Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Sun Jan 05, 2020 3:07 am

Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 1/4/20



The Royal Banner of Scotland is also the banner of the Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland

The Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland is the British Sovereign's personal representative to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (the Kirk), reflecting the Church's role as the national church of Scotland and the Sovereign's role as protector and member of that Church.


Lord High Commissioners were appointed to the Parliament of the Kingdom of Scotland between 1603 and 1707 as the Sovereign's personal representative. The Act of Union 1707 made this function redundant, but a Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has been appointed each year, as the Sovereign's personal representative, since 1690.

Prior to 1929, the General Assembly was held in the former Tolbooth Highland St John's Church on Edinburgh's Royal Mile (this building is no longer used as a church, instead being converted into "The Hub" for the Edinburgh International Festival society), where a Throne was provided for the use of the Lord High Commissioner. The union of the Church of Scotland and the (non-established) United Free Church of Scotland took place in 1929. Since 1930 the General Assembly has always met in the former United Free Church Assembly Hall on The Mound, Edinburgh. The Lord High Commissioner sits on the Throne in the Royal Gallery, which is technically "outside" the Assembly Hall—symbolising the independence of the Church in matters spiritual from state interference. The first Assembly of the newly united church in 1929 was held in halls in Annandale Street, Edinburgh (now a bus garage), the only building large enough. Difficulty in accessing the Royal Gallery in this temporary location led to a seemingly trivial but nevertheless embarrassing dispute over protocol, whereby the Lord High Commissioner (the Duke of York, later King George VI) would have had to enter through the Assembly Hall itself—an act of symbolic state interference in the hard-won spiritual independence of the church. The Moderator, Dr John White, was adamant that this would be unacceptable, even suggesting that the post of Lord High Commissioner could be dispensed with. Eventually a suitable arrangement was agreed upon and the office of Lord High Commissioner has survived.


The office has always been largely ceremonial. The person appointed invariably has a distinguished record of public service in Scotland as well as having close connections with the church, often being an Elder of the Church of Scotland.

On behalf of the Sovereign, the Lord High Commissioner attends the General Assembly, makes opening and closing addresses to the Assembly, and carries out a number of official visits and ceremonial functions (not all related to the Church of Scotland). At the formal opening of the General Assembly, the Principal Clerk reads out the Royal Warrant appointing the Lord High Commissioner, who is then invited to address the Assembly. All ministers, elders and deacons appointed by Presbyteries to attend the General Assembly are known as "Commissioners" and have voting powers; the Lord High Commissioner, however, has no vote, nor may he/she intervene in debates.

Apart from his/her opening and closing addresses, the Lord High Commissioner makes no further intervention in Assembly debates but will be in daily attendance for at least part of each day's business. Following the Assembly, the Lord High Commissioner personally informs The Queen about the business of the week.

Form of address

While the General Assembly is meeting, the Lord High Commissioner is treated as if a regent. By custom, he or she is addressed as "Your Grace" and is greeted with a bow or curtsey. When the Princess Royal was appointed in 1996, she was styled as "Her Grace" for the duration rather than her normal dynastic style "Her Royal Highness" because the Lord High Commissioner is ranked higher in the order of precedence.

If a woman is appointed to the office, the alternative title "Her Majesty's High Commissioner" may, if requested, be used. Margaret Herbison was the first woman to hold the post (1970 & 1971).







-- Holyrood Palace, by Wikipedia

Since 1834 the Lord High Commissioner has resided at the Palace of Holyroodhouse and gave a garden party for Commissioners to the General Assembly on the Saturday afternoon of Assembly week and other hospitality. He or she is entitled to use the Scottish Royal Banner, and has precedence immediately after the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh and before the rest of the Royal Family. Even his or her official car receives special treatment and, except for the Queen's, is the only vehicle in the country not to have number plates. However, the plates are re-attached during the closing speech of the Assembly, and the Lord High Commissioner returns to his royal but temporary residence as an ordinary citizen. In recent years, the garden party has been replaced by the "Heart and Soul" event, held in Princes Street Gardens and attended by the Lord High Commissioner.[1]


There is a Household of His Grace the Lord High Commissioner. This includes the Purse Bearer (who is the head of the Household), Chaplain, Aides-de-Camp (three in 1949), a Lady-in-Waiting, Extra Lady-in-Waiting, and Maids of Honour (three in 1949). The Macebearer bears the Lord President's Mace or the Old Exchequer Mace. The Master of the Horse is no longer appointed. The subordinate staff further includes the Assistant to the Purse Bearer, and a Lady's Maid. The Household make no financial demands on the funds of the Church of Scotland, which are devoted exclusively to the Parish and Mission work of the Kirk.

List of Purse Bearers

• 1930–1958: Lt Col Sir Edward Daymonde-Stevenson KCVO MC
• 1959–1960: David Charles Scott-Moncrieff CVO TD WS
• 1961–1969: Sir Alastair Blair KCVO TD JP WS
• 1969–1988: Sir Charles Fraser KCVO
• 1988–2001: Robin Blair LVO WS
• 2001–present: Tom Murray WS

List of Lords High Commissioner

• 1580: The Laird of Lundie & Sir James Balfour of Pittendreich or James Halyburton
• 1581: William Cunningham, 4th Laird of Caprington
• April 1582: Ralph Kerr
• October 1582: James Halyburton & Colonel William Stewart of Houston
• incomplete
• 1639: The Earl of Traquair
• 1640: none
• 1641: The Earl of Wemyss
• 1642: The Earl of Dunfermline
• 1643: Sir Thomas Hope
• 1644–1645: none
• 1646: Letter from the King regretting that no Commissioner could be sent
• 1647–1650: none
• 1651: The Earl of Balcarres
• 1652: none
• 1653: none
• 1653–1690: no General Assembly
• 1690: The Lord Carmichael
• 1692: The Earl of Lothian
• 1694–1699: The Lord Carmichael
• 1700: The Viscount Seafield (became an earl before serving again in 1703)
• 1701: The Earl of Annandale (became a marquess before serving again in 1705 and 1711)
• 1702: The Earl of Marchmont
• 1703: The Earl of Seafield (succeeded as Earl of Findlater before serving again in 1724)
• 1704: The Lord Ross
• 1705: The Marquess of Annandale
• 1706–1710: The 1st Earl of Glasgow
• 1711: The Marquess of Annandale
• 1712–1714: The 1st Duke of Atholl
• 1715–1721: The Earl of Rothes
• 1722: The Earl of Loudoun
• 1723: The 1st Earl of Hopetoun
• 1724: The Earl of Findlater
• 1725–1726: The Earl of Loudoun
• 1727: The Earl of Findlater
• 1728: The Earl of Loudoun
• 1729: The Earl of Buchan
• 1730–1731: The Earl of Loudoun
• 1732–1738: The Marquess of Lothian
• 1739–1740: The Earl of Hyndford
• 1741–1753: The 5th Earl of Leven
• 1754: The 2nd Earl of Hopetoun
• 1755–1763: The Lord Cathcart
• 1764–1772: The 3rd Earl of Glasgow
• 1773–1776: The Lord Cathcart
• 1777–1782: The Earl of Dalhousie
• 1783–1801: The 6th Earl of Leven
• 1802–1816: The Lord Napier
• 1817–1818: The Earl of Erroll
• 1819–1824: The Earl of Morton
• 1825–1830: The Lord Forbes
• 1831–1841: The Lord Belhaven and Stenton
• 1842–1846: The Marquess of Bute
• 1847–1851: The Lord Belhaven and Stenton
• 1852: The Earl of Mansfield and Mansfield
• 1853–1857: The Lord Belhaven and Stenton
• 1858–1859: The Earl of Mansfield and Mansfield
• 1860–1866: The Lord Belhaven and Stenton
• 1867–1868: The Earl of Haddington
• 1869–1871: The 10th Earl of Stair
• 1872–1873: The Earl of Airlie
• 1874–1875: The Earl of Rosslyn
• 1876–1877: The Earl of Galloway
• 1878–1880: The Earl of Rosslyn
• 1881–1885: The Earl of Aberdeen
• 1886: The Lord Thurlow
• 1887–1889: The 7th Earl of Hopetoun
• 1889–1892: The Marquess of Tweeddale
• 1893–1895: The Marquess of Breadalbane
• 1896–1897: The Marquess of Tweeddale
• 1898–1906: The 11th Earl of Leven[2][3]
• 1907–1909: The 11th Lord Kinnaird
• 1910: The 11th Earl of Stair
• 1911–1914: The Lord Glenconner
• 1915: The Earl of Aberdeen
• 1916–1917: The 5th Duke of Montrose
• 1918–1920: The 8th Duke of Atholl
• 1921–1922: The Duke of Sutherland
• 1923: The Lord Elphinstone
• 1924: James Brown MP (made a privy counsellor before serving again in 1930)
• 1925–1926: The 10th Earl of Elgin
• 1927–1928: The 12th Earl of Stair
• 1929: The Duke of York (later George VI)
• 1930–1931: James Brown MP
• 1932: Sir Iain Colquhoun
• 1933–1934: John Buchan
• 1935: The Duke of Kent
• 1936–1937: The 12th Lord Kinnaird
• 1938–1939: Lt Col Sir John Gilmour, 2nd Bt
• 1940–1941: Sir Iain Colquhoun
• 1942–1943: The 6th Duke of Montrose
• 1944–1945: The Marquess of Linlithgow
• 1946–1947: George Mathers MP (made a privy counsellor before serving again in 1948)
• 1948: George Mathers MP
• 1949: The Duke of Gloucester
• 1950: The Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope
• 1951: George Mathers MP
• 1952: The Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope
• 1953–1955: The Duke of Hamilton
• 1956–1957: Walter Elliot MP
• 1958: The Duke of Hamilton
• 1959–1960: The Earl of Wemyss and March
• 1961–1963: The Duke of Gloucester
• 1964: General Sir Richard O'Connor
• 1965–1966: Lord Birsay
• 1967–1968: The Lord Reith
• 1969: The Queen attended in person
• 1970: Peggy Herbison
• 1971–1972: The Lord Clydesmuir
• 1973–1974: The Lord Ballantrae
• 1975–1976: Sir Hector MacLennan
• 1977: The Earl of Wemyss and March
• 1978–1979: Willie Ross (former Secretary of State for Scotland)
• 1980–1981: The 11th Earl of Elgin
• 1982–1983: Col Sir John Gilmour, 3rd Bt
• 1984–1985: The Lord Maclean
• 1986–1987: The Viscount of Arbuthnott
• 1988–1989: Captain Sir Iain Tennant
• 1990–1991: Lord Ross, Lord Justice Clerk
• 1992–1993: The Lord Macfarlane of Bearsden
• 1994–1995: Lady Fraser
• 1996: The Princess Royal
• 1997: The Lord Macfarlane of Bearsden
• 1998–1999: The Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld
• 2000: The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay
• 2001: The Viscount Younger of Leckie (former Secretary of State for Scotland)
• 2002: The Queen attended in person
• 2003–2004: The Lord Steel of Aikwood (former Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament and former Leader of the Liberal Democrats)
• 2005–2006: The Lord Mackay of Clashfern (former Lord Chancellor)
• 2007: The Earl of Inverness
• 2008–2009:[4] George Reid (former Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament)
• 2010–2011: The Lord Wilson of Tillyorn (former Governor of Hong Kong)
• 2012–2013: The Lord Selkirk of Douglas
• 2014: The Earl of Wessex[5]
• 2015–2016: The Lord Hope of Craighead [6]
• 2017: The Princess Royal
• 2018–2019: The Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry

See also

• Supreme Governor of the Church of England
• List of Moderators of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
• Order of precedence in Scotland
• Lord Lieutenant
• Lord High Commissioner to the Parliament of Scotland


1. Heart and Soul 2016.
2. "No. 27310". The London Gazette. 3 May 1901. p. 3033.
3. "No. 27428". The London Gazette. 25 April 1902. p. 2789.
4. Appointment of Lord High Commissioner for 2009 Archived 2008-12-09 at the UK Government Web Archive
5. Number 10 – Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland 2014 (Accessed 8 December 2013)
6. Queen Appoints senior judge as Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly.
• Church of Scotland website
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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

Postby admin » Tue Jan 07, 2020 1:07 am

Part 1 of 2

First Sino-Japanese War
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 1/6/20



China’s loss of prestige in Tibet since the Japano-Chinese war owing to her inability to assert her power over the vassal state has much to do with this pro-Russian leaning. China is no longer respected, much less feared by the Tibetans. Previous to that war and before China’s internal incompetence had been laid bare by Japan, relations like those between master and vassal bound Tibet to China. The latter interfered with the internal affairs of Tibet and meted out punishments freely to the Tibetan dignitaries and even to the Grand Lama. Now she is entirely helpless. She could not even demand explanations from Tibet when that country was thrown into an unusual agitation about the Temo Rinpoche’s affair. The Tibetans are now conducting themselves in utter disregard or even in defiance of the wishes of China, for they are aware of the powerlessness of China to take any active steps against them. They know that their former suzerain is fallen and is therefore no longer to be depended upon. They are prejudiced against England on account of her subjugation of India, and so they have naturally concluded that they should establish friendly relations with Russia, which they knew was England’s bitter foe.

It is evident that the Dalai Lama himself favors this view, and it may safely be presumed that unless he was favorably disposed towards Russia he would never have[505] accepted the bishop’s garment from the Tsar. He is too intelligent a man to accept any present from a foreign sovereign as a mere compliment.

The Dalai Lama’s friendly inclination was clearly established when in December, 1900, he sent to Russia his grand Chamberlain as envoy with three followers. Leaving Lhasa on that date the party first proceeded towards the Tsan-ni Kenbo’s native place, whence they were taken by the Siberian railway, and in time reached S. Petersburg. The party was received with warm welcome by that court, to which it offered presents brought from Tibet. It is said that on that occasion a secret understanding was reached between the two Governments.

-- Three Years in Tibet, by Shramana Ekai Kawaguchi

First Sino-Japanese War
First Sino-Japanese War, major battles and troop movements
Date 25 July 1894 – 17 April 1895
(8 months, 2 weeks and 2 days)
Location: Korea, Manchuria, Taiwan, Yellow Sea
Result: Japanese victory

Significant loss of prestige for the Qing Empire
Joseon removed from the Qing Empire's vassalage
Korean Peninsula transferred to Japanese sphere of influence
Treaty of Shimonoseki
changes The Qing Empire cedes Taiwan, Penghu, and the Liaodong Peninsula to the Empire of Japan.
Belligerents: China Japan
Commanders and leaders:
Guangxu Emperor
Empress Dowager Cixi
Li Hongzhang
Liu Kunyi
Song Qing
Ding Ruchang †
Liu Buchan †
Ye Zhichao
Zuo Baogui †
Meiji Emperor
Itō Hirobumi
Yamagata Aritomo
Nozu Michitsura
Ōyama Iwao
Itō Sukeyuki
630,000 men 240,616 men
Casualties and losses
35,000 dead and wounded 1,132 dead
3,758 wounded
285 died of wounds
11,894 died of disease

War of Jiawu – referring to the year 1894 under the traditional sexagenary system

The First Sino-Japanese War (25 July 1894 – 17 April 1895), also known as the Chino-Japanese War, was a conflict between China and Japan primarily over influence in Korea.[1] After more than six months of unbroken successes by Japanese land and naval forces and the loss of the port of Weihaiwei, the Qing government sued for peace in February 1895.

The war demonstrated the failure of the Qing dynasty's attempts to modernize its military and fend off threats to its sovereignty, especially when compared with Japan's successful Meiji Restoration. For the first time, regional dominance in East Asia shifted from China to Japan;[2] the prestige of the Qing Dynasty, along with the classical tradition in China, suffered a major blow. The humiliating loss of Korea as a tributary state sparked an unprecedented public outcry. Within China, the defeat was a catalyst for a series of political upheavals led by Sun Yat-sen and Kang Youwei, culminating in the 1911 Xinhai Revolution.

The war is commonly known in China as the War of Jiawu (Chinese: 甲午戰爭; pinyin: Jiǎwǔ Zhànzhēng), referring to the year (1894) as named under the traditional sexagenary system of years. In Japan, it is called the Japan–Qing War (Japanese: 日清戦争, Hepburn: Nisshin sensō). In Korea, where much of the war took place, it is called the Qing–Japan War (Korean: 청일전쟁; Hanja: 淸日戰爭).


After two centuries, the Japanese policy of seclusion under the shōguns of the Edo period came to an end when the country was opened to trade by the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854. In the years following the Meiji Restoration of 1868 and the fall of the shogunate, the newly formed Meiji government embarked on reforms to centralize and modernize Japan.[3] The Japanese had sent delegations and students around the world to learn and assimilate Western arts and sciences, with the intention of making Japan an equal to the Western powers.[4] These reforms transformed Japan from a feudal society into a modern industrial state.

The Qing Dynasty had also started to undergo reform in both military and political doctrine, but was far from successful.

Korean politics

In January 1864, Cheoljong of Joseon died without a male heir, and through Korean succession protocols Gojong of Korea ascended the throne at the age of 12. However, as King Gojong was too young to rule, the new king's father, Yi Ha-ŭng, became the Heungseon Daewongun, or lord of the great court, and ruled Korea in his son's name as regent.[5] Originally the term Daewongun referred to any person who was not actually the king but whose son took the throne.[5] With his ascendancy to power the Daewongun initiated a set of reforms designed to strengthen the monarchy at the expense of the Yangban class. He also pursued an isolationist policy and was determined to purge the kingdom of any foreign ideas that had infiltrated into the nation.[6] In Korean history, the king's in-laws enjoyed great power, consequently the Daewongun acknowledged that any future daughters-in-law might threaten his authority.[7] Therefore, he attempted to prevent any possible threat to his rule by selecting as a new queen for his son an orphaned girl from among the Yŏhŭng Min clan, which lacked powerful political connections.[8] With Empress Myeongseong as his daughter-in-law and the royal consort, the Daewongun felt secure in his power.[8] However, after she had become queen, Min recruited all her relatives and had them appointed to influential positions in the name of the king. The Queen also allied herself with political enemies of the Daewongun, so that by late 1873 she had mobilized enough influence to oust him from power.[8] In October 1873, when the Confucian scholar Choe Ik-hyeon submitted a memorial to King Gojong urging him to rule in his own right, Queen Min seized the opportunity to force her father-in-law's retirement as regent.[8] The departure of the Daewongun led to Korea's abandonment of its isolationist policy.[8]

Opening of Korea

On February 26, 1876, after confrontations between the Japanese and Koreans, the Ganghwa Treaty was signed, opening Korea to Japanese trade. In 1880, the King sent a mission to Japan that was headed by Kim Hong-jip, an enthusiastic observer of the reforms taking place there.[9] While in Japan, the Chinese diplomat Huang Zunxian presented him with a study called "Chaoxian Celue" (A Strategy for Korea).[9] It warned of the threat to Korea posed by the Russians and recommended that Korea maintain friendly relations with Japan, which was at the time too economically weak to be an immediate threat, to work closely with China, and seek an alliance with the United States as a counterweight to Russia.[10] After returning to Korea, Kim presented the document to King Gojong, who was so impressed with the document that he had copies made and distributed to his officials.[11]

In 1880, following Chinese advice and breaking with tradition, King Gojong decided to establish diplomatic ties with the United States.[12] After negotiations through Chinese mediation in Tianjin, the Treaty of Peace, Amity, Commerce, and Navigation was formally signed between the United States and Korea in Incheon on May 22, 1882.[12] However, there were two significant issues raised by the treaty, the first concerned Korea's status as an independent nation. During the talks with the Americans, the Chinese insisted that the treaty contain an article declaring that Korea was a dependency of China and argued that the country had long been a tributary state of China.[12] But the Americans firmly opposed such an article, arguing that a treaty with Korea should be based on the Treaty of Ganghwa, which stipulated that Korea was an independent state.[13] A compromise was finally reached, with Shufeldt and Li agreeing that the King of Korea would notify the U.S president in a letter that Korea had special status as a tributary state of China.[13] The treaty between the Korean government and the United States became the model for all treaties between it and other Western countries. Korea later signed similar trade and commerce treaties with Great Britain and Germany in 1883, with Italy and Russia in 1884, and with France in 1886. Subsequently, commercial treaties were concluded with other European countries.[14]

Korean reforms

After 1879, China's relations with Korea came under the authority of Li Hongzhang, who had emerged as one of the most influential figures in China after playing an important role during the Taiping Rebellion, and was also an advocate of the self-strengthening movement.[11] In 1879, Li was appointed as governor-general of Zhili Province and the imperial commissioner for the northern ports. He was in charge of China's Korea policy and urged Korean officials to adopt China's own self-strengthening program to strengthen their country in response to foreign threats, to which King Gojong was receptive.[11] The Korean government, immediately after opening of the country to the outside world, pursued a policy of enlightenment aimed at achieving national prosperity and military strength through the doctrine of tongdo sŏgi (Eastern ways and Western machines).[14] To modernize their country, the Koreans tried selectively to accept and master Western technology while preserving their country's cultural values and heritage.[14]

In January 1881, the government launched administrative reforms and established the T'ongni kimu amun (Office for Extraordinary State Affairs) which was modeled on Chinese administrative structures.[14] Under this overarching organization, 12 sa or agencies were created.[14] In 1881, a technical mission was sent to Japan to survey its modernized facilities.[15] Officials traveled all over Japan inspecting administrative, military, educational, and industrial facilities.[15] In October, another small group went to Tianjin to study modern weapons manufacturing, and Chinese technicians were invited to manufacture weapons in Seoul. Additionally, as part of their plan to modernize the country, the Koreans had invited the Japanese military attaché Lieutenant Horimoto Reizō to serve as an adviser in creating a modern army.[16] A new military formation called the Pyŏlgigun (Special Skills Force) was established, in which eighty to one hundred young men[17] of the aristocracy were to be given Japanese military training.[18] The following year, in January 1882, the government also reorganized the existing five-army garrison structure into the Muwiyŏng (Palace Guards Garrison) and the Changŏyŏng (Capital Guards Garrison).[14]

Japanese insecurities over Korea

During the 1880s, discussions in Japan about national security focused on the issue of Korean reform. The political discourse over the two were interlinked, as the German military adviser Major Jacob Meckel stated, Korea was "a dagger pointed at the heart of Japan".[19] What made Korea of strategic concern was not merely its proximity to Japan but its inability to defend itself against outsiders. If Korea were truly independent, it posed no strategic problem to Japan's national security but if the country remained backward and uncivilized it would remain weak and consequently would be inviting prey for foreign domination.[20] The political consensus in Japan was that Korean independence lay, as it had been for Meiji Japan, through the importation of "civilization" from the West.[19] Korea required a program of self-strengthening like the post-Restoration reforms that were enacted in Japan.[20] The Japanese interest in the reform of Korea was not purely altruistic. Not only would these reforms enable Korea to resist foreign intrusion, which was in Japan's direct interest, but through being a conduit of change they would also have opportunity to play a larger role on the peninsula.[19] To Meiji leaders, the issue was not whether Korea should be reformed but how these reforms might be implemented. There was a choice of adopting a passive role which required the cultivation of reformist elements within Korean society and rendering them assistance whenever possible, or adopting a more aggressive policy, actively interfering in Korean politics to assure that reform took place.[21] Many Japanese advocates of Korean reform swung between these two positions.

Japan in the early 1880s was weak, as a result of internal peasant uprisings and samurai rebellions during the previous decade. The country was also struggling financially, with inflation as a result of these internal factors. Subsequently, the Meiji government adopted a passive policy, encouraging the Korean court to follow the Japanese model but offering little concrete assistance except for the dispatch of the small military mission headed by Lieutenant Horimoto Reizo to train the Pyŏlgigun.[21] What worried the Japanese was the Chinese, who had loosened their hold over Korea in 1876 when the Japanese succeeded in establishing a legal basis for Korean independence by ending its tributary status.[22] Chinese actions appeared to be thwarting the forces of reform in Korea and re-asserting their influence over the country.[22]

1882 crisis

Main article: Imo Incident

Woodblock print depicting the flight of the Japanese legation in 1882

In 1882, the Korean Peninsula experienced a severe drought which led to food shortages, causing much hardship and discord among the population. Korea was on the verge of bankruptcy, even falling months behind on military pay, causing deep resentment among the soldiers. There was also resentment towards the Pyŏlgigun on the part of the soldiers of the regular Korean army, as the formation was better equipped and treated.[16] Additionally, more than 1000 soldiers had been discharged in the process of overhauling the army, most of them were either old or disabled and the rest had not been given their pay in rice for thirteen months.[18]

In June of that year, King Gojong, being informed of the situation, ordered that a month's allowance of rice be given to the soldiers.[18] He directed Min Gyeom-ho, the overseer of government finances and the Queen Min's nephew,[23] to handle the matter. Min in turn handed the matter over to his steward who sold the good rice he had been given and used the money to buy millet which he mixed with sand and bran.[18] As a result, the rice became rotten and inedible. The distribution of the alleged rice infuriated the soldiers. On July 23, a military mutiny and riot broke out in Seoul. Enraged soldiers headed for the residence of Min Gyeom-ho, who they had suspected of having swindled them out of their rice.[18] Min, on hearing word of the revolt, ordered the police to arrest some of the ringleaders and announced that they would be executed the next morning. He had assumed that this would serve as a warning to the other agitators. However, after learning what had transpired, the rioters broke into Min's house to take vengeance; as he was not at his residence the rioters vented their frustrations by destroying his furniture and other possessions.[18]

The rioters then moved on to an armory from which they stole weapons and ammunition, and then headed for the prison. After overpowering the guards, they released not only the men who had been arrested that day by Min Gyeom-ho but also many political prisoners as well.[18] Min then summoned the army to quell the rebellion but it had become too late to suppress the mutiny. The original body of mutineers had been swelled by the poor and disaffected citizenry of the city, as a result the revolt had assumed major proportions.[18] The rioters now turned their attention to the Japanese. One group headed to Lieutenant Horimoto's quarters and killed him.[18] Another group, some 3,000 strong headed for the Japanese legation, where Hanabusa Yoshitada the minister to Korea and twenty seven members of the legation resided.[18] The mob surrounded the legation shouting its intention of killing all the Japanese inside.[18] Hanabusa gave orders to burn the legation and important documents were set on fire. As the flames quickly spread, the members of the legation escaped through a rear gate, where they fled to the harbor and boarded a boat which took them down the Han River to Chemulpo. Taking refuge with the Incheon commandant, they were again forced to flee after word arrived of the events in Seoul and the attitude of their hosts changed. They escaped to the harbor during heavy rain and were pursued by Korean soldiers. Six Japanese were killed, while another five were seriously wounded.[18] The survivors carrying the wounded, then boarded a small boat and headed for the open sea where three days later they were rescued by a British survey ship, HMS Flying Fish,[24] which took them to Nagasaki. The following day, after the attack on the Japanese legation, the rioters forced their way into the royal palace where they found and killed Min Gyeom-ho, as well as a dozen other high-ranking officers.[24] They also searched for Queen Min. The queen narrowly escaped, however, dressed as an ordinary lady of the court and was carried on the back of a faithful guard who claimed she was his sister.[24] The Daewongun used the incident to reassert his power.

The Chinese then deployed about 4,500 troops to Korea, under General Wu Changqing, which effectively regained control and quelled the rebellion.[25] In response, the Japanese also sent four warships and a battalion of troops to Seoul to safeguard Japanese interests and demand reparations. However, tensions subsided with the Treaty of Chemulpo, signed on the evening of August 30, 1882. The agreement specified that the Korean conspirators would be punished and ¥50,000 would be paid to the families of slain Japanese. The Japanese government would also receive ¥500,000, a formal apology, and permission to station troops at their diplomatic legation in Seoul. In the aftermath of rebellion, the Daewongun was accused of fomenting the rebellion and its violence, and was arrested by Chinese and taken to Tianjin.[26] He was later carried off to a town about sixty miles southwest of Beijing, where for three years he was confined to one room and kept under strict surveillance.[27]

Re-assertion of Chinese influence

After the Imo Incident, early reform efforts in Korea suffered a major setback.[28] In the aftermath of the incident, the Chinese reasserted their influence over the peninsula, where they began to directly interfere in Korean internal affairs.[28] After stationing troops at strategic points in the capital Seoul, the Chinese undertook several initiatives to gain significant influence over the Korean government.[29] Two special advisers on foreign affairs representing Chinese interests were dispatched to Korea: the German Paul Georg von Möllendorff, a close confidant of Li Hongzhang, and the Chinese diplomat Ma Jianzhong.[30] A staff of Chinese officers also took over the training of the army, providing the Koreans with 1,000 rifles, two cannons, and 10,000 rounds of ammunition.[31] Furthermore, the Chingunyeong (Capital Guards Command), a new Korean military formation, was created and trained along Chinese lines by Yuan Shikai.[30]

In October, the two countries signed a treaty stipulating that Korea was a dependency of China and granted Chinese merchants the right to conduct overland and maritime business freely within its borders. It also gave the Chinese substantial advantages over the Japanese and Westerners and also granted them unilateral extraterritoriality privileges in civil and criminal cases.[31] Under the treaty the number of Chinese merchants and traders greatly increased, a severe blow to Korean merchants.[30] Although it allowed Koreans reciprocally to trade in Beijing the agreement was not a treaty but was in effect issued as a regulation for a vassal.[28] Additionally, during the following year, the Chinese supervised the creation of a Korean Maritime Customs Service, headed by von Möllendorff.[28] Korea was reduced to a semi-colonial tributary state of China with King Gojong unable to appoint diplomats without Chinese approval,[32] and with troops stationed in the country to protect Chinese interests.[nb 1]

Factional rivalry and ascendancy of the Min clan

During the 1880s two rival factions emerged in Korea. One was a small group of reformers that had centered around the Gaehwadang, (Enlightenment Party) which had become frustrated at the limited scale and arbitrary pace of reforms.[28] The members who constituted the Enlightenment Party were youthful, well-educated Koreans and most were from the yangban class.[28] They were impressed by the developments in Meiji Japan and were eager to emulate them.[28] Its members included Kim Ok-gyun, Pak Yung-hio, Hong Yeong-sik, Seo Gwang-beom, and Soh Jaipil.[33] The group was also relatively young; Pak Yung-hio came from a prestigious lineage related to the royal family, was 23, Hong was 29, Seo Gwang-beom was 25, and Soh Jaipil was 20; with Kim Ok-gyun being the oldest at 33.[33] All had spent some time in Japan, Pak Yung-hio had been part of a mission sent to Japan to apologize for the Imo incident in 1882.[28] He had been accompanied by Seo Gwang-beom and by Kim Ok-gyun, who later come under the influence of Japanese modernizers such as Fukuzawa Yukichi. Kim Ok-gyun, while studying in Japan, had also cultivated friendships with influential Japanese figures and became the de facto leader of the group.[33] They were also strongly nationalistic and desired to make their country truly independent by ending Chinese interference in Korea's internal affairs.[30]

The Sadaedang was a group of conservatives, which included not only Min Yeong-ik from the Min family but also other prominent Korean political figures that wanted to maintain power with China's help. Although the members of the Sadaedang supported the enlightenment policy, they favored gradual changes based on the Chinese model.[30] After the Imo incident, the Min clan pursued a pro-Chinese policy. This was also partly a matter of opportunism as the intervention by Chinese troops led to subsequent exile of the rival Daewongun in Tianjin and the expansion of Chinese influence in Korea, but it also reflected an ideological disposition also shared by many Koreans toward the more comfortable and traditional relationship as a tributary of China.[33] Consequently, the Min clan became advocates of the "dongdo seogi" (Adopting Western knowledge while keeping Eastern values) philosophy, this had originated from the ideas of moderate Chinese reformers who had emphasized the need to maintain the perceived superior cultural values and heritage[14] of the Sino-centric world while recognizing the importance of acquiring and adopting Western technology, particularly military technology, in order to preserve autonomy. Hence, rather than the major institutional reforms such as the adaptation of new values such as legal equality or introducing modern education like in Meiji Japan, the advocates of this school of thought sought piecemeal adoptions of institutions that would strengthen the state while preserving the basic social, political, and cultural order.[33] Through the ascendancy of Queen Min to the throne, the Min clan had also been able to use the newly created institutions by the government as bases for political power, subsequently with their growing monopoly of key positions they frustrated the ambitions of the Enlightenment Party.[33]

Gapsin Coup

Main article: Gapsin Coup

In the two years proceeding the Imo incident, the members of the Gaehwadang had failed to secure appointments to vital offices in the government and were unable to implement their reform plans.[34] As a consequence they were prepared to seize power by all means necessary. In 1884, an opportunity to seize power by staging a coup d'état against the Sadaedang presented itself. In August, as hostilities between France and China erupted over Annam, half of the Chinese troops stationed in Korea were withdrawn.[34] On December 4, 1884, with the help of the Japanese minister Takezoe Shinichiro who promised to mobilize Japanese legation guards to provide assistance, the reformers staged their coup under the guise of a banquet hosted by Hong Yeong-sik, the director of the General Postal Administration. The banquet was to celebrate the opening of the new national post office.[34] King Gojong was expected to attend together with several foreign diplomats and high-ranking officials, most of whom were members of the pro-Chinese Sadaedang faction. Kim Ok-gyun and his comrades approached King Gojong falsely stating that Chinese troops had created a disturbance and escorted him to the small Gyoengu Palace, where they placed him in the custody of Japanese legation guards. They then proceeded to kill and wound several senior officials of the Sadaedang faction.[34]

After the coup, the Gaehwadang members formed a new government and devised a program of reform. The radical 14-point reform proposal stated that the following conditions be met: an end to Korea's tributary relationship with China; the abolition of ruling-class privilege and the establishment of equal rights for all; the reorganization of the government as virtually a constitutional monarchy; the revision of land tax laws; cancellation of the grain loan system; the unification of all internal fiscal administrations under the jurisdiction of the Ho-jo; the suppression of privileged merchants and the development of free commerce and trade, the creation of a modern police system including police patrols and royal guards; and severe punishment of corrupt officials.[34]

However, the new government lasted no longer than a few days.[34] Particularly, as the reformers were supported by no more than 140 Japanese troops who faced at least 1,500 Chinese garrisoned in Seoul,[34] under the command of General Yuan Shikai. With the reform measures being a threat to her clans' power, Queen Min secretly requested military intervention from the Chinese. Consequently, within three days, even before the reform measures were made public, the coup was suppressed by the Chinese troops who attacked and defeated the Japanese forces and restored power to the pro-Chinese Sadaedang faction.[34] During the ensuing melee Hong Yeong-sik was killed, the Japanese legation building was burned down and forty Japanese were killed. The surviving Korean coup leaders including Kim Ok-gyun escaped to the port of Chemulpo under escort of the Japanese minister Takezoe. From there they boarded a Japanese ship for exile in Japan.[35]

In January 1885, with a show of force the Japanese dispatched two battalions and seven warships to Korea,[36] which resulted in the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1885, signed on 9 January 1885. The treaty restored diplomatic relations between Japan and Korea. The Koreans also agreed to pay the Japanese ¥100,000 for damages to their legation[36] and to provide a site for the building of a new legation. Prime Minister Ito Hirobumi, in order to overcome Japan's disadvantageous position in Korea followed by the abortive coup, visited China to discuss the matter with his Chinese counterpart, Li Hongzhang. The two parties succeeded in concluding the Convention of Tianjin on May 31, 1885. They also pledged to withdraw their troops from Korea within four months, with prior notification to the other if troops were to be sent to Korea in the future.[36] After both countries withdrew their forces they left behind a precarious balance of power on the Korean Peninsula between the two nations.[36] Meanwhile, Yuan Shikai remained in Seoul, appointed as the Chinese Resident and continued to interfere with Korean domestic politics.[36] The failure of the coup also marked a dramatic decline in Japanese influence over Korea.[37]

Nagasaki incident

Main article: Nagasaki incident

The Nagasaki incident was a riot that took place in the Japanese port city of Nagasaki in 1886. Four warships from the Qing Empire's navy, the Beiyang Fleet, stopped at Nagasaki, apparently to carry out repairs. Some Chinese sailors caused trouble in the city and started the riot. Several Japanese policemen confronting the rioters were killed. The Qing government did not apologize after the incident, which resulted in a wave of anti-Chinese sentiment in Japan.

