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Chinese Works : Small Sword proclamations

Chinese Works

<p style='text-align: justify;'>The Small Sword Society (<i>Xiao dao hui</i>) was a secret Triad organisation affiliated with the Taiping movement, which in 1853 fomented an armed insurrection, directed against corrupt officials and excessive taxation, by unemployed seamen and other disaffected elements in the Shanghai area.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>After capturing the walled city of Shanghai and surrounding districts, the movement was attacked by a joint force of Qing loyalists and foreigners based in Shanghai, and was quickly defeated, its leader Liu Lichuan, the author of these two proclamations, being among those killed.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Sir Thomas Wade was in Shanghai at the time, serving as British vice-consul. The activities of the Taiping rebels had so disrupted the local administration that a commission was established under his chairmanship to oversee the administration of the Customs. This was the beginning of the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs service, which played a leading role in the Chinese economy until the end of the Qing dynasty and thereafter.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The two proclamations shown here provide important information about the ideology of the Small Sword movement. Aiming its criticism particularly at Buddhists and Taoists, the first proclamation contains numerous quotations from the Bible, and argues at length that God, rendered into Chinese as <i>Shang Di</i> 上帝, a term which occurs in the Confucian classics, was known about in ancient China.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The second proclamation contains more detailed charges against the Buddhists and Taoists, and is noteworthy for including extended quotations from two very famous Chinese literary figures, Han Yu 韩愈 (768-824) and Zhu Xi 朱熹 (1130-1200).</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>These two proclamations came to the notice of foreigners resident in Shanghai at the time, and translations of both were published in the leading English-language newspaper in China, the <i>North-China Herald</i>. The second translation, signed 'A. W.', is no doubt the work of the well-known missionary and sinologist Alexander Wylie (1815-1887). These English versions were translated back into Chinese for inclusion in the standard compilation of materials relating to the Small Sword movement, as no copy of the original Chinese texts could be found (see 上海小刀会起义史料汇编, 上海人民出版社, 上海, 1959, 20-25). The originals which subsequently came to light in the Wade collection are unique.</p>

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