|First||Name: Zhao Erfeng|
|Third||Nationality: Han Chinese|
|Fourth||Allegiance: Qing dynasty|
Zhao Erfeng (1845–1911), courtesy name Jihe, was a Qing Dynasty official and Chinese bannerman, who belonged to the Plain Blue Banner. He is known for being the last amban in Tibet, appointed in March, 1908. Lien Yu, a Manchu, was appointed as the other amban. Formerly Director-General of the Sichuan - Hubei Railway and acting viceroy of Sichuan province, he was the much-maligned Chinese general of the late imperial era who led military campaigns throughout Kham (eastern Tibet) and eventually reaching Lhasa in 1910, thus earning himself the nickname "Zhao the Butcher".
1905 Tibetan Rebellion
During the 1905 Tibetan Rebellion in Yunnan and Sichuan, the Tibetan Lamas had revolted against Qing rule, killing Chinese officials, western Catholic Christian missionaries and native Christian converts, since the Tibetan Buddhist Gelug Yellow Hat sect was suspicious of the Christian missionary success.
Zhao Erfeng crushed the Tibetan Lamas and their monasteries, defeating the rebels at the siege of Chantreng which lasted from 1905 to 1906. All Lamas were executed and the entire monastery was razed. Zhao Erfeng replaced the Tibetan chiefs with Chinese magistrates, beheaded the remaining Tibetan chiefs and eradicated the official position of "Chief", and the power of the Lamas and monasteries was curtailed.
Opinions on the Expedition
"Just who governs Tibet has been rather a doubtful question for some years. Just before the Chinese Government allowed us to go in, General Chao Er Feng, with a victorious army, had brought the country as far as Chiamdo under Chinese control. His plans were very fine, and he was very efficient. He expected to make that section a part of China, in fact. To-day the Tibetans say that if Chao Er Feng were here, this late trouble would not have happened. He built roads, he established schools, and controlled the country so that travel on any road was comparatively safe. He was just as severe with his own men as with the Tibetans, and when he said, "Don't loot," and looting was done, he lined the guilty ones up, and off came their heads. Sometimes his badly needed soldiers were slain wholesale for disobedience. Thirteen were killed at one time for one offense, but he governed.
During the fighting with the Chinese, the Tibetans were trapped in all sorts of ways sometimes by their own countrymen who, to curry favor with the Chinese, brought them in to be beheaded. Heads fell every day, and so many bodies lay in the streets of Batang that at times the dogs feasted. No one dared touch or bury them, for fear they would be considered friends of the dead and in turn suffer the death penalty."
Shelton of Tibet, Flora Beal Shelton, pp. 171-2.
"Batang is situated at an altitude of 9400 feet, and the little plain being closely invested by mountains grows very hot in summer, though it is not cold in winter. A gentle breeze frequently sweeps down from the high ranges to the north-east and fans the parched earth, but on occasions the valley is swept by fierce gusts blowing up the Yang-tze. The population now comprises between 400 and 500 families, and since the rebellion of 1905 from being almost exclusively Tibetan, with all the power in the hands of the lamas, it has become very largely Chinese, and the power of the lamas is temporarily broken. On the other hand the majority of the Chinese, merchants and soldiers, have married Tibetan wives and adopted at least some of the manners and customs of the country if not the dress. Crops of maize, wheat, and barley are grown, besides buckwheat in the autumn, but the area under cultivation is very small. Many of the houses are built of stone, and there is an air of prosperity about the place, with its streets of shops and hawkers, in spite of the gaunt skeleton walls of the once huge monastery, now utterly destroyed. Since the rebellion, the majority of the lamas have been killed or scattered, and the ragged-looking mendicants who now hang about the streets or loaf round the tiny lamasery which the remnant were allowed to rebuild, are no credit to the profession. I have already referred to Chao Er-feng, Warden of the Marches, and subsequently Viceroy of Ssii-chuan, who was entrusted with the stamping out of the Tibetan revolt of 1905; and however much one may denounce his methods, he met with considerable success. Peace and security now reign in Batang (or did before the present Revolution) instead of lawlessness, robbery, and murder."
