China’s Revolution, 1911-1912: A Historical and Political Record of the Civil

CHINA’S REVOLUTION
1911-1912

A HISTORICAL AND POLITICAL
RECORD OF THE CIVIL WAR

BY

EDWIN J. DINGLE

WITH 2 MAPS AND 36 ILLUSTRATIONS

NEW YORK
McBRIDE, NAST & COMPANY
1912

(All rights reserved.)

TO
THOSE WHO LAID DOWN THEIR LIVES AND
TO THE NEW CHINA PARTY
IN THE HOPE THAT THEIR STRUGGLES FOR FREEDOM
MAY HERALD THE DAWNING OF A DAY OF
RIGHT AND TRUTH FOR CHINA
THIS VOLUME IS INSCRIBED

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AUTHOR’S NOTE

This volume is a popular history of the Revolution in China that broke out at Wuchang, Hankow, and Hanyang in October of 1911. The narrative contains a good deal of new information touching upon revolutionism in China, and the events leading up to the present climax. The magnitude of this Revolution cannot possibly be understood yet; but this volume is written in the hope that it will enable the student otherwise untutored to understand much that one absorbs in Chinese life.

When the Revolution broke out, I was residing in Hankow. Throughout the war I remained in Hankow, leaving this centre for Shanghai during the days when the Peace Conference was held in that city. I am a personal friend of the leader of the Revolution, General Li Yuan Hung, and, by virtue of having all the time been in possession of much exclusive information from behind the political curtain, am probably equipped to write of the main doings of the Revolution in that area where its effects were most marked. On the very eve of the Revolution, a book written by myself was published simultaneously in England and America, which contains some strangely prophetic utterances, and will give the reader who has not made Chinese politics a study a general idea of the condition of the country when the Revolution made the scales drop from the eyes of her teeming millions.[1]

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I wish gratefully to acknowledge the kind offices of Mr. Thos. F. Millard, editor of the China Press, for allowing me free use of the columns of that journal. Much of my information has been culled from the C.P., although many of the articles were written by myself for that newspaper, whilst the war was in progress; but I am largely indebted to that paper also for many of my general later facts.

Especially also do I wish to thank the Rev. Bernard Upward, of Hankow, for the assistance he has rendered me whilst this volume was being prepared. The chapter entitled “Some Revolution Factors” is from Mr. Upward’s pen, as is also that headed “Yuan Shih K’ai”; many of the illustrations shown in the volume also are reproductions from Mr. Upward’s splendid collection. My warm thanks are also due to Mr. Stanley V. Boxer, B.Sc., for the drawings from which the two maps embodied in this volume were prepared, and for the explanatory note accompanying the sketch map of the battlefields.

It should, perhaps, in fairness to myself, be mentioned that, owing to absence from England, I have not had an opportunity of reading the proof-sheets before this volume was printed.

EDWIN J. DINGLE.

HANKOW, HUPEH, CHINA.
        April 1, 1912.

[1] “Across China on Foot: Life in the Interior and the Reform Movement.” Henry Holt & Co., New York. $3.50. J. W. Arrowsmith, Ltd., Bristol, 16s.

CHINA’S REVOLUTION

1911-1912

CHAPTER I

THE REVOLUTION
The story of the great Chinese Revolution of 1911-12 will probably never be told fully or accurately. China is a continent in its vast area. Its population is one-fourth of the whole human race. The country is not opened up by roads or railways and travel generally is arduous and slow; exaggeration among the people, as among all Orientals, is second nature. And so it would be at once impossible for any one man closely to follow up and widely and accurately to write of the Revolution which broke out at Wuchang last year, tracing it up to the present moment and getting a clean political and international outlook whilst doing so. Although I have endeavoured by careful study to get into focus with doings all over the Empire, I confess that I have been unable to secure unimpeachable information on any part of China other than that in which I was living (I speak of the interior of China, for it was easy enough to be kept informed in the main centres and the treaty ports whilst the telegraph lines were intact). Had there been roads and railways and communication of a kind to render it physically possible to move about, even then this would {14}have been impossible; for soon after the Revolution broke the anti-foreign spirit and the outlawry shown in many parts of the country forbade any European going far from the treaty ports—and, of course, practically all foreigners were ordered to the coast by their consuls. Had a man a workable knowledge of the Chinese language in character, it would have been foolish to form one’s opinions from the rumours that were printed everywhere in the Chinese Press. And so it comes about that only upon those things which one saw and did is a man justified to write.

The reader, if he knows China, will need no further explanation, for readily will he recognise my meaning. He will understand by experience what a mass of inconsistency and incongruity China and her people are. But to the Westerner who has never been into China nor rubbed shoulders closely with this peculiar people it will perhaps be necessary to add that life in China, in all its forms and phases, is fraught with such a truly remarkable atmosphere of the unexpected that to write on any Chinese man, woman, custom, habit, place, or thing one is able only to generalise—unless he goes into the tedium of particularising. To get into line it is necessary so to cut down and to prune and generally to reinterpret that when one has told his story there seems to be very little at all in it. But those who have lived in China know the conditions. They will have absorbed this incomprehensible spirit of the country, will understand what is written—and what is more important still, will magnetically feel what is left out which the writer on Chinese affairs would have said. When in writing upon men and things Chinese you think you have pruned down all apparent misinterpretation or misrepresentation, you find there is still a little pruning left to be done; you prune again, and in the end you find you often are, to the Western mind, misinterpreting and misrepresenting facts merely because you have left out that which, to you, with {15}your Chinese eyes, appeared untrue. You see a thing in China and you think that you understand it. You fix it in your mind and tell yourself that you have absorbed it, whatever it may be, and that you now have the final thought and word and correct meaning. But after a little time you find, by a peculiar process of Chinese national twisting and shifting, no matter what you see, hear, think, believe, your final thought and word and correct meaning are changed completely.

This, perhaps, describes the political atmosphere during the Revolution. Into everything there came an exasperating suspense, a terrible tangle of all national affairs, as there still must be for a very long time to come. Therefore to the man who sets out to write a detailed history of China’s Revolution, and correctly to diagnose the effect of one event upon another in a consecutive and truthful line, there at once appears a formidable task.

What the author has set out to do in this volume is to tell of what he saw and understood, and then to put into print carefully considered opinion on the general situation and a historical survey of revolutions and main events in China that have led up to the Revolution of last October. This Revolution, although outbreaking prematurely, was all wonderfully planned. “The movement began to take definite shape about fifteen or sixteen years ago,” says Sun Yat Sen, the greatest of Chinese revolutionists, though he had been interested in the movement for a longer time than that. “Three years ago we were ready to take over Wuchang, Canton, and Nanking, but we were waiting to gain control of the Peking soldiers. We had been working for some time through the students. Following the war with Japan, the Peking Government began to organise its new army, sending students abroad to be trained to take charge of the army. It was at once seen that if the Manchus were able to organise and control a modern army it would greatly strengthen their position, and the Revolutionary {16}party set to work to counteract their efforts. They worked through the students, so that when they returned to China to take positions as officers in the army they came as revolutionists. The outbreak could not have been postponed for more than a few months, but it did occur before it was expected. We knew that we had Wuchang, Nanking, and Canton, but there was a preliminary outbreak at Canton, then another one last summer. Then when the outbreak at Wuchang occurred it was no longer possible to postpone action, for the Government would have begun to disarm the soldiers who sympathised with us. At Canton they scattered our sympathisers over the province, so that it was very difficult to concentrate them. If our original plan had been carried out, there would have been very little fighting. Canton, Nanking, and Wuchang would have quietly gone over to us, and then all the troops could have marched on Peking if necessary. We have always had half of the Peking troops with us.”

Thus declared Sun Yat Sen—and there is little doubt he was right. The hitherto irremediable suppression of the individual qualities and national aspirations of the people arrested the intellectual, the moral, and the material development of China. The aid of revolution was invoked to extirpate the primary cause, and China now proclaimed the resultant overthrow of the despotic sway wielded by the Manchu Dynasty and the establishment of a Republic. The substitution of a Republic for a Monarchical form of government was not the fruit of a transient passion; it was the natural outcome of a long-cherished desire for broad-based freedom, making for permanent contentment and uninterrupted advancement. It was the formal declaration of the will of the Chinese nation.

In a manifesto issued to all friendly nations from the Republic of China, when Sun Yat Sen was appointed Provisional President, it was declared that “we, the Chinese people, are peaceful and law-abiding. We {17}have waged no war except in self-defence. We have borne our grievances during two hundred and sixty-seven years of Manchu misrule with patience and forbearance. We have by peaceful means endeavoured to redress our wrongs, secure our liberty, and ensure our progress, but we have failed. Oppressed beyond human endurance we deemed it our inalienable right as well as our sacred duty to appeal to arms to deliver ourselves and our posterity from the yoke to which we have so long been subjected, and for the first time in our history inglorious bondage has been transformed to an inspiring freedom splendid with a lustrous light of opportunity. The policy of the Manchu Dynasty has been one of unequivocal seclusion and unyielding tyranny. Beneath it we have bitterly suffered, and we now submit to the free peoples of the world the reasons justifying the Revolution and the inauguration of our present government. Prior to the usurpation of the Throne by the Manchus, the land was open to foreign intercourse, and religious tolerance existed, as is evidenced by the writings of Marco Polo and the inscription on the Nestorian Tablet of Sian-fu. Dominated by ignorance and selfishness, the Manchus closed the land to the outer world, and plunged the Chinese people into a state of benighted mentality, calculated to operate inversely to their natural talents and capabilities, thus committing a crime against humanity and the civilised nations almost impossible of expiation.”

WHERE CHINA’S REVOLUTION STARTED. This picture of Wuchang gives a good idea of the type of buildings seen in a Chinese city. Six hundred Manchus perished in Wuchang during the early days of the slaughter.
WHERE CHINA’S REVOLUTION STARTED.
This picture of Wuchang gives a good idea of the type of
buildings seen in a Chinese city. Six hundred Manchus perished
in Wuchang during the early days of the slaughter.
And there can be no doubt that, actuated by a perpetual desire for the subjugation of the Chinese, by a vicious craving for aggrandisement and wealth, the Manchus had governed China to the lasting injury and detriment of the people, creating privileges and monopolies and erecting about themselves barriers of exclusion in national custom and personal conduct which were rigorously maintained throughout the centuries. They had levied irregular and unwholesome taxes upon the Chinese without their consent, {18}restricted foreign trade to treaty ports, placed likin embargoes upon merchandise in transit, and obstructed internal commerce. They had retarded the creation of industrial enterprises, rendered impossible the development of natural resources, and wilfully neglected to safeguard vested interests. They had denied the people a regular system and impartial administration of justice; inflicted unusual and cruel punishments upon all persons charged with offences, whether innocent or guilty; and frequently had encroached upon Chinese sacred rights without due process of law. They had connived at official corruption, sold offices to the highest bidder, and had subordinated merit to influence. They repeatedly rejected the Chinese people’s most reasonable demand for better government, and reluctantly conceded pseudo-reforms under most urgent pressure, making promises without intention of fulfilling them.

Thus the manifesto showed up the weak spots in the Manchu governmental policy. And it continued: “To remedy these evils and render possible the entrance of China to the family of nations, we have fought and formed our Government; lest our good intentions should be misunderstood, we now publicly and unreservedly declare the following to be our promises:—

“All treaties entered into by the Manchu Government before the date of the Revolution will be continually effective up to the time of their termination; but any and all entered into after the commencement of the Revolution will be repudiated.

“All foreign loans or indemnities incurred by the Manchu Government before the Revolution will be acknowledged without any alteration of terms; but all payments made to and loans incurred by the Manchu Government after the commencement of the Revolution will be repudiated.

“All concessions granted to foreign nations or their nationals by the Manchu Government before the Revolution will be respected, but any and all granted after the commencement of the Revolution will be repudiated.

“All persons and property of any foreign nation within the jurisdiction of the Republic of China will be respected and protected.

“It will be our constant aim and firm endeavour to build upon {19}a stable and enduring foundation a national structure compatible with the potentialities of our long neglected country.

“We will strive to elevate our people, secure them in peace, and legislate for their prosperity.”

 

At this juncture it were idle to investigate how far these ideals have been reached. There has as yet been no time for deep national reforms to have been worked, and it is not the ambition of this volume to go deeply into political actualities. But no one, realising now that the Manchu rule in China has passed for ever, will doubt that, with such excellent qualities of common sense and eminent industry as the Chinese possess, we shall see a nation move that may move the world with it. The day will assuredly come, perhaps it is not so very far distant, when the Occidental observer will look around to see the globe girdled with an indissoluble bond of Chinese peoples, no longer too weak for aggression, but independent in all departments of national life. They will be taken up as equals into social relations of the white races. They are now struggling among themselves, asking merely to be allowed to fight out their own civil battles and order their own civil affairs. They will make mistakes, but probably will profit by them. The day will come when Chinese will no longer be elbowed and hustled by their haughtier Occidental neighbours, but perhaps instead we shall find ourselves entered into no easy international and commercial competition with people whom not so long since we looked down upon as servile and considered fit only to minister to our needs in manual ways. The problems that loom across the threshold of the future of this newly emancipated race, however, surpass in magnitude any that civilisation has hitherto had to encounter. There are clear indications of progress, but they are not yet clear enough. China has to be remade, and those engaged in the project may blunder because of the varied and widely varying patterns they have in stock to choose from.

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Certain phases of development we are sure of. We are able to place our fingers upon certain points in China’s national propaganda and say with certainty that such and such a line is bound to be followed, such and such a thing bound to happen. But, generally speaking, China is a land of unintelligibility; the best advice one can give is to “wait and see.”

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CHAPTER II

THE AFTERMATH
One of the almost certain features of the effect of the Revolution, however, will be China’s increased foreign trade—probably 100 per cent., says Sun Yat Sen.

The year 1913 should mark a stride in commercial progress in China such as the world never before has seen. 1912 will probably be a year of unrest and uncertainty. The formation of a permanent Government and the election of a Cabinet, the dispatch of competent officials to outlying places, and the putting down of outlawry in the provinces will be a big programme for this year—if it is accomplished. But 1913 and the following years will probably unfold a remarkably rapid advance in exports and imports. China has held back from all things foreign centuries enough, but during the past two decades the seed has been sown for such a harvest of trade and commercial prosperity as shall keep the factories of the West hard at work to cope with the demands—that is, if the merchants of the West are quick to seize their chances as they come. And in this volume the author feels that it were well at this juncture, when an opportunity is presented to English and American traders to come in and take possession of the trade China is prepared to foster, to speak of the commercial possibilities which the next decade will give.

The reader will probably understand that, despite the enormous foreign imports which for years have come into China, there is not a tithe of the trade done yet {22}which will be done with the opening up of the country, now almost bound to ensue. China’s market is stupendous. The possibilities are wider than the average home manufacturer has any conception of. From the China Sea to the British Burma border, from the southern port of Canton up through all the partially opened Eastern provinces, through the whole of the wonderful Yangtze Valley to the practically untouched west, and away into newly touched areas where the inhabitants are all anxious to buy foreign goods, there is presented an unparalleled opportunity for the foreign manufacturer. Any one who has taken an intelligent interest in China’s trade with foreign countries must have been impressed with the fact that she was not importing one-hundredth part of what she could easily handle. And if he had studied closely any particular district where some foreign import had been taken or foreign industry had been started and watched the phenomenal commercial growth in that particular district, he immediately would gather some idea of the far-reaching possibilities for the expansion of foreign trade in China.

Even the recent changes in dress wrought by the Revolution have shown the enormous demand there is for re-dressing the Chinese; with the passing of the queue they decided against the little round Manchu hat, an article made almost exclusively in China. Immediately there came a cry for the foreign hat; at once a trade was created, into the country there came all kinds and conditions and shapes of foreign head-gear—felts, cloth caps, and all sorts; they sold in hundreds of thousands and had to be supplied by some one. China, at all events, could not make them; to her it was something quite new; they had to come from outside. Japan was watching. She collared the trade, and in two months she had practically re-hatted China. But this is merely an instance; many more might be given to show the rapidity with which commercial {23}changes come. In over seven thousand miles of travel in China, mostly far away inland where the effect of the treaty port is least felt, the writer some time ago made a study of the commercial aspect of things and how far the modern spirit had penetrated the interior, with a view specially to ascertain how the British merchant stands in the business life of the nation. This chapter, therefore, should have especial interest so far as it embodies correct data, gleaned in two years and a half of travel in many parts of the Chinese Empire where the traveller is still to the Chinese a wonder of wonders. In China, even in far interior places, one finds life, business, prosperity—a strange commingling of Western ideas with Eastern. Four hundred millions of people have to all intents and purposes become civilised. They are anxious to swing into line and want the equipment. Their needs are making China the greatest market in the world. They want everything—railways, machinery, tools, guns, ships, and much else. That there is an unprecedented large trade to be done must at once be granted. During the last decade, without thinking for the moment of the Revolution, China’s foreign trade has doubled; in the next decade, if peace prevails, it must be trebled, and although one cannot ignore the fact that under ordinary conditions of progress China must ultimately become a serious rival to Western countries as an industrial nation, that day is not yet at hand. She must be a stupendous buyer before she can hope to become a serious competitor.

But the point need not, I think, be pursued farther. The country has merely to regain its normal condition, and we shall see trade increasing by leaps and bounds. I say merely to regain its normal condition for this reason: whilst the prevailing uncertainty continues no permanent increase of trade can be expected, but let there be some stable form of government and we shall see China recuperate and begin trade again in a wonderful manner. No people have such recuperative power. {24}No people have such power of adaptation. And in the era of trade development upon whose threshold we are now standing we may confidently look to probably an uneclipsed season of foreign commercial enterprise in all parts of China. In the increased demand for woollen goods, for engineering equipment of all kinds, especially mining gear, for railroad supplies, for the thousands of household requirements of daily use, motor-boats and all the varied paraphernalia required to place an antiquated nation upon the footing of modern civilisation there will be a demand such as will make even Japan’s era of commercial progress pale into insignificance.

The trade will come. Let so much be granted. The next point is, Who is to get it, and how is it to be got?

I am not a manufacturer nor a trader, and cannot go deeply into the detail of how business should be pushed. But I have seen a good deal of China, have closely watched the methods adopted by various internationals in various parts of the Empire, and it may be that my remarks on the matter may have the effect of awakening British and American traders to the realisation of the opportunity now before them. Some time ago, when placing manuscript for a prospective work on China, the publisher said: “What people want to know is how to increase their trade—they don’t want to know about the physical characteristics of the country and the people so much as how to increase their trade. Write a book on how trade can be improved, and your book will sell.” But it is probable that those who would most readily buy and read such a book would be the Britisher’s competitor.

Now, so far as actual trading advantages are concerned, it may be said of the British that they hold the highest advantage possible over other nations; that advantage is in the fact that they hold the confidence of the people. No foreigner, be he merchant, {25}missionary, traveller, or official, is trusted in China as is the Britisher. I speak with no intention of hurting the susceptibilities of any one. In trade the Chinese believe in the British, they believe in his goods; in the Revolution the soldiers would congratulate you most heartily if they knew that you were an Englishman, telling you that there is none better in the world. They might be right or wrong, I am merely writing what they were saying, and it is a fair ensample of the general opinion of the common people. But despite this advantage, it is patent to the thoughtful student of Chinese affairs that a great need exists among British merchants as a whole to “wake up.” I am a Britisher, am perhaps naturally quick to notice where British merchants fail, where they are outrun in the race for trade in this land of great promise. I know there will be many who will at once ask me to turn to the shipping in Shanghai, in Tientsin, in any of the ports, and notice the predominance of British shipping. I shall be told that Great Britain still controls the bulk of the trade of China, and that there is no need for fear of the future. But there is another side to the story.

Go any day to the Bund at Hankow or Shanghai; watch the progress being made also by Japan. Go into the godowns and watch the progress of the little brown men from the land of the Rising Sun and watch their methods; run your eye along the offices whose men work hardest and longest—the Germans; keep yourself informed on the doings of the day in exports and imports, and you will find that, even if he does hold the volume of trade he has held for years, the Britisher by no means advances with new trade as rapidly as his competitors. In the past no nation has done so much towards the true development of China as the British. The British have laid the foundation, have sown the seed, and it is only their due that they should reap the harvest now at hand. But in the period {26}during which the trade of China has so phenomenally advanced the cry has gone up from all quarters that the Britisher is not only losing his grip of the increase of China’s trade in her commercial dawn, but literally giving way to the German, and that but a few years will be necessary to prove that Great Britain occupies a position relatively nearer the bottom of the list of nations who have a commercial finger in the pie.

I am not the first writer who has had a wail to make over the loss of British trade. But I do not, at the same time, see any reason why the British merchant should not easily maintain an indefinite supremacy of trade in China. It only needs a little more vim, a keener outlook, a speedier business adaptation to needs, the maintenance of commercial wakefulness where business has a tendency to increase. Competitors of Great Britain hold no advantages; they cannot in the long run put better goods upon the market—Japan, the most serious rival, certainly is producing inferior goods in larger bulk, and is everywhere overrunning the land with cheap and nasty goods, but the British-made article will always hold its own side by side with that of any other nation. And to the British merchant who in China, as in most other trading commercial spheres, has almost always absorbed the external trade, it does not matter much whether people say he is or is not losing the trade—so long as he is not. It has always been a case of Britain first and the rest nowhere. The Britisher makes a good living, has an established connection, is the life and soul of the social community, keeps up a fair average of orders with home firms, and is content. But no right-thinking Englishman, no matter how optimistically he may view the general situation of Great Britain’s trade in the Chinese Empire, can deny that British trade does not expand proportionately with what is to be done and what others are doing. This is not pessimistic. Optimism is the keynote of the British merchant, and Great Britain’s {27}returns of exports and imports in the China trade are beyond that of any other nation. But very powerful rivals—Germany and Japan, more powerful than British merchants will admit to themselves—are in the field and fighting in a way that we cannot afford to ignore.

Take Germany first. German success is undeniable. It is patent to all beholders. German merchants are at every port. In real interior China, far away from the beaten tracks, I do not remember ever having met a single British commercial traveller—Germans I have met often. They go out into the byways, beating up the trade and creating new trade, putting themselves to inconvenience and exertion to get orders, and undergoing in many cases greatest physical strain in travel to get business. Once I met a man not far from the border of British Burma; he had come right across China and had been away from his business house in Shanghai for several months, and was then going down to Rangoon and around to Shanghai by sea because it was the easier and quicker way back. This is perhaps an isolated case, but one may judge from it that the German merchants, while doing all they can as importers of the goods the people want to buy, spread their representatives far away from the buying centres to show the people what they can do. In Tientsin, during the past few years, the German has become a serious rival. German trade now at that important northern port is probably equal to British trade. In Eastern Siberia German is the business language, as a matter of fact, but to the German, unlike the nonchalant Britisher, it does not matter where he is placed in China, the first thing he does is to get a working knowledge of the language, a factor of far greater importance in China than appears on the surface. The German succeeds, not by political influence, not by tariffs nor underhand methods, but by sheer business application, and is building up an extensive scheme, founded on sound principles, to capture {28}the lion’s share of the growing trade which will go to Europe and to wrest from the Britisher a large proportion of that which has always been his. The average German reads about China—its history, of the physical characteristics of the country, of the people in the interior and the life they live, what they have and what they want. The Englishman does not trouble. He rarely learns the language, is careless to find out anything about the country unless it is to get an idea of sport, and so on.

The other dangerous rival is the Jap. If one were to go into detail and write regarding the Japanese methods of business, it is probable that much of it would subsequently be suppressed. The Japanese in business in China is not the soul of honour. He has to be watched. It is not possible here to speak at length on the unprincipled and shady tactics employed in China—and particularly in the north and in Manchuria—by Japanese traders. One and all seem to be alike, all endowed with that secret and clannish spirit permeating all Eastern nations, with a big dash of some peculiar virtue of unscrupulousness, and they have brought themselves into a position of the most favoured nation in the Chinese Empire. Japan has determined to get the trade by any means. Once in a Chinese city in the interior, where doors were closed to foreign trade, I saw the largest store on the street was Japanese. Business is not done there, they say in self-defence, but a show is maintained so that goods of the same kind may be secured from Tokio! The Jap is in everything, he is everywhere—to be first he cuts under, for he has little reputation to lose. Yet he is as good in his own opinion as the best-bred European, and he lets you know it. No man, however, unblinded by prejudice, can study the progress of Japan in China, can look upon its amazing national advance with either admiration or respect. I have met him in the interior, in Yunnan and Szechuen, prospecting {29}quietly for minerals, tapping goldfields and iron beds that are lying waste, seeking out the best centres for the opening up of trade, finding out what there is a demand for, and marking out the strategic centres from whence his trade may be handled to the disadvantage of every one. The Jap, as I have said, is everywhere, in everything—rarely, however, to be trusted.

But no matter how many the rivals, I should think that no two nations have better prospects for the securing of China’s new trade than Great Britain and the United States. It needs alertness, however.

 

 

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CHAPTER III

GENERAL EXPECTATIONS
With the opening of China as a Republic the progress to be made in education will undoubtedly be stupendous. Missionaries will probably find an ever-increasing field. Missionaries and educationists will have a freer hand and be everywhere more greatly respected. They will play more than ever an increasing part in uplifting the people. Lord William Gascoign-Cecil has pointed out that if the West is to be saved she must illuminate China, and he says unless that vast country has attained the same standard as ourselves we must undergo a process of degradation. Our civilisation grew up, like our old towns, under the shadow of the Church; you will see in any country in Christendom the village clustering round the church, the town round the cathedral. Of late years big factory chimneys have been covered with the smoke of industry; still, they have left their mark as much on our civilisation as on our landscapes. But now a country which knows nothing of church or cathedral is entering into that civilisation, and the church and the cathedral become things of archæological interest and nothing more, unless, indeed, the Church will take the opportunity and conquer the industrial China that threatens the West.

“I do not mean,” said Lord William Cecil, “only by sending out missionaries, but also by teaching the future rulers of this great industrial people the truth and value of a Christian civilisation. The pessimist {31}says this is impossible, and thus sounds the knell of our social legislation; but the Christian says the world is built for progress, and the acquisition of China to our civilisation is our opportunity for making the world a happier place. If we could at this moment help the Chinese to value the high principles which underlie our Western thought, China might be rendered happy by the brilliant light of a Christian civilisation and the world saved from a disaster of having labour sink from a Christian to a semi-Oriental status.”

And although the fall of the Manchu dynasty will open the pathway into real progress in this land, we must agree that there is an infinite pathos in the Child-Emperor, ignorant, innocent, abdicating the throne which his forefathers had won, a mere pawn in the game between Chinese and Manchus. But pathetic as this incident is, we must not let its pathos obscure in our minds its more important aspects; it is not only the abdication of an Emperor we have to consider, but it is also the destruction of the conventional and artificial Chinese civilisation before the vigorous civilisation of the West. Vast China, with its four hundred millions of industrious population, with its infinite resources of coal, iron, and other minerals, with its traditions of Confucianism, Taoism, and Lamaism, has become part, and a very large part, too, of Western civilisation.

We are indeed, during our generation, watching the making of history wonderful in its possibilities. The following quotation from the writer quoted may be intensely prophetic:—

“We are opening a new volume in the history of the world—a volume in which strange and terrible things may be written; a volume which, on the other hand, may contain a brighter story than any of us conceive to be possible. How one longs to read that volume as it will be written by the historian a hundred or two hundred years hence! Will it run thus: ‘From {32}this time the condition of the working class of Europe began steadily to deteriorate, and though the short-sighted statesmen of the twentieth century failed to appreciate it, this was the inevitable result of adding to the working men of the world a population remarkable for its industry and so inured to poverty that its workers gladly submitted to conditions which the Western workmen naturally and with justice refused’? Or will it run thus: ‘The decadent Christianity of the West, corrupted by luxury, divided by sectional strife, received new life under the influence of the more sincere Chinese Christianity, purified in the harsh school of persecution and stimulated by the great political upheaval which caused the deposition of the Manchu Emperor’?”

We cannot take down the volume, we cannot read to the end; we must wait as year after year the pages are turned over, but we shall do well to appreciate the importance of this page of contemporary history.

China now will undergo before our very eyes a social and commercial and educational transformation, and so speedily will events in the main transpire that if one is to get the historical march of events fixed in his mind it is necessary to read at once what has passed. As soon as any national event passes now it falls speedily back into history. We cannot keep pace with all that transpires. Changes pass even us who live in China for the most part unnoticed. The face of China whilst we look upon it takes on a new appearance.

It is well that we should read of the doings leading up to this great era of transition.

 

 

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CHAPTER IV

LI YUAN HUNG’S AMBITIONS FOR THE NEW CHINA
“We will have no further Manchu rule.

“China must be a Republic founded on lines laid down by the United States of America. The United States of China must be opened up with all speed, and for this purpose there must be a combined effort made with Chinese and foreign capital and Chinese and foreign labour.

“Confucianism will probably become the national religion, but I personally favour the doctrine of Christianity being proclaimed far and wide in China, and of encouraging missionaries to come in greater numbers to our country.

“I am desirous that the form of government, after the Manchu rule is abolished, shall not alter very greatly, so that there shall be no disruption of trade and commerce and of diplomatic connections of China in the Empire and in foreign countries.”

 

This practically covers the main statement made to myself on Monday, November 20, 1911, by General Li Yuan Hung, leader of the Revolution of China. My privilege of interviewing the General was exclusive. I was given a special pass, and was granted the privilege of going where I liked in Wuchang, the city where the Revolution broke out, and doing almost as I pleased, being the first to secure exclusive conversation with his Excellency since the Revolution had begun.

China’s Revolution is one of the most thrilling epochs in the world’s history. Had there been no Li Yuan Hung, whose name to-day, is known in civilisation everywhere, there would probably have been no Revolution. History may prove Li Yuan Hung {34}to be the greatest reformer China has given to the world. To his remarkably sound administration and his clean example to the people he was leading are due the changes that have so speedily ushered the New China to full prominence on the political stage of the East and the West. To rise from total obscurity in the life of a nation to the highest point of political fame is rarely given to any man. To change the whole tendencies of the national life of a people is rarely given to one man. But no one man ever in history was able to mould anew the social and political outlook of a quarter of the whole human race, as did Li Yuan Hung when he led the Chinese Revolution. He proved himself a man unique in the eyes of the world, the most effective reformer of his generation of any country.

On the day that I set out to have my talk with Li Yuan Hung, Wuchang, the capital city, of Hupeh, which had revolted to a man, bore every evidence of victory; and despite the minor reverses that the Republican Army had for several days been suffering in their encounters with the Imperial Army, sent down from Peking under General Yin Chang to quell the rebellion, I found that in the city there was infinitely greater hope among the people and infinitely stronger confidence in their leader than in the early days of the Revolution. One felt that he was touching the bedrock of humanity, had come into grips with a people who with one set purpose were going forward day by day to accomplish the true work of winning back China for the Chinese. As one passed through the streets, around the forts, in and out among the men who were with their lives prepared to buy freedom for Manchu-ridden China, one realised that this part of the Chinese nation, hitherto as silent as some great sleeping monster, had suddenly found its voice, and had set out determinedly to tell the world what it meant to do. Around one was waging civil war that was to decide the enormous {35}stakes. There had been many civil wars in the world before—Wars of the Roses and many others which had had their historical significance—but as one seemed to gaze out upon a great country like China and a people who go to make up one-fourth of the human race, slowly was the fact borne in upon one’s mind that this civil war had a significance that perhaps belonged to none other. It seemed like a war of belief against unbelief. One felt that he had met men who were concerned only with the real essence of justice and reform which were to regulate the deep-reaching interests of four hundred millions of men—one must be understood as talking about the leaders more particularly. And this is the most real thing about this people’s Revolution—the making of order and right government. General Li Yuan Hung seemed to be a great national carpenter, taking now the rough trees, shaping them into purpose and real use. This was my first impression of the man, for by his extreme calmness, his practical insight into things—it was almost impossible to conceive a mere military man capable of such patience in the midst of extreme mental and physical strain—he was showing the world that he was a leader born. General Li was a man of perhaps forty-eight, at first sight giving the impression that he had developed as an altogether brave and quiet man. As I conversed with him I could not help noticing again and again the decisive, practical eye of this leader of the people, how he drove immediately towards the practical, and had a genuine insight into what was fact and right and truth. He had an eye to see and a heart to dare. His nature was strong rather than intense, with his utterances full of sincerity and of substance.

THE PROVINCIAL ASSEMBLY HALL, WUCHANG. Where General Li had his headquarters until after the fall of Hanyang.
THE PROVINCIAL ASSEMBLY HALL, WUCHANG.
Where General Li had his headquarters until after the fall of Hanyang.

I went direct to the Assembly Hall, where the guard received me and where my foreign visiting-card was taken first to the Foreign Office, while I was marched to a waiting-room. Around the building there was a flutter of official life, for from that building the whole {36}channel of China’s history was being changed. Here there were no tremulous, hesitating, half-hearted men; all was life. Each man, from the usual underlings who hung about the doorways to the lowest soldier on guard, from the lowest clerk on the General staff to the General himself—all men went about their business with a fixity of purpose that was new to China. There was no disorganisation. All was quiet and smoothly running. The new Republican flag from many towers waved triumphantly in the morning wind. On the drill-ground outside one could hear the blowing of bugles and the clatter of arms as the regiments were being drilled. Away down in the town, on one, two, a dozen, twenty pieces of open ground recruits were being licked into shape. Over on the hills could be heard the blast of cannon and field-pieces from all directions. The slight whistle of a shell dropping through the air told one that bombarding from both sides was going on apace. But in the General’s hall no evidence other than the running hither and thither of dispatch-runners could be seen that war was waging all around one. No one could listen to General Li Yuan Hung without developing a great trust in the man. Sometimes his face lit up with radiance bred only of devout determination, and he had all along succeeded in infusing that spirit into all the people of the city in which he had been so long an ordinary military officer. My reader should not, however, understand me to mean, in my description of the scene where the Revolution broke out, that a China freed from all corruption and all the usual Chinese incongruities and official twistings had suddenly come into being. Any one who has followed my writings on China generally would, were this the case, accuse me of the greatest inconsistency. But during those early days of the Revolution we certainly saw a Chinese official life we had never seen before. Li’s court was at that time the cleanest and the most hard-working and practical that had been {37}seen at any time in China’s history. That it was not perfect all those who looked on were quite aware, but it was vastly ahead of the general run of Chinese civic life.

Soon there came to the waiting-room a smart young officer, wearing foreign spectacles, in a uniform that had a peculiar mingling of foreign military and civic dress. He saluted, then bade me follow him. His business was to show me to the Foreign Office. Here I decided to make an instant objection, being content with nothing less than an interview with Li Yuan Hung. So that when, having arrived inside a large room at the end of the veranda of the second story of the rectangular building, a rather stout Chinese gentleman in military undress accosted me, I explained that I had already made arrangements for an interview with General Li, that I would be obliged if the proper wheels of office could be set in motion to allow me to see him, and that as soon as possible. Just at this point the Chinese in military undress smiled, and quietly said, “Yes, I am General Li.”

Addressing me in English, the General, with gentle Chinese suavity, told me that his time was at my disposal; that with only an imperfect hold upon my honourable language he would probably find some difficulty in telling me accurately what was in his mind, but that whatever question I put to him he would do his best to answer. Li Yuan Hung was a handsome Chinese gentleman—about five feet three or four, queueless, with close-cropped, bristly black hair, eyes somewhat close set, which at times shone with extraordinary fire, and a chin that immediately gave evidence of an infinite determination; were it not for his military bearing, he might readily have been taken for a prosperous Chinese merchant. He was keen, a leader of men who did not hesitate a moment. So utterly unlike the ordinary Chinese official, who leaves the vital points of an interview until he rises to take his {38}leave, General Li, with eyes beaming, and slightly raising his hand in his enthusiasm, exclaimed: “Yes, now we have thirteen out of the eighteen provinces, and our Republican party is formidable.[1] We have gathered under our new flag many more provinces in a much shorter time than we had hoped for, an evidence that China was waiting for the step to be taken to overthrow the Manchus.”

“Why, General Li, did the Revolution break out? Can you tell me briefly the specific reason you assign for the outbreak to have taken place so suddenly?”

He smiled slightly as he looked me straightforwardly in the eyes. “Well, throughout our Empire there had been for years the feeling that the Manchus would never give us Chinese any justice. They were pressing us down, and although the Revolution took place sooner than anticipated, all Chinese knew that it was coming sooner or later. I personally had formulated no great scheme to take the lead. As a matter of fact, although I knew all that was going on in the Hupeh Model Army, I had no intention of taking the lead, nor of occupying the position in which you find me to-day. The time planned for the Revolution would probably have been later. China was waiting for the man to rise up who would strike. None of the leaders of the Revolution—of our new Republic—were anxious that there should be great slaughter—the only wish was that the Manchu rule should be abolished for ever. And since I have been the leader of the Republic I have done my best that as little loss of life as possible might be incurred.”

“Are you quite sure that the Revolution will be permanently successful, that all China will become loyal to the Republican flag?”

“Loyal!” exclaimed Li, with the joviality of a boy, {39}then his face was closer knit again. “There is no doubt whatever. We have thirteen provinces, with the armies of all those provinces; we have the Chinese Navy, part at Hankow, part at Nanking,[2] sent there to aid in the attack, and part at Shanghai. We control the Yangtsze.” But the General dismissed the question of loyalty to the Republic as not being worthy of notice, adding that it was merely a matter of time for China to be knit together with a great overpoweringly strong patriotism which would have no equal in the Eastern or Western world. Then he continued: “My personal desire would be to see every province a free province, with its own Assembly, but controlled by one great national governmental body. We shall take our pattern from the United States of America, having a President to control our provincial assemblies—just like America,” he added curtly.

“How often would you elect a President? In China, unopened as it is, with no communication, do you not think it would be more difficult to organise elections and matters of a national character than it is in the States?” I asked.

“Every four, five, six, or even ten years. Our President, if we got the right man, might be in office for ten years for that matter. At all events, this is my personal opinion, but this, with many other matters, would come up for decision at the first assembly, and it is my desire not unduly to influence that body.”

“Who do you think you would ask to become the President—Yuan Shih K’ai perhaps?” I asked.

“Ah, no,” came the quick rejoinder. For some considerable time Li Yuan Hung had been endeavouring to persuade Yuan Shih K’ai to come over to the Revolutionary party and assume control of the formation of {40}the Republic; but his efforts had met only with a stubborn refusal by Yuan. “We must push out the Manchus. Yuan Shih K’ai will not, I believe, become our President.”

His Excellency stopped talking at this point, and I waited in vain to hear more about Yuan. After a moment I suggested: “But Yuan Shih K’ai is one of your great friends, is he not?”

“No, I do not call Yuan Shih K’ai a friend. He is known to me personally, but I do not know much about him or of the ambition he now has with China. You see, he will not listen to me.”

“True, but the foreign newspapers are saying that Yuan Shih K’ai, because he is your personal friend, will become the first President.”

“Are they? I did not know. Well, perhaps Yuan Shih K’ai would rise very high in the Republican party, but he has shown his determination merely to sit on the fence waiting for the result.” And General Li held up his hands and rocked to and fro in his chair to make his meaning clear.

“Who are your political associates at this time?”

His Excellency, at first not seeming to understand my meaning, said that he had none, but afterwards told me that his great friend was Admiral Sah. The subsequent references which he made to the Admiral were touching. “He is my teacher!” he affectionately exclaimed. “He is now gone to Shanghai, but after the fighting is over he will come to advise the Republic on naval matters. Admiral Sah is a good man, his heart is very warm.” In further conversation General Li declared that they had now the strongest men in the country, and the men who had not turned were hardly worth the having. He paid eulogistic references to the statesmanship of Wu Ting Fang, several of the Ministers of the old Government, whom he hoped to retain in office, and to Sun Yat Sen especially.

Continuing, the General said his idea was that China’s {41}foreign representatives should be retained, and that in no way was he desirous of altering the representation anywhere, in China or out of it, if officials were willing to serve—granted, of course, that their retention in office gave satisfaction and they were returned by public vote. “We wish to retain all who will work conscientiously for China’s welfare, so that there shall be no disruption of trade and commerce or of China’s diplomatic connections all over the world. Roughly, the scheme that I should favour would be:—

“1. Expulsion of the Manchus outside the Great Wall to Mongolia (excepting those who are willing to join the Republican party).

“2. Establishment of a Republic on lines after the style of America, with exclusive government for each State and one great National Assembly.

“With these points decided, we shall be able to call together all popular reformers from all the provinces and form our Government. But this will be the time that I shall resign.”

At this juncture of the conversation the General looked wistfully out of the window, speaking almost to himself. By then, he said, he should have accomplished his part for the winning of China back into the hands of her own people, and he should throw the cloak of control on to other shoulders. His quiet, unostentatious manner as he proceeded humbly to compare his own powers with other men in China showed a spirit of true greatness. Here was the hero of China, the man above all men who had guided her public life into safe channels and upon whom the eyes of the diplomatic, social, and political world were riveted—and he was talking of giving way to better men. Presently, as if coming out of a reverie, he turned towards me again, smiling heartily, as I suggested that that would probably not be allowed. But he was determined.

“No, there can be no place for me; I am a military {42}man, but China has many better administrators. We have plenty of men.” And then he added, as an afterthought, “Of course, if they want me, they can always have me.” And he smacked the table as if he had joked unconsciously.

And although I tried to impress upon his Excellency the fact that had there been no General Li there would probably have been no such success as was attending the Revolution, he would have none of it. He preferred to wander on in confidential tones, telling me that his personal wishes were not to be taken into account at all. What he personally was anxious to do was to control the initial stages of winning over the country; then his part was the planning of the defences and the organisation of the military; after that whatever the new Government wished him to do he would endeavour faithfully to carry out, not for his own sake but for the sake of the country of which he was proud and which he loved.

He did not seem inclined to enter into conversation much about the monarchical style of government which many declare more favourable to China as a country which had always looked to one head, the Emperor, as the Son of Heaven. Referring to England and comparing that country with the United States, Li Yuan Hung said that the style of the Monarchical Government of England was best for her people, but he did not believe it to be the best for the Chinese; and now that China was breaking away from all old systems and customs he thought the Republican control better suited to China’s needs. In the course of conversation I attempted to raise several questions which would probably go against the establishing of a Republic when the Senate met, but General Li did not pursue the conversation, and seemed disinclined to talk until I mentioned the religion of the country, quoting the annual Sacrifice at the Temple of Heaven—how would that be carried out? Then again his eyes shone. He came {43}closer to me, raised his hand a little as if to convince me in what he was going to say, and spoke slowly:—

“All sacrifices will probably be stopped, but the religion of the people will be Confucianism.”

“But Confucianism is not a religion. Do you not think, General Li, that Christianity will become more popular among the people as the country is opened up more?”

“Oh, yes, missionaries are our friends. Jesus is better than Confucius, and I am strongly in favour of more missionaries coming to China to teach Christianity and going to interior provinces. We shall do all we can to assist missionaries, and the more missionaries we get to come to China the greater will the Republican Government be pleased.”

The General then went on in very simple language to say that he was personally very pleased with all the labours of the missionaries, and that China would not be to-day were it not for the missionaries, who had gone into out-of-the-way places and opened up the country.

“But as a matter of fact we feel that we want as many foreigners to come to China as possible. The opening up of the country can only properly be accomplished by the united efforts of Chinese and foreigners, and in this new Republic we realise that it is only by mingling more freely with the other nations of the world that China will have her resources developed. Of our military and navy, our defences, our schools and colleges I have no fear, but one of the most important items in our Republican programme is that which will enable us to develop our wealth.”

“Well, will you be in favour of granting concessions to foreign syndicates for the development of mines and so on?”

“I do not think so. It is impossible for me to say what will be done, but my personal wish would be freely to combine foreign capital with Chinese capital {44}and labour.” But the General, at this moment turning abruptly towards a staff officer who brought him a dispatch from the battlefield, announced, “But we shall have foreign advisers, and all such matters as this would be decided later.” And he added forcefully, “We must consolidate the whole of China—that is the main thing.”

“You spoke of foreign loans just now. There will be need for foreign loans now more than ever?”

“Yes, we shall need more foreign money and more foreigners in the employ of our Republican Government; but my party is convinced that there will be no difficulty in getting all the assistance, financial and otherwise, from the Powers. Already America has telegraphed her good wishes, and the time will come when the two greatest republics in the world will be on the most friendly footing—probably China will drift more towards America and learn more from her than from any other country.”

“As regards business, do you think that Hankow will benefit in trade from the Revolution?”

The General pondered for a moment, thoughtfully putting his thumb and finger to his chin. He hesitated briefly, then declared straight out that he thought Hankow would become, perhaps, the biggest city in Asia.

In concluding our conversation, Li Yuan Hung told me that he had been to Japan for one year only, that he had five children (two boys and three girls), that he was a native of Hwangpi in Hupeh, and that when his children were old enough he would send them away for their education.

“Where to?”

“To America,” came the reply, and a happy smile with it. After wishing me goodbye, General Li, still holding my hand, said:—

“One word more before you go.” He placed his left hand on my shoulder, bent his body slightly towards {45}me. “Please do not forget to say that this Revolution took place because the Manchus were so unfair to the Chinese—for no other reason.”

He then bade me farewell, and I departed.

* * * * *

This interview is given in extenso because of its vital bearing upon the general attitude of the Republican party at the present moment. Events have transpired slightly to throw some of Li Yuan Hung’s ambitions to the ground, but the views he held may be taken as the general aims of the party that is headed by Sun Yat Sen to-day. As my manuscript goes forward to the publishers it is a matter of impossibility accurately to predict what the outcome of China’s Revolution will be. It may be a Republic; it may be a Monarchy. Be the form of government what it may, however, there will remain in the eyes of every patriotic Chinese but one General Li, and his views on the political situation and the needs of his great country, at the time when her national pendulum tremulously ticked out issues of the highest import, will have a permanent interest for all students of affairs in China.[3]

 

{46}
[1] This was only a month after the Revolution had broken out. The reader will learn later on in this volume of the changes following along in the ensuing months.

[2] Nanking, the city now planned by the Republican party as the capital, after a most stubborn resistance, fell to the Revolutionary Army a fortnight afterwards.

[3] Li Yuan Hung at the time of the Revolution was forty-eight years old. His birthplace was a village in the north of Huangpi, not many miles from the scenes that made him famous. “Li Yuan Hung” was his official name; his friends were permitted to address him as “Li Sung Ching.” His father was a soldier before him—Colonel Li Tsao Hsiang. In the year 1882, at the age of eighteen, Li the younger passed the entrance examination of the Tientsin Naval College, and after a course of six years he graduated. Soon after the war with Japan he was engaged by Chang Chih Tung, then Viceroy of Nanking, to fortify that city with modern guns, and was also made commander of an important pass near Nanking. In the year 1894 he followed Chang Chih Tung to Hupeh, and was commissioned to train the new army with the aid of a German instructor for three years. He was then sent to Japan to gain experience in defence work. After two years he returned to Wuchang, and was appointed Major of a Cavalry Brigade. In 1902 he was in command of the Kiangyin Navy and Army manoeuvres. Next year he took command of the Infantry Fourth Advance Guard. Two years later he became commander of the Second Division. As soon as the new army was organised he was promoted to be Colonel of the 21st Mixed Brigade, superintending the naval forces in the Yangtze Valley, the Military Academy and four departments of the Hanyang Arsenal, and the Army College. In the same year (1905) he was elected Provisional Commander of the Changte manoeuvres. He led his Mixed Brigade in the year 1911 to join the Autumn Manoeuvres at Taihu. On October 10, 1911, General Li joined the Revolution, as will be seen hereafter, and was elected Military Governor of Hupeh.

 

 

{47}

CHAPTER V

A PREMATURE OPENING
On October 10, 1911, an ordinary military officer in the Hupeh Army of China stood unflinchingly facing a band of Revolutionists in Wuchang. One was Liu King, a student not long back from Japan—a mere slip of a boy. He was now practically in charge of the Revolution of China, now prematurely, quite haphazardly, broken out, and he sat looking suspiciously at the military man before him. The military man was a colonel. Above his neck glistened half a dozen narrow swords held by dark-clad men who awaited instructions to send into eternity the man whom Fate intervened to make the most noted man in the world-history of our day.

That Colonel was Li Yuan Hung, whose fame within a month reached to the uttermost ends of the earth.

The Revolution, long planned and still maturing, had prematurely broken out. Li Yuan Hung had been chosen as the leader, and now stood offering his apologies to the men who pressed him into office. He was not anxious, he was explaining, to take the honour—of course he was not, for who knew that that small military revolt at Wuchang was to move the whole of the eighteen provinces of China? Li thought it was not worth while. His fate would be sealed at once, for the Model Army of China merely cut the heads off of any in its ranks who rebelled against military discipline. So he demurred that the honour was too great for him—he would rather that another, more able and {48}experienced, should be invited to the leadership. More heavily those cold swords were pressed against his neck. Then it seemed as if another minute would find his head rolling to the floor. But he was given another chance. He was told in stern tones that he was the leader of the Revolution, that he must agree or else he would be decapitated immediately. But the Colonel still stolidly refused. Before the order was finally given to strike with those glistening swords the man was given one more chance. He agreed. The swords were raised, and at that moment the curtain rose and showed China in revolt to the world. Li Yuan Hung’s behaviour after that fateful night when he stood so near his grave showed the wisdom of the choice of the man of all men who in this land of the passing Celestial did more to free China from the fetters of the past than any other man dead or living.

A CAPTURED BOMB-MAKER. One of those responsible for the premature outbreak of the Revolution.
A CAPTURED BOMB-MAKER.
One of those responsible for the premature outbreak of the Revolution.

It was not until long after the month of October, however, that men were able accurately to ascertain how the Revolution broke. Newspaper men with special passes, and on the scent for news, each buttonholed their man, hoping to get the story of why the revolt occurred so long before the appointed time. Every intelligent onlooker saw that sooner or later a great upheaval would come to China—some even got to know that it could not take a very great time before the extensive plans were fully matured—and then the blow would be struck, and China, tottering against forces far too strong for her, would be shaken to her very vitals. But when the signal for the military to rise was actually given, and when the whole of Hupeh’s Army did rise, almost as one man, the newspaper men and those who thought they had been watching closely were lifted off their feet. And then there started throughout the world a long string of newspaper hazards as to who was responsible and how the thing had been done. But the story did not leak through. The most careful guesswork failed to get anywhere near the truth, {49}for the correspondents of American and European newspapers had not been behind the scenes, and knew little of what was passing in the early days of October, They knew nothing of the little affair that had happened in the Russian Concession of Hankow. Europeans in Hankow, as a matter of fact, knew nothing about the affair until the newspapers wrote up a short story of it, and on the morning it appeared no one seemed to attach any great importance to what they read. They did not realise that what the Revolutionary party of China had been planning had prematurely fused, and that now there was nothing to do but for the leaders of the movement to take the plunge—hit or miss, as might be. The short newspaper report read as follows, and was printed modestly alongside other general matter:—

“The detonation of a bomb on the Russian Concession yesterday afternoon was responsible for the discovery of a revolutionary element, the existence of which had hitherto not been suspected. At 4 p.m. the police in the neighbourhood of the Russian Municipal Building were startled by a loud report which, it was apparent, emanated from the native houses at the back of the German butchery. A rush was made to the neighbourhood, and in the compound of No. 14 two Chinese were discovered throwing kerosene around, apparently just preparing to set fire to the establishment. These were put quickly under restraint, and a survey of the premises revealed the fact that all the elements of a nice little revolutionary club were present. Bombs already made, acids for their making, revolutionary pamphlets, and a list of names which bore a strong resemblance to the members’ roll, gave testimony to the use to which the houses and the compound had been put. It is surmised that the bomb went off accidentally, and the inmates, fearing a visit by the police, attempted to set their place on fire. That their attempts were frustrated is due to the promptitude of the police, {50}who, in addition to the two arrests already mentioned, tried to arrest four men who approached the place in a suspicious manner soon after the explosion; these, however, made their escape. At the Russian police-station, where at a late hour last evening[1] a representative of the Hankow Dally News was making inquiries, two Chinese, a man and a woman, were being examined, they having attempted to gain ingress to a suspected house. Like the two men arrested, they, were turned over to the Hsia Kao Ting,[2] whose representative had been quickly called to the spot. The Viceroy had already sent a deputy, a naval officer, from Wuchang, and together with the local officials he was busy attempting to unravel the mysteries connected with the revolutionary quarters. Among the articles seized by the police were revolutionary flags, as well as maps of Wuchang and plans apportioning various bodies of revolutionists to their positions for attack on the Wuchang gates. At a late hour last night everything in the neighbourhood of the scene was quiet, and not a soul was in sight except the Russian police, who are to be heartily congratulated on their discovery and the efficient manner in which they handled the situation.”

Now, the man whose carelessness in making the bomb caused the premature explosion in the Russian Concession and forced the Revolutionary party to make their coup before they were ready was one Sun Wu, an expert bomb-maker. He bears the marks of the explosion to this day. Sun Wu was taken away immediately by his friends and concealed until he was well enough to join his comrades. One of his comrades was the aforementioned Liu King, who later became Inspector-General of the Republican Government of Hupeh. Liu King’s wife was the woman who had undertaken to throw the bomb with which the Revolution was to be started. The story is a most fascinating {51}one, and nothing better can be done at the moment than to reproduce the story as told to a newspaper man long after the great war had seemed to be fairly well settled in favour of the Republicans. Liu’s personal appearance proclaims him an extremist, said the report. He is a young man, about thirty, with unusual eagerness in his eyes, wears foreign civilian clothes and gold-rimmed spectacles, has a moustache but, of course, no queue. He comes from a family of scholars among the gentry of Siangyang, in North Hupeh. If he had not gone to Japan, he would probably have been a scholar of the old Chinese type and an official, also of the old type, with a boughten office. In fact, it was whispered that many thousands of taels which he used in the Revolutionary cause were given him by relatives in the expectation that he would buy a taotaiship (magistracy).

In Japan Liu went through both the law course and the military. It is ten years since he first took up revolutionary work. But he did not claim to have done anything very effective till he met Dr. Sun Yat Sen. Here is the story just about as he told it in Chinese:—[3]

“It was about six years ago that Sun Yat Sen came to Japan. I was studying at the time in the Tungwen College. All the Chinese students welcomed Sun with the utmost enthusiasm. He organised among us a Society called the ‘Tung Ming Hwei,’ of which I was a member. The aim of this Society was to move the people of China to realise the shame of being ruled by aliens, and to stir them up to win their freedom. We published a weekly magazine, the People, in which we showed how corrupt, tyrannical, and impotent was the Manchu Government, giving instances of the inhumanity and injustice with which the Manchus had treated our people in the past. We urged reasons why the Chinese people should take revenge on behalf {52}of their ancestors, thus proving their filial piety. We urged that the Chinese should strive to make themselves the equals of other peoples, who looked down upon them simply because they were enslaved by the Manchus. The People became very influential, and nearly all its readers in China and abroad realised that they were slaves, and wanted to free themselves. But the paper did not live long. The Manchu Government complained to the Japanese against its publication, and Japan, wishing to strengthen her friendship with the Chinese Government, suppressed it. We then organised another department, called the Kung Ching (meaning ‘Advance together’). The duty of this department was to send agents to the various provinces to inspire the soldiers and scholars with revolutionary spirit and patriotism, and others to Chinese settlements abroad to raise funds. I was twice elected president of this department while I was studying at the Tungping Military College.

“The Revolutionary agents had friends among the military officers throughout China, so that it was easy for them to get into touch with the soldiers. Even if the officers refused to help, they were so friendly with the agents that they would not betray them. So it was very seldom that viceroys or governors were successful in arresting Revolutionists.

“After graduating from the military college and the law college I returned to Hupeh in the sixth moon (July), 1910. I came to Wuchang and found that all the Revolutionary agents had taken flight, owing to the strict search made for them by Viceroy Jui Cheng. I was greatly disappointed. A little later I became sick, and went to my home in Siangyang. The illness was a long one; I was not able to leave my bed till the third moon (May, 1911). I came here but found I was too weak for work, so I returned home for two months. In the fifth moon I came back here, bringing ten thousand taels given me by my family. I took {53}a house beside the middle school in Wuchang. We took care to keep everything very secret. We had various retreats in Wuchang and Hankow, and our headquarters was in the camp of the sappers and miners’ corps.

“Sun Wu had been working among the soldiers, and we knew that we could rely on the sappers and miners and the artillerymen. For some time the soldiers were timid, and, though they were eager to revolt against the Manchus, they were unwilling to give a definite promise to join the Revolution at a fixed time. We held secret meetings, and at last we found that the only way to induce some of them was to threaten that they would be blown up with bombs if they did not join.

“We had planned to begin the Revolution in December—simultaneously in eight provinces. We had drawn up lists showing the amount of the funds in the provincial treasuries, so that we knew the amount we should probably have to begin operations with. My wife, who is a zealous Revolutionist and who recently went to Shanghai to organise a corps of women soldiers, had undertaken to disguise herself as a poor pedlar-woman in order that she might throw a bomb at the Viceroy. That was to be the beginning of the Revolution. Sun Wu and myself were experts in the manufacture of bombs. On the night of October 9th Sun was making a bomb when, by some carelessness, he allowed it to explode. This betrayed our plot before we were ready. That was at the Russian Concession in Hankow. Russian policemen came to our place and seized our plant, together with proclamations we had prepared, dispatches to the foreign consulates, private letters, a list of the revolutionists, and a large number of badges. These badges had a design like that now used on the Republican military flag.”

A QUEUELESS BRIGADE. A great feature of the Revolution was the discarding of the pigtail. Barbers were kept busy for many days shearing the revolutionaries.
A QUEUELESS BRIGADE.
A great feature of the Revolution was the discarding
of the pigtail. Barbers were kept busy for many days
shearing the revolutionaries.
Most of the story of that night and the following day is already known to the world. Sun Wu’s face was badly wounded in the explosion, and he was concealed {54}by friends, who saw to it that he got proper treatment until he had recovered sufficiently to rejoin his comrades. Liu King’s family was then living in the native city at Hankow. He had long been suspected, and when the news of the explosion was received his wife and brother were arrested. He had himself escaped from the house in the Russian Concession. Several arrests followed during the night, and the following morning four men were executed. Liu’s brother was not among them, for the reason that the Viceroy was having him tortured to induce him to reveal Liu’s hiding-place. Two of the leading agents of the Revolution, Liu Yao-chen and Run Chung-yung, were among those arrested on the 10th. Liu King had tried to start the Revolution at midnight on the 9th, but had failed.

“I saw we should all be ruined if we did not begin at once,” said Liu, “but the soldiers had no badge, so they did not revolt. The next morning (October 10th) I wrote to them that if the Viceroy found the list of their names contained among our papers he would certainly disarm and execute them all. They replied that they were not afraid, and it was only because they had no badges that they had failed to begin the Revolution. I then gave instructions that any white band round the arm should be used as a badge, and that the Revolution should begin at ten o’clock that night—the time fixed by the Viceroy for the execution of my brother.

“The sappers and miners did not wait for the appointed time but began their work at half-past seven. They sent men at once to watch all the gates. The artillerymen, camped outside the city, heard the firing and realised what had happened. They entered the city and occupied the Choawangtai (where the magazine was), the Hwanghwalo (the promontory overlooking the river), and the Serpent Hill. They intended to shell the Viceroy’s yamen, but soldiers went to the yamen and found that the Viceroy had escaped through {55}a hole dug in a back wall. As all the gates were held by Revolutionists, he must have got over the wall by a rope.

“The sappers and miners went to the camps of the other corps and told the men they must join the mutiny or fight. Practically all joined, with the exception of part of the Commissariat Corps and about 250 soldiers, who fled with Chang Piao.[4]

“I had come to Wuchang from Hankow, and we called a meeting at the magazine. The Revolutionary agents decided not to elect one of their own number as commander.”

Then followed in the interview a short description of the manner in which Li Yuan Hung had been raised to the position of Leader of the Revolution of China.

* * * * *

The following leader, printed in the London Times as soon as the Revolution broke, shows how great a surprise was given to the world. It also shows how utterly unprepared China herself seemed in the eyes of the world to be for the change that so suddenly shook the fundamentals of her Government:—’

“A rising, which is manifestly very serious,” said the Times editorial, “has taken place at Wuchang, the great city in the province of Hupeh which seemed destined to become the centre of the Chinese railway system and of the internal trade of the Empire. How serious it may prove to be and how serious the movement from which it springs are matters on which Europeans have but few materials for judgment. We have not sufficient information to show whether the present insurrection is connected with the disturbances in Szechwan which looked threatening enough a month ago. If they are their significance, it need hardly be {56}said, would be materially increased, but even if they are both altogether local they are symptomatic of the general instability of the actual situation. Two years hence a full Parliament of the Empire is to be convoked, and a Ministry responsible to it is to be appointed—so at least the Imperial Edict of last November has promised. The results of so tremendous an innovation cannot be looked forward to without misgivings. Is China, the oldest, and to all outward seeming one of the most effete, of Oriental monarchies, fit for so vast a change? The reception of the Edict of last year does not argue well for the future. The National Assembly, which had unanimously demanded this very reform, denounced it as too tardy the moment it was granted. Yet surely three years was not too long a time for China to prepare herself for constitutional government. There is much that is admirable in the Young China party. They realise the absolute necessity of reform, and many of them desire it out of genuine patriotism. But hitherto they have shown no sense of prospective, no powers of leadership, and no gift of construction. Last year one of their number, himself a subordinate official, who would certainly lose by a change, blurted out to a European in a moment of confidence that in his opinion nothing could save the country but a bloody revolution, making a clean sweep of everything. That was in the city of Wuchang. Is the present insurrection an attempt to save China in this way, and if it is, what popular force is behind it, or will gather behind it, unless it is immediately quelled? A good deal for us and for all European Powers with interests in the Far East depends on the answer.”

 

[1] October 10, 1911.

[2] A small magistrate.

[3] See Central China Post, January 15, 1912.

[4] Chang Piao was the General in command of the Hupeh Army, who took the field in the first engagement of the war, and who was interviewed by the author, as printed on page 61.

 

 

{57}

CHAPTER VI

THE EARLY HOSTILITIES
Thus did China’s Revolution start. Event followed event during the first days with such startling rapidity that it became a matter of difficulty to keep trace consecutively of events. On October 13th the Hanyang Arsenal, the largest in the Empire, passed into the hands of the Revolutionists. A large body of soldiers indistinguishable from loyal troops arrived in several units from Wuchang. They entered the Hanyang city quietly and, donning the Revolutionary badge, proceeded with their work. The powder factory was seized at 1 a.m. and the arsenal fell soon after, only a few shots being fired. In the arsenal were found no fewer than 140 three-inch guns, about 500,000 rounds of ammunition, and powder sufficient for the manufacture of 2,000,000 rounds. This amount, together with 32,000,000 rounds of rifle ammunition and 5,000 rounds of field-gun ammunition, which were known to be stored near Wuchang, gave the rebels enough to carry on with for some time. Hankow native city soon afterwards fell, and with its fall the Revolutionists found themselves in possession of three of the finest strategical points in the whole of China.

Meantime nothing had been heard of the foreigners in Wuchang, and as the gates were closed and huge conflagrations were seen during the next couple of days it was thought that the affair might develop into an anti-foreign rising. Crowds gathered on the Bund and gazed anxiously through field-glasses over the river for {58}signs of the foreigners, but it was not until October 12th that a steam-launch, conveying Captain Knepper, of the U.S.A. Helena, some foreigners and American blue-jackets, and flying the American flag, left in the early morning for Wuchang. In the afternoon the naval officers were cheered as they steamed alongside the Bund at Hankow, with practically all the foreigners and about 150 Christian girls from the various schools.

For the next few days there was the greatest activity on both sides—among the Revolutionists and the Loyalists. With wildest enthusiasm the Revolutionists prosecuted their aims in Wuchang, in Hanyang, and in Hankow. The Government banks were ransacked of all silver and burned to the ground, all Government offices were looted, Revolutionary troops were stationed in the three cities, and for some days there was no doubt about the sovereignty of the rebels in this neighbourhood. The two armies touched for the first time on October 19th, but even this was a one-sided affair, because General Chang Piao, the head of the Hupeh army, had but a handful of men, and stood from the first no chance whatever against the overwhelming numbers of the enemy. Foreigners were able only to see in this a local revolt, but it very soon became apparent that the Revolution had taken hold of China and that the rebelling forces of Hupeh were soon to gather many other provinces under their banner. Such unity was never seen in China before as the first days of the revolt brought to light.

Then the war began.

After this first slight engagement there was a rare ado with the Revolutionary army and supporters as the victorious regiments marched into the city, and this victory over Chang Piao and his men, apart from having the effect of completely routing the enemy, added a tremendous stimulus to the fighting line of the Republicans, and they were then itching for another scrap. {59}The Loyalists had come down from Peking. They were expected to turn over to the Revolutionists. But they did not—they intended to fight, and to fight hard. In the first engagement, however, after having had taken from them their bullion with which the troops were to be paid, their rice and supplies by which the men were to be fed, the ammunition by which the throne was to be kept secure, and much else in the way of impedimenta of warfare, they retired crestfallen and moved some considerable distance down the river.

TYPICAL REVOLUTIONARIES. Changed by love of country and passion for freedom from downtrodden coolies to enthusiastic soldiers.
TYPICAL REVOLUTIONARIES.
Changed by love of country and passion for freedom
from downtrodden coolies to enthusiastic soldiers.

Before dawn on the morning of October 20th I took my launch down towards Kilometre Ten, the Revolutionary base, where the Loyalists were said to have crept up during the night. It looked as if they had regained courage, and were to put up another fight. I found a party of Revolutionary recruits and regulars, all having a good time, whilst lessons were being given to the raw material in the art of using the rifle. The target was a couple of pigs, and into the hides of these two innocent porkers the recruits were endeavouring to discharge their bullets. Passing them, I followed on through a road which at one time had been the main entrance to the station, all being now in anything but perfect order, into the station, where some fifteen hundred troops were assembled on the platform and in the adjoining ground—the scene of the recent battle.

To my companion (representing the New York Herald) and myself the Revolutionists were most courteous. Whilst we preferred to stand, they bade us to be seated, a couple leading us to a point on the platform where was seated the Commander-in-Chief of the Field Forces, a portly fellow, full and hearty, typically Chinese, delighted to see us. Down below were the field-guns and the dark-clad troops, battered railway trucks, officers’ horses grazing by the line, men rushing hither and thither, all enthusiastic upon getting {60}something done and wasting no time. But here was the Commander-in-Chief—the Buller of the campaign—calm, quiet, courteous, extending to me with the simplicity of a boy the usual Chinese felicities. He was seated in his official war-chair, had upon him all the paraphernalia of war, and waited as he talked with me for his scouts to return before he could make up his mind what the day’s programme was to be.

Allow us to take his photograph?—certainly he would, and stood up and put on a straight face purposely for the occasion, waving back a scout who hurriedly came in whilst I snapped a picture. Then he attended to the scouting parties, taking careful notes of all that they told him. I wished to exchange cards—delighted, he would do it in a moment, and wrote his full name on the back. He laughed over the simplest incident, was exceedingly solicitous on my behalf, assured me that they would win; when he spoke of battle his face hardened, his keen eyes sparkled, full of fire. His aide-de-camp, quite a youngster, dressed in a foreign tweed suit—queueless, of course—and bearing no traces whatever that he was an army official, gave us all the news he could. He waved his hands to the captured railroad trucks, containing the captured supplies, and asked us blandly if we could solve the problem of living without food—because he couldn’t, and he didn’t suppose that the Loyalists could. “And they won’t,” he vociferated. But that was in the early days of the war. During those days it was interesting to any fair-minded foreigner to watch the intensity of feeling displayed by the Revolutionary Army as opposed to the downhearted attitude of the small Imperial force which took the field.

On the same morning that I interviewed the Revolutionary Commander of the Field Forces I was successful in discovering that General Chang Piao was on board a launch down-river. I immediately made off by launch {61}to see him. As I sat soon afterwards by the side of this Chang Piao, the man in all Hupeh who had been entrusted with the authority of the Model Army, and looked at a medium-sized Chinese who gave no evidence of being a common soldier by anything in his dress, and as I looked at his unshaven head and bloodshot eyes, I could not find it in my heart to extend to him anything but genuine pity. He recently had been a strong man, high in office, and dazzled with braid and buttons and all official paraphernalia which to-day is thought so much of in military China; now he was a crestfallen man, knowing that he had lost, cut off from all supplies, with a helpless army on his hands, and himself knowing that fifty thousand Chinese dollars were being offered for his head. With some little difficulty I had jumped on board, asked for Chang Daren, and was shown into the cabin aft, where I found some dozen or so officers eating their morning rice. Towards me came a man dressed in an ordinary teacher’s garb; he extended his nervous hand, and with ceremony bade me enter. His name he told me was Chang—this, then, was the man, General Chang Piao, erstwhile Commander-in-Chief of the Hupeh Model Army.

A well-built fellow, some five feet six or seven, with hard, determined mouth, and a chin of iron, was Chang Piao; his jet-black eyes looked suspiciously out at us. By the side of the General as he sat, one leg up under him in real Chinese fashion, stood a guard of soldiers with loaded pieces; in front of us as we talked were seated the dishevelled officers and staff of the General, some on upturned boxes, some on the settee (which had been the General’s resting-place), some on the floor, all busy with their rice-bowls and chopsticks.

At first Chang looked at me in apparent unconcern. Then—

“Where do you come from? What do you want? {62}What nationality are you?” These questions came from him as quickly as he could put them.

“I shall not do any fighting at all to-day,” he said. “My scouts are all around the country-side, and my troops, some three thousand of them—and all good men, far better than the rebels—are lying in ambush away at Niekow. I shall wait for the arrival of Yin Chang,[1] who is coming with twenty thousand troops, and Admiral Sah, who is waiting for more ammunition.”

Chang Piao made no reference to his adversary, General Li Yuan Hung, and did not seem inclined to encourage talk about the opposing side. Later, however, in the midst of the small talk, he referred very sympathetically to the Revolutionists, and was confident that they would rue the day when they broke out into rebellion. He continued: “It will not be long before we shall be able to win. There will, at any rate, not be any serious fighting for four days, but when Sah has his big guns’ ammunition sent to him, and we have ours and our twenty thousand drilled troops, the position will change speedily.”

Imperial troops now began to pour down from the north. Their headquarters were made at a place called Niekow, a small village, situated at the end of a big S bend in the railway leading out from Kilometre Ten, and about six miles away. Their first attack was made on the morning of October 25th, the Revolutionists taking up their position at the Government Paper Mill, situated below the Kilometre Ten Station, and near the Seven Mile Creek. People would point away in a northerly direction and tell you that over there were the Loyalists—twelve thousand, fifteen thousand, seventeen thousand, twenty thousand of them, mobilised for action. But no one actually knew; every one merely guessed. True it was that on the previous day several hair-brained {63}adventurers went so far forward as to tempt the Loyalist outposts into shooting at them, and then set the Concessions talking about their internationality and how the Loyalists were bent on shooting every foreigner they could catch.

THE RAW MATERIAL OF THE REVOLUTIONARY ARMY. “Enlisted on Tuesday, drilled on Wednesday, shot on Thursday,” was often the record of a revolutionary recruit.
THE RAW MATERIAL OF THE REVOLUTIONARY ARMY.
“Enlisted on Tuesday, drilled on Wednesday, shot on Thursday,”
was often the record of a revolutionary recruit.

It was some days previous that my launchman had refused point blank to convey me near the scene of action. Therefore was it that at dawn I was astir by the riverside at Hankow hailing a sampan, the men who were willing to go down-river demanding, in hoarse voices, exorbitant charges to get me near the fight if there was to be one. Having sufficiently argued the point and boarded a boat, however, we soon came to the firing-line, to the Revolutionary base, having been questioned by the sentries along the riverside as to who we were and what our business was. We rowed down to the Government Paper Mill, up a tributary to the main river, and landed. But no one was to be seen as we walked haphazardly onwards for some minutes, our only obstacle being a poor, one-eyed wretch trying to sell us some of the Loyalist ammunition and empty shells, at ridiculous prices as curios go.

Suddenly, however, there was an enormous explosion, which nearly broke our eardrums, and we knew that operations were commencing. Coming to an open space, we discovered small parties of infantry under cover of undulations in the ground, and slightly to the north, raised from the ground, were the field-guns. I was now between the river and the railway, and, with the other men around me, who told me to “duck,” as they expected a rapid return of the enemy’s shells, waited for the Loyalists’ return. Then, after some minutes, a little dancing flame, a little column of blue smoke, a dull, heavy boom, and a continued whistle in the air, told us that the enemy had started. With my glasses I watched anxiously for the shells, which fell short. With terrific force they dropped into swampy ground some five hundred yards in front of us, sending {64}up the water most picturesquely. There was a laugh from the Revolutionists around me as I reported the news to them, and they lay still in their positions, waiting, they hardly knew for what.

Going up to the field-guns, several of which had been brought down by a train now unloading, I found that there were ten four-inchers, most of which had the range beautifully. There were also Rexers, Maxims, and smaller fry.

Of the Loyalists, even with the aid of good field-glasses, nothing could be seen. Their camp at Niekow—some considerable distance to the north—was plainly visible, and the shooting was directed across the top of that S bend in the line; and thus it continued for another half an hour, the Loyalist guns failing to find their range and falling short. Ear-pads there were none; other ordinary equipment war correspondents carry I had none, so lay down as the guns shot and wrote my copy. Suddenly there was a sharp, deadly firing of Rexers, more deadly than the Maxim, and after that no sound. The rebels fell to jubilant congratulation, declaring that they had silenced the enemy, and that they could move forward and chase them. But they had misreckoned. Of officers among the Revolutionary men there were many. But of order I saw nothing. Each man did as he pleased and went where he pleased and when. Each gave orders and counter-suggestions to one another, and none was prepared for following up the engagement in its several possible turns.

And now their misreckoning was to be forced home. Dancing high above the earth, truly denoting danger to come, was the blue flame of the enemy. The releasing boom was heard, the whizz-z-z of the shell became noisier as it sailed through the air towards us; each instinctively bent his head and waited for the shell to burst. Then came the bursting directly above us in mid-air, telling that one gun at {65}least—certainly the biggest in the field—had got the range. In and around the firing-line of the Revolutionists there was a “Hiyah!” Some of the men rose immediately, slung their rifles over their backs, looked round anxiously for their comrades, and made to run; others still stayed on. But the enemy, now sure of the range, lost no time. In deadly succession shell after shell was put into the men who were fighting for the establishment of the model Republic. At the time, however, the Republic seemed far away.

Several shells as I stooped behind some brickwork broke directly in front of us, tearing up the red earth of the line. Simultaneously others broke above our heads, and the shrapnel descended in a deadly shower. So far as I could see, no one yet had been wounded, certainly no one killed. But at this moment I decided to go, simultaneously, it appeared, with many scores of the Revolutionist infantry. For in a couple of minutes, as I sprinted along the river bank, making for some decent cover, I found myself perilously running in the middle of a most disordered rabble of several hundred men, each doing as he liked. Some held their rifles high in the air, some pointed them onward at their fellows, others dragged them after them—and none was there to give them orders. Meantime, as we ran, shells were dropping around us. We could hear sharp “pings” on the corrugated roofs of the buildings we were passing, and all were glad when out of range.

In the village at the foot of the V-shaped ground we met many more of the Revolutionists, some gunners, some infantry, who had fled.

All decided that they had been routed; some asked whether the guns had been deserted, and were told that they had; and one, in an eminently Chinese way, made a small purchase of ten cash worth of nuts from an old woman by the roadside, arguing in the heat of battle as to whether he should give her ten or eight cash, and filling his knapsack, whilst his more {66}excited comrades discussed the plan of subsequent events.

Thus had the rebels been reversed, completely beaten at the game they themselves had started. The reverse, however, or rather the loss of their position, taught them a valuable lesson.

THE CENTRAL MART OF THE WORLD. Thus do the Chinese describe Hankow. In the foreground is a small section of the Hanyang Steel and Iron Works. Across the River Han the city of Hankow is seen.
THE CENTRAL MART OF THE WORLD.
Thus do the Chinese describe Hankow.
In the foreground is a small section of the Hanyang Steel
and Iron Works. Across the River Han the city of Hankow is seen.

 

[1] General Yin Chang, President of the Board of War—a man who was trained in Germany. He has a German wife.

 

 

{67}

CHAPTER VII

THE BATTLE OF KILOMETRE TEN
After these first hostilities men and things began to move with lightning rapidity. By October 27th the Loyalists, strongly reinforced by Imperial troops from the north, held the situation fairly well, fighting with remarkable persistence. What passed during that day and those immediately ensuing should prove a lesson to the Western world. Warfare opened at dawn, and the Imperialists, fighting against a strongly entrenched army of Revolutionists numerically superior but not so well commanded, won a complete victory. The Revolutionists fought bravely, and their losses were heavy.

As will be seen in detail later in this volume, the Revolutionists were expecting the Imperial troops to join them as soon as the real cause of the fighting became known to them, for it was a vital part of the Imperial policy to keep the northern troops in ignorance of the nature of the revolt. The Revolutionists openly declared themselves disappointed. But as a matter of fact, even if the Imperialists had been willing to join, there was no opportunity presented to them. The arrangement of their troops was such that the Honan and Shantung soldiers were in front with the Manchus directly behind them. This was a cleverly designed manoeuvre on the part of the Manchu officers that worked for the success of the Loyalists. The Honan men could neither lay down their arms nor turn back—even if they so wished. An attempt to join the {68}enemy would have brought upon them the fire of the Manchus, and the steady advance of the latter prevented any reverse movement.

Foreign military observers who witnessed the battle of Kilometre Ten unite in saying that the Imperialists made their attack and continued it in the face of stubborn resistance and in the most scientific manner, advancing steadily under the cover of their artillery. From a position some quarter of a mile south of the Kilometre Ten station, the Revolutionary base, I watched for some three hours hardest musketry and artillery fire. The deadly warfare raged across a wide stretch of country lying to the north-east of the Revolutionary headquarters, over swampy ricefields and half-cultivated ground. Big four-inchers opened fire just before seven on a cold, grey morning, and both armies, having moved slightly to the front, were within easy rifle fire of each other. The Revolutionary Army had spread itself in the shape of a right angle, with the bigger guns at either point, and strong lines of enthusiastic infantry entrenched on the north side of the railway line and well fortified behind stone embankments and undergrowth along the river abreast of Kilometre Ten and for some distance below on towards the oil-tanks of the Asiatic Petroleum Company, Ltd.

The Imperialists, returning the Revolutionary gun-fire with marked precision, found their range with the fourth shrapnel, the Revolutionists taking much longer, and having nothing more than the ordinary 1¾ and 3 inch explosives—their great need was shrapnel.

Far across the field was one bank of ever-increasing smoke, and of necessity shooting was vague. But both armies, with an earnestness and energy that one was not accustomed to see in Chinese, kept up smart riflery for two hours, with hardly a moment’s lull, showing that the Chinese Model Army, if boasting little else, can boast of men who face battle without flinching. {69}For two hours, at the very edge of the field, I watched operations through my glasses, and then saw Admiral Sah’s fleet coming up-river slowly—it had been creeping up for some time. At first it was thought that the Revolutionary guns known to be at Kinshan, a point on the other side of the river almost opposite Yanglo, would open fire upon the fleet, but this did not happen, and not during the whole of the day was there any firing from that side of the river. Shells from both camps were being sent out at a terrific rate. Those from the Imperial Army were seen to be bursting with deadly effect in the Revolutionary ranks, and the poor fellows who were willing to seal the Republic with their blood were seen to fall in hundreds.

THE FLIGHT OF THE GUN-JUNKS. These old-style revolutionary gunboats scudded away at the Battle of Kilometre Ten when Admiral Sah opened fire.
THE FLIGHT OF THE GUN-JUNKS.
These old-style revolutionary gunboats scudded away
at the Battle of Kilometre Ten when Admiral Sah opened fire.

For some half-hour it was impossible in the din and the smoke from the firing, added to the fact that both armies were magnificently entrenched, to tell which side was doing the more deadly work, but for more than two hours the rattle of musketry, of Rexer machine guns, of Maxims, and three and four inch guns told one that the death-roll must be tremendous. Such incessant rattle was not known even in the Russo-Japanese War. Suddenly the fleet moved upwards. No one seemed to take notice of the move or to attach great importance to it. A small village below the Japanese Bund was as peaceful as if battle was removed a thousand miles from it, and the villagers, preparing their morning rice, paid but little heed to the gradually nearing musketry. To myself there came a fear that from my temporary resting-place I should soon have to shift. Down behind the stones at the Kilometre Ten station I could then see the Revolutionary troops beginning to rise and prepare for a withdrawal. Simultaneously, from the railway away to the north, three companies of regular troops, well in command and meaning business, came down, orderly enough, marched out into the open field, knelt, and prepared for fire. But what at? Eyes had been taken from the {70}gun-boats, which were now within such distance that their operations could easily be seen with the naked eye. They were evidently preparing to sweep the decks of the cruisers with rifle-shot if they came within firing distance. Field-guns appeared to be all forward with the main fighting line, and this batch of infantry was all that was available.

The Revolutionary army was drawn up over a very wide area, stretching from the river bank above Kilometre Ten to a point far over away from the other side of the railway, the whole forming a right angle with three main fortified points, and in between were companies of infantry entrenched. The shells from the Loyalists, put in from several guns over the whole of the enemy’s right angle, were tearing the ranks to pieces. This could be seen through the glasses. But gradually the fighting came nearer. The men who were fighting for the establishment of their Republic were being slowly driven back. First one company would move a little back, kneel again, and whole-heartedly recommence musketry fire. But the moment came, not much after 9.30 a.m., when it became apparent that the ships were going to add their quota—and all too deadly a quota as it transpired—to rout the Revolutionists. First came a terrific boom, which rent the air, even though all the firing round about ceased not for a moment. There seemed then in the air to be for a single moment a silence boding terrible evil. There was another bang; the shell burst right in the railway—just in the station which had been the pride of the Revolutionary forces as their formidable base—a flame was seen to go up from one of the buildings in the front, and the Admiral saw that he had got his range.

THE EFFECT OF A NAVAL BOMBARDMENT. This populous village was burned to the ground in the first engagement of Admiral Sah’s fleet with revolutionary army.
THE EFFECT OF A NAVAL BOMBARDMENT.
This populous village was burned to the ground in the first
engagement of Admiral Sah’s fleet with revolutionary army.

For an army well trained in the arts of war, old veterans of modern warfare, it would be a brave thing, perhaps foolhardy, to endeavour to stand before an army equal to itself and a naval force whose strength was unknown. Much more would it be to expect it of {71}an army, a great percentage made up of raw recruits, who had hardly handled a rifle before this Revolution broke out. At the time of which I am writing this was the position of the Revolutionary Army. From the land forces they could expect as much as they could tackle with the forces they had then at their base. It had been a good fight, and they had held their ground well, feeling the need of trained troops. In addition to that, many of the trained troops were shot down by their own men—recruits who had been placed in the rear lines and had shot down the regulars at the front—a most regrettable feature for the Revolutionists during the whole campaign.

Now that warships began to pelt shells into the Revolutionary camp with alarming precision, it seemed hopeless for them. The great majority, however, with marked coolness stuck to their guns.

Over the land came the whistle of Admiral Sah’s shells—their effect was terrific. Soon it was seen that the Revolutionists would have to evacuate. To stay in their present situation would have meant only utter disaster, and they saw it was a hopeless task. Many of them came slowly from the ranks, all muddy and disordered, tired and forlorn, and made their way back through the sympathetic villages and along the railway line towards Hankow native city. Then they came away pellmell, and the Imperialists pelted them with shells as they fled. Peking men crept up through the trenches with capital skill, being officered splendidly, and showing by all that they did—gunners and infantry—that they were a modern army, and to be reckoned with. They then came away to the Racecourse; were temporarily beaten back by a ragtail and bobtail crowd of Revolutionists, more ardent than skilful, who had taken up a fresh stand. Firing was recommenced, and the Imperialists, despite the fact that Maxims were turned on them with terrific force, came up through the trenches. Their bravery was one of the wonderful {72}features of the day, and will be handed down in history. Hopelessly were they mown down, brutally were they knocked out by Maxim fire, but they stuck to it and came along in a style British regiments would not look down upon.

“Brothers!” they would exclaim in their ignorance, “we are fighting a pack of robbers and hooligans. We must fight to save our country from unworthy men.”

Towards two o’clock, after scouting parties had been working from both sides, they again came to close quarters by the side of the Japanese Concession, and it was feared that the Foreign Concessions would be rushed on the first day’s fight. These settlements, however were guarded splendidly—American, Austrian, British, French, German, and Japanese naval contingents being stationed all over the place, with the roads all barricaded, and every measure taken to preserve peace and order.

The number of dead in this battle, as in most of the others, was not known.

Following on the Imperial success earlier in the day, Admiral Sah then sent official intimation to British Rear-Admiral Winsloe, who was nominally in charge of the foreign defences, that he would commence to bombard Wuchang on the morrow at three p.m. A consular circular was sent round to that effect, strongly advising that all women and children should leave. It further said that the foreign gunboats might drop down river, but that full guards would be landed and kept in the Concessions for defence. The volunteers also would remain on duty.

PREPARED FOR EVENTUALITIES. The Americans on guard at the Foreign Concession while heavy fighting was going on close by. It was feared by the foreign community that either side, when beaten, might make for cover in the Concession.
PREPARED FOR EVENTUALITIES.
The Americans on guard at the Foreign Concession
while heavy fighting was going on close by.
It was feared by the foreign community that either side,
when beaten, might make for cover in the Concession.

It was during these days that Admiral Sah played a remarkable game of bluff. The promised bombardment did not come off, and it was afterwards learned that it had never been intended. On board the cruisers there was a shortage of ammunition, among the crew the greatest dissatisfaction was openly expressed; the Admiral was not quite sure that if he bombarded {73}Wuchang he would cause a surrender; he also entertained the feeling that this was a squabble of the land forces, and told the Imperial leaders he thought they should be strong enough to end the affair themselves—and so the days passed by without any serious interference in Wuchang of General Li Yuan Hung’s policy of sitting tight. The added moral effect of his holding Wuchang to the Revolution was tremendous: each day brought news of either provincial capitals or “fu” cities throwing in their lot with the Revolution, and Li, far-seeing and tremendously capable, held back the attack the Wuchang garrison was anxious to commence, and concentrated his army on the Hankow side.

Here fighting was being carried on with a pluck which astounded all beholders. The Imperial Army was for the first time since the Chinese Model Army had been organised plunged into real warfare. The Revolutionists—a teeming multitude, it is true—were for the most part raw recruits, men who had never stood before gun-fire, whom one could reasonably have expected to be “gun-shy.” But their bravery, because they believed their fight was one for emancipation, from what very few of the raw recruit element knew probably, would have made many an Occidental regiment blush with envy.

Truly were those first days of the war a season of intense excitement and surprise.

By November 1st the Imperialists, already in possession of Kilometre Ten and the whole line from Peking, by persevering and undaunted behaviour, excellent discipline, and military common sense, had won their way to the Tachimen, the railway station behind the French Concession. That morning I was in the camp at the station. Foreigners had been looked upon with suspicion, and as I entered the station some of the officers looked askance at me. No other army would have allowed me to pass the barrier without having seen a pass. But pass I had none. As I sat chatting {74}to a crowd of well-knit northern fellows, who seemed perfectly at ease and to have all they wished for—except cigarettes, for which they were constantly making inquiries—it was difficult to believe that one was in the very centre of the topical world. The eyes of every one were turned towards this great struggle between Chinese and Chinese. Every newspaper in London and New York was concentrating upon the war. China’s Revolution was on the far political horizon, for what affected China just then affected the world. And as those Imperial fellows at their military base congratulated each other that at least they had the chance of being actually in war, they had but little idea of the importance attaching to the conflict. Shells that dropped around me, however, were bringing messages of a China that was to be.

Not a hundred yards from where I sat were four field-guns—deadly four-inchers, the modern Krupp—sending shells into Hanyang as fast as the gunners were able to work. The booming shook the whole city, sending frightened children to their mothers, themselves at their wits’ ends with fear. Revolutionary batteries at Hanyang, not yet silenced or showing any signs of giving up the fight, dropped its shells sometimes nearer, sometimes farther, never into the battery here on the railroad.

As an interested spectator, I sat on a few sleepers and watched where the shells dropped from both sets of guns. It was a casual pastime, and no one seemed to mind my being there. The gunners would, with highest glee, explain how the four-inchers were worked, would point away towards Hanyang Hill and tell you they were trying to pot the temple overlooking the Yangtze, and when a shell from the enemy dropped anywhere near there was a shout of enthusiastic mirth. They would look at one astutely, smile, inquire into one’s family associations in characteristic Chinese style, and {75}were highly delighted if relevantly one could carry on conversation with them in Chinese. The average military observer would probably have declared the Imperial Army to be a peculiar military force. Into the daily routine the extravagant Chinese etiquette was worked in conjunction with a discipline quite strange to Chinese, and on the face of things it would not seem, viewed from camp life, that China’s army was in any way a modern army. But that this Model Army of China is as much of a myth as some would have us believe, I, now in it all, could not for a moment endorse. The foreigner has always looked upon the Chinese as a man who would not fight him with the weapons of war; his main attack would be the weapons of commerce, of boycott, or of trust. But the Chinese Army to-day is certainly no myth. It is strong enough to preserve peace with other countries, if not to enter into any external strife with the idea of winning.

That the Revolutionists had the numbers I would have been the first to admit, but the trained fighter is the man who wins in battle. Not one-fifth of their troops were trained soldiers; they have been seen to come out into the fighting line, wearing the uniform of the military it is true, to put the butts of their pieces upon their hips and let fly, until they saw their own men falling dead in front of them, shot from behind. But with the Northern Army it needed only a stroll round their camp to convince the most casual of observers that the Revolutionary’s enemy was an army, doing things as an army should. The army defending the Throne was the product of twelve years of strenuous work by a great genius. The Northern Army was founded upon principles set down by Yuan Shih K’ai, the genius of things military in China, and that genius, using his brains but seeing nothing of the fight, was just then directing the operations as they proceeded.

Whether the Imperialists were getting to know more about that for which they were fighting, whether a {76}great many in the rank and file were anxious to throw up the sponge and go back to their homes, whether a certain section of them were anxious to change coats and go over to the other ranks and shoot down those by whose side they had been trained did not affect the general position. The Imperialists were the cogs of the machine, and for their life they could not stop fighting. They might have been half-hearted, as many said they were, but their organisation was almost perfect.

FOES MEETING AS FRIENDS. A regiment of soldiers casting in their lot with the Revolutionists against whom they had lately fought.
FOES MEETING AS FRIENDS.
A regiment of soldiers casting in their lot with the
Revolutionists against whom they had lately fought.
As I sat on the railway sleepers a crowd of soldiers soon gathered. Some held their rice-bowls up to me, and with their chopsticks as they ate asked me to chi-fan, and when I took a hard piece of bread from one of the infantry and began to munch at it to show that there was not the slightest ill-feeling they all screamed with laughter, and each swore that I was a good all-round sort of fellow. And then we fell to talking. “Ah!” indignantly yelled the officer, when I asked him why Chinese were fighting Chinese, “these men are rebels—ding kuai, ding kuai tih ren![1] They are making it nasty for the foreign Concessions, and our Government are going to put it down. They are not real soldiers. They are only robbers and wicked men; they can’t fight. We [and the man stroked himself down] are the fighters.” And then he invited me to go a little way with him, until we came in sight of the guns then sending out the shells. “We have guns here that would blow those fellows into that great river, and if they don’t give up soon that’s what we are going to do. We are not going to leave a house standing; it is Yuan Shih K’ai’s orders, and in a few days it will all be over, and we shall all go back to Peking and have a holiday. Yuan Shih K’ai,” he softly said, “is down at Kilometre Ten,[2] and {77}he will not come up farther. He is a wonderful fellow. He has his fingers on the situation, and is merely waiting his time. The Revolutionists think that he is afraid because our men are not fighting to-day, but you wait; presently you will see all the people in this city killed. We are killing anybody we can see, and shall kill many, many more yet.”

“But don’t you think that that’s a funny sort of tao li for Chinese to kill Chinese?” Then the man turned his head away and did a half-hearted smile. “Ah! that’s altogether another question. That was the old style. We are a new army, and we are told to fight for a New China. We don’t want our country to fall into the control of all those wicked men.”

“Yes, I can see that right enough. But these poor fellows that your crack shooting is knocking over are good fellows, and are all fighting for the good of their country too——”

But he interrupted me. He would have none of it. He thought that I was myself a Revolutionist, and ceased talking. “That’s what they tell you,” he finally remarked. “If they get into power, it will be totally different.”

Again I approached him as he walked from me. “I’m afraid that you have not got the truth of the story. These men think that they are in the right. They are not the robbers you think them, surely. Probably you have been misinformed, and——”

“We’re not misinformed. Our officers are all good men, and our men are the best that could be sent. We are the best in the army, and that is the reason we were sent….”

* * * * *

It soon became evident that a threat of the {78}Imperialists would be carried out. Their first threat was that they would get Hankow the first day, Hanyang the second, Wuchang the third. Hankow would soon be taken. Everybody knew that. Whether Yuan Shih K’ai would allow his army to burn it to the ground, as was stated was his intention, was, however, another matter. None believed that such savagery would be allowed; but that was the threat, and, after all, fires are common in wartime.

TACHIMEN, WITH IMPERIALISTS IN OCCUPATION. This was the Imperialist headquarters till the withdrawal of the Northern Army from the Wuhan centre.
TACHIMEN, WITH IMPERIALISTS IN OCCUPATION.
This was the Imperialist headquarters till the withdrawal
of the Northern Army from the Wuhan centre.
The Rev. A. J. McFarlane, Headmaster of the Griffith John College, who remained some distance from Hankow during most of the heavy fighting, gave me the following account of a somewhat dangerous ride he had along the road at the back of the city. It will serve to show the conditions around the country during the time the fusillading was hardest:—

“On Sunday, October 29th, the Imperial troops had fought their way all along the railway line from the Sing Seng Road to the River Han at Ch’iaokow, and from the College we heard the bark of the Maxims for the first time on Sunday evening, and that night there were fires in nine places around the railway line. But by Monday evening a counter-attack of Hunan troops seemed to have carried the tide of battle back again to the Tachimen Station; and local rumours said that the Imperialists were all cut to pieces, or had surrendered. Certainly it was evident from the firing that they had fallen back a long way, and as we had had no news from Hankow for four days, and were in need of silver for salaries, and for the scholars’ food, I decided on Tuesday to try and get through to the Concessions. (We had continued a few classes regularly till Saturday, but on Sunday the last two Chinese masters left.)