Bean controversy

A poor harvest in 1889 led the governor of Korea's Hamgyong Province to prohibit soybean exports to Japan. Japan requested and received compensation in 1893 for their importers. The incident highlighted the growing dependence Japan felt on Korean food imports.[38]

Prelude to War

Kim Ok-gyun affair

Kim Ok-gyun photographed in Nagasaki in 1882. His assassination in China would contribute to tensions leading to the First Sino-Japanese War.

On March 28, 1894, a pro-Japanese Korean revolutionary, Kim Ok-gyun, was assassinated in Shanghai. Kim had fled to Japan after his involvement in the 1884 coup and the Japanese had turned down Korean demands that he be extradited.[39] Many Japanese activists saw in him potential for a future role in Korean modernization, however, Meiji government leaders were more cautious; after some reservations they exiled him to the Bonin (Ogasawara) Islands. Ultimately, he was lured to Shanghai, where he was killed by a Korean, Hong Jong-u, in his room at a Japanese inn in the international settlement. After some hesitation, the British authorities in Shanghai concluded that rules against extradition did not apply to a corpse and turned his body over to Chinese authorities. His body was then taken aboard a Chinese warship and sent back to Korea, where it was cut up, quartered and displayed in all Korean provinces as a warning to other purported rebels and traitors.[39]

In Tokyo, the Japanese government took this as an outrageous affront.[39] Kim Ok-gyun's brutal murder was portrayed as a betrayal by Li Hongzhang and a setback for Japan's stature and dignity.[39] Not only did the Chinese authorities refuse to press charges against the assassin, but he was even allowed to accompany Kim's mutilated body back to Korea, where he was showered with rewards and honors.[40] Kim's assassination had also called Japan's commitment to its Korean supporters into question. The police in Tokyo had foiled an earlier attempt during the same year to assassinate Pak Yung-hio, one of the other Korean leaders of the 1884 uprising. When two suspected Korean assassins received asylum at the Korean legation, it had also instigated a diplomatic outrage.[40] Although the Japanese government could have immediately used Kim's assassination to its advantage, it concluded that since Kim died on Chinese territory the treatment of the corpse was outside its authority.[40] But the shocking murder of the Korean inflamed Japanese opinion, many in the country considered the Chinese supported actions as also being directed against Japan. To the Japanese, the Chinese had also showed their contempt for international law, when they set free the suspected assassin, who had been arrested by British authorities in Shanghai and then in accordance with treaty obligations turned over to the Chinese for trial. Nationalistic groups immediately began to call for war with China.[40]

Donghak Rebellion

Main article: Donghak Peasant Revolution

Tension ran high between China and Japan by June 1894 but war was not yet inevitable. On June 4, the Korean king, Gojong, requested aid from the Qing government in suppressing the Donghak Rebellion. Although the rebellion was not as serious as it initially seemed and hence Qing reinforcements were not necessary, the Qing government still sent the general Yuan Shikai as its plenipotentiary to lead 2,800 troops to Korea.[41] According to the Japanese, the Qing government had violated the Convention of Tientsin by not informing the Japanese government of its decision to send troops, but the Qing claimed that Japan had approved this.[42] The Japanese countered by sending an 8,000-troop expeditionary force (the Oshima Composite Brigade) to Korea. The first 400 troops arrived on June 9 en route to Seoul, and 3,000 landed at Incheon on June 12.[43]

However, Japanese officials denied any intention to intervene. As a result, the Qing viceroy Li Hongzhang "was lured into believing that Japan would not wage war, but the Japanese were fully prepared to act".[attribution needed][44] The Qing government turned down Japan's suggestion for Japan and China to cooperate to reform the Korean government. When Korea demanded that Japan withdraw its troops from Korea, the Japanese refused.

In early June 1894, the 8,000 Japanese troops captured the Korean king Gojong, occupied the Gyeongbokgung in Seoul and, by June 25, replaced the existing Korean government with members of the pro-Japanese faction.[43] Even though Qing forces were already leaving Korea after finding themselves unneeded there, the new pro-Japanese Korean government granted Japan the right to expel Qing forces while Japan dispatched more troops to Korea. The Qing Empire rejected the new Korean government as illegitimate.

Status of combatants


Japanese reforms under the Meiji government gave significant priority to the creation of an effective modern national army and navy, especially naval construction. Japan sent numerous military officials abroad for training and evaluation of the relative strengths and tactics of Western armies and navies.

Imperial Japanese Navy

Itō Sukeyuki, Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet

The French-built Matsushima, flagship of the Imperial Japanese Navy during the Sino-Japanese conflict

The Imperial Japanese Navy was modeled after the British Royal Navy,[45] at the time the foremost naval power. British advisors were sent to Japan to train the naval establishment, while Japanese students were in turn sent to Britain to study and observe the Royal Navy. Through drilling and tuition by Royal Navy instructors, Japan developed naval officers expert in the arts of gunnery and seamanship.[46] At the start of hostilities, the Imperial Japanese Navy comprised a fleet of 12 modern warships, (the protected cruiser Izumi being added during the war), eight corvettes, one ironclad warship, 26 torpedo boats, and numerous auxiliary/armed merchant cruisers and converted liners. During peacetime, the warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy were divided among three main naval bases at Yokosuka, Kure and Sasebo and following mobilization, the navy was composed of five divisions of seagoing warships and three flotillas of torpedo boats with a fourth being formed at the beginning of hostilities.[47] The Japanese also had a relatively large merchant navy, which at the beginning of 1894 consisted of 288 vessels. Of these, 66 belonged to the Nippon Yusen Kaisha shipping company, which received national subsidies from the Japanese government to maintain the vessels for use by the navy in time of war. As a consequence, the navy could call on a sufficient number of auxiliaries and transports.[47]

Japan did not yet have the resources to acquire battleships and so planned to employ the Jeune École doctrine, which favoured small, fast warships, especially cruisers and torpedo boats, with the offensive capability to destroy larger craft. The Japanese naval leadership, on the eve of hostilities, was generally cautious and even apprehensive,[48] as the navy had not yet received the warships ordered in February 1893, particularly the battleships Fuji and Yashima and the protected cruiser Akashi.[49] Hence, initiating hostilities at the time was not ideal, and the navy was far less confident than the army about the outcome of a war with China.[48]

Many of Japan's major warships were built in British and French shipyards (eight British, three French and two Japanese-built) and 16 of the torpedo boats were known to have been built in France and assembled in Japan.

Imperial Japanese Army

The Meiji government at first modeled their army after the French Army. French advisers had been sent to Japan with two military missions (in 1872–1880 and 1884), in addition to one mission under the shogunate. Nationwide conscription was enforced in 1873 and a Western-style conscript army[50] was established; military schools and arsenals were also built. In 1886, Japan turned toward the German-Prussian model as the basis for its army,[50] adopting German doctrines and the German military system and organisation. In 1885 Klemens Meckel, a German adviser, implemented new measures, such as the reorganization of the command structure into divisions and regiments; the strengthening of army logistics, transportation, and structures (thereby increasing mobility); and the establishment of artillery and engineering regiments as independent commands. It was also an army that was equal to European armed forces in every respect.[50]

Japanese troops during the Sino-Japanese War

On the eve of the outbreak of the war with China all men between the ages of 17 and 40 years were eligible for conscription, but only those who turned 20 were to be drafted while those who had turned 17 could volunteer.[50] All men between the ages of 17 and 40, even those who had not received military training or were physically unfit, were considered part of the territorial militia or national guard (kokumin).[50] Following the period of active military service (gen-eki), which lasted for three years, the soldiers became part of the first Reserve (yōbi) and then the second Reserve (kōbi). All young and able-bodied men who did not receive basic military training due to exceptions and those conscripts who had not fully met the physical requirements of military service, became third Reserve (hojū).[50] In the time of war, the first Reserve (yōbi) were to be called up first and they were intended to fill in the ranks of the regular army units. Next to be called up were the kōbi reserve who were to be either used to further fill in the ranks of line units or to be formed into new ones. The hojū reserve members were to be called up only in exceptional circumstances, and the territorial militia or national guard would only be called up in case of an immediate enemy attack on or invasion of Japan.[50]

The country was divided into six military districts, (headquarters Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Sendai, Hiroshima and Kumamoto) with each being a recruitment area for a square infantry division consisting of two brigades of two regiments.[50] Each of these divisions contained approximately 18,600 troops and 36 artillery pieces when mobilized.[51] There was also an Imperial Guard division which recruited nationally, from all around Japan. This division was also composed of two brigades but had instead two-battalion, not three-battalion, regiments, consequently its numerical strength after mobilization was 12,500 troops and 24 artillery pieces.[51] In addition, there were fortress troops consisting of approximately six battalions, the Colonial Corps of about 4,000 troops which was stationed on Hokkaido and the Ryukyu Islands, and a battalion of military police in each of the districts. In peacetime the regular army had a total of fewer than 70,000 men, while after mobilization the numbers rose to over 220,000.[51] Moreover, the army still had a trained reserve, which, following the mobilization of the first-line divisions, could be formed into reserve brigades. These reserve brigades each consisted of four battalions, a cavalry unit, a company of engineers, an artillery battery and rear-echelon units. They were to serve as recruiting bases for their front-line divisions and could also perform secondary combat operations, and if necessary they could be expanded into full divisions with a total of 24 territorial force regiments. However, formation of these units was hindered by a lack of sufficient amounts of equipment, especially uniforms.[51]

Japanese troops were equipped with the 8mm single-shot Murata Type 18 breech-loading rifle. The improved five-round-magazine Type 22 was just being introduced and consequently in 1894, on the eve of the war, only the Imperial Guard and 4th Division were equipped with these rifles. The division artillery consisted of 75mm field guns and mountain pieces manufactured in Osaka. The artillery was based on Krupp designs that were adapted by the Italians at the beginning of the 1880s; although it could hardly be described as modern in 1894, in general it still matched contemporary battlefield requirements.[51]

By the 1890s, Japan had at its disposal a modern, professionally trained Western-style army which was relatively well equipped and supplied. Its officers had studied in Europe and were well educated in the latest strategy and tactics. By the start of the war, the Imperial Japanese Army could field a total force of 120,000 men in two armies and five divisions.


The prevailing view in many Western circles was that the modernized Chinese military would crush the Japanese. Observers commended Chinese units such as the Huai Army and Beiyang Fleet.[nb 2] The German General Staff predicted a Japanese defeat and William Lang, who was a British advisor to the Chinese military, praised Chinese training, ships, guns, and fortifications, stating that "in the end, there is no doubt that Japan must be utterly crushed".[53]

Imperial Chinese Army

Main article: Imperial Chinese Army

The Qing Dynasty did not have a unified national army, but was made up of three main components, with the so-called Eight Banners forming the elite. The Eight Banners forces were segregated along ethnic lines into separate Manchu, Han Chinese, Mongol, Hui (Muslim) and other ethnic formations.[54] Bannermen who made up the Eight Banners got higher pay than the rest of the army while the Manchu received further privileges. In total, there were 250,000 soldiers in the Eight Banners, with over 60 per cent kept in garrisons in Beijing, while the remaining 40 per cent served as garrison troops in other major Chinese cities.[55] The Green Standard Army was a 600,000-strong gendarmarie-type force that was recruited from the majority Han Chinese population. Its soldiers were not given any peacetime basic military training, but were expected to fight in any conflict. The third component was an irregular force called the Braves, which were used as a kind of reserve force for the regular army, and which were usually recruited from the more distant or remote provinces of China. They were formed into very loosely organized units from the same province. The Braves were sometimes described as mercenaries, with their volunteers receiving as much military training as their commanders saw fit. With no fixed unit organization, it is impossible to know how many battle-ready Braves there actually were in 1894.[55] There were also other, smaller number of military formations, one of which was the Huai Army, which was under the personal authority of the politician, general and diplomat Li Hongzhang and was created originally to suppress the Taiping Rebellion (1850–1864). The Huai Army had received limited training by Western military advisors;[55] numbering nearly 45,000 troops, it was considered the best armed military unit in China.[56]

Although the Chinese had established arsenals to produce firearms, and a large number of them had been imported from abroad, 40 per cent of Chinese troops at the outbreak of the war were not issued with rifles or even muskets.[57] Instead they were armed with a variety of swords, spears, pikes, halberds, and bows and arrows.[57] Against well-trained, well-armed, and disciplined Japanese troops, they would have little chance. Those units that did have firearms were equipped with a heterogeneity of weapons, from a variety of modern rifles to old-fashioned muskets; this lack of standardization led to a major problem with the proper supply of ammunition.[58]

The Imperial Chinese Army in 1894 was a heterogeneous mixture of modernized, partly modernized, and almost medieval units which no commander could have led successfully, leading to poor leadership among Chinese officers.[59] Chinese officers did not know how to handle their troops and the older, higher-ranking officers still believed that they could fight a war as they had during the Taiping Rebellion of 1850–1864.[60] This was also the result of the Chinese military forces being divided into largely independent regional commands. The soldiers were drawn from diverse provinces that had no affinity with each other.[61] Chinese troops also suffered from poor morale, largely because many of the troops had not been paid for a long time.[60] The low prestige of soldiers in Chinese society also hindered morale, and the use of opium and other narcotics was rife throughout the army.[60] Low morale and poor leadership seriously reduced the effectiveness of Chinese troops, and contributed to defeats such as the abandonment of the very well-fortified and defensible Weihaiwei. Additionally, military logistics were lacking, as the construction of railroads in Manchuria had been discouraged. Huai Army troops, although they were a small minority in the overall Imperial Chinese Army, were to take part in the majority of the fighting during the war.[55]
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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

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Part 2 of 2

Beiyang Fleet

Main article: Beiyang Fleet

Empress Dowager Cixi built the Chinese navy in 1888.

The Beiyang Fleet was one of the four modernised Chinese navies in the late Qing dynasty. The navies were heavily sponsored by Li Hongzhang, the Viceroy of Zhili who had also created the Huai Army. The Beiyang Fleet was the dominant navy in East Asia before the First Sino-Japanese War. The Japanese themselves were apprehensive about facing the Chinese fleet, especially the two German-built battleships — Dingyuan and Zhenyuan – to which the Japanese had no comparable counterparts.[48] However, China's advantages were more apparent than real as most of the Chinese warships were over-age and obsolescent;[48] the ships were also not maintained properly and indiscipline was common among their crews.[62] The greater armor of major Chinese warships and the greater weight of broadside they could fire were more than offset by the number of quick-firing guns on most first-line Japanese warships, which gave the Japanese the edge in any sustained exchange of salvos.[48] The worst feature of both Chinese battleships was actually their main armament; each was armed with short-barreled guns in twin barbettes mounted in echelon which could fire only in restricted arcs. The short barrels of the Chinese main armament meant that the shells had a low muzzle velocity and poor penetration, and their accuracy was also poor at long ranges.[63]

Tactically, Chinese naval vessels entered the war with only the crudest set of instructions — ships that were assigned to designated pairs were to keep together and all ships were to fight end-on, as far forward from the beam as possible, a tactic dictated by the obsolescent arrangement of guns aboard Chinese warships.[63] The only vague resemblance of a fleet tactic was that all ships were to follow the visible movements of the flagship, an arrangement made necessary because the signal book used by the Chinese was written in English, a language with which few officers in the Beiyang Fleet had any familiarity.[63]

When it was first developed by Empress Dowager Cixi in 1888, the Beiyang Fleet was said to be the strongest navy in East Asia. Before her adopted son, Emperor Guangxu, took over the throne in 1889, Cixi wrote out explicit orders that the navy should continue to develop and expand gradually.[64] However, after Cixi went into retirement, all naval and military development came to a drastic halt. Japan's victories over China has often been falsely rumored to be the fault of Cixi.[65] Many believed that Cixi was the cause of the navy's defeat because Cixi embezzled funds from the navy in order to build the Summer Palace in Beijing. However, extensive research by Chinese historians revealed that Cixi was not the cause of the Chinese navy's decline. In actuality, China's defeat was caused by Emperor Guangxu's lack of interest in developing and maintaining the military.[64] His close adviser, Grand Tutor Weng Tonghe, advised Guangxu to cut all funding to the navy and army, because he did not see Japan as a true threat, and there were several natural disasters during the early 1890s which the emperor thought to be more pressing to expend funds on.[64]

Dingyuan, the flagship of the Beiyang Fleet


Contemporaneous wars fought by the Qing Empire

While the Qing Empire was fighting the First Sino-Japanese War, it was also simultaneously engaging rebels in the Dungan Revolt in northwestern China, where thousands lost their lives. The generals Dong Fuxiang, Ma Anliang and Ma Haiyan were initially summoned by the Qing government to bring the Hui troops under their command to participate in the First Sino-Japanese War, but they were eventually sent to suppress the Dungan Revolt instead.[66]

Early stages

1 June 1894: The Donghak Rebel Army moves toward Seoul. The Korean government requests help from the Qing government to suppress the revolt.

6 June 1894: About 2,465 Chinese soldiers are transported to Korea to suppress the Donghak Rebellion. Japan asserts that it was not notified and thus China has violated the Convention of Tientsin, which requires that China and Japan must notify each other before intervening in Korea. China asserts that Japan was notified and approved of Chinese intervention.

8 June 1894: First of about 4,000 Japanese soldiers and 500 marines land at Jemulpo (Incheon).

11 June 1894: End of the Donghak Rebellion.

13 June 1894: The Japanese government telegraphs the commander of the Japanese forces in Korea, Ōtori Keisuke, to remain in Korea for as long as possible despite the end of the rebellion.

16 June 1894: Japanese foreign minister Mutsu Munemitsu meets with Wang Fengzao, the Qing ambassador to Japan, to discuss the future status of Korea. Wang states that the Qing government intends to pull out of Korea after the rebellion has been suppressed and expects Japan to do the same. However, China retains a resident to look after Chinese primacy in Korea.

22 June 1894: Additional Japanese troops arrive in Korea. Japanese prime minister Itō Hirobumi tells Matsukata Masayoshi that since the Qing Empire appear to be making military preparations, there is probably "no policy but to go to war". Mutsu tells Ōtori to press the Korean government on the Japanese demands.

26 June 1894: Ōtori presents a set of reform proposals to the Korean king Gojong. Gojong's government rejects the proposals and instead insists on troop withdrawals.

7 July 1894: Failure of mediation between China and Japan arranged by the British ambassador to China.

19 July 1894: Establishment of the Japanese Combined Fleet, consisting of almost all vessels in the Imperial Japanese Navy. Mutsu cables Ōtori to take any necessary steps to compel the Korean government to carry out a reform program.

23 July 1894: Japanese troops occupy Seoul, capture Gojong, and establish a new, pro-Japanese government, which terminates all Sino-Korean treaties and grants the Imperial Japanese Army the right to expel the Qing Empire's Beiyang Army from Korea.

25 July 1894: First battle of the war: the Battle of Pungdo / Hoto-oki kaisen

Events during the war

Opening moves

By July 1894, Qing forces in Korea numbered 3,000–3,500 and were outnumbered by Japan. They could only be supplied by sea through Asan Bay. The Japanese objective was first to blockade the Chinese at Asan (south of Seoul, South Korea) and then encircle them with their land forces. Japan's initial strategy was to gain command of the sea, which was critical to its operations in Korea.[67] Command of the sea would allow Japan to transport troops to the mainland. The army's Fifth Division would land at Chemulpo on the western coast of Korea, both to engage and push Chinese forces northwest up the peninsula and to draw the Beiyang Fleet into the Yellow Sea, where it would be engaged in decisive battle. Depending on the outcome of this engagement, Japan would make one of three choices; If the Combined Fleet were to win decisively, the larger part of the Japanese army would undertake immediate landings on the coast between Shan-hai-kuan and Tientsin in order to defeat the Chinese army and bring the war to a swift conclusion. If the engagement were to be a draw and neither side gained control of the sea, the army would concentrate on the occupation of Korea. Lastly, if the Combined Fleet was defeated and consequently lost command of the sea, the bulk of the army would remain in Japan and prepare to repel a Chinese invasion, while the Fifth Division in Korea would be ordered to hang on and fight a rearguard action.[68]

Sinking of the Kow-shing

Main article: Battle of Pungdo

Depiction of the sinking of the Kow-shing and the rescue of some of its crew by the French gunboat Le Lion, from the French periodical Le Petit Journal (1894)

On 25 July 1894, the cruisers Yoshino, Naniwa and Akitsushima of the Japanese flying squadron, which had been patrolling off Asan Bay, encountered the Chinese cruiser Tsi-yuan and gunboat Kwang-yi.[68] These vessels had steamed out of Asan to meet the transport Kow-shing, escorted by the Chinese gunboat Tsao-kiang. After an hour-long engagement, the Tsi-yuan escaped while the Kwang-yi grounded on rocks, where its powder-magazine exploded.

The Kow-shing was a 2,134-ton British merchant vessel owned by the Indochina Steam Navigation Company of London, commanded by Captain T. R. Galsworthy and crewed by 64 men. The ship was chartered by the Qing government to ferry troops to Korea, and was on her way to reinforce Asan with 1,100 troops plus supplies and equipment. A German artillery officer, Major von Hanneken, advisor to the Chinese, was also aboard. The ship was due to arrive on 25 July.

The Japanese cruiser Naniwa, under Captain Tōgō Heihachirō, intercepted the Kow-shing and captured its escort. The Japanese then ordered the Kow-shing to follow Naniwa and directed that Europeans be transferred to Naniwa. However, the 1,100 Chinese on board, desperate to return to Taku, threatened to kill the English captain, Galsworthy, and his crew. After four hours of negotiations, Captain Togo gave the order to fire upon the vessel. A torpedo missed, but a subsequent broadside hit the Kow Shing, which started to sink.

In the confusion, some of the Europeans escaped overboard, only to be fired upon by the Chinese.[69] The Japanese rescued three of the British crew (the captain, first officer and quartermaster) and 50 Chinese, and took them to Japan. The sinking of the Kow-shing almost caused a diplomatic incident between Japan and Great Britain, but the action was ruled in conformity with international law regarding the treatment of mutineers (the Chinese troops). Many observers considered the troops lost on board the Kow-shing to have been the best the Chinese had.[69]

The German gunboat Iltis rescued 150 Chinese, the French gunboat Le Lion rescued 43, and the British cruiser HMS Porpoise rescued an unknown number.[70]

Conflict in Korea

Main articles: Battle of Seonghwan and Battle of Pyongyang (1894)

Korean soldiers and Chinese captives

Commissioned by the new pro-Japanese Korean government to forcibly expel Chinese forces, Major-General Ōshima Yoshimasa led mixed Japanese brigades numbering about 4,000 on a rapid forced march from Seoul south toward Asan Bay to face 3,500 Chinese troops garrisoned at Seonghwan Station east of Asan and Kongju.

Japanese soldiers of the First Sino-Japanese War, Japan, 1895

On 28 July 1894, the two forces met just outside Asan in an engagement that lasted till 07:30 the next morning. The Chinese gradually lost ground to the superior Japanese numbers, and finally broke and fled towards Pyongyang. Chinese casualties amounted to 500 killed and wounded, compared to 82 Japanese casualties.

On 1 August, war was officially declared between China and Japan. By 4 August, the remaining Chinese forces in Korea retreated to the northern city of Pyongyang, where they were met by troops sent from China. The 13,000–15,000 defenders made defensive repairs to the city, hoping to check the Japanese advance.

On 15 September, the Imperial Japanese Army converged on the city of Pyongyang from several directions. The Japanese assaulted the city and eventually defeated the Chinese by an attack from the rear; the defenders surrendered. Taking advantage of heavy rainfall overnight, the remaining Chinese troops escaped Pyongyang and headed northeast toward the coastal city of Uiju. Casualties were 2,000 killed and around 4,000 wounded for the Chinese, while the Japanese casualties totaled 102 men killed, 433 wounded, and 33 missing. In the early morning of 16 September, the entire Japanese army entered Pyongyang.

Qing Hui Muslim general Zuo Baogui, from Shandong province, died in action in Pyongyang from Japanese artillery in 1894 while securing the city. A memorial to him was constructed.[71]

Defeat of the Beiyang fleet

Main article: Battle of the Yalu River (1894)

The Battle of the Yalu River

In early September, Li Hongzhang decided to reinforce the Chinese forces at Pyongyang by employing the Beiyang fleet to escort transports to the mouth of the Taedong River.[72] About 4,500 additional troops stationed in the Zhili were to be redeployed. On September 12, half of the troops embarked at Dagu on five specially chartered transports and headed to Dalian where two days later on September 14, they were joined by another 2,000 soldiers. Initially, Admiral Ding wanted to send the transports under a light escort with only a few ships, while the main force of the Beiyang Fleet would locate and operate directly against Combined Fleet in order to prevent the Japanese from intercepting the convoy.[72] But the appearance of the Japanese cruisers Yoshino and Naniwa on a reconnaissance sortie near Weihaiwei thwarted these plans.[72] The Chinese had mistaken them for the main Japanese fleet. Consequently, on September 12, the entire Beiyang Fleet departed Dalian heading for Weihaiwei, arriving near the Shandong Peninsula the next day. The Chinese warships spent the entire day cruising the area, waiting for the Japanese. However, since there was no sighting of the Japanese fleet, Admiral Ding decided to return to Dalian, reaching the port in the morning of September 15.[72] As Japanese troops moved north to attack Pyongyang, Admiral Ito correctly guessed that the Chinese would attempt to reinforce their army in Korea by sea. On 14 September, the Combined Fleet steamed northwards to search the Korean and Chinese coasts in order to bring the Beiyang Fleet to battle.[73]

The Japanese victory at Pyongyang had succeeded in pushing Chinese troops north to the Yalu river, in the process removing all effective Chinese military presence on the Korean Peninsula.[74] Shortly before the convoy's departure, Admiral Ding received a message concerning the battle at Pyongyang informing him about the defeat. Subsequently, it made the redeployment of the troops to the mouth of the Taedong river unnecessary.[72] Admiral Ding then correctly assumed that the next Chinese line of defence would be established on the Yalu River, and decided to redeploy the embarked soldiers there.[72] On September 16, the convoy of five transport ships departed from the Dalian Bay under escort from the vessels of the Beiyang Fleet which included the two ironclad battleships, Dingyuan and Zhenyuan.[72] Reaching the mouth of the Yalu River, the transports disembarked the troops, and the landing operation lasted until the following morning.

On September 17, 1894, the Japanese Combined Fleet encountered the Chinese Beiyang Fleet off the mouth of the Yalu River. The naval battle, which lasted from late morning to dusk, resulted in a Japanese victory.[75] Although the Chinese were able to land 4,500 troops near the Yalu River by sunset the Beiyang fleet was near the point of total collapse, most of the fleet had fled or had been sunk and the two largest ships Dingyuan and Zhenyuan were nearly out of ammunition.[76] The Imperial Japanese Navy destroyed eight of the ten Chinese warships, assuring Japan's command of the Yellow Sea. The principal factors in the Japanese victory was the superiority in speed and firepower.[77] The victory shattered the morale of the Chinese naval forces.[78] The Battle of the Yalu River was the largest naval engagement of the war and was a major propaganda victory for Japan.[79][80]

Invasion of Manchuria

Main article: Battle of Jiuliancheng

With the defeat at Pyongyang, the Chinese abandoned northern Korea and took up defensive positions in fortifications along their side of the Yalu River near Jiuliancheng. After receiving reinforcements by 10 October, the Japanese quickly pushed north toward Manchuria.

An illustration of Japanese soldiers beheading 38 Chinese POWs as a warning to others by Utagawa Kokunimasa

On the night of 24 October 1894, the Japanese successfully crossed the Yalu River, undetected, by erecting a pontoon bridge. The following afternoon of 25 October at 17:00, they assaulted the outpost of Hushan, east of Jiuliancheng. At 20:30 the defenders deserted their positions and by the next day they were in full retreat from Jiuliancheng.

With the capture of Jiuliancheng, General Yamagata's 1st Army Corps occupied the nearby city of Dandong, while to the north, elements of the retreating Beiyang Army set fire to the city of Fengcheng. The Japanese had established a firm foothold on Chinese territory with the loss of only four killed and 140 wounded.[citation needed]

The Japanese 1st Army Corps then split into two groups with General Nozu Michitsura's 5th Provincial Division advancing toward the city of Mukden (present-day Shenyang) and Lieutenant-General Katsura Tarō's 3rd Provincial Division pursuing fleeing Chinese forces west along toward the Liaodong Peninsula.

By December, the 3rd Provincial Division had captured the towns of Tatungkau, Takushan, Xiuyan, Tomucheng, Haicheng and Kangwaseh. The 5th Provincial Division marched during a severe Manchurian winter towards Mukden.

The Japanese 2nd Army Corps under Ōyama Iwao landed on the south coast of Liaodong Peninsula on 24 October and quickly moved to capture Jinzhou and Dalian Bay on 6–7 November. The Japanese laid siege to the strategic port of Lüshunkou (Port Arthur).

Fall of Lüshunkou

Main articles: Battle of Lushunkou and Port Arthur massacre (China)

By 21 November 1894, the Japanese had taken the city of Lüshunkou (Port Arthur) with minimal resistance and suffering minimal casualties. Describing their motives as having encountered a display of the mutilated remains of Japanese soldiers as they invaded the town, Japanese forces proceeded with the unrestrained killing of civilians during the Port Arthur Massacre with unconfirmed estimates in the thousands. An event which at the time was widely viewed with scepticism as the world at large was still in disbelief that the Japanese were capable of such deeds that seemed more likely to have been exaggerated propagandist fabrications of a Chinese government to discredit Japanese hegemony. In reality, the Chinese government itself was unsure of how to react and initially denied the occurrence of the loss of Port Arthur to the Japanese altogether.

As we entered the town of Port Arthur, we saw the head of a Japanese soldier displayed on a wooden stake. This filled us with rage and a desire to crush any Chinese soldier. Anyone we saw in the town, we killed. The streets were filled with corpses, so many they blocked our way. We killed people in their homes; by and large, there wasn't a single house without from three to six dead. Blood was flowing and the smell was awful. We sent out search parties. We shot some, hacked at others. The Chinese troops just dropped their arms and fled. Firing and slashing, it was unbounded joy. At this time, our artillery troops were at the rear, giving three cheers [banzai] for the emperor.

— Makio Okabe, diary[81]

By 10 December 1894, Kaipeng (present-day Gaizhou) fell to the Japanese 1st Army Corps.

Fall of Weihaiwei

Revisionist depiction of Chinese delegation, led by Admiral Ding Ruchang and their foreign advisors, boarding the Japanese vessel to negotiate the surrender with Admiral Itō Sukeyuki after the Battle of Weihaiwei. In reality, Ding had committed suicide after his defeat and never surrendered.

Main articles: Battle of Weihaiwei and Battle of Yingkou
The Chinese fleet subsequently retreated behind the Weihaiwei fortifications. However, they were then surprised by Japanese ground forces, who outflanked the harbour's defenses in coordination with the navy.[82] The Battle of Weihaiwei was a 23-day siege with the major land and naval components taking place between 20 January and 12 February 1895. Historian Jonathan Spence notes that "the Chinese admiral retired his fleet behind a protective curtain of contact mines and took no further part in the fighting."[83] The Japanese commander marched his forces over the Shandong peninsula and reached the landward side of Weihaiwei, where the siege was eventually successful for the Japanese.[83]

After Weihaiwei's fall on 12 February 1895, and an easing of harsh winter conditions, Japanese troops pressed further into southern Manchuria and northern China. By March 1895 the Japanese had fortified posts that commanded the sea approaches to Beijing. Although this would be the last major battle fought; numerous skirmishes would follow. The Battle of Yinkou was fought outside the port town of Yingkou, Manchuria, on 5 March 1895.

Occupation of the Pescadores Islands

Main article: Pescadores Campaign (1895)

Even before the peace negotiations were set to begin at Shimonoseki, the Japanese had begun preparations for the capture of Taiwan. However, the first operation would be directed not against the island itself, but against the Pescadores Islands, which due to their strategic position off the west coast would become a stepping stone for further operations against the island.[84] On March 6, a Japanese expeditionary force consisting of a reinforced infantry regiment with 2,800 troops and an artillery battery were embarked on five transports, sailed from Ujina to Sasebo, arriving there three days later.[84] On March 15, the five transports were escorted by seven cruisers and five torpedo boats of the 4th Flotilla, left Sasebo heading south. The Japanese fleet arrived at the Pescadores during the night of March 20, but encountered stormy weather. Due to the poor weather, the landings were postponed until March 23, when the weather cleared.[85]

On the morning March 23, the Japanese warships began the bombardment of the Chinese positions around the port of Lizhangjiao. A fort guarding the harbor was quickly silenced. At about midday, the Japanese troops began their landing. Unexpectedly, when the landing operation was underway, the guns of the fort once again opened fire, which caused some confusion among the Japanese troops. But they were soon silenced again after being shelled by the Japanese cruisers.[85] By 2:00pm, Lizhangjiao was under Japanese control. After reinforcing the captured positions, the following morning, Japanese troops marched on the main town of Magong. The Chinese offered token resistance and after a short skirmish they abandoned their positions, retreating to nearby Xiyu Island. At 11:30am, the Japanese entered Magong, but as soon as they had taken the coastal forts in the town, they were fired upon by the Chinese coastal battery on Xiyu Island. The barrage went unanswered until nightfall, as the Chinese had destroyed all the guns at Magong before they retreated, and Japanese warships feared entering the strait between the Penghu and Xiyu Islands due to the potential threat posed by mines. However, it caused no serious casualties among the Japanese forces. During that night, a small naval gunnery crew of 30, managed to make one of guns of the Magong coastal battery operational. At dawn, the gun began shelling the Chinese positions on Xiyu, but the Chinese guns did not respond. Subsequently, the Japanese crossed the narrow strait reaching Xiyu, discovering that the Chinese troops had abandoned their positions during the night and escaped on board local vessels.[85]

The Japanese warships entered the strait the next day and, upon discovering that there were no mine fields, they entered Magong harbor. By March 26, all the islands of the archipelago were under Japanese control, and Rear Admiral Tanaka Tsunatsune was appointed the governor. During the campaign the Japanese lost 28 killed and wounded, while the Chinese losses were almost 350 killed or wounded and nearly 1,000 taken prisoner.[85] This operation effectively prevented Chinese forces in Taiwan from being reinforced, and allowed the Japanese to press their demand for the cession of Taiwan in the peace negotiations.

End of the war

Treaty of Shimonoseki

Japan–China peace treaty, 17 April 1895

The Treaty of Shimonoseki was signed on 17 April 1895. The Qing Empire recognized the total independence of Korea and ceded the Liaodong Peninsula, Taiwan and Penghu Islands to Japan "in perpetuity". The disputed islands known as "Senkaku/Diaoyu" islands were not named by this treaty, but Japan annexed these uninhabited islands to Okinawa Prefecture in 1895. Japan asserts this move was taken independently of the treaty ending the war, and China asserts that they were implied as part of the cession of Taiwan.

Additionally, the Qing Empire was to pay Japan 200 million taels (8,000,000 kg/17,600,000 lb) of silver as war reparations. The Qing government also signed a commercial treaty permitting Japanese ships to operate on the Yangtze River, to operate manufacturing factories in treaty ports and to open four more ports to foreign trade. Russia, Germany and France in a few days made the Triple Intervention, however, and forced Japan to give up the Liaodong Peninsula in exchange for another 30 million taels of silver (equivalent to about 450 million yen).

After the war, according to the Chinese scholar Jin Xide, the Qing government paid a total of 340,000,000 taels (13,600 tons) of silver to Japan in both war reparations and trophies, equivalent to about 510,000,000 Japanese yen at the time and about 6.4 times the Japanese government's revenue.[citation needed]

Japanese invasion of Taiwan

Main article: Japanese invasion of Taiwan (1895)

"The cession of the island to Japan was received with such disfavour by the Chinese inhabitants that a large military force was required to effect its occupation. For nearly two years afterwards, a bitter guerrilla resistance was offered to the Japanese troops, and large forces — over 100,000 men, it was stated at the time — were required for its suppression. This was not accomplished without much cruelty on the part of the conquerors, who, in their march through the island, perpetrated all the worst excesses of war. They had, undoubtedly, considerable provocation. They were constantly ambushed by enemies, and their losses from battle and disease far exceeded the entire loss of the whole Japanese army throughout the Manchurian campaign. But their revenge was often taken on innocent villagers. Men, women, and children were ruthlessly slaughtered or became the victims of unrestrained lust and rapine. The result was to drive from their homes thousands of industrious and peaceful peasants, who, long after the main resistance had been completely crushed, continued to wage a vendetta war, and to generate feelings of hatred which the succeeding years of conciliation and good government have not wholly eradicated."

