Enemy, Friend, Martyr:Commemorating Liangbi (1877–1912), Contesting History
In the early days of the 1911 revolution, even as one southern province after another seceded from the empire, the Qing was not yet vanquished. It was buttressed by the fierce loyalty of the Imperial Guards and the substantial military might of Yuan Shikai (1859–1916), recently called back from retirement by the court. To many at the time, a protracted stalemate between the north and the south seemed likely. But then, on January 26, 1912, a bomb-thrower assaulted Liangbi, head of the Imperial Guards, in front of his Beijing residence.1 The assassin died instantly and Liangbi died an agonizing death three days later. Historians generally agree that this assassination, coming at it did on the heels of several similar high profile strikes, "took the wind out of the Manchu resistance."2 Within days, the Empress Dowager Longyu agreed to the child-emperor Puyi's abdication and on February 12, the Qing Empire formally ended.
Liangbi (zi Laichen) was known as one of the up-and-coming young Manchus of his time. A collateral descendant of the ruling Aisin Gioro family, he acquired modern military training at the Imperial Japanese Army Academy (Rikugun shikan gakkō) and played a significant role in modernizing the Qing military. In history books, he is chiefly [End Page 1] remembered as one of the leaders of the Society for the Support of the Constitution, better known as Zongshe dang (imperial clan faction), a group of Qing nobles who banded together in a last ditch effort to revive the empire.
This study focuses on the curious project of Liangbi's commemoration, which began soon after his death, with a grassroots petition for his canonization as a martyr. All told, 184 people signed, but the project went nowhere, ignored by the deposed Qing court and rebuffed by the newly established Republican government. Although Liangbi was never recognized as a martyr in any official capacity, his commemorators conferred on him a private canonization (sishi) title of "Loyalty and Peacefulness" (Zhongjing), established a memorial hall in western Beijing, and more than a decade after his death, published a commemorative volume in 1923. In addition to the usual tributes from friends and family, the list of those who endorsed a private canonization consists of Qing loyalists as well as a good number of revolutionaries. Still more surprising, the volume contains a lengthy eulogy to Peng Jiazhen (1888–1912), Liangbi's assassin. At the very end of the volume, yet another surprise awaits — a letter from Sun Yatsen (1866–1925) that explicitly refuses the organizer's invitation to contribute a commemorative plaque for the deceased. Thus bound in one volume, assassin and victim are commemorated back to back; revolutionaries and Qing loyalists spar between the pages.
This slim volume raises large questions about the dead: Who got to be recognized as a martyr? What kind of death deserved collective grieving and was allowed to acquire lasting meaning? If Peng Jiazhen was to be celebrated as a martyr for the new Republic, one of "our martyrs" in Sun Yatsen's words, what of Liangbi, one of "their dead"? Was Liangbi a victim, whose death was something to regret and lament? Or was he simply an enemy, whose death cleared the way for the revolutionary cause, and thus a matter for celebration? Or was he, as his friends would have it, also a martyr, to be commemorated and celebrated? But a martyr for what? What burden of history did he bear?
Equally important, the commemorative volume raises questions about the living; for after all, martyrs are made by the living and largely for the living. Although private canonization had a long history (at least to the sixth century BCE)3, this particular one carries a whiff of tension, even of [End Page 2] contention, as it conferred a posthumous title on the deceased that in its highly compressed two-character form passed judgment on the deceased and on the changing times. To whom was he loyal? And why peaceful? What did it mean to be loyal to a defunct dynasty — and how could he rest in peace given the violent circumstances of his death? Who took on the task of mourning Liangbi? And why did they seek to name him as a martyr? What drew the disparate commemorators together — and in celebration of which values — and what virtues? What sort of community was being imagined as people mourned their dead (having first to decide which dead were "theirs")? In looking closely at the case of Liangbi, and at the contested meanings of such concepts as loyalty, friendship, and race with which some among his contemporaries identified him, this study probes at how people responded to the loss — both individual and collective — that is at the heart of the traumatic onslaught of modernity in China.
The commemorative volume is entitled Tianhuang dilao lu (When Heaven and Earth Grow Hoary with Age), a line taken from the late Tang dynasty poet Li He (ca. 791–817). In his poem "Zhijiu xing" ("To Wine") the poet imagines himself in a dialogue with a friendly tavern host who tries to assuage his sorrow with wine and by invoking historical analogies. The tavern host tells him how the extraordinary talents of Ma Zhou (601–648) were not recognized for a long time — in Li He's signature style — for so long that "heaven and earth have grown hoary with age."4 Li He's line became a stock expression for "eternity" or "infinity"; its use in the title of this commemorative collection expresses the compilers' wish for Liangbi's immortality — that he be granted a reputation to withstand the passage of time. Still more appropriate, the original context of the story gives pointed expression to the sorrow generated by this particular death: like the long frustrated Ma Zhou and the talented poet Li He, who died at 26 years of age, Liangbi also died in his prime (at 35); his talents never came to full fruition.
As if to counter the onslaught of time and to requite a life cut short, Liangbi's own words (eight letters) and images (of Liangbi at 35 [Figure 1], his blood-stained clothing, and his sword collection) are meticulously [End Page 3] preserved in this small volume. The bulk of the volume consists of works by the commemorators: paintings, letters, a stele inscription, memoirs, poems, plaques (bian'e), and couplets (yingtie). Traditionally bound and encased in its own indigo book-box, the volume is sized to be held comfortably in the palm (6.6" x 3.8"). The pages display extra wide margins, drawing the reader's eyes to focus on the crisply printed characters and finely reproduced art works. The title page is written in fine calligraphy, lithographically reproduced though unsigned (Figure 2). On the verso are the following characters, also hand-written and unsigned: "Printed by the Memorial Hall for Mr. Liang in Beijing" (Figure 3).5 Bearing no further indication of publisher or price, the volume was clearly meant to eschew the commercial market. Most likely distributed to a selective circle of friends and colleagues of the deceased, its fine production and elegant packaging made it a collectible item, a memorial project designed both to honor the dead and to produce a mourning community.
Although the organization of the volume largely follows the format of commemorative volumes of this kind, its calligraphy and fine printing suggest the aesthetic taste of its editor Lian Quan (zi Huiqing, hao Nanhu, 1868–1932). From the correspondence contained in the volume, it is clear that Lian Quan spearheaded the project from the beginning, seeking signatures for the petition, writing letters to famous literati and prominent politicians, soliciting contributions, and raising funds for the construction of the memorial hall. Hailing from an old literati family in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, Lian Quan obtained his juren degree in 1894 and served as a low-ranking official for a few years in the capital, when he likely became close to Liangbi. Around 1904, Lian Quan resigned from his government job and established himself as an art connoisseur and fine book publisher in Shanghai. Together with a few friends from his hometown, he founded Civilization Books (Wenming shuju), a major publication concern known for its high quality lithographic and collotype printing.6 [End Page 4]
Many contemporaries found Lian Quan's persistent efforts at commemorating Liangbi incomprehensible: some thought him a fool for keeping vigil over a vanguard of the old regime; others derided him for his "political muddle-headedness" in imagining that someone like Sun Yatsen could be moved to commemorate a die-hard loyalist.7 And yet, Lian Quan himself was hardly an intransigent Qing loyalist. Four years before the Republic was founded, when the woman revolutionary Qiu Jin (1875–1907) was beheaded by the Qing, two sworn-sisters came forward to claim her remains and gave her a proper burial. One of the two, Wu Zhiying (1868–1934), was Lian Quan's wife. While the women were at the forefront of publicly mourning their friend and bore the brunt of government persecution, the actual transportation of the remains and the construction of the grave by the West Lake were handled by Lian Quan and Qiu Jin's brother (Figures 4–5). Even after Qiu Jin's tomb was torn down by Qing soldiers in late 1908, Lian Quan and Wu Zhiying [End Page 5]
continued to mourn their friend by publishing rubbings of the stele epitaph together with media criticism of the government. That volume was printed and distributed by "The Tower for Mourning Autumn" (Beiqiu ge), the name of a private studio functioning like a brand name of a publishing house, not unlike the imprint that Liangbi's commemorative volume bears.8
What could have motivated someone like Lian Quan to commemorate a revolutionary and a few years later, to commemorate a Qing loyalist? And he was hardly alone. His wife Wu Zhiying supported him in this effort, just as he supported her earlier effort in burying her sworn sister Qiu Jin. Among the contributors to the volume, we find, not surprisingly, [End Page 6]
[End Page 7] Manchu nobles Zaitao (1888–1970) and Tiezhong (1864–?) and Qing loyalists Wang Shizhen (1861–1930) and Chen Baochen (1848–1935), but also prominent Republican figures — not just those like Xu Shichang (1755–1939) who may be said to have divided loyalties, but also Wu Zhihui (aka Wu Jingheng, 1865–1953), a staunch radical if there ever was one. What brought all these people of diverse political beliefs between the covers of one book?
Who killed Liangbi? On the surface, this should be a simple question. It was Peng Jiazhen, a junior officer trained in the Sichuan new army, largely unknown until his identity as the killer was revealed. And yet, when it came to the real culprit behind the attack, interpretations differed.
