Mr. Denby to Mr.
the United States,
Peking, December 22, 1891.
(Received February 8, 1892.)
Sir: The insurrection in the northern part of this
province, which once threatened to assume alarming proportions, has been so
far overcome as to render certain its ultimate complete repression.
As to the progress of this movement, the official reports in the Peking
Gazette, unreliable as such reports are, have so far been our only sources
of information. Of the true causes of the uprising almost nothing can be
known. The rumors which have succeeded one another in Peking are most
contradictory. At one time it was reported that the rebellion had originated
in the action of a young man of an influential family whose father had been
unjustly executed. Later it was reported that a Mongol noble had carried off
the daughter of a Chinese settler. A mob was organized for her recovery;
some members of the mob were imprisoned, and the rebellion began with an
armed attack upon the Yamen for their release.
Antagonism to Christianity probably did not figure to any great extent in the
movement. Many hundreds of native Catholics have doubtless been killed, but
this is to be accounted for by the fact that in wide areas north of the
Great Wall, converts to the Catholic church comprise almost the total
population. It is certain that when once under way, the uprising took the
form of a revolt against the reigning dynasty. The leader of the movement
called himself Mieh Ch’ing Wang,” which may be translated “Prince
overthrower of the Chings.” Ching being the dynastic title of the present
Emperor. The rebel troops carried flags on which were displayed a painted or
embroidered cock, in allusion to a saying for many years current amongst the
people: “Fear not the tiger which comes from the south, but fear the chicken
which comes from the north.” The power of proverbs is very great among the
populace in China, and the rebels doubtless hoped to enlist under their
banners many believers in the destiny of this dynasty to be overthrown by a
The past history of China affords many instances of the fulfillment of such
prophetic sayings. It was said of Shih Hwang-ti, the builder of the Great
Wall and one of China’s greatest emperors, that his empire would be
endangered by Hu. He accordingly devoted all his
energies to the conquest of the barbarous tribes on his northern frontier,
who were known as the Hu, but the prophecy was
unexpectedly accomplished when he was assassinated by his own son and
successor, Hu Hai.
It is probable that the present rebellion is only an exaggerated instance of
the depredations of organized bands of robbers, such as occur every year
north of the Great Wall on a smaller scale. One peculiar feature this year
is the presence among the rebels of many Taoist priests, who are supposed to
be able with magic spells to protect their followers from the bullets of the
The locality to which the operations of the rebels have thus far been
confined is that part of the province of Chihli northeast of Peking, beyond
the Great Wall, adjoining the Palisades which mark the Manchurian frontier.
The reports in the Gazette, however, indicate a fear of further disturbance
near Urga, the capital of Mongolia, and also near the Amur River in
Manchuria. Should the insurgents be able to reach Urga and involve the
Mongol tribes in their movements, the matter would become much graver than
it has been. The vigorous action of the imperial troops, however, renders
As to the loss of life, nothing definite can be known. Twelve hundred
Catholics are said to have been killed by the insurgents and great
atrocities committed against them. The lists of killed and captured of the
enemy in the Gazette will not exceed three thousand, while the losses to the
Government troops are represented as less than one hundred. The people, as
is usual in China, have suffered from both sides. For some time it was
impossible to hire carters or muleteers to go out of Peking, as the
Government troops were ruthlessly impressing all vehicles to transport
materials of war.
This uprising has never occasioned the uneasiness among the foreign residents
of Peking which certain telegrams sent abroad might lead one to imagine. The
missionaries at Tsun-hua were much nearer the scene of the disturbance and
in much greater danger. Upon the orders of the local authorities they were
compelled to abandon their mission and take refuge in Tien-Tsin. As to
Peking there was scarcely any evidence of the hostilities going on just
beyond the northern passes, and no apprehension as to personal safety was at
any time felt.
Translations of some of the notices of the progress of the war, which have
appeared in the Gazette up this date, are inclosed herewith. These
inclosures and that in my dispatch No. 1441 of the 8th instant constitute
the only official information to be obtained on the subject.
I have, etc.,
[Inclosure 1, on No.
Memorial from Peking Gazette, December 11,
Your servants, Ting-an* and Yu-lu,† kneeling,
memorialize the throne, giving details of the movements of troops toward
Chao-yang Hsien, for the suppression of the rebellion there, and of the
battles fought, as well as of the reinforcements of horse and foot
soldiers which have been sent on.
Upon their reverent memorial they pray the sacred glance.
