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Remote Homeland, Recovered BorderlandManchus, Manchoukuo, and Manchuria, 1907-1985$

Dan Shao

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780824834456

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824834456.001.0001

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Between Empire and Nation

Between Empire and Nation

The 1911 Revolution, Manchus, and Manchuria

(p.68) 2 Between Empire and Nation
Remote Homeland, Recovered Borderland

Dan Shao

University of Hawai'i Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter begins with a study of the differences in the experiences of banner people in Manchuria and in China Proper with the 1911 Revolution. During the 1911 Revolution, the lack of anti-Manchuism in Manchuria was part of the legacy of Qing territoriality in the region, yet it influenced the complicated identity reconfigurations of the whole banner community during the Qing-Republic of China (ROC) transition. A new self-identification label—“qizu” (banner ethnie)—was used by banner people with increasing frequency. The former institutional identity of “qiren” (banner people) was thus transformed into the quasiethnic identity of “qizu.” The chapter then studies how changes in the late-Qing and post-empire territoriality of Manchuria interacted with state population recategorization and the consequent identity confusion to which the Manchus and other banner people were subjected during the years of state succession.

Keywords:   1911 Revolution, banner people, Qing dynasty, Republic of China, post-empire territoriality, state population, population recategorization, identity confusion, state succession

[To drive the Manchus out] is just to recover what we lost. They still can have their Three Eastern Provinces as an autonomous region. Therefore, to expel the Manchus does not mean to kill them…[but] to make them live in their own houses, farm their own land, and make a living in their way. Just don’t let them get the land of our Han.

Zhang Binglin, 19011

Countrymen, you must all recognize that China [is a country] of the Chinese of the Han race.

—Zou Rong, 1903, The Revolutionary Army

[Banner people] died in war, flood, and fire. They were killed by bandits. [They] lost family members one after another and wandered around homeless.

—“Statement of a Seminar on the Livelihood of the Eight Banners,” 1912

I suggest that we gather banner people in the Eastern Provinces (Dongsheng 东省‎), and give them military training. We will use the Eastern Provinces as a temporary place for our emperor to settle and for banner people to make a living.

—Dong Peng, “A petition to Zhao Erxun,” 19122

The 1911 Revolution finally forced the Manchu court to negotiate with the anti-Manchu revolutionaries, who had launched a series of failed revolts before the end of the Qing. On January 1, 1912, Sun Yatsen formally announced the establishment of the Republic of China at his presidential inauguration in Nanjing. In Beijing, the emperor abdicated on February 2. During the Qing-ROC transition, dramatic changes and calamitous consequences reshaped banner people’s lives and community.

The banner people and families of most garrisons stationed in towns and cities in China Proper faced vehement anti-Manchu rhetoric, sentiments, and actions. Violence against banner people reached its peak during the 1911 Revolution, but it did not end with the overthrow (p.69) of the Qing. Banner people in Manchuria, however, experienced the 1911 Revolution differently from those in China Proper.3 The lack of anti-Manchuism in Manchuria was part of the legacy of Qing territoriality in the region, yet it influenced the complicated identity reconfigurations of the whole banner community during the Qing-ROC transition. A new self-identification label—“qizu” 旗族‎ (banner ethnie)—was used by banner people with increasing frequency. The former institutional identity of “qiren” 旗人‎ (banner people) was transformed into the quasiethnic identity of “qizu.

Anti-Manchuism and the 1911 Revolution

Some scholars regard anti-Manchuism as simply ethnopolitical rhetoric. They emphasize that although Sun Yat-sen’s Tongmenghui 同盟会‎ and the 1911 Revolution utilized anti-Manchu slogans, Sun immediately changed his wording about ethnic relations in his 1912 inaugural speech, calling for efforts to establish a “Republic of the five ethnic groups” (Han, Manchu, Mongol, Hui, and Tibetan). During his short presidency, Sun redefined the relations among ethnic groups with kinship notions such as “wuzu yijia” 五族一家‎ (one family of the five ethnic groups), which included the Manchus.4 Other scholars disagree, arguing that anti-Manchuism was not just rhetorical but included discriminating policies and anti-Manchu violence that were perpetrated for years after 1911. Although nominally included in the five ethnic members of the Republican “family,” the Manchus (and other banner people regarded as Manchu) experienced tremendous discrimination in their daily lives under the ROC.

Generations of scholars of Qing and ROC history have thoroughly examined the historical roots, intellectual foundations, and behavioral expressions of anti-Manchuism, and it is beyond the scope of this study to summarize these materials here.5 This section will focus on the consequences of anti-Manchuism for the state’s redefinition of Manchuria’s territoriality, the Manchus’ membership in and allegiance to the ROC, and people’s understanding—or misunderstanding—of Manchuria’s position within China.

Before the 1911 Revolution, the belief of many revolutionaries in the righteousness of anti-Manchuism was rooted in newly imported concepts of race and a race-related interpretation of Darwinism, both of which spread widely via the nascent press in China (Dikötter 1992, 1997; Laitinen 1990; Tang Xiaobing 1996). Radicals like Zou Rong, who had developed and spread ethnonationalist definitions of China as a Han nation, tried to save their country from its miserable situation under foreign imperialism. In their opinion, the Manchus’ disastrous maladministration (p.70) of domestic and diplomatic affairs, as well as their failure to resist foreign invasions, were the major reasons for China’s weakness. Thus the Manchus served as a scapegoat for China’s troubles (Zarrow 2004, 96). For example, articles and communications published in Minbao 民报‎ (The magazine of the people), founded by anti-Qing revolutionaries in Tokyo, suggest that the goal of anti-Manchuism was to build a powerful nation that could survive in the modern world. A contributor defined the Manchus as neither Chinese nor the subjects of China because they, as the enemies of the Chinese, had historically refused to be Sinicized.6 Another contributor argued that anti-Manchuism was not an expression of ethnic divide but was about the survival of the Chinese nation, because Westerners, the Japanese, and the Manchus were all non-Han aliens. He believed that “to expel the Manchus can help to resist foreign humiliation and to [strengthen China’s] self-defense” and “to show foreign races that we are not to be humiliated [by any foreign invasion].”7

In an article titled “Citizens of the Nation,” Wang Jingwei 汪精卫‎ (1883–1944), a revolutionary who later became an important GMD leader, criticized Liang Qichao 梁启超‎, one of the leading reformers, for his argument that because the Manchus had been “Hanized” (hanhua 汉化‎), they were members of the Chinese nation. Wang contended that the Chinese nation-state should exclude the Manchus for both historical reasons and contemporary political considerations. He disagreed with those who believed that because both the Han and Manchus belonged to the same yellow race, they should not fight against each other. Another article defined the anti-Manchu revolution as a restoration of the Han nation: “[w]e Hanzu (Han ethnic group or Han race) have been ruled by the Manchus for several hundred years. We are the ones who were conquered…. It is called restoration when a conquered group rebels against the conqueror.” He warned those who advocated for a “Great Harmony” between the Manchus and Han that “the danger of the Manchus to us is similar to raising a tiger.”8

The rationalization of anti-Manchuism based on a racist understanding of the Manchu-Han relationship did not disappear even after Sun Yat-sen’s public statements on “the republic as a family of five ethnic groups.” Written many years later, memoirs by some of the revolutionaries still characterized the 1911 Revolution as anti-Manchu and described their Manchu enemies in racist terms, expressing pride in both the anti-Manchu military violence and the merciless killing of banner people. In the preface to Xinhai geming jianguo shigang 辛亥革命建国史纲‎ (An outline of 1911 Revolution and national foundation) published in 1924, for example, the author praised himself for participating in a revolution that was “reviving the heavenly voice of the glorious Han and old order, expelling the Tartars and establishing the Republic.”9

(p.71) The killing of the Manchus was not news during the 1911 Revolution—although perhaps it is for many Chinese readers who have learned from history textbooks only about the incompleteness or limitations of the revolution, but not about its cruelty. Westerners in China at the time reported the anti-Manchu violence to the world: “The revolutionaries, with their blood aroused, were in no mood to spare Manchu man, woman, or child. The word had gone forth to wipe out the hated race…. They had tasted blood, and were already engaged in that fierce Manchu hunt which formed such a blot on the revolutionary cause.” It was reported that in Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, “the Manchurian [sic] city—the north-east quarter of the actual city—is a grave. Shot down, stabbed, committed suicide, burned alive, fled to be butchered elsewhere, with the exception of the women survivors, after a week’s slaughter, a population estimated between 20,000 and 30,000 has disappeared” (Kent 1912, 74, 131). Domestic witnesses also left records of the cruel killings of banner people. For example, an informant working for Zhao Erxun 赵尔巽‎, the last Qing governor of the Three Eastern Provinces (1911–1912), reported that “[r]evolutionaries hunted and killed banner people violently. All of the members of one family of Jinzhou Garrison, including children and women, were killed.”10

Revolutionaries’ memoirs also reveal how hatred toward the Manchus was intentionally stirred up and the miserable circumstances that banner people experienced during the revolution. In his Xinhai Wuchang jishi 辛亥武昌纪事‎ (Records of Wuchang in 1911), Xiong Bingkun 熊秉坤‎ (1885–1969), a leader of the Wuchang Uprising in 1911 and later a high-ranking ROC official, recalled that right before a battle, a revolutionary officer gathered his soldiers and recounted how the Manchus had killed and enslaved the Han after they entered the Shanhai Pass in 1644. As Peter Zarrow points out, “the emotion of anti-Manchuism was itself a violent one, … emerging in a dialectic of immediate grievances and memories of the seventeenth-century conquest—the original trauma—which that emotion also helped to create” (Zarrow 2004, 95).

Many anti-Manchu revolutionaries made no distinction between banner people and Manchus or between northerners and Manchus. During the aforementioned uprising at the garrison of an engineering troop in Wuchang, revolutionaries shouted, “Beat the banner people! Beat the banner people!” to boost morale. A memoir written in 1947 recalls that the hunt for banner people reached its peak within days after this uprising; almost two hundred banner people were killed and all the Manchu officials’ houses were searched and robbed. Revolutionary soldiers ordered people whose heads were flat at the back to say “666” (liu bai liu shi liu), and would kill anyone who pronounced “liu” as “niu,” which actually was a dialectic difference between the southerners and (p.72) the northerners. Even a physical feature—a flat occipital bone—was believed to indicate Manchuness.11 The violence against the Manchus, or people who were perceived as Manchu, was so serious that the revolutionary governor’s office in Wuchang tried to restrain it with an announcement that forbade people from killing Manchus for no reason.12 Similar killings of banner people happened in other garrison cities, such as Fuzhou 福州‎, Jiangning 江宁‎, and Xi’an 西安‎ (Wang Boxiang 1931, 77–99; 80).

Such cruel slaughter of banner people was not simply the random excess of individual revolutionary soldiers. A 1911 announcement under the name of Li Yuanhong 黎元洪‎, the commissioner in chief of Hubei,13 ruled in the first regulation that “[t]hose who hide any Manchu will be killed.” If just hiding a Manchu could bring a death penalty, what would happen to the Manchus themselves? But the same announcement promised that “[t]hose who protect the [foreign] Concession areas will be awarded”; “those who guard churches will be awarded”; and “those who hurt foreigners will be executed.”14 The Manchus thus were treated as the worst alien enemy, one that deserved to be killed, while foreigners were placed under the revolutionary army’s protection. This view had appeared in a long doggerel, titled “The Expelling-Manchus Song,” years before the 1911 Revolution. The ending verse reads, “Everyone talks about hatred towards the foreigners, but actually [we have] deeper hatred towards the Manchus! Brothers, we are the offspring of the Han; we are not men if we do not kill our enemies.”15 Violence against the Manchus had been encouraged for years by popular culture like this doggerel from the Guanxu reign written in colloquial language.

Some revolutionary leaders expressed concern over the aftermath of anti-Manchu violence. Hu Shi’an 胡石庵‎ (Renjie 人杰‎, 1879–1926), the founder of Da-Han bao 大汉报‎ (Newspaper of the great Han), was a determined and devoted revolutionary leader and a member of Tongmeng hui. In his 1912 memoir, Hu recorded that some revolutionary soldiers and officers not only raided Manchu officials’ buildings and residences, but also spared no Manchu they saw. Amid the chaos, Hu argued that the revolutionaries should not be as cruel as the Manchu conquerors had been in the mid-seventeenth century. In addition, he warned other revolutionaries that there were more than five million manren 满人‎ (Manchus or banner people) who might rebel if the revolutionaries’ brutality gave them no other choice. Unfortunately, Hu’s was a minority opinion, as many revolutionary announcements in southern Chinese provinces claimed without hesitation that “those from other kinds would never have the same heart as us” (feiwo zulei, qixinbi yi 非我族类其心必异‎) and that the time had come for a righteous revenge (Hu Shi’an 1912, 333–334, 342–355).

(p.73) Although most published accounts of the 1911 Revolution made no distinction between Manchu and Han banner people, a few revolutionary announcements tried to remind Han banner people of their Han origin and encouraged them to join the racial revolution against the Manchus and to restore a Han nation. In a notice titled “A thesis to the Han people who were Manchu military men” (Gao Hanren zhi wei Manzhou jiangshi wen 告汉人之为满洲将士文‎), the author reminded banner people of Han origin that both they and the revolutionaries were Chinese people (Zhongguo ren) who had been suppressed by the Manchu government. Referring to historical events such as the Taiping Rebellion, the notice argued that the Manchu government often used Han people to kill other Han. Without “Han slaves” such as Zeng Guofan and Li Hongzhang, the Manchu government could not have maintained its sovereignty. The notice concluded that “it is intolerable under heaven that one would help the alien group (yizu 异族‎) to kill his compatriots (tongbao 同胞‎)” (Yang Dunyi 1912, 67b). Another revolutionary notice, titled “A sincere notice to Han banner bondservants and people” (Jinggao Hanjun ji baoyi qiren wen 敬告汉军籍包衣旗人文‎), argued that Han banner people, also being the “noble offspring of Emperor Xuan (Xuandi 轩帝‎),” unfortunately had been enslaved by “savage barbarians.” Because the Han banner people’s status was inferior to the Manchus’, “during the past 260 years, though Han banner people tried to affiliate themselves with the banners, the Manchus always regarded the Han banner people as Other (yilei 异类‎).” The rights of Han banner people could not even be compared with those of the Mongols. Meanwhile, Han civilians always regarded all those in the banners as aliens. Thus “this group of 100,000 [Han banner] people was considered neither part of the Manchu nor of the Han ethnic group (liangwu suogui zhi minzu 两无所归之民族‎).” The notice encouraged Han banner people and bondservants to take the opportunity to avenge the generations of wrongs committed by the Manchus (Yang Dunyi 1912, 69b–70b).

These two notices reveal that even after more than two hundred years, the Manchu-Han differentiation within the banners persisted. While the banner system maintained a group identity of “banner people,” qiren, it did not equate the Han banner people with the Manchus in everyone’s opinion. Classifying all banner people as Manchu during the Qing dynasty is thus anachronistic. Moreover, this divide suggests that the interconnection between a definition imposed by outsiders and a people’s self-perception must take into account locality, temporality, and positionality. Banner people’s experiences during the Qing-ROC transition provide pertinent examples for an interactive study on the impact of regime change on borderlanders.

(p.74) Manchuria and the 1911 Revolution

While reminding its readers of the Manchus’ cruelty in the seventeenth century and legitimizing the overthrow of the Qing and attendant vengeance, a revolutionary announcement issued in 1911 under the name of the military government in Hubei advised those Manchus who did not want to stay in China to return quickly to Jianzhou 建州‎, Jilin, and Heilongjiang, all places in Manchuria (Yang, Sun, and Zhang 1997, 348). Unfortunately, no historical archives reveal whether, or how many, Manchus returned to Manchuria after 1911. Nevertheless, this announcement in Hubei reflects an important legacy of the Qing’s separation of Manchuria from China Proper: Even the revolutionary leaders in the south viewed the region as the Manchus’ territory. Indeed, in Manchuria banner people did not face any large-scale military violence or strong anti-Manchu sentiment even though the southern revolutionaries viewed the Manchurians with strong suspicion in the early ROC years.

Local Differences in Banner-Civilian and Manchu-Han Relations

The degree and impact of the anti-Manchu sentiment embodied in the 1911 Revolution varied across regions. The famous Manchu scholar Jin Qicong 金启孮‎ (1918–2004) recalled that at a gathering of the Association of the Eight Banners’ Friendship (Baqi lianyi hui 八旗联谊会‎) in Beijing in the 1920s, those attendees who had been stationed in provincial garrisons used stronger language to describe their experiences with the revolution. For example, when a speaker from Hubei talked about the experiences of banner people there and the disappointing response from Manchus in other areas, he had tears running down his cheeks. When he hit the table and stood up during his talk, several banner people from Beijing suggested that he should not “be too excited (jilie 激烈‎).” As “jilie” also means “violently,” the Hubei bannerman shouted back, “What does ‘should not be too violent’ mean? They treated us violently!” (Beijing shi zhengxie 2002, 432). This detail illustrates the importance of local differences to the experience of the anti-Manchuism of the 1911 Revolution.

Generally speaking, banner people in Beijing experienced less violence than those in other garrisons in the south, where battles between banner troops and revolutionaries were often brutal.16 Those in Manchuria faced even less anti-Manchu sentiment and discrimination than those in Beijing.17 Although there are no official statistics on the numbers of war dead among banner people in different provinces from either the Qing court or the ROC government, some unofficial accounts provide clues to the different degrees of violence in the south and in (p.75) Manchuria. Memoirs of banner people published in the early ROC, such as “Victim of the 1911 Revolution” (Xinhai xunan ji 辛亥殉难纪‎) (Wu Qingdi 1911, 1935), “Eulogy to loyal martyrs in 1900 and 1911” (Gengzi Xinhai zhonglie xiang zan 庚子辛亥忠烈像赞‎) (Feng Shu 1934), and “Records of bloody tears in Jingkou and Hangzhou” (Jinghang qixue lu 京杭泣血录‎) (anonymous), record the killing and traumatic suicide of numerous banner people.18 All these cases of the death of banner people in 1911 happened in China Proper.

Some scholars have evaluated the 1911 Revolution in Manchuria as a failure that may be attributed to the persistent control exercised over the local government there by local conservatives, late-Qing officials, or “feudal” forces (Liu Lijuang 1986, 125; Li Xin 1981–1982, 408; Zhao Zhongfu 1999, 395–397). Yet what has eluded their attention is the question of why these local agents had an upper hand, while those in the south did not. A careful review of the local history of Manchuria suggests a different set of reasons for this discrepancy related to the Manchu-Han relationship in local society, people’s concerns over borderland problems in early twentieth-century Manchuria, and the revolutionaries’ perception of the relationship between Manchuria and China Proper.

One key reason for the differences in the local experience of the 1911 Revolution in Manchuria and China Proper derives from the Qing’s positioning of Manchuria as a special place within the empire. As explained in the previous chapter, a large proportion of Manchurian banner people did not reside within a walled “Manchu city” or garrison town, as did their counterparts in China Proper. Without the walls separating banner people from civilians (at least residentially), frequent encounters enhanced communication and created familiarity between the groups. Meanwhile, increased social contact also reminded people of the concrete differences and similarities between “us” and “them” that could not simply be attributed to either the banner-civilian or Manchu-Han dichotomy. This explains why some Han banner people in Manchuria tended to identify themselves as a group distinct from both the Manchu banners and Han civilians. Such a distinctive self-identification was reflected in local gazetteers (difang zhi 地方志‎) published in the early twentieth century.19 As Table 2.1 shows, in the titles of twenty-six local gazetteers from the period from 1908 to 1939, “Hanjun” is listed as either an independent population category apart from Han and Manchu or as a separate subcategory under the Han, distinct from civilians.

Han banner people formed an intermediate community between the Manchus and Han civilians in Manchuria. In China Proper, after most lower-ranking Hanjun had been dismissed, a large proportion of members of local banner garrisons were Manchu. Thus civilians in the (p.76)

Table 2.1. Naming banner people in local gazetteers (early twentieth century)



Names of Population Categories/Ethnic Groups

Liaoyang xiangtu zhi

GX 34 (1908)

(On renlei 人类‎): Manren, Hanjun, minji

Xinmin fuzhi

XT 1 (1909)

Manzhou qiren, Menggu qiren, Hanjun qiren, minren

Chengde xianzhi

XT 2 (1910)

Manzhou, Menggu, Hanjun (Hanren of military status), minji, huiji, keji

Manshū chihō shik*


A: Qihu, Hanhu

B (on yuanji 原籍‎or renzhong 人种‎): Manzhou, Menggu, Hanjun, Hanren, Huijiaotu

Fushun xianzhi

XT 3 (1911)

(On jiguan 籍贯‎): Zongshi, Jueluo, Manzhou (xin and chen), Xibo, Menggu, Hanjun, Minren, Huihui, Keji

Faku xian xiangtu zhi


Manzu, Mengzu, Hanzu, Huizu, Hanjun, Keji, foreigners

Shuangshan xian xiangtu zhi


On renzu: Hanren, Menggu, Manzhou, Hanjun, Huihui

Hulan fuzhi


A (on weddings): Manzhou, Hanjun, minji, Mengji, Huiji

B (on burial rituals): Qiji (Hanjun, Manzhou), minji, mengji,, huijiao

C (on genealogy): Hanjun, Manzhou

Fengtian Changtu xianzhi


Manren, Menggu, Hanjun, Huimin, Hanren, Keji

Shenyang xianzhi


Manzhou, Menggu, Hanjun, minji

Kaiyuan xianzhi


A (on races): Hanzu, Manzu, Mengzu, Huizu, biantai yizhan (minren and Hanjun)

B (on customs): Hanren, Manren, Hanjun ren

Longcheng jiuwen


A (on Minzu): Hanren, Hanjun, Shushiying ren, Zhanding, Tunding, Manzhou, Menggu, Suolun, Daur, Barhu, Guaercha, Sibe, Oroqun, Qile, Bulaiya, Zhasa ketu, Huhui

B (on Lisu): Manzhou, Hanjun, minji, Qiji (Hanjun, Manzhou), mengji, Huiji

(p.77) Wanggui xianzhi


minji, Manzhou, Hanjun, huizu, menggu

Gaiping xian xiangtu zhi


Minzu, Hanjun, Manzu, Menggu, Xibo, Huimin, Ba’erhu

Aihui xianzhi**


A (on “Zhongzu”): Manzhou, Daur, Menggu, Suolun, Chahar, Hanjun/Hanren, Huimin, keji, Elunchun

B (on “Customs”): Hanjun, minji, Mengji, Huiji, Qiji, Manzhou/Manzhouren, minren

Ning’an xianzhi

1924 (?)

A (on “old customs”): Manren/Manzhou/Manzhouren, Hanren

B (on “Present Customs”): Han/Hanzu, Man/Manzu, Hui

C (on “clans”): Manzu, Hanzu

Xingjing xianzhi


A (on clans): Hanzu, Qizu (including Manzhou, Monggu, and Hanjun, Sibe), Huihu zu, Chaoxian, Zhuangding, Taiding

B (on customs): minhu/minren, qihu/qiren

Shuangcheng xianzhi


A (on sacrificial rites): Manren, Hanjun, Hanren

B (on registration): Han, Man, Meng, Hui, Japanese, Russian

Xiuyan xianzhi


A (on ancestral worshipping): Hanren, Manren, Mengren, Hanjun

B (on population of GX 33): Hanren, Manzhou, Menggu, Hanjun, Huimin, jiji

Jinxi xianzhi


Hanzu (including Hanjun/Hanjun zu and minji/Hanren), Manzu/Manren, qihu/qiren

Suizhong, xianzhi


Hanzu, Hanjun qiren, Manzhou, Menggu, biantai yizhan wanghu, Huizu, Xibo

Tieling xianzhi


Qihu/qiji, minhu

(p.78) Nuohe xianzhi


A (on race): Suolun, Hanjun, zhanmin, Hanmin, Huimin

B (on sacrificial rites): Hanren, Manzhou qiren, Hanjun qiren, Daerhu qiren

Heilongjiang zhigao


A (on clans): Chen Manzhou, Hanren (Hanjun, shuishi ying, zhanding, tunding, Huihui), Menggu, Solun, Erlunchun, Sibe

B (on customs): Hanren, Hanjun, Manzhou, Menggu, Huizu

Fengtian tongzhi


Hanzu/Hanren, Manzu, Hanjun

Jilin xiangtu zhi


Qizu, Hanzu (zhufang qiding), Huizu

(*) This Japanese collection includes many reports of local population by the Qing dynasty in its last decade.

(**) Similar categorization of peoples and contents on “Customs” as Longcheng jiuwen.

*** Most of the local gazetteers categorize Hanjun in a category different from Manchus. Some classify Hanjun into Han people, some into banner people, and some to a category different from both the Han and Manchu groups.

English translation of the population categories in the table:

Chaoxian: Korean

  • Elunchun: Elunchun (Orogen)

  • Hanzu, Hanren: Han people

  • Hanjun qi, Hanjun, Hanjun zu: Han banner people

  • Hui: Hui, Chinese Muslims

  • Manzhou, Manren, Manzu: Manchu

  • Menggu: Mongol

  • minji, minhu: civilian

  • Minzu (in Gaiping xian xiangtu zhi): community of civilians

  • qizu: banner ethnic group

  • zhufang qiding: garrison banner soldiers

south often perceived all banner people as Manchu and banner garrisons as symbols of Manchu military conquest and rule over the Han people. This symbolic meaning and ethnic identification of banner garrisons enhanced the power of anti-Manchu rhetoric and sentiment before and during the 1911 Revolution. In comparison, a large proportion of banner people in Manchuria were not military men, but farmers who often hired Han civilians as tenants. As analyzed in the previous chapter, the large population of agricultural banner people was intermixed with Han civilians, especially in rural areas.

(p.79) The large number and complicated composition of the Hanjun population in Manchuria also limited the social space available for Manchu-Han hostility. In particular, by the late Qing, Han banner people there actually outnumbered Manchu and Mongol banner people, as discussed earlier. Furthermore, the numbers of Hanjun and Han civilians did not differ as sharply from each other in many areas of Manchuria as they did in China Proper. Some Han banner people in Manchuria identified themselves in more specific terms than the banner-civilian dichotomy, distinguishing themselves as “suiqi ren” (people who follow the banners) or even “outer eight banners” (wai baqi 外八旗‎).20 As a result, the emphasis placed by the Han ethnonationalist revolutionaries on the righteous expulsion of the Tartars from the Chinese nation, the misidentification of all banner people as Manchu, and propaganda about the right of the Han to avenge what the Manchus had done was less appealing to Han people in Manchuria than to those in China Proper.

The diversity of the origins and professions of banner people, as well as that of the local native population, explains why the saying “zhilun qimin, bufen Man-Han” 只论旗民‎,不分满汉‎ (differences exist only between banners and civilians, not between Manchu and Han) was popular in the Beijing area and in some garrisons in China Proper, but not in Manchuria.21 An introduction to the chapter on “Families and Clans” of a local gazetteer, Heilongjiang zhigao (A draft of Heilongjiang gazetteer), describes the diversity within both the banner and local native populations:

[Banners] were divided into Manchu, Mongol, and Han eight banners, who were all called qiren. The original natives (tuzhu 土著‎), however, all have maintained the languages and customs of their ancestors, without change. Differences do not only exist [between local natives] and the Han. Even Old Manchus and old Jurchen tribes differ from each other more than they are similar to each other.”22

With Manchuria’s mixed social composition, anti-Manchu rhetoric could hardly motivate non-Han peoples there. Unsurprisingly, revolutionaries in Manchuria tried to exclude anti-Manchuism from their propaganda and policies and attempted to avoid stirring up Manchu-Han hostility.

A 1911 Revolution without Anti-Manchuism

Revolutionaries in Manchuria promoted anti-Qing patriotism and anti-imperialist nationalism. In a letter titled “To the compatriots of Fengtian,” published in Shengjing shibao within a few months of the uprising (p.80) in Wuchang, the revolutionary Yang Delin 杨德邻‎ (?–1913) explained that the revolution was not based on Manchu-Han hostility. He argued that the Qing government was so corrupt that open-minded and wise banner people (as well as Han) wanted to overthrow it (SJSB, February 13, 1912, [21] 529). Several days after it was reported that banner leaders in Manchuria were trying to organize soldiers to fight the revolutionaries and protect the emperor, a “Letter of Appeal with Tears from the Military [Revolutionary] Leaders to the Five Northern Provinces and the Manchus, Mongols, Hui, and Tibetans” was issued under the name of a Han revolutionary. This letter emphasized that the revolutionaries did not hold racist views of the Manchus and that the revolution was not a war of the south against the north. It explained that because all of the five ethnic groups were equal, the Manchus needed to give up their privileges so that all could have peace. It praised Empress Dowager Longyu 隆裕‎ (1868–1913) for her wisdom in deciding to let the last emperor abdicate the throne. The letter reminded its readers of the international threat from Britain in Tibet and expressed worries about borderland problems if the civil war between the revolutionaries and the Qing court was prolonged (SJSB, January 17, 1912, [21] 377, 386). It appealed to people in Manchuria not to fight the revolutionaries at the cost of the country’s border security.

Neither the revolutionaries nor the Qing officials in Manchuria employed anti-Manchu or anti-Han policies or rhetoric in their efforts to win support among the local people. As publicized in Shengjing shibao (December 6, 1911), the third of the six “Regulations on Soldiers” promoted by the Manchurian revolutionaries announced that “those who kill Manchus will be killed.” The revolutionaries also encouraged all the local Qing policemen to surrender and promised that anyone who surrendered—no matter their ethnic origin—would receive an award of ten taels (SJSB, December 1, 1911). Thus, in sharp contrast to the aforementioned threat of death for hiding Manchus in Wuchang, revolutionaries in Manchuria forbade soldiers from killing Manchus and adopted strategies designed to entice voluntary surrender by Manchu forces.

Revolutionaries in Manchuria made considerable efforts to establish alliances with the Manchus and other banner people in support of the Republican cause. The leaders of a major revolutionary organization, Fengtian United Progressive Association (Fengtian lianhe jijin hui 奉天联合激进会‎), most of whom were former members of Tongmenghui, advocated two goals quite different from the famous slogan of “Expelling the Tartars”: to rise in response to the revolutionaries in the south and maintain the revolutionary forces in the Northeast in order to “stop the Qing emperor from returning to the East”; and to establish a republican regime consisting of both the Manchus and the Han (Wang Kuixi 1984 (p.81) , 379, 381–382; Li Xin 1981–1982, 409). Revolutionary leaflets posted in the capital city of Jilin Province after the temporary Republican government was established in Nanjing in January 1912 blamed the Qing government for spreading all the rumors about anti-Manchuism and stirring up hostilities between the Manchus and the Han.23

Among the leaders of Fengtian United Progressive Association were two bannermen, Zhang Rong 张榕‎ (Zhang Huanrong 张焕榕‎, 1884–1912) and Baokun 宝昆‎ (1880–1912). Zhang Rong came from a wealthy Han banner clan in Xingjing. He was involved in and present at the assassination of five Qing ministers by Wu Yue 吴樾‎ at a railway station in Beijing in 1905. Wu was killed on site, and Zhang was arrested for treason and sentenced to life imprisonment. An anecdote attributed Zhang’s comparatively light sentence (compared with the immediate execution of other anti-Qing revolutionaries arrested for similar crimes) to his banner origins and his young age (Lu and Su 1993). After three years in prison, Zhang escaped together with a prison guard and sailed to Japan, where he participated in the Tongmeng hui. After he returned to Manchuria, Zhang and Baokun became close comrades, planning an anti-Qing uprising with other local revolutionaries. Baokun came from a prestigious family of the Manchu Plain White Banner (Bao and Wang 1996).24 His father, Hengtai, and uncle, Hengguang, were both Qing officials. Zhang and Baokun joined the revolution against the Qing government not to establish a Han nation that excluded the “Tartars,” but to “establish a republican political regime consisting of the Manchus and the Han,” as announced by their Fengtian United Progressive Association. Their leadership in the revolution in Manchuria makes clear the lack of anti-Manchu sentiment in the region.

The way local Qing officials treated Zhang’s and Baokun’s comrades after Zhang’s and Baokun’s deaths also illustrates the complex rivalry between the revolutionaries and the officials. The aforementioned Zhao Erxun (1844–1927), a Han bannerman who was appointed governor-general of the Three Eastern Provinces as well as imperial commissioner in the early spring of 1911, attempted to suppress the revolutionaries without disturbing the stability of the local area. Zhao and his staff followed Zhang Rong’s activities closely. On the evening of January 23, 1912, Zhao’s subordinate officers shot Zhang Rong to death and found documents in his home that proved his connections with the revolutionary forces and anti-Qing activities. That same night, Baokun was killed at his own house when Qing patrol guards arrived to arrest him.

Commenting on a report submitted to him the next day, Zhao wrote, “For a long time, I have heard of Zhang Rong’s secret connection with bandits and the conspiracy for evil intentions…. Baokun, who was the offspring of a Manchu family that has served the court for generations, (p.82) still dared to hold vicious intentions and collaborated with the rebellious party…. Thus his crime also deserved execution.”25 Within three days, Zhao posted an announcement that harshly blamed Zhang, Baokun, and their colleagues for “causing disasters for us living beings,” but he also instructed his military forces not to arrest innocent people at will and instead to focus on maintaining local security. Astonishingly, Zhao announced that he had burned the roster of revolutionaries found in Zhang’s house and promised not to arrest any of those named in it. This announcement constituted Zhao’s precaution against any repeat of the Wuchang Uprising, in which revolutionaries chose possible death in a rebellion over certain death if arrested by the Qing government. Zhao’s burning (at least as claimed) of the roster of local revolutionaries would have been unthinkable outside the special circumstances in place in Manchuria. Most importantly, Zhao’s strategy aimed to reduce hostility between the Qing and prorevolutionary forces and to maintain local stability, rather than to uphold the ultimate imperial sovereignty of the court.26

Similarly, in an effort to mobilize people from various walks of life to maintain order and stability during the chaotic months after the 1911 Revolution, Zhao Erxun founded the Fengtian Peace Maintenance Association (Fengtian bao’an gonghui 奉天保安公会‎) and the Branch Association of Fengtian Citizens’ Peace Maintenance (Fengtian guomin bao’an fenhui 奉天国民保安分会‎). Article I of the regulations of both associations stated that their purpose was “[t]o protect local security and safety, the life and property of both the original inhabitants [of the region] and people from other provinces and countries, no matter whether they are Manchu, Han, Hui, or Mongol.”27 In addition, Zhao wrote directly to the revolutionary leaders in Wuchang, calling their attention to borderland problems. He termed the revolutionaries’ efforts at overthrowing the Qing dynasty nonheroic because a “hero” could “pacify the inside [problems] and resist outside danger,” and he blamed them for overlooking the danger of foreign invasion while initiating a civil war. Zhao questioned the revolutionaries’ military strength, warning that “although you people have the power to make winds and waves, the court does not lack the capability to calm them down.” Zhao admonished them not to divide the country with Manchu-Han hostility and not to forget the humiliation that China was suffering from territorial secession and the war indemnities owed to foreign countries.28

Zhao’s concerns about foreign encroachment were shared by other Qing officers in Manchuria. In Heilongjiang, when a rumor arose of anti-Han actions by the Manchus, a brigade commander (guandai 管带‎) in the Green Standard and a commander general (tongling 统领‎) gathered Manchu and Han officers together to explain how Manchu-Han (p.83) hostility would undermine the country’s ability to resist “foreign humiliation.” They suggested that if people did not like the present government, they should overthrow it rather than debate Manchu-Han differences. They warned that any Manchu-Han reciprocal slaughter would yield only mutual destruction, from which foreign powers would benefit. Insisting that no racial differences existed within the country, they instructed their subordinates that fanning Manchu-Han hostility would not save the country but would only expedite its decline.29

Out of concerns over local stability, the threat of foreign invasion, or personal political calculations (or all three), Manchurian officials tried to maintain a balance between the Qing court and the revolutionaries. This strategy, together with the long-standing view of Manchuria as an “outside” area separated by the Shanhai Pass, made revolutionaries suspicious of the Manchurians’ intentions or loyalties to China in the post-1911 years. Zhao’s officials in Fengtian Province were once accused of lynching students who had cut their queues, a gesture of support and loyalty to the new Republican regime. Such an accusation was reported to Yuan Shikai, who sent a telegram to Zhao Erxun requesting an investigation. In his reply, Zhao denied the accusation and explained that people in the Northeast had the freedom to decide whether or not to have their queues cut, even though in China Proper people were sometimes forced to cut theirs. The queue issue added to the widespread speculation about whether Manchurian officials might move against the Republic. When one of Zhao’s advisers heard such rumors in Tianjin, he suggested that Zhao cut his queue and then order his troops to do the same in order to quell suspicions.30

Such suspicions about people in Manchuria sprang from the wider bias against the Manchus or banner people, which was further promoted by local newspapers in China Proper. Articles in Zhonghua ribao (China daily) and Guoquan bao (National rights newspaper) on April 6, 1912, that humiliated the Manchus stirred up conflict between some banner soldiers of the Imperial Guards and the newspapers’ editorial office. One of these articles made fun of banner people’s lack of professional skills and hinted that the only job suitable for banner women was illegal prostitution, and for bannermen, banditry. A petition from these banner soldiers termed this humiliation intolerable and complained that it violated the polity of the “republic of the five ethnic groups.” Another article in Guoquan bao, titled “On the evil intention of the Manchus’ petition for designated seats in the congress” (Tuilun Manren qing she guohui zhuan’e zhi e’yi 推论满人请设国会专额之恶意‎), called the Manchus “debasing barbarians who raped, conquered, raided, and ate raw animals.” The author argued that a Manchu petition for the assignment of seats to their ethnic group at congress was a sign of their greediness (p.84) and revealed their habit of enjoying privileges. He asserted that the special quota for the Mongols and Tibetans should not be applied to the Manchus because the “old region”—referring to Manchuria or the Three Eastern Provinces—had already been converted into provinces. The article asked, “How dare the Manchus point a finger at [state affairs]?” For comparison, the author praised the Hui, who also lacked a special quota, for being cooperative and understanding. He condemned the Royal Clan Party (Zongshe dang 宗社党‎) for conspiring to destroy the Republic and restore the Qing. Viewing the Manchus as “dangerous by nature,” this author suggested that they be put “under the close watch of policemen and public security staff.”31

Newspapers in Beijing and Tianjin fomented suspicion of people in the Three Eastern Provinces, accusing them of supporting the Manchu regime and opposing the Republic. Reports on the area often listed three reasons for such suspicion: first, members of the Royal Clan Party had gathered at Lüshun and Dailian in South Manchuria under Japanese protection; second, the military forces of the Northeast did not contact or respond to revolutionary troops in other provinces; and third, local political leaders in Manchuria announced a willingness to maintain the status quo rather than follow the new government’s policies.32

Such suspicion of Manchurians was not simply based on rumors. The court did harbor a hope that the military forces of banners from the Three Eastern Provinces could help the Qing dynasty in 1911, as they had done earlier in the Qing.33 The Qing rulers still viewed the region as a personnel pool from which qualified soldiers could be drawn to suppress rebellions within China Proper. Zhao Erxun did send out an order to the Office of Banner Affairs at Fengtian, trying to mobilize strong bannermen for possible military action.34 In addition, some local elites, such as Yuan Jinkai 袁金铠‎ (1869/1870–1947), openly opposed the Republic and proposed that a temporary emperor be selected from the royal clan if Emperor Xuantong could not return to the Three Eastern Provinces. Local officers even tried to recruit people into troops that could “protect the Emperor.”35

According to news reports on the movements of the Eight Banners in Manchuria, at meetings of the commanders in chief (dutong 都统‎) and the company commanders (zuoling 佐领‎) in January 1912, some attendees planned to select soldiers from the Eight Banners and Green Standard to resist the revolutionary forces. They reasoned that the revolutionaries, having already broken many agreements with the Qing government, would move to suppress the banner people if they could rule Manchuria, especially as anti-Manchu violence continued in China Proper. Banner soldiers and officers in Fengtian were reported to be planning a march to Beijing to protect the emperor.36 A telegram circulated (p.85) on February 3, 1912, appealed to the Republican cabinet and prime minister to establish a special system, apart from the Republican state and essentially autonomous. The telegram claimed that a special system in the Three Eastern Provinces could help to restore peace and security for the local population, as “it should be taken into consideration that the Three Eastern Provinces have a different status and [the people there have] a different consciousness (xinli 心理‎).” In conclusion, the authors of the telegram further warned that a rebellion could happen and lead to territorial separation if the area was assimilated by the Republic in the same manner as other provinces.37

These moves gave the revolutionaries and their sympathizers sufficient reason to view the Three Eastern Provinces as a possible base from which Manchu restorationists could arise. In a series of announcements and telegrams, despite all these suspicions and pressures, Zhao also emphasized that this area differed from China Proper not only in its strategic and geographical location but also in the mindset of the people. In a telegram to Yuan Shikai, Zhao listed seven items of special treatment for Manchuria that he thought necessary for the maintenance of local peace and territorial integrity:

  1. (1) The deepest respect of the people and ministers of the Three Eastern Provinces for the emperor of the Great Qing will never end;

  2. (2) The people of the Three Eastern Provinces will provide the Qing emperor with troops from which he can select his imperial guards and soldiers;

  3. (3) The emperor should visit the Three Eastern Provinces every three years;

  4. (4) Before the northern and southern governments have been unified, and before [the ROC government] has been recognized by other countries, the Three Eastern Provinces should not be forced to recognize it;

  5. (5) If there are any reforms and changes in the system and regulations initiated by the republican government, the Three Eastern Provinces should not be forced to implement them for three years;

  6. (6) For three years, the central government should not reassign at will official positions under the governor-general of the Three Eastern Provinces;

  7. (7) For three years, the taxes and armies of the Three Eastern Provinces should not be allotted to other places.38

In March 1912, less than a month after this telegram was circulated, Yuan Shikai agreed that government officials in Manchuria, despite changes to their official titles, should remain in their offices and (p.86) that all of the administrative and military systems there would remain unchanged.39

Of course, the maintenance of the old structure and personnel of the local Qing government did not help to quell the rising suspicions in southern China that people in the Three Eastern Provinces were pro-Qing, if not counterrevolutionary. A confidential telegram from Yuan Shikai to Zhao Erxun warned that because the southerners believed a rumor about the refusal of Fengtian Province to recognize the Republic, the southern government had already sent someone to Fengtian to investigate the situation.40 Southern suspicion of the loyalty of the Manchurians to the Republic continued into the years of the Second Sino-Japanese War.

The legacy of Qing territoriality over Manchuria led to another problem for the revolutionaries: If the early generation of anti-Manchu intellectuals and politicians believed that the Manchus should be expelled from China Proper and sent to their homeland, did this definition of the Chinese nation imply that Manchuria should be excluded from the Republican state?

Reconceptualization of the Manchuria-China Relationship

The revolutionary leaders disagreed among themselves over the extent to which Manchuria belonged to the ROC or the Chinese nation. This disagreement added an important variable to the reconfiguration of the Manchus’ identity. Manchuria had been regarded as the Manchus’ land by many anti-Manchu radicals, including Zhang Binglin 章炳麟‎ (1869–1936) and Sun Yat-sen. In the early twentieth century, Zhang Binglin published his views of the alien nature of the Manchus and of Manchuria’s possible separation from China, views that were often quoted in later years:

Today anti-Manchuism is similar to one’s effort to reclaim one’s own land and house from occupiers in accordance with old contracts defining land borders. Therefore, [to drive the Manchus out] is just to collect what we used to have. They still can have their Three Eastern Provinces as an autonomous area for the Manchus (Manzhou).

In Zhang’s eyes, the Manchus were even more “foreign” than the Japanese. He argued that the characters used in written Japanese were similar to the Chinese, but that Manchu script was different from the Han. The Chinese and Japanese had similar customs and habits, but Manchu habits differed from those of the Han. While the Chinese could not tolerate the Japanese occupation of Chinese land and were determined to safeguard China’s sovereignty and independence, Zhang asked, “How (p.87) could the Chinese surrender to the Manchus?”41 In 1909, in a letter to Prince Su, Zhang suggested that the Qing royal clan return to Manchuria and establish their own imperial regime, but return China to the Han people.42 Ironically, in the same year, the first nationality law in China was promulgated by the Qing court to redefine all Qing subjects as “Zhongguo ren” (Chinese nationals).

Although his views on Manchuria were less well known than Zhang’s, Sun Yat-sen had a secret plan to lease Manchuria to Japan. Recently, Chinese and Japanese scholars discovered documents from Sun’s attempt to make this leasing deal in exchange for financial support for his revolutionary troops during the 1911 Revolution and for the anti–Yuan Shikai movement in the mid-1910s.43 In addition to accounts in the memoirs of famous historical figures such as Ogawa Heikichi 小川平吉‎, Shimoda Utako 下田歌子‎, Miyazaki Ryūsuke 宫崎竜介‎ (son of Miyazaki Toten 宫崎滔天‎), and Kawakami Kiyoshi 河上清‎, other textual evidence includes a telegram and a letter (February 8, 1912) between Mori Taka 森恪‎ (1882–1932), an expert on Chinese affairs hired by Mitsui 三井財閥‎, and Masuda Takashi 益田孝‎ (1848–1938), the founder of Mitsui, which records Sun’s offer of the lease of Manchuria. Additionally, the memoir of Gao Chongmin 高崇民‎ (1890–1971), a PRC government official, tells how Gao personally heard Sun Yat-sen’s plan to lease the Three Eastern Provinces to Japan in the early twentieth century.44 Some people suggested that Gao delete his narrative on Sun’s attempt to lease the Northeast from his memoir, but Gao insisted on keeping this “unpatriotic” portrait of Sun Yat-sen, which not only adds credibility to his testimony but also reveals his deep concern over and strong opposition to Sun’s plan for Manchuria (Yang 2002, 273–289). The different stances taken by Sun, born and educated overseas, and Gao, a local Han Chinese from Manchuria, illustrate the complicated nature of the relationship between China and Manchuria. Gao’s opposition to Sun’s lease plan suggests that local Han Chinese already regarded Manchuria as a part of China. Sun’s secret deal, on the other hand, demonstrates that criticism of the GMD’s abandonment of Manchuria was not unfounded.

Gao was not the only revolutionary opposed to Zhang and Sun’s view of Manchuria’s relationship to China. During the era of Russian and Japanese encroachment in the region, Manchuria’s historical “otherness” was gradually replaced by a strategic and symbolic meaning as part of China’s national integrity and territorial sovereignty. Some revolutionaries argued that before the Manchus established their regime in Manchuria, the land had belonged to Han Chinese for centuries and that the Manchus were thus subjects of China.45 A 1903 article in the famous revolutionary journal Jiangsu 江苏‎ insisted that the Han should interfere in Manchurian affairs because of Russian expansion there despite (p.88) their view of Manchuria as a foreign land. The author disagreed with those who accused Han people who were worried about Russian expansion of being slaves of the Manchus. He called attention to Manchuria with an analogy: “For example, although my neighbor is my enemy, when his house is on fire I have to help him. I help him not because I love my enemy, but because the disaster might reach my house.”46

The Republic would soon see the “fire” of foreign invasion in Manchuria, as the 1903 article above predicted, which would expand quickly and reach the capital of the ROC, Nanjing, within three decades. The Eight-Banner livelihood problem inherited from the Qing would also continue to drive banner people further into poverty in the early ROC years.

After 1911: Banner People in the Years of State Succession

The 1911 Revolution led to the collapse of the Qing empire. But the Eight-Banner system still existed in the early ROC years. So did the old problems associated with the Qing banner identity, such as the Eight-Banner livelihood problem. Living in a Republican state where the last Manchu emperor was defined as a “foreign monarch,” the Manchus and other banner people also had to face a series of problems associated with state succession that forced them to reconfigure their identities and to reposition themselves in the new regime.

