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its own independence. Japan did not claim for
herself any rights or interests in the peninsula
superior to those possessed there by China. She
was always ready to work hand in hand with the
Middle Kingdom in inaugurating and carrying
out a system of reform. But there was not the
remotest probability that China, whose face had
been contemptuously set against all the progres-
sive measures adopted by Japan during the pre-
ceding twenty-five years, would join in forcing
upon a neighbouring kingdom the very reforms
she herself despised and abhorred, were her
cooperation invited through ordinary diplomatic
channels only. It was necessary to contrive a
situation which would not only furnish clear
proof of Japan's resolution, but also enable her to
pursue her programme independently of China's
endorsement, should the latter be finally unob-
tainable. She therefore met China's notice of
a despatch of troops with a corresponding notice
of her own, and the month of July, 1894, found
a Chinese force assembled at Ya-shan and a Jap-
anese force occupying positions in the neighbour-
hood of Soul. China's motive for sending troops
was nominally to quell the Tonghak insurrection,
but really to reaffirm her own domination in the
peninsula and to reseat in the administrative
saddle men under whose guidance the country
was losing all capacity for independence. Japan's
motive was to secure a position such as would



enable her to insist upon the radically curative
treatment of Korea's malady.

Up to this point the two empires were strictly .
within their conventional rights. Each was en-
titled by treaty to send troops to the peninsula,
provided that notice was given to the other.
But China, in giving notice, described Korea as
her " tributary State," thus thrusting into the
forefront of the discussion a contention which
Japan, from conciliatory motives, would have
kept out of sight. Once formally advanced,
however, the claim had to be challenged. In
the treaty of amity and commerce concluded
many years previously between Japan and Korea,
the two high contracting parties were explicitly
declared to possess the same national status.
Japan could not agree that a Power which for
two decades she had acknowledged and treated
as her equal, should be openly classed as a trib-
utary of the Middle Kingdom. She protested,
but the Chinese statesmen took no notice of her
protest. They continued to apply the disputed
appellation to Korea, and they further asserted
their assumption of sovereignty in the peninsula
by seeking to set limits to the number of troops
sent by Japan, as well as to the sphere of their
employment. Japan then proposed that the two
empires should unite their efforts for the suppres-
sion of the disturbances in Korea and for the
subsequent improvement of that kingdom's ad-
ministration, the latter purpose to be pursued by



the despatch of a joint commission of investiga-
tion. That was an important stage in the dis-
pute. It rested then with China to avert all
danger of war by joining hands with Japan for
the regeneration of a nation in whose prosperity
and independence the two empires were equally
interested. But she refused everything. Ready
at all times to interfere by force of arms between
the Korean people and the dominant political
faction, she declined to interfere in any way for
the promotion of reform. Ready at all times to
crush the little kingdom into submission to a
corrupt and demoralising administration, she re-
fused to aid in rescuing it from the suffering and
enervation entailed by the sway of such an oli-
garchy. She even expressed superciliously insult-
ing surprise that Japan, while asserting Korea's
independence, should suggest the idea of peremp-
torily reforming its administration. In short, for
Chinese purposes the Peking statesmen openly
declared Korea a " tributary " of the Middle
Kingdom, and denied Japan's assertion of its
independence ; but for Japanese purposes they
insisted that it must be held independent, and
that Japan must abide strictly by her assertion
of its independence. The Tokyo Cabinet now
declared their resolve not to withdraw the
Japanese troops without " some understanding
that would guarantee the future peace, order,
and good government of Korea," and since
China still declined to come to such an under-


standing, Japan undertook the work of reform

The Chinese Representative in Soul threw the
whole weight of his influence into the scale
against the success of these reforms. Still noth-
ing immediately occurred to drive the two empires
into open warfare. The finally determining
cause of rupture was in itself a belligerent

