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Songs of Oh dear, Oh dear! PDF Print E-mail
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Books - The Opium War Through Chinese Eyes
Written by Richard Morris   

THE English captured Chen-hai, on the mainland opposite Ting-hai, on October ro, r 84i ; three days later the great city of Ningpo, about twelve miles inland up the Yung River, was also taken. On October i8th I-ching (b. 1793; d. 1853), a cousin of the Emperor, was ordered to go to Chekiang and take the command of a great counter-offensive, the main objective of which was to be the recapture of Chen-hai and Ningpo. As a junior officer he served at Kashgar in the campaign against the Moslem rebel Jehangir in 1826; but he had never held any high Military command. He seems to have been chosen on this occasion simply owing to the Emperor's high opinion of his general capacities. The Chinese being unencumbered by notions about 'tempting Providence' or 'counting chickens before they are hatched', the Emperor thought it auspicious to give him as a parting present a cornelian snuff-bottle on the front of which was the inscription 'Sweep away the murk and grime', and on the back was carved the figure of a horseman carrying a red banner, who seemed to be hastening onward to armounce a victory. From Peking I-ching (whom I shall henceforward call 'the General') went south to Soochow, where he awaited the arrival of about r 2,000 regular troops from other parts of China,' to be joined later by 33,000 local militia. At Soochow local officials, merchants and scholars were encouraged to offer their services to the expedition. A hundred and forty-four responded, among whom was a man of about thirty called Pei Ch'ing-ch'iao, whose father urged him to enlist: 'My father was fond of talking about military matters. He had formerly served on the staff of Lu K`un [177z-183s]. But it had not fallen to his lot to accompany Lu either during the campaign [1826-8] against the Moslem leader Jehangir or during that against the Yao aborigines [in Hunan in 1834 My father mentioned how much it weighed upon his mind that he had missed these campaigns. When the English foreigners began their havoc in Fuhkien and Chekiang I expressed my indignation by writing a set of nine poems. My father read them and said, "If you feel so strongly about it, why don't you join the army?" Upon this I went straight to headquarters and offered my services.' When Pei Ch'ing-ch'iao was starting, his father gave him a sword and at the same time a poem in which he warned his son that unless he used it to cut off the foreign chieftain's head he would not be welcome on his return.,But young Pei's services were destined to be achieved with the pen, not with the family sword. When the war was over he wrote a long and detailed account' of the campaign as seen through the eyes of a temporary staff-officer. It takes the form of a series of poems linked by long passages of prose. To the Western reader the form seems an odd one for what is in fact an extremely clear and factual account of military staff-work, accountancy, transport and field operations. But this mixed literary form, in which verses (or perhaps more accurately songs) are expanded and explained in passages of prose, has a long history in China. It is usually supposed to be due to the influence of Indian Buddhist scriptures, in which stanzas of song (gothas) alternate with prose developments ; but something very like it is found in purely native Taoist works that are long anterior to the coming of Buddhism into China. The title of Pei Ch'ing-ch'iao's book (Tu-tu Yin) means 'Songs of Oh dear, Oh dear I', and is an allusion to the story of Yin Hao, a fourth-century A.D. general, who after he was cashiered did nothing but sit all day tracing with his finger in the air the words 'Oh dear, Oh dear, what an odd business!'

A wooden box, Pei tells us, was set up outside the gate of the General's camp. Those who wished to offer their services as extra members of his headquarters staff put their visiting cards into the box and after three days were inter-viewed and given jobs according to their capacities. People with special experience in dealing with foreigners were also invited to drop into the box written documents about the best way to handle the present campaign; and no less than four hundred such essays were received. The Genpral had brought with him from Peking a number of officials, qualified as deputies capable of acting in his name. They regarded themselves as Junior Commissioners and insisted on being addressed as Ta-j en (Your Excellency), a title presently also usurped by several of the volunteer staff-members ; so that soon the whole camp seemed to be swarming with Excellencies. Later on when the General had moved on to Chia-hsing, about fifty miles south of Soochow, the Excellencies began to be afraid that critics might use the 'box' as a means of exposing their false pretensions, and at their request it was removed. This also brought to an end the recruitment of staff-volunteers.

It was believed that many spies and collaborators with the English were at large, and at the General's camp the most rigid measures were taken to prevent the entry of un-authorized persons and to preserve secrecy. No one was allowed in or out of the camp without showing his pass. No report was allowed to be made verbally, for fear it should be overheard. Instead, everything that had to be communicated was written on an ivory slab and wiped out as soon as read. Believing that dispatches intended for him were being tampered with by Liu Yiin-leo, the Governor of Chekiang, General I-ching (the General') organized a special postal service of his own. A dispatch of the utmost secrecy, concerning the posting of 'inner-responders' or, as we should say, the Fifth Column, in Ningpo, was entrusted to an orderly to take to the forward camp at Ts'ao-e-chiang, about eighty miles north-west of Ningpo. Not knowing the way there, the orderly asked a regular postal official who thought that Ts'ao-e-chiang (a very small village) was near Wu-sung, far away to the north. By the time the orderly had found out this mistake and returned to the General's camp, the attempt to retake Ningpo had already failed and the attacking armies were in headlong retreat.

