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The War in the East

Japan, China, and Corea

A complete history of the War: Its causes and results; its campaigns on sea and land; its terrific fights, grand victories and overwhelming defeats.

With a preliminary account of the customs, habits and history of the three peoples involved. Their cities, arts, sciences, amusements and literature.


Trumbull White

Table of Contents
































Some striking act in a man’s career is necessary to attract general attention to him. The one who moves along through his path in life doing nothing out of the ordinary, will win few glances from the public, and little will the world notice his existence. Worthy of the worthiest he may be, but if he does nothing to demonstrate it, how shall the world know his merit or his strength? But with all this true, it does not follow that it is man’s duty to seek an occasion to advertise these qualities. Only when the necessity for action arises, then should he act, and then will the world know what his ability and character are.

The same is true as to the nations of the earth. Those years during which they move onward in their national life and history in peace and quietness, however full of latent strength they may be, are not the ones which command the attention of the eyes of the world. It is the year of supreme test, of struggle, moral or physical, that furnishes crucial testimony what the nation really is. War is always a curse unless it be waged to advance justice and assure more worthy peace. But if such a war be necessary, the progress of it, the results, and the lessons they teach are essential to the student of humanity, in whatever quarter of the globe the battles are.

China, Japan and Corea are a strange trinity to most of us in the western world. Separated from us by long distances and by immense differences in race, in language, in religion, and in customs, they have been known here only through the writings of the comparatively few travelers who exchange visits. Of late years, it is true, the hermitages of the Orient have been opening to freer intercourse, trade and treaties have multiplied, and students have come to us for the knowledge we could give them. But there was needed a great movement of some sort to awaken the Orient from its centuries of slumber, and to make known to us the truth of eastern affairs. Nothing could do this as the War in the East has done. We can study its conduct and its results if we will, in a way to teach us more of the characteristics of the three nations than we could learn in any other way.

It has been the object of the author in the present volume, to record the facts of the war and its preliminaries so clearly that every seeker for knowledge might trace the lessons for himself. To justify this effort, it is necessary to say no more than that the conflict involves directly nations whose total population includes more than one-fourth of the human race. And the results will affect the progress of civilization in those countries, as well as the commercial and other interests of all the European and American nations.

Invertebrate China, with scorn of western methods, and complacent rest in the belief that all but her own people are barbarians, had to face an inevitable war with Japan, the sprightly, absorbent, adaptive, western-spirited, whose career in the two score years since her doors were opened to the call of the American Perry has been the marvel of those who knew it. And the conflict was to be on the soil of the Hermit Nation, Corea, “the Land of Morning Calm,” for centuries the land of contention between “the Day’s Beginning” and “the Middle Kingdom.”

It is to record the history and description of these realms and peoples in sufficient detail to make plainer the facts of the war that the preliminary chapters are written. The work must speak for itself. The importance of the subjects included in the volume must be the explanation of any inadequacy of treatment.

Trumbull White.


The unexpected news of war between the Mikado’s Empire and the Celestial Kingdom has startled the whole world. Thereby considerable light was thrown upon the Oriental world.

Japan, up to a very short time ago, through the pen and tongue of poets and artists, who have visited this land, has been thought to be merely a country of beautiful flowers, charming mademoiselles, fantastic parasols, fans and screens. Such misrepresentation has long impressed the western mind, and the people hardly imagined Japan as a political power, enlightened by a perfect educational system and developed to a high pitch of excellence in naval and military arts.

The war in the East is certainly interesting from more than one point of view. Viewing it from the humane standpoint, Japan is, indeed, the true standard-bearer of civilization and progress in the Far East. Her mission is to enlighten the millions of slumbering souls in the Celestial Kingdom, darkened for generations. Politically, she, with her enterprising genius, youthful courage and alert brain, as well as the art and science of civilization, has lifted herself into the ranks of the most powerful nations of the earth, and compelled the whole of the western powers to reckon her as a “living force,” as she has proved her right to a proud place among the chief powers of the world. Commercially, she has demonstrated herself the mistress of the Pacific and Asiatic Seas.

From the outbreak of the war all the civilized nations, except England, have sympathized with Japan, especially the people of America have given a strong moral support to Japan, not because this country is the warmest friend of Japan, but because Japan is, to-day, the propagandist of civilization and humanity in the far east.

At the beginning of the hostilities a majority of the people had an erroneous idea that the overwhelming population and resources of China would soon be able to crush the Island Empire of Japan; but they overlooked the fact that in our day it is science, brains and courage, together with the perfected organization of warfare that grasp the palm of victory. Thousands of sheep could do nothing against a ferocious wolf. So the numerical comparison has but little weight.

Some sagacious writer compared Japan to a lively swordfish and China to a jellyfish, being punctured at every point. Truly Japan has proved it so.

From the sinking of the Kow-shing transport, up to the present time, Japan has an unbroken series of victories over China. At the battle of Asan she gained the first brilliant victories and swept all the Chinese put of Corea, and at Ping-Yang, by both tactics and superb strategy, crushed the best army of China, which Li Hung Chang brought up to the greatest efficiency, by the aid of many European officers, as if it had been an egg shell. Again, at the mouth of the Yalu River, she gained a brilliant naval victory over China, by completely destroying the Ping-Yang squadron. Once more on the land the Japanese army stormed Port Arthur, the strongest naval fort, known as the Gibraltar of China.

All these facts are viewed with amazement by the eyes of the world. For all that the people know about Japan and the Japanese is that the people of Japan are very artistic, as the producers of beautiful porcelain, embroidery, lacquer work and all sorts of artistic fancy goods, and they wonder how it is possible that such an artistic people as the Japanese could fight against sober, calm Chinamen. But such an erroneous notion would soon vanish if they came to learn the true nature and character of the Japanese.