Old and New Problems

The Republican government faced similar financial and organizational problems concerning the livelihood of banner people as the Qing. But unlike the Qing court, the Republican government never prioritized banner-related problems on its worksheet, although those problems were devastating for banner people. Without a favorable or friendly social environment, sufficient provisions, land, or job skills, banner people struggled to make a living. As described in the “Statement of a Seminar on the Livelihood of the Eight Banners” in 1912, they “died in war, flood, and fire. They were killed by bandits. Family members lost one another and wandered around homeless.” Many who survived had no houses, clothes, or food. Some people even “sold their wives and daughters for just one or two days’ living.” The statement described banner people’s struggles to feed themselves as follows: “In ancient times, it was strange if a family could not light its stove [to cook]. Now it would be rare if one could light his stove.”47

After the Qing dynasty collapsed, the “Articles of Favorable Treatment” between the Manchu imperial household and the revolutionaries promised to continue the supply of provisions to banner people.48 But (p.89) the Republican government and warlord regimes had never resolved the funding problem.49 The Office of Banner Affairs (Qiwu chu 旗务处‎) and the Office of Eight Banners Livelihood (Baqi shengji chu 八旗生计处‎) under the Republican government, like the Office for Banner System Reform (Biantong qizhi zhu 变通旗制处‎) of the late Qing, had no effective way to solve any of the poverty and unemployment issues experienced by several million banner people. What’s worse, the Office of Eight Banners Livelihood was not recognized as a formal administrative unit by the Republican government, so it had no administrative or financial power to address any problem.50

Whether or not the Beijing government itself had the fiscal ability or the intention to help the office was still a question. The Department of the Interior in Beijing received various suggestions and petitions on how to reform the Eight-Banner system and improve the livelihood of banner people, including reforming the banner registration system and re-examining fraud in the banner stipend distribution system, setting a budget for banner offices, establishing businesses on banner public property, and providing professional training for banner people, among others. One petition pointed out that measures should be taken to provide banner people with a place of residence, because their situations in local garrisons were much worse and more difficult than those of banners in Beijing after the establishment of the Republican government. As the department replied to one such petition, however, the government lacked sufficient funding, like “a skillful wife who cannot make a meal without rice.”51

Without sufficient funding from the central government, banner provisions were often delayed or reduced from the late Qing through the early ROC years. When the head of the Gioro clan appealed to the Bureau of Finance for basic provisions in 1916, his request was rejected for one reason: the financial situation in recent years had been so difficult that the Bureau could not provide any money to banner soldiers.52 Official corruption often made the situation even worse. Reports on corrupt local officers were sent to the Republican government but seldom received attention, not to mention any meaningful investigation.53

These problems meant that those banner people assigned to official positions did not receive sufficient stipends or provisions. In an even worse position were banner people without assigned positions or jobs within the banner system. Unemployment was consistently such a serious problem that proposals to remedy it, including such measures as training for young banner people in factories, recruiting some to police forces, and setting up farms, arrived in a steady stream. But most strategies lacked sufficient consideration of specific local situations. For example, in Nuohe 诺河‎ County, newly assigned lands could not lift banner (p.90) people out of poverty, as they were too poor to purchase farming tools. Consequently, although some banner people owned land, they had no use for it. In addition, even those who could afford farming expenditures often lacked the necessary skills. The establishment of factories in areas with small populations and little commercial activities also failed to help banner people because the region “was scarcely populated and those commercial handicraft items could not be sold [in any quantity].”54

Poverty caused by a lack of provisions or unemployment was not the only problem faced by banner people in the early Republic. Their miserable conditions were reported often in the nascent newspapers: banner people guarding the royal mausoleum were dressed in a pitiful style; banner people’s salaries had been cut by a large percentage; and banner people’s provisions had been delayed for months.55 These news reports tainted the public image of banner people and lowered their social status.

Banner people in Manchuria, who generally experienced less financial pressure during the Qing than those in China Proper, now were hit as hard in the early ROC years. In a 1916 report to the governor of Fengtian Province, a Manchu company commander of the Bordered Yellow Banner petitioned for stipends to help banner people with heavy debt resulting from usurious interest rates. In the Guangxu reign (1875–1908), his company received a loan from the Guangning 广宁‎ commandant (shouwei 守尉‎) to pay for provisions to banner people. Under contract, the loan was to be paid in installments drawn from future banner provisions at a special monthly interest rate. The banner people of this company, however, could hardly make a living with their provisions. Hence the commander requested that payment to the lender be deferred and stipends be given to banner members for basic living expenses.56 To cite another example, a 1932 article in Shengjing shibao records a tombstone inscription for a sixteen-sui Manchu woman from an old and prominent family, who killed herself by swallowing opium paste after she was cheated and sold to a brothel.57 This young Manchu woman was still paying a high price for the establishment of the Republic twenty years after 1911, as were other banner people or their children even many years later.

Old and New Identities

The miserable situations of banner people in the ROC were also closely associated with the banner identity that they inherited from the Qing. Banner people faced pervasive discrimination for either being identified as Manchu or being blamed for what the conquering Qing banner forces had done more than two centuries earlier. While overlooking the banner livelihood problem, the ROC leaders made no serious (p.91) attempts to reduce anti-Manchu discrimination. In fact, Sun’s inaugural proclamation of “five ethnic groups as one family” was contradicted within a matter of weeks by an announcement titled “Unification Ceremony of the Republic.” The latter claimed the restoration of Han sovereignty over China at a sacrificial ritual in honor of Ming Taizu 明太祖‎ (r. 1368–1398), the founder of the Ming dynasty, held at the mausoleum of the Ming royal clan (Ming xiaoling 明孝陵‎) in Nanjing on February 15, three days after the announcement of the Qing emperor’s abdication.

In “The Essay for the Sacrificial Ritual,” Sun reported to the first emperor of the Ming dynasty, who had expelled the Mongols from China Proper and claimed to restore justice to the Han, that the Republic followed his example. In the other essay offered at the ritual, Sun referred to the Qing court as the “bandit Manchu court” and the 1911 Revolution as “a glorious regeneration.” Sun expressed gratitude to the spirit of Ming Taizu, asking, “How could we have attained this measure of victory had not your Majesty’s soul in heaven bestowed upon us your protecting influence?” Sun prayed to Ming Taizu in the classical Confucian way: “Your people have come here to-day to inform your Majesty of the final victory. May this lofty shrine wherein you rest gain fresh lustre from to-day’s event, and may your example inspire your descendants in the times which are to come. Spirit! Accept this offering!”58

Sun’s references to the revolutionaries as the descendants of Ming Taizu legitimized the ROC as the successor of the Ming and the anti-Manchu revolution as a Han restoration. According to an observer at the ritual, after the ceremony was over, Sun was so excited that he “was speechless with emotion for a minute; then he briefly declared how, after two hundred and sixty years, the nation had again recovered her freedom; and now that the curse of Manchu domination was removed, the free peoples of a united republic could pursue their rightful aspirations” (Giles 1912, ch. XII). Sun’s sacrificial essays reflect a deeply rooted anti-Manchu and Han-centric understanding of Chinese nationhood among the Republican leaders. The Han-centric nationalism then was projected into government policies toward the Manchus and the neglect of the banner people’s livelihood problems.

Thus, despite Sun’s occasional rhetoric about “the Republic as a family of the five ethnic groups,” the mistreatment and impoverishment of the Manchus—whose last emperor was defined as a “foreign monarch” in the “Articles of Favorable Treatment”—escalated. The famous play The Teahouse (Chaguan 茶馆‎) by Lao She 老舍‎ (1899–1966), a Manchu writer, vividly depicted the Manchus’ awareness of their low status in the ROC. When a Manchu bannerman, Song Enzi 松恩子‎ (Erye), was questioned about why he could not get a job, he summarized the predicaments (p.92) of banner people in the early ROC years: “Of course nobody wants to starve to death doing nothing, but who wants us Manchu bannermen? When you think about it, maybe the Great Qing Empire wasn’t so good, but I’ve gone hungry from the day this Republic of China began” (Lao She 1980, 32). Another bannerman in the play, Chang Siye 常四爷‎, while admitting that the corrupt Qing was doomed to fall, found himself helpless in the ROC years. He questioned his relation to the new state: “I love our country, but who loves me?” This famous question still wins sympathy from contemporary Manchus, according to Guan Jixin 关继新‎, a famous Manchu scholar of Manchu literature. Guan regards Chang Siye’s question as “the recognition [of discrimination] based on the most keenly felt pain.”59 Chang Siye’s question about whether his country loved him reflected not only the painful livelihood problems of the early ROC years, but also banner people’s confusion over their relationship with the newly built Republic.

Banner people responded differently to the complicated changes in their social and political status in the early ROC years. Some chose to deny their Manchu or banner origin. Some formed a stronger feeling of group attachment to the banner community and a belief in self-reliance. Some chose to stand up for banner people and became activists, some of whom attempted to promote political appeals within the ROC system while others aimed to set up an independent state in Manchuria.

When social resources were not assigned fairly to the Manchus and other banner people, many changed or hid their Manchu or banner identity in both China Proper and Manchuria. A Manchu bannerman who began his medical practice in Beijing in the Guangxu reign, for example, was unable to get his license renewed after 1911. He applied for permission to denounce his banner identity, register as a civilian, and claim a Han identity. After his application was approved, he received his license.60 To hide their Manchu or banner identity in daily life, quite a few banner people added Han family names to their Manchu names after the 1911 Revolution. The Zhengfu gongbao 政府公报‎ (Governmental newsletters) in the years immediately after the revolution recorded bannermen’s applications for name changes all over China. For example, on September 12, 1911, forty-one banner people of the Army Elementary School of Zhili applied for Han names and were approved by the government. Among the applicants were Manchus, Mongols, and Hanjun, as well as banner people under the Imperial Household Department (No. 170, October 18, 1912).

Identity crises and anxiety also afflicted banner people in Manchuria in the post-1911 years, although Manchu-Han relations were much less tense there than in China Proper. A long comment on an application by Ruilu, a Hanjun, reads,

(p.93) He used to be a commoner, but was recruited into a Han banner. In the late Qing, due to the lack of labor and soldiers in borderlands, under the policy of training farmers as soldiers, people from China Proper immigrated to Heilongjiang Province. These immigrants were farmers in spring and summer, but in autumn they received military training and in winter they were hunters. Those qualified ones were selected for the banners. Those selected [for the banners] made their given names family names in Manchu style, while those who were still farmers and merchants kept their original family names. This has been a popular practice. The original family name of Ruilu is Ma. Please allow him to rename after Ma. This is perhaps the first application [for renaming] in Heilongjiang Province. All those who apply for renaming and announcement of reasons should report to the Governor and register with the Department of Army.61

The archives of the Office of the Fengtian Provincial Chief (Fengtian xingsheng gongshu dang 奉天行省公署档‎) also include many reports on name-change cases. A common feature of these reports is that the rhetoric of “harmony of the five ethnic groups,” or “one family of the five ethnic groups,” was used as the basic reason for why applicants wanted to change their names.62 The irony of such reasoning, based on “ethnic harmony,” is that it would have been unnecessary to hide Manchu or banner origins through name changes if ethnic harmony was indeed present.

Applying for a name change was a complicated procedure. As shown by a document titled “Approval of the application of banner students (qisheng 旗生‎) of the No. 1 Pre-School of Army for adding Han family names,” to prevent imposters, applicants had to show the “tupian” 图片‎ (literally, “pictorial card”) from their banner dossiers, which described their physical likeness.63 If the banner had already been dismantled, or the banner commander was too distant to be contacted, the applicant needed to find at least four guarantors from among the townspeople who were also registered students of the school. A list of names, including students from various Han and Manchu banners, was attached to this notice for further investigation (fig. 2.1).64

Not only personal names but also institutional names associated with the banners were changed after 1911. Some schools of the Eight Banners even eliminated the term “banner” from their names. For example, the Eight Banners School in Xiuyan 岫岩‎, Fengtian, was renamed “Central Model Elementary School” (Zhongxin mofan xiaoxue 中心模范小学‎).65 Individuals and institutions with banner affiliations both tried to sever their former connections with banners or with the Manchu community. In contrast, other banner people developed a new identity name, (p.94)

Between Empire and NationThe 1911 Revolution, Manchus, and Manchuria

Figure 2.1. A list of applicants for adding Han family names. The left two are Han bannermen.

(Fengtian shengzhang gongshu dang, Liaoning Provincial Archives.)

qizu 旗族‎ (banner ethnic group), and some tried to organize for self-reliance and to appeal for more political rights for the banner community.

Qizu: A New Name for Banner People

Qizu literally means the ethnic group of the banner people. The conceptualization of qizu among banner people was a key stage in the historical transformation of the banner institution into today’s Manzu ethnic community. The question of why the term qizu, referring to the aggregation of all banner people from various divisions, appeared in the early twentieth century must be examined.

Qizu sprang from the term qiren. Under the Qing in general—and in Qing Manchuria in particular—the distinction between “qiren” and “minren” was not used to effectively categorize all banner people as Manchu, as noted in the previous chapter. In the late Qing, the famous scholar Yang Du 杨度‎ (1874–1931) explained that it was a common mistake to regard all banner people as Manchu, because banner people came from diverse backgrounds.66 The differentiation between banner (p.95) subdivisions was not only reflected in Qing legal and administrative systems but was also deeply rooted in banner people’s self-identification with respect to their ethnic origins and their practice of everyday customs, as it is even today.67

During the early twentieth century, the gradual dissolution of the Eight-Banner system and the widespread discrimination against banner people diluted most of the internal distinctions between the Manchu, Mongol, and Han banner people. In particular, banner people’s experiences during and after the 1911 Revolution served as a catalyst for the synthesis of the present Manzu community out of different banner divisions, as the anti-Manchu rhetoric, violence, and social bias in China Proper often targeted all banner people, not just the Manchus. Even though banner people were not all viewed as Manchu by all outsiders, such a perception had a deep impact upon the self-identification of banner people as one community.