Pei Ch'ing-ch'iao's first assignment after joining up was to go to Ningpo to report on the present disposition of the English forces there and also on the various routes by which Ningpo could be approached. The English were handicapped throughout the war by lack of good maps ; but so too were the Chinese. After a mild adventure during which he was mistaken for a spy, seized by peasants hired by a rich landlord to protect his property and brought before the local authorities, he was released upon showing the pass concealed under his coat. He was then furnished with guides and brought to the Salt-store Gate of Ningpo. On the wall there dangled a man's head, with underneath it a placard in large letters, saying 'This is the head of the Manchu official Lii T'ai-lai, who came here to obtain military information'. 'I knew', says Pei, 'that Lii T'ai-lai had been sent by the General.' Pei was cross-examined again and again, but at last was let through. He found that in the city there were fewer than three hundred English troops and only two warships anchored in the harbour. 'The senior officer', he reported, 'is the so-called Plenipotentiary Pottinger. Anstruther, Morrison and Ma-kung-t'ai [Malcolm?) are the so-called Grand Commanders by land and sea.'

Major Peter Anstruther was by no means a 'Grand Commander', but he was well known in Ningpo owing to the fact that he was held prisoner there for about eight months in 184.0 and 1841 , and gained immense prestige owing to the skill with which he drew the portraits of his captors. He had been seized by local peasants when land-surveying in the neighbourhood of Ting-hai. John Robert Morrison, son of the first Protestant missionary to China, was of course an interpreter, not a military commander. But the expedition owed a great deal not merely to his linguistic powers, but also to his general advice about Chinese affairs, and the Chinese were not wrong in regarding him as one of the outstanding figures on the English side. `Gutzlaff', Pei continues, 'is the so-called Governor of Ningpo, Robert Thom acts as Prefect of Chen-hai, and Palmerston, otherwise known as Parker, as Prefect of Ting-hai.' Robert Thom was Morrison's fellow-interpreter. The English magistrate at Ting-hai was at this period Captain Dennis ; the Palmerston-Parker name is a mystery. 'At no place', Pei continues, 'have the pillage and rapine of the foreigners been worse than at Ningpo. Their main lair is the Ta-ch'eng Hall of the Office of Education. Here GutzlaffI trains the foreign troops every day. Pottinger comes there when he is in Ningpo, which happens only every few days, as he is nervous about leaving his ship. The woman singer of local airs, Yin Chang-yiian, has two daughters, whom she has given to Gutzlaff as his wives. Her adopted son Yii Te-ch`ang has made use of his position to enrich himself and inflate his own importance. He goes about wearing the insignia left behind by Commander Yii Pu-yiin [ who fled from the British advance in October 18411, cutting a most dashing figure. Everyone refers to him respectfully as "His Honour Yii the Second Uncle". A little white foreigner got drunk and tumbled off a boat into the Ningpo river. A crowd of foreign devils rushed to fish him out, but were too late. They encased his corpse in white sugar. Some say that he was Pottinger's son and that was why they buried him in sugar.
People of lower rank are not allowed to be buried in that way.

'In the cloisters of the temple of the Municipal God at Ningpo there are figures of the Black Death and the White Death, both of very savage aspect. When the English foreigners saw them they were overjoyed. "They are our ancestors" , they cried. "They ought not to be in this inferior position." So they destroyed the figures of the Municipal God and his demon lictor and put the White Death on the central throne, with the Black Death at the side, and they now come morning and evening to worship them.'

One might well imagine that Pei is here merely regaling the general reader with picturesque gossip and that his confidential report to the General, when he returned to camp, was of a more solid and useful nature. However, judging by official reports of Chinese agents sent as spies to other places occupied by the English, it seems likely that what Pei tells us here is not very different from what he told the General on his return. For example,' an agent smuggled into occupied Ting-hai in August 184o to collect military secrets regaled his employers with the information that a Ting-hai literary gentleman called Ch'en Chih-hsien had given his daughter to Colonel Burrell as concubine. The father had taken to dressing in European costume and was escorted wherever he went by a bodyguard of black and white soldiers. Sir James Gordon Bremer lives in the Temple of the Municipal God. He stripped off the God's clothes and dressed himself up in them, dressing the God in his own red uniform. That same evening he stabbed himself to .death with a dagger. The corpse was wrapped in a large red cloak, three musket volleys were fired, and they then buried him behind the shops at the back of the Brigade-General's office. . . . They carry off young men, shave their heads, paint their bodies with black lacquer, give them a drug which makes them dumb, and so turn them into black Devils, using them to carry heavy loads.' The only founda-tion for all these absurdities was that Brigadier-General Oglander, who (as we have seen, p. 113 above) died on the way from Macao, was buried at Ting-hai with full military honours shortly after the occupation.

Pei Ch'ing-ch'iao's next assignment was to superintend the making of five hundred rocket mortars. The model was an ancient specimen supplied by the aged Commander Tuan Yung-fu, and came from Ytinnan. Pei was ashamed, he says, that owing to the complete lack of experience of all con-cerned the best they could produce was a contrivance that looked as though it emanated from the pages of the Fire-dragon Book, a seventeenth-century treatise on artillery. These mortars were supposed to be used in setting fire to the sails and rigging of foreign ships, but do not seem ever to have come into action.

The date for the attack was originally fixed for February 9, 1842 (the last day of the Chinese year). Chang Ying-yiin, the General's personal representative, was already stationed at the advanced base eighty miles north-west of Ningpo, and every detail of the attack—which units were to be concealed in ambush, which were to advance openly—had been decided. 'At that time', says Pei, 'it seemed only a question of counting the days and waiting till the news of the victory arrived.' On New Year's Day (February oth) Wang Ch'eng-feng, a skilful painter of landscape and figures whom the General had with him in his camp, presented him with a picture entitled All Proceeds According to Plan. 'It had taken him several months to do. It was in a style of great refniement, closely akin to that of the best Academy painters of Northern Sung times. The General regarded it as a great treasure and asked many members of his staff to inscribe poems on it. Later it was carried off by the Assistant Commander Wen-wei [a Manchu; died 85s]. After the disaster at the Ch`ang-ch`i Pass [on March 16th] I don't know what became of it.'