More than once the world has seen that an artistic nation could fight. The Greeks demonstrated this long ago, and the French in the latter times have shown a shining example. Japan is reckoned as one of the most artistic people in the world, as the producer of beautiful things, as the lover of fine arts and natural beauties. The Japanese have proved the same as what the ancient Greeks and modern French have shown. The history of Japan reveals the true color of the Japanese as brilliant fighters and a warlike nation. “In no country,” says Mr. Rogers, “has military instinct been more pronounced in the best blood of the people. Far back in the past, beyond that shadowy line where legend and history blend, their story has been one of almost continual war, and the straightest path to distinction and honor has, from the earliest times, led across the battle field. The statesmen of Japan saw, as did Cavour, that the surest way to win the respect of nations was by success in war.”

The ancestor of the Japanese people, who claim to have descended from high heaven, seems to have been the descendant of the ancient Hittites, the warlike and conquering tribe once settled in the plain of Mesopotamia. The Hittites, so far as our investigation is concerned, extending their sway of conquest towards the north-eastern portion of Asia, must have, at last, brought the Japanese family to the island of Japan. As they settled on the island, they found it inhabited by many different tribes; but they soon vanquished them and established the everlasting foundation of the Mikado’s Empire, which they called the “Glorious Kingdom of Military Valour.” The first Mikado was Jimmu, whose coronation took place two thousand five hundred and fifty-four years ago, long before Alexander the Great thought he had conquered the world and Julius Cæsar entered Gaul. The present Mikado is the one hundred and twenty-second lineal descendant of the first Mikado Jimmu. The unbroken dynasty of the Mikado has continued for twenty-five centuries. The people are brave, adventurous and courageous. Fanatical patriotism for country and strong loyalty towards the Mikado are essential characteristics of the Japanese people. And all these tend to form the peculiar nationality of Japan. Since the establishment of the Mikado’s Empire their land has never been defiled by invaders and they have never known how to be subject to a foreign yoke. The history of Japan is the pride of the Japanese people.

The Japanese, in an early time, have displayed their superior courage and distinguished themselves from the rest of the Asiatic nations in the point of military affairs.

In the year A.D. 201 the Empress Jingo, the greatest female character in the Japanese history, undertook a gigantic expedition to the Asiatic continent. She assembled an immense army and built a great navy. Placing herself as the commander-in-chief of the invading army, she sailed for the continent. Her victory was brilliant. Corea was at once subjected without any bloodshed. Long since the Japanese power was established on the Asiatic continent.

Again in the sixteenth century, ambitious Taiko, who is known as the Napoleon of Japan, undertook a great continental expedition, to show the military glory of Japan before the world. He found Japan too small to satisfy his immoderate ambition, and sent word to the emperor of China and the king of Corea that if they would not hear him, he would invade their territory with his invincible army. It was his plan to divide the four hundred provinces of China and eight provinces of Corea among his generals in fiefs, after conquering them. So he assembled his generals and fired their enthusiasm, recounting their exploits mutually achieved. All the generals and soldiers were delighted with the expedition. Fifty thousand samurai were embarked for the continent and sixty thousand reserve was kept ready in Japan as re-enforcement.

The Japanese army was everywhere victorious. After many battles fought and fortresses stormed, the entire kingdom of Corea was subdued. The capitol was taken, the king fled. The emperor of China sent an army forward against the Japanese and a severe battle was fought. The victorious Japanese were on the point of invading China, when in 1598, the death of Taiko was announced and the Japanese government ordered the invading army to return home. Peace was concluded. Thus the conquest of China was frustrated.

The invasion of the Mongolian-Tartars is the most memorable event in Japanese history, which excited the utmost patriotism and valour of the nation. The dangers and glories at this time will never be forgotten by the Japanese.

In the thirteenth century, Genghis Khan, who is now identified as Minamoto Yoshitsune or Gen Gi Kei in Japanese history, who left Japan for Manchilia, began his sway of conquest in Mongolia. The conquest of the whole earth was promised him. He vanquished China, Corea and the whole of Central and Northern Asia, subjected India and overthrew the Caliphate of Bagdad. In Europe, he made subject the entire dominion of Russia and extended the Mongolian Empire as far as the Oder and the Danube. After his death the Empire was divided among his three sons. Kublai Khan received as his share North-eastern Asia. He had completely overthrown the Sung dynasty of China and founded the Mongolian dynasty. He placed the whole of Eastern Asia under his yoke, and then sent envoys to Japan, demanding tributes and homage. The nation of Japan was indignant at the insolent demand, for they were never accustomed to such treatment, and dismissed them in disgrace. Six embassies were sent and six times rejected. Again, the haughty Mongolian prince sent nine envoys, who demanded a definite answer from the Japanese sovereign. The Japanese reply was given by cutting off their heads.

At the sight of imminent foreign invasion, the Japanese were in a great hurry to prepare for war. Once more, and for the last time, Chinese envoys came to demand tribute; again the sword gave the answer. Enraged, the great Mongolian prince prepared a gigantic armada to crush the island of Japan, which had refused homage and tribute to the invincible conqueror. The army, consisting of one hundred thousand Chinese and Tartars and seven thousand Coreans, aided by thirty-five hundred of armed navy, that seemed to cover the entire seas, sailed for the invasion in August of 1281. The whole nation of Japan now roused with sword in hand and marched against its formidable foe. Re-enforcements poured in from all quarters to swell the host of defenders. The fierce Mongolian force could not effect their landing, but were driven into the sea as soon as they reached the shore. Aided by a mighty typhoon, before which the Chinese armada was utterly helpless, the Japanese fiercely attacked the invaders and after a bloody struggle, they succeeded in destroying the enemy’s war ships, and killing all or driving them into the sea to be drowned. The corpses were piled on the shore or floating on the water so thickly that it seemed almost possible to walk thereon. Only three out of hundreds of thousands of invaders, were sent back to tell their emperor how the brave men of Japan had destroyed their armada.

The courage of the Japanese is fully manifested in these great events. Many ambitious men, seeking for military glory, have expatriated themselves from their own native lands, and gone off to the less warlike countries of Asia, where they found themselves by their distinguished courage and military genius, kings, ministers and generals.

The Japanese seamen have long been renowned for their adventurous spirit and audacity. Trading ships of Japan, in the remotest ancient age, are said to have sailed around the Persian Gulf, beyond the Indian seas. It is said that at the beginning of the fourteenth century a Japanese junk had discovered the American Pacific sea-coast, now known as the regions of Oregon and California. For a long time the Japanese pirates were the mistress of all the eastern seas. China, Siam, Birmah and the southern islands had paid tribute to them. The name of the Japanese was, indeed, the terror of the Oriental world, just as the northmen had been the object of dread to the southern Europeans.

A policy, that was adopted by the Japanese people in the seventeenth century, was an injurious one for its national development. Up to this time, foreign intercourse was free and commerce flourished. Nagasaki, Hirado, Satsuma, and all western seaports were the cosmopolitan cities, where all European and Asiatic tradesmen were found crowded. Unfortunately these foreigners were sources of vice. The avarice and extortion of the foreign traders; bitter sectarian strife between Dominicans, Franciscans and the Jesuits; and the most cruel intolerance and persecution by the Catholic people, which were vices unknown to the Japanese mind; political-religious plots of the Christians against the Japanese government; the slave trade carried on by the foreign merchants, and the like events, disgusted the Japanese authority, and forced them to believe the exclusion of the vicious foreigners was absolutely necessary to the welfare of Japan. Thus the Japanese resolved to expel all foreigners out of the islands. Tokugawa, the founder of Tai Kun shogunate, vigorously enforced this principle and carried it so far that all the Roman Catholics both native and foreign were extinguished and all foreign merchants except a few Dutch, were expelled out of the country. The policy of the Tokugawa Government not only excluded the foreigners but also kept the natives at home. No foreigners (except the Dutch) were allowed to peep in this forbidden land and no native was permitted to leave his own country. Thus it was cut off from all the rest of the world. Japan furnishes different varieties of productions, which can amply supply all the needs of the nation without any inconvenience; hence commercial intercourse with foreign lands, was not absolutely necessary. In the course of time she had forgotten all about the outside world and so the world neglected her.

The people, however, enjoyed a profound peace by this policy. Ignoring the rise and fall of other nations, the people in this ocean guarded paradise, cultivated arts and learning and developed their own civilization, which is quite different from what we call now the civilization of the nineteenth century. While thus she was enjoying tranquility and cultivating the arts and learning in a secluded corner of the earth, in the western nations, endless struggles and everlasting contests completely revolutionized the old phases of the earth. The peace and culture of two centuries and a half, which Japan has enjoyed, exalted her to the certain state of civilization. But her isolated condition and tranquility lacked the systematic development of army and navy and the arts of international negotiation, which are the weapons vitally important in order to stand on the field of struggle for existence.

Suddenly this tranquility that has continued for two hundred and fifty years, was broken, when in 1853, the war ships of Commodore Perry appeared in the Bay of Yeddo. This event threw into great confusion and panic the whole nation. Japan had no navy and no army to fight with the foreign intruders, nor had she the art of diplomacy, with which to consult in regard to the protection of Japan’s interest. Japan stood then with her naked civilization against the armed civilization of Europe. She was forced to make a disadvantageous treaty with the European and American states at the cannon’s mouth. In this treaty she conceded her sovereign right to the western people who live in the realm.

Thus Japan entered, infamously, the group of the civilized world. She saw at once that the western nations were far in advance of her in the art of war and diplomacy, that they have learned from the constant struggle of the past three centuries, while she was devoted to arts and learning. She perceived that the so-called civilization of the 19th century is but a disguised form of barbarism of iron and fire, covered with comity and humanity, and that to exist in the field of struggle for existence she must adopt the same means by which the European nations stand. Hence the whole nation of Japan, since the intercourse with the western people, has struggled, with the utmost energy, to adopt what is called the 19th century civilization.

In 1868 a revolution took place, from which the New Japan suddenly emanated. The French Revolution did not cause greater changes in France than the Revolution of 1868 in Japan. The old feudal regime, in full force, was cast away. The social system was completely reorganized. New and enlightened criminal and civil codes were enacted; the modes of judicial procedure were utterly revolutionized; the jail system radically improved; the most effective organization of police, of posts, of railways, of telegraphs, telephones and all means of communication were adopted; enlightened methods of national education were employed; and the Christian religion was welcomed for the sake of social innovation. The most complete national system of navy and army, after the modern European model, was achieved. The sound order of the imperial government, financially and politically, were firmly established; the most improved and extended scheme of local government was put into operation, and the central government was organized according to the pattern of the most advanced scale. The imperial constitution was promulgated, and the Imperial Diet, consisting of two houses—the House of Lords and House of Commons—elected by popular votes, was founded. Freedom of thought, speech and faith was established; the system of an influential press and party rapidly grew up. Now the monarchial absolutism of the Mikado’s Empire is replaced by a government by parliament and constitution.

BATTLE OF THE YALU.—Japanese Drawing.

