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Reminiscences of Li Hung-Chang
Tenney, Charles Daniel

Reminiscences of Li Hung-chang.
When I lived at Tientsin Li Hung-chang
loomed large on the horizon, and I did
not suppose that I should ever have to
explain to anyone who he was. I suppose
however that he is only a name to you.
He became Viceroy of the metropolitan
Province in 1870 and until the Japanese
War of 1894, he stood as the real
executive officer of the Manchu Court at
Peking. There was during this time
a sort of Foreign Office at Peking called
the Tsung-li Yamen, but it was not
uncommon for foreign ministers to get
weary of the delays caused by the
tactics of the Tsung-li Yamen, and so
come to the Tientsin to settle things with
the great Viceroy. His power seemed
to us almost without limits.
Li Hung-chang was a native of Ho Fei
Hsien in Anhui Province. Physically
he was a large man, standing three or
four inches over six feet in height.
The real Chinese of North China
are much larger than the Cantonese
whom you know as Chinese in
California. They seem to breed a
tall and strong race of men in that
part of Anhui Province from which
the great Viceroy came. I have
known several of his fellow- [illegible: townsmen]
who were over six feet tall. The
Chinese giant Chang whom Barnum
showed to the world was 7 feet 9 inches
in height and I believe that scientists
agree that his was a natural growth
not caused by any disease, as is
generally the case with the "giants."
I have often been told by the Anhui
Chinese that Chang had a sister who
was taller than he.
Li Hung-chang showed his ability
in youth by passing with distinction
the various examinations that were
formerly held in China, finally
passing the highest at Peking, and
winning for himself the coveted distinc­
tion of being enrolled as a Han-lin at
Peking. It was as a military
leader that he first became famous
however. He joined the force of the
Chinese general who was fighting the
T'ai P'ing Rebels and soon had an
independent position in the great
civil war. He came in contact with
foreigners by employing Ward, a
mass, man, to organize an auxiliary
force composed of Chinese and foreigners
to fight against the T'ai P'ings. At
Shanghai in these days a confusion
there were many foreign adventurers,
of whom Ward was one. He had
already been connected with the
filibustering expedition against
Nicaragua before he came to Shanghai.
His foreign and Chinese force did good
called given the name of the "Ever Victorious Army." After
two years he was killed and turned
ov the "Ever Victorious Army" was turned
over to Burgeoine, a North Carolina man.
Burgeoine soon quarrelled with his
Chinese superiors and changed
sides, joining the rebels. After his
capture and death Gordon took charge
of the army and won great honor
by his manner of conducting it.
I think it is not generally realized in
this country that the leader of the
T'ai P'ing Rebels was nominally a
Christian. At all the gatherings of the army
a sort of religious service was held, but
Christian doctrine in his hands soon
took grotesque form and the essence
of Christianity soon changed into
savagery. He overran half of China
and his operations have been
estimated to have accounted, directly
and indirectly, for 100,000,000 deaths.
I think that this illustrates the
folly of the misssionary's expending
his force in merely teaching Christian
doctrine. All missionaries ought to
regard themselves as representatives of
the higher form of civilization which
has been developed in the Western
nations as the practical result of
Christianity. Those of you who are
planning to go out as missionaries
ought to learn all that you can of
engineering in its different forms
and wherever you go, you should
take the lead in lifting elevating [below]elevating the people by
introducing proper measures of sanitation
by establishing schools, by guarding
against floods, by improving methods of
agriculture and by establishing hospitals.
In modern times, because many of the
missionaries stand for these things, the
church is looked upon with a new
respect. Out of the military leaders
now, Gen. teng Yü-hsiang is a Christian of the Methodist Church,
and as a Christian he regards himself
as necessarily and naturally a reformer.
He has devoted himself to the general
welfare of the people in every line.
The history of Christianity in the Far
East has shown that mere Xian
doctrine is soon submerged. I have recently
been reading Marco Polo who was in China during
the 13th Century of our era. Christian churches
existed then in nearly every city of North
China that he described. Now they have all
disappeared. The doctrine has gradually
been changed, until it has so assimilated the
Buddhist or Mohametan doctrines that the
distinction of churches has not been kept up.
