Open main menu

The Bai Lang Rebellion was a Chinese "bandit" rebellion lasting from mid 1913 to late 1914. Launched against the Republican government of Yuan Shikai, the rebellion was led by Bai Lang (whose name pronounces similar to "White Wolf" in Chinese,[6] hence the rebellion's more common title of White Wolf Rebellion in western media). His army was an eclectic mix of anti-Yuan Shikai troops and rebels, bandit groups and Gelaohui (secret society) members. As a unit, they were allied to southern Guangdong based revolutionaries.

Bai Lang Rebellion
Date1911–1914
Location
Result Defeat of the Bandits
Belligerents

 Republic of China
Tibet
Self-defense forces:

Bai Lang's army
Allies:
Qing dynasty loyalists

Kuomintang[3]
Other bandit groups[4]

Gelaohui
Commanders and leaders
Republic of China (1912–1949) Yuan Shikai
Republic of China (1912–1949) Duan Qirui[5]
Republic of China (1912–1949) Lu Chien-chang[4]
Republic of China (1912–1949) Ma Anliang
Republic of China (1912–1949) Ma Qi
Republic of China (1912–1949) Ma Yuanzhang
Republic of China (1912–1949) Ma Qixi
Republic of China (1912–1949) Yang Jiqing
Bai Lang
Units involved

Beiyang Army

  • 7th Division[4]
    • 14th Brigade[4]
Han Chinese and Hui militias
Tibetan Army
Various bandit groups[4]
Strength
12,000[4] Bai Lang's army: c. 5,000 (early 1913)[1]
Casualties and losses
thousands of civilian casualties

Contents

Bai Lang: The individualEdit

Bai Yung-chang or Bai Langzai, more commonly known by his pseudonym Bai Lang, was born in 1873, in Baofeng, Henan, to a wealthy family. As a youth, Bai took a variety of "hands-on" jobs including employment as a government salt transporter and service as an anti-bandit militiaman. Nevertheless, his life changed in 1897 when he was arrested for getting into a fight with a man named Wang Zhen who died during the altercation. After getting out of jail, Bai was only dissuaded from becoming a bandit by his family, instead, turning his martial interests towards a legal outlet (namely, military service).

During the last years of Manchu rule, Bai was trained in tactics and weaponry in Japan, known at the time as much for its Chinese revolutionary activity as for its competence in modern military warfare. Upon his return, Bai was appointed to serve in Imperial China's Beiyang Army and, at the outbreak of the Xinhai Revolution in Wuhan in 1911, was assigned to the Beiyang 6th Division at Shijiazhuang as an adjutant to Gen. Wu Lu-chen (Wu Luzhen), Commander of the Sixth Division. Soon thereafter, the pro-revolutionary Gen. Wu was assassinated by Manchu or Beiyang Army troops loyal to Yuan Shikai and Bai was forced to return home for fear of his life. Wu's assassination, thought to have been at the order of Yuan Shikai, allegedly took place because Yuan could not trust Wu whose presence at Shijiazhuang controlled the vital rail link from Wuhan to Beijing. These events strengthened Bai's resolve against Yuan and those who came to support him.[7] After a series of storms ravaged the region's crops in late 1911, Bai and other local people fell in with the bandit Du Qibin.

The rebellionEdit

Bai Lang and his forces allied themselves with the Kuomintang during the so-called "Second Revolution", an attempt by the latter party to resist President Yuan Shikai's increasingly authoritarian regime. The bandit leader managed to amass an army of 1,000 to 4,000 fighters,[5] and started to target in the area between Wuhan and Beijing, attacking the railway lines.[8] Yuan responded by sending the Beiyang Army under the personal command of Duan Qirui to destroy Bai Lang and his bandits. Despite being hunted by thousands of regular soldiers, Bai managed to remain active even after the Second Revolution's defeat. Waging a guerrilla war, he evaded the government[5] and ravaged no less than 50 cities in central China. Strategically, his purported intent was to use guerilla warfare to disrupt the rail line to Beijing. By doing so, it was thought he could disrupt the flow of freight and revenue between North and South China. If successful, the foreign powers may see Yuan's China as unstable and unwilling to loan Yuan the money he needed to sustain his regime. Bai Lang's "march" into Anhui Province towards Shanghai was seen by some as a bold effort to link up with Revolutionary interests now holed up in Shanghai and to provoke a possible "Third Revolution" against Yuan.[9]