This developing identity based on perception by others led banner people to begin to use qizu as their communal name. The character “zu” 族‎ (ethnic community or clan) of qizu had a stronger ethnic connotation than the “ren” 人‎ (people) of qiren. The use of “zu” indicates an awareness of the internal cohesion that crossed previous subdivisions within the Eight-Banner system. The banner people’s use of qizu for their nongovernmental organizations also reveals their intention to take collective action, a sign of the politicization of an ethnic community. For example, a journal entitled Qizu provided a new forum for banner people to voice their opinions on current affairs,68 and organizations such as “Qizu gongjin hui” 旗族共进会‎ (Association of banner ethnic group’s united progress) and “Gonghe qizu shengji tongren hui” 共和旗族生计同仁会‎ (The association of colleagues on the Republican banner people livelihood) included “qizu” in their names.

Zhang Furong 章福荣‎, a Han bannerman,69 published an essay titled “Qizu cunwang yida wenti” 旗族存亡一大问题‎ (A serious problem of the life and death of qizu) that examined why banner people were forming the ethnic community of qizu. He argued that although the members of the banner system did not share a common “blood lineage” (xuetong 血统‎), all banner people had been integrated into one group with a common language, script, religion, customs, and spirit. Zhang explained that qizu should be the proper ethnic name for the banner community:

The zhongzu 种族‎ (race) of the Eight Banners in sum is made up of Manchu, Mongolian, and Han. Therefore, its ethnic (minzu 民族‎) name cannot be Manchu or Mongol or Han. Another name should be used, if following the precedents of ethnology (1922, 37).

(p.96) Zhang provided examples from European history to prove that many ethnic groups emerged out of smaller groups. Following the same pattern, Zhang reasoned, the Han, Mongol, and Manchu ethnic groups of the banner system formed a larger ethnic community, qizu. When subjected to the newly developed discrimination of the banner people, differences between the subdivisions within the Eight-Banner system became irrelevant, because “among those dressed like beggars, living in poor health, begging for help and wandering around, who can tell whether they are Han, Manchu, or Mongol?”

For Zhang, banner people in the early ROC years shared similar experiences and common characteristics: a lack of motivation, freedom, personal will, and skills to make a living; a concern only for stability in the present rather than the future; and little knowledge about property or competition. Although the Eight-Banner system provided food and stipends to its members during the Qing, it limited banner people’s life choices, failed to protect them, and left them unprepared for a changing world. Thus, the banner system was the basis for the integration and assimilation of the three groups after the 1911 Revolution, and the ethnic community made up of Manchu, Han, and Mongol banner people should be renamed with the retention of the character “qi”—banner (37–38).

In Zhang’s opinion, “qizu” identity was also associated closely with Manchuria. He believed that Manchuria would be the place where the livelihood problems of the banner people could be solved. Listing five Qing-dynasty precedents of relocating banner people to Manchuria to support his plan, Zhang suggested that banner people immigrate to Shengjing, Heilongjiang, and Ningguta in Manchuria, establish farms, and cultivate frontier lands (Zhang 1922, 24–36).

The formation of qizu in the ROC was analogous to the process of making a snowball: when it is cold enough and the pressure from the outside is hard enough, loose snowflakes can be packed into a cohesive snowball.70 The social environment in the early twentieth century “packed” disparate groups of banner people, who had been differentiated within the banner system, into a single community. These conditions—a decline in political and social status, extreme poverty, and discrimination—served to create a “qizu” identity for self-identification. Many banner people, such as Zhang Furong, developed stronger feelings of group attachment to the general banner community than to their specific banner subdivision. Common predicaments forced them to redefine their position within the ROC and to develop their collective political responses to outside changes and pressures. The banner people’s communal self-identification; their social, cultural, and political expression of that self-identification through membership organizations; (p.97) and political appeals to protect group interests and counter outside discrimination are essential aspects of the historical process through which an ethnic community was formed (Brass 1991, 19–20). The most powerful outside force in shaping the snowball of the ethnic banner community was widespread anti-Manchuism. The internal cohesion of the banner community grew as its members began to organize to help their fellow people and to present political appeals to the Republican government.

New Political Appeals of the Banner Community

Banner people tried to organize themselves through nongovernmental measures. In Beijing, some banner people volunteered to donate inherited lands to the Livelihood Society of the Two Guards’ Camps and Eight Banners (Lianghu Baqi shengji hui 两护八旗生计会‎) in 1913. Among the donors was a Manchu widow who did what she could to help other banner people. In one donation note, a twenty-eight or twenty-nine-year-old member of the royal clan of the Plain Blue Banner bitterly noted that “although the five ethnic groups are one family, the livelihood [of the banners] is particularly grave.”71 The social discrimination and financial pressures stacked against banner people helped to establish internal bonds and form a communal affiliation when facing common problems with the new state.

Manchurian banner people were more vocal and active than those in China Proper immediately after 1911. The General Association of the Fengtian Eight Banners’ Livelihood (Fengtian Baqi Shengji Zonghui 奉天八旗生计总会‎) provides an example. This organization was established by a group of banner officials and soldiers in Fengtian within months of the collapse of the Qing. The first application they submitted to the Office of the Fengtian Provincial Head, dated September 16, 1912, referred to the statute in the Provisional Constitution on the freedom to establish organizations and hold gatherings. All the officials and soldiers of the Eight Banners in Fengtian were to be eligible for membership, and its leaders would be chosen by election. Although the first petition was returned for revision because the provincial government regarded several items on the proposed agenda as “interfering with the administration [of the government],” a reapplication won official approval. The association was officially established on October 27, 1912.72

Even before its formal establishment, this organization had already acted to challenge a resolution, passed by provincial congressmen in early August 1912, regarding the property of banner soldiers. Making use of the new publicity technology of newspaper advertising, they published their letter to the governor, explaining the purposes and regulations (p.98) of their association, in the most influential newspaper in Manchuria, Shengjing shibao, every day between August 23 and August 28. In the letter, these Fengtian banner people criticized the government’s failure to fulfill the promise made in the “Articles of Favorable Treatment” of equal and fair treatment for banner people. They condemned the provincial congress’s resolution to nationalize emolument lands (suique di 随缺地‎) previously assigned to banner positions as part of their pay, arguing that this land was the private property of banner soldiers.73 They also argued that the nationalization of banner lands would worsen the livelihood problems of banner people and provoke them to rebel against the ROC. Adopting a threatening tone, they warned that “[t]he stings of the bees are poisonous.” Indicating a refusal to follow government rules on banner lands, the bannermen advised the government on how to handle land and livelihood concerns through the association, and they advocated independent action to protect banner people’s interests.74

Prior to their newspaper advertisement, some Fengtian bannermen had sent an appeal to the provincial congress. In their petition, they cited a June 1912 order from Sun Yat-sen that promised to protect banner people’s property. They reminded the congress that the riot in Tibet at that time was caused by “racial discrimination” and warned that banner people would also risk their lives in rebellion if forced to turn their property over to the government. The local government rejected the appeal on August 13, 1912, concluding that “[banner lands] should be nationalized and redistributed, and cannot be regarded as [banner] soldiers’ private property…. Those [banner] representatives should not be upset or anxious.” A similar petition, sent on August 18, 1912, received a curt reply from the provincial government: “Do not bother to send in any more petitions.” Nonetheless, another group of banner people from Ningyuan Plain Red and Plain White Banners sent in a similar petition on August 29, arguing that because the “five ethnic groups are one family,” the qizu should not be treated harshly. No reply to this petition could be found in the archival files.75

Several days after the provincial congress passed the resolution on the nationalization of banner lands, a bannerman named Lianjia 联甲‎ and others of the association led more than sixty people to disrupt the congress. After mediation efforts by the chairman of the congress failed, a larger group of about one hundred banner people rushed into an ongoing session and demanded to question the congressman who had made the proposal. After the session was dismissed and the chairman returned to his office, the banner group kicked his door open and allegedly attempted to beat him. The chairman escaped through a side door, but the banner people continued to search for him, shouting abusive (p.99) words. When guards proved unable to stop them, the police were summoned, but the banner people refused to leave. The police asked the governor to send in soldiers and prepare for a riot.76 Although the archives are incomplete, available documents demonstrate that the nationalization of banner property caused serious disputes in different areas for years.77 The incident above shows that banner people in Fengtian did not hesitate to challenge the Republican government or even to openly threaten rebellion if discrimination against their community continued.

Another threat of rebellion was implied in a petition from the Association of Jilin Banner Ethnic Livelihood Planning (Jilin Qizu chouhua shengji hui 吉林旗族筹划生计会‎) to the Council of State Affairs (Guowu yuan 国务院‎) of the Beiyang government in 1914, after the Jilin Provincial Finance Conference planned to cut banner soldiers’ stipends by 50 percent. This petition listed three reasons why the stipends should not be reduced:

  1. (1) The banner soldiers in Jilin differed from those stationed at other garrisons because Jilin was located in the eastern borderland. They served as soldiers and thus had no real estate or property; they and their families relied solely on the annual stipends.

  2. (2) Since the Republic was established, all of the five ethnic groups were supposed to belong to one family. Not all of the banner soldiers were dismissed.78 The president had ordered that banner stipends be distributed as usual before the banner livelihood problem could be solved. Banner people inside and outside the city were alarmed and seized with fear when they heard the news about the 50 percent cut of the soldiers’ stipends. If the new policy was implemented, banner soldiers could not feed themselves. Their annual stipend had already been reduced from twenty-four taels to a little bit more than ten taels. The new policy meant that their monthly stipend would be as little as two or three diao. The price for one dou of millet was usually about twelve diao.79

  3. (3) The young and strong banner people might become bandits and cause trouble. If the president could treat banner people equally, banner soldiers would not dare to rebel.80

Evidence of direct action such as this, taken by both the Fengtian and Jilin banner organizations, so far has not been found in historical records on their banner fellows in Beijing or China Proper in the 1910s.

The Royal Clan Party and Other Restorationists

In addition to organizing associations to make political appeals, petitioning for better treatment, or simply hiding their banner identity, (p.100) banner people developed other strategies for coping with economic hardship and political discrimination. Some restorationists, such as the members of the Royal Clan Party (Zongshe dang), tried to establish an independent Mongolia-Manchuria regime with Japanese support. Frequent communications between the local and Beijing governments in 1912 and documents from the government of the Fengtian warlord in later years reveal that the Zongshe dang was a big concern to both Yuan Shikai, the ROC president, and the local politicians.

In June 1912, Yuan sent Zhao Erxun a telegram, under the name of the “Great President,” requesting him to investigate an intelligence report on the Zongshe dang’s activities in the Three Eastern Provinces (FJDSC, 56). Zhao at first tried to protect the royal clan by denying their involvement with the Zongshe dang. In a speech on September 5, 1912, he told his audience that among those people arrested under the name of the Zongshe dang, “half were those who claimed to be revolutionaries last year; half of them were bandits,” and that “the royal clan does not have a party” (XGZLDS, 288–307). In fact, members of the royal clan, including Prince Su 肃亲王‎ (Shanqi 善耆‎, 1866–1922) and Prince Gong 恭亲王‎ (Puwei 溥伟‎, 1880–1936), were actively involved in the Zongshe dang and the restoration movement.

Zhao received police reports stating that Zongshe dang members were actively recruiting new members and soldiers, planning an uprising, purchasing horses, communicating with the Japanese, and even using military money checks with the mark “Great Qing Empire” on them (FJDSC, 59–61). The Department of State Affairs sent Zhao a copy of Prince Su’s announcement calling Qing loyalists to join anti-ROC troops and restore Qing sovereignty in “the original place of the Qing emperors” (FJDSC, 62). Yuan Shikai urged Zhao to recognize the seriousness of the situation because of the danger of foreign invasion in support of the restorationists. Zhao then stopped denying the Manchu royal clan’s involvement in the Zongshe dang and ordered his subordinates to check and control the restorationists’ activities. During the warlord era, the Zongshe dang continuously made efforts to establish a Manchuria-Mongolia state. They sought and obtained aid from the Japanese. Zhang Zuolin had been watching the Japanese involvement in the Zongshe dang, in particular the contacts between Prince Su and Kawashima Naniwa 川島浪速‎ (1865–1949), a Japanese adventurer who had helped the Qing court with its reforms of the police system. Zhang even ordered his officials to be prepared for possible military attacks from Zongshe dang troops in the summer of 1916 (FJDSC, 491–492, 512).

