• Last time we spoke about about the emerging war between Big brother China and Little brother Japan. Li Hongzhang struggled to do everything he possible could to thwart the outbreak of war with Japan, but he could not stop the inevitable. The Japanese began landing troops and soon seized King Gojong trying to force Korea to take up the reforms they wanted them to. Li Hongzhang tried to keep the Qing forces at a distance, but the Japanese would not stop reinforcing their position in Korea. Eventually Li Hongzhang decided to play with what he thought was a Japanese bluff, sending further reinforcements to Asan, but the IJN intercepted the transports and disaster struck. The IJN sank the Kowshing and other Qing vessels ushering in the first shots of the First Sino-Japanese War. The Genie was out of the bottle and could not be put back in.

    #50 The First Sino-Japanese War of 1898-1895 Part 2: The battles of Seonghwan and Pyongyang

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    The battle of Pungdo and sinking of the Kowshing robbed the Qing of 1100 men and 12 pieces of artillery along with other war materials that were needed at Asan. It’s important also to remember the major differences between Japan and China when it came to their military forces. The Qing were composed of multiple different forces, as a journalist at Le Journal des debats politiques et litteraires said “there are chinese troops: there is no Chinese army, or rather there are as many armies as there are regions”. I know for those of you listening to the series I repeat the structure of the Qing military too often, but I imagine some people listening only joined us for the First Sino-Japanese War, so welcome and here is how the Qing military works. You have the 1) 8-banners army made up of Manchu, Mongol, Muslim and Han banners, 2) the Green Standard army which can be honestly seen more as a armed police force, made mostly because the 8-banners were very outdated 3) then there is the Yong Ying militias and hired mercenaries 4) lastly we have the foreign training army which are basically private armies held by grand officials like Li Hongzhang. The Yong-Ying’s were pretty much the bread and butter, serving as a kind of national guard and sent to hot spots within the empire where rebels would break out. Many of these Yong-Ying types received foreign training thus fall into that 4th category, making them like the cream of the crop. Overall Yong-Ying’s and well trained troops make up 10% of the total Qing forces, the Green standards make up the vast majority. Li Hongzhang like I said had a personal army, the Huai Army, created to fight the Taiping back in the 1860’s. They were the elites, but as Li aged, he lessened his oversee on them. Adding to Li’s age, the Qing court was reluctant to fund such an army, led by a Han no less, who might become too powerful and unseat their Manchu ruled dynasty. I mean they had good reason to worry, Li Hongzhang’s teacher Zeng Guofan got to a point he could have done this with his army, he just chose to retire instead, kind of a Sulla thing to do I always find. Now as you can see the Qing military is quite regional in nature with many warlord like figures controlling private armies and the Qing state controlling the less effective forces, it severely lacked unity. So to was the situation of the Qing navy. There were 4 autonomous squadrons: the Beiyang (northern), Nanyang (southern), Fujian and Guangdong. Only the Beiyang possessed a modern fleet based at Weihaiwei and under the control of Li Hongzhang, yes old Li had a lot of firepower. China’s arsenals and naval academics were the property of their province of origin and count not be counted on to supply other provinces in the event of…oh I dunno a war. We saw during the Sino-French War of 1884-1885 how this could led to disaster, when Li’s Beiyang fleet declined to help the Nanyang fleet. Well, that decision came to bite him right in the ass, as now it would be the Nanyang fleet who would ignore his calls for him. Even within the Beiyang fleet, the guns and ammunition were not standardized. Gunpowder was local and not appropriate for import guns resulting in logistical mayhem. The supply system was likewise very ad hoc and prone to flaws leading to the Beiyang squadron grossly undersupplied. Again another reason for all of this ridiculousness, was the Manchu not wanting the Han military to be strong enough to overthrow them. The Manchu deliberately prevented the creation of a unified national army, it was the basis of their strategy since they defeated the Ming dynasty. The German press would focus on the fundamental weaknesses of the Qing land forces and on the eve of the war an article stated this “the lack of a unified command. Each of the provincial armies was the personal creation of that province's governor. It is naturally in the interest of each [provincial] Viceroy to retain the fruit of his exertions for himself; in no case is he inclined to come to the assistance of a neighbour who is worse provided, and incur the danger of denuding his own province, for whose safety he is responsible with his head. The same system of individual responsibility applied down through the military ranks. It squelched initiative and promoted defensive rather than preemptive action. By this system, common action is virtually excluded." It really was a terrible system, backed by horrific punishment for failure. Punishments ranged from exile to cudgel blows to executions. If you failed to hold your position against an enemy attack you were decapitated. If you destroyed arms the Qing government gave you, you would receive a lethal number of cudgel blows. In an era of slow communications, this made things a nightmare for commanders in the field, you could not retreat because of decapitation and could not destroy your weapons to prevent them from falling into enemy hands. Basically Qing officers would be forced to go into battle as scheduled and stay there until victory or death.

    In contrast the Japanese as described by the same German article as before "When three decades ago, Japan awoke out of the sleep of her isolation and attached herself to the civilisation of the West, her first care was the re-organisation of her army. The result may truly be called astonishing. The Japanese army is in reality a European force and any one of their army divisions, with the exception of the cavalry, which is small and would look badly mounted, might march through the streets of any town on the Continent, without, at first sight, being recognised as Oriental troops." Though obviously 19th century racist, it indeeds shows how Japan had what we would consider a modern army. The Times of London had this to say about them "They are brave, temperate, patient, and energetic, and though the Chinese might be made, under European officers, as fine soldiers as they are, at this moment they are about 200 years behind them; and, although the victory is not always to the strong, as found out in the Boer campaign, from every data that a soldier can judge by the Japanese should beat the Chinese in Korea with the greatest ease." Indeed the Japanese army was based on the Prussian model, with universal conscription and a standard term for service. They had Murata Type 18 Breech-loading rifles with the same type of ammunition, 75mm field guns and mountain pieces based on Krupp design. While the Qing scrambled for the right ammunition, when it could be found at all because of the rampant corruption involving embezzlement of military funds, the Japanese had excellent materials and logistical capabilities.

    The Japanese navy was based on the British and French, adopting the Jeune D'école doctrine. While the Qing had some large foreign purchased battleships, the Japanese focused on arming faster cruisers to combat them. Now the Japanese military strategy for this war was to first seize control of the sea so they could transport soldiers to the mainland at will. From there the IJA would invade Korea to expel the Chinese. Once Korea was occupied, Japan would strike at Weihaiwei which would provide naval access to Peking. This could be followed up with an invasion of Zhili province, though that notably would be an enormous task. The IJA invading forces would be in two groups; the 1st IJA under Yamagata Aritomo who would invade Korea and enter Manchuria from the north and the 2nd IJA under Marshal Oyama Iwao who would invade Manchuria from the south and attack the Liaodong Peninsula, hoping to meet the 1st IJA at Weihaiwei afterwards.

    For both nations the only efficient way to deploy troops to Korea was via the sea. There could be no war if Japan could not ferry her troops, and for China despite sharing landmass, the situation was arguably the same. China had the railway line between Tianjin to the cost and north to Shanhaiguan, but that was as good as it got, it did not reach the Korean border. The road system in Manchuria was terrible adding to the logistical issue. Japan’s military got the Japan mail steamship company to lend her 90 steamships to transport the troops to alleviate other warships for military tasks. On the other side, the Chinese merchant fleet which was about ⅓ the size of Japans barely helped them. An article from Berlin’s Neue Preussische Zeitung stating “China has 40 troop transports versus Japan’s 450”. It was obvious to all, controlling the sea would win the war. The Pall Mall Gazette interviewed a long-time resident of Japan who predicted the war would be won at sea, stating "Which ever side holds the chief commercial ports of Korea...with the capital, completely controls the country. If Japan succeeds at the outset in sweeping the Chinese from those waters...she wins the key to the whole situation. It would be impossible for China to send up troops since the land route entailed an enormous distance where provisioning and feeding a large army would be unmanageable even for a well-organized European nation." Despite all of this, the Chinese leadership believed they held time on their side and that a war of attrition would see them victorious. They also had considerable assets in the Beiyang fleet, such as their two great ironclad battleships, the Dingyuan and Zhenyuan. However the Qing warships were overagged and basically obsolete. The ships were ill maintained, their crews lacked discipline. The Qing ships were much slower than the Japanese. The Qing battleships main armament was short barreled guns in twin barbettes mounted in echelon which could only fire in restricted arcs. Their short barrels meant their shells had a low muzzle velocity, poor penetration and terrible accuracy at long range. The Japanese emphasized quick firing guns, quicker ships and would outfire the Qing dramatically. There is honestly a litany of issues with the Beiyang fleet, take the signals books issued to it, they were all written in English, a language very few Beiyang officers understood. Regardless, I do not want to delve too much on the Beiyang fleet here, because that is certainly going to come about later.

    When the Japanese began landing forces at Chemulpo, Li Hongzhang had missed a key opportunity to destroy their transports. He made a crucial strategic error, ordering his fleet to sortie east of the Yalu-River, away from the Korean Peninsula. Basically he was trying to minimize any risk to his precious two battleships. He opted to use his fleet to deter attacks and help the Qing convoys of troops. His mindset was that of a “prevent-defeat strategy”, he sought to preserve his navy, this decision ceded the initiative to the Japanese. Now the Japanese could choose the timing and location of hostilities. Obviously Li believed time was on his side and that eventually they would overwhelm the Japanese with pure numbers. He was prolonging as much as he could, there was also a belief the winter months would hurt the Japanese, while the Manchu warriors would hold a distinct advantage.

    Now as a result of Li Hongzhang trying to thwart further conflict, the Qing had deliberately encamped their forces outside Seoul. General Ye Zhichao had 3000 men stationed at Seonghwan and another 1000 at his HQ in Cheonan, just a bit northeast of Asan. He had been hunkering down awaiting the arrival of reinforcements, but the battle of Pungdo and loss of the Kowshing delivered an enormous setback to this. Major General Oshima had roughly 4000 men with him and he began to march upon Asan from Seoul. Ye Zhichao was very aware of this and had his men erected forts, dug trenches, made earthworks, and flooded surrounding rice paddies. Ze Zhichao planned a pincer attack against Seoul, by massing troops at Pyongyang in the north and Asan in the south.

    The Japanese divided their forces to make a night attack: a small diversionary force would engage the Qing at the front while the main bulk would march upon their rear flank. The diversionary force consisted of 4 companies of infantry with one engineer who began their attack on the night of July 28th. Meanwhile 9 companies of infantry, 1 cavalry and a battalion of artillery snuck around the Qing defensive lines by crossing the Ansong river. The Qing fought hard but were unable to hold out. The Qing forces at Seonghwan had to flee for their lives back to Asan which was 10 miles southwest, and in doing so they left a large amount of weapons and supplies. The Japanese pursued them to Asan where further disaster struck the Chinese. Despite spending over 3 weeks fortifying the area, it seems their defeat at Seonghwan had broken their morale, as the Qing forces at Asan literally fled upon seeing the Japanese approaching the city. As a result the Japanese took Asan the next day. The Chinese were estimated to have 500 casualties while serving the Japanese 34 deaths and 54 wounded. The Chinese survivors fled towards Pyongyang, which would be a brutal 26 day march as they had to detour widely to avoid being hit by Japanese forces coming out of Seoul.

    The victory confounded columnists who all came to a similar conclusion that “the Chinese forces fight badly and are ill equipped”. A reporter for the Yokohama based Japan Weekly Mail had this to say : "The Chinese are indeed skilled in the art of running away. As they fled they generally cast off their uniforms and donning the clothes of Koreans made the best of their way to what they considered safe places. The directions toward which they fled are unmistakably indicated by the cast-off uniforms. Even the Vice-commander of the Chinese troops appears to have been tempted to avail himself of this method, for his uniform was left behind in camp." It would be a theme played out during this war. The Qing forces would take the habit of disguising themselves as civilians to escape battles. This would unfortunately result in many Japanese troops not trusting Chinese civilians near battlefields leading to atrocities. It is plain to see why Qing troops did this, as we have already seen, retreating was met with extremely harsh punishment, you were better off trying to escape into the crowd. A commander from the Shanghai based North-China Herald had a different take on the battle of Seonghwan "The Chinese have retired from the Yashan [Asan] district after several day's heavy fighting, 10,000 Japanese against 3,500 Chinese. In the first days, the Japanese met with a sharp reverse and severe losses, the Chinese loss being unimportant. On July 29th the Chinese withdrew, leaving the camp in charge of a guard of 300 men, who were attacked and captured by an overwhelming force of Japanese before dawn. The guard was killed. The Japanese lost 500 men, found only heavy baggage in the camp, and took no prisoners, many Chinese noncombatants in the vicinity being slain."

    Despite such claims, the Japanese had not engaged a small guard at Asan, it was the main body of Qing forces. The Qing had been handily defeated and alongside the men lost a ton of equipment. The Qing court had no way of knowing any of this however, because of the cell like structure of their military, who would simply report back to them victories or very minor defeats. In fact on August 3rd, General Ye Zhichao was congratulated in an imperial decree for quote “killing over 2000 Woren”, he received bonus payment for himself and his troops. Later on when the Qing court figured out what really happened, General Ye would escape decapitation only because he used the bonus payments to pay off officials to speak on his behalf.

    From the offset of the war the Qing government had a policy of publicizing false war bulletins, but the realities of what was actually happening on the battlefields could not be concealed from the western viewers. Every battle was reported a Chinese triumph in China and this actually was very reminiscent of our tale of the French-Sino War. A small article sprang up from a British reporter in Shanghai stating this "I read somewhere during the Franco-Chinese war [of 1884-5] the native papers of Shanghai reported the death of Admiral Courbet thirty-seven times, while the number of the killed among the French, according to these reliable (?) sheets reached 1,600,000. The amount of falsehood which these papers have poured forth since the commencement of the 'War of Pygmies and Pigtails' is simply astounding. O, that the word liar' had the same force in Chinese as in English for no other purpose than to enable one to tell a celestial, You are a liar!'" There are a wide variety of reasons the Qing government pumped up the propaganda this way. Ironically a major reason was because of their policy of decapitating defeated commanders. The Qing court officials also had barely any real knowledge of what was going on because 1) all the commanders were sending false reports back to them and 2) when defeated commanders were brought back to Beijing, they were beheaded so fast they never got to make real reports of what occurred on the battlefield. The court would only really begin to figure things out in times of war when the battles got closer to Beijing! And above all else, the Qing court could not allow the bad reports to get to the Han public out of fear they would rise up to topple their Manchu rule, something that remained their top obsession throughout the Dynasties lifetime.

    After the defeat at Asan a rumor emerged that the Emperor had demoted Li Hongzhang by stripping him of the Order of the Yellow Riding Jacket. Many speculated Li was demoted because he failed to thwart war. Regardless Li Hongzhangs presumed demotion cast a shadow over his ability to perform official dealings. Li Hongzhang would tragically become a very useful Han scapegoat for the Qing dynasty.

    Now while the loss at Asan meant the Qing plan to perform a pincer attack against Seoul was lost, it certainly did not mean the loss of Korea however. The bulk of Qing forces were stationed at Pyongyang, the old capital of Korea. The city sat on the right bank of the Taedong River which was large enough to provide a shipping route to the sea. Holding Pyongyang was imperative, it defended the approach to the Yalu river and behind that lay Manchuria, Qing soil. Pyongyang was surrounded by the wide river to the east and south, with cliffs along the river banks, mountains to the north and the massive city with fortified walls that could prolong a siege. The Qing seemed to hold all the major advantages, they had been massing troops and supplies and constructing fortifications at Pyongyang for almost 2 months. Altogether the Qing had 13,000 troops dispersed at 27 forts surrounded by trenches and moats. The majority of the Qing troops also arrived to Pyongyang by boat, while the Japanese all have to trek overland, via miserable Korean roadways crossing mountains and rivers. The Qing had invested a lot in Pyongyang because they were not just defending the city, they intended to recapture the rest of Korea using it as a main base, thus it was given their most modern equipment. Some Qing troops would carry American Winchester rifles, they had in total four artillery pieces, 6 machine guns and 28 mountain guns. On paper this looked wonderful for them, however there were serious problems.

    The reality of the situation was summed up just prior to the battle by the Pall Mall Gazette s "from more than one source agree that the Chinese army in Northern Korea is in a deplorable condition. The generals are said to be grossly incompetent, the minor officers discontented and disheartened, and the rank and file exhausted and dispirited. What roads there were a month ago have been washed away by floods. Transport through Manchuria to Korea is impossible; guns, ammunition, and food stores are blocked, and spoiling all along the long route southward. Food is becoming scarcer every day at the front.” The four Chinese commanders at Pyongyang each commanded their own army, but none adequately coordinated with the others. When the Japanese attacked, they did parcel out static defensive sectors, but this became more of a hindrance than help. Their plan was very simple: if their lines failed to hold out at Pyongyang, surely they would be able to hold out at Yalu….yes great plan. The Qing commanders in the field had no real worst-case scenario plans. Weak logistics and organization plagued the Qing forces throughout the war.

    Now for the Japanese, Pyongyang held symbolic importance going all the way back to Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s invasion during the 16th century. After the victory at Seonghwan, the Japanese held a reinforced brigade about 8000 strong within Korea led by General Oshima. Around 7000 of these troops were concentrated around Seoul and Chemulpo. The Japanese controlled southern Korea and it was time to expel the Chinese from it completely. The Japanese had 4 routes to march upon Pyongyang from; one via Chemulpo; one from Pusan; one from Wonsan and another done amphibiously, by landing on the eastern coast near the mouth of the Taedong River. The Japanese were hard pressed for time, as every day could see more Qing forces marching into Korea from Manchuria. Thus the route from Pusan was rejected and they opted for sending the bulk of their forces to march from CHemulpo on the west coast and two smaller forces from Wonsan on the east. The idea to land forces at the mouth of the Taedong river was not rejected outright, but they were going to only consider it as a last resort.

    The Chemulpo force would be the 1st Army led by Marshal Yamagata Aritomo consisting of the 5th provisional Hiroshima division led by Lt General Nozu Michitsura and the 3rd provisional Nagoya division led by General Katsura Taro. Although Aritomo held overall command, he did not land at Chemulpo until September 12th, thus Lt General Nozu commanded the 1st Army against Pyongyang. His Wonson column was led by Colonel Sato Tadashi; another from Sangnyong was led by Major General Tatsumi Naobumi with the Combined Brigade led by Major General Oshima Yoshimasa. Nozu's plan was for the combined brigade to make a frontal assault from the south, while his main division attacked from the southwest and flanking maneuvers would be carried out by the two columns.

    On September 15th approximately 10,000 Japanese troops made a three-pronged attack on Pyongyang. At 4:30am on the 15th, the attack began from the east with an artillery barrage on the forts along the west bank of the Taedong river to divert the Chinese attention from the main attack. The Japanese feigned an attack from the south while Nozu and Oshima performed flanking maneuvers to deliver a massive blow from the north. The Japanese army’s main bulk designated to hit from the southwest would actually not end up participating in the main attack that broke through the principal Chinese fortifications. The fighting was fierce, with the Chinese launching repeated cavalry charges, igniting prearranged blazes, picture the scene from the last samurai if you saw that amazing film, by the way I did a review of it on the pacific war channel hint hint. The Japanese found themselves in blazes of fire and repeatedly being charged upon by cavalry units and while it was certainly valiant and showcased the bravery of the Qing forces, it was unbelievably stupid. The Qing had not taken advantage of the natural barrier that was the Taedong river and literally charged into the field, instead of forcing the Japanese to march through a muddy nightmare. There was no attempt to attack the Japanese columns as they crossed the river when they were extremely vulnerable. The Japanese had utterly failed to prepare the necessary equipment for crossing the Taedong river, they had no pontoon bridges so they ended up just stealing Korean river boats to ferry troops in secret. This was an enormous opportunity to smash the Japanese, but the Qing utterly failed to grab it.

    The Japanese successfully deceived the Chinese as to where their main attack was coming from. The 24 hour long battle saw heavy rain, causing massive amounts of mud for the Japanese to march through. The Japanese artillery was too far back initially to be effective, leading the vanguard troops who had taken the first line of Qing defense, some earthworks to abandon them in the morning. This ironically caused the Qing to begin writing reports to the Chinese press that they had already won the battle and that the Japanese were even fleeing. In reality the Columns from Wonsan and Sangnyong had seized the major fortress at Moktan-tei, due north of Pyongyang, giving the Japanese a position to bring their artillery to bare upon the city walls. Once their artillery began raining hell from Moktan-tei the Qing’s defensive position was shattered and they offered their surrender at 4:30 on the 15th.

    During the night many Qing forces tried to flee for the coast and border town of Wiju along the lower reaches of the Yalu river. Japanese snipers killed large numbers of the fleeing Chinese as they did. As a result of the surrender, in the morning two Japanese columns entered the northern gate of the city unopposed, but because there was no way to communicate this with rest of the forces, the main bulk of the Japanese army continued its attack against the city’s west gate. Later that day they would find it all undefended to their surprise. Later that morning the Combined brigade entered the city through the south gate. After seizing control of the city it was estimated the Qing casualties were around 2000 killed with 4000 wounded while the Japanese only reported 102 deaths and 433 wounded. 700 Chinese were taken prisoner, many escaped north fleeing for the Yalu.

    Many believed “the flower of the Chinese army was all but annihilated at Pyongyang”, indeed Li Hongzhang’s elite Huai army with the best equipment had lost there. Though there was also rumors in China that Li Hongzhang actually held back his best troops. A reporter at the Japan Weekly Mail had this to say : "What resistance was made could not have been very great. This is the more surprising, as the Chinese took possession of the city on the 4th of August and had ample time to thoroughly entrench themselves." Commander of the British Royal Artillery at Colchester, Colonel J.F Maurice had this to say about the battle "Field Marshal Yamagata has conducted the campaign in the most brilliant manner, and his tactics would not have disgraced a Western general." One article from the North China Herald noted the ethnic loyalties that did not look too good for the Manchu “ Troops under the Moslem general Zuo Baogui had fought very well until he had perished in combat. In contrast, the Manchu troops have hitherto proved themselves utterly untrustworthy. The Jilin Manchus are far more intent on hunting for something to fill their opium pipes, than on doing anything to uphold the dynasty which has pampered them for so long a time that they seem to have concluded that the dynasty exists for their special benefit. The forces of the Jilin division remained under the separate command of a Manchu general. The Manchu forces at Pyongyang "retreated almost intact" rather than fight."

    Indeed the Muslim General Zuo Baogui, a Shandong citizen died in action from Japanese artillery and a memorial was constructed for him. It did not look good for the Manchu, and countless Han readers would have been ignited with bitterness about this. At Pyongyang it was reported, the Qing left behind 35 good field guns, hundreds of magazine rifles, hundreds of breechloaders, 2000 tents and 1700 horses. The magazine rifles were noted to be superior to the Japanese Murata rifles. Hallmarks of the Qing campaign for the war were present at Pyongyang; the abandonment of large quantities of war supplies; the looting and abuse of local civilian populations; the torture and mutilations of POW’s and the use of civilian attire to flee the scene. up the abandoned supplies. The New York Times described the fleeing Chinese as "only too apparent. Rifles, swords, and ammunition, which they had thrown away in their haste to escape, were constantly being found. The fugitives had acted the part of bandits. Villages had been pillaged and afterwards set on fire. Farms had been destroyed and all the stored produce burned. The Korean natives who had resisted the robbers had been ruthlessly slaughtered. Many bodies were found hacked with spear thrusts. The whole line of retreat was one scene of desolation."According to a reporter at Moskovskie vedomosti, "The people fear Chinese soldiers much more than the invasion by the Japanese." The Qing troops had little choice but to plunder or starve because their military’s logistics were frankly a joke. Plunder was the only solution for the Chinese soldier while the Japanese soldier had a modern logistical line keeping them going.

    Western observations were notably disgusting with how the Qing treated POW’s, after all many nations had signed the August 22nd 1864 Geneva convention mandating the protection of POW’s. But in retrospect, the Qing could not even take care of their own forces let alone the mouths of the enemy. There was also the issue of how the Qing had an official reward system built on payment per head. However that does not explain the wide ranging atrocities committed such as disembowelment, removal of facial features, extraction of livers, cutting off of penises and so on. The Qing penal code held insurrection to be “the worst of the ten abominations” and the Chinese most likely considered the Japanese actions to be basically an insurrection against their confucian order meriting the most severe punishments. Punishments under the penal code short of execution included cangue, handcuffs, shackles, caning, ankle crushers, finger crushers, the Chinese rack and the ever favorite prolong kneeling on chains. A lot of the horror was due to the Chinese views of their own cultural supremacy and disgust for barbarians. The American secretary of state ordered his consul in Shanghai to hand over to the Qing authorities two Japanese found spying. The Qing officials promised no harm would come to them, but we are left with this account. “The tortures included kneeling on chains while their captors stood on their legs, the removal of fingernails, the crushing of tongues, the pouring of boiling water on their handcuffed wrists until the metal reached the bone, the smashing of their groins, and decapitation just before they expired from all the other abuses”

    The Japanese coming off the bad publicity of the Kowshing incident took the opportunity to earn recognition from the west by showcasing how their modern Japanese medical units treated the Chinese POW’s with utmost care. The Japanese military transported around 600 POW’s to Tokyo, 111 of whom were sick or wounded who notably received top quality care. A correspondent from The Japan Weekly Mail had this to say "What has proved a thousand times more interesting to me is the way the Chinese prisoners and wounded have been treated, and for this I hardly know how to express my admiration...I had some conversation with a captured commander. He said he could not understand the meaning of the Japanese kindness...I went from there to the hospital for wounded Chinese. They were treated exactly as if they were Japanese...I do not see how Japan can be refused the place she rightly claims among the civilized nations of the world." Again, this is from a Japanese correspondent. After the battle of Pyongyang, there would be scant to no reports about the welfare of Qing POW’s. Diaries from Japanese soldiers after the war would indicate the Japanese were not interested in taking POW’s since they would just burden their supply lines as they marched deeper into Manchuria.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    The battles of Seonghwan and Pyongyang have caused the Qing forces to flee all the way to the last existing natural barrier before Manchuria, the Yalu River. While the Qing be able to stop the Japanese from marching upon their land?

  • Last time we spoke about the assassination of Kim Ok-kyun and the Donhak Rebellion. Conflicts between China and Japan had heated up to the boiling point at last. The pro Japanese politician Kim Ok-kyun was assassinated serving also as an insult towards Japan. The Beiyang Fleet’s visit to Nagasaki resulted in embarrassment and an awkward threat for Japan. Japan was not happy with the SINO situation and actively began building her navy to have the capability of facing off against the Beiyang fleet. Then a violent rebellion of the Donghak faith emerged in Korea prompting a very panicked King Gojong to call upon his Qing allies for aid. The Qing took up the call for help and although it differs from source to source, did or did not notify the Japanese of their actions. Regardless, both China and Japan prepared forces that would embark for Korea. The chess pieces were on the board and now things were set into motion that could not be undone.

    #49 The First Sino-Japanese War of 1898-1895 Part 1: The Battle of Pungdo

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    The Tonghak rebels can be seen more as a symptom than a disease of the ailing Joseon dynasty. She was a nation stuck between two tigers, two tigers who were both trying to eat her. The turmoil of the later half of the 19th century was tearing Korea apart. Her citizens were forced into this quasi black and white choice between China or Japan, particularly when it came to the topic of modernization. The Tonghak followers were rallying against a tyrannical government who were overtaxing them. Major revolts occurred in 1885, 1888, 1889, 1890, 1891, 1892 and 1893. By February of 1894 the unrest rose dramatically and in April the Tonghaks were in a full scale open rebellion. The target of their hatred were the corrupt officials oppressing them through over taxation and incompetency. But one thing that is funny about the Tonghak story, one that is almost never mentioned, is rumors spread to the Tonghaks that China and Japan were on the verge of sending troops and this prompted them on June 1st to agree to a cease-fire to remove the possibility of foreign intervention. Well that should have been the end of our story, China and Japan keep their boys home and the 3 nations lived happily ever after?

    On June 2nd, the Japanese cabinet decided to send troops to Korea, if China did so, they also made sure to muzzle any political opposition by asking the emperor to dissolve the lower chamber of the diet. We have the official documentation to back this, thus if China did not send troops, Japan would not have a justification to send there's, however a problem arose. The next day, King Gojong on the recommendation of the Min clan and Yuang Shikai, requested China send troops to help suppress the rebellion. King Gojong had thus unwittingly given the hawkish Japanese military leaders the pretext they desired for so long, another chance to intervene in Korea on a large scale. Why did the Min clan push King Gojong to do this despite the Tonghak basically calling a truce? Turns out the Tonghak’s were particularly targeting the Min clan and their allies and there were rumors they had contact with the Daewongun.

    Within a few days Japan is on a military footing. On June 5th the first IJA HQ is established and on the 6th the ministries of the IJA and IJN issued instructions to the press not to print any information concerning warlike operations, they mean business. Despite this many Japanese news outlets ignore the order, leading to countless being suspended for a day. Now again the sources are sticky with how this part goes down, but on June 7th, China notified Japan in accordance with the Treaty of Tianjin. The notification states that China is sending 2000 troops to Nanyang, which is located on the coast between Seoul and Asan. Within hours of receiving the notification, Japan sends its own notice to China that it is also sending troops, which is in line with the treaty. Also at this same time the Asahi Shinbun reports that Russia is sending ground forces and warships to Korea. It seems the Asahi Shinbun made this report largely to compare the actions of Japan and China to a western power, alongside noting how much Japan had modernized. Remember, Japan’s Meiji restoration began exclusively as a means to thwart colonization, but by this point Japan now seeks to become a world power. Japan is emulating the greatest nations of the world, and the actions she will take for the following years certainly emphasize that. Within days, 2000 Japanese IJA forces have landed and are marching towards Seoul despite the Korean government pleading for them to refrain from sending forces. It is far too late however, the troops are arriving and it seems Japan was prepared well in advance to do this. In accordance with the treaty of Tianjin, the end of the rebellion meant that China and Japan no longer had legitimate grounds to send forces and should have withdrawn. But Japan began making claims their troop deployment was necessary for the protection of their embassy, consulates and citizens within Korea. Now by the 8th, 4000 Japanese soldiers and 500 sailors have landed at Jemulpo, current day Incheon. A public ceasefire acknowledge for the Donghak rebellion is issued on the 11th, though it is already known days before. The harbor of Incheon looks like its participating in an international naval show. On the 13th 9 IJN warships and transports along with 4 Beiyang warships are anchored there. Alongside them are an assortment of international ships from nations like Russia, Britain, France and America. Also on the 13th the Japanese government sends a telegraph to the commander of Japanese forces in Korea, Otori Keisuke to keep the forces within Korea for as long as possible despite the public announcement that the Donghak rebellion is over. On the 15th another 8 more Japanese transports arrive with 6000 troops disembarked. On the 16th Japanese foreign minister Mutsu Munemistu meets with the Qing ambassador to Japan, Wang Fengzao to discuss the future status of Korea. Wang states the Qing government intends to pull out of Korea once the Donghak rebellion is fully suppressed and expects Japan to do the same. But he also acknowledges that China will retain a resident to look after Chinese primacy in Korea, ie: Mr Yuan Shikai. Soon there are 10 IJN warships actively patrolling Korean waters and on the 18th the ministry of the IJN issues new naval fleet regulations. On the other side, Li Hongzhang is trying desperately to avoid war and maintain stable relations with Japan. He has been spending years doing this, trying to get other Western powers to take a more active role in Korea to thwart Japan’s ambitions over her. During this period and even in the upcoming war, Li Hongzhang continues to try and involve western powers to end the conflict. When King Gojong pleaded for help, Li Hongzhang made sure the troops would not go directly to Seoul, which he knew would upset Japan. The troops instead went to Nanyang and Asan where they could hit the Donghak before they marched northwards from Cholla upon Seoul. Li Hongzhang had hoped by doing this, the Japanese would choose not to become involved, but he was gravely wrong. Once Japan began sending troops, Li proposed to the Japanese that both nations should agree to withdraw. On the 16th Japan made a counterproposal, stating China and Japan should cooperate in assisting Korea to undertake the major steps to promote modernization. However it was obvious to all, Japan sought to promote economic development in Korea for its own interests, to obtain Korean grain at cheap prices. Thus Japan’s proposal was refused. On the 22nd Prime Minister Ito Hirobumi told his fellow politician colleague Matsukata Masayoshi, he believed the Qing empire was making military preparations and that “there is probably no policy but to go to war”. Mutsu Munemitsu likewise sends word to Otori Keisuke to press the Korean government on Japanese demands. On the 26nd Otori presents a set of reform proposal to King Gojong, but instead of accepting them, he insists on troop withdrawals. At about this time, Yuan Shikai see’s the paint on the wall and on the 27th requests permission from Li Hongzhang to return to China. However Li Hongzhang only sent a response 20 days later granting it. On July 19th, Yuan Shikai would disguise himself as a Chinese servant of a Russian military attache and flee Seoul for Peking.

    In the later half of June, Japanese newspapers are ramping things up. The Japan Weekly Mail read this “It is apparent that the restless energies of the people yearn for employment in a foreign war”, a week later “The Tokyo journals unite in urging upon the Government the importance of utilizing the present opportunity for wiping away the stain left on the national honor by th fatal error of 1884”. The bitter lesson learnt from 1884, next time bring more men. Such news articles were working wonders as during the last week of June, Japanese public petitions from multiple prefectures were requesting permission to raise troops. In early July an imperial ordinance established extraordinary powers to regulate the sale of goods with military applications raising public concern. By the third week of july, the “Korean question” was the only thing in the Japanese press and the Japan Weekly Mail predicted “It now looks as though war is inevitable”. Indeed on July 7th the British ambassador to China openly acknowledged the mediation between China and Japan had failed.

    Now initially China just sent 2-3 thousand forces, while Japan matched them with 8000, these are the numbers they are reporting officially, the real numbers for both are much higher. Regardless, once the fighting begins, both sides toss troops into Korea at such a high rate it was hard for people to keep actual figures. Now Li Hongzhang made no war preparation attempts to match the increasing Japanese numbers coming into Korea. His strategy remained to avoid hostilities. He hoped to secure European intervention to rein in the Japanese, this was his primary strategy. Li Hongzhang was the commander of the Qing’s most modern military force and had a considerable amount of knowledge about Japan because of his role as a diplomat. He knew the Qing forces were no match for the IJA, for that there is no doubt. Li worked like a mad dog to push European powers to rescue the Korea situation, but he had overestimated their willingness to intervene and to be honest their disgust with the Qing political situation. Li Hongzhang seems to have misread the political situation in Japan as well. Many Chinese officials in Japan were feeding reports back to China about feuding between the Diet and Cabinet and their conclusions were that the political divisions would most likely prevent Japan from launching an effective military campaign. Its sort of interesting they came to such conclusions, as it may have been more of a understanding of their own Chinese political situation rather than Japan. The Manchu-Han division was indeed hampering Chinese foreign policy for example, but Japan shared a national identity, it was a case of apples and oranges. Li Hongzhang first turned to Russia for help in mid June, but it came to nothing. Britain made an effort, but failed. Italy tried mediation and like Britain failed. King Gojong went to the Americans for help, but they were employing an isolationist policy at the time. Yes good old isolationist America, back in the ol days.

    Now when the Japanese made their counter proposal and the Qing declined it on June 21st, Japan responded by stating they did not intend to withdraw from Korea until their reforms were implemented. Li responded “On the approach of the Chinese forces the insurgents [Tonghaks] dispersed. China now desires to withdraw, but Japan refuses to evacuate simultaneously with China, and proposes a joint occupation, the administration of Korean finances, and the introduction of reforms. These are tasks which China cannot accept." The reality of the matte for the Japanese government was that the current Korean situation did not meet her national security interests nor her economic ones. As Japan poured her troops into Korea, her politicians also put relentless pressure on King Gojong to implement their desired reforms. The Korean government unsuccessfully tried to convince Japan that they would adopt the reforms if they withdrew their troops.

    On July 22nd, the Japanese received word, Li Hongzhang had overcome domestic opposition with the Qing court and now large reinforcements were going to be sent to Korea. Though Li Hongzhang wanted to avoid hostilities, his hands were tied, if the Qing did retain a presence in Korea it would threaten the legitimacy of their Manchu dynasty. But in a typical Qing fashion, the troops were delayed and would not make it to Korea in time. Well the Japanese were done dancing with the Chinese and Korean, on the 23rd the IJA forces in Seoul suddenly stormed the Joseon royal palace and took King Gojong hostage. The New York Times had this to say "The Japanese have announced that they will hold the King of Corea as a hostage until the internal reforms demanded by Japan shall have been satisfactorily guaranteed." Well the Tonghak rebellion flared right back up and took rapid momentum, going from what was a regional event to a national uprising. The IJA were brutal in their suppression of the Tonghaks and this fueled the Korean public against them. Likewise the Qing were placed with their backs against the wall, if they did nothing about Japans seizure of King Gojong, they were basically giving up suzerainty over Korea. Japan’s actions were obvious, they wanted war and they were going to get it.

    On the afternoon of the 23rd, with King Gojong in hand, the IJA began storming and disarming Korean garrisons in Seoul. By the end of the day the capital of Korea was in Japanese hands. The Japanese then recalled the Daewongun to oversee the Japanese style reform program. Yes the anti-foreign, isolationist icon ironically was chosen. The Daewongun always looking for an opportunity to regain power had little options laid bare to him so he took up the job, on the sole condition Japan refrain from annexing any Korean territory. That day the Daewongun met with King Gojong at the royal palace, they had not seen each other for nearly a decade. The father scolded his son for misrule and Gojong apologized requesting the Daewongun become regent again. I will add these sources are coming from Japan, I am sure it did not at all go down like this. Give the sort of feeling when you read about Hernan Cortez and Moctezuma II, if you know the sources for that one, well you know. The Daewongun went to work, immediately exiling the Min clan to some small islands and the new government renounced multiple treaties with the Qing dynasty, thus severing its tributary ties.

    The Japanese backed reform program became known as the Kabo reform movement, which would go on from July 1894 to February 1896. It was not all bad to be honest, a lot of it was to create an efficient and honest government. Posts were given fixed responsibilities and salaries; a national budget was established; better tax structure; the military/judiciary and educational system were given overhauls and the nation's infrastructure was modernized rapidly. The most significant reform was taking away the Yangbang class monopoly on public offices, basically an end to the Chinese examination system. In a single stroke the Japanese had destroyed Korea’s aristocracy, the elites were destroyed. As for the Daewongun, ever the plotter, he secretly envisioned a pincer movement on Seoul with the Tonghaks from the south and the Qing from the north. Unfortunately for him, the Japanese found out about this later on when they found documents containing such plans and this would lead later on to him being forced into retirement.

    Li Hongzhang knew Qing forces were no match for the Japanese. Zhili, Shandong and the Fengtian provinces had around 40 battalions with 20,000 or so first-line action men and 20 battalions only fit for garrison duty. All of the rest were Green Standards who were pretty useless. And lets be honest, this series has shown the Green Standards to be …well nothing less than so. He faced around 50,000 Japanese to his estimates, and he concluded they would need to recruit 20-30 additional battalions which would set back the dynasty 2-3 million taels. William Ferdinand Tyler who served in the Beiyang northern squadron and witness the battles of Yali and Weihaiwei later on had this to say of Li’s position "the Viceroy's game was merely bluff, not genuine defence; his army and navy were the equivalent of the terrifying masks which Eastern medieval soldiers wore to scare their enemy. He knew that if it came to actual blows he would stand but little chance; but he carried on his bluff so far that withdrawal was impossible, and the Empress Dowager urged him on - probably much against his will. And Japan 'saw him,' as they say in poker."

    Just about everyone believed China would stomp Japan however. British envoy to China, Sir Robert Hart embodied the worldview stating “999 out of every 1000 Chinese are sure big China can thrash little Japan”. But China was fractured realistically. Empress Dowager Cixi’s authority over the dynasty was only held because it was fractured, she could not allow the nation to have a real unified government. Such a government would most certainly unify against her and the Manchu. To stay in power Cixi checked every possible rival, even Li Hongzhang. All of the internal turmoil undermined the Qing’s ability to modernize its military and this also caused factional rivalries within the military. Cixi controlled the funds for the Qing navy and infamously siphoned naval funds for the renovation of the Summer Palace. Li Hongzhang could not do anything about this specific matter because he would lose favor with her, and her favor was all that kept his authority so he could deal with the conflict. Yet all these internal problems were non existent in the minds of the elites in China nor the western onlookers who simply believed China would give Japan a quick spanking, take this from the North China Herald "the breaking out of war between China and Japan is only a question of days, perhaps of hours. The real reason for Japan's desire for war was "that the Japanese government prefers a foreign to a civil war. The discontent of the majority of the House of Representatives was getting serious...A foreign war, however, is expected to reunite the people; it is an outlet for the bad blood which has been accumulating of late years in the body politic."

    While the Japanese were doing everything possible to stir up a war, Li Hongzhang was extremely careful to minimize the possibility of a clash. He ordered the Qing forces to encamp 80 miles to the south of Seoul around Asan. He was in contact with the Tonghak and indeed a pincer maneuver was agreed upon. The Qing forces took up a stance between Asan and Pyongyang and the Japanese realized it would be much easier to hit their reinforcements at sea rather than commence with a land offensive. On July 16th, when 8000 Qing forces arrived to Pyongyang, the Japanese sent Li Hongzhang an ultimatum, threatening to take action if any additional forces were sent to Korea. At the same time orders were given to General Oshima Yoshimasa leading the 9th brigade of the 5th division at Chemulpo and the commanders of IJN warships there to initiate military operations if any more Chinese troops were sent to Korea.

    Li Hongzhang suspected Japan was bluffing and therefore sent reinforcements to the commander at Asan, General Ye Zhichao, 2500 troops who left Dagu on 3 transports, the Irene, Fei Ching and Kowshing. The first two transports carrying 1300 of the troops left on the night of July 23rd with cruiser Jiyuan, torpedo boats Kwang-yi and Tsao-kiang as escort, they could also rely on the cruiser Weiyuan at port in Chemulpo for support. The two transports successfully landed their troops on the 24th. The IJN had deployed a component of their combined fleet to Korean waters by this point. The IJN sent 15 major warships and 7 torpedo boats under Vice Admiral Ito Sukeyuki from Sasebo to Gunsan on July 23rd. There was also the flying squadron of Rear Admiral Tsuboi Kozo who was dispatched to Chemulpo to aid the weak forced anchored there. At Chemulpo were the ships Yaeyama, Musashi and Oshima, while Tsuboi was bringing the cruisers Yoshino, Akitsushima and Naniwa. Tsuboi’s task was to prevent any Qing landings. The, Captain Fang Boqian of the Jiyuan received word of the Japanese actions in Seoul and Chemulpo from the Weiyuan and on July 25 ordered the Irene and Fei Ching to head back to Dagu, while the Weiyuan would head for Weihaiwei to report to Admiral Ding Ruchang of the situation unfolding in Korea. However the third transport, the Kowshing was late, thus Fang Boqian decided to remain at Asan bay with cruiser Jiyuan and torpedo boat Kawng-yi to protect its landing.

    On the morning of the 25th the Jiyuan and Kwang-yi departed Asan to meet up with the Kowshing and Tsao-kiang. Near the small island of Pundo the Qing vessels would run into the Tsuboi’s squadron. Tsbuoi’s had gone to Pungdo trying to rendezvous with the Yaeyama and Oshima. At around 6:40am, the Japanese spotted two warships heading south-west, these were the Jiyuan and Kawng-yi. Tsuboi guessed they were escorting Qing transports and went in to investigate. Captain Fang Boqian spotted the incoming Japanese warships, greatly alarmed by their appearance. He ordered the Qing ships to increase speed to escape and this prompted the Japanese to do the same. Yoshino headed the formation with Naniwa and Akitsushima behind, trying to outmaneuver the Qing and prevent their escape.

    At 7:45am the Yoshino and Jiyuan were closing in around 3km from another, then at 7:52 Naniwa suddenly opened fire on the Jiyuan. After Naniwa, the Yoshina and Akitsushima began firing. Yoshina and Naniwa concentrated on Jiyuan while the Akitsushima fired upon the Kwang-yi which was around a km behind Jiyuan. The Qing ships returned fire, but the Japanese had distinctly taken the advantage by opening up first. The first shells hit Jiyuan’s conning tower, demolishing it and severely damaged her steering mechanism. The second volley hit her forward barbette guns taking them out of action and soon shells were hitting her midship causing carnage and panic amongst her crew. Qing commanders had to quell the panic with their revolvers pointed at the gunners until they regained their composure and continued to fire upon the enemy. The Jiyuan made a dash for open sea as her crews tried to repair her steering mechanism. Meanwhile the Kwang-yi was hit at the offset of battle, the Akitsushima had fired a shell penetrating her hull below the waterline and damaging her boiler room. She rapidly took on water, prompting Captain Lin Kuohsiang to ordered her beached. Enveloped by fire, smoke and steam Kwang-yi turned southeast to beach along the shore while Naniwa began firing on her. Kwang-yi’s crews quickly abandoned ship as the Naniwa shelled her ferociously causing numerous explosions and turning her into a fiery wreck. 37 of her crew died while 71 including captain Lin Kuohsiang swam to shore.

    While the Kwang-yi was destroyed, the Japanese cruisers continued to pursue the Jiyuan which they caught up to at 8:10am. Yoshino and Naniwa were almost abeam of her prompting Captain Fang to prepare to surrender his warship, but then they all saw smoke from the horizon, two more warships were approaching Asan. It was the Kowshing and Tsao-Kiang. The Japanese immediately turned their attention to the new ships bolting towards them as the Jiyuan attempting sneakingaway. Upon spotting the Japanese coming at them, the Tsao-Kiang immediately turned around for Weihaiwei as the poor Kowshing continued slowly towards Asan. Upon seeing what Qing warships were before him, Tsuboi sent Naniwa over to investigate the Kowshing, Yoshino to hunt the Jiyuan and Akitsushima after the Tsao-Kiang. The Tsao-Kiang was caught by 11:37 and surrendered without a fight to the Akitsushima. At 12:05pm the Yoshino ran down the Jiyuan and began firing upon her from 2.5kms away. Captain Fang made daring move and steered his ship among some shoals, managing to escape the Yoshino who would not risk the dangerous waters.

    Meanwhile the Kowshing, which was a British vessel captained by Thomas Ryder Galsworthy chattered last minute by the Qing had no knowledge of the battle that had occurred. Galsworthy felt safe under the protection of the British civil ensign and just kept sailing. At 9am the Captain of the Naniwa, Captain Togo Heihachiro, yes the future legendary fleet admiral of the IJN combined fleet who would win the legendary battle of Tsushima ordered the Kowshing to follow him as he would escort it to the Japanese squadron. Galsworthy made a protest citing British neutrality, but complied nonetheless. The unfortunate issue, was the Qing soldiers on his ship who did not comply. The Qing soldiers began threatening to kill the crew if they continued to sail over with the Japanese. Galsworthy tried negotiating with the angry Qing soldiers, but when it became obvious they were in real danger he along with the British crew jumped overboard, swimming for the Naniwa. Allegedly, as the sources are Japanese mind you. The Qing soldiers began firing upon the British in the water killing all but Galsworthy and two other sailors who were rescued by the Naniwa. Upon seeing all of this, the Naniwa then opened fire on the Kowshing, completely obliterating her. Very few aboard managed to swim to safety. It was carnage. The Kowshing launched 2 lifeboats full of Qing soldiers which were fired upon by the Naniwa. 1100 Chinese died in what became known as the battle of Pungdo, 800 alone from the Kowshing. As a foreign commentator said of the event "It was truly a pitiable sight that such a number of officers [on the Kowshing], amongst whom were two generals, should not have sufficient military experience to understand the absurdity of attempting resistance in a merchant vessel against a powerful man-of-war.". The Japanese had damaged a cruiser, captured a gunboat and sank another. Something was noted by a reporter of the Japan weekly mail about the battle "the Chinese ships made a miserable fight. There seemed to be a problem with bad ammunition. The Qing had scored a hit, but the shell had failed to explode and thus did no significant damage. It is suspected to be a result of bad equipment or careless inspection." For those of you who know about the first Sino-Japanese war, or perhaps just know the general history of Empress Dowager Cixi and the corruption of the late Qing dynasty, this is indeed one of the earliest pieces of evidence of what will be a large problem for the Qing Navy.

    The battle of Pungdo and sinking of the Kowshing would be soon followed by formal declarations of war. On August 1st, Japan declared war on China, stating Korea was an independent state and that China was trying to hold her as a dependency and had rejected Japan’s offer to cooperate. Japan had to declare war because China had made “warlike preparations and sent large reinforcements and had opened fire on Japanese ships”. Sounds about right? There was no mention of Japanese much larger warlike preparations, the taking of King Gojong and the first shots being fired from IJN vessels. However the Japanese clearly were writing a declaration not aimed solely at China, but at the world powers, because the thing she coveted most was to join them of course. The declaration made in the name of Emperor Meiji used specific terms like “family of nations, law of nations, international treaties and such”. Japan was being very diplomatically minded.

    On the other side, Emperor Guangxi on the same day Japan declared ware made the formal declaration of war against Japan and did so by calling the Japanese “Woren” multiple times in the declaration. The declaration showed disdain for the Japanese, and to even make a point the Qing had it translated in English specifically referencing what Woren meant haha. The declaration wreaked of the traditional way the Qing spoke of those they considered inferior and showcased to the world powers, China had not changed much.

    The world’s press still remained certain, Japan would be crushed by big China. On July 24th, the Times of London predicted China would win because of her size, population and that time was on her side. British advisor to the Qing military, William Lang was interviewed by Reuters and predicted the Japanese would lose. Lang thought that the Chinese navy was well-drilled, the ships were fit, the artillery was at least adequate, and the coastal forts were strong. Weihaiwei “ was impregnable. Although Lang emphasized that everything depended on how China's forces were led, he had faith that 'in the end, there is no doubt that Japan must be utterly crushed'. Only time would tell.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    It seems despite all the efforts, war has finally broken out amongst the siblings of China and Japan. The world seemed convinced big brother would defeat little brother, but little did they know how wrong they would be.

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  • Last time we spoke about the Gapsin Coup. Li Hongzhang snipped the bud of war before it could bloom after the Imo uprising and the Daewongun stole back power in Korea. The Daewongun was spanked and sent into exile yet again, but now Korea had become greatly factionalized. The progressives and conservatives were fighting bitterly to set Korea on a Japanese or Chinese path to modernization. This led radicals like Kim Ok-kyun to perform the Gapsin coup which was terribly planned and failed spectacularly. Japan and China were yet again tossed into a conflict in Korea, but China firmly won the day for she had more forces to bear. Japan licked her wounds and went home, learning a bitter lesson. That lesson was: next time bring more friends to the party.

    #48 This episode is the Assasination of Kim Ok-kyun & the Donghak Rebellion

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    Now despite the Gapsin coup, Japan and China still tried to cooperate against the west. But Japan was learning much from the outside world, particularly by the actions of imperialistic nations. Britain had begun large scale operations in Shanghai, developing the international settlement there. King Leopold of belgium established the Congo Free state of 1862, and likewise France and Britain were also establishing colonies all over Africa. The Dutch held Java, but then they invaded Aceh in Sumatra in 1873 and other parts of Indonesia after that. The Russians were taking large swathes of land including Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, parts of the Sakhalin, even territory close to Korea in the region of Priamur. Once the ports of Wonsan and Inchon were opened up, Japanese manufactured goods began to pour in. By 1893 91 percent of imports into Korea would be from Japan while 8 percent would be from China. While China tried to keep Japan out, the Meiji restoration had created an industrial powerhouse that made goods, and China had not managed this herself. Of Korea, 49 percent went to China and 50 percent went to Japan. In the eyes of Koreans, even though she was not formally a colony of Japan, the way the Japanese were behaving looked imperialistic.

    Now in 1886 the Beiyang Fleet was responsible for protecting China’s northern coastline and she would make a fateful call to Nagasaki. The purpose of this call was to show off her 4 new modern battleships she had purchased from Germany, the Dingyuan, Zhenyuan, Jiyuan and Weiyuan. These ships were far larger than anything Japan had at the time, a large reason because Japan was following the Jeune Ecole naval strategy. This strategy was developed by France basically to combat the British royal navy. It emphasized using small rapid assault craft, cruisers and destroyers to thwart the might of capital ships like battleships. For my fellow world of warship players, the idea was simple, instead of slamming money into large battleships to fight other large battleships, the French began to experiment more with the capability of torpedo technology. With faster, smaller ships, the French thought they could be used more like raiders, to attack the enemy and cripple them. The Jeune ecole doctrine also sought to use strongly armed fast ships, thus its kind of a glass cannon situation. Anyways the implicit message from China was to show Japan how foolish they would be to go to war with her. On August 13th, 500 Chinese sailors took a shore leave in Nagasaki and they went to the local red-light district. As you can imagine, one thing led to another and some altercations began with the locals. The locals claimed the Chinese sailors got drunk and starting causing havoc, regardless the Chinese sailors began fighting some Japanese cops apparently using swords they bought at some stores. One source I found says over 80 people died during this which is pretty nuts.

    The next day a conference was held by the governor of Nagasaki, Kusaka Yoshio and the Qing consulate Xuan Cai which led to an agreement the Beiyang navy would prohibit their men from going ashore for a day. Then on August 15th at 1pm, 300 Chinese sailors went ashore, some wielding clubs apparently and they attacked 3 police officers killing one. A rickshaw saw the conflict and tried to punch a CHinese sailor, and this all snowballed into a riot. More cops showed up, more fighting, and this led to the deaths of 2 more cops, 3 sailors and more than 50 wounded. It was a real shit show, and the Qing decided not to apologize for the ordeal. In fact the Qing made demands to the Japanese government that from then on Japanese cops would not prohibit Chinese from wielding swords and forced the Japanese to make a large sum of reparation payments.

    Now aside from the drunken debauchery, which in the grand scheme of things was not much of a deal, the real deal was the Japanese reaction to the Beiyang fleet. When the Japanese saw the Dingyuan, they basically went 100% in on the Jeune D’ecole doctrine to counter it. They IJN immediately decided to construct 3 large cruisers with firepower identical to the Dingyuan, basically this meant they were making battleship killers. While Japan was aggressively modernizing and pouring a ton of money into their navy by the late 1880s, in China the reconstruction of the summer palace was taking enormous sums of funding. The marble boat pavilion, as I mentioned, was taking funds intended for the Beiyang fleet thanks to empress dowager Cixi and thus no major investments would be made for the Qing navy in the last 1880’s and early 1890s. To give more of an idea, 1/10th of the salaries of for civil officials and military officers in Japan was being deducted to add additional funding for the construction of naval ships and purchase of arms, Japan was not messing around.

