Tz'u-hsi, the Empress Dowager

Biographies and Glossary

Alliance Society - see Revolutionary Alliance

Chang Chih-tung (Zhang Zhidong) (1837-1909) - Senior Imperial official.  A capable moderate reformer, ethnically Chinese rather than Manchu.

Chao Ping-chün (Zhao Binglin) (died 1914) - Corrupt Premier, 1912-1913.  Chao was implicated in the assassination of Sung Chiao-jen in 1913, and was himself probably murdered a year later.  Both killings were presumably at the order of Yüan Shih-k’ai.

Ch’en Chiung-ming  (Chen Jiongming) - South Chinese warlord.  He held Canton from 1920-1923, first aligned with and then opposed to Sun Yat-sen.  Ch’en was finally defeated by the Kuomintang.

Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi) (1887-1975) - Conservative Nationalist leader; dominated the Republic of China from the late 1920’s to the late 1940’s.  Ambitious, tenacious, methodical, ruthless, and catastrophically inflexible.  Rural gentry background; military education, including several years in Japan.  Chiang aligned with the radical Sun Yat-sen and participated in the 1911 Revolution.  In the early 1920’s, he worked closely with Soviet advisers in rebuilding Kuomintang military strength, but upon gaining dominance over the party after Sun’s death, Chiang violently turned against the left in 1926-1927.  He led the Northern Expedition, gaining control of a sort over most of China in 1926-1928, but failed to use the opportunity to enforce any meaningful reform.  In the 1930’s he was unable to suppress the communists or to check the Japanese, who seized Manchuria in 1931 and launched a full-scale war in 1937.  Although he outlasted the Japanese invasion and was in a seemingly strong position at the end of World War II, he was subsequently defeated by Mao’s communists and driven from the mainland in 1949; afterwards, he despotically ruled Taiwan until his death.

Ch’iu Chin (Qiu Jin) (mid 1870’s-1907) - Early revolutionary feminist.  Well educated; swashbuckling personality.  Left her conventional family to study in Japan, 1904-1906, where she become involved in Chinese radical politics.  Headed the revolutionary Ta-t’ung School in Chekiang province in 1907 until it was attacked and captured by Imperial troops; Ch’iu was executed soon afterwards.

Ch’un (Tsai-feng) (Zai-feng) (died 1951) - Prince Regent 1908-1911, father of child-Emperor Pu-yi.  Chosen as Regent by the dying Empress Dowager, Ch’un was ill-informed, inexperienced, and inept.  A few months after the outbreak of the 1911 Revolution, Yüan maneuvered him out of power.

Chu Teh (Zhu De) (1886-1976) - Communist military leader; tough and very capable.  Poor peasant background; successful career as an army officer; active in the 1911 Revolution; secretly joined the communists in the early 1920’s; in revolt against the Nationalist government from 1927.  In the 1930’s he fought alongside Mao in south China and participated in the Long March.  Was the Communist military commander in WWII and in the Civil War of the late 1940’s.  Leading figure in the early years of the People’s Republic; denounced in the Cultural Revolution but soon restored to power.

Deng Xiaoping (Teng Hsiao-p’ing in Wade-Giles) (1904-1997) - Communist leader.  From a wealthy Szechwan family.  Joined the communists while studying in France in the early 1920’s; participated in the Long March, 1934-1935; active in the war against Japan. Deng held high posts in the early years of the People’s Republic, developing a reputation as a pragmatist; nonetheless, his career was temporarily derailed by the Cultural Revolution.  By 1977 he had become the dominant figure in China, encouraging extensive reform in the 1980’s, but brutally suppressing the pro-democracy movement in 1989.

Empress Dowager - see Tz’u-hsi

Hsiung Hsi-ling (Xiong Xiling) - Ineffective but well-intentioned Premier, 1913-1914.

