Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Li Hung-chang

3643627Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period, Volume 1 — Li Hung-changWilliam J. Hail

LI Hung-chang 李鴻章 (T. 子黻, 漸甫, H. 少荃, 儀叟), Feb. 15, 1823–1901, Nov. 7, statesman and diplomat, was a native of Ho-fei (Lu-chou), Anhwei. An ancestor eight generations before him was born into a family named Hsü 許 but changed his surname when he was adopted into the Li family. His father, Li Wên-an 李文安 (T. 式和, H. 五[愚]泉, original ming 文玕, 1801–1855), was a chin-shih of 1838 and therefore a classmate (同年) of Tsêng Kuo-fan [q. v.]. After Li Hung-chang became a chü-jên (1844), he went to Peking where he studied intensively under the direction of Tsêng who became thereafter after his patron and close friend. He became a chin-shih in 1847, was selected a bachelor in the Hanlin Academy and three years later was made a compiler.

When the Taiping rebels reached Anhwei in 1853 Li Hung-chang and his father returned to their native place to organize the militia to combat them. In the meantime Tsêng Kuo-fên recommended Li Hung-chang to Chiang Chung-yüan [q. v.], then governor of Anhwei. Under Chiang's direction, Li led his local recruits and won a battle at Yü-hsi k'ou in the department of Ho-chou, thus gaining the decorations of a sixth grade official. However, Chiang died with the capture of Lu-chou and Li's force was dispersed after serious reverses. Early in 1854 Li joined the staff of the new governor of Anhwei, Fu-chi 福濟 (T. 汝舟, H. 春瀛, 元修, d. 1875), and a year later, when Han-shan, Anhwei, was recovered, he won the rank of prefect. On July 6, 1855 his father, Li Wên-an, died, but the exigencies of war made it necessary for Li to remain in camp (unofficially) instead of retiring to observe the period of mourning. In the years 1855-57, the army of Fu-chi recaptured Ho-fei and was successful in other operations around Lake Ch'ao. As a member of the staff Li received due rewards. He was given the rank of a provincial judge (1856) and was registered as prepared for the office of an intendant (1857).

Discontented with Fu-chi's policies, Li left Anhwei in 1858 to join his patron, Tsêng Kuo-fan, who was then encamped at Nanchang. There he had a share in the recapture of Ching-tê-chên (May, 1858) and the rest of Kiangsi province. Tsêng was appointed governor-general of Kiangnan and Kiangsi in 1860, but Li, disagreeing with his policy of operating from Ch'i-mên as being too cautious, and on other matters as well, left his service early in 1861. After Tsêng Kuo-ch'üan [q. v.] captured Anking (September 5, 1861) Li sent Tsêng Kuo-fan a letter of congratulation and in return was invited to rejoin him.

When the Chung-wang (see under Li Hsiu- ch'êng) by spectacular victories revived the Taiping cause in 1860, the coastal provinces were thrown into panic and merchants and gentry begged for imperial aid to augment the help secured from foreign sources at Shanghai. But troops could not be spared until after the capture of Anking (1861). Then Li was persuaded to recruit a sufficient force in Anhwei and proceed to Shanghai as acting governor of Kiangsu. With his new army (henceforth known as Huai-chün 淮軍) and a detachment of Tsêng's veterans, he reached Shanghai by steamer in April 1862, prepared to co-operate with Tsêng Kuo-fan at Anking, with Tso Tsung-t'ang [q. v.], now viceroy of Fukien and Chekiang, and with Tsêng Kuo-ch'üan at Nanking—the aim being to drive on the Taipings from three directions and hem them in.

