The 1911 Revolution, which brought down the Qing dynasty and ended 268 years of Manchu rule over China, began with the Wuchang Revolt on 10 October 1911 and ended four months later with the abdication of the Xuantong emperor on 12 February 1912. The emperor’s father, Prince Regent Zaifeng, making use of the new powers that he had amassed, mounted a reasonably effective military response to the initial uprising, but he fell afoul of the numerous political problems that had been left unresolved from the first session of the National Assembly. Within a month after the outbreak of the revolution, Zaifeng was forced to backtrack from the controversial “imperial kinsmen’s cabinet” and yield to demands for the speedy summoning of a parliament. In the meantime, the revolution had spread beyond Hubei, and as it did so it engulfed the various banner communities in other provinces. Given the anti-Manchu rhetoric and deeds of the revolutionaries in the past, the banner garrisons in the affected regions faced the very real prospect of racial annihilation, which each had to deal with on its own. Some garrisons managed to survive the revolution relatively unscathed; others did not. Finally realizing the futility of the struggle, the Qing court entrusted its fortunes to Yuan Shikai, whom it had been forced to recall to office. Yuan, from the north, opened negotiations with the Republicans in the south. These negotiations led eventually, but not without several delays, to the abdication of the Qing.
THE COURT’S MILITARY RESPONSE
The Wuchang Revolt, which began on the night of 10 October, is perhaps the most written-about event in all of Chinese history, but in the voluminous celebratory accounts there is hardly any mention of how the Qing responded militarily to the uprising and the subsequent revolution. In fact, the imperial army and navy, on which Zaifeng and his two brothers had lavished much attention since the beginning of the regency, acquitted themselves quite well during the first three weeks. They launched an effective counteroffensive against the revolutionaries, culminating in the recovery of Hankou from the insurgents on 1 November.
The authorities in Beijing learned of the revolt in Wuchang early the following afternoon, on 11 October; it took them another day to make some sense out of what was happening. Associate Prime Minister Natong was entertaining some foreign diplomats at a hotel on the 11th when the French minister handed him the news. Leaving his guests, Natong hurried to the home of the prime minister, Yikuang, where other cabinet members and high officials had already gathered. There they spent the rest of the day and night, as more bad news poured in.1 By the morning of the 12th, the entire Wuhan tri-city complex—Wuchang, Hankou, and Hanyang—had fallen into the hands of the revolutionaries. Most of the Hubei New Army had defected, and one of its two commanders, Li Yuanhong (1864–1928) of the Twenty-first Mixed Brigade, had been persuaded to join the mutineers and to head up their new Military Government, which soon also included leading members of the gentry and merchant elite. Only two battalions and Li’s counterpart at the Eighth Division, Zhang Biao, had remained loyal to the Qing; they had retreated to the village of Liujiamiao (Liu Family Shrine), six miles north of the terminus of the Beijing-Hankou railroad. Meanwhile, from his refuge aboard a gunboat in the middle of the Yangzi River, Governor-General Ruicheng, the reform-minded Manchu bannerman who previously had been a member of Zhang Jian’s constitutionalist group, wired Beijing asking that a “high official” be sent with a large contingent of “crack troops.”2
The prince regent (and self-proclaimed generalissimo) ordered immediate military and naval reinforcements to Wuchang. His principal advisers were Zaitao and Yulang of the General Staff Office, navy minister Zaixun, and army minister Yinchang. All were Manchus, and all except Yinchang were imperial princes. On their advice, on 12 October Zaifeng put Yinchang in charge of the military operations and authorized him to take two New Army divisions to Hubei. He also directed both components of the reorganized Chinese navy, the sea-going fleet under naval commander-in-chief Sa Zhenbing and the Yangzi River fleet under Cheng Yunhe, to proceed up the Yangzi from Shanghai as quickly as possible.3 Two days later Zaifeng tried, unsuccessfully, to enlist Yuan Shikai’s help as well. After he was forced out in January 1909 on the trumped-up excuse of a foot ailment, the organizer of the Beiyang divisions had been living in comfortable retirement at his country home at Zhangde (now Anyang), in northern Henan. In the past there had been numerous suggestions that he be recalled to office; most recently, during the controversy over the “imperial kinsmen’s cabinet,” he was the unspoken choice among some critics of the cabinet to replace Yikuang as prime minister. Heretofore the regent had turned a deaf ear to all such proposals. Now he was driven to issue an edict naming Yuan governor-general of Hubei and Hunan (in place of the cashiered Ruicheng) and giving him the right of joint command with army commander Yinchang and naval commander Sa. Claiming that he had not fully recovered from his affliction, Yuan declined the appointment. However, from his personal telegraph office at his country estate, he began to offer suggestions, particularly regarding personnel, which the court eagerly accepted.4
Yinchang was a controversial choice to lead the military operations against the revolutionaries in Hubei. He was a Manchu bannerman with a dual career in diplomacy and military affairs. An early product of the Beijing Translators College, he was one of the first Chinese to study abroad (in Germany). In the late 1880s and the 1890s, he headed Li Hongzhang’s Tianjin Military Preparatory School. He translated at the negotiations of the Boxer settlement and for Zaifeng during his visit of apology to Germany, and he was twice China’s minister to Germany. (He was even married to a German.) He became army minister in 1910, when his predecessor Tieliang, frustrated at being eclipsed by the imperial princes Yulang and Zaitao, resigned. To his critics, Yinchang was more a diplomat than a military professional, as most of his military career, limited as it was, had been spent behind a desk. Liangbi, commander of the First Brigade of the Palace Guard, thought that Yinchang’s reputation as a military expert rested upon his foreign studies and was undeserved. Nevertheless, as the incumbent army minister and as a Manchu, he was not an illogical selection as field commander.5
On the 14th Zaifeng and his advisers decided which troops to send with Yinchang to Hubei and what use to make of the other forces at their disposal. Due to the recent efforts at recentralizing and reimperializing the military, the Ministry of the Army had direct control over the first six divisions of the New Army (those that formerly constituted Yuan Shikai’s Beiyang Army) while the regent himself had control over the new Palace Guard, whose commissioning ceremony he had attended less than a month before. It so happened that at this time five of these seven units, along with a mixed brigade from the Twentieth Division, were gathered together at Luanzhou (now Luanxian), east of Beijing, for the annual war games, which were scheduled to begin on 17 October. Canceling the war games, Zaifeng quickly recombined these units into three corps (jun). The First Corps was the force that Yinchang was to take to Hubei and was made up of the Fourth Division and the two mixed brigades from the Second and Sixth Divisions. The two divisions that were predominantly Manchu in personnel, the Palace Guard and the First Division, were designated as the Third Corps and assigned to defend the capital; they were recalled to Beijing and put under the command of Zaitao, the regent’s brother, who had overseen the formation of the Guard and was cohead of the General Staff Office. The remaining troops, consisting of the mixed brigade from the Twentieth Division at Luanzhou and two units who were not at Luanzhou—the Fifth Division at Ji’nan, Shandong, and the Third Division at Changchun, Jilin—were grouped together as the Second Corps. Commanded by Feng Guozhang of the General Staff Office, they were to act as a backup to Yinchang’s First Corps.6 Zaifeng’s decision to keep the predominantly Manchu Third Corps close to home while sending the First Corps, which was composed of Han soldiers, off to the front clearly smacked of “using Han to fight Han,” which the revolutionaries had long accused the Qing court of doing as a matter of policy.
Yinchang was able to get his troops, numbering as many as twenty-five thousand, from the mock war at Luanzhou to the real war at Wuhan with remarkable speed. They went by train via the Beijing-Shenyang line (on which Luanzhou is situated) and then the Beijing-Hankou line, a trip of over six hundred miles that took only about forty hours. The first contingent of soldiers left for the south as early as 13 October; parts of the Twenty-second Infantry Regiment began arriving at the northern outskirts of Hankou two days later.7 Yinchang himself departed Beijing on the 15th. As he passed through northern Henan, he paused to confer with Yuan Shikai at Zhangde. Yuan, who had turned aside the offer of joint command a day or two before, cautioned the Manchu commander not to take the revolution lightly. Reaching Xinyang in southern Henan on the night of the 17th, Yinchang stopped to await the passage of his main force, the Fourth Division.8 As he waited, the Qing suffered a minor setback on the 18th, as the revolutionaries launched a surprise attack on Zhang Biao’s small detachment of loyalist soldiers at Liujiamiao.9 Zhang’s group, however, retreated only a short distance northward to Shekou, and the Qing military buildup resumed. The Fourth Division, led by brigade commander Wang Yujia, arrived at Shekou on the 21st; two days later, Yinchang moved his command post forward to Xiaogan, only forty-five miles from Hankou. Meanwhile, Sa Zhenbing, coming up the Yangzi from Shanghai, had arrived off Wuhan with the first of his cruisers from the sea-going fleet, the Haichen (whose captain, Rongxu, was a Manchu), accompanied by a small flotilla of about ten gunboats and torpedo boats.10
By 21 October or soon thereafter, the Qing forces, both military and naval, were thus poised for a counterattack on the revolutionaries in Wuhan; yet the attack itself did not begin until the 27th. The delay proved to be extremely costly, perhaps even fatal, to the dynasty because it was during those six days that the revolution began to spill out of Hubei Province, to Changsha in Hunan and Xi’an in Shaanxi on the 22nd and to Jiujiang in Jiangxi on the 24th. Why the critical delay? Perhaps it was due to Yinchang’s excessive caution and his inexperience as a field commander. Perhaps, as is most commonly alleged, it was also due to footdragging among his subordinates, many of them protégés of Yuan Shikai, who awaited their mentor’s return from exile.11 Certainly, as the revolutionaries hung on in Wuhan and as their sympathizers began to rise up in other provinces, the Qing court intensified its efforts to recall Yuan to office. According to a widely repeated (but poorly substantiated) account, after Yuan turned down his appointment as governor-general, Prime Minister Yikuang sent his deputy, Associate Prime Minister Xu Shichang, to confer secretly with his old patron. After visiting Zhangde on the 20th, Xu reported that Yuan insisted that the court commit itself to six reforms before he would agree to return to office, two of which were that he be given supreme, not simply joint, command over all land and naval forces and that he be guaranteed adequate funding. The accuracy of this account is difficult to verify.12 In any case, Zaifeng soon gave in. On 27 October he issued an edict naming Yuan Shikai “imperial commissioner” with complete authority over all military and naval forces in Hubei. On Yuan’s previous recommendation, he recalled Yinchang to the capital, ostensibly so that he could concentrate on his duties as army minister, and replaced him as commander of the First Corps with Feng Guozhang; Zaifeng also named Duan Qirui to succeed Feng at the Second Corps and placed both Feng and Duan under Yuan’s supreme command. Feng Guozhang, formerly superintendent of the Nobles Military School, was then chief of the chancery at the General Staff Office; both he and Duan were old associates of Yuan dating back to the mid-1890s. The regent told Yinchang to wait for Yuan before leaving for Beijing.13
By no coincidence perhaps, the Qing counterattack on Wuhan began on the very day, 27 October, that Yuan was appointed imperial commissioner, but with Yinchang still in the field as commander. It was, from the Qing perspective, a huge success. On land, Wang Yujia’s Fourth Division and Wang Zhanyuan’s (1861–1934) mixed brigade from the Second Division, reinforced from the Yangzi River by Sa Zhenbing’s fleet of ships, advanced southward from Shekou along either side of the Beijing-Hankou railroad tracks. Despite spirited opposition, the Qing forces pushed the Republicans steadily back to Hankou. By the end of the third day, they had reached the terminus of the railroad, having carefully skirted the foreign concessions lining the Yangzi waterfront. This was the first real battlefield experience for the Beiyang Army, and they had acquitted themselves very well. In Ralph Powell’s estimation, “the tactics used were those of the contemporary Occident. Covered by artillery fire and the guns of the imperial squadron [i.e., Sa’s navy], the royalists deployed a line of skirmishers followed by troops formed in close-order company fronts. As the skirmishers advanced, making use of cover, they were supported by volley fire from the main line.” Only when they had fought their way back to Hankou did Yinchang, on 30 October, turn over command of the First Corps to Feng Guozhang. As he returned to Beijing with the dynasty’s much-desired victory, he crossed paths at Xinyang with Yuan Shikai, who had finally accepted his appointment as imperial commissioner and was headed south toward the Hubei front.14
When Feng Guozhang took over from Yinchang, one section of Hankou still to be recovered was the Chinese City (Huajie), a walled area along the Han River opposite Hanyang. Some revolutionaries had sought refuge in its crowded quarters, while others continued to put up a stout, if disorganized, resistance. Ignoring Yuan’s earlier advice to proceed cautiously, Feng pressed ahead with the attack on the Chinese City. As he did so, the Qing artillery, whether by design or by accident, set off a number of fires, which rapidly turned into a conflagration. According to various descriptions, Hankou’s Chinese City became a “raging furnace,” an “absolute inferno,” and, later, “scorched earth.” As two Western doctors from the Red Cross Association reported a couple of weeks later, three-quarters of the city had been leveled, and although relatively few lives had been lost, most of the population had become refugees. Feng Guozhang’s perhaps wanton destruction of Hankou provoked a political furor at the newly reconvened National Assembly and served to tarnish the Qing triumph. It did, nevertheless, force the Republican defenders out of the city. On 1 November, as the last revolutionaries retreated to Hanyang, the Qing was once again master of all of Hankou.15
Yuan Shikai, however, failed to follow up the Qing victory at Hankou. With the revolutionaries in disarray and on the defensive and with his own troops more numerous and better armed and trained, he could probably have retaken Hanyang and Wuchang rather easily. Naval commander Sa Zhenbing, for one, was convinced that at this point the battle for Wuhan could have been won for the Qing. Yuan, though, claimed that the northern troops were exhausted and needed a rest. Intent on maximizing his own power in his ongoing negotiations with the Qing court, he reined Feng Guozhang in and ordered him to pause.16
However, the victory at Hankou, even if it had been followed by success at Hanyang and Wuchang, might have come too late to save the Qing by military means. Between 27 October and 1 November, during which time Hankou was recovered, the overall situation for the dynasty had worsened. The revolution, which had already spread beyond Hubei to Changsha, Xi’an, and Jiujiang, now encompassed three more cities in two new provinces: Taiyuan in Shanxi, Kunming in Yunnan, and Nanchang in Jiangxi (again). The insurrection in Shanxi, on 29 October, was particularly ominous because of Taiyuan’s proximity to Beijing. It, moreover, coincided with the Luanzhou “armed remonstrance,” in which New Army commanders in Zhili demanded that the Qing make extensive political changes. Thus threatened at close quarters from both the west and the east, Zaifeng’s court finally realized the need to deal with the revolutionary outbreak as not only a military but a political problem as well.
THE COURT’S POLITICAL RESPONSE
The Wuchang Revolt on 10 October, coupled with the scheduled reconvening of the National Assembly twelve days later, revived various political controversies that had been quiescent since the previous spring, particularly the agitation against the “imperial kinsmen’s cabinet” and for a parliament. As before, the regent was loath to make concessions. Nevertheless, by the end of October, as the overall military situation began to deteriorate, he had no alternative but to give in to long-standing demands for a complete restructuring of the government. Still unresolved, however, were other issues concerning Manchu-Han relations.
Soon after the outbreak at Wuchang, the agitation against Yikuang’s cabinet and in favor of a parliament started up again after several months of sullen resignation. On 16 October Governor Cheng Dequan of Jiangsu submitted a memorial, drafted for him at his request by the Shanghai reformer Zhang Jian, calling on the Qing court to make two basic changes to regain the trust of the people and prevent the current “political revolution” from turning into a “racial revolution.” One was to dissolve the “imperial kinsmen’s cabinet” and appoint a “worthy and competent” person to form a new cabinet with full responsibility to act for the emperor; the other was to hasten the promulgation of the promised constitution, which the regent had already moved forward from 1916 to 1912. Yuan Shikai, from his retirement home at Zhangde, allegedly gave the court similar advice. When Xu Shichang saw him on 20 October, if the report of the visit is correct, Yuan demanded not only that he be given supreme military authority at the Hubei front and be assured of adequate supplies, but also that the court yield on four other issues of a general political nature, namely, that it “summon a parliament [guohui] next year, form a responsible cabinet, be lenient toward the people who have risen up at this time, and lift the ban on political organizations.”17
When the National Assembly reconvened as scheduled on 22 October, with the Hanjun Li Jiaju (b. 1870) acting as president for the ailing Shixu, it quickly took up these same issues, which had been left unresolved from the first session. On 26 October it submitted a memorial asking that a “completely responsible cabinet” be formed quickly, that the summoning of Parliament be advanced from 1913 to 1912, and that the assembly be permitted to “discuss” (huiyi) the text of the constitution that Prince Pulun and others were supposed to be drafting prior to its promulgation by the throne. Three days later, it submitted three more memorials that made significant new demands. The first memorial, calling for a responsible cabinet, now insisted that imperial relatives be prohibited from serving not only as prime minister but also as cabinet ministers. This change, it contended, would accord with the basic principles of monarchical constitutionalism as well as with the dynasty’s own “established institutions” (that is, as laid down by the Jiaqing emperor). The second memorial, concerning the drafting of the constitution, demanded that the draft be presented to the assembly to be “ratified” (xiezan), not merely “discussed,” before it could be promulgated. The result would thus be a compact (xintiao) between the monarch and his subjects rather than a decree from above like the constitutions of Meiji Japan and Czarist Russia, which the assembly claimed were universally regarded as deficient. The third memorial, in addition to requesting an end to the ban on political organizations, also asked for a pardon not only for those involved in the current revolt but for all political offenders dating back to the 1898 reforms (such as Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao).18
Regent Zaifeng’s response until now had been to shelve all such demands for further political reform. He had pigeonholed Cheng Dequan’s memorial by “retaining it in the palace” (liuzhong). While granting Yuan Shikai’s requests for military authority and financial support, he had done nothing about his four proposals for political change. Similarly, he had ignored the National Assembly’s recommendations of 26 October. It is doubtful that Zaifeng would have been any more tolerant of its demands on 29 October, except that on that very same day the assembly unexpectedly received a major boost from a nearby source, a threatened mutiny known as the Luanzhou “armed remonstrance” (bingjian).
