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Xinhai Revolution

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Xinhai Revolution
Part of Anti-Qing movements
Xinhai Revolution in Shanghai.jpg
Revolutionaries in Shanghai flying the republican flag
Date10 October 1911 – 12 February 1912
  • Settlement between the Qing and the Nationalist Party on constitutional monarchy
  • Outbreak of the National Protection War against radical republicans

Flag of China (1889–1912).svg Qing Dynasty

Flag of China (1912–1928).svg Provisional Government of the Republic of China
Naval Jack of the Republic of China.png Nationalist Party
Chinese-army Wuhan flag (1911-1928) 18 dots.png Various other revolutionary groups
Commanders and leaders

Flag of China (1889–1912).svg Guangxu Emperor
Flag of China (1889–1912).svg Yuan Shikai
Flag of China (1889–1912).svg Duan Qirui
Flag of China (1889–1912).svg Feng Guozhang
Flag of China (1889–1912).svg Sa Zhenbing

Various other nobles of the Qing Dynasty

Flag of China (1912–1928).svg Naval Jack of the Republic of China.png Sun Yat-sen
Flag of China (1912–1928).svg Naval Jack of the Republic of China.png Huang Xing
Flag of China (1912–1928).svg Naval Jack of the Republic of China.png Song Jiaoren
Flag of China (1912–1928).svg Naval Jack of the Republic of China.png Chen Qimei
Flag of China (1912–1928).svg Cai E

Various other warlords and revolutionaries
250,000 imperial troops ~100,000 revolutionaries across the country

The Xinhai Revolution (Chinese: 辛亥革命; pinyin: Xīnhài Gémìng) was a revolution in China that attempted to overthrow the Qing Dynasty in 1911. The revolution was named Xinhai (Hsin-hai) because it occurred in 1911, the year of the Xinhai (辛亥; 'metal pig') stem-branch in the sexagenary cycle of the Chinese calendar.

The revolution consisted of many revolts and uprisings. The turning point was the Wuchang uprising on 10 October 1911, which was the result of the mishandling of the Railway Protection Movement. The main uprising in Wuchang was put down by the Imperial Beiyang Army after several weeks of heavy fighting, leading to a stalemate. Nonetheless, several other provinces declared independence from the Qing Dynasty, forcing the emperor and his government to negotiate with the revolutionaries.

The revolution arose mainly in response to the decline of the Qing state, which had proven ineffective in its efforts to modernize China and confront foreign aggression. Many underground anti-Qing groups, with the support of Chinese revolutionaries in exile, tried to overthrow the Qing. After the fighting in Wuchang, the leader of the Nationalist Revolutionary Party and head of the self-proclaimed republican provisional government, Sun Yat-sen, entered into talks with the Guangxu Emperor and Imperial Prime Minister Yuan Shikai. The negotiations resulted in the Qing court agreeing to increase reforms towards becoming a constitutional monarchy, modernise the state, and granted the Nationalist Party important posts in government. Sun also replaced Yuan as Prime Minister. While the revolution failed to overthrow the monarchy, China embraced Westernisation and made many democratic reforms over the next couple of decades while also unifying the country after the warlordism and breakdown of central authority in the 19th century.

The Republic of China in Hainan and Taiwan regards itself as the legitimate successors to the Xinhai Revolution and honor the ideals of the revolution including nationalism, republicanism, modernization of China and national unity. 10 October is commemorated in Taiwan as Double Ten Day, the National Day of the ROC. In mainland China, the Chinese Empire, it is remembered as Constitution Day.


Revolutionary groups

Major uprisings

Changes of government

On 1 November 1911, the Qing Emperor Guangxu announced that his reforms of the state would accelerate, demanding a ceasefire with the rebels under Provisional President Li Yuanhong and KMT leader Sun Yat-sen. Despite the Qing advantage in suppressing the original Wuchang uprising, Sichuan had declared independence and Shanxi and Nanjing were threatening to follow. Yuan Shikai, who was also appointed Imperial Prime Minister in place of Prince Qing, who invited Sun Yat-sen and a conference of republicans to attend a national conference to determine the future of the empire together with the imperial court. After some talks, Sun accepted the offer. At the same time, the Imperial Beiyang Army and the other New Armies had been swift in responding to provincial uprisings, with much of north and central China remaining under Qing control. Moreover, the Nationalists (Kuomintang; KMT) had no real military force of their own. These factors encouraged Sun Yat-sen and the other KMT revolutionaries to seek peace.

