Biography in English

Ts'ao K'un (12 December 1862-17 May 1938), Peiyang general who served as governor of Chihli (Hopei) in 1916 and inspecting commissioner of Chihli, Shantung, and Honan in 1920. With Wu P'ei-fu's support, he headed the Chihli clique in 1920-23. Ts'ao held the presidency at Peking from October 1923 to November 1924.

The third son born into an impoverished family in Tientsin, Ts'ao K'un in his youth made a living as a cloth-goods peddler. According to one source, it was during this period that he became a friend and drinking companion of the high-spirited young Yuan Shih-k'ai (q.v.), while plying his trade in Yuan's native town of Hsiang-ch'eng, Honan. When he was about 20 years old, Ts'ao enlisted in the Huai-chün [Anhwei army] as a private. He later enrolled at the Tientsin Military Academy (Wu-pei hsueh-t'ang), becoming an instructor there upon graduation in 1890. During the Sino-Japanese war of 1894-95 he served in Korea and Manchuria under Sung Ch'ing (ECCP, II, 686-88). At war's end, Ts'ao was assigned to Hsiaochan, headquarters of the Newly Created Army (Hsin-chien lu-chün) that had recently been placed under the command of Yuan Shih-k'ai. Ts'ao helped direct the army's field training programs at Hsiaochan and, after the Boxer Uprising, at Yuan's new military quarters at Paoting. He rose rapidly in rank, becoming a regimental commander in 1901, a brigade commander in 1902, and commander of the 3rd Division of the Peiyang Army at Ch'angch'un in 1906.

After the republican revolution began in October 1911, Yuan Shih-k'ai transferred Ts'ao K'un and his 3rd Division to Peking to preserve order in the metropolitan area and to bolster his own position in the struggle for power with both the Manchus and the revolutionaries. Late in February 1912, when the revolutionary party's delegates were about to escort the reluctant Yuan to Nanking for his inauguration as provisional president, Ts'ao, presumably at Yuan's bidding, engineered a "mutiny" among his well-disciplined troops. The disturbance helped convince the delegates that Yuan's presence was required in north China to maintain order and that he should be allowed to assume the presidency at Peking. In September 1913, after the collapse of the so-called second revolution {see Li Lieh-chün), Ts'ao K'un was named commander in chief of the Ch'ang-chiang shang-yu tsung-ssu-ling [upper Yangtze region] and was transferred with the 3rd Division to Yochow, Hunan. At the height of the monarchist movement in 1915, he was created an "earl" in Yuan Shih-k'ai's new monarchical hierarchy. With the outbreak of the anti-monarchist revolt led by Ts'ai O (q.v.), Ts'ao was ordered on 5 January 1916 to proceed upriver to Szechwan and then to advance southward on Ts'ai O's forces, which were moving northward from Yunnan. Units of Ts'ao's 3rd Division engaged Ts'ai O's army at points along the Szechwan-Yunnan border, but they were fought to a standstill. This stalemate ended only with the death of Yuan Shih-k'ai in June 1916. At that time, Ts'ao moved the 3rd Division back to its permanent headquarters at Paoting. Soon after his return to Paoting, Ts'ao K'un became tuchün [military governor] of Chihli (Hopei) on 16 September 1916. As governor of this metropolitan province and commander of one of the most highly trained divisions of the Peiyang Army, he was a powerful leader in north China. With the passing of Yuan Shihk'ai, the Peiyang military machine gradually split into competing cliques as rival generals began to jockey with one another for military and political advantage. During the early stages of the struggle between the developing Anhwei and Chihli cliques, Ts'ao K'un was identified with the Chihli group. For the most part, however, his actions appear to have been determined by political expediency, and more often than not he supported the policies of Tuan Ch'i-jui (q.v.), the leader of the Anhwei faction and then the dominant figure at Peking. In July 1917 Ts'ao joined Tuan and other Peiyang leaders in opposing the attempt of Chang Hsun (q.v.) to restore the Manchu monarchy. Ts'ao's troops constituted a large part of the force that defeated Chang, and Tuan rewarded him with the civil governorship of Chihli. Later, during the period of political rivalry between Tuan and the acting president at Peking, Feng Kuochang (q.v.), who was head of the Chihli clique, Ts'ao sought to remain on good terms with both factions. In December 1917, at a conference held in Tientsin, Ts'ao and other military governors decided to launch a campaign against the Hu-fa-chün [constitution protection army], which had been dispatched by the military government at Canton and which had overrun most of Hunan. Ts'ao K'un became commander in chief of a military force that was to descend upon Hunan from Hupeh while a second force, commanded by Chang Huai-chih, attacked Hunan from the east. In February 1918, after ordering the 3rd Division and other units to move southward, Ts'ao transferred his military headquarters to Hankow. Within two months his troops had captured Changsha and had advanced as far as Hengchow in southern Hunan.