Hsüan-tung - see Pu-yi

Huang Hsing  (Huang Xing) - Associate of Sun Yat-sen’s.  A veteran revolutionary, he was a co-founder with Sun of the Revolutionary Alliance in 1905; active in the 1911 Revolution; part of Sun’s brief Nanking government in early 1912; participated in the ‘Second Revolution’ of 1913, but broke with Sun after its failure.

Kang Yu-wei  (Kang Youwei) (1858-1927) - Imperial reformer and utopian philosopher.  Well educated in both traditional and modern subjects, he was a senior adviser in the Hundred Days Reform in 1898, but when the reform movement was suppressed by the Empress Dowager, Kang was forced to flee into exile.  He remained a monarchist, and by the Revolution of 1911 he was generally regarded as an anachronism.

KMT - see Kuomintang

Kuomintang (KMT, National People’s Party, the Nationalists, Guomindang) - The political party associated with Sun Yat-sen and later with Chiang Kai-shek.  It was founded in Aug.1912 as the radical-democratic successor to the underground Revolutionary Alliance.  It won a strong victory in the late 1912/early 1913 elections, but was forced into revolt and suppressed by Yüan later that year.  The party was in eclipse until Sun established a base in South China in the early 1920’s, and with Soviet assistance he revived the KMT as a highly centralized organization.  After Sun’s death in 1925, Chiang gained control of the KMT and used it to reconquer China - more or less - in 1926-1928.  At the same time, Chiang pushed the KMT to the right and violently attacked the party’s left wing, which largely split off into the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), beginning a prolonged, vicious civil war.  The two parties reached a shaky accord in 1936, becoming nominal allies against Japan until 1945.  Fighting with the CCP broke out again in 1946, and by 1949 the KMT was driven off the mainland to Taiwan, where it continued to rule.

Kuang-hsü (Guangxu) (1871-1908) - Liberal Manchu Emperor.  He was installed as Emperor in 1875 by his aunt, the formidable Empress Dowager, who dominated the government even after Kuang-hsü began his personal rule in 1889.  His attempted Hundred Days Reform in 1898 ended with the Empress Dowager seizing control and imprisoning Kuang-hsü, though she was unable to dethrone him.  His death in 1908 - one day before his aunt’s - was very probably a murder.

Liang Ch’i-ch’ao (Liang Qichao) (1873-1929) - Reformist leader.  Well educated; active in the Hundred Days Reform in 1898; fled abroad when the reform movement collapsed.  He advocated a constitutional monarchy, rather than Sun Yat-sen’s radical republicanism.  Liang was active in politics as a moderate in the early years of the Republic, opposing the early KMT to his left and the dictatorial Yüan Shih-k’ai to his right.

Li Yuan-hang (Li Huan-hung; Li Yuanhong) (1864-1928) - Ineffective moderate-conservative Republican politician.  Li happened to be garrison commander at Wuhan when the 1911 Revolution broke out; although not a radical, he was dragged boot-first from under his wife’s bed by rebel soldiers and named the revolutionary commander.  He went on to hold a variety of high offices in the early years of the Republic, including two terms as President (1916-1917 and 1922-1923).

Lin Piao  (Lin Biao) (1907-1971) - Communist military leader.  Joined the Party in 1927; participated in the Long March in 1934-1935; fought against the Japanese; leading role in the Chinese Civil War in the late 1940’s; prominent in the early People’s Republic; Defense Minister from 1959.  From 1966, Lin was a key architect of the Cultural Revolution and was second in power to Mao, but he fell from favor and died in a plane crash in 1971 while attempting to flee to the Soviet Union with his family.

Lu Cheng-hsiang (Lu Zhengxiang) - Highly ineffective Premier, 1912.