“The three-mile ride to the beginning of the native city was marked by the signs of recent fighting, and I had to make a detour where some Imperialists were said to be concealed in a hut, and sniping was going {79}on. I got to the Ma-loo, on the old city wall, and found the whole place deserted; even the mud huts of the beggars were empty and half-burnt; and in place of the usual crowd of foot-passengers, bearers, and rickshaws there was not a human being, not even a stray dog in sight. Hankow native city seemed like a city of the dead—it was not burned till the next day, Wednesday—and there must have been still thousands hidden away in the houses. After about a mile of the road, where signs of the stern resistance—shell holes in houses and strewn cartridge-cases—were on every side, I came to five or six Hunan soldiers, lying in the shelter of the parapet by the roadside, waiting for snipe-shots at Imperial soldiers, who were in possession of the railway bank, running parallel to the Ma-loo, about half a mile away. They waved me forward in a friendly way, evidently not wishing to reveal their presence to the enemy. So I continued the lonely ride, and passed the mangled body of a black-coat, covered with flies, and a heap of unused shells, telling their tale of defeat and hasty retreat. The silent air was heavy with the smell of death, and the odour of burned flesh and wood was everywhere. Suddenly a flash and the bang of a rifle from the railway bank, and as I did not know whether it was meant for me I dismounted and walked forward a little to show myself as a foreigner, but as nothing more followed I cycled on again, and soon passed another ten black-coats, lying by the roadside, waiting for pot-shots at the railway bank, and a few more in the shelter of a house, firing through the ruined windows. There were one or two more dead Revolutionists, and a half-burned pony or cow among some ruined huts, and farther on a dead woman by the roadside, evidently of the beggar class, lying half-naked in a pool of blood. As I neared the Water Tower there were two or three small stalls open, and a few people about; and I caught the first glimpse of a squad of {80}grey-coats, moving, some way off, among the huts. The Marines, at the end of the Ma-loo, helped my bicycle over the barrier of sacks and bricks there, and the report of a cannon firing close by just at that moment emphasised the heavenly sense of safety and relief as one trod once more on Concession soil, where all was peace and quiet.

“At 3 p.m. as the conditions seemed much the same, and I had done my business and secured the needed dollars, I rode back again the same way without any adventures, save for a jumpy, tightening feeling round the heart as a few sniping shots passed backwards and forwards again, till I got beyond the city to the comparative safety of the deserted countryside, and to a hearty welcome from the School.”

 

[1] “Very bad men” in the literal Chinese.

[2] It was about this time that Yuan Shih K’ai, in compliance with a strong invitation from the Throne, took office. He was appointed Viceroy of the Hu-kwang, and was instructed to quell the rebellion. The report was that he was now at Kilometre Ten, but he was really at Siaokan. Perhaps readers would care to read the chapter dealing with Yuan at this juncture.

 

 

{81}

CHAPTER VIII

THE BURNING OF HANKOW
Have you ever seen a fire—a big fire? Have you ever stood watching a wide prairie fire and seen the flames dance and leap upwards, downwards, wriggle in and out, and menacingly approach you? If you have, you will in some measure be able to follow me. Can you imagine in that great dancing prairie fire that you have seen thousands of housetops, minarets, temple spires, roofs of all heights, sizes, and shapes—can you? Can you imagine those wild flames, fanned strongly to one side, and see that mighty belt of flame galloping furiously onward, then drawing back, then galloping on again and gaining ground, then settling finally down as if it had its luckless enemy in its most deadly grasp, slowly to torture it and cruelly to draw from it its last gasp of life? Can you see that sea-like, billowy mass of curling smoke, too thick to be driven by the strong north wind, but just thick enough slowly to move and to give way now and again to that enormous force of white-hot, crackling fire that sends up its deep red flame in anger to the heavens? And can you see beyond you through that dense smoke more roofs and spires and curving Chinese architecture, seeming to dodge up and down, in and out, like a full disordered regiment of cavalry in awful flight; on and on they seem to go, yet to get no farther? Terrific is their endeavour, but futile. They gallop never faster, in and out, up and down, and at last, {82}giving up all hope, are compelled hopelessly to settle down in the smoke and are lost to sight for ever.

THE BURNING OF HANKOW. A wave of flame a mile and a half wide swept through the city and rendered half a million people homeless.
THE BURNING OF HANKOW.
A wave of flame a mile and a half wide swept through the city
and rendered half a million people homeless.
But those roofs are not cavalry; they are not men. The men and terrified women, and the tiny helpless children, the old fathers and the mothers, the invalids, the incapacitated, the blind, the halt, and the maimed had left the city a couple of days before, and now were around the countryside, rich and poor alike being turned out of house and home. Those who doubted, however, or were indifferent were mixed up in the flaming street, helpless, hopeless, waiting for their inevitable doom in that great fire, the great fire of Hankow, the devoted central market of the Chinese world, now lost in doom in the Chinese war.

No one will ever tell precisely what happened during the firing of the city. Europeans gathered on their housetops in the Concessions to watch and to feel their hearts torn with pity. One gazed abstractedly into a boiling cauldron, and expected that behind the lurid flame thousands were pitifully exchanging their sad farewells ere they settled down to die. There seemed to be no escape for the poor people other than in the grave; all effort seemed to be void of hope. As one watched he seemed to feel that underneath those roofs the saddest scenes possible to enact in history were being recorded with sad, sad tears. He seemed to feel that they were huddled round, those men and women, those little children, those invalids, those blind, those poor people who were about to die like rats in their holes. And there crept into one’s soul an infinite pathos.

THE SING SENG ROAD. The smartest thoroughfare of Hankow, after the fire. For over a week fierce fighting was maintained here.
THE SING SENG ROAD.
The smartest thoroughfare of Hankow, after the fire.
For over a week fierce fighting was maintained here.
But I ask again, Can you imagine all this? And imagining, think you that you could describe? I watch, and watch. The flames seem to draw me into their fiery bosom as the phosphorus does in the sea. I can see it all, spreading away madly to the right, to the left, then again meeting in the centre. It tears cruelly along does this great belt of jagged flame, and soon will {83}meet its fellow. They seem to be racing, each section of that horrid fire appearing to be vieing with that other section in killing and burning, in slow death, many peaceable people who were unable to flee. On it goes again, and upwards, downwards, in, out, back, forth; sometimes it comes to a greater mass, which yields less readily, and there it sits, like some great bird of prey, until its conquest is at hand, and then goes forward again with a furious glee. I have asked you whether, imagining this, you could describe it. Here am I, seated on a lofty rooftop, and see it. It is here, in all its horrible reality, happening before my eyes as I write, making the history of our time, and it is my business to describe it; that is why I am here. And yet my pen falls helplessly. It baffles description. The phraseology will not come. The words stick, the pen remains unmoved; I cannot describe it. By far the worst thing I have ever known is this savage razing of a great city to become a city of the dead and a place of weeping.

Map of Hankow Native City Showing Burnt Area.
Map of Hankow Native City Showing Burnt Area.

But one thinks as one sees, far away in one corner of that deep, dense, disordered flaming mass, one small, straight line of smoke going up to the heavens, that that is the fitting sacrifice to the hand of Destiny henceforth to guide this downtrodden people into happier channels. That, however, will come with the years; now the fire is with us. In our own way, we who watched the war had talked about the burning of the city. After all, it is nothing much to burn a city of five hundred thousand souls to the ground. In China one walled city is hardly to be reckoned; and what, pray you, is it for five hundred thousand human beings among four hundred and thirty millions to be without home or shelter? When China burns, when she kills, when she does anything that people who call themselves civilised shrink from dreaming of, she shows the world that she is the past mistress in all things that we call savage. It is, to us, an act of cruellest {84}savagery. To us it is a sin against God and man wilfully to burn a city to the ground, wantonly to destroy hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of accumulated wealth; to us it is all a crime unthinkable. To China it is a good thing that by such acts of so-called savagery, of realest barbarism, of grossest, inhuman tactics the people, the common people, the hewers of national wood and the drawers of national water, are taught to know that they must keep their place, that the hand of the Government is strong, that the place in which Heaven has placed them must honourably be filled, and that towards Revolution they should have no leanings. To China the sweeping into eternity of thousands of fellow-mortals is for the benefit of those who remain, and the destruction of property in their national hysteria matters not a moment of passing thought. So to those of us who know China, and who cannot believe that all that we see and hear is true of the bewildering reform that is alleged to have caught the country and its people into its arms, it was not a great surprise to see the Imperialists carrying out their threat to burn the city to ashes. And it is fortunate that scores of thousands of people, who knew the national spirit and who expected the horrors of former rebellions to be repeated, packed up what little belongings they could and cleared out of gunshot by either land or water.

Throughout the long day the fire burned away, making a sight as wonderful as it was ghastly. From the fateful city the frightened people who had remained behind came in droves; or, at any rate, they made the attempt, only to be shot down by the soldiers who were waiting for them. If no satisfactory explanation was forthcoming from those terrified people, they were unmercifully bayoneted or shot dead. The streets were guarded by Imperialists, who seemed bent on having blood, and who, with frightful glee, carried out their mission with impunity. It is, perhaps, {85}needless to say more. It was a sight that Nero might have enjoyed, but to any one with any humanity left him, even to those people one occasionally meets in China who have no sympathies for the Chinese, and think that they should not be helped religiously or socially, but should be left to go on their ill-appointed way, the sight must have caused the greatest pain. People would come to the exits of the city hoping to find refuge on the Foreign Concessions; they had dropped on the way the little gear they could at the outset carry, and now they were hopeful, at all events, of saving their lives, and sought to come through the gates. But no, even this was denied them. Back they had to go, probably to their doom. The British bluejackets stationed at these exits told me that their hearts bled for the pitiful people, but their instructions were that none should come out. One of the greatest menaces confronting the British authorities was the looting which threatened the burning city. One road only separated the city from the British Concession, and when the people began to flee the looters were in an Eldorado. The scoundrels would come out with furs, silks, silver ware, and every sort and condition of valuable, deposit it in the Concessions, and go back for more, until it became necessary to prevent Chinese from coming on the Concessions. After a time, however, this rule was modified, and volunteers who could speak the language were stationed there to inquire the mission of those who were fleeing; but hundreds must have run from gate to gate, like rats in their holes, knowing that each moment the fire was encroaching ominously. At night the sight was watched by hundreds. Truly heartbreaking was it to look on one of the finest cities on the Yangtze being razed to the ground. When the darkness came on the wide expanse of red flame lit up the country for miles around. At the London Mission Hospital, adjoining the Concessions, there was a scare for fear that {86}the place would catch, for the wind veered slightly. All the patients were routed from their beds and carried to other places of refuge. Europeans and natives formed one large mutual band in carrying away the valuables. The sights we saw we shall never forget. The pitiable condition of the people, the indignation of the multitudes, who swore vengeance against the Government, and much more that one cannot hurriedly think of or relate, will live long in our memories.

At the time of the fire’s outbreak it was thought that thousands must have perished in that modern Sodom and Gomorra. The Imperialists were mad for the lusts of war. A day or two previous Yuan Shih K’ai had offered a large reward for the recapture of Hankow, and the men were hot for the spoils. Their dead, truckloads piled up irreverently, were all deposited in the flames, and over the Concessions on the second day of the fire came the rank smell of smouldering human flesh. During those days Europeans witnessed a hell from their rooftops. At the back of the British Concession, at the back of the French, and at the back of the German were batteries; the Imperialists were winning their way over towards the Han River, their goal, and from their batteries an incessant shelling was vigorously kept up.

No one would forget those days. But lest they should, as it seemed, the big guns from Tachimen kept hard at it, planking shells into the city of Hanyang and anywhere else where soldiers were likely to lay ambushed. The guns boomed away for an hour, and then there came again dead silence, disturbed only by those who were still rescuing the wounded and the helpless. But the calm lasted not for long. Soon from the corner of the city nearest the Foreign Concessions there came fresh wreaths of black smoke, showing that the deadly work had recommenced. Soon the flames leaped up again, the wind blew them farther inwards to the houses still standing, shells inconsequently {87}fell near by; there was the same pathos and the same panic—the city was on fire again. And so it continued for three days, and one could see all over again what he might imagine in that prairie fire.

THE TOLL OF THE DEAD. After the heavy fighting round Tachimen, nearly all the work of collecting the dead for burial fell to the lot of foreigners.
THE TOLL OF THE DEAD.
After the heavy fighting round Tachimen, nearly all the work
of collecting the dead for burial fell to the lot of foreigners.

The wrath of Hades seemed to be upon the people. All around the countryside they were scared—and well they might have been, for in their fury the Imperialists burned everything as they went along. In the midst of the huge conflagration, a general invitation was sent out to foreigners to go into the city by way of the Maloo—the big road skirting the city—to bring out eighty blind boys and the wounded from the Wesleyan Mission Hospital. First impressions were that the hospital and school and all that the Mission possessed had been gutted. “We have £10,000 in the Mission,” I overheard one of the missionaries say, “but that’s not so important as my blind boys.” Meantime permission by the Red Cross authorities had been secured for the rescue party to go into the city. Each man as he volunteered knew he went at great personal risk. Fighting was still heavy, but every moment made a difference—and who knew but that those blind boys were being burnt alive? By dark they had, however, been rescued—only those who went knew at what cost.

On November 3rd a significant lull took place.

These lulls are dangerous forerunners of evil in China.

The Imperialists had captured Hankow, and were known to be ready to forge ahead towards Hanyang, the great stronghold of the Revolutionists—a city almost impregnable in itself, with a high hill sheltering the town behind, and reached only after fording a rapid river some hundred yards wide at the narrowest. To the north-west a range of hills literally bristled with Revolutionary big guns; the Hanyang Hill itself was practically one shell-proof cover, and noses of guns of all sizes pointed in every direction. At Wuchang all {88}the hills were fortified, and along the river-front big guns were lined for many miles above and below the town. But in the actual fighting, as has been said, there came a lull. That it was a dangerous lull and that it came before the storm was firmly believed. No one better than the Chinese can wait—they are all past-masters in the art of dilly-dallying—and it was believed that a few days would see either the end of the war and the establishment of a new rule under Yuan’s dictatorship or the re-establishment of Imperial rule with some modifications, or there would come about a state of affairs infinitely worse than anything yet seen.

With the Revolutionists repeatedly beaten back, although at considerable loss to the Imperialists, with two-thirds of Hankow city nothing but a heap of black, charred ruins, with thousands and tens of thousands of people wandering with no home and no food, with women maltreated and ravished, with looting and massacring proceeding at a devilish pace, the casual onlooker would have concluded that the Revolutionists had had enough. They had seen that the Imperial hand in dealing with them was inclined to come down with extreme force, and if need be, to crush and totally annihilate them—if it could. But, strangely, the Revolutionists, despite their sad plight, with most of their best men killed or wounded, and a haphazard army only at the command of the new leader, were still more enthusiastic.

Probably the most remarkable feature of the whole Revolution in the immediate centre of the three cities around which the active operations were concentrated was the behaviour of the Revolutionary troops. This to the Westerner who has never been to China may not be deemed as important. But the student of Chinese affairs and the readers of Chinese history will be aware that in past revolts in this country the soldiery, such as it had been, had not startled the world with their clean conduct at any period. The reverse had been {89}the case. Previous rebellions had been made famous for the amount of looting, stealing, ravishing, and general lawlessness that had prevailed. But in the Revolution which was led by General Li there was none of this. Throughout, the magnificent manner in which the troops, both trained and untrained, had behaved was a credit to every one concerned in the revolt.

The following edict, one of several published during the first days, will go to show the spirit of the leaders:—

“Li, commander-in-chief of the Chinese People’s Army, by authority of the military Government, a special proclamation:

“By the command of the army administration, I desire you the people of my country to know that wherever our patriotic troops come you need have no occasion for the least suspicion or anxiety. I come to save you and with no idea of acquiring merit or personal profit, but to pull you out of fire and water, and to cure you of your cankering maladies. Hitherto you have been bitterly oppressed and drowned in a sea of misery through being under the government of an alien race who treat you as bastards and not as children. You must know that the present day Manchu slaves do not belong to the family of Han, and we, being animated by heaven-high patriotism, will not spare them their well-deserved retribution. On this account I could not but raise our patriotic flag in order to give you deliverance by causing all the people to unite their strength and drive them out, together with the traitorous Chinese robbers whom I will not permit to continue long. These robbers have hitherto eaten our flesh and now we will sleep in their skins. Whoever is animated by patriotic sentiments let him quickly come and join our ranks, and together gain the glory of delivering the country. The day of the revival of the Han people is arrived with the establishment of the Chinese republic with which you my brethren will have no cause to be ashamed. Scholars, farmers, artisans, and merchants, let all unite their efforts with ours to drive out the Manchu barbarians. Wherever our army goes it will be under perfect control and troops and people will be treated alike without the least partiality to either. I desire you my beloved uterine brothers every one to respectfully listen to my exhortation.

“Dated the 18th day of the first year of Hwang Ti, being the 4609th year of China.”

 

The other side of the question was eloquently put {90}in an Imperial edict, published about the same time, and which reads:—

“For over a month the various provinces have been greatly disturbed. The causes for this have not been all alike, and it is necessary to discriminate in again proclaiming Our intentions to the Empire. Those who are in favour of reforming the Government by revolutionary methods have been making impossible demands upon the Throne, yet We recognise that they have been called forth by a patriotic love for their country and are sincere; and also that the country is thrown into confusion and distress because We have failed to make progress in Governmental reform. We have repeatedly proclaimed that a reformed and Constitutional Government shall be established, and We have granted an amnesty to all who formally have been guilty of political crimes, also allowing Revolutionists to form themselves into a political party to be used in the service of the State. But with regard to those Revolutionists, who ferment race hatred, who desire to create a feeling of enmity between the Manchus and the Chinese, they are not working for the reformation of the Government, but are simply dealing out ruin all round in order to gratify their private hate, and for this there is no justification. We are labouring for the prosperity of the kingdom and the happiness of the people, and We cannot make the Government a constitutional one till the Empire is at peace. If these men are allowed to excite the people with their mischievous speeches and pernicious ideas the disturbances will increase, the people will be scattered and miserably perish. When the four classes of the people lose their occupation, the whole country is thrown into confusion. There will be no end to the calamities. We would, therefore, earnestly and sincerely impress upon you scholars, gentry, army and people, the necessity of understanding the principle of reforming the Government and repressing disturbances. The Throne loves and respects the people, and wishes them to seek after improvement, but as for those who act in opposition to this and keep on creating disturbances, they are the enemies of the public and a danger to all. Although they are but a minority, My people ought to put them down with a strong hand, yet if they will repent their former crimes, they should be pardoned and their past offences not brought up against them. But bad characters, who seize the opportunity to burn, kill, rape and plunder, cannot be allowed to escape by any law of reason. They must be rooted out and hunted down with all speed till they are utterly exterminated in order that the good and peaceful people may be protected. Therefore, let the Tartar Generals, commanders-in-chief, viceroys, governors and all who are in military authority respect my will and, discriminating between {91}the political parties put down the irreconcilables. The Army and the people will understand this intention, and let all above and below with one mind labour for improvement. Then will the country be fortunate and the people enjoy felicity without limit.

“Let this Edict, together with the Edict of the 14th [Nov. 4th] be printed on yellow paper and posted, so that all may be informed. Respect this.”

 

 

{92}

CHAPTER IX

THE STRONGHOLD OF WUCHANG
It was to Wuchang that the country was now looking. The Revolutionists knew it. Urged on by cleverly fashioned proclamations, they fought as men have rarely fought. The Imperialists knew it, and they, too, slept neither day nor night. The Revolution was spreading. Unable to ascertain what was to follow, foreigners from interior provinces came down to the coast and the treaty ports for safety. Foreign warships came up one after another, Japanese predominating in number, and at one time totalled no less than fifteen, under nominal command of Rear-Admiral Kawashima. Foreigners everywhere were doing volunteer duty. Barricades had been built up, and all tiptoed in expectancy. Fighting was desultory, with more Revolutionary losses than Imperial, for several days. Eleven days after the great battle of Kilometre Ten, more than the savage burning of the city, very little effective work had been done. Firstly, they had not done what they led the people to believe they would do. Promise after promise by Admiral Sah to bombard had been broken, the army had marched on Tachimen and captured it, Hankow had been shelled and the place left a mass of charred ruins with five hundred thousand helpless people cruelly turned adrift to seek shelter where they might—and there the accomplishment was in extenso. Although they had tried, the Imperialists had failed to capture Hanyang. Wuchang still stood {93}as the stronghold of the Revolutionary party, with ever-brightening prospects of power.

Those who had closely followed events here had been surprised greatly by the manner in which the Loyalist Army had worked out this campaign. Instead of smashing the Revolutionary Army in a few days, which at the outset, after the first battle, seemed an easy thing for them, they had dilly-dallied to such an extent that now they had a greater task before them than they ever had—partly because of the fact that trained rebel reinforcements had arrived from Hunan, and partly because the esprit de corps among the Revolutionists, which, after their reverse, it would not have taken a great deal to have knocked entirely out of them, had again wonderfully revived.

Yuan Shih K’ai, cutest of all Chinese in China, probably foresaw this, and it may have been a part of his wisdom to stay his hand and wait. He was waiting, but he hardly knew for what. He had hoped probably that the first serious reverse would have knocked spirit out of the men to such an extent that the Revolutionary Army would soon have become disorganised, that the leaders would in true Chinese fashion have been quarrelling among themselves, and that soon, without money and supplies, the Revolutionary Army would have come again to its senses. Meantime, people were saying that General Li, the Revolutionary leader, was a fool, that he should have marched out his men and fought a good fight. They could not see that Chinese had met Chinese, and that both were playing their own game. Yuan was looked upon as being the great man who could make no false moves; Li was merely a trained soldier, and what could he know? He may not have known much, but he knew enough. He knew, at any rate, how to play his own game, and each night at sundown he congratulated himself upon having held the capital city yet another day—for Wuchang was still the stronghold, {94}and it was from Wuchang, as has been said, that other places were taking the cue.

At last Yuan saw this. He also saw that city after city, almost province after province, was falling into the Revolutionary line, and he conceived a plan to stop the whole sad business. He began then to parley. He wrote to General Li in most conciliatory terms.[1] {95}He promised a new Government on constitutional lines; he promised that the Manchu princedoms should be abolished; he promised free pardon to all offenders against law and order—he expressed himself ready to make any concession. But in his heart he realised that virtually he was in no position to dictate. He had to play the second fiddle, although trying to play thereon the notes of the first.

ESCAPED FROM WUCHANG. Foreigners taking to the boats to cross to Hankow after being shut up in Wuchang for many awful days.
ESCAPED FROM WUCHANG.
Foreigners taking to the boats to cross to Hankow
after being shut up in Wuchang for many awful days.
Li read his communique, smiled, joked about it with his second, tossed it to the floor, and declared that he would not concede a fraction. He did not concede. He replied that he would not then talk peace. Expressing his kindly felicitations, he urged upon Yuan Shih K’ai the necessity and wisdom of talking terms when the Revolutionary forces were marching upon Peking—and not before. He urged Yuan Shih K’ai to join the Revolutionary party, pointing out that this would immediately end the strife. Li Yuan Hung added that Yuan’s previous history was such that no camp would fit him better, and, if he would come over, he would be made provisional President of the United States of China.

One must not expect, however, simply because Li would not talk peace that he was strong enough to enforce peace. He was not. As soon as Li’s letter went {96}back to Yuan there was activity in the Imperial camp, soldiers were to be seen moving away towards Hanyang, batteries were shifted, trenching went on apace, a pontoon bridge was started by the Imperialists across the Han and knocked to pieces by the Hanyang Revolutionary guns, and it seemed as if a battle was immediately imminent. And then it commenced again. One cannot describe the conditions. The war was brought to our very doors. Fellows had bullets whizzing in their bedrooms, shells dropped all over the Foreign Concessions. It was never safe to be out on the Bund or in the roads of the settlement. Revolutionists were dying in thousands. All hospitals were full. The country was in utter devastation.

Up to an early hour on November 10th fighting still raged more or less fiercely. It was generally stated that the Revolutionists gave the enemy a thoroughly bad time, and had taken up an advanced position. The bombardment of Wuchang was hourly expected. Immediately behind the British Concession, not more than a hundred yards from the road dividing British from Chinese territory, three big guns of the Imperialists had their noses cocked most threateningly towards the capital city, and every one settled down to wait. A peculiar turn of events now was the organisation of night attacks. Invariably one’s dinner hour was ushered in by the booming of cannon from either side of the river. But during these days the Imperialists again began indubitably to show their superiority as a fighting force. The great drawback of the Republican Army was that it was largely made up of nondescripts, as ignorant of warfare as is possible to imagine, whilst in the Northern Army there were none but highly trained men in whom were instilled strongly the absorbing lessons of the army. They knew nothing else. They did nothing else. They were fighting machines, and they fought on the same principle as machines in good order work. In making this {97}statement I am perfectly aware that there are certain great weaknesses in the Chinese military organisation that have yet to be removed. But with the Northern Army, that army which was founded by Yuan Shih K’ai himself—and he was looked upon as the greatest military reformer of the time—it had the minimum of these defects. The fact that the army of each province is for all practical purposes a separate body tells against efficiency. And it follows that the army that Yuan created, and which was now mainly engaged in fighting the Revolutionary enemy, was not so much a branch of the Chinese Army, but Yuan’s Army, moulded as he wanted it. His soldiers, first of all, had been taught loyalty. What other soldiers in the world would have stood the test of loyalty as did those northern soldiers during the early days of November, when the only news they received was the report that a number of cities had gone over to the cause they themselves were fighting with their lives to quell?

They were primarily loyal—to what, as events later transpired, is quite another question. But they were, at any rate, loyal to Yuan. The photo of Yuan Shih K’ai was in every barrack-room, his name upon every lip. Again and again as I moved about among the men was I impressed with the hero-worship of man towards leader. Now, in comparing these armies, one should compare the two Viceroys under whom they served, for, with the independent provincial armies, the Viceroy brought his army up to that standard which he considered best. That is why the separateness about the branches of China’s Model Army has worked against efficiency. Any one who knew would be ready to agree that, side by side and compared as armies, the Imperialist Army would knock spots off the Revolutionary Army under equal conditions, whilst the latter would not hit a target once in a hundred rounds. But the conditions were not quite equal. Into the argument, however, had to be brought another aspect. That aspect {98}was of all the most serious, and tended towards the termination of the war as much as any other factor. The Imperialists knew now that, no matter how many battles they would be able to win here, no matter how great their slaughter of the Revolutionists would be, the cause of the Revolution was destined to win. This slowly began to force itself upon them, and desertions were commonly reported.

Whilst people were talking about the promised bombardment the most arrant nonsense went the rounds as to the number and the size of the guns the Imperialists had at their disposal from the north. There were twelve-inch howitzers, forty six-inchers, thousands of smaller fry, such as three and four inch guns, and much more of the same kind. Whether just then they had any of their 7.5 Schneider-Canet guns here no one was in a position to know, but I believe they had not. In the Northern Army, however, there were some forty or more of these enormous guns—weapons so heavy that a team of twelve of the heaviest American horses would be insufficient to drag one of them. It is interesting to notice, as an authority recently tells us, in the Chinese Army there are at least six variety of Krupps, including 1905, 1904, 1888, and 1872 models, with a few 7.5 Japanese guns, Armstrongs, and Maxims. But when we come to the smaller arms we find confusion worse confounded. There are 1888-model Mausers, 1872-model Mausers, Mannlichers, and a few Lee-Metfords, and these again have to be subdivided. And it was seen throughout this war how the ammunition for presumably the same gun, captured by the enemy and used as the same weapon, had been absolutely useless in action; it wouldn’t fit.

The nights were made hideous for foreign residents by the whizzing of overhead shells and the buzzing of bullets constantly about them. Several Chinese were shot dead in the streets of the British Concession, and others more or less seriously wounded, and the wonder {99}was not that any one was killed but that so many escaped with their lives in the midst of such danger. It was the common belief among the Chinese that the bullets had eyes. “See,” they would yell, “’tis a heavenly inspiration that the shells do not touch us … they have eyes … they will not strike us!” And among Revolutionary admirers this was a common belief of the common people. They had never seen modern warfare before.

The Imperialists were now forging ahead towards the Han. Their task seemed an altogether impossible one. It took them three weeks to do it, and it needed only a stroll out each morning to see the truckloads of dead being taken along the railway line northward to realise at what cost their slow progress was being made. General Huang Hsuin[2] was now directing military operations against them. Each day junkloads of men were coming down from Hunan to join the Revolutionists—trained troops from the Hunan Army—and from them great things were expected. Everywhere one went he heard the boom of cannon, the whizz of shell, the ping of rifle shot. There was no escape. Foreigners were not allowed out of the Concessions, found it unsafe to go outside their houses, suffered shocks so great that all were on tenterhooks of excitement. Never before in any country were foreigners living as neutral parties to a war so near. But there is so much of general interest in the Revolution that much space cannot be devoted in this volume to battlefield descriptions. China was making history. Wars have often been described in history, but a Revolution such as this war was heralding had never been known. It was moving, and moving at one stroke, a quarter of the whole human family.

The battlefield was spread from Kilometre Ten to Hanyang on the left bank of the river, from the Kinshan Forts to Wuchang on the right side. One could hardly {100}believe it possible that in a fortnight such utter devastation could be wrought. Villages near by, with their inhabitants either routed or perished in the ruins, were burned to the ground; fields of crops were all trampled down, rice-beds were dug out for trenches, and now all was destruction for miles around in the country. Little black patches told the sad story of where a band of happy thriving villagers, once living at peace, was now deserted and devastated.

When in the early days of the war I used to wander down there and watch the operations I hardly thought it possible that an army professedly of forty thousand men could be removed from such an apparently formidable position. The railway was at hand, and the whole of Kilometre Ten was so strategically situated that it seemed an impossibility for the Imperialists, far away in the middle of flat country, to remove their enemy from such a strong position. But they did. How and why the Revolutionists left has already been told, and the commander who ordered the retreat paid the price with his life, being decapitated by his own men.

Meantime Admiral Sah all this time had been sitting on the fence. It was known that Li Yuan Hung, as a younger man, had been a pupil of the Admiral, and each entertained considerable affection towards the other. Sah had declined to reply to Li Yuan Hung’s invitation to take over control and leadership of the Revolution. He preferred to sit and wait. When he received a long communication from the scholars of Hankow, Hanyang, and Wuchang he is reported to have become disconcerted, and it is to this appeal, which is given in a footnote,[3] that his conversion to the Revolutionary cause may be traced.

{101}
As the Admiral, on November 12th, steamed away his ships were observed to pull down the Dragon Flag and run up a white one. It was taken to mean that the Admiral and his fleet had gone over to the Revolutionists.

 

[1] The following is a translation of Yuan Shih K’ai’s communication to General Li:—

“YOUR EXCELLENCY,—I have already written you twice, but, having received no answer, I am not aware whether the letters reached you or not. In accordance with the Imperial instructions I have now to state that an Edict has been issued offering, first, full pardon for all past offences; second, that constitutional government will be established; third, that an amnesty will be granted to political offenders; fourth, that members of the Imperial Club will not be employed in high office.

“The above points being granted, in my opinion the government of our country can be renovated and prosperity be brought back to China. I hasten to communicate this to you and desire that a method may be devised by which the present difficulties may be peacefully settled. The sooner the war is stopped, the sooner will the people and the country enjoy peace. Otherwise, if fighting goes on, whoever is victorious or whoever is defeated, not only will the people perish but the resources of the country will be wasted, until, should the matter be unduly prolonged, affairs will get into such a state that the country itself will be ruined. Further, on both sides the soldiers are Chinese and those who suffer are all Chinese. Whether the one side or the other succeeds, it is the Chinese that must foot the bill.

“Personally I have been a long time dissatisfied with the Government and therefore went into retirement, never intending to accept office again. In leaving my retirement now my only object was to be instrumental in composing the present differences. Further, the Government is now repentant as it never was before. I admit that but for your valorous actions, the present proposals would never have been made. The merit of them belongs to you, and in my humble opinion nothing could be better than to take advantage of this opportunity and, by concluding a peace, secure the realisation of the Throne’s proposals. We can at least see how the Throne will act, and, if it is honest, then we will unitedly use our utmost efforts to promote the reforms. If it is not honest, we can still in consultation devise other plans, and, as far as I can see there can be no failure to secure the full fruition of our hopes. This is my view, and I would ask you to send me an answer in agreement with this so that I may be able to report the matter to the Throne and carry out the necessary arrangements.

“As regards your associates, who are all men of great ability, not only will no fault be found with them, but I can guarantee they will be appointed to high positions to assist in carrying out the reforms. The Throne trusts me as one whose word can be relied on, and you also, I hope, believe that I would on no account go back on it with respect with you and your associates. I understand that the Throne is issuing another Edict which will reach you within a few days. I, because of the many important affairs which I cannot venture to neglect, would urge you to send me an early answer by the hand of the bearer of this letter.

“This is my respectful prayer. Wishing you peace and prosperity.”

[2] General Huang Hsuin was a famous military leader in China at this time.

[3] The following is a translation of an appeal to Admiral Sah by the students of Hanyang, Wuchang, and Hankow:—

“SIR,—To such a person as Admiral Sah with world-wide fame and noble principles, we humbly submit this letter to him asking him to read it and consider it with patience and wisdom. China is now in a critical position. The people have shown great enthusiasm and determination for the overthrow of the Manchu yoke and to gain back their independence. But the Manchus are sure to oppose the cause of the people, so war is inevitable. But is there no way to avert it? Is there no way to save the lives and property of millions of people? Yes, there is, and that way is to be decided by you alone. To speak plainly, the salvation of the people depends upon whether you will join General Li to help in the present operations of the Republican Army. Suppose you do not join the Republicans, they are determined not to submit, but to continue the fight until they have gained their liberty or met their fate. The word Revolution can never be effaced from the minds of Chinese, and there could be no hope for peace. What a horrible thing it will be if you would refuse to join and remain indifferent. On the other hand, if you join them after the perusal of this letter, things can be settled easily and quietly. There will be no civil war along the Yangtze Valley. All that our brethren will have to do is to march northward to Peking and take over the control of our Empire from the Manchus. Our Kingdom will be managed by our own people. What a noble heroic and patriotic work you so great a man have to do for the independence of our country. On the brink of joining the Republicans perhaps you will be doubting the behaviour of the soldier. We can assure you that it is noble and righteous. How they have been well treating their brethren and friendly in protecting foreigners is a thing which has never appeared in our history during the time of civil war. All our brethren here have shown their intense enthusiasm in offering assistance to the Republican Army and sharing their sympathy with the cause. Foreign settlements have approved their action, recognised their right and yield to their reasonable demands. This bears an evident witness that they are not rebels of any kind, but the Army of the sacred salvation of four hundred millions of their brethren in China. Again, Sir, perhaps you will hesitate to join the Republicans when you think it ungrateful to turn disloyal to the Manchus, and it might be that you will think you have derived much benefit from the Manchus, but, Sir, the benefit which seems to be derived from them is in reality obtained indirectly from the Han people, who are the source of all wealth, prosperity and official honour. Moreover, your duty, Sir, is to profit the many, not the few, to save the people, not to destroy them, to help your own race and not the alien, and to stand by the righteous and not by the wicked. The Manchurian yoke has been the barrier against the growth and development of the Han people. It is the Manchus who would not send many students abroad at an earlier date in order to acquire Western civilisation and education. It is the Manchus who will not put the returned students into proper position. It was the Manchu that roused the Boxer Revolt, which has weakened the Empire and made it poor. And it is the Manchus who are misappropriating the loans raised from Foreign Powers. They have squandered the funds from the imposition of taxes for their private sensual pleasures, such as the construction of parks and the building of beautiful residences. They have encouraged squeezes, practised villainies, sold offices and brevet ranks, and demoralised the Customs. They have decided cases unjustly, and what not?

“Therefore, Admiral, we appeal to your general sympathy and wisdom and plead for the safety and welfare of four hundred million souls for the free growth and development of the Chinese, who, if allowed to be free, are bound to make a wonderful contribution that will go to enrich the civilisation of the whole world. If you would disarm your gunboats and cruisers and steam up to Hankow, all the people in these three cities will be enraptured to welcome you with wild enthusiasm and intense honour.”

 

 

{102}
[Transcriber’s note: In the source book, this page contained the final portion of what is now this chapter’s footnote 3.]

 

 

{103}

CHAPTER X

LI YUAN HUNG SEEKS PEACE
“Don’t hesitate—act!” wrote Li Yuan Hung to Yuan Shih K’ai, in a most stirring appeal to Yuan to join the Revolutionary party. Yuan had been, as ever, as hard as adamant. He now claimed to have an army twenty-four thousand strong at his disposal. Li claimed to have at least forty thousand of all sorts, trained and untrained. Li was in a conciliatory mood. Yuan was suffering from a peculiar “sense of” omnipotence that had attacked him ever since his return to office. “Since the slaughter of the reformers,” wrote Li Yuan Hung to his adversary, “the Government has continually promised to establish constitutional rule and to bring forward the date for the calling of the first Parliament, but its promises have come to naught. The assassination of Erh Ming and Fuchi, the attempt to destroy the vice-regal yamen at Canton with a bomb, and the mutiny at Nanking were all bloody protests against the Manchu monarchy, but all failed to induce the Throne to do more than issue edicts full of promises. Everything remains as it was. The Manchu Government has tried various tricks to gain a hold on the people’s hearts. But it has no real intention of altering the system of government. Turn your eyes towards those who are presidents of the various boards and viceroys and governors of provinces, and you will see that all the principal posts are occupied by Manchus. What an insignificant part the Chinese have played in politics! The national {104}treasury, and the national army are the foundations of the Empire, and both are in the grasp of ignorant, childish Manchus. Surely you cannot bear with composure to see the property and lives of four hundred millions of Chinese wasted by a mere handful of Manchus.”

The letter continued: “Are you not the most famous and most able man among the Chinese? Have you forgotten that, after you had been relieved of your command of the northern troops and your political influence had been weakened, you narrowly escaped being murdered as well as cashiered? All this is evidence of the Manchu’s jealousy of the Chinese. Since Hupeh was made independent, many other provinces have joined the cause with heart and soul. The Manchu Government has fallen into a swoon and can no longer stand by its own strength. So it is trying the scheme by which it quelled the Taiping rebellion—using Chinese to kill Chinese. If you are willing to be reinstated on such a commission, then you have superhuman patience.

“In your dispatch you state emphatically that the Government must be constitutional. In reply I wish to explain that in this age, whether a government be monarchical or republican, it must ultimately be founded on constitutionalism, and there is little difference between a republic and a constitutional monarchy. The form of the new government will be settled in the conference of delegates from the various provinces. Whatever form it takes, it will not violate constitutionalism. It is generally agreed among the people that the Manchus must not be allowed to have any voice in this conference. If we had agreed to your terms, had you any means of compelling the Manchu Government to fulfil its promises?

“For you to live in retirement for your own enjoyment as you have done is of no benefit to China. The success of the present movement has come by the {105}strength not of man but of God. What man could convert Szechuan, Kiangsi, Anhui, Kiangsu, Kwangtung, Kwangsi, Yunnan, Kweichow, Shansi, and Shensi to republicanism? Besides all the gunboats and torpedo destroyers have turned revolutionary. There is no Manchu force to hinder us from marching on Peking with the exception of your little army. The renaissance of the Chinese and the maintenance of China’s sovereignty depend on you. If you are really in sympathy with the Chinese, you should take your opportunity to turn Republican with your troops and attack Peking. If you are hankering after the dignities and honours that the Manchu Government may confer, then you should pray that the revolutionary army may hasten its march to the Yellow River. For, when the Manchus see that they cannot withstand the revolutionary advance, they will give you all the higher honours to induce you to fight for them. If we should yield now, it is to be feared that the honours bestowed on you would vanish in a few days. Remember the proverb, ‘When the rabbits are caught the hounds are cooked.’ Your merit would be so great that you would not avoid jealousy, and your power would make you liable to constant suspicion. It would be impossible for you to retire again to Changtehfu. I would remind you that the Empress Dowager is still living and that she will never forgive the slaughter of the reformers. Consider if there is any affection between yourself and the Manchus. All of us, working together can complete the emancipation of the Chinese, and none of us are willing to continue under the rule of the Manchus.

“As to your suggestion that foreign Powers may seize this opportunity of bringing about the partition of China we have read many articles from foreign papers, and we feel sure that none of them will do us any harm during our civil war. We have learned from a wireless telegram to a certain gentleman that {106}Peking is in great agitation and that the young Emperor has fled. Should this be true, the ruling race has already lost its dignity and has no right to present our territory to any foreign Power.

“It is reported that the Manchu Government has recalled you. If that is so, I offer two suggestions for your consideration. First: It may be that the Government suspects your loyalty and intends by recalling you to deprive you of your military authority; in that case, you may disobey the summons by virtue of the military rule that a general need not obey an imperial edict when he is on service abroad. Second: If Peking is actually in a critical condition—I must tell you a story. During the Boxer rising, when the international force entered Peking, they summoned Li Hung-chang. That was an opportunity for Li to become Emperor. But he was stubborn and lost the chance. You may learn from his experience. Mencius said that a man with complete education will protect the people. I am but a military man and do not know much. I have learned largely from Mencius, so that I have no desire except to protect the people. It is believed that your experience and ability are much higher than mine. Yet I am sorry for you that you have to consider things so very long before you can make up your mind. Remember that we should not hesitate or delay in doing what is benevolent or righteous. We should do the right thing at once.

“All the brethren of this land are waiting for you. Do not face me any longer with a mask.”

* * * * *

This was Li Yuan Hung’s last appeal to Yuan. All along Li had been anxious to avoid further bloodshed, but it soon became evident that the fight was to be to the bitter end. So after that short-lived lull, foreigners, with their trade quite paralysed, settled down again for war. About the Concessions, in the clubs, {107}in the houses, in the godowns, wherever foreigners congregated there was a feeling of deadening suspense hanging over all. That something terrible was about to happen every one agreed, but what no one cared to guess. In the native city, what of it was left, the abject desolation which the charred ruins and half-burned-up streets and shops presented to one, where a cold and hungry lot of people were endeavouring all too vainly to revivify trade, sunk into one’s very being. One was glad, if he thus unwisely ventured far from the Concessions, to get back again and to walk along the Bund and look out over the unruffled river and hope for better times to come. There was no shipping, no life, no trade. The Concessions were in practically a state of siege, and all were waiting—for what, again, we knew not. All that one had to trouble about was the time that the mails closed and the time the boats were going down-river.

The Imperialists now commenced to draw a cordon around the city of Hankow. They were busy trenching, were busy building up their batteries on the plains from the end of the Sing Sien Road to the banks of the Han, the way to cross which they could not easily determine. No one was allowed out of the city or into the city unless he had his pass and could give reasonable cause for wanting to go either way. Every man, woman, or child without a pass was cruelly turned back, often with a thrust of the bayonet as a warning not to attempt it again. Foreigners who ventured out of the Concessions were deliberately shot at.

On November 13th the heaviest bombardment that had yet taken place started suddenly in the late afternoon, but for some time it was a puzzle whether it was meant to be a bombardment of the British Concession or of Hankow native city and Wuchang opposite. Shells were dropping quite as often in British as in Chinese territory. The night was drenching and dreary. Rain {108}poured down and overflowed the flat battlefield behind the Concessions and the native city, and the luck of the Imperialists seemed out. Their spirits in the circumstances were damped by the weather, and the fight they were putting up against the high-spirited Hunanese, now augmenting the Revolutionary forces to the tune of fifteen thousand men, was but weak and half-hearted. The shells could be heard in the peculiar atmospheric deadness, which the forsaken appearance of the river seemed to accentuate, sailing through the air above our heads, the excited natives would yell and swear that they could see them and that they were coming directly to the spot where we were watching in the rain, and then would scamper off. Far away in the Concessions people were wondering why the Revolutionists had started shelling the British. Now the trouble seemed to have come indeed, and many wished they had left the port when they had the chance. Holes were being knocked through heavy walls, shells dropped in the roadway, in people’s gardens, in people’s bedrooms. A Russian naval officer, in a sick-bed in the Roman Catholic Hospital, wishing that he were well to watch the bombardment, lay probing for the reason the Revolutionists had taken this dislike to the British, and wondering what would happen after the British gunboats had smashed up the place. He could find no satisfactory reason. But suddenly this naval officer heard a crash; like a bolt of lightning a shell had entered the window; he felt the plaster of the walls striking him on the body as he lay there stupefied, watching the ceiling then falling in. It was the thirteenth shell that had come into the hospital compound since the war started, and over it waved peacefully the Red Cross flag.

In the London Mission Hospital, not far away, a shell came through an open window, hitting nothing but landing in the yard. The Mitsui Bussan Kaisha {109}shipping manager was looking up at his building and wondering what damage one shell had done as it struck and shattered some masonry and woodwork, but he found it wise to move, for another shell suddenly landed not twelve yards from him, tore an ugly hole in the roadway, and then feebly burst against the walls. On the British gunboats lying in the river they had got used to seeing shells fall short in the river, but one of the fellows on H.M.S. Woodcock, in giving impressive vent to his low opinion of the Revolutionary shelling, explained to me that he didn’t mind the shells so much, but just at the moment when one broke he was sitting on the deck reading a book which had been loaned to him; the splashing of the water had spoiled the book, for a shell dropped not three feet from the bow! Fellows would come running in telling how they had seen shells bursting all along the streets in the British Concession, and as evidence thereof would draw huge pieces from their pockets, “all hot” as they would declare. So this continued hotly for a couple of hours. The Imperialists at the back, with their three big guns on Coffin Hill (a mound at the back of the British Concession), did their best to quiet the enemy, but their efforts at getting rid of the shells were about one in six. That the Revolutionists were in great form was manifest at once by the work they were doing, but their shells did far more damage to foreign property than to their enemy’s ranks; but although the time had surely come when the British authorities should have made a determined effort to stop this sort of thing nothing was enforced.

Thus the battle continued for four days. The heaviest artillery work went on from all directions, but the heavy rains interfered with infantry work. The cannonading was desperate. At night, in the dense darkness, the scene was intensely fascinating. One, two, three, four guns would send out their tiny flames from one spot all in a heap; this would be followed {110}by a heavier gun, with its brighter flash momentarily lighting up the whole vicinity, the peculiar whistle of the threatening bomb would come nearer and nearer, and all the time one’s fascination was hampered by this menace. Not often is it that foreigners in a strange land have war brought to their very rooftops to watch. But such was the case now, and from flat roofs foreigners in small parties breathlessly watched the proceedings. Over the country, among the plains and the lagoons, one could hear rifle-firing, and knew that somewhere in the dark Chinese were doing their best to lay low Chinese, but where no one could say. In the face of awful riflery the Revolutionists succeeded in crossing the Han, recaptured Chiaokow, which had been a stronghold of the enemy for some days, and were bringing a battery of field-guns near to the Chinese Racecourse, where their enemy had been strongly entrenched awaiting the assault, and working meantime towards the Han. After having captured Chiaokow, the Revolutionists fortified a well-covered spot with three three-inchers, and began pounding away whilst the Sing Seng Road Imperialist battery did some excellent shelling of the Racecourse (Chinese), which they had lost to the enemy. Heavy reinforcements then were sent outflanking widely, whilst the Revolutionists endeavoured to cross over and cut them off. Those days were devilish days. Such heavy infantry, at a range of a hundred yards or so, each opposing line fighting with its very lifeblood to force back the enemy, could never have happened anywhere but in China. The ring of the Maxim was a constant sound, and the stream of bleeding wounded constantly in the Foreign Concessions told only too sadly of the heavy losses incurred to both armies. And after all the net result of each day’s fighting seemed to be of no advantage to either force.

The most thrilling incident of the war took place on November 19th. Because we have been repeatedly {111}told that the Chinese are cowards, we Westerners have come to look on them as a half-hearted sort of fighters. Some decades ago people used to think the same of the Japanese, but, equally as they showed us through their war with Russia that their courage merely lay dormant, so the Chinese constantly showed us throughout this war of the Revolution that their courage was as great and as unflinching as one could imagine in any people.

Those who had been watching closely had seen some wonderful examples of heroism, not only by the soldiery but private citizens had shown splendid heroism in many ways and devotedness to a cause they thought worthy of fighting for.

Many of the Imperialists were said to be fighting merely because some of their favourite officers were commanding them, and in the killing of a general on the field I personally saw no less than four men shot dead on the spot as they went forward two by two to bring him in under cover. All through this war many cases of exceptional bravery came under my notice, giving one cause to credit the Chinese with greater patriotism than is wont to be given them, and altering altogether the general impression that the Chinese as a people are cowards. This crowning piece of bravery, to which nothing else in the campaign can in any way compare, took place on November 19th, and will long be remembered by the thick line of Europeans and Chinese who had flocked to the Bund to watch the Chinese naval movement. For some days there had been talk that the Chinese Fleet had turned over their lot with the Revolutionists, and when in the morning its smoke was seen on the skyline and every one strained his eyes to see where they would go and what they would do, each having his own particular theory as to the probabilities of the day, it was an anxious time, for so much seemed to hang on the movements of the navy. During the whole of the {112}morning the two cruisers and one torpedo-boat lay at anchor, neither interfering or being interfered with. Their smoke funnels in the haze certainly showed that they were there; but as to what the programme was no one knew, and towards midday one began to doubt what they would do, and whether actually they had come to fight for the Revolutionists or against them.

Upon the navy in the first great engagement at Kilometre Ten lay the honours of the day, for no man could stand against its guns, and all knew that the side to be pounded were in for an extremely heavy bombardment, which would probably easily spell the total failure of the enemy. Therefore, when the big two-funnelled Hai Yung raised anchor about two o’clock and began majestically to steam full speed up-river, it was not curious to find every one tiptoeing in expectancy. What was she going to do? Was she drawing up nearer to bombard Wuchang or was she coming peacefully away to be fired upon by the strong Loyalist battery on the Kilometre Ten line? Slowly she came at first, then steamed full away. Through my glasses I could see her flag—the Revolutionary flag—yet when she came within the battery’s firing-line no guns were opened upon her. The Imperial gunners could be seen watching her movements through their glasses, as on she steamed close in to the Wuchang side. Gradually she came proudly abreast of the Kinshan forts, then farther up, and farther, until at last she was abreast of the Japanese Bund line, and out of danger. Certainly it seemed strange that the Imperialists did not attempt to shell her; but they didn’t, and away she went up past Wuchang, dipping to the foreign gunboats, and above the Concessions turned to rest. Meantime the other cruiser had cleared off down-river, and all that remained was the solitary torpedo-boat. It was now her turn, and she, thinking that the larger boat had found no opposition, evidently expected to sail up {113}clear too. But she had misreckoned, for as soon as she began to steam the Royalists opened furiously upon her.

Shell after shell from the three-inch guns were poured around her, shells dropping about her as peas would drop if one threw a handful in the air, and she seemed doomed. But in the thick of the batteries, within excellent range, with no cover and no hope of getting clear, she had nothing to do but to keep ahead; and this she did as hard as her panting engines would take her. As hard as coal would steam her she steamed, and for the quarter of an hour during which she was under fire nothing nobler could be imagined than the behaviour of her crew as they brought her up. In front of her, behind her, falling short of her, shooting far over her came the shells at the rate of one in three seconds; they whistled around her, some hit her minor deckwork and glanced into the water; one was seen to hit her square on the bows, another hit her aft and damaged her steam gear; but, fleeing from what seemed her death-trap, she steamed desperately on. On the Bund the Chinese watched in bewilderment. Such a thing they had never seen before. Some of them were looking on a Chinese torpedo-boat in action for the first time, and a grunt of keenest satisfaction went up as she came abreast of foreign territory and the Imperial guns ceased fire. All the time, however, the Kinshan forts, at equally rapid a rate as the Kilometre Ten battery, kept up the return bombardment upon the Imperial base, and there must have been some heavy damage—what it was impossible to tell.

But now the torpedo is up opposite the Concessions, and, slowing down, seems to take breath before she puts in alongside the shore and drops anchor for a time. The crew tend their wounded comrades, the hilarious men shout and yell and tell each other how it was done, and urge each other on with patriotic sentiment.

{114}
It was a magnificent piece of work—quite remarkable in its way, for at the point where she was hugging the Wuchang shore there is an exceptionally strong current running, so that her difficulties were thus considerably increased. Foreign naval men who watched the cannonading declared that they had never witnessed anything quite so courageous, and as one gazed on it the fact that China is a peculiar country and the people a peculiar people was slowly borne in upon one as he realised that all this bravery was being put forward by men who a month ago had fought against the cause to which they were now so faithfully espoused. What the mission of the armoured cruiser, still lying farther up the river, might have been I do not know, but she was now seen to move and make for down-river again, and one fancied that one could see anger writ large upon her iron sides. Quickly I doubled to take up a position on the top of a huge heap of coal, below the Concessions, from which I had a commanding view of the river and the whole of Kilometre Ten Station. Down came the cruiser close inshore on the Hankow side, and it seemed curious that she should have come so close. Down she came in a businesslike fashion, seeming to gird herself for the onslaught. Every one held his breath. Foreign men-of-warsmen admired all that she was doing, and the gunners on board were itching to open fire. As soon as she dropped down beyond the Concessions they did open, and then, as quickly as one could count, she fired her six big guns—four six-inch bore. The first two shells dropped bang inside the station at Kilometre Ten, the next three fell in among the battery on the foreshore, the next few—they came so quick that I lost count—set some buildings burning. The Imperial batteries, with indomitable bravado, returned as briskly as they could. The Kinshan forts sent over strong cross-fires. On farther went the Hai Yung, seeming like a big brother to tell the Imperialists that her little brother had been hit and now her turn had {115}come to do the hitting. And this she certainly did. Whether she hit the things she aimed at I do not know, but I know that she literally rained in shells among the enemy’s batteries.

In the deepening half-light the flashes brilliantly lit up the deck, and as the bursting shells dropped they lit up the yellow of the water with a peculiar grotesqueness. Over the head of the cruiser came shells from Kinshan, and with the Hai Yung shelling as fast as she could discharge her guns, with the Imperial three-inchers working as hard as the men could work them, and the Revolutionary battery over across sending shells from four guns, and each party fired with that spirit which in war makes men work with superhuman activity, it may well be imagined that the triple bombardment was something that had never been seen in the Yangtze Valley before. Chinese were jumping with excitement the whole way along the Bund, and the Sabbath peace was broken by a scene which will long remain vividly in the memories of those fortunate enough to be on the spot at the time. As for myself, my position on the coalheap was as good as it was possible to get. I was anxious to get down to Kilometre Ten to see what damage had been done, but I was informed that on no consideration whatever would any foreigner be allowed outside the barrier. Another engagement was expected that night, the guard told me, and so I came away. Meantime the Hai Yung had dropped down-river out of the range of the Imperialist guns, where she still pounded away with shells that fell in the vicinity of the station. The reason that she had been allowed to come up-river unmolested was because the Imperialists had not recognised her flag, mistaking her for a foreign man-of-war. When the darkness came on and the flashlights from the warships lit up the Concessions and the surrounding neighbourhood, it was slowly borne in upon one that the Chinese War of the Revolution was by no means {116}overpast. Fighting in the land lines continued all night.

* * * * *

During these days Li Yuan Hung remained at Wuchang; here drilling was going on feverishly. There was organising and preparing for the great effort which was to strike at the central stronghold of the Imperialists. But in Li’s heart there was the hope still that Yuan would show a more reasonable front. I was in close touch with Li about this time. Every one who saw him daily, looked upon a man, definite to a degree in aim and purpose, free from self-aggrandisement and selfishness in any form. His aim first and last was to uplift his country, to win the throne for the Han people, and to work with all his might for the downfall of Manchu rule, for by that alone, he believed, could China forge ahead as such a mighty nation deserved and as her brightest sons desired that she should. And now, although others declared that in the new Republican party there would be dissension and strife when the Government were brought down to a concrete basis, General Li Yuan Hung declared that he had sufficient faith in the cause to believe that all his political associates, far from desiring personal benefit, would readily concede the highest positions to the men best fitted to fill them. That was the keynote of Li Yuan Hung’s popularity; he believed in the cause, and he had faith in his supporters. When at the start he refused to take the lead, and, essentially Chinese, tried all sorts of schemes to test the safety of his position, he nobly declared what his policy whilst in office would be. He declared that he would set out to work, at all costs and no matter what the personal consequences, for a course that would be straight and true for China and the Chinese.

He declared his ambition would first be concentrated in the overthrowing of the Manchus; what subsequently {117}would be his course was to be decided mainly by the trend of resulting circumstances. At the gathering of the officers of the Revolutionary party, who were anxious to make him their leader, I do not think there was a single man present, even Liu King, who, looking into the future as far as he then could see, thought that in less than a month this Japanese-trained officer of the Hupeh Army, with nothing about him to strike one that he was a born leader of men, would have come to the very forefront of the platform of the political world. Liu King certainly did not believe Li Yuan Hung had so much in him.

It was believed—was there one foreigner in the three cities here who thought otherwise at the very start of the outbreak?—that the Revolution would break out, that the Imperial Army would come down in great force and massacre every manjack in the Revolutionary Army, and that that would be the end of it all. At the start there were so many thousands, not only in this centre but throughout the Empire, who were merely neutral, who were sitting on the fence, prepared to dive down either side at the moment it paid them to take the dive. But the men of the Revolutionary Army were confident. The units of the army knew that they had Li at the head, they knew that Li had always had the name of being the best man in the Hupeh Model Army, although he was not in supreme command, and they were content to fight under him. There was in all circles, however, except the military circle, a good deal of scepticism. Every one was on the look-out for sensations. No one knew what would happen, and no one cared to guess. But behind it all stood Li, looking on and seeing all. He had sworn allegiance to his party, and he expected his party to stand by him. He was the man who believed in the scheme he was prepared to pull through, and he believed in the men who were pulling with him. Yuan Shih K’ai doubted him, his ability, his political party, and thought them a set of upstarts. {118}Therefore was it that he would not listen to their talk, and took their pleading with him to join their party as a sign of weakness. But Yuan, though he had made few political mistakes himself, never committed a bigger blunder than this. For the time he was prepared to hold aloof, and to fight on still, rather than take the cue of his adversary in battle and give up fighting for a lost cause.

The situation as it concerned foreigners in the Concessions was now most acute. Everybody was abusing the Consuls. Around the Concessions, mad with rage and neither side entertaining any bewildering affection for foreigners, were sixty thousand troops. The French community, tired of talking, so it seemed, took the bull by the horns and wired to the French Government over the head of their Consul, and that the same spirit actuated the greater part of the international population here will be judged from what comes hereafter. The French residents telegraphed from Hankow to Paris as follows:—

“French colony and others under the jurisdiction of the French consulate request me to ask you to communicate the following to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: We consider that we are now in a critical situation. In consequence of the departure of cruisers, the international landing force is reduced to five hundred marines. We are surrounded by sixty thousand belligerents. All is to be feared from the Imperialist troops if abandoned to themselves, or undisciplined Revolutionary troops. We are at the mercy of every anti-foreign movement. Insist on immediate dispatch of troops from Tientsin or Tonking.”

 

A week previous a message was sent from Hankow by a high British authority—to be fair to the British Acting Consul-General, he did not know that the message was sent away—telling the world that with us all was well, and the next week the French people here wired to their Government, ignoring the representative here of the French nation, asking that troops be sent forthwith. Throughout the war up to the present time {119}the Concessions had been sufficiently manned with troops to prevent an onslaught by either army. When the first big battle started there seemed to be excellent defence as the situation then was, but, whilst the scene of action was moving constantly down at the back of the Concessions towards the native city and danger each day becoming greater, no one believed it possible that the Consular Body were taking no steps to ensure efficient protection of foreign subjects and their interests here. When the Loyalist big guns were at the back of the Concession (British as they continued up to the taking of Hanyang) not until the local Press drew forceful attention to the fact that the British Acting Consul-General owed it to the British community to get the guns removed, and thus save the returning fire of the enemy being drawn into the Concession, was there any action taken. Again and again was indignation shown at the “face” the British were losing with the Chinese over the matter; but it seemed not to disturb consular authorities. Protest was made—once only, I believe—and the promise then was given that the guns should be shifted. But the promise was broken, and for weeks one heard the constant boom of the biggest gun the Imperialists had with them pounding away not three hundred yards from the British Concession border, in precisely the same position as the Loyalist officers promised King George’s representative it should be shifted from. And in addition to that, on November 17th they again took up their old position with a battery at Tachimen, from which position they were also asked to remove, thus having wilfully ignored all British requests.

A study of the map of the field will show immediately that the position of the Concessions was, to say the least, eminently dangerous. The main battery behind the Concessions had guns pointing towards Wuchang, naturally drawing the Wuchang fire, shells from which dropped more often {120}in the Concession than out of it when the aim was taken for Coffin Hill battery; it also had guns pointing to Hanyang, drawing that return fire, which had the gravest probability of falling over the Concession border. I should think that a mild estimate of shells dropped in the Concessions during that week would be one hundred. But there was another danger: in their flanking movement the Revolutionists were endeavouring to shell the Coffin Hill battery, meaning at once that their shells were fired, not by the sides of the Concessions but bang into them. There was another danger still: the Imperialists, if they were driven back, would undoubtedly make for the Concessions, and flee through them. “It’s not human nature,” as the British Acting-Consul said a day or two before to a British subject, “to expect the Revolutionists not to chase them.”

It may easily be left to the reader to answer for himself whether a complement of five hundred troops—the maximum of a defence force that could be mustered from the gunboats that moment in the port—could hold the port against this grave possibility. It was surely not too much for international subjects to ask of their Consuls that troops be sent for and that a fair defence scheme be inaugurated forthwith for the protection of their lives and their property. Again, however, I should like to say that I am not writing in any carping spirit. I am among those who, far from anathematising or criticising, and remembering that it is the easiest thing in the world to ridicule, realise that at such times of crisis in China each Consul should be supported by every loyal subject. But it certainly seemed to me that the consular body—not one individual only, but the whole body—by its continued inaction rendered foreigners in Hankow a bad account of what they were there for. One could easily write up what the soldiery might have done if they once had run riot in the Concession, and such an eventuality {121}to those who know their China is not without the range of what easily could have transpired; but it would be sensational and probably useless.

Now, when the French residents of Hankow telegraphed to Paris demanding that troops be sent forthwith from Tientsin or Tonking hands went up in horror that French consular control had so far got into disrepair as to bring about such a step. But when the British residents almost immediately followed suit it became patent that the situation was serious. Foreigners from the Japanese Concession (farthest removed from the native city of Hankow) to the British Concession (divided from the city by a thirty-foot road) were just then in greater direct danger than they had been since the campaign started. Five weeks had now elapsed since the war started, and on November 18th I think I am right in saying that not one-half of the protecting force was in the port, at the zenith of the danger, that was available a week after the Revolution broke out. That five hundred men available from all gunboats in port, with the Japanese largely preponderating, were enough to protect a settlement of approximately rectangular shape, four miles by one, was absurd on the very face of things. Four thousand men from all nations represented would not have been too many at that time. When hostilities were being carried on immediately outside the Concessions, when every day a man was shot fatally or wounded seriously in the streets of the British Concession, when shells dropped with startling rapidity into private houses and broke up the property of British residents, when the gravest danger was incurred by walking along the waterfront which extends the whole length of the Concession, when all shipping had to withdraw from the usual landing hulks, and when the official protests to remove the batteries from dangerous proximity back of the Concessions and so cause shelling over the foreign settlement to cease was persistently refused, surely, {122}again, it was not too much to expect that the authorities were making due arrangements for troops to be sent to Hankow to prevent what every one undertook to believe would be inevitable—namely, the rushing through the Concessions of the enemy and the chasing of them by the victorious faction. The whole thing culminated on November 18th, when a meeting of British subjects was held. The following dispatch was the result of a long discussion on the general situation and what was best to be done:—

“HERBERT GOFFE, Esq., H.B.M. Acting Consul-General, Hankow.

“SIR,—We the undersigned British residents beg respectfully that you will forward the following protest to His Majesty’s Minister with a request that it be forwarded to the proper authorities:

1. “The London and China Express of October 20 says, It is officially stated that the policy of Great Britain in the present situation in China will be limited to taking every means considered necessary for the protection of the lives and the property of her nationals.’

“Whilst adequate protection had apparently been afforded to British subjects in Tientsin and Shanghai, in our opinion the reverse was the case in Hankow. This is proved by the fact that at the time when the British Vice-Admiral himself was in chief command of all forces at Hankow, his own sailors, and the local Volunteers and Police were insufficient properly to guard the British Concession, and the kind assistance of the Germans, Japanese, French, and Austrians was accepted. Since then the situation had become infinitely more dangerous, and it was found that protection was reduced absolutely to a minimum and the force of British gunboats was just what foreigners were accustomed to see in port in normal times. This argues that the situation was wrongly gauged by those in authority, and if information which was at their disposal had been obtained or listened to, this should not have occurred.

2. “We protest against the action taken by the authorities in forwarding a wireless message to Shanghai on or about the 17th November stating that “there had been no fighting here for some days,” and “that business was being resumed,” as reported in the North China Daily News of the 9th November and the Shanghai Mercury of 8th November respectively. Our reasons for so doing are that both statements are untrue, and that by sending such a message they have caused endless ill-feeling to the British Flag and disgust at an action which causes women and children to return here when it is undoubtedly {123}unsafe for them to do so. So far from there being no fighting, fighting of a desultory nature and sniping have continued ever since the main action, on the 27th-28th October, and numerous bullets and shells continue daily to fall into the Concession. Although foreigners have so far escaped, numbers of Chinese in the Concession have been killed or wounded, and property damaged. As regards business being resumed, it has been at a standstill since the Revolution started.

3. “With the ordinary telegraphic communication completely cut off, we protest against the Admiralty regulations which do not allow the forwarding of important non-service messages by wireless for British subjects in circumstances of this description. On several occasions messages refused by Vice-Admiral Winsloe have been courteously received and dispatched by wireless by the German Admiral. We consider that these protests are only right and just, as we cannot for a minute believe that His Majesty’s Government know the true state of affairs, and that in the present crisis British prestige and British interests have been sadly neglected. Finally, although this is hardly within the province of the British residents of Hankow, we would like to point out that at the present moment Ichang and Changsha are equally ill-protected. The urgent necessity for the dispatch of troops to this port is emphasised by the fact that heaviest fighting is now taking place and shells are bursting over our heads. The situation is most critical, and it is sincerely to be hoped that not only the British authorities, but the American, the German, the French, and Russian Consular bodies will see to it that as many gunboats as can reasonably be spared from the China squadrons be brought here at once. The Japanese, the only other nation having a Concession, may be relied upon to leave nothing undone.”

 

TOMMY ATKINS ON GUARD. A detachment of the Yorkshire Light Infantry protecting the Foreign Settlement at Hankow.
TOMMY ATKINS ON GUARD.
A detachment of the Yorkshire Light Infantry
protecting the Foreign Settlement at Hankow.
The following telegram was authorised to be sent to the British Minister at Peking and the Foreign Office:—-

“Mass meeting British residents Hankow considers battalion urgently necessary protection British Concession—Pearce, Chairman.”

 

A similar telegram was authorised to be sent to the China Association in London, asking the Association to urge the Government to send the help asked for. There were ninety-five British residents present at the meeting.

* * * * *

Comment upon the foregoing would only be odious {124}just now. By reproducing the correspondence, however, the reader will be able to ascertain the feelings of the British community when such persistent official indolence continued. Had the armies got out of hand, there might have been a much sadder story to tell.

THE SKETCH MAP OF THE BATTLEFIELDS.
THE SKETCH MAP OF THE BATTLEFIELDS.

It is necessary, in presenting the accompanying sketch map of the battlefields, to give some concise information descriptive of the sketch. The following written by my friend Mr. Stanley V. Boxer, B.Sc., will therefore be found of especial interest:—

“The first battle of any importance occurred on October the 18th. On that occasion the gunboats decided the issue. The Revolutionists were entrenched behind the Foreign Racecourse, and in the afternoon made an attack toward Kilometre Ten. In advancing, they were exposed to a cross fire from the cruisers. They fell back again on the Racecourse. Next day, however, the gunboats retired, and the Revolutionists, taking advantage of their absence, gained a victory, capturing some truckloads of ammunition, &c. The loyalist army retired to Nie K’ou, to wait arrival of reinforcements from the north.

“A week now elapsed without further fighting. But the battle which resulted in the fall of Hankow commenced on October the 27th. The Revolutionists somewhat tamely allowed the bridges between Kilometre Ten and Nie K’ou to be captured. They retreated on their base, Kilometre Ten. A few well-directed shots from the gunboats, which had come up to participate in the fight, caused a second retreat. The Imperials advanced steadily along the back of the Concessions reaching Ta Chi Men Station. The Revolutionists retook this position but were again driven back. They fell back on Sin Shen Road, and fought bravely for three days, during which the road changed hands several times. On October 30th, also, there was a good deal of fighting between the Malu, at the back of Hankow, and the railway embankment. On Tuesday, October 31st, the Revolutionists gained a slight advantage, driving the Imperialists back along the railway line. Next day, Wednesday, November 1st, commenced the burning of Hankow. The Imperials had brought up their 3-in. guns to the Ta Chi Men crossing, about a quarter of a mile nearer Hankow than the station and placed them on the railway. From this position they shelled the city, about two thirds of which was destroyed this day and the day following. Though the city was in ashes however, frequent fighting took place in its ruined streets, greatly endangering the safety of foreigners on the Concessions. This desultory fighting went on till the fall of Hanyang. Nothing of much importance, however, occurred till November 17th.

“Much of the sharpest fighting occurred round the Waterworks. The gunners on the Heh Shan were kept very busy. The works themselves changed hands several times. On November 17th, the Revolutionists made a determined attempt to drive back the enemy. In the early morning they were across the Han in force, and advanced inwards from the Viceroy’s embankment in one large crescent, stretching from near Ch’aeo K’ou to three miles on the other side of the Griffith John College. They even advanced as far as the Chinese Racecourse, but later in the day were forced to retreat.

“It should have been stated that the Imperials had moved out their guns to positions along the extension of the Sin Shen Road, while they had placed three very heavy guns on ‘Coffin Hill.’ From these guns, Tortoise Hill, Mei Tzu Shan, and Heh Shan, were in easy range, and constant bombardment ensued.

“But fresh hope was brought to the Revolutionists by the turning over of the fleet to the Republican side. On Sunday, November 19th, occurred that memorable engagement, when the torpedo boat ran the gauntlet, and the cruiser punished the Imperial batteries along the foreshore between the Japanese Concession and the Yangtse Engineering Works. In consequence, these batteries were very much strengthened, as shown in the map.

“At this time the capture of Nanking was momently expected, and the Imperials, realising that, if Hanyang was to be captured, it must be immediately, did all in their power to take the place. A party of three thousand set off from Siao Kan for Ch’ait’ien, intending to approach Hanyang from behind. What became of this detachment is uncertain, but it would appear that they were defeated. Their project was never realized.

“But the Imperials determined on another course. They managed to cross the Han at T’u Lu K’ou. Five large shrapnel guns were brought up to the Viceroy’s embankment, two about a quarter of a mile from the Griffith John College. A heavy fire was directed toward the four hills on the other side of the Han, which formed the key to Hanyang. A battery, placed on the waist of the hills opposite the College replied. As the College was in direct line of fire, considerable damage was done. The Imperials, owing to a very swift creek, were unable to proceed down the side of the Han. They had therefore to cross the creek at San-Yen Ch’iao (Three-eyed Bridge), and take the four hills. Judging from the number of patients brought into Hanyang during the days of this fighting (November 21st-26th), and from the number of graves seen on a subsequent visit, very heavy fighting must have been carried on here. The hills were well adapted for defence, being covered with quarries, but ammunition on the Republican side was poor. The hills were eventually taken, though one at least was retaken. The whole time, the Revolutionists were assailed from two sides, from the Griffith John College battery, and from the Imperials on the north-west.

“It would appear that on Sunday, November 26th, began the evacuation. On Saturday, the Mei Tzu Shan battery had been silenced. On Sunday evening the Imperials effected a crossing between the Heh Shan and Tortoise Hill. Retreat followed from the San-yen Ch’iao hills, and so Heh Shan was forced to silence. Hanyang was captured on Monday, November 27th, the last place to be evacuated being the Tortoise Hill.

“After the fall of Hanyang, the Imperials retained their strong river batteries, but moved up their ‘Coffin Hill’ guns to a position on the railway a quarter of a mile on the other side of Sin Shen Road. They threw two bridges across the Han, one about half a mile below the Waterworks, one at the Wu Shen Miao. They also fortified the base of Hanyang Hill, planting their guns, as in the case of the Griffith John College battery and ‘Coffin Hill,’ under cover of foreign buildings. This time it was the American Baptist Mission Hospital that was exposed.

“Evacuation commenced, however, without any more serious fighting. The guns on the railway were removed. Incidentally two shrapnel guns and a quantity of ammunition were taken to the old position near the Griffith John College on New Year’s Day, where they remained three days; but this was probably merely to prevent a possible crossing of the Revolutionists into forbidden territory. This ended the fighting in the vicinity of Hankow.”

 

 

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CHAPTER XI

THE FALL OF HANYANG
Three days before the naval escapade described in the last chapter started the great struggle made by the “Imps” for the recapture of Hanyang. Yuan Shih K’ai, impatient at the dauntless manner in which the enemy were standing their ground—and even gaining upon the Imperial Army—made an offer of 3,000,000 taels (some £375,000) for the recapture of Hanyang. The Revolutionary Army was now fighting as never before.

The important news that Shantung had gone over to the Revolutionists was received on the 16th in a laconic message, stating briefly that the entire province was now flying the white flag. This news was all the more important inasmuch as about ten days before the Government granted all the demands of the Shantung people, with the exception of the evacuation of Peking by the Manchus. This, it was thought, would be a sufficient sop to Cerberus, but it seemed not so, and the Shantungites had apparently decided to go the whole hog in the same manner as their local compatriots.

The real bombardment of Hanyang commenced at night on that date, and the sight was one never to be forgotten by those who had pluck enough to go to the high buildings and watch the guns opening. From a score of batteries on the Wuchang side of the river, from the big forts on the main hills inside Wuchang, from perhaps thirty guns raised on Hanyang Hill and {126}four hills away to the right there came constant tiny flashes. The distant boom for hours in the dense darkness gave one an eerie feeling. The furious whizz of the shells as they swept over the foreign houses intensified one’s peculiar fascination. Bullets sailing through the air bred in one a spirit of cool bravado. Around the countryside for miles one could count a score of fires—the whole population seemed to be burned out of house and home. At midnight there came a significant lull. Waiting and watching, watching and waiting on the tops of their houses, foreign civilians looked on to the passing tragedy, and were held spellbound in the dark. Those tiny flashes of blue seemed to be the sparks of a new life, but the morning brought the news that the Revolutionists had had the worst of it. When the Northern Army first arrived at Niekow it was part of their programme to dispatch a force through the lakes to the Han River at Hankow, from which place they could reach Hanyang in half a day. The boats were collected for the expedition, but for some reason or other it was called off. The project appears to have been taken up again, and this time carried through, with the result that the Imperialists, by November 20th, were in possession of Tsaitien, a busy market town on the Hanyang side of the Han twenty miles up. A foreign traveller, who was there at the time of the occupation, wrote up the following particulars about the situation then:—

“After we had passed Hsinkow on the way down by boat we noticed parties of grey-coated soldiers on the left bank marching down. There might be twenty in a party and sometimes a hundred. In conversation with them we learned that they were Chilhi or Shantung men, and belonged to Yuan Shih K’ai’s army. Their General was named Wu, a very friendly man who said that he had a force of three thousand, and that they were bound for Hanyang. Our boat outstripped them, and on reaching Tsaitien we found it still under {127}Revolutionary control, but with no soldiers there beyond the crews of some twenty fighting junks at anchor. There had been a thousand men in the place, but they had marched up the river before our arrival, said to be bound for Anluh. We reached there on Saturday evening, and at daybreak the following morning the gunjunks got up anchor and made for up-river. The Imperialists did not put in an appearance till Sunday afternoon about two o’clock, when some forty native boats came in crowded with soldiers. They had also on board half a dozen mules and probably guns, but these were not visible. They had large supplies of ammunition. By the time they landed all trace of the Revolutionists had disappeared. No one interfered with them, and they interfered with no one. There might have been close on a thousand men in that lot. All afternoon and evening there was heavy firing up-river. The people said it was the Revolutionists attacking the rear of the party up at Hsinkow, and that they had driven it back, but the puzzle was how the advance contrived to reach Tsaitien without either side apparently having seen the other. We left Tsaitien about ten o’clock on Monday, at which time the Imperialists were all in their tents engaged on their breakfast. There was no sign that they intended making any further move that day. It is impossible to reach Hankow by the Han route, as both parties fired on every boat seen. We therefore crossed the Machia Lake, and came out beyond Hanyang. Here a large force of several thousand Revolutionists was setting out by land for Tsaitien, and had the weather been favourable, they would have reached there last night. As it is, they will have to wait for fine weather, and then some further interesting news may be forthcoming from that quarter.”

HOW THE IMPERIALISTS CROSSED THE HAN. One of the three bridges built on boats across the river while the revolutionaries were quarrelling among themselves.
HOW THE IMPERIALISTS CROSSED THE HAN.
One of the three bridges built on boats across the river
while the revolutionaries were quarrelling among themselves.
Thus at last had the Imperialists crossed the Han. And with their crossing commenced one of the most determined battles in history, lasting five long days and {128}four frightful nights of heaviest fighting. Day after day the close riflery work and Maxim fire was terrific. The Revolutionists for some time had the best of it. The slaughter among the Imperialists was fearful. The gunnery was heavy and deadly on both sides, but with Maxims the Revolutionists mowed down the enemy in hundreds each day. The death-roll no one was able to calculate. Each night the Imperial dead was taken away by train. The Imperial wounded were left on the field in the cold to die of their frightful wounds and hunger. The pressure did not allow of Red Cross work being done. To the left of the advancing Imperialists already referred to was the rapidly rushing Han, to the right a lake, in front a creek and high hill, defended by strong forces of Revolutionists. The hill in itself was a natural fort, but in the undulations of the ground and in the long grass the mountain guns and Maxims were as thick as blackberries. Every Imperial was fighting for his life, for he knew, once across the Han, that it was a fight to kill or be killed. Such scenes were probably never eclipsed in any war. The fusillading and incessant cannonading was harder than in any war of recent times. The Imperialists had given up the endeavour and were downcast at the meagre prospects of their success. To take Hanyang appeared altogether impossible. Their idea was to again make a wide flanking movement towards Siaokan, run a light railroad up to Siangyang, in North Hupeh, and so draw the Revolutionists away from the hills to open country. Certain it seemed to them that Hanyang would always remain a Revolutionary base. But as one sets out to write an accurate account of the situation in those last days in November, he is confronted by innumerable obstacles that render it almost futile. On the 26th every man in the Concessions, except the very few more closely associated with the happenings on the field, was under the impression that the Revolutionary Army was forging ahead, that it {129}had by far the better position in the field, and that the taking of Hanyang was a task that the Imperialists were not by any means strong enough to accomplish. As I have said, the Imperialist officers thought so, too, but when on Saturday (the 25th) I learned that the Hunan men were becoming a little disaffected, I foresaw to some extent what turn events would take if it were proved impossible for General Li Yuan Hung and Commander Huang Hsuin successfully to handle this new and somewhat treacherous move on the part of the Hunan Army. Now the greatest blow that had yet fallen, and which could fall short of a complete smash-up, fell to the Republican cause here on November 27th.

Hanyang was captured—how will later be explained.

HUNAN SOLDIER. One of the men who turned traitor, causing the disastrous fall of Hanyang
HUNAN SOLDIER.
One of the men who turned traitor,
causing the disastrous fall of Hanyang.

HUPEH SOLDIER.
From time immemorial at feud with the Hunanese,
but brought into co-operation in the early part
of the Revolution.
One found it the more difficult to write an accurate account of the situation which would remain true because from now onward it seemed to change its aspect hour by hour. Everything seemed to have taken a change for the worst. Chinese met in the streets and told each other the bad news with long faces. The sight of the dead being brought in from the field and prepared for burial, under the gaze of all and sundry, brought a peculiar depression into the very atmosphere. Foreign and Chinese communities waited hour by hour for what was coming. Rumours were wild on the lips of every one. No one could be believed, and what one actually saw could scarcely be taken as truth. The general situation was extremely grave to the Republican military cause, and the Imperialists were never stronger in numbers, and in the advantage that they held over their enemy in their positions in the field. In possession now of Hanyang Hill, it was expected that they would bring their big guns into position and blow Wuchang to pieces in three hours. There was nothing to stop them. They were the military masters of the situation. All the Chinese could do now was to sit tight, interfere as little {130}as possible, endeavour to keep their heads on their shoulders by keeping out of the way of the executioner’s knife, and wait to see what would happen.

Then slowly came the story of the fall of Hanyang.[1]

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Sensational incidents during the day that Hanyang fell, with picturesque incidents and all the gore that the newspaper-reading public calls for were provided under the eyes of every one. Junkloads of helpless, bullet-driven men were drifting down the river in a ghastly succession. Have you ever seen a boat drifting on a rapid river? Have you ever watched a Chinese junk, ungainly and ugly perhaps, just going helplessly with the tide? And have you ever seen a cargo of human freight not knowing what to do to reach the shore or any place of safety? That morning the men had been riddled by bullets as they attempted to make away in the boats. They had had machine-gun fire rained into them, and, scampering like a lot of frightened birds in their cage, had crept all over to the covered end in their frenzy, hoping that the wood cover would save them. Tighter and tighter they pressed against each other. They trampled on each other, threw their rifles out into the river, their cartridge-cases, their general impedimenta, and then settled down {132}to die as the boat slowly drifted down-stream. And there, when they were found, these thirty, forty, fifty men were sitting huddled grimly together, their glassy eyes staring upwards into the unknown. Mercilessly, with hideous brutality, they had been slaughtered as they sat, and now were in the sitting posture, dead, wedged in tightly one against the other. Some had fallen outward to the side of the boat, and their bodies now were hanging limply, swaying to and fro with the dull motion of the junk. Some, shot through the head, through the heart, through the limbs, had sunk exhausted to the bottom of the boat, where the water was fast rushing in through the splintered bulwarks, and lay, face down, in the water, drowned as they lay. Another boatload, equally helpless and void of all hope but the river, had their wounded at the bottom, some of the less seriously wounded putting their hands through the holes into the water and endeavouring vainly to get a motion on the boat. When these junks, after terrific labour, were brought into the side {133}of the British Bund, the sight will never be forgotten—men, bleeding from the throat, from the side, limping as they dragged a shattered leg behind them up the steps, to fall exhausted at the top and carried away to the hospitals. ‘Twas a bloody conflict that ended the fall of Hanyang.

THE IMPREGNABLE HANYANG HILL, Shown in the background. It is the main strategic point on the Yangtse. At one time it bristled with revolutionary field-guns.
THE IMPREGNABLE HANYANG HILL,
Shown in the background. It is the main strategic point
on the Yangtse. At one time it bristled with revolutionary
field-guns.
For the first time since the beginning of the revolutionary movement in China the Imperialist cause had scored an undeniable success, always excepting the savage burning of Hankow. The success of the Imperialists was rightly ascribed to their superior equipment and discipline, and that their loyalty to Peking, as well as their efficiency, had stood the supreme test of battle was in itself an event of first-rate importance. The strong feeling which has grown up almost all over China against the Manchu had still to be reckoned with. At this time it was an amusing diversion to read the opinions being printed in the home Press. After referring to the feeling among the proletariat against the Manchus, a writer in an editorial in the London Times said that “again a middle {134}term may conceivably be found in the suggestion that, as an alternative to the withdrawal of the Court from Peking, the present Regent should resign his office into the hands of a Chinese Regent or Council of Regency. The singular ceremony which took place a few days ago in Peking, when the Regent, in the name of the infant Emperor, made atonement before the ‘heavenly spirits’ of the Imperial ancestors for the responsibility which he has to bear in the present troubles, may be taken as something more than a mere formal acknowledgment of the gravity of the crisis. In the solemn oath of allegiance to the new constitutional regime taken by the Regent, there is, in so many words, an admission that the Dynasty is in danger; and so grave an admission is, we imagine, at least as unprecedented as the circumstances which have provoked it. If it truly represents the chastened spirit of the rulers of China, it can hardly fail to make a deep impression upon the masses of the Chinese people, whose traditional reverence for the Throne as a sacred {135}institution dates back to time immemorial, and has survived numberless revolutions in the past which, however disastrous to the occupants for the time being of the Throne, never permanently affected its inherent prestige.”

But in a period of such national travail as China was passing through, it would have been unwise just then to build too much upon the claims of mere common sense, even where people in many ways so eminently sensible as the Chinese were concerned. Immense forces, of which we could not yet pretend to estimate the energy, had been set in motion for better or for worse; and, when once elemental forces have been set in motion, they cannot easily be arrested. In pleading for the maintenance of the Dynasty, Yuan Shih K’ai himself did not conceal his belief that its overthrow would be followed by a series of internal convulsions extending possibly over several decades. Time may prove Yuan to be right. But though we may hope that the world may be spared such a calamity, {136}it was now impossible to look forward to the future without apprehension. The old order of things had departed, never to return. But it would have been then, and still is, idle to expect that a new and stable order of things can be immediately evolved by any magic wand out of the existing chaos. However rotten the old fabric may have been, it cannot be destroyed and a new fabric built up in a day. Japan went through some fifteen years of internal strife and turmoil before modern Japan emerged from the ruins of the old feudal Japan. And Japan not only had the good fortune to possess an influential class inspired by great patriotic ideals, ready to lead her in the path of national regeneration, but she had also, in the restoration of the Imperial authority, an ancient national tradition round which modern ideas of reform could crystallise. Whether China possessed a class equally competent to steer her through the breakers had yet to be seen—and has still; but it was only too clear, unfortunately, that the present Dynasty could never be a rallying point for patriotic enthusiasm such as the reigning Dynasty proved to be in Japan. The future alone could show whether any effective substitute could be found for it.

THE THREE-EYED BRIDGE, Seven miles north of Hanyang, where some of the hottest fighting took place. The Revolutionists held the bridge and the adjoining hills till the fall of Hanyang made the position untenable.
THE THREE-EYED BRIDGE,
Seven miles north of Hanyang, where some of the hottest fighting
took place. The Revolutionists held the bridge and the adjoining
hills till the fall of Hanyang made the position untenable.
The fall of Hanyang gave to the Imperial cause an impetus it was hard to estimate. But it had cost the Chinese as a people a lot during its fall.

* * * * *

During the first two days of December the author formed one of a party of Europeans whose duty it was to superintend the operations of a search party of the Red Cross Society around the neighbourhood of Chiakow and the four hills across the Han River, all of which formed the scene of one of the great battles. This was the belt of country which for days was held by the Revolutionary Army, encamped and fortified in {137}the many hillocks and surrounding lake country, which by its very impassable nature was practically a fort. It was here that the Revolutionists must have fought with more dauntless courage than the Russo-Japanese War ever gave record of to the world. It was here that for days, at closest range, they were driven back by the Imperial shrapnel and rifle fire from the other side of the Han; here that they repeated daring onslaughts upon the enemy when it seemed that the end was near with the speedy cutting-up of the Imperialists; here that the Peking men again and again endeavoured to force an entry and were cut down hopelessly and retreated with but a scanty percentage of their own attacking regiments; here that the hills bristled with batteries that whistled shells simultaneously by the dozen into the enemy as they lay encamped in the open country behind the waterworks. Altogether those four hills, still looking up reverently to their Maker, seemed silently to tell forth stories of heroism that would make the memories of men who were cruelly tortured immortal among their own people. But it was here also that the Hupeh men and the Hunan men had their squabble; and in this was their downfall, as it could have been in nothing else, for the place was impregnable.

And as during those two days I rode my pony in and out those hillocks, through those swamps, around those lakes, and as I stood by the graves of men who gave their own cause away, I could not help wondering what might have been had the Revolutionary Army remained one in spirit. What would have happened is this: the Imperialists would never have crossed the Han. But by December 1st they were in full possession. Every man and thing seemed numbered, all was wonderfully organised; from far away up the Han on both sides down past the point where the Han bifurcates into the Yangtsze and down past Kinshan forts the Imperialists were in possession.

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As it was the rebels had lost, the Imperialists had won: but as one went around the countryside and talked with the country people, peaceable souls who had only their small cabbage-patch to bring forth their wherewithal to live, the tales of savagery and cruelty and devilish treatment which the Imperialists said they found it necessary to bring into their “military measures” did not make one wonder that, although compelled at the point of the bayonet to submit, the whole of the rural population swore vengeance upon the army that had worked havoc among them. Such behaviour as the Imperial soldiers, in their devilry, persisted in was worse even than one would expect from the worst of Chinese. We all know that the Chinese are cruel, that they have no sympathies in the usual Western sense; we know that they delight in the torture of all things that have life. But such grossly inhuman conduct as was countenanced by the Imperial military authorities in this centre almost compelled one to exclaim that to the depths of Chinese barbarity one cannot probe. What one saw made one instinctively draw back, yet one did not see a tithe of what there was.

Of the searching for the dead I shall have but little to say. There were few dead to be found. We buried 207. As soon as the military stationed in command of the captured hill heard that the Red Cross Society was sending parties to search for the dead and to bury the corpses, they set about with their own burial parties to remove those who had been shot in that dreadful battle. The villages that had been razed to the ground, and incidentally rid of all the menfolk with a rifle shot or a few bayonet thrusts, had been made to bury their own dead; most of it was done by the girls before they were taken off to be made worse than slaves to the fiendish men who took them. But the tale had better be told in sequence.

If one is able to keep his mind free from the gruesome {139}and the cruel, the fiendish tricks practised everywhere along the Han by the Imperial soldiers, he cannot but admire the smartness of the military training and the extremely creditable manner in which this Imperial Army had been handled. When it is remembered that from the four high hills overlooking the Han River the Revolutionists were able continuously to blow to smithereens anything that was attempted in the way of bridge-building, the making of the bridge by which the main body of the enemy passed over the river is little short of a marvel. At this point the Han, with no inconsiderable current, is no less than three hundred and fifty yards wide. The bridge by which the Imperialists crossed was composed of some one hundred and fifty boats of all sorts and sizes, each in its turn tied to an extremely stout hawser; over this the whole of the attacking force with their complete equipment was brought. Then from this point to another point some twenty li away, at the base of the hills, villages were indiscriminately scattered, some with twenty families, some with half a dozen. All had suffered the same fate and were now but places of ashes.

To the left was found a Revolutionary soldier, dead, half-eaten, dressed still in his black uniform. About the body, which was huddled in a decomposing heap on the ground, were noticed several bayonet wounds; it had been brought from a bed, upon which the wounded man had probably been done to death. Under the bed was found a lamp, on and around the bed were found huge chunks of charcoal and charred firewood; nothing else in the room was burned. Is it possible to think that those devils of men, first getting their prey like the beasts they are, then maiming him, then putting him on a bed, then getting the fire by which they intended burning him to death, had fired the lot and literally roasted their victim alive, and sat down to watch the last agonies? Such was my theory, and the {140}circumstantial evidence, with the guarded explanation of the temple caretaker—who was spared because he could wait upon these vicious greycoats—made for none other. And there the body lay; dogs had come in and eaten off a leg, a part of the neck, a part of the body; the main bone of the leg had been wrenched off, and a dog near by still growled with another for possession. Soon the burial was made, the wistful onlookers, lucky that they had escaped, remarking blandly that we were performing hao si. Further gruesome details of a most gruesome duty it were reasonable not to expect given; sufficient has been written to show where the great battle took place and what its effects had been. Over the hills one came across one, two, a dozen peaked caps, a dozen uniforms. Near by were nightsoil pits and ponds of stagnant water; into these the unlucky victims had been thrown. Pools of blood there were everywhere, cartridge-cases and cartridges there were by the thousand, seven big guns with the breach-blocks gone, boxes of unopened field-gun cases, piles of 2¼ gun shells alongside the heavy pieces, pieces of bone, bloody bandages, and much else all too eloquent of the carnage and the battle. One man volunteered to show us where the corpse of a villager lay; he said the body had been hit fair by a big shell and now there was little left to show for what had been a soldier doing his duty for a cause of reform; when we came to the place a pool of blood and a few bones were all that the canine scavengers had left.

THE HANDY MAN ASHORE. Residents in the British Concession owe much to the bluejackets. They are seen here carting bricks in rickshaws, with which to build barricades.
THE HANDY MAN ASHORE.
Residents in the British Concession owe much
to the bluejackets. They are seen here carting
bricks in rickshaws, with which to build barricades.
Farther on an old woman sat upon a heap of rubbish, which had been her home for forty years. She was ill-clad, cold, had had no food for four days, and thought that she, too, would die. Her husband, poor old man, had been killed by stray shots before the Imperialists made their rush; her sons, four of them—peaceable men, she said, who offered no resistance—were killed cruelly at sight; their wives had been carried off. “But I am not alone,” she added; “others in the {141}village suffered the same fate. Our young boys had their queues taken off to make them into rebels so that the soldiers would have an excuse to shoot them. And our ‘little babies'”—the poor old lady was now wiping her eye—”our girls of fourteen and fifteen were carried off across the river. I wonder whether I shall see them again.” I wondered, too, as I watched the old woman weeping. And the farther I went the more was I impressed with the cruelty of this war towards the civilian rather than to the military part of the community. The devastation was terrific.

Have you ever noticed how soon a Chinese can spoil or totally destroy things in general? Whether it be the mechanic in the factory, the cook in the kitchen, the boy about the house, the gardener, the boatman, the tinker, tailor, or sailor, it is undeniable that the Chinese is a pastmaster in the art of spoiling and damaging and putting things destructively to their wrong uses. One sees it, not in one district and among one class of the Chinese; it is universal in the country and the people. To go through China one is struck more than anything else by the manner in which everything is brought to a general condition of decay and uselessness. And so in war the Chinese have been showing us how destructive is their nature, how vile they are in pillaging and looting and destroying. For miles around the city of Hankow long stretches of burned and pillaged districts stand as painfullest evidences of the ravages of this horrible civil war. These northern victors could not have behaved worse had they specifically endeavoured, and this is much to say. All the cruelties, all the infamy in its several forms, all the wanton destruction, the stealing, the ravishing of pure women, the killing of little children, the kidnapping of young girls, the gross oppression practised by them all will go down to history as the conduct unworthy of any civilised nation. I am aware that in writing this I may call down {142}considerable criticism, but I fail to see why such things should be kept back from public knowledge. China is making claims, as she long has been, that she is coming line to line with the civilisation of the West. She has claimed that she has got out of the rut of the past, and that now the world may confidently look for that which in history has made the nations of the world great—liberty, justice, and other so far unknown virtues in her present military campaign against those who truly, so far as we can tell, are urging for real reform.

Another instance before I close this chapter. Whilst I was riding round the country I collected a couple of shells from the field, and asked an old man to put them in his house for me until I should later return for them. He agreed and away I went. Some time after I returned to find four soldiers yelling at this old man and some of his neighbours who had foregathered to save him from the common doom. The soldiers had accused him of harbouring the empty shells for some rebels they were sure he was sheltering, and already their fingers were itching on the triggers of their rifles. “A foreign gentleman asked me to keep them for him; I am telling you the truth!” shouted the terrified old fellow. “You lie! you old blackguard, you’ll have to die for this. Come out of your house!” Vainly were his neighbours endeavouring to mediate on his behalf, and were threatened with the same treatment if they did not desist at once. But at the moment I rode up. I took the shell-cases quietly, thanked the old man, asked what the trouble was, and was about to explain when one of the soldiers, with an eye filled with evil, wished me peace and told me that they were merely having fun with the old man, and that I could go on my way resting assured that no harm would be done. I went, but I do not know the fate of the old man.

