Today is the anniversary of the beginning of the Wuchang Uprising that served as the catalyst for the Xinhai Revolution, ending the Qing Dynasty — and two millennia of imperial rule — and ushering in the Republic of China (ROC). It began with the dissatisfaction of the handling of a railway crisis. The crisis then escalated to an uprising in which the revolutionaries went up against Qing government officials. The uprising was then assisted by the New Army in a coup against their own authorities in the city of Wuchang, Hubei province on October 10, 1911. The Battle of Yangxia led by Huang Xing would be the major engagement in the uprising. The day is celebrated as a major national holiday in Taiwan, but is marked by only minor celebrations in mainland China where the anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (see post 1 Oct) is of much greater importance. In Taiwan it is called “Double 10 Day.”
After the Boxer Rebellion, an uprising against foreigners in China, had been savagely put down, many Western countries saw China as a good target for railway building and investment. Having carved out their individual spheres of influence, countries such as the UnSzechuanited Kingdom and France built numerous railways over the Qing government’s protests. Germany began building lines in Shandong, the British in Yangtze Valley, French in Kunming, Russians in Heilongjiang and the Japanese in Southern Manchuria. By 1905, however, the Canton-Hankou Railway and the Szechuan-Hankou railway were being locally managed in Guangdong, Hunan, Hubei and Szechuan. The railways were meant to link up with the rest of China.
In May 1911 the Qing government ordered the nationalization of railway lines, previously paid for by local private investors, in order to pay for the indemnities imposed by the Boxer Protocol. The announcement to nationalize the railways and pay back debts to the antagonistic victors of the Boxer Rebellion—mainly Great Britain, Germany, France and the US—was met with much opposition. Protests were held in Changsha and people in Guangdong boycotted government banknotes. By July the Qing government compensated the investors, but the amount offered to Szechuan was much lower than all other provinces. By August 11 there were massive strikes and rallies at Chengdu. Gov. Zhao Erfeng, in a panic, ordered the arrest of the nobles. New Army units in Wuhan were stationed in Wuchang, Hankou and Hanyang at the time.
The uprising itself broke out by accident. At the time there were two local revolutionary groups in Wuhan, the Literary Society and the Progressive Association. The two groups worked together, led by Jiang Yiwu and Sun Wu. In September 1911 they began collaborating with the Tongmenghui, anu nderground resistance movement founded by Sun Yat-sen, Sun Wu, and others. The original uprising date was set for October 6 on Mid-Autumn festival. However, some people were not ready on that date, and so it was postponed. On October 9 Sun Wu was at the Russian concession of Hankou where bombs were being built. A bomb accidentally exploded, causing Sun Wu serious injuries. When he was sent to the hospital, the staff discovered the group were revolutionaries and alerted the Qing government.
Facing arrest and certain execution with their identities now revealed, the revolutionaries had no choice but to stage a coup. Qing Viceroy of Huguang Duan Zheng tried to track down the revolutionaries. Jiang Yiwu of the Literary Society decided to launch an attack that night, but the plot was discovered by Qing agents. Several members were arrested and exectuted
Xiong Bingkun then decided to revolt on the evening of October 10 at 7pm. The modernized New Army in Wuchang staged a mutiny. Although the New Army belonged to the Qing government, it had already been infiltrated by the then exiled Sun Yat-sen’s anti-Qing allegiance. The revolutionaries took over the government house office of Duan Zheng, who managed to avoid capture by escaping through a tunnel. After fierce fighting, the army captured strategic points in the city. More revolutionaries joined the insurrectionists and the government troops were defeated.
Just one week after the start of the Wuchang uprising, Li Yuanhong made a sacrifice to Heaven, Earth and the Yellow Emperor, one of the legendary Chinese sovereigns and culture heroes included among the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors. A wide earthen platform was constructed on a military parade ground near the government offices. Five sacrificial offerings were made on an altar for incense, wine and an ox, according to tradition. Li and the officers kowtowed four times, while a prayer was read that told of the persecution of the Han by the Manchus and called the Yellow Emperor to assist in the establishment of the Republic. At the end, the soldiers raised their guns and shouted “Ten thousand years!” three times.
On October 11 the New Army established a military government in Hubei and Li Yuanhong was forced to become the new governor. It took some persuading to get him to “accept” the post, as one report said that he was hiding under a bed to avoid the position. Once the army had taken the city it went to the Yellow Crane Tower to raise the “Iron Blood 18-star flag.” This new military government called for other provinces to support the revolution and declared the founding of the Republic of China. This temporary government was referred to as the “Military Government of Hubei of the Republic of China.” By October 12 Hankou and Hanyang also fell into the hands of the revolutionaries.
The Qing government responded in October by ordering commander-in-chief Yuan Shikai and the Beiyang Army to suppress the uprising in Wuchang. Huang Xing arrived in Wuhan in early November to take command of the revolutionary army. The revolutionaries and the loyalists fought a protracted battle in Hankou and Hanyang known as the Battle of Yangxia that lasted until December 1. Although the loyalists eventually captured both towns, Yuan Shikai halted the advance of the Beiyang Army and agreed to a ceasefire. Negotiations began on December 1.
Sun Yat-sen himself played no direct part in the uprising in Wuchang. He was traveling in the United States, trying to drum up financial support from overseas Chinese. At the time of the uprising he was in Denver, Colorado. He received a telegram from Huang Xing that was one week old, but he couldn’t decipher it because he didn’t have the secret key with him. The next morning he read in the newspaper that the city of Wuchang was occupied by the revolutionaries. After the Wuchang Uprising, the revolutionaries telegraphed the other provinces asking them to declare their independence, and 15 provinces in Southern China and Central China did so.
Representatives from the seceding provinces met and declared the founding of the Republic of China on January 1, 1912. Sun Yat-sen returned to China in December 1911 to be elected provisional president of the Republic of China. He eventually agreed to cede his provisional presidency to Yuan Shikai, in exchange for Yuan’s help in pressuring the Last Emperor to abdicate. On February 12, 1912, Puyi, the Last Emperor, stepped down from the throne. The Qing dynasty could no longer govern; it appeared to have forfeited the mandate of heaven. This brought an end to the imperial era in China.
Because this is a major holiday in Taiwan I have chosen a classic Taiwanese dish, spicy beef noodle soup, to celebrate the day. It should be made with stewing beef with the bone in. It is common to use beef shank (osso buco). Spicy beef noodle soup is one of the most popular dishes in Taiwan. There are, of course, numerous variations.
Spicy Beef Noodle Soup
3 lbs bone-in stewing beef, cut into 4 pieces
3 tbsp canola oil
10 garlic cloves, peeled and bruised
1 ½ ins fresh ginger, peeled, cut into 6 slices, and bruised
5 green onions, whites whole, green parts chopped fine
1 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
4 star anise
2 tsps Szechuan peppercorns
3 hot chiles, split lengthwise
¼ cup chile bean sauce
⅓ cup Shaoxing rice wine
1 ½ oz yellow Chinese rock sugar
6 tbsps light soy sauce
2 tbsps dark soy sauce
10 cups water
1 lb baby bok choy, cut into bite size pieces
1 lb Chinese wheat noodles
2 tbsps cilantro, stems and leaves divided and chopped fine
A day ahead of time make the broth.
Use paper towels to pat dry the beef and then season with salt.
Heat the oil over high heat in a large heavy pot, and brown the beef lightly on all sides.
Add the garlic cloves ginger, white parts of the onions, five spice powder, star anise, cilantro stems, peppercorns, hot chiles, chile bean sauce, Shaoxing rice wine, rock sugar, soy sauces and water.
Bring to a boil, skim off the scum that floats to the top. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and gently simmer for 2 to 2 ½ hours, until the meat is tender but not falling apart.
Turn off the heat, and let the soup cool with the lid slightly open. The beef will finish cooking to fork tenderness as the broth cools and concentrates in flavor.
When cool remove the meat from the broth and strain the broth into another pot using a cheesecloth lined sieve. Discard the solids. Cut the meat into bite-sized chunks, return them to the broth, and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning remove the hardened fat from the broth. Bring to a boil.
In a separate pot of water cook the noodles and bok choy and divide them between soup bowls. Pour the meat and broth over the noodles and garnish with the green onion tops and cilantro leaves.