This series has seven easy 5 minute installments. This first installment: China Republic Announced.
This Chinese Revolution burst into sudden blaze in October, 1911, and reached a triumphant close on February 12, 1912, when the Royal Edict, given in the following article, was proclaimed at Peking. In this remarkable edict the ancient sovereigns of China deliberately abdicated, and declared the Chinese Republic established.
We give here the account of the revolution itself and of its causes, by the well-known English writer on Eastern affairs, Robert Machray. Then comes a discussion of the doubtful wisdom of the movement by a European official who has long dwelt in China, Mr. Reginald F. Johnston, District Officer of Wei-hai-wei. Then a patriotic Chinaman, educated in one of the colleges of America, gives the enthusiastic view of the revolutionists themselves, their opinion of their victories, and their high hopes for the future.
The selections are from:
- The Situation in the Far East by Robert Machray published in magazine article.
- by Reginald F. Johnston.
- by Tai-Chi Quo.
For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Summary of daily installments:
|Robert Machray’s installments:||4|
|R.F. Johnston’s installments:||2|
|Tai-Chi Quo’s installments:||1|
We begin with Robert Machray.
With Yuan Shih-kai acknowledged as President by both the north and the south, by Peking and Nanking alike, “The Great Republic of China,” as it is called by those who have been mainly instrumental in bringing it into being, appears to have established itself, or at least it enters upon the first definite stage of its existence. Thus opens a fresh volume, of extraordinary interest as of incalculable importance, in the history of the Far East.
Even in the days of the great and autocratic Dowager Empress, Tzu Hsi, who had no love for “reform,” but knew how to accept and adapt herself to the situation, it was evident that a change, deeply influencing the political life and destinies of China, was in process of development. After her death, in 1908, the force and sweep of this momentous movement were still more apparent — it took on the character of something irresistible and inevitable; the only question was whether the change would be accomplished by way of evolution — gradual, orderly, and conservative — or by revolution, or a series of revolutions, probably violent and sanguinary, and perhaps disastrous to the dynasty and the country. The events of the last few months have supplied the answer — at any rate, to a certain extent. A successful revolution has taken place, in which, it is true, many thousands have been killed, but which on the whole has not been attended by the slaughter and carnage that might have been anticipated considering the vastness of the country and the enormous interests involved. Actual warfare gave way to negotiations conducted in a spirit of moderation and of give-and-take on the part of all concerned. The Manchu dynasty has collapsed, though the “Emperor” still remains as a quasi-sacred, priestly personage, and the princes have been pensioned off. The Great Republic of China has come into being, albeit it is in large measure inchoate and, as it were, on trial. China has long been the land of rebellions and risings, and it is hardly to be expected that the novel republican form of government, however well constructed, intentioned, or conducted, will escape altogether from internal attacks. And nearly everything has yet to be done in organization.
General surprise has been expressed at the comparative ease and speed with which the revolutionary movement has attained success in driving the Manchus from power and in founding a republican regime. The factor which chiefly contributed to this success was undoubtedly the weakness of the Manchu dynasty and of the Imperial Clan, who, hated by the Chinese and without sufficient resources of their own, were utterly unable to offer any real resistance to the rebellious provinces of the south, the loyalty of their troops being uncertain, and any spirit or gift of leadership among themselves having disappeared with the passing of the great Tzu Hsi in 1908. But it is a mistake to imagine that the idea of a republican form of government in place of the centuries-old, autocratic, semi-divine monarchy, was something that had never been mooted before and was entirely unknown to the Chinese. To the great majority, no doubt, it was, if known at all, something strange and hardly intelligible, as it still is. But in the south, especially on and near the coast, it has been familiar for some time; among the possibilities of the future it was not unknown even to the “Throne.” Fourteen years ago, after the coup d’etat by which Tzu Hsi smashed the reform movement that had been patronized by the Emperor Kuang Hsu, the then Viceroy of Canton stated in a memorial to her that among some treasonable papers found at the birthplace of Kang Yu-wei, the leading reformer of the time, a document had been discovered which not only spoke of substituting a republic for the monarchy, but actually named as its first president one of the reformers she had caused to be executed. It must be admitted, on the other hand, that the idea has been imported into China comparatively recently; the Chinese language contains no word for republic, but one has been coined by putting together the words for self and government; it must be many years before the masses of the Chinese — the “rubbish people,” as Lo Feng-lu, a former minister to England, used to call them — have any genuine understanding of what a republic means.
The Manchus were in power for nearly two hundred and seventy years, and during that period there were various risings, some of a formidable character, against them and in favor of descendants of the native Ming dynasty which they had displaced; powerful secret organizations, such as the famous “Triad Society,” plotted and conspired to put a Ming prince on the throne; but all was vain. It had come to be generally believed that the race of the Mings had died out, but a recent dispatch from China speaks of there still being a representative in existence, who possibly might give serious trouble to the new republic. In any case, for a long time past the Mings had ceased to give the Manchus any concern; the pressure upon the latter came from outside the empire, but that in its turn reacted profoundly on the internal situation.
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