Despite the fact that this chapter was the last written, it has been thought wise to place it here. It deals with the Chao-t’ong Rebellion, of which the outside world, even when it was at its height, knew little, but which, so recently as a couple of months prior to the date of writing, threatened to spell extermination to the foreigners in North-East Yuen-nan. And the reader, too, may welcome a digression from travel.
In spite of all that has been written in previous and subsequent chapters, and in face of the universal cry of the progress China is speedily realizing, of the stoutest optimism characteristic of the statesman and of the student of Chinese affairs, a feeling of deep gloom at intervals overcomes one in the interior—a fear of some impending trouble. There is a rumor, but one smiles at it—there are always rumors! Then there are more rumors, and a feeling of uneasiness pervades the atmosphere; a local bubble is formed, it bursts, the whole of one’s trust in the sincerity of the reform of China and her people is brushed away to absolute unbelief in a few days, and it means either a sudden onrush and brutal massacre of the foreigners, or the thing blows over after a short or long time of great strain, and ultimately things assume a normality in which the detection of the slightest ruffle in the surface of social life is hardly traceable.
Such was the Chao-t’ong Rebellion, luckily unattended by loss of life among the foreigners. It is not yet over,[N] but it is believed that the worst is past.
At the end of 1909 probably no part of the Empire seemed more peaceful. Two months afterwards the heads of the Europeans were demanded; missionaries were guarded by armed soldiers in their homes inside the city walls, and forbidden to go outside; native Christians were brutally maltreated and threatened with death if they refused to turn traitor to their beliefs; thousands of generally law-abiding men, formed into armed bands, were defiantly setting at naught the law of the land, and the whole of the main road over which I had passed from Sui-fu to Tong-ch’uan-fu (a distance of over four hundred miles) was blocked by infuriated mobs, who were out to kill,—their motto the famous ill-omened Boxer motto of 1900: “Exalt the dynasty; destroy the foreigner.”
“Kill, kill, kill!” ran the cry for miles around the countryside, and a fearful repetition of the bloody history of ten years ago was daily feared. Providential, however, was it that no foreigner was traveling at the time in these districts, and that those who, ignorant of the troubles, desired to do so were stopped at Yuen-nan-fu by the Consuls and at Sui-fu by the missionaries. It is a matter for gratitude also that throughout the riots, specially safeguarded by the great Providence of God, no lives of Europeans were lost; and owing to the praiseworthy and obvious attitude of the missionaries in this area in endeavoring to keep the thing as quiet as possible, and the notoriously conservative manner in which consular reports upon such matters are preserved in Governmental lockers, practically nothing has been heard of the uprising.