« ElőzőTovább »
longer, rose in their wrath and drove their oppressors elsewhere.
The most important military outbreak was at Peking at the end of February, when the whole of one division, including most of the President's bodyguard, systematically looted the capital. Another uprising of some magnitude occurred on April 12 at Nanking. This city figured prominently during the fighting of last November, at the end of which month it was captured by the Revolutionary army. It is situated on the south bank of the Yangtse river, some 200 miles from the sea, has a population of nearly half a million souls and a military garrison of 30,000 men.
I arrived there on the day after the outbreak, and, finding the intramural railway reopened to traffic, took a train for San Pai Lou, the first station inside the walls. There on the platform I saw a very fat man sitting on a bench with his head between his hands, weeping bitterly. This proved to be the stationmaster. Gulping with grief, he showed me his office-the only room in the station. Everything movable was smashed to pieces, fixtures were destroyed, and the safe broken open and rified of its contents. Bullet-holes showed in the roof and walls, and fully accounted for the admission made by the few unarmed men composing the station guard, that they had cowered terror-stricken in a corner while the soldiers plundered the room.
Near the station a dozen or more houses were burnt. A broad straight avenue, over a quarter of a mile long, leads down from there to the northwest entrance to the grounds in which the International Exhibition of 1910 was held. This street is lined with shops on both sides, some 400 in all. Every one of them had been looted and about half a dozen burnt. heads of some of the delinquents hung to telephone poles, and their disem
bowelled bodies still lay open to the public gaze on the road. Inquiries at a number of the shops all elicited the same reply they had been cleaned out. of all they owned that was portable and of any value. The procedure, too, was similar in each case the wooden doors were burst in and half a dozen soldiers, firing their rifles through the walls and roof, had proceeded to ransack the place. Then others came afterwards, cleaning up whatever the first had left. Almost if not the only building in the street which had escaped was a chapel belonging to an American Mission.
Seeing a crowd gathered round a shop door, I went up and found an infuriated field-officer supported by a dozen of his men with loaded rifles and fixed bayonets searching a house for loot. The onlookers said the officer had lodged there previously, and that all his belongings had disappeared during the trouble of the night before. The occupant of the ground-floor was a barber, who loudly protested his innocence in spite of the "third degree" methods being used by the men to make him say what they wanted. Suddenly there was a shout from upstairs, and down the ladder leading to the second story came tumbling several boxes and a couple of soldiers. Those below at once pounced on the various articles that fell out on the floor, and one by one they were held up arm-high for inspection. Among the barber's clothing were several things identified as his own by the officer, who stamped and swore and banged his sword on the floor. With this evidence there didn't look to be much chance for the barber. He was quickly pinioned by the soldiers, and, howling with terror, was led out into the street. Then one of the boxes in which the looted things had been found was brought out and stood end-up in the gutter; and the ex-. ecutioner, a brawny red-faced youth
from Hunan, began to draw his sword and slap it back and forth in the scabbard.
Not caring to stay and see the end, I left. Some little way down the street my attention was attracted by a loud outburst of lamentation from the barber's wife, and looking back I saw -not what I expected, but the barber being led off by the soldiers in the other direction. Whether the whole thing was a bit of by-play for the purpose of extorting a confession, I am unable to say. I imagine, however, in view of the dangling heads and rotting bodies lying around in the neighborhood, that for the moment the barber's idea as to his immediate fate must have closely corresponded with my own.
From there I went to one of the Foreign Consulates near-by, and was shown a remarkable document from General Huang Hsing, Commandant of all the troops in Nanking. It stated, in brief, that a fire had been caused by rowdies, and that "a few unruly soldiers" had taken advantage of the occasion to loot the burning building. The situation, it added, was well in hand, and it closed by apologizing for any inconvenience caused to the Consul. In view of the known facts, the official account of the incident as given by Huang Hsing to the representative of a foreign nation is interesting as showing that the policy of insincerity and make-believe characteristic of the old régime still survives in the new.
Proceeding southward, there were evidences of the looters' handiwork all along the route. Here and there were more heads hanging to poles and more bodies lying by the roadside. Knots of people were standing about and talking, but beyond this there was little to show that anything unusual had occurred. Passing a temple standing a short way from the road, I noticed a number of coffins going towards it on a cart, and was told they were for the
bodies of the men who had been shot "by mistake" just to the north of the Drum Tower on the preceding after
It should here be mentioned that the original disturbance began a few minutes after midnight on the early morning of the 12th, the soldiers primarily responsible for it being those of the Kiangse Province Division, who wear blue uniforms. From daylight onwards the mutineers were being hunted down all over the city by detachments of other troops detailed for the purpose. Among these latter were several parties from the Town Guards battalion, whose uniform is yellow. One of them, about 60 strong, had been successful in rounding up between 20 and 30 of the mutineers in the neighborhood of San Pai Lou, and about four o'clock in the afternoon was proceeding southwards with its prisoners in custody along the main road towards Military Headquarters. A few hundred yards north of the Drum Tower it was met by a force of several hundred soldiers of a Cantonese regiment coming in the opposite direction. The latter were presumably on the same errand as themselves, namely, rounding up mutineers.
