Exploring Chinese History
- Rebellion and Revolution -

Domestic Uprisings


Nien Rebellion 1853-1868

In the early 1850s, the Chinese living in the Yellow River (Huang Ho) valley suffered famine because of repeated flooding of the river; many of them joined outlaw bands, called nien, which had been plundering the provinces of Anhwei, Honan, and Shantung during the first half of the century. While the Manchu (Ch'ing, Quing) government was preoccupied with the Taiping Rebellion in the south, the Nien bands formed armies, notably under the leadership of Chang Lohsing (d. 1863), and fortified their villages and took advantage of the mobility of their strong cavalry to harass and evade imperial troops seeking to crush them. The soon controlled a large area in north China that was virtually independent of the rest of the country. However, their movement lacked strong direction after Chang Lo-hsing was killed, and the Nien were unable to coordinate their actions with the Taiping rebels in the south. Imperial forces led successively by Generals Seng-ko-linch'in (d. 1865), Tseng Kuo-fan (1811-72), and Li Huang-chang (1823-1901) surrounded the Nien fortresses, starved them into submission, and sacked their strongholds. By 1868, the rebels were defeated, and the emperor's forces were again in command of their area.

Miao Uprising 1855-1872

In southwest China, the Miao people mounted a long, ultimately unsuccessful rising against the Manchus.

Panthay Uprising in China 1855-1861

In Yunnan, the Muslim Panthays unsuccessfully rose against the Manchus.

Muslim Rebellion in China 1863-1877

Muslim tribes in Eastern or Chinese Turkistan, west of Tibet, rebelled against their Manchu (Ch'ing) overlords in 1863. They were led by Yakub Beg (1820-77), who established an independent government at Kashgar. The Russian government, which controlled the adjacent territory, feared the revolt would spread to their lands and with this pretext sent Russian troops to occupy the northern areas of Turkistan around Kuldja on the Ili River in 1871. The following year the Russians concluded a commercial treaty with Beg, thereby recognizing his sovereignty. But the Manchus did not take rebellions lightly and ordered General Tso Tsung-t'ang (1812-85) to restore order in Turkistan. The general and his army advanced very slowly over the rough terrain and by 1876 reached Kashgar. There Beg's forces were beaten in battle, and by 1877, the defeated Muslims again acknowledged China's authority over them. The Russians were reluctant to leave the territory they had occupied, but in 1881 agreed to a treaty in which most of the land reverted to China and Russia received 9 million rubles to pay for the cost of the occupation.

Ili Province Rebellion in China 1864

In Ili province, the Dungan and Taranchi tribes rebelled against the Chinese authorities in 1864.  They had moderate support from Russia, who had recently occupied regions to the west of Ili province.  Later in the year, after expelling Chinese forces from the region, they joined forces with the Muslim uprising, to form one whole region where the Chinese authority was no longer in control.  Yakub Beg declared an independent government, which the Dungan and Taranchi tribes recognized as legitimate and submitted to its rule.

Tientsin Massacre in China 1870

Many Chinese scholars and followers of China's many religions resented the white Christian missionaries who had flocked to China in the mid-19th century, and to stir up the common people they frequently circulated rumors that the foreigners were sorcerers. The French Sisters of Charity at their orphanage in the city of Tientsin (Tianjin) used to give small cash rewards to people who brought in homeless or unwanted children, which gave rise to the rumor that children were being abused, kidnapped, used for witchcraft or eaten. On June 21, 1870, and angry Chinese crowd led by a local magistrate stood outside the orphanage; the French consul ordered his guards to fire on the mob to disperse it. Enraged by this, the Chinese stormed and sacked the orphanage, killing in the process 18 foreigners, including the consul and 10 nuns. A storm of protest issued from both Paris and Rome, and Western naval ships sailed to Tientsin. France demanded severe punishment for those responsible; 16 Chinese were executed, and China officially apologized to France.


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