Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Liu Ming-ch'uan

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LIU Ming-ch'uan 劉銘傳 (T. 省三, H. 大潛山人), 1836–1896, Jan. 11, soldier and official, was a native of Ho-fei (Lu-chou), Anhwei. His ancestors had for generations been farmers. Resourceful, ambitious, and discontented with his father's occupation, he became the head of a band of freebooters who were engaged in the illegal sale of salt. When he was eighteen sui he is said to have murdered a rich villager. When the Taipings threatened Lu-chou (see under Chiang Chung-yüan), he organized a powerful volunteer corps which became famous under the name, Ming-tzŭ Chün 銘字軍. A few years later his forces participated in the campaign against Ch'ên Yü-ch'êng [q. v.]. Having attained the rank of major, in April 1862 he followed Li Hung-chang [q. v.] to Shanghai, and from May to June resisted the Taipings east of that city. After taking the fortress at Chin-shan, a strategic point in the prefecture of Sungkiang (July 17), he rushed back to Shanghai which was again menaced, and by the end of the year overcame the insurgents there. In order to aid the naval force under Huang I-shêng 黃翼升 (T. 昌岐, 1818–1894), Liu advanced on Fu-shan by boat early in 1863, and on June 8 he and Huang took the strategic fortress at Yang-shê 楊舍堡 in Kiangyin and occupied the district city three months later (September 13). After the general attack on Soochow by Li Hung-chang's army, Liu and his forces, early in 1864, pursued Li Hsiu-ch'êng [q. v.] to Nanking. In co-operation with the commanders of other volunteer corps, he finally took Changchow (May 11) and captured a powerful insurgent commander, Ch'ên K'un-shu (see under Li Hsiu-ch'êng). In this battle Liu was injured in the forehead. For restoring peace to Kiangsu, this rustic of only twenty-nine sui was made an official of the first rank and commander-in-chief of Chihli (1864). He did not assume the post, however, as he was sent elsewhere to fight. Having already in 1862 received the honorary title of military merit, baturu 巴圖魯, he was in 1864 awarded the Yellow Riding Jacket.

In the spring of 1865, under the command of Tsêng Kuo-fan [q. v.], Liu Ming-ch'uan was ordered to subjugate the rebel bands known as the Nien-fei (see under Yüan Chia-san and Sêng-ko-lin-ch'in). Marching into northern Anhwei, he and Chou Shêng-po 周盛波 (T. 海舲, d. 1888) captured (July 25) Chih-chia-chi 雉家集 (present Wo-yang), a strategic base of the rebels. Thereafter, with Chou-chia-k'ou, Honan, as headquarters, he took part in various campaigns against the insurgents who were overruning Honan and adjacent regions. Late in the autumn of 1866 he and a fellow-commander, Pan Ting-hsin (see under Ts'ên Yü-ying), attacked the Nien-fei in western Shantung, dividing their forces. One contingent, known as the Western Nien (西捻), fled to Shansi (see under Tso Tsung-t'ang) under the leadership of Chang Tsung-yü (see under Sêng-ko-lin-ch'in), while the Eastern Nien (東捻), led by Jên Chu 任柱 and Lai Wên-kuang 賴汶光, remained in Shantung. Under the direction of Li Hung-chang, who replaced Tsêng Kuo-fan late in 1866, Liu drove the Eastern Nien to Kiangsu and then to Hupeh (see under Pao Ch'ao). In the spring of 1867, however, the latter again invaded Shantung, and made their way eastward. Liu pursued and defeated them at Jih-chao, Shantung and at Kan-yü, Kiangsu, in November; and at Wei-hsien and Shou-kuang, Shantung, in early December—thus driving them to the mouth of the Mi River (瀰河) where he annihilated them on December 24, 1867. Liu's men are said to have killed some 20,000 insurgents and taken about 10,000 captives. Jên Chu died in the battle of Kan-yü; and Lai Wên-kuang, after narrowly escaping massacre at Shou-kuang, was captured at Yangchow (January 5, 1868). As the most distinguished commander in this three-year war, Liu Ming-ch'uan was given the rank of Ch'ing-ch'ê tu-yü of the third class. After a few months of retirement he was ordered (May, 1868) to participate in the suppression of the Western Nien who invaded Chihli and Shantung in the spring of 1868. Though Liu was temporarily at variance with Li Hung-chang, Tsêng Kuo-fan succeeded in reconciling their differences in order that they might unite their forces against the enemy. When the rebels attempted to break across the Yellow River to invade Southern Shantung, Liu, in co-operation with Kuo Sung-lin 郭松林 (T. 子美, 1834–1880), overwhelmed them in a battle near Chih-p'ing on August 16. Chang Tsung-yü is said to have drowned himself during this engagement. As a result of this victory the Nien-fei were completely subdued. Liu was promoted to the rank of a baron of the first class and returned home.

