Chang Hsün 張勳 T. Shao-hsuan 少軒 H. Sung-shou 松壽
Chang Hsün (14 December 1854-September 1923), military leader, is best known for his unsuccessful attempt to restore the Manchu dynasty in 1917.
The family into which Chang Hsün was born had lived for generations in a small village near the district-city of Fenghsin, west of Nanchang in Kiangsi province. Already poor, the family suffered further privations during the Taiping wars when insurgent forces overran its native district in 1861. By the time Chang was ten years old he had lost both parents and was left to fend for himself. For several years thereafter details of his life are obscure. He was reported fo have made his living at one time as a servant boy and, subsequently, to have traveled to Fukien and then to Hunan. In 1884, when the Sino-French war broke out in Annam, Chang Hsün was in Changsha. Entering military service under the governor of Hunan, P'an Ting-hsin (d. 1888; T. Ch'in-hsuan), he went as a member of P'an's forces to the Kwangsi-Annam border and during 1884-85 took part in several engagements against the French, including the siege and capture of Langson (Liang-shan). Chang's conduct in these engagements won recognition from his superiors, who promoted him to the rank of major. For several years after the war he continued to serve on the Kwangsi frontier under the provincial commander in chief, Su Yuan-ch'un (d. 1908), rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. At that time Chang established a lifelong friendship with another of Su's officers, Lu Jung-t'ing (q.v.), who was to become a prominent military figure in south China during the early part of the republican period. Although little is known of Chang's life during these years, there is a colorful story that while in Kwangsi he was sent by Su Yuan-ch'un with a large sum of money to purchase military supplies in Shanghai, where he promptly squandered the money in brothels and taverns. On being advised by his friends to run away, Chang protested that such conduct would not be manly and decided to return to Kwangsi, where he begged Su to give him the deserved punishment. Feigning anger, Su sentenced him to death, but secretly had him released from prison and sent off with letters of recommendation. While of undetermined reliability, this story may well account for Chang's departure from Kwangsi and his search for a career far away in north China.
In any case, Chang went north and in 1894 joined the so-called Resolute Army under general Sung Ch'ing (1820-1902; ECCP, II, 686-88). Arriving in Mukden two months after the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war, Chang took command of a cavalry unit and participated in the hostilities. At the conclusion of the war he went to Tientsin, where he made the acquaintance of Yuan Shih-k'ai. Yuan, who had just been assigned the task of building a modernized military organization, engaged him as one of his officers to help train the so-called Newly Created Army, then stationed at his military headquarters at Hsiao-chan. In the years that followed Chang Hsün became one of Yuan's senior military officers. He accompanied Yuan to Shantung when Yuan was appointed governor of that province late in 1899 and, two years later, was transferred to Paoting when Yuan became governor general of Chihli (Hopei) province. During the Boxer Uprising of 1900, Chang took part in the military operations against the rebels.
In December 1901, after order had been restored in the metropolitan province, he commanded the troops sent to Tz'uchow, on the Chihli border, to serve as military escort to the empress dowager, the emperor, and the imperial entourage on the final stage of their journey from Sian back to Peking. At that time he won the special favor of the empress dowager, a fact that may have contributed to his unwavering allegiance to the Manchu dynasty even after its abdication in 1912.
