Autumn 2011 Vol. 31 - No. 162  100th Anniversary of Xinhai Revolution

Foreign Missionaries, Chinese Christians and the 1911 Revolution
R. G. Tiedemann 

        The ‘double tenth’ military revolt (10 October 1911) in Wuchang launched the republican revolution in China. After several weeks of military confrontations, the young emperor of the Qing dynasty was obliged to abdicate in February of the following year. With the overturning of the imperial political order, the social and intellectual monopoly of the Confucian tradition was severely undermined. The background to, major incidents and aftermath of the revolution are well known and need not be discussed here. This contribution is concerned with the observations and reactions of Catholic and Protestant missionaries, representing different nationalities and religious traditions, as well as Chinese Christians to the events in late 1911 and early 1912. At the same time, the Chinese republican movement was not a unified body, but consisted of geographically differentiated reformist and revolutionary factions, often in alliance with a variety of secret societies (huidang 會黨), bandit groups, local defence organizations, students and reformist elites. It is also important to keep in mind that elements of radical political organizations, especially the Revolutionary Alliance (Tongmenghui 同盟會), a loose organization that had been formed in 1905 by Sun Yat-sen 孫中山 and others and which included such groups as the Restoration Society (Guangfuhui 光復會) and the Revolutionary Party (Gemingdang 革命黨), had infiltrated the various modernized New Armies 新軍 in most parts of the country. Consequently, the impact of the revolution was experienced in different ways and at varying intensities in the various provinces of China.[1] Given the vastness of the country and the great variety of missionary workers commenting on these turbulent events, only a few representative observations can be outlined here.

Christianity and the late Qing state

        Historically, revolutions and Christianity are not compatible. Yet during the last decades of the 19th century, foreign missionaries voiced their dissatisfaction with the state of affairs in the Qing Empire and some of them became proponents of fundamental change. They came to view the old order as a serious obstacle to the spread of the Christian message, arguing that the frequent anti-Christian conflicts were caused or aggravated by the opposition of the gentry (or literati) 紳士 and government officials.[2] Moreover, in consequence of the condemnation of the Chinese Rites by Rome in 1742, Catholic -- and later also Protestant -- missionaries singled out ‘Confucianism’, or rather the ‘Confucian order’, as the basic obstacle to the intensive propagation of Christianity. Confucius himself was regarded as the supreme enemy of China's conversion. This intense ‘ideological’ confrontation was, for example, clearly expressed by the vicar apostolic of South Shandong, Johann Baptist Anzer 安治泰 SVD (1851-1903), who saw the conflict with the ‘prince of darkness’, i.e. Confucius, in stark military terms.[3] The conflict with the old order reached its lowest point in the 1890s, culminating in the disastrous Boxer Uprising of 1900.

        In the immediate aftermath of this major conflagration, a rapprochement of sorts between Christianity and the Qing ruling class seemed possible. The government-sponsored ‘New Policy’ 新政, especially the abolition of the Confucian-based civil service examination system, afforded reform-minded missionaries and converts the opportunity to take part in the processes of change, most notably in the fields of education and public health. It should be noted, though, that Catholic missions were at this time not well equipped to make a significant contribution in this regard. In the 19th century, little attention had been given by the missionary priests to the creation of a comprehensive educational system for believers and non-believers. Such educational work as existed before 1900 consisted of rudimentary village schools, catechism classes and a few seminaries to prepare young Chinese men for the priesthood. Higher education (secondary schools and colleges) was, generally speaking, not on the agenda. One important exception was the College St Ignace (Xuhui gongxue 徐匯公學), which had been founded as a secondary college by French Jesuits in Shanghai in 1852.[4] It was, however, not until 1903 that Ma Xiangbo 馬相伯 (1840-1939) established Aurora (Zhendan) Academy 震旦學院 in Shanghai. After 1905 it was run by French Jesuits as Aurora University.[5]

        Another exception to the basic Catholic educational pattern, rather unusual on account of its inland location, emerged in South Shandong at the beginning of the 20th century, namely the establishment of the so-called ‘German-Chinese schools’, a rather unusual but short-lived experiment.[6] Under an agreement with Governor Yuan Shikai 袁世凱 (1859-1916) in 1901, Bishop Anzer was able to open two ‘German-Chinese middle schools’ in Yanzhou 兖州 and Jining 濟寧 in 1902, supported by a subsidy from the Shandong provincial government.[7] He designated these institutions ‘private schools’ to avoid the thorny issue of pupils having to venerate Confucius, which was compulsory in Chinese government schools.[8] By 1907 a stronger national consciousness had developed amongst China's educated elite and there were some who expressed their patriotic feelings by pressing for the adoption of Confucianism as China's state religion. When the Chinese government insisted on the veneration of Confucius in all schools, the SVD mission decided not to renew the special Sino-German agreement in 1909, thus bringing to an end this unique educational experiment.[9] Instead, the priests established the mission-based St Francis Xavier College to disseminate the New Learning.[10]

        Whereas Catholic priests had generally neglected higher education in the 19th century, the ‘mainline’ Protestant missionary organizations, in contrast, paid much greater attention to this aspect of the missionary enterprise. They established schools wherever possible, leading to the characteristic three-tier system of primary schools, middle schools and academies and -- eventually -- union colleges and universities. These mission schools exerted a wide influence and were one route by which new ideas and practices of modernity entered China during the last years of the Qing. These encouraging developments were, however, undermined by the government's endeavour to control foreign schools, combined with the veneration of Confucius. Most missionaries found this unacceptable. A further disquieting sign was the exclusion of Chinese graduates of mission schools from many of the new provincial assemblies. On the eve of the 1911 Revolution, therefore, many missionaries and Chinese Christians began to turn against the ‘reactionary Manchus’ and their Chinese sympathizers. As the general secretary of the American Presbyterian Foreign Board of Missions 美國北長老會, Arthur Judson Brown 布朗 (1856-1963), put it: “Missionaries and Chinese Christians were against the Manchu Dynasty, not because it was a monarchy, but because it was corrupt and was the enemy of liberty and progress.”[11]