One interpretation is given in the stele inscription for Liangbi's memorial hall, the text of which is at the front of the commemorative volume. It was written by Ke Shaomin (Fengsun, 1848–1933), a Qing loyalist and respected scholar (1886 jinshi, Hanlin Academician, tutor to emperor Xuantong, major contributor to Qingshi gao). Deviating from the usual stele convention of giving a biographical account of the deceased, except for a short elegy at the end, Ke's inscription focuses on Liangbi's last moments:
In December of the third year of the Xuantong emperor's reign, someone attacked Lord Liang, the commander of the imperial guards, with a bomb near his private residence. He was wounded in the left leg. The attending doctor gave reasonable prognosis of his recovery. In another three days, the one behind the attack was alarmed to learn that his victim was getting better by degrees rather than dying. Soon after, [someone] offered a jug of medicinal wine, saying that it would nourish qi and replenish blood. Lord Liang drank from it and died.… Of all the princes and lords of the Eight Banners, Lord Liang was the only one skilled in military affairs and a choice candidate as commander of the troops for the empire. Thus evil-doers especially focused their hatred on him. Not a month after Lord Liang's death, the one behind the attack appropriated the republic's name in order to advance his own scheme of usurping the throne. Thus the world came to chaos.9 [End Page 8]
In training his focus on Liangbi's death, Ke Shaomin interprets it as a cause for the fall of the empire and the disordering of the world that followed. In addition to giving consequence to the subject of the commemoration, this angle also allows Ke to make pointed historical judgment. Although his narration does not directly name the guilty party, calling him "the one behind the assault" (zhushi zei gong zhe) or "the evil-doer" (jianren), he clearly fingers Yuan Shikai as the ultimate culprit of Liangbi's assassination and its beneficiary who "appropriated the republic's name in order to advance his own scheme of usurping the throne." Note, also, that despite his loyalist stance in lamenting the fall of the Qing Empire, the author does not position himself as an enemy to the Republic, only against him who "appropriated" its name. And having largely resisted collaboration with the new regime, Ke Shamin had the moral standing to pass judgment on the character of others, as historians were traditionally expected to do.
That Yuan Shikai was behind the assassination was a belief widely held, and not just by those sympathetic to Liangbi. For it was well known that Liangbi was opposed to the court's desperate decision to recall Yuan Shikai in November of 1911. When Liangbi and his Manchu cohort formed the Zongshe dang in January 12, 1912, they announced their staunch rejection of peace talks with the revolutionaries, an uncompromising stance in direct opposition to the one adopted by Yuan Shikai. In this triangulation of powers, the Zongshe dang opposed both the revolutionaries and Yuan Shikai, with their open antagonism toward the revolutionaries barely veiling their animosity against Yuan. In other words, both the revolutionaries and Yuan had reason enough to want to eliminate Liangbi. By the time Ke Shaomin wrote the stele in 1923, it was not hard to claim that Yuan profited directly from Liangbi's death and the fall of the Qing. Even if one did not take an extreme loyalist position that Yuan was a traitor in negotiating with the revolutionaries and forcing the abdication of the emperor, when he announced his intention of ascending the throne in 1916, many saw him as a bona fide usurper. In eulogizing Liangbi's loyalty and censuring Yuan Shikai's treachery, Ke Shaomin thus renders his historical judgment, carved into stone.
However, this interpretation of history was not universally accepted, or even accepted by all those who contributed to the volume. One refutation comes in the form of a letter to Lian Quan from Wang Yitang (1877–1948), a scholar-official from Yuan Shikai's old circle and at the [End Page 9] time serving under the warlord Duan Qirui (1865–1936). Conceding that Yuan Shikai "ruined his life's work by his ambition for the throne at the end of his career," Wang nonetheless argues that earlier on Yuan had supported the Republican cause (a definite good in the current political context) and had negotiated a comfortable settlement for the royal family (a qualified good even for Qing loyalists).10 That Wang would defend Yuan's legacy is not surprising; what is surprising is the grounds on which he did it — for he has no hard evidence to refute Yuan's possible role in Liangbi's death, ostensibly his point of contention with the stele inscription. Instead, Wang disputes the interpretation because it "smears the honor of the martyrs." Note that by "martyrs" he means both the assassin and his victim: "Liangbi was hit and won a good name; even the attacker gave up his life for a cause." Thus, Wang abstracts the cause of martyrdom — the Republic and the Qing, respectively — and puts the assassin and the victim equally on a moral pedestal, a status, he argues, that a story of political conspiracy would inevitably diminish. To Wang Yitang, the fault of the stele inscription lies in its adherence to the ancient standard of historiography (chunqiu bifa), which, in spite of its famed classic restraint, has a "compulsion to cast blame." Invoking historical analogies with a similar lack of moral clarity, Wang suggests that Yuan Shikai need not play the villain.11 Indeed, Wang argues, in order to maintain Liangbi's status as a martyr — the very goal of the volume — no more should be said about anyone's culpability. It is as if the commemorator-historian's sole task was to ensure a good death to the deceased, a death "unblemished" by realpolitik. If Ke Shaomin's stele gives a classic historian's judgment of good and evil, Wang Yitang proposes another, fundamentally different, version of history writing, in which the eulogistic imperative demanded by martyr commemoration is called upon to obscure historical responsibility.
Surprisingly, a passionate revolutionary, politically diametrically opposed to Wang Yitang, adopts the same approach and reaches a similar conclusion. Wang Lan'gao (Wenfu, 1869–1925), a noted poet in the Southern Society circle, also strongly disputes the stele interpretation in his hagiography of the assassin Peng Jiazhen, also included in the [End Page 10] commemorative volume.12 Four times longer than Ke's terse stele and with a most graphic depiction of the assassination, Wang's piece is a cross between historical narration and sentimental fiction.
In writing the hagiography, Wang Lan'gao means first of all to establish public recognition and a place in history for the assassin — not some anonymous bomb-thrower as described in the stele (and in Wang Yitang's letter) but a man with a proper name (Peng Jiazhen, zi Xiru), place of origin (Jintang, Sichuan province), educational background (Sichuan infantry military academy), and most important of all, a sense of mission — "taking upon himself the cause of restoring the sovereignty of the Han race" (guangfu hanzu).13 For it is this conscious sense of mission that turns the suicide-assassin into a glorious martyr, one who "cares only for his country and not his life." For the same reason, Wang argues, Peng once appropriated soldiers' pay for the revolutionary cause: "If his life could be sacrificed, what did he care about mere reputation?" Even his betrothed, a Miss Wang Qingru, "on account of his patriotic sacrifice, decided to take the widow's vow and keep chastity for him."14
This high rhetoric of martyrdom is meant explicitly to counter the unsavory political intrigues implied in the stele interpretation. To Ke's barely veiled suggestion that the assassination was engineered by Yuan Shikai to serve his imperial ambition, Wang grumbles indignantly: "As if Martyr Peng was nothing but a hawk or a hunting dog for Yuan Shikai."15 The point of contention is the hero's agency: whether he acted from his own convictions or whether he was mere fodder in the political game of bigger and more ambitious players.16 Again, the eulogistic imperative of hagiography requires the removal of details that may lead readers to question the martyr's agency. In this respect, one detail in particular incensed the hagiographer: the poisoned wine in Ke Shaomin's account. [End Page 11] In Wang's highly romantic opinion, this detail diminishes Peng Jiazhen as well as Liangbi. For the assassin, the poisoned wine dilutes the dramatic climax, as if the bomb were only one item in a prosaic chain of events that led to Liangbi's eventual demise. For the victim, Liangbi's acceptance of the wine shows him off "to be weak and pathetic like a woman. Even though his bones and sinews were shattered, he was still fearful of death and fell into the poisonous trap of the doctor."17 A good death should be superhumanly heroic, befitting the true martyr who transcends the usual human weakness when faced with pain. He should have no need to seek relief from it.18
Wang reserves his most dramatic touch for Liangbi's deathbed scene: "As he lingered, he said to his personal secretary Kang Zhuanqu, 'The bomb thrower is truly a man of valor! He knew that so long as I'm alive, the Qing Empire will not fall. Thus he gave up his own life to take me out. Although he kills me, he truly knows me (zhiji).'"19 These words would be repeated in later accounts, a moment of tragic pathos.20 And this is the scene that moved Lian Quan so much that he decided to include this hagiography in his volume.21 In Wang's dramatic rendition, Liangbi's chosen term for his assassin, zhiji, harkens back to the long-lasting lyrical ideal of the soul-mate who recognizes and truly appreciates one's worth. In apparent contradiction to its usual usage as the highest ideal of friendship, here it is used to describe what should have been an arch-enemy. And yet, what the arch-enemy shares with the soul-mate is the crucial act of recognition, which confers on "me" my full worth, including my aspirations and unrealized goals.22 And an arch-enemy such as the suicide-assassin may be said to demonstrate this recognition the more thoroughly in that he is willing to give up his own life — that [End Page 12] is to say, a life for a life, the ultimate recognition that one man can give another.23 Odd as it might be, in thus turning his deadly foe into his true friend, Liangbi salvaged for himself, his death and his life, an enduring significance. Although he himself is not the agent (being the victim), and thus cannot be said to have actively sought self-sacrifice (the usual hallmark of martyrdom), his worth and thus his sacrifice is reflected in the eyes and in the action of the assassin. In affirming his self-worth through affirming that of his enemy ("truly a man of valor"), Liangbi as depicted by Wang ultimately identifies with his enemy.
