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The Society for Monarchical Constitutionalism (Chinese: 君主立憲維持會; pinyin: Jūnzhǔ Lìxiàn Wéichí Huì), better known as the Royalist Party (Chinese: 宗社黨; pinyin: Zōngshèdǎng; Wade–Giles: Tsung-she-ta), was a monarchist political movement, party and militant organization of the early Republic of China. Though it largely lacked a firm structure, and consisted of loosely tied factions, the Royalist Party played a major role in Chinese politics during the 1910s. Supported by the Empire of Japan, members of the Royalist Party repeatedly conspired to restore the monarchy, launched insurgencies, and attempted to enable the seccession of Inner Mongolia and Manchuria from China.

Royalist Party

LeaderLiang-pi (1911–12)
Shanqi (by 1916)
HeadquartersBeijing (1911)
Qing royalism
Manchurian nationalism
Mongolian nationalism
Political positionRight-wing to Far-right
Party flag
Flag of China (1889–1912).svg


The Royalist Party was known by a variety of names, such as Manchu loyalist party,[1] Restoration Party,[2] Imperial Clan Party,[3][4][5] Reactionary party,[6] Party of the Ancestral Shrine of the Ruling Household,[7] and Party of the Aisin Goro Cult.[8]


Foundation and early activitiesEdit

Having ruled China since 1636, the Manchu Qing dynasty started to collapse upon the Xinhai Revolution's outbreak in October 1911. Diehard Qing supporters refused to accept this,[9] and "blind to the inevitable trend" toward the formation of a republic,[7] founded the "Society for Monarchical Constitutionalism" (later known as "Royalist Party") in December 1911.[10][a] The society's purpose was to oppose republicanism, preserve the Qing dynasty as ruling house of China,[7][10] and prepare for a "final showdown" with the republicans.[3][11] Its initial headquarters was a shrine for the Eight Banners, and many of its first members were Manchu bannermen,[10] as well as princes, courtiers, and relatives of the Qing dynasty.[7] Its first leader was Imperial Guards General Liang-pi,[3][12][13] while other notable members included Shanqi (Prince Su), Puwei (Prince Gong), General Tieliang, Duke Tsai-tse and Yü-liang. They sold their collections of paintings and antiques to raise money for the anti-republican resistance.[11] At the time, parts of the Royalist Party advocated for the foundation of a secessionist "Manchuria-Mongolia" state to at least preserve the monarchy in the Qing Empire's north. Gungsangnorbu, a probable Inner Mongolian Royalist Party member, was raising money for the Mongol indepedence movement amid the Mongolian Revolution of 1911.[14]

Yuan Shikai was among the most important opponents of the Royalist Party, first as a political rival during the Xinhai Revolution and later as President of China

The situation for the Qing imperial government was increasingly undermined by military and political setbacks caused by the opposing republicans, and the Republic of China was proclaimed first in the country's south on 1 January 1912. The Qing court and its leading officials realised that their position was becoming untenable.[15] The matter was discussed among the Qing princes during a conference on 17–20 January, where the Royalist Party's members took a hardline stance against any agreement which included the monarchy's abolition. Other princes believed that they had to yield to the republicans, while a large number remained neutral. The conference came to no real conclusion.[4][16] Meanwhile, Yuan Shikai, a powerful Qing general who effectively controlled much of the army,[17][18] was pushing for a compromise with the republicans.[19][20] While Empress Dowager Longyu was ready to agree to Yuan's proposal and abdicate, the Qing hardliners strongly objected and became determined enemies to Yuan.[20] By 23 January, their political position had been significantly improved: General Tieliang had managed to rally a significant number of Manchu officials to oppose the abdication,[18] while General Feng Guozhang had claimed that he could crush the revolution if the royalists could provide him with sufficient sums of money, providing a morale boost to the hardliners.[20]

The Royalist Party started to undermine Yuan, and had managed to greatly weaken him by 25 January.[21] The hardliners themselves suffered two major reversals on 26 January, however, when Liang-pi was assassinated by a republican revolutionary[18][19][13] and the Beiyang Army declared for the republicans.[13] The Qing court accepted that it had no other option other than abdication,[22] while the Royalist Party members dispersed and fled into the foreign concessions.[15][13] In the subsequent time, the court tried to fully cooperate with the new authorities in order to be left in peace,[15] while Yuan Shikai rose to China's first president and de facto military dictator.[22][23]