The chief “remonstrator” was Zhang Shaozeng (1879–1928), commander of the Twentieth Division, which had remained at Luanzhou, ninety-five miles east of Beijing, following the cancellation of the war games. Scholars disagree as to why Zhang, a graduate of the Japanese Army Officers School, threatened to mutiny at this time. Some say that he was sympathetic to the revolution and hoped to relieve the military pressure on the beleaguered revolutionaries in Wuhan then under attack by Yinchang; others say that he was at heart a constitutionalist reformer and that he took advantage of the insurrection at Wuchang to pressure the Qing court to reform.19 Whatever his motivation, Zhang Shaozeng, together with two associates and two subordinates, submitted a joint memorial to the court on 29 October. They noted that in the almost three weeks since the Wuchang uprising, the court had responded to the insurrection only in a military way without any attempt as yet to correct the root causes, which they said were political. Contending that repression would only intensify revolution, they asked instead for reforms in the polity, which they spelled out in a twelve-point “political program.” These reforms would help eliminate “racial differences” yet would not harm the “dignity of the emperor’s position.”20
The Luanzhou remonstrators’ twelve-point program was similar to the National Assembly’s three memorials of the same date, but on some points it was considerably more far-reaching. It called for the naming of a responsible cabinet in which members of the imperial lineage would be barred from being prime minister or cabinet members, the drafting of a constitution that would be subject to “discussion and decision” (yijue) by Parliament (not the National Assembly), and the pardoning of political criminals. It also called for the rapid convening of Parliament, not the following year but by the end of “the present year.” Where it differed most from the National Assembly’s memorials was in its claim for the supremacy of the popularly elected Parliament, which would have the sole authority, inter alia, to amend the constitution and elect the prime minister.21 To get the attention of the regent and lend weight to his demands, Zhang Shaozeng ignored an order to take his troops from Luanzhou to the south.22
The Luanzhou armed remonstrance, occurring east of the capital, coincided with the revolutionary uprising in Taiyuan, to the west, which greatly magnified the military and political pressure on the Qing court. The threat from Taiyuan was particularly acute because of the relative ease with which the rebels could march out of the Taihang Mountains at Niangziguan onto the North China Plain, capture the strategic rail center at Shijiazhuang on the Beijing-Hankou line, and thus threaten not only the imperial forces at Hankou but the imperial court itself in Beijing. To deal with the problems in Shanxi, the regent named Wu Luzhen, commander of the Sixth Division at Baoding, to replace the murdered Shanxi governor and sent him (with troops) to Shijiazhuang to block any rebel attempt to march on Beijing.23 Wu was to die about a week later under mysterious circumstances.
Thus, despite the victory at Hankou, Zaifeng was obliged by the military threat from Luanzhou and Taiyuan to yield to the steadily growing demands for political reforms. On 30 October, one day after receipt of the National Assembly’s three memorials and the remonstrance from Zhang Shaozeng, the Qing court responded with an extraordinary edict issued in the name of the emperor. In it the five-year-old boy was made to take upon himself the blame for the outbreak of the revolution and its rapid spread. Replying to the chorus of criticisms about the cabinet, he acknowledged having exercised poor judgment in official appointments, especially in employing an excessive number of imperial relatives. He promised, “in cooperation with the soldiers and people of my country, to make a new beginning and implement constitutional government.” Noting that his predecessor, the Guangxu emperor, had issued several edicts to “eliminate differences between banner people and Han” (huachu qi-Han), he vowed to put those edicts into effect.24
Aside from having the emperor take the blame for the current troubles and promise a new start, Zaifeng at last acceded to most of the National Assembly’s repeated demands, particularly the three that had been singled out in its most recent memorials. First, he directed Pulun, who had been put in charge of drafting the constitution, to do so in accord with the Constitutional Outline and to submit the text of the constitution to the assembly for its careful “examination and discussion” (shenyi) prior to its promulgation by the emperor. “Examination and discussion,” however, was less than the “ratification” that the assembly had asked for. Second, Zaifeng agreed that it was contrary both to the practices of constitutional states and to the “established institutions of our dynasty” to have “close relatives” (yiqin) of the emperor serving as cabinet members. He promised that as soon as the military and political situation had become more settled, the court would designate a worthy person to organize a “complete cabinet” and that thereafter it would not appoint an imperial relative (qingui) to the cabinet ever again. Third, the regent agreed to pardon three broad categories of political offenders: those guilty of “political coups” dating from 1898, those forced into exile because of “political revolution,” and those who voluntarily repented their waywardness in the current “disturbance.” Thus, Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao were finally pardoned. Though the regent did not explicitly revoke the traditional ban on political organizations, he promised to protect all legal activities and to stop making arbitrary arrests.25 Perhaps because it was not among the assembly’s most recent proposals, he said nothing about advancing the date for the summoning of Parliament.
The edicts of 30 October dealt with the stated concerns of the National Assembly but not those of the Luanzhou remonstrators. Indeed, Zaifeng at first tried to brush aside their twelve-point political program; he asserted that he had already incorporated into his earlier decrees those that were acceptable.26 Zhang Shaozeng was not satisfied; on 1 November he wired the court again with another petition. Regarding the cabinet, he asked that the court not wait until conditions had stabilized before removing its imperial kinsmen members. According to Zhang, so long as the cabinet remained unchanged, the domestic disturbance would not subside. He repeated his previous demand that the prime minister be “popularly selected.” With reference to the constitution, he asked that the Constitutional Outline of 1908 be scrapped altogether rather than serve as the basis for the future constitution, and also that Parliament, not Pulun, be responsible for drawing up the new constitution.27
Perhaps as a result of Zhang Shaozeng’s second petition but probably mostly because of Yuan Shikai’s calculated foot-dragging at the Hubei front, the Qing court did act on the “imperial kinsmen’s cabinet” without waiting for conditions to settle down. On 1 November, the day of Zhang’s petition, Yikuang’s cabinet resigned. Taking note of the emperor’s penitential edict, Yikuang and his two associate prime ministers, Natong and Xu Shichang, said that they, rather than the emperor, should be blamed for the worsening crisis. They asked to be relieved of their positions so that a “worthy and capable” person could be appointed quickly to organize a “complete cabinet.” In a separate memorial, the four other imperial princes besides Yikuang who were cabinet ministers—Zaize, Zaixun, Pulun, and Shanqi—likewise resigned. Zaifeng promptly accepted their resignations as well as those of the rest of the cabinet. At the same time, he named Yuan Shikai as prime minister and authorized him to organize a “complete cabinet.” Yuan, who was to retain his position as commander-in-chief of all military and naval units at the Hubei front, was to come to the capital as soon as he had taken care of the situation at Wuhan. In a show of appropriate modesty, Yuan declined his new appointment several times. Pending his acceptance and arrival, Yikuang’s cabinet continued as before. Meanwhile, other princes who were high-ranking metropolitan officials similarly gave up their positions. Thus Zaitao, the regent’s brother, resigned on 1 November as one of the two chiefs of the General Staff Office and was replaced by army minister Yinchang, a Manchu bannerman but not of the imperial lineage. Whereas Zaitao seems to have quit of his own volition, it appears that his colleague at the General Staff, Yulang, refused to do the same; he was dismissed ten days later and succeeded by Xu Shichang, the former associate prime minister.28
On 2 November, the following day, Zaifeng took up the other main issue in Zhang Shaozeng’s second petition, the procedure for writing the constitution. Previously, the regent had entrusted a committee headed by Pulun with the task of drawing up the document, which then was to be “examined and discussed” by the National Assembly; now, in response to Zhang’s petition, the regent authorized the assembly itself, rather than Pulun’s committee, to “draft” the constitution. In this same edict, Zaifeng praised Zhang Shaozeng and his military associates for the “sincerity of their patriotism.” He also pointed out to them that, with the replacement of Yikuang by Yuan Shikai as prime minister, he had met their call for a new cabinet. He clearly hoped that he was done with the Luanzhou armed remonstrance.29
Zhang Shaozeng, however, was still not satisfied. On 3 November he submitted a third petition expressing frustration with the court’s incomplete response to his original twelve-point political program, especially with regard to the cabinet and the constitution. He noted that although the “imperial kinsmen’s cabinet” had resigned, the prime minister was still imperially appointed rather than designated by a popularly elected parliament. He also was displeased with the new arrangement for drawing up the constitution, which should be written by the future parliament and not by the current National Assembly. The assembly was an “organ of the old government, incapable of representing the entire country.” Any constitution that it drew up would lack input from the nation’s citizens and thus would still be “imperially decreed.” Zhang Shaozeng therefore called for the immediate formation of a “provisional government” (by which he seems to have meant a parliament) as well as a military cease-fire. He bluntly stated that “if [the court] cannot summon parliament, if it cannot enact a constitution, if it cannot elect a prime minister, then it cannot solve its basic problem.”30
In contrast, the National Assembly did not share Zhang Shaozeng’s disappointment with Zaifeng’s response to the demands for political reforms. On the contrary, its members (at least those ninety or so assemblymen who were still in attendance) were exceedingly pleased with the regent’s decision to assign them the task of drafting the new constitution. Meeting on 2 November, they greeted his edict with applause, with some shouting, “Long live the country and the Emperor!” Furthermore, they accomplished their assignment with extraordinary dispatch. Realizing that it would take too long to write a whole new constitution, they opted on 3 November for a stop-gap measure, a Nineteen-Article Compact (Shijiu Xintiao) that would serve as the basis of the constitution that they would enact later. They asked the court to publish the document and to swear adherence to it at the dynasty’s Temple of Ancestors (Taimiao). This, the assembly said, would unite the nation and protect the imperial household (huangshi). Zaifeng’s court did as the assembly requested. It proclaimed the compact at once, and it promised to pledge allegiance to it at the Temple of Ancestors at a later date, which Zaifeng eventually did on 26 November.31
Although Zhang Shaozeng had opposed entrusting the enactment of the constitution to the National Assembly because it was not a popularly elected body, the Nineteen-Article Compact fulfilled nearly all of the stated aims of his armed remonstrance. Many of the compact’s nineteen articles were virtually identical in wording to Zhang’s twelve-point political program, which may explain how the compact could have been written in only one or two days. The compact recognized the exalted status of the Qing emperor but circumscribed in various ways his authority over the constitution and Parliament. Thus, the emperor would command the army and navy but could not use them in a domestic situation without the prior approval of Parliament. The emperor could not legislate by decree. The National Assembly would “discuss and decide” (yijue) the constitution, which subsequently only Parliament could amend. Parliament would approve annual budgets as well as ratify international treaties. Parliament would also elect the prime minister, who in turn would nominate the members of his cabinet. The compact reiterated the court’s newly decreed prohibition of imperial kinsmen from serving on the cabinet and barred them from senior provincial posts as well. Pending the election of Parliament, the National Assembly would exercise all of its responsibilities.32
Still, the convening of Parliament had not been advanced any closer than 1913. The National Assembly, despite its general satisfaction with the Nineteen-Article Compact, pressed the regent once more for an earlier date. In response, Zaifeng on 5 November authorized the assembly to enact as soon as possible the requisite regulations for the organization of Parliament and the election of its members. He pledged that once those laws were passed and the elections held, he would convene Parliament.33 Thus, with the regent’s embrace of the Nineteen-Article Compact and his promise to convene Parliament speedily, the Luanzhou armed remonstrance came to an end. By then only one of Zhang Shaozeng’s original demands—that the constitution be drawn up by a popularly elected parliament rather than by the National Assembly—had not been met. On 5 November Zhang Shaozeng was removed as commander of the Twentieth Division, given an ostensible promotion, and transferred to the Yangzi valley, where it was hoped that he would use his now considerable reputation to soothe the rebels. He left Luanzhou four days later.34
Meanwhile, the National Assembly was also demanding that Zaifeng make good on his promise of 30 October to pardon political criminals. At this time, the most prominent political offender under custody was Wang Jingwei, the regent’s would-be assassin, who was imprisoned in Beijing. On 2 November and again a couple of days later, members of the assembly asked why Wang had not been released; it claimed that his confession had contained no “wild words” and had expressed only a desire to “stimulate the spirit of constitutionalism.” On 6 November Zaifeng ordered Wang’s immediate release and directed that he be returned to his native Guangdong.35 Once freed, Wang Jingwei remained in Beijing, where he was to play a role in the subsequent negotiations between the revolutionaries and the court.
Politically, the first month after the Wuchang Revolt was concerned mostly with the “imperial kinsmen’s cabinet,” the drafting of a constitution, and the summoning of Parliament. Nevertheless, despite being overshadowed by other issues, questions about Manchu-Han relations continued to be raised at the National Assembly. On 27 October Assemblyman Mou Lin (from Guizhou) repeated the common complaint that the Banner Reorganization Office, in the three years since its establishment, had done nothing toward eliminating Manchu-Han differences, which he claimed had become more numerous than before. Another assemblyman, Wang Jilie, likewise called for the elimination of Manchu-Han differences, notably in name-giving practices. On 2 November, Assemblyman Gao Lingxiao from Sichuan introduced a proposal to “dissolve Manchu-Han differences” (ronghua Man-Han) so as to “melt away racial boundaries” (huachu zhongzu jiexian). Gao proposed several specific reforms, none of which was new, though none had yet been implemented: banner personnel should add Han-style surnames; Manchu women should adopt the “common” costume of Han women, which would facilitate intermarriage; provincial banner garrisons should be abolished, and Manchu cities opened up for residence to everyone; officers and able-bodied soldiers of the garrisons should be incorporated into regular military units, while the old and weak should be given a one-time grant of grain. When another assemblyman, Li Shangwen of Hunan, suggested adding queue-cutting to the list of proposed reforms, Gao Lingxiao fended off the amendment. A majority of the assembly then voted in favor of Gao’s original resolution. It would appear that even at this late date, queue-cutting was regarded as an issue so controversial that it might sidetrack all the other reforms.36
In response to such pleas for improving Manchu-Han relations, Zaifeng’s court continued to be evasive. On the one hand, the boy emperor, in his penitential edict of 30 October, acknowledged that his predecessor, the Guangxu emperor, had issued several unspecified edicts to “eliminate differences between banner people and Han,” which he now promised to put into effect. On the other hand, in another edict that was likewise issued in his name, the emperor on 4 November fell back on traditional generalities about the dynasty’s impartiality. He enumerated the various concessions the court had made as China embarked on the difficult transition from despotism to constitutionalism. He insisted that only a minority of the populace were spreading the slander of “racial revolution.” Denying that the Qing had ever practiced discrimination, he noted that Shun was a Yi from the east and Yu was a Qiang from the west, but (despite their alien origins) both had become sage rulers of China (Zhong-Xia).37 In the end, Zaifeng failed to act on any of the specific reform proposals that Assemblyman Gao Lingxiao had advanced; nor, of course, did he on his own revisit the issue of the queue.
In sum, by early November, the Qing court had been induced to make numerous important political concessions. In particular, when it dissolved Yikuang’s controversial cabinet and replaced it with one that was free of imperial kinsmen, it had put an end to Zaifeng’s three-year effort at reimperializing authority and to Cixi’s fifty-year trend toward greater and greater princely involvement in governmental affairs. However, four weeks into the revolution, the Qing court still had not done anything more to reduce, let alone eliminate, the considerable differences that continued to separate Manchus and Han. To the court, “racial revolution” may have been merely slanderous talk; to the banner garrisons in the provinces, it was a threat to their very lives.
Zaifeng’s political concessions at the beginning of November may have defused the Luanzhou armed remonstrance, but they did not halt the spread of revolution. Despite the recovery of Hankou from the revolutionaries in Hubei and the dispatch of Wu Luzhen to open up a second front along the Taihang Mountains bordering Shanxi, the Qing steadily lost ground elsewhere, as more and more cities, especially in central and south China, went over to the Republican side. A large number joined the revolution in early November, including Hangzhou (5 November), Zhenjiang (7 November), Fuzhou (8 November), and Guangzhou (9 November). Others followed later: Chengdu (27 November), Nanjing (2 December), Jingzhou (17 December), and Yili (7 January 1912). Along with Xi’an and Taiyuan, which had defected in late October, all of these were banner garrison cities with sizable Manchu populations.
