Zhang Xiumei and the Miao War

David Leffman Mesny, Miao War, Zhang Xiumei 5 Comments

The Miao Uprising in Guizhou (1855–1873) was – cutting out all the fiddly details – a rebellion against the  Chinese administration by the majority Hmong (Miao) ethnic minority. The Miao are concentrated in Qiandongnan, southeastern Guizhou province, a mountainous region where the only Chinese presence was in a handful of trading posts and garrison towns guarding the lowland roads. Once these had been overrun, …

Zhang Zhidong at Guiyang

David Leffman Mesny, Zhang Zhidong Leave a Comment

While walking at random around the back lanes of Guiyang, I found this bust of Mesny’s patron, Zhang Zhidong, near the restored Six-arch Bridge (六洞桥) on Bo’ai Lu. In the Qing dynasty, Guiyang’s Customs office was here, alongside the home of Yu Dekai (于德楷, aka 于仲芳, 1842–1913), a great friend of Mesny and his exact contemporary. Yu fought alongside Mesny …

Wuyapo: the final battle of the Miao War

David Leffman Mesny, Miao War, Wuyapo Leave a Comment

The last major battle of the Miao War, in either May or June 1872, was long thought to have taken place at the top of Leigong Shan. But a battle site has never been found there, and new research (including a recently-discovered eye-witness claim) makes Wuyapo  – “Crow Slope” or “Crow Mountain”, depending on how literal you want to be – near …

Verbiest’s Map of China

David Leffman map, Mesny, Verbiest, Woodblock print Leave a Comment

Back in June 2016, I was a bit stunned to find this huge, woodblock-printed world map (坤與全圖) hanging up at an antiques stall in Beijing. It wasn’t for sale, and it took me some time to sweet-talk them around the “no photographs” sign (in fact they only let me take this picture because the quality of my ipod camera is so …

Tang Jiong and Mesny’s Farm at Shuitian

David Leffman Mesny, Tang Jiong 1 Comment

According to Mesny’s Chinese Miscellany, in the early 1870s Mesny bought a farm in the vicinity of Shuitian village (水田), 18km to the northeast of Guiyang. Around 1879 he sold the land at cost price to his former commander, Tang Jiong (唐炯), who was looking for a good burial spot for his mother-in-law. In 2015 my local contact, Mr Li Maoqing, located the …

Mesny’s Bridge at Chong’an

David Leffman Mesny, Zhou Dawu Leave a Comment

During the Sichuan Army’s two-year campaign against the Miao at Chong’an, they had been repeatedly slowed by having to ferry themselves across a deep, unbridged gorge just west of town. In 1874 Mesny wrote in the Shanghai Courier how he was designing a chain-link suspension bridge over the chasm, which lay on the main post road between Hunan and Guiyang: “The bridge will …

Zhou Dawu

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In late 1870, General Zhou Dawu (周达武) was made commander-in-chief for military operations in Guizhou, and went on to supress the various Miao and Muslim uprisings in the province. Zhou appointed Mesny “Provincial Superintendent of Foreign Arms”, paid for the suspension bridge designed by Mesny that still spans a small gorge just west of at Chong’an town, and later took Mesny and his wife along …