New Army

Last updated
New Army
Flag of China (1889-1912).svg
Flag of the Qing dynasty
CountryFlag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg  Qing Empire
Allegiance Imperial standard of the Qing Emperor.svg Emperor of China
Notable commanders Yuan Shikai
Flag of China (1889–1912) Flag of China (1889-1912).svg

The New Armies (Traditional Chinese: 新軍, Simplified Chinese: 新军; Pinyin: Xīnjūn, Manchu: Ice cooha), more fully called the Newly Created Army ( Xinjian Lujun [lower-alpha 1] [lower-alpha 2] ), was the modernized army corps formed under the Qing dynasty in December 1895, following its defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War. It was envisioned as militia fully trained and equipped according to Western standards. In 1903 an imperial edict expanded it to 36 divisions of 12,500 men each, or total of 450,000. It was known as the Beiyang Army, and was under the command of Yuan Shikai. [1] [2]


Formation and expansion

Chinese soldiers in 1899-1901. Left: three infantrymen of the New Imperial Army. Front: drum major of the regular army. Seated on the trunk: field artilleryman. Right: Boxers. Chinese soldiers 1899 1901.jpg
Chinese soldiers in 1899-1901. Left: three infantrymen of the New Imperial Army. Front: drum major of the regular army. Seated on the trunk: field artilleryman. Right: Boxers.

There was a forerunner to the effort of modernizing the Chinese army, created before the end of the Sino-Japanese War: in February 1895, the Qing court assembled its Dingwu or the Pacification Army ( Dingwu jun), consisting of 10 battalions or ying (), totaling 4,750 men. This was initially organized by Hu Yufen  [ zh ] aided by German advisor Constantin von Hanneken [3] [4] [lower-alpha 3]

The command of this Pacification Army was turned over to Yuan Shikai by mid-December 1895, [5] [lower-alpha 4] [lower-alpha 5] and within a few months [6] was renamed the Newly Created Army ( Xinjian Lujun) and expanded to 7,000 men. [3] [5] (Yuan's Newly Created Army was later to become the Guards Army's Right Division (Wuwei Youjun). [5] [7] )

The Newly Created Army (or simply the New Army) that was 7,000 men strong then became the most formidable of the three army groups stationed near Beijing and proved effective against the Boxers in Shandong province. Yuan refused to obey the Imperial Court's orders to halt his suppression of the Boxers when the Eight-Nation Alliance invaded China during the rebellion and refused to obey orders to fight the alliance.

The New Army was gradually expanded and upgraded in the following years. Yuan became increasingly disrespectful of the dynasty and only loyal to the party from which he benefited; his defection to Cixi against the Guangxu Emperor was a major blow to the Hundred Days' Reform. After 1900, Yuan's troops were the only militia that the Qing court could rely on amidst revolutionary uprisings throughout China.

Renaming and revolution

In the hunting-park, three miles to the south of Peking, is quartered the Sixth Division, which supplies the Guards for the Imperial Palace, consisting of a battalion of infantry and a squadron of cavalry. With this Division Yuan Shi Kai retains twenty-six modified Krupp guns, which are the best of his artillery arm, and excel any guns possessed by the foreign legations in Peking.

The Manchu Division moves with the Court, and is the pride of the modern army.

By his strategic disposition Yuan Shi Kai completely controls all the approaches to the capital, and holds a force which he may utilize either to protect the Court from threatened attack or to crush the Emperor should he himself desire to assume Imperial power. Contrary to treaty stipulations made at the settlement of the Boxer trouble, the Chinese have been permitted to build a great tower over the Chien Men, or central southern gate, which commands the foreign legations and governs the Forbidden City. In the threatening condition of Chinese affairs it might be assumed that this structure had been undermined by the foreign community, but this has not been done, and if trouble again arise in Peking the fate of the legations will depend upon the success of the first assault which will be necessary to take it. The foreign legations are as much in the power of Yuan Shi Kai's troops in 1907 as they were at the mercy of the Chinese rabble in 1900.

The ultimate purpose of the equipped and disciplined troops is locked in the breast of the Viceroy of Chihli. Yuan Shi Kai's yamen in Tientsin is connected by telegraph and telephone with the Imperial palaces and with the various barracks of his troops. In a field a couple of hundred yards away is the long pole of a wireless telegraph station, from which he can send the message that any day may set all China ablaze.

