The new Republican regime, which its supporters had fervently hoped would usher in an age of democratic constitutionalism and national independence, quickly turned out to be a bitter disappointment. Under Yuan Shikai the “liberal republic,” as Ernest Young characterizes it, soon led to another autocracy and even to two attempts at reviving the monarchy.1 The first, in 1915–16, sought to make Yuan the new emperor; the second, in 1917, after Yuan’s death, aimed to restore the Qing. Neither succeeded, and the facade of the Republic was preserved. By then, though, China was plunged into the decade of political and military disorder known as warlordism, which did not end until the Nationalist Party (Guomindang; Kuomintang) came to power in 1927–28.
If the political aspirations of the revolution had come up short, what of its anti-Manchu aims? The revolutionaries had previously accused the Manchus of seven sets of misdeeds, which they were now in a position to correct or undo. However, in their desire to bring the revolution to a speedy and successful conclusion, they had also promised the banner people as well as the Qing court that both would be safeguarded and provided for indefinitely. Given such seeming contradictions and in view of the political turmoil of the times, to what extent was the new regime able, on the one hand, to cleanse the crimes of the Manchus and, on the other, to fulfill the pledges of favorable treatment in the abdication agreements? How, in other words, did the Qing court and the banner people fare in the new era, both during the early Republic (1912–28) and under subsequent regimes? How, too, did the concept of the Manchus change over time?
THE QING COURT AND THE EARLY REPUBLIC
With the seven-count indictment as their justification, the republican revolutionaries had called for the overthrow of the Manchu rulers, but in order to avoid a prolonged conflict, they had settled for a negotiated arrangement. In return for the dynasty’s transferring its authority to the Republic, they promised, in the Articles of Favorable Treatment, to deal generously with the abdicated emperor. Though the settlement had troubled some Republicans as far too generous, it was to remain in effect by and large until, and even after, Puyi’s expulsion from the palace in 1924.
During the first two years of the Republic, when President Yuan Shikai operated within the “liberal” political framework that the former revolutionaries and constitutional reformers had erected (including a provisional constitution and an elected bicameral parliament, which replaced the revolutionaries’ ad hoc senate), the new regime made a conscientious effort to fulfill its obligations under the abdication agreement. Indeed, in one respect it treated the Qing court more favorably than promised, by not requiring the emperor to leave the Forbidden City. Originally his stay there was supposed to be only temporary. At an unspecified “later date,” which Wu Tingfang publicly stated would be no later than the end of winter, he would transfer to the Yiheyuan Summer Palace in the northwestern suburbs. As spring approached, however, Yuan, citing the turmoil in Beijing caused by the mutiny of Cao Kun’s Third Division on 29 February 1912, consented to a postponement. (He used the same excuse to rebuff the Republican Senate’s command that he relocate his government to Nanjing.) In the following months, though the newspapers repeatedly reported that the emperor was about to move to the Yiheyuan, he never did. Perhaps Yuan found it easier to keep the court under his watchful eyes when it was nearby rather than out in the suburbs.2
The Qing court after its abdication occupied only a small portion of its former holdings in Beijing. Previously, the palace complex comprised not only the Forbidden City but the encompassing Imperial City as well, including such facilities as Prospect Hill (Jingshan, also known as Coal Hill) to the north, the Three Seas (Sanhai) to the west, and the Altar of Harvests and Temple of Ancestors to the south. The abdication agreement permitted the court to remain only within the Forbidden City; the rest of the complex would be conveyed to the Republic. Accordingly, on New Year’s Day 1913 the court threw open to the public the long, stone-paved Imperial Way, south of Tiananmen (the Gate of Heavenly Peace), which previously had been sealed off from the outside world. Two months later it turned over the Three Seas, including Yingtai Palace in the South Sea (Nanhai), which in April became the new presidential headquarters and remained so until 1925. Also in 1913 the Republican government converted a section of the Altar of Harvests into Central Park (Zhongyang Gongyuan), a public facility with paid admission. (It was renamed Zhongshan Park, in honor of Sun Yat-sen [Sun Zhongshan], after the triumph of the Nationalists.) However, the adjacent Temple of Ancestors, because of its intimate ties to the dynasty, stayed under the control of the court, as did Prospect Hill, though it was open to the public on a restricted basis.3
Within the Forbidden City itself, the Qing gave up most of its southern half, known as the “outer court.” Thus, Yuan Shikai’s inauguration as president on 10 October 1913, following his perfunctory election by the new parliament, took place within the Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihedian), where Qing emperors had been enthroned. Other buildings in the outer court that were ceded to the Republic included the Wenhua and Wuying Palaces, near Meridian Gate (Wumen), where civil and military officials used to await audiences with the emperor. Soon afterward, in 1914, these two “waiting palaces”—together with the nearby Taihe, Zhonghe, and Baohe throne halls—became a public museum, the Exhibition Hall of Antiquities (Guwu Chenliesuo), displaying treasures from the palaces at Shenyang (formerly Shengjing) and Rehe. The Qing was left with only the “inner court,” north of the Qianqing Gate, and portions of the outer court on either side of the three main throne halls. The Gate of Spiritual Valor (Shenwumen) along the north wall of the Forbidden City replaced Meridian Gate on the south as the formal entrance into the diminished Qing court. In addition to these reduced holdings in Beijing City, the Qing also controlled the Yiheyuan Summer Palace, to which it might still be expected to move one day.4
The Republic, as agreed upon, treated the former Qing household with the same degree of ceremony and formality as would have been shown to a foreign monarch. It addressed Puyi as “Emperor of the Great Qing,” and it dealt the same way with Longyu, who since the resignation of Zaifeng as regent had dominated court affairs. Thus, on 15 February 1913, on the occasion of the ailing empress dowager’s forty-fifth birthday, Yuan Shikai sent his chief secretary, Liang Shiyi (1869–1933), to the palace to offer his congratulations. While Longyu sat on the throne, Liang bowed three times and presented an official message to “Empress Dowager Longyu of the Great Qing.” When she died a week later, Yuan’s cabinet ordered all government offices throughout the country to fly their flags at half staff and all civil and military officials to wear mourning for twenty-seven days. With Longyu’s demise, formal leadership of the court during Puyi’s minority passed to the four dowager consorts—the three concubines of Tongzhi and one of Guangxu.5
The court’s principal intermediaries with the new regime were former grand councilor Shixu, who was then the chief minister of the Imperial Household Department, and Prince Pulun. Thus, Shixu represented the Qing at Yuan’s inauguration as provisional president on 10 March 1912. When Sun Yat-sen and Huang Xing visited Beijing six months later, both Shixu and Pulun were dispatched to welcome them on behalf of the court. Pulun hosted a large party for the two leaders of the revolution, while Shixu escorted them on a tour of the Forbidden City and the Yiheyuan. At Yuan’s installation as president a year later at the Taihe throne hall, it was Pulun’s turn to represent the court. In the receiving line he was placed right after the diplomatic corps, as if the Qing were of nearly equal standing with a foreign country.6
The new regime also attempted to fulfill its financial promises to the Qing court. The chief obligation was the annual stipend of four million taels (later on, dollars). It was Shixu’s responsibility, as the lead minister of the imperial household, to dun President Yuan for the money.7 Though financially strapped, the Republic did pay much, though not all, of the obligated sums. In April 1912, for example, the Ministry of Finance turned over 150,000 taels; in October, 600,000 taels; and in December, $200,000. As the North-China Herald commented in early 1913, “There is nothing to show that Republican promises have been broken with regard to allowance and dignities.” When Yuan contracted the controversial Reorganization Loan in April 1913, one of its purposes was to pay the expenses of the imperial household, which for the six months from April to September were estimated at $2,777,777.8 Another obligation to the Qing was the completion of the Guangxu emperor’s tomb. This was an even larger (though one-time) expenditure for which the Reorganization Loan was earmarked: $4,611,537. Construction of the tomb, interrupted by the revolution, resumed in the spring of 1913. Despite complaints of cost overruns, the mausoleum was completed, and the Guangxu emperor was formally interred on 13 December 1913.9
Finally, Yuan Shikai’s government took the Palace Guard away from the Qing court and placed it under the Ministry of the Army, but, as promised, preserved its organizational integrity. Over the objections of some Republican critics, the unit was not disbanded; thus, another intended use of the Reorganization Loan was to advance $1,243,196 to the Ministry of the Army to pay for the Palace Guard. It was one of the largest military units in the capital. When President Yuan reviewed the troops on the first anniversary of the revolution, the Guard’s contingent of three thousand soldiers in the parade was second in size only to his own six-thousand-person force, the Gongweijun. Except for the Fourth Infantry Regiment, which from its inception was mostly Han, the Palace Guard also remained a Manchu army. Initially, at least, when new soldiers were recruited, they were drawn, as before, from the ranks of the Metropolitan Banners. As the Beijing correspondent for the North-China Herald noted in October 1912, “The organization and composition of [the Palace Guard] remains practically unchanged, except that many of the principal Manchu officers have been replaced by [Han] Chinese. Nevertheless, the division is still mainly Manchu.” Actually, even among the officers, the Manchu presence continued to be strong. In 1913 the commander of the First Brigade was Guan Zhonghe, who previously had led the First Regiment, and the commander of the Second Regiment was, as before, Chonglin (or Chongen). Thus, at least two of the top eight or ten leaders of the Palace Guard were Manchus.10
The Palace Guard in the early years of the Republic continued to function as the emperor’s bodyguard and kept its distinctive imperial name. In 1913 the predominantly Han Fourth Regiment was sent off to Zhangjiakou to combat Mongol bandits, but most of the rest of the division remained at their new Changchunyuan barracks in the northwestern suburbs. It was the particular responsibility of Chonglin’s Second Regiment to stand guard at the main gates leading to the Imperial and the Forbidden Cities, including those gates that had been opened to the public.11 However, the Palace Guard, in addition to continuing its ties to the Qing court, also became increasingly identified as Feng Guozhang’s army and was the foundation on which Feng’s growing political power rested. He had been its commander since the resignation of Zaifeng as regent in December 1911. Even when he was appointed military governor of Zhili Province in September 1912 and was replaced as leader of the Palace Guard by Wang Tingzhen, Guan Zhonghe’s predecessor at the First Brigade, Feng Guozhang remained as the unit’s supreme commander. Although he took only one hundred of its soldiers with him to Tianjin, he retained ultimate authority over the entire Palace Guard. On at least a couple occasions in 1913, he returned to Beijing to take care of Palace Guard matters.12 Because Feng Guozhang had for several years been closely associated with the Qing court and, as most recently demonstrated during the abdication crisis, was extremely solicitous of its welfare, the Palace Guard’s dual ties to the court and to Feng Guozhang were not necessarily in conflict.
The Qing court, for its part, tried to stay in the good graces of the new republic by assiduously keeping its distance from the restorationist activities of some of its adherents. During the first few months after the abdication, the newspapers were full of stories of counterrevolutionary intrigues, many of them attributed to the Royalist Party. Its leading members were said to include those Manchus who had been most opposed to the court’s capitulation to the Republicans. When the dynasty abdicated, most of them had fled Beijing and found refuge in various foreign-controlled areas of China. Shanqi went to Lüshun (Port Arthur) in the Japanese leased territory of Guandong in Fengtian; Puwei, to the German leasehold of Qingdao in Shandong; and Tieliang, to the Japanese concession in Tianjin. From their foreign sanctuaries, they tried to rally support to renew the struggle against the Republic and restore the Qing dynasty. The royalists were particularly active in Manchuria and Beijing, both with large Manchu populations who might be inclined to support their aims. The most ambitious of these early restorationist plots was that of Shanqi (Prince Su), working in conjunction with the Japanese adventurer Kawashima Naniwa, with whom he had collaborated ten years earlier in organizing the Beijing police. In 1912 Shanqi and Kawashima sought to set up a Japanese protectorate in that part of Inner Mongolia bordering on Manchuria where Puyi could be returned to power. However, this effort to create what Marius Jansen calls the “first Manchukuo” collapsed when the Japanese government withdrew its support in favor of working with Yuan Shikai. Shanqi retired to Lüshun, where he died in 1922; he never reconciled with the Republic.13
In Beijing the Palace Guard, which had opposed the Qing abdication until almost the very end, was widely suspected of harboring restorationist sentiments. In April 1912 a group of forty or more soldiers from Chonglin’s Second Regiment marched on the office of the staunchly pro-Republican China Daily (Zhonghua ribao) and dragged its editor off to their headquarters because the newspaper had refused to retract some hostile comments about the banner people. The incident immediately gave rise to a rumor that the Palace Guard was plotting an armed uprising with the royalists. This in turn obliged the Palace Guard soldiers to issue a statement denying the rumor and vowing support for the Republic. There is, indeed, no evidence that the royalists were ever deeply involved with the Guard.14
Nevertheless, Yuan’s government warned the Qing court to rein in its adherents. Around the end of March 1912, Empress Dowager Longyu accordingly ordered the Royalist Party to disband. She worried that its activities could lead to the revocation of the Articles of Favorable Treatment as well as to foreign intervention. She instructed the imperial princes to leave their foreign sanctuaries and return to Beijing.15 Although Longyu’s decree did not stop the restorationists, she had at least indicated to the Republic that they were acting independently of the court.
The liberal republic soon gave way to a dictatorship. During the first year and a half of his presidency, Yuan Shikai had ruled with the grudging support of the former republican revolutionaries, who, however, grew increasingly suspicious of his autocratic ambitions. In the summer of 1913, following his complicity in the assassination of Song Jiaoren (1882–1913) in March and his attempt a month later to conclude the Reorganization Loan without consulting Parliament, they finally rose up against the president in the so-called Second Revolution. Yuan, however, was able to crush his opponents and force Sun Yatsen and others to flee China once more. From then on Yuan steadily extended his despotism. In November 1913 he banned the Nationalist Party; in January 1914 he dissolved Parliament; in May he replaced the provisional constitution of 1912 with a “compact” (yuefa) that gave him almost unlimited power.
During the period of Yuan Shikai’s dictatorship in 1914–15, the Articles of Favorable Treatment for the Qing emperor remained in full force. Indeed, Yuan earned the gratitude of the Qing court when he instructed the committee drafting the new compact to insert an explicit stipulation (Article 65) that the articles and the two other abdication agreements “would be effective forever without change.”16 On 26 December 1914, however, Yuan himself initiated a major modification of the articles by imposing upon the Qing a supplemental agreement known as the Reconstruction Plan (Shanhou Banfa).17 It is not entirely clear why he took this action at this time. The court’s possible involvement in a much-publicized plot by Song Yuren (1857–1931) to restore the Qing may have been the immediate cause. The first article of the Reconstruction Plan pointedly reminded the court of its place within the Republican polity: “The Qing imperial household should respect the sovereignty of the Republic of China, and, except for what is specified in the Articles of Favorable Treatment, it must curtail all activities that contravene present laws.”
To judge from the rest of the plan, a more general cause may have been the accumulation of minor misdeeds that the court, willfully or otherwise, had committed over the previous three years. Thus, Article 2 required that the court, in its communications with the government and in other public documents, stop using the lunar calendar and the old system of dating by dynastic reign (i.e., Xuantong) and instead adopt the solar calendar and date by the year of the Republic. Article 3 prohibited the court from conferring posthumous titles and other intangible honors (e.g., permission to ride a horse in the Forbidden City) upon officials and citizens of the Republic, though material rewards were allowed. Article 4 designated the Ministry of Internal Affairs as the Republican unit responsible for protecting the imperial temples and tombs and the court’s private property, while Article 5 confirmed the Imperial Household Department as the agency to oversee affairs of the court. Article 6 entrusted the policing of the inner court to a new palace guard. Article 7 reiterated that all court personnel were concurrently citizens of the Republic; therefore, except for such occasions as court ceremonies, they should abide by the dress code of the Republic. In sum, the Reconstruction Plan served primarily to define more precisely than before the limits of the court’s authority vis-à-vis the Republic.
