Ma Xinyi (traditional Chinese: 馬新貽; simplified Chinese: 马新贻; pinyin: Mǎ Xīnyí; Wade–Giles: Ma Hsin-I; Styled and variably 穀三 ; Posthumous title: 端敏公 (Duke of Duanmin); (born November 3, 1821 – died 22 August 1870) was an eminent Hui Muslim official and a military commander of the late Qing Dynasty in China.
Born as a native of Heze, Shandong (荷澤) in 1821, Ma became a bandit after the death of his father in 1842. As a bandit, he met his future blood brothers, Chang Wen Hsiang and Huang Chang. He later managed to become a General in the Qing Army, fought against bandits and commanded the Vietnamese campaign with mixed results.
Ma would begin a campaign in 1858 to crush the Taiping Rebellion, which would give him fame, power and glory. His later campaigns in Tibet and South China also had success and gained him the fame of a military genius. In 1868, he became Viceroy of Liangjiang, and in that position he made reforms in the government. However, his love affair with the wife of his blood brother Huang would lead to his assassination by his other blood brother, Chang.
Ma Xinyi was born as a native of Heze, Shandong (荷澤) in 1821. He was the third child of his parents, and had two older sisters. Ma learned the Wing Chun Kung Fu style from his father at a very early age and was an able fighter.
When Ma was 19 years old, in 1840, he put his skills on the test when he challenged the famous Kung Fu fighter Fu Lai to a fight. Ma managed to beat Lu Fai and gained fame as an able Kung Fu fighter,
In 1841, at the age of 20, Ma managed to win a local Kung Fu tournament in Heze. However, when his father died in 1842, he inherited the debts of his father, and in order to repay his debts and pay for his mother and sisters, he turned to banditry.
During one of his travels in 1845, the bandits Chang Wen Hsiang and Huang Chang attempted to rob him, but unable to defeat him, they joined forces with Ma and became blood brothers, and were soon thrashing hoodlums and even took over a nearby group of bandits. Ma also took over a hill near Heze, which he made his base of operations. Ma trained hard his bandits and reformed them into an efficient small private army.
Ma used his small, but well trained, force to raid and loot the villages of Shandong. The local military force tried several times to arrest Ma, but all of their attempts to take over Ma's hill failed. In the end, the commander of the local forces, Weng Lee, made a deal with Ma, in which he agreed to pay Ma's bandits a wage every month.
But soon it became apparent Ma's ambitions far out reached those of his friends, as he sought a position in local government. Ma successfully passed the metropolitan examinations at the age of 26 (1847), a prestigious achievement in China. He had earned the Jinshi degree, the highest level in the civil service examinations, which led to his appointment to the Hanlin Academy, a body of outstanding Chinese literary scholars who performed literary tasks for the imperial court.
Love affair with ElizaEdit
When Ma was working in the Hanlin Academy, he had a love affair with the daughter of a British merchant, Eliza Rosanna Gilbert. Ma met Eliza during her visit in Beijing, in 1848, where she had a relationship with a French diplomat. Being at the same age, and sharing the love for Chinese literature, the two of them quickly fell in love.
There was a rumour that at the time they first met, Ma had asked her in public if her bosom was real, to which her response was to tear off enough of her garments to prove it.
Ma, in his work "The War against the Taiping", wrote that the years when he was with Eliza were the happiest of his life. But after the Taiping Rebellion started in 1850, Eliza left China. Eliza later became known as a courtesan of King Maximilian II of Bavaria.
Marriage and familyEdit
In 1851, at the age of 30, Ma married Nora Miao, daughter of Agui, a powerful Qing general who had considerable influence in the court and the army. Ma would have one son with Nora. However, Ma was not loyal to his wife and was known to have many lovers, like Ling Po.
Ma's son, Ma Alexander, when he grew up, studied in Paris, and would become a lawyer. Ma rarely saw his son, as he would spend most of his time commanding armies and managing state affairs. For this reason, Alexander grew up mainly with his mother and would never have much sympathy for his father. When Ma got his work in the Hanlin Academy, he bought a house for his two sisters and his mother in Beijing. There, he tried to ensure that they would have a decent lifestyle and for the rest of his life, Ma would send money to his sisters and his mother.
Rise to PowerEdit
Ma, after three years of work in the Hanlin Academy, gained the favor of several prominent members of the Qing court. Many in the court recognized his abilities as a leader of men, proved by the creation by Ma of a well trained army from bandits. So in 1850, at the age of 29, Ma became a military commander. Ma called his blood brothers and his bandit army to join the Qing Army under his command.
Ma proved himself as an able General, by leading his army and his blood brothers against bandits in the Sichuan province in May 1850. In a few weeks, Ma had managed to clear the provinces of bandits and take over several hills used by the bandits as bases of operations.
This made Ma popular within the court, which decided to give to Ma command of 4,000 soldiers and 20 cannons in 1851, with the mission of destroying a bandit-warlord, named Yuang Li, in Yunnan. Li had managed with his bandit army to force the Governor of Yunnan to become his puppet and ruled the province.
Ma moved fast with his army and besieged Dali, capital of Yunnan. Li, who had 6,000 men and 10 cannons, tried to resist, but he was no match for Ma and had to surrender. Ma had him and all of his soldiers executed and burned the city to the ground. The Qing court was very pleased with Ma's success, and Ma became a favourite of the Empress.
For most of Vietnam's history, the Vietnamese rulers recognized the Chinese Emperor as their feudal lord, while ruling independently in their own land. This had been the case throughout the reign of the Later Lê Dynasty. This changed however when the brothers of Tây Sơn, leading a national uprising, defeated the feuding Trịnh and Nguyễn lords and overthrew the last Lê ruler, Emperor Lê Chiêu Thống.
Emperor Lê Chiêu Thống fled to China and appealed to the Qing court for help. In 1852 a Qing army of 60,000 men and 60 cannons, led by Ma, was sent south to restore Lê Chiêu Thống to the throne. Ma succeeded in taking Thăng Long (Hà Nội) and putting Emperor Chiêu Thống back on the throne, but many of his supporters were angered by their subservient position. Chiêu Thống was treated as a vassal king by Ma and all edