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Chapter Five Native-Place Associations, Foreign Authority and Early Popular Nationalism
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Foreign Reliance on Huiguan in the Maintenance of Settlement Order

Once the settlement governments were firmly established they began to rely on native-place associations for resources and assistance in the government of the Chinese communities within their borders. In the process the foreign authorities circumvented Chinese officials and placed the leaders of native-place associations in the position of representing the Chinese community. In this respect, the foreign presence in the city forced a certain reconceptualization of the meaning of huiguan as urban institutions, bringing together disparate native-place institutions into collective committees. When such committees were counterposed to and coordinated with foreign municipal authorities, they represented not the native place but the composite urban Chinese community.

Public Funding, Population Management and Judicial Functions . Throughout the 1870s and 1880s, huiguan and gongsuo provided funding for the joint Fire Commission of the international settlements. The importance of their contributions is reflected in a listing of major contributors to the commission in the Shanghai Municipal Council Report for 1875:


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International Settlement

2,500 taels

French Concession

1,000 taels

Huiguan and Gongsuo

1,120 tads

Chinese Government

400 taels

Huiguan and gongsuo also helped fund the foreign police. Surviving account books of the Guang-Zhao Gongsuo for 1873 and 1874 list two types of payment to the settlement police (in addition to the payment of regular taxes), amounting to more than 250 taels a year from this one huiguan .[3]

Just as Chinese authorities relied on huiguan and gongsuo to resolve disputes within the Chinese population, foreign assessors in the Mixed Court routinely consulted with huiguan . As one assessor recalled:

The guilds [huiguan and gongsuo ] of China are not organized under charters from the [Chinese] Government, but the Government has always recognized their power and has usually been careful to avoid open conflict. Conflict, as we have seen, has usually resulted in defeat for the Government.

The guilds... have their own courts, and their members, as a rule, avoid the official courts. Sometimes, however, it is impossible to do this. Outside parties bring suits against guild members .... In the past, however, the Government courts have usually decided such cases in harmony with the regulations of the guild concerned.

While living in Shanghai it was my duty... to serve as American Assessor in the Mixed Court .... In the various civil suits that were brought before the court it was the rule to consult the regulations of the guild concerned.[4]

Foreign authorities also enlisted huiguan help in maintaining order among Chinese residents of the settlements during times of social and political crisis. In contrast with the periods of the Taiping threat (1860-62) and the war with Japan (1894), when Chinese took refuge in the foreign settlements, the antiforeign violence of the Boxers in North China in 1900 led to an exodus of Chinese residents who feared staying within the International Settlement. The alarmed Municipal Council posted proclamations to calm the population. Unable to allay the fleeing residents' anxieties, the Council convened representatives of "all the leading provincial guilds" to enlist their help in dissuading would-be emigrés by reinforcing security. For those determined to leave, they issued bilingual passes to control the population flow: "The measures for


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the defense of Shanghai Settlement, arranged by the Council and the headmen of local Guilds [ge huiguan dongshi ], have already been duly .communicated to the public by notice. The Committee of the ——— Guild, having now reported that Chinese resident ——— is anxious to change his residence..., this pass is hereby issued to state there is no objection to his removal. Police protection provided where necessary."[5] Consultation and cooperation between major huiguan and the foreign authorities became general practice, as the Municipal Council recognized: "Whenever in the past any important questions have arisen affecting the Chinese community, it has been the custom for the Council to consult with the headman or committee of local guilds, so as to devise measures beneficial to those concerned. This was especially the case during the Boxer trouble of 1900, when the guilds, cooperating with the Council, did so much good in reassuring the general public."[6]

Although huiguan cooperated with settlement authorities, they retained considerable autonomy and remained impenetrable to foreign efforts to understand and control them. The "guilds" almost entirely eluded the settlement police who attempted an investigation in 1904. Instructed to obtain a complete list of "all guilds and similar organizations within the Settlement," the police set out to discover the rudimentary characteristics of each association, including the purpose for which they were established, the number and composition of their membership, the leaders' names and the general regulations. They were disappointed. Contrary to expectations, "information was not immediately furnished [by the guilds] .... The majority, beyond [some] verbal answers ... failed to reply." The Council continued to hope that "the guilds will alter [their] policy of obstruction," but there was little it could do, and it never obtained a satisfactory accounting of these associations.[7]

Huiguan as Representative Bodies . In the period prior to 1911, the western residents of the International Settlement resisted any form of Chinese representation in settlement government. When a "Chinese Consultative Committee" was proposed by leaders of three prominent huiguan in December 1905, the Ratepayer's Association rejected the measure on the grounds that the plan "foreshadowed undue


