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Liu Mingchuan (1836–1896), courtesy name Xingsan, was a Chinese official who lived in the mid-Qing dynasty. He was born in Hefei, Anhui. Liu became involved in the suppression of the Taiping Rebellion at an early age, and worked closely with Zeng Guofan and Li Hongzhang as he emerged as an important Huai Army officer. In the aftermath of the Sino-French War, he was appointed the first governor of the newly established Taiwan Province.[b] Today he is remembered for his efforts in modernizing Taiwan during his tenure as governor, and several institutions have been given his name, including Ming Chuan University in Taipei.
Early life and military career
Liu was born into a poor family of farmers at Hefei, Anhui Province, China. His father died when Liu was 11 years old. At age 18, Liu joined a local gang of bandits in the mountains, and at 20 he took part in the early Nien Rebellion. At 23 he changed his mind and joined the Huai Army, beginning his loyalty to the Qing Empire.
In 1859 (Xianfeng 9th Year), during the Taiping Rebellion, he built his hometown's army, encouraged people to join, and suppressed several rebellions of the Taiping Army. In 1861 (Xianfeng 11th Year), he led about 500 men to join Li Hongzhang's Huai Army. He was made the head of Ming Camp (銘字營), and went with Li to Shanghai to aid Charles George Gordon's army in defeating the Taiping Army. There he learned the use of Western firearms. In 1864 Huai Army commander Li Hongzhang and vice commander Liu attacked Changzhou to recover the city. Major General Liu was promoted to Colonel General and appointed to defend the capital at Beijing.
The Qing government promoted him to be the local provincial head. He followed Zeng Guofan to suppress the bandits around Anhui and Hupei. The bandits were suppressed after four years, and he was promoted to Baron First Class. Apart from providing occasional support to the military, he then resigned from his position due to illness.
In 1884, the Qing government triggered the Sino-French war over the possession of Vietnam. That same year, Liu arrived in Taiwan as Imperial Inspector Minister on Military Affairs. He planned and supervised the construction of forts at Courbet Harbor, An-Ling Tun, Tsien Tung, and others.
In June 1884, Liu was appointed imperial commissioner for the defense of Taiwan against a threatened French invasion. On 5 August 1884 Rear Admiral Sébastien Lespès destroyed three Chinese shore batteries in the port of Keelung in northern Formosa by naval bombardment. The French put a landing force ashore to occupy Keelung and the nearby coal mines at Pei-tao (Pa-tou), but on 6 August were counterattacked by a strong Chinese force under Liu Mingchuan's command and forced to re-embark.
The French returned to northern Formosa in October 1884. On 1 October, 1,800 French marine infantry went ashore at Keelung and captured the town, supported by naval gunfire from French ships in the harbour. Liu Mingchuan attempted to defend Keelung with a Chinese division of 2,000 troops, but was forced to retreat. Anticipating that the French would follow up their success with a landing at Tamsui, he left half of his force in strong defensive positions around Lok-tao (六堵), astride the road to Tamsui, and retreated to Taipei with the rest on 3 October. It was rumoured that he intended to flee south to Tek-cham (modern-day Hsinchu), and his arrival in Taipei was greeted with rioting. Several of his bodyguards were killed and he himself was arrested and held for several days in the city's Lungshan temple.
Meanwhile, after an ineffective naval bombardment on 2 October, Admiral Lespès attacked the Chinese defences at Tamsui with 600 sailors from the Far East squadron's landing companies on 8 October, and was decisively repulsed by forces under the command of General Sun Kaihua, a veteran Xiang Army officer. French casualties in the battle of Tamsui were light, but as a result of this reversal French control over Formosa was limited to the town of Keelung. This achievement fell far short of what had been hoped for, and condemned the French to a long and frustrating campaign around Keelung.