        Consequently, in view of this “bigoted, fossilized conservatism”[12], many of the more progressive Protestant missionaries, as well as local church leaders and Christian students became more actively involved in the Chinese reform movements. For their part, local reform-minded elites had begun to realize that the missions were a modern force that could be utilized in China's modernization process. Christian missions thus became partners in local society. As Ryan Dunch has shown, in urban centres such as Fuzhou 福州 Chinese Protestants were involved in the new forms of social and political activism in the first decade of the 20th century and in the 1911 revolution itself. In stark contrast to the dominant view of Chinese nationalists, especially after 1949, he argues that progressive Chinese Christians, “far from being denationalized, were motivated by their patriotism to embrace Christianity”.[13] In Fuzhou the churches of the American Methodist Episcopal mission 美以美會 were particularly active in several reform movements. Moreover, some of the leading activists had received their training in the Methodists' Anglo-Chinese College 福州鶴齡英華書院. At the same time, the local Young Men's Christian Association 中華基督教男青年會 “brought together, more than any other body, Protestant, progressive, professional men in pursuit of nationalist aims”.[14] The YMCA, which had begun in China among the students of Protestant mission colleges, “sought to change China through education and popular mobilization in the form of meetings, lectures, reading rooms, publications, and its own school.”[15] Dunch ably demonstrates that Chinese Protestants were deeply involved in the social and political life of Fuzhou on the eve of the 1911 Revolution. The same can be said of many progressive Protestants in other urban centres in China. Naturally, the missionaries were convinced that meaningful change could only be achieved under the ‘constructive influence’ of Christianity. They were encouraged in their belief by the fact that many of the Chinese activists -- reformers as well as revolutionaries -- in the coastal periphery either were Christians or had attended mission schools. Then there were those reformers who had been influenced by personal contact with or the literature produced by the missionaries. Consequently, it was generally assumed in the missionary community that the revolutionaries were more likely to grant religious freedom than the Qing regime.

Missionaries and Christians during the revolutionary struggle

        After the Wuchang uprising, much of the revolution across the country unfolded as a series of relatively bloodless coups in which provincial leaders declared ‘independence’ from the Qing government. Various missionary accounts describe this process in Shanghai and the treaty ports in the Lower Yangzi Valley in mildly positive terms. In places such as Nanchang there was some anxiety among the inhabitants prior to the arrival of the revolutionaries. As one local Lazarist priest observed, the people of Nanchang did not necessarily fear the Gemingdang, but were afraid of the sects and gangs of criminals who might take advantage during the absence of effective government. The local notables decided, therefore, to form a municipal militia to provide security. But when the revolutionaries arrived, the transfer of power was uneventful. White flags and white armbands, the symbols of the anti-dynastic movement, were everywhere in evidence.[16] Lazarists in Jiujiang, Ningbo and Shanghai reported similarly low-key takeovers by the Gemingdang. In these places the missionaries were rather relaxed about the contests between Qing government forces and the revolutionaries, because both sides had given assurances that life and property of foreigners would be protected.[17] An editorial in The Chinese Recorder went so far as to say that the revolution was “an indication of moral awakening. It has been conducted along civilized lines in so far as any state of war is compatible with true civilization.”[18]

        Whereas the foreign missionaries remained more or less neutral during the revolution, acting primarily as observers and providers of humanitarian aid, Chinese Christians, especially Protestant converts, tended to be more supportive of the republican cause. They were also directly involved in the revolution itself. As Ryan Dunch has discovered in his study of Fuzhou Protestantism, students of the Methodist mission schools, for example, were directly involved in the fighting – perhaps without the knowledge of the Methodist missionaries.[19] In Shanghai, too, the sympathies of the Protestant Chinese Church were overwhelmingly with the revolutionary party. Noting a generally friendlier attitude among the non-Christians, a wave of revivals was expected at the close of the current struggle. In anticipation of the surge of interest in Christianity, the Shanghai Chinese Church organized an Evangelistic Society 佈道會 to follow up the Red Cross work in the hospitals and among the troops.[20]

        Whereas in Shanghai and several other cities in the Lower Yangzi region power passed relatively peacefully to the republican side, in Nanjing the Qing loyalists refused to give in without a fight. According to the French Jesuit Leopold Gain 艾賚沃 (1852-1930), the governor general of Liangjiang 兩江總督, Zhang Renjun 張人駿 (1847~1927), and the Manchu General-in-Chief at Jiangning 江寧將軍 Tieliang鐵良 (1863-1939) were amenable to transferring the city to the revolutionaries, but they were overruled by the commander of the Yangzi patrol forces, the Han Chinese general Zhang Xun 張勳 (1854-1923). Having taken control of Nanjing's defences on 7 November, he immediately started a murderous campaign against suspected Gemingdang adherents. Anyone who was carrying a white handkerchief or was wearing a European hat or shoes was stopped and decapitated on the spot. Some Protestant pupils were killed because they had cut their queue.[21] It was not until 2 December that the republican forces finally dislodged the Qing loyalists from Nanjing. Zhang Xun had escaped with 2,000 troops from the city during the preceding night and moved into northern Jiangsu. When the new masters began to attack the remaining Manchus and Qing government troops, Father Gain had the delicate task to hide and feed fifty young imperial soldiers, along with some twenty Manchu women from the Catholic girls' school.[22] This kind of missionary intervention occurred also at Anqing, the capital of Anhui. Here the Jesuits cooperated with the American Protestants to save the life of the former Qing governor Zhu Jiabao 朱家寶 (1860-1923) by lowering him by rope ladder over the city wall during the night.[23]

