Mr. Denby to Mr. Blaine.

No. 1448.]

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.

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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 northern enemy.

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 enemy.

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 this improbable.

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.

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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.,

Charles Denby.
[Inclosure 1, on No. 1448.—Translation.]

Memorial from Peking Gazette, December 11, 1891.

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 localities.

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 darkness.

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 the troops.

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. 1443.—Translation.]

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.

Respect this.

  1. Military commissioner for Manchurian provinces.
  2. Military governor of Sheng Ching.
  3. Commander-in-chief of Chihli.