Otherwise, Yuan Shikai as dictator treated the Qing court much as he had during the liberal republic. While he himself resided in the Yingtai Palace in the Imperial City, he allowed the emperor to remain in the inner court of the Forbidden City and made no effort to shift him to the Yiheyuan. The court’s main representatives in its dealings with Yuan’s government at this time continued to be Pulun and Shixu. It was they, along with Zaifeng (Prince Chun) and Shaoying, who hosted a banquet in April 1914 to thank the committee that drew up the constitutional compact for binding the Republic to the Articles of Favorable Treatment in perpetuity. Yuan later added Pulun to his interim legislature, the Council of State (Canzhengyuan). Most important, Yuan continued to pay the Qing court at least some of the annual subsidy due to it. For example, in November 1915, his Ministry of Finance distributed to the imperial household $700,000, almost one-fifth of that year’s allocation.18
Aside from the Reconstruction Plan, one other change affecting the Qing court during Yuan’s dictatorship was the transfer of the bulk of the Palace Guard away from Beijing, a move that emphasized its transformation from the emperor’s bodyguard to Feng Guozhang’s personal army. In July 1913 Feng was sent from Tianjin to the lower Yangzi valley to help put down the Second Revolution, after which he was appointed military governor of Jiangsu. In January 1914 a mixed brigade of the Palace Guard, led by the divisional commander Wang Tingzhen, joined him in Nanjing. Subsequently, another detachment of the Guard, the Fourth Infantry Regiment, was also posted to Jiangsu and was stationed in Suzhou. Except for the Fourth Regiment at Suzhou, which had always been Han, the Palace Guard soldiers in Jiangsu were, as before, predominantly Manchu, and the commander of the First Brigade was still Guan Zhonghe. The only Palace Guard unit left in the capital was the Second Regiment, which despite its distance from him remained under the overall command of Feng Guozhang. Its mission was unchanged: to stand guard at the palace gates.19
The Yuan Shikai presidency evolved in 1915–16 into the Yuan Shikai monarchy. This was a restoration of the monarchy rather than of the Qing dynasty. Nevertheless, the imperial household and other Manchus were expected to play their assigned roles. Early champions of the movement at the local level included Wuzesheng and Hengjun, the two chief editors of the late-Qing Manchu reformist publication Great Harmony Journal, the former as a representative from Jilin and the latter from “Manchuria” (Manzhou). Another was Guan Zhonghe of the First Brigade, along with a host of other (non-Manchu) Palace Guard commanders in Nanjing. When Yuan’s operatives had produced a show of popular support, the Qing court joined in as well. On 12 December 1915 Pulun, too, urged the president to heed the will of the people and become emperor. Yuan, with appropriate modesty, finally consented. He announced that with the new year, the Republic of China would be reconstituted as the Empire of China (Zhonghua Diguo). The Qing court on 16 December gave Yuan its blessings. Pulun, however, may have overstepped the authority bestowed upon him by the court when he ceremoniously performed the kowtow to Yuan.20
The Qing’s primary concern during the monarchical restoration, about which Shixu inquired, was the future status of the Articles of Favorable Treatment. Would they be voided by the restoration? Yuan’s government replied that though the polity might change, the articles would not. On 16 December, in return for the court’s support, Yuan declared that the new constitution that he planned to have drawn up would incorporate Article 65 of the constitutional compact; that is, the abdication agreements were permanent and immutable.21 Yet, the Qing court realized that with the imminent reestablishment of the monarchy it did need to make at least one change. As it would have been inappropriate for Yuan as emperor to live anywhere else, it was finally time for the Qing to leave the Forbidden City. The court could, as originally intended, relocate to the Yiheyuan or, perhaps, switch residences with Yuan by moving to the South Sea.22 However, before either the new constitution had been drafted or the court had left the Forbidden City, Yuan’s monarchical scheme crashed amidst an unexpected groundswell of opposition from both military and civilian leaders throughout China, many of them his former supporters. One of Yuan’s key opponents was Feng Guozhang in Nanjing, even though most of Feng’s subordinates in the Palace Guard earlier had signed a petition favoring the monarchical restoration.23 On 22 March 1916 Yuan Shikai hastily decreed a return to the Republic; less than three months later, he died.
In the immediate aftermath of Yuan’s failed effort to revive the monarchy and then of Yuan’s death, political power at the national level was divided among Li Yuanhong (Yuan’s successor as president), Duan Qirui (the prime minister and concurrently minister of the army), and Feng Guozhang (the Palace Guard commander in Nanjing, whom the reconvened Parliament elected to replace Li Yuanhong). As the new vice-president, Feng Guozhang should have gone to Beijing, but, in recognition of his independent power base, he was given special dispensation to stay in Jiangsu, where he also kept his position as provincial military governor.24 Relations among the three leaders, all militarists, were tense. Li Yuanhong and Duan Qirui in Beijing feuded over the relative power of the president and the prime minister, while the rivalry between Duan and Feng Guozhang, already in evidence during the abdication crisis in 1911–12, was beginning to split Yuan’s Beiyang Army into the competing Anhui (or Anfu) and Zhili cliques respectively.
With Yuan Shikai gone, the Qing court lost its most influential patron, but his immediate successors were not inclined to disturb the status quo. One change during Li Yuanhong’s presidency that impinged upon the court was the decision of the newly recalled Parliament (elected in 1912–13 but dissolved by Yuan) to write a new constitution. Unveiled in September 1916, the draft of the constitution said nothing about the abdication agreements; Article 65 of Yuan’s compact promising that the agreements were forever immutable had been deleted. The Qing court and its outside supporters, including Vice-President Feng Guozhang and former grand councilor Xu Shichang, busily lobbied Parliament to reinsert the pledge into the final version of the document. Xu contended that to fail to do so would create unsettling doubts that the Articles of Favorable Treatment had been scrapped. Despite their efforts, the new constitution as proclaimed in May 1917 did not reaffirm the articles.25
Although the failure of this lobbying campaign suggests a decline in top-level support for the Qing court, it did not mean, as Xu Shichang had feared, that the immediate post-Yuan leaders denied the continuing validity of the abdication agreements. To the contrary, Li Yuanhong’s government seems to have observed the Articles of Favorable Treatment more or less faithfully. It did not force the Qing to follow through on its recent offer to Yuan Shikai to vacate the Forbidden City. It also continued to treat the court with respect and dignity. Thus, on 10 October 1916, the first anniversary of the Republican revolution since Yuan’s fall, the president included Shixu and Prince Zaitao among those on whom he bestowed special honors. Pulun, who might otherwise have been honored alongside Shixu, had fallen out of favor with the Qing court because of his close, even sycophantic, relationship with the former president; he died in Beijing in 1926.26
Li Yuanhong’s presidency ended after only one year, when Zhang Xun abruptly restored the Qing. The defender of Nanjing during the revolution had never reconciled himself to the Republic; his army, which had withdrawn to Xuzhou in northern Jiangsu, was known as the “pigtailed army” because his soldiers were not allowed to cut their queue. In June 1917 Zhang was summoned to Beijing to mediate in the worsening dispute between the president and Duan Qirui, whom Li Yuanhong had just dismissed as prime minister. On 16 June Zhang, in Qing court attire, paid a ceremonial visit to the eleven-year-old Puyi at the Mind Nurturing Hall (Yangxindian) in the inner court. Two weeks later, now joined by his troops from Xuzhou and with several Qing loyalists (all of them, like Kang Youwei, Han) in tow, he proclaimed the resurrection of the Great Qing Empire and coerced Republican president Li to turn his authority over to the restored Xuantong emperor. Zhang named himself an adviser. As he explained to a reporter, the republican form of government had not suited China; only a restoration of the emperor could save the country from its many perils.27
On the same day and at Zhang’s urging, the boy emperor issued a nine-point public proclamation that spelled out the guidelines of the new regime. It would be a “constitutional monarchy” and would embrace those reforms of the late Qing that had curbed the “Manchu ascendency” and reduced Manchu-Han differences. Thus, “in accordance with the ancestral traditions of the dynasty, imperial relatives must not interfere in governmental affairs.” Also, “all Manchu-Mongol governmental positions [i.e., ethnic slots] that had previously been abolished would not be revived.” Though the proclamation said nothing explicit about the Articles of Favorable Treatment and the associated Reconstruction Plan, the emperor’s restoration logically meant that both had been canceled. Puyi was no longer confined to the inner precincts of the Forbidden City; for example, his second audience with Zhang Xun, on 1 July, was held in the outer court, in the Hall of Central Harmony (Zhonghedian). His proclamation was dated according to his reign era (the ninth year of Xuantong), and it used the lunar rather than the solar calendar. His decree did, however, allude to one provision of the Articles of Favorable Treatment. It specified that the allocation to the imperial household should be the “previously agreed figure of $4 million a year.”28
Zhang Xun’s attempt to restore the Qing was no more successful than Yuan Shikai’s to revive the monarchy a year and a half earlier. Zhang, too, lacked the support of other military leaders. Feng Guozhang in Nanjing was again in the opposition, even though a majority of the soldiers in his Palace Guard were Manchus and, as such, were widely suspected of favoring the Qing restoration. The First Brigade commander, Guan Zhonghe, himself a bannerman, acknowledged that the very name of his unit would lead naturally to such an idea. To calm popular anxiety in Nanjing, Feng Guozhang and the divisional commander Wang Tingzhen temporarily disarmed the Palace Guard soldiers and transferred them out of the city to Pukou on the other side of the Yangzi River. They also distributed a joint statement by Wang and Guan reassuring the public that the Palace Guard was against the restoration and had communicated its opposition to Zaifeng at court. However, it was not Feng Guozhang in distant Nanjing but Duan Qirui in nearby Tianjin who undid the work of Zhang Xun. Putting together an “army to suppress the traitor,” Duan handily defeated Zhang, who on 12 July fled for safety to the Dutch legation. The Qing restoration had lasted twelve days.29
Zhang Xun’s crushing defeat left the political scene more confused than ever, with two regimes now claiming to represent China. In the north, a succession of militarists from competing factions were dominant. Vice-President Feng Guozhang (of the Zhili clique) initially came to Beijing to serve as acting president in place of Li Yuanhong, whom Zhang Xun had compelled to resign, but, as Feng soon discovered, it was Duan Qirui (of the Anhui clique), triumphant over Zhang, who held real power. In October 1918 Duan forced Feng to retire at the end of his abbreviated term and replaced him as president with Xu Shichang, the former Qing grand councilor. Duan’s control of the Beijing government, however, lasted only until July 1920, when the Zhili clique, now led by Cao Kun after Feng Guozhang’s death in 1919, got its revenge; in the so-called Zhili-Anhui War, Cao, supported by Zhang Zuolin of the Fengtian clique, vanquished Duan and ended the hegemony of the Anhui clique. However, the two victors over Duan soon began a power struggle of their own that occupied the next couple of years. At last, in April 1922, during the first of two Zhili-Fengtian wars, Cao Kun, together with his increasingly powerful subordinate Wu Peifu (1874–1939), defeated their former ally Zhang Zuolin and sent him back to southern Manchuria. Cao and Wu proceeded to rule over Beijing jointly until 1924. Meanwhile, in south China, other warlords, initially opposed to Duan Qirui in 1917, had set up a rival government in Guangzhou, whose nominal head, off and on, was Sun Yat-sen. Sun was finally able in March 1923 to entrench himself in Guangzhou, where with Soviet help he reorganized his Nationalist Party and created an independent revolutionary regime with its own army.
The emperor’s involvement in Zhang Xun’s failed effort led many people, for the first time since 1912, to demand that the Articles of Favorable Treatment be abrogated in order to punish the court. They contended that Zhang could not have gotten as far as he had without the active cooperation of the Qing, which therefore was no less culpable than the general. On 7 July, during the restoration, a group of sixty parliamentarians exiled in Tianjin, most of them fervent republicans, proposed a set of nine reforms for the post-Zhang era, one of which was that the abdication agreement be set aside:
The Articles of Favorable Treatment were a gesture of extraordinary generosity on the part of the Republic. As no other ruler of a defunct country in history ever enjoyed such treatment, there was never any justification for them from the very beginning. Now that the court has rebelled against the state, they should of course be canceled; if they were to be retained, it would be the same as rewarding rebels. The baleful consequences hardly bear thinking about.
The four people who were most deeply involved in negotiating the agreement—not only for the Republic (Wu Tingfang, Wen Zongyao, and Wang Jingwei) but also for the Qing (Tang Shaoyi)—wholeheartedly agreed. In a telegram sent after the restoration had been crushed, they declared that “since the Qing emperor has usurped power, the Articles of Favorable Treatment are obviously invalid.” Even a group of northern generals, reportedly on the initiative of Feng Yuxiang (1882–1948), circulated a telegram making similar demands: the articles should be abrogated and the annual allocation of $4 million cease. Puyi should be stripped of his title as the Xuantong emperor and never again be allowed to address the Manchu and Mongol peoples as emperor; his status should be reduced to that of an ordinary citizen. Furthermore, all the palaces, public lands, and gardens belonging to the Qing household in and beyond the capital should be turned over to the nation for the use of the people as a whole. Feng Yuxiang and his fellow generals asserted that if the Qing court were not abolished, it would continue to serve as a rallying point for dissidents: “We fear that while one Zhang Xun has been eliminated, countless other Zhang Xuns will arise in the future.”30
The Qing court itself expected that it would have to pay a heavy price for its foolhardy collaboration with Zhang Xun. It even drafted an edict in which Puyi would announce his abdication. Fortunately for the court, Duan Qirui’s government chose to depict the emperor as a passive, hence largely blameless, victim of Zhang’s machinations. It was indeed true that Zhang Xun’s effort had been more an expression of Qing loyalism than of Manchu restorationism. It had thus been notably lacking in Manchu participation. No more than five or six of the numerous appointees to the restored imperial government, among them former army minister Tieliang, were Manchus; all the others were Han. Hardly anyone closely identified with the old Royalist Party, such as Puwei, took part in the restoration. Realizing its quixotic nature, Shixu, head of the Imperial Household Department, had been opposed from the beginning; he repeatedly refused to heed Puyi’s summons to court. In view of such circumstances, Duan Qirui treated the Qing leniently. He took the abdication edict that the Qing court had prepared for Puyi and “revised” it substantially. The edict, as issued on 17 July, put the blame entirely on Zhang Xun and portrayed the young emperor as utterly naive and helpless. Noting that in the six previous years the Qing court had been extremely well cared for under the Articles of Favorable Treatment, the decree implicitly hoped that such treatment would continue.31
The Articles of Favorable Treatment did remain in effect during the rule of Feng Guozhang, Duan Qirui, and Cao Kun from 1917 to 1924. These northern warlords allowed Puyi, after his bold venture into the outer portion of the Forbidden City, to return to his accustomed, if confined, quarters in the inner court; they did not press him to move to the Yiheyuan. They recognized his status and title as emperor of the Qing. They invited imperial representatives to Republican functions such as Xu Shichang’s presidential inauguration in October 1918. Similarly, they dispatched Republican representatives to court ceremonies; for example, they sent Yinchang, the former army minister who, though a Manchu, had become a high-ranking military adviser to President Yuan Shikai and his successors, to attend Puyi’s wedding in 1922. As Puyi recalls in his autobiography, Yinchang first “congratulated me formally as he would have done a foreign sovereign. When he had finished bowing to me he announced, ‘That was on behalf of the Republic. Your slave will now greet Your Majesty in his private capacity.’ With this he knelt on the floor and kotowed to me.” When the court stepped out of line, however, the warlords did not hesitate to rein it back in. Thus, in October 1921 Cao Kun reminded the Imperial Household Department that according to the Reconstruction Plan of 1914, its personnel, when communicating with Republican officials, were supposed to date their documents by the solar calendar.32
The northern warlords also kept up the payments to the Qing court, though not the full amount of $4 million a year, and never without (in Reginald Johnston’s words) “groveling appeals to the republican government.” When Puyi married in 1922, Cao Kun’s officials apologized that
as they were having difficulties at the moment in meeting their expenditure they were unable to pay in full the annual subsidies stipulated in the Articles of Favourable Treatment; they would, however, make a special payment from tax revenue of 100,000 dollars to help with the Grand Nuptials, of which 20,000 dollars was to be regarded as a present from the Republic.
