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Eight Trigrams Rebellion 1813-1814

In 1813, during the reign of Kia King, a daring insurrection broke out in the imperial palace in Peking, which is supposed to have had as one of its objects the seizure of the emperor. This insurrection was generally, and probably rightly, ascribed to the White Lotus Society, but it has also been attributed to the White Fetther, the Three Incense Sticks, the Eight Diagrams and the Rationalist Societies. That the rising should be imputed to these, tends to show that there was a similarity between the various secret societies in the country. Thus the Three Incense Sticks and Eight Diagrams are important factors in the Triad Society, which was sometimes called by these names; especially by the latter. Morover, Lin Ching, one of the ringleaders in the affair, was a native of the Fukien province, and had been a leader in the Eight Diagrams or Triad Society, which had already been trouble to the authorities there.

This insurrection was planned by a man named Li Wan-cheng, who had a large number of followers in Honan, and Lin Ching, who had followers in Chili and Shantung. These leaders pretended to be able to foretell events by reading the constellations. Lin Ching undertook to bribe the eunuchs within the palace from their allegiance, and obtain their assistance in introducing some of his followers, who were to seize the palace. It was arranged that the party to be admitted and those bribed to assist them, were to wear white handkerchiefs on their heads, by whiich to recognize each other. Their adherents in Honan and Shantung were to rise simultaneously.

In the meantime the rebels had quietly secreted arms in wine shops in the inner city. On the 16th day of the 9th month, three or four hundred of the rebels, dressed like villagers, and carrying baskets of persimmons, under which arms were concealed, assembled around the four gates of the palace and did a good business peddling their fruit to the guards and idlers about the gates. After a while, seeing an opportunity when the soldiers were off their guard, they grasped their weapons, dropped their baskets and rushed on and slew the guards, almost without opposition. They then entered the palace, cutting down all without the badge of partisanship.

It happened that the ennuchs engaged in their cause, throngh some mistake, wre under the impression that the rising was to take place on the 26th instead of on the 10th of the month, and were consequently unprepared; but nevertheless many of them took prominent part in the rising. In the rush into the palace the insurgents became confused in their movements, and were at a loss how to proceed. This enabled those in the palace who remained loyal to successfully resist them until assistance came.

The emperor happened to be away at Moukden, on a visit to the imperial tombs : but his second son, afterwards known as the Emperor Tao-kwang, displayed great energy and bravery in the emergency. Hastily collecting a party of guards and eunuchs, he put himself at their head, and drove the rebels from one part of the palace to another, shooting them as they tried to escape, or to hide themselves on the roofs or amongst the rafters of the buildings. The prince himself shot some of the rebels, and while doing so, discovered he had traitors among his own little band. A eunuch, a member of the rebellious society, loaded a musket for him, but omitted the bullet. The prince took a steady aim, and fired at a man on the roof, who carried a white flag, but without hitting him. This raised his suspicion, and he loaded the musket for himself, and, to obviate any magic, tore a silver button from his clothes and rammed it in for a bullet. He fired again and this time the man toppled over. The ennuch was at once seized and afterwards executed. During this melee many of the rebels are said to have been killed by lightning, in a terrible thunderstorm that broke out.

Lin Ching was not present at this outbreak. He remained at Huang village, some distance from the capital, waiting for tidings of how the plans at the palace had succeeded, and of the expected risings in Honan and Shan-tung. An intelligent lictor named Chang Ssu, conceived the desigu of capturing him, and accordingly hurried off in a cart for Huang village. On arrival be went straight to Lin Ching and congratulated him on the success of the enterprise he had plauned. He told him the palace was captured and his followers urgently required his presence amongst them before taking further action. Lin Ching believed the story and set out with the lictor for Peking. There he soon heard of the failure of his plans and the aunihilation of his brave little band, and he was shortly afterwards executed.

The crisis in Honan was bronght on a week too soon by the magistrate Chiang Hei-chieh who arrested Li Wan-cheng and cut off his feet. In consequence of this act of barbarity, three thousand of the society rose in arms and killed the magistrate and rescued Li Wan-cheng from prison. At the same time their adherents rose in other pirts of Honan and in Shan-tung and killed the Covcrnment officers and seized several towns. Li Wan-cheng was unable to lead, but under his instructions, Tao Kan, a point on the Grand Canal was seized, and thereby the revolutionists obtained control of provisions intended for the capital. Yang Ju-chun, the general who had been successful against the While Lotus rebels under Lin Chi-hieh, was bronght from Shensi to assist the Viceroy of Shensi and Kansuh in suppressing this rebellion, which had already assumed a threatening aspect. He defeated the rebels iu his tirst engagement and beheaded 200 of them that he took prisoners. His name appears to have spread consternation amongst the rebels, for, wherever they met this 'bearded general,' as he was called, they threw down their arms and fled. In a short time he retook Tao Kan and burnt over ten thousand persons to death.

He next invested Hua, the principal city of the Hua district. There he received reinforeements from General Lau Tsing. who had suppressed the Shantung rebellion, and from General Chang Chao, who bad suppressed the outhreak in Chili. The walls of Hua were strongly built and the rebels bad stored a year's provisions in the city when they held Tao Kau. So that, notwithstanding the city was bombarded with cannon, a long siege was anticipated. The north side of the city overlooked a reedy swamp and was not invested like the other three sides. After the siege had been carried on some time, Lan Kuo-ming, a rebel chief, stole into the city from the north, and rescued Li Wan-cheng, who, being unable to ride, was carried out throngh the north gate, where he was received by a paity of rebels and carried off to the Hui-hsien hills. He was pursued thither by the imperialists under General Yang Fang, and in a battle that ensued he was defeated and two thousand of his soldiers slain. On this, seeing no means of escape, he burnt himself to death.

Yang Fang subsequently blew up the south-western wall of Hua with gunpowder and throngh an enormous breach that was made, stormed and captured the city. Twenty thousand inhabitants bf the city, many of them innocent of rebellion, were put to the sword by the imperialists, and Nin Liang-shen, Su An-kuo and other chiefs were made prisoners and sent to Peking. The following year Yang Fang defeated a White Lotus army in Shensi, and captured their chief, Tam Kuei, on which his followers dispersed.

That was the last time the White Lotus Society was in open rebellion, unless, which is not unlikely, the Nien Fei, who rose in the north in the time of the Tai-ping rebellion, were largely recruited from it. Bat the society was not extinct. It was said to survive in the north under the name of the Tsai Li Society, and those who joined it were said to be sworn to abstain from wine, opinm and tobacco. But even under this innocent guise it was greatly dreaded by the Manchu officials.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:27:42 ZULU