The General, still far in the rear at Hangchow, went on New Year's Day to the temple of the God of War to pray for victory. He took the omens and drew a slip upon which was the verse:

If you are not hailed by humans with
the heads of tigers
I would not be prepared to vouch for your security.

Happily three days later a contingent of aborigines arrived from the Golden River district, all wearing tiger-skin caps. The General believed that this assured him of victory, and he gave handsome largesses to the tiger-men. 'After this tiger-skin caps became the rage in the General's army. There were yellow tiger-head caps, black ones, white ones, winged ones and so on. But when it came to the fighting they did not seem to help much. Someone wrote to the General saying that if a tiger's skull-bone was thrown into the Dragon's Pool this would make the dragon come to the surface and attack and sink the foreign ships. This too was tried, but to no effect. There were a great many literary men on the General's staff, and ten days before the attack commenced (January 31st) he ordered them to compose announcements of victory. Thirty of these were sent in, and the General arranged them in order of merit. The first place went to Miu Chia-ku who had composed a detailed and vivid account of the exploits of the various heroes. Second on the list was Ho Shih-ch`i (a fairly well-known calligrapher) who sent in a vast composition, full of classical tropes and brilliant felicities. Never had such prose been seen since the days when Chang Yiieh (667-73o) and Su T` ing (67o-727) carried all before them in the literary world!'

Difficulties arose because the General's right-hand man, Chang Ying-yi.in, now established at the forward base, began to assign the various units to the positions from which they were to advance to the great attack. The commanders of the troops brought in from other provinces were all superior to him in rank and were unwilling to take orders from him.

Determined that Chang should be obeyed, the General gave him a special Arrow of Command, and let it be known that anyone who disobeyed him, from Provincial Commanders-in-Chief downward, would be arrested and put on trial. No less than seventy volunteer staff-members were attached to Chang Ying-ydn's headquarters ; but he was extremely careful not to impart confidential information to any of them except the Deputy Governor Shu Kung-shou and the Prefect Yeh K`un. But both these men were on intimate terms with an exceedingly equivocal character called Lu Hsin-lant who, having at first worked for Gutzlaff, subsequently announced that he had repented of his treachery, and now undertook to recruit ruffians who were to kidnap the English leaders on the night of the attack. Henceforward all the General's efforts to maintain secrecy were in vain; moreover much of the secret information sent to the General's headqUarters (then at Shao-hsing, some ninety miles west of Ningpo) was founded on the concoctions of Lu Hsin-lan. In this way he learnt that 'seventeen brigades had already been secretly infiltrated into Ningpo and eleven into Chen-hai'. There was not a word of truth in this ; but it naturally seemed to the General that the recapture of the two towns was going to be 'as easy as turning over one's hand'. 'When the advance started', says Pei Ch'ing-ch'iao, was at the Camel Bridge at Ningpo [seven miles north-east of the town]. Imagine my astonishment when afterwards at the General's camp I found a secret dispatch saying that I and a Chen-hai man called Pao Tsu-ts'ai had lain in ambush with five hundred southern irregulars on the Chao-pao Hill [a mile or so north-east of Chen-hai] and had there fallen upon and captured an enemy battery!'

The unfortunate Golden River aborigines, who suffered so heavily during the campaign, were in trouble from the start. Soon after their arrival ten of them were sent out on patrol. They lost their way and stumbled into the camp of an officer who, misled by their unfamiliar language and costume and thinking that he saw in the writing on the tablets they wore at their waists some resemblance to European script, fell upon them at once. Three were badly wounded, flung themselves into the water and were drowned. The rest were trussed up and brought in triumph to Chang Ying-yiin's camp. An indignant riot broke out among the main body of aborigines, which only subsided when the officer who had made the mistake was carried off to prison and thirty of his men were publicly scourged.

Ts'ao-e-chiang, where Chang Ying-yiin had made his headquarters, was only a hamlet of a few hundred houses. Prices soon began to soar. Moreover peasants would only take copper-cash and the soldiers, who were paid in silver, could only get it changed at very disadvantageous rates. In the end the General set up four exchange officers, one for each of the principal bases, where silver was changed for cash at the normal rate. Characteristically he named the offices 'First Victory', 'Second Victory' and so on, numbering them, however, not with ordinary numerals, but with the first four characters of an ancient classic, the Book of Changes.

In order to follow up the 'tiger' omen (see above, p. '65) the General finally decided to attack on the twenty-eighth day of the first month (March loth), at the Hour of the Tiger (3 to 5 a.m.), 1842 being a 'tiger' year, the first month a 'tiger' month and the 2 8 th a 'tiger' day. This decision was not a whim of the General's, based on some personal super-stition. The selection of a'tiger' date for attack belonged to traditional Chinese war-magic. An example with which I happen to be familiar (and there are doubtless many others) is the battle in which the legendary boy-hero Han Ch'in-hu defeated the ruler of Ch` en, and so secured (A.D. 589) the unification of China under the Sui dynasty . 'What was the hour and what the season', asks the legend,' 'when he drew up his troops in this formation? It was a tiger year, a tiger month, a tiger day, a tiger hour.'

The secret of the day and hour, says Pei, was not well kept, and when the English heard of it they put up notices warning the inhabitants to flee and stuck up handbills inside and outside the walls bearing the words 'The Four Tigers'.
The evidence of the English accounts seems, however, to be that, though an attack had been expected week after week, the day and still less the hour were quite unknown to the English command, and no particular precautions were taken on the night of the 9th to oth. Gutzlaff, who besides being magistrate of Ningpo and official translator was also director of intelligence, had heard that an attack was imminent; but it appears, says Lieutenant Ouchterlony (The Chinese War, p. 229), 'that he did not express himself to the military authorities in a manner sufficiently marked to lead them to suppose that he himself attached credence to the report'.

