Edward Harper Parker.

China, her history, diplomacy, and commerce, from the earliest times to the present day online

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after the conquest so as to include the Mongols
and a few faithful (or traitor, accordingly as we
may look at it) native Chinese. The late Sir
Thomas (then Mr.) Wade with infinite pains
drew up about sixty years ago a full analysis of
this system ; but at present it is totally obsolete
for the effective purposes of war, and therefore
not worth describing in detail. Yet it may be
useful, though the Manchu has really disap-
peared (as it was in 1900 contemplated he might
disappear), to put on record the main features
of the formidable aggregation which sufficed to
overrun China 250 years ago.

There is no doubt that the principles of
military organisation perfected by the Manchus
were conceived in the same general spirit and



form as those of their ancestors tlie Niichens,
who imperially ruled North China from 1113 to
1234 ; and these latter again drew part of their
inspiration from a distantly allied race called
the Kitans, who had ruled much the same
territory as northern emperors, and on an equal
footing with the rulers of South China, from
907 to 1112. The Kitans, in turn, must have
inherited traditions from the still earlier State
of Puh-hai alluded to on pages 23, 133. As
modified by the early Manchu chieftains and
emperors, the latest Tungusic organisation was
as follows I —

There were eight Manchu banners, in pairs
of four colours (i.e. plain and bordered), three
banners being of higher caste than the other
five, like the three Kitan " superior tents," each
banner under a tu-fung. Thus, with the assimi-
lated Mongols and the descendants of " faithful "
Chinese, there were twenty-four banners, num-
bering in all from 200,000 to 220,000 men. Just
as every ordinary Chinaman belonged and still
belongs to a hien^ and has his domicile registered
in the office of his " father and mother man-
darin," so every bannerman belongs to what the
Manchus styled a niuru, and has his military
domicile registered at the headquarters of his
colonel, who thus stands in the same (or a some-
what similar) patriarchal relation to his military
" people," be they princes, officers, or common
troopers, as does the magistrate to his civil
population : it must be added that when Presi-
dent Yiian " bought out " the dynasty under
Republican pressure in 1912, he guaranteed
many of their rights, and amongst those pre-
served was the Banner organisation, so far as
it affected the imperial family, their descendants,
and retainers : hence the tu-fungs and iiiurus
still keep their titles, registers and pensions, but

258 THE ARMY [chap, xiii

under the control approval of the republican
Ministry of War. About 150 years ago, when
the banner organisation was at its best, there
were 679 Manchu, 227 Mongol, and 264 Chinese
colonels (or tsoling, the other current name for the
Manchu niuru), each in theoretical command of
300 families (troopers) ; but the actual total has
always stood at about two-thirds of the theo-
retical, and the natural increment of able-bodied
men has from economical considerations been
drafted off into the categories of expectants,
supernumeraries, and so on, drawing less or no
pay. With this limited force of archers and
spearmen China was conquered, for the artillery
supplied with Jesuit assistance was only used
on rare occasions ; but of course local troops had
even from the first to be forced or cajoled to
assist the comparatively small bodies of banner-
men, who acted rather as " stiff eners" than as the
main body, just as the bulk of our Indian and
African armies are of native races, honourably
" stiffened," in the proportion each emergency
requires, with a backbone of British soldiers;
or just as the Czechs, Bosnians, Poles, and other
unwilling Slavs are less honourably forced or
cajoled into assisting their bullying Germanic
conquerors. The elite of the banner forces,
always more than half, from the first (1644)
served to hedge in majesty at and around
Peking ; but at certain vital provincial cen-
tres, such as Canton, Foochow, Hangchow, etc.,
banner garrisons with their families, forming
a sort of hereditary privileged caste within the
inner walls, were until the 1911 revolution kept
under a Tartar General, theoretically in order
to " keep down " the turbulent " Man-tsz "
or Chinese, and actually to hold the keys of
the city gates. The feeding of these privileged
soldiery was a first charge upon the revenues of