Li, at the early age of thirty-nine (sui), was thus placed at the head of a normally wealthy province, virtually all of which was in rebel hands. He found foreign forces defending Shanghai, and a foreign-trained and officered Chinese brigade, later known as the Ever Victorious Army, organized by Frederick Townsend Ward (see under Fêng Kuei-fên), helping the imperialists to drive the insurgents from near-by towns. Ward's brigade was subsidized by the provincial authorities through a merchant known by the firm name of "Takee" who acted as paymaster. The expense of these well-drilled troops and their arrogance made them unpopular, but they had ability to win victories, and Li made it clear that he would continue to employ them. Ward lost his life at Tzeki in September 1862, And after a short interval Henry Burgevine (see under Fêng Kuei-fên) was installed as commander. But Burgevine, despite his popularity with the men, soon incurred the hostility of Li by failing to go to Nanking when a severe crisis brought a request from Tsêng for aid. This antagonism grew when Burgevine later forcibly collected from "Takee" sums due his army. He was dismissed, and after some delay and negotiation Charles George ("Chinese") Gordon 戈登 (1833–1885), was released by the British Government to take his place. Gordon won renown by reorganizing the force and by co-operating effectively with Li. This force became the spearhead of Li's campaign, going forward side by side with the Hunan and Anhwei "Braves" in the capture of T'ai-ts'ang, K'un-shan, Chiang-yin, and then Soochow where a number of Taiping chiefs were forced to submit. When these chiefs were put to death on the suspicion that they planned treachery, Gordon was furious and threatened to attack Li (for details see under Ch'êng Hsüeh-ch'i).

Early in 1864 the government forces moved towards Ch'ang-chou in three divisions—in close co-operation with each other and with Tso Tsung-t'ang's Chekiang armies. With the capture of Ch'ang-chou the Ever Victorious Army had completed its task and was disbanded. Tsêng ordered Li to join forces with Tsêng Kuo-ch'üan at Nanking, but fearing that jealousies might be aroused if he shared with Tsêng the honor of Nanking (which fell on July 19, 1864), he refrained on the ground that his forces were needed elsewhere. For his part in crushing the Taiping Rebellion he was made a first class Earl with the designation Su-i (肅毅伯).

During the next year (1865), in co-operation with Tsêng, civil government was restored in Kiangsu and steps were taken toward the building of iron works (see under Ting Jih-ch'ang). In May 1865 Tsêng was ordered to take command in Shantung against the Nien bandits (see under Sêng-ko-lin-ch'in), and Li was made acting governor-general at Nanking where he established an arsenal under the direction of Halliday Macartney (see under Kuo Sung-tao). But as Tsêng failed to win a swift victory over the bandits and was ordered back to Nanking (late in 1866), Li was made Imperial Commissioner to direct the campaign. Early in 1867 Li was made governor-general of Hunan and Hupeh but did not assume that office until the bandits were suppressed in 1868 (see under Liu Ming-ch'uan). For his exploits in this campaign Li was given the minor hereditary rank of Ch'i-tu-yü and the title of Grand Guardian of the Heir Apparent and was made concurrently an Associate Grand Secretary. He also secured leave to visit Peking where he was received with great honor. The official account of the campaign against the Nien rebels, entitled Chiao-p'ing Nien-fei fang-lüeh (see under I-hsin) was completed in 1872 and published by the Tsungli Yamen with a preface of the same date.

Li Hung-chang took over his duties as governor-general at Wuchang on March 1, 1869. But his routine as a civil official was broken when in July he was sent to investigate charges against the governor-general of Szechwan, Wu T'ang 吳棠 (T. 仲宣, H. 棣華, chü-jên of 1835, d. 1876), and to look into disorders arising from quarrels between Christians and the local populace in Yu-yang, Szechwan, and in Tsun-i, Kweichow—the last-named cases having been appealed by church authorities through the French minister at Peking. Li was negotiating with the Bishop when word came that the French minister, Rochechouart (see under Ch'ung-hou), was on his way up the Yangtze to investigate other cases in Hupeh, and Li hastened back to meet him at Wuchang. These negotiations were scarcely completed when Li was again ordered to Kweichow to investigate the failure of the provincial forces of Szechwan, Kweichow and Hunan to co-operate in their conflict with the Miao. But when about to assume this duty he was summoned north to cope with the Mohammedan uprising. Gathering his forces at Tung-kuan he reached Sian in July 1870. But in the meantime another crisis had arisen which caused him to be summoned to the coast—namely the Tientsin massacre of June 21, 1870 (see under Ch'ung-hou). Tsêng Kuo-fan had not reached a complete settlement of this issue and was ill; the French were bringing warships, and panic had seized the authorities in Peking. At first Li seemed inclined to fight, but grew more cautious as he approached Tientsin. His appointment to succeed Tsêng as governor-general reached him en route and Tsêng returned to Nanking after having virtually settled the case.

