Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Yang Fang

YANG Fang 楊芳 (T. 誠村), 1770–1846, general, the first Marquis Kuo-yung (果勇侯), was a native of Sung-tao, Kweichow. At sixteen sui he joined the local battalion as a clerk. In 1795 his military talent was recognized by his benefactor, Yang Yü-ch'un [q. v.], then a second captain under Fu-lung-an [q. v.] fighting rebellious Miao tribes in Hunan and Kweichow. On Yang Yü-ch'un's recommendation Yang Fang was made a sub-lieutenant and took part in the campaign against the Miao rebels. In 1797 he began to serve under the command of Ê-lê-têng-pao [q. v.] in fighting the rebels known as the White Lily Sect—the fighting taking place on the borders of Hupeh, Szechwan, Kansu, Shansi and Honan. Yang Fang was the hero of many battles and was rapidly promoted, In 1801 he gained a spectacular victory at T'ung-chiang in northern Szechwan in which he annihilated a rebel contingent. For this he was appointed brigade-general in command of the garrison at Ning-shan, Shensi, and in the following three years (1801–04) he fought bravely defending the southern part of Shensi along the upper Han River until the rebellion was temporarily crushed in 1804.

In this war, lasting from 1796 to 1804, the decadence of the Manchu soldiery and the unreliability of the regular Chinese troops became manifest, the uprising being finally suppressed, mostly by volunteer militia composed of farmers. When the war ended, many of the volunteers returned to their farms but some enlisted in various garrisons as regulars. The garrison of Ning-shan had been established by decree in 1800, and was composed mostly of disbanded volunteers. Yang Fang listened patiently to their grievances and so commanded their respect and love. But in 1806 he was ordered to be acting provincial commander-in-chief at Ku-yüan, Kansu. Unfortunately he left in charge a lieutenant-colonel who treated the soldiers harshly—one of their grievances being that their stipends were deferred, in the end being paid merely in poor rice. As their complaints brought only chastisement from the lieutenant-colonel, some two hundred of the most hardened fighters revolted (August 1806), killing several officers. Nevertheless they remained faithful to Yang Fang and escorted his wife (née Lung 龍氏), then twenty-four sui, out of danger. In a few days their number increased a hundredfold and large armies were sent to quell them. Yang Fang quickly returned and brought under his command those who had not joined the mutineers. While other generals were unsuccessful in their attempts to pacify the rebel leaders, he negotiated with one of them for surrender. By November the rebels put their leaders to death and surrendered to him. Most of them were disbanded; a small part rejoined Yang's command, but unfortunately their faithfulness to him proved their undoing. Yang, instead of being rewarded for his swift action in averting a conflict that might have lasted years, was charged with negligence and cowardice, and was exiled to Ili. In the meantime the rebels who had chosen to remain with him were sent to the desert and massacred.

Nevertheless the facts soon came to light and in June 1807, one month after Yang Fang reached Ili, he was pardoned and recalled. He returned to Kweichow, and in 1808 began again in the army as a lieutenant. In 1810 he was made a brigade-general, stationed first in Kwangtung and then at Sian, Shensi, but he retired in the following year to mourn the death of his mother. Coming out of retirement in 1813, he went north just in time to take part in fighting the T'ien-li-chiao rebels at Hua-hsien, Honan (see under Na-yen-ch'êng). Early in 1814 the rebellion ended. Yang Fang was rewarded with the minor hereditary rank of Yün-ch'i yü and was again made brigade-general at Sian. Within a month he helped Ch'ang-ling [q. v.] quell a rebellion of lumbermen at Ch'i-shan, Shensi. In March 1814 he was transferred to Han-chung in the same province and in the following year was promoted to the post of provincial commander-in-chief of Kansu. Thereafter he was transferred, with the same rank, to Chihli (1821–23), to Hunan (1824–25), and then to Ku-yüan, Kansu (1825–33). From 1826 to 1829 he led several thousand men to Aksu and then to Kashgar, to take part in the campaign against Jehangir (see under Ch'ang-ling). As chief assistant commander, he captured Jehangir in 1828 and was rewarded with the hereditary rank of Marquis Kuo-yung of the third class (raised in 1829 to the second class). He returned to his post at Ku-yuan in 1829, but a year later was again sent to Kashgar to assist Ch'ang-ling in driving off new invaders and in settling the question of the recalcitrant Mohammedans. He returned in 1831, and two years later was transferred to Szechwan to quell a rebellion of the aborigines southwest of Chengtu along the River Ta-tu (大渡河). The aborigines of Ch'ing-hsi (present Han-yüan) and Yüeh-chün were easily pacified, but those in the district of O-pien surrendered only after several months of fighting. For this exploit his hereditary rank was raised to Marquis of the first class. However, in 1834 the aborigines of O-pien again rebelled, and as he did little to suppress them in several months, he was degraded to an expectant brigade-general in Kansu, and his hereditary rank was reduced to a Marquis of the second class. In 1835 he retired on grounds of illness, but in the following year was recalled, with the rank of brigade-general to pacify a band of mutineers at Fêng-huang-t'ing, Hunan. In 1838 he was made provincial commander-in-chief of Kwangsi, but in the same year was again transferred to Hunan. In 1841 he was sent to Kwangtung as assistant commander under I-shan [q. v.] to fight the British. The first Anglo-Chinese war broke out in 1840, and would have been settled late that year (see under Ch'i-shan) but for the militant attitude of Emperor Hsüan-tsung. When war was resumed in February 1841, Yang Fang suffered several defeats, and after the British warships left Canton in June, he pleaded illness and returned to his post in Hunan. He retired in 1843 and died three years later. He was canonized as Ch'in-yung 勤勇 and was given many posthumous honors.

It is said that Yang Fang wrote a number of treatises on military tactics and on other subjects. He and his senior, Yang Yü-ch'un, were famous military strategists and were known as the "Two Yangs" (二楊). Yang Fang was noted for his hospitality towards able men of letters such as Hsü Sung, Wei Yüan, and Chang Ch'i [qq. v.].


[1/374/1a; 2/39/6a; 3/324/1a pu-lu; 1/513/20b; 5/85/3a; Sung-t'ao chih-li-t'ing chih (1836); 銅仁府志 T'ung-jên fu-chih (1890); Kuo-yung hou tzŭ-pien nien-p'u (not consulted).]

Fang Chao-ying