To-morrow in the East, Douglas Story , pp. 224-226 [8]

Pacification Army (Ding Wu Jun Dingwu jun) in 1895. Qing new army troops present arms.jpg
Pacification Army ( Dingwu jun) in 1895.

The Chien Men gate refers to the Zhengyangmen.

The successful example of the new army was followed in other provinces. The New Army of Yuan was renamed the Beiyang Army on June 25, 1902 after Yuan was officially promoted to the "Minister of Beiyang". By the end of the dynasty in 1911, most provinces had established sizable new armies; however, Yuan's army was still most powerful, comprising six groups and numbering more than 75,000 men. The Qing unified all of China's armies into one force, the "Chinese Army", which was commonly still called the New Army. Two-thirds of the Chinese Army was Yuan's Beiyang Army.

During the Xinhai Revolution, most of the non-Beiyang forces as well as some Beiyang units in the Chinese Army revolted against the Qing. Yuan led the Beiyang Army into opposing the revolution while also negotiating for the Qing's surrender and his ascendency to the presidency of the new republic.

Politics and modernization

Hubei New Army honour guards and military band Hubei New Army honor guards and military band.jpg
Hubei New Army honour guards and military band

Yuan kept a tight grip on the command of the army after its establishment by installing officials only loyal to him; however, after his death in 1916, the army groups were quickly fragmented into four major forces of combative warlords, according to the locations of garrisons. These army groups and generals played different roles in the politics of the Republic of China until the establishment of the People's Republic of China following the Communist Party of China's victory in the Chinese Civil War.

One of the most important legacies of the New Army was the professionalization of the military and perhaps introduction of militarism to China. Previously, almost any male could join and soldiers were mostly poor, landless and illiterate peasants. The New Armies moved beyond the personalized recruitment and patronage of Zeng Guofan and Zuo Zongtang, which had been successful in the mid-century uprisings, but seemed discredited in the face of modern armies in Japan and the West. The New Army began screening volunteers and created modern military academies to train officers. The modernization and professionalization of the New Army impressed many in the gentry class to join. The young Chiang Kai-shek, for instance, briefly attended Yuan's Baoding Military Academy, which thus influenced him in forming his Whampoa Academy, which trained a succeeding generation of soldiers. Yuan and his successors equated military dominance of the political sphere with national survival. The political army would become a dominant force in China for much of the twentieth century.

Notable figures of Beiyang

Several notable figures such as Zaitao, Zaixun, Xu Shichang, Sheng Xuanhuai, Zaizhen, and Yinchang Xiao Yue Lu Jun .jpg
Several notable figures such as Zaitao, Zaixun, Xu Shichang, Sheng Xuanhuai, Zaizhen, and Yinchang

See also

Explanatory notes

  1. Chinese :新建陸軍; pinyin :Xīnjìan Lùjūn; Wade–Giles :Hsin-chien lu-chün
  2. Also translated as "Newly Established Army" (Chi 1976 , p. 13)
  3. As to the man-count figures, "3000 infantrymen, 1000 artillery men, 250 cavalry men, and 500 engineers, a total of 4750 men" is given by Chien-Nung Li, [4] although "more than five thousand men" is given by Wang 1995, pp. 69. If engineers are excluded as non-combatants the figure may round down to 4,000, as given by Chi 1976, p. 13.
  4. On December 8, 1895, Empress Dowager Cixi passed down the edict
  5. Yuan was at this time the taotai  [ zh ] or intendant of several provinces.

Related Research Articles

Yuan Shikai Chinese military and government official (1859-1916)

Yuan Shikai was a Chinese military and government official who rose to power during the late Qing dynasty, becoming the Emperor of the Empire of China (1915–1916). He tried to save the dynasty with a number of modernization projects including bureaucratic, fiscal, judicial, educational, and other reforms, despite playing a key part in the failure of the Hundred Days' Reform. He established the first modern army and a more efficient provincial government in North China in the last years of the Qing dynasty before the abdication of the Xuantong Emperor, the last monarch of the Qing dynasty, in 1912. Through negotiation, he became the first President of the Republic of China in 1912. This army and bureaucratic control were the foundation of his autocratic rule. He was frustrated in a short-lived attempt to restore hereditary monarchy in China, with himself as the Hongxian Emperor. His death shortly after his abdication led to the fragmentation of the Chinese political system and the end of the Beiyang government as China's central authority.