In other words, the other $80,000 would be counted against the court’s subsidy. Furthermore, Johnston alleges, the Republicans reneged on an agreement regarding the more than seventy thousand imperial items that had been transferred in 1914 from the Shenyang and Rehe palaces and put on display in the Exhibition Hall of Antiquities in the outer court of the Forbidden City. The contract, signed in 1916, stipulated that these treasures were the private property of the Qing imperial household; that they were to be purchased by the Republic, whenever its finances permitted, at a price to be determined by independent experts; and that meanwhile they were considered to be on loan to the Republic from the Qing. The value of these treasures was later set at $3.5 million. According to Johnston, not one dollar of this amount was ever paid.33 Due to high court expenditures and reduced incomes, the Qing Imperial Household Department was increasingly driven to selling and pawning other portions of its vast art collection.34
Finally, the northern warlords continued into the early 1920s to maintain the Palace Guard as a separate military unit, as promised in the Articles of Favorable Treatment. Its personnel were still predominantly Manchu; in mid-1917 Feng Guozhang, its supreme commander, stated that “half were of banner registry [qiji].” The unit, however, suffered from the vicissitudes of warlord politics. Stationed in Nanjing at the time of Zhang Xun’s restoration attempt, the Palace Guard returned to Beijing when Feng became acting president after Zhang’s defeat in mid-1917. It was the core of Feng Guozhang’s military power and it became, along with the Fifteenth Division, a part of his presidential guard. Only then, in a transparent effort to rid itself of the imperial stigma that had bedeviled it during both of the recent restoration attempts, was the Palace Guard renamed the Sixteenth Division, which brought its nomenclature into conformity with the rest of China’s national army. (Informally, however, the division was still known as the Palace Guard.) Wang Tingzhen continued as the division commander, and Guan Zhonghe as the commander of the First Brigade, now redesignated the Thirty-first Brigade. Even after Feng Guozhang had been forced to retire as president a year later, the division stayed in close touch with him. Following Feng’s death in December 1919, the Sixteenth Division was transferred to Chahar and its commander Wang Tingzhen appointed Chahar lieutenant-general. Wang himself, though, fell from power the next summer during the Zhili-Anhui War, in which the coalition of Zhili and Fengtian forces led by Cao Kun and Zhang Zuolin defeated the Anhui clique of Duan Qirui. As a former subordinate of Feng Guozhang, Wang Tingzhen should have been a part of the winning Zhili faction, but, in a gross miscalculation, he had switched sides. As a result, he lost his command of the division, which passed into the control of a Fengtian-clique general, Zou Fen. Two years later, during the First Zhili-Fengtian War, Zou Fen made a timely defection to the Zhili side, helping to cause Fengtian to lose. Though it was once again part of the dominant Zhili faction, the division was nevertheless “reorganized” out of existence and its predominantly Manchu soldiers “scattered.” The disbanding of the bulk of the old Palace Guard in Chahar in 1922 did not, however, affect its Second Regiment in Beijing, which in 1924 was still protecting the palace gates.35
The northern warlords’ indulgence toward the Qing court did not lack critics, particularly after August 1922, following Cao Kun’s victory over Zhang Zuolin, when the old Parliament, dissolved in 1917, was once again reconstituted in Beijing. On at least two occasions, a radical minority in the Parliament urged that the Articles of Favorable Treatment be abrogated. Parliamentarian Deng Yuanpeng was bothered by the pomp and ceremony of Puyi’s wedding in December 1922, when yellow dragon flags and other imperial symbols were displayed throughout the capital; he likened the situation to Zhang Xun’s restoration and called it tantamount to rebellion. In early 1924 another parliamentarian, Li Xieyang, likewise suggested that the abdication agreement be set aside. According to such critics, the emperor’s own recent behavior amply justified canceling the arrangement. Not only had Puyi violated the original 1912 articles by colluding with Zhang Xun to overturn the Republic in 1917, but he had also contravened Article 3 of the 1914 Reconstruction Plan by granting Zhang, on his death in September 1923, a posthumous title. Another cause for public outrage in the early 1920s was the selling and pawning of the palace treasures by the imperial household to cover its expenses. The Archeological Society of Beijing University published a manifesto attacking Zaixun, the former navy minister and Puyi’s uncle, for destroying state property. The court insisted that these treasures were part of what the Articles of Favorable Treatment recognized as the imperial household’s private property and therefore it could dispose of them as it wished. The critics, on the other hand, contended that they belonged to the Chinese people. Meanwhile, in Guangzhou, the position of the southern regime, unlike that of its conservative rival in the north, was that the court’s complicity in Zhang Xun’s restoration had rendered the abdication agreements null and void. Sun Yat-sen’s government thus called for an end to the Articles of Favorable Treatment and the reduction of Puyi’s status to that of an ordinary citizen.36
At the same time, significant changes were occurring within the Qing court, where Puyi was fast growing up. In November 1918, when Puyi was twelve years old, Duan Qirui’s government arranged for Reginald F. Johnston, a British diplomat, to be his English tutor. Johnston eventually came to exercise considerable influence over the emperor; in about 1921, for example, he persuaded Puyi to cut off his queue, which led nearly everyone else at court to follow suit. In December 1922, when Puyi was almost seventeen, he married, taking two Manchu banner women, Wanrong (1906–46) and Wenxiu (1909–53), as his wife and concubine respectively. Soon afterward, encouraged by Johnston, he began to assert personal control over the management of the Qing court. In July 1923, suspicious that they were enriching themselves at his expense by stealing and selling court treasures, Puyi expelled nearly all of the thousand and more eunuchs from the palace; he kept only about a hundred to look after the dowager consorts.37
The following year Puyi attempted to reorganize the Imperial Household Department, which since the death of Shixu in January 1922 had been led by Shaoying. In the spring of 1924 he replaced Shaoying with Zheng Xiaoxu, Zhang Jian’s constitutionalist colleague, who became the first Han in the history of the dynasty to head the agency. Zheng, like Johnston, favored extensive changes at court. Both recommended that Puyi relocate to the Yiheyuan Summer Palace, in part because such a move might undercut the growing popular opposition to the Articles of Favorable Treatment. If the court would finally fulfill its promise in the Articles to leave the Forbidden City, then perhaps the Republic would be more inclined to honor the rest of the agreement. Zheng Xiaoxu put Johnston in charge of making the Yiheyuan ready for its new occupants, and he arranged for Puyi to tour the summer palace. However, the prospect of the court’s departure from the Forbidden City greatly alarmed the entrenched interests of the Imperial Household Department, who in the end prevailed. After only three months, Zheng Xiaoxu was forced to resign as head of the department, and Shaoying was returned to the post. The plan for the court to move to the Yiheyuan was abandoned.38
The court soon paid for its intransigence. In late 1924, during the Second Zhili-Fengtian War, Cao Kun and Wu Peifu of the ruling Zhili clique were defeated when Wu’s leading subordinate, Feng Yuxiang, went over to the side of Zhang Zuolin and the Fengtian clique. Feng’s army drove Wu’s out of Beijing, forced Cao to resign as president, and replaced him with a “caretaker cabinet” headed by Huang Fu (1880–1936). Feng Yuxiang and Zhang Zuolin were to rule Beijing jointly for the next year. Feng, though a northern warlord, had long chafed at the continued presence of the Qing court at the heart of the capital. Seven years earlier, following Zhang Xun’s attempted restoration, he had led a group of other northern generals in calling for the revocation of the Articles of Favorable Treatment and the reduction of Puyi’s status to that of an ordinary citizen. His caretaker cabinet noted that the court had had ample time (thirteen years) to make good on its original promise to leave the Forbidden City. Feng Yuxiang promptly and unilaterally changed the terms of the Qing court’s relationship with the Republic. On 5 November, two weeks after his entry into Beijing, one of his subordinates and twenty soldiers forced their way into the inner court of the Forbidden City and delivered an ultimatum from Feng addressed to “Mr. Puyi” (Puyi Xiansheng) demanding that he leave the premises within three hours. Feng also imposed upon Puyi a “revised” set of Articles of Favorable Treatment. The revised articles required that the “Xuantong emperor” forever give up his imperial title and instead enjoy the same legal status as any other citizen of the Republic of China; the Republic reduce the annual subsidy to the Qing imperial household from four million to half a million dollars (which would be in addition to a special, one-time allocation of $2 million to operate workshops for the poor people of Beijing, with priority given to the banner people); the Qing imperial household leave the Forbidden City and resettle wherever they wish, with the Republic still responsible for their personal safety; the Republic continue to provide military protection for the perpetual sacrifices at the imperial temples and tombs; and the Republic offer special protection for the imperial household’s private property but take possession of all of their public property.39
Puyi had no choice but to leave the Forbidden City, followed soon after by his two young wives and the two surviving dowager consorts. He first went to his father Zaifeng’s house, north of the Forbidden City, then to the Japanese legation in the diplomatic quarters of Beijing, and eventually, in February 1925, to the Japanese concession in Tianjin.40 Other members of the Qing imperial clan likewise departed the capital. Zaifeng went to live in Tianjin too, as did Zaizhen, Yikuang’s eldest son and his successor (since 1918) as Prince Qing.41 Johnston returned to the British foreign service. Meanwhile, with Puyi’s expulsion from the Forbidden City, the mission of the Palace Guard’s Second Regiment as the imperial bodyguard finally came to an end. They were demobilized and dispersed, as the rest of the division had been two years earlier.42
The eviction of Puyi and the Qing court was generally well received, especially among the old-time revolutionaries and radical republicans in the south, some of whom had objected to the abdication agreement from the first. Asked for his opinion by Shaoying and other members of the Imperial Household Department, the ailing Sun Yat-sen, on his final visit to Beijing two months before his death in March 1925, observed that the Qing itself had failed to live up to the terms of the original Articles of Favorable Treatment and the supplementary Reconstruction Plan. The Qing court had remained in the Forbidden City; it had not stopped dating documents by the imperial calendar; it had not curtailed conferring posthumous titles and other honors (upon non-Manchus such as Zhang Xun); and it had gone along with Zhang Xun’s attempt to alter the national polity. Sun concluded that the Qing had no moral or legal grounds for complaint. The veteran anti-Manchu revolutionary Zhang Binglin, using racialist terms from fifteen or twenty years before, congratulated Feng Yuxiang for his long-overdue ejection of the “Qing chieftain” (Qing qiu) and the reduction of the “barbarian [yi] to a commoner.” Indeed, Zhang was of the opinion that Feng’s revised articles were still too generous to the Qing, particularly in promising to protect Puyi’s considerable private wealth. A group who likewise thought that Feng Yuxiang had not gone far enough was the Grand Alliance to Oppose the Favorable Treatment of the Qing Household (Fandui Qingshi Youdai Datongmeng) in Beijing; according to Johnston, it pressed for the “total abolition of the last vestiges of ‘favourable treatment,’ including the arbitrarily-imposed ‘agreement’ of November, 1924, and the drastic punishment and even the execution of all ‘monarchists’ including the emperor himself.”43
A minority, however, criticized Feng Yuxiang for having gone too far. Some complained about the way Puyi’s expulsion had been carried out. One such critic was, surprisingly, Tang Shaoyi, who in 1917 had joined Wu Tingfang and other negotiators of the original Articles of Favorable Treatment in declaring that by colluding with Zhang Xun, the Qing court had itself nullified the articles. Tang Shaoyi now denounced Feng’s action as coercive as well as “inopportune, unequal, and unethical” because he had used military force against a young and defenseless Puyi. If the abdication agreement were to have been changed, Tang contended, it should have been done through negotiation. Hu Shi (1891–1962), the prominent intellectual of the May Fourth New Culture movement, was similarly disturbed that the revision of the articles had been accomplished by “military intimidation”; he called it “the most unsavoury act of the Chinese republic.”44
Some protested the eviction itself. Apart from Qing loyalists and ex-officials, they included such powerful figures as Duan Qirui and Zhang Zuolin. Duan had been living in retirement in Tianjin since his defeat in the Zhili-Anhui War four years earlier, but with the toppling of the Zhili faction in 1924, he had been brought back as the nominal head of state. Duan, who in 1917 had treated the Qing court’s dalliance with Zhang Xun with unusual indulgence, sent Feng Yuxiang a telegram criticizing the expulsion. He viewed the Articles of Favorable Treatment as having the force of a formal treaty between the Republic and the monarchy. In his eyes, not only did Puyi’s ouster violate a binding commitment that the Republic had made to the court, but it might also undermine the credibility of the Republic in future diplomatic negotiations with foreign countries. Duan sent word to Puyi personally of his willingness to support the imperial house “with all my strength.” Zhang Zuolin, Feng Yuxiang’s ally of the moment, reportedly shared many of Duan’s misgivings. Those opposed to the expulsion demanded a return to the status quo ante. On 8 November a group of Qing officials, headed by former Zhili governor-general Chen Kuilong, wired Duan and Zhang calling for the immediate restoration of the original Articles of Favorable Treatment. This would have included the return of Puyi to the Forbidden City (or, at least, the Yiheyuan), recognition of his imperial title, and payment of his full annual subsidy of $4 million. In February 1925, at the so-called “aftermath conference” convened by Duan Qirui to set future government policy, numerous Qing loyalist and Manchu groups joined to petition the Republic to “protect Puyi.” However, with Feng Yuxiang still in control of Beijing, the campaign went nowhere. Whatever their personal feelings on the matter, Zhang Zuolin and Duan Qirui were unwilling or unable to go against Feng at this time.45
Though Puyi had been ejected from the palace, Feng Yuxiang, as Zhang Binglin had complained, had not completely revoked the Articles of Favorable Treatment; he had only “revised” them. According to the new agreement, the Republic promised to give the Qing an annual subsidy of half a million dollars, to differentiate between the imperial household’s private property (which would be protected) and its public property (which would be confiscated), and to safeguard the imperial temples and tombs. To what extent did Feng’s government fulfill these scaled-back promises? It apparently never paid Puyi any of his reduced subsidy, presumably because the ex-emperor had given up his claim to it by seeking political asylum among the Japanese. Feng’s government did, however, make an effort to sort out the complex property holdings of the Qing court so as to determine what was private and what was public. Soon after Puyi was forced out, the Committee for the Readjustment of the Qing Household (Qingshi Shanhou Weiyuanhui), jointly composed of Republican and Qing appointees, was created to make a complete survey of the court’s holdings. The committee sealed up the palaces in the inner court of the Forbidden City on 9 November and began taking inventory; nine months later it had completed its task. Having thus distinguished between the court’s public and private property, the government then seized, without compensation, the public holdings, which included all of the palaces of the inner court as well as much of their art treasures. These became the Palace Museum (Gugong Bowuyuan), which opened in October 1925. (The museum subsequently, after the Sino-Japanese War [1937–45], absorbed the Exhibition Hall of Antiquities, which had been set up earlier in the outer court.)46 The Republic took over the Yiheyuan Summer Palace at this time too. Finally, Feng’s government did apparently maintain security at the Qing imperial tombs.