The Land of the Blue Poppy: Travels of a Naturalist in Eastern Tibet, Francis Kingdon Ward, p. 127.
Amban of Tibet
Zhao Erfeng extended Chinese rule into Eastern Tibet (Kham), and was appointed Amban in 1908 - the last man to hold that position. Initially he worked with the Dalai Lama, who had returned after fleeing from the British invasion of 1903-1904. But in 1909, they disagreed strongly and Zhao Erfeng drove the Dalai Lama ino exile. A former Tibetan Khampa soldier named Aten recounted Tibetan memories of Zhao, calling him "Butcher Feng", claiming that he: razed Batang monastery, ordered holy texts to be used by troops as shoeliners, and mass murdered Tibetans.
The Dalai Lama was installed at the palace and monastery of Potala amid popular demonstrations. The ruler, who was again given civil power at the head of their hierarchy, pardoned all the Tibetans who had given the oath to Colonel Younghusband. Things went well for a month until the lama protested to the Chinese in charge of military affairs because of the excesses of the Chinese troops on the Sichuan frontier, where they were sacking the monasteries and killing the monks. This protest served to stir up the whole question of the status of Tibet. The Amban declared that it was a Chinese province, and said he would deal with the rebels as it pleased him to do. Other questions of authority arose, and finally the Amban sent orders to 500 Chinese troops who were encamped on the outskirts of the capital, Lhasa. A few companies composed of the Dalai Lama's followers were hastily enrolled under the name of 'golden soldiers'. They tried to resist the Chinese soldiers, but, being poorly armed, were quickly overwhelmed. Meanwhile the Dalai Lama, with three of his ministers and sixty retainers, fled through a gate at the rear of the palace enclosure, and were fired upon as they escaped through the city.
Encyclopædia Britannica (1911 edition)
"In January 1908 the final instalment of the Tibetan indemnity was paid to Great Britain, and the Chumbi valley was evacuated. The Dalai Lama was now summoned to Peking, where he obtained the imperial authority to resume his administration in place of the provisional governors appointed as a result of the British mission. He retained in office the high officials then appointed, and pardoned all Tibetans who had assisted the mission. But in 1909 Chinese troops were sent to operate on the Sichuan frontier against certain insurgent lamas, whom they handled severely. When the Dalai Lama attempted to give orders that they should cease, the Chinese amban in Lhasa disputed his authority, and summoned the Chinese troops to enter the city. They did so, and the Dalai Lama fled to India in February 1910, staying at Darjeeling. Chinese troops followed him to the frontier, and he was deposed by imperial decree. "In January 1908 the final instalment of the Tibetan indemnity was paid to Great Britain, and the Chumbi valley was evacuated. The Dalai Lama was now summoned to Peking, where he obtained the imperial authority to resume his administration in place of the provisional governors appointed as a result of the British mission. He retained in office the high officials then appointed, and pardoned all Tibetans who had assisted the mission. But in 1909 Chinese troops were sent to operate on the Sichuan frontier against certain insurgent lamas, whom they handled severely. When the Dalai Lama attempted to give orders that they should cease, the Chinese amban in Lhasa disputed his authority, and summoned the Chinese troops to enter the city. They did so, and the Dalai Lama fled to India in February 1910, staying at Darjeeling. Chinese troops followed him to the frontier, and he was deposed by imperial decree."
In 1911, Zhao Erfeng faced rebellion in Sichuan. According to Han Suyin, the main issue was control of a planned railway that would have linked Sichuan to the rest of China. He summoned troops from Wuchang, leading rebels there to see it as an opportunity to rebel. This was the background to the Wuchang Uprising, the official start of the Chinese Revolution of 1911. After battling the rebels on 22 December 1911, he was captured and beheaded by Chinese Republican Revolutionary forces who were intent on overthrowing the Qing dynasty.
Zhao Erfeng was the younger brother of Zhao Erxun, who was also an important figure in the final years of the Qing Empire. He was the governor of Hubei (1907–1908) and Sichuan (1908–1911) and viceroy (1911) and governor (1912) of Fengtian.