The 1911 Revolution, after a slow start, gathered strength so rapidly that it is easy to overlook the violence it unleashed. Popular as it may have been, it was by no means bloodless. This aspect of the revolution, however, has been minimized in nearly all the retrospective accounts. The revolution’s most likely victims were the Manchus in the banner garrison cities. Despite a decade of criticisms from both revolutionaries and constitutionalists and of repeated promises by the court to reform, the gulf between Manchus and Han had not significantly narrowed by the time the revolution broke out. Nor, notwithstanding the mellow note of Wang Jingwei’s confession in 1910, had the anti-Manchu rhetoric of the republicans been significantly toned down. The result was a wave of anti-Manchu violence, which began with the outbreak of the revolution in Wuchang and which later engulfed the banner garrisons at Xi’an, Taiyuan, Zhenjiang, Fuzhou, and Nanjing. Furthermore, the Jingzhou garrison was besieged for nearly a month, during which it suffered enormous casualties, though in the end it avoided a massacre. Other garrisons escaped relatively unscathed, though never without first confronting the threat of racial annihilation. Individual Manchus in isolated situations, away from their home garrisons, faced the same threat.
The first outburst of anti-Manchu violence occurred at the very beginning of the revolution. Wuchang was not, of course, a banner garrison city; nevertheless, a large group of Manchus were living in the Hubei capital in 1911 as a result of one of the early post-Boxer reforms. Since 1904 the provincial authorities and the Jingzhou garrison commanders had arranged for a thousand banner soldiers from Jingzhou to train with the New Army in Wuhan, where they constituted about 10 percent of the Hubei New Army. A majority of the banner soldiers seems to have been concentrated in the Thirtieth Infantry Regiment in Zhang Biao’s Eighth Division. Two of the four companies in the regiment’s First Battalion and one each in the Second and Third Battalions were headed by officers with Manchu-style names. So was one other unit in the division, the Second Battalion of the Thirty-second Regiment. If these five companies, each with about 150 soldiers, were composed entirely of bannermen, they would have accounted for three-fourths of the banner soldiers in Wuhan. The rest were in the military police, which was predominantly Manchu, or scattered among the other units of the Hubei New Army. The Military Middle School, outside Wuchang, also had “several tens” of students from the Jingzhou garrison.38
The three companies in the First and Third Battalions of the Thirtieth Regiment and the military police were the ones who bore the initial brunt of the revolutionaries’ anti-Manchu fury because their barracks were located inside Wuchang near the armory, which was the rebels’ immediate objective on the night of the 10th. (The other two companies led by officers with Manchu-style names were outside Wuchang and in Hankou.)39 As the revolutionaries headed for the arsenal to arm themselves, one of their rallying cries was “Slay the Manchu officials and the banner people!” (Shalu Manguan qiren). Although the banner soldiers in the Thirtieth Regiment offered little or no resistance, many were killed. The barracks of the predominantly Manchu military police were also overrun and destroyed, and at least ten banner soldiers were beheaded. By the next morning, bodies of dead banner people littered the streets of their neighborhood.40
The Hubei Military Government, newly proclaimed on 11 October, seemed intent to avenge the three captured revolutionaries whom Governor-General Ruicheng and his military adviser Tiezhong, both Manchus, had executed the previous morning. Its declared goal was to “elevate the Han and exterminate the Manchus” (xing-Han mie-Man). It consequently wiped out four leading Manchu families (Zha, Bao, Tie, and Bu) in Wuchang and confiscated their property. It tore down the Eight Banners Guildhall (Baqi Huiguan), the meeting place and hostel for banner personnel in the Wuhan area. Finally, on 12 October, after its headquarters at the Provincial Assembly had come under attack from a ragtag group of banner soldiers led by a loyalist Han battalion commander, it initiated a witch hunt for surviving Manchus in Wuchang. Revolutionary soldiers began systematically stopping people on the streets simply because they looked or sounded different and subjecting them to a quick quiz intended to reveal whether they were Manchus. According to Li Lianfang, “Those people whose head was flat in the back were ordered to pronounce the number 666 [liubailiushiliu] and if they said niu rather than liu, they were executed.” (The Manchus’ flat head was supposedly due to the unusual hanging cradle in which they spent their infancy; their accent bespoke their social segregation from their neighbors.) No one failing the test was spared.
One banner woman, about to be killed, piteously cried, “We are guiltless; we detest our ancestors for their mistreatment of the Han people.” Another old woman pleaded, “What is to be gained by murdering us worthless women and children? Why not release us as a show of your magnanimity?” The soldiers, though moved, dared not reply but killed them anyway.
Xiong Bingkun (1885–1969), a leader of the uprising, confirms that the anti-Manchu violence peaked on 12 October, when many Manchus were seized and killed. The bloodshed that day was so appalling that over a hundred of the city’s merchants and gentry members jointly asked the Military Government to prohibit its soldiers from entering private homes in search of Manchus. The government refused at first on grounds of military necessity.41
It was only following the intervention of the eleven foreign consuls in Hankou, so it is said, that the Military Government called a halt to this reign of terror. On the 13th, while considering a request from the revolutionaries to remain neutral in the nascent struggle against the Qing, the consuls purportedly asked them to stop the wanton murder of the Manchus. The revolutionaries acquiesced, but with obvious reluctance. As one of their later proclamations explained, “They [the Manchus] have seized our lands and taken away our rights. Now in order to seek our revenge, we rightly ought to exterminate them with all our might and so dissipate the pent-up hatred of our compatriots.” Such savagery, however, it went on to say, might make the foreign powers ridicule their cause. Consequently, the Hubei Military Government did as the consuls asked and issued an order prohibiting further vengeance against the “banner people.” The decree told the citizenry instead to hand over suspected Manchu spies to the Military Government for trial. Otherwise, as another directive warned, anyone found harboring a Manchu (Manren) would be beheaded.42
As a result of the proclamation of 13 October, but also because the revolutionaries had, for the moment at least, consolidated their control over Wuhan, the worst of the violence against the Manchus came to an end. By then hundreds of Manchus had been massacred. One representative of the Military Government toured Wuchang and calculated that no fewer than four hundred to five hundred “banner people” had been killed during the first three days of the revolt. Their bodies were still lying around and threatened to spread disease; they were eventually buried. A correspondent for the Reuters news agency, visiting Wuchang on the 14th, “found corpses of Manchus everywhere” and estimated that eight hundred had been slain. Cao Yabo asserts that altogether four hundred “banner soldiers” were killed during the uprising and another three hundred “persons of banner classification” (qiji renyuan) were arrested and detained at the Wuchang prison. About a hundred of these detainees were released in the spring of 1912, after the revolution had succeeded, and safely returned to Jingzhou. They thus avoided the tragic fate of seven captured banner soldiers who were released prematurely and were murdered on their way home. The rest of the Manchus in the Wuhan tri-city complex, particularly those fortunate ones who were not trapped inside Wuchang when the revolution began, fled.43 Noting that all the high-ranking Manchu officials in Wuchang—including Governor-General Ruicheng, Provincial Treasurer Lianjia, and the military adviser Tiezhong—had likewise escaped, Li Lianfang, despite his own account of the vigilante justice meted out to Manchus, concludes that “the arrests and the killings were not so extreme as described in popular accounts.” Joseph Esherick is probably closer to the truth when he says that what happened to the banner people in Wuchang “approached racial slaughter.”44
The first city with a full-fledged banner garrison to experience large-scale anti-Manchu violence was Xi’an; it was also the scene of the bloodiest encounter between the banner people and the revolutionaries. The population of the garrison in 1911 was probably twenty thousand. They lived, well defended, inside their spacious walled compound in the northeastern sector of Xi’an City.45 The revolution came to Shaanxi on 22 October, when sympathizers in the New Army, after persuading Chief of Staff Zhang Fenghui (1881–1958) to join their cause, rose up in support. Unlike in Wuchang, where elements of the New Army were stationed inside the city and were thus able to seize it from within, the Shaanxi Mixed Brigade was quartered about a mile outside Xi’an, while the arsenal—which, as at Wuchang, was the revolutionaries’ first objective—was located inside Xi’an (but outside the Manchu City). At midday on the 22nd, revolutionary soldiers split up into small groups and made their way into Xi’an City undetected by the banner soldiers guarding the city’s west and south gates. They then gathered at the arsenal and easily captured it from its surprised defenders. Fortified by the Mauser and Mannlicher rifles stored at the armory, they quickly overran most of the city. The only part of Xi’an that the revolutionaries did not immediately take was the Manchu City. Its commanding general, Wenrui, ordered all the gates closed and posted soldiers atop the walls.46
The following morning, the revolutionaries launched a concerted assault on the Manchu City, with one group, led by the New Army officer Zhang Fenghui, attacking from the south and another group, headed by a leader of the Elder Brothers Society (Gelaohui), Zhang Yunshan (1877–1915), from the west. The banner soldiers were no match for their opponents. About two thousand banner soldiers (one-third of the garrison’s statutory strength) had received some modern training as a result of reforms in the 1890s, but they were poorly armed. The three thousand modern rifles that Ronglu had purchased fifteen years earlier had been sold off. Thus, in contrast to the revolutionaries with their modern rifles, the Manchus were using ancient muzzle-loaders and obsolete breech-loading rifles. Yet the banner soldiers resisted fiercely. The fighting lasted all day. Finally, Zhang Fenghui discovered a weak spot along the Manchu City’s south wall, while Zhang Yunshan succeeded in capturing one of the two gates along its west wall. By then, though, it was late in the day. To avoid killing their own people in the approaching darkness, the revolutionaries decided to hold off their final assault until morning.47 Meanwhile, in the name of the Han Restoration Army of Shaanxi and Gansu (Qin-Long Fu-Han Jun), they issued a brief announcement that various provinces had risen up to “expel the Manchus” (paichu Manren) and that this was in accord with both heaven’s will and popular sentiments. The proclamation vowed to protect the citizenry (min), merchants, and foreigners and to regard Han and Muslims as one, but it pointedly did not extend protection to the Manchus. It can thus be seen as sanctioning the bloodbath that ensued.48
The next day, the 24th, Xi’an’s Manchu City fell. As the revolutionaries poured in from the south and west, they looked upon all its trapped inhabitants as potential enemies and slaughtered them indiscriminately. According to J. C. Keyte, a British missionary who investigated the scene several months later,
Old and young, men and women, little children, were alike butchered. . . . Houses were plundered and then burnt; those who would fain have lain hidden till the storm was past, were forced to come out into the open. The revolutionaries, protected by a parapet of the wall, poured a heavy, unceasing, relentless fire into the doomed Tartar city. Those who tried to escape thence into the Chinese city were cut down as they emerged from the gates.
Two junior officers in the New Army concede, retrospectively, that the Republicans “unnecessarily killed a number of banner soldiers and their dependents.”49
The slaughter was merciless and thorough. According to Keyte,
When the Manchus found that further resistance was useless, they in many cases knelt on the ground, laying down their weapons, and begged the soldiers for life. They were shot as they knelt. Sometimes there was a whole line of them. In one doorway a group of between ten and twenty were thus killed in cold blood.
Some of the banner people attempted to flee, but, as in Wuchang, it was difficult for them to escape detection.
They were known by their clothing, by their cast of countenance, by their speech. Their fondness for reds and yellows, their use of white linings, their high collars and narrow sleeves . . . their belts, their shoes; all gave them away. With the women the unbound feet were the fatal distinction. Their peculiar headdress, their clothing they might change, but there was no disguising their natural-sized feet.
As at Wuchang, suspected Manchus were subject to a pronunciation test, though, as Keyte noted, “this often meant danger for Chinese of other provinces, especially Chihli [Zhili],” because they too spoke standard Chinese with a Beijing accent. Many banner people, seeing that there was no escape, committed suicide. Some set fire to their houses and burned to death; others cut their own throats; yet others threw themselves down deep wells—until the wells were choked with the dead and the dying. Chang’an county magistrate Derui, after killing his wife and children, tried to set himself on fire; when that failed, he grabbed a knife and stabbed himself to death. General Wenrui threw himself down a well and drowned; his principal subordinates, the garrison’s two brigade-generals, also committed suicide.50
On the 25th, after three days, the revolutionaries decreed an end to the violence.51 By then, according again to Keyte, the total casualties were “not less than ten thousand who were either killed or took their own lives to escape a worse fate.” If the population of the banner garrison was twenty thousand, then half had perished. Furthermore, the Manchu City had been systematically plundered. Those banner personnel who survived the massacre were rounded up. Well-to-do survivors, such as the provincial judge Xitong and the industrial intendant Guangzhao, were held for ransom. Little girls were abducted by the rich as household servants and slaves, while young women were claimed as wives by poor Han soldiers who otherwise could not have afforded to marry. Others were expelled from the city and told to find their own living.52
Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi Province, was the second garrison city to feel the wrath of the revolutionaries. One of the smaller garrisons in China proper, it had a statutory strength of only 644 banner soldiers and was headed by Commandant Zengxi. The tiny Manchu City was nestled inside the high city walls at the southwestern corner of Taiyuan City. The revolution came early on the morning of 29 October, one week after Xi’an fell, when units of the provincial New Army defied an order transferring them to the southwest to stop the anticipated spread of the revolution from neighboring Shaanxi. The mutinous troops forced their way into Taiyuan City, killed the governor and the New Army brigade commander (both of them Han), then headed for the Manchu City. They placed guns atop the city walls and began bombarding the still-sleeping banner people below. The Manchus could only offer brief and sporadic resistance; the commandant surrendered. As a result, perhaps no more than twenty or twenty-five of the Manchus were killed. Those who survived, however, either fled or were driven away. The Manchu City was looted and, according to two resident Westerners, “utterly destroyed.”53
The next Manchu City where many were killed was Zhenjiang, the treaty port in Jiangsu where the Grand Canal crosses the Yangzi. The garrison had a statutory strength of 1,692 soldiers and was commanded by Brigade-General Zaimu, an imperial clansman. Unlike in Wuchang, Xi’an, and Taiyuan, the anti-Manchu violence in Zhenjiang occurred not during but after the city had been “restored” to Han rule on 7 November. Three days earlier, following the fall of Shanghai, the scholars and merchants of Zhenjiang had opened negotiations with the brigade-general in an attempt to forestall the two New Army regiments outside the south gate from rising up and attacking the city in support of the revolution. These negotiations led to a public meeting at the Self-Government Office on 6 November, where Zaimu agreed to surrender the garrison in return for a guarantee of safety for the lives and property of its inhabitants. The banner soldiers afterward turned over their weapons and ammunition to the Self-Government Office. Thus, the garrison had already been disarmed before the New Army mutinied on the 7th and the city joined the revolution. Furthermore, the newly formed Zhenjiang Military Government, on the advice of the local elite, had agreed to give the banner soldiers three months’ supply of rations and help them find alternative employment.54
Unfortunately, due to a series of misunderstandings, the new regime’s policy of tolerance toward the surrendered garrison did not last. On 9 November, when Republican soldiers attacking Nanjing were driven off and fell back to Zhenjiang to regroup, they took out their frustration and rage on the local banner people, unaware that their safety had been guaranteed. By the time the retreating troops were ordered to desist, they had killed twenty to thirty of the Manchus and ransacked their quarters. Feeling betrayed, Brigade-General Zaimu committed suicide, while other banner soldiers attempted, unsuccessfully, to bombard the revolutionaries’ headquarters. The Military Government, in turn, revoked its earlier policy of leniency and evicted the rest of the banner people from the Manchu City. Moreover, once they left the relative safety of the Manchu City, the banner people were hunted down by rebel soldiers and by bandits masquerading as soldiers. Finally, at the request of the Self-Government Office, the Military Government issued a new decree asking that the banner people not be harmed. By then, the Manchus had been ousted from Zhenjiang and an untold number killed.55
Fuzhou, another garrison city, was restored to Han rule the day after Zhenjiang. Its statutory strength was about 2,200 banner soldiers, nearly all of whom had received some modern training in recent years. The garrison commander was Pushou, but he shared power with another Manchu bannerman, Governor-General Songshou.56 In the three or four weeks since the uprising at Wuchang, particularly as the revolution began to spread to east China, Songshou and Pushou together had taken several precautionary measures. On the one hand, they tried to disarm the local New Army detachment, the Tenth Division, by removing the ammunition from their encampment outside the city. On the other, they distributed a foreign rifle and three hundred bullets to every bannerman over the age of thirteen and a small sword to every banner woman. These measures spawned alarming rumors about the Manchus’ ultimate intentions. It was said that they had organized a “Han-killing gang” composed of five hundred bannermen and led by the regimental colonel, Wenkai, and that they had mounted big guns and buried land mines within the Manchu City and, if attacked, were prepared to take the rest of Fuzhou and its Han residents down to destruction with them.57
As tension mounted, the city’s elite (as previously in Zhenjiang) attempted a last-minute effort to avert bloodshed. On the afternoon of 7 November, a couple of days after neighboring Zhejiang had peacefully declared for the Republic, the Fujian Provincial Assembly approved a like-minded proposal that the province issue a declaration of “independence and self-protection” and establish a new government. The assembly asked Governor-General Songshou the next day to accede to the new authorities, and it requested General Pushou to order the banner personnel to hand over their arms and ammunition. In return, the assembly promised “henceforth to treat Manchus and Han without distinction” and also “to continue distributing the Manchus’ salaries as before.” The garrison commander, Pushou, refused to go along with the proposal.58
That night, soldiers of the Tenth Division rose up against the Manchus. Despite the officials’ precautions, they had managed to acquire weapons and ammunition smuggled out to them from the city. Thus armed, they headed for and, with little difficulty, captured the artillery emplacement on Mount Yu, from which they could bombard the Manchu City below. As at Xi’an, the banner population at Fuzhou did not give up without a fight. Several hundred soldiers, led by Wenkai of the “Han-killing gang,” attempted unsuccessfully to recapture the guns on Mount Yu and suffered heavy casualties. Other banner people, in a vengeful mood, hosed down neighboring Han homes with kerosene and set the area ablaze. The fighting between the rebels and the Manchus lasted into the following day. By the afternoon of 9 November, it appeared as if the Manchus had had enough; they sued for peace and agreed to a cease-fire. The cease-fire, however, did not hold, as on the morning of the 10th about one hundred banner soldiers made a final, desperate lunge at the revolutionary line. They were beaten off. The recalcitrant Pushou was found, arrested, and held at Mount Yu, where, according to his nephew, he was killed as he fought his captors and “cursed them as insubordinate bandits.” His body was hacked into four pieces and left on the side of the mountain. With Pushou’s death, the Manchus’ resistance came to an end. Meanwhile, during the three days of fighting, many other banner people had lost their lives. Some were slain as they resisted the revolutionaries or defended the Manchu City. Others killed themselves rather than be captured. Governor-General Songshou committed suicide by swallowing gold; regimental colonel Dingxuan strangled himself; Lang Le’e, an officer in the garrison’s semimodernized force, and more than ten members of his family covered themselves with oil-soaked blankets and burned themselves to death; several hundred other banner soldiers and their dependents cast themselves down wells or into the Min River and drowned.59
However, when the revolutionaries took over on 11 November, they, unlike those at Xi’an, treated the defeated banner population with remarkable leniency. They gave medical attention to wounded Manchus. They provided appropriate burials to those who had been killed. They even held a memorial service for Governor-General Songshou, and they permitted General Pushou’s family to retrieve his broken remains. They allowed many captured garrison officers, including the organizer of the “Han-killing gang,” Wenkai, to go free. Finally, although they disregarded the Provincial Assembly’s pledge to continue the banner soldiers’ stipends indefinitely, an offer that had been rendered moot by the Manchus’ resistance, they nevertheless gave each of the several hundred surrendered banner soldiers one silver dollar and a peck of rice before sending him out to make his own way in the world.60
The Manchus in Nanjing, when the city fell to the revolutionaries on 2 December, were not nearly so fortunate. The post-Taiping strength of the garrison, located in the southeast corner of the city, was 2,424 soldiers. The garrison commander was Tieliang, the former grand councilor and army minister who had run afoul of the regent’s program of reimperializing authority and been sent away from the capital in September 1910. He shared power with two Han officials: the Liang-Jiang governor-general Zhang Renjun and Zhang Xun (1854-1923), the commander of the old-style Yangzi patrol troops.