China's troops, as already stated, had been sent
originally for the purpose of quelling the Tong-
hak rebellion. But the rebellion having died of
inanition before the landing of the troops, their
services were not required or employed. Never-
theless they were not withdrawn. China kept
them in the peninsula, her declared reason for
doing so being the presence of a Japanese mili-
tary force. Thus, throughout the subsequent
negotiations, the Chinese forces lay in an en-
trenched camp at Ya-shan while the Japanese oc-
cupied Soul. The trend of events did not impart
any character of direct mutual hostility to these
little armies. But when it became evident that
all hope of friendly co-operation between the two
empires must be abandoned, and when Japan,
single-handed, had embarked upon her scheme
of regenerating Korea, not only did the continued
presence of a Chinese military force in the penin-
sula assume special significance, but any attempt
on China's part to send reinforcements could
be construed in one sense only, namely, as an un-



equivocal declaration of resolve to oppose Japan's
proceedings by force of arms. Seeing, then, that
China was preparing to send reinforcements,
Japan warned the Peking Government of the
construction she must place upon any act of the
kind. Nevertheless China not only despatched
troops by sea to strengthen the camp at Ya-shan,
but also sent an army overland across Korea's
northern frontier. It was at this stage that an
act of war occurred. Three Chinese men-of-
war, convoying a transport with 1,200 men,
encountered and fired on three Japanese cruisers.
One of the Chinese ships was taken ; another was
so shattered that she had to be beached and aban-
doned ; the third escaped in a dilapidated condi-
tion, and the transport, refusing to surrender, was
sunk. This happened on July 25th, and an open
declaration of war was made by each Empire six
days later.

The narrative set down above represents the
last chapter only of a history having its beginnings
a quarter of a century earlier. From the moment
that Japan applied herself to break away from
Oriental traditions, and to snap from her limbs
the fetters of Eastern conservatism, it was inevi-
table that a widening gulf should gradually grow
between herself and China, the inveterate repre-
sentative of those traditions and that conservatism.
Thus the struggle that occurred in 1894 was
rather a contest between Japanese progress and
Chinese stagnation than a fight to determine



China's suzerainty or Korean independence. To
secure Korea's immunity from foreign espe-
cially Russian aggression -was of capital impor-
tance to both empires. Japan believed that such
security could be attained by introducing into the
peninsula the civilisation which had contributed
so signally to the development of her own strength
and resources. China thought that she could
guarantee security without any departure from
old-fashioned methods, and by the same processes
of capricious protection which had failed so sig-
nally in the cases of Annam, Tonquin, Burmah,
Siam, and Riukiu. The issue really at stake was
whether Japan should be suffered to act as the
Eastern propagandist of Western progress, or
whether her efforts in that cause should be held
in check by Chinese conservatism.

But from this synopsis of reasons it would be
unjust to omit the state of Japan's domestic affairs
in 1894. Unquestionably the friction between
the Government and political parties had reached
such an acute stage that even a foreign war might
have been welcome as a diversion. Some publi-
cists have attached overwhelming importance to
that phase of the story. They insist that Japan
forced war upon her neighbour in order to escape
a worse alternative at home. Others deny stren-
uously that the rupture was influenced in any re-
spect by Japan's domestic embarrassments. The
truth, as usual, seems to lie between the two ex-
tremes. Japan would probably have been more



unwilling to break the peace if the state of her
own household had been more tranquil.

The war itself was a succession of triumphs for
Japan. Four days after the first naval encounter,
she sent from Soul a column of troops who at-
tacked the Chinese entrenched at Ya-shan and
routed them without difficulty. Many of the
fugitives effected their escape to Pyong-yang, a
town on the Tadong River, offering excellent fa-
cilities for defence, and historically interesting as
the place where a Japanese army of invasion had
been defeated by Chinese and Korean troops at
the close of the sixteenth century. There the
Chinese assembled a force of seventeen thousand
men and made full preparations for a decisive
contest. They had ample leisure. A period of
forty days elapsed before the Japanese columns,
one moving due north from Soul, the other strik-
ing west from Yuen-san, converged upon Pyong-
yang, and that interval was utilised by the
Chinese to throw up parapets, mount Krupp guns,
and otherwise strengthen their position. More-
over, they were armed with repeating rifles,
whereas the Japanese had only single-shooters,
and the ground offered little cover for an attack-
ing force. Under such circumstances, the advan-
tages possessed by the defence ought to have been
wellnigh insuperable ; yet a day's fighting suf-
ficed to carry all the positions, the assailants' cas-
ualties amounting to less than seven hundred and
the defenders losing six thousand in killed and



wounded. It was a brilliant victory, and it
proved to be the prelude of another equally
conspicuous success at sea.

