Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Sung Ch'ing

SUNG Ch'ing 宋慶 (T. 祝三), 1820–1902, general, was a native of P'êng-lai, Shantung. Early in life he joined the regular army stationed in his native place. In 1853 his contingent was sent to Anhwei to combat the Taiping army which had captured Anking. The magistrate of Pochou in northwestern Anhwei was Sung's fellow townsman and therefore retained him as a guard. Sung distinguished himself by pacifying a group of bandits at Po-chou, and so came to the notice of Yüan Chia-san [q. v.], then commander of the troops in northern Anhwei. In 1855, for warding off a bandit attack on Po-chou, Sung was made a lieutenant in command of three hundred men. Two years later he was ordered to serve in Honan, but in 1860 was called back to Anhwei by Yüan Chia-san. In co-operation with Ch'ên Kuo-jui [q. v.] he turned back the Taiping army near Fêng-yang, and won several other battles. In 1861 he was rewarded with the rank of brigade-- general and with the title of I-yung baturu 毅勇巴圖魯. Thereafter the troops under his command came to be known as I-chün 毅軍.

Late in 1861 Sung Ch'ing was sent to Honan where he co-operated with Liu Ming-ch'uan [q. v.] and Chang Yüeh (see under Tuan-fang) in combating the Nien bandits. In 1865 his I-chün and the Sung-wu chün 嵩武軍 under Chang Yüeh were officially designated Yü-chün 豫軍, or the troops of Honan province. Sung was made brigade-general at Nan-yang, but continued to fight the bandits. Under the command of Li Hung-chang [q. v.], he took part in the campaign to annihilate the eastern arm of the Nien bandits in 1867 and the western arm in 1868 (see under Liu Ming-ch'uan). Possessing then the rank of provincial commander-in-chief of Hunan, he was now given the minor hereditary rank of Ching-chê tu-yü.

At this time the Muslin rebellion (see under Tso Tsung-t'ang) was raging in Shensi and Kansu and Sung was ordered, in 1868, to go to northern Shensi to subdue these rebels. But Tso Tsung-t'ang, as commander-in-chief of the armies in the northwestern provinces, was biased in favor of the forces from Hunan and would not have Sung's troops in active fighting—only a few men commanded by Sung, particularly those under Ma Yü-k'un 馬玉崑 (T. 景山, d. 1908, posthumous name 忠武), actually took part in the campaign. In 1873, after most of Kansu and Shensi had been recovered, Sung was ordered to assist in the taking of Suchow, Kansu, to clear the way for Tso's expedition into Turkestan. This was the only campaign in which he took an active part under Tso. After the taking of Suchow he was decorated with the double-eyed peacock feather and was made assistant commander to Tso. But the latter pressed onward without him. Thereafter, Sung stayed at Liangchow for two years, during which time he was given the rank of provincial commander-in-chief of Szechwan (1874), with headquarters in Kansu.

In 1875 Sung led his men back to Honan with headquarters at Tungkuan, in adjacent Shensi. There, in order to lessen expenses, he disbanded a large part of his command. In 1880 he was made assistant to Li Hung-chang in directing the defense of the Manchurian coast against a possible attack by France. Two years later he and his troops were stationed at Lü-shun (Port Arthur). In 1890 he went to Peking for an audience and was given the title of Junior Guardian of the Heir Apparent, and four years later was granted the title of the president of a Board. But during his twelve years as an important military commander in Manchuria he apparently did very little to modernize his army, which consisted of one cavalry and eight infantry battalions. It was with this small, poorly equipped, force that he suddenly was ordered to fight the Japanese in Korea in 1894.

When the Sino-Japanese War broke out in July 1894, China had about 5,000 men under General Yeh Chih-ch'ao 葉志超 (T. 曙青) at Yashan on the west coast of Korea. On July 29 this army was attacked and routed by a Japanese force of about equal strength. As the remnants retreated northward to Pengyang (平壤 P'ing-jang), war was declared and a Chinese contingent from Manchuria went southward to that place. This body of 3,500 men was commanded by General Tso Pao-kuei 左寶貴 (T. 冠廷, posthumous name 忠壯, d. 1894) who had come to Mukden with Ch'ung-shih [q. v.] in 1875 and had subsequently served there. Later he was re-inforced with 6,000 men of the Shêng-chün 盛軍, an army organized in 1853 by Chou Shêng-po (see under Liu Ming-ch'uan); by 1,500 men from the forces in Mukden; and by 2,000 men from the I-chün. This last detachment was sent by Sung Ch'ing and commanded by Ma Yü-k'un. Unfortunately, Yeh Chih-ch'ao was made commander-in-chief, and the other generals were not co-operative. When the Japanese army, some 17,000 strong, attacked Pengyang on September 15, only the forces of Tso Pao-kuei resisted, and he was killed in action. Yeh once more fled and later was imprisoned for cowardice. The remnant of the Chinese army retreated to the Yalu River. The I-chün suffered the fewest casualties, and took up a position at Chiuliencheng north of the Yalu River. Meanwhile (September 17) the Peiyang fleet under Admiral Ting Ju-ch'ang (see under Li Hung-chang) suffered serious losses in a battle southwest of the mouth of the Yalu.

