Miao Rebellion (1795–1806)
|Miao Rebellion 1795–1806|
|Commanders and leaders|
|at least 20 000 soldiers|
The Miao Rebellion of 1795–1806 was an anti-Qing uprising in Hunan and Guizhou provinces, during the reign of emperor Jiaqing. It was catalyzed by tensions between local populations and Han Chinese immigrants. Bloodily suppressed, it served as the antecedent to the much larger uprising of Miao Rebellion (1854–73).
The term "Miao" does not mean only the antecedents of today's Miao national minority; it is much more general term, which had been used by the Chinese to describe various aboriginal, mountain tribes of Guizhou and other south-western provinces of China, which shared some cultural traits. They consisted of 40–60% population of the province.
Background and causes
The Chinese Empire used control rather than forced assimilation towards their non-Chinese inhabitants. In the south-west, since 15th century, in provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi and Sichuan, the most common way of rule was through semi-independent local chieftains, called tusi, on whom the emperor bestowed titles, demanding only taxes and peace in their territories.
However, Chinese immigration was forcing the original inhabitants out of the best lands; Guizhou's territory, although sparsely populated, consists mainly of high mountains, which offer little arable land. The Chinese state "followed" the immigrants, establishing its structures, first military, then civil, and displacing semi-independent tusi with regular administration over time. This practice, called gaitu guilu, led to conflicts.
The uprising was one of the long series dating back to Ming dynasty's conquest of the area. Whenever tensions reached a critical point, the people rose in revolt. Each rebellion, bloodily put down, left simmering hatred, and problems which were rather suppressed than solved. Basic questions of misrule, official abuse, extortion, over-taxation and land-grab remained. Mass Chinese immigration put a strain on scarce resources, but officials preyed on rather than administer the population. The quality of the officialdom in Guizhou and neighbouring areas remained very low. Great uprisings took place in Ming times, and during Qing dynasty in 1735–36, 1796–1806, and last and the largest in 1854-1873.
The uprising and its aftermath
Previous rebellion of 1736 had been met with harsh measures, in the effect the second half of 18th century was relatively calm, i.e. the numerous local incidents were not strong enough to challenge governmental authority. However, the officials were unnerved by heterodox sects spreading their teachings among both Han and Miao. In 1795 the tensions reached the point of explosion and the Miaos, led by Shi Liudeng and Shi Sanbao, rose again.
Hunan was the main area of fighting, with some taking place in Guizhou. The Qing dynasty sent banner troops, Green Standard battalions and mobilized local militias and self-defence units. The lands of rebellious Miao were confiscated, to punish them and to increase the power of state; this action, however, provoked further conflicts, because new Chinese landowners ruthlessly exploited their Miao tenants. On the pacified territories forts and military colonies were set up, and Miao and Chinese territories were separated by the wall with watchtowers. Still, it took eleven years to finally quell the rebellion. Relocating Green Standard troops from Hubei to Hunan in 1795, to deal with the Miao, facilitated the White Lotus Rebellion, because of the diminished control in the northern province.
Military action was followed by the policy of forced assimilation: traditional dress and religious rites were forbidden and ethnic segregation policy enforced. There were also attempts at introducing Confucian education. Nevertheless, the deep causes of unrest remained unchanged and the tensions grew again, until they exploded in the largest of Miao uprisings of 1854. However, it should be noted that relatively few of Hunan Miao, "pacified" in 1795-1806, participated in the rebellions of the 1850s.
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