For, on September I7th, the very day after
the battle at Pyong-yang, a great naval fight
took place near the mouth of the Yalu River,
which forms the northern boundary of Korea.
Fourteen Chinese warships and six torpedo-
boats were returning to home ports after con-
voying a fleet of transports to the Yalu, when
they encountered eleven Japanese men-of-war
cruising in the Yellow Sea. Hitherto the Chinese
had sedulously avoided a contest at sea. Their
fleet was the stronger, since it included two
armoured line-of-battle ships of over seven thou-
sand tons' displacement, whereas the most power-
ful vessels on the Japanese side were belted cruisers
of only four thousand tons. In the hands of an
admiral appreciating the value of sea power,
China's naval force would certainly have been
directed against Japan's maritime communica-
tions, since a successful blow struck there must
have put an end to the Korean campaign. His-
tory had already demonstrated that fact, for on
two occasions in former ages attempts made by
Japan to conquer the peninsula were rendered
abortive by the superior maritime strength of
the Koreans and Chinese. On land her soldiers
proved invincible, but her sea-route being severed,
she had to abandon the enterprise in each case.
The Chinese; 'however, faileid to read history.



They employed their war-vessels as convoys only,
and when not using them for that purpose, hid
them in port. Everything goes to show that they
would have avoided the battle off the Yalu had
choice been possible, though when forced to
fight, they fought bravely. Four of their ships
were sunk, and the remainder escaped to Wei-hai-
wei, the vigour of the Japanese pursuit being
greatly impaired by the presence of torpedo-
boats in the retreating squadron.

The Yalu victory opened the over-sea route to
China. Japan could now strike at Talien, Port
Arthur, and Wei-hai-wei, naval stations on the
Liao-tung and Shantung peninsulas, where power-
ful permanent fortifications, built after plans pre-
pared by European experts, were armed with the
best modern weapons and enjoyed the reputation
of being almost impregnable. They fell before
the assaults of the Japanese troops as easily as the
comparatively rude fortifications at Pyong-yang
had fallen. The only resistance of a stubborn
character was made by the Chinese fleet at Wei-
hai-wei ; but after the whole squadron of torpedo-
craft had been destroyed or captured as they
attempted to escape, and three of the largest ves-
sels had been sunk at their moorings by Japanese
torpedoes, and one by shot and shell, the remain-
ing four ships and five gunboats surrendered, and
their brave commander, Admiral Ting, com-
mitted suicide.

This ended the war. It had lasted seven and a



half months, during which time Japan put into
the field five columns, aggregating about I 20,000
of all arms. One of these columns marched
northward from Soul, won the battle of Pyong-
yang, advanced to the Yalu, forced its way into
Manchuria, and moved towards Mukden via Feng-
hwan, fighting several minor engagements and
conducting the greater part of its operations amid
deep snow in midwinter. The second column
diverged westward from the Yalu, and marching
through southern Manchuria, reached Haicheng,
whence it advanced to the capture of Newchwang
and Yingkow. The third landed on the Liao-
tung Peninsula, and turning southward, carried
Talien and Port Arthur by assault. The fourth
moved up the Liao-tung Peninsula, and, having
seized Kaiping, advanced against Yingkow,
where it joined hands with the second column.
The fifth crossed from Port Arthur to Wei-hai-
wei and captured the latter. In all these opera-
tions the total Japanese casualties were 1,005
killed and 4,922 wounded, figures which suffi-
ciently indicate the inefficiency of the Chinese
fighting. The deaths from disease aggregated
16,866, and the total monetary expenditure was
twenty million pounds sterling.

