Zhao Erfeng

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Zhao Erfeng
P.16c Chao Erh-feng.jpg
Zhao Erfeng
In office
Personal details
Born 1845
Died 1911
Nationality Han chinese Bannerman
Military service
Allegiance Flag of the Qing dynasty Qing dynasty
Unit Eight Banners
Battles/wars 1905 Tibetan Rebellion, 1911 Tibetan Rebellion, Xinhai Revolution
Zhao Erfeng
Traditional Chinese 趙爾豊
Simplified Chinese 赵尔豊
(courtesy name)
Chinese 季和
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Zhao.

Zhao Erfeng (1845–1911), courtesy name Jihe, was a Qing Dynasty official and Chinese bannerman, who belonged to the Plain Blue Banner. He is known for being the last amban in Tibet, appointed in March, 1908. Lien Yu, a Manchu, was appointed as the other amban. Formerly Director-General of the Sichuan - Hubei Railway and acting viceroy of Sichuan province, he was the much-maligned Chinese general of the late imperial era who led military campaigns throughout Kham (eastern Tibet) and eventually reaching Lhasa in 1910, thus earning himself the nickname "Zhao the Butcher".[1]

Zhao Erfeng crushed the Tibetan Lamas and their monasteries in the 1905 Tibetan Rebellion in Yunnan and Sichuan, crushing the rebels at the siege of Chantreng which lasted from 1905 to 1906. The Tibetan Lamas had revolted against Qing rule, killing Chinese officials, western Catholic Christian missionaries and native Christian converts, since the Tibetan Buddhist Gelug Yellow Hat sect was suspicious of the Christian missionary success.

Zhao Erfeng extended Chinese rule into Eastern Tibet (Kham), and was appointed Amban in 1908 - the last man to hold that position. Initially he worked with the Dalai Lama, who had returned after fleeing from the British invasion of 1903-1904.[2] But in 1909, they disagreed strongly and Zhao Erfeng drove the Dalai Lama into exile. A former Tibetan Khampa soldier named Aten recounted Tibetan memories of Zhao, calling him "Butcher Feng", claiming that he: razed Batang monastery, ordered holy texts to be used by troops as shoeliners, and mass murdered Tibetans.[3]

The Dalai Lama was installed at the palace and monastery of Potala amid popular demonstrations. The ruler, who was again given civil power at the head of their hierarchy, pardoned all the Tibetans who had given the oath to Colonel Younghusband. Things went well for a month until the lama protested to the Chinese in charge of military affairs because of the excesses of the Chinese troops on the Sichuan frontier, where they were sacking the monasteries and killing the monks. This protest served to stir up the whole question of the status of Tibet. The Amban declared that it was a Chinese province, and said he would deal with the rebels as it pleased him to do. Other questions of authority arose, and finally the Amban sent orders to 500 Chinese troops who were encamped on the outskirts of the capital, Lhasa. A few companies composed of the Dalai Lama's followers were hastily enrolled under the name of 'golden soldiers'. They tried to resist the Chinese soldiers, but, being poorly armed, were quickly overwhelmed. Meanwhile the Dalai Lama, with three of his ministers and sixty retainers, fled through a gate at the rear of the palace enclosure, and were fired upon as they escaped through the city.[4]

In January 1908 the final instalment of the Tibetan indemnity was paid to Great Britain, and the Chumbi valley was evacuated. The Dalai Lama was now summoned to Peking, where he obtained the imperial authority to resume his administration in place of the provisional governors appointed as a result of the British mission. He retained in office the high officials then appointed, and pardoned all Tibetans who had assisted the mission. But in 1909 Chinese troops were sent to operate on the Sichuan frontier against certain insurgent lamas, whom they handled severely. When the Dalai Lama attempted to give orders that they should cease, the Chinese amban in Lhasa disputed his authority, and summoned the Chinese troops to enter the city. They did so, and the Dalai Lama fled to India in February 1910, staying at Darjeeling. Chinese troops followed him to the frontier, and he was deposed by imperial decree.[5]

In 1911, Zhao Erfeng faced rebellion in Sichuan. According to Han Suyin, the main issue was control of a planned railway that would have linked Sichuan to the rest of China.[6] He summoned troops from Wuchang, leading rebels there to see it as an opportunity to rebel.[7] This was the background to the Wuchang Uprising, the official start of the Chinese Revolution of 1911. After battling the rebels on 22 December 1911 he was captured and beheaded by Chinese Republican Revolutionary forces who were intent on overthrowing the Qing dynasty.[8][9]

Zhao Erfeng was the younger brother of Zhao Erxun, who was also an important figure in the final years of the Qing Empire.


  •  This article incorporates text from China revolutionized, by John Stuart Thomson, a publication from 1913 now in the public domain in the United States.
  1. ^ Arpi, Claude. The Fate of Tibet. Har-Anand Publications. 
  2. ^ Thomson, John Stuart (1913). China revolutionized. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill. p. 70. OCLC 411755. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  3. ^ Jamyang Norbu (1986). Warriors of Tibet: the story of Aten, and the Khampas' fight for the freedom of their country. Wisdom Publications. p. 28. ISBN 0-86171-050-9. Retrieved 2011-06-01. 
  4. ^ From The Galveston Daily News, February 7th 1910, part of a newspaper archive.
  5. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica (1911 edition)
  6. ^ Thomson, John Stuart (1913). China Revolutionized. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill. p. 436. OCLC 411755. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  7. ^ Thomson, John Stuart (1913). China revolutionized. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill. p. 317. OCLC 411755. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  8. ^ In The Crippled Tree by Han Suyin, the Wade-Giles spelling of his name, Chao Erfeng, was used.
  9. ^ Thomson, John Stuart (1913). China Revolutionized. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill. p. 35. OCLC 411755. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  • Adshead, Samuel Adrian M. Province and politics in late imperial China : viceregal government in Szechwan, 1898-1911. Scandinavian Institute of Asian Studies monograph series. no. 50. London: Curzon Press, 1984.
  • Ho, Dahpon David. "The Men Who Would Not Be Amban and the One Who Would: Four Frontline Officials and Qing Tibet Policy, 1905-1911." Modern China 34, no. 2 (2008): 210-46.