In the weeks following the outbreak of the revolution at Wuchang, the Nanjing authorities had taken a number of precautions similar to those at Fuzhou. On the one hand, they had strengthened their own defenses by bringing Zhang Xun’s ill-trained but loyal troops into the city. On the other, they had disarmed the local New Army unit, the Ninth Division, whose reliability was questionable, and relocated it twenty miles to the south.61 Nonetheless, the atmosphere in Nanjing became increasingly tense among both Han and Manchus as the revolution spread into Jiangsu Province, particularly after Shanghai fell on 4 November. Greatly contributing to the anxiety of the Han inhabitants was Tieliang’s well-known reputation as pro-Manchu and anti-Han. As in Fuzhou, it was rumored that the Manchus had mounted guns on the city walls and mined the approaches to the banner quarters and had vowed to bring down all of Nanjing with them. Although Tieliang issued a public denial, it is doubtful that he was believed. Indeed, these rumors circulated so widely that British diplomats at the time and some historians subsequently have accepted them as true.62 At the same time, the Manchus in Nanjing, mindful of what the Taipings had done to them sixty years earlier, were no less fearful. According to the recollections of a Han telegraph operator,
Entire families of Manchus cried bitterly every day. The women were especially frightened, because they did not bind their feet and did not dress the same as the Han. They would go to used-clothing stores to buy Han women’s apparel and make themselves up as Han; they would even force girls who were already about ten years old to bind their feet. The men, too, changed their names [probably by adopting surnames] so as to pass for Han.63
At this critical juncture, the elite of Nanjing, like those at Zhenjiang and Fuzhou, sought to mediate a peaceful solution, but without success. On 6 November the vice-chair of the Provincial Assembly met with Governor-General Zhang Renjun and urged him to abandon the Qing cause, declare his province independent, and so avoid a military confrontation with the revolutionaries. The governor-general was amenable to this course of action, but he was overruled, not by the Manchu Tieliang, as some sources state, but by the Han commander of the Yangzi patrol forces.64 Zhang Xun, shunting aside both Zhang Renjun and Tieliang, took control of Nanjing’s defenses and immediately initiated a witch hunt against suspected Republicans, which lasted two days. According to Percy Horace Kent,
The search for revolutionaries resolved itself into a hunt for students and queue-less men, and for persons showing signs of the white badge of revolt, or anything that by any stretch of imagination might be so considered. On the night of the 8th alone it was said that four hundred suspects were executed, and their heads hung over the doors of their own homes.65
Murderous Zhang Xun held off the revolutionaries for a month. Repulsed on 7 November, the Republicans withdrew downriver to Zhenjiang, where they regrouped and awaited reinforcements. (It was then that they attacked the unfortunate Manchus at that garrison.) With Nanjing increasingly isolated, time was on their side. When they returned two and a half weeks later, they had put together a large army of about thirty thousand soldiers, as opposed to Zhang Xun’s force of about twenty thousand (including two thousand banner soldiers). On 24 November the Republicans began a concerted assault on Nanjing along a wide front, aiming initially to capture the artillery batteries atop the several mountains ringing the city. Despite the spirited opposition of Zhang Xun’s troops, they took Mount Mufu to the north on the 25th and Purple Mountain to the east on 1 December. Zhang Xun, in the end, sued for peace. On 1 December he made three requests of the revolutionaries: that he be allowed to leave Nanjing with his Yangzi patrol force, that Zhang Renjun and Tieliang be permitted to return north, and that the local banner people be spared. The Republicans were willing to let the governor-general and garrison commander go and to spare the Manchus, but they refused to permit Zhang Xun to depart with his army intact. Yet that very night Zhang Xun and two thousand of his troops were able to sneak out of the city, cross the Yangzi, and retreat northward along the tracks of the Tianjin-Pukou railroad; they wound up at Xuzhou, in northern Jiangsu. Zhang Renjun and Tieliang, too, managed to flee, escaping to Shanghai aboard Japanese gunboats.66 The revolutionaries took over Nanjing on 2 December.
The subsequent massacre of the Manchus in Nanjing occurred even though, unlike in Xi’an and Fuzhou, they had not been in the forefront of the resistance against the revolutionaries. The principal opposition had come from Zhang Xun and his army, who were Han. Nevertheless, it was the Manchus, defenseless since the abrupt departure of their leaders, who fell victim to the revolutionaries’ pent-up rage. On 3 December elements of the Republican army, particularly those under the command of Su Liangbi, entered the Manchu City and went on a rampage. As a soldier belonging to another unit recalled, Su’s army “burned, killed, and plundered” at will. According to Fernand Farjenel, a visiting French scholar, “The revolutionary troops set fire to [the Manchu City] and surrounded the burning buildings, firing on every Tartar who sought to save a few of his belongings. Those who fled empty-handed got away with their lives.” Fearing the wrath of the revolutionaries, some banner people killed themselves by bashing their heads into mail boxes and steel poles. Others gathered at the arsenal and set themselves on fire, igniting an explosion that rocked the city and blackened the sky for a day. Order was not restored until later in the day, when the Republican commander-in-chief issued a proclamation promising safety to surrendered banner people. Su Liangbi was arrested and his marauding troops disbanded. By then, however, an “incalculable number” of banner persons had been killed and the Manchu City reduced to “scorched earth.” In March 1912 Farjenel found that “of the Tartar quarter not one stone is left standing. We went for a drive among the ruins, and saw nothing but charred and crumbling walls, every house having been systematically burned to the ground.” Only two grinning stone lions on pedestals remained outside a former yamen.67
The victory at Nanjing is often described as the last important battle of the revolution.68 It did indeed lead to a general truce between the Republicans and the Qing, which was to be extended repeatedly until the court’s abdication the following February. Still, despite the truce, there was one other major military confrontation between the revolutionaries and the Manchus that did not end until two weeks later. This was the month-long battle for Jingzhou, up the Yangzi from Wuchang. Commanded by General Liankui, the garrison in 1911 had a population of twenty-seven thousand. They occupied the entire eastern half of Jingzhou City and accounted for nearly half of the city’s total population.69 Aside from Beijing, no other place in China proper had proportionately as large a Manchu population.
Although the battle for Jingzhou did not begin until 19 November, pressure on the garrison had been building steadily for over a month. On 18 October revolutionaries led by a local New Army officer, Tang Xizhi, had risen up and captured Yichang, from which they gradually extended their influence. By 5 November they had all of Yichang Prefecture under their control, except for Jingzhou and the adjacent treaty port of Shashi.70 In the meantime, attempts to persuade the garrison to join the revolution had been unsuccessful. The head of the Hubei Military Government, Li Yuanhong, had sent a telegram to Liankui on 26 October promising that if his banner soldiers surrendered their weapons to the approaching Republican troops, they would be well cared for. The Manchus would be treated the same as the Han people and their private property would be protected. Subsequent appeals by the revolutionaries to the Jingzhou garrison explained that though they were “anti-Manchu” (pai-Man), they aimed “only to overthrow the government and not to wipe out the banner people.” The garrison commanders rejected the Republicans’ appeal. Their reply questioned the sincerity of Li’s promise and his political motives. While they applauded his intention to “reform the government,” they asked why he persisted in rebellion when the Qing court had on 3 November already given its assent to the Nineteen-Article Compact. And they deplored the ferocity of the anti-Manchu massacre at Wuchang, whose victims were from the Jingzhou garrison. Claiming that pregnant women and infants in swaddling clothes had been indiscriminately killed, they asked what murdering these women and children had to do with “reforming the government.” At Jingzhou, they claimed, “banner soldiers” and Han people had lived together in peace for more than two hundred years. They got along well with each other and over time had eliminated various (unspecified) racial differences. The revolutionaries should withdraw to Yichang to await the outcome of the revolution.71
When Tang Xizhi and the Republicans began attacking Jingzhou on 19 November, the banner forces, which included at least one well-armed regiment of newly trained troops, resisted fiercely. They initially staked out a forward position ten or more miles away from the city, but in a week of fighting, in which they suffered heavy casualties, they were successively driven back toward Jingzhou. By 26 November they were trapped inside the city. On the 27th, as they had done at least twice before, General Liankui and his subordinates sent out a desperate plea to the court for help. Jingzhou, they said, was surrounded. With Wuchang and Yichang in the hands of the revolutionaries, they were cut off from their food supply. Their ammunition was depleted. They asked that the recently victorious Qing troops at Hankou be sent to their rescue. As before, no aid was forthcoming. The garrison authorities began confiscating goods from the city’s inhabitants, including wood products to use for fuel.72
The Manchus withstood the siege for two weeks. They defended themselves at first by holding the Han residents in the western half of the city hostage. After about ten days the Han, through the mediation of a resident Franciscan priest, Marcel Sterkendries, convinced the officials to allow them to leave, though without their personal belongings. The departure of the Han from Jingzhou, however, left the Republicans free to bombard the Manchus. On 9 December they pounded the city with an artillery shelling that lasted ten hours and caused numerous casualties. The garrison’s will to fight began to crumble. The main proponent of resistance had been one of the two brigade-generals, Hengling. As the battered garrison ran out of ammunition, food, and firewood, the survivors went to Hengling and implored him to surrender. Bereft of support, the brigade-general killed himself on 10 December. General Liankui then asked for peace. In the ensuing negotiations, which were mediated by the Franciscan priest as well as by the Japanese consul and the customs commissioner at Shashi, the two sides arrived at a six-point agreement. For their part, the Manchus agreed to give up their arms and ammunition, turn over their public lands and public property, and obey the Hubei Military Government. The revolutionaries, in return, promised to protect the lives and private property of individual banner people, provide “charitable rations” to all impoverished banner people for a period of six months, and allow banner people to attend Republican schools. On the basis of this agreement, Liankui went to the Catholic mission on 13 December to surrender. Four days later, as agreed upon, Tang Xizhi and the revolutionaries entered Jingzhou City without incident. Unlike in Xi’an, Zhenjiang, and Nanjing, they exacted no retribution against the surviving Manchus.73
Elsewhere in China, four other banner garrisons—in Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Chengdu, and Yili—experienced the revolution at first hand, but unlike the others they did so relatively peacefully, with little or no bloodshed but scarcely any less anguish. In Hangzhou the vice-chair of the Zhejiang Provincial Assembly and other civic leaders had gone to their governor, the Mongol bannerman Zengyun, on 3 November to urge him to issue a preemptive declaration of independence and also to tear down the internal wall separating the Manchu City from the rest of Hangzhou and reclassify the banner people as Han. When Zengyun refused, the New Army rose up the following night in support of the revolution. Subsequent efforts to persuade the garrison to surrender foundered on the opposition of the regimental colonel, Guilin, the Manchu bannerman who four years earlier had gained national prominence for his vigorous support of women’s education and the Huixing Girls School. However, once the Republicans began on the 5th to shell the Manchu City from gun emplacements on Mount Wu, the garrison’s acting commander, Deji, gave up, in return for a pledge from the new Military Government to spare the banner populace and to continue, at least for a while, to distribute the customary rations to the banner soldiers. Unreconciled to the settlement, regimental colonel Guilin held back a large quantity of arms and ammunition in hopes of continuing the struggle. When discovered a couple of days later, he was arrested and executed. Zengyun and Deji, on the other hand, were well looked after.74
Guangzhou, of course, had been a center of revolutionary activity since Sun Yat-sen led an abortive uprising there in 1895; most recently, in April 1911, it was the scene of General Fuqi’s assassination. Fuqi’s successor, Fengshan, the Hanjun who in 1907 had been the pawn in the struggle between Tieliang and Yuan Shikai over control of the Beiyang divisions, was himself gunned down on 25 October, as he arrived to take up his new post. The banner populace of Guangzhou had ample reason to fear the revolutionaries, who were beginning to converge on the provincial capital. While some Manchus favored taking up arms to defend themselves and holding the rest of the city hostage, most favored cooperating with the local elite to try to forestall a revolutionary assault with a declaration of provincial autonomy. These talks bore fruit on 9 November, when a mass meeting at the Provincial Assembly proclaimed Guangdong’s independence from the Qing empire and its adherence to the new republic. One of the ten resolutions passed by the meeting provided that “all banner people and Manchus [qi-Manren] would be dealt with the same [as the Han].” The revolutionaries took over the city the following day, unopposed and with no further bloodshed.75
Chengdu, where the revolution may be said to have begun with the railroad protection protests in the summer, did not declare for the Republic until 27 November. As in Guangzhou and other provincial capitals, this declaration resulted from negotiations between the officials and the local elite. Governor-General Zhao Erfeng, himself a Hanjun, had asked that “there be no animosity toward the Manchus [Manren]” and that “the livelihood of the banner people be provided for.” The elite readily promised that the banner soldiers would continue to receive their rations pending future arrangements for their livelihood and that “Manchus, along with Mongols and Muslims, would be treated exactly the same as the Han, without any distinction.”76 Accordingly, Zhao Erfeng on 27 November issued a declaration of provincial autonomy and sanctioned the formation of a new government, jointly headed by the chairman of the Provincial Assembly, Pu Dianjun (1876–1934), and the commander of the New Army’s Nineteenth Division, Zhu Qinglan (1874–1941). The former governor-general, despite his immense unpopularity for his harsh treatment of the railroad protesters, was permitted to remain in Chengdu so as to continue to oversee affairs relating to the Tibetan border. The new regime in Chengdu, however, proved incapable of controlling the various revolutionary “people’s armies” as they poured into the capital demanding to be paid. On 8 December, with the treasury exhausted, some of the soldiers mutinied and drove Pu Dianjun and Zhu Qinglan out. When order was restored, the superintendent of the Military Primary School, Yin Changheng (1886–1953), had taken over as the new military governor. Two weeks later, on 22 December, Yin accused former governor-general Zhao of plotting a counterrevolution and had him arrested and beheaded, thus “avenging a great hatred among us Sichuanese.”77 Afterward the Chengdu banner garrison, which up to this point had been left undisturbed, was disarmed. Negotiations between Governor Yin and the garrison’s commander, Yukun, secured an arrangement by which the Manchus surrendered their weapons in return for a pledge from the new government to help provide for their livelihood.78
The last banner garrison to be restored to Han rule before the Qing abdication was Yili, in far-off Xinjiang. The revolution at Yili began, as elsewhere, with a mutiny by local New Army soldiers, which occurred on the night of 7 January 1912. From their encampment outside Huiyuan (now Yining) City, they easily forced their way into and took over the “Old Manchu Camp” in the eastern half of the city, including General Zhirui’s yamen. They encountered stiff resistance, however, from the Xibe banner soldiers in the “New Manchu Camp” in the western half of the city. When it became apparent that the New Manchu Camp would not give up easily, the revolutionaries agreed to a mediation effort by the garrison’s former commanding general, Guangfu. With the apparent assistance of the local chamber of commerce, Guangfu arranged for the banner soldiers to turn over their weapons and for the revolutionaries to stop fighting. The Republicans, rather remarkably, then selected Guangfu as the first head of the new Yili Military Government. He remained military governor for several months, though it appears that real power was exercised by the revolutionaries and the New Army commanders. Because of the conciliatory outcome of the revolution, only a few Manchus were killed; among these, though, was the reform-minded Zhirui, who was executed.79
