The Ninety-nine Ways of Destroying the Manchus
L. Carrington Goodrich
The following article was published in T’ien Hsia Monthly, Vol.VI. No.V (May 1938), pp.418-24. In an era during which issues related to the borderland peoples of China, and given the interview with a Han supremacist also in this issue, it is interesting to consider how ethnic conflicts were dealt with during the Qianlong reign period, now celebrated as the glory days of the Manchu-Qing dynasty.—The Editor
When I wrote The Literary Inquisition of Ch'ien Lung, published in 1935, I stated (page 6) that the missionaries resident at the Manchu court in the period of the 1770's and 1780's had not touched, in their published reports, on that great destruction of literature, a calamity of which they must have known. In this I did at least one of them an injustice: Père Jean-Joseph-Marie Amiot, of the Society of Jesus, who arrived in Peking in 1751 and died there in 1793. On the 5th September, 1779, Father Amiot sent a long letter to Paris concerning the building up of the imperial library, the Ssu k'u ch'üan shu (四庫全書) and at the end of the letter included an abstract of a Gazette 亰報 dated first day, 4th moon, 44th year of Ch'ien Lung (May, 6th, 1779), which recounts the action of the court in respect to one of the books condemned. This book was the Chiu-shih-chiu ch'ou (九十九籌), by Yen Chi-heng (顏季亨), written at the end of the Ming, of which no copy is known to exist. In view of the emperor's especial abhorrence of this work—he sent down an edict on January 26th, 1779 (Ch'ien Lung 43.12.9), by the four-hundred-li-a-day-post to all provincial officials, declaring that it was so much worse than the ordinary works found censorable that ‘not even a single character may be saved from the burning’ 毋使片紙隻字存留存—and in view of the inaccessibility of the Gazette in question and its rendering in French, it has seemed worth while to present to readers in China this glimpse of its contents, even through the highly distorted vision of the emperor's ministers, and in spite of the imperfections of the translation of an abstracted translation.
Translation of the Abstract
"Yu Min-chung (于敏中: 1714-1780), one of the great masters of the doctrine, and others, report to Your Majesty a book which they were charged to examine by special orders which you have enjoined upon them.
"This book, entitled Chiu-shih-chiu ch'ou, in which someone pretends to give 99 ways of destroying the Manchus, or of holding them in their own territory without their being able to issue forth, was composed at the end of the Ming by one named Yen Chi-heng, a man as unknown in the republic of letters as in the state, and whose origin is obscure as the work of which he is the author. However, to judge by the preface, one can believe that this Yen Chi-heng was in the service of Wen T'i-jen (溫體仁: d.1638), one of the then ministers of state, and that he was tutor or sub-tutor of the children of this official. In this time of trouble and confusion, all the Chinese who knew how to read or write, placed themselves in such establishments as they could in order not to be obliged to go to war, and those who were scholars by profession, or who were candidates for degrees in order to become such, were of the opinion that, since it was not permitted them to defend their country by force, they should at least render it all the help which was within their competence. They posed as givers of advice, and believed they were sustaining the dynasty at the point of its collapse while they composed some wicked work in which they suggested to the government what they imagined it was opportune to do under the circumstances. They even went to seek out generals in their very camps, to assist them, said they, with their counsel.
"Yen Chi-heng, lodged, as we have just noted, with the minister Wen T’i-jen, in order to instruct the children of the house correctly in the first elements of literature, and believed that he might draw himself more easily from the obscurity in which he lived and advance his fortunes more speedily by composing a work which would show the different means one might use to subdue the enemy, or to keep it from making incursions into the lands of the empire. The means he suggests and which he develops in the 10 chuan which he gave himself the trouble to write are 99 in number; but some are so ridiculous that they only deserve derision and the rest are so impractical that one is astonished how a man in whom one might presume at least the first spark of reason could propose them seriously. We believe then that this book not only is not worthy of entering the Collection (Ssu-k'u) either in whole or in part, but also that we ought to reduce it to ashes in order to remove the slightest vestige of it. If it were allowed to exist either in whole or in part it might happen that some scholars as ignorant in what concerns war and government, as was the author of the 99 Ways, might regard it eventually as a book of which they could take a part, and propose the same absurdities, believing them excellent ways of conquering or repulsing the enemies of the empire. Although this work only merits the most profound disgust, never¬theless, in order to give an idea of it to Your Majesty, we are going to put before your eyes the least evil and absurd points which it contains. It should be possible by this sample to judge all the rest.
"The author declares in the 10th article: ‘The Manchus up to now have been victorious over the Chinese only because they have known how to take good measures and profit by circumstances; we have only to imitate them and we shall be victorious in our turn.’ In developing this notion, he speaks as would a child who as yet had no knowledge of the affairs of this world. We are not reporting the puerilities which he retails on this occasion; they could only annoy Your Majesty.
"In the 12th article, he says: ‘Instead of fighting as we have done up to now, we ought to put on the march as many troops as we can, and send them all at the same time into the enemy country, with orders to surround their mountain of Ch'ang Po Shan (長白山), the native place of the majority of the Manchus, and exterminate this nation in the region even of its origin.’ The impossibility of such a project is quite evident; it leaps to the eyes of whoever is aware of the topography of this area. But even if by dint of enormous effort the Chinese had been able to make themselves masters of the environs of Ch'ang Po Shan and surround this entire mountain with their troops, it remained for them to take Hsing¬ching (興亰), which was already a well fortified and very con¬siderable town; it would have been necessary, moreover, to take Mukden, and with these two great towns, which are far from each other, it was still necessary for them to take all the fortresses and other posts which depended on them, which certainly could only have been done on the supposition that the Manchus would have made no resistance, and would have let the Chinese do whatever they might wish.