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influence and intervention in the affairs of the Foreign Settlement," asserting moreover, that "advice regarding native interests is available without formal organization." Nonetheless, as the Ratepayers' statement testifies, an informal system of representation existed and functioned with a certain efficacy if without legal standing.[8]

In 1910 the Municipal Council informally recognized a body of fourteen principal "guilds" in the foreign settlements:

Ningpo (Ningbo) Provincials' Guild

Cantonese (Guangdong) Provincials' Guild

Shantung (Shandong) Provincials' Guild

Nanking (Nanjing) Guild

Wusieh (Wuxi) Guild

Shanse (Shanxi) Bankers' Guild

Guild of the Chihli (Zhili) Provincials and Eight Banner Corps

Exchange Bankers' Guild

Gold Guild

Pawn Brokers' Guild

Silk Guild

(Huzhou) Silk Cocoon Merchants' Guild

Tea Traders' Guild

Foreign Piece Goods Dealers' Guild

When matters arose affecting the Chinese community, the Council addressed inquiries to some or all of these organizations to assess Chinese opinion.[9]

Close cooperation between the Municipal Council and a similarly constituted informal committee of huiguan and gongsuo leaders helped ameliorate an explosive situation at the end of 1910, remembered as the


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Plague Riots of November 11-18. As was frequently the case, tension developed between Chinese residents and foreign authorities over an issue of public health. The appearance of bubonic plague in Shanghai in the fall provided the Municipal Council of the International Settlement with a pretext for enacting special public-health bylaws which enlarged the scope of foreign authority over Chinese residents.[10] Plague-infected rat corpses had appeared in the preceding year and—while counting the rat corpses brought in by Chinese laborers hired and given chopsticks for this task of collection— the Council readied itself for action. After a human plague death in the Settlement at the end of October, the Council enacted emergency plague-prevention measures. It established a plague station and surveillance system in the surrounding "plague area." Within this area (the Hongkou district), municipal health officers and sanitary investigators inspected all houses daily, forcibly removing residents suspected of harboring plague and placing those found ill and those in contact with them in an isolation hospital. Crews then evacuated the entire housing block around these designated points of disease, removed ceilings, foundations and other rat-friendly areas, surrounded the block with rat-proof barricades and fumigated with sulphur.

Not surprisingly, these measures (exacerbated by rumor and the absence of any program of public education) provoked severe unrest in the Chinese community. On November 12, 1910, hearing that the foreign authorities were seizing and killing women and children for esoteric purposes, bands of Chinese pelted foreigners with stones, beat sanitary inspectors with bamboo poles and smashed disinfecting vans and equipment. Hundreds of women and children fled the International Settlement for Chinese areas of Shanghai or the French Concession. The North China Herald called for "a representative committee of Chinese from the Guilds and prominent residents" to cooperate with the Municipal authorities and reach "the ignorant masses of the Chinese" in the


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urgent matter of plague prevention, admitting the Council's mistake in abruptly enforcing insufficiently explained health measures. In the meantime, the Council gave notice that the new health bylaws would be put into force on November 14.[11]

On November 13, together with the president and vice-president of the Chinese Shanghai Chamber of Commerce, prominent huiguan and gongsuo directors sent a letter to David Landale, Chairman of the Municipal Council, expressing their desire to help prevent plague but making the moderation of plague-prevention measures a precondition for their services.[12] Before acceding to this pressure, the Council made an abortive attempt to reason with Chinese residents directly in a public meeting on November 16, hoping to persuade them of the necessity of the health procedures. Prior to the meeting the Council distributed educational posters and leaflets. As a precaution, only "well-dressed, respectable Chinese" were admitted. Leaders of Shanghai huiguan and gongsuo were given front scats and were asked to speak. Nonetheless, the meeting was a disaster. The only moment of audience enthusiasm occurred when Ningbo notable Shen Dunhe (Shen Zhongli) was cheered by his tongxiang for promising to arrange construction of a Chinese Isolation Hospital outside the Settlement. As soon as he referred to the plague-prevention measures, the meeting was broken up by violent protests.[13]

On November 17 Council Chairman Landale notified Zhou Jinzhen (Zhou Jinbiao), Chairman of the Shanghai Chamber of Commerce, as well as directors of major Shanghai huiguan and gongsuo , that the bylaws would refer to plague outbreaks only. He forwarded a revised code (amended according to their instructions) for their approval and expressed the Council's need for help: "The Council notes with greatest satisfaction that you are in sympathy with the... prevention of Plague,