Buildup after the Republic's foundationEdit

The Royalist Party was not finished, however, and its members continued to plot against the Republic.[15] They attempted to rally public support to their cause, especially among the Manchu living in Manchuria and Beijing,[15] and to build up a political base for the party.[8] Qing restorationism enjoyed genuine support in northeastern China, especially due to the failure of the first Republican government to restore stability to China.[24] The royalists enlisted military officers[1] and foreign powers in their conspiracies. Shanqi even gained Japanese support in 1912 for the creation of a separatist state in Inner Mongolia where Puyi could be restored as emperor. This venture eventually failed.[15] The party also advocated that the Qing court be moved to Manchuria, but this proposal was "repressed" by the republican authorities.[1]

The continued activism by the Royalist Party was widely perceived as grave threat to the Republic. It was feared that a civil war and the partition of China could result from the royalists becoming too strong.[1] Despite this, President Yuan Shikai initially dealt with the party in a lenient way.[23] Having sidelined both republicans and monarchists, he was mostly interested in maintaining his own power[25] and warned the Qing court to keep its loyalists in check. Fearing that the Royalist Party's activity could cause a foreign intervention or the revocation of the court's favorable treatment, Empress Dowager Longyu ordered the party's dissolution in March 1912. Her order had no effect, but convinced the authorities that the royalists acted without influence by the court.[26] Having failed to disband the Royalist Party, Yuan consequently attempted to sway them to his side. He appointed Puyi's former tutor Xu Shichang as minister of state in order to gain their support.[23]

Militant resistance against the RepublicEdit

Royalist Party leader Shanqi (right) and his Japanese supporter Kawashima Naniwa (left)

Nevertheless, the party became increasingly militant from March 1912, stirring up unrest in northern China. It tried to undermine President Yuan in any way possible to achieve the restoration of the monarchy.[27] Royalist Party members spread anti-republican propaganda among the rural population and incited dissatisfied soldiers to mutiny. One of its most notable actions was to convince the New Army's 6th Henan Division to riot at Luoshan County in July 1912.[28] By April 1912, the party's Hubei branch had allied with bandit Bai Lang and a number of secret societies. It launched an open rebellion, calling for the death of "all republican traitors" and the full restoration of the Qing Empire.[29]

Yuan Shikai had already considered the Royalist Party a threat before this uprising, also due to the rumoured membership of several prominent political figures such as Zhang Xun[b] in the party.[29] The president again offered reconciliation, and invited various Manchu princes to the funeral of Empress Dowager Longyu in Beijing on 27 February 1913 "to dispel the clouds of suspicion" on part of the Royalist Party.[31] This stance changed when his republican opponents launched their own uprising, the "Second Revolution", in July 1913. Yuan used the revolution as excuse for drastic actions against all his rivals, including the royalists.[32] He declared martial law and had the Royalist Party leadership in Henan arrested and executed. Despite this, other parts of the party remained active, further influencing the campaign of Bai Lang.[29] The bandit opted to abandon the declining monarchist cause later in 1913, however, and aligned with the anti-Yuan Republicans.[33]

By the time Yuan had declared the creation of his short-lived Chinese Empire, the Royalist Party was led by Shanqi[34] and was working with the Japanese to establish separatist states in Inner Mongolia and Manchuria.[35][36] It received support by the Japanese Kwantung Army[36][37] and agents (tairiku rōnin) such as Kawashima Naniwa.[35] In 1916, the Japanese and the Royalist Party were planning a rebellion in Manchuria, using Shanqi's private army which consisted partially of Mongolian bandits and had raided northern China up to this point. The royalists would capture Mukden, and then assist the National Protection War against Yuan.[38] There were also plans to coopt Manchurian military strongman Zhang Zuolin for this coup,[38][36] as Zhang had already made overtures to the Royalist Party.[2] As result of financial and political difficulties, the operation was eventually cancelled by Tanaka Giichi.[39]

Over time, the Royalist Party was mostly reduced in its activities to Northeast China, and very few of its members (among them Puwei[40] and Shen Zengjié[5]) were involved in Zhang Xun's attempt to forcibly restore the Qing dynasty in 1917.[40] Shen was appointed Minister of Education by Zhang, but when the restoration failed, he retired from politics completely.[5] Following the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, Puwei proclaimed himself head of the Manchurian independence movement and candidate for ruler of Manchukuo. Nevertheless, the Japanese appointed Puyi as Chief Executive (later Emperor) of the new state.[41]