        It is clear that in the urban areas of coastal China, the indigenous ‘intellectual’ elite of the Protestant missions (catechists, teachers and secondary school students) tended to approve the revolutionary movement and in some instances were even actively involved in it. It is, however, important to recognize the distinct contrast between modernizing cosmopolitan China and its backward hinterland. Especially in the rural districts, the attitudes of ordinary believers are more difficult to ascertain. In northern Guangdong, for example, the missionaries of the Basel Mission 巴色會 alluded to the great enthusiasm in their congregations. The local students in the mission schools -- Christians as well as non-Christians -- were willing to cut their queues, but there is little evidence that many of them were actively involved in military engagements. Certain catechists and teachers were more active in recruiting Christians to their ‘people's armies’. Others gave secret support to the revolutionaries. These activists generally functioned as intermediaries between the ordinary Christians and the Gemingdang.[24] Another example comes from the interior province of Sichuan. In his history of Christianity in that province, Qin Heping has found that Protestant church members were, in fact, mobilized for Chinese nationalist and reformist causes. One of Qin's examples comes from Guanghan 廣漢 (formerly called Hanzhou 漢州) near Chengdu, where the assembled faithful prayed nightly for the well-being of the Sichuan Railway Protection Movement's 四川保路運動 activists and the enlightenment of the Xuantong Emperor.[25] We can only speculate whether the church members fully understood the meaning of the prayer.

        In any case, other accounts support the view that the ordinary folk showed little enthusiasm for the New Policy reforms. On the contrary, as Roxann Prazniak has shown, in many parts of China there was a great deal of violent rural protest against the Qing reforms in particular and modernity in general during the decade prior to 1911.[26] The same kind of resistance to change was manifest during the revolution, which is usually seen as a revolution for modernity. However, for many it was a revolution against modernity. We usually think of the cutting of the queue 辮子, that time-honoured appendage, as evidence of anti-Manchu sentiments, yet for many people, especially in the countryside, it was “a Han Chinese movement not so much against the Manchus as against the westernising reforms that the Manchus had implemented. For many people the queue was a symbol not of Han subservience to the Manchus, but of their own identity as Chinese.”[27] In some parts of China, short hair was associated with Western-style reforms “which were seen as causing high taxes and being the result of foreign influence”. In Sichuan the antagonism was explicitly anti-Western; protesters did not cut their queues but wore their hair in the style of local operatic depictions of the Ming dynasty. “Less than a year later a Red Lantern sect uprising in Sichuan's second city, Chongqing, aimed to restore the Manchus and kill all foreigners and queueless Chinese.”[28]

        Keeping in mind that most Chinese Christians were living in the countryside, it can be assumed that many of them shared the same anti-modernist sentiments as the non-Christians around them. After all, they were all part of the same rural cultural milieu, a world that was quite different from the urban centres of the coastal periphery and some of the larger inland cities inhabited by reform-minded elite activists, including what may be termed the ‘Christian intelligentsia’. The issue of support of the revolutionary cause could also be examined in light of how individual missionaries or particular missionary organizations influenced attitudes of local converts toward political and social improvements. It was above all the liberal wing of the Protestant mainline denominations, with American Protestants in the forefront, that were proponents of the ‘social gospel’, agitated for modernization and encouraged political change. On the other hand, conservative and fundamentalist ‘mainliners’, as well as evangelicals, were primarily interested in direct evangelization and paid little attention to social and political issues. Indeed, some of the more radical evangelical preachers regarded the chaotic conditions of 1911 as evidence of the approaching ‘last days’. Roman Catholic priests were, of course, involved in various social projects, but resolutely opposed political and religious liberalism. Moreover, they discouraged their converts from becoming involved in political movements at this time. These various factors influenced the way Chinese Christians in different part of the country responded to the revolutionary challenge. However, ultimately the overriding concern of all missionaries and converts was political and social stability in which to propagate and practice their faith.

        In any case, in the northern provinces, the Wuchang rebellion had little immediate effect. The German priest Georg Maria Stenz 薛田資 SVD (1869-1928) reported from southern Shandong in early November: “Of the Revolution we have not yet noticed much…. A few experienced people excepted, it is all just a show of foolish, green boys…. The [common] people are not concerned about the affair.” Nevertheless, he wondered for how long. Stenz was aware that blood had been spilled in places further south and that the Chinese people were generally supporting the revolution. Nearly all the students in government schools had cut their queues. “Our boys here also wanted to do it, but I have not permitted it for the time being. Pupils in Nanjing [had] cut their queues; when imperial troops took control again [they] simply cut off the head of anyone who did not have a queue.”[29]

        The troubles to the south of Shandong, alluded to by Stenz, started with the mutiny of 3,000 imperial troops of the Thirteenth Regiment of the Seventh Division at Qingjiangpu 清江浦, northern Jiangsu, in early November 1911, because they had not received their pay. They returned to their homes in southern Shandong and northern Jiangsu, plundering several wealthy towns along the way. The northern-most districts of Jiangsu and Anhui, known as Huaibei 淮北, were already suffering from popular insurgency, frequent food riots, and epidemic banditry. In the wake of the mutiny, Gemingdang elements established bases at Qingjiangpu, Xuzhou 徐州 and a few other points along the nearly completed Tianjin-Pukou railway 津浦鐵路. From Qingjiangpu and Xuzhou the republicans extended their tenuous control to other towns in Huaibei by confirming the old officials in office. But the countryside, largely outside control of both the imperial and revolutionary forces, the political situation remained fluid throughout the revolution. In late November 1911 a provisional government assumed power in Xuzhou, but did not declare openly in favour of the republic for fear of loyalist general Zhang Xun's revenge. Zhang did, in fact, occupy Xuzhou on 4 December 1911, following his defeat at Nanjing two days earlier. It was not until mid-February 1912 that he was dislodged by Chen Minghou's 39th Brigade of the Beifajun 北伐軍 (Northern Expeditionary Army), also known as the Guangfujun 光復軍 (Restoration Army).[30] Zhang then set up his headquarters at Yanzhou, southern Shandong, and maintained an ambivalent position between Yuan Shikai's forces to the north and the republicans to the south.[31]

