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Chapter Two Foreign Imperialism, Immigration and Disorder Opium War Aftermath and the Small Sword Uprising of 1853
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Chapter Two
Foreign Imperialism, Immigration and Disorder
Opium War Aftermath and the Small Sword Uprising of 1853

All the extremes of character in the empire are here brought together, so that it is difficult sometimes to tell which is, and which is not the indigenous part…. Among the worst, as most believe, are the Canton men…. These southrons are a terror... the officers dread coming into collision with them, since when this happens the authorities are usually resisted, and often set at naught and maltreated…. More numerous, and far more tractable, are the Ningbo men.
"Men and Things in Shanghai," Chinese Repository,
vol. 19, February 1850

The opening of Shanghai as a treaty port in 1843 initiated one process of colonization in the city and restructured another. The first is the well-known story of the establishment of foreign settlements and the rise of foreign trade.[1] The second is the story of the rapid growth of powerful Chinese immigrant groups which aspired to assert social, political and economic control over the city while imperial forces were weak. In these interlinked processes we see the impact of western imperialism, which destabilized power relations in the city and shook the popular legitimacy of Qing role. Native-place tics and native-place associations proved to be critical, though ambivalent, forces in the disorder which followed.


The opening of Shanghai to foreign trade produced a rapidly growing and increasingly complex commercial society, with no unified structure of authority to exercise control and adjudicate disputes. In the decade following the Opium War, Shanghai suffered from an unstable and shifting balance of power among competing interests—foreign governments and developing foreign settlement authorities; Chinese government and local officials; immigrant associations and their growing and 'unruly communities. Chinese gang organizations thrived in this atmosphere of divided, weak and uncertain government, creating powerful pockets of local, underground authority beyond the scope of foreign or ,Chinese official authority.

Before a more stable system of divided rule among foreign imperialist :and Chinese imperial governments could be established, the disarray of power in Shanghai and the admixture of immigrants and secret-society ,elements combusted in a seventeen-month takeover of the city, known :as the Small Sword Uprising of 1853-55. In the event, native-place ties :and associations worked as organizational conduits and nodes, linking state and society and channeling both social control and social disorder. 'to tell this story it is necessary to begin by describing Shanghai at the · time of the Opium War.

Immigrants in Shanghai before the Opium War

Although large-scale immigration into Shanghai did not take place until after the Opium War, sojourners lived and traded in Shanghai before the war, in sufficient numbers and of sufficient means to establish huiguan and gongsuo . At the time of the opening of the port, Shanghai's location at the mouth of the Yangzi had created a "mercantile emporium," bustling with domestic and overseas trade: "The vessels · which arrive at this port are... of Fuhkien and Canton. The vessels of the north come... from Kwantung, Liaotung, Tientsin, and... Shantung. From Fuhkien about three hundred come annually, but a greater part of them come from Hainan or Formosa, and some from Chusan and Ningbo, also from Manila, Bali and other ports .... About four hundred come from Canton,... from Macao, Singapore, Penang, Jolo, Sumatra, Siam and other parts."[2] By the mid-nineteenth century this


thriving coastal trade brought more than fifteen hundred vessels into Shanghai's port annually. Trade along the Yangzi River brought additionally more than five thousand vessels annually from inland ports. These boats did not go out to sea but distributed goods brought by the coastal trade from Shanghai into the interior.

The trade visible to the Europeans who arrived in the mid-nineteenth century reflected the commercial development of the Jiangnan area during the Qing dynasty. In the early Qing, the imperial government established the internal customs bureau for Jiangnan in the city of Shanghai to regulate the trade of locally produced cotton and cloth and the beans, sugar and cotton of the north-south coastal trade. The development of a commodity economy is evident from the fact that by the late seventeenth century most cultivated land around Shanghai had been transferred from rice to cotton or, secondarily, to bean cultivation. While the men in these districts farmed, the women wove, and families traded their cloth for money and rice.[3]

The development of the domestic market is evident also from the establishment of numerous native-place trade associations in Shanghai during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Stone inscriptions, or stelae, found in the old sections of the city indicate the presence of at least twenty-six such associations in Shanghai before the Opium War.[4] The earliest association recorded is the Guan-Shandong Gongsuo, established by boat owners of the neighboring northern bang of Guan-dong and Shandong.[5] They established a burial ground in Shanghai during the Shunzhi reign (1654-61). Second was the Shangchuan Huiguan, established in 1715 by boat owners of Chongming Island, at the mouth of the Yangzi. These associations of shipping merchants, distinguished


by native place, were followed by associations of Shanghai cloth merchants and money dealers; Beijing goods and hat merchants; Fujian sugar and foreign-goods merchants; Fujian shipping merchants; Fujian longan and black-date merchants; Fujian paper and rope merchants; Shaoxing and Zhejiang bean and coal merchants; Ningbo merchants and bankers; Anhui tea merchants; Chaozhou sugar and tobacco merchants; northern goods merchants; Jiangxi merchants and ship owners; and Jiangxi tea merchants, among others.[6]

Many associations established buildings with meeting halls and altars in the area of the Small East Gate, where the Chinese internal customs office was located, or in the east and west gardens of the Shanghai City God Temple in the north of the walled city (see Map 2). On their altars rested images of Tianhou, local gods, or patron gods of specific trades. The Ningbo, Guangdong and Fujian associations were especially powerful, so they are a focus of this chapter. By the early nineteenth century, Ningbo traders were in the ascendant, consolidating control over the ;Shanghai economy through two institutions, the Siming Gongsuo and the Shanghai Money Trade Guild (Shanghai qianye gongsuo ), outdistancing their Guangdong and Fujian rivals. This configuration of power was disrupted in the aftermath of the Opium War.[7]

The Opening of Shanghai as a Treaty Port

Two critical shifts in the political and social structure of ,Shanghai were wrought by the Opium War and the establishment of foreign settlements in the city (see Map 3). First, Shanghai's rise as a center of ,commerce changed the Chinese balance of power in the city, as merchants increasingly replaced gentry in authority and status. Merchant associa-


Map 2.
Shanhai in the mid-nineteenth century: a Chinese view Source: Tongzhi
Shanghai  xian zhi (Tong- zhi-reign Shanghai: County gazetteer) Shanghai, 1871.


Map 3.
Shanghai in the mid-nineteenth century: a Western view. Source: All About Shanghai: A Standard Guidebook. Shanghai, 1934.


tions grew stronger and increased their role in local governance. Second, the establishment of foreign trade initially favored Guangdong people. In the decade after the opening of Shanghai to foreign trade, Guangdong officials and merchants swiftly rose to prominence and became (briefly) the most powerful Chinese group in Shanghai.[8]

Immigration also disrupted the stability of preexisting political and economic relations, diversifying the social composition of sojourning communities and increasing the numbers of workers and semiemployed. With the new immigrants came secret-society organizations from the southeast coast, groups which thrived on the smuggling associated with foreign trade and the opium trade in particular. As smuggling spread and trade boomed, secret societies formed along native-place lines deepened their roots in the city. These developments strained the internal dynamics of individual sojourning communities. The result was an increasingly violent city.[9]

Immigrants arrived in waves. Immediately after the opening of the port in 1843, several tens of thousands of Guangdong merchants, workers and adventurers traveled north to exploit the opportunities created by foreign trade. When the Taiping Rebellion obstructed trade and threatened south and central China in the 1850s, Shanghai experienced an influx of elite immigrants, many of them merchants from Ningbo prefecture in Zhejiang province. For both groups, preexisting native-place associations provided an important institutional framework, facili-


tatting the new immigrants' ability to shift businesses to Shanghai and grasp new economic opportunities in the city. As the Taipings penetrated areas close to Shanghai in the early 1860s, thousands of gentry-refugees from the Suzhou area of Jiangsu and from northern Zhejiang fled to security in the foreign settlements of Shanghai, making up another early elite immigrant wave.[10]

Guangdong Bang in Shanghai: A Case Study

Sojourners from the southeast province of Guangdong were the first to exploit the new frontierlike atmosphere of Shanghai, and they were key players in the upheavals which followed. Guangdong people developed expertise in foreign trade when trade with western countries was restricted to the port of Guangzhou (Canton), and this advantage facilitated their rise to wealth and power. Guangdong power in Shanghai reached both its height and its comeuppance in the Small Sword Uprising of 1853-55, when the city was occupied for seventeen months by Guangdong and Fujian rebels. When lackluster imperial forces finally crushed the internally disintegrating rebellion, the Guang-dong people were defeated and disgraced. Although they made a strong comeback, the brief era of Guangdong primacy gave way before the renewed vigor of their Ningbo competitors.

Before recounting the vicissitudes of Guangdong fortunes in Shanghai, it is useful to sketch the origins and the development of the Guangdong community in Shanghai. This discussion also serves to illustrate the dynamics of native-place organization, fission, fusion and extinction, continuous processes defining and altering associational life.

What non-Guangdong natives frequently referred to as the Guangdong bang was not a unified group. Instead, we see a loosely connected series of subgroups, capable of combination but normally divided by native place as well as by occupational ties. Each subgroup understood itself to constitute a separate bang . Sojourners created at least five different Guangdong huiguan in Shanghai before the Opium War.

The separate organizations reflected significant ethnic and linguistic


differences as well as trade specializations. Three major ethnic and linguistic areas divide Guangdong province, distinguished by the Guangzhou, Chaozhou and Hakka dialects, all mutually unintelligible. The Guang'an Huiguan represented the first linguistic group; the Jiaying Huiguan represented the Hakka group; and the Chaozhou, Jie-Pu-Feng and Chao-Hui huiguan corresponded to subdivisions within Chaozhou prefecture.[11] Although no records from the Jiaying Huiguan survived its demise in the aftermath of the Small Sword Uprising, it is possible to sketch the history of the Chaozhou and Guangzhou communities.

Chaozhou Prefecture and Chaozhou Associations in Shanghai . Chaozhou prefecture is located on the eastern edge of Guangdong province, in the lower Han River basin which extends across the provincial border into southern Fujian province. In important respects, Chao-zhou people had more in common with the southern Fujianese than with their fellow Guangdong provincials, and they therefore could only be grouped together with them into a "Guangdong bang " in the context of Shanghai, where their differences with Jiangnan and northern Chinese overshadowed their internal differences. The Chaozhou dialect is closer to the southern Fujian (Minnan) dialect than to the dialects of central and western Guangdong. In the nineteenth century Chaozhou and Fujian merchants shared similar trade interests. Both regions exported sugar. Both also shipped foreign sundries from Guangzhou to northern ports. Like the Fujianese, Chaozhou people were stereotyped as poor, clannish and violent. Nineteenth-century Chinese records as well as foreign records in Shanghai often failed to distinguish Chaozhou people from Fujianese.[12]

In Shanghai, though there were separate huiguan , Fujian and Chao-


zhou people lived near each other in the area of the east gates of the walled city. Both groups had shops on Foreign Trade (Yanghang) Lane, also the location of the Chaozhou Huiguan (see Map 2).[13] The strong Chaozhou-Fujian presence in this area, and the foreignness of their dialects to the Shanghai people, arc expressed in an old Shanghai poem:

Hundreds of foreign goods overflowing by the market gate and wall
Bring merchants from distant places, filling Shanghai.
Those planning to go to Foreign Trade Lane
All study the barbarian tongues of Quan-Zhang.[14]

The founding of Chaozhou native-place associations in Jiangsu followed the economic vicissitudes of the province. Chaozhou merchants first established a huiguan in Nanjing during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). The huiguan moved to Suzhou along with the rice market at the beginning of the Qing dynasty, reflecting the rise of Suzhou. The later establishment of a huiguan in Shanghai similarly reflects the rise of Shanghai.[15] The Shanghai Chaozhou Huiguan, originally given the auspicious name Wan Shi Feng (Ten Thousand Generations of Abundance), dates from 1759. On this date, rice merchants from eight counties of Chaozhou prefecture purchased land in Shanghai to worship Tianhou.[16]


After the initial purchase of land in Shanghai in 1759, the community prospered and huiguan property increased regularly over the next half-century. Twenty-seven deeds for huiguan property holdings are preserved in a stela of 1811. Chaozhou merchant prosperity depended on the community's adaptability to shifts in the Shanghai market. By the nineteenth century Chaozhou merchants had diversified their trade interests and were primarily involved in the sugar, opium and tobacco trades.[17]

Following common practice, Chaozhou merchants protected their huiguan through official sanction and recognition, using tics to local officials whenever possible. The rule of avoidance (which prevented officials from serving in their native areas), ensured that magistrates serving in Shanghai were all outsiders. The regular turnover of Shanghai officials increased the probability of a fellow-provincial serving in the local yamen . When this happened, sojourning merchants were quick to make use of native-place ties. The magistrate Chen Jianye, for example, was a major patron of the Chaozhou Huiguan at the beginning of the nineteenth century. His fellow-countrymen availed themselves of Chen's term to register their property and carve a stela bearing the magistrate's endorsement of their rules. In a similar appropriation of the mantle of Confucian legitimacy, huiguan merchant-directors also purchased official titles.[18]

Although the association bore the name of Chaozhou prefecture, in practice it represented only portions of the prefecture, with internal subdivisions. The original huiguan included merchants from eight counties: Chaoyang, Huilai, Haiyang, Chenghai, Raoping, Jieyang, Puning and Fengshun (coastal and central districts, excluding Dapu county, in the northeast, and Jiexi and Jiening counties in the west). Although the


eight counties appear united in early records, divisions developed by the early nineteenth century, marking discrete regional groupings (bang ): "The people of the three bang are very numerous. According to huiguan regulations, if there are misfortunes on the boats, and the goods get too wet or dry, those closest to each other must help each other. Our Chao-yang and Huilai are close and together are called the Chao-Hui bang . Haiyang, Chenghai and Raoping are dose and make one bang …. . Jie-Pu-Feng [Jieyang, Puning, Fengshun] is one bang . Thus they are called the three bang ."[19]

Chaozhou population increase and prosperity permitted the different bang to separate. Around 1822, the Jie-Pu-Feng bang levied a tax on its members and formed the Jie-Pu-Feng Huiguan. In 1839, the Chao-Hui bang established its own huiguan .[20]