Hereafter routine administrative duties held Li Hung-chang in Chihli for a quarter of a century. During this period he served concurrently as Grand Secretary (1872–1901) and after 1879 held the honorary title of Grand Tutor of the Heir Apparent. As Superintendent of Trade for the North almost every question involving foreign relations, the adoption of Western techniques, or the dispatch of students abroad (see under Jung Hung) came to his attention. To carry out these multifarious duties he at first divided his time between Paotingfu and Tientsin, but later spent most of his time in the latter place.

Li's first experience as a diplomat came in 1871 when he was called upon to negotiate a treaty with Japan. China was unwilling to concede 'most favored nation' rights or to permit trade in the interior. The resulting treaty signed on July 29, 1871 between Li and Date Munenari 伊達宗城 (T. 藍山, 1818–1892) was highly unsatisfactory to Japan but she soon obtained a diplomatic victory which resulted in her first seizure of Chinese territory. China had declined in 1871 to assume responsibility for the murder by Formosan savages of a number of shipwrecked Loochoo Islanders, on the ground that the issue was a purely Chinese one. However, rather than go to war, for which the country was then unprepared, an indemnity was paid to Japan. Unfortunately, however, in the documents which were drawn up the Chinese government referred to the Loochoo Islanders as "people belonging to Japan" and from 1874 onward Japan seized upon this as a sufficient renunciation to organize the islands as a feudal dependency and in 1879 to incorporate them as a Japanese prefecture. When General Grant was in China on his world tour Li requested him to plead in Japan for reconsideration of the annexation issue, intimating that China in return would facilitate the proposed negotiations for limiting the emigration of Chinese to the United States. Grant was instrumental, as a private citizen, in securing a re-study of the case with the result that, early in 1880, Japan sent Takezoe Shinichiro 竹添進一郎 (T. 光鴻, 1842–1917) to negotiate with Li at Tientsin. Li at first agreed to Takezoe's proposal to divide the islands between China and Japan, as suggested by others; but several months later, when opposition in China grew stronger and when it became known that the islands to be ceded were barren, the agreement was allowed to lapse.

The settlement of the stormy issues that the British Minister raised in connection with the Margary case (see under Kuo Sung-tao and Ts'ên Yü-ying) was finally entrusted to Li Hung-chang. As plenipotentiary he reached Chefoo in August 1876, and there he concluded the Chefoo Convention (September 13) which not only settled this case but provided for the opening of new ports, for regulation of the trade between Burma and Yunnan, and for rules of procedure in the reception of foreign envoys.

During this time Korea was steadily slipping legally from the suzerainty of China and the status of that kingdom became problematical when China declined to assume responsibility in a dispute which arose between Korea and Japan in 1875. Since China's relationship was rather that of a patron than a protector she encouraged Japan to negotiate with Korea directly. Japan, therefore, made a treaty in 1876 as though dealing with an independent power. The question of Korea's relationship to China was temporarily deferred, but the ground was steadily being cut from under China's claim. This became apparent a few years later when the United States tried to open trade with Korea. Though Commodore Shufeldt availed himself of Li's aid in negotiating in 1882 a treaty of commerce, and though the terms were actually drawn up by the two men for the Korean envoys to sign, Li was unable to insert in it any recognition that Korea was a dependency of China. The best he could do was to secure consent for an accompanying letter from the King of Korea, recognizing this fact but adding that Korea was free in her internal and foreign relations. Li was only partly responsible for the blunders in diplomacy of this period; some were made without his consent in Peking, and he did the best he could to retrieve what others had lost.

