the currency and in 1911 loaned another £6 million for a railway between Guangzhou and Wuhan and Chengdu. In May the Qing court ordered the railway lines nationalized, and the gentry in four provinces protested during the summer, especially in Sichuan where a smaller indemnity was granted because of an embezzlement conviction. The chairman of the Sichuan Assembly organized a Railway Protection League, and more than two thousand people attended a meeting at Chengdu on June 17. Their goals were to have railways under commercial management and for all state affairs to be open to public discussion.

On August 24, 1911 more than 10,000 people rallied in Chengdu. Governor-General Zhao Erfeng ordered the leaders arrested, and in the conflict 32 people were killed. A week later railway investors decided to stop paying taxes. The Sichuan Assembly demanded the right to control local taxes and inspect schools, and they called for a National Assembly. Mass demonstrations on September 7 led to counties declaring independence, and within a week the Qing court capitulated by promising full compensation to railway investors. When demonstrations continued, imperial troops from Hubei were transferred to Sichuan. Armed bands of up to a hundred thousand peasants supported by provincial forces overcame the imperial troops, who tried to hold the capital and major cities.

By 1911 the Revolutionary Alliance had about 10,000 members, and they infiltrated the New Army. When the Government discovered them, they disbanded the group and went elsewhere. By the fall of 1911 they had won over about 5,000 troops in Hubei. They were making bombs in Hankou on October 9 when one exploded accidentally. Several revolutionaries were injured and taken to a hospital. Police investigated, arrested 32 people, found membership registers of soldiers, and executed three. The revolutionaries decided they had to revolt to save lives.

The first mutiny on October 10 was in the Wuchang battalion. The engineers seized an ammunition depot, and four thousand men under a company commander with the artillery attacked the office of the Governor-General, who fled. The next day the revolutionaries rose up in the nearby city of Hanyang, where they seized the arsenal and ironworks. Hankou soldiers mutinied on October 12. They formed a military government in Hubei with a new calendar using the year 4609 from the founding of their civilization by the legendary Yellow Emperor (Huangdi). They acted in the name of the popular brigade commander Li Yuanhong, and after two days he agreed to become military governor rather than be executed. The former Hubei Assembly chairman, Tang Hualong, sent out telegrams to other provinces urging them to declare independence from the Qing regime. They resolved to honor all treaties made by the Qing regime up to October 13. The foreign consuls remained neutral, but in the next four months Japanese, American, British, French, German, and Italian troops occupied the railroad between Beijing and Mukden.

The desperate Qing court summoned Yuan Shikai from retirement. On October 22 the mutiny spread to Shaanxi and Hunan, and many Manchus were killed in the capitals of Xian and Changsha. By the end of the month the revolt erupted in the provinces of Shanxi, Jiangxi, and Yunnan. The Qing commander Yinchang sent troops from Beijing on the railway to Wuhan, but rebels from Shanxi left Taiyuan and destroyed the railway, cutting off their supply lines. Huang Xing took command of the  revolutionary forces in Hankou on October 28. While negotiating his demands, Yuan Shikai was put in charge of the army and navy on October 27. He sent Feng Guozhang, and his forces recaptured Hankou on November 2; but in the next week Zhejiang, Fujian, and Guangdong went over to the revolution. Hubei called for a meeting of revolutionary governments in Wuhan, but those in Zhejiang and Jiangsu planned a national conference in Shanghai.

Two senior northern generals refused to mobilize their troops and sent a circular telegram with twelve demands that included a parliament, a constitution, an elected premier, no summary executions, and amnesty for political prisoners. The Qing court capitulated as the Regent (Prince Chun) and the Premier (Prince Qing) resigned. Yuan Shikai also demanded a national assembly within a year, his own cabinet, amnesty for revolutionaries, and control over the army and navy with adequate funds. The revolutionary commanders in the north opposed Yuan and tried to prevent him from reaching Beijing, but Yuan had one of them assassinated on November 7. The next day the Beijing provisional national assembly elected Yuan premier, and on November 11 the Qing court appointed him to the same office. He sent an army that recovered Hanyang on November 27, and the British minister, John Jordan, mediated a truce on December 1. The revolutionaries took over Shanghai, and after heavy fighting Nanjing fell to them on December 4. That day the former regent Prince Chun was retired on an annual pension of 50,000 taels. Longyu, the mother of the child Emperor Puyi, had negotiated this and accepted Yuan as premier. On December 14 in Nanjing 44 delegates from seventeen provinces formed a provisional government.