At his native place Liu Ming-ch'uan built a luxurious residence named Ta-ch'ien Shan-fang 大潛山房 where he devoted his time to study, and to which he invited many scholars of note. It is said that only by having sequestered large quantities of silver obtained in the wars was he able to live in such an imposing style. He published a collection of his poems, entitled Ta-ch'ien shan-fang shih-ch'ao (詩鈔), but some scholars aver that these were written by an amanuensis. Four months after the outbreak of the so-called Tientsin Massacre (1870, see under Ch'ung-hou), Liu was summoned to Peking, but the insurrection was quelled before he could leave the capital. At this time he was granted the privilege of memorializing the throne, a concession not ordinarily made to one of his rank. Late in 1870 Liu was ordered to direct the armies in Shensi which were fighting the Tungans and was given command of about twenty thousand men. But he found it impossible to cooperate with Tso Tsung-t'ang [q. v.], governor-general of Shensi and Kansu, and resigning his post on the ground of illness, returned home late in the following year. In 1880, when the Ch'ing authorities were forced to strengthen the defense against Russia (see under Ch'ung-hou and Tsêng Chi-tsê), Liu, by order of the emperor, went to Peking where he memorialized the throne on the importance of constructing a railroad between Ch'ing-chiang-p'u (Huai-yin) and Peking for strategic reasons. His plan, however, was not put into effect owing to the opposition of other officials, especially Liu Hsi-hung (see under Kuo Sung-tao). After stopping at Tientsin to receive optical treatment, he returned home in the following year.

When the Franco-Chinese war broke out in 1884 Liu Ming-ch'uan, invested with the rank of governor of Fukien, was ordered to garrison Formosa. He rushed to the island in July, and after working out a plan of land strategy, in lieu of an adequate naval force, immediately stationed his men at important ports. The French fleet under the command of Sebastian Nicholas Joachin Lespès 李士卑斯 (1828–1897) attacked the port of Kelung (Kīrun) on August 4 and on the following day destroyed the battery, but was driven back by Liu's troops. Early in October the main force of the French Asiatic Squadron, commanded by Amédé Anatole Prosper Courbet 孤拔 (1827–1885), pressed on the port of Tamsui (Tansui), and after a month's fighting, occupied Kelung (November 2). At the same time this fleet blockaded the ports along the west coast making it virtually impossible for Liu to obtain munitions and reinforcements from the mainland. On March 3, 1885 French marines from Kelung advanced to the strategic port of Taipeh (Taihoku) but Liu held the city against them. About two weeks later, owing to a change of policy by the French government, Courbet's main force retired to the Pescadores (Bōko-tō), and with the conclusion of a peace treaty on June 9 (see under Li Hung-chang), all the French forces evacuated Formosa. Liu then returned to Foochow to reassume the post of governor of Fukien to which he had been appointed in 1884.