        In these turbulent and uncertain times in China's hinterland, the missionaries were not merely observers. In addition to their pastoral duties, they sought to provide famine relief and, where necessary, shelter, medical care and protection for uprooted and frightened Christians and non-Christians. Occasionally, they were asked by the warring factions to act as mediators. Thus, in northern Anhui militant forces of dubious background had occupied the county seat of Guoyang渦陽 in Anhui province in the name of the revolution on 8 January 1912 without firing a shot. They freed all prisoners, locked up the magistrate, raided the house of the head of the hated local self-government society, and distributed grain to the city's poor. A few weeks later Beijing sent General Jiang Guiti姜桂題 (1843-1922), one of Yuan Shikai's most important subordinates, as plenipotentiary to enter into negotiations with the local ‘revolutionary’ commander. What is rather extraordinary, though, is the fact that the local missionary, the French Jesuit Joseph Dannic 聶思聰 (1867-1923), was asked to act as intermediary between the two factions.[32]

        This was just one of several cases of Catholic priests being asked to act as mediators during the turbulent months of the revolution. The veteran French Jesuit missionary Leopold Gain noted that the Catholic priests, while remaining neutral during the various local struggles in 1911-1912, had been involved in mediation amongst the various contending factions.

In Hubei, Shaanxi, at Nanjing, in Shandong, as in Xuzhou fu, and in Anhui, jointly or in turns, imperialists [i.e., monarchists], Tartars, republicans, [and] organized gangs of brigands have come to request the missionaries to act as go-betweens, intercede on their behalf, to be arbitrators. And the missionaries never refused, never shrank from any hardship, from any danger, to stop bloodshed, to avert ruin, to calm hatreds, in a word, to play the role of peace-makers....[33]

        Another case of missionary mediation, albeit under rather more dangerous circumstances, occurred in eastern Shandong. Here militant republicans had established an early outpost at the treaty port of Yantai 煙台 (Chefoo 芝罘) and were subsequently active also in Gaomi 高密, Jimo 即墨 and Zhucheng 諸城 on the Shandong peninsula. The German priest Josef Kosters 顧思德 SVD (1870-1922) has left an account of events at Zhucheng which was occupied by a Gemingdang unit on 2 February 1912, assisted by students from the local school. “Although we knew quite well from the newspaper that the policy of the true revolutionaries was not anti-Christian, no one could predict what the rabble would be liable to do once the bonds of order had been loosened.” The missionary's position might have become precarious when he agreed to hide -- with some reservations -- the Zhucheng district magistrate Wu Xun 吳勛 in the mission station. However, Kosters claims to have successfully mediated between the representatives of the Revolutionary Party and the magistrate and “a regular peaceful intercourse developed between the revolutionary leaders and the Mission over the following days”. What complicated matters and endangered the mission was the fact that the magistrate had sent messengers to the Shandong governor to inform him of the fall of Zhucheng and request troops. On 11 February a soldier, disguised as a beggar, appeared in the mission station with a letter from the commander of the imperial troops, requesting Kosters to leave immediately on account of an imminent attack on the Gemingdang forces in the town. In view of the inherent dangers, the missionary offered to mediate between Zhucheng's notables, on the one hand, and the government forces on the other. His plan was accepted by all parties and Kosters went out to the camp of the imperial soldiers. However, in the meantime another government force had arrived and commenced hostilities. The revolutionary party was easily overcome and many were killed. At that point some local notables brought their valuables to and sought refuge in the mission station, because the imperial soldiers were looting. Some of the very rich people the priests were protecting indicated their intention to become converts. “But soon, as soon as the danger had passed, the old obstacles became evident once more: opium consumption, polygamy, etc.”[34]

        Perhaps not surprisingly, the reminiscences of Wang Lin'ge 王麟閣, a Tongmenghui survivor of the Zhucheng affair, tell a slightly different story. Rather than talking of mediation, he accused the “reactionary” Catholic priest Kosters of plotting with the magistrate and spying for the imperial forces. Of course, it has to be remembered that this account was collected in the ideological climate of the 1950s. It concludes with a list of 23 men who were killed at Zhucheng, including a Chinese evangelist of the Berlin Mission 巴陵信義會, surnamed Tian 田.[35]

        Generally speaking, though, both the imperial forces and the revolutionaries strove to protect the Christian enterprise. The missionaries residing inland were more concerned about the danger from “a host of brigands and pirates who infest the country and who avail themselves of the unsettled conditions and lack of authority and band together for plunder”.[36] The widespread lawlessness was aggravated by natural disasters in many parts of the country. In Gansu province the struggle between Qing loyalists and revolutionaries was complicated by the presence of various irregular forces, secret societies and internecine strife among Muslim factions. American and British consular officials had instructed missionaries living in the interior to make their way to the treaty ports, but because of its remoteness, this was not an option for a large number of Protestants in Gansu. Writing from the frontier of cultural China and cultural Tibet in Gansu, David Paul Ekvall 艾自新 (1871-1912) of the Christian and Missionary Alliance 宣道會 provided an overview of the disposition of Protestant missionaries in the province. He added:

What with the revolutionary army, the Imperial troops and Moslem rebels, we are apt to have a three-cornered fight in the province…. The most serious element of danger to everybody in Kansu, the common people as well as foreigners, is the uprising of the Moslems of Kansu, for these compose at least one third of the population. The prospect of Moslem depredations strikes terror to the heart of the Chinese, who know that the Moslems when aroused are as cruel as the grave. We have reason to entertain serious apprehensions if neither the Imperial troops, nor the revolutionary army can cope with this new dangerous element. It may eventually be necessary for all Kansu missionaries to collect in one place for mutual protection until our respective governments can send a relief force to our assistance, or can make arrangements with the leaders of the revolutionary army to provide a safe escort to the coast.[37]

        The missionary even suggested that a Buddhist temple, which the mission had acquired, “could easily be fortified so as to be almost impregnable against mob assaults, if defended by a few resolute men”.[38] In the end these missionaries came through the revolution in Gansu relatively unscathed.

