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1905 Tibetan Rebellion

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Period  1905 – 1906
1905 Tibetan Rebellion
Result  Qing Victory, Tibetan Defeat
Similar  Sikkim expedition, Sino‑Sikh War, Sino‑Nepalese War, Panthay Rebellion, Sino‑Burmese War

The Tibetan rebellion of 1905 in Yunnan province began with a series of attacks on Christian missionaries and converts and ended with the imperial Chinese government re-asserting control of the province.



Under pressure from foreigners, the Qing Dynasty government allowed Christian missionaries into Tibetan Buddhist areas in Yunnan province. The Tibetan Lamas had long defied the rule of the Qing authorities and officials, and the Qing dynasty fought against a rebellion of the Lamas around 1905. The Tibetan Buddhist Lamas attacked and murdered Chinese officials, French Roman Catholic Priests from Paris Foreign Missions Society such as Jean-André Soulié or Jules Dubernard, and Christian converts in the area, in retaliation for the missionaries' success at converting the natives to Catholicism. The Buddhist Gelug (Yellow) Sect was primarily responsible for the revolt and deaths.

Scottish Botanist George Forrest was the primary Western witness to the rebellion, having spent most of it trying to escape from Lamas intent on killing him. He wrote an account of the rebellion which was published in botanical related publications. In 1905, the Lamas started a revolt against the peasant converts from the monasteries. Chinese soldiers were sent to crush the revolt.

Forrest wrote that the majority of the people in the Mekong valley in Yunnan were Tibetan. The Tibetan Buddhist Yellow Sect was the dominant power in the region, with their Lamas effectively governing the area. Forrest had a negative view of their reign, since they used "force and fraud" to "terrorise the... peasantry". The Lamas completely ignored the Imperial Qing authorities in the region. Foreigners and Tibetan Christians were often attacked and killed in the area.

Attacks on Christian missionaries and converts

The British invasion of Lhasa in 1904 had repercussions in the Tibetan Buddhist world, causing extreme anti-western and anti-Christian sentiment among Tibetan Buddhists. The British invasion also triggered intense and sudden Qing intervention in Tibetan areas, to develop, assimilate, and bring the regions under strong Qing central control. The Tibetan Lamas in Batang proceeded to revolt in 1905, massacring Chinese officials, French missionaries, and Christian Catholic converts. The Tibetan monks opposed the Catholics, razing the Catholic mission's Church, and slaughtering all Catholic missionaries and Qing officials. The Manchu Qing official Fengquan was assassinated by the Tibetan Batang Lamas, along with other Manchu and Han Chinese Qing officials and the French Catholic priests, who were all massacred when the rebellion started in March 1905. Tibetan Gelugpa monks in Nyarong, Chamdo, and Litang also revolted and attacked missions and churches and slaughtered westerners. The British invasion of Lhasa, the missionaries, and the Qing were linked, in the eyes of the Tibetans, as hostile foreigners to be attacked. Zhongtian (Chungtien) was the location of the Batang monastery. The Tibetans slaughtered the converts and torched the building of the missionaries in Batang due to their xenophobia. Sir Francis Edward Younghusband wrote that At the same time, on the opposite side of Tibet they were still more actively aggressive, expelling the Roman Catholic missionaries from their long-established homes at Batang, massacring I many of their converts, and burning the mission-house. There was anti-Christian sentiment and xenophobia running rampant in Tibet.

The French missions which were attacked were part of the Paris Foreign Mission Society (Société des missions évangéliques de Paris MEP) and started by Fr Charles Renou. Tibetan monasteries constantly menaced the missions until the time the missionaries were killed in the 1905 rebellion.

The Lamas besieged Bat'ang, burning down the mission chapel, and killing two foreign missionaries, Père Mussot and Père Soulié. The Chinese Amban's Yamen was surrounded, and the Chinese General Wu Yi-chung was shot dead in the Yamen by the Lama's forces. The Chinese Amban Feng and Commandant-in-Chief Li Chia-jui managed to escape by scattering Rupees (money) behind them, which the Tibetans proceeded to try to pick up. The Ambans reached Commandant Lo's place, but the 100 Tibetan troops serving under the Amban, armed with modern weaponry, mutinied when news of the revolt reached them. The Tibetan Lamas and their Tibetan followers besieged Commandant Lo's palace, which also held local Christian converts. In the palace, they killed all Christian converts, both Chinese and Tibetan. At Yarragong and near the Yangtze the Tibetans murdered two Catholic French priests and in a gorge Feng Quan was murdered after he threw the rupees. The soldiers of the Qing at Batang were attacked by the Tibetans. The Manchu Fengquan was assassinated by the Tibetans with a gunshot to the head.

