Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Sabsu

SABSU, 薩布素 d. ca. 1700, general, was a member of the Fuca clan and belonged to the Manchu Bordered Yellow Banner. In the days of his grandfather his family joined the forces of Nurhaci [q. v.] and settled in Ula 烏拉 (Kirin City). Sabsu was brought up in Ula where he served in the garrison as colonel. In 1677 a commission was sent from Peking to locate the highest peak of Ch'ang-pai shan 長白山 (known to Westerners as Long White Mountain) where, according to legend, the ancestors of the Aisin Gioro family originated. When the members of the commission, headed by Umene 武默訥 (d. 1690), came to Ula they asked Bahai [q. v.], then military governor, for a guide. Sabsu was selected and was dispatched with 200 men. Setting out on July 2, 1677, the commissioners took a southeastern course along the bank of the Sungari River. On July 10 they left the river, and after journeying five days eastward through thick forests, reached a lofty plateau on which there was a lake. After paying their respects to the place, they started back on the 17th and arrived at Ula fifteen days later. Reaching Peking in September, they reported to Emperor Shêng-tsu on their expedition, giving detailed accounts of the natural phenomena and the fauna they encountered. Thereafter Ch'ang-pai shan became a sacred peak to which sacrifices were offered twice a year. For his part in the expedition Sabsu was promoted in 1678 to be military deputy lieutenant-governor of Ninguta.

After their defeat by Šarhûda [q. v.] in 1658 the Russians resumed their activities on the Amur River and in 1669 a group of fugitives from justice built Fort Albazin (also known as Yaksa 雅克薩). In 1671 these fugitives were pardoned by Moscow and in the ensuing years the fort grew to be a town with some three thousand acres of land under cultivation. The Court at Peking was aware of these activities, but was unable to take steps against them because it was then engaged in the suppression of the rebellion of Wu San-kuei [q. v.] in South China. When that task was completed Emperor Shêng-tsu turned his attention to the northeast. In 1682 Sabsu accompanied two generals, Langtan and Pengcun [qq. v.], to spy out the Russian situation. In their report they recommended forceful measures. Hence early in 1683 Sabsu was ordered to build on the lower Amur two wooden stockades, one at Heilungkiang (near the present site of Aigun) and another at Kumarsk. A number of Russians who sailed down the Amur were captured at the mouth of the tributary known as Dzeya and some of these later aided Sabsu as messengers. Later in the same year Sabsu was made military governor of Heilungkiang, an office specially created to deal with the Russian situation, but for two years he hesitated to molest the intruders. Severely reprimanded in 1685 for his excuses and procrastination, he decided, after being reinforced by Chinese soldiers under Pengcun, Lin Hsing-chu and Ho Yu (for both see under Pengcun), to attack. His troops reached Albazin in June 1685 and, after demonstrating his determination to attack, the Russians abandoned hope of resistance. About 600 of them were permitted to leave the fort, unmolested; the barricades were demolished, and the Chinese forces returned to Heilungkiang for the winter. Sabsu was rewarded and ordered to transfer his headquarters to Mergen (present Nun-chiang). In October 1685 the Russians under Aleksi︠e︡ĭ Tolbuzin and Afanasii Beǐton reappeared in Albazin and began rebuilding barricades and strengthening their defenses. Sabsu immediately made preparations for a second expedition. In July 1686 he again reached Albazin and surrounded the fort. The siege lasted four months with serious losses to the Russians. Meanwhile two Russian agents, Nikifor Veni︠u︡kov and Ivan Favorov, reached Peking and succeeded in getting Emperor Shêng-tsu's consent to a peace conference to settle the boundary and other disputes. In November Sabsu was ordered to raise the siege, and when it was learned that a Russian High Ambassador, Fedor Aleksi︠e︡vīch Golovīn, was nearing the Mongolian border, Sabsu was ordered to return to Mergen. In August 1689 the conference took place at Nerchinsk (see under Songgotu), and Sabsu commanded the guard of 1,500 men that accompanied the Chinese envoys. In accordance with the terms of the treaty Albazin was destroyed and the region on the Siberian side of the Amur River was ceded to China, at least nominally, until the Treaty of Tientsin in 1858 (see under I-shan).

Thirty-one Russians who were captured in 1683, together with one Russian refugee who had come to Peking in 1648 and several others who came to Peking in 1668, were organized into half a company under the Manchu Bordered Yellow Banner (see under Maci). Seventy more were added in the years 1684 and 1685. In the latter year a full company was created. Some of them served in Sabsu's army and were given official ranks. They were assigned a place of residence in the northeast corner of Peking and intermarried with Chinese and Manchus. Their descendants have by now lost nearly all their European characteristics. They were allowed to retain their Greek Orthodox faith, and their church in Peking was, after 1727, presided over by priests sent from Russia (see under Tulišen). Prior to that time priests had come from Siberia.

In the campaign against Galdan [q. v.] in 1696 (see under Fiyanggû), Sabsu commanded the eastern route army, composed of native Manchu soldiers, to guard the western borders of Manchuria against a possible eastward thrust of Galdan's forces from Mongolia. Since Galdan boasted of an alliance with the Russians (see under Songgotu) it is possible that Sabsu's army was stationed there to frustrate any attempt of Galdan to join the Russians at Nerchinsk. At all events Galdan was defeated by Fiyanggû and Sun Ssŭ-k'o [qq. v.], and Sabsu was ordered to return to Mergen.

As the first military governor of Heilungkiang, Sabsu established schools for the natives and preserved order among them. When Emperor Shêng-tsu made his tour of Manchuria in 1698 he granted him the hereditary rank of the sixth class (Ch'ing-ch'ê tu-yü). It was during this tour however that the Emperor was displeased with him for his excessive friendliness with the Imperial Bodyguard and others in the Emperor's favor. The Emperor also was displeased with him for neglecting to cultivate the farms that had been started by Ts'ai Yü-jung [q. v.] and for attempting to conceal this negligence by reporting a famine in 1700. In the following year Sabsu was deprived of his hereditary rank and reduced to a captain. Later he was made a junior assistant chamberlain of the Imperial Bodyguard, but died soon after.


[1/286/3b; 3/278/1a; 4/115/10b; 34/139/15a; P'ing-ting Lo-ch'a fang-lüeh and other titles in Shuo-fang pei shêng, edited by Ho Ch'iu-t'ao [q. v.]; Alexis Krause, Russia in Asia (1899), pp. 31–42; Bredon, Juliet, Peking (1922), pp. 40–42, 482–89; Heilungkiang chih-kao (志稿), 1933, chüan 30, 34, supplement 2/53a–60a; 大清會典圖 Ta-Ch'ing hui-tien t'u (1811), 91/18b; 封長白山記 Fêng Ch'ang-pai shan chi in Hsüeh-hai lei-pien, compiled by Ts'ao Jung [q. v.]; Couling, Encyclopaedia Sinica, p. 490; contemporary Chinese scroll maps in the Library of Congress picturing the fort of Aigun and the siege of Albazin; Golden, F. A., Russian Expansion on the Pacific, 1641–1850 (1914), pp. 50–56; see bibliography under Songgotu.]

Fang Chao-ying