Mao Tse-tung (Mao Zedong) (1893-1976) - Revolutionary leader and Communist ruler.  Son of a prosperous peasant from the heartland province of Hunan; relatively well-educated; served in the 1911 Revolution; active in the May 4th Movement in 1919.  Soon after, he gravitated from liberal radicalism to Marxism and helped found the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1921.  He worked with the Kuomintang 1924-1927, during which time he developed the unorthodox idea of turning the peasants into a revolutionary force.  With Chiang’s bloody crackdown on communists in 1927, Mao began 22 hard years of armed rebellion and soon developed a marked tendency toward brutality.  After prolonged fighting, his rural power base in the south was crushed, but the remnants of his forces escaped to northwest China in the epic Long March of 1934-1935, in the course of which Mao secured control of the CCP.  The Japanese invasion partially interrupted the civil war, but it was renewed on an even larger scale after WWII; by 1949 Chiang was driven from the mainland and Mao proclaimed the People’s Republic.  Finally in power, he grew megalomaniacal and pursued ruinous policies: intellectuals were suppressed in the Hundred Flowers campaign of 1956-1957, the economy was wrecked in the Great Leap Forward of 1958-1960, and China was nearly shattered in the cataclysmic Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976.  Certainly one of the giants of the 20th Century, he succeeded in his goal of stabilizing China, but at a colossal cost in human suffering.

Peiyang clique (Beiyang clique) - An informal group of conservative, professionally trained army officers, loyal to Yüan.  Emerged ~1903 in north China; generally opposed the 1911 Revolution; gained control of the lower Yangtze provinces after the Second Revolution in the summer of 1913.  Many of the clique went on to become the warlords that dominated China from WWI to the 1920’s.

Henry Pu-yi (P’u-I, Hsüan-t’ung, Xuantong) (1906-1967) - The last Emperor of China and long-time political pawn.  Nephew of Emperor Kuang-hsü and grand-nephew of the Empress Dowager, who named him Imperial heir just before her death; reigned as a child-Emperor 1908-1912.  He was dethroned upon the establishment of the Republic, but was allowed to continue to reside in the Forbidden City with a lavish allowance.  Driven out by a warlord in 1924; installed as puppet ruler of Manchuria by the Japanese, 1932-1945.  Prisoner of the Soviet Union, 1945-1950; prisoner of the People’s Republic, 1950-1959.  Pardoned after renouncing any claim to Imperial status, 1959.  After living quietly as a common citizen in Peking, he died suddenly during the Cultural Revolution.

Revolutionary Alliance (Alliance Society, United League, Sworn Brotherhood, T’ung-meng hui, or Tongmeng hui) - Loose federation of anti-Manchu groups, founded in Tokyo in 1905 by Sun Yat-sen.  It organized several failed revolts.  The 1911 Revolution was set off by an impromptu rising by troops associated with the Revolutionary Alliance.

Restoration Society - Group of anti-Manchu intellectuals.  Active in 1904-1907; revived in opposition to Sun Yatsen’s Revolutionary Alliance in 1910; fades away from 1912

Sun Yat-sen (Sun Zhongshan) (1866-1925) - The father of the Republic of China.  Rebellious, charismatic, committed, and relatively cosmopolitan - but sometimes politically naïve.  From a poor peasant family in south China, he spent his adolescence in Hawaii where he received a good education and exposure to Western ideas.  Converted to Christianity; trained as a physician.  From 1894, he was a radical political activist, organizing secret groups among overseas Chinese and plotting revolt in the homeland.  His dominance of the anti-Manchu movement was secured with establishment of the Revolutionary Alliance in 1905.  After many failed revolts, the sudden success of the unplanned 1911 Revolution surprised Sun; he became provisional President of China on Jan.01, 1912, but within a few months turned the presidency over to the powerful general Yüan Shih-k’ai to ensure the survival of the revolution.  This proved a major mistake - Yüan soon turned against Sun’s radical Kuomintang party, a ‘Second Revolution’ in 1913 failed, Sun was again forced to flee abroad, and the Republic soon disintegrated into a welter of warlord’s fiefs.  After years of machinations, Sun was finally able to establish a power base in Canton in 1923 and was rebuilding the Kuomintang with Soviet aid when he died in 1925.  Within a year, the revitalized Kuomintang began the reconquest of China, although the direct beneficiary of Sun’s last efforts was the far more conservative Chiang Kai-shek.

