Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Lin Fêng-hsiang

LIN Fêng-hsiang 林鳳祥, d. 1855, age about thirty (sui), the general who led the northern expedition in the Taiping Rebellion, was born in the province of Kwangsi. When the rebels organized their government at Yung-an (1851), Kwangsi, Lin was made chief of the imperial guard of the Celestial King, Hung Hsiu-ch'üan [q. v.]. Later he followed the King of the West, Hsiao Ch'ao-kuei (see under Hung Hsiu-ch'üan), in the attack on Changsha (September 11, 1852), capital of Hunan. While there he was made a general. After taking Yochow (December 13, 1852), he was promoted to be commander, and after winning Hanyang, Hupeh (December 22), a supervisor. The detachment he led was one of the first to enter the city of Wuchang (January 12, 1853) and also the first to enter Nanking (March 19). He was then elevated to a Minister of State. His victorious soldiers marched on from Nanking and took Chinkiang (March 30) and Yangchow (April 1), and thereupon he was made marquis with the designation Ching-hou 靖侯.

Thereafter Lin Fêng-hsiang was ordered by Yang Hsiu-ch'ing [q. v.] to launch a northern expedition with a view to the conquest of Peking. He marched, in command of a strong contingent, northwestward from Yangchow along the line of the present Tientsin-Pukow Railway. Presently he reached Ch'u-chou (May 16, 1853), Lin-huai-kuan (May 18) and Fêng-yang (May 28), all cities in Anhwei. However, he was pursued by government troops and his advance was opposed by government defenses at Su-chou. He was thus forced to proceed in a westerly direction through Honan to Peking instead of going north through Shantung. He took Pochou, Anhwei, on June 10. There he joined forces with another detachment of Taipings for the northern expedition under Li Kai-fang 李開芳 (also called 李來芳, d. 1855), a native of Kwangsi. Before Li set out on this campaign he was made a marquis with the designation Ting-hou 定侯. He left Pukow on May 13, 1853, and joined Lin Fêng-hsiang at Po-chou from where both contingents went to Honan.

In Honan the forces of Lin Fêng-hsiang and Li Kai-fang took Kuei-tê (June 13) and continued their march to Kaifeng, the provincial capital (June 19). Though their numbers were increased by local bandit recruits from Anhwei and Honan, they failed to take Kaifeng owing to a heavy rain in which their gunpowder became wet. After ineffective assaults for four days they abandoned the attack and moved to Chung mou (June 22). There they divided into two groups: one crossed the Yellow River northward (June 27) to occupy Wên-hsien (July 2); the other, a smaller contingent, moved southward along the route of the present Peking-Hankow Railway to Hsin-chêng (July 9) and Huang-an, Hupeh (August 1) and finally to T'ai-hu, Anhwei (August 11). This southward movement was probably designed to prevent a government force from pursuing the northern expedition and so frustrate the main objective. In the meantime the larger contingent proceeded to Huai-ch'ing which it besieged from July 8 to September 1.

The imperial government at Peking was now threatened by the Taiping expedition, and troops were summoned from various provinces in North China to harass the rebels and resist their advance. Nevertheless the Taipings fiercely attacked the city of Huai-ch'ing despite stubborn resistance within the city and heavy concentrations of government troops in their rear. They sprang mines under the wall and dug trenches on their flanks to protect themselves against the assaults of the imperial forces. After long and fruitless combat they abandoned Huai-ch'ing and entered Shansi province with their forces reduced to scarcely more than 20,000 men. In Shansi the Taipings fought their way through Yüan-ch'ü (September 4, 1853), Ch'ü-wo (September 7), and Pring-yang (September 12). In the last-mentioned city they were surrounded by government troops under the command of the Manchu general, Shêng-pao 勝保 (T. 克齋, d. 1863). The latter, a chü-jên of 1840 was made Imperial Commissioner for military affairs when he pursued the Taipings from Yangchow to Shansi. The Taipings appealed to Nanking for help and then fled from P'ing-yang to Hung-tung (September 14). From there they passed on to the province of Chihli which was their objective. They reached Lin-ming-kuan in western Chihli on September 28, 1853, and then forced their way to Shên-chou (October 9), only 600 li from Peking. The Court became alarmed, and methods for the defense of Peking were discussed. Shêng-pao was punished for his negligence by being lowered two grades in rank. High generals like Sêng-ko-lin-ch'in [q. v.] and others were sent to Paoting to stem the rebel advance. After camping fourteen days at Shên-chou, the Taipings were compelled to leave (October 22). They made for Tientsin whose suburbs they reached on October 30. But since Tientsin was defended by a newly organized militia equipped with rifles and guns, and since the advance of the Taipings was obstructed by mud after the heavy autumn rains, they were unable to make a successful assault on the city. Consequently they were forced to retire to Tu-liu-chên southwest of Tientsin. They were attacked by Sêng-ko-lin-ch'in who had reached Tientsin on November 7. But at Tu-liu-chên the latter met with reverses (December 23) which strengthened the rebels in their position. Unfortunately the Taipings, being mostly southerners, were not accustomed to the severe winters of North China and in consequence suffered acutely from frostbite and exposure. Moreover they were short of provisions. Under these conditions they were soon forced to wage a wholly defensive campaign. Beginning on January 28, 1854 one small brigade after another fled southward to Shu-ch'êng, 50 li northwest of Hsien-hsien, Chihli (February 7). Here they persevered under many difficulties against the imperial assaults until March 7 when they raised the siege and occupied Fou-ch'êng (March 9) and many adjacent villages. In the course of their flight hundreds of hungry and cold insurgents were mercilessly killed by the imperialists. Nevertheless they held Fou-ch'êng for two months, countering many attacks of Sêng-ko-lin-ch'in.