The advance from the forward base at Ts'ao-e-chiang began on March Eth. As it was through well-populated country, it was assumed that the troops would be able to cater for themselves on the way, and they were not burdened with any rations. But the villagers, convinced that the soldiers would pillage their stocks without giving any pay, fled when the army approached, carrying all their foodstuffs with them. The famished troops threatened to disband unless supplies were brought up. Orders for food were rushed to the base camp ; but the officials at the accountancy office made difficulties about producing the necessary funds, and were dilatory in arranging for transport; so that the sufferings of the troops, Pei says, 'were unendurable'.

The guns and baggage were transported by water, along the Yao river. But its upper reaches are only navigable by very small boats, and a sufficient number of these could not be collected. It was decided to hire porters to take the stuff by land. 'We hired 2,400 men, half of whom were beggars of very poor physique and incapable of covering much more than ten miles a day. The winter ice was beginning to melt, moreover for several days it had been raining in torrents, so that the roads and paths were deep in mud. Half and more than half of our porters decamped before their task was over.'

The original plan had been that 17,000 troops should attack the western gate of Ningpo, 19,000 the south gate, while s,000 attacked the neighbouring town of Chen-hai. Large numbers of troops were also to be held in reserve, for example at Camel Bridge, seven miles north-east of Ningpo, where Chang Ying-yiin and with him Pei Ch'ing-ch'iao, our author, were to be stationed. But according to Pei,' at the time when the attack began large numbers of the troops expected from other provinces had not yet arrived and could not any longer be waited for. Moreover 'six out of ten' of those who had come were kept back as bodyguards for the General and his host of attendant 'minor Commissioners'. The actual number of those taking part in the attack on Ningpo and Chen-hai, says Pei, was not as much as 3,000. I wonder if this is not a rhetorical understatement, flung out in a moment of bitterness. Captain Bingham (Narrative of the Expedition. . . , 369) says: 'About ten or twelve thousand men advanced upon the south and western gates', at Ningpo alone. However Bernard in The Nemesis (p. 29 ) gives a very different figure: 'The force they brought against us is supposed to have exceeded 5, oo o men.' Probably Pei's estimate is somewhat too low, and Bingham's far too high.

The signal for the general attack was to be the setting alight of the fire-rafts which were to be let loose upon the English ships and, drifting against them, would set fire to them before they could weigh anchor. All previous attempts of this kind at Canton had completely failed. So many favourable factors of wind, tide, complete surprise and so on were required if there were to be any chance of success that the odds were always heavily weighted in favour of the attacked. Above all, it was essential that the fire-rafts should be towed, undetected, to within a very short distance of the target. But upon this as upon previous occasions the attackers became nervous when they thought they were within range of the warships' guns and ignited the rafts when still some three miles away from their targets. The English ships' boats put out long before the blazing rafts arrived, took them in tow—a ticklish operation during which several sailors were badly burnt—and beached them. A second contingent of fire-rafts at a point some miles away was also prematurely ignited as soon as the flames were seen rising from the other rafts ; but when less than half of this second contingent had been launched the Chinese irregulars in charge were attacked by boats put out from English warships, and fled.

Someone suggested that fire-crackers should be tied to the backs of a number of monkeys, who would then be flung on board the English ships. The flames would spread rapidly in every direction and might with luck reach the powder-magazine, in which case the whole ship would blow up. Nineteen monkeys were bought, and at the time of the advance were brought in litters to the advanced base. After the failure of the Chinese attack they accompanied the retreating armies to Tz`u-ch`i.I 'The fact is', says Pei, 'that no one ever dared go near enough to the foreign ships to fling them on board, so that the plan was never put into effect.' During the panic that ensued after the defeat of the remaining Chinese troops on the heights behind Tz`u-ch`i, the people fled from the town, including a Mr Feng in whose charge the monkeys had been put. There was no one to care for them, and they eventually died of starvation in Mr Feng's deserted front lodge.

The attack on the western gate of Ningpo was led by a band of Golden River aborigines. At about 4 a.m., March loth, a sentry on the ramparts saw a figure advancing towards the gate. He called out to him 'Wei 1.9P= (Go away!), but the challenger continued to advance, holding in his hand a small lighted torch. The sentry repeated 'Wei lo I' , but the challenger, without halting, replied in a firm voice Wei lo moa' , (Will not go!). The sentry levelled his musket and the solitary challenger fell dead.

The Golden River aborigines were excellent shots ; but the General, acting on the advice of Liu Yiin-leo, the Governor of the province, had given orders that, to avoid so far as possible causing casualties to the inhabitants of Ningpo, artillery should be used very sparingly. The aborigines, misunderstanding this order, thought that it applied to matchlocks as well as to cannon—the word pao being often used in both senses—and on the night of the attack discarded their matchlocks and advanced to the west gate armed only with knives. The English, Pei says, had mined the space between the crescent-shaped bulwark masking the gate and the gate itself, and had left the gate wide open, in order to give the impression that they did not mean to defend it. The Chinese commander, Colonel Tuan Yung-fu, thought that they had fled, and ordered his troops to press straight on through the gates. 'As soon as they reached the outer wall the mine went off and our soldiers fled precipitately. But the sfreets and lanes [outside the gates] were so narrow and soggy that they could not get away, and our losses were very heavy. The brunt of the disaster fell upon the aborigines, who lost a hundred men, including their leader, A-mu-jang.'

