Story of China - R. Van Bergen

Russia's Object in China

As early as 1558 there is evidence that two Russian travelers entered the capital of China. Fifty years later an embassy from Russia was sent to China, but it proved fruitless. In 1643, while the Manchu were attacking China, several Russians, who had penetrated north of the Amur valley, commenced a series of explorations. Six years later an incursion was made under Chaboroff. The Czar Alexis sent an embassy to Peking in 1653, but as the Russians refused to kow-tow, or prostrate themselves before the Emperor, they were not received. In 1655 the Russian Stepanoff invaded China, but was defeated by the Manchu-Chinese army. During the years 1658, 1672, and 1677 three trading caravans came to Peking. The Russian settlers on the banks of the Amur had frequent difficulties with Chinese soldiers, and a war of five years followed. It was ended in 1689 by the treaty of Nerchinsk, and the Amur valley was restored to China, while Russia secured a portion of the bank of the River Argun, a branch of the Upper Amur.

After the boundary line between Chinese and Russian territory was decided, the Chinese commanders at the frontier received orders to inspect their posts every day. "Only in this way," says one writer, "could the frontier be kept for a hundred years against the Russians. Across the river horse-hair ropes were drawn for the same purpose." Peter the Great, in 1692, also sent an embassy to Peking.

There was constant trouble near the frontier. In 1715 a considerable number of Russians, who had been taken prisoners by the Chinese, were permitted to settle at Peking, and in 1727 they were allowed to build a church and school. In the same year another embassy was sent to Peking, which resulted in permission being given for a caravan to travel to China every three years.

Twenty years before, the peninsula of Kamtchatka had been declared Russian territory, and in 1746 the Russian government was advised to establish a fortified post at the mouth of the Amur. Nothing was done, however, until 1806, when Captain Golofkin was sent to Peking to ask for free navigation on the Amur, or at least for permission to send a number of ships with provisions each year. The Chinese refused absolutely.

No further attempts were made until Count Nicholas Muravieff was appointed Governor of Eastern Siberia in 1847. He sent a party of Cossacks, or Russian soldiers, to explore the Amur River. This party left for the Amur in the spring of 1848, but was never heard of again.

Muravieff, however, was not discouraged. He sent vessels to the Sea of Okhotsk and a survey of the coast was made. In 1850 Lieutenant Orloff discovered the mouth of the Amur River. Captain Nevilskoi ascended the Amur and founded Nikolayefsk, so named after the Czar Nicholas. Russian settlements were made along the coast, and in 1853 one was established on the west coast of Saghalien, which island was settled by Japanese.

When the Crimean War broke out (1853), Muravieff determined to seize the Amur. He sent a request to the Mandarin at Kiakhta (kee-ak-tah), to be allowed to send stores down the river to the Russian settlements. The answer was that nothing could be done without orders from Peking. Muravieff did not wait any longer. Supplies were badly needed on the Lower Amur, and necessity knows no law. The governor started down the Amur in the steamer Argun, with fifty barges and a large number of rafts. He also took with him a thousand soldiers and several big guns.

The expedition arrived at Aigun (i-goon), where they found a number of junks moored by the bank. The Chinese invited the Russians ashore, and entertained them in a tent near the river bank, since the entrance of strangers into the town was prohibited. The Russians noticed that the Chinese army was about a thousand strong, but that the men were wretchedly clothed and armed. Most of the soldiers carried bows and arrows, some had lances, others had poles blackened at the top to look like lances, and a few favored ones were proud in the possession of old, and evidently useless, matchlocks. Muravieff soon after returned to Irkutsk, well pleased at having descended the Amur to its mouth.

During the Crimean War many of the new settlements on the Pacific were deserted, but after peace was concluded in 1856 the settlers returned. Muravieff had gone to St. Petersburg in 1855 to urge upon the government the advisability of planting of colonies on the Amur. He returned to Irkutsk in 1857, and at once organized new expeditions. During the summer a large number of settlers and quantities of provisions were taken down the Amur. Among the travelers was Admiral Putiatin, who was on a mission to Japan and China. He sailed down the river, and, after calling at some of the Pacific Coast settlements, visited the island known as Port Hamilton, where he obtained permission from Korea to establish a coaling station. From Port Hamilton Putiatin sailed to the Gulf of Pechili, and with considerable difficulty persuaded a mandarin to accept a letter to the Emperor.