A martyr's death has certain universal qualities, according to this romantic interpretation, principally a dramatic demonstration of the hero's determination and valor and the recognition of these qualities by an audience, either an actual witness or a biographer-historian. Fulfilling these requirements, a death becomes "good," regardless of ideological differences among the dead. And as a result, the good death can be celebrated universally, regardless of partisan divisions among the living.
"Our" Martyr vs. "Their" Dead
The sole voice in the volume that rejects the universalizing tendency in this interpretation of death and refuses to join the community of mourners is that of Sun Yatsen. Instead, he draws a sharp distinction between friend and foe, among the living as well as the dead. In his letter to Lian Quan declining the invitation to contribute a commemorative plaque for Liangbi, Sun makes the distinction clear with a pair of classical allusions: "When the bones of Nie Zheng were not yet properly buried, [how could we] eulogize the obstinacy of Wugeng?"24 Thus, the good dead or "our" martyrs are exemplified by Nie Zheng, the celebrated hero-assassin who lived at the end of the Spring and Autumn period (fifth century BCE). The bad dead or "their" dead are embodied by Wugeng [End Page 13] Lufu, the crown prince of the fallen Yin Dynasty (eleventh century BCE), who was spared by King Wu of Zhou but who then rebelled against the new dynasty some years later.25
Nie Zheng's name was first immortalized by Sima Qian and became synonymous with the knight errant (xia), that protean symbol of valor and determination buttressed by high-mindedness. In the last years of the late Qing, the combination of moral righteousness and violence was grafted unto the modern notion of "iron-and-bloodism" and became more than usually popular — in the style names people gave themselves, as praise people heaped onto each other, in death notes left behind by suicide assassins, and especially in eulogies that celebrate the dead. In the early years of the Republic, Sun Yatsen devoted much time and energy to commemorating "our" martyrs, attending commemorative activities, acting as honorary head of martyr societies, and writing innumerable essays and plaques for the revolutionary dead. Regarding Peng Jiazhen, Liangbi's assassin, Sun Yatsen wrote one plaque specifically for him, two essays that mention him by name, and issued a presidential order on February 22, 1912, whereby families of three martyrs from Sichuan province including Peng were awarded death benefits.26
The presidential order states clearly why Peng Jiazhen's death was significant: "He annihilated a major enemy (jianchu dadui) and thus effectively hastened the process of national unification."27 Similarly, Sun's plaque for Peng, written in March 1912, declares: "Our Lao Peng Scored High with a Bomb" (wo Lao Peng shougong danwan).28 The four focal words of the plaque shougong danwan, written in large running characters, convey a full-hearted endorsement of Peng Jiazhen's final act, as if cheering a winning athlete at the finishing line. Still more interesting are the first three characters, written in much smaller characters on the top right corner, usually reserved for a formal salutation to the one to be [End Page 14] honored. Rather than naming the hero in his full name or by his honorific title, Sun Yatsen uses what may appear as an excessively familiar term in such a solemn context: wo Lao Peng, my/our old fellow Peng. It is as if addressing an old friend with whom one was in constant conversation, with a sort of back-slapping intimacy. Although Sun Yatsen may not have known this low level officer more than in passing, in his commemorative plaque he thus claims Peng Jiazhen as "ours," so familiar as to render full name unnecessary, a comrade whose final act is enough to earn him a place as one of "our" most intimate friends.29 Note that even as he commemorates "our" martyr Peng, Sun Yatsen makes no claim as to the chain of command under which Peng may have acted. Indeed, hard data was sorely lacking in similar cases when different factions of the new army changed allegiance from time to time and individuals like Peng often acted on their own.
With regard to "their" dead, especially a "major enemy" like Liangbi, Sun Yatsen stays a clear course: they are to be clearly distinguished from "our" martyrs — he will not "eulogize the obstinacy of Wugeng." This historical allusion points to the conundrum that founders of every new regime in China's long history must face, i.e. how to treat descendants (and by extension, loyalists) of the previous regime. In the archetypal story, the sage King Yu enfeoffed the sons of Yao and Shun so that they could continue their ancestral sacrifice.30 Sun Yatsen's allusion refers to a similar but more difficult situation faced by King Wu, the founder of the Zhou dynasty. After vanquishing the Yin dynasty, King Wu received three suggestions from his top advisors on what to do with the Yin descendants: to kill them all; to kill the rebellious and spare the innocents; and the last suggestion — offered by the Duke of Zhou following the example of King Yu — to allow them to return to their native land and live peaceably under an enfeoffed Yin prince Wugeng.31 The Duke of Zhou made his case by arguing that even as we overtake their kingdom, we do not extinguish their line of descent. Much more [End Page 15] than an act of mercy on individual lives, this decision adheres to ritual propriety by ensuring continuous sacrifice in the great houses, even if it is the house of one's immediate enemy. In its emphasis on the ultimate good of maintaining continuity of ancestral worship, this act treats the enemy's descent line in the same way one treats descent lines of all other ancient houses.32 More than symbolic gestures, such acts of "allowing the vanquished to survive and restoring what would have been extinguished" reestablish everyone's humanity — including the victor's own — following the destruction of war and conquest.33 Extending outward, this ritual propriety does the crucial work of maintaining a human community, albeit a community that does not extend beyond the great houses. It also has significant pragmatic payoff in buttressing a new dynasty's legitimacy, as Confucius pointedly glosses that this policy was effective in gaining "the hearts of all people under heaven."34
And yet, this act of mercy and ritual propriety may be said to have sowed the seeds for the most serious political unrest in the early years of the Zhou Dynasty, as Sun Yatsen's letter implicitly reminds the reader. We know in historical hindsight that in time Wugeng rebelled and the Duke of Zhou himself would reverse course and waged a three-year war on Wugeng and his supporters, killing Wugeng in the end. Still, even after all that, the Duke of Zhou installed another Yin descendent as the head of the vanquished house. That is to say, the Duke of Zhou, to the very end, subscribed to the basic common denominator of ritual propriety. While orthodox Confucians followed Confucius himself and praised the Duke of Zhou's steadfast adherence to rituals, there have long been dissenters, usually pragmatists who were more concerned with consolidating power than ritual correctness.
In refusing to "eulogize the obstinacy of Wugeng," Sun Yatsen joins the ranks of the dissenters to this key aspect of Confucian tradition, though he cites a rather different reason than immediate pragmatic concern. By coupling Nie Zheng and Wugeng in striking contrast, Sun Yatsen draws a sharp line between radically different categories of the [End Page 16] dead: our (good) dead and their (wicked) dead. Thus his couplet spells out a decisive choice: he will forego such ritual niceties and allow no common ground between friend and foe.
To the modern reader, Sun Yatsen's position may seem so familiar as to require no further justification. It also appears to offer the greater moral clarity, especially against the background of the other interpretations discussed above. No longer is there any overlap between one dead hero and another—Peng Jiazhen is "our" martyr, and Liangbi "their" dead; nor does it matter much whether Yuan Shikai had anything to do with the assassination. Where others prized a "good death" in terms of loyalty and heroism, Sun Yatsen points to a radical change of the times which bestows radically new meanings to the dead:
In the past, kings and emperors manipulated men of valor (diandao yingxiong) by praising loyalty toward one surname (yi xing zhi zhong) with the goal to further their private gains. Nowadays, what [we] fight for is people's rights (renquan) and universal principles (gongli). When people's rights are valued, the enemy of the people must be eliminated; when universal principles become illuminated, the enemy of these principles cannot be forgiven.35
This puts someone like Liangbi in an entirely different category: the enemy of the people. As such, Sun argues, he cannot be forgiven, let alone commemorated.
Clear and forceful though Sun Yatsen's argument may appear to be, the concept of loyalty, once obvious, was subject to redefinition. As the first of the five Confucian cardinal virtues, loyalty had been an ethical and political virtue deeply engrained in the collective Chinese psyche. In the early twentieth century, loyalty to the emperor (zhongjun) became contestable in conjunction with rapidly changing ideas of empire, nation, and less obviously, race. And this contestation played out dramatically in the commemoration of martyrs like Liangbi. [End Page 17]
To Liangbi's commemorators, cardinal virtues like loyalty are moral constants and as such transcend regime change. In their petition to canonize him, they point to historical precedents: "Even if the candidate had once been enemy of the new regime, this fact in no way prevents the new regime from conferring a memorial shrine and title on the worthy candidate."36 This is easily demonstrated as they cite the ritual standards set by high antiquity, and more pointedly from the Song and Yuan standard histories, in which "loyalists who resisted the new order were accorded biographies by the historical bureaus of the victorious dynasties."37 Closer at hand, the Qianlong emperor was known for commemorating loyalists of the previous dynasty such as Shi Kefa and Chen Zilong. Equally well known was his condemnation of those who were disloyal to the Ming such as Qian Qianyi, calling him "deficient in moral integrity" and thus "not worthy of belonging to the human race."38 "The gap between Ming and Qing dynastic loyalties was bridged by loyalty to a single 'great tradition,'" as Lynn Struve observed sometime ago.39 In other words, loyalty as a universal constant is as unchanging and public as virtues go. Most important, loyalty defines the character of those who possess it (and those who do not). This means, as a virtue, loyalty transcends its object (a particular emperor, a particular dynasty), which may well be unworthy.