– The Cambridge Modern History, Volume 12[86]

Several Qing officials in Taiwan resolved to resist the cession of Taiwan to Japan under the Treaty of Shimonoseki, and on 23 May declared the island to be an independent Republic of Formosa. On 29 May, Japanese forces under Admiral Motonori Kabayama landed in northern Taiwan, and in a five-month campaign defeated the Republican forces and occupied the island's main towns. The campaign effectively ended on 21 October 1895, with the flight of Liu Yongfu, the second Republican president, and the surrender of the Republican capital Tainan.


Satirical drawing in the magazine Punch[87] (29 September 1894), showing the victory of "small" Japan over "large" China

The Japanese success during the war was the result of the modernisation and industrialisation embarked upon two decades earlier.[88] The war demonstrated the superiority of Japanese tactics and training from the adoption of a Western-style military. The Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy were able to inflict a string of defeats on the Chinese through foresight, endurance, strategy and power of organisation. Japan's prestige rose in the eyes of the world, and the victory reflected the success of the Meiji Restoration. Japan only suffered a small loss of lives and treasure in return for the dominance of Taiwan, the Pescadores and the Liaotung Peninsula in China. Their decisions of abandoning the policy of isolation and learning advanced policy from Western countries also became a good example for other Asian countries to follow. As a result of this war, Japan started to have equal status with the powers of the West, [89] and the victory established Japan as the dominant power in Asia.[90][nb 3] It also heightened their ambitions of aggression and military expansion in Asia. Because Japan had benefited a lot from the Treaty, it stimulated Japanese ambition to continue to invade China. It made the Chinese national crisis unprecedentedly serious. The degree of semi-colonization was greatly deepened. After Japan's victory, the other Imperialist powers thought they could also get benefits from China. Then these Imperialist powers started to partition China over the next few years.

For China, the war revealed the high level of corruption present in the government and policies of the Qing administration. Traditionally, China viewed Japan as a subordinate part of the Chinese cultural sphere. Although China had been defeated by European powers in the 19th century, defeat at the hands of an Asian power and a former tributary state was a bitter psychological blow. Anti-foreign sentiment and agitation grew, which would later culminate in the form of the Boxer Rebellion five years later. The Manchu population was devastated by the fighting during the First Sino-Japanese War and the Boxer Rebellion, with massive casualties sustained during the wars and subsequently being driven into extreme suffering and hardship in Beijing and northeast China.[91]

Convention of retrocession of the Liaodong Peninsula, 8 November 1895

Although Japan had achieved what it had set out to accomplish and ended Chinese influence over Korea, Japan had been forced to relinquish the Liaodong Peninsula, (Port Arthur), in exchange for an increased financial indemnity. The European powers (especially Russia) had no objection to the other clauses of the treaty but felt that Japan should not gain Port Arthur, for they had their own ambitions in that part of the world. Russia persuaded Germany and France to join in applying diplomatic pressure on Japan, resulting in the Triple Intervention of 23 April 1895.

Although Japan had succeeded in eliminating Chinese influence over Korea, it was Russia who reaped the benefits. Korea proclaimed itself the Korean Empire and announced its independence from the Qing Empire. The Japanese-sponsored Gabo reforms (Kabo reforms) of 1894–1896 transformed Korea: legal slavery was abolished in all forms; the yangban class lost all special privileges; outcastes were abolished; equality of law; equality of opportunity in the face of social background; child marriage was abolished, Hangul was to be used in government documents; Korean history was introduced in schools; the Chinese calendar was replaced with the Gregorian calendar; education was expanded and new textbooks written.[43]

In 1895, a pro-Russian official tried to remove the King of Korea to the Russian legation and failed, but a second attempt succeeded. Thus, for a year, the King reigned from the Russian legation in Seoul. The concession to build a Seoul-Inchon railway that had been granted to Japan in 1894 was revoked and granted to Russia. Russian guards guarded the King in his palace even after he left the Russian legation.

China's defeat precipitated an increase in railway construction in the country, as foreign powers demanded China make railway concessions.[92][93]

Western Powers trying to divide their interests and influence in China in the aftermath of the First Sino-Japanese War

In 1898, Russia signed a 25-year lease on the Liaodong Peninsula and proceeded to set up a naval station at Port Arthur. Although that infuriated the Japanese, they were more concerned with the Russian encroachment in Korea than that in Manchuria. Other powers, such as France, Germany and Britain, took advantage of the situation in China and gained land, port, and trade concessions at the expense of the decaying Qing dynasty. Qingdao and Jiaozhou were acquired by Germany, Guangzhouwan by France, and Weihaiwei and the New Territories by Britain.[94]

Tensions between Russia and Japan would increase in the years after the First Sino-Japanese War. During the Boxer Rebellion, an eight-member international force was sent to suppress and quell the uprising; Russia sent troops into Manchuria as part of this force. After the suppression of the Boxers, the Russian government agreed to vacate the area. However, by 1903, it had actually increased the size of its forces in Manchuria.

Negotiations between the two nations (1901–1904) to establish mutual recognition of respective spheres of influence (Russia over Manchuria and Japan over Korea) were repeatedly and intentionally stalled by the Russians. They felt that they were strong and confident enough not to accept any compromise and believed Japan would not go to war against a European power. Russia also had intentions to use Manchuria as a springboard for further expansion of its interests in the Far East. In 1903, Russian soldiers began construction of a fort at Yongnampo but stopped after Japanese protests.[43]

In 1902, Japan formed an alliance with Britain, the terms of which stated that if Japan went to war in the Far East and that a third power entered the fight against Japan, then Britain would come to the aid of the Japanese.[95] This was a check to prevent Germany or France from intervening militarily in any future war with Russia. Japan sought to prevent a repetition of the Triple Intervention that deprived it of Port Arthur. The British reasons for joining the alliance were to check the spread of Russian expansion into the Pacific area,[96] to strengthen Britain's focus on other areas, and to gain a powerful naval ally in the Pacific.

Increasing tensions between Japan and Russia were a result of Russia's unwillingness to compromise and the prospect of Korea falling under Russia's domination, therefore coming into conflict with and undermining Japan's interests. Eventually, Japan was forced to take action. This would be the deciding factor and catalyst that would lead to the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05.

See also

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• History of China
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• History of Taiwan
• Military history of China
• Military history of Japan
• Sino-Japanese relations



1. A Korean historian stated that "the Chinese government began to turn its former tributary state into a semi-colony and its policy toward Korea substantially changed to a new imperialistic one where the suzerain state demanded certain privileges in her vassal state".[31]
2. "On the eve of the Sino-Japanese War, China appeared, to undiscerning observers, to possess respectable military and naval forces. Praise for Li Hung-chang's Anhwei Army and other Chinese forces was not uncommon, and the Peiyang Navy elicited considerable favourable comment. When war between China and Japan appeared likely, most Westerners thought China had the advantage. Her army was vast, and her navy both outnumbered and outweight Japan's. The German general staff considered a Japanese victory improbable. In an interview with Reuters, William Lang predicted defeat for Japan. Lang thought that the Chinese navy was well-drilled, the ships were fit, the artillery was at least adequate, and the coastal forts were strong. Weihaiwei, he said, was impregnable. Although Lang emphasized that everything depended on how China's forces were led, he had faith that 'in the end, there is no doubt that Japan must be utterly crushed'."[52]
3. "A new balance of power had emerged. China's millennia-long regional dominance had abruptly ended. Japan had become the pre-eminent power of Asia, a position it would retain throughout the twentieth century". Paine, The Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895: Perception, Power, and Primacy.
1. "...Japan was at the forefront of hegemonic wars in a quest to extend the Japanese hegemony over Korea to the entire Asia-Pacific region – the Sino–Japanese War of 1894–95 to gain dominance in Korea" The Two Koreas and the Great Powers, Cambridge University Press, 2006, page 2.
2. Paine 2003, pp. 3.
3. Jansen 2002, p. 343.
4. Jansen 2002, p. 335.
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• Jowett, Philip (2013). China's Wars: Rousing the Dragon 1894-1949. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-1-47280-673-4.
• Kwang-Ching, Liu (1978). John King Fairbank (ed.). The Cambridge History of China. Volume 11, Late Ch'ing, 1800–1911 Part 2 (illustrated ed.). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-22029-3.
• Lone, Stewart (1994). Japan's First Modern War: Army and Society in the Conflict with China, 1894–1895. New York: St. Martin's Press.
• Olender, Piotr (2014). Sino-Japanese Naval War 1894–1895. MMPBooks. ISBN 978-83-63678-30-2.
• Paine, S.C.M (2003). The Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895: Perceptions, Power, and Primacy. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-81714-1.
• Palais, James B. (1975). Politics and Policy in Traditional Korea. Harvard University Asia Center. ISBN 978-0-674-68770-7.
• Seth, Michael J. (2011). A History of Korea: From Antiquity to the Present. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-0-742-56715-3.
• Sondhaus, Lawrence (2001). Naval Warfare, 1815–1914. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-21477-3.
• Willmott, H. P. (2009). The Last Century of Sea Power: From Port Arthur to Chanak, 1894–1922, Volume 1. Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-25300-356-0.
• Zachmann, Urs Matthias (2009). China and Japan in the Late Meiji Period: China Policy and the Japanese Discourse on National Identity, 1895-1904. Routledge. ISBN 978-0415481915.

Further reading

• Kim, Chong Ik Eugene, and Han-kyo Kim. ;;Korea and the Politics of Imperialism, 1876-1910 (Univ of California Press, 1967).
• Mutsu, Munemitsu. (1982). Kenkenroku (trans. Gordon Mark Berger). Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press. ISBN 978-0-86008-306-1; OCLC 252084846
• Morse, Hosea Ballou. (1918). The international relations of the Chinese empire vol 2 1861–1893
• Shan, Patrick Fuliang (2018). Yuan Shikai: A Reappraisal, The University of British Columbia Press. ISBN 9780774837781.
• Morse, Hosea Ballou. (1918). The international relations of the Chinese empire vol 3 1894–1916

External links

• 程映虹︰從"版畫事件"到《中國向西行進》Peter Perdue 濮德培和中國當代民族主義 (in Chinese)
• Detailed account of the naval Battle of the Yalu River by Philo Norton McGiffen
• Under the Dragon Flag — My Experiences in the Chino-Japanese War by James Allan' at Project Gutenberg
• Print exhibition at MIT
• The Sinking of the Kowshing – Captain Galsworthy's Report
• A detailed account of the Sino-Japanese War
• The Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895: as seen in prints and archives (British Library/Japan Center for Asian Historical Records)
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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

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Caste system in India
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 1/6/20



This article is about socio-political stratification in Indian society. For religious stratification in Hinduism, see Varna (Hinduism).

Gandhi visiting Madras (now Chennai) in 1933 on an India-wide tour for Dalit (he used Harijan) causes. His speeches during such tours and writings discussed the discriminated-against castes of India.

The caste system in India is the paradigmatic ethnographic example of caste. It has origins in ancient India, and was transformed by various ruling elites in medieval, early-modern, and modern India, especially the Mughal Empire and the British Raj.[1][2][3][4] It is today the basis of educational and job reservations in India.[5] The caste system consists of two different concepts, varna and jati, which may be regarded as different levels of analysis of this system.

The caste system as it exists today, is thought to be the result of developments during the collapse of the Mughal era and the rise of the British colonial regime in India.[1][6] The collapse of the Mughal era saw the rise of powerful men who associated themselves with kings, priests and ascetics, affirming the regal and martial form of the caste ideal, and it also reshaped many apparently casteless social groups into differentiated caste communities.[7] The British Raj furthered this development, making rigid caste organisation a central mechanism of administration.[6] Between 1860 and 1920, the British segregated Indians by caste, granting administrative jobs and senior appointments only to Christians and people belonging to certain castes.[8] Social unrest during the 1920s led to a change in this policy.[9] From then on, the colonial administration began a policy of divisive as well as positive discrimination by reserving a certain percentage of government jobs for the lower castes. In 1948, negative discrimination on the basis of caste was banned by law and further enshrined in the Indian constitution, however the system continues to be practiced in India with devastating social effects.

Caste-based differences have also been practised in other regions and religions in the Indian subcontinent like Nepalese Buddhism,[10] Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism.[11] It has been challenged by many reformist Hindu movements,[12] Islam, Sikhism, Christianity,[11] and also by present-day Indian Buddhism.[13]

New developments took place after India achieved independence, when the policy of caste-based reservation of jobs was formalised with lists of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Since 1950, the country has enacted many laws and social initiatives to protect and improve the socioeconomic conditions of its lower caste population.

Definitions and concepts

Varna, Jāti and Caste


Varna literally means type, order, colour or class [14][15] and was a framework for grouping people into classes, first used in Vedic Indian society. It is referred to frequently in the ancient Indian texts.[16] The four classes were the Brahmins (priestly people), the Kshatriyas (also called Rajanyas, who were rulers, administrators and warriors), the Vaishyas (artisans, merchants, tradesmen and farmers), and Shudras (labouring classes).[17] The varna categorisation implicitly had a fifth element, being those people deemed to be entirely outside its scope, such as tribal people and the untouchables.[18]


Main article: Jāti

Jati, meaning birth,[19] is mentioned much less often in ancient texts, where it is clearly distinguished from varna. There are four varnas but thousands of jatis.[16] The jatis are complex social groups that lack universally applicable definition or characteristic, and have been more flexible and diverse than was previously often assumed.[18]

Certain scholars[which?] of caste have considered jati to have its basis in religion, assuming that in India the sacred elements of life envelop the secular aspects; for example, the anthropologist Louis Dumont described the ritual rankings that exist within the jati system as being based on the concepts of religious purity and pollution. This view has been disputed by other scholars, who believe it to be a secular social phenomenon driven by the necessities of economics, politics, and sometimes also geography.[19][20][21][22] Jeaneane Fowler says that although some people consider jati to be occupational segregation, in reality the jati framework does not preclude or prevent a member of one caste from working in another occupation.[19] A feature of jatis has been endogamy, in Susan Bayly's words, that "both in the past and for many though not all Indians in more modern times, those born into a given caste would normally expect to find marriage partner" within his or her jati.[23][24]

Jatis have existed in India among Hindus, Muslims, Christians and tribal people, and there is no clear linear order among them.[25]


Main article: Caste

The term caste is not originally an Indian word, though it is now widely used, both in English and in Indian languages. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it is derived from the Portuguese casta, meaning "race, lineage, breed" and, originally, "'pure or unmixed (stock or breed)".[26] There is no exact translation in Indian languages, but varna and jati are the two most approximate terms.[27]

Ghurye's 1932 opinion

The sociologist G. S. Ghurye wrote in 1932 that, despite much study by many people,

we do not possess a real general definition of caste. It appears to me that any attempt at definition is bound to fail because of the complexity of the phenomenon. On the other hand, much literature on the subject is marred by lack of precision about the use of the term.[28]

Ghurye offered what he thought was a definition that could be applied across British India, although he acknowledged that there were regional variations on the general theme. His model definition for caste included the following six characteristics:[29]

• Segmentation of society into groups whose membership was determined by birth.[30]
• A hierarchical system wherein generally the Brahmins were at the head of the hierarchy, but this hierarchy was disputed in some cases. In various linguistic areas, hundreds of castes had a gradation generally acknowledged by everyone.[31]
• Restrictions on feeding and social intercourse, with minute rules on the kind of food and drink that upper castes could accept from lower castes. There was a great diversity in these rules, and lower castes generally accepted food from upper castes.[32]
• Segregation, where individual castes lived together, the dominant caste living in the center and other castes living on the periphery.[33] There were restrictions on the use of water wells or streets by one caste on another: an upper-caste Brahmin might not be permitted to use the street of a lower-caste group, while a caste considered impure might not be permitted to draw water from a well used by members of other castes.[34]
• Occupation, generally inherited.[35] Lack of unrestricted choice of profession, caste members restricted their own members from taking up certain professions they considered degrading. This characteristic of caste was missing from large parts of India, stated Ghurye, and in these regions all four castes (Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras) did agriculture labour or became warriors in large numbers.[36]
• Endogamy, restrictions on marrying a person outside caste, but in some situations hypergamy allowed.[37] Far less rigidity on inter-marriage between different sub-castes than between members of different castes in some regions, while in some endogamy within a sub-caste was the principal feature of caste-society.[38]

The above Ghurye's model of caste thereafter attracted scholarly criticism[39][40] for relying on the British India census reports,[28][41] the "superior, inferior" racist theories of H. H. Risley,[42] and for fitting his definition to then prevalent colonial orientalist perspectives on caste.[43][44][45]

Ghurye added, in 1932, that the colonial construction of caste led to the livening up, divisions and lobbying to the British officials for favourable caste classification in India for economic opportunities, and this had added new complexities to the concept of caste.[46][47] Graham Chapman and others have reiterated the complexity, and they note that there are differences between theoretical constructs and the practical reality.[48]

Modern perspective on definition

Ronald Inden, the Indologist, agrees that there has been no universally accepted definition. For example, for some early European documenters it was thought to correspond with the endogamous varnas referred to in ancient Indian scripts, and its meaning corresponds in the sense of estates. To later Europeans of the Raj era it was endogamous jatis, rather than varnas, that represented caste, such as the 2378 jatis that colonial administrators classified by occupation in the early 20th century.[49]

Arvind Sharma, a professor of comparative religion, notes that caste has been used synonymously to refer to both varna and jati but that "serious Indologists now observe considerable caution in this respect" because, while related, the concepts are considered to be distinct.[50] In this he agrees with the Indologist Arthur Basham, who noted that the Portuguese colonists of India used casta to describe

... tribes, clans or families. The name stuck and became the usual word for the Hindu social group. In attempting to account for the remarkable proliferation of castes in 18th- and 19th-century India, authorities credulously accepted the traditional view that by a process of intermarriage and subdivision the 3,000 or more castes of modern India had evolved from the four primitive classes, and the term 'caste' was applied indiscriminately to both varna or class, and jati or caste proper. This is a false terminology; castes rise and fall in the social scale, and old castes die out and new ones are formed, but the four great classes are stable. There are never more or less than four and for over 2,000 years their order of precedence has not altered."[16]

The sociologist Andre Beteille notes that, while varna mainly played the role of caste in classical Hindu literature, it is jati that plays that role in present times. Varna represents a closed collection of social orders whereas jati is entirely open-ended, thought of as a "natural kind whose members share a common substance." Any number of new jatis can be added depending on need, such as tribes, sects, denominations, religious or linguistic minorities and nationalities. Thus, "Caste" is not an accurate representation of jati in English. Better terms would be ethnicity, ethnic identity and ethnic group.[51]


Sociologist Anne Waldrop observes that while outsiders view the term caste as a static phenomenon of stereotypical tradition-bound India, empirical facts suggest caste has been a radically changing feature. The term means different things to different Indians. In the context of politically active modern India, where job and school quotas are reserved for affirmative action based on castes, the term has become a sensitive and controversial subject.[52]

Sociologists such as M. N. Srinivas and Damle have debated the question of rigidity in caste and believe that there is considerable flexibility and mobility in the caste hierarchies.[53][54]



Caste system in 19th century India

Hindu musician

Muslim merchant

Sikh chief

Arab soldier

Pages from Seventy-two Specimens of Castes in India according to Christian Missionaries in February 1837. They include Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Arabs as castes of India.

There are at least two perspectives for the origins of the caste system in ancient and medieval India, which focus on either ideological factors or on socio-economic factors.

• The first school focuses on the ideological factors which are claimed to drive the caste system and holds that caste is rooted in the four varnas. This perspective was particularly common among scholars of the British colonial era and was articulated by Dumont, who concluded that the system was ideologically perfected several thousand years ago and has remained the primary social reality ever since. This school justifies its theory primarily by citing the ancient law book Manusmriti and disregards economic, political or historical evidence.[55][56]
• The second school of thought focuses on socioeconomic factors and claims that those factors drive the caste system. It believes caste to be rooted in the economic, political and material history of India.[57] This school, which is common among scholars of the post-colonial era such as Berreman, Marriott, and Dirks, describes the caste system as an ever-evolving social reality that can only be properly understood by the study of historical evidence of actual practice and the examination of verifiable circumstances in the economic, political and material history of India.[58][59] This school has focused on the historical evidence from ancient and medieval society in India, during the Muslim rule between the 12th and 18th centuries, and the policies of colonial British rule from 18th century to the mid-20th century.[60][61]

The first school has focused on religious anthropology and disregarded other historical evidence as secondary to or derivative of this tradition.[62] The second school has focused on sociological evidence and sought to understand the historical circumstances.[63] The latter has criticised the former for its caste origin theory, claiming that it has dehistoricised and decontextualised Indian society.[64][65]

Ritual kingship model

According to Samuel, referencing George L. Hart, central aspects of the later Indian caste system may originate from the ritual kingship system prior to the arrival of Brahmanism, Buddhism and Jainism in India. The system is seen in the South Indian Tamil literature from the Sangam period, dated to the third to sixth centuries CE. This theory discards the Indo-Aryan varna model as the basis of caste, and is centred on the ritual power of the king, who was "supported by a group of ritual and magical specialists of low social status," with their ritual occupations being considered 'polluted'. According to Hart, it may be this model that provided the concerns with "pollution" of the members of low status groups. The Hart model for caste origin, writes Samuel, envisions "the ancient Indian society consisting of a majority without internal caste divisions and a minority consisting of a number of small occupationally polluted groups".[66]

Vedic varnas

The varnas originated in Vedic society (c. 1500–500 BCE). The first three groups, Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishya have parallels with other Indo-European societies, while the addition of the Shudras is probably a Brahmanical invention from northern India.[67]

The varna system is propounded in revered Hindu religious texts, and understood as idealised human callings.[68][69] The Purusha Sukta of the Rigveda and Manusmriti's comment on it, being the oft-cited texts.[70] Counter to these textual classifications, many revered Hindu texts and doctrines question and disagree with this system of social classification.[18]

Scholars have questioned the varna verse in Rigveda, noting that the varna therein is mentioned only once. The Purusha Sukta verse is now generally considered to have been inserted at a later date into the Rigveda, probably as a charter myth. Stephanie Jamison and Joel Brereton, professors of Sanskrit and Religious studies, state, "there is no evidence in the Rigveda for an elaborate, much-subdivided and overarching caste system", and "the varna system seems to be embryonic in the Rigveda and, both then and later, a social ideal rather than a social reality".[71] In contrast to the lack of details about varna system in the Rigveda, the Manusmriti includes an extensive and highly schematic commentary on the varna system, but it too provides "models rather than descriptions".[72] Susan Bayly summarises that Manusmriti and other scriptures helped elevate Brahmins in the social hierarchy and these were a factor in the making of the varna system, but the ancient texts did not in some way "create the phenomenon of caste" in India.[73]


Jeaneane Fowler, a professor of philosophy and religious studies, states that it is impossible to determine how and why the jatis came in existence.[74] Susan Bayly, on the other hand, states that jati system emerged because it offered a source of advantage in an era of pre-Independence poverty, lack of institutional human rights, volatile political environment, and economic insecurity.[75][clarification needed]

According to social anthropologist Dipankar Gupta, guilds developed during the Mauryan period and crystallised into jatis[76] in post-Mauryan times with the emergence of feudalism in India, which finally crystallised during the 7–12th centuries.[77] However, other scholars dispute when and how jatis developed in Indian history. Barbara Metcalf and Thomas Metcalf, both professors of History, write, "One of the surprising arguments of fresh scholarship, based on inscriptional and other contemporaneous evidence, is that until relatively recent centuries, social organisation in much of the subcontinent was little touched by the four varnas. Nor were jati the building blocks of society."[78]

According to Basham, ancient Indian literature refers often to varnas, but hardly if ever to jatis as a system of groups within the varnas. He concludes that "If caste is defined as a system of group within the class, which are normally endogamous, commensal and craft-exclusive, we have no real evidence of its existence until comparatively late times."[16]

Untouchable outcastes and the varna system

The Vedic texts neither mention the concept of untouchable people nor any practice of untouchability. The rituals in the Vedas ask the noble or king to eat with the commoner from the same vessel. Later Vedic texts ridicule some professions, but the concept of untouchability is not found in them.[79][80]

The post-Vedic texts, particularly Manusmriti mentions outcastes and suggests that they be ostracised. Recent scholarship states that the discussion of outcastes in post-Vedic texts is different from the system widely discussed in colonial era Indian literature, and in Dumont's structural theory on caste system in India. Patrick Olivelle, a professor of Sanskrit and Indian Religions and credited with modern translations of Vedic literature, Dharma-sutras and Dharma-sastras, states that ancient and medieval Indian texts do not support the ritual pollution, purity-impurity premise implicit in the Dumont theory. According to Olivelle, purity-impurity is discussed in the Dharma-sastra texts, but only in the context of the individual's moral, ritual and biological pollution (eating certain kinds of food such as meat, going to bathroom). Olivelle writes in his review of post-Vedic Sutra and Shastra texts, "we see no instance when a term of pure/impure is used with reference to a group of individuals or a varna or caste". The only mention of impurity in the Shastra texts from the 1st millennium is about people who commit grievous sins and thereby fall out of their varna. These, writes Olivelle, are called "fallen people" and considered impure in the medieval Indian texts. The texts declare that these sinful, fallen people be ostracised.[81] Olivelle adds that the overwhelming focus in matters relating to purity/impurity in the Dharma-sastra texts concerns "individuals irrespective of their varna affiliation" and all four varnas could attain purity or impurity by the content of their character, ethical intent, actions, innocence or ignorance (acts by children), stipulations, and ritualistic behaviours.[82]

Dumont, in his later publications, acknowledged that ancient varna hierarchy was not based on purity-impurity ranking principle, and that the Vedic literature is devoid of the untouchability concept.[83]


Vedic period (1500–1000 BCE)

During the time of the Rigveda, there were two varnas: arya varna and dasa varna. The distinction originally arose from tribal divisions. The Vedic tribes regarded themselves as arya (the noble ones) and the rival tribes were called dasa, dasyu and pani. The dasas were frequent allies of the Aryan tribes, and they were probably assimilated into the Aryan society, giving rise to a class distinction.[84] Many dasas were however in a servile position, giving rise to the eventual meaning of dasa as servant or slave.[85]

The Rigvedic society was not distinguished by occupations. Many husbandmen and artisans practised a number of crafts. The chariot-maker (rathakara) and metal worker (karmara) enjoyed positions of importance and no stigma was attached to them. Similar observations hold for carpenters, tanners, weavers and others.[86]

Towards the end of the Atharvaveda period, new class distinctions emerged. The erstwhile dasas are renamed Shudras, probably to distinguish them from the new meaning of dasa as slave. The aryas are renamed vis or Vaishya (meaning the members of the tribe) and the new elite classes of Brahmins (priests) and Kshatriyas (warriors) are designated as new varnas. The Shudras were not only the erstwhile dasas but also included the aboriginal tribes that were assimilated into the Aryan society as it expanded into Gangetic settlements.[87] There is no evidence of restrictions regarding food and marriage during the Vedic period.[88]

Later Vedic period (1000–600 BCE)

In an early Upanishad, Shudra is referred to as Pūşan or nourisher, suggesting that Shudras were the tillers of the soil.[89] But soon afterwards, Shudras are not counted among the tax-payers and they are said to be given away along with the lands when it is gifted.[90] The majority of the artisans were also reduced to the position of Shudras, but there is no contempt indicated for their work.[91] The Brahmins and the Kshatriyas are given a special position in the rituals, distinguishing them from both the Vaishyas and the Shudras.[92] The Vaishya is said to be "oppressed at will" and the Shudra "beaten at will."[93]

Second urbanisation (500–200 BCE)

Our knowledge of this period is supplemented by Pali Buddhist texts. Whereas the Brahmanical texts speak of the four-fold varna system, the Buddhist texts present an alternative picture of the society, stratified along the lines of jati, kula and occupation. It is likely that the varna system, while being a part of the Brahmanical ideology, was not practically operative in the society.[94] In the Buddhist texts, Brahmin and Kshatriya are described as jatis rather than varnas. They were in fact the jatis of high rank. The jatis of low rank were mentioned as chandala and occupational classes like bamboo weavers, hunters, chariot-makers and sweepers. The concept of kulas was broadly similar. Along with Brahmins and Kshatriyas, a class called gahapatis (literally householders, but effectively propertied classes) was also included among high kulas.[95] The people of high kulas were engaged in occupations of high rank, viz., agriculture, trade, cattle-keeping, computing, accounting and writing, and those of low kulas were engaged in low-ranked occupations such as basket-weaving and sweeping. The gahapatis were an economic class of land-holding agriculturists, who employed dasa-kammakaras (slaves and hired labourers) to work on the land. The gahapatis were the primary taxpayers of the state. This class was apparently not defined by birth, but by individual economic growth.[96]

While there was an alignment between kulas and occupations at least at the high and low ends, there was no strict linkage between class/caste and occupation, especially among those in the middle range. Many occupations listed such as accounting and writing were not linked to jatis.[97] Peter Masefield, in his review of caste in India, states that anyone could in principle perform any profession. The texts state that the Brahmin took food from anyone, suggesting that strictures of commensality were as yet unknown.[98] The Nikaya texts also imply that endogamy was not mandated.[99]

The contestations of the period are evident from the texts describing dialogues of Buddha with the Brahmins. The Brahmins maintain their divinely ordained superiority and assert their right to draw service from the lower orders. Buddha responds by pointing out the basic facts of biological birth common to all men and asserts that the ability to draw service is obtained economically, not by divine right. Using the example of the northwest of the subcontinent, Buddha points out that aryas could become dasas and vice versa. This form of social mobility was endorsed by Buddha.[100]

Classical period (320–650 CE)

The Mahabharata, whose final version is estimated to have been completed by the end of the fourth century, discusses the varna system in section 12.181, presenting two models. The first model describes varna as a colour-based system, through a character named Bhrigu, "Brahmins varna was white, Kshatriyas was red, Vaishyas was yellow, and the Shudras' black". This description is questioned by Bharadvaja who says that colors are seen among all the varnas, that desire, anger, fear, greed, grief, anxiety, hunger and toil prevails over all human beings, that bile and blood flow from all human bodies, so what distinguishes the varnas, he asks. The Mahabharata then declares, "There is no distinction of varnas. This whole universe is Brahman. It was created formerly by Brahma, came to be classified by acts."[101] The epic then recites a behavioural model for varna, that those who were inclined to anger, pleasures and boldness attained the Kshatriya varna; those who were inclined to cattle rearing and living off the plough attained the Vaishya varna; those who were fond of violence, covetousness and impurity attained the Shudra varna. The Brahmin class is modeled in the epic as the archetype default state of man dedicated to truth, austerity and pure conduct.[102] In the Mahabharata and pre-medieval era Hindu texts, according to Hiltebeitel, "it is important to recognise, in theory, varna is nongenealogical. The four varnas are not lineages, but categories".[103]

Adi Purana, an 8th-century text of Jainism by Jinasena, is the first mention of varna and jati in Jainism literature.[104] Jinasena does not trace the origin of varna system to Rigveda or to Purusha, but to the Bharata legend. According to this legend, Bharata performed an "ahimsa-test" (test of non-violence), and during that test all those who refused to harm any living beings were called as the priestly varna in ancient India, and Bharata called them dvija, twice born.[105] Jinasena states that those who are committed to the principle of non-harming and non-violence to all living beings are deva-Brahmaṇas, divine Brahmins.[106] The text Adipurana also discusses the relationship between varna and jati. According to Padmanabh Jaini, a professor of Indic studies, in Jainism and Buddhism, the Adi Purana text states "there is only one jati called manusyajati or the human caste, but divisions arise on account of their different professions".[107] The caste of Kshatriya arose, according to Jainism texts, when Rishabha procured weapons to serve the society and assumed the powers of a king, while Vaishya and Shudra castes arose from different means of livelihood they specialised in.[108]

Late classical and early medieval period (650 to 1400 CE)

Scholars have tried to locate historical evidence for the existence and nature of varna and jati in documents and inscriptions of medieval India. Supporting evidence for the existence of varna and jati systems in medieval India has been elusive, and contradicting evidence has emerged.[109][110]

Varna is rarely mentioned in the extensive medieval era records of Andhra Pradesh, for example. This has led Cynthia Talbot, a professor of History and Asian Studies, to question whether varna was socially significant in the daily lives of this region. The mention of jati is even rarer, through the 13th century. Two rare temple donor records from warrior families of the 14th century claim to be Shudras. One states that Shudras are the bravest, the other states that Shudras are the purest.[109] Richard Eaton, a professor of History, writes, "anyone could become warrior regardless of social origins, nor do the jati—another pillar of alleged traditional Indian society—appear as features of people's identity. Occupations were fluid." Evidence shows, according to Eaton, that Shudras were part of the nobility, and many "father and sons had different professions, suggesting that social status was earned, not inherited" in the Hindu Kakatiya population in the Deccan region between the 11th and 14th centuries.[111]

In Tamil Nadu region of India, studied by Leslie Orr, a professor of Religion, "Chola period inscriptions challenge our ideas about the structuring of (south Indian) society in general. In contrast to what Brahmanical legal texts may lead us to expect, we do not find that caste is the organising principle of society or that boundaries between different social groups is sharply demarcated."[112] In Tamil Nadu the Vellalar were during ancient and medieval period the elite caste who were major patrons of literature.[113][114][115]

For northern Indian region, Susan Bayly writes, "until well into the colonial period, much of the subcontinent was still populated by people for whom the formal distinctions of caste were of only limited importance; Even in parts of the so-called Hindu heartland of Gangetic upper India, the institutions and beliefs which are now often described as the elements of traditional caste were only just taking shape as recently as the early eighteenth century—that is the period of collapse of Mughal period and the expansion of western power in the subcontinent."[116]

For western India, Dirk Kolff, a professor of Humanities, suggests open status social groups dominated Rajput history during the medieval period. He states, "The omnipresence of cognatic kinship and caste in North India is a relatively new phenomenon that only became dominant in the early Mughal and British periods respectively. Historically speaking, the alliance and the open status group, whether war band or religious sect, dominated medieval and early modern Indian history in a way descent and caste did not."[117]

Medieval era, Islamic Sultanates and Mughal empire period (1000 to 1750)

Early and mid 20th century Muslim historians, such as Hashimi in 1927 and Qureshi in 1962, proposed that "caste system was established before the arrival of Islam", and it and "a nomadic savage lifestyle" in the northwest Indian subcontinent were the primary cause why Sindhi non-Muslims "embraced Islam in flocks" when Arab Muslim armies invaded the region.[118] According to this hypothesis, the mass conversions occurred from the lower caste Hindus and Mahayana Buddhists who had become "corroded from within by the infiltration of Hindu beliefs and practices". This theory is now widely believed to be baseless and false.[119][120]

Derryl MacLein, a professor of social history and Islamic studies, states that historical evidence does not support this theory, whatever evidence is available suggests that Muslim institutions in north-west India legitimised and continued any inequalities that existed, and that neither Buddhists nor "lower caste" Hindus converted to Islam because they viewed Islam to lack a caste system.[121] Conversions to Islam were rare, states MacLein, and conversions attested by historical evidence confirms that the few who did convert were Brahmin Hindus (theoretically, the upper caste).[122] MacLein states the caste and conversion theories about Indian society during the Islamic era are not based on historical evidence or verifiable sources, but personal assumptions of Muslim historians about the nature of Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism in northwest Indian subcontinent.[123]

Richard Eaton, a professor of History, states that the presumption of a rigid Hindu caste system and oppression of lower castes in pre-Islamic era in India, and it being the cause of "mass conversion to Islam" during the medieval era suffers from the problem that "no evidence can be found in support of the theory, and it is profoundly illogical".[119]