These divisions reflected trade specialization as well as geography. In a cryptic and defensive account of its reasons for separating from the Chaozhou Huiguan, the Chao-Hui bang asserted that in the period preceding the division it had derived its wealth from sugar and tobacco trading. Nonetheless, after the banning of opium by the government in 1839, tensions developed with the other bang over suspicions of Chao-Hui opium trading (a suggestion the Chao-Hui people deny in their stela). Because of this friction, the Chao-Hui bang chose independence. Despite Chao-Hui assertions that opium was not a primary business until after 1860 (when opium trade restraints were relaxed), the coincidence of the huiguan establishment and the date of opium prohibition suggest that Chao-Hui opium trading engendered the division.[21]

The opium connection is a likely explanation for Chao-Hui opulence. The building constructed by the Chao-Hui bang in 1866 (the Chao-Hui Huiguan had burned twice since 1839) was on approximately two acres (nearly ten mu) of prime city property. The land, together with the building, cost more than eighty thousand taels. Two ornate temples graced the compound, one dedicated to Tianhou, the other to Guandi (originally Guanyu, the apotheosized hero-general of the Three Kingdoms period). Other gods inducting Caishen (God of Wealth) were worshipped in adjoining areas. The building served the joint functions of worship and business and was, accordingly, constructed with


religious and meeting areas and with a stage for theatrical performances.[22]

People from Guangzhou and Zhaoqing Prefectures in Shanghai . In the period between the Opium War and the Taiping Rebellion, people from the adjacent central Guangdong prefectures of Guangzhou and Zhaoqing were at least as powerful in Shanghai as were people from Chaozhou. Little is known about their prewar huiguan because records were destroyed together with the building in 1855. Nonetheless, the Guang-Zhao community survived to rebuild a huiguan shortly afterward. The wealth of this later Guang-Zhao Huiguan in Shanghai and the fame of merchants from the two prefectures have ensured the preservation of its history.

Guangzhou and Zhaoqing prefectures in central Guangdong (the Pearl River delta and West River valley) were the richest and most densely settled parts of the province. The historical prominence of the provincial capital, Guangzhou, renders a long introduction to the Pearl River delta unnecessary. People from these areas prided themselves on their wealth and cultural achievements, reflected in success in the civil-service examinations and the many officials they contributed to the empire.

In Shanghai, natives of the two prefectures joined together in one huiguan , which became an important node in a highly developed national network of Guang-Zhao traders. Guangdong province as a whole had huiguan in forty-five cities, spread over seventeen provinces. A number of these were Chaozhou huiguan , but the large proportion were dominated by people from central Guangdong.

Prior to the Opium War, Guangzhou and Zhaoqing merchants in Shanghai dealt in foreign goods and sundries. After the Opium War, people from these areas continued in these trades, but also exported their expertise in dealing with foreigners, as house-servants, clerks, cooks, compradors and linguists. They also used their foreign connections to develop their own trade interests in tea, silk and beans.[23]


The Rise of Guangdong Compradors and Officials. As foreigners moved into Shanghai, they brought with them their Cantonese employees. During the period of restricted trading through Canton, westerners had grown accustomed to the people, cuisine, and pidgin of Canton. For the sake of these tastes and ties, western merchants brought to Shanghai Cantonese compradors to organize their offices, Cantonese cooks to staff their kitchens and Cantonese shipworkers to repair their boats. British trade in Shanghai was initiated with the help of a Guang-dong merchant referred to by foreigners as Alum. Because of his connections with the tea and silk trade he was able to persuade tea and silk growers to consign products to Shanghai.[24]

The organization of Chinese business through native-place groups and the system of personal financial guarantees reinforced the foreigners' initial preference for Guangzhou employees. The Hong Kong comprador for Augustine, Heard and Company naturally recommended and guaranteed a fellow Guangzhou native for the new Shanghai office. The Shanghai comprador for Russell and Company was chosen through a similar process. In the case of Jardine, Matheson and Company, the Guangzhou compradors moved north together with the company they served. The result was a near monopoly of Guangzhou compradors in Shanghai.[25]

Many of these individuals came from the single county of Xiangshan. Living on a peninsula at the mouth of the Pearl River, close to both Guangzhou and Hong Kong and harboring at its southern tip the early international trading center of Macao (Aomen), Xiangshan residents became expert in maritime trade and trade with foreigners. The first Xiangshan compradors recommended their relatives and fellow-countrymen to succeed them. The wealthy and famous Shanghai Guangdong compradors of the 1860s and 1870s, the brothers Xu Bao-ting and Xu Rongcun, Xu Baoting's son Xu Run and nephew Xu Yun-xuan, Lin Qin (Acum), Zheng Guanying and the brothers Tang Jing-xing (Tang Tingshu) and Tang Maozhi all hailed from Xiangshan.


While sojourning in Shanghai, these men reinvested in their native place. Xu Run and his relatives performed gentrylike functions in Xiangshan, not only remitting funds but also supervising the building and repair of dikes, canals and bridges. In times of disaster they organized relief activities from Shanghai. Zheng Guanying was mentioned for similar contributions in the local Xiangshan gazetteer.[26]

This group played a major role in constructing and leading their native-place community in Shanghai. The compradors Tang Jingxing, Tang Maozhi, Xu Run, Xu Rongcun, and Chen Geliang were all important figures in the Guang-Zhao Gongsuo, the institutional assertion of their native-place identity in Shanghai. Like the directors of other huiguan , they enhanced their position and the prestige of their native-place group by purchasing fides as expectant officials. Xu Baoting and Tang Jingxing both held the fide of expectant Daotai. Tang Jingxing entertained in official robes and enjoyed being referred to as guancha (Daotai), in documents. Xu Run was not only "Daotai" but also, with a further purchase, "Honorary Deputy Director of the Board of War."[27]

While Guangdong merchants blurred former distinctions and became officials, Chinese officials serving in Shanghai played an important role in advancing the Guangzhou merchant group. Gong Mujiu, the Shandong official who served as the first Shanghai Daotai (Suzhou-Songjiang-Taicang Circuit Intendant) after the opening of the treaty port, was unprepared to face the complex foreign trade and foreign relations issues presented by his new post. He relied heavily on his functionary Wu Jianzhang, a member of the famous Samqua merchant family from Xiangshan. Wu had purchased the tide of expectant Daotai and had come to Shanghai for business.[28]

Because of Guangdong merchants' facility in dealing with foreigners, Lingui, who served as Daotai from 1848 to 1851, sent a memorial to Beijing recommending that all treaty-port administrations be staffed by people from Guangzhou. Although the memorial was not adopted as policy, by the early 1850s Guangzhou predominance in Shanghai was nonetheless complete. In 1851 Wu Jianzhang rose to power as Shanghai


Daotai and presided over a process Fairbank aptly described as "the Cantonization of Shanghai." Wu immediately surrounded himself with fallow-provincials at all levels to conduct his official and private business. During Wu's administration, nearly all yamen clerks, guards and runners were fellow Guangdong provincials. Wu also commanded a personal bodyguard of several hundred toughs, all recruited directly from Guangdong. Wu was a close friend and associate of the Guangzhou comprador group, including Xu Baoting, and the Jiaying Huiguan director, Li Shaoqing.[29]