    Now something that often goes more unnoticed is Japan’s early efforts at gaining intelligence on China. Despite the Sino-Japanese relations falling apart because of the Korea situation, trade between China and Japan was growing in the 1880s. Japanese businessmen expected trade with China to only increase and in preparation for the expansion they began collecting information of Chinese market opportunities. But for those who know a bit about Meiji era Japan, the Zaibatsu driven system meant private business went hand in hand with the government of Japan and this led the Japanese government to ask the businessmen to look at other things in China. What sort of things, military installations, military dockyards, everything military. In 1879 Katsura Taro took a trip to China with 10 Japanese observers to survey Chinese military facilities. He would publish a book describing Chinese military bases, weapons and organization in 1881 and that book would be revised in 1882 and 1889. By the time of 1894, the Japanese military had access to detailed information about China’s geography, her economy, her railways, roads, ports, installations, the whole shebang, thanks to Japanese journalists and businessmen. Of course amongst all of these were full blown Japanese spies, but for the most part China did not do enough due diligence to hide its military capabilities. Rather ironically, the Japanese businessmen who opposed military actions and just wanted to help develop China contributed a lot of information that would hurt China. On the other side of the coin, chinese reports about Japan were a complete 180. China’s consul general in Nagasaki wrote reports on the ships coming and going within Nagasaki harbor. Alongside him, the Chinese ambassador to Tokyo, Li Shuchang who served from 1881-1884 and 1887-1890 sent some warnings about developments in Korea. Other than those two, Japan attracted virtually no interest from Beijing. Just before the war would break out in 1894, the Chinese ambassador to Tokyo Wang Fengcao, reported to Beijing that the Japanese were so obsessed with internal politics they were unlikely to be active externally.

    I think its interesting to point out, while Japan was indeed building up its IJA/IJN, she never stopped pointing that gun at Russia. China and Japan right up to the conflict we will be talking about had its tensions, its conflicts, its escalations, but they never gave up the chance at cooperation against the west. Take a legendary figure like Yamagata Aritomo, who led the development of the IJA and was the head of the Japanese privy council. In 1893 he publicly stated Japan should cooperate with China against their main enemies, Russia, France and Britain. Despite all the tensions in Korea, vast amounts of Japanese and Chinese scholars who studied the causes of the first sino-japanese war, came to agree it would not have occurred if not for two key events. The first one is a assassination and the second is a rebellion.

    In early 1894, Kim Ok-kyun was invited to visit Li Hongzhang in Shanghai. After living nearly a decade in fear of assassination, he accepted the invitation, perhaps believing this was his only chance to reclaim normality in his life. Well unbeknownst to him another Korean acquaintance of his named Hong Jong-u had actually gone to Japan in 1893 trying to hunt him down and he found out about the voyage. A source claims Hong Jong-u was working for King Gojong and went to Japan befriending him, while trying to lure him back over to Shanghai. Regardless Hong Jong-u got aboard and murdered Kim Ok-gyun by shooting him on March the 27th. Hong Jong-u was arrested by British authorities in Shanghai for his crime, but in accordance with their treaty obligations they surrendered the assassin over to Qing authorities for trial. The Qing instead freed him, whereupon he became quite the celebrity for his actions. Hong Jong-u would return to Korea and would be appointed to a high office position, giving credence to the theory he was working for King Gojong the entire time. When Kim Ok-kyun’s body arrived to Korea it was shrouded in some cloth bearing the inscription “Ok-kyun, arch rebel and heretic”. On april 14th, King Gojong ordered the body decapitated, so the head could be displayed in Seoul while 8 other body parts would be sent to each of Korea’s 8 provinces to be showcased likewise. His severed body parts were showcased in various cities in Korea to display what happens to those who commit treason. Kim Ok’kyun’s father was hanged and his brother, wife and daughter were all imprisoned. Under Korean practice at this time it was common practice for the family of the guilty to be punished as well, that's some hardcore stuff there folks. The wife and daughter would become slaves to the governmental offices, a standard punishment for the female household members of rebels. It was during this time one of Kim Ok-kyun’s traveling companions, a Chinese linguist for the legation in Tokyo claimed to reporters that Kim Ok-kyun had come to Shanghai by invitation from Lord Li Jingfang, the former minister at Tokyo and adopted son of Li Hongzhang.

    The Japanese public was outraged. Japanese newspapers interpreted all of this to mean Viceroy Li Hongzhang had planned the whole thing. It was also alleged Li Hongzhang had sent a congratulatory telegram to the Korean government for the assassination. Many others pointed towards King Gojong since the assassin claimed to be under direct orders from the king. Kim Ok-kyun had been a guest in Japan and the Qing authorities had seemingly done nothing to protect him and made no attempt to bring the assassin to justice. The Qing had likewise handed over the corpse, knowing full well what the Koreans would do to it, as was their custom for treason. From the Japanese point of view, the Qing had gone out of their way to insult the Japanese in every possible manner. From the Chinese point of view, Kim Ok-kyun had committed high treason and deserved his fate.

    Fukuzawa Yukichi led a funeral ceremony held in Tokyo at Aoyama Cemetery for Kim Ok-kyun. He had taught the man, and spoke in his honor reflecting Japan's respect for his efforts to modernize Korea. The Japanese press began to fill with public calls for a strong national response. The Chinese reaction during this time period reflected their deep-seated prejudices concerning the Japanese. Even with official communications, the Qing routinely referred to the Japanese as ‘Woren” which is a racist term meaning Japanese Dwarf basically. Wo is the word for dwarf, and the link to the Japanese was a racial term emerged during the times the Japanese were pirating the waters around China’s coast, the “wokou”. By the way do not use this word today to refer to Japanese haha. During the upcoming war a Qing official expressed these types of racial attitudes, that this quote for example "It took them 48,000 years before they made contact with China, while in 3,600 years they still have not accepted our celestial calendar...illegitimately assuming the reign title of Meiji (Enlightened Rule), they in reality abandon themselves all the more to debauchery and indolence. Falsely calling their new administration a 'reformation' they only defile themselves so much the more." One Captain William M Lang, a British officer who helped train the Beiyang Squadron of the Qing fleet from 1881 to 1890 had noted this about the Chinese and Japanese. "treated Japan with the utmost contempt, and Japan, for her part, has the same feeling towards China." One German military advisor in China said “The Chinese looked upon Japan as a traitor towards Asia”. Thus before the war broke out, the Chinese for the most part considered the Japanese to be another inferior neighboring people, below the status of a tributary since Japan had severed that link to China. The more tense the situation got between the two nations saw the Chinese viewing the Japanese with more contempt. They would ridicule the Japanese for the communal bathing habits, the attire of their women and the way they imitated western culture. The Japanese as you might guess resented this a lot.

    In 1891 Alexander III issued a special imperial rescript announcing Russia’s intention to build a trans-siberian railway. From the Japanese point of view, this amounted to a foreign policy manifesto equivalent to the monroe doctrine of the united states. Just as America had kicked out all other powers from the Americas, so to it seemed Russia would do the same with the Asian mainland. For the great Meiji leadership of Japan, it looked like Russia would seize control over Korea and thwart Japan’s dreams of empire and the ever coveted status of a great power that came with it. Once the trans-siberian railway was announced the Japanese knew they had roughly a decade to resolve the Korea situation before the balance of power would be irrevocably changed and the door would be shut upon them. Yet as bad as the situation was for Japan it was even worse for China. The trans-siberian railway would allow the Russians to deploy troops along the Chinese border in areas that would prove difficult for the Chinese to do the same as they did not have a major railway. On top of this Japan was pursuing an increasingly aggressive foreign policy focused on the Korean peninsula. Qing strategists had long considered Korea a essential buffer for their defenses. With the Russians pushing from the west and the Japanese from the east, Li Hongzhang was hard pressed to take a more aggressive stance in Korea.

    Now as I said, two major reasons were attributed to the outbreak of the first sino-japanese war, the first being the assassination of Kim Ok-kyun, the second is known as the Tonghak rebellion. I can’t go to far into the rabbit hole, but the Tonghak movement began around 1860 as a sort of religion, emphasizing salvation and providing rituals to achieve this. It was much akin to the Taiping Rebellion, a sect that was deeply upset with a corrupt government. It was formed by a poor member of the Yangban class whose father had been a local village scholar and it was largely created to give hope to the poor class. It had some roman catholicism and western learning associated with it, again very much like the Taiping. The peasantry class of Korea found this sect very appealing and the Tonghak influence was particularly strong in Cholla province, the breadbasket of Korea. Members of the sect were angry that corrupt Joseon officials in Seoul were imposing high taxes on them. The leaders of the sect were all poor peasants who, because of their inability to pay their taxes, had either lost their land or were about to lose their land.

    Their leader was Choe Jeu who described the founding of the Tonghak religion as such

    By 1860, I heard rumours that the people of the West worship God, and caring not for wealth, conquer the world, building temples and spreading their faith. I was wondering whether I, too, could do such a thing. On an April day, my mind was unnerved and my body trembled... Suddenly a voice could be heard. I rose and asked who he was.

    "Do not fear nor be scared! The people of the world call me Hanulnim. How do you not know me?" Said Hanul. I asked the reason he had appeared to me. "...I made you in this world so that you could teach my holy word to the people. Do not doubt my word!" Hanulnim replied. "Do you seek to teach the people with Christianity?" I asked again. "No. I have a magical talisman... use this talisman and save the people from disease, and use this book to teach the people to venerate me!" The Joseon Dynasty quickly banned the religion and executed its leader in 1864 for “tricking and lying to the foolish people”.

    Regardless the tonghak spread across Gyeongsang province by the 1870’s under new leadership. However in the 1870’s the rice agriculture in Korea had become increasingly commercialized as Japanese merchants bought more and more of it to ship back to Japan. Korea was not producing enough to meet the needs of its own population as a result. Japanese merchants would begin to lend money to local Korean peasants and when the peasants could not repay the funds, the rice merchants confiscated their land. This obviously was seen as dishonest and exploitative, as it was and the Tonghak gradually became very anti-Japanese. The Tonghaks performed a series of lesser rebellions against excessive taxation. There were revolts in 1885, 1888, 1889, 1890, 1891, 1892 and 1893. By the 1890’s the Donhak’s began a petition to overturn the 1863 execution of Choe Jeu, to stop the ban on them, to expel all western missionaries and merchants and to kill corrupt officials, a tall order. So yeah King Gojong did not want to give in to such reasonable petitions and told them “go to your home, If you do, I may grant your plea”. A lot of the Tonghak wanted to march on Seoul, and they began threatening westerners and Japanese. Soon a group of over 80,000 Donghak believers led by a southern leader named Jeon Bongjun began marching with flags stating “expel westerners and Japanese”.

    Now this is a really confusing a large scale event, one of if not the biggest rebellion in Korean history. One thing to focus on though is that a particularly oppressive county magistrate named Jo Byeonggap in Northern Cholla, seemed to have provided the “straw that broke the camel's back”. The magistrate had forced young men to work on a water reservoir and then charged them and their families for use of the water. He overly taxed, fined peasants for dubious crimes including infidelity, lack of harmony, adultery and needless talents, no idea how that last one works out. He also sent spoiled rice sacks to Seoul while keeping unspoiled sacks from himself. Basically this guy was an embezzling scumbag, by today's standards we would refer to him as a member of the US congress.

    By march 22nd tens of thousands of Tonghak rebels destroyed the new reservoir, burnt down the governmental offices and some storage facilities in northern Cholla. They then occupied Taein by April 1st, and a few days later Buan. The local Joseon government sent commander Yi Yeonghyo with 700 soldiers and 600 merchants to quell the rebellion only to be lured into an ambush at the Hwangto pass. Many of the troops were killed, some deserted and the Tonghak rebellion spread further north. King Gojong panicked, because news spread the rebels were being joined not only by countryside peasants but by many of his soldiers! Worried that the Joseon military would not be able to quell the rebellion King Gojong called upon his Qing allies to send reinforcements.

    Now there are two narratives that come into play. The first involved the Qing responding quickly, on June the 7th following the Tianjin treaty’s requirements that if one country sent troops to Korea the other had to be notified, they informed Japan they were sending 2000 troops to Inchon. The Japanese leaders, having bitterly remembered what occurred the last time they sent a smaller force into Korea did not make the same mistake this time. Within just hours of receiving the notification they dispatched 8000 troops to Korea and notified China of this.

    The other narrative has it that on june 2nd the Japanese cabinet decided to deploy troops to Korea should China do so. On june the 3rd, King Gojong under advice of Empress Min and Yuan Shikai requested the Qing aid. In doing so he gave Japan the rationale to deploy their own troops. On June 5th the first Imperial headquarters was established and the next day the ministeries of the IJA and IJN instructed the Japanese press to not print any information concerning warlike operations. China notified Japan on june th of their deployments, and within hours the Japanese sent their notifications for the same. There is evidence many Japanese leaders accused China of not sending the notification thus breaching the treaty of Tianjin, but it seems highly likely they did send the notification. Regardless what is a fact is that Japan had already been pre planning its deployment during the end of May, thus it all seemed a likely rationale to start a conflict. This conflict would change the balance of power in asia, and begin a feud between two nations that still burns strongly to this very day.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    The endless conflicts between China, Japan and little Korea had finally sprung a large scale war, one that would change the balance of power in the east forever. Little brother was going to fight big brother.

  • Last time we spoke about the final battles to push the Qing forces out of Tonkin. The Qing, Black Flag and Vietnamese forces were fighting bitterly, on the open field and as guerillas to kick France out of Tonkin. The guerilla activity led to bloody months at the isolated outposts of Thai Nguyen, Hung Hoa and Tuyen Quang. To dislodge the Qing army from Tonkin, the French attacked them at Nui Bop and seized Lang son thus saving the outposts from being taken. After securing their outposts the French recommenced their offensive attacking Hoa Moc. But the Qing and Black Flag forces erected a siege at Tuyen Quang, to which the French beat them again. Then at Dang Dong, the French finally pushed the Qing forces across the Gate of China back to their homeland. The war over Tonkin was fierce, costing countless lives and all for a war never officially declared, but was it all won and done? Well we are about to find out.

    #47 The Sino-French War of 1884-1885 part 4: Of War and Peace

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    General Francois Oscar de Negrier took his 2nd brigade and absolutely smashed the remnants of the Guangxi army at Dang Dong, sending them fleeing back into their homeland. For good measure the French literally blew up the Gate of China, also known today as the “Gate of Friendship” which was the border between Guangxi and Tonkin. The customs building, walls, gate itself, all of it was blown sky high. Once this was done the 2nd brigade pulled back to Lang Son at the end of February of 1885. Thus by March the the Guangxi army had been pushed out of Tonkin by General Oscar, while the Yunnan army had been defeated heavily at Tuyen Quang and Hung Hoa by the 1st brigade of Giovanninelli.

    Despite the sweeping victories, the Qing were not truly defeated by any means they still held considerable forces across the border. General Briere de L’isle thought about launching an offensive against the nearest target within China, such as the military depot at Longzhou, but he did not have enough men to really pull it off, he had to wait for reinforcements. Reinforcements would arrive in mid march. He sat down with his officers and devised a course of action. It was agreed the 1st brigade would attack the Yunnan army to push them beyond the Yen Bay while the 2nd brigade would hold its position at Lang Son.

    The Guangxi Army in the meantime was rebuilding its strength and by March 17th had been bolstered to 30,000 men. Soon the Guangxi army was pressing upon the Tonkin border with two major camps at Yen Cua Ai and Bang Bo with over 9 separate military commands. At Yen Cua Ai were 10 battalions led by General Feng Zicai, around 7500 men strong. Behind Yen Cua Ai in the village of Mufu, 2-3 kms away were another 7000 men led by Generals Su Yuanchun and Chen Jia; another 15kms behind Mufu at the village of Pingxiang was another 7000 men led by General Jian Zonghan and Fang Yusheng. 50 kms to the west AT Aiwa village was 3500 men led by Wei Gang. 15 kms east in at Cua Ai sitting just a toehold within Tonkin was 3500 men led by General Wang Debang. And overall commander of the Guangxi army, General Pan Dingxian was at Haicun, over 30 kms behind Mufu village with 3500 men. General Oscar had around 1600 men to hold Lang Son, yes it was not looking good for the french boys.

    On March 22nd, Feng Zicai led a raid against a French outpost at Dong Dang. That said outpost was held by forces under Lt Colonel Paul Gustave Herbinger, someone we spoke a tiny bit about in a previous battle who made the rather idiotic decision to outflank the enemy by going way too far around, so far that his superior simply sent another force to attack the enemy. Herbingers french foreign legionnaires fought off the raid once the rest of the 2nd brigade came up to support his outposts defense. Upon driving off the raiders, General Oscar decided it was a good idea to strike back. He hoped to take the enemy by surprise and led the men to cross over to the Zhennanguan pass which held the Guangxi encampment at Bang Bo. Oscar did not intend for a major offensive against Guangxi province, his simple aim was to raid them back and give some breathing room for Dong Dang.

    Oscar left a single company of the 2nd African battalion with some batteries to hold Lang Son and the 23rd battalion to hold Dong Dang which would act as his supply line as his main body marched to Zhennanguan. On March 23rd, 1600 men with 10 artillery pieces made their way. The next day the French were met with fierce resistance when they approached Zhennanguan. There they found the Guangxi army utilizing outwork fortifications. Along with the defense, Wang Debang sent his force from Cua Ai to launch a counterattack hitting the French right flank. Oscars men were able to repel the counterattack and seize the outworks and the next day he had his men launch an attack against the enemy’s main at position of Bang Bo. He planned to hit the front while simultaneously sending men to sweep around the rear. The frontal defensive line of Bang Bo held a long trenchline which the french named the Long trench. To attack the front, Oscar sent the 111th battalion led by chef de bataillon Francois Leon Faure and for the rear attack, the 2nd legion battalion of chef de bataillon Digeut and the 143rd battalion of chef de bataillon Farret. Herbinger who was leading the 3rd regiment was ordered to guide Diguet and Farret to perform their rear attack maneuver. Unfortunately a thick fog hit the area causing Herbinger to get lost. Oscar, unaware of Herbingers plight mistook a Guangxi army column moving towards the Long Trench to be Herbingers 2 battalions, and promptly ordered Faure to launch his frontal attack.

    Fauvre’s 111th formed their line and charged into the fray. They immediately came under intense fire from Feng Zicai’s infantry manning the Long trench and other Guangxi units manning nearby hills. Within seconds several officers were killed. Two companies made it to the trench and after a very short hand to hand fighting match were fleeing from a major counter attack led personally by Feng Zicai. The carnage was intense, and what saved many of the fleeing French was the Guangxi army’s resolve to behead the wounded and plunder them of their arms.

    Meanwhile to the right of the battlefield, Ferrets 143rd battalion and Diguets 2nd legionnaires leapt into the fray of battle, several hours longer than expected. They quickly seized a Qing held fort. At 3pm, Pan Dingxin after watching the 111th battalion flee for their lives saw Herbingers command and tossed a counterattack their way. Herbingers command was nearly encircled, in fact a single company of the 143rd battalion led by the Irish officer, Captain Patrick Cotter were completely encircled. Harbinger ordered the men to retreat and leave Captain Patrick’s company behind, but the French foreign legionnaires ignored the order and charged at the Qing to break free the company. Despite the company being able to break free, Captain Patrick was killed in the action. Gradually Digeut and Farret’s men fell back, performing a fighting withdrawal to keep the Qing onslaught at bay best they could.

    During the chaos, the 3rd legion battalion of Lt Colonel Schoeffer had been ordered to stay on Tonkinese soil around Dang Dong to protect their flanks found themselves fighting desperately to keep a line of retreat for the incoming french. Schoeffer’s men had to fight off both flanks enabling the rest of the army to fight their way back down the middle. General Oscar was leading the rearguard to try and maintain morale and was successful at stopping a complete rout of his forces. Oscar spent the majority of the late afternoon quelling disorder amongst differing commands, trying to keep the men together. The entire brigades morale was dropping as was their ammunition, so Oscar called for a general retreat back to Lang Son. On the night of March 24th they camped at Dong Dang exhausted and shell shocked. Sergeant Maury of Digeuts 2nd legionnaires had this to say about the feelings of the men.

    The night was very dark. The soldiers marched in complete silence. We felt cheated, ashamed, and angry. We were leaving behind us both victory and many of our friends. From time to time, in low murmurs, we established who was missing. Then we relapsed into the silence of mourning and the bitterness of loss. And so we reached Dong Dang, without being disturbed. We slept in the field hospital huts, after drinking some soup. We were harassed and hungry. We had not eaten all day, and had drunk nothing since morning except a single cup of coffee. In spite of my weariness, I spent a troubled night. My spirits were haunted by the day's memories, by images of the fighting and phantasms of our misfortunes. I was shaken with spasms. I trembled as I have never done on the battlefield. I lay down, but was unable to sleep.

    The French had 74 deaths, 213 wounded, amongst the dead were 7 officers. They estimated the Qing casualties to be around 1650. The defeat shocked France who were becoming accustomed to victory reports. Oscar kept the men marching back to Long San, as their coolies all abandoned them creating a sever supply issue. The Guangxi army pursued them the entire way, leading to another battle at Ky Lua on march 28th. This time the French had rested a bit and took up defensive positions behind earthworks. The rationale for the battle was to hold onto the road to Long San for as long as possible and they managed to repel an intense attack from the enemy. The French saw 7 deaths with 38 wounded but inflicted severe casualties upon the pursuing enemy. The French claimed to have seen over 1200 corpses scattered around the battlefield and perhaps wounded over 6000 Guangxi soldiers if its to be believed. Towards the end of the carnage, Oscar was severely wounded in the chest while helping his scouts find Qing positions. He was forced to hand command over to the most senior officer, Herbinger. At this point many officers had commented on his lackluster performance during the undeclared war, he had seriously messed up on quite the occasions.

    It seems Herbinger began his command in a rather panicked state, for despite the fact they had battered the Qing pursuers, he was convinced they were going to encircle the brigade at any moment. Against the majority of his officers' protest, he ordered the 2nd brigade to abandon Lang Son on the night he took command. They were to retreat to Chu and initially they were divided marching in two columns with Herbingers going towards Thang Moy and Schoeffer’s going to Dong Song. Herbinger began to fear the men towing the artillery would slow down his retreat so he ordered the artillery pieces tossed into the Song Ki Cong river alongside their brigades treasure chest. At the same time Herbinger send a runner over to Briere de l’isle over in Hanoi claiming he did not have enough ammunition to fight a second battle for Lang Son and that he was retreating. His claim of not having enough ammunition would later prove to be incorrect.

    Both Herbinger and Schoeffer forced a intense pace for their marches and by the time the men reached Thang Moy and Dong Song they were exhausted. Briere de L’ilse upon receiving the message from Herbinger was shocked he abandoned Lang Song. He prompted sent word back to Paris about the ordeal. The next day Briere de l’isle sent a message over to Herbinger demanding him to hold his position at Thanh Moy and Dong Song. Herbinger thought it insane to do so, but he obeyed the orders nonetheless.

    On the 30th, the French prepared their defenses at Thanh Moy and Dong Song. Herbinger tossed some cavalry patrols to figure out where the Guangxi army would hit them from and they came back with reports they were heading down the Mandarin road south of Lang Son. Harbinger sent word to Briere de l’isle, stating he believed the enemy would soon encircle them. The French defenders were told by Herbinger to fasten their bayonets and hunker down. Now it seems Herbinger’s nerves were shot, because on the night of the 30th he told his fellow officers he believed they were all going to be massacred the following morning. He went to bed at 8pm and an hour later he began to hear firing from forward outposts. It would turn out to be a false alarm, but one officer rushed over to Herbinger to wake him up and report the action to which Herbinger allegedly said “'I'm sick, and the column is just as sick as me! Leave me alone!'

    Meanwhile Briere de l’isle was receiving Herbingers panicked reports throughout the night and he reluctantly gave Herbinger permission to retreat back to Chu at 10pm if in his words “if the situation demanded it”. That was more than enough for Herbinger who immediately ordered a retreat to Chu that very night. Harbinger’s message back to Briere de l’isle read this 'I will take advantage of the night and the moon to retire, in conformity with your instructions”. And so the men packed up and began their trek from Thang Moy and Dong Song linking up along the way. Schoeffer’s force were attacked by some Qing patrols, but it did not amount to much. Harbinger yet again, ordered artillery pieces to be spiked and abandoned believing they would slow down his column. However the gunnery officers disobeyed the orders and kept carrying the pieces all the way safely to Chu. At dawn the on the 31st, the Guangxi army caught up to the French near the village of Pho Cam, just as Herbinger received reinforcements, a squadron of Spahi cavalry. Upon seeing the cavalry, the French officers and soldiers rejoiced, seeking to direct them to charge into the forward Guangxi army patrols to break them down a bit, but Herbinger forbid a charge and instead ordered the retreat to continue at pace.

    Now, while Herbinger thought the entire Guangxi army was coming after him, this was not the case. Back on the 29th, the bulk of the Guangxi army was actually retreating back towards Zhennanguan. That was until some Vietnamese caught up to them, giving them reports the French were shockingly abandoning Lang Son and in a full retreat. General Pan Dingxin could not believe it, and he immediately ordered his battered army to turn around to seize Lang Son. Once Lang Son had been taken he sent out smaller forces to skirmish with the retreating French to prod them along, because the reality was his army was in no condition to fully attack them. When he received word his skirmishers were hitting the French around Pho Cam, he ordered his main body to occupy Dong Song and Bac Le, knowing they were undefended. Thus Herbinger had unknowingly lost everything gained during the last offensive to kick the Guangxi army out of Tonkin!

    On April 1st, the 2nd brigade finally got to Chu, exhausted and bitterly demoralized. Briere de l’isle had ordered the 1st brigade to depart Hung Hoa for Chu and told Colonel Gustave Borgnis Desbordes to take command of the 2nd brigade. On the 2nd of April Colonel Desbordes relieved Herbinger of his command and issued the following order to the 2nd Brigade,

    In view of General de Négrier's serious wound, I have been asked to take provisional command of the brigade. I have arrived with fresh troops and ammunition. I have been told by the general-in-chief that there is to be no further retreat. We are to remain here at all costs. And that is precisely what we shall do.” Minecraft Ompf sounds.

    Now the 1st brigade had not sat by idle while all the chaos and disorder befell the 2nd brigade. Back on March 23rd, the 1st battalion led by chef de bataillon Simon were ordered to depart from Hung Hoa to perform a preliminary reconnaissance of the village of Phu Lam Tao. The reason for this was because the French had been receiving reports the Black Flags along with remnants of the Yunnan army had begun occupying it. Simons men, 1000 strong went to the village discovering the reports to be true. Simon ordered his men to attack and disaster struck. According to Lt Colonel Bonifacy the troops quickly fell into disorder, tossed their equipment down, including rifles and fled the scene. A military report of the operation indicated 400 uniforms and large quantities of arms were abandoned. The French suffered around 50 casualties. Now while this was by no means a large engagement nor that significant of a defeat, in combination to the disastrous Long San retreat, it would lead to a devastating effect for France.

    The situation these two combined events created is known as the “Tonkin affair”. Briere de L’isle while in Hanoi had begun to plan moving his HQ over to Hung Hoa where he further planned to launch an offensive against the Yunnan Army believed to be still operating around Tuyen Quang. However the disastrous retreat of Herbinger combined with the defeat of Simon’s force. This led Briere de l’isle to believe the entire Red River Delta region was threatened and he sent a fateful telegram, under duress which made its way to the French government on the 28th, here is the Lang Son Telegram,

    I am grieved to tell you that General de Négrier is seriously wounded and Lạng Sơn has been evacuated.
    The Chinese forces advanced in three large groups, and fiercely assaulted our positions in front of Ky Lua. Facing greatly superior numbers, short of ammunition, and exhausted from a series of earlier actions, Colonel Herbinger has informed me that the position was untenable and that he has been forced to fall back tonight on Dong Song and Thanh Moy. All my efforts are being applied to concentrate our forces at the passes around Chu and Kép. The enemy continues to grow stronger on the Red River, and it appears that we are facing an entire Chinese army, trained in the European style and ready to pursue a concerted plan. I hope in any event to be able to hold the entire Delta against this invasion, but I consider that the government must send me reinforcements (men, ammunition, and pack animals) as quickly as possible.

    The telegram created a political crisis, the stock market plunged and many called for Jules Ferry to resign. Ferry dove into a heated debate calling for the need to avenge the loss at Lang Son and to secure Frances hold over Tonkin. To do this, Ferry demanded 200 million francs to be handed over to the army and navy which met a bitter rebuttal from George Clemenceau who absolutely tore Ferry for everything. Here is a bit of his speech,

    We’re completely finished with you! We’re never going to listen to you again! We’re not going to debate the nation's affairs with you again! We no longer recognise you! We don’t want to recognise you!You’re no longer ministers! You all stand accused (long pause) of high treason! And if the principles of accountability and justice still exist in France, the law will soon give you what you deserve!'

    A motion of no confidence was immediately tabled and Ferry was voted down 306 to 149. Ferry left in absolute disgrace as all of Paris blew up blaming him for what became infamously known as “the tonkin affair”. The humiliating blow saw Henri Brisson become Prime Minister who started his premiership by trying to negotiate a peace with the Qing dynasty. Meanwhile back over in Formosa, the French were still effectively blockading its northern territory. The war in Formosa had never quieted down, Liu Mingchuan as you might recall received reinforcements in the form of Anhui and Xiang army units, by April of 1885 he had 35,000 men. They were also armed with more modern firearms such as the Lee Model 1879 rifle, Winchesters, Remingtons and Mausers. The french considered these forces to be the cream of the Qing military, well dressed, well armed, and noticeably tall and sturdy. Liu Mingchuan did not stop there, he began hiring more local Hakka militiamen and head-hunting Formosan aborigines.

    On the other side the Formosa expeditionary corps had also been bolstered, now 4000 men strong led by Lt Colonel Jacque Duchesne who had gained fame serving a major defeat to Liu Yongfu’s black flag army at the battle of Yu Oc. The two opposing forces skirmished quite often, until January of 1885 when a real offensive began. Duchesne ordered his men to seize Yeuh-mei-shan known as “la table” to the french. The offensive started out rough due to terrible torrential rain. The French and Qing forces fought for days at a place known as Fork Y, but in the end Duchesne’s men were able to push the Qing out of the way and they continued to march upon La Table. By February La Table was seized and the Qing forces bombarded their position by mid february until the French silenced their artillery using their own. In March Duchesne launched a second offensive, successfully breaking the Qing encirclement of Keelung, delivering an outstanding outflanking maneuver. Duchesne’s men pushed the Qing past the Keelung river losing 41 men dead and 157 wounded, while estimating they inflicted up to 1500 casualties on the enemy. The French seized numerous forts the Qing had built up to surround Keelung at Shih-ch’iu’ling, Hung-tan-shan and Yeuh-mei-shan, renaming them La Dent, Fort Bamboo and fort La Table.

    It was an incredible French victory given the odds, but these feats were done at the same time as the famous Siege of Tuyen Quang and thus remained largely unknown to the French public. Alongside this, Duchesne’s victories enabled Admiral Courbet to follow them up by landing marine forces from the Keelung garrison to capture the Pescadore islands in late March. Controlling the Pescadore islands allowed the French to thwart Qing reinforcement of Formosa, thus France was gradually consolidating its control over the entire island. But this also came right smack dab in the middle of the Herbinger Lang Son retreat disaster. Admiral Courbet almost had to evacuate Keelung to take the forces over to Tonkin to save the situation, but the peace talks had begun before he could do so. Imagine that, a French controlled Taiwan? What the alternate history peeps would do with that one I do not know.

    So things were not going well for France, the French public were losing their minds over the Tonkin debacle forcing them to the peace table. However, things were going wildly worse for the Qing dynasty. Because if you can remember way back when, before we began this French adventure, the Qing were having troubles with Japan over Korea. The Gapsin coup had occurred in December of 1884 drawing the Qing attention towards the threat of Japan. Things in Korea were beginning to get much worse and to be honest, as grand a success as Herbinger had delivered the Qing during his disastrous retreat, in truth the Guangxi army was decimated by the war. Yes they grabbed their positions back within Tonkin, but holding them was another matter entirely. To add to their misery it looked like they were going to lose Formosa, thus Empress Dowager Cixi ordered the Qing envoys to the peace table.

    The Qing sent Li Hongzhang to meet with Jules Patenotre and they opened up by agreeing to the provisions of the Tientsin Accord. The French would get their protectorate over Vietnam, but they were to drop the longstanding demand of reparations for the Bac Le ambush. Negotiations carried on into April of 1885 where they finally agreed to a preliminary peace protocol and an immediate ceasefire in Tonkin and Formosa. The French agreed to life their rice blockade and the Qing finally agreed to pull out the Yunnan and Guangxi armies from Tonkin with an official deadline stated for May of 1885. The Qing also made sure to pressure Liu Yongfu and his Black Flag Army to withdraw from Tonkin so he did not screw up their peace deal. By June of 1885 the new Tientsin Accord was signed.

    A by product of this war, was the absolute destruction of a capable Vietnamese resistance movement. France added Tonkin and Annam to their holding of Cochinchina and would seize Cambodia by 1887 thus creating French Indochina. By 1893 Laos would also be added after the Franco-Siamese War, thus creating a large French Far east colonial empire. It would not be until the Pacific War whereupon France would lose its iron control over southeast asia.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    And so, France had won an undeclared war over the Qing dynasty and in the process would control a large portion of Southeast Asia, known to them as French Indochina. The Qing had been dealt yet again another humiliating blow.

  • Last time we spoke about the Sino-French War at Sea. Admiral Courbet’s Far East Squadron dealt a decisive crushing blow to the Fujian Fleet at the battle of Fuzhou. 9 ships were sunk with another 12 severely damaged, forcing the Qing to toss the Nanyang fleet to meet the French menace. However the corrupt nature of the Qing fleets led to a disastrous situation and Admiral Wu of the Nanyang fleet would be quite a victim to it. He attempted to scare the French away, only to be attacked, then hunted down until his forces fled to Zhenhai Bay. The French erected a rice blockade trying to starve out their enemy and it seemed the Qing navy had nothing left to fight them off with. Meanwhile the Tonkin campaign was still a blood bath as the French forces tried to dislodge the Qing and Black Flags from the region.

    #46 The Sino-French War of 1884-1885 part 3: The Great Push out of Tonkin

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    General Oscar de Negrier spent considerable time thwart guerilla efforts against French outposts such as the ones at Thai Nguyen, Hung Hoa and Tuyen Quang. He dispatched Colonel Jacques Duchesne to neutralize Yu Oc to relieve the trapped garrison at Tuyen Quang. Duchesne managed to dislodge the black flag units there, but raids made by Qing, Vietnamese and Black flag units remained a constant nuisance. Tonkin was turning into a nightmare, the French needed quick victories before the Qing Yunnan and Guangxi armies coming over the border into Vietnam could consolidate control over northern Tonkin. The French military high command began to debate the issue and this led to the Army Minister General Jules Louis Lewal to order Oscar to launch a campaign against Lang Son. Lang Son was where the Guangxi army had established its main hq. From Lang Son the Guangxi forces ambushed some French Foreign legion forces east of Chu village at a place called Ha Ho. The legionnaires were able to fight their way out from a Chinese encirclement, but the casualties suffered were high. General Oscar tried to pursue the enemy, but they retreated to Dong Song with ease. At this point the Guangxi army knew their HQ at Lang Son was to be the next major target for a French offensive so the Qing tried to gain a toehold in the Luc Nam valley by sending 12,000 troops over a hill called Nui Bop.

    Atop the Nui Bop hill, the forces led by General Wang Debang, a victor of the Bac le ambush event created a fortified camp. To support the men Wang Debang had his forces fan out, plundering all the nearby villages for food supplies, thus earning the hatred of them. This led some farmers and villages to come to the French on December 23rd, alerting them of the Guangxi army’s presence atop Nui Bop. The news of 12,000 enemy units so close to their forward position at Chu threatened the French campaign soon about to launch against Lang Son in January, thus Oscar knew he had to neutralize them. Oscar took a force of 2000 men, drawn from the 1st and 2nd brigades of the Tonkinese expeditionary corps and began a offensive. Instead of directly marching east from Chu, Oscar decided to sweep to the southern bank of the Luc Nam river to try and outflank the enemy’s left flank. To make sure the Qing did not see this coming he diverted a smaller force led by Chef de Bataillon Diguet to approach directly from Chu.

    The main body departed Chu at 6am on January 3rd, making a arduous trek, until they came across the northern bank of the Luc Nam river, but it unfortunately was higher in tide than expected. The crossing took the French nearly 3 hours, and in that time Qing scouts saw them and reported the incoming attack thus the element of surprise was all but lost. Nonetheless, the French main body broke into 3 lines advancing towards the Qing left flank which was within the Phong Cot valley and ready for the fight. The French skirmished with the Qing within some heavy bush and had little trouble pushing them further back up the hill area. Soon the hills around Phong Cot were cleared. Oscar believed the Qing forces were greatly demoralized and decided to seize Phong Cot’s town before midnight. They found the town abandoned, but the next morning came under heavy counter attacks, supported by artillery from a western fort. The Qing counterattacks were repelled, though at great cost and now Oscar pressed towards the village of Tay Toun which held a hill with a fort. The Qing seemed to be in disarray, allowing for a French bayonet charge across their trench defenses there. By 11:15am the French had taken the camp and found Krupp field artillery pieces, large quantities of modern rifles and war materials abandoned.

    What became known as the battle of Nui Bop amounted to 19 dead and 65 wounded for the French while they claimed to have found 600 dead Qing bodies and caused significantly higher casualties alongside it. The French soldiers scoured the battlefield for hours, using pistols to finish off wounded Qing soldiers, killing at least a dozen in this fashion. Oscars victory was outstanding, given he was greatly outnumbered. French military commanders estimated he had won a battle with the odd’s being 1 out of 10 for a French victory. Having neutralized Nui Bop, General Brière de l’isle was not able to perform an offensive against the main Guangxi army base at Lang Son. It was going to be a 10 day march just to get to the frontline of Lang son, a march where the troops would being carrying all their equipment and provisions through heavy bush. Briere de L’isle knew all too well how formidable such a trek would be and waited until February gathering as many coolies as he could muster to help. Throughout January he got together 7200 troops and 4500 coolies. His Tonkinese expeditionary force held two brigades: the 1st led by Colonel Ange-Laurent Giovanninelli and the 2nd led by general de brigade Oscar.

    On february the 3rd they began their long trek setting out from Chu, going over the Deo Van mountains to Cao Nhiat without seeing enemy units. The next day saw the first action at Tay Hoa. The 2nd brigade who were leading the march, found themselves face to face with a large fort. Oscar ordered the large fort to be seized as it threatened their campaigns timetable, and had his 3rd regiment to advance towards it. Lt Colonel Paul Gustave Herbinger leading the 3rd regiment of the 2nd brigade made an elaborate flanking maneuver that saw his forces exhausted and wasting valuable time. Oscar greatly annoyed by this, then simply ordered the 3rd French Foreign Legion battalion of the 4th regiment to attack the fort. The legionnaires scrambled up the mountain paths and quickly seized the fort as Herbinger’s men continued to trek towards it looking foolish as hell. French casualties were 18 dead and 100 or so wounded, the heaviest the French had suffered to a single engagement up to that point in the war.

    The next day, the French assaulted a assortment of forts defending the Guangxi army camps at Dong Song and Ha Hoa. The 1st brigade hit the left sides while the 2nd took the right side. French soldiers tossed dynamite onto garrison barrack roofs, fired upon Qing trenches and unleashed hell with artillery to keep the enemy confused and dazed. On the 6th Dong Song was taken by late afternoon with very low casualties incurred for the French. Most of the Qing forces fled Dong Song heading through Pho bu valley towards Lang Son. The loss of Dong Son threatened the Guangxi Army’s right wing holding a position at Bac Le, forcing them to pull back up the Mandarin road to Thanh Moy.

    Meanwhile at Dong Song, the French resupplied, taking great stores from the Guangxi army and continued their march by February 11th, coming into contact with the enemy at Pho Vy. The Qing were easily dislodged from the village by Herbinger’s regiment, but soon he was met with a heavy counterattack that forced General Oscar to pull up reserves to help him. On february 12th, the French made it to Bac Vie, just a few km’s south of Lang Son. Giovanninelli’s 1st brigade was leading the way and took the brunt of the initial assault against the Qing lines of defense. The battle was fought in a thick fog, allowing the Qing forces to mount daring counterattacks that nearly repelled Giovanninelli’s entire brigade. But the French were able to break through the center of the Qing defensive lines, isolating two wings who routed and began fleeing to Lang Son. The French received 30 deaths and 188 wounded or their efforts, the highest casualties of the campaign.

    The next day the French forces entered Lang Son as the Guangxi Army had abandoned its main hq, only putting up rearguard actions as it did so. The Guangxi army was falling back towards the Chinese border, but put up a strong defensive position in the small town of Dong Dang within Tonkinese territory. In the words of Briere de L’isle about the Lang Son campaign, issued on February the 14th after capturing Lang Son

    You have hoisted the French flag above Lạng Sơn. A Chinese army ten times your numbers has had to recross the frontier in complete rout, leaving in your hands its standards, its arms and its ammunition. It has been forced to abandon to you or to disperse in the mountains the European equipment on which it had so heavily relied to block our march. Glory to all of you who successfully measured yourselves with this army in the actions of the 4th at Tay Hoa, the 5th at Ha Hoa, the 6th at Dong Song, the 9th at Deo Quao, the 11th at Pho Vy, the 12th at Bac Vie and the 13th at Lạng Sơn, and chased it, despite its vigorous resistance, from the formidable positions which it occupied! Honour also to the officers charged with bringing up the food and ammunition trains. It is thanks to their devotion and indefatigable energy that you have been able to eat, and that our advances were not longer delayed

    Now while the Lang Son campaign was coming to an end, back over at the isolated outposts of Thai Nguyen, Hung Hoa and Tuyen Quang, things went to shit again. As soon as Tuyen Quang was relieved during the battle for Yu Oc and the French pulled out, the Yunnan army and Black Flag went right back to work attacking it. Tuyen Quang was given a new garrison, 630 men strong led by Marc-Edmon Domine. Liu Yongfu’s ever annoying Black Flag Army, roughly 3000 men strong at this point, were joined by a Yunnan Army force 9000 men strong led by Tang Jingsong. Tuyen Quang held a fortress, not too large in size, lying on the western bank of the Clear River next to the town of Tuyen Quang. The town held a citadel, barrack buildings, 300 yards of walls and was surrounded by wooded hills. The wooded hills made it extremely difficult for the garrison as enemy snipers were able to fire from their cover. When Dominee got the garrison job, he immediately went to work building a blockhouse on a hill 300 meters south of the towns citadel, defended by some French foreign legionnaires.

    In early november the Yunnan Army made its way down the Red River, advancing upon Tuyen Quang building small encampments in villages as they did. By december, the Yunnan forces built 3 enormous fortified camps at Thanh Quan, Ca Lanh and Phu An Binh, for the purpose of raising a siege of Tuyen Quang. The French only saw minor skirmishes up to this point, then in January of 1885, the Qing and Black Flag forces began to squeeze the supply lines going to Tuyen Quang. On the 31st the Yunnan army began its initial attack, which was met with considerable losses. They would launch attacks again on the 10th of january and 26, but not meeting much success. Thus they began the age old tradition of sapping to mine the walls of the fortress. By the 27th their sappers had gone to work sapping towards the blockhouse. 3 days later the French foreign legionnaires knew they would be mined so they abandoned the blockhouse and the Yunnan forces quickly seized it. The Qing used the blockhouse as an advanced position to set up artillery to hit the French fortress, bombarding them nearly every day. The French were met with cannon, mortar and rifle fire from all sides of their position. Domine posted his best snipers along walls trying to inflict casualties on the attackers and occasionally used his artillery to hit the enemy. However the Qing snipers using the wooden hills were impossible to hit, but they inturn were not very successful at hitting the french.

    The Qing continued to sap around the French walls, hoping to cause a large breach, but the French were well prepared for this. French counter sappers broke into the Qing tunnels on the 11th of february causing a underground revolver fight, that must of been terrifying. The French tried to flood the tunnel, but by the night of the 12th, the Qing exploded mines under a part of the fort walls. Luckily for the French the mine was weakened by the flooding, not resulting in a large enough explosion to breach. The next day another mine was exploded and this one did cause a 50 foot breach in a southwest part of the walls of the citadel. The Qing surged for the breach and were met by French foreign legionnaires who kept them at bay. By the 17th the Qing brought their artillery closer up to dislodge the legionnaires who were forced to pull back from their foxholes.

    On the 22nd, the Qing delivered a major assault after they exploded a mine in another part of the walls acting as a feint to get the defenders to leave the 50 foot breach. The Qing surged again into the breach, but were repelled by a countercharge led personally by Dominee. Then a 3rd mine was exploded taking down 60 yards of wall, signaling a decisive moment. Hundreds of Qing forces surged out of their siege trenches towards the large breaches, met by rapid French rifle fire. As terrifying as it was for the outnumbered French in their trenches they managed to keep the Qing at bay. The breaches were too large, it seemed all was hopeless for the defenders, but word was received that Lang Son had just been seized. General Briere de L’isle left 3000 men to garrison Lang Son and personally led the 1st brigade of Giovanninelli back to Hanoi and raced upriver to relieve Tuyen Quang.

    As he made his way, additional forces from Hung Hoa joined him giving him a total strength of 3400 men. The French knew the Black Flags and Yunnan army forces had established yet again a strong encampment at Yu Oc, this time in its gorge near the village of Hoa Moc. Briere de l’isle took the men directly through the Yu Oc gorge, forcing the Qing to mount a defense in Hoa Moc. Liu Yongfu took command of the combined forces there, 6000 strong manning 3 lines of trenches, with their flanks resting on the Clear River to the east and a rough mountain to the west. It was a well positioned defense, forcing the French to attack directly from the front.

    On the morning of March 2nd, the French approached what looked like deserted trenches, there were no signs of the enemy. Giovanninelli sent a platoon over to check it out and they were met with a volley at point blank range killing and wounding 30. Seeing the enemy, Giovanninelli opened up his artillery upon the left flank and sent a battalion forward to assault it. The Qing responded by exploding a mine in front of their trenches devastating an Algerian unit leading to the assault failing. Another assault was formed, but once they came within rifle fire the Qing overpowered them sending them reeling back.

    Giovannenilli redeployed his artillery to hit another section of the first trench lines and then tossed a 3rd assault which broke through a section of the forward trenches. This prompted Liu Yongfu to launch a counterattack against the French left flank to try and distract them from advancing more, but it was driven off with heavy losses. The casualties had mounted up heavily for both sides and by night time it was unknown whether the French would have enough power to break through during the morning. Briere de l’isle and Giovanninelli were shocked by the enemies resistance and in the words of Lt Huguet,

    The general-in-chief was sitting behind a bank, anxious, his head in his hands, surrounded by his staff, perhaps wondering whether he would have to retreat. Colonel Giovanninelli, who valued the life of the humblest soldier as dearly as his own, was pale and shaken as he watched the lines of bloodstained stretchers file past him, and kept exclaiming in a strangled voice, 'My children! My poor children!' The bullets whistled incessantly in the close air, and the groans of the wounded men lying in the rose bushes, inside the bamboo groves, and against the sides of the enemy works, rose ever more distinctly”.

    That night, Liu Yongfu ordered his forces to make a counterattack to try and take back the lost front line trenches. The French responded with a bayonet charge leading to a night brawl of hand-to-hand lighting until the Qing were driven off. The next day Giovanninelli was forced to bring up all the reserves and ordered an entire brigade assault against the stretch of forward trench lines still held by the enemy. The French began at a trot, then went into a full blown charge expecting to be met by a halestorm of volley fire, but instead found the trenches deserted. Liu Yongfu had pulled out after the failed night attack, leaving the way to Tuyen Quang clear.

    It was a bloody fight. The French had 76 deaths and 408 wounded, the highest casualty rate and largest loss of life in a single days fighting for the war. 6 officers were dead, 21 wounded, countless men would be tossed onto gunboats only to die in hospitals in Dap Cau and Thi Cau. It was a decisive victory as Liu Yongfu and the Yunnan army lifted their siege of Tuyen Quang, withdrawing further west. Briere de L’isle entered the brutalized outpost on March 3rd , and as told to us by Captain Jean-Francois-Alphonse Lecomte,

    We approached the fortress. At the head of a group of officers we saw a captain with a long white beard, who was flourishing his cane and dancing an impromptu jig. The first man he met in the relief column was a bugler. He threw his arms around him. Then he embraced the second bugler. The band tried to keep its dignity, but to no avail. He then abandoned the buglers and fell on the neck of the first drummer. For a moment the drum stood between him and the object of his affections, but eventually he managed to plant two loud kisses on the drummer’s cheeks. Then he made for the general-in-chief. There was a sudden hush, as when an orchestra falls silent at the end of a dance. He recovered himself, solemnly clicked his heels, and saluted General Brière de l’Isle. We recognised Captain de Borelli. "Good afternoon, Captain, how are you? We’re delighted to see you!" "Indeed! Me too! Especially as I only just escaped being killed this morning!"

    The men of Tuyen Quang had 50 dead and 224 wounded during their defense of the town. It was estimated by the French that the Black Flag and Yunnan forces suffered 1000 deaths and 2000 wounded during the siege and battle of Hoa Moc. The fight to save Tuyen Quang would become the defining image of the Sino-French War and placed second only to the Battle of Camerone in 1863 for the roll of battle honors of the French Foreign Legion.

    Now when Briere de l’isle grabbed the 1st brigade to relieve Tuyen Quang, he left the 2nd brigade of Oscar to occupy Lang Son, but also to press forward to rid Tonkinese soil of the Guangxi Army. General Oscar had 2900 men and knew the enemy had left a last toehold at Dong Dang. That toehold turned out to be an extremely formidable one. They established a position on a 300 meter limestone plateau rising west of the Mandarin road and just a bit north of Dong Dang leading to what is known as “the gate of China”. The gate of china was a border gate, think of a less grand Great wall of China, that sits atop a large sheer cliff. It can only be climbed from its western approach and it was very well defended with artillery positions on its summit. The Guangxi army’s position along the hills east of the Mandarin road were covered by numerous elevated infantry and artillery positions making it extremely difficult to attack head on. For a force to seize this they would need to assault the limestone massif and to do that one would first have to seize the town of Dong Dang. The town itself was the weakest point of defense for the Guangxi army, it held low lying buildings. There were also forts in the villages to the west of Dong Tien, That ke and Pho bu.

    Oscar led the men out of Lang Son on February 23rd going up the Mandarin road. Along the way his vanguard reached the village of Tham Lon and the hamlet of Ban Vinh. There they engaged a small group of Guangxi units who were patrolling the area. They quickly fled to warn their forces at Dong Dang of the incoming attack. The French forces had to fight their way up the rest of the Mandarin road, being assaulted on their left and right flanks. The Guangxi army’s artillery for once held a distinctive advantage because of the cliff positions and took a toll upon the French. This forced the French to assault multiple hills along the way to neutralize the artillery pieces until they fell upon the western town forts.

    Upon seeing the defenses of the Guangxi army, Oscar knew they had to get them off the limestone massif. To attack that though, Dong Dan had to be seized, but to take that without losing half of his men he needed to neutralize the western forts. Oscar began by bombarding the forts with his artillery from a long range. Once the forts were silenced he turned his artillery upon the hills east of the Mandarin road, the idea was simple, he was trying to edge in with his artillery while avoiding as much of the enemy’s as possible. By 3pm the western forts and their defenders seemed sufficiently battered, so Oscar ordered Lt Colonel Herbinger to seize them. The Guangxi defender upon seeing the charging French left the forts, opening the path to Dong Dang.

    The French began bombarding the towns buildings lighting them ablaze and leaving just a small amount of Guangxi units trying to skirmish. Herbinger ordered his men to assault the town and they began to advance over a km of open ground where the Guangxi army artillery atop the summit could fire down upon them. As the French marched towards the outskirts of the town they were met with intense artillery fire and the men hesitated. Their officers leapt from their horses, to push the men out of the firing range and this drove them into a charge of the blazing town. The soldiers charged wildly and disorderly through the town trying to get at the few Chinese skirmishes as their officers barked orders at them, but it was to no avail as the French soldiers were running for their damn lives under intense artillery fire and now the heat of fire from the town itself. The Guangxi skirmishers scared out of their mind fled the town and the French officers eventually regained their mens composure.

    From here Herbinger ordered his men to march forward up the slopes towards the massif. They were met with intense artillery fire and men began to fall as they scrambling up the slopes as fast as they could. Despite mounting casualties, the French continued until they hit the most forward trench positions and only when a entire French battalion tossed its strength did the Guangxi defenders give way. The Guangxi army’s right wing fell back to That Ke as the French continued towards the summit of the limestone massif. They reached the summit, finally gaining the vantage point and began to fire down upon the enemy near the Mandarin road.

    Now all that remained was a enemy position northeast of Dong Dang which blocked the advance up the Mandarin road. The French seized a hill due north of Pho Bu and began to use their artillery on it to hit the enemy. Seeing the right flank of the enemy fleeing to That Ke, Oscar ordered two forward companies to pursue them, while others seized the village of Cua Ai and finally the Gate of China. A french battalion reached the Gate of China which was protected by two flanking forts and trenches along the slopes of its neighboring hills. However all the forces allocated to these defensive positions had been moved forward at the offset of battle and when they ran back the French gave them little time to rally. Their lines quickly broke, allowing legionnaires to occupy the Gate of China with relative ease. The rest of the brigade gradually took Cua Ai, the hills east of the Mandarin road and all met up at the Gate of China as the Guangxi army fled to its homeland.

    Believe it or not, the French claim to have lost 9 men dead and nearly 50 wounded, during this chaotic battle. The Guangxi army casualties are unknown but were probably in the hundreds. After clearing the Qing forces from Tonkin territory, the French literally blew up the Gate of China on february 25th. The Qing customs building, Tonkin-Guangxi border, were all destroyed. Oscar placed a wooden placard on the ruins inscribing in Chinese the words “'It is not stone walls that protect frontiers, but the faithful execution of treaties'

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    The French had kicked the Qing forces finally out of Tonkin, so the war must be over right? One would think so, but there were still some surprises to occur in the undeclared Sino-French War of 1884-1885.

  • Last time we spoke about the descent into full scale war between the Qing dynasty and France because of the Tonkin campaign. The French sought to annihilate the Black Flag Army, knowing full well it might entice the Qing to war and so it did. The Tonkin campaign saw the battle of Bac Ninh which led to direct confrontation with Qing forces and soon both sides hit the negotiating table. The Tientsin accord was agreed upon, but no set deadline for the Qing withdrawal led to more conflict and it seems full scale war had finally kicked off. Admiral COurbet was ordered to hit Fuzhou and there he smashed the Fujian fleet utterly embarrassing the Qing dynasty leading to panic, chaos and outrage amongst the Chinese people. How will things change going forward now that France had landed a death blow to one of the Qing dynasties fleets? Could the sabers of war be sheathed?