Xu Shichang

Xu Shichang was the President of the Republic of China, in Beijing, from 10 October 1918 to 2 June 1922. The only permanent president of the Beiyang government to be a civilian, his presidency was also the longest of the warlord era.

Beiyang Army Military faction dominating much of Republic of China and Warlord Era politics, originally established to modernize the Qing dynasty army

The Beiyang Army, named after the Beiyang region, was a powerful, Western-style Imperial Chinese Army established by the Qing Dynasty government in the late 19th century. It was the centerpiece of a general reconstruction of Qing China's military system. The Beiyang Army played a major role in Chinese politics for at least three decades and arguably right up to 1949. It made the Xinhai Revolution of 1911 possible, and, by dividing into warlord factions known as the Beiyang Clique, ushered in a period of regional division.

Nie Shicheng

Nie Shicheng was a Chinese general who served the Imperial government during the Boxer Rebellion. Rising from obscure origins from Hefei, Anhui Province, in the early 1850s, Nie Shicheng managed to pass the county examinations for bureaucratic positions, but due to the Taiping rebellion he was forced to abandon a bureaucratic career and become a soldier.

Empire of China (1915–1916) 1915–1916 country

The Empire of China was a short-lived attempt by statesman, general and president Yuan Shikai from late 1915 to early 1916 to reinstate monarchy in China, with himself as the Hongxian Emperor. The attempt was unsuccessful; it set back the Chinese republican cause by many years and fractured China into a period of conflict between various local warlords.

National Protection War

The National Protection War, also known as the anti-Monarchy War, was a civil war that took place in China from 1915–1916. Only three years earlier the last Chinese dynasty, the Qing dynasty, had been overthrown and the Republic of China established in its place. The cause of the war was the proclamation by Yuan Shikai, the President of the Republic, of himself as the Hongxian Emperor, Emperor of the Empire of China.

Ronglu Qing dynasty politician and military leader

Ronglu, courtesy name Zhonghua, was a Manchu political and military leader of the late Qing dynasty. He was born in the Guwalgiya clan, which was under the Plain White Banner of the Manchu Eight Banners. Deeply favoured by Empress Dowager Cixi, he served in a number of important civil and military positions in the Qing government, including the Zongli Yamen, Grand Council, Grand Secretary, Viceroy of Zhili, Beiyang Trade Minister, Secretary of Defence, Nine Gates Infantry Commander, and Wuwei Corps Commander. He was also the maternal grandfather of Puyi, the last Emperor of China and the Qing dynasty.

Zhang Xun

Zhang Xun, courtesy name Shaoxuan (少轩), pseudonym Songshoulaoren (松寿老人), nickname bianshuai was a Qing and Republic of China's loyalist general who attempted to restore the abdicated emperor Puyi in the Manchu Restoration of 1917. He also supported Yuan Shikai during his time as president.

Baoding Military Academy

Baoding Military Academy or Paoting Military Academy was a military academy based in Baoding, Republican China, in the first two decades of the 20th century. For a time, it was the most important military academy in China, and its cadets played prominent roles in the political and military history of the Republic of China. The Baoding Military Academy closed in 1923, but served as a model for the Whampoa Military Academy, which was founded in Guangzhou in 1924. During the Second Sino-Japanese War, half of 300 divisions in China's armed forces were commanded by Whampoa graduates and one-third were Baoding cadets.

Wang Yitang

Wang Yitang was a politician and military leader in the Qing Dynasty and Republic of China. He belonged to the Anhui clique and formed the Anfu Club (安福俱樂部). Later he became an important politician in the Provisional Government of the Republic of China and the Reorganized National Government of the Republic of China. His former name was Zhiyang (志洋) and his courtesy names were Shenwu (慎吾) and Shengong (什公). Later, his name was changed to Geng (賡) while his courtesy name was changed to Yitang (一堂). He was also known by his art name Yitang (揖唐). He was born in Hefei, Anhui.