Peter Jackson, a professor of Medieval History and Muslim India, writes that the speculative hypotheses about caste system in Hindu states during the medieval Delhi Sultanate period (~1200 to 1500) and the existence of a caste system as being responsible for Hindu weakness in resisting the plunder by Islamic armies is appealing at first sight, but "they do not withstand closer scrutiny and historical evidence".[124] Jackson states that, contrary to the theoretical model of caste where Kshatriyas only could be warriors and soldiers, historical evidence confirms that Hindu warriors and soldiers during the medieval era included other castes such as Vaishyas and Shudras.[124] Further, there is no evidence, writes Jackson, that there ever was a "widespread conversion to Islam at the turn of twelfth century" by Hindus of lower caste.[124] Jamal Malik, a professor of Islamic studies, extends this observation further, and states that "at no time in history did Hindus of low caste convert en masse to Islam".[125]

Jamal Malik states that caste as a social stratification is a well-studied Indian system, yet evidence also suggests that hierarchical concepts, class consciousness and social stratification had already occurred in Islam before Islam arrived in India.[125] The concept of caste, or 'qaum' in Islamic literature, is mentioned by a few Islamic historians of medieval India, states Malik, but these mentions relate to the fragmentation of the Muslim society in India.[126] Zia al-Din al-Barani of Delhi Sultanate in his Fatawa-ye Jahandari and Abu al-Fadl from Akbar's court of Mughal Empire are the few Islamic court historians who mention caste. Zia al-Din al-Barani's discussion, however, is not about non-Muslim castes, rather a declaration of the supremacy of Ashraf caste over Ardhal caste among the Muslims, justifying it in Quranic text, with "aristocratic birth and superior genealogy being the most important traits of a human".[127][128]

Irfan Habib, an Indian historian, states that Abu al-Fadl's Ain-i Akbari provides a historical record and census of the Jat peasant caste of Hindus in northern India, where the tax-collecting noble classes (Zamindars), the armed cavalry and infantry (warrior class) doubling up as the farming peasants (working class), were all of the same Jat caste in the 16th century. These occupationally diverse members from one caste served each other, writes Habib, either because of their reaction to taxation pressure of Muslim rulers or because they belonged to the same caste.[129] Peasant social stratification and caste lineages were, states Habib, tools for tax revenue collection in areas under the Islamic rule.[130]

The origin of caste system of modern form, in the Bengal region of India, may be traceable to this period, states Richard Eaton.[131] The medieval era Islamic Sultanates in India utilised social stratification to rule and collect tax revenue from non-Muslims.[132] Eaton states that, "Looking at Bengal's Hindu society as a whole, it seems likely that the caste system—far from being the ancient and unchanging essence of Indian civilisation as supposed by generations of Orientalists—emerged into something resembling its modern form only in the period 1200–1500".[131]
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Part 2 of 3

Later-Mughal period (1700 to 1850)

Susan Bayly, an anthropologist, notes that "caste is not and never has been a fixed fact of Indian life" and the caste system as we know it today, as a "ritualised scheme of social stratification," developed in two stages during the post-Mughal period, in 18th and early 19th century. Three sets of value played an important role in this development: priestly hierarchy, kingship, and armed ascetics.[133]

With the Islamic Mughal empire falling apart in the 18th century, regional post-Mughal ruling elites and new dynasties from diverse religious, geographical and linguistic background attempted to assert their power in different parts of India.[134] Bayly states that these obscure post-Mughal elites associated themselves with kings, priests and ascetics, deploying the symbols of caste and kinship to divide their populace and consolidate their power. In addition, in this fluid stateless environment, some of the previously casteless segments of society grouped themselves into caste groups.[7] However, in 18th century writes Bayly, India-wide networks of merchants, armed ascetics and armed tribal people often ignored these ideologies of caste.[135] Most people did not treat caste norms as given absolutes writes Bayly, but challenged, negotiated and adapted these norms to their circumstances. Communities teamed in different regions of India, into "collective classing" to mold the social stratification in order to maximise assets and protect themselves from loss.[136] The "caste, class, community" structure that formed became valuable in a time when state apparatus was fragmenting, was unreliable and fluid, when rights and life were unpredictable.[137]

In this environment, states Rosalind O'Hanlon, a professor of Indian history, the newly arrived colonial East India Company officials, attempted to gain commercial interests in India by balancing Hindu and Muslim conflicting interests, by aligning with regional rulers and large assemblies of military monks. The British Company officials adopted constitutional laws segregated by religion and caste.[138] The legal code and colonial administrative practice was largely divided into Muslim law and Hindu law, the latter including laws for Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs. In this transitory phase, Brahmins together with scribes, ascetics and merchants who accepted Hindu social and spiritual codes, became the deferred-to-authority on Hindu texts, law and administration of Hindu matters.[139][a]

While legal codes and state administration were emerging in India, with the rising power of the colonial Europeans, Dirks states that the late 18th-century British writings on India say little about caste system in India, and predominantly discuss territorial conquest, alliances, warfare and diplomacy in India.[141] Colin Mackenzie, a British social historian of this time, collected vast numbers of texts on Indian religions, culture, traditions and local histories from south India and Deccan region, but his collection and writings have very little on caste system in 18th-century India.[142]

During British rule (1857 to 1947)

Although the varnas and jatis have pre-modern origins, the caste system as it exists today is the result of developments during the post-Mughal period and the British colonial regime, which made caste organisation a central mechanism of administration.[2][143][4]


Jati were the basis of caste ethnology during the British colonial era. In the 1881 census and thereafter, colonial ethnographers used caste (jati) headings, to count and classify people in what was then British India (now India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Burma).[144] The 1891 census included 60 sub-groups each subdivided into six occupational and racial categories, and the number increased in subsequent censuses.[145] The British colonial era census caste tables, states Susan Bayly, "ranked, standardised and cross-referenced jati listings for Indians on principles similar to zoology and botanical classifications, aiming to establish who was superior to whom by virtue of their supposed purity, occupational origins and collective moral worth". While bureaucratic British officials completed reports on their zoological classification of Indian people, some British officials criticised these exercises as being little more than a caricature of the reality of caste system in India. The British colonial officials used the census-determined jatis to decide which group of people were qualified for which jobs in the colonial government, and people of which jatis were to be excluded as unreliable.[146] These census caste classifications, states Gloria Raheja, a professor of Anthropology, were also used by the British officials over the late 19th century and early 20th century, to formulate land tax rates, as well as to frequently target some social groups as "criminal" castes and castes prone to "rebellion".[147]

The population then comprised about 200 million people, across five major religions, and over 500,000 agrarian villages, each with a population between 100 and 1,000 people of various age groups, which were variously divided into numerous castes. This ideological scheme was theoretically composed of around 3,000 castes, which in turn was claimed to be composed of 90,000 local endogamous sub-groups. [1][148][149][150]

The strict British class system may have influenced the British colonial preoccupation with the Indian caste system as well as the British perception of pre-colonial Indian castes. British society's own similarly rigid class system provided the British with a template for understanding Indian society and castes.[151] The British, coming from a society rigidly divided by class, attempted to equate India's castes with British social classes.[152][153] According to David Cannadine, Indian castes merged with the traditional British class system during the British Raj.[154][155]

Race science

Colonial administrator Herbert Hope Risley, an exponent of race science, used the ratio of the width of a nose to its height to divide Indians into Aryan and Dravidian races, as well as seven castes.[156]


From the 1850s, photography was used in Indian subcontinent by the British for anthropological purposes, helping classify the different castes, tribes and native trades. Included in this collection were Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist (Sinhalese) people classified by castes.[157] Above is an 1860s photograph of Rajputs, classified as a high Hindu caste.

Jobs for forward castes

The role of the British Raj on the caste system in India is controversial.[158] The caste system became legally rigid during the Raj, when the British started to enumerate castes during their ten-year census and meticulously codified the system.[159][148] Between 1860 and 1920, the British segregated Indians by caste, granting administrative jobs and senior appointments only to the upper castes.[9]

Targeting criminal castes and their isolation

Starting with the 19th century, the British colonial government passed a series of laws that applied to Indians based on their religion and caste identification.[160][161][162] These colonial era laws and their provisions used the term "Tribes", which included castes within their scope. This terminology was preferred for various reasons, including Muslim sensitivities that considered castes by definition Hindu, and preferred Tribes, a more generic term that included Muslims.[163]

The British colonial government, for instance, enacted the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871. This law declared everyone belonging to certain castes to be born with criminal tendencies.[164] Ramnarayan Rawat, a professor of History and specialising in social exclusion in Indian subcontinent, states that the criminal-by-birth castes under this Act included initially Ahirs, Gurjars and Jats, but its enforcement expanded by the late 19th century to include most Shudras and untouchables, such as Chamars,[165] as well as Sannyasis and hill tribes.[164] Castes suspected of rebelling against colonial laws and seeking self-rule for India, such as the previously ruling families Kallars and the Maravars in south India and non-loyal castes in north India such as Ahirs, Gurjars and Jats, were called "predatory and barbarian" and added to the criminal castes list.[166][167] Some caste groups were targeted using the Criminal Tribes Act even when there were no reports of any violence or criminal activity, but where their forefathers were known to have rebelled against Mughal or British authorities,[168][169] or these castes were demanding labour rights and disrupting colonial tax collecting authorities.[170]

The colonial government prepared a list of criminal castes, and all members registered in these castes by caste-census were restricted in terms of regions they could visit, move about in or people with whom they could socialise.[164] In certain regions of colonial India, entire caste groups were presumed guilty by birth, arrested, children separated from their parents, and held in penal colonies or quarantined without conviction or due process.[171][172][173] This practice became controversial, did not enjoy the support of all colonial British officials, and in a few cases this decades-long practice was reversed at the start of the 20th century with the proclamation that people "could not be incarcerated indefinitely on the presumption of [inherited] bad character".[171] The criminal-by-birth laws against targeted castes was enforced until the mid-20th century, with an expansion of criminal castes list in west and south India through the 1900s to 1930s.[172][174] Hundreds of Hindu communities were brought under the Criminal Tribes Act. By 1931, the colonial government included 237 criminal castes and tribes under the act in the Madras Presidency alone.[174]

While the notion of hereditary criminals conformed to orientalist stereotypes and the prevailing racial theories in Britain during the colonial era, the social impact of its enforcement was profiling, division and isolation of many communities of Hindus as criminals-by-birth.[165][173][175]

[b]Religion and caste segregated human rights

Eleanor Nesbitt, a professor of History and Religions in India, states that the colonial government hardened the caste-driven divisions in British India not only through its caste census, but with a series of laws in early 20th century.[176][177] The British colonial officials, for instance, enacted laws such as the Land Alienation Act in 1900 and Punjab Pre-Emption Act in 1913, listing castes that could legally own land and denying equivalent property rights to other census-determined castes. These acts prohibited the inter-generational and intra-generational transfer of land from land-owning castes to any non-agricultural castes, thereby preventing economic mobility of property and creating consequent caste barriers in India.[176][178]

Khushwant Singh a Sikh historian, and Tony Ballantyne a professor of History, state that these British colonial era laws helped create and erect barriers within land-owning and landless castes in northwest India.[178][179] Caste-based discrimination and denial of human rights by the colonial state had similar impact elsewhere in British India.[180][181][182]

Social identity

Nicholas Dirks has argued that Indian caste as we know it today is a "modern phenomenon,"[c] as caste was "fundamentally transformed by British colonial rule."[d] According to Dirks, before colonialism caste affiliation was quite loose and fluid, but the British regime enforced caste affiliation rigorously, and constructed a much more strict hierarchy than existed previously, with some castes being criminalised and others being given preferential treatment.[183][page needed][184]

De Zwart notes that the caste system used to be thought of as an ancient fact of Hindu life and that contemporary scholars argue instead that the system was constructed by the British colonial regime. He says that "jobs and education opportunities were allotted based on caste, and people rallied and adopted a caste system that maximized their opportunity". De Zwart also notes that post-colonial affirmative action only reinforced the "British colonial project that ex hypothesi constructed the caste system".[185]

Sweetman notes that the European conception of caste dismissed former political configurations and insisted upon an "essentially religious character" of India. During the colonial period, caste was defined as a religious system and was divorced from political powers. This made it possible for the colonial rulers to portray India as a society characterised by spiritual harmony in contrast to the former Indian states which they criticised as "despotic and epiphenomenal",[186][e] with the colonial powers providing the necessary "benevolent, paternalistic rule by a more 'advanced' nation".[187]

Further development

Assumptions about the caste system in Indian society, along with its nature, evolved during British rule.[158][f] Corbridge concludes that British policies of divide and rule of India's numerous princely sovereign states, as well as enumeration of the population into rigid categories during the 10-year census, particularly with the 1901 and 1911 census, contributed towards the hardening of caste identities.[190]

Social unrest during 1920s led to a change in this policy.[9] From then on, the colonial administration began a policy of positive discrimination by reserving a certain percentage of government jobs for the lower castes.[191]

In the round table conference held on August 1932, upon the request of Ambedkar, the then Prime Minister of Britain, Ramsay MacDonald made a Communal Award which awarded a provision for separate representation for the Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Anglo-Indians, Europeans and Dalits. These depressed classes were assigned a number of seats to be filled by election from special constituencies in which voters belonging to the depressed classes only could vote. Gandhi went on a hunger strike against this provision claiming that such an arrangement would split the Hindu community into two groups. Years later, Ambedkar wrote that Gandhi's fast was a form of coercion.[192] This agreement, which saw Gandhi end his fast and Ambedkar drop his demand for a separate electorate, was called the Poona Pact.[193]

After India achieved independence, the policy of caste-based reservation of jobs was formalised with lists of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Other theories and observations

Smelser and Lipset propose in their review of Hutton's study of caste system in colonial India the theory that individual mobility across caste lines may have been minimal in British India because it was ritualistic. They state that this may be because the colonial social stratification worked with the pre-existing ritual caste system.[194]

The emergence of a caste system in the modern form, during the early British colonial rule in the 18th and 19th century, was not uniform in South Asia. Claude Markovits, a French historian of colonial India, writes that Hindu society in north and west India (Sindh), in late 18th century and much of 19th century, lacked a proper caste system, their religious identities were fluid (a combination of Saivism, Vaisnavism, Sikhism), and the Brahmins were not the widespread priestly group (but the Bawas were).[195] Markovits writes, "if religion was not a structuring factor, neither was caste" among the Hindu merchants group of northwest India.[196]

Contemporary India

The massive 2006 Indian anti-reservation protests

Caste politics

Main article: Caste politics

Societal stratification, and the inequality that comes with it, still exists in India,[197][198] and has been thoroughly criticised.[199] Government policies aim at reducing this inequality by reservation, quota for backward classes, but paradoxically also have created an incentive to keep this stratification alive. The Indian government officially recognises historically discriminated communities of India such as the untouchables under the designation of Scheduled Castes, and certain economically backward castes as Other Backward Class.[200][need quotation to verify]

Loosening of caste system

Leonard and Weller have surveyed marriage and genealogical records to study patterns of exogamous inter-caste and endogamous intra-caste marriages in a regional population of India in 1900–1975. They report a striking presence of exogamous marriages across caste lines over time, particularly since the 1970s. They propose education, economic development, mobility and more interaction between youth as possible reasons for these exogamous marriages.[201]

A 2003 article in The Telegraph claimed that inter-caste marriage and dating were common in urban India. Indian societal and family relationships are changing because of female literacy and education, women at work, urbanisation, the need for two-income families, and global influences through television. Female role models in politics, academia, journalism, business, and India's feminist movement have accelerated the change.[202]

Caste-related violence

Main article: Caste-related violence in India

Independent India has witnessed caste-related violence. According to a 2005 UN report, approximately 31,440 cases of violent acts committed against Dalits were reported in 1996.[203][204][page needed] The UN report claimed 1.33 cases of violent acts per 10,000 Dalit people. For context, the UN reported between 40 and 55 cases of violent acts per 10,000 people in developed countries in 2005.[205][page needed][206] One example of such violence is the Khairlanji massacre of 2006.

Affirmative action

Article 15 of the Constitution of India prohibits discrimination based on caste and Article 17 declared the practice of untouchability to be illegal.[207] In 1955, India enacted the Untouchability (Offences) Act (renamed in 1976, as the Protection of Civil Rights Act). It extended the reach of law, from intent to mandatory enforcement. The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act was passed in India in 1989.[208]

• The National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was established to investigate, monitor, advise, and evaluate the socio-economic progress of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.[209]
• A reservation system for people classified as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes has existed for over 50 years. The presence of privately owned free market corporations in India is limited and public sector jobs have dominated the percentage of jobs in its economy. A 2000 report estimated that most jobs in India were in companies owned by the government or agencies of the government.[210] The reservation system implemented by India over 50 years, has been partly successful, because of all jobs, nationwide, in 1995, 17.2 percent of the jobs were held by those in the lowest castes.[citation needed]
• The Indian government classifies government jobs in four groups. The Group A jobs are senior most, high paying positions in the government, while Group D are junior most, lowest paying positions. In Group D jobs, the percentage of positions held by lowest caste classified people is 30% greater than their demographic percentage. In all jobs classified as Group C positions, the percentage of jobs held by lowest caste people is about the same as their demographic population distribution. In Group A and B jobs, the percentage of positions held by lowest caste classified people is 30% lower than their demographic percentage.
• The presence of lowest caste people in highest paying, senior-most position jobs in India has increased by ten-fold, from 1.18 percent of all jobs in 1959 to 10.12 percent of all jobs in 1995.[211]


The Indian government officially recognises historically discriminated communities of India such as the untouchables under the designation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and certain economically backward Shudra castes as Other Backward Class.[200][need quotation to verify] The Scheduled Castes are sometimes referred to as Dalit in contemporary literature. In 2001, Dalits comprised 16.2 percent of India's total population.[212] Of the one billion Hindus in India, it is estimated that Hindu Forward caste comprises 26%, Other Backward Class comprises 43%, Hindu Scheduled Castes (Dalits) comprises 22% and Hindu Scheduled Tribes (Adivasis) comprises 9%.[213]

In addition to taking affirmative action for people of schedule castes and scheduled tribes, India has expanded its effort to include people from poor, backward castes in its economic and social mainstream. In 1990, the government reservation of 27% for Backward Classes on the basis of the Mandal Commission's recommendations. Since then, India has reserved 27 percent of job opportunities in government-owned enterprises and agencies for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBCs). The 27 percent reservation is in addition to 22.5 percent set aside for India's lowest castes for last 50 years.[214]

Mandal commission

The Mandal Commission was established in 1979 to "identify the socially or educationally backward" and to consider the question of seat reservations and quotas for people to redress caste discrimination.[215] In 1980, the commission's report affirmed the affirmative action practice under Indian law, whereby additional members of lower castes—the other backward classes—were given exclusive access to another 27 percent of government jobs and slots in public universities, in addition to the 23 percent already reserved for the Dalits and Tribals. When V. P. Singh's administration tried to implement the recommendations of the Mandal Commission in 1989, massive protests were held in the country. Many alleged that the politicians were trying to cash in on caste-based reservations for purely pragmatic electoral purposes.[citation needed]

Many political parties in India have indulged in caste-based votebank politics. Parties such as Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Samajwadi Party and the Janata Dal claim that they are representing the backward castes, and rely on OBC support, often in alliance with Dalit and Muslim support, to win elections.[216]

Other Backward Classes (OBC)

There is substantial debate over the exact number of OBCs in India; it is generally estimated to be sizable, but many believe that it is lower than the figures quoted by either the Mandal Commission or the National Sample Survey.[217]

The reservation system has led to widespread protests, such as the 2006 Indian anti-reservation protests, with many complaining of reverse discrimination against the Forward Castes (the castes that do not qualify for the reservation).[citation needed]

In May 2011, the government approved a poverty, religion and caste census to identify poverty in different social backgrounds.[218] The census would also help the government to re-examine and possibly undo some of the policies which were formed in haste such as the Mandal Commission in order to bring more objectivity to the policies with respect to contemporary realities.[219] Critics of the reservation system believe that there is actually no social stigma at all associated with belonging to a backward caste and that because of the huge constitutional incentives in the form of educational and job reservations, a large number of people will falsely identify with a backward caste to receive the benefits. This would not only result in a marked inflation of the backward castes' numbers, but also lead to enormous administrative and judicial resources being devoted to social unrest and litigation when such dubious caste declarations are challenged.[220]

In 20th century India, the upper-class (Ashraf) Muslims dominated the government jobs and parliamentary representation. As a result, there have been campaigns to include the Muslim untouchable and lower castes among the groups eligible for affirmative action in India under SC and STs provision act [221] and have been given additional reservation based on the Sachar Committee report.

Effects of government aid

In a 2008 study, Desai et al. focussed on education attainments of children and young adults aged 6–29, from lowest caste and tribal populations of India. They completed a national survey of over 100,000 households for each of the four survey years between 1983 and 2000.[222] They found a significant increase in lower caste children in their odds of completing primary school. The number of Dalit children who completed either middle-, high- or college-level education increased three times faster than the national average, and the total number were statistically same for both lower and upper castes. However, the same study found that in 2000, the percentage of Dalit males never enrolled in a school was still more than twice the percentage of upper caste males never enrolled in schools. Moreover, only 1.67% of Dalit females were college graduates compared to 9.09% of upper caste females. The number of Dalit girls in India who attended school doubled in the same period, but still few percent less than national average. Other poor caste groups as well as ethnic groups such as Muslims in India have also made improvements over the 16-year period, but their improvement lagged behind that of Dalits and adivasis. The net percentage school attainment for Dalits and Muslims were statistically the same in 1999.

A 2007 nationwide survey of India by the World Bank found that over 80 percent of children of historically discriminated castes were attending schools. The fastest increase in school attendance by Dalit community children occurred during the recent periods of India's economic growth.[223]

A study by Darshan Singh presents data on health and other indicators of socio-economic change in India's historically discriminated castes. He claims:[224]

• In 2001, the literacy rates in India's lowest castes was 55 percent, compared to a national average of 63 percent.
• The childhood vaccination levels in India's lowest castes was 40 percent in 2001, compared to a national average of 44 percent.
• Access to drinking water within household or near the household in India's lowest castes was 80 percent in 2001, compared to a national average of 83 percent.
• The poverty level in India's lowest castes dropped from 49 percent to 39 percent between 1995 and 2005, compared to a national average change from 35 to 27 percent.

The life expectancy of various caste groups in modern India has been raised; but the International Institute for Population Sciences report suggests that poverty, not caste, is the bigger differentiation in life expectancy in modern India.[225]

Influence on other religions

While identified with Hinduism, caste systems are found in other religions on the Indian subcontinent, including other religions such as Buddhists, Christians and Muslims.[226][227][228][page needed]


Main article: Caste system among Indian Christians

Social stratification is found among the Christians in India based on caste as well as by their denomination and location. The caste distinction is based on their caste at the time that they or their ancestors converted to Christianity since the 16th century, they typically do not intermarry, and sit separately during prayers in Church.[229]

Duncan Forrester observes that "Nowhere else in India is there a large and ancient Christian community which has in time immemorial been accorded a high status in the caste hierarchy. ... Syrian Christian community operates very much as a caste and is properly regarded as a caste or at least a very caste-like group."[230] Amidst the Hindu society, the Saint Thomas Christians of Kerala had inserted themselves within the Indian caste society by the observance of caste rules and were regarded by the Hindus as a caste occupying a high place within their caste hierarchy.[231][232] Their traditional belief that their ancestors were high-caste Hindus such as Nambudiris and Nairs, who were evangelised by St. Thomas, has also supported their upper-caste status.[233] With the arrival of European missionaries and their evangelistic mission among the lower castes in Kerala, two new groups of Christians, called Latin Rite Christians and New Protestant Christians, were formed but they continued to be considered as lower castes by higher ranked communities, including the Saint Thomas Christians.[231]


Main article: Caste system among South Asian Muslims

Caste system has been observed among Muslims in India.[226] They practice endogamy, hypergamy, hereditary occupations, avoid social mixing and have been stratified.[234] There is some controversy[235] if these characteristics make them social groups or castes of Islam.

Indian Muslims are a mix of Sunni (majority), Shia and other sects of Islam. From the earliest days of Islam's arrival in South Asia, the Arab, Persian and Afghan Muslims have been part of the upper, noble caste. Some upper caste Hindus converted to Islam and became part of the governing group of Sultanates and Mughal Empire, who along with Arabs, Persians and Afghans came to be known as Ashrafs (or nobles).[234] Below them are the middle caste Muslims called Ajlafs, and the lowest status is those of the Arzals.[236][237][238] Anti-caste activists like Ambedkar called the Arzal caste among Muslims as the equivalent of Hindu untouchables,[239] as did the controversial colonial British ethnographer Herbert Hope Risley.[240]

In Bengal, some Muslims refer to the social stratification within their society as qaum (or Quoms),[226] a term that is found among Muslims elsewhere in India, as well as in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Qaums have patrilineal hereditary, with ranked occupations and endogamy. Membership in a qaum is inherited by birth.[241] Barth identifies the origin of the stratification from the historical segregation between pak (pure) and paleed (impure)—defined by the family's social or religious status, occupation and involvement in sexual crimes. Originally, Paleed/Paleet qaum included people running or working at brothels, prostitution service providers or professional courtesan/dancers (Tawaif) and musicians. There is history of skin color defining Pak/Paleed, but that does not have historical roots, and was adopted by outsiders using analogy from Hindu Caste system.[242]

Similarly, Christians in Pakistan are called "Isai", meaning followers of Isa (Jesus). But the term originates from Hindu Caste system and refers to the demeaning jobs performed by Christians in Pakistan out of poverty. Efforts are being made to replace the term with "Masihi" (Messiah), which is preferred by the Christians citizens of Pakistan.[243]

Endogamy is very common in Muslims in the form of arranged consanguineous marriages among Muslims in India and Pakistan.[244] Malik states that the lack of religious sanction makes qaum a quasi-caste, and something that is found in Islam outside South Asia.[241]

Some assert that the Muslim castes are not as acute in their discrimination as those of the Hindus,[245] while critics of Islam assert that the discrimination in South Asian Muslim society is worse.[239]


Although the Sikh Gurus criticised the hierarchy of the caste system, one does exist in Sikh community. According to Sunrinder S, Jodhka, the Sikh religion does not advocate discrimination against any caste or creed, however, in practice, Sikhs belonging to the landowning dominant castes have not shed all their prejudices against the Dalits. While Dalits would be allowed entry into the village gurudwaras they would not be permitted to cook or serve langar (the communal meal). Therefore, wherever they could mobilise resources, the Dalits of Punjab have tried to construct their own gurudwara and other local level institutions in order to attain a certain degree of cultural autonomy.[246]

In 1953, the Government of India acceded to the demands of the Sikh leader, Tara Singh, to include Sikh castes of the converted untouchables in the list of scheduled castes. In the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, 20 of the 140 seats are reserved for low-caste Sikhs.[247][248]

The Sikh literature from the Islamic rule and British colonial era mention Varna as Varan, and Jati as Zat or Zat-biradari. Eleanor Nesbitt, a professor of Religion and author of books on Sikhism, states that the Varan is described as a class system, while Zat has some caste system features in Sikh literature.[249] In theory, Nesbitt states Sikh literature does not recognise caste hierarchy or differences. In practice, states Nesbitt, widespread endogamy practice among Sikhs has been prevalent in modern times, and poorer Sikhs of disadvantaged castes continue to gather in their own places of worship. Most Sikh families, writes Nesbitt, continue to check the caste of any prospective marriage partner for their children. She notes that all Gurus of Sikhs married within their Zat, and they did not condemn or break with the convention of endogamous marriages for their own children or Sikhs in general.[176]


Caste system in Jainism has existed for centuries, primarily in terms of endogamy, although, per Paul Dundas, in modern times the system does not play a significant role.[250] This is contradicted by Carrithers and Humphreys who describe the major Jain castes in Rajasthan with their social rank.[251]

Table 1. Distribution of Population by Religion and Caste Categories

Religion/Caste / SCs / STs / OBCs / Forward Caste/Others

Hinduism / 22.2% / 9% / 42.8% / 26%
Islam / 0.8% / 0.5% / 39.2% / 59.5%
Christianity / 9.0% / 32.8% / 24.8% / 33.3%
Sikhism / 30.7% / 0.9% / 22.4% / 46.1%
Jainism / 0.0% / 2.6% / 3.0% / 94.3%
Buddhism / 89.5% / 7.4% / 0.4% / 2.7%
Zoroastrianism / 0.0% / 15.9% / 13.7% / 70.4%
Others / 2.6% / 82.5% / 6.25 / 8.7%
Total / 19.7% / 8.5% / 41.1% / 30.8%


Table 1 is the distribution of population of each Religion by Caste Categories, obtained from merged sample of Schedule 1 and Schedule 10 of available data from the National Sample Survey Organisation 55th (1999–2000) and 61st Rounds (2004–05) Round Survey[213] The Other Backward Class (OBCs) were found[by whom?] to comprise 52% of the country's population by the Mandal Commission report of 1980, a figure which had shrunk to 41% by 2006 when the National Sample Survey Organisation's survey took place.[252]


There has been criticism of the caste system from both within and outside of India.[253] Since the 1980s, caste has become a major issue in the politics of India.[254]

Indian social reformers

The caste system has been criticised by many Indian social reformers.


Basava (1105–1167) Arguably[weasel words] one of the first social reformers,[citation needed] Basava championed devotional worship that rejected temple worship and rituals, and replaced it with personalised direct worship of Shiva through practices such as individually worn icons and symbols like a small linga. This approach brought Shiva's presence to everyone and at all times, without gender, class or caste discrimination. His teachings and verses such as Káyakavé Kailása (Work is the path to Kailash (bliss, heaven), or Work is Worship) became popular.[according to whom?][citation needed]

Jyotirao Phule

Jyotirao Phule (1827–1890) vehemently criticised any explanations that the caste system was natural and ordained by the Creator in Hindu texts. If Brahma wanted castes, argued Phule, he would have ordained the same for other creatures. There are no castes in species of animals or birds, so why should there be one among human animals.[citation needed] In his criticism Phule added, "Brahmins cannot claim superior status because of caste, because they hardly bothered with these when wining and dining with Europeans."[citation needed] Professions did not make castes, and castes did not decide one's profession. If someone does a job that is dirty, it does not make them inferior; in the same way that no mother is inferior because she cleans the excreta of her baby. Ritual occupation or tasks, argued Phule, do not make any human being superior or inferior.[255]


Vivekananda similarly criticised caste as one of the many human institutions that bars the power of free thought and action of an individual. Caste or no caste, creed or no creed, any man, or class, or caste, or nation, or institution that bars the power of free thought and bars action of an individual is devilish, and must go down. Liberty of thought and action, asserted Vivekananda, is the only condition of life, of growth and of well-being.[256]


In his younger years, Gandhi disagreed with some of Ambedkar's observations, rationale and interpretations about the caste system in India. "Caste," he claimed, has "saved Hinduism from disintegration. But like every other institution it has suffered from excrescences."[citation needed] He considered the four divisions of Varnas to be fundamental, natural and essential. The innumerable subcastes or Jatis he considered to be a hindrance. He advocated to fuse all the Jatis into a more global division of Varnas.[citation needed] In the 1930s, Gandhi began to advocate for the idea of heredity in caste to be rejected, arguing that "Assumption of superiority by any person over any other is a sin against God and man. Thus caste, in so far as it connotes distinctions in status, is an evil."[257]

He claimed that Varnashrama of the shastras is today nonexistent in practice. The present caste system is theory antithesis of varnashrama. Caste in its current form, claimed Gandhi, had nothing to do with religion. The discrimination and trauma of castes, argued Gandhi, was the result of custom, the origin of which is unknown. Gandhi said that the customs' origin was a moot point, because one could spiritually sense that these customs were wrong, and that any caste system is harmful to the spiritual well-being of man and economic well-being of a nation. The reality of colonial India was, Gandhi noted, that there was no significant disparity between the economic condition and earnings of members of different castes, whether it was a Brahmin or an artisan or a farmer of low caste. India was poor, and Indians of all castes were poor. Thus, he argued that the cause of trauma was not in the caste system, but elsewhere. Judged by the standards being applied to India, Gandhi claimed, every human society would fail. He acknowledged that the caste system in India spiritually blinded some Indians, then added that this did not mean that every Indian or even most Indians blindly followed the caste system, or everything from ancient Indian scriptures of doubtful authenticity and value. India, like any other society, cannot be judged by a caricature of its worst specimens. Gandhi stated that one must consider the best it produced as well, along with the vast majority in impoverished Indian villages struggling to make ends meet, with woes of which there was little knowledge.[258][original research?]

B. R. Ambedkar

A 1922 stereograph of Hindu children of high caste, Bombay. This was part of Underwood & Underwood stereoscope journey of colonial world. This and related collections became controversial for staging extreme effects and constructing identities of various colonised nations. Christopher Pinney remarks such imaging was a part of surveillance and imposed identities upon Indians that were resented.[259][260][261]

B. R. Ambedkar was born in a caste that was classified as untouchable, became a leader of human rights campaigns in India, a prolific writer, and a key person in drafting modern India's constitution in the 1940s. He wrote extensively on discrimination, trauma and what he saw as the tragic effects of the caste system in India.[citation needed] He believed that the caste system originated in the practise of endogamy and that it spread through imitation by other groups. He wrote that initially, Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras existed as classes whose choice of occupation was not restricted by birth and in which exogamy was prevalent. Brahmins then began to practise endogamy and enclosed themselves, hence Ambedkar defines caste as "enclosed class". He believed that traditions such as sati, enforced widowhood and child marriage developed from the need to reinforce endogamy and Shastras were used to glorify these practices so that they are observed without being questioned. Later, other caste groups imitated these customs. However, although Ambedkar uses the approach of psychologist Gabriel Tarde to indicate how the caste system spread, he also explains that Brahmins or Manu cannot be blamed for the origin of the caste system and he discredits theories which trace the origin of caste system in races.[262][non-primary source needed]
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Caste politics

See also: Caste politics

Economic inequality

Economic inequality seems to be related to the influence of inherited social-economic stratification.[citation needed] A 1995 study notes that the caste system in India is a system of exploitation of poor low-ranking groups by more prosperous high-ranking groups.[197] A report published in 2001 note that in India 36.3% of people own no land at all, 60.6% own about 15% of the land, with a very wealthy 3.1% owning 15% of the land.[198] A study by Haque reports that India contains both the largest number of rural poor, and the largest number of landless households on the planet.[citation needed] Haque also reports that over 90 percent of both scheduled castes (low-ranking groups) and all other castes (high-ranking groups) either do not own land or own land area capable of producing less than $1000 per year of food and income per household. However, over 99 percent of India's farms are less than 10 hectares, and 99.9 percent of the farms are less than 20 hectares, regardless of the farmer or landowner's caste. Indian government has, in addition, vigorously pursued agricultural land ceiling laws which prohibit anyone from owning land greater than mandated limits. India has used this law to forcibly acquire land from some, then redistribute tens of millions of acres to the landless and poor of the low-caste. Haque suggests that Indian lawmakers need to reform and modernise the nation's land laws and rely less on blind adherence to land ceilings and tenancy reform.[263][264]

In a 2011 study, Aiyar too notes that such qualitative theories of economic exploitation and consequent land redistribution within India between 1950 and 1990 had no effect on the quality of life and poverty reduction. Instead, economic reforms since the 1990s and resultant opportunities for non-agricultural jobs have reduced poverty and increased per capita income for all segments of Indian society.[265] For specific evidence, Aiyar mentions the following

Critics believe that the economic liberalisation has benefited just a small elite and left behind the poor, especially the lowest Hindu caste of dalits. But a recent authoritative survey revealed striking improvements in living standards of dalits in the last two decades. Television ownership was up from zero to 45 percent; cellphone ownership up from zero to 36 percent; two-wheeler ownership (of motorcycles, scooters, mopeds) up from zero to 12.3 percent; children eating yesterday's leftovers down from 95.9 percent to 16.2 percent ... Dalits running their own businesses up from 6 percent to 37 percent; and proportion working as agricultural labourers down from 46.1 percent to 20.5 percent.