Such is the progress which Japan has achieved in the past twenty-five years. This progress must not, by any means, be taken as strange. The Revolution of 1868 also, must not be imagined as the birthday of the Empire of the Rising Sun. Those who do not know the true condition of the Japanese before the Revolution, and who observe superficially the phases of modern Japan, have often said that the Japanese are merely imitating western civilization without any idea of understanding it. This a gross mistake. The Revolution of 1868 is merely a moment of transition when Japan adopted the western system. The Japanese mind was fully developed and enlightened, at the time when they came in contact with foreigners, to fully grasp western civilization. Mentally, the Japanese people were so enlightened as to be able to digest European science and art at one glance. As a clever writer has said: “It must be clearly understood that like a skillful gardener, who grafts a new rose or an apple upon a healthy and well-established stock, so did Japan adopt the scientific and civil achievement of the west to an eastern root, full of vigorous life and latent force.” For these causes we have no reason to wonder at the rapid progress which the Japanese have made in the past twenty-five years. And by all these facts, we have no reason to wonder how the colossal Celestial Empire, that was thought by the Europeans invincible, came to ask the mercy of Japan.

The collision between Japan and China, though it was thought strange to those who are not familiar to eastern affairs, is not a surprising matter to the person well acquainted with Asiatic politics. Japan had predicted, long ago, that the inevitable conflict of the two powers in the Orient must come sooner or later, and the nation has been long prepared for to-day. She has perceived the weakness and corruption of the Celestial Empire, while the European diplomats were dazzled, in the court of Peking, by an outward appearance of unity, power, and majesty that the huge Middle Kingdom maintained for centuries. She knew quite well that the lack of national spirit and effective system of government, hatred of races, depravity of the officers, ignorance of the people, corruption of naval and military organization and constant maladministration of the Manchoorian government dominated the stupid empire, whose people still proudly style their country the “Flowery Kingdom, in the Enlightened Earth.”

The Japanese, as they are polite and artistic, are by no means a blood-thirsty race; nay, far from that. But the present war is in an inevitable chain of circumstances. For a long time the Japanese and Chinese were not good friends, they hated each other, as much, if not more than the French and the Germans do to-day.

Since Japan came in contact with the Europeans, she adopted, with the most marvelous activity, the western methods which have completely revolutionized the nation in a quarter of a century, while China maintained her regime and looked upon all western arts and science with utmost hatred and contempt. So she regarded Japan as the traitor of Asia. Naturally Japan represented the civilization and progress in the Far East; and China ultra-conservatism. It was long expected that the collision of these two antagonistic principles must come. And so it has now come.

Moreover, the goal of Japan was, as the leading spirit of Asia, to exalt herself among the first-class powers of the civilized world. But China, up to a very short time ago, pretended to be the mistress of Asia. Thus they envied each other, and conflict of the two powers for supremacy became inevitable. The first collision between Japan and China came in 1874, with the question of the Liu Kiu Islands, which China abandoned for Japan, then the Formosa expedition provoked serious trouble between the two countries. In both cases Japan came off successful in the end.

Again there were collisions in Corea, just as Rome and Carthage met in Sicily. Corea has for a long time, paid tribute both to Japan and China, yet neither had any definite sovereign right over Corea, but mere suzerain powers. In 1875, the Japanese government abandoned all her ancient, traditional suzerain rights in Corea, and concluded a treaty which recognized Corea as an independent State, enjoying the same sovereign powers as Japan. Soon after, the United States, England, France, Germany and Russia followed Japan’s example. This friendly act of Japan by which she introduced Corea as an independent State among civilized nations, was a terrible blow to China, who still had the intention of claiming her traditional suzerainty over Corea. It must be remembered that the permanent neutrality of the Hermit Kingdom is of vital importance to the prosperity and safety of the country of the Rising Sun. It is evident from this point of view that Japan can never permit the Chinese claim of suzerainty, nor Russian aggression in Corea.

From the time that Japan recognized Corea as an independent nation, she made great efforts for the progress of Corea. Many Corean students were educated and many Japanese, sent there as instructors and as advisors, assisted the advancement of her civilization. Japan has never failed to show her friendly sympathy towards Corea, for the progress and welfare of Corea as a firm independent state, has great bearing upon Asiatic civilization, and upon the safety of Japan itself.

While Japan was using her best efforts as the sincere friend of Corea, China constantly and secretly intrigued with the Corean government and the conservatives, in order to restore her old suzerainty and to annihilate Japan’s influence in Corea. In 1882, an insurrection, instigated by the Chinese officers, broke out in Seoul. It was directed chiefly against the Japanese, as the promoters of foreign intercourse. The mob attacked the Japanese legation and several members were murdered. The Japanese minister and his staff escaped to the palace to find refuge, but found there the gates were shut against them, then they were obliged to cut their way through the mob and run all night to Chemulpo, where they were rescued by an English boat and returned to Japan. The insurrection was suppressed by a Chinese force and a number of the leaders were executed. The Corean government consented to pay a sum of $500,000 as indemnity, but this was subsequently forgiven to Corea in consequence of inability to pay it. There were already existing in Corea two parties, that is, the progressive and the conservative. The former party represented civilized elements and the spirit of Japan, while the latter represented the majority of the officers and it was supported by the Chinese government. These two parties were bitter enemies and struggled for supremacy.