Feng Yuxiang’s rule over Beijing lasted only one year, after which his uneasy alliance with Zhang Zuolin fell apart. At the end of 1925 Zhang, joined by Wu Peifu (who was out to avenge his betrayal by Feng the year before), turned against his erstwhile ally and defeated him. As Feng Yuxiang went into temporary exile in the Soviet Union and Duan Qirui was eased out of his posts, Zhang Zuolin took over the northern government and controlled it for the next three years. Supporters of the Qing cause were jubilant, for Zhang, who reportedly had disapproved of Puyi’s expulsion, was now in a position to undo what Feng had done. Thus, in July 1926 various Qing loyalists, including Kang Youwei in Shanghai, petitioned Zhang’s ally, Wu Peifu, to restore the Articles of Favorable Treatment. However, much to their and Puyi’s chagrin, Zhang Zuolin made no effort to comply. In response to the July 1926 petition, his Ministry of Internal Affairs decided that Puyi had forever forfeited his title as emperor as well as nearly all of the property that the Republic had designated as public, and that neither should be returned to him.47
Not only did Zhang Zuolin fail to reinstate the original Articles of Favorable Treatment, he even flouted the one still pertinent provision of Feng Yuxiang’s “revised” articles, which was to safeguard the Qing tombs. Security at the mausoleums, particularly the Eastern Tombs in Zunhua, eighty miles northeast of Beijing, fell apart after Zhang came to power. In the autumn of 1926, soldiers from his Fengtian clique began cutting down trees at the Eastern Tombs and selling them off as lumber. In the winter of 1926–27, a Fengtian general in pursuit of a local bandit quartered his troops for a while in the outlying buildings of the Eastern Tombs and trashed them. The following spring, thieves broke into the tomb of the Tongzhi emperor’s consort, dragged her coffin out, stole the precious burial goods, and abandoned her body. Several perpetrators were captured and turned over to the authorities of Zunhua County, but they went unpunished.48
Zhang Zuolin was finally ousted from Beijing and the warlord era ended in mid-1928, as Chiang Kai-shek (1887–1975), successor to Sun Yat-sen and commander of the National Revolutionary Army, completed the Northern Expedition. The Nationalists, who had long called for the revocation of the original Articles of Favorable Treatment, made no effort at all to honor Feng Yuxiang’s “revised” articles. They paid Puyi, living in the Japanese concession in Tianjin, no subsidy, and they took no care to protect the Qing tombs. Indeed, their violation of the imperial mausoleums went far beyond what Zhang Zuolin’s soldiers had done. In July 1928, as the National Revolutionary Army neared Beijing, units belonging to Sun Dianying’s (1889–1947) Twelfth Army, which was operating in Zunhua, particularly Tan Wenjiang’s Fifth Division, used cannons and dynamite to break into and plunder the mausoleums of the Qianlong emperor and Empress Dowager Cixi, whose bodily remains were desecrated. Twelve other tombs in the necropolis, though not robbed, were, to varying degrees, damaged. Qianlong’s and Cixi’s had been targeted probably because their occupants were known for their love of luxury and their burial goods were the most numerous and expensive. One estimate of the value of the plundered goods, hauled off in more than twenty trucks, was in excess of $100 million. They were quickly sold off in the art markets of Beijing.49
Puyi and his supporters were outraged at the Nationalists not only for their soldiers’ initial acts of sacrilege but also for their government’s subsequent lackadaisical handling of the incident. The Qing imperial household sent a delegation, headed by former finance minister Zaize, to the scene to survey the extent of the damage and initiate repairs, and they demanded that the Nationalist government send troops to protect the tombs and to capture and punish the culprits. In response, the Nationalists dispatched investigators to the Eastern Tombs at Zunhua and guards to the Western Tombs in Yi County; they also promised to convene a court-martial to try the case, with division commander Tan Wenjiang as the principal suspect. Thereafter, nothing more happened. The court-martial dragged on and on and never did reach a decision.50
The plundering of the Eastern Tombs in 1928, preceded by the expulsion of Puyi from the Forbidden City four years earlier, marked the end of the “favorable treatment” of the Qing emperor that the abdication settlement of 1912 had promised. It is truly remarkable how favorable the treatment had been and how long it had lasted. The abdication settlement, however, included another set of promises concerning the Manchu populace. Was the early Republic equally scrupulous about fulfilling this other pledge?
The success of the revolution in and of itself had rendered moot two of the seven counts in the revolutionaries’ indictment against the Manchus. The atrocities that their ancestors had committed against the Chinese during the Qing conquest (count 2) had been more than offset (or “avenged”) by those against the banner people during the revolution, and a dethroned Qing was no longer in a position to pursue its former policy of anti-Hanism (count 7). It remained for the early Republic to act on the five other charges.
Count 3 in the indictment accused the Manchus of having barbarized China by imposing their customs—among them the queue, the Manchu language, and the official dress—upon the Han. The new regime lost no time in reversing these instances of Manchufication. The men’s hairstyle, which the Qing originally required as a badge of subservience to Manchu rule, was, not surprisingly, the revolutionaries’ first target.51 Despite several years of open agitation by political and social reformers for its removal, the queue requirement had remained in effect until two months into the revolution. Even then the Qing had only permitted, but did not compel, its male subjects to cut their queue and wear their hair short in the Western (and Japanese) style of the day. The Republicans were not satisfied with this eleventh-hour, half-hearted measure; they insisted on universal, mandatory queue-cutting. Thus, in the four months between the Wuchang uprising and the Qing abdication, wherever the revolutionaries took power, one of the first decrees they issued was for the removal of the queue as a sign of loyalty to their regime. In Jiangxi, for example, the new government in mid-December 1911 demanded that its own officials as well as all adult males in the province cut off their braid within five days after receipt of the directive.52
To the Republicans’ distress, their policy of universal mandatory queue-cutting did not always meet with general approval, not necessarily because the people were opposed to the revolution but because after more than two centuries, they regarded the Manchufied hairstyle as an integral part of their cultural tradition. As a result, the queue-cutting orders were often ignored; their unrealistically short deadlines, unmet. When the directives for voluntary compliance failed of their purpose, the revolutionary governments generally resorted to coercion. In Zhejiang, local officials in Jiaxing and Hangzhou sent out soldiers armed with large shears to cut any remaining braids on sight; they posted such “queue-cutting brigades” at the city gates to catch unwary villagers entering from the countryside.53 These coercive measures only added to the policy’s unpopularity. Merchants closed their shops in protest, farmers withheld their produce from the city, and men hid themselves from scissors-wielding soldiers.54
Nevertheless, the revolutionaries refused to back away from the new, short hairstyle. On 5 March 1912, five days before he was formally succeeded by Yuan Shikai as provisional president, Sun Yat-sen issued a decree that made queue-cutting obligatory throughout China. Now that Manchu rule had ended, he explained, it was time to “cleanse the ancient stain and become a citizen of the new nation” by discarding the Manchu-imposed hairstyle. While most people in the large cities had already done so, he conceded that in out-of-the way places “not a few” still had not. Sun therefore directed the provincial military governors to issue proclamations that all adult males within their jurisdiction cut off their plait within twenty days.55
Though Yuan Shikai never countermanded Sun’s order, he himself seemingly reverted to the permissive policy that he had earlier convinced the Qing court to adopt. While he quietly removed his own queue on 16 February, four days after the Qing abdication, he did not demand that others follow his lead. The commander of the Palace Guard, Feng Guozhang, for example, did not cut his until six months later. Teachers and students, however, were an exception; according to the Eastern Times, in May 1912 Minister of Education Cai Yuanpei (1868–1940) ordered them to cut their hair or face expulsion. Otherwise, queue-cutting, after an initial mandatory phase during the revolution, became, in practice, a voluntary program. In late October 1912 the Republican Senate debated, and in the end rejected, a proposal to make cropped hair a prerequisite for the exercise of “public rights,” including the right to vote in the upcoming parliamentary elections. President Yuan instead turned the matter over to the provincial authorities and told them to deal with it not by coercion but by persuasion. Yet in June 1914, after the demise of the liberal republic, Yuan’s own government evidently embarked on a campaign of mandatory, universal queue-cutting in Beijing. This step may have marked the end of the queue as an officially sanctioned hairstyle.56
Even then, the Manchu hairstyle did not disappear entirely from the Chinese scene. Political and social conservatives continued to stick by it. A few members of the political elite—not only Manchus but Han as well—resisted altering their hairstyle, in order to show their undying loyalty to the fallen Qing dynasty. Thus Zhang Xun, leader of the 1917 attempt at a Qing restoration, retained his braid, and he required the soldiers in his army to keep theirs as well. Another well-known Qing loyalist, Wang Guowei (1877–1927), still wore his hair in the Manchu style at the time of his death by suicide in June 1927. By then the Qing emperor himself had cut his hair short. After that there was no longer any compelling reason for political conservatives to adhere to the old style.57 On the other hand, social conservatives kept their queue because they saw it as part of inherited tradition. They were generally to be found in the interior provinces of China proper and particularly among rural villagers. In Henan, for example, the plait was still so commonly worn in 1922, when Feng Yuxiang became military governor, that he included its elimination (along with that of footbinding among women) in a ten-point reform program. In Sichuan at about the same time, the military rehabilitation commissioner Yang Sen (1884–1977) too called for doing away with the queue, which was “worn by not a few in the rural sections of western China.” By the late 1930s, however, though it could be glimpsed occasionally in such remote places as a market town in Anhui, it had become a noteworthy rarity.58 Otherwise, the hairstyle of Chinese men had been completely “de-Manchufied.”
Another change that came with the overthrow of the Qing was the dethroning of Manchu as an official language of the country alongside Chinese. It was no longer required that government documents be rendered in Manchu as well as Chinese. Manchu inscriptions disappeared from the coins issued by the new regime. The teaching of Manchu in Republican schools, as in Aihun, Heilongjiang, was proscribed.59 The term “national speech” (guoyu), which in Qing times referred to Manchu, now came to designate the standard dialect of Chinese. This did not mean, however, that the two-hundred-year dominance of the Manchu language had left no imprint on the language of Republican China. Though relatively few Manchu loan-words made their way into the permanent lexicon of Chinese, a number of linguists suggest that, due to a process called “language shift,” the grammatical structure of northern standard Chinese—the model spoken language for the rest of China—had in some important (and generally unacknowledged) ways been fundamentally transformed by the Manchu language.60
Finally, in addition to abolishing the queue and removing Manchu as an official language, the new Republic also rid itself of the old equestrian-style dress of the Manchu court and, as some earlier proponents of queue-cutting had advocated, adopted a new official uniform. Out went the full-length robe, close-fitting at the top and loosely flowing below the waist, worn under a half-length “horse jacket”; out, too, went the knobbed hat and long necklace. In came costumes borrowed from the West or from Western-influenced Japan. As is amply documented in contemporary photographs, Sun Yat-sen (e.g., at his inauguration as provisional president in January 1912) and other civilian leaders favored suits and ties and overcoats, while Yuan Shikai and subsequent warlords preferred military uniforms. Sun eventually came up with an amalgam of the two styles that came to be called the “Sun Yat-sen suit” (Zhongshan zhuang), which yet later was so closely identified with Communist Party cadres that it is known, in the West, as the “Mao suit.”61
Unlike queue-cutting, which was mandatory for all males, sartorial de-Manchufication was restricted to men of the official class. Male commoners were not required to abandon the Manchu-style costume that many of them had voluntarily adopted in the course of the two and a half centuries of Qing rule. Thus, during the first two or three decades of the Republic, Chinese men, old and young alike, continued to wear a modified version of the Manchus’ full-length gown with long sleeves, with or without the waist-length horse jacket. Known as the changpao (long gown), it persisted in the urban areas into the Nationalist era, when it was replaced by Western style trousers and shirts; in rural areas, it lasted even longer. De-Manchufication of the official dress also did not prevent Chinese women, who hitherto had not succumbed to the Manchu attire, from belatedly taking to the qipao (banner gown), which, as its name indicates, was of Manchu origin. Even at the end of the Qing dynasty, most Han women were still wearing the Ming-style outfit, consisting of a loose three-quarter-length jacket worn over trousers. Paradoxically, however, within a decade after the revolution, urban middle-class Han women began to reject the old two-piece jacket-and-trousers outfit in favor of the vanquished Manchus’ one-piece full-length gown. (They did not adopt the elaborate headdress and platform shoes that were also distinctive features of Manchu dress.) By the 1930s the qipao, notwithstanding its Manchu origins, had become the official women’s dress of the Nationalist regime and was widely regarded as the “national” costume of Chinese women. It was only in the 1950s, after the Communist takeover of China, that the qipao, along with the similarly Manchu-derived changpao of the men, was supplanted by the unisex Sun Yat-sen (or Mao) suit and its variants.62
In sum, with regard to count 3 in the revolutionaries’ indictment of the Manchus, the principal Manchu impositions upon the Chinese—the queue, the Manchu language, and the official dress—were all revoked at the beginning of the Republic. However, most evidently in the case of the dress of ordinary Chinese men and women and less so in the case of the Chinese language, they did not disappear without leaving a significant trace behind them.
In the four charges of the indictment still to be addressed, the revolutionaries had accused the Manchus of being an alien, barbarian people who did not belong in China (count 1), constituting a privileged minority separate from and superior to the Han Chinese (count 4), functioning as a force of military occupation oppressing the Han (count 5), and benefiting from political discrimination at the expense of the Han (count 6). However, in the “Article of Treatment regarding the Manchus, Mongols, Muslims, and Tibetans,” the last of the three abdication agreements, the Republicans also made three promises to the Manchus: to treat them on an equal basis with the Han, to continue to distribute the banner soldiers’ stipends pending a resolution of their economic problems, and to abolish the former restrictions on the banner people’s occupation and residence. President Yuan Shikai, in Article 65 of his constitutional compact of May 1914, vowed that this agreement, like the rest of the abdication settlement, would be “effective forever without change,” and he reiterated the pledge in December 1915 on the eve of his monarchical restoration.63 Although Yuan’s warlord successors through the 1920s never repeated the promise, neither did they repudiate it. As the Republican rulers attempted to avenge or correct the four sets of Manchu misdeeds while grappling to fulfill the three promises of generous treatment for the Manchus, the banner people’s relationship to the new state necessarily changed, as did their status and identity in Chinese society.
According to count 4 in the revolutionaries’ indictment, the Manchus had been a privileged minority superior to and separate from the Han. As evidence, the indictment cited the stipends that banner soldiers received from the Qing state, the restrictions on bannermen’s occupations, the residential segregation of banner and non-banner people, and the ban on Manchu-Han intermarriage. Pursuant to the terms of the abdication agreement, the Republican authorities immediately lifted the former restrictions on the banner people’s occupations and residence but continued, until the early 1920s in some areas, to disburse the banner soldiers’ stipends.