More than most higher officials of his day, Li Hung-chang realized that the backwardness of China in the matter of arms placed her at the mercy of stronger powers and that the lack of swifter communications and modern machinery retarded her economic progress. Hence he became the patron of many new economic enterprises and technical innovations. In 1872 the conservatives complained at the excessive cost of steamers, but in a memorial Li made a spirited defense of his policies on the ground that foreign encroachment was imminent and that China must provide herself with some of the things that made Western nations strong. Hence he supported in 1872 the proposal of Jung Hung for a steamship line, recommending that a government-subsidized company be formed, operating at first with chartered vessels to carry tribute rice from the South. From this developed the China Merchant's Line whose ships ran not only between northern and southern ports, but also to Japan, the Philippines and Singapore. Incidentally, a large part of the company's stock was owned by Li, as was the case with most of the enterprises he sponsored. Unfortunately, an experimental railway built between Shanghai and Woosung in 1876 was discontinued in the following year. But in 1880 Li submitted a memorial vigorously urging resumption of railway building. He proposed four trunk lines: Peking to Ch'ing-chiang-p'u (near Nanking on the Grand Canal), to Hankow, to Mukden, and to distant Kansu, all to be financed by properly safe-guarded loans. But much inertia had to be overcome before a line was authorized, namely, an eighty-one mile railway linking Tientsin with the T'ang-shan coal mines which Li had been instrumental in opening with modern machinery. Other railways were not constructed until years later (see under Chang Chih-tung).

Li Hung-chang likewise sponsored the first permanent telegraph lines in China. Sporadic attempts had been made since 1865 to construct short lines, among them one from Shanghai to Woosung, built under foreign auspices, and one from Tientsin to the Taku forts, built by Chinese. In 1880 Li recommended the construction of a line from Tientsin to Shanghai and this was completed on December 24, 1881. Three years later it was extended to Peking and from then on to the chief cities of the empire. Li sponsored a number of proposals for schools of a technical character to train Chinese to conduct these modern enterprises, including a weaving mill which was installed in Shanghai in 1882. But many of his proposals were not carried out, owing to the conservatism of the officials or to the cost which seemed to them prohibitive. A Military Academy was opened in Tientsin in 1885, and long before this there were the beginnings of a modern navy (see under Shên Pao-chên). But it was a distinct drawback to China that the arsenals and ship-building yards—the first of these being established when Li was governor at Shanghai, others being located later at Foochow and Tientsin—were regarded as provincial rather than national enterprises. Up to 1888 Li, as an associate controller of the Board of Admiralty (see under I-huan), was able to secure funds to build up a fleet of some twenty-eight vessels, but from then till the out-break of the war with Japan (1894) a series of setbacks crippled the navy, among them the requisition of two million taels to celebrate the Empress Dowager's birthday (see under Hsiao-ch'in) the resignation of Captain Lang, formerly of the British Navy, who with Admiral Ting Ju-ch'ang 丁汝昌 (T. 禹廷, d. 1895), had built up the navy; and the death of Prince Ch'un (see under I-huan), one of its chief friends among the Manchu princes. The provincial authorities who thus saw sums, which they had grudgingly contributed to the navy, diverted to other uses, naturally cut down their appropriations. Other reforms likewise were retarded after 1888.

Owing to the death of his mother in 1882, Li Hung-chang secured a leave of absence, but trouble in Korea forced his recall in the same year. Leave for the burial was curtailed in 1883 because of French aggressions in Annam. Prior to taking his second leave, Li negotiated a treaty with France securing recognition of Chinese suzerainty over Annam and placing a neutral zone between Chinese and French spheres. But this understanding was repudiated in Paris and M. Tricou was sent from Tokyo to negotiate another treaty recognizing the independence of Annam. Tricou awaited Li at Shanghai, but when Li passed through that city in July 1883 Li could not be held there to revise the treaty in conformity with French wishes. He was coldly received by all the foreign officials, except the American Minister, John Russell Young 楊約翰 (1840–1899). Li tried in vain to secure mediation on this menacing problem, and M. Tricou followed him to Tientsin where a tentative agreement was reached which would save some vestige of Chinese prestige in Annam. But even this was not drawn into a definite treaty, and an undeclared war ensued. Li did not contribute his northern fleet to this war lest it be needed for defense, but he did inspire the negotiations for selling the China Merchant's steamers to Russell and Company (旗昌洋行) with a verbal understanding that they might be repurchased after the danger of capture was over. France attacked Formosa (see under Liu Ming-ch'uan) and in February 1885 declared a state of war to exist. But some Chinese successes on land (see under Fêng Tzŭ-ts'ai), together with a French Cabinet crisis, resulted in a new treaty on April 4, 1885, which was signed by Li Hung-chang on June 9. France virtually got what she desired yet without great loss of prestige to China.