Bai's actions caused mixed outpourings of mass support and popular outrage, with his army variously called by itself and supporters "The Citizen's Punitive Army", "Citizen's Army to Exterminate Bandits" and "The Army to Punish Yuan Shikai", among others. As his fame grew, deserters, bandits and revolutionaries bolstered his divisions and he swiftly moved through Henan, Anhui, Hubei, Shaanxi and Gansu, disrupting swaths of Northern China. In Henan, the city of Yuxian, famed for its vital pharmaceutical industry, was ransacked of everything from medicine to guns and the military governor, Chang Chen-fang, was dismissed for his failure to suppress the uprising. Support from peasants grew due to Bai's anti-gentry and anti-tax stance (slogans like "take from the rich and give to the poor" increased rural support, as did the murder of magistrates and the distribution of grain stores).[10] Only after ten divisions of the Beiyang Army,[5] at least 12,000 troops,[4] had been deployed against them, the bandits were forced to retreat westward.[5] Under tremendous military pressure from the government and allied warlords, including some of the earliest use of aircraft in warfare, Bai's "army" crossed the Tongguan Pass into Shaanxi Province, possibly with an eye toward sympathetic linkage there.[11] Instead, his group was forced even further west into Gansu. Upon entering Gansu, the rebellion encountered strong civil and military resistance.[12]

Here, the traditionalist and Confucianist Muslim generals Ma Anliang and Ma Qi backed President Yuan. Bai Lang faced opposition from nearly everyone, from the Tibetans serving under the Gansu-allied Yang Jiqing, the Gansu and Sichuan provincial armies, ethnic Hui and Han militias and Yuan Shikai's own National Beiyang Army. Muslim Gen. Ma Qi was instructed to incite the Muslims against Bai Lang in order to get Hui and Han to join together and fight him. Muslim imams preached anti-Bai announcements, claiming that Shaxide (Shahid or martyrdom) awaited those who died to fight him off. Unlike the rural areas in central and eastern China, where peasants had helped Bai's armies hide and strike out, Muslim families actively refused to support Bai's troops, even going so far as to burn themselves to death rather than deal with them. However, the Imams themselves took off and ran away after they told the Muslims to kill themselves, rather than die with them.[13] by a mix of ethnic Han and Hui militia commanded by Ma Qi and Ma Anliang.[14] Ma Qixi's Muslim Xidaotang humiliated and defeated Bai's bandit forces, who looted the city.[15] The Muslim Generals were reported to be reactionary.[16]

Protracted warfare and this lack of public support led to a reversal in the rebels' treatment of the population; there was an increase in acts of looting and pillage, as well as strikingly brutal massacres.[17]

Eventually, Gen. Ma Anliang's passive defence, rather than chasing the far more agile rebel army, succeeded in wearing down Bai. The Tibetans attacked and drove Bai's army into retreat, with Ma Qixi's troops chasing them out of the Province.[18] According to Gansu legend, Bai Lang died at Daliuzhuang, he was decapitated and his head put on display.[19] However, official Chinese documents say he vanished in Shanxi and his body was never found. Yuan Shikai ordered Bai Lang's family tombs destroyed, and had the corpses cut to pieces.[20] Bai's headless body was left to rot.[21]

The remnants of Bai's forces were dispersed in Hunan late 1914,[5] with his last forces being destroyed by Yan Xishan.

Atrocities done by Bai Lang's bandit gangsEdit

Bai Lang's forces raped, killed and pillaged.[4] His troops became notoriously anti-Muslim, with some Shaanxi men in his army holding vendettas with Muslims that dated back to the Dungan revolt.[22] Henan and Shaanxi troops were notable for anti-Manchu and anti-Muslim sentiment, massacring thousands of Muslims at Taozhou.[23] Mass rape, looting, and killing also took place in Minzhou.[24]

Support from southern revolutionariesEdit

Staunchly against Yuan Shikai's government, Bai developed an alliance with Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. Huang Xing, a friend of Sun, sent letters to Bai as well as weapons and ammunition.[25][26] Sun hoped for further bandit uprisings in Shaanxi, calling on the population to "return to glory" like Bai Lang's gangs.[27] Yuan Shikai's Beiyang regime knew of Bai Lang's connections with Sun Yat-Sen, but refused to make public of them for fear it would cause greater support for the rebellion.[28]

Outside of arms and supplies, however, Sun's influence on Bai Lang's bandit troops was minimal. Mostly uneducated, his troops could be divided between Robin Hood "freedom fighters" who believed they were taking on a corrupt regime and brigands who lived for plunder and survival. Though Sun Yat-sen and Huang Xing promised to make him Governor of Gansu, along with crates of propaganda posters on the subject.[29]

However, when Sun Yatsen turned to the Soviets for support, and resurrected the Kuomintang in the 1920s he sharply turned against the western-style, federalist democracy he preached during this time when he was aligned with Bai Lang. He then turned to the Soviet-style single-party model, and organized the Northern Expedition without the help of bandit gangs like Bai Lang. This nationalist Kuomintang later included the Muslim warlords who Bai Lang fought against.