* * * * *

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The reader should understand that probably of all strategic points in the Chinese Empire there is none more naturally formidable than Hanyang. It was the pivot of the whole situation. With Hanyang gone, Wuchang was practically gone also—if the enemy had any guns at all. At dawn on November 27th the war correspondents brought the news that the Hunan men had refused to fight at Hanyang, and that the city was about to be taken. Bombarding and heavy fusillading had been going on all the day on the Sunday and throughout the night, but by midnight the Imperialists were known to be masters of the situation, and it was only a matter of time for them to march upon the fortified city of Hanyang. That city, as will have been gathered, every one looked upon as impregnable. There was treachery. The Hunan men were said to have shot their officers, to have left the hill, to have boarded junks that were drifting hopelessly down-stream in an attempt to retreat to Wuchang, only to find that after they had been shelled in the junks they drifted down-stream in the face of Maxim fire, placed to greet them at the bend of the river. What happened to them has already been described, but can better be imagined.[2]

{144}
As I was dressing on November 27th my bedroom door was slowly opened. A smart young Chinese, a man from Yale University and one of the smartest men of his year, crept in and cautiously closed the door behind him.

“Man,” he said, “it’s all up. We are going to lose Hanyang.”

And then he began to tell me the story of the treachery. ‘Twas a sad story, true; but it gave the city away. Coming over to me, with sincerity shining in his eyes, he exclaimed: “Come, you’re a journalist; can’t you help us? Can’t you stop this dreadful carnage? The city has fallen completely. The Imperialists are in control of the hill and the city, with the arsenal, the powder factory, and much else.”

{145}
In a nutshell it may be said that the Revolutionary military cause in this immediate centre was with the fall of Hanyang irretrievably lost. It will be futile in this volume to go into the way the men behaved; they fled, many of them cowards, others struck down still sticking manfully to their duty, others barbarously bayoneted as they endeavoured to hold their guns on the hill and in the valley on the river bank; but that they were shamefully routed was borne out by the fearful misbehaviour of the Imperialists. On they came like a pack of maddened animals for the onslaught. They had no mercy. Every one within {146}reach fell at the point of the bayonet or was shot ruthlessly despite all humane methods brought to bear in surrender in war. The boating community, quietly adopting a neutral attitude, were served in the same heartless manner. Women, children, old men, babies—all were shot, and their corpses floated down-river in their drifting boats. Some of the sights were too terrible to behold. Old men and women were all subjected to the same cruel fate.

But leaving for the moment the fighting, we come to the Bund, in the afternoon, to watch the Red Cross Association conducting its errands of mercy. Out on the Bund—some shot through the head, through the limbs, through the body, all showing up in ghastly significance the horror of this war—we see ten, twenty, thirty, forty of the dead laid out for burial. Foreigners and Chinese all lend a hand to tie the bodies in matting, others heave them into the carts, the pavements are littered with the discarded coats and implements of war which the dead still held as evidence of this civil butchery; on a little way farther one finds a group of wounded on the grass plots waiting for the stretcher-bearers to return to take them to the hospitals. One was a mother with a little baby, the baby dying, the mother mortally wounded; others were civilians who had shown no fight; others were trained soldiers; others were recruits who had run at the sound of the machine-guns, shot in the back. Then there is the rumble of the wheels as cartload after cartload of the covered dead are conveyed out of sight, and the police set to work to pick up the blood-stained uniforms, the money-pouches, the little knick-knacks of the Chinese soldier’s paraphernalia. All is so sad, so significant.

Meantime over across the way the shells were falling into the capital of Wuchang. The air was rent again and again by the sharp booming of the Imperial big guns on Coffin Hill. Men came and went, looked down at the {147}pools of human blood that were swelling the rivers of blood through which China has yet to pass before this Revolution ends. The river was deserted. If a sampan ventured out into the stream rifles were set to work, and a hasty retreat was made. The people were downcast.

And this young Chinese, sent specially from General Li, who called upon me before I was dressed, had come asking whether I could not send a message from Li Yuan Hung to the world. “We don’t want to fight any more!” he excitedly exclaimed. “General Li is genuinely anxious that peace should be declared, that slaughter on this wholesale scale should be stopped forthwith. Although this reverse has overcome the Revolutionary Army, our cause on the field is not by any means lost. Even if we have lost Hanyang, it does not follow that our fighting strength is gone, and if it becomes necessary General Li will alter the base of fighting operations, a scheme which the Imperialists had under consideration before their victory yesterday. None were more surprised than the Imperialists themselves when they were able to march up Hanyang Hill without having to fire a shot. But the fact that they are in possession of Hanyang does not necessarily mean that the military conquest is entirely won, for if needs be we shall be able continually to augment our army from other provinces until such time as in the very nature of things the Imperial Army will have been weeded out, man for man, or two to one, or three, or four if necessary.”

I was sorry I was unable to help him.

I learned subsequently that, just an hour or so before Hanyang actually changed hands, Yuan Shih K’ai wired from Peking to the British Acting Consul-General here, asking him to inform General Li that he was anxious to hear what terms he proposed that peace might be established. This was just at the moment that Hanyang was passing.

{148}
What was to be the outcome of this Hunan dissension any one who knew the Hunanese would not be inclined to say offhand, but the fact that there has always been some little contempt mutually between the Hupehese and the Hunanese probably magnified the dissension in the military that occurred. One of the first arts of warfare is to cut off the pursuers. Now, when the Hunan men were in the city of Hanyang the Friday previous there was a little teashop squabble between a couple of dozen men, the Hupeh men being accused of flinching the hard graft of the front line. To this squabble is traced directly the capture of Hanyang by the enemy.

“We are always sent to the front,” said the Hunanese; “we are getting less pay, doing more work, suffering heavier losses in our ranks.”

Then one word brought forth another, the party offered to have a fight on the spot, some picked up their rifles and discharged a few shots, and one or two men were wounded. After that the Hupeh men were placed on the front line.

On the Saturday during a sharp engagement, in which the Revolutionists got the worst of it, a retreat at the double was made; the Revolutionary gunners opened with their three-inchers and endeavoured to cut off the pursuers, but instead dropped their shells among the first lines of their own men as they retreated. Upon this the Hunan men swore vengeance as they saw their comrades falling thickly around them. When they got under cover they refused to fight any more. They almost at once commenced to go back to Wuchang, where they declared they were going to talk terms with General Li, and so they lost one of the most impregnable positions in the whole of China—a veritable Chinese Gibraltar. And when the Imperialists were able to march upon Hanyang they never had such a delightful surprise in their lives. In conversation with an Imperial officer, who was leading the first regiment {149}to get into the city, I was told that they had almost given up all idea of ever capturing Hanyang. Had the Revolutionary men been kept under better control while off duty this never would have happened. The Imperialists stood a far greater risk of having dissension creeping in among their men, but they took great care that no such loophole should be offered to them. In Wuchang the people, essentially Chinese, talked so wildly about this Revolutionary reverse that it was found necessary to remove the heads of several, and war talk became absolutely taboo on the streets.

The Imperialists then directed their attention to Wuchang. Every hour the Revolutionists expected a bombardment. “We shall put up a bit of a fight, but it will be quite useless to expect to hold the city,” a prominent Revolutionary officer in the Foreign Office told me; “then our main army will go away at the back of the city and trek down to Kiukiang, concentrating at Nanking.” But the Imperialists somehow hung fire. They did not seem anxious to take Wuchang. Li Yuan Hung is reported to have declared that he believed the Revolution was lost; he told his second that the Imperialists were sure to come and capture the city, behead him, and kill all those who had no queues. That the Imperialists were doing their best to find out all they could of affairs on the opposite side of the river was evident. They collared one of the Revolutionary spies, and he was promised pardon if he would tell his captors something about the inside movements of Wuchang.

He set about to tell his story.—how that the whole of the officials, from General Li downwards, were in a blue funk; how that there were some ten thousand troops now in Wuchang; how that the intention was to blaze away with all the bluff in the world on the foreshore whilst the army was clearing out by the back gates of the city; how that if the Imperialists cared to march upon Wuchang they could capture it {150}forthwith. He then waited for the pardon that did not come.

DISMANTLED IMPERIAL GUN ON PURPLE MOUNTAIN, HANKING. The author is seen standing in the foreground of the picture.
DISMANTLED IMPERIAL GUN ON PURPLE MOUNTAIN, HANKING.
The author is seen standing in the foreground of the picture.
“Have you any more to say?” asked the officer to whom he told the story.

“No, I’ve told you all I know.”

“Well,” retorted the officer, “if this man has nothing more to tell us”—and he turned to a man who commanded the execution proceedings—”take him outside and have his head off.” In a couple of minutes the big knife fell, and the head of the best spy in the Revolutionary official camp rolled to the ground.

 

[1] The following story as told me by a Red Cross worker who was in charge of the Emergency Hospital, of what he saw before the Imperialists took the Hanyang Hill, will be of interest:—

“At 7.30 a.m. our launch made a trip to our Emergency Hospital in Hanyang. As the launch was needed for work in Wuchang until ten, I sent her away as soon as we had landed. At once we began to notice that there was a change of some kind about the place. There were very few soldiers about, and movement that was being made was in the direction of Wuchang. I noticed too, that the ground along the riverside was pretty liberally sprinkled with unused rifle cartridges, many in their clips. These seemed to betoken a somewhat hurried embarkation at least, but I thought that it might have been caused by a hurried dispatch of troops in the night. On arrival at the hospital, one of the Army Red Cross men said, “You’d better go back. It is dangerous to be here.” However, there were one or two cases awaiting our arrival, so we at once set to work to attend to them. A little later we noticed that the servants who had been so freely helping us had all disappeared, and presently I met one of them on the street carrying his bundles of goods off to the riverside. One of our number had some business inside the city walls, so we decided to go on with the work for the time being and await his report as to the state of things. After about an hour I had occasion to take a wounded man to the landing-place, some two hundred yards distant to await the arrival of the launch, and then found that there was some cause for uneasiness. All who could secure a sampan or other boat were hurriedly gathering their bits of goods together and making off up-stream against the current, all hands in the boat helping to row. It was the panic of the populace that feared the arrival of the enemy. I also overheard a quiet conversation between two Chinese coolies and gathered from their remarks that the Hunan raw recruits had been unable or unwilling to face the northern guns and had gone off by the regiment. Just then a dismantled gunjunk drifted down from somewhere up-stream. There was only one man on board, and his unseeing eyes were turned up to the full glare of the sun. He had evidently been the helmsman, and had died at his post. There were bullet marks on the woodwork, and a cap or two lay in the bottom of the boat, and I guessed what had become of the rest of the boatload. Promptly at ten o’clock I saw the launch steaming back to us, and almost at the same moment there was a movement on the part of some troops who had arrived on the Bund and wished quick transport to Wuchang. Some of them came down as the boat drew up, but I was informed that this launch was for wounded men only, of which there was quite a number now being brought in from the West Gate first-aid place. Whilst getting these on board, the Revolutionary Army Field Hospital Corps, with their stretchers rolled up and empty and their kit entire, marched up and began to make a move on our launch, saying that they also were Red Cross workers, but after a little difficulty I got them safely by to a boat farther up the river. They were told of the difficulty we were experiencing in getting coolies to carry their wounded down from the West Gate and other places, but they declined to stay any longer in a place that was “dangerous.” Some field-pieces had been brought in by the retiring troops, and one gunner, unable to get off his gun, brought in the breech block. There was no “scuttle,” but a systematic retreat of all sections of the army. On my way back to the hospital (the Baptist Church building) I met a regiment of troops marching up to the Bund. These had come from the top of Hanyang Hill immediately to the north of us, and as an officer had already been to tell us that the army was in retreat we decided to pack up everything—drugs, instruments, bandages, and all—and leave not even a splint behind. All the wounded were taken undressed, or with very rough dressing, to the launch as soon as we could secure bearers. Whilst making another trip to the launch with some gear, stray bullets pinged by my ear and plopped into the water. At the same time I heard a noise of firing at the west side of the city far more distinctly than on the previous day, and shrapnel began bursting in the city behind us. It was time we were off. Just as we were casting off some bearers were seen making their way towards us with another casualty, so we came alongside and took him in and then steamed away. When off Wuchang we were stopped by a zealous blackcoat, who presented the wrong end of his rifle to us and said that he would fire if we proceeded. We hove to and cast anchor, and waited for this man’s officer, who came up, gave him a scolding, and made him stand to attention in front of the field-piece his comrades had got ready to fire. We hauled up the anchor and got under weigh once more, but only to be hailed again by the next guard of soldiers at the battery some fifty yards farther down-stream. Once again we hove to. This time it was to take on a wounded man, who, they said, was a spy. I guessed that this was part of their joke, as we knew perfectly well that a suspicion of being a spy would have been more than enough to have sealed that man’s fate. Just as we had got under weigh for the third time in our short run to Hankow, the Imperialists fired a volley at us from somewhere in the neighbourhood of the China merchant’s godown. Most of the bullets fell short, some struck the water by the side of the boat just below where a group of Red Cross workers were standing. We then realised that the greycoats had worked their way back to the side of the river again. A few moments more, and the waterway between Wuchang and Hankow had become a veritable hell. Scores of boats were on the river, some being full of fleeing soldiers and others crammed with civilians, trying to get away from the greycoats; but orders had been given in Wuchang that all deserting Revolutionaries were to be shot, and so all craft on the river came in for a terrible cross fire from rifle, machine gun, shrapnel, and shell. We ran alongside and got off our thirty wounded, and a little later, when some of the boats that had weathered the storm of shot and shell began to drift down, I suggested that we should take the launch out into midstream and pick up the boats as they came down-river on the chance of finding some still alive. In this way we rescued three soldiers unwounded, six civilians and soldiers wounded, mostly of serious character, and then towed two boatloads of dead across to the Wuchang side and sent off the three unhurt soldiers with them. One of the wounded we had picked up died almost immediately. Our attention was next attracted to a big boat crammed with men, women, and children which was trying to reach the Wuchang side of the river. Destitute of oars, the panic-stricken folk were using the loose floor boards in frantic attempts to escape. On our approach they set up terrible cries for mercy. By the time we got alongside we were close in to the Wuchang shore, not far from a huge timber-raft. The scene was truly piteous. Women were on their knees imploring us to spare them. One man was so beside himself with terror that he jumped into the air and threw himself on to the deck, evidently under the impression that he was plunging into the water. In vain we tried to tell them that we had come to save and to heal the wounded who were lying about the boat. Then a new difficulty arose. Just as we seemed to succeed in calming the fears of the terrified creatures a company of Revolutionary soldiers raced down the banks and along the huge raft with their rifles at “the ready.” One or two dropped down behind the logs, covering us with their guns, whilst others ordered us to leave the boat alone or they would fire. I stood at the bow of the boat holding up both hands as a signal, but they would not recognise the large Red Cross flag floating above me or listen to my arguments. So, after having looked down the other end of the rifle for quite a time, we gave up the attempt and left the boatload to its fate. What that was we soon saw. Their goods were seized by the soldiery and they were led up the banks under arrest. The soldiers were evidently carrying out their orders to allow no one to retreat from Hanyang. A subsequent visit of the Red Cross launch to the creek near by the raft resulted in the bringing over of many wounded found there. Some, however, had already been taken into Wuchang for treatment in the overcrowded hospitals there. On this journey we learned something of the awful fate that had befallen the innocent in their attempt to reach a place of safety. One was the sole survivor of the family who had started out on their journey a few hours before. One little lassie of some twelve summers as I was carrying her to the shore told me that all her people had been killed with the exception of herself and her father, and he was also wounded severely. A woman was found who had been shot through the hand as she had tried to shelter her baby girl—the poor little mite had been shot through the head. I carried the child up to the shore, and sent the woman and her dying babe to the Margaret Hospital.”

[2] Startling stories of the cruelty of the Imperial soldiers who visited the Hanyang battlefields after the retreat of the rebels were told by every one who went over the battlefields. One writer said:—

“I went with a party of Red Cross men all over the battlefields after the capture of Hanyang by the Imperialists. We went on bicycles, riding over the Han by the pontoon bridge, going out at eight o’clock in the morning and not returning until after six. During that time we covered a great deal of territory, and saw evidences of almost incredible cruelty on the part of the Imperial soldiers. We came up with a party of four or five of them wearing Red Cross badges, but carrying arms instead of first-aid kits. They told us that they were Red Cross men and thoroughly understood their duties, which were to bring in any wounded Imperial soldiers and to kill all the wounded rebel soldiers. There was plenty of evidence that they had been carrying out that programme, and they were very indignant when we interfered and prevented their killing a wounded rebel. We met several parties of this kind.

“All over the battlefield there were wounded rebel soldiers and non-combatants, who had lain for four or five days without food or water or any kind of attention. We were passing through one village when a woman called out to us that there was a wounded man there. We got off our bicycles and looked for the man, finding him under a bunch of straw in the road, where he had lain for several days without food or water, while hundreds of coolies passed by. We found that he had a compound fracture, and called for some of the villagers to help us carry him inside. None of them would help, and we had to carry him into a hut ourselves. The villagers gave him tea and water only when we insisted on it. We asked them why it was they would allow a wounded man to remain inside their village for such a long time without giving him any attention, and finally got at the reason. When the fighting started four wounded rebels and one wounded Imperialist came into the village, and a woman took them into her house and gave them food and a place to sleep. The following day a band of Imperial soldiers came to the village in search of their wounded men and were told of this. They went to the house, removed the wounded Imperial, then put all of the members of the family in the house, with the wounded rebels, walled up the doors, and set fire to the place. After telling us this story, the villagers took us to the house and we saw the bodies half burned amidst the ruins. As the villagers were afraid to help us in any way or to allow us to place the wounded rebels in their houses, we carried two to an abandoned hut in the middle of a field, dressed their wounds, and buried them down in straw as best we could. We had no guard to leave over them, nor did we have any stretcher-bearers with us, so we planned to come back and get them the following day. In order to protect them as much as possible, we pinned on each one a card stating that these people had been taken charge of by the foreign Red Cross, and asked all to protect them. When we went back the following morning, we found one of the men dead, his face mutilated by bullets fired at close range. The other one had not been harmed, though almost dead with fright. He said that only half an hour before we came a party of Imperial soldiers visited them. The wounded men showed them the card we had left and pleaded with them for mercy. The Imperials spat on them, and then walked just outside the door and fired. It seems that all of the guns were aimed at one man, which was the reason the other escaped, for the Imperials left immediately after the firing. There were many non-combatants wounded—we treated eight in one small village. One of them was a woman who had been shot through her small foot. Another had been shot through the leg; one old man, seventy-six years old, crawled an English mile with a broken leg to get assistance from us. All of the wounded people we treated had been wounded for four or five days and had remained all of that time without any kind of attention, because of the fear of the people that the Imperialists would wreak vengeance on any one that aided the wounded. The line of retreat was covered with ammunition, arms, haversacks, and clothing. I believe that there must have been a full trainload of ammunition alone.

“The missionaries in Hankow are doing noble work caring for the wounded. The seats of the churches have been turned into beds, and the missionaries risk their lives daily in caring for the wounded and rescuing them from the battlefields.”

 

 

{151}

CHAPTER XII

THE REPUBLIC SEEKS RECOGNITION
Although Hanyang had fallen, the Revolution was by no means lost; this the intelligent reader will easily be able to see. During the past six weeks the Reformers had been so hard at work that a Republic had practically been recognised by the Powers, America being especially friendly. The following address by Dr. Wu Ting Fang had been sent out to the world, and had caused a profound impression:—

“THE REPUBLIC OF CHINA ASKS RECOGNITION.

“The Chinese nation born anew in the travail of revolution extends friendly greetings and felicitations to the world.

“As the Republic of China it now asks that recognition by the civilised Powers which will enable it, with the assistance of their kindly offices, to erect upon the foundations of honest government and friendly trade and intercourse with all peoples, a peaceful and happy future.

“The Chinese people are not untried in self-government. For countless ages they ruled themselves; they developed observance of the law to a degree not known among other races; they developed arts and industries and agriculture and knew a peace and contentment surpassingly sweet.

“Down upon them swept the savage hordes of an alien and warlike race. The Chinese people were conquered and enslaved. For 270 years this bondage existed. Then the Chinese people arose and struck a blow for freedom. Out of the chaos and dust of a falling throne emerges a free and enlightened people—a great natural democracy of 400,000,000 human beings.

“They have chosen to set up a Republic and their choice we believe is a wise one. There is no class of nobility among the Chinese and they have no recognised royal family to set up in place of the departing {152}Manchu Royal House. This is a great democracy. The officials spring from the people and to the people they return. There are no princes, lords, dukes among the Chinese. With the Manchu throne removed there is left a made-to-order Republic. Already we have provincial assemblies and our National Assembly. Already we have a Republic with a full set of competent officials.

“Within a very few days our constitutional convention will meet: arrangements for it were made long ago. At this convention there will be fully authorised delegates from every province in China. A constitution of the most enlightened character will be adopted and new officers of the provisional government elected. Following this will come, under the provisions of the constitution, the provincial and national elections.

“It is imperative that our government be recognised at this time in order that business may not be subjected to prolonged stagnation. There is peace everywhere save at Hankow, but business cannot proceed until the new Republic shall be welcomed among the nations of the world.

“We ask recognition in order that we may enter upon our new life and our new relationships with the great Powers.

“We ask recognition of the republic because the republic is a fact.

“Fourteen of the eighteen provinces have declared their independence of the Manchu Government and promulgated their allegiance to the Republic. The remaining provinces will, it is expected, soon take the same course.

“The Manchu dynasty finds its power fallen away and its glitter of yesterday become but a puppet show. Before going it has stripped itself of authority by consenting to the terms of the proposed constitution which already have been made public.

“The most glorious page in Chinese history has been written with a bloodless pen.

“(Signed) WU TING FANG
“(Director of Foreign Affairs.)”

And towards this end the Revolutionists were working. During the war each day had brought news of some province or part of a province having gone over. Li Yuan Hung and his associates were never morally stronger than when Hanyang fell. The military defeat mattered but little, for the Chinese are a democratic people, and each day brought more moral support.

{153}
The dynasty was still left standing, but in all other respects the desires of the Revolutionists had been sanctioned by the Sovereign. The Throne itself had been stripped of its power and prestige, and had been forced to act at the dictation of the National Assembly. The surrender on paper appeared to be complete, though it must be steadily kept in mind that in China, less perhaps than in any other land, are promises and concessions always held to be irrevocable. Yuan Shih K’ai had been invested with an authority which was practically supreme. He was at once Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy employed against the Yangtsze Revolutionists. In the best interests of the Chinese people it was to be hoped that they had been inspired by an unfeigned desire on both sides to reach an accommodation without further bloodshed; but in no country are delusive negotiations more habitually employed than in China as a means of gaining time, and it was at least conceivable that in the present crisis each leader would believe that time was on his side. In a few days it was expected that Yuan Shi K’ai’s party would show what degree of influence it could exert over the insurgent provinces. The number of these provinces continued to grow, and, in at least some instances, the movement in them seemed to be deeply tinged with a particularism which tended strongly towards separatism.

The Empire was, indeed, as a writer in the Times put it, “bubbling like a cauldron,” but a good many of the bubbles may subside, under judicious handling, with surprising rapidity. What seemed certain, however, so far as anything is certain in China, was that the old Monarchy had fallen never to rise again, and that it would drag down much in China in its fall. It had long survived its day. Its servants, like the servants of Solomon in the Koran, had propped up a corpse and summoned {154}kings and princes to do it homage. They bowed down before it, says the story, so long as it stood upright. But at last the worms gnawed away the staff on which it rested, it lay prone in the dust, and the world fell into confusion.

With the fall of Hanyang, millions of people, Chinese and foreigners, were speaking or thinking chiefly of one question those days, What would be the fate of the rebellion? Bound up in this question were many others, its corollaries. Would the rebellion be now speedily crushed, or succumb only after a prolonged civil war which would sap the already decimated resources of the country, partly suspend and disorganise business, and cause enormous destruction to life and property? Or would the Revolutionary forces quickly defeat the Government armies, acquire following and resources by success, and replace the existing Government at Peking with another and, if so, what kind of Government?

One may understand, and to some extent sympathise with, the motives and ideals of the Revolutionists without approving their course. It was generally agreed that the Government of China wanted reforming, but there was wide divergence of opinion as to method. Two general hypotheses for reform seemed practicable: to impose constitutionalism upon the present monarchical system and Dynasty, or to wipe them out and begin anew.

It would profit nothing to change the Government of China unless the change meant improvement. If the present Dynasty would be overthrown, what would replace it? Another Dynasty, or a Republic? A new Dynasty would, under existing circumstances, take for its head some popular leader since none of the Chinese Royal House was fitted for the place. This might improve conditions in China, and it might not. A successful republic, with conditions as they were, was practically impossible; and it is questionable if {155}a republican form of government is suited to the Chinese nation and people. None of the elements of genuine republicanism existed in the Empire. The course of events, as caused by the Revolutionary party, was being closely observed. They had set out to fight for their freedom, and now, with the fall of Hanyang, the military cause seemed lost. All nations were interested in the fate of China. Already one Power, the United States, was devising ways and means to safeguard against abrupt and inharmonious international action, in case any action became necessary. The Times expressed the view that the Revolution would fail. Present indications were that the opinion was well founded. But even if it failed, that revolt was to leave a deep psychological impression on the reigning Dynasty, the Chinese, and the world.

But what was happening elsewhere?

On December 2nd the following message was flashed over the wires: “Nanking city has fallen. Foreigners safe. Revolutionists entering city.” For many days a most determined battle had been going on at Nanking. The Revolutionists, fired with a zeal intensified because of the fall of Hanyang, were endeavouring to get into the city—a feat which seemed for long impossible. The capture of the city of Nanking was the counterpoise to Hanyang’s loss. Every one knows much more about Nanking. This city was the old capital of China, and of more political importance probably than Hanyang—it would be made the capital—and so the Revolutionists thought they still had the better part of the bargain. There is no space to dwell upon all the terrible blood-shed, of the Manchu decapitations, and much of the savagery which rendered the days leading up to the capture of Nanking hideous to one’s memory. But it has so vital a bearing on the situation that some reference to the city’s capture is necessary.

“The long-expected happened this morning at 7 a.m.,” said an American writer on December 2nd, {156}”and the city is gone over. The first intimation that the end was near was Friday morning early. The previous night there had been very heavy fighting at Hsiakuan, Taiping Gate, and the South Gate, especially about the fort just outside the gate (Yu Hua Tai). General Chang, commanding the Imperialists, asked the co-operation of the foreigners in the city, the terms upon which he agreed to the surrender of the city being as follows:—

“1. No killing of the people in the city, or of the Manchus.

“2. No killing of his soldiers or officers.

“3. Safe conduct for himself out of the city on his way north via Pukow, together with his own men.

“These were rather staggering for our faith to propose to a victorious army which had its enemy demoralised, and most of the officers were only too willing to admit it. Furthermore, neither Chang Hsuin nor any one else knew who was in command of the rebels, nor where he might be found. However, arrangements were immediately made for our going out of the South Gate, and within half an hour we were off, Mr. Tseo, U.S. Vice-Consul Gilbert, and myself, together with four of the bodyguard of General Chang. We went through the South Gate just at twelve noon. The comparatively few loyal troops stationed on the South Gate, Tung Tsi Gate, Hung Wu Gate, and the Chao Yang Gate in turn sent word on ahead down the wall not to fire on us as we skirted the wall trying to find the rebel forces. We carried the American flag and also a white flag. A few of the thatched-roof houses along the way were burned, but few other signs of war could be seen. As we neared the Chao Yang Gate the shells being fired from the lower peak of Purple Mt., apparently into the Imperial or Manchu city, whistled through the air, but far enough away to be only interesting. It was not till we got within {157}sight of the Ming tombs that we could see the rebels, most of whom were on the top of the mountain, but we made for a small group on the lower foothills, and about two o’clock came up to them.

“A quiet, self-contained person seemed to be in charge of the group, and upon asking him where the general in command was, he replied that he was that person, so we were extremely fortunate, and stated our errand at once. The first two propositions were agreed to very readily, but of course the third was impossible. We then got his terms of surrender, which were:—

1. Chang Hsuin must surrender, but could live in any place in the city he chose, where his life would be fully protected until the final settlement of China’s present difficulties.

2. All of his troops must lay down their arms in a certain drill-ground in the city, and come out of Taiping Gate empty-handed, and be permitted to depart one by one.

3. Government funds in the hands of the military authorities, amounting to about $800,000, must be turned over to the new Power.

4. The above terms must be complied with by eight o’clock on December 2nd—that is, the next morning.

“After a pleasant farewell we returned to General Chang’s yamen, arriving about five p.m. The General positively refused to consider the terms, declaring that he would have to fight till death, and could not be persuaded to alter his mind. We told him that, such being the case, we felt no longer safe under his protection, and would ask for safe conduct out of the city, which was readily granted, and plans were made for those not absolutely needed for the Red Cross work to leave the city early the next morning. However, about ten o’clock, General Chang’s secretary again came over, saying that the General with a number of {158}his men had fled the city by the I Feng Gate and were to cross the river at Pukow and try to make their way northward. In about an hour we were able to confirm this rumour as fact, and so Dr. Macklin, who was personally well acquainted with the highest officer, who had not gone out with his General, and whose sentiments he knew, found out that he and his soldiers—about a thousand—were willing to run up the white flag at daylight, so we decided not to leave the city. About five o’clock Dr. Macklin with his officer went to the Taiping Gate, where they were soon joined also by the American Vice-Consul. The firing was quite heavy by this time, it having begun before daylight, but as soon as the white flag together with the American flag was seen the General sent a messenger down to see what it meant, and when he knew it was the peace representative of the day before and that the soldiers were willing to surrender, he was willing that the loyal officer with the Vice-Consul, Dr. Macklin, and Mr. Garrett come outside and arrange the details. This they did at once, and General Ling, the rebel leader, and General Chao, the one highest in command of the loyal troops in the city, stepped aside and made arrangements that were mutually satisfactory, the character of which was not fully divulged. General Chao then made his men stack arms, and they marched out empty-handed, and the laying down of arms of the remaining loyal troops had proceeded satisfactorily all day, judging by all appearances. It was not long before white flags were flying on Lion Hill forts, the Drum Tower, and many other places. The troops began to pour into the city and were detailed off to their respective stations according to previously arranged plans apparently, and the city began to rejoice after its long days of waiting and uncertainty. Occasional shots have been heard throughout the day, but probably nearly all of them are for the moral effect upon those inclined to take advantage of a possible confusion to-night to loot.”

{159}
Any one entering Nanking the day after would never have known from the look of things that anything had happened. Most of the Revolutionary soldiers had entered the city. An extra large force of police were patrolling the streets; the people were going about their business as usual and perfect order prevailed. The Revolutionists, unmoved from Wuchang, had gained Nanking and lost Hanyang: the Imperialists had lost Nanking and had gained Hanyang. This was the position when peace was thought of. On the last day of November I was personally asked, as one representing the China Press of Shanghai, to publish the following statement to the world as embodying General Li Yuan Hung’s wishes:—

“I desire an armistice in order to communicate with the other republican centres, that I may ascertain their views whether the conflict will be carried on or whether the Republicans will meet in conference with the constitutional monarchists to arrange a compromise.

“I myself have all along desired to put an end to the internecine warfare, the bloodshed and suffering, the destruction of property, and the dangers of foreign intervention.

“To this end I now declare my willingness to make any concession which will insure an end to the slaughter. My plan is to have the Republicans and the Government proclaim an armistice so that the issues can be discussed by proper representatives of both parties.

“If, however, the united Republicans of the nation desire the war to continue, I am willing to remain in the field and continue to the bitter end.”

 

* * * * *

The issues were now, so it seemed, a Monarchical Government or a Republican Government—the Manchus, every one believed, had been eradicated for ever. And at this juncture it will give the reader a better idea of the political situation in Peking if I reproduce an official statement published a few days previous by Yuan Shih K’ai. It reads as follows:—

“China has, through centuries, been in a sense loosely governed. We have had what might be termed a crude or patriarchal form of {160}monarchy, the slackness of the governing body resulting in the people developing little respect for government and very little understanding of the responsibilities of a people toward a government. The present agitation for a Republic has carried to the people as a mass only the idea that popular government means no taxes and no government. I can see in it, under existing conditions, no promise of stability, at least not for several tens of years. Among the progressives of the Empire there are now two schools of thought, one favouring a Republic and the other a constitutional monarchy. I doubt whether the people of China are at the present time ripe for a Republic or whether under present conditions a Republic is adapted to the Chinese people. The situation in China is complicated by a number of different factors perhaps not understood abroad.

“In the first place there still exists among the masses a strong sectional and provincial feeling. While this has undoubtedly died out among those educated on modern lines, still this is only a comparatively small element of the country’s vast population. In considering the form of government to give stability it is necessary to consider the vast majority of the people rather than the small minority.

“It is already manifest that the interests of the different sections of the country are very diverse. We find the advocates of Republicanism splitting among themselves. The educational, army, local gentry, and commercial parties have all divergent views. Small groups are being formed and struggling for ascendancy. If that is permitted to develop on a large scale, there will be a split-up and this evidently will bring foreign interference and partition. Although the Manchu government has done nothing that has drawn to it the hearts of the people, yet with the power of the people restricted as provided by the nineteen articles forming the constitutional bill of rights, the real governing power would be in the hands of the people.

“The adoption of the limited monarchy would bring conditions back to the normal, would bring stability, much more rapidly than that end could be attained through any experimental form of government unsuited to the genius of the people or to conditions as they are found in China.

“My love for China and the Chinese people is certainly as great as that of any of those who are advocating the radical step of establishing a Republic. My sincerity in the cause of reform has been demonstrated. I have undertaken what is really a stupendous task, not through any desire for power, nor love of fame but solely in the hope of being able to restore order out of chaos and to do some good for China.

“I am still hopeful of reaching some compromise that will satisfy all elements of the people sincerely desirous of preserving the integrity of the country and restoring peace and stable government throughout the {161}land. I believe the Chinese to be a reasonable people and that there is no desire on the part of any considerable element to see the country disrupted and destroyed. What I am working for is a compromise with the advanced or Republican party with a view to ending the suffering and removing the troubles and complications with which this country is beset and threatened.

“With regard to the character and magnitude of the ‘independence’ movements. I do not regard the situation to have been carried beyond the possibility of compromise. Governmental authority has, it is true, been overthrown in the capitals of most of the provinces and a few men in each have framed something similar to a declaration of independence, but this does not seem to me to imply absolute secession of these provinces. In most of these capitals, the control is in the hands of conservative citizens who are holding the situation on something like a neutral basis. Their object is primarily to keep down anarchy. They desire to preserve order, to protect life and the property of the people. While the more radical elements are insisting upon a republic the better elements seem to me to be neutral. I have favoured a project to gather together from the different provinces the men who enjoy the confidence of the people in order that there may be a thorough discussion of the great question of what the form of China’s government shall be.

“I believe that question should be discussed sanely and soberly. It is too big a question to be discussed in heat and passion.

“My only reason in favouring the retention of the present Emperor is that I believe in a constitutional monarchy. If we are to have that form of government, there is nobody else whom the people would agree upon for his place.

“Of course the reforms wiping out the distinctions between Chinese and Manchus must be made effective in any event.

“The great question, the overshadowing question, is the preservation of China. To accomplish this end all patriots should be willing to sacrifice secondary considerations of policy and of course all considerations of self. My sole aim in this crisis is to save China from Dissolution and the many evils that would follow. If we are to save China there must be a stable Government and at once. Every day’s delay is dangerous. I hope the same progressive thought of the country will see this, and will co-operate with me to secure the all-important end.

“The task I have undertaken is as thankless as it is stupendous. I am being subjected to misrepresentation, criticism, attack from all sides. This is to be expected. I must stand it.

“But I do not intend to let it swerve me from my endeavour to do what I conceive to be my highest duty, which is to labour solely for the end of preserving China from disruption and from dissolution.”

 

{162}
But about this time it was fortunate that the start of peace came, as a surprise to us all. Before Hanyang fell Yuan Shih K’ai had been endeavouring—so it was reported from Peking—to get peace talk started. He was afraid of what was coming.

December 4th should be the day upon which the historian of the Revolution will fix as the most important moment in the whole of this war. For at 8 a.m. a truce for three days commenced, and high authority on both sides stated that both Imperialists and Revolutionists hoped strongly that the lull of fighting would be productive of definite terms of peace. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, till eight o’clock in the morning—after then, what? And seeing that in China no thinking person is foolish enough to think himself a prophet, even of the most truly expected, it seems that to give a general idea of the situation at the front at this time would be perhaps the best that one can do. During these days I had several conversations with high officers in both camps, and was perhaps better informed on the possibilities than most folk, but from the first I made up my mind that a great surprise awaited me if the peace talk were successful. I was frequently in the camps of both parties. As for the Revolutionary party, there was hardly any camp left, if buildings made it. For a large fire at the Provincial Assembly Hall had pretty well ruined that magnificent edifice, and General Li Yuan Hung and his bewildered associates shifted their offices to a smaller and more sheltered spot in Wuchang. But it was very little use going to them for information, for they themselves were wondering what the victors intended to do. They themselves had made full arrangements for clearing out, had very little hope that Wuchang would be saved, believed that Yuan’s army would now sweep them up, and so had but scant belief in the sincerity of Yuan Shih K’ai in calling for peace.

THE UBIQUITOUS BOY. The last to leave the Sing Seng Road when the Imperialists took possession was a boy, who coolly blazed off all his ammunition. The first to return was the small boy–in search of fun or treasure.
THE UBIQUITOUS BOY.
The last to leave the Sing Seng Road when the Imperialists
took possession was a boy, who coolly blazed off all his
ammunition. The first to return was the small boy—in
search of fun or treasure.
One morning I called at the office, just below the {163}Tachimen Railway Station, to interview the secretary of Yuan—a Mr. Wong Kai Wen—who had full administrative control here. To be in the presence of Mr. Wong is to be with a man who makes you feel his deep thoroughness. His essential alertness holds you. His deep, penetrating eyes look at the thing and take in the vital parts at a glance. He is acute, not to be deceived; frankness, touched with a little Chinese sleekness, looks you straight in the eyes when he speaks to you, and altogether the man Yuan chose to wait behind and direct affairs at this end magnificently fills the bill. About him there were no signs of the military. He knows practically nothing about the way to lead an army into battle, but not a single thing of official note passed him. He looked just like a respectable member of the teacher community. His long dark-blue wadded gown and his ordinary round hat, Chinese shoes and socks, his small queue, his slender moustache, which he thoughtfully pulled at when he talked to me—all these and many other characteristics told me that he was typically Chinese. There was nothing foreign about him in appearance. The things he used were Chinese exclusively. In short, he was a polished Chinese gentleman. But when he addressed me he spoke magnificent English—knows English etiquette as we know it ourselves. These were the rough impressions I got of the man when I found him in a little back room of a private house near to the Imperial base just after Hanyang had been captured.

About him there were many hangers-on. With the military camp not a hundred feet away there was intense excitement, which every one in front of the foreigner was vainly attempting to subdue. Men came in with messages, and were quietly turned aside. Wong rose several times from his chair as he spoke with me, and hurriedly went to listen to some spies who had a story to tell him. ‘Twas all hurry, all was organised capitally and worked smoothly, for there were many {164}men on hand. Along the lines carriages of ammunition were going out towards Hanyang. From Hanyang captured carriages were coming, all tied low down with tarpaulins so that nobody could see. Meantime, there was a rumour in the camp that Yuan had been assassinated, and that the parties were talking peace. And here was Mr. Wong, Yuan’s secretary, reading his dispatches and carrying out his wishes.

Most ardent preparations for further fighting counterbalanced the peace suggestions. Was there to be any more fighting? Ah, who knew? It was not wise to talk of such things. All this was exceptionally difficult business that Chinese should fight Chinese. But who could bring forward any way out of it. No; from Mr. Wong Kai Wen there was no news to be got, but he let drop little things that led one immediately to believe that Yuan’s party were not in for talking peace. They had taken Hanyang, they would soon, so it appeared, have Wuchang, and that would make the Revolutionary cause lost altogether.

This was the impression which the Imperial camp gave to me. Then I went over to the Revolutionary camp, finding that both factions had many palpable differences. To go into General Li Yuan Hung’s offices was to enter a semi-Occidentalised yamen. The staff were dressed in European clothes, they had no queues, their hats were mostly American felts, they talked English more or less, many of them had been trained in American universities. They treated you in an Occidental manner, told you their plans frankly, and one could feel that they were to be believed. They knew and they confessed that the military cause here was gone, but when I questioned them as to the ultimate issue of the Revolution they proudly pointed to certain epochs of history in my own country and asked me whether I thought it possible that the country could ever be again what it had been. The anti-foreignism of the north and the massacring of the foreigners at {165}Sianfu in Shensi they deplored sincerely, and felt that it was in the banditti and the hooliganism in the Empire that they had a problem difficult of satisfactory solution.

I felt the sincerity of those men. Their enthusiasm got into me, I felt that they were a band of young reformers whose only fault lay, not in their ability, not in their determination, not in their belief in how things should be done, but in their little lack of stability and lack of unity. They believed that China must now change, and that the change would not be the kind of change that the Manchu Government would have brought in, but a real reform that would raise the masses of the people and bring China out into the foreground of the world. And as I spoke to those men I felt it, too. But there was one failing, that slight lack of stability. They needed leaders. Not for one moment wishing to minimise the extraordinary powers of calm foresight and sound administrative ability of General Li Yuan Hung, which had kept the whole party together during its most trying times of defeat, the Revolutionary party needed leaders who had been in the business before. They were all apprentices in the art of administrative and national rebuilding, and they needed a few master-men to guide them in their political journeyings. If they failed, however, it was not because they did not wish to do the right thing, not because they did not know how to do it; but because of the lack of downright practical experience; they were not able to give to current events their current bearing upon their one mutual aim.

Here they were, a strong man at the head of them, and all looking confidently towards him, like a lot of schoolboys with a teacher to whom they looked for everything. Immediately after Hanyang fell, the Wuchang party were scared for fear the city would be bombarded and they lose their heads. Within forty-eight hours, however, they had regained their courage. {166}On November 30th, when I went over the river, as my boat pulled into mid-stream, the boatman told me blandly that he should expect at least treble rates, as he ran a great risk in coming at all—the Imperialists were sniping at every boat, he told me, and he felt it was only wise and fair to let me know. Just as he spoke I heard a bullet whizz past me. In a couple of minutes the big gun from Wuchang sent a shell away over my head, which drew fire from a field-piece in the unskilled hands of a very poor gunner on the Hankow side, the shell of which dropped noiselessly into the water a few yards in front of my little boat. Once on the other side, however, there was no further fear from firing. Rumours had been flying round to the effect that Wuchang was being evacuated, and, although on the river-banks people were building their boats and mending their nets as usual, it did not take the mind of a Spencer to take in the remarkable change that had so soon come over the city since the fall of Hanyang. A week previous I had been to Wuchang and was impressed everywhere with the doing and driving of every one in the streets and in the shops, with briskness of trade, and the cocksureness of the people. With their queues discarded they were then doing a roaring trade in small cloth and silk caps, made after a foreign pattern, which they wore proudly in defiance to the little round Manchu hat. These caps were met with at every turn, hung on nails in the wall above the street-vendors’ stall; they were fetching as much as seventy cents apiece. To-day they could be had for twenty. Men who had made their purchases now laid aside the foreign article and fell back to the round hat with the little red knob on the summit. In the streets half the shops were closed, the other half doing a little trade and meanwhile preparing to take away most of the valuable stocks. Huge loads were standing outside the doors ready to be taken away as soon as the busy coolie gangs had time to attend to them; old men and {167}women, carrying all their belongings in small baskets, were tiao-ing as hard as they could go; through the gates, now no longer guarded by a cocksure squad of military, but thrown wide open, came the constant hurrying stream of urban residents, who now were removing to the country. In China at such times as this one is held almost awestruck with the manner in which people clear out. Homes which perhaps had been held together for many generations were being evacuated in a couple of hours—the old father and the old mother took the children, the sons shouldered the heavy family furniture, the wives hobbled along behind with the babies, and altogether they silently went out of the city in a mournful procession. They hardly knew where they were going, but in the city trouble was brewing, and they were taking no risks of being shelled or burned out of their little hovels as had been done to thousands of their race over the river at Hankow.

As I went into the city I must have passed five thousand people—mostly in little processions of sixes and sevens, wending their way through the gates out of range of the fire of guns. I could not help but look upon them in pity, for disappointment was writ large upon their faces. They were some of the great percentage of the Chinese proletariat who delight to go with the crowd, like to shout with the majority. A fortnight earlier the Wuchang Republican party was on the top, was commanding all that came before it, and therefore did the thousands of the non-thinking portion of the community of the capital city delight in being loyal supporters. But now the tide for the time seemed to have turned, they were being bandied about from pillar to post daily, calamity after calamity seemed woefully to overtake them, and they almost wished, as they followed each slowly behind the other in common evacuation, that they had hesitated before plumping for the Revolutionaries. Tea-shops were almost deserted, rice-shops did no business, one felt that {168}the military activity was greatly bluff. Wuchang had suddenly become a forlorn city, and the inhabitants disappointed people. Outside the Assembly Hall the revolutionary flags flapped in the wind, and there was little evidence that the conditions of affairs inside had altered very much, but as I walked up the steps, showed my card, and asked to see the General the staff officers looked askance at me, asked each other whether I was of German nationality, and told me that for some considerable time it would be quite impossible to see General Li. As I moved about the offices, however, I confess to some admiration at the way in which, under all their adverse circumstances and the consequent disappointment which the re-taking of Hanyang must have been to them all, the officers were going about their work with a quiet dignity and assurance that they were working on a thing that was not soon to pass away. One of the young fellows, a man of some four-and-twenty, who one could easily see had been educated in the States, told me that they, were all as confident as could be that their present position was as strong as ever it was.

“The taking of Hanyang,” he told me, “is decidedly unfortunate, but we are making a new nation, a new country—we are not fighting military battles any more. There is now no further need for the killing of men. We are more concerned with the laying down of a new Government, and are desirous of having peace. Yuan Shih K’ai”—and here he paid a fitting tribute to Yuan’s power, although he was not bewilderingly eulogistic of his political squareness—”does not want to fight, so he says. If he is true, why does he not withdraw his army at once and let there be peace? What we shall do now is to retire down towards Shanghai, where we shall probably hold our first delegates’ meeting for the establishment of the Provisional Government, and by so doing we shall show to the world that we are by no means anxious to win our cause by killing our {169}own countrymen. If he wishes to fight, all the world will know now that it is not merely because we are the Revolutionary party, but because he will still be the aggressor. Our policy of evacuating this city is because we feel it wise to do so, so that fighting may cease, and it is indirectly an appeal to the world on behalf of humanity—for it takes two to make a fight.”

But this was very far-fetched, for the Revolutionists were equally keen to show that they had no intention of throwing up the sponge. Nanking’s success subsequently had the effect of firing them with the fighting spirit again, and the fact that the Nanking troops were expected to arrive at Wuchang—although this turned out subsequently to be false—gave a new fillip of enthusiasm to the people. “They are not the new men, the recruits, they are the real trained soldiers,” cried the man-in-the-street, “as good as the best that go to make up the Northern Army.” The news spread rapidly from mouth to mouth, and the already excited soldiers showed increased anxiety because it was feared in their ranks that the rival leaders would so far be successful in their talk about peace that no further fighting would take place.

But no one could get any definite news of how much nearer we were to peace. Meantime at Hanyang and on the Yangtsze above and below that town strongest fortifications were being made. That Hanyang was the stronghold only a visit was needed to convince one; this, however, was difficult, for only the very privileged were afforded passes to go across the river. Things were buzzing at Hanyang; the Imperialist troops were itching for another battle, the whole place was fitted up in a most complete manner for further warfare, the Tortoise Hill was rendered absolutely impregnable, the camps were connected with both telephone and telegraph, and the Imperial army was going about its business as a body who understood thoroughly the business it was following.

{170}
Whatever they may have thought they could do, however, military experts declared that the Revolutionists had no position at all as long as the Imperial guns at Hanyang were able to pour shrapnel into them. With the railway cut off, the supplies of the Imperial forces would of course be cut off too, and in that way the Revolutionists would perhaps have been able to besiege them at Hanyang; but it would have been infinitely tedious. The cruisers, even if they had had ammunition, would under existing circumstances have been of little use. The four-point-seven guns at Hanyang would, with such decided advantage in being able to bang at them from a point where their own guns could not even been seen, have been able to silence them in a very short time. The damage that the Revolutionary guns would have caused to Hanyang would have been infinitesimal, and altogether the Imperial army would have held the trump card all the way along. On the face of things, it appeared little short of sheer madness for the Revolutionists to think of fighting so long as Hanyang were made the main Imperial base. But the Revolutionists themselves did not think so lightly of their chances. They were determined, and among the rank and file the war fever blinded the sight to all possibilities of defeat.

Sufficient has been said, perhaps, to show that further fighting would only take place to gratify the lust for blood of some of the grossly misguided leaders of the rival armies. Among the Republican leaders—General Li Yuan Hung and his party, as distinct from the military officers—the desire that war should forthwith cease was, I believe, absolutely sincere. General Li Yuan Hung had shown the world that what he said he meant: one could not point to a single public utterance from him and find that he had not done all that lay in his power consistently towards working out his promises. Li Yuan Hung was a man of political solidarity—not brilliant, but solid, sound, having an opinion {171}and fearing no one in stating clearly and openly that opinion. Not in one thing, but in dozens throughout this dreadful season of disturbance he had shown that if he failed in carrying out what he said he meant to carry out, it had not been because of any inconsistency of his own so much as of treachery among his army and instability among members of his party. He had announced frankly all along what he wanted, and what he would be prepared to pay for realising sooner or later.

He now stated that he wanted peace—peace at all costs; to re-establish peace and to ensure that the fearful bloodshed should stop, he was prepared to make concessions. The general conduct of Li Yuan Hung, unmarred as it had been by any unharmonious note with other members of his party and marked throughout by a stability of purpose which had surprised the whole world, had been such that his promises could be relied upon. He had shown sufficient of himself to warrant respect from all, friends and enemies alike, for he had acted cleanly. And now he wanted peace.

Meantime many of the most influential foreigners in Hankow were doing all they could to assist in the bringing in of peace. Merchants, missionaries, officials, and others were all anxious to assist with their influence for peace, and if war, with all its carnage and bloodshed and savagery, were again to come to menace this central part of China, it would come only as a direct desire from the Imperial army and with far greater horrors than had yet been seen.

If further war were to come? So much had been seen during the past eight slow-moving weeks to show what devastation and utter social wretchedness could be wrought when men elect to settle their differences by force of arms. The killing of men, the burning of property—these are brutal features, but not the worst by any means. By the side of the horrors that come along in the wake of these ghastly battles, these are barely worth consideration. The slain are, after all, {172}out of the misery they have helped to make. It is those who remain behind—those widows with the hungry, half-clad or naked children, homeless, foodless, friendless, with no roof above them at night but the cold, steely sky—these are the ones who suffer. The whole countryside, with its homeless and foodless people, its ruined, burnt-out hamlets and family homesteads, its ruined rice-crops, its cruel waste so wantonly forced upon it by the Imperialists, cried aloud in its weary desolation for peace. If the war were stopped, one thought that the bloody struggles of the past few weeks would become powerful agents of civilisation, reshaping and remoulding the Old China into a new land and a new people. But further war in that sad, sad country would tend only to make the passions of the armies wax fiercer and the hatreds more bitter.

Peace negotiations meantime hung in the balance. A fifteen-day armistice was agreed to, and by that time it was hoped that the Peace Conference would bring matters finally to a peaceful end.

* * * * *

His Excellency Tang Shao-yi is a magnificent fellow. He is calm, an infinitely human man, kindly disposed, easily approached, had borne a character that was clean. When he was appointed as plenipotentiary to the Peace Conference for Yuan Shih K’ai, the Revolutionists were pleased because Tang Shao-yi was known to be a man of extremely liberal views, sound, and not unsympathetic towards real reform. He had spent some considerable time abroad, and, coming with full power from Yuan Shih K’ai, was hailed with a good deal of pomp when he came to Hankow. In the British Municipal Building Tang Shao-yi had a suite of rooms, and rested in Hankow for a couple of days before going down to Shanghai, where, with mutual consent, the Peace Conference was to be held.

It must be made known that, as soon as Hanyang {173}fell, Dr. Wu Ting Fang, than whom is no better-known Chinese diplomat in the world, assumed a very prominent position in the ambitious Republican party. Dr. Wu Ting Fang was generally recognised to be the best man suited to carry on peace negotiations from the Revolutionary party, and he, with several secretaries and advisers, met Tang Shao-yi and his advisers in Shanghai on December 18, 1911. This conference was looked upon throughout the civilised world as an epoch-making event: it was to be a red-letter day in future histories. “Peace, peace,” ran the legend. Not only was one-quarter of the human race, and all that country and honour and liberty mean to them, immediately involved, but if one had the true prophetic eye he was able to look out upon a change whose effects would spread to the uttermost parts of the civilised globe. The effects of this Peace Conference then about to shape the future of this wonderful land were looked upon as immeasurable, illimitable. Dr. Wu Ting Fang, General Li Yuan Hung, able leaders of a movement shaking Chinese life to its vitals, on the one hand; Tang Shao-yi, Yuan Shih K’ai, representatives of the oldest faction of the whole human race, on the other hand—upon these men rested a world-wide responsibility it has seldom fallen to the lot of men to have had placed upon them.

“Peace, peace; at all costs let us have peace.” So, sincerely as it seemed, cried both parties. That both sides were in earnest there is every reason to believe. Those who knew General Li Yuan Hung, the youngest hero of the world, were able more and more to testify with increasing knowledge of the man that he wished nothing more than that China should be freed from the Manchu yoke. All else he would forego to establish peace that should bring prosperity, a peace that should be permanent and knit the whole Empire together as nothing else could. Those who knew Dr. Wu Ting Fang realised that, as an able leader of {174}modern thought and that party whose aim is progress, he was sincere in all that he did to bring about a China enlightened and able to stand in line with nations of the East and West. Tang Shao-yi was a man whose innate sincerity and true humility in high places had won the confidence of all who knew him. He was, as always he had been, veritably a political prince of peace. He loved his country.

And finally Yuan Shih K’ai. All knew him or of him. Some praised him, but it was a penalty of his greatness that some anathematised him. China to him also was as dear as his fame or his life. There were two pictures: a dawn of peace and tranquillity, a China freed from all racial bitterness, a China plunging manfully out and in her plunge being assisted by all the Powers of the world; the other picture shows a China going down to the deeps of internal despair, renewed hostilities, further bloodshed. And all those who knew what the war had been, those who had seen those twelve thousand mothers’ sons hacked and hewn and blown into eternity by infuriated members of their own great race entertained merely one common hope.

I went down to Shanghai and remained in that city whilst the Peace Conference was in progress. To go from the scene of action in Central China to Shanghai was to pass at one stroke from the din of war to the tranquillity of peace and undisturbed civilisation. Hard indeed was it for any one who had been through the crisis in Hankow actually to realise the peace of China’s great metropolis—the contrast was so enormous as to force it upon one’s imagination that the war was over, that peace assuredly had come. One missed the cannonading, the utter devastation and universal suffering, the burnt-out hamlets and the homeless thousands all over the countryside.

Tang Shao-yi, when he called upon Li Yuan Hung, was reported to have been very surprised at the meagre following that still stood by the Revolutionary leader—of {175}course, several delegates had already left for Shanghai, and he predicted that it would be only a matter of time when we should see the Republicans forced in the very nature of things to take the monarchical course. That General Li Yuan Hung and his supporters had been willing to sink their personal ambitions on behalf of the general welfare of the country had again and again been declared by their leader in the press and by other means. But Tang Shao-yi seemed, when I interviewed him in Hankow just before he sailed for Shanghai, to believe that this was mere Chinese bluff; he declared that they had no other course, and that they did this because they foresaw that their popularity soon would be greatly diminished when the gilt from the official gingerbread had rubbed off.

In the Hankow neighbourhood there were thousands who had no food to eat, no clothes, who had no idea of how they were going to keep body and soul intact during the coming winter, and some of the older conservative school were beginning to question whether it was, after all, worth the candle, and whether it would have been better to have gone in the same old way, bad as that had been. The result of the war in which they took so lively an interest was coming upon them as a horrible nightmare, and I am of the opinion that, although they were as much passively in favour of reform as they had been, four-fifths of the people were horribly tired of waiting for the good times which then seemed farther off than ever. All this was depressing to Tang, coming among it for the first time. But Tang Shao-yi was most generous in his references to General Li Yuan Hung. He thought that the zeal, the disinterestedness, and the abilities with which Li Yuan Hung had carried out so successfully the general principles of the Revolution, the persecution he had suffered and the ignominy that his army had brought to him, and the firmness and independence that he had shown under all circumstances should have had a strong claim {176}upon the sympathies of all people. But the great preponderance of the common people, those who had been hit hardest in the burning of their homes and the loss of all they possessed, were inevitably downcast and wished that it would all pass away and bring anything else so long as peace came with it. Therefore, all looked eagerly to the peace delegates. It was a season most trying to the Revolutionary party, for they were all waiting to see what the outcome of the negotiations would be; and this lull allowed of a little respite for talk. One department at Wuchang was suspected of taking away the power from another, one man from another; some thought that it would be better for General Li to go away and talk peace, whilst others declared that he could not get away because the party would not let him.

Tang Shao Yi, however, would not talk much about the general situation. He told me that he knew very little, that I should know much more than he of what had happened, and would be able to make a fairly good bid as to what would happen in the immediate future, and in spite of the fact that he was Yuan Shih K’ai’s chief peace delegate he could not tell what was in Yuan’s mind. “And you see,” he continued softly, “both sides are now so earnestly seeking for peace that it seems to me that there should not be much trouble about a complete settlement. We realise that they [referring to the Wuchang party] are so strong that we shall have to concede a good deal. There surely cannot be any more war, and if every one means what he says and is prepared to do his best for the best common interests, I think we shall soon complete the Peace Conference.”

Tang Shao Yi then looked into the fire. For some time neither of us spoke. He held his rheumatic-stricken arm under his fur gown, then looked up and switched off from political theorising to small talk.

The Revolutionary delegates, when this Peace Conference {177}was arranged, were in a frame of mind determined not to give way. A criterion of their attitude and aims for the Conference may be drawn from the following interview I was privileged to secure as I travelled down-river to Shanghai on board the same steamer with three of General Li Yuan Hung’s delegates. The chief man was one Hu Ying, whose main statement was as follows:—

“Our attitude towards Yuan Shih K’ai is summed up in a single sentence. If he obstinately upholds the Manchu Dynasty against the wishes of the people, then he is doomed for ever. He may succeed in overriding the wishes of the people for awhile, but no single man, however able, will be able to stand in the way of the people.

“We do not wish this to be a fight with arms. We know that it would take a good deal of time for us to be able to stand man for man with the Imperial Army, but we know that we have half the world at our back.”

 

Now, Mr. Hu Ying, this same man, some years ago narrowly escaped losing his head for being mixed up in an alleged Revolutionary escapade that cost his more enthusiastic confederate his head. He was the President of the Foreign Office of the Hupeh Government when I interviewed him. He was a man who to a very large extent had been the prime mover in the Republican dream of the future. For many years a strong Revolutionist, he had, however, been called upon to study the arts of Revolutionism in prison. For when the Revolution broke out he was still behind the prison bars in Wuchang, and under normal conditions would have passed the remainder of a miserable life dreaming of the great reforms he now hoped to help forward. He was a man who incontestably had the confidence of Li Yuan Hung. Mr. Hu was only one of a number of delegates sent down to join with Dr. Wu Ting Fang in upholding the Republican side of the argument against Tang Shao Yi and his assistants. They all represented General Li Yuan Hung and thoroughly understood his ideas. Mr. Hu and another of the {178}delegates—a Mr. C. T. Wang, who was a graduate of an American University and in China held the responsible position of the National Secretaryship of the Y.M.C.A. in China—were chosen to assist Dr. Wu by representatives of the various Revolutionary provinces represented at Wuchang. Hu Ying was a short, rather stout Chinese, who told me frankly that he felt fearfully out of it because he could not speak my foreign words, and a man who would never be taken seriously at first sight as one capable of shaping the foreign policy of the Chinese Empire. As a matter of fact, he was nervous with foreigners—it may be, of course, that his long term in prison had made him so—and looked up rather timidly over the steel rims of his glasses as he spoke. He laughed with buoyant candour over his own jokes, and was somewhat of a caricature in his foreign felt hat that was the only sign about him that he had ambitions for Occidentalising his country.

This hat was worn far back over his head in much the same way as he had been used to wearing the little round one; his glasses were tilted forward considerably on his little squat nose, his uneven teeth did not tend to enhance his personal beauty, and as one looked down upon him the only item in his general appearance that came in for admiration were his exquisitely furred silk gowns. ‘Twas cold, so he wore three of them, the top one a brilliant flowered blue. He was also a little short-sighted, had a slight stoop, endeavoured vainly to grow a moustache, had a queueless head of outrageously unkempt hair, and did not look a statesman. But he was one. In those jet-black eyes one could often see the fire of unquenchable enthusiasm as he spoke of the possibilities of his own country. He was, perhaps, what one would be justified in calling a typical Revolutionist. There was a cut about them all that was non-Chinese, and yet at heart, in word, and thought, they themselves were essentially Chinese. Perhaps this {179}was not so striking at Shanghai and other places on the coast, but one could tell in the Wuchang centre at a glance those who were rampant Revolutionists; the foreign cap worn on the rough, queueless head, the foreign boot, the alleged foreign coat sometimes and other desiderata of clothing, neither foreign nor Chinese, which had become sadly out of joint—these were the undeniable characteristics.

“Of course, you have been a Revolutionary for some years, have you not?” I asked Hu Ying.

Well, yes, he had. Some years ago—and he looked half-ashamedly at me, as if he were not quite sure whether it were now a fit subject for review—a very dear friend of his had been beheaded, and he had expected to be, for being rather outspoken and acting daringly along the direct line of their thought in regard to the way in which their country should progress. His references to prison life were not enthusiastic, although for sheer helplessness he laughed heartily now and again during the conversation as he recalled certain epochs of his years in gaol. He thought it most unjust, of course, and now that he was out and had been entrusted with the responsible duties of partly moulding the foreign policy of a New China, he saw plainly that his duty lay in working as hard as he could—and this, he informed me, he fully intended doing. The man who had lost his head would have been a good man, too, just at this juncture, but the poor fellow, a master in the Boone University in his time, had now paid the price with his head.

“And I think that every man in China who believes in his country and his own race can be nothing else than a Revolutionist—we are reformers rather, and no matter whether we belong to the Republican party, the Monarchical party, or any other party, if we love our country as we should, we must all be Revolutionists.”

His ensuing references to the Manchurian Dynasty, not bubbling over with praise, could have no purpose {180}were they printed here, save to show how great was the hatred of the Wuchang party towards the old rulers of China. During the conversation he referred to his companion, Mr. Sun Fa Shu, a portly, aristocratic gentleman dressed immaculately in latest foreign fashion—a long green tweed overcoat, a slouch cloth hat, gloves, walking-stick, and all the rest of it.

Mr. Sun all along had been the right-hand man of General Li Yuan Hung. Nothing happened in the Revolutionary court without Mr. Sun’s knowledge. He it was who framed all the Revolutionary edicts that had awakened the world, and was looked upon as the scholar of the camp. To his finger-tips he was an aristocrat. He spoke low and slowly, thoughtfully always, gave little gestures now and again to add to his meaning and to make it clear in Chinese, and showed great approbation when we caught the drift of his argument. Both these men in their conversation were charitable to every member of the Government, eulogistic of some, and would not have me for a moment believe that they wished to say anything wrong about any one. They were, they said, merely telling me truthfully what they thought. I referred to the length of time negotiations would take, and suggested that people would tire of waiting for the good times supposed to be coming. Did they think that the great bulk of the common people of China actually understood what the issues were?

Mr. Sun, with his gold-rimmed spectacles shining in the sunlight, looked from my feet straight into my eyes. He spoke with low emphasis. “There is, perhaps, no other nation in the world,” he began, “that loves peace and is so good-natured and patient as the Chinese. Yet when they are provoked they strike back with vigour. The Manchu arrogance and corruption are things which very few nations could bear. That we have borne them for over two hundred years shows our patience, but”—and he raised his delicate finger with {181}a slight shake to show his feeling on the point—”to everything there is a limit. The blow has now been struck, and the hundreds and thousands of patriots in China will never lay down their arms until the Manchu Dynasty is wiped out of existence and the Chinese once more manage their own affairs and in their own way.” Here he stopped, turned slightly in the indignation which his own thoughts gave him, and remained looking at his companion, who said nothing.

“But if the Manchu Dynasty has done some harm, surely you must admit that it has taught the people, no matter in what way, how to preserve peace and to love it?” I asked perseveringly.

“Much of the backwardness of the Chinese nation, as a nation,” retorted Sun Fa Shu, “has been due largely to the misrule of the Manchu Dynasty. Everybody knows it. Everybody admits it. Its first principle has been how to keep the people of China as ignorant and as poor as possible. For knowledge and wealth, when acquired by the Chinese, cannot but impair the supremacy of the Manchus, which has been maintained, like highway robbery, by sheer force. A China emancipated, therefore, means a China prosperous and enlightened. Except one or two nations whose principles are not above those of the Manchus, and who delight in land-grabbing and carnage of warfare, we feel sure that the world desires China to be a progressive and enlightened country.”

“But do you think the Revolutionary party, as it is, strong enough to establish conditions which shall permanently make for peace and real progress?”

At this point Mr. Hu Ying spoke. He said that he was convinced that they could, and if at first they could not institute ideal conditions, they would if they were given time. “The Anglo-Saxons,” he continued, “have taught the world the great lesson of government by representation—the Revolutionary movement aims at what they have shown us. We aim at the overthrow {182}of a decadent Court, and the establishment of a Government which shall respond to the will of the people. In the endeavour to bring about such a representative government, Young China, we know full well, has much to learn. But it has been conceded by all people that there is no school so efficient as the——”

Hu Ying was waiting for a word when the third delegate, a graduate from one of the American universities and an ardent enthusiast in the New Government, gave the translation as “the school of experience, the school of ‘hard knocks,'” and thereby caused a smile.

“And,” went on Hu, “let us have a chance to learn, and in a decade or two the world shall see the possibilities and genius of our people for representative government.”

“What do you consider the main point upon which the two parties will have difficulty in seeing eye to eye about at the Peace Conference?” I asked of the three.

Simultaneously they spoke, and then the two gave way to Sun Fa Hsu. With fitting dignity he replied that the one solitary point which the Revolutionists would never waive was their demand for the abolition of the Manchu Dynasty. And so these three representatives of the Revolutionary party of Wuchang were of one determined mind upon this vital question; their party would waive anything else, perhaps, but not that. They were immovable. I suggested that perhaps if peace terms could not be arranged they might be forced to give way even on this point also. But they said they would not; “No, if there must be Manchu rule again, then we must again go to war, much as we do not wish to. And there are thousands who will die before they again submit.

“When that point is settled,” said Sun Fa Hsu with some vigour, “then all other points can easily be adjusted. Upon that alone everything hinges. We are fighting for the freedom of our people from the Manchu yoke.”

{183}
“Do you in Wuchang still hold out so strongly for the Republican form of government as you did? I know that General Li Yuan Hung is anxious for a Republic, but do you think there are many who would rather see a Republic than anything else?”

“Whether we should have a Constitutional Monarchy or a Republic we are prepared to leave with the people. What they want we want, and we are prepared to leave the matter for a decision by the vote of the people. For our part, we advocate a Republican form of government, as the Chinese are democratic in their nature and their habits. Even under an absolute monarch careful observers of the Chinese political tendency have remarked that the Chinese Government is a democracy superseded by a monarchy. In other words, the Imperial rule has not been a natural outgrowth of the political habits of the Chinese people, but has been allowed to exist simply because no better substitute has been found. We think we have now found the substitute. It is in a president who is responsible to the people, and yet who, at times when emergency demands, could wield powers greater even than those exercised by a king or an emperor.”

“Do you think that Yuan Shih K’ai will be the first President?”

Mr. Sun did not speak for some time. He waited for me to ask the question a second time, and even then did not seem inclined to commit himself. At length he replied:—

“I do not know. Our attitude to Yuan Shih K’ai may be summed up in a single sentence. If he obstinately upholds the Manchu Dynasty against the wishes of the people, then he is doomed for ever. He may succeed in overriding the wishes of the people for a while, but no single man, however able, will be allowed to stand in the way of the people. On the other hand, the opportunity now presents itself for Yuan Shih K’ai to earn the everlasting gratitude of the nation {184}in yielding to their wishes in putting an end to the Manchu Dynasty once and for all. If he does this, Yuan Shih K’ai will show himself a wise man. We know that it would take some time for us to stand man for man with the Imperial Army, but we have half a world at our back.”

DR. WU TING-FANG. Minister of Law in the new Republic.
DR. WU TING-FANG.
Minister of Law in the new Republic.
The above sentiments may be taken as a fair example of the views held by the Revolutionary leaders on the point of meeting at the Peace Conference. These men, hitherto unknown to the world—always excepting men of the stamp of Wu Ting Fang and Tang Shao-yi—were now making history on a gigantic scale, reformers who had just sprung into being as it seemed, but whose whole past bore testimony to the manner in which they had been working for China’s great era of reform and progress.

* * * * *

In the following chapter will be found a résumé of the Peace Conference, unsatisfactory as it was in most respects.

 

 

{185}

CHAPTER XIII

THE PEACE CONFERENCE—A MONARCHY OR A REPUBLIC?
The Peace Conference met at Shanghai on December 18th.

Dr. Wu Ting Fang, who was the Chief Commissioner on the Revolutionist side, is well known. He was educated in Hongkong, and afterwards qualified for the Bar in England. He practised in Hongkong for a little time, and also acted as Police Magistrate. Later on he joined the Chinese Government service under the late Marquis Li Hung-chang. He became Minister to the United States, Spain, and Peru in 1896, and was appointed Vice-President of the Board of Commerce and then of the Waiwupu in Peking. In 1906 he became Vice-President of the Board of Punishments, and was engaged in revising the Chinese code of laws. He retired in that year, and in 1907 went to the United States a second time to represent China as Envoy. He is a firm believer in rational diet. He originated and was made President of the Rational Diet Society and anti-Tobacco Movement in Shanghai, which became very popular.

Of the Revolutionary delegates, Wen Tsung-yao also hailed from Hongkong, and was educated in the Government Central School in that colony over twenty years ago. After that he was engaged in the Peiyang University in Tientsin. From 1905 to 1908 he went to Canton as Secretary to ex-Viceroy Tsen Chuan-hsuan, and in June, 1908, he was appointed to Lhassa as {186}Assistant-Amban, and was removed from office after the ex-Dalai Lama was deposed by Edict. Wang Chung-hui is a Cantonese student who graduated from college in America. He also studied in Europe, and is versed in law. Wang Chao-ming is celebrated for his attempt to assassinate the ex-Prince Regent, for which offence he was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was released when the recent pardon was granted to all reformers and political offenders. Wang Cheng-ting, who is a returned student from the United States, and Hu Ying are delegates appointed by General Li Yuan Hung.

#Tang Wu
Shao-yi Ting-Fang*
+——————————+
#Er Kuan | o o | Wen
Chan. | o o | Tseng Yao.*
| |
#Hsu | | Wang
Ting Lin. | o o | Chou Wei.*
| |
#Chao | | Wang
Chun Ni. | o o | Chow Ning*
| |
#Feng | | New
Ih Tung. | o o | Yung Kee.*
| o |
+——————————+
Wang Chen Ting.*

* Republicans. #Imperialists.

Up to the time my manuscript went forward to the publishers I was unable to get any special information regarding the Imperial delegates. Of Tang Shao-yi, however, much is known. He had played many an important part on the political platform of his country, and was, undoubtedly, a man calculated safely to direct the affairs of the Imperial side into safe channels. At the time he was appointed to represent Yuan Shih K’ai he occupied an important position, and, because he had {187}had a career most successful as a diplomat, was chosen as the man of all the men the Imperial body were able to secure as most likely to commit no political errors. Tang Shao-yi is one of the ablest statesmen in China to-day.

The table at the Conference was arranged as on opposite page.

For more than four hours these two Cantonese—Wu and Tang—with their colleagues, held secret conference in the Town Hall of Shanghai, with the object of deciding on terms of peace which were expected to involve a decision as to the future form of government in China. At the end of the session the following statement, initialed by both commissioners, was handed out as a memorandum of the happenings of the day:—

“1. Exchange of credentials.

“2. Commissioner Tang agrees to wire Yuan Shih K’ai conveying the demand of the Republicans that the order to stop fighting and capturing of places by the Manchu Army should be carried out effectively in Hupei, Shansi, Shensi, Shantung, Anhui, Kiangsu, and Fengtien, and that no further conference should be held until a satisfactory reply from Yuan Shih K’ai has been received.

“3. Commissioner Wu agrees to wire to General Li Yuan Hung of Hupei and the Republican Generals of Shansi and Shensi ordering them to discontinue fighting and further attacks upon the Manchu troops.”

 

At the opening of the Conference Mr. Tang made a short address. He told of his appointment to come to Shanghai for the Conference, and expressed the hope that it would be successful. He then presented his credentials to Dr. Wu. The latter examined them, and then expressed a similar hope that the Conference would result in great good for China. His credentials were then given to Mr. Tang, and the Conference was begun. Although these assistants were admitted to the meeting they had no voice in its affairs, the two commissioners alone carrying on the discussion. No one of Dr. Wu’s assistants was allowed to address Mr. Tang directly, nor were any of Mr. Tang’s assistants allowed to {188}address Dr. Wu. Instead they could offer suggestions to their leaders, either by written note or by whispers. Tang Shao-yi expressed his personal readiness to accept Dr. Wu’s demands for a Republic, but deferred a definite answer until he had communicated with Yuan Shih K’ai. With the exception of an agreement that the armistice should be extended for a week, ending December 31st, this was the result of the Conference, as told in the official statement given out at the end. The statement, headed “Authentic Account of To-day’s Peace Conference,” was as follows:—

“1. It is mutually agreed that the armistice should be extended for a period of seven days, i.e., from December 24, 8 a.m., to December 31, 8 a.m.

“2. Dr. Wu Ting Fang advocated the necessity of establishing a Republican form of government for China. He believed that China is fully prepared to welcome a new Republic. He said, in substance, as follows:

“The people of China will accept no other form of government than a Republic founded upon the will of the people. Since we can appoint delegates to represent us both in the various provincial assemblies and in the National Assembly at Peking, why are we not qualified to elect a President as the Chief Executive of the nation?

“The Manchus have shown their utter impossibility to govern the people for 267 years. They must go out. A government may be well likened to a trading company: if the manager through incapacity or dishonesty causes the failure of the concern, he has no business to continue in office. A new manager must be elected by the shareholders. The Republican Party does not intend to drive the Manchus out, nor to ill-treat them. On the contrary, they want to place them on perfect equality with the Chinese, enjoying together the blessings of liberty, equality, and fraternity.”

The official statement of the day’s proceedings, as handed out to the Chinese newspapers, was practically the same as that given to the foreign papers, except that it contained the following additional statement as being made by his Excellency Tang Shao-yi:—

“Personally, I am in favour of a Republic, which is the only solution of the present crisis. But we must not in the Conference overlook the integrity of Manchuria, Mongolia, Tibet, and other dependencies.”

 

{189}
To which Dr. Wu replied:—

“The Republic does not denote the integrity and union of the eighteen provinces only.”

 

Tang Shao-yi replied to this:—

“I will have to telegraph to Yuan Shih K’ai as regards the Republican question.”

 

This Conference between the plenipotentiaries of the Peking Government and the Revolutionary groups was looked upon as a meeting of tremendous importance to the nation of China. Indeed, it was not too much to say that the fate of the Empire was to turn on the issue. The whole world would observe the proceedings and criticise the outcome with intense interest. Tang Shao-yi and Wuting-Fang, chief plenipotentiaries of the opposing parties, were to either earn the applause of civilisation or be condemned for having failed to rise to the opportunity of setting China firmly in the path of progress, which was to be presented by this extraordinary collocation of circumstances.

First may be considered what the situation probably would be if hostilities were resumed. At present the Yangtze River approximated a dividing line between territories controlled by the Government and Revolutionaries. Some localities north of the river had been in revolt, but a majority of these had returned to Imperial allegiance, being apparently satisfied with the concessions granted, and others showed a disposition to do the same. It seemed reasonable to assume that if the nation were to have civil war the country would divide north against the south, with the Yangtze River as a general line of demarcation.

The Peking Government had the advantage of being recognised by foreign nations, a condition which would continue while it remained in possession of the capital and any considerable region surrounding it. It had almost all of the modern drilled army, and a great {190}majority of the trained officers. It had better military equipment. The Government still controlled the Imperial railways of North China, the Peking-Hankow Railway, and the Tientsin-Pukou Railway over the greater part. Thus it would be able to concentrate troops at any given point along or north of the Yangtze more easily than the Revolutionists. Moreover, the Imperial troops were accustomed to and equipped to endure a cold climate, and winter had the northern part of the country in its grip. What forces the Revolutionaries could put in the field north of the Yangtze River was not definitely known. Except a few thousand trained troops, any army assembled for the purpose of advancing upon Peking or resisting an advance of the Imperial Army would be composed of raw recruits officered in the main by inexperienced men. Such an army would be ill provided to undertake a winter campaign in the north. Without further analysis the mooted march of a Revolutionary Army to Peking could be dismissed as visionary, unless it was assumed that the Imperial Army was disloyal and would desert the Government. There was now no very tangible basis for such an expectation. Yuan Shih K’ai, the creator of the new army which had always been loyal to him, still held the respect of the soldiers. It was one thing for the new army and its leaders to be dissatisfied with the old order of things at Peking: it was quite another to assume that it was dissatisfied with the form of government proposed by Yuan Shih K’ai, its former and present commander. The army knew Yuan, and what to expect from him. It did not know the Revolutionary leaders, except one here and there, and it did not know what treatment it would receive from a Revolutionary Government after what had happened. If it were assumed that the Northern Army would remain loyal to Yuan Shih K’ai, an early occupation of Peking by the Revolutionists was practically impossible. This was a task which would require a campaign of a year {191}or perhaps more—if it could ever be accomplished. The Imperialists might not have been able to penetrate south of the Yangtze, but they would have had no great difficulty in holding the territory under their control. And in the event of schisms and disintegration of the Republicans, the Government should have been able in time to recover its dominion in all the provinces. This was a phase which the Revolutionists had to consider. Hitherto the processes of disintegration and discontent had worked almost altogether in their favour.

Prolongation of hostilities, therefore, would seem to presage a temporary, perhaps a permanent, division of the Empire into two parts, and the subjection of the country and the people to the horrors and disasters which inevitably attend such internecine struggles. The calamities which would befall under these circumstances were obvious. Six months of such conditions would probably create a counter-revolution in the southern provinces. Conditions in the north would have been somewhat similar, but probably not so bad, as the Government had a firmer grip on affairs and would be able to keep outlawry within bounds. In this discussion it is assumed, of course, that Chinese would be left to fight it out among themselves, without foreign intervention. Foreign intervention, which it would be difficult to avoid if hostilities were to be prolonged indefinitely, would bring its own problems and dangers. Such aspects were presented by the alternative of war.

These were some of the chief considerations which were to weigh upon the plenipotentiaries. There seemed only one point of serious divergence—whether the new Government would follow the Monarchical or the Republican form. If the former were elected, it probably would mean that the present Dynasty would be retained, although perhaps reigning under a different name, for neither Revolutionists nor Monarchists had another emperor to propose. If a Republic were to be decided {192}upon, the Government which would be instituted would differ only in title from a Constitutional Monarchy; therefore, the argument was more about mere terms than about realities. Objections to the retention of the monarchy were based upon two principal theories. One was that with the Manchu Dynasty on the throne the liberty of the Chinese would not be secure—that the Dynasty must be overthrown and the capital removed from Peking in order to shake off for ever the atmosphere and associations of the old regime. Another objection was that, under the monarchical form, Yuan Shih K’ai would be virtual dictator, and then he would use his power to place himself on the throne. In certain quarters Yuan was certainly credited with having this ambition—as one Chinese put it, he wanted to be China’s Napoleon, not her George Washington. But it seemed that if Yuan had this ambition, a Republic such as would of necessity exist in China would be exactly what he would want. Napoleon began his rise to power as a Republican. If Yuan desired to make himself emperor, he could adopt no more favourable course than to accept the presidency of a Republic now, biding his time, as Napoleon did, until the inevitable reaction set in, and the transition back to an Empire would be comparatively easy. On the other hand, continuation of the Dynasty and Imperial forms constituted a check on such ambition, if it existed, for it provided a focus for loyalty of the people without in any practical way hampering administration of the Government on constitutional lines. Should Yuan Shih K’ai concede the point at issue and assent to a Republic, what then? A Republic would have the same difficulties as a Constitutional Monarchy, difficulties which well might baffle the ablest statesmanship. If peace should be established, there still would remain all the great problems which make China an invalid among nations, accentuated by famine, and the strain of the Revolution. Could a Republic solve these offhand? Or would {193}a republic have a better prospect? If there were any difference in favour of either of the two forms of government a Constitutional Monarchy would have less difficulty. A Republic would be handicapped in its attempts to restore order, and put the administration of the Government back on a normal basis by expectations of the people which it could not fulfil. To do this it would be compelled to have money. It would be compelled, almost immediately, to make a foreign loan, a policy which Revolutionists had been denouncing in the Peking Government. It would be compelled to continue many forms, conditions, and processes which Revolutionists had criticised in the Manchu Government, and had led the people to expect would be abolished immediately. It would have to resume collection of taxes in localities where the Revolutionary Press had led the people to believe they would be reduced or abrogated altogether. It would, until a new code be devised and put into operation, have to administer the existing laws. In short, a Republican Government would be absolutely compelled to do many of the things which its leaders had been criticising the Manchu Government for permitting. It would have to reckon with a large number of upstart leaders and their henchmen brought forth by the Revolution, and who one and all looked forward to securing good positions in the new Government. What the immediate future of China would be under a Republic none could at the time of the Conference foresee.

And although the issue of the Revolution remains still in doubt, one was at the start of the Conference in a better position to realise the nature and strength of its motive forces. Clearly this Revolutionary movement in China was not inspired solely or even mainly by the desire to press through a reform, too long delayed, of the corrupt Chinese Government. Nor was the general cry that the Manchus must be eliminated due solely or even mainly to a well-grounded disbelief in {194}the will or the power of the Tartar Dynasty to break with its tradition of misrule. The movement, which had spread like wildfire throughout the length of China, from the province of Chihli in the extreme north to that of Kwangtung in the extreme south, was clearly a national uprising of the Chinese against what was regarded as a degrading foreign domination. It had borrowed the political cries of the Liberal West; it had clothed itself, in those centres where it was victoriously established, with the forms of republican government; but its dynamic force was derived, at least among the ignorant masses, for whom constitutional government was a meaningless phrase, from the traditional feelings of a people which had for three hundred years past been restive under the Tartar yoke. Nothing could show this more clearly than what had everywhere been the first act of emancipation—the cutting of the queue, for the shaven head and queue were imposed in the seventeenth century upon the Chinese as a symbol of subjection by the conquering Manchus. Everywhere people had, from the start of the Revolution, been taking off their queues, and, although an Imperial edict had made it optional for the people to discard or retain them, the Imperialists had killed hundreds of peaceable folk merely because they were found without their queues. The rebellion thus took its place in a series of national uprisings against the Tartar rulers, and it was, as will be seen in the later portion of this volume, not without significance that it gained its most conspicuous initial successes precisely in those maritime provinces in which the appearance of the dispossessed Chinese Ming Dynasty held out longest against the Manchu usurpers. If the movement had taken on fresh forms, said a writer in a London journal, this was due to the exigencies of changed conditions. The Kwangsi rebels in 1850 set up as Emperor, with the name of Tien-te (“heavenly virtue”) a youth said to be the representative of the {195}last Ming Dynasty. The movement languished until the redoubtable Hung Siu-tsuan swept the Pretender aside, courted foreign favours by declaring himself a Christian, and, after capturing Wuchang and Nanking, proclaimed himself the first Emperor of the Taiping Dynasty as Tien Wang (“heavenly king”). His hideous atrocities, continued the writer quoted, and a too fantastic description of the physical attributes of the deity—the outcome of a “vision” intended to impress the missionaries—alienated all foreign sympathy, and on the eve of his complete success his power was shattered by the Government troops, organised and led by “Chinese Gordon.” The secret of his power lay in the absence of the legitimate “Son of Heaven” of the old Dynasty, in his claim to a new commission from Heaven itself.

YIN CHANG. Minister of War of the Manchu Government at the beginning of the Revolution, and Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Troops in Hupeh Province
YIN CHANG.
Minister of War of the Manchu Government at the beginning
of the Revolution, and Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial
Troops in Hupeh Province.

TANG SHAO-YI.
Peace Commissioner for the Manchu Government and Premier
of the Provisional Military Government of the
United Republic of China.

FENG KUO-CHANG.
Commander-in-chief of the First Expedition of the
Imperial Troops for the Relief of Hupeh.
Now, General Li Yuan Hung and those associated closely with him made no such claim. The younger Revolutionists were, for the most part, trained in the schools of the West, and their appeal for Western sympathy took a new form. At the time it was impossible to foresee how, in the long run, the idea of a democratic Republic would appeal to a people steeped in the political philosophies of Confucius, with its conception of parental rights and filial duties as the fundamental basis of government.

So far, indeed, the claim that from Chihli to Kwang-tung, and from Shantung to Szechuen, the provinces had approved the Republic seems to have been justified. It would seem, then, that, no scion of the old Imperial house being available, the Chinese would have been able to reconcile themselves to the creation of a United States of China, under an elected President, in which case it was at the time interesting to speculate whether a too patent breach with the past might be avoided by retaining a ceremonial “Son of Heaven,” who, like the King Archon at Athens or the Rex Sacrificulus of Rome, would continue to offer the traditional sacrifices to the Fountain of Authority.

{196}
It was to decide this and much more that the Peace Conference of last December was convened, but nothing but disappointment followed.

The plenipotentiaries, themselves actually agreeable to the main issue at stake, were overruled by Yuan Shih K’ai. Day after day wires were passing frequently between Yuan and Tang, and all looked anxiously towards Shanghai for the final word of the war. The Republic seemed already to have been born, and the five-coloured flag in Shanghai’s streets heralded its dawn. But Yuan was obstinate, obdurate as a mule. In the end, after endless discussions on the situation, he repudiated Tang Shao-yi’s power, declared that Tang could not finally negotiate upon any question, although his credentials showed that in him full power had been invested, and in the end the Conference merely “fizzled out.”

The next scene presents Dr. Sun Yat Sen on the Republican platform. The civilised world then looked to him to solve this political conundrum—and he was voting plump for the Republic. He had now arrived in Shanghai, and his presence totally altered the situation.[1]

[1] The following article, from the pen of Charles Spurgeon Medhurst, setting forth the claims of a Republic and a Monarchy, and printed in the China Press of Shanghai, on December 13, 1911, will be of interest to the reader at this juncture:—

“Representative government with a scion of the Dynasty, not necessarily the infant Emperor, as its head, or representative government without any link with the past, is the problem on which hangs the issue of peace or war in China, and yet, so far as the freedom of the country is concerned, the difference between these two ideals is as the distinction between the good old English russet grown in the West of England, and a bellflower cultivated on the western slopes of the Pacific. Both are good eating apples. The preference for one before the other is a matter of taste. One may, indeed, almost say that the Imperialists are Republicans, and that the Republicans are Imperialists, for the Republican insists as strongly as his brother Imperialist that there must be a strong central authority, and the Imperialist clasps hands with his Republican comrade in his anxiety that the control of national affairs shall be in the hands of the people. To borrow an expressive simile recently used by Dr. Wu in reference to something else, the bottle is different but the brand is the same. Each side is pledged to give the nation freedom from all authority, excepting such as the nation itself imposes upon itself. Between Imperialist and Republican the difference is, in reality, one of form and not of substance. A general recognition of this fact will clear the atmosphere, and make it easier to perceive the imperative needs of the moment. There is the more urgent demand that this should be brought about because in their enthusiasm over the prospects of the new dawning day many of our Chinese friends have mistakenly persuaded themselves that Democracy is the greatest gift the Occident has for the Orient. But the last mail brought us a message from Dr. Inge, the Dean of St. Paul’s in London, that Democracy is perhaps one of the silliest of modern fetishes. It is incumbent, therefore, on those of us in China who agree with the Dean to speak out plainly at this critical juncture, lest our Chinese hosts blindly step on to a devious and a dangerous path. The duty becomes still plainer when we recall a recent speech by Dr. Sun Yat Sen, in which he hinted that universal suffrage for men and women would be the note to which the tune of the new Republic would be keyed.

“For any good result to come from a universal suffrage there must have been many previous years of universal education, but even with this advantage Democracy becomes for the most part little more than a dream, a good catchword but impossible politics. Constitutional government has nowhere as yet been perfected. The best we have is an adaptation of realities still unrealised. Like everything else at this stage of our progress, it is a compromise. Its methods give no sign of finality; in all countries it is what must take place in China, an adaptation to existing circumstances. None know better than the Chinese that co-operative compromise with the ideas of others is the foundation of all order. What else are the mutations of the Yin and the Yang? If these do not harmonise disorder ensues. In the same way there can be no peace in China until Republicans and Imperialists work together. That autocracy has been abused is no reason why Republicans should seek to replace it by a system which many residents of democratic countries, as witness the observations of the London dean, are beginning to regard as false in its premise. Because a revolution has shown it to be the will of the country that there should be a change in the administration of Chinese affairs there is no reason why Imperialists should not unite with Republicans in friendly conference, and see if between them it be not possible to evolve an administration better than any now existing, and thus magnify their proud position of being the oldest nation in the world. Both sides are Chinese. Why not meet and set younger civilisations an example in civics?

“If democracy be a dream, self-government is an illusion. There never has been and never will be any society, or any body, which is self-governed. We are not even free to wear the clothes our inclination suggests. Madame Fashion cuts the cloth and purchases the material. Government (to quote a French expression) is always an ‘affair of two.’ Like love-making, it is a matter of one yielding to the other. In the same way self-respect is not self-respect but the approbation of my lower to my Higher, the God within me. Self-control is not self-control, but the obedience of my passional nature to the Divine enshrined within. Self-government is not self-government, but the government of one part by another part, of the unfit by the fit, of the masses by the classes, of the uneducated by the educated. Anything else would be incompetence, injustice, not liberty. There cannot be equality and fraternity in government. There is much truth in Lao Tzu’s paradox, ‘When the people are difficult to control it is because they possess too much worldly wisdom.’ Democracy is an idol many of its worshippers are ceasing to respect, and facts should be known before a temple to its honour is erected in China. What is wanted is an Autocracy in its proper place, not an autocracy of birth, of money, or of clamour, but an autocracy of character, of self-sacrifice, and ability. This is China’s hour, a challenge to her strong men to devise something characteristic of herself, and not merely to imitate Western Constitutions.

“If this is to be successfully accomplished, preconceived ideas must be kept fluid when the peacemakers meet in the coming Conference. Republicans must remember that to imagine a Democracy without an oppression is idle. Imperialists must consider that to interfere with the rights of another is wrong. Republicans must not forget that every democratic government rules by majorities, and that when the wishes of the minority are overridden an Autocracy in its wrong place has been substituted for Democracy. Imperialists must not lose sight of the truth that the yoke laid on the defeated party is no easier to bear because the coercion comes from an opposing political body and not from one or two accredited officials, and that coercion of any sort invites rebellion. Let both sides consider that wisdom does not always dwell with majorities. History supplies many instances where the minority of one was right and all the rest wrong. Being right, he might perhaps efface himself and yield to the general wish, but he cannot properly be coerced. If Democracy be right, then coercion is necessarily wrong, whether the pressure be exercised by individuals or majorities.

“The proper basis for an orderly arrangement of men’s common interests is that all concerned shall discuss in a friendly way with a view to agreement. If this prove impossible, then as a general rule (subject to the elastic dictates of common sense) the question should, if possible, be shelved as being unripe for decision. If government by party, such as exists under all Constitutional Governments be right, if it be right for one party because stronger to compel the other party because weaker to submit to its ruling, then might becomes right. In that case Imperialists and Republicans should continue their fight until one has crushed the other; in that case the Powers whose interests are jeopardised by the continuance of the conflict should step in and apply their might also, that right may be enthroned. If, however, Force be always evil, if the universal practice of Constitutional Governments in regard to minorities be wrong, it follows that whichever side refuses to compromise in the present struggle is also wrong, because by such refusal reliance is placed on the strength of the arm, instead of on the might of TRUTH.

“In any event it is ironical inconsistency to employ the harsh arbitrament of war to decide such a question as the supremacy of the will of the people until, at least, a vote has been taken and the consent of those who have lived within the area of the fight has been obtained to the unavoidable destruction of their property. As there is no conscription in China the position of the soldier need not be taken into account. At present the few have spoken for the many, the leaders on both sides have imposed their will on their followers, and the masses are afraid to speak. I cannot guess what the verdict on the Revolution would be were every one heard from individually, nor does it affect the point at issue. The simple fact remains that grave wrongs have been inflicted on thousands who have had no chance to assent or to protest, and that for the rest of their lives they will be worse off than they would have been under the most tyrannical government. If it be argued that this ‘evil’ was unavoidable, that the Revolution was a cruel necessity, the answer is that it should be concluded as speedily as possible and recompense given to those who have suffered. Every unrequited wrong committed in its name, or on its account, will be a weak spot in the new Government’s armour.

“If these paragraphs are felt to be mere counsels of perfection, they at least emphasise the terrible hurt that will be inflicted on Righteousness should the fighting be resumed. Conciliation, submission, compromise are the foundations of Truth and of Liberty, the binding forces of society everywhere. It is not strength but weakness which refuses to swerve from an assumed position. The bravest men are not afraid of inconsistency. As Michael Wood says: ‘Humility is the strength of God: the power of everything worth having. It does not grovel: it is strong. It is seeing true: it is having your values right. It is knowing what matters and what is rubbish to be flung away.’ Or as Jacob Boehme put it: ‘He to whom Eternity is as Time and Time as Eternity is free from all strife.’ In a word, Democracy can only succeed where all the people are aristocrats, and now is the time for the leaders on both sides to prove their aristocracy and their fitness to rule, by gracefully yielding each to the other. China has always set the world an example in this particular. She will surely not fail on the eve of what will doubtless be the most glorious chapter of her memorable history.”

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HWANG HSING. Generalissimo of the Nanking Provisional Military Government and Chief of the General Staff of the Republic of China
HWANG HSING.
Generalissimo of the Nanking Provisional Military Government
and Chief of the General Staff of the Republic of China.

DR. SUN YAT-SEN.
First Provisional President of the Republic of China.

 

 

{201}

CHAPTER XIV

THE COMING OF SUN YAT-SEN
Sun Yat-sen for many years has been known the world over as the most effective Revolutionary China has ever produced. For many years he had been the leader of a revolutionary movement among Chinese abroad, and his life was practically devoted to travelling to foreign countries, keeping his exiled countrymen versed upon the latest political phases of China.

At the time of the Peace Conference the situation had become so strained, there were so many parties all genuinely anxious to assume control—out of the best motives probably—that it seemed necessary for one strong man to come in safely to direct the Revolutionary cause. That strong man was Dr. Sun Yat-sen. It was known on the day the Conference met that Sun Yat-sen was in Singapore. For many days the people had been looking for him, and disappointment was freely expressed in Shanghai more particularly (where he was best known) because of his non-appearance. It seemed that he was now, at the moment when he could do his country the most good, determined to stay away. After the Conference had broken up, however, Sun arrived, and immediately the people took him to their hearts, recognising in him the one man who now would be strong enough to establish a stable Government.