Since the rebellion of 1882, Chinese influence in Corea rapidly increased, consequently the conservative spirit predominated. Two years later, the leaders of the progressive party undertook a bold attempt when they saw that their party influence was waning. During a dinner party to celebrate the opening of the new post-office, a plan was made to murder all the conservative leaders who had dominant influence in the government. They partly succeeded in the attempt. The revolutionary leaders proceeded to the palace, secured the person and the sympathy of the king, who sent an autograph letter to ask the Japanese minister for the protection of the royal palace. Thereon, the Japanese minister guarded the palace for a few days with his legation guard of one hundred and thirty Japanese soldiers. In the meantime the Chinese force in Seoul, two thousand in number proceeded to the palace, and without any negotiation or explanation fired upon the Japanese guard. The king fled to the Chinese army and the Japanese retired to the palace of their legation which they found surrounded by the Chinese army. They abandoned the spot, finding it impossible to maintain the legation without any provisions, fought their way to Chemulpo, where they found their way to Japan. Many Japanese were killed in this event. The Japanese government demanded satisfaction from China on account of the action of the Chinese soldiers. The convention of Tien-tsin, after long negotiation between Count Ito, the present premier of Japan and Li Hung Chang, the viceroy of China, was concluded. The main points of the Tien-tsin treaty were three: (1) that the king of Corea should provide a sufficient force to maintain order in future, to be trained by officers of some nation other than China or Japan; (2) that certain internal reforms should be made; (3) that if necessary to preserve order and protect their nations either Japan or China should have the right to dispatch troops to Corea, on giving notice each to the other, and that when order was restored both forces should be withdrawn simultaneously.

The event of 1885 completely extinguished the Japanese influence and established the Chinese authority in Corea. The Chinese minister in Seoul got complete possession of the Corean government, entirely crushed the revolutionary party and organized an ultra-conservative government and appointed ministers at his will. Japan’s influence in Corea has been almost nill during the past ten years, for she has been very busy with her internal reorganization and has not had much time to look after Corea.


Two prominent leaders of the revolutionary party fled to Japan on account of the failure of the coup d'état of 1885, where they found their asylum. The Chinese and Corean governments dispatched missions to demand the extradition of these unfortunate political reformers, but Japan was firm in her refusal, on the ground of the ethics of international law. The Corean government, sanctioned by that of China, at once began to take measures to effect the removal of these ruined leaders by other processes.Official assassins followed their footsteps for ten years in vain. But at last they succeeded in murdering Kim-ok-Kiun, one of those reformers, and most barbarous cruelties were committed by the Chinese and Corean authorities. The murder of Kim-ok-Kiun excited great sympathy from the Japanese public. Many a time China and Corea cast disdain and contempt upon Japan’s name. Many a time the political and commercial interest of Japan were impaired by them. Yet Japan forgave their insolence with generous heart.

The progress of the late rebellion in Corea was beyond her power to check. A state of perpetual anarchy seemed to prevail. Insolent China seemed to be using the Corean mobs for her own advantage, and directly against Japan’s interests. China, ignoring the treaty of Tien-tsin in 1885, sent troops to Corea. Japan no longer lightly viewed China’s insolence and Corean disorder.

Japan’s ardent need to take a decided step in Corea, at this moment seemed a more cogent one in the commercial point of view than her political interest. The greater part of the modern trade of Corea has been created by Japan and is in the hands of her merchants; the net value of Corean direct foreign trade for 1892 and 1893 together was $4,240,498 with China, while $8,306,571 with Japan. Hence the interest of Japan is twice that of China. In tonnage of shipping the proportion is vastly greater in favor of Japan. Her tonnage in 1893 was over twenty times that of China, as the exact figures show: tonnage—China, 14,376; Japan, 304,224. Thus Japan’s economic interests in Corea are decidedly greater than any other nation’s.

Immediately after China sent troops to Corea, Japan, also, sent her force, to preserve her political as well as economic interests, and determined not to draw back her troops until Corea should restore the sound order of society and wipe out the Chinese claim of Corean suzerainty, for so long as Chinese influence predominates in Corea, any thoughts of her advancement are hopeless. For a long maladministration of the Li government had weakened the Hermit Kingdom. The country is no more than a desert and its people are plunged in the most miserable poverty of any in the poverty-stricken east. The Japanese government proposed to the Chinese government according to the Tien-tsin treaty, a measure of internal reform for Corea, which was rejected with insult by the Chinese authority.

At first Japan had, by no means, any intention to make war with China, but she was forced by her to enter the struggle. She has never infringed the ethics of international law, nor the comity of nations. It was China that provoked the eastern war, now raging in the Orient, but not Japan; the true idea of Japan, in the war, is, by conquest, to put the blame on China for refusing to adhere faithfully to the spirit of her treaties and for trying to keep Corea in barbarism, and for endeavoring to stop the progress of civilization in Eastern Asia. Her mission in the east is to crush the insolent and ignorant self-conceit of the Peking government and to reform the barbarous abuses of the Corean administration. Therefore Japan fights to-day for the sake of civilization and humanity.

After the eastern war was declared, four months had hardly passed, until the fighting power and the economic resources of the Chinese Empire were destroyed and exhausted. China was forced to beg the mercy of Japan. The banner of the “Rising Sun” is now triumphant. Japan dictating the terms of peace, signifies the beginning of a better era for benighted China and the preservation of permanent peace in the Orient.

Julius Kumpéi Matumoto, A.M.,

Tokio, Japan.





Origin of Chinese People—Legends—Golden Age of China—Beginnings of Authentic History—Dynasty of Chow—Cultivation of Literature and Progress—Music, Slavery, Household Habits Three Thousand Tears Ago—Confucius and his Work—First Emperor of China—Burning of Books—Han Dynasty—Famous Men of the Period—Paper Money and Printing—Invasions of Tartars and Mongols—Sung Dynasty—Literary Works—Famous Chinese Poet—Literature, Law and Medicine—Kublai Khan—Ming Dynasty—Private Library of a Chinese Emperor—Founding of the Present Dynasty—Connection Between Chinese History and the Rest of the World.

