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Ye Mingchen

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Preceded by
Xu Guangjin

Resting place
Hanyang District

1859, Kolkata

Ye Mingchen

Succeeded by
Huang Zonghan

Ye Mingchen httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommonsthu

Politician, Imperial viceroy

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Ye Mingchen (葉名琛, 1807–1859), also romanized as Yeh Ming-ch'en, was a high-ranking Chinese official during the Qing dynasty, known for his resistance to British influence in Canton (now known as Guangzhou) in the aftermath of the First Opium War and his role in the beginning of the Second Opium War.


Early career

Ye came from a scholarly family in Hubei province, son of Ye Zhishen 葉志詵 and a connoisseur of antiquities. He was awarded the juren 舉人 degree in 1837, the jinshi 進士, or highest degree, in 1835, after which he briefly held the position of compiler in the imperial elite school, the Hanlin Academy 翰林院. In 1838, Ye received his first official appointment as prefect of Xing'an in Shaanxi province and he subsequently rose rapidly through the ranks in the Qing civil service. In the following years he served as circuit intendant of Yanping in Shanxi province, salt inspector in Jiangxi, surveillance commissioner in Yunnan and financial commissioner first in Hunan, later in Gansu and finally Guangdong province, of which he became governor in 1848, just as the Taiping Rebellion was breaking out.

Around 1850, Ye Mingchen and his father established an association in the western suburbs of Guangzhou to worship Lü Dongbin, one of the Daoist Eight Immortals known for helping the common people, and to provide medical prescriptions. Ye is said to have commanded troops in battle on the basis of communications with Lü. Some unsympathetic observers account for his inadequate preparations, misplaced confidence, and the ease with which the British captured him by pointing to his belief in occult Daoism and oracular divination.


The Cantonese community is said to have respected Ye Mingchen for his intransigence against the British, but also ridiculed his inability to resist them on the battlefield. In Guangzhou he was known as the "six nots": "he would not fight; he would not make peace; he would not take steps for defense; he would not die; he would not surrender; and he would not flee." (不戰、不和、不守、不死、不降、不走 buzhan, buhe, bushou, busi, buxiang, buzou)

Ye briefly won the favor of the Xianfeng Emperor, but his policy fell out of favor when hostilities broke out. Contemporary British public opinion regarded "Commissioner Yeh" as the embodiment of Chinese xenophobia and he was frequently caricatured in British media. But his image in the West was not unanimously negative. For instance, the German writer Theodor Fontane, who learned about Ye while working in London in the late 1850s, was touched by Ye's fate and later published an essay on the official.

Official Chinese historiography long blamed Ye for precipitating the Second Opium War, but now he is frequently hailed as an early Chinese patriot and a monument has been erected in his memory in Guangzhou.


A sketch of Ye captured and kept on board of HMS Inflexible was made to depict him as a hideous monster. It got broad circulation as British propaganda justifying the Arrow (second Opium) War.


Ye Mingchen Wikipedia

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