    #45 The Sino-French War of 1884-1885 part 2: The Sino-French War at Sea

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    The battle of Fuzhou certainly made a splash. 9 Qing warships were sunk, several others were severely damaged and possibly 2-3 thousand Qing forces were killed. Admiral Courbet then went about the Min River bombarding all the forts and batteries he could before making his exit utterly humiliating the Qing. Now until the battle of Fuzhou the Qing and French were playing footsy under the table when it came to a full scale declared war. Basically everything up until now could be seen as an undeclared war. To give a example of this, think about China and Japan from 1931-1937. They were to be blunt fully at war, but neither side wanted to officially acknowledge it to the international community for a variety of reasons, thus it could be seen as an undeclared war. Here to we see France and the Qing dynasty not wishing to make formal declarations of war, for a variety of reasons. Now while it would remain undeclared, it by no means meant they were not at war.

    News of the catastrophe and destruction of the Fujian Fleet were met with public outrage in China. Mobs began to attack foreign concessions, and in Europe the mood was sympathetic to the Chinese cause. The British, Germans and American military’s began to extend their hand to the Qing dynasty offering advisers. Perhaps it was less about the Qing plight and more so to stick the middle finger to the French, as one does, but its the thought that counts. Over in Hong Kong, still a colony of the British empire, dock workers began to refuse to repair French warships like La Galissonniere in september of 1884. La Galissonniere had received some hits in August and came in for some work, but a strike occurred in September. Now a large reason for this was Chinese workers refusing to work and by proxy it hindered the British dock workers. Things got dicey and some riots and fights broke out prompting British authorities to deploy forces to defend their dockyards and workers from continuous harassment from Chinese. This by no means was organic by the way, the Qing government were pulling strings of their citizens to cause such conflicts to hinder any aid to France.

    Now Admiral Courbet was given orders to smash Fuzhou, which he did, but if the Qing continued their “defiance” he was also ordered to go smash the port of Keelung in northern Formosa, modern day Taiwan. These actions of course were done to push the Qing to get their forces out of Tonkin as pertaining to the Tientsin Accords. Well the Qing were not budging, so Keelung was put on the menu. Admiral Courbet argued vigorously not to launch a campaign against Formosa, and instead to target major ports in the Liaodong region like Port Arthur or Weihaiwei. The French military planners thought these prospects to difficult to hit as the Far East Squadron was not large by any means and Keelung was a much easier target. In mid september the French cabinet after deliberating the issue decided to launch attacks against Keelung and Tamsui. Their rationale in the end was that the towns held nearby coal mines that could be seized to provide the Far East Squadron a wartime base.

    Thus on October 1st, Lt Colonel Bertaux-Levillain, haha that last name again, landed at Keelung with 2250 men taken from the Tonkin Campaign forces. They were to be called the Formosa Expeditionary Corps. They sailed out of Saigon escorted by the Far East Squadron and came ashore as Courbet’s forces bombarded the shore batteries and Qing forces trying to mount a defense. The French casualties as usual were claimed to be small, 4 deaths and 12 wounded while the Qing casualties according to Formosans were around 100 dead and hundreds wounded. The first week of October saw French forces occupying several hills around Keelung and they sent scouts to look at the Pei-tao coal mines.

    The imperial commissioner responsible for the defense of Formosa was Liu Mingchuan who could only watch helplessly as the French bombarded 3 shore batteries in the port of Keelung and began to prod the Pei-tao coal mines as his 2000 or so Qing troops were overwhelmed. Now knowing the French would likely hit Tamsui as well he tried to establish better defenses there by planting torpedo mines in the river approach and creating boat and stone barricades. He also armed locals to try and augment his Qing forces. These locals were known as Hakka hillmen and they were armed with primitive matchlock rifles, but despite being undergunned were deemed very brave warriors. Tamsui was protected by two forts west of the city, the White fort and a still under construction Fort neuf. The French were unable to enter the Tamsui River due to the barricade and mines and thus began bombarding the two forts on October 2nd. The forts and warships exchanged fire, but as usual the outdated cannons in the forts were no match and were silenced quickly. Testimony from a Canadian Presbyterian missionary named George Mackey, had to add this one being Canadian myself, who was housed in Tamsui said this of the bombardment.

    When the bombarding began we put our little children under the floor of the house, that they might not be alarmed. My wife went out and in during these trying hours. I paced the front of the house with A Hoa, while shot and shell whizzed and burst all around us. One shell struck a part of Oxford College, another a corner of the Girls’ School, and still another a stone in front of us, and sent it into mid-air in a thousand atoms. A little to the west of us another went into the ground, gouging a great hole and sending up a cloud of dust and stones. The suction of one, as it passed, was like a sudden gust of wind. Amid the smoke from forts and ships, and the roar and thunder of shot and shell, we walked to and fro, feeling that our God was round about us.

    The French bombardment was not very precise and while the two forts had been neutralized, countless shells hit the town and surrounding area endangering civilians. The French followed up the bombardment by landing ashore forces to seize the forts from which they then could begin operations to blow up the mines and barricades in the riverway. Now the Qing defense of the city was led by General Sun Kaihua and General Zhang Gaoyuan. They expected the French to come from the direction of the seized forts and began to set up defensive lines and trenches to meet this. The Far East squadron anchored near the harbour entrance to support the men as they marched. However disaster struck. The men marched and many landed ashore at some beaches, but the sand dunes further inland made it impossible for the ships to see over them to support the mens offensive. As the French marched over the dunes, expected to see large rice paddy field terrain, it was actually thick woods and ditches everywhere. General Sun Kaihua was making great use of the terrain concealing his men everywhere he could and they ambushed the French as they made their way through the brush.

    The forward French units were thrown into chaos, quickly screaming for backup as General Zhang Gaoyuan sent his forces to smash their left flank. Zhang’s men were able to push the French left flank into the main bodies position leading to the firefight extending to the entire French formation. The Qing and French forces were separated by a distance of around 100 meters. While most of the French forces kept the volley system accordingly, many sailor forces too excited by the mayhem began mindlessly firing into the brush wasting ammunition. French officers screamed to stop. General Zhang kept up the momentum by ordering his forces to push the French left flank even further into the main body. Meanwhile General Kaihua motioned forces to hit the French right flank. The entire French frontlines were engulfed in a battle between them and unseen enemies in the brush. After an hour of engagement, 2/3rd of the French ammunition had been used and casualties were mounting. The French commanders ordered the men to make a fighting withdrawal as General Zhang and Sun ordered their men to try and cut off the left and right flanks escape. By midday, the French were in full retreat back to the warships, nearly 1/10 were wounded, many dead. It was estimated the French had 17 deaths and 49 wounded. Captain Garnot of the formosa expeditionary corps had this to say about the failed attack,

    There is no doubt that the main reason for the repulse was that the landing force was too small, but poor tactics also played their part. There was no vanguard to cover the advance of the line of battle. The firing line advanced without a preliminary reconnaissance into difficult terrain, under fire from Chinese snipers who were well dug-in and protected. Confusion and lack of direction was evident in the conduct of the battle. The courage and dash shown by our officers and sailors, who had not been trained for a land battle, cannot conceal the fact that we opened fire in a disorderly manner; that the reserves came up to join the line of battle prematurely, without orders; and that our troops lost our heads, firing wildly at the enemy and using up their ammunition in a few minutes. Infantry tactics cannot simply be improvised, as our landing companies learned by bitter experience.

    Later on 6 French soldiers had their heads placed in the Tamsui markets, allegedly done by the Hakka hillsmen. The French commanders sent word to General Sun demanding they be buried. The French defeat at Tamsui heavily bolstered the hardliners back in the Qing court. The court convened in late october and Empress Dowager Cixi decided the undeclared war against France would continue until France agreed to withdraw their indemnity demands for the Bac Le ambush. The Qing relayed peace terms on November 5th, but they included some major demands such as outright canceling the Tientsin Accord; having France abandon their protectorateship over Annam and Tonkin and allowing the Qing to continue to occupy Lang Son, Lao Cai an Cao Bang. The mediator between the Qing and France, British foreign secretary Lord Granville said of the terms “the Chinese terms are those from a victor to the vanquished” and he promptly refused to even transmit them to France.

    Because of the setback the French were only able to enforce a limited blockade of the northern portion of Formosa as the Formosa expeditionary corps awaited further reinforcements. In January of 1885 command over the corps was handed over to Colonel Jacques Duchesne who augmented them with two additional battalions bringing a total strength of around 4000 men. However also because of the Qing victory, Liu Mingchuan was augmented by over 25,000 reinforcements taken from the Xiang and Anhui armies, the veteran troops of Zeng Guofan and Li Hongzhang.

    As grand as the ground forces boost was to Formosa, on the naval front things were entirely different. The Nanyang Fleet asked for some warships of the Beiyang Fleet to augment their strength to fight the French, but the commander of the Beiyang Fleet, Li Hongzhang himself denied the request. Again, none of the fleet commanders wished to risk any of their advanced ships to face the French and the commanders adamantly did not want other commanders to use their ships for that matter. This created a major divide in the fleet. The northern fleets and southern fleets refused to cooperate and in fact did a lot to oppose another. For example, the French Navy would obviously be operating more so in the southern sea, thus one would imagine the Qing would focus their overwhelming naval strength there. However the northern fleets would hinder this greatly by draining southern China of resources, warships and of course sailors who they began to enlist en masse. This all led to the benefit of the French Navy. Meanwhile the Far East squadron was receiving reinforcements beginning in 1884 and by february of 1885 was a lot stronger.

    Now in mid January of 1885, the Nanyang Fleet was ordered to try and relieve the French naval blockade of Formosa. On January 18th, the cruisers Nanchen, Kaiji, Nanrui, frigate Yuyuan and sloop Chengqing departed Shanghai for Formosa. The commanding admiral was Wu Ankang and he was supposed to receive additional aid in the form of the Chaoyong, Yangwei of the Nanyang fleet and two cruisers from the Beiyang fleet, but like I said, Li Hongzhang refused to release them and instead diverted them to Korea where Yuan Shikai was busy quelling the Gapsin coup. Admiral Wu’s group sailed south hesitantly, fearing an actual engagement. In fact Admiral Wu had hoped by just publicizing the fact his force was enroute to Formosa would lead the French to pull out. When this failed to occur, Wu literally turned his ships around high, tailing it for the port of Ningbo. However the French had received word of the sortie and literally leapt at the chance of engaging such an enemy. Admiral Courbet sailed out of Keelung’s water with the ironclads Bayard, Triumphant, cruisers Duguay-Trouin, Eclairuer, Nielly, gunboat Aspic and the troopship Saone.

    The French were not exactly certain where to find the enemy and first looked into the mouth of the Min River in early February. Not finding the enemy, the French then sailed north along the Chinese coast. On February 8th, Courbet's force were running low on coal so he was forced to dispatch the Duguay-Trouin back to Keelung. On the 10th the French squadron reached Chusen island and by the 11th they entered the Yangtze river scaring the batteries at Wusong, but still no sight of the enemy fleet. The French then received word from Qing newspapers that they had actually passed the Qing fleet on their way north and that they were near Sanmen Bay. Courbet immediately set sail south and by the 13th entered Shipu Bay where they caught sight of the Qing fleet. The French immediately bore down upon their enemy as the Qing took up a V formation led by Admiral Wu’s flagship Kaiji. The French were exhilarated upon seeing the Qing formation coming right at them primed for a battle and then as the Qing closed in they suddenly broke formation and scattered. 3 Qing cruisers fled south, with Courbet offering pursuit while the Yuyuan and Chengqing fled further into Shipu bay. According to American naval officer L. C Arlington who was aiding the Nanyang Fleet he said “Admiral Wu had a personal grudge against the captains of the Yuyuan and Chengqing and deliberately tried to sacrifice them to save the rest of his flotilla”. The Qing cruisers were faster and thus outran their French counterpart, leading Courbet to turn right back around to hunt the Yuyuan and Chengqing.

    On the night of the 14th, the French sent torpedo launches under the cover of darkness which got with 100 meters to the two ships before they were spotted. The Qing began to use rifle fire against the small boats as the French crews frantically tried to spar torpedo the Yuyuans hull successfully crippling her. One French sailor died to rifle fire as they made their escape. Arlington was actually aboard the Yuyuan that night and had this to say about the event as he witnessed the spar torpedo hit and a shell lobbed at the nearby Chengqing.

    The scene that now occurred almost beggars description. Some tried to lower the boats, some rushed between decks to try and save their possessions, many jumped overboard into the sea. It was, in fact, everyone for himself, and the devil take the hindmost. When I had time to realise what had really happened, a strange scene was unrolled before me. Just ahead of us lay the little Ching-ching slowly settling down beneath the waters; she had been attacked by the same torpedo boat that had sunk us. Our own ship was gradually sinking, her guns just level with the water's edge. Along the shore and in the water about us were seamen, soldiers, chickens, ducks, geese and baggage of every description. The fault rested entirely with the Chinese—even at the last moment, had they made any attempt to repel the torpedo boat they might have warded off the catastrophe, and possibly sunk the enemy instead. No such attempt was made, and the French escaped scot-free

    The next morning the French scouted the bay finding the two Qing warships had sunk. Admiral Courbet continued to hunt for the wandering Nanyang fleet and on February 25th received orders to implement a “rice blockade”. This was to be a naval blockade against the sea transport of rice to Shanghai. By the 28th, Courbets squadron made it to Zhenhai bay enroute to Shanghai where he received reports the Nanyang fleet was hiding in the bay. He hunted until march 1st until at long last he found some Qing warships and low and behold it was the 3 cruisers of Admiral Wu Ankang. Alongside the 3 cruisers were 4 other ships, the sloop Chaowu, wooden transport Yuankai and 2 gunboats. The entrance to the bay was likewise filled with sunken chinese junks blocking it. Courbet performed a reconnaissance with one of his ships, the Nielly which was met with Chinese shore battery fire and a few of the Chinese warships. The Nielly was nearly hit a few times, but managed to perform the survey and return to her squadron.

    Courtbet met with his fellow officers and came to the conclusion attacking the Nanyang fleet within range of their harbor defenses was too large a risk to take. Instead he elected to perform a naval blockade of Zhenhai Bay. For over a month, a few ships of the Far East Squadron at any given time held the blockade, thus forcing over 7 Nanyang fleet warships to be stuck in the bay and useless to the war. The French claim this was a strategic victory, but the Qing saw it as a defensive victory for themselves, because of the thwarting of the Nielly from their point of view. Our American friend Arlington gives a colorful account of what occurred. According to Arlington, when Admiral Wu Ankang’s 3 warships showed up to Zhenhai Bay, the authorities there begged him to leave so the French would not attack them all. Instead Wu threatened to take his ships up the Ningbo river to leave them high and dry to fight the French off by themselves. When the French appeared in front of Zhenhai bay the authorities demanded Wu sail out to attack the French using the 7 warships available, but he refused to do so. Arlington states that was a wise decision, because they would have been annihilated. While the blockade was going on, Britain officially closed off Hong Kong and other held concessions from the Far East Squadron to hinder them. The French in return upheld their rice blockade strategy against the Yangtze River, hoping to start out northern China. As far as the great battles of the sea were concerned that would actually be the end of it for the most part.

    Now taking a look back to the land campaigns, after the naval battle of Fuzhou, Empress Dowager Cixi had given the greenlight for the undeclared war to kick off. This resulted in Qing forces from Guangxi and Yunnan provinces to advance into Tonkin to give battle with the French. General Millot’s health took a turn for the worse and he submitted his resignation back in September of 1884, his last order of the day had describing himself as quote “a sick and disappointed man”. He was relieved by General Louis Briere de L’isle which greatly annoys me as I now will have to narrate that entire name each time haha. Little known fact I am married to a Quebecois woman who is throwing up hearing my anglo ass narrate so many french terms and names.

    Briere de L’isle’s first task was to thwart the Qing forces invading the Red River Delta system. By late september a large Guangxi Army were advancing from LangSon into the Luc Nam Valley and managed to ambush two grinch gunboats, the Massue and Hache on October 2nd. They managed to kill one officer and injured 32 men, but the ambush did give up the element of surprise. French scouts reported 3 large groups of Qing forces: one around the village of Kep along the Mandarin road; one at Bao Loc; and one at Chu in the upper valley of the Luc Nam River. Briere de L’ilse deployed General Oscar de Negrier with 3000 troops to hit the Luc Nam Valley before the Qing could concentrate their forces.

    The Guangxi force was led by Generals Wang Debang and Pan Dingxin, two officers who were part of the Bac le ambush. The forces at Kep were led by Fang Yusheng and Zhou Shouchang while the forces at Chu were led by Su Yuanchun and Chen Jia. General Oscar transported his forces using gunboats to quickly hit the separate forces before they could consolidate. Oscar would lead men to his Kep with the bulk of his troops while his subordinate Lt Colonel Donnier took a column to hit Chu. Once Oscar had won at Kep he would then either help at Chu or move on to hit Bao Loc. On October 8th, Oscar’s men smashed the forces at Kep sending them fleeing, and quickly got back to his gunboats to join Donnier at Chu. The battle of Kep saw the French losing 32 killed and 61 wounded and claiming to have inflicted 1600 casualties upon the Qing. This meant Donnier could be patient and await the reinforcements before seriously engaging the enemy at Chu, but on October the 10th his men were drawn into a bloody two day battle at Chu. Donnier was victorious, though it was a costly one, he had 21 deaths and 92 wounded while claiming to have killed 100 Qing and wounded a few hundred.

    After these two victories, the Qing fell back to Bac le and Dong Song while the French consolidated their positions at Kep and Chu by reinforcing them with a total of 7200 soldiers and 4500 coolies. While Briere de l’ilse was consolidated and supplying his forces at Chu and Kep he also began ordering resupply missions to the outposts of Tuyen Quang, Thai Nguyen and Hung Hoa. The outposts were being continuously harassed by Liu Yongu’s Black Flags and the invading Yunnan forces. These more isolated outposts began seeing attacks from the Yunnan army beginning on october 12th and by the end of the month the garrison at Tuyen Quang saw 170 of its 550 men unfit for duty.

    Throughout october the French gunboats were trying their best to resupply the outposts, but the Black Flag Army occupied Yu Oc, which was between Tuyen Quang and Hung Hoa, thus cutting it off. By early november the French knew the lack of supplies getting through was becoming dangerous. The gunboat crews were continuously sniped at causing many fatalities. This led Briere de L’isle to launch at attack to dislodge the Black Flags at Yu Oc, while simultaneously making a resupply run for Tuyen Quang. Lt Colonel Jacques Duchesne was sent with roughly 700 men to take a small flotilla of junks escorted by 4 gunboats to land 7 kms above Yu Oc. The troops landed on november 18th and spent the day marching to Yu Oc, never seeing the enemy. At dawn on the 19th, the vanguard of the French column began to come under fire, but they could not pinpoint the enemy’s location as a result of the deep bush. Duchesne ordered the front units to fan out a bit and they quickly found a Qing forward line of defense. For two hours a firefight ensued as the Qing gradually prodded different parts of the French column.

    At 10am a forward French legionnaire companies found a Qing fort that was firing down upon the French vanguard force. The legionnaires fixed bayonets and charge the fort coming out of a ravine. The Qing defenders fled their defenses before the French could surround them disappearing into the bush. The fighting continued on with the French gradually pushing forward until they found a citadel. The French quickly neutralized the citadel and thus the way to Tuyen Quang was opened again for resupply. The fighting cost the French 10 dead with 37 wounded, for the Black Flags and Yunnan forces the losses were estimated to be much higher.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    The French had basically won the war at sea, but the land forces had to fight bitterly against the Black Flag, Vietnamese and Qing forces in Tonkin. Would the French be able to push the Qing and Black Flags out of Tonkin to claim it for themselves?

  • Last time we spoke about the beginning of the Tonkin campaign of 1883-1886. Henri Riviere picked up after Garnier and got himself killed on the Paper bridge. In the face of a unauthorized and failed Tonkin Campaign, that should have been the nail in the coffin. But a new administration took hold in France and they were certainly more gung-ho about colonizing southeast asia. General Bouet picked up after Riviere, but he was met with some failure and uninspiring victories. He quit his job and it fell to Admiral Courbet to continue France’s campaign to take all of Tonkin. However to defeat the Black Flag Army of Liu Yongfu was a tricky thing as the Qing were covertly supporting them. France had to decide if she would continue, for if she did it might mean another war against the Qing dynasty.

    #44 The Sino-French War of 1884-1885 part 1: Battle of Fuzhou

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    Admiral Courbet just received reinforcements in the form of 10,000 men, 6 gunboats and orders to attack Liu Yongfu and the Black Flag regardless of how it might drag the Qing dynasty into war. The Black Flag Army had set up camp in the fortified city of Son Tay which lay a few km’s south of the red river. The city fort was in a pentagonal formation with walls 11 feet high, surrounded by a deep moat and within the center was a citadel. The french scouts estimated the fort had well over 100 cannons, this was not going to be a walk in the park as they say.

    Liu Yongfu and the Black Flag Army knew the French would approach Son Tay from the east using their gunboats along the Red River. This was because the Black Flat had hired european engineers in advance to convert the town north of Son Tay blocking its approach into a impregnable strongpoint. Large dykes, water filled ditches, bamboo palisades and trenches surrounded it and offered the Black Flag Army extremely well positioned defensive lines. Thus to take a northern route meant the French would have to take Phu Sa. Liu Yongfu had roughly 3000 veteran Black Flag soldiers , 7000 local vietnamese troops led by Prince Hoang Ke Viem and an additional 1000 Qing troops led by Tang Zhiong. Hoang Ke Viem’s men manned the citadel, Tang Zhiong’s were inside the city and the walls and field were Black Flag Army’s responsibility.

    On the other side, Admiral Courbet deployed 9000 of his men for the campaign against Son Tay, distributed into two columns led by Colonel Belin and Bichot. Belin would lead 3300 men consisting of 2 Turco battalions, 1 marine battalion, some Cochinchinese riflemen, 1 foreign legion battalion, 3 marine artillery batteries and 800 Tonkinese rifleman. Bichot’s group consisted of 3 marine battalions, some Cochinchinese riflemen, a fusilier-marins battalion and 3 artillery batteries. Both columns departed from Hanoi on December 11th. Bichot’s group were transported up the Red River by the 6 gunboats and made it ashore on the western bank of the Day River, where they secured a pathway for Belin’s column to march. By December 13th both columns met up 5 km’s away from the forward defensive lines of Son Tay.

    On December 14th the French advanced from the east towards the Phu Sa positions, beating back some Black Flag sorties against their flanks. They opened fire with their artillery for 2 hours upon the Phu Sa gun placements. Then 2 forward battalions seized the most forward defensive position at Phu Sa, but from there they found no way to keep pushing forward. During this action the French had 68 men dead and around 250 wounded. Thus in a single day Courtbet had lost more men that Bouet or Riviere in all their battles put together.

    Liu Yongfu hoped to exploit the French losses by ordering a night raid. This however turned into a disaster and not only did he loss many men to the combat, others began to abandon Phu Sa, fleeing for Son Tay. On the 16th Courbet ordered the men to try and prod Son Tay from the northwest. The French artillery softened up the defense before Coubet personally rode out to the forward position well within the Black Flag Army’s fire range. Courbet led the men to attack the western gate of Son Tay which was demolished by artillery and explosives. Li Yongfu’s men quickly withdrew into the citadel as the French stormed into the city. By this point it seems Liu Yongfu knew it was too dangerous to defend the city so he ordered his men to evacuate under the cover of darkness. The French had suffered 83 deaths and a few hundred wounded while the Black Flag were estimated to have nearly 1000 killed and another 1000 wounded if French sources are ever to be believed. The Vietnamese and Chinese troops had evacuated well in advance of the French storming the city and thus played only a minor role in the battle.

    Now the terrible losses the Black Flag did incur had significant consequences going forward. Liu Yongfu felt his men had intentionally been tossed to the lions by the Chinese and Vietnamese and he determined going forward that he would not again expose his army so openly. Liu Yongfu took his army from Son Tay over to Bac Ninh. Now at this point Admiral Courbet officially handed command of the land forces over to General Charles Thoedore Millot. Millot would take command of the 10,000 man force which included 2 Brigade commanders who had recently made their marks so to say in history. General Louis Briere de L’isle, the former governor of Senegal commanded the 1st brigade and the 2nd brigade was commanded by Foreign Legion general Francois de Negrier who had quelled an Arab rebellion in Algeria.

    Now in Bac Ninh the 3000 strong Black Flag Army would have very powerful allies. The Qing governor of Guangxi province, Xu Yanxu was commanding over 20,000 Qing forces with his subordinates Zhao Wo and Huang Guilan. The soldiers were veterans of the Anhui and Xiang armies, ie; Li Hongzhang and Zeng Guofan’s old forces. Half of the Qing forces were deployed along the Mandarin Road southwest of Bac Ninh and the other half were deployed east of Bac Ninh along the Trun son and Dap Cau mountains. General Millot gave each brigade two marching regiments each containing roughly 3 infantry battalions a piece. The 4 commanders of each regiment were Colonels Defoy, Belin, Duchesne and Bertaux-Levillain, interesting last name there haha. Now despite the numerical superiority, the Chinese forces were quite demoralized and Liu Yongfu intentionally was going to keep his Black Flag units out of the real fray of danger, and these factors came out to play in the battle.

    The two brigades were to approach Bac Ninh from two different locations: the first brigade would depart from Hanoi and the 2nd brigade from Hai Duong. Millot’s primary objective was to capture Bac Ninh, but he also hoped to annihilate the Qing forces in the process. To manage this he planned to seize some river crossing around Bac Ninh so the Qing forces would be unable to escape. These crossing were found north of Bac Ninh at Dap Cau and Phu Cam which led to Lang Son and Thai Nguyen respectively. On March 6th, the 1st brigade were ferried from Hanoi up the Red River to land just due south of some Qing defensive lines along the Mandarin Road. On land the 1st brigade marched along the northern bank to head southeast of Bac Ninh to a village called Chi. Meanwhile the 2nd brigade advanced from Hai Duong going along the southern bank to Song Cau where they attacked some Qing forward positions at Do Son and Ne Ou. While the 2nd brigade met the enemy on land, their gunboat support went around behind the Qing lines close to Phu Lang to begin bombarding them. Upon seeing the French gunboats positioning, the Qing forward units made a withdrawal to Bac Ninh. This allowed the 2nd brigade to occupy some minor forts and gradually move towards Chi to meet up with the 1st brigade.

    The 2 brigades united and advanced upon Bac Ninh by March 12th. Forces of the 1st brigade pushed the Qing out of Trung Son while forces of the 2nd brigade seized the village of Xuan Hoa. The Qing made little resistance at these outpost, basically abandoning them when the French came into visual proximity. Then at 4pm the 2nd brigade alongside their gunboat support attacked Dap Cau just east of Bac Ninh. The arrival of the French at Dap Cau threatened the Qing’s left defensive lines. The Qing’s escape routes to Lang Son were being severed off by the seizure of Xuan Hoa, Lang Buoi and now Dap Cau. Thus the only concern the Qing commanders were thinking of was how to quickly withdraw their men to Lang Son before the roads were completely cut off. The Qing resistance began to collapse as a result, morale had dropped and many were routing. The French regimental commanders saw the Qing’s left flank were breaking and believed they could encircle a large part of the Qing forces. At 5pm the French commanders noticed the Qing flag still flew atop the citadel tower at Bac Ninh, but between the city, Dap Cau and Trung Son all that could be seen was fleeing Qing soldiers.

    The 2nd brigade attacked Bac Ninh the next morning, capturing large sums of ammunition and curiously enough fully functioning modern Krupp artillery pieces that looked so pristine, they figured none had even fired a shot. Without waiting for the 1st brigade to come from Trung Son, the 2nd brigade forced their way into the city of Bac Ninh. In the meantime the efforts to encircle the fleeing Qing had been thwarted by tenacious rearguard actions by Qing forces fighting out of Dap Cau. Thus the majority of the Qing forces were able to escape north along the banks of the Song Cau river. While the Qing fled the French gunboats bombarded them inflicting heavy casualties.

    General Millot was nowhere near done trying to trap the escaping Qing forces and send his two brigades after them. The 1st brigade pursued the enemy as far as Thai Nguyen where they inflicted casualties upon the Qing, Vietnamese and Black Flag forces until march 19th. The 2nd brigade annihilated a Qing rearguard force at Phu Lang Thuong and chased a large portion of the Qing right flank as they went to a town called Kep. Millot then called his two brigades to return to Bac Ninh by March 24th. The French state they had 9 deaths and 39 wounded while claiming to have killed 100 enemy units and a few hundred wounded.

    The defeat of the Qing forces was an enormous embarrassment for the Qing dynasty and thus for its true leader, Empress Dowager Cixi. The Qing court and people of China met the news with shock, mostly because they had heard that for a few months the Black Flag Army had managed to inflict heavy casualties upon the French, but their professional forces had utterly failed. Empress Dowager Cixi in her rage punished several Qing officials, such as the governors of Guangxi and Yunnan, Xu Yanxu and Tang Qiong. Both men were dismissed from their posts, meanwhile the field commanders at the battle of Bac Ninh, General Huang Guilan and Zhao Wu were disgraced. Huang Guilan committed suicide at Lang Son on March 14th as a result of his shame while some of his chief of staff, Chen Degui and Dang Minxuan were beheaded in front of their troops at Lang Son on May 26th.

    Now before the major losses, the Qing court had been debating the issue of whether or not they should wage a undeclared or declared war against France or keep out of Vietnam completely. The leader of the moderates was Li Hongzhang who sought diplomacy while the leader of the hardliners was Zhang Zhidong who continuously called for full-scale war. After losing Son Tay and now Bac Ninh, Empress Dowager Cixi began to see no other way to solve the situation than diplomacy and thus Zhang Zhidong lost favor and Li Hongzhang won it. Cixi ordered Li Hongzhang to begin talks, which would occur at Tianjin with Captain Francois-Ernest Fournier. The French demanded China withdraw her forces from Vietnam and respect Frances protectorate over Annam and Tonkin. This would mean China was officially relinquishing its suzerainty over Vietnam, which they capitulated. The result was the Tientsin accord of May 11th 1884.

    To follow this up, 3 weeks later the new French Minister to China Jules Patenotre negotiated a revised treaty of Saigon. It was called the Treaty of Hua, done between France and the Nguyen dynasty which officiated the protecorateship of Annam and Tonkin. In essence it was the stepping stone to simply making Vietnam a colonial possession of France. The treaty was signed on June 6th of 1884 and followed up by a symbolic show where the French melted down a seal that was given to the previous Nguyen Emperor Gia Long by the Qing emperor. Now while the treaty of Hue and the Tientsin Accord should have ended all the conflict, well it did not.

    No it seems, Mr. Fournier was a bit of a moron when it came to diplomacy and he royally messed up with the Tientsin Accord. The crucial mess up was, while the accord stated the Qing had to withdraw their forces from Vietnam, it never stated a deadline. The French began to demand the Qing withdraw immediately, while the Qing argued they could not withdraw until all minor articles of the said Tientsin Accord were not concluded. Long story short it was a paradox of a situation and the Qing were simply using the accord’s other minor issues to maintain their forces where they were. The entire situation was met with uproar from the Chinese public, and this bolstered Zhang Zhidong and the hardliners against Li Hongzhang who began calling for his impeachment. Now as much as I love Li Hongzhang, he sort of messed up during the Tientsin Accord agreement. He hinted to the French the Qing withdrawal would occur, but that it might see a few snags, this was verbally done of course. Thus the French assumed and it was a he said she said type of situation that the Qing forces would immediately withdraw and of course they didn't.

    Thus on the ground, in early June a French force led by Lt Colonel Alphonse Dugene advanced to seize the cities of Cao Bang, That Khe and Lang Son. His forces formed a long column starting at Phu Lang Thuong as they advanced along the Mandarin Road heading to Lang Son, Phu Xuyen, Kep and Cau Son by June 15th. The march was grueling, it was extremely hot and some flooding made their way difficult as they had to continuously build bridges. They were forced to set up camp around Cau Son and a smaller town called Bac Le for a few days and when they continued their march they began to realize they were being watched by scouts. They sent out advance patrol parties and some of these were fired upon, but they had no way of knowing who was attacking them. It could be Nguyen forces, Qing forces, Black Flags or simple bandits for all they knew. Dugenne intended to continue nonetheless and by June 22nd they were on their way to Lang Son. At this point Dugennes men came up to a river and on the other side were Qing troops. Neither side fired upon another, and Dugenne figured they were stragglers from the Qing forces that fought at Bac Ninh. Thinking they would not oppose him he gave orders to cross the river, but little did he know, on the other side were 4600 Qing soldiers armed with modern arms like rapid-firing Remington rifles. Now both sides were well aware of the Tientsin Accord, but back in China, all the bickering against Li Hongzhang led to no official orders for the men to withdraw from Tonkin. In fact their regimental commander, Wang Debang’s last orders were to hold their positions.

    On June 23rd, an advance guard led by Captain Lecomte crossed the river as some Qing infantry began to take up defensive positions on a hill 250 meters behind the river. The French went over the river unmolested, but as soon as they landed on the other side all hell broke loose. The Qing fired intentionally over their heads to scare them off, but Lecomte reacted by ordering his men to begin flanking the Qing. The French troops charged up the hill as the Qing pulled back, allowing the rest of the French forces to cross the river by 11am. Meanwhile a few hours prior, around 9am, three Qing envoys showed up to Dugenne with letters. The letters were from the Qing commanders in the field explaining to Dugenne, while they understood the Tientsin Accord articles, their officials' last orders were to hold their position so they were in quite a pickle. They requested Dugenne send a message back to Hanoi to seek further instructions.

    Now Dugenne should have complied with this, but instead he sent word back to the Qing commanders at 3pm stating he would continue his march up the Mandarin road. Allegedly Dugenne did this because he assumed the Qing would just pull to the side and allow his force to pass. Dugenne gave orders to his men not to open fire explicitly unless he ordered them to do so and they marched. For quite some time the march went unmolested until the French were going around the Nui Dong Nai cliffs. Suddenly the Qing forces who had been shadowing the French column open fire upon both their flanks. The French vanguard deployed as best as they could as Dugenne tried to order a bugler to sound a ceasefire call, but it was to no avail. The Qing sounded their own bugles ordered more men to join the battle forcing Dugenne to plan a defense. Now Dugenne was leading 450 French troops and 350 Tonkinese auxiliaries, and to add insult to injury many of his forces were not veteran troops. His men formed a square formation, digging trenches and by the late afternoon had repelled multiple attacks and led some minor counter attacks. During the night the Qing brought forward more forces occupying the heights surrounding the French and in the morning attacked all sides of the French square. Dugenne made several counterattacks, but without significant numbers nor artillery support he knew they would soon be encircled and annihilated. By 11am he ordered a withdrawal to Song Thuong, abandoning the baggage trains and fighting each step they took. Despite the intense situation, the officers managed to keep the men orderly, and the withdrawal was done effectively.

    General Millot received word of Dugennes plight on June 23rd and immediately dispatched the 2nd brigade to save them. The 2nd brigade reached Dugenne’s column near Bac Le on the 27th and set to make a counterattack to repel the Qing forces back to Song Thuong. However just as General Negrier was about to issue orders he received word from Millot ordering him to get everyone back to Hanoi at once. The French had suffered 22 deaths and 70 wounded during the ambush and allege they inflicted 300 casualties upon the Qing. News of what was called the Bac Le Ambush reached France prompting Jules Ferry’s government to demand a apology in the form of indemnity payments and immediate implementation of the Tientsin accord from China. The Qing sought to further negotiate, but refused to apologize or pay an indemnity. Negotiations began again, but the mood in both France and China was pure outrage and the sabers of war were rattling. While negotiations were still going on the French government sent orders to Admiral Courbet to take his recently established Far East Squadron to give battle to the Qing navy at Fuzhou.

    Admiral Courbet’s Far East Squadron during late August consisted of 13 ships only a fraction of what it would be a bit later on; He had 5 ironclads on hand though they were all over the place performing missions, there was Bayard his flagship, Sharp, Atalante, Trimphanate and La Galissonniere. He also had cruisers Duguay-Trouin, Villars, D’Estaing, Volta, gunboats Lynx, Aspic, Vipere and two torpedo boats. The Qing Fujian Fleet had 11 western style ships and 11 chinese war junks in the region. The Qing flagship was the wooden corvette Yangwu, followed by scourt-transports: Fupo, Ji’an, Yongbao, Chenhang, Yixin, wooden gunboats: Zhenwei, Fuxiang, Jianshen and Fusheng and 12 Chinese war junks. In terms of crews the French would have 1780 vs 1040 for the Qing. In terms of firepower the French were overwhelming better armed with the Qing having only a few ships that were capable of return fire. Overall command for the Qing was led by imperial commissioner Zhang Peilun.

    Admiral Courbet arrived at the Fuzhou anchored near the port of Fuzhou on August 22nd, observing the Qing fleet deployed with a northern group of 8 ships and a southern group of 3 ships. Courtbet placed his squadron between these clusters and observed his enemy. The Qing ships were seen to swing with the tides, prompting Courbet to plan for his attack to commence at the top of the tide roughly around 2pm the next day. He deduced the Qing ships would swing away from his fleet presenting their vulnerable sterns. The Qing northern group seemed to be protecting her dockyards while the southern group seemed to be protecting a customs building. Assuming the Qing would not change their formations, Courbet hoped to begin battle at 2pm with his torpedo boats first then cannon fire by the rest.

    The next day, neither side made any attempt to redeploy or mess with the other and by 1:30pm the French crews were preparing for battle. The Qing seemingly did nothing upon witnessing the French clearly preparing their ships for a fight by 1:45pm, but at 1:55pm Qing mineboats began advancing towards the French ships. Courbet immediately raised flags for attack commencement, 5 minutes before the expected timetable. Torpedo boat no.46 surged forward hitting the Yangwu with a Spar Torpedo. For those of you who don’t know what this is, picture a extremely long pole poking infront of your ship with a bomb on its end. The idea is quite simple you rush head first towards an enemy ship jab the pointed pole at the hull of a ship and detonate the bomb on the end using a fuse. Takes a lot of balls to pull this off to be sure. The bomb damaged Torpedo # 46’s boiler and ruptured the hull of Yangwu. Meanwhile Torpedo boat #45 tried to do the same action to Fupo which was less successful in her venture.

    As the two torpedo boats made their daring escapes under fire the French cruisers and ironclad Triomphante began opening fire. The Yongbao, Feiyun, Fushen, Jiansheng, Ji’an and Chenhang were lit ablaze or sunk from shellfire. Only the Fupo and Yixin survived the onslaught, forced to flee upriver as they were chased by the gunboats, Lynx, Vipere and Aspic. The Zhenwei received a shell hit from Triomphante causing a large explosion. Before the carnage had unfolded, the Qing had concentrated their fire upon the Volta, which Courtbet was forced to use as his Flagship as the Bayard did not make it in time for battle. The Qing clearly did this in order to kill Courtbet hoping it would be a decisive victory. Several crew aboard the Volta were killed or wounded, a roundshot smashed through her bridge nearly killing the captain Gigon. By 5pm the fighting had died down, but during the night the Qing made several unsuccessful fireship attacks.

    The next day Courbet ordered his ships to land some companies ashore to set up explosives to destroy the Fuzhou dockyards, but upon seeing the Qing left infantry to defend them was forced to cancel the plans. Instead he had his fleet begin bombarding the dockyards and outer buildings, but was unable to completely destroy the yards. The ships stayed at anchor another day as the Qing attempted a night torpedo attack as the gunboat Vipere who was anchored on the outside of the formation. Searchlights picked up the torpedo attempts and they were fired upon until they gave up. On August the 25th, Courbet took his forces down the Min River with Triomphante and Duguay-Trouin leading the way. For two days he had his forces bombard some Qing shore batteries defending the approach to Fuzhou followed by forts at the Jinpai pass. In the end the French had 10 deaths, 48 wounded due mostly to sniper fire with two ships receiving light damage. The Qing lost 9 ships completely with the others running aground, severely burnt or damaged in various other ways. The estimated death toll was estimated to be between 2000-3000. The Qing put up a memorial shortly after the war commemorating a list of 831 sailors and soldiers killed on the 23rd, but the list does not include deaths incurred during the Min River voyage. The captain of the flagship Yangwu, had abandoned his ship prematurely and was beheaded later for cowardice. Countless men lost their jobs, like the governor-general of Fujian and Zhejiang He Jing, the governor of Fujian Zhang Zhaotong and the director general of the Fuzhou dock yard He Ruzhang. Zhang Peilun who made no significant effort to direct the Fujian Fleet was degraded and replaced by our old friend General Zuo Zongtang.

    The battle of Fuzhou, put simply was a shitshow for the Qing. There were numerous factors that led to the humiliating defeat. A major factor was Germany making excuses not to send the new Dingyuan and Zhenyuan over in time. Also the Fujian Fleet received absolutely zero help from the other fleets despite Zhang Peilun pleading for help from the Beiyang Fleet, Nanyang Fleet and Guangdong fleet, even with direct orders from Empress Dowager Cixi in hand. These fleets all had respective commanders who were loathe to see any of their assets damaged and thus held back.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    Incompetency and corruption led to a huge loss at the battle of Fuzhou. Now the Qing dynasty had really gotten herself into a mess and a full scale war with France was only beginning and about to get a whole lot worse.

  • Last time we spoke about Francis Garnier and his wild expedition in Vietnam. Yes against all his superiors orders, Garnier decided to grab a few of the boys and sail up river to threaten and steal territories for France. He first struck at the grand city of Hanoi, taking it much to the shock of the Nguyen officials. But he did not stop there oh no, he then set his eyes upon the provinces of Hung Yen and Phu Ly. Both were taken with shockingly small forces, but Garnier strived for even more and dispatched a force to take Hai Duong. Then he found out the Vietnamese at Ninh Binh were forming an army to fight him so he attacked it. This greatly pissed off the Vietnamese and their Black Flag Army allies who attacked Hanoi and in the process Garnier died charging into the enemy like a madman. Today we continue the story of how France colonized Indochina.

    #43 The Tonkin Campaign

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    Now last we spoke, Henri Riviere basically took up the mantle of Francis Garnier and began to seize territory in Tonkin against his nation's wishes. That was of course until the government changed and the new administration led by Jules Ferry were very pro colonization and immediately supported Riviere.

    Now Rivieres actions had caused a real maestrum for the Nguyen empire. Liu Yongfu went to Hanoi and slapped a note against the citadel on March 26th of 1883 threatening to kill Henri Riviere, taunting the french into battle. This scared the hell out of the Nguyen court who expected Riviere to unleash hell so they ordered prince Hoang Ke Viem to go seek out the Black Flag Army to see what could be done. Hoang Ke Viem was sent under the guise he was trying to move the Black Flag forces away from Hanoi, but Riviere did not buy it at all. Riviere sent a letter to Hanoi’s military commander Hoang Dieu, demanding he submit or get rid of the Black Flags, otherwise he would yet again attack Hanoi. Hoang Dieu simply stated it was impossible for him to do so. Thus Riviere and his forces occupied Hanoi by April 26th, further stressing out the Nguyen court who desperately sent envoys to negotiate with France. Meanwhile Hoang Ke Viem saw the paint on the wall and began to mobilize forces in the northern provinces for war.

    During the negotiations with the French, Riviere demanded the French be allowed to garrison at Son Tay, but the Nguyen court said they could not, it was in fact because the Black Flags were there. Rivier took this as an act of hostility and began to suspect Hoang Ke Viem was working directly with the Black Flags. Things were however not looking good for Riviere, he had very limited forces and was forced to go on the defensive. The Nguyen court then ordered Hoang Ke Viem to write a letter to the French in Hanoi to officially explain the role of the Black Flags, in the vain hope of regaining Hanoi free of conflict. Despite all of this Hoang Ke Viem and the Black Flags mobilized for battle.

    On March 28th, in response to Liu Yongfu’s taunting, Riviere elected to go out and fight the enemy. Why would he do this with basically under 500 men against thousands? According to the French, Riviere was forced to do so to protect the prestige of France, so he led a column of 450 troops out of Hanoi’s citadel to face the Black Flag Army who had taken a position in Phy Hoai, just a few miles away. His force was soon discovered by Liu Yongfu’s scouts who set up an ambush at a village called Cau Giay. Within this village was a bridge, known to the french as Pont de Papier “Paper bridge”. The Black Flag forces hid themselves west of the bridge in the village of Trung Thong, Thien Thong and Ha Yen Ke. These 3 smaller villages were covered in thick bamboo groves and trees making them excellent spots to perform an ambush.

    The French column reached the Paper bridge around 7:30am led at the ron by the Chef de Bataillon Berthe de Villers. As they crossed the bridge, the French vanguard was suddenly fired upon by Black Flag troops prompting Berthe de Villers to deploy his men into a line formation and push forward towards the 3 villages. Liu Yongfu waited for the enemy line to fully commit, then tossed in his reserves, launching a sudden flank attack to the French’s right. The Black Flag flank’s volleys caused tremendous casualties upon the french, mortally wounding Berthe de Villers, forcing Riviere to assume direct command of the column. To avoid encirclement, Riviere ordered his men to pull back and regroup on the other side of Paper bridge. The retreat was conducted initially in good order, being covered by artillery support, but then disaster struck. Suddenly their artillery cannons overturned by the force of their recoil fire, prompting Riviere and some officers to rush forward to help the gunners allowing the Black Flag to unleash some deadly volleys. The volley’s killed some French officers and wounded Riviere, and upon seeing this the Black Flag Soldiers surged forward to attack the French rearguard. During the mayhem Riviere was killed, and almost complete catastrophe occurred for the French forces, until Lt De Vaisseau Pissere took command and pulled the men to the eastern side of the bridge. The Black Flag were finally pushed back and the French column was forced to limp back to Hanoi. The French had lost 5 officers, 30 men and had 55 wounded. The Black Army were estimated to have lost 50 dead and perhaps 50 wounded out of a total of 1500 men.

    In the greater scheme of things, it was a small battle, but it had a significant effect. Aside from the loss of face for France and death of Riviere, it prompted action from the new government of France. Jules Ferry’s administration received word of the loss and Rivieres death on May 26th and it was met with outrage. French Naval minister Admiral Peyron declared “'France will avenge her glorious children!' His words would be echoed in the Chamber of Deputies for they immediately tossed 3.5 million france to finance a punitive expedition to Tonkin. The Tonkin Expeditionary corps were established in June of 1883 sent primarily to pacify Tonkin. They were led by General de Brigade Alexandre-Eugene Bouet, the most senior marine infantry officer close on hand, that being in Cochinchina. Bouet began his new mission by changing the attire of his forces, introduced lightweight black pyjama style summer uniforms, with some added black cloth to cover their white pith helmets. The idea behind this was simple, try not to stand out like a sore thumb so much in the jungle. Bouet arrived to Tonkin to find their position pretty precarious. The French only had small garrisons in Hanoi, Nam Dinh, Haiphong and very isolated small outposts in Hon Gai and Qui Nhon. Thus for the month of June he had the men dig in and perform defensive actions, sporadically being harassed by Vietnamese and Black Flag forces. Bouet needed to wait for reinforcements and decided to hire some local Yellow Flags. I have not mentioned them, but the Yellow Flag’s were basically the same type of force as the Black FLag’s, Chinese bandits who crossed over the border after the Taiping Rebellion. The Vietnamese government initially began to support the Yellow Flags to fight off the Black Flags, but as time went on the Black Flag’s pretty much beat the shit out of the Yellow flags, excuse my French. Bouet would allegedly hire 800 Yellow Flag members to augment his forces.

    In late july Bouet received reinforcements when Admiral Amedee Courtbet arrived to Ha Long Bay giving the French around 2500 infantry, 6 gunboats and some artillery pieces to work with. Bouet knew with these forces he could perform some offensive campaigns against the Black Flag Army, but he also was under orders to push for a political settlement with the Nguyen empire to recognize the French protectorate in Tonkin. Bouet and Courtbet met with Jules Harmand the new civil commissioner general for Tonkin to discuss war plans. The 3 men agreed that Bouet should launch an offensive against the Black Flag Army in Phu Hoai as a first action. They also noted that Rivieres suspicions about the Nguyen working with the Black Flags covertly was most likely true, therefore they decided to also strike against the Vietnamese forces as well. This was a significant escalation as attacking the Nguyen army forces could provoke the Qing dynasty.

    The first thing to be done was sail up the Hue river, but in order to do so the French would need to seize the Thuan An forts guarding its entrance. Admiral Courtbet took his flagship Bayard out on august 16th to scout the forts while his flotilla assembled. Courtbet would have the ironclad Bayard and Atalante, the cruiser Chateaurenault and gunboats Vipere, Lynx and armed transport Drac and Annamite. On August the 18th the flotilla got into position at the entrance of the Hue river. A delegation was sent in advance to the Nguyen officials to demand the surrender of the forts, but the fort commander declined to respond. At 5:40pm the French ships began to open fire, met by return fire from the forts. The bombardment lasted only an hour, until it got dark and the ships had to turn on their electric searchlights to illuminate the forts. Dawn the next day the ships recommenced bombardment devastating the forts, though the Nguyen return fire did manage to strike their ships a few times. On August the 20th, 2 marine companies were landed near the northern fort led by Captain Parrayon of the ship Bayard. The Vietnamese trench line troops fired upon the invaders. After and hour of fighting, Parrayon seized the northern fort and raised the French flag.

    After taking this fort the French turned their attention to the southern fort and began to bombard it and prepared marines to land. It was all for nothing however as the defenders had abandoned the fort and nearby village while the northern fort was under attack. The casualties for the Nguyen forces were heavy, with some outrageous estimates ranging up to 2000. Enseigne de vaisseau Louis-Marie-Julian Viaud served under Admiral Courbet aboard the Atalante and he wrote extensively of the Tonkin campaign under the pen name Pierre Loti. He wrote about the battle of Thuan An, giving accounts of atrocities committed by the French forces. He would later be recalled by the French navy and suspended from duty for publishing such works, here is a passage about the aftermath of the battle

    The great slaughter now began. Our men fired double volleys, and it was a pleasure to see their streams of well-aimed bullets shredding the enemy ranks, surely and methodically, twice a minute, on the word of command... We could see some men, quite out of their senses, standing up, seized with a dizzy desire to run... They zigzagged, swerving this way and that way as they tried to outrun death, clutching their garments around their waists in a comical way... Afterwards, we amused ourselves by counting the dead…

    Pierre Loti spoke of how the French marines took pleasure bayoneting wounded Vietnamese troops, slaughtering the clearly outgunned men.

    The seizure of the forts shocked the Nguyen court and an 48 hour armistice was quickly agreed upon. The Nguyen court agreed immediately to evacuate 12 inland forts defending the Hue river, destroyed their ammunition and removed barrages. Jules Harmand sailed up the Hue river to meet directly with the Nguyen court where he threatened them with complete annihilation unless they accepted a French protectorate over both Tonkin and Annam. This is what he said to them

    If we wanted to, we could destroy your dynasty root and branch and seize for ourselves the entire kingdom, as we have done in Cochinchina. You know very well that this would present no difficulty to our armies. For a moment, you hoped to find help from a great empire on your borders, which has on several occasions posed as your suzerain. But even if such a suzerainty ever existed, and whatever the consequences that might once have resulted from it, it is now nothing but a historical curiosity. Now here is a fact which is quite certain. You are completely at our mercy. We have the power to seize and destroy your capital and to starve you all to death. It is up to you to choose between war and peace. We do not wish to conquer you, but you must accept our protectorate. For your people, it is a guarantee of peace and prosperity. For your government and your court, it is the only chance of survival. We give you forty-eight hours to accept or reject, in their entirety and without discussion, the terms which we are magnanimously offering you. We believe that there is nothing in them dishonourable to you, and if they are carried out with sincerity on both sides they will bring happiness to the people of Annam. But if you reject them, you can expect to suffer the most terrible of misfortunes. The worst catastrophe you are capable of imagining will fall far short of what will actually befall you. The empire of Annam, its royal dynasty and its princes and court will have voted for their own extinction. The very name of Vietnam will be erased from history.”

    The Nguyen court, cowed to this on August 25th by signing the Treaty of Hue. The treaty forced the Nguyen empire to recognize the French protector for both Tonkin and Annam. The Nguyen court would survive, but now had to take direction from French advisors. The Nguyen Emperor would be required to take personal audience with the French commissioner general in Tonkin, a unprecedented thing for them. And in return for all of this, the French would drive out the Black Flags, something they were already doing.

    Now while Admiral Courbet slammed the Nguyen forces at Thuan An, General Bouet led the offensive against Liu Yongfu’s Black Flag army. He led 2500 French and Vietnamese troops augmented by a further 450 Yellow Flag members. His force was divided into 3 columns, the left led by Lt Colonel Revillon consisting of marines, Cochinchinese riflement, 2 artillery sections and the Yellow Flag battalion. The central column led by Chef de bataillon Paul Coronnat consisted of a marine battalion, a marine artillery battery and some Cochinchinese riflemen. Finally the right column was led by Colonel Bichot consisting of a marine infantry battalion, a artillery battery and more Cochinchinese riflement.

    Bichot took his column along the Red river where 6 French gunboats could support his movements. Bouet took a reserve force and marched behind Revillons column as they went to Phu Hoai. Liu Yongfu’s Black Flag army consisted of around 3000 men who he had position 2 lines of field fortifications blocking the roads going to Son Tay. The first line was near the village of Cau Giay where Riviere had died on paper bridge and the second was close behind it defending the approach to the villages of Phu Noai, Noi and Hong.

    As Revillon’s left column tried to attack the right side of the Black Flag first line they were quickly counterattacked by Liu Yongfu and the bulk of his forces. Revillons men began to run low on ammunition and performed a fighting withdrawal towards the Paper bridge. As they did so their Vietnamese coolies began to panic, nearly causing a rout. However a marine infantry battalion took up a position in the village of Vong and provided cover fire for the withdrawing forces inflicting heavy casualties upon the Black Flag army units who had left their defensive line to pursue them out in the open field. As night was approaching, Bouet tossed his reserves in enabling Revillon to stabilize a line. During the evening, Bouet had not received word from the other 2 columns thus he ordered Revillons column to pull back to Hanoi.

    It turned out the other 2 columns had failed to apply enough pressure on the Black Flag line of defenses allowing Liu Yongfu to toss nearly the kitchen sink at Revillons force who were simply more isolated. Coronet’s center column had no even made contact with the enemy at all while Bichots column captured the village of Trem but then became stuck when they ran into the 2nd black flag defensive line. On the night of the 16th of august, Bichots men advanced on the defensive line only to find out the Black Flag units abandoned it during the night, because while all of this was going on, the Red River had begun flooding on august the 15th. The Black Flag army knew more so about the flooding situation in the area and had slowly pulled out. Bichot meanwhile was simply content with occupying their abandoned line and decided not to pursue the enemy which was a huge mistake as the black flag army was actually in quite a disarray from the flooding. The battle of Phu Hoai as it became known resulted in 17 deaths and 62 wounded for the French and perhaps a few hundred deaths and many hundred wounded black flag units. Though the Black Flag army took very heavy casualties, the fact was they had stopped the french advance and thus won a victory. This led to local Tonkinese officials to be quite wary over who was going to win the conflict.