Manchus in banner garrisons were not the only ones threatened by anti-Manchu violence; so were individual bannermen on official assignment in various localities in central and south China. The highest ranking among such individual victims of the revolution was Duanfang, who had only recently been politically rehabilitated following his dismissal as Zhili governor-general in 1909 because of ritual infractions at Cixi’s funeral. Duanfang was en route from Chongqing to Chengdu to take over from Zhao Erfeng as Sichuan governor-general when on 27 November, at Zizhou, the detachment of New Army troops that he had brought with him from Hubei mutinied and placed him under arrest. According to some sources, Duanfang pleaded for his life by claiming, correctly, that though he was a Manchu bannerman, his ancestry was originally Han, and by asking that he be allowed to reclaim his Han status. He also sought clemency on the grounds that he had always been an upright official. As with Governor Enming in 1907, Duanfang’s captors acknowledged that he had been a fair-minded official but insisted that their quarrel with him was not a private matter but one of “national revenge.” They hacked Duanfang and his brother to death.80
Numerous other Manchus serving as provincial and local officials met a similarly violent end. Some were slain while resisting the rebels, as happened to Dehu, prefect of Fengxiang, Shaanxi, and to Rongjun, an expectant magistrate at Tianmen, Hubei. Some were murdered after they joined the revolution. For example, Qilin, prefect of Shunning, Yunnan, complied with the provincial declaration of secession but was nevertheless shot and eviscerated when rebellious bandits took over the town. Yet others committed suicide. These included Guiyin, prefect of Anlu, Hubei; Laixiu, prefect of Tingzhou, Fujian; and Ronglin, a tax collector at Baihe, Shaanxi. Another suicide was the naval officer Jisheng, first mate of the cruiser Hairong, after the sea-going fleet had defected to the Republicans at Jiujiang in early November; he killed himself by jumping into the Yangzi. Such anti-Manchu violence extended to the dependents of bannermen officials. When Prefect Dehu was killed, so were his two young sons. Before the Jiahe (Hunan) magistrate Zhonglin committed suicide, he bound his wife to a bed and set it ablaze. At Yichang, Hubei, five Manchu women were executed and their blood smeared on the local yamen doors.81
However, not all Manchu officials in rebel territory died or were killed. Many managed to flee before the revolutionaries took over. These included the circuit intendant at Jiujiang, Jiangxi; the prefect of Hengzhou and the county magistrate of Youxian, both in Hunan; and about forty expectant officials living at the Eight Banners Guildhall at Suzhou. Others, though captured by the revolutionaries, were spared and allowed to leave. At Nanchang, Jiangxi, five banner men and women were arrested, turned over to the local military government, and eventually expelled from the province. Similarly, following the defection of the sea-going fleet at Jiujiang, the two Manchu captains of the Hairong and Haichen (Xichang and Rongxu respectively) were sent off to Shanghai. Like Duanfang, Captain Xichang had pleaded for mercy with a partial denial of his ethnic heritage: “Although I am a Manchu, my ancestors were Han and our original surname was He.” Finally, in a few instances, individual Manchus were allowed to remain where they were, as was the case with Chunliang, magistrate of Yongshun County, Hunan, after he was reclassified from bannerman to civilian and had adopted the new Han-style surname of Wu.82
In sum, the Manchus responded to the revolution in various ways. Some garrisons mounted a spirited defense. Two garrisons—Ningxia and Suiyuan, both along the northern frontier—actually succeeded in beating off the Republicans.83 Otherwise, the most effective opposition was at Jingzhou, which held off the Hubei revolutionaries for three and a half weeks. Xi’an, Fuzhou, Hangzhou, and Yili also fought back. On the other hand, garrisons such as Taiyuan, Zhenjiang, Guangzhou, Nanjing, and Chengdu did not resist. (In the case of Nanjing, where there was resistance, it had come not from the Manchus but rather from the Han soldiers of Zhang Xun.) At some garrison cities the local elite, represented by the provincial assembly and/or the chamber of commerce, sought to mediate between the revolutionaries and the banner populace. Some of these efforts, as in Zhenjiang, Guangzhou, Chengdu, and Yili, succeeded in arranging a peaceful transfer of power. Some, as in Fuzhou, Hangzhou, and Nanjing, failed to prevent the two sides from clashing.
The extent of anti-Manchu violence varied, too, but with no clear correlation with the degree of resistance. The Guangzhou and Chengdu garrisons, neither of which resisted, experienced hardly any violence. In several other garrisons where there was resistance—notably Fuzhou, Hangzhou, Jingzhou, and Yili—once the fighting stopped, so, by and large, did the killing. Though a few leaders were executed—such as Regimental Colonel Guilin at Hangzhou, Governor-General Zhao Erfeng at Chengdu, and General Zhirui at Yili—the banner populace were left alone after they had capitulated to the Republicans. On the other hand, the garrisons at Xi’an, Taiyuan, Zhenjiang, and Nanjing along with the banner detachment at Wuchang suffered horribly from anti-Manchu violence. At Wuchang, Xi’an, and Taiyuan the banner soldiers had resisted, but those at Zhenjiang and Nanjing had not. Whatever the provocation, if any, the Manchus in those five places were slaughtered, driven to commit suicide, or expelled and their residential quarters looted and destroyed. The slaughter was indiscriminate and was directed at not only the soldiers but also their dependents, including women and children. They were essentially victims of genocide. It is thus clear that for many revolutionaries, the anti-Manchu element of their ideology was no mere rhetorical flourish.
The often-futile efforts of the banner people to save themselves by passing for Han also clearly show that at the time of the revolution, there were still some very obvious differences separating Manchus and Han. Manchus were easily identifiable by their place of residence, their speech (not Manchu, but the Beijing dialect of standard Chinese), their naming practice, and, in the case of women, their dress and the size of their feet. As depicted in a series of three cartoons in the Eastern Times in late October 1911, the women sought to blend in by replacing their one-piece gown with the two-piece blouse-and-trouser outfit worn by Han women, getting rid of their elaborate wire-framed headdress, cutting their hair short and wearing it in a bun, and, finally, shedding their platform shoes and even trying belatedly to bind their feet (see plates 12, 13, 14).84 As was evident at Wuchang, Xi’an, and Nanjing, such efforts at concealment were usually ineffectual.
Finally, the anti-Manchu violence was largely confined to the southern, central, and northwestern parts of China proper, where the Republicans were most active. Banner garrisons in north China, Beijing, and Manchuria—where as many as two-thirds of all the banner people lived but where the revolutionaries were relatively weak—were spared almost entirely. Undoubtedly they too would have been exposed to the threat of anti-Manchu violence if the revolution had continued and spread. However, by the time Han rule was restored to Yili in January 1912, the Qing court (with Yuan Shikai now acting on its behalf) was actively engaged in negotiations with the Republicans that soon led to the abdication of the emperor and the end of the revolution.
THE NORTH-SOUTH NEGOTIATIONS
By early November 1911, the confusion of the first three weeks of the revolution had, to a great extent, settled down. It was evident by then that the revolution would not succeed easily, for the Qing court under Zaifeng had made considerable headway in coping with its military and political challenges. Specifically, with Yinchang and then Feng Guozhang in command of the First Corps, it had recaptured Hankou from the Republicans, and by approving the Nineteen-Article Compact, it had agreed to most of the political reforms that the constitutional monarchists had been demanding for years. However, it was also clear that the revolution had substantial support across the country and among a broad spectrum of social groups and would not be easy to defeat, for by then the Republicans and their sympathizers in the New Army and the provincial assemblies had extended their control from Wuchang in Hubei to the capitals of five other provinces. As the Qing and the Republicans headed toward a stalemate, the two sides gingerly entered into negotiations, seeking to break the deadlock. These tentative talks culminated in the convening of a formal parley in Shanghai in mid-December.
In Beijing the months of November and December were dominated by the steady ascendency of Yuan Shikai. When first named on 1 November as prime minister to succeed Yikuang, Yuan, who was then at the war front in Hubei, had declined. In line with the demands of the constitutionalist reformers for a responsible cabinet, he insisted that his appointment come not from the emperor but from Parliament. The ninety-two remaining members of the National Assembly, which under the Nineteen-Article Compact was empowered to act as a provisional parliament, obliged on 8 November by electing Yuan prime minister. The court ratified the assembly’s action the following day.85 Only then did Yuan accept the appointment. Surrounded by two thousand bodyguards, he arrived in Beijing on the afternoon of the 13th. An edict of the same day conferred upon him full military authority around the capital, including “all divisions in the metropolitan region.” The one unstated exception was the new division-strength Palace Guard, which remained under the direct control of the court, with Zaifeng still its nominal commander.86
Once installed in Beijing, Yuan Shikai further extended his power at the expense of Zaifeng and the Qing court. On 22 November he persuaded the court to grant him the authority to make decisions in most matters (except those involving the imperial household) that previously had been the jealously guarded prerogative of the throne. Specifically, all memorials and petitions would henceforth be addressed to the cabinet and not the emperor. At the same time, Yuan obtained permission to excuse himself and his cabinet from the necessity of daily audiences at court.87 On 6 December, with the apparent support of Empress Dowager Longyu, widow of the Guangxu emperor, he engineered the resignation of the prince regent, who was blamed for all of the shortcomings of the past three years. Zaifeng reclaimed his former title as Prince Chun, with an annual pension of fifty thousand taels from the imperial household account, but was barred from “any further participation in government.” Longyu, emulating Cixi perhaps, took over from Zaifeng the conduct of court affairs, though no new regent was appointed for the child emperor.88 Finally, Yuan succeeded in stripping the Palace Guard from the control of the court. On 9 December an imperial edict, issued at the request of Yuan’s cabinet, removed Zaifeng’s brother, Zaitao, from the Guard’s training commission, with which he had been associated since its inception, and appointed Feng Guozhang, the First Corps commander and Yuan’s former subordinate, as the unit’s new commander in place of the former regent. (Succeeding Feng at the Hubei front was another of Yuan’s protégés, Duan Qirui.) Another edict dismissed the young, Japanese-trained imperial clansman Liangbi as commander of the Palace Guard’s First Brigade and transferred him to a high-sounding position of no real authority at the General Staff Office. Feng Guozhang formally took command of the Palace Guard from Zaitao on 21 December.89 Not only had Yuan Shikai regained control over his Beiyang divisions, but he had dealt yet another blow to the Qing court’s recent efforts to reimperialize military authority.
Meanwhile, Yuan Shikai, acting on behalf of the court, sought out the revolutionaries concerning a military cease-fire and, possibly, a negotiated political settlement. Yuan had failed to follow up on the Qing recovery of Hankou and instead had ordered his troops on 4 November to halt their advance on Hanyang. At the same time, he directed one of his subordinates, Liu Cheng’en (a native of Hubei), to write to Li Yuanhong, head of the Hubei Military Government, urging him to accept a “peaceful resolution” to the crisis and to allow the chastened Qing court an opportunity to reform itself. A week later, when the Republicans had not responded, he sent his private secretary, Cai Tinggan (1861–1935), to go with Liu Cheng’en to Wuchang to meet personally with Li Yuanhong. Feng Guozhang, then still the Qing commander at the Hubei front, disapproved of these initial contacts with the revolutionaries.90
Yuan Shikai also enlisted the aid of Wang Jingwei, the revolutionary Alliance leader who had been imprisoned for the attempted assassination of the prince regent in 1910. Released on 6 November, Wang, rather than going south to join his fellow revolutionaries, remained in Beijing and soon linked up with Yang Du, the former advocate of constitutional and banner reform, who had become a trusted member of Yuan’s political entourage. Wang had known Yang in Japan several years earlier, when both were students at Hōsei University. Perhaps in line with a strategy of “allying with Yuan to overthrow the Qing,” he joined Yang Du on 15 November in publishing a manifesto, issued in the name of the Society for the Joint Resolution of National Problems (Guoshi Gongji Hui), in which Wang claimed to speak for the “democratic constitutionalist party” and Yang, the “monarchical constitutionalist party.” Though differing over the form of the polity, Wang and Yang declared that they both were committed to constitutional government and popular rights. Their manifesto called on the Qing and the Republicans to stop fighting, lest the foreign powers step in and partition China, and also to agree to the summoning of a “provisional citizens’ assembly” that would choose between the two types of constitutional regime.91
The two sides eventually agreed to a cease-fire, but not for another three weeks. The revolutionaries were initially disinterested because, after the setback at Hankou, they had regained their momentum. By late November every province along the Yangzi River and south of it had declared for the revolution, as had Shaanxi and Shanxi in north China. At the end of November, however, they suffered two military setbacks. In Hubei, Li Yuanhong and Huang Xing (1874–1916) were unable to hold onto Hanyang, which Feng Guozhang’s First Corps retook on 27 November; in Shanxi, the rebels along the Taihang Mountains buckled under the attack of Cao Kun, whose forces eventually (on 12 December) recaptured the strategic pass at Niangziguan and thus relieved the military pressure on Beijing. These reverses on the Republican side were matched on the imperial side by the fall of Nanjing to the revolutionaries on 2 December. Their offsetting defeats convinced the two sides to stop fighting and start negotiating. On 1 December the revolutionaries at Wuchang had already agreed with Yuan’s emissaries to a three-day local cease-fire. On 7 December, one day after Zaifeng’s resignation as regent, the court consented to a formal parley with the rebels.92 Except at Jingzhou and Yili, the military phase of the revolution was, by and large, over.
Even before the formal talks began at Shanghai in mid-December, each side had begun to stake out its negotiating position. As Yang Du and Wang Jingwei had put it, the choice was between monarchical constitutionalism and democratic (or republican) constitutionalism. The Qing court, by November, had gone a long way toward converting itself from an autocratic to a constitutional regime. It had, for example, agreed to a proto-constitution in the form of the Nineteen-Article Compact and to a “responsible cabinet” headed by an elected (rather than appointed) prime minister; it had also empowered the prime minister to deal with nearly all aspects of governmental administration. Yuan’s emissaries, in their exploratory talks with Li Yuanhong in early November, contended that by these reforms the aims of the revolution had been mostly met. As Liu Cheng’en told Li, “The court still retains the position of emperor nominally, . . . but all power is in the hands of the Han people.”93
The Qing sought to bolster its case for monarchical constitutionalism by facing up to the revolutionaries’ well-worn accusations of racial discrimination. The court, in two edicts issued in early November, repeated its customary denial that such discrimination existed—insisting that, for example, “Manchus and Han are all children of the court” (Man Han jie chaoting chizi)—and it deplored the rebels’ attempts to fan the flames of racial hatred. One of the edicts, promulgated on 10 November, seems to have been occasioned by the sensational murder three days earlier of Wu Luzhen, the Sixth Division commander, at Shijiazhuang.94 Together with the Eleventh Brigade from his own division and the Third Regiment from the predominantly Manchu First Division, Wu Luzhen had been sent to recover Shanxi Province from the revolutionaries and relieve the military threat from the west to Beijing. The politically independent commander quickly earned the enmity of both Yuan Shikai and leading Manchus. On the one hand, Wu publicly criticized Yuan’s campaign against the revolutionaries in Hubei (particularly the “inhumane” burning of the Chinese City at Hankou) and threatened to halt the southward-bound supply trains as they passed through Shijiazhuang; on the other, he secretly plotted with Yan Xishan (1883–1960) and the Shanxi revolutionaries against the Manchu court. On 7 November two disgruntled subordinates shot Wu to death at his field office at the Shijiazhuang railroad station. In retrospect, it appears that it was not the Manchus but Yuan Shikai, concerned that Wu might block him from proceeding to Beijing to take up his new post as prime minister, who was behind the murder; the immediate press reports, however, almost unanimously blamed it on Manchu soldiers from the First Division.95 The 10 November edict, though it did not refer to the circumstances of Wu Luzhen’s death, seems to have been intended to allay anxiety among the Han population of possible Manchu intransigence. Wu Luzhen’s place at the Shanxi front was taken by Cao Kun, who managed to fend off Yan Xishan and his rebel army a month later.