So long as those stipends were distributed, the Eight Banner system continued to exist and function. President Yuan Shikai more than once pondered what to do with the centuries-old system. In October 1912 his cabinet discussed reorganizing the system; two years later, his government reportedly decided to abolish the twenty-four lieutenants-general—each of whom headed one Manchu, Mongol, or Hanjun banner—and replace them with a special office to oversee banner affairs.64 No change, though, resulted from these deliberations. Thus, despite the overthrow of the Qing, Yuan and his warlord successors continued to make appointments to the top posts in the twenty-four banners as well as to the Banner Duty Office, the coordinating body for the entire system. For example, on 22 December 1912 President Yuan appointed Pulun lieutenant-general of the Manchu Bordered Red Banner; two weeks later he named Pulun and seven others to the Banner Duty Office. Very often, as in these two instances, the appointees to the banner system were themselves bannermen, including imperial princes such as Pulun. However, in line with one of the post-Boxer reforms, not all banner officials in the early Republic were Manchus; thus, Pulun’s predecessor at the Manchu Bordered Red Banner was Duan Zhigui (1869–1925), a Han. Some appointments to such national banner posts were made as late as the first half of 1924, while some to local posts (e.g., military commandant of the Liaoyang garrison in Fengtian) were made until at least 1919.65
The Eight Banner system continued, as before, to serve as the administrative agency that oversaw the affairs of its members. In May 1914, for example, a certain Zhonglu, whose accusations of corruption had led to the dismissal of the head of the Manchu Bordered Blue Banner, was himself judged to be guilty of some infraction and was remanded to his banner with orders to be “kept under strict surveillance.”66 The system was also the institutional device by which backers of Yuan Shikai in late 1915 solicited support among the Manchus for resurrecting the monarchy, as the twenty-four banners were each required to send one delegate to the national convention that elected him emperor.67 However, the major function of the Republican Eight Banner system, and the main reason why the system survived the revolution, was the role it played in the distribution of the welfare benefits promised to the Manchus by the abdication agreement.68
Because the new regime kept its capital in Beijing, it could not easily overlook the Manchus, who were 20 to 25 percent of the city’s population in the early 1920s.69 Consequently, the early Republican governments did make an earnest effort in Beijing to abide by the abdication agreement and continue the distribution of the banner soldiers’ stipends of grain and money via the Eight Banner system. According to the recollections of some Manchu old-timers in the 1950s, the banner soldiers at first received both customary types of payments, with the amounts unchanged from the late Qing, but by the end of the liberal phase of Yuan Shikai’s presidency around 1913–14, the grain allocation had been stopped. Thereafter they received only the money stipend, paid in silver dollars and then increasingly in copper coins rather than, as previously, in bulk silver. Moreover, after Yuan’s death in 1916, the stipends were further reduced in size. Yet, as late as July 1918, when Feng Guozhang was president, tens of thousands of banner people in Beijing were still being paid by the government, as revealed by the account book of the Manchu Plain Red Banner for the month. That banner alone had more than 8,400 people on the payroll. The stipends themselves, specified in taels but paid in dollars at a discount, ranged from a maximum of 3.8 taels monthly for the 420 corporals down to 0.5 taels for a couple of recent widows. The 1,534 privates, who were the common soldiers of the system, received 2.1 taels each. Soon afterward, however, the payment of the stipends became much more erratic and occurred only after repeated requests by the lieutenants-general of the twenty-four banners. Eventually, in the early 1920s, the stipends were restricted to the three great festivals of the lunar year—in the first, fifth, and eighth months—and they amounted to scarcely more than ten debased copper dollars each time.70
In the provincial garrisons of China proper, the early Republic was considerably less successful in fulfilling its promise to continue distributing the banner soldiers’ stipends. The experiences of the garrisons varied, depending in part on how each had responded to the revolution, but in no case did the stipends continue for long. In those cities where the banner people resisted the revolution to the bitter end—notably Xi’an, Taiyuan, Fuzhou, Zhenjiang, and Nanjing—the stipends stopped immediately and the surviving banner people were left to take care of themselves. In those cities where negotiations led to a peaceful transfer of power, the banner soldiers usually received some form of official assistance, often as part of the negotiated settlement, but never for more than a few months. Thus in Chengdu the Republicans continued to disburse the banner soldiers’ stipends for at most one year.71 In Jingzhou they had promised to provide “charitable rations” to impoverished banner people for six months, but actually distributed only three months’ worth. When that proved insufficient, they allocated another $20,000 in relief funds.72 In Hangzhou, after disbursing the provisions for two months as originally promised, they consented to a three-month extension worth $90,000.73 And in Guangzhou, they initially agreed to allocate $73,000 a month and to keep intact the garrison’s detachment of modern-trained banner troops. But the detachment was disbanded after only three months, with each soldier in the unit who turned in a weapon given $10 in severance pay. Beginning in April 1912 the banner people were each allotted only eighty cents a month for living expenses. Even this paltry payment stopped in the summer of 1913, following the failure of the Second Revolution and the arrival of the warlord Long Jiguang (1867–1925).74 Finally, in those garrison cities that did not experience the revolution at first hand, some of the new rulers continued to distribute the banner stipends, at least initially; others did not. According to Brigade-General Chuohatai in November 1912, the garrisons at Miyun, Chahar, Rehe, and Suiyuan were still receiving their stipends, but his own garrison at Ningxia no longer did. In the Liangzhou and Zhuanglang garrisons in Gansu, the stipends may have continued until 1914.75
Once the banner soldiers’ stipends ended, so too did the rationale for the continuance of the banner system. Thus, at most locations, the system collapsed within months after the revolution. By December 1913, as Minister of the Army Duan Qirui informed President Yuan, most banner units in the provinces had disintegrated; only in the capital as well as a few outposts such as Qingzhou, Taiyuan, Ningxia, Liangzhou, and Yili did the Eight Banners remain more or less intact.76 In Beijing, too, the stipends eventually stopped, though not until late 1924, coincident with Feng Yuxiang’s expulsion of Puyi from the Forbidden City and his termination of the Republican subsidy to the Qing court. It was then and only then that the Eight Banner system finally came to an end, and no further appointments to banner posts were made. The Infantry Division of the Metropolitan Banners, for example, was disbanded on 5 October 1924.77
The continued disbursement of the banner soldiers’ stipends had never been intended as a permanent measure; it was supposed to last only until the new regime had come up with a solution to the long-standing “Eight Banners’ livelihood problem.” The early Republic made a stab at solving this problem, but it was no more successful than its imperial predecessor had been. Soon after he became provisional president, Yuan Shikai established, within the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Office to Manage the Eight Banners’ Livelihood (Chouban Baqi Shengji Chu), which took over from the Banner Reorganization Office of the late Qing. It may have been at the instigation of this office that Yuan’s cabinet in January 1914 proposed to the Political Council (Zhengzhi Huiyi), the quasi-legislative body that briefly succeeded the dissolved Parliament, that China conclude a multiyear loan of £5 million from an international banking consortium in order to finance a massive resettlement scheme. The proposal called for relocating eight hundred thousand people from the Metropolitan Banners in Beijing onto wasteland in Manchuria, Chahar, Suiyuan, and Xinjiang, with the $9 million spent annually on banner stipends serving as the collateral for the loan. Resettlement was hardly a new idea, nor was its outcome any different from before. The Political Council, worried about adding to China’s mounting indebtedness, decided that, in the absence of reliable statistics, the project was premature; it called for a census of the banner population in and about Beijing together with an inventory of land available for resettlement along the northern border. Nothing more was heard from the Office to Manage the Eight Banners’ Livelihood. As a Manchu complained in late 1914, the office had been in existence for three years and had produced no result worth mentioning.78
As before, there were also other, largely unofficial, efforts in the early Republic to solve the banner people’s livelihood problem by offering them vocational training. In Beijing the Capital Women’s Factory, founded in 1909 by Manchu and Han officials, continued to teach banner women such skills as weaving, sewing, and brocading. Its history, however, reflected the Republic’s declining interest in and concern for the Manchus. In 1912 the factory operated six sections, employed more than three hundred women, and maintained a primary school for girls. President Yuan gave it his personal support and authorized a contribution from the government. Throughout the 1910s successive Republican governments supported the factory with an annual contribution of twenty thousand taels, but those contributions ceased after 1923. When Feng Yuxiang evicted Puyi from the Forbidden City a year later, he offered, in the “revised” Articles of Favorable Treatment, to make a one-time allocation of $2 million to open and operate workshops for the poor people of Beijing, with priority given to “those of banner registry” (qiji). It does not appear that this public money was ever spent. The Capital Women’s Factory managed to survive (to 1929 at least) only as a private philanthropy.79
In some provincial garrison cities, there were similar Republican efforts to help the Manchus become self-sufficient. The most ambitious program was at Jingzhou, where the Hubei Military Government under Li Yuanhong in the spring of 1912 appointed Hu Egong (1884–1951), a Japanese-educated Han native of Jingzhou, as his special envoy to arrange for the livelihood of the city’s twenty thousand banner people. Hu’s plan, which was to be financed partly by public funds and partly by forced contributions from wealthy local Manchus, called for sending the most impoverished of the Manchus off to other parts of the province. They would each be given $30 for start-up expenses, after which they were expected to provide for themselves and never to return. The program began in October 1912, when 1,500 banner persons were dispatched by boat downriver to the tri-city complex of Wuhan, with six hundred to be settled in Wuchang, five hundred in Hankou, and four hundred in Hanyang. By the end of the year, as many as half of the city’s Manchus had been sent away. Unfortunately, they had gone off without first acquiring a vocational skill and were therefore unable to earn a living at their new locations. Soon most of the banner people were making their separate ways back to Jingzhou, where they were no better off than before.80 Some other garrison cities, such as Chengdu, set up offices like the one in Jingzhou to try to help the Manchus adjust to their new situation.81 As in Beijing and Jingzhou, they were generally ineffective. Yet other cities, such as Guangzhou, made no effort at all.
With the banner soldiers’ stipends reduced or eliminated and with the early Republican government unable to devise a long-term solution, the Manchus had no alternative but to make their own way in the world. The abdication agreement had finally lifted the former restrictions on their choice of occupation. As a group, however, they were ill prepared to cope with their newly bestowed freedom. Those in Manchuria may have been the most fortunate and subject to the fewest disruptions. In the past, they had generally lived some distance from the garrison city to which they were attached, and, residing in the countryside, they had been able to supplement their income by farming, hunting, and fishing. They had never been so dependent on the banner soldiers’ stipends, nor so indolent, as the banner people in Beijing and the provincial garrisons of China proper.82
In Beijing, even during the 1910s when the banner soldiers’ stipends were still being distributed, the Manchus had a difficult time adjusting to the unprecedented laissez-faire conditions. Those who had been enrolled in the new military formations of the late Qing were generally able to keep their posts. Until its dispersal in 1922, three of the four infantry brigades of the Palace Guard remained, as previously noted, predominantly Manchu in composition. So, too, was the First Division, for a while at least. Under the command of He Zonglian, it (or a large part of it) was transferred during the revolution from Beijing to Chahar and Zhangjiakou. When it mutinied in June 1914, the division was still made up mostly of banner soldiers. Soon after the mutiny, He Zonglian was replaced as commander by Cai Chengxun (1871–1946), who in 1922 was sent with his troops to Jiangxi. Four years later, while in Jiangxi, the division, now a part of warlord Sun Chuanfang’s (1885–1935) forces, was defeated and scattered by Chiang Kai-shek’s National Revolutionary Army.83 Aside from the military, many Manchus in Beijing continued to serve in the metropolitan police. Of the ten thousand policemen in Beijing in the 1920s, “upwards of three-quarters,” according to David Strand, “had banner status.”84 For literate bannermen, including the many Manchu-language scribes who had been laid off by the disestablishment of Manchu as an official language, employment as “Chinese secretaries” at the various foreign legations was a possibility. At the British Legation, for example, every post in the Chinese Secretary’s Office into the 1930s was filled by a Manchu.85
Most of the banner people in Beijing, however, lacked not only the skills but also the motivation to work. Unlike their counterparts in Manchuria, they were unable to overcome the habits of dependency that the Qing ban on alternative occupations had long instilled. Sidney Gamble’s social survey of Beijing in the late 1910s confirmed Lao She’s portrait of his refined but indolent relatives. According to Gamble,
Long years of living on government bounty have unfitted most of the Manchus for earning a living, and now many of them would rather starve than go to work. Cases are known where they have been willing to sell even the bricks from their floors before they would do anything to earn money.
Gamble also substantiated the Manchus’ reputed fondness for living well. By examining household budgets, he found that they spent a larger portion of their income on luxuries than did Han households and that they were more likely than Han to live beyond their means. Unfortunately, “Manchus willing to work can find employment only in the unskilled lines and that means competition, low wages, a lower standard of living and destitution for those who have known comfort in the past.” And, indeed, “a large proportion of the Manchus are destitute.”86
The Manchus in the former garrison cities of China proper were no better off than those in the capital. They too were generally driven by economic necessity and the lack of vocational skills to compete for low-skilled, labor-intensive jobs with poor pay. The fortunate ones were those who were literate and lived in treaty ports such as Guangzhou and Fuzhou and could work for the foreign consulates and the foreign-run maritime customs and post office. Most, however, lived from hand to mouth. In Guangzhou, according to one rough estimate, 20 percent of the Manchus lived comfortably; 60 percent scraped by as peddlers and laborers; and 20 percent barely survived on odd jobs or by begging.87 Not everyone survived. The first winter after the revolution was particularly hard for the Manchus in the provinces. Despite efforts by local authorities and elite to distribute rice gruel and padded jackets, many homeless banner people starved or froze to death.88
Meanwhile, the system of de jure segregation, by which Manchus were kept separate from Han, had come to an end with the Republic. On 13 April 1912 President Yuan Shikai, noting that Cixi’s edict of 1902 had failed to change social behavior, issued a reminder that Manchu-Han marriage was no longer prohibited.89 Manchu cities, formerly the residential preserves of the banner people, were also abolished. The abdication agreement had lifted the restrictions on the banner people’s place of residence, and though promising to protect their private property, it implied that their public property was subject to confiscation. As a result, in those cities with a banner garrison, the Republican authorities quickly extended their control over the Manchu quarters, which were often vast and sparsely populated, and expropriated all the land and buildings that were not privately owned. In Beijing, as noted, they took over most of the Forbidden City, leaving (until 1924) only the portion at the rear of the Qing court; they took over the entire Inner City as well, including (within it) the Imperial City. In Fuzhou the governor in 1912 repudiated land contracts that the banner people had signed and ordered new ones drawn up because the Manchu City was now the property of the new regime.90 In Hangzhou, the government auctioned off the land in the Manchu quarters and began converting it into the bustling commercial center that it is today. As early as 1913, according to a Western correspondent,
the plan of the old Manchu city has been published, and . . . building lots are for sale. . . . The Chamber of Commerce has bought most of the lots facing the lake. The few remaining houses belonging to the Tartars are rapidly disappearing, and signs of the making of roads are to be seen.91
The walls that formerly separated a Manchu settlement from its host city were, in most instances, removed. In Xi’an the south wall of the Manchu City was torn down in 1912 and replaced by a broad roadway lined on both sides with foreign-style shops. In Jingzhou, Hangzhou, and Chengdu the internal city walls were demolished in either 1912 or 1913. Beijing was an exception; the wall separating the Inner and Outer Cities remained largely intact down to the Communists’ Great Leap Forward in the late 1950s.92
However, although the de jure segregation of Manchus and Han ended with the revolution, de facto segregation continued. Yuan Shikai’s 1912 decree supporting intermarriage was apparently no more effective than Cixi’s had been ten years earlier. At Aihun, Heilongjiang, in the early 1920s, Manchus generally married other Manchus (including Hanjun) and only rarely married Han.93 Furthermore, the banner people still tended to live among themselves on the site of their old Manchu City, even though they no longer were rigidly separated from the Han people. In Beijing in the late 1910s, according to Sidney Gamble’s survey, the Manchus were concentrated in five of the ten police districts into which the Inner City was divided. In particular, they were a majority of the population in the two districts that together comprised the Imperial City and they were “a large proportion of the population” in the three northern and northwestern districts of the Inner City. In other words, non-Manchus, who were no longer excluded, had moved in large numbers into the five eastern and southern districts. In Guangzhou, too, the vast majority of the Manchus continued well into the Republic to live where they had previously been confined, in the western half of the Old City.94
In sum, with regard to count 4 in the revolutionaries’ indictment, the Manchus after the revolution were still, to some degree, segregated from the Han, but they clearly were no longer the privileged elite that they had been under the Qing. Although they had begun to experience economic difficulties long before the revolution, their plight worsened considerably when the new regime eliminated the banner soldiers’ stipends altogether, as it did eventually in Beijing and almost immediately everywhere else. The Manchus quickly fell to the lowest stratum of Chinese society. They came to be identified in the public consciousness with poverty and unskilled labor, much as, say, the natives of northern Jiangsu were in Shanghai. Like the Subei people in Shanghai, the Manchus dominated the rickshaw-pulling business in Beijing. In both instances this line of work, viewed as nearly subhuman, epitomized their low status.95
Just as the revolutionaries dislodged the banner people from their perch as a privileged minority, so too did they succeed in uprooting them as a military occupation force oppressing the Han—count 5 in their indictment of the Manchus. From the beginning, the Eight Banners had been a military as well as an administrative organization. After the revolution, although the banner system was preserved (in Beijing at least) in order to handle the administrative chores of allocating the soldiers’ stipends, the Republican authorities quickly stripped it of its military responsibility. In May 1912 President Yuan’s army minister, Duan Qirui, told the Eight Banners that they should discontinue their rifle practices, because under the Republic all military personnel must come from the army, and he ordered the lieutenants-general of the twenty-four banners to return the ten thousand or more rifles that the ministry had given them in the late Qing, when the court had replaced archery with rifle practice.96 As a result, the Eight Banners in the early Republic ceased to serve, as they nominally still did in the late Qing, any military purpose.