{202}
Sun cannot be called a typical Chinese; he is a typical and extremely able Chinese of the new school. He has lived most of his life abroad, and from his earliest years, when in Canton he attended the London Mission with his Christian parents, has been constantly in close touch with men and things foreign. As has been said, practically all his life, but particularly since 1895, Sun has been looked upon as the most active Revolutionary among the Chinese. His escapes at the hand of the Chinese Government had been many. For years he had been banished, and his head was ever sought after. His deliverances had been marvellous. Newspapermen the world over have constantly interviewed Sun in his wanderings, and it is felt that so much is known of President Sun that nothing of a general nature need be added here. It will be more interesting to pass on to see what Dr. Sun has to say, in a remarkably well written story, of the reason why his country is in revolt.[1]

“The conspiracy in which I took part as a leader at Canton in October, 1895,” wrote Dr. Sun Yat-sen, “was one of a series which must ultimately triumph in the establishment of a Constitution in our Empire. The whole of the people in China, excepting the Imperial agents, who profit in purse and power by the outrages they are able to perpetrate, are with us. The good, well-governed people of America will not fail to understand that Chinese numbering many millions in their own land and thousands in exile, could not entertain such feelings about their Empire without good cause. Over each province there is what the English would call a Governor. There are no laws, as you know laws. The Governor of each province makes his own laws. The will of each officer is the law. The people have no voice. There is no appeal against the law created for his own purposes by the officer or the Governor, no matter how unjust, no matter how cruelly carried {203}out. These Governors universally persecute the people and grow wealthy by squeezing them all into poverty. Taxes, as taxation is understood by Americans, are unknown. We pay only a land tax, but the Governors and officers take money from the masses by innumerable systems of extortion. Every time a Governor or magistrate or chief officer takes charge of a district, the first thing he does is to find out who are the rich, who are favourably disposed toward him and who against him. He selects first one of those whom he has reason to believe dislikes him, forces one of those on his side to make a criminal charge against the selected man, and has him arrested on the charge, which is invariably false. The Governor enriches himself by each case, as the only thing in the nature of a law he knows is that of the Dynasty, empowering him to take as his own as much as he likes, usually the whole of the property of every man whom he arrests and punishes. The arrested man has no appeal. He has no advocates. He has no hearing. Only his accusers are heard. Then he is barbarously tortured to confess the guilt he knows not.

“The terrible injustice of this procedure is to be seen in that a magistrate or chief officer never visits that punishment upon any one who has Imperial influence. Yet any man who has influence with the magistrate or is in any way a creature of his, can arrest, by his own will, any person against whom he has a grievance, choose any crime he likes to name for the purpose, drag the person before the magistrate, accuse him, and ask that he be punished. Again, the accused person has no appeal, no defence. He is merely faced with the accusation, and if he denies it, is put under torture for three days. If at the end of three days the accused refuses to confess himself guilty, punishment is meted to him in severity according to the influence of the accuser, and the necessity the magistrate feels of appeasing him. The punishment {204}for every offence charged, from petty larceny upward, is almost invariably beheading. Beheading saves prison expense, and effectually silences the accused. So much aloof do the Mandarins keep from the people that many are usually ignorant of this terrible work of the officers of the Dynasty, and when told of it, refuse to believe. Some Mandarins refuse to believe, out of fear of incurring the displeasure of officers. The unhappy masses know the truth too well. The intelligent, the most enlightened, know of it. Exiles in all other parts of the world know of it. Bitter hatred of the Dynasty and of the Imperial officers prevails in every province of the Empire. There is a great democracy in the Empire, waiting and praying for the moment when their organisation can be made efficient and the Dynasty removed and replaced by a constitutional government.

“Our conspiracy to seize Canton failed, yet we are filled with hope. Our greatest hope is to make the Bible and education, as we have come to know them by residence in America and Europe, the means of conveying to our unhappy fellow-countrymen what blessings may lie in the way of just laws, what relief from their sufferings may be found through civilisation. We intend to try every means in our power to seize the country and create a government without bloodshed. I think we shall, but if I am doomed to disappointment in this, then there is no engine in warfare we can invoke to our aid that we will hesitate to use. Our four hundred millions must, and shall, be released from the cruel tyranny of barbaric misrule and be brought to enjoy the blessings of control by a merciful, just government, by the arts of civilisation.

“The conspiracy at Canton, though it failed, was but a momentary repulse and has in no way damped our ardour. A brief history of the conspiracy and my own adventures connected with it may convey some ideas of the difficulties which still lie before us, yet {205}which we know we shall in due time surmount. We have a head, a chief, and a body of leaders, all earnest, intelligent, courageous men. They were elected according to constitutional principles by a body of us, who met, necessarily, in secret. We have a branch of our Society in every province. Our meetings of the leaders were held at various houses, the rendezvous being constantly changed. We had between thirty and forty centres in the districts of the town, with members ready to ride at a given moment to the number of at least one thousand in each centre to take control of the public affairs of the district. Communications with each of these districts were made by the employment of messengers. Our communications were by word of mouth. Our intention was to attack no individual person.

“There is no Government, no organisation, no legal system, no form of official control except the influential citizens, who, under the favour of the magistrate or Governor of the province, usurp the use of the Imperial commissioners and soldiers to carry out their barbarous tyranny. We had no ruling body, officials, or officers as such institutions are understood by Europeans, to seize. We had elected bodies of our followers who had been taught a system of constitutional rule, for each district, all ready to take office at a given signal and put the system into practice. The soldiers were ready to join us. For the soldiers are as great sufferers from tyranny as the poor masses.

“Now, herein lay our chief difficulty. To effect revolution in China would be easy but for one thing—the great difficulty in controlling the citizens. The people, never having known laws, never having been used to any proper discipline, are utterly demoralised. Life and property would be in danger from the masses the moment they became excited. From the soldiers, who are of the most degraded class, we expected trouble. They would certainly engage in looting the {206}moment they had discovered a change in the order of things.

“The only problem we had to solve in order to completely succeed was how to control the people, to make order a certainty, simultaneously with the establishment of a form of government, and how to check the excitement and outrages of the inhabitants while they were being taught to realise the fact that the long-endured tyranny was overcome. For months we worked hard completing our plans to this end, and things had reached that condition that each of the thirty odd leaders had an armed bodyguard of one hundred men. This gave us three thousand armed men on the spot. Another three thousand were to join us from another province on a given date. With this body of men, armed, not to attack any officials, but to control the masses of people and make them obey our constitutional laws, we should have in a few hours reached the dynasty of impotence.

“Unhappily, we had to contend with the possibilities of disloyalty among our own followers. So great is the fear of the torture-chamber. Into so many tributaries does the main stream of corruption flow. However, all was prepared. A date was fixed—one day in October, 1895. We leaders met to receive a telegram from our agent in Hongkong, who was to inform us that all was right the moment he knew the three thousand men had set out to our assistance. At the same time, he was to dispatch a chartered steamer up the Canton River, laden with arms for the three thousand men who were to control the people and keep order, and bringing seven hundred coolies to do the fetching and carrying, the labourer’s work needful to carry out the scheme of establishing our Government. We met at the rendezvous at Canton, runners and every one at hand. The message arrived to say that all was right. We dispatched our runners to let every one be prepared at every centre, burned our papers, {207}and proceeded to disband ourselves into units, each to carry out his own allotted portion of revolution. The moment before we disbanded a second message arrived saying, ‘Something has happened, the three thousand men cannot come.’ Our runners were out, and could not be overtaken and recalled. We had to trust to the discretion of the centres to await the men. The only thing we could do, for the time being, to divert suspicion, was to wire our Hongkong agent to keep back the coolies. He misunderstood. The coolies arrived. No one received them. They wandered about, not knowing what they were in Canton for.

“So the conspiracy was thwarted. The runners had accused the people, and set tongues wagging. The Viceroy had been told, ‘Something is going to happen.’ He would not believe his informant, and all might have become quiet, but the arrival of the coolies confirmed the information. The Government did not start. The unhappy coolies were hunted by the Imperial Commissioner and his staff, and many of them beheaded. We leaders dispersed; many fled into the interior. The Commissioner and Imperial Guard sought the leaders. They seized and beheaded sixteen persons, only seven of whom had anything to do with the movement. The remainder were occupants of houses where it was supposed some of us had met. The leaders all got away. I went on board my own steam-launch and sailed down to Hongkong, where I stayed a week. The Imperial officers were seeking me, and I passed them several times in the street without their recognising me. At the end of the week, during which I had made arrangements for my family, my wife and children and my mother, to follow me, I stepped on board a steamer under the eyes of my stupid pursuers without their noticing me. When I arrived in London, I was captured for the first time, after having been pursued around the world for one year. But the fault was not that of the English people. Indeed, the noble-hearted {208}way in which the English people came to my assistance, and rescued me from the death for which I was assuredly destined, make us shed tears of gratitude.

“In saving my life the English people have earned the love of every one of our millions of cruelly ill-used people, and strengthened our hope of one day soon enjoying the blessing of a just government, such as that which has made your mighty nation so great and so good.”

English friends on this occasion had warned him to steer a wide course away from the Chinese Legation, for there he would technically be on Chinese soil and could be arrested, but these friends either neglected to tell Dr. Sun where the Legation was or he forgot the directions they gave him. At any rate, one day as he was walking through a certain street two Chinese accosted him. They asked him to go with them to their lodging, where they could discuss the Revolution at home. When he demurred they seized him and pushed him through the door of a nearby house. It was the Chinese Legation.

A white man, who was Sir Halliday Macartney, English Secretary of the Legation, told Sun that he was under arrest and that he would be secretly taken out of London and back to Canton. The prisoner was locked in a room on the top floor of the Legation until arrangements could be made for the official kidnapping. Dr. Sun tried throwing messages out of the window weighted with coins, but one of them was picked up by one of the Legation servants and shown to the Minister, and the windows were nailed up.

In his desperation Sun managed to bribe an English servant to carry a message, telling of his plight, to a Dr. Cantlie, one of his friends. Dr. Cantlie laid the matter before the Government, which took immediate action. The building was hedged about by detectives and policemen so closely that the prisoner could not be smuggled out to a steamer. Finally, seeing the {209}futility of longer holding him, the Chinese Minister turned Sun loose.

The nervy little doctor went right back to the Far East and began to hatch another Revolution against his enemies.

This time it was from Japan that he operated. But because he was not thoroughly wise in the matter of some Japanese business policies he was swindled out of all the funds he had raised to buy arms by one Nakimura.

He left Japan and went to live in Singapore. He slipped into China again and started another uprising. This, too, was ill-timed, and many patriots lost their heads under the executioner’s heavy blade.

Dr. Sun managed to slip across the lower border into Annam disguised as a blind beggar. No sooner was he across the border than he began again, wandering from one Chinese colony to another in Annam, in Tongkin, down in the Straits Settlements, over in the Philippines—always preaching revolution.

In 1898 K’ang Yu-wei, one of the reformers whom Sun had been allied with, travelled too fast in his efforts to win the ear of the puppet Emperor, was betrayed by Yuan Shih K’ai, so it was said, and had to flee to save his head. Then the Empress-Dowager laid a heavy hand upon all reformers within reach. Once more Sun escaped. After the Boxer uprising, which was not at all of Sun’s doing and was entirely out of sympathy with his schemes, the Empress-Dowager seemed to be bitten by the general sentiment for reform and she promised much for China that raised the hopes of the new element. But like most Manchu promises, they were not to be depended on.

 

DRILLED IN THE UNITED STATES.

Back Sun went to America, and he added a new detail to his propaganda. He found a young graduate {210}of Leland Stanford University, Homer Lee, who was military mad and incidentally an enthusiast on the subject of freedom for China. Lee was made General of the Reform Cadets, who were Chinese youths of San Francisco, fitted out with uniforms and guns and taught to do the hay foot, straw foot in hired halls night after night.

The idea spread to other cities in the United States and to Manila. The Reform Cadets became a wide-spread organisation. American drillmasters were hired to coach them; they had target practice and they gave exhibition drills.

Out in San Francisco the agents of the Chinese Government once tried to prevail upon the city and State authorities to break up the organisation because it was technically an armed band of aliens on American soil. The effort failed.

Such was the man who may become yet the greatest man among the Chinese in his own country as he has been out of it. In due course Dr. Sun Yat-sen was proclaimed President, with a provisional Government at Nanking.

Sun Yat-sen, revolutionist in the most conservative land under heaven, fugitive for fifteen years from the keenest and most relentless trailers of men, hidden spirit of strange secret societies whose ramifications have made mole tracks through every land where Chinamen are—this man is now President of the Republic of China by decree of the Provisional Military Assembly at Nanking.

Out of the underground passages of plot and intrigue the nature of which no Occidental could hope to understand, and through which this wiry little man has been wriggling and back tracking for more than a dozen years, a new national figure suddenly jumps to command the attention of the world. During years past the world has occasionally caught glimpses of the round black head and narrow, ascetic features of this Dr. Sun, {211}now in Singapore, now in London, now in San Francisco.

There had been little paragraphs in the world’s news about an agitator, a Radical, who seemed to be tilting with straws at the impregnable citadel of the Manchu clan in Peking. The Revolution began in China and even then, when the name of Sun Yat-sen was coupled with it people outside of China cracked jokes about a faker, a charlatan, who was trying to capitalise the upheaval at home for his own benefit.

Then over night things happened in China. The next morning the world learned at its breakfast-table that out of the welter and uproar of revolution in old China a leader had arisen to gird an ancient land under new harness of government. And it also became manifest that the Revolution, which had started by concerted movements in the heart of China and spread with the rapidity of a powder-train, and the little man who had been dodging and twisting through the world for so many years were closely related—extraordinarily so.

Sun Yat-sen started many revolutions. Each was stronger than the last; each achieved a little more. The final one, striven for and plotted through channels not yet known, has succeeded. Sun Yat-sen was the man of the hour in China.

An odd circumstance that brings an added thrill of romance into the story of his life is that though President of united China he still bears upon his head a price totalling about 700,000 taels. The rewards for his head offered by provincial governments and the central authorities in Peking during the last fifteen years have not been recalled, even though payment upon delivery might be doubtful.

Yet the fact that his head was worth hundreds of “shoes” of silver during all the latter years of his activity has been one of the lightest burdens that Dr. Sun has carried about on his narrow shoulders. He {212}took long chances, apparently he suffered many close calls from death, but he persisted.

I believe that when he was a young man he was studying medicine under the care of an English physician in Hongkong. Thence he went to England and after study in a preparatory school he was graduated from a medical college and returned to China. He practised the new medicine, against which there was a violent prejudice on the part of the Chinese in Macao, in Canton and Hongkong.

Dr. Sun is forty-three now, he was scarcely more than twenty-five when he began to move for the spreading of a revolutionary spirit in the hearts of his countrymen. Just where he began and with what material nobody but the closest of his associates knows.

It seems that his first idea was for reform through peaceful means, if it were possible for the Chinese people to penetrate the jealous conservatism of the Manchu masters. To this end the little doctor began to organise clubs of advanced thinkers among the young Chinese of the south.

For some time during the early part of 1912 things seemed to go fairly smoothly, and President Sun seemed to have been successful in winning the confidence of Yuan Shih K’ai, when, like a bombshell, the press of the world (especially the London Times) deprecated one of the messages Sun sent to Yuan. This strengthened the Imperial cause. Abdication of the Court, which had definitely been fixed, did not take place. Several of the Manchu princes refused to clear out, for many days the complex situation at Peking, Shanghai, Nanking, and Wuchang rendered it impossible for one to see what would eventuate.

The Court, however, did abdicate, and left the ground clear. There was a continuous rumpus in Peking during the following three months, and in March of 1912 the capital was in a big uproar—the soldiers broke loose, there was much pillaging and looting, {213}Yuan Shih K’ai seemed entirely to have lost the situation and the whole country seemed to be lost. Yuan Shih K’ai meantime had been proclaimed President, Dr. Sun gracefully withdrawing in his favour. A big discussion took place over the site for the capital, and just as Yuan was about to come down to Nanking to settle matters the outbreak at Peking quashed the whole affair. But this was only one of the political troubles. Some adjusted themselves: others did not. There was a lack of money. Soldiers, going unpaid, took the law into their own hands, and looted on a great scale. The banditti rose up in formidable strength. Officialdom was abused. Decapitations were rife. Up to the end of March the interior of China was devoid of all law and order. In the coast places and big towns where order was fairly easy to maintain, officials were busy making laws and drawing up reforms. But whilst reforms were being thus aimed at in some places, in others there was absolute chaos. The old order had been taken away, and there was nothing better to put up in its place.

But it is hopeless to give a correct comprehensive estimate of what was being done. All we knew was that China was changing—in some places for the worse, in others for the better, but changing irrevocably, and it was only in the final balancing could one see how things were to “pan out.”

On March 10, 1912, Yuan Shih K’ai took the Oath, which read as follows:—

“Since the Republic has been established, many works have now to be performed. I shall endeavour faithfully to develop the Republic, to sweep away the disadvantages attached to absolute monarchy, to observe the laws of the Constitution, to increase the welfare of the country, to cement together a strong nation which shall embrace all five races. When the National Assembly elects a permanent President, I shall retire. This I swear before the Chinese Republic.”

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The following is a detailed statement, as translated from the Chinese, of the conditions of the Provisional Republican Constitution:—

 

THE PROVINCIAL REPUBLICAN CONSTITUTION.

Chapter 1. General.

Article 1.—The Republic of China is established by the people of China.

Article 2.—The sovereignty of the Republic of China is vested in the whole body of the people.

Article 3.—The territory of the Republic of China consists of the twenty-two provinces, Inner and Outer Mongolia, Tibet, and Kokonor.

Article 4.—The Republic of China will exercise its governing rights through the National Assembly, Provisional President, Ministers of State and Courts of Justice.

 

Chapter II. People.

Article 5.—The People of the Republic of China will be treated equally without any distinction of race, class, or religion.

Article 6.—The People will enjoy the following liberties:—

1. No citizen can be arrested, detained, tried, or punished unless in accordance with the law.

2. The residence of any person can only be entered or searched in accordance with the law.

3. People have the liberty of owning property and of trade.

4. People have the liberty of discussion, authorship, publication, meeting, and forming societies.

5. People have the liberty of secrecy of letters.

6. People have liberty of movement.

7. People have liberty of religion.

Article 7.—People have the right of petition to the Assembly.

Article 8.—People have the right of petition to the administrative offices.

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Article 9.—People have the right of trial at legal courts.

Article 10.—People have the right to appeal to the Court of Administrative Litigation against any act of officials who have illegally infringed their rights.

Article 11.—People have the right of being examined to become officials.

Article 12.—People have the right of election and being elected to representative assemblies.

Article 13.—People have the duty of paying taxes in accordance with law.

Article 14.—People have the duty of serving in the army in accordance with law.

Article 15.—The rights of the people enumerated in this chapter may, in the public interest, or for the maintenance of order and peace or upon other urgent necessity, be curtailed by due process of law.

 

Chapter III. National Assembly.

(Tsangyiyuan.)

Article 16.—The legislative functions of the Republic of China are exercised by the National Assembly or Tsangyiyuan.

Article 17.—The National Assembly is formed of the members of Tsangyiyuan elected by various districts as provided in Article 18.

Article 18.—Five members in each province, Inner Mongolia, Outer Mongolia, and Tibet and one member from Kokonor will be elected. The measures for the election will be decided by each district. At the time of the meeting of the National Assembly each member has one vote.

Article 19.—The official rights of the National Assembly are as under:—

1. To decide all laws.

2. To decide Budgets and settle accounts of the Provisional Government.

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3. To decide the measures of taxation, monetary system, and uniform weights and measures.

4. To decide the amount of public loan and agreements involving any obligation on the State treasury.

5. To ratify affairs mentioned in Articles 34, 35, and 40.

6. To reply to any affairs referred for decision by the Provisional Government.

7. To accept petitions of the people.

8. To express views and present them to the Government regarding laws and other matters.

9. To question Ministers of State and demand their presence at the Assembly to give reply.

10. To demand the Provisional Government to inquire into cases of the taking of bribes or other illegal acts of officials of the Government.

11. The National Assembly may impeach the Provisional President if recognised as having acted as a traitor, by vote of three-fourths of the members present at a quorum of four-fifths of the whole number of members.

12. The National Assembly may impeach any of the Ministers of State if recognised as having failed to carry out their official duties or having acted illegally, on the decision of two-thirds of the members present at a quorum of three-fourths of the whole number of members.

Article 20.—The National Assembly may hold its meetings of its own motion and may decide the date of the opening and the closing of the same.

Article 21.—The meetings of the National Assembly will be open to the public, but in case of the demand of any Minister of State or in case of the majority’s decision a meeting may be held in camera.

Article 22.—The matters decided by the National Assembly shall be promulgated and carried out by the Provisional President.

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Article 23.—When the Provisional President uses his veto against the decision of the National Assembly his reasons should be declared within ten days and the matter should be placed before the National Assembly for further discussion. If two-thirds of the members attending re-affirm the former decision that decision shall be carried out as stipulated in Article 22.

Article 24.—The speaker of the National Assembly will be elected by open ballot of the members, and if the ballot be one-half of the total votes he is declared elected.

Article 25.—The members of the National Assembly have no responsibility to outsiders for the speeches and decisions made in the Assembly.

Article 26.—Except for flagrant offences or during internal disturbance or foreign invasion the members of the Assembly cannot be arrested during the session without the consent of the Assembly.

Article 27.—The standing orders of the National Assembly shall be decided by the National Assembly itself.

Article 28.—The National Assembly shall be dissolved when the National Convention comes into existence, which will succeed to all the rights of the National Assembly.

 

Chapter IV.—Provisional President and Vice-President.

Article 29.—Provisional President and Vice-President will be elected by the National Assembly by vote of two-thirds of the members present at a quorum of three-fourths of the whole number.

Article 30.—Provisional President represents Provisional Government and controls political affairs and promulgates laws.

Article 31.—Provisional President executes laws and issues orders authorised by law and has such orders promulgated.

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Article 32.—Provisional President controls and commands the Navy and Army of the whole country.

Article 33.—Provisional President decides official organisations and discipline but such should be approved by the National Assembly.

Article 34.—Provisional President is empowered to make appointments and dismissals of civil and military officials. However, the Ministers of State, ambassadors and ministers accredited to foreign Powers, should be approved by the National Assembly.

Article 35.—Provisional President declares war, negotiates peace and concludes treaties with the approval of the National Assembly.

Article 36.—Provisional President declares martial law in accordance with law.

Article 37.—Provisional President represents the whole country to receive ambassadors and ministers of foreign countries.

Article 38.—Provisional President presents bills for laws to the National Assembly.

Article 39.—Provisional President confers decorations and other honorary bestowals.

Article 40.—Provisional President declares general amnesty, special amnesty, commutation, and rehabilitation; general amnesty needs the approval of the National Assembly.

Article 41.—In case Provisional President be impeached by the National Assembly the judges of the highest court of justice will elect nine judges to organise a special tribunal to try and decide the case.

Article 42.—Provisional Vice-President will act for Provisional President in case Provisional President dies or is unable to attend to his duties.

 

Chapter V. Ministers of State.

Article 43.—Prime Minister and Ministers of Departments are called Ministers of State.

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Article 44.—Ministers of State assist Provisional President and share responsibility.

Article 45.—Ministers of State countersign bills proposed, laws proposed, laws promulgated, and orders issued by Provisional President.

Article 46.—Ministers of State and their deputies attend and speak in the National Assembly.

Article 47.—When any Minister of State is impeached by the National Assembly, the Provisional President should dismiss him, but the case may be retried by the National Assembly at the request of the Provisional President.

 

Chapter VI. Courts of Justice.

Article 48.—Courts of Justice consist of judges to be appointed by Provisional President and Minister of Justice. The organisation of Courts of Justice and qualification of judges will be decided by law.

Article 49.—The Courts of Justice will try and decide cases of civil litigation and criminal litigation in accordance with law. However, administrative litigation and other special litigation will be stipulated by special laws.

Article 50.—The trials and judgments of the Courts of Justice will be open to the public, but cases which are considered to be against peace and order may be held in camera.

Article 51.—Judges will never be interfered with by any higher officials in their offices either during a trial or in delivering judgment, as judges are independent.

Article 52.—Whilst a Judge holds office his salary cannot be reduced, and his functions cannot be delegated to another. Unless in accordance with law, he cannot be punished or dismissed or retired. The regulations for the removal of Judges will be stipulated by special law.

 

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Chapter VII. Annex.

Article 53.—Within ten months of the date of this law being in force, the Provisional President should convene a National Convention. The organisation and the measures for election of such National Convention will be decided by the National Assembly.

Article 54.—The Constitution of the Republic of China will be decided by the said National Convention, and before the said Constitution comes into force this law will have the same force as the Constitution.

Article 55.—This law will be either added to or revised by three-fourths of the members of the National Assembly present at a quorum of two-thirds of the whole number, or by three-fourths of the members present at a quorum of four-fifths of the whole number, when the same is proposed by the Provisional President.

Article 56.—This law shall come into force when it is promulgated, and the rules of provisional government now in force will be cancelled when this law comes into force.

 

Recognition of the Powers came slowly. The Republican fanatics cried out in great volume and the alleged subsidised press still pursued the for and against of the national argument. However, in due course, with Yuan as President, the Government went ahead in endeavours to get money. The reader will probably know the actual eventualities as they touched the West internationally. There were still two parties, however, one with Sun at the head, the other with Yuan. Yuan Shih K’ai was a man cast in a distinctly different mould from Sun. Before we go on to read his general biographical sketch, as embodied in the next chapter, it is interesting to note how people were interesting themselves in him. The following, from a private letter {221}published in New York, is culled from an American daily:—

“In 1884, when I went to China, Yuan was just succeeding the Manchu General in charge of the Chinese troops sent to Seoul after the troubles of 1882. He drove the Japanese out of Korea following the emeute of 1884, and on October 3, 1885, after visiting his patron, Li Hung-chang, he returned to Seoul as full Chinese representative, taking to himself the title of ‘Resident’ in the sense in which that title is used by the British in India, implying Chinese suzerainty.

“Yuan was without much education even for a Chinaman. He knew no English at all. Korea is as far as he ever ventured abroad, but the ten years there were a very valuable school for him.

“He was in my time just a big, brutal, sensual, rollicking Chinaman. Having vast powers, he frequently cut off the heads of Chinese gamblers and others, and I was an unwilling witness of some of these street side pastimes of his. He would imprison Korean gentlemen who objected to parting with their ancestral estates in order that they might be used to enlarge Yuan’s palatial legation. He would not let a physician save the life of one of his soldiers in the emeute by amputating his arm, saying, “Of what good would a one-armed soldier be?” Yet he kept as a pensioner another soldier whose life was saved but who was useless as a trooper. He was extremely quick, quite fearless, very rash, yet given to consultation with Tang and others, and therefore inclined to be reasonable. He was altogether unscrupulous, but absolutely faithful and devoted to his patron and largely so to his friends. He would sacrifice an enemy or one who stood in his way, but would at the same time sacrifice himself readily for his patron.

“Nobody understands the meaning of the term ‘arrogance’ who didn’t know Yuan in those years 1884-94. He was arrogance personified. He would not {222}meet or associate with the Ministers of other Powers unless he was allowed to occupy a sort of throne and ‘receive’ them as though they were vassal envoys. At a Korean State dinner he always occupied the foot (one end) of the table, which then became the head.”

 

[1] The China Press, Shanghai, December 8, 1911.

 

 

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CHAPTER XV

YUAN SHIH K’AI’S RETIREMENT
Perhaps the one personage in China most impressed by the utter inability of four hundred million Chinese to stand up against the forty million Japanese was the Chinese Resident in Seoul. Formerly in charge of the Chinese troops in Korea, he had been promoted to be China’s representative at the Court of what was so soon to pass away. That impact of the new and the old, that utter collapse of the feeble resistance offered by the proud Imperial troops to the disciplined modern army of Japan, convinced the Resident that China was tottering to her fall unless she, like Japan, could absorb the knowledge and civilisation of the West. This lesson was—to use a Chinese phrase—”engraved upon his heart.” That Resident was Yuan Shih K’ai.

YUAN SHI-K’AI. Prime Minister of the Manchu Government and subsequently First President of the Provisional Military Government of the United Republic of China.
YUAN SHI-K’AI.
Prime Minister of the Manchu Government and subsequently
First President of the Provisional Military Government
of the United Republic of China.
From that time onwards he set his hand to the plough of reform. And so straight a furrow did he plough, with never a swerve from his purpose, that he was everywhere spoken of as Yuan the Reformer. Discredited by the Japanese, neglected by the Chinese Government, vegetating for a time in that out-of-the-way port of Wenchow, it was not until 1898 that Yuan began to come to his own. As the result of a personal interview with the Emperor Kwang Hsu, he received his first military command under the Reform movement, being made expectant Vice-President of a Board with control of an army corps. In his new, environment Yuan had the opportunity of his life; he {224}proved his real greatness by rising to the occasion. Beginning with the control of a few modern-trained soldiers, he so entered into the development of the idea in his brain that China’s Model Army was the result, and their proved superiority over the Wuchang Modern Army at the engagements near Hankow was the proof that henceforth the properly trained, armed, and disciplined Chinese soldier is a force to be reckoned with. At this stage of his career Yuan united honesty of purpose with singleness of aim. He took the attitude of the old “sea dogs” of the British Navy—he was straight and true with his men, and worked with them. Honest himself, he saw to it that his officers were men of integrity. Foreigners applauded him, and when in 1900 he became Governor of Shantung, all the civilised world recognised that the man who would succeed Li Hung-chang had arrived. At this juncture Yuan Shih K’ai reached the parting of the ways, and showed to the world that even a great-minded and strong, purposeful Chinese statesman, with an intense desire for Reform in the country, is a Chinese still. Yuan had aided and abetted the young Emperor in his pursuit of Reform, but the time came when the military reformer had to choose whom he would serve—the Reform party and the Emperor Kwang-Hsu or the Conservative party and their leader the Empress-Dowager.

To carry out the Reform purpose it was necessary that the Emperor should have control of the new Northern Army, then under the command of Jung Lu, Governor-General of Chihli, and in order to obtain this control Jung Lu had to be put out of the way. At a secret interview with the Emperor on the 5th of the 8th moon, 1898, Yuan, after hearing all details of the Emperor’s plan, which included the beheading of Jung Lu and the capture of the Empress-Dowager by means of the army, promised implicit obedience. (He had already assured the Emperor of his loyalty if placed {225}in command of the troops. “Your servant,” he said, “will endeavour to recompense the Imperial favour even though his merit be as a drop of water in the ocean or a grain of sand in the desert; he will faithfully perform the service of a dog or a horse while there remains breath in his body.”)[1]

And with his vows hot upon his lips—went straight away and betrayed his sovereign. He was a Chinese, and seemed to choose the side that would best serve his own ends. The result is a matter of history. But it must ever be remembered that Yuan Shih K’ai struck the fatal blow which paralysed the Reform movement and prepared for the great humiliation of China in 1900.

Amongst the Chinese Yuan has come to be regarded as a man of doubtful advantage to his side. They remember that his arbitrary conduct of affairs when Resident of Korea had much to do with the bringing in of that disastrous conflict with Japan, they speak of his action in betraying the cause of Reform, and point to the fact that all his great schemes have, sooner or later, brought disaster with them and plunged his country into disgrace. Yuan might or might not have been guilty of these things. It is difficult for an onlooker to understand the game of Court intrigue as played by the Chinese diplomats. He sees not the things that count, or if he sees them reckons them as but sidelights, and sees them out of their true proportions. Nevertheless when calamity overtook the Empire Yuan’s was the strong hand that held it, that kept the country from going altogether. From the time of the return to power of the Empress-Dowager and her corrupt eunuch-controlled Court, Yuan’s star was in the ascendant. Specially named in the Imperial Edict which announced to all China the settlement of the Boxer troubles, promoted to the Viceregal blue-ribbon—that of Viceroy of Chihli and Guardian of the {226}Imperial Capital—granted the Order of the Yellow Jacket and sundry other distinctions—Yuan Shih K’ai became the first man of the Empire.

For the part he had played in stemming the Boxer tide and in saving the lives of many foreigners, Yuan commanded the respect and admiration of the Legations in Peking, and through them, of the civilised world.

Then came the fall. A writer in the National Review puts the matter briefly but succinctly: “In 1908 H.E. Yuan celebrated his fiftieth birthday. He held a reception and was the recipient of many gifts, including some from the Empress-Dowager and the Emperor. The great officials of Peking vied with each other in the costliness and rare choice of the presents they made, but there was a notable abstention from these courtesies. Prince Chun had asked for a few days’ leave of absence, and being therefore officially non-existent, he was saved the necessity of making a present. The incidents which led to the dismissal of H.E. Yuan deserve close note. Very shortly after the birthday celebration a special meeting of the Grand Council was held at which the question to be discussed was the appointment of a successor to H.I.M. Kwang Hsu. The Empress-Do wager presided, and, after announcing that the time had come to nominate an heir to the Throne, she stated that she had already made a choice in her own mind, but desired the advice of her councillors. Prince Ching and Yuan Shih K’ai then suggested the name of Prince Pu Lun, or, failing him, Prince Kung. The Empress-Dowager, however, announced that she had long ago in her own mind intended to make the eldest son of Prince Chun, whom she had married to the daughter of Jung Lu, the heir to> the Throne, in recognition of Jung Lu’s lifelong devotion to her person. She heard the Council’s views on this proposal, and as there was general agreement, she made this her final choice. Though this agreement was general, it was not unanimous; H.E. Yuan held to his {227}view of the superior claims of Prince Pu Lun, and, if precedent is anything to go by, he was right in these views. However, his views were overruled, with the result that H.I.M. Hsuan Tung now rules China.

“Shortly afterwards came the death of H.I.M. Kwang Hsu, whose valedictory Edict stated that for the misery of the past ten years Yuan Shih K’ai is responsible, and one other…. ‘When the time comes I desire that Yuan be summarily beheaded.’ This pious wish was not fulfilled, but scarcely had the present Regent assumed power than he propitiated the shade of his brother by a summary dismissal of his ablest statesman.”

Yuan retired to his birthplace, in Honan, and all efforts of foreign would-be friends to have him recalled were in vain. Yuan’s time of evening twilight seemed to have come.

 

[1] “China under the Empress-Dowager,” p. 203.

 

 

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CHAPTER XVI

RECALLED TO SAVE THE MONARCHY
“Yuan Shih K’ai is appointed Viceroy of the Hu Kuang provinces and to direct the suppressive and pacification operations there. Tsen Chun-hsuan is appointed Viceroy of Szechuen and to direct suppressive and pacification measures, in that province. They are both commanded to hasten to their posts and need not repair to Peking for audiences.”

 

This bald statement in an Imperial Edict issued on October 14, 1911—three days after the Revolution had broken out in Wuchang—told to the world that the Court in Peking was in extremis, yet ever acute. There was one man who could deal with the situation, one man to whom the Northern Army would be leal in a conflict with the Army of the South; that one man was the neglected Yuan Shih K’ai. At first Yuan refused the proffered honour, but afterwards General Yin Chang, who commanded the troops, interviewed him, and on the 18th Yuan formally accepted the appointment and proceeded south. It was a time fraught with great issues: Yuan the Reformer in close contact with Li the Revolutionary. In the battle of brains (as well as of bullets) who would prove to be the stronger man? This section of Yuan’s life has already been referred to in an earlier chapter of the volume.

On November 10th Yuan Shih K’ai was recalled to Peking, and five days later accepted the position of Prime Minister, which carried with it the difficult task of trying to pacify the nation and institute a Reform Government which would be satisfactory to a majority {229}of both factions. Writing under that date, a writer in Peking said:—

“According to information received from an exceptionally high authority, Yuan has adopted a definite plan of procedure.

“First he will endeavour to ascertain the sentiment of the country in regard to the crucial question whether the Manchu Dynasty will continue to reign or will be deposed in favour of another form of government. To this end he will immediately summon a large number of prominent and representative men from all parts of the country, in addition to those to be selected in accordance with the edicts issued yesterday, to form a national conference. This conference of provincials will determine whether the people really desire a Republic or a Constitutional Monarchy.

“Personally, Yuan Shih K’ai is well satisfied to have a Constitutional Monarchy, with strict limitations on the powers and requisites of the Throne, and will use his influence to this end. However, he will abide by the decision of the people, reached in accordance with this orderly plan.

“Yuan has been working strenuously ever since his arrival, shaping his forces and organising his supporters. There is no doubt that he feels absolutely secure of the support of the entire Northern Army and its commanders. He is also negotiating with General Li Yuan Hung, with whom two special emissaries are now consulting.

“Last night Yuan reached a thorough understanding with the National Assembly. This probably was one reason for his acceptance, because he did not wish to risk antagonism in that quarter. Now he has the full and absolute support of the Assembly without danger of interference, if promises are kept. Whatever the final result of his efforts may be, it seems certain that an extended period of parleying is at hand. It can be positively stated that the Government has decided to {230}abandon all aggressive measures from Peking during the course of the negotiations. However, the Imperial troops naturally will fight if the Revolutionists attack them.”

From this time onwards the policy of Yuan Shih K’ai was an enigma even to those who watched it the most closely. His most ardent admirers were puzzled. During the brief months that had elapsed since he re-entered the arena his Excellency had gained many titles. As he seemed to shape his policy, so he was called Yuan the Dictator, Yuan the Cunctator, Yuan the King-maker—the Chinese Earl of Warwick. It is conceivable that all along he was true to his ideal, played the one game, sought only the best interests of the people and country as a whole. At any rate, it was admitted the world over that the one man of strong character and general qualities of leadership in Peking was Yuan Shih K’ai.

Yuan’s first move in Peking was an astute one, but it failed. His Cabinet that was to reconcile all parties practically resigned before it was ever constituted. Even the National Assembly found itself powerless to do other than pass resolutions. The Premier’s first great triumph over the Manchus was in bringing about the resignation of the Prince Regent, who had so summarily dismissed Yuan a few years before. The story of the “resignation” is well told in the China Press of December 8th:—

“The unheralded edict from the Empress-Dowager, accepting the ‘resignation’ of the Prince Regent, constitutes one of the most dramatic of all happenings in this great political upheaval, and shows the tremendous extent to which the Reform element has gone in its programme for the relegation of the Manchus. Aside from its actual, concrete importance there is in the event an added degree of interest on account of the relations between Yuan Shih K’ai, who brought the Regent’s retirement about, and the Prince Regent. If {231}there is anything of the spirit of revenge in the make-up of the Premier he must be gloating now, for he has completely vanquished the man who, three short years ago, was responsible for his dismissal from office and his retirement to humiliation.

“No one knows—at least, no one will tell—just how this great event was brought about. It seems, however, that Yuan Shih K’ai had been working for it for several weeks. He was strongly supported by Prince Ching, and these two told both the Regent himself and the Empress-Dowager that the Regent’s retirement was necessary to a settlement of the present disturbed state of the Empire. The Prince Regent was reluctant but finally yielded to the demand, and henceforth he will be entirely out of public life. Yuan Shih K’ai and his followers and helpers hoped that the step would be of vast benefit to the Government, and would make a settlement with the rebels possible. They say they think this will be the case. Others, however, especially some foreigners, feel that this step, like so many others, has perhaps come too late, and that rebellious elements to the southward will consider it as an indication of weakness on the part of the Government, and that they will thus become encouraged to continue the fight. The Chinese say that this will not be the case. Chinese psychology, it appears, enters into the matter to a considerable extent, and the apparently reasonable view of the foreigner as to the logical result of the step and its effect upon rebel minds is not, according to the Chinese argument, justified.

“The edict retiring the Prince Regent makes Yuan Shih K’ai more powerful than ever, and if the situation is to be saved, he must be the man to do it. It is not as clear as it might be, and there is much speculation here amongst foreigners as to where it leaves the Empress-Dowager. A consensus of opinion appears to be that the Empress-Dowager remains only a figurehead. The edict at one point says that {232}hereafter ‘the whole responsibility’ of appointing officials and carrying on the Government will rest upon the Prime Minister and the Ministers of State. Thus Yuan Shih K’ai is made supreme, for he is Prime Minister and Cabinet in one, as the Cabinet is composed of men of his own selection. The Empress-Dowager will have nothing to do with the executive or legislative branches of the new form of Government. She is apparently limited by these words, which follow those quoted above: ‘When edicts are to be issued the Prime Minister will ask for the Imperial Seal to be used, and ceremonial audiences will be held by Us and the Emperor together.’ This, it would seem, leaves the Empress-Dowager and the Emperor as the symbol of the sovereignty of China, but with none of the functions of law-making or administration. It will be the Empress-Dowager who sits on the throne to receive credentials from the foreign ministers when they come to the capital, and she will typify the head of the State to the world at large; but more than this she will not be.”

Yuan Shih K’ai’s next problem was to so arrange matters that the Manchu Court should see fit to “abdicate,” and at the same time temporise with the Republican party by means of the famous but fatuous Peace Conference. Here the master-hand revealed itself. For a time Yuan seemed trusted yet doubted alike by both sides. He succeeded in bringing actual hostilities to an end—and this may have been his objective.

Under date of January 21, 1912, a Peking correspondent wrote:—

“From time to time since the beginning of the present upheaval in China the situation has seemed extremely complicated and beyond all understanding, and to-day it appears more so than ever. Not only is the controversy between the Revolutionists and the Government here still under way and very {233}bitter, but there is trouble and turmoil within the Manchu camp, due to a decided difference of opinion amongst the Princes over the important question of abdication. It is known that last Friday, January 19th, had been set as the day for the issuance of the abdication edict. The Throne was fully prepared to clear out; Yuan Shih K’ai had obtained the full approval of the Empress-Dowager and of leading Princes to this move, and the immediate retirement of the Court to Jehol seemed certain. Complications, however, set in, and to-day it is not at all certain that abdication will come at once. There is fight-talk in the air, and no one knows what will happen. Yuan Shih K’ai remains secluded in his office, on leave of absence, surrounded by more soldiers than ever before, and evidently in fear of further attempts at assassination. There are Manchus of royal blood, and others of red blood, who declare against abdication and desire to fight it out. Many of these call Yuan Shih K’ai a traitor, and, if circumstantial rumours are to be believed, even in part, Yuan Shih K’ai is in as much danger from a certain Manchu element as from revolutionary bombs.

“It is a tremendous situation to-day, hard to understand and impossible actually to know, for those who do know what has transpired will not tell, while those who pretend to know spread varying and sensational reports. There is something behind it all, something that, as far as I can ascertain, no foreigner knows. Yuan Shih K’ai is playing a deep game, in the opinion of all, and some say that he intends that the finale of his incomprehensible regime as Premier shall be the elevation to the presidency of Yuan Shih K’ai. The Premier, beyond all doubt, has lost much ground recently with the foreigners who have thought so highly of him, and he is freely accused of playing a game. Perhaps this is unjust to him, but, if so, he has himself to blame, for beyond doubt he has not made the most of his opportunities.”

{234}
Yuan’s striking personality, his military genius, his character, the magnetic attraction he has for the foreigners around him, must have had much to do in shaping the end of recent events. But how much so, and the whole truth concerning the part he has played in this Revolution yet remains to be told in a volume that will reveal the inwardness of the motives and ambitions and achievements of H.E. Yuan Shih K’ai, perhaps the greatest man in the Chinese Empire of to-day. How to read the riddle of his recent diplomatic moves is beyond the powers of the Occidental. When Admiral Sah fired his few effectual rounds at Kilometre Ten, and retired down-river instead of annihilating the routed Republicans, was he acting under Yuan Shih K’ai’s express orders? When later on Hankow was taken and Admiral Sah decided to bombard Wuchang and thus bring the campaign to a close, who prevented him carrying out his effectual proposals? Was it Yuan? And then, on November 27th, when Hanyang fell and Wuchang seemed at the mercy of the Imperialists, who was it that stayed the forward move and gave General Li Yuan Hung an opportunity to reconstruct his plan of campaign? Was Yuan even then drawing his net more closely round his Manchu enemies. And did he, too, cause the evacuation of the Wuhan centre, leaving it to the Revolutionists to reoccupy the hardly-won positions without the firing of a shot or the loss of a single life? The future still holds the solution of these riddles. There are those, however, who see in all these moves the hand of a statesman, eager and able to hold together his country and at the same time revenge himself on his enemies in the corrupt Manchu Court.

 

 

{235}

CHAPTER XVII

THE SZECHUEN REVOLT
It was long before the outbreak of the Revolution that Szechuen was in the throes of a revolt that threatened early to spread to most dangerous limits from every aspect. The cause of the trouble was the building of railroads. Szechuen demanded exclusion from the scheme for the nationalisation of the railways. The literati and the students took the matter in hand, declared determinedly that the province should build its own railways, and in a very short time the province was in an uproar. We have but little space to deal with the history of the disturbances, but seeing that when it was at its worst there existed a serious anti-foreign spirit, it will be well to give a brief review on the affair.

For several years one had become accustomed to the startling pronouncements from Peking as to what the Government of China intended to do with regard to the establishment of railroads throughout the length and breadth of the land, and what the consequent opening up of the country would be. During the past few years of China’s alleged awakening we had, however, waited in vain for the much-debated new lines. In each Provincial Assembly one of the foremost among the matters of agenda had always been the railway which came no nearer, and the public had grown accustomed to the talk and instinctively had arrived at the position {236}where they do not expect any concrete result in the shape of railroad actualities.

The announcement made during the spring of 1911 would seem to have indicated, however, that that time was past with the coming into public office of his Excellency Tuan Fang as Director-General of Railways. Whilst he held public office Tuan Fang was a man who, next, perhaps, to Yuan Shih K’ai, was looked upon as the prince of officials, was famous for the tact and ability with which he approached all matters having anything to do with the foreigner, was highly respected by the people, was astute, far-seeing, progressive in the truest sense, and generally respected as a public pillar in the coming of the New China. But one day, when the funeral of the late Empress was taking place, he was unfortunate enough, as will be seen in a footnote printed below, to commit one of the greatest breaches against Imperial etiquette. The wrath of the Throne was brought down upon him. Tuan Fang was dismissed peremptorily, put his papers in his pocket, and cleared out of the service in apparent disgrace. That, however, was in the old days. China, since then, had been quickly undergoing a process of mighty change, and Tuan had changed with the times. He was now taken into office by the Government, and among other things that came directly under his control was the management of the railways proposed to become and those already under construction. So that it was now reasonably expected that some progress would be made—not so speedy as the programme would indicate, perhaps—but certain was it that no man at the time in the whole of the Government arena was more capable of handling that particularly needed adjunct of national progress as the modern railroad admittedly is in China. In China the railway question is one of the most vital importance. By virtue of size alone China, it was seen, must seek the aid of every railway-building nation in the world if she was to complete {237}her proposed schemes. The problems of railways here in China only touch the difficulties of construction and initial expense. The stage where the relation of the railways to society and commerce becomes more and more complicated has not yet arrived. China is innocently free for the most part from such vexatious questions as the competition of rates and fares, the combination of railway systems, the pooling of traffic, and State or private ownership. The conditions prevailing in China are rather the result of historical evolution, and cannot possibly be regarded as the outcome of any policy. If a railway has rails, then in China it can very well be called a railway—and China has shown us that she has been satisfied, and the Chinese Government has always been the victim of circumstances, guided wholly by the golden age in the past rather than an intelligent outlook for the golden age of the future. The railways that China possesses had always been, and still are, the most flagrant examples of how railways should not be run. They had been a disgrace to a nation that has put forward a claim to be making endeavours to get out of the grip of antediluvianism. They have lost money, have been allowed to get into the sorriest state of disrepair that can be imagined, and altogether have been white elephants. But the spirit of railway construction during the last few years took hold of the Government. In the enlightened provinces of north and east China the people talked railways, they thought railways, they dreamed railways, and with the advent of Tuan Fang as the Director-General of Railways they seemed set upon building railways. The need of opening up this wonderful Empire is an oft-repeated tale, not needing to be reiterated. In every province in the west of the Empire there is known to be a wealth in the earth that will in time allow China to vie with the United States in natural resources. For her own intercommunication and exchange of products China’s first need is the railway. If her exports are {238}to increase in a proportionate measure with her opportunity of natural development, China must have a network of railroads to enable her speedily to transport her products to the coast. The need is there, and aided by the Great Four Nation Loan, China (so it seemed at the commencement of 1911) would be able to move with enormous strides. She now had the money, and she had now chosen the man. It was only to be hoped that his Excellency Tuan Fang, in entering upon his important mission to the New China, would not find his hands tied by that unmoving element of the Old China which still rigidly maintained an attitude of short-sighted independence.

Early in the scheme which made for the nationalisation of the railroads it was seen that Szechuen would not pull with the other provinces—Hunan was another. It was one of the unaccountable phenomena of the times in several of the central provinces of China that the gentry and the literati were impressed in a manner the reverse of satisfactory over the loaning of money by the Powers to China. Several places had been on the verge of a revolt as a result of the Government’s decision, and in some places there was a marked dislike to the Imperial methods of opening up the country. The first thing that impresses the observer of social conditions in China to-day is the magnitude of the industrial forces that are everywhere at work—the man who does not work finds little to eat. In seven-eighths of this enormous Empire the bulk of the country’s work is performed by the energies of human beings and beasts of burden. China—that is, the common people of the country—has not learned the lesson of harnessing to the chariot of industrial progress one of the great natural forces, and they are taught from the cradle to believe that when once a labour-saving machine is introduced, that exact number of people whose combined work is accomplished by the machine will commence to starve. The ordinary Chinese looks out of {239}his almond-shaped eyes, but does not see wherein lies the wealth of the land. That the United States of America increased its mechanical horse-power from two million in 1870 to roughly twelve million in 1900, and has enjoyed greater wealth with its increase—and that his own country could do the same, mattered not to the ordinary Chinese. He argues in a very elementary manner. He has so many mouths to feed; there is so much work to be done; when all the work that there is to be done is done by hand labour, even then there are thousands of mouths that cannot be filled, and if labour-saving machinery is introduced, what will become of the millions who will be thrown out of employment? So argues the ordinary Chinese, and for fear of making matters worse than they are, he votes plump against the introduction of foreign machinery. This was the spirit of the proletariat towards the opening of the country by railway lines. But the change was bound to come, and although the people of Szechuen showed plainly that they intended tooth and nail to fight against this that they little understood, the Government seemed to show most strongly that it intended to push the building of the lines. The question was, of course, of thrilling interest to China as a nation, and of vital importance to the whole of the East and the West. In former times the people themselves had had the opportunity to build their own railways, the same as private companies did in Europe and America. They stolidly refused, they believed such an innovation of the devil to be directly against the welfare of the country. For ages the Chinese Government thought the same, but when the partly-awakened China reached out to grasp its last chance of swinging commercially into line with other great nations of the world, there was to be no hesitancy. China must have railways. She could not build them herself—she had no money. Europe and America could build them; Europe and America had the money, and {240}were doing what any other right-thinking nation would characterise as a gracious act (although not quite free from the loaves and fishes element), and it was the duty of the Chinese Government to rule with an iron hand against any hysterical hooligans whose Imperial short-sightedness rendered them a dangerous element in the country.

There was for several months during the initial trouble no anti-foreign movement. A Society boasting the name of the One Aim Society—the one aim being to get the railway loan rescinded—was formed, many scholars of repute being the leaders, who prided themselves upon conducting their campaign in quite a civilised fashion, and not in the old way of destroying public buildings and so forth. Where agitation existed against the missionaries and foreigners the leaders stepped in, agitated for and subsequently succeeded in getting many of the commoner ringleaders beheaded. For many hundreds of square miles the countryside was pamphleted to the effect that “not a blade of grass belonging to a foreigner must be touched,” the writer going on to declare that “if we do this, we shall only injure our own cause and give the foreign nations a pretext to step in and divide up our country…. This has nothing to do with the missionaries of any nation. If foreign nations have money to lend, and China wishes to borrow, they have a perfect right to lend upon the very best terms that they can get. We, therefore, cannot blame the foreigners, but only our own Government.”

Whilst, however, this was the authoritative attitude of the promoters of the agitation, there were many of the “roughs” of the country—that party which has been eternally agitating against both Government and foreigners—who hoped to take advantage of the trouble to promote its own aims. Towards this end some curious proceedings were reported to have transpired. The press became irrepressible, the cartoons against {241}foreigners were vile—such things as Chinese soldiers being tied to branches of trees and shot by foreign soldiers, with letterpress telling the people that this was the treatment meted out by the British to the Chinese soldiers at Pienma; Russian soldiers driving Jews into the sea at the point of the bayonet; the picture of an Englishman separating husband and wife with a flaring explanation that this was how the British treated the people of India, and so on ad libitum. This spirit came gradually. At the start of the rebellion the people probably thought that to shield the foreigner would save their reputation in their barbarous conduct throughout the province, but when they came to see plainly enough that the Imperial hand was stronger than they had deemed it to be, they turned their attention to what might have proved a very dangerous spirit of anti-foreignism—but the foreigners cleared out of the province luckily before any massacring was generally spoken of. At the time I am writing it is not known whether the property of foreigners was allowed to remain untouched or not.

After the outbreak at Wuchang things in Szechuen took a decided turn for the worst. Outlawry became rife everywhere. Slaughter on a gigantic scale was carried on; Chengtu, the capital, was besieged for several weeks; foreigners were ordered out of the province and only with great difficulty in many cases were able to get away; Chao Erh Fang (the Viceroy) was killed; from end to end of the province nothing but anarchy and lawlessness prevailed. When the trouble was at its height Tuan Fang was ordered to Szechuen to quell the rebellion. He went, but, good man that he was, never came back. When the killing of the Manchus was in progress, he was killed by his own men, and his head brought down to Wuchang.

At the time of writing the province of Szechuen is in such a condition of unrest and complete disorganisation that it is quite impossible to tell what will occur within {242}a year—that is, whether there is likely then to be any prospect of real peace. It is certain that for many months yet the missionaries will not be able to return to their stations, and it will probably take many years, even with the marvellous recuperative powers the Chinese possess, before the province regains its normal conditions. For Szechuen is different from many provinces in China. The difficulties are different. The people—the tribal element, particularly—is a thorn in the flesh of Chinese officialdom, and at the present juncture in this volume to ponder upon this element in the national life will be probably of interest. Indeed, to read aright the signs of the times in China were never harder than to-day.

The Revolution, with the hope of a Republic, or some wonderfully altered system of government, has changed the whole front that China has been making to the world, and no matter how one may view the turn of current events and the probable effect of all this change upon the national life and character of the Chinese, he is wise who tempers his enthusiastic study of the Revolution and the Reform movement with a just estimate of the possibilities of the menaces that face Dr. Sun Yat Sen and his Republican party or Yuan Shin K’ai and his Monarchical party, in pursuing their respective policies. Some of the menaces come from without. Most, however, come from within, and at the present time, to those who know their China best, it is abundantly clear that the New China’s greatest hope is in fleeing from herself.

This Revolution has seemed to bring into being a China that shall be utterly different from any other China that has gone before. It is in very truth a New China, and no one who, with a mildly understanding heart, watches China to-day can fail to see in all parts of the Empire that are known to civilisation much which forms a good augury in the Revolution, the genuineness of a common impulse, an impulse linked {243}with a dogged persistence of effort to get out of the shallows of the past into the depths of the future—a glimpse beyond the garden and cloister of Chinese antiquity into the wonderful golden age, if the Revolutionary party is blessed.

But this Young China party will be bound to pass through a great home and foreign political crisis, the eccentricities of whose national programme may, if the Republican party be guided skilfully, change the Old China into a powerful participator in the affairs of the world. It must now be granted by all the world that the Reform spirit in China is peculiarly the most real thing in China, and China herself—by virtue of the Revolution—the most striking feature of the world’s politics to-day. But what is the sum of it all? There are many aspects. Enjoying all the advantages which have come naturally to her, China, we must remember, is as old as all history. One sees the legend of age repeated again and again in the hard enduring things of time, and equally as much in the great conflict that had China in its grip for many months. Every symbol of the common life, every action of the common people, everything in the land points with powerful significance to fundamental enduring things. China, during the past few years, has been furnishing us with most things that she has dabbled in—the Revolution itself is one of the most striking products, with evidence that she will rise to the position that such a race should. We are able vividly to trace, amid the seeming unalterable commonalities of life, the story of a great overpowering reform. In many areas this reform reaches from the minutest details of the ordinary life to the topmost rung of the political and social ladder; in other parts, through which I have travelled during the last two years, the general trend of the people’s lives will not allow one to believe for a single moment that China’s chance, even through revolution, will ever come.

But, generally speaking, one has to admit that at {244}one appalling stroke this mediæval people have come to mingle in the stream of world politics, behind which they have been lagging for centuries. In the whirl of her present revolutionary excitement, in the rush of the commercial torrent which will sweep through the land, the force of which probably will eclipse even Japan’s early activities in the world’s trade, we see a light on the surface of the national life of this strange people heralding the dawn of a greater day. Even we who live in China are lost in wonderment; those at a distance find it impossible to form a just estimate of its value. And so vast is the Empire, and so numerous the people, so great still the incongruities and absurdities in everyday life in most parts, that we who spend our lives side by side with the Chinese find difficulty in condensing concrete opinion on any given subject. The one thing that is keeping China back is the Dragon. We foreigners fail efficiently to understand China because we do not understand the Dragon. In China the Dragon has presided for centuries. Wrapped intertwiningly into the private and the national life of the Chinese, this Dragon has reigned supreme over a make-believe, a show of things, and innate insincerity and hollowness unparalleled anywhere among civilised peoples. The Chinese has, because of the Dragon, cramped himself into strange shapes all down through history, and the world has not known what to do with him, so foreign has been his aspect. But now the Revolution tells us that China and hundreds of millions of her people have changed irretrievably—so much must be taken for granted. The change would probably be quicker and better were it not for the Dragon, whose fangs, deeply indented into the national life, render it one great counterpoise to the young Revolutionary party. Another counterpoise to that reform which the New China party would institute at once is the lamentable fact that in a very large proportion of the Empire’s area, in isolated parts far removed from {245}spheres more easily affected by the Reform movement, there exists not a single evidence that China is not still in the torpor of the ages. Here we find a disorganised condition of society, and see how many forces work blindly in a wasteful and degenerate manner. I do not say that nothing had changed before the Revolution, for certain phases of reform one could not get away from in even the remotest corners of China. But if we discount the military and opium and a certain kind of popular education, we found little indeed commensurate with the hue and cry of the reform supposed to have been taking place to induce those who do not know that the whole Empire was in a desperate state of eagerness to forge ahead to believe that the Young China had annihilated the Old China.

And in the times through which we have just passed, it is pardonable for foreigners, except those who have made the real study of China a serious matter, to believe that China is getting more and more to love the foreigner. I believe that she is—but the love comes slowly, slowly indeed.

My personal opinion is that to-day, not perhaps less than in 1900, there are many places in China where the unveneered feeling of the Chinese towards the foreigner has not changed. But with that, at present, I can have nothing to do, and I trust that this Revolution will not unfold to us further stories—such as had to be told in Sianfu in Shensi last winter—that will make sad reading. China has gained, and is still fast gaining, strength in naval and military strategy, knowledge in education, in art, in science, in commerce, in all that she has set her heart upon from outside. But by the policy of conservatism, that “China for the Chinese” policy, a great majority of her literati are weakening her from the inside—and to such an extent that she may yet have to eat humble bread. For as the disturbances in Szechuen have so forcefully proved to the world, China has not by any means succeeded in {246}putting her own house in order, and the Revolution has given us another overwhelming truth.

If the reader will turn to a map of China, he will find that perhaps one-third, certainly one-fourth, of the areas of the provinces of Western China, and much territory farther north, are marked “unsurveyed,” occupied for the most part by unconquered and independent and semi-independent tribes of people. And herein lies the danger zone of what I would characterise as the greatest of China’s hidden menaces. Sun Yat Sen’s greatest enemy, Yuan Shih K’ai’s greatest enemy—or “the greatest enemies” of any particular faction of the Government which will become paramount—the peculiarities of which are not known to a dozen men, it is a menace which China herself knows little of. I am fully aware that my contention will open up entirely new ground. The question of the possibility of the Chinese Government having been given such trouble as she underwent in Szechuen by the aboriginals of interior provinces has never been broached, so far as my memory serves me, in any of the literature dealing with China’s reform during the last decade. I am aware that I shall spring upon the ordinary student of China’s affairs a problem he may wriggle out of by stigmatising as unimportant, for the world’s manner of dealing with China is with those things seen on the political surface only. Indeed, this is the greatest error in literature upon China. But I am not speaking without first-hand knowledge. After having travelled some seven thousand miles in China, in parts often where no other foreigner has ever entered, and having lived for several months out in the wilds where none other than the missionary could have contact—so that none but the missionary would be able to write about it, which is very rarely done—it may be granted that an opinion in some definite form is at least justifiable. My purpose was to make the subject a special study. In most of the country where these {247}tribes people, ordinary foreign travellers are not allowed to enter. Officials at the fus or the hsiens where escorts are supplied, refuse to allow you to start if you are foolish enough to let them know that you intend starting. But it is only by actually travelling in these areas that an accurate impression of existing conditions can be gathered. Because a man has travelled from end to end of China by the main road does not justify him in giving an opinion on the subject; quite easy it is to travel along the main roads anywhere, but here one sees comparatively little of the tribal element. Some may speak of the patriotism which has grown in China of late years, and ask if it is possible for any such menace to continue while this spirit of patriotism thrives. I admit that a peculiar patriotism has certainly sprung up among the people of China, but in the places I have in mind, in the wind-swept savage country of China Far West, patriotism is not known. Those who have been watching the trouble in Szechuen, started long before the Revolution broke out, have been able to see what sort of patriotism has existed. It is merely a common spirit of hooliganism among the common multitudes, and a spirit of alarming omnipotence among the scholars—little less, little more. This exists among the Chinese in these regions, but I speak here more particularly of the tribal races, among whom this hatred towards the Government is infinitely more bitter. These aboriginal races, or most of them, were, almost without exception, at one time in the occupation of vast kingdoms, and their first idea is that the Chinese Government has been built up by a succession of excessively wicked and unscrupulous men, great commandment breakers, a peculiarly dangerous type of mankind to which it is unfortunate to belong. They know nothing about revolutions or reforms. They have it in strong for the Chinese, and are boiling over with a spirit of revenge. It is with these people that China will have to deal during the {248}next decade. If China were to be engaged in an altercation with any other Power, this tribal danger would be formidable; if all becomes peaceful, when the Revolution shall have passed onward, the task of putting all men and things in China underfoot of the Government will not be accomplished without effort.

As things stand at present, there looms before China a problem that will not find solution in being continually shelved. In conquering the tribes in her own country, China faces a danger more momentous than she knows of and greater than the Western world ever dreamed of.

It would be too long a story here to detail the tribes and the peculiarities of each family—suffice it to say that every tribe in western China (and their number may be judged from the fact that no less than twenty are found in Yunnan alone), hate the Chinese and the Manchus. In the event of any disturbances arising from the Tibetan border, the Burma border, the Tonking border, the Mongolian border, this involved problem of her tribespeople and how to deal with them would so upset China’s calculations that she might lose territory in China Far West, and history might have to record another rebellion as terrible, perhaps, as the Mohammedan rebellion in Yunnan of 1855 and onwards. Yunnan might then go to France, Tibet to Britain, Mongolia to Russia. This would be the zenith of complications, but it is of this that China has always been afraid, and she will always have cause for fear so long as this question is ignored. At the present moment, when most of the outlying dependencies are declaring their independence, these fears have a greater significance. The non-ability of the officials to grip the situation in these outlying corners of the Chinese Empire, and to have that local knowledge of affairs which will come only with local experience, is where China would feel the pinch in a stand-up combat with unconquered races within her own dominions. This feeling of strife has been growing for years, long before {249}China had an adventurous policy in Tibet, but however expert China may have been in duping Europe as to her intentions in Tibet, and maintaining tranquillity in that country, it is certain that Peking did not, or would not, recognise the presence of the evil in China Far West, to say nothing of Tibet for the moment, of many thousands of her nominally governed races being in a state of lawlessness and social savagery. Complications in Tibet are liable, as they have been for many years, to arise at any time, equally as they are in Kansu, Sinking, Szechuen, or Yunnan—we have seen them, of course, in Szechuen. For serious complications in any of these provinces China has always been ill-prepared. It has been extremely doubtful whether her troops would remain loyal, even after she had got them at the seat of action after a tortuous march over incomprehensibly difficult country. There are no railways in Western China to speak of—there are absolutely none in the areas we have under survey in this article—and the only West China railway from Tonking into the heart of the Yunnan province would offer no advantages.

The main trunk lines of China, such as they are, run through country removed by many days of arduous walking over land from the districts likely to be first affected. Suppose, for a moment, that China had decided to repel the British at Pienma, or that a civil war were to break out in Yunnan (and neither of these is so unlikely when one knows the aggressive Yunnanese spirit), the probability is that, were military assistance necessary, the armies of Szechuen or Hunan would be mobilised. But to the provincial capital of Yunnan no less then thirty-three days would be required from Chengtu (Szechuen’s capital), and to reach Yunnan-fu from Changshu (Hunan’s capital) at least fifty days. The entire distance in either case would have to be negotiated on foot and by native boat, and over country ranging from sea level to say 12,000 feet above, and if complications with any other Power had arisen in {250}China Far West, with Szechuen in her fearful ferment one may guess at the sequel.

Generally speaking, the problem of China Far West with the tribes is akin to that now holding the attention of the world between China and Tibet. We all know how, if the Nepaulese had thrown in their lot with the Dalai Lama there would have been an abrupt interruption to China’s Imperialistic policy there. With China’s awakening in Tibet and the dispatch of troops to reside there to maintain Chinese supremacy, we have seen how Great Britain rightly sends her troops a little farther on the Indian frontier, showing that she intends to maintain her own status quo. China has Britain to watch there. And we seem to see in China’s activity in Tibet a menace to the peace of the neighbouring States between Tibet and India. As Britain watches China from the Indian side, France, as we have said, watches China on the Yunnan southern border. It should be remembered that the dream of the French in the days of their irresistible impulse for colonial expansion in the Far West was to annex Yunnan to Indo-China, and, however many her mistakes, her faith has survived her disappointment. Abandoning her dream of territory, she is now going hard and fast for the trade, and has many thousands of troops to guard her interests on the Tonking border now that she has her own railway. All through Yunnan a strong feeling exists among the Chinese against the French—the French are not liked, and have been the bone of contention for many years. Taking these facts into consideration, one is inclined to doubt whether China is really the Power to introduce that government into Tibet which will keep the country free from internal strife. So far, it must be admitted, she has done well, but so many dangers will face her after the Revolution that it seems a most difficult political task. Trouble seems inevitable if the reforming hand is laid too heavily upon the Tibetans.

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Added to this is the tribal danger. It may not be generally known that many of the tribes of this great ethnological garden, stretching from Burma right away to the north of the Chinese Empire and south as far as Tonking and Kwangtung, are of Tibeto-Burman origin. The Hsi-fan group, the Nou-su group (this is my own theory, for several other theories are known, and the Nou-su group is placed broadly under the Lolo, itself a term of opprobrium), and many other tribes of these great families. It is safe to say, broadly, that all these tribes are allied racially or religiously. It is well known that in all stages of their civilisation not one tribe has a good word to say for the Chinese, and in the western provinces these tribes peoples predominate probably seven in ten. One cannot pose as a political prophet. China’s Revolution has shown the world that prophecy in political possibilities in China is charged with an extraordinary element of chance, and one may certainly declare that it is not in the power of any one to say that these non-Chinese peoples could not be won over to the British. My personal opinion is that it could be easily done.

And one is able to imagine that in the revolution of politics in Eastern Asia which this great Revolution will inevitably bring about, and it were found necessary for China’s regular army to proceed en bloc to the east of the Empire, the tribes of the west would be able to create a situation, by civil war and open rebellion against the Government, of so serious a nature that years would intervene before China could completely conquer the people and gain their moral support.

This New China Government—Republican or Monarchical, or both, as may be—has to find out for herself her own weak points. No thoughtful man who has been through these wild regions can doubt that the tribal danger is one of China’s greatest weaknesses, greater as one understands it more, confronting the new {252}Government with a problem greater than the Manchu Government was prepared to recognise.

A PRE-REVOLUTION GROUP. Tuan Fang, the “friend of the foreigner,” is seated. He was decapitated by his own men in Szechuen. General Chang Piao, Commander in Chief of the Hupeh Army, is standing on his right, in military uniform. After being routed by the Revolutionaries, he fled the country.
A PRE-REVOLUTION GROUP.
Tuan Fang, the “friend of the foreigner,” is seated.
He was decapitated by his own men in Szechuen. General Chang
Piao, Commander in Chief of the Hupeh Army, is standing
on his right, in military uniform. After being routed
by the Revolutionaries, he fled the country.
In a review of the Szechuen Revolt, the author feels that he has wandered considerably in his chronicle. But the information contained in what has just been written has a most vital bearing upon the maintenance of peace in Western China.[1]

 

[1] In 1898 Tuan Fang was a Secretary of the Board of Works; his rapid promotion after that date was chiefly due to the patronage of his friend Jung Lu. For a Manchu, he is remarkably progressive and liberal in his views.

In 1900 he was Acting-Governor of Shensi. As the Boxer movement spread and increased in violence, and as the fears of Jung Lu led him to take an increasingly decided line of action against them, Tuan Fang, acting upon his advice, followed suit. In spite of the fact that at the time of the coup d’état he had adroitly saved himself from clear identification with the Reformers and had penned a classical composition in praise of filial piety, which was commonly regarded as a veiled reproof to the Emperor for not yielding implicit obedience to the Old Buddha, he had never enjoyed any special marks of favour at the latter’s hands, nor been received into that confidential friendliness with which she frequently honoured her favourites.

In his private life, as in his administration, Tuan Fang has always recognised the changing conditions of his country and endeavoured to adapt himself to the needs of the time; he was one of the first among the Manchus to send his sons abroad for their education. His sympathies were at first unmistakably with K’ang Yu-wei and his fellow-Reformers, but he withdrew from them because of the anti-dynastic nature of their movement, of which he naturally disapproved.

As Acting-Governor of Shensi, in July, 1900, he clearly realised the serious nature of the situation and the dangers that must arise from the success of the Boxer movement, and he therefore issued two proclamations to the province, in which he earnestly warned the people to abstain from acts of violence. These documents were undoubtedly the means of saving the lives of many missionaries and other foreigners isolated in the interior. In the first a curious passage occurs, wherein after denouncing the Boxers, he said:—

“The creed of the Boxers is no new thing: in the reign of Chia-Ch’ing followers of the same cult were beheaded in droves. But the present-day Boxer has taken the field ostensibly for the defence of his country against the foreigner, so that we need not refer to the past. While accepting their good intentions, I would merely ask, Is it reasonable for us to credit these men with supernatural powers of invulnerability? Are we to believe that all the corpses which now strew the country between Peking and the sea are those of spurious Boxers and that the survivors alone represent the true faith?”

After prophesying for them the same fate which overtook the Mohammedan rebels and those of the Taiping insurrection, he delivered himself of advice to the people which, while calculated to prevent the slaughter of foreigners, would preserve his reputation for patriotism. It is well, now that Tuan Fang has fallen upon evil days, to remember the good work he did in a very difficult position. His proclamation ran as follows:—

“I have never for a moment doubted that you men of Shensi are brave and patriotic and that, should occasion offer, you would fight nobly for your country. I know that if you join these Boxers it would be from patriotic motives. I would have you observe, however, that our enemies are the foreign troops who have invaded the metropolitan province, and not the foreign missionaries who reside in the interior. If the Throne orders you to take up arms in the defence of your country, then I, as Governor of this province, will surely share in that glory. But if, on your own account you set forth to slay a handful of harmless and defenceless missionaries, you will undoubtedly be actuated by the desire for plunder, there will be nothing noble in your deed and your neighbours will despise you as surely as the law will punish you.

“At this very moment our troops are pouring in upon the capital from every province in the Empire. Heaven’s avenging sword is pointed against the invader. This being so, it is absurd to suppose that there can be any need for such services as you people could render at such a time. Your obvious and simple duty is to remain quietly in your homes pursuing your usual avocations. It is the business of the official to protect the people, and you may rely upon me to do so. As to that Edict of Their Majesties, which last year ordered the organisation of trained bands, the idea was merely to encourage self-defence for local purposes, on the principle laid down by Mencius, watch and ward being kept by each district.”

A little later the Governor referred to that decree of the Empress-Dowager (her first attempt at hedging), which began by quoting the “Spring and Autumn Classic,” in reference to the sacred nature of foreign envoys, and used it as a text for emphasising the fact that the members of the several missionary societies in Shensi had always been on the best of terms with the people. He referred to the further fact that many refugees from the famine-stricken districts of Shansi and numbers of disbanded soldiers had crossed the borders of the province, and fearing lest these lawless folk should organise an attack upon the foreigners, he once more urged his people to permit no violation of the sacred laws of hospitality. The province had already commenced to feel the effects of the long drought which had caused such suffering in Shansi, and the superstitious lower classes were disposed to attribute this calamity to the wrath of Heaven, brought upon them by reason of their failure to join the Boxers. Tuan Fang proceeded to disabuse their minds of this idea.

“If the rain has not fallen upon your barren fields,” he said, “if the demon of drought threatens to harass you, be sure that it is because you have gone astray, led by false rumours and have committed deeds of violence. Repent now and return to your peaceful ways, and the rains will assuredly fall. Behold the ruin which has come upon the provinces of Chihli and Shantung; it is to save you from their fate that I now warn you. Are we not all alike, subjects of the great Manchu Dynasty, and shall we not acquit ourselves like men in the service of the State? If there were any chance of this province being invaded by the enemy, you would naturally sacrifice your lives and property to repel them as a matter of simple patriotism. But if in a sudden excess of madness, you set forth to butcher a few helpless foreigners you will in no wise benefit the Empire, but will be merely raising fresh difficulties for the Throne. For the time being, your own conscience will accuse you of ignoble deeds, and later you will surely pay the penalty with your lives and the ruin of your families. Surely, you men of Shensi, enlightened and high-principled, will not fall so low as this. There are, I know, among you some evil men who, professing patriotic enmity to foreigners and Christians wax fat on foreign plunder. But the few missionary chapels in this province offer but meagre booty and it is safe to predict that those who begin by sacking them will certainly proceed next to loot the houses of your wealthier citizens, from the burning of foreigners’ homes the conflagration will spread to your own, and many innocent persons will share the fate of the slaughtered Christians. The plunderers will escape with their booty, and the foolish onlookers will pay the penalty of these crimes. Is it not a well-known fact that every anti-Christian outbreak invariably brings misery to the stupid innocent people of the district concerned? Is not this a lamentable thing? As for me, I care neither for praise nor blame; my only object for preaching peace in Shensi is to save you, my people, from dire ruin and destruction.”

Tuan fang was a member of the Mission to Foreign Countries in 1905, and has received decorations and honours at the hands of several European sovereigns. In private life he is distinguished by his complete absence of formality, a genial, hospitable man, given to good living, delighting in new mechanical inventions, and fond of his joke. It was he who, as Viceroy of Nanking, organised the International Exhibition. As Viceroy of Chihli, he was in charge of the arrangements for the funeral of the Empress-Dowager, and a week after that impressive ceremony, for alleged want of respect and decorum, it was charged against him that he had permitted subordinate officials to take photographs of the cortège, and that he had even dared to use certain trees in the Sacred Enclosure of the Mausolea as telegraph poles, for which offences he was summarily cashiered; since then he has lived in retirement. The charges were possibly true, but it is matter of common knowledge that the real reason of his disgrace was a matter of palace politics rather than funeral etiquette, for he was a protégé of the Regent, and his removal was a triumph for the Yehonala clan at a time when its prestige called for a demonstration of some sort against the growing power and influence of the Emperor Kwang-Hsu’s brothers.

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CHAPTER XVIII

SOME REVOLUTION FACTORS
Revolution is endemic in this land of great movements. The particular spirit that sways the feelings of the sensuous populace manifests itself now in the sporadic riotings that seem to occur everywhere and everywhen, and from no conceivable cause; again in the more widespread upheaval to which we give the name of “rebellion”—an abortive revolution; but ever and anon, gathering momentum from varying petty upheavals, the torrent of passions aroused bursts all restraining bounds and the country is swept from end to end by the onrushing flood. All erstwhile authority is at an end; fire and sword are the only “powers that be”; the land drinks deeply of the life-blood of its sons and daughters; and then, when the torrent of fury has spent its strength, Nature reclothes herself in a new garb, new homesteads and teeming villages spring into existence, and a new authority takes to itself power and grows on to greatness. Decades and centuries roll by; and this Dynasty also, like the effete Government it displaced, totters through a long period of hoary childishness to its terrible fall.

Even the casual observer realises that the last scene of a last act is being played out before our eyes. Full soon the curtain will fall and the Ta Ts’ing Dynasty exist in history only. Its “cup of iniquity” seems long to have been full.

Five hundred years ago there was a somewhat {257}analogous situation. The Emperor of the time, Hwei-ti by name, was but a stripling, and utterly incapable of guiding the ship of state through the stormy seas of Court intrigue. His uncle, Prince Yen, the Yuan Shih K’ai of his age, had for years been drilling his soldiery, accumulating war stores, and in every way preparing to seize the reins of power. In 1400 A.D. the time seemed ripe; and in August of that year Yen led forty thousand picked men into Shangtung. No less than three hundred thousand loyalists were sent to oppose him; but the better trained and more skilfully led rebels, though numerically so inferior, utterly routed the badly-placed horde led by General Ping-Wen. This was but the beginning of a four-years relentless war, waged mostly in the northern and eastern provinces—Shangtung, Chihli, Anhwei and Kiangsu—leading to the flight of Hwei-ti to Szechuen (where he became a Buddhist priest) and the proclamation of Prince Yen as Emperor under the title of Ch’eng Tsu.

This Revolution in no way affected the Dynasty, which, in spite of internal uprisings and external depredations by Mongols and Japanese, ran for another 250 years in unbroken succession. Nevertheless during the whole of this period the history of China is one long chapter of domestic trouble, corruption and decadence alike of ruler and ruled, whilst over all Court life the deadly upas-tree of eunuchdom cast its blasting shadow. There were always rebellions, always the argument of the naked sword in the settlement of differences—and always the emerging from one cloud of trouble to enter but another, and that of a deeper darkness. Then came the end.

A rebellion that shook the Empire to its centre and brought about the end of the Ming Dynasty broke out in Shensi, and quickly spread through the neighbouring provinces, until not only Shensi, but Shansi, Honan, and Hupeh were involved. Like the Revolution that {258}threatens to be the end of the present Dynasty, and has already foreshadowed the great and momentous changes to be, this rebellion was conceived and carried out by a “General Li”—Li Tsi-cheng by name. For some few years the Government was able to keep the upper hand—indeed, in 1634 it seemed as if the generalissimo of the rebel forces was hopelessly involved in a mountainous cul-de-sac, and that his extermination was but a question of time. Not knowing the strength of the rebel army, the commander of the Imperial forces granted terms of capitulation. Li brought away his forces to the number of thirty-six thousand with only the loss of their arms, much to the chagrin of the Imperial leader.

There was the great mistake of the Imperialists. Almost immediately the Manchus, having been joined by the Mongol forces, harassed the northern borders of the Empire. The Ming Dynasty had lost the confidence of the nation; officialdom was at its weakest through long years of corruption and misrule; General Li seized his opportunity, other leaders joined themselves and their forces to the rebel army, and China for ten years became one great battlefield.[1] To give but a solitary instance of the carnage that ensued: Li had unsuccessfully invested Kaifeng-fu earlier in the year, but having captured Nanyang, he led his victorious troops before the former city at the close of 1641, only to be repulsed, losing an eye, pierced by an arrow, in the attempt. In the following year Li again laid siege to the seemingly impregnable place; and, finally, enraged by the nine-months resistance of plucky Kaifeng, turned the waters of the Yellow River into the doomed city. The loss of life was fearful—some million souls, it is said, perishing in the muddy torrent that swept across the plain, twenty feet high. Li himself was compelled to beat a hasty retreat, losing ten thousand men in his flight. Compared with such awful {259}carnage and loss of life, the casualties in the war of the present Revolution seem but trifling.

In the early part of 1644 Li was so far successful that he proclaimed himself Emperor, called his Dynasty “Tai Shun,” appointed various Boards to control the affairs of the country, granted patents of nobility and other rewards to all who had faithfully served him, and generally believed that the Empire, with the throne of it, was his. The rebel chieftain marched through rivers of blood to Peking, captured the city, and found that the Emperor (Chwang Lieh-ti) had hanged himself in his own girdle. The revolution seemed complete, and the prize of life within his grasp.

One enemy remained unconquered, but this enemy was one Wu San-kwei, the commandant of the fortress of Ning Yuen. His force was not a large one, and his supplies limited. To crush him utterly seemed but the work of a few days to the one who had swept on to Peking in one victorious career. Li Tsi-cheng himself led the army—strong in itself, doubly strong in its sense of reliance born of victory. Love is strong; love ruthlessly deprived of its object breeds a hatred that is stronger tenfold in its thirst for vengeance. Wu San-kwei’s beautiful mistress, whom he passionately adored, had been ravished by one of the rebels. Weak himself, he called in a mighty power to aid him in wreaking his revenge. About 270 miles away was the Manchu host, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to strike the blow they had so long been preparing. Wu must have foreseen the consequences. It was a deliberate betrayal of his country to her bitterest foes. Hate had its way, and called in its only effective instrument.

In the battle that followed the Chinese army was completely surprised and routed, Li being one of the first to flee. His power was broken, his army gone, and the last of the Chinese Emperors had reigned his reign. The Manchu had come.

Li’s conquest of the Empire was completed with the {260}taking of Peking; in Peking the subjugation of China by the Manchus was begun. For thirty-seven years the work of conquest and pacification was carried on. Then the Empire had rest for a season.

We quote the following from an interesting article that appeared in the Central China Post of December 2, 1911: “From this date there was no serious internal disturbances in China for a hundred and seventy years. During the greater portion of the time the administration was at once strong, able, and enlightened, for two of the first four Manchu Emperors were great and commanding personalities, while the length of time they severally occupied the throne did much to consolidate the position of the Dynasty. The second Manchu sovereign, the great Kanghi, proclaimed Emperor at the age of eight, in 1661, occupied the throne for the long term of sixty-one years, and his long rule was extremely brilliant and vigorous. Kanghi’s immediate successor, Yung Ching, was far from being a weak man; but as his brief reign of thirteen years was characterised by no novel departure and no startling events, he is much less prominent than either his father or the son that succeeded him. The fourth Manchu sovereign would have had even a longer reign than his grandfather had if he had not adopted the unusual course of abdicating the throne, after occupying it sixty years. In this connection, it may be remarked that cases of abdication are about as rare in Chinese as in European history, while in Japan during the last millennium it has been quite exceptional for a sovereign to die in actual occupation of the throne. The second Manchu Emperor, Kanghi (1661-1722), was one of the greatest and most successful rulers that ever exercised sway in China. But his grandson, the fourth Manchu Emperor, Keen-lung (1735-96), was even greater and even more successful still. Keen-lung was twenty-five years of age when he ascended the throne in 1735; thus when he abdicated {261}in 1796 he was a patriarch of fourscore years and six. Yet even till that date he had retained the active habits which had characterised his youth. Much of his official work was carried on at an early hour of the morning; and Europeans who had audience with him shortly before his abdication were greatly surprised to find the patriarch so keen and eager for business at these early conferences. Keen-lung did not omit to train, or at least to try to train, a successor. He abdicated in 1796, as has just been written; but for three years after that date he kept a keen watch upon his son and successor, Kia-king, exerting all his efforts to inculcate in him the right principles of sound government. But the results were nothing much to boast of after all. Half a century after the death of Keen-lung, the account of the state of China, given by writers notoriously friendly to the Manchus, is lurid indeed. The corruption of the public service, we are told, had gradually alienated the sympathies of the people. Conscience and probity had for a time been banished from it. The example of a few men of honoured capacity served but to bring into more prominent relief the faults of the administrative class as a whole. Justice was nowhere to be found; the verdict was sold to the highest bidder. It became far from uncommon for rich criminals sentenced to death to get substitutes procured for them. Offices were sold to men who had never passed an examination, and who were wholly illiterate, the sole value of the office lying in its being a tool for extortion. Extortion and malversation ran to extraordinary lengths. In Kia-king’s early years, when the minister Hokwan was condemned and executed for peculation, it was found that the fortune he had amassed amounted to eighty million taels—more than twenty-six million pounds sterling. The officials waxed rich on ill-gotten wealth, and a few accumulated enormous fortunes. But the administration went on sinking lower and lower in the estimation of the people, {262}while, of course, its efficiency was getting steadily crippled. Now, the peculiar Civil Service of China is at once the strength and weakness of the Empire. It needs to be made to toe the line very strictly by a stern and upright and ever alert Imperial master. Keen-lung himself knew its weak spots, and more than once thought of finding drastic remedies for them. But when questioned on the matter, one of the ablest and most honest of his ministers maintained that there was no remedy. ‘It is impossible; the Emperor himself cannot do it—the evil is too widespread. He will, no doubt, send to the scene of disturbance and complaint mandarins clothed with all his authority; but they will only commit greater exactions, and the inferior magistrates, in order to be left undisturbed, will offer them presents. The Emperor will then be told that all is well, while everything is really wrong, and the poor people are being oppressed.’

“Therefore, Keen-lung had to depend almost entirely upon others as his ‘ears and eyes.’ It is all very well to speak of him doing and seeing everything for himself, but in an Empire such as his the thing was really entirely out of the question. However, his untiring and unceasing energy did much to make his subordinates honest and attentive to their duties, in spite of themselves. But his successor, Kia-king (1796-1821), was neither a strong man nor a great worker, and under him the debacle began. Under the weak but well-meaning Taou-kwang (1821-50) it gathered headway apace, with the result that within half a century of the great Keen-lung’s demise the Manchu Dynasty had to face a national revolt that put its existence into direst jeopardy.”

Steep was the descent and quick was the pace. As had been the Ming Dynasty five centuries ago, so had become their so promising succeeding race. “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.” There had been that irritating intercourse with the outside {263}world, and the war—disastrous to China—consequent upon the proud Empire’s attempt to treat all foreign peoples as vassals of the Son of Heaven. But it was hoped that with the signing of the Treaty of Nanking wiser councils would prevail, and that the Chinese had learned to respect the foreigners, or at least the thunder of their guns. But “such was the gross ignorance of the educated and leading men of China in regard to foreign nations, it was believed that they were utterly beneath the contempt of China.” The war had taught them no lesson. China’s officials were as arrogant as ever. The civil administration was equally incapable of dealing with and directing the affairs of State.

In fact, there was a parallel between the Empire at the time under review and the conditions that obtained when the storm of Revolution burst on Wuchang last tenth of October, as will have been seen in former parts of this volume.

Everywhere there had existed secret societies, or numbers of men banded together by oath to destroy the “Manchu usurpers,” and ever and again some malcontent or another would set up the banner of insurrection, and to him would flock all the discontents and bandits of the neighbourhood. This is the opportunity of the secret society men. The cry of “China for the Chinese” is raised, patriotic feelings are appealed to, and save for the fact that the secret is always betrayed at headquarters long before the would-be revolutionaries are ready, any year of the past century might have seen a repetition of the scenes which are briefly referred to here. Ten years after the Treaty of Nanking news came that one Hung Siu-Chuen, amongst the mountain fastnesses of the south, with a small band of men known as the Society of Worshippers of God, had placed himself at the head of the discontented people—driven to rebellion by official persecution—and was defeating the Imperial troops everywhere. He claimed the Throne, called himself the {264}Tien-wang (“celestial or heavenly king”), and styled his new Dynasty the Taiping (“Great Peace”). To usher in the Golden Age was the work to which he dedicated himself. Threefold was his desire for freedom. The people groaned under the tyranny of an alien power, and so desired civil liberty; they were cursed by the superstition and idolatry to which they had given themselves, and so desired religious liberty; they saw the craving of opium blighting the lives of their best, and so were fighting for moral liberty for the nation. All Manchus were ruthlessly put to the sword, all temples and idols were utterly destroyed, and all traffic in or smoking of opium was sternly prohibited. In the early stages of the movement the moral forces of Christianity, the religious opinions that seemed to hold sway in the minds of the Taipings, and the high aims of the leaders of the movement made missionaries and Christians at home think that China was to arise from the ashes of her destroyed paganism, clothed in the fair garments of Christianity. Reports to the Dragon Throne informed the Emperor that the rebels were in full flight. As a matter of fact, they were carrying everything before them. They swept triumphantly through the provinces of Kwangsi and Hunan, then on to the busy mart of Hankow in Hupeh; there, freighting a thousand junks with their spoils, they swept on down the Yangtze to the ancient capital of the Ming Dynasty—Nanking. This city fell after a brief siege, and with its fall the initial work in preparing the way for a new kingdom was come. If—and in the “if” is perhaps the reason of the collapse of the movement—if the new-made king had known how to construct after he had done the work of destruction, there would have been a lasting revolution instead of an almost forgotten rebellion. One authority, who was in China at the time, says that the very success of the movement seems to have not only affected for the worse the principles of its leaders and the morals of the {265}Taipings, but also to have attracted a great many of the baser sort to it. Dr. Martin, in his “A Cycle of Cathay,” says: “He, the Tien-wang, sanctioned robbery and violence, and himself set the example of polygamy, an example eagerly followed by his subordinates, who had no scruple in filling their harems with the wives and daughters of their enemies.” The opinion of the outside Powers concerning the insurgents was not improved by the atrocities of a horde of secret-society men, who belonged to the Triad Society, and were sometimes called Redheads. These were regarded as being part of the Taiping Army, though having really no connection with it or with the aims of its leaders. Their awful cruelty and bloodshed in capturing Shanghai not only induced the French to expel them, but alienated the sympathies of the foreign Powers from the Taipings themselves. One other fact should be mentioned. The foreign merchants were also prejudiced against the rebels. This is easily understandable. Trade was at a standstill throughout one-third of the Empire, and that the part most easily accessible; and at the same time the stringent laws against the use of opium caused the sympathies of some to be against the movement. First, an American, General Ward, organised a force of foreigners and natives and showed the Chinese Government what a trained soldiery could do. Then, General Gordon was lent to the Imperialists by the British Government. One by one the cities were retaken, until at last, with the fall of Nanking, after a protracted siege and the suicide of the Tien-wang, the rebellion came to an end.

At this juncture of the present Revolution, when so many are clamouring for foreign intervention, and when individual foreigners are taking it upon themselves to address the leaders of the parties in the interests of an early peace, it is well to pause and give due weight to the arguments of the other side. From the very beginning of this struggle the foreign Powers have {266}been firmly but respectfully asked to keep their hands off. This is a domestic matter. The Chinese wish to be allowed to fight the thing out. A premature patching up of so great an upheaval would be far more disastrous than a peace deferred. The movement is a people’s movement. The nation knows its own mind on the matter, and is intent on seeing its will carried into effect. That will may be guided into right and safe channels; but to thwart it by interference from without would be like attempting to dam up the Yangtze—an operation fraught with dire disaster to all concerned.

The suppression of a revolution ab extra always reverses the wheels of progress, and in this instance who can tell by how many centuries it has postponed the adoption of Christianity by the Chinese? … Looking back at this distance of time, with all the light of subsequent history upon the events, we are still inclined to ask whether a different policy might not have been better for China. Had foreign Powers promptly recognised the Taiping chief on the outbreak of the second war, might it not have shortened a chapter of horrors that dragged on for fifteen more years, ending in the Nien-fei and Mohammedan rebellions and causing the loss of fifty millions of human lives…. More than once, when the insurgents were on the verge of success, the prejudice of short-sighted diplomats decided against them, and an opportunity was lost such as does not occur once in a thousand years.”[2] Other witnesses of these times and events speak in a similar strain. On the other hand, it has to be remembered that there was no little failure on the part of the Taiping Wang to realise the need for reconstruction of a new kingdom, and seeming lack of ability to use the fruits of his victories. The suppression of the Taipings took fourteen years (1850-64). The outside world has forgotten, if it ever knew, the extent and horrors {267}of that terrible time. Not so the Chinese people. Small wonder is it that when Li Yuan Hung’s army began their terrible slaughter of the Manchus in Wuchang, young and old, rich and poor, taking only such clothes as they wore or such goods as they could carry, quietly and in a sort of unorganised order started, eight hundred thousand of them, on their flight from doomed Hankow. For there were many who still remembered the coming of the dreaded Taipings, and still shuddered at the thought of that “tomb of the seventy thousand” outside Wuchang city, and still remembered the similar flight of fifty years ago. They knew, too, of the Taiping rebellion, that nine provinces had been desolated by it. Towns and cities had been left mere heaps of ruins (like unto Hankow at this present time), and in them wild beasts had their dens, while some twenty millions of people had been sacrificed in that terrible struggle of a nation at war with itself.

Almost concurrently with the Taiping movement came the great Mohammedan rebellion, under the leadership of Yakub Beg. About this time there was more than one attempt on the part of Islam to avenge the insults of the arrogant Chinese, a by no means insignificant rising, occurring in Yunnan, where the Panthays, taking advantage of the Taiping troubles, captured the western half of Yunnan, and made Talifu their capital, under Sultan Sulieman. But by far the greatest rising, both in duration and effect, was that of the north-west, which originated in eastern Turkestan, swept over the Tien-Shan Mountains, into Ili, on through Kansu, and into the province of Shensi.

If ever a time seemed favourable to the Revolutionary cause, surely this was the time. The Taiping rebellion was not yet quelled, China was embroiled with England, and the rebel chief was able without serious opposition to hold on his triumphant way. Yakub Beg was so brilliantly successful in his “holy war” that he was styled the “Champion Father” by the {268}Mohammedan world. At last had arisen the man who would, under Allah’s blessing, purge away the stain of insult from the “Faithfuls'” escutcheon. It did really seem as if a permanent kingdom had been founded in this north-western section of the Flowery Land, and that a new leader was to be the first of a long line of Mohammedan kings. Then one of those unanticipated changes occurred—that is, unanticipated by the casual observer of things Chinese. In little more than a decade from the first raising of the standard of rebellion, Yakub Beg died, a broken and a beaten man, away in far distant Korla. For the army which had been trained in the hard school of experience of fighting the Taipings was, under the excellent leadership of General Tso, practically invincible when the undisciplined fanatic hordes hurled themselves against it. City after city was retaken, until in 1878 the rebellion was at an end, and the times that had been were only a horrible nightmare in the memories of those who had endured, suffered, and fortunately escaped with lives.

The last of these great political movements, which must be briefly referred to here was generally known as the Boxer uprising. This, like the Taiping rebellion, had as its origin that spirit of enmity that has ever been manifested between the north and the south. Never was this struggle so manifestly obvious as during this great movement that is still taking place in China. The very names of “Northern Army” and “Southern Army,” used by the Hankow populace in everyday parlance when speaking of the opposing forces under Yuan Shih K’ai and Li Yuan Hung respectively, vouches for evidence of the truth of the statement. In that valuable contribution towards the history of the inwardness of the Boxer movement, “China Under the Empress-Dowager,”[3] this eternal quarrel between the north and the south is well worked out. We need do {269}no other than refer the reader to it in passing. In fact, the cause of the Reform movement of 1898 was that the versatile scholars of the south had captivated the mind of the young Emperor, and had led him to issue his celebrated Reform Edict. On the other hand, jealous of their southern opponents, the wily men of the north used their influence with Jung-Lu and the Empress-Dowager to bring about the coup d’état that practically dethroned the Emperor and was the first of a series of retrogressive steps culminating in the enlisting of the Patriotic Harmony Train-bands (Boxers), to Rid China of the Accursed Presence of the Foreigners.