        Writing from the northeastern corner of Gansu, John Scott Fiddler 費德烈 (1865-1955) of the China Inland Mission 內地會 reported that the Gelaohui 哥老會 or Elder Brother Society commenced their attack on the Ningxia 寧夏 prefectural yamen and other targets on 19 November. They subsequently plundered the missionary's house “and robbed of all, nothing left except what they smashed, such as foreign stoves, organs, and the glass in doors and in windows”. Later another military force dislodged the Gelaohui from Ningxia.[39] The Elder Brother Society, an intensely anti-Qing and antiforeign secret society, was associated with the Tongmenghui and had infiltrated the ranks of the New Armies, especially in Sichuan and Shaanxi.

        Reports from the Belgian missionaries of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary 聖母聖心會 (CICM) confirm that the entire northwestern region had been plunged into general lawlessness during the revolution. In view of the rise of banditry, the CICM priests organized their Christians for defensive purposes in several communities and were able to repulse bandit attacks. Of greater concern was the presence of Gelaohui forces. When a group of Elder Brothers was pillaging in the Chinese Christian village of Xiaoqiaopan 小橋畔 in the vicariate apostolic of Southwest Mongolia, the troublemakers were eventually dispersed by Father Juul Tanghe's 黨以仁 (1876-1913) Christians from the nearby Mongol settlement of Boro Balγasun (Chinese: 城川). To the relief of missionaries and Christians, banditry and secret society activities were brought under control when the Gemingdang forces established law and order in the area.[40]

        There is in fact a rather darker side to the revolution, usually glossed over in standard historical accounts. It was, of course, not only an anti-monarchical challenge, but also an anti-Manchu affair. To be sure, the Manchus had in many ways remained an alien, privileged and distinct ethnic group, living in segregated, enclosed quarters in a number of Chinese cities.[41] With the emergence of an essentially irrational nationalism during the first decade of the twentieth century, many urban Chinese activists also “nursed revolutionary sentiments with a distinctively racist tinge. Other, more blatantly racist groups were organized secretly.”[42] Many of the New Army units were strongly influenced by the anti-Manchu ideas of the Tongmenghui. The Chinese press took every opportunity to incite anti-Manchu feelings by recounting in gory detail the ‘crimes of the Manchu’ more than 250 years earlier. John Darroch 竇樂安 (1865-1941), an agent of the Religious Tract Society in China, while recognizing the intensely nationalistic feelings expressed in thought and action by many Chinese, wondered whether the ‘atrocities’ charged against the present Manchu rulers were either imaginary or grossly exaggerated.[43]

        Some missionary observers alluded to the anti-Manchu deadly violence in Wuchang, Fuzhou, Zhenjiang, Taiyuan and Nanjing in the course of the revolution. However, the most savage attacks on the banner people occurred in Xi'an 西安, the provincial capital of Shaanxi. Here the revolution started on 22 October 1911 when elements in the New Army launched a systematic and merciless attack on the Manchu garrison city. Ernest Frank Borst-Smith 司慕德 (1882-1958), a member of the Baptist Missionary Society 大英浸信會, described the massacre as follows:

Then followed what must fill every civilised person with pain and disgust -- viz., the virtual extermination of the Manchus…. Their city was set on fire, and multitudes of people were burned alive. For three whole days a deadly slaughter went on, men, women, and children being slain without mercy or discrimination.[44]

        John Charles Keyte 祁仰德 (1874-1942), another English Baptist missionary reported:

When the Manchus found that further resistance was useless, they in many cases knelt on the ground, laying down their weapons, and begged the soldiers for life. They were shot as they knelt. Sometimes there was a whole line of them. In one doorway a group of between ten and twenty were thus killed in cold blood…. The numbers slain … were estimated by the foreigners living in Sianfu through the revolution as not less than ten thousand who were either killed or took their own lives to escape a worst fate.[45]

        A group of Christian Manchus, presumably Baptists, survived because they were absent from the Manchu city, attending a Sunday church service in the eastern suburb of Xi'an.[46]

        The Manchus of Xi'an clearly were the victims of the “virulent racist rhetoric that had been a staple of the revolutionaries’ ideology for over a decade”[47], but on this occasion -- and rather unexpectedly -- some of the foreign missionaries were also attacked. On 22 October 1911 at midnight, an “angry mob” attacked the premises of the Swedish missionaries who were members of the Scandinavian Alliance Mission of North America 北美瑞挪會. Mrs. Ida Beckman (1865-1911), her young daughter, as well as five Swedish school children and their teacher Wilhelm T. Vatne (1889-1911) were killed. This murderous attack on missionaries was highly unusual. In other parts of China both the republicans and the imperial forces had generally been careful to protect the life and property of the missionary enterprise. Borst-Smith stated that it was not the revolutionaries who harmed the foreigners, but “an angry and promiscuous mob”.[48] Mr. Erik Richard Beckman 白錦策 (1866-?) who had survived the attack, was more specific, claiming that the majority of the revolutionaries at Xi'an were members the Gelaohui.[49]

