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Wuwei Right Troop of Yuan Shikai escorting Empress Dowager back to the Palace 1902

Wuwei Troop[1] (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: Wǔwèijūn; Wade–Giles: Wu-wei chün[2]) or "The Guards Army"[2][3] was the first modern army of the Qing Dynasty consisted of infantry, cavalry and artillery, formed on May[3] or June 1899 and trained by western military advisers, responsible for security of Peking City and the Forbidden City, with Ronglu as the supreme commander. This military unit is the first attempt by the Imperial Court to create a formidable western style army, equipped with modern weaponry instead of swords and arrows, after China's defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War. The Wuwei Troop was dismantled after two years. Since Empress Dowager had retained power at the Imperial Court with Guangxu Emperor under house arrest, with Ronglu being in charge of the Grand Council and the Board of War (Chinese language: 兵部), a 90,000 man army was formed, consisted of various armies under Nie Shicheng, Song Qing, Dong Fuxiang and Yuan Shikai.[4][5][6]

Five Divisions of the Wuwei[edit | edit source]

The Wuwei Troop[1] (aka The Guards Army) consisted of five "divisions" (in some treatises given as "regiments"[1]), Left, Right, Front, Rear, and Center[2][3][lower-alpha 1]

  1. Wuwei Front Division, commanded by Nie Shicheng
  2. Wuwei Rear Division, commanded by Dong Fuxiang
  3. Wuwei Left Division, commanded by Song Qing
  4. Wuwei Right Division, commanded by Yuan Shikai
  5. Wuwei Center Division, commanded by Ronglu

Of these, "by far the strongest"[2] was Yuan Shikai's Right Division, which was merely a rebranding of his Newly Created Army ( Xinjian Lujun[lower-alpha 2]) of 1895,[3] while Nie Shicheng's Front Division, trained by German military advisers, ranked as second best.[7] These two divisions enjoyed the advantage of a modernized infantry military system and training, while the other three divisions still employed the old traditional Manchu Banners Army system. And the training emerged as differences in the prowess of the divisions, even though the entire Guards Army was equipped with modern weaponry. Nie Shicheng's troops that became the Front Division was until then known as the "Tenacious Army" ( Wuyi jun[lower-alpha 3]),[2] and Song Qing's troops that formed the Left Division also bore the similar name of the "Resolute Army" (毅軍 Yi jun).[2][7] These armies were similarly armed with Mauser rifles and Maxim machine guns.[2] Dong Fuxiang (Wade–Giles: Tung Fu-hsiang) led an army of Muslim warriors, dubbed "the 10,000 Islamic rabble" by the West at the time.[7] In China Dong's troops were familiarly known as the "Gan army" (甘軍[lower-alpha 4]) which represented the monogram of Gansu Province which many of these soldiers called homeland. "Gan army" is the literal translation, but English sources usually prefer to call them by the more poetical paraphrased name "Kansu Braves".[7]

Ronglu (Wade–Giles: Jang-Lu) was by edict given nominal command of the entire Wuwei jun (Guards Army),[8] and was initially appointed to incorporate the four sets of troops within the fold of the new Wuwei army corps.[8] Ronglu later added the Centre Division for himself to command, and this was composed mostly of Manchu bannermen.[8][lower-alpha 5]

Boxer Uprising[edit | edit source]

During the war at Eight Nation Alliance, the Front Division, Rear Division and the Center Division suffered heavy casualties and was disbanded after the signing of the Boxer Protocol. The Right Division and the Left Division were stationed in Shangdong to suppress Boxers (the Yihetuan rebels), they remained intact as there was no engagements with the foreign powers troops.

In the conflict, from March 1899 onwards, Ma Yukun (zh) () and Jiang Guiti (zh) () were named co-commanders alongside Song Qing at the head of the Left Division.[1][9][10]

Explanatory notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Although the Chinese names for these apply the stem jun that literally means "armies" or "troops," recent studies written in English appear to coalesce around referring to these units as "divisions" (Purcell 2010, Wang 1995, etc. probably after Powell 1979). That a transition from "army" to "divisions" occurred was expressed by one study as follows: "Jung-lu (=Ronglu) then proceeded to reoganize the four armies (now divisions)" (Purcell 2010, p. 29)
  2. Chinese: 新建陸軍; pinyin: Xīnjìan Lùjūn; Wade–Giles: Hsin-chien lu-chün
  3. Chinese: ; pinyin: Wǔyì jūn; Wade–Giles: Wu-i chün
  4. simplified Chinese: 甘军; traditional Chinese: 甘軍; pinyin: Gān Jūn; Wade–Giles: Kan Chün
  5. During this period, even as Ronglu was named to the Great Council he was also allowed to retain command of the Imperial Beiyang army that defended the region of its capital.[2]

Citations[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Mingnan 1986, p. 47, quote="On the Chinese side, the left regiment of the Wuwei troop led by Ma Yukun and the Lian troop of Zhili led by He Yongsheng were putting up a stubborn defense within the city."
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Powell 1972, pp. 102–103
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Wang 1995, pp. 71, quote:"In May 1899, Yuan Shikai, commander of China's strongest army, the Wuwei Youjun or the Right Division (new name for Yuan's Newly Created Army) of the Guards Army [Note: The Guards Army or Wuwei Jun included Left, Right, Front, Rear, and Center Divisions;"
  4. Liu, Fenghan (劉鳳翰) (1978). 武衛軍 "武衛軍 (Wuwei jun)" (Academia Sinica site). Wu Wei Army. 中央研究院近代史研究所. OCLC 706894661. http://www.mh.sinica.edu.tw/PGPublication_Detail.aspx?tmid=3&mid=62&pubid=137&majorTypeCode=2&minorTypeCode=1 武衛軍.  Google snippet
  5. http://www.boshuo.net/2011/0523/195309.html 武卫军论文:荣禄军事活动述论
  6. http://www.xinhai.org/shi/qingbeijing/2010-12-06/1053.html “慈禧西行”始末 辛亥革命网
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Bodin 1979, p. 26
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Purcell 2010, p. 29, "Jung-lu" here is Ronglu
  9. Rhoads 2011, p. 82, "It looked to Jian Guiti (1843-1922), commander of the Left Division of the Guards Army."
  10. Liu 1978, p. 98, Chronological chart (in Chinese) "時間:光緒二十五年二月至宣統三年九月(1899年3月至1911年12月)..總統: 宋慶 馬玉崑 姜桂題 二十一~三十五營 武衛左軍" (translation: "Time: March 1899 to December 1911, commander: Song Qing, Ma Yukun, Jiang Guiti. 21~35 batallions. Guards Army's Left Division")

References[edit | edit source]

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