A.D. 1880-1910] NATIVE GREEN BANNERS 259

China, and it is thus only natural that so expen-
sive an incubus should have severely tested the
loyalty of the Chinese majority not enjoying any
such banner privileges. For many years previous
to 1911, 7,000,000 taels had been the fixed
" first " appropriation for those at Peking alone,
and a " supplementary" vote of at least 1,000,000
usually followed. As all this money came from
the provinces, a fortiori the latter had to find the
money for their own local bannermen and for
their Chinese armies as well. If the finances of
China, already described as having been so
flourishing 150 years ago, had not been shattered
by a succession of rebellions and foreign troubles ;
if these bannermen had maintained their mili-
tary virtues, their robust simplicity and man-
liness, the Empire would neither have felt the
burden severely, nor grudged the necessity of this
heavy charge : the preservation of order, and a
national sense of pride in power and prestige,
would have amply compensated for the price
paid to a few privileged keepers of the peace
and the purse-strings ; just as in India the tax-
payer has some satisfaction, in the shape of
security for person and property, to show for
the (to him) huge salaries he pays to his British
administrators. But, unhappily, the inactive
bannerman, both at Peking and in the provinces,
had towards the end degenerated into idle,
flabby, and too often opium-smoking parasites ;
they had long neglected even to keep up their
archery, which in any case had become useless in
these days of magazine rifles, though it might
have nourished a wholesome muscular habit of
body if persisted in, much as our nearly obsolete
sailing craft nourish a bold race of turbine steamer
skippers : in 1905, however, archery examinations
were formally abolished. In the provinces these
degenerate Manchus were often, practically,

260 THE ARMY [chap, xiii

honourable prisoners, rigidly confined within
the limits of the city walls, in the midst of a
semi-hostile population speaking a dialect which
bannermen were brought up in, or had to learn,
in addition to their own if they wished even to
purchase a cabbage in the streets ; and the
Tartar General, who nominally outranked even
the Chinese Viceroy, was really often a self-
indulgent, ignorant incompetent.

The Chinese army or " Green Banner " was
organised in the following way, or was theoretic-
ally so organised until (1852-1865) the Taiping
rebellion and foreign wars necessitated fresh
patchwork. As I did in the case of civil govern-
ment, so do I now with the military administra-
tion : in order to leave clearly outlined impres-
sions, I first state the general principles, reserving
exceptions and special detail for the end. Each
province had a General, in supreme command of
the green troops, and in immediate command
of a portion of them ; his yamen was sometimes
at the provincial capital, sometimes at a (now
abolished) ju city, or other place more strategic-
ally important. This officer's " button " rank was
one nuance higher even than that of a viceroy ;
but in the diplomatic and civil part of his busi-
ness he had to report and memorialise conjointly
with the Viceroy, who (unless the General were a
very able man, and charged with very important
duty) was often to most intents his superior
officer. He had under him from two to six
brigadier-generals, each in high command of a
brigade, and in immediate command of part of
one : their yamen in each case was either at
a first-class city, or at some special point where
foreigners or other objectionable persons had to
be kept down. It all depended upon the real
work being done. And so it went on. Colonels,
majors, captains, lieutenants, sergeants, and

A.D. 1908-1916] NEW COMMANDERS' TITLES 261

corporals were, and no doubt still are each in
command of greater or smaller bodies of men,
stationed in the cities, towns, and markets, and
co-operating with the civilian Mens, assistant
magistrates, and other small fry, down to the
village headman. Now (1916) the tuh-kiin or
Military Governor is the sole supreme chief in
each province ; the other chiefs appointed directly
by the President are called chen-shou-sh'i or
'' Order-preserving Commissioners," and seem to
correspond to the now extinct brigadier-generals ;
but there are also hu-kiin-sh'i and other occa-
sional sh'i or commissioners not yet very defini-
tively sorted out.

The old term " green " has gone out of use,
and the army is simply " the land army "
into which Manchus, other bannermen, braves,
" greens," " savages," or any one else may enlist.
There is little use discussing further organisation
so long as each province is practically independent
of Peking. Military officers in Manchu times
were always supposed to ride on horseback, and
not sit in sedans ; but in latter degenerate days
this rule was honoured more in the breach than
the observance. Civilian officers could never
serve in or very near to their own province, but
military officers nearly always did so; and in-
deed often must, for otherwise they would not
be able to talk promptly to their men. This
question of serving in your own province came
up for serious consideration in the months
immediately preceding the death (1908) of the
famous Dowager, who towards the end became
an ardent and convinced reformer ; it was pro-
posed to modify the civilian disabilities up to a
certain grade of rank. Now, under the Republic,
it is too early to speak of definite rules, but in
practice the old rule is ignored ; for instance, the
Military and Civil Governor (pro tern.) of Hu