        At least in one instance Catholic missionaries were able to function as peacemakers in the bloody contest between Chinese and Manchus. After a prolonged siege by republican forces of the banner garrison at Jingzhou 荊州, Hubei, the Belgian Franciscan friar Marcellus Sterkendries 馬修德 (1865-1928) acted as mediator in the ensuing peace negotiations. Among other things, the Manchus agreed to surrender their arms and ammunition, including 3,000 rifles and 16 cannons, to be stored in the Catholic church. On 13 December 1911, the Manchu General Liankui 連魁 went to the Franciscan mission to surrender, and the revolutionaries under Tang Xizhi 唐犧支 (1887-1924) entered Jingzhou four days later without incident, exacting no retribution against the surviving Manchus. Some of these survivors subsequently converted to Christianity.[50]

The Aftermath

        As the hundredth anniversary of the 1911 Revolution approaches, the event will no doubt be celebrated in a variety of ways. Standard interpretations notwithstanding, it was hardly a bloodless affair. As the missionary reports indicate, a disproportionate number of the people killed and wounded during the revolution were Manchus. Furthermore, the general lawlessness that ensued in the hinterland must have caused significant loss of life and property to ordinary Chinese people, including converts. On the other hand, missionaries -- with the exception of the foreign community in Xi'an -- had not been unduly troubled by the conflict. It is, therefore, not surprising that many Protestants, especially those in safe cosmopolitan centres, tended to favour the revolutionary movement. Americans, in particular, had promoted democratic and republican ideas in China. At the beginning of 1912, when the contest had not yet been settled, one Protestant missionary predicted a positive outcome for Christianity. “When the revolution is accomplished we shall find that the world will recognise the reasonableness and fine qualities of the Chinese as it has not been able to do before. Many Chinese puzzles will vanish and men will see things as they are.” He was confident that as a result of education, liberty, and religious toleration, “the spirit of persecution must forever perish in the fires of this revolution”.[51]

        The American Presbyterian (North) 美國北長老會 missionary Courtenay Hughes Fenn 芳泰瑞 (1866-1953) argued that “the revolution in the [Chinese] state was itself, by general consent, to a large degree the effect of the mission; the mission, by its past and present methods, being one of the chief revolutionary forces”. He concluded that

“Let the working man and the employer make free agreements, and in particular let them agree freely as to the wages; nevertheless, there underlies a dictate of natural justice more imperious and ancient than any bargain between man and man, namely, that wages ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner. If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accepts harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford him no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice...” (no. 45).

        such a revolution in the nation as has taken place demands from the mission such immediate aggressive advance as shall take advantage of all the new privileges and opportunities, and such modification of method as shall make that advance most effective for the accomplishment of that still greater revolution for which we hope, namely, the setting up of the Kingdom of Christ in the midst of this new republic as an underlying and permeating controlling force which alone can establish firmly the foundations of a true republic, conserve the liberty of its citizens, promote its abiding prosperity and make it a blessing, instead of a peril, to the world.[52]

        As the following comment in the organ of the Christian and Missionary Alliance indicates, American evangelical missionaries, too, were quite optimistic about the future of Christianity in China. “China is passing through a stupendous political revolution which while fraught with temporary peril for the missionaries and considerable suspension of missionary work, will undoubtedly in the end result in wider openings and greater facilities for the evangelization of all Imperial China.”[53] A missionary of this organization, Mrs Harriet Rutherford Hess (1865-1967), wife of Isaac L. Hess 希迺錫 (1856-1923), reported from Wuzhou, Guangxi: “We have every reason to believe that the new conditions brought about by the Rebellion, will result in greater and more wonderful opportunities for the advance of God's Kingdom than we have yet known. We feel it already. The Christian religion, instead of being a despised thing, has suddenly become popular; and foreigners and native Christians instead of being hated, are now respected and esteemed.”[54]

        Protestant missionaries from Europe had been ambivalent about the reform movement and the revolution. Catholic priests, too, made no explicit comments in their published accounts as to what they thought about the ‘revolutionists’. What all missionary groups wanted was religious freedom and a stable and safe environment in which to practice their vocation. Although religious freedom had been enshrined in the republican constitution, it was feared that conservative forces during the presidency of Yuan Shikai were endeavouring to make Confucianism the Chinese state religion, thereby undermining what had been guaranteed in the constitution. At the same time, the early republic was plunged into military conflict and social unrest almost from the start. Yet it was precisely these often chaotic conditions that afforded the missionaries ample opportunities to operate as healers, providers, protectors and mediators. That is to say, the foreign evangelists had adapted well to local conditions and their presence was generally appreciated by the populace at large. The real challenge to their presence in China would come in the 1920s.