An outline of the Zongshe dang’s restoration plan reveals that both Zhao Erxun and Zhang Zuolin had reasons to handle these restorationists carefully. The Zongshe dang leaders saw the strategic importance of (p.101) Manchuria to their restoration cause: It would be easy to build up momentum and power there; the Mongols living nearby could be easily mobilized; the large population of banner people could be easily recruited; and Mukden, as the old capital of the Qing, could become a new capital where the restored emperor could be enthroned before their troops were sent to Beijing and other areas (FJDSC, 547–548). The leaders of this party also sent provocateurs to villages and Mongol banners. Reports on village-level agitation related to the Zongshe dang reveal that restorationists did have room to win local support in Manchuria in the early ROC years (FJDSC, 62, 446–451, 568, 689–690). Perhaps realizing the ineffectiveness of ethnonationalistic rhetoric in Manchuria, Zongshe dang leaders used the concept of “loyalty to the emperor” to encourage people to rise against “cunning ministers” in their early announcements in 1912, rather than basing their claims on Manchu sovereignty over the region.

In the early 1930s, some restorationists supported the establishment of Manchoukuo, arguing that “[t]he Northeast does not want to be separated from China; … It is China that abandoned the Northeast.”81 The Republican government was criticized for stimulating ethnic tensions because it not only failed to help banner people improve their economic conditions but also alienated the Manchus politically. Although most active restorationists were upper-class Qing loyalists, they used the banner people’s “livelihood problem” to justify the independence of Manchoukuo. As an editorial in Shengjing shibao stated,

The banner garrisons in Beiping and various provinces, which are waiting for help in earnest, will answer the call for Manchu self-determination in Jilin and move eastward to their original lands.

The editorial asserted that the millions of banner people abandoned by the ROC would build their own state because “nobody in the world could be worse than this irresponsible government that just gave up [the Three Eastern Provinces].” The author further argued that during the Russo-Japanese conflict in northern Manchuria (1904–1905), the central government did not send in one soldier or spend one bullet to protect the local people, nor did it take any measures to solve problems in Manchuria nor accept its responsibility to protect banner people (or Manchuria) after the Mukden Incident of September 18, 1931.82

Although this editorial might have been a piece of Japanese propaganda supporting the establishment of Manchoukuo, it echoed the warnings sent by those Fengtian and Jilin banner organizations discussed earlier. Both elite and common banner people viewed sympathetically the idea of using Manchuria as the base for a Qing restoration (p.102) or as a better place for the Manchus and banner people to live.83 Some Manzu from garrisons in China Proper had moved to Manchuria in search of a better life, or for political reasons, during the years of the Qing-ROC transition. The aforementioned Jinliang of the Office of Banner Affairs worked for the last governors in the region; his brother, Chunliang, also moved to the Three Eastern Provinces in anticipation of the fall of the Qing (Crossley 1990a, 194, 185). And Jinliang’s nephew, when he was still a student at the Hangzhou Prefecture school, publicly argued that Manchuria should be reorganized as a state, not a province, as this region had been the home of the Manchus (Crossley 1990a, 185). Another example is Prince Su, who moved to Lüshun 旅顺‎ immediately after the Qing dynasty collapsed. Restorationists like him, especially those of the Royal Clan Party, were active for years in Manchuria.

In a 1912 petition to the governor of the Three Eastern Provinces, the author Dong Peng, a self-proclaimed “dare-to-die man,” compared the banner people to the Jews and expressed his anger over banner people being “cruelly tortured and killed.” Referring to newsreels of the 1911 Revolution shown in Tokyo, he reported,

When Wuchang was lost, countless banner people were killed. Some naked dead bodies were nailed to the city walls as targets for shooting practice…. The rebellious army in Taiyuan bombarded the streets where banner people resided and killed all the Manchus; in Hankou, several dozen Manchu students were buried.

He predicted that “even if banner people do not become an extinct race, we will be in a worse situation than Jewish people.” To prevent this, he suggested that banner people use the Eastern Provinces as their refuge (as quoted at the beginning of the chapter).84

Such ethnonationalist sentiments were strong among some banner people, and the Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek, 1887–1975) government was fully aware that they posed a danger to the ROC’s sovereignty over Manchuria when Japan was expanding aggressively there. Before Puyi (1906–1967), the last Manchu emperor, left Tianjin for the Three Eastern Provinces under the arrangement with the Japanese in 1931, Jiang Jieshi sent Gao Youtang 高佑棠‎, a member of the Supervision Committee of the ROC, to meet Puyi in Tianjin and talk him into moving out of the Japanese concession. Jiang offered five proposals as a basis for cooperation between Puyi and the GMD: (1) purveyance by the GMD government of a residential building and provisions to Puyi if he moved out of the Japanese concession; (2) restoration of the Articles of Favorable Treatment if Puyi supported the Republican government; (3) payment of provisions to the Qing royal clan on time; (4) addition of two Manchus (p.103) to the Republican government; (5) status and quotas for the Manchus equal to those of the Mongols and Tibetans at any governmental conference. Jiang also promised to help improve the living conditions of banner people in Beiping, demonstrating that these conditions were definitely a serious enough problem to be one of Jiang’s bargaining chips in his negotiation with the last Manchu emperor.

Puyi expressed his distrust of the Republican government when he implicitly refused to move out of the Japanese concession, as Jiang wished. He also expressed dissatisfaction with the GMD’s treatment of the Manchus and his own clan. In particular, Puyi was angry about how the desecration of the Manchu royal mausoleum had been ignored without any serious investigation or punishment of perpetrators, whose identities were well known.85 Without hesitation, Puyi refused Jiang’s offer of preferential treatment for the Manchu royal family because, he claimed, only incompetent people would need to accept favorable treatment.

When Gao Youtang was asked in an interview why the central government paid so much attention to Puyi’s residence in the Japanese concession, Gao replied that the GMD government had foreseen the danger of Japan’s use of Puyi’s Manchu background to exploit ethnic sentiments. He explained,

The League of Nations is not happy with the Japanese. The Japanese have no way out. If the Japanese establish an independent nation under the name of Manchu autonomy in the Northeast, which is the homeland of the Manchus, the Japanese can manipulate [the state] behind the scenes. Furthermore, after WWI, in Europe many new states were established under the name of restoration of a nation. World powers could not stop them from doing so.86

Gao’s prediction was realized in 1932. During the Lytton investigation (to be discussed in the next chapter), the Manchoukuo government used the claim that “Manchuria belonged to the Manchus” in its argument for Manchoukuo’s legitimacy.


Contemporary Chinese history books in mainland China and Taiwan often praise the heroic 1911 Revolution that overthrew the Qing under the slogan of “Expelling the Tartars and Restoring China.” To banner people in general, and the Manchus in particular, the period of state succession between the Qing and the ROC was at best complicated and difficult. Banner people had to navigate different definitions of the Chinese nation, contradictory rhetorical inclusion and political exclusion (p.104) of the Manchus, loss of livelihood, and shifting mappings of China that included or excluded Manchuria.

During this era, three conditions complicated the reconfiguration of banner people’s identities. First, while the imperial, regional, and international borders were shifting, Manchuria was positioned by political forces that saw different political values in the land itself and in its symbolic representations. Second, the changing power relations among the Manchus, other banner people, and Han civilians played a dynamic role in the reconfigurations of identity and the communal reformation of banner people. Third, the special status of Manchuria in the Qing empire complicated both the ROC’s deterritorialization of the Northeast and the inclusion of the Manchus into people’s perceptions of the Chinese nation. The interactions of these conditions and their impact on banner people illustrate the limitations of the Manchu-Han dichotomy if used in studies of the Manchus in Manchuria. To gain a more comprehensive understanding of the Manchus in Manchuria in both the subnational and transnational contexts, this study must examine relationships between territorialization and deterritorialization, emplacement and displacement, and homeland and borderland.

In the last years of the Qing, although the Manchu rulers had provincialized Manchuria and defined all its subjects as Chinese (under the first Chinese Nationality Law), the Manchus were still often regarded as aliens or Tartars by the Republican revolutionaries. The anti-Manchu rhetoric of the revolutionaries, which resulted in death or discrimination, contributed to the development of the internal cohesion among banner people from different ethnic origins. The banner people largely redefined themselves as per the designations of others when facing official and unofficial discrimination. Banner people’s reactions to the outside forces of discrimination created the qizu identity. After the Qing collapsed, banner people were forced out of the protective banner system to encounter an unfriendly, and sometimes hostile, society in China Proper. After their ties to the emperor through the banner system and the internal divisions within the banners disappeared, the banner people’s reconfiguration of their relationship to the newly established Republic and re-identification of themselves were critical to the reformation of banner identity from an institutional to an ethnic categorization.

The relation between the Manchus and the ROC state was further complicated by changes in Manchuria’s territoriality. Although the Qing rulers had tried to incorporate their poetized homeland into China Proper through administrative reform in the early twentieth century, Manchuria had already become an international borderland over which forces that were militarily superior to the Qing were competing. The competing projects of nation building and state formation in the (p.105) early twentieth century forced banner people in Manchuria to rethink who they were and what their country was. Their concerns over identity redefinition were closely related to the problem of their livelihoods, as well as their rights and obligations. Their allegiance shifted along with changes in territoriality over their homeland. The ROC’s failure to win Puyi’s allegiance in 1931 revealed that a new force, other than the Manchu-Han tension or Qing-ROC transition, had appeared to change banner people’s perception of territoriality and identity: the Sino-Japanese contest over Manchuria. This further complicated the Manchus’ self-identification and redefined their relationship to their historical homeland, as the next chapter will explore. (p.106)


(1.) “Zheng chouman lun” (Rectification on anti-Manchu theories), Guomin bao, no. 4, August 10, 1901Zhang Nan and Wang Renzhi 1978, 94–99

(2.) Archives of Zhao Erxun, microfilm, no. 108, The No. 1 Historical Archives, Beijing.

(3.) As emphasized previously, locality should be taken into consideration when studying the relations between banner people and local civilians in different areas. Hosoya Yoshio noted that in Qingzhou, Shandong Province, for example, banner people had friendly relations with local people during the Qing dynasty and experienced little violence during the 1911 Revolution (Liu and Wang 2001, 69).

(4.) See the inaugural speech in Sun 1982, vol. 2, 1–3. In his first year as the provisional president of the Republic of China, Sun emphasized equality and cooperation among the five ethnic groups, with statements on “the five ethnic groups as one body, no estrangement” (Wu da minzu, yiti wucai 五大民族一体无猜‎) and “harmony and cooperation among the five ethnic groups” (wuzu xieli 五族协力‎).

(5.) In recent examples of such research, Edward Rhoads (2000) provides details on the miserable situation of banner people during the 1911 Revolution, and Peter Zarrow (2004) analyzes anti-Manchu atrocities and posttraumatic memories.

(7.) minzu“Communication,” Minbao, no. 17 (October 25, 1907): 1–3.

(8.) “Minzu de guomin” (Citizens of the nation), Minbao, no. 1 (November 26, 1905; December 8, 1905): 1–31; no. 2 (April 10, 1906; May 8, 1906): 1–23; “Not about minzu,” Minbao, no. 17 (November 25, 1907): 1–3.

(10.) “A letter from Zhu Peng to Zhu Xu,” XT 3.9.3, Qingdai dang’an shiliao congbian (hereafter QDSC), 329.

(11.) As to the flat occipital bone, a 1923 publication on various customs in China concluded that it was wrong to use this feature to distinguish the Manchus from the Han in the 1911 Revolution, as the flatness was caused by the traditional hard pillow on which babies slept in the Northeast, a custom adopted by the Han as well.

(p.326) (12.) Xiong, in Yang, Sun, and Zhang 1997, 317; Li Lianfang 1961, 90b; thanks to Edward Rhoads for providing information on these memoirs. For more details on the Manchus’ situations in China Proper during the 1911 Revolution, see Rhoads 2000, 188–205.

(13.) This announcement was dated the nineteenth day of the eighth month of the year 4609 of the Huangdi calendar. Because the date of Huangdi’s birth is not agreed upon, different versions of the Huangdi calendar exist. Most revolutionaries used Minbao’s system, which was also used in the announcement quoted above. See Fang 1980, 153.