The indifferent success regarding Annam led to a determined effort to retrieve China's position in Korea. The riots in July 1882 which forced the Japanese minister, Hanabusa Yoshitada 花房義質 (1842–1917), to flee, and caused Li to hasten north from Anhwei, resulted from a break between pro-Japanese radicals and pro Chinese conservatives in Korea. The Tai Wön Kun (see under Li Shu-ch'ang) was brought to China as a prisoner. But the issues were settled directly (August 29) between Korea and Japan, thus still further damaging Chinese prestige. One faction in China hoped to establish overlordship in Korea by stationing a resident at Seoul, but Li, fearful of foreign complications, contented himself with putting in force a set of trade regulations—to be enforced by commissioners both in Tientsin and in Seoul—granting Chinese greater privileges than those enjoyed by subjects of other nations. He secured the appointment of P. G. Mollendorff 穆麟德 (1847-1901) to organize the Korean Customs, and in place of Chinese consuls in Korean ports he appointed deputy trade commissioners who also exercised criminal jurisdiction over Chinese subjects. But Harry Parkes (see under Yeh Ming-ch'ên) ignored China's plans when he negotiated treaties with the Koreans in 1883, and in the following year various nations pressed Korea for privileges equal to those the Chinese enjoyed. Moreover, Korean radicals supported by Japanese, sought full independence for their country. On December 4, when the newly-established postal system was being celebrated, a pro-Japanese faction staged a riot and, according to a pre-arranged plan, forced the King to summon Japanese Legation guards to the Palace. Two days later the Chinese garrison at Seoul, in an attempt to rescue the King, attacked the Japanese guards in the Palace and compelled them to withdraw from Korea (see Yüan Chia-san). Japan sent two of her ablest statesmen to settle this case: Inoue Kaoru (see under Wu Ta-ch'êng) to Seoul to seek redress from the King, and Itō Hirobumi 伊藤博文 (H. 春畝, 1841–1909) to Tientsin to reach an understanding with Li. After several meetings Itō and Li decided upon the following points: mutually to renounce the policy of stationing troops or military advisors in Korea; the modernization of Korea would be effected by advisors from a third power; and in case of further disturbance no troops would be sent without prior notification to the other power.

Despite this virtual acknowledgment of Japan as an equal in Korea, Li spent the ensuing nine years seeking to recover Chinese prestige and control of that country. While Mollendorff administered the Customs under Robert Hart's (see under Chang Chih-tung) directions from Peking, Yüan Shih-k'ai (see under Yüan Chia-san) was made 'Resident' to assist the King in internal and foreign affairs; and Judge Denny, former consul at Tientsin and a personal friend of Li, was persuaded to take the office of advisor to the King. Denny, however, disappointed Li by taking for granted the indenpendence of Korea. In 1885 the British suddenly occupied Port Hamilton, whereupon Li negotiated a secret treaty of alliance with the Russian Minister. The British were, however, given the necessary guarantee which led to the evacuation of Port Hamilton (1886) and the treaty of alliance with Russia was never ratified.

While matters were proceeding thus in Korea Li managed in 1886 to carry through the long-desired removal of the Catholic church which overlooked the Imperial Palace in Peking. This was effected by direct negotiation in Rome and also with the Bishop in Peking. Direct diplomatic relations with the Vatican were suggested in the hope of settling numerous church cases without the intervention of France, but France vetoed the proposal.