    Now the flooding forced the Black Flag to pull back behind the Day River. They took up new positions around the villages of Phong which lay on the road going to Son Tay and the village of Palan which lay at the junction of the Red and Day rivers. Bouet resolved to attack the black flags again, so now he took his French, Cochinchinese and Yellow flag forces alongside 6 gunboats to hit the village of Palan. On August the 31st he began his offensive by using his gunboats to bombard the village and sent a French battalion to storm Palan. The village was taken with ease as the Black Flag units fled along the dykes away. Then the next day Bouet’s column marched towards Phong along the 2 meter wide dykes running along the bank of the Day River. The column made it 3 kms from Palan where they ran into 1200 or so Black Flag units supported by over 3000 Vietnamese. The Black Flag units were armed with many modern Winchester rifles fighting tenacious giving little ground. The Vietnamese forces meanwhile were not making much of an active resistance and instead beat gongs, drums and made war chants, perhaps sitting on the fence so to say. As the French column pressed forward the Black flags began to pull back to a central defensive line behind earthen works and dykes. Li Yongfu had his HQ in a small pagoda and around his central command were hidden artillery positions well camouflaged. As the French approached the earthen works and dykes the artillery began to fire off causing heavy casualties amongst the French. The French were unable to locate where all the fire was coming from, prompting Bouet to order his gunboats to come closer to bombard the area. However the gunboat shells were soaked by rain and many were failing to explode causing little damage. Eventually Bouet ordered an assault upon the enemy's center. The column marched into a flooded rice paddy wading up to their breast in water and holding their rifles above their heads. The Black Flags from their concealed positions rained hell upon them. Despite the carnage the French pressed forward forcing the defenders to give way from intense fire and soon the Black Flag right wing collapsed towards the center. The French forces took advantage and began charging upon the enemy causing a rout as the Black Flag army fled. The french had roughly 16 dead with almost 50 wounded while the Black flags left 60 dead on the battlefield and probably had several hundred more dead and wounded carried off.

    Bouets men tried to keep orderly conduct, but apparently the Yellow Flag units went around cutting off heads from the corpses and plundering peaceful nearby Vietnamese villages, so Bouet disbanded them. Liu Yongfu retained his army despite the tactical victory for the French, thus from the point of view of his superiors, Bouet had failed. Bouet resigned in early september as a result and would be replaced by Lt Colonel Anicet-Edmon-Justin Bichot, the next high ranking officer in Tonkin. His tenure would be short lived however and consisted of little more than reconnaissance actions, though during these his men did find the remains of Henri Riviere, whose mutilated body had been buried near the village of Kien Mai. From that point on France decided to give Admiral Courbet command over the expeditionary forces.

    Courbet would receive significant reinforcements in the form of over 10,000 men led by General Charles Theodore Millot. Courbet was instructed to uphold the primary mission, to annihilate the Black Flag army of Liu Yongfu. However things were about to get a whole lot messier. The Black Flag army had fled to the fortified city of Son Tay and the French had gradually figured out they were being supported by the Qing dynasty. The French had discovered the Qing had sent a large amount of troops over the border pretending to be Black Flag army units.

    French foreign minister Paul-Armand Challemel-Lacour had met with the Qing minister Zeng Jize in Paris multiple times in 1883. He attempted to get the Qing to withdraw their covert forces who were garrisoning cities like Bac Ninh, Lang Son and Son Tay. The Qing refused and continuously made excuses. The French tried to speak to the German government to delay their recent sale of the battleships Dingyuan and Zhenyuan to the Qing to pressure them, only to be met with anti-french protests within China. Riots and minor attacks began against French held concessions in Guangzhou.

    The French knew, to attack the Black Flag Army further would most likely see a war break out with the Qing. France’s military planners decided if they could launch a lightning storm campaign against the rest of Tonkin and seize it quickly enough, the Qing would likely back down. Thus in december of 1883 Admiral Courbet received authorization to launch a campaign against Liu Yongfu and the Black Flag Army, knowing full well it would probably result in an undeclared war against the Qing dynasty.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    The French kept allowing officers to stir up trouble in Vietnam leading to the Tonkin Campaign. Now France was stuck in a war against the Nguyen Empire, the Black Flag Army of Liu Yongfu and soon the Qing dynasty would join in the fun.

  • Last time we spoke about how France ended up in Indochina. Yes while Britain got her hands very messy in China, France had likewise done the same in Southeast Asia. It began with Jesuit priests trying to convert those to Catholicism but they soon found themselves becoming increasingly more involved. The Nguyen empire grew weary of the tiresome catholics and began to crack down on them, leading to conflicts with the French and to a lesser extent the Spanish. Before they knew it a full blown war emerged where the Vietnamese tried desperately to fight off a Franco-Spanish force, but in the end were forced to capitulate to brutal demands. Yet again unequal treaties were placed upon a nation of the far east, but worse than that, the French took colonial possession of what became known as French Indochina. Today we continue that story.

    #42 Francis Garnier’s Insane Expedition

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    So we ended off the last episode with the signing of the Treaty of Saigon, yet again another unequal treaty in the east. It was so harsh, the Nguyen Emperor, Tu Duc sent an embassy to France in 1863 trying to revise it. The embassy failed their mission as Napoleon III had no intentions of lightening his grip on the new territorial acquisitions. Those territorial acquisitions to refresh your minds were Bien Hoa, Gia Dinh and Dinh Tuong. Thus by 1864 France had acquired a large part of southern Vietnam and declared it the French colony of Cochinchina. Also in August of 1863 the King of Cambodia Norodom signed a protectorate treaty with France cutting off the Kingdom of Siam and Empire of Nguyen’s suzerainty over his country. If you think that is humiliating, just wait to hear this. Tu Duc’s envoy to France, Phan Thanh Gian returned to Vietnam and was nominated governor ship of 3 southwestern provinces, Vinh Long, Chau Doc and Ha Tien. His French counterpart the Governor of the news Cochinchina, Pierre-Paul de la Grandiere was worried the 3 provinces to his west might be troublesome so he secretly organized an expedition to occupy them. Perhaps Phan Thanh Gian was told, or perhaps not, but it seems the French convinced Tu Duc to simply hand over the provinces which he did. Phan Thanh Gian told his people not to resistance, awaited orders which never came and killed himself via poisoning. Thus France now controlled all of southern Vietnam. Emperor Tu Duc officially handed the provinces over in the 1874 treaty of Saigon. The treaty officially made the rest of Vietnam a protectorate of France, to which she promised military protection against the Qing dynasty. A large reason why the Vietnamese signed off on this was because of another event that occurred in 1873, known as the Garnier affair.

    In 1873 the French explorer Jean Dupuis traveled up the Red River to attempt trade with Yunnan province, specifically to sell guns to its governor. While that sounds bad, Dupuis also performed the heinous crime of carrying salt up the river. Yes it turns out this was strictly prohibited by the Nguyen empire. A dispute emerged and Dupuis found himself stuck in a district of Hanoi alongside 90 of his Chinese hired mercenaries. The Vietnamese feared french reprisals, thus instead of using force to get rid of them they issued a complaint to the French admiral Marie Jules Dupre who was acting governor of Cochinchina. Dupre seemed to think he had something to gain from the situation, so he sent an expedition led by Lt Francis Garnir to Hanoi to solve the mater. Garnier took the ships D’estree and Fleurus alongside 83 men. Another 60 men would join them 2 weeks later aboard the Decres.

    The D’estree arrived at Tonkin on October 23rd , while Garnier and his men traveled to Hanoi using local junks. On November 5th Granier’s party arrived and met with Dupuis. Despite being told to tell Dupuis to simply leave, Dupuis managed to convince Garnier he had been greatly mistreated by forces led by Marshal Nguyen Tri Phuong. Garnier then tried to negotiate with the local Nguyen authorities, but they would not budge on anything, so Garnier decided for military action. When the second part of his expeditionary forces arrived on, plus some additional units he requested, a total of 180 men, he decided to use them to capture Hanoi. Garnier wrote a letter and sent it back to Admiral Dupre using the D’estree to justify his actions. Garnier took the 2 gunboats he had left, the Scorpion and Espingole and anchored them roughly 1200 meters away from the walls of Hanoi, in the perfect position to fire upon her citadel, but being out of range of the Vietnamese cannons.

    On the morning of October 20th, Lt Garnier took a large portion of his forces towards the south eastern gate of Hanoi. Once they were in position they began to fire upon its thick door. The Vietnamese defenders atop the walls attempted to fire down upon the enemy with their cannons, but they were placed “en barbette” instead of inside embrasures, basically they were aimed to hit ships out in the water and could not properly aim downwards. The cannons failed to hit the french, while the French returned fire using Chassepot rifles. The defenders then tried to use older style riles, and as a french eye witness noted began throwing nails on the floor, which he assumed was to try and stop them from walking closer to the wall. Regardless the nails did not work. Once the gate had been demolished the defenders began to rout and the French quickly seized the south western entrance to the city.

    Meanwhile the two gunboats bombarded the northern and western gates and Garnier led another party to use land artillery to hit the south eastern gate. Garnier entered through a breach and this began a general rout for the enemy. Meanwhile Dupuis and 30 of his mercenaries including a former EVA member named Georges Vlavianos held the eastern gate to make sure the enemy did not escape there. During the chaos the French who came across Dupuis force assumed the chinese mercenaries were Vietnamese defenders and began to fire upon them causing some casualties until Dupuis stopped them. In the end Garnier took the city with a force of around 200 men, a city with a population of 80,000. Marshal Tri Phuong was captured alongside 2000 of his soldiers.

    On November 23rd, Garnier dispatched the Espingole from Hanoi to go obtain the submission of Nguyen officials at the fortified cities of Hung Yen and Phu-ly. The next day the small force aboard the Espingole arrived to Hung Yen and they met with some Nguyen officials. The officials promised the europeans they would capitulate as quote ‘you have managed to capture the great citadel of Hanoi. We will not have the audacity to attempt defending this one against you”. The Governor officially submitted, so the Espingole left Hung Yen and proceeded for Phu Ly. It was only a 3 hours journey. This time the French found the doors closed to them, with a few defenders offering fight. The French force began firing at those they saw and this caused the defenders to flee. The French entered Phu Ly finding some cannons, a few low quality rifles and a lot of rice and local currency. They waited a week holding the city and on December 1st a Vietnamese man named Le Van Ba, whom Garnier had appointed to be in charge of Phu Ly arrived with a small militia force. The French force greeted them, handing over some weapons to help them garrison the city and then proceeded to take the Espingole to Hai Duong.

    Hai Duong held strong fortifications, outfitted with a large number of cannons, including some more modern european ones and was defended by roughly 2000 men. The French delegation was met by the governor of Hai Duong, Dang Xuan Bang who politely had tea with them. The French demanded he come aboard their ship to officially begin handing over the city. He politely refused to go aboard their ship, so a French officer threatened him stating “we will capture Hai Duong like we captured Hanoi”. The governor politely refused their demands again, notably being charming and polite the entire time. The French went back to the Espingole, carrying some gifts the governor gave them. The last thing they told the governor was if he did not come over to their boat by 3pm, the city would be considered an enemy. 3pm went by without any sight of the governor, so the Espingole began to open fire on the citadel firing 10 shells to devastating effect. The French then ceased their fire hoping the damage to the citadel would entice the governor to surrender. The next day a junk came to the Espingole and aboard was an official, but not the governor himself. The French demanded the governor come himself or they would continue their attack. Well the governor did not show up so at 8:30 at night the Espingole made its way to fire on the nearest fort. The fort returned fire, but its cannons fire right over the Espingole’s mast. The French sent 15 marines and 12 sailors aboard two sampans to assault the fort. Once they got within 50 meters of the fort they began firing their rifles which routed the forts defenders. They seized the fort with ease which was 600 meters from the cities citadel. From the fort they began to fire upon the Vietnamese soldiers. Eventually they began a march towards the citadel’s main gate, but it had a moat. From atop its walls the Vietnamese were firing cannons, but the French simply waited for the cannons to fire and bolted towards the gate while they were reloading. The French had brought not artillery nor scaling ladders and were forced to run around the citadels walls looking or a weak spot to breach which they did find on its southern end. By 10:15am the French got inside the citadel and hoisted the french flag from its highest tower. They captured a few hundred vietnamese soldiers, but countless got away, including the governor.

    During this mess, the Espingole party was informed the governor of Ninh Binh and some Hanoi officials who had run away during the battle were organizing forces to oppose the French. The Espingole received 400 reinforcements who had been sent to help garrison their recent earnings. The Espingole commander sent word to Garnier about the Vietnamese building up a force to face them, prompting Garnier to send a force to subdue Ninh Binh. Garnier dispatched Aspirant Hautefeuille with a squad for the task and enroute he found out the Vietnamese were building large dams in the riverways to thwart their movements. Hautefeuilles force tore down the first dam operation they found only to find out another one was being built closer to Ninh Binh. They made their way to Ninh Binh and Hautefeuille got aboard a canoe with some sailors to parley at its citadel. When they landed they were swarmed by local civilians trying to give them gifts of oxen. As soon as the French reached the citadels gate they were swarmed by Vietnamese troops who proded them with spears trying to entice a battle. Hautefeuille noticed not to far away was the provincial governor, one Nguyen Vu, he recognized him because he had four parasols. Hautefeuille raised his pistol and screamed at the governor to submit to Garnier. The governor replied he would submit whole-heartedly. So Hautefeuille went over to him with a paper and pen demanding he write down his submission officially and allow him to escort the governor into the citadel, but to this the governor rejected. Apparently Hautefeuille grabbed the governor by his collar, but his gun to the mans head and threatened to kill him. A tense standoff occurred until the governor gave in and soon the french flag was raised over the citadel. For this achievement Hautefeuille would be appointed governor of the province by Garnier later in early December.

    Throughout early december Garniers garrisons were attacked by Vietnamese guerilla forces and hire Black Flag mercenaries. I had mentioned them once before, but to explain who exactly they are, they were the remnants of a bandit group that had ventured into northern vietnam from Guangxi province. Basically they were products of the Taiping Rebellion and when the Qing cracked down, they took up their shop and left for Vietnam. Nguyen officials loved to hire them to fight the French as they had experience fighting westerners. Garnier ended up visited some of the garrisons having issues with attacks, offering reinforcements and instructions on how to hold onto their cities. On December 18th, Garnier was back in Hanoi, receiving reports the Black Flags were becoming a real problem for its defenses. Garnier was just about to plan a assault of Son Tay where it was alleged the Black Flag’s were operating, when a Nguyen envoy party showed up proclaiming a truce. Garnier began negotiations with the party, when on December 21st suddenly 2000 Vietnamese soldiers led by Hoang Ke Viem and 600 Black Flags approached Hanoi. The Black flags attacked Hanoi’s citadel while the Vietnamese forces held back a further km away. The French lookouts saw an elephant amongst their force, which indicated the presence of a high Nguyen official.

    Garnier distributed his men around the walls while his men used their French cannons upon the Black Flag’s, refusing to use the outdated Vietnamese swivel cannons. The French cannons began to cause a panic amongst the vietnamese army which quickly turned into a rout, while the Black Flag forces made an orderly retreat. Garnier was not satisfied with this, knowing full well they would attack again, so he decided to send a decisive blow against the Black Flags. Garnier sent Ensign Balny D’Avricourt with a squad of 12 men to hit the enemies left flank while he took 18 men to hit the village of Thu Le, around 1.2 kms southwest of the citadel where it looked like the Black Flag’s were holding up. The two French forces went their separate paths and met up to bombard Thu Le. Garniers force saw the Black Flag force withdrawing and pursued them only to run into a swamp. Their cannon got stuck, but Garnier simply yelled “A la baionnette, en avant!”. Garnier charged through the swamp as his men tried to keep up with him. They were suddenly met with a volley from the Black Flag who had lured them in, killing a few of the French. Garnier unhit, kept charging with his handgun, but tripped and fell. Upon seeing this the Black flag forces rushed forward and stabbed Garnier multiple times with spears and swords while firing at his comrades. The French retreated back to the citadel losing more men, as the Nguyen forces took Garniers head and some others back to Son Tay.

    Despite losing their leader, the French held onto the garrisons, sending word of his death and receiving word a new French envoy would be sent. At this point French authorities had found out about the Garnier expedition and were quite embarrassed by the entire thing. Actually they had found out a bit early in late november, prompting Lt Paul-Louis-Felix-Philastre to relieve Garnier and send a scathing letter to him that he never got a chance to read “Have you thought about the shame that will befall upon you when it will be known that, having been sent to expel some ruffian, you allied yourself with him to attack people who hadn't caused you any harm?

    Lt Philastre arrived in Haiphong to meet with Nguyen officials to end the unsanctioned campaign. On December 29th, Philastre went to Hai Duong where he ordered the garrisons to be evacuated, where the local french forces tried to persuade him otherwise. Philastre then went to Hanoi to speak to more Nguyen officials about his orders for the French to leave the cities they stole. This led to the 1874 signing of the new treaty of Saigon where the French gave back the stolen cities, thus concluded what was in essence a short undeclared war. So Garnier had been sent to simply tell a guy caught smuggling to leave an area in Vietnam, only to begin a war stealing a bunch of major cities. The French government was deeply embarrassed by the ordeal, disavowing Garnier for his actions, but because of how incredible his accomplishments were, many in France saw him heroic. Yes he was romanticized, much like the conquistador Francisco Pizarro or Hernan Cortez, absolute psychopaths that they were.

    So while you think, boy oh boy France sure loves to send people on expeditions that results in them stealing territory…well France was nowhere near done with this recurring activity.

    In 1881 the French naval officer Henri Riviere was sent with a small military force to Hanoi to investigate Nguyen complaints involving French merchants. As you can already guess by now, Henri acted in defiance of orders placed upon him. As he would later argue, based on the fact the Nguyen dynasty was not respecting the Treaty of Saigon, still having a tributary relation with China, was paying the Black Flags to attack French in southeast asia and not complying with trade regulations, Henri took a force of 2 gunboats and some forces straight to the citadel of Hanoi and stormed it. When he showed up to Hanoi he told the Nguyen officials he was simply leading his forces to stamp out Black Flag soldiers in the area, but instead immediately set to work stationing his forces within the citadel. The governor, Hoang Dieu was given an ultimatum to have his forces stand down, but instead Hoang Dieu sent a letter of apology to his emperor and killed himself. It was yet again another embarrassment for France who handed Hanoi back over to the Nguyen officials, but Henri was not done yet. In the meantime, Henri’s actions pushed the Nguyen Empire to seek aid from the Qing dynasty and Black Flag army. The Qing seeking to help their Vietnamese allies, but not at the cost of incurring the wrath of France again said they would aid them via the Black Flag’s. In the summer of 1882 Chinese forces from Yunnan and Guangxi crossed the border into Tonkin, beginning to covertly occupy Hung Hoa, Bac Ninh, Lang Son and other cities. The French and Qing saw the paint on the wall, despite the covert activity leading Li Hongzhang and a French envoy to try and work out a deal where they would divide Tonkin into French and Qing controlled spheres of influence, but the deal never came to be.

    Thus both sides gradually increased their power in the region and in February of 1883, France sent a 500 man battalion of marines led by Lt Colonel Carreau to Hanoi who would be at the disposal of Henri Riviere. On the other side the Nguyen officials received aid from the warlord and leader of the Black Flag Army, Liu Yongfu. Liu Yongfu came from Guangxi and joined a local militia during the Taiping Rebellion, some claim this militia also fought for the Taiping. When the Taiping Rebellion came to a close, Liu Yongfu’s prospects looked dire so he took his forces southwest, until they were finally pushed to cross the border into northern Tonkin. Liu Yongfu then established a camp outside Son Tay where he formed the “Heiqi Jun / black flag army” based on his dream of becoming “general of the black tiger”. Though seen initially as an invader, the Vietnamese officials also were surprised at how proficient the Black Flag army was and reasoned it would be difficult to dislodge them. They reasoned if the Black Flag army could be hired to fight their enemies that served them just fine. When the Black Flag’s killed Garnier that certainly earned them praise from the Vietnamese who would increasingly call upon them.

    Henri Riviere upon receiving the new forces was instructed specifically that they were not to venture past the French occupied parts of Tonkin. So Henri did the opposite of that, because French. He had learnt in early march of 1883, the Nguyen government was planning to lease some coal mines in Hon Gai to the Qing dynasty, but this proved to be a front for the British ironically enough. If the British were to gain this it would spell the end of French colonial expansion in Tonkin, this Riviere could have none of that. Riviere ordered Commandant Berthe de Villers to take 50 marines aboard the Parseval to take Hon Gai, and they did just that meeting zero resistance. As Riviere put it in a letter to the governor of Cochinchina, Charles Thomson “"I have taken possession of the entire mining district. We have always coveted it, but have always hesitated to act. This will force them to take forward their Tonkin Question!"” Now Riviere did not stop there, he received word that Liu Yongfu was preparing to attack Hanoi with an army of 5000 Black Flag troops. Over in Nam Dinh, their citadel had been warned by their governor of the incoming battle, prompting Riviere to act first. In Riviere’s words "As this indecisive government has been imprudent enough to send me 500 men. I have decided to use them to do what it did not decide I should do."

    Riviere elected to strike at Nam Dinh, similar to how Garnier did in 1873. Nam Dinh was defended by around 6000 Nguyen soldiers and 500 Chinese led covertly by the Black Flag officer Vinh Thong Chat. These chinese soldiers wore the Black Flag Army uniforms, but in reality were Qing troops. French reconnaissance indicated around 8000 men defended Nam Dinh, regardless Riviere decided to go forward and attack the city with 520 men. They traveled the red river using 6 gunboats, reaching the Nam Dinh by march 25th. They quickly went to work seizing the naval barracks which were unoccupied. They also cleared fields of huts to set up firing lanes for their gunboats and set up artillery pieces. The next morning the bombardment began as Riviere simultaneously summoned the governor of Nam Dinh, Vu Trong Binh to come to his ship Pluvier to submit the citadel before 8am. Governor Vu Trong Binh was able to reject this before 8am.

    Nam Binh had 15 feet thick walls, unscalable and pretty much impossible to breach vie cannons, thus Riviere decided to force an entrance into the city by destroying one of its main gates with explosives. While his gunboats and artillery smashed the Vietnamese cannons along the walls, on March 27th his marines went ashore carrying dynamite blowing a gate up. The French then charged the citadel under heavy fire with Riviere at the front urging them on. The Vietnamese soldiers were overwhelmed by the superior firepower and by the afternoon the city fell as the governor fled. Riviere jubilantly stated “This will force them to take forward their Tonkin Question!'”

    Now Riviere expected to be punished for his renegade actions, but he lucked out enormous, for back home in France there was a change of government. The new administration led by Jules Ferry strongly supported colonial expansion and backed Riviere up from the offset. The new government followed this up by sending word to Li Hongzhang that Tonkin was going to be under French protection and to back off immediately. The Nguyen officials now were in quite a plight without their Qing defenders and wholeheartedly tossed their lot in with Liu Yongfu and the Black Flags.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    Francis Garnier died in a blaze of glory or insanity and now it seemed he had a successor found 10 years later in Henry Riviere. Would southeast Asia be able to thwart off the colonizing efforts of France or fall like domino pieces?

  • Last time we spoke about the Gapsin Coup. Li Hongzhang snipped the bud of war before it could bloom after the Imo uprising and the Daewongun stole back power in Korea. The Daewongun was spanked and sent into exile yet again, but now Korea had become greatly factionalized. The progressives and conservatives were fighting bitterly to set Korea on a Japanese or Chinese path to modernization. This led radicals like Kim Ok-kyun to perform the Gapsin coup which was terribly planned and failed spectacularly. Japan and China were yet again tossed into a conflict in Korea, but China firmly won the day for she had more forces to bear. Japan licked her wounds and went home, learning a bitter lesson. That lesson was: next time bring more friends to the party. But today we are going to be taking a side quest, for many events were occurring in China, and one that brought yet again another foreign war.

    #41 How France Ended up in Indochina

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    As I said a while back, I wanted to try and hit some events that don’t necessarily fit the, something like 4-5 episodes its taking to explain how the First Sino-Japanese war came about. And even as I am writing this, on my personal channel someone commented “hey please don’t forget to do a podcast on the Panthay Rebellion”, sigh. I chose to keep the Panthay Rebellion out of the Dungan Revolt episode, though many like to bundle these events up. I will try my best to hit that one, but if it somehow falls through my fingers, perhaps I will cheekily put it on my patreon, www.patreon.com/pacificwarchannel. A bit scumbag perhaps, but honestly its taking forever to get to the first sino-japanese war. Now this one, the Sino-French War is actually something a lot of my Vietnamese audience from my youtube channel have begged me to do an episode on for a long time now. Where to begin.

    This series focuses on the history of China and as such it fails to mention the experiences of China’s neighbors quite often. For example while western nations like Britain were courting the Qing dynasty trying to open up further trade outside the Canton system, nations like France were likewise exploring and trying to exploit places like modern day Vietnam. During the early 17th century, France began to establish relations with Vietnam by sending the Jesuit missionary Alexandre de Rhodes. Alexandre de Rhodes was the first to write a catechism in the Vietnamese alphabet and upon returning to france in 1650 he advised the Catholic church they needed to dispatch bishops over to Vietnam to help development her roman catholic population, estimated to be around 100,000 converts by that point. He also warned that they must not allow what occurred in Japan to happen in Vietnam, referencing the Shimabara rebellion

    "We have all reason to fear that what happened to the Church of Japan could also happen to the Church of Annam, because these kings, in Tonkin as well as in Cochinchina, are very powerful and accustomed to war... It is necessary that the Holy See, by its own mouvement, give soldierss to these Oriental regions where Christians multiply in a marvelous way, lest, without bishops, these men die without sacrament and manifestly risk damnation."

    Alexandre de Rhodes efforts helped create the Paris Foreign missions society and soon the French East India company began operating in southeast asia. Throughout the 18th century the Jesuits missionary work and trade were very successful in Vietnam and this even led to military assistance. The French aided Nguyen Anh to retake his lands that had been taken from his family during a rebellion. The French were able to protect Nguyen Anh who became Emperor Gia Long and relations were fairly good with France, until his death whereupon relations fell considerably. The Nguyen dynasty increasingly viewed the catholic missionaries as a threat to their control. The french missionaries were soon being persecuted and then a revolt occurred in Cochinchina known as the Le Van Khoi revolt of 1833-1835. French catholic missionaries, Vietnamese catholics and Chinese settlers revolted against the current Emperor Minh Mang. Minh Mang quelled the revolt in 3 years while simultaneously fighting off a Siamese offensive. The revolt caused a dramatic increase in the persecution of catholics, leading to the execution of many missionaries. France tried to send diplomats to work out a peace deal with Minh Mang, but he would have none of it. In 1825 he made an edict

    “"The Westerner's perverse religion confuses the hearts of men. For a long time, many Western ships have come to trade with us and to introduce Catholic missionaries into our country. These missionaries make the people's hearts crooked, thus destroying our beautiful customs. Truly this is a great disaster for our land. Our purpose being to prevent our people from abandoning our orthodox way, we must accordingly completely eliminate these abuses."

    Minh Mang unlike his predecessor had no illusions about catholics, missionaries nor the west in general he sought isolationism. He was a very conservative leader and abided by confucianism. During his 21 years of rule he expanded his empire to acquire territory from parts of modern day Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.

    However after the first opium war saw the Qing dynasty humiliated by Britain, Minh Mang attempted to build an alliance with European powers by sending a delegation out in 1840 led by Ton That Tuong. They were received in Paris by Prime Minister Marshal Soult, but King Louis Philippe shunned the delegation and the Vatican urged a rebuke for “the enemy of the religion”. The delegates tried to offer France a trade monopoly in exchange for military support in the case of being attacked by a western power, but it was all in vain. After this the delegation tried a similar treaty with America, but it also failed. Minh Mang died and was succeeded by his eldest son Thieu Tri, who upheld the anti-catholic stance of the Nguyen dynasty, but did make some efforts to thwart conflicts and handed over to France 5 imprisoned missionaries in 1840. Thieu Tri would be dealt a hard hand of cards, as during in 1840’s his empire was hit by a global cholera pandemic that killed roughly 8% of his nations population. Meanwhile his fathers isolationist policies meant the empires economy was hurting.

    Back over in France, in 1843 the French foreign minister, Francois Guizot sent a fleet to east asia led by Admiral Jean-Baptiste-Thomas Medee Cecille, lol wow to that name, all first names literally imagine someone in English called John, Jacob, Ryan, Jack, Kyle. The reason for the expedition was to respond to the new situation in China, as Britain had just defeated her in 1842 and thus the door was busted wide open so to say. The French thinking was while Britain began exploiting China in the north, perhaps France could counterbalance this by trying to puncture China in the south. Of course France was not openly stating this, officially she sent the mission “to support British efforts with the Qing dynasty and to fight against the persecution of French missionaries within Vietnam”. Admiral Jean-Baptist went to Vietnam in 1845 to try and get the release of one Bishop Dominique Lefebvre who had been condemned to death. Lefebvre had gone to Vietnam in 1835 and it was then illegal to work as a missionary. He was caught performing missionary actions and received the death penalty. A US captain named John Percivil of the USS Constitution attempted to gain his release but failed so he turned to Admiral Jean-Baptiste. Jean Baptiste managed to smooth things over and obtained Lefebvre’s release and Lefebvre simply snuck right back into Vietnam and got himself caught yet again and was in the same situation by 1847.

    Thus in 1847 Admiral Jean-Baptiste dispatched to Vietnam two warships the 54 gun frigate Gloire and 24 gun corvette Victorieuse under captain Lapierre and Charles Rigault de Genouilly. They went to Touran to try and free Bishop Lefebvre, Bishop Duclos and to try and get the Vietnamese to allow for Catholics to worship again in Vietnam, perhaps they were getting tired of showing up everytime a priest was imprisoned. Negotiations began, but it seems Lefebvre’s being a second offender made the Vietnamese believe the French were pulling a fast one thus it fell apart. The negotiations dragged on until april 15th of 1847 while 6 Vietnamese corvettes snuck up and attacked the french warships anchored in the Bay of Tourane. The French retaliated and sank 4 of the Vietnamese corvettes, disabled the 5th and inflicted roughly 1200 casualties, quite a one sided brawl. The French assert, the Vietnamese had deceived them by prolonging negotiations in order to surprise attack them. Colonel Alfred Thomazi a historian who covered this period had this to say about the event;

    Thiệu Trị, indignant with this interference, decided to end the affair with a surprise attack. His plan was to invite the French officers to a banquet, kill them, and then burn and sink the ships. But Commandant Lapierre was on his guard, and declined the invitation. The mandarins, seeing the first part of their programme go astray, passed on to the second. They attacked.

    Thomazi gave the following description of the battle in Tourane Bay:

    ‘Gradually the Annamese war fleet, consisting of five corvettes with covered batteries, several bricks and a large number of junks, gathered in the bay, and one morning, without prior warning, attacked the French vessels. These, as their armament was far superior, had little difficulty in destroying the entire enemy fleet, but they had to get underway thereafter, abandoning the Christians to the vengeance of their persecutors”.

    In the end Lefebvre and Duclos were released. The Vietnamese were stunned by the dramatic disparity in firepower between their warships and the French. It showcased to many, the Vietnam’s isolationist policies had left them extremely vulnerable to western powers and they began demanding modernization efforts. Things gradually began to get worse for the catholic community in Vietnam. In 1856 the French diplomat Louis Charles de Montigny was sent to asia to secure trade agreements. He first went to the kingdom of Siam where a treaty was signed on August 15th to facilitate trade, religious freedoms in order for Siam to gain access to French warship technology. Then Montigny turned to Vietnam arriving the next year where he demanded they establish a consulate in Hue, allow for free trade and to end their persecution of the catholic community. The Vietnamese court rejected all of these outright.

    When Montigny returned to France having failed in Vietnam, Napoleon III decided enough was enough and he dispatched a military force of 3000 men to Vietnam led by Charles Rigault de Genouilly. France actually had a few reasons they were dispatching forces, and it was not exclusive to Vietnam. Do remember the 2nd Opium War was kicking off, so these forces were also sent to deal with China. It also did not help that the Nguyen emperor Tu Duc ordered the execution of 2 Spanish catholic missionaries in 1857 as well. Thus Spain likewise sent a punitive expedition force to join the French. Their first target was to be Tourane. The French force was led by Admiral Genouilly’s flagship the 50 gun frigate Nemesis alongside 2 corvettes, 5 steam gunboats and 5 transports carrying 1000 French Marines. The Spanish brought a armed vessel called the El Cano carrying 550 Spanish infantry, 450 Filipino Chasseurs Tagals.

    Now Tourane held 5 major forts on the western side of its peninsula which covered the approach to the town. The French called these the Fort de l’Aiguade, Fort de l’obervatoire, Fort du Nord, Fort de l’est and the Fort de l’ouest. They were accompanied by several shore batteries between them. The Vietnamese had a garrison of 2000 bien binh (provincial soldiers) led by Chuongco Dao Tri and the Governor Nam-Ngai tossed in another 2000 cam binh (centre soldiers) led by Do Thong Le Dinh ly. The Franco-Spanish force arrived to Tourane Bay during the night of august 31st and at dawn Admiral Rigault de Genouilly demanded the 5 forts surrender. He received no response and thus ordered his flotilla to bombard them. The forts response were on par with the Qing’s performance during the opium wars, none of the western ships received damage. Rigault de Genouilly then landed some marines who quickly seized Fort de L’Aiguade. The charged its defenders chanting “vive l’empereur”. The defenders were overrun and soon the Fort l’est and fort l‘ouest were taken likewise with ease. El Cano had anchored off the entrance of the Da Nang river and aided the forces by bombarding the two forts, causing the defenders to flee. Most of hte vietnamese defenders were able to flee the carnage from the offset of bombardment, but those at the Fort L’observatoire were not quick enough. The French stormed into the fort and inflicted heavy casualties upon them before taking the rest prisoner. With this the Franco-Spanish force were able to occupy Tourane and the Tien Sa Peninsula. However upon occupying Tourane, suddenly the westerners found themselves under a siege.

    Admiral Rigault de Genouilly surmised their forces at Tourane could achieve nothing under these circumstances so he pulled them out and decided to try and find a new target. He considered Tonkin first, but ruled it out and instead chose Saigon. Saigon was chosen because of its strategic value, it was one of the main sources of food that fed the Vietnamese army. He left Capitaine de Vaisseau Thoyon at Tourane with two gunboats and a small garrison and took the rest of the force south. The force spent 5 days gathering supplies in Cam Ranh bay and then reached Cape Saint-Jacques on February 10th. They bombarded the forts that defended its harbors into silence before storming them with marines like they had done at Tourane.

    From cape saint-jacques they made a 5 day journey upriver, taking time here and there to bombard and storm some riverside forts. The Vietnamese defenders fought them off tenaciously and managed to land some cannonade hits into ships like the Dragonne and Avalanche inflicting hull damage. The defenders also tried to barricade the riverway behind the invaders, but the europeans made sure to dispatch naval forces behind to thwart these efforts periodically. Everytime the europeans attacked a fort or riverforce they made sure to spike the enemies weapons down or take them, thus reducing the enemies materials. By the 15th the Europeans were approaching some forts that defended Saigon’s southern part. During the night they snuck 2 armed forces to destroy a barrage the Vietnamese had made using boats tied up together utilizing explosives. Dawn the next day the european warships anchored 800 meters from the forts and began their bombardment. They were so close some of the marine snipers in the warship mastheads were able to pick off Vietnamese gunners as well. The Vietnamese responded as best they could, but like the Qing during the opium wars, their outdated cannons were greatly overmatched. Soon landing companies began to assault the forts and by 8am the French and Spanish seized them. A few hours later, Capitaine Bernard Jaureguiberry took the Avalanche and scouted the Citadel of Saigon, before sending a French-Spanish force to assault it. Once the Europeans entered the citadel, the defenders began fleeing, though they did return with 1000 men to counter attack. The Europeans managed to repel the counter attack and by 10am the French and Spanish flag was raised over the citadel.

    The Citadel of Saigon was enormous and the Europeans could not spare the necessary men to man it, so Admiral Rigault de Genouilly decided to simply blow it up. Using 32 mines on march 8th of 1859 the citadel was brought to ruin. Alongside this the europeans set fire to the rice granaries which would burn for several months. The Europeans turned back to Tourane leaving a small garrison to hold Saigon, which would fight a few battles of its own before being forced to pull out. Taking Saigon proved to be a fruitless victory. Admiral Rigault de Genouilly lost favor back home and was replaced in november of 1859 with Admiral Francois page with orders to obtain a treaty to protect catholics in Vietnam, but not to seek territorial gains. Now at the same time this was all occurring, there was the outbreak of the Austro-Sardinian War and this meant the French would require large numbers of forces to go to Italy, which the Vietnamese leadership quickly found out about.

    When Page began negotiations in november with the vietnamese they refused his moderate terms, believing the French were no longer in a position of strength because of their troubles in Italy. So in the meantime Page reinforced the garrisons at Saigon and Da Nang awaiting the conclusion of the Italian war so more troops would be available to him. But by 1860 the 2nd opium war broke out requiring the French to send troops to China and Page was forced to relinquish much of his forces for the China expedition. In April Page left Vietnam to go to Canton, leaving the defense of Saigon and the neighboring Chinese town of Cholon under Capitaine de Vaisseau Jules D’Aries. D’Aries was left with 600 French marines and 200 Spanish troops who were led by Colonel Palanca y Guttierez. He also had on hand the corvettes Primauguet, Laplace and Norzagaray. With such forces he could not hope to with stand attacks from the Vietnamese so he was forced to hire some Chinese and Vietnamese auxiliaries who he placed in advanced posts and for patrols.

    With his 1000 man augmented force, in March they were attacked by a Vietnamese army roughly around 10,000 men in strength. This led to a long and bitter siege, while simultaneously Tourane faced a similar situation and as I said they were forced to pull out as a result over there. D’aries and his men fought the siege off from March of 1860 to February of 1861. However during this time, the British and French forces had won the battle of Palikao on September 21st of 1860, thus relieving the need for their forces over in China. 70 ships led by Admiral Charner, carrying 3500 soldiers led by General de Vassoigne were quickly dispatched to Saigon. This naval force was then the largest the Vietnamese had ever seen. Admiral Charners forces reached their besieged allies in Saigon to find a Vietnamese army estimated to be around 32,000 men strong led by Nguyen Tri Phuong. The Vietnamese siege forces had their siege lines extending 12 km’s long centered around a village called Ky Hoa.

    As Colonel Alfred Thomazi recounted

    The first objective was the capture of the entrenched camp of Ky Hoa. This was a rectangle measuring around 3,000 metres by 900 metres, divided into five compartments separated by traverses and enclosed within walls three and a half metres high and two metres thick. The camp was armed with more than 150 cannon of all calibres. Subsidiary defences were piled up in front of its walls: wolf-pits, ditches filled with water, palisades and chevaux de frise. Bamboo was employed in the defences with consummate art, and the walls were crowned with thorn bushes along their entire length. The number of enemy soldiers both in and around the fortified camp had grown steadily during the previous year. After the victory, we discovered from the muster rolls that there were 22,000 regular troops and 10,000 militiamen. There were also 15,000 men manning the forts along the upper course of the Donnai. All these men were under the command of Nguyen Tri Phuong, the most celebrated general in the Vietnamese army”.

    The Europeans made their initial assault on February 24th, moving their artillery into firing range of the siege lines. With bombardment support the French and Spanish gradually attacked the fortifications taking heavy casualties in the process. A second assault was made the very next day starting at dawn and again our friend Thomazi has a lengthy account of the days battle

    The action resumed at 5 a.m. on 25 February. The artillery advanced, facing east, enclosed by two columns of infantry: to the left, the engineers, the marine infantry and the chasseurs; to the right the Spanish infantry and the sailors. The sun, very low in the sky, was spoiling the aim of the cannons, and Lieutenant-Colonel Crouzat brought them forward by rapid bounds to within 200 metres of the enemy lines and ordered them to fire with case shot at the top of the ramparts. The firing was very heavy and our men, in the open, suffered appreciable casualties. Then the haversacks were laid on the ground, the sailors of the assault force reclaimed their scaling ladders, up to then carried by the coolies, and the admiral ordered the charge to be sounded.

    The right column, led by capitaine de vaisseau de Lapelin, crossed the wolf pits, the ditches and the chevaux de frise which extended for more than 100 metres in front of the enemy work under an intense fire, and was the first to reach the parapet. Most of the scaling ladders, which were very light, had been broken during the advance. Only three were left, which were placed along the wall, and the sailors of the assault force who could not find a place there climbed on the shoulders of their comrades. This time the fighting was bitter indeed. The first men to reach the summit were killed, but others took their place, throwing grenades inside. Then, using grappling hooks, they breached the perimeter fence and entered the fort.

    They then found themselves in an enclosed compartment swept by the fire from the neighbouring compartment, to which they could make no reply. It was a critical situation, and they suffered heavy losses. Finally, several resolute men, rallied by lieutenant de vaisseau Jaurès, succeeded in smashing in the gate that gave onto the other compartment with their axes, just as the engineers succeeded in breaking in, while the marine infantry and the chasseurs outflanked the enemy line on the left. The defenders were either killed where they stood or took to flight. The entire complex of the Ky Hoa lines had fallen into our hands.

    The casualties for the second day were heavy, 12 dead and 225 wounded and according to the French reports, the Vietnamese lost around 1000 men including commander Nguyen Tri Phuong. By seizing Ky Hoa, the Europeans were able to take the offensive. Their first target was to be the city of My Tho. A smaller expeditionary force led by Capitaine Bourdais aboard the Monge alongside the Alarme, Mitraille and some gunboats took a force of around 230 men to seize My Tho. They ran into two forts defending a creek leading to the city and began to bombard them. After the forts were neutralized they ran continuously into barricades the vietnamese forces made to bar further passage. Then on April the 4th, the Europeans received reinforcements from Saigon in the form of 200 Chasseurs, 200 Sailors, 2 companies of marines and some heavy artillery. Capitaine Bourdais relinquished command to Capitaine Le Couriault du Quilio and he went to work having their expeditionary force fight its way through the barricades which began to become increasingly well defended. By april 8th, the expedition was reinforced a few more times, including more gunboats prompting the Vietnamese to send two fireships against them. The French naval forces were able to hook the two fireships and tow them away. On the 10th a scouting party led by Captain du Chaffault managed to reach the walls of My Tho, exchanging fire with its defenders before returning to report. Quilio decided to press forward his warships to hit more forts defending the passage to My Tho until they finally got in range of My Tho’s walls. As the Europeans prepared their assault of the city, suddenly a flotilla led by Admiral Page showed up taking the Mekong river passage and he bombarded My Tho by sea which surrendered on the 12th.

    After taking My Tho the French offered peace terms to Tu Duc, but this time demanded the cession of Saigon province, an indemnity of 4 million piastres, free trade rights and freedom of religion. Tu Duc was open to conceding on the religion, but rejected the others outright. Thus the French occupied My Tho and looked for new targets. Meanwhile Tu Duc had lost numerous materials and received many casualties for his efforts against the French-Spanish invaders. His forces simply could not meet the enemy on the open battlefield and thus he now sought to shift towards guerilla warfare. He dispatched men to venture into the enemy held territories and organize resistance groups. Soon Saigon and My Tho provinces were finding themselves in a state of siege. The French and Spanish forces began to fan out into the countryside hunting guerrillas, but as you can imagine this led to terrible violence against the common people.

    Admiral Charner was replaced by Admiral Louis Adolphe Bonard in November of 1861. When he arrived he found the forces were being increasingly attacked by guerillas. One band of guerilla forces attacked the French Lorcha Esperance by luring the vessel out and ambushing her. 17 French and Filipino sailors were killed and the ship was burned down. This prompted Bonard to launch a major reprisal campaign against the province of Bien Hoa. Again our dear friend Thomazi has a lengthy passage on the battle and capture of Bien Hoa

    "The Annamese had established defence works on all the routes leading to Biên Hòa. They had built an entrenched camp held by 3,000 men at My Hoa, midway between Biên Hòa and Saigon, and obstructed the course of the Donnai with nine solid barrages and a stockade. The admiral decided to attack simultaneously by land and water. He ordered the detached posts to remain on the defensive and to concentrate all disposable forces before Saigon. All being ready, and an ultimatum issued on 13 December going unanswered, the columns set off at daybreak on 14 December. The first column, commanded by chef de bataillon Comte and consisting of two companies of chasseurs à pied, 100 Spaniards and 50 horsemen with four mortars, made for Gò Công, which it captured at 7.30 a.m. A second column, consisting of 100 Spaniards and a battalion of marine infantry with two cannon, under the orders of Lieutenant-Colonel Domenech Diego, placed itself before the camp of My Hao. At the same time capitaine de vaisseau Lebris, with two companies of sailors, advanced on the Donnai, taking in reverse the batteries on the right bank. Finally, a flotilla of armed launches, having followed the creeks as far as Rach Gò Công, cannonnaded the works which were also bombarding the gunboats anchored in the Donnai under the orders of lieutenant de vaisseau Harel of Avalanche. The forts replied energetically, and the gunboat Alarme was hit by 54 balls and had her main mast nearly destroyed. But once the defenders saw themselves threatened by a land attack, they hastily evacuated the forts, one of which blew up and the others were occupied. The sailors toiled throughout the night to demolish the barrages, while the naval hydrographer Manen sounded the passes. The first obstacles having been destroyed, the two infantry columns joined hands in front of the camp of My Hoa on 15 December. The marine infantry attacked the enemy's centre, while the chasseurs menaced his right and the Spaniards his left, and the cavalry made a turning movement to cut off his retreat. The Annamese panicked and took to flight. Admiral Bonard, aboard the dispatch vessel Ondine, ascended the river and exchanged cannon shots with the citadel. On 16 December the troops crossed the Donnai and occupied Biên Hòa, which the Annamese soldiers had evacuated, but not before burning alive numerous Christian prisoners. We took there 48 cannons and 15 armed junks. The operation cost us only 2 men dead and several wounded."

    Even after taking Bien Hoa, the guerrillas persisted to amp up their attacks.. The guerilla forces around My Tho began to snipe european columns marching along roads and a French gunboat carrying troops was blown up via sabotage. Bonard believed these actions to be the work of Vietnamese forces operating in Vinh Long so he began a campaign to seize it. On March 20th, his naval forces reached the fortress of Vinh Long and he quickly landed 700 French and 300 Spanish troops led by Lt Colonel Reboul to attack. Thomazi tells us

    On 22 March they crossed two arroyos under fire and advanced into view of the enemy batteries, which had been fighting a violent artillery duel with the gunboats. During the night, after a seven-hour struggle, all the batteries were occupied, and on the following day we entered the citadel, where we found 68 cannon and considerable quantities of materiel

    The defenders of Vinh Long had fallen back to some earthwork defenses 20 km’s west of My Tho, so Bonard sent forces to attack them while he consolidated Vinh Long. As the forces marched to attack the defenders, the loss of My Tho, Bien Hoa and Vinh Long had severely demoralized the Vietnamese leaders. In April of 1862 Lu Duc announced he sought peace terms.

    In May, following some preliminary meetings at Hue, the French corvette Forbin went to Tourane to meet with a Vietnamese delegation. As Thomazi, a very faithful source for this entire episode it seems tells us after the French waited 2 days for the Vietnamese to show up.

    On the third day, an old paddlewheel corvette, the Aigle des Mers, was seen slowly leaving the Tourane river. Her beflagged keel was in a state of dilapidation that excited the laughter of our sailors. It was obvious that she had not gone to sea for many years. Her cannons were rusty, her crew in rags, and she was towed by forty oared junks and escorted by a crowd of light barges. She carried the plenipotentiaries of Tự Đức. Forbin took her under tow and brought her to Saigon, where the negotiations were briskly concluded. On 5 June a treaty was signed aboard the vessel Duperré, moored before Saigon.

    The result was the Treaty of Saigon which legalized the catholic faith in Vietnam and the secession of Dinh Tuong, Gia Dinh, Bien Hoa and some islands over to France. The ports of Tourange, Ba Lac and Quang Yen were opened and France was given trade rights. On top of all of that the Vietnamese were to pay an indemnity worth one million dollars to France and Spain over a 10 year period. And thus the colony of Cochinchina with its capital of Saigon was acquired by France, which would start a ongoing conflict only to end with the United States of American pulling out in 1975.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    I honestly thought I would be able to do the Sino-French war of 1884-1885 in a single episode, yet again I was mistaken. Thus next time we will continue the story of France and Southeast asia.

  • Last time we spoke about the imo uprising. Empress Min royally messed up when she allowed her nephew Min Gyeom-ho to be in charge of handing out the grain to the retired soldiers. His tossing of the job to a subordinate led to embezzlement and the soldiers were greatly slighted. The pissed off soldiers began a major riot threatening to kill Empress Min, her clan and those they thought had cheated them. The Japanese military advisor and other staff were attacked, some Japanese were even killed, thus bringing Japan into the mix. King Gojong panicked and allowed his father to return, only to be ousted by his own father. The Daewongun was back and immediately went to work trying to rid Korea of the Min clan. Now the Chinese and Japanese were bringing forces to bear in Korea, was war on the menu?

    #40 This episode is the Gapsin Coup

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    Now the Chinese had a sticky situation on their hands, the attempted coup d’etat had disposed of many officials who they had been working with and worse they had attacked Japanese nationals prompting Japan to perform military intervention. Ma Jianzhong ordered the Daewongun to meet with him and read him the riot act. Ma accused him of acting against the Qing emperor by unseating the approved King of Korea “your sin is unpardonable. Considering the fact that you are the father of the king, we will not press hard on you. Please go to Tianjin to receive whatever punishment is bestowed upon you”. The Daewongun was then forced into a palanquin, whisked aboard the warship Weiyuan and sent to Tianjin. He was then interrogated by Li Hongzhang and sent into house arrest at Baoding until October of 1885. Li Hongzhang had this to say of it all “: "Our country regarded [Korea] as part of the empire and dispatched...troops. We arrested the evil ringleader, the Taewongun [Grand Prince Hungson], and detained him at Paoting. The [Korean] masses were awed. Now the entire world knows that Korea is our dependency."” Basically Li Hongzhang was playing a grand game of power politics, he was trying to show face to the western world that China was in charge of Korea. However this major show of face was also a large loss of face particularly to Korea and Japan who saw this as quite the lenient strategy.

    And thus China reasserted her suzerainty over Korea, her troops secured Seoul and the Qing officials began to aid the Korean-Japanese negotiations. The treaty of Chemuplo was signed on August 30th of 1882 to which Korea agreed to pay Japan in indemnities, sent an envoy to officially apologize and permitted a Japanese legation guardforce in Seoul. The Qing began training the Korean army and provided them with 1000 rifles, two cannons and 10,000 rounds of ammunition. The Korean military was to be trained by a Qing figure, one of the most important figures in modern Chinese history called Yuan Shikai, oh boy this guy. On my personal channel I think I have made at least 8 episodes related to him, but he will come a bit further in the story as a lead player. Korea was reduced to an official tributary state of the Qing with King Gojong unable to make many decisions without official Qing approval prior. China basically began to treat korea more like a colony.

    The Min clan came right back into their seats of power, albeit under Qing approval and Li Hongzhang began to perform puppetry work on the nation to make sure she served Qing interests. The Korean government then received two major advisers, Ma Jianzhong and a close confidant of Li Hongzhang, Paul von Molldendorff, formerly of the German foreign office, but now under Li Hongzhangs employment. The new Capital guard commander was Yuan Shikai. By 1883 Li Hongzhang was so pleased with his work he said this to an American minister in Beijing "I am the king of Korea, whenever I think the interests of China require me to assert the prerogative."

    The 1880s was a political maelstrom for Korea. As a result of the actions of the Qing and Japanese, Korea was literally being torn apart. Two major factions emerged within the Korean political scene, the first being the Gaehwa Party, known as the “enlightenment party”. They can be seen as a leftist party, progressive liberal types. Their leadership came mostly from the Yangban class, those being the traditional gentry-ruling class of the Joseon dynasty. These were the highly educated types who joined the bureaucracy and military, the quote en quote “landed guys” the aristocrats. They were much akin to the Qing officials, those who took examinations to earn their place within the government, living by the principles of confucianism. The members of this faction included Kim Ok-gyun, who spent considerable time in Japan and was mentored by Fukuzawa Yukichi. Kim Ok-gyun would emerge the leader of this faction and he alongside his colleagues pushed for a more independent Korea that took steps to perform their own version of the Meiji restoration. They also wanted to end what they saw as Qing interference with their nation. They were greatly frustrated by the limited scale and scope of Korea’s modernization efforts and reforms. Most of their leadership like Kim Ok-kyun were quite young, in their late 20’s and early 30’s and they were headstrong to be progressive, and progress at this time, to them looked like Japan. They basically saw the Qing as an arrogant imperialist power interfering with their nation rather than a protector.

    The other faction was known as the Sadaedang, the right side conservatives. This included the Min clan and many high government officials who were very pro-Qing. Its not to say they were against progress, in fact they championed many causes put forward by the Enlightenment party, but they favored gradual changes based on the Qing models. After the Imo uprising, the Pro-Chinese faction was greatly bolstered, obviously because of the interventions by the Qing within their nation. The Min clan advocated going about the modernization process via dongdo seogi “adoping western technology while keeping eastern values”, it was not so different from the Meiji restoration, but they wanted to keep inline with the Chinese.

    In 1882 after getting rid of the Daewongun and his rioters, the Min clan pursued a pro-chinese policy. Instead of adopting major institutional reforms akin to the Meiji restoration such as legal equality, modern education and significant industrialization, they chose to direct the pathway of the nations reforms in piecemeal. This basically meant revamping the underlying social structure of Korea rather than replacing or changing. They began to block all appointments of the progressive to any important positions, particularly that of their greatest rival Kim Ok-kyun. They signed trade agreements with China that enabled the Qing to dominate the trade with Korea at the expense of other nations, specifically that of Japan. King Gojong basically looked like he was abandoning all the progressive policies that had begun before the Imo uprising. The Japanese were livid over all of this as they had planned to dominate Korea with their influence to soon import Korean grain and export products back, but now China dominated her. Then a major event occurred that drew conflict between Japan and China over Korea yet again.

    In 1880, Kim Ok-kyun had managed to secure a position in the high government office serving as a councilor in the foreign office and even became acquainted with King Gojong. He was the bulwark trying to get Korea to take the Meiji restoration path and in December of 1881 he went off to Japan and would be in Japan when the Imo uprising occurred. Since he was there, he was made the official Korean representative in 1882 to apologize for the ordeal and he would remain in Japan until 1884. While in Japan he was influenced heavily by Fukuzawa Yukichi. Through this Kim Ok-kyun became convinced Korea needed to severe its Qing domination by overthrowing the Min clan so they could commence a Meiji restoration program with Japan's help. "Korea is a country in which misgovemment and extortion have flourished luxuriantly for centuries, but under the recent MING [Min] administration a serious change for the worse has taken place."