Yuan Shikai, as prime minister, tried to back up the Qing court’s rhetoric of racial impartiality by disposing of two contentious issues in Manchu-Han relations, the “imperial kinsmen’s cabinet” and the queue. Though Yikuang and his ministers had tendered their resignation on 1 November, they were not replaced until the 16th by Yuan’s cabinet, which was strikingly different in membership from its predecessor. Not only was the new cabinet not headed by an imperial prince, but it contained no imperial kinsman at all. (The appointment of someone other than a prince as head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs violated the Boxer Protocol, as the diplomatic corps pointed out, but the legations eventually went along with the change.)96 Also, unlike the two-to-one preponderance of Manchus over Han under Yikuang, Yuan’s ten-member cabinet had only one Manchu as minister (Dashou at Colonial Affairs, with jurisdiction over the non-Han peoples of outer China).97 Furthermore, Yuan’s cabinet, unlike Zaifeng’s court the year before, responded positively to a new initiative by the National Assembly to amend the dynasty’s hairstyle ordinance. In late November the assembly voted once more in favor of a bill that would make queue-cutting mandatory for officials, soldiers, teachers, and students and optional for all others. On 7 December the cabinet, which had now replaced the court as the decision maker on matters of governmental policy, agreed to do away with the queue requirement, but without making its abolition in any way mandatory; instead, it made queue-cutting optional for all by permitting everyone, officials and commoners alike, “freely to cut their hair.” Many Qing officials, including reportedly all two hundred top officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, quickly shed their plait, but not everyone did so.98 Yuan Shikai, for one, kept his until the end of the dynasty.
The revolutionaries, of course, were unimpressed by the dynasty’s deathbed conversion to the cause of monarchical constitutionalism. What they wanted was “democratic” constitutionalism, which meant the overthrow of the Qing dynasty, the end of the monarchy, and the establishment of a republic. At his meeting on 11 November with Yuan Shikai’s two emissaries, Li Yuanhong of the Hubei Military Government questioned the sincerity of the Manchu rulers and wondered how Yuan, in view of how shabbily he had been treated in 1909, could have any trust in them. He told Liu Cheng’en and Cai Tinggan that “the Manchus [Manren] are bandits, while we are the hosts. We have been robbed by the bandits; our women and children and all our belongings have been taken by the bandits.” Li and other revolutionaries insisted that Manchu reformism was insufficient, that the Manchus themselves must go. However, in the interest of bringing the revolution to a quick and successful conclusion, the more moderate elements among the Republicans were willing to make significant concessions to Yuan Shikai, to the Qing imperial house, and to the general Manchu population if they all would agree to the establishment of a republic. As early as 11 November, during his meeting with Liu and Cai, Li Yuanhong stated that if Yuan would defect from the Qing, his government was prepared to recognize him as president of the new republic.99
The revolutionaries also promised, though rather vaguely, to reward the Qing court if it would step aside in favor of a republic. Li Yuanhong, at the 11 November meeting, told Yuan’s emissaries that the court “would be guaranteed pensions and bodily protection”; he also asked Yuan to forward a letter to then Prince Regent Zaifeng in which he repeated the offer “guaranteeing the Throne, if it would abdicate, a pension and honourable treatment.” Li Yuanhong subsequently, on 23 November, pledged publicly “to give favorable treatment to the Qing imperial household” in return for its support for a republican regime.100 The revolutionaries in Shanghai, who did not always see eye to eye with those in Hubei, likewise promised to treat the court well if it would abdicate. On 11 November, the same day that Li Yuanhong in Wuchang made his offer to Yuan Shikai, four prominent Shanghai leaders—Wu Tingfang, Zhang Jian, Tang Wenzhi (1865–1954), and Wen Zongyao (1876–1946), all recent converts from monarchical to democratic constitutionalism—wired a message to Zaifeng arguing that a constitutional monarchy was no longer tenable in China and calling on him to follow the example of the ancient sage kings, Yao and Shun. If the Qing were to abdicate, they said, “the citizenry of China would assuredly reward the imperial household with safety, riches, honor, and glory.”101
The revolutionaries expressed a similar willingness to treat the general banner populace favorably. Thus, the four Shanghai leaders offered, as well, to “safeguard the Manchus and banner people” (anquan Man-qi). Three days later, responding to expressions of concern from some foreign missionaries (notably Gilbert Reid [1857–1927]) about the continued warfare and the plight of the Manchus, Wu Tingfang and Wen Zongyao jointly published an open letter in English addressed “To Our Foreign Friends,” in which they declared anew their “guarantee of full protection for the life and property not only of the Imperial family, but of all Manchus.” They promised, in particular, that “the Manchus may remain in full enjoyment of citizenship, will be entitled to the fullest equality and freedom, and are urged to rest in possession of their lands and property for the future good of the state.”102
These informal and indirect talks in November paved the way for the formal, direct negotiations in Shanghai, which the two sides agreed to in early December. On 7 December the Qing court, now headed by Empress Dowager Longyu, bestowed upon Prime Minister Yuan Shikai “complete authority” and asked him to designate a representative to meet with the southerners to “discuss the general situation.” Yuan appointed Tang Shaoyi (1860–1938), a longtime associate and veteran diplomatic negotiator, as his envoy plenipotentiary. Named to accompany Tang were, among others, Yang Du and Wang Jingwei, who a few days earlier had disbanded their Society for the Joint Resolution of National Problems, when it had become apparent that neither side was then willing to let a citizens’ assembly decide the issue. The revolutionaries, meeting at Wuchang, named Wu Tingfang as their negotiator, with Wen Zongyao as one of his advisors.103
The Qing court’s agreement on 7 December to negotiate with the southerners, coupled with the forced resignation of Zaifeng as regent the day before, unsettled a number of imperial kinsmen. They were particularly troubled by the appointment of Tang Shaoyi as the negotiator for their side. In the two months since the outbreak of the revolution, he had shown an alarming lack of commitment to the dynasty. According to the British minister John Jordan, Tang in mid-November had spent “several hours with Prince Ch’ing [Qing] endeavouring to convince him that the Court ought to make a graceful exit and facilitate a settlement.” Then in early December, taking advantage of the cabinet’s recent decision, he had cut off his braid. Pulun, the fourth-rank prince who had been minister of agriculture, industry, and commerce in Yikuang’s cabinet, told the visiting American financier Willard Straight that “Yuan’s choice of T’ang to represent the government at the Shanghai conference was most unfortunate and has given rise to much suspicion regarding Yuan himself.” Indicative of their concern, these leading Manchus insisted that Tang’s delegation, which included someone from each province, be enlarged to include a representative of the banner people as well. Zhang Furong, a Hanjun from the Hangzhou garrison, was so designated.104
After stopping in Wuchang to meet with Li Yuanhong, Tang Shaoyi and his entourage arrived in Shanghai on 17 December, where he began immediately to confer with the revolutionaries. He met publicly with Wu Tingfang at a series of open sessions held at the Town Hall of the International Settlement’s Municipal Council. However, through the mediation of Wang Jingwei, who on his arrival in Shanghai was appointed an adviser to the southern side as well, Tang also conferred privately with Wu and a wide range of other Republicans at the home of a mutual acquaintance. It was at these nightly meetings that the real negotiations took place. The Town Hall sessions during the day were a mere formality; they repeated in public what the two envoys had already agreed to in private.105
By the time the formal parley began on the afternoon of 18 December, the negotiating stance of the two sides had been staked out. The irreducible demand of the revolutionaries was the establishment of a republic, which necessarily included the termination of the Qing dynasty and the monarchy. However, as various Republican groups had made clear for over a month, if Yuan Shikai were able to arrange for the Qing court to abdicate, they would make him president of the new republic. Furthermore, if the emperor were to step aside voluntarily, the revolutionaries would reward the court as well as the general Manchu populace with favorable treatment. On the other side, what the Qing dynasty (though not necessarily Yuan himself) wanted was the maintenance of the dynasty and the monarchy, even if much of its power were circumscribed within a constitutional framework. Thus, at issue at the Shanghai conference were one main and two subsidiary questions. The main question was whether to keep the current constitutional monarchy or adopt a republican polity. If a republic was agreed upon, the subsidiary questions were how to bring about the abdication of the Qing and what sort of favorable treatment to accord the Qing court and the banner populace.
The main issue, that of choosing between the monarchy and a republic, came up early in the talks and was decided with surprising alacrity. At their second public session, held on 20 December, the Republican negotiator Wu Tingfang asserted that the Qing dynasty had lost all credibility because of its repeated governmental failures and that China was now ready for “republican constitutionalism.” He promised that if the Qing were to abdicate, both the imperial household and the banner soldiers would be provided for. He sought to allay the Manchus’ anxiety, as conveyed by Tang Shaoyi, that the revolutionaries intended to “drive out the Manchus” (jinzhu Manren) from the eighteen provinces of China proper. “We do not hate Manchus,” Wu Tingfang said reassuringly; indeed, “after the changeover, there will be no discrimination whatsoever between Manchus and Han.” Tang Shaoyi, to the dismay but perhaps not surprise of many members of the Qing delegation (including the bannerman Zhang Furong), made no effort at all to argue the case for continuing the monarchy. Instead, he told Wu that he personally agreed that a republic was the only peaceful outcome to the revolutionary crisis. Tang proposed, however, that the decision as to whether China should adopt monarchical rule or “democratic” rule be made by a “national convention,” thus reviving the discarded proposal of Yang Du and Wang Jingwei. While such a meeting would unquestionably decide in favor of democratic rule, it would make the change of regime easier for the Qing to stomach. Tang asked for a week’s recess in the talks, during which he would attempt to persuade Yuan Shikai and the court.106
The Qing court was understandably upset at the conciliatory stance taken by its negotiator at Shanghai. In desperation, it asked Yuan Shikai, who professed to be still committed to a “limited monarchy,” to sound out the British and Japanese ministers to see if their home governments, both constitutional monarchies, would intervene on its behalf in opposition to the Republican cause in China. Though the Japanese were interested, the British were not. John Jordan, instead, threw his diplomatic weight behind Tang Shaoyi’s idea of leaving the choice to a national convention.107 Meanwhile, the week’s recess in the talks was up. On 27 December Tang wired Yuan Shikai urgently requesting a decision. Sun Yat-sen’s return from his years of exile and his arrival in Shanghai two days earlier had introduced a new, possibly complicating element into the negotiations. Furthermore, the military cease-fire to which Tang and Wu had agreed was due to run out on the 31st; Tang doubted that the Republicans would accept an extension in the absence of a decision. If the negotiations were to fail and fighting resumed, “no one can foretell,” he warned, “whether the ancestral cults [zongshe] will survive or perish.” He urged the prime minister to obtain an imperial edict summoning what he now called a “provisional parliament” to decide between monarchical and democratic rule.108
On 28 December Yuan Shikai and his cabinet submitted a memorial communicating the substance of Tang Shaoyi’s telegram and requesting a meeting with the court. They reiterated Tang’s argument that even if the proposed parliament decided in favor of a republic, it would, in gratitude, treat the imperial household generously. On the other hand, if the negotiations ended and fighting broke out again, there was no guarantee that the throne and the aristocracy could be protected. This was not an issue that the cabinet could decide on its own; it required the attention of the court. Empress Dowager Longyu immediately convened a formal court conference, which was attended by at least eight imperial princes (Zaifeng, Yikuang, Shanqi, Zaixun, Zaitao, Pulun, Zaize, and Yulang) as well as by Yuan and his cabinet. The cabinet, as in its memorial, once again asked the court to go along with Tang Shaoyi’s proposal. Otherwise, the court would have to make substantial contributions from its private funds to help with the military expenses, once the fighting resumed. If the court did neither, the cabinet could not continue to function. Faced with such bleak alternatives, most of the princes said nothing. Only Yikuang, with a long history of cooperation with Yuan, spoke in favor of the cabinet’s plan, while two princes—the former grand councilor Yulang and the former finance minister Zaize—were opposed. After five hours of inconclusive debate, Longyu herself made the decision to do as Tang Shaoyi had proposed. She issued an edict in her own name expressing disappointment that the Nineteen-Article Compact had failed to still the political agitation. She authorized the cabinet to summon a provisional parliament that would decide between monarchical and republican constitutionalism.109 Since fourteen provinces were now in the hands of the revolutionaries, how Parliament would decide was never in doubt.
With the court having thus capitulated to Tang Shaoyi’s face-saving mechanism for effecting the Qing dynasty’s abdication, the formal negotiations at Shanghai, suspended since the 20th, resumed on 29 December. At this session and additional meetings the following two days, Tang Shaoyi and Wu Tingfang agreed to an extension of the cease-fire beyond the end of the month. They also agreed on the makeup of the “national convention” (not “provisional parliament”) that would decide China’s future polity, and they discussed, but without initial agreement, the site and date of the convention. Wu wanted to hold it in Shanghai as soon as 8 January; Tang said he would confer with Yuan Shikai, who wanted it held in Beijing but doubted that it could meet quite so soon.110 Finally, Wu Tingfang, with scarcely any public comment from Tang, produced two sets of terms, each with five clauses, concerning the future disposition of the Qing emperor and of the Manchus and other non-Han peoples. The emperor would be accorded the same treatment as that given to the monarch of a foreign country; would retire to the Yiheyuan Summer Palace; would be given an annual subsidy, the size of which would be decided by the future parliament; could continue to perform sacrifices at his ancestral tombs and shrines; and could retain his private wealth. With regard to the “Manchus, Mongols, Muslims, and Tibetans” (Man-Meng-Hui-Zang), they would be treated on a basis of equality with the Han; they could retain their private wealth; the Eight Banner soldiers would continue to receive their grain stipends until a way was found to ensure their livelihood; all previous occupational and residential restrictions on the banner populace would be eliminated; and all ranks and titles of nobility would continue as before.111
Thus, by the last day of December 1911, the Qing court had all but agreed to abdicate; in return, the revolutionaries had clarified their previously vague promises of favorable treatment for the emperor and the banner populace. Only one procedural step remained: the holding of a convention that would formalize the passing of the mandate from the monarchy to a republic. It was generally assumed that this was only a few days off.
ABDICATION AND ITS TERMS
Abdication, however, did not occur for another six weeks. It was delayed because of a couple of unexpected hurdles, the first erected by Yuan Shikai and the second by diehard Manchu royalists. Additional negotiations were required, focusing on the terms of the abdication agreement. As a result of these talks, the final settlement was even more favorable toward the Qing and the Manchus than what Tang Shaoyi and Wu Tingfang had agreed to originally.