This is the precise point of contention. Sun Yatsen's argument shifts the locus of the definition of loyalty to its object. Once loyalty is circumscribed by one dynasty, "one surname," it becomes "private" and thus unworthy as its object is unworthy. By the same token, this shift deprives the "man of valor" of his agency, for his loyalty is now the result of being "manipulated" by an unworthy ruler. Implicitly buttressed by the idea of historical progress, Sun contrasts the practice of "the past" with "nowadays," when we value "people's rights" and "universal principles." He thus overturns the established convention of ancient usage and dynastic histories cited in the petition letter and redefines the terms gong and si by imposing a temporal frame. He thus fundamentally [End Page 18] changes the discussion: Loyalty (to a dynasty) is now branded as outdated and private.40
Behind Sun Yatsen's rhetoric positioning the republican virtue of people's rights against the imperial virtue of loyalty hovers the specter of "race," looming large, yet never directly mentioned. As is well known, earlier in his own revolutionary career, Sun Yatsen had employed a highly racialized rhetoric to legitimate the Republican cause. Most self-identified revolutionaries participated in this rhetoric and contributed to its increasing virulence. Pai Man, or revolution against the Manchus, was routinely glossed as the equivalent of political revolution in late Qing China, a clear indication that ethnic-nationalism was at the center of the imaginary of the Republic. Three days after the abdication of the Qing emperor on February 15, 1912, Sun Yatsen led a large retinue of Republican luminaries and made his ritual obeisance at the Ming tombs, explicitly to inform the ethnic Han ancestors that the Manchu conquest had been avenged. Soon after the founding of the Republic, Sun's rhetoric changed to one of ethnic reconciliation as he attempted to separate political revolution from racial revolution. Apologists have also tried to explain away the racialized discourse to conceptual confusion on the part of his followers. And yet, this racialized discourse proved compelling largely because its deep roots in age-old sinocentrism had been recently grafted onto the social Darwinist idea of racial competition. Because Han nationalists blamed the Manchus for all of the humiliations experienced by the "Chinese" in the late Qing, other demands — economic, political and anti-imperialist — were typically subsumed under demands for racial revenge. Given the enormous disagreement on everything else among the revolutionaries, "race" often appeared to be the only common [End Page 19] ground to galvanize rebels of various class, geographical, and cultural backgrounds.41
The concept of race commanded fundamental changes in the definitions of loyalty, affecting both the interpretation of contemporary events and past history. When the revolutionaries applauded loyalists of the Song or Ming Dynasties, the historical figures ceased to be examples of loyalty but became symbols of ethnic Han loyalty, later typically subsumed under the banner of patriotism. Following the same logic, Qing loyalists could not be recuperated as patriots because loyalty to the Qing was also loyalty to a racially defined enemy. Thus, as ethnic nationalism became the dominant discourse in the late Qing, a chasm opened up between traditionally defined loyalty and modern patriotism. Where loyalty to the emperor (zhongjun) and devotion to the realm (baoguo) used to overlap significantly in connotation, in the late years of the Qing, patriotism (aiguo) came to be disassociated from, and could even be opposed to, loyalty to the empire.
How did Liangbi's commemorators resolve the problem of race? After all, he was not only a Manchu but also proud of it, and was notorious for banding together with his fellow Manchu nobles to form the Zongshe dang. On the other hand, all ten of the original petitioners for his canonization are of Han ethnicity, and 90 percent of the 184 signatories of the petition are also Han.42 Overwhelmingly, these commemorators gave little weight to race as a category of identity. Judging by the posthumous title they chose for Liangbi, they were intent on portraying their commemorative subject as one who resisted the worst implication of racial identity even as he staunchly defended the Manchu empire.
The two characters in Liangbi's posthumous title (shihao) are: zhong (loyalty) and jing (peacefulness). As laid out in the "Public Announcement for Liangbi's Private Canonization," the terms are defined [End Page 20] thus: "To endanger one's own life in order to uphold the imperial court, and to face danger without hesitation, that is zhong; to exercise gentle virtue and to secure peace for the masses, that is jing."43
On the surface, in singling out Liangbi's loyalty to the empire, the posthumous title is following the orthodox line in associating the cardinal virtue with the deceased. But while the title seems to offer a simple celebration of Liangbi, the letters contained in the volume speak to the tragic consequences of this virtue of loyalty. One letter from Wu Zhihui speaks of zhong as a duty required of someone of Liangbi's position (zhi or fen), which, in addition to his official post as the head of Imperial Guards, also means his status as a descendent of the Aisin Gioro bloodline.44 His virtue, then, lies in fulfilling his duty to the fullest extent, that is to say, in dying for it.
For those who knew him well and who had even tried to prevent the tragic outcome, the anguish is palpable. In a letter written in November 1911, barely two months before his death, Wu Zhiying had tried to persuade Liangbi to drop his intransigent stance by pointing out that "today everybody's heart is galvanized by the revolution.… Within one month and without a drop of blood, [revolution] ran through the provinces like a hatchet splitting a bamboo shaft."45 Instead of resisting revolution, Wu Zhiying suggested the path of surrender:
If you are sympathetic to this line of thinking, you might consider meeting with Prince Zaitao. Follow the honorable way of the five sage kings and persuade the emperor to abdicate. Thus may the populace be restored to serenity and devious schemes that foreign powers entertain may be blocked. The lives of the royal family would also be preserved. This great matter of peace or bloodshed is entirely within your hands — my dear brother, do not miss the opportunity!46
Had Liangbi followed her advice, "loyalty" would not have been in his posthumous title. Now, looking back to those days, his close friends made [End Page 21] a virtue out of his bad choice: Liangbi's tragedy lies in fulfilling what he thought was his inescapable obligation as an Aisin Gioro descendent, sacrificing himself for a cause that went against his rational self interest. The tragedy of his case is that of an individual caught in the torrent of his times: to die, not even so much for a self-chosen cause, but for a cause one had to defend because of one's birth, and a cause that one already knew to be lost. And having paid the ultimate price for his choice, he might be consoled by the title of zhong. Or perhaps such a lofty title would bring a modicum of consolation to those who were close to him and yet unable to save him from destruction.
The second character in the posthumous title for Liangbi is jing (lit. standing still, in an attitude of quietude), a term that had been used in several famous men's posthumous titles, notably those in the eremitic tradition such as Tao Qian (shihao Jingjie, 364–427) and Lin Bu (shihao Hejing, 967–1028). Such a term would seem like an unusual choice, given Liangbi's life actively engaged in politics and military affairs and his death in violence. Following the ancient practice of "concealing judgment in a name" (yuping yuming), the commemorators single out one episode from Liangbi's life to justify conferring on this career soldier a title that usually befits a hermit. In early 1911 when the Republican Revolution was raging in Hankou and reports reached the capital that many Manchu lives had been lost, "someone at the court suggested rounding up the Han Chinese residents in the capital and summarily executing them in the marketplace. That way, the revolutionaries will be scared into stopping their slaughter of Manchus."47 Just as the court was poised to act on this suggestion, Liangbi rushed in and spoke to Prince Zaitao, saying that "such a policy would surely enrage the entire nation and help the revolutionaries accomplish their goal." Liangbi then threatened to "put down his own weapon if the court insisted on carrying out the massacre so that he would not have to share the same awful fate as the stupid advisers who came up with the idea. As he finished his speech, his angry tears soaked through his sleeves."48 In this dramatic rendition, a single voice spoke up against race-based massacre on both sides. More than ten years after the tumultuous days of the revolution, with assassinations of political rivals and constant factional fights among the warlords, conferring on [End Page 22] Liangbi the honorific of jing evokes an attitude of peacefulness and calmness. Even more than defining a quality of the dead, this epithet may be expressing a longing shared by the mourners living in a world without much prospect of peace.
The honorifics of loyalty and peacefulness that the commemorators conferred on Liangbi indicate the central problem of his life — whether to be bound by race as a primary category of identity. For if the first term of loyalty meant, in this time, racial loyalty, then the second term explicitly blurred the racial divide by pointing to Liangbi's success at saving the lives of Han people. In their effort to commemorate him across their own ethnic boundary, the commemorators could be said to honor the dead by upholding his beliefs.49 Ultimately — and this is something that no amount of effort from his friends could have helped — the tragedy of Liangbi is that first he sacrificed himself on the altar of race in defending the Qing to the death, and then again as a racial enemy, he was sacrificed to the dustbin of history, neither mourned nor remembered except by his close friends.
Oddly, having refused Lian Quan's invitation to commemorate Liangbi, Sun Yatsen concedes in his letter that it is perfectly acceptable for Lian to take it upon himself to conduct commemorative activities: "For you, who've had strong affection for an old friend, it is natural to offer sacrifice in front of his grave; but for me, who have not known [Liangbi] in person, what can I say that is not random and meaningless?"50 This is a decidedly different tone from the main theme of his letter, abandoning the high rhetoric of "people's rights" and "universal principles" in favor of the mundane logic of personal ties and private affection. The bond of friendship, then, introduces another interpretive framework, cutting across other boundaries between ancient versus modern virtues, public versus private realms, and Han versus Manchu ethnicities. [End Page 23]
How did the commemorators understand the special bond of friendship? Who considered themselves Liangbi's friends, and what did mourning for Liangbi allow them to do? These questions take us away from the dead and toward the living, whose descriptions of their dead friend inevitably reflect their self-conceptions and their ideas about community.