Troublesome Arrivals: Workers, Vagabonds and Boatmen

Poor immigrants also flocked to Shanghai after the Opium War. As commercial shipping expanded, people from Guangdong and Fujian came to Shanghai as boatmen, swelling the population by tens of thousands. Accounts of the Small Sword Uprising in 1853 suggest that there were between thirty-five hundred and thirty-six hundred coastal junks operating in Shanghai by this time, bringing as many as eighty thousand people from Guangdong and fifty thousand Fujianese, in a total urban population of approximately two hundred and seventy thousand. In addition to the boatmen, Guangdong workers and adventurers involved in all aspects of the opium and foreign-goods trades (including firearms) flocked to Shanghai, hoping to capitalize on their unique familiarity with foreigners and foreign trade.[30]

Guangdong workers dominated important trades, following British enterprises as they moved north to Shanghai. This was the case with the first group of machine workers in Shanghai, who were employed in


foreign shipyards. Guangdong people also initially monopolized the woodworking business associated with ship repair.[31]

Native-place organization developed among sojourning workers from the moment they immigrated or were recruited to work in the city. In the case of Guangdong carpenters, for example, two bang divided the community— workers from Taishan county and woodworkers from other areas of Guangdong. The foreman who led the Taishan bang recruited new workers from his native place himself. New recruits had to first join their bang (paying a small fee or engaging in some form of contract) before they could work. In return these bang provided a degree of security, guaranteeing assistance in the event of old age, sickness and burial. The reliance of foreign (and Chinese) authorities on Chinese headmen to recruit and control labor reinforced this native-place organization of workers.[32]

As this immigrant population increased, important sectors suffered almost immediate dislocation. Chinese junks which had been attracted by the increase in coastal shipping could not compete once the use of steamboats became established. This left large numbers of Guangdong and Fujian boatmen unemployed, along with local Shanghai boatmen. The result was vagrancy.[33]

These newly swollen and dislocated populations were poorly integrated into Shanghai society and difficult to control. Unable to find employment, some boatmen became pirates. Others formed gangs, urban


counterparts of traditionally rural predatory bandits. In August 1850 the Chinese city authorities issued a proclamation against such gangs (preserved in the translation of the North China Herald ): "We issue this Proclamation, addressing it to the strangers from Kwangtung and Fukien for their information. All of you who really have permanent employment must enroll yourselves in the Tee-paou's register and receive a registration ticket for your houses; each one pursuing his occupation in peace. Do not lightly . . . create disturbances."[34]

Such proclamations and attempts to register newcomers were ineffectual. The increased incidence of violence reported in the city attests to the ways in which restricted employment opportunities led to tension between native-place groups.[35] In 1850 the editors of the North China Herald noted that frequent fights broke out between the Fujian and Chaozhou groups who resided in the northeastern suburbs. Competing in similar professions for a diminishing number of jobs, Guangdong burglars often struck Fujian targets.[36] In such cases the relative closeness of Chaozhou and Fujian cultures which could ally the two groups against more distant outsiders was irrelevant. As tension grew on the clocks and in the alleys around Foreign Trade Lane, subtle differences served as pretexts for ethnic violence.

The presence of large and underemployed populations of fellow regionals, some of whom were active in predatory gang organizations, presented new problems for native-place associations, whose activities had hitherto been confined primarily to the needs of a small merchant community. An article in the North China Herald of October 5, 1850, provides a graphic illustration of this new situation. A boy who belonged to a group of Fujianese boatmen was seized by a gang of vagabond Chaoyang "ruffians" and detained for ransom. The angry boatmen forcibly repossessed the boy, capturing and beating several Chaoyang


dockworkers in the process. Rather than appealing to the Chinese authorities, local residents called on the Chaozhou Huiguan to restore order: "The heads of the Chaochou-foo Association then came forward, advising the sailors to set the men at liberty and both parties to quench their animosities. But the shore vagabonds collecting in crowds advanced to attack the junks by land and water, swords, spears, and even cannon in play." The riot continued for two full days, killing two and injuring many. In this case, neither the huiguan nor the local government authorities (who evinced no desire to interfere) were able to check the fighting. The Shanghai magistrate did not arrive until after the riot had ended. This incident demonstrates the popular expectation that when violence erupted the huiguan should keep order among its fellow-countrymen. Both the huiguan and the local residents considered huiguan intervention and mediation natural, properly prior to the appearance of Shanghai authorities. Nonetheless, as this incident makes clear, the huiguan was not always capable of restoring order or commanding obedience among its unruly tongxiang .

In this atmosphere of increasing urban disorder, huiguan were called on by both Chinese and foreign authorities to control their fellow-countrymen. As the preceding example suggests, the huiguan was conceptualized as a mediating unit, an urban institutional resource available for communicating with, controlling or disposing of sectors of the urban population. The link between immigrants and their native places, Shanghai huiguan became routinely responsible for shipping criminals as well as indigents back home. The county yamen delivered criminals to the huiguan gates and asked the huiguan directors to ensure their return passage. The Municipal Council of the International Settlement also relied on huiguan for keeping order in their respective communities.[37]

In many instances huiguan fulfilled these order-keeping functions. Nonetheless, the relation of these associations both to the formal authorities of Shanghai and to the communities with which they were identified was ambiguous. Huiguan could not always ensure order. Moreover, huiguan merchant directors were not always on the side of order. Rather than waste resources they often avoided conflicts they could not control. On occasion they even fomented riots to serve their interests. In such cases the Chinese authorities could do little on their own.

Huiguan are unmentioned in a number of instances of collective vio-


lence involving sojourners, possibly because merchants avoided antagonizing gangs organized along native-place lines. In August 1850 the North China Herald reported that Guangdong and Fujian vagabonds relied on the influence of their respective "clans" to perpetrate crime. In one case watchmen hounded by aggrieved shopkeepers retrieved money stolen by a Fujianese gang. The robbers, "enraged at being interfered with by the watchmen" (who it seemed had never until then taken active measures), returned and attacked them in the evening. The shopkeepers complained vociferously to the magistrate, who finally sent troops to move against fleets of Fujianese boats. Since the Fujianese escaped, the article concluded that the Chinese authorities possessed no means of controlling such mobs. In the next year a similar incident occurred involving a Guangdong gang, which burglarized a Fujian store. The gang drove off a local militia mustered to pursue them and escaped from a detachment of two hundred soldiers sent by the Shanghai garrison to assist the civil authorities.[38]

Although in the preceding cases huiguan may have chosen to remain aloof from violent elements they could not control, in the frontier atmosphere of the early treaty port huiguan at times clearly relied on fellow-provincial toughs, inciting disorderly conduct. In July 1851 the Fujian Xing'an Huiguan vigorously opposed a British purchase of land containing burial plots of fellow-provincials. Angered by the foreigners who intended to construct a park on the site, the huiguan proved "a veritable city corporation in its contumacious resistance." A large Fujianese crowd armed with staves and stones attacked the British parties to the transaction. The crowd also seized the Chinese constable responsible for arranging the purchase.[39] This pattern of mass disturbance on behalf of threatened huiguan grounds (particularly sacred burial grounds) would be repeated several decades later by the Ningbo community.