Sung Chiao-jen (Song Jiaoren) - Dynamic KMT leader, largely responsible for the party’s landslide 1912/1913 election victory.  His assassination in Mar.1913 - presumably on the orders of President Yüan - marks the beginning of the collapse of parliamentary rule.

T’ang Shao-i  (Tang Shao-yi) - Briefly served as Premier in spring 1912, resigning over a clash with President Yüan

T’ao Ch’eng-chang (Tao Cheng-shang) (1878-1912) - Early Chinese revolutionary.  Leading member of the Restoration Society; opposed Sun Yat-sen; assassinated in 1912, probably by Chiang Kai-shek.

Teng Hsiao-p’ing - see Deng Xiaoping

Tsai-feng - see Ch’un

Tsou Jung (Zou Rong) (~1885-1905) - Pioneering Chinese revolutionary.  In 1903, the eighteen-year-old Tsou published the influential The Revolutionary Army, perhaps the first Chinese manifesto advocating the overthrow of the monarchy and a full-scale social revolution.  He died in prison not long afterwards.

T’ung-meng hui - see Revolutionary Alliance

Tz’u-hsi (The Empress Dowager, Yehonala, or Ci-xi) (1835-1908) - The dominant figure for most of the last half-century of the Manchu (Ch’ing) Dynasty: fiercely ambitious and brilliant at court intrigue, but reactionary and narrow-minded.  A junior concubine to the Emperor Hsien-feng, she ruthlessly rose to power after his death in 1861, and reduced the emperors T’ung-chih (1862-1874) and Kuang-hsü (1875-1908) to figureheads.  Early in her ascendancy, she presided over a partial restoration of Imperial power after the disaster of the Taiping Revolt, but overall her rule was demoralizing and corrupt.  Despite the shock of defeat by Japan in 1894-1895, she harshly suppressed Kuang-hsü’s 1898 attempt at desperately needed reform and had him imprisoned.  In 1900, she supported the Boxer Rebellion, narrowly evading punishment by the foreign powers when the revolt collapsed.  After this fiasco, she finally sponsored reforms to appease internal and foreign opposition.  This weak attempt at reform was to no avail, and the monarchy collapsed only three years after her death.

United League - see Revolutionary Alliance

Wang Ching-wei (Wang Jingwei) (1883-1944) - Kuomintang leader who collaborated with the Japanese in WWII.  Active in the Revolutionary Alliance; closely associated with Sun Yat-sen, 1917-1925; led the left wing of the KMT and strongly opposed the rise of Chiang Kai-shek, but reached an uneasy accord with him in the early 1930’s.  In 1938, Wang publicly urged the KMT to sue for peace; in 1940, the Japanese installed him as head of a puppet regime in Nanking.  Wang died of natural causes in 1944.

Yüan Shih-k’ai (Yuan Shikai) (1859-1916) - Imperial general and unscrupulous political leader.  From a mandarin family; experienced career military officer; organized the modern Chinese army (the ‘New Army’) from the 1890’s.  After fighting against the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, he rose to the highest levels in the Imperial regime, but was dismissed upon the death of his patron the Empress Dowager in 1908.  When the 1911 Revolution broke out, the desperate Manchu Court recalled Yüan, but he insisted on terms that effectively gave him control of the Peking government.  He quickly cut a deal with Sun Yat-sen’s revolutionaries: in return for forcing the last Emperor to abdicate on Feb.12, 1912, Yüan became President of the new Republic.  He was soon undercutting the revolutionaries and when they attempted a revolt in 1913 (the ‘Second Revolution’) they were easily crushed by Yüan’s New Army.  He then moved openly to suppress parliamentary government and began preparations to restore the monarchy.  But he had gone too far; Japanese hostility and internal opposition undermined him, and by the time he proclaimed himself Emperor in early 1916, his power was collapsing.   He died soon afterwards.  In bringing the army into politics, he set the stage for the rise of the warlords.