The prestige of Li Hung-chang seems to have reached its highest point early in the 'nineties. On his seventieth birthday in 1892 the Empress Dowager and the Emperor showered him with gifts and honors. A work containing pictures of the celebration and eulogies by his friends, was published in 6 volumes under the title, 合肥相國七十賜壽圖 Ho-fei hsiang-kuo ch'i-shih tz'ŭ-shou t'u.

In the meantime affairs in Korea did not become less confusing. The constant struggle between radicals and conservatives, and the unending foreign intrigue, came to a head in 1893 when the reactionary, semi-religious society known as Tong Haks 東學黨 came forward. This group, whose aim it was to cast out all Western innovations, had a special animus against Japan, which in their eyes had proved a renegade to Eastern Civilization and to Confucian teachings. The danger of revolution was not lessened when Kim Ok-kyun 金玉均 (T. 伯温, H. 古筠, 1851–1894), leader of the radical, pro-Japanese faction and a refugee at Shanghai, was murdered (March 29) and his corpse brought to Korea and cut up and distributed through the country as a warning to liberals. The Korean government managed to suppress the disturbance, but called on China for military aid. Japan, who also sent forces, proposed to China reforms in the government, and when China declined to co-operate, made demands on Korea. The sending by China of reinforcements was regarded as a challenge to Japan who commenced hostilities by sinking the chartered troopship, Kowshing (July 25, 1894).

It was far from Li's intention to challenge Japan to war, for as stated above his navy was crippled, after 1888, for want of funds. But the Peking government controlled by his political rival, Wêng T'ung-ho [q. v.], advocated resistance. The resulting defeat was fatal to Li's prestige. His Korean policy was shattered, his navy was routed, and for both catastrophes he alone was blamed. He was deprived of honors but held at his post, frantically seeking for funds, for munitions, for mediation. He was dejected and at his wit's end. Yet the blame was laid on him for a war which he would have avoided. In November he sent his trusted advisor, Detring 德璀林, with a personal letter to Ito to negotiate peace, but Detring was not received. Attempts were made through the American minister, Charles Denby 田貝 (1830–1904), to discuss peace on the basis of Korean independence, but Japan replied that she would make her terms known only to properly accredited plenipotentiaries sent to Japan. Consequently China dispatched Chang Yin-huan [q. v.] and Shao Yu-lien (see under Ch'ung-hou) to Hiroshima. There they were met early in January by Ito and Mutsu Munemitsu 陸奧宗光 (1844–1897). But Japan rebuffed them on the ground that their credentials were improperly drawn up, nor would she permit them to secure revised credentials by telegraph. Only a man of very high rank would be acceptable, and this pointed to Li himself. Li's cup of bitterness was not yet drained to the dregs, for on February 17 a cablegram from Tokyo stated that no plenipotentiary need come who was not authorized to cede territory and settle outstanding questions, great and small, including demands Japan would later make known. China could only accept the hard terms and Li was appointed. Prior to setting out for Shimonoseki he called on various legations to seek aid. Though no such pledges are definitely known to have been given, some writers profess to believe that Count Cassini of Russia did virtually pledge Russian aid in case Manchurian territory should be demanded, and that Britain intimated she would not be indifferent if her sphere in the South were invaded. The first meeting with the Japanese took place on March 20, when an armistice was refused except on impossible terms. Four days later Li was shot by a fanatic and the incident so stirred public opinion that profuse apologies were made and a generous armistice was granted (March 30) for a limited period. Li's nephew and adopted son, Li Ching-fang 李經方 (T. 伯行, 1855?–1934) became the plenipotentiary and continued the negotiations.

The terms of peace confirmed China's worst fears. They included not only the independence of Korea but the cession of the Liaotung Peninsula, Formosa, and the Pescadores. Included also were an indemnity of 300,000,000 Kuping taels, the opening of seven new ports to trade—chiefly in the Yangtze and West River regions—and numerous concessions to Japanese merchants. Though a few slight concessions were granted, China was compelled to accept them virtually as first made on April 1. The last touches were added on April 17, 1895, and the treaty was signed, but China still hoped for modifications before final ratification. The hoped-for intervention came on April 23 when Russia, France and Germany advised Japan to retrocede the Liaotung Peninsula. China suggested that the treaty be rewritten, but Japan insisted on ratification first, and after that bowed to the will of the three European powers.

