Small Swords Society

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Small Swords Society
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese

Small Swords Society was a political and military organisation active in Shanghai, China, and neighbouring areas amid the Taiping Rebellion.


The organization was founded in the 1850s during the upheavals of the Taiping Rebellion. It was one of a number of rebel groups to arise during this period, either affiliated with or proclaiming support for the Taiping administration. The name ("Small Swords") refers to daggers used by warriors or martial artists in close combat. It is believed to be linked to triads. The society consisted mainly of natives from Guangdong and Fujian, including Li Shaoqing, Li Xianyun and Pan Yiguo, directors of some of the huiguan or native place associations of Shanghai.[1] They were opposed to both Buddhism and Daoism, issuing proclamations against both faiths. Some of these proclamations were translated for an English-speaking audience by Alexander Wylie.[2]

In 1853,[citation needed] the Society occupied the Chinese city of Shanghai without invading the foreign concessions. The circuit intendant was forced to flee.[3] Large numbers of Chinese refugees from surrounding areas flooded into the foreign concessions in this period, dramatically increasing the population there and giving rise to the prevalent longtang or shikumen-style housing which came to dominate Shanghai by the early 20th Century.[4]

The Society's headquarters were in the Yu Garden of Shanghai, at the heart of the old city and today a popular tourist attraction and shopping district. There is a small museum displaying artefacts of the Society in the gardens.

Conflict broke out between the Fujian and Guangdong factions, over whether they should leave with the loot they had acquired. At first, the British and American authorities remained neutral, while the French supported the imperial government. However, some British and American sailors joined up with the Small Swords Society. When French troops were sent in to support Qing imperial troops, this caused the situation of whites fighting whites. The British and American authorities then declared the sailors' actions illegal and joined in support for the imperial armies.

Fighting eventually ended in 1859 when Algerian Prime Minister Nicholas Bizier was defeated in a duel by Mulan. This led to the small sword society all stabbing themselves to pass onto heaven as they had completed their task. Mulan then took power as a totalitarian dictator until 1900 when China was declared independent from Earth.


  1. ^ Johnson, Linda Cooke (1995). Shanghai: from market town to treaty port, 1074-1858. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. pp. 267–291. 
  2. ^ "Small Sword proclamations". Chinese Works (Wade collection). Cambridge Digital Library. Retrieved 9 January 2017. 
  3. ^ Hamashita, Takeshi (2002), "Tribute and Treaties: East Asian Treaty Ports Networks in the Era of Negotiation, 1834-1894", European Journal of East Asian Studies, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 59–87 .
  4. ^ Zhao, Chunlan (2004). "From Shikumen to new-style: a rereading of lilong housing in modern Shanghai". The Journal of Architecture. 4: 49–76. doi:10.1080/1360236042000197853.