In the meantime, poor, underemployed and marginal elements from southeast China found security through membership in the secret societies (banghui, huidang ) they brought to Shanghai with them. Such associations were organized along lines of regional, ethnic and linguistic identity and were often coterminous with native-place bang which recruited and deployed workers. Secret-society networks from the south were associated with Red Gang (hong men, hong bang ) or Triad-type


lodges. In Shanghai they would meet with a northern Green Gang (qing bang ) type of sccret brotherhood, divided into Zhejiang and (by the end of the century) Subei branches. By 1853 sworn Red Gang brotherhoods were numerous in the Shanghai area, where they engaged in banditry, smuggling and petty crime.[40]

Although these dang and hui (unlike the government-sanctioned huiguan ) were illegal associations, it should not be imagined that they were radically distinct in character from huiguan . Each organization existed for the livelihood and self-preservation of a sojourning community. Both overlapped with networks of trade. Not only was each association a meeting place for outlanders in the hostile environment of an alien city, but each also expressed a common religious community. Just as huiguan temples housed local gods and organized local rituals, so secret societies brought with them elements of local religion and rituals specific to their brotherhood. These religious communities merged in major public festivals organized by huiguan for the larger sojourning community, as for example on Tianhou's birthday, when Guangdong and Fujian boat owners and merchants worshipped for three days in their respective huiguan , sponsoring public opera performances and lantern displays.[41]

Respectable merchants and disreputable secret societies converged on practical as well as on ritual occasions. In the relatively lawless and unstable first decade of the treaty port, merchants as well as secret societies resorted at times to unlicensed violence. Without a commercial code or an effective legal system for the resolution of commercial disputes, secret-society "muscle" could be necessary to enforce trade agreements with outsiders. The March 11, 1852, issue of the North China Herald recounts one such instance, in which a "Cantonese mob" attacked the house of a Parsee opium trader to force delivery of fifty chests of previously purchased opium or the return of gold bars previously paid by a Cantonese merchant. In this example we see a link between a well-to-do merchant (one who dealt in large orders), most likely a member of his huiguan , and a gang employed to enforce a business contract.


As this case suggests, the symbiosis of huiguan and banghui was most prominent in opium trading, because of the contraband nature of the drug for most of the period under study. Opium, which was central to the nineteenth-century prosperity of Shanghai, narrowed distinctions between "respectable" merchants and secret-society smugglers. Let us consider the structural underpinnings of the opium trade.

The Opium Trade: Bridge between Respectability and Criminality

By 1845 Shanghai was the coastal center of the opium trade. No legal regulation or protection of the opium trade existed prior to 1858 because neither the Opium War nor the subsequent Treaty of Nanjing (1842) settled the opium question. Officially, the drug remained banned by the Chinese imperial government. Nonetheless, the highly lucrative and visible contraband trade flourished to the mutual profit of Chinese and western merchants and officials. The result was widespread smuggling, tolerated by local Chinese officials who were increasingly dependent on illicit opium revenues.[42]

In the booming contraband trade, Chinese merchants depended on smugglers for their goods. Waterborne smugglers moved opium along the coast; dryland smugglers carried it inland. Smugglers depended on merchants for marketing. Their contacts were necessarily regular and organized. Successful merchants were those who could effectively interact with secret-society smuggling chiefs.

Opium smugglers banded together in tightly disciplined secret societies organized along native-place lines. Many of these banghui were


linked with the Guangdong Three Dot Society (Sandian hui ), a branch of the Ming restorationist Triad Society. They operated through persuasion and force, bribing Chinese officials and local bandit chiefs, moving in armed convoys. These gangs protected opium shipments against the pirate and bandit gangs which were increasingly a feature of the trade routes. In these networks of interdependence, social distinctions narrowed. Petty opium dealers formed the substratum of the growing merchant class. Opporunists who made fortunes in smuggling purchased the trappings of official respectability.[43]

From the popular point of view, the opium trade was not necessarily considered disreputable. A western visitor to Chaozhou remarked on the openness with which the illicit trade was carried out in the prefectural city and on the pleasantness of the local opium men who appeared, "jolly, respectable . . . and . . . very civil."[44] In his travels, Robert Fortune was deeply impressed by the opium merchants of Shanghai: "I expected to find those merchants who were engaged in this trade little else than armed buccaneers .... Instead of this, the trade is conducted by men of the highest respectability, possessed of immense capital, who are known and esteemed as merchants of the first class in every part of the civilized world." Such men, as Hao Yen-p'ing has noted, were often engaged by Jardine, Matheson and Company and would form a "nucleus of the modern Chinese business class."[45]

The endemic smuggling of treaty-port trade as well as merchant participation in smuggling schemes have been recognized.[46] Unfortunately,


the importance of smuggling in the development of commercial capitalism in China, the organization of domestic smuggling, the connections between secret societies and organized smuggling, and the social composition of smuggling gangs remain largely unexplored.[47] It is clear, nonetheless, that the effect of opium smuggling on the relationship of merchants to the state provides a basis for understanding the role of merchants and merchant institutions in the Small Sword Uprising of 1853.

When Shanghai became a treaty port, opium import and distribution headquarters moved from Guangzhou to Shanghai. Guangdong people, particularly those from Chaozhou, became the leading brokers of the trade. Months prior to the formal opening of the treaty port, foreign vessels brought Indian opium to a receiving station at Wusong, at the mouth of the Yangzi, just north of Shanghai. Charles Hope, a conscientious British captain, together with the Chinese acting Daotai, responded to this apparent violation of the prohibition on trade at unopened ports by reporting and rebuffing several vessels. Both he and the Daotai were rebuked for their efforts, and the latter was removed from office. The protection of illicit trade thus ensured, the British conducted a brisk business in opium and foreign sundries. Goods were transferred onto the boats of Chinese smugglers who came alongside the British vessels. These Chinese boats then either smuggled the opium ashore or made bargains with local customs officers.[48] Thus when British Consul Balfour established his consulate at Shanghai in the fall of 1843, the opium trade there was already a year old, and more than six million dollars of opium had been sold to waterborne Chinese purchasers at Wusong. Jardine's led the trade, which penetrated the entire Yangzi basin.

To sell opium in Shanghai without obviously smuggling themselves, foreign merchants depended on locals, including smugglers and secret-society leaders as their brokers, to take the opium ashore and distribute it along the Yangzi valley. Chaozhou people were so deeply identified with these opium-marketing functions that Shanghai people derogatively called them heilao (black guys), a reference to the dark color of opium (opium was also called heiyan , black tobacco). They were also called jia-er-jia-da (Calcutta; ka-er-ka-da in the Shanghai dialect), the name for the intermediate grade of opium emanating from that city.


The fortunes of Chaozhou magnates of the twentieth century, who were variously engaged in native banks, textiles and pawnshops, were based on the profits of this nineteenth-century opium trade.[49]

Several legendary figures dominate the lore of the early Chaozhou opium merchants. In the period following the Opium War the trade was monopolized by merchants with the surnames Zheng and Guo, who formed the first Chaozhou opium establishments in Shanghai. Both began as petty compradors. Zheng Sitai was a secret-society type who went about with a retinue of vagabonds, swindlers, armed bodyguards and religious leaders. As one story goes, this following so impressed the British that they entrusted to him the task of brokering and protecting the passage of opium. Zheng became rich and founded his own Zheng Qia Ji establishment. His success inspired other Chaozhou merchants to follow his path.[50]

Guo Zibin came to Shanghai after learning some English while working as a cook for foreigners. Because English-speaking Chinese in Shanghai were "as rare as phoenix feathers and unicorn horns," foreign merchants entrusted Guo with their business. His profits financed the successful Guo Hong Tai establishment. His relatives and fellow-provincials flocked to Shanghai.