The revolutionaries also ended the preferential treatment that the Manchus had previously enjoyed in the political realm at the expense of the Han (count 6). Throughout the Qing period, bannermen had been disproportionately represented in the central government because of the related institutions of dyarchy and ethnic slots. Though the court in the post-Boxer era had made some progress toward the newly stated goal of appointing officials “without distinction between Manchus and Han,” it remained for its Republican successor to do away with dyarchy entirely and abolish most ethnic slots. The Manchu presence in government plummeted as a result, though it did not disappear altogether. When Yuan Shikai became president, he reportedly wanted at least one bannerman in his Republican cabinet. (The cabinet that he, as Qing prime minister, had named also included one Manchu.) His token Manchu was Rongxun, who previously had worked with Beijing’s Inner City police; he was, until his death in June 1916, vice-minister of internal affairs. In the decade after Rongxun, at least one other bannerman served in the cabinet of the northern government: Enhua, a Japanese-educated Mongol bannerman from the Zhenjiang garrison, who was vice-minister of laws in 1924.97
Below the level of the cabinet, however, several agencies of the government continued to reserve some slots for Manchus. Many of the leading posts in the Eight Banner system, until its complete disbandment in 1924, were held by bannermen. Similarly, the vice-director of the Office for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs (Meng-Zang Shiwu Yuan), successor to the Qing’s Ministry of Colonial Affairs, was almost always a bannerman.98 And the office for the compilation of The Draft History of the Qing, established in Beijing in 1914, was headed by the Hanjun Zhao Erxun, formerly governor-general of Manchuria, and it employed, among others, the Manchu bannerman Jinliang. When Zhao died in 1927, it fell to Jinliang to hasten the completion of the history before Chiang Kai-shek’s National Revolutionary Army could reach Beijing and put a stop to their effort.99
Surprisingly, the one Manchu official who proved most adept at making the transition from monarchy to republic was Yinchang, the German-educated former minister of the army who commanded the initial military operations against the revolution. When Yuan Shikai appointed Yinchang in September 1912 to succeed Feng Guozhang as head of the military affairs section in the office of the president, many members of the Nationalist Party were predictably upset. Nevertheless, Huang Xing, the party’s leading military figure, came to Yinchang’s defense and supported his selection. Although at the time of the revolution the Qing loyalist Liangbi had questioned Yinchang’s qualifications, Huang lauded him for “his superior knowledge of military affairs, which was internationally recognized,” and for “his cosmopolitan point of view.” When Yinchang led the Qing troops against the revolutionaries, he was, Huang said, only doing his duty; in any case, it was not he but Feng Guozhang who had been responsible for the bloody assault on Hankou and the destruction of its Chinese City. Yinchang’s career as a Republican official continued even after his patron Yuan’s downfall, as he held a number of high-ranking advisory military posts until his death in 1928. He often represented the Republic in its formal dealings with the Qing court, such as when he attended Puyi’s wedding in 1922.100
Finally, though count 1 of the revolutionaries’ indictment had charged that the Manchus were an alien, barbarian people who had no place in China, the new regime did not, in fact, expel them. While there were many instances during the revolution when local groups of banner people were driven from their homes, the Republic accepted the presence of the Manchus within China and even promised, in the abdication agreement, that they should be treated on an equal basis with the Han. The agreement officially recognized them as one of the five major ethnic groups (minzu) that together made up the new Republic of China. This concept of China as composed of five ethnic groups, which Empress Dowager Longyu also lauded in her valedictory edict, was not new. The “unity of Manchus, Han, Mongol, Muslims, and Tibetans as one citizenry” had been an editorial objective of the Manchu reformist publication Great Harmony Journal in 1907. Indeed, the “five-in-one” idea can be traced back to the Qianlong emperor’s self-image as the unifier and ruler of a multiethnic empire. However, under the Republic the Manchus were no longer the superior people that they had been during the Qing. Their status had been reduced to, at least, that of equality with the Han and other major ethnic groups. As Article 5 of the Provisional Constitution of March 1912 stated, “Citizens of the Republic of China are in all respects equal, with no distinctions of race [zhongzu], class, or religion.”101
The vision of Republican China as a multiethnic country in which all five major ethnic groups were equal was symbolized by the “five-color flag” that was adopted by President Yuan in June 1912 on the recommendation of the Senate and that remained the emblem of the state until replaced by the Nationalists. The flag consisted of five horizontal stripes of equal width, each of a different color (red, yellow, blue, white, and black) representative of the Han, Manchus, Mongols, Muslims, and Tibetans respectively.102 The same ideal of ethnic equality was conveyed in the phrase “The five ethnic groups are as one family” (Wuzu yijia), which was a constant refrain in the first years of the Republic. A significant extension of the old idea of “Manchus and Han as one family” (Man-Han yijia), it was espoused in 1912 by such diverse figures as Longyu, Yuan Shikai, and Sun Yat-sen. When, for example, the empress dowager was urged by leading Manchus at court to protest Yuan’s changing the name of the Great Qing Gate (Da-Qing Men) to China Gate (Zhonghua Men) as an unwarranted Republican encroachment upon the imperial precincts, she replied, “The five ethnic groups are as one family. Why distinguish between yours and mine?”103
Making good on its professed commitment to ethnic equality and impartiality, the new regime called for an end to the kinds of anti-Manchu writings and activities that had been commonplace recently. The revolution, for example, had unleashed an outpouring of anti-Manchu literature. It included old writings that during the Qing had been proscribed, such as Wang Xiuchu’s graphic account of the ten days’ massacre at Yangzhou, as well as new writings, such as A Short History of Slaves (Nucai xiaoshi), consisting of twenty biographical sketches of incompetent bannermen and corrupt eunuchs, and Biographies of Avaricious Officials and Corrupt Personnel (Tanguan wuli zhuan), both compiled by a certain “Lao Li” (Old Servitor) and published in May 1912. In that same month Yuan Shikai issued a presidential decree banning all such anti-Manchu literature as “contrary to the principles of the Republic” and harmful to the “unity of feelings between Han and Manchus.” The prohibition broadly targeted books that were “hostile toward the Manchus or slandered the former Qing.” Yuan’s government also repeatedly warned both individuals and local communities against the illegal confiscation of the banner people’s private property and, where this had already occurred, ordered them to return such property to their former owners. The Hubei authorities in 1912 issued a similar proclamation of their own calling on their citizens not to discriminate against Manchu and Mongol “banner people” (qimin).104 Indeed, Manchus were not prohibited from taking the postimperial examinations to select county magistrates. At the third such examination, administered in August 1914, for example, twelve of the 830 (1.4 percent) who passed were “people of banner registry” (qijiren) or, in one instance, a Metropolitan Bannerman.105
However, although the early Republic seemed to be committed to the goal of impartiality, the Manchus often found it difficult to overcome the stigma left by the revolutionaries’ earlier accusation that they were a foreign group who did not belong in China. They claimed, for example, that they alone, among China’s five major ethnic groups, were denied adequate representation in the first Republican parliament. In 1912, when the Senate drew up the electoral laws for the legislature to be elected later that year, it allotted a certain number of seats to each province as well as to Mongolia, Tibet, and Qinghai. The Manchus, led by the Association for the Common Advancement of the Manchus (Manzu Tongjin Hui), charged that under this territorial system it was almost impossible for any of them to be elected because in no province were they numerically dominant (as, say, the Mongols were in Mongolia). They asked that the “banner people” (qiren) be given a special, nonterritorial electoral quota, similar to those set aside for educators and overseas Chinese. The Senate, citing Article 5 of the Provisional Constitution with its stipulation that all citizens were equal without racial distinction, rejected the Manchus’ plea for special treatment. It asserted that in certain locations, notably Beijing and Manchuria, banner people were sufficiently numerous to be electable under the territorial system. As a matter of fact, the elected bicameral parliament did include among its 862 members at least three with Manchu-sounding names—two senators from Fengtian (Yanrong and Fuyuan) and one representative from Zhili (the imperial clansman and former publisher of Great Harmony Journal, Hengjun). Even so, this was far from the fifty-four seats allotted to Mongolia or the twenty to Tibet (not all of which were necessarily held by Mongols or Tibetans). The issue of representation by the banner people came up again in 1914, when a new legislature was to replace the parliament that Yuan Shikai had disbanded. Though that body never left the drawing board, the Manchus were upset once more that the plans under discussion did not include any special quota for them. As a certain Ziwei complained in the new Manchu political journal, The Banners (Qizu yuebao), while China’s four other major ethnic groups would all be able to express and act on their political views, only the “banner ethnic group” (qizu) was doomed to silence and passivity.106
Though the Manchus failed to gain special representation in Parliament, it was clearly not due to a lack of effort. The Association for the Common Advancement of the Manchus, which spearheaded the campaign, was founded in the spring of 1912 specifically to speak for the Manchus (Manzu) in the new explicitly multiethnic environment of the early Republic. In a statement addressed to the “elders and juniors of the Eight Banners,” the association dismissed the fear expressed by some that its formation would only stir up the anti-Manchu elements. It asserted that each of the other four major ethnic groups had established its own representative organization and that only the Manchus had abstained from such political activism. If the Manchus wished to save themselves from destruction, they too must unite. The group, whose founding president, Xiyan, had been a metropolitan official in the late Qing, listed four tasks for itself: revive the Manchus’ withered spirit; struggle for their legitimate rights; seek a basic level of knowledge; and plan for their future livelihood. It remained the leading representative organization of the Manchus in Beijing until at least 1929. It had, at one time, a branch office in Fengtian as well.107 Another voice of the Manchus was the above-mentioned The Banners, a monthly journal published in Beijing in 1914 and edited by Luo Wanzhang. It was devoted to the affairs of what it itself called the “banner ethnic group”; its sixth issue, dated 5 November 1914, was devoted to an examination of the perennial Eight Banners’ livelihood problem.
Not only collectively but also individually, the Manchus suffered much from discrimination and prejudice during the early Republic. The promises in the abdication agreement and the repeated injunctions of the Republican government notwithstanding, most Manchus were powerless to resist when and where local authorities illegally seized their private holdings. Only someone such as Zhisen, a former provincial treasurer with ties to Yikuang, had the political and financial resources to catch the attention of President Yuan and his cabinet and to persist for almost three years in an effort, which in the end was only partially successful, to recover a drugstore that the Zhejiang government in 1912 had expropriated and auctioned off.108 Furthermore, Manchus desperate for work found that Han employers often refused to hire people whom they knew or suspected to be Manchu—such as someone with an unusual disyllabic name, for many Manchus continued after the revolution to follow the old custom of suppressing their family name and going only by their personal name. Nine of the twelve bannermen who passed the qualifying examination for county magistrates in 1914 had such Manchu-style names.109
In an attempt to evade such discrimination, many (though, clearly, not all) Manchus sought to eliminate the obvious indicators of their non-Han origins. Principally, they took advantage of the provision in the abdication agreement allowing them freely to “register with the departments and counties” (i.e., the local civil authorities) so as to change their classification and alter their names. In Beijing, where the Eight Banner system functioned until the mid-1920s, the applicant would petition the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which, if it approved the request, would notify the applicant’s original banner as well as the county to which his family registration would be transferred. On 2 March 1913 alone, the Government Gazette (Zhengfu gongbao) recorded six directives from the ministry acting on requests from banner people to make changes in their classification and name. In one representative case, Lingshou, a policeman from the Infantry Division, petitioned to switch his registration from “banner person” (qi) in Dachonga’s company in the Manchu Bordered Blue Banner to “civilian” (min) in Wanping County, Zhili; in the same petition, he also asked to adopt Guan as his surname and to change his personal name to Deshou. The ministry approved the request and asked that both the Manchu Bordered Blue Banner and Wanping County be so notified. The name change usually consisted of adding a Han-style surname (such as Guan) to one’s given name, but sometimes, as with Lingshou, it involved taking a new personal name as well.110
It is noteworthy that the change of registration was from “bannerman” to “civilian” rather than from “Manchu” to “Han.” The concept of the Manchus as an ethnic group certainly existed at this time; the third abdication agreement had identified them specifically as one of China’s four major non-Han peoples. And as is evident in the name of the Association for the Common Advancement of the Manchus, the term “Manzu” (Manchu ethnic group) was around as well. Nevertheless, the Manchus, by and large, still identified themselves, and were identified by others, not so much as an ethnic group but as members of the Eight Banner system. Thus, in the early Republic, the most common term for the Manchus was not Manzu—or even Manren, which for some reason seems not to have been used so often as before the revolution—but qiren (banner people) or one of its variants, including the newly coined qijiren (people of banner registry) and qizu (banner ethnic group). Owen Lattimore, traveling through Manchuria in 1929–30, found that
the word “Manchu” was and is almost never used in conversation and comparatively rarely in writing. . . . The term in commonest use was Ch’i-jen [qiren], “Bannermen,” which included both Chinese and Manchu Bannermen. The corresponding term for non-Banner Chinese was min, “a commoner,” “a civilian”.111
Of course, as long as the Eight Banner system continued to exist, as it did until 1924, it is understandable that the Manchus would be equated with its membership.
Aside from altering their classification and adopting Han-style surnames, Manchus attempted to hide their origins and pass for Han in yet other ways. Some abandoned their hereditary settlements, including the Manchu cities, to live and try to find work among the Han. At an encampment of the Scouts, one of the three outer divisions of the Metropolitan Banners, for example, of the more than one hundred households who lived there at the end of the Qing, only about twenty were left in the late 1940s; the rest had gone away. Manchus also stopped observing Manchu customs and wearing Manchu dress; they hid their family genealogies; in places where their spoken Chinese set them apart from the local population, they modified their speech (e.g., from standard Chinese to the local dialect); and they even intermarried, usually with Manchu women marrying Han men, because Manchu men often were too poor to attract marriageable partners. In general, they refused to acknowledge, at least to outsiders, that they were Manchus. When Yenching University sociologists in 1928 surveyed a nearby village that belonged to one of the outer divisions of the Metropolitan Banners, they found that less than 3 percent of its 2,437 inhabitants admitted to being Manchu. “We suspect that some of the Manchus have possibly concealed their origin from the investigators as the Manchus usually do not like people to know that they are Manchus.” Only by turning their back on their heritage, so a number of Manchus thought, could they make their way in early Republican China. When a Beijing doctor, a member of the Suwan Gūwalgiya lineage, was denied a medical license for no apparent reason other than that he was Manchu, he petitioned the Ministry of Internal Affairs to change his classification from banner person to civilian and to adopt a Han-style three-syllable name (Li Chengyin) for himself. Once the change was confirmed in 1916, he obtained his license.112
In sum, the new Republic’s treatment of the Manchu people was inconsistent. On the one hand, it made what must be judged a reasonably good-faith effort to continue to distribute, as specified in the abdication agreement, the banner soldiers’ stipends, at least in Beijing, where nearly half of the banner people lived; it did not stop the stipends altogether until Feng Yuxiang came to power in 1924. It, admittedly, did not devise a solution to the Eight Banners’ livelihood problem, but neither had the Qing. On the other hand, the new regime, in the course of disposing of the revolutionaries’ seven-count indictment against them, did not treat the Manchus with the impartiality and equality that the abdication agreement had also promised, or so the Manchus themselves thought. The new government did away with the Manchu impositions upon the Han; it disbanded the Eight Banner system and the banner garrisons; it ended the segregation of Manchus from Han; and it toppled the Manchus from their privileged position in Chinese society. The cost to the Manchus, however, was widespread discrimination, the erosion of their own sense of self, and their seemingly imminent assimilation by the majority Han population.
Puyi’s expulsion from the Forbidden City in 1924 and the desecration of the Qing Eastern Tombs in 1928 coincided with the final distribution of the banner soldiers’ stipends in Beijing. Thereafter, both the former imperial household and the general Manchu populace were left entirely on their own. What happened to each of them under the three very different regimes that succeeded the early Republic: the Nationalists, the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo, and the Communists?
