By Pat Welsh, contributor

In previous articles, I had mentioned that the decentralization of the Qing Dynasty’s military after the Taiping Rebellion had paved the way for the emergence of local warlords throughout China.  The Xinhai Revolution (辛亥革命) of 1911 did put an end to the Qing Dynasty, but it also produced a power vacuum because of a weakly centralized control of China’s military.  For example, one reason President Yuan Shikai (袁世凱) could not agree to Sun Yat-sen (孫中山) and the Nationalists’ request to establish his government in Nanjing 1912 was because he depended on the support of his Beiyang military (北洋軍) located in the north.

By 1913, several provincial warlords had already tried to rebel against Yuan.  Yuan had made an amendment to the Constitution of 1912 designed strengthen his power and limit the power placed in the hands of the revolutionaries loyal to Sun and the other political parties.  In November 1913, Yuan outlawed the Kuomintang (國民黨).  Then, to strengthen his Beiyang armies, Yuan borrowed money from Japan. 

By Pat Welsh, contributor

In my previous offering I discussed major events after the death of Yuan Shikai (袁世凱) in 1916 and Cai Yuanpei’s (蔡元培) changes in the make-up of the student and faculty and their activities at the Beijing National University.  I hope the reader will get a feel for the situation in Beijing leading up to the May Fourth Movement in 1919. 

China’s failure at the Paris Peace Conference to prevent Japan from gaining Germany’s place in Shandong Province was the event that sparked the May 4 Incident.  The news of this failure, coupled with memories of Japan’s 21 Demands made in 1915, motivated student organizations to hold a meeting on May 1 and 3 wherein they resolved to hold mass demonstrations against the Beijing government on May 7, the fourth anniversary of Japan’s ultimatum in her 21 Demands.

By Pat Welsh, contributor


Last month I mentioned how the stage was set for the Boxer Rebellion to occur.  You may recall that the movement had its origin with the “Big Sword Society” (大刀會) and its goal of removing foreigners and their influence from China.

In greater detail, let’s backtrack to 1895 when Li Bingheng (李秉衡) was the governor of Shandong Province.  He harbored similar anti-foreign sentiments and had encouraged the activities of the Big Sword Society led by its founder, Liu Shiduan (劉士端).  In an odd quirk of fate, after disorders caused by the Big Sword Society, Yü Xian (魚線) who had also been sympathetic to anti-foreign sentiments, was appointed as Shandong judicial commissioner and charged with suppressing the Big Sword Society.  He arrested and executed Liu Shiduan and his main lieutenant Cao Deli (曹得禮).  Liu was replaced by Zhu Hengdeng (朱紅燈) who selected a new name for the society, Yihe Quan (義和拳, which translates into Righteous and Harmonious Fists) and set up its new slogan as “Protect the Qing and annihilate the foreigners” (扶清滅洋).    

By Pat Welsh, contirbutor


The formal end of the Boxer Rebellion occurred on Sept. 7, 1901, when the Boxer Protocol (辛丑各國和約) was signed.  This Boxer Protocol and the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion in Beijing the previous year, which left behind very unpleasant consequences for the aging Dowager Empress Cixi (慈禧太后), the Chinese civilians in north and northeastern China, the Qing Manchu Court and China in particular.

For Cixi, as the western forces were entering Beijing, she was forced to abandon her luxurious palace in Beijing’s Forbidden City, dress as an ordinary farm woman and flee to Xian in three wooden oxcarts along with a personal attendant, a retinue of Gansu Guards and the previously imprisoned Guangxü Emperor (光緒帝) in tow.  There Cixi was forced to suffer a humiliating rebuke from the emperor who had briefly felt empowered by the events at that time.  Recall that he had favored the reforms that Cixi had overturned once her 1898 coup d’ etat had succeeded.   Her flight was explained as being a tour of inspection but this explanation fooled no one. 

By Pat Welsh, contributor


The empress dowager Cixi (慈禧太后) successfully engineered a coup d’état in September 1898.  On Sept. 21 she attended court to redirect the government.  With this, the reactionary period began.  She dismissed all of the officials who had participated in the reform movement and executed six major players who thereafter became known as the “Six Martyrs.”  Two others, Kang Youwei (康有為) and Liang Qichao (梁啟超) escaped abroad to stir up trouble for the dynasty later.  The removed officials were replaced by her own personal favorites thereby consolidating her power in the center of government.

This was immediately followed by rescinding almost all of the innovations announced during the Hundred Day’s Reform (戊戌變法 or 百日維新).  Among the most damaging was the prohibition of all scholars to memorialize to the throne about affairs of state.  Also undone was the transformation of academies into modern schools.  It was as if China were attempting to return to what it was in previous centuries.  In early 1899, a newly appointed governor of Hubei Province did memorialize to the throne requesting the cancellation of Cixi’s reactionary orders, but the end result of this was his dismissal from office and his inability to obtain any new employment by the government.  Thereafter, no one else dared attempt to save any of the reforms.

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