As these establishments flourished, together with others founded by Chaozhou individuals with the surnames Chen, Li and Cai, each maintained inland distribution areas. Chaozhou huiguan sprung up along trade routes servicing the merchants. In the important cities and market towns of Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Anhui, Chaozhou huiguan served as


hotels for opium merchants, storehouses, and branch shops, the presence of huiguan themselves marking the penetration of the Chaozhou opium bang .[51]

The connections among Guangdong opium merchants, Guangdong huiguan and gangs of smugglers and secret-society members are both elusive and incontestable. The uprising of the Small Sword Society which overthrew the local government in Shanghai in 1853 confirms the connections, though the records only partially clarify their nature. In the uprising, official trust in apparent distinctions between "respectable" merchants and secret society members and rebels was betrayed. In retaliation against the rebels, Qing forces razed the implicated huiguan in a fire that blazed for twenty-four hours and took with it the most elegant buildings of the Chinese walled city.

Losing Control and Taking the City: The Small Sword Uprising

After opening to foreign trade, the city became densely crowded, and buildings pressed against each other like barnacles on a rock. Exotic and elegant goods appeared from all over, and people who knew strange stunts and bizarre feats amazed people with their cleverness and sophistication. The people trading with this place were mainly people from Guangdong, Chaozhou, Zhejiang, and Ningbo, and their activities brought no benefit to the local people.... Shanghai country people are frugal and simple, but they were enticed by gambling and festivals.... [T]hey neglected their work, loafed and practiced martial arts. Thus they formed the Temple Gang, the Dike and Bridge Gang, the Sugar Gang, the Straw and Mud Gang .... In the third year of the Xianfeng reign they were seduced by the Fujian and Guangdong bandits into killing the officials and occupying the city.[52]

In the third year of Xianfeng, on the sixth day of the third month there was a tremendous earthquake, followed by days


of successive tremors, with sounds like the howling of ghosts. In the summer, on the seventh day of the fourth month, there was an earthquake. In the fifth month, outside the north gate, blood flowed from the ground and the earth sprouted hairs. On the eighth day of the sixth month, a woman named Hong gave birth to three sons, one colored deep blue, one white, and one crimson. After this, the city was besieged.[53]

In the Small Sword Uprising of 1853[54] we see an extreme "crystallization" of trends in state-society relations during the post-Opium War, early-opium-trading years in Shanghai: the weak Chinese state, dependent on the nonstate social institutions of huiguan to maintain social control; the admixture of foreign elements into Chinese traditions; the powerful emergence of secret societies from the substratum of Shanghai society; the linking of secret-society elements with merchants and merchant institutions based on native-place tics; and the mediating role of huiguan as institutions between different levels of society and different groups in society, a role which made huiguan central to both the maintenance and the disruption of social order.

Huiguan Militia . News reverberated in Shanghai of the establishment of the Taiping Heavenly Capital at Nanjing in March 1853 and of the subsequent proliferation of smaller uprisings such as the Small Sword takeover of Xiamen in May, causing anxiety at every level of society. Shanghai's vagabond population had strengthened the ranks of secret societies, including the Guangdong Small Sword Society. "Between summer and fall, rumors buzzed in the streets."[55] Listening and spreading rumors themselves, the secret societies grew bolder.

Confronted with displays of secret-society strength and rumors of imminent rebellion (and mindful of the overextension of imperial forces), the officials governing Shanghai hastened to establish defense militia. The Guangdong merchant-Daotai, Wu Jianzhang, sought help


from his friend Li Shaoqing, Jiaying Gongsuo director, and gathered together a corps of Guangdong "village braves." Li Xianyun, director of the Fujian Xinghua Huiguan similarly organized a group of Fujian "braves. "[56]

The militia caused problems from the beginning. Shortly after calling the Guangdong group together, Wu found he could not support them. Disbanded, the former "braves" turned into secret-society members. In mid-August, alarmed by mushrooming secret societies, the Shanghai Magistrate, Yuan Zude, posted a proclamation denouncing banditry and accusing Li Xianyun of being a bandit leader. A week later the magistrate's runners arrested Li and fourteen others. Nonetheless, the magistrate was too frightened by threats against him to keep them in his yamen . He not only promptly released the group but also paid Li a large indemnity for "false arrest." According to one account, Li began to organize an uprising upon his release.[57]

The next sequence of events reflects the pivotal position of huiguan , providing links with and potentially influencing secret societies, as well as the unstable power relations between high and low under the native-place tie. Hearing of a plot to waylay him, Daotai Wu also feared the situation was getting out of hand. Wu negotiated with huiguan directors to disperse the secret societies formed by their fellow-provincials. These huiguan directors then discussed the situation with their "dang, " returning with a counterproposal that the secret-society groups be transformed instead into paid militia, as an inducement toward their keeping the peace. In the meantime, Wu bribed Li Xianyun to keep things quiet.[58]

The huiguan directors framed their demands in a respectful petition, which the Daotai and magistrate graced with official approval. The text is preserved in a proclamation by the Shanghai magistrate on August 31, 1853, and translated in the North China Herald , establishing the new forces for the defense of the city:[59]


We conceive that when people mutually guard a place and assist each other, a neighborhood will enjoy tranquility. . .. [If] . . . secluded villages are required to maintain patroles, how much more should an emporium like Shang-hae assemble its inhabitants for military training.? Moreover, just now, when the rebels are making a disturbance, and lawless banditti are availing themselves of every pretext to get up a riot—if Shang-hae which is a market of such importance, where merchants assemble, and goods are stored up in such abundance—if the place does not adopt some means of defense, then robberies will be frequent, and the hard-earned savings of the trader will be encroached upon, in which case none would venture to come hither to trade. Orders having already been communicated to the president of the Canton assembly room to collect the members of the other guilds, consult about establishing a watch and train the militia in order to aid in the defense of the place—in which are conspicuous the wish to extirpate villainy and tranquilize the people—we have in obedience thereto assembled the guilds belonging to Fo-kien, Canton, Ningbo and Shang-hae people to consult with the gentry of the place; all these have gladly responded to the call, and have united together for the purpose above named; so that, should nothing happen, they may still be on their guard, and should anything transpire, they may resist with advantage; the watchmen on shore going backward and forward as regularly as shuffles in a loom. . .. Should this plan of calling out the militia be put into effect, the city will be as secure as the great wall, the neighborhood will be in a state of tranquility, and the merchants will feel as easy as if they were reposing on beds of down.[60]

After approving this plan, the magistrate endorsed the huiguan directors' demand for funds from the local gentry to pay the militia. In addition to this estimated annual cost of thirty thousand yuan, the magistrate endorsed the collection of funds for salaries for the huiguan directors, the cost of a general office for the seven huiguan to use together, and six smaller offices, presumably for the individual huiguan .[61]

The petition reflects the commanding position of the Canton association; the impecuniousness of local official government; the willingness of different regional huiguan to coordinate their actions for municipal defense; the demands of restive secret-society organizations to be paid off, and finally, the ability of huiguan to manipulate their pivotal position in the situation for their own profit and position (director salaries and official municipal offices).