The Chinese Government sent Li Hung-chang,
Viceroy of Chili and Senior Grand Secretary of
State, and Li Ching-fong, to discuss terms of peace
with Japan, the latter being represented by Mar-
quis Ito and Count MutsU, Prime Minister and



Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, respectively.
A treaty was signed at Shimonoseki on the ijth of
April, and subsequently ratified by the sovereigns
of the two empires. It declared the absolute
independence of Korea : ceded to Japan the part
of Manchuria lying south of a line drawn from
the mouth of the river Anping to the mouth of
the Liao, viA Fenghwan, Haicheng, and Ying-
kow, as well as the islands of Formosa and
the Pescadores ; pledged China to pay an in-
demnity of 2,000,000 taels ; provided for the
occupation of Wei-hai-wei by Japan pending pay-
ment of the indemnity ; secured some additional
commercial privileges, as the opening of four new
places to foreign trade and the right of foreigners
to engage in manufacturing enterprises in China,
and provided for the conclusion of a treaty of
commerce and amity between the two empires,
based on the lines of China's treaties with Occi-
dental Powers.

No sooner did this agreement receive ratifica-
tion at the hands of the sovereigns of Japan and
China, than three of the Great European Powers
Russia, Germany, and France stepped forward,
and presented a joint note to the Tokyo Govern-
ment, recommending that the territories ceded
to Japan on the mainland of China should not
be permanently occupied, as such a proceeding
would be detrimental to the lasting peace of the
Orient. The recommendation was couched in
the usual terms of diplomatic courtesy, but every-



thing indicated that its signatories were prepared
to enforce their advice by an appeal to arms.
Japan found herself compelled to comply. Ex-
hausted by the Chinese campaign, which had
drained her treasury, consumed her supplies of
warlike material, and kept her squadrons con-
stantly at sea for eight months, she had no residue
of strength to oppose such a coalition. Her
resolve was quickly taken. The day that saw the
publication of the ratified treaty saw also the issue
of an Imperial rescript in which the Mikado,
avowing his unalterable devotion to the cause of
peace, and recognising that the counsel offered by
the European States was prompted by the same
sentiment, " yielded to the dictates of magna-
nimity and accepted the advice of the three

The Japanese were shocked by this incident.
They could understand the motives influencing
Russia and France ; for it was evidently natural
that the former should desire to exclude warlike
and progressive people like the Japanese from
territories contiguous to her borders, and it was
also natural that France in the East should re-
main true to her alliance with Russia in the
West. But Germany, not directly interested in
the ownership of Manchuria, and by profession a
warm friend of Japan, seemed to have joined in
robbing the latter of the fruits of her victory
simply for the sake of establishing some shadowy
title to Russia's good-will. It was not known



until a later period that the Emperor of Ger-
many entertained profound apprehensions about
an irruption of Oriental hordes into the Occident,
and held it a sacred duty to prevent Japan from
gaining a position which might enable her to
construct an immense military machine out of
the countless millions of the Chinese nation.
When His Majesty's mood came to be understood,
much of the resentment provoked by his un-
friendliness in the Manchurian affair was softened
by the mirth his chimera excited.

One of the results of this war was to suggest
to the Japanese a new estimate of the attributes
that win respect for a nation in the eyes of
Europe and America. They saw that their coun-
try's peaceful progress and her successful efforts
to qualify for equal intercourse with Western
States had attracted little consideration compared
with the victories of her arms. Probably that
discovery had much to do with a large scheme
of military and naval expansion that they under-
took in the sequel of the war, raising the army to
a fighting strength of over half a million men and
more than doubling the navy.

But the main reason for this great develop-
ment of belligerent force was the action of Rus-
sia, Germany, and France in robbing Japan of
the fruits of her victory, and expelling her from
the position she had won in Manchuria by force
of arms. The bitterness of that deprivation
could not fail to be accentuated by a doubt



whether any one of the three Powers sincerely
entertained the purpose they avowedly sought to
promote, namely, the preservation of China's
integrity. Nothing in their records indicated
that the interests of an Oriental State had ever
been an object of solicitude to them, and Japan
had no choice but to conclude that the motive of
their arbitrary interference was to prevent her
own aggrandisement rather than to avert her
enemy's dismemberment. To secure herself
against a possible repetition of such humiliations,
and to support the dignity of her newly won
position as the leading Power in the Orient, she
expanded her armaments. Many onlookers
averred that alone among the civilised nations
of the world she might have confided in the
forbearance of other States and pursued the even
tenor of her way, unarmed and uninsured. But
she did not derive any such conviction either
from her own experience or from her observation
of international usages, and it must be admitted
that her misgivings found curiously quick and
signal justification in subsequent events.