It was at this time that a notable change took place in relations between Ts'ao K'un and the Anhwei clique under Tuan Ch'i-jui. Ts'ao, who had been one of the strongest advocates of Tuan's policy of military unification, suddenly lost his enthusiasm for the war and grew cool to Tuan's regime at Peking. Ts'ao's change of attitude was due in part to his suspicion that Tuan's deputy, Hsu Shu-cheng (q.v.), was secretly planning to remove him from his post as military governor of Chihli. Another reason was the stand taken by Ts'ao's subordinate Wu P'ei-fu (q.v.), who had distinguished himself as field commander of the 3rd Division during the fighting in Hunan. Because Wu believed that his victories had not received the recognition they merited from Tuan's government, he ordered his troops to cease fighting. Fearing the collapse of their policy of military unification, Hsu Shu-cheng, and subsequently Tuan himself, hastened to Hankow in an effort to placate the two commanders. To regain Ts'ao's support, Tuan offered him the resounding title of ching-lueh-shih [high commissioner] of Szechwan, Kwangtung, Hunan, and Kiangsi, and further promised him, in secret, the vice presidency at Peking. These gestures failed to satisfy Ts'ao, and at the end of May he transferred his headquarters back to Chihli, thereby dashing Tuan's hopes of subduing the southern military leaders.

The tension between Ts'ao K'un and Tuan Ch'i-jui was heightened by the increasingly independent line taken by Wu P'ei-fu. In the summer of 1918 Wu, still in acting command of Ts'ao's 3rd Division, made verbal attacks on the Peking government which aroused the ire of Tuan Ch'i-jui. Tuan put increasing pressure on Ts'ao K'un to keep his unruly subordinate in line. Ts'ao found himself in an awkward situation, for the 3rd Division, the core of his military strength, was stationed in Hunan under a subordinate whose actions had become increasingly difficult for Ts'ao to control. During the next two years, as Tuan Ch'i-jui and his subordinates continued to build up the military strength of the Anhwei clique, Ts'ao K'un's position in Chihli became insecure. To counter Tuan's military might, Ts'ao effected an agreement between the Fengtien faction of Chang Tso-lin (q.v.) and the Chihli clique, which then included the Yangtze military governors Li Ch'un (Kiangsu), Wang Chan-yuan (Hupeh), and Ch'en Kuang-yuan (Kiangsi). About this time, Wu P'ei-fu withdrew his troops from Hunan and moved them northward to support Ts'ao K'un in Chihli. On 13 July 1920 Ts'ao joined Chang Tso-lin in announcing plans to oust Tuan and his government from Peking, and the Chihli-Anhwei war began two days later. By 18 July Tuan Ch'i-jui's forces had been defeated and the power of the Anhwei clique had been shattered.

With the victory of the Chihli faction, Ts'ao K'un became its undisputed leader. On 2 September 1920 he was appointed inspector general (hsun-yueh-shih) of Chihli, Shantung, and Honan in recognition of his authority in north China. Soon, however, personal antagonism between Wu P'ei-fu and Chang Tso-lin set the stage for a power struggle between the Chihli and Fengtien military cliques. In this developing contest, it was Wu, rather than Ts'ao, who took the initiative within the Chihli group. Ts'ao was reluctant to challenge the growing influence of Chang Tso-lin in north China, but because he was almost entirely dependent on Wu P'ei-fu for military backing, he did not challenge Wu. However, Ts'ao's conciliatory attitude gradually hardened as a result of Chang Tso-lin's steady encroachment upon his territory in Chihli. In April 1922 Ts'ao joined Wu and other leaders of the Chihli clique in opposing the advance of Chang's troops into north China. Early in May, in the first Chihli-Fengtien war, troops under the command of Wu P'ei-fu routed Chang's forces and forced them back to Chang's stronghold in Manchuria.