For Lian Quan, friendship with Liangbi is the kind "equal to brotherhood" (qingjun tianlun), a bond that requires them to "share life and death" (shengsi jiaoqing).51 When Lian Quan had financial difficulty, Liangbi was one of the few he turned to for help; when Liangbi's wife was sick with diphtheria, the rest of his family moved into Lian Quan's apartment in Beijing. When he realized Liangbi was determined to defend the Qing to the death, Lian Quan asked Wu Zhiying to rush a letter to try to dissuade him, believing somehow that her words would be more persuasive. When Liangbi died, Lian Quan persisted in his efforts to keep his friend's memory alive. "Once the memorial hall is finally completed," Lian Quan wrote in a letter, "then I can die in peace. I will have discharged my duty toward my old friend."52 Indeed, it was a duty so weighty that only steady effort, working "against the judgment of the whole world, … could bring relief to [Lian Quan's] aching heart."53
Other than Lian Quan, another chief mourner is Sun Kuijun (zi Daoyi, hao Hanya, 1866–1941), Lian Quan's close friend and maternal cousin, chiefly known as a poet-calligrapher. He was one of the original group of ten who championed Liangbi's canonization and contributed the most emotional works to the volume (four poems, a letter, a plaque and a couplet). From the letters included in the commemorative volume, it is clear that Liangbi was a regular presence in Lian Quan and Sun Kuijun's artist-literati circle despite his occasional self-deprecation as "a mere soldier" (wufu) out of place in such elegant gatherings. Their [End Page 24] correspondence frequently refers to shared interest in rare books and valued artworks.
In Sun Kuijun's memory, one event epitomized their friendship. In April of 1911, Lian Quan and Wu Zhiying hosted a party to celebrate Cold-Food Day with a few close friends, for which Wu Zhiying had prepared a delicately flavored potage laced with wisteria flowers. After several rounds of wine, one guest by the name of Wu Luzhen (Shouqing, 1880–1911) — commander of the Sixth Division of the New Army, more on him later — picked up the brush and dashed off several poems that he had composed a few years earlier when he was stationed at the northeast border. Warming to the mood, another guest, the artist Wu Guandai (1862–1929) made a painting of the gathering, calling it simply "Cold-Food Day in Western Beijing," and gave it to Wu Luzhen as a present. Before the year was out, two of the party guests—Liangbi and Wu Luzhen—would be dead, and the party would come to symbolize a last moment of perfect joy. The fragrance of the food and the beauty of the brush recalling friends who would never gather together again. In a quatrain written in the spring of 1912, Sun Kuijun contrasts the spring gathering of barely a year earlier and the desolation at the moment of writing:
Looking back to the west city where we shared cold food, Orioles and blossoms of March, silky threads of spring drizzle. Two martyrs died in quick succession, my heart is broken; Even the old painter of Jiangnan, he, too, has gone away.54
Just as Wu Guandai, "the old painter of Jiangnan," had immortalized this last gathering with a work of art, other literati-painters lent their brush to the work of mourning. Three paintings adorn the front of the commemorative volume, reproduced with impressive clarity. The title painting "When Heaven and Earth Grow Hoary with Age" is by the widely admired literati-painter Chen Shiceng (Hengke, 1876–1923), son of the poet Chen Sanli and elder brother to the scholar Chen Yinke (Figure 6). The top half of the long scroll is occupied by a lengthy colophon by Sun Kuijun, detailing Lian Quan's years of efforts at building a memorial hall for Liangbi. The painting proper appears to be set in some [End Page 25] remote corner of the mountains, far removed from the human world of political intrigues and revolution. Light, horizontal brush strokes suggest movement of atmosphere. Front and center are large, solid boulders with rounded contours, interspersed with tree roots, low shrubs and lichen. Time, the enemy of commemoration, seems to have stopped here. The second painting is by Jin Shaocheng (1878–1926), a politician-lawyer also known for his considerable accomplishment in the arts. Entitled "Cold-Food Day in Western Beijing," echoing the original painting made by Wu Guandai, the painting features a park-like setting with a pond surrounded by rock formations and weeping willows. In the middle distance is a pavilion, in which a figure or two can be glimpsed (Figure 7). While the Wu Guandai painting had been a celebration of a convivial gathering in spring, this "Cold-Food Day" was dedicated to the dead and gone. The last painting, "Paying Respect at the Tomb amidst a Few Saplings," is by Xu Shichang under his studio name Shuizhu cunren (Figure 8). The colophon is a hepta-syllabic quatrain by Xu himself lamenting the untimely demise of a talented young man, the culprit poetically referred to as "northern wind and chilly frost."55 Correspondingly, the painting is of a wintery scene: in the foreground, a young tree stripped bare of its leaves, its lower trunk contorted between two large rocks, its wiry branches reaching skyward. No tomb is visible in the picture, nor any visitor, an oblique reflection of Xu Shichang's own nebulous position perhaps, close enough to the Qing court to be a loyalist and yet ending up as the president of the Republic.56
Although these literati friends of Liangbi's cannot be readily described as yimin or remnant subjects of the old regime (all having held positions in the Republic), they may still be said to hold "unappeased longing for a lost world."57 In commemorating Liangbi with poetry and artworks, they obtained an opportunity to mourn a variety of things that were gone with the old regime, the valued experiences and attachments made ephemeral by the passage of time. [End Page 26]
[End Page 27]
Interspersed among the literati-artists who contributed to the volume is another cohort of career soldiers, Liangbi's classmates and associates from his Japan days.58 In his four years at the Imperial Japanese Army [End Page 28] Officers Academy, Liangbi became friends with Zhang Shaozeng (1879–1928), Zhong Tiqian (1879–1962), Feng Gengguang (1882–1966), Tang Zaili (1882–1964), Niu Yongjian (1870–1965), and many others.
Even though they were of diverse political leanings (revolutionaries, constitutionalists, anarchists, loyalists), these young men spent years in one another's company in a foreign country far away from home. Some of them formed bonds still stronger than those that typically developed among tongchuang or tongmen (classmates or those who studied under the same master). When this cohort returned to China, their education, ambition, even demeanor, set them apart from the old Qing military. While on political grounds, Liangbi and the revolutionaries might be considered enemies, they understood one another exceptionally well, sharing a deep concern for the country's future and a passionate belief in the role of the military in national revival.59 As late as March of 1911, for example, Niu Yongjian was still writing to Liangbi at length from Berlin, where he was studying military affairs, giving a detailed report on how the Germans trained their soldiers and officers.60 When Liangbi lamented that "no one shared his vision,"61 he must have been painfully aware that if there were those who shared his ideals, they might be in the opposite camp. Commemorating Liangbi in the early years of the Republic gave this cohort an opportunity to mourn their own youthful ideals, dreams, and aspirations, which were far from fulfilled by the success of the 1911 Revolution.
Within this cohort of army officers, one man's life most dramatically paralleled that of Liangbi: Wu Luzhen, the New Army officer who dashed off his poems at Lian Quan and Wu Zhiying's party.
The two young men shared remarkably similar experiences while growing up. Liangbi came from a declining Manchu family, lost his father early, and was raised by his widowed mother in the interior garrisons of Sichuan and Hubei. Wu Luzhen came from a declining literati family, lost his father early, and spent his youthful years in Hubei on the margin of gentility. Wu Luzhen was hand picked by Zhang Zhidong in 1898 as one [End Page 29] of the first twenty Chinese cadets sent to the Imperial Japanese Army Academy.62 Liangbi was one year behind him in the second Chinese class. By all accounts, they enjoyed each other's company and had high regard for each other's ethical principles, specifically their devotion to their mothers and attachment to friends.63 Still, they were also known to have had frequent heated political arguments until "their faces were red and their voices hoarse."64 On several occasions after they returned from Japan, Liangbi helped Wu Luzhen: when in 1906 Wu clashed with the powerful Governor-general Shengyun (1858–1931), Liangbi put in a good word for him at court and saved his career; again, in 1907, Liangbi was instrumental in Wu's appointment as commander of the Sixth Brigade. Even in their ends, they mirrored each other: Wu was assassinated on November 7, 2011, barely three months before Liangbi was assassinated — Wu was 31 years of age, Liangbi 34 — hence the "two martyrs" lamented by Sun Kuijun in his poem. Again, like Liangbi's assassination, Wu's death was also shrouded in mystery: some speculated that Yuan Shikai was behind it; others believed it was mutiny by old-style soldiers against an officer trained abroad.