Elements of the Royalist Party supported the indepedence of Manchuria (pink) and Inner Mongolia (green), possibly as united state.[14]

The Royalist Party's official purpose was to preserve the Qing dynasty's ancestral shrine and other religious institutions,[10] though in truth it tried to protect the monarchy,[11] and later on to overthrow the Republic.[15] Qing loyalists generally believed that it was only a matter of time until the republican "experiment" failed.[42] By 1912, the party was divided into two factions. Though both aimed for the restoration of the monarchy and were united in their opposition to Yuan Shikai, the factions differed on certain points. The "extremists" were only ready to accept the Manchu Qing dynasty as rulers of China, whereas the moderates believed that another Manchu or Han Chinese dynasty would also be acceptable.[27] Elements of the party supported the creation of an independent Manchuria and Inner Mongolia as early as December 1911,[14] and separatism gained more followers among the royalists as time went on.[43][35]

The Qing loyalists also exhibited conservative and revisionist tendencies, as they continued to use the old dynastic calendar, and espoused traditional arts such as Classical Chinese poetry, and calligraphy.[42] One of the most notable intellectuals of the Royalist Party, ex-Qing official and scholar Shen Zengjié, co-founded the Confucian Society of Shanghai.[5]


  1. ^ According to another source, the party was founded on 12 January 1912.[11]
  2. ^ According to Madeleine Chi, Zhang was an "active member" of the party,[30] while Phil Billingsley only reports that "rumor had it" that Zhang was affiliated with the party.[29]



  1. ^ a b c d Feng (2017), p. 234.
  2. ^ a b Seuberlich (2001), p. 87.
  3. ^ a b c Woodhouse (2004), p. 150.
  4. ^ a b Kit-ching (1978), pp. 49–50.
  5. ^ a b c d Bonner (1986), p. 194.
  6. ^ Kit-ching (1978), p. 51.
  7. ^ a b c d Geng (2015), p. 191.
  8. ^ a b Crossley (1990), p. 273 (note 87).
  9. ^ Rhoads (2000), pp. 214–215.
  10. ^ a b c d Rhoads (2000), p. 215.
  11. ^ a b c d Kit-ching (1978), p. 49.
  12. ^ Lo (1978), p. 118.
  13. ^ a b c d Kit-ching (1978), p. 52.
  14. ^ a b c Boyd (2011), p. 74.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g Rhoads (2000), p. 235.
  16. ^ Woodhouse (2004), p. 149.
  17. ^ Woodhouse (2004), pp. 150–151.
  18. ^ a b c Powell (1955), p. 334.
  19. ^ a b Lo (1978), p. 118 (note 2).
  20. ^ a b c Kit-ching (1978), p. 50.
  21. ^ Kit-ching (1978), pp. 50–52.
  22. ^ a b Powell (1955), pp. 334–335.
  23. ^ a b c Chi (1970), p. 63.
  24. ^ Crossley (1990), p. 203.
  25. ^ Rhoads (2000), pp. 215–216.
  26. ^ Rhoads (2000), p. 236.
  27. ^ a b Billingsley (1988), p. 56.
  28. ^ Billingsley (1988), pp. 56–57.
  29. ^ a b c d Billingsley (1988), p. 57.
  30. ^ Chi (1970), p. 127.
  31. ^ Feng (2017), pp. 233–234.
  32. ^ Billingsley (1988), pp. 57, 59.
  33. ^ Billingsley (1988), p. 242.
  34. ^ Altman & Schiffrin (1972), p. 394.
  35. ^ a b c Hattori (2011), p. 68.
  36. ^ a b c Dickinson (1999), pp. 136, 301–302 (note 92).
  37. ^ Chi (1970), p. 77.
  38. ^ a b Seuberlich (2001), p. 235.
  39. ^ Altman & Schiffrin (1972), pp. 394–395.
  40. ^ a b Rhoads (2000), p. 243.
  41. ^ Rhoads (2000), pp. 271–272.
  42. ^ a b Feng (2017), p. 231.
  43. ^ Dickinson (1999), p. 301 (note 92).