262 THE ARMY [chap, xiii

Nan, T'an Yen-k'ai, is at this moment (1917) a
native, and the press hails this fact as a good

Now, for two centuries at least, all " green "
officers, from general to corporal, had been
engaged, despite numerous spasmodic punish-
ments and reforms, in wholesale peculation, and
neither the garrison branch nor the fighting
branch of the troops supposed to be under their
commands, even if in some cases it existed
at all, has had more than a partial or temporary
existence. A green soldier, like a bannerman,
came in the long piping times of peace to regard
what reduced pay and allowances his officers
left to him as a sort of hereditary sinecure, there
being a tacit understanding that A and his suc-
cessors would pay one shilling to B and his heirs,
provided B would now and for ever sign vouchers
for two shillings, and clap on a uniform " to his
back " each time the Viceroy or any other " big
man " should come round to hold a review.
This state of affairs seems to have been tacitly
connived at even by the earlier and abler Man-
chus at Peking, who were in no hurry to see
effective armies in the provinces they "fed"
upon. They could easily send to any point a
fighting body of mounted Mongols, or of Solon-
Manchus, when danger really arose.

When the great rebellions and the foreign
complications consequent thereon broke out
sixty or more years ago, the imperial leaders
had recourse to the device of hiring " braves "
to do the fighting. That is, such " soldiers "
as existed, and had no stomach for the merry
wars, were left to perform garrison and police
duty, whilst either sturdy peasants or such of
the youthful soldiers as were willing and able
to fight were engaged, at much higher rates of
pay than the craven soldiers received, in order to


induce them to face the foreign enemy. Under
competent leadership the Chinese brave — and
indeed the Chinese soldier, when his concrete
existence with all his limbs and organs abouthim
was placed beyond cavil or doubt — was, I take it,
as good as any other average fighting man. But
of course a warrior to succeed must be fed, and
supplied with arms at least nearly as good as the
enemy's ; and this even if he gets no pay, clothes,
medical attendance, or protection from the ele-
ments — all which accessories a Chinese warrior
of the old-fashioned pre-" Boxer" kind could
and did dispense with at a pinch more or less

When the wars of the sixties were over, spas-
modic efforts were made, not only to drill and
supply with foreign weapons a certain number
of bannermen at Peking, Canton, and a few other
places where foreigners were well to the fore,
but also to keep the braves up to the mark. The
greens were too far gone for anything to be done
with them, qua greens ; but, carefully weeded
out, some of them were occasionally available
as reserve braves. As a Foochow green captain
wittily remarked twenty years ago, in his report
to the High Commissioners, when nettled at the
Board's contemptuous comments on his mere
'* soldiers" : " After all, there is no essential dif-
ference betv/een a soldier and a brave. Both are
simply men. If you pay my soldiers as well as
you pay his braves, my soldiers will be braves ;
but if you starve his braves as you are starving
my soldiers, his braves will be soldiers. Braves or
soldiers, it is in each case a question of true
pay-rolls, unpeculated pay, sufficient food and
drill, and good rifles."

After making a fair show in 1880 against the
Russians in Hi and in 1884 against the French
in Tonquin — not to mention the earlier recon-

264 THE ARMY [chap, xiii

quests of Turkestan from Yakub Beg (1874),
and Yiin Nan from Suliman the Panthay (1873)
— the Chinese, or rather the Manchu Government,
began to get presumptuous, and our own blunders
led them, or contributed to lead them, on the
wrong tack in Corea in 1886. The result of ten
years' Corean bickerings was the Japanese war of
1894, in which navy, braves, bannermen, and
soldiers were all alike knocked "sky-high";
and China, smarting under the weight of shame
and a heavy indemnity, began to make genuine
and serious efforts to put her military house in
order. It was at once seen and admitted that,
as a fighting value, the whole green army might
be abolished at one stroke of the pen ; it was
suggested in 1896 that a standing army of
300,000 men in ten districts should be raised ;
but it was pointed out, and also at once admitted,
that the " vested rights " even of common soldiers
must be considered, or the worm might turn ; not
to miention the necessity of providing for gallant
officers who had received brevet rank for more
or less imaginary victories, and who looked to
substantive promotion. Besides, feeble though
the greens were, there was no other force
to maintain elementary order in the country
towns, to check smugglers, to guard city gates,
to escort prisoners and dignitaries, to watch
passes, fords, and other pivot points on lines of
communication. It was therefore decided to
do away with a quarter or a half of the greens in
every province, according to the degree of cor-
ruption prevailing in each place, and at any rate
not to fill up or create more vacancies. The
difficulty about officers was, " How can we
deprive His Majesty's deserving officers of their
salaries and expectations ? And, if we pay them
for commanding, how can we entirely abolish
their commands ? " Then came the German