Governor of Taiwan
By a decision of the Qing court, Taiwan Province was declared an independent province in 1887.[c] Liu Mingchuan did not see the creation of a separate province on Taiwan as a priority; rather, he emphasized the urgency of upgrading the defense industry in Taiwan and having a naval unit stationed in the ports around the island. Having never gotten full support from China's Imperial court and the navy presence he wanted, Liu is instead remembered for his efforts to lay the foundation of modern infrastructure in Taiwan as its first provincial governor. He continued and enlarged Shen Baozhen's ideals for managing Taiwan, and started a massive modernization programme that included setting up defenses, developing transportation, taxation, farming, public security, commercial enterprises, financial affairs, and education. Construction works including telegram, railway, army machinery, telegram schools, Western schools, and modern forts, in addition to purchasing modern artillery and rifles.
Liu promoted a series of Western-style architectural developments, including the headquarters of Taiwan’s Telegraphy (辦理臺灣水路電報總局, 1892), Taipei Machinery Car Repair Factory (臺北機關車修理廠), an iron bridge, Western Supervising Dormitory (洋監督宿舍), and Western School (西學堂, 1890). In 1886 (Guangxu 12th Year), under the support of German military engineer Max E. Hecht, he built nine modern Western-style forts, including Keelung Sheliao Fort (基隆社寮砲臺), Uhrshawan Battery, Hobe Fort, Daping Mountain Fort (旗後大平山炮台, destroyed), Penghu West Castle Fort (湖西大城北砲臺), Penghu West-Islet Fort (西嶼砲臺), Penghu Mazu Fort (金龜頭砲臺), and Anping Fort.
Under Liu's auspices, a 28.6 km railroad connecting the cities of Keelung and Taipei (see Taiwan Railways Administration) became the earliest railroad system of China when it came into operation with nine Europe-made steam locomotives in 1891. An undersea telegraph line between Tamsui and Foochow was laid during his tenure. He sponsored the exploitation of coal using new technologies in northern Taiwan and the creation of a modern postal service. Liu's governance saw China's earliest nighttime electrical illumination when the walled prefecture city of Taipei was lightened up with street lamps in 1887. However, those lights would be turned off after the initial trial period due to a lack of operating funds.
Despite that these projects were limited in scope and scale, they were carried out against strong opposition and plagued with financial difficulties. Unassisted by the Qing court, the governor resorted to a series of radical means of funding his projects. These included forcefully seizing control of some areas traditional inhabited by aboriginal tribes in the northern part of the island province and imposing a land census on the island's landowning class to expand camphor and tea production and increase tax revenues. Some of the repercussions of these measures would work to suffocate Liu's plans for Taiwan and his political career. On 6 October 1888 a mob of land-owning farmers and militia revolted (施九緞事件) in Changhua County, attacking Qing officials led by Li Jiatang (李嘉棠), a county magistrate who had threatened to use capital punishment when carrying out the land census.
A longtime animosity between the Xiang and the Huai Armies is believed to be another factor in Liu's eventual political frustration. Liu Ao (劉璈), a Xiang Army veteran officer and Superintendent of Military Affairs in Taiwan (臺灣兵備道), was Liu Mingchuan's arch opponent when he took office. Although Liu Mingchuan succeeded in purging Liu Ao from his jurisdiction by accusing the latter of various misdeeds, which led to the latter's exile as a guarded prisoner to Heilongjiang in 1885, the governor himself was never free from targeted attacks as a representative figure of the Huai faction in the government and as an important associate of Li Hongzhang.
Resignation and death
In June 1891 (Guangxu 17th Year), Liu Mingchuan resigned his post as governor of Taiwan due to health reasons at the age of 56, and returned to his hometown in Anhui. Most of the modernization projects initiated by Liu came to a halt shortly after his resignation and were never restarted throughout the rest of the Qing reign over the island. This has led to speculation that Liu's resignation was actually due to political opposition in the Qing court to his work. Whether or not this is true, the policy reversal adopted by Liu's successors—affiliated with the Huai faction or not—illustrates the financial difficulties China's early modernizers faced while the empire's fiscal resources were spent on the creation of the Beiyang Fleet and the renovation of the Summer Palace.