The author had been put in charge of some local militia who were proving very intractable. No part in the attack had been assigned to them, but it seemed to Pei and his superior officer a pity, after all that had been spent in training them, not to put them to any use ; so they were marched to the west gate, arriving just when Tuan Yung-fu was trying to push his men into the city. Tuan said that militia had better not be in the vanguard, and herded them back into the rear. But when the mines went off and flames were leaping up on all sides the English flung open the north gate of the city and, working round by a small path just outside the walls, arrived in dense throngs outside the west gate, so that it was the militia in the rearguard that bore the brunt of their attack. Six of the leaders of the militia fell, and their followers soon broke up and scattered.

About the assault on the south gate, which the Chinese succeeded in entering, Pei has less to say, not having been present. We know from the English accounts that the Chinese, having advanced almost to the heart of the city, were met by English troops sent to reinforce the yard at the south gate and were driven back again to the gate with heavy loss. Pei contents himself by recounting the heroism of Captain Hsii Huan who, even after receiving a bayonet thrust in his side, slew over ten Englishmen and took one prisoner before he died. 'On our side not a single man was killed', says Ouchterlony ; and as Pei is here only speaking on hearsay his story about Captain Hsii may well be apocryphal.

The attack on Chen-hai, some thirteen miles to the north-east of Ningpo, down the River Yung, was a fiasco. According to Pei none of the troops taking part in it were armed with anything but spears and knives. Moreover Colonel Chu Kuei, with his contingent of troops from far away Kansu, got lost in the darkness and did not even arrive at Camel Bridge, seven miles from Chen-hai, till noon next day, long after the attempt to storm the town had been abandoned.

Even more abortive was the attempt to retake Ting-hai ; as might have been expected, seeing that the place is on the island of Chusan, separated from the mainland by a strait which is some thirty-six miles wide at the usual point of crossing and the English were in complete command of the sea. The attack was to have been simultaneous with those on Ningpo and Chen-hai. 'The original plan was to make it with troops from North China; but these turned out to suffer so much from sea-sickness that there could be no question of using them in a naval battle. Fishermen from the Yangtze mouth area were then mobilized as 'water-braves' and expected to navigate the 276 small craft that were collected for them from all along the Chinese coast. But it turned out that the 'water-braves', though familiar with every shoal and sandbank of the Kiangsu coast, farther north, were quite unable to pilot themselves successfully amid the reefs and rocks that surround the island of Chusan; moreover at the appointed hour (4 a.m. on March loth) the tide was against then and, by the time it had turned, the news of the double disaster at Ningpo and Chen-hai had already reached them. 'They lost all heart for the fray', says Pei, 'and putting out again to sea cruised about aimlessly for more than a month without the courage to commence an assault.'
The leader of the flotilla, Cheng V ing-ch'en, had been entrusfed with 22o,o oo dollars to meet the expenses of maintaining it, and when weeks went by without it going into action, the General was on the point of summoning Cheng to his camp and court-martialling him. Suddenly Cheng reported that on April i3th officers under his command had launched a brilliantly successful fire-raft attack, des-troying one large English warship and twenty-one smaller boats, at the cost of only three casualties on the Chinese side, whereas over two hundred English had been drowned and 'more than could be counted' burnt to death. A wrangle as to the authenticity of the report followed, a committee of inquiry was instituted and finally two local officials produced some charred wreckage which was supposed to support Cheng's claim. Cheng also resolutely stuck to his story and offered to pay for it with his life if a word of falsehood could be found in his report. The General at last decided to accept the report, and passed on its contents to Peking ; with the result that Cheng was promoted to the Fourth Rank and accorded the Peacock Feather. This led to a whole series of similar claims, the last of which was that of a certain Wang Yiieh-yii, to whom the General had given two thousand dollars and about 27o pounds of saltpetre and sulphur for use on the great day, in a subsidiary fire-raft attack. On receiving the money Wang disappeared and no more was heard of him till April, when he appeared at the General's camp, announcing that he had secured a great victory. The General did not believe the story, and was about to demand the return of the money and condemn Wang to heavy penalties when Wang once more disappeared. 'After that', says Pei, 'there was no more talk about fire-attacks.'

The Chinese seem to have regarded the attempt to infiltrate a secret Fifth Column into Ningpo as having been carried out in so cursory a manner as to wreck the whole plan for the recovery of the city. But Bernard (The Nemesis in China, p. 289) says: 'There is reason to believe that a good number of Chinese soldiers must have previously come into the town in disguise, for the gates were attacked simul-taneously both from within and without.' It is clear-at any rate that the Fifth Column gave nothing like as much help as had been hoped. I have already mentioned (p. 166) that a certain Lu Hsin-lan, who had previously been working for Gutzlaff, subsequently declared that he had broken with him and undertook to assist the grand attack by kidnapping the English leaders at the moment when it commenced. How-ever a few days before the attack, when the General was 'waiting for news of victory' at Tung-kuan, about ninety miles north-east of Ningpo, Lu Hsin-lan suddenly turned up, saying that news about the date of the attack had leaked out beforehand, and the English had taken such strict precautions that it had been impossible to kidnap 'the foreign leaders, Gutzlaff and the rest'. The General, now convinced that Lu Hsin-lan was still in the pay of the English, had him flung into the military goal ; but in the confusion of the great retreat he escaped and was never re-arrested. A relative of Lu Hsin-lan told Pei that Gutzlaff had been in the habit of sending Lu out into the neighbouring towns and villages to change copper-cash into silver. A few days before the attack Lu invented the story that he could get a better rate of exchange farther afield, at Shao-hsing or Hangchow. Gutzlaff consequently gave him 6o,000 strings of cash to change into silver, after which the English saw no more of him!