Since the time of the Taipings a new element of contention had crept into State politics—the foreigner. Whether as missionary or merchant, as financier or diplomat, the “foreigner” was now a force to be reckoned with, and after this brief review we shall note how all these factors paved the way for perhaps the greatest movement of all, the Revolution of 1911-12. Away in the Kwan district of Shantung there existed a secret society rejoicing in the euphemistic title of Plum Blossom Fists. The late Tuan Fang, when issuing his famous proclamation that all missionaries should be protected in his province, compared these Boxers to the White Lily Society[4] which had done so much to {270}bring about the downfall of the Yuan Dynasty in the fourteenth century.

But in these Plum Blossom Fists there was something more than the usual spirit animating the secret-society men. There was the newly awakened “patriotism”—a word and an idea just taking hold of the student throughout the country. The utter defeat of China in her short, sharp conflict with the Japanese, that hitherto despised “nation of dwarfs,” caused a thrill of indignation throughout the Empire. “What are you going to do now?” I asked a young student, just through his college course. The answer came pat. “I am going to Japan to study military tactics, and so help save my country,” a reply pregnant with meaning. But the Plum Blossom Fists had much to learn before they could come under the spell of that young student’s idea. They were the ones to save China. Themselves invulnerable, their mission from Heaven itself, their cause righteous, there could be only victory for them and salvation for their country!

The spirit that animated these fanatical devotees with their blind belief in incantations and charms[5] was also at work in the more enlightened Kwang-hsu. China was being dismembered. Germany had practically occupied Shantung. Russia possessed Liaotung. Japan held Formosa by right of treaty. And the Powers were coolly discussing “spheres of influence.” They understood the temper of the Chinese as little as the Chinese had understood that of the foreigners. The young Emperor and his advisers realised something of the power of knowledge. And as a result of that Reform Edict the eyes of Young China were turned from the {271}contemplation of a dead past to the quickening study of all that was best and living in the colleges of the world. The coup d’état of September 22, 1898, for a time put back the hands of the clock of progress, and the Empress-Dowager entered upon her reactionary career. The Boxers, every one of them, had for their objective the expulsion of the Tartar Dynasty, and the putting of a Chinese emperor on the throne. Adroitly the clever Empress laid hold of their “patriotic” desires and turned the machinations of the secret societies against the Government into a conspiracy for the utter extermination of the foreigner in China. Wiser counsels had for a time prevailed, and at the commencement of Boxerism the Imperial troops in Shantung had kept the “patriots” in order, overcoming by force of arms a party led by an abbot. Although several of these fanatics were shot, and others executed by the military commander, thus proving their “vulnerability,” the Government was not disposed to do other than to accept such seemingly powerful allies. “They may be useless as a fighting force, but their claims to magic will dishearten the enemy, whilst their enthusiasm will inspire the soldiers of the regular army.” Such was the subtle reasoning of the astute Empress. The die was cast, and she threw in her lot with those who had but a few short months previously been thirsting for her own blood.

Such heroes as Jung-Lu, Yuan-Ch’ang, and Hsu-Ching-Cheng tried in vain to turn the infatuated ruler from her fatal policy. The two latter saved the lives of many a foreigner—that of the writer amongst them—by substituting the ideograph meaning “Protect” for the one meaning “Slay” in the Imperial Edict telegraphed all over the Empire, but suffered the extreme penalty themselves when the Empress found out what they had done. “Their limbs should be torn asunder,” she screamed, “by chariots driven in opposite directions. Let them be summarily decapitated.”

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So the Boxers were let loose upon Chinese Christians and foreign missionaries alike. Killing, looting, burning went on apace; but perhaps the most tragic scene of the horrible time was that enacted at Taiyuenfu, in the yamen of Yu Hsien, the Nero of Shansi, who himself helped to do to death fifty-five missionaries—men, women, and children—on July 9, 1900.

In North China and Manchuria, to say nothing of isolated instances south of the Yangtze, over two hundred missionaries, Protestant and Roman Catholic, were massacred, while several thousands of Chinese Christians followed their foreign pastors to the death.

The events that led to the collapse of the movement need but a passing mention. They are matters of history but recently in the minds of all. The Taku forts capitulated to the little foreign gunboats, the army of the allies captured Tientsin, and a composite force, fifteen thousand strong, marched on Peking. In less than a fortnight the work was successfully accomplished; and on the 14th of August the foreigners, with their Legations, which had been besieged by a savage horde of Boxers and Imperial troops since the 20th of June, were relieved. Peking was taken by assault, and China’s Imperial Court fled by the “Victory” Gate in three common mulecarts for Sianfu, in far-away Shansi. The movement ended in a failure as lamentable as its inception had been a mistake. It was conceived in no spirit of mere thirst for blood. People and Court believed that the foreign Powers were “swallowing up” China, and in a moment of mad frenzy believed that the only way of escape for themselves and salvation for their country lay along the line of utter extermination of the foreigner and all that belonged to him.

This rapid survey—touching upon the salient features of each of these great heart-throbs of the nation—shows us the main contributory factors of the People’s Revolution of 1911-12.

THE CHILD-EMPEROR OF CHINA. Last of the Manchu Dynasty, that was overthrown by the Revolution.
THE CHILD-EMPEROR OF CHINA.
Last of the Manchu Dynasty, that was overthrown by the Revolution.
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The events leading up to the Taiping Rebellion have shown that the nation was ripe for a change. The fruit, rotten at the core, was dropping from the tree; as was the Ming Dynasty at its fall, so had become the Tsing Dynasty that supplanted it. The successful revolution under General Li Ts’i-chang was brought to naught by the coming in of an exterior power that snatched the fruits of victory for itself, and, by putting down the Revolution, put down the Dynasty also, and seized the whole country. The rebellion under Tien Wang was put down in the same way, but this time the “foreign Power” invoked was not imbued with a lust for conquest. Yet it brought the Chinese politics a new force to be reckoned with—the foreigner, with his law of extra-territoriality. The awakening of China began with the utter defeat of the Imperial forces by the troops of Japan, and a craving to know the reason of it all obsessed the nation’s mind. “Let us go to school with the foreigner; let us study his books” became the nation’s watchword. Then there began to dawn in China the thought that far too much national wealth and power and prestige had been handed over to foreign control. There was alarm, suspicion, bitter animosity—and the Boxer movement. With the putting down of this movement and the generous treatment—in spite of all criticism to the contrary—meted out to China by the foreign Powers, came the consciousness of her real needs. From this time China put her youth to school with the “foreigner.” Students went abroad by thousands, Japan taking by far the greater number. Already there was the conviction that the Government was corrupt, inefficient, and incurable. The spirit of patriotism had not only been awakened in the heart of the nation, but possessed the soul of each of her students, and even the country yokels were full of the idea of it. From contact with the outside world and from a comparative study of empires, one with another and each with China, came {274}the third necessary factor of China—the awakened and trained mind.

It is common opinion that the schools and colleges run by foreigners in China have contributed in no small measure to this Revolutionary movement. It is pointed out that missionary propaganda have also played their part in creating in the Chinese mind a desire to do away with make-believe and insincerity. The charge is a true one. All these new forces coming into the life of the young student must have created an intense dissatisfaction with things as they were. The late Empress-Dowager seems to have been by no means unmindful of this tendency of missionary and educational effort. To this may be attributed, partly at least, her attempt to exterminate missionaries and all they stood for.

It must be the aim and intention of the great body of educationists throughout the Empire to come to the help of Young China in the time of its greatest need. So much depends on the constructive ability of the student body during the next few years that well-wishers of China will welcome every honest attempt to help the student life to attain its ideals; and not only so—to follow out in their after-life the policy dictated to them by the manifold call of duty of their enlightened conscience. For this reason, too, China will assuredly welcome the efforts of the Occident to lead her into the ways of higher education, such as may be obtained in the new Hongkong University and the University that is to be in the Wu-han centre.

“The students of to-day are the masters of to-morrow.” Nowhere is this more true than in China, and statesmen-missionaries have always advocated education as the surest means of reaching the heart of the nation; for the other classes look to the student class for guidance, and if one can win the heart of the student, the ear of the people is gained also. The influence of the student in China has always been great, {275}but it is likely to be still greater in the future. Which brings us another problem. The students rule the people—who rules the students? For except in the case of the few who study abroad, a standard beyond that of an English Sixth Form is seldom attained, while opportunities for carrying on education at that critical time when for the first time the student has begun to love his studies are very few. China needs her great force of students, but she needs men of initiative, men who can lead, men whose higher education has given them a broader outlook.

It is to supply this need that the United Universities Scheme has been organised. Space prevents anything but the merest outline of the scheme. It is proposed, however, to plant in the Wuhan centre, that heart of China, a University, that will combine the highest education, both Western and Chinese, with those forces and influences that make for the upbuilding of strong Christian character. The Universities of Britain and America will supply the University staff, while various missionary societies will plant hostels on the University grounds, and in these hostels the students must reside. As a result, while they are getting an education equal to that of a Western University, they will, at the same time, be brought in contact with men of Christian character, while that part of their being which Chinese students are all too apt to forget will be strengthened. It must be clear that, on the ground of expense alone, for one missionary body to attempt to do this would be impossible. But the University Scheme, without isolating the student from the influence of the mission school, will enable him to complete his education. Here he will have an opportunity of preparing for his lifework, for there will be courses both in philosophical and technical subjects. Indeed, the University, will aim at giving the student as thorough an education as he would receive were he to study abroad, combined, as has been said, with an ennobling Christian influence.

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China cannot depend for ever on the foreigner. Indeed, Young China often shows that she would rather rule herself. For a few years our influence will be felt. And how can we better make our influence felt than by raising up men who, when we are no longer wanted, will be able to carry on that influence that we are striving to exert? It is a question that is worth while facing.

The lesson had been learned to some effect. From the outset of this People’s Revolution, the stern measures of General Li Yuan Hung to safeguard person and property of natives and foreigners alike, and the fair and impartial spirit shown by the Revolutionists in carrying these measures out, have astonished the world and won golden opinions for General Li himself. The celebrated Edict, the first issued by the Republican leader, was as follows:—

“I am to dispel the Manchu Government and to revive the rights of the Han people. Let all keep orderly and not disobey military discipline. The rewards of merit and the punishment of crime are as follows:—

“Those who conceal any Government officials are to be beheaded.

“Those who inflict injuries on foreigners are to be beheaded.

“Those who deal unfairly with the merchants are to be beheaded.

“Those who interrupt commerce are to be beheaded.

“Those who give way to slaughter, burning, adultery are to be beheaded.

“Those who attempt to close the markets are to be beheaded.

“Those who supply the troops with foodstuffs will be rewarded.

“Those who supply ammunition are to be rewarded.

“Those who can afford protection to the Foreign Concessions are to be highly rewarded.

“Those who guard the churches are to be highly rewarded.

“Those who can lead on the people to submission are to be highly rewarded.

“Those who can encourage the country people to join will be rewarded.

“Those who give information as to the movements of the enemy are to be rewarded.

“Those who maintain the prosperity of commerce are to be rewarded.

“The Eighth Moon of the 4,609th year of the Huang Dynasty.”

 

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Those who the most closely scrutinised the consequent conduct of the Revolutionary troops will be able to testify to the impartial way in which the terms of the Edict were carried out. Neither extenuating circumstances nor official rank saved a transgressor. Li Yuan Hung meant what he said, and right throughout the Revolutionary movement his word was his bond. From one example learn all. When Hanyang went over to the Revolutionists they installed a “fu” magistrate in Hanyang, one Li Ping, who had been charged by the late Government with being in league with Kang Yu Wei, the famous reformer, and had been sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment. While in prison he met a criminal named Cheo, and these two soon struck up a friendship. On being released by the Revolutionists Li was placed in office, and arranged for Cheo to be his secretary. Cheo was in a position to receive the incoming money for the Revolutionary Cause. Thirty thousand taels in one amount was subscribed, of which Cheo handed in only twenty thousand, keeping the balance for himself. This leaked out subsequently. Cheo was immediately decapitated, and his head was hung outside the west gate of the city. Cheo had only been two and a half days out of prison.

 

[1] See “Imperial History of China.”

[2] Dr. W. A. P. Martin’s “Cycle of Cathay.”

[3] “China Under the Empress-Dowager,” by J. O. P. Bland and E. Backhouse. London: William Heinemann, 1911.

[4] “The ostensible purpose for which numbers enrolled themselves was the worship of the idols, and more especially of the Goddess of Mercy. The real object, however, was a political one. The agitated state of the country seemed to Hai-Shan (a conspicuous member of the White Lily sect) a sufficient reason why the standard of rebellion should be raised. At a great meeting of the initiated he declared that the goddess was about to come to the earth in human form to deliver them from their oppressors, and that now was the time to declare themselves against the Mongols. This proposition was received with the utmost enthusiasm. A white horse and a black cow were sacrificed to Heaven in order to secure its intervention on their behalf, and having adopted a red scarf to be worn round their heads as their distinctive mark, they broke out in rebellion against the Government” (MacGowan’s “Imperial History of China”).

[5] Each Boxer carried about his mascot or talisman, a piece of yellow paper on which was printed in red ink a figure of Buddha without feet but with four halos. On this paper were ideographs which were to be repeated at intervals as a charm. It is said that the late Empress-Dowager repeated this incantation seventy times a day, and at each repetition the chief eunuch shouted, “There goes another foreign devil!”

 

 

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CHAPTER XIX

THE ABDICATION EDICT
HANKOW, HUPEH, CHINA, February 13, 1912.

Half an hour ago I was handed a facsimile of the greatest Edict that has ever been issued in the Chinese Empire. It will become known as the Abdication Edict.

The following is a full text of the Edict which has become known as the Abdication Edict. As intimated in recent dispatches concerning the terms agreed upon, it became apparent that there was to be no complete abdication. The Emperor was simply to relinquish all political power, a new provisional Government was to take charge, which in turn was to be succeeded by a regular Government to be named by a National Convention. The Edict reads:—

“Since the uprising in Wuchang the Throne has complied with the people’s request and promulgated nineteen articles of constitution, vesting in the Ministers of State all administrative powers in which the subjects may take part, and that members of the Imperial family should not interfere in political affairs. Subsequently an edict was issued calling a national convention to decide publicly on the government system, thus to show Our intention not to regard the Throne in a selfish spirit. The gentry and the people in the different provinces, however, opine that the situation is pressing, and that if the holding of a national convention is delayed, it is feared that disasters of war may be prolonged and the situation will not be saved. In addition, foreign troubles are threatening and new dangers appear daily, and in the present circumstances the nineteen articles of constitution are not entirely suited to conditions.

“The authority of the Premier especially is insufficient to rule the whole country from within, or to superintend foreign relations from without, and in order to adapt the government to exigencies, in which it is necessary to expect slight changes, the name of Premier {279}is hereby abrogated, and a President is created. All political power shall be vested in control of the President, who is to be elected by the people. But with the exception of resignation of all political powers, the majesty of the Emperor shall not be much different from what is set forth in the nineteen articles formerly adopted. We have enquired this course of the Princes, nobles, officials and gentry in the provinces who are agreed in their views. And it is becoming to comply with their request and let it be carried out according.

“But rumours are widespread, and during our resignation from the political government, unless a united organ exists to control affairs it is feared that good order may not be maintained. We hereby specially command Yuan Shih K’ai to act in conjunction with the officials and gentry of the north and the south and temporarily to form a provisional and united government to destroy the seeds of trouble. Once the national convention has met and formally elected the President, the provisional government will be dissolved, so as to comply with public opinion and display full justice. All our soldiers and people should know that in taking this step Our object is solely for the benefit of the State, the blessing of the people and to restore good order. All affairs will remain as of old, and they should not listen to rumours and create confusion and disturbances. It will thus be fortunate for the country as well as the general position.”

 

Having agreed to abdication in favour of a Republic, the Empress-Dowager issued a secret edict commanding Yuan Shih K’ai to prepare for the formation of a provisional Government and the drawing up of a preliminary scheme to carry it into effect. During January Yuan Shih K’ai had several conferences, with the result that the following scheme was organized:—

ARTICLE 1 deals with the necessity of a provisional and united government after the Emperor’s resignation from government to assume all powers in preserving the status quo and to control foreign affairs, and it will be dissolved after the national convention has elected a President.

2. After resignation from power the Emperor shall remain in the Palace so as to preserve peace in the north.

3. The President’s residence shall be built in Peking, or the newly completed Regent’s Palace may be converted into a presidential house.

4. Owing to the depletion of the treasuries of the present and also the Nanking government since the revolution, while means should be devised for the southern provinces, provisions shall be made towards meeting administrative expenses in the northern provinces after the provisional government has been formed.

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5. The northern and southern provinces should remove prejudices and assist the central united government and remit reasonable amounts of money to it to uphold the situation. Contributions from provinces which have suffered greatly may be deferred.

6. All official administrative officers in Peking shall remain in office, but owing to need of funds for the provisional government all salaries will be suspended for six months.

7. During a few months the pay of the northern and southern troops will be provided and the officers will remain in office.

8. When the provisional united government shall have been recognised by the foreign Powers, foreign relations shall be directly in charge of that government.

9. When the government system has been determined all foreign loans and indemnities shall be paid when due and the provinces should continue to send their usual contributions.

10. The Edict by which the Emperor surrenders the government shall be printed and copies promulgated throughout the country. An Edict will also be issued to the soldiery so as to acquaint them and prevent mutiny.

 

And before I commence this concluding chapter, there will be need to explain that the date of writing is placed at its head because of the rapidity with which changes are coming to the land and the people. In a footnote will be seen the Edict referred to. It stands alone among all edicts that have ever been issued in China. Of all political documents this may be taken as that which will shake the very centre of the world if it is carried into practical effect. So important is it that it were futile for one placed as the author is in the centre of this Empire to endeavour to analyse just what it may mean. What this Imperial Republic of China—for this is what now has come—will develop into only the future can show. Not within the power of any living man is it possible to-day to foretell. As one writes his pen tremulously travels lest telling what appears to-day as unshakable fact will even before this volume is published turn out, in this land of political elasticity, to be nothing but absurdity. But discarding altogether the cloak of the prophet, and drawing his everyday deductions from everyday experience throughout {281}out China’s Revolution, one may now with confidence declare unhesitatingly that this country will make international headway as never before.

The Republic of China is now among the Powers of the world.

The Republicans of China, new-born into a life full of highest promise to mankind, now have free way. In them, if they are wise and good, as wise and good as we believe them anxious to be, we shall soon see on the horizon of the East a nation whose power will be ultimately predominant on the earth, upon whose integrity will undeniably depend the peace of the world. And whilst, if the Republicans rise to the best within them, if they are given foreign support such as their unparalleled political conduct deserves, if they are successful in keeping from their own ranks a dangerous spirit of office-seeking and petty jealousy—in short, if they reach to the zenith of the power that is expected of them by the West, they will make their country, huge as it is, in perhaps less time than the changing era took in Japan, the greatest Empire in the Far East. As I write the Powers, lynx-eyed as ever, are observing China. During the last four months China has been watched as no other nation was ever watched, and she has rushed through her great national drama with appalling speed. She is breathless. Nervously, with a wonderful confidence coming from her newly won emancipation, China is looking questioningly to the West. She knows that all the Powers are closely scrutinising her every movement through political eyeglasses. Having taken the plunge, she knows that they all expect her to break finally from the furrows of the ages—she is almost out of her national depths, and looks half-trustingly only to the Powers, lest she should get out of her depths. She knows that although not all show to her an unmingled friendly attitude—for some would prey upon her speedily, if left alone—it is her duty to herself to watch her political horizon far away. {282}The protest by the Chinese over the Dynasty that has ruled over them for two and a half centuries has been made in every part of China. It is not confined to one or more populous cities or provinces as at first was thought it would be, but this protest against Manchu ascendancy has received approval wherever the Chinese reside. Never in the history of any revolution have the people been more united in sentiment, or has established authority more quickly admitted the justice of that sentiment than the one which has now convulsed China from centre to circumference. Charles I. defended his crown on the battlefield, and yielded only to the genius of Cromwell. Louis XVI. thought to conciliate his political foes by concessions of so humiliating a nature as to forfeit national respect. Both of these kings lost their heads on a scaffold, the one by his hypocrisy, the other by his weakness. Thus far the Revolutionists throughout the country have manifested no barbaric desire for blood. There have been some disgusting acts of brutality in connection with the execution of their enemies. Often have they cut out the hearts and livers of their enemy and, devouring these human organs, and often drinking the human blood, have thought they have added to their bravery. But this sort of thing has been only on a very comparatively small scale. Generally speaking, their behaviour has been good. In the highest degree were they to be commended for their respect for personal safety and property, and the proclamations of their leaders—General Li, Wu Ting Fang, Sun Yat-sen, and others like-minded—had been worthy of the great end they professed to have in view. The United States declared war against Spain because of cruelties to the inhabitants of Cuba, but the burning of Hankow and reported butcheries at Nanking and other places belittle in their inhuman crimes any practised by Spanish soldiers on Cubans. But these things were the forerunners of the Republic {283}of China, and now that Republic has been won. The leaders are now more confident than ever of the good days coming.

Lest one should be led to condemn the confidence shown by her leaders and the makers of the Republic, however, we must remember that into the most populous nation of the world reform had come in four months which came to other countries who fought for their liberty only after years of fearful war. We are inclined, perhaps, we who expect more from the Chinese than perhaps we ourselves are capable of, to ridicule the efforts of this Republican Party, and to believe that all going on around us is a mere political make-believe. We are inclined, perhaps, almost totally to discount the ability of the members of the Republican party, men who, for the most part, have risen from the mediocrity of the nation. And I confess myself to have been during these months of active war among the number who pessimistically looked out upon a changing China. But, now that the critical days of the Revolution are passed, even the most cautious European in China—I mean cautious in regard to snatching at political straws which float down the stream of Chinese national life—even he must, if he be unbiased, acknowledge that history can show us no parallel to what is daily going on around us.

I am perfectly aware that many of the ambitions of the Republican party as it now is are at present unrealisable. I know that many of the old-time practices and corruptions against which their leaders so vehemently proclaimed will in the very nature of things be found necessary to continue. I cannot, however, discount the extreme sincerity of the main leaders, men who with no other motive than that of benefiting their fellow-nationals, are prepared to work hard and unostentatiously for the permanent good of their country. These are the real reformers. Many of them for years have been China’s real reformers, but their {284}light has been under the national bushel. About them little has been known, and as often as not they have been despised as a dangerous faction in the country. In the press they have been cried down. The Manchu Government have been hunting them to do them to death—the leaders, at all events. There have been thousands of smaller men, however, sent abroad to light the fuse; but all of them have had their lights under the national bushel. It has come, in the main, in the march of education, and this morning, looking back over the years, it is a wonderful thing to be able to have in this document the product of the toiling of years of China’s enlightened educated sons.

Since the Reform Edict of 1898 more articles have appeared in both the English and Chinese Press in China upon the subject of education than upon any other. To laud and to praise education has been the fashion—innumerable sticks of incense have been lit and set up to education in China. Education, however, was the means of winning the Revolution, and now the educated men are to have full sway. To them, as never before, the country is looking for right guidance: China has always looked to her scholars for guidance, but this is a new kind of scholar, with a new kind of learning.

And education, as has been pointed out by a writer on Chinese affairs, is a kind of tree which bears two manners of fruit—good and evil. It is a kind of petrol which may drive the individual or the State at a spanking pace along the path of progress, or it may explode with disastrous results to the car and all on board. The general discontent which prevails in so many of the leading nations may be traced directly to the wider spread of education. The industrial classes in the present day are better paid, better fed, better clad, better housed, and work shorter hours than ever before, but through education their aspirations for still more favourable conditions have been tenfold increased, and {285}their efforts to obtain them are becoming always more and more determined.

“We asked a leading Revolutionist the other day,” said the writer quoted, “where the new men who are being sent to all the inland cities as magistrates came from. We supposed they were mostly men of the old magistrate class who were being reappointed, but he said ‘no.’ The bulk of them were young men who had received a modern education and who on examination proved themselves most fit. But for them, he said, there would have been no Revolution. Some had been educated at the expense of the Central Government, some by the provinces, and many at their own expense, but all with a view to obtaining official employment afterwards. This they failed to get, as the offices were only open to those who could afford to purchase them, so they determined to take them, and they have done it. It was not that they desired the spoils of office, but, like Napoleon, they felt that the tools should go to the workmen, and that they could serve their country better than the Manchus and Money Bags whom they wished to supersede.”

Education has thus proved in China to be another name for revolution, and revolution means reform. The chance of the reformers has now come: we must wait for their reforms. Now is not the time to tell each other whether we shall see all that we may expect to see—that time will come in due course. But we know that whilst they have had their lights under this national bushel, the real reformers have succeeded in bringing the word “reform” to every one’s lips in China. The assertion is made in a broad sense. During the past decade and a half every one has been adjuring some one else to reform, and each seemed to be pointing out the true way. This was the result of the working of the reformers, who were there toiling away under greatest odds and at some risk to their own lives, but who now have full power in the land. But {286}what is the genius of any reform, and what are the elements which ensure its success? The celebrated German philosopher, winner of the Nobel prize, Professor Eucken, writes: “The kernel of reform usually consists in the establishment of an essential, original and natural foundation, entailing the elimination of a network of artificialities, superfluities, and complications.” This is true when we glance at the reformers of olden times who in turn harked back to a simpler state when elemental principles stood out more distinctly. Confucius and Mencius, as all Chinese students are aware, referred constantly to the three great kings when the rulers desired only the good of the people. The American people, when rebelling against the oppression of Great Britain, sought to restore the status of citizenship as it was supposed to be in the Mother Country. They fought for old-time Saxon freedom. Then came their reforms.

And so with the Chinese now. First, they must get the essential, original, and natural foundations—of liberty and justice. To plant in China ideas and manners and customs and things, however, which for centuries have held good in the West will not make in China for the best the people are capable of. They will be alien. To give to the Chinese an education only along lines laid down in the West as the best for men in the West would not guarantee the best being drawn out of the Chinese. There must be a commingling of the best the West has to offer with that which has been proved best for China unquestioned through the centuries of her wonderful history. It may or may not be a mistake of modern educationists to pound away only with Western subjects in educating the Chinese, not only not giving any heed to the preservation of the good in Chinese education, but openly dissuading its continuance. This I consider to be one of the weak points in the Republican propaganda—the excessive out-reaching for Western education at the {287}expense of all that really matters in the Chinese national life. The Republican outlook is everywhere filled with all things foreign. Every Revolutionist had shown that he must have a foreign outlook—and that, perhaps, in time to come may develop to be an outlook totally unsuited to China’s teeming millions.

So far as the leaders have gone, however, they have made no great mistakes. The reformers, at all events, are now given the chance to show what they can do. If they are earnest in the declaration in favour of a Republic, the United States would seem the proper model, mutatis mutandis, to be copied. As the Emperor has been proved powerless to hold in subjection the provinces of the Empire, there is a similarity between them and the American colonies when the latter separated from the British Government to establish one of their own.

But whatever their pattern, it will be no easy matter practically to work out immediate reforms in this country—that they will be able to keep to any one plan, however, seems hardly possible.

 

 

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CHAPTER XX

THE OUTLOOK FOR REFORM
And in the political whirl at present it is impossible to foretell what will be the aim of the Republican party.

As it stands now, however, their aim is not merely to overthrow the despised Manchu Dynasty and to restore China’s former glory. It may be said, in a word, that the republican ideal of China is the right of world citizenship for the nation. Dr. Wu Ting Fang, in his masterly address to foreigners, said: “We are fighting to be men in the world; we are fighting to pass off an oppressive, officious, and tyrannous rule that has beggared and disgraced China, obstructed and defied the foreign nations, and set back the hands of the clock of the world.”

It will have been seen in this volume—and, indeed, no student of Chinese affairs will need to be told—that the nature and extent of the preparations which the progressive Chinese have been carrying on during the last twenty years are simply astounding. They assuredly are. China, equally as she has been immovable for so many centuries, has shown us that now it is not a question of getting her to move so much as keeping her from moving too quickly.

But, on the other hand, I have been in some parts of interior China where not a single sign of reform in the common life is noticeable. Behind in the village, however, there has invariably been found one or two of {289}the scholarly men who have taken into their being a certain spirit of reform despite the fact that they could not work out the Utopian era which had been promulgated in the revolutionary literature they had been reading and with which the country has for many years been flooded. The time now has come when these floodgates may be opened. In a considerable amount of travel in various parts of China I have often been struck with these Revolutionaries, who appeared, under the then prevailing conditions of government, misguided fanatics. It was because of the restraint placed upon them by the Manchu officials that they were slow in openly pursuing their revolutionary tactics and working out the reforms which their party were constantly agitating. In another work on China, published just six days before the Revolution broke out,[1] the author in a concluding note wrote the following: “I had come to see how far the modern spirit had penetrated into the recesses of the Chinese Empire…. One must begin again, no matter how dimly, to perceive something of the causes which are at work. By the incoming of the European to inland China a transformation is being wrought, not the natural growth of a gradual evolution, itself the result of propulsion from within, but produced, on the contrary, by artificial means, in bitter conflict with inherent instincts, inherited traditions, innate tendencies, characteristics, and genius, racial and individual. In the eyes of the Chinese of the old school these changes in the habits of life infinitely old are improving nothing and ruining much—all is empty, vapid, useless to God and to man. The tawdry shell, the valueless husk of ancient Chinese life is here still, remains untouched in many places; but the soul within is steadily and surely, if slowly, undergoing a process of final atrophy. But yet the proper opening up of the country by internal reform and not {290}by external pressure has as yet hardly commenced in immense areas of the Empire far removed from the Imperial city of Peking…. I cannot but admit that whilst in most parts of my journey there are distinct traces of reform—I speak, of course, of the outlying parts of China—and some very striking traces, too, and a real longing on the part of far-seeing officials to escape from a humiliating international position, it is distinctly apparent that in everything which concerns Europe and the Western world the people and the officials as a whole are of one mind in the methods of procrastination which are so dear to the heart of the Celestial, and that peculiar opposition to Europeanism which has marked the real East since the beginning of modern history.”

To a large extent were I to go to the places where I formed the above opinion I should probably be inclined to write to-day the same opinion—perhaps with one point of difference: that point of difference would be worked out by the noticeable presence of the to-day ubiquitous Revolutionary. He was there before, working silently; to-day he is working openly and without fear of decapitation. And if, standing afar off, we are able to look out across China, if we are able to see a beaconlight of revolutionism (which means reform) and are able to estimate rightly the enormous difference in national opinion which they in their teaching are constantly bringing about, and if we are able also to look into the future and imagine a China concentrated towards one final end of resultant progress, assuredly we shall find a nation great in power as she is now in numbers.

But shall we? The reader for himself must answer the question. Would that I could without hesitancy declare that we shall. I hope that we shall; but never, to attain this end, did a nation require more careful steering.

One cannot conclude this volume, however, without {291}expressing the hope that the Chinese will not prove themselves their greatest enemy. Admiring their many admirable traits of national character, willing to sacrifice much to uplift them in the truest sense, there is many a man in China to-day who cannot but see that in the overbearing attitude of the younger generation is there a great danger to the common weal. China needs strong men: her strong men, many of them young, enthusiastic, inexperienced in great things they now have in hand, need to remain strong, they need to recognise Truth first and last. The responsibility of remoulding the national character of a quarter of the human race remains with them. They can only do this by adhering to Truth and to right principles. If they do, they will go from height to height in national reform and progress of the greatest good. Without it, they will fall and be lost. China’s end will then be nearer.[2]

 

[1] “Across China on Foot: Life in the Interior and Reform Movement.” J. W. Arrowsmith, Ltd. 16s. net.

[2] The following is a newspaper interview with Mrs. T. C. White, the Princess Der Ling:—

“‘What are the causes of the downfall of the Manchu Dynasty?’

“‘That is a long story. This thing was expected long ago. Of course a lot of people in Peking didn’t know anything about it, but we did—our family. My father did, at least, since the China-Japanese war. He said: “Within ten or fifteen years there is going to be a revolution in China, and that will be the end of the Manchus. In case they reform the country right away, it may be all right. But otherwise they will be finished by that time.” At that time they didn’t want it. We tried our best to reform the Court in lots of things. The Empress-Dowager—at that time she ruled—hated reform. She was very conservative. She wouldn’t have reform as long as she lived, but, of course, we hoped that in case of her death the Emperor Kwang Hsu would reign. He would have been for reform; but we knew he probably wouldn’t live through; he would die before her. That Court is so mysterious in every way—it takes too long to tell.

“‘China has been an old, conservative country for so many years. They kept up the old style and of course the old generations like it because it is to their advantage. Just now the young people who have been abroad and educated want the Western civilisation and freedom. If they did not see anything better they would not know. But they begin to see how nice it is in America and how hard life is in their country, and I do not blame them for causing the Revolution. I would myself. I hate the old customs. But our family was one of the first progressive families. In fact, I should say probably there are very few like us among the Manchu families.

“‘My father wanted reform. I remember hearing him talk about it ever since I was four or five years old. The first thing he wanted us to study was English. We were living at Shasi on the Yangtze River, and afterwards at Hankow, and he sent us to the missionary school. All his friends protested against it and said he was progressive, and wanted to sell his country to the foreign people, that was why he wanted his children to have a foreign education. The people called him at that time “a rebel.” He was very progressive. It didn’t bother him a bit. He wanted us to study and we did.

“‘The Government was not fair. It was all for itself. It didn’t have good ministers. The heads of different Boards in Peking were corrupt. First the Empress-Dowager, when she was alive—just as she did—everybody did. They squeezed. Every position was bought in China, every official position—all the Viceroys and Taotais. It was like this. If you are the Prime Minister I come to you with so much money and want this job. You say “All right.” You take the money from me and another person gives a little more and you accept my money just the same, and his too. They left the good men without jobs, and put in the crooked people. That is the reason of the Revolution. They wanted to be treated fairly. Everybody has an opportunity or should have, but so long as the Manchu rules, the Regent rules—in fact, no one can get a chance except those who pay their money.’

“‘Why are the Manchu princes and high officials so inefficient?’

“‘The Manchus do not want to study. They are so grand, they lose their heads—they think they are, any way. The old Manchus were not like that—that is, the Manchus got bad about eighty years ago. Before that they were all capable men and fair in their judgment. They do not want to know anything at all now; they are so conceited, and you cannot talk to them.’

“‘What is the chief source of their inefficiency—does it lie in their characters, training, or habits?’

“‘Training, of course. Everybody praises them, you see. All they want is pleasure. The young princes in the Royal family think only of pleasure. The Regent did not want to study when he was a boy, nor his brothers. His father used to be very furious, but, of course, his mother took his part, and instead of sending him to school she sent him to play. Another thing, of course, the Regent himself is weak-minded. He has not any character at all. I say this from personal experience. I have talked many times with him.’

“‘How are they brought up in the palace and what is the influence of this upon their views about government?’

“‘That is the great mistake in China, the way the Emperor is brought up. The late Emperor Kwang Hsu deserved a lot of credit. He was brought up in the Forbidden City so exclusively that he could not see anybody who had any education at all, and played all day long with the eunuchs. The eunuchs are of the commonest people in China. In that way the Emperor could not have any chance to talk to people with experience so he could make a good governor. But Emperor Kwang Hsu was brought up that way and still had the idea of reform and I think he deserved a lot of credit. The Manchu law is very strict that children have to be polite to their parents’ servants, so the little Emperor must be polite to the eunuchs; otherwise they could report to the Empress-Dowager. That is a very bad custom. If this little Emperor is brought up that way, he will not amount to anything. The present Empress-Dowager is a very nice woman. She, of course, has some Chinese education. That would have been all right some years ago, but we want something new now, something different. There is no use to stick to the old books written thousands of years ago. We want new civilisation now. Of course they had the idea at that time to shut the door and shut out all foreigners so they could not bother us. They cannot do that now; we must have something new.’

“‘Will you be kind enough to trace and describe the influence of the Empress-Dowager at the Court, and tell why this personage cuts such an important figure.’

“‘That is according to the Manchu law. If the Emperor is young and she rules for him, she has all the power. He is only the figurehead. Even if she retires, like the old Empress-Dowager did, the Emperor has to go to her and consult with her regarding the affairs. The outside world thought the Edicts were from the Emperor, but really they were from her. In case of something important he had to go to the Summer Palace and ask her questions. The late Empress-Dowager wanted power. She is the only famous Empress-Dowager in the history of the Manchu Dynasty. The present one does not care. She knows she cannot run those things and she does not care.’

“‘What kind of a woman is the present Empress Dowager?’

“‘She is a mild, quiet, unobtrusive person, rather indifferent. She knows very well that she cannot compare with her aunt, the late Empress-Dowager.’

“‘What part is she likely to play if the infant Emperor remains upon the throne under a Constitutional Government and Chinese Regency?

“‘Talking from a personal point of view, she would rather retire and be quiet. Some things happened while I was at the palace and we would ask her opinion. She would say: “I don’t want to say anything because I do not think it is right.” She would say: “I am not capable of telling you and cannot say anything at all.” She does not want to run the Government at all. This I am sure of. The only thing she wants is peace. She certainly has suffered all her life. Although she was her niece, the old Empress treated her in a very mean way.’

“‘Has she any real power?’

“‘No. But she doesn’t want any. We were talking one day about different things. During one of the Audiences the Old Empress-Dowager told her to take the foreign ladies to the refreshments. After this audience was over I asked her how she would like to act in the Empress-Dowager’s place after the Empress-Dowager’s death. And she said to me: “It depends on circumstances. If I am the Empress of China, I would, but not as the Empress-Dowager.” That is, if her husband was Emperor and she Empress. “If I had a son I would have to depend on him. I have no son, and if that was the case, I would have to adopt one and it would be the same thing as the Empress-Dowager and Kwang Hsu.’

“‘Will you please describe the personality and character of the ex-Regent and his brothers.’

“‘Ex-Regent Tsai Feng; he is a very stupid man—a weak-minded man—very conservative. No one can talk reform to him. Some one did try it once just for fun and he said: “Our ancestors did not do that and I do not see why we should.” Of course he favours the Conservative party. His two brothers are not like that. They have both been abroad, in Europe and America too. But of course they are not so overloaded with brains either. They are the three I mentioned a while ago as being so poor. All they want, these two brothers, is pleasure. There is one thing I want to say; when I was abroad a young Prince, Tsai Chen—came over to King Edward’s coronation. Passing through Paris he came to see us. I was very much surprised. At that time there were very few progressive people. Four months after, I returned to Peking and found him just the other way and the same case with the two brothers of the ex-Regent. When they were abroad they got their heads full of reform for China, and of making China like Europe and America, and as soon as they got back to China they were satisfied with the way the people live. I was much surprised. I asked him once what was the matter. He said: “We have to live in this country and be that way and must be satisfied with it.”‘

“‘Who is, then, the real power among the Manchu nobility?’

“‘That depends now. Just now no one has power. It was supposed to be the ex-Regent because he was the head.’

“‘Are the Manchus capable of regeneration?’

“‘I doubt it. They don’t want it. In fact, both my mother and myself did all that we really dared to bring the Empress-Dowager around to our viewpoint on the question of reform. The fact of our being able to speak more languages than our own naturally made the people in and out of the Court both jealous and suspicious of us. They were sure that we were trying to influence the old Empress-Dowager to adopt some of the foreign ideas that we had accumulated during our stay abroad, and one particularly good (?) friend of ours, Prince Na Yung, told everybody that my mother was a woman Kang Yu-wei.

“‘One thing: they must bring up Manchu babies a different way and send them abroad. Then probably there would be some hope. This younger generation, like the ex-Regent, have common blood in them. The mother of the Prince Regent and the two brothers was a concubine of Prince Chung, the ex-Regent’s father. And this woman was a slave-girl. She had no education. Prince Chung died and left the boys very young and they, of course, had no opportunity. They have their mother’s blood and they are just like their mother. That generation all descends from concubines.

“My idea is, as long as the Chinese will have concubines they will not progress. It is common blood. My idea is that the first reform should be the abolishment of the concubine business. Let us say some officials have daughters. They do not wish their daughters to be concubines; they must be proper wives, so the concubines must be slaves or bad women. Now how can they bear fine sons? Their blood is common. One thing, however: the Imperial concubines are selected from the Manchu officials’ daughters—the daughters from the first and second rank, not lower than that. They consider themselves just like slaves. It is an awful life. The late Empress-Dowager was a concubine. She was selected when she was seventeen years old. She had a son and gained power that way. Her son was Emperor Tung Chih, who died when he was nineteen. I know the girlhood of the old Empress, and some day I will write it. She suffered terribly after she went to the Court.’

“‘What are the first things to be done in China to institute real reform?’

“‘Starting with the family, the very first reform which should be instituted is to do away with the secondary wives. The next important if not the most important, is an entire regeneration of the official system. It is a well-known fact that the Government loses three-fourths of the revenue it is entitled to through the official system of squeeze, and by diverting the squeeze which now goes into the pockets of officials to that of the Government’s pocket will immediately place the Government in the position of having sufficient funds to carry through other reforms they have in mind. The next is the putting of China’s finances on either a silver or gold basis, whichever may be thought best for the country, and having an universal coinage system, thereby doing away with the enormous losses to the business people of China by way of continual internal exchange.’

“‘Do you think the baby Emperor can be raised to be a capable sovereign for the nation?’

“‘That depends upon the way that they bring him up. If they bring him up as they did the old Emperor in the palace and no one to see him, the eunuchs to keep him company, he will be the same as any other Emperor—he will not know anything.’

“‘What sort of education and surroundings should he have?’

“‘Well, you have to start from childhood to train his mind. They are so narrow-minded, those people at the Court. These eunuchs, to gain favour from the Empress-Dowager, praised the late Emperor, no matter what he did, and spoiled him. Raise this one as an ordinary little boy—a simple education to start with. He has the idea that he will be the Emperor, and praised by these people, he will get conceited, The present Emperor is now five years old; his Chinese age is six. I am very much afraid for this little boy. I will tell you why—his mother is so common. His mother’s father was all right; he was a big Manchu official; but his mother’s mother was a slave-girl bought from Yangchow, and that gives bad blood to his mother, the ex-Regent’s wife. Of course, we talk “blood” a good deal, but if he is brought up among these people—the family do not know anything—he cannot gain very much. They are all so ignorant.’

“‘What part will the Manchus of all kinds play in China under a Constitutional or Republican Government?’

“‘Maybe many people will not agree with me, but I know. The Republican party is so strong; the Manchus will go somewhere and just keep quiet. They haven’t the nerve to fight; they will go. Who wants to protest against this thing? It is supposed to be the ex-Regent and his two brothers. They make so much noise but do not dare to do anything. There is no strong character in the family. They are all great cowards. That is why I doubt about the little Emperor.’

“‘What kind of Government do you think is better for the present?”

“‘My idea is certainly not a Republic. I prefer a sort of Limited Monarchy—a Constitutional Monarchy—for the present. The only objection I would have to a Republic is that there are so many parties—so many provinces. They are all together now, but after they get what they want they will split and fight against each other. That is the character of the Chinese. By and by after the people, the younger generation, are all educated, the time will be ripe for a Republic.’

“‘Will you kindly give me the genealogy of the baby Emperor, showing what part of Chinese blood he has.’

“‘He is the son of the ex-Regent. The ex-Regent is half Chinese, because his mother was not a Manchu. The little Emperor’s mother is about three-fourths Chinese; the little Emperor’s mother’s mother was full Chinese; her father was half Chinese. So that would make her three-quarters. So the little Emperor has more Chinese blood in him than Manchu blood. The blood has been mixed terribly the last forty years or so, because they all bought concubines. The ex-Regent’s brother was the Emperor Kwang Hsu. He was the only son of the proper wife of Prince Chung, the late Empress Dowager’s sister.’

“‘Has Yuan Shih K’ai any reason to love the Manchus?’

“‘No. I do not say he loves the Manchus. He is a very smart man and he sees the situation. He knows what is best for the country. I cannot say he loves the Manchus, although he was the late Empress-Dowager’s favourite. She always trusted him. She could see that he was a capable man. The late Emperor wanted reform, but did not know how to go at it. Yuan Shih K’ai knows how to go about it; he is one of the progressive men.’

“‘If the Monarchy is retained, what reforms should be made in the social life of the Court?’

“‘They are not trying for such a purpose. The Empress-Dowager should take lessons. She is a fairly well-informed woman. She has read some of the foreign histories translated into the Chinese. She is willing to learn and to bring up the Emperor. My idea is to bring him up like a foreigner. You see, in China they do not teach the Emperor to love his people and his country. They do not do that. My idea is to teach him to love his people and his country, and make him know that he is responsible for this great nation and that he must do justice to everybody. Of course, that is a hard thing, but it is as should be. Teach him his duty to his people. Then it depends much upon the sort of wife he marries. I begin to think there is not a suitable girl to marry him. He has to marry a Manchu, and the Manchu girls have no education. Any Manchu girl would be out of place as Empress. My idea is that no matter how they change they must keep their little old-fashioned law. They cannot remove that at once. I know Manchus who lived in America for years and they even after that thought that the customs in their own country were best. How can they think that? I am a Manchu, and see things in a different light, and have since I was ten or twelve years old. I made up my mind then that I would not be under anybody. My father always said to me, “You are just as good as anybody.”

“‘The Court is so different from any other Court. The people are not used to those things, it will take time. First of all they must have proper Court ladies. Those princesses do not know anything. All they want is power—they do not know how to use it. What can they do with power? Any Court ladies with education will not want to stay with these ignorant women. They would have to fight all the time. My life was not at all sweet whilst I was there. The Government is just the same as a Chinese family. There is so much nonsense going on. Now these poor girls, they are brought up in the old way, and of course they are satisfied because they know no better, and when they marry they go over to their husband’s family and get treated badly by their mother-in-law. You see, the Chinese teaching is so different; it always teaches a woman to be patient. And of course, in the case of a Chinese whom the parents send abroad, when she comes back she is a changed girl, and her mother does not like it. She will not listen to her mother’s nonsense. Some silly little things they do in the family; they made the Chinese conservative party against the progressive. My friends are like that—the poor girls just suffer. I wish they had not had foreign education.'”

CHAPTER I

THE REVOLUTION
The story of the great Chinese Revolution of 1911-12 will probably never be told fully or accurately. China is a continent in its vast area. Its population is one-fourth of the whole human race. The country is not opened up by roads or railways and travel generally is arduous and slow; exaggeration among the people, as among all Orientals, is second nature. And so it would be at once impossible for any one man closely to follow up and widely and accurately to write of the Revolution which broke out at Wuchang last year, tracing it up to the present moment and getting a clean political and international outlook whilst doing so. Although I have endeavoured by careful study to get into focus with doings all over the Empire, I confess that I have been unable to secure unimpeachable information on any part of China other than that in which I was living (I speak of the interior of China, for it was easy enough to be kept informed in the main centres and the treaty ports whilst the telegraph lines were intact). Had there been roads and railways and communication of a kind to render it physically possible to move about, even then this would {14}have been impossible; for soon after the Revolution broke the anti-foreign spirit and the outlawry shown in many parts of the country forbade any European going far from the treaty ports—and, of course, practically all foreigners were ordered to the coast by their consuls. Had a man a workable knowledge of the Chinese language in character, it would have been foolish to form one’s opinions from the rumours that were printed everywhere in the Chinese Press. And so it comes about that only upon those things which one saw and did is a man justified to write.

The reader, if he knows China, will need no further explanation, for readily will he recognise my meaning. He will understand by experience what a mass of inconsistency and incongruity China and her people are. But to the Westerner who has never been into China nor rubbed shoulders closely with this peculiar people it will perhaps be necessary to add that life in China, in all its forms and phases, is fraught with such a truly remarkable atmosphere of the unexpected that to write on any Chinese man, woman, custom, habit, place, or thing one is able only to generalise—unless he goes into the tedium of particularising. To get into line it is necessary so to cut down and to prune and generally to reinterpret that when one has told his story there seems to be very little at all in it. But those who have lived in China know the conditions. They will have absorbed this incomprehensible spirit of the country, will understand what is written—and what is more important still, will magnetically feel what is left out which the writer on Chinese affairs would have said. When in writing upon men and things Chinese you think you have pruned down all apparent misinterpretation or misrepresentation, you find there is still a little pruning left to be done; you prune again, and in the end you find you often are, to the Western mind, misinterpreting and misrepresenting facts merely because you have left out that which, to you, with {15}your Chinese eyes, appeared untrue. You see a thing in China and you think that you understand it. You fix it in your mind and tell yourself that you have absorbed it, whatever it may be, and that you now have the final thought and word and correct meaning. But after a little time you find, by a peculiar process of Chinese national twisting and shifting, no matter what you see, hear, think, believe, your final thought and word and correct meaning are changed completely.

This, perhaps, describes the political atmosphere during the Revolution. Into everything there came an exasperating suspense, a terrible tangle of all national affairs, as there still must be for a very long time to come. Therefore to the man who sets out to write a detailed history of China’s Revolution, and correctly to diagnose the effect of one event upon another in a consecutive and truthful line, there at once appears a formidable task.

What the author has set out to do in this volume is to tell of what he saw and understood, and then to put into print carefully considered opinion on the general situation and a historical survey of revolutions and main events in China that have led up to the Revolution of last October. This Revolution, although outbreaking prematurely, was all wonderfully planned. “The movement began to take definite shape about fifteen or sixteen years ago,” says Sun Yat Sen, the greatest of Chinese revolutionists, though he had been interested in the movement for a longer time than that. “Three years ago we were ready to take over Wuchang, Canton, and Nanking, but we were waiting to gain control of the Peking soldiers. We had been working for some time through the students. Following the war with Japan, the Peking Government began to organise its new army, sending students abroad to be trained to take charge of the army. It was at once seen that if the Manchus were able to organise and control a modern army it would greatly strengthen their position, and the Revolutionary {16}party set to work to counteract their efforts. They worked through the students, so that when they returned to China to take positions as officers in the army they came as revolutionists. The outbreak could not have been postponed for more than a few months, but it did occur before it was expected. We knew that we had Wuchang, Nanking, and Canton, but there was a preliminary outbreak at Canton, then another one last summer. Then when the outbreak at Wuchang occurred it was no longer possible to postpone action, for the Government would have begun to disarm the soldiers who sympathised with us. At Canton they scattered our sympathisers over the province, so that it was very difficult to concentrate them. If our original plan had been carried out, there would have been very little fighting. Canton, Nanking, and Wuchang would have quietly gone over to us, and then all the troops could have marched on Peking if necessary. We have always had half of the Peking troops with us.”

Thus declared Sun Yat Sen—and there is little doubt he was right. The hitherto irremediable suppression of the individual qualities and national aspirations of the people arrested the intellectual, the moral, and the material development of China. The aid of revolution was invoked to extirpate the primary cause, and China now proclaimed the resultant overthrow of the despotic sway wielded by the Manchu Dynasty and the establishment of a Republic. The substitution of a Republic for a Monarchical form of government was not the fruit of a transient passion; it was the natural outcome of a long-cherished desire for broad-based freedom, making for permanent contentment and uninterrupted advancement. It was the formal declaration of the will of the Chinese nation.

In a manifesto issued to all friendly nations from the Republic of China, when Sun Yat Sen was appointed Provisional President, it was declared that “we, the Chinese people, are peaceful and law-abiding. We {17}have waged no war except in self-defence. We have borne our grievances during two hundred and sixty-seven years of Manchu misrule with patience and forbearance. We have by peaceful means endeavoured to redress our wrongs, secure our liberty, and ensure our progress, but we have failed. Oppressed beyond human endurance we deemed it our inalienable right as well as our sacred duty to appeal to arms to deliver ourselves and our posterity from the yoke to which we have so long been subjected, and for the first time in our history inglorious bondage has been transformed to an inspiring freedom splendid with a lustrous light of opportunity. The policy of the Manchu Dynasty has been one of unequivocal seclusion and unyielding tyranny. Beneath it we have bitterly suffered, and we now submit to the free peoples of the world the reasons justifying the Revolution and the inauguration of our present government. Prior to the usurpation of the Throne by the Manchus, the land was open to foreign intercourse, and religious tolerance existed, as is evidenced by the writings of Marco Polo and the inscription on the Nestorian Tablet of Sian-fu. Dominated by ignorance and selfishness, the Manchus closed the land to the outer world, and plunged the Chinese people into a state of benighted mentality, calculated to operate inversely to their natural talents and capabilities, thus committing a crime against humanity and the civilised nations almost impossible of expiation.”

WHERE CHINA’S REVOLUTION STARTED. This picture of Wuchang gives a good idea of the type of buildings seen in a Chinese city. Six hundred Manchus perished in Wuchang during the early days of the slaughter.
WHERE CHINA’S REVOLUTION STARTED.
This picture of Wuchang gives a good idea of the type of
buildings seen in a Chinese city. Six hundred Manchus perished
in Wuchang during the early days of the slaughter.
And there can be no doubt that, actuated by a perpetual desire for the subjugation of the Chinese, by a vicious craving for aggrandisement and wealth, the Manchus had governed China to the lasting injury and detriment of the people, creating privileges and monopolies and erecting about themselves barriers of exclusion in national custom and personal conduct which were rigorously maintained throughout the centuries. They had levied irregular and unwholesome taxes upon the Chinese without their consent, {18}restricted foreign trade to treaty ports, placed likin embargoes upon merchandise in transit, and obstructed internal commerce. They had retarded the creation of industrial enterprises, rendered impossible the development of natural resources, and wilfully neglected to safeguard vested interests. They had denied the people a regular system and impartial administration of justice; inflicted unusual and cruel punishments upon all persons charged with offences, whether innocent or guilty; and frequently had encroached upon Chinese sacred rights without due process of law. They had connived at official corruption, sold offices to the highest bidder, and had subordinated merit to influence. They repeatedly rejected the Chinese people’s most reasonable demand for better government, and reluctantly conceded pseudo-reforms under most urgent pressure, making promises without intention of fulfilling them.

Thus the manifesto showed up the weak spots in the Manchu governmental policy. And it continued: “To remedy these evils and render possible the entrance of China to the family of nations, we have fought and formed our Government; lest our good intentions should be misunderstood, we now publicly and unreservedly declare the following to be our promises:—

“All treaties entered into by the Manchu Government before the date of the Revolution will be continually effective up to the time of their termination; but any and all entered into after the commencement of the Revolution will be repudiated.

“All foreign loans or indemnities incurred by the Manchu Government before the Revolution will be acknowledged without any alteration of terms; but all payments made to and loans incurred by the Manchu Government after the commencement of the Revolution will be repudiated.

“All concessions granted to foreign nations or their nationals by the Manchu Government before the Revolution will be respected, but any and all granted after the commencement of the Revolution will be repudiated.

“All persons and property of any foreign nation within the jurisdiction of the Republic of China will be respected and protected.

“It will be our constant aim and firm endeavour to build upon {19}a stable and enduring foundation a national structure compatible with the potentialities of our long neglected country.

“We will strive to elevate our people, secure them in peace, and legislate for their prosperity.”

 

At this juncture it were idle to investigate how far these ideals have been reached. There has as yet been no time for deep national reforms to have been worked, and it is not the ambition of this volume to go deeply into political actualities. But no one, realising now that the Manchu rule in China has passed for ever, will doubt that, with such excellent qualities of common sense and eminent industry as the Chinese possess, we shall see a nation move that may move the world with it. The day will assuredly come, perhaps it is not so very far distant, when the Occidental observer will look around to see the globe girdled with an indissoluble bond of Chinese peoples, no longer too weak for aggression, but independent in all departments of national life. They will be taken up as equals into social relations of the white races. They are now struggling among themselves, asking merely to be allowed to fight out their own civil battles and order their own civil affairs. They will make mistakes, but probably will profit by them. The day will come when Chinese will no longer be elbowed and hustled by their haughtier Occidental neighbours, but perhaps instead we shall find ourselves entered into no easy international and commercial competition with people whom not so long since we looked down upon as servile and considered fit only to minister to our needs in manual ways. The problems that loom across the threshold of the future of this newly emancipated race, however, surpass in magnitude any that civilisation has hitherto had to encounter. There are clear indications of progress, but they are not yet clear enough. China has to be remade, and those engaged in the project may blunder because of the varied and widely varying patterns they have in stock to choose from.

{20}
Certain phases of development we are sure of. We are able to place our fingers upon certain points in China’s national propaganda and say with certainty that such and such a line is bound to be followed, such and such a thing bound to happen. But, generally speaking, China is a land of unintelligibility; the best advice one can give is to “wait and see.”

 

 

{21}

CHAPTER II

THE AFTERMATH
One of the almost certain features of the effect of the Revolution, however, will be China’s increased foreign trade—probably 100 per cent., says Sun Yat Sen.

The year 1913 should mark a stride in commercial progress in China such as the world never before has seen. 1912 will probably be a year of unrest and uncertainty. The formation of a permanent Government and the election of a Cabinet, the dispatch of competent officials to outlying places, and the putting down of outlawry in the provinces will be a big programme for this year—if it is accomplished. But 1913 and the following years will probably unfold a remarkably rapid advance in exports and imports. China has held back from all things foreign centuries enough, but during the past two decades the seed has been sown for such a harvest of trade and commercial prosperity as shall keep the factories of the West hard at work to cope with the demands—that is, if the merchants of the West are quick to seize their chances as they come. And in this volume the author feels that it were well at this juncture, when an opportunity is presented to English and American traders to come in and take possession of the trade China is prepared to foster, to speak of the commercial possibilities which the next decade will give.

The reader will probably understand that, despite the enormous foreign imports which for years have come into China, there is not a tithe of the trade done yet {22}which will be done with the opening up of the country, now almost bound to ensue. China’s market is stupendous. The possibilities are wider than the average home manufacturer has any conception of. From the China Sea to the British Burma border, from the southern port of Canton up through all the partially opened Eastern provinces, through the whole of the wonderful Yangtze Valley to the practically untouched west, and away into newly touched areas where the inhabitants are all anxious to buy foreign goods, there is presented an unparalleled opportunity for the foreign manufacturer. Any one who has taken an intelligent interest in China’s trade with foreign countries must have been impressed with the fact that she was not importing one-hundredth part of what she could easily handle. And if he had studied closely any particular district where some foreign import had been taken or foreign industry had been started and watched the phenomenal commercial growth in that particular district, he immediately would gather some idea of the far-reaching possibilities for the expansion of foreign trade in China.

Even the recent changes in dress wrought by the Revolution have shown the enormous demand there is for re-dressing the Chinese; with the passing of the queue they decided against the little round Manchu hat, an article made almost exclusively in China. Immediately there came a cry for the foreign hat; at once a trade was created, into the country there came all kinds and conditions and shapes of foreign head-gear—felts, cloth caps, and all sorts; they sold in hundreds of thousands and had to be supplied by some one. China, at all events, could not make them; to her it was something quite new; they had to come from outside. Japan was watching. She collared the trade, and in two months she had practically re-hatted China. But this is merely an instance; many more might be given to show the rapidity with which commercial {23}changes come. In over seven thousand miles of travel in China, mostly far away inland where the effect of the treaty port is least felt, the writer some time ago made a study of the commercial aspect of things and how far the modern spirit had penetrated the interior, with a view specially to ascertain how the British merchant stands in the business life of the nation. This chapter, therefore, should have especial interest so far as it embodies correct data, gleaned in two years and a half of travel in many parts of the Chinese Empire where the traveller is still to the Chinese a wonder of wonders. In China, even in far interior places, one finds life, business, prosperity—a strange commingling of Western ideas with Eastern. Four hundred millions of people have to all intents and purposes become civilised. They are anxious to swing into line and want the equipment. Their needs are making China the greatest market in the world. They want everything—railways, machinery, tools, guns, ships, and much else. That there is an unprecedented large trade to be done must at once be granted. During the last decade, without thinking for the moment of the Revolution, China’s foreign trade has doubled; in the next decade, if peace prevails, it must be trebled, and although one cannot ignore the fact that under ordinary conditions of progress China must ultimately become a serious rival to Western countries as an industrial nation, that day is not yet at hand. She must be a stupendous buyer before she can hope to become a serious competitor.

But the point need not, I think, be pursued farther. The country has merely to regain its normal condition, and we shall see trade increasing by leaps and bounds. I say merely to regain its normal condition for this reason: whilst the prevailing uncertainty continues no permanent increase of trade can be expected, but let there be some stable form of government and we shall see China recuperate and begin trade again in a wonderful manner. No people have such recuperative power. {24}No people have such power of adaptation. And in the era of trade development upon whose threshold we are now standing we may confidently look to probably an uneclipsed season of foreign commercial enterprise in all parts of China. In the increased demand for woollen goods, for engineering equipment of all kinds, especially mining gear, for railroad supplies, for the thousands of household requirements of daily use, motor-boats and all the varied paraphernalia required to place an antiquated nation upon the footing of modern civilisation there will be a demand such as will make even Japan’s era of commercial progress pale into insignificance.

The trade will come. Let so much be granted. The next point is, Who is to get it, and how is it to be got?

I am not a manufacturer nor a trader, and cannot go deeply into the detail of how business should be pushed. But I have seen a good deal of China, have closely watched the methods adopted by various internationals in various parts of the Empire, and it may be that my remarks on the matter may have the effect of awakening British and American traders to the realisation of the opportunity now before them. Some time ago, when placing manuscript for a prospective work on China, the publisher said: “What people want to know is how to increase their trade—they don’t want to know about the physical characteristics of the country and the people so much as how to increase their trade. Write a book on how trade can be improved, and your book will sell.” But it is probable that those who would most readily buy and read such a book would be the Britisher’s competitor.

Now, so far as actual trading advantages are concerned, it may be said of the British that they hold the highest advantage possible over other nations; that advantage is in the fact that they hold the confidence of the people. No foreigner, be he merchant, {25}missionary, traveller, or official, is trusted in China as is the Britisher. I speak with no intention of hurting the susceptibilities of any one. In trade the Chinese believe in the British, they believe in his goods; in the Revolution the soldiers would congratulate you most heartily if they knew that you were an Englishman, telling you that there is none better in the world. They might be right or wrong, I am merely writing what they were saying, and it is a fair ensample of the general opinion of the common people. But despite this advantage, it is patent to the thoughtful student of Chinese affairs that a great need exists among British merchants as a whole to “wake up.” I am a Britisher, am perhaps naturally quick to notice where British merchants fail, where they are outrun in the race for trade in this land of great promise. I know there will be many who will at once ask me to turn to the shipping in Shanghai, in Tientsin, in any of the ports, and notice the predominance of British shipping. I shall be told that Great Britain still controls the bulk of the trade of China, and that there is no need for fear of the future. But there is another side to the story.

Go any day to the Bund at Hankow or Shanghai; watch the progress being made also by Japan. Go into the godowns and watch the progress of the little brown men from the land of the Rising Sun and watch their methods; run your eye along the offices whose men work hardest and longest—the Germans; keep yourself informed on the doings of the day in exports and imports, and you will find that, even if he does hold the volume of trade he has held for years, the Britisher by no means advances with new trade as rapidly as his competitors. In the past no nation has done so much towards the true development of China as the British. The British have laid the foundation, have sown the seed, and it is only their due that they should reap the harvest now at hand. But in the period {26}during which the trade of China has so phenomenally advanced the cry has gone up from all quarters that the Britisher is not only losing his grip of the increase of China’s trade in her commercial dawn, but literally giving way to the German, and that but a few years will be necessary to prove that Great Britain occupies a position relatively nearer the bottom of the list of nations who have a commercial finger in the pie.

I am not the first writer who has had a wail to make over the loss of British trade. But I do not, at the same time, see any reason why the British merchant should not easily maintain an indefinite supremacy of trade in China. It only needs a little more vim, a keener outlook, a speedier business adaptation to needs, the maintenance of commercial wakefulness where business has a tendency to increase. Competitors of Great Britain hold no advantages; they cannot in the long run put better goods upon the market—Japan, the most serious rival, certainly is producing inferior goods in larger bulk, and is everywhere overrunning the land with cheap and nasty goods, but the British-made article will always hold its own side by side with that of any other nation. And to the British merchant who in China, as in most other trading commercial spheres, has almost always absorbed the external trade, it does not matter much whether people say he is or is not losing the trade—so long as he is not. It has always been a case of Britain first and the rest nowhere. The Britisher makes a good living, has an established connection, is the life and soul of the social community, keeps up a fair average of orders with home firms, and is content. But no right-thinking Englishman, no matter how optimistically he may view the general situation of Great Britain’s trade in the Chinese Empire, can deny that British trade does not expand proportionately with what is to be done and what others are doing. This is not pessimistic. Optimism is the keynote of the British merchant, and Great Britain’s {27}returns of exports and imports in the China trade are beyond that of any other nation. But very powerful rivals—Germany and Japan, more powerful than British merchants will admit to themselves—are in the field and fighting in a way that we cannot afford to ignore.

Take Germany first. German success is undeniable. It is patent to all beholders. German merchants are at every port. In real interior China, far away from the beaten tracks, I do not remember ever having met a single British commercial traveller—Germans I have met often. They go out into the byways, beating up the trade and creating new trade, putting themselves to inconvenience and exertion to get orders, and undergoing in many cases greatest physical strain in travel to get business. Once I met a man not far from the border of British Burma; he had come right across China and had been away from his business house in Shanghai for several months, and was then going down to Rangoon and around to Shanghai by sea because it was the easier and quicker way back. This is perhaps an isolated case, but one may judge from it that the German merchants, while doing all they can as importers of the goods the people want to buy, spread their representatives far away from the buying centres to show the people what they can do. In Tientsin, during the past few years, the German has become a serious rival. German trade now at that important northern port is probably equal to British trade. In Eastern Siberia German is the business language, as a matter of fact, but to the German, unlike the nonchalant Britisher, it does not matter where he is placed in China, the first thing he does is to get a working knowledge of the language, a factor of far greater importance in China than appears on the surface. The German succeeds, not by political influence, not by tariffs nor underhand methods, but by sheer business application, and is building up an extensive scheme, founded on sound principles, to capture {28}the lion’s share of the growing trade which will go to Europe and to wrest from the Britisher a large proportion of that which has always been his. The average German reads about China—its history, of the physical characteristics of the country, of the people in the interior and the life they live, what they have and what they want. The Englishman does not trouble. He rarely learns the language, is careless to find out anything about the country unless it is to get an idea of sport, and so on.

The other dangerous rival is the Jap. If one were to go into detail and write regarding the Japanese methods of business, it is probable that much of it would subsequently be suppressed. The Japanese in business in China is not the soul of honour. He has to be watched. It is not possible here to speak at length on the unprincipled and shady tactics employed in China—and particularly in the north and in Manchuria—by Japanese traders. One and all seem to be alike, all endowed with that secret and clannish spirit permeating all Eastern nations, with a big dash of some peculiar virtue of unscrupulousness, and they have brought themselves into a position of the most favoured nation in the Chinese Empire. Japan has determined to get the trade by any means. Once in a Chinese city in the interior, where doors were closed to foreign trade, I saw the largest store on the street was Japanese. Business is not done there, they say in self-defence, but a show is maintained so that goods of the same kind may be secured from Tokio! The Jap is in everything, he is everywhere—to be first he cuts under, for he has little reputation to lose. Yet he is as good in his own opinion as the best-bred European, and he lets you know it. No man, however, unblinded by prejudice, can study the progress of Japan in China, can look upon its amazing national advance with either admiration or respect. I have met him in the interior, in Yunnan and Szechuen, prospecting {29}quietly for minerals, tapping goldfields and iron beds that are lying waste, seeking out the best centres for the opening up of trade, finding out what there is a demand for, and marking out the strategic centres from whence his trade may be handled to the disadvantage of every one. The Jap, as I have said, is everywhere, in everything—rarely, however, to be trusted.

But no matter how many the rivals, I should think that no two nations have better prospects for the securing of China’s new trade than Great Britain and the United States. It needs alertness, however.

 

 

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CHAPTER III

GENERAL EXPECTATIONS
With the opening of China as a Republic the progress to be made in education will undoubtedly be stupendous. Missionaries will probably find an ever-increasing field. Missionaries and educationists will have a freer hand and be everywhere more greatly respected. They will play more than ever an increasing part in uplifting the people. Lord William Gascoign-Cecil has pointed out that if the West is to be saved she must illuminate China, and he says unless that vast country has attained the same standard as ourselves we must undergo a process of degradation. Our civilisation grew up, like our old towns, under the shadow of the Church; you will see in any country in Christendom the village clustering round the church, the town round the cathedral. Of late years big factory chimneys have been covered with the smoke of industry; still, they have left their mark as much on our civilisation as on our landscapes. But now a country which knows nothing of church or cathedral is entering into that civilisation, and the church and the cathedral become things of archæological interest and nothing more, unless, indeed, the Church will take the opportunity and conquer the industrial China that threatens the West.

“I do not mean,” said Lord William Cecil, “only by sending out missionaries, but also by teaching the future rulers of this great industrial people the truth and value of a Christian civilisation. The pessimist {31}says this is impossible, and thus sounds the knell of our social legislation; but the Christian says the world is built for progress, and the acquisition of China to our civilisation is our opportunity for making the world a happier place. If we could at this moment help the Chinese to value the high principles which underlie our Western thought, China might be rendered happy by the brilliant light of a Christian civilisation and the world saved from a disaster of having labour sink from a Christian to a semi-Oriental status.”

And although the fall of the Manchu dynasty will open the pathway into real progress in this land, we must agree that there is an infinite pathos in the Child-Emperor, ignorant, innocent, abdicating the throne which his forefathers had won, a mere pawn in the game between Chinese and Manchus. But pathetic as this incident is, we must not let its pathos obscure in our minds its more important aspects; it is not only the abdication of an Emperor we have to consider, but it is also the destruction of the conventional and artificial Chinese civilisation before the vigorous civilisation of the West. Vast China, with its four hundred millions of industrious population, with its infinite resources of coal, iron, and other minerals, with its traditions of Confucianism, Taoism, and Lamaism, has become part, and a very large part, too, of Western civilisation.

We are indeed, during our generation, watching the making of history wonderful in its possibilities. The following quotation from the writer quoted may be intensely prophetic:—

“We are opening a new volume in the history of the world—a volume in which strange and terrible things may be written; a volume which, on the other hand, may contain a brighter story than any of us conceive to be possible. How one longs to read that volume as it will be written by the historian a hundred or two hundred years hence! Will it run thus: ‘From {32}this time the condition of the working class of Europe began steadily to deteriorate, and though the short-sighted statesmen of the twentieth century failed to appreciate it, this was the inevitable result of adding to the working men of the world a population remarkable for its industry and so inured to poverty that its workers gladly submitted to conditions which the Western workmen naturally and with justice refused’? Or will it run thus: ‘The decadent Christianity of the West, corrupted by luxury, divided by sectional strife, received new life under the influence of the more sincere Chinese Christianity, purified in the harsh school of persecution and stimulated by the great political upheaval which caused the deposition of the Manchu Emperor’?”

We cannot take down the volume, we cannot read to the end; we must wait as year after year the pages are turned over, but we shall do well to appreciate the importance of this page of contemporary history.

China now will undergo before our very eyes a social and commercial and educational transformation, and so speedily will events in the main transpire that if one is to get the historical march of events fixed in his mind it is necessary to read at once what has passed. As soon as any national event passes now it falls speedily back into history. We cannot keep pace with all that transpires. Changes pass even us who live in China for the most part unnoticed. The face of China whilst we look upon it takes on a new appearance.

It is well that we should read of the doings leading up to this great era of transition.

 

 

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CHAPTER IV

LI YUAN HUNG’S AMBITIONS FOR THE NEW CHINA
“We will have no further Manchu rule.

“China must be a Republic founded on lines laid down by the United States of America. The United States of China must be opened up with all speed, and for this purpose there must be a combined effort made with Chinese and foreign capital and Chinese and foreign labour.

“Confucianism will probably become the national religion, but I personally favour the doctrine of Christianity being proclaimed far and wide in China, and of encouraging missionaries to come in greater numbers to our country.

“I am desirous that the form of government, after the Manchu rule is abolished, shall not alter very greatly, so that there shall be no disruption of trade and commerce and of diplomatic connections of China in the Empire and in foreign countries.”

 

This practically covers the main statement made to myself on Monday, November 20, 1911, by General Li Yuan Hung, leader of the Revolution of China. My privilege of interviewing the General was exclusive. I was given a special pass, and was granted the privilege of going where I liked in Wuchang, the city where the Revolution broke out, and doing almost as I pleased, being the first to secure exclusive conversation with his Excellency since the Revolution had begun.

China’s Revolution is one of the most thrilling epochs in the world’s history. Had there been no Li Yuan Hung, whose name to-day, is known in civilisation everywhere, there would probably have been no Revolution. History may prove Li Yuan Hung {34}to be the greatest reformer China has given to the world. To his remarkably sound administration and his clean example to the people he was leading are due the changes that have so speedily ushered the New China to full prominence on the political stage of the East and the West. To rise from total obscurity in the life of a nation to the highest point of political fame is rarely given to any man. To change the whole tendencies of the national life of a people is rarely given to one man. But no one man ever in history was able to mould anew the social and political outlook of a quarter of the whole human race, as did Li Yuan Hung when he led the Chinese Revolution. He proved himself a man unique in the eyes of the world, the most effective reformer of his generation of any country.

On the day that I set out to have my talk with Li Yuan Hung, Wuchang, the capital city, of Hupeh, which had revolted to a man, bore every evidence of victory; and despite the minor reverses that the Republican Army had for several days been suffering in their encounters with the Imperial Army, sent down from Peking under General Yin Chang to quell the rebellion, I found that in the city there was infinitely greater hope among the people and infinitely stronger confidence in their leader than in the early days of the Revolution. One felt that he was touching the bedrock of humanity, had come into grips with a people who with one set purpose were going forward day by day to accomplish the true work of winning back China for the Chinese. As one passed through the streets, around the forts, in and out among the men who were with their lives prepared to buy freedom for Manchu-ridden China, one realised that this part of the Chinese nation, hitherto as silent as some great sleeping monster, had suddenly found its voice, and had set out determinedly to tell the world what it meant to do. Around one was waging civil war that was to decide the enormous {35}stakes. There had been many civil wars in the world before—Wars of the Roses and many others which had had their historical significance—but as one seemed to gaze out upon a great country like China and a people who go to make up one-fourth of the human race, slowly was the fact borne in upon one’s mind that this civil war had a significance that perhaps belonged to none other. It seemed like a war of belief against unbelief. One felt that he had met men who were concerned only with the real essence of justice and reform which were to regulate the deep-reaching interests of four hundred millions of men—one must be understood as talking about the leaders more particularly. And this is the most real thing about this people’s Revolution—the making of order and right government. General Li Yuan Hung seemed to be a great national carpenter, taking now the rough trees, shaping them into purpose and real use. This was my first impression of the man, for by his extreme calmness, his practical insight into things—it was almost impossible to conceive a mere military man capable of such patience in the midst of extreme mental and physical strain—he was showing the world that he was a leader born. General Li was a man of perhaps forty-eight, at first sight giving the impression that he had developed as an altogether brave and quiet man. As I conversed with him I could not help noticing again and again the decisive, practical eye of this leader of the people, how he drove immediately towards the practical, and had a genuine insight into what was fact and right and truth. He had an eye to see and a heart to dare. His nature was strong rather than intense, with his utterances full of sincerity and of substance.

THE PROVINCIAL ASSEMBLY HALL, WUCHANG. Where General Li had his headquarters until after the fall of Hanyang.
THE PROVINCIAL ASSEMBLY HALL, WUCHANG.
Where General Li had his headquarters until after the fall of Hanyang.

I went direct to the Assembly Hall, where the guard received me and where my foreign visiting-card was taken first to the Foreign Office, while I was marched to a waiting-room. Around the building there was a flutter of official life, for from that building the whole {36}channel of China’s history was being changed. Here there were no tremulous, hesitating, half-hearted men; all was life. Each man, from the usual underlings who hung about the doorways to the lowest soldier on guard, from the lowest clerk on the General staff to the General himself—all men went about their business with a fixity of purpose that was new to China. There was no disorganisation. All was quiet and smoothly running. The new Republican flag from many towers waved triumphantly in the morning wind. On the drill-ground outside one could hear the blowing of bugles and the clatter of arms as the regiments were being drilled. Away down in the town, on one, two, a dozen, twenty pieces of open ground recruits were being licked into shape. Over on the hills could be heard the blast of cannon and field-pieces from all directions. The slight whistle of a shell dropping through the air told one that bombarding from both sides was going on apace. But in the General’s hall no evidence other than the running hither and thither of dispatch-runners could be seen that war was waging all around one. No one could listen to General Li Yuan Hung without developing a great trust in the man. Sometimes his face lit up with radiance bred only of devout determination, and he had all along succeeded in infusing that spirit into all the people of the city in which he had been so long an ordinary military officer. My reader should not, however, understand me to mean, in my description of the scene where the Revolution broke out, that a China freed from all corruption and all the usual Chinese incongruities and official twistings had suddenly come into being. Any one who has followed my writings on China generally would, were this the case, accuse me of the greatest inconsistency. But during those early days of the Revolution we certainly saw a Chinese official life we had never seen before. Li’s court was at that time the cleanest and the most hard-working and practical that had been {37}seen at any time in China’s history. That it was not perfect all those who looked on were quite aware, but it was vastly ahead of the general run of Chinese civic life.

Soon there came to the waiting-room a smart young officer, wearing foreign spectacles, in a uniform that had a peculiar mingling of foreign military and civic dress. He saluted, then bade me follow him. His business was to show me to the Foreign Office. Here I decided to make an instant objection, being content with nothing less than an interview with Li Yuan Hung. So that when, having arrived inside a large room at the end of the veranda of the second story of the rectangular building, a rather stout Chinese gentleman in military undress accosted me, I explained that I had already made arrangements for an interview with General Li, that I would be obliged if the proper wheels of office could be set in motion to allow me to see him, and that as soon as possible. Just at this point the Chinese in military undress smiled, and quietly said, “Yes, I am General Li.”

Addressing me in English, the General, with gentle Chinese suavity, told me that his time was at my disposal; that with only an imperfect hold upon my honourable language he would probably find some difficulty in telling me accurately what was in his mind, but that whatever question I put to him he would do his best to answer. Li Yuan Hung was a handsome Chinese gentleman—about five feet three or four, queueless, with close-cropped, bristly black hair, eyes somewhat close set, which at times shone with extraordinary fire, and a chin that immediately gave evidence of an infinite determination; were it not for his military bearing, he might readily have been taken for a prosperous Chinese merchant. He was keen, a leader of men who did not hesitate a moment. So utterly unlike the ordinary Chinese official, who leaves the vital points of an interview until he rises to take his {38}leave, General Li, with eyes beaming, and slightly raising his hand in his enthusiasm, exclaimed: “Yes, now we have thirteen out of the eighteen provinces, and our Republican party is formidable.[1] We have gathered under our new flag many more provinces in a much shorter time than we had hoped for, an evidence that China was waiting for the step to be taken to overthrow the Manchus.”

“Why, General Li, did the Revolution break out? Can you tell me briefly the specific reason you assign for the outbreak to have taken place so suddenly?”

He smiled slightly as he looked me straightforwardly in the eyes. “Well, throughout our Empire there had been for years the feeling that the Manchus would never give us Chinese any justice. They were pressing us down, and although the Revolution took place sooner than anticipated, all Chinese knew that it was coming sooner or later. I personally had formulated no great scheme to take the lead. As a matter of fact, although I knew all that was going on in the Hupeh Model Army, I had no intention of taking the lead, nor of occupying the position in which you find me to-day. The time planned for the Revolution would probably have been later. China was waiting for the man to rise up who would strike. None of the leaders of the Revolution—of our new Republic—were anxious that there should be great slaughter—the only wish was that the Manchu rule should be abolished for ever. And since I have been the leader of the Republic I have done my best that as little loss of life as possible might be incurred.”

“Are you quite sure that the Revolution will be permanently successful, that all China will become loyal to the Republican flag?”

“Loyal!” exclaimed Li, with the joviality of a boy, {39}then his face was closer knit again. “There is no doubt whatever. We have thirteen provinces, with the armies of all those provinces; we have the Chinese Navy, part at Hankow, part at Nanking,[2] sent there to aid in the attack, and part at Shanghai. We control the Yangtsze.” But the General dismissed the question of loyalty to the Republic as not being worthy of notice, adding that it was merely a matter of time for China to be knit together with a great overpoweringly strong patriotism which would have no equal in the Eastern or Western world. Then he continued: “My personal desire would be to see every province a free province, with its own Assembly, but controlled by one great national governmental body. We shall take our pattern from the United States of America, having a President to control our provincial assemblies—just like America,” he added curtly.

“How often would you elect a President? In China, unopened as it is, with no communication, do you not think it would be more difficult to organise elections and matters of a national character than it is in the States?” I asked.

“Every four, five, six, or even ten years. Our President, if we got the right man, might be in office for ten years for that matter. At all events, this is my personal opinion, but this, with many other matters, would come up for decision at the first assembly, and it is my desire not unduly to influence that body.”

“Who do you think you would ask to become the President—Yuan Shih K’ai perhaps?” I asked.

“Ah, no,” came the quick rejoinder. For some considerable time Li Yuan Hung had been endeavouring to persuade Yuan Shih K’ai to come over to the Revolutionary party and assume control of the formation of {40}the Republic; but his efforts had met only with a stubborn refusal by Yuan. “We must push out the Manchus. Yuan Shih K’ai will not, I believe, become our President.”

His Excellency stopped talking at this point, and I waited in vain to hear more about Yuan. After a moment I suggested: “But Yuan Shih K’ai is one of your great friends, is he not?”

“No, I do not call Yuan Shih K’ai a friend. He is known to me personally, but I do not know much about him or of the ambition he now has with China. You see, he will not listen to me.”

“True, but the foreign newspapers are saying that Yuan Shih K’ai, because he is your personal friend, will become the first President.”

“Are they? I did not know. Well, perhaps Yuan Shih K’ai would rise very high in the Republican party, but he has shown his determination merely to sit on the fence waiting for the result.” And General Li held up his hands and rocked to and fro in his chair to make his meaning clear.

“Who are your political associates at this time?”

His Excellency, at first not seeming to understand my meaning, said that he had none, but afterwards told me that his great friend was Admiral Sah. The subsequent references which he made to the Admiral were touching. “He is my teacher!” he affectionately exclaimed. “He is now gone to Shanghai, but after the fighting is over he will come to advise the Republic on naval matters. Admiral Sah is a good man, his heart is very warm.” In further conversation General Li declared that they had now the strongest men in the country, and the men who had not turned were hardly worth the having. He paid eulogistic references to the statesmanship of Wu Ting Fang, several of the Ministers of the old Government, whom he hoped to retain in office, and to Sun Yat Sen especially.

Continuing, the General said his idea was that China’s {41}foreign representatives should be retained, and that in no way was he desirous of altering the representation anywhere, in China or out of it, if officials were willing to serve—granted, of course, that their retention in office gave satisfaction and they were returned by public vote. “We wish to retain all who will work conscientiously for China’s welfare, so that there shall be no disruption of trade and commerce or of China’s diplomatic connections all over the world. Roughly, the scheme that I should favour would be:—

“1. Expulsion of the Manchus outside the Great Wall to Mongolia (excepting those who are willing to join the Republican party).

“2. Establishment of a Republic on lines after the style of America, with exclusive government for each State and one great National Assembly.

“With these points decided, we shall be able to call together all popular reformers from all the provinces and form our Government. But this will be the time that I shall resign.”

At this juncture of the conversation the General looked wistfully out of the window, speaking almost to himself. By then, he said, he should have accomplished his part for the winning of China back into the hands of her own people, and he should throw the cloak of control on to other shoulders. His quiet, unostentatious manner as he proceeded humbly to compare his own powers with other men in China showed a spirit of true greatness. Here was the hero of China, the man above all men who had guided her public life into safe channels and upon whom the eyes of the diplomatic, social, and political world were riveted—and he was talking of giving way to better men. Presently, as if coming out of a reverie, he turned towards me again, smiling heartily, as I suggested that that would probably not be allowed. But he was determined.

“No, there can be no place for me; I am a military {42}man, but China has many better administrators. We have plenty of men.” And then he added, as an afterthought, “Of course, if they want me, they can always have me.” And he smacked the table as if he had joked unconsciously.

And although I tried to impress upon his Excellency the fact that had there been no General Li there would probably have been no such success as was attending the Revolution, he would have none of it. He preferred to wander on in confidential tones, telling me that his personal wishes were not to be taken into account at all. What he personally was anxious to do was to control the initial stages of winning over the country; then his part was the planning of the defences and the organisation of the military; after that whatever the new Government wished him to do he would endeavour faithfully to carry out, not for his own sake but for the sake of the country of which he was proud and which he loved.

He did not seem inclined to enter into conversation much about the monarchical style of government which many declare more favourable to China as a country which had always looked to one head, the Emperor, as the Son of Heaven. Referring to England and comparing that country with the United States, Li Yuan Hung said that the style of the Monarchical Government of England was best for her people, but he did not believe it to be the best for the Chinese; and now that China was breaking away from all old systems and customs he thought the Republican control better suited to China’s needs. In the course of conversation I attempted to raise several questions which would probably go against the establishing of a Republic when the Senate met, but General Li did not pursue the conversation, and seemed disinclined to talk until I mentioned the religion of the country, quoting the annual Sacrifice at the Temple of Heaven—how would that be carried out? Then again his eyes shone. He came {43}closer to me, raised his hand a little as if to convince me in what he was going to say, and spoke slowly:—

“All sacrifices will probably be stopped, but the religion of the people will be Confucianism.”

“But Confucianism is not a religion. Do you not think, General Li, that Christianity will become more popular among the people as the country is opened up more?”

“Oh, yes, missionaries are our friends. Jesus is better than Confucius, and I am strongly in favour of more missionaries coming to China to teach Christianity and going to interior provinces. We shall do all we can to assist missionaries, and the more missionaries we get to come to China the greater will the Republican Government be pleased.”

The General then went on in very simple language to say that he was personally very pleased with all the labours of the missionaries, and that China would not be to-day were it not for the missionaries, who had gone into out-of-the-way places and opened up the country.

“But as a matter of fact we feel that we want as many foreigners to come to China as possible. The opening up of the country can only properly be accomplished by the united efforts of Chinese and foreigners, and in this new Republic we realise that it is only by mingling more freely with the other nations of the world that China will have her resources developed. Of our military and navy, our defences, our schools and colleges I have no fear, but one of the most important items in our Republican programme is that which will enable us to develop our wealth.”

“Well, will you be in favour of granting concessions to foreign syndicates for the development of mines and so on?”

“I do not think so. It is impossible for me to say what will be done, but my personal wish would be freely to combine foreign capital with Chinese capital {44}and labour.” But the General, at this moment turning abruptly towards a staff officer who brought him a dispatch from the battlefield, announced, “But we shall have foreign advisers, and all such matters as this would be decided later.” And he added forcefully, “We must consolidate the whole of China—that is the main thing.”

“You spoke of foreign loans just now. There will be need for foreign loans now more than ever?”

“Yes, we shall need more foreign money and more foreigners in the employ of our Republican Government; but my party is convinced that there will be no difficulty in getting all the assistance, financial and otherwise, from the Powers. Already America has telegraphed her good wishes, and the time will come when the two greatest republics in the world will be on the most friendly footing—probably China will drift more towards America and learn more from her than from any other country.”

“As regards business, do you think that Hankow will benefit in trade from the Revolution?”

The General pondered for a moment, thoughtfully putting his thumb and finger to his chin. He hesitated briefly, then declared straight out that he thought Hankow would become, perhaps, the biggest city in Asia.

In concluding our conversation, Li Yuan Hung told me that he had been to Japan for one year only, that he had five children (two boys and three girls), that he was a native of Hwangpi in Hupeh, and that when his children were old enough he would send them away for their education.

“Where to?”

“To America,” came the reply, and a happy smile with it. After wishing me goodbye, General Li, still holding my hand, said:—

“One word more before you go.” He placed his left hand on my shoulder, bent his body slightly towards {45}me. “Please do not forget to say that this Revolution took place because the Manchus were so unfair to the Chinese—for no other reason.”

He then bade me farewell, and I departed.

* * * * *

This interview is given in extenso because of its vital bearing upon the general attitude of the Republican party at the present moment. Events have transpired slightly to throw some of Li Yuan Hung’s ambitions to the ground, but the views he held may be taken as the general aims of the party that is headed by Sun Yat Sen to-day. As my manuscript goes forward to the publishers it is a matter of impossibility accurately to predict what the outcome of China’s Revolution will be. It may be a Republic; it may be a Monarchy. Be the form of government what it may, however, there will remain in the eyes of every patriotic Chinese but one General Li, and his views on the political situation and the needs of his great country, at the time when her national pendulum tremulously ticked out issues of the highest import, will have a permanent interest for all students of affairs in China.[3]

 

{46}
[1] This was only a month after the Revolution had broken out. The reader will learn later on in this volume of the changes following along in the ensuing months.

[2] Nanking, the city now planned by the Republican party as the capital, after a most stubborn resistance, fell to the Revolutionary Army a fortnight afterwards.

[3] Li Yuan Hung at the time of the Revolution was forty-eight years old. His birthplace was a village in the north of Huangpi, not many miles from the scenes that made him famous. “Li Yuan Hung” was his official name; his friends were permitted to address him as “Li Sung Ching.” His father was a soldier before him—Colonel Li Tsao Hsiang. In the year 1882, at the age of eighteen, Li the younger passed the entrance examination of the Tientsin Naval College, and after a course of six years he graduated. Soon after the war with Japan he was engaged by Chang Chih Tung, then Viceroy of Nanking, to fortify that city with modern guns, and was also made commander of an important pass near Nanking. In the year 1894 he followed Chang Chih Tung to Hupeh, and was commissioned to train the new army with the aid of a German instructor for three years. He was then sent to Japan to gain experience in defence work. After two years he returned to Wuchang, and was appointed Major of a Cavalry Brigade. In 1902 he was in command of the Kiangyin Navy and Army manoeuvres. Next year he took command of the Infantry Fourth Advance Guard. Two years later he became commander of the Second Division. As soon as the new army was organised he was promoted to be Colonel of the 21st Mixed Brigade, superintending the naval forces in the Yangtze Valley, the Military Academy and four departments of the Hanyang Arsenal, and the Army College. In the same year (1905) he was elected Provisional Commander of the Changte manoeuvres. He led his Mixed Brigade in the year 1911 to join the Autumn Manoeuvres at Taihu. On October 10, 1911, General Li joined the Revolution, as will be seen hereafter, and was elected Military Governor of Hupeh.

 

 

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CHAPTER V

A PREMATURE OPENING
On October 10, 1911, an ordinary military officer in the Hupeh Army of China stood unflinchingly facing a band of Revolutionists in Wuchang. One was Liu King, a student not long back from Japan—a mere slip of a boy. He was now practically in charge of the Revolution of China, now prematurely, quite haphazardly, broken out, and he sat looking suspiciously at the military man before him. The military man was a colonel. Above his neck glistened half a dozen narrow swords held by dark-clad men who awaited instructions to send into eternity the man whom Fate intervened to make the most noted man in the world-history of our day.

That Colonel was Li Yuan Hung, whose fame within a month reached to the uttermost ends of the earth.

The Revolution, long planned and still maturing, had prematurely broken out. Li Yuan Hung had been chosen as the leader, and now stood offering his apologies to the men who pressed him into office. He was not anxious, he was explaining, to take the honour—of course he was not, for who knew that that small military revolt at Wuchang was to move the whole of the eighteen provinces of China? Li thought it was not worth while. His fate would be sealed at once, for the Model Army of China merely cut the heads off of any in its ranks who rebelled against military discipline. So he demurred that the honour was too great for him—he would rather that another, more able and {48}experienced, should be invited to the leadership. More heavily those cold swords were pressed against his neck. Then it seemed as if another minute would find his head rolling to the floor. But he was given another chance. He was told in stern tones that he was the leader of the Revolution, that he must agree or else he would be decapitated immediately. But the Colonel still stolidly refused. Before the order was finally given to strike with those glistening swords the man was given one more chance. He agreed. The swords were raised, and at that moment the curtain rose and showed China in revolt to the world. Li Yuan Hung’s behaviour after that fateful night when he stood so near his grave showed the wisdom of the choice of the man of all men who in this land of the passing Celestial did more to free China from the fetters of the past than any other man dead or living.

A CAPTURED BOMB-MAKER. One of those responsible for the premature outbreak of the Revolution.
A CAPTURED BOMB-MAKER.
One of those responsible for the premature outbreak of the Revolution.

It was not until long after the month of October, however, that men were able accurately to ascertain how the Revolution broke. Newspaper men with special passes, and on the scent for news, each buttonholed their man, hoping to get the story of why the revolt occurred so long before the appointed time. Every intelligent onlooker saw that sooner or later a great upheaval would come to China—some even got to know that it could not take a very great time before the extensive plans were fully matured—and then the blow would be struck, and China, tottering against forces far too strong for her, would be shaken to her very vitals. But when the signal for the military to rise was actually given, and when the whole of Hupeh’s Army did rise, almost as one man, the newspaper men and those who thought they had been watching closely were lifted off their feet. And then there started throughout the world a long string of newspaper hazards as to who was responsible and how the thing had been done. But the story did not leak through. The most careful guesswork failed to get anywhere near the truth, {49}for the correspondents of American and European newspapers had not been behind the scenes, and knew little of what was passing in the early days of October, They knew nothing of the little affair that had happened in the Russian Concession of Hankow. Europeans in Hankow, as a matter of fact, knew nothing about the affair until the newspapers wrote up a short story of it, and on the morning it appeared no one seemed to attach any great importance to what they read. They did not realise that what the Revolutionary party of China had been planning had prematurely fused, and that now there was nothing to do but for the leaders of the movement to take the plunge—hit or miss, as might be. The short newspaper report read as follows, and was printed modestly alongside other general matter:—

“The detonation of a bomb on the Russian Concession yesterday afternoon was responsible for the discovery of a revolutionary element, the existence of which had hitherto not been suspected. At 4 p.m. the police in the neighbourhood of the Russian Municipal Building were startled by a loud report which, it was apparent, emanated from the native houses at the back of the German butchery. A rush was made to the neighbourhood, and in the compound of No. 14 two Chinese were discovered throwing kerosene around, apparently just preparing to set fire to the establishment. These were put quickly under restraint, and a survey of the premises revealed the fact that all the elements of a nice little revolutionary club were present. Bombs already made, acids for their making, revolutionary pamphlets, and a list of names which bore a strong resemblance to the members’ roll, gave testimony to the use to which the houses and the compound had been put. It is surmised that the bomb went off accidentally, and the inmates, fearing a visit by the police, attempted to set their place on fire. That their attempts were frustrated is due to the promptitude of the police, {50}who, in addition to the two arrests already mentioned, tried to arrest four men who approached the place in a suspicious manner soon after the explosion; these, however, made their escape. At the Russian police-station, where at a late hour last evening[1] a representative of the Hankow Dally News was making inquiries, two Chinese, a man and a woman, were being examined, they having attempted to gain ingress to a suspected house. Like the two men arrested, they, were turned over to the Hsia Kao Ting,[2] whose representative had been quickly called to the spot. The Viceroy had already sent a deputy, a naval officer, from Wuchang, and together with the local officials he was busy attempting to unravel the mysteries connected with the revolutionary quarters. Among the articles seized by the police were revolutionary flags, as well as maps of Wuchang and plans apportioning various bodies of revolutionists to their positions for attack on the Wuchang gates. At a late hour last night everything in the neighbourhood of the scene was quiet, and not a soul was in sight except the Russian police, who are to be heartily congratulated on their discovery and the efficient manner in which they handled the situation.”

