China's Story - William Griffis

Peace Under Heaven

Prince kung persuaded the court to open peace negotiations. The treaty of Tien Tsin was ratified and a new one signed in the Hall of Ceremonies, October 22, 1860. It provided for an indemnity of eighty thousand taels, permission for Chinese subjects to emigrate, the opening of Tien Tsin as a treaty port, and the enlarging of Hong Kong by the annexation of Kowlun.

All this, humiliating as it was, was little, as compared with one provision in the French treaty. This stipulated that the Chinese government should pay an indemnity for all churches, buildings, and land which a century or two before had belonged to the native Christians, and that the money should be paid to the French envoy at Peking. This occasioned the greatest difficulty and confusion, and was the seed of much trouble in the future, because most of the property had long before passed into the ownership of those who had honestly bought it. In the Chinese draft of the French treaty was another clause permitting the missionaries to buy land, erect buildings, and reside in the interior.

Winter coming on, the allies left for Shanghai. Prince Kung could not persuade his imperial master to return to Peking, and shortly after this the emperor died, leaving Tung Chi, a child four years of age, the heir apparent. Now the danger was that the court, having returned to Peking, should be controlled in the interests of the anti-foreign party. Prince Kung therefore made an arrangement with the two empresses, the mother and the dowager, and seizing control of power, arrested and put to death the leaders of the anti-foreign party. Then he and the empress dowager ruled the empire. This was the time-honored method of procedure in an Asiatic country, when there is no national legislature. It was much the same in meaning as moving a vote of censure, but the method was different from that of the British Parliament or the American Congress. Unanimity of opinion was secured by removing the heads of those who differed. Very much the same thing was done in Japan, about the same time, by the premier Ii, and later by clan leaders. In Korea the reformers of 1875 followed a similar programme.

The Chinese now began to recognize the fact that Western nations must be treated decently. A department of foreign affairs, called the Tsung-li Yamen, was created. Of its three members, Prince Kung was the head. It was now possible for foreign envoys to meet Chinese officers regularly for the transaction of business.

The war with the Europeans had drawn away the imperial troops to the north. The Long-Haired Rebels had become more active and had captured several other cities. When the government forces surrounded Nanking, the Tai Ping general, Chung, defeated them in a great battle with a loss of five thousand men. City after city was captured, until the Long Hairs occupied the whole peninsula between the Yang-tse River and Hang Chow Bay.

The viceroys of the two great provinces had asked foreign assistance against the Tai Pings, but thus far in vain. In Shanghai, a native patriotic association, taking the advice of Li Hung Chang, then a province governor, engaged two Americans, Ward and Burgevine, to organize a force of foreigners to fight the rebels. Burgevine soon quarreled with the mandarins. Ward organized a force of two hundred men and captured one city, but in his attack on a second was wounded. When the Tai Pings attacked Shanghai, they were easily driven away by foreign troops firing from the walls.

Ward recovered from his wound, but as the Shang-hai authorities wished neutrality to be preserved, he was not allowed to employ any but native troops. He therefore selected foreign officers and organized the nucleus of what afterwards' was called the Ever Victorious Army, which Gordon, the Englishman, enlarged and led. Under Ward these Chinese became seasoned veterans and won many victories over the rebels. The British commanders, finding that the policy of neutrality had been a mistake, agreed to clear the country of rebels within a radius of thirty miles around Shang-hai. This was done by the end of 1862; but meanwhile in September Ward had been killed in battle near Ningpo. After various changes and troubles, Gordon took the army organized by Ward and divided it into five regiments of infantry and one of artillery, increasing it to about three thousand men.

Between civil strife and foreign troubles, the emperor Hien Fang died and the little boy Tung Chi, who did not end his minority until 1873, was proclaimed ruler of China, the regents at Peking carrying on the government.

War was carried on by stratagem as well as by strategy. Before Tai Tsang, besieged by the government army, some rebels in the city shaved off the front of their heads, and, making queues, pretended to be imperialists by choice. They offered to lead the attacking force inside of the gates, but as soon as these were opened, the rebels within slaughtered the entire imperial force thus enticed inside. Gordon, however, succeeded later in capturing Tai Tsang. When a mutiny broke out because the soldiers loaded with plunder refused to march, Gordon's firmness saved the day. In a second case of insubordination, he had the ring-leaders pulled out and shot. After that, discipline was maintained.