As reward for her services Russia desired the immediate recognition of Li's alleged promises, but Li had been transferred to a non-political post in Peking and could do nothing. The following year, however (1896), on the occasion of the Tsar's coronation in Moscow, Russia insisted that Li was the most suitable delegate to represent China, and the appointment was made. He left Shanghai on March 28, passed through Odessa on April 27, and reached St. Petersburg on April 30. There he was received with great honor by Lobanoff and Witte, and he negotiated with the latter a secret treaty aimed against Japan and providing for an alliance. Permission was given to Russia to build (through the semi-official Russo-Chinese Bank) the Chinese Eastern Railway across Manchuria. Later a contract was officially made between the Chinese Government and the Railway (organized under the bank) which granted special tariff rates, and set forth the terms under which guards might be placed along the line. It was agreed that the road might be purchased by China at the end of thirty-six years and that it might revert to her without compensation after eighty years.

From Russia Li proceeded round the world visiting the Kaiser and Bismarck in Germany, and making stops at The Hague, Brussels and Paris. On August 5 he had an audience with Queen Victoria, and at the end of that month was introduced to President Cleveland in Washington. Sailing from Vancouver on September 14—but refusing to go ashore in Japan—he returned to Tientsin on October 3, 1896. Many anecdotes are still current about this journey round the world. In sharp contrast with his triumphant progress abroad was the cool welcome he received at home. It was owing to the power of the Empress Dowager alone that his enemies did not reach him; and Chinese writers hint that her protection at this juncture was secured at a round price. So Li remained in office, attached to the Tsungli Yamen. Early in 1898 Russia secured the lease of the Liaotung Peninsula, and in connection with the further right which she received to extend her railway south from Harbin to Port Arthur and Dalny, Count Witte is authority for the statement that he gave bribes both to Li Hung-chang and to Chang Yin-huan.

In the summer of 1898—during the Hundred Days of Reform (see under T'an Ssŭ-t'ung)—Li was dismissed from the Tsungli Yamen, and that autumn was sent to supervise conservancy work along the Yellow River. He retained his position as Superintendent of Trade for the North and in that capacity made, in the autumn of 1899, an extended tour of inspection of the chief northern seaports. Soon thereafter he was appointed acting governor-general of Kwangtung and Kwangsi, the appointment being changed after a few months to full governor-general. In that capacity he sought to curb the gambling which was then widespread, but he did not accomplish much before the Boxer outbreak (1900), and the attendant calamities made it urgent that he return to the capital to negotiate with the angered Western powers. Having managed, along with the other southern governors, to maintain order and protect foreign lives and property during the storm (see under Chang Chih-tung), he was virtually the only acceptable spokesman for the scattered and discredited northern regime. Appointed plenipotentiary and governor-general of Chihli, he came north toward the end of the summer, stopping in Shanghai long enough to explore the situation and hold preliminary conversations. Li strove with all his power to make the indemnities as small as possible and the other conditions free from undue humiliation. But the cards were all in the hands of the triumphant allies and the onerous treaty was finally signed on September 7, 1901. Even while he was thus engaged, Russia was hounding him to sign another treaty granting her a free hand in Manchuria. This last bitterness was evaded, however, when he died on November 7.

During his public career which covered nearly half a century, Li Hung-chang had helped to deliver the dynasty from the Taiping Rebellion and had introduced many reforms, particularly in the years 1870-94. Relying much on the advice of Sir Halliday Macartney, William Pethick 白狄克 (d. 1901), Chester Holcombe 何天爵 (1844–1912), Sir Robert Hart and Detring, not to mention others, he did perhaps all he could for a land where the conservatism of the people, a reactionary officialdom, and unrestrained international rivalry, made each step forward a matter of great difficulty. Always progressive, yet patient and conciliatory, it was his fate to bear the blame for failures which might have been avoided if he had had his way. Nevertheless he bore defeat with composure and dignity. Fateful also is the fact that the triumph of Japan caused such a strong reaction in favor of Russia that the policies Li worked out brought about, not a Far Eastern-balance, but the Russo-Japanese war and a train of consequences that may be attributed to it.