He Fenglin

He Fenglin was a general in the Republic of China. He belonged to the Anhui clique and the Fengtian clique.

Feng Guozhang Chinese general and politician

Féng Guózhāng, was a Chinese general and politician in early republican China. He held the office of Vice-President and then President of the Republic of China. He is considered the founder of the Zhili Clique of Warlords that vied for control of northern China during the chaotic Warlord era.

Wuwei Corps Qing dynasty modernized army

The Wuwei Corps or Guards Army was a modernised army unit of the Qing dynasty. Made up of infantry, cavalry and artillery, it was formed in May or June 1899 and trained by western military advisers. The guard took responsibility for the security of Peking (Beijing) and the Forbidden City, with Ronglu as its supreme commander. This move was an attempt by the Qing imperial court to create a western-style army equipped with modern weaponry following the Qing Empire's defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War. Three out of the five divisions of the Wuwei Corps were disbanded after two years due to attrition caused by the Boxer Rebellion.


Yin Chang or In-ch'ang was a military official, ambassador to Germany, and educational reformer in the Qing Dynasty and the Republic of China. He was appointed the nation's first Minister of War in the late Qing Dynasty. Later, he also became the military Chief of Staff in the Beiyang Government. He was ethnic Manchu, and his family belonged to the Plain White Banner Clan of the Manchu Military Organization (滿洲正白旗); he held the title of Prince of that clan; at court he was addressed as Wu-lou.

Mutual Protection of Southeast China

The Mutual Protection of Southeast China was an agreement made in the summer of 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion by governors of the provinces in southern, eastern and central China when the Eight Power Expedition invaded North China. The governors, including Li Hongzhang, Xu Yingkui, Liu Kunyi, Zhang Zhidong and Yuan Shikai, refused to carry out the imperial decree promulgated by the Qing dynasty to declare war on 11 foreign nations, with the aim of preserving peace in their own provinces.

Late Qing reforms, commonly known as New Policies of the late Qing dynasty, or New Deal of the late Qing dynasty, simply referred to as New Policies, were a series of cultural, economic, educational, military, and political reforms implemented in the last decade of the Qing dynasty to keep the dynasty in power after the invasions of the great powers of the Eight Nation Alliance in league with the ten provinces of the Southeast Mutual Protection in the Boxer Uprising.

Lu Rongting

Lu Rongting, also spelled as Lu Yung-ting and Lu Jung-t'ing, was a late Qing/early Republican military and political leader from Wuming, Guangxi. Lu belonged to the Zhuang ethnic group.

Wang Yingkai

Wang Yingkai, whose courtesy name was Shaochen (紹宸), was a Chinese general in the Beiyang Army and first rank official of the late Qing dynasty, who served as the Vice President of the Ministry of War and Vice-Commander-in-Chief of the Plain White Banner. Wang graduated from the Tianjin Military Academy (天津武備學堂), also known as Beiyang Wubei Xuetang (北洋武備學堂), and fought with distinction in the First Sino-Japanese War. After China lost the war, he joined the Beiyang Army established by Yuan Shikai and became one of leading commanders of the army. However, during subsequent political struggles he sided with the court party against Yuan. Sun Chuanfang, who later became one of the most important warlords in the early Republican years, was his brother-in-law and protégée. Wang Yingkai died in Beijing in 1908.

The Second Revolution refers to a 1913 revolt by the governors of several southern Chinese provinces as well as supporters of Sun Yat Sen and the Kuomintang against the Beiyang Government of the Republic of China led by Yuan Shikai. It was quickly defeated by Yuan's armies and led to the continued consolidation of Yuan's powers as President of the Republic of China.



  1. Yoshihiro, 1968.
  2. Fung, 1980.
  3. 1 2 Wang 1995 , pp. 69
  4. Li 1956 , p. 184
  5. 1 2 3 Purcell 2010 , p. 28
  6. Chi 1976 , p. 13
  7. 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]"
  8. Story, Douglas (1907). To-morrow in the East. G. Bell & Sons. pp.  224–226. Retrieved 1 April 2013.