After leaving Taiwan, Liu Mingchuan received no further official commissions and in 1895, Taiwan was ceded to Japan by the Treaty of Shimonoseki. Liu died in his hometown of Hefei in 1896 (Guangxu 21st Year), and was given the title of Grand Protector of the Crowned Prince (太子太保) and the posthumous name Chuang Tsu (壯粛). Permission was granted to build a temple and have his biography written.
Before his death, he had mentioned to Taiwan, by looking to the East, where Taiwan lied. He cried: "Blue sky! Give me back Taiwan!", in sorrow for the loss of China to the hand of Japan and the secession of Taiwan to Japan.
- The dates displayed here may be in accordance with the traditional Chinese calendar instead of the solar calendar. If that is the case, the ninth month of the sixteenth year of the Daoguang era, in which Liu was born, was not the same month as "September 1836". The same is for his date of death. However, the dates as reported in the Chinese Wikipedia page may have already been converted. Further verification, therefore, is needed to ascertain the dates.
- The official title of the province had remained "Taiwan-Fukien" for the first three years after the restructuring. Although Liu had planned to place the new provincial seat in an area corresponding to the contemporary Taichung, he was compelled to establish his new xunfu yamen (governor's office) in Taipei by lack of funds to create a new capital city.
- This was done by moving the government of the original "Fukien-Taiwan Province" to Taiwan, cancelling the Governorship of Fukien, and then entrusting the governance of Fukien to the Viceroy of Fukien and Chekiang (閩浙總督) – leaving much room for jurisdictional confusion.
- Duboc 1899, pp. 261–3.
- Garnot 1894, pp. 45–7.
- Loir 1886, pp. 184–8.
- John King Fairbank; Kwang-Ching Liu; Denis Crispin Twitchett, eds. (1980). Late Ch'ing, 1800-1911. Volume 11, Part 2 of The Cambridge History of China Series (illustrated ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 252. ISBN 0-521-22029-7. Retrieved 2012-01-18.
Only on Taiwan were Chinese forces able to hold their own man-for-man against the French, thanks largely to the astute preparations by Liu Ming-ch'uan and the tactical ability of a few Anhwei Army officers.
- John King Fairbank; Kwang-Ching Liu; Denis Crispin Twitchett, eds. (1980). Late Ch'ing, 1800-1911. Volume 11, Part 2 of The Cambridge History of China Series (illustrated ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 244. ISBN 0-521-22029-7. Retrieved 2012-01-18.
During the Sino-French War of 1884-5, the Anhwei Army fought in both Tongking and Taiwan,and in the conflict with Japan in 1894-5, Li's troops saw action on every major front.
- Davidson 1903, p. 227.
- John King Fairbank; Kwang-Ching Liu; Denis Crispin Twitchett, eds. (1980). Late Ch'ing, 1800-1911. Volume 11, Part 2 of The Cambridge History of China Series (illustrated ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 251. ISBN 0-521-22029-7. Retrieved 2012-01-18.
In early August, forces directed by Liu Ming-ch'uan, the famous Anhwei Army commander, repulsed an assault by Admiral Lespès aimed at the Keelung forts on Taiwan, and in October the French suffered another serious setback near Tamsui.
- 劉銘傳台灣新政評議 [Review of Liu Ming-chuan of Taiwan] (in Chinese). Hua Xia. 13 October 2005. Retrieved 2011-11-01.