The Tang-Wu agreement to which the Qing court had reluctantly given its assent aroused considerable opposition from both ends of the political spectrum. At one end, the more radical elements among the Republicans, including Sun Yat-sen, were outraged that Wu Tingfang had yielded too much to the Qing. They were particularly incensed that he had gone along with Tang’s proposal to wait for a national convention to decide China’s future polity. They refused to wait. On 29 December, four days after Sun’s arrival at Shanghai, representatives from the pro-Republican provinces elected him provisional president; on 1 January 1912, with the adoption of the solar calendar symbolizing the beginning of a new era, they formally proclaimed the establishment of the Republic of China (Zhonghua Minguo), with its capital at Nanjing.112 At the other end, supporters of the Qing, many of them Manchus, were no less upset that Tang Shaoyi, whose loyalty had long been in doubt, had not stood firm for the cause of the monarchy. In late December a group in Beijing founded the Society for Monarchical Constitutionalism (Junzhu Lixian Zancheng Hui). The society was headquartered at a shrine for the Eight Banners (Baqi xianxian ci), and most of its members were banner people. It later came to be known as the Royalist Party (Zongshedang), dedicated to the preservation of the dynasty’s “ancestral temples and cults of the earth” (zongmiao sheji).113
Seemingly in sympathy with the Qing loyalists, Prime Minister Yuan Shikai on 2 January abruptly dismissed Tang Shaoyi as his negotiator, charging that he had exceeded his authority, and repudiated the Tang-Wu agreement. Applauding the move were fifteen northern generals, among them Feng Guozhang, the newly installed commander of the Palace Guard, who jointly wired Yuan’s cabinet voicing their steadfast backing for a constitutional monarchy. They swore that they were willing to fight to the death, and they called on the court nobles and high officials to do their part as well, by paying the costs of continued resistance from their private wealth, including the thirty to forty million taels reportedly on deposit at various foreign banks in Beijing.114
However, Yuan, unlike the Manchu loyalists, was less concerned about the fate of the monarchy than about his own future. His anger was directed not at the Tang-Wu agreement itself but at what he saw as the perfidy of the radical Republicans. He asserted, with some justification, that their formation of the Republic of China violated the provision in the Tang-Wu agreement that China’s future polity would be settled by the yet-to-be-held national convention. He probably wondered if Sun’s election had negated the revolutionaries’ oft-stated promise to make him president if he were to secure the Qing abdication. He was later reassured by Sun Yat-sen himself that Sun would step aside for him if and when he brought an end to the Qing.115
With his future status clarified, Yuan Shikai changed course again. He resumed talking with the Republicans while trying, once more, to persuade the Qing to abdicate. Because the formal face-to-face parley at Shanghai had ended with Tang’s dismissal, the subsequent negotiations were conducted by telegraph between Yuan himself and Wu Tingfang, who despite his differences with Sun’s Republican government remained as its chief negotiator. Tang Shaoyi, too, though disavowed, continued to serve as Yuan’s now unofficial representative in Shanghai.116 The Tang-Wu agreement formed the basis for the new round of talks. The Republicans made it clear that they were still prepared to treat the Qing court and the Manchus generously if the emperor were to abdicate. On 10 January, according to news reports, they wired Beijing the text of a settlement agreement that was virtually identical to what Wu Tingfang had previously presented to Tang Shaoyi. The new proposal differed from the old in only one respect: it called for the emperor, following the abdication, to move to his summer retreat at Rehe, outside the Great Wall, rather than to the Yiheyuan Summer Palace.117
For his part, Yuan Shikai had come around to the view of the radical Republicans that a convention to decide between the monarchy and the Republic was an unnecessary delay. He now pressed the Qing court to accept the revolutionaries’ offer and abdicate at once. By mid-January Yuan seemingly had convinced the court to do as he recommended. On the 14th one of his secretaries (probably Cai Tinggan) informed British minister John Jordan that Empress Dowager Longyu would issue an edict in a few days announcing the emperor’s abdication and putting Yuan in temporary charge of the government. On the morning of the 16th, Yuan personally delivered to Longyu a secret memorial asserting that popular opinion had turned irretrievably away from the Qing. He warned against continued resistance, to avoid the fate of Louis XVI in the French Revolution.118 By coincidence, as if to underline the immediacy of the revolutionary threat, Yuan himself, as he left the Forbidden City to return to his office, was nearly killed in an unsuccessful assassination attempt. Three local members of the revolutionary Alliance were seized and executed by strangulation.119
With Empress Dowager Longyu in charge, the Qing court met the following day, 17 January, to discuss Yuan’s alarming memorial. Both Yikuang and Pulun spoke in favor of the prime minister’s implicit recommendation, which was to abdicate without waiting for a national convention. Yikuang, Yuan’s ally among the princes, reviewed the terms of the Republicans’ offer, while Pulun, notwithstanding his own earlier doubts about Tang Shaoyi’s defeatist attitude, supported Yuan’s assessment that the Qing cause had become militarily and politically hopeless. Even if a convention were held, it would decide against the Qing; it was prudent, therefore, to accept the Republicans’ promise of generous treatment in return for abdication. The other princes at the conference said nothing. Only Nayantu (b. 1873), the Khalka Mongol prince, spoke in favor of continued resistance. Nayantu’s objections seem to have stemmed from worries that Russia would (as it, in fact, later did) take advantage of the Qing abdication to incite the Mongols to become independent of China. Because of Nayantu’s concerns, the conference failed to act on Yuan’s memorial; it adjourned for two days.120
As the court deliberated, Yuan Shikai and the Republicans worked on finalizing the terms of the abdication settlement. On 18 January Wu Tingfang presented a revised draft of the settlement, which was very similar to the two previous versions of 30 December and 10 January. The major changes were four additions to the section about the emperor. One provided that he would be styled as the “abdicated emperor” (rang huangdi) and that his title would be inheritable. Another permitted him to reside “temporarily” in the Forbidden City before moving to the Yiheyuan Summer Palace, thus dropping for good the idea of his retiring to the distant retreat at Rehe. The third specified that his annual stipend, to be set by Parliament, would not be less than three million taels. The fourth was a new clause that the Republic would pay for completing the Guangxu emperor’s tomb, then under construction, as well as for his interment.121
Neither side was entirely happy with Wu Tingfang’s draft. Some radical Republicans were again upset at Wu’s concessions to the Qing. Both Sun Yat-sen and Huang Xing complained about the continued use of the title “emperor” and the inheritability of the title, the emperor’s residence (if only temporary) in the Forbidden City, and the Republic’s responsibility for burying the former emperor. Wu Tingfang replied that Sun himself had earlier consented to the use of the term “abdicated emperor” (rang di) or “Qing emperor” (Qing di) as the future title for the emperor and that, in any case, the title was a mere formality, devoid of significance. Wu also explained that the emperor would delay his move from the Forbidden City to the Yiheyuan only until the end of winter. As for the entombment of the Guangxu emperor, on previous occasions of dynastic change, the victors had always paid for the burial of the vanquished; the Republic should do no less. Tang Shaoyi, representing the Qing side, likewise objected to the term “abdicated emperor” as the future designation of the emperor, presumably because it was insufficiently august.122
In hopes of expediting a decision, Wu Tingfang then made a couple of last-minute alterations to the settlement offer. To meet the objections of Tang Shaoyi, he changed the title of the monarch after abdication to “Qing emperor.” And to meet those of the radical Republicans, he changed, with Tang’s approval, the future status of the emperor’s title: it was no longer “inheritable through the generations without being abolished” (xiangchuan bufei); instead it would be only “retained without being abolished” (rengcun bufei), that is, it could not be passed to the next generation. These changes were incorporated into the set of agreements that Wu Tingfang, with Sun Yat-sen’s blessings, sent to Yuan Shikai on 20 January.123
However, by the time Wu’s new settlement offer was ready for presentation, the attitude of the Qing court had hardened dramatically, thus creating the second of the two hurdles on the road to abdication. The apparent inclination of the court to step down without any resistance, not even requiring a vote by a national convention, had stirred some imperial princes and their outside supporters to belated action. They directed their anger at Yikuang, who at the court conference on 17 January had spoken approvingly of the Republicans’ offer. On the evening of the 18th, representatives of the Society for Monarchical Constitutionalism went to Yikuang’s mansion and loudly denounced him for supporting republicanism; the next day the society issued a fiery proclamation accusing the aged prince of having been bought off by “traitors.” The intimidation had its desired effect. At the next court conference, on the 19th, Yikuang disavowed his former support for abdication. Afterward both he and Pulun, who previously had also favored abdication, asked for and were given several days’ leave.124
The main obstacles to an early abdication were the two predominantly Manchu military units in Beijing, the First Division and especially the Palace Guard, many of whose soldiers were members of the Society for Monarchical Constitutionalism. In mid-January soldiers of the Palace Guard’s First Brigade put out a statement criticizing the revolutionaries for disregarding the court’s political concessions and declaring their continued adherence to a constitutional monarchy, for which they said they were prepared to die; they even asked to be transferred to the Hubei front to help “eradicate the wild bandits.” At this time, soldiers of the Palace Guard were meeting almost daily to vent their anger and frustration. Fanning the soldiers’ discontent from behind the scenes were the two Japanese-trained Manchu loyalists who had been most responsible for organizing and training these two units—Liangbi (former commander of the Palace Guard’s First Brigade) and Yuan Shikai’s old nemesis, Tieliang (former commander of the Nanjing banner garrison, who had just returned to the capital). Both of them were, according to G. E. Morrison, “in close intercourse with the Japanese,” who were known to be cool to republicanism, and both were actively “inspiring in the Manchus distrust of Yuan Shih-kai.”125
Feng Guozhang, Yuan’s appointee as commander of the Palace Guard, insisted on being kept informed but otherwise did little to curb the loyalist activities of his troops.126 Indeed, he himself may have shared their monarchist leanings. Although Feng had begun his military career in Yuan’s service, he had more recently been superintendent of the Nobles Military School and had served on the General Staff Council under the imperial princes Yulang and Zaitao. He had led the First Corps to its two victories on the Hubei front—the recapture of Hankou and then of Hanyang—and he had disapproved of Yuan’s peace overtures to the Hubei revolutionaries. The court, in an unusual show of gratitude, had bestowed upon him the rank of baron, for which he must have been appreciative. Unlike Tang Shaoyi, he had not removed his queue. Finally, Feng Guozhang was one of the fifteen northern generals who on 2 January had proclaimed their support for the Qing, and he was a founder of a group in Beijing called the Alliance of Comrades (Tongzhi Lianhehui), whose purpose was to promote monarchical constitutionalism.127
At court, the most outspoken opponent of abdication was Puwei, Yixin’s grandson and his successor as Prince Gong. In a public letter addressed to the Society for Monarchical Constitutionalism, Puwei explained that he had been on leave at the time of the first court conference on the 17th but that he had become enraged by newspaper accounts that some of the princes in attendance had been recommending republicanism. He vowed to make his case at the next conference. He performed as promised. On the 19th Puwei got into an angry argument with three members of Yuan Shikai’s cabinet. (Yuan himself was absent; though unhurt, he was supposedly recovering from the attempted assassination.) The cabinet members had come with a strange new proposal from Yuan, which called for forming a provisional government in nearby Tianjin. Puwei argued instead for unrelenting military resistance. The Taiping and Nian rebels, he said, had posed a more serious threat, yet the Qing had fought them for almost twenty years; there had been no thought then of negotiating with the rebels or establishing a new government. Why bother to recall Yuan Shikai to office, he asked, if all he did was sue for peace at the first sign of trouble? When Yuan’s foreign minister, Hu Weide (1869–1933), objected that the foreign powers were opposed to a resumption of fighting, Puwei brushed the objection aside by insisting that this was China’s internal matter and doubting that the powers would interfere. Several other princes, including Yulang, Zaize, and Zaitao as well as the Mongol prince Nayantu, joined Puwei in opposing an abject capitulation. However, perhaps because of qualms on the part of Empress Dowager Longyu, the conference again adjourned without a decision.128
At the next court conference, held on the morning of 22 January, Puwei once more urged a policy of armed resistance. He claimed, allegedly on the authority of Feng Guozhang, that troops (presumably the Palace Guard and the First Division), if adequately funded, were available to defend the dynasty. When the empress dowager expressed her worry that if the Qing fought and lost, the Republicans’ offer of favorable treatment would no longer be on the table, Puwei questioned whether the Republicans could be trusted to fulfill the terms of any agreement; in any case, it was ignoble to accept such an offer from the enemy. It would be better to die than abdicate. His views were supported again by Zaize and Nayantu and now by Shanqi as well. Once more, however, there was no decision.129
Puwei and other intransigents evidently believed that if the Qing court resisted and failed, it could still flee Beijing and seek refuge elsewhere, as it had twice done in recent decades. Xi’an, to which the court had fled in 1900 during the Boxer troubles, was out of the question this time because it had been in Republican hands since late October. Nevertheless, there were several possible sanctuaries. One was Gansu, where Governor-General Changgeng was rallying loyalist forces. Another was Rehe, the Qing summer retreat beyond the Great Wall, where the Xianfeng emperor had found refuge in 1860 during the Second Opium War. For about a month the new Rehe lieutenant governor, Xiliang, had been preparing for the arrival of the court. A third possible refuge for the court was Manchuria, the ancestral home of the Manchus, whose governor-general was the Hanjun Zhao Erxun, brother of the murdered Zhao Erfeng. Banner officers in Fengtian reportedly had the approval of Governor-General Zhao to finance and train enough soldiers to form a twenty-battalion army to “rescue the emperor.” A leading proponent of loyalism and resistance in Fengtian was the Manchu reformer Jinliang, whom the Eastern Times called a “second Liangbi.”130
However, to organize a military resistance or prepare a place of refuge would take time. This may explain the conciliatory tone that Puwei, the outspoken champion of armed resistance, adopted in an interview with Gilbert Reid on 22 January, the day of his verbal outburst at court. Puwei suggested that he was opposed not so much to the abdication itself as to the abject means by which it would be accomplished if his opponents had their way. He told the American missionary that he wanted to adhere to the formula originally devised by Tang Shaoyi and Wu Tingfang of leaving the decision to a national convention. According to Reid, Puwei thought that
the dynasty had already yielded too much to the revolutionists. If more was yielded, it should not be under pressure, but in accordance with the distinct wish of the people. . . . There ought to be a representative assembly to express the people’s will. Abdication would be reasonable if the assembly so decided.131
To convene a large representative assembly would, of course, buy the Qing court some valuable time.
The intransigents, in the end, successfully sidetracked the abdication that had seemed all but certain in mid-January. On 24 January Empress Dowager Longyu, despite her personal misgivings, issued an edict that essentially embraced Puwei’s views as expressed in his interview with Reid. Contrary to what the British legation had been told earlier to expect, she did not accede to Yuan Shikai’s recommendation to abdicate without delay. Nor did she take up the abdication agreement that Wu Tingfang had presented on the 20th. Instead, she retreated to her decision of late December to have the question of China’s polity be decided by a national convention, and she called on Yuan Shikai to negotiate with the Republicans about a date and a site, which had been left in abeyance when the Tang-Wu talks were halted.132
The last-minute refusal of the Qing to heed his advice stunned Yuan Shikai, who promptly orchestrated a campaign to pressure the court to reverse its decision. He himself, on 25 January, responded to Longyu’s edict by warning her of its likely consequences. If a national convention were held, it would most certainly insist on ratifying the terms of any abdication agreement that he and the Republicans had negotiated. If this were to happen, he “dared not predict” whether that convention would be so generous to the court as the Republicans had been thus far. In short, as others had already pointed out, it would be far wiser for the court to accept the Republicans’ current settlement offer by abdicating at once than to leave the decision to the caprices of a popular assembly.133
Yuan’s military and civilian supporters likewise castigated the court for its intransigence. On 26 January more than forty Qing generals and military officers joined the new First Corps commander, Duan Qirui, in sending a telegram to Yuan’s cabinet as well as to various imperial princes expressing their displeasure at the court’s delay in abdicating, which they blamed on the mischievous machinations of the princes Zaize and Puwei. It would take months, they said, to convene a national assembly, during which time military defections, popular uprisings, banditry, and even intervention and partition by the foreign powers could occur. If fighting broke out and the Qing forces were defeated, it would then be difficult to provide for “the honor of the imperial household and the livelihood of the imperial clan and the colonial peoples” (huangshi zunrong zongfan shengji). If an assembly were convened, it would in all likelihood opt for a republican polity. Why not, therefore, spare the country several months of turmoil? Why not anticipate the assembly’s decision and establish a republic now? Of the fifteen northern generals who two and a half weeks earlier had pledged to fight to the death for a constitutional monarchy, only two had not changed their tune. One was the Palace Guard commander, Feng Guozhang, and the other was Zhang Zuolin (1875–1928) in Manchuria.134
Yuan’s civilian supporters also began to abandon the Qing. Yang Du, who in late November had been the self-appointed monarchist in the Society for the Joint Resolution of National Problems, on 26 January organized in Beijing the Society for the Advancement of Republicanism (Gonghe Cujin Hui). Yang’s new group, which included among its leading members Wuzesheng, the former editor of the Manchu reformist publication Great Harmony Journal, castigated the imperial princes for having dragged their feet all along. When the people wanted monarchical constitutionalism, the princes had clung to monarchical autocracy; now, when the people demanded democratic republicanism, the princes belatedly embraced monarchical constitutionalism. Yang’s group warned that if the emperor did not abdicate, the revolutionaries might repudiate their settlement offer.135 Indeed, the Republicans were, at this time, making precisely such a threat. On 27 January Wu Tingfang notified Yuan Shikai that the settlement agreement presented on the 20th would be withdrawn if the Qing had not announced its abdication by the time the current cease-fire expired on the morning of the 29th.136
Despite the warnings of Yuan Shikai and his supporters and the threat of the Republicans, the opponents of an immediate abdication held firm for another two or three days. They were undoubtedly emboldened by the apparent loyalty of Feng Guozhang and the Palace Guard to the Qing cause. Feng had conspicuously failed to join Duan Qirui in voicing support for republicanism, while soldiers of the Palace Guard in late January publicly reiterated their commitment to a “monarchical constitutionalist polity.”137 What finally took the wind out of the Manchu resistance and cleared the way for the abdication was the assassination of Liangbi. Liangbi, who together with Tieliang had been most responsible for stirring up the Palace Guard, was assaulted by a revolutionary on the night of 26 January, as he was returning home from a visit to Shanqi, another Manchu loyalist. (It is possible that Yuan Shikai connived in the attack.) He died of his wounds several days later. Liangbi’s murder, coupled with the threatening telegram from Duan Qirui, finally convinced the intransigents, including those in the Palace Guard, that their cause was lost. Tieliang fled Beijing.138
There ensued another series of court conferences, this time to discuss how to respond to Duan Qirui. The previously announced plan to let a convention decide China’s polity was abandoned for good; so was the idea of armed resistance. However, the princes still could not agree on what to do instead. Empress Dowager Longyu was left to make the decision. On the advice of Zaifeng and Yikuang, who were in frequent touch with Yuan Shikai, she gave “full authority” to the prime minister to make whatever deal he could with the Republicans. She announced her decision at a court conference on 2 February and formalized it in an edict the next day. (Puwei and Zaize, the two princes who had led the resistance, were noticeably absent from the conference, while for Yuan it was his first trip back to the Forbidden City since the attempt on his life two weeks earlier.) In her edict to Yuan, the empress dowager said that the court could not bear to bring misery to the multitude just for the sake of the “glory and honor of a single lineage.” She asked him to arrange in advance the terms for the future treatment of the imperial household, the imperial lineage, the Eight Banners, and the Mongols, Muslims, and Tibetans.139
Having finally secured full power from the court, Yuan Shikai proceeded, as directed, to reopen negotiations with the Republicans on the terms of the abdication. The court was dissatisfied with the agreement that Wu Tingfang had presented on 20 January; for example, it objected to the use of the term “abdication” (tuiwei) in the document.140 Consequently, Yuan, working closely with the empress dowager, drew up his own version of an abdication agreement, which he forwarded to the Republicans on 3 February.141 Yuan’s counterproposal was quite different from Wu’s last offer. Overall, it consisted of three sections rather than Wu’s two. As in Wu’s version, the first section pertained to the emperor. Reflecting the sensitivity of the court, Yuan’s proposal omitted all mention of “abdication.” It referred to the emperor as “emperor of the Great Qing” (Da-Qing huangdi) rather than simply as “Qing emperor.” The emperor’s title would be inheritable through the generations, rather than retained only for the duration of the present reign. His annual subsidy would be at least four (not three) million taels, with extra appropriations as needed for special ceremonies. The emperor might choose to reside at the Forbidden City or the Yiheyuan Summer Palace rather than be required to move to the Yiheyuan. Finally, in new provisions not found in Wu’s version, the emperor might retain the use of various officials, servants, and guards, including specifically the Palace Guard, who in a separate clause were assured that their size and pay would be unchanged. (This clause was clearly added to reduce the intransigence of the Palace Guard soldiers by allaying anxiety about their future.)
The second section in Yuan’s counterproposal dealt separately with the imperial lineage, a group not covered in Wu’s version except broadly among the non-Han nobility. Their titles would continue and be inheritable, and their “public rights” would be the same as other citizens, except that they would be exempt from military duty. Finally, the third section—dealing with the Manchus, Mongols, Muslims, and Tibetans—was largely the same as Wu’s, except for the addition of two clauses. One provided for the economic well-being of the nobility separately from the Eight Banners, whose stipends, in both versions, would continue pending the resolution of their livelihood problem; if the nobles were to fall into economic difficulty, they would be given grants of official property that would be inheritable. The other additional clause specified that the non-Han peoples would enjoy religious freedom.
Because of the substantial differences between what Yuan now proposed and what the Republicans had offered two weeks earlier, Wu Tingfang took Yuan’s draft to Nanjing to show to Sun Yat-sen and his Republican government. On 5 February the Republican Senate agreed to substitute Yuan’s version for Wu’s as the basis for the next round of negotiations, but then demanded a number of revisions, some of which were new additions and others were restorations from Wu’s discarded version.142 Most of the changes were made in the section dealing with the emperor, some of them substantive and others semantic. Of the substantive changes, the Republicans added a prefatory clause to Yuan’s text declaring that “the Qing emperor recognizes the Republican polity,” and they specified that the emperor’s “preferential treatment” was conferred on him by the Republic of China, an entity that Yuan had not recognized. They rejected the provision in the Beijing text that the emperor’s title was inheritable; they insisted, as Wu had, that only the present emperor might retain the title after his abdication. They agreed nominally with Yuan to increase the emperor’s subsidy from three to four million but effectively kept it at about the same amount by changing the monetary unit from taels to dollars; they refused to assume the extra costs of special ceremonies.
The Republican Senate refused also to allow the emperor to choose his residence; they insisted, as Wu had, that he retire to the Yiheyuan, though he could stay in the Forbidden City “temporarily.” They agreed with Yuan’s additional provisions about the emperor’s servants and guards but insisted that no more eunuchs be brought into the palace; and while they consented to the continued existence of the Palace Guard, they demanded that the unit, which had been under the separate control of the court, be brought under the authority of the Ministry of the Army. Among the semantic changes, one was to insist that the monarch be styled simply “Qing emperor,” as Wu had wanted, and not the more august “emperor of the Great Qing.” Another was to reinsert into the document references to the Qing’s “abdication,” though Wu’s term tuiwei was replaced with the comparable sunwei. In the rest of the document, the Nanjing Senate accepted the addition of a separate section for the imperial lineage, but was willing to assume only a vague obligation to provide for the welfare of the non-Han nobility. It rejected outright the inheritability of the titles and ranks belonging to the imperial lineage and the non-Han nobility. It did, however, agree to continue to distribute the banner soldiers’ stipends pending a solution to the long-standing Eight Banners’ livelihood problem.
A day later Wu Tingfang wired the amended text of the abdication agreement back to Yuan Shikai, who in turn presented it to Longyu and the Qing court. The court found most of Nanjing’s revisions tolerable, but objected to the apparent reduction in the size of the emperor’s subsidy as well as a few other changes, including some of the changes in phrasing. Yuan asked Wu to make several modifications in the Nanjing draft. He suggested that the emperor’s subsidy of four million be paid first in taels, at least until the new dollar currency had been put into effect. He continued to insist that the emperor be addressed as “emperor of the Great Qing,” not simply as “Qing emperor,” and that the title be inheritable. He asked that the repugnant term “abdication” (sunwei) be deleted or at least replaced by “resignation” (zhizheng). He also opposed transferring control of the Palace Guard from the court to the Ministry of the Army. At Yuan’s instigation, the northern generals, with Feng Guozhang and Duan Qirui now in agreement, wired Wu Tingfang with their objections as well; they too protested against the noninheritability of the emperor’s title and the inclusion of the objectionable term for “abdication.”143
On 9 February Wu Tingfang, acting on the limited authority given to him by the Republican Senate, replied that he was willing to make some, but not all, of the changes that Yuan asked for. On the one hand, he bowed to Yuan’s insistence that the emperor be given the title “emperor of the Great Qing,” and he accepted Yuan’s suggestion that the emperor’s stipend be paid initially in taels and only afterwards in dollars. On the other hand, he was unwilling to delete the term “abdication” or replace it with “resignation,” though he proposed substituting ciwei (with its connotation of a voluntary stepping down) for sunwei (which, like tuiwei, implies a degree of coercion). He did not budge from the Republicans’ insistence that the emperor’s title be noninheritable and that he be required to move to the Yiheyuan. Nor did he compromise on the demand that the Palace Guard be transferred to the authority of the Ministry of the Army.144
Wu Tingfang reminded Yuan and the court that there were limits to the concessions the Republicans could make and that the more radical elements among the Republicans thought that those limits had already been exceeded. In Guangdong both the military governor and the Provincial Assembly were outraged. Governor Chen Jiongming (1878–1933) on 8 February sent a public telegram protesting the emperor’s retention of his title and continued residence in Beijing; the assembly objected to the continuance of the Palace Guard and called for the resumption of military action against the Qing if the terms were not changed. The veteran revolutionary Tan Renfeng (1860–1920) similarly complained that the preferential treatment promised the emperor was unnecessary and unwise. In Shanghai the newly founded Socialist Party (Shehuidang) on 10 February hosted a public meeting to denounce Wu Tingfang and the Republican Senate for their spineless behavior.145 Wu conceded that the terms were extraordinarily generous, but so long as they did not conflict with the principle of republicanism, he told Li Yuanhong, he was willing to offer them in the interest of securing an early abdication. His colleague in the negotiations, Wang Jingwei, replied in a similar vein to Governor Chen Jiongming, the Guangdong assembly, and other critics within the revolutionary Alliance.146
As the Qing abdication became likely, Yuan Shikai took precautions against unrest in Beijing among those who might still be opposed. He transferred certain units of the Palace Guard and the First Division out of the capital and replaced them with Han units from the Third and Twentieth Divisions and from Jiang Guiti’s troops. He also directed Feng Guozhang, who had come to accept the inevitability of republicanism, to pacify the Palace Guard. Feng went to their new barracks at Changchunyuan, assembled all the officers and soldiers, and patiently explained to them the terms of the proposed abdication agreement, including the clause promising their unit’s continued existence. He told them that nothing more could be done to protect the imperial household.147 As a result, soldiers of the Palace Guard in early February announced that they no longer were opposed to the court’s abdication. At about the same time, the Society for Monarchical Constitutionalism conceded that the trend toward republicanism was inexorable and promised that it would disband once the court had acted.148
Bowing to the inevitable, the Qing dynasty abdicated on 12 February 1912, five days shy of the lunar new year, as Empress Dowager Longyu issued three edicts. One was the abdication edict itself, which was drafted by Zhang Jian for the Republicans and revised by Yuan Shikai. In it the empress dowager admitted that the Qing had lost the Mandate of Heaven; she therefore transferred the emperor’s sovereignty to the “entire nation” and established a “constitutional republican polity.” In a proviso inserted by Yuan without the prior consent of the revolutionaries, she conferred “full authority” upon Yuan Shikai to organize a provisional republican government and instructed him to negotiate with the “people’s army” so as to bring about the reunification of north and south. She ended with the hope that the “territories of the five ethnic groups [wuzu]—Manchu, Mongol, Han, Muslim, and Tibetan—would unite to form one great Republic of China.” Longyu’s second edict called on all officials, in Beijing and in the provinces, to maintain peace and order during the critical transitional period. The third edict sanctioned the terms of the abdication agreement on which Wu Tingfang and Yuan Shikai had labored for more than five weeks.149
The abdication agreement in its final form consisted of three sections. The first section, known as the Articles of Favorable Treatment (Youdai Tiaojian), concerned the “emperor of the Great Qing.” It provided that following his “stepping down” (ciwei) he would retain his imperial title throughout his life and the Republic of China would treat him with the same degree of ceremony shown monarchs of foreign countries, that the Republic of China would bestow upon him an annual subsidy of four million taels (to be changed to dollars when a new currency system had been adopted), that he could reside “temporarily” in the Forbidden City but “at a later date” would move to the Yiheyuan Summer Palace, and that the Republic of China would offer special protection to all of his private property. It also provided that the emperor would “retain and use as customary” his attendants and bodyguards as well as all other categories of service personnel, except that no more eunuchs could be recruited. It promised that the Republic of China would provide military protection for the perpetual observances at the imperial temples and tombs and would pay for the completion of the Guangxu emperor’s tomb and for his funeral. Finally, it stated that the Palace Guard would be placed under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Army of the Republic of China but that their statutory strength and stipends would remain as before.
The other two sections of the abdication agreement covered the Qing imperial lineage (Qing huangzu) on the one hand, and the Manchu, Mongol, Muslim, and Tibetan ethnic groups (minzu) on the other. The section on the imperial lineage specified that the princes and hereditary nobles would continue as before, that the imperial lineage would possess the same public and private rights under the Republic of China as would all other citizens, that all their private possessions would be protected, and that they were exempt from the obligation of military service. The section on the Manchus, Mongols, Muslims, and Tibetans provided that the Republic of China would treat them on an equal basis with the Han, protect their private property, permit the princes and hereditary nobles to continue as before, and allow them freely to practice their native religions. It also promised to devise methods of livelihood for princes experiencing economic difficulty as well as for members of the Eight Banner system and, furthermore, until solutions to the economic problems of the Eight Banners were found, to distribute the rations to the Eight Banner soldiers as of old. Finally, it abolished all of the former restrictions on the banner people’s occupation and residence and allowed them to be registered with their local administrative unit.
By these edicts, China passed from a monarchy to a republic. The Republicans were, of course, incensed by Yuan Shikai’s last-minute move, in which he received his authority to form a new government from the Qing. All along they had said that they would accept Yuan as president but that he must derive his authority from them and not from the Qing. Nevertheless, despite their misgivings about his intentions, they followed through on their own promises. On 13 February, the day after the Qing abdication, Sun Yat-sen resigned his post, and on the 15th, the Republican Senate unanimously elected Yuan as the new provisional president of the Republic of China. Also on that day, Sun Yat-sen and a large entourage traveled to the tomb of the Hongwu emperor near Nanjing and solemnly announced to the spirit of the founder of the Ming dynasty that the Qing conquest of Ming China had been avenged and that finally, after 268 years, the shameful occupation of China by the “Eastern Barbarians” (Donghu) had come to an end.150
The Qing abdicated four months and two days after the Wuchang Revolt. The rapidity of its collapse did not mean that the Qing had failed to mount a credible military and political response to the revolution. To the contrary, the court succeeded within days of the outbreak of the revolution in sending a large force to Hubei and by the end of November had recaptured two of the three Wuhan cities; it had also opened up a second front against the revolutionaries in Shanxi and managed eventually to drive them out of the capital city of Taiyuan. Politically, by the terms of the Nineteen-Article Compact, the Qing had transformed itself from an autocratic to a constitutional monarchy. Yuan Shikai, elected prime minister by the National Assembly, headed a “responsible cabinet” that performed nearly all of the executive and administrative functions formerly monopolized by the throne. The Qing also finally did away with the controversial queue requirement. If these concessions had been made months and years earlier, they might well have taken the wind out of the revolutionary sail. However, by the time they were made in November and December 1911, they were much too late. In one provincial capital after another, the civil and military elite, as represented by the chairman of the Provincial Assembly and the commander of the local New Army respectively, scarcely hesitated before throwing in their lot with the revolutionaries. It was their defection, born of repeated disappointments with the Qing, that doomed the dynasty and brought about its speedy demise.
Brief as it was, the revolution was hardly bloodless; it was far from a “very minor affair” in which (according to a recent study) “no more than 1,000 to 2,000 died.”151 The casualties among the banner people at Xi’an alone were several times that. A disproportionate number of the people killed and wounded during the revolution were Manchus, victims of the virulent racist rhetoric that had been a staple of the revolutionaries’ ideology for over a decade. As the Republicans neared success, some of them, as had Wang Jingwei in 1910, toned down the racial element of their message. Thus, to a group of Manchu students stranded in Japan by the outbreak of the revolution, the veteran firebrand Zhang Binglin offered reassurances that the revolutionaries had no intention of massacring them to pay back their ancestors’ atrocities against the people of Yangzhou.152 On the other hand, the blood-curdling rhetoric and the racist talk had by no means disappeared. For example, in early November 1911 the Shanghai Military Government announced that “in carrying out its heavy responsibility of restoration [guangfu], it could avenge the bitter hatred of the Han race [Hanzu] only by wiping out [shajin]” the Manchus. As late as the day before the Qing abdication, Sun Yat-sen was still referring to the Manchus by the derogatory term “caitiff” (lu), as when he renamed the Republicans’ northern expeditionary troops the “army to quell the caitiffs” (taolujun).153 Indeed, several days later at Hongwu’s tomb, he again denigrated them as the “Eastern Barbarians.” Stirred by such inflammatory messages, some of the revolutionaries, not surprisingly, sought to carry out genocide. At the same time, many banner people, fearing that the Republicans were as anti-Manchu as they professed, were driven to suicide lest they fall into the hands of their bloodthirsty enemy. It is also clear from the numerous instances of hapless Manchus who tried to pass themselves off as Han that despite extensive and long-term acculturation, there remained certain identifying signs—such as residence, speech, dress, and the size and shape of women’s feet—that until 1911 continued to separate Manchus from Han. It was not until the abdication agreement itself that the residential and occupational restrictions on the banner people were, at long last, removed.
Finally, as some radical Republicans complained, the abdication agreement that capped the success of the revolution was extraordinarily favorable to the Manchus. Unable to capture or depose the Xuantong emperor (who had just turned six when he abdicated), the revolutionaries allowed him to keep a semblance of his former title and to continue to live at one of his palace complexes, and they even granted him and his household an enormous annual pension. When the journalist G. E. Morrison first learned that the Qing wanted a subsidy of four million taels, which by one estimate was equivalent to more than 1 percent of China’s national revenue, he dismissed it as a “quite preposterous amount”; hardly a Republican sympathizer, he thought that one million was more than ample, especially since the Qing itself had pensioned off the former prince regent with fifty thousand taels.154 The Republicans, however, consented to the larger sum. They also promised to keep up, at least for a while, the monthly payments to the Eight Banner soldiers. These terms in the abdication agreement were the product of genuine give-and-take between the Republicans and the Qing that lasted over three months; they were not imposed by the victorious revolutionaries upon a vanquished foe. While the public talks at Shanghai in December between Tang Shaoyi and Wu Tingfang may indeed have been no more than a public-relations ploy and a facade, the subsequent long-distance negotiations between Yuan Shikai and Wu Tingfang were real enough. The Republicans’ eventual generosity, seemingly at odds with their long-standing diatribes against the “Tartar caitiffs,” was surely motivated by the desire to avoid a prolonged military struggle and with it the possibility of foreign intervention. From their perspective, it was a small price to pay to persuade the Qing dynasty to give up and accept the inevitable sooner rather than later.