Revolt in Canton

Live-blogging 1911

Live-blogging is (for historians) the process of blogging about something in the past as if it was happening in the present. Since this is the 100th anniversary of the 1911 revolution, I thought it might be nice do something on that. The Wuhan revolt is still a ways off, but the Canton uprising is (although nobody knew it) right around the corner. Textbooks tend to dismiss the various revolts that Sun Yat-sen encouraged in the years before 1911 as pathetic failures, which is true enough, but by early 1911 some of them were becoming more substantial. There were a couple of disturbances in the New Army in Canton early in 1911, the first of which happened on February 12, exactly one year before the Manchu emperor formally abdicated.

Revolutionaries vaguely connected to Sun Yat-sen had been organizing in the New Army in Canton for some time. . Ni Yingdian 倪映典 was the ringleader of the revolt. He was the son of a traditional Chinese doctor from Anhui and had risen to command an New Army artillery division before being dismissed for revolutionary activity. He promptly moved to Guangdong and joined the new army there and was again dismissed for revolutionary activity, although he was not arrested. It may seem a bit odd that he was dismissed but not arrested twice, but the Qing government was less in control of things than they might have hoped and also desperate for modern-trained men. More to the point, during the New Policies period many revolutionaries were turning into reformers, and they may have hoped that the same would happen with Ni.

Unfortunately a mutiny occurred among the troops of the Second Regiment on February 10th ,, well before the planned date for the revolt. Sun Yat-sen had raised over HK 8,000 to support the revolt, and preparations were being made for supporting revolts in the countryside, but Ni decided he could not wait and encouraged his old comrades to rise up. When the commander of the Artillery Division refused to join the revolt Ni shot him, which pretty much committed them to the revolt, which was put down the next day. Ni Yingdian was one of the first rebels killed. Several others were executed later and the rebellious units disbanded.

Although the revolt itself had minimal support it was a revolt of active military units in a major city, which was an upgrade from some previous revolutionary actions. The punishment of the rebels actually won them a good deal of support.  Sun and his followers began mobilizing for a new revolt in Canton.  “Intellectuals, tradesmen, workers and peasants” began to assemble in the city. Female members of the Revolutionary Alliance posed as brides and began smuggling arms into the city.  They also took over a newspaper which had been created to oppose a planned provincial gambling monopoly and used it to spread revolutionary ideas. So that is pretty much where things stood in March of 1911

 

Most of the above is from Rhodes, China’s Republican Revolution

 

P.S. If anyone has suggestions for posts, feel free to sent them to me.



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