Endnote :
  1. For an analysis of these complexities and spatial variations, or what John Lust has called “this confused situation”, see Lust, “Secret Societies, Popular Movements, and the 1911 Revolution”, in: Jean Chesneaux (ed.), Popular Movements and Secret Societies in China 1840-1950 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1972), pp. 165-211.
  2. The classic study in this regard is Lu Shiqiang 呂實強, Zhongguo guanshen fanjiao de yuanyin 1860-1874 中國官紳反教的原因: 一八六0∼一八七四 [The causes of the anti-Christian movement by Chinese officials and gentry 1860-1874], (Taibei: Wenjing shuju, 1973).
  3. On Anzer's rejection of Confucianism, see 狄德滿 [R. G. Tiedemann], Huabei de baoli he konghuang : Yihetuan yundong qianxi Jidujiao chuanbo he shehui chongtu 《華北的暴力和恐慌:義和團運動前夕的基督教傳播和社會衝突》 [Violence and Fear in North China: Christian Missions and Social Conflict on the Eve of the Boxer Uprising] (Nanjing: Jiangsu renmin chubanshe, 2011), pp. 190-191. For a re-evaluation of this controversial figure, see R. G. Tiedemann, “Missionaries, Imperialism and the Boxer Uprising: Some Historiographical Considerations”, in: Ku Wei-ying古偉瀛 (ed.), Dong-Xi jiaoliushi de xinju: yi Jidu zongjiao wei zhongxin 東西交流史的新局﹕以基督宗教為中心 [New Situation of the History of East-Western Exchanges: With the Focus on Christianity]. (Taibei: Taida chuban zhongxin, 2005), pp. 309-357; Karl Josef Rivinius SVD, Im Spannungsfeld von Mission und Politik: Johann Baptist Anzer (1851-1903), Bischof von Sud-Shandong (Nettetal: Steyler Verlag, 2010).
  4. See Joseph de la Serviere SJ, Histoire de la Mission du Kiang-nan. Vol. 2: Mgr Borgniet (1856-1862) Mgr Languillat (1864-1878). (Zikawei, Shanghai, preface dated 1914), p. 277. See also Li Tiangang, “Christianity and Cultural Conflict in the Life of Ma Xiangbo”, in: Ruth Hayhoe and Lu Yongling (eds.), Ma Xiangbo and the Mind of Modern China 1840-1939 (Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 1996), pp. 102-107.
  5. For details, see Jean-Paul Wiest, “The Rise and Fall of the First Aurora, 1842-1905”, in: Noel Golvers and Sara Lievens (eds.), A Lifelong Dedication to the China Mission: Essays Presented in Honor of Father Jeroom Heyndrickx, CICM, on the Occasion of his 75th Birthday and the 25th Anniversary of the F. Verbiest Institute K.U. Leuven (Leuven; Ferdinand Verbiest Institute, K.U. Leuven, 2007), pp. 705-735.
  6. On the educational programme of the Society of the Divine Word in Shandong after 1900, see Karl Josef Rivinius SVD, Traditionalismus und Modernisierung: Das Engagement von Bischof Augustin Henninghaus auf dem Gebiet des Bildungs- und Erziehungswesens in China (1904-1914), (Nettetal: Steyler Verlag, 1994.
  7. Richard Hartwich SVD, Steyler Missionare in China. I. Missionarische Erschliessung Sudshantungs 1879-1903. Beitrage zu einer Geschichte. (Sankt Augustin: Steyler Verlag, 1983), p. 469.
  8. Konrad von der Goltz to Imperial Chancellor, Extract from report B.295 of 4 November 1902, Politisches Archiv des Auswartigen Amtes, Deutsche Botschaft China, Aktenbestand Peking II, vol. 340, f. 7.
  9. For an account of the dissolution of German-Chinese school agreement, see Rivinius, Traditionalismus und Modernisierung, pp. 130-133.
  10. For more detailed information, see Roman Malek SVD, “Christian Education and the Transfer of Ideas on a Local Level: Catholic Schoolbooks and Instructional Materials from Shandong (1882-1950)”, in: Peter Chen-main Wang (ed.), Setting the Roots Right: Christian Education in China and Taiwan 將根紮好: 基督宗教在華教育的檢討(Taibei: Liming wenhua, 2007).
  11. Arthur J. Brown, The Chinese Revolution (New York: Student Volunteer Movement, 1912), p. 125.
  12. Ibid., p. 13.
  13. Ryan Dunch, Fuzhou Protestants and the Making of a Modern China 1857-1927 (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2001), p. xvi.
  14. Ibid., p. 49. It would seem that in Fuzhou the Methodist Episcopal mission produced a far greater number of activists than the American Board mission 美部會 or the Church Missionary Society 英國傳道會.
  15. Ibid., p. 69.
  16. Paul Monteil 孟德良 CM to Maurice Bouvier 鮑維翰 CM, Nanchang, 1 November 1911, in ibid., pp. 73-74.
  17. Annales de la Congregation de la Mission 77.1 (1912), p. 71.
  18. Chinese Recorder 43.1 (January 1912), p. 1.
  19. Dunch, pp. 104-108.
  20. John Darroch, “Current Events as Seen Through the Medium of the Chinese Newspaper”, Chinese Recorder 43.1 (January 1912), pp. 32-33.
  21. Gain, Nanjing, 10 November 1911, in Relations de Chine 3rd series, vol. 4 (January 1912), p. 324.
  22. Gain, 2 and 5 December 1912, in ibid. pp. 333-334.
  23. Report from Anqing, in ibid. p. 338. Having initially defended the imperial order, Zhu was eventually persuaded to declare Anhui independent from the Qing government. He briefly served as provincial military governor 都督 from 8 November to 28 November 1911. See also the brief account by Robert Roberfroid SJ in ibid. pp. 317-318.
  24. Thoralf Klein, Die Basler Mission in Guangdong (Sudchina) 1859-1931 (Munich: IUDICIUM Verlag, 2002), p. 430.
  25. Qin Heping 秦和平, Jidu zongjiao zai Sichuan chuanbo shigao 基督宗教在四川傳播史稿 [History of the spread of Christianity in Sichuan] (Chengdu: Sichuan renmin chubanshe, 2006), noted in Jeff McClain's review in Frontiers of History in China 2.2 (2007), p. 291.
  26. Roxann Prazniak, Of Camel Kings and Other Things: Rural Rebels Against Modernity in Late Imperial China (Lanham, MD: Roman & Littlefield, 1998).