Cassan has studied the differential effect within two segments of India's Dalit community. He finds India's overall economic growth has produced the fastest and more significant socio-economic changes. Cassan further concludes that legal and social program initiatives are no longer India's primary constraint in further advancement of India's historically discriminated castes; further advancement are likely to come from improvements in the supply of quality schools in rural and urban India, along with India's economic growth.[266]

Apartheid and discrimination

The maltreatment of Dalits in India has been described by some authors[which?] as "India's hidden apartheid".[199][267] Critics of the accusations point to substantial improvements in the position of Dalits in post-independence India, consequent to the strict implementation of the rights and privileges enshrined in the Constitution of India, as implemented by the Protection of Civil rights Act, 1955.[268] They also argue that the practise had disappeared in urban public life.[269][page needed]

Sociologists Kevin Reilly, Stephen Kaufman and Angela Bodino, while critical of caste system, conclude that modern India does not practice apartheid since there is no state-sanctioned discrimination.[270] They write that casteism in India is presently "not apartheid. In fact, untouchables, as well as tribal people and members of the lowest castes in India benefit from broad affirmative action programmes and are enjoying greater political power."[271]

A hypothesis that caste amounts to race has been rejected by some scholars.[272][273][274] Ambedkar, for example, wrote that "The Brahmin of Punjab is racially of the same stock as the Chamar of Punjab. The Caste system does not demarcate racial division. The Caste system is a social division of people of the same race."[citation needed] Various sociologists, anthropologists and historians have rejected the racial origins and racial emphasis of caste and consider the idea to be one that has purely political and economic undertones. Beteille writes that "the Scheduled Castes of India taken together are no more a race than are the Brahmins taken together. Every social group cannot be regarded as a race simply because we want to protect it against prejudice and discrimination"[citation needed], and that the 2001 Durban conference on racism hosted by the U.N. is "turning its back on established scientific opinion".[274][better source needed]

In popular culture

Mulk Raj Anand's debut novel, Untouchable (1935), is based on the theme of untouchability. The Hindi film Achhut Kannya (Untouchable Maiden, 1936), starring Ashok Kumar and Devika Rani, was an early reformist film.[citation needed] The debut novel of Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things (1997), also has themes surrounding the caste system across religions. A lawyer named Sabu Thomas filed a petition to have the book published without the last chapter, which had graphic description of sexual acts between members of different castes.[275][better source needed] Thomas claimed the alleged obscenity in the last chapter deeply hurts the Syrian Christian community, the basis of the novel.[276]

See also

• Article 15
• Caste systems in Africa
• Caste system in Sri Lanka
• Manual scavenging – a caste-based activity in India, officially abolished but still ongoing
• Social class


1. Sweetman notes that the Brahmin had a strong influence on the British understanding of India, thereby also influencing the British rule and western understandings of Hinduism, and gaining a stronger position in Indian society.[140]
2. Karade states, "the caste quarantine list was abolished by independent India in 1947 and criminal tribes law was formally repealed in 1952 by its first parliament".[172]
3. Dirks (2001a, p. 5): "Rather, I will argue that caste (again, as we know it today) is a modern phenomenon, that it is, specifically, the product of an historical encounter between India and Western colonial rule. By this I do not mean to imply that it was simply invented by the too clever British, now credited with so many imperial patents that what began as colonial critique has turned into another form of imperial adulation. But I am suggesting that it was under the British that 'caste' became a single term capable of expressing, organising, and above all 'systematising' India's diverse forms of social identity, community, and organisation. This was achieved through an identifiable (if contested) ideological canon as the result of a concrete encounter with colonial modernity during two hundred years of British domination. In short, colonialism made caste what it is today."
4. Dirks, Scandal of Empire (2006, p. 27): "The institution of caste, for example, a social formation that has been seen as not only basic to India but part of its ancient constitution, was fundamentally transformed by British colonial rule."
5. Sweetman cites Dirks (1993), The Hollow Crown, University of Michigan Press, p.xxvii
6. For example, some British believed Indians would shun train travel because tradition-bound South Asians were too caught up in caste and religion, and that they would not sit or stand in the same coaches out of concern for close proximity to a member of higher or lower or shunned caste. After the launch of train services, Indians of all castes, classes and gender enthusiastically adopted train travel without any concern for so-called caste stereotypes.[188][189]


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Further reading

• Ahmed, Imtiaz (1978). Caste and Social Stratification Among Muslims in India. Manohar. ISBN 978-0-8364-0050-2.
• Ambedkar, Bhimrao (1945). Pakistan or the Partition of India. AMS Press. ISBN 978-0-404-54801-8.
• Anthony, David W. (2007). The Horse The Wheel And Language. How Bronze-Age Riders From the Eurasian Steppes Shaped The Modern World. Princeton University Press.
• Ansari, Ghaus (1960). Muslim Caste in Uttar Pradesh: A Study of Culture Contact. Ethnographic and Folk Cultural Society. ASIN B001I50VJG.
• Bayly, Christopher (1983). Rulers, Townsmen, and Bazaars: North Indian Society in the Age of British Expansion, 1770–1870. Cambridge University Press.
• Anand A. Yang, Bazaar India: Markets, Society, and the Colonial State in Bihar, University of California Press, 1999.
• Acharya Hazari Prasad Dwivedi Rachnawali, Rajkamal Prakashan, Delhi.
• Arvind Narayan Das, Agrarian movements in India : studies on 20th century Bihar (Library of Peasant Studies), Routledge, London, 1982.
• Atal, Yogesh (1968) "The Changing Frontiers of Caste" Delhi, National Publishing House.
• Atal, Yogesh (2006) "Changing Indian Society" Chapter on Varna and Jati. Jaipur, Rawat Publications.
• Béteille, André (1965). Caste, Class and Power: Changing Patterns of Stratification in a Tanjore Village. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-02053-5.
• Duiker/Spielvogel. The Essential World History Vol I: to 1800. 2nd Edition 2005.
• Forrester, Duncan B., 'Indian Christians' Attitudes to Caste in the Nineteenth Century,' in Indian Church History Review 8, no. 2 (1974): 131–147.
• Forrester, Duncan B., 'Christian Theology in a Hindu Context,' in South Asian Review 8, no. 4 (1975): 343–358.
• Forrester, Duncan B., 'Indian Christians' Attitudes to Caste in the Twentieth Century,' in Indian Church History Review 9, no. 1 (1975): 3–22.
• Fárek, M., Jalki, D., Pathan, S., & Shah, P. (2017). Western Foundations of the Caste System. Cham: Springer International Publishing.
• Gupta, Dipankar (2004). Caste in Question: Identity or Hierarchy?. Sage Publications. ISBN 978-0-7619-3324-3.
• Ghurye, G. S. (1961). Caste, Class and Occupation. Popular Book Depot, Bombay.
• Jain, Meenakshi, Congress Party, 1967–77: Role of Caste in Indian Politics (Vikas, 1991), ISBN 0706953193.
• Jaffrelot, Christophe (2003). India's Silent Revolution: The Rise of the Lower Castes. C. Hurst & Co.
• Jeffrey, Craig (2001). "'A Fist Is Stronger than Five Fingers': Caste and Dominance in Rural North India". Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. New Series. 26 (2): 217–236. doi:10.1111/1475-5661.00016. JSTOR 3650669.
• Ketkar, Shridhar Venkatesh (1979) [1909]. The History of Caste in India: Evidence of the Laws of Manu on the Social Conditions in India During the 3rd Century A.D., Interpreted and Examined. Rawat Publications. LCCN 79912160.
• Kane, Pandurang Vaman (1962–1975). History of Dharmasastra: (ancient and mediaeval, religious and civil law). Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute.
• Lal, K. S. (1995). Growth of Scheduled Tribes and Castes in Medieval India.
• Madan, T. N. "Caste". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 15 February 2013.
• Murray Milner, Jr. (1994). Status and Sacredness: A General Theory of Status Relations and an Analysis of Indian Culture, New York: Oxford University Press.
• Michaels, Axel (2004). Hinduism: Past and Present. Princeton. pp. 188–197. ISBN 978-0-691-08953-9.
• Olcott, Mason (December 1944). "The Caste System of India". American Sociological Review. 9 (6): 648–657. doi:10.2307/2085128. JSTOR 2085128.
• Moore, Robin J. Sir Charles Wood's Indian Policy 1853–66. Manchester University Press.
• Raj, Papia; Raj, Aditya (2004). "Caste Variation in Reproductive Health of Women in Eastern Region of India: A Study Based on NFHS Data". Sociological Bulletin. 53 (3): 326–346.
• Ranganayakamma (2001). For the solution of the "Caste" question, Buddha is not enough, Ambedkar is not enough either, Marx is a must, Hyderabad : Sweet Home Publications.
• Risley, Herbert (1915). The People Of India. W. Thacker & Sons. ISBN 978-81-206-1265-5.
• Rosas, Paul, "Caste and Class in India," Science and Society, vol. 7, no. 2 (Spring 1943), pp. 141–167. In JSTOR.
• Srinivas, Mysore N. (1994) [1962]. Caste in Modern India and Other Essays. Asia Publishing House.
• Srinivas, Mysore N. (1995). Social Change in Modern India. Orient Longman.

External links

• Media related to Indian caste system at Wikimedia Commons
• Hidden Apartheid Caste Discrimination against India's "Untouchables"
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Social class in Tibet [Caste system in Tibet]
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 1/6/20



There were three main social groups in Tibet prior to 1959, namely ordinary laypeople (mi ser in Tibetan), lay nobility (sger pa), and monks.[1] The ordinary layperson could be further classified as a peasant farmer (shing-pa) or nomadic pastoralist (trokpa).

The Tsang (17th century) and Dalai Lama (Ganden Podrang) law codes distinguished three social divisions: high, medium and low, each in turn was divided into three classes, to give nine classes in all. Social status was a formal classification, mostly hereditary and had legal consequences: for example the compensation to be paid for the killing of a member of these classes varied from 5 (for the lowest) to 200 'sung' for the second highest, the members of the noble families.

Nobles, government officials and monks of pure conduct were in the high division, only - probably - the Dalai Lama was in the very highest class. The middle division contained a large portion of the population and ranged from minor government officials, to taxpayer and landholding peasants, to landless peasants. Movement between classes was possible in the middle division.[2] The lower division contained ragyabpa ('untouchables') of different types: e.g. blacksmiths and butchers. The very lowest class contained executioners, and (in the Tsang code) bachelors and hermaphrodites.[3]

The exports to Nepāl comprise wool, yak-tails, salt, saltpetre, woollen goods and a few other articles. To the districts lying to the north-east of Tibet, that is to the north-western parts of China and Mongolia, go various kinds of woollen goods; Buddhist books also go largely to Mongolia, as do also Buddhist images, pictures and various paraphernalia. These, considered as objects of art, are worthless, though formerly Tibet produced images and pictures of high artistic standard. The contrast between old and new images and pictures, both of which are to be seen in most temples in Tibet, is sufficiently glaring, for the latter are as a rule clumsy performances, offensive to the taste and also to the sense of decency, being invariably bi-sexual representations of men and women with one common body. I was once struck with the notion that the Tibetans are characterised by four serious defects, these being: filthiness, superstition, unnatural customs (such as polyandry), and unnatural art. I should be sorely perplexed if I were asked to name their redeeming points; but if I had to do so, I should mention first of all the fine climate in the vicinity of Lhasa and Shigatze, their sonorous and refreshing voices in reading the Text, the animated style of their catechisms, and their ancient art.

Three Years in Tibet, by Shramana Ekai Kawaguchi

Anthropologists have presented different taxonomies for the middle social division, in part because they studied specific regions of Tibet and the terms were not universal.[4][5][6][7] Both Melvyn Goldstein and Geoff Childs however classified the population into three main types:[8][9]

• taxpayer families (tre-ba[8] or khral-pa[4][9])
• householders (du-jong[8] or dud-chung-ba[4][9])
• landless peasants (mi-bo[8])

In the middle group, the taxpaying families could be quite wealthy.[10] Depending upon the district, each category had different responsibilities in terms of tax and labor.[11] Membership to each of these classes was primarily hereditary; the linkage between subjects and their estate and overlord was similarly transmitted through parallel descent. The taxpayer class, although numerically smallest among the three subclasses, occupied a superior position in terms of political and economic status.

The question of whether serfdom prevailed in traditional Tibetan society is controversial; Heidi Fjeld [no] argues for a moderate position, recognizing that serfdom existed but was not universal in U-Tsang; a better description of the traditional Tibetan social class system, at least in Central Tibet, would be a caste system, rather than a comparison to European feudalism.

The Higher Division

The highest of the high class was empty, or only contained possibly the Dalai Lama[3]

The Nobility

The middle class of the high division - the highest attainable in practice - was headed by the hereditary nobility. Yabshi were thought to be descendants of the Dalai Lamas, depon were descendants of the ancient royal families, midak were on a slightly lower level.[12]

There were "a small group of about 30 higher status families" and "120 to 170 lower or 'common' aristocratic families".[13]

High Government and Monk Officials

High government officials were appointed from the aristocracy. Monk officials were usually drawn from Lhasa middle classes, the families of existing monk officials, or were the second sons of the aristocracy. They were usually monks in name only, one night spent in a monastery being sufficient to qualify as a monk for this purpose.[14]

The Middle Division

Taxpayer families

The treba (also tralpa or khral-pa) taxpayers lived in "corporate family units" that hereditarily owned estates leased from their district authority, complete with land titles. In Goldstein's review of the Gyantse district he found that a taxpayer family typically owned from 20 acres (81,000 m2) to 300 acres (1.2 km2) of land each. Their primary civil responsibility was to pay taxes (tre-ba and khral-pa means "taxpayer"), and to supply corvée services that included both human and animal labor to their district authority.[9] They had a comfortable standard of living. They also frequently practiced polyandry in marriage and other practices to maintain a single marriage per generation and avoid parceling land holdings.


The householder class (du-jung, dud-chung-ba[9] duiqoin, duiqion, düchung, dudchhung, duigoin or dujung) comprised peasants who held only small plots of land that were legally and literally "individual" possessions. This was different from the taxpayer families who owned land as a familial corporation. Land inheritance rules for the householders were quite different from taxpayer family rules, in that there was no certainty as to whether a plot of land would be inherited by his son. The district authority — either governmental, monastic, or aristocratic — was the ultimate landowner and decided inheritance. Compared to the taxpayer families the householders, however, had lighter tax obligations and only human labor corvée obligations to their district authorities. These obligations, unlike the taxpayer family obligations, fell only on the individual and not on his family.

Human lease peasants

Human lease peasants (mi-bo) did not have heritable rights to land. They were still obligated to their 'owning' estate under their status as mi-ser. In contrast with the taxpayer families and householders, they had the freedom to go wherever they wanted and could engage in trade or crafts.[15] When farming, they might lease land from taxpayer families and as payment take on work for those families. Like the householders the landless peasants also used resources in their own individual capacity which were non-heritable.

The relative freedom of the mi-bo status was usually purchased by an annual fee to the estate to which the mi-bo belonged. The fee could be raised if the mi-bo prospered, and the lord could still exact special corvée labor, e.g. for a special event.

The status could be revoked at the will of the estate owner. The offspring of the mi-bo did not automatically inherit the status of 'mi-bo', they did inherit the status of 'mi-ser', and could be indentured to service in their earlier teens, or would have to pay their own mi-bo fee.[2]

The Lower Division

Ragyabpa - Untouchables

The ragyabpa or untouchable caste were the lowest level, and they performed the 'unclean' work. This included fishermen, butchers, executioners, corpse disposers, blacksmiths, goldsmiths and prostitutes. Ragyabpa were also divided into three divisions: for instance a goldsmith was in the highest untouchable class, and was not regarded as being as defiled as an executioner, who was in the lowest.

They were regarded as both polluted and polluting, membership of the caste was hereditary, and escape from the untouchable status was not possible.[16]

Nangzan - Household servants

According to Chinese government sources, Nangzan (also nangzen, nangzan, nangsen) were hereditary household servants comprising 5% of the population.[17][18]


According to American sinologist A. Tom Grunfeld there were a few slaves in Tibet. Grunfeld quotes Sir Charles Bell, a British colonial official in the Chumbi Valley in the early 19th century and a Tibet scholar who wrote of slaves in the form of small children being stolen or bought from their parents, too poor to support them, to be brought up and kept or sold as slaves.[19] These children came mostly from south-eastern Tibet and the territories of the tribes that dwelt between Tibet and Assam.[20] Grunfeld omits Bell's elaboration that in 1905, there were "a dozen or two" of these, and that it was "a very mild form of slavery".[21]


We have seen that issues which might reflect badly on the cadre, such as cash payments to influential Tibetans, did not emerge into the public knowledge. There was also a gap between what the cadre themselves knew or believed, and what they divulged, as we have seen with Neame's article, which avoided mentioning both the purpose and the results of his mission. This can also be seen clearly in two cases where Politicals posted to Gyantse formed views which differed significantly from the usual cadre perception. It is significant that neither officer remained in Tibet for more than a few months. They were not therefore, by my definition, accepted members of the Tibet cadre.

The recorded memories of 1933 Gyantse Agent Meredith Worth, suggest an image of Tibet closer to that presented by Communist Chinese sources than to that offered in British sources. Interviewed in 1980, Worth recalled that

My memories are of many cheerful parties in the Fort and in the homes of wealthy families, the dominance and brutality of the Lamas and officials towards the serf population and the prevalence of venereal diseases....It was, therefore, for me a relief to read recently in Han Suyin's book "Lhasa, the Open City" [which promotes a polemically positive view of Communist rule in Tibet] that those conditions no longer exist.[20]

Paul Mainprice confided to his 1944 diary that

I have serious doubts whether Tibet is at all fit for independence and whether the present system of Government should be bolstered up. Would China in control of Tibet really be a very serious menace to India? As we don't seem to do much developing of Tibet, I question whether the Chinese would not be able to do it to our own mutual advantage. Of course the Tibetan aristocracy and officials would not like it, but the peasants preferred the Chinese regime in Eastern Tibet in the early years of this century. [21]

Neither Worth nor Mainprice appear to have expressed these views publicly during their imperial service. They were doubtless aware that views diametrically opposed to those of their superiors would be censored, and were unlikely to advance their careers. This must have acted as an incentive to self-censorship. As a result, the dominant image of Tibet was not affected by alternative views, even those of members of the Political Department.

The doubts which Mainprice expressed over British policy in Tibet do reflect a different perspective from that of other cadre officers. Mainprice 'was always concerned for the underdog'. He was one of the few imperial officers to gain good relations with the Mishmis during service in Assam, and his diaries record his later sympathy and support for the Muslim populace of Kashmir, which led to his being detained and expelled by the new Indian government.[22]

Mainprice's perspective indicates how the emphasis on relations with Tibet's ruling class resulted in a marginalisation of the voice of the majority of Tibetans, those outside ruling circles. Bell was aware that the peasants were often treated 'abominably' and even admitted in his first book that 'There is no doubt some foundation for the Amban's claim that the poorer classes in Tibet were in favour of China.' But Bell's policy of support for the existing Tibetan leadership meant that this perspective was not represented by the British. The condition of the lower classes was heavily criticised on occasion, Macdonald being particularly critical. But a positive image was maintained by attributing misrule to the era of Chinese domination, and describing how conditions were improving under the Dalai Lama's rule. This positive note was enhanced by the constant stress on the overall happiness and contentment of the peasant class, which is a recurrent theme in British accounts of Tibet, where even 'the slavery was of a very mild type'. [23]

-- Tibet and the British Raj, 1904-47: The Influence of the Indian Political Department Officers, by Alexander McKay

According to exile Tibetan writer Jamyang Norbu, later accounts from Westerners who visited Tibet and even long-term foreign residents such as Heinrich Harrer, Peter Aufschnaiter, Hugh Richardson and David Macdonald make no mention of any such practice, which suggests that the 13th Dalai Lama must have eliminated this practice altogether in his reforms.[21]

[A] poor layman cannot expect any help from those quarters, and he has to support his family with his own labor and to pay the poll-tax besides. Very often therefore he is hardly able to drive the wolf of hunger from his door, and in such case his only hope of succor lies in a loan from his landlord, or the lord of the manor wherein he resides. But hope of repayment there is none, and so the poor farmer gets that loan under a strange contract, that is to say, by binding himself to offer his son or daughter as a servant to the creditor when he or she attains a certain age. And so his child when he has reached the age of (say) ten years is surrendered to the[431] creditor, who is entitled to employ him as a servant for fifteen or twenty years, and for a loan which does not generally exceed ten yen. The lives of the children of poor people may therefore be considered as being foreclosed by their parents. Those pitiable children grow up to be practically slaves of the Peers.

Three Years in Tibet, by Shramana Ekai Kawaguchi


1. Snellgrove, Cultural History, pp. 257–259
2. Goldstein 1986
3. French p. 114
4. Goldstein (May 1971) p.524
5. Samuel, Geoffrey (Feb., 1982) Tibet as a Stateless Society and Some Islamic Parallels The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 41, No. 2, pp. 215-229
6. Goldstein (1971) pp.64-65
7. Childs (2003) pp.441-442
8. Goldstein (1971) pp.65-66
9. Childs (2003) pp.427-428
10. Goldstein (1971) p.67
11. Laird (2006) p. 319
12. French p. 113
13. Goldstein 1989, p. 6
14. Goldstein 1989, p. 6-9
15. Goldstein 1987
16. French ps. 111-112
17. Learn Chinese
18. Tibet's Material Wealth
19. Grunfeld, The Making of Modern Tibet (1996) pg. 15.
20. Charles Bell, Tibet Past and Present, Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1992, 376 pages, pp. xviii and 78-79: "Slavery was not unknown in the Chumbi Valley during our occupation, but proximity to British India had greatly lessened the numbers of the slaves, so that only a dozen or two remained. Across the frontier in Bhutan there were a great many. / Slaves were sometimes stolen, when small children, from their parents. Or the father and mother being too poor to support their child, would sell it to a man, who paid them sho-ring, 'price of mother's milk', brought up the child and kept it, or sold it, as a slave. These children come mostly from south-eastern Tibet and the territories of the wild tribes who dwell between Tibet and Assam. / Two slaves whom I saw both appeared to have come from this tribal territory. They had been stolen from their parents when five years old, and sold in Lhasa for about seven pounds each. [...] / Slaves received food and clothing from their masters on the same scale as servants, but no pay. [...] / The slavery in the Chumpi valley was of a very mild type. If a slave was not well treated, it was easy for him to escape into Sikkim and British India."
21. "Acme of Obscenity". Retrieved 2015-05-25.


• Childs, Geoff. 2003. "Polyandry and population growth in a Historical Tibetan Society", History of the Family, 8:423–444.
• French, Rebecca (2002) The Golden Yoke, ISBN 1-55939-171-5
• Goldstein, Melvyn C. (1971) "Stratification, Polyandry, and Family Structure in Central Tibet", Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, 27(1): 64-74.
• Goldstein, Melvyn C. (1971) Serfdom and Mobility: An Examination of the Institution of "Human Lease" in Traditional Tibetan Society The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 30, No. 3, (May, 1971), pp. 521–534
• Goldstein, Melvyn C. (1987) "Tibetan History and Social & Political Structure". Retrieved 2008-07-03.
• Goldstein, Melvyn C. A History of Modern Tibet, 1913–1951: The Demise of the Lamaist State (1989) University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-06140-8
o Goldstein, Melvyn C. A History of Modern Tibet, 1913–1951: The Demise of the Lamaist State (1989), first Indian edition (1993) Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, New Delhi, ISBN 81-215-0582-8 Pagination is identical to University of California edition.
• Grunfeld, A. Tom (1996) The making of Modern Tibet, Revised Edition, Armonk, New York: M. E. Sharpe, xvi + 352 p. ISBN 1-56324-713-5
o Grunfield's work, which generally mirrors the Chinese government viewpoint, has been severely criticized by Tibetan critics, see "Acme of Obscenity: Tom Grunfeld and The Making of Modern Tibet" by Jamyang Norbu, 18 August 2008,
• Laird, Thomas (2006) The Story of Tibet ISBN 0-8021-1827-5
• Snellgrove, David; Hugh Richardson (1968). A Cultural History of Tibet. London: George Weidenfeld & Nicolson Ltd. ISBN 0-297-76317-2.


Education and Castes, Excerpt from
Three Years in Tibet

by Shramana Ekai Kawaguchi

CHAPTER LXIII. Education and Castes.

Education is not widely diffused in Tibet. In the neighborhood of Shigatze children are taught comparatively well the three subjects of writing, arithmetic and reading, but in other places no provision exists for teaching children, except at monasteries, so that the boys and girls of ordinary people are generally left uneducated, especially the latter.

As might naturally be expected, educational establishments are few and far between. The only institutions worthy of the name are found on the premises of the Palace at Lhasa, and of the Tashi Lhunpo monasteries in Shigatze; all the rest are only ‘family schools’.

From the important position which priests command in Tibet, the system of training them is pretty well developed, and it is only at religious schools that one can obtain even a comparatively advanced education. Sons of ordinary people can enjoy the benefit of that education only by joining the order, for otherwise they are refused admission to Government schools.

The doors of those schools are, of course, shut against boys of humble origin.
In Tibet there exists one class which is the lowest in the scale of social gradation. This lowest grade is subdivided into fishermen, ferry-men, smiths, and butchers. Smiths are relegated to this grade in Tibet just as in India, and for the same reason—that they pursue an objectionable occupation in making edged tools used for slaughtering living things, the most sinful occupation of all. People of this lowest grade are even prohibited from becoming priests, and if ever they enter the privileged order it is by some surreptitious means and by concealing[436] their real rank. In this way some men of the lowest origin have become priests at places remote from their native villages. Compared with these despised classes, the ordinary people may be said to enjoy a great advantage.

The classes who are entitled to enter the Government institutions are only four:

1. Ger-pa, Peers;
2. Ngak-pa, the manṭra clan;
3. Bon-bo, the Old Sect clan;
4. Shal-ngo, families of former chieftains.

The Peers consist of the descendants of former ministers and generals, and contain the supreme class called Yabshi which is composed of families of the thirteen Grand Lamas, past and present, and also of the descendants of the first King of Tibet, called Tichen Lha-kyari. They all hold the rank of Duke. The descendants in the direct line of that King still exist to this day, and their head is entitled to occupy the same rank as the Grand Lama, only he does not possess any power in public affairs. The highest posts in the Tibetan Hierarchy are within the easy reach of the Yabshi men, who can become Prime Ministers or other great dignitaries of state provided they are judged to possess qualifications for undertaking those high functions. Even when they do not occupy such elevated positions, they at least hold posts that are of next in importance. All the remarks about the Yabshi apply to the families of the Dalai Lamas, installed at Lhasa, for though the other Patriarchs at Tashi Lhunpo also possess Yabshi of their own, they do not enjoy the same privileges as the others. The descendants of the Dalai Lama’s relatives, and those of the former King, may therefore be considered as forming in practice the royal families of Tibet. These should, for convenience, be set apart as a distinct class, though there are other families that do not differ much from them in origin and privilege. Of these, one called De-pon Cheka (families of generals) represents the descendants of the generals and[437] captains who rendered distinguished services when Tibet engaged in war. The merits of those warriors, long since dead, obtain for their descendants great respect from the public and they enjoy great privileges.

The next grade of the Peerage, but considerably below these, consists of the descendants of families of great historic renown, or of ministers of distinguished service. Though occupying the lowest grade in the herald-book of the Peerage, even the portfolio of the Premier is accessible to these Peers, provided that they are men of ability.

In general, honor and ability seldom go together in Tibet, for official posts are freely sold and purchased, though buyers are limited. High officials of real ability are even regarded as a nuisance by their colleagues, and are liable to be dismissed through their intrigues. Such being the case, by far the greater majority of high official posts are held by men who have obtained them in exchange for money.

The class that ranks next to Peers is that of the Ngak-pas or miracle workers, who are the descendants of Lamas who worked miracles, not the least of them being their marriage in violation of the rules of Lama priesthood. Those Lamas transmitted their ‘hidden arts’ exclusively to this social grade, which thus possesses hereditary secrets. The Ngak-pas play an important part in the social organism of Tibet. For instance they are entitled, as already mentioned, to levy the ‘hail-tax’ in summer, and therefore to assume the function of administrators. They are also held in great awe by provincials and townsmen, as being magicians of power. The simple-minded folk believe that if once they incur the displeasure of a Ngak-pa they may be cursed by him, and therefore may bring upon themselves some calamity. As I mentioned before, the Ngak-pa people occupy the advantageous position of being able to procure money in the[438] shape of proceeds of the ‘hail-tax,’ and of presents coming from all classes of people. Strange as it may appear, the Ngak-pa men, while commanding such advantages, are notoriously poor; they even stand as synonyms for poverty. Their sole consolation is that they are conscious of the great power they hold over all classes of people; and even Peers are often seen to dismount from horseback and give a courteous salute when they happen to meet a beggarly Ngak-pa in the street.


The nation is so credulous in the matter of religion that they indiscriminately believe whatever is told to them by their religious teachers, the lamas. Thus for instance they believe that there are eight kinds of evil spirits which delight in afflicting people and send hail to hurt the crops. Some priests therefore maintain that they must fight against and destroy these evil demons in order to keep them off, and the old school profess that in order to combat these spirits effectually they must know when the demons are preparing the hail. During the winter when there is much snow, these spirits, according to the priests, gather themselves at a certain place, where they make large quantities of hail out of snow. They then store the hail somewhere in heaven, and go to rest, until in the summer when the crops are nearly ripe they throw down the hail from the air. Hence the Tibetans must make[272] sharp weapons to keep off the hail, and consequently, while the spirits are preparing their hail, the Tibetans hold a secret meeting in some ravine where they prepare ‘hail-proof shells,’ which are pieces of mud about the size of a sparrow’s egg. These are made by a priest, who works with a servant or two in some lonely ravine, where by some secret method he makes many shells, chanting words of incantation the while, whereby he lays a spell on each shell he makes. These pellets are afterwards used as missiles when hail falls in the summer, and are supposed to drive it back. None but priests of good family may devote themselves to this work. Every village has at least one priest called Ngak-pa (the chanters of incantations of the old school) and during the winter these Ngak-pas offer prayers, perform charms, or pray for blessings for others. But the Tibetans have a general belief that the Ngak-pas sometimes curse others. I was often told that such and such person had offended a Ngak-pa and was cursed to death.

Having spent the winter in this way, the Ngak-pas during the summer prepare to fight against the devils. Let me remark, in passing, that Tibet has not four seasons, as we have, but the year is divided into summer and winter. The four seasons are indeed mentioned in Tibetan books, but there are in reality only two.

The summer there is from about the 15th of March to the 15th of September and all the rest of the year is winter. As early as March or April the ploughing of the fields and sowing of wheat begins, and then the Ngak-pa proceeds to the Hail-Subduing-Temple, erected on the top of one of the high mountains. This kind of temple is always built on the most elevated place in the whole district, for the reason that the greatest advantage is thus obtained for ascertaining the direction from which the clouds containing hail issue forth. From the time that[273] the ears of the wheat begin to shoot, the priest continues to reside in the temple, though from time to time, it is said, he visits his own house, as he has not very much to do in the earlier part of his service. About June, however, when the wheat has grown larger, the protection of the crop from injury by hail becomes more urgent, so that the priest never leaves the temple, and his time is fully taken up with making offerings and sending up prayers for protection to various deities. The service is gone through three times each day and night, and numberless incantations are pronounced. What is more strange is that the great hail storms generally occur when the larger part of the crops are becoming ripe, and then it is the time for the priest on service to bend his whole energies to the work of preventing the attack of hail.

When it happens that big masses of clouds are gathering overhead, the Ngak-pa first assumes a solemn and stern aspect, drawing himself up on the brink of the precipice as firm as the rock itself, and then pronounces an enchantment with many flourishes of his rosary much in the same manner as our warrior of old did with his baton. In a wild attempt to drive away the hail clouds, he fights against the mountain, but it often happens that the overwhelming host comes gloomily upon him with thunders roaring and flashes of lightning that seem to shake the ground under him and rend the sky above, and the volleys of big hailstones follow, pouring down thick and fast, like arrows flying in the thick of battle. The priest then, all in a frenzy, dances in fight against the air, displaying a fury quite like a madman in a rage. With charms uttered at the top of his voice he cuts the air right and left, up and down, with his fist clenched and finger pointed. If in spite of all his efforts, the volleys of hail thicken and strike the fields beneath, the priest grows madder in his wrath,[275] quickly snatches handfuls of the bullets aforementioned which he carries about him, and throws them violently against the clouds as if to strike them. If all this avail nothing, he rends his garment to pieces, and throws the rags up in the air, so perfectly mad is he in his attempt to put a stop to the falling hailstones. When, as sometimes happens, the hail goes drifting away and leaves the place unharmed, the priest is puffed up with pride at the victory he has gained, and the people come to congratulate him with a great show of gratitude. But when, unluckily for him, the hail falls so heavily as to do much harm to the crops, his reverence has to be punished with a fine, apportioned to the amount of injury done by the hail, as provided by the law of the land.

Three Years in Tibet, by Shramana Ekai Kawaguchi

The third caste is the Bon-bo the name of an old religion which prevailed in Tibet long before the introduction of Buddhism. The priests of this practically extinct religion were allowed to marry, and have left behind them the class of people who represent this old social institution in Tibet. The Bon-bo people have to play a certain distinct rôle in public affairs. This is more of a ceremonial than of a religious nature. It consists in worshipping local deities, and undertaking ceremonies intended to secure their favor. When people marry, they ask a Bon-bo man to pray for them to their local deity. Sometimes he undertakes other kinds of prayer or even performs symbolic rites with a benevolent or malevolent aim, according to circumstances. Families of this particular class are found almost everywhere throughout the country, though in limited numbers. In some remote villages, as Tsar-ka in the Himālayas, all the villagers are said to belong to this class, but in most cases only one or two families are found in one village or in one district. In such cases the Bon-bo are objects of great respect, and they sometimes act as local magistrates or administrators. Even when they pursue any other kind of business, they still command great respect from their neighbors as descendants of ancient families.

Though the Bon-bo are descendants of an old religious order, their present representatives are no longer priests,[439] for they do not preach their tenets to others, nor try to persuade them to become converts. They are simply content to hand down their ancestral teachings and traditions to their children and so maintain their distinct position in society. Not unfrequently the young Bon-bo enter the priesthood, and these take precedence over all the other Bon-bo. Strictly speaking the respect which the people belonging to this particular class enjoy over others at present is due to their honorable lineage.

The fourth class is “Shal-ngo” and is composed of the descendants of ancient families who acquired power in the locality on account of their wealth in either money or land. The Tibetans are in general a highly conservative race, and therefore they succeed in most cases in keeping intact their hereditary property. Their polyandrous custom too must be conducive to that result, preventing as it does the splitting up of family property among brothers. By far the great majority of the Shal-ngo people possess therefore more or less property; and even a poor Shal-ngo commands the same respect from the public as his richer confrère.

Common people are divided into two grades, one called tong-ba and the other tong-du. The former is superior, and includes all those common people who possess some means and have not fallen into an ignoble state of slavery. Tong-du means etymologically “petty people,” and their rank being one grade lower than that of others, the people of this class are engaged in menial service. Still they are not strictly speaking slaves; they should more properly be considered as poor tenant-farmers, for formerly these people used to stand in the relation of tenant-farmers to land-owners, though such relation no longer exists.

Some tong-ba are reduced to more straitened circumstances than the tong-du, but, generally considered, the tong-ba are distinguished from the others by the possession of property,[440] greater or less as the case may be, while poverty is a special feature of the tong-du.

However low the tong-ba may fall in the worldly sense of the word, and, on the other hand, however thriving the tong-du may become, a strict line of demarcation still continues to separate the two classes. Society continues to treat them as before, and as if nothing had happened in their relative fortunes. No ordinary people deign to eat with one belonging to the tong-du class, nor do they ever intermarry with them.

This strict rule of social etiquette is in force even among the four divisions of the lowest class, that is to say, ferry-men, fishermen, smiths and butchers. Of the four, the first two rank higher than the other two. Thus, though smiths and butchers are not permitted to eat in the same room with common people, the other two classes are allowed to do so, only they may not sit at table with a privileged plebeian, but must eat or drink from their own vessels.

It is hardly necessary to add that a strong barrier is set up between these four kinds of social outcasts and the ordinary common people, to prevent their intermarriage
; a man or woman belonging to the latter class, who is so indiscreet as to obey the bidding of his or her heart and to marry one of the despised race, is socially tabooed from his or her own kith and kin. This punishment is permanent, and even when the bond of this mésalliance has been dissolved by divorce, or any other cause, the fallen man or woman can never hope to regain the caste which he or she has forfeited. The mark of social infamy will follow him or her to the grave.