By and large, Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalists ignored Puyi, who had been living since 1925 in the Japanese concession in Tianjin. It was only when the Japanese had overrun China’s northeastern provinces in late 1931 and had approached Puyi to head the puppet state that they were planning that the Nationalists took an interest in him. In an effort to dissuade him from cooperating with the Japanese, Chiang Kai-shek sent an emissary, Gao Youtang, an ex-Qing official who was then a member of the Nationalists’ Control Yuan, to Puyi with a startling proposition. According to Gao’s published account, which Puyi’s autobiography corroborates, Chiang promised to arrange and pay for Puyi to relocate to Beijing or Shanghai, resurrect the Articles of Favorable Treatment if Puyi sincerely supported the Republic, resume payment of an annual subsidy to the Qing court, appoint representatives of the Manchu ethnic group (Manzu) to the highest organs of government, and ensure that the Manchus would be represented in all future political bodies on the same basis as the Mongols and Tibetans. Although Chiang’s offer included the restoration of the Articles of Favorable Treatment, it would have been only a partial restoration, as it did not provide for Puyi’s return to either the Forbidden City or the Yiheyuan or for the resumption of his imperial title. Puyi, however, doubted whether Chiang would honor his promises. He noted that, notwithstanding the findings of the court-martial, the Nationalists still had not punished the soldiers guilty of looting the Qing tombs.113 When Puyi decided to go with the Japanese after all, the Nationalists had no further dealings with him.
The Japanese had wanted a member of the Qing imperial clan to head their puppet state in Manchuria, but Puyi was not the only candidate. Shanqi, with whom they had collaborated earlier, would have been a logical choice, but he had died in 1922. Another, self-promoted, candidate was Puwei, who, like Shanqi, had vigorously opposed the Qing abdication and afterward had been closely identified with the antirepublican Royalist Party. Puwei had initially found refuge in the German (later Japanese) leasehold of Qingdao; after Qingdao’s return to Chinese control in 1922, he had moved to Dalian in the Japanese leased territory of Guandong in southern Manchuria. When the expansionist-minded Kantō Army captured Shenyang in September 1931, Puwei applauded and eagerly put himself forward to lead a Manchurian independence movement. In October he went to Shenyang, where he convened a large meeting of the city’s citizens, took charge of a pro-Japanese support group, and issued a call for cooperation with Japan and for “Manchus to govern Manchuria” (Manren zhi Man). He also paid a visit to the nearby tombs of Nurhaci and Hong Taiji, the founders of the Manchu people, to offer sacrifices. The Japanese, however, soon told Puwei they had other plans and speedily sent him back to Dalian. As in 1908, when both had been under consideration to succeed the Guangxu emperor, he had been passed over for Puyi. He died six years later.114
Spurning Chiang Kai-shek’s appeal, Puyi in mid-November 1931 secretly left Tianjin for Lüshun to negotiate the terms of his collaboration with the Kantō Army. What Puyi and his supporters wanted was a restoration of both the monarchy and the Qing dynasty. The Japanese agreed only to revive the monarchy and, even then, to do so only on a delayed basis. Thus, the new state of Manchukuo, when it was inaugurated on 1 March 1932, started out as a republic, with Puyi as its “chief executive.” Only on its second anniversary was it transformed into the “Manchu empire” (Manzhou diguo) and Puyi elevated to the position of emperor.115 In their choice of the name for the new polity and the date of its establishment, the Japanese made deliberate use of the region’s historical ties to the Manchus and the Qing heritage. Specifically, “Manzhouguo” (the Manchu state) was the name that Hong Taiji had used for his regime before he adopted the dynastic name “Qing,” and the first of March was supposedly an auspicious date for the Qing.116
The Japanese, however, drew the line well short of restoring the Qing dynasty. They located the capital of Manchukuo not at Shenyang, the site of Nurhaci’s and Hong Taiji’s government, but rather at Changchun (renamed Xinjing, “New Capital”) in Jilin. They adopted as the emblem of the new state not the dragon flag of the late Qing but a five-color flag that harked back to that of the early Republic. They did not permit Puyi, as he went to take up his new post in 1932, to worship at the Qing tombs outside Shenyang, as his kinsman Puwei had done a few months earlier; all they did was stop the train briefly as he passed the tombs so that he could “do obeisance to the spirits of his forefathers” without getting off. Most tellingly, when Puyi was enthroned in 1934, the Japanese made him emperor not of the Qing but of the “Manchu empire,” and they gave him a new reign title, Kangde, in place of his original title, Xuantong. Furthermore, they made him wear a military uniform at the public enthronement ceremony; he was allowed to wear the Qing imperial dragon robe only at an earlier ritual at a makeshift Altar of Heaven, where he announced his accession to heaven. Finally, when the Japanese in 1937 occupied Beijing, they did not return Puyi to the Forbidden City or extend his imperial authority beyond Manchuria back into China proper.117
Although the dynasty was not resurrected, Manchukuo nevertheless attracted the services of several other members of the Qing imperial lineage. Most notable was Puyi’s younger brother, Pujie, whom the Japanese married in 1937 to a cousin of Emperor Hirohito and whom they then designated as heir apparent if Puyi were to die without issue. Another imperial kinsman who joined Manchukuo was Xianjun, the twelfth son of the fervently anti-Republican Shanqi, who headed a military hospital. Others of the Aisin Gioro family, however, did not collaborate with the Japanese in Manchuria. Among them were Puyi’s own father, Zaifeng, and his uncle, Zaitao. Although they visited him in Manchukuo, they did not stay.118
Puyi’s reign as the Kangde emperor of Manchukuo ended in 1945, eleven years after it started, with the defeat of his patron state. When he learned that Hirohito had surrendered, he hurriedly issued his second edict of abdication and prepared to flee to Tokyo. He was, instead, captured by advancing Soviet troops and flown to the Soviet Union, where he was detained for five years, mostly at Khabarovsk. In August 1946, while a Soviet detainee, he testified for eight days at the Tokyo War Crimes Trial as a prosecution witness against the Japanese. In July 1950 the Soviets returned Puyi to China and its new Communist masters, who kept him in prison for another nine years. Detained with him at Fushun, Liaoning, were several other members of the Qing imperial family who had collaborated with the Japanese, including his brother Pujie, Shanqi’s son Xianjun, and a son of Puwei known as Little Gu. They were all subject to intense ideological remolding.119
On 4 December 1959 Puyi was freed as part of the special pardon proclaimed on the tenth anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic. Afterward, for the first time since his expulsion from the Forbidden City thirty-five years earlier, he returned to Beijing, where he was initially assigned to the Beijing Botanical Gardens as a gardener. In 1961 he was transferred to the Historical Materials Commission (Wenshi Ziliao Yanjiu Weiyuanhui) of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference as a “literary and historical worker.” One of his duties was to organize historical documents from the late Qing and early Republic; another was to revise and expand the confessions that he had written in prison into his autobiography, which was published in March 1964 as The First Half of My Life (Wo de qian bansheng), or, as it is known in English, From Emperor to Citizen. Puyi died on 17 October 1967, at the outset of the Cultural Revolution; he was 61 years old and childless.120
The Communists did not, of course, recognize the validity of the 1912 Articles of Favorable Treatment; nevertheless, they treated some surviving members of the Qing imperial household with surprising respect, particularly those who, unlike Puyi, had kept their distance from Manchukuo. Such leniency toward the former dynasty may have been one aspect of the Communists’ “united front” policy, by which they sought to distinguish themselves from their predecessors, the Nationalists, who had been uncompromising in their hatred of the Qing. Thus, in the early years of the People’s Republic, the Communists gave a prominent, if nominal, political role to Puyi’s uncle, Zaitao, who together with Zaixun had dominated the late Qing court during their brother Zaifeng’s regency. (Zaixun had died in 1949; Zaifeng, in 1952.) During the regency Zaitao had been considered more open-minded than his brothers; during the Republic, he had not participated in any restorationist plot or in Manchukuo. As a result, he was in relatively good standing with the Communists. Perhaps on account of his youthful involvement with military affairs during Zaifeng’s regency, he was assigned to an advisory position in the People’s Liberation Army in charge of horses, and he spent some time in the steppes of the northwest. Having attended the second session of the first Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in June 1950, Zaitao was elected in 1954 to the First National People’s Congress from Beijing Municipality as a representative of the Manchus. Thereafter he seems to have traveled around the country as an ambassador of the congress to various Manchu groups; for example, he visited the small Manchu community in Guangzhou in May 1956. He was reelected to the Second and Third National People’s Congresses in 1959 and 1964 respectively. He died in September 1970.121 Zaitao’s status as the officially recognized intermediary between the state and the Manchus was not unlike that of Pulun’s during Yuan Shikai’s presidency.
After the Cultural Revolution Zaitao’s nephew Pujie, his past record as a war criminal notwithstanding, emerged to play a very similar role. Released from Fushun prison in 1960, a year after his brother Puyi, Pujie too had been assigned to the Historical Materials Commission; the following year, he and his Japanese wife and mother-in-law, together with Zaitao and Puyi and the Manchu novelist Lao She, all had their photograph taken with Prime Minister Zhou Enlai (plate 15). In 1978 Pujie was elected to the Fifth National People’s Congress; he was elevated to the Standing Committee of the next three congresses elected in 1983, 1988, and 1993. With Pujie’s death in early 1994 at age 87, the long and often strained relationship between the Qing court and its successor regimes finally came to an end.122
Meanwhile, how had the broad masses of Manchus been getting along under these same three post-1928 governments? In general, each regime dealt with the Manchus in accordance with its overall policy on ethnic groups. The Nationalists rejected the ethnic pluralism of the early Republic in favor of assimilationism. The early Republic had recognized the existence within China of five major ethnic groups, of whom the Manchus were one, and it had professed that all were equal; the Nationalists, on the other hand, asserted that China was ethnically homogeneous and denied that the Manchus constituted a separate ethnic group. Their assimilationist policy can be traced back to Sun Yat-sen, though Sun himself had characteristically been on both sides of the issue. Thus, in late 1912, when he met with the Manchus in Beijing, he indicated to them that he too subscribed to the then prevalent concept of “five ethnic groups as one family.” Twelve years later, when he was allied with the Communists, he and the reorganized Nationalist Party again acknowledged the existence of various ethnic groups within China and promised, as had the early Republic, to treat them all as equals. In between, however, in June 1921 he asserted that, among his Three People’s Principles, that of Nationalism had been no more than partially realized with the overthrow of the “Manchu Qing” (Man-Qing) and that it would be fully achieved only with the creation of a new “Chinese ethnic group” (Zhonghua minzu). Modeled on the idea of American ethnicity, this Chinese ethnicity “would take the Han people (Hanzu) as the core and have the other four peoples—Manchus, Mongols, Muslims, and Tibetans—all assimilate to us.” Chinese ethnicity was therefore basically synonymous with “we Han people” (women Hanzu).123
Chiang Kai-shek’s policy on ethnic groups was unwaveringly assimilation-ist. In China’s Destiny (Zhongguo zhi mingyun), first published in 1943, he insisted that the people of China consisted of a single group, which he too called the “Chinese ethnic group” and which was the product of a long historical evolution during which “various racial stocks [zongzu] blended into the Chinese ethnic group.” Furthermore, following Sun, Chiang equated this Chinese ethnic group with the Han. When explaining the disappearance of the Xiongnu and other ethnic groups of ancient China, he described their blending into the Chinese ethnic group as identical to their “Hanification” (Hanhua). Like the Xiongnu, the Manchus had been “assimilated into the Chinese ethnic group”: “Since the 1911 Revolution, Manchus [Manzu] and Han [Hanzu] have so fused into one entity that there is no trace of distinctiveness.” In short, according to Chiang Kai-shek, the Manchus had been so completely assimilated that they no longer existed as a separate entity. They had become an undifferentiated part of the single, all-encompassing Chinese ethnicity that was essentially identical to the Han.124
Since they were not recognized as a distinct group, it is hardly surprising that the Manchus received no special consideration from the Nationalists. As with Puyi, the only time that the Nationalists paid them any attention was in late 1931. As part of his appeal to Puyi not to collaborate with the Japanese, Chiang offered to recognize and give the Manchus special representation in various executive and deliberative bodies of the Nationalist regime on the same basis (and for the same kinds of geopolitical reasons) as the Mongols and Tibetans. However, the offer was withdrawn when it failed to deter Puyi from going to Manchuria. Nor did the Nationalists concern themselves with the Manchus’ economic plight. They had located their capital in Nanjing; consequently, unlike their predecessors, they did not have to confront on a daily basis the masses of impoverished Manchus still living in the former capital. Although Nanjing too had been a garrison city, its relatively small population of banner people had been all but wiped out during the revolution. Thus, the attitude of the Nanjing government toward the Manchus was one of “out of sight, out of mind.”
Due to the Nationalists’ assimilationist policy, it became even more urgent than under the early Republic for individual Manchus to hide their ethnic origins and blend into the Han majority, as the regime claimed had already occurred. This was probably why Lao She, one of greatest and most prolific writers of the Nationalist era, did not then acknowledge his Manchu ancestry or include any recognizably Manchu character in the fiction he wrote at that time.125 This too was probably why in the census of 1953, taken soon after the collapse of Nationalist rule, less than 2.5 million (half the estimated number of banner people in the late Qing) identified themselves as Manchus. How else to explain such an enormous population loss in such a short span of time? Though many Manchus had been killed during the Republican revolution and many more had died of starvation in the following decades, the others had disappeared by passing themselves off as Han.
Much to the annoyance of the Nationalists, who in 1938 angrily accused them of using “self-determination” as a device to divide and conquer China, the Japanese in Manchuria professed the alternate ethnic policy of pluralism. Manchukuo thus assiduously courted the various ethnic groups within its borders, assuring them a happy era of racial equality and harmony. To this end it adopted as its national emblem a five-color flag that, as in the early Republic, symbolized the union of five major ethnic groups. The five constituent groups of Manchukuo, however, differed slightly from those of the early Republic—they were Manchu, Han, Mongol, Japanese, and Korean, with the Japanese and their Korean subjects replacing the Muslims and Tibetans. Unlike Chiang Kaishek, the Japanese not only reaffirmed the Manchus’ status as one of the five major ethnic groups but accorded them the pride of place in the new “Manchu state.” The Manchukuo flag, for example, was three-quarters yellow, symbolic of the Manchus, while the remaining quarter, in the upper corner next to the staff, was divided into four horizontal stripes representing the other four groups. Furthermore, according to F. C. Jones, the Japanese “endeavoured . . . to stimulate Manchu racial consciousness by the revival of the Manchu spoken language and the Manchu script.” They even tried to appeal to the Manchu-speaking Xibe people in far-off Xinjiang, whom one Manchukuo publication in 1939 called “the forgotten Manchus,” who allegedly were “gazing in the direction of Manchuria with an intense morbid [sic] longing for their own fatherland.” However, the Manchus in Manchukuo were relatively few in number, no more than 3 percent of the population, which was partly because many Han had migrated to the region in recent decades and partly because many Manchus had become largely assimilated to the Han way of life. The Manchukuo journal Contemporary Manchuria admitted that only those Manchus in the north still retained “their racial characteristics in the building of homes, clothing, and hair-dressing.”126
According to Jones, the Japanese, echoing Puwei’s espousal of “Manchus governing Manchuria,” also “endeavoured to recruit Manchus for the administration of ‘Manchukuo.’” Yet, among the initial high-level appointees to the government, only two had Manchu-sounding names. One was the Manchu bannerman Xiqia (1884–1952), a 1911 graduate of the Japanese Military Officers School, who in the twenty years since his return to China had been active in military affairs in the northeast; he was minister of finance in the Manchukuo government and concurrently governor of Jilin, the metropolitan province. The other was Guifu, a privy councilor. It may be symptomatic of Manchukuo’s overall failure to attract Manchu commoners to its cause that the Qing loyalist Jinliang, who had been working in Shenyang since 1926 as curator of the Qing archives and an editor of The Draft History of the Qing, fled the region in 1931 and retired, penniless, to Beijing, where he lived on proceeds from his calligraphy. He died in 1962.127
The Communists, upon coming to power in 1949, likewise pursued a pluralist ethnicity policy. Proclaiming that theirs was a “united, multiethnic state,” in December 1952 they formally recognized the Manchus (Manzu) as one of what came to be more than fifty minority ethnic groups in the People’s Republic, who together make up about 7 percent of the country’s current population. However, because the Manchus had become so assimilated to Han culture, their classification as a distinct group required a rather loose interpretation of the accepted Stalinist definition of a “nationality,” or ethnic group. According to Stalin, a “nationality” was supposed to share in common four objective characteristics: language, territory, economic life, and mindset or culture. As field investigators in the mid-1950s found almost everywhere they looked, hardly any Manchus, except for the Xibe in Xinjiang and a few elderly residents along the upper reaches of the Amur River, could still speak or read the Manchu language. Nor were the Manchus concentrated in any one geographical location. Then, too, they lacked a common economic life. And their mindset was scarcely any different from that of the Han. Nevertheless, the Communists found in the Eight Banner system of the Qing the key element that both set the Manchus apart from the Han and most other ethnic groups and unified them into one distinct group. As the authors of the field survey of the Manchus in Beijing in the 1950s explained,
To be sure, the “Eight Banners” and the “Manchus” are two different concepts, but from the standpoint of the formation of the Manchu ethnic group, the two are inseparable. The Mongols, Han, and other ethnic groups who joined the Eight Banners all experienced the same constraints of the banner system together with its political status and economic benefits; they were basically identical to the Eight Banner Manchus. Over a long period of waging war and earning a livelihood, their living customs, their use of language, and even their mindset became largely the same as those of the Eight Banner Manchus.128
In other words, the Qing policy of “Manchufying” the entire membership of the Eight Banner system had imposed upon all of its members a common livelihood, a common language, and a common mindset, thus fulfilling three of the four Stalinist criteria of a “nationality.” Only a common territory was lacking.