Not surprisingly, this extraordinary tangle of relationships opened the door for vastly divergent interpretations. An early account was offered by Qian Jibo (1887–1957) in a biographical sketch of Wu Luzhen published in Minli bao four months after Wu's death.65 A young man of 24 at the time, Qian Jibo—who would become known as a literary historian and father to the eminent scholar Qian Zhongshu—had already gained some recognition as a rising star in classical prose and was serving as a staff officer in the Jiangsu-Zhejiang army. He drafted the sketch, as he recalled years later, "hunkering down in the encampment."66 In Qian's terse rendition interspersing vivid dramatic narrative and subtle historical judgments, Wu Luzhen emerges as a critical player at a critical historical moment, a man of considerable talent, bravery, and a grand vision, but [End Page 30] sometimes tending toward carelessness. Toward the end of the sketch, Qian gives a particularly telling episode:
In 1904, Wu Luzhen attended a party in Beijing. After he'd had quite a few cups of wine, Wu looked around the table and started thus: 'Do you all remember that in the summer of 1900, someone raided the treasurer's office in Datong? Do you know who did it?' His words stunned the dinner guests and everybody went quiet. With a full cup in his right hand, Wu pointed to his own nose with his left: 'That was me. I kid you not.' Raising the cup to his lips, he emptied the wine in one gulp. Among the company, Liangbi and Yao Xiguang shot a glance at the other, visibly losing their composure.67
Clearly, everyone recalled the events of the summer of 1900 when an ill-planned coalition between the constitutionalists and revolutionaries resulted in a botched uprising in Datong, Anhui. More than a dozen leaders were beheaded at the time, including the instigator Tang Caichang (1867–1900). Apparently, Wu Luzhen was one of the few who managed to slip away; he resurfaced in Japan a month later as if nothing had happened. Four years later, his drunken swagger amounted to a confession of grand treason. With classic reticence, Qian does not go on to speculate on the connection between this revelation and Wu's assassination seven years later, nor does he "cast blame" as classical historians are wont to do. Instead, the biographer quotes from the Book of Changes: "When things are in the planning stage, careless words could lead to ruin" (jishi bumi ze haicheng).68 Indeed, at a moment of great transition, Wu Luzhen was particularly well positioned to affect the course of history. Yet, his considerable talents, superior training and great vision ultimately came to naught, partly due to his carelessness — and Qian Jibo finishes his sketch with a sigh (ke kai yefu)!
The taciturnity of Qian's interpretation, if anything, seemed to have fanned others' passion. Ten people, headed by Wu Luzhen's former lieutenant Xie Bingpu (?–1916), published an open letter in Minli bao on May 29, 1912. Rather than disputing Qian's biographical sketch directly, [End Page 31] the letter writers targeted Lian Quan and Wu Zhiying, who had recently published a volume of Wu Luzhen's poems which included Qian Jibo's sketch as well as Sun Kuijun's poem quoted earlier.69 The letter writers claimed that Wu Luzhen's mother was distressed by what she saw as the denigration of her son in Qian's sketch and by such wording in Sun's poem as "two martyrs." While the letter writers concede that Wu Luzhen and Liangbi may have been friendly in their lifetime, "when it came to matters involving the nation, their enmity was extreme. There are even those who believe that Liangbi had a hand in Wu Luzhen's death. This may not be idle speculation." Indignantly, the letter concludes by saying that including Qian's sketch and Sun's poem "does not accord with the intent to glorify the martyr."70 Although the context is different, the logic of the letter writers is remarkably similar to that of Wang Yitang and Wang Langao discussed above, namely, the eulogistic imperative demands significant editing of historical facts.
Within days, another prominent figure jumped into the fray with a lengthy essay published consecutively on June 2 and 3, 1912 in Minli bao — Wu Zhihui, well-known as an anarchist-revolutionary, but also a respected cultural figure (juren of 1891, known for his seal script calligraphy and as an early champion of language reforms). Wu had connections to all of the involved parties. He had known Lian Quan in their youthful days studying at the famed Nanjing shuyuan, and befriended Wu Luzhen and Liangbi in Japan. The importance of the discussion had clearly escalated in the newspapers over the previous three months, as Qian Jibo's original biographical sketch was carried in the Miscellany section (zalu), typical for the many martyr biographies published at the time; Xie Bingpu's open letter was carried in the Letters-received section (laihan); and Wu Zhihui's essay took pride of place in the Special Discussion section (zhuanlun).
Picking up on the thread in Xie's letter about Wu Luzhen's mother, Wu Zhihui concedes that it "accords with social convention" to want to console her by "heaping hatred and disdain on Liangbi." Still, "the mother of a great martyr is far from conventional," argues Wu Zhihui, [End Page 32] for "she had long ago pledged her son's life to the Han race."71 Clearly, Wu Zhihui modeled this mother directly after the mother of Yue Fei (1103–42), who famously tattooed four characters on his back, "utmost loyalty to the country" (Jingzhong baoguo).72 Leaving aside the fictional nature of the legend, there is a significant slippage between the model and the case at hand: the object of loyalty for Yue Fei was guo whereas the object of Wu Luzhen's loyalty, according to Wu Zhihui, is "the Han race." Once again, a Song loyalist like Yue Fei is recuperated because his loyalty can be translated into ethnic Han loyalty, and loyalty to the realm (baoguo) can be subsumed under the modern banner of patriotism to the ethnic nation state. The point that Wu Zhihui aims to press with the exalted image of the martyr's mother, however, is that she transcends conventional sorrow and does not need cheap consolation.
Having dispelled facile solace, Wu Zhihui goes to the heart of the contention: the relationship between Wu Luzhen and Liangbi. Rather than imputing or disputing Liangbi's role in Wu's assassination, he imagines a bizarre scene of time-warp in which Wu foretells Liangbi's death: "In a moment of extreme agony, when [the assassin] was about to cut off his head, Wu Luzhen snorted: 'Liangbi, you idiot! How cheaply are you selling your barbarians' empire for my head! Go ahead and take it. But you'll be sorry later when your own leg flies off on its own!'"73
The gruesome dark humor, characteristic of Wu Zhihui's irreverence, spells out a direct causation: Wu Luzhen's death would bring down the Qing Empire. In this imaginary last moment, Wu Luzhen is exactly like Liangbi as recorded by Wang Lan'gao, who also proclaimed that his death would mean the fall of the Qing Empire. With head rolling and leg flying, the empire did indeed fall, and Liangbi and Wu Luzhen became each other's doppelgänger. Even as the dying men proclaimed themselves the instigators of world-changing events, neither was in fact directly responsible for decisive military action as they had aspired to be. Just as Wu Luzhen could not have actually bombed Liangbi (having died months before), ultimately it did not matter whether Liangbi had a hand in Wu [End Page 33] Luzhen's death. For such interpretations tell us much more about the interpreters/mourners than about the dead.
The course of events, as Wu Zhihui sees it, followed from one central principle, equally valid for both men and equally inescapable no matter how heroic the two individuals may have been: "Based on the larger principle, if Liangbi did not cut off Wu Luzhen's head, he wouldn't be Liangbi; and if Wu Luzhen did not blow off Liangbi's leg, he wouldn't be Wu Luzhen. If the Han race didn't have a Wu Luzhen while the Manchus had a handful of Liangbi, … we'd still be living under the Qing Dynasty."74 Clearly, the larger principle for Wu Zhihui was ethnic loyalty. Thus, it was Liangbi's zhi or duty to scheme for the Manchu Empire, just as it was Wu Luzhen's duty to scheme to overthrow it. Now that their "public enmity" (gongchou) is established, what to make of their widely witnessed friendship? Wu Zhihui for a moment appeared to join others in saying that the two men faked friendship (yang jiaohuan) with the intention of using each other politically. But then he makes a surprising 180-degree turn: "And yet, everyone, just like you and me, is made of flesh and blood. Exchanging poetry, taking care of each other in illness, how could people not develop personal fondness like brothers?" Thus, despite their public enmity and even their own initial intention, Liangbi and Wu Luzhen became "real friends" (zhijiao). Note that, although friendship is presented here as a counterpoint to "public enmity" and may thus be "private," Wu Zhihui presents it as fundamental to human nature, and as such, something that cannot be ignored. Thus, Wu Zhihui concludes, neither public enmity nor genuine friendship should be treated as a blemish to be hidden from the historical record: "As people thousands of years later should not forget Wu Luzhen, why, then, should they singularly forget Liangbi?"75
Ultimately, his essay justifies more than the friendship between Wu Luzhen and Liangbi. It justifies why a republican enemy like Liangbi should be commemorated, and why those like Wu Zhihui himself, staunch republicans, should involve themselves in doing it. (He was one of the original ten who championed Liangbi's canonization). As [End Page 34] construed by Wu Zhihui, friendship is essential to human nature and, as such, "naturally" allows the crossing of political and racial lines and the redrawing the boundaries of community. For an iconoclast like Wu, mourning Liangbi may have allowed him to declare his independence from the party line championed by Sun Yatsen and followed faithfully by the likes of Xie Bingpu. More important, it may have allowed him to express an uncharacteristic longing for something constant, symbolized by a dead loyalist who could be described as unambiguously "constant," even if wrong-headedly and tragically so. This constancy was still more powerfully symbolized by the friendship between Wu Luzhen and Liangbi, and further, by the friendship between the two dead men and Wu Zhihui himself, a friendship that transcended race, politics, and even death.
This brings us back to the initial questions that motivated this study: What drew the diverse crowd of commemorators together? And why did they insist on making their commemoration public?