Obscurity shrouds the origin of the Chinese race. The Chinese people cannot be proved to have originally come from anywhere beyond the limits of the Chinese empire. At the remotest period to which investigations can satisfactorily go back, without quitting the domain of history for that of legend, we find them already in existence as an organized, and as a more or less civilized nation. Previous to that time, their condition had doubtless been that of nomadic tribes, but whether as immigrants or as true sons of the soil there is scarcely sufficient evidence to show. Conjecture, however, based for the most part upon coincidences of speech, writing or manners and customs, has been busy with their ultimate origin; and they have been variously identified with the Turks, with the Chaldees, with the earliest inhabitants of Ireland, and with the lost tribes of Israel.

The most satisfactory, however, of recent conclusions, based on most careful investigations are as follows: The first records we have of them represent the Chinese as a band of immigrants settling in the north-eastern provinces of the modern empire of China and fighting their way amongst the aborigines much as the Jews of old forced their way into Canaan against the various tribes which they found in possession of the land. It is probable that though they all entered China by the same route they separated into bands almost on the threshold of the empire, one body, those who have left us the records of their history in the ancient Chinese books, apparently following the course of the Yellow river, and turning southward with it from its northernmost bend, settling themselves in the fertile districts of the modern provinces of Shan-hsi and Honan. But as it is believed also that at about the same period a large settlement was made as far south as Anam of which there is no mention in the books of the northern Chinese, we must assume that another body struck directly southward through the southern provinces of China to that country.

Many writers answer the question that arises as to whence these people came, by declaring that research directly points to the land south of the Caspian sea. They find many reasons in the study of languages which furnish philological proof of this assertion. And they affirm that in all probability the outbreak in Susiana of possibly some political disturbance in about the 24th or 23rd century B.C., drove the Chinese from the land of their adoption and that they wandered eastward until they finally settled in China and the country south of it. Such an emigration is by no means unusual in Asia. We know that the Ottoman Turks originally had their home in northern Mongolia, and we have a record of the movement at the end of last century of a body of six hundred thousand Kalmucks from Russia to the confines of China. It would appear also that the Chinese came into China possessed of the resources of western Asian culture. They brought with them a knowledge of writing and astronomy as well as of the arts which primarily minister to the wants and comforts of mankind.


According to one native authority, China, that is, the world was evolved out of chaos exactly 3,276,494 years ago. This evolution was brought about by the action of a First Cause or Force which separated into two principles, active and passive, male and female. Or as some native writers explain it, out of a great egg came a man. Out of the upper half of the egg he created the heavens and out of the lower half he created the earth. He created five elements, earth, water, fire, metal and wood. Out of the vapor from gold he created man and out of vapor from wood he created woman. Traditional pictures of this first man and first woman represent them wearing for dress, girdles of fig leaves. He created the sun to rule the day, the moon to rule the night, and the stars. Those who care to go deeper into these traditions than the limits of this work permit will find ample material for interesting research in the analogies to Christian history.

These principles, male and female, found their material embodiment in heaven and earth and became the father and mother of all things, beginning with man, who was immediately associated with them in a triumvirate of creative powers. Then ensued ten immense periods, the last of which has been made by some Chinese writers on chronology to end where every sober history of China should begin, namely, with the establishment of the Chow dynasty eleven hundred years before the birth of Christ. During this almost immeasurable lapse of time, the process of development was going on, involving such discoveries as the production of fire, the construction of houses, boats and wheeled vehicles, the cultivation of grain, and mutual communication by means of writing.

The father of Chinese history chose indeed to carry us back to the court of the Yellow Emperor, B.C. 2697, and to introduce us to his successors Yao and Shun and to the great Yu, who by his engineering skill had drained away a terrible inundation which some have sought to identify with Noah’s flood.


This flood was in Shun’s reign. The waters we are told rose to so great a height that the people had to betake themselves to the mountains to escape death. Most of the provinces of the existing empire were inundated. The disaster arose, as many similar disasters, though of less magnitude, have since arisen, in consequence of the Yellow river bursting its bounds, and the great Yu was appointed to lead the waters back to their channel. With unremitting energy he set about his task, and in nine years succeeded in bringing the river under his control. During this period so absorbed was he in his work, that we are told he took heed neither of food nor clothing, and that thrice he passed the door of his house without once stopping to enter. At the completion of his labors he divided the empire into nine instead of twelve provinces, and tradition represents him as having engraved a record of his toils on a stone tablet on Mount Heng in the province of Hoopih. As a reward for the services he had rendered for the empire, he was invested with the principality of Hea, and after having occupied the throne conjointly with Shun for some years he succeeded that sovereign on his death in 2308 B.C.


But all these things were in China’s “golden age,” the true record of which is shrouded for us in the obscurity of centuries. There were a few laws, but never any occasion to exact the penalties attached to misconduct. It was considered superfluous to close the house door at night, and no one would even pick up any lost property that lay in the high road. All was virtue, happiness and prosperity, the like of which has not since been known. The Emperor Shun was raised from the plow handle to the throne simply because of his filial piety, in recognition of which wild beasts used to come and voluntarily drag his plow for him through the furrowed fields, while birds of the air would hover round and guard his sprouting grain from the depredations of insects.