Li Hung-chang was posthumously given the honorary title of Grand Tutor, the name Wên-chung 文忠, and the hereditary rank of Marquis of the first class. His name was entered in the Temple of Eminent Statesmen, and in later years special temples were erected to his memory in Peking, Tientsin, Shanghai, Nanking, Soochow and other places. His rank was first inherited by his son, Li Ching-shu 李經述 (T. 仲彭, d. 1901?), and then by the latter's son, Li Kuo-chieh 李國杰 (T. 偉侯, 1881–1939), who was Chinese Minister to Belgium (1910–12) and director of the China Merchant's Steam Navigation Company until 1932. Li Hung-chang's elder brother, Li Han-chang 李瀚章 (T. 筱荃, 1821–1899), served as governor-general at Wuchang (1867, 1870–75, 1876–82) and at Canton (1889–95). Li Hung-chang's youngest son, Li Ching-mai 李經邁 (T. 季高, d. 1938), was minister to Austria in 1905–07.

The collected literary works of three generations of the Li family, each in 8 chüan, were edited by Li Kuo-chieh and printed in 1904 under the collective title, 合肥李氏三世遺集 Ho-fei Li-shih san-shih i-chi—the works of Li Hung-chang, bearing the sub-title, Li Wên-chung kung i-chi. Li's memorials, correspondence, and other documents were printed in 1908 under the collective title, Li Wên-chung kung ch'üan-shu (全書), 165 chüan, with an additional chüan of biographical information. Drafts of Li's letters, composed by his secretary, Yü Shih-mei 于式枚 (T. 穗生, H. 晦若, 1859–1915), were reproduced (1916) in facsimile with Li's corrections, under the title Li Wên-chung kung ch'ih-tu (尺牘), 32 volumes. Yü served on Li's staff from 1885 to 1899, and later rose to the post of vice-president of the Board of Civil Appointments (1910). Among others who rose with Li's help to fame and position may be mentioned Chou Fu 周馥 (T. 玉山, 1837–1921), who after serving under Li for many years was made governor-general at Canton (1906–07).

[1/417/1a; 2/57/1a; 2/59/23a; 5/7/7b; 5/30/21a; Li Wên-chung kung ch'üan-chi; 傅相游歷各國日記 Fu-hsiang yu-li ko-kuo jih-chi (1897); Li Shu-ch'un 李書春, Li Wên-chung kung Hung-chang nien-p'u in 史學年報, No. 1 (1929); I-hsin [q. v.], Ch'ou-pan i-wu shih mo, T'ung-chih; I-hsin [q. v.], Ch'ing-chi wai-chiao shih-liao; 清光緒朝中法交涉史料 Ch'ing Kuang-hsü ch'ao Chung-Fa chiao-shê shih-liao; Ch'ing Kuang-hsü ch'ao Chung-Jih (日) chiao-shê shih-liao; The Memoirs of Count Witte, tr. and ed. by Abraham Yarmolinski (1921); Morse, H. B., International Relations of the Chinese Empire, vol. II, III; Bland, J. O. P., Li Hung-chang (1917); Douglas, R. K., Li Hung-chang (1895); Little, Mrs. Archibald, Li Hung-chang, His Life and Times (1903); 廬州府志 Lu-chou-fu chih (1885), 12/5a; Okudaira Takehiko 奥平武彥, 朝鮮開國交涉始末 Chôsen kaikoku kōshō shimatsu (1935) ; Itō Hirobumi (see above), 祕書類纂 Hisho ruisan (1933–34); Mutsu Munemitsu (see above) 蹇蹇錄 Kenken roku (1895) reprinted in 1933 in 岩波文庫 Iwanami Bunko.]

William J. Hail