The Chinese armies that retreated from Ningpo entrenched themselves on the heights of the north of the town of Tz`u-ch`i, eighteen miles north of Ningpo. Here, on March sth, they were again routed, but put up a strong resistance and the English suffered twenty-three casulties, of which three were fatal. This was, I think, the heaviest loss that they had sustained in any action during the war. The English wounded were attended. by admirable surgeons and had a good chance of recovery. On the Chinese side those who were seriously wounded and could not join the retreat fared better than those who managed to drag themselves to Tz`u-ch`i. The Chinese doctors were able to extract bullets and shrapnel, but had no efficient dressings, so that the great majority, even a the slightly wounded, died from blood poisoning. Liu 1' ien-pao, the leader of the troops from Honan, had with him a 'metal-wound drug'. He told our author and some other officers to mix it with wine and apply it to the wounds. But there was no wine to be found in the camp, 'moreover there was not nearly enough of the drug to go round, and not as many as even two or three out of every ten survived. We sat by helpless, watching the others expire. Even now the thought of it agonizes me.' On the other hand the Chinese wounded who remained on the battlefield were cared for by the English in exactly the same way as their own men. This is attributed by Pei not to general principles of humane conduct, but to the belief that the grateful patients, when sent back to their compatriots, would belaud the kindness of their captors, and so weaken the hostile spirit of the Chinese troops.

Camel Bridge, being about equidistant from Ningpo and Chen-hai, was the obvious place to station reserves who could be brought up to either place as needed. The General's favourite officer Chang Ying-yiin was stationed here, and at dawn on March oth, when the firing of heavy guns was heard, someone pointed out to him that, as the Chinese were not using artillery for fear of damaging the city, the guns they had just heard must be English ones. In that case the attackers might be in difficulties, and it would be as well to move up reinforcements at once. But Chang Ying-yiin was an opium addict, the 'craving' was at that moment upon him, and he was incapable of attending to his duties. Rumours of the double disaster at Ningpo and Chen-hai began to come in during the morning, and at noon the defeated remnants of the army that had attacked Chen-hai began to straggle in. The survivors of the attack on Ningpo had retired to the Ta-yin hills, to the west of the city. Chang Ying-yiin's officers were still debating whether to advance or retreat when, through the dusk, the sound of cannon and musketry-fire drew closer and closer. Panic seized his troops and with one accord they fled towards Tz`u-ch`i. Chang himself was still puffing away at his opium pipe. At last he staggered into a litter and was carried away. It is well known, says Pei Ch'ing-ch'iao, that the English have a tenderness for opium smokers and never put one to death. At the time of the second capture of Ting-hai (October 1, 1841) the Deputy Governor Shu Kung-shou was taken prisoner. Some well-disposed person had slipped a ball of opium into his pocket. 'The English foreigners searched him and, finding the opium, credited him with being a smoker, and at once released him and sent him back to the mainland.'

It was at Camel Bridge, presumably on this occasion, that the author narrowly escaped with his life, a rocket passing through the sleeve of his coat.

The General, having failed to get the English out of Ningpo by force of arms, was determined to make the place so uncomfortable for them that they would leave of their own accord. A band of 362 ruffians were recruited from farther down the coast (so Pei tells us). They were called the Rafters Militia, their task being to get on to the roofs of the places where the foreign leaders were lodging, creep along the beams and drop down upon them while they slept, snatching away their fire-arms or other weapons, and then cutting off their heads. Gutzlaff and the rest became so jumpy, Pei says, that they constantly woke with a start in the middle of the night, even when nothing was happening, and attacked one another. 'Finally the foreign leader Pottinger's personal follower Hsien-ch'en-ku was stabbed by the rafter-men. His friends began to realize that life in Ningpo had become too unsafe, and on the twenty-seventh of the third month they weighed anchor and went elsewhere.' Hsi en-ch` en-ku is certainly the transcription of a foreignname, but is impossible to identify. The English accounts know of no such incident. But they do mention that at this period a number of abductions, about forty in all, occurred at Ningpo. In most cases the victims were decoyed into low haunts, liberally plied with drink and, when unconscious, carried off to Hangchow, where they were released later in the year. Pei gives the names (unidentifiable, except perhaps for the sailor Norris) of eleven Englishmen and seven Bengalese who were held at Hangchow ; but he represents them as having been captured in battle. He says he got the names from the ma-chan' s list, ma-chani being what the English foreigners call a translator' .

Someone, soon before the grand attack, said that the English at Canton were terrified of catching the smallpox. Would it not be a good plan to infect cattle and sheep with the disease according to the Chinese method of inoculation, and give them these animals next time they came foraging? Within ten days the poison would take, and they could then, when prostrate with the smallpox, easily be rounded up and slaughtered. But the General thought the plan discreditable, and it was not carried out.

It seems, then, that it was the Chinese who invented germ-warfare, though they can claim the credit of having refused to make use of the invention. But the idea of a 'Chinese method' of vaccination is a myth ; the Chinese learnt the art from Dr Alexander Pearson,' the chief surgeon of the East India Company, at Canton in the early years of the nineteenth century.

In June Soochow, the author's home town, seemed to be threatened. He heard that many of the inhabitants were already fleeing and that their homes were being ransacked by native looters. Leaving the General's camp, which was now at Shao-hsing, over a hundred miles south of Soochow, he hurried home. could not', he says, 'help being veryworried about what was happening to my family. I found, indeed, that they had already packed, and were on the verge of departure. I persuaded them that the foreign ships were so large that they could not possibly get into the Inner River. However, I found that quite half my relations and friends were on the move, and it was small wonder that my argument about the size of the ships did not carry conviction, when they could see with their own eyes that all the high officials, from the Governor-General downwards, were sending their families away.' But the old father's 'martial spirit' was unquelled. His only welcome was to tell his son to go back and do some more fighting ; and after ten days Pei Ch'ing-ch'iao returned to the camp.