This of course is not history; and but little more can be said for the accounts given of the two dynasties which ruled China between the “golden age” and the opening reigns of the House of Chow. The historian in question had not many sources of information at command. Beside tradition, of which he largely availed himself, the chief of these was the hundred chapters that had been edited by Confucius from the historical remains of those times, now known as the “Book of History.” This contains an unquestionable foundation of facts, pointing to a comparatively advanced state of civilization, even so far back as two thousand years before our era; but the picture is dimly seen and many of its details are of little practical value. This calculation declares that with Yu began the dynasty of Hea which gave place in 1766 B.C. to the Shang dynasty. The last sovereign of the Hea line, Kieh Kwei, is said to have been a monster of iniquity and to have suffered the just punishment for his crimes at the hands of T'ang, the prince of the state of Shang, who took his throne from him. In like manner, six hundred and forty years later, Woo Wang, the prince of Chow, overthrew Chow Sin, the last of the Shang dynasty, and established himself as the chief of the sovereign state of the empire.

It is only with the dynasty of the Chows that we begin to feel ourselves on safe ground, though long before that date the Chinese were undoubtedly enjoying a far higher civilization than fell to the share of most western nations until many centuries later. The art of writing had been already fully developed, having passed, if we are to believe native researches from an original system of knotted cords, through successive stages of notches on wood and rude outlines of natural objects down to the phonetic stage in which it exists at the present day. Astronomical observations of a simple kind had been made and recorded and the year divided into months. The rite of marriage had been substituted for capture; and although cowries were still employed and remained in use until a much later date, metallic coins of various shapes and sizes began to be recognized as a more practicable medium of exchange. Music, both vocal and instrumental, was widely cultivated; and a kind of solemn posturing filled the place that has been occupied by dancing among nations farther to the west. Painting, charioteering and archery were reckoned among the fine arts; the crossbow especially being a favorite weapon either on the battle field or on the chase. The people seem to have lived upon rice and cabbage, pork and fish, much as they do now; they also drank the ardent spirit distilled from rice vulgarly known as “Samshoo” and clad themselves in silk, or their own coarse home stuffs according to the means of each. All this is previous to the dynasty of Chow with which it is now proposed to begin.

The Chows rose to power over the vices of preceding rulers, aided by the genius of a certain duke or chieftain of the Chow state, though he personally never reached the imperial throne. It was his more famous son who in B.C. 1122 routed the forces of the last tyrant of the semi-legendary period and made himself master of China. The China of those days consisted of a number of petty principalities clustering round one central state and thus constituting a federation. The central state managed the common affairs, while each one had its own local laws and administration. It was in some senses a feudal age, somewhat similar to that which prevailed in Europe for many centuries. The various dukes were regarded as vassals owing allegiance to the sovereign at the head of the imperial state, and bound to assist him with money and men in case of need. And in order to keep together this mass, constantly in danger of disintegration from strifes within, the sovereigns of the House of Chow were forever summoning these vassal dukes to the capital and making them renew, with ceremonies of sacrifice and potations of blood, their vows of loyalty and treaties of alliance. At a great feast held by Yu after his accession, there were, it is said, ten thousand princes present with their symbols of rank. But the feudal states were constantly being absorbed by one another. On the rise of the Shang dynasty there were only somewhat over three thousand, which had decreased to thirteen hundred when the sovereignty of the Chows was established.

The senior duke always occupied a position somewhat closer to the sovereign than the others. It was his special business to protect the imperial territory from invasion by any malcontent vassal; and he was often deputed to punish acts of insubordination and contumacy, relying for help on the sworn faith of all the states as a body against any individual recalcitrant. Such was the political condition of things through a long series of reigns for nearly nine centuries, the later history of this long and famous dynasty being simply the record of a struggle against the increasing power and ambitious designs of the vassal state of Ching, until at length the power of the latter not only outgrew that of the sovereign state, but successfully defied the united efforts of all the others combined together in a league. In 403 B.C. the number of states had been reduced to seven great ones, all sooner or later claiming to be “the kingdom,” and contending for the supremacy until Ching put down all the others and in 221 B.C. its king assumed the title of Hwang Ti or emperor and determined that there should be no more feudal principalities, and that as there is but one sun in the sky there should be but one ruler in the nation.

It is interesting to glance backward over these nine hundred years and gather some facts as to the China of those days. The religion of the Chinese was a modification of the older and simpler forms of nature worship practised by their ruder forefathers. The principal objects of veneration were still heaven and earth and the more prominent among the destructive and beneficient powers of nature. But a tide of personification and deification had begun to set in and to the spirits of natural objects and influences now rapidly assuming material shape had been added the spirits of departed heroes whose protection was invoked after death by those to whom it had been afforded during life.

The sovereign of the Chow dynasty worshipped in a building which they called “the hall of light,” which also served the purpose of an audience and council chamber. It was 112 feet square and surmounted by a dome; typical of heaven above and earth beneath. China has always been remarkably backward in architectural development, never having got beyond the familiar roof with its turned up corners, in which antiquaries trace a likeness to the tent of their nomad days. Hence it is that the “hall of light” of the Chows is considered by the Chinese to have been a very wonderful structure.


Some have said that the Pentateuch was carried to China in the sixth century B.C., but no definite traces of Judaism are discoverable until several centuries later.

The Chow period was pre-eminently one of ceremonial observances pushed to an extreme limit. Even Confucius was unable to rise above the dead level of an ultra formal etiquette, which occupies in his teachings a place altogether out of proportion to any advantages likely to accrue from the most scrupulous compliance with its rules. During the early centuries of this period laws were excessively severe and punishments correspondingly barbarous; mutilation and death by burning or dissection being among the enumerated penalties. From all accounts there speedily occurred a marked degeneracy in the characters of the Chow kings. Among the most conspicuous of the early kings was Muh, who rendered himself notorious for having promulgated a penal code under which the redemption of punishments was made permissible by the payment of fines.