In 1886 I established a school at Tsu
for teaching English and Chinese, mathe­
matics and elementary science. At the
end of the first year I was greatly
pleased to receive an invitation from
the Viceroy, Li Hung-chang, to spend
two hours every afternoon at the Yamen
or official residence, tutoring his sons
and grand-sons. I was glad to turn
over my school to my assistants and
to devote myself for a part of the day
to the new work. I thought it
indicated that my school was building
up a good reputation and I felt that
with this sign of the Viceroy's approval
it would prosper still more. This
was at the beginning of the movement
for modernizing China. Times have
changed now. It is not uncommon
now for officials to send their sons
to foreign schools, but at that time
it was unheard of to place a foreigner
in the position of a tutor in an
official family. I happened to know
that some of the Viceroy's friends
protested vigorously against his
placing young children under the
influence of a foreigner. The Viceroy
insisted upon having his own way
and up to the year 1894, when the
Sino-Japanese War took place, two
house were placed at my disposal
from the vice-regal stables and I
continued to act as tutor rode to the Yamen every afternoon to act as tutor.
After the Viceroy had finished the
day's official business he was in
the habit of sauntering into the
school room to listen to the children recite,
so that I saw a great deal of him.
He was certainly a bigger man than any
that have come to the front in these days
of the Republic of China. His faults were
those of his class, for he was an old­
fashioned Mandarin, at the same time
that he was progressive. His wealth was,
of course, against him. He did not believe
"in muzzling the ox that treadith out
the corn." I remember once asking
the boys what they knew of Gordon. They
at once bega became animated and said
that he was an Englishman who fought
under their father, but who unfortunately
rebelled against their father in the end,
and so had to be dismissed. This was
the way the story had been handed
down in the Li family. The foreign
version is that on the surrender of the
T'ai P'ing leaders at Soochow they
were promised their lives by Gordon and the Chin, Gen. with[right]whom he was cooperating, but General
Li treacherously ordered them all to
be executed, which so outraged Gordon
that he tried to shoot his general.
Gordon seems to have impressed Li
Hung-chang however,, for he said once that
when he first began to deal with
foreigners he had the impression that
they were more truthful than the
Chinese, but that further experience
had shown him that he was wrong
in his early conclusion; that there
were truthful and untruthful foreigners
but that the general average was
about the same as among the Chinese.
From this you may perceive the
quality of the diplomats and concession
hunters with whom he came in
contact as Viceroy of the metropolitan
Among the paraphernalia of the
school room I had the usual small
set of apparatus for illustrating science
all of which had to be shown and
explained to the Viceroy; and I also
had the first form of the phonograph,
with wax cylinders for taking records
and a glass pointed needle for repro­
ducing the record just taken. This
aroused the greatest possible interest
of course. I remember once that
the Viceroy ordered one of his attendants
to sing into the phonography. The poor
man had to sing a Chinese song, but
but it was a trying ordeal and in the
midst of the song his embarrassment
caused him to break down and to have
a fit of the giggles. I suppose he thought
that I would stop the machine until
he had recovered, but I let it run on.
When I reproduced the record, his break­
down and embarrassed giggling all
came out faithfully. I have never
seen a man more amused than the
Viceroy was. I thought he would
never finish laughing. I remember
one afternoon we had a rather severe
earth-quake at Tientsin. I gathered my
small boys in the middle of the square
compound onto which the school [inline]room
opened and we were all bunched
together there to be free from the danger
of falling walls. The next compound
connected with ours by a gate which
generally stood open was that on which
the Viceroy's office opened. At that
time Li Hung-chang's brother, Li Han-chang
who was also a Viceroy, at Canton,
was his guest. After we had taken
our position, we saw these two elderly
men come out from the office with the
same idea as ours, but as they saw us in the
middle of our compound they came
through the open gate and joined us.
Then as the walls were still creaking
and groaning, and we were all crowded together, the Viceroy asked me
to explain the cause of earth-quakes.
I have never forgotten the peculiar
circumstances under which I delivered
that scientific lecture. As I have
spoken of the Viceroy's brother I would like
to explain that leading families in China
have a system by which you know when
you hear a man's name just where he
stands among the generations. For example
the character Chang as used in Li Hung Chang, Li
Han-Chang, serves to place the man. Ching
is chosen as the name of the next generation.