By this time Taiping reinforcements, said to number some thirty or forty thousand men, forced their way to northwestern Shantung and took the city of Lin-ch'ing (April 13). Though this city is distant from Fou-ch'êng only about 200 li, the Taipings there were furiously attacked and the city was taken by Shêng-pao on April 23. The remaining insurgents retraced their way southward with great loss. Finally with only about 2,000 men left, they fled to Fêng-hsien, Kiangsu, where the remnant was annihilated (May 5).

On the same day (May 5) Lin Fêng-hsiang and Li K'ai-fang succeeded in rushing out from the siege of Fou-ch'êng to an eastern town named Lien-chên. Ignorant of the fate of the expected reinforcements, and still hopeful of joining them, Li K'ai-fang led a force of some 2,000 cavalry (May 28) from Lien-chên across the boundary into Shantung. There they made a stand at Kao-t'ang, a city not far east of Lin-ch'ing. A powerful defense was quickly set up to withstand a long siege. The result was that Lin Fêng-hsiang and Li K'ai-fang were separated. Lin was surrounded by Sêng-ko-lin-ch'in at Lien-chên, and Li by Shêng-pao at Kao-tang. Nevertheless both contingents made extraordinary resistance. Though they were repeatedly attacked, Lien-chên was not recovered until March 7, 1855 when Lin Fêng-hsiang was captured and later executed at Peking. The victorious troops of Sêng-ko-lin-ch'in were then shifted to Kao-t'ang to take over the command of Shêng-pao who was exiled to Sinkiang in punishment for his failure in the campaign. Shêng-pao was recalled from exile in 1856 and was ordered to suppress the Nien banditti in Anhwei, Honan, Shantung and Shensi (1856–62), but when impeached by high officials for bribery, arrogance, licentiousness and failure to cooperate with other generals he was ordered by the emperor to commit suicide (1863).

When Sêng-ko-lin-ch'in took command he lured the Taipings from their defense at Kaot'ang (March 17, 1855), but the insurgents immediately occupied Fêng-kuan-t'un, an opulent village 45 li south of Kao-t'ang. There Li K'ai-fang built a strong defense, including trenches and emplacements with cannon, which effectually prevented the imperalists from approaching. Realizing the difficulty of his task, Sêng-ko-lin-ch'in set about digging a moat round the village, and an earthen wall about the moat. To get water into the moat he dug a channel 123 li long (20 feet wide and 7 or 8 feet deep) to the Grand Canal. By April 19 this elaborate construction was finished and thousands of civilians were levied to raise water into the enclosure. Before long the houses of the village were half submerged and the Taipings—now numbering only about 500—were compelled to move to higher levels, where they were continuously attacked by cannon and incendiary shells. Li K'ai-fang and his veterans were thus forced to surrender to Sêng-ko-lin-ch'in on May 31, 1855, and in mid-June (1855) Li and other minor officers were beheaded at Peking. The North China expedition of the Taipings thus came to an end.


[2/47/39a; Tsei-ch'ing hui-tsuan; T'ai-p'ing T'ien-kuo yeh-shih; Chung-kuo chin pai-nien-shih tzŭ-liao, first collection, pp. 127–30 (for ch. see bibl. under Hung Hsiu-ch'üan); I-hsin [q. v.], Chiao-p'ing Yüeh-fei fang-lüeh; 深州風土記 Shên-chou fêng-t'u chi (1900); 續天津縣志 Hsü T'ien-chin hsien-chih (1870); 永年縣志 Yung-nien hsien-chih (1877); 太平軍在河南 in 國聞週報 Kuo-wên chou pao, vol. XIV, no. 23, 25, 27, 29.]

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