It is curious, however, that the issues of these mésalliances form a social class of their own. They are called tak ta ril, which means a ‘mixed race produced by black and white twisted together’. They occupy a position even[441] lower than that of the four despised classes mentioned above, and are in fact the lowest caste in Tibet.

There is one interesting feature in regard to this rigid canon of social caste, and that is the presence of gentlemen-smiths, who, being men of a mechanical turn of mind, have become smiths from preference. These gentlemen-smiths do not forfeit their birth and rank on this account.

Both by law and custom the higher classes enjoy special privileges, and these go a long way. The children of aristocrats, for instance, are entitled to exact from their humbler playmates great respect and courtesy. When the latter so forget themselves in their disputes and quarrels with their noble associates as to use rough language, they are at once punished, even when they are in the right. It is evident therefore from what has been stated that a plebeian, no matter how wealthy, is obliged to behave respectfully under all circumstances to a man belonging to the Ngak-pa or Bon-bo, even though the latter may be as poor as a church mouse. As each social class forms practically one distinct community with its own particular etiquette, customs and so forth, ranks are more plainly visible on the surface in Tibet than in most other countries. The Tibetan proverb corresponding to the western saying that “blood will out” [personal character, as determined by condition of birth, will eventually, inevitably be revealed] gains a special significance when applied to the state of affairs prevailing in that semi-civilised country.

The aristocrats of Tibet are distinguished by noble mien and refined manners. Conscious of their elevated position, they possess on the whole a high sense of honor. The other privileged castes occupying a lower plane, such as the men of the Ngak-pa and Bon-bo races and the descendants of ancient grandees, still bear the marks of their respectable birth and can easily be distinguished even by strangers from the common people.

The common people are plebeian in their general bearing and appearance, but one thing to their credit is that they are known for strict honesty, and even extreme poverty seldom tempts them into committing arts of larceny. On the other hand, the lower classes or social outcasts are notorious for their criminal propensities to robbery and murder. In practice they are characterised by crime and wretchedness; they are criminals and beggars. Beggars in fact form a community of their own, the profession being hereditary. These classes are deservedly held in contempt by the public, and their faces even seem to justify such treatment, for they are remarkable for ferocity, depravity and vileness.

As I have mentioned before, lads belonging to the higher ranks are entitled to enter Government schools, but the subjects taught there are at best imperfect. The lessons consist only of learning by memory, penmanship and counting. The first subject is the most important, next comes penmanship, the latter receiving even a larger allotment of hours than the other. Counting is a primitive affair, being taught by means of pebbles, pieces of wood, or shells. The subject matters of learning by memory are Buddhist Texts, the elements of grammar, and lastly rhetoric. This last is a subject of great ambition for Tibetan scholars, who are just like Chinese in their fondness for grandiloquent expressions. Documents to be presented to the Dalai Lama and other high personages bristle with high-flown phraseology and with characters rarely used in ordinary writing, and not found even in Buddhist Texts. The fact is that Tibetan scholars at present hold strange ideas about writing, being of opinion that they should aim at composing in a style unintelligible to ordinary persons. The more characters they can use which cannot easily be understood by others, the better proof, they think, have they given of the[443] profundity of their scholarship. The most scholarly compositions are practically hierographic so far as their incomprehensibility is concerned.


The birch-rod is considered to be the most useful implement in teaching; not exactly a birch-rod, however, but a flat piece of bamboo. The cramming of difficult passages of rhetoric being the principal mode of learning imposed on pupils, their masters are invariably of opinion that they must make free use of the rod in order to quicken their pupils’[444] progress. The relation between masters and pupils does not differ much from that between gaolers and convicts. The latter, poor fellows, hold their masters in such dread that they find it exceedingly trying, at the sight of them and their formidable pedagogic weapons, to compose their minds and to go on unfalteringly with their lessons. They cower with fear, and are filled with the perturbing thought that the rod is sure to descend upon them for the slightest stumble they make in the path of learning. The ordinary way of using the rod is to give thirty blows with it on the left palm of the pupil. Prudence counsels the pupil to stretch out his hand with alacrity at the bidding of his hard master, for in case he hesitates to do so the penalty is generally doubled, and sixty blows instead of thirty are given. It is a cruel sight to see a little pupil holding out his open hand and submitting to the punishment with tearful eyes. Surely this is not education but mere cruelty.

I once made an earnest remonstrance on this subject with the Minister of Finance who, in common with the rest, used to teach his boys with a liberal application of the rod. To do justice to the Minister, his method of teaching was much more considerate than that of most of his countrymen, and he very seldom resorted to rough handling, such as binding pupils with cords over-night or compelling them to go without dinner or supper. When however I remonstrated with him on the ground that the infliction of corporal punishment was entirely opposed to all sound principles of education, he at first defended the Tibetan system with great earnestness. We had a somewhat animated though courteous dispute on the subject; but at length, being a man of great candor of mind, he seemed to perceive the merit of my position. At any rate he ceased to use the rod as he did before, and generally confined himself to giving a reprimand when[445] any of his boys went astray with his learning. The Minister afterward informed me that his boys seemed to make better progress when they were spared the rod.

Abuse is also considered as an efficient means of educating boys. “Beast,” “beggar,” “devil,” “ass,” “eater of parents’ flesh,” are epithets applied to backward boys by their teachers, and this custom of using foul language is naturally handed on from teachers to pupils, who when they grow up are sure to pass on those slanderous appellations to the next generation.

While the education of the sons of laymen is conducted with such severity, that of boy disciples by Lama priests is extremely lenient, and is quite in contrast to that of the others. The disciples are not even reprimanded, much less chastised, when they neglect their work. The priests generally leave them to do as they like, much as uxorious husbands do towards their wilful wives, so that it is no wonder that the disciples of Lamas very seldom make any good progress in learning. They are spoiled by the excessive indulgence of their masters. Some of these masters own the evil of their way of education, and are careful not to spoil the youthful pupils placed under their care, and it is precisely from among these latter disciples that priests of learning and ability may be expected.

The memorising part of the Tibetan system of education, as mentioned above, is a heavy burden on the pupils. To give some idea of what an important part this work occupies in their system, I may note that a young acolyte, who has grown to fifteen or sixteen years old, has to commit to memory, from the oral instruction of his teachers, from three hundred to five hundred pages of Buddhist texts in the course of a year. He has then to undergo an examination on what he has learned. Even for a lad of weak memory, the number of pages is not less than one hundred in a year. For those who have grown older, that[446] is for those whose age ranges between eighteen and thirty, the task imposed is still more formidable, being five to eight hundred and even one thousand pages. I was amazed at this mental feat of the Tibetan priests, for I could barely learn fifty sheets in six months, that being the minimum limit allotted for aspirants of poor memory.
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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

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Xinhai Revolution [Chinese Revolution of 1911]
by Wikipedia
Accessed: 1/8/20



Xinhai Revolution
(Chinese Revolution of 1911)
Part of Anti-Qing Movements
Double Ten Revolution in Shanghai-Nanjing Road (Nanking Road) after the Shanghai Uprising, hung with the Five Races Under One Union flags then used by the revolutionaries in Shanghai and Northern China.
Date 10 October 1911 – 12 February 1912, (4 months and 2 days)
Location: China
Chinese Revolutionary Alliance victory
Abdication of Puyi
Fall of the Qing dynasty
End of Imperial China
Establishment of the Republic of China
Destabilization of China

The Xinhai Revolution (Chinese: 辛亥革命; pinyin: Xīnhài Gémìng), also known as the Chinese Revolution or the Revolution of 1911, was a revolution that overthrew China's last imperial dynasty (the Qing dynasty) and established the Republic of China (ROC). The revolution was named Xinhai (Hsin-hai) because it occurred in 1911, the year of the Xinhai (辛亥) stem-branch in the sexagenary cycle of the Chinese calendar.[2]

The revolution consisted of many revolts and uprisings. The turning point was the Wuchang uprising on 10 October 1911, which was the result of the mishandling of the Railway Protection Movement. The revolution ended with the abdication of the six-year-old Last Emperor, Puyi, on 12 February 1912, that marked the end of 2,000 years of imperial rule and the beginning of China's early republican era.[3]

The revolution arose mainly in response to the decline of the Qing state, which had proven ineffective in its efforts to modernize China and confront foreign aggression. Many underground anti-Qing groups, with the support of Chinese revolutionaries in exile, tried to overthrow the Qing. The brief civil war that ensued was ended through a political compromise between Yuan Shikai, the late Qing military strongman, and Sun Yat-sen, the leader of the Tongmenghui (United League). After the Qing court transferred power to the newly founded republic, a provisional coalition government created along with the National Assembly. However, political power of the new national government in Beijing was soon thereafter monopolized by Yuan and led to decades of political division and warlordism, including several attempts at imperial restoration.

The Republic of China in Taiwan and the People's Republic of China on the mainland both consider themselves the legitimate successors to the Xinhai Revolution and honor the ideals of the revolution including nationalism, republicanism, modernization of China and national unity. 10 October is commemorated in Taiwan as Double Ten Day, the National Day of the ROC. In mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau, the day is celebrated as the Anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution.


Empress Dowager Cixi (1835–1908), who personified the conservative Qing court and controlled court politics for 47 years, halted the attempt of her nephew, the Guangxu Emperor (1871–1908), the penultimate Qing emperor, to institute reforms in 1898.

After the failure of the Hundred Days' Reform in 1898, Guangxu's advisors Kang Youwei (left, 1858–1927) and Liang Qichao (1873–1929) fled into exile, while Tan Sitong (right, 1865–1898) was executed. In Canada, Kang and Liang formed the Emperor Protection Society to promote a constitutional monarchy for China. In 1900, they supported an unsuccessful uprising in central China to rescue Guangxu. After the Xinhai Revolution, Liang became a Minister of Justice of the Republic of China. Kang remained a royalist and supported restoring the last Qing emperor Puyi in 1917.

After suffering its first defeat to the West in the First Opium War in 1842, the Qing imperial court struggled to contain foreign intrusions into China. Efforts to adjust and reform the traditional methods of governance were constrained by a deeply conservative court culture that did not want to give away too much authority to reform. Following defeat in the Second Opium War in 1860, the Qing tried to modernize by adopting certain Western technologies through the Self-Strengthening Movement from 1861.[4] In the wars against the Taiping (1851–64), Nian (1851–68), Yunnan (1856–68) and the Northwest (1862–77), the traditional imperial troops proved themselves incompetent and the court came to rely on local armies.[5] In 1895, China suffered another defeat during the First Sino-Japanese War.[6] This demonstrated that traditional Chinese feudal society also needed to be modernized if the technological and commercial advancements were to succeed.

In 1898 the Guangxu Emperor was guided by reformers like Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao for a drastic reform in education, military and economy under the Hundred Days' Reform.[6] The reform was abruptly cancelled by a conservative coup led by Empress Dowager Cixi.[7] The Guangxu Emperor, who had always been a puppet dependent on Cixi, was put under house arrest in June 1898.[5] Reformers Kang and Liang would be exiled. While in Canada, in June 1899, they tried to form the Emperor Protection Society in an attempt to restore the emperor.[5] Empress Dowager Cixi mainly controlled the Qing dynasty from this point on. The Boxer Rebellion prompted another foreign invasion of Beijing in 1900 and the imposition of unequal treaty terms, which carved away territories, created extraterritorial concessions and gave away trade privileges. Under internal and external pressure, the Qing court began to adopt some of the reforms. The Qing managed to maintain its monopoly on political power by suppressing, often with great brutality, all domestic rebellions. Dissidents could operate only in secret societies and underground organizations, in foreign concessions or in exile overseas.

Organization for revolution

Earliest groups

There were many revolutionaries and groups that wanted to overthrow the Qing government to re-establish Han-led government. The earliest revolutionary organizations were founded outside of China, such as Yeung Ku-wan's Furen Literary Society, created in Hong Kong in 1890. There were 15 members, including Tse Tsan-tai, who did political satire such as "The Situation in the Far East", one of the first ever Chinese manhua, and who later became one of the core founders of the South China Morning Post.[8]

Dr. Sun Yat-sen in London

Sun Yat-sen's Xingzhonghui (Revive China Society) was established in Honolulu in 1894 with the main purpose of raising funds for revolutions.[9] The two organizations were merged in 1894.[10]

Smaller groups

The Huaxinghui (China Revival Society) was founded in 1904 with notables like Huang Xing, Zhang Shizhao, Chen Tianhua and Song Jiaoren, along with 100 others. Their motto was "Take one province by force, and inspire the other provinces to rise up".[11]

The Guangfuhui (Restoration Society) was also founded in 1904, in Shanghai, by Cai Yuanpei. Other notable members include Zhang Binglin and Tao Chengzhang.[12] Despite professing the anti-Qing cause, the Guangfuhui was highly critical of Sun Yat-sen.[13] One of the most famous female revolutionaries was Qiu Jin, who fought for women's rights and was also from Guangfuhui.[13]

There were also many other minor revolutionary organizations, such as Lizhi Xuehui (勵志學會) in Jiangsu, Gongqianghui (公強會) in Sichuan, Yiwenhui (益聞會) and Hanzudulihui (漢族獨立會) in Fujian, Yizhishe (易知社) in Jiangxi, Yuewanghui (岳王會) in Anhui and Qunzhihui (群智會/群智社) in Guangzhou.[14]

There were also criminal organizations that were anti-Manchu, including the Green Gang and Hongmen Zhigongtang (致公堂).[15] Sun Yat-sen himself came in contact with the Hongmen, also known as Tiandihui (Heaven and Earth society).[16][17]

Gelaohui (Elder Brother society) was another group, with Zhu De, Wu Yuzhang, Liu Zhidan (劉志丹) and He Long. This is the revolutionary group that would eventually develop a strong link with the later Communist Party.

Sun Yat-sen with members of the Tongmenghui


Sun Yat-sen successfully united the Revive China Society, Huaxinghui and Guangfuhui in the summer of 1905, thereby establishing the unified Tongmenghui (United League) in August 1905 in Tokyo.[18] While it started in Tokyo, it had loose organizations distributed across and outside the country. Sun Yat-sen was the leader of this unified group. Other revolutionaries who worked with the Tongmenghui include Wang Jingwei and Hu Hanmin. When the Tongmenhui was established, more than 90% of the Tongmenhui members were between 17–26 years of age.[19] Some of the work in the era includes manhua publications, such as the Journal of Current Pictorial.[20]

Later groups

In February 1906 Rizhihui (日知會) also had many revolutionaries, including Sun Wu (孫武), Zhang Nanxian (張難先), He Jiwei and Feng Mumin.[21][22] A nucleus of attendees of this conference evolved into the Tongmenhui's establishment in Hubei.

In July 1907 several members of Tongmenhui in Tokyo advocated a revolution in the area of the Yangtze River. Liu Quiyi (劉揆一), Jiao Dafeng (焦達峰), Zhang Boxiang (張伯祥) and Sun Wu (孫武) established Gongjinhui (Progressive Association) (共進會).[23][24] In January 1911, the revolutionary group Zhengwu Xueshe (振武學社) was renamed as Wenxueshe (Literary society) (文學社).[25] Jiang Yiwu (蔣翊武) was chosen as the leader.[26] These two organizations would play a big role in the Wuchang Uprising.

Many young revolutionaries adopted the radical programs of the anarchists. In Tokyo Liu Shipei proposed the overthrow of the Manchus and a return to Chinese classical values. In Paris Li Shizhen, Wu Zhihui and Zhang Renjie agreed with Sun on the necessity of revolution and joined the Tongmenghui, but argued that a political replacement of one government with another government would not be progress; revolution in family, gender and social values would remove the need for government and coercion. Zhang Ji was among the anarchists who defended assassination and terrorism as means toward revolution, but others insisted that only education was justifiable. Important anarchists included Cai Yuanpei, Wang Jingwei and Zhang Renjie, who gave Sun major financial help. Many of these anarchists would later assume high positions in the Kuomintang (KMT).[27]


Main article: Anti-Qing sentiment

Many revolutionaries promoted anti-Qing/anti-Manchu sentiments and revived memories of conflict between the ethnic minority Manchu and the ethnic majority Han Chinese from the late Ming dynasty (1368–1644). Leading intellectuals were influenced by books that had survived from the last years of the Ming dynasty, the last dynasty of Han Chinese. In 1904, Sun Yat-sen announced that his organization's goal was "to expel the Tatar barbarians, to revive Zhonghua, to establish a Republic, and to distribute land equally among the people." (驅除韃虜, 恢復中華, 創立民國, 平均地權).[18] Many of the underground groups promoted the ideas of "Resist Qing and restore Ming" (反清復明) that had been around since the days of the Taiping Rebellion.[28] Others, such as Zhang Binglin, supported straight-up lines like "slay the manchus" and concepts like "Anti-Manchuism" (興漢滅胡 / 排滿主義).[29]

Strata and groups

The Xinhai Revolution was supported by many groups, including students and intellectuals who returned from abroad, as well as participants of the revolutionary organizations, overseas Chinese, soldiers of the new army, local gentry, farmers and others.

Overseas Chinese

Main article: Chinese revolutionary activities in Malaya

Assistance from overseas Chinese was important in the Xinhai Revolution. In 1894, the first year of the Revive China Society, the first meeting ever held by the group was held in the home of Ho Fon, an overseas Chinese who was the leader of the first Chinese Church of Christ.[30] Overseas Chinese supported and actively participated in the funding of revolutionary activities, especially the Southeast Asian Chinese of Malaya (Singapore and Malaysia).[31] Many of these groups were reorganized by Sun, who was referred to as the "father of the Chinese revolution".[31]

Newly emerged intellectuals

In 1906, after the abolition of the imperial examinations, the Qing government established many new schools and encouraged students to study abroad. Many young people attended the new schools or went abroad to study in places like Japan.[32] A new class of intellectuals emerged from those students, who contributed immensely to the Xinhai Revolution. Besides Sun Yat-sen, key figures in the revolution, such as Huang Xing, Song Jiaoren, Hu Hanmin, Liao Zhongkai, Zhu Zhixin and Wang Jingwei, were all Chinese students in Japan. Some were young students like Zou Rong, known for writing the book Revolutionary Army, in which he talked about the extermination of the Manchus for the 260 years of oppression, sorrow, cruelty and tyranny and turning the sons and grandsons of Yellow Emperor into George Washingtons.[33]

Before 1908, revolutionaries focused on coordinating these organizations in preparation for uprisings that these organizations would launch; hence, these groups would provide most of the manpower needed for the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty. After the Xinhai Revolution, Sun Yat-sen recalled the days of recruiting support for the revolution and said, "The literati were deeply into the search for honors and profits, so they were regarded as having only secondary importance. By contrast, organizations like Sanhehui were able to sow widely the ideas of resisting the Qing and restoring the Ming."[34]

Gentry and businessmen

Prince Qing with some royal cabinet members

The strength of the gentry in local politics had become apparent. From December 1908, the Qing government created some apparatus to allow the gentry and businessmen to participate in politics. These middle-class people were originally supporters of constitutionalism. However, they became disenchanted when the Qing government created a cabinet with Prince Qing as prime minister.[35] By early 1911, an experimental cabinet had thirteen members, nine of whom were Manchus selected from the imperial family.[36]


Besides Chinese and overseas Chinese, some of the supporters and participants of the Xinhai Revolution were foreigners; among them, the Japanese were the most active group. Some Japanese even became members of Tongmenghui. Miyazaki Touten was the closest Japanese supporter; others included Heiyama Shu and Ryōhei Uchida. Homer Lea, an American, who became Sun Yat-sen's closest foreign advisor in 1910, supported Sun Yat-sen's military ambitions.[37] British soldier Rowland J. Mulkern also took part in the revolution.[38] Some foreigners, such as English explorer Arthur de Carle Sowerby, led expeditions to rescue foreign missionaries in 1911 and 1912.[39]

Yuan Shikai (1859–1916)

Yuan rose to power in north China and built the Beiyang Army.

The far right wing Japanese ultra-nationalist Black Dragon Society supported Sun Yat-sen's activities against the Manchus, believing that overthrowing the Qing would help the Japanese take over the Manchu homeland and that Han Chinese would not oppose the take over. Toyama believed that the Japanese could easily take over Manchuria and Sun Yat-sen and other anti-Qing revolutionaries would not resist and help the Japanese take over and enlargen the opium trade in China while the Qing was trying to destroy the opium trade. The Japanese Black Dragons supported Sun Yat-sen and anti-Manchu revolutionaries until the Qing collapsed.[40] The far right wing Japanese ultranationalist Gen'yōsha leader Tōyama Mitsuru supported anti-Manchu, anti-Qing revolutionary activities including the ones organised by Sun Yat-sen and supported Japanese taking over Manchuria. The anti-Qing Tongmenghui was founded and based in exile in Japan where many anti-Qing revolutionaries gathered.

The Japanese had been trying to unite anti-Manchu groups made out of Han people to take down the Qing. Japanese were the ones who helped Sun Yat-sen unite all anti-Qing, anti-Manchu revolutionary groups together and there were Japanese like Tōten Miyazaki inside of the anti-Manchu Tongmenghui revolutionary alliance. The Black Dragon Society hosted the Tongmenghui in its first meeting.[41] The Black Dragon Society had very intimate relations with Sun Yat-sen and promoted pan-Asianism and Sun sometimes passed himself off as Japanese[42] and they had connections with Sun for a long time.[43] Japanese groups like the Black Dragon Society had a large impact on Sun Yat-sen.[44] According to an American military historian, Japanese military officers were part of the Black Dragon Society. The Yakuza and Black Dragon Society helped arrange in Tokyo for Sun Yat-sen to hold the first Kuomintang meetings, and were hoping to flood China with opium and overthrow the Qing and deceive Chinese into overthrowing the Qing to Japan's benefit. After the revolution was successful, the Japanese Black Dragons started infiltrating China and spreading opium. The Black Dragons pushed for the takeover of Manchuria by Japan in 1932.[45] Sun Yat-sen was married to a Japanese, Kaoru Otsuki.

Soldiers of the new armies

The New Army was formed in 1901 after the defeat of the Qings in the First Sino-Japanese War.[32] They were launched by a decree from eight provinces.[32] New Army troops were by far the best trained and equipped.[32] The recruits were of a higher quality than the old army and received regular promotions.[32] Beginning in 1908, the revolutionaries began to shift their call to the new armies. Sun Yat-sen and the revolutionaries infiltrated the New Army.[46]

Uprisings and incidents

The central focus of the uprisings were mostly connected with the Tongmenghui and Sun Yat-sen, including subgroups. Some uprisings involved groups that never merged with the Tongmenghui. Sun Yat-sen may have participated in 8–10 uprisings; all uprisings failed prior to the Wuchang Uprising.

Flag of the First Guangzhou Uprising

First Guangzhou Uprising

In the spring of 1895, the Revive China Society, which was based in Hong Kong, planned the First Guangzhou Uprising (廣州起義). Lu Haodong was tasked with designing the revolutionaries' Blue Sky with a White Sun flag.[31] On 26 October 1895, Yeung Ku-wan and Sun Yat-sen led Zheng Shiliang and Lu Haodong to Guangzhou, preparing to capture Guangzhou in one strike. However, the details of their plans were leaked to the Qing government.[47] The government began to arrest revolutionaries, including Lu Haodong, who was later executed.[47] The First Guangzhou Uprising was a failure. Under pressure from the Qing government, the government of Hong Kong forbade these two men to enter the territory for five years. Sun Yat-sen went into exile, promoting the Chinese revolution and raising funds in Japan, the United States, Canada and Britain. In 1901, following the Huizhou Uprising, Yeung Ku-wan was assassinated by Qing agents in Hong Kong.[48] After his death, his family protected his identity by not putting his name on his tomb, just a number: 6348.[48]

Independence Army Uprising

In 1901, after the Boxer Rebellion started, Tang Caichang (唐才常) and Tan Sitong of the previous Foot Emancipation Society organised the Independence Army. The Independence Army Uprising (自立軍起義) was planned to occur on 23 August 1900.[49] Their goal was to overthrow Empress Dowager Cixi to establish a constitutional monarchy under the Guangxu Emperor. Their plot was discovered by the governor-generals of Hunan and Hubei. About twenty conspirators were arrested and executed.[49]

Huizhou Uprising

On 8 October 1900, Sun Yat-sen ordered the launch of the Huizhou Uprising (惠州起義).[50] The revolutionary army was led by Zheng Shiliang and initially included 20,000 men, who fought for half a month. However, after the Japanese Prime Minister prohibited Sun Yat-sen from carrying out revolutionary activities on Taiwan, Zheng Shiliang had no choice but to order the army to disperse. This uprising therefore also failed. British soldier Rowland J. Mulkern participated in this uprising.[38]

Zhang Zhidong

Li Hongzhang
Two important Qing figures at the time

Great Ming Uprising

A very short uprising occurred from 25 to 28 January 1903, to establish a "Great Ming Heavenly Kingdom" (大明順天國).[51] This involved Tse Tsan-tai, Li Jitang (李紀堂), Liang Muguang (梁慕光) and Hong Quanfu (洪全福), who formerly took part in the Jintian uprising during the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom era.[52]

Ping-liu-li Uprising

Ma Fuyi (馬福益) and Huaxinghui was involved in an uprising in the three areas of Pingxiang, Liuyang and Liling, called "Ping-liu-li Uprising", (萍瀏醴起義) in 1905.[53] The uprising recruited miners as early as 1903 to rise against the Qing ruling class. After the uprising failed, Ma Fuyi was executed.[53]

Beijing Zhengyangmen East Railway assassination attempt

Wu Yue (吳樾) of Guangfuhui carried out an assassination attempt at the Beijing Zhengyangmen East Railway station (正陽門車站) in an attack on five Qing officials on 24 September 1905.[13][54]

Huanggang Uprising

The Huanggang Uprising (黃岡起義) was launched on 22 May 1907, in Chaozhou.[55] The revolutionary party, along with Xu Xueqiu (許雪秋), Chen Yongpo (陳湧波) and Yu Tongshi (余通實), launched the uprising and captured Huanggang city.[55] Other Japanese that followed include 萱野長知 and 池亨吉.[55] After the uprising began, the Qing government quickly and forcefully suppressed it. Around 200 revolutionaries were killed.[56]

Huizhou Qinühu Uprising

In the same year, Sun Yat-sen sent more revolutionaries to Huizhou to launch the "Huizhou Qinühu Uprising" (惠州七女湖起義).

[57] On 2 June, Deng Zhiyu (鄧子瑜) and Chen Chuan (陳純) gathered some followers, and together, they seized Qing arms in the lake, 20 km (12 mi) from Huizhou.[58] They killed several Qing soldiers and attacked Taiwei (泰尾) on 5 June.[58] The Qing army fled in disorder, and the revolutionaries exploited the opportunity, capturing several towns. They defeated the Qing army once again in Bazhiyie. Many organizations voiced their support after the uprising, and the number of revolutionary forces increased to two hundred men at its height. The uprising, however, ultimately failed.

Anqing Uprising

A statue to honor revolutionary Qiu Jin

On 6 July 1907, Xu Xilin of Guangfuhui led an uprising in Anqing, Anhui, which became known as the Anqing Uprising (安慶起義).[25] Xu Xilin at the time was the police commissioner as well as the supervisor of the police academy. He led an uprising that was to assassinate the provincial governor of Anhui, En Ming (恩銘).[59] They were defeated after four hours of fighting. Xu was captured, and En Ming's bodyguards cut out his heart and liver and ate them.[59] His cousin Qiu Jin was executed a few days later.[59]

Qinzhou Uprising

From August to September 1907, the Qinzhou Uprising occurred (欽州防城起義),[60] to protest against heavy taxation from the government. Sun Yat-sen sent Wang Heshun (王和順) there to assist the revolutionary army and captured the county in September.[61] After that, they attempted to besiege and capture Qinzhou, but they were unsuccessful. They eventually retreated to the area of Shiwandashan, while Wang Heshun returned to Vietnam.

Zhennanguan Uprising

On 1 December 1907, the Zhennanguan Uprising (鎮南關起事) took place at Zhennanguan, a pass on the Chinese-Vietnamese border. Sun Yat-sen sent Huang Mintang (黃明堂) to monitor the pass, which was guarded by a fort.[61] With the assistance of supporters among the fort's defenders, the revolutionaries captured the cannon tower in Zhennanguan. Sun Yat-sen, Huang Xing and Hu Hanmin personally went to the tower to command the battle.[62] The Qing government sent troops led by Long Jiguang and Lu Rongting to counterattack, and the revolutionaries were forced to retreat into the mountainous areas. After the failure of this uprising, Sun was forced to move to Singapore due to anti-Sun sentiments within the revolutionary groups.[63] He would not return to the mainland until after the Wuchang Uprising.

Qin-lian Uprising

On 27 March 1908, Huang Xing launched a raid, later known as the Qin-lian Uprising (欽廉上思起義), from a base in Vietnam and attacked the cities of Qinzhou and Lianzhou in Guangdong. The struggle continued for fourteen days but was forced to terminate after the revolutionaries ran out of supplies.[64]

Hekou Uprising

In April 1908, another uprising was launched in Yunnan, Hekou, called the Hekou Uprising (雲南河口起義). Huang Mingtang (黃明堂) led two hundred men from Vietnam and attacked Hekou on 30 April. Other revolutionaries who participated include Wang Heshun (王和順) and Guan Renfu (關仁甫). They were outnumbered and defeated by government troops, however, and the uprising failed.[65]

Mapaoying Uprising

On 19 November 1908, the Mapaoying Uprising (馬炮營起義) was launched by revolutionary group Yuewanghui (岳王會) member Xiong Chenggei (熊成基) at Anhui.[66] Yuewanghui, at this time, was a subset of Tongmenghui. This uprising also failed.

Gengxu New Army Uprising

In February 1910, the Gengxu New Army Uprising (庚戌新軍起義), also known as the Guangzhou New Army Uprising (廣州新軍起義), took place.[67] This involved a conflict between the citizens and local police against the New Army. After revolutionary leader Ni Yingdian was killed by Qing forces, the remaining revolutionaries were quickly defeated, causing the uprising to fail.

Second Guangzhou Uprising

Main article: Second Guangzhou Uprising

The memorial for the 72 martyrs

On 27 April 1911, an uprising occurred in Guangzhou, known as the Second Guangzhou Uprising (辛亥廣州起義) or Yellow Flower Mound Revolt (黃花岡之役). It ended in disaster, as 86 bodies were found (only 72 could be identified).[68] The 72 revolutionaries were remembered as martyrs.[68] Revolutionary Lin Juemin (林覺民) was one of the 72. On the eve of battle, he wrote the legendary "A Letter to My Wife" (與妻訣別書), later to be considered as a masterpiece in Chinese literature.[69][70]

Wuchang Uprising

The Iron Blood 18-star flag

Paths of the uprising

Main articles: Wuchang Uprising and Battle of Yangxia

The Literary Society (文學社) and the Progressive Association (共進會) were revolutionary organizations involved in the uprising that mainly began with a Railway Protection Movement protest.[24] In the late summer, some Hubei New Army units were ordered to neighboring Sichuan to quell the Railway Protection Movement, a mass protest against the Qing government's seizure and handover of local railway development ventures to foreign powers.[71] Banner officers like Duanfang, the railroad superintendent,[72] and Zhao Erfeng led the New Army against the Railway Protection Movement.

The New Army units of Hubei had originally been the Hubei Army, which had been trained by Qing official Zhang Zhidong.[3] On 24 September, the Literary Society and Progressive Association convened a conference in Wuchang, along with sixty representatives from local New Army units. During the conference, they established a headquarters for the uprising. The leaders of the two organizations, Jiang Yiwu (蔣翊武) and Sun Wu (孫武), were elected as commander and chief of staff. Initially, the date of the uprising was to be 6 October 1911.[73] It was postponed to a later date due to insufficient preparations.

Revolutionaries intent on overthrowing the Qing dynasty had built bombs, and on 9 October, one accidentally exploded.[73] Sun Yat-sen himself had no direct part in the uprising and was traveling in the United States at the time in an effort to recruit more support from among overseas Chinese. The Qing Viceroy of Huguang, Rui Cheng (瑞澂), tried to track down and arrest the revolutionaries.[74] Squad leader Xiong Bingkun (熊秉坤) and others decided not to delay the uprising any longer and launched the revolt on 10 October 1911, at 7 pm.[74] The revolt was a success; the entire city of Wuchang was captured by the revolutionaries on the morning of 11 October. That evening, they established a tactical headquarters and announced the establishment of the "Military Government of Hubei of Republic of China".[74] The conference chose Li Yuanhong as the governor of the temporary government.[74] Qing officers like the bannermen Duanfang and Zhao Erfeng were killed by the revolutionary forces.

Provincial uprisings

Map of many of the uprisings during the Xinhai Revolution

After the success of the Wuchang Uprising, many other protests occurred throughout the country for various reasons. Some of the uprisings declared restoration (光復) of the Han Chinese rule. Other uprisings were a step toward independence, and some were protests or rebellions against the local authorities.[citation needed] Regardless the reason for the uprising the outcome was that all provinces in the country renounced the Qing dynasty and joined the ROC.

Changsha restoration

Main article: Battle of Changsha (1911)

On 22 October 1911, the Hunan Tongmenghui were led by Jiao Dafeng (焦達嶧) and Chen Zuoxin (陳作新).[75] They headed an armed group, consisting partly of revolutionaries from Hongjiang and partly of defecting New Army units, in a campaign to extend the uprising into Changsha.[75] They captured the city and killed the local Imperial general. Then they announced the establishment of the Hunan Military Government of the Republic of China and announced their opposition to the Qing Empire.[75]

Shaanxi Uprising

On the same day, Shaanxi's Tongmenghui, led by Jing Dingcheng (景定成) and Qian Ding (錢鼎) as well as Jing Wumu (井勿幕) and others including Gelaohui, launched an uprising and captured Xi'an after two days of struggle.[76] The Hui Muslim community was divided in its support for the revolution. The Hui Muslims of Shaanxi supported the revolutionaries and the Hui Muslims of Gansu supported the Qing. The native Hui Muslims (Mohammedans) of Xi'an (Shaanxi province) joined the Han Chinese revolutionaries in slaughtering the Manchus.[77][78][79] The native Hui Muslims of Gansu province led by general Ma Anliang led more than twenty battalions of Hui Muslim troops to defend the Qing imperials and attacked Shaanxi, held by revolutionary Zhang Fenghui (張鳳翽).[80] The attack was successful, and after news arrived that Puyi was about to abdicate, Ma agreed to join the new Republic.[80] The revolutionaries established the "Qinlong Fuhan Military Government" and elected Zhang Fenghui, a member of the Yuanrizhi Society (原日知會), as new governor.[76] After the Xi'an Manchu quarter fell on 24 October, Xinhai forces killed all of the Manchus in the city, about 20,000 Manchus were killed in the massacre.[81][82] Many of its Manchu defenders committed suicide, including Qing general Wenrui (文瑞), who threw himself down a well.[81] Only some wealthy Manchus who were ransomed and Manchu females survived. Wealthy Han Chinese seized Manchu girls to become their slaves[83] and poor Han Chinese troops seized young Manchu women to be their wives.[84] Young Manchu girls were also seized by Hui Muslims of Xi'an during the massacre and brought up as Muslims.[85]

Jiujiang Uprising

On 23 October, Lin Sen, Jiang Qun (蔣群), Cai Hui (蔡蕙) and other members of the Tongmenghui in the province of Jiangxi plotted a revolt of New Army units.[75][86] After they achieved victory, they announced their independence. The Jiujiang Military Government was then established.[86]

Shanxi Taiyuan Uprising

On 29 October, Yan Xishan of the New Army led an uprising in Taiyuan, the capital city of the province of Shanxi, along with Yao Yijie (姚以價), Huang Guoliang (黃國梁), Wen Shouquan (溫壽泉), Li Chenglin (李成林), Zhang Shuzhi (張樹幟) and Qiao Xi (喬煦).[86][87]

The Xinhai rebels in Taiyuan bombarded the streets where banner people resided and killed all the Manchu.[88] They managed to kill the Qing Governor of Shanxi, Lu Zhongqi (陸鍾琦).[89] They then announced the establishment of Shanxi Military Government with Yan Xishan as the military governor.[76] Yan Xishan would later become one of the warlords that plagued China during what was known as "the warlord era".