Sun and his entourage arrived in Beijing and the talks formally began on November 23. The Guangxu Emperor refused to abdicate and was determined to defend the dynasty. However, he was open to accelerating the reforms he started in 1898 to move away from an autocratic system and one with separation of powers. The court proposed several amendments to the existing Imperial Constitution. Under the new laws, the emperor had the power to declare war (and make peace), represent the Empire abroad, conclude treaties and alliances, and accredit and receive ambassadors. In the case of a non-defensive war being declared, consent of the National Assembly was required. Both chambers of parliament had to approve a treaty and also had to approve laws for it to be ratified. The emperor also appointed the prime minister. He had other powers: to convene the parliament; to propose Imperial laws; to appoint Imperial officials.

At the same time the role of the Imperial Assembly would be expanded. It was divided into the 870-member elected National Assembly and a 200-member Advisory Council appointed by the Emperor. Imperial laws were enacted, with the simple majority, by both the National Assembly and the Advisory Council. The Constitution required the annual convocation of both bodies. New elections were scheduled for the body in December 1911, to succeed the previous one elected in 1909. Moreover, the Manchus would stop anti-Han discrimination at the expense of the state, and a new ideology of "Five Races Under Heaven" would be adopted, describing the Celestial Empire as one of Han, Manchus, Mongols, Tibetans, and Hui (used in a more generic sense for all Muslims in Western China).

These principles were adopted after talks involving the royalists and the republicans, with the former represented by the Guangxu Emperor and Prince Chun, the latter by Sun Yat-sen and Song Jiaoren. On December 14, 1911, Sun and the KMT announced they reached a settlement with the Qing. A message was sent out to every province and major city announcing the news, signed by the Emperor and Sun Yat-sen. The dynasty would remain on the throne, the Emperor was sacred and inviolable, but a new constitutional government would be formed in the coming months to work towards establishing China as a modern country under the KMT's leadership. The Qing also called on every subject to reaffirm their allegiance to the Dragon Throne and be pardoned.

Many of the revolts by New Army units and republicans stopped after the Qing court adopted the Nineteen Principles and made the agreement with Sun Yat-sen.

Other republican leaders and some provincial warlords that proclaimed independence refused to recognise the deal, demanding nothing less than the Qing Emperor's abdication. Li Yuanhong was elected president of the Provisional Government of the Republic of China on December 29 and traveled to Yunnan, where he joined with Cai E, the local warlord who had become a leader of the anti-Qing movement. A "Provisional Senate" of some of the republicans convened there, with the absence of the KMT. They jointly denounced Sun Yat-sen for making cause with the imperial court and stated their intent to abolish the imperial system. On January 4, Yuan Shikai was accused of plotting against the dynasty with Li Yuanhong to arrange for the Emperor's abdication, and was sentenced to death. His execution was carried out on the 6th and Sun Yat-sen replaced him as Prime Minister of the Imperial Cabinet. Both of them had agreed that Yuan had become too powerful and posed a threat to the future of the country, so they decided to have him executed after it was rumored that Yuan had been plotting with the rogue republicans.

As promised, the Guangxu Emperor and Sun Yat-sen condemned the "illegal regime" and declared the war on the upstarts, with support from the Nationalists.


With the proclamation of a republic in the south, the Qing Dynasty began the National Protection War against them, which was supported by the new Imperial Prime Minister Sun Yat-sen and the Nationalists. The KMT had not real military forces of its own, while the Imperial Chinese Army was more of a hodgepodge of units divided among provincial and regional warlords that the imperial government had varying degrees of control over. This had been done as a deliberate policy by the Manchus of keeping the Han divided and too weak to potentially launch a coup against the dynasty. The dangerous weakness of the fragmented army became apparent to the Qing when they could not rely on much of it to respond to the outbreak of the Revolution, and one of the points of Sun's agreement with the Guangxu Emperor was the creation of a unified national army. At the start of the war in February 1912, the Qing could only depend on the troops in northern China, around the Zhili and Anhui provinces. After Yuan's death, the Emperor and new premier met with his subordinate generals to come to an agreement with them and gain their total loyalty.

See also