Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 5, 1892
Mr. Denby to Mr. Blaine.
Peking , February 1, 1892 . (Received March 21.)
Sir: I have the honor to inclose, herewith, a clipping from the North China News, which contains an account of the recent Mongolian insurrection, written by a Chinese priest.
I have the honor to be, sir, etc.,
The rebellion in Mongolia.
We append a translation of a letter written by a Chinese priest from the center of the terrible scenes which have been enacted in the north. The letter is dated 15th December, and has just reached Shanghai.
There are in Mongolia two sects, the Taoists (Tsai-li) and the Rationalists (Kin-tan-tao) whose members, gathered from every class of people, literati, merchants, laborers, officials, and the like, have long been infamous in the country for their injustice and wickedness. One of their leaders, named Hu-Yong had, in particular, become, the terror of the inhabitants on account of his burglarious habits. Finding himself watched by the local mandarins, who waited for a good opportunity to seize him, he fled away to Sankiatz in the district of Kienchang, where he had many partisans and could, with their help, continue his life of rapine.
The crop last year having been almost destroyed, the people of that district were soon reduced to misery. Impelled by hunger they applied, about the beginning of August, to the petty magistrates and to the rich merchants for grants of rice, promising to repay them in the autumn. Every one in China knows what such promises are worth. The merchants promised to comply with the request, and a day was appointed [Page 88] on which an equal distribution of rice was to be served out to every person, whether a native or a stranger. In the meanwhile, however, the crafty merchants secured the help of Hu-Yong, and when two days after a long file of men and women, bag in hand, walked up to the rice shop they found the brave standing by the front door. There was a moment of hesitation, but hunger was stronger than fear. They rushed on the man who, knocked down and trampled under foot by the crowd, was soon a corpse. Fearing the consequences of their act and anticipating retaliation from the dead man’s confreres the people agreed to lay the blame on the Christians, and the rumor was soon circulated throughout the town that the Christians were guilty of the crime. Without inquiring into the facts of the case, the Rationalists took up the cry; threats of death were freely uttered against the Christians, and a riot became imminent. Message after message was sent to the yamên, but the appeals for protection were disregarded by the local mandarin, who contented himself by saying the reports were unfounded and there was nothing to fear. In short, help was refused.
This was the state of affairs when, on the 16th of the tenth moon (November 17), a violent mob rushed to the residence of the missionaries at Sankiatz, broke into the house, seized the Chinese priest, Ling, stole all they could lay their hands on, and burnt church, house, and orphanage. Of all the persons living there, men, women, and orphans, not a single one was left alive; some were burnt in the house, others killed on the spot. Some who escaped from the building were soon overtaken and slaughtered. Then the mob scattered in all directions in search of new victims, and wherever houses of Christians were found the inhabitants were murdered, their property stolen, and the houses burnt to the ground.
The fiendish work is not over yet. Two victims are still captive. Father Ling is dragged to a temple and tied fast to one of the two masts in front of it. He is called upon to apostatize, but threats are vain; he remains firm. Guns are then leveled at him and he is shot dead; his body is immediately ripped up and pulling from the still panting body the heart, liver, and lungs, the murderers fix these ghastly trophies to the top of the mast. There remains a woman with child. Kerosene is poured over the poor mother and they burn her alive.
After this first exploit, in which some hundred Christian families were thus slaughtered, the rioters proceeded to Pingchünchow. Another appeal for protection was made to the subprefect Wen Pu-ni, but though renewed several times, it was always in vain. The rioters, however, were not yet so bold as to act openly. They sent a message to the mandarin. They had not, they said, taken arms against the Government; they only asked him to carry out their revenge against the Christians by burning and destroying their houses. This strange license being granted them, they entered the town, sacked and burned down the church, the orphanage, and houses of the Christians. Far from opposing them, the officials and soldiers of the yamên, in the hope of sharing in the booty, kindly invited the plunderers to search out all the Christians, and proclaimed that any person who should give shelter to Christians would be treated as such. The complaisant Wen Pu-ni in the meantime was spreading the rumor that in the residence of the missionaries there was hid a huge heap of bones—bones of children devoured by cannibal foreigners, of course—and sent this piece of news by letter to Gen. Yeh, who is said to be one of the Kin-tan-tao.
Gen. Yeh no sooner received the letter than he issued a proclamation against Christians and sent copies of it everywhere. The calumny was believed, and equally exasperated against the Kin-tan-tao men, the Tsai-liman, and the Christians, the people rose up against them, the former rioters openly declared themselves, and a regular rebellion now broke out.
Ch’aoyang Hsien was soon occupied by thousands of rebels; the prisons were broken open, all criminals were let loose, and the rage of the rebels was turned against the inhabitants. Their property was seized, and themselves butchered. Several noble families were massacred and so few people escaped in that great town and the surrounding districts, that for a distance of several hundred li not a family has been spared.
A certain Chu, one of the ringleaders, assumed the title of emperor, and to give himself greater prestige, took as wives and concubines several of the wives and daughters of the massacred nobles.
Another leader named Wei Lao-tao, renowned for magic, art, gave his soldiers a spell which was supposed to preserve them from death. Every morning they were to swallow a magic pill intended to give them courage. On their flags was written “Hsing Ta Ming” (let us raise the dynasty of the Ming), “Mich Ta Ts’ing” (and destroy the present dynasty of the Ts’ing); and also “Yong hwa fu kuei tsai men” (honor, riches, dignities are to us).
In every town or village through which the rebel forces passed they proceeded to kill all the inhabitants.
Fortunately, after a time, Li Hung-chang sent troops against them. On the 20th of the tenth moon (November 21), the first battle was fought. The rebels numbered upwards of ten thousand men. Wei Lao-tao had taken up his position on an imperial [Page 89] chariot formerly given by the great Kang Hsi to the temple of Kuanti, and on which chariot the idol is seated for the annual pageant. Whilst the troops of Li Hung-chang attacked the rebels in front, the soldiers of the subprefect of Kinchang Hsien fell on their rear; they were thus defeated, four hundred and seventy men were killed, more than a hundred made prisoners, and Wei Lao-tao himself was slain. The remainder escaped to Sankiatz, but the Jeho forces followed them up, slaying some forty of them.
The rebels of the Kintantao sect still numbered upwards of ten thousand men. Several more battles were fought. The rebels, though superior in number, being badly drilled and too confident in their magic, were defeated and their sham emperor made prisoner. Two mandarins were also killed.
I hear that among the rebels there are many rioters who came here from Kiang-nan after the disturbances.
Among the Imperial troops there are also many wicked men doing great harm to the populations they have come to defend. This year the crop failed again and the number of the poor has considerably increased. The few families who are still well off have been robbed by the Imperial soldiers of all the provisions they had in store. They can not obtain protection from the mandarins, as these only care to get rich at the people’s expense.
Here is a new instance of the cruelty of the rebels. A mandarian, unable to oppose them, had piled up on several carts his family, his provisions, and his riches. He had just arrived at the foot of the mountains when he was overtaken by the rebels, despoiled of all he had, and slain. The next morning, wishing to make certain that they had left nothing unplundered, the rebels came again to the spot and there discovered an infant crying for food. Unmoved by this pitiful sight, they caught hold of the child, seized it by the legs and pulled them apart, tearing the poor infant in two. Would to God that this may be the end of our calamities.