  27. Henrietta Harrison, China (London: Arnold; New York: Co-published in the United States of America by Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 135.
  28. Ibid., p. 137.
  29. Stenz to his sister Maria and her husband Eduard Koll, Jining, 30 November 1911, in: Puhl, p. 166.
  30. Before the revolution Chen Minghou陳明侯 (Chen Gan陳干), a native of the Changyi district昌邑縣, Shandong, had been associated with modern schools and the mining rights recovery movement in Shandong. See Shandong jindaishi ziliao 山東近代史資料 [Materials on the modern history of Shandong] (Ji'nan: Shandong renmin chubanshe, 1958; repr. Tokyo: Daian, 1968), Vol. 2, p. 222; Tsingtauer Neueste Nachrichten 13 September 1908, p. 2, and 20 February 1909, p. 7. Like many so-called ‘revolutionaries’, Chen came to terms with Yuan Shikai's regime in the summer of 1912.
  31. For further details on events in the Huaibei region, see Rosario Renaud SJ, Suchow. Diocese de Chine. Vol. 1: (1882-1931). (Montreal: Editions Bellarmin, 1955), pp. 385-410; Young-tsu Wong, ‘Popular Unrest and the 1911 Revolution in Jiangsu’, Modern China 3.3 (July 1977), pp. 329-330. On Zhang Xun's defeat at Nanjing on 2 December 1911, see Ralph L. Powell, The Rise of Chinese Military Power 1895-1912 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1955), pp. 327-328; Edmund S. K. Fung, The Military Dimension of the Chinese Revolution: The New Army and Its Role in the Revolution of 1911 (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1980), pp. 222-223. On Zhang's presence in Yanzhou, see the missionary accounts in Richard Hartwich SVD, Steyler Missionare in China. Vol.3: Republik China und Erster Weltkrieg 1911-1919 (Nettetal: Steyler Verlag – Wort und Werk, 1987), pp. 107-110.
  32. For an amusing account of the circumstances of Dannic's mediation and the gratitude shown by the townspeople, see his letter of 10 February 1912, in Relations de Chine 4 (October 1912), pp. 520-523. For further details, see R. G. Tiedemann, “Anti-Christian Conflict in Local Perspective. The Life and Times of Pang Sanjie: Patriot, Protector, Bandit or Revolutionary?” in: Peter Chen-main Wang (ed.), Contextualization of Christianity in China: An Evaluation in Modern Perspective (Sankt Augustin, Germany: Monumenta Serica, 2007), pp. 243-275.
  33. Leopold Gain SJ, “Dans la Chine nouvelle”, dated Shanghai, October 1915, in Etudes 146 (20 February 1916), p. 508.
  34. Josef Kosters SVD, “Die Revolution in China und ihre Bedeutung fur die Mission”, Steyler Missionsbote 39 (1911/12), pp. 171-174.
  35. Wang Lin'ge 王麟閣, “Jimo, Gaomi, Zhucheng duli zhi huiyi” 即墨、高密、諸城獨立志回憶 [Reflections on the independence of Jimo, Gaomi and Zhucheng], in: Shandong jindaishi ziliao 山東近代史資料, vol. 2, pp. 232-236.
  36. “The Revolution in China”, The Alliance Weekly 37.20 (17 February 1912), p. 314.
  37. Ekvall, “Present Conditions of Foreigners in Kansu”, The Alliance Weekly 37.25 (23 March 1912), p. 392.
  38. Ibid., p. 395. See also idem, “From the Tibertan Borders”, The Alliance Weekly 38.4 (27 April 1912), p. 56.
  39. Fiddler, letter dated Ningxia, 26 December 1911, in The Alliance Weekly 38.4 (27 April 1912), pp. 56-57.
  40. The account is based on several reports in Missions en Chine, au Congo et au Philippines, vol. 24 (1912). On competing Muslim activities in Shaanxi and Gansu, see also Jonathan N. Lipman, Familiar Strangers: A History of Muslims in Northwest China (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1997), Chapter 5.
  41. For further details, see Edward J. M. Rhoads, Manchus and Han: Ethnic Relations and Political Power in late Qing and Early Republican China (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2000).
  42. Joyce A. Madancy, The Troublesome Legacy of Commissioner Lin: The Opium Trade and Opium Suppression in Fujian Province, 1820s to 1920s (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2004), p. 190.
  43. Darroch, pp. 24-25.
  44. Ernest Frank Borst-Smith, Caught in the Chinese Revolution: A Record of Risks and Rescue (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1912), p. 20.
  45. Charles John Keyte, The Passing of the Dragon: The Story of the Shensi Revolution and Relief Expedition (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1913), pp. 44-45.
  46. Borst-Smith, p. 21.
  47. Rhoads, p. 228.
  48. Borst-Smith, p. 25.
  49. E. R. Beckman, The Massacre at Sianfu and other Experiences in Connection with the Scandinavian Alliance Mission of North America (Chicago: [J.V. Martenson], 1913), pp. 48, 91, 104. There was also an Italian Franciscan mission in Xi'an, but it has not been possible to obtain information concerning the experiences of the friars and their converts during the revolutionary upheavals in the Shaanxi capital.
  50. Rhoads, Manchus and Han, pp. 198-200; Carine Dujardin, Missionering en moderniteit. De Belgische minderbroeders in China 1872-1940 (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1996), pp. 228-230, with a photo of Sterkendries and a group of Manchu converts on p. 200; Fidelis Vrijdaghs, Een Belgische missionaris: P. Marcellus Sterkendries, minderbroeder, redder der Tartaren (Mechelen: S. Franciscus' drukkerij, 1925).
  51. Editorial, Chinese Recorder 43.1 (January 1912), pp. 3-4.
  52. C. H. Fenn, “Mission after the Revolution”, Chinese Recorder 43.11 (November 1912), p. 635.
  53. The Alliance Weekly 37.17 (27 January 1912), p. 257.
  54. Mrs I. L. Hess, “Wuchow Items”, The Alliance Weekly 38.8 (25 May 1912), p. 121.

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