    Now in 1884 hostilities broke out between the Qing and French over a conflict in Annam, this became the Sino-French War of 1884-1885, which will be its own episode. Needless to say, the Qing forces within Korea were moved to deal with the French and this represented a major opportunity for the progressives in Korea. Despite the name progressive, the pro-Japanese faction decided to fall back on quote “the old Korean method of political transformation by murder”. Yes they were going to attempt a coup d’etat, with help from the Japanese. The Gaehwapa leadership, on December 4th staged their coup under the guise of a grand banquette being hosted by Hong Yeong-sik, the director of the Ujeong Chongguk, the postal administration. It was an inaugural banquet to celebrate the opening of a new national post office. The guests were to be King Gojong, commanders of the Seoul garrison, several foreign diplomats and high ranking officials, obviously many of which were members of the Sadaedang faction. They had help from the Japanese minister Takezoe Shinichiro who promised he would mobilize the Japanese legation guards to provide assistance. The plan was quite simple, get everyone to come and kill the commanders and officials; then hijack King Gojong to use him like a puppet to legitimize their pro-japanese reform program. They had a 14-point proposal which held conditions such as these; to end Korea’s tributary relationship to the Qing dynasty; to abolish the Yangbang privileges and establish equal rights for all; to reorganize the governmental structure as a constitutional monarchy; to change the land tax laws; cancel the grain loan system; unify the internal fiscal administrations; promote free commerce and trade; create a modern police system, who would in turn severely punish corrupt officials in government, ie the Min clan.

    Now Kim Ok-kyun was obviously encouraged by Fukuzawa Yukichi, alongside other Japanese intellectuals and officials to seek a Meiji style reform in Korea. But the Japanese leaders did not support his plans for a coup. Count Iwakura, the same who led the Iwakura Mission and the foreign minister Inoue Kaoru both refused to support the coup as they still wanted to retain goodwill with China. Shibusawa Eiichi, the most prominent Japanese business leader in promoting Japanese business in other parts of Asia also refused to support the coup. Kim Ok-kyun had presented many in Japan his plans, but with 3000 Chinese troops in Korea he knew the coup had no chance, that was until the Sino-French war broke. So despite not having any real support from Japan, he went ahead with the coup thinking it was an opportunity too great to pass up.

    They began the banquet and Kim Ok-kyun sent some of his supporters to set fire to a nearby building causing some noise and confusion. While that occurred they seized King Gojong and brought him to his palace. Then they began to summon various Korean garrison commanders they believed might mobilize the military against them to the palace. Each commander came one-by-one only to be murdered by the Gaehwapa. So basically the coup amounted to the decapitation of 6 Korean ministers, the murder of military officials and other administrators, while occupying the royal police backed up by the Japanese legation force of around 170 men. The father of the murdered postmaster general, who had been duped into hosting the event was so applied by it and the stain upon his families honor, he invited all 18 members of his family to a dinner and killed them along with himself via poisoning, whoa.

    Now things did not go according to plan for the Gaehwapa. The Japanese minister, Takezoe, went back on his promise to provide military assistance as soon as word came that the Qing were sending forces into the city. Kim Ok-kyun seemed to believe with just under 200 Japanese troops he was going to somehow maintain power keeping the king hostage, but 1500 Qing troops was not going to let that happen. When the coup was found out, Queen Min secretly sent word to the Qing asking for help and they sent General Yuan Shikai. It took Yuan Shikai and his men all but 3 days to retake the palace, rout the Japanese troops and rescue King Gojong. During the fighting around 180 people were killed, including 38 Japanese troops and 10 Chinese. The officials who had been appointed by Kim Ok-kyun were all dismissed. Japanese citizens living in Seoul were viewed by the locals as exploiters, thus they became targets of attack, many of their homes were looted and burned. Kim ok-kyun and 8 of his followers managed to escape to Japan using a Japanese ship.

    Just prior to the failed coup, Kim Ok-kyun had met with King Gojong about some reform ideas and the king was in support of many of them. After the coup the king made a full 180 and publicly label Kim ok-kyun as a villain. King Gojong voided all the reform measures done by the coup leaders and sent an envoy to Japan to protest their involvement in the coup demanding repatriation of the conspirators. On December 6th, King Gojong telegraphed Li Hongzhang asking for reinforcements. Meanwhile Yuan Shikai who wanted to dethrone the king because he deemed King Gojong to be “ a dim-witted monarch” who he believed was actually complicit in the coup but was overruled by the conspirators.

    A sticky political situation thus emerged between the 3 nations. As I mentioned, King Gojong demanded Japan repatriate the conspirators. The Japanese responded by demanding Korea pay them indemnity for the loss of life and property, to make formal apology and promise to punish the guilty. In a show of force the Japanese sent 7 warships and 2 battalions to Korea. On January the 9th of 1885, within the presence of 600 IJA and under threat of war if they did not cooperate Korea signed the “Seoul Protocol” also known as the Treaty of Hanseong. The Koreans officially apologized and paid Japan reparations in the sum of 100,000 yen for damages done to the Japanese legation, go figure that. This treaty however was really gimmicky, because the real trouble going on was not between Japan and Korea, but instead Japan and China.

    Ito Hirobumi and Li Hongzhang met in Tianjin in April of 1885 to discuss the matter. Tensions were very high between the nations and both men tried to defuse that tension. They called for bilateral troop withdrawal from Korea, a proscription against sending further military instructors and prior notification to another of any future troop deployments in Korea. King Gojong would be advised to hire military instructors from a third nation to train up the Joseon army, America the most likely candidate. Japan and China signed off on this and it became known as the Tianjin convention or “Li-Ito convention”. It was a diplomatic victory for Japan in the end . Japanese minister Takezoe Shinichiro avoided punishment for his complicity in the coup which essentially was done to subvert Korea’s tributary status with the Qing. China lost her exclusive claim to armed intervention in Korea, since Japan and her now we're even on that front. The treaty represented yet again another curtailment of Qing suzerainty over Korea. Now despite all of that, Japan also lost significant influence over Korea while China’s influence only increased. Japan looked like the bad guy to the Korean populace. Also Li Hongzhang appointed Yuan Shikai as the “director General Resident in Korea of diplomatic and commercial relations”. Basically Yuan Shikai was to look after Qing interests in Korea, but in a civilian capacity. Officially this was in line with the Tianjin convention, as Yuan Shikai was no longer a military leader, but both China and Japan knew at a hares notice he could called upon Qing forces whenever he wanted. Li Hongzhang instructed Yuan Shikai to prevent Japanese commercial dominance over Korea and promote Chinese commercial dominance which he did very well.

    After both the Chinese and Japanese withdrew their forces from Korea as per the Tianjin convention, China chose to garrison most of its forces along the Korean border. Likewise the the vast majority of telegraph lines in Korea were Chinese controlled while Japan had one going to Pusan, but when they requested it extend to Seoul this was rejected. Thus the Japanese could only communicate with Seoul using a Chinese controlled telegraph system. Yuan Shikai, despite being in his early 20s, exercised strong leadership and for all intensive purposes Japanese influence was simply drained. Now while many Koreans were happy to be rid of Kim Ok-kyun and his Japanese friends, many also complained about Yuan Shikai who was seen to be very overbearing and quite arrogant towards the Korean government. In June of 1885 China signed the final peace protocol with France and thus for the first time since the Russian conflict in Xinjiang, China was free of threat from war from Russia and France. This gave the Qing government the opportunity to be more aggressive in Korea. Yuan Shikai operated as if he was above the law. He replaced progressive officials with pro-chinese members of the Min Clan. He also began interposing in foreign matters, taking the place of Korean diplomats or envoys. He stopped all attempts at military reform and the development of modern industry. As for his personal reputation that was quite bad as well, he acquired a reputation for as one source puts it “kidnapping young korean women and making them his concubines, something akin to 19th century comfort women”. The Qing and Min clan were using the two failed coup d’etats to virtually wipe out any and all political opposition.

    Yuan Shikai’s tenure over Korea which lasted for a decade has been considered by some historians as “a dark age” for Korea’s development. Japan had learnt its lesson after 1884 bitterly and they would not eschew in Korea for some time, but this did not mean forever. No, the lesson they learnt was not to leave korea alone, it was to make sure next time they would have a stronger position than China. King Gojong also learnt a lesson, that Korea was vulnerable and needed a protector, but who? Well King Gojong secretly began gravitating towards Russia.

    You know the Russian Empire was a coy player when it came to Asia and China in particular. The Qing had greatly miscalculated when it came to Russia in the 19th century. The Qing intelligence indicated to them that the Russians had crushed Britain and France during the Crimean War so when the Second opium war was raging on, China was wary of Russia. This had a large effect on the Qing as they basically gave up parts of Siberia to Russia assuming they had large forces at the ready when in fact their far eastern forces were scattered horribly. Had the QIng showed a stronger arm against Russia they could have retained more territory which would have helped them pay their large indemnities to the west after the Opium wars. From the Russian point of view they took full advantage of a golden situation. Honestly, imagine Britain and France fight a war against this grand Qing empire in the late 1850’s and Russia just barges in making demands alongside them. With the treaty of Aigun, setting a new boundary on the AMur River, Russia gained 185,000 square miles of territory, that is the size of California and was the only livable part of eastern siberia. Russia followed this up with the treaty of Peking grabbing 130,00 square miles of territory, then again on October 7th of 1864 where she signed the treaty of Tarbagati grabbing another 350,000 square miles. That was like adding two Italies. The Qing at the time did not have proper knowledge of the territory they were handing away and when they figured it out later it was a national humiliation. Russia acquired all of this through a bluff, with some bravado and a brilliant stroke of diplomacy. As I will talk more about in the “great game” episode, Russia and China were in conflict for a long time because of Xinjiang. They remained on the verge of full scale war until 1881 when they signed a treaty, but until that point China had felt hamstrung when it came to Korea and the Russians. As the Korean situation went further and further to shit, the Russians eagerly watched, salivating as you can imagine.

    Russia’s strategy for quite a long time at this point was to surround its empire with weak neighbors, to destabilize those who threatened to become strong. This was a very logical strategy for a large continental power, thus Russia wanted to do everything possible from a third power swallowing up and revitalizing Korea. They sent Karl Ivanovich Weber as consul to Korea and he carefully cultivated ties to King Gojong. Weber made it clear to the Korean officials Russia intended to support them in the event Korean territorial integrity or independence became threatened. A secret deal was made between Korea and Russia, to obtain military instructors in return for a lease at Yonghunghang, a port in Wonsan. When the British found out about this they were quite livid and they immediately occupied Komundo island near the southern tip of the Korean peninsula. Its not important just yet, but Britain and Russia being aggressive towards another with holdings in east asia would reek its ugly head in 1904.

    When Yuan Shikai found out about King Gojong’s plans to secure Russian military assistance he was not too happy and tried to intimidate him. Yuan Shikai ended up quashing the Russian military adviser plan by leaking it to the diplomatic community which caused a large uproar. Yuan Shikai’s influence over Korea was beginning to boomerang, as now the Korean sought out Russia aid even more so seeing Qing suzerainty even more overbearing. King Gojong approached Weber again in 1886 requesting to establish a Russian protectorship. This was leaked to Yuan Shikai, who began plans to depose the King, but Li Hongzhang overruled him.

    Russia would make two fateful decisions, the first in 1888 when they would try to facilitate Japan’s attempts to undermine the Qing influence over Korea. Russia did this in order to weaken the Anglo-Chinese relations, but Russia had also greatly underestimated Japanese power and overestimated Chinese power. The second decision I have spoken about multiple times, the building of the trans-siberian railway. This decision altered the balance of power in the far east as Russia would be able to deploy troops at basically a whims notice to the CHinese and Korean borders. But Russia also needed something else vitally important, a warm water port. Russia had acquired vladivostok, a cold water port that freezes up for a few months of they and back then without icebreakers one could not keep their fleet at port year round. Russia eyed Korea or a Chinese warm water port in the Yellow sea as a future prize they must claim. Now I don’t want to side track too much about Russia as that will come about much later in 1904.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    The Gapsin coup was yet again another mess that almost led China and Japan to war over their proxy fight over Korea. Things were heating up more and more, how long could the diplomats and politicians hold it all off?

  • Last time we spoke about the Dungan Revolt. Yes it was a grand little side story that only encompassed something that should have required at minimum three podcasts, but I do my best. Northwest China was a wild place and multiple groups on the frontiers of other nations saw an opportunity when the Taiping Rebellion kicked out to try and rebel themselves. Multiple muslim groups and some foreign leaders like Yaqub Bek fought the Qing, the Russians and other groups to try and consolidate control over key areas. However when the Taiping were finally quelled, the Qing sent Zuo Zongtang northwest to deal with the Dungan problem. Zuo Zongtang led a brutal campaign to reclaim Xinjiang and was successful, a large part to muslim chinese defectors. Now we need to venture back to the issue of Japan, China, Korea and a truly stressful situation for poor old Li Hongzhang.

    #39 This episode is the imo uprising

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    The 1880s were an extremely turbulent time for China, Japan and Korea. Each nation faced the same anxiety, that of western encroachment, the danger of colonization. Each of these nations would face challenges from the west and this would affect all 3 of them and in turn their relations to another. There were leading figures in each nation that sought to cooperate together to resist western colonialism. At the time the greatest threat was Russia. The Russian empire was beginning the process of building the grand trans-siberian railway. The railway would only begin construction in 1891, but by the 1880’s settlers were being pushed east into Siberia and discussions were being held to push the process forward.

    Now when Japan pulled the sneaky maneuver of getting Korea to sign treaties acknowledging her independence from China, both Korea and Chinese officials were deeply concerned and no wonder. Japan had kept pressing the buttons and this was a major red flag moment. But the Chinese and Koreans had a multitude of problems at the time taking up much of their attention. Thus the Chinese and Koreans tried to ignore the implications of the Japanese treaties in the hopes they could be stamped down later thus easing Japan back into a passive role.

    You might be asking yourself why are the Chinese and Koreans backing down so much and allowing Japan basically to stomp over them, to put it simply, they had too much to deal with. You might remember when I barely talked about some of the rebels going on in China during and after the Taiping Rebellion. One of those known as the Dungan Revolt of 1862-1877, well that little guy was not such a little guy. If you go on wikipedia for example and look up the Dungan revolt you will notice a few things right off the bat, the first most likely the death toll which was in the millions, possibly up to 21 million. It hit Shaanxi, Gangsu and Xinjiang provinces very hard. But alongside the death toll, you would probably notice secondly the participants list which is extravagantly long and holds many surprising participants. The Ottomans, British, Russians, Uzbeks all hands their hands in the Chinese cookie jar. While the Dungan Revolt is certainly a big one, it gets even bigger, much bigger. The Dungan Revolt basically is part of “the Great Game”. Now you're probably asking yourselves what game? The Great Game was this mashup of conflicts between the British and Russian empires of multiple territories spanning the middle east and Asia. They fought for and over numerous things, for example the British believed Russia had plans to invade India. The Russians thought Britain wanted to expand into central asia. This led to countless wars such as the 1st anglo-afghan war of 1838, the first anglo-sikh war of 1845, the second anglo-sikh war of 1848, the second anglo-afghan war of 1878 and theres even more than that. Now for China this cultivated the Dungan Revolt somewhat and Russian began encroaching in Xinjiang. From 1871 to 1881 the Qing dynasty and the Russian empire were on the verge of a massive war over Xinjiang. Now I am literally pulling out my hair as I write this series because I planned to write a single podcast explaining how the situation in Korea led to what will be one of the most important wars, the first sino-japanese war of 1894-1895 and as I do so I keep skipping over major events, such as the multitude of rebellions in China, and this “great game situation”. Oh and its not just the great game, in the 1880s emerges another fantastic war known as the Sino-French War of 1884-1885 first involving Vietnam and France and then China gets mixed in. Needless to say I face two options, option number 1; I give a summary of these events and gloss right over them to carry on with my intended little narrow narrative about Korea, China and Japan. Option 2) I carry on as I am and write two separate episodes, “the great game” and “the Sino-French War of 1884-1885”. I am electing to do option 2, so please bear with me for the time being I imagine those 2 episodes will come right after I am done with the Hermit kingdom. Stating that I keep glossing over major events, but its simply impossible to hit them all, so if there are some you just are dying to hear about, or simply other things you want to hear about that I can’t hit here please let me know on the Pacific War channel discord, comment my Youtube channel or become a patreon, if ya do I promise I will make content just for you, that's why it’s there.

    So needless to say, these major events were hitting China at an extraordinarily bad time. These were major variables thwarting China from seeking a firmer hand against Japan when it came to Korea. China was waiting for things to simmer before they confront the Japanese. And do remember despite Japan’s actions, they still represented the greatest possible ally against the looming Russian bear to the north who were gradually expanding into Asia. The prospect of large numbers of Russians moving into East Asia concerned Korea, Japan and China all the same. On top of this the Russians began plans in 1882 to start a steamship line from Ukraine to Priamur, on the coast of Siberia and this also meant a large development of Priamur.

    Korea had the great misfortune of being what one author has called ‘a shrimp among the whales”. The whales being China, Japan and Russia. Korea had a long history of being fought over, in 661 the Japanese sent troops, then the Yuan Dynasty forces of Kublai Khan used Korea to try and invade Japan in the 1190’s and in the 1590s Hideyoshi invaded Korea. So Korea had this unfortunate history of simply being stuck in the middle. In 1882 China still held suzerainty over Korea…well from their point of view, the Japanese certainly did not see it that way. Korea was grasping at straws, trying to avoid conflict, but she was playing a game between two tigers.

    Now in 1881 Korea began expanding its relations with all 3 major players, Russia, China and Japan. Awhile back I mentioned that Korea sent Kim Hong-jip to Japan and after his journey he strongly suggested Korea send more envoys to learn more from Japan. In 1881 this led Korea to create the Gentlemen’s sightseeing group. These were 12 young Koreans who went to Japan to learn more about the Meiji restoration efforts. The mission was akin to Japan’s Iwakura Mission, the Koreans inspected administrative agencies, military facilities, education facilities, everything they could. The Koreans were very impressed by what they saw and when they came back home they sought ways to push Korea onto the same path as Japan’s modernization efforts. Amongst the 12 gentleman was one Kim Ok-kyun. After the tour had ended Fukuzawa Yukichi one of Japans top liberal minded intellects arranged for Kim Ok-kyun to remain an extra 6 months at Keio university. Kim Ok-kyuns stay convinced him that the Meiji restoration was the essential path for Korea to self strengthen and thwart western encroachment.

    Now Kim OK-kyun will be a key player in many things to come, but I bring him up now just to signify the efforts of Japan to win over Korea. People such as Kim Ok-kyun began championing Japan as Korea’s savior and this prompted King Gojong to look to Japan for some assistance in modernizing, such as the employment of Lt Horimoto Reizo who trained the Pyolgigun. But while Japan was making inroads to circumventing China, China was not sitting idly by.

    Li Hongzhang had emerged probably as the most influential person in all of China by the 1880s. The Qing government authorized the man who was the Grand Minister for the Northern Sea, the governor general of Zhili province, Commander of the Huai Army, associate controller over the board of admiralty and Grand secretary, yes China was continuing the practice of placing as many titles as possible onto a single man. Above all else Li Hongzhang was responsible for Korea. As much as I have talked about Zeng Guofan’s pupil I have not really talked all that much about the man himself. Li Hongzhang dominated Chinese foreign policy for nearly quarter of a century. He was 6 feet tall and quite a lot of western diplomats noted him to have a fine physique, a vigor to his nature, piercing eyes, a commanding presence and a no-nonsense approach. As a Qing official he wore multicolored silk robes, a large triangular hat with the traditional three-eyed peacock feathers. As noted by his mentor Zeng Guofan “Li Hongzhang possessed a bearing and manner of speech sufficient to bring men to their knees”. Li Hongzhang was frankly a go-getter as we say in the west. George F Seward, a minister of the US to China called him “a giant among his fellow Chinese and the best foreigners who have met him in affairs will not hesitate to accord to him intellectual powers, which would command admiration in any cabinet or council”. Russia’s count Sergei Lil’evich Witte, the architect of the empires industrialization program for over two decades and a man not known to overstate others said this of Li “I have met many notable statesmen in my career and would rate Li Hongzhang high among them. In fact, he was a great statesman; to be sure he was Chinese, without any kind of European education, but a man of sound Chinese education, and what is more, a man with a remarkably sound mind and good common sense." The socialist French newspaper, Le Siecle, called him "the yellow Bismarck." I particularly like that last one, yellow Bismarck thats a flavourful one isn't it.

    Li Hongzhang was Han Chinese, from 6 of 7 generations that passed the imperial examinations, a scholar through and through. He passed the third highest out of 4000 other students for the highest imperial degree and built up the Huai army with help from Zeng Guofan quickly becoming one of if not the dominant military ruler in China. It was in fact his rule over the most powerful army in CHina that led to many of his appointments as the Qing needed to try and rein him in somehow. He and Empress Dowager Cixi would have a long-standing relationship. Li Hongzhang aided her in installing her nephew as Emperor in 1875, though in reality he would not actually rule anything it would be Cixi and Li was loyal to her.

    On the note of Cixi, Li Hongzhang was criticized heavily for corruption and indeed he became fabulously wealthy. Yet I do not think you can point fingers simply at Li, as it was not just him but the Qing bureaucracy that was corrupt. A foreign employee under Li had this to say about him and corruption “The Viceroy was a diplomat of world-wide fame; but to his countrymen - before the war - he was chiefly reputed as a great military and naval organizer. He was not nor could he be that; for the corruption, peculation and nepotism which infested his organizations had their fountain-head in himself, and to an extent which was exceptional even for a Chinese official. He was himself enmeshed in the national machine of organized inefficiency; to him also it was a normal condition, and any other, had it been indicated, would have been incomprehensible to him.” You have to understand at this time in the Qing dynasty corruption was simply the status quo. Bribery was the normal source of political influence. The Qing salaries were insufficient, so all officials bribed and embezzled to make ends meet. To get anything done politically in China at this time one had to bribe whether it was for good means or bad, Li was no different. Li’s activities were some of the largest in scope China would ever see and thus required enormous sums of money. None the less Li was a Han, and the Manchu were never going to let the Han simply run the show, so even if Li had idea’s about reform to stop the corruption they would not allow him to do so as it would put a Han in the drivers seat. And so Li was a master operator within the corrupt system of Qing politics, he had to grease the corrupt wheels of power. Unlike the Meiji restoration which took daring reforms backed by the Genro of Japan, Li had major shackles.

    I think I already said this before, Li Hongzhang is one of my favorite characters of modern Chinese history, but he is also a terribly tragic character. One would call him a man before his time. He showed great foresight about how China could modernize but he was hampered by the system. Yet despite all of that he did an incredible amount to help modernize China nonetheless. He also never got a chance to really see the outside world until late in his life unlike most of his Japanese counterparts. He would also take the lionshare of the blame for the many humiliations CHina would receive, literally right until his death he just kept fighting bitterly. Many champion those who do great feats during good times, but we often forget those who lived in dire times who struggled to do great feats, and Li is one of those.

    Now as the man responsible for Korea Li Hongzhang advised his Korean counterpart in 1879 "There is no human agency capable of putting a stop to the expansionist movement of Japan: has not your Government been compelled to inaugurate a new era by making a Treaty of Commerce with it? As matters stand, therefore, is not our best course to neutralize one poison by another, to set one energy against another? You should seize every opportunity to establish treaty relations with Western nations, which you can use to check Japan." The advice was carried to King Gojong who in 1822 solicited Li Hongzhang to negotiate on Korea’s behalf for a treaty with the United States. The Josen-United States Treaty of 1882 or Treaty of Peace, AMity, Commerce and Navigation would be signed in 1882 heavily influenced by Li Hongzhang. It was Korea’s first treaty with a western nation, albeit an unequal treaty. It established mutual friendship with the US and mutual assistance in the case of attack. The treaty became the template for others as soon Germany signed one in 1883, then Russian and Italy in 1884 and France by 1886. The idea obviously being, Li Hongzhang trying to bolster up Korea so Japan would not try to invade her. Now despite the fact these treaties were intended to counterbalance Japan, they also indirectly undermined China. Combined with the Japanese treaties they all worked collectively to shatter Korea’s isolation and severed China’s suzerainty over her. To be blunt, while China could continue to scream about how Korea was still her tributary, now a collective group of other nations saw her as independent. This also began a process of creating pro-Japanese and pro-Chinese factions within the Korean political system. There were those who missed the times of the Daewongun reign. They believed the current actions of Korea were unfaithful to Confucianism. And then in 1882 a small problem would evolve into a larger one.

    Remember the Japanese military attache, Lt Horimoto Reizo? Well in January of 1882, his work ended up reorganizing the existing 5 army garrison structure into the Muwiyong “palace guards garrison” and the Changoyong “capital guards garrison”. But alongside that he also created the Pyolgigun “special skills force” which was basically the yolk of a new modern Korean army. This is all fantastic and good fun, however Korea held a very tight budget and was forced to reduce the number of her old-style troops. For those of you who know your Satsuma Rebellion that occurred in Japan, here in Korea a similar event unfolded. In July of 1882 many Korean soldiers were retired against their will. They protested that for over a year after the forced retirement they had not received back pay. 1000 men, mostly the old and disabled were let go, and they were not paid their stipends of rice for 13 months. They began to protest, and who wouldn't. Hearing about this, King Gojong ordered that a months allowance of rice be given to the soldiers and he directed one Min Gyeom-ho, the overseer of the Joseon’s government finances to see to it. Min Gyeom-ho was the nephew of Queen Min, and that is an important fact as the Min family would be seen as culprits. Well Min Gyeom-ho handed the job over to his steward who sold the rice he had been given for the soldiers and used that money to buy millet which was further mixed with sand and bran, the good classic old case of embezzlement, like cutting cocaine with baking powder. Well the the substance by the time it got to the soldiers had gone rotten and as you might imagine it really pissed off the already pissed off protesting soldiers.

    So on July 23rd of 1882 a riot broke out in Uigeumbu. Pissed off soldiers marched upon the residence of Min Gyeom-ho who they suspected was the culprit swindling them all. Min Gyeom-ho heard of the incoming rioters and ordered the police to arrest their ringleaders and have them executed the next day. The rioters received word of these orders and broke into Min Gyeom-ho’s home, but by that point he had fled so they simply trashed the place. Without the man to exact their vengeance upon the rioters marched to the armory and began stealing arms and ammo. Then they went to a local prison, overwhelmed its guards and released the arrested ringleaders alongside other political prisoners. At this point Min Gyeom-ho was hiding at the Royal palace. He panicked and ordered the army to quell the revolt, but by this time the revolt was snow balling.

    The armed rioters then turned their attention to two different groups of people, the first were the Japanese and second Korean progressives aka the reformers supporting the new changes to Korea propped by Japan. A group of rioters headed to Lt Horimoto’s quarters where they grabbed him and took turns stabbing him to death. Another group of over 3000 rioters marched upon the Japanese legation. Over at the legation were the minister to Korea Hanabusa Yoshitada alongside 17 staff members and 10 legation police. The legation was quickly surrounded prompting Hanabusa to order all the documents within to be burnt. As the smoke and flames increased, many of the legation staff used it as a cover to escape through the rear gate. The Japanese fled to the nearest harbor where they took a boat down the Han river enroute to Incheon. From there they thought they would be safe, but Korean soldiers continued to hunt them down, soon they were fleeing to another harbor, but this time the Koreans caught up to them. 6 Japanese were killed with another 5 severely injured. The survivors got onto a boat and made a break for open sea, eventually running into the British survey ship HMS flying fish which took them in.

    The rioters certainly did not stop at the Japanese legation, on July 24th they took to marching upon the royal palace still hunting Min Gyeom-ho. They got their hands on Min Gyeom-ho killing him alongside a dozen high ranking Joseon officials including Heungin-gun Yi Choe-Heung, the older brother of the Daewongun. It should be noted that while he was the brother to him, he was also publicly critical against his isolationist policies and could be seen as an ally to the Min clan. The rioters also hunted for Queen Min, intending to kill her as well. They saw the Queen and the rest of the Min allies as the main culprits behind the corruption going on in the government. Queen Min managed to escape the palace being carried literally away on a guards back dressed as a commoner. She fled for refuse in the home of Min Eung-sik in Chungju of Chungcheong province. Meanwhile the rioters managed to kill an official of the Min family and the entire ordeal became known as the Soldiers Riot of 1882 or the Imo uprising.

    Now the Imo uprising was sort of a symptom of something else going on in Korea. I had mentioned previously that the Korean politics had created sort of a faction situation. It was not necessary one side was Pro Chinese and the other Japanese, a lot more was going on, but I will try to summarize it as best as I can. During the reign of the Daewongun, many of the Korean literati, you know the political, scholar, high society types, well they considered a lot of what the Daewongun was doing to be unfaithful to confucianism. However when the Daewogun was kicked out, they began to see all the grand reforms and treaties emerging under King Gojong as even worse. In fact they never really saw it as “King Gojong’s” but rather Queen Min and her entourage of family members in high positions taking Korea to hell in a handbasket.

    During the Imo uprising incident there was a rather important figure amongst the rioting troops, Prince Waneun, the illegitimate son of Daewongun and one of his concubines named Kyeseongwol. He was the older half brother to King Gojong. Now When the Daewongun was “forcefully retired” he actually did not go without a fight and attempted a coup, which just saw him getting deported to China, and this greatly upset Prince Waneun. But he bide his time, entering the Korean military as a low ranking officer. When the rioters struck in 1881, Daewongun had sent agents to instigate them, one of which was Prince Waneun. It seems the Daewongun was trying to replace King Gojong with his illegitimate son, but the riots failed. When they arrested the rioters many of their leaders were executed, one of which was Prince Wanuen. Who ordered his specific execution is unknown, myth has the Korean politician Yi Yun-yong being responsible, but there is also evidence he did so under orders from Queen Min and King Gojong. On October 28th of 1881 he was poisoned to death while in prison at Jeju. The reason I bring up this minor part of the story is to highlight that there were serious efforts being made by political factions to usurp King Gojong and steer Korea in certain directions.

    The Daewongun clearly supported the rioters and their cause. In fact it is known the Daewongun exhorted the rioters to specifically bring down the Min clan and expel the Japanese. Daewongun was very much in the China camp politically. King Gojong clearly did not support their cause, but he saw the writing on the wall. King Gojong asked his father to return to the palace, who promptly showed up with 200 of the rioters backing him up. King Gojong capitulated to their demands, one of which was to restore his father to power. King Gojong basically said this to his father when he showed up to the palace “put an immediate end to the wild melee and I will give power over the small and large matters of the government”. And thus the Daewongun was back in power.

    His first order of business as you might imagine was to remove from office all officials of the Min family, he even had his own brother executed because he had allied to them! At the time it was believed Queen Min had been killed, thus he had a funeral process begun for her. Now in response to the killing of the Japanese officials, well Japan was not too happy about that. The foreign office under Inoue Kaoru ordered Hanasuba to return to Seoul to hold a meeting with senior Korean officials to get them to bring the rioters responsible to justice. If any more of these rioters were to attack Japanese, Japan was going to bear military force against them, regardless of whatever the Korean government did. Inoue instructed Hanabusa, that if he saw the Koreans making any attempts to hide the perpetrators and not punish them, or if they refused simply to comply at all with their demands this would constitute a breach of peace and thus the IJA would be rolling in. Japan also sent an official letter to the Korean government with an envoy, indicting it for the crimes that had been done to the Japanese and that Japan would be sending forces to occupy the port of Chempulpo. Hanabusa meanwhile was instructed that if China or another nation attempted to mediate on behalf of Korea, he should refuse this, but to reiterate none the less that Japan still believed her relations with Korea were friendly and that they best restore that friendly relationship. Thus Hanabusa was to go to Seoul with IJA and IJN forces to protect him and other Japanese officials. Now while Japan was doing all of this, in the background they were also calling up reserves for their military in advance and Inoue Kaoru made sure to notify western ministers in Tokyo they were sending IJA/IJN forces to Korea to “protect their citizens”. He strongly emphasized this was all in good faith and that their intentions were peaceful, but when the Americans offered to mediate he declined this off the bat, not a great look.

    As for the Chinese reaction, Li Hongzhang who was in charge had left his post just before the crisis had broken out, taking a leave of absence because his mother had just died. How fate tosses the dice sometimes eh? Thus China’s de facto foreign minister was left out of touch and Korea did not have a Chinese legation on hand. Li Shuchang, the Chinese minister in Tokyo received word of the situation and sent word home. On August 1st, Zhang Shusheng dispatched 3 warships of the Beiyang Fleet under the command of Admiral Ding Ruchang to Korea with the Qing official Ma Jianzhong to assess the situation. 4500 Qing forces led by General Wu Changqing arrived and they quickly aided the Korean government in quelling the rioters thus thwarting a full blown rebellion. The Qing forces took control over Seoul. This was the first time that China had military intervened in Korea since 1636 and constituted a major departure in her foreign policy over Korea. Would this situation ignite a war between the Qing and Japan?

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    The imo uprising was going to escalate things for China, Japan and Korea, simply boiling the pot of war gradually over time. How long could the diplomats and politicians keep those rattling the sabers of war?

  • Last time we spoke about the modernization efforts of China, Japan and the Hermit Kingdom of Korea. China and Japan undertook very different paths to modernization, and little Korea was stuck in between them. Yet there was even another play joining the mix, the empire of Russia who was threatening all 3 of the Asian nations with her encroachment. The 3 Asian nations attempted to cooperate against the common threat, but Japan and China were growing ever more and more hostile towards another, particularly over the issue of who should influence Korea more. Yet today we are actually doing something a bit different, this will be sort of a side episode, for China had too many events going on during the 19th century to cohesively tell. One story goes often forgotten, yet it encompassed numerous groups, vast amounts of territory and a lot of bloodshed.

    #38 This episode is the Dungan Revolt

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    I am not going to lie, I have no idea where to even start with this one. Originally I wanted to write a single episode, perhaps a two parter, explaining how China and Japan find themselves going to war in the 1890’s largely over Korea. Yet the late 19th century is probably one of the most jam packed time periods for Chinese history. So many uprisings, rebellions, wars with foreign states occurs for the Qing dynasty, there’s simply no way to tell them all, but here I want to touch upon just a few. Now I keep bringing up but barely talk about, the Dungan Revolt of 1862-1877. If you go right now and please do, to the wikipedia article on the Dungan Revolt, check out the list of Belligerents. You will see the Qing, the Russian Empire, a short lived state called the Kashgaria, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire and an unbelievable number of Muslim rebel groups from all over the place. Events like this do not live in a bubble, as we say in the research world of neuroscience, this requires multivariable analysis. Well that's what I hope to accomplish, in a single episode.

    Now I expect when I say the Dungan Revolt, the first question that comes to mind for many of you is, who are Dungans? Its complicated. They can be described as Turkic or Chinese speaking, Hui Muslim people who inhabitant Xinjiang province, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Tajikistan and parts of modern Russia. Now you are saying, wait are they Turks or Chinese, thats a very politically motivated question haha. Today you could call them, Hui, Uyghurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyzs, Uzbeks, Tatars, etc. In essence they inhibit a part of the world that has so many different groups around and their history goes very deep, before the time of the Qing dynasty. When the Qianlong Emperor hit the scene in the early 18th century, he named the province Xinjiang, meaning “new frontier” and the people there were known by many as Hui, but specifically for those Chinese speaking muslims in the northwest, well they were often referred to as Dungans. Prior to the Qing rule, Xinjiang was ruled by the Oirat Mongols of the Dzungar Khanate. I am sure you veteran listeners before I came to this podcast know much of these peoples and their history, you probably could teach me a thing or two, as this is very much so out of my specialization. One thing you might remember that I touched upon I believe in the very first episode of this podcast series was the Dzungar genocide. As ordered by the Qianlong Emperor

    "Show no mercy at all to these rebels. Only the old and weak should be saved. Our previous military campaigns were too lenient. If we act as before, our troops will withdraw, and further trouble will occur. If a rebel is captured and his followers wish to surrender, he must personally come to the garrison, prostrate himself before the commander, and request surrender. If he only sends someone to request submission, it is undoubtedly a trick. Tell Tsengünjav to massacre these crafty Zunghars. Do not believe what they say."

    It is estimated perhaps 80 percent of the 600,000 or so Dzungars were killed through war and disease between 1755-1758, enough to argue the annihilation of them as a people. Now with Xinjiang so devastated and depopulated, the Qing sponsored a large-scale settlement of Han, Hui, Uyghur, Manchu and other Chinese. Thus the demographics of the region changed dramatically, Xinjiang became mostly Uyghurs around 60% or so, followed by 30% Han and Hui and the rest of various minority groups like Manchu. The Qing did their best to unify Xinjiang, and one of their policies was to turn over 17,000 acres of steppe grassland over to Han Chinese to farm and colonize. Some historians point this out to be an attempt to replace Uyghurs, but in truth its messier than just that, as the Qing also banned Han Chinese from settled in Uyghur concentrated areas of the province.

    Now the Oirat Mongol’s come back to the scene, this time in the form of the Kalmyk Khanate. They were mostly Tibetan Buddhists and in 1770, over 300,000 of them tried to seize control of parts of Xinjiang from the Qing. However when they began their great expedition, their traditional rivals the Kazakhs and Kyrgyz attacked them the entire way leading them to show up to Xinjiang, worn out, starving and ridden with disease. Many of them simply came and surrendered to the Qing upon arrival and managed to settle within Qing territory. Now these were nomadic people, but the Qing demanded they give up the nomadic lifestyle to take up farming, which was a deliberate policy to break them as a people. They utterly failed at becoming farmers and quickly fell into poverty, undergoing such horrors as selling their own children into slavery, becoming prostitutes, bandits, and such, terrible times. Alongside the terrible treatment of the new coming Kalmyks, Uyghurs were being abused by Manchu officials. It is said Manchu officials were gang raping Uyghur women, such as the official Su-cheng. A rebellion occurred, and the Qing violently quelled. There were reports of mass rape by Manchu troops causing even more hatred from the Uyghur population.

    Now fast forward to the Taiping Rebellion, during 1862 as Taiping forces approached Shaanxi province, the local population began to form militias known as the Yong Ying. The Yong Ying or “brave camps” were similar to our friend Zeng Guofans “Yung-Ying” Xiang army, just less well structured and terribly under equipped. If they were lucky the Qing government would hand over some Jingalls, but more or less the old sword and spear were their choice of weapon. Now the Yong Ying’s being propped up by the Qing were Han Chinese, but around them were large populations of Muslim Chinese who, well lets just say were having PTSD episodes from the countless atrocities performed upon them by these same people for centuries now. So the Muslim groups formed their own Yong Ying’s and this is where our story really begins.

    In 1862 sporadic conflicts such as skirmishes between groups, riots, smaller uprisings and such. They ran the gambit for reasons, could be just a barroom brawl as they saw, trivial type of stuff. During this time any rebel groups that emerged drew attention from the Qing and by proxy association were believed to be possibly working with the Taiping. To add some more chaos to the situation, the Green Standard army as you would assume took its recruits from populaces all over China. Their job much more as a police force than a real army was to keep things running smoothly in all the provinces of the Qing dynasty. In northwest China this meant numerous Hui and other muslim chinese groups were amongst their ranks and thus training for combat and armed, so keep that in mind.

    There were numerous incidents that sprung the Dungan revolt, but one in particular involved of all things the price of bamboo poles. Some Han merchants were overcharging Hui and this led to a major fight. Bamboo poles were traditionally used to make spears. During a time of major conflict and open rebellion suddenly the Hui communities began to buy large quantities of bamboo poles and this led to the belief they were planning to set up an Islamic state in northwestern China. Organized mosques run by popular mullahs in Shaanxi were purchasing more and more bamboo poles, which they were indeed making into spears. The Hui communities were worried about their safety, seeing all these local militias pop up meant there would be fighting over resources and such. Well the non muslim merchants, mostly Han saw the paint on the wall and were obviously worried about selling bamboo poles to people who might attack them, or better said might defend themselves. Thus many merchants began to increase the prices on bamboo poles and this led to a major uprising known as the Shengshan bamboo incident.

    Manchu general Duolongga, the same man we talked about during the Taiping Rebellion was leading a cavalry unit in the north when the Hui revolt suddenly turned into a siege laid against Xi’an in Shaanxi province. Duolongga led a campaign against the muslim bands and by 1863 the siege was lifted and the rebels were pushed out of Shaanxi into neighboring Gansu province. In Gansu the Muslim leaders began to spread rumors of an impending Qing crackdown on muslims. They spread fear that the Qing would soon massacre many and this allowed them to organize another siege, this time against Ling-chou, a large city 40 miles north from Jinjipu. Jinjipu happened to be the HQ of a major Muslim leader named Ma Hualong, more about him later. While Lingzhou was laid siege, another strategic city was also attacked by Muslim forces, the city of Lanchow. The Governor General at Lanchow, En-lin reacted by trying to apply a policy of reconciliation. He advocated to the Qing court to not alienate the Muslims and began sending edicts in Gansu reiterating non-discrimination policies towards Muslims. His efforts seem to have been all for naught, as the rumors of a Qing massacre upon the muslims won out the day and large scale violence just grew. Within Eastern Gangsu, many of the Shaanxi Muslim refugees formed the what became known as the “18 great battalions”. Their purpose was to train and arm themselves to take back their homes in Shaanxi. Now while Gansu and Shaanxi were kicking off the beginnings of the Dungan revolt, this also opened the door to more groups to join in.

    Yaqub Bek, was born in the town of Pskente in the Khanate of Kokand, today’s Uzbekistan. There region he lived in was drawn into conflict continuously with outsiders like the Russian and from within as it was deeply factionalized. Yaqub Bek claimed to be a descendant of Timur Gurkani the Turco-Mongol conqueror of the Timurid Empire, probably a ruse to give himself more credibility as a great ruler. He conspired against factions such as the Qipchaqs, taking part in a horrible event known as the Qipchaq massacre. Eventually in the 1860’s he fought for the Kokand khanate as a General against the Russians, but they defeated them in 1866 resulting in the major loss of Tashkent. The ruler of Khokand, Sadik Beg dispatched Yakub Beg to Kashgar to raise and find new troops amongst Muslim allies. Yaqub Beg instead invaded Kashgar, defeated its Chinese defenders and declared himself ruler. Now Yaqub Beh was stuck between the forces of the Russian, British and Chinese empires who were all vying for control of the surrounding area, this was part of something called “the great game” which I simply cannot get into for it is too great, pun intended. Thus Yaqub Beg began a campaign that basically saw him conquer Xinjiang province, and this drew the ire of the Qing as you can imagine.

    So the Qing were now dealing with multiple Muslim rebel groups in the northwest and on top of this some of them were foreigners, who held considerable backing. The Qing dynasty sent one of their most formidable Generals, Zuo Zongtang in 1867 to Shaanxi to pacify the region. Zuo Zongtang as you already know was instrumental in the downfall of the Taiping, working closely with Zeng Guofan. Zuo Zongtangs task was to restore the peace, promote agricultural output particularly that of grain and cotton and to promote Confucian education. As we have seen throughout the series, northwestern China is a rough place to live, stricken with poverty and thus Zuo Zongtang would not be able to rely on the resources of the territory he would have to look elsewhere. This led Zuo Zongtang to immediately demand the Qing court help fund the expedition as he personally began to take out major loans worth millions of taels from foreigners. Zuo Zongtang wanted to prepare massive amounts of supplies before going on the offensive, a smart move. Zeng Guofan likewise helped his subordinate by allocating him 10,000 Xiang forces, led by General Liu Songshan to bolster Zuo Zongtang’s 55,000 man army.

    Zuo Zongtang’s forces were mostly Hunanese, but there were also men from Henan, Anhui and Sichuan as well. Because of the Taiping Rebellion, Zuo Zongtang was a proficient army raiser now and he did his best to train the men in a western fashion and outfit them with western arms. As I had mentioned, Zuo Zongtang was one of the champions of modernization and established the Lanzhou arsenal in 1872 which produced Remington breech loading type rifles for his forces alongside artillery and munitions. Now that name, Ma Hualong I had mentioned comes up here a bit. He was the leader of the Jahriyya, known also as “the new teaching”. They were something of a Muslim sect in Gansu province and had been around since the 1760s.They periodically rebelled as a group and caused conflict with other groups, including muslim ones. When Ma Hualong took the leadership position in 1849 he gradually began to build up their forces and to do so he created a vast trade network using a caravan trade through Inner Mongolia and Beijing. His group became extremely wealthy and when the Dungan revolt heated up he began to use his trade network to purchase guns. Zuo Zongtang understandably was suspicious of the gun purchasing activity and deduced Ma Hualong sought to conquer parts of Inner Mongolia and rebel. Ma Hualong began collaborating with Muslim refugees fleeing Shaanxi for Gansu and this led to conflicts with the Qing. General Liu Songshan ended up dying in combat while campaigning against multiple Muslim militia groups, some of which were controlled by Ma Haulong.

    Meanwhile Zuo Zongtang was finishing up suppressing Shaanxi and establishing control over the province when he finally had a free hand to deal with Ma Hualong who had heavily fortified Jinjipu into a stronghold. Zuo Zongtang’s forces erected a siege upon Jinjipu using Krupps field guns, the good old fashion sappers tunneling with mines tactic and the age old classic of starving out the enemy. After 16 months of siege, starvation took its toll upon the defenders prompting Ma Hualong to surrender his forces in January of 1871. Ma Hualong hoped to save the majority of his people, but Jinjipu saw a massacre, thousands lose their lives and the town was rape, plundered and raized. Zuo Zongtang ordered the execution of Ma Hualong, his son Ma Yaobang and 80 Muslim rebel leaders via “Lingchi / death by slicing”. This was a horrible form of execution where a sharp object like a knife was used to slowly remove portions of ones body over long periods of time until the person died.

    Once done with Ma Hualong, Zuo Zongtang set his eyes upon another Muslim rebel leader named Ma Zhan’ao. Ma Zhan’ao worked loosely with Ma Hualong, but his stronghold was at Hezhou, present day Linxia. He controlled the region west of Lanzhou and benefited from Ma Hualong’s vast trade network managing to arm his rebel forces. Unlike Ma Hualong who was of the “new teaching” sect, Ma Zhan’ao was of the “Khafiya / old teaching” sect and they proscribing trying to peacefully exist amongst the non muslim Qing population. When the Dungan revolt began, Ma Zhan’ao escorted numerous Han Chinese to the nearest safe area of Yixin and he did not attempt to conquer the area nor molest them. Regardless he was one of the major muslim leaders purchasing arms and earned the attention of Zuo Zongtang who began an offensive against his forces in 1872. Initially his muslim defenders inflicted heavy losses upon Zuo Zongtang’s army much to the frustration of Zuo Zongtang. But Ma Zhan’ao did not want war and he dispatched his General Ma Chun to try and negotiate with General Zuo Zongtang. He offered to surrender his stronghold to the Qing and provide assistance to the Qing dynasty in quelling the Dungan revolt. Zuo Zongtang suspected this all to be a ruse, but the Qing ordered him to abide by the mutual assistance and indeed Ma Zhan’ao did assist the Qing. Zuo Zongtang began to pacify other areas, while Ma Zhan’ao basically saved his people from annihilation. To this very day the area he controlled holds a muslim population who control the Linxia Hui autonomous prefecture. Many of Ma Zhan’ao’s generals like Ma Qianling and Ma Haiyan defected to the Qing, including his son Ma Anliang who proved themselves instrumental to helping Zuo Zongtangs campaign. As Zuo Zongtang pacified the areas he was soon awarded governor generalship over Shaanxi and Gansu. At this point Zuo Zongtang loosely followed a strategy of divide and conquer. Those Muslim groups part of the New Teaching he violently massacred, but those of the old teachings he tried to persuade defection to the Qing. The Qing government likewise began to make edicts stating the Muslim rebels did not represent all muslim chinese, just as all the White Lotus rebels back in the early part of the century did not represent all buddhists. They advocated the Muslim community take up the old teachings over the new teachings.

    With the help of the Dungan people of Hezhou Zuo Zongtang then turned his gaze west towards Xinjiang to defeat the forces of Yaqub Beg. Zuo Zongtang was now joined by defected Dungan armies led by Generals like Ma Anliang, Dong Fuxiang. By 1875 Zuo Zongtang had assembled men and supplies along the Gansu corridor and the next year began his campaign by attacking Urumchi where he massacres their garrison. Next he besieged Manas for over a month until they surrendered. Allegedly the garrison were allowed to march out of the city with weapons, but it seemed to Zuo Zongtang’s commanders in the field they were planning an armed break out so they were all put to the sword as well. The women and children were spared luckily. Zuo Zongtang established a HQ at Gucheng while the Russian Empire annexed the Khanate of Kokand, squeezing Yakub Beg further.

    In September of 1876, Yakub Beh received reports a Chinese army was on the march 700 miles to the east and he began to prepare his defenses. He built up fortifications at Turfan and in 1877 he was visited by Aleksey Kuropatkin. Kuropatkin was sent on a diplomatic mission to Yaqub Beg to try and resolve some Russian border claims over the Fergana Valley. Kuropatkin told him he had around 17,000 troops spread over the Fergana Valley region and that he could not hope to match them. Yaqub Beg was in a very bad situation. The Chinese army had entered Urumqi pretty much unopposed, many of his eastern forces were defecting over to the Qing and in the west they were defecting to the Russians. In the spring the Chinese attacked the fort of Davanchi which lay between Urumchi and Turfan. Simultaneously an army led by Chang Yao seized Pichuan just 50 miles east of Turfan. Yaqub Beg’s forces were shrinking from lost battles, desertions and defections. The Qing forces attacked Turfan where Yaqub Beg’s men were beaten badly, so he fled to Toksun. At Toksun the Qing pursued him quickly and defeated him again, so he fled to Karashar, and then Korla. All of the fleeing demoralized his troops causing further desertions and defections. It would be at Korla where Yaqub Beg died and historians are uncertain as to exactly how or when. The Qing claimed he died on May 22, while Aleksey Kuropatkin claimed it was May 29th. What he died of is a bit of a mystery. The Russians state he died of illness, multiple historians think it was poisoning. Some modern historians think it could have been a stroke. Regardless with Yaqub Beg dead this pretty much closed the curtain on his forces control over the area.

    In autumn of 1877, Zuo Zongtang had kept his forces around Turfan as it was the hot season and he wished to gather further supplies, when he received news of the death of Yaqub Beg. Yaqub Begs forces disorganized into multiple rebel groups without a real leader consolidating anything. Zuo Zongtang sent advance parties to occupy Karashar and Korla meeting limited resistance. Zuo Zongtans army pushed the rebels further west until he eventually seized Kashgar with barely a fight and this led notable cities like Yarkand and Kohtan to submit.

    Xinjiang was officially reconquered by the Qing. The rebel groups dissolved gradually and no large scale revolts would occur for some time in the northwest. In 1884 Xinjiang was established as a province officially again. Zuo Zongtangs Xiang army and other Han Chinese troops began purchasing Uyghur girls from their parents to take as wives, relying often on their Hui allies to work as translators. Countless Uyghur muslim women would be married off to Han Chinese in Xinjiang during the late 19th to early 20th century. This was not limited to Han Chinese under the Qing as plenty of Hindu, Armenians, Jews and Russians also did the same. A large rationale for the situation was the amount of male depopulation from the area which caused a vacuum of single women.

    The punishments for the leaders who caused the Dungan revolt were harsh. Many of the songs of the Muslim leaders were castrated by the Qing imperial household department once they hit 11 years of age and they were sent to work as eunuch slaves for Qing held garrisons in Xinjiang. Many of the wives of the Muslim leaders were likewise enslaved. To give you an idea of how prevalent this was, the Muslim leader Ma Guiyuan had 9 of his sons castrated by the Qing. The Muslim leaders themselves were mostly executed by Lingchi. Yaqub Beg and his son Ishana’s corpses were burned in public view. Yaqub had 4 other sons who died imprisoned at Lanzhou, Gansu or were killed by the Qing authorities upon discovery. Even Yaqub Beg’s grandchildren were hunted for, many of which were caught and executed or castrated.

    The Dungan revolt led to mass migration all over the place. Some Hui people fled to Russia, settling in places like Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Within the Qing dynasty, the Hui Generals who defected were all promoted by the Emperor such as Dong Fuxiang and Ma Anliang. The power of these pro Qing Hui forces would become quite important to the Qing military further down the road, particularly during the Boxer Rebellion.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    Well I hope you enjoyed my butchering of the Dungan Revolt, again I did my best to tell it in regards to its significance to the history of China. In reality it was part of something known as the “great game” that had had a long lasting impact on many other nations history.

  • Last time we spoke about the modernization efforts of Big Brother and Little Brother, aka China and Japan. Both nations went about the process of modernization in vastly different ways. Japan began its Meiji restoration, an incredible hyper modernization process done to thwart colonization by western powers. Yet China was hampered by hardline conservatives like Empress Dowager Cixi who sought instead to restore the Qing Dynasty’s symbolic grandeur over technological innovations such as railways. China’s greatest leaders like Zuo Zongtang, Zeng Guofan and Li Hongzhang did all they could to usher in some form of modernization. Li Hongzhang emerged as the champion of modernization efforts for China, but he kept butting heads with stubborn conservatives wishing instead to reclaim the Qing’s former symbolic glory.. It would not only be the conservatives in China he would have to face, for the Empire of the Rising Sun was growing, and forcing China into the shade.

    #37 This episode is China & Japan & the Hermit Kingdom

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    In the early 1860’s, before Emperor Meiji took to the throne, the Japanese sought to establish diplomatic relations with China. The Japanese regarded China as an enormous nation that could provide markets for their merchants, but more importantly, China could cooperate with Japan in the face of Western challenges. Who better to help thwart off the west, than Big Brother? In October of 1870, the Japanese official Date Munenari went to Tianjin to meet Li Hongzhang to see if they could open formal diplomatic relations. Li Hongzhang believed in the value of establishing relations with Japan and the importance for China to modernize and self-strengthen. Li Hongzhang admired Japan for preventing westerners from invading their nation and limiting the activities of westerners within her borders. The meeting was a cordial one, both sides saw common interest in working together to resist the west.

    In 1871 on September 13th, Li Hongzhang and Date Munenari signed the Friendship and Trade Treaty, the first diplomatic document between China and Japan in modern history. Li Hongzhang agreed that the two nations would not launch aggression against another and that if either nation were involved in a conflict with an outside power the other would come to their assistance. It sounded a lot like Pan-Asia unity was atleast on its way, but before the treaty could be ratified the Japanese tried to eliminate the clause to provide assistance and added a new clause, that Japan would be given most favored nation, thus giving Japan the same rights that the western nations had forced upon China, yes it was an unequal treaty clause. As you can imagine Li Hongzhang was greatly annoyed by this and delayed the ratification to try and get the Japanese to back down. By May of 1873 the Japanese yielded, accepting the mutual assistance clause and abandoned the most favored nation clause. Leaders of China and Japan than expressed that their nations shared common culture and were a common race “Tongwen, Tongzu - Dobun, Doshu” and thus they shared an interest in working together to respond to the threat of the west.