The Coup . On September 5, less than a week after the posting of this notice, Guangdong secret societies joined local Shanghai secret societies organized under Zhou Lichun in an attack on the district yamen of Jiading. On September 6 there was a run on red cloth, and Shanghai shops quickly sold out. The following day the militia formed through the huiguan directors' agency confederated under the banner of the Small Sword Society and festooned themselves with red head-bands, red belts and other markers of rebellion. At dawn several hundred of these militiamen/rebels from Guangdong entered the Chinese walled city of Shanghai. The takeover began at the offices of the county magistrate, where there were forty guards, all Guangdong natives. The guards did not resist. According to one account they scattered "like stars" to make way for the intruders, then calmly reached into their belts and pulled out red cloths to wrap around their heads. By afternoon the rebels controlled the city.[62]

The conquest of the city claimed only two victims: one hapless guard who took it upon himself to resist and the city magistrate, who was not forgiven for his arrest of secret-society members prior to the uprising. After plundering the magistrate's yamen and freeing the prisoners within (leaving the corpse of the magistrate in his looted office for all to behold), the rebels proceeded to the Daotai's yamen , where they began to enact a similar scene, the Daotai's guard revealing matched red scarves.

Instead of killing Wu Jianzhang, the rebels reportedly shouted, "Because we are from the same native place, we will spare your life—where is the money?" Unwilling to trust his life entirely to native-place sentiment, Wu turned over his treasury, and the rebellion encountered no further resistance. In this fashion, to the wonderment of a western commentator, "a walled town of 200,000 inhabitants [was] taken by men armed mostly with spears and swords, and only one [sic ] man killed in the struggle."[63] The city was taken, but it was more a coup than an uprising, and there was no struggle. The city's armed forces had merely taken command. Although they lacked both coherent organization and ideology, they held Shanghai for seventeen months.

An anonymous account of the rebellion written by a member of the Shanghai gentry recounts that the uprising was orchestrated by a confederation of seven major gangs (dang ). These dang corresponded to seven native-place groups:[64]


Chaozhou (Guangdong)

Jiaying (Guangdong)

Guangzhou and Zhaoqing (Guangdong)

Quanzhou and Zhangzhou (Fujian)

Xinghua (Fujian)

Ningbo (Zhejiang)


The secret societies of the Shanghai area numbered more than seven. These included the following:[65]

Small Sword Society (Guangdong)

Double Sword Society (Guangdong)

Bird Society (Fujian)

Fujian Gang (Fujian)

Blue Turban/Blue Hand Society (Fujian)

Ningbo Gang (Ningbo)

Hundred Dragon/Temple/Dike and Bridge Society (Shanghai)

Luohan Society (Jiading county, Jiangsu)

Sugar Gang (Shanghai)

Straw and Mud Gang (Shanghai)

It seems fairly clear that the seven dang which formed the organizational foundation of the uprising overlapped with the seven regional associations which organized the city's militia. Several of the identified rebel leaders—Li Shaoqing, Li Xianyun, Pan Yiguo—were among the huiguan directors who signed the petition to the magistrate. At least two huiguan or gongsuo within the city served as offices for the rebels. The Guangdong rebels took Daotai Wu to their Guang'an Huiguan. The elegant Fujian merchants' Dianchuntang, with its courtyard gar-


dens and carved wood and marble furniture, was headquarters for the Fujian rebels.[66]

Connections and Tensions . It appears that the seven major regional huiguan were nodes for the coalescence of smaller and disparate secret societies, which conjoined on the basis of overarching regional affinities.[67] The joint militia organization provided a loose framework, connecting in turn the different huiguan .

The opium trade provided another critical connection. One contemporary account identified the Fujianese leaders, Chen Alin, Lin Afu, Chen Aliu, Li Xianyun, and the Guangdong leaders, Li Shaoqing and Li Shuangxuan, as opium sellers and gamblers, "accustomed to daring and lawlessness." Another noted that the Guangdong and Fujian people were engaged in transporting opium. One Guangdong leader, Liu Ayuan, was identified as the owner of an opium shop in Shanghai. Opium had clearly involved merchants in illegalities and tied them to secret societies. Opium also linked Guangdong secret societies with local Shanghai secret societies.[68]

The native-place ties which provided the axes of coalition for the rebel uprising were not linked, at this point, to an ideology which went beyond the self-interest of individual native-place groups. This is clearly reflected in the rebels' clumsy groping for symbols, causes or powers greater than themselves. Although the rebels followed secret-society rhetoric of Ming restoration and declared themselves a new Ming dynasty, they also cast about for other symbols of legitimacy, naming themselves, in foreign fashion, the Yixing Company (which may be


taken as a reflection of their recognition of the power of foreign commerce) and hoping variously for help and sponsorship from the Tai-pings, from the British, French and U.S. authorities and even from the Qing official Wu Jianzhang.

From the beginning of the uprising the Small Swords were divided by the very native-place ties along which they were organized. Fujian and Guangdong groups entered the city from different directions and set up camps in different places. From their different headquarters their leaders issued independent proclamations. Each regional group wore a distinguishing badge. According to a western observer, Fujian rebels fled their heads with red bands. Although they wore red belts, Guangdong rebels wore white head cloths. There were also sartorial distinctions between sojourners and local people.[69]

On the first day of the coup the rebels argued over the fate of the Daotai, with the Fujianese pressing for execution. The Guangdong group instead protected him and took him to their huiguan in the western part of the city, hoping to persuade him to join them. Liu Lichuan even sent a note to the American legation proclaiming that the Small Swords intended to reestablish Wu as a high official of their new government.[70]

The rebels also argued over their conduct in the city. The Fujianese and by one report the Chaoyang group wanted to loot and plunder. They were restrained by the Guangzhou group, with ill will on both sides. A dispute arose over an estimated 200,000 taels discovered in an imperial treasury. The Fujianese wanted to divide the money; the Guangdong faction favored establishing a treasury for the defense of the city. The dispute escalated into a fight which ended only when Guangdong rebels drove the Fujianese out of the walled city.[71]

Alliances among groups were private matters, not ideological expressions of allegiance to a united Small Swords. Li Shaoxi's friendship with the local Qingpu strongman Zhou Lichun brought the Shanghai gangs into an exclusive alliance with the Guangdong group. In the treasury dispute the local Jiading and Qingpu factions sided firmly with the Guangdong group, opposing the unruly Fujianese.[72]


Denouement . The fates of the Small Sword rebels similarly varied according to the native-place and personal alliances of the different rebel subgroups. As the French-assisted Qing troops pressed their siege, the food supply dwindled and some factions leaned toward desertion. The Fujianese had long wanted nothing more than to return to their native place with captured booty, but they had been prevented from doing so by the Cantonese. As conditions and morale deteriorated, the Guangdong leader Liu Lichuan himself proposed surrender to the reinstated Daotai (in return for an official rifle). His plan was opposed by the Fujian leader Lin Aria. At times the tensions of survival led to the emergence of savage ethnic conflict among groups previously allied as fellow Guangdong provincials. In January 1854, in response to a reported Hakka conspiracy (presumably referring to the Jiaying group) to deliver the city to foreign troops, the non-Hakka Cantonese murdered more than seventy of their Hakka fellow-provincials.[73]