Sun Yat-sen had learned of the revolution from a Denver newspaper while on a train to Kansas City. He went to London and spent three weeks there persuading the British government not to advance any more loans to the Qing regime. After obtaining a similar assurance from Premier Clemenceau in Paris, Sun arrived by ship at Hong Kong on December 21 and discussed revolutionary strategy. He went to Shanghai on Christmas Day and argued for a stronger presidential system rather than a parliamentary government. On December 29 he was elected provisional president of the Chinese republic.

Sun Yat-sen was inaugurated on January 1, 1912 as the republic adopted the Western calendar and its seven-day week in place of the Chinese ten-day week and lunar calendar. Sun sent a telegram to Yuan Shikai that he was waiting for him to take over the presidency, but Yuan felt betrayed by these moves and broke off peace negotiations. He got 80,000 ounces of gold from the Dowager and ordered forty generals to oppose the republic. Assassination attempts against Yuan and several Manchu princes and generals failed except that one deputy chief of staff was killed by a bomb. Sun appointed a military governor of Manchuria and sent a force that included four ships. He wanted to avoid a civil war and was willing to let Yuan be president of the republic if he agreed to notify foreign ministers of the Qing abdication, publicly declared his support for the republic, and pledged to honor the constitution prepared by the parliament. Yuan persuaded his generals to support the republic, and at the end of January a telegram from 44 senior commanders of the Beiyang army urged the Beijing cabinet to form a republic.

Sun Yat-sen offered $300,000 in military bonds that would be repayable in three months, but the provincial delegates censured him. Sun also wanted to let the Japanese take over joint management of the Han-Ye-Ping Company for 12 million yen with an immediate line of credit of 3 million for the Nanjing government. The Nanjing parliament was upset they were not consulted, and Industry minister Zhang Jian resigned in protest. The deal was not carried out because of Sun’s resignation.

Yuan Shikai and the provisional government in Nanjing agreed to let Emperor Puyi reside in the Forbidden City of Beijing and own the imperial treasures with a stipend of $4 million a year; the Manchu ancestral temples were to be protected. In exchange Puyi abdicated on February 12, giving full powers to Yuan, who pledged to support the republic. The next day Sun Yat-sen resigned as provisional president and recommended Yuan as his successor if Nanjing remained the capital and if he came there and observed the provisional constitution drafted by the provisional parliament. On February 14 the provisional parliament elected Yuan provisional president and Li Yuanhong provisional vice-president. The Nanjing parliament voted against transferring the capital from Beijing; but when Huang Xing threatened to send in troops, they changed their minds. Yuan did not want to leave Beijing. When a southern delegation led by Song Jiaoren, Wang Jingwei, and Cai Yuanpei visited him in the northern capital, Yuan quelled a mutiny in the garrison to persuade them he needed to stay there.

On March 6 the Nanjing parliament voted to let Yuan become president in Beijing. He was inaugurated on March 10, and the next day he promulgated the Provisional Constitution that the Nanjing parliament had designed to give more power to the parliament and a prime minister who had to countersign documents signed by the president. In March the United League recognized the more conservative Song Jiaoren as their leader. Sun Yat-sen’s power declined, and his responsibilities ended on April 1. The Parliament voted to make Beijing the national capital on April 5. After more than four thousand years China’s tradition of dynastic monarchies had fallen.

Republican China in Turmoil 1912-1926


1. On the Study of Humanity by Tan Sitong in Sources of Chinese Tradition ed. Wm Theodore de Bary, p. 750.
2. Ibid., p. 752.
3. A People Made New 12:47 by Liang Ch’i-Ch’ao in Sources of Chinese Tradition ed. Wm Theodore de Bary, p. 757.
4. Gemingjun by Zou Rong, p. 1-2 quoted in The Gate of Heavenly Peace by Jonathan D. Spence, p. 48.
5. Modern China from Mandarin to Commissar tr. Dun J. Li, p. 138-139.
6. Collected Works of Qiu Jin, p. 185-186 quoted in The Gate of Heavenly Peace by Jonathan D. Spence, p. 57.

Copyright © 2007 by Sanderson Beck

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Qing Decline 1799-1875
Qing Dynasty Fall 1875-1912
Republican China in Turmoil 1912-1926
Nationalist-Communist Civil War 1927-1937
China at War 1937-1949
Korea 1800-1949
Japan's Modernization 1800-1894
Imperial Japan 1894-1937
Japan's War and Defeat 1937-1949
Philippines to 1949
Pacific Islands to 1949
Summary and Evaluation


World Chronological Index
Chronology of Asia & Africa to 1800
Chronology of Asia & Africa 1800-1950
Chronology of East Asia to 1950

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