After the imperial party reached Peking, Chang Hsün was granted special honors by the throne, including an appointment to serve with his unit as part of the imperial guard corps stationed at the south gate of the capital. In 1903 he was sent beyond the Great Wall to put down the bandits that infested the Chahar- Shansi border region. In the two years that followed, during the Russo-Japanese war, he remained with his troops in the vicinity of Kalgan to guard the Inner Mongolian pasture lands from armed forays by Russian raiders. In 1906, after the conclusion of hostilities between Russia and Japan in Manchuria, Chang was transferred to Mukden as commander of the military forces in northern Fengtien. Two years later he was promoted to the post of t'i-tu [provincial commander in chief] of Yunnan, then transferred to a similar post in Kansu. In neither case, however, did Chang take up these posts : he was given special orders to continue his duties in Manchuria. In 1910 he was transferred to Pukow on the Yangtze as commander of the defense forces in that region. In the summer of 1911 he became military commander in chief of Kiangnan (Kiangsu and Anhwei) with headquarters in Nanking. Soon after this appointment the revolt of 10 October took place at Wuchang. The revolutionary forces quickly seized the Wuhan cities, Shanghai, and Soochow, and combined to advance upon Nanking. Chang Hsün meanwhile had assumed command of the imperial armies defending Nanking. After stubborn resistance to the superior numbers of the revolutionaries, he abandoned the city on 12 December 1911. Crossing the Yangtze with the remainder of his troops, he withdrew along the Tientsin-Pukow railway as far north as Yenchow (Tz'u-yang) in Shantung province. After the fall of Nanking the embattled Manchu court appointed Chang to the post of governor of Kiangsu and shortly thereafter to the positions of governor general of Liang-Kiang and high commisioner of military and foreign affairs in southern China. Within a few months, however, the Manchu dynasty came to an end, and a republican government was inaugurated in Peking.
Under the new president, Yuan Shih-k'ai, Chang Hsün was given the rank of general in the Chinese army. As a protege of Yuan, Chang was obligated to his former patron and benefactor. His primary allegiance, however, remained with the deposed imperial house. Thus while he agreed not to oppose Yuan as president of the new republic, he insisted that the imperial family be accorded full privileges under the Articles of Favorable Treatment stipulated in the abdication agreement. Throughout Yuan's presidency he continued to defend the interests of the fallen dynasty. As a sign of his personal loyalty he not only retained his own queue but also ordered the troops under his command to do so, thus earning for himself the popular epithet of pien-tzu chiang-chün [the pigtail general]. As self-appointed protector of China's traditional political institutions, he vigorously opposed efforts to abolish the official cult of Confucius, and on one occasion dispatched troops from his base at Yenchow to nearby Ch'ü-fu to preserve the buildings and property of the Confucian temple there from the depredations of the local populace.
To consolidate power over the entire country, Yuan Shih-k'ai gradually strengthened the military units under his subordinates. As a result of this policy Chang Hsün, with increased funds and munitions at his disposal, was able to expand the military forces under his command. With the outbreak of the so-called second revolution in the summer of 1913, Chang was assigned to the Second Peiyang Army, under the over-all command of Feng Kuo-chang (q.v.), and was ordered to attack the Kuomintang forces defending Nanking. In August he moved down along the Tientsin-Pukow railway with his troops and, together with other units of Feng's army, laid siege to the city. On 1 September 1913 Chang's forces stormed the walls. After allowing his troops three full days of looting and rapine, he entered the city in triumph. In recognition of this victory he was made military governor of Kiangsu province. The outrages perpetrated by his troops at Nanking, however, soon aroused the protests of the foreign communities in that city, and after strong pressure from Japanese and other diplomatic representatives in Peking, Yuan Shih-k'ai appointed Feng Kuo-chang to replace Chang as military governor on 16 December 1913. Chang was given the rank of field marshal and the title of inspector general of the Yangtze provinces. Although Yuan had originally conceived of this as a purely titular appointment, Chang Hsün, through his own interpretation of its functions and by virtue of his personal military power, was able to impart considerable prestige and authority to the position. As a result, the title of inspector general (hsun-yueh-shih) came to be sought after eagerly by generals of the Peiyang military clique. On being appointed to this new post, Chang Hsün withdrew his troops from Nanking to take up positions in the vicinity of Hsuchow, the strategic railroad junction in northern Kiangsu; that area was to remain his stronghold until the end of his military career.
In the summer of 1915 the movement to make Yuan Shih-k'ai the new monarch of China was launched. As a supporter of the Manchu dynasty, Chang Hsün indicated strong disapproval, but took no action to oppose the movement. In the spring of 1916, as the new order was confronted by open revolt from the southwestern provinces, Yuan was forced to abolish the short-lived monarchy. He resumed his position as president, but, as the anti-Yuan movement gained momentum, Yuan came under increasing pressure from the southwestern leaders, and even from some of his own subordinates, to step down from the presidency. In April 1916, one of Yuan's top officers, Feng Kuo-chang, then the military governor of Kiangsu, called for a conference in Nanking to discuss the question of Yuan's resignation. The conference was held in the following month. There Chang Hsün's representative, backed by Ni Ssu-ch'ung, the governor of Anhwei, vigorously supported Yuan's position and opposed Feng's efforts to obtain a resolution in favor of Yuan's retirement from the presidency. Dissatisfied with the inconclusive results of the Nanking conference, Chang invited the provincial delegates to attend a conference at his own base in Hsuchow.