A.D. 1897-1908] HASTY ARMY REFORMS 265

attack on Kiao Chou, and the counter demands
of other Powers; German training officers were
accordingly engaged to form really effective
armies at Nanking and Wuch'ang. Tlie young
Emperor and his advisers were thus in a fair way
to solve some, if not all, of these knotty points
by introducing sweeping reforms. But His
Majesty was in too much of a hurry, and,
alarmed, the Empress-Dowager by a counterblast
gave short shrift to most of these reforms, whilst
the intrigues of disappointed peculators, both
civil and military, doubtless had a good deal
to do with bracing that energetic lady up to the
further decisive action point of conducting a de
jacto if tacit regency once more in the name of
the de jure Emperor. The weak part of Chinese
reforms is and always has been the absence of
continuity and sustained effort. The Chinese
never know how to persist. No sooner are
reductions made and the savings therefrom
applied to new efforts, than fresh appropriations
of money are required to complete these efforts.
When the results are good, it is felt that econo-
mies may be made. And thus things go on
in a perpetual vicious circle. Compensation to
incapables who have been got rid of : savings
thus overestimated, and insufficient to get good
men : sudden alarms and hasty additions :
ultimate extra expenditure instead of the savings
expected, in order really to get the men re-
quired : reduction in the number of the men
now competent, or in their pay, in order to bring
the permanent expenditure back within normal
limits. Meanwhile Yiian Shi-k'ai had after his
Corean failure trained up an excellent force near
Tientsin and had (1898) supported the Dowager
against the Emperor.

Although several viceroys and governors took
advantage of the Empress-Dowager's volte-face

266 THE ARMY [chap, xiii

to obtain " reconsideration " of certain reduc-
tions already sanctioned, each province, or at
least each one exposed to "foreign insult," did
really make genuine efforts within the two years
preceding the " Boxer " rising to place its mili-
tary power upon a proper basis. The ridiculous
"Boxer" fiasco was really a manifestation of
public indignation at the inability of the Manchu
dynasty to preserve China's honour; that was
why the Dowager, in her alarm, conceived the
idea of utilising this dangerous popular movement
on her own side ; why she shuffled and hesitated
so much ; and why the two viceroys possessing
German-trained armies at Nanking and Hankow
(Wuch'ang) joined Yuan in ignoring her orders
to massacre all foreigners. They three alone
knew what real armies were, and how China
was only beginning to acquire the elements of
military strength ; hence our characterisation of
" three good viceroys."

In 1901, when the "Boxer" settlement was
being arranged, the Viceroy Chang Chi-tung sent
in a memorial plainly setting forth the utter
futility and wastefulness of the green banner
troops, and in that year a Decree approved an
entirely new army scheme, including training
schools for officers and men, Army Council,
General Staff, an active army in twenty territorial
sections or army corps, with divisions, battalions,
cavalry regiments, and artillery batteries, en-
gineer companies, etc., all complete. Total,
500,000 fighting units. Then there was to be a
Reserve Force, with 9 (1st) and 3 years' (2nd)
liability after active service. Most instructors
were from Germany and Japan. Efforts were
made to secure some sort of uniformity in artil-
lery, rifles, small arms, rates of pay, uniforms,
manoeuvring, and drill. The more successful
armies — those under the three good viceroys —