The late Qing and early Republican concept of the Manchus as banner people thus formed the basis of the Communist definition, but the terminology had changed. The old term “banner people” was set aside, though it did not disappear altogether, particularly in informal speech. According to Yunxiang Yan, who conducted field research in a banner settlement in Shuangcheng County, Heilongjiang, in 1991, Manchus and Han still referred to each other respectively as “banner people” (qiren) and “civilians” (minren).129 The new term, which was first used in the late Qing and had gained currency during the Nationalist era, was “Manchu ethnic group” (Manzu), and its use was all but compulsory in formal publications. Its correlative, the counterpart to “civilians,” was “Han ethnic group” (Hanzu).
There were, however, two exceptions to the Communists’ general equation of the Manchu ethnic group with the descendants of the banner people of the Qing. First, descendants of the Mongol banners and the Hanjun could, if they wished, revert to their ancestors’ original ethnic affiliation. Thus, in Guangzhou, most descendants of the Hanjun asked to be classified as Han, while in Chengdu, Liu Xianzhi, a former member of the Mongol Bordered White Banner, identified himself as a Mongol. Many others whose ancestors had belonged to the Mongol banners and the Hanjun chose to be registered as Manchu. For example, according to another field survey of the mid-1950s, of the 226,338 “Manchus” in the Jinzhou region, on the coastal corridor between Liaoning and Hebei, only 10 percent traced their ancestry to the Manchu Eight Banners; all of the rest were descended from the Hanjun.130
Second, descendants of five New Manchu groups within the Qing banner system were officially recognized as members of independent ethnic groups that were separate and distinct from the main Manchu group. The anthropologist Fei Xiaotong has described how this decision was reached with regard to the Daur, who live along the Nen River and its tributaries. Because they lived adjacent to Tungusic peoples to their east in Heilongjiang and because in the early Qing they had been incorporated into the Eight Banners, the Daur, based on the general equation of the Manchus and banner people, could justifiably have been classified as Manchu. Or because they lived adjacent to Mongols to their west in Inner Mongolia and because they spoke a language that was a variant of Mongolian, they could just as legitimately have been considered Mongol. Or, finally, they could have been thought of as an independent group that was neither Mongol nor Manchu because, on the one hand, the Mongolian language they spoke differed greatly from current Mongolian speech and, on the other, they had “resisted assimilation by the Tungus-Manchu-speaking peoples in spite of [their] proximity” and in spite of their membership in the banner system. In the end, it was decided that the Daur were sufficiently different from both Manchus and Mongols to constitute a separate group.131 In addition to the Daur, the Communists also recognized as distinct groups the Xibe in Liaoning and Xinjiang; the Evenki (Ewenke, formerly known as Solun) and the Oroqen, both in northeastern Inner Mongolia; and the Hezhe (or Gold) in northern Heilongjiang.
According to the 1953 census, Manchus totaled 2,418,931, ranking seventh in population among China’s ethnic minorities, behind the Zhuang, Uygur, Hui, Yi, Tibetans, and Miao but ahead of the Mongols. The other five groups that had been part of the Qing Eight Banners were minuscule in size. The Daur numbered 44,100; the Xibe, 19,000; the Evenki, 6,200; the Oroqen, 2,200; and the Hezhe, China’s smallest minority, 450. Altogether, the six Manchu-related groups totaled 2,490,881, only about half the population of the banner people in the late Qing.132
Apart from acknowledging them officially, the Communists gave the Manchus other kinds of recognition and support that had been denied not only under the Nationalists but during the early Republic as well. In particular, they provided for Manchu representation in the country’s governmental bodies. For example, eighteen Manchus (including Zaitao) were among the more than 1,200 delegates who attended the First National People’s Congress when it met in 1954.133 The Communists, in a show of turning their back on the anti-Manchu prejudice of the recent past, also attempted to censor certain words that Manchus found offensive. Thus, the State Council in February 1956 ordered book and newspaper publishers to not refer to the Manchus as “Man-Qing.” Originally employed by Republican revolutionaries as well as later Nationalists (including Sun Yat-sen) to label the old Manchu regime, the term was later applied to the Manchu people as a whole. Many Manchus objected to the association of the broad masses of Manchu people with the discredited rulers of the Qing dynasty.134
In general, the Manchus had reason to be pleased with how the new regime down to the early 1980s treated them. Lao She, for one, no longer hid his ancestry as a Manchu bannerman, as he had under the Nationalists. From 1954 to 1964, under his real name, Shu Sheyu, rather than his pen name, he represented the Manchus as a delegate from Beijing to the first three National People’s Congresses. (His Han-style surname, Shu, was derived from the first syllable of his original Manchu surname, Sumuru.) As captured in the 1961 photograph with Prime Minister Zhou Enlai, Lao She—as much as Zaitao, Puyi, and Pujie of the Qing imperial house—came to personify the Manchu people. Also, in contrast to his earlier reticence, he began to write explicitly about his fellow Manchus. His play Teahouse, composed in 1957, has as its main characters two bannermen in Beijing, while his novel Beneath the Red Banner, written in the early 1960s but not published until long after his death in 1966, is an autobiographical account of his family and relatives among the Manchus of Beijing around the time of his birth in 1899.135 As other banner people and their descendants likewise stopped concealing their ethnic identity, the precipitous drop in the Manchu population that had occurred during the previous several decades came to a halt and was reversed. By 1982, according to the census, the Manchu population had risen to 4,299,159, almost twice that of 1953. At that time, the Manchus had surpassed the Tibetans but were still outnumbered by the Zhuang, Hui, Uygur, Yi, and Miao. The other five ethnic minorities previously affiliated with the Qing banner system had increased even more, from 71,950 to 202,594. Nevertheless, the total population of Manchus, Daur, Xibe, Evenki, Oroqen, and Hezhe in 1982 was still slightly less than the estimated five million banner people in the late Qing.136
In one respect, however, until the 1980s the Communists treated the Manchus significantly worse than they treated other ethnic minorities. The Manchus were unique among the eleven largest minorities in not being permitted to establish any large-scale “autonomous” territory, where they would be ostensibly free to practice and preserve their own lifestyle. They were authorized in 1956 and 1957 to set up only a handful of “ethnic townships” (minzu xiang) in Heilongjiang and Hebei, and most of these were dissolved in 1958 and transformed into people’s communes. The most obvious reason was that, unlike the other principal minorities, the Manchus were not geographically concentrated. According to the 1982 census, most were located in the three northeastern provinces of Liaoning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang and in Hebei Province and Beijing Municipality. Specifically, 46 percent of all Manchus were in Liaoning, 12 percent in Jilin, and 21 percent in Heilongjiang; in other words, 79 percent were in “Manchuria.” Another 9 percent were in Hebei and 3 percent in Beijing. The remaining 9 percent were scattered among the other provinces, especially those where banner garrisons had been situated during the Qing. However, in no province were the Manchus more than a tiny fraction of the total population. Even in Liaoning, where they were most numerous, they constituted only 5.6 percent of the total population of the province. There may have been other reasons as well. According to He Puying, writing in 1987, the question of granting Manchus a higher degree of autonomy was one that “greatly concerned” the Communist leadership during the 1950s, but for “various historical reasons” that the author fails to divulge, it was not resolved at the time.137
It was not until the mid-1980s, after Cultural Revolution, that the “historical” obstacles, whatever they may have been, were overcome and Manchus were finally granted autonomy at an administrative level higher than that of a township. Thus, in 1985 and 1986 five Manchu autonomous counties (Manzu zizhi xian) were designated, of which three were in eastern Liaoning: Xinbin (where the Manchus were 52.8 percent of the population), Xiuyan (71.7 percent), and Fengcheng (54.5 percent); the other two were in northern Hebei: Qinglong (51.6 percent) and Fengning (48.6 percent). By 1994 eight additional counties had been so designated—five in Liaoning and two in Hebei (one of which, Weichang, was a joint Manchu-Mongol county). Meanwhile, 340 Manchu ethnic townships had also been created. One of these townships, for example, was Dongling, in Zunhua County, northeastern Hebei, where 41.3 percent of the population were Manchus, descendants of the banner garrison guarding the Qing’s Eastern Tombs, which the Nationalist troops had desecrated in 1928. In such places, the most evident expression of their putative autonomy was that the signs on public buildings were written in Manchu alongside Chinese.138
The 1980s also witnessed an unprecedented explosion of interest among the Manchus in their own history and culture. Publications about the Manchus, often written by Manchus, proliferated. Foremost among them was the quarterly journal Manchu Studies (Manzu yanjiu), founded in 1985. Other pioneering publications of the time included anthropological descriptions of individual Manchu communities, such as The History and Livelihood of the Manchus (Manzu de lishi yu shenghuo), about Sanjiazitun, a village in Fuyu County, Heilongjiang, and The Manchus at Xiuyan (Manzu zai Xiuyan), on one of the Manchu autonomous counties in Liaoning; these two accounts were published in 1981 and 1984 respectively. Another anthropological study, appearing in 1985, was Investigations into the Society and History of the Manchus (Manzu shehui lishi diaocha), a compilation of excerpts from the field surveys done in various Manchu communities in the late 1950s. Less scientifically detached and more personal were the two series of articles by Jin Qicong on the Manchus in and about Beijing that ran in Manchu Studies from 1985 to 1989; both focused on the early Republican period and drew upon Jin’s own experiences as a Metropolitan Bannerman. A similar account from another part of the country was A Short History of the Manchus in Guangzhou (Guangzhou Manzu jianshi), written by Wang Zongyou, a Manchu Bordered Red Bannerman from the local garrison, and published in 1990.
Another manifestation of the growing interest in Manchu culture was the attempt to preserve and perhaps even revive their ancestral language. The Manchus as a group had long since ceased to speak and write Manchu. In the 1980s the only large group of people who still used the Manchu language were the Xibe in the Yili valley of western Xinjiang, who despite their ancestral membership in the Qing banner system had been recognized as an ethnic group separate from the Manchus. Organized into Qapqal (Chabuchaer) Xibe Autonomous County, they even published a newspaper in the Xibe variant of the Manchu language.139 To remedy this deficiency, nine Manchus and one Mongol in 1985 founded the Beijing Manchu Language School (Beijing Manwen Xueyuan) as a “spare-time school” (which students attend when not at work) with an enrollment of about 150; over half of the students were Manchus, mostly in their twenties and early thirties. The school’s first class, a two-year course, graduated in 1987.140 However, perhaps because Manchu is not widely spoken, it does not appear on banknotes along with Mongol, Tibetan, Uygur, and Zhuang minority scripts.
The most dramatic indicator of the Manchus’ flourishing state in the 1980s was the tremendous increase in their population, which rose from 4,299,159 in 1982 to 9,821,180 in 1990. In the thirty years prior to 1982, their population had risen 78 percent; in the following eight years, it rose by 128 percent! Whereas their annual growth rate between 1952 and 1982 had been 2 percent, it was 10.9 percent between 1982 and 1990. Among all fifty-six of the officially recognized ethnic groups in China, Manchus were the fourth fastest-growing during that period. As a result, they became the second-largest minority in China, having outstripped the Yi, the Uygur, the Miao, and even the Hui. Only the Zhuang, in Guangxi, were still more numerous. The five ethnic groups who in the past had been affiliated with the Manchus in the banner system—the Xibe, Daur, Evenki, Oroqen, and Hezhe—also registered above-average gains; together, in 1990 they numbered 331,729. They and the Manchus collectively totaled more than 10 million, or roughly 1 percent of China’s population.141 Because the Manchus, unlike most other ethnic minorities, were not exempt from the regime’s rigorous family planning policies, this extraordinary growth could not have been due to increased fertility. (The annual growth rate for the Han, for example, was only 1.3 percent.) It occurred primarily because of the increased willingness of individual Manchus, who, like Lao She earlier, had formerly passed for Han but who now wanted to acknowledge their ancestry. Just as the 50 percent drop in the Manchu population after the Qing can be attributed to the pattern of anti-Manchu discrimination during the early Republic and the assimilationist policy of the Nationalist government, the 128 percent increase of the 1980s may be explained by the policy of ethnic pluralism and cultural autonomy of the post-Mao era. For example, the daughter of Li Chengyin, the Beijing medical doctor who in 1916 had petitioned to change his classification from bannerman to civilian, took advantage of the relaxed atmosphere in the 1980s to formally reclaim her status as a Manchu (though not her original Manchu surname).142 As a cumulative result of such individual actions, the Manchus in the 1980s finally recovered all the people they had lost during and after 1911. For the first time since the Republican revolution, there were more Manchus than there had been banner people at the end of the Qing.
The history of the Qing court and the Eight Banners thus did not end with the Republican revolution. Both the court and the banner system survived, though in attenuated forms, for more than another decade, as the successive governments of the early Republic made a serious, though diminishing, effort to honor and implement the abdication agreements that had led to the relatively easy success of the revolution. Despite their own financial straits, each continued, as promised, to subsidize both the court and the banner people. For its part, the Qing court, except for its quixotic collaboration with Zhang Xun in 1917, also made a conscientious effort to abide by those agreements. Although the court’s continued residence at the rear of the Forbidden City was a clear violation of the agreement, it could not have occurred without the willing consent of the Republican authorities. This modus vivendi between the Republic on the one hand and the Qing court and the banner people on the other finally ended in the mid- and late 1920s, as first Feng Yuxiang evicted Puyi from the Forbidden City and stripped him of his imperial title and then Nationalist troops desecrated the Qing imperial tombs. At that time appointments to posts in the Eight Banner system ceased, as did distribution of the banner soldiers’ stipends as well as the court’s subsidy. The personnel of the Qing court, but not the Qing dynasty itself, got a new lease on life, if only for a few years, when the Japanese created Manchukuo. There was, however, no second chance for the banner people, who had to struggle to survive on their own, not only economically but also psychologically. As they did so, they were transformed after 1949 from the hereditary military caste they had been under the Qing into an ethnic group. The “banner people” had evolved into the “Manchus.”