Soochow was in fact never attacked; but Wu-sung fell on June 6th, Shanghai on June 9th and Chinkiang, about 'so miles up the Yangtze, on July 2 1st.

On August 29th, as everyone knows, the Treaty of Nanking was signed, and for the moment the war was over. Pei carries on his narrative till the end of the year ; but it did not fall to his lot to take part in further fighting, and he is not able to tell us any more than may be found in numerous other books of history. The latter part of his book deals largely with the financing of the campaign. At the outset of the campaign the General set up four Quartermasters' Offices: one at Hangchow, one in the rear at Soochow, one at Shao-hsing and one that was to move forward with the advancing armies. Remittances from Peking were sometimes sent separ-ately to each office and sometimes in a lump sum to one office, to be divided into four and distributed. They never informed the General what they had received, nor did they notify one another. The paymasters sometimes notified the General of their disbursements, but sometimes only informed his assistant Wen-wei, or else simply sent the receipts to the head Quarter-master without notifying either the General or Wen-wei. By the time this had been going on for six months it was practically impossible to discover what had been paid out. Consequently when the Governor of Chekiang, Liu Yiln-leo, sent in a memorial accusing the General of reckless expendi-ture and demanding an inquiry, the General had no idea of what the expenditure had actually been. He ordered the four Quartermasters' Offices each to make out separate accounts ; but when these were added up the total never tallied with what had been received. This was partly due to the complications involved in constantly converting copper-cash into silver and silver into cash ; as also to the fluctuating value of foreign money (Mexican dollars). The General accordingly set up a committee of six to inquire into the expenses of the campaign, one of the six being Pei Ch'ing-cll.' iao . The total they arrived at was 1,645,000 dollars, corresponding to between L500,000 and £600,000.

This latter part of Pei's book is indeed to a large extent a recital of sordid army scandals—bribery to get mentioned in dispatches, pay drawn several times over, claims for reward of services never rendered, and so on. I will not follow up in detail all these shady machinations. The story of the Eight Boxes, however, sheds so much light on the office work of the campaign that it is worth telling.

The General relied for reference solely on his own personal files. All communications, instructions, notifications and replies to reports from subordinates were summarized, and the summaries attached to the dossiers, which were brought to him every evening in files so high that two men had to carry them. When he had been through them, he filled in the date and under it signed them with his rebus. Afterwards his seal was imprinted on the sewn binding, so that no page could be removed without detection. But there were every day many communications that he handed over to his secretariat to answer without keeping any record of them, and the officials of the secretariat flung them into an attic cupboard. In fact, only two or three out of every ten 'papers were in the General's own file ; the rest lay higgledy-piggledy in the attic, piling up till there were eight boxes of them. No check was kept on them, and many disappeared altogether ; the rest were entirely out of their proper chronological order. Finally when the General heard that he was to return to the capital (December II, 1842) some people said that all the loose papers ought to go to the Board of War, others were for sending them to the Governor of Chekiang or to the four Quartermasters' Offices. But the members of the General's secretarial staff feared that the papers, in their present condition, would create a bad impression, and they persuaded the General to send only his own files to Hangchow to serve as a basis for the official report on the expenses of the campaign. The Eight Boxes were carried off by the General's friend Shih Chien, who was glad to acquire so fine a supply of scribbling-paper. When the General's personal files reached Hangchow, the Governor-General Liu Yiin-leo was surprised to find appended to them a number of papers concerned with the raising of local militia by members of the General's staff. The originals of these had found their way into the Eight Boxes and disappeared; but the officers concerned had persuaded the General to add records of their services in connection with the militia to his personal files. As these files were sealed across the stitching at the back, it was impossible to insert these papers where they belonged, that is to say, to the winter of 184.1, so they were appended to the files of October 1842. The Governor-General felt sure that the claims were fraudulent, and ordered an inquiry. The officers concerned knew that somewhere in the Eight Boxes the original records of their having raised militia could still probably be found and managed to get the boxes back from Shih Chien's house. But in the course of rum-maging through the papers they found so much that was compromising to them that in the end they extracted more than half, and only two boxfuls were sent to Hangchow. Meanwhile Liu Yiin-leo had moved on to another post. His successor Pien Shih-yiin had been one of the four Quarter-masters, and knew that much of what had really been going on could not possibly be reported to the Throne. He there-fore tl-Few away all the original documents and made every-one concerned draw up a fictitious account of expenses, founded on the normal and accepted needs of an army in the field.

Unlike many 'exposures' of the period Pei Ch'ing-ch`ao's account of the Eight Boxes is written calmly and objectively, without (at least on the surface) any touch of malice against erring colleagues. Towards the General himself Pei's attitude is one of just appraisal, certainly admirative, but never verging on hero-worship.

'When the General heard rumours about himself—for example, that he spent his time with singing-girls, or that he took bribes—he was depressed all day. "I exercise the greatest self-restraint", he would say. "I cannot understand why I am slandered like this." When any of his officers behaved in an insolent or swaggering way under cover of his name, the General never inquired into complaints about it ; but if he chanced to know who it was, he reproved him ever so gently. After the armies moved south he refused all presents. The only exception was when at Chia-hsing the Governor sent him four tubs of orchids. They delighted him so much that he could not bring himself to refuse. He once said that when the war was over and the troops disbanded, apart from his personal belongings these flowers would be his only luggage. When he was put on trial, they had to be left behind, and I do not know who got hold of them.'