A.D. 1906-1912] THE MODERN ARMY 267

were to draft off officers and instructors to aid
the more backward provinces. There were long
discussions about the necessity of cultivating the
military spirit; historical comparisons showing
how the soldier and civilian officers were in the
good old times of equal dignity ; how the mili-
tary man had fallen from his high estate ; how
in foreign countries even princes belonged to
the army or the navy ; how absurd it was to
lock up Manchu princes in otiose inactivity at
Peking; and so on. It never seemed to strike
any one that this sudden appreciation of the
despised soldier might galvanise him into a
Frankenstein dangerous to the dynasty ; but
that is what has occurred; and since the Re-
public was established in 1911-1912 the soldier
has come into his own with a vengeance, and has
become a body, or rather many bodies, of prae-
torian guards or janissaries, threatening at every
instant the establishment of legitimate authority.
Even when the Manchu dynasty in 1908
seemed to be recovering its authority, when the
Dowager appeared earnestly convinced of the
necessity of legal, constitutional, financial, educa-
tional, and army reform, there were signs of
military restlessness ; for instance, demands,
even made by prominent Manchus, for the
abolition of pigtails and petticoats, for recourse
to a more practicable and manly dress, and for
equality of status between civil and military
officials. In view of this the State soon saw
that railway communications were the true key
to military efficiency, and thus a new struggle
sprang up between provincial interests and the
desire to control provincial railways on the one
hand, and State interests (not unjustly suspected
to be dynastic interests) counselling towards
direct State control of all railways. This struggle
was exacerbated by the failure of the Ningpo

268 THE ARMY [chap, xiii

and Sz Ch'wan railway projects under local
control, and the determined but sensible Peking
effort to lay hands nilly-willy upon the manage-
ment of these lines. This question, indeed,
seems to have been the one that most im-
mediately precipitated the unripe revolution
of 1911.

Meanwhile under the feeble regency ( 1 909-1 91 1 )
of the younger Prince Ch'un (the Emperor
Kwang-sii's brother), who allowed himself to be
controlled by Palace agencies, and above all by
the vengeful spite of the new Dowager (widow of
Kwang-sii), the independence of military spirit
grew in proportion to the progressiveness and
efficiency of provincial armies. Two of the
" three good viceroys " (Liu K'un-yih and Chang
Chi-tung) were no more, whilst the third (Yiian
Shi-k'ai) having been summoned in 1907 from
his Tientsin administrative successes to Peking,
promptly after the Dowager's and Emperor's
deaths in 1908, fell a victim to these intrigues,
and was summarily ejected from the capital.
Thus the one man who had practically created
the modern army, and could control it, was
relegated to obscurity, and, directly the Han-
kow-Sz Ch'wan revolt broke out in October 1911,
all these provincial army chiefs "pronounced"
in O'Donnell fashion, and constituted themselves
tutuh or independent military rulers respectively
of each province, a state of affairs that, after
various changes in name, practically exists in
milder outward form at the moment I write.

It is unnecessary to recount the details of the
army reorganisation as above described, based
upon the reforms initiated in 1905. In 1912 the
Republic changed the names once more, names
so often changed from antiquity that any given
one may mean squad, company, regiment, or
army according to its adapted signification at


this or that date in the past. One word, however,
has persisted through centuries, and that is
yingy meaning an entrenched or walled-in camp
of from 500 to 1,000 men, and which we may
here translate " battalion," as it can be used
either in an illustrative sense, as " God favours
the strong battalions," or in a specific sense, as
" one battalion only got across." My French
colleague Professor A. Vissiere (possessing the
retired rank of Minister Plenipotentiary) pub-
lished in 1914 an excellent account in the Journal
Asiatique (Jan.-Feb.), and from it I take the
following : —

An army corps is called a kiln (the whole
*' navy " is called the " sea-kiin " and the whole
" army " the " land-kiln "). A division is termed
a sM; a brigade, lil; a regiment, fwan; batta-
lion, ying ; and a company, lien. The basis of
gradation is, after Japanese model, expressed
by one syllable : thus all generals are tsiang, all
superior officers are hiao, all subaltern officers
are wei, and all sous-officiers are shi ; but all
the above are subdivided into three, i.e. shang,
chung, and hia, meaning "top, middle, bottom":
thus we have top general of an army corps,
middle general of a division, and bottom general
of a brigade ; and, proceeding downwards, in
the same way colonel, lieutenant-colonel, com-
mandant (I presume = major) ; then captain,
lieutenant, sub-lieutenant; and so on with the
top, middle, and bottom shi (corresponding, I
suppose, with our sergeant, corporal, etc.). —
Thus M. Vissiere. The rank and file have im-

Online LibraryEdward Harper ParkerChina, her history, diplomacy, and commerce, from the earliest times to the present day → online text (page 22 of 35)