According to my informants, who were present at the time, the Cantonese without a word of parley or explanation immediately opened fire on the Town Guards and their prisoners at a distance of about thirty yards. Taken entirely by surprise, the escort turned and fled into the country together with the Kiangse mutineers whom a moment before they had had in their charge. The Cantonese followed, shooting and bayoneting no less than 18 of the Town Guards within a hundred yards of the road.
I went over to the temple and there found the 18 bodies laid out on the floor being prepared for the coffins that were waiting in the back yard. Five
were already dressed in their funeral clothes and completely covered by shrouds. Each corpse was labelled with a white cloth tag, which showed that the men belonged to the 3rd Company of the 10th Regiment of the Nanking Division. Soldiers and attendants moved quietly about among the other bodies, placing on the upturned faces squares of paper money, to be afterwards burnt and scattered to the winds of heaven for the use of each man's soul in another world. Two soldiers of the regiment were in charge, and from them I had the story related above. They also told how, when the remnants of the escort had reached their barracks the night before, the whole regiment had quickly got under arms with the intention of marching out forthwith to attack the Cantonese, by whom their comrades-in-arms had been killed. In this, however, they had been restrained by their officers, who drew their pistols and lined themselves across the front gate of the barrack square. Feeling on the matter naturally ran very high, and it was easy to see how deeply the soldiers talking to me felt the bitterness and humiliation of their position. Ragged tatterdemalion as he was, there was pride and indignation in the voice of one of them as he stood in the midst of his dead friends on the temple floor and exclaimed with tears in his eyes, "How is it that these, our brethren, can be killed in this manner by those others-these who were among the storming party in the attack on Purple Mountain at a time when they were still on the high seas?" (He referred to the attack and capture of Purple Mountain, the key to Nanking, which led to the surrender of the city to the Revolutionaries at the end of November 1911. The Cantonese troops were then on their way north from Canton, and took no part in the operations. Hence, in addition to the detestation in
which they are held by other Chinese soldiers, the latter rightly regard themselves as the greater warriors so far as the late revolution is concerned.)
Chance episodes such as this give one an insight into unsuspected depths of the uncultivated Chinese mind.
The solemnity of the occasion was duly preserved until a chance remark about the thinness of the wood in the coffins provoked an animated discussion between the two soldiers, three hospital attendants, and a beggar, as to whether the carpenter ought not to have given a bit more for the money at the contract price of twenty-one dollars each. Even in that charnel-house the question of prices-an all-absorbing topic in China--at once became paramount; the mere mention of cash drew hitherto uninterested loungers to the group, the man in charge of the sacrificial tapers left his work to listen, and the dead remained untended until the matter of the carpenter's "squeeze" was settled.
Next morning I went over to the barracks of the mutineers at the southern end of the old Exhibition Ground, and gained a good idea of what had happened from several of the officers and men with whom I talked. The trouble began with the 2nd Battalion of the 28th Regiment of Kiangse troops. The 27th and 28th Regiments, some 1600 men in all, had been quartered in several of the Exhibition buildings, and when the 2nd Battalion of the latter broke out just after midnight on the morning of the 12th, they tried to induce their 1st Battalion to go with them. More than half did so, and they were joined by other men of a Chekiang regiment barracked a quarter of a mile to the south. This nucleus of six or seven hundred men was soon swelled to a crowd of several thousand persons by the addition of more soldiers from other corps and riff-raff from the town. They then split into two
parties, one going north to the neighborhood of San Pai Lou and the other south towards the Drum Tower. Shooting and pillaging, the men composing the latter carried their depredations well into the heart of the city. Incendiary fires sprang forth in a dozen places, and the blackness of the night was further punctuated by the flashing of hundreds of rifles over many miles of country. Back and forth went the plunderers, mad with the loot-lust and laden with every kind of spoil. Coolies, rickshaws, hand-carts, and even horsed carriages were pressed into service, and any who refused were incontinently shot out of hand. man life was cheap that night in Nanking.
I walked all through the pillaged area and made many inquiries at shops. Devastation and wreckage everywhere met the eye. The shopmen stood in their half-closed doors talking together and making the best of a bad job as only Chinese can. Many no doubt had often suffered before.