Kunming Double Ninth Uprising

On 30 October, Li Genyuan (李根源) of the Tongmenghui in Yunnan joined with Cai E, Luo Peijin (羅佩金), Tang Jiyao, and other officers of the New Army to launch the Double Ninth Uprising (重九起義).[90] They captured Kunming the next day and established the Yunnan Military Government, electing Cai E as the military governor.[86]

Nanchang restoration

On 31 October, the Nanchang branch of the Tongmenghui led New Army units in a successful uprising. They established the Jiangxi Military Government.[75] Li Liejun was elected as the military governor.[86] Li declared Jiangxi as independent and launched an expedition against Qing official Yuan Shikai.[69]

Shanghai Armed Uprising

Chen Qimei, military governor of Shanghai

On 3 November, Shanghai's Tongmenghui, Guangfuhui and merchants led by Chen Qimei (陳其美), Li Pingsu (李平書), Zhang Chengyou (張承槱), Li Yingshi (李英石), Li Xiehe (李燮和) and Song Jiaoren organized an armed rebellion in Shanghai.[86] They received the support of local police officers.[86] The rebels captured the Jiangnan Workshop on the 4th and captured Shanghai soon after. On 8 November, they established the Shanghai Military Government and elected Chen Qimei as the military governor.[86] He would eventually become one of the founders of the ROC four big families, along with some of the most well-known families of the era.[91]

Guizhou Uprising

On 4 November, Zhang Bailin (張百麟) of the revolutionary party in Guizhou led an uprising along with New Army units and students from the military academy. They immediately captured Guiyang and established the Great Han Guizhou Military Government, electing Yang Jincheng (楊藎誠) and Zhao Dequan (趙德全) as the chief and vice governor respectively.[92]

Zhejiang Uprising

Also on 4 November, revolutionaries in Zhejiang urged the New Army units in Hangzhou to launch an uprising.[86] Zhu Rui (朱瑞), Wu Siyu (吳思豫), Lu Gongwang (吕公望) and others of the New Army captured the military supplies workshop.[86] Other units, led by Chiang Kai-shek and Yin Zhirei (尹銳志), captured most of the government offices.[86] Eventually, Hangzhou was under the control of the revolutionaries, and the constitutionalist Tang Shouqian (湯壽潛) was elected as the military governor.[86]

Jiangsu restoration

On 5 November, Jiangsu constitutionalists and gentry urged Qing governor Cheng Dequan (程德全) to announce independence and established the Jiangsu Revolutionary Military Government with Cheng himself as the governor.[86][93] Unlike some of the other cities, anti-Manchu violence began after the restoration on 7 November in Zhenjiang.[94] Qing general Zaimu (載穆) agreed to surrender, but because of a misunderstanding, the revolutionaries were unaware that their safety was guaranteed.[94] The Manchu quarters were ransacked, and an unknown number of Manchus were killed.[94] Zaimu, feeling betrayed, committed suicide.[94] This is regarded as the Zhenjiang Uprising (鎮江起義).[95][96]

Anhui Uprising

Members of Anhui's Tongmenghui also launched an uprising on that day and laid siege to the provincial capital. The constitutionalists persuaded Zhu Jiabao (朱家寶), the Qing Governor of Anhui, to announce independence.[97]

Guangxi Uprising

On 7 November, the Guangxi politics department decided to secede from the Qing government, announcing Guangxi's independence. Qing Governor Shen Bingkun (沈秉堃) was allowed to remain governor, but Lu Rongting would soon become the new governor.[61] Lu Rongting would later rise to prominence during the "warlord era" as one of the warlords, and his bandits controlled Guangxi for more than a decade.[98] Under the leadership of Huang Shaohong, the Muslim law student Bai Chongxi was enlisted into a Dare to Die unit to fight as a revolutionary.[99]

Fujian independence

One of the old buildings occupied by the Guangfuhui in Lianjiang County, Fujian

In November, members of Fujian's branch of the Tongmenghui, along with Sun Daoren (孫道仁) of the New Army, launched an uprising against the Qing army.[100][101] The Qing viceroy, Song Shou (松壽), committed suicide.[102] On 11 November, the entire Fujian province declared independence.[100] The Fujian Military Government was established, and Sun Daoren was elected as the military governor.[100]

Guangdong independence

Near the end of October, Chen Jiongming, Deng Keng (鄧鏗), Peng Reihai (彭瑞海) and other members of Guangdong's Tongmenghui organized local militias to launch the uprising in Huazhou, Nanhai, Sunde and Sanshui in Guangdong Province.[76][103] On 8 November, after being persuaded by Hu Hanmin, General Li Zhun (李準) and Long Jiguang (龍濟光) of the Guangdong Navy agreed to support the revolution.[76] The Qing viceroy of Liangguang, Zhang Mingqi (張鳴岐), was forced to discuss with the local representatives a proposal for Guangdong's independence.[76] They decided to announce it the next day. Chen Jiongming then captured Huizhou. On 9 November, Guangdong announced its independence and established a military government.[104] They elected Hu Hanmin and Chen Jiongming as the chief and vice-governor.[105] Qiu Fengjia is known to have helped make the independence declaration more peaceful.[104] It was unknown at the time if representatives from the European colonies of Hong Kong and Macau would be ceded to the new government.[clarification needed]

Shandong independence

On 13 November, after being persuaded by revolutionary Din Weifen (丁惟汾) and several other officers of the New Army, the Qing governor of Shandong, Sun Baoqi, agreed to secede from the Qing government and announced Shandong's independence.[76]

Ningxia Uprising

On 17 November, Ningxia Tongmenghui launched the Ningxia Uprising (寧夏會黨起義). The revolutionaries sent Yu Youren to Zhangjiachuan to meet Dungan Sufi master Ma Yuanzhang to persuade him not to support the Qing. However, Ma did not want to endanger his relationship with the Qings. He sent the eastern Gansu Muslim militia under the command of one of his sons to help Ma Qi crush the Ningxia Gelaohui.[106][107] However,the Ningxia Revolutionary Military Government was established on 23 November.[76] Some of the revolutionaries involved included Huang Yue (黃鉞) and Xiang Shen (向燊), who gathered New Army forces at Qinzhou (秦州).[108][109]

Sichuan independence

On 21 November, Guang'an organized the Great Han Shu Northern Military Government.[76][110]

On 22 November, Chengdu and Sichuan began to declare independence. By the 27th, the Great Han Sichuan Military Government was established, headed by revolutionary Pu Dianzun (蒲殿俊).[76] Qing official Duan Fang (端方) would also be killed.[76]

Nanking Uprising

1911 battle at Ta-ping gate, Nanking. Painting by T. Miyano.

On 8 November, supported by the Tongmenghui, Xu Shaozhen (徐紹楨) of the New Army announced an uprising in Molin Pass (秣陵關), 30 km (19 mi) away from Nanking City.[76] Xu Shaozhen, Chen Qimei and other generals decided to form a united army under Xu to strike Nanking together. On 11 November, the united army headquarters was established in Zhenjiang. Between 24 November and 1 December, under the command of Xu Shaozhen, the united army captured Wulongshan (烏龍山), Mufushan (幕府山), Yuhuatai (雨花臺), Tianbao City (天保城) and many other strongholds of the Qing army.[76] On 2 December, Nanking City was captured by the revolutionaries after the Battle of Nanking, 1911.[76] On 3 December, revolutionary Su Liangbi led troops in a massacre of a large number of Manchus (the exact number is not known).[111] He was shortly afterward arrested, and his troops disbanded.[111]
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Tibetan independence

Main articles: Xinhai Lhasa Turmoil and Tibet (1912–51)

In 1905, the Qing sent Zhao Erfeng to Tibet to retaliate against rebellions.[112] By 1908, Zhao was appointed imperial resident in Lhasa.[112] Zhao was beheaded in December 1911 by pro-Republican forces.[113] The bulk of the area that was historically known as Kham was now claimed to be the Xikang Administrative District, created by the Republican revolutionaries.[114] By the end of 1912, the last Manchu troops were forced out of Tibet through India. Thubten Gyatso, the 13th Dalai Lama, returned to Tibet in January 1913 from Sikkim, where he had been residing.[115] When the new ROC government apologised for the actions of the Qing and offered to restore the Dalai Lama to his former position, he replied that he was not interested in Chinese ranks, that Tibet had never been subordinated to China, that Tibet was an independent country, and that he was assuming the spiritual and political leadership of Tibet.[115] Because of this, many have read this reply as a formal declaration of independence. The Chinese side ignored the response, and Tibet had thirty years free of interference from China.[115]

Mongolian independence

Main articles: Mongolian Revolution of 1911 and Outer Mongolia (1911–19)

At the end of 1911, the Mongols took action with an armed revolt against the Manchu authorities but were unsuccessful in the attempt.[116] The independence movement that took place was not limited to just North (outer) Mongolia but was also a pan-Mongolian phenomenon.[116] On 29 December 1911, Bogd Khan became the leader of the Mongol empire. Inner Mongolia became a contested terrain between Khan and the Republic.[117] In general, Russia supported the Independence of Outer Mongolia (including Tannu Uriankhai) during the time of the Xinhai Revolution.[118] Tibet and Mongolia then recognized each other in a treaty.

Dihua and Yili Uprising

Main article: Xinhai Revolution in Xinjiang

In Xinjiang on 28 December, Liu Xianzun (劉先俊) and the revolutionaries started the Dihua Uprising (迪化起義).[119] This was led by more than 100 members of Geilaohui.[120] This uprising failed. On 7 January 1912, the Yili Uprising (伊犁起義) with Feng Temin (馮特民) began.[119][120] Qing governor Yuan Dahua (袁大化) fled and handed over his resignation to Yang Zengxin, because he could not handle fighting the revolutionaries.[121]

In the morning of 8 January, a new Yili government was established for the revolutionaries,[120] but the revolutionaries would be defeated at Jinghe in January and February.[121][122] Eventually because of the abdication to come, Yuan Shikai recognized Yang Zengxin's rule, appointed him Governor of Xinjiang and had the province join the Republic.[121] Eleven more former Qing officials would be assassinated in Zhenxi, Karashahr, Aksu, Kucha, Luntai and Kashgar in April and May 1912.[121]

The revolutionaries printed a new multi-lingual media.[123]

Taiwan Uprising

In 1911 as part of the Xinhai Revolution, Tongmenghui sent Luo Fu-xing (羅福星) to the island of Taiwan to free it from being occupied by the Japanese.[124] The goal was to bring Taiwan island back to the Chinese Republic by inciting the Taiwan Uprising (台灣起義).[125] Luo was caught and killed on 3 March 1914.[126] What was left was known as the "Miaoli Incident", (苗栗事件) where more than 1,000 Taiwanese were executed by the Japanese police.[127] Luo's sacrifice is commemorated in Miaoli.[126]

Change of government

Seal of the President of Provisional Government of Republic of China

North: Qing court last transformation attempt

On 1 November 1911, the Qing government appointed Yuan Shikai as the prime minister of the imperial cabinet, replacing Prince Qing.[128] On 3 November, after a proposition by Cen Chunxuan from the Constitutional Monarchy Movement (立憲運動), in 1903, the Qing court passed the Nineteen Articles (憲法重大信條十九條), which turned the Qing from an autocratic system with the emperor having unlimited power to a constitutional monarchy.[129][130] On 9 November, Huang Xing even cabled Yuan Shikai and invited him to join the Republic.[131] The court changes were too late, and the emperor was about to have to step down.

South: Government in Nanking

Main article: Provisional Government of the Republic of China (1912)

On 28 November 1911, Wuchang and Hanyang had fallen back to the Qing army. So for safety, the revolutionaries convened their first conference at the British concession in Hankou on 30 November.[132] By 2 December, the revolutionary forces were able to capture Nanking in the uprising; and the revolutionaries decided to make it the site of the new provisional government.[133] At the time, Beijing was still the Qing capital.

North–South Conference

Tang Shaoyi, left. Edward Selby Little, middle. Wu Tingfang, right.

On 18 December, the North–South Conference (南北議和) was held in Shanghai to discuss the north and south issues.[134] Yuan Shikai selected Tang Shaoyi as his representative.[134] Tang left Beijing for Wuhan to negotiate with the revolutionaries.[134] The revolutionaries chose Wu Tingfang.[134] With the intervention of six foreign powers, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Russia, Japan, and France, Tang Shaoyi and Wu Tingfang began to negotiate a settlement at the British concession.[135] Foreign businessman Edward Selby Little (李德立) acted as the negotiator and facilitated the peace agreement.[136] They agreed that Yuan Shikai would force the Qing emperor to abdicate in exchange for the southern provinces' support of Yuan as the president of the Republic. After considering the possibility that the new republic might be defeated in a civil war or by foreign invasion, Sun Yat-sen agreed to Yuan's proposal to unify China under Yuan Shikai's Beijing government. Further decisions were made to let the emperor rule over his little court in the New Summer Palace. He would be treated as a ruler of a separate country and have expenses of several million taels in silver.[137]

Establishment of the Republic

Sun Yat-sen in 1912 at one of the historic crossroads with the Five Races Under One Union flag and the Iron Blood 18-star flag
Republic of China declared and national flag issue

On 29 December 1911, Sun Yat-sen was elected as the first provisional president.[138] 1 January 1912 was set as the first day of the First Year of the ROC.[139] On 3 January, the representatives recommended Li Yuanhong as the provisional vice-president.[140]

During and after the Xinhai Revolution, many groups that participated wanted their own pennant as the national flag. During the Wuchang Uprising, the military units of Wuchang wanted the nine-star flag with Taijitu.[141] Others in competition included Lu Haodong's Blue Sky with a White Sun flag. Huang Xing favored a flag bearing the mythical "well-field" system of village agriculture. In the end, the assembly compromised: the national flag would be the banner of Five Races Under One Union.[141] The Five Races Under One Union flag with horizontal stripes represented the five major nationalities of the republic.[142] The red represented Han, the yellow represented Manchus, the blue for Mongols, the white for Muslims, and the black for Tibetans.[141][142] Despite the general target of the uprisings to be the Manchus, Sun Yat-sen, Song Jiaoren and Huang Xing unanimously advocated racial integration to be carried out from the mainland to the frontiers.[143]

Donghuamen incident

On 16 January, while returning to his residence, Yuan Shikai was ambushed in a bomb attack organized by the Tongmenghui in Donghuamen (東華門), Beijing.[144] A total of eighteen revolutionaries were involved. About ten of the guards died, but Yuan himself was not seriously injured.[144] He sent a message to the revolutionaries the next day pledging his loyalty and asking them not to organize any more assassination attempts against him.

Imperial edict for abdication

Abdication of the emperor

Main article: Puyi § Abdication

Zhang Jian drafted an abdication proposal that was approved by the Provisional Senate. On 20 January, Wu Tingfang of the Nanking Provisional Government officially delivered the imperial edict of abdication to Yuan Shikai for the abdication of Puyi.[130] On 22 January, Sun Yat-sen announced that he would resign the presidency in favor of Yuan Shikai if the latter supported the emperor's abdication.[145] Yuan then pressured Empress Dowager Longyu with the threat that the lives of the imperial family would not be spared if abdication did not come before the revolutionaries reached Beijing, but if they agreed to abdicate, the provisional government would honor the terms proposed by the imperial family.

On 3 February, Empress Dowager Longyu gave Yuan full permission to negotiate the abdication terms of the Qing emperor. Yuan then drew up his own version and forwarded it to the revolutionaries on 3 February.[130] His version consisted of three sections instead of two.[130] On 12 February 1912, after being pressured by Yuan and other ministers, Puyi (age six) and Empress Dowager Longyu accepted Yuan's terms of abdication.[139]

Debate over the capital

See also: History of Beijing

As a condition for ceding leadership to Yuan Shikai, Sun Yat-sen insisted that the provisional government remain in Nanjing. On 14 February, the Provisional Senate initially voted 20–5 in favor of making Beijing the capital over Nanjing, with two votes going for Wuhan and one for Tianjin.[146] The Senate majority wanted to secure the peace agreement by taking power in Beijing.[146] Zhang Jian and others reasoned that having the capital in Beijing would check against Manchu restoration and Mongol secession. But Sun and Huang Xing argued in favor of Nanjing to balance against Yuan's power base in the north.[146] Li Yuanhong presented Wuhan as a compromise.[147] The next day, the Provisional Senate voted again, this time, 19-6 in favor of Nanjing with two votes for Wuhan.[146] Sun sent a delegation led by Cai Yuanpei and Wang Jingwei to persuade Yuan to move to Nanjing.[148] Yuan welcomed the delegation and agreed to accompany the delegates back to the south.[149] Then on the evening of 29 February, riots and fires broke out all over the city.[149] They were allegedly started by disobedient troops of Cao Kun, a loyal officer of Yuan.[149] The disorder gave Yuan the pretext to stay in the north to guard against unrest. On 10 March, Yuan was inaugurated in Beijing as the provisional president of the Republic of China.[150] On 5 April, the Provisional Senate in Nanjing voted to make Beijing the capital of the Republic and convened in Beijing at the end of the month.

Republican government in Beijing

Main article: Beiyang Government

Yuan Shikai swearing in as the Provisional President in Beijing

On 10 March 1912, Yuan Shikai was sworn as the second Provisional President of the Republic of China in Beijing.[151] The government based in Beijing, called the Beiyang Government, was not internationally recognized as the legitimate government of the Republic of China until 1928, so the period from 1912 until 1928 was known simply as the "Beiyang Period". The first National Assembly election took place according to the Provisional Constitution. While in Beijing, the Kuomintang was formed on 25 August 1912.[152] The KMT held the majority of seats after the election. Song Jiaoren was elected as premier. However, Song was assassinated in Shanghai on 20 March 1913, under the secret order of Yuan Shikai.[153]

Proposed Han monarchs and retention of aristocratic noble titles

Some advocated that a Han be installed as Emperor, either the descendant of Confucius, who was the Duke Yansheng,[154][155][156][157][158] or the Ming dynasty imperial family descendant, the Marquis of Extended Grace.[159][160] The Duke Yansheng was proposed for replacing the Qing dynasty as Emperor by Liang Qichao.[161]

The Han hereditary aristocratic nobility like the Duke Yansheng, Marquis of Extended Grace, and the title of the Wujing Boshi (changed to "Dacheng Zhisheng Xianshi Nanzong Fengsi Guan" 大成至聖先師南宗奉祀官) and the titles held by the descendants of Mencius, Zengzi, and Yan Hui were retained by the new Republic of China and the title holders continued to receive their pensions.


Social influence

After the revolution, there was a huge outpouring of anti-Manchu sentiment through China, but particularly in Beijing where thousands died in anti-Manchu violence as imperial restrictions on Han residency and behavior within the city crumbled as Manchu imperial power crumbled.[162] Anti-Manchu sentiment is recorded in books like A Short History of Slaves (奴才小史) and The Biographies of Avaricious Officials and Corrupt Personnel (貪官污吏傳) by Laoli (老吏).[163][164]

During the abdication of the last emperor, Empress Dowager Longyu, Yuan Shikai and Sun Yat-sen both tried to adopt the concept of "Manchu and Han as one family" (滿漢一家).[163] People started exploring and debating with themselves on the root cause of their national weakness. This new search of identity was the New Culture Movement.[165] Manchu culture and language, on the contrary, has become virtually extinct by 2007.[166]

Unlike revolutions in the West, the Xinhai Revolution did not restructure society. The participants of the Xinhai Revolution were mostly military personnel, old-type bureaucrats, and local gentries. These people still held regional power after the Xinhai Revolution. Some became warlords. There were no major improvements in the standard of living. Writer Lu Xun commented in 1921 during the publishing of The True Story of Ah Q, ten years after the Xinhai Revolution, that basically nothing changed except "the Manchus have left the kitchen".[167] The economic problems were not addressed until the governance of Chiang Ching-kuo in Taiwan and Deng Xiaoping on the mainland.[168]

The Xinhai Revolution mainly got rid of feudalism (fengjian) from Late Imperial China. In the usual view of historians, there are two restorations of feudal power after the revolution: the first was Yuan Shikai; the second was Zhang Xun.[169] Both were unsuccessful, but the "feudal remnants" returned to China with the Cultural Revolution in a concept called guanxi, where people relied not on feudal relationships, but personal relationships, for survival.[170] While guanxi is helpful in Taiwan, on the mainland, guanxi is necessary to get anything done.[171]

Due to the effects of anti-Manchu sentiment after the revolution, the Manchus of the Metropolitan Banners were driven into deep poverty, with Manchu men too impoverished to marry so Han men married Manchu women, Manchus stopped dressing in Manchu clothing and stopped practicing Manchu traditions.[172]

Historical significance

The Xinhai Revolution overthrew the Qing government and two thousand years of monarchy.[3] Throughout Chinese history, old dynasties had always been replaced by new dynasties. The Xinhai Revolution, however, was the first to overthrow a monarchy completely and attempt to establish a republic to spread democratic ideas throughout China. Though in 1911 at the provisional government proclamation ceremony, Sun Yat-sen said, "The revolution is not yet successful, the comrades still need to strive for the future." (革命尚未成功,同志仍需努力).[173]

Since the 1920s, the two dominant parties–the ROC and PRC–see the Xinhai Revolution quite differently.[174] Both sides recognize Sun Yat-sen as the Father of the Nation, but in Taiwan, they mean "Father of the Republic of China".[174] On the mainland, Sun Yat-sen was seen as the man who helped bring down the Qing, a pre-condition for the Communist state founded in 1949.[174] The PRC views Sun's work as the first step towards the real revolution in 1949, when the communists set up a truly independent state that expelled foreigners and built a military and industrial power.[174] The father of New China is seen as Mao Zedong.[174] In 1954, Liu Shaoqi was quoted as saying that the "Xinhai Revolution inserted the concept of a republic into common people".[175][176] Zhou Enlai pointed out that the "Xinhai Revolution overthrew the Qing rule, ended 2000 years of monarchy, and liberated the mind of people to a great extent, and opened up the path for the development of future revolution. This is a great victory."[177]

Modern evaluation

Commemorative coin, minted in Taiwan in 2011

A change in the belief that the revolution had been a generally positive change began in the late 1980s and 1990s, but Zhang Shizhao was quoted as arguing that "When talking about the Xinhai Revolution, the theorist these days tends to overemphasize. The word 'success' was way overused."[178]

The success of the democracy gained from the revolution can vary depending on one's view. Even after the death of Sun Yat-sen in 1925, for sixty years, the KMT controlled all five branches of the government; none were independent.[168] Yan Jiaqi, founder of the Federation for a Democratic China, has said that Sun Yat-sen is to be credited as founding China's first republic in 1912, and the second republic is the people of Taiwan and the political parties there now democratizing the region.[169]

Meanwhile, the ideals of democracy are far from realised on the mainland. For example, former Chinese premier Wen Jiabao once said in a speech that without real democracy, there is no guarantee of economic and political rights; but he led a 2011 crackdown against the peaceful Chinese jasmine protests.[179] Liu Xiaobo, a pro-democracy activist who received the global 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, died in prison.[180] Others, such as Qin Yongmin (秦永敏) of the Democracy Party of China, who was only released from prison after twelve years, do not praise the Xinhai Revolution.[181][182] Qin Yongmin said the revolution only replaced one dictator with another, that Mao Zedong was not an emperor, but he is worse than the emperor.[181][182][183]

See also

• China portal
• 1911 (film)
• Military of the Republic of China
• National Revolutionary Army
• Timeline of Late Anti-Qing Rebellions


a: Many of the Qing soldiers with Han background turned to support the revolution during the uprisings, so the actual casualties are hard to trace.
b: Clipping from Min Bao (People's Papers). Originally the publishing of Hua Xin Hui and named China of the Twentieth Century, it was renamed after the establishment of Tongmenhui.


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Further reading

Primary sources

• Wu Xinghan (Chinese: 吳醒漢), Three Day Journal of Wuchang Uprising (Chinese: 武昌起義三日記).
Contemporary accounts[edit]
• Dingle, Edwin J. (1912). China's Revolution: 1911–1912. A Historical and Political Record of the Civil War. Shanghai, China: Commercial Press.
• Kent, P. H. B. (1912). The Passing of the Manchus. London: E. Arnold.

Scholarly secondary sources


• Esherick, Joseph W. (1976). Reform and revolution in China: the 1911 revolution in Hunan and Hubei. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-03084-8.
• Fung, Edmund S. K. (1980). The military dimension of the Chinese revolution: The New Army and its role in the revolution of 1911. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press. ISBN 978-0-7748-0129-4.
• Goldstein, Melvyn C. (1991). A History of Modern Tibet, 1913–1951: The Demise of the Lamaist state. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-07590-0.
• Hsieh, Winston (1975). Chinese historiography on the Revolution of 1911: a critical survey and a selected bibliography. Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University. ISBN 978-0-8179-3341-8.
• Kaplan, Lawrence M. (2010). Homer Lea: American Soldier of Fortune. Lexington.: University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-2616-6.
• Kit-ching, Chan Lau (1978). Anglo-Chinese Diplomacy 1906-1920: In the Careers of Sir John Jordan and Yüan Shih-kai (in German). Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. ISBN 962-209-010-9.
• Ma, L. Eve Armentrout (1990). Revolutionaries, monarchists, and Chinatowns: Chinese politics in the Americas and the 1911 revolution. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 978-0-8248-1239-3.
• Rankin, Mary Backus (1986). Elite activism and political transformation in China: Zhejiang Province, 1865–1911. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-1321-4.
• Shan, Patrick Fuliang (2018). Yuan Shikai: A Reappraisal (U of British Columbia Press). ISBN 9780774837781.
• Shinkichi, / edited Eto; Schiffrin, Harold Z. (1994). China's republican revolution. [Tokyo]: University of Tokyo Press. ISBN 978-4-13-027030-4.
• Wright, Mary Clabaugh (1978). China in revolution: the first phase 1900–1913. New Haven: Yale UP. ISBN 978-0-300-01460-0.
• Young, Ernest P. (1977). The Presidency of Yuan Shih-K'ai: Liberalism and Dictatorship in Early Republican China. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, Michigan Studies on China.
• Yu, George T. "The 1911 Revolution: Past, Present, and Future," Asian Survey, 31#10 (1991), pp. 895-904, online historiography

• Tang (唐), Degang (德剛) (1998). The Late 50 years of Qing: Yuan Shikai, Sun Yat-sen and Xinhai Revolution. Taipei: Yuanliu (遠流). ISBN 978-957-32-3513-2.
• Tang (唐), Degang (德剛) (2002). 袁氏當國 [The Rule of Yuan Shikai]. Taipei: Yuanliu (遠流). ISBN 978-957-32-4680-0.
• Zhang (張), Yufa (玉法) (1998). 中華民國史稿 [The History of the Republic of China]. Taipei: Lianjin (聯經). ISBN 978-957-08-1826-0.
• Lin (林), Yusheng (毓生) (1983). <五四時代的激烈反傳統思想與中國自由主義的前途> 收入"思想與人物" [The Anti-tradition Trends of May Forth Era and the Future of Libertarianism in China included in "Personage and their thoughts"]. Taipei: Lianjin (聯經). ISBN 978-957-08-0384-6.
• Zhou (周), Weimin (伟民); Tang (唐), Linlin (玲玲) (2002). 中国和马来西亚文化交流史 [The History of Cultural Interactions of China and Malaysia]. Haikou: Hainan (海南). ISBN 978-7-5443-0682-9.
• Li (李), Zehou (澤厚); Liu (劉), Zhaifu (再復) (1999). 告別革命-二十世紀中國對談錄 [A Farewell to the Revolutions: Records of Discussions in 20th century China]. Taipei: Maitian (麥田). ISBN 978-957-708-735-5.

External links

• Media related to Xinhai Revolution at Wikimedia Commons
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Re: Freda Bedi, by Wikipedia

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Part 1 of 2

Behold the Green Dragon: The Myth & Reality of an Asian Secret Society
by Richard Spence
New Dawn Magazine
Jan-Feb 2009

History certainly has no shortage of enigmatic or controversial brotherhoods, orders, lodges and societies. The Knights Templar, for instance, are a perennial object of fascination and speculation. Whether the Templars were the inspiration for the no less controversial Freemasons, a band of depraved heretics or the innocent victims of a conspiracy born of greed and envy remains a topic of lively debate.

What no one can contest, however, is that the Knights existed. The beginning and formal end of the Order can be dated with precision, and the names of its leaders are a matter of historical record. Even a dubious organisation like the Priory of Sion can be shown to have had a genuine, if recent, existence, though its claims to centuries of tradition and hidden influence remain unsubstantiated. But there are other groups which seem to exist only in that gray zone between reality and imagination, ones whose origins, number, scope and purpose remain maddeningly vague.

One such entity is the quasi-mythical Green Dragon Society (GDS), also known as the Order of the Green Dragon or simply the Green Dragon. It most often is mentioned as a Japanese secret society, but that is not necessarily the whole story. Other evidence, or at least allegation, argues that its true origins lay in China or Tibet and that its influence extended to the power centres of Tsarist Russia and Nazi Germany. Historical figures from the Emperor Hirohito, to Adolf Hitler to Rasputin have been tied to the Green Dragon, legitimately or not. The waters have been further muddied by role-playing games which have combined the Society with H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos and other fictional elements. Determining what is “real” and what is the playful figment of someone’s imagination can be tricky.

What follows will not solve the mystery of the Green Dragon, but it will try to separate fact from fiction and explain where claims and information came from. In doing so, it will offer a tantalising glimpse into a mysterious organisation that may have played a significant role in shaping modern history.

Enter the Black Dragon

The simplest explanation for the Green Dragon Society is that it is a muddled reference to the better known, and definitely real, Black Dragon Society (BDS) or Kokuryukai. The BDS first appeared about 1901 and was an offshoot of another, older Japanese secret society, the Black Ocean or Genyosha. Like its parent, the Black Dragon was a militant, “ultra-nationalist” body which worked to expand Imperial Japan’s influence on the Asian mainland. The BDS initially concentrated on combating Russian interests in the vast Chinese province of Manchuria. Indeed, the Society took its name from the “Black Dragon” or Amur River which separated Manchuria and Siberia. The Black Dragon’s network of spies and saboteurs took an active part in the subsequent Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) and the Black Dragons later expanded their operations and influence throughout Asia and Europe and even the Americas.

The nominal founder and leader of the Black Dragon was Ryohei Uchida, but the true master, or “darkside emperor,” was Uchida’s shadowy and sinister mentor, Mitsuru Toyama, also a founding member of Genyosha. He reputedly was steeped in “extreme Eastern religious beliefs.”1 That suggests the mysticism and occultism attributed the Green Dragon Society. Might the scheming and secretive Toyama have played a guiding role in both societies?

Were the Black and Green Dragons, if not one and the same, two sides of the same conspiratorial coin? For instance, just as the Black Dragon (Amur) River delineated the northern limit of Manchuria, further south the much smaller Qinglong or Green Dragon River roughly followed the dividing line between Manchuria and China proper. If the Black Dragon Society was primarily anti-Russian in its focus, might the Green Dragon have been anti-Chinese or anti-Western? While the Black Dragon focused on the political side, did the Green deal with the more secretive occult realm?

One obscure but important reference which clearly distinguishes between the Black and Green societies appears in the memoir of Chinese strongman Chiang Kai-shek’s “second wife,” Ch’en Chieh-ju.2 She recalls that her husband contemplated a “completely secret system of private investigators” and considered as models the “Green and Black Dragon Societies of Japan and the Triad societies of Shanghai.”3 Thus, in Chiang’s mind at least, the two Dragons were entirely separate (though not necessarily unrelated), Japanese, and appropriate models for secret intelligence gathering.

As noted, the Black Dragon Society was heavily involved in spying and the kindred spheres of propaganda and subversion. As such, it basically functioned as an extension of the Imperial Army’s “special organ,” the Tokumu Kikan. Not to be outdone in anything, the Japanese Imperial Navy maintained its own secret service, the Joho Kyoko. Just as the Army utilised the Black Dragon to augment or handle its “special needs,” might the Navy have used the Green Dragon in the same way?

Trevor Ravenscroft & Karl Haushofer

The identification of the Green Dragon as a fundamentally mystical order most evidently appears in Trevor Ravenscroft’s 1973 The Spear of Destiny. It is not insignificant that Ravenscroft was a follower of Anthroposophy and its founder Rudolf Steiner, and his book is a distinctly Anthroposophist take on the nefarious occult forces behind Hitler and his Nazi Regime. Ravenscroft firmly connects the Green Dragon to German geo-politician and mystic Karl Haushofer, one of Hitler’s presumed spiritual mentors. According to Ravenscroft, Professor Haushofer “gained… extraordinary gifts through membership of the Green Dragon Society of Japan in which the mastery of the Time Organism and the control of the life forces in the human body is the central aim of ascending degrees of initiation.” Ravenscroft adds that “one of the highest tests of this type of initiation in the Green Dragon Society demands the capacity to control and direct the life force in plants in a somewhat similar manner to the former powers of the Atlantean people.” “Only two other Europeans have been permitted to join this Japanese Order,” [and who, one wonders, were they?] continues Ravenscroft, “which demands oaths of secrecy and obedience of far more strict and uncompromising nature than similar secret societies in the Western world.”4

The major problem with all this is that Ravenscroft’s sources are hazy or non-existent. He likely took a cue from the 1960 work of Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier, The Morning of the Magicians. Those authors claim that Haushofer “is said [by whom?] to have been initiated into one of the most important secret Buddhist societies and to have been sworn, if he failed in his ‘mission,’ to commit suicide in accordance with the time-honoured ceremonial.”5 Assuming this to be an allusion to the above GDS, we are still faced with the lack of any identifiable source for the authors’ information.

Ravenscroft goes on the claim that members of the Green Dragon Society set-up shop in 1920s Germany and there joined forces with a group of Tibetan monks called the “Society of Green Men.” The latter were, in fact, the “Adepts of Agharti and Schamballah” and their leader was a mysterious “Man with the Green Gloves.”6 It also turns out that the Green Dragons and the Green Men had “been in astral communication for hundreds of years.”7 The united brethren soon established communication with the rising Herr Hitler.

Others have since elaborated on the above by turning the Green Dragons into an “inner cabal” of both Genyosha and the Black Dragon, and making them “but an outpost of a much larger conspiracy based on the even more secretive group known and the Green Men.”8 While fascinating, such assertions appear not to have any basis in hard fact.

But that is not to say they may not have a germ of truth. For instance, there was an occult figure in late Weimar Berlin sometimes referred to as the “Magician with the Green Gloves” who did become a short-lived soothsayer for Hitler and the Nazi Party. He was no Tibetan but, of all things, a Jew who went under the name of Erik Jan Hanussen. When he became inconvenient by accurately predicting the Reichstag Fire (or arranging it), his erstwhile Nazi pals killed him.9

Likewise, there could very well be something to a Green Dragon-Tibet connection. A green dragon, or Zhug, plays an important role in Tibetan mythology where it symbolises the “God of Thunder… bravery and all-conquering force.”10 More to the point, perhaps, a Japanese Buddhist monk named Ekai Kawaguchi made two visits to Tibet in the years before World War I, around the same time Haushofer was in Tokyo. On the surface, Kawaguchi seemed a simple religious devotee, but he is known to have had contact with at least one Japanese secret agent while in the Land of Eternal Snows, Narita Yasuteru, as well as an operative of British Indian intelligence.11

2502, Hyer, P. 1979. Narita Yasuteru: first Japanese to enter Tibet. Tibet J. 4(3): 12-19. Narita arrived in Lhasa via India a few months after Kawaguchi, and spent two weeks there. Whilst Kawaguchi's interest in Tibet was religious, Narita's visit was at the request, and with the assistance of, the Japanese Foreign Ministry. His mission was possibly due to Japanese concern about Russian activity in Inner Asia and their need for information on the Tibetan situation. Also includes information on correspondence between Narita and Sarat Chandra Das concerning Kawaguchi's published account of his time in Tibet.