His achievement in Formosa was not fully appreciated by the government, and a few high officials criticized his tactics. But the Empress Dowager awarded him 3,000 taels silver which, it is said, he distributed entirely among his subordinates. Those Ch'ing authorities, however, who realized the strategic importance of Formosa, created the office of governor of Taiwan (October, 1885), and Liu Ming-ch'uan was appointed the first governor. Two years later the island was declared, by imperial decree, to be an independent province, and Taipeh was made the capital. In reorganizing the military system of the island he established at Taipeh in 1886 an arsenal and a powder-magazine in Western style and commenced in 1887 the construction of batteries at five important ports. During the years 1885–86 he organized a naval force with base of operations in the Pescadores. At the same time he undertook to reform the island's administrative policy towards the savages and to develop the financial resources. In 1887 he established sixteen stations where officials, teachers, physicians and hair-dressers attempted to conciliate the aborigines and gradually civilize them. In 1890 he established at Taipeh a school of higher education for youths of the influential and well-to-do families. But he did not scruple to use armed force in the northeastern regions in order to subdue rebellious tribes. Likewise he reformed the tax system and encouraged industries under government control. The new land tax which he put into effect in 1887 he made more equable by a survey and a census. Though, owing to the opposition of the natives, he was unable to carry out his program entirely, he increased the revenue considerably within a few years. In the hope of developing modern industries in the island he either established or reorganized (1887–88) government bureaus for the control of the principal industries such as camphor, sulphur, salt, gold and coal. Similarly he increased to a marked degree the production of tea for the foreign trade. He thus succeeded in placing the island government on a sound financial basis and relieved the Fukien government of its previous heavy burden.

Liu Ming-ch'uan constructed the capital city of Taipeh in western style, paving the streets (1885) and lighting the city with electricity. On March 22, 1888 he introduced a Westernized postal system such as existed on the mainland only in treaty ports. A telegraph line had been previously laid (1877) between Taipeh and Anping (Ampin) by Ting Jih-ch'ang [q. v.]. Liu extended this line to Kelung in 1887, and in 1888 laid a submarine cable between Tamsui and Foochow. During the years 1887–91 he constructed a railway between Taipeh and Kelung. The work of extending this line to Hsinchu (Shinchiku) was begun in 1888 and was completed in 1893, two years after he left the island. Though only 62 miles long, this Formosan line was one of the first railways to be operated on Chinese territory. Liu also opened under government supervision a commercial steamship line between Formosa, China, India and the South Seas, obtaining (1888) for this purpose two steamships from British merchants in Singapore. In all the above-mentioned undertakings for modernization the materials were imported chiefly from Great Britain and the technical work was carried out by European engineers in Liu's employ. Finally he established two schools at Taipeh, one primarily for instruction in English (1887) and the other for the training of telegraph operators (1890).

Being a soldier of fortune who rose to high position through native ability, Liu Ming-ch'uan was free from the traditional conservatism and self-interest which characterized many Chinese officials of his time. Moreover he was too liberalminded and practical to be moved by prejudice against Western culture. High officials in Peking, however, became troubled by his radical reforms in Formosa, and compelled him to relinquish his post in July 1891. His conservative successors allowed most of his enterprises to lapse. Thereafter he lived in retirement at his native place, nursing his health which had suffered greatly through his war experiences and his prolonged residence in a malarial climate. He found relaxation in Chinese chess of which he is said to have been an expert player. In 1894 when the Sino-Japanese war broke out, he was summoned by the emperor, but excused himself on the ground of ill health. He died several months after the cession of Formosa to Japan, and was canonized posthumously as Chuang-su 壯肅. He left a collection of memorials to the throne arranged in 22 chüan. This collection was later revised by Ch'ên Tan-jan 陳澹然 and published under the title Liu Chuang-su kung tsou-i (公奏議) preface by the latter dated 1906.


[1/422/3a; 2/59/50a; 8/24上/8b; Appendix to the Liu Chuang-su kung tsou-i; Ch'ên Yên 陳衍, 石遺室文集 Shih-i shih wên-chi (1913), 1/5a; Hsiang chün chi, chüan 10, 16 (see bibliography under Tsêng Kuo-fan); Chiao-p'ing Yüeh-fei fang-lüeh (see under I-hsin), passim; Chiao-p'ing Nien-fei fang-lüeh (sce under Li Hung-chang), passim; Inō Yoshinori 臺灣巡撫としての劉銘傳 Taiwan-jumbu to shite no Ryū Meiden (1915) and 臺灣文化志 Taiwan bunka shi (1929), 3 vols. passim; Yano Jinichi 矢野仁一, 髮賊亂の經過及び平定 and 捻匪の亂 in Kindai Shina shi (1926); Maurice Loir, L'escadre de l'amiral Courbet (1886), pp. 89–101, 182 243, and 291–317; Dodd, J., Journal of a Blockude Resident in North Formosa, during the Franco-Chinese War, 1884–85 (1888); Davidson, J. W., The Island of Formosa, Past and Present (1903) pp. 217–56].

Hiromu Momose