George Forrest was residing at the Tzekou French Catholic Mission, which came under attack by the Tibetan Lamas. He fled through miles of mountains to flee the Tibetan Lamas who intended to "brutally" murder him. Along his escape route, he took refuge with Chinese soldiers, but his party was discovered when they passed by the Patang Lamasary; after the Tibetans heard of their presence, the Tibetans blew a "signal whistle" to alert everyone to their presence in the area. Around the Mekong river every Catholic priest was murdered by the Lamas; they mounted a Father Dubernard's head on the Atuntze Monastery's gate. Forrest was targeted by the Lamas, who pursued him until a Naxi "king" named Lee rescued him.

On July 22, 1905, the Tibetan Lamas killed the French Catholic missionaries Père Pierre-Marie Bourdonnec and Père Jules Dubernard around the Mekong. A Chinese military mandarin informed Forrest on how exactly the Tibetans killed his friends. The Tibetans "disembowelled, beheaded and quartered" the body of Pere Bourdonné after he was shot to death. Chinese soldiers guarded Forrest from the Tibetans pursuing him.

At Batang the Tibetan Lamas massacred Chinese and Tibetan Christian converts and the French priest Père Jean André Soulié. The Tibetans used poisoned arrows and swords to kill the priest Père Bourdonnec and proceeded to massacre the Tibetan Christians he was fleeing with, killing 66 of them while 14 escaped. All except one of Forrest's staff were slaughtered. The Lamas proceeded to hunt down the priest Père Étienne-Jules Dubernard, breaking his arms and subjecting him to death by three days of torture, while lashed to a post at the destroyed mission. Jules Dubernard had been tortured for days by the Lamas. His upper limbs were both fractured and restrained, he was secured on a stake, his eyes were gouged out, his tongue, ears and nose severed, and while he was living, his extremities were severed. The body parts of the French priests were sent by the Tibetans to be displayed at Lamaseries. Forrest lost a great deal of his scientific data, photographs and specimens of plants he was collecting. A group of villagers helped Forrest sneak out by masquerading as a Tibetan after the Lamas blocked his escape routes. Besides the gun and ammunition he was carrying, over 2,000 of the samples of plants he was collecting were lost along with all of the rest of his possessions. Cordons were formed by the Lamas who used Tibetan mastiffs and watch fires to seal off his escape routes. Forrest was the sole survivor of the group with which he had fled the mission from the Lamas who wanted to massacre them. There were women and children in the group.

At the Atuntze Monastery the Tibetans mounted the decapitated heads of the French priests.

At Cizhong, another church was constructed after Tibetan mobs, under direction of their Lamas, wrecked the Christian mission.

Thorns were used by the Tibetans to whip Father Mussot, a French Priest, and his severed hands and heads were affixed to a monastery door after the Tibetans shot him to death. Methods of execution such as encasing victims in yak skins which were then sewn shut and left out to be exposed to the elements were used upon Christians by the Tibetans. The Tibetans executed Father Soulié, and took to the Atunze monastery the head and liver of Bourdonnec after they slayed him and Dubernard, and they vowed "to exterminate all inhabitants ... even the dogs and chickens, up to the least blade of grass.".

Tibetan Christian families were gunned down after refusing to give up their religion at Yanjing at the hands of the 13th Dalai Lama's messengers at the same time during the 1905 rebellion when Father Dubernard was beheaded and all the French missionaries were slaughtered by the Tibetan Buddhist Lamas. The name "Field of Blood" was given to the place where the slaughter happened.

The various Tibetan monasteries in Kham tried forming a united coalition against the Qing and supported Batang in its rebellions. The Qing responded by quickly working to cut off contact between Tibetans in Kham and Lhasa, and to isolate and divide the Khampas to stop the rebellion from spreading. From Batang, an escaped French priest fled to Weixi in Yunnan to warn of Tibetans Batang coming down to attack Weixi's church. The Qing fought with Khampas at the church on April 5. Green Standard Army soldiers under Ma Weiqi fought rebellious Tibetan monks from Garthar Monastery from April to June 8. On July 20, Batang rebels and the Green Standard Army under Ma Weiqi clashed in battle for the first time since the Batang monks assassinated the Qing Manchu official Fengquan on April 5, which started the rebellion.