The defeat of Chang Tso-lin left the Chihli clique in control of the government at Peking and of most of north China. To achieve peaceful unification of China, their announced goal, they found it expedient to agree to the reconvening of the old National Assembly of 1917 and the restoration of the 1912 constitution. They also favored a proposal whereby Hsu Shihch'ang (q.v.) and Sun Yat-sen, presidents of the rival regimes at Peking and Canton, would resign simultaneously so that a new president of a unified national government could be selected. After the resignation of Hsu Shihch'ang on 2 June 1922 (Sun was driven from Kwangtung by supporters of Ch'en Chiungming later that month), Ts'ao K'un and the other Chihli leaders induced Li Yuan-hung (q.v.) to take office again as president on 1 1 June. In September, the "able men" cabinet of Wang Ch'ung-hui (q.v.) was installed in Peking to implement a policy of peaceful unification. In the autumn of 1922, however, differences of opinion began to arise within the Chihli clique. Ts'ao K'un had long coveted the presidency at Peking, and he now believed that he was in a position to realize that ambition. Wu P'ei-fu, on the other hand, preferred to maintain the then current administration in office until peaceful unification had been achieved. Other factors also served to strain relations between Ts'ao K'un and Wu P'ei-fu. Even before the Chihli-Fengtien war, the two men had become the foci of rival factions within the Chihli clique, one centered at Wu's camp at Loyang and the other at Ts'ao's headquarters at Paoting and Tientsin. As Wu's power and prestige began to overshadow those of his nominal superior, members of the Ts'ao faction grew resentful of Wu's predominance within the Chihli clique. They became openly impatient with Wu's policies, and they lost no opportunity to embarrass Li Yuan-hung and the "cabinet of able men." Ts'ao K'un and his partisans succeeded in having Wang's minister of finance, Lo Wen-kan (q.v.), arrested on false charges of bribery. Wu, fearing open dissension within the Chihli clique, reluctantly bowed to Ts'ao's wishes and withheld his support from the administration he formerly had endorsed, thereby causing the collapse of the "cabinet of able men" in November 1922. During the spring and summer of 1923 Ts'ao K'un's political supporters intensified their drive to gain control of the government at Peking. In June, they succeeded in bringing about the fall of the Chang Shao-tseng cabinet and in forcing Li Yuan-hung to leave Peking and to resign. Turning next to the National Assembly, they sought to persuade its members to remain in Peking and to elect Ts'ao K'un to the presidency. The cooperation of some members was secured by assurances that they would be allowed to complete their work on the draft of a permanent constitution. Nearly 500 members of the National Assembly voted for Ts'ao K'un, and on 10 October 1923 he was inaugurated. The newly drafted constitution that was promulgated soon afterwards became known as the "Ts'ao K'un constitution." In assuming the presidency, Ts'ao K'un seemingly attained the pinnacle of his career, but his power rested entirely on the military strength of Wu P'ei-fu. It was not at Peking but at Wu's Loyang headquarters that most of the important governmental decisions were made. Outside of Peking, Ts'ao's authority received token recognition in the areas controlled by militarists of the Chihli clique, but it was challenged or ignored in the provinces of south and west China, in Chekiang, and in Manchuria. Moreover, the unabashed bribery and coercion employed by Ts'ao's partisans to secure control of the government at Peking lost Ts'ao whatever public respect and support he had formerly enjoyed. The greed of these National Assembly members who sold him their votes earned them the appellation of "piglings" (chu-tzu). During the period of about a year that Ts'ao K'un held the presidency, Wu P'ei-fu's newly adopted policy of armed unification of China led to hostilities which culminated in the second Chihli-Fengtien war of September-October 1924. In mid-September, Chang Tso-lin, after denouncing Wu P'ei-fu and accusing Ts'ao K'un of being Wu's puppet, began moving his troops southward from Manchuria to challenge the power of the Chihli clique. In response, Ts'ao hurriedly summoned Wu to Peking to assume command of the Chihli armies. However, after Wu had advanced almost to Shanhaikuan and had engaged the Fengtien forces in heavy fighting, Feng Yü-hsiang (q.v.) and other subordinates of Wu revolted against him. In accordance with a prearranged scheme, Feng went to Peking with his troops on 23 October and issued a telegram calling for an end to the war. The surprised Ts'ao K'un was left defenseless at Peking. Surrounded by Feng's troops at the presidential mansion, he was forced to proclaim a. cease-fire and to issue orders on 24 October relieving Wu P'ei-fu of his military command. Ts'ao was compelled by Feng to announce his resignation from the presidency on 2 November 1924.

The overthrow of Wu P'ei-fu in October 1924 brought Ts'ao K'un's public career to an end. After his enforced resignation, he was held under house arrest at Peking until 9 April 1926, by which time Feng Yü-hsiang had been driven from the capital. Ts'ao then moved to Wu P'ei-fu's headquarters at Chengchow, but in the spring of 1927, when Wu retreated westward, he went to Tientsin, where he lived in complete retirement for the remainder of his life. In 1937 he was reported to have rejected Japanese overtures to secure his participation in a Japanese-sponsored regime in north China, and after his death on 1 7 May 1938 the National Government at Chungking, in recognition of his refusal to cooperate with the enemy, issued a special mandate of commendation on 18 June 1938 and designated him a full general of the first class.

Two younger brothers of Ts'ao K'un had minor public careers, principally as his proteges. Ts'ao Jui (c. 1866-1 924; T. Chien-t'ing) began his career as a legal officer in the imperial army and then as judicial commissioner of Chihli province. In 1912 he served briefly as financial commissioner of Chihli, and sometime after 1917 he became civil governor of that province, a post he held until June 1922. Ts'ao Ying (b. 1873; T. Tzu-chen) was attached to the staff of Hsu Shih-ch'ang in 1907 and in 1910 was transferred to the Military Survey School, ofwhich he became director in 1912. He became chief military adviser to Ts'ao K'un at Paoting in 1916, commander of the 4th Mixed Brigade in 1917, garrison commander of the Chihli troops at Shanhaikuan in 1918, and commander of the newly organized 26th Division in 1920. After Ts'ao K'un's election to the presidency, he became a full general (November 1923) and director general of forestry affairs in Jehol (January 1924). He retired after his brother's downfall in November 1924. Ts'ao Yü: see Wan Chia-pao.

Tsen, Philip Lindel: see Cheng Ho-fu. Ts'en Ch'un-hsuan -^ ^ ifca Orig. Ch'un-tse ^ $p T. Yun-chieh || pg H. Chiung-t'ang lao-jen 'j:[o] ^ ^ A

Biography in Chinese

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