"In the 13th article: ‘It is necessary to render impassable all the roads which lead to the passages of Ch'ao-ho-ch'uan (潮河川). The Manchus have only cavalry; by paving all the roads with sharp pointed stones, their horses could not walk without disorder and our infantry would easily overwhelm them, etc.’ This man hardly knew cavalry, or the horses of the Manchus; these horses are used to all sorts of roads."In the 34th article: 'We ought to go to attack the Manchus by proceeding to their territory by sea.' This man does not know that journeys via the seas are impracticable on this coast; but if the Chinese had arrived at the sea coast, whither would they go? In order to push forward into the country, they would necessarily have had to cross the rivers T'u-men Chiang (圖們江), Sung Hua Chiang (松花江 or Sungari), Ya Lu (鴨綠), and others; not all these rivers are navigable; one can only pass them on little boats at the risk even of loss of life. The natives of the region would have awaited on the bank the arrival of these boats and would have captured all found on them with the same facility that they caught the fish in their nets.
"In the 37th article: 'It is necessary to renew against them the ancient use of armed chariots.'
"In the 38th article: 'We must employ against them the use of fire.' These two methods, which he wished to revive by employ¬ing them against the Manchus, could have had some usefulness in ancient times, but they would be out of place at the present.
"In the 39th article: 'It is necessary to repair the Great Wall, and not permit the slightest breach in it.' This man is unaware doubtless that it was never by the breaches of the Great Wall that the Manchus entered China. They entered by forcing the passages and by making themselves masters. To repair all the breaches of the Wall would have been very expensive, and useless.
"In the 41st article: 'We must establish Pao-chia (保甲)—local chiefs—in all towns and villages, who may be at the disposition of the officials, to receive their orders, execute them, and be responsible for all inhabitants, as was formerly customary. These Pao-chia should be charged with watching against every surprise.'
"In the 43rd article: 'We must give honourable employment with great sums of money, and promise the largest reward yet to all those Manchus who will abandon their country and come to establish themselves in China. We could then send them back to their homeland to serve us as spies, etc.' This man is not acquainted with the Manchu people; he would know that they are above all corruption. So, neither honourable service, nor silver, nor the most magnificent promises would have seduced any one of them.
"In the 56th article: 'It is necessary to compose a very detailed manifesto against the Manchus, publish it, and post it everywhere, in order to make them odious and arouse the whole world against them.' The means which the author proposes, if it could have been of some utility to the Chinese in ordinary circumstances, could only have been useless to them under the circumstances in which they found themselves. All was upset in the Empire, the head of the government no longer existed; the arms were benumbed, and the rest of the body was in incurable convulsions: in a word, the Ming were powerless to sustain themselves and lift themselves up again.
"In the 58th article: 'We cannot dispense with taxation; but it is necessary only to place a tax on the rich, and enforce this severely, without any consideration.' This fellow could only have been ignorant of the fact that one of the chief causes of the troubles which shook the Empire was the levying of taxes. All that there were of worthy officials—men attached to the true interests of the state—presented to the Emperor petition after petition, urging the relief of his subjects from the weight of taxation by which they were overwhelmed, attributing the revolts which broke out on all sides to the levy of these same taxes. The author says in this article only what has been said at all times, (namely) to implore the emperors not to exact so much of their subjects.
"In the 67th article: 'To economize on the immense expenditures which we have been obliged' to make for the transport of food and other provisions for the armies which we dispatch against the Manchus. We should carry everything by sea.' Besides the difficulty of transport, because of the lack of safety of the sea coast, there would be yet a greater difficulty, that of reaching the army with these provisions. In times of peace the Ming were unable to deliver themselves from the pirates which infested the seas bordering on China. The number of these pirates was prodigiously increased in the last years of the dynasty's power; the provisions and vessels which carried them—could they escape the vigilance of these sea-rovers? But, supposing that they did come safe into harbour, the Koreans, who were then tributary to the Manchus, would very surely have seized them in their name; the people of Mukden and all of Liao-tung would have done the same; and the Chinese, instead of provisioning their own armies, would only have provided supplies for their enemies.
"The author declares in another article: 'It is necessary to constitute the armies according to the different areas which make up the theatre of war. Each army ought to protect its own territory, and only fight for its defence: the soldiers who fight for their own homes are twice as strong.' We think, on the contrary, that the soldiers who do not leave their own land have neither the courage nor the valour requisite to defend themselves against a disciplined enemy. The Manchus had been men more occupied with their families than with military service. He says also: 'It is necessary to add to the number of troops all the criminals who are detained in the public prisons of the whole empire.' Such soldiers would truly make bad armies: thieves would continue to steal, libertines would sink more and more into lewdness, the seditious and turbulent would be submissive to no restraint, and all would be more qualified to ruin a country than to defend it against those who attack it: they are bandits of which the earth must be purged; they would infect with their vices all those who would have any dealings with them.
"Such, in the main, is the account which we have believed it our duty to render to Your Majesty of the book which we were charged to examine. We believe that, far from letting it enter into the general collection, it only merits being cast into the fire: this is the opinion that we have of it. If Your Majesty agrees with all that we have just said, we beg that you order the courts which this concerns, concurrently to make our judgment public in order that no one may imagine, as he well might without this precaution, that this book is being suppressed for the single reason that it was composed in hatred of the Manchus. We believe that it is necessary to suppress it because it is a book which contains nothing useful or good in any light that we can envisage. The Ming ought themselves to have punished the author, if they had consulted their real interests. We place it in the hands of Your Majesty, in order that you may be able to examine it yourself, if such is your good pleasure. We respectfully await your commands."
The Emperor’s Reply.