Now, the man whose carelessness in making the bomb caused the premature explosion in the Russian Concession and forced the Revolutionary party to make their coup before they were ready was one Sun Wu, an expert bomb-maker. He bears the marks of the explosion to this day. Sun Wu was taken away immediately by his friends and concealed until he was well enough to join his comrades. One of his comrades was the aforementioned Liu King, who later became Inspector-General of the Republican Government of Hupeh. Liu King’s wife was the woman who had undertaken to throw the bomb with which the Revolution was to be started. The story is a most fascinating {51}one, and nothing better can be done at the moment than to reproduce the story as told to a newspaper man long after the great war had seemed to be fairly well settled in favour of the Republicans. Liu’s personal appearance proclaims him an extremist, said the report. He is a young man, about thirty, with unusual eagerness in his eyes, wears foreign civilian clothes and gold-rimmed spectacles, has a moustache but, of course, no queue. He comes from a family of scholars among the gentry of Siangyang, in North Hupeh. If he had not gone to Japan, he would probably have been a scholar of the old Chinese type and an official, also of the old type, with a boughten office. In fact, it was whispered that many thousands of taels which he used in the Revolutionary cause were given him by relatives in the expectation that he would buy a taotaiship (magistracy).

In Japan Liu went through both the law course and the military. It is ten years since he first took up revolutionary work. But he did not claim to have done anything very effective till he met Dr. Sun Yat Sen. Here is the story just about as he told it in Chinese:—[3]

“It was about six years ago that Sun Yat Sen came to Japan. I was studying at the time in the Tungwen College. All the Chinese students welcomed Sun with the utmost enthusiasm. He organised among us a Society called the ‘Tung Ming Hwei,’ of which I was a member. The aim of this Society was to move the people of China to realise the shame of being ruled by aliens, and to stir them up to win their freedom. We published a weekly magazine, the People, in which we showed how corrupt, tyrannical, and impotent was the Manchu Government, giving instances of the inhumanity and injustice with which the Manchus had treated our people in the past. We urged reasons why the Chinese people should take revenge on behalf {52}of their ancestors, thus proving their filial piety. We urged that the Chinese should strive to make themselves the equals of other peoples, who looked down upon them simply because they were enslaved by the Manchus. The People became very influential, and nearly all its readers in China and abroad realised that they were slaves, and wanted to free themselves. But the paper did not live long. The Manchu Government complained to the Japanese against its publication, and Japan, wishing to strengthen her friendship with the Chinese Government, suppressed it. We then organised another department, called the Kung Ching (meaning ‘Advance together’). The duty of this department was to send agents to the various provinces to inspire the soldiers and scholars with revolutionary spirit and patriotism, and others to Chinese settlements abroad to raise funds. I was twice elected president of this department while I was studying at the Tungping Military College.

“The Revolutionary agents had friends among the military officers throughout China, so that it was easy for them to get into touch with the soldiers. Even if the officers refused to help, they were so friendly with the agents that they would not betray them. So it was very seldom that viceroys or governors were successful in arresting Revolutionists.

“After graduating from the military college and the law college I returned to Hupeh in the sixth moon (July), 1910. I came to Wuchang and found that all the Revolutionary agents had taken flight, owing to the strict search made for them by Viceroy Jui Cheng. I was greatly disappointed. A little later I became sick, and went to my home in Siangyang. The illness was a long one; I was not able to leave my bed till the third moon (May, 1911). I came here but found I was too weak for work, so I returned home for two months. In the fifth moon I came back here, bringing ten thousand taels given me by my family. I took {53}a house beside the middle school in Wuchang. We took care to keep everything very secret. We had various retreats in Wuchang and Hankow, and our headquarters was in the camp of the sappers and miners’ corps.

“Sun Wu had been working among the soldiers, and we knew that we could rely on the sappers and miners and the artillerymen. For some time the soldiers were timid, and, though they were eager to revolt against the Manchus, they were unwilling to give a definite promise to join the Revolution at a fixed time. We held secret meetings, and at last we found that the only way to induce some of them was to threaten that they would be blown up with bombs if they did not join.

“We had planned to begin the Revolution in December—simultaneously in eight provinces. We had drawn up lists showing the amount of the funds in the provincial treasuries, so that we knew the amount we should probably have to begin operations with. My wife, who is a zealous Revolutionist and who recently went to Shanghai to organise a corps of women soldiers, had undertaken to disguise herself as a poor pedlar-woman in order that she might throw a bomb at the Viceroy. That was to be the beginning of the Revolution. Sun Wu and myself were experts in the manufacture of bombs. On the night of October 9th Sun was making a bomb when, by some carelessness, he allowed it to explode. This betrayed our plot before we were ready. That was at the Russian Concession in Hankow. Russian policemen came to our place and seized our plant, together with proclamations we had prepared, dispatches to the foreign consulates, private letters, a list of the revolutionists, and a large number of badges. These badges had a design like that now used on the Republican military flag.”

A QUEUELESS BRIGADE. A great feature of the Revolution was the discarding of the pigtail. Barbers were kept busy for many days shearing the revolutionaries.
A QUEUELESS BRIGADE.
A great feature of the Revolution was the discarding
of the pigtail. Barbers were kept busy for many days
shearing the revolutionaries.
Most of the story of that night and the following day is already known to the world. Sun Wu’s face was badly wounded in the explosion, and he was concealed {54}by friends, who saw to it that he got proper treatment until he had recovered sufficiently to rejoin his comrades. Liu King’s family was then living in the native city at Hankow. He had long been suspected, and when the news of the explosion was received his wife and brother were arrested. He had himself escaped from the house in the Russian Concession. Several arrests followed during the night, and the following morning four men were executed. Liu’s brother was not among them, for the reason that the Viceroy was having him tortured to induce him to reveal Liu’s hiding-place. Two of the leading agents of the Revolution, Liu Yao-chen and Run Chung-yung, were among those arrested on the 10th. Liu King had tried to start the Revolution at midnight on the 9th, but had failed.

“I saw we should all be ruined if we did not begin at once,” said Liu, “but the soldiers had no badge, so they did not revolt. The next morning (October 10th) I wrote to them that if the Viceroy found the list of their names contained among our papers he would certainly disarm and execute them all. They replied that they were not afraid, and it was only because they had no badges that they had failed to begin the Revolution. I then gave instructions that any white band round the arm should be used as a badge, and that the Revolution should begin at ten o’clock that night—the time fixed by the Viceroy for the execution of my brother.

“The sappers and miners did not wait for the appointed time but began their work at half-past seven. They sent men at once to watch all the gates. The artillerymen, camped outside the city, heard the firing and realised what had happened. They entered the city and occupied the Choawangtai (where the magazine was), the Hwanghwalo (the promontory overlooking the river), and the Serpent Hill. They intended to shell the Viceroy’s yamen, but soldiers went to the yamen and found that the Viceroy had escaped through {55}a hole dug in a back wall. As all the gates were held by Revolutionists, he must have got over the wall by a rope.

“The sappers and miners went to the camps of the other corps and told the men they must join the mutiny or fight. Practically all joined, with the exception of part of the Commissariat Corps and about 250 soldiers, who fled with Chang Piao.[4]

“I had come to Wuchang from Hankow, and we called a meeting at the magazine. The Revolutionary agents decided not to elect one of their own number as commander.”

Then followed in the interview a short description of the manner in which Li Yuan Hung had been raised to the position of Leader of the Revolution of China.

* * * * *

The following leader, printed in the London Times as soon as the Revolution broke, shows how great a surprise was given to the world. It also shows how utterly unprepared China herself seemed in the eyes of the world to be for the change that so suddenly shook the fundamentals of her Government:—’

“A rising, which is manifestly very serious,” said the Times editorial, “has taken place at Wuchang, the great city in the province of Hupeh which seemed destined to become the centre of the Chinese railway system and of the internal trade of the Empire. How serious it may prove to be and how serious the movement from which it springs are matters on which Europeans have but few materials for judgment. We have not sufficient information to show whether the present insurrection is connected with the disturbances in Szechwan which looked threatening enough a month ago. If they are their significance, it need hardly be {56}said, would be materially increased, but even if they are both altogether local they are symptomatic of the general instability of the actual situation. Two years hence a full Parliament of the Empire is to be convoked, and a Ministry responsible to it is to be appointed—so at least the Imperial Edict of last November has promised. The results of so tremendous an innovation cannot be looked forward to without misgivings. Is China, the oldest, and to all outward seeming one of the most effete, of Oriental monarchies, fit for so vast a change? The reception of the Edict of last year does not argue well for the future. The National Assembly, which had unanimously demanded this very reform, denounced it as too tardy the moment it was granted. Yet surely three years was not too long a time for China to prepare herself for constitutional government. There is much that is admirable in the Young China party. They realise the absolute necessity of reform, and many of them desire it out of genuine patriotism. But hitherto they have shown no sense of prospective, no powers of leadership, and no gift of construction. Last year one of their number, himself a subordinate official, who would certainly lose by a change, blurted out to a European in a moment of confidence that in his opinion nothing could save the country but a bloody revolution, making a clean sweep of everything. That was in the city of Wuchang. Is the present insurrection an attempt to save China in this way, and if it is, what popular force is behind it, or will gather behind it, unless it is immediately quelled? A good deal for us and for all European Powers with interests in the Far East depends on the answer.”

 

[1] October 10, 1911.

[2] A small magistrate.

[3] See Central China Post, January 15, 1912.

[4] Chang Piao was the General in command of the Hupeh Army, who took the field in the first engagement of the war, and who was interviewed by the author, as printed on page 61.

 

 

{57}

CHAPTER VI

THE EARLY HOSTILITIES
Thus did China’s Revolution start. Event followed event during the first days with such startling rapidity that it became a matter of difficulty to keep trace consecutively of events. On October 13th the Hanyang Arsenal, the largest in the Empire, passed into the hands of the Revolutionists. A large body of soldiers indistinguishable from loyal troops arrived in several units from Wuchang. They entered the Hanyang city quietly and, donning the Revolutionary badge, proceeded with their work. The powder factory was seized at 1 a.m. and the arsenal fell soon after, only a few shots being fired. In the arsenal were found no fewer than 140 three-inch guns, about 500,000 rounds of ammunition, and powder sufficient for the manufacture of 2,000,000 rounds. This amount, together with 32,000,000 rounds of rifle ammunition and 5,000 rounds of field-gun ammunition, which were known to be stored near Wuchang, gave the rebels enough to carry on with for some time. Hankow native city soon afterwards fell, and with its fall the Revolutionists found themselves in possession of three of the finest strategical points in the whole of China.

Meantime nothing had been heard of the foreigners in Wuchang, and as the gates were closed and huge conflagrations were seen during the next couple of days it was thought that the affair might develop into an anti-foreign rising. Crowds gathered on the Bund and gazed anxiously through field-glasses over the river for {58}signs of the foreigners, but it was not until October 12th that a steam-launch, conveying Captain Knepper, of the U.S.A. Helena, some foreigners and American blue-jackets, and flying the American flag, left in the early morning for Wuchang. In the afternoon the naval officers were cheered as they steamed alongside the Bund at Hankow, with practically all the foreigners and about 150 Christian girls from the various schools.

For the next few days there was the greatest activity on both sides—among the Revolutionists and the Loyalists. With wildest enthusiasm the Revolutionists prosecuted their aims in Wuchang, in Hanyang, and in Hankow. The Government banks were ransacked of all silver and burned to the ground, all Government offices were looted, Revolutionary troops were stationed in the three cities, and for some days there was no doubt about the sovereignty of the rebels in this neighbourhood. The two armies touched for the first time on October 19th, but even this was a one-sided affair, because General Chang Piao, the head of the Hupeh army, had but a handful of men, and stood from the first no chance whatever against the overwhelming numbers of the enemy. Foreigners were able only to see in this a local revolt, but it very soon became apparent that the Revolution had taken hold of China and that the rebelling forces of Hupeh were soon to gather many other provinces under their banner. Such unity was never seen in China before as the first days of the revolt brought to light.

Then the war began.

After this first slight engagement there was a rare ado with the Revolutionary army and supporters as the victorious regiments marched into the city, and this victory over Chang Piao and his men, apart from having the effect of completely routing the enemy, added a tremendous stimulus to the fighting line of the Republicans, and they were then itching for another scrap. {59}The Loyalists had come down from Peking. They were expected to turn over to the Revolutionists. But they did not—they intended to fight, and to fight hard. In the first engagement, however, after having had taken from them their bullion with which the troops were to be paid, their rice and supplies by which the men were to be fed, the ammunition by which the throne was to be kept secure, and much else in the way of impedimenta of warfare, they retired crestfallen and moved some considerable distance down the river.

TYPICAL REVOLUTIONARIES. Changed by love of country and passion for freedom from downtrodden coolies to enthusiastic soldiers.
TYPICAL REVOLUTIONARIES.
Changed by love of country and passion for freedom
from downtrodden coolies to enthusiastic soldiers.

Before dawn on the morning of October 20th I took my launch down towards Kilometre Ten, the Revolutionary base, where the Loyalists were said to have crept up during the night. It looked as if they had regained courage, and were to put up another fight. I found a party of Revolutionary recruits and regulars, all having a good time, whilst lessons were being given to the raw material in the art of using the rifle. The target was a couple of pigs, and into the hides of these two innocent porkers the recruits were endeavouring to discharge their bullets. Passing them, I followed on through a road which at one time had been the main entrance to the station, all being now in anything but perfect order, into the station, where some fifteen hundred troops were assembled on the platform and in the adjoining ground—the scene of the recent battle.

To my companion (representing the New York Herald) and myself the Revolutionists were most courteous. Whilst we preferred to stand, they bade us to be seated, a couple leading us to a point on the platform where was seated the Commander-in-Chief of the Field Forces, a portly fellow, full and hearty, typically Chinese, delighted to see us. Down below were the field-guns and the dark-clad troops, battered railway trucks, officers’ horses grazing by the line, men rushing hither and thither, all enthusiastic upon getting {60}something done and wasting no time. But here was the Commander-in-Chief—the Buller of the campaign—calm, quiet, courteous, extending to me with the simplicity of a boy the usual Chinese felicities. He was seated in his official war-chair, had upon him all the paraphernalia of war, and waited as he talked with me for his scouts to return before he could make up his mind what the day’s programme was to be.

Allow us to take his photograph?—certainly he would, and stood up and put on a straight face purposely for the occasion, waving back a scout who hurriedly came in whilst I snapped a picture. Then he attended to the scouting parties, taking careful notes of all that they told him. I wished to exchange cards—delighted, he would do it in a moment, and wrote his full name on the back. He laughed over the simplest incident, was exceedingly solicitous on my behalf, assured me that they would win; when he spoke of battle his face hardened, his keen eyes sparkled, full of fire. His aide-de-camp, quite a youngster, dressed in a foreign tweed suit—queueless, of course—and bearing no traces whatever that he was an army official, gave us all the news he could. He waved his hands to the captured railroad trucks, containing the captured supplies, and asked us blandly if we could solve the problem of living without food—because he couldn’t, and he didn’t suppose that the Loyalists could. “And they won’t,” he vociferated. But that was in the early days of the war. During those days it was interesting to any fair-minded foreigner to watch the intensity of feeling displayed by the Revolutionary Army as opposed to the downhearted attitude of the small Imperial force which took the field.

On the same morning that I interviewed the Revolutionary Commander of the Field Forces I was successful in discovering that General Chang Piao was on board a launch down-river. I immediately made off by launch {61}to see him. As I sat soon afterwards by the side of this Chang Piao, the man in all Hupeh who had been entrusted with the authority of the Model Army, and looked at a medium-sized Chinese who gave no evidence of being a common soldier by anything in his dress, and as I looked at his unshaven head and bloodshot eyes, I could not find it in my heart to extend to him anything but genuine pity. He recently had been a strong man, high in office, and dazzled with braid and buttons and all official paraphernalia which to-day is thought so much of in military China; now he was a crestfallen man, knowing that he had lost, cut off from all supplies, with a helpless army on his hands, and himself knowing that fifty thousand Chinese dollars were being offered for his head. With some little difficulty I had jumped on board, asked for Chang Daren, and was shown into the cabin aft, where I found some dozen or so officers eating their morning rice. Towards me came a man dressed in an ordinary teacher’s garb; he extended his nervous hand, and with ceremony bade me enter. His name he told me was Chang—this, then, was the man, General Chang Piao, erstwhile Commander-in-Chief of the Hupeh Model Army.

A well-built fellow, some five feet six or seven, with hard, determined mouth, and a chin of iron, was Chang Piao; his jet-black eyes looked suspiciously out at us. By the side of the General as he sat, one leg up under him in real Chinese fashion, stood a guard of soldiers with loaded pieces; in front of us as we talked were seated the dishevelled officers and staff of the General, some on upturned boxes, some on the settee (which had been the General’s resting-place), some on the floor, all busy with their rice-bowls and chopsticks.

At first Chang looked at me in apparent unconcern. Then—

“Where do you come from? What do you want? {62}What nationality are you?” These questions came from him as quickly as he could put them.

“I shall not do any fighting at all to-day,” he said. “My scouts are all around the country-side, and my troops, some three thousand of them—and all good men, far better than the rebels—are lying in ambush away at Niekow. I shall wait for the arrival of Yin Chang,[1] who is coming with twenty thousand troops, and Admiral Sah, who is waiting for more ammunition.”

Chang Piao made no reference to his adversary, General Li Yuan Hung, and did not seem inclined to encourage talk about the opposing side. Later, however, in the midst of the small talk, he referred very sympathetically to the Revolutionists, and was confident that they would rue the day when they broke out into rebellion. He continued: “It will not be long before we shall be able to win. There will, at any rate, not be any serious fighting for four days, but when Sah has his big guns’ ammunition sent to him, and we have ours and our twenty thousand drilled troops, the position will change speedily.”

Imperial troops now began to pour down from the north. Their headquarters were made at a place called Niekow, a small village, situated at the end of a big S bend in the railway leading out from Kilometre Ten, and about six miles away. Their first attack was made on the morning of October 25th, the Revolutionists taking up their position at the Government Paper Mill, situated below the Kilometre Ten Station, and near the Seven Mile Creek. People would point away in a northerly direction and tell you that over there were the Loyalists—twelve thousand, fifteen thousand, seventeen thousand, twenty thousand of them, mobilised for action. But no one actually knew; every one merely guessed. True it was that on the previous day several hair-brained {63}adventurers went so far forward as to tempt the Loyalist outposts into shooting at them, and then set the Concessions talking about their internationality and how the Loyalists were bent on shooting every foreigner they could catch.

THE RAW MATERIAL OF THE REVOLUTIONARY ARMY. “Enlisted on Tuesday, drilled on Wednesday, shot on Thursday,” was often the record of a revolutionary recruit.
THE RAW MATERIAL OF THE REVOLUTIONARY ARMY.
“Enlisted on Tuesday, drilled on Wednesday, shot on Thursday,”
was often the record of a revolutionary recruit.

It was some days previous that my launchman had refused point blank to convey me near the scene of action. Therefore was it that at dawn I was astir by the riverside at Hankow hailing a sampan, the men who were willing to go down-river demanding, in hoarse voices, exorbitant charges to get me near the fight if there was to be one. Having sufficiently argued the point and boarded a boat, however, we soon came to the firing-line, to the Revolutionary base, having been questioned by the sentries along the riverside as to who we were and what our business was. We rowed down to the Government Paper Mill, up a tributary to the main river, and landed. But no one was to be seen as we walked haphazardly onwards for some minutes, our only obstacle being a poor, one-eyed wretch trying to sell us some of the Loyalist ammunition and empty shells, at ridiculous prices as curios go.

Suddenly, however, there was an enormous explosion, which nearly broke our eardrums, and we knew that operations were commencing. Coming to an open space, we discovered small parties of infantry under cover of undulations in the ground, and slightly to the north, raised from the ground, were the field-guns. I was now between the river and the railway, and, with the other men around me, who told me to “duck,” as they expected a rapid return of the enemy’s shells, waited for the Loyalists’ return. Then, after some minutes, a little dancing flame, a little column of blue smoke, a dull, heavy boom, and a continued whistle in the air, told us that the enemy had started. With my glasses I watched anxiously for the shells, which fell short. With terrific force they dropped into swampy ground some five hundred yards in front of us, sending {64}up the water most picturesquely. There was a laugh from the Revolutionists around me as I reported the news to them, and they lay still in their positions, waiting, they hardly knew for what.

Going up to the field-guns, several of which had been brought down by a train now unloading, I found that there were ten four-inchers, most of which had the range beautifully. There were also Rexers, Maxims, and smaller fry.

Of the Loyalists, even with the aid of good field-glasses, nothing could be seen. Their camp at Niekow—some considerable distance to the north—was plainly visible, and the shooting was directed across the top of that S bend in the line; and thus it continued for another half an hour, the Loyalist guns failing to find their range and falling short. Ear-pads there were none; other ordinary equipment war correspondents carry I had none, so lay down as the guns shot and wrote my copy. Suddenly there was a sharp, deadly firing of Rexers, more deadly than the Maxim, and after that no sound. The rebels fell to jubilant congratulation, declaring that they had silenced the enemy, and that they could move forward and chase them. But they had misreckoned. Of officers among the Revolutionary men there were many. But of order I saw nothing. Each man did as he pleased and went where he pleased and when. Each gave orders and counter-suggestions to one another, and none was prepared for following up the engagement in its several possible turns.

And now their misreckoning was to be forced home. Dancing high above the earth, truly denoting danger to come, was the blue flame of the enemy. The releasing boom was heard, the whizz-z-z of the shell became noisier as it sailed through the air towards us; each instinctively bent his head and waited for the shell to burst. Then came the bursting directly above us in mid-air, telling that one gun at {65}least—certainly the biggest in the field—had got the range. In and around the firing-line of the Revolutionists there was a “Hiyah!” Some of the men rose immediately, slung their rifles over their backs, looked round anxiously for their comrades, and made to run; others still stayed on. But the enemy, now sure of the range, lost no time. In deadly succession shell after shell was put into the men who were fighting for the establishment of the model Republic. At the time, however, the Republic seemed far away.

Several shells as I stooped behind some brickwork broke directly in front of us, tearing up the red earth of the line. Simultaneously others broke above our heads, and the shrapnel descended in a deadly shower. So far as I could see, no one yet had been wounded, certainly no one killed. But at this moment I decided to go, simultaneously, it appeared, with many scores of the Revolutionist infantry. For in a couple of minutes, as I sprinted along the river bank, making for some decent cover, I found myself perilously running in the middle of a most disordered rabble of several hundred men, each doing as he liked. Some held their rifles high in the air, some pointed them onward at their fellows, others dragged them after them—and none was there to give them orders. Meantime, as we ran, shells were dropping around us. We could hear sharp “pings” on the corrugated roofs of the buildings we were passing, and all were glad when out of range.

In the village at the foot of the V-shaped ground we met many more of the Revolutionists, some gunners, some infantry, who had fled.

All decided that they had been routed; some asked whether the guns had been deserted, and were told that they had; and one, in an eminently Chinese way, made a small purchase of ten cash worth of nuts from an old woman by the roadside, arguing in the heat of battle as to whether he should give her ten or eight cash, and filling his knapsack, whilst his more {66}excited comrades discussed the plan of subsequent events.

Thus had the rebels been reversed, completely beaten at the game they themselves had started. The reverse, however, or rather the loss of their position, taught them a valuable lesson.

THE CENTRAL MART OF THE WORLD. Thus do the Chinese describe Hankow. In the foreground is a small section of the Hanyang Steel and Iron Works. Across the River Han the city of Hankow is seen.
THE CENTRAL MART OF THE WORLD.
Thus do the Chinese describe Hankow.
In the foreground is a small section of the Hanyang Steel
and Iron Works. Across the River Han the city of Hankow is seen.

 

[1] General Yin Chang, President of the Board of War—a man who was trained in Germany. He has a German wife.

 

 

{67}

CHAPTER VII

THE BATTLE OF KILOMETRE TEN
After these first hostilities men and things began to move with lightning rapidity. By October 27th the Loyalists, strongly reinforced by Imperial troops from the north, held the situation fairly well, fighting with remarkable persistence. What passed during that day and those immediately ensuing should prove a lesson to the Western world. Warfare opened at dawn, and the Imperialists, fighting against a strongly entrenched army of Revolutionists numerically superior but not so well commanded, won a complete victory. The Revolutionists fought bravely, and their losses were heavy.

As will be seen in detail later in this volume, the Revolutionists were expecting the Imperial troops to join them as soon as the real cause of the fighting became known to them, for it was a vital part of the Imperial policy to keep the northern troops in ignorance of the nature of the revolt. The Revolutionists openly declared themselves disappointed. But as a matter of fact, even if the Imperialists had been willing to join, there was no opportunity presented to them. The arrangement of their troops was such that the Honan and Shantung soldiers were in front with the Manchus directly behind them. This was a cleverly designed manoeuvre on the part of the Manchu officers that worked for the success of the Loyalists. The Honan men could neither lay down their arms nor turn back—even if they so wished. An attempt to join the {68}enemy would have brought upon them the fire of the Manchus, and the steady advance of the latter prevented any reverse movement.

Foreign military observers who witnessed the battle of Kilometre Ten unite in saying that the Imperialists made their attack and continued it in the face of stubborn resistance and in the most scientific manner, advancing steadily under the cover of their artillery. From a position some quarter of a mile south of the Kilometre Ten station, the Revolutionary base, I watched for some three hours hardest musketry and artillery fire. The deadly warfare raged across a wide stretch of country lying to the north-east of the Revolutionary headquarters, over swampy ricefields and half-cultivated ground. Big four-inchers opened fire just before seven on a cold, grey morning, and both armies, having moved slightly to the front, were within easy rifle fire of each other. The Revolutionary Army had spread itself in the shape of a right angle, with the bigger guns at either point, and strong lines of enthusiastic infantry entrenched on the north side of the railway line and well fortified behind stone embankments and undergrowth along the river abreast of Kilometre Ten and for some distance below on towards the oil-tanks of the Asiatic Petroleum Company, Ltd.

The Imperialists, returning the Revolutionary gun-fire with marked precision, found their range with the fourth shrapnel, the Revolutionists taking much longer, and having nothing more than the ordinary 1¾ and 3 inch explosives—their great need was shrapnel.

Far across the field was one bank of ever-increasing smoke, and of necessity shooting was vague. But both armies, with an earnestness and energy that one was not accustomed to see in Chinese, kept up smart riflery for two hours, with hardly a moment’s lull, showing that the Chinese Model Army, if boasting little else, can boast of men who face battle without flinching. {69}For two hours, at the very edge of the field, I watched operations through my glasses, and then saw Admiral Sah’s fleet coming up-river slowly—it had been creeping up for some time. At first it was thought that the Revolutionary guns known to be at Kinshan, a point on the other side of the river almost opposite Yanglo, would open fire upon the fleet, but this did not happen, and not during the whole of the day was there any firing from that side of the river. Shells from both camps were being sent out at a terrific rate. Those from the Imperial Army were seen to be bursting with deadly effect in the Revolutionary ranks, and the poor fellows who were willing to seal the Republic with their blood were seen to fall in hundreds.

THE FLIGHT OF THE GUN-JUNKS. These old-style revolutionary gunboats scudded away at the Battle of Kilometre Ten when Admiral Sah opened fire.
THE FLIGHT OF THE GUN-JUNKS.
These old-style revolutionary gunboats scudded away
at the Battle of Kilometre Ten when Admiral Sah opened fire.

For some half-hour it was impossible in the din and the smoke from the firing, added to the fact that both armies were magnificently entrenched, to tell which side was doing the more deadly work, but for more than two hours the rattle of musketry, of Rexer machine guns, of Maxims, and three and four inch guns told one that the death-roll must be tremendous. Such incessant rattle was not known even in the Russo-Japanese War. Suddenly the fleet moved upwards. No one seemed to take notice of the move or to attach great importance to it. A small village below the Japanese Bund was as peaceful as if battle was removed a thousand miles from it, and the villagers, preparing their morning rice, paid but little heed to the gradually nearing musketry. To myself there came a fear that from my temporary resting-place I should soon have to shift. Down behind the stones at the Kilometre Ten station I could then see the Revolutionary troops beginning to rise and prepare for a withdrawal. Simultaneously, from the railway away to the north, three companies of regular troops, well in command and meaning business, came down, orderly enough, marched out into the open field, knelt, and prepared for fire. But what at? Eyes had been taken from the {70}gun-boats, which were now within such distance that their operations could easily be seen with the naked eye. They were evidently preparing to sweep the decks of the cruisers with rifle-shot if they came within firing distance. Field-guns appeared to be all forward with the main fighting line, and this batch of infantry was all that was available.

The Revolutionary army was drawn up over a very wide area, stretching from the river bank above Kilometre Ten to a point far over away from the other side of the railway, the whole forming a right angle with three main fortified points, and in between were companies of infantry entrenched. The shells from the Loyalists, put in from several guns over the whole of the enemy’s right angle, were tearing the ranks to pieces. This could be seen through the glasses. But gradually the fighting came nearer. The men who were fighting for the establishment of their Republic were being slowly driven back. First one company would move a little back, kneel again, and whole-heartedly recommence musketry fire. But the moment came, not much after 9.30 a.m., when it became apparent that the ships were going to add their quota—and all too deadly a quota as it transpired—to rout the Revolutionists. First came a terrific boom, which rent the air, even though all the firing round about ceased not for a moment. There seemed then in the air to be for a single moment a silence boding terrible evil. There was another bang; the shell burst right in the railway—just in the station which had been the pride of the Revolutionary forces as their formidable base—a flame was seen to go up from one of the buildings in the front, and the Admiral saw that he had got his range.

THE EFFECT OF A NAVAL BOMBARDMENT. This populous village was burned to the ground in the first engagement of Admiral Sah’s fleet with revolutionary army.
THE EFFECT OF A NAVAL BOMBARDMENT.
This populous village was burned to the ground in the first
engagement of Admiral Sah’s fleet with revolutionary army.

For an army well trained in the arts of war, old veterans of modern warfare, it would be a brave thing, perhaps foolhardy, to endeavour to stand before an army equal to itself and a naval force whose strength was unknown. Much more would it be to expect it of {71}an army, a great percentage made up of raw recruits, who had hardly handled a rifle before this Revolution broke out. At the time of which I am writing this was the position of the Revolutionary Army. From the land forces they could expect as much as they could tackle with the forces they had then at their base. It had been a good fight, and they had held their ground well, feeling the need of trained troops. In addition to that, many of the trained troops were shot down by their own men—recruits who had been placed in the rear lines and had shot down the regulars at the front—a most regrettable feature for the Revolutionists during the whole campaign.

Now that warships began to pelt shells into the Revolutionary camp with alarming precision, it seemed hopeless for them. The great majority, however, with marked coolness stuck to their guns.

Over the land came the whistle of Admiral Sah’s shells—their effect was terrific. Soon it was seen that the Revolutionists would have to evacuate. To stay in their present situation would have meant only utter disaster, and they saw it was a hopeless task. Many of them came slowly from the ranks, all muddy and disordered, tired and forlorn, and made their way back through the sympathetic villages and along the railway line towards Hankow native city. Then they came away pellmell, and the Imperialists pelted them with shells as they fled. Peking men crept up through the trenches with capital skill, being officered splendidly, and showing by all that they did—gunners and infantry—that they were a modern army, and to be reckoned with. They then came away to the Racecourse; were temporarily beaten back by a ragtail and bobtail crowd of Revolutionists, more ardent than skilful, who had taken up a fresh stand. Firing was recommenced, and the Imperialists, despite the fact that Maxims were turned on them with terrific force, came up through the trenches. Their bravery was one of the wonderful {72}features of the day, and will be handed down in history. Hopelessly were they mown down, brutally were they knocked out by Maxim fire, but they stuck to it and came along in a style British regiments would not look down upon.

“Brothers!” they would exclaim in their ignorance, “we are fighting a pack of robbers and hooligans. We must fight to save our country from unworthy men.”

Towards two o’clock, after scouting parties had been working from both sides, they again came to close quarters by the side of the Japanese Concession, and it was feared that the Foreign Concessions would be rushed on the first day’s fight. These settlements, however were guarded splendidly—American, Austrian, British, French, German, and Japanese naval contingents being stationed all over the place, with the roads all barricaded, and every measure taken to preserve peace and order.

The number of dead in this battle, as in most of the others, was not known.

Following on the Imperial success earlier in the day, Admiral Sah then sent official intimation to British Rear-Admiral Winsloe, who was nominally in charge of the foreign defences, that he would commence to bombard Wuchang on the morrow at three p.m. A consular circular was sent round to that effect, strongly advising that all women and children should leave. It further said that the foreign gunboats might drop down river, but that full guards would be landed and kept in the Concessions for defence. The volunteers also would remain on duty.

PREPARED FOR EVENTUALITIES. The Americans on guard at the Foreign Concession while heavy fighting was going on close by. It was feared by the foreign community that either side, when beaten, might make for cover in the Concession.
PREPARED FOR EVENTUALITIES.
The Americans on guard at the Foreign Concession
while heavy fighting was going on close by.
It was feared by the foreign community that either side,
when beaten, might make for cover in the Concession.

It was during these days that Admiral Sah played a remarkable game of bluff. The promised bombardment did not come off, and it was afterwards learned that it had never been intended. On board the cruisers there was a shortage of ammunition, among the crew the greatest dissatisfaction was openly expressed; the Admiral was not quite sure that if he bombarded {73}Wuchang he would cause a surrender; he also entertained the feeling that this was a squabble of the land forces, and told the Imperial leaders he thought they should be strong enough to end the affair themselves—and so the days passed by without any serious interference in Wuchang of General Li Yuan Hung’s policy of sitting tight. The added moral effect of his holding Wuchang to the Revolution was tremendous: each day brought news of either provincial capitals or “fu” cities throwing in their lot with the Revolution, and Li, far-seeing and tremendously capable, held back the attack the Wuchang garrison was anxious to commence, and concentrated his army on the Hankow side.

Here fighting was being carried on with a pluck which astounded all beholders. The Imperial Army was for the first time since the Chinese Model Army had been organised plunged into real warfare. The Revolutionists—a teeming multitude, it is true—were for the most part raw recruits, men who had never stood before gun-fire, whom one could reasonably have expected to be “gun-shy.” But their bravery, because they believed their fight was one for emancipation, from what very few of the raw recruit element knew probably, would have made many an Occidental regiment blush with envy.

Truly were those first days of the war a season of intense excitement and surprise.

By November 1st the Imperialists, already in possession of Kilometre Ten and the whole line from Peking, by persevering and undaunted behaviour, excellent discipline, and military common sense, had won their way to the Tachimen, the railway station behind the French Concession. That morning I was in the camp at the station. Foreigners had been looked upon with suspicion, and as I entered the station some of the officers looked askance at me. No other army would have allowed me to pass the barrier without having seen a pass. But pass I had none. As I sat chatting {74}to a crowd of well-knit northern fellows, who seemed perfectly at ease and to have all they wished for—except cigarettes, for which they were constantly making inquiries—it was difficult to believe that one was in the very centre of the topical world. The eyes of every one were turned towards this great struggle between Chinese and Chinese. Every newspaper in London and New York was concentrating upon the war. China’s Revolution was on the far political horizon, for what affected China just then affected the world. And as those Imperial fellows at their military base congratulated each other that at least they had the chance of being actually in war, they had but little idea of the importance attaching to the conflict. Shells that dropped around me, however, were bringing messages of a China that was to be.

Not a hundred yards from where I sat were four field-guns—deadly four-inchers, the modern Krupp—sending shells into Hanyang as fast as the gunners were able to work. The booming shook the whole city, sending frightened children to their mothers, themselves at their wits’ ends with fear. Revolutionary batteries at Hanyang, not yet silenced or showing any signs of giving up the fight, dropped its shells sometimes nearer, sometimes farther, never into the battery here on the railroad.

As an interested spectator, I sat on a few sleepers and watched where the shells dropped from both sets of guns. It was a casual pastime, and no one seemed to mind my being there. The gunners would, with highest glee, explain how the four-inchers were worked, would point away towards Hanyang Hill and tell you they were trying to pot the temple overlooking the Yangtze, and when a shell from the enemy dropped anywhere near there was a shout of enthusiastic mirth. They would look at one astutely, smile, inquire into one’s family associations in characteristic Chinese style, and {75}were highly delighted if relevantly one could carry on conversation with them in Chinese. The average military observer would probably have declared the Imperial Army to be a peculiar military force. Into the daily routine the extravagant Chinese etiquette was worked in conjunction with a discipline quite strange to Chinese, and on the face of things it would not seem, viewed from camp life, that China’s army was in any way a modern army. But that this Model Army of China is as much of a myth as some would have us believe, I, now in it all, could not for a moment endorse. The foreigner has always looked upon the Chinese as a man who would not fight him with the weapons of war; his main attack would be the weapons of commerce, of boycott, or of trust. But the Chinese Army to-day is certainly no myth. It is strong enough to preserve peace with other countries, if not to enter into any external strife with the idea of winning.

That the Revolutionists had the numbers I would have been the first to admit, but the trained fighter is the man who wins in battle. Not one-fifth of their troops were trained soldiers; they have been seen to come out into the fighting line, wearing the uniform of the military it is true, to put the butts of their pieces upon their hips and let fly, until they saw their own men falling dead in front of them, shot from behind. But with the Northern Army it needed only a stroll round their camp to convince the most casual of observers that the Revolutionary’s enemy was an army, doing things as an army should. The army defending the Throne was the product of twelve years of strenuous work by a great genius. The Northern Army was founded upon principles set down by Yuan Shih K’ai, the genius of things military in China, and that genius, using his brains but seeing nothing of the fight, was just then directing the operations as they proceeded.

Whether the Imperialists were getting to know more about that for which they were fighting, whether a {76}great many in the rank and file were anxious to throw up the sponge and go back to their homes, whether a certain section of them were anxious to change coats and go over to the other ranks and shoot down those by whose side they had been trained did not affect the general position. The Imperialists were the cogs of the machine, and for their life they could not stop fighting. They might have been half-hearted, as many said they were, but their organisation was almost perfect.

FOES MEETING AS FRIENDS. A regiment of soldiers casting in their lot with the Revolutionists against whom they had lately fought.
FOES MEETING AS FRIENDS.
A regiment of soldiers casting in their lot with the
Revolutionists against whom they had lately fought.
As I sat on the railway sleepers a crowd of soldiers soon gathered. Some held their rice-bowls up to me, and with their chopsticks as they ate asked me to chi-fan, and when I took a hard piece of bread from one of the infantry and began to munch at it to show that there was not the slightest ill-feeling they all screamed with laughter, and each swore that I was a good all-round sort of fellow. And then we fell to talking. “Ah!” indignantly yelled the officer, when I asked him why Chinese were fighting Chinese, “these men are rebels—ding kuai, ding kuai tih ren![1] They are making it nasty for the foreign Concessions, and our Government are going to put it down. They are not real soldiers. They are only robbers and wicked men; they can’t fight. We [and the man stroked himself down] are the fighters.” And then he invited me to go a little way with him, until we came in sight of the guns then sending out the shells. “We have guns here that would blow those fellows into that great river, and if they don’t give up soon that’s what we are going to do. We are not going to leave a house standing; it is Yuan Shih K’ai’s orders, and in a few days it will all be over, and we shall all go back to Peking and have a holiday. Yuan Shih K’ai,” he softly said, “is down at Kilometre Ten,[2] and {77}he will not come up farther. He is a wonderful fellow. He has his fingers on the situation, and is merely waiting his time. The Revolutionists think that he is afraid because our men are not fighting to-day, but you wait; presently you will see all the people in this city killed. We are killing anybody we can see, and shall kill many, many more yet.”

“But don’t you think that that’s a funny sort of tao li for Chinese to kill Chinese?” Then the man turned his head away and did a half-hearted smile. “Ah! that’s altogether another question. That was the old style. We are a new army, and we are told to fight for a New China. We don’t want our country to fall into the control of all those wicked men.”

“Yes, I can see that right enough. But these poor fellows that your crack shooting is knocking over are good fellows, and are all fighting for the good of their country too——”

But he interrupted me. He would have none of it. He thought that I was myself a Revolutionist, and ceased talking. “That’s what they tell you,” he finally remarked. “If they get into power, it will be totally different.”

Again I approached him as he walked from me. “I’m afraid that you have not got the truth of the story. These men think that they are in the right. They are not the robbers you think them, surely. Probably you have been misinformed, and——”

“We’re not misinformed. Our officers are all good men, and our men are the best that could be sent. We are the best in the army, and that is the reason we were sent….”

* * * * *

It soon became evident that a threat of the {78}Imperialists would be carried out. Their first threat was that they would get Hankow the first day, Hanyang the second, Wuchang the third. Hankow would soon be taken. Everybody knew that. Whether Yuan Shih K’ai would allow his army to burn it to the ground, as was stated was his intention, was, however, another matter. None believed that such savagery would be allowed; but that was the threat, and, after all, fires are common in wartime.

TACHIMEN, WITH IMPERIALISTS IN OCCUPATION. This was the Imperialist headquarters till the withdrawal of the Northern Army from the Wuhan centre.
TACHIMEN, WITH IMPERIALISTS IN OCCUPATION.
This was the Imperialist headquarters till the withdrawal
of the Northern Army from the Wuhan centre.
The Rev. A. J. McFarlane, Headmaster of the Griffith John College, who remained some distance from Hankow during most of the heavy fighting, gave me the following account of a somewhat dangerous ride he had along the road at the back of the city. It will serve to show the conditions around the country during the time the fusillading was hardest:—

“On Sunday, October 29th, the Imperial troops had fought their way all along the railway line from the Sing Seng Road to the River Han at Ch’iaokow, and from the College we heard the bark of the Maxims for the first time on Sunday evening, and that night there were fires in nine places around the railway line. But by Monday evening a counter-attack of Hunan troops seemed to have carried the tide of battle back again to the Tachimen Station; and local rumours said that the Imperialists were all cut to pieces, or had surrendered. Certainly it was evident from the firing that they had fallen back a long way, and as we had had no news from Hankow for four days, and were in need of silver for salaries, and for the scholars’ food, I decided on Tuesday to try and get through to the Concessions. (We had continued a few classes regularly till Saturday, but on Sunday the last two Chinese masters left.)

“The three-mile ride to the beginning of the native city was marked by the signs of recent fighting, and I had to make a detour where some Imperialists were said to be concealed in a hut, and sniping was going {79}on. I got to the Ma-loo, on the old city wall, and found the whole place deserted; even the mud huts of the beggars were empty and half-burnt; and in place of the usual crowd of foot-passengers, bearers, and rickshaws there was not a human being, not even a stray dog in sight. Hankow native city seemed like a city of the dead—it was not burned till the next day, Wednesday—and there must have been still thousands hidden away in the houses. After about a mile of the road, where signs of the stern resistance—shell holes in houses and strewn cartridge-cases—were on every side, I came to five or six Hunan soldiers, lying in the shelter of the parapet by the roadside, waiting for snipe-shots at Imperial soldiers, who were in possession of the railway bank, running parallel to the Ma-loo, about half a mile away. They waved me forward in a friendly way, evidently not wishing to reveal their presence to the enemy. So I continued the lonely ride, and passed the mangled body of a black-coat, covered with flies, and a heap of unused shells, telling their tale of defeat and hasty retreat. The silent air was heavy with the smell of death, and the odour of burned flesh and wood was everywhere. Suddenly a flash and the bang of a rifle from the railway bank, and as I did not know whether it was meant for me I dismounted and walked forward a little to show myself as a foreigner, but as nothing more followed I cycled on again, and soon passed another ten black-coats, lying by the roadside, waiting for pot-shots at the railway bank, and a few more in the shelter of a house, firing through the ruined windows. There were one or two more dead Revolutionists, and a half-burned pony or cow among some ruined huts, and farther on a dead woman by the roadside, evidently of the beggar class, lying half-naked in a pool of blood. As I neared the Water Tower there were two or three small stalls open, and a few people about; and I caught the first glimpse of a squad of {80}grey-coats, moving, some way off, among the huts. The Marines, at the end of the Ma-loo, helped my bicycle over the barrier of sacks and bricks there, and the report of a cannon firing close by just at that moment emphasised the heavenly sense of safety and relief as one trod once more on Concession soil, where all was peace and quiet.

“At 3 p.m. as the conditions seemed much the same, and I had done my business and secured the needed dollars, I rode back again the same way without any adventures, save for a jumpy, tightening feeling round the heart as a few sniping shots passed backwards and forwards again, till I got beyond the city to the comparative safety of the deserted countryside, and to a hearty welcome from the School.”

 

[1] “Very bad men” in the literal Chinese.

[2] It was about this time that Yuan Shih K’ai, in compliance with a strong invitation from the Throne, took office. He was appointed Viceroy of the Hu-kwang, and was instructed to quell the rebellion. The report was that he was now at Kilometre Ten, but he was really at Siaokan. Perhaps readers would care to read the chapter dealing with Yuan at this juncture.

 

 

{81}

CHAPTER VIII

THE BURNING OF HANKOW
Have you ever seen a fire—a big fire? Have you ever stood watching a wide prairie fire and seen the flames dance and leap upwards, downwards, wriggle in and out, and menacingly approach you? If you have, you will in some measure be able to follow me. Can you imagine in that great dancing prairie fire that you have seen thousands of housetops, minarets, temple spires, roofs of all heights, sizes, and shapes—can you? Can you imagine those wild flames, fanned strongly to one side, and see that mighty belt of flame galloping furiously onward, then drawing back, then galloping on again and gaining ground, then settling finally down as if it had its luckless enemy in its most deadly grasp, slowly to torture it and cruelly to draw from it its last gasp of life? Can you see that sea-like, billowy mass of curling smoke, too thick to be driven by the strong north wind, but just thick enough slowly to move and to give way now and again to that enormous force of white-hot, crackling fire that sends up its deep red flame in anger to the heavens? And can you see beyond you through that dense smoke more roofs and spires and curving Chinese architecture, seeming to dodge up and down, in and out, like a full disordered regiment of cavalry in awful flight; on and on they seem to go, yet to get no farther? Terrific is their endeavour, but futile. They gallop never faster, in and out, up and down, and at last, {82}giving up all hope, are compelled hopelessly to settle down in the smoke and are lost to sight for ever.

THE BURNING OF HANKOW. A wave of flame a mile and a half wide swept through the city and rendered half a million people homeless.
THE BURNING OF HANKOW.
A wave of flame a mile and a half wide swept through the city
and rendered half a million people homeless.
But those roofs are not cavalry; they are not men. The men and terrified women, and the tiny helpless children, the old fathers and the mothers, the invalids, the incapacitated, the blind, the halt, and the maimed had left the city a couple of days before, and now were around the countryside, rich and poor alike being turned out of house and home. Those who doubted, however, or were indifferent were mixed up in the flaming street, helpless, hopeless, waiting for their inevitable doom in that great fire, the great fire of Hankow, the devoted central market of the Chinese world, now lost in doom in the Chinese war.

No one will ever tell precisely what happened during the firing of the city. Europeans gathered on their housetops in the Concessions to watch and to feel their hearts torn with pity. One gazed abstractedly into a boiling cauldron, and expected that behind the lurid flame thousands were pitifully exchanging their sad farewells ere they settled down to die. There seemed to be no escape for the poor people other than in the grave; all effort seemed to be void of hope. As one watched he seemed to feel that underneath those roofs the saddest scenes possible to enact in history were being recorded with sad, sad tears. He seemed to feel that they were huddled round, those men and women, those little children, those invalids, those blind, those poor people who were about to die like rats in their holes. And there crept into one’s soul an infinite pathos.

THE SING SENG ROAD. The smartest thoroughfare of Hankow, after the fire. For over a week fierce fighting was maintained here.
THE SING SENG ROAD.
The smartest thoroughfare of Hankow, after the fire.
For over a week fierce fighting was maintained here.
But I ask again, Can you imagine all this? And imagining, think you that you could describe? I watch, and watch. The flames seem to draw me into their fiery bosom as the phosphorus does in the sea. I can see it all, spreading away madly to the right, to the left, then again meeting in the centre. It tears cruelly along does this great belt of jagged flame, and soon will {83}meet its fellow. They seem to be racing, each section of that horrid fire appearing to be vieing with that other section in killing and burning, in slow death, many peaceable people who were unable to flee. On it goes again, and upwards, downwards, in, out, back, forth; sometimes it comes to a greater mass, which yields less readily, and there it sits, like some great bird of prey, until its conquest is at hand, and then goes forward again with a furious glee. I have asked you whether, imagining this, you could describe it. Here am I, seated on a lofty rooftop, and see it. It is here, in all its horrible reality, happening before my eyes as I write, making the history of our time, and it is my business to describe it; that is why I am here. And yet my pen falls helplessly. It baffles description. The phraseology will not come. The words stick, the pen remains unmoved; I cannot describe it. By far the worst thing I have ever known is this savage razing of a great city to become a city of the dead and a place of weeping.

Map of Hankow Native City Showing Burnt Area.
Map of Hankow Native City Showing Burnt Area.

But one thinks as one sees, far away in one corner of that deep, dense, disordered flaming mass, one small, straight line of smoke going up to the heavens, that that is the fitting sacrifice to the hand of Destiny henceforth to guide this downtrodden people into happier channels. That, however, will come with the years; now the fire is with us. In our own way, we who watched the war had talked about the burning of the city. After all, it is nothing much to burn a city of five hundred thousand souls to the ground. In China one walled city is hardly to be reckoned; and what, pray you, is it for five hundred thousand human beings among four hundred and thirty millions to be without home or shelter? When China burns, when she kills, when she does anything that people who call themselves civilised shrink from dreaming of, she shows the world that she is the past mistress in all things that we call savage. It is, to us, an act of cruellest {84}savagery. To us it is a sin against God and man wilfully to burn a city to the ground, wantonly to destroy hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of accumulated wealth; to us it is all a crime unthinkable. To China it is a good thing that by such acts of so-called savagery, of realest barbarism, of grossest, inhuman tactics the people, the common people, the hewers of national wood and the drawers of national water, are taught to know that they must keep their place, that the hand of the Government is strong, that the place in which Heaven has placed them must honourably be filled, and that towards Revolution they should have no leanings. To China the sweeping into eternity of thousands of fellow-mortals is for the benefit of those who remain, and the destruction of property in their national hysteria matters not a moment of passing thought. So to those of us who know China, and who cannot believe that all that we see and hear is true of the bewildering reform that is alleged to have caught the country and its people into its arms, it was not a great surprise to see the Imperialists carrying out their threat to burn the city to ashes. And it is fortunate that scores of thousands of people, who knew the national spirit and who expected the horrors of former rebellions to be repeated, packed up what little belongings they could and cleared out of gunshot by either land or water.

Throughout the long day the fire burned away, making a sight as wonderful as it was ghastly. From the fateful city the frightened people who had remained behind came in droves; or, at any rate, they made the attempt, only to be shot down by the soldiers who were waiting for them. If no satisfactory explanation was forthcoming from those terrified people, they were unmercifully bayoneted or shot dead. The streets were guarded by Imperialists, who seemed bent on having blood, and who, with frightful glee, carried out their mission with impunity. It is, perhaps, {85}needless to say more. It was a sight that Nero might have enjoyed, but to any one with any humanity left him, even to those people one occasionally meets in China who have no sympathies for the Chinese, and think that they should not be helped religiously or socially, but should be left to go on their ill-appointed way, the sight must have caused the greatest pain. People would come to the exits of the city hoping to find refuge on the Foreign Concessions; they had dropped on the way the little gear they could at the outset carry, and now they were hopeful, at all events, of saving their lives, and sought to come through the gates. But no, even this was denied them. Back they had to go, probably to their doom. The British bluejackets stationed at these exits told me that their hearts bled for the pitiful people, but their instructions were that none should come out. One of the greatest menaces confronting the British authorities was the looting which threatened the burning city. One road only separated the city from the British Concession, and when the people began to flee the looters were in an Eldorado. The scoundrels would come out with furs, silks, silver ware, and every sort and condition of valuable, deposit it in the Concessions, and go back for more, until it became necessary to prevent Chinese from coming on the Concessions. After a time, however, this rule was modified, and volunteers who could speak the language were stationed there to inquire the mission of those who were fleeing; but hundreds must have run from gate to gate, like rats in their holes, knowing that each moment the fire was encroaching ominously. At night the sight was watched by hundreds. Truly heartbreaking was it to look on one of the finest cities on the Yangtze being razed to the ground. When the darkness came on the wide expanse of red flame lit up the country for miles around. At the London Mission Hospital, adjoining the Concessions, there was a scare for fear that {86}the place would catch, for the wind veered slightly. All the patients were routed from their beds and carried to other places of refuge. Europeans and natives formed one large mutual band in carrying away the valuables. The sights we saw we shall never forget. The pitiable condition of the people, the indignation of the multitudes, who swore vengeance against the Government, and much more that one cannot hurriedly think of or relate, will live long in our memories.

At the time of the fire’s outbreak it was thought that thousands must have perished in that modern Sodom and Gomorra. The Imperialists were mad for the lusts of war. A day or two previous Yuan Shih K’ai had offered a large reward for the recapture of Hankow, and the men were hot for the spoils. Their dead, truckloads piled up irreverently, were all deposited in the flames, and over the Concessions on the second day of the fire came the rank smell of smouldering human flesh. During those days Europeans witnessed a hell from their rooftops. At the back of the British Concession, at the back of the French, and at the back of the German were batteries; the Imperialists were winning their way over towards the Han River, their goal, and from their batteries an incessant shelling was vigorously kept up.

No one would forget those days. But lest they should, as it seemed, the big guns from Tachimen kept hard at it, planking shells into the city of Hanyang and anywhere else where soldiers were likely to lay ambushed. The guns boomed away for an hour, and then there came again dead silence, disturbed only by those who were still rescuing the wounded and the helpless. But the calm lasted not for long. Soon from the corner of the city nearest the Foreign Concessions there came fresh wreaths of black smoke, showing that the deadly work had recommenced. Soon the flames leaped up again, the wind blew them farther inwards to the houses still standing, shells inconsequently {87}fell near by; there was the same pathos and the same panic—the city was on fire again. And so it continued for three days, and one could see all over again what he might imagine in that prairie fire.

THE TOLL OF THE DEAD. After the heavy fighting round Tachimen, nearly all the work of collecting the dead for burial fell to the lot of foreigners.
THE TOLL OF THE DEAD.
After the heavy fighting round Tachimen, nearly all the work
of collecting the dead for burial fell to the lot of foreigners.

The wrath of Hades seemed to be upon the people. All around the countryside they were scared—and well they might have been, for in their fury the Imperialists burned everything as they went along. In the midst of the huge conflagration, a general invitation was sent out to foreigners to go into the city by way of the Maloo—the big road skirting the city—to bring out eighty blind boys and the wounded from the Wesleyan Mission Hospital. First impressions were that the hospital and school and all that the Mission possessed had been gutted. “We have £10,000 in the Mission,” I overheard one of the missionaries say, “but that’s not so important as my blind boys.” Meantime permission by the Red Cross authorities had been secured for the rescue party to go into the city. Each man as he volunteered knew he went at great personal risk. Fighting was still heavy, but every moment made a difference—and who knew but that those blind boys were being burnt alive? By dark they had, however, been rescued—only those who went knew at what cost.

On November 3rd a significant lull took place.

These lulls are dangerous forerunners of evil in China.

The Imperialists had captured Hankow, and were known to be ready to forge ahead towards Hanyang, the great stronghold of the Revolutionists—a city almost impregnable in itself, with a high hill sheltering the town behind, and reached only after fording a rapid river some hundred yards wide at the narrowest. To the north-west a range of hills literally bristled with Revolutionary big guns; the Hanyang Hill itself was practically one shell-proof cover, and noses of guns of all sizes pointed in every direction. At Wuchang all {88}the hills were fortified, and along the river-front big guns were lined for many miles above and below the town. But in the actual fighting, as has been said, there came a lull. That it was a dangerous lull and that it came before the storm was firmly believed. No one better than the Chinese can wait—they are all past-masters in the art of dilly-dallying—and it was believed that a few days would see either the end of the war and the establishment of a new rule under Yuan’s dictatorship or the re-establishment of Imperial rule with some modifications, or there would come about a state of affairs infinitely worse than anything yet seen.

With the Revolutionists repeatedly beaten back, although at considerable loss to the Imperialists, with two-thirds of Hankow city nothing but a heap of black, charred ruins, with thousands and tens of thousands of people wandering with no home and no food, with women maltreated and ravished, with looting and massacring proceeding at a devilish pace, the casual onlooker would have concluded that the Revolutionists had had enough. They had seen that the Imperial hand in dealing with them was inclined to come down with extreme force, and if need be, to crush and totally annihilate them—if it could. But, strangely, the Revolutionists, despite their sad plight, with most of their best men killed or wounded, and a haphazard army only at the command of the new leader, were still more enthusiastic.

Probably the most remarkable feature of the whole Revolution in the immediate centre of the three cities around which the active operations were concentrated was the behaviour of the Revolutionary troops. This to the Westerner who has never been to China may not be deemed as important. But the student of Chinese affairs and the readers of Chinese history will be aware that in past revolts in this country the soldiery, such as it had been, had not startled the world with their clean conduct at any period. The reverse had been {89}the case. Previous rebellions had been made famous for the amount of looting, stealing, ravishing, and general lawlessness that had prevailed. But in the Revolution which was led by General Li there was none of this. Throughout, the magnificent manner in which the troops, both trained and untrained, had behaved was a credit to every one concerned in the revolt.

The following edict, one of several published during the first days, will go to show the spirit of the leaders:—

“Li, commander-in-chief of the Chinese People’s Army, by authority of the military Government, a special proclamation:

“By the command of the army administration, I desire you the people of my country to know that wherever our patriotic troops come you need have no occasion for the least suspicion or anxiety. I come to save you and with no idea of acquiring merit or personal profit, but to pull you out of fire and water, and to cure you of your cankering maladies. Hitherto you have been bitterly oppressed and drowned in a sea of misery through being under the government of an alien race who treat you as bastards and not as children. You must know that the present day Manchu slaves do not belong to the family of Han, and we, being animated by heaven-high patriotism, will not spare them their well-deserved retribution. On this account I could not but raise our patriotic flag in order to give you deliverance by causing all the people to unite their strength and drive them out, together with the traitorous Chinese robbers whom I will not permit to continue long. These robbers have hitherto eaten our flesh and now we will sleep in their skins. Whoever is animated by patriotic sentiments let him quickly come and join our ranks, and together gain the glory of delivering the country. The day of the revival of the Han people is arrived with the establishment of the Chinese republic with which you my brethren will have no cause to be ashamed. Scholars, farmers, artisans, and merchants, let all unite their efforts with ours to drive out the Manchu barbarians. Wherever our army goes it will be under perfect control and troops and people will be treated alike without the least partiality to either. I desire you my beloved uterine brothers every one to respectfully listen to my exhortation.

“Dated the 18th day of the first year of Hwang Ti, being the 4609th year of China.”

 

The other side of the question was eloquently put {90}in an Imperial edict, published about the same time, and which reads:—

“For over a month the various provinces have been greatly disturbed. The causes for this have not been all alike, and it is necessary to discriminate in again proclaiming Our intentions to the Empire. Those who are in favour of reforming the Government by revolutionary methods have been making impossible demands upon the Throne, yet We recognise that they have been called forth by a patriotic love for their country and are sincere; and also that the country is thrown into confusion and distress because We have failed to make progress in Governmental reform. We have repeatedly proclaimed that a reformed and Constitutional Government shall be established, and We have granted an amnesty to all who formally have been guilty of political crimes, also allowing Revolutionists to form themselves into a political party to be used in the service of the State. But with regard to those Revolutionists, who ferment race hatred, who desire to create a feeling of enmity between the Manchus and the Chinese, they are not working for the reformation of the Government, but are simply dealing out ruin all round in order to gratify their private hate, and for this there is no justification. We are labouring for the prosperity of the kingdom and the happiness of the people, and We cannot make the Government a constitutional one till the Empire is at peace. If these men are allowed to excite the people with their mischievous speeches and pernicious ideas the disturbances will increase, the people will be scattered and miserably perish. When the four classes of the people lose their occupation, the whole country is thrown into confusion. There will be no end to the calamities. We would, therefore, earnestly and sincerely impress upon you scholars, gentry, army and people, the necessity of understanding the principle of reforming the Government and repressing disturbances. The Throne loves and respects the people, and wishes them to seek after improvement, but as for those who act in opposition to this and keep on creating disturbances, they are the enemies of the public and a danger to all. Although they are but a minority, My people ought to put them down with a strong hand, yet if they will repent their former crimes, they should be pardoned and their past offences not brought up against them. But bad characters, who seize the opportunity to burn, kill, rape and plunder, cannot be allowed to escape by any law of reason. They must be rooted out and hunted down with all speed till they are utterly exterminated in order that the good and peaceful people may be protected. Therefore, let the Tartar Generals, commanders-in-chief, viceroys, governors and all who are in military authority respect my will and, discriminating between {91}the political parties put down the irreconcilables. The Army and the people will understand this intention, and let all above and below with one mind labour for improvement. Then will the country be fortunate and the people enjoy felicity without limit.

“Let this Edict, together with the Edict of the 14th [Nov. 4th] be printed on yellow paper and posted, so that all may be informed. Respect this.”

 

 

{92}

CHAPTER IX

THE STRONGHOLD OF WUCHANG
It was to Wuchang that the country was now looking. The Revolutionists knew it. Urged on by cleverly fashioned proclamations, they fought as men have rarely fought. The Imperialists knew it, and they, too, slept neither day nor night. The Revolution was spreading. Unable to ascertain what was to follow, foreigners from interior provinces came down to the coast and the treaty ports for safety. Foreign warships came up one after another, Japanese predominating in number, and at one time totalled no less than fifteen, under nominal command of Rear-Admiral Kawashima. Foreigners everywhere were doing volunteer duty. Barricades had been built up, and all tiptoed in expectancy. Fighting was desultory, with more Revolutionary losses than Imperial, for several days. Eleven days after the great battle of Kilometre Ten, more than the savage burning of the city, very little effective work had been done. Firstly, they had not done what they led the people to believe they would do. Promise after promise by Admiral Sah to bombard had been broken, the army had marched on Tachimen and captured it, Hankow had been shelled and the place left a mass of charred ruins with five hundred thousand helpless people cruelly turned adrift to seek shelter where they might—and there the accomplishment was in extenso. Although they had tried, the Imperialists had failed to capture Hanyang. Wuchang still stood {93}as the stronghold of the Revolutionary party, with ever-brightening prospects of power.

Those who had closely followed events here had been surprised greatly by the manner in which the Loyalist Army had worked out this campaign. Instead of smashing the Revolutionary Army in a few days, which at the outset, after the first battle, seemed an easy thing for them, they had dilly-dallied to such an extent that now they had a greater task before them than they ever had—partly because of the fact that trained rebel reinforcements had arrived from Hunan, and partly because the esprit de corps among the Revolutionists, which, after their reverse, it would not have taken a great deal to have knocked entirely out of them, had again wonderfully revived.

Yuan Shih K’ai, cutest of all Chinese in China, probably foresaw this, and it may have been a part of his wisdom to stay his hand and wait. He was waiting, but he hardly knew for what. He had hoped probably that the first serious reverse would have knocked spirit out of the men to such an extent that the Revolutionary Army would soon have become disorganised, that the leaders would in true Chinese fashion have been quarrelling among themselves, and that soon, without money and supplies, the Revolutionary Army would have come again to its senses. Meantime, people were saying that General Li, the Revolutionary leader, was a fool, that he should have marched out his men and fought a good fight. They could not see that Chinese had met Chinese, and that both were playing their own game. Yuan was looked upon as being the great man who could make no false moves; Li was merely a trained soldier, and what could he know? He may not have known much, but he knew enough. He knew, at any rate, how to play his own game, and each night at sundown he congratulated himself upon having held the capital city yet another day—for Wuchang was still the stronghold, {94}and it was from Wuchang, as has been said, that other places were taking the cue.

At last Yuan saw this. He also saw that city after city, almost province after province, was falling into the Revolutionary line, and he conceived a plan to stop the whole sad business. He began then to parley. He wrote to General Li in most conciliatory terms.[1] {95}He promised a new Government on constitutional lines; he promised that the Manchu princedoms should be abolished; he promised free pardon to all offenders against law and order—he expressed himself ready to make any concession. But in his heart he realised that virtually he was in no position to dictate. He had to play the second fiddle, although trying to play thereon the notes of the first.

ESCAPED FROM WUCHANG. Foreigners taking to the boats to cross to Hankow after being shut up in Wuchang for many awful days.
ESCAPED FROM WUCHANG.
Foreigners taking to the boats to cross to Hankow
after being shut up in Wuchang for many awful days.
Li read his communique, smiled, joked about it with his second, tossed it to the floor, and declared that he would not concede a fraction. He did not concede. He replied that he would not then talk peace. Expressing his kindly felicitations, he urged upon Yuan Shih K’ai the necessity and wisdom of talking terms when the Revolutionary forces were marching upon Peking—and not before. He urged Yuan Shih K’ai to join the Revolutionary party, pointing out that this would immediately end the strife. Li Yuan Hung added that Yuan’s previous history was such that no camp would fit him better, and, if he would come over, he would be made provisional President of the United States of China.

One must not expect, however, simply because Li would not talk peace that he was strong enough to enforce peace. He was not. As soon as Li’s letter went {96}back to Yuan there was activity in the Imperial camp, soldiers were to be seen moving away towards Hanyang, batteries were shifted, trenching went on apace, a pontoon bridge was started by the Imperialists across the Han and knocked to pieces by the Hanyang Revolutionary guns, and it seemed as if a battle was immediately imminent. And then it commenced again. One cannot describe the conditions. The war was brought to our very doors. Fellows had bullets whizzing in their bedrooms, shells dropped all over the Foreign Concessions. It was never safe to be out on the Bund or in the roads of the settlement. Revolutionists were dying in thousands. All hospitals were full. The country was in utter devastation.

Up to an early hour on November 10th fighting still raged more or less fiercely. It was generally stated that the Revolutionists gave the enemy a thoroughly bad time, and had taken up an advanced position. The bombardment of Wuchang was hourly expected. Immediately behind the British Concession, not more than a hundred yards from the road dividing British from Chinese territory, three big guns of the Imperialists had their noses cocked most threateningly towards the capital city, and every one settled down to wait. A peculiar turn of events now was the organisation of night attacks. Invariably one’s dinner hour was ushered in by the booming of cannon from either side of the river. But during these days the Imperialists again began indubitably to show their superiority as a fighting force. The great drawback of the Republican Army was that it was largely made up of nondescripts, as ignorant of warfare as is possible to imagine, whilst in the Northern Army there were none but highly trained men in whom were instilled strongly the absorbing lessons of the army. They knew nothing else. They did nothing else. They were fighting machines, and they fought on the same principle as machines in good order work. In making this {97}statement I am perfectly aware that there are certain great weaknesses in the Chinese military organisation that have yet to be removed. But with the Northern Army, that army which was founded by Yuan Shih K’ai himself—and he was looked upon as the greatest military reformer of the time—it had the minimum of these defects. The fact that the army of each province is for all practical purposes a separate body tells against efficiency. And it follows that the army that Yuan created, and which was now mainly engaged in fighting the Revolutionary enemy, was not so much a branch of the Chinese Army, but Yuan’s Army, moulded as he wanted it. His soldiers, first of all, had been taught loyalty. What other soldiers in the world would have stood the test of loyalty as did those northern soldiers during the early days of November, when the only news they received was the report that a number of cities had gone over to the cause they themselves were fighting with their lives to quell?

They were primarily loyal—to what, as events later transpired, is quite another question. But they were, at any rate, loyal to Yuan. The photo of Yuan Shih K’ai was in every barrack-room, his name upon every lip. Again and again as I moved about among the men was I impressed with the hero-worship of man towards leader. Now, in comparing these armies, one should compare the two Viceroys under whom they served, for, with the independent provincial armies, the Viceroy brought his army up to that standard which he considered best. That is why the separateness about the branches of China’s Model Army has worked against efficiency. Any one who knew would be ready to agree that, side by side and compared as armies, the Imperialist Army would knock spots off the Revolutionary Army under equal conditions, whilst the latter would not hit a target once in a hundred rounds. But the conditions were not quite equal. Into the argument, however, had to be brought another aspect. That aspect {98}was of all the most serious, and tended towards the termination of the war as much as any other factor. The Imperialists knew now that, no matter how many battles they would be able to win here, no matter how great their slaughter of the Revolutionists would be, the cause of the Revolution was destined to win. This slowly began to force itself upon them, and desertions were commonly reported.

Whilst people were talking about the promised bombardment the most arrant nonsense went the rounds as to the number and the size of the guns the Imperialists had at their disposal from the north. There were twelve-inch howitzers, forty six-inchers, thousands of smaller fry, such as three and four inch guns, and much more of the same kind. Whether just then they had any of their 7.5 Schneider-Canet guns here no one was in a position to know, but I believe they had not. In the Northern Army, however, there were some forty or more of these enormous guns—weapons so heavy that a team of twelve of the heaviest American horses would be insufficient to drag one of them. It is interesting to notice, as an authority recently tells us, in the Chinese Army there are at least six variety of Krupps, including 1905, 1904, 1888, and 1872 models, with a few 7.5 Japanese guns, Armstrongs, and Maxims. But when we come to the smaller arms we find confusion worse confounded. There are 1888-model Mausers, 1872-model Mausers, Mannlichers, and a few Lee-Metfords, and these again have to be subdivided. And it was seen throughout this war how the ammunition for presumably the same gun, captured by the enemy and used as the same weapon, had been absolutely useless in action; it wouldn’t fit.

The nights were made hideous for foreign residents by the whizzing of overhead shells and the buzzing of bullets constantly about them. Several Chinese were shot dead in the streets of the British Concession, and others more or less seriously wounded, and the wonder {99}was not that any one was killed but that so many escaped with their lives in the midst of such danger. It was the common belief among the Chinese that the bullets had eyes. “See,” they would yell, “’tis a heavenly inspiration that the shells do not touch us … they have eyes … they will not strike us!” And among Revolutionary admirers this was a common belief of the common people. They had never seen modern warfare before.

The Imperialists were now forging ahead towards the Han. Their task seemed an altogether impossible one. It took them three weeks to do it, and it needed only a stroll out each morning to see the truckloads of dead being taken along the railway line northward to realise at what cost their slow progress was being made. General Huang Hsuin[2] was now directing military operations against them. Each day junkloads of men were coming down from Hunan to join the Revolutionists—trained troops from the Hunan Army—and from them great things were expected. Everywhere one went he heard the boom of cannon, the whizz of shell, the ping of rifle shot. There was no escape. Foreigners were not allowed out of the Concessions, found it unsafe to go outside their houses, suffered shocks so great that all were on tenterhooks of excitement. Never before in any country were foreigners living as neutral parties to a war so near. But there is so much of general interest in the Revolution that much space cannot be devoted in this volume to battlefield descriptions. China was making history. Wars have often been described in history, but a Revolution such as this war was heralding had never been known. It was moving, and moving at one stroke, a quarter of the whole human family.

The battlefield was spread from Kilometre Ten to Hanyang on the left bank of the river, from the Kinshan Forts to Wuchang on the right side. One could hardly {100}believe it possible that in a fortnight such utter devastation could be wrought. Villages near by, with their inhabitants either routed or perished in the ruins, were burned to the ground; fields of crops were all trampled down, rice-beds were dug out for trenches, and now all was destruction for miles around in the country. Little black patches told the sad story of where a band of happy thriving villagers, once living at peace, was now deserted and devastated.

When in the early days of the war I used to wander down there and watch the operations I hardly thought it possible that an army professedly of forty thousand men could be removed from such an apparently formidable position. The railway was at hand, and the whole of Kilometre Ten was so strategically situated that it seemed an impossibility for the Imperialists, far away in the middle of flat country, to remove their enemy from such a strong position. But they did. How and why the Revolutionists left has already been told, and the commander who ordered the retreat paid the price with his life, being decapitated by his own men.

Meantime Admiral Sah all this time had been sitting on the fence. It was known that Li Yuan Hung, as a younger man, had been a pupil of the Admiral, and each entertained considerable affection towards the other. Sah had declined to reply to Li Yuan Hung’s invitation to take over control and leadership of the Revolution. He preferred to sit and wait. When he received a long communication from the scholars of Hankow, Hanyang, and Wuchang he is reported to have become disconcerted, and it is to this appeal, which is given in a footnote,[3] that his conversion to the Revolutionary cause may be traced.

{101}
As the Admiral, on November 12th, steamed away his ships were observed to pull down the Dragon Flag and run up a white one. It was taken to mean that the Admiral and his fleet had gone over to the Revolutionists.

 

[1] The following is a translation of Yuan Shih K’ai’s communication to General Li:—

“YOUR EXCELLENCY,—I have already written you twice, but, having received no answer, I am not aware whether the letters reached you or not. In accordance with the Imperial instructions I have now to state that an Edict has been issued offering, first, full pardon for all past offences; second, that constitutional government will be established; third, that an amnesty will be granted to political offenders; fourth, that members of the Imperial Club will not be employed in high office.

“The above points being granted, in my opinion the government of our country can be renovated and prosperity be brought back to China. I hasten to communicate this to you and desire that a method may be devised by which the present difficulties may be peacefully settled. The sooner the war is stopped, the sooner will the people and the country enjoy peace. Otherwise, if fighting goes on, whoever is victorious or whoever is defeated, not only will the people perish but the resources of the country will be wasted, until, should the matter be unduly prolonged, affairs will get into such a state that the country itself will be ruined. Further, on both sides the soldiers are Chinese and those who suffer are all Chinese. Whether the one side or the other succeeds, it is the Chinese that must foot the bill.

“Personally I have been a long time dissatisfied with the Government and therefore went into retirement, never intending to accept office again. In leaving my retirement now my only object was to be instrumental in composing the present differences. Further, the Government is now repentant as it never was before. I admit that but for your valorous actions, the present proposals would never have been made. The merit of them belongs to you, and in my humble opinion nothing could be better than to take advantage of this opportunity and, by concluding a peace, secure the realisation of the Throne’s proposals. We can at least see how the Throne will act, and, if it is honest, then we will unitedly use our utmost efforts to promote the reforms. If it is not honest, we can still in consultation devise other plans, and, as far as I can see there can be no failure to secure the full fruition of our hopes. This is my view, and I would ask you to send me an answer in agreement with this so that I may be able to report the matter to the Throne and carry out the necessary arrangements.

“As regards your associates, who are all men of great ability, not only will no fault be found with them, but I can guarantee they will be appointed to high positions to assist in carrying out the reforms. The Throne trusts me as one whose word can be relied on, and you also, I hope, believe that I would on no account go back on it with respect with you and your associates. I understand that the Throne is issuing another Edict which will reach you within a few days. I, because of the many important affairs which I cannot venture to neglect, would urge you to send me an early answer by the hand of the bearer of this letter.

“This is my respectful prayer. Wishing you peace and prosperity.”

[2] General Huang Hsuin was a famous military leader in China at this time.

[3] The following is a translation of an appeal to Admiral Sah by the students of Hanyang, Wuchang, and Hankow:—

“SIR,—To such a person as Admiral Sah with world-wide fame and noble principles, we humbly submit this letter to him asking him to read it and consider it with patience and wisdom. China is now in a critical position. The people have shown great enthusiasm and determination for the overthrow of the Manchu yoke and to gain back their independence. But the Manchus are sure to oppose the cause of the people, so war is inevitable. But is there no way to avert it? Is there no way to save the lives and property of millions of people? Yes, there is, and that way is to be decided by you alone. To speak plainly, the salvation of the people depends upon whether you will join General Li to help in the present operations of the Republican Army. Suppose you do not join the Republicans, they are determined not to submit, but to continue the fight until they have gained their liberty or met their fate. The word Revolution can never be effaced from the minds of Chinese, and there could be no hope for peace. What a horrible thing it will be if you would refuse to join and remain indifferent. On the other hand, if you join them after the perusal of this letter, things can be settled easily and quietly. There will be no civil war along the Yangtze Valley. All that our brethren will have to do is to march northward to Peking and take over the control of our Empire from the Manchus. Our Kingdom will be managed by our own people. What a noble heroic and patriotic work you so great a man have to do for the independence of our country. On the brink of joining the Republicans perhaps you will be doubting the behaviour of the soldier. We can assure you that it is noble and righteous. How they have been well treating their brethren and friendly in protecting foreigners is a thing which has never appeared in our history during the time of civil war. All our brethren here have shown their intense enthusiasm in offering assistance to the Republican Army and sharing their sympathy with the cause. Foreign settlements have approved their action, recognised their right and yield to their reasonable demands. This bears an evident witness that they are not rebels of any kind, but the Army of the sacred salvation of four hundred millions of their brethren in China. Again, Sir, perhaps you will hesitate to join the Republicans when you think it ungrateful to turn disloyal to the Manchus, and it might be that you will think you have derived much benefit from the Manchus, but, Sir, the benefit which seems to be derived from them is in reality obtained indirectly from the Han people, who are the source of all wealth, prosperity and official honour. Moreover, your duty, Sir, is to profit the many, not the few, to save the people, not to destroy them, to help your own race and not the alien, and to stand by the righteous and not by the wicked. The Manchurian yoke has been the barrier against the growth and development of the Han people. It is the Manchus who would not send many students abroad at an earlier date in order to acquire Western civilisation and education. It is the Manchus who will not put the returned students into proper position. It was the Manchu that roused the Boxer Revolt, which has weakened the Empire and made it poor. And it is the Manchus who are misappropriating the loans raised from Foreign Powers. They have squandered the funds from the imposition of taxes for their private sensual pleasures, such as the construction of parks and the building of beautiful residences. They have encouraged squeezes, practised villainies, sold offices and brevet ranks, and demoralised the Customs. They have decided cases unjustly, and what not?

“Therefore, Admiral, we appeal to your general sympathy and wisdom and plead for the safety and welfare of four hundred million souls for the free growth and development of the Chinese, who, if allowed to be free, are bound to make a wonderful contribution that will go to enrich the civilisation of the whole world. If you would disarm your gunboats and cruisers and steam up to Hankow, all the people in these three cities will be enraptured to welcome you with wild enthusiasm and intense honour.”

 

 

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[Transcriber’s note: In the source book, this page contained the final portion of what is now this chapter’s footnote 3.]

 

 

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CHAPTER X

LI YUAN HUNG SEEKS PEACE
“Don’t hesitate—act!” wrote Li Yuan Hung to Yuan Shih K’ai, in a most stirring appeal to Yuan to join the Revolutionary party. Yuan had been, as ever, as hard as adamant. He now claimed to have an army twenty-four thousand strong at his disposal. Li claimed to have at least forty thousand of all sorts, trained and untrained. Li was in a conciliatory mood. Yuan was suffering from a peculiar “sense of” omnipotence that had attacked him ever since his return to office. “Since the slaughter of the reformers,” wrote Li Yuan Hung to his adversary, “the Government has continually promised to establish constitutional rule and to bring forward the date for the calling of the first Parliament, but its promises have come to naught. The assassination of Erh Ming and Fuchi, the attempt to destroy the vice-regal yamen at Canton with a bomb, and the mutiny at Nanking were all bloody protests against the Manchu monarchy, but all failed to induce the Throne to do more than issue edicts full of promises. Everything remains as it was. The Manchu Government has tried various tricks to gain a hold on the people’s hearts. But it has no real intention of altering the system of government. Turn your eyes towards those who are presidents of the various boards and viceroys and governors of provinces, and you will see that all the principal posts are occupied by Manchus. What an insignificant part the Chinese have played in politics! The national {104}treasury, and the national army are the foundations of the Empire, and both are in the grasp of ignorant, childish Manchus. Surely you cannot bear with composure to see the property and lives of four hundred millions of Chinese wasted by a mere handful of Manchus.”

The letter continued: “Are you not the most famous and most able man among the Chinese? Have you forgotten that, after you had been relieved of your command of the northern troops and your political influence had been weakened, you narrowly escaped being murdered as well as cashiered? All this is evidence of the Manchu’s jealousy of the Chinese. Since Hupeh was made independent, many other provinces have joined the cause with heart and soul. The Manchu Government has fallen into a swoon and can no longer stand by its own strength. So it is trying the scheme by which it quelled the Taiping rebellion—using Chinese to kill Chinese. If you are willing to be reinstated on such a commission, then you have superhuman patience.

“In your dispatch you state emphatically that the Government must be constitutional. In reply I wish to explain that in this age, whether a government be monarchical or republican, it must ultimately be founded on constitutionalism, and there is little difference between a republic and a constitutional monarchy. The form of the new government will be settled in the conference of delegates from the various provinces. Whatever form it takes, it will not violate constitutionalism. It is generally agreed among the people that the Manchus must not be allowed to have any voice in this conference. If we had agreed to your terms, had you any means of compelling the Manchu Government to fulfil its promises?

“For you to live in retirement for your own enjoyment as you have done is of no benefit to China. The success of the present movement has come by the {105}strength not of man but of God. What man could convert Szechuan, Kiangsi, Anhui, Kiangsu, Kwangtung, Kwangsi, Yunnan, Kweichow, Shansi, and Shensi to republicanism? Besides all the gunboats and torpedo destroyers have turned revolutionary. There is no Manchu force to hinder us from marching on Peking with the exception of your little army. The renaissance of the Chinese and the maintenance of China’s sovereignty depend on you. If you are really in sympathy with the Chinese, you should take your opportunity to turn Republican with your troops and attack Peking. If you are hankering after the dignities and honours that the Manchu Government may confer, then you should pray that the revolutionary army may hasten its march to the Yellow River. For, when the Manchus see that they cannot withstand the revolutionary advance, they will give you all the higher honours to induce you to fight for them. If we should yield now, it is to be feared that the honours bestowed on you would vanish in a few days. Remember the proverb, ‘When the rabbits are caught the hounds are cooked.’ Your merit would be so great that you would not avoid jealousy, and your power would make you liable to constant suspicion. It would be impossible for you to retire again to Changtehfu. I would remind you that the Empress Dowager is still living and that she will never forgive the slaughter of the reformers. Consider if there is any affection between yourself and the Manchus. All of us, working together can complete the emancipation of the Chinese, and none of us are willing to continue under the rule of the Manchus.

“As to your suggestion that foreign Powers may seize this opportunity of bringing about the partition of China we have read many articles from foreign papers, and we feel sure that none of them will do us any harm during our civil war. We have learned from a wireless telegram to a certain gentleman that {106}Peking is in great agitation and that the young Emperor has fled. Should this be true, the ruling race has already lost its dignity and has no right to present our territory to any foreign Power.

“It is reported that the Manchu Government has recalled you. If that is so, I offer two suggestions for your consideration. First: It may be that the Government suspects your loyalty and intends by recalling you to deprive you of your military authority; in that case, you may disobey the summons by virtue of the military rule that a general need not obey an imperial edict when he is on service abroad. Second: If Peking is actually in a critical condition—I must tell you a story. During the Boxer rising, when the international force entered Peking, they summoned Li Hung-chang. That was an opportunity for Li to become Emperor. But he was stubborn and lost the chance. You may learn from his experience. Mencius said that a man with complete education will protect the people. I am but a military man and do not know much. I have learned largely from Mencius, so that I have no desire except to protect the people. It is believed that your experience and ability are much higher than mine. Yet I am sorry for you that you have to consider things so very long before you can make up your mind. Remember that we should not hesitate or delay in doing what is benevolent or righteous. We should do the right thing at once.

“All the brethren of this land are waiting for you. Do not face me any longer with a mask.”

* * * * *

This was Li Yuan Hung’s last appeal to Yuan. All along Li had been anxious to avoid further bloodshed, but it soon became evident that the fight was to be to the bitter end. So after that short-lived lull, foreigners, with their trade quite paralysed, settled down again for war. About the Concessions, in the clubs, {107}in the houses, in the godowns, wherever foreigners congregated there was a feeling of deadening suspense hanging over all. That something terrible was about to happen every one agreed, but what no one cared to guess. In the native city, what of it was left, the abject desolation which the charred ruins and half-burned-up streets and shops presented to one, where a cold and hungry lot of people were endeavouring all too vainly to revivify trade, sunk into one’s very being. One was glad, if he thus unwisely ventured far from the Concessions, to get back again and to walk along the Bund and look out over the unruffled river and hope for better times to come. There was no shipping, no life, no trade. The Concessions were in practically a state of siege, and all were waiting—for what, again, we knew not. All that one had to trouble about was the time that the mails closed and the time the boats were going down-river.

The Imperialists now commenced to draw a cordon around the city of Hankow. They were busy trenching, were busy building up their batteries on the plains from the end of the Sing Sien Road to the banks of the Han, the way to cross which they could not easily determine. No one was allowed out of the city or into the city unless he had his pass and could give reasonable cause for wanting to go either way. Every man, woman, or child without a pass was cruelly turned back, often with a thrust of the bayonet as a warning not to attempt it again. Foreigners who ventured out of the Concessions were deliberately shot at.

On November 13th the heaviest bombardment that had yet taken place started suddenly in the late afternoon, but for some time it was a puzzle whether it was meant to be a bombardment of the British Concession or of Hankow native city and Wuchang opposite. Shells were dropping quite as often in British as in Chinese territory. The night was drenching and dreary. Rain {108}poured down and overflowed the flat battlefield behind the Concessions and the native city, and the luck of the Imperialists seemed out. Their spirits in the circumstances were damped by the weather, and the fight they were putting up against the high-spirited Hunanese, now augmenting the Revolutionary forces to the tune of fifteen thousand men, was but weak and half-hearted. The shells could be heard in the peculiar atmospheric deadness, which the forsaken appearance of the river seemed to accentuate, sailing through the air above our heads, the excited natives would yell and swear that they could see them and that they were coming directly to the spot where we were watching in the rain, and then would scamper off. Far away in the Concessions people were wondering why the Revolutionists had started shelling the British. Now the trouble seemed to have come indeed, and many wished they had left the port when they had the chance. Holes were being knocked through heavy walls, shells dropped in the roadway, in people’s gardens, in people’s bedrooms. A Russian naval officer, in a sick-bed in the Roman Catholic Hospital, wishing that he were well to watch the bombardment, lay probing for the reason the Revolutionists had taken this dislike to the British, and wondering what would happen after the British gunboats had smashed up the place. He could find no satisfactory reason. But suddenly this naval officer heard a crash; like a bolt of lightning a shell had entered the window; he felt the plaster of the walls striking him on the body as he lay there stupefied, watching the ceiling then falling in. It was the thirteenth shell that had come into the hospital compound since the war started, and over it waved peacefully the Red Cross flag.

In the London Mission Hospital, not far away, a shell came through an open window, hitting nothing but landing in the yard. The Mitsui Bussan Kaisha {109}shipping manager was looking up at his building and wondering what damage one shell had done as it struck and shattered some masonry and woodwork, but he found it wise to move, for another shell suddenly landed not twelve yards from him, tore an ugly hole in the roadway, and then feebly burst against the walls. On the British gunboats lying in the river they had got used to seeing shells fall short in the river, but one of the fellows on H.M.S. Woodcock, in giving impressive vent to his low opinion of the Revolutionary shelling, explained to me that he didn’t mind the shells so much, but just at the moment when one broke he was sitting on the deck reading a book which had been loaned to him; the splashing of the water had spoiled the book, for a shell dropped not three feet from the bow! Fellows would come running in telling how they had seen shells bursting all along the streets in the British Concession, and as evidence thereof would draw huge pieces from their pockets, “all hot” as they would declare. So this continued hotly for a couple of hours. The Imperialists at the back, with their three big guns on Coffin Hill (a mound at the back of the British Concession), did their best to quiet the enemy, but their efforts at getting rid of the shells were about one in six. That the Revolutionists were in great form was manifest at once by the work they were doing, but their shells did far more damage to foreign property than to their enemy’s ranks; but although the time had surely come when the British authorities should have made a determined effort to stop this sort of thing nothing was enforced.

Thus the battle continued for four days. The heaviest artillery work went on from all directions, but the heavy rains interfered with infantry work. The cannonading was desperate. At night, in the dense darkness, the scene was intensely fascinating. One, two, three, four guns would send out their tiny flames from one spot all in a heap; this would be followed {110}by a heavier gun, with its brighter flash momentarily lighting up the whole vicinity, the peculiar whistle of the threatening bomb would come nearer and nearer, and all the time one’s fascination was hampered by this menace. Not often is it that foreigners in a strange land have war brought to their very rooftops to watch. But such was the case now, and from flat roofs foreigners in small parties breathlessly watched the proceedings. Over the country, among the plains and the lagoons, one could hear rifle-firing, and knew that somewhere in the dark Chinese were doing their best to lay low Chinese, but where no one could say. In the face of awful riflery the Revolutionists succeeded in crossing the Han, recaptured Chiaokow, which had been a stronghold of the enemy for some days, and were bringing a battery of field-guns near to the Chinese Racecourse, where their enemy had been strongly entrenched awaiting the assault, and working meantime towards the Han. After having captured Chiaokow, the Revolutionists fortified a well-covered spot with three three-inchers, and began pounding away whilst the Sing Seng Road Imperialist battery did some excellent shelling of the Racecourse (Chinese), which they had lost to the enemy. Heavy reinforcements then were sent outflanking widely, whilst the Revolutionists endeavoured to cross over and cut them off. Those days were devilish days. Such heavy infantry, at a range of a hundred yards or so, each opposing line fighting with its very lifeblood to force back the enemy, could never have happened anywhere but in China. The ring of the Maxim was a constant sound, and the stream of bleeding wounded constantly in the Foreign Concessions told only too sadly of the heavy losses incurred to both armies. And after all the net result of each day’s fighting seemed to be of no advantage to either force.

The most thrilling incident of the war took place on November 19th. Because we have been repeatedly {111}told that the Chinese are cowards, we Westerners have come to look on them as a half-hearted sort of fighters. Some decades ago people used to think the same of the Japanese, but, equally as they showed us through their war with Russia that their courage merely lay dormant, so the Chinese constantly showed us throughout this war of the Revolution that their courage was as great and as unflinching as one could imagine in any people.

Those who had been watching closely had seen some wonderful examples of heroism, not only by the soldiery but private citizens had shown splendid heroism in many ways and devotedness to a cause they thought worthy of fighting for.

Many of the Imperialists were said to be fighting merely because some of their favourite officers were commanding them, and in the killing of a general on the field I personally saw no less than four men shot dead on the spot as they went forward two by two to bring him in under cover. All through this war many cases of exceptional bravery came under my notice, giving one cause to credit the Chinese with greater patriotism than is wont to be given them, and altering altogether the general impression that the Chinese as a people are cowards. This crowning piece of bravery, to which nothing else in the campaign can in any way compare, took place on November 19th, and will long be remembered by the thick line of Europeans and Chinese who had flocked to the Bund to watch the Chinese naval movement. For some days there had been talk that the Chinese Fleet had turned over their lot with the Revolutionists, and when in the morning its smoke was seen on the skyline and every one strained his eyes to see where they would go and what they would do, each having his own particular theory as to the probabilities of the day, it was an anxious time, for so much seemed to hang on the movements of the navy. During the whole of the {112}morning the two cruisers and one torpedo-boat lay at anchor, neither interfering or being interfered with. Their smoke funnels in the haze certainly showed that they were there; but as to what the programme was no one knew, and towards midday one began to doubt what they would do, and whether actually they had come to fight for the Revolutionists or against them.

Upon the navy in the first great engagement at Kilometre Ten lay the honours of the day, for no man could stand against its guns, and all knew that the side to be pounded were in for an extremely heavy bombardment, which would probably easily spell the total failure of the enemy. Therefore, when the big two-funnelled Hai Yung raised anchor about two o’clock and began majestically to steam full speed up-river, it was not curious to find every one tiptoeing in expectancy. What was she going to do? Was she drawing up nearer to bombard Wuchang or was she coming peacefully away to be fired upon by the strong Loyalist battery on the Kilometre Ten line? Slowly she came at first, then steamed full away. Through my glasses I could see her flag—the Revolutionary flag—yet when she came within the battery’s firing-line no guns were opened upon her. The Imperial gunners could be seen watching her movements through their glasses, as on she steamed close in to the Wuchang side. Gradually she came proudly abreast of the Kinshan forts, then farther up, and farther, until at last she was abreast of the Japanese Bund line, and out of danger. Certainly it seemed strange that the Imperialists did not attempt to shell her; but they didn’t, and away she went up past Wuchang, dipping to the foreign gunboats, and above the Concessions turned to rest. Meantime the other cruiser had cleared off down-river, and all that remained was the solitary torpedo-boat. It was now her turn, and she, thinking that the larger boat had found no opposition, evidently expected to sail up {113}clear too. But she had misreckoned, for as soon as she began to steam the Royalists opened furiously upon her.

Shell after shell from the three-inch guns were poured around her, shells dropping about her as peas would drop if one threw a handful in the air, and she seemed doomed. But in the thick of the batteries, within excellent range, with no cover and no hope of getting clear, she had nothing to do but to keep ahead; and this she did as hard as her panting engines would take her. As hard as coal would steam her she steamed, and for the quarter of an hour during which she was under fire nothing nobler could be imagined than the behaviour of her crew as they brought her up. In front of her, behind her, falling short of her, shooting far over her came the shells at the rate of one in three seconds; they whistled around her, some hit her minor deckwork and glanced into the water; one was seen to hit her square on the bows, another hit her aft and damaged her steam gear; but, fleeing from what seemed her death-trap, she steamed desperately on. On the Bund the Chinese watched in bewilderment. Such a thing they had never seen before. Some of them were looking on a Chinese torpedo-boat in action for the first time, and a grunt of keenest satisfaction went up as she came abreast of foreign territory and the Imperial guns ceased fire. All the time, however, the Kinshan forts, at equally rapid a rate as the Kilometre Ten battery, kept up the return bombardment upon the Imperial base, and there must have been some heavy damage—what it was impossible to tell.

But now the torpedo is up opposite the Concessions, and, slowing down, seems to take breath before she puts in alongside the shore and drops anchor for a time. The crew tend their wounded comrades, the hilarious men shout and yell and tell each other how it was done, and urge each other on with patriotic sentiment.