So you have Li Ching-fang, Ching Su, Ching Hsi
Ching-chin, Ching-mai. Kuo makes the
next generation, as Li Kuo-chich, Kuo Yun
[illegible: etc].
(Filial piety outraged by Am. Consul + son)
In 1894 came the Sino-Japanese War in
which Li Hung-chang was disgraced. He had
built up a navy, but although the ships
were there, the Empress Dowager had used
the naval maintainance fund to embellish the
Summer Palace, so that the well-equipped
Japanese navy made short work of destroying
it. The Chinese armies too made a poor
showing in face of the well-disciplined
Japanese forces. Corea had been a
tributary state of China's before the war
but now became attached to Japan.
Li Hung-chang was relieved of his post
as Viceroy of the metropolitan province
in consequence of his failure in the war and
might have lost his life, if it had not been
for the friendship of the Empress Dowager.
In 1896 he was appointed special envoy
to attend the coronation of the Czar of
Russia and later he passed on through
Europe and America. It was sad to
see his great career ending in disgrace.
I think that no one was more surprised
than himself at the inferiority of his
army and navy. Then too no one, least
of all China, realized the rapid strides
that Japan had made in modern
warfare. I remember that after the
capture of Port Arthur by the Japanese
heLi Hung-chang said to me that the engineers who
constructed the fortifications of Port Arthur
had made the mistake of placing the
cannon so that they commanded the
approaches from the sea but could not
be turned so as to command an attack
by land, which was what the Japanese
army carried out. This pitiful excuse
was, I suppose, only a repetition of
what some one of his military
officers had told him. After his return
from the round the world trip he was
given an appointment at Peking.
But when the Empress Dowager was
preparing her one great folly in allying
herself with the so-called Boxer Society
to expel all the foreigners from China
it was necessary to be rid of Li Hung-chang
from Peking, because he never would
have countenanced the folly. So several
months before the storm broke in 1900,
he was sent to Canton to be Viceroy of
the province in which Canton is situ­
ated and only recalled when the
consequences of the folly had become
evident. I remember well when he
arrived at Tientsin to make peace with
the foreigners. He arrived at night and
I called on him the next morning.
He dispensed with the usual
salutations and only said "Oh Mr.
Tenney, if I had been here this
would not have happened." He was
then nearly 80 years of age and the
next year he died, with the work of
peace negotiations still incomplete.
Though he was in the extreme South
when the Boxer attempt was made,
he was still able to influence the course
of events somewhat. Orders were sent
to the Yang-Tzŭ River Viceroys from Peking
ordering them to exterminate all
the foreigners in their section. They
had become so accustomed to follow
the guidance of Li Hung-chang that
the telegraphed to him at Canton
telling him that these orders had been
received and asking him what they
should do. He at once telegraphed his
reply. "Ignore the orders." They did so
and thus the disorders of that fateful
year were confined to the North, to
the region immediately around Peking.
Whatever circumstances may be made
of Li Hung-chang no one can doubt
his loyalty to the Manchu Dynasty
and its head, the old Empress Dowager.
Confucian morality requires that
when a man has once held office
under a dynasty he must be faithful
to that dynasty to the end and never
serve under any rulers who may take
its place. I often wonder what he
would have said to the China of today.
A republic in name, but really under
the rule of military dictators and dis­
united. A few of the officials who served
under the Empire have taken office in
the Republic. I suppose that they
satisfy their consciences by saying that
the Republic exists by Imperial order
and so differs from another dynasty
which might have supplanted the
old dynasty. Li Hung-chang would
never have su allowed this sophistry
to satisfy him. His sons and
grand-sons have almost without
exception held themselves aloof from
Republican China. One of his sons,
with whom I correspond, is living
in hope that the young emperor
may take up the reins again and
reinstate the Ta Ch'ing Dynasty.
I have had to tell him frankly that
it is quite impossible. The revolution
of 1911 was directed mainly against
the corruption and inefficiency of the
Manchu government. No family of
China is powerful enough to set up a
new dynasty, and so the Republic has
come to stay. The people will never
submit to the Manchus again, discour­
aging as is the present outlook of the
Republic. I have great respect for
the mental power and essential
saneness of the Chinese, and I believe
that in some way they will solve
their present difficulties and evolve
a stable government.
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