Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Fêng Tzŭ-ts'ai

FÊNG Tzŭ-ts'ai 馮子材 (T. 南幹, H. 翠亭) 1818–1903, Aug.–Sept., a native of Ch'in-chou, Kwangtung, was one of the soldiers of fortune produced by the Taiping Rebellion. Early in his thirties he was the head of a band of outlaws in the Po-pai region, Kwangsi. When Hung Hsiu-ch'üan [q. v.] rose in revolt Fêng joined the Imperial army under the command of Hsiang Jung [q. v.] whom he later followed to Nanking in pursuit of the rebels. After the death of Hsiang, in 1856, Fêng fought many battles in and around Nanking under the command of Chang Kuo-liang (see under Hsiang Jung) who died in May 1860. Then, at the head of some three thousand men, Fêng garrisoned the strategically important town of Chinkiang and there he fought relentlessly in 1863. In the following year, when the Imperial forces made a general attack on Nanking, Fêng and his troops recovered (May 13) Tan-yang, Kiangsu. Soon thereafter his contribution toward the suppression of the Taipings was rewarded with the hereditary rank of Ch'i-tu-yü, and with the Yellow Jacket.

Fêng Tzŭ-ts'ai was appointed in 1862 to the post of provincial commander-in-chief of Kwangsi, and assumed the post in 1865, after subduing remnants of the Taipings in Fukien and Kwangtung. As soon as he reached Kwangsi he dispatched troops to the provincial borders which had been in a state of unrest since the Taiping Rebellion. Within two years the northern and northwestern borders were tranquilized, but in the spring of 1867 the northern frontier was again disturbed by the incursion of a Miao tribe from Li-po, Kweichow. Advancing on Ch'ing-yüan (I-shan), and then on T'ai-p'ing, Fêng repelled the Miao and restored order in that area. Late in 1868 he led troops to Lung-chou on the southwestern border of Kwangsi. This region had been under the control of a powerful rebel leader, Wu Ya-chung 吳亞忠 [終], who had fled to Annam in the summer of that year. In August 1869 Fêng and his main troops marched on the Langson 諒山 region, Annam, and there exterminated Wu's forces by the end of the year. Upon his triumphal return to Kwangsi Fêng was given the additional hereditary rank of Yün-ch'i-yü. In 1875 he was transferred to Kweichow as commander-in-chief of the provincial troops. Four years later he was summoned to Peking for an audience, and was then sent to Kwangsi to assist the local authorities in connection with border defense. In 1881 he was transferred back to Kwangsi but retired a year later owing to illness. Three years later, however, he was recalled to active service to resist the advance of the French army in Annam.

At this time France was following a policy of active encroachment in northern Annam, or Tongking. Ever since 1862, when France was ceded Saigon and three provinces in Cochin China, she had been extending her influence over Annam. In 1874 the king of Annam was forced to sign a treaty of "peace and alliance" with France, in which was ceded, among other rights, permission to navigate the Red River from the sea up to Yunnan. But China refused to relinquish suzerainty over Annam, or to open Yunnan to French trade. France herself was then recuperating from the effects of the Franco-Prussian War and so, for more than five years, did not press the issue. In 1880 and 1881, however, the French government adopted an aggressive policy towards northern Annam in spite of the protests of Tsêng Chi-tsê [q. v.], then minister to Paris. In April 1882 a French expeditionary force under Commandant Henri-Laurent Riviére (1827–1883) took Hanoi. From 1882 to 1884 several attempts at a peaceful settlement of the Annam issue fell through. In the meantime an undeclared war was on. The Chinese government ordered troops to advance to strategic points in Annam from Yunnan and Kwangsi, and secretly encouraged a bandit leader in Tongking, Liu Yung-fu 劉永福 (another ming 義, T. 淵亭, 1837–1917), to attack the French. At the suggestion of a Chinese official, T'ang Ching-sung 唐景崧 (T. 維卿, chin-shih of 1865, d. 1902), Liu moved his army, known as the "Black Flags", to the vicinity of Hanoi and attacked that city. In a battle west of the city Riviére was killed (May 19). As a result, the French government sent large reinforcements to Hanoi, and forced Liu Yung-fu to retreat westward. With Liu thus removed, the French were now face to face with the Chinese army. In March and April 1884 the French defeated large concentrations of Chinese troops in Tongking. Partly owing to this defeat, Prince Kung (i.e., I-hsin, q.v.) and several other Grand Councilors were accused of being incompetent and too conciliatory toward the French, and so were removed. Many officials in Peking clamored for war.

Just then Li Hung-chang [q. v.] was trying to negotiate peace with the French envoy, Commander (later Admiral) Frangois-Ernest Fournier (福祿諾, b. 1842), and the two signed a convention on May 11, by which Li agreed to recognize French interests in Tongking, and to the opening of Yunnan and Kwangsi to French trade. Li also agreed to withdraw from Tongking the Kwangsi troops by June 6 and the Yunnan troops by June 26. He did not dare, however, to make public this agreement to the withdrawal of troops, and so tried to persuade the local authorities in Kwangsi and Yunnan to issue the necessary orders. In the meantime the war party in Peking forced the throne to issue an edict forbidding the withdrawal of troops. The Chinese commander in Tongking could not therefore leave his post without disobeying an imperial order. Meanwhile an impetuous French officer tried to force his way to the Chinese border and would not heed the explanation given by the Chinese commander. The result was a clash at Bac-lé 北黎 on June 23–24, in the course of which the French detachment was forced back. The responsibility for this incident rested chiefly on Li Hung-chang who had concealed what he had agreed to; but the French blamed the Chinese government and demanded a large indemnity. As China refused to comply the French naval force attacked Kelung (August 5–6, see under Liu Ming-ch'uan) and Foochow (August 23, see under Chang P'ei-lun) and war was formally declared. It was at this juncture that Fêng Tzŭ-ts'ai was recalled from retirement to assist in defending Kwangsi.