After the battle of Pengyang Sung Ch'ing was made assistant to Li Hung-chang in directing the war against Japan, and on September 30, 1894, was given the command of the reorganized army. With some re-inforcements he tried in vain to stop the Japanese advances, but was defeated in successive engagements. As the Chinese army retreated westward from the Korean border, Port Arthur fell (November 21). On December 19 Sung directed his men to resist stubbornly the advancing Japanese army at a point some ten miles west of Haicheng. Both sides suffered many casualties, but with the arrival of Japanese re-inforcements Sung was compelled to retreat. Early in February Weihaiwei, and the Peiyang fleet which was based there, were lost to the Japanese. In March Sung's army was defeated at Yingkow and Tienchuangtai and retreated westward to Chin-chow 錦州. By the time the armistice took effect (March 30, 1895), large numbers of recruits had been assembled by Wu Ta-ch'êng and Liu K'un-i [qq. v.] at Chinchow and Shanhaikuan, but they arrived too late. The brunt of the Japanese attack was borne mostly by the I-chün under Sung Ch'ing, by the Shêng-chün, and by the regular troops from Manchuria. Sung Ch'ing, though then in his seventies, saw action personally at Haicheng and at Tienchuangtai.

After the treaty of peace was signed (April 17, 1895, see under Li Hung-chang) and exchanged (May 8), Sung Ch'ing remained in Chinchow to look after the disbanding of troops. Late in 1895 he was in charge of receiving from Japan the Liaotung Peninsula, and established his headquarters at Kinchow. In 1898, when Russia occupied Liaotung, he was transferred to Shanhaikuan. The army under his command, comprising now about 15,000 men, was reorganized as one of the five army corps of North China and was named the Wu-wei tso-chün (see under Jung-lu). As commander of this army corps Sung Ch'ing went to Peking in 1899 to have an audience with Empress Hsiao-ch'in [q. v.] who, in view of his eightieth birthday in that year, gave him many presents. Early in 1900 Ma Yü-k'un was made deputy commander to assist him. During the Boxer War, in 1900, it was Ma who commanded the I-chün in several battles at Tientsin against the Allies. Following the fall of Peking Ma escorted Empress Hsiao-ch'in to Sian. After the peace of 1901 Sung Ch'ing went to Honan to meet the Court on its way back to Peking. From then on he and his army were stationed at Tungchow. He died in 1902 and was posthumously given the name Chung-ch'in 忠勤, and the higher hereditary rank of baron.

From the death of Sung until 1908 the I-chün were commanded by Ma Yü-k'un. Thereafter they were commanded by General Chiang Kuei-t'i 姜桂題 (T. 翰卿, 1843–1922, Jan.) who maintained order in Peking during the revolution of 1912 and supported Yüan Shih-k'ai (see under Yüan Chia-san). Chiang later transferred his troops to Jehol where he served as military governor. In 1922 the command of the I-chün passed on to Wang Huai-ch'ing 王懷慶 (T. 懋宣, b. 1865) and, after the coup d'état by Fêng Yü-hsiang 馮玉祥 (T. 煥章, b. 1882) in 1924, to Mi Chên-piao 米振標 who in 1925 was transferred to Honan. Thus the I-chün, which became part of the Honan army in 1865, came back to that province after some sixty years of fighting and garrisoning in various parts of North China. During these years it served in many wars and survived all the military reorganizations and improvements of the late Ch‘ing and early Republican periods. Perhaps because it was stationed in barren Jehol, it survived most of the civil wars waged by the war lords in their search for profitable territories. Only after the Kuomintang armies unified the country in 1927–28 did the I-chün cease to exist, thus bringing to an end another symbol of a bygone era in the military history of China.


[1/467/1a; 2/62/35a; 5/53/22b; 6 mo 12b; Palace Museum, Peking 中日交涉史料 Chung-Jih chiao-shê shih-liao; 費縣志 Fei-hsien (Shantung) chih 11/62b; 政府公報 Chêng-fu kung-pao, Jan. 1922, Nov. 1924; U. S. War Department, War Between China and Japan (1896); McCormick, Frederick, The Flowery Republic (1913), p. 57, 156, 322, 333; Pooley, A. M., (editor), The Secret Memoirs of Count Tadasu Hayashi (1915).]

Fang Chao-ying