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and gratefully accepts your offer of cooperation in the no less difficult task of explaining to those who are ignorant what is required and what has to be done"[14]

The next day the Municipal Council met with representatives of the Chinese community to discuss the plague measures. In attendance were Chamber of Commerce Chairman Zhou Jinzhen (also Siming Gongsuo director), vice-president Shao Qintao (of Zhangzhou, Jiangsu), Wen Zongyao (Guang-Zhao Gongsuo director), Zhong Ziyuan (director of both Guang-Zhao Gongsuo and the Shanghai-Nanjing Railway), Tian Zhimin (of Shangyu, Zhejiang, and Cotton Yarn Guild director), Shen Dunhe (Siming Gongsuo director, also representing the Imperial Bank of China), Yu Xiaqing (Siming Gongsuo director and Netherlands Bank comprador), Zhu Baosan (both Siming Gongsuo and the Foreign Piece Goods Guild director), Wang Ruizhi (Shandong Guild director), Zhu Lanfang (director of both the Huaxing Flour Company and the Xijin [Wuxi] Huiguan), Xu Gongruo (Huzhou Silk Association director), Chen Yizhai (of Shangyu, Zhejiang; Native Bankers Association director), Yang Xinzhi (of Wucheng, Zhejiang; Cocoon and Silk Guild director).[15]

The discussion lasted for six hours, during which time the Chinese representatives secured significant modifications in the proposed plague-prevention procedures.[16] The Chinese press celebrated this resolution as something of a popular nationalist victory. Praising the Chinese negotiators, the Shenbao stressed that citizen action had protected Chinese interests: "Despite our timid and weak officials, the strength and sincerity of the people's spirit in our country is something to be proud of."[17]


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These measures both resolved the difficulties and restricted the attempted extension of foreign municipal authority over Chinese residents. Although Chinese officials had at various points voiced protests in this matter, unofficial associations rather than the Chiese government mediated on behalf of the Chinese people in the resolution of the crisis.[18] In the meantime, Ningbo and Guangdong association leaders cooperated in the implementation of the new plague-prevention plan. In the presence of the foreign community, the Ningbo leader Shen Dunhe applauded the efforts of the Guang-Zhao Gongsuo in establishing a Chinese hospital: "I have the pleasure to inform you that through the assistance of Messrs. Lo King-sou and Chun Bing-him, members of the Committee of the Cantonese Guild, we have been able to secure a site ... for the Paotian Hospital. This property is known as 'Verdant Villa' and formed the summer residence of Cheong Chi-pio, the well-known Cantonese merchant who parted with it to the Chinese Plague Committee for a nominal sum—an act of charity and public spirit."[19]

This case also makes clear that although the modern and inclusive-sounding Shanghai General Chamber of Commerce appeared as a new actor in the Shanghai political arena after 1902, it did not displace the older huiguan and gongsuo , particularly the more powerful ones like the Siming Gongsuo and the Guang-Zhao Gongsuo in their function of representing the Chinese community. Rather, in this period new institutional identifications were added to older ones. The interweaving of older and newer institutional forms is evident in the overlapping Chamber/huiguan/ trade affiliations of the Chinese negotiators. Although the Municipal Council often found it convenient to direct its letters to the "guilds" through the Chamber, this practice reveals that the "guilds" continued to be important actors. The Chamber was made up, in considerable part, of huiguan and gongsuo directors and was dominated throughout its early years by the Ningbo community.[20] Although most of the individuals who met with the Municipal Council to negotiate the plague emergency were Chamber members, it is significant that


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they were identified as leaders of their native-place bang in Chinese sources, this affiliation being often more significant at this time in the Chinese community. Although the Chamber provided an organizational form which appeared particularly legitimate to western authorities, it did not replace huiguan and gongsuo . What it did was redirect their focus by creating an institutional framework for the regular coordination of their activities in matters concerning Shanghai municipal affairs.[21]

The plague-related incidents of 1910 demonstrate both the advisory role of prominent huiguan and citywide coordination among associations in the dual interests of keeping order and defending Chinese rights.[22] This episode and, indeed, the eventual formalization of Chinese representation in Settlement government must be presented in the context of the politics of conflict— the other side of the politics of cooperation with foreign authorities. In Shanghai this history of mobilization for Chinese rights began in late-nineteenth-century huiguan-centered riots.


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Chapter Five Native-Place Associations, Foreign Authority and Early Popular Nationalism
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