Before the new conference opened, however, the question of the presidential succession was resolved by the death of Yuan Shih-k'ai on 6 June 1916 and by the accession of Li Yuan-hung (q.v.) to the presidency. The military leadership of the Peiyang clique passed to the premier, Tuan Ch'i-jui (q.v.). Despite this sudden change in the political situation, the Hsuchow conference was held as scheduled on 9 June 1916. At the meeting Chang Hsün proposed the formation of an association of provincial governors for the purpose of maintaining the solidarity of the Peiyang clique against the southern military leaders. Viewing such an organization as an effective means of strengthening their influence, Tuan and his supporters not only agreed to participate but also had Chang chosen to head the new association. In July, Tuan's regime also appointed Chang tu-chun [military governor] of Anhwei province. In the months that followed, as political opposition to Tuan's regime intensified, Chang was host to a number of additional conferences of the Peiyang leaders held at Hsuchow (September 1916, and January and May 1917).
Although Tuan and his associates regarded the Hsuchow conferences merely as a means of applying pressure on Li Yuan-hung and on Tuan's enemies in the National Assembly, Chang Hsün had another objective in mind. Since the establishment of the republic he had looked upon himself as the protector of the fallen dynasty and had looked forward to the day when he would be able to restore the Manchu emperor to the throne. During the ascendency of Yuan Shih-k'ai, Chang seems to have been unwilling to act against his former patron, but with Yuan's death he began to pursue a policy designed to fulfill his ambitions. Through the formation of an association of provincial governors under his leadership he hoped that he would eventually be able to secure support for his venture from his military colleagues in the Peiyang clique. He also invited to his camp at Hsuchow a number of men well-known for their monarchist inclinations, such as Yang Tu (q.v.), the former leader of the movement to make Yuan monarch, and K'ang Yu-wei (q.v.), the famous classical scholar and former leader of the reform party under the Manchus. Late in the spring of 1917 Chang Hsün believed that the situation was favorable for him to take action. By May, Tuan Ch'i-jui's political feud with Li Yuan-hung and the National Assembly had reached an impasse, and both Tuan and Li had made overtures to Chang to gain his backing. On 21 May, the day before Li dismissed Tuan as premier, Chang called a fourth conference at Hsuchow. Tuan's representative, Hsu Shu-cheng (q.v.), hoping to use Chang to get rid of Tuan's enemies in Peking, led him to believe that Tuan would not oppose the Manchu restoration if Chang succeeded in ousting Li Yuan-hung and the recalcitrant National Assembly from the capital. At the conference it was further decided that all of the provincial governors except Chang Hsün would declare their independence of the Peking government. Chang would go to Peking as a "mediator" in the dispute and then take advantage of his presence there to drive Li and the assembly from office. In accordance with this scheme, Ni Ssu-ch'ung declared his independence on 29 May 1917, and the other provincial governors, with the exception of Chang Hsün, quickly followed suit. Helpless in the face of this revolt, Li Yuan-hung unwittingly played into the hands of the militarists by sending for help to Chang, apparently the only neutral in the conflict, and inviting him to Peking to mediate between the opposing groups.
Beguiled into assuming that he would encounter no opposition to his restoration plans from Tuan Ch'i-jui and other Peiyang leaders, Chang Hsün accepted Li's invitation and left for the north with 5,000 troops, leaving the major part of his forces behind in Hsuchow. Before going to Peking, however, he went to Tientsin on 8 June 1917 for consultation with Tuan and other military chiefs. From Tientsin he dispatched an advance contingent of his troops to take control of Peking and called upon Li Yuan-hung to order the dissolution of the National Assembly as the initial condition of his "mediation." On 14 June, the day after Li had reluctantly complied with this demand, Chang entered Peking with the main body of his black-garbed troops and a number of monarchist supporters. Soon, Chang Hsün went to the imperial palace and paid his respects to the 11 -year-old Hsuan-t'ung emperor, P'u-yi (q.v.), who agreed, reportedly with some reluctance, to Chang's plans to restore him to his throne.