Place Names Mentioned in the Timeline

(Cities are in regular font - provinces are in bold font -  the province that a city is located in, or the part of China a province is located in, is shown in brackets)

Amoy [Fukien]  Xiamen
Anhwei  [central]  Anhui
Anking  [Anhwei]  Anqing
Canton  [Kwangtung]  Guangzhou
Chankiang  [Kwangtung]  Zhanjiang
Chaochow  [Kwangtung]  Chaozhou
Chekiang  [central]  Zhejiang
Chengtu [Szechwan] Chengdu
Ch’in-chou  [Kwangtung] Qinzhou (Qinxian)
Ch’ingchiang  [Kiangsu] Qingjiang
Chiuchiang (Kiukiang)  [Kiangsi]  Jiujiang
Chungking   [Szechwan]  Chongqing
Enshih  [Hupei] Enshi
Fengch’eng  [Kwangsi]  Fengcheng
Fukien  [south]  Fujian
Haiyang  [Shantung] Haiyang
Hankow  [Hupeh]  Hankou
Hanyang  [Hupeh]  Hanyang
Hok’ou (Hokow)  [Yunnan] Hekou
Honan  [north]  Henan
Hopei (Hopeh, Chihli[north] Hebei
Hsuanch’eng  [Anwhei]  Xuancheng
Hukow  [Kiangsi]  Hukou
Hupei (Hupeh) Hubei
Hwangkang  [Hupeh]  Huanggang
Juichang  [Kiangsi] Ruichang
Kanchou  [Kiangsi] Ganzhou
Kansu   [north]  Gansu
Kaomi   [Shantung] Gaomi
Kiangsi   [central] Jiangxi
Kiangsu   [central]  Jiangsu
Kiaohsien   [Shantung] Jiao Xian (Jiaozhou)
Kiukiang   [Kiangsi] Jiujiang
Kunming   [Yunnan]  Kunming
Kwangshan   [Honan]  Guangshan
Kwangsi   [south]  Guangxi
Kwangtung   [south]  Guangdong
Kweichou   [south]  Guizhou
Kwoyang   [Anwhei] Guoyang
Laiyang   [Shantung] Laiyang
Lienhsien   [Kwangtung] Lianzhou
Nanchang   [Kiangsi]  Nanchang
Nanking   [Kiangsu] Nanjing
Ningpo (Ninghsien)   [Chekiang] Ningbo
Paoting   [Hopei]  Baoding
Peking   [Hopei]  Beijing
P’ing-hsiang Pingjiang
Shanghai   [Kiangsu] Shanghai
Shansi   [north]  Shanxi
Shantung  [north]  Shandong
Shaohing   [Chekiang]  Shaoxing
Shensi   [north]  Shaanxi
Sian   [Kiangsu] Xian
Siangsiang  [Hunan]  Xiangxiang
Sinkiang  [central asia]  Xinjiang
Suancheng (Ningkwo)  [Anwhei] Xuancheng
Szechwan    [central] Sichuan
Tienshui  [Kansu]  Tianshui
Tientsin   [Hopei] Tianjin
Tsinan  [Shantung] Jinan
Tsingtao  [Shantung] Qingdao
(Wuhan)  [Hupei] (Wuhan)
Wuchang  [Hupei]  Wuchang
Yuhsien  [Shansi]  Yuxian


China, 1904-1914: Introduction   ///   (1) Attempts at Imperial Reform and the Rise of Chinese Radicalism, 1904-1907

(2) The Final Years of Imperial China, 1908-1910   ///  (3) The First Chinese Revolution, 1911

(4) The Birth of the Chinese Republic, 1912   ///  (5) The Collapse of Parliamentary Government, 1913-1914