    When this treaty was signed, the Iwakura mission had not yet returned to Japan, but Emperor Meiji had assigned Japans foreign minister, Soejima Taneoimi to go to China to learn about her position on the issue of the Ryukyus and Taiwan. Japan had interests in them and knew this would lead to conflict with the Qing. Soejima was an expert on the Chinese classics and skilled at Chinese poetry. Thus when he went over and the Chinese hosts began to make it clear Japan was in a supplicant relationship with China because she held the Chinese emperor, Soejima used his knowledge to wedge Japan into a special position. He came to Tianjin and met with Li Hongzhang. Famously when they met, Li Hongzhang was in traditional clothing, while Soejima was in western attire and Li criticized him for this. Soejima then went to Beijing and waited several days trying to get an audience with high level Qing officials. The Qing were greatly angered by Japanese attempt to get most favored nation status in the treaty. Thus they were really trying to hammer in that Japan was the supplicant to China. Soejima was upset at the condescension with which he was treated. He quoted the Duke of Zhou stating to the Qing “If you treat [foreigners] as barbarians, they will be just that, but if you treat them as true gentlemen, they will indeed become true gentlemen.” Soejima was the first Japanese person in modern times to meet the Qing emperor. Prince Gong greeted him and told Soejima he would not have to kowtow before the emperor. The kowtow issue had actually been resolved because Western diplomats had made too many problems of it, by proxy Japan would not have to either. The Qing made an effort to show respect to Soejima by seeing him before other foreign diplomats and allowed him to bow just 3 times. Soejima was wine and dined by Li Hongzhang in Tianjin later, it was extremely cordial and there was goodwill between the men. Soejima’s experience in China had him returning to Japan confident that China would not stop Japan from expanding her trading activities in the Ryukyus and China.

    Japan then prepared a legation staff to China and established a formal diplomatic office in Beijing with Mori Arinori as the ambassador. Li Hongzhang advocated that Beijing should establish a legation in Japan, arguing that if China had had a legation there they could have prevented Japan from attacking Taiwan in 1874. China’s legation staff would arrive in Tokyo in december of 1877, again slow to the mark. Li Hongzhang was cautious about Japanese intentions now and in 1876 met with Mori Arinori. They shared concerns over Russian advances and Li Hongzhang suggested to Mori Arinori that their nations should cooperate on matters in Korea.

    Japan was focusing efforts to strengthen its northern island against possible Russian threats. They viewed Sakhalin, Manchuria and Korea to be regions of national security concern. While Japan worried about Russia encroaching on Hokkaido from the sea, China worried about Russia encroaching on its northeast region. Although the trans-siberian railway only began construction in 1891 their efforts to settle people across Siberia in preparation for its construction began much earlier. The Qing had not allowed non Manchu people to reside in their homeland of Manchuria since conquering the Ming dynasty centuries before. To strengthen resistance against Russia, in 1878 the Qing changed their immigration policy to allow and even encourage non-Manchu to come to Manchuria. Within a few years many migrants came from various parts of China to settle in Manchuria. Japan likewise was sending settlers to develop Hokkaido, but unlike Japan, the Qing had no real development plans to modernize manchuria.

    Soon after Hokkaido began being developed the Japanese next move was to gain control over the Ryukyu islands south of Japan's 4 main islands. This would be the first real tension between Japan and China. From 1862 to the mid 1870s Japan had concentrated on defense and thus things revolved around her 4 main islands. After the mid 1870s however, Japan gained in strength and began to expand their defensive perimeter. The Ryukyu, in Chinese “the Liuqui Kingdom” was led by indigenous peoples who oversaw the small islands stretching between Kyushu and Taiwan. The Ryukyu kingdom tried to fight for its independence by showing good will to both China and Japan and this brought Qing and Tokugawa presence. The Ryukyu kingdom maintained Chinese and Japanese emissaries who came regularly, but never at the same time. The Ryukyu kingdom paid tribute to China and traded with her, thus was influenced heavily by her. However culturally the Ryukyu were closer to Japan and Satsuma domain in particular had a large influence on her.

    From 1871 to 1874, Japan used a shipwreck incident involving some Ryukyu fisherman off the coast of Taiwan to strengthen her rights to govern the Ryukyu islands. In 1871 Ryukyu fisherman in 4 small boats got stuck in a typhoon sinking 1, shipwrecking 2 and 1 remained afloat. The survivors made their way ashore on Taiwan where 44 of them were killed by Taiwanese aboriginals. 12 fisherman survived and escaped aboard their last boat back to the Ryukyus. At this time Taiwan was under the control of Fujian province and the Japanese government demanded China compensate the fisherman. This inherently was also the Japanese government claiming the Ryukyu islands to belong to them. For two years the issue went unresolved and in 1874 Japan launched a punitive expedition led by Saigo Tsugumichi, the brother to the famous last Samurai Saigo Takamori. If you are interested in the story of Saigo by the way over at the Pacific War channel I have an episode dedicated to the Satsuma Rebellion, what inspired the film the Last Samurai, though that movie is sort of a mix between the Boshin War and the Satsuma rebellion, still good movie just not historically accurate. Well the Qing officials explained to the Japanese that the Taiwanese were not technically under Qing control and that the Ryukyu islands were actually under Qing jurisdiction. The Japanese expeditionary forces remained on Taiwan, intentionally to intimidate China.

    Soejima and the official Okubo Toshimichi went to China to discuss the issue and under pressure the Qing officials agreed to pay compensation to Japan for the Ryukyu sailors, but later stated they were unaware the payment would also provide Japan with support for her claim over the Ryukyu islands. Li Hongzhang was livid over this betrayal and stated that while the Europeans were at least honest in their negotiations, the Japanese were duplicitous. By the mid 1870’s the Japanese and Chinese militaries both increased their presence in the Ryukyus. Then in 1879 during the process of abolishing the old feudal domains to replace them with prefectures, Japan officially recognized the Ryukyu islands as the prefecture we know today as Okinawa. Japan followed this up by ordering Okinawa to stop sending tribute to China. Now Li Hongzhang had supported relations with Japan, even with their incursions in Taiwan in 1874 and their swindle of treaty deals, but in 1880 China refused Japan’s official proposal concerning the Ryukyus. China however did not follow this up militarily.

    The problems between China and Japan would only worsen and it would be Korea stuck in the middle. Japan’s interests in Korea were both for security and economic. Of all the territories near Japan, Korea was the most significant strategic area. She was in the vortex of Russia, China and Japan. Korea had also been the crux of two military clashes between Japan and China in 661-663 and 1592-1598. Alongside that Korea had been the staging area for the failed Mongol invasions of Japan in 1274-1281. The German military adviser to Japan, Major Jacob Meckle stated that Korea was “a dagger thrust at the heart of Japan” and this had a profound effect on Japanese strategists. Japan was concerned other nations, like Russia, would use Korea as a base from which to attack Japan. Yet if Japan could establish a military presence on the peninsula, well that would prevent this from ever occurring.

    Historically Japan had dealt with Korea, better called the Joseon dynasty through the Tsushima islands and Pusan island. Both Korea and Japan took up isolationist policies and much like Nagisaki acted as Japan’s open port for so long, Korea kept Pusan as its open port. During the Sakoku period, Japan gave the Tsushima domain the responsibility of dealing with Korea. There had always been limited trade between the two nations, but things certainly changed after Japan kicked off its Meiji restoration. Japan had looked to nations like Britain as an example of how to build a strong economy. This led Japanese officials to seek a relationship like Britain had when it came to economic activity. To manufacture products, sell it to its colonies and build up its own economy. Their idea for this was to import soybeans and wheat from Korea and sell Korea industrial products. Initially Japan’s only major export was raw silk, so they decided to try exporting silk textiles. In late 1869 a Japanese representative from Tsushima was sent to Pusan to announce Japan was to have a new emperor, standard stuff. What was not standard however was in the letter sent to the Koreans the term for the Japanese emperor used the Ko character rather than Taikun. The Ko character was used to refer to the Qing emperor, implying the Joseon Dynasty’s emperor was inferior. By using the Ko character for the Japanese emperor, Japan was trying to establish the same relationship. And so the Korean officials refused to receive the new representative and his mission as a result. The Koreans wanted to remain in the sinocentric world as tributaries to the Qing.

    This fiasco led to the legendary Seikanron debates, in which Saigo Takamori argued Japan should perform a punitive expedition against Korea, again if you want to hear more about that hilarious tale check out my Satsuma Rebellion episode on the Pacific War channel. Long story short, the Japanese leadership knew they were not yet strong enough to embark on such a venture so they blocked Saigo’s motion. Now Japan did not simply give up on the Korean situation, they kept trying to send envoys to force Korea to recognize the equality between Japan and China. In the meantime in 1875, the steam gunboat Un’yo under the command of Inoue Yoshika was dispatched to survey the Korean coastal water. On the morning of September the 20th, Inoue put ashore a party on the island of Ganghwa to request water and provisions and here came a major conflict. Ganghwa had quite recently been the place of two major conflicts, a French expedition against Korea occurred in 1871 and an American expedition the same year. Thus the men manning the fortifications at Ganghwa were trigger happy with fresh memories of what foreign ships could do to them. When the Japanese came ashore, the Korean shore batteries fired upon the Un’yo.

    The Japanese as you might imagine were really pissed off and they quickly dispatched 32 men, 10 marines, 19 sailors and 3 officers to attack Yeongjong fort. The men landed near the eastern gate of the fortress and immediately white coated Joseon defenders began firing their antiquated matchlocks and some arrows down upon the Japanese. A Japanese sailor was wounded by a matchlock ball and another was hit in the groin by an arrow. The Japanese pressed their attack climbing over a wall to open the gates as their marines rushed into the fort. The Un’yo fired its 6.3 in and 5.5 in deck guns to support the assault. The Koreans tried to flee through their western gate only to run into 6 Japanese sailors who ambushed them. Kawamura Kwanshu, a Japanese officer present had this to say "they clambered down the steep bank on the south-eastern side, and in hopes of escaping to the opposite island … they stripped off their clothes and plunged into the sea. Unfortunately, the tide was high and too deep to wade across. Many of them hesitated and we fired on them without mercy ― 24 Koreans were killed on the rocks and many more drowned trying to swim to safety. Only six or seven were seen making it safely ashore on the distant island.” The commander of the fort, Yi Min-dok managed to escape as the Japanese plundered the fort which Kawamura tells us " We took 36 bronze cannons and a drum nearly 6 feet in diameter. In addition to this there were four drums three feet in diameter. Their trumpets were very like toy trumpets used by children in Japan. Their bows also were very like the Japanese. Their arrows were exactly like those in Japan. The swords were numerous, but they must have been bought in Japan. The guns were all matchlocks. Among the booty was a French book on gunnery translated into Chinese." Many Koreans were captured and they were forced to carry the plunder to the Un’yo as the Rising Sun flag was raised over the fort. The Japanese held the island awaiting a challenge from Korea, but none came. The next day the Un’yo returned to Japan leaving Yeongjong in ruins. The entire ordeal turned into an implicit threat to Korea, if they refused to recognize Japan’s claim and open up relations Japan would use its military might.

    Within Japan, the Korea incidents had gone hand in hand with the Satsuma rebellion of 1877 to push the Japanese public to support military action in Korea. The Meiji leadership were under pressure, but they hoped to avoid conflict by resolving such problems through diplomacy. Li Hongzhang perceived that if Japan were to invade Korea, this might provoke Russia to respond and thus China also wanted to resolve such issues through diplomacy. The Qing dynasty officially held suzerainty over the Joseon Dynasty, thus they held the right to approve Korea’s foreign policy decisions but not to interfere with her domestic affairs. For centuries China held this right, but did not exercise it. Then in 1875, Mori Arinori was sent to Beijing seeking Qing support to open trade between Japan and Korea. Mori Arinori met with the Qing office for general management of affairs concerning the various countries, what a mouthful, known as the Zongli Yamen. The Zongli Yamen officials stated while Korea was a Chinese dependency, China still could not interfere with her domestic affairs and thus could not demand she open up trade with Japan. So the next year Mori Arinori met with Li Hongzhang over the issue and both men sought a peaceful agreement. Mori Arinori advocated for Korea to be treated under international law as a sovereign state.

    Now Ito Hirobumi the rising political leader of Japan during this time believed progress could not be made opening Korea up by working with the Qing. He urged his colleagues that Japan should work with Korea directly instead. Korea at this time was going through some major changes as well. The young Emperor Gojong turned 21 years old in 1873 and replaced his father Yi Ha-eung who was the Heungseon Daewongun, basically a regent ruling the dynasty. His father was a conservative with a very simple foreign policy it went like this according to the American Historian Bruce Cummings “no treaties, no trade, no catholics, no west and no Japan”. Yes the Daewongun liked his isolationist policy and he was not wrong about doing so. By keeping Korea as bottled up as possible he was able to keep the western powers arguably out for quite some time. However the problem with this was while keeping the west out you were also hindering chances at modernization and an industrial revolution. Korea was known as the Hermit Kingdom and while she tried her best to keep the world out, the world eventually would come crashing in.

    When Gojong came into power in 1873, unlike his father he was much more willing to consider opening up and working with the Japanese. Now alongside Gojong was his wife, the famous Empress Myeongseong, also called Empress Min. She was born to the Yeoheung Min Clan in 1851. They were a noble clan who historically held high positions in the Joseon dynasty. She lost her father at age 7 and was raised by her mother and other Min relatives. When Gojong turned 15, his father sought a wife for him. He wanted someone with no close relatives so she could not harbor much political ambitions, but came from a noble lineage. He rejected many, until he found the orphaned Min who was beautiful and of ordinary level of education. She was married to Gojong and after Daewongun realized the empress had political ambitions. Daewongun had this to say of her “she was a woman of great determination and poise”, despite this he paid little mind to her and things moved on. Empress Min would quickly ruffle feathers so to speak. She showed herself to be very assertive and ambitious. She did not toss lavish parties for the nobles nor participated in the normal extravagant lifestyle, you know wine and dining, tea parties with the princes and princesses all that jazz you see in the Crown. No instead she spent a lot of her time self educating, reading books reserved for men. She studied history, science, politics, the works.

    By the age of 20 she began trying to play an active role in politics in spite of the Daewongun and other officials trying to stop her. She then bore child prematurely who died 4 days after birth. This prompted the Daewongun to state publicly that she was unable to bear a healthy male child, which became quite a public scandal. Queen Min even suspected her father in law had slipped her ginseng to cause her pregnancy issues. Daewongun proceeded to push his son to conceive a child through a concubine called Yi Gwi-in and she soon gave birth to Prince Wanhwa. Daewongun quickly tossed the title of crown prince upon the child and it looked like the jig was up for Empress Min.

    However Empress Min secretly began to form a powerful faction against the Daewongun. The faction included high officials, scholars, members of the Min Clan and they made a move to remove the Daewongun from power. Empress Min’s adoptive older brother, Min Seung-Ho along with the Joseon court scholar Choe Ik-Hyeon formally impeached the Daewongun arguing that Gojong, then age 22 should rule in his own right. The royal council agreed to this and Daewongun was forced to retire. The second he was out of the picture, Empress Min banished Yi Gwi-in and her child to a village outside the capital and stripped them of royal titles. The child also died on january 12th of 1880. Now Empress Min had control over the Joseon court and quickly appointed trusted family members in high court positions to assert her dominant role as Queen consort. So yeah she was a firebrand of a woman, a very interesting character, I do apologize my knowledge of Korean history is limited, but I do recommend if you are into Korean tv series there are quite a few on her like Empress Myeongseong from 2001.

    Now just a few months after the Un’yo incident, Japan sent an emissary to Korea to push a treaty. It was the exact same type of situation Japan faced when Commodore Matthew Perry’s blackships, gunboat diplomacy. King Gojong signed what became known as the Ganghwa Treaty: this opened up 3 Korean ports to Japan, one at Pusan right away, one Wonsan in 1880 and another at Inchon and 1883. The treaty was an unequal treaty, very much in the same light as the ones forced upon Japan by western nations. The treaty had ended the Joseon dynasties tributary status under the Qing dynasty now she was an independent state. The Chinese were now suspecting Japan sought a presence on the peninsula and Li Hongzhang openly expressed fears that Japan might develop territorial ambitions on the mainland. The Chinese and Japanese continued talks about cooperation against the West, especially Russia, but they were also now quite wary of another.

    Now Korea was not idle during all of this and her officials sought a way to secure her. King Gojong sent a mission to Japan headed by Kim Hong-jip. Kim Hong-jip was presented a plan by a Chinese diplomat named Huang Zunxian there called “a strategy for Korea”. It warned that if Korea was threatened by an empire like Russia, Korea should maintain friendly relations with Japan, China and seek an alliance with the United States to counterweight Russia. Kim reported this to King Gojong who was impressed with the plan. Then in 1880 following the Chinese advice King Gojong established diplomatic ties with the US. Negotiations began between all the nations in Tianjin and the Treaty of Peace, Amity, Commerce and navigation was signed by Korea and the US. However during the negotiations, issues rose up. The Chinese insisted that Korea was not independent and still a dependency of China. America firmly opposed such a thing, stating the new treaty should build upon the Treaty of Ganghwa which stipulated Korea as an independent state. A compromise was made between China and the US stipulating that Korea held a special status as a tributary state of China.

    Now as of 1879, China had given Li Hongzhang responsibility for relations with Korea. Li Hongzhang urged Korean officials to adopt China’s self-strengthening program to do the same for their nation in response to foreign threats. Korea after all had just opened herself to the world and now would pursue modernization under a doctrine known as tongdo sogi “eastern wars and western machines”. To modernize Korea would incorporate western technology while trying to preserve her culture, it was much alike to the Meiji restoration. In 1881 Korea established the T’ongni kimu amun “office for extraordinary affairs” modeled on the Qing administrative structures. That same year a mission was sent to Japan to see their modernized factories, military, and education system. Korea then hired a Japanese military attache, Lt Horimoto Reizo to help create a modern army for Korea. This led to the Pyolgigun “special skills force”, where around 100 men of Korea’s aristocracy were given Japanese military training.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    Trouble was brewing between the Qing dynasty and the Empire of the Rising Sun. It seemed the Hermit Kingdom of Korea was a continuous source of conflict for the two empires, and perhaps might drag them into a war that would change the balance of power in Asia forever

  • Last time we spoke the Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace, Tianjing had finally fallen to the forces of Zeng Guofan and his Xiang army. Hong Xiuquan, the self proclaimed brother of Jesus was dead. All the remaining Taiping Kings and Hong’s son were hunted down and executed. History's bloodiest civil war was over, claiming the lives of 20-30 million people. Yet this civil war was just one event amongst many simultaneously occurring in the Qing dynasty. Foreign encroachment and internal strife were breaking down the dynasty brick by brick. China was facing an uncomfortable situation, she had to modernize to survive against threats abroad and within. Another nation, just across the sea, faced the same cataclysm, but would undergo a vastly different approach. Henceforth the two nations, China Big Brother and Japan, little brother, would never be the same again.

    #36 This episode is China & Japan: Big Brother & Little Brother

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    Now I want to say this right off the bat, for those of you who are fans of my Youtube channel and have seen my content, you already know my background from the beginning was more so the history of Japan. It was in fact my love of Japanese history that led me to the history of China and I think that says something about these two nations. You simply cannot speak about one's history without the other. I could delve deeply into the opening of Japan, its turbulent Bakumatsu period, my personal favorite, the Boshin war, the Meiji restoration, the Satsuma rebellion, etc etc. But this podcast is about the Fall and Rise of China. While my personal channel deals with both nations trying to give an equal amount of narrative to explain both their developments, I want to try my very best to keep it to the hip so to say. If you want more details about the historic events of Japan from 1600-1890 or so, check out my personal channel or perhaps become a Patreon over at www.patreon.com/pacificwarchannel and scream at me to do some podcasts in depth on those subjects, I certainly would love to dabble more into it, like for example a podcast dedicated to the Shinsengumi, the samurai police who fought to the bitter end to defend the Tokugawa shogunate during its death throes, just an idea.

    The last time we spoke, I went over the end of the Taiping Rebellion, a momentous part of the history of Modern China. I literally sighed with relief upon completing that large series….then I stared at a blank page. Where do I even begin now? The first thing that came to my mind is how to explain what occurred to both China and Japan in the mid 19th century. Both nations were forced to modernize lest they become colonized by foreign powers. For China this was brutal, she was quite literally being carved up, but for Japan who had spent 265 years almost completely isolated under her Sakoku policy, she was opened up, went through hyper modernization and thwarted colonization as a result. Japan’s story is quite different for numerous reasons, major ones being that she got the enormous benefit of seeing what was happening to China and learnt directly from China’s predicament.

    After the west defeated China during the Opium Wars and Commodore Perry opened up Japan in 1853, Asia could no longer maintain a separate existence. Both nations were forced to begin the process of becoming part of the world. Japan had many natural advantages over China. She was made up of 4 islands, very compact, sea transportation was widely available, her communications did not have to link very far. China would only get its first telegraph in the 1880s, and it took their governmental communications nearly a month to travel from one end of the country to the other. Japan being an island had always felt vulnerable to dangers from the sea. This sense of danger prompted Japan to seek knowledge of the outside world to protect herself. Chinese leaders had to worry about enemies coming over land from multiple directions, thus they were less concerned about the seas. Japan, had isolated herself for 265 years, while China had become the literal pinnacle of civilization, hoarding the worlds silver. Thus as you can imagine Japanese leadership were not as confident as the Chinese who saw themselves on top of the world, and you know that saying or the game, king of the mountain? Well its hard to sometimes see people coming after you when your on top. Japan was also more homogeneous, whereas China had hundreds of differing people, Han, Manchu’s, Mongols, Uighurs, Tibetans, etc. Unifying such people and maintaining domestic harmony was pretty much impossible. China was also undergoing a population boom in the 19th century alongside massive food shortages. This led to the terrible rebellions such as the Taiping Rebellion, I think we covered that one pretty well, the Nian Rebellion which we talked about a little bit, but of course there were others. So I think we all know now the Taiping Rebellion encompassed many issues ongoing in China. For the Nian rebellion, it occurred mostly in the north and was basically peasants banding together to survive. Natural disasters had taken a toll, food was scarce and when bad times come, especially in China, bandits begin to roam. To fight off the bandits the Nian formed militias, but as you might imagine the Qing saw this and freaked out. The main purpose of the Nian was survival and resisting taxation, something I personally can subscribe to haha. Inevitably the Nian looted and raided as a means to keep their group going on, clashing with bandits, the Qing and other rebel groups like the Taiping. Much like the Taiping, the Nian failed to topple the Qing dynasty and were quelled gradually through the Qing ruthless campaigns that used scorched earth tactics. The Nian also were in the north and thus faced the forces of Mongol general Senggelinqin. Seng defeated the Nian and killed their greatest leader Zhang Lexing in 1863 from which the never recovered. After the 2nd opium war was done, the Qing simply were more able to deal with the internal rebellions, and the Nian unfortunately were close to Beijing and not as formidable as the Taiping.

    Now while all that was going on, multiple muslim rebellions occurred. There was the Hui Muslim backed Panthay Rebellion in southwestern China, mostly in Yunnan province. Panthay is the Burmese word used by Burmese for Chinese muslims who arrived from Burma to Yunnan. They were fighting discrimination and like many other rebellions during this time, they saw the Manchu weakened as a result of the opium wars and decided there was an opportunity to become independent. By the way while I am referring to this as a quote muslim rebellion it was not at all exclusively muslim, many non-muslims joined them such as the Shan and Kachin people of Burma. Once the Taiping were dealt the Qing had a stronger hand south and gradually quelled them by 1868.

    To the northwest of China came the Dungan revolts led mostly by Hui muslim chinese in Shaanxi, Gansu and Ningxia provinces. These revolts raged from 1862-1877 and they began from conflicts between Hui and Han chinese. It was a terrible time leading to massacres, famines, massive migrations of people, plagues, simply awful stuff. In northwest China its estimated something like 21 million people died. Zuo Zongtang, a subordinate of Zeng Guofan rose to prominence and created his own army based on the Xiang model called the “chu army”. He largely was responsible for quelling the Dungan revolts.

    So ye China was dealing with a lot. The 1860’s in general were a turning point for China and Japan. Both nations gained new governing structures and resumed official contacts with another for the first time in over 2 centuries. For Japan the 1860’s were part of what is called the Bakumatsu period, its this very messy point in their history where the leadership of Japan was frantically trying to figure out how to save themselves from colonization. Over in China the 1860’s leads us into a period known as the Tongzhi restoration named after the new emperor. The Taiping by the early 1860’s were on a steady decline and this gave the Qing leadership finally a moment to try and rebuild national strength. For Japan this period saw the Shogun being overthrown in 1868, and this also led to a bitter war called the Boshin war of 1868-1869. One of my personal favorite wars by the way, I have an episode on it over on my personal channel the Pacific War channel if you want the full rundown and a ton of Chimbara film clips to give it flavor. To brutally summarize, there was a call to end the Tokugawa shogunate, they even gave the Tokugawa family a great severance package, but the Shogun did not go down without a fight. Loyal hans and the Shinsengumi fought to retain the SHogunate while the hans of Satsuma/Choshu and Tosa rose up and defeated them. After the shogunate was dissolved Japan went into the Meiji restoration, which I also have a full episode on sorry for the plug ins over at my Youtube. I perhaps will get into it later, but to summarize the Meiji restoration is the greatest feat of Modernization I would say in human history. Its a hyper modernization process where Japan took the very best aspects of the outside world, while trying to retain important parts of their own culture to mold Japan into a modern state. They were extremely successful and as a result achieved the number one goal of the Meiji restoration, thwarting colonization. The Japanese had resolutely responded to the challenges from the west.

    As for China, with the death of Emperor Xianfeng in 1861 came the enthronement of Emperor Tongzhi at the age of 5. The Qing leadership were eager to restore the social order that had been severely damaged by the Taiping Rebellion, the Second Opium War and countless other rebellions. Xianfeng who died at the age of 30 was considered a failed emperor and I mean I would have to strongly agree. The guy spent all his time getting high, messing with his harem and fled the capital, never returning to it. China had been left in a disastrous state, but with the defeat of the Taiping came new leadership. That leadership was not Emperor Tongzhi, but rather a mix of Prince Gong and Empress Dowager Cixi. The Empress Dowager proved to be very skilled in managing court politics and quickly became the dominant power during the Tongzhi period and that power would last basically until her death in 1908.

    Prince Gong and other officials realized that to cope with the foreigners, new skills and new technology, especially that of shipping and weaponry would be required. But many Qing officials remained focused on cultivating the moral qualities that they considered essential for national vitality. Empress Dowager Cixi and many Qing officials believed that the essence of China’s problems stemmed from the loss of a true confucian spirit. To address this problem, they sought to restore the importance of the imperial examination system and to eliminate the major corrupt issue that had emerged, that of buying and selling offices. As I had pointed out in the Opium War series, while in the past the integrity of the Qing dynasty and the other dynasties before it lay in officials being appointed by the merits after taking the imperial examination, starting around the 19th century this kinda fell apart. Officials were gradually purchasing their appointments and other high ranking officials began selling appointments, such as the Cohong merchants who basically inherited an incredible debt upon taking their role and were expected to extort funds back to their backers. The Qing dynasty was extremely corrupt and would just keep getting worse and worse. Cixi valued the importance of symbolism and undertook the building of the new summer palace after it was burnt down during the 2nd opium war. Her name would infamously be attached to the building of the summer palace which was unbelievably expensive. Many accusations and myths for that matter would involve Cixi utilizing funds for necessities of the empire instead for the palace.

    Now in 1861, China launched a self-strengthening movement. This focused upon training troops, building their ships and producing their own weaponry. Self-strengthening movements were not new to China, they had been seen countless times such as when the Ming began seeking foreign aid to fend off the Qing invasion all the way back in the 16th century. Now as we saw during the end half of the Taiping rebellion series, Zeng Guofan tackled self-strengthening head on. One of Zeng Guofans scholar colleagues was a man named Feng Guifen who had sent him a series of essays in 1861 highlighting the issue of self-strengthening. Feng spent considerable time focusing on studying warfare against the Taiping, specifically in the east around Shanghai. He was very impressed by the western military technology present there and would often write to Zeng Guofan about it. Likewise Zeng Guofan wrote in his diaries about self-strengthening and how western technology could be used to defend China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Zeng Guofan’s second hand man, Li Hongzhang likewise wrote of self strengthening during this time period and identified how Western power lied upon their technology and that China must learn to construct the same machines they did. He advocated first to apply this to the military, but gradually it must also apply to industry at large.

    As we saw during the Taiping Rebellion, there was a large struggle by both the Qing and Taiping to get their hands on western arms. Zeng Guofan purchased many western arms for his Xiang army and the Qing famously employed the EVA forces. By 1860 the majority of Qing leadership types including the scholar class were aware they had to move with the times and study western technology. By 1861 China officially began a self strengthening movement which can be seen to have three phases the first going from around 1861-1872, the second from 1872-1885 and the third from 1885-1895. The first phase focused on training of troops, building ships and the production of arms. With support from Prince Gong, Zeng Guofan, Li Hongzhang, Zuo Zongtang and other officials began major projects. Zeng Guofan established a arsenal in Shanghai, Li Hongzhang built one in Nanjing and Tianjin and Zuo Zongtang built a dockyard at Fuzhou. The arsenals were created with help from foreign advisors and administrators who also set up schools for the study of specific sciences like mechanics. The Qing government likewise created the “Tongwen Guan” “school of combined learning” in Beijing. The purpose of the school was initially to teach foreign languages, but it would gradually expand course curriculum towards astronomy, mathematics, chemistry, medicine and so on. The school would begin a transformative process and lead to the construction of similar schools. Li Hongzhang for example would go on to create language schools in shanghai, Guangzhou and Fuzhou pioneering western studies.

    Zeng, Li and Zuo initially used foreign workers to build up their factories and arms, until their own native chinese could learn the skills necessary to replicate the processes. At Li Hongzhangs Jiangnan arsenal they began producing Remington breech loading rifles. They began production in 1871 and by 1873 produced 4200 rifles. The rifles were expensive to make and inferior to actual remington arms, but it was a start. The naval dockyards at Fuzhou amongst others had a much more difficult job ahead of them. By the time they began producing ships, they turned out to be twice as expensive than simply purchasing ships from Britain. This led China to purchase more ships to meet the demand and by the 1880s China would be purchasing and creating more ships than Japan. Also in the 1880s Li Hongzhang established the CHina Merchants steam navigation company to help China create its own commercial shipping, something necessary for modern trade. Another big process of modernization in the 19th century was of course, trains. Chinese laborers famously traveled to north american to help build the great railroad systems in both the United States and Canada. This prompted Qing officials to advocate for the same thing in China, famous figures like Lin Zexu and Hong Rengang called for this. However the hardline conservative types, most notably Empress Dowager Cixi were very reluctant about steam engine technology and that of trains. There were various reasons they were wary over railroad development. In 1865 a British merchant built a 600 meter long railroad outside Xuanwu Gate in Beijing to demonstrate the technology to the Qing imperial court. The courts reactions was mixed, they were certainly impressed by its functionality, but also found it very noisy and strange, so they had it quickly dismantled. It would not be until 1876 when the first railroad was established known as the Woosung road. It went from the American concession in Shanghai to Woosung, present day Zhabei district. It was built by Jardine Matheson & co, the nefarious company that had sunk its teeth into China since the first days of opium smuggling began under it. The construction of the railroad was done without approval from the Qing government and thus would get dismantled the next year.

    Then in 1881 another railway was created, the Kaiping Tramway and Imperial Railways of north china. British engineer Claude William Kinder spearhead the project with the support of Li Hongzhang, creating a line from Tangshan to Xugezhuang. It would expand eventually to Tianjin in 1888 and Shanhaiguan by 1894. It got the name Guanneiwai railway and was met with multiple attempts by conservative Qing officials to be dismantled. Famously Empress Dowager Cixi fought against Li Hongzhang who persisted to tell her railways were necessary to advance China. She was against their construction because she believed their noise would disturb the emperors tombs. Li Hongzhang tried everything he could to get her on board and at one point she tried to compromise with him asking if the train carts could be horse drawn instead. Yet despite her rather hilarious attempts to thwart railway construction by the 1890s great railways were created to link up eastern and central China.

    Now over in Japan, after the Boshin War was over, Japan famously sent a mission out to the west known as the Iwakura Mission of 1871-1873. The purpose of the mission was to study the most important aspects of the west from the most powerful nations. The diplomats and students that went on the mission would become key leaders in the new Meiji government of Japan driving the restoration. China also performed its own Iwakura Mission, but it was not as large in scale, and those who went on it did not exactly end up being the great drivers of modernization like their Japanese counterparts were.

    Three years before the Iwakura mission, a Chinese delegation known as the Burlingame Mission arrived in the United States. The delegation extended its journey to Britain, France, Prussia, Russia and visited smaller nations briefly before returning to China in 1870. The purpose of the delegation was to investigate how westerners conducted diplomacy so the Qing could figure out a means to get rid of the unequal treaties. It was the very same reason the Japanese would send their Iwakura mission. Anson Burlingame, a US minister and envoy to Beijing was appointed by the Qing to lead the delegation. Around 30 members attended the mission, and in 1870 Burlingame died of Pneumonia forcing two of the Chinese delegates, Zhigang and Sun Jiagu to take the reins of it. They met with heads of state, visited factories, shipyards, mines, all things big industry. They got to see electricity, machinery many scientific wonders, but also the plight of their own people. Yes they got to witness the conditions Chinese workers went through on the railways in places like California. They saw Chinese going into mines and not coming back out. This prompted some delegates to ask the question “why do Christian missionaries who do such good work in China, bully Chinese workers in California?”. The delegate Zhigang would publish some of these observations in a book giving very harrowing accounts.

    Another delegate, Zeng Jize, the eldest son of Zeng Guofan came back with extremely positive opinions of everything he saw in the west and was met with harsh criticism from conservative officials for being too sympathetic towards foreign customs. Li Hongzhang and other officials however grabbed the delegates when they got back to China, extremely eager to hear all about what they had seen. Li Hongzhang was particularly interested in the political and economic aspects of the west. Empress Dowager Cixi personally met with some delegates when they got back asking questions about things happening aboard. Even the conservative types were gravely concerned with how things were moving in the west. But the end result did not lead to a Meiji restoration. While Japanese leaders were investing in industry and infrastructure, Chinese leaders were looking to restore their national spirit instead. Its hard to blame the Qing leaders, unlike Japan who largely avoided conflict with the west, though there were a few fights in Satsuma against the British for example, well the Qing was like an old boxer who just got KO’d a few times too many. The opium wars and internal rebellions had destroyed the Chinese public's faith in their government, the fabric of the mandate of heaven was unraveling. So instead of putting all the money into industry, many projects were enacted to re-envigorate the grandeur of the Qing.As I had said, the Empress Dowager Cixi famously invested incredible sums of money to renovate the Summer Palace in Beijing. Infamously she took funds intended for modernizing the navy and used them to build a marble boat pavilion at the summer palace.

    Li Hongzhang believed in addition to the factories, arsenals and shipyards, China needed to update its school system and wanted to send students abroad just like Japan was doing. He also advocated that the civil service exams should offer technical knowledge alongside the cultural knowledge and he was met with large scale protest. By 1885 conservatives in Beijing began cracking down on the modernization. So while Chinese students stayed for the most part in China, Japan sent countless aboard to learn everything they could from the west. Now the Iwakura mission that went to the west also came to China on its way back. After witnessing 15 nations and all their wonders, they came to Shanghai where they spent 3 days. They were hosted by the Shanghai official Chen Fuxun and they were shocked by what they saw in the city. That shock was at the lack of change, the travelers who had grown up in a world where China was Big Brother were shocked that big brother seemed to have fallen behind. Kume Kunitake, the chief chronicler of the voyage said this of his first impressions of Shanghai “There are no sewers, and urine flows along the streets. Amid all this, the inhabitants seem quite unconcerned.” Believing that the Japanese were harboring illusions about Chinese sophistication based on the past, he tried to correct the view of his countrymen who “regarded every Chinese to be a refined gentleman well versed in literature and the arts. Thus [in Japan] the custom still persists of holding any curios, calligraphy, paintings, poetry or literature from China in high esteem. . . . Under the Qing dynasty, learning has been stagnant in China.” The members of the Iwakura mission had all studied history and knew of the great Tang dynasty and the greatest of China, but now in 1873 they thought there was very little to learn from her anymore. They shared a kinship with China, wished she could resist the western encroachments and remain a great civilization, but it looked to them China had no great leadership.

    China, Japan and even Korea had young emperors, but only Emperor Meiji would acquire real authority. In China emperor Tongzhi took the throne at 5, but it was Cixi who really ran the show. In Korea Emperor Gojong took the throne at the age of 12 in 1864, but his father Taewongun really held the power. Both Gojong and Tongzhi would be hampered by their relatives and isolated from advisors who might educate them on western advances. Emperor Meiji meanwhile was tutored by senior advisers starting in 1868 preparing him for his role in leadership. Lack of leadership led to a lack of ability to reign in certain aspects of modernization necessary for progress. In Japan key individuals working with Emperor Meiji grabbed the reigns of foreign affairs gradually dismantling the unequal treaties the west had forced upon Japan. The key individual in China who would undertake foreign affairs was Li Hongzhang who was for the most part doing everything on his own initiative and had to fight off conservatives. In Japan, foreign affairs specialists emerged, but this was not the case in China. Even emperor Meiji himself took an interest to learn about foreign affairs. Japan hired many western specialists in all aspects of governmental bureaucracy to help train the Japanese. When Chinese officials went to Japan in 1877 to set up a legation, they were astonished to find the Japanese bureaucracy for foreign affairs, unlike that in China had completely adopted European procedures and protocols.

    One of the Iwakura missions delegates was a man named Ito Hirobumi and he would serve in the foreign office before becoming prime minister in 1885. He studied in England, learning quickly that Japan was weaker than her and that Japan needed to learn from her to become strong. With his ability to speak english, Ito became the key man responsible for negotiations with other nations. He was to be Li Hongzhangs Japanese counterpart, and helped negotiate the Treaty of Tianjin in 1858 with Li. Both men would have a special relationship that was long lasting.

    The first time Chinese and Japanese officials met after two centuries was when the Senzaimaru arrived in Shanghai in 1862. The officials were strangers without precedents, they had no idea how to move forward. The Japanese members of the first Senzaimaru trip were carefully selected for their ability not only to learn about potential markets for Japanese goods, but also to investigate the political situation so Japan could open formal relations with China. 51 Japanese took part on the mission which lasted 2 months. The highest Chinese official in Shanghai, was our old friend Wu Xu. Since no Chinese were in Japan prior to notify about the mission, they literally just showed up to Shanghai and this certainly perplexed Wu Xu as to what he should do. Wu Xu reported the delegations arrival to Beijing but received a reply with no clear directions, thus he acted with caution. The Dutch helped the two sides speak and assured Wu Xu that the Japanese were reliable traders and this prompted Wu Xu to accept selling their goods. The Japanese brought things they already knew the Chinese market most likely desired, sea products, lacquerware, paper fans, nothing too fancy. Trade was slow, no treaties or relations were established, but the Japanese gathered great intelligence on the status of the Qing dynasty. They had not yet recovered from the Taiping Rebellion, to the Japanese China looked like chaos. They were shocked by the poverty, filth, the lack of hygiene. They were disappointed to find what their ancestors considered the greatest civilization seemed to be in rubles. They were outraged to find out how mistreated the Chinese were at the hands of westerners. They thought westerners extremely arrogant, mistreating Chinese like slaves in their own country it was so shameful. They worried what the British and French had done to the Chinese during the Opium Wars might come to Japan and indeed the British made a minor attack in Satsuma in 1863 and Choshu in 1864 raising concerns.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    China and Japan went through their own processes of modernization, which were dramatically different to say the least. Li Hongzhang was emerging at the forefront and he desperately was trying to help China modernize, but he was but one man amongst many.

  • Last time we spoke Cholera spread like a plague taking countless lives on either side of the conflict. The loss of so much life hurt the Xiang armies positions, and Zeng Guofan worried dearly for the life of his brother fighting at Yuhaitai. Zeng Guofan desperately tossed any men he could to help his brother and it proved effective as Li Xiucheng was forced to flee for the safety of Nanjing’s walls. The EVA force lost Ward and gained Chinese Gordon as its leader. But it was to be a short lived command as Gordon and the British became outraged with their allies atrocities and slights against them and thus took back on the stance of neutrality. Yuhaitai was taken and now Nanjing was under siege by the Xiang army, it was only a matter of time for the Taiping to finally fall.

    #35 This episode is The Taiping Rebellion part 12: The Fall of the Heavenly Kingdom

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    The populace of Nanjing were terrified, with only two gates left open, provisions were becoming very limited and there was almost no way to get out. Roughly 30,000 people were inside the city, 10,000 of which were soldiers. After the fall of Suzhou to Li Hongzhang in December, Li Xiucheng returned to Nanjing pleading with the heavenly king, to simply abandon Nanjing and take the entire movement into Jiangxi province. The heavenly king was livid, saying Li Xiucheng lacked faith in the cause. Without much choice, Li Xiucheng began to prepare the city for a bitter siege. Meanwhile the heavenly king was becoming more and more paranoid and angry. His anger led him to cruelty and he began punishing the people in horrifying ways. For example the new crime of communicating with those outside the walls of the city saw people pounded to death between rocks or flayed alive in public. The people would have fled the city, but they knew the fate of what happened to those who did, as was the case when Anqing fell. By late December they heard the rumors about the fate of Suzhou thus sealing their fate to Nanjing. Zeng Guofan sent reports to his brother in spring of 1864 not to even let women and children escape the city, so their fear was well founded. Zeng Guofan justified this by stating, to force the Taiping to support the entire population within the city would accelerate their starvation.

    With Chen Yucheng dead, Li Xiucheng spread too thinly, Hong Rengan found himself yet again thrust into the role of military commander. Hong Xiuquan told his cousin he had to go out of the city to rally troops from nearby territories to help relieve Nanjing. But it was not possible to head north or west, nor was it possible to traverse the river. Hong Rengan set out the day after Christmas of 1863. His first destination was Danyang around 50 miles east of Nanjing which was commanded by an uncle to the late Chen Yucheng. The commander told Hong Rengan he could not spare any troops to help Nanjing, so Hong Rengan continued on to Changzhou. While enroute he found out Li Hongzhang had taken the city, forcing him to winter in Danyang. When spring came, he took his force south into Zhejiang, where Hangzhou was still holding out. Back in 1861 when Hong Rengan went out to get recruits, the work was much easier. This was no longer the case, in the cities of Danyang and Huzhou he found people too afraid to leave their garrisons to go back to Nanjing. Meanwhile the Xiang army was exponentially growing, by 1864 Zeng Guofan had 120,000 troops, Zeng Guoquan 50,000, another 30,000 garrisoned Anhui, 13,000 moved around with Bao Chao and 10,000 were in the area between Anhui and Suzhou.

    Li Hongzhang’s Anhui army followed up its conquest of Suzhou by marching upon Nanjing from the east. They seized Changzhou and Wuxi with ease as Zuo Zongtang battled Taiping in Zhejiang province. All these armies would eventually converge upon Nanjing. Zeng Guoquan’s forces managed to take the Fortress of Heaven on the Dragon’s shoulder, pitting it against the Fortress of Earth. With the vantage point upon Dragon’s shoulder the Xiang forces were able to create stockade camps at the Shence Gate and eastern Taiping Gate, thus cutting off the city completely. By the end of March, Hangzhou fell to Zuo Zongtang forcing its survivors to flee to Huzhou seeking refuge with Hong Rengan. With the loss of both Suzhou and Hangzhou, the Taiping no longer held any significant cities in the east. There were no more avenues for rescue for the Taiping capital, all that was left was a siege.

    Zeng Guoquan’s siege army was running dry on provisions, the devastation of the countryside was hitting his men as bad as it was the Taiping. Even though they held the Yangtze, by spring of 1864 there was no longer much food coming from it. His men ate rice gruel and basically nothing else. He confided to his secretary, “If we don’t break this city in a month, our whole army is going to crumble to pieces.” Within Nanjing the garrisons first crop of wheat was breaking the surface in april. Zeng Guofans men atop forts and mountain lookouts could see within the city the crops growing with bitterness. They held into the early summer, but Beijing’s patience was wearing thin and so were their stomachs. Zeng Guoquan wanted the glory of taking Nanjing for himself, so he resisted the advice of Li Hongzhang to come supplement his forces. Zeng Guofan was torn by this, he understood his brothers ambition, but it was terribly unwise. He wrote to his brother “Why must you have sole credit for conquering Nanjing? Why should one person be the most famous under heaven?” Li Hongzhang realized the family predicament and offered to save face for the Zengs by forming an excuse that he was unable to come help after all.

    Zeng Guoquans siege had been enlarged, they built a 3 mile road for supplies through a bog, connecting the river to Yuhuatai. While on the surface it looked like the Xiang forces were loafing around, this was far from the truth, the real siege work was being done under the earth. They did not have large enough cannons to break the walls of Nanjing, so they had to tunnel and mine, the good old fashion way as they say. They would even have to tunnel under moats some 90 feet underground. Each tunnel was made hauling out dirt and rock by hand, but the spotters in Nanjing were always watching. A cool fact I did not know before writing this series, when sappers begin tunneling for long periods of time, the grass on the ground level above them turns brown leaving a kind of path the tunnellers are taking towards a wall. Spotters looked for this and for ventilation holes, after all if you are digging far you have to get air into the work space. Inside Nanjing Taiping sappers dug their own counter tunnels to thwart mines. They often did this by exploding their own mines, flushing gas into the tunnels or flooding them with boiling water or sewage. Imagine dying in a tunnel full of sewage, horrid. At one point a Xiang miner exploded a mine close enough to a wall, but the explosion failed to make a breach and the Taiping quickly went to work building more parts to the wall near it.

    By June, the Xiang had mines exploded up in over 30 areas of the walls, but their results were nothing less that 4000 dead sappers. Then on July 3rd, after they captured the Fortress of Earth at the base of the Dragon’s shoulder they had a vantage point so close to part of Nanjing's walls they could fire cannons over. Throughout the night and day they fired cannons into part of Nanjing thwarting the Taiping tunnelers while their own worked. The most ambitious tunnel yet was dug, around 70 yards out, digging at a rate of 15 feet per day. It lead to a part of Nanjing’s walls 50 feet thick. The Taiping knew what was coming, but the bombardment never ceased, and even the noise from the cannons prevented spotters from figuring out precisely where the tunnel was. By the 15th of July Li Xiucheng was forced to launch a night sortie to try and attack the tunnel opening, but the Xiang army forced them right back into the city. Three days later the tunnel had just about reached its target for the explosives. Zeng Guoquan was impatient, pressured by Beijing, so he ordered his men to pack 6000 cloth sacks under the wall containing over 20 tons of gunpowder. The explosion went off at noon on the 19th, as 400 hand picked veterans crouching hiding on the ground to launch themselves through the breach. The explosive experts lit the fuse and waited, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20, 30 the fuse took that long to travel the tunnel. Then a tremendous blast was heard forming a convulsion sending part of the wall to go up blasting outwards and skyward raining parts of the rubble everywhere killing tons of the 400 men hiding on the ground. When the smoke cleared, a 200 foot wide breach could be seen.

    The Xiang forces sounded the drums and stormed down the Dragon’s shoulder towards the breach screaming. The clambering over dead bodies and rumble surging forward, many of them holding maps of the inner city. The first troops to breach the hole specifically dodged the defenders rushing further into the city with maps in hand as they had the specific mission to rush to the palace of the Heavenly King to kill the self proclaimed brother of jesus. But Li Xiucheng beat them to their mission and he spirited away Hong Xiuquans son, before they could capture the would-be future monarch. When the Xiang troops entered the palace they found nothing but an eerie silence. Hong Xiuquan the heavenly king, the self proclaimed brother of Jesus was already dead.

    Going back in time, to the spring of 1864, Li Xiucheng said to the heavenly king “There is no food in the whole city and many men and women are dying. I request a directive as to what should be done to put the people’s mind at ease.” Starvation was hitting the people, but the heavenly king did not seem to pay any notice. Hong Xiuquan began to talk to Li Xiucheng about the 16th chapter of Exodus, how god would preserve the Taiping faithful, just as he preserved the children of Israel for 40 years as they wandered the desert, by scattering manna on the ground amidst the dew each morning. Beginning in 1862, Hong Xiuquan had begun ordering his subjects to emulate the lives of the israelites, storing 10 bushels of manna every year to see them through their times of trouble. What exactly manna is, hard to say, if you read the bible it says it was a small, white flower with the scent of coriander that tasted like honey. The Chinese Taiping bible describes it as “Tianlu and Ganlu” which means sweetened dew. Hong Xiuquan said to Li Xiucheng “everyone in the city should eat manna. This will keep them alive” he then issued an order “Bring some here, and after preparing it I shall partake of some first.” Li Xiucheng states “the Sovereign himself, in the open spaces of his palace, collected all sorts of weeds, which he made into a lump and sent out of the palace, demanding that everyone do likewise, without defaulting. He issued an edict ordering the people to act accordingly and everyone would have enough to eat.” Thus Hong Xiuquan began to eat the weeds he called manna within his palace.

    In April of 1864 he began to fall ill with his 50th year of life. He seems to get better in may, but then becomes sick again. The cause of his illness is not understood, but Li Xiucheng account states “its from him eating manna, and when this man was ill he would not take remedies”. Hong Rengan account states “a lingering illness of 20 days took him”. Tiangui Fu the son of Hong Xiuquan said “my father succumbed to sickness”. On May 30th, Hong Xiuquan or one of his aides announces it is time for the Heavenly king to go to Heaven where he will request the Heavenly father and Heavenly Elder brother to send a celestial army to defend Nanjing. There is no grand funeral for the heavenly king. On June 1st he is wrapped in a shroud of yellow silk by his palace women and buried in the bare ground, which was the regular service for the Taiping. No coffins were necessary, because he was expected to rise soon to go to heaven. Hong Xiuquan had ordered coffins to be abandoned prior and that the word “death” to be taboo, because they were all going to ascend to heaven.

    Five days after his death, his son Tiangui Fu takes his fathers throne. While the Qing forces are busy sieging the city, for 6 weeks the Young monarch reigns. He is basically at the mercy of Li Xiucheng and Hong Rengan. Li Xiucheng gives this account “After the Young Sovereign came to the throne,there was no grain for the soldiers, and there was chaos in the armies. . . . The Sovereign was young and had no ability to make decisions, no one, civil or military, in the capital, could think of a solution.” When the explosion went off on July 19th and the slaughter and chaos began within the city, Tiangui Fu stood bewildered in his palace beside his 4 wives. They tried to grab him, to stop him from fleeing, but he broke away from them and ran into the crowds with his 2 younger brothers heading for Li Xiuchengs palace. They grabbed the nearest horses and their bodyguards clustered around them. During the chaos they try to escape through the different gates in turn, each time turned back. Li Xiucheng eventually finds the royal group and whisks them to a safe location. They hide for some time in an abandoned temple on the western side of the city, perched atop a hill from which they can see the Qing forces scattering into the city. The Young monarch and his comrade put on Hunanese clothing as a disguise, something that had been prepared weeks before. They seize the cover of darkness as the Xiang army are busy raping and plundering the city. Li Xiucheng bids a tearful farewell to the Young monarch as he and his small party charge through the breach Zeng Guoquans sappers made, with the sun against their backs they vanish. The horse of Li Xiucheng collapses and his guard leaves without him. Dazed and confused, Li Xiucheng climbs back to the abandoned temple on the hill. He wakes up to find peasants robbing him of his valuables, when he is left with nothing to take, they grab him and bring him to Zeng Guoquans forces.

    No one knows where the Young monarch is, but Zeng Guoquan has Li Xiucheng in his hands and interrogates him. Without the leadership of Li Xiucheng the Taiping forces might linger on in the rest of the country to form some small kingdom, but they would never be able again to become a large movement. With the capture of Li Xiucheng, the Taiping rebellion was pretty much dead. Li Xiucheng writes a very lengthy confession before his execution. Before his death he begs the Qing officials to stop the slaughter of Nanjing, to spare the old Taiping veterans who had marched from Guangxi and Guangdong, to give them permission to go back home. “engage in some trade. If you are willing to spare them, everyone will hear of it, and everyone will be willing to submit.” He even provides his captors with some advice, to buy the best cannons from the foreigners, alongside efficient gun carriages and other weapons, so that the best Chinese craftsmen could reverse engineer them and teach the people of china how to make their own. “one craftsman can teach ten, ten can teach a hundred and everyone in our country will know. . . . To fight with the foreign devils the first thing is to buy cannon and get prepared early. It is certain that there will be a war with them.” “Our Heavenly Kingdom is finished . . . and this is because the former Heavenly King’s span was ended. The fate of the people was hard, such a hard fate!” Li Xiucheng speaks to his captors believing the Young Monarch is already dead, but Tiangui Fu was safe accompanied by a few hundred loyal soldiers. Tiangui Fu and his small force circle the shore of Lake Tai, fleeing for Huzhou where Hong Rengan commands a small Taiping garrison. Yet before talking about that I want to talk about the horrors that befall Nanjing.

    The Xiang army’s discipline broke at Nanjing, they were starving when they stormed the great city, filling their stomachs for the first time with food and the achievement of their ultimate goal, ending the war. After bitter years of campaigning, far away from their homelands, they began to break ranks and laid waste to the capital in an orgy of rape and plunder. Zeng Guofan issues proclamations forbidding troops from murdering civilians, rape of looting, but his commanders ignore this. The bloody occupation of Nanjing sees the fanatical death of many Taiping, refusing to surrender who fight to the bitter end. As Zeng Guofan reported to Beijing “On the 17th and 18th, Tseng Liang-Tso and others searched through the city for any rebels they could find, and in three days killed over 100,000 men. THe Ch’in-huai creek was filled with bodies. Half of the false wangs, chief generals, heavenly generals, and other heads were killed in battle, and the other half either drowned themselves in the dikes and ditches or else burned themselves. The whole of them numbered 3000 men. The fire in the city raged for 3 days and nights…Not one of the 100,000 rebels in Nanjing surrendered themselves when the city was taken but in many cases gathered together and burned themselves and passed away without repentance. Such a formidable band of rebels has been rarely known from ancient times to present”.