For little more than three years after the three
Powers' ostentatious parade of concern for
China's integrity, Germany seized Kiao-chow and
asserted her claim to a hinterland embracing the
greater part of Shantung province.

This act of spoliation was effected by Germany
without giving any sort of warning to China, al-
though the relations between the two empires



were peaceful and amicable. The ostensible
pretext, namely, that a Shantung mob had mur-
dered two German missionaries, might have pos-
sessed some semblance of validity had Kiao-chow
been occupied as security for satisfaction in the
nature of an indemnity and the punishment of
the murderers. Even in that case the routine
observed by civilised nations is to prefer a claim
first, so as to give the other side an opportunity
of satisfying it peacefully before extreme measures
are resorted to. But Germany helped herself to
territory at once without preferring any claim,
and retained the territory in permanence irre-
spective of China's willingness to fulfil all ordi-
nary obligations of reparation. This record has
nothing to do with the morality of Germany's
policy. The impression produced upon the
Japanese is alone in question, and that impression
was that the sanctions and vetoes of international
law constitute no sort of protection for an Oriental
State against Occidental aggression.

In the immediate sequel of Germany's absorp-
tion of Shantung, Russia annexed the Liao-tung
peninsula. The procedure in each case was
euphemistically termed "leasing;" but no one,
least of all Russia or Germany, laboured under
any manner of delusion as to the true nature of
the transaction.

Thus within four years of her expulsion from
territories belonging to her by right of conquest,
Japan saw those territories appropriated by the



A Samurai supposed to be wholly careless of life.


very Powers that had expelled her. Solicitude
for the preservation of China's integrity, which
had formed their pretext for expelling Japan,
was now shown to have been anxiety lest by
leaving her in possession their own opportunities
for aggrandisement might be curtailed.

But to have been openly flouted caused com-
paratively little concern to the Japanese. What
chiefly troubled them was that by Russia's occupa-
tion of the Liao-tung peninsula a danger hitherto
remote had become imminent. To a Power
holding Vladivostock and Liao-tung the posses-
sion of Korea, or at any rate of a portion of its
southern coast, is essential. For between Korea
and Japan not only does the sea of Japan narrow
to a breadth of one hundred and twenty miles,
but also the Japanese island of Tsushima lies in
the middle, and immediately opposite to Tsu-
shima on the Korean coast is the Japanese settle-
ment of Fusan. Japan, therefore, is competent
to sever at any moment the maritime communica-
tions between Vladivostock and Liao-tung, unless
Russia can secure in Korea such a position as will
give her at least equal command of the narrows.
But Russia in Korea is an intolerable prospect to
the Japanese nation. They cannot consent to
see planted, almost within sight of their shores,
the outposts of an empire enormously powerful
and governed by an irresistible impulse of expan-
sion. They know well that Russia's growth is
not controlled from St. Petersburg, but is perpetu-



ally promoted by " the man at the front," and
that Korea would not be the terminus of her
advance to-day any more than Geok Tepe was
twenty years ago. Besides, their material inter-
ests in Korea are incomparably larger than those
of Russia; the peninsula promises to be a pros-
perous settlement for their surplus population;
they fought in 1894 to secure its independence,
and history shows that if any Power has a title to
shape its fate, that Power is Japan. It is easy to
comprehend, therefore, how profound was the
uneasiness felt by the Tokyo statesmen when they
saw Russia seated in Liao-tung, and how greatly
their conviction was strengthened that among the
Powers of Europe England alone had a sincere
disposition to refrain from territorial aggression
in the Far East. When these events occurred,
Japan occupied Wei-hai-wei, which lies on the
Shantung coast opposite to Liao-tung, and is one of
the finest sites in China for a naval station. It was

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Online LibraryF. (Frank) BrinkleyJapan, its history, arts and literature (Volume 5) → online text (page 4 of 16)