{114}
It was a magnificent piece of work—quite remarkable in its way, for at the point where she was hugging the Wuchang shore there is an exceptionally strong current running, so that her difficulties were thus considerably increased. Foreign naval men who watched the cannonading declared that they had never witnessed anything quite so courageous, and as one gazed on it the fact that China is a peculiar country and the people a peculiar people was slowly borne in upon one as he realised that all this bravery was being put forward by men who a month ago had fought against the cause to which they were now so faithfully espoused. What the mission of the armoured cruiser, still lying farther up the river, might have been I do not know, but she was now seen to move and make for down-river again, and one fancied that one could see anger writ large upon her iron sides. Quickly I doubled to take up a position on the top of a huge heap of coal, below the Concessions, from which I had a commanding view of the river and the whole of Kilometre Ten Station. Down came the cruiser close inshore on the Hankow side, and it seemed curious that she should have come so close. Down she came in a businesslike fashion, seeming to gird herself for the onslaught. Every one held his breath. Foreign men-of-warsmen admired all that she was doing, and the gunners on board were itching to open fire. As soon as she dropped down beyond the Concessions they did open, and then, as quickly as one could count, she fired her six big guns—four six-inch bore. The first two shells dropped bang inside the station at Kilometre Ten, the next three fell in among the battery on the foreshore, the next few—they came so quick that I lost count—set some buildings burning. The Imperial batteries, with indomitable bravado, returned as briskly as they could. The Kinshan forts sent over strong cross-fires. On farther went the Hai Yung, seeming like a big brother to tell the Imperialists that her little brother had been hit and now her turn had {115}come to do the hitting. And this she certainly did. Whether she hit the things she aimed at I do not know, but I know that she literally rained in shells among the enemy’s batteries.

In the deepening half-light the flashes brilliantly lit up the deck, and as the bursting shells dropped they lit up the yellow of the water with a peculiar grotesqueness. Over the head of the cruiser came shells from Kinshan, and with the Hai Yung shelling as fast as she could discharge her guns, with the Imperial three-inchers working as hard as the men could work them, and the Revolutionary battery over across sending shells from four guns, and each party fired with that spirit which in war makes men work with superhuman activity, it may well be imagined that the triple bombardment was something that had never been seen in the Yangtze Valley before. Chinese were jumping with excitement the whole way along the Bund, and the Sabbath peace was broken by a scene which will long remain vividly in the memories of those fortunate enough to be on the spot at the time. As for myself, my position on the coalheap was as good as it was possible to get. I was anxious to get down to Kilometre Ten to see what damage had been done, but I was informed that on no consideration whatever would any foreigner be allowed outside the barrier. Another engagement was expected that night, the guard told me, and so I came away. Meantime the Hai Yung had dropped down-river out of the range of the Imperialist guns, where she still pounded away with shells that fell in the vicinity of the station. The reason that she had been allowed to come up-river unmolested was because the Imperialists had not recognised her flag, mistaking her for a foreign man-of-war. When the darkness came on and the flashlights from the warships lit up the Concessions and the surrounding neighbourhood, it was slowly borne in upon one that the Chinese War of the Revolution was by no means {116}overpast. Fighting in the land lines continued all night.

* * * * *

During these days Li Yuan Hung remained at Wuchang; here drilling was going on feverishly. There was organising and preparing for the great effort which was to strike at the central stronghold of the Imperialists. But in Li’s heart there was the hope still that Yuan would show a more reasonable front. I was in close touch with Li about this time. Every one who saw him daily, looked upon a man, definite to a degree in aim and purpose, free from self-aggrandisement and selfishness in any form. His aim first and last was to uplift his country, to win the throne for the Han people, and to work with all his might for the downfall of Manchu rule, for by that alone, he believed, could China forge ahead as such a mighty nation deserved and as her brightest sons desired that she should. And now, although others declared that in the new Republican party there would be dissension and strife when the Government were brought down to a concrete basis, General Li Yuan Hung declared that he had sufficient faith in the cause to believe that all his political associates, far from desiring personal benefit, would readily concede the highest positions to the men best fitted to fill them. That was the keynote of Li Yuan Hung’s popularity; he believed in the cause, and he had faith in his supporters. When at the start he refused to take the lead, and, essentially Chinese, tried all sorts of schemes to test the safety of his position, he nobly declared what his policy whilst in office would be. He declared that he would set out to work, at all costs and no matter what the personal consequences, for a course that would be straight and true for China and the Chinese.

He declared his ambition would first be concentrated in the overthrowing of the Manchus; what subsequently {117}would be his course was to be decided mainly by the trend of resulting circumstances. At the gathering of the officers of the Revolutionary party, who were anxious to make him their leader, I do not think there was a single man present, even Liu King, who, looking into the future as far as he then could see, thought that in less than a month this Japanese-trained officer of the Hupeh Army, with nothing about him to strike one that he was a born leader of men, would have come to the very forefront of the platform of the political world. Liu King certainly did not believe Li Yuan Hung had so much in him.

It was believed—was there one foreigner in the three cities here who thought otherwise at the very start of the outbreak?—that the Revolution would break out, that the Imperial Army would come down in great force and massacre every manjack in the Revolutionary Army, and that that would be the end of it all. At the start there were so many thousands, not only in this centre but throughout the Empire, who were merely neutral, who were sitting on the fence, prepared to dive down either side at the moment it paid them to take the dive. But the men of the Revolutionary Army were confident. The units of the army knew that they had Li at the head, they knew that Li had always had the name of being the best man in the Hupeh Model Army, although he was not in supreme command, and they were content to fight under him. There was in all circles, however, except the military circle, a good deal of scepticism. Every one was on the look-out for sensations. No one knew what would happen, and no one cared to guess. But behind it all stood Li, looking on and seeing all. He had sworn allegiance to his party, and he expected his party to stand by him. He was the man who believed in the scheme he was prepared to pull through, and he believed in the men who were pulling with him. Yuan Shih K’ai doubted him, his ability, his political party, and thought them a set of upstarts. {118}Therefore was it that he would not listen to their talk, and took their pleading with him to join their party as a sign of weakness. But Yuan, though he had made few political mistakes himself, never committed a bigger blunder than this. For the time he was prepared to hold aloof, and to fight on still, rather than take the cue of his adversary in battle and give up fighting for a lost cause.

The situation as it concerned foreigners in the Concessions was now most acute. Everybody was abusing the Consuls. Around the Concessions, mad with rage and neither side entertaining any bewildering affection for foreigners, were sixty thousand troops. The French community, tired of talking, so it seemed, took the bull by the horns and wired to the French Government over the head of their Consul, and that the same spirit actuated the greater part of the international population here will be judged from what comes hereafter. The French residents telegraphed from Hankow to Paris as follows:—

“French colony and others under the jurisdiction of the French consulate request me to ask you to communicate the following to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: We consider that we are now in a critical situation. In consequence of the departure of cruisers, the international landing force is reduced to five hundred marines. We are surrounded by sixty thousand belligerents. All is to be feared from the Imperialist troops if abandoned to themselves, or undisciplined Revolutionary troops. We are at the mercy of every anti-foreign movement. Insist on immediate dispatch of troops from Tientsin or Tonking.”

 

A week previous a message was sent from Hankow by a high British authority—to be fair to the British Acting Consul-General, he did not know that the message was sent away—telling the world that with us all was well, and the next week the French people here wired to their Government, ignoring the representative here of the French nation, asking that troops be sent forthwith. Throughout the war up to the present time {119}the Concessions had been sufficiently manned with troops to prevent an onslaught by either army. When the first big battle started there seemed to be excellent defence as the situation then was, but, whilst the scene of action was moving constantly down at the back of the Concessions towards the native city and danger each day becoming greater, no one believed it possible that the Consular Body were taking no steps to ensure efficient protection of foreign subjects and their interests here. When the Loyalist big guns were at the back of the Concession (British as they continued up to the taking of Hanyang) not until the local Press drew forceful attention to the fact that the British Acting Consul-General owed it to the British community to get the guns removed, and thus save the returning fire of the enemy being drawn into the Concession, was there any action taken. Again and again was indignation shown at the “face” the British were losing with the Chinese over the matter; but it seemed not to disturb consular authorities. Protest was made—once only, I believe—and the promise then was given that the guns should be shifted. But the promise was broken, and for weeks one heard the constant boom of the biggest gun the Imperialists had with them pounding away not three hundred yards from the British Concession border, in precisely the same position as the Loyalist officers promised King George’s representative it should be shifted from. And in addition to that, on November 17th they again took up their old position with a battery at Tachimen, from which position they were also asked to remove, thus having wilfully ignored all British requests.

A study of the map of the field will show immediately that the position of the Concessions was, to say the least, eminently dangerous. The main battery behind the Concessions had guns pointing towards Wuchang, naturally drawing the Wuchang fire, shells from which dropped more often {120}in the Concession than out of it when the aim was taken for Coffin Hill battery; it also had guns pointing to Hanyang, drawing that return fire, which had the gravest probability of falling over the Concession border. I should think that a mild estimate of shells dropped in the Concessions during that week would be one hundred. But there was another danger: in their flanking movement the Revolutionists were endeavouring to shell the Coffin Hill battery, meaning at once that their shells were fired, not by the sides of the Concessions but bang into them. There was another danger still: the Imperialists, if they were driven back, would undoubtedly make for the Concessions, and flee through them. “It’s not human nature,” as the British Acting-Consul said a day or two before to a British subject, “to expect the Revolutionists not to chase them.”

It may easily be left to the reader to answer for himself whether a complement of five hundred troops—the maximum of a defence force that could be mustered from the gunboats that moment in the port—could hold the port against this grave possibility. It was surely not too much for international subjects to ask of their Consuls that troops be sent for and that a fair defence scheme be inaugurated forthwith for the protection of their lives and their property. Again, however, I should like to say that I am not writing in any carping spirit. I am among those who, far from anathematising or criticising, and remembering that it is the easiest thing in the world to ridicule, realise that at such times of crisis in China each Consul should be supported by every loyal subject. But it certainly seemed to me that the consular body—not one individual only, but the whole body—by its continued inaction rendered foreigners in Hankow a bad account of what they were there for. One could easily write up what the soldiery might have done if they once had run riot in the Concession, and such an eventuality {121}to those who know their China is not without the range of what easily could have transpired; but it would be sensational and probably useless.

Now, when the French residents of Hankow telegraphed to Paris demanding that troops be sent forthwith from Tientsin or Tonking hands went up in horror that French consular control had so far got into disrepair as to bring about such a step. But when the British residents almost immediately followed suit it became patent that the situation was serious. Foreigners from the Japanese Concession (farthest removed from the native city of Hankow) to the British Concession (divided from the city by a thirty-foot road) were just then in greater direct danger than they had been since the campaign started. Five weeks had now elapsed since the war started, and on November 18th I think I am right in saying that not one-half of the protecting force was in the port, at the zenith of the danger, that was available a week after the Revolution broke out. That five hundred men available from all gunboats in port, with the Japanese largely preponderating, were enough to protect a settlement of approximately rectangular shape, four miles by one, was absurd on the very face of things. Four thousand men from all nations represented would not have been too many at that time. When hostilities were being carried on immediately outside the Concessions, when every day a man was shot fatally or wounded seriously in the streets of the British Concession, when shells dropped with startling rapidity into private houses and broke up the property of British residents, when the gravest danger was incurred by walking along the waterfront which extends the whole length of the Concession, when all shipping had to withdraw from the usual landing hulks, and when the official protests to remove the batteries from dangerous proximity back of the Concessions and so cause shelling over the foreign settlement to cease was persistently refused, surely, {122}again, it was not too much to expect that the authorities were making due arrangements for troops to be sent to Hankow to prevent what every one undertook to believe would be inevitable—namely, the rushing through the Concessions of the enemy and the chasing of them by the victorious faction. The whole thing culminated on November 18th, when a meeting of British subjects was held. The following dispatch was the result of a long discussion on the general situation and what was best to be done:—

“HERBERT GOFFE, Esq., H.B.M. Acting Consul-General, Hankow.

“SIR,—We the undersigned British residents beg respectfully that you will forward the following protest to His Majesty’s Minister with a request that it be forwarded to the proper authorities:

1. “The London and China Express of October 20 says, It is officially stated that the policy of Great Britain in the present situation in China will be limited to taking every means considered necessary for the protection of the lives and the property of her nationals.’

“Whilst adequate protection had apparently been afforded to British subjects in Tientsin and Shanghai, in our opinion the reverse was the case in Hankow. This is proved by the fact that at the time when the British Vice-Admiral himself was in chief command of all forces at Hankow, his own sailors, and the local Volunteers and Police were insufficient properly to guard the British Concession, and the kind assistance of the Germans, Japanese, French, and Austrians was accepted. Since then the situation had become infinitely more dangerous, and it was found that protection was reduced absolutely to a minimum and the force of British gunboats was just what foreigners were accustomed to see in port in normal times. This argues that the situation was wrongly gauged by those in authority, and if information which was at their disposal had been obtained or listened to, this should not have occurred.

2. “We protest against the action taken by the authorities in forwarding a wireless message to Shanghai on or about the 17th November stating that “there had been no fighting here for some days,” and “that business was being resumed,” as reported in the North China Daily News of the 9th November and the Shanghai Mercury of 8th November respectively. Our reasons for so doing are that both statements are untrue, and that by sending such a message they have caused endless ill-feeling to the British Flag and disgust at an action which causes women and children to return here when it is undoubtedly {123}unsafe for them to do so. So far from there being no fighting, fighting of a desultory nature and sniping have continued ever since the main action, on the 27th-28th October, and numerous bullets and shells continue daily to fall into the Concession. Although foreigners have so far escaped, numbers of Chinese in the Concession have been killed or wounded, and property damaged. As regards business being resumed, it has been at a standstill since the Revolution started.

3. “With the ordinary telegraphic communication completely cut off, we protest against the Admiralty regulations which do not allow the forwarding of important non-service messages by wireless for British subjects in circumstances of this description. On several occasions messages refused by Vice-Admiral Winsloe have been courteously received and dispatched by wireless by the German Admiral. We consider that these protests are only right and just, as we cannot for a minute believe that His Majesty’s Government know the true state of affairs, and that in the present crisis British prestige and British interests have been sadly neglected. Finally, although this is hardly within the province of the British residents of Hankow, we would like to point out that at the present moment Ichang and Changsha are equally ill-protected. The urgent necessity for the dispatch of troops to this port is emphasised by the fact that heaviest fighting is now taking place and shells are bursting over our heads. The situation is most critical, and it is sincerely to be hoped that not only the British authorities, but the American, the German, the French, and Russian Consular bodies will see to it that as many gunboats as can reasonably be spared from the China squadrons be brought here at once. The Japanese, the only other nation having a Concession, may be relied upon to leave nothing undone.”

 

TOMMY ATKINS ON GUARD. A detachment of the Yorkshire Light Infantry protecting the Foreign Settlement at Hankow.
TOMMY ATKINS ON GUARD.
A detachment of the Yorkshire Light Infantry
protecting the Foreign Settlement at Hankow.
The following telegram was authorised to be sent to the British Minister at Peking and the Foreign Office:—-

“Mass meeting British residents Hankow considers battalion urgently necessary protection British Concession—Pearce, Chairman.”

 

A similar telegram was authorised to be sent to the China Association in London, asking the Association to urge the Government to send the help asked for. There were ninety-five British residents present at the meeting.

* * * * *

Comment upon the foregoing would only be odious {124}just now. By reproducing the correspondence, however, the reader will be able to ascertain the feelings of the British community when such persistent official indolence continued. Had the armies got out of hand, there might have been a much sadder story to tell.

THE SKETCH MAP OF THE BATTLEFIELDS.
THE SKETCH MAP OF THE BATTLEFIELDS.

It is necessary, in presenting the accompanying sketch map of the battlefields, to give some concise information descriptive of the sketch. The following written by my friend Mr. Stanley V. Boxer, B.Sc., will therefore be found of especial interest:—

“The first battle of any importance occurred on October the 18th. On that occasion the gunboats decided the issue. The Revolutionists were entrenched behind the Foreign Racecourse, and in the afternoon made an attack toward Kilometre Ten. In advancing, they were exposed to a cross fire from the cruisers. They fell back again on the Racecourse. Next day, however, the gunboats retired, and the Revolutionists, taking advantage of their absence, gained a victory, capturing some truckloads of ammunition, &c. The loyalist army retired to Nie K’ou, to wait arrival of reinforcements from the north.

“A week now elapsed without further fighting. But the battle which resulted in the fall of Hankow commenced on October the 27th. The Revolutionists somewhat tamely allowed the bridges between Kilometre Ten and Nie K’ou to be captured. They retreated on their base, Kilometre Ten. A few well-directed shots from the gunboats, which had come up to participate in the fight, caused a second retreat. The Imperials advanced steadily along the back of the Concessions reaching Ta Chi Men Station. The Revolutionists retook this position but were again driven back. They fell back on Sin Shen Road, and fought bravely for three days, during which the road changed hands several times. On October 30th, also, there was a good deal of fighting between the Malu, at the back of Hankow, and the railway embankment. On Tuesday, October 31st, the Revolutionists gained a slight advantage, driving the Imperialists back along the railway line. Next day, Wednesday, November 1st, commenced the burning of Hankow. The Imperials had brought up their 3-in. guns to the Ta Chi Men crossing, about a quarter of a mile nearer Hankow than the station and placed them on the railway. From this position they shelled the city, about two thirds of which was destroyed this day and the day following. Though the city was in ashes however, frequent fighting took place in its ruined streets, greatly endangering the safety of foreigners on the Concessions. This desultory fighting went on till the fall of Hanyang. Nothing of much importance, however, occurred till November 17th.

“Much of the sharpest fighting occurred round the Waterworks. The gunners on the Heh Shan were kept very busy. The works themselves changed hands several times. On November 17th, the Revolutionists made a determined attempt to drive back the enemy. In the early morning they were across the Han in force, and advanced inwards from the Viceroy’s embankment in one large crescent, stretching from near Ch’aeo K’ou to three miles on the other side of the Griffith John College. They even advanced as far as the Chinese Racecourse, but later in the day were forced to retreat.

“It should have been stated that the Imperials had moved out their guns to positions along the extension of the Sin Shen Road, while they had placed three very heavy guns on ‘Coffin Hill.’ From these guns, Tortoise Hill, Mei Tzu Shan, and Heh Shan, were in easy range, and constant bombardment ensued.

“But fresh hope was brought to the Revolutionists by the turning over of the fleet to the Republican side. On Sunday, November 19th, occurred that memorable engagement, when the torpedo boat ran the gauntlet, and the cruiser punished the Imperial batteries along the foreshore between the Japanese Concession and the Yangtse Engineering Works. In consequence, these batteries were very much strengthened, as shown in the map.

“At this time the capture of Nanking was momently expected, and the Imperials, realising that, if Hanyang was to be captured, it must be immediately, did all in their power to take the place. A party of three thousand set off from Siao Kan for Ch’ait’ien, intending to approach Hanyang from behind. What became of this detachment is uncertain, but it would appear that they were defeated. Their project was never realized.

“But the Imperials determined on another course. They managed to cross the Han at T’u Lu K’ou. Five large shrapnel guns were brought up to the Viceroy’s embankment, two about a quarter of a mile from the Griffith John College. A heavy fire was directed toward the four hills on the other side of the Han, which formed the key to Hanyang. A battery, placed on the waist of the hills opposite the College replied. As the College was in direct line of fire, considerable damage was done. The Imperials, owing to a very swift creek, were unable to proceed down the side of the Han. They had therefore to cross the creek at San-Yen Ch’iao (Three-eyed Bridge), and take the four hills. Judging from the number of patients brought into Hanyang during the days of this fighting (November 21st-26th), and from the number of graves seen on a subsequent visit, very heavy fighting must have been carried on here. The hills were well adapted for defence, being covered with quarries, but ammunition on the Republican side was poor. The hills were eventually taken, though one at least was retaken. The whole time, the Revolutionists were assailed from two sides, from the Griffith John College battery, and from the Imperials on the north-west.

“It would appear that on Sunday, November 26th, began the evacuation. On Saturday, the Mei Tzu Shan battery had been silenced. On Sunday evening the Imperials effected a crossing between the Heh Shan and Tortoise Hill. Retreat followed from the San-yen Ch’iao hills, and so Heh Shan was forced to silence. Hanyang was captured on Monday, November 27th, the last place to be evacuated being the Tortoise Hill.

“After the fall of Hanyang, the Imperials retained their strong river batteries, but moved up their ‘Coffin Hill’ guns to a position on the railway a quarter of a mile on the other side of Sin Shen Road. They threw two bridges across the Han, one about half a mile below the Waterworks, one at the Wu Shen Miao. They also fortified the base of Hanyang Hill, planting their guns, as in the case of the Griffith John College battery and ‘Coffin Hill,’ under cover of foreign buildings. This time it was the American Baptist Mission Hospital that was exposed.

“Evacuation commenced, however, without any more serious fighting. The guns on the railway were removed. Incidentally two shrapnel guns and a quantity of ammunition were taken to the old position near the Griffith John College on New Year’s Day, where they remained three days; but this was probably merely to prevent a possible crossing of the Revolutionists into forbidden territory. This ended the fighting in the vicinity of Hankow.”

 

 

{125}

CHAPTER XI

THE FALL OF HANYANG
Three days before the naval escapade described in the last chapter started the great struggle made by the “Imps” for the recapture of Hanyang. Yuan Shih K’ai, impatient at the dauntless manner in which the enemy were standing their ground—and even gaining upon the Imperial Army—made an offer of 3,000,000 taels (some £375,000) for the recapture of Hanyang. The Revolutionary Army was now fighting as never before.

The important news that Shantung had gone over to the Revolutionists was received on the 16th in a laconic message, stating briefly that the entire province was now flying the white flag. This news was all the more important inasmuch as about ten days before the Government granted all the demands of the Shantung people, with the exception of the evacuation of Peking by the Manchus. This, it was thought, would be a sufficient sop to Cerberus, but it seemed not so, and the Shantungites had apparently decided to go the whole hog in the same manner as their local compatriots.

The real bombardment of Hanyang commenced at night on that date, and the sight was one never to be forgotten by those who had pluck enough to go to the high buildings and watch the guns opening. From a score of batteries on the Wuchang side of the river, from the big forts on the main hills inside Wuchang, from perhaps thirty guns raised on Hanyang Hill and {126}four hills away to the right there came constant tiny flashes. The distant boom for hours in the dense darkness gave one an eerie feeling. The furious whizz of the shells as they swept over the foreign houses intensified one’s peculiar fascination. Bullets sailing through the air bred in one a spirit of cool bravado. Around the countryside for miles one could count a score of fires—the whole population seemed to be burned out of house and home. At midnight there came a significant lull. Waiting and watching, watching and waiting on the tops of their houses, foreign civilians looked on to the passing tragedy, and were held spellbound in the dark. Those tiny flashes of blue seemed to be the sparks of a new life, but the morning brought the news that the Revolutionists had had the worst of it. When the Northern Army first arrived at Niekow it was part of their programme to dispatch a force through the lakes to the Han River at Hankow, from which place they could reach Hanyang in half a day. The boats were collected for the expedition, but for some reason or other it was called off. The project appears to have been taken up again, and this time carried through, with the result that the Imperialists, by November 20th, were in possession of Tsaitien, a busy market town on the Hanyang side of the Han twenty miles up. A foreign traveller, who was there at the time of the occupation, wrote up the following particulars about the situation then:—

“After we had passed Hsinkow on the way down by boat we noticed parties of grey-coated soldiers on the left bank marching down. There might be twenty in a party and sometimes a hundred. In conversation with them we learned that they were Chilhi or Shantung men, and belonged to Yuan Shih K’ai’s army. Their General was named Wu, a very friendly man who said that he had a force of three thousand, and that they were bound for Hanyang. Our boat outstripped them, and on reaching Tsaitien we found it still under {127}Revolutionary control, but with no soldiers there beyond the crews of some twenty fighting junks at anchor. There had been a thousand men in the place, but they had marched up the river before our arrival, said to be bound for Anluh. We reached there on Saturday evening, and at daybreak the following morning the gunjunks got up anchor and made for up-river. The Imperialists did not put in an appearance till Sunday afternoon about two o’clock, when some forty native boats came in crowded with soldiers. They had also on board half a dozen mules and probably guns, but these were not visible. They had large supplies of ammunition. By the time they landed all trace of the Revolutionists had disappeared. No one interfered with them, and they interfered with no one. There might have been close on a thousand men in that lot. All afternoon and evening there was heavy firing up-river. The people said it was the Revolutionists attacking the rear of the party up at Hsinkow, and that they had driven it back, but the puzzle was how the advance contrived to reach Tsaitien without either side apparently having seen the other. We left Tsaitien about ten o’clock on Monday, at which time the Imperialists were all in their tents engaged on their breakfast. There was no sign that they intended making any further move that day. It is impossible to reach Hankow by the Han route, as both parties fired on every boat seen. We therefore crossed the Machia Lake, and came out beyond Hanyang. Here a large force of several thousand Revolutionists was setting out by land for Tsaitien, and had the weather been favourable, they would have reached there last night. As it is, they will have to wait for fine weather, and then some further interesting news may be forthcoming from that quarter.”

HOW THE IMPERIALISTS CROSSED THE HAN. One of the three bridges built on boats across the river while the revolutionaries were quarrelling among themselves.
HOW THE IMPERIALISTS CROSSED THE HAN.
One of the three bridges built on boats across the river
while the revolutionaries were quarrelling among themselves.
Thus at last had the Imperialists crossed the Han. And with their crossing commenced one of the most determined battles in history, lasting five long days and {128}four frightful nights of heaviest fighting. Day after day the close riflery work and Maxim fire was terrific. The Revolutionists for some time had the best of it. The slaughter among the Imperialists was fearful. The gunnery was heavy and deadly on both sides, but with Maxims the Revolutionists mowed down the enemy in hundreds each day. The death-roll no one was able to calculate. Each night the Imperial dead was taken away by train. The Imperial wounded were left on the field in the cold to die of their frightful wounds and hunger. The pressure did not allow of Red Cross work being done. To the left of the advancing Imperialists already referred to was the rapidly rushing Han, to the right a lake, in front a creek and high hill, defended by strong forces of Revolutionists. The hill in itself was a natural fort, but in the undulations of the ground and in the long grass the mountain guns and Maxims were as thick as blackberries. Every Imperial was fighting for his life, for he knew, once across the Han, that it was a fight to kill or be killed. Such scenes were probably never eclipsed in any war. The fusillading and incessant cannonading was harder than in any war of recent times. The Imperialists had given up the endeavour and were downcast at the meagre prospects of their success. To take Hanyang appeared altogether impossible. Their idea was to again make a wide flanking movement towards Siaokan, run a light railroad up to Siangyang, in North Hupeh, and so draw the Revolutionists away from the hills to open country. Certain it seemed to them that Hanyang would always remain a Revolutionary base. But as one sets out to write an accurate account of the situation in those last days in November, he is confronted by innumerable obstacles that render it almost futile. On the 26th every man in the Concessions, except the very few more closely associated with the happenings on the field, was under the impression that the Revolutionary Army was forging ahead, that it {129}had by far the better position in the field, and that the taking of Hanyang was a task that the Imperialists were not by any means strong enough to accomplish. As I have said, the Imperialist officers thought so, too, but when on Saturday (the 25th) I learned that the Hunan men were becoming a little disaffected, I foresaw to some extent what turn events would take if it were proved impossible for General Li Yuan Hung and Commander Huang Hsuin successfully to handle this new and somewhat treacherous move on the part of the Hunan Army. Now the greatest blow that had yet fallen, and which could fall short of a complete smash-up, fell to the Republican cause here on November 27th.

Hanyang was captured—how will later be explained.

HUNAN SOLDIER. One of the men who turned traitor, causing the disastrous fall of Hanyang
HUNAN SOLDIER.
One of the men who turned traitor,
causing the disastrous fall of Hanyang.

HUPEH SOLDIER.
From time immemorial at feud with the Hunanese,
but brought into co-operation in the early part
of the Revolution.
One found it the more difficult to write an accurate account of the situation which would remain true because from now onward it seemed to change its aspect hour by hour. Everything seemed to have taken a change for the worst. Chinese met in the streets and told each other the bad news with long faces. The sight of the dead being brought in from the field and prepared for burial, under the gaze of all and sundry, brought a peculiar depression into the very atmosphere. Foreign and Chinese communities waited hour by hour for what was coming. Rumours were wild on the lips of every one. No one could be believed, and what one actually saw could scarcely be taken as truth. The general situation was extremely grave to the Republican military cause, and the Imperialists were never stronger in numbers, and in the advantage that they held over their enemy in their positions in the field. In possession now of Hanyang Hill, it was expected that they would bring their big guns into position and blow Wuchang to pieces in three hours. There was nothing to stop them. They were the military masters of the situation. All the Chinese could do now was to sit tight, interfere as little {130}as possible, endeavour to keep their heads on their shoulders by keeping out of the way of the executioner’s knife, and wait to see what would happen.

Then slowly came the story of the fall of Hanyang.[1]

{131}
Sensational incidents during the day that Hanyang fell, with picturesque incidents and all the gore that the newspaper-reading public calls for were provided under the eyes of every one. Junkloads of helpless, bullet-driven men were drifting down the river in a ghastly succession. Have you ever seen a boat drifting on a rapid river? Have you ever watched a Chinese junk, ungainly and ugly perhaps, just going helplessly with the tide? And have you ever seen a cargo of human freight not knowing what to do to reach the shore or any place of safety? That morning the men had been riddled by bullets as they attempted to make away in the boats. They had had machine-gun fire rained into them, and, scampering like a lot of frightened birds in their cage, had crept all over to the covered end in their frenzy, hoping that the wood cover would save them. Tighter and tighter they pressed against each other. They trampled on each other, threw their rifles out into the river, their cartridge-cases, their general impedimenta, and then settled down {132}to die as the boat slowly drifted down-stream. And there, when they were found, these thirty, forty, fifty men were sitting huddled grimly together, their glassy eyes staring upwards into the unknown. Mercilessly, with hideous brutality, they had been slaughtered as they sat, and now were in the sitting posture, dead, wedged in tightly one against the other. Some had fallen outward to the side of the boat, and their bodies now were hanging limply, swaying to and fro with the dull motion of the junk. Some, shot through the head, through the heart, through the limbs, had sunk exhausted to the bottom of the boat, where the water was fast rushing in through the splintered bulwarks, and lay, face down, in the water, drowned as they lay. Another boatload, equally helpless and void of all hope but the river, had their wounded at the bottom, some of the less seriously wounded putting their hands through the holes into the water and endeavouring vainly to get a motion on the boat. When these junks, after terrific labour, were brought into the side {133}of the British Bund, the sight will never be forgotten—men, bleeding from the throat, from the side, limping as they dragged a shattered leg behind them up the steps, to fall exhausted at the top and carried away to the hospitals. ‘Twas a bloody conflict that ended the fall of Hanyang.

THE IMPREGNABLE HANYANG HILL, Shown in the background. It is the main strategic point on the Yangtse. At one time it bristled with revolutionary field-guns.
THE IMPREGNABLE HANYANG HILL,
Shown in the background. It is the main strategic point
on the Yangtse. At one time it bristled with revolutionary
field-guns.
For the first time since the beginning of the revolutionary movement in China the Imperialist cause had scored an undeniable success, always excepting the savage burning of Hankow. The success of the Imperialists was rightly ascribed to their superior equipment and discipline, and that their loyalty to Peking, as well as their efficiency, had stood the supreme test of battle was in itself an event of first-rate importance. The strong feeling which has grown up almost all over China against the Manchu had still to be reckoned with. At this time it was an amusing diversion to read the opinions being printed in the home Press. After referring to the feeling among the proletariat against the Manchus, a writer in an editorial in the London Times said that “again a middle {134}term may conceivably be found in the suggestion that, as an alternative to the withdrawal of the Court from Peking, the present Regent should resign his office into the hands of a Chinese Regent or Council of Regency. The singular ceremony which took place a few days ago in Peking, when the Regent, in the name of the infant Emperor, made atonement before the ‘heavenly spirits’ of the Imperial ancestors for the responsibility which he has to bear in the present troubles, may be taken as something more than a mere formal acknowledgment of the gravity of the crisis. In the solemn oath of allegiance to the new constitutional regime taken by the Regent, there is, in so many words, an admission that the Dynasty is in danger; and so grave an admission is, we imagine, at least as unprecedented as the circumstances which have provoked it. If it truly represents the chastened spirit of the rulers of China, it can hardly fail to make a deep impression upon the masses of the Chinese people, whose traditional reverence for the Throne as a sacred {135}institution dates back to time immemorial, and has survived numberless revolutions in the past which, however disastrous to the occupants for the time being of the Throne, never permanently affected its inherent prestige.”

But in a period of such national travail as China was passing through, it would have been unwise just then to build too much upon the claims of mere common sense, even where people in many ways so eminently sensible as the Chinese were concerned. Immense forces, of which we could not yet pretend to estimate the energy, had been set in motion for better or for worse; and, when once elemental forces have been set in motion, they cannot easily be arrested. In pleading for the maintenance of the Dynasty, Yuan Shih K’ai himself did not conceal his belief that its overthrow would be followed by a series of internal convulsions extending possibly over several decades. Time may prove Yuan to be right. But though we may hope that the world may be spared such a calamity, {136}it was now impossible to look forward to the future without apprehension. The old order of things had departed, never to return. But it would have been then, and still is, idle to expect that a new and stable order of things can be immediately evolved by any magic wand out of the existing chaos. However rotten the old fabric may have been, it cannot be destroyed and a new fabric built up in a day. Japan went through some fifteen years of internal strife and turmoil before modern Japan emerged from the ruins of the old feudal Japan. And Japan not only had the good fortune to possess an influential class inspired by great patriotic ideals, ready to lead her in the path of national regeneration, but she had also, in the restoration of the Imperial authority, an ancient national tradition round which modern ideas of reform could crystallise. Whether China possessed a class equally competent to steer her through the breakers had yet to be seen—and has still; but it was only too clear, unfortunately, that the present Dynasty could never be a rallying point for patriotic enthusiasm such as the reigning Dynasty proved to be in Japan. The future alone could show whether any effective substitute could be found for it.

THE THREE-EYED BRIDGE, Seven miles north of Hanyang, where some of the hottest fighting took place. The Revolutionists held the bridge and the adjoining hills till the fall of Hanyang made the position untenable.
THE THREE-EYED BRIDGE,
Seven miles north of Hanyang, where some of the hottest fighting
took place. The Revolutionists held the bridge and the adjoining
hills till the fall of Hanyang made the position untenable.
The fall of Hanyang gave to the Imperial cause an impetus it was hard to estimate. But it had cost the Chinese as a people a lot during its fall.

* * * * *

During the first two days of December the author formed one of a party of Europeans whose duty it was to superintend the operations of a search party of the Red Cross Society around the neighbourhood of Chiakow and the four hills across the Han River, all of which formed the scene of one of the great battles. This was the belt of country which for days was held by the Revolutionary Army, encamped and fortified in {137}the many hillocks and surrounding lake country, which by its very impassable nature was practically a fort. It was here that the Revolutionists must have fought with more dauntless courage than the Russo-Japanese War ever gave record of to the world. It was here that for days, at closest range, they were driven back by the Imperial shrapnel and rifle fire from the other side of the Han; here that they repeated daring onslaughts upon the enemy when it seemed that the end was near with the speedy cutting-up of the Imperialists; here that the Peking men again and again endeavoured to force an entry and were cut down hopelessly and retreated with but a scanty percentage of their own attacking regiments; here that the hills bristled with batteries that whistled shells simultaneously by the dozen into the enemy as they lay encamped in the open country behind the waterworks. Altogether those four hills, still looking up reverently to their Maker, seemed silently to tell forth stories of heroism that would make the memories of men who were cruelly tortured immortal among their own people. But it was here also that the Hupeh men and the Hunan men had their squabble; and in this was their downfall, as it could have been in nothing else, for the place was impregnable.

And as during those two days I rode my pony in and out those hillocks, through those swamps, around those lakes, and as I stood by the graves of men who gave their own cause away, I could not help wondering what might have been had the Revolutionary Army remained one in spirit. What would have happened is this: the Imperialists would never have crossed the Han. But by December 1st they were in full possession. Every man and thing seemed numbered, all was wonderfully organised; from far away up the Han on both sides down past the point where the Han bifurcates into the Yangtsze and down past Kinshan forts the Imperialists were in possession.

{138}
As it was the rebels had lost, the Imperialists had won: but as one went around the countryside and talked with the country people, peaceable souls who had only their small cabbage-patch to bring forth their wherewithal to live, the tales of savagery and cruelty and devilish treatment which the Imperialists said they found it necessary to bring into their “military measures” did not make one wonder that, although compelled at the point of the bayonet to submit, the whole of the rural population swore vengeance upon the army that had worked havoc among them. Such behaviour as the Imperial soldiers, in their devilry, persisted in was worse even than one would expect from the worst of Chinese. We all know that the Chinese are cruel, that they have no sympathies in the usual Western sense; we know that they delight in the torture of all things that have life. But such grossly inhuman conduct as was countenanced by the Imperial military authorities in this centre almost compelled one to exclaim that to the depths of Chinese barbarity one cannot probe. What one saw made one instinctively draw back, yet one did not see a tithe of what there was.

Of the searching for the dead I shall have but little to say. There were few dead to be found. We buried 207. As soon as the military stationed in command of the captured hill heard that the Red Cross Society was sending parties to search for the dead and to bury the corpses, they set about with their own burial parties to remove those who had been shot in that dreadful battle. The villages that had been razed to the ground, and incidentally rid of all the menfolk with a rifle shot or a few bayonet thrusts, had been made to bury their own dead; most of it was done by the girls before they were taken off to be made worse than slaves to the fiendish men who took them. But the tale had better be told in sequence.

If one is able to keep his mind free from the gruesome {139}and the cruel, the fiendish tricks practised everywhere along the Han by the Imperial soldiers, he cannot but admire the smartness of the military training and the extremely creditable manner in which this Imperial Army had been handled. When it is remembered that from the four high hills overlooking the Han River the Revolutionists were able continuously to blow to smithereens anything that was attempted in the way of bridge-building, the making of the bridge by which the main body of the enemy passed over the river is little short of a marvel. At this point the Han, with no inconsiderable current, is no less than three hundred and fifty yards wide. The bridge by which the Imperialists crossed was composed of some one hundred and fifty boats of all sorts and sizes, each in its turn tied to an extremely stout hawser; over this the whole of the attacking force with their complete equipment was brought. Then from this point to another point some twenty li away, at the base of the hills, villages were indiscriminately scattered, some with twenty families, some with half a dozen. All had suffered the same fate and were now but places of ashes.

To the left was found a Revolutionary soldier, dead, half-eaten, dressed still in his black uniform. About the body, which was huddled in a decomposing heap on the ground, were noticed several bayonet wounds; it had been brought from a bed, upon which the wounded man had probably been done to death. Under the bed was found a lamp, on and around the bed were found huge chunks of charcoal and charred firewood; nothing else in the room was burned. Is it possible to think that those devils of men, first getting their prey like the beasts they are, then maiming him, then putting him on a bed, then getting the fire by which they intended burning him to death, had fired the lot and literally roasted their victim alive, and sat down to watch the last agonies? Such was my theory, and the {140}circumstantial evidence, with the guarded explanation of the temple caretaker—who was spared because he could wait upon these vicious greycoats—made for none other. And there the body lay; dogs had come in and eaten off a leg, a part of the neck, a part of the body; the main bone of the leg had been wrenched off, and a dog near by still growled with another for possession. Soon the burial was made, the wistful onlookers, lucky that they had escaped, remarking blandly that we were performing hao si. Further gruesome details of a most gruesome duty it were reasonable not to expect given; sufficient has been written to show where the great battle took place and what its effects had been. Over the hills one came across one, two, a dozen peaked caps, a dozen uniforms. Near by were nightsoil pits and ponds of stagnant water; into these the unlucky victims had been thrown. Pools of blood there were everywhere, cartridge-cases and cartridges there were by the thousand, seven big guns with the breach-blocks gone, boxes of unopened field-gun cases, piles of 2¼ gun shells alongside the heavy pieces, pieces of bone, bloody bandages, and much else all too eloquent of the carnage and the battle. One man volunteered to show us where the corpse of a villager lay; he said the body had been hit fair by a big shell and now there was little left to show for what had been a soldier doing his duty for a cause of reform; when we came to the place a pool of blood and a few bones were all that the canine scavengers had left.

THE HANDY MAN ASHORE. Residents in the British Concession owe much to the bluejackets. They are seen here carting bricks in rickshaws, with which to build barricades.
THE HANDY MAN ASHORE.
Residents in the British Concession owe much
to the bluejackets. They are seen here carting
bricks in rickshaws, with which to build barricades.
Farther on an old woman sat upon a heap of rubbish, which had been her home for forty years. She was ill-clad, cold, had had no food for four days, and thought that she, too, would die. Her husband, poor old man, had been killed by stray shots before the Imperialists made their rush; her sons, four of them—peaceable men, she said, who offered no resistance—were killed cruelly at sight; their wives had been carried off. “But I am not alone,” she added; “others in the {141}village suffered the same fate. Our young boys had their queues taken off to make them into rebels so that the soldiers would have an excuse to shoot them. And our ‘little babies'”—the poor old lady was now wiping her eye—”our girls of fourteen and fifteen were carried off across the river. I wonder whether I shall see them again.” I wondered, too, as I watched the old woman weeping. And the farther I went the more was I impressed with the cruelty of this war towards the civilian rather than to the military part of the community. The devastation was terrific.

Have you ever noticed how soon a Chinese can spoil or totally destroy things in general? Whether it be the mechanic in the factory, the cook in the kitchen, the boy about the house, the gardener, the boatman, the tinker, tailor, or sailor, it is undeniable that the Chinese is a pastmaster in the art of spoiling and damaging and putting things destructively to their wrong uses. One sees it, not in one district and among one class of the Chinese; it is universal in the country and the people. To go through China one is struck more than anything else by the manner in which everything is brought to a general condition of decay and uselessness. And so in war the Chinese have been showing us how destructive is their nature, how vile they are in pillaging and looting and destroying. For miles around the city of Hankow long stretches of burned and pillaged districts stand as painfullest evidences of the ravages of this horrible civil war. These northern victors could not have behaved worse had they specifically endeavoured, and this is much to say. All the cruelties, all the infamy in its several forms, all the wanton destruction, the stealing, the ravishing of pure women, the killing of little children, the kidnapping of young girls, the gross oppression practised by them all will go down to history as the conduct unworthy of any civilised nation. I am aware that in writing this I may call down {142}considerable criticism, but I fail to see why such things should be kept back from public knowledge. China is making claims, as she long has been, that she is coming line to line with the civilisation of the West. She has claimed that she has got out of the rut of the past, and that now the world may confidently look for that which in history has made the nations of the world great—liberty, justice, and other so far unknown virtues in her present military campaign against those who truly, so far as we can tell, are urging for real reform.

Another instance before I close this chapter. Whilst I was riding round the country I collected a couple of shells from the field, and asked an old man to put them in his house for me until I should later return for them. He agreed and away I went. Some time after I returned to find four soldiers yelling at this old man and some of his neighbours who had foregathered to save him from the common doom. The soldiers had accused him of harbouring the empty shells for some rebels they were sure he was sheltering, and already their fingers were itching on the triggers of their rifles. “A foreign gentleman asked me to keep them for him; I am telling you the truth!” shouted the terrified old fellow. “You lie! you old blackguard, you’ll have to die for this. Come out of your house!” Vainly were his neighbours endeavouring to mediate on his behalf, and were threatened with the same treatment if they did not desist at once. But at the moment I rode up. I took the shell-cases quietly, thanked the old man, asked what the trouble was, and was about to explain when one of the soldiers, with an eye filled with evil, wished me peace and told me that they were merely having fun with the old man, and that I could go on my way resting assured that no harm would be done. I went, but I do not know the fate of the old man.

* * * * *

{143}
The reader should understand that probably of all strategic points in the Chinese Empire there is none more naturally formidable than Hanyang. It was the pivot of the whole situation. With Hanyang gone, Wuchang was practically gone also—if the enemy had any guns at all. At dawn on November 27th the war correspondents brought the news that the Hunan men had refused to fight at Hanyang, and that the city was about to be taken. Bombarding and heavy fusillading had been going on all the day on the Sunday and throughout the night, but by midnight the Imperialists were known to be masters of the situation, and it was only a matter of time for them to march upon the fortified city of Hanyang. That city, as will have been gathered, every one looked upon as impregnable. There was treachery. The Hunan men were said to have shot their officers, to have left the hill, to have boarded junks that were drifting hopelessly down-stream in an attempt to retreat to Wuchang, only to find that after they had been shelled in the junks they drifted down-stream in the face of Maxim fire, placed to greet them at the bend of the river. What happened to them has already been described, but can better be imagined.[2]

{144}
As I was dressing on November 27th my bedroom door was slowly opened. A smart young Chinese, a man from Yale University and one of the smartest men of his year, crept in and cautiously closed the door behind him.

“Man,” he said, “it’s all up. We are going to lose Hanyang.”

And then he began to tell me the story of the treachery. ‘Twas a sad story, true; but it gave the city away. Coming over to me, with sincerity shining in his eyes, he exclaimed: “Come, you’re a journalist; can’t you help us? Can’t you stop this dreadful carnage? The city has fallen completely. The Imperialists are in control of the hill and the city, with the arsenal, the powder factory, and much else.”

{145}
In a nutshell it may be said that the Revolutionary military cause in this immediate centre was with the fall of Hanyang irretrievably lost. It will be futile in this volume to go into the way the men behaved; they fled, many of them cowards, others struck down still sticking manfully to their duty, others barbarously bayoneted as they endeavoured to hold their guns on the hill and in the valley on the river bank; but that they were shamefully routed was borne out by the fearful misbehaviour of the Imperialists. On they came like a pack of maddened animals for the onslaught. They had no mercy. Every one within {146}reach fell at the point of the bayonet or was shot ruthlessly despite all humane methods brought to bear in surrender in war. The boating community, quietly adopting a neutral attitude, were served in the same heartless manner. Women, children, old men, babies—all were shot, and their corpses floated down-river in their drifting boats. Some of the sights were too terrible to behold. Old men and women were all subjected to the same cruel fate.

But leaving for the moment the fighting, we come to the Bund, in the afternoon, to watch the Red Cross Association conducting its errands of mercy. Out on the Bund—some shot through the head, through the limbs, through the body, all showing up in ghastly significance the horror of this war—we see ten, twenty, thirty, forty of the dead laid out for burial. Foreigners and Chinese all lend a hand to tie the bodies in matting, others heave them into the carts, the pavements are littered with the discarded coats and implements of war which the dead still held as evidence of this civil butchery; on a little way farther one finds a group of wounded on the grass plots waiting for the stretcher-bearers to return to take them to the hospitals. One was a mother with a little baby, the baby dying, the mother mortally wounded; others were civilians who had shown no fight; others were trained soldiers; others were recruits who had run at the sound of the machine-guns, shot in the back. Then there is the rumble of the wheels as cartload after cartload of the covered dead are conveyed out of sight, and the police set to work to pick up the blood-stained uniforms, the money-pouches, the little knick-knacks of the Chinese soldier’s paraphernalia. All is so sad, so significant.

Meantime over across the way the shells were falling into the capital of Wuchang. The air was rent again and again by the sharp booming of the Imperial big guns on Coffin Hill. Men came and went, looked down at the {147}pools of human blood that were swelling the rivers of blood through which China has yet to pass before this Revolution ends. The river was deserted. If a sampan ventured out into the stream rifles were set to work, and a hasty retreat was made. The people were downcast.

And this young Chinese, sent specially from General Li, who called upon me before I was dressed, had come asking whether I could not send a message from Li Yuan Hung to the world. “We don’t want to fight any more!” he excitedly exclaimed. “General Li is genuinely anxious that peace should be declared, that slaughter on this wholesale scale should be stopped forthwith. Although this reverse has overcome the Revolutionary Army, our cause on the field is not by any means lost. Even if we have lost Hanyang, it does not follow that our fighting strength is gone, and if it becomes necessary General Li will alter the base of fighting operations, a scheme which the Imperialists had under consideration before their victory yesterday. None were more surprised than the Imperialists themselves when they were able to march up Hanyang Hill without having to fire a shot. But the fact that they are in possession of Hanyang does not necessarily mean that the military conquest is entirely won, for if needs be we shall be able continually to augment our army from other provinces until such time as in the very nature of things the Imperial Army will have been weeded out, man for man, or two to one, or three, or four if necessary.”

I was sorry I was unable to help him.

I learned subsequently that, just an hour or so before Hanyang actually changed hands, Yuan Shih K’ai wired from Peking to the British Acting Consul-General here, asking him to inform General Li that he was anxious to hear what terms he proposed that peace might be established. This was just at the moment that Hanyang was passing.

{148}
What was to be the outcome of this Hunan dissension any one who knew the Hunanese would not be inclined to say offhand, but the fact that there has always been some little contempt mutually between the Hupehese and the Hunanese probably magnified the dissension in the military that occurred. One of the first arts of warfare is to cut off the pursuers. Now, when the Hunan men were in the city of Hanyang the Friday previous there was a little teashop squabble between a couple of dozen men, the Hupeh men being accused of flinching the hard graft of the front line. To this squabble is traced directly the capture of Hanyang by the enemy.

“We are always sent to the front,” said the Hunanese; “we are getting less pay, doing more work, suffering heavier losses in our ranks.”

Then one word brought forth another, the party offered to have a fight on the spot, some picked up their rifles and discharged a few shots, and one or two men were wounded. After that the Hupeh men were placed on the front line.

On the Saturday during a sharp engagement, in which the Revolutionists got the worst of it, a retreat at the double was made; the Revolutionary gunners opened with their three-inchers and endeavoured to cut off the pursuers, but instead dropped their shells among the first lines of their own men as they retreated. Upon this the Hunan men swore vengeance as they saw their comrades falling thickly around them. When they got under cover they refused to fight any more. They almost at once commenced to go back to Wuchang, where they declared they were going to talk terms with General Li, and so they lost one of the most impregnable positions in the whole of China—a veritable Chinese Gibraltar. And when the Imperialists were able to march upon Hanyang they never had such a delightful surprise in their lives. In conversation with an Imperial officer, who was leading the first regiment {149}to get into the city, I was told that they had almost given up all idea of ever capturing Hanyang. Had the Revolutionary men been kept under better control while off duty this never would have happened. The Imperialists stood a far greater risk of having dissension creeping in among their men, but they took great care that no such loophole should be offered to them. In Wuchang the people, essentially Chinese, talked so wildly about this Revolutionary reverse that it was found necessary to remove the heads of several, and war talk became absolutely taboo on the streets.

The Imperialists then directed their attention to Wuchang. Every hour the Revolutionists expected a bombardment. “We shall put up a bit of a fight, but it will be quite useless to expect to hold the city,” a prominent Revolutionary officer in the Foreign Office told me; “then our main army will go away at the back of the city and trek down to Kiukiang, concentrating at Nanking.” But the Imperialists somehow hung fire. They did not seem anxious to take Wuchang. Li Yuan Hung is reported to have declared that he believed the Revolution was lost; he told his second that the Imperialists were sure to come and capture the city, behead him, and kill all those who had no queues. That the Imperialists were doing their best to find out all they could of affairs on the opposite side of the river was evident. They collared one of the Revolutionary spies, and he was promised pardon if he would tell his captors something about the inside movements of Wuchang.

He set about to tell his story.—how that the whole of the officials, from General Li downwards, were in a blue funk; how that there were some ten thousand troops now in Wuchang; how that the intention was to blaze away with all the bluff in the world on the foreshore whilst the army was clearing out by the back gates of the city; how that if the Imperialists cared to march upon Wuchang they could capture it {150}forthwith. He then waited for the pardon that did not come.

DISMANTLED IMPERIAL GUN ON PURPLE MOUNTAIN, HANKING. The author is seen standing in the foreground of the picture.
DISMANTLED IMPERIAL GUN ON PURPLE MOUNTAIN, HANKING.
The author is seen standing in the foreground of the picture.
“Have you any more to say?” asked the officer to whom he told the story.

“No, I’ve told you all I know.”

“Well,” retorted the officer, “if this man has nothing more to tell us”—and he turned to a man who commanded the execution proceedings—”take him outside and have his head off.” In a couple of minutes the big knife fell, and the head of the best spy in the Revolutionary official camp rolled to the ground.

 

[1] The following story as told me by a Red Cross worker who was in charge of the Emergency Hospital, of what he saw before the Imperialists took the Hanyang Hill, will be of interest:—

“At 7.30 a.m. our launch made a trip to our Emergency Hospital in Hanyang. As the launch was needed for work in Wuchang until ten, I sent her away as soon as we had landed. At once we began to notice that there was a change of some kind about the place. There were very few soldiers about, and movement that was being made was in the direction of Wuchang. I noticed too, that the ground along the riverside was pretty liberally sprinkled with unused rifle cartridges, many in their clips. These seemed to betoken a somewhat hurried embarkation at least, but I thought that it might have been caused by a hurried dispatch of troops in the night. On arrival at the hospital, one of the Army Red Cross men said, “You’d better go back. It is dangerous to be here.” However, there were one or two cases awaiting our arrival, so we at once set to work to attend to them. A little later we noticed that the servants who had been so freely helping us had all disappeared, and presently I met one of them on the street carrying his bundles of goods off to the riverside. One of our number had some business inside the city walls, so we decided to go on with the work for the time being and await his report as to the state of things. After about an hour I had occasion to take a wounded man to the landing-place, some two hundred yards distant to await the arrival of the launch, and then found that there was some cause for uneasiness. All who could secure a sampan or other boat were hurriedly gathering their bits of goods together and making off up-stream against the current, all hands in the boat helping to row. It was the panic of the populace that feared the arrival of the enemy. I also overheard a quiet conversation between two Chinese coolies and gathered from their remarks that the Hunan raw recruits had been unable or unwilling to face the northern guns and had gone off by the regiment. Just then a dismantled gunjunk drifted down from somewhere up-stream. There was only one man on board, and his unseeing eyes were turned up to the full glare of the sun. He had evidently been the helmsman, and had died at his post. There were bullet marks on the woodwork, and a cap or two lay in the bottom of the boat, and I guessed what had become of the rest of the boatload. Promptly at ten o’clock I saw the launch steaming back to us, and almost at the same moment there was a movement on the part of some troops who had arrived on the Bund and wished quick transport to Wuchang. Some of them came down as the boat drew up, but I was informed that this launch was for wounded men only, of which there was quite a number now being brought in from the West Gate first-aid place. Whilst getting these on board, the Revolutionary Army Field Hospital Corps, with their stretchers rolled up and empty and their kit entire, marched up and began to make a move on our launch, saying that they also were Red Cross workers, but after a little difficulty I got them safely by to a boat farther up the river. They were told of the difficulty we were experiencing in getting coolies to carry their wounded down from the West Gate and other places, but they declined to stay any longer in a place that was “dangerous.” Some field-pieces had been brought in by the retiring troops, and one gunner, unable to get off his gun, brought in the breech block. There was no “scuttle,” but a systematic retreat of all sections of the army. On my way back to the hospital (the Baptist Church building) I met a regiment of troops marching up to the Bund. These had come from the top of Hanyang Hill immediately to the north of us, and as an officer had already been to tell us that the army was in retreat we decided to pack up everything—drugs, instruments, bandages, and all—and leave not even a splint behind. All the wounded were taken undressed, or with very rough dressing, to the launch as soon as we could secure bearers. Whilst making another trip to the launch with some gear, stray bullets pinged by my ear and plopped into the water. At the same time I heard a noise of firing at the west side of the city far more distinctly than on the previous day, and shrapnel began bursting in the city behind us. It was time we were off. Just as we were casting off some bearers were seen making their way towards us with another casualty, so we came alongside and took him in and then steamed away. When off Wuchang we were stopped by a zealous blackcoat, who presented the wrong end of his rifle to us and said that he would fire if we proceeded. We hove to and cast anchor, and waited for this man’s officer, who came up, gave him a scolding, and made him stand to attention in front of the field-piece his comrades had got ready to fire. We hauled up the anchor and got under weigh once more, but only to be hailed again by the next guard of soldiers at the battery some fifty yards farther down-stream. Once again we hove to. This time it was to take on a wounded man, who, they said, was a spy. I guessed that this was part of their joke, as we knew perfectly well that a suspicion of being a spy would have been more than enough to have sealed that man’s fate. Just as we had got under weigh for the third time in our short run to Hankow, the Imperialists fired a volley at us from somewhere in the neighbourhood of the China merchant’s godown. Most of the bullets fell short, some struck the water by the side of the boat just below where a group of Red Cross workers were standing. We then realised that the greycoats had worked their way back to the side of the river again. A few moments more, and the waterway between Wuchang and Hankow had become a veritable hell. Scores of boats were on the river, some being full of fleeing soldiers and others crammed with civilians, trying to get away from the greycoats; but orders had been given in Wuchang that all deserting Revolutionaries were to be shot, and so all craft on the river came in for a terrible cross fire from rifle, machine gun, shrapnel, and shell. We ran alongside and got off our thirty wounded, and a little later, when some of the boats that had weathered the storm of shot and shell began to drift down, I suggested that we should take the launch out into midstream and pick up the boats as they came down-river on the chance of finding some still alive. In this way we rescued three soldiers unwounded, six civilians and soldiers wounded, mostly of serious character, and then towed two boatloads of dead across to the Wuchang side and sent off the three unhurt soldiers with them. One of the wounded we had picked up died almost immediately. Our attention was next attracted to a big boat crammed with men, women, and children which was trying to reach the Wuchang side of the river. Destitute of oars, the panic-stricken folk were using the loose floor boards in frantic attempts to escape. On our approach they set up terrible cries for mercy. By the time we got alongside we were close in to the Wuchang shore, not far from a huge timber-raft. The scene was truly piteous. Women were on their knees imploring us to spare them. One man was so beside himself with terror that he jumped into the air and threw himself on to the deck, evidently under the impression that he was plunging into the water. In vain we tried to tell them that we had come to save and to heal the wounded who were lying about the boat. Then a new difficulty arose. Just as we seemed to succeed in calming the fears of the terrified creatures a company of Revolutionary soldiers raced down the banks and along the huge raft with their rifles at “the ready.” One or two dropped down behind the logs, covering us with their guns, whilst others ordered us to leave the boat alone or they would fire. I stood at the bow of the boat holding up both hands as a signal, but they would not recognise the large Red Cross flag floating above me or listen to my arguments. So, after having looked down the other end of the rifle for quite a time, we gave up the attempt and left the boatload to its fate. What that was we soon saw. Their goods were seized by the soldiery and they were led up the banks under arrest. The soldiers were evidently carrying out their orders to allow no one to retreat from Hanyang. A subsequent visit of the Red Cross launch to the creek near by the raft resulted in the bringing over of many wounded found there. Some, however, had already been taken into Wuchang for treatment in the overcrowded hospitals there. On this journey we learned something of the awful fate that had befallen the innocent in their attempt to reach a place of safety. One was the sole survivor of the family who had started out on their journey a few hours before. One little lassie of some twelve summers as I was carrying her to the shore told me that all her people had been killed with the exception of herself and her father, and he was also wounded severely. A woman was found who had been shot through the hand as she had tried to shelter her baby girl—the poor little mite had been shot through the head. I carried the child up to the shore, and sent the woman and her dying babe to the Margaret Hospital.”

[2] Startling stories of the cruelty of the Imperial soldiers who visited the Hanyang battlefields after the retreat of the rebels were told by every one who went over the battlefields. One writer said:—

“I went with a party of Red Cross men all over the battlefields after the capture of Hanyang by the Imperialists. We went on bicycles, riding over the Han by the pontoon bridge, going out at eight o’clock in the morning and not returning until after six. During that time we covered a great deal of territory, and saw evidences of almost incredible cruelty on the part of the Imperial soldiers. We came up with a party of four or five of them wearing Red Cross badges, but carrying arms instead of first-aid kits. They told us that they were Red Cross men and thoroughly understood their duties, which were to bring in any wounded Imperial soldiers and to kill all the wounded rebel soldiers. There was plenty of evidence that they had been carrying out that programme, and they were very indignant when we interfered and prevented their killing a wounded rebel. We met several parties of this kind.

“All over the battlefield there were wounded rebel soldiers and non-combatants, who had lain for four or five days without food or water or any kind of attention. We were passing through one village when a woman called out to us that there was a wounded man there. We got off our bicycles and looked for the man, finding him under a bunch of straw in the road, where he had lain for several days without food or water, while hundreds of coolies passed by. We found that he had a compound fracture, and called for some of the villagers to help us carry him inside. None of them would help, and we had to carry him into a hut ourselves. The villagers gave him tea and water only when we insisted on it. We asked them why it was they would allow a wounded man to remain inside their village for such a long time without giving him any attention, and finally got at the reason. When the fighting started four wounded rebels and one wounded Imperialist came into the village, and a woman took them into her house and gave them food and a place to sleep. The following day a band of Imperial soldiers came to the village in search of their wounded men and were told of this. They went to the house, removed the wounded Imperial, then put all of the members of the family in the house, with the wounded rebels, walled up the doors, and set fire to the place. After telling us this story, the villagers took us to the house and we saw the bodies half burned amidst the ruins. As the villagers were afraid to help us in any way or to allow us to place the wounded rebels in their houses, we carried two to an abandoned hut in the middle of a field, dressed their wounds, and buried them down in straw as best we could. We had no guard to leave over them, nor did we have any stretcher-bearers with us, so we planned to come back and get them the following day. In order to protect them as much as possible, we pinned on each one a card stating that these people had been taken charge of by the foreign Red Cross, and asked all to protect them. When we went back the following morning, we found one of the men dead, his face mutilated by bullets fired at close range. The other one had not been harmed, though almost dead with fright. He said that only half an hour before we came a party of Imperial soldiers visited them. The wounded men showed them the card we had left and pleaded with them for mercy. The Imperials spat on them, and then walked just outside the door and fired. It seems that all of the guns were aimed at one man, which was the reason the other escaped, for the Imperials left immediately after the firing. There were many non-combatants wounded—we treated eight in one small village. One of them was a woman who had been shot through her small foot. Another had been shot through the leg; one old man, seventy-six years old, crawled an English mile with a broken leg to get assistance from us. All of the wounded people we treated had been wounded for four or five days and had remained all of that time without any kind of attention, because of the fear of the people that the Imperialists would wreak vengeance on any one that aided the wounded. The line of retreat was covered with ammunition, arms, haversacks, and clothing. I believe that there must have been a full trainload of ammunition alone.

“The missionaries in Hankow are doing noble work caring for the wounded. The seats of the churches have been turned into beds, and the missionaries risk their lives daily in caring for the wounded and rescuing them from the battlefields.”

 

 

{151}

CHAPTER XII

THE REPUBLIC SEEKS RECOGNITION
Although Hanyang had fallen, the Revolution was by no means lost; this the intelligent reader will easily be able to see. During the past six weeks the Reformers had been so hard at work that a Republic had practically been recognised by the Powers, America being especially friendly. The following address by Dr. Wu Ting Fang had been sent out to the world, and had caused a profound impression:—

“THE REPUBLIC OF CHINA ASKS RECOGNITION.

“The Chinese nation born anew in the travail of revolution extends friendly greetings and felicitations to the world.

“As the Republic of China it now asks that recognition by the civilised Powers which will enable it, with the assistance of their kindly offices, to erect upon the foundations of honest government and friendly trade and intercourse with all peoples, a peaceful and happy future.

“The Chinese people are not untried in self-government. For countless ages they ruled themselves; they developed observance of the law to a degree not known among other races; they developed arts and industries and agriculture and knew a peace and contentment surpassingly sweet.

“Down upon them swept the savage hordes of an alien and warlike race. The Chinese people were conquered and enslaved. For 270 years this bondage existed. Then the Chinese people arose and struck a blow for freedom. Out of the chaos and dust of a falling throne emerges a free and enlightened people—a great natural democracy of 400,000,000 human beings.

“They have chosen to set up a Republic and their choice we believe is a wise one. There is no class of nobility among the Chinese and they have no recognised royal family to set up in place of the departing {152}Manchu Royal House. This is a great democracy. The officials spring from the people and to the people they return. There are no princes, lords, dukes among the Chinese. With the Manchu throne removed there is left a made-to-order Republic. Already we have provincial assemblies and our National Assembly. Already we have a Republic with a full set of competent officials.

“Within a very few days our constitutional convention will meet: arrangements for it were made long ago. At this convention there will be fully authorised delegates from every province in China. A constitution of the most enlightened character will be adopted and new officers of the provisional government elected. Following this will come, under the provisions of the constitution, the provincial and national elections.

“It is imperative that our government be recognised at this time in order that business may not be subjected to prolonged stagnation. There is peace everywhere save at Hankow, but business cannot proceed until the new Republic shall be welcomed among the nations of the world.

“We ask recognition in order that we may enter upon our new life and our new relationships with the great Powers.

“We ask recognition of the republic because the republic is a fact.

“Fourteen of the eighteen provinces have declared their independence of the Manchu Government and promulgated their allegiance to the Republic. The remaining provinces will, it is expected, soon take the same course.

“The Manchu dynasty finds its power fallen away and its glitter of yesterday become but a puppet show. Before going it has stripped itself of authority by consenting to the terms of the proposed constitution which already have been made public.

“The most glorious page in Chinese history has been written with a bloodless pen.

“(Signed) WU TING FANG
“(Director of Foreign Affairs.)”

And towards this end the Revolutionists were working. During the war each day had brought news of some province or part of a province having gone over. Li Yuan Hung and his associates were never morally stronger than when Hanyang fell. The military defeat mattered but little, for the Chinese are a democratic people, and each day brought more moral support.

{153}
The dynasty was still left standing, but in all other respects the desires of the Revolutionists had been sanctioned by the Sovereign. The Throne itself had been stripped of its power and prestige, and had been forced to act at the dictation of the National Assembly. The surrender on paper appeared to be complete, though it must be steadily kept in mind that in China, less perhaps than in any other land, are promises and concessions always held to be irrevocable. Yuan Shih K’ai had been invested with an authority which was practically supreme. He was at once Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy employed against the Yangtsze Revolutionists. In the best interests of the Chinese people it was to be hoped that they had been inspired by an unfeigned desire on both sides to reach an accommodation without further bloodshed; but in no country are delusive negotiations more habitually employed than in China as a means of gaining time, and it was at least conceivable that in the present crisis each leader would believe that time was on his side. In a few days it was expected that Yuan Shi K’ai’s party would show what degree of influence it could exert over the insurgent provinces. The number of these provinces continued to grow, and, in at least some instances, the movement in them seemed to be deeply tinged with a particularism which tended strongly towards separatism.

The Empire was, indeed, as a writer in the Times put it, “bubbling like a cauldron,” but a good many of the bubbles may subside, under judicious handling, with surprising rapidity. What seemed certain, however, so far as anything is certain in China, was that the old Monarchy had fallen never to rise again, and that it would drag down much in China in its fall. It had long survived its day. Its servants, like the servants of Solomon in the Koran, had propped up a corpse and summoned {154}kings and princes to do it homage. They bowed down before it, says the story, so long as it stood upright. But at last the worms gnawed away the staff on which it rested, it lay prone in the dust, and the world fell into confusion.

With the fall of Hanyang, millions of people, Chinese and foreigners, were speaking or thinking chiefly of one question those days, What would be the fate of the rebellion? Bound up in this question were many others, its corollaries. Would the rebellion be now speedily crushed, or succumb only after a prolonged civil war which would sap the already decimated resources of the country, partly suspend and disorganise business, and cause enormous destruction to life and property? Or would the Revolutionary forces quickly defeat the Government armies, acquire following and resources by success, and replace the existing Government at Peking with another and, if so, what kind of Government?

One may understand, and to some extent sympathise with, the motives and ideals of the Revolutionists without approving their course. It was generally agreed that the Government of China wanted reforming, but there was wide divergence of opinion as to method. Two general hypotheses for reform seemed practicable: to impose constitutionalism upon the present monarchical system and Dynasty, or to wipe them out and begin anew.

It would profit nothing to change the Government of China unless the change meant improvement. If the present Dynasty would be overthrown, what would replace it? Another Dynasty, or a Republic? A new Dynasty would, under existing circumstances, take for its head some popular leader since none of the Chinese Royal House was fitted for the place. This might improve conditions in China, and it might not. A successful republic, with conditions as they were, was practically impossible; and it is questionable if {155}a republican form of government is suited to the Chinese nation and people. None of the elements of genuine republicanism existed in the Empire. The course of events, as caused by the Revolutionary party, was being closely observed. They had set out to fight for their freedom, and now, with the fall of Hanyang, the military cause seemed lost. All nations were interested in the fate of China. Already one Power, the United States, was devising ways and means to safeguard against abrupt and inharmonious international action, in case any action became necessary. The Times expressed the view that the Revolution would fail. Present indications were that the opinion was well founded. But even if it failed, that revolt was to leave a deep psychological impression on the reigning Dynasty, the Chinese, and the world.

But what was happening elsewhere?

On December 2nd the following message was flashed over the wires: “Nanking city has fallen. Foreigners safe. Revolutionists entering city.” For many days a most determined battle had been going on at Nanking. The Revolutionists, fired with a zeal intensified because of the fall of Hanyang, were endeavouring to get into the city—a feat which seemed for long impossible. The capture of the city of Nanking was the counterpoise to Hanyang’s loss. Every one knows much more about Nanking. This city was the old capital of China, and of more political importance probably than Hanyang—it would be made the capital—and so the Revolutionists thought they still had the better part of the bargain. There is no space to dwell upon all the terrible blood-shed, of the Manchu decapitations, and much of the savagery which rendered the days leading up to the capture of Nanking hideous to one’s memory. But it has so vital a bearing on the situation that some reference to the city’s capture is necessary.

“The long-expected happened this morning at 7 a.m.,” said an American writer on December 2nd, {156}”and the city is gone over. The first intimation that the end was near was Friday morning early. The previous night there had been very heavy fighting at Hsiakuan, Taiping Gate, and the South Gate, especially about the fort just outside the gate (Yu Hua Tai). General Chang, commanding the Imperialists, asked the co-operation of the foreigners in the city, the terms upon which he agreed to the surrender of the city being as follows:—

“1. No killing of the people in the city, or of the Manchus.

“2. No killing of his soldiers or officers.

“3. Safe conduct for himself out of the city on his way north via Pukow, together with his own men.

“These were rather staggering for our faith to propose to a victorious army which had its enemy demoralised, and most of the officers were only too willing to admit it. Furthermore, neither Chang Hsuin nor any one else knew who was in command of the rebels, nor where he might be found. However, arrangements were immediately made for our going out of the South Gate, and within half an hour we were off, Mr. Tseo, U.S. Vice-Consul Gilbert, and myself, together with four of the bodyguard of General Chang. We went through the South Gate just at twelve noon. The comparatively few loyal troops stationed on the South Gate, Tung Tsi Gate, Hung Wu Gate, and the Chao Yang Gate in turn sent word on ahead down the wall not to fire on us as we skirted the wall trying to find the rebel forces. We carried the American flag and also a white flag. A few of the thatched-roof houses along the way were burned, but few other signs of war could be seen. As we neared the Chao Yang Gate the shells being fired from the lower peak of Purple Mt., apparently into the Imperial or Manchu city, whistled through the air, but far enough away to be only interesting. It was not till we got within {157}sight of the Ming tombs that we could see the rebels, most of whom were on the top of the mountain, but we made for a small group on the lower foothills, and about two o’clock came up to them.

“A quiet, self-contained person seemed to be in charge of the group, and upon asking him where the general in command was, he replied that he was that person, so we were extremely fortunate, and stated our errand at once. The first two propositions were agreed to very readily, but of course the third was impossible. We then got his terms of surrender, which were:—

1. Chang Hsuin must surrender, but could live in any place in the city he chose, where his life would be fully protected until the final settlement of China’s present difficulties.

2. All of his troops must lay down their arms in a certain drill-ground in the city, and come out of Taiping Gate empty-handed, and be permitted to depart one by one.

3. Government funds in the hands of the military authorities, amounting to about $800,000, must be turned over to the new Power.

4. The above terms must be complied with by eight o’clock on December 2nd—that is, the next morning.

“After a pleasant farewell we returned to General Chang’s yamen, arriving about five p.m. The General positively refused to consider the terms, declaring that he would have to fight till death, and could not be persuaded to alter his mind. We told him that, such being the case, we felt no longer safe under his protection, and would ask for safe conduct out of the city, which was readily granted, and plans were made for those not absolutely needed for the Red Cross work to leave the city early the next morning. However, about ten o’clock, General Chang’s secretary again came over, saying that the General with a number of {158}his men had fled the city by the I Feng Gate and were to cross the river at Pukow and try to make their way northward. In about an hour we were able to confirm this rumour as fact, and so Dr. Macklin, who was personally well acquainted with the highest officer, who had not gone out with his General, and whose sentiments he knew, found out that he and his soldiers—about a thousand—were willing to run up the white flag at daylight, so we decided not to leave the city. About five o’clock Dr. Macklin with his officer went to the Taiping Gate, where they were soon joined also by the American Vice-Consul. The firing was quite heavy by this time, it having begun before daylight, but as soon as the white flag together with the American flag was seen the General sent a messenger down to see what it meant, and when he knew it was the peace representative of the day before and that the soldiers were willing to surrender, he was willing that the loyal officer with the Vice-Consul, Dr. Macklin, and Mr. Garrett come outside and arrange the details. This they did at once, and General Ling, the rebel leader, and General Chao, the one highest in command of the loyal troops in the city, stepped aside and made arrangements that were mutually satisfactory, the character of which was not fully divulged. General Chao then made his men stack arms, and they marched out empty-handed, and the laying down of arms of the remaining loyal troops had proceeded satisfactorily all day, judging by all appearances. It was not long before white flags were flying on Lion Hill forts, the Drum Tower, and many other places. The troops began to pour into the city and were detailed off to their respective stations according to previously arranged plans apparently, and the city began to rejoice after its long days of waiting and uncertainty. Occasional shots have been heard throughout the day, but probably nearly all of them are for the moral effect upon those inclined to take advantage of a possible confusion to-night to loot.”

{159}
Any one entering Nanking the day after would never have known from the look of things that anything had happened. Most of the Revolutionary soldiers had entered the city. An extra large force of police were patrolling the streets; the people were going about their business as usual and perfect order prevailed. The Revolutionists, unmoved from Wuchang, had gained Nanking and lost Hanyang: the Imperialists had lost Nanking and had gained Hanyang. This was the position when peace was thought of. On the last day of November I was personally asked, as one representing the China Press of Shanghai, to publish the following statement to the world as embodying General Li Yuan Hung’s wishes:—

“I desire an armistice in order to communicate with the other republican centres, that I may ascertain their views whether the conflict will be carried on or whether the Republicans will meet in conference with the constitutional monarchists to arrange a compromise.

“I myself have all along desired to put an end to the internecine warfare, the bloodshed and suffering, the destruction of property, and the dangers of foreign intervention.

“To this end I now declare my willingness to make any concession which will insure an end to the slaughter. My plan is to have the Republicans and the Government proclaim an armistice so that the issues can be discussed by proper representatives of both parties.

“If, however, the united Republicans of the nation desire the war to continue, I am willing to remain in the field and continue to the bitter end.”

 

* * * * *

The issues were now, so it seemed, a Monarchical Government or a Republican Government—the Manchus, every one believed, had been eradicated for ever. And at this juncture it will give the reader a better idea of the political situation in Peking if I reproduce an official statement published a few days previous by Yuan Shih K’ai. It reads as follows:—

“China has, through centuries, been in a sense loosely governed. We have had what might be termed a crude or patriarchal form of {160}monarchy, the slackness of the governing body resulting in the people developing little respect for government and very little understanding of the responsibilities of a people toward a government. The present agitation for a Republic has carried to the people as a mass only the idea that popular government means no taxes and no government. I can see in it, under existing conditions, no promise of stability, at least not for several tens of years. Among the progressives of the Empire there are now two schools of thought, one favouring a Republic and the other a constitutional monarchy. I doubt whether the people of China are at the present time ripe for a Republic or whether under present conditions a Republic is adapted to the Chinese people. The situation in China is complicated by a number of different factors perhaps not understood abroad.

“In the first place there still exists among the masses a strong sectional and provincial feeling. While this has undoubtedly died out among those educated on modern lines, still this is only a comparatively small element of the country’s vast population. In considering the form of government to give stability it is necessary to consider the vast majority of the people rather than the small minority.

“It is already manifest that the interests of the different sections of the country are very diverse. We find the advocates of Republicanism splitting among themselves. The educational, army, local gentry, and commercial parties have all divergent views. Small groups are being formed and struggling for ascendancy. If that is permitted to develop on a large scale, there will be a split-up and this evidently will bring foreign interference and partition. Although the Manchu government has done nothing that has drawn to it the hearts of the people, yet with the power of the people restricted as provided by the nineteen articles forming the constitutional bill of rights, the real governing power would be in the hands of the people.

“The adoption of the limited monarchy would bring conditions back to the normal, would bring stability, much more rapidly than that end could be attained through any experimental form of government unsuited to the genius of the people or to conditions as they are found in China.

“My love for China and the Chinese people is certainly as great as that of any of those who are advocating the radical step of establishing a Republic. My sincerity in the cause of reform has been demonstrated. I have undertaken what is really a stupendous task, not through any desire for power, nor love of fame but solely in the hope of being able to restore order out of chaos and to do some good for China.

“I am still hopeful of reaching some compromise that will satisfy all elements of the people sincerely desirous of preserving the integrity of the country and restoring peace and stable government throughout the {161}land. I believe the Chinese to be a reasonable people and that there is no desire on the part of any considerable element to see the country disrupted and destroyed. What I am working for is a compromise with the advanced or Republican party with a view to ending the suffering and removing the troubles and complications with which this country is beset and threatened.

“With regard to the character and magnitude of the ‘independence’ movements. I do not regard the situation to have been carried beyond the possibility of compromise. Governmental authority has, it is true, been overthrown in the capitals of most of the provinces and a few men in each have framed something similar to a declaration of independence, but this does not seem to me to imply absolute secession of these provinces. In most of these capitals, the control is in the hands of conservative citizens who are holding the situation on something like a neutral basis. Their object is primarily to keep down anarchy. They desire to preserve order, to protect life and the property of the people. While the more radical elements are insisting upon a republic the better elements seem to me to be neutral. I have favoured a project to gather together from the different provinces the men who enjoy the confidence of the people in order that there may be a thorough discussion of the great question of what the form of China’s government shall be.

“I believe that question should be discussed sanely and soberly. It is too big a question to be discussed in heat and passion.

“My only reason in favouring the retention of the present Emperor is that I believe in a constitutional monarchy. If we are to have that form of government, there is nobody else whom the people would agree upon for his place.

“Of course the reforms wiping out the distinctions between Chinese and Manchus must be made effective in any event.

“The great question, the overshadowing question, is the preservation of China. To accomplish this end all patriots should be willing to sacrifice secondary considerations of policy and of course all considerations of self. My sole aim in this crisis is to save China from Dissolution and the many evils that would follow. If we are to save China there must be a stable Government and at once. Every day’s delay is dangerous. I hope the same progressive thought of the country will see this, and will co-operate with me to secure the all-important end.

“The task I have undertaken is as thankless as it is stupendous. I am being subjected to misrepresentation, criticism, attack from all sides. This is to be expected. I must stand it.

“But I do not intend to let it swerve me from my endeavour to do what I conceive to be my highest duty, which is to labour solely for the end of preserving China from disruption and from dissolution.”

 

{162}
But about this time it was fortunate that the start of peace came, as a surprise to us all. Before Hanyang fell Yuan Shih K’ai had been endeavouring—so it was reported from Peking—to get peace talk started. He was afraid of what was coming.

December 4th should be the day upon which the historian of the Revolution will fix as the most important moment in the whole of this war. For at 8 a.m. a truce for three days commenced, and high authority on both sides stated that both Imperialists and Revolutionists hoped strongly that the lull of fighting would be productive of definite terms of peace. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, till eight o’clock in the morning—after then, what? And seeing that in China no thinking person is foolish enough to think himself a prophet, even of the most truly expected, it seems that to give a general idea of the situation at the front at this time would be perhaps the best that one can do. During these days I had several conversations with high officers in both camps, and was perhaps better informed on the possibilities than most folk, but from the first I made up my mind that a great surprise awaited me if the peace talk were successful. I was frequently in the camps of both parties. As for the Revolutionary party, there was hardly any camp left, if buildings made it. For a large fire at the Provincial Assembly Hall had pretty well ruined that magnificent edifice, and General Li Yuan Hung and his bewildered associates shifted their offices to a smaller and more sheltered spot in Wuchang. But it was very little use going to them for information, for they themselves were wondering what the victors intended to do. They themselves had made full arrangements for clearing out, had very little hope that Wuchang would be saved, believed that Yuan’s army would now sweep them up, and so had but scant belief in the sincerity of Yuan Shih K’ai in calling for peace.

THE UBIQUITOUS BOY. The last to leave the Sing Seng Road when the Imperialists took possession was a boy, who coolly blazed off all his ammunition. The first to return was the small boy–in search of fun or treasure.
THE UBIQUITOUS BOY.
The last to leave the Sing Seng Road when the Imperialists
took possession was a boy, who coolly blazed off all his
ammunition. The first to return was the small boy—in
search of fun or treasure.
One morning I called at the office, just below the {163}Tachimen Railway Station, to interview the secretary of Yuan—a Mr. Wong Kai Wen—who had full administrative control here. To be in the presence of Mr. Wong is to be with a man who makes you feel his deep thoroughness. His essential alertness holds you. His deep, penetrating eyes look at the thing and take in the vital parts at a glance. He is acute, not to be deceived; frankness, touched with a little Chinese sleekness, looks you straight in the eyes when he speaks to you, and altogether the man Yuan chose to wait behind and direct affairs at this end magnificently fills the bill. About him there were no signs of the military. He knows practically nothing about the way to lead an army into battle, but not a single thing of official note passed him. He looked just like a respectable member of the teacher community. His long dark-blue wadded gown and his ordinary round hat, Chinese shoes and socks, his small queue, his slender moustache, which he thoughtfully pulled at when he talked to me—all these and many other characteristics told me that he was typically Chinese. There was nothing foreign about him in appearance. The things he used were Chinese exclusively. In short, he was a polished Chinese gentleman. But when he addressed me he spoke magnificent English—knows English etiquette as we know it ourselves. These were the rough impressions I got of the man when I found him in a little back room of a private house near to the Imperial base just after Hanyang had been captured.

About him there were many hangers-on. With the military camp not a hundred feet away there was intense excitement, which every one in front of the foreigner was vainly attempting to subdue. Men came in with messages, and were quietly turned aside. Wong rose several times from his chair as he spoke with me, and hurriedly went to listen to some spies who had a story to tell him. ‘Twas all hurry, all was organised capitally and worked smoothly, for there were many {164}men on hand. Along the lines carriages of ammunition were going out towards Hanyang. From Hanyang captured carriages were coming, all tied low down with tarpaulins so that nobody could see. Meantime, there was a rumour in the camp that Yuan had been assassinated, and that the parties were talking peace. And here was Mr. Wong, Yuan’s secretary, reading his dispatches and carrying out his wishes.

Most ardent preparations for further fighting counterbalanced the peace suggestions. Was there to be any more fighting? Ah, who knew? It was not wise to talk of such things. All this was exceptionally difficult business that Chinese should fight Chinese. But who could bring forward any way out of it. No; from Mr. Wong Kai Wen there was no news to be got, but he let drop little things that led one immediately to believe that Yuan’s party were not in for talking peace. They had taken Hanyang, they would soon, so it appeared, have Wuchang, and that would make the Revolutionary cause lost altogether.

This was the impression which the Imperial camp gave to me. Then I went over to the Revolutionary camp, finding that both factions had many palpable differences. To go into General Li Yuan Hung’s offices was to enter a semi-Occidentalised yamen. The staff were dressed in European clothes, they had no queues, their hats were mostly American felts, they talked English more or less, many of them had been trained in American universities. They treated you in an Occidental manner, told you their plans frankly, and one could feel that they were to be believed. They knew and they confessed that the military cause here was gone, but when I questioned them as to the ultimate issue of the Revolution they proudly pointed to certain epochs of history in my own country and asked me whether I thought it possible that the country could ever be again what it had been. The anti-foreignism of the north and the massacring of the foreigners at {165}Sianfu in Shensi they deplored sincerely, and felt that it was in the banditti and the hooliganism in the Empire that they had a problem difficult of satisfactory solution.

I felt the sincerity of those men. Their enthusiasm got into me, I felt that they were a band of young reformers whose only fault lay, not in their ability, not in their determination, not in their belief in how things should be done, but in their little lack of stability and lack of unity. They believed that China must now change, and that the change would not be the kind of change that the Manchu Government would have brought in, but a real reform that would raise the masses of the people and bring China out into the foreground of the world. And as I spoke to those men I felt it, too. But there was one failing, that slight lack of stability. They needed leaders. Not for one moment wishing to minimise the extraordinary powers of calm foresight and sound administrative ability of General Li Yuan Hung, which had kept the whole party together during its most trying times of defeat, the Revolutionary party needed leaders who had been in the business before. They were all apprentices in the art of administrative and national rebuilding, and they needed a few master-men to guide them in their political journeyings. If they failed, however, it was not because they did not wish to do the right thing, not because they did not know how to do it; but because of the lack of downright practical experience; they were not able to give to current events their current bearing upon their one mutual aim.

Here they were, a strong man at the head of them, and all looking confidently towards him, like a lot of schoolboys with a teacher to whom they looked for everything. Immediately after Hanyang fell, the Wuchang party were scared for fear the city would be bombarded and they lose their heads. Within forty-eight hours, however, they had regained their courage. {166}On November 30th, when I went over the river, as my boat pulled into mid-stream, the boatman told me blandly that he should expect at least treble rates, as he ran a great risk in coming at all—the Imperialists were sniping at every boat, he told me, and he felt it was only wise and fair to let me know. Just as he spoke I heard a bullet whizz past me. In a couple of minutes the big gun from Wuchang sent a shell away over my head, which drew fire from a field-piece in the unskilled hands of a very poor gunner on the Hankow side, the shell of which dropped noiselessly into the water a few yards in front of my little boat. Once on the other side, however, there was no further fear from firing. Rumours had been flying round to the effect that Wuchang was being evacuated, and, although on the river-banks people were building their boats and mending their nets as usual, it did not take the mind of a Spencer to take in the remarkable change that had so soon come over the city since the fall of Hanyang. A week previous I had been to Wuchang and was impressed everywhere with the doing and driving of every one in the streets and in the shops, with briskness of trade, and the cocksureness of the people. With their queues discarded they were then doing a roaring trade in small cloth and silk caps, made after a foreign pattern, which they wore proudly in defiance to the little round Manchu hat. These caps were met with at every turn, hung on nails in the wall above the street-vendors’ stall; they were fetching as much as seventy cents apiece. To-day they could be had for twenty. Men who had made their purchases now laid aside the foreign article and fell back to the round hat with the little red knob on the summit. In the streets half the shops were closed, the other half doing a little trade and meanwhile preparing to take away most of the valuable stocks. Huge loads were standing outside the doors ready to be taken away as soon as the busy coolie gangs had time to attend to them; old men and {167}women, carrying all their belongings in small baskets, were tiao-ing as hard as they could go; through the gates, now no longer guarded by a cocksure squad of military, but thrown wide open, came the constant hurrying stream of urban residents, who now were removing to the country. In China at such times as this one is held almost awestruck with the manner in which people clear out. Homes which perhaps had been held together for many generations were being evacuated in a couple of hours—the old father and the old mother took the children, the sons shouldered the heavy family furniture, the wives hobbled along behind with the babies, and altogether they silently went out of the city in a mournful procession. They hardly knew where they were going, but in the city trouble was brewing, and they were taking no risks of being shelled or burned out of their little hovels as had been done to thousands of their race over the river at Hankow.

As I went into the city I must have passed five thousand people—mostly in little processions of sixes and sevens, wending their way through the gates out of range of the fire of guns. I could not help but look upon them in pity, for disappointment was writ large upon their faces. They were some of the great percentage of the Chinese proletariat who delight to go with the crowd, like to shout with the majority. A fortnight earlier the Wuchang Republican party was on the top, was commanding all that came before it, and therefore did the thousands of the non-thinking portion of the community of the capital city delight in being loyal supporters. But now the tide for the time seemed to have turned, they were being bandied about from pillar to post daily, calamity after calamity seemed woefully to overtake them, and they almost wished, as they followed each slowly behind the other in common evacuation, that they had hesitated before plumping for the Revolutionaries. Tea-shops were almost deserted, rice-shops did no business, one felt that {168}the military activity was greatly bluff. Wuchang had suddenly become a forlorn city, and the inhabitants disappointed people. Outside the Assembly Hall the revolutionary flags flapped in the wind, and there was little evidence that the conditions of affairs inside had altered very much, but as I walked up the steps, showed my card, and asked to see the General the staff officers looked askance at me, asked each other whether I was of German nationality, and told me that for some considerable time it would be quite impossible to see General Li. As I moved about the offices, however, I confess to some admiration at the way in which, under all their adverse circumstances and the consequent disappointment which the re-taking of Hanyang must have been to them all, the officers were going about their work with a quiet dignity and assurance that they were working on a thing that was not soon to pass away. One of the young fellows, a man of some four-and-twenty, who one could easily see had been educated in the States, told me that they, were all as confident as could be that their present position was as strong as ever it was.

“The taking of Hanyang,” he told me, “is decidedly unfortunate, but we are making a new nation, a new country—we are not fighting military battles any more. There is now no further need for the killing of men. We are more concerned with the laying down of a new Government, and are desirous of having peace. Yuan Shih K’ai”—and here he paid a fitting tribute to Yuan’s power, although he was not bewilderingly eulogistic of his political squareness—”does not want to fight, so he says. If he is true, why does he not withdraw his army at once and let there be peace? What we shall do now is to retire down towards Shanghai, where we shall probably hold our first delegates’ meeting for the establishment of the Provisional Government, and by so doing we shall show to the world that we are by no means anxious to win our cause by killing our {169}own countrymen. If he wishes to fight, all the world will know now that it is not merely because we are the Revolutionary party, but because he will still be the aggressor. Our policy of evacuating this city is because we feel it wise to do so, so that fighting may cease, and it is indirectly an appeal to the world on behalf of humanity—for it takes two to make a fight.”

But this was very far-fetched, for the Revolutionists were equally keen to show that they had no intention of throwing up the sponge. Nanking’s success subsequently had the effect of firing them with the fighting spirit again, and the fact that the Nanking troops were expected to arrive at Wuchang—although this turned out subsequently to be false—gave a new fillip of enthusiasm to the people. “They are not the new men, the recruits, they are the real trained soldiers,” cried the man-in-the-street, “as good as the best that go to make up the Northern Army.” The news spread rapidly from mouth to mouth, and the already excited soldiers showed increased anxiety because it was feared in their ranks that the rival leaders would so far be successful in their talk about peace that no further fighting would take place.

But no one could get any definite news of how much nearer we were to peace. Meantime at Hanyang and on the Yangtsze above and below that town strongest fortifications were being made. That Hanyang was the stronghold only a visit was needed to convince one; this, however, was difficult, for only the very privileged were afforded passes to go across the river. Things were buzzing at Hanyang; the Imperialist troops were itching for another battle, the whole place was fitted up in a most complete manner for further warfare, the Tortoise Hill was rendered absolutely impregnable, the camps were connected with both telephone and telegraph, and the Imperial army was going about its business as a body who understood thoroughly the business it was following.

{170}
Whatever they may have thought they could do, however, military experts declared that the Revolutionists had no position at all as long as the Imperial guns at Hanyang were able to pour shrapnel into them. With the railway cut off, the supplies of the Imperial forces would of course be cut off too, and in that way the Revolutionists would perhaps have been able to besiege them at Hanyang; but it would have been infinitely tedious. The cruisers, even if they had had ammunition, would under existing circumstances have been of little use. The four-point-seven guns at Hanyang would, with such decided advantage in being able to bang at them from a point where their own guns could not even been seen, have been able to silence them in a very short time. The damage that the Revolutionary guns would have caused to Hanyang would have been infinitesimal, and altogether the Imperial army would have held the trump card all the way along. On the face of things, it appeared little short of sheer madness for the Revolutionists to think of fighting so long as Hanyang were made the main Imperial base. But the Revolutionists themselves did not think so lightly of their chances. They were determined, and among the rank and file the war fever blinded the sight to all possibilities of defeat.

Sufficient has been said, perhaps, to show that further fighting would only take place to gratify the lust for blood of some of the grossly misguided leaders of the rival armies. Among the Republican leaders—General Li Yuan Hung and his party, as distinct from the military officers—the desire that war should forthwith cease was, I believe, absolutely sincere. General Li Yuan Hung had shown the world that what he said he meant: one could not point to a single public utterance from him and find that he had not done all that lay in his power consistently towards working out his promises. Li Yuan Hung was a man of political solidarity—not brilliant, but solid, sound, having an opinion {171}and fearing no one in stating clearly and openly that opinion. Not in one thing, but in dozens throughout this dreadful season of disturbance he had shown that if he failed in carrying out what he said he meant to carry out, it had not been because of any inconsistency of his own so much as of treachery among his army and instability among members of his party. He had announced frankly all along what he wanted, and what he would be prepared to pay for realising sooner or later.

He now stated that he wanted peace—peace at all costs; to re-establish peace and to ensure that the fearful bloodshed should stop, he was prepared to make concessions. The general conduct of Li Yuan Hung, unmarred as it had been by any unharmonious note with other members of his party and marked throughout by a stability of purpose which had surprised the whole world, had been such that his promises could be relied upon. He had shown sufficient of himself to warrant respect from all, friends and enemies alike, for he had acted cleanly. And now he wanted peace.

Meantime many of the most influential foreigners in Hankow were doing all they could to assist in the bringing in of peace. Merchants, missionaries, officials, and others were all anxious to assist with their influence for peace, and if war, with all its carnage and bloodshed and savagery, were again to come to menace this central part of China, it would come only as a direct desire from the Imperial army and with far greater horrors than had yet been seen.

If further war were to come? So much had been seen during the past eight slow-moving weeks to show what devastation and utter social wretchedness could be wrought when men elect to settle their differences by force of arms. The killing of men, the burning of property—these are brutal features, but not the worst by any means. By the side of the horrors that come along in the wake of these ghastly battles, these are barely worth consideration. The slain are, after all, {172}out of the misery they have helped to make. It is those who remain behind—those widows with the hungry, half-clad or naked children, homeless, foodless, friendless, with no roof above them at night but the cold, steely sky—these are the ones who suffer. The whole countryside, with its homeless and foodless people, its ruined, burnt-out hamlets and family homesteads, its ruined rice-crops, its cruel waste so wantonly forced upon it by the Imperialists, cried aloud in its weary desolation for peace. If the war were stopped, one thought that the bloody struggles of the past few weeks would become powerful agents of civilisation, reshaping and remoulding the Old China into a new land and a new people. But further war in that sad, sad country would tend only to make the passions of the armies wax fiercer and the hatreds more bitter.

Peace negotiations meantime hung in the balance. A fifteen-day armistice was agreed to, and by that time it was hoped that the Peace Conference would bring matters finally to a peaceful end.

* * * * *

His Excellency Tang Shao-yi is a magnificent fellow. He is calm, an infinitely human man, kindly disposed, easily approached, had borne a character that was clean. When he was appointed as plenipotentiary to the Peace Conference for Yuan Shih K’ai, the Revolutionists were pleased because Tang Shao-yi was known to be a man of extremely liberal views, sound, and not unsympathetic towards real reform. He had spent some considerable time abroad, and, coming with full power from Yuan Shih K’ai, was hailed with a good deal of pomp when he came to Hankow. In the British Municipal Building Tang Shao-yi had a suite of rooms, and rested in Hankow for a couple of days before going down to Shanghai, where, with mutual consent, the Peace Conference was to be held.