(15.) Appendix 1, Geming wenku di yi zhong 1928, 57–58. This collection of revolutionary writings was published in 1928, but the preface written by the editor showed only pride in the revolutionary spirit revealed in those writings. The preface provided no comments on the anti-Manchu violence advocated by those authors (preface, 1–6).

(16.) Daily news on battles between Qing troops and revolutionaries in Nanjing reported in Shengjing shibao (November and December issues, 1911), for example, reveals that banner troops there vehemently resisted the revolutionaries for weeks, with both sides suffering heavy casualties.

(17.) For more information on the personal experiences of banner people in Beijing after 1911, see memoirs in Beijing shi zhengxie wenshi ziliao weiyuan hui 2002.

(18.) Some Chinese scholars blame the Qing rulers for spreading rumors to agitate hostility, thus causing the high number of suicides among banner people. Manzu jianshi bianxie zu 1979, 171.

(19.) The writing and compiling of difang zhi has been a tradition of Chinese literati as well as a routine practice of central and local governments for centuries. Due to the lack of local writers and scholars who were able to compile these gazetteers, population scarcity, and limited accessibility to the area, far fewer volumes on counties or towns in Manchuria were being produced by the late twentieth century. For more information on local gazetteers from the Northeast, see Liaoning sheng dang’an guan 1983. My special thanks to Wu Xinyang, who copied for me Dongbei xiangtu zhi congbian and other rare gazetteers in Shenyang, and the local difangzhi office of Liaoning Province and Huairen County for their help.

(20.) Liaodong wenxian zhengliuJi and Xu 2002Zhongguo shaoshu minzu guji jicheng (hereafter ZSMGJ), 150Ding et al. 2004Z, interview, Pleasant Hill, Calif., December 20, 2002.

(21.) I have not found a reference to this saying in the local gazetteers or writings on banner people in Manchuria that I have collected.

(22.) HZG, juan 11, 1a, 1133.

(p.327) (24.) Different accounts give different banner affiliations for Baokun. I choose the affiliation identified by Bao and Wang in their 1996 article, as they provide the genealogy of his clan.

(25.) “A report from Zhang Zuolin to Zhao Erxun,” in Liaoning sheng dang’an guan 1981, 123–125.

(26.) “Announcement from Zhao Erxun,” January 27, 1912, in Liaoning sheng dang’an guan 1981, 125.

(27.) QDSC, vol. 8, 15–17.

(28.) “Dongsansheng zongdu Zhao Erxun ji Lan Tianwei zhi Wuchang qiyi zhujun hangao,” XT 3.8, QDSC, vol. 8, 5–6.

(29.) SJSB, January 28, 1912, [21] 436.

(30.) “Fengtian tepai guwenyuan Pan Hongbing deng zhi Zhao Erxun han,” April 25, 1911, QDSC, vol. 8, 245–246.

(31.) BZND, 1001(2) 848. The archival file of BZND 1001(2) 878 also contains files concerning anti-Manchu articles in newspapers, petitions and protests from Manchus in Beijing, and records of official investigations and conclusions. One of the petitions includes a report from Manzu tongjin hui (满族同进会‎) on an anti-Manchu article in the September 12 issue of Guoquan bao. The chair and vice chair of this Manchu organization pointed out that the article slandered all Manchus by accusing their petition for more seats in Congress to be the same type of restoration activity as those practiced by the Zongshe dang. As they stated, “Our Association at first did not bother to argue with such a meaningless newspaper. Nevertheless, we are worried that ordinary banner people, who cannot tolerate such unbearable humiliation, perhaps would take individual actions in conflict with the newspaper. If so, it definitely would cause trouble to social order and stability.” This report criticized the newspaper for spreading racial resentment in order to destroy the Republic (September 22, 1912). Another report on October 7 from the General Bureau of Patrol of the Outer City replied that a representative of the Guoquan bao came to the bureau in person to solve the dispute and promised not to publish any articles like this again.

(32.) QDSC, vol. 8, 245–246.

(33.) Xuantong zhengji, in Qing Shilu 1987, vol. 60, juan 69, 1263a.

(34.) QDSC, vol. 8, 128.

(35.) QDSC, vol. 8, 208, 287, 289–291, 292, 294–295.

(36.) SJSB, January 17, 24, 1917, [21] 359, [21] 405; February 3, 1912, [21] 477.

(37.) SJSB, [21] 477.

(38.) XT 3.12.20 (February 7, 1912), QDSC, vol. 8, 158–159.

(39.) QDSC, vol. 8, 255.

(40.) QDSC, vol. 8, 228.

(41.) Zhang Binglin, “Zheng chouman lun” (Rectification of anti-Manchu theories), from Guomin bao, no. 4, August 10, 1901Zhang and Wang 1978, 94–99

(43.) When Yuan Shikai (1859–1916), who was elected the first president of the ROC in 1913, claimed the establishment of the constitutional monarchy of Zhonghua diguo (Imperial China) in December 1915 and titled himself emperor, various political and military forces joined a nationwide uprising against him. In March 1916, Yuan announced abolition of the monarchy system and restored the Republic. But local uprisings continued.

(44.) Gao, a northeastern native of Kaiyuan 开原‎ in Liaoning Province, studied in Japan between 1913/1914 and 1919 and graduated from the Department of Political Economics at Meiji University. He was actively involved in the anti–Yuan Shikai movement, northeastern exiles’ organizations during the second Sino-Japanese War, and the Xi’an Incident (1936). Later he served at several high-ranking offices of the PRC government as a leader of Zhongguo minzhu zhengtuan tongmeng 中国民主政团同盟‎ (Leagues of Chinese democratic parties) and as the vice chairman of the Fourth National Political Consultative Conference (Quanguo zhengxie 全国政协‎).

(45.) Wei Yi 1997.

(47.) “Baqi shengji taolunhui xuanyan shu,” in Wu Xiangxiang 1962, 614–615

(48.) The Articles of Favorable Treatment addressed three groups: the Manchu royal household, Qing nobles, and banner people of various ethnic groups. The fifth article of the favorable treatment of banner people promised that provisions for banner soldiers would be distributed as usual before the problem of the Eight Banners was finally solved. Xuantong zhengji 1934, vol. 70, 19 up.

(49.) Garrisons in Xingjing, Fuxian, and Xiuyan, for example, reported having trouble financially in distributing provisions to banner people (SJSB, September 28, 1915).

(50.) BZND 1001(2)-545.

(51.) Ibid.

(52.) Fengtian shengzhang gongshu dang (hereafter FSGD), JC 10/13051; “The head of the Left Wing appeals for provisions,” JC10/13054; Liaoning Provincial Archives.

(53.) For example, Furui, of the royal household, accused a local commander in chief of robbing banner people of basic provisions. FSGD, JC 10, microfilm no. 1042/13162, Liaoning Provincial Archives.

(55.) SJSB, May 22, 1909; September 3, 1915.

(57.) “Notes on the Tombsteles of Two Virtuous Women,” SJSB, March 7, 1932, [81] 360.

(58.) The theses offered by Sun to Ming Taizu are collected in many volumes of his works. Here I use the English translation from Herbert Giles’ 1912 book.

(p.329) (59.) Guang 2006, http://www.laoshexue.com (last accessed June 18, 2008).

(60.) For many years, this Manchu doctor was upset over his claim of Han identity. On his deathbed, he told his daughter to reclaim Manchu identity. His daughter subsequently recovered the old approval document of his Han civilian identity from the 1910s, and reclaimed Manchu identity after 1978 (Zhao Shu 1986, 32).

(61.) No. 137, September 14, 1912, quoted in Ding and Shao 2002.

(62.) A 1913 report claims that “since the Republican state is a family of the five ethnic groups without distinction, there should be no distinction in ways of naming.” Therefore, a Manchu named Xilin’a 锡林阿‎ was renamed Xilin 锡林‎, and adopted the Han surname Guan 关‎. March 5, 1913, FSGD, JC 10–25581, microfilm 792–795.

(63.) “Tupian” literally means picture. Here it refers to a description in words of the distinguishing physical features of a bannerman.

(64.) FSGD, July 18, 1913, JC 10–25581, microfilm 841–844.

(65.) SJSB, 1912.1.7, [21] 285. See also chapter 1, p. 55.

(66.) Yang Du 1907, preface to Datong bao, no. 1: 5–16.

(67.) See chapter 1, note 36; Fu and Chen 1980; and Sun and Yao 2006, among others. Although I disagree with some of Sun’s interpretations of the Manchu rulers’ policies and attitudes toward Hanjun in the early Qing, some of her quotes from Qing documents are revealing: Emperor Yongzheng once disparaged the Hanjun for “having bad habits” and “being glib”; Emperor Kangxi resented some Hanjun customs, such as relatives gathering and opera troupes being invited to perform during the mourning period for the death of a parent. Kangxi thought that such “bad customs” did not exist among either the Manchus or the non-banner Han (Sun and Yao 2006, 54–55).

(68.) This journal is catalogued at Zhongguo guojia tushu guan, but I could not obtain access to it.

(69.) Zhang once served as an assistant to Tang Shaoyi, when Tang represented Yuan Shikai’s Diet in negotiations with the Revolutionary People’s Army in Shanghai after the Wuchang Uprising.

(70.) Xu Jieshun (1999) also uses the analogy of a snowball to explain the composition of the Han, but my analogy has a different connotation. While Xu emphasizes the plurality of the components (snowflakes), I stress the outside pressure needed for the formation of a snowball. I use the metaphor of a snowball to describe the impact of the social environment and the designation of others on the formation of “qizu” for ethnic self-perception.

(72.) FSGD, JC10/927, microfilm roll 0023: 003113–003138.

(73.) In fact, suique di were not regarded as banner people’s private lands during the Qing. These lands were assigned to military positions, which meant that the soldiers and officers who held these positions could obtain stipends from tenants of these lands but could not sell the lands. When they left their (p.330) positions, the lands were reassigned to the new occupants of the posts. I adopt the English translation of suique di from Rhoads’ book (2000, 49).

(74.) SJSB, [23] 315.

(75.) Fengtian xingsheng gongshu dang, JC10 4147, microfilm reel no. 0092, 002729–002754, Liaoning Provincial Archives.

(76.) Several months later, the congress sent a report to the Fengtian Provincial Administrative Office (Fengtian xingzheng gongshu 奉天行省公署‎) requesting that the provincial government punish these banner people for “disturbing security, peace, and order.” On May 8, 1913, the Office of the Fengtian Provincial Head replied that such a case should be sent to the local Procurator’s Office. Due to the lack of archives on the development of this case, the fate of this group of banner people is unknown.

(77.) FSGD, JC10–11464, microfilm reel no. 1020, 000737–001126; JC 10, 1–926; JC 10, 1–30545; JC 10, 1–11508.

(78.) Although there is no systematic record of the exact dismissal dates of all banner units, at least in the case of the Zhanding, in 1907 the court ordered the dismissal of old postal stations when modern postal offices were established. Some local gazetteers reported banner offices’ activities until the early 1920s.

(79.) One dou of rice is equal to about 6.25 kilograms (13 3/4 lbs.). A diao was a string of copper coins. The amount of copper coins on each diao varied in different historical periods. According to Suleski (2002), in the 1920s, one silver dollar would buy more than one thousand copper cash, and that cash would be supplied in strings of about one thousand coins each.

(80.) “Jilin Qizu shengji hui qing reng zhao zhi qixiang,” March 19, 1914, Department of Interior Archives (Neizheng bu dang), 1001–1848. No. 2 Archives.

(81.) Quoted from Yishi bao in editorial, SJSB, February 29, 1932, [81]-319.

(82.) “Random Thoughts on the New State,” SJSB, February 29, 1932, [81]-319.

(83.) In memoirs and autobiographies by some Manchu royalty and nobles published after 1949, as well as interviews conducted during the ethnic surveys of the late 1950s and early 1960s, people admitted that they were attracted to Manchoukuo by its appearance as a new independent country and by its name, which included the same two Chinese characters used for Manchuria and the Manchus: Manzhou 满洲‎.

(84.) Zhao Erxun Archives, microfilm no. 108, No. 1 Historical Archives.

(85.) See detailed reports on the investigation of the grave robbery, and communications concerning the aftermath and possible solutions, in Luo Zhenyu 1934, vol. 6; and a series of reprinted reports on the tomb raid from 1928 in Yao and Zhu 2005.

(86.) Hatano 1934, 208–211; Yishi bao (Tianjin), January 15, 1932. On Puyi’s anger at the GMD’s treatment of the Manchu royal family, see Woodhead 1932, 5.