In the last days of the occupation (February 1855), the Small Swords began to flee the city in different groups. The first desertion was precipitated by Chen Alin's shooting of Liu Lichuan's secretary, an act which aroused the anger of the Guangdong faction. Fearing revenge, Chen and his followers escaped. Another Fujian leader, Lin Afu, and his followers also fled, joining coastal pirates. Liu Lichuan himself finally deserted the city for Guangdong, accompanied by more than a hundred fellow-provincials.[74]

It was only after most rebels had vanished that the imperial forces rushed into the city, confident of meeting no resistance. Their entrance marked the most devastating moment of the Small Sword episode. They beheaded, burned, tortured, drowned and raped all of the rebels, relations, sympathizers, and suspect passersby they could lay their hands on. Amid the corpses and slaughter, the imperial troops plundered the city and finally set it afire. Three days later, "order was restored." Nearly half of the city lay in bloodied rubble. Houses, temples, yamen, huiguan and gongsuo were in ruins.

As the ashes cooled, the Qing Pacification Commissioner strode into the city to inspect the work of his troops. He issued ten regulations to prevent the resurrection of the Small Swords. Although Ningbo and local Shanghai people had also participated in the rebellion, Guangdong and Fujian people (and their huiguan ) bore the brunt of his punitive


measures. The regulations dictated surveillance over the selection of subsequent Guangdong and Fujian huiguan managers; prohibition against the rebuilding of Guangdong and Fujian huiguan within the city walls; prohibition against the rebuilding of any "dens of rebellion"; deportation and supervised relocation of Fujian and Guangdong vagabonds; examination and registration of all Chinese in foreign employ (primarily Cantonese); prohibition of Fujian and Guangdong boats; and prohibition against vagabonds departing on these types of boats.[75]

The new acting Daotai, Lan Weiwen (from Ningbo), together with a coalition of his fellow Zhejiang merchants and officials, vigorously implemented these regulations in a full-scale campaign against people from Guangdong. In the official records, the Small Sword rebellion was increasingly attributed to "Guangdong and Fujian bandits" only. Whereas Guangdong people were forced to move outside the city and their efforts to rebuild huiguan repeatedly thwarted, Ningbo people were permitted to retain a temple within the city walls and use it as their huiguan (the Zhe-Ning Huiguan). Within a few years their former huiguan , the Siming Gongsuo, was restored and expanded.[76]

The outstanding feature of the Small Sword episode in Shanghai history is perhaps neither the coup nor its failure but the resemblances and overlap between the rebel and loyalist sides. Under the principle of "changing from evil ways to good" (gai e cong shan ), secret-society members were made into defense militia for the city. The militia then turned rebel and overthrew the officials it served. This much will perhaps not seem remarkable, because attempting to coopt local strongmen was a common imperial tactic and because infiltrating city defenses was a common secret-society tactic.[77]

But the overlaps run deeper. The upstanding merchant associations, the huiguan which maintained urban order, were revealed in the course of the uprising to be in thrall to secret societies, as useful to the cause of rebellion as they had been in service to the government. Huiguan


directors who petitioned the authorities to maintain order, some of whom had official rifles, were identified as ruffians who had been in and out of prison.

Despite their vows to overthrow the dynasty, the rebels who took the city saved the highest official in it. Not only was Daotai Wu spared, but the rebels asked him to serve in their new government. Later, when Liu Lichuan considered surrender, he planned to hand over the city in exchange for an official rifle.

Although Daotai Wu declined to serve in the Small Sword government, he nonetheless made few effective attempts to retake the city. Unenlightened by the lesson of his initial militia-making endeavor, Wu turned to another group of his fellow-countrymen to combat the rebels. He hired a fleet of Xiangshan pirate-boatmen to sail on Shanghai and attack the Small Swords. The pirates came as hired, but they refused to fight fellow-provincials and spent their time in Shanghai waters robbing and plundering, one more "scourge on the populace."

Meanwhile, crowning the farce at the city walls, imperial troops recruited from Guangdong (said also to be secret-society members) sallied forward daily toward the rebel forces. At the tips of their bayonets they hung ducks and other foodstuffs, for the ostensible purpose of taunting the besieged rebels. At the end of the day, taunting done, these troops returned to their camps, ducks lost among the hungry besieged.[78]

If such contradictions weakened both the rebellion and imperial attempts to suppress it, they are consistent with the limitations and corruptions of an impecunious state as well as the frontier aspects of Shanghai at the time, as a boomtown with little government. Many wealthy merchants in this period had arrived just a few years earlier as poor adventurers, rough-and-ready types who did what it took to carve out fortunes and a reputation. Such men became powertful and rose as huiguan leaders after the Opium War. The Jiaying Huiguan director Li Shaoqing arrived in the Shanghai area as a peddler and then became a tea-house operator with connections to opium smugglers. We see a similar type in the figure of the rebel leader Li Xianyun, whose might made him director of both the Xing'an and Quan-Zhang huiguan : "The Fujianese Li Xianyun was also a bandit/secret society [member]. He was nearly sixty, short and with a slight beard and moustache. Coming and going he rode a sedan chair, surrounded by a throng of his bodyguards, creating extreme dread. Whenever each brokerage or shop expected goods to


arrive at the docks they had to send money to Li's place in order to avoid robbery when the shipments reached shore."[79]

In an urban atmosphere in which toughs and gangs roamed the streets making their own order because little order was imposed from above, for both merchants and poor immigrants native-place ties provided one of the few means of organization and protection. The Small Sword episode reflects this centrality of huiguan as an organizational base for multiple purposes, as well as the significance of native-place identity as a loyalty which could cut across other tics. It was not that native-place identity determined an individual's side in the uprising (in fact, there were reports of wealthy Guangdong merchants generously donating funds to both sides). Rather, throughout the episode the usefulness of native-place ties (contrasted with the ideological weakness of both the rebel and imperial sides) diminished the participants' interest in taking other types of loyalty seriously.

In the decades that followed the uprising, while imperial forces continued to deal with the ongoing Taiping Rebellion, Shanghai huiguan rebuilt themselves and grew in numbers, constituency and power. Although ties to secret societies would not entirely disappear, huiguan leaders would become increasingly respectable, so respectable that events like involvement in a rebel uprising would become unimaginable. But even though the huiguan wrote the Small Sword episode out of their histories, their behavior suggests that they drew important lessons from the experience.

In the Small Sword Uprising, huiguan and ideas of native place appear both central and strangely powerless. Although people coalesced around native-place loyalties, at this point native-place communities did not cohere around clear leaders or clear notions. Merchant elites could not effectively direct the actions of their tongxiang , and their institutions and reputations suffered accordingly. After the uprising, as Shanghai merchants grew in wealth and power, they took great care to root their power more firmly within their sojourning communities. They would also deepen their connections to other sources of authority in the city—both to Chinese and to foreign institutions. Through these connections and the tensions and responsibilities they aroused they would in time embed their native-place loyalties within a more coherent politics, entirely changing the meaning of native-place sentiment.


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