While the troops from Yunnan (see under Ts'ên Yü-ying and T'ang Chiung) were stopped at Hsüan-kuang (宣光 Tuyen-Quan), the Kwangsi troops bore the brunt of the attacks by the French army. In October the French reached a point half-way between Langson and Hanoi, and on December 16 Fêng Tzŭ-ts'ai and his force of about two thousand men had their first encounter with the French south of Bac-lé. In February 1885, after a series of battles, the French general, de Négrier, occupied Langson and pursued the Chinese forces to Chên-nan-kuan 鎮南關, the pass on the Kwangsi border. It was in the battle at this pass on February 23 that the general, Yang Yü-k'o (see under Ts'ên Yü-ying) was killed. The French took the pass on that day, but left it two days later after burning the town.

In March 1885 the Chinese command in Kwangsi was given to Li Ping-hêng (see under Jung-lu) and Su Yüan-ch'un 蘇元春 (d. 1908), with Chang Chih-tung [q. v.] directing the transport of supplies to the front from Canton. Fêng Tzŭ-ts'ai and other generals were entrusted with defending Chên-nan-kuan against a second assault, which finally came on March 23. Fêng, although then in his late sixties, leaped over the barricades, and while shouting at the enemy, led his men to battle. Other generals also fought bravely. The French troops were badly defeated and retreated to Langson with Fêng's men in hot pursuit. On March 28 de Négrier was seriously wounded and the French fled from Langson which Fêng entered on the 29th. Almost all the territory lost in 1884 was now recovered. In Paris the news of the defeat caused the downfall of the Cabinet (March 30). At the same time China came to terms with France through negotiations of James Duncan Campbell (金登幹), Billot of the French Foreign Office, and a Chinese Customs official. Campbell had received instructions from Sir Robert Hart (see under Chang Chih-tung) in Peking, who had been entrusted by the Chinese government to negotiate a peace. The protocol was signed on April 4, 1885, and by it China agreed to ratify the Li-Fournier convention of Tientsin as a basis for peace. On June 9 the treaty concluding the war was signed at Tientsin by Li Hung-chang and his assistants, Hsi-chên 錫珍 (T. 仲儒, H. 席卿, 1847–1889, served in Tsungli Yamen, 1884–89), and Têng Ch'êng-hsiu 鄧承修 (T. 鐵香, 1841–1891, chü-jên of 1861).

After the victory at Langson Fêng Tzŭ-ts'ai obeyed the imperial order to withdraw to Kwangsi and was appointed director of defense in southwestern Kwangtung. He was also awarded the title of Junior Guardian of the Heir Apparent, and his hereditary rank was raised to Ch'ing-ch'ê tu-yü. In 1886 he was ordered to take the post of commander-in-chief of the forces in Yunnan, but at his own request he was allowed to remain in Kwangtung. In 1894, on the sixtieth birthday of Empress Hsiao-ch'in [q. v.], he was given the title of president of a Board. Later in that year he was ordered to command troops in Manchuria against the Japanese, but on failing to go, was sent to Yunnan. At the outbreak of the Boxer Movement in 1900 he was ordered to come to the rescue of Peking, but failed to respond. In 1901 he was transferred to Kweichow but at his own request he was permitted to retire. Two years later he was appointed one of several commissioners to quell bandits who were then ravaging Kwangsi, but he died without accomplishing this task. He was canonized as Yung-i 勇毅.


[1/465/1a; 2/53/9b; 2/62/47a; 5/53/20b; Ch'ing-chi wai-chiao shih-liao (see under I-hsin); Palace Museum, Peiping, 清光緒朝中法外交史料 Ch'ing Kuang-hsü ch'ao Chung-Fa wai-chiao shih-liao; Tsêng Chi-tsê [q. v.], Tsêng Hui-min kung i-chi; Shao Hsün-cheng 邵循正, 中法越南關係始末 Chung-Fa Yüeh-nan kuan-hsi shih-mo; 克服諒山大略 K'o-fu Liang-shan ta-lüeh in Chên-ch'i t'ang ts'ung-shu (see under Wang Hsien); Livres Jaunes, 1884, 1885; U. S. Foreign Relations, 1884, 1885, 1886; Chang Chih-tung, Chang Wên-hsiang kung ch'üan-chi; Li Hung-chang, Li Wên-chung kung ch'üan-shu; Teng Ch'êng-hsiu, 語氷閣奏議 Yü-ping ko tsou-i; 惜陰堂筆記 Hsi-yin t'ang pi-chi in 人文 Jên-wên, vol. 2 (1931), no. 9 (with a portrait of Fêng by Wu Ta-ch'êng, q.v.); 劉永福歷史草 Liu Yung-fu li-shih ts'ao (1936) p. 161; 廣西一覽 Kwangsi i-lan (1935) 邊防; Thomazi, A., La Conquête de l'Indochine (1934); Rouyer, Histoire Militaire et Politique de l'Annam et du Tonkin; Gervais, A., La. Conquête du Tonkin (1885); Ennis, T. E., French Policy and Developments in Indochina (1936); Cordier, H., Histoire des Relations de la Chine avec les Puissances Occidentales, vol. 3; Norman, C. B., Tonkin, or France in the Far East (London, 1884); Staunton, S. A., The War in Tong-king (Boston, 1884); Lois, M., L'Escadre de L'Amiral Courbet (Paris, 1886); Scott, J. G., France and Tongking (London, 1885).]

Hiromu Momose

Fang Chao-ying