AftermathEdit

The campaign, especially the government forces' inability to crush a smaller force of bandits, greatly damaged the reputation of the Beiyang Army. This gave President Yuan who had already started to distrust the army's commanders of disloyalty, the opportunity to reorganize the Chinese military. He disempowered and then replaced Duan Qirui as head of the Beiyang Army, while raising a new army which was loyal only to him and his family. Though he managed to reduce the power of other military leaders in the short term, these policies alienated parts of the Beiyang Army from his regime, weakening it in the long run.[30]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c Billingsley (1988), p. 57.
  2. ^ Billingsley (1988), pp. 56, 57, 59.
  3. ^ Billingsley (1988), pp. 57, 59.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Sheridan (1966), p. 51.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Ch'en (1972), p. 160.
  6. ^ Catholic World. Paulist Fathers. 1914. pp. 423–.
  7. ^ Tony Whitehorn, unpublished papers, Arizona State University, 1971
  8. ^ Tony Whitehorn, unpublished papers, Arizona State University, 1971
  9. ^ Tony Whitehorn, unpublished papers, Arizona State University, 1971
  10. ^ Billingsley (1988), p. 12.
  11. ^ Tony Whitehorn, unpublished thesis, University of Kansas, 1974
  12. ^ Graham Hutchings (2003). Modern China: A Guide to a Century of Change. Harvard University Press. p. 41. ISBN 0-674-01240-2. Retrieved 2010-11-01.
  13. ^ Michael Dillon (1999). China's Muslim Hui community: migration, settlement and sects. Richmond: Curzon Press. p. 144. ISBN 0-7007-1026-4. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  14. ^ Michael Dillon (1999). China's Muslim Hui community: migration, settlement and sects. Richmond: Curzon Press. p. 144. ISBN 0-7007-1026-4. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  15. ^ Dru C. Gladney (1996). Muslim Chinese: ethnic nationalism in the People's Republic. Cambridge Massachusetts: Harvard Univ Asia Center. p. 58. ISBN 0-674-59497-5. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  16. ^ Phil Billingsley (1988). Bandits in Republican China. Stanford University Press. p. 185. ISBN 0-8047-1406-1. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  17. ^ Michael Dillon (1999). China's Muslim Hui community: migration, settlement and sects. Richmond: Curzon Press. p. 144. ISBN 0-7007-1026-4. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  18. ^ Jonathan Neaman Lipman (2004). Familiar strangers: a history of Muslims in Northwest China. Seattle: University of Washington Press. p. 194. ISBN 0-295-97644-6. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  19. ^ Elizabeth J. Perry (2002). Challenging the mandate of Heaven: social protest and state power in China. 0765604450: M.E. Sharpe. p. 124. Retrieved 2010-11-01.
  20. ^ Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding (London, England) (1970). China now, Issues 1-47. 7: Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding. p. 124. Retrieved 2010-11-01.
  21. ^ Phil Billingsley (1988). Bandits in Republican China. Stanford University Press. p. 248. ISBN 0-8047-1406-1. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  22. ^ Phil Billingsley (1988). Bandits in Republican China. Stanford University Press. p. 185. ISBN 0-8047-1406-1. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  23. ^ Jonathan Neaman Lipman (2004). Familiar strangers: a history of Muslims in Northwest China. Seattle: University of Washington Press. p. 194. ISBN 0-295-97644-6. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  24. ^ Jonathan Neaman Lipman (2004). Familiar strangers: a history of Muslims in Northwest China. Seattle: University of Washington Press. p. 192. ISBN 0-295-97644-6. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  25. ^ Elizabeth J. Perry (2002). Challenging the mandate of Heaven: social protest and state power in China. 0765604450: M.E. Sharpe. p. 121. Retrieved 2010-11-01.
  26. ^ Jonathan Fenby (2005). Chiang Kai Shek: China's Generalissimo and the Nation He Lost. Da Capo Press. p. 105. ISBN 0-7867-1484-0. Retrieved 2010-11-01.
  27. ^ Phil Billingsley (1988). Bandits in Republican China. Stanford University Press. p. 248. ISBN 0-8047-1406-1. Retrieved 2010-11-01.
  28. ^ JSTOR (Organization) (1984). Theory and society, Volume 13. Elsevier. p. 439. Retrieved 2010-11-01.
  29. ^ Elizabeth J. Perry (2002). Challenging the mandate of Heaven: social protest and state power in China. 0765604450: M.E. Sharpe. p. 122. Retrieved 2010-11-01.
  30. ^ Ch'en (1972), p. 161.

BibliographyEdit