Few had anything left. Asked to tell what had happened, it was always the same story. First came the men in blue uniform speaking the Kiangse dialect, then as the night went on there followed numerous other bands in all styles of uniform and with all manner of speech. This showed beyond a doubt that, although the Kiangse men started the trouble, soldiers of many other corps joined them in looting the town.
So the mad riot continued till dawn. Then came the Cantonese, turned out by the authorities to quell it. Scores of mutineers were killed by them, and a thousand more rounded up in the Exhibition Grounds by eight o'clock in the morning. Before that happened there had been considerable shooting by the Cantonese into the Exhibition buildings used as barracks, and the 27th Regiment-who had actually not
broken out, as they had no ammunition -being in the southernmost buildings of all, came in for the brunt of the attack. They lay close to the floor, but the walls are made of nothing more substantial than lath and plaster, which the bullets ripped through without difficulty. Judging from the damage I saw done inside the building, the place must have been an inferno while it lasted. Two men were killed outright and several more were wounded, and then there came what I judge to have been a panic on the part of the soldiers, who could stand their position no longer. In spite of their officers, some scores of men broke down doors and windows and fled out into the open. There, however, the Cantonese had them in full view and shot them down at close range. When the roundup was over, the Cantonese, having successfully quelled the mutiny, forthwith proceeded to loot the barracks, not only of the mutineers (the 28th Regiment), but of the unfortunate 27th Regiment as well. And they made a clean job of it, too; for when I visited the latter nothing remained in the rooms but the men themselves and the debris of the glass-fronted showcases which had once held the exhibits. Everything they owned in the world had been looted by the Cantonese soldiers-beds, bedding, personal clothing, brushes, ornaments, pictures-even down to the large iron cooking-pots, which had been prised out of their mortar settings and taken along with the rest.
I stayed half an hour talking to the captain of one of the companies of the 1st Battalion, with a hundred or more soldiers gathered round listening to what was being said. Strange to say none of them seemed resentful, but no doubt they were too hungry for that. When I asked them about their food, a little white-faced boy standing close by rubbed his stomach and said, "Ai
yah, wo-ti liao-pu-te," by which he meant he was as hungry as he could possibly be. His sentiment was echoed by many others in the room, and then the captain told me they'd had nothing to eat at all that day (it was then nearly noon), and nothing the day before until six o'clock in the evening, when each man had received one bowl of congee rice-water. They were not under any dietary restriction either; it was merely due to the Cantonese having looted all their rice and no more having yet been sent to take its place. Even had they the money the men could not have gone outside to buy food for themselves, as they were confined to barracks until further orders. Although they personally had nothing to fear, their corps was in disgrace; and while perfectly civil to me and willing to answer my questions, it was clear from the sullen, hopeless look on their faces that they felt the shame of their position. They told me that a promise had come from headquarters that morning of a month's pay in compensation for their lost effects, but as they hadn't yet received their ordinary regimental pay for March, I don't think they regarded the assurance with any hope of its fulfilment.
A curious point about any disturbance in China is that however secretly it may be planned, somebody would always seem to know all about it beforehand. Owing, however, to the wildest of rumors being part and parcel of Chinese daily life, very little notice is usually take of them. But in one case that came under my own notice, an old Chinese lady, through believing what she heard, had saved all her valuable property by sending it away to the house of a friend in the northern part of the Blackwood's Magazine.
As she told me the tale, it was to be on the morning of the 12th, and no other, that the troops were to break out -it was a matter of common report around where she lived-and (most em phatically) those foolish people who didn't care to take an obvious hint deserved to lose all they had. Sitting placidly amid the ruins of her living room, wrecked by the looting soldiers, she gleefully told her tale of how, on this occasion at any rate, she had by her own cleverness been one too many for the mob. "These few things," she said, "are nothing: my jewels are worth some tens of times as much."
From the action of the Cantonese soldiers in shooting down the mutineers they might be thought to be more dependable than the rest. Actually, however, they are not so, as was proved in the most convincing manner when, on Easter Sunday, they systematically looted some scores of temples in Nanking and destroyed some thousands of idols without a hand being raised to stop them, and without any subsequent measures being taken to punish them. It was a deliberately planned outrage, in which more than a thousand men took part, the idea being to discover the precious stones commonly thought to exist inside the bodies of certain temple images. Moreover, it lasted the best part of one day. But because they were Cantonese, the most truculent and dangerous troops in China at the present moment, nothing was done -the reason being that the authorities did not dare to take the risk. Other troops get their pay as and when they can: the Cantonese from obvious motives of expediency are kept paid up to date.