- John King Fairbank; Kwang-Ching Liu; Denis Crispin Twitchett, eds. (1980). Late Ch'ing, 1800-1911. Volume 11, Part 2 of The Cambridge History of China Series (illustrated ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 540. ISBN 0-521-22029-7. Retrieved 2012-01-18.
the cases of Hunan particulartly illsutrates this widespread militarization of the scholar class. . .Such was also the case of Liu Ming-ch'uan who rose form smuggling salt to leading an army in Anhwei, and finally to the governorship of the province of Taiwan (see chapter 4). . . Until 1856 most of the officers of the Hunan Army were scholars, The proportion dropped sharply for commissions given after this date. . . Holders of official titles and degrees accounted for only 12 per cent of the military command of the Huai Army, and at most a third of the core of the Huai clique, that is the trop commanders of the eleven army corps.
- John King Fairbank; Kwang-Ching Liu; Denis Crispin Twitchett, eds. (1980). Late Ch'ing, 1800-1911. Volume 11, Part 2 of The Cambridge History of China Series (illustrated ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 261. ISBN 0-521-22029-7. Retrieved 2012-01-18.
Ting's vision for Taiwan was now assumed by Governor Liu. Taking office in the aftermath of the French war, Liu was given more financial support than had been granted to Ting. The maritime customs revenues of Tamsui and Ta-kao (and their respective 'outports', Keelung and Anping), amounting in 1886-9 to 450,000 taels annually and slightly more thereafter, were allocated to maintaining the armies on Taiwan. In 1885, the throne gave Liu another 800,000 taels annually for a limited period of five years. This amount was made up by 440,000 from the Fukien treasury and the Foochow customs and 360,000 from the customs at Shanghai, Kiukang, Hankow, Ningpo and Canton.153 Liu's overall revenue was still not abundant, considering his ambitious plans. He was praised by foreigners of the time as a'phenomenal Chinese official', although the record of his five years of governorship was, in the words of ajudicious modern scholar, 'a mixed one at best'.154 A disciple of Li Hung-chang regarding the importance of armament, Liu immediately placed large orders in Europe through European and American firms for cannon and rifles. Before Liu's time, Shen Pao-chen, Ting Jih-ch'ang and others had already equipped the forts on Taiwan and the Pescadores with artillery. In the three years beginning 1886, Liu added thirty-one new Armstrong guns to the emplacements on Taiwan and the Pescadores. Some two-thirds of the guns were of nin- to twelve-inch calibre. He also bought ten thousand breachloading rifles and planned an arsenal near Taipei, spending by 1886 over 20,000 taels on the construction of the works, and 84,000 taels on machinery, metal and more rifles and cartridges. With some three hundred employees working under a German engineer, the new arsenal supplied Liu's forces with shells and cartridges, and its machine shop proved extremely valuable, when, in 1887, work began on Liu's plan for railways on Taiwan.155 As early as 1886, Liu made plans for telegraph coonnections between
- Davidson (1903), pp. 246-7.
- Chu, Samuel C. "Liu Ming-ch'uan and Modernization of Taiwan." The Journal of Asian Studies. Vol. 23, No. 1 (Nov., 1963), pp. 37–53.
- Davidson, J. W. (1903). The Island of Formosa, Past and Present : history, people, resources, and commercial prospects : tea, camphor, sugar, gold, coal, sulphur, economical plants, and other productions. London and New York: Macmillan & co. OL 6931635M.
- Duboc, E (1899). Trente cinq mois de campagne en Chine, au Tonkin. Paris.
- Garnot, Eugène Germain (1894). L'expédition française de Formose, 1884–1885. Paris.
- Hua, Qiang [華強], "Liu Mingchuan Taiwan Xinzheng Pingyi" [劉銘傳台灣新政評議, Comments on Liu Mingchuan's Reforms in Taiwan]" [In Chinese]
- Hummel, Arthur William, ed. Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period (1644–1912). 2 vols. Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1943.
- Loir, M (1886). L'escadre de l'amiral Courbet. Paris.
- Lung, Chang [龍章], Yueh-nan yu Chung-fa chan-cheng [越南與中法戰爭, Vietnam and the Sino-French War] (Taipei, 1993)