One obvious reason was the traumatic impact that Liangbi's death left on those who knew him. That the very details of his agony were repeatedly dwelled upon in the commemorative volume testifies to the lasting effects of the trauma: his blood-stained clothing was displayed in the memorial hall and photographs of it are included in the volume. These items, and reproduced images of them, retained their ability to inflict wounds on the viewer, as if to say, if such suffering were left un-commemorated, they would quickly be forgotten, and this death would be rendered meaningless, and by extension, the many other deaths as well.
And yet, even when an individual death is traumatic or heroic, without persistent effort by friends, relatives, and groups of friends and relatives, that person might still be forgotten. Countless people, both Manchu and Han, died during the Qing-Republic transition. Most left behind no trace, let alone memorial halls or commemorative volumes.76 Liangbi's death could have just as easily been one more violent but meaningless death during a major historical transition, were it not for his devoted friends like Lian Quan and Sun Kuijun, and were it not for his myriad connections to those in the revolutionary camp. [End Page 35]
That these efforts came to fruition also had much to do with the historical moment around 1923. Unlike the time when Liangbi died, a moment of violent confrontation and mass bloodshed, the early 1920s was a time of murkiness. The revolution was more than a decade old; Yuan Shikai had also come and gone. Enough time had elapsed so that one could pass judgment on recent history as Ke Shaomin did in the stele inscription; but the gap was still brief enough that players in that history like Wang Yitang and Wu Zhihui still felt compelled to stake personal claims to particular versions of that history. Meanwhile, the basis for historical judgment had somehow eroded from under them. As Sun Yatsen's letter made clear, the new Republic sponsored a fundamentally different moral framework for historical interpretation. Even if this new framework was not widely adopted, after Yuan Shikai indelibly linked his affirmation of Confucianism to his own imperial ambitions, even hitherto unquestioned core values appeared tainted and suspect. Lu Xun's madman of 1918 would famously see the words "eat people" in history books filled with "virtue" and "morality," thus prophesying the collapse of the entire cultural edifice, and in particular, the bankruptcy of established historical-moral judgment.77
Against this tainted value system and ambivalent political future, the commemoration of one extraordinary man allowed his friends and associates to mourn the many losses they had witnessed and experienced, some tangible, others not. To eulogize the moral constants that Liangbi was seen to embody must have given them solace at a time when many felt disoriented and disheartened. Still further, to canonize someone through a grassroots petition allowed the commemorators a sense of intervention in the writing of history, even if it was ostensibly a private venture. That the petitioners shared a common belief that moral values embodied by the dead could transcend their different political affiliations, must have given the whole enterprise a coveted aura of sincerity and authenticity, sustaining qualities in a time of profound doubt and ennui.
There were also several personal reasons why 1923 saw the completion of the commemorative project. For some years, the chief mourner Lian Quan had been in financial difficulty. After Liangbi died, Lian Quan had initially planned to purchase Liangbi's rented apartment as a memorial hall but could not come up with the funds. Between 1914 and 1917, Lian [End Page 36] Quan lived in Japan where he maintained an art gallery specializing in antique fans.78 Sometime in 1922, he reached an agreement with his old friend Chunyue, the abbot of Tanzhe Temple in the western hills and its subsidiary Yijiao Temple inside Beijing. The abbot donated a sizable courtyard in the eastern corner of Yijiao Temple to be refurbished as Liangbi's memorial hall (Figure 9). Once the memorial hall was under way, Lian Quan began the process of petitioning for a posthumous title, soliciting contributions of stele inscription, paintings, eulogies, and poems from friends and family, and finally putting together the commemorative volume, a textual companion to the physical holder of Liangbi's memory, the memorial hall.
Admittedly, personal finances and networks are but incidental factors in the unfolding of history. And yet, this confluence of private life events and connections illustrates that martyr commemoration need not always be about the nation-state. In the present case, it was rather about shared experiences and losses, and as such, it clashed with ideologies sponsored by the nascent modern state. In mourning an enemy of the republic, and in including eulogies of revolutionary martyrs in the volume dedicated to Liangbi's memory, Lian Quan may be seen as lacking in political astuteness, or possessed of "muddle-headedness" as some of his contemporaries jokingly called it. There would come a time in modern Chinese history when such "muddle-headedness" was no longer a laughing matter, when even a slight blurring of the line between "us" and "them" was condemned, when toeing the party line and being in the right camp could be a matter of life or death. When the powerful central state monopolizes the right to define political virtue, commemorative volumes published in the People's Republic become uniformly laudatory, and all questionable or even idiosyncratic details are edited out.79 [End Page 37]
In 1922 when Lian Quan was putting together the commemorative volume for Liangbi, Lu Xun, speaking from the diametrically opposite political standpoint, lamented the neglect of the tombs of four Republican dead, one of whom was Liangbi's assassin Peng Jiazhen. In his characteristically acerbic manner, Lu Xun satirized the apathy of the crowd: "When those who have sacrificed themselves have been drained of their blood in front of the altar, there is nothing left for the rest of us to do other than 'partaking of the sacrificial meat.'"80
In front of the altar of ethnic nationalism, many lives have indeed been sacrificed, including the Republican martyrs Peng Jiazhen and Wu Luzhen, as well as the Manchu martyr Liangbi. Despite Sun Yatsen's efforts at marking a clear break from the imperial past, the modern Nie [End Page 38] Zheng and Wugeng had similarly drained their blood as demanded by their ethnic affiliations. Fortunately, having witnessed their sacrifices, not everyone was as apathetic or quick to forget as Lu Xun's crowd. As the material embodiment of the work of mourning, the commemorative volume counters the pervasive devaluing of individual life and the usual short memory of pain and loss. And in the process, it gives us a snapshot of a particular historical moment, or perhaps more accurately, a panoramic shot of the individuals in front of the altar who held different perspectives and had conflicting loyalties. Ultimately, what we have here is a surprisingly faithful record of the changing of social and political order, the lines that divided as well as the ties that bound. [End Page 39]
Hu Ying is a Professor of East Asian Languages & Literatures at the School of Humanities, University of California, Irvine.
|Chen Shiceng (Hengke)||陳師曾 (衡恪)|
|jishi bumi ze haicheng||幾事不密則害成|
|ke kai yefu||可慨也夫|
|Ke Shaomin (Fengsun)||柯劭忞 (鳳蓀)|
|Lian Quan (Huiqing, Nanhu)||廉泉 (惠卿, 南湖)|
|Lianggong ci bei||良公祠碑|
|Liangbi (Laichen)||良弼 (賚臣)|
|Lin Bu (Junfu, shihao Hejing)||林逋 (君復，諡號 和靖)|
|Rikugun shikan gakkō||陸軍士官学校|
|Sun Kuijun (Daoyi, Hanya)||孫揆均 (道毅, 寒厓)|
|Tao Qian (Yuanming, shihao Jingjie)||陶潛 (淵明, 諡號 靖節)|
|Tianhuang dilao lu||天荒地老錄|
|Wang Lan'gao (Wenfu)||汪蘭皋 (文溥)|
|Wo Lao Peng shougong danwan||我老彭收功彈丸|
|Wu Luzhen (Shouqing)||吳祿貞 (綬卿)|
|Xu Shichang (Shuizhu cunren)||徐世昌 （水竹邨人）|
|yixing zhi zhong||一姓之忠|
|zhushi zei gong zhe||主使賊公者|
1. These include Wu Yue's 1905 attack on the five Manchu officials as they were departing for Japan to investigate constitutional monarchy, and Xu Xilin's 1907 attack on the Anhui governor Enming. See Krebs, "Assassination in the Republican Revolutionary Movement."
3. There is the famous story of Liuxia Hui's wife insisting on her right to give him a shihao, Liu Xiang, Lienü zhuan, 2:10.
5. The frontispiece, written in a style somewhat reminiscent of the Slender-Golden script, may have been by Lian Quan, Sun Hanya, or Wu Zhiying. All three were close to Liangbi, all three were known to practice this somewhat unusual script, and Wu Zhiying's calligraphy already graces Liangbi's stele. For discussion of the origin of this script, see Ebrey, "Huizong's Stone Inscriptions." For discussion of Wu Zhiying's calligraphy, see my "'Tossing the Brush,'" 57–86.
7. Enemy, Friend, Martyr: Commemorating Liangbi (1877–1912), Contesting History
8. While using studio name as publication imprint was common practice for privately published volumes, using a place of mourning (Beiqiu ge or Lianggong ci) as imprint adds sanctity and aesthetic cohesion to a commemorative volume. Even though the volume would still be privately published, such an imprint draws attention away from the mourner to the mourned. For Lian and Wu's commemorative volume for Qiu Jin, see my Burying Autumn, ch. 4.
11. One analogy is Boyi and Shuqi versus Shangfu; the other is Guanshu, Caishu versus Zhougong. "Wang Yitang yu Lian Quan shu," Tianhuang dilao lu, 23.
12. Wang Lan'gao, "Peng lieshi zhuan," Tianhuang dilao lu, 22–25.
13. Wang Lan'gao, "Peng lieshi zhuan," Tianhuang dilao lu, 23.
14. Wang Lan'gao, "Peng lieshi zhuan," Tianhuang dilao lu, 24.
15. Wang Lan'gao, "Peng lieshi zhuan," Tianhuang dilao lu, 25.
16. In classical formulations, agency is clearly implied. Thus Confucius says: "The determined scholar and the man of virtue will not seek to live at the expense of injuring their virtue. They will even sacrifice their lives to preserve their virtue complete." Analects 15.8 (Legge, 1:297). Mencius's formulation makes the agency clearer still: "I like life, and I also like righteousness. If I cannot keep the two together, I will let life go, and choose righteousness." Mencius 6A:10 (Legge, 2:411).