    The slaughter of Nanjing was the combination of fanaticism from the Taiping and the policy of Zeng Guofan who was determined that the surrender from the veterans Guangxi/Guangdong Taiping was not to be accepted. His goal was the extermination of the whole movement, via the death of its core leadership. He wanted no residue of any successors to try and carry on the Taiping ideology. He performed a ruthless extermination, thus forcing many of the Taiping to fight to the very end or commit mass suicide. Zeng Guoquan’s aides reported to him that mass looting, murder and rapes were occuring. Soldiers could be seen running off with gold, silver, furs, jade and any other valuables. At first soldiers burned palaces, but then they moved onto homes, eventually the entire city was aflame. Only when a heavy rainstorm occurred on July 25th did the fires go out. On the 26th, Zeng Guoquans secretary entered the city and was overwhelmed at the sight. All the male Taiping still alive were being used by the Xiang soldiers to carry loot or dig up buried treasure. It seemed like many of them were being set free to flee the city after, but many were also slaughtered after. Countless, elderly who could not perform labor were killed outright. Countless children lay dead in the streets alongside the old, as the secretary wrote in his diary “Children and toddlers, some not even two years old, had been hacked up or run through just for sport. There wasn't a single women left in the city under 40 years old. Sometimes they had ten or twelve cuts on them, sometimes several times that. The sound of their weeping and moaning carried into the distance all around.” A female Taiping survivor named Huang Shuhua was 16 years of age during the capture of Nanjing. She had this to say about when the soldiers came. “They killed my two older brothers in the courtyard, then they went searching through the rooms of the house. One of the strong ones captured me and carried me out. My little brother tugged on his clothing, my mother threw herself down before him, weeping. He shouted angrily, ‘All rebel followers will be killed, no pardons—those are the general’s orders!’ Then he murdered my mother and my little brother. My eldest brother’s wife came out, and he killed her too. Then he dragged me away, so I don’t know what became of my other elder brother’s wife. I was grief-stricken, sobbing and cursing at him, begging him to kill me quickly. But he only laughed at me. ‘You, I love,’ he said. ‘You, I will not kill.’ ” The soldier tied her up and took her aboard a boat back to his home in Hunan. The soldier was from the home county of Zeng Guofan, Xiangxiang. She would spend the rest of her life as the wife of a man who had murdered her entire family. She wrote down her story on two slips of paper one evening while traveling and when at an Inn she secretly slid the papers to someone at the inn before hanging herself.

    Zeng Guofan took possession of Nanjing, arriving from Anqing on July 28th, 9 days after his brother’s forces breached its walls. Apparently officers from his brothers forces took him around the city in a sedan chair, telling him tales of the battles fought and won, showing him the scenes of the destruction. Poetry, plays, banquettes, song and wine, celebrating was made by the victors. Soon honors would be poured over said victors from Beijing once Zeng Guofan sent news of the fall of the Taiping capital. Zeng Guofan sent inflated numbers of Taiping killed, as you may have noticed when I read those quotes, there was absolutely not 100,000 dead in Nanjing. He was inflating the glory of his family, that of his armies prowess, and he masking over the rape and plundering of the second capital of the dynasty. He was very careful with what information got out. When he came face to face with Li Xiucheng, he had direct orders from Beijing to send the man alive back to Beijing, instead he executed him where he was making sure to overlook the interrogation process himself so he could make sure the writing of Li Xiucheng was exactly the way he wanted it.

    Now Hong Rengan was in Huzhou during the downfall of Nanjing, helplessly trying to find help for the capital. When news came that Nanjing had fallen and Li Xiucheng was dead, Hong Rengan found himself in possession of the Young monarch who fled to Huzhou for safety. At this time Huzhou was being attacked by Li Hongzhang’s Anhui army and remnants of the EVA force. Not the Ever victorious army, no this was the Ever triumphant army. Basically the remnants of the EVA force were taken by some French officers who continued to work alongside the Qing. The roads to leading to Huzhou were strewn with corpses and severed heads to ward off the Qing/Anhui/EVA forces. The coalitionary forces are too much for the defenders of Huzhou who at the end of August of 1864 flee south. Hong Rengan intends to take the Young Monarch to Guangdong where the Taiping movement started.

    They rode for 3 months making it to the Meiling Pass, searching for safety. Their escapade left them in a mountainous country 15 miles northeast of a town called Stone Wall where they were finally attacked. Qing soldiers came upon them during the night before the Taiping loyalists could even mount their horses. Hong Rengan fled alone on foot wilding running through a forest where he is captured on October 9th. He is interrogated by the local Qing officials, where he tells them “The heavenly King was nine years older than I and gifted with extraordinary powers of intelligence. A glance at anything was all that was required to impress the subject on his memory. The uprising at Thistle mounted undoubted evidence of the display of divine power throughout those years,and despite the ultimate collapse of the Taiping movement, among those who have enjoyed the smiles of fortune for the longest time the Heavenly King stands pre-eminently forward,”. Hong Rengang is executed in Jiangxi’s capital of Nanchang on November 23rd.

    As for the Young Monarch, Tiangui Fu, he manages to slip away with 10 followers. His band crosses a small bridge and climbs a nearby hill to hide, but they are discovered by their Qing pursuers. Somehow Tiangui Fu manages to evade them, hiding out in the hills, afraid and alone. He shaves off his long hair and finds work with a local farmer pretending to be a man named Zhang from Hubei. After the harvest for that year, he travels onwards but is finally caught and arrested on October 25th by a Qing patrol. He throws himself at the mercy of the state, confessing “The old Heavenly King told me to study religious books, and would not allow me to study ancient books, which he said were all demonic. I managed, however, to read secretly thirty or more volumes, and still retain some recollection of their subjects and contents. The conquest of the empire was the ambition of the old Heavenly King, and I had no part in it.” He tells his captors if they release him, he will study the Confucian classics and try to gain the lowest degree, that of Licentiate. Instead the Young Monarch is executed on November 18th, a week before his 15th birthday. The Heavenly King is dead, the Young Monarch is dead, all the kings, north, south, east, west, flank, shield, loyal, brave and countless others are all dead.

    The day Zeng Guofan took control of Nanjing was a triumph, not for the Qing dynasty but for him. He was at that moment the most powerful man in all of China. His Xiang army was dominant, he was that of a military dictator controlling the vast eastern and central parts of China. He was not fully under the Qing courts control, in fact the Qing relied upon him almost entirely to retain their own control. Until the Taiping menace was defeated, the Qing court watching his efforts without dread, once it was done that all changed. Rumors spread like wildfire, some said Zeng Guoquan told his brother the time was right to abandon the crumbling Qing dynasty and to start a new dynasty from his base in Nanjing. But Zeng Guofan did not do this. In truth, by the time Nanjing was under its last siege, Zeng Guofan began a process for disbanding his grand Xiang army and to relinquish his power. He sought to hold onto his positions as governor general over Anhui, Jiangsu and Jiangxi, and help rebuild Nanjing to its former glory. Many watched expected him to take his army and march upon Beijing, to rid China of the Manchu, but he sent his soldiers home. And thus Zeng Guofan remained a loyal subject, to a child emperor and the Empress Dowager Cixi.

    If you are bewildered by this, you are most definitely not alone, countless historians and contemporary figures were confused. Zeng Guofan’s ruthlessness and brilliance led him to possess basically unlimited power. All of his top ranking commanders were people he knew, they all had strong personal ties to him, their loyalty was set in stone. What could have possibly stopped him from taking over China? Well, according to his closest family members and friends, they say Zeng Guofan was a man wrecked by anxiety and depression. He was reluctant from the very beginning to be given command, quite uncertain of himself. He was a true scholar and sought nothing but to go back to his books and to lead a life of moral scholarship. He was deeply influenced by Confucian beliefs, but many also think he was influenced by the horrible levels of corruption, greed and incompetence he saw within the Qing bureaucracy. He was never heard to question the legitimacy of the Emperor, and being very devout to Confucianism, he probably really believed in the mandate of heaven. There are also those who point out, to such a brilliant mind, was ruling China a desirable thing? He say how tumultuous the era they lived in was, was it a good era to rule over? Perhaps his uncertainty about himself, left him thinking he could not live up to the task.

    Regardless, the Xiang army demobilized in August of 1864, less than a month after the fall of Nanjing. In May he gave a notice for sick leave, which as he told his brother was just an excuse to go into hiding after the war was done. He wanted to escape all of his critics who were growing suspicious of his power. He recommended his brother should do the same, but it seems Zeng Guoquan resented this advice. Zeng Guoquan apparently was beginning to expand his economic powers and Zeng Guofan had this to write to his brother, “Military commanders who have usurped fiscal power have never brought anything but evil to the country and harm to their own families. Even if you, my brother, are a complete idiot, surely you cannot be ignorant that you have to distance yourself from power to avoid being slandered.” Well the Qing court went to work on Zeng Guoquan and his subordinates accusing them of corruption and usurpation. Likewise they hounded Zeng Guofan by proxy, and for the 8 years left of his life they tormented him, not allowing him to retire or pause from duties. Zeng Guofan’s dreams of returning to scholarship, his homeland, a quiet life, would never come to be. In 1867 he wrote on the issue of his looming death “I would be happier there, than I am in this world”.

    The estimates on the death toll of the Taiping Rebellion are simply impossible to gauge fully. If you go to wikipedia, or pick up any book they all fall on 20-30 million people. There were no reliable censuses at the time, the estimates are based mostly upon demographic projections on what the Chinese population should otherwise have been in later generations. In an American study performed in 1969, by the year of 1913, almost 50 years after the fall of Nanjing, China’s population had yet to recover to its pre 1850 levels. In 1999 it is estimated the provinces hardest hit by the Taiping Rebellion, Anhui, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Hubei and Jiangxi suffered a population loss of around 87 million people between 1851-1864. Around 57 million of them dead from war, the rest never born due to decreased birthrates. The projection for the full scale of the war in all provinces is around 70 million dead with a total loss for the population at 100 million. As you might imagine there is a large amount of skepticism over such unbelievable numbers. Regardless the scars of the event were most definitely felt for decades as attested by countless travelers and inhabitants of China. It was frankly one of if not the deadliest civil war in human history.

    What is rather incredible is the fact the Qing dynasty did not fall then. Don’t get me wrong, it was a mortal wound, but the Qing dynasty would limp on for another 5 decades. Did the Qing dynasty win the war? Not entirely, its safer to say the efforts of Zeng Guofan, foreign intervention and the Qing defeated the Taiping movement. The Qing dynasty was basically put on life support by Zeng Guofan and foreign interests if you really think about it. The Opium wars linked the Qing dynasty to nations like Britain and France who had financial stakes in China and wanted the devil they knew rather than the Jesus they didn’t to ensure the flow of unequal trade, see what I did there? Zeng Guofan, was simply in my opinion a strong conservative. I told you bits and pieces about his reluctance to work with foreigners and utilize their technology. He came around to it all of course, but he did so gradually and begrudgingly, there are countless tales of him butting heads over the issue. That issue being modernization, something his successor Li Hongzhang will become a champion of might I add. Zeng Guofan was devout to Confucianism and traditions, honestly he is a large part as to why the Taiping were unable to destroy much of Chinese culture. Zeng Guofan would be villainized by many as a traitor to his race, someone who held up the Manchu.

    In the end China suffered immensely, this was after all occurring during the century of humiliation. I will end with this to say about the intertwining years of the Second Opium War and the Taiping Rebellion. These years were a time of chaos and change for Asia as a whole. China would end up slowly moving towards modernization, but another nation would take the opposite route and usher in hyper modernization. The balance of power in Asia was turning, leaving more room for conflict on an unprecedented scale.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    Sheesh, 12 parts my god, would you believe it if I told you there was a lot more left out? Remember there were other rebellions like the Nian and Dungan, and perhaps given a audience desire I might talk about those as well.

  • Last time we spoke Hong Rengan was in misery, nothing was going as planned. Li Xiucheng went off on his own to perform a campaign in the east, but it was drawing ire from the foreign community to make Hong Rengans life even worse. To defend Shanghai from Li Xiuchengs men, Ward’s mercenary force became the Ever Victorious Army and began to work alongside the foreign community and Qing. Chen Yucheng was hunted down and executed, yet another great Taiping king gone. Zeng Guoquan made an extremely bold move and began a siege of Yuhuatai, a fort guarding Nanjing. Then the foreigners it seems quasi joined the Qing, thus ending any chance of the Taiping earning their support. With what seems the rest of the world against the Taiping, and the enemy nipping at their doors, what could they do to stop the inevitable?

    #34 This episode is The Taiping Rebellion part 11: The Siege of Heavenly Kingdom

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    Meanwhile, refugees from across Jiangsu and Zhejiang flooded into Shanghai seeked protection. In 1862 alone nearly 1.5 million refugees crammed into the Chinese and foreign held parts of the city. Where there are so many people, comes issues. One particular issue was human waste, with so many people crammed into the city, the waterways literally became clogged with fecal matter and other waste. The rivers were also the primary supply of water for the city and even with the custom of boiling the drinking water, the washing water and that used to prepare food was not. A massive cholera outbreak began in may of 1862 causing the usual symptoms, cramps, vomiting and diarrhea. Death ran rampant and by June it was a full blown pandemic. 10 to 15 Europeans were dying a day based on records, but obviously the Chinese population suffered the most. Hundreds of people died each day and by July thousands. At its peak the Cholera outbreak killed 3000 people a day in the foreing settlement, the streets were ridden with unburied bodies. Some local Chinese called it “fan sha, the foreign infection”. The pandemic spread, first going north to the Taku forts, then Tianjin where it claimed 20,000 lives in a few weeks. From there it hit Beijing, but it was not limited to this northern route, it also went south and over the Yangtze going into the interior of CHina. Zeng Guofan’s HQ was hit and men began to die. 10,000 men under Zeng Guoquan at Yuhuatai became sick, 10,000 more under Bao Chaos army in southern Anhui and Bao Chao himself also became sick. 50% of Zuo Zongtangs army in Zhejiang were sick and with the massive amount of illness, the Xiang army simply could no longer continue to be on the offensive.

    Zeng Guofan ordered his commanders to distribute Korean ginseng to the sick troops hoping it would at the least alleviate symptoms. Over in Shanghai the British military distributed “cholera belts”, these were wide cummerbunds of flannel wrapped around the persons torso to keep it warm because the belief was the disease was caused by sweaty chills in the bowels. Another British medical officer in Beijing, did not believe the disease was the result of insanitation and instead suspected quote “the operation of certain electrochemical changes in the atmosphere on certain constitutions.” Within Nanjing it seems they fared a bit better, which is understandable as they were more rural and less crowded then places like Shanghai or Tianjin. The disease spread via the trading routes, which were pretty much closed off to the Taiping. Those Taiping around the Shanghai area however got just as smashed by the disease as the rest. The disease would petter off during the winter, but found its way to Manchuria and then Japan. For those of you who know your Bakumatsu period history, the Cholera outbreak began in Shanghai. Overall, in the region surrounding Shanghai for about 40 miles, by September it was estimated by missionaries that cholera had wiped out ⅛ of the population, a population in the several million.

    Zeng Guoquans position at Yuhuatai was a precarious one, even before Cholera wreaked its ugly head. Zeng Guofan was shocked by his brothers boldness to dig in so close to the heart of the rebellion. When Cholera began to steal away half of Zeng Guoquans forces, his brother dispatched reinforcements, literally everything he could spare but the Xiang army was fewer than 30,000 strong. The men at Yuhuatai held firm in their trenches, fighting off the occasional Nanjing sorties against them from the southern gate. The Cholera epidemic also gave Li Xiucheng an opportunity to breakoff the Shanghai campaign and return to Nanjing, something the Heavenly King was begging him to do. Well after a very long time of ignoring the poor heavenly king, Li Xiucheng decided in the late summer to withdrew to Suzhou where he gather 3 separate armies to form a relief expedition back to Nanjing. Each army had its own objective: one was going to attack Bao Chao in southern Anhui, one was going to attack the Xiang and Qing naval forces and logistics line and the third led by Li Xiucheng personally would attack Zeng Guoquan’s force at Yuhuatai. By late September his armies were marching, with 120,000 under his immediate command. Rumors at the time talked about his force being as large as 300 to a possible 600,000 men.

    When Geng Guofan received reports of the Li Xiuchengs force moving back to lift the siege on Nanjing he began to frantically ship provisions and supplies to his brother, but there was simply no way he could send enough men to hold off such a goliath army. Bao Chao was busy fighting in southern Anhui and likewise Duolonga had chased Chen Yucheng north, despite receiving direct orders to turn back to help at Nanjing. It seems the Manchu commander was a bit jealous of Zeng Guofan’s brother and was dissatisfied with the special treatment of the Zeng family members. So after the death of Chen Yucheng he went northwest into Shaanxi to suppress another rebellion that was going on at the time, remember there’s so many simultaneous rebellions. The Dungan Rebellion was a Muslim rebellion led primarily by Hui groups in Shaanxi, Gangsu and Ningxia. It was a brutal and bloody conflict and would claim the life of Duolonga two years later.

    The assault upon Yuhuatai would commence on October the 13th, while Zeng Guofan was tossing as many reinforcements as he could to help his brother, but these figures were in the mere hundreds. Zeng Guofan sent letters to his brother trying to raise his morale, claiming Li Xiucheng would require incredible logistical capabilities to keep his army provisioned and perhaps it would lead to his downfall, but privately he was falling into despair. He had this to write in his diary “Last night, I thought about my brother Guoquan, facing danger in ten thousand forms. Anxiety burned my heart. I repaired to my inner chamber and tried laying out scenarios on a Go board [to distract myself]. Then I paced back and forth, circling the room. At eleven o’clock I went to bed but could not fall asleep. Sometime after three in the morning I finally slept, and had nightmares.” It is alleged, Zeng Guofan began to stop sleeping and refused any visitors while he received daily letters from his brother fanning his anxiety. In one letter dated on October 24th, Zeng Guoquan said his forces were holding the Taiping at bay after 7 days of constant attack. He also noted the enemy were using new weapons purchased from the foreigners, that fired explosive shells, “luodi kaihua pao, shells that bloom like flowers when they fall to earth”. It was two days later, Zeng Guofan learned another Taiping army of at least 100,000 led by Li Xiuchengs cousin the Attending king had left Zhejiang province to help attack the Xiang forces at Yuhuatai. The report was greatly delayed, by the time it reached Zeng Guofan, that said army had been marching for over 3 weeks. There were no letters from his brother after that.

    Riddled with anxiety, Zeng Guofan wondered about the fate of his brother. It would turn out his brother was hit by shrapnel from a shell, it struck his face and nearly killed him. Zeng Guoquan was still alive, but there was basically no chance he could escape Yuhuatai. Zeng Guofan pleaded with Li Hongzhang to help send reinforcements, but Li could spare none, though he did recommend sending the EVA force up river using steamships to help. Zeng Guofan was truly desperate as he allowed the EVA force to help, but this did not change the fact it would take weeks for them to get to Nanjing. In the meantime Zeng Guofan sent orders to his brother to retreat at any possible moment the enemy left an opening to flee. His brother refused, and while this sounds like a bit crazy, in reality Zeng Guoquans forces were dishing terrible casualties to the Taiping. The defenses at Yuhaitai were firm with heavy walls and trenches. Each time the Taiping launched an attack several thousand of them paid for it while Zeng Guoquans men faced casualties in the hundreds. While Li Xiucheng’s sappers mined under the outer walls of Yuhaitai, the defenders frantically fed the cannons and fired their matchlocks at the Taiping. The defenders tried their best to gauge where the sappers were digging to breach their tunnels before they got under the walls, but just incase they began to build secondary walls in the interior.

    Zeng Guofan was so afraid for his brother, he even wrote to his eldest son Jize, in Hunan province asking him to leave home for the first time to come and join him at his HQ in Anqing. Yet Zeng Guoquan managed to hold on, his men wrecked the Taiping tunnels before they could breach his walls. The Xiang force on Yuhaitai survived 45 days of attacks and Li Xiucheng finally broke off the attack on November 26st, absolutely incredible. It turns out Zeng Guofans words of comfort to his brother proved true, Li Xiuchengs logistics failed him. Li Xiucheng was forced to use stores from Nanjing and this began to threaten the city, alongside this the army he sent to attack the Xiang/Qing naval forces failed. Winter was coming and Li Xiuchengs men didnt not have proper winter attire nor equipment. Thus he began to send parts of his army back to Jiangsu and Zhejiang while he took the rest to Nanjing hoping to launch an attack later to dislodge the Yuhaitai force. Zeng Guofan did not give up trying to get his brother to abandon Yuhaitai, insisting that the preservation of his army was more important than maintaining the position. Yet Guoquan kept refusing to budge. Well as Guofan kept worrying about his brother Guoquan, something indeed would occur, but to his other brother Guobao. The younger brother had taken 5000 men to help support Guoquan at Yuhaitai. He had sworn vengeance upon the Taiping whom killed his brother Zeng Guohua in 1858. Zeng Guoquan sent a letter to Zeng Guofan that their brother had fallen gravely ill, he had typhoid. On the morning of january 11th, Zeng Guofan got another letter stating Guohua had died.

    Back in the Shanghai front the rambunctious Ward had taken a bullet to his stomach on September 21st and died an apparently very agonizing and slow death the same night of 1862 while in Ningbo. Ward had been campaigning in conjunction with Li Hongzhang’s troops taking advantage of Li Xiucheng’s massive pull out of the region. In Ward’s dying breath he apparently demanded money and declared Wu Xu and Yang Fang, the two juggernaut financial backers in Shanghai owed him 140,000 taels in back pay. He threatened that his family back home would press upon them to make good on their debts. Things began to crumble for the EVA forces after Ward’s death, Li Hongzhang began to advise who should take up the mantle of command. One notable prospect was the North Carolinian Henry Burgevine, whom was favored by Admiral Hope and Frederick Bruce. Both Brits of course were keen to have the EVA commander be an American since it certainly took the limelight off their nation. Burgevine was said to be a model southerner type, gallant, charming, but he also loved his alcohol and had a terrible temper.

    During the fall of 1862, Burgevine led the EVA to drive the Taiping out of a few towns on the outskirts of Shanghai and by winter the 30 mile radius was met. Burgevine was butting heads however with undue payments from Yang Fang, several months worth. When Li Hongzhang ordered him to take the EVA forces to Nanjing to help Zeng Guoquan, Burgevine refused. It was obvious as to why, being closer to Nanjing greatly risked his and the EVA forces lives and there would be less chance of plundering. Yang Fang then refused to make good on his debts to the EVA force unless they complied with going to Nanjing and apparently Burgevine blew a gasket. On January the 4th of 1863, Burgevine showed up to Yang Fang’s house with a few bodyguards and punched the man in the face, robbing him of 40,000 silver dollars before fleeing to Songjiang to pay his men. This led Li Hongzhang to place a bounty over the man's head of 50,000 taels. Well needless to say Burgevine disappeared rather quickly, leaving Frederick Bruce to need to find a new commander. This time Bruce wanted to avoid finding any more filibuster, cowboy types and to find someone more professional, more honorable, who would be more accountable. Thus obviously no Americans were going to fit that role, haha, and Bruce reluctantly had to look towards his fellow Brits.

    Bruce eventually found, a rather famous name today, but back then he was a young British officer in the Royal Engineers named Charles Gordon. You may have heard his more famous title as “Chinese Gordon”, he was very much akin to Lawrence of Arabia, similar stories. Gordon was painfully british looking, with an awesome mustache might I add in his defense. Fun fact one of his grandfathers owned a ship that was ransacked during the Boston Tea Party, go USA. One of my sources state he was quote “religiously asexual, never married, and had as early as age fourteen expressed a wish that he were a enuch. He also happened to speak with a pronounced lisp”. There were several allegations to suggest he was gay, seemingly based on the fact he did a lot of charitable work for male youth and that he had a fondness for handsome young men. Honestly if you look him up you will find a wide array of bizarre theories, some suggesting he was a homosexual who was so repressed by his Christian faith that he channeled his frustration into being the perfect soldier. One British historian, Paul Mersh suggested he was not a homosexual, but had Asperger syndrome and this made it extremely difficult for him to express emotions towards women. I have to say that is a wild theory, but I personally don’t know enough about the man, nor am I in any way his biographer to say much about this fascination on his sexuality. I will say one thing though as a general rule, when you find older historians, those writing lets say up to the mid 20th century, making excuses as to why some figure was not gay, key words “oh he was just very good friends with so and so”, usually its because the figure was gay, haha. Sigh we have come a long way in the world and there is a lot to be said about prejudices of the past and some that still linger, but anyways.

    Gordon inherited a very demoralized force in march of 1863. There were 3000 Chinese soldiers left after many desertions, alongside 30 pieces of artillery and 2 paddle steamers. Gordon unlike his 2 predecessors, was very willing to work closely with Li Hongzhang. He took a leave of absence from the Royal Engineers so he could serve under the Qing, therefore allowing him to campaign outside the 30 mile radius of Shanghai. After a brief period of training he began his campaign by joining the Qing commander Cheng Xueqi to march into Jiangsu province and reclaim lost territory to the Taiping. Gordon’s smaller force became the spearhead driving up the waterways to take walled cities by surprise by bashing them with artillery, while Cheng Xueqi’s larger army came in to swarm everywhere they struck. By the summer of 1863, their combined forces were approaching Suzhou. All was going great for Li Hongzhang and Charles Gordon, but then came a familiar face to disrupt things, Burgevine. Burgevine showed up to Beijing backed up by the US minister Anson Burlingame, trying to claim back his role as the commander of the EVA forces. Burlingame was able to lobby on his behalf and got Prince Gong to agree to the matter, but Li Hongzhang wanted nothing to do with the ill tempered man who punched Yang Fang in the face. Burgevine showed up to Shanghai with an imperial commissioner instructing Li Hongzhang to put him back in charge, but it is alleged by Li Hongzhang that the letter Prince Gong had sent was more of a suggestion rather than direct order. Regardless, Li Hongzhang was not going to play ball and to get away with not having to take back Burgevine Li Hongzhang simply left on campaign with Gordon to attack Suzhou without taking Burgevine. Well the ill tempered Burgevine got riled up again and quickly made his way into Shanghai where he rallied up 70 foreign mercenaries, many of whom had served Ward but were discharged. He took all these men and stole one of the EVA steamers and they made their way up the waterway to Suzhou to join the Taiping.

    Burgevine began training the Taiping in Suzhou how to defeat Gordon’s forces and when the battle commenced it seemed the rebels had the upper hand. Burgevine at one point went out at night over to Gordons camp to try and get the man to quit his position, something Gordon allegedly considered because he was having a rough time with the logistics of the EVA force. Regardless while Burgevine looked like he might turn the tides for the Taiping, another event occurred that would give the Qing a distinct edge, Captain Osborn showed up on September 1st to take command of the war fleet. Now what is interesting about the situation was that Prince Gong envisioned using the new naval forces to hit the Taiping along the rivers and then be employed as a patrol force for the eastern coast. But someone else had different ideas about the use of these naval units, Zeng Guofan. Prince Gong had planned to use multiethnic crews, sailors from Shandong, gunners from Hunan and Manchu for marines. Well Zeng Guofan thought the new naval forces would be better employed as an addition to his own naval forces. He began to advise against mixing ethnic groups, because it might cause disunity. He advised instead that all crews should be Hunanese, hmmmm. Thus the squadron of steam powered gunships would be absorbed into his fleet of Long Dragons, Fast Crabs and sampans. With such a fleet Zeng Guofan would control the entire Yangtze River system.

    And here emerges the balance of power swinging within the Qing Dynasty. This general with a large amount of autonomy was quasi dictating against the Qing central government. When Captain Osborn arrived he found an official letter from Prince Gong informing him that a Hunanese Admiral would be serving as the new fleets commander in chief, Osborn had just been demoted to assistant commander. Furthermore the letter stated the fleet would take orders from Zeng Guofan and Li Hongzhang. Osborn went to Beijing to protest these changes, but Prince Gong refused to budge on the matter. In fact rumors began to spread that Prince Gong had no choice in the matter, because Zeng Guofan quote “threatened to shut off all the supplies to the Imperial Government”. Osborn was furious “I came here to serve the Emperor, and under him the Regent, not to be the servant of mere provincial authorities.” Osborn resigned, while refusing to surrender control of the fleet to Prince Gong. Then came a real tense situation for Anson Burlingame, because the Confederates had envoys in China who sought to purchase the fleet for themselves so they could use it to fight the Union. Anson Burlingame lobbied hard to make sure this did not occur and in the end the fleet was sold at a loss back to India and then to Britain.

    Meanwhile while Gordon was facing the decision to step down at the behest of Burgevine, he decided instead to counter by convincing Burgevine to defect back to the Qing side. Burgevines frequent visits to Gordon were drawing suspicion from his Taiping comrades and his drunken ill tempered behavior did not help his cause too much. Apparently Burgevine really pissed off one Taiping commander, who had sent funds to purchase western guns and ammunition through Burgevines contacts only to find cargo of Brandy showing up. Not only was Burgevine getting on the Taiping’s nerves, he also drew ire from his western comrades. On on occasion a western officer brought up Burgevines drinking problem only to have Burgevine fire a shot through the mans cheeks. Thus on October 15th, in the midst of an assault upon Suzhou by Gordons men, several of Burgevines officers defected, forcing Burgevine to do the same. Burgevine was exiled from China, as per the terms of his amnesty, but would show back up later on trying to raise another militia. No one knows for sure how, but Burgevine was captured by Qing soldiers and somehow ended up drowning in a river tied in chains. Local authorities said he had some sort of accident aboard a boat that capsized, but we all know that is not true.

    With Burgevine gone, a major obstacle had been overcome for the campaign against Suzhou. Despite this, the battle for Suzhou remained a stalemate by November. The Taiping commander of Suzhou was Tan Shaoguang, he also held the title of “Wang Mu, Esteemed King”, the son in law of Li Xiucheng. He wanted to defend Suzhou to the bitter end, but it turns out many of his subordinate commanders did not feel the same way. On November 28th, one of his subordinates secretly met with Chen Xueqi, promising to give up Suzhou peacefully while getting rid of Tan Shaoguang and his loyal officers. The man’s name was Gao Yongkuan whom held the title of “receiving king” though by this point every commander was being given these titles. He offered to open the gates of Suzhou, but was very fearful of being caught by Tan Shaoguang. Gordon and Chen Xueqi agreed with Gao to take the city with minimal bloodshed.

    On the morning of December 4th, Tan Shaoguang held a banquet and during a speech he was stabbed by Gao Yongkuans group of mutineers and had his head cut off and sent to Cheng Xueqi. The gates of Suzhou were opened and Gordon with his EVA forces were the first to enter the city peacefully. Gordon spoke with the mutineer commanders and they all shaved their heads ready to surrender, grateful that Gordon kept his word to not slaughter them. Li Hongzhang showed up by boat to take control over the city with his personal guard and this is where things turned dark. Musket fire could be heard, and Gordon went to investigate finding Cheng Xueqi outside the walls of Suzhou looking very uneasy. Gordon asked him what was going on and Cheng replied that the Taiping commanders never showed up to surrender. Gordon rode back into the city to see what was going on, finding Qing forces looting the city. Gordon suspected this was the work of Cheng Xueqi who must be deceiving him, so he hunted down Li Hongzhang for answers. Yet he could not find Li Hongzhang, nor the Taiping commanders, he went back to Cheng Xueqi who simply told him he had no idea what was going on. Now the sources are mirky on this one. One thing to take note is that Cheng Xueqi was a Taiping defector himself, thus it gives some plausibility for his side of the story. Cheng Xueqi was said to be seen weeping on the ground as he sent a western officer to send a message to Gordon. The message was an apology, stating he did what he did because he had to follow Li Hongzhangs orders. Gordon eventually found the remains of the Taiping commanders, he had this to say of the scene. “The hands and bodies were gashed in a frightful way and cut down the middle, the receiving king’s body was partially buried.” Gordon was livid, he had promised these men their safety and Li Hongzhang brutally executed them. To this breach of his honor, Gordon renounced his service under Li Hongzhang and this spread to the foreing community like wildfire. This spelled the end of military cooperation between Britain and the Qing dynasty. The British parliament fell back upon the policy of neutrality, but allowed for the defense of Shanghai. Ironically, by the time Britain had finally reached its decision to go back to neutrality, their assistance was basically no longer needed.

    The situation in the interior of China was becoming quite horrid. Zeng Guofan wrote in his diary on June 8th “Everywhere in southern Anhui they are eating people”. It was not the first note of cannibalism from his diary entries and not to be the last. He carried on to write it was not new news that human flesh was being eaten, but the price for said flesh had gone up considerably. The price per ounce had gone up four times that which it was sold at the year prior. Cannibalism was found in Jiangsu province as well. Northern Anhui was a wasteland reported Bao Chao who was desperately trying to scout for a supply line for the drive upon Nanjing. Yet as absolutely horrifying as the situation was in central china, it did benefit the Qing, because the Taiping depended on the peasants amongst them, and the famine was creating internal conflict. As Zeng Guofan put it in his diary about the situation of the Taiping around Nanjing. “Campaigning in a region with no people, the rebels will be like fish out of water. In a countryside devoid of cultivation, they will be like birds on a mountain with no trees.

    On June 13th, Zeng Guoquan finally seized the stone fort atop Yuhuatai. Having control of it meant Zeng Guoquan was able to shut Nanjing’s southern gate. The west and northern gates of Nanjing open onto the Yangtze River and their defense laid in these large Taiping forts across the mile wide Yangtze corridor to the city. On June 30th, the Xiang navy attacked these forts in a intense bombardment battle. The Taiping fort shore batteries fired back upon the Xiang, causing 2000 casualties, but in the end the Xiang forces were able to take the forts, slaughtering their defenders. Having taken the forts, the Xiang forces now controlled the Yangtze River northwest of Nanjing. Before the Yangtze River way was closed, Li Xiucheng had left in February of 1863, 3 months after failing to defeat Zeng Guoquan. He took his force into northern Anhui, searching for a supply line for Nanjing. Much like Bao Chao, he found a wasteland and his troops suffered immensely. They were starving, forced to eat grass while facing the Xiang forces who were better provisioned. When word spread that Zeng Guoquan took the fort atop Yuhaitai, Li Xuicheng immediately headed back to Nanjing, managing to cross the river just 10 days before the northern Taiping forts fell. He estimated the campaign into northern Anhui cost him 100,000 men. Yet as soon as he returned to the capital he had to leave yet again because Li Hongzhang was attacking Suzhou and Zuo Zongtang was attacking Hangzhou.

    Nanjing’s western gate was shut because of Xiang dominance along the Yangtze and its southern gate was shut because of Zeng Guoquans dominance over Yuhaitai. With this in mind Zeng Guofan turned his attention to the remaining easternand northern gates. He sent Bao Chao to lay siege to the Shence Gate, the primary northern inland gate. But Bao Chao faced a terrible epidemic. Simultaneously there were troubles breaking out in southern Anhui and Jiangxi provinces, so he sent Bao Chao to quell them. Meanwhile Zeng Guoquans forces expanded their position at Yuhaitai, seizing 10 bridges and mountain passes allowing them to control the supply roads southeast of Nanjing. By November Zeng Guoquans focus were blocking the eastern approach to the city. The eastern gate to Nanjing was still open and 2 large forts defended atop a mountain that edged towards the city. The mountain was known as the Dragon’s shoulder and its fort was the Fortress of Heaven, to its bottom was the Fortress of Earth. By December the eartern gate and the Shence gate were the only points of entry still under Taiping control, out of Nanjing’s 23 mile circumference.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    The Qing coalition lost their foreign support, but it seems it was no longer needed anyways. Zeng Guoquans gambit payed off brilliantly and now the great city of Nanjing was finally under siege, it was only a matter of time for the end.

  • Last time we spoke Emperor Xianfeng died at the ripe age of 30 having spent a life smoking opium with his harem. Now the Qing dynasty was in the hands of his 5 year old son, but in reality henceforth until its collapse the Qing dynasty would actually to be controlled by the infamous Empress Dowager Cixi. Hong Rengan received a military defeat at Tongcheng and it seems he would never psychologically recover from it. Li Xiucheng went on the offensive and performed a grand eastern campaign taking multiple provinces. Zeng Guofan needed a new army created and chose his student Li Hongzhang to command it. The Anhui army was formed and it looked like the Qing side was going to win this civil war after all. The only thing that might turn the tide back for the Taiping was that ever sought after foreign support.

    #33 This episode is The Taiping Rebellion part 10: The Ever Victorious Army

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    Meanwhile back in Nanjing, Hong Rengan’s life was becoming more and more miserable. He lost at Anqing and his rivals used his absence to take away his authority in the capital. His continued efforts at gaining western support was going nowhere, in fact it was earning him embarrassment. The foreign relations to the Taiping had become poisoned due a large part to the eastern campaign led by Li Xiucheng. Many of the foreign missionaries stopped visiting Nanjing and soon that direct line of communication that Hong Rengan cherished had slipped away. Shanghai was bracing itself for what it believed was a Taiping offensive against the city and Hong Rengan could do little to nothing to stop Li Xiucheng. As for Zeng Guofan, he knew Shanghai was extremely wealthy and must be protected from the Taiping, but Nanjing was simply more important and he could not launch two enormous campaigns simultaneously against both. Zeng Guofan elected to focus on Nanjing and perhaps once Li Hongzhang had built up his Anhui army he could deal with Shanghai.

    For Shanghai, it looked certain the Taiping would soon attack, and the Qing had no assurances from the foreigners that they would help defend the city. They had no one to turn to, then our old friend the filibuster wannabe Frederick Townsend Ward. Despite Britain's attempts to stop the mercenary leader, he was still going strong with his HQ at Songjiang. He only had 68 foreign mercenaries left because of the constant harassment from the Taiping and British, but he did have some Napoleon field guns and a promise form his Qing benefactors that if he took Qingpu he would be rewarded handsomely. Way back when we talked about how Ward’s ragtag group failed to take Qingpu from the Taiping and they attempted 4 more times with disastrous results. They just kept using the same strategy over and over, blast the gates with artillery, storm the walls and hope the Qing military followed through. Ward’s defeats were brutal and he lost a third of his force for his efforts. The foreign community of SHanghai had zero sympathy for the filibuster, he was just a source of embarrassment. But then the American civil war broke out and a rumor emerged about a group of Californians purchasing the vessel, Neva and that it was a confederate ship now being run by none other than Ward. According to these rumors, the Neva was outfitted with guns stolen from US munitions stored in Shanghai and this said vessel was firing up Union merchant ships going around the Chinese coast.

    The United States only had a single warship in China at the time, the USS Saginaw which hunted the so called Neva. When they finally caught the Neva, the so called guns it held were actually whiskey, it was just a merchant ship, but still the rumors persisted raising Ward as this legendary figure. Now this was all awkward as hell in Shanghai, the american population was overwhelmingly pro union northerners, while the British were more pro confederacy. The American merchants were dependent on the British warships to protect their business and this caused all sorts of conflict. During one particularly bad incident, the Trent incident of 1862 in which a US captain chased down and boarded the British steamer Trent trying to arrest two confederate diplomats, if you know the story you know the story haha. Long story short it was the confederates trying to go to Britain to make their case and the Union illegally arrested them, anyways this led Admiral Hope to get his naval forces at Shanghai to seize the homes, vessels and assets of the American community. This led to a rumor, Ward was going to pre emptively attack Hope’s force. The entire American community in Shanghai thought they might go to war with Britain yet again, but this never came to be.

    Meanwhile during all that chaos, the very real threat, the Taiping began to appear on the horizons of Shanghai on January 11th. The alarms all sounded when smoke emerged due north of the city and a new wave of refugees began pouring in. The smoke began to get closer and closer prompting the foreign community to hold emergency meetings to plan a defense. The Americans, British and French put aside their quarrels and banded together to man the walls. The threat was extremely real, one member of the community had been captured and interrogated by the Taiping about the city defenses and this man reported that he saw the rebels were carrying British and German muskets and that there appeared to be an Arab military advisor and a small group of European mercenaries in their ranks. Then a force of around 3000 Taiping branding muskets seized the town of Wusong just 10 miles north of the city. One British captain reported witnessing the battle and said the Taiping were quite astonishing, very well organized and equipped far better than the Qing seemed to be at the battle of Peiho.

    Li Xiucheng did not want to smash Shanghai into pieces, he wanted to do everything possible to take it mostly intact. Thus his strategy was to surround the city and bring her to her knees. Beginning in January, 5 Taiping armies each numbering in the thousands to tens of thousands began surrounding Shanghai at a distance of several miles each. Soon a propaganda campaign emerged between Songjiang and Shanghai, with written notices stating the Taiping would ensure the safety and protection of all those who joined their side. As for the foreign community, Li Xiucheng warned them to stay out of the conflict, and that anyone caught giving aid to the Qing “will be like a flying moth dashing into the fire, seeking his own extirpation.” Thus Shanghai was under siege and the communications to inland places were severed. Admiral Hope sent word to Hong Kong asking for reinforcements and the consul of Canton relayed the dire news back to Britain. The new wave of refugees brought far too many mouths to the city. 80,000 or so Taiping surrounded Shanghai and word was that more would be coming from Suzhou by the end of the month.

    The main defensive body for the foreign community were British and French troops who manned the walls, alongside 200 volunteers, some police and a contingent of Punjabi infantry. In an unusual fashion, on January the 26th, snow began to fall, now do remember Shanghai lays in a subtropical zone rarely seeing temperatures below freezing. By the time the Taiping began to fully encircling Shanghai there was about 2 feet of snow in the area and this had a paralyzing effect in the lower Yangtze region. By the end of January the eastern seaboard froze. The weather would break in early February, but the Taiping were delayed greatly by all of this. The Taiping found an unexpected resistance at Songjiang, Ward’s force. Now after losing so many battles, Ward had stopped simply recruiting westerners, he now began training Chinese instead. He had a minimal staff of American and European officers overseeing the training of his Chinese forces and because of the payment differences, they Chinese were paid a tenth of what the westerns were paid, he had a pretty large force under him. Ward taught his Chinese soldiers how to respond to english commands and standard bugle calls. The men were outfitted with european style uniforms, typically blue jackets for artillery men and green jackets for infantry. They were trained in the western fashion and equipped with cutting edge weaponry, British enfield rifles, some Prussian made rifles and the odd American rifle or pistol here or there. But the Taiping were also getting their hands on some western weaponry. One report in 1862 showed a ship was caught smuggling 300 cannons, 100 cases of small arms and 50 tons of ammunition to the Taiping from Singapore. Another report indicated the Taiping at Wusong had been supplied with nearly 3000 muskets, 800 pieces of artillery and 18,000 cartridges, a dangerous amount to be sure.

    On February the 3rd, Wards new militia fought the Taiping managing to hold out at Songjiang against a force of 20,000 rebels. Their success was largely due to hidden artillery batteries they had placed outside the town which surprised the rebels during their approach, gunning down over 2000 men before their commander called for a retreat. Wards men managed to capture 700 Taiping alive and shipped them back to Shanghai in chains. Two days after the battle, Ward went on the offensive attacking a Taiping outpost halfway between Songjiang and Qingpu forcing the garrison commander to pull out. This was the first time the Shanghai gentry funded private army had any real success and this prompted them to rename the force to give it more inspiration, and thus it Wards militia became known as the famous “Ever Victorious Army” (EVA). Many of you may have heard of this force if you are American, its probably one of the very few things known about the Taiping rebellion in the west to be honest. The EVA force took orders from Wu Xu, their main benefactor, who by no means trusted his General Ward. Ward and the westerners continuously plundered where they went, despite Wu Xu pleading for them not to. In order to try and secure some form of loyalty from Ward, one of the wealthiest backers, the banker Yang Fang married his daughter off to Ward. The Chinese women had been betrothed to another, but the man died before the wedding making her unmarriageable within the Chinese culture. It was a mutual arrangement, for Ward he could pressure his wife to push the backers to pay up and for the backers they could pressure Ward to remain loyal.

    Now after the snowstorm dissipated, and I refer to it as a snowstorm simply because my source does, but as a Canadian if you think 2 feet of snow is a storm wow haha. Admiral Hope and Rear admiral Auguste Leopold Protet signed a joint agreement on February 13th to defend Shanghai from the Taiping based on Hope’s 30 mile radius idea. They formed a land force to take out into the field against the Taiping, although the British parliament had made it clear to Hope he was not to break neutrality unless it was to save the lives of British subjects. Hope as you can imagine disregarded the orders. Their force was not very large, 900 French and 650 British soldiers, some sailors as a reserve and 200 civilian volunteers including Americans. The Qing forces in Shanghai were around 10,000 strong. Hope had no…well hope to match the Taiping out in the field, but he believed he could hold the walls. If he wanted to perform any action out in the field he simply needed more men, and take a wild guess who he went to. Oh yes the man he tried to arrest on countless occasions, the wild filibuster Ward.

    Since Ward now was recruiting Chinese rather than trying to steal away westerners, and given his recent military victories, Admiral Hope decided to form an alliance with Ward. Ward had zero interest in the defense of Shanghai, but Hope enticed him with gunships that could move his men to hit Taiping towns along the riverways, un gagnon gagnon. Frederick Bruce approved the alliance of convenience, but stressed while they could perhaps drive the Taiping out of the immediate area, they had to allow the Qing forces to actually push further and to garrison towns taken. Zeng Guofan upon hearing of all of this, disapproved and did not think it would prove fruitful. But he had no large cards to play in the east, and if the EVA held Shanghai, well that would be just dandy. And when Wards men won the battle for Songjiang on february 20th, zeng Guofan begrudgingly sent word to Beijing that it was in the dynasty’s best interests to allow the bizarre foreign mercenary force to continue its work in Shanghai and even Ningbo if they could get there. But he also strongly warned them not to let the EVA forces campaign further inland, especially not against Nanjing. If foreigners were to help defeat Nanjing, what might they demand as a reward for such deeds.

    Now give the Eva would be augmenting the Shanghai area, now Zeng Guofan felt perhaps he could dedicate some forces there, afterall if he could grab Shanghai it would be an enormous boost to his power. He approached the Gentry of Shanghai and they found common ground. They sought further protection and Zeng sought funding for his campaign against Nanjing. Thus Zeng Guofan tossed an army to try and break the siege of Shanghai, if they were successful that said army could later be used to cut off Nanjing. Another enormous benefit of this arrangement was Zeng Guofan obtaining what Hong Rengan so desperately desired. The Shanghai backers, nominally Wu Xu formed a contract with a British firm, Mackenzie, Richardsons & company to use their steamships. Now Zeng Guofan could move his forces unimpeded down river to Shanghai aboard British steamers. The Taiping could not fire upon the ships because of the Union Jack and in just 3 round trips, 6500 of Li Hongzhangs new Anhui forces were encamped in Shanghai ready for campaigning. Li Hongzhang then assumed his role as governor of the province and by proxy became the leader of the Shanghai backers, while Wu Xu would retain control over the EVA forces. Meanwhile, with Shanghai under Li Hongzhang’s oversight, Zeng Guofan and both his brothers Zeng Guoquan and Guobao began a march towards Nanjing.

    Shanghai was under siege, albeit from quite a distance, still this had an enormous effect on its economy, its very lifeblood. The price of rice went up 50%, flour and firewood doubled, but the Taiping were not attacking the walls, not yet at least. Joint operations between the EVA and foreign defenders began on a small scale in mid february with an assault upon High Bridge, 8 miles away from Shanghai proper. Ward had 600 men while Hope and Protet brought 500. The battle was a quick one, with only a single Frenchman killed before the Taiping fled the town. Then on April the 23rd a rather fateful action occurred at Ningbo. A taiping commander received a promotion, now General Fan and in his honor they fired a 10am salute from the cannons facing the river. The guns apparently were not well aimed as a handful of projectiles went across the river and hit the French gunship l’etoile as it was passing by. Admiral Hope and Protet used the situation to dispatch their forces led by Captain Roderick Dew aboard Encounter to retaliate against Ningbo. However when Dew got to Ningbo the Taiping profusely apologized and stated they wanted to remain under friendly terms and would make sure it never happened again. Hope and Protet were not at all content with this and sent word to demand the Taiping take down all the guns on the eastward facing wall of Ningbo. They were given 24 hours to comply or else the British would do it themselves. Well the Taiping refused to comply, because they obviously needed said cannons where they were to defend against the Qing, but they offered to take away the gunpowder from said cannons and to only provide it back if the Qing attacked. Then on May 5th a large group led by the disposed Ningbo gentry, got together a group of 150 small armed boats led by some pirates and peasants to come up the river to attack Ningbo and as they did so they asked the British and French for aid. Just as a mere coincidence their point of attack was the same eastern wall. Thus the British and French invited the motley group to their side of the river. Then Captain Dew sent word to the Taiping “If you fire the guns or muskets from the battery or walls opposite the Settlement, on the advancing Imperialists, thereby endangering the lives of our men and people in the foreign Settlement, we shall then feel it our duty to return the fire, and bombard the city.” It would turn out this was all a planned scheme go figure.

    The motley group began approaching Ningbo, but then positioned itself in such a way as to push the European gunships between them and the city. Accounts differ, by the Europeans state one of the Taiping cannons fired first upon the Encounter killing 2 crewmen. It is also alleged that the person operating said cannon was actually a servant of one of the Shanghai gentry backers. Then the British and French ships began to bombard Ningbo before the combined allied party stormed the eastern wall. The motley group were actually the last to storm the city, leaving most of the bloody work to the europeans. According to an eyewitness account “in a few hours did more damage than the rebels did in the whole of the five months that they had possession, chopping off the heads of the unlucky rebels that he caught.” The British press went right to work demonizing the Taiping, a lot of which was based on witness accounts from specific men responsible for trying to break the neutrality stance of Britain. There was also a need to create a narrative to control China in general. Britain had turned its attention squarely to asia since the American civil war had broken much of their trade. The Times declare “the only route to Great Britain's economic survival lay down the path of the Taipings Annihilation”. The Times carried on stating the tea market was being ruined allegedly by the Taiping, and to compensate Britain would have to raise the tax rate on tea to preserve revenue. This would bring hardship to the tea drinking working class of Britain who were already suffering from the textile depression. Thus the stance of neutrality was hurting the good people of Britain, boy oh boy do you see the parallels to today’s politics.

    The warmongers won the day and Britain’s government’s hands were tied, thus Britain was dragged into a proxy war with the Taiping. The European coalition, EVA, the Qing and Li Hongzhangs Anhui army were now an allied front embarking on a large campaign to push the Taiping out of the Shanghai region. The beginnings of the campaign were largely successful as a result of the superior firearms, by May 16th a combined force left Shanghai and Songjiang marched upon Qingpu. They bombarded the town for 2 hours using 40 artillery pieces, including a 68 pounder and 4 giant 110 pound naval armstrong guns. Its gates were blown to splinters and 3500 of Wards Chinese EVA troops stormed the town as “god save the queen” was blasted by the military band. 4 days later Admiral Protet led an assault upon South Bridge which lay due south of Songjiang and was shot right through the heart by a Taiping sniper. His death enraged the French who took out their vengeance upon the nearby town of Zhelin where they massacred 3000 civilians, including women and children before raising it to the ground.

    While the allied force proved very capable at seizing walled cities, holding them was another matter entirely. They simply did not have enough manpower to hold everything they took. After taking Qingpu, Li Xiucheng sent a large force from Suzhou to hit Songjiang, since the EVA force was absent. Ward turned back to hit Songjiang with 2000 EVA troops, leaving 1500 to garrison Qingpu, which fell under a siege to more Taiping. The garrison of 1500 men held out for a month, but ultimately were forced to torch the city and make their escape. In the summer of 1862, the British and French handed over a group of Taiping prisoners over to Qing forces and according to an eyewitness sat by idly while the Qing performed horrible atrocities. Here is part of the harrowing account:

    A young female, apparently about eight months pregnant, who never uttered a groan or sigh at all the previous cruelties she had endured from the surrounding mob, had her infant cut out of her womb, and held up in her sight by one of its little hands, bleeding and quivering; when, at the sight, she gave one heartrending, piercing screech that would have awakened pity in a tiger, and after it had been in that state dashed on her breast, she, with a last superhuman effort, released her arms from those holding her down, and clasped her infant to her bleeding heart, and died holding it there with such force that they could not be separated, and were thus thrown together on the pile of other carcasses. Another young woman among the prisoners awaiting her turn to be disembowelled, with a fine boy of ten months old crowing and jumping in her arms, had him snatched suddenly away from her, and flung to the executioner, who plunged the ruthless knife into his tender breast before his mother’s eyes. Infants but recently born were torn from their mother’s breasts, and disembowelled before their faces. Young strong men were disembowelled, mutilated, and the parts cut off thrust into their own mouths, or flung among the admiring and laughing crowd of Chinamen.

    May God forgive England for the part she is taking in this war

    The foreign press ran rampant stories of the horror and brutality, many still trying to stop their nations from taking an active role in China. Others pointed out the savagery to be a justification for colonizing China. Admiral Hope’s vision of creating a 30 mile radius around Shanghai proved impossible. The allied coalition did not have enough men to garrison the places they took from the rebels and given the gruesome events at Qingpu and the death of Protet, Hope was forced to toss the towel. Soon the forces pulled back to the walls of Shanghai and Hope was replaced by Rear Admiral Augustus Leopold Kuper. Captain Dew likewise was reprimanded for his part in the escalations to war. Ward could not be reprimanded of course, but his EVA force was left to fight on its own, something he did not mind too much as the British and French forces often stopped his men from plundering.

    While things were going badly for Shanghai, Zeng Guofan was enjoying an amazing campaign. Duolonga’s cavalry were harassing Chen Yucheng in northern Anhui for him to flee to Luzhou. From Luzhou Chen Yucheng had an extremely bold strategy, he began calling upon Taiping forces and Nian groups to launch a four pronged campaign going north through Henan and Shaanxi provinces with the ultimate goal of hitting Beijing. Three of the four armies marched north as planned early in 1862, but Chen Yucheng found himself stuck in Luzhou, under a siege by the forces of Duolonga and the Xiang army. His communication to the other 3 armies were cut off and his provisions were dwindling. On may 13th, he took 4000 men and broke out of the siege trying to flee north, but Duolonga’s cavalry force gave quick pursuit. Chen Yucheng headed for the city of Souzhou which one of the army groups had been sent to attack. The army was led by Miao Peilin, someone Chen Yucheng had gotten to defect during the siege of Anqing. Chen Yucheng reached Shouzhou before Duolonga’s cavalry cut him to pieces, much to his relief. But as he entered the city, Miao Peilin was nowhere to be found. It turns out, because of the severing of communication, Chen Yucheng had no idea that Miao Peilin had been defeated at Shouzhou already back on April 25th, his entire army surrendered to the Qing. Miao had turned back over to the other side, once a defector always a defector as they say. A large reason he was allowed to defect back was because he promised to deliver to the Qing a Taiping general, ie: Chen Yucheng.

    Chen Yucheng was taken prisoner and before he was executed in June of 1862 he had this to say to his captors. “It is Heaven’s will that has brought me here, and there is nothing that can be said of my past. I have long enjoyed the reputation of a victorious commander, but now I would prefer to look to the future. For the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom to lose me, one single man, it will be as if the mountains and the rivers of the kingdom have been reduced by half. I bear a great debt of gratitude to my Heavenly Dynasty and will not surrender. The general of a defeated army cannot beg for his life. But as for the four thousand men I command, they are veterans of a hundred battles, and I do not know whether they are still alive. You can cut me to pieces for the crimes I have committed, but this has nothing to do with them.” And so the Brave King was dead.