-- Britain and Tibet 1765-1947: A Select Annotated Bibliography of British relations with Tibet and the Himalayan states including Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan, by Julie G. Marshall

There are many cheap inns and hotels in Lhasa, but as I had been informed that they were not respectable, I desired to stay with a friend, a son of the premier of Tibet. While at Darjeeling I had become acquainted with this young noble, and he had offered me a lodging during my stay in Lhasa. I liked him, and did many things for him, and now, though I did not mean to demand a return for what I had done for him, I had no alternative but to go to him. So I called at his house. It was known as Bandesha—a magnificent mansion on a plot of about three hundred and sixty feet square. I entered the house and asked if he was in, but heard that my friend had become a lunatic. They told me that he had gone out of his mind two years before, and that he went mad at regular periods. I learned that he was staying at his brother’s villa at Namsailing, and was obliged to go there for him, but there also I could not find him, and was told the same thing. I waited there for over two hours, as I was told he might come, and then I reflected that it would be of no use for me to see a madman, on whom I could not depend, so I made up my mind to direct my steps to the Sera monastery, for I thought it would be better for me to be temporarily admitted in the college, and then to pass the regular entrance examinations.....

Once while standing at the door of the druggist's, I saw a man apparently of quality come towards me with his servant. The store stands at the corner where the streets leading to Panang-sho and Kache-hakhang meet, and this man came along Ani-sakan street toward Panang-sho. He passed a few steps by me, when he turned and looked at me. Then I heard his servant say that I must be the man. Walking to me the nobleman said “Is it you?” I looked at him and found him, though much thinner than before, to be the son of Para the Premier, whom I had met at Darjeeling. He did not look like a man out of his senses, as I had been told. He said that he was much pleased that I had come to his country. He was on some important business, but went with me into the house of the druggist. The wife of the druggist, who knew him, gave him a chair, and the young noble seemed to be desirous to talk with me. I hinted that it was not good for us to let it be known that we had seen each other at Darjeeling, and began our talk by saying that it was about half a year since we had met each other at Gyangtze. He also was aware that his staying at Darjeeling should be kept a secret, and carefully avoided talking about our having met in that town.

From what he said and did there, I could not find anything in him that showed him to be an idiot; on the contrary, he was evidently a man of much sense. Among other things he told me that three months before, one of his servants committed theft and, when reproved severely, had pierced him through the side with a sword with the result that a part of his intestines could be seen. This, he added, made him so haggard. When, after a long talk, he went on his way, the wife of the druggist told me that the young man had hoodwinked me about the wounds, which really were given him for wrong-doing on his side. She told me that everything concerning his family was known to her, for she had before been wife to his brother, who, not being allowed to live long with her, simply because she was of birth too humble for his family, divorced her and was now adopted at Namsailing. The young man, she told me, was very prodigal, and deeply in debt, on account of which he was wounded. To my question whether he was then beside himself, she answered that he was mad or otherwise as it suited him, and not a man to be easily trusted, for he was very good at taking money from others.....

I have spoken before of the prodigal son of the house of Para. One day this man sent his servant to me with a letter and asked for a loan of money, rather a large sum for Tibet. Of course he had no idea of repaying me, and his loan was really blackmail. I sent back the servant with half of what he had asked, together with a letter. I was told that he was highly enraged at what I had done, exclaiming that I had insulted him, and that he had not asked for the sum for charity, and so on. At any rate he sent back the money to me, probably expecting that I would then send him the whole sum asked for. But I did not oblige him as he had expected, and took no notice of his threat. A few days after another letter reached me from that young man, again asking for the sum as at first. I decided to save myself from further annoyance and so I sent the sum. Like master, like servant; the latter, having heard most probably from his spendthrift master that I was a Japanese, came to me for a loan or blackmail of fifty yen. I gave that sum too, for I knew that they could not annoy me repeatedly with impunity....

Some while later on during the same day I had another startling story told me by the wife of the apothecary. She began with: “Say, Kusho-la (your lordship). Don’t you think the most awful thing in the world is a madman?”

I asked her reason, and she said: “Why, that mad son of Para has been telling a strange story. It is a story told by a madman, so of course I think it cannot be depended upon; but he said that though it was a great secret, he knew of a horrible affair that was to take place in this country. When I asked what it was, he whispered to me:
‘There is a priest from Japan in this town. He calls himself a priest, but he is surely a great officer of the Japanese Government, who has been sent for the investigation of the country. It is no less a personage than the Serai Amchi [Ekai Kawaguchi]. I met and talked with him once when I went to Darjeeling, and I found him a great man.’ This is what he tells me. Is it not strange? Nobody knows he has ever been to Darjeeling, but what do you think about it?”

I thought the madman was not mad if he had spoken that way, but answered her: “The story of a madman must be only taken as such.”

The lady continued, “Anyhow my husband and many others seem to believe it. I have told this to you as I heard it, and hope you will not mind.”

-- Three Years in Tibet, with the original Japanese illustrations, by Shramana Ekai Kawaguchi, Late Rector of Gohyakurakan Monastery, Japan

Kawaguchi also had links to Annie Besant and her Theosophist sect, another group accused of subversion and general skullduggery.12 More significantly, Kawaguchi was a devotee of Zen Buddhism.

CHAPTER LXXI. Russia’s Tibetan Policy.

Before proceeding to give an account, necessarily imperfect, of Tibetan diplomacy, I must explain what is the public opinion of the country as to patriotism. I am sorry to say that the attitude of the people in this respect by no means does them credit. So far as my limited observation goes, the Tibetans, who are sufficiently shrewd in attending to their own interest, are not so sensitive to matters of national importance. It seems as if they were destitute of the sense of patriotism, as the term is understood by ordinary people. Not that they are totally ignorant of the meaning of “fatherland,” but they are rather inclined to turn that meaning to their own advantage in preference to the interest of their country. Such seems, in short, the general idea of the politicians of to-day.

The Tibetans are more jealous with regard to their religion. A few of them, a very limited few it is true, seem to be prepared to defend and promote it at the expense of their private interest, though even in this respect the majority are so far unscrupulous as to abuse their religion for their own ends. In the eyes of the common people, religion is the most important product of the country, and they think therefore that they must preserve it at any cost. Their ignorance necessarily makes them fanatics and they believe that any one who works any injury to their religion deserves death. The Hierarchical Government makes a great deal of capital out of this fanatical tendency of the masses. The holy religion is its justification when it persecutes persons obnoxious to it, and when it has committed any wrong it seeks refuge under the same holy name. The Government too often works mischief in the name of religion, but the masses do not of course suspect any such thing—or even if they do now and then harbor a suspicion, they are deterred from giving vent to their sentiments, for to speak ill of the religion is a heinous crime in Tibet....

A foreign country knowing this weak point, and wishing to push its interests in the Forbidden Land, has only to form its diplomatic procedure accordingly. In other words, it has merely to captivate the hearts of the rulers of Tibet, for once the influential Cabinet Ministers of the Hierarchical Government are won over, the next step will be an easy matter. The greedy Ministers will be ready to listen to any insidious advice coming from outside, provided that the advice carries with it literally the proper weight of gold. They will not care a straw about the welfare of the State or the interest of the general public, if only they themselves are satisfied.

However, foreign diplomatists desiring to succeed in their policy of gaining influence over Tibet must not think that they have an easy task before them. Gold is most acceptable to all Tibetan statesmen, but at times gold alone may not carry the point. The fact is that Tibet has no diplomatic policy in any dignified sense of the word. Its foreign doings are determined by sentiment, which is necessarily destitute of any solid foundation, but is susceptible to change from a trivial cause.... It is impossible to rely on the faith of the Tibetan statesmen, for they are entirely led by sentiment and never by rational conviction....

There was a Mongolian tribe called the Buriats, which peopled a district far away to the north-east of Tibet towards Mongolia. The tribe was originally feudatory to China, but it passed some time ago under the control of Russia. The astute Muscovites have taken great pains to insinuate themselves into the grateful regard of this tribe. Contrary to their vaunted policy at home, they have never attempted to convert the Mongolians into believers of the Greek Church, but have treated their religion with a strange toleration. The Muscovites even went farther and actually rendered help in promoting the interests of the Lamaist faith, by granting its monasteries more or less pecuniary aid.... From this tribe quite a large number of young priests are sent to Tibet to prosecute their studies at the principal seats of Lamaist learning. These young Mongolians are found at the religious centres of Ganden, Rebon, Sera, Tashi Lhunpo and at other places. There must be altogether two hundred such students at those seats of learning; several able priests have appeared from among them, one of whom, Dorje by name, became a high tutor to the present Dalai Lama while he was a minor....

The Tsan-ni Kenbo returned home when, on his pupil’s attaining majority, his services as tutor were no longer required. It is quite likely that he described minutely the results of his work in Tibet to the Russian Government, for it is conceivable that he may have been entrusted by it with some important business during his stay at Lhasa. Soon the Tsan-ni Kenbo re-visited Lhasa, and this time as a priest of great wealth, instead of as a poor student, as he was at first. He brought with him a large amount of gold, also boxes of curios made in Russia. The money and the curios must have come to him from the Russian Government. The Dalai Lama and his Ministers were the recipients of the gold and curios, and among the Ministers a young man named Shata appears to have been honored with the largest share....

The Dalai Lama was now ready to lend a willing ear to anything his former tutor represented to him, while the friendship between him and the young Premier grew so fraternal that they are said to have vowed to stand by each other as brothers born. The astute Tsan-ni did not of course confine his crafty endeavors to the higher circles alone; the priest classes received from him a large share of attention, due to the mighty influence which they wield over the masses. Liberal donations were therefore more than once presented to all the important monasteries of Tibet, with which of course the priests of these monasteries were delighted. In their eyes the Tsan-ni was a Mongolian priest of immense wealth and pious heart, and the idea of suspecting how he came to be possessed of such wealth never entered their unsophisticated minds....

It must be remembered that a work written in former times by some Lama of the New Sect contained a prophetic pronouncement—a pronouncement which was supported by some others—that some centuries hence a mighty prince would make his appearance somewhere to the north of Kashmīr, and would bring the whole world under his sway, and under the domination of the Buḍḍhist faith.....

This announcement alone was not sufficiently attractive to awake the interest of the Tibetans, and so the unborn prince was represented as a holy incarnation of the founder of the national religion of Tibet, Tsong-kha-pa, and his Ministers were to be incarnations of his principal disciples, as Jam yan Choeje, Chamba Choeje and Gendun Tub. The prophet went into further details and gave the name of the future great country as “Chang Shambhala”... With a precision worthy of Swift’s pen, the prophet located the new Buḍḍhist empire of the future at a distance some three thousand miles north-west of Buḍḍhagayā in Hinḍūsṭān, and he even described at some length the route to be taken in reaching the imaginary country. This utopian account has obtained belief from a section of the Tibetan priest-class, and some of them are said to have undertaken a quest for this future empire, so that they might at least have the satisfaction of inspecting its cradle. Now the Tibetan prophet bequeathed us this important forecast with the idea that when the Tibetan religion degenerated, it would be saved from extinction by the appearance of that mighty Buḍḍhist prince, who would extend his benevolent influence over the whole world. I should state that this announcement is widely accepted as truth by the common people of Tibet.

The Tsan-ni Kenbo was perfectly familiar with the existence of this marvellous tradition, and he was not slow to utilise it for promoting his own ambitious schemes. He wrote a pamphlet with the special object of demonstrating that “Chang Shambhala” means Russia, and that the Tsar is the incarnation of Je Tsong-kha-pa. The Tsar, this Russian emissary wrote, is a worthy reincarnation of that venerable founder, being benevolent to his people, courteous in his relations to neighboring countries, and above all endowed with a virtuous mind. This fact and the existence of several points of coincidence between Russia and the country indicated in the sacred prophecy indisputably proved that Russia must be that country, that anybody who doubted it was an enemy of Buḍḍhism and of the august will of the Founder of the New Sect, and that in short all the faithful believers in Buḍḍhism must pay respect to the Tsar as a Chang-chub Semba Semba Chenbo, which in Tibetan indicates one next to Buḍḍha, or as a new embodiment of the Founder, and must obey him....

Tsan-ni Kenbo’s artful scheme has been crowned with great success, for to-day almost every Tibetan blindly believes in the ingenious story concocted by the Mongolian priest, and holds that the Tsar will sooner or later subdue the whole world and found a gigantic Buḍḍhist empire. So the Tibetans may be regarded as extreme Russophiles, thanks to the machination of the Tsan-ni Kenbo.

There is another minor reason which has very much raised the credit of Russia in the eyes of the Tibetans; I mean the arrival of costly fancy goods from that country.... The ignorant Tibetans do not of course exercise any great discernment, and seeing that the goods from England and Russia make such a striking contrast with each other they naturally jump to the conclusion that the English goods are trash, and that the people who produce such things must be an inferior and unreliable race.

I heard during my stay in Tibet a strange story the authenticity of which admitted of no doubt. It was kept as a great secret and occurred about two years ago. At that time the Dalai Lama received as a present a suit of Episcopal robes from the Tsar, a present forwarded through the hands of the Tsar’s emissary. It was a splendid garment glittering with gold and was accepted, I was told, with gratitude by the Grand Lama....

Shata, whose name I have before mentioned, is the eldest of the Premiers, and comes from one of the most illustrious families of Tibet. His house stood in hereditary feud with the great monastery Tangye-ling whose head, Lama Temo Rinpoche, acted as Regent before the present Dalai Lama had been installed. At that time the star of Shata was in the decline. He could not even live in Tibet with safety, and had to leave the country as a voluntary exile. As a wanderer he lived sometimes at Darjeeling and at other times in Sikkim. It was during this period of his wandering existence that he observed the administration of India by England, and heard much about how India came to be subjugated by that Power. Shata therefore is the best authority in Tibet about England’s Indian policy. His mind was filled with the dread of England.... He must have thought during his exile that Tibet would have to choose between Russia and China in seeking foreign help against the possible aggression of England. Evidently therefore he carried home some such idea as to Tibetan policy when affairs allowed him to return home with safety, that is to say, when his enemy had resigned the Regency and surrendered the supreme power to the Dalai Lama. Shata was soon nominated a Premier, and the power he then acquired was first of all employed and abused in destroying his old enemy and his followers. The maladministration and unjust practices of which those followers had been guilty during the ascendancy of their master furnished a sufficient cause for bringing a serious charge against the latter. The poor Temo Rinpoche was arrested for a crime of which he was innocent, and died a victim to his enemy, as already told ...

China’s loss of prestige in Tibet since the Japano-Chinese war owing to her inability to assert her power over the vassal state has much to do with this pro-Russian leaning. China is no longer respected, much less feared by the Tibetans. Previous to that war and before China’s internal incompetence had been laid bare by Japan, relations like those between master and vassal bound Tibet to China. The latter interfered with the internal affairs of Tibet and meted out punishments freely to the Tibetan dignitaries and even to the Grand Lama. Now she is entirely helpless. She could not even demand explanations from Tibet when that country was thrown into an unusual agitation about the Temo Rinpoche’s affair. The Tibetans are now conducting themselves in utter disregard or even in defiance of the wishes of China, for they are aware of the powerlessness of China to take any active steps against them. They know that their former suzerain is fallen and is therefore no longer to be depended upon. They are prejudiced against England on account of her subjugation of India, and so they have naturally concluded that they should establish friendly relations with Russia, which they knew was England’s bitter foe....

The Dalai Lama’s friendly inclination was clearly established when in December, 1900, he sent to Russia his grand Chamberlain as envoy with three followers. Leaving Lhasa on that date the party first proceeded towards the Tsan-ni Kenbo’s native place, whence they were taken by the Siberian railway, and in time reached S. Petersburg. The party was received with warm welcome by that court, to which it offered presents brought from Tibet. It is said that on that occasion a secret understanding was reached between the two Governments.

It was about December of 1901 or January of the following year that the party returned home. By that time I had already been residing in Lhasa for some time. About two months after the return of the party I went out on a short trip on horseback to a place about fifty miles north-east of Lhasa. While I was there I saw two hundred camels fully loaded arrive from the north-east. The load consisted of small boxes, two packed on each camel. Every load was covered with skin, and so I could not even guess what it contained. The smallness of the boxes however arrested my attention, and I came to the conclusion that some Mongolians must have been bringing ingots of silver as a present to the Dalai Lama. I asked some of the drivers about the contents of the boxes, but they could not tell me anything. They were hired at some intermediate station, and so knew nothing about the contents. However they believed that the boxes contained silver, but they knew for certain that these boxes did not come from China....

When I returned to the house of my host, the Minister of Finance came in and informed him that on that day a heavy load had arrived from Russia. On my host inquiring what were the contents of the load, the Minister replied that this was a secret....

Now I knew one Government officer who was one of the worst repositories imaginable for any secret; he was such a gossip that it was easy to worm out anything from him.... he told me (confidentially, he said) that another caravan of three hundred camels had arrived some time before, and that the load brought by so many camels consisted of small fire-arms, bullets, and other interesting objects. He was quite elated with the weapons, saying that now for the first time Tibet was sufficiently armed to resist any attack which England might undertake against her, and could defiantly reject any improper request which that aggressive power, as the Tibetans believe her to be, might make to her.

I had the opportunity to inspect one of the guns sent by Russia. It was apparently one of modern pattern, but it did not impress me as possessing any long range nor seem to be quite fit for active service. The stock bore an inscription attesting that it was made in the United States of America. The Tibetans being ignorant of Roman letters and English firmly believed that all the weapons were made in Russia. It seems that about one-half of the load of the five hundred camels consisted of small arms and ammunition.

The Chinese Government appears mortified to see Tibet endeavoring to break off her traditional relation with China, and to attach herself to Russia. The Chinese Amban once tried to interfere with the Tsan-ni Kenbo’s dealings in Lhasa, and even intended to arrest him. But it was of no avail, as the Tibetan Government extended protection to the man and defeated the purposes of the Amban. On one occasion the Tsan-ni was secretly sent to Darjeeling and on another occasion to Nepāl, and the Amban could never catch hold of him. It appears that the British Government watched the movements of the Tsan-ni, and this suspicion of England against him appears to have been shared by the Nepāl Government.

Apparently therefore the Russian manœuvres in Tibet have succeeded, and the question that naturally arises is this: “Is Russia’s footing in Tibet so firmly established as to enable her to make with any hope of success an attempt on India with Tibet as her base?” I cannot answer this question affirmatively, for Russia’s influence in Tibet has not yet taken a deep root. She can count only on the Dalai Lama and his Senior Premier as her most reliable friends, and the support of the rest who are simply blind followers of those two cannot be counted upon. Of course those blind followers would remain pro-Russian, if Russia should persist in actively pushing on her policy of fascination; but as their attitude does not rest on a solid foundation they may abandon it any time when affairs take a turn unfavorable for Russia....


CHAPTER LXXII. Tibet and British India.

The Tibetans are on the whole a hospitable people, and the unfavorable discrimination made against England is mainly attributable to mutual misunderstanding. On the part of England that misunderstanding led to the adoption of a rough and ready method instead of one of ingratiation, and so England is singled out as an object of abhorrence by Tibet. England had opportunities to score a greater success in Tibet than that achieved by Russia, and had she followed the Russian method her influence would now have extended far beyond the Himālayas. Instead, she tried to coerce Tibet, and so she failed. It is like crying over spilt milk to speak of this failure at present, but I cannot help regretting it for the sake of England. She would have saved much of the trouble and money she has subsequently been obliged to give in consequence of her too hasty policy, occasioned by her ignorance of the temper of the Tibetans and the general state of affairs in their country. As it was, since England sent her abortive expedition of force, the attitude of Tibet towards that Power has become one of pronounced hostility. The revelation of the secret mission of Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās and the serious agitation that occurred in Tibet, including the execution of several noted men, such as the virtuous Sengchen Dorjechan and others, has completely estranged the Tibetan Government from England. That revelation has had a far-reaching effect that has involved the interests of other countries, for it confirmed the Tibetan Government in its prejudice in favor of a exclusory policy. Tibet has been closed up entirely since that time, not only against British India, but even against Russia and Persia. The Lama believers of India even are prohibited from entering the country. Such being the case, should England ever wish to transact any business with Tibet she would be obliged to do so by force.

Not that England neglects to take measures calculated to win the favorable opinion of the Tibetans. The Indian Viceroy is, for instance, endeavoring to convey friendly impressions to such of the Tibetans as may happen to come to frontier places, such as Darjeeling or Sikkim. Thus the children of those Tibetans are at liberty to enter any Government schools without paying fees, while boys of a hopeful nature are patronised by the Government and are sent at Government expense to higher institutions. At present there are quite a number of Tibetan lads who, after graduation from their respective courses, are employed by the Indian Government as surveyors, Post Office clerks or teachers. Then the privilege of carrying on the business of palanquin-bearers, quite a lucrative occupation, is practically reserved for the Tibetans, at least at Darjeeling. Not even natives of India, still less people of other countries, are easily allowed to start this business. The Indian Police officers too are quite indulgent towards the Tibetans, and never deal with them so strictly as with the Indian natives.

The Tibetans residing at Darjeeling are therefore quite satisfied with their lot....They are impressed with the treatment of the British Government, its straightforwardness, veracity and benevolence, in contrast to the merciless dealings of the Government at home, which inflicts shocking punishments for even minor offences. They are well aware that the Lama’s Government cuts off a man’s arms or extracts his eye-balls for larceny, or similar minor crimes, while in India capital punishment is very seldom inflicted even on offenders of a grave character; the humane treatment of criminals by the British Government is a thing that can hardly be dreamed of by the people of Tibet. The roads in India are an object of marvel to the Tibetans who arrive there for the first time. The presence of free hospitals, of free asylums, of educational institutions, the railways, telegraphs and telephones—all these are objects of wonder and marvel to those Tibetans, and it is not strange that most of them become the more disinclined to return home the longer they live in India....

The policy of indirectly winning the goodwill of the Tibetans, so far pursued by the Indian Government, has failed, however, to produce any perceptible effect on the Government circles of Tibet. They are too far engrossed with personal interests to be open to any great extent to indirect suasion of a moral nature. They are far more inclined to gain advantage for themselves directly from offers of bribes than to profit by an exemplary model of administration. The main reason why they are favorably disposed towards Russia is because they have received gold from that country; it was never by the effect of any display of good administrative method that Russia has succeeded so well. In short, these greedy Tibetan officials offer their friendship to the highest bidders, and they do not care at all whence the gold comes so long as they grasp a large sum. The policy of the British Government therefore rests on a pedestal set a little too high to be understood and appreciated by the majority of the official circles of Tibet....

The existence of the Siberian railway can hardly be expected to give any great help to Russia, if ever the latter should be obliged from one reason or another to send a warlike expedition to Lhasa. The distance from the nearest station to Lhasa is prohibitive of any such undertaking, for the march, even if nothing happens on the road, must require five or six months and is through districts abounding in deserts and hills. The presence of wild natives in Amdo and Kham is also a discouraging factor, for they are people who are perfectly uncontrollable, given up to plunder and murder, and of course thoroughly at home in their own haunts. Even discipline and superior weapons would not balance the natural advantages which these dreadful people enjoy over intruders, however well informed the latter may be about the topography of the districts. Russia can hardly expect to subdue Tibet by force of arms....

It must be remembered that the sentiment of the common people towards China still retains its old force, even though they know that the power of their old patron has considerably declined lately. They are well aware that Tibet has been placed from time immemorial in a state of vassalage to China, that Prince Srong-tsan Gambo who first introduced Buḍḍhism into Tibet had as his wife a daughter of the then Emperor of China, while the Tibetans believe that the present Emperor of China is an incarnation of a Buḍḍhist deity (the Chang-chub Semba Tambe yang in Tibetan) worshipped on Mount Utai, China. And so both from tradition and prejudice and from present superstition, the mass of the people, who are conservative, cannot but regard China with a lingering sentiment of respect and attachment, and the position which China still occupies in the niches of their hearts can hardly be supplanted by Russia, even when the Tsan-ni Kenbo ingeniously represents her as the country indicated in the Tibetan Book of Prophecy.

As I have mentioned before, some few of the influential Government officials do not seem to approve of the Tsan-ni’s movement. They even suspect that Russia might have some sinister object in view when she presented gold and other valuable things to the Dalai Lama and others. ... The result is that not a small number of priests have begun to side, though not as an organised movement, with these prudent thinkers, and therefore to rebel against Shata and his faction. The priests of the colleges and the warrior-priests seem to be particularly conspicuous in this reactionary movement.... Then again the thoughtful portion of the college-priests never tolerated the Nechung oracles. They despised the oracle-priests as not much better than men of unsound mind, as drunkards, and corrupters of national interests. The very fact that Shata patronised this vile set further estranged him from the college-priests....

In reviewing the relations that formerly existed between British India and Tibet, it must be stated first of all that British India was closely connected with Tibet many years ago. At least Tibet’s attitude toward the Indian Government was not embittered by any hostile sentiment. In the eighteenth century, during the Governor-Generalship of Warren Hastings, he sent George Bogle to make commercial arrangements between the two countries. This gentleman resided a few years at Shigatze. Then Captain Turner also lived at the same place as a commercial agent for some time.... Though official relations had ceased between Tibet and India, their people therefore were bound together by some friendly connexions till quite recently. It is not unlikely that if the Indian Government had made at that time some advances acceptable to Tibet, it would have succeeded in establishing cordial relations with the latter.

The exploration of Saraṭ Chanḍra Ḍās disguised as an ordinary Sikkimese priest, and the frontier trouble that followed it, completely changed the attitude of Tibet towards India and the outer world and made it adopt a strict policy of exclusion....


CHAPTER LXXIII. China, Nepal and Tibet.

It requires the erudition and investigations of experts to write with any adequacy about the earlier relations between China and Tibet. I must therefore confine myself here only to the existing state of those relations.

Tibet is nominally a protectorate of China, and as such she is bound to pay a tribute to the Suzerain State. In days gone by, Tibet used to forward this tribute to China, but subsequently the payment was commuted against expenses which China had to allow Tibet, on account of the Grand Prayer which is performed every year at Lhasa for the prosperity of the Chinese Emperor. As a result of this arrangement, Tibet ceased to send the tribute and China to send the prayer fund.

The loss of Chinese prestige in Tibet has been truly extraordinary since the Japano-Chinese War. Previous to that disastrous event, China used to treat Tibet in a high-handed way, while the latter, overawed by the display of force of the Suzerain, tamely submitted. All is now changed, and instead of that subservient attitude Tibet regards China with scorn. The Tibetans have come to the conclusion that their masters are no longer able to protect and help them, and therefore do not deserve to be feared and respected any more. It can easily be understood how the Chinese are mortified at this sudden downfall of their prestige in Tibet. They have tried to recover their old position, but all their endeavors have as yet been of no avail. The Tibetans listen to Chinese advice when it is acceptable, but any order that is distasteful to them is utterly disregarded....

In Nepāl the military department receives appropriations which are quite out of proportion to those set apart for peaceful matters, as education, justice and philanthropy. Indeed the Nepāl troops, the famous Gurkhas, may even rival regular British troops in discipline and effectiveness; they may perhaps even surpass the others in mountain warfare, such as would take place in their own country. Certainly in their capacity of enduring hardships and in running up and down hills, bearing heavy knapsacks, they are superior to the British soldiers. They very much resemble the Japanese soldiers in stature and general appearance, and also in temperament. The one might easily be mistaken for the other, so close is the resemblance between the two. In short, as fighters in mountainous places the Gurkhas form ideal soldiers; and it seems as though circumstances will sooner or later compel Nepāl to employ for her self-defence this highly effective force. Russia is at the bottom of the impending trouble, while Tibet supplies the immediate cause.

The Russianising tendency of Tibet has recently put Nepāl on her guard, and when intelligence reached Nepāl that Tibet had concluded a secret treaty with Russia, that the Dalai Lama had received a bishop’s robe from the Tsar, and that a large quantity of arms and ammunition had reached Lhasa from S. Petersburg, Nepāl became considerably alarmed, and with good reason. For with Russia established in Tibet, Nepāl must necessarily feel uneasy, as it would be exposed to the danger of absorption. The very presence of a powerful neighbor must subject Nepāl to a great strain which can hardly be borne for long.

It is not surprising to hear that Nepāl is said to have communicated in an informal manner with Tibet and to have demanded an explanation of the rumors concerning the conclusion of a secret treaty between her and Russia, adding that if that were really the case then Nepāl, from considerations of self-defence, must oppose that arrangement even if the opposition entailed an appeal to arms....

Nepāl may be driven to declare war on Tibet should the latter persist in pursuing her pro-Russian policy, and allow Russia to establish herself in that country; and it is quite likely that England may be pleased to see Nepāl adopt that resolute attitude. She may even extend a helping hand, for instance by supplying part of the war expense, and thus enabling Nepāl to prosecute that movement. The reason is obvious, for England has nothing to lose but everything to gain from trouble between Nepāl and Tibet, in which the former may certainly be expected to win. But even if Nepāl is victorious her victory will bring her only a small benefit, and the lion’s share will go to England; Nepāl therefore would be placed in the rather foolish position of having taken the chestnuts from the fire for the British lion to eat. The present Ruler of Nepāl is too intelligent a statesman not to perceive that—judging at least from my personal observations, when I was allowed to see the Ruler, the Cabinet Minister....

Thus, it is hardly likely that Nepāl will go to extreme measures towards Tibet, even if England should cleverly encourage her.

It must be remembered that the relations between the two countries are not yet strained. The Tibetans do not seem to harbor any ill-feeling towards their neighbors beyond the mountains, nor do they regard them as a whole with fear, though they do fear the Gurkhas on account of their valor and discipline. The Tibetan Government also seems to be desirous of maintaining a friendly relation with Nepāl. For instance, when on one occasion the Ruler of Nepāl sent his messenger to Tibet to procure a set of Tibetan sūṭras, the Dalai Lama, who heard of that errand, caused a set to be sent to Nepāl as a present from himself, which is now kept in the Royal Library of Nepāl.

The Nepāl Government, on its part, appears to be doing its best to create a favorable impression on the Tibetans. The Ruler, it must be remembered, is not a Buḍḍhist but a Brāhmaṇa; still, he pursues the policy of toleration towards all faiths, and is especially kindly to Buḍḍhists. The Buḍḍhists from Tibet who are staying in Nepāl enjoy protection from the Government, and the Ruler not unfrequently makes grants of money or timber when Buḍḍhist temples are to be built in his dominion. The care bestowed by the Ruler on the Buḍḍhists is highly appreciated by their friends at home, and Nepāl is therefore favorably situated for winning the hearts of the Tibetan people. It is easily conceivable that with a judicious use of secret service funds Nepāl might easily establish her influence in Tibet. This, however, cannot be readily expected from that country, as internal conditions now are, for order is far from being firmly established in that little kingdom, and domestic troubles and administrative changes occur too frequently. Even the Prime Minister, who wields the real power, has been assassinated more than once, while changes have very frequently taken place in the incumbency of that post. Nepāl is at present too deeply absorbed in her internal affairs, and cannot spare either energy or money for pursuing any consistent policy towards Tibet. Thus, though the military service of Nepāl is sufficiently creditable, her diplomacy leaves much to be desired.


CHAPTER LXXIV. The Future of Tibetan Diplomacy.

Tibet may be said to be menaced by three countries—England, Russia and Nepāl, for China is at present a negligible quantity as a factor in determining its future. The question is which of the three is most likely to become master of that table-land. It is evident that the three can never come to terms in regard to this question; at best England and Nepāl may combine for attaining their common object, but the combination of Russia with either of them is out of the question. Russia’s ambition in bringing Tibet under her control is too obviously at variance with the interest of the other two to admit of their coming to terms with her, for Russia’s occupation would be merely preparatory to the far greater end of making a descent on the fertile plains on the south side of the Himālayas by using Tibet as a base of operation. As circumstances stand, Nepāl has to confine her ambition to pushing her interests in Tibet by peaceful means. This is evidently the safest and most prudent plan for that country, seeing that when once that object has been attained her interest would remain unimpaired whether Tibet should fall into the hands of England or into those of Russia. After all, therefore, the future of Tibet is a problem to be solved between those two Powers. At present Russia has the ears of an important section of the ruling circles of Tibet, while on the other hand England has the mass of the Tibetan people on her side. The Russian policy, depending as it does on clever manœuvres and a free use of gold, is in danger of being upset by any sudden turn of affairs in Tibet, while the procedure of England being moderate and matter-of-fact is more lasting in its effect. Which policy is more likely to prevail cannot easily be determined, for though moderation and practical method will win in the long run, diplomacy is a ticklish affair and must take many other factors into consideration. At any rate England is warned to be on the alert, for otherwise Russia may steal a march upon her and upon Lhasa.

If the Russian troops should ever succeed in reaching Lhasa, that would open up a new era for Tibet, for the country would passively submit to the Russian rule. The Tibetans, it must be remembered, are thoroughly imbued with the spirit of negative fatalism, and the arrival of Russian troops in Lhasa would therefore be regarded as the inevitable effect of a predetermined causation, and therefore as an event that must be submitted to without resistance. The entry of those troops would never rouse the patriotic sentiment of the people. But the effect of this imaginary entry would constitute a serious menace to India. In fact, with Russia established in the natural strongholds of Tibet, India, it may be said, would be placed at the mercy of Russia, which could send her troops at any moment down to the fertile plains below. Thus would the dream of Peter the Great be realised, and of course the British supremacy on the sea would avail nothing against this overland descent across the Himālayas. Some may think that what I have stated is too extravagant, and is utterly beyond the sphere of possibility. I reply that any such thought comes from ignorance of the natural position of Tibet. Any person who has ever personally observed the immense strength which Tibet naturally commands must agree with me that its occupation by Russia would be followed sooner or later by that of India by the same aggressive power.

The question naturally arises: “Will Tibet then cease to be an independent country?” It is of course impossible to come to any positive conclusion about it, but from what I have observed and studied I cannot give a reassuring answer. The spirit of dependence on the strong is too deeply implanted in the hearts of the Tibetan people to be superseded now by the spirit of self-assertion and independence. During the long period of more than a thousand years, the Tibetan people has always maintained the idea of relying upon one or another great power, placing itself under the protection of one suzerain State or another, first India and then China. How far the Tibetans lack the manly spirit of independence may easily be judged from the following story about the Dalai Lama, who is unquestionably a man of character, gifted with energy and power of decision, who would be well qualified to lead his country to progress and prosperity did he possess modern knowledge and were he well informed of the general trend of affairs abroad. He is thoroughly familiar with the condition of his own people, and has done much towards satisfying popular wishes, redressing grievances and discouraging corrupt practices. If ever there were a man in Tibet whose heart was set on maintaining the independence of the country, it must be the Dalai Lama. So I had thought, but my fond hope was rudely shaken, and I was left in despair about the future of Tibet.

This supreme chief of the Lama Hierarchy has recently undergone a complete change in his attitude towards England. Formerly whenever England opened some negotiation with Tibet, the Dalai Lama was overcome by great perturbation, while any display of force on the part of England invariably plunged him into the deepest anxiety. He was often seen on such occasions to shut himself up in a room and, refusing food or rest, to be absorbed in painful reflexions. Now all is changed, and the same Dalai Lama regards all threats or even encroachments with indifference or even defiance. For instance, when England, chiefly to feel the attitude of Tibet and not from any object of encroachment, included, when fixing the boundary, a small piece of land that had formerly belonged to Tibet, the Dalai Lama was not at all perturbed. Instead of that he is said to have talked big and breathed defiance, saying that he would make England rue this sooner or later. His subjects, it is reported, were highly impressed on this occasion and they began to regard him as a great hero.

For my part this sudden change in the behavior of the supreme Lama only caused me to heave a heavy sigh for the future of Tibet. It cruelly disillusioned me of the great hopes I had reposed in his character for the welfare of his country. The reason why the Grand Lama, who was at first as timid as a hare towards England, should become suddenly as bold as a lion, is not far to seek. The conclusion of a secret treaty with Russia was at the bottom of the strange phenomenon. Strong in the idea that Russia, as she had promised the Dalai Lama, would extend help whenever his country was threatened by England, he who had formerly trembled at the mere thought of the possibility of England’s encroachment began now to hurl defiance at her. He may even have thought that the arrival of a large number of arms from Russia would enable Tibet to resist England single-handed. In short, the Dalai Lama believed that Russia being the only country in the world strong enough to thwart England, therefore he need no longer be harassed by any fear of the latter country.

With the Dalai Lama—perhaps one of the greatest Lama pontiffs that has ever sat on the throne—given up shamelessly, and even with exultation, to that servile thought of subserviency, and with no great men prepared to uphold the independence of the country, Tibet must be looked upon as doomed. All things considered therefore, unless some miracle should happen, she is sure to be absorbed by[530] some strong Power sooner or later, and there is no hope that she will continue to exist as an independent country.

-- Three Years in Tibet, by Shramana Ekai Kawaguchi
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