17. Wang Lan'gao, "Peng lieshi zhuan," Tianhuang dilao lu, 25.
18. The archetypal hero in this vein is Guan Yu of The Three Kingdoms, who famously laughed and ate his way through bone surgery on his arm. Ch. 75.
19. Wang Lan'gao, "Peng lieshi zhuan," Tianhuang dilao lu, 24.
20. Of the primary witness, the staff member Kang Zhuanqu, nothing more is known except that he was from Sichuan, also Liangbi's place of origin, thus presumably the connection went back some years. The earliest extant account of this conversation is from Wang Lan'gao.
23. Such a dramatic twist constitutes a minor archetype in premodern fiction; one of the most famous is Zhuge Liang's elegy to Zhou Yu in which he says that "from now on, I will not have a zhiyin in the entire world," having of course first driven Zhou Yu to his death himself. The Three Kingdoms, ch. 57.
24. "Sun Wen fu Lian Quan shu," Tianhuang dilao lu, 73–74. Also in Sun Zhongshan quanji, 7:35. Scholars speculate that the letter was drafted by Sun Yatsen's chief of staff Tan Yankai (1880–1930), literati constitutionalist turned revolutionary, known for his political savvy and standard-script calligraphy. Yan Youfu, "Tan Yankai de shengping," 139–50.
26. Peng's posthumous award at the level of field marshal (da jiangjun) is clearly distinguished from lesser achievements named in this document, such as the petition for one Xiu Fengqi, who died in an unsuccessful insurrection in 1908, and for whom honors were not granted at the same level, but at one level below (zuo jiangjun, lieutenant general). Yilie qianqiu, 71.
28. Frontmatter, Yilie qianqiu.
29. There is disagreement over how many times Peng Jiazhen met with Sun Yatsen, if ever. The most optimistic account says they met twice, one in December 1911 and another in January 1912. Yilie qianqiu, 24, 130. The plaque also contains an obscure echo of the Analects (7:1) where Confucius compares himself to "wo Lao Peng," i.e., Laozi and Pengzu, known for their longevity, apropos of a commemorative plaque.
33. Ping-ti Ho argues that the Duke of Zhou's advice and the precautions that went with it indicate that such practice had by then reached a level of institutionalization. Ho, Sixiang zhidu shilun, 19–24.
34. Confucius, Analects 20:1 (Legge, 1:351).
35. "Sun Wen fu Lian Quan shu," Tianhuang dilao lu, 73.
36. "Zhongjing xiansheng sishi gongqi," Tianhuang dilao lu, 12.
40. Sun Yatsen was known to equivocate on this point. For example, when Zhang Xun (1878–1962)'s attempt at restoring the Qing was crushed in 1917, Sun said: "Out of blind loyalty, Zhang Xun attempted forcibly to restore the monarchy. For his treason against the nation, he should be executed; for his devotion to his monarch, he is to be pitied. To those who actually try to restore the monarchy, although I treat them as my enemies, I do also respect them." By 1924, in his reformulation of the Three Principles of the People, Sun Yatsen tried to rescue what he calls "the lofty moral precepts of the tradition of our ethnic nation," the first of which is loyalty. He says: "A nation can do without kings and emperors but it cannot do without the concept of loyalty,… [what we need is] loyalty to the country and loyalty to the people." "Sanmin zhuyi: minzu zhuyi," Sun Zhongshan xuanji, 2:650.
41. For works on the discourse of race in the late Qing, see Zarrow, "Historical Trauma," Karl, Staging the World, and Dikötter, The Discourse of Race in Modern China. Regarding the debate over the Manchus as a distinct ethnicity, see Crossley, A Translucent Mirror, and Elliott, The Manchu Way.
42. I have identified only 14 of the 184 as Manchus. In a letter by Liangbi's daughter written in 1913 to petition the local military government for death benefits, she laments that after her father passed away, "close associates and friends did not come forward, as if their feet were bound," an indication of the reluctance Manchus felt in championing the cause of someone like Liangbi. "Liang Weinan chong Lujun zongzhang," Tianhuang dilao lu, 11.
43. "Zhongjing xiansheng sishi gongqi," Tianhuang dilao lu, 12.
45. Wu Zhiying, "Yu Liangbi shu," Tianhuang dilao lu, 57.
46. Wu Zhiying, "Yu Liangbi shu," Tianhuang dilao lu, 57. For a fuller discussion of Wu's letter, see my Burying Autumn, ch. 5.
47. Hou Yi, "Ji Zhongjing xiansheng yishi," Tianhuang dilao lu, 14.
48. Hou Yi, "Ji Zhongjing xiansheng yishi," Tianhuang dilao lu, 15.
49. Ping-ti Ho makes the hypothesis that the early Chinese ritual of allowing the vanquished to continue living and sacrificing to their ancestors (xingmie jijue) allowed an effective blurring of "us" and "them." One does not need to subscribe to Ho's larger thesis of the virtues of sinicization to see this ancient ritual of conflict resolution as an attractive alternative to the endless strife of the modern era. Ho, Sixiang zhidu shilun, 21–23.
50. Sun Yatsen, "Fu Lian Quan shu," Tianhuang dilao lu, 72.
51. "Yu Ke Fengsun xiansheng shoutie," Tianhuang dilao lu, 21.
52. "Yu Ke Fengsun xiansheng shoutie," Tianhuang dilao lu, 21. The memorial hall was established in a spacious side courtyard of Yijiao Temple in western Beijing, an old temple first established in the Song and expanded three times in the Ming. The courtyard was donated by Chunyue, abbot of Tanzhe and Yijiao temples, and refurbished by Lian Quan. From the mid 1920s until about 1958, members of Lian Quan's family maintained the memorial hall and took residence in an adjacent courtyard in the temple. Lian Xiaoniu and Lian Zhong, "Shuoyishuo jingshi gusha Yijiao si."
53. "Da Xie Bingpu shu," Tianhuang dilao lu, 59.
54. "You lu xinhai jiuzuo yishou," Tianhuang dilao lu, 37.
55. Xu Shichang, "Lian huiqing laisuohua," Tianhuang dilao lu, 32.
56. Many more from this circle of literati-artists contributed elegies and couplets, including Zhou Zhaoxiang (1880–1954), Yao Hongzhu (1896–1968), Cheng Benpu (1877–?), Wu Kaisheng (1878–1949), and Li Guanglian (1879–1968).
57. Wai-yee Li, Introduction, in Trauma and Transcendence, ed. Idema, Li, and Widmer, 8.
58. Of the six hundred and thirty Chinese cadets in the Imperial Japanese Army Officers Academy, the vast majority was of Han ethnicity. Edmund Fung, The Military Dimension of the Chinese Revolution, 73.
59. For Liangbi's efforts at reforming the Qing military and restructuring the procedures of the military examinations, see "Liangbi zhuan," in Qingshi gao: liezhuan 257. On the cohort of Japan-educated officers, including Liangbi and Wu Luzhen, see Xiong Zhiyong, Cong bianyuan zouxiang zhongxin, 87–109.
61. "Liangbi zhuan," in Qingshi gao: liezhuan 257.
65. Minli bao was founded in October 1910 by Yu Youren, functioning in its early days as the headquarters of the Revolutionary Alliance. In the period examined in the current study, its chief editor was Zhang Shizhao (1881–1973). It was based in Shanghai, and at its height, it had a circulation of 20,000.
69. In a letter to Sun Kuijun, Lian Quan recalls a visit he and Wu Zhiying paid to Wu Luzhen's mother not long after Wu Luzhen's death. After hearing that the dead man had been particularly fond of her calligraphy, Wu Zhiying pledged to publish a collection of his poetry in her hand. aWu Zhongya and Wu Houzhi, Bainian Wu Luzhen, 200.
76. A number of Qing loyalists have commemorative volumes, either individually or collected together, and of course Qingshi gao contains a section of biographical sketches of heroic individuals. Unlike Liangbi's volume, these collections are typically edited by loyalists and the line of political allegiance is clear.
77. Lu Xun, "A Madman's Diary," 10.
78. For Lian Quan's earlier attempt at establishing a memorial hall, see Lian Quan, "Shang Li dazongtong shu," Tianhuang dilao lu, 16. For Lian Quan's art collection, see my Burying Autumn, 38n60, 283. From 1927 to the late 1950s, Lian Quan's Japanese concubine Terai Haruno and their three sons resided in a side courtyard in Yijiao temple, next to Liangbi's memorial hall. Lian Xiaoniu and Lian Zhong, "Shuoyishuo jingshi gusha Yijiao Si," 57–58.
79. This is not only true of Communist martyrs but also of Republican heroes, when such volumes were allowed to be published. See, for examples, commemorative volumes on Wu Luzhen (Wu and Wu, Bainian Wu Luzhen), Peng Jiazhen (Yilie qianqiu), and dozens of volumes on Qiu Jin (Hu Ying, Burying Autumn).