Notwithstanding the spirit of lawlessness that spread far and wide among the princes and nobles, creating misery and unrest throughout the country, that literary instinct which has been a marked characteristic of the Chinese throughout their long history continued as active as ever. At stated intervals officials, we are told, were sent in light carriages into all parts of the empire to collect words from the changing dialects of each district; and at the time of the royal progresses the official music masters and historiographers of each principality presented to the officials appointed for the purpose, collections of the odes and songs of each locality, in order, we are told, that the character of the rule exercised by their princes should be judged by the tone of the poetical and musical productions of their subjects. The odes and songs as found and thus collected were carefully preserved in royal archives, and it was from these materials, as is commonly believed, that Confucius compiled the celebrated “She King” or “Book of Odes.”

One hundred years before the close of the Chow dynasty, a great statesman named Wei Yang appeared in the rising state of Ch’in and brought about many valuable reformations. Among other things he introduced a system of tithings, which has endured to the present day. The unit of Chinese social life has always been the family and not the individual; and this statesman caused the family to be divided into groups of ten families to each, upon a basis of mutual protection and responsibility. The soil of China has always been guarded as the inalienable property of her imperial ruler for the time being, held in trust by him on behalf of a higher and greater power whose vice-regent he is. In the age of the Chows, land appears to have been cultivated upon a system of communal tenure, one-ninth of the total produce being devoted in all cases to the expenses of government and the maintenance of the ruling family in each state. Copper coins of a uniform shape and portable size were first cast, according to Chinese writers, about half way through the sixth century B.C. An irregular form of money, however, had been in circulation long before, one of the early vassal dukes having been advised, in order to replenish his treasury, to “break up the hills and make money out of the metal therein; to evaporate sea water and make salt. This,” added his advising minister, “will benefit the realm and with the profits you may buy up all kinds of goods cheap and store them until the market has risen; establish also three hundred depots of courtesans for the traders, who will thereby be induced to bring all kinds of merchandise to your country. This merchandise you will tax and thus have a sufficiency of funds to meet the expenses of your army.” Such were some of the principles of finance and political economy among the Chows, customs duties being apparently even at that early date a recognized part of the revenue.

The art of healing was practised among the Chinese in their prehistoric times, but the first quasi-scientific efforts of which we have any record belong to the period with which we are now dealing. The physicians of the Chow dynasty classify diseases under the four seasons of the year—headaches and neuralgic affections under spring, skin diseases of all kinds under summer, fever and agues under autumn, and bronchial and pulmonary complaints under winter. The public at large was warned against rashly swallowing the prescriptions of any physician whose family had not been three generations in the medical profession.

When the Chows went into battle they formed a line with the bowman on the left and the spearman on the right flank. The centre was occupied by chariots, each drawn by three or four horses harnessed abreast. Swords, daggers, shields, iron headed clubs, huge iron hooks, drums, cymbals, gongs, horns, banners and streamers innumerable were also among the equipment of war. Quarter was rarely if ever given and it was customary to cut the ears from the bodies of the slain.

It was under the Chows, a thousand years before Christ, that the people of China began to possess family names. By the time of Confucius the use of surnames had become definitely established for all classes. The Chows founded a university, a shadow of which remains to the present day. They seem to have had theatrical representations of some kind, though it is difficult to say of what nature these actually were. Music must have already reached a stage of considerable development, if we are to believe Confucius himself, who has left it on record that after listening to a certain melody he was so affected as not to be able to taste meat for three months.

Slavery was at this date a regular domestic institution and was not confined as now to the purchase of women alone; and whereas in still earlier ages it had been usual to bury wooden puppets in the tombs of princes, we now read of slave boys and slave girls barbarously interred alive with the body of every ruler of a state, in order, as was believed, to wait upon the tyrant’s spirit after death. But public opinion began during the Confucian era to discountenance this savage rite, and the son of a man who left instructions that he should be buried in a large coffin between two of his concubines, ventured to disobey his father’s commands.

We know that the Chows sat on chairs while all other eastern nations were sitting on the ground, and ate their food and drank their wine from tables; that they slept on beds and rode on horseback. They measured the hours with the aid of sun dials; and the invention of the compass is attributed, though on somewhat insufficient grounds, to one of their earliest heroes. They played games of calculation of an abstruse character, and others involving dexterity. They appear to have worn shoes of leather, and stockings, and hats, and caps, in addition to robes of silk; and to have possessed such other material luxuries as fans, mirrors of metal, bath tubs, and flat irons. But it is often difficult to separate truth from falsehood in the statement of Chinese writers with regard to their history. They are fond of exaggerating the civilization of their forefathers, which, as a matter of fact, was sufficiently advanced to command admiration without the undesirable coloring of fiction they have thus been tempted to lay on.


Of the religions of the Chinese we will speak in a succeeding chapter, but it must be said here that during the Chow dynasty was born the most famous of Chinese teachers, Confucius. He was preceded about the middle of the dynasty by Lao-tzu, the founder of an abstruse system of ethical philosophy which was destined to develop into the Taoism of to-day. Closely following, and partially a contemporary, came Confucius, “a teacher who has been equalled in his influence upon masses of the human race by Buddha alone and approached only by Mahomet and Christ.” Confucius devoted his life chiefly to the moral amelioration of his fellow men by oral teaching, but he was also an author of many works. A hundred years later came Mencius, the record of whose teachings also forms an important part of the course of study of a modern student in China. His pet theory was that the nature of man is good, and that all evil tendencies are necessarily acquired from evil communications either by heredity or association. It was during this same period that the literature of the Chinese language was founded. Of this subject, and some of the famous works, more will be said in a succeeding chapter devoted to literature and education.