After several days of hasty preparation during which Chang Hsün was joined by K'ang Yu-wei and other Ch'ing loyalists, P'u-yi was installed upon the throne in the early morning hours of 1 July 1917. Later that morning Chang returned to the palace with K'ang and had the imperial seal affixed to some 19 "edicts" announcing the restoration of the Manchu dynasty and the imperial administrative system. Most of the edicts dealt with official appointments, of which the lion's share fell to Chang himself — a clear indication that personal ambition as well as loyalty to the dynasty was behind his efforts to restore the emperor. Chang had himself made Chungyung ch'in-wang [Prince Chung-yung], governor general of Chihli and high commissioner of military and foreign affairs for north China, minister of war in the new imperial cabinet, and one of the six personal counselors to the emperor in matters of government. While he intended to play the predominant role in the new government, Chang was careful to have the Peiyang military leaders confirmed in their positions in the provinces, altering only their official titles to conform to those used under the Ch'ing administration. Through that action he evidently hoped to gain their acceptance of the revived imperial order.
Almost immediately after the announcement of the restoration, however, it became apparent to Chang Hsün that he had been deceived both by the Peiyang leaders and by his own illusions regarding the extent of his power. A flood of telegrams from military and civil officials in the provinces reached Peking denouncing Chang and the coup which he had engineered. On 4 July 1917, the two most formidable leaders of the Peiyang clique, Tuan Ch'i-jui and Feng Kuo-chang, issued ajoint announcement of their intention to oppose the restoration. From his headquarters in Tientsin, Tuan assembled an army that quickly routed and dispersed Chang's outnumbered troops and laid siege to Peking. On 12 July, Tuan's forces stormed the city; Chang, deserted by his monarchist supporters, took refuge in the Dutch legation. After making himself master of Peking, Tuan Ch'i-jui announced the end of the restoration and issued orders for the arrest of Chang Hsün and other leaders of the coup.
After spending more than a year in the political asylum afforded by the Dutch legation, Chang Hsün was pardoned, along with other participants in the restoration movement, by order of Hsu Shih-ch'ang (q.v.), the president, on 23 October 1918. He went to live in seclusion at his home in Peking, moving to Tientsin in the summer of 1920. Despite attempts to bring him back into public life, such as his appointment in January 1921 by Chang Tso-lin to the post of forestation and reclamation commissioner of Jehol province, Chang continued to live in retirement for the rest of his life. He died in September 1923. He was given a magnificent funeral in Tientsin, which the boy emperor P'u-yi attended. In recognition of Chang Hsün's long service to the dynasty, P'u-yi bestowed upon him the posthumous title, Chung-wu loyal and valiant.
Chang Hsün had nine sons, six of whom survived him. His first wife, nee Ts'ao, died in 1893. After his rise to power and affluence, he took several concubines, one a well-known actress in Chinese opera. In a character sketch appearing in the August 1917 issue of the Far Eastern Review, Chang was described as being "high-shouldered, thick-necked, with a sloping forehead, bushy brows, a white skin, and a slender queue," and as being "always thoughtful and serious, stubborn and decided in his arguments, frank in his condemnations, courteously formal with his guests, but ready to smile brilliantly at every touch of humor." Chang was generous, loyal, and open. However, he was also arrogant, ferociously cruel in war, venal, and unscrupulously ambitious. Trained in the rude school of traditional Chinese military life, Chang had little comprehension of such concepts as national interest or representative government.
Although Chang had received only limited education in his youth, it was said that in his later years he became a diligent student of historical works. At the age of 68 sui he published an autobiography, probably ghost-written, entitled Sung-shou lao-jen tzu-hsu. This later was translated into English and included by Reginald F. Johnston in Twilight in the Forbidden City (1934).