It was not only in severity of rule, but in the simple matter of telling the truth, that the ideas of Gordon, a typical Englishman and man of honor, came into contact with medieval and savage notions, which were less Chinese than they were of the ancient world. Yet while this is so, the incident illustrates the need of interpreters and of men understanding one another. Su Chow was difficult to capture, but inside the city there was division of council. The rebel chiefs agreed to surrender, on receiving what they understood to be a promise that their lives would be spared. But Gordon could not talk Chinese, or the rebels English. Gordon supposed that Li Hung Chang assented. As soon as the city had surrendered, the rebel leaders were invited to meet Li Hung Chang, but they came in swaggering, and not at all humble. They were seized and had their heads cut off. This act so enraged Gordon, who considered it rank treachery, that he pursued Li Hung Chang with a revolver.

Orientals, though not valuing truth when it is disagreeable to speak it, do not so often seem to lie when we understand their language. Many have been the mistakes of interpreters, often ludicrous, sometimes disastrous, yet they have done a large and honorable part in the good work of brotherhood. Gordon after a while resumed command, believing that unless the advantages gained were followed up, the war would be indefinitely prolonged. When the last stronghold of the rebels, Nanking, was invested, the women and children were sent out, because there was no food. The Tai Ping leader took poison and died by suicide June 30, 1864. The imperialists, having blown up part of the wall, entered through the breach on the 19th of July. The dead leader's son was immediately executed, but his brave general Chung was permitted to finish the writing of his memoirs. He was then led out and beheaded.

The Tai Ping rebellion was over, during which it is believed twenty millions of lives were sacrificed and some of the finest provinces in China devastated. To-day in many cities acres of ruins, once occupied by the rebels, remain to tell of their awful work. In gratitude for his eminent services the Chinese government built a memorial shrine in commemoration of the brave American, Frederick Townsend Ward, born at Salem, Massachusetts, in 1831.

Gordon advised Li Hung Chang to make the Ever Victorious Army the basis of a standing army, but this mandarin feared that such a force might become too powerful. While Europe has long staggered under the awful expense of vast standing armies and costly navies, and passed through an untold number of wars, armed uprisings, riots, revolutions, and conflicts of all kinds, China, until pressed on all sides by the ambitious and predatory Western nations, never kept a standing army. In most places in the empire there is no permanent police force.

During all this time a fleet of gunboats, ordered by Prince Kung and built in England, lay idle when most needed; because the Chinese refused, even as the Japanese have persisted in refusing, to give foreigners control of their military or naval forces. The Peking government decided how the fleet purchased by them was to be commanded. The British gentleman who had been appointed inspector of the Imperial Customs was dismissed, and in his place Mr. Robert Hart was appointed, who by tact, ability, and untiring energy won unbounded influence with the Chinese.

Hart was a young Irishman, the descendant of a Captain van Hardt, in King William's army of 1688, who with Irish grit and Dutch tenacity wrought his wonderful work. During his service of over forty years, he acted as mediator, staved off war, kept the peace, equipped the coast with lighthouses, revenue vessels, navy, and army, and created in the customs service a spirit of honesty and fair dealing that to the old-time mandarins seemed unearthly, if not supernatural.

With a navy of foreign-built ships, it was necessary to have a flag to distinguish the country and to be able to hold communication, in the language of naval signals, with the war-vessels of other tions. A triangular yellow flag, with the device of a dragon upon it, was adopted. The shape now used, following the general fashion of the naval world, is oblong, but the dragon remains. The flag of Korea has the eight diagrams, with the red and yellow symbols of creation. The flag of Japan bears the red rising sun on a white field.

Another uprising in large proportions broke out among the Chinese Mahometans in Yunnan. In theory, China allows no interference with the customs of the country as handed down from the times of Confucius. The state religion is as much opposed to Mahometanism as to Christianity. Nominally, but not really, other religions are tolerated, but there is no such thing in China as perfect freedom of conscience. China is theoretically, at least, a persecuting country, as much so as is Russia, or as were the old nations of Europe. In spite of all imperial proclamations, even toleration is not a settled fact. The Mahometans in China are tolerated because they are so strong and so numerous. Some of the ablest Chinese generals have followed the faith of Islam.

The Mahometans in Yunnan, fearing that the murder of all their fellow believers had been decreed in Peking, took up arms. Their leader assumed the title of sultan and sent agents to Great Britain asking for his recognition as an independent sovereign. The rebellion was put down and the garrison of the chief stronghold massacred. Another Mahometan uprising broke out in the northwest. The tribes in central Asia sympathizing, Yakoop Beg (or Governor Jacob) assumed the command. To repress disorder, the Russians sent an army into Ili, and in 1871 established a government in the Chinese city of Kuldja. The Chinese general Tso, marching leisurely with an army, sowing the seed and raising the crops with which to feed his soldiers on the way, quelled this rebellion, and later Ili was restored to the Chinese.