    The death of Chen Yucheng and the preoccupation of Li Xiucheng with the Shanghai front left Nanjing vulnerable. The Taiping garrisons along the Yangtze river between Anqing and Nanjing would have no hope for reinforcements from the north nor the east, and Zeng Guoquan was on the march towards the Taiping capital. As Zeng Guoquan advanced, Taiping garrisons simply abandoned their outposts and forts, setting fire to their stockades before fleeing. It was an absolute disaster for the Taiping. They had always known the Qing forces would strike Nanjing from Anqing, but they never expected it to come this soon. By late May, Zeng Guoquans forces were reaching the Nanjing outskirts. Zeng Guoquan first seized an important junction in the riverway that controlled Nanjing’s moat. Then on May 30th, he attacked a small hill just outside the southern gate of Nanjing.

    The hill was known as Yuhuatai “terrace of flowering rain”, and it held a fort at its top. While Nanjing had been so heavily fortified, people literally said it was impenetrable, it did have vulnerabilities and Yuhuatai was one of them. The hill was over 300 feet high, around a mile across and about a half mile away from Nanjing southern gate. From atop the hill one could peer into Nanjing, the perfect base of operations one would want when sieging such a grand city. Zeng Guoquan had 20,000 men with naval support to provision him. Zeng Guoquan dug in and began to send word back to his brother asking him to help procure western arms. Zeng Guofan was surprisingly not impressed with western arms. He wrote about how he found them quite finicky, overly complicated and prone to breaking down after 20-30 shots. He wrote back to his brother ‘the way to achieve victory is to be found in men, not in arms. Bao Chao has no foreign guns and no foriegn powder, yet he repeatedly achieves great victories. He Chun and Zhang Guoliang had foreign cannons with their Green standard force’s siege of Nanjing in 1860, but they did not prevent their defeat. A true beauty doesn’t fuss over pearls and jade, and a great writer needs no more than brush and ink. If a general is truly skilled at war, why should he go grasping for foreign weapons?””. Despite his views on the matter, Zeng Guoquan’s persistent pleas eventually led him to purchase foreign arms from agents at Canton and Shanghai. Still Zeng Guofan insisted the foundation of their armies should rely on Jingalls, bird guns, Chinese made cannons and the good old sword and spear.

    One thing Zeng Guofan did realize though was the dramatic advantage of steamships. While in Anqing in 1862 he purchased a small steamship from Shanghai and gathered all the Qing scientists and engineers he could to the city to try and reverse engineer it. The ship soon broke down and none were able to repair it. But by the summer one engineer managed to build a working prototype steam engine and a year later Anqing would create a 28 foot long steamer. Meanwhile Prince Gong was also enthralled by the power of the steam engine and was trying to procure the purchase of some ships from Britain. While Britain wanted to keep the facade of neutrality going, especially after the Shanghai embarrassment, the idea of selling steamships to the Qing was an interesting one. If they provided ships, perhaps Britain's interests in China could be secured simply by protecting major waterways like the Yangtze. Prince Gong found a agent to try to get the ships, one Horatio Nelson Lay. Lay went to work approaching Captain Sherard Osborn, the captain of the Furious during the second opium war. He offered the captain a 4 year contract stating the man would take orders only from the Qing emperor and no other in China. These orders would go first to Lay, who would take up residence in Beijing.

    Now a nit picky piece of information here. Unlike the civil war in America, where Britain granted belligerent status to the confederates, in China no such recognition was ever made. This was because the British parliament wanted to officially remain neutral. But because there was no official belligerent status for the Taiping, this meant they were not protected by Britain's foreign enlistment act, which prevented the selling of things like, gunships to any party that was at war with a nation Britain had friendly relations with, ie: the Qing. Thus Britain was free to sell gunships to the Qing to be used against the Taiping. Ironically at the same time Lay was trying to procure a naval force from Britain, so was James Bulloch of the Confederate states of America. Lay would find success whereas James would find failure. Now there were some hiccups for Lay when it came to the foreign enlistment act. It was forbidden for British subjects to enlist in the national militaries of foreign states, thus captain Osborn would require special permission from the crown.

    But wouldn’t you know it, in August of 1862 the foreign enlistment act was suspended suddenly and parliament went into recess over the entire summer and would only reconvene in february. Thus Lay and Osborn were able to serve the Qing and were allowed to hire British crews for the ships. Four months later, Lord Palmerston's government issued a second order making it lawful for any British officer to enlist in the service of the Qing emperor to quote “to serve the said Emperor in any military, warlike, or other operations, and for that purpose to go to any place or places beyond the seas, and to accept any commission, warrant, or other appointment from or under the said Emperor, and to accept any money, pay, or reward for their services.” There was one twist to all of this, anyone who served the Qing would have to resign or take a leave of absence from the Royal Navy. As you can imagine this meant that anyone who took the job would go unregulated and be unaccountable for their behavior, basically they were becoming much like Ward’s mercenaries. By the time february came, all the work could not be undone, though the Tory’s tried to reverse everything accusing Palmerston and the Whigs for getting Britain directly involved in the Chinese civil war. The entire thing was lambasted by multiple presses in Britain who pointed out rightfully, that Britain’s finances were tied to the Qing paying reparations, and if the Taiping toppled the Qing the money might stop flowing.

    The first 3 vessels to be sent to China were the Mohawk, Jasper and Africa, renamed the Pekin, Amoy and China. The rest of the ships would be freshly constructed and it would take roughly a year to get them all over there. It was to be 7 gunships and one store vessel, they would range from men-of-war to smaller steamers that could traverse shallow riverways. They would carry around 40 guns and a crew of 400. Interestingly the Qing had never before required a naval ensign, so Lay helped them invent one, a green and yellow ensign with a dragon in the middle. The ships lacked the latest iron armoy, but this was insignificant as the Taiping had no decent artillery to hit them. The fleets flagship, the Kiang-soo was a 241 footer that could reach 19 knots, a very fast ship for its day. The fleet was called the Anglo-Chinese expedition, though many Historians refer to it as the Lay-Osborn flotilla. Though for the common Chinese people who were witnessing their weak imperial government’s willingness to pay foreign mercenaries to win their battles, they deemed it the Vampire Fleet. The year of 1863 would prove very fruitful for the Qing forces.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    It seems the rest of the world were now allied against the Taiping. Zeng Guoquan made an extremely bold attack upon Yuhuatai ushering in the deathrows of the Taiping capital. What could the Taiping do to stop it.

  • Last time we spoke the Qing dynasty was looking dreadful. More and more peoples were flocking to the Taiping, as the European forces were humiliating the Qing government. Yet the more independent figure of Zeng Guofan and his Xiang army was making headway with its siege of Anqing, so much so it forced the shield king to depart from Nanjing to meet the enemy on the field. The foreign community had not completely lost its faith in the Taiping and sent envoys to see what relations could be made. Then the grand pincer attack of the Taiping kings failed horribly and they were unable to stop the Xiang army from capturing Anqing. Nanjing was now threatened yet again and it seemed no headway was being made with the foreigners to earn their support. Can the Taiping come back from such defeats?

    #32 This episode is The Taiping Rebellion part 9: Li Hongzhang and the Anhui Army

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    On August 22nd of 1861, Emperor Xianfeng died at the age of 30. The probable cause of his death was tuberculosis, but many romanticize it as him dying of shame and disgrace, never returning to Beijing. I think his rampant abuse of opium may have contributed also. Zeng Guofan received the news on September 14th and had this to write “Heaven has collapsed, the earth is split open. My emperor, from the time he came to the throne until today, over the course of twelve years, never knew a day when he wasn’t consumed by worry over our dangers. Now Anqing is finally conquered, and the longhairs have begun to weaken. It looks as if the war has reached a turning point. But my emperor did not live long enough to hear the report of victory, so his dejection and melancholy will follow him into eternity. What a terrible agony that is for me, and for all of his ministers.” Xianfeng had died after just 11 years of rule and to make matters worse, the throne was supposed to go from father to son, but Xianfeng was notably infertile. In spite of spending almost his entire time with a harem of 18 concubines and wives for years, Xianfeng had managed to only father one son. This son in 1861 was 5 years of age. Hong Rengan began to preach and boast about the situation. “Xianfeng left behind a little demon who is several years old and will find it difficult to continue the demon rule. This is precisely the time for us to seize the opportunity to uphold Heaven, and render ourselves not unworthy in our role as heroes of the world.” Confidence in the dynasty was crumbling, many of the elites within Beijing began to compare the previous Qing emperors' reigns to the current situation. Yet while many of these elites lamented about how the dynasty was in decay, none offered any remedy to the situation, much like our politicians today ahah.

    As much as Beijing was in disarray, the Taiping were in no position to march upon it, afterall they had just lost Anqing. However the death of Xianfeng reinfigerated the Taiping nonetheless. Chen Yucheng and the remnants of his battered army were cut off in northern Anhui while Li Xiucheng was marching east into Zhejiang province. Zhejiang at this time held around 26 million people and Li Xiucheng planned to conquer the province and gain further independence from Hong Rengan. Hong Rengan did not want Zhejiang province, well at least not at this time, what he wanted was for the Taiping to consolidate and take back Anqing. Control over the Yangtze region was the key to his strategy of consolidating a southern empire and for that Anqing was a major component. He began to beg Li Xiucheng sending letters from Nanjing to turn his army back around to smash Zeng Guofan. “the Yangtze has been described as a serpent, with its head at Hubei, its body in Anhui, and its tail in Jiangnan. We don’t have Hubei, and if we let go of Anhui as well, the serpent will be sundered, and the tail won’t survive for long on its own.” To all of this Li Xiucheng simply replied that Anqing was a hopeless cause and that he would not leave Zhejiang. Hong Rengan was livid, but what could he really do. Now the way Hong Rengan described the Yangtze as a serpent, was something Zeng Guofan also ascribed to. Both men understood the enormous advantage Wuchang and Anqing presented; they both controlled vast regions of agriculture. But along the eastern coast, particularly the port cities held enormous wealth and this is what attracted Li Xiucheng to Zhejiang. As a result of him taking forces into Zhejiang, now the overall momentum of the Taiping strategy skewed to the east.

    Hong Rengan had changed after his military disaster at Tongcheng. He was more bitter, angry that the foreigners would not support their cause. And the second he had left Nanjing, the Hong brothers had done everything they could to belittle him. One major thing they did was take away the need for Hong Rengans seal to forward information to the Heavenly Kings, thus taking the mediator monopoly from him. This also came at a time Hong Xiuquan’s son was older and sitting in on important meetings, learning the ropes. The Heavenly son was gradually becoming more important than Hong Rengan, he was no longer the undisputed second in command of the movement. Despite this, Hong Rengan still remained in charge of foreign relations and much of the administration of Nanjing. While Hong Rengan was out of Nanjing, a ton of setbacks had occurred. The worst were the demands imposed upon the Taiping by Admiral Hope and Parkes, that the Taiping must stay at least 30 miles away from Shanghai and other treaty ports such as Hankou and Wuchang.

    The new 5 year old heir to the Qing dynasty was the son of one of Xiangfeng’s concubines, a pretty Manchu woman named Yehonala. She gave birth to the boy at the age of 20 and since he was the sole male this made her status rise as she was the mother of a soon reigning emperor, a rank that compared to that of being the wife of the emperor. Her title became known as Empress Dowager, and she is quite infamous in modern Chinese history, her name since becoming the Empress Dowager became Cixi. She is often compared to Queen Victoria, as both would be the most powerful women of the 19th century. When Xianfeng died, he issued an edict naming his 8 closest Manchu advisers as regents for his son. Traditionally when a new emperor was too young to rule, power was entrusted to regents or family members until the emperor became old enough. With the boy being 5 years of age, the regents could expect to rule over the empire for at least a decade, not a bad gig. Many of these regents hated the Europeans and dreamed of breaking the treaties. Yet Prince Gong, who many thought was too soft on the foreigners, sought a plan to appease the foreigners by creating a office of foreign affairs, so that in the meantime all the strength of the Qing empire could be brought down upon the Taiping.

    Now the only check to the powers of the new regents was the pair of Empress Dowagers, Cixi and the Xianfengs widow . Before his death he had given them each an imperial seal. While all edict would be composed by the regents, the Dowager empresses would hold veto powers using their seals. The widow proved compliant to the regents from the offset, but Cixi did not follow the regents without question. She began to assert her independence and threatened to withhold approval for some of the regents' policy decisions, creating a tension between the 8 male regents and the mother of the emperor. The tensions came to a head in late October when Xianfeng’s remains were finally brought back to Beijing. In the grand funeral procession, 124 bearers carried the dead Emperor and at their head was Sushun the top ranking regent. The two dowager empresses traveled with a forward party escorting the young emperor in a closed palaquin. The empresses would have a single day in the capital before Sushun would get there and they quickly went to work.

    The empresses met with Prince Gong immediately, using their private guards to thwart some of the other regents who were with them from preventing the audience. Some of the regents even tried to stop the boy emperor from meeting with Prince Gong, but Prince Gong had become quite popular in Beijing, having been the only one who stayed to do anything to help the city when the foreigners attacked, thus the population, and more importantly the Beijing guards stopped the regents forces. It also turns out Cixi had spent weeks secretly meeting with Prince Gongs brother at the hunting retreat in Rehe and they formed a plan. Prince Gong accompanied the empresses into Beijing making sure the regents were nowhere near them. Then Prince Gong read out an edict in the emperors name using the empress dowagers seals, charging Sushun and the other regents of treason, who could have seen that one coming. A detachment of Manchu guards led by Prince Gongs brother rode out to confront Sushun, arresting him and the other regents. They were accused of causing a war with Britain and France by misleading the late Emperor Xianfeng with treacherous advice. They were blamed for the kidnapping of Harry Parkes and other envoys, breaking faith with the foreign community and provoking Elgin to march on the capital. They also prevented the emperor against his will from returning to Beijing and faked the Emperor's will to make them regents, this is some real game of thrones shit right here.

    The trail was quick, as you would imagine, and within a week the regents were found guilty of all charges, gasp. 5 of them were striped of their rank and banished to the western frontier. The 3 most powerful regents, Sushun, Duanhua and Zaiyuan were sentenced to death, but in display of compassion, Cersei Lanister, I mean Empress Dowager Cixi, no idea how I mixed up those two figures, I see what you did Mr. George R Martin, Cixi granted Zaiyuan and Duanhua the privilege of strangling themselves with silk, but it turned out to be a symbolic gesture as they were hung in a dungeon. For Sushun who proved to be her true rival, he was beheaded in public on November 8th in a cabbage market. Now edicts proclaims empress dowager Cixi would quote “should in person administer the government and by assisted by a counselor or counselors, to be chosen from among the princes of the highest order, and immediately allied to the throne”. Thus Empress Dowager Cixi with Prince Gong as her chief adviser became the new ruler of the Qing dynasty.

    Now coming back to a point I made quite awhile back, I think during the first episode of the series, Karl Marx predicted in 1853 that the Taiping rebellion would cripple British trade in China and he was quite wrong, at least initially. Ironically, the civil war severed the internal trade networks within China causing merchants to dramatically look to external trade thus booming British trade. Figures rose about 30 percent from 1860-1861, but then another large event unfolded, another civil war, this time in America. Britain was thus trapped between two large civil wars. British commerce relied heavily upon both these nations. The United States, aka King Cotton in the south, provided the cotton for British textiles, which they sold in the far east. ¾’s of Britain cotton came from the US south and because of the tricky political situation now Britain could not afford to deal with those southerners lest they get caught up in the civil war. Now until the cotton dried up from the US, Britain was able to undersell the Chinese domestic cotton market, but with the outbreak of the war, the prices rose too high and now the Chinese were not buying their stuff. British exports dropped dramatically, causing textile factories to shut down. Cotton was just one part of the conundrum, because alongside it, the Americans consumed around 2/3rd of the green tea purchased by British merchants from China. Thus the British tea and textile trade was being torn to bits.

    There was one gleaming light of hope however. The new treaty ports in China offered some new opportunities. The British could trade between the ports, especially those along the Yangtze river. Hell the internal trade networks were shattered as a result of the civil war, but the British enjoyed steamship power along the rivers and the ability to go freely from port to port. Now Britain sought profit, to do so they needed to expand the Chinese markets, and this meant doing some business with the Taiping who held some of the good ports. Until now Britain had avoided open relations with the Taiping. Now on May 13th of 1861 Britain announced recognition of the confederacy meaning Britain would treat the south as a separate government contending for power and not a lawless rebellion. This meant Britain could loan money and purchase arms and supplies for the Confederacy. To the merchants in China this seemed to be the ideal situation that should be adopted there. Many called for treating the Taiping the same as the confederacy, hell the confederacy was recognized after mere months, while the Taiping had been around for 10 years. The house of commons debated the matter and after long a tedious back and forths it was decided the neutrality stance must be sustained, given however that the Taiping did not hinder British trade within the provinces they controlled.

    Meanwhile Li Xiucheng’s army was running rampant in Zhejiang province, taking the capital of Hangzhou in December of 1861 after over 8 weeks of siege. The city had 2.3 million inhabitants and it proved quite easy to starve them out. Li Xiucheng had his men fire arrows with messages into the city stating the people would not be harmed and would be given the choice to join the Taiping or be left to leave freely. As one Qing commander at Hangzhou put it “Because the Loyal King issued orders not to harm the people, the people didn’t help fight against him … Thus, none of the people suffered at the hands of the longhairs, and they all turned around and blamed the Imperials for their afflictions.” Thus the Manchu garrison burnt themselves alive while Qing officials slit their throats, but the common people went unmolested, nice for a change. It also seems Li Xiucheng took notice of the horrifying atrocities performed by Zeng Guofan at Anqing and wanted to earn the high ground with the commoners by pointing out how terrible the Manchu were. He even let the Manchu and Qing officials in Hangzhou go free, though as I said many took the alternative path of suicide.

    Hangzhou was the capital and lynchpin of Zhejiang province, an enormous blow to the Qing. But there was another city that was significant, Ningbo, a treaty port, on the other side of Hangzhou bay, and just due south of Shanghai. To go from Ningbo to Hangzhou by land was around 200 miles, roughly double the distance of that by ship. The Qing forces at Shanghai hoped Ningbo’s close proximity would mean the foreigners might defend the city as well. But Bruce stamped that down pretty quick sending word to the consul of Ningbo that if the Taiping were to attack, the BRitish would not get involved. He also told Admiral hope “I do not think we can take upon ourselves the protection of Ningpo, we should not display British naval power near that city lest we get compromise ourselves in this civil contest”. Admiral Hope seems to have seen things differently as upon learning in may of 1861 that the Taiping were going to march on Ningbo, he dispatched Captain Roderick Dew in the 14 gunship Encounter to dissuade the rebels. Captain Dew was also told to try and make contact with any Taiping commanders nearest to Shanghai and to relay the same type of messages Parkes had when it came to Hankou. “Point out to the commander that the capture and destruction of the town of Ningpo would be extremely injurious to British trade and that he should desist from all hostile proceedings against the town. Don't commit yourself to the necessity of having recourse to force, but do remind him of what took place last year at Shanghai”.

    After giving the veiled threat to the Taiping Captain Dew went into Ningbo and told the Qing officials to mount every possible defense they could. Dew was told by Hope that under no circumstances could he open fire on the Taiping, it really was just a bluff. But Hope also asked Dew to investigate Ningbo and figure out the quote “amount of auxiliary european force which you think sufficient for its defense”. It seems the real politik at play was this. Both Admiral Hope and Frederick Bruce were planning ahead for what they assumed would be a major policy change. Both men expected their government to change its mind and wanted to be ready at a whims notice to defend any British interests from the Taiping. But in essence as you can see their actions were also drawing in conflict with the Taiping, the old self fulfilling prophecy. Both men did not want to see the Qing overthrown by the Taiping, because they seemed the worse choice as far as trade was concerned. All the customs duties from treaty ports were being used by the Qing to pay the reparations to the British for the second opium war, ahaaaaa there it really is. If the Taiping took a port, well the British could expect no return, but to prop up the Qing meant an endless cash flow. Nonetheless the Taiping represented a large threat, the British simply did not have enough forces to defend all their interests for the meantime they had to play a sort of ballet between the Taiping and Qing.

    Captain Dew ended up bringing 12 large cannons from the British armory at Shanghai and installed them on Ningpo’s walls, figuring if it was not British manning them, well that didnt breach neutrality. But low and behold the Qing officials did not lift a finger to help defend the city, and why would they, if they made the situation worse perhaps the British would become more involved. When the Taiping approached Ningpo, the city emptied, well all those who could flee did. On November 26th the Taiping were 30 miles off from Ningpo and by December 2nd just a days march when the British sent a party to parley with them. The British pleaded for the Taiping to give the city one more week before assaulting it and they agreed to this for some unknown reason. On december 9th, 60,000 Taiping advanced in 2 columns towards the city gates as Taiping naval units rowed over to scale the walls from the sea. It was a relatively peaceful conquest as just about all Qing officials had fled prior. Of course the usual looting was done, but very little murders were performed. The French, American and British officials came to Ningpo to talk to the Taiping demanding they respect their trade privileges and the Taiping commanders agreed enthusiastically offering to execute anyone who dared lift a finger on any foreigner. Thus for the Taiping this was an incredible victory and one step closer to establishing good relations with the foreigners.

    1862 was a year of many unknowns for China, both Beijing and Nanjing were re-forming themselves and no one could accurately predict how the war would go. Zeng Guofan was building up his Xiang army now using Anqing as an HQ. His power base was now Anhui province. To the east, Li Xiucheng controlled Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces, nearly a quarter of China’s yearly income came from these combined territories. After grabbing Ningbo, the only logical step forward was, Shanghai. It was a gleaming gem, unbelievable revenues could be earned by its control. The past 2 years had shown Li Xiucheng that the British simply would not pay the Taiping proper recognition nor respect and so he sought to finally do something about it. Li Xiucheng began to prepare his army to return to Shanghai, this time not so lightly armed. Li XIucheng was never one to believe the foreigners could have ever been won over in the first place and now Hong Rengan’s authority was widely diminished in Nanjing, as for out here in the east it was honestly Li Xiucheng’s show.

    As for the British, Ningbo seemed to not be trading much at all since the Taiping came, Anqing had fallen to Zeng Guofan and all the meanwhile Bruce was sending reports back home of endless Taiping atrocity stories whenever they took cities, most were fabricated. Bruce was trying to make parliament see that the stance of neutrality would eventually lead to the death of British trade. Harry Parkes also traveled back to Britain who would have a lot to say to the public about his time in China, his mistreatment afterall was the rationale for the burning of the summer palace. The very last deed he performed before sailing off was a last ditch attempt to stop the Taiping from approaching Shanghai, which they refused. In fact the negotiations had gone so terribly, one of Admiral Hope's commanders threatened to attack the rebels if they dared come near Shanghai.

    Back to Zeng Guofan, he finally had Anqing, but now he faced the daunting need for more and more men. By taking Anqing he now gained the vast territory around it, holding tens of millions of people spreading towards the east. The Taiping still controlled many towns in northern Anhui and Chen Yucheng was in full retreat going downstream towards Nanjing. Everything east of Nanjing was pretty much a hopeless cause. Zeng Guofan’s men were exhausted, they spent basically a year besieging Anqing, many wanted to go back home, morale was low. Zeng Guofan began to rebuild in Anqing using his own men as laborers. Under his direction they rebuilt the confucian academy and examination hall, repaired the walls and restored the markets. Next he set up relief stations to help the famine stricken population and helped them restore the agricultural output of the region. He also sent his brother Guoquan back to their homelands of Hunan to recruit another 6000 Hunanese soldiers, because the next push was going to be against Nanjing. Now Zeng Guofan was taking a bit of a risk sending his brother to do such a thing. There was a coup going on in Beijing, the Cixi Cersei Lannister one I spoke of, he did not know what the outcome was going to be from said coup and his actions could be judged as anti Qing since he was gaining more and more power independently from Beijing. Zeng Guofan already had a growing number of critics within Beijing who saw him as a growing threat to the central government. Thus he simply dispatched word back to the capital stating he needed to gather as many forces as he could to be able to march upon Nanjing to ride the dynasty of the Taiping menace. But this was all a facade, in order to actually defeat Nanjing, it had to be strangled from supplies, similar to ANqing. Yet Chen Yucheng loomed around in northern Anhui, and he was still yet to consolidate all of southern Anhui. He would need to take vast territory in southern Anhui towards Hangzhou in Zhejiang province and this would require colossal forces. But a strategy formed in his mind, he envisioned 3 separate armies attacking in unison: one from Anqing going east downriver to Nanjing; another led by Zuo Zongtang would march through Jiangxi into Zhejiang to smash Hangzhou; the last would march through Jiangsu and fight towards Suzhou and then Nanjing. But such feats required vast amounts of men, and he was beginning to think his homelands of Hunan were being drained dry of youthful men. Thus he cast aside his conservative methods for the first time and began to cast a wider net, he was going to trust a non Hunanese man to help him in his endeavors, one of my favorite figures in modern Chinese history, Li Hongzhang. Li Hongzhang was 38 years old at this time, a scholar from Anhui province and he was asked to help form a new provincial militia that could supplement Zengs Hunanese one. Just like Zeng Guofan, Li Hongzhang was a Hanlin scholar, an elite who scored top of the examination system. He was 11 years younger to Zeng Guofan, his father literally passed the Jinshi examination in Beijing in the same group as Zeng Guofan in 1838. The two men became close early on, when Li arrived in Beijing in 1844, fresh from passing his provincial examination, it was Zeng Guofan who agreed to serve as his teacher to help prepare him for the Jinshi, which he passed with distinction in 1847. They were tied by friendship through Li’s father, making Zeng Guofan something like an uncle to him, but even more than that, Zeng Guofan was his teacher and mentor. Within the Confucian culture, a student and teacher were akin to a son and father.

    Despite such close ties, it took Zeng Guofan a long time to come to the point where he would trust Li Hongzhang with his own army. Zeng Guofan knew the man was brilliant, he also knew he was ambitious. Li’s older brother served on Zeng Guoan’s staff, but when Li Hongzhang came to Zeng Guofan’s military HQ in Hunan in 1858 looking for employment he was turned away. He was not just turned away, he was literally ignored for over a month. Yes Li spent a month hanging around until he got so frustrated he demanded Zeng Guofan given him a answer, which Zeng did, through an aid with some sarcasm he said to Li “perhaps the Hunan army was a bit to shallow a beach in which to harbor so large a ship as Li”. What Zeng was doing and would continue to do for a few years was to break Li’s arrogance. He did this by various means, such as having guards drag Li literally out of bed if he ever overslept. Zeng was trying to toughen the man up, to test his grit. Li for his part hung in there, trying to convince Zeng of his loyalty and humility. They got in fights of course and this led Li to leave for a time, but by 1862 their relationship was solid and Zeng either through his trust in the man or in desperation entrusted him with basically being his second. Now there were some negatives to all of this. Zeng Guofan had very experienced military commanders at this point, much more experiences than Li Hongzhang, but Zeng Guofan was a scholar more than anything else and he valued Li Hongzhangs hanlin scholarship above all else.

    In early 1862, Li Hongzhang began to form a regional militia using the same model as the Xiang army, which would be known as the Anhui army. He performed the same type of recruitment scheme, going first to his home district, forming companies of troops from the same homes to serve officers who they had connections to. Several thousand Anhui commoners were brought to Anqing by February to begin training under the guidance of veteran officers of the Xiang army. This new army would have the same structure, same training and for all intensive purposes was a mirror image of the Xiang army. The only real difference was that Li Hongzhang took orders from Zeng Guofan whom was supposed to be taking orders from Beijing but was increasingly becoming more and more independent. Empress Dowager Cixi and Prince Gong basically had no choice, but to allow Zeng Guofan his autonomy, because he was proving to be one of the very few commanders capable of dealing defeats to the Taiping. In November they issued edicts appointing Zeng Guofan as the governor-general and imperial commissioner of Anhui, Jiangsu and Jiangxi alongside military control over Zhejiang. This was some pretty crazy stuff, he basically controlled 4 of the richest and most densely populated provinces.

    Zeng Guofan received the news of his new appointments at the same time as the news of what occurred during the coup, he was pretty surprised to say the least. Control over Zhejiang was a miserable part of the news, as it was literally being attacked with Hangzhou and Ningbo falling. He was a bit overwhelmed by it all and wrote in his diary “This power is too great, my stature will be too high, and my undeserved reputation has outgrown itself. This terrifies me to the extreme.” Despite his anxiety over it all, Zeng Guofan set to work and basically ordered his subordinates to perform a complete takeover of the civil administration of eastern China. Zeng Guofan’s top subordinates became the individual governors of each province under him with Li Hongzhang receiving Jiangsu, Zuo Zongtang Zhejiang and two other proteges taking Jiangxi and Anhui. Now Zeng Guofan was able to redirect tax revenue from the provinces under his control, meaning he could hire and supply more troops.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    Emperor Xianfeng was dead and Empress Dowager Cixi was in charge. Zeng Guofan was making a ton of progress, but there simply was not enough men so he had his student Li Hongzhang form a new Anhui army.

  • Last time we spoke The foreign community of Shanghai did not take the Taiping advances lightly and fired upon the rebels as they approached the great port city. The filibuster Frederick Townsend Ward created a foreign mercenary team to fight the rebels with pretty mixed results. Hong Rengan tried to smooth things over with the foreigners to earn their support, but nothing was going the Taiping’s way. Meanwhile Zeng Guofan was building up his Xiang army, falling into despair at the prospect that Beijing might be captured by foreigners. Yet this did not stop Zeng Guofans resolve to take Anqing, a major stepping stone to seize Nanjing. It seems Hong Rengans grand strategy was falling apart as a result of the foreign community, could he turn things around before Zeng Guofan crushed his plans?

    #31 This episode is The Taiping Rebellion part 8: The Fall of Anqing

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    When the Taiping generals and officers were around things went relatively well for the populaces that came in contact with the Taiping assaults. However as the Taiping armies moved onwards, large groups of bandits followed in their wake, many Taiping secretly amongst them. They would plunder, rape and murder, the usual as it were. Horrible atrocities were common, one account from Xiangshan county in Zhejiang province had a recently groom disemboweled before 12 bandits raped his bride and killed her as well. In the same province one story told that “there were those who would cut open the stomach and drink the blood, and others who chopped off the four limbs. Some would dig out the heart and eat it…my pen cannot bear to write this”. They would carry off women to rape and young boys to be made into future conscripts. Often the Taiping vanguards if they could not find Qing officials, they would kill citizens of a city and dress up their corpses in Qing official attire, to invigorate the rest of the army. Heads went on stakes, placards were nailed to them. The violence between the Qing and Taiping was becoming indistinguishable. But as so often in China, alongside the horror, taxes were collected, crops were grown, new officials were appointed, life simply went on.

    The frank truth about this time period, is the Chinese commoners did not care who was in charge whether it be Taiping or Qing, they simply wanted the damn fighting to end so they could carry on with their lives, they just wanted some order and to be able to provide for their families. Facing so many new territorial gains and countless differing population under their control the Taiping established agreements with local leaders, such as the gentry class who were willing to play ball. Thus a lot of these territories held a lot of autonomy, that is if they paid taxes and made sure not to help the Qing. There was an interesting element of class struggle going on as well. Where the Qing ruled, the wealthy landowner gentry class or scholars generally called the shot. But where the Taiping ruled, you could join their ranks, no matter what class you came from and move up the social ladder.

    Real control still lay outside the Taiping's grasp. Though the Qing were weakened by the European victory of them and even with the Emperor literally fleeing the capital, the mandate of heaven still remained and as long as it did, those loyal to it would resist the rebels. Hong Rengan and Li Xiucheng did not agree on a great many things, but one thing they certainly saw eye to eye on was the need to consolidate the fertile southern provinces, to take what was once the old Ming empire and use it to starve the Qing in the north. By autumn of 1860, Li xiucheng was forced to leave his command in the eastern provinces, to come to relieve Anqing from Zeng Guofan’s siege. Hong Xiuquan actually sent orders for Li Xiucheng to march north to hit Beijing again now that it was weakened, but he refused, ironically similar to how Zeng Guofan refused Emperor Xianfeng. Instead Li Xiucheng insisted he should go west into Jiangxi and Hubei provinces, were several hundreds of thousands of people could be recruited into the Taiping ranks. He would use these men to lift the Anqing siege and this all meant a clash with Zeng Guofan in Qimen. Before Li Xiucheng left Nanjing for his campaign he told the citizens ‘if Anqing can be held, there is no need to worry, but if it is not firm, the capital will not be secure, everyone needs to start stockpiling food”.

    In 1861 Hong Rengan took to the field under orders from the heavenly king, to help relieve Anqing. It was the first time he commanded an army, he himself had never really fought in a battle before. All the way over in Beijing, Prince Gong was begging Emperor Xianfeng to return to the capital, hell the war was over, the foreign barbarians had left, the sovereign was needed in the capital to reassure the people. Yet Xianfeng refused to go back to Beijing, he was furious that Pring Gong agreed to allow foreign envoys to be in Beijing, he could not be around them. Thus Xianfeng stayed at his hunting retreat with his empress and harem of concubines, busying himself by ordered his staff to make improvements to what had become his new home. Prince Gong meanwhile was received terrible reports from Zeng Guofan about difficult situation at Anqing. Prince Gong understood the Taiping menace was akin to a disease in ones inner organs, they were the most urgent problem the dynasty had to deal with, the foreigners were actually a secondary threat when compared. Thus he decided to do what was ever necessary to appease the foreigners while everything should be directed at defeating the Taiping. Once the rebellion was over then they could do something about all the foriegn encroachment. At the same time he wondered if it was time for the Qing to seek aid from the foreigners to quell the Taiping. Russia unlike the others, was free from the obsession of neutrality and had been hassling Qing officials to offer direct military aid. The Russians also offered shipping aid, suggesting they could coordinate with the Americans to bring southern rice to Tianjin by ocean routes. The Russians were the oddball out when it came to foreign powers in China. They were still angry about the Crimean War and while the Americans British and French fought tooth and nail for maritime trade rights, Russia alone shared a land border with the Qing, one that was thousands of miles long. The Russians saw the enormous opportunity a weak Qing government offered them, they could perhaps expand their territory or develop cross border trade. Thus the Tsar sent representatives who offered Xianfeng rifles as early as 1857, and during the negotiations in Tianjin in 1858 they went a step further offering military advisors. All they asked was for a little control over the territory north of the Amur river, which was in the Manchu homelands.

    As you can imagine Xianfeng didn't like that deal and said no, but then in 1860 when the Europeans defeated the Qing and forced them to sign the treaty of Tianjin, the Russian diplomat, Nikolai Pavlovich Ignatiev managed to negotiate a secret Sino-Russian treaty on the side. Ignatiev said he would help the Qing to not be toppled by the other Europeans, if Prince Gong granted Russia control over the north region of the Amur river, an area 300,000 miles large, that was bigger than Korea. The Russians offered a gift of rifles and 400 russians aboard steam powered gunships to coordinate with the Qing military and attack Nanjing. Prince Gong took the offer seriously and pressed the question over to many high ranking Qing officials, one of which was Zeng Guofan. There was a ton of bickering amongst those in support of the deal and those against, Zeng Guofan was one of those for it. Zeng argued Russian and China had no real qualms between another, and it was not unprecedented to accept such help, the previous dynasty after all accepted help from the Dutch to fight the Taiwan rebels in the 17th century. But Zeng Guofan also argued what he needed was not naval forces, no they needed land forces, there was simply no route by which to advance on Nanjing otherwise. He advised modifying the offer to such means. Zeng Guofan finished by arguing what they really needed was to improve their own technological abilities, so they would not need external help in the future. “If we study how they make their cannons and ships, it will be of great benefit to us in the long run.” In the end Xianfeng agreed to taking 10,000 rifles and 8 cannons from the Russians, but declined naval services.

    In february of 1861 Admiral Hope sailed up the Yangtze river to see if relations could be opened with the Taiping without permission from the British government. The government back home was bickering over the civil war issue, many demanded Britain must remain neutral, a few thought it would be a good idea to help the Qing defeat the rebels, they did after all have a treaty with them and expected the weakened dynasty to pay up, and a select few thought the Taiping cause might be just. Regardless Admiral Hope was enroute to Nanjing with a small squadron of gunboats and it took them two weeks to navigate 200 miles up the river to Nanjing. They were the largest foreign party to visit Nanjing and their lead negotiator was none other than the racist nutcase Harry Parkes. They reached Nanjing on February 24th, missing Hong Rengan who had left in early February to help Anqing. On march 1st, Harry Parkes explained the British sought trade along the Yangtze river as was their right under the new treaty they signed with the Qing. Regardless of which side held control over the river banks, Britain wanted to sail freely and they intended to leave a 6 gun paddle frigate, the Centaur in Nanjing to protect British subjects who might visit the city. The Taiping officials relayed the messages to Hong Xiuquan and he sent word back warning his followers not to allow the British to leave their gunboat, he could simply not allow this. Apparently Parkes had a screaming match with the officials saying “he must have another vision!”. And somehow this led to the Taiping agreeing, then Parkes warned them if they attacked Zhenjiang or Jiujiang, both under Qing control, they had best not harm any British subjects or property. In return he promised British forces would not interfere nor harm Taiping. After this apparently the officials just kept pestering Parkes for weapons and he had this to write about it all “The rebels want arms it is the same … on the side of the Imperialists, opium and arms, opium and arms, is the one cry we hear from mandarins, soldiers, and people, at every place we have yet come to.” Admiral Hope meanwhile observed the Taiping and concluded they were a destructive force that should be kept at arms length. He deduced “a period of anarchy, indefinite in duration in China, in which the commercial towns of the empire will be destroyed, and its most productive provinces laid waste.” To this end Hope urged that a 30 mile radius around Shanghai be defended to prevent the Taiping from entering the city.

    By the end of March, Parkes demanded the Taiping not approach Shanghai with a 2 days march of the city or any other treaty port. Hong Xiuquan agreed to not let his forces within 30 miles of Shanghai, but made no promises for the other cities. Admiral Hope told the Taiping officials, Britain would put an end to any renegade British subjects helping the Qing as mercenaries, but would ask the same be done for the Taiping side. Speaking about those foreign mercenaries on the Taiping side, a British representative named Robert Forrest was sent from Shanghai in march of 1861 to go to Nanjing to investigate if and who were aiding the Taiping. It turns out there were around a hundred or so foreign men working as mercenaries for them. They were the same group of men that had been led by Savage before his death, now their leader was a man named Peacock. On the other side, the British consul reported they had caught 13 members of Frederick Townsend Ward’s mercenary men at Songjiang and one of them said he had another 82 men under his command. 29 of these men were royal navy deserters. By May 19th, Ward was caught and arrested as he was trying to recruit more men in Shanghai. Since he was an American, the only person with jurisdiction over him was the US consul. When Ward was questioned the man said he was no longer American and now a subject of the Qing emperor. He was even engaged to a Chinese woman, though that would prove to be a quick ruse. On top of that the provincial governor of Shanghai happened to be a patron of Ward and produced papers proving his Qing citizenship. All of this was so convincing the US consul refused to prosecute Ward and he was set free to keep luring more foreigners into the service of the Qing. There was no real legal basis to go after Ward and a very frustrated Admiral Hope simply grabbed the man and locked him up on his flagship. But Ward jumped out a window and swam away.

    Now back to the Anqing front, Zeng Guofan had begun his campaign against the fulcrum point to Nanjing in the summer of 1860. The city was the domain of the Brave king, Chen Yucheng. In the spring of 1860 he decamped with the bulk of his army to help Li Xiucheng break the Qing siege of Nanjing, leaving behind a garrison of around 20,000 to hold the city of Anqing. The garrison were unseasoned recruits mostly from Hunan and Hubei provinces. Zeng Guofan took advantage of Chen Yucheng’s sortie by sending his brother with 10,000 men through the Jixian pass to prod Anqing. Anqing did not flinch, their defenses were quite strong and they were very well provisioned. Initially Zeng Guofans siege of Anqing was of little concern to the Taiping leadership. They knew the city was strong enough to hold out and took their time to gradually send a relief force in september of 1860. However, this was also part of Hong Rengans strategy's second phase. After consolidating the southern reaches of the Yangtze east of Nanjing, he directed the Taiping forces upstream. Once it became very apparent the foreigners in Shanghai would not sell steamships to them, which Hong Rengan was depending on to get the forces to hit Wuchang, he opted to simply march overland to capture the city.

    After the fall of Suzhou, Chen Yucheng and Li Xiucheng formed a massive pincer operation against Wuchang. Chen Yucheng would take a 100,000 strong army around the north through Anhui while simultaneously breaking the siege of Anqing in early winter en route to Wuchang. Li Xiucheng would mirror this by going south of the great river hitting Zeng Guofans HQ in Qimen alone the way and send his forces to smash Zeng Guoquan at Anqing before marching on Wuchang. Now Zeng Guofan had staked just about all his forces on the siege of Anqing, he only had a defensive garrison at Qimen of 3000 troops. All of his troops were in danger of being cut off from their supplies and reinforcements. Cheng Yucheng went through Anhui recruiting some Nian rebels who help create feint attacks to confuse the Qing as to where they were marching. Eventually in late november his army turned south to hit Anqing, but between them lay the Taiping held city of Tongcheng and alongside it Chen Yucheng ran right into an enormous Qing cavalry force of 20,000 men led by the Manchu general Duolonga. Duolonga had been sent by Zeng Guofan to protect the approach of Anqing from its north and the cavalry force proved a major obstacle to the Taiping. Chen Yucheng was forced to take his men to Tongcheng for its walls protection and had to abandon his march upon Anqing. Remember the Taiping were rather weak when it came to cavalry, it was one of the few advantages the Qing held over them. Thus a force of 20,000 Qing cavalry was quite a force to be reckoned with.

    Chen Yucheng held Tongcheng against the Qing through the winter and decamped in March around the same time Hong Rengan left Nanjing. He led his force northwest beyond the range of the Qing cavalry and then turned sharply southwest to rush over to Wuchang. Along the way his men had to smash several Qing militia forces while a Qing cavalry detachment tried to cut their way off. But by march 17th of 1861 Chen Yuchengs men got to Huangzhou on the Yangtze’s northern bank just 50 miles downstream from Wuchang. There his men surprised the Qing garrison of 2000 men slaughtering them all. By capturing Huangzhou, Chen Yucheng had the perfect base of operations to attack Hankou and then Wuchang.

    Meanwhile in Qimen, Zeng Guofan was anxious about the Taiping advances that seemed to be converging. The attending King, cousin to Li Xiucheng had captured Xiuning, 30 miles to his immediate east. He dispatched Bao Chao to take back the city while he was receiving news his brother Guoquan was not doing well at Anqing. Then terrible news came on November 26th, Li Xiuchengs entire army was approaching from the north. Zeng Guofan quickly dispatched riders to call for help, but his nearest forces had left with Bao Chao to take back Xiuning and Li Xiuchengs forces had appeared directly between them. All he could do was send a letter to his brother at Anqing stating “the rebels are only 15 miles from my Headquarters, just a stones throw and there are no obstacles to stop them….All we can do now is study our defenses and, when they come, try to hold out until someones comes to help us”. However Li Xiucheng did not immediately attack Qimen, he had no idea of the HQ’s strength and paused to gather intel. This pause allowed Bao Chao to come sweeping in with his cavalry to smash into the Loyal King’s army who were exhausted from their long march. Bao Chao’s force was much smaller so he continuously harassed the Taiping army, but never fully dedicated his army to a full battle. Li Xiucheng simply took his men and marched into Jiangxi as per the pincer plan. Despite Li Xiucheng moving on, 3 smaller Taiping forces were still harassing Zeng Guofan and he suspected this was a feint to mask an offensive against Anqing. His HQ were severed off from their supply routes because of the Li Xiuchengs cousin, thus he had to disband his HQ and tried to march east, only to be attacked and pushed right back to Qimen.

    Meanwhile Chen Yucheng awaited Li Xiucheng’s forces to meet up with him at Hankou, but he was in a bit of a situation. Hankou was a new treaty port for the British and it just so happened Admiral Hope’s expedition was on its way back from Nanjing. Harry Parkes showed up to pay a visit warning the Taiping not to cause any harm to the treaty port. Chen Yucheng spoke with Parkes, talking about the plan to take Hankou and Wuchang. Parkes had gone past these cities and knew they were weakly defended and because some British subjects were there stated this. “I commanded his caution in this respect and advised him not to think of moving on Hankou because they could not take the city without seriously interfering with British commerce”. Thus Parkes basically threatened Chen Yucheng, that he would face the same fate as Li Xiucheng had at Shanghai. Chen Yucheng tried to negotiate, stating his forces would absolutely make sure not to hinder the British, but Parkes was adamant and Chen Yucheng was forced to agree not to advance on the city.

    Now Chen Yucheng had no idea what to do, so he sent word back to Nanjing asking for instructions and thus the opportunity to smash Hankou was slipping away. The Qing cavalry that was chasing him across Anhui province made it to Wuchang sounding the alarm forcing him to dig in at Huangzhou. It would take months for Nanjing to give Chen Yucheng a message back and in the meantime Wuchang and Hankou would be heavily reinforced. Downriver at Anqing the siege had reached its 8th month. Zeng Guoquans trench lines surrounded the city with sequences of walls and moats about 2 miles from Anqing’s walls. It was like an extra fortified wall around Anqing that defended against anyone coming out of the city or coming to relieve it. Zeng Guoquan even had riverine units blockading Anqing from receiving aid via the river, but there was a major flaw in this, foreign ships. At Anqing’s southern gate, foreign steamships could drop anchor and unload food or weapons at very inflated prices for the people of Anqing. If Zeng Guoquan tried to stop them it violated the treaty of Tianjin, which the Taiping were trying to abide by to win over western support. And alongside this, believe it or not a small market emerged between the besiegers and besieged. Zeng Guofan had not dished out the payroll for over 9 months, forcing the besiegers to seek salaries elsewhere, thus many began to smuggle food into Anqing for money. War can be quite silly at times.

    Back to Li Xiucheng, his army moved past Qimen in December and made its way through southern Anhui to see if Zeng Guoquan would back off of Anqing. Li Xiucheng also sent forces into Jiangxi and Hubei where hundreds of thousands of possible new recruits lay for the plucking. Slowly but surely, his army made its way to Wuchang to meet up with Chen Yucheng’s army, but he was expected by April and he missed this deadline. By April most of his army was still in Jiangxi province, more than 200 miles away from the assembly point. By early May his forces got to the city of Ruizhou, 150 miles from Wuchang. But instead of carrying on, the citizens of Ruizhou begged him to stay and Li Xiucheng found himself doing so as he likewise recruited another 300,000 followers over the course of a few weeks. Now as incredible as it sounds, for him to gain so many, these were all untrained forces, given weapons yes, but not exactly trustworthy. Zeng Guofan understood this and he understood that such an army had a large mouth to feed.

    Li Xiucheng would only arrive to Wuchang in June, 2 months late for the expected rendezvous. He expected Chen Yucheng to be in Hankou ready to launch an assault on Wuchang, but soon learnt his colleague had left and worse yet, he never took Hankou. By this point, Wuchang had enjoyed 3 full months of warning of the impending Taiping armies and had called up reinforcements. With such vast numbers of untrained men, Li Xiucheng did not dare approach Wuchang too close and set camp on the outskirts of its county. Chen Yucheng had left a garrison at Huangzhou to coordinate with Li Xiucheng, but when Li arrived in the area the river was being controlled by Zeng Guofans navy making it impossible to communicate with Huangzhou. In desperation Li Xiucheng turned to the British consul at Hankou to deliver a message to Huangzhou. The British consul kept that letter as a souvenir and did not deliver it. With no reply from Chen Yucheng, and with no idea where or what he was doing, Li Xiucheng had basically no options left when it came to Wuchang. He could not remain where he was, his new forces were untested and he did not believe they could take Wuchang. He received word Bao Chao was coming from the east to attack him and he knew such veteran troops could do carnage to his green forces. Thus at the end of June he abandoned the western campaign and took his goliath sized army into Hubei. Bao Chao tried to pursue him, but Li Xiucheng had a good headstart and made his way over land and sea eventually moving through southern ANhui and then into Zhejiang.

    With Li Xiucheng failing to show up in time, Chen Yucheng had to act on his own. He received no further instructions from Nanjing about whether or not to attack Hankou so he decided to leave a garrison at Huangzhou and took his forces downriver to hit Anqing. On April 27th he made it to the Jixian pass with 30,000 troops easily scaring off the quite outnumbered Xiang troops there. Then he began the process of building fortifications outside Zeng Guoquans fortified encirclement…basically it was a fort, covered by another fort, covered by now another fort, infortception? So now there were 2 rings surrounding Anqing, meanwhile Chen Yucheng managed to sent rafts with supplies across the river to Anqing. After 3 days of trying to break through parts of Zeng Guoquans walls, Duolonga’s pursuing force had gotten between his forces and the nearest Taiping held city of Tongcheng. This threatened Chen Yuchengs supply and communications line to Nanjing and without Li Xiucheng it seemed he would be unable to break Zeng Guoquans defensive lines. Thus Chen Yucheng looked like he was going to have to depart, but then on May 1st, a Taiping army 20,000 strong showed up led by Hong Rengan at Tongcheng.

    By May 6th, Hong Rengan sent scouts to meet up with Chen Yucheng, but they were beaten back savagely by Duolonga’s cavalry force. It was at this point Chen Yucheng made a grave mistake. He left 12,000 men behind to hold the encirclement defenses and withdrew with the rest of his men northwards to strike at Duolonga’s cavalry in coordination with Hong Rengan from the north. On May 24th the two Taiping armies attacked Duolonga in 3 columns, 2 from the north and 1 from the south, but a Qing spy had revealed this strategy to Duolonga. Duolonga set up an ambush, using a detachment of cavalry going around Chen Yuchengs forces rear, falling upon the men and sending them into a rout. Soon Chen Yucheng’s army was running to Tongcheng receiving massive casualties in the process. The rout also severed Chen Yucheng from his 12,000 men back at the encirclement of Anqing, leaving them helpless without leadership nor possible reinforcements. As for Hong Rengan, it was his first foray into military command and it would effectively be his last. At the same time Hong Rengan’s army was receiving its defeat, the Heavenly King was hosting a visit from Harry Parkes and was greatly unnerved by it wishing for Hong Rengan to return to Nanjing to deal with such matters. Thus an order was sent out for him to return and he did so.

    Chen Yuchengs blunder left 12,000 men in a terrible situation, 4000 were manning the Jixian pass and around 8000 were at Waternut Lake with only the supplies they had brought with them. They outnumbered Zeng Guoquans encirclement forces, but only by a bit and now the Qing would smash them. Zeng Guofan had ordered Bao Chao to help ferry his army across the Yangtze river to get over to his brother to help. The day after Chen Yucheng had fled to Tongcheng, Zeng Guofan and his brother’s armies swept over the Jixian Pass force, breaking them within a week. On June 7th, the Taiping at Jixian Pass surrendered, Bao Chao’s men killed 3000 of them. Then they went on to smash the Taiping at Waternut Lake, eventually defeating them by July 7th. 8000 Taiping surrendered, handing in 6000 foreign rifles, 8000 long spears, 1000 jingalls, 800 Ming dynasty matchlocks and 2000 horses, a very nice haul.

    Zeng Guoquan had no idea what to do with all the prisoners, a force almost as large as his own who were very dangerous. One of his battalion commanders suggested they just kill them all and he made a suggested plan. They could open the gates of the camp and let the prisoners in 10 at a time so they could be beheaded in batches, “in half a day, we could be done”. What a monster. Zeng Guoquan didnt have the stomach for such a thing and left it all to the said commander who by his own accounts oversaw the butchering of 8000 POW’s in the course of a single day. Apparently they started at 7am, and were done by sun down, my god. It seems Zeng Guoquan was deeply troubled by the slaughter and I don’t blame him.

    Despite the great victory, the siege of Anqing still ground on as Bao Chao and Zeng Guoquan smashed Taiping relief forces. It was the foriegn ships bringing provisions into the city that was making the difference. Zeng Guofan tried to send word to the British to stop making deliveries, but they kept ignoring his messages. By mid July he was fed up after finding out a foreign ship had unloaded nearly 200 tons of rice to Anqing, so he sent a complaint to Beijing. It seems his complaint worked like a charm, Prince Gong sent word to Bruce on July 18th protesting the British help of the Taiping at Anqing, demanding Qing forces be allowed to search every ship that went to the city. Thus Bruce halted any British ships from going to Anqing and in the late summer Zeng Guofan began to receive captured letters from Anqing defenders indicating they were finally running out of food.

    Chen Yucheng tried one last time to try to lift the siege at Anqing, taking the remnants of his battered army along with the survivors of Hong Rengans he marched in a long northern sweep around Duolonga’s forces to get to the Jixian Pass where his force reoccupied the defenses they had made there. Chen Yucheng planned for all out offensive leading him to perform a desperate mission to rescue his family from Anqing by river while Zeng Guofan’s navy fired upon any and all ships departing from the city. August saw a symphony of gun and cannon fire with Taiping waves of men throwing themselves against Zeng Guoquans encirclement, row upon row of them pouring out from Anqing and from Chen Yucheng. The dead piled up against the defensive works on either side as the living clambering over them to try and kill the gunners atop. Then on the night of september 3rd, with the sound of guns, cannons and blades sundering the landscape, all went quiet as Chen Yucheng tossed the towel at last. He burnt the stockade at Jixian Pass to the ground and left Anqing to suffer its fate to the Qing.

    Most of the defenders managed to escape Anqing during the battle, escaping through some tunnels made underneath Zeng Guoquans encirclement. The burning of the Jixian Pass stockades provided a decent distraction, though there is evidence that the great escape of so many Taiping was actually an arrangement made by a Qing commander. In exchange for handing over Anqing without a fight they perhaps let the Taiping defenders go. Regardless, all the civilians remained in Anqing alongside some poor defenders chained to the wall mounted cannons. The Xiang forces entered the city unopposed on September 5th. The depths of horror found within the city would leave a long last nightmare. After the foreign ships were banned form bringing provisions, the inhabitants of Anqing ate all the food, then the animals including rats, until nothing was left, all except for one thing. The Xiang forces found out while all the food had run out, the markets were still open for business, the business of selling human flesh, at around half a tael per catty, or 38 cents a pound. Around 16,000 people were left alive in the city. Zeng Guofan wrote to his brother asking what they should do with the people “When we conquer the city, the proper thing to do will be to kill a lot of people. We shouldn’t let compassion lead us to err in the grand scheme of things. What do you think?” There are differing accounts of the slaughter, one states Zeng Guofans officers first separated the women and children from those being killed, another states all were treated the same.

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    Zeng Guofan finally captured the great city of Anqing, a stepping stone to taking Nanjing. The Taiping pincer strategy failed utterly and now they were left in disarray. Can the Taiping come back from these defeats?