It must be made known that, as soon as Hanyang {173}fell, Dr. Wu Ting Fang, than whom is no better-known Chinese diplomat in the world, assumed a very prominent position in the ambitious Republican party. Dr. Wu Ting Fang was generally recognised to be the best man suited to carry on peace negotiations from the Revolutionary party, and he, with several secretaries and advisers, met Tang Shao-yi and his advisers in Shanghai on December 18, 1911. This conference was looked upon throughout the civilised world as an epoch-making event: it was to be a red-letter day in future histories. “Peace, peace,” ran the legend. Not only was one-quarter of the human race, and all that country and honour and liberty mean to them, immediately involved, but if one had the true prophetic eye he was able to look out upon a change whose effects would spread to the uttermost parts of the civilised globe. The effects of this Peace Conference then about to shape the future of this wonderful land were looked upon as immeasurable, illimitable. Dr. Wu Ting Fang, General Li Yuan Hung, able leaders of a movement shaking Chinese life to its vitals, on the one hand; Tang Shao-yi, Yuan Shih K’ai, representatives of the oldest faction of the whole human race, on the other hand—upon these men rested a world-wide responsibility it has seldom fallen to the lot of men to have had placed upon them.

“Peace, peace; at all costs let us have peace.” So, sincerely as it seemed, cried both parties. That both sides were in earnest there is every reason to believe. Those who knew General Li Yuan Hung, the youngest hero of the world, were able more and more to testify with increasing knowledge of the man that he wished nothing more than that China should be freed from the Manchu yoke. All else he would forego to establish peace that should bring prosperity, a peace that should be permanent and knit the whole Empire together as nothing else could. Those who knew Dr. Wu Ting Fang realised that, as an able leader of {174}modern thought and that party whose aim is progress, he was sincere in all that he did to bring about a China enlightened and able to stand in line with nations of the East and West. Tang Shao-yi was a man whose innate sincerity and true humility in high places had won the confidence of all who knew him. He was, as always he had been, veritably a political prince of peace. He loved his country.

And finally Yuan Shih K’ai. All knew him or of him. Some praised him, but it was a penalty of his greatness that some anathematised him. China to him also was as dear as his fame or his life. There were two pictures: a dawn of peace and tranquillity, a China freed from all racial bitterness, a China plunging manfully out and in her plunge being assisted by all the Powers of the world; the other picture shows a China going down to the deeps of internal despair, renewed hostilities, further bloodshed. And all those who knew what the war had been, those who had seen those twelve thousand mothers’ sons hacked and hewn and blown into eternity by infuriated members of their own great race entertained merely one common hope.

I went down to Shanghai and remained in that city whilst the Peace Conference was in progress. To go from the scene of action in Central China to Shanghai was to pass at one stroke from the din of war to the tranquillity of peace and undisturbed civilisation. Hard indeed was it for any one who had been through the crisis in Hankow actually to realise the peace of China’s great metropolis—the contrast was so enormous as to force it upon one’s imagination that the war was over, that peace assuredly had come. One missed the cannonading, the utter devastation and universal suffering, the burnt-out hamlets and the homeless thousands all over the countryside.

Tang Shao-yi, when he called upon Li Yuan Hung, was reported to have been very surprised at the meagre following that still stood by the Revolutionary leader—of {175}course, several delegates had already left for Shanghai, and he predicted that it would be only a matter of time when we should see the Republicans forced in the very nature of things to take the monarchical course. That General Li Yuan Hung and his supporters had been willing to sink their personal ambitions on behalf of the general welfare of the country had again and again been declared by their leader in the press and by other means. But Tang Shao-yi seemed, when I interviewed him in Hankow just before he sailed for Shanghai, to believe that this was mere Chinese bluff; he declared that they had no other course, and that they did this because they foresaw that their popularity soon would be greatly diminished when the gilt from the official gingerbread had rubbed off.

In the Hankow neighbourhood there were thousands who had no food to eat, no clothes, who had no idea of how they were going to keep body and soul intact during the coming winter, and some of the older conservative school were beginning to question whether it was, after all, worth the candle, and whether it would have been better to have gone in the same old way, bad as that had been. The result of the war in which they took so lively an interest was coming upon them as a horrible nightmare, and I am of the opinion that, although they were as much passively in favour of reform as they had been, four-fifths of the people were horribly tired of waiting for the good times which then seemed farther off than ever. All this was depressing to Tang, coming among it for the first time. But Tang Shao-yi was most generous in his references to General Li Yuan Hung. He thought that the zeal, the disinterestedness, and the abilities with which Li Yuan Hung had carried out so successfully the general principles of the Revolution, the persecution he had suffered and the ignominy that his army had brought to him, and the firmness and independence that he had shown under all circumstances should have had a strong claim {176}upon the sympathies of all people. But the great preponderance of the common people, those who had been hit hardest in the burning of their homes and the loss of all they possessed, were inevitably downcast and wished that it would all pass away and bring anything else so long as peace came with it. Therefore, all looked eagerly to the peace delegates. It was a season most trying to the Revolutionary party, for they were all waiting to see what the outcome of the negotiations would be; and this lull allowed of a little respite for talk. One department at Wuchang was suspected of taking away the power from another, one man from another; some thought that it would be better for General Li to go away and talk peace, whilst others declared that he could not get away because the party would not let him.

Tang Shao Yi, however, would not talk much about the general situation. He told me that he knew very little, that I should know much more than he of what had happened, and would be able to make a fairly good bid as to what would happen in the immediate future, and in spite of the fact that he was Yuan Shih K’ai’s chief peace delegate he could not tell what was in Yuan’s mind. “And you see,” he continued softly, “both sides are now so earnestly seeking for peace that it seems to me that there should not be much trouble about a complete settlement. We realise that they [referring to the Wuchang party] are so strong that we shall have to concede a good deal. There surely cannot be any more war, and if every one means what he says and is prepared to do his best for the best common interests, I think we shall soon complete the Peace Conference.”

Tang Shao Yi then looked into the fire. For some time neither of us spoke. He held his rheumatic-stricken arm under his fur gown, then looked up and switched off from political theorising to small talk.

The Revolutionary delegates, when this Peace Conference {177}was arranged, were in a frame of mind determined not to give way. A criterion of their attitude and aims for the Conference may be drawn from the following interview I was privileged to secure as I travelled down-river to Shanghai on board the same steamer with three of General Li Yuan Hung’s delegates. The chief man was one Hu Ying, whose main statement was as follows:—

“Our attitude towards Yuan Shih K’ai is summed up in a single sentence. If he obstinately upholds the Manchu Dynasty against the wishes of the people, then he is doomed for ever. He may succeed in overriding the wishes of the people for awhile, but no single man, however able, will be able to stand in the way of the people.

“We do not wish this to be a fight with arms. We know that it would take a good deal of time for us to be able to stand man for man with the Imperial Army, but we know that we have half the world at our back.”

 

Now, Mr. Hu Ying, this same man, some years ago narrowly escaped losing his head for being mixed up in an alleged Revolutionary escapade that cost his more enthusiastic confederate his head. He was the President of the Foreign Office of the Hupeh Government when I interviewed him. He was a man who to a very large extent had been the prime mover in the Republican dream of the future. For many years a strong Revolutionist, he had, however, been called upon to study the arts of Revolutionism in prison. For when the Revolution broke out he was still behind the prison bars in Wuchang, and under normal conditions would have passed the remainder of a miserable life dreaming of the great reforms he now hoped to help forward. He was a man who incontestably had the confidence of Li Yuan Hung. Mr. Hu was only one of a number of delegates sent down to join with Dr. Wu Ting Fang in upholding the Republican side of the argument against Tang Shao Yi and his assistants. They all represented General Li Yuan Hung and thoroughly understood his ideas. Mr. Hu and another of the {178}delegates—a Mr. C. T. Wang, who was a graduate of an American University and in China held the responsible position of the National Secretaryship of the Y.M.C.A. in China—were chosen to assist Dr. Wu by representatives of the various Revolutionary provinces represented at Wuchang. Hu Ying was a short, rather stout Chinese, who told me frankly that he felt fearfully out of it because he could not speak my foreign words, and a man who would never be taken seriously at first sight as one capable of shaping the foreign policy of the Chinese Empire. As a matter of fact, he was nervous with foreigners—it may be, of course, that his long term in prison had made him so—and looked up rather timidly over the steel rims of his glasses as he spoke. He laughed with buoyant candour over his own jokes, and was somewhat of a caricature in his foreign felt hat that was the only sign about him that he had ambitions for Occidentalising his country.

This hat was worn far back over his head in much the same way as he had been used to wearing the little round one; his glasses were tilted forward considerably on his little squat nose, his uneven teeth did not tend to enhance his personal beauty, and as one looked down upon him the only item in his general appearance that came in for admiration were his exquisitely furred silk gowns. ‘Twas cold, so he wore three of them, the top one a brilliant flowered blue. He was also a little short-sighted, had a slight stoop, endeavoured vainly to grow a moustache, had a queueless head of outrageously unkempt hair, and did not look a statesman. But he was one. In those jet-black eyes one could often see the fire of unquenchable enthusiasm as he spoke of the possibilities of his own country. He was, perhaps, what one would be justified in calling a typical Revolutionist. There was a cut about them all that was non-Chinese, and yet at heart, in word, and thought, they themselves were essentially Chinese. Perhaps this {179}was not so striking at Shanghai and other places on the coast, but one could tell in the Wuchang centre at a glance those who were rampant Revolutionists; the foreign cap worn on the rough, queueless head, the foreign boot, the alleged foreign coat sometimes and other desiderata of clothing, neither foreign nor Chinese, which had become sadly out of joint—these were the undeniable characteristics.

“Of course, you have been a Revolutionary for some years, have you not?” I asked Hu Ying.

Well, yes, he had. Some years ago—and he looked half-ashamedly at me, as if he were not quite sure whether it were now a fit subject for review—a very dear friend of his had been beheaded, and he had expected to be, for being rather outspoken and acting daringly along the direct line of their thought in regard to the way in which their country should progress. His references to prison life were not enthusiastic, although for sheer helplessness he laughed heartily now and again during the conversation as he recalled certain epochs of his years in gaol. He thought it most unjust, of course, and now that he was out and had been entrusted with the responsible duties of partly moulding the foreign policy of a New China, he saw plainly that his duty lay in working as hard as he could—and this, he informed me, he fully intended doing. The man who had lost his head would have been a good man, too, just at this juncture, but the poor fellow, a master in the Boone University in his time, had now paid the price with his head.

“And I think that every man in China who believes in his country and his own race can be nothing else than a Revolutionist—we are reformers rather, and no matter whether we belong to the Republican party, the Monarchical party, or any other party, if we love our country as we should, we must all be Revolutionists.”

His ensuing references to the Manchurian Dynasty, not bubbling over with praise, could have no purpose {180}were they printed here, save to show how great was the hatred of the Wuchang party towards the old rulers of China. During the conversation he referred to his companion, Mr. Sun Fa Shu, a portly, aristocratic gentleman dressed immaculately in latest foreign fashion—a long green tweed overcoat, a slouch cloth hat, gloves, walking-stick, and all the rest of it.

Mr. Sun all along had been the right-hand man of General Li Yuan Hung. Nothing happened in the Revolutionary court without Mr. Sun’s knowledge. He it was who framed all the Revolutionary edicts that had awakened the world, and was looked upon as the scholar of the camp. To his finger-tips he was an aristocrat. He spoke low and slowly, thoughtfully always, gave little gestures now and again to add to his meaning and to make it clear in Chinese, and showed great approbation when we caught the drift of his argument. Both these men in their conversation were charitable to every member of the Government, eulogistic of some, and would not have me for a moment believe that they wished to say anything wrong about any one. They were, they said, merely telling me truthfully what they thought. I referred to the length of time negotiations would take, and suggested that people would tire of waiting for the good times supposed to be coming. Did they think that the great bulk of the common people of China actually understood what the issues were?

Mr. Sun, with his gold-rimmed spectacles shining in the sunlight, looked from my feet straight into my eyes. He spoke with low emphasis. “There is, perhaps, no other nation in the world,” he began, “that loves peace and is so good-natured and patient as the Chinese. Yet when they are provoked they strike back with vigour. The Manchu arrogance and corruption are things which very few nations could bear. That we have borne them for over two hundred years shows our patience, but”—and he raised his delicate finger with {181}a slight shake to show his feeling on the point—”to everything there is a limit. The blow has now been struck, and the hundreds and thousands of patriots in China will never lay down their arms until the Manchu Dynasty is wiped out of existence and the Chinese once more manage their own affairs and in their own way.” Here he stopped, turned slightly in the indignation which his own thoughts gave him, and remained looking at his companion, who said nothing.

“But if the Manchu Dynasty has done some harm, surely you must admit that it has taught the people, no matter in what way, how to preserve peace and to love it?” I asked perseveringly.

“Much of the backwardness of the Chinese nation, as a nation,” retorted Sun Fa Shu, “has been due largely to the misrule of the Manchu Dynasty. Everybody knows it. Everybody admits it. Its first principle has been how to keep the people of China as ignorant and as poor as possible. For knowledge and wealth, when acquired by the Chinese, cannot but impair the supremacy of the Manchus, which has been maintained, like highway robbery, by sheer force. A China emancipated, therefore, means a China prosperous and enlightened. Except one or two nations whose principles are not above those of the Manchus, and who delight in land-grabbing and carnage of warfare, we feel sure that the world desires China to be a progressive and enlightened country.”

“But do you think the Revolutionary party, as it is, strong enough to establish conditions which shall permanently make for peace and real progress?”

At this point Mr. Hu Ying spoke. He said that he was convinced that they could, and if at first they could not institute ideal conditions, they would if they were given time. “The Anglo-Saxons,” he continued, “have taught the world the great lesson of government by representation—the Revolutionary movement aims at what they have shown us. We aim at the overthrow {182}of a decadent Court, and the establishment of a Government which shall respond to the will of the people. In the endeavour to bring about such a representative government, Young China, we know full well, has much to learn. But it has been conceded by all people that there is no school so efficient as the——”

Hu Ying was waiting for a word when the third delegate, a graduate from one of the American universities and an ardent enthusiast in the New Government, gave the translation as “the school of experience, the school of ‘hard knocks,'” and thereby caused a smile.

“And,” went on Hu, “let us have a chance to learn, and in a decade or two the world shall see the possibilities and genius of our people for representative government.”

“What do you consider the main point upon which the two parties will have difficulty in seeing eye to eye about at the Peace Conference?” I asked of the three.

Simultaneously they spoke, and then the two gave way to Sun Fa Hsu. With fitting dignity he replied that the one solitary point which the Revolutionists would never waive was their demand for the abolition of the Manchu Dynasty. And so these three representatives of the Revolutionary party of Wuchang were of one determined mind upon this vital question; their party would waive anything else, perhaps, but not that. They were immovable. I suggested that perhaps if peace terms could not be arranged they might be forced to give way even on this point also. But they said they would not; “No, if there must be Manchu rule again, then we must again go to war, much as we do not wish to. And there are thousands who will die before they again submit.

“When that point is settled,” said Sun Fa Hsu with some vigour, “then all other points can easily be adjusted. Upon that alone everything hinges. We are fighting for the freedom of our people from the Manchu yoke.”

{183}
“Do you in Wuchang still hold out so strongly for the Republican form of government as you did? I know that General Li Yuan Hung is anxious for a Republic, but do you think there are many who would rather see a Republic than anything else?”

“Whether we should have a Constitutional Monarchy or a Republic we are prepared to leave with the people. What they want we want, and we are prepared to leave the matter for a decision by the vote of the people. For our part, we advocate a Republican form of government, as the Chinese are democratic in their nature and their habits. Even under an absolute monarch careful observers of the Chinese political tendency have remarked that the Chinese Government is a democracy superseded by a monarchy. In other words, the Imperial rule has not been a natural outgrowth of the political habits of the Chinese people, but has been allowed to exist simply because no better substitute has been found. We think we have now found the substitute. It is in a president who is responsible to the people, and yet who, at times when emergency demands, could wield powers greater even than those exercised by a king or an emperor.”

“Do you think that Yuan Shih K’ai will be the first President?”

Mr. Sun did not speak for some time. He waited for me to ask the question a second time, and even then did not seem inclined to commit himself. At length he replied:—

“I do not know. Our attitude to Yuan Shih K’ai may be summed up in a single sentence. If he obstinately upholds the Manchu Dynasty against the wishes of the people, then he is doomed for ever. He may succeed in overriding the wishes of the people for a while, but no single man, however able, will be allowed to stand in the way of the people. On the other hand, the opportunity now presents itself for Yuan Shih K’ai to earn the everlasting gratitude of the nation {184}in yielding to their wishes in putting an end to the Manchu Dynasty once and for all. If he does this, Yuan Shih K’ai will show himself a wise man. We know that it would take some time for us to stand man for man with the Imperial Army, but we have half a world at our back.”

DR. WU TING-FANG. Minister of Law in the new Republic.
DR. WU TING-FANG.
Minister of Law in the new Republic.
The above sentiments may be taken as a fair example of the views held by the Revolutionary leaders on the point of meeting at the Peace Conference. These men, hitherto unknown to the world—always excepting men of the stamp of Wu Ting Fang and Tang Shao-yi—were now making history on a gigantic scale, reformers who had just sprung into being as it seemed, but whose whole past bore testimony to the manner in which they had been working for China’s great era of reform and progress.

* * * * *

In the following chapter will be found a résumé of the Peace Conference, unsatisfactory as it was in most respects.

 

 

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CHAPTER XIII

THE PEACE CONFERENCE—A MONARCHY OR A REPUBLIC?
The Peace Conference met at Shanghai on December 18th.

Dr. Wu Ting Fang, who was the Chief Commissioner on the Revolutionist side, is well known. He was educated in Hongkong, and afterwards qualified for the Bar in England. He practised in Hongkong for a little time, and also acted as Police Magistrate. Later on he joined the Chinese Government service under the late Marquis Li Hung-chang. He became Minister to the United States, Spain, and Peru in 1896, and was appointed Vice-President of the Board of Commerce and then of the Waiwupu in Peking. In 1906 he became Vice-President of the Board of Punishments, and was engaged in revising the Chinese code of laws. He retired in that year, and in 1907 went to the United States a second time to represent China as Envoy. He is a firm believer in rational diet. He originated and was made President of the Rational Diet Society and anti-Tobacco Movement in Shanghai, which became very popular.

Of the Revolutionary delegates, Wen Tsung-yao also hailed from Hongkong, and was educated in the Government Central School in that colony over twenty years ago. After that he was engaged in the Peiyang University in Tientsin. From 1905 to 1908 he went to Canton as Secretary to ex-Viceroy Tsen Chuan-hsuan, and in June, 1908, he was appointed to Lhassa as {186}Assistant-Amban, and was removed from office after the ex-Dalai Lama was deposed by Edict. Wang Chung-hui is a Cantonese student who graduated from college in America. He also studied in Europe, and is versed in law. Wang Chao-ming is celebrated for his attempt to assassinate the ex-Prince Regent, for which offence he was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was released when the recent pardon was granted to all reformers and political offenders. Wang Cheng-ting, who is a returned student from the United States, and Hu Ying are delegates appointed by General Li Yuan Hung.

#Tang Wu
Shao-yi Ting-Fang*
+——————————+
#Er Kuan | o o | Wen
Chan. | o o | Tseng Yao.*
| |
#Hsu | | Wang
Ting Lin. | o o | Chou Wei.*
| |
#Chao | | Wang
Chun Ni. | o o | Chow Ning*
| |
#Feng | | New
Ih Tung. | o o | Yung Kee.*
| o |
+——————————+
Wang Chen Ting.*

* Republicans. #Imperialists.

Up to the time my manuscript went forward to the publishers I was unable to get any special information regarding the Imperial delegates. Of Tang Shao-yi, however, much is known. He had played many an important part on the political platform of his country, and was, undoubtedly, a man calculated safely to direct the affairs of the Imperial side into safe channels. At the time he was appointed to represent Yuan Shih K’ai he occupied an important position, and, because he had {187}had a career most successful as a diplomat, was chosen as the man of all the men the Imperial body were able to secure as most likely to commit no political errors. Tang Shao-yi is one of the ablest statesmen in China to-day.

The table at the Conference was arranged as on opposite page.

For more than four hours these two Cantonese—Wu and Tang—with their colleagues, held secret conference in the Town Hall of Shanghai, with the object of deciding on terms of peace which were expected to involve a decision as to the future form of government in China. At the end of the session the following statement, initialed by both commissioners, was handed out as a memorandum of the happenings of the day:—

“1. Exchange of credentials.

“2. Commissioner Tang agrees to wire Yuan Shih K’ai conveying the demand of the Republicans that the order to stop fighting and capturing of places by the Manchu Army should be carried out effectively in Hupei, Shansi, Shensi, Shantung, Anhui, Kiangsu, and Fengtien, and that no further conference should be held until a satisfactory reply from Yuan Shih K’ai has been received.

“3. Commissioner Wu agrees to wire to General Li Yuan Hung of Hupei and the Republican Generals of Shansi and Shensi ordering them to discontinue fighting and further attacks upon the Manchu troops.”

 

At the opening of the Conference Mr. Tang made a short address. He told of his appointment to come to Shanghai for the Conference, and expressed the hope that it would be successful. He then presented his credentials to Dr. Wu. The latter examined them, and then expressed a similar hope that the Conference would result in great good for China. His credentials were then given to Mr. Tang, and the Conference was begun. Although these assistants were admitted to the meeting they had no voice in its affairs, the two commissioners alone carrying on the discussion. No one of Dr. Wu’s assistants was allowed to address Mr. Tang directly, nor were any of Mr. Tang’s assistants allowed to {188}address Dr. Wu. Instead they could offer suggestions to their leaders, either by written note or by whispers. Tang Shao-yi expressed his personal readiness to accept Dr. Wu’s demands for a Republic, but deferred a definite answer until he had communicated with Yuan Shih K’ai. With the exception of an agreement that the armistice should be extended for a week, ending December 31st, this was the result of the Conference, as told in the official statement given out at the end. The statement, headed “Authentic Account of To-day’s Peace Conference,” was as follows:—

“1. It is mutually agreed that the armistice should be extended for a period of seven days, i.e., from December 24, 8 a.m., to December 31, 8 a.m.

“2. Dr. Wu Ting Fang advocated the necessity of establishing a Republican form of government for China. He believed that China is fully prepared to welcome a new Republic. He said, in substance, as follows:

“The people of China will accept no other form of government than a Republic founded upon the will of the people. Since we can appoint delegates to represent us both in the various provincial assemblies and in the National Assembly at Peking, why are we not qualified to elect a President as the Chief Executive of the nation?

“The Manchus have shown their utter impossibility to govern the people for 267 years. They must go out. A government may be well likened to a trading company: if the manager through incapacity or dishonesty causes the failure of the concern, he has no business to continue in office. A new manager must be elected by the shareholders. The Republican Party does not intend to drive the Manchus out, nor to ill-treat them. On the contrary, they want to place them on perfect equality with the Chinese, enjoying together the blessings of liberty, equality, and fraternity.”

The official statement of the day’s proceedings, as handed out to the Chinese newspapers, was practically the same as that given to the foreign papers, except that it contained the following additional statement as being made by his Excellency Tang Shao-yi:—

“Personally, I am in favour of a Republic, which is the only solution of the present crisis. But we must not in the Conference overlook the integrity of Manchuria, Mongolia, Tibet, and other dependencies.”

 

{189}
To which Dr. Wu replied:—

“The Republic does not denote the integrity and union of the eighteen provinces only.”

 

Tang Shao-yi replied to this:—

“I will have to telegraph to Yuan Shih K’ai as regards the Republican question.”

 

This Conference between the plenipotentiaries of the Peking Government and the Revolutionary groups was looked upon as a meeting of tremendous importance to the nation of China. Indeed, it was not too much to say that the fate of the Empire was to turn on the issue. The whole world would observe the proceedings and criticise the outcome with intense interest. Tang Shao-yi and Wuting-Fang, chief plenipotentiaries of the opposing parties, were to either earn the applause of civilisation or be condemned for having failed to rise to the opportunity of setting China firmly in the path of progress, which was to be presented by this extraordinary collocation of circumstances.

First may be considered what the situation probably would be if hostilities were resumed. At present the Yangtze River approximated a dividing line between territories controlled by the Government and Revolutionaries. Some localities north of the river had been in revolt, but a majority of these had returned to Imperial allegiance, being apparently satisfied with the concessions granted, and others showed a disposition to do the same. It seemed reasonable to assume that if the nation were to have civil war the country would divide north against the south, with the Yangtze River as a general line of demarcation.

The Peking Government had the advantage of being recognised by foreign nations, a condition which would continue while it remained in possession of the capital and any considerable region surrounding it. It had almost all of the modern drilled army, and a great {190}majority of the trained officers. It had better military equipment. The Government still controlled the Imperial railways of North China, the Peking-Hankow Railway, and the Tientsin-Pukou Railway over the greater part. Thus it would be able to concentrate troops at any given point along or north of the Yangtze more easily than the Revolutionists. Moreover, the Imperial troops were accustomed to and equipped to endure a cold climate, and winter had the northern part of the country in its grip. What forces the Revolutionaries could put in the field north of the Yangtze River was not definitely known. Except a few thousand trained troops, any army assembled for the purpose of advancing upon Peking or resisting an advance of the Imperial Army would be composed of raw recruits officered in the main by inexperienced men. Such an army would be ill provided to undertake a winter campaign in the north. Without further analysis the mooted march of a Revolutionary Army to Peking could be dismissed as visionary, unless it was assumed that the Imperial Army was disloyal and would desert the Government. There was now no very tangible basis for such an expectation. Yuan Shih K’ai, the creator of the new army which had always been loyal to him, still held the respect of the soldiers. It was one thing for the new army and its leaders to be dissatisfied with the old order of things at Peking: it was quite another to assume that it was dissatisfied with the form of government proposed by Yuan Shih K’ai, its former and present commander. The army knew Yuan, and what to expect from him. It did not know the Revolutionary leaders, except one here and there, and it did not know what treatment it would receive from a Revolutionary Government after what had happened. If it were assumed that the Northern Army would remain loyal to Yuan Shih K’ai, an early occupation of Peking by the Revolutionists was practically impossible. This was a task which would require a campaign of a year {191}or perhaps more—if it could ever be accomplished. The Imperialists might not have been able to penetrate south of the Yangtze, but they would have had no great difficulty in holding the territory under their control. And in the event of schisms and disintegration of the Republicans, the Government should have been able in time to recover its dominion in all the provinces. This was a phase which the Revolutionists had to consider. Hitherto the processes of disintegration and discontent had worked almost altogether in their favour.

Prolongation of hostilities, therefore, would seem to presage a temporary, perhaps a permanent, division of the Empire into two parts, and the subjection of the country and the people to the horrors and disasters which inevitably attend such internecine struggles. The calamities which would befall under these circumstances were obvious. Six months of such conditions would probably create a counter-revolution in the southern provinces. Conditions in the north would have been somewhat similar, but probably not so bad, as the Government had a firmer grip on affairs and would be able to keep outlawry within bounds. In this discussion it is assumed, of course, that Chinese would be left to fight it out among themselves, without foreign intervention. Foreign intervention, which it would be difficult to avoid if hostilities were to be prolonged indefinitely, would bring its own problems and dangers. Such aspects were presented by the alternative of war.

These were some of the chief considerations which were to weigh upon the plenipotentiaries. There seemed only one point of serious divergence—whether the new Government would follow the Monarchical or the Republican form. If the former were elected, it probably would mean that the present Dynasty would be retained, although perhaps reigning under a different name, for neither Revolutionists nor Monarchists had another emperor to propose. If a Republic were to be decided {192}upon, the Government which would be instituted would differ only in title from a Constitutional Monarchy; therefore, the argument was more about mere terms than about realities. Objections to the retention of the monarchy were based upon two principal theories. One was that with the Manchu Dynasty on the throne the liberty of the Chinese would not be secure—that the Dynasty must be overthrown and the capital removed from Peking in order to shake off for ever the atmosphere and associations of the old regime. Another objection was that, under the monarchical form, Yuan Shih K’ai would be virtual dictator, and then he would use his power to place himself on the throne. In certain quarters Yuan was certainly credited with having this ambition—as one Chinese put it, he wanted to be China’s Napoleon, not her George Washington. But it seemed that if Yuan had this ambition, a Republic such as would of necessity exist in China would be exactly what he would want. Napoleon began his rise to power as a Republican. If Yuan desired to make himself emperor, he could adopt no more favourable course than to accept the presidency of a Republic now, biding his time, as Napoleon did, until the inevitable reaction set in, and the transition back to an Empire would be comparatively easy. On the other hand, continuation of the Dynasty and Imperial forms constituted a check on such ambition, if it existed, for it provided a focus for loyalty of the people without in any practical way hampering administration of the Government on constitutional lines. Should Yuan Shih K’ai concede the point at issue and assent to a Republic, what then? A Republic would have the same difficulties as a Constitutional Monarchy, difficulties which well might baffle the ablest statesmanship. If peace should be established, there still would remain all the great problems which make China an invalid among nations, accentuated by famine, and the strain of the Revolution. Could a Republic solve these offhand? Or would {193}a republic have a better prospect? If there were any difference in favour of either of the two forms of government a Constitutional Monarchy would have less difficulty. A Republic would be handicapped in its attempts to restore order, and put the administration of the Government back on a normal basis by expectations of the people which it could not fulfil. To do this it would be compelled to have money. It would be compelled, almost immediately, to make a foreign loan, a policy which Revolutionists had been denouncing in the Peking Government. It would be compelled to continue many forms, conditions, and processes which Revolutionists had criticised in the Manchu Government, and had led the people to expect would be abolished immediately. It would have to resume collection of taxes in localities where the Revolutionary Press had led the people to believe they would be reduced or abrogated altogether. It would, until a new code be devised and put into operation, have to administer the existing laws. In short, a Republican Government would be absolutely compelled to do many of the things which its leaders had been criticising the Manchu Government for permitting. It would have to reckon with a large number of upstart leaders and their henchmen brought forth by the Revolution, and who one and all looked forward to securing good positions in the new Government. What the immediate future of China would be under a Republic none could at the time of the Conference foresee.

And although the issue of the Revolution remains still in doubt, one was at the start of the Conference in a better position to realise the nature and strength of its motive forces. Clearly this Revolutionary movement in China was not inspired solely or even mainly by the desire to press through a reform, too long delayed, of the corrupt Chinese Government. Nor was the general cry that the Manchus must be eliminated due solely or even mainly to a well-grounded disbelief in {194}the will or the power of the Tartar Dynasty to break with its tradition of misrule. The movement, which had spread like wildfire throughout the length of China, from the province of Chihli in the extreme north to that of Kwangtung in the extreme south, was clearly a national uprising of the Chinese against what was regarded as a degrading foreign domination. It had borrowed the political cries of the Liberal West; it had clothed itself, in those centres where it was victoriously established, with the forms of republican government; but its dynamic force was derived, at least among the ignorant masses, for whom constitutional government was a meaningless phrase, from the traditional feelings of a people which had for three hundred years past been restive under the Tartar yoke. Nothing could show this more clearly than what had everywhere been the first act of emancipation—the cutting of the queue, for the shaven head and queue were imposed in the seventeenth century upon the Chinese as a symbol of subjection by the conquering Manchus. Everywhere people had, from the start of the Revolution, been taking off their queues, and, although an Imperial edict had made it optional for the people to discard or retain them, the Imperialists had killed hundreds of peaceable folk merely because they were found without their queues. The rebellion thus took its place in a series of national uprisings against the Tartar rulers, and it was, as will be seen in the later portion of this volume, not without significance that it gained its most conspicuous initial successes precisely in those maritime provinces in which the appearance of the dispossessed Chinese Ming Dynasty held out longest against the Manchu usurpers. If the movement had taken on fresh forms, said a writer in a London journal, this was due to the exigencies of changed conditions. The Kwangsi rebels in 1850 set up as Emperor, with the name of Tien-te (“heavenly virtue”) a youth said to be the representative of the {195}last Ming Dynasty. The movement languished until the redoubtable Hung Siu-tsuan swept the Pretender aside, courted foreign favours by declaring himself a Christian, and, after capturing Wuchang and Nanking, proclaimed himself the first Emperor of the Taiping Dynasty as Tien Wang (“heavenly king”). His hideous atrocities, continued the writer quoted, and a too fantastic description of the physical attributes of the deity—the outcome of a “vision” intended to impress the missionaries—alienated all foreign sympathy, and on the eve of his complete success his power was shattered by the Government troops, organised and led by “Chinese Gordon.” The secret of his power lay in the absence of the legitimate “Son of Heaven” of the old Dynasty, in his claim to a new commission from Heaven itself.

YIN CHANG. Minister of War of the Manchu Government at the beginning of the Revolution, and Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Troops in Hupeh Province
YIN CHANG.
Minister of War of the Manchu Government at the beginning
of the Revolution, and Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial
Troops in Hupeh Province.

TANG SHAO-YI.
Peace Commissioner for the Manchu Government and Premier
of the Provisional Military Government of the
United Republic of China.

FENG KUO-CHANG.
Commander-in-chief of the First Expedition of the
Imperial Troops for the Relief of Hupeh.
Now, General Li Yuan Hung and those associated closely with him made no such claim. The younger Revolutionists were, for the most part, trained in the schools of the West, and their appeal for Western sympathy took a new form. At the time it was impossible to foresee how, in the long run, the idea of a democratic Republic would appeal to a people steeped in the political philosophies of Confucius, with its conception of parental rights and filial duties as the fundamental basis of government.

So far, indeed, the claim that from Chihli to Kwang-tung, and from Shantung to Szechuen, the provinces had approved the Republic seems to have been justified. It would seem, then, that, no scion of the old Imperial house being available, the Chinese would have been able to reconcile themselves to the creation of a United States of China, under an elected President, in which case it was at the time interesting to speculate whether a too patent breach with the past might be avoided by retaining a ceremonial “Son of Heaven,” who, like the King Archon at Athens or the Rex Sacrificulus of Rome, would continue to offer the traditional sacrifices to the Fountain of Authority.

{196}
It was to decide this and much more that the Peace Conference of last December was convened, but nothing but disappointment followed.

The plenipotentiaries, themselves actually agreeable to the main issue at stake, were overruled by Yuan Shih K’ai. Day after day wires were passing frequently between Yuan and Tang, and all looked anxiously towards Shanghai for the final word of the war. The Republic seemed already to have been born, and the five-coloured flag in Shanghai’s streets heralded its dawn. But Yuan was obstinate, obdurate as a mule. In the end, after endless discussions on the situation, he repudiated Tang Shao-yi’s power, declared that Tang could not finally negotiate upon any question, although his credentials showed that in him full power had been invested, and in the end the Conference merely “fizzled out.”

The next scene presents Dr. Sun Yat Sen on the Republican platform. The civilised world then looked to him to solve this political conundrum—and he was voting plump for the Republic. He had now arrived in Shanghai, and his presence totally altered the situation.[1]

[1] The following article, from the pen of Charles Spurgeon Medhurst, setting forth the claims of a Republic and a Monarchy, and printed in the China Press of Shanghai, on December 13, 1911, will be of interest to the reader at this juncture:—

“Representative government with a scion of the Dynasty, not necessarily the infant Emperor, as its head, or representative government without any link with the past, is the problem on which hangs the issue of peace or war in China, and yet, so far as the freedom of the country is concerned, the difference between these two ideals is as the distinction between the good old English russet grown in the West of England, and a bellflower cultivated on the western slopes of the Pacific. Both are good eating apples. The preference for one before the other is a matter of taste. One may, indeed, almost say that the Imperialists are Republicans, and that the Republicans are Imperialists, for the Republican insists as strongly as his brother Imperialist that there must be a strong central authority, and the Imperialist clasps hands with his Republican comrade in his anxiety that the control of national affairs shall be in the hands of the people. To borrow an expressive simile recently used by Dr. Wu in reference to something else, the bottle is different but the brand is the same. Each side is pledged to give the nation freedom from all authority, excepting such as the nation itself imposes upon itself. Between Imperialist and Republican the difference is, in reality, one of form and not of substance. A general recognition of this fact will clear the atmosphere, and make it easier to perceive the imperative needs of the moment. There is the more urgent demand that this should be brought about because in their enthusiasm over the prospects of the new dawning day many of our Chinese friends have mistakenly persuaded themselves that Democracy is the greatest gift the Occident has for the Orient. But the last mail brought us a message from Dr. Inge, the Dean of St. Paul’s in London, that Democracy is perhaps one of the silliest of modern fetishes. It is incumbent, therefore, on those of us in China who agree with the Dean to speak out plainly at this critical juncture, lest our Chinese hosts blindly step on to a devious and a dangerous path. The duty becomes still plainer when we recall a recent speech by Dr. Sun Yat Sen, in which he hinted that universal suffrage for men and women would be the note to which the tune of the new Republic would be keyed.

“For any good result to come from a universal suffrage there must have been many previous years of universal education, but even with this advantage Democracy becomes for the most part little more than a dream, a good catchword but impossible politics. Constitutional government has nowhere as yet been perfected. The best we have is an adaptation of realities still unrealised. Like everything else at this stage of our progress, it is a compromise. Its methods give no sign of finality; in all countries it is what must take place in China, an adaptation to existing circumstances. None know better than the Chinese that co-operative compromise with the ideas of others is the foundation of all order. What else are the mutations of the Yin and the Yang? If these do not harmonise disorder ensues. In the same way there can be no peace in China until Republicans and Imperialists work together. That autocracy has been abused is no reason why Republicans should seek to replace it by a system which many residents of democratic countries, as witness the observations of the London dean, are beginning to regard as false in its premise. Because a revolution has shown it to be the will of the country that there should be a change in the administration of Chinese affairs there is no reason why Imperialists should not unite with Republicans in friendly conference, and see if between them it be not possible to evolve an administration better than any now existing, and thus magnify their proud position of being the oldest nation in the world. Both sides are Chinese. Why not meet and set younger civilisations an example in civics?

“If democracy be a dream, self-government is an illusion. There never has been and never will be any society, or any body, which is self-governed. We are not even free to wear the clothes our inclination suggests. Madame Fashion cuts the cloth and purchases the material. Government (to quote a French expression) is always an ‘affair of two.’ Like love-making, it is a matter of one yielding to the other. In the same way self-respect is not self-respect but the approbation of my lower to my Higher, the God within me. Self-control is not self-control, but the obedience of my passional nature to the Divine enshrined within. Self-government is not self-government, but the government of one part by another part, of the unfit by the fit, of the masses by the classes, of the uneducated by the educated. Anything else would be incompetence, injustice, not liberty. There cannot be equality and fraternity in government. There is much truth in Lao Tzu’s paradox, ‘When the people are difficult to control it is because they possess too much worldly wisdom.’ Democracy is an idol many of its worshippers are ceasing to respect, and facts should be known before a temple to its honour is erected in China. What is wanted is an Autocracy in its proper place, not an autocracy of birth, of money, or of clamour, but an autocracy of character, of self-sacrifice, and ability. This is China’s hour, a challenge to her strong men to devise something characteristic of herself, and not merely to imitate Western Constitutions.

“If this is to be successfully accomplished, preconceived ideas must be kept fluid when the peacemakers meet in the coming Conference. Republicans must remember that to imagine a Democracy without an oppression is idle. Imperialists must consider that to interfere with the rights of another is wrong. Republicans must not forget that every democratic government rules by majorities, and that when the wishes of the minority are overridden an Autocracy in its wrong place has been substituted for Democracy. Imperialists must not lose sight of the truth that the yoke laid on the defeated party is no easier to bear because the coercion comes from an opposing political body and not from one or two accredited officials, and that coercion of any sort invites rebellion. Let both sides consider that wisdom does not always dwell with majorities. History supplies many instances where the minority of one was right and all the rest wrong. Being right, he might perhaps efface himself and yield to the general wish, but he cannot properly be coerced. If Democracy be right, then coercion is necessarily wrong, whether the pressure be exercised by individuals or majorities.

“The proper basis for an orderly arrangement of men’s common interests is that all concerned shall discuss in a friendly way with a view to agreement. If this prove impossible, then as a general rule (subject to the elastic dictates of common sense) the question should, if possible, be shelved as being unripe for decision. If government by party, such as exists under all Constitutional Governments be right, if it be right for one party because stronger to compel the other party because weaker to submit to its ruling, then might becomes right. In that case Imperialists and Republicans should continue their fight until one has crushed the other; in that case the Powers whose interests are jeopardised by the continuance of the conflict should step in and apply their might also, that right may be enthroned. If, however, Force be always evil, if the universal practice of Constitutional Governments in regard to minorities be wrong, it follows that whichever side refuses to compromise in the present struggle is also wrong, because by such refusal reliance is placed on the strength of the arm, instead of on the might of TRUTH.

“In any event it is ironical inconsistency to employ the harsh arbitrament of war to decide such a question as the supremacy of the will of the people until, at least, a vote has been taken and the consent of those who have lived within the area of the fight has been obtained to the unavoidable destruction of their property. As there is no conscription in China the position of the soldier need not be taken into account. At present the few have spoken for the many, the leaders on both sides have imposed their will on their followers, and the masses are afraid to speak. I cannot guess what the verdict on the Revolution would be were every one heard from individually, nor does it affect the point at issue. The simple fact remains that grave wrongs have been inflicted on thousands who have had no chance to assent or to protest, and that for the rest of their lives they will be worse off than they would have been under the most tyrannical government. If it be argued that this ‘evil’ was unavoidable, that the Revolution was a cruel necessity, the answer is that it should be concluded as speedily as possible and recompense given to those who have suffered. Every unrequited wrong committed in its name, or on its account, will be a weak spot in the new Government’s armour.

“If these paragraphs are felt to be mere counsels of perfection, they at least emphasise the terrible hurt that will be inflicted on Righteousness should the fighting be resumed. Conciliation, submission, compromise are the foundations of Truth and of Liberty, the binding forces of society everywhere. It is not strength but weakness which refuses to swerve from an assumed position. The bravest men are not afraid of inconsistency. As Michael Wood says: ‘Humility is the strength of God: the power of everything worth having. It does not grovel: it is strong. It is seeing true: it is having your values right. It is knowing what matters and what is rubbish to be flung away.’ Or as Jacob Boehme put it: ‘He to whom Eternity is as Time and Time as Eternity is free from all strife.’ In a word, Democracy can only succeed where all the people are aristocrats, and now is the time for the leaders on both sides to prove their aristocracy and their fitness to rule, by gracefully yielding each to the other. China has always set the world an example in this particular. She will surely not fail on the eve of what will doubtless be the most glorious chapter of her memorable history.”

{197}
[Transcriber’s note: this page was entirely taken up by part of footnote 1, which is now on page 196 in its entirety.]

{198}
[Transcriber’s note: this page was entirely taken up by part of footnote 1, which is now on page 196 in its entirety.]

{199}
[Transcriber’s note: this page was entirely taken up by part of footnote 1, which is now on page 196 in its entirety.]

{200}
[Transcriber’s note: this page was entirely taken up by part of footnote 1, which is now on page 196 in its entirety.]

 

HWANG HSING. Generalissimo of the Nanking Provisional Military Government and Chief of the General Staff of the Republic of China
HWANG HSING.
Generalissimo of the Nanking Provisional Military Government
and Chief of the General Staff of the Republic of China.

DR. SUN YAT-SEN.
First Provisional President of the Republic of China.

 

 

{201}

CHAPTER XIV

THE COMING OF SUN YAT-SEN
Sun Yat-sen for many years has been known the world over as the most effective Revolutionary China has ever produced. For many years he had been the leader of a revolutionary movement among Chinese abroad, and his life was practically devoted to travelling to foreign countries, keeping his exiled countrymen versed upon the latest political phases of China.

At the time of the Peace Conference the situation had become so strained, there were so many parties all genuinely anxious to assume control—out of the best motives probably—that it seemed necessary for one strong man to come in safely to direct the Revolutionary cause. That strong man was Dr. Sun Yat-sen. It was known on the day the Conference met that Sun Yat-sen was in Singapore. For many days the people had been looking for him, and disappointment was freely expressed in Shanghai more particularly (where he was best known) because of his non-appearance. It seemed that he was now, at the moment when he could do his country the most good, determined to stay away. After the Conference had broken up, however, Sun arrived, and immediately the people took him to their hearts, recognising in him the one man who now would be strong enough to establish a stable Government.

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Sun cannot be called a typical Chinese; he is a typical and extremely able Chinese of the new school. He has lived most of his life abroad, and from his earliest years, when in Canton he attended the London Mission with his Christian parents, has been constantly in close touch with men and things foreign. As has been said, practically all his life, but particularly since 1895, Sun has been looked upon as the most active Revolutionary among the Chinese. His escapes at the hand of the Chinese Government had been many. For years he had been banished, and his head was ever sought after. His deliverances had been marvellous. Newspapermen the world over have constantly interviewed Sun in his wanderings, and it is felt that so much is known of President Sun that nothing of a general nature need be added here. It will be more interesting to pass on to see what Dr. Sun has to say, in a remarkably well written story, of the reason why his country is in revolt.[1]

“The conspiracy in which I took part as a leader at Canton in October, 1895,” wrote Dr. Sun Yat-sen, “was one of a series which must ultimately triumph in the establishment of a Constitution in our Empire. The whole of the people in China, excepting the Imperial agents, who profit in purse and power by the outrages they are able to perpetrate, are with us. The good, well-governed people of America will not fail to understand that Chinese numbering many millions in their own land and thousands in exile, could not entertain such feelings about their Empire without good cause. Over each province there is what the English would call a Governor. There are no laws, as you know laws. The Governor of each province makes his own laws. The will of each officer is the law. The people have no voice. There is no appeal against the law created for his own purposes by the officer or the Governor, no matter how unjust, no matter how cruelly carried {203}out. These Governors universally persecute the people and grow wealthy by squeezing them all into poverty. Taxes, as taxation is understood by Americans, are unknown. We pay only a land tax, but the Governors and officers take money from the masses by innumerable systems of extortion. Every time a Governor or magistrate or chief officer takes charge of a district, the first thing he does is to find out who are the rich, who are favourably disposed toward him and who against him. He selects first one of those whom he has reason to believe dislikes him, forces one of those on his side to make a criminal charge against the selected man, and has him arrested on the charge, which is invariably false. The Governor enriches himself by each case, as the only thing in the nature of a law he knows is that of the Dynasty, empowering him to take as his own as much as he likes, usually the whole of the property of every man whom he arrests and punishes. The arrested man has no appeal. He has no advocates. He has no hearing. Only his accusers are heard. Then he is barbarously tortured to confess the guilt he knows not.

“The terrible injustice of this procedure is to be seen in that a magistrate or chief officer never visits that punishment upon any one who has Imperial influence. Yet any man who has influence with the magistrate or is in any way a creature of his, can arrest, by his own will, any person against whom he has a grievance, choose any crime he likes to name for the purpose, drag the person before the magistrate, accuse him, and ask that he be punished. Again, the accused person has no appeal, no defence. He is merely faced with the accusation, and if he denies it, is put under torture for three days. If at the end of three days the accused refuses to confess himself guilty, punishment is meted to him in severity according to the influence of the accuser, and the necessity the magistrate feels of appeasing him. The punishment {204}for every offence charged, from petty larceny upward, is almost invariably beheading. Beheading saves prison expense, and effectually silences the accused. So much aloof do the Mandarins keep from the people that many are usually ignorant of this terrible work of the officers of the Dynasty, and when told of it, refuse to believe. Some Mandarins refuse to believe, out of fear of incurring the displeasure of officers. The unhappy masses know the truth too well. The intelligent, the most enlightened, know of it. Exiles in all other parts of the world know of it. Bitter hatred of the Dynasty and of the Imperial officers prevails in every province of the Empire. There is a great democracy in the Empire, waiting and praying for the moment when their organisation can be made efficient and the Dynasty removed and replaced by a constitutional government.

“Our conspiracy to seize Canton failed, yet we are filled with hope. Our greatest hope is to make the Bible and education, as we have come to know them by residence in America and Europe, the means of conveying to our unhappy fellow-countrymen what blessings may lie in the way of just laws, what relief from their sufferings may be found through civilisation. We intend to try every means in our power to seize the country and create a government without bloodshed. I think we shall, but if I am doomed to disappointment in this, then there is no engine in warfare we can invoke to our aid that we will hesitate to use. Our four hundred millions must, and shall, be released from the cruel tyranny of barbaric misrule and be brought to enjoy the blessings of control by a merciful, just government, by the arts of civilisation.

“The conspiracy at Canton, though it failed, was but a momentary repulse and has in no way damped our ardour. A brief history of the conspiracy and my own adventures connected with it may convey some ideas of the difficulties which still lie before us, yet {205}which we know we shall in due time surmount. We have a head, a chief, and a body of leaders, all earnest, intelligent, courageous men. They were elected according to constitutional principles by a body of us, who met, necessarily, in secret. We have a branch of our Society in every province. Our meetings of the leaders were held at various houses, the rendezvous being constantly changed. We had between thirty and forty centres in the districts of the town, with members ready to ride at a given moment to the number of at least one thousand in each centre to take control of the public affairs of the district. Communications with each of these districts were made by the employment of messengers. Our communications were by word of mouth. Our intention was to attack no individual person.

“There is no Government, no organisation, no legal system, no form of official control except the influential citizens, who, under the favour of the magistrate or Governor of the province, usurp the use of the Imperial commissioners and soldiers to carry out their barbarous tyranny. We had no ruling body, officials, or officers as such institutions are understood by Europeans, to seize. We had elected bodies of our followers who had been taught a system of constitutional rule, for each district, all ready to take office at a given signal and put the system into practice. The soldiers were ready to join us. For the soldiers are as great sufferers from tyranny as the poor masses.

“Now, herein lay our chief difficulty. To effect revolution in China would be easy but for one thing—the great difficulty in controlling the citizens. The people, never having known laws, never having been used to any proper discipline, are utterly demoralised. Life and property would be in danger from the masses the moment they became excited. From the soldiers, who are of the most degraded class, we expected trouble. They would certainly engage in looting the {206}moment they had discovered a change in the order of things.

“The only problem we had to solve in order to completely succeed was how to control the people, to make order a certainty, simultaneously with the establishment of a form of government, and how to check the excitement and outrages of the inhabitants while they were being taught to realise the fact that the long-endured tyranny was overcome. For months we worked hard completing our plans to this end, and things had reached that condition that each of the thirty odd leaders had an armed bodyguard of one hundred men. This gave us three thousand armed men on the spot. Another three thousand were to join us from another province on a given date. With this body of men, armed, not to attack any officials, but to control the masses of people and make them obey our constitutional laws, we should have in a few hours reached the dynasty of impotence.

“Unhappily, we had to contend with the possibilities of disloyalty among our own followers. So great is the fear of the torture-chamber. Into so many tributaries does the main stream of corruption flow. However, all was prepared. A date was fixed—one day in October, 1895. We leaders met to receive a telegram from our agent in Hongkong, who was to inform us that all was right the moment he knew the three thousand men had set out to our assistance. At the same time, he was to dispatch a chartered steamer up the Canton River, laden with arms for the three thousand men who were to control the people and keep order, and bringing seven hundred coolies to do the fetching and carrying, the labourer’s work needful to carry out the scheme of establishing our Government. We met at the rendezvous at Canton, runners and every one at hand. The message arrived to say that all was right. We dispatched our runners to let every one be prepared at every centre, burned our papers, {207}and proceeded to disband ourselves into units, each to carry out his own allotted portion of revolution. The moment before we disbanded a second message arrived saying, ‘Something has happened, the three thousand men cannot come.’ Our runners were out, and could not be overtaken and recalled. We had to trust to the discretion of the centres to await the men. The only thing we could do, for the time being, to divert suspicion, was to wire our Hongkong agent to keep back the coolies. He misunderstood. The coolies arrived. No one received them. They wandered about, not knowing what they were in Canton for.

“So the conspiracy was thwarted. The runners had accused the people, and set tongues wagging. The Viceroy had been told, ‘Something is going to happen.’ He would not believe his informant, and all might have become quiet, but the arrival of the coolies confirmed the information. The Government did not start. The unhappy coolies were hunted by the Imperial Commissioner and his staff, and many of them beheaded. We leaders dispersed; many fled into the interior. The Commissioner and Imperial Guard sought the leaders. They seized and beheaded sixteen persons, only seven of whom had anything to do with the movement. The remainder were occupants of houses where it was supposed some of us had met. The leaders all got away. I went on board my own steam-launch and sailed down to Hongkong, where I stayed a week. The Imperial officers were seeking me, and I passed them several times in the street without their recognising me. At the end of the week, during which I had made arrangements for my family, my wife and children and my mother, to follow me, I stepped on board a steamer under the eyes of my stupid pursuers without their noticing me. When I arrived in London, I was captured for the first time, after having been pursued around the world for one year. But the fault was not that of the English people. Indeed, the noble-hearted {208}way in which the English people came to my assistance, and rescued me from the death for which I was assuredly destined, make us shed tears of gratitude.

“In saving my life the English people have earned the love of every one of our millions of cruelly ill-used people, and strengthened our hope of one day soon enjoying the blessing of a just government, such as that which has made your mighty nation so great and so good.”

English friends on this occasion had warned him to steer a wide course away from the Chinese Legation, for there he would technically be on Chinese soil and could be arrested, but these friends either neglected to tell Dr. Sun where the Legation was or he forgot the directions they gave him. At any rate, one day as he was walking through a certain street two Chinese accosted him. They asked him to go with them to their lodging, where they could discuss the Revolution at home. When he demurred they seized him and pushed him through the door of a nearby house. It was the Chinese Legation.

A white man, who was Sir Halliday Macartney, English Secretary of the Legation, told Sun that he was under arrest and that he would be secretly taken out of London and back to Canton. The prisoner was locked in a room on the top floor of the Legation until arrangements could be made for the official kidnapping. Dr. Sun tried throwing messages out of the window weighted with coins, but one of them was picked up by one of the Legation servants and shown to the Minister, and the windows were nailed up.

In his desperation Sun managed to bribe an English servant to carry a message, telling of his plight, to a Dr. Cantlie, one of his friends. Dr. Cantlie laid the matter before the Government, which took immediate action. The building was hedged about by detectives and policemen so closely that the prisoner could not be smuggled out to a steamer. Finally, seeing the {209}futility of longer holding him, the Chinese Minister turned Sun loose.

The nervy little doctor went right back to the Far East and began to hatch another Revolution against his enemies.

This time it was from Japan that he operated. But because he was not thoroughly wise in the matter of some Japanese business policies he was swindled out of all the funds he had raised to buy arms by one Nakimura.

He left Japan and went to live in Singapore. He slipped into China again and started another uprising. This, too, was ill-timed, and many patriots lost their heads under the executioner’s heavy blade.

Dr. Sun managed to slip across the lower border into Annam disguised as a blind beggar. No sooner was he across the border than he began again, wandering from one Chinese colony to another in Annam, in Tongkin, down in the Straits Settlements, over in the Philippines—always preaching revolution.

In 1898 K’ang Yu-wei, one of the reformers whom Sun had been allied with, travelled too fast in his efforts to win the ear of the puppet Emperor, was betrayed by Yuan Shih K’ai, so it was said, and had to flee to save his head. Then the Empress-Dowager laid a heavy hand upon all reformers within reach. Once more Sun escaped. After the Boxer uprising, which was not at all of Sun’s doing and was entirely out of sympathy with his schemes, the Empress-Dowager seemed to be bitten by the general sentiment for reform and she promised much for China that raised the hopes of the new element. But like most Manchu promises, they were not to be depended on.

 

DRILLED IN THE UNITED STATES.

Back Sun went to America, and he added a new detail to his propaganda. He found a young graduate {210}of Leland Stanford University, Homer Lee, who was military mad and incidentally an enthusiast on the subject of freedom for China. Lee was made General of the Reform Cadets, who were Chinese youths of San Francisco, fitted out with uniforms and guns and taught to do the hay foot, straw foot in hired halls night after night.

The idea spread to other cities in the United States and to Manila. The Reform Cadets became a wide-spread organisation. American drillmasters were hired to coach them; they had target practice and they gave exhibition drills.

Out in San Francisco the agents of the Chinese Government once tried to prevail upon the city and State authorities to break up the organisation because it was technically an armed band of aliens on American soil. The effort failed.

Such was the man who may become yet the greatest man among the Chinese in his own country as he has been out of it. In due course Dr. Sun Yat-sen was proclaimed President, with a provisional Government at Nanking.

Sun Yat-sen, revolutionist in the most conservative land under heaven, fugitive for fifteen years from the keenest and most relentless trailers of men, hidden spirit of strange secret societies whose ramifications have made mole tracks through every land where Chinamen are—this man is now President of the Republic of China by decree of the Provisional Military Assembly at Nanking.

Out of the underground passages of plot and intrigue the nature of which no Occidental could hope to understand, and through which this wiry little man has been wriggling and back tracking for more than a dozen years, a new national figure suddenly jumps to command the attention of the world. During years past the world has occasionally caught glimpses of the round black head and narrow, ascetic features of this Dr. Sun, {211}now in Singapore, now in London, now in San Francisco.

There had been little paragraphs in the world’s news about an agitator, a Radical, who seemed to be tilting with straws at the impregnable citadel of the Manchu clan in Peking. The Revolution began in China and even then, when the name of Sun Yat-sen was coupled with it people outside of China cracked jokes about a faker, a charlatan, who was trying to capitalise the upheaval at home for his own benefit.

Then over night things happened in China. The next morning the world learned at its breakfast-table that out of the welter and uproar of revolution in old China a leader had arisen to gird an ancient land under new harness of government. And it also became manifest that the Revolution, which had started by concerted movements in the heart of China and spread with the rapidity of a powder-train, and the little man who had been dodging and twisting through the world for so many years were closely related—extraordinarily so.

Sun Yat-sen started many revolutions. Each was stronger than the last; each achieved a little more. The final one, striven for and plotted through channels not yet known, has succeeded. Sun Yat-sen was the man of the hour in China.

An odd circumstance that brings an added thrill of romance into the story of his life is that though President of united China he still bears upon his head a price totalling about 700,000 taels. The rewards for his head offered by provincial governments and the central authorities in Peking during the last fifteen years have not been recalled, even though payment upon delivery might be doubtful.

Yet the fact that his head was worth hundreds of “shoes” of silver during all the latter years of his activity has been one of the lightest burdens that Dr. Sun has carried about on his narrow shoulders. He {212}took long chances, apparently he suffered many close calls from death, but he persisted.

I believe that when he was a young man he was studying medicine under the care of an English physician in Hongkong. Thence he went to England and after study in a preparatory school he was graduated from a medical college and returned to China. He practised the new medicine, against which there was a violent prejudice on the part of the Chinese in Macao, in Canton and Hongkong.

Dr. Sun is forty-three now, he was scarcely more than twenty-five when he began to move for the spreading of a revolutionary spirit in the hearts of his countrymen. Just where he began and with what material nobody but the closest of his associates knows.

It seems that his first idea was for reform through peaceful means, if it were possible for the Chinese people to penetrate the jealous conservatism of the Manchu masters. To this end the little doctor began to organise clubs of advanced thinkers among the young Chinese of the south.

For some time during the early part of 1912 things seemed to go fairly smoothly, and President Sun seemed to have been successful in winning the confidence of Yuan Shih K’ai, when, like a bombshell, the press of the world (especially the London Times) deprecated one of the messages Sun sent to Yuan. This strengthened the Imperial cause. Abdication of the Court, which had definitely been fixed, did not take place. Several of the Manchu princes refused to clear out, for many days the complex situation at Peking, Shanghai, Nanking, and Wuchang rendered it impossible for one to see what would eventuate.

The Court, however, did abdicate, and left the ground clear. There was a continuous rumpus in Peking during the following three months, and in March of 1912 the capital was in a big uproar—the soldiers broke loose, there was much pillaging and looting, {213}Yuan Shih K’ai seemed entirely to have lost the situation and the whole country seemed to be lost. Yuan Shih K’ai meantime had been proclaimed President, Dr. Sun gracefully withdrawing in his favour. A big discussion took place over the site for the capital, and just as Yuan was about to come down to Nanking to settle matters the outbreak at Peking quashed the whole affair. But this was only one of the political troubles. Some adjusted themselves: others did not. There was a lack of money. Soldiers, going unpaid, took the law into their own hands, and looted on a great scale. The banditti rose up in formidable strength. Officialdom was abused. Decapitations were rife. Up to the end of March the interior of China was devoid of all law and order. In the coast places and big towns where order was fairly easy to maintain, officials were busy making laws and drawing up reforms. But whilst reforms were being thus aimed at in some places, in others there was absolute chaos. The old order had been taken away, and there was nothing better to put up in its place.

But it is hopeless to give a correct comprehensive estimate of what was being done. All we knew was that China was changing—in some places for the worse, in others for the better, but changing irrevocably, and it was only in the final balancing could one see how things were to “pan out.”

On March 10, 1912, Yuan Shih K’ai took the Oath, which read as follows:—

“Since the Republic has been established, many works have now to be performed. I shall endeavour faithfully to develop the Republic, to sweep away the disadvantages attached to absolute monarchy, to observe the laws of the Constitution, to increase the welfare of the country, to cement together a strong nation which shall embrace all five races. When the National Assembly elects a permanent President, I shall retire. This I swear before the Chinese Republic.”

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The following is a detailed statement, as translated from the Chinese, of the conditions of the Provisional Republican Constitution:—

 

THE PROVINCIAL REPUBLICAN CONSTITUTION.

Chapter 1. General.

Article 1.—The Republic of China is established by the people of China.

Article 2.—The sovereignty of the Republic of China is vested in the whole body of the people.

Article 3.—The territory of the Republic of China consists of the twenty-two provinces, Inner and Outer Mongolia, Tibet, and Kokonor.

Article 4.—The Republic of China will exercise its governing rights through the National Assembly, Provisional President, Ministers of State and Courts of Justice.

 

Chapter II. People.

Article 5.—The People of the Republic of China will be treated equally without any distinction of race, class, or religion.

Article 6.—The People will enjoy the following liberties:—

1. No citizen can be arrested, detained, tried, or punished unless in accordance with the law.

2. The residence of any person can only be entered or searched in accordance with the law.

3. People have the liberty of owning property and of trade.

4. People have the liberty of discussion, authorship, publication, meeting, and forming societies.

5. People have the liberty of secrecy of letters.

6. People have liberty of movement.

7. People have liberty of religion.

Article 7.—People have the right of petition to the Assembly.

Article 8.—People have the right of petition to the administrative offices.

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Article 9.—People have the right of trial at legal courts.

Article 10.—People have the right to appeal to the Court of Administrative Litigation against any act of officials who have illegally infringed their rights.

Article 11.—People have the right of being examined to become officials.

Article 12.—People have the right of election and being elected to representative assemblies.

Article 13.—People have the duty of paying taxes in accordance with law.

Article 14.—People have the duty of serving in the army in accordance with law.

Article 15.—The rights of the people enumerated in this chapter may, in the public interest, or for the maintenance of order and peace or upon other urgent necessity, be curtailed by due process of law.

 

Chapter III. National Assembly.

(Tsangyiyuan.)

Article 16.—The legislative functions of the Republic of China are exercised by the National Assembly or Tsangyiyuan.

Article 17.—The National Assembly is formed of the members of Tsangyiyuan elected by various districts as provided in Article 18.

Article 18.—Five members in each province, Inner Mongolia, Outer Mongolia, and Tibet and one member from Kokonor will be elected. The measures for the election will be decided by each district. At the time of the meeting of the National Assembly each member has one vote.

Article 19.—The official rights of the National Assembly are as under:—

1. To decide all laws.

2. To decide Budgets and settle accounts of the Provisional Government.

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3. To decide the measures of taxation, monetary system, and uniform weights and measures.

4. To decide the amount of public loan and agreements involving any obligation on the State treasury.

5. To ratify affairs mentioned in Articles 34, 35, and 40.

6. To reply to any affairs referred for decision by the Provisional Government.

7. To accept petitions of the people.

8. To express views and present them to the Government regarding laws and other matters.

9. To question Ministers of State and demand their presence at the Assembly to give reply.

10. To demand the Provisional Government to inquire into cases of the taking of bribes or other illegal acts of officials of the Government.

11. The National Assembly may impeach the Provisional President if recognised as having acted as a traitor, by vote of three-fourths of the members present at a quorum of four-fifths of the whole number of members.

12. The National Assembly may impeach any of the Ministers of State if recognised as having failed to carry out their official duties or having acted illegally, on the decision of two-thirds of the members present at a quorum of three-fourths of the whole number of members.

Article 20.—The National Assembly may hold its meetings of its own motion and may decide the date of the opening and the closing of the same.

Article 21.—The meetings of the National Assembly will be open to the public, but in case of the demand of any Minister of State or in case of the majority’s decision a meeting may be held in camera.

Article 22.—The matters decided by the National Assembly shall be promulgated and carried out by the Provisional President.

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Article 23.—When the Provisional President uses his veto against the decision of the National Assembly his reasons should be declared within ten days and the matter should be placed before the National Assembly for further discussion. If two-thirds of the members attending re-affirm the former decision that decision shall be carried out as stipulated in Article 22.

Article 24.—The speaker of the National Assembly will be elected by open ballot of the members, and if the ballot be one-half of the total votes he is declared elected.

Article 25.—The members of the National Assembly have no responsibility to outsiders for the speeches and decisions made in the Assembly.

Article 26.—Except for flagrant offences or during internal disturbance or foreign invasion the members of the Assembly cannot be arrested during the session without the consent of the Assembly.

Article 27.—The standing orders of the National Assembly shall be decided by the National Assembly itself.

Article 28.—The National Assembly shall be dissolved when the National Convention comes into existence, which will succeed to all the rights of the National Assembly.

 

Chapter IV.—Provisional President and Vice-President.

Article 29.—Provisional President and Vice-President will be elected by the National Assembly by vote of two-thirds of the members present at a quorum of three-fourths of the whole number.

Article 30.—Provisional President represents Provisional Government and controls political affairs and promulgates laws.

Article 31.—Provisional President executes laws and issues orders authorised by law and has such orders promulgated.

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Article 32.—Provisional President controls and commands the Navy and Army of the whole country.

Article 33.—Provisional President decides official organisations and discipline but such should be approved by the National Assembly.

Article 34.—Provisional President is empowered to make appointments and dismissals of civil and military officials. However, the Ministers of State, ambassadors and ministers accredited to foreign Powers, should be approved by the National Assembly.

Article 35.—Provisional President declares war, negotiates peace and concludes treaties with the approval of the National Assembly.

Article 36.—Provisional President declares martial law in accordance with law.

Article 37.—Provisional President represents the whole country to receive ambassadors and ministers of foreign countries.

Article 38.—Provisional President presents bills for laws to the National Assembly.

Article 39.—Provisional President confers decorations and other honorary bestowals.

Article 40.—Provisional President declares general amnesty, special amnesty, commutation, and rehabilitation; general amnesty needs the approval of the National Assembly.

Article 41.—In case Provisional President be impeached by the National Assembly the judges of the highest court of justice will elect nine judges to organise a special tribunal to try and decide the case.

Article 42.—Provisional Vice-President will act for Provisional President in case Provisional President dies or is unable to attend to his duties.

 

Chapter V. Ministers of State.

Article 43.—Prime Minister and Ministers of Departments are called Ministers of State.

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Article 44.—Ministers of State assist Provisional President and share responsibility.

Article 45.—Ministers of State countersign bills proposed, laws proposed, laws promulgated, and orders issued by Provisional President.

Article 46.—Ministers of State and their deputies attend and speak in the National Assembly.

Article 47.—When any Minister of State is impeached by the National Assembly, the Provisional President should dismiss him, but the case may be retried by the National Assembly at the request of the Provisional President.

 

Chapter VI. Courts of Justice.

Article 48.—Courts of Justice consist of judges to be appointed by Provisional President and Minister of Justice. The organisation of Courts of Justice and qualification of judges will be decided by law.

Article 49.—The Courts of Justice will try and decide cases of civil litigation and criminal litigation in accordance with law. However, administrative litigation and other special litigation will be stipulated by special laws.

Article 50.—The trials and judgments of the Courts of Justice will be open to the public, but cases which are considered to be against peace and order may be held in camera.

Article 51.—Judges will never be interfered with by any higher officials in their offices either during a trial or in delivering judgment, as judges are independent.

Article 52.—Whilst a Judge holds office his salary cannot be reduced, and his functions cannot be delegated to another. Unless in accordance with law, he cannot be punished or dismissed or retired. The regulations for the removal of Judges will be stipulated by special law.

 

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Chapter VII. Annex.

Article 53.—Within ten months of the date of this law being in force, the Provisional President should convene a National Convention. The organisation and the measures for election of such National Convention will be decided by the National Assembly.

Article 54.—The Constitution of the Republic of China will be decided by the said National Convention, and before the said Constitution comes into force this law will have the same force as the Constitution.

Article 55.—This law will be either added to or revised by three-fourths of the members of the National Assembly present at a quorum of two-thirds of the whole number, or by three-fourths of the members present at a quorum of four-fifths of the whole number, when the same is proposed by the Provisional President.

Article 56.—This law shall come into force when it is promulgated, and the rules of provisional government now in force will be cancelled when this law comes into force.

 

Recognition of the Powers came slowly. The Republican fanatics cried out in great volume and the alleged subsidised press still pursued the for and against of the national argument. However, in due course, with Yuan as President, the Government went ahead in endeavours to get money. The reader will probably know the actual eventualities as they touched the West internationally. There were still two parties, however, one with Sun at the head, the other with Yuan. Yuan Shih K’ai was a man cast in a distinctly different mould from Sun. Before we go on to read his general biographical sketch, as embodied in the next chapter, it is interesting to note how people were interesting themselves in him. The following, from a private letter {221}published in New York, is culled from an American daily:—

“In 1884, when I went to China, Yuan was just succeeding the Manchu General in charge of the Chinese troops sent to Seoul after the troubles of 1882. He drove the Japanese out of Korea following the emeute of 1884, and on October 3, 1885, after visiting his patron, Li Hung-chang, he returned to Seoul as full Chinese representative, taking to himself the title of ‘Resident’ in the sense in which that title is used by the British in India, implying Chinese suzerainty.

“Yuan was without much education even for a Chinaman. He knew no English at all. Korea is as far as he ever ventured abroad, but the ten years there were a very valuable school for him.

“He was in my time just a big, brutal, sensual, rollicking Chinaman. Having vast powers, he frequently cut off the heads of Chinese gamblers and others, and I was an unwilling witness of some of these street side pastimes of his. He would imprison Korean gentlemen who objected to parting with their ancestral estates in order that they might be used to enlarge Yuan’s palatial legation. He would not let a physician save the life of one of his soldiers in the emeute by amputating his arm, saying, “Of what good would a one-armed soldier be?” Yet he kept as a pensioner another soldier whose life was saved but who was useless as a trooper. He was extremely quick, quite fearless, very rash, yet given to consultation with Tang and others, and therefore inclined to be reasonable. He was altogether unscrupulous, but absolutely faithful and devoted to his patron and largely so to his friends. He would sacrifice an enemy or one who stood in his way, but would at the same time sacrifice himself readily for his patron.

“Nobody understands the meaning of the term ‘arrogance’ who didn’t know Yuan in those years 1884-94. He was arrogance personified. He would not {222}meet or associate with the Ministers of other Powers unless he was allowed to occupy a sort of throne and ‘receive’ them as though they were vassal envoys. At a Korean State dinner he always occupied the foot (one end) of the table, which then became the head.”

 

[1] The China Press, Shanghai, December 8, 1911.

 

 

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CHAPTER XV

YUAN SHIH K’AI’S RETIREMENT
Perhaps the one personage in China most impressed by the utter inability of four hundred million Chinese to stand up against the forty million Japanese was the Chinese Resident in Seoul. Formerly in charge of the Chinese troops in Korea, he had been promoted to be China’s representative at the Court of what was so soon to pass away. That impact of the new and the old, that utter collapse of the feeble resistance offered by the proud Imperial troops to the disciplined modern army of Japan, convinced the Resident that China was tottering to her fall unless she, like Japan, could absorb the knowledge and civilisation of the West. This lesson was—to use a Chinese phrase—”engraved upon his heart.” That Resident was Yuan Shih K’ai.

YUAN SHI-K’AI. Prime Minister of the Manchu Government and subsequently First President of the Provisional Military Government of the United Republic of China.
YUAN SHI-K’AI.
Prime Minister of the Manchu Government and subsequently
First President of the Provisional Military Government
of the United Republic of China.
From that time onwards he set his hand to the plough of reform. And so straight a furrow did he plough, with never a swerve from his purpose, that he was everywhere spoken of as Yuan the Reformer. Discredited by the Japanese, neglected by the Chinese Government, vegetating for a time in that out-of-the-way port of Wenchow, it was not until 1898 that Yuan began to come to his own. As the result of a personal interview with the Emperor Kwang Hsu, he received his first military command under the Reform movement, being made expectant Vice-President of a Board with control of an army corps. In his new, environment Yuan had the opportunity of his life; he {224}proved his real greatness by rising to the occasion. Beginning with the control of a few modern-trained soldiers, he so entered into the development of the idea in his brain that China’s Model Army was the result, and their proved superiority over the Wuchang Modern Army at the engagements near Hankow was the proof that henceforth the properly trained, armed, and disciplined Chinese soldier is a force to be reckoned with. At this stage of his career Yuan united honesty of purpose with singleness of aim. He took the attitude of the old “sea dogs” of the British Navy—he was straight and true with his men, and worked with them. Honest himself, he saw to it that his officers were men of integrity. Foreigners applauded him, and when in 1900 he became Governor of Shantung, all the civilised world recognised that the man who would succeed Li Hung-chang had arrived. At this juncture Yuan Shih K’ai reached the parting of the ways, and showed to the world that even a great-minded and strong, purposeful Chinese statesman, with an intense desire for Reform in the country, is a Chinese still. Yuan had aided and abetted the young Emperor in his pursuit of Reform, but the time came when the military reformer had to choose whom he would serve—the Reform party and the Emperor Kwang-Hsu or the Conservative party and their leader the Empress-Dowager.

To carry out the Reform purpose it was necessary that the Emperor should have control of the new Northern Army, then under the command of Jung Lu, Governor-General of Chihli, and in order to obtain this control Jung Lu had to be put out of the way. At a secret interview with the Emperor on the 5th of the 8th moon, 1898, Yuan, after hearing all details of the Emperor’s plan, which included the beheading of Jung Lu and the capture of the Empress-Dowager by means of the army, promised implicit obedience. (He had already assured the Emperor of his loyalty if placed {225}in command of the troops. “Your servant,” he said, “will endeavour to recompense the Imperial favour even though his merit be as a drop of water in the ocean or a grain of sand in the desert; he will faithfully perform the service of a dog or a horse while there remains breath in his body.”)[1]

And with his vows hot upon his lips—went straight away and betrayed his sovereign. He was a Chinese, and seemed to choose the side that would best serve his own ends. The result is a matter of history. But it must ever be remembered that Yuan Shih K’ai struck the fatal blow which paralysed the Reform movement and prepared for the great humiliation of China in 1900.

Amongst the Chinese Yuan has come to be regarded as a man of doubtful advantage to his side. They remember that his arbitrary conduct of affairs when Resident of Korea had much to do with the bringing in of that disastrous conflict with Japan, they speak of his action in betraying the cause of Reform, and point to the fact that all his great schemes have, sooner or later, brought disaster with them and plunged his country into disgrace. Yuan might or might not have been guilty of these things. It is difficult for an onlooker to understand the game of Court intrigue as played by the Chinese diplomats. He sees not the things that count, or if he sees them reckons them as but sidelights, and sees them out of their true proportions. Nevertheless when calamity overtook the Empire Yuan’s was the strong hand that held it, that kept the country from going altogether. From the time of the return to power of the Empress-Dowager and her corrupt eunuch-controlled Court, Yuan’s star was in the ascendant. Specially named in the Imperial Edict which announced to all China the settlement of the Boxer troubles, promoted to the Viceregal blue-ribbon—that of Viceroy of Chihli and Guardian of the {226}Imperial Capital—granted the Order of the Yellow Jacket and sundry other distinctions—Yuan Shih K’ai became the first man of the Empire.

For the part he had played in stemming the Boxer tide and in saving the lives of many foreigners, Yuan commanded the respect and admiration of the Legations in Peking, and through them, of the civilised world.

Then came the fall. A writer in the National Review puts the matter briefly but succinctly: “In 1908 H.E. Yuan celebrated his fiftieth birthday. He held a reception and was the recipient of many gifts, including some from the Empress-Dowager and the Emperor. The great officials of Peking vied with each other in the costliness and rare choice of the presents they made, but there was a notable abstention from these courtesies. Prince Chun had asked for a few days’ leave of absence, and being therefore officially non-existent, he was saved the necessity of making a present. The incidents which led to the dismissal of H.E. Yuan deserve close note. Very shortly after the birthday celebration a special meeting of the Grand Council was held at which the question to be discussed was the appointment of a successor to H.I.M. Kwang Hsu. The Empress-Do wager presided, and, after announcing that the time had come to nominate an heir to the Throne, she stated that she had already made a choice in her own mind, but desired the advice of her councillors. Prince Ching and Yuan Shih K’ai then suggested the name of Prince Pu Lun, or, failing him, Prince Kung. The Empress-Dowager, however, announced that she had long ago in her own mind intended to make the eldest son of Prince Chun, whom she had married to the daughter of Jung Lu, the heir to> the Throne, in recognition of Jung Lu’s lifelong devotion to her person. She heard the Council’s views on this proposal, and as there was general agreement, she made this her final choice. Though this agreement was general, it was not unanimous; H.E. Yuan held to his {227}view of the superior claims of Prince Pu Lun, and, if precedent is anything to go by, he was right in these views. However, his views were overruled, with the result that H.I.M. Hsuan Tung now rules China.

“Shortly afterwards came the death of H.I.M. Kwang Hsu, whose valedictory Edict stated that for the misery of the past ten years Yuan Shih K’ai is responsible, and one other…. ‘When the time comes I desire that Yuan be summarily beheaded.’ This pious wish was not fulfilled, but scarcely had the present Regent assumed power than he propitiated the shade of his brother by a summary dismissal of his ablest statesman.”

Yuan retired to his birthplace, in Honan, and all efforts of foreign would-be friends to have him recalled were in vain. Yuan’s time of evening twilight seemed to have come.

 

[1] “China under the Empress-Dowager,” p. 203.

 

 

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CHAPTER XVI

RECALLED TO SAVE THE MONARCHY
“Yuan Shih K’ai is appointed Viceroy of the Hu Kuang provinces and to direct the suppressive and pacification operations there. Tsen Chun-hsuan is appointed Viceroy of Szechuen and to direct suppressive and pacification measures, in that province. They are both commanded to hasten to their posts and need not repair to Peking for audiences.”

 

This bald statement in an Imperial Edict issued on October 14, 1911—three days after the Revolution had broken out in Wuchang—told to the world that the Court in Peking was in extremis, yet ever acute. There was one man who could deal with the situation, one man to whom the Northern Army would be leal in a conflict with the Army of the South; that one man was the neglected Yuan Shih K’ai. At first Yuan refused the proffered honour, but afterwards General Yin Chang, who commanded the troops, interviewed him, and on the 18th Yuan formally accepted the appointment and proceeded south. It was a time fraught with great issues: Yuan the Reformer in close contact with Li the Revolutionary. In the battle of brains (as well as of bullets) who would prove to be the stronger man? This section of Yuan’s life has already been referred to in an earlier chapter of the volume.

On November 10th Yuan Shih K’ai was recalled to Peking, and five days later accepted the position of Prime Minister, which carried with it the difficult task of trying to pacify the nation and institute a Reform Government which would be satisfactory to a majority {229}of both factions. Writing under that date, a writer in Peking said:—

“According to information received from an exceptionally high authority, Yuan has adopted a definite plan of procedure.

“First he will endeavour to ascertain the sentiment of the country in regard to the crucial question whether the Manchu Dynasty will continue to reign or will be deposed in favour of another form of government. To this end he will immediately summon a large number of prominent and representative men from all parts of the country, in addition to those to be selected in accordance with the edicts issued yesterday, to form a national conference. This conference of provincials will determine whether the people really desire a Republic or a Constitutional Monarchy.

“Personally, Yuan Shih K’ai is well satisfied to have a Constitutional Monarchy, with strict limitations on the powers and requisites of the Throne, and will use his influence to this end. However, he will abide by the decision of the people, reached in accordance with this orderly plan.

“Yuan has been working strenuously ever since his arrival, shaping his forces and organising his supporters. There is no doubt that he feels absolutely secure of the support of the entire Northern Army and its commanders. He is also negotiating with General Li Yuan Hung, with whom two special emissaries are now consulting.

“Last night Yuan reached a thorough understanding with the National Assembly. This probably was one reason for his acceptance, because he did not wish to risk antagonism in that quarter. Now he has the full and absolute support of the Assembly without danger of interference, if promises are kept. Whatever the final result of his efforts may be, it seems certain that an extended period of parleying is at hand. It can be positively stated that the Government has decided to {230}abandon all aggressive measures from Peking during the course of the negotiations. However, the Imperial troops naturally will fight if the Revolutionists attack them.”

From this time onwards the policy of Yuan Shih K’ai was an enigma even to those who watched it the most closely. His most ardent admirers were puzzled. During the brief months that had elapsed since he re-entered the arena his Excellency had gained many titles. As he seemed to shape his policy, so he was called Yuan the Dictator, Yuan the Cunctator, Yuan the King-maker—the Chinese Earl of Warwick. It is conceivable that all along he was true to his ideal, played the one game, sought only the best interests of the people and country as a whole. At any rate, it was admitted the world over that the one man of strong character and general qualities of leadership in Peking was Yuan Shih K’ai.

Yuan’s first move in Peking was an astute one, but it failed. His Cabinet that was to reconcile all parties practically resigned before it was ever constituted. Even the National Assembly found itself powerless to do other than pass resolutions. The Premier’s first great triumph over the Manchus was in bringing about the resignation of the Prince Regent, who had so summarily dismissed Yuan a few years before. The story of the “resignation” is well told in the China Press of December 8th:—

“The unheralded edict from the Empress-Dowager, accepting the ‘resignation’ of the Prince Regent, constitutes one of the most dramatic of all happenings in this great political upheaval, and shows the tremendous extent to which the Reform element has gone in its programme for the relegation of the Manchus. Aside from its actual, concrete importance there is in the event an added degree of interest on account of the relations between Yuan Shih K’ai, who brought the Regent’s retirement about, and the Prince Regent. If {231}there is anything of the spirit of revenge in the make-up of the Premier he must be gloating now, for he has completely vanquished the man who, three short years ago, was responsible for his dismissal from office and his retirement to humiliation.

“No one knows—at least, no one will tell—just how this great event was brought about. It seems, however, that Yuan Shih K’ai had been working for it for several weeks. He was strongly supported by Prince Ching, and these two told both the Regent himself and the Empress-Dowager that the Regent’s retirement was necessary to a settlement of the present disturbed state of the Empire. The Prince Regent was reluctant but finally yielded to the demand, and henceforth he will be entirely out of public life. Yuan Shih K’ai and his followers and helpers hoped that the step would be of vast benefit to the Government, and would make a settlement with the rebels possible. They say they think this will be the case. Others, however, especially some foreigners, feel that this step, like so many others, has perhaps come too late, and that rebellious elements to the southward will consider it as an indication of weakness on the part of the Government, and that they will thus become encouraged to continue the fight. The Chinese say that this will not be the case. Chinese psychology, it appears, enters into the matter to a considerable extent, and the apparently reasonable view of the foreigner as to the logical result of the step and its effect upon rebel minds is not, according to the Chinese argument, justified.

“The edict retiring the Prince Regent makes Yuan Shih K’ai more powerful than ever, and if the situation is to be saved, he must be the man to do it. It is not as clear as it might be, and there is much speculation here amongst foreigners as to where it leaves the Empress-Dowager. A consensus of opinion appears to be that the Empress-Dowager remains only a figurehead. The edict at one point says that {232}hereafter ‘the whole responsibility’ of appointing officials and carrying on the Government will rest upon the Prime Minister and the Ministers of State. Thus Yuan Shih K’ai is made supreme, for he is Prime Minister and Cabinet in one, as the Cabinet is composed of men of his own selection. The Empress-Dowager will have nothing to do with the executive or legislative branches of the new form of Government. She is apparently limited by these words, which follow those quoted above: ‘When edicts are to be issued the Prime Minister will ask for the Imperial Seal to be used, and ceremonial audiences will be held by Us and the Emperor together.’ This, it would seem, leaves the Empress-Dowager and the Emperor as the symbol of the sovereignty of China, but with none of the functions of law-making or administration. It will be the Empress-Dowager who sits on the throne to receive credentials from the foreign ministers when they come to the capital, and she will typify the head of the State to the world at large; but more than this she will not be.”

Yuan Shih K’ai’s next problem was to so arrange matters that the Manchu Court should see fit to “abdicate,” and at the same time temporise with the Republican party by means of the famous but fatuous Peace Conference. Here the master-hand revealed itself. For a time Yuan seemed trusted yet doubted alike by both sides. He succeeded in bringing actual hostilities to an end—and this may have been his objective.

Under date of January 21, 1912, a Peking correspondent wrote:—

“From time to time since the beginning of the present upheaval in China the situation has seemed extremely complicated and beyond all understanding, and to-day it appears more so than ever. Not only is the controversy between the Revolutionists and the Government here still under way and very {233}bitter, but there is trouble and turmoil within the Manchu camp, due to a decided difference of opinion amongst the Princes over the important question of abdication. It is known that last Friday, January 19th, had been set as the day for the issuance of the abdication edict. The Throne was fully prepared to clear out; Yuan Shih K’ai had obtained the full approval of the Empress-Dowager and of leading Princes to this move, and the immediate retirement of the Court to Jehol seemed certain. Complications, however, set in, and to-day it is not at all certain that abdication will come at once. There is fight-talk in the air, and no one knows what will happen. Yuan Shih K’ai remains secluded in his office, on leave of absence, surrounded by more soldiers than ever before, and evidently in fear of further attempts at assassination. There are Manchus of royal blood, and others of red blood, who declare against abdication and desire to fight it out. Many of these call Yuan Shih K’ai a traitor, and, if circumstantial rumours are to be believed, even in part, Yuan Shih K’ai is in as much danger from a certain Manchu element as from revolutionary bombs.

“It is a tremendous situation to-day, hard to understand and impossible actually to know, for those who do know what has transpired will not tell, while those who pretend to know spread varying and sensational reports. There is something behind it all, something that, as far as I can ascertain, no foreigner knows. Yuan Shih K’ai is playing a deep game, in the opinion of all, and some say that he intends that the finale of his incomprehensible regime as Premier shall be the elevation to the presidency of Yuan Shih K’ai. The Premier, beyond all doubt, has lost much ground recently with the foreigners who have thought so highly of him, and he is freely accused of playing a game. Perhaps this is unjust to him, but, if so, he has himself to blame, for beyond doubt he has not made the most of his opportunities.”

{234}
Yuan’s striking personality, his military genius, his character, the magnetic attraction he has for the foreigners around him, must have had much to do in shaping the end of recent events. But how much so, and the whole truth concerning the part he has played in this Revolution yet remains to be told in a volume that will reveal the inwardness of the motives and ambitions and achievements of H.E. Yuan Shih K’ai, perhaps the greatest man in the Chinese Empire of to-day. How to read the riddle of his recent diplomatic moves is beyond the powers of the Occidental. When Admiral Sah fired his few effectual rounds at Kilometre Ten, and retired down-river instead of annihilating the routed Republicans, was he acting under Yuan Shih K’ai’s express orders? When later on Hankow was taken and Admiral Sah decided to bombard Wuchang and thus bring the campaign to a close, who prevented him carrying out his effectual proposals? Was it Yuan? And then, on November 27th, when Hanyang fell and Wuchang seemed at the mercy of the Imperialists, who was it that stayed the forward move and gave General Li Yuan Hung an opportunity to reconstruct his plan of campaign? Was Yuan even then drawing his net more closely round his Manchu enemies. And did he, too, cause the evacuation of the Wuhan centre, leaving it to the Revolutionists to reoccupy the hardly-won positions without the firing of a shot or the loss of a single life? The future still holds the solution of these riddles. There are those, however, who see in all these moves the hand of a statesman, eager and able to hold together his country and at the same time revenge himself on his enemies in the corrupt Manchu Court.

 

 

{235}

CHAPTER XVII

THE SZECHUEN REVOLT
It was long before the outbreak of the Revolution that Szechuen was in the throes of a revolt that threatened early to spread to most dangerous limits from every aspect. The cause of the trouble was the building of railroads. Szechuen demanded exclusion from the scheme for the nationalisation of the railways. The literati and the students took the matter in hand, declared determinedly that the province should build its own railways, and in a very short time the province was in an uproar. We have but little space to deal with the history of the disturbances, but seeing that when it was at its worst there existed a serious anti-foreign spirit, it will be well to give a brief review on the affair.

For several years one had become accustomed to the startling pronouncements from Peking as to what the Government of China intended to do with regard to the establishment of railroads throughout the length and breadth of the land, and what the consequent opening up of the country would be. During the past few years of China’s alleged awakening we had, however, waited in vain for the much-debated new lines. In each Provincial Assembly one of the foremost among the matters of agenda had always been the railway which came no nearer, and the public had grown accustomed to the talk and instinctively had arrived at the position {236}where they do not expect any concrete result in the shape of railroad actualities.

The announcement made during the spring of 1911 would seem to have indicated, however, that that time was past with the coming into public office of his Excellency Tuan Fang as Director-General of Railways. Whilst he held public office Tuan Fang was a man who, next, perhaps, to Yuan Shih K’ai, was looked upon as the prince of officials, was famous for the tact and ability with which he approached all matters having anything to do with the foreigner, was highly respected by the people, was astute, far-seeing, progressive in the truest sense, and generally respected as a public pillar in the coming of the New China. But one day, when the funeral of the late Empress was taking place, he was unfortunate enough, as will be seen in a footnote printed below, to commit one of the greatest breaches against Imperial etiquette. The wrath of the Throne was brought down upon him. Tuan Fang was dismissed peremptorily, put his papers in his pocket, and cleared out of the service in apparent disgrace. That, however, was in the old days. China, since then, had been quickly undergoing a process of mighty change, and Tuan had changed with the times. He was now taken into office by the Government, and among other things that came directly under his control was the management of the railways proposed to become and those already under construction. So that it was now reasonably expected that some progress would be made—not so speedy as the programme would indicate, perhaps—but certain was it that no man at the time in the whole of the Government arena was more capable of handling that particularly needed adjunct of national progress as the modern railroad admittedly is in China. In China the railway question is one of the most vital importance. By virtue of size alone China, it was seen, must seek the aid of every railway-building nation in the world if she was to complete {237}her proposed schemes. The problems of railways here in China only touch the difficulties of construction and initial expense. The stage where the relation of the railways to society and commerce becomes more and more complicated has not yet arrived. China is innocently free for the most part from such vexatious questions as the competition of rates and fares, the combination of railway systems, the pooling of traffic, and State or private ownership. The conditions prevailing in China are rather the result of historical evolution, and cannot possibly be regarded as the outcome of any policy. If a railway has rails, then in China it can very well be called a railway—and China has shown us that she has been satisfied, and the Chinese Government has always been the victim of circumstances, guided wholly by the golden age in the past rather than an intelligent outlook for the golden age of the future. The railways that China possesses had always been, and still are, the most flagrant examples of how railways should not be run. They had been a disgrace to a nation that has put forward a claim to be making endeavours to get out of the grip of antediluvianism. They have lost money, have been allowed to get into the sorriest state of disrepair that can be imagined, and altogether have been white elephants. But the spirit of railway construction during the last few years took hold of the Government. In the enlightened provinces of north and east China the people talked railways, they thought railways, they dreamed railways, and with the advent of Tuan Fang as the Director-General of Railways they seemed set upon building railways. The need of opening up this wonderful Empire is an oft-repeated tale, not needing to be reiterated. In every province in the west of the Empire there is known to be a wealth in the earth that will in time allow China to vie with the United States in natural resources. For her own intercommunication and exchange of products China’s first need is the railway. If her exports are {238}to increase in a proportionate measure with her opportunity of natural development, China must have a network of railroads to enable her speedily to transport her products to the coast. The need is there, and aided by the Great Four Nation Loan, China (so it seemed at the commencement of 1911) would be able to move with enormous strides. She now had the money, and she had now chosen the man. It was only to be hoped that his Excellency Tuan Fang, in entering upon his important mission to the New China, would not find his hands tied by that unmoving element of the Old China which still rigidly maintained an attitude of short-sighted independence.

Early in the scheme which made for the nationalisation of the railroads it was seen that Szechuen would not pull with the other provinces—Hunan was another. It was one of the unaccountable phenomena of the times in several of the central provinces of China that the gentry and the literati were impressed in a manner the reverse of satisfactory over the loaning of money by the Powers to China. Several places had been on the verge of a revolt as a result of the Government’s decision, and in some places there was a marked dislike to the Imperial methods of opening up the country. The first thing that impresses the observer of social conditions in China to-day is the magnitude of the industrial forces that are everywhere at work—the man who does not work finds little to eat. In seven-eighths of this enormous Empire the bulk of the country’s work is performed by the energies of human beings and beasts of burden. China—that is, the common people of the country—has not learned the lesson of harnessing to the chariot of industrial progress one of the great natural forces, and they are taught from the cradle to believe that when once a labour-saving machine is introduced, that exact number of people whose combined work is accomplished by the machine will commence to starve. The ordinary Chinese looks out of {239}his almond-shaped eyes, but does not see wherein lies the wealth of the land. That the United States of America increased its mechanical horse-power from two million in 1870 to roughly twelve million in 1900, and has enjoyed greater wealth with its increase—and that his own country could do the same, mattered not to the ordinary Chinese. He argues in a very elementary manner. He has so many mouths to feed; there is so much work to be done; when all the work that there is to be done is done by hand labour, even then there are thousands of mouths that cannot be filled, and if labour-saving machinery is introduced, what will become of the millions who will be thrown out of employment? So argues the ordinary Chinese, and for fear of making matters worse than they are, he votes plump against the introduction of foreign machinery. This was the spirit of the proletariat towards the opening of the country by railway lines. But the change was bound to come, and although the people of Szechuen showed plainly that they intended tooth and nail to fight against this that they little understood, the Government seemed to show most strongly that it intended to push the building of the lines. The question was, of course, of thrilling interest to China as a nation, and of vital importance to the whole of the East and the West. In former times the people themselves had had the opportunity to build their own railways, the same as private companies did in Europe and America. They stolidly refused, they believed such an innovation of the devil to be directly against the welfare of the country. For ages the Chinese Government thought the same, but when the partly-awakened China reached out to grasp its last chance of swinging commercially into line with other great nations of the world, there was to be no hesitancy. China must have railways. She could not build them herself—she had no money. Europe and America could build them; Europe and America had the money, and {240}were doing what any other right-thinking nation would characterise as a gracious act (although not quite free from the loaves and fishes element), and it was the duty of the Chinese Government to rule with an iron hand against any hysterical hooligans whose Imperial short-sightedness rendered them a dangerous element in the country.

There was for several months during the initial trouble no anti-foreign movement. A Society boasting the name of the One Aim Society—the one aim being to get the railway loan rescinded—was formed, many scholars of repute being the leaders, who prided themselves upon conducting their campaign in quite a civilised fashion, and not in the old way of destroying public buildings and so forth. Where agitation existed against the missionaries and foreigners the leaders stepped in, agitated for and subsequently succeeded in getting many of the commoner ringleaders behea