Retaliatory expeditions

The Chinese responded to the Tibetan rebellion with punitive expeditions. In the summer, the Sichuan Army under the command of Chinese General Ma Wei-ch'i launched the retaliatory "expedition" against the Tibetan Lamas and their rebels, crushing the Tibetan rebels at Batang, totally destroying their monastery. Tibetan Lamas and the Tibetan population around the area were subjected to execution, and dousing with fire. Tibetan leaders were beheaded. The bloody campaign of the Qing dynasty Han Bannerman General Zhao Erfeng in western Sichuan and eastern Tibet (Kham) was also a response to the Tibetan uprising. In Kham, monasteries were targeted by Zhao's forces. Zhao was killed by Chinese Republican revolutionary forces after the Xinhai Revolution. The Chinese military in Yunnan crushed the Tibetan rebels in Atuntze, the Chinese under Zhao took brutal measure to subdue the Tibetan population, and appoint Chinese officials to rule over them. Zhao besieged the remnant Tibetan rebels at Chantreng monastery. The swift Chinese response, with the crushing of the rebels in Batang and Litang ended the revolt.

In the following year in 1906, the monastery fell to the Chinese forces, who used a deception to defeat the besieged. All Lamas were executed with the entire monastery razed. The Manchu Lianyu (Lien Yu) was finally allowed to enter into his position as Amban of Tibet at Lhasa, due to Zhao's campaign in destroying the Tibetan rebels. Lien Yu was despised by the Tibetan population for his policies. Zhao Erfeng replaced the Tibetan chiefs with Chinese magistrates, beheaded the remaining Tibetan chiefs and eradicated the official position of "Chief", and the power of the Lamas and monasteries was curtailed. After the Xinhai Revolution Lien Yu and his Chinese soldiers fled Tibet in 1912.

Because of their part in the rebellion, the monks of the Bathang and Chatring monasteries were slaughtered and the monasteries were totally razed.

A Chinese commander ordered 10 Tibetan Lamas to be decapitated. The Tibetan Prince of Batang was beheaded for taking part in the rebellion. The Chinese destroyed the monastery and decapitated the leaders of the uprising.

A former Tibetan Khampa soldier named Aten, gave the Tibetan account of the war in his book, which does not match up with western accounts. He claimed that the war started in 1903 when the Manchu Qing sent Zhao Erfeng to seize control of Tibetan areas, to control Batang and Lithang. Aten recounted Zhao's destruction of Batang, and claimed that Zhao used holy texts as shoeliners for his troops and that "Many Tibetans were executed by decapitation or by another typically Chinese method, mass burial while still alive." Aten also called the Manchus "alien conquerors". Tsering Woeser defended the Tibetan side, saying that Zhao Erfeng invaded the region to "brutally stop Tibetan protests", listing atrocities committed by Zhao.

A letter was sent to officer Qiao with official seals, congratulating him for his defeat of the Tibetan rebels. It is currently in the possession of s stamp collector.

William M. Coleman wrote a work on the 1905 Tibetan rebellion at Batang monastery called, ‘The Uprising at Batang: Khams and its significance in Chinese and Tibetan history’, in Epstein (2002), pp. 31–5.

The changes brought about by the Qing military after they crushed the anti-Qing, and anti-missionary Tibetan rebellion at Batang changed the power structure in the region fundamentally. The Qing takeover led by Zhao Erfeng abolished the centuries-old system of the feudal Tibetan "native chiefs" ruling Kham and putting the area under direct Chinese control, pushing the border of the area under direct Qing administration all the way to Giamda (Gyamda) in Kongbo (Kongpo).

The British were unhappy with the Qing intervention, since the Chinese were sowing dissent among peoples in British India living near the Tibetan border.

The thought of engaging in another uprising was effectively deterred among the Batang Tibetans due to the actions of Zhao Erfeng against the rebels.

Guns manufactured in Germany were used by Qing soldiers under Zhao Erfeng.

Tibetan women were wedded by the troops and traders of Chinese origin who moved into the area after the 1905 uprising.

Wine making vineyards were left behind by them.

Songpan was the location of an uprising in 1905.


1905 Tibetan Rebellion Wikipedia

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