This letter was simply a request from the Czar to let him have Manchuria, offering in return to help put down the Tae-Ping (tie-ping) rebellion. The request was refused, and the only result was a number of protests from the mandarins on the frontier against the invasion of Chinese territory by the Russians.

When he received these protests, Muravieff hurried to St. Petersburg for instructions. The government decided to give him full power to treat with the Chinese, and to send him more troops. At this time the Chinese were at war with the English and the French, and when Muravieff arrived on the Amur they were in no mood for any more fighting, after their experience with the English and French troops, and declared that they would let Russia have free navigation on the Amur. But Muravieff was no longer satisfied with such a concession. He asked for, and was given, the left bank of the Amur as far as the Ussuri (oo-sootee) River, and both banks from there to the sea. The Sungari and Ussuri River were also to be open to travelers and merchants carrying a Russian passport. This treaty was signed at Aigun on the 28th of May, 1858. In the meanwhile Admiral Putiatin had not been idle. By the Treaty of Tientsin he had secured for Russia the same privileges granted to the United States, England, and France, and an agreement besides, that the new frontier between China and Siberia should be surveyed and mapped.

The new Russian territory, acquired without the expense of a dollar or the loss of a man, was divided into the maritime Province of Eastern Siberia, and the Amur Province. In consequence of certain privileges ten thousand Russians arrived on the Amur at the beginning of 1859. When gold was discovered, in the same year, the number of settlers increased rapidly.

In June, 1859, the Chinese gained a brief victory over the English and French at the mouth of the Pei-ho River, and the mandarins began to annoy the Russian settlers on the Amur in every way. General Ignatieff was sent with a complaint to Peking. When he arrived the British and French were about to enter the city. The mandarins did not want any more fighting, and when Ignatieff demanded the whole of the maritime Province of Manchuria, the country round Lake Balkash, and part of Turkestan, and permission for Russian merchants to travel to Peking, the Chinese agreed to these terms by the Treaty of Peking, signed on November 14th, 1860.

In the western part of China many of the people are Mohammedans. These people rose in rebellion in 1863, and every attempt of the Chinese government to restore order failed. Then the Russians determined to put down the rebellion. As soon as the Russian troops appeared, the rebels dispersed, and Russia occupied their territory. China demanded that the Russians should withdraw their army. The latter, however, remained, and the Chinese did not care to risk a fight. In 1879 a mandarin of high rank, named Chung-How (choong-how) was sent to St. Petersburg, and Russia offered to restore part of the territory upon the payment of five million rubles. Chung-How seeing that this was the best he could do, agreed, and returned to Peking.

The Empress-Dowager was very indignant. Chung-How was taken to prison and sentenced to death. When the Czar heard this he began to send men and ships to the Chinese Coast, and the Empress-Dowager, ordered Marquis Tseng, the Chinese Ambassador in London, to go to St. Petersburg and arrange terms. He agreed to the Treaty of St. Petersburg, by which Russia restored nearly the whole of the territory in the west, while China paid a large sum, and allowed Russia free navigation of the rivers in Manchuria. The treaty was signed in 1881, and approved by the Empress.

The war between Japan and China in 1894 caused a renewal of Russian activity. Japan, among other things, demanded the cession of the Liao-tung (lee-ah-oh toong) peninsula. Russia at once declared that it would not permit this, because it would mean the dismemberment of China. France and Germany agreed with Russia, and Japan was forced to submit.

In 1896 the famous Li Hung Chang (lee hoong chahng), a mandarin of great influence, was sent to St. Petersburg to represent China at the crowning of the Czar. While he was there a secret treaty was made between Russia and China, and in the same year an arrangement was made for the construction of a railway through Manchuria. The following year Germany demanded a port in the Shan-tung peninsula, named Kiao-chao (kee-ah-oh chah-oh), and Russia took this opportunity to seize Port Arthur, which the Japanese had taken after a hard fight. Toward the end of March, 1898, the Chinese government announced that Port Arthur had been leased to Russia. This completed Russia's occupation of Manchuria.