According to Pei the reason why the General had the reputation at Soochow of being a great frequenter of brothels was a very trivial one. One of his junior officers, a certain Yang Hsi, spent a lot of his time with prostitutes. One feature of the slang used by these girls was the adding of an extra syllable to surnames. They called people with the surname Yang `Yang-wei'. `Yang-wei', pronounced in just the same way, though written differently, happened tdbe the General's honorific title. The girls constantly chattered about `Yang-wei's' visits, and so it got about that the General was a frequenter of these haunts. The rumour spread to the English, and we find Sir John Davis (The Chinese War, p. 226) speaking of 'the dissolute Yihking', i.e. I-ching.

'The General was extremely frugal. When he was about to leave Peking he said to his staff, "We must all live very simply in the south; otherwise the general public is sure to say hard things about us." After he crossed the Yangtze presents of food were being continually made to his head-quarters, and most of his people stuffed themselves almost to death. But the General never had more than four dishes laid, and even then felt he was being very luxurious.' His bosom friend Tsang Yii-ch'ing gave him an inscription to put up on the pillar at his quarters, containing the words: 'The heart of a Bodhisattva; the face of Vajrapani.' Vajrapani is a scowling and ferocious divinity; Bodhisattvas are the embodiment of compassion. But Tsang did not mean by this that he approved of the General's clemency ; he was an out-and-out die-hard, and in the winter of 1841 he had persuaded the General that commanders who had deserted their posts, for example Pu-yiin at Chen-hai in October, ought to be beheaded. But after he had actually written a petition demanding their execution, the General reflected that he might one day find himself open to a similar charge, and rather than set a dangerous precedent he withdrew the petition. Moreover, before his appointment to lead the expedition to the south the General had belonged to the party at Court that was in favour of a policy of appeasement, and Tsang Yii-ch'ing had only with difficulty persuaded him that this policy had no better chance of success now than in the hands of Ch`i-shan before, and would only lead to further loss of prestige.

Continuing his retrospective remarks on the General's tastes and character, Pei tells us that he was a skilful painter, particularly in the ink-blob style associated with the name of Mi Fei (eleventh century A.D.). While the campaign was still in progress he was too busy to give a thought to painting. But in August, while the peace negotiations, concerning which, he was not kept informed, were in progress at Nanking, he occupied himself with calligraphy. There was a rush for his productions and 'the day was hardly long enough to meet the demand' .

'At the Tiger Hill at Soochow there was a sculptor called Hsiang who made small portrait-figures in clay. He managed to get introduced into the camp, and the Guards Officer Jung-chao recommended him to the General. He made figures of the General himself and of all his Staff, and they were considered excellent likenesses.'

On December II, 842, the General received instructions to come to Peking. On the 24th a rumour went round the camp that he had now been told instead to go south, to Chekiang, and take charge of drawing up the report about the expenses of the campaign. This sounded less sinister than an order to go to Peking, and there was general rejoicing, but no one knew how the rumour stated. It was not till nine at night that the General's secretariat produced an express message from the Board of War which did in fact cancel the first order, and commanded him to go south. The delay had happened because all communications arriving through the official relay-post were first opened by the secretariat and then handed on to the General. On this occasion all the members of the secretariat were busy packing up, and had no spare thoughts to give to office work, which accounted for the delay of almost a whole day. The origin of the rumour was that the postmaster at Wu-hsi Hill had taken it upon himself to open the letter. The General accordingly set out from Wu-hsi,I but when almost at Soochow he received another order, saying that he was to be arrested, brought to Peking and there tried on a charge of wasting the resources in men and money that had been entrusted to him. Pending trial he was to be confined in the gaol of the Court of Imperial Clansmen. The members of his Staff, frightened of becoming involved in the case, all quietly disappeare0. `I•lo one saw the General off except some of the scholars attached to his Staff, who went with him as far as Chinkiang.'

The General was sentenced to death, but at this period such sentences were seldom carried out, and in April 1843 he was appointed to a post at Yarkand, in Turkestan. There were protests from the die-hard party against this lenience, and to those protests the Emperor replied in a remarkable Edict, issued on May 3, 843. He now realized, he said, that the Chinese defeats at the hands of the English were due to his own failure to use the right men. I-ching and the rest had not sufficient military experience, and it was this that had led to their failure. But they had great abilities and were still in their prime, so that it was right to give them another chance, in some more suitable capacity. However, as a compromise, he had now cancelled their appointments and ordered them to 'meditate on their shortcomings behind closed doors'.

In November 1843 the General was ordered to proceed after all to his post at Yarkand; in 1844 he was given a similar post at I-li. In 18 s-3 he died of malaria while defending Hsii-chou (in northern Kiangsu) against the Taiping rebels.
During the war the Emperor had consistently laid the blame for everything that went wrong upon other people. 1-fumanly commendable though his present change of heart may have been, he was quite wrong in thinking that China's defeat was due to the inexperience of her military leaders. Superiority of fire-power and command of the sea and of the major waterways were what made the English invincible. No generalship, however talented or experienced, could have made the course of events go differently. But the Manchus were a conquering race and were reluctant to accept the fact that the 'weapons with which they had conquered China two hundred years ago were now out of date.

1. The contingents came from Kansu, Shensi, Honan, Shantung, Hupeh, Kiangsi, Szechwan and Kweichow. There were also 7oo aborigines from the Golden River district in the western part of Szechwan.

For further specimens of the Gutzlaff legend, see below, 12. 23o seq.

`The story of Han Ch'in-hu.' Stein MSS. 2144.

Eighteen miles north of Ningpo.

I reproduce the words as they are given by Ouchterlony, The Chinese War, p. 231. I do not know what dialect they are meant to represent.

I hope some reader will be able to throw light on this word.

Or possibly a year or two before from Spaniards?

About fifty miles north-west of Soochow.

 

Our valuable member Richard Morris has been with us since Tuesday, 21 February 2012.

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