Your servants have already stated in a memorial that, when they received
information of the rebellious disturbances at Jeho and Chao-yang Hsien,
they consulted together as to forwarding troops for the defense of these
On the 22d November, your servant Yü-lu received by telegram an imperial
decree ordering a memorial to be presented on the actual state of
affairs. On the 26th he received another decree ordering that copies of
the said decree be reverently made and forwarded to Teng-sheng-a and
others in command of troops, directing them with earnest efforts and
united strength to assist in putting down the rebels. This is all a
matter of record.
On the 25th November, your servants received from Nieh-Kuei-ling,
recorded for the rank of general, a telegram announcing that he had
information that the rebels had had an engagement with the braves at
Chao-yang Hsien on the 20th. That at once the several divisions of the
army were led forward with the utmost speed to entrap them. From first
to last two hundred or more rebels were killed and a score or so taken
alive. The mass of them fled. On the 21st they were pursued to
Tao-hua-ti, 20 miles east of Chao-yang-Hsien, and attacked with the
utmost vigor, fifty being killed. In this engagement Chang Wan-lu, a
military mandarin of the 6th grade, lost his life and corporal Wang
Fu-huei sustained serious wounds. The rebels fled under cover of the
On the 22d, the troops continued the pursuit. The rebels, to the number
of upwards of two thousand, had the boldness to offer resistance in
order of battle. Nieh Kuei-lin directed, Yen Wen-kuei, who was
cooperating with him and Yang Chin-shan, a subordinate officer, to
advance with all their cavalry and attack the enemy from the east.
Officers Chang Yu-liang, Chou Ting-shun, and Cha-lan-shulin, with the
horsemen of the Chiehsheng battalion at Chin Chou, were to attack from
the west. Yang Yung-an, Chang Kuei-yuan, in command of the infantry of
the central and rear battalions, and Wu Chao-hsiang and Li Tien-shou,
were ordered to attack along the central road. At 8 o’clock the
engagement began and continued during eight hours. Our troops assaulted
the enemy with great vigor. At 2 p.m. the rebels were exhausted and
completely routed; they fled in confusion. They were pursued more than
10 miles and upward of seven hundred slain, thirty prisoners being
taken. Two hundred guns and other weapons and twenty big and little
“cross”flags were captured. After our troops were recalled from the
pursuit, examination showed that seven soldiers had been wounded. The
rebels fled northwards, the darkness preventing further chase. The
troops have now, however, marched with great speed to His-kuan-ying-tzu,
northwest of the city of Chao-yang Hsien, in pursuit.
On the 24th, 25th, and 26th November we received telegrams from
Heng-teng-ming, having the recorded rank of general, stating that early
in the morning of the 24th he led his troops to Lao-ya-kou, 20 miles
from Ching-ho-men, which is within the borders of the district of
Chao-yang, where he met a detached company of rebels numbering about
three hundred. He at once attacked them with his troops, killing forty
and taking Kuo-Wan-chang and twenty-eight others prisoners. More than
one hundred people were burned to death and many weapons captured. The
rebels fled to Ta-miao, San-chia-tzu, Chu-lo-ho-tai, and other places.
On the 25th they were pursued to the last-named place, where they had
assembled to the number of about one thousand four hundred men. They
were all provided with weapons and offered resistance. The general led
on his troops in divisions and fought the rebels from 8 [Page 80] o’clock in the morning until 4 in the
afternoon. The rebels suffered a great defeat, losing several hundred
dead. Those who remained fought their way to the mountains and escaped.
Their tracks are being followed and they are attacked wherever
information leads to their discovery.
I-shou, military commandant of I-chou, and Chen Jung-chang, magistrate of
the same place, report on the 28th that they were informed that there
were rebels escaping beyond the borders to the east; that on the 20th
they had dispatched Sergeant Chang Chi-te and Ko-shing-o, an officer of
the Chieh Sheng battalion, at the head of their soldiers, to follow
along the boundary and hunt them out and seize them. On arriving at
Shui-chuan-tun they suddenly encountered seventy or eighty rebels, with
whom were a large number of women who, weapons in hand, came on like
ants. The officers, deploying their forces, advanced to the attack. The
rebels seemed to be afraid and retreated into an inclosure. The sergeant
and officers forced their way in, when Chang Chi-te was wounded on both
hands and Ko-shing-o was severely cut on the left hand. They continued,
nevertheless, to lead their forces in the fight. On this occasion two
rebels were killed, one man and one woman. Tu Pa-shih, a leader of a
sect, was also put to death, together with seven male and two female
rebels. Yang-ming, their leader, seizing an opportunity, fled, but was
afterwards taken with some other prisoners.
On the 28th November Capt. I-sang telegraphed that he had, on the 26th,
at the Great Temple in the district of Cho-yang, encountered the rebels,
of whom he killed seventy or eighty and took twenty prisoners.
All the troops dispatched to Chao-yang have exhibited the utmost bravery
and their conduct has been most satisfactory. It is learned, however,
that rebels of the above character exist in numerous bands at Chao-yang,
Chian-ping, and San-chou Hsien. They are found in all places lending
assistance to one another. Accordingly your servant Yu-lu dispatched, on
the 25th November, Col. Cheng Nan-sen, of Shantung, with all his foot
soldiers, to Chao-yang to lend assistance when occasion offers. He has
been instructed to order the several bodies of troops to keep one
another informed and to support one another in their measures. They are
in no wise to relax their diligence.
It is reported that northwards near Hsin-li-tun and Ho-la-tao-li-kai,
beyond the borders, there were also bands of rebels burning, killing,
and robbing. These places all adjoin Manchuria, and it is to be
seriously apprehended that they will make their way thither and create
an uprising. In the vicinity of Kang-ping, moreover, there are roads
leading in all directions. The country is open and spacious. Your
servants, therefore, on the 23d November, decided to send thither
Yen-Chang Yung-ching with his infantry forces, and to order the horse
and foot soldiers now at the eastern border to proceed to
Chang-wu-tai-men, Hsin-li-tun, and the vicinity of Urga, for the
protection of those localities. Two battalions of Manchu troops and the
white-bordered banner of cavalry from the Chieh Gheng army are attached
to the forces of Brigadier Kuo-chuan, and ordered to proceed to
Fa-ku-men, Kang-ping Hsien, Lias-hai-tun and the country of the Korchin
Mongols, to unite in guarding these places and as a reinforcement for
Teng-sheng-a has been instructed to take seasonable measures for putting
down the rebellion. Should we receive any further information, a further
memorial will be submitted.
This memorial is reverently submitted, etc.
[Inclosure 2 in No.
Imperial decree, December 12, 1891.
Yeh Chi-choa* and others have presented a memorial giving the
particulars of victories gained over the bands of rebels by the imperial
troops in their attack upon them at Yu-shu-lin and other places.
As the territory of the Ka-la-chin and other Mongol banners had suffered
from rebellious disturbances, an imperial decree ordered Yeh Chi-chao to
dispatch troops for their defense. The said provincial
commander-in-chief thereupon ordered Col. Pan Wang-tsai to advance from
Wu-hu-maliang and, step by step, to overcome the rebels. On the 29th day
of the 10th moon (30th November) he arrived at Yu-shu-lin and engaged
them in battle. More than two thousand rebels blocked up the entrances
to the streets and offered a determined resistance. Capt. Chiang
Kuang-tung and other officers, leading on their brave soldiers in
several divisions, attacked them on all sides. The battle raged during a
space of four hours and the rebels [Page 81] were entirely defeated. Many horses and arms were taken. The rebels
in the vicinity, hearing of the engagement, came to their comrades’
assistance. They were met by detached companies of troops and overcome.
In these engagements several leaders clad in yellow garments were
killed, and more than one hundred rebels, both mounted and on foot,
fell. The usurping prince, Chi Yao-shih, and the pretended general, Hou
Sun-hui, and three others, were all put to death.
Afterwards the troops advanced to the defeat of the rebels living at Hsi
chiao-tou and at Yeh-po-shou and vicinity, eastward of Chien-chang. Here
were gathered together for purposes of murder and robbery Liao-huai and
other leaders, in command of more than a thousand men. On the 3d
December Lieut. Gen. Nieh Shih-cheng led troops to their destruction.
Lieut. Col. Yeh Yu-piao and other officers attacked the rebels on the
right and left and put to death Liao-huai and four hundred of his
followers, and took many guns, cannon, carts, horses, flags, and drums.
The rebel horde fled in confusion.
Nieh Shih-cheng has now led his various companies with great rapidity to
the vicinity of Hei-shui for the overthrow of another band of rebels,
and the important highways near Ping-chuan and Chien-chang are now open
to traffic. Orders have been issued to Yeh Chi-chao to command the
officers and soldiers to avail of this favorable occasion to advance and
with united efforts to overcome the rebellion. It is imperative to wipe
out every company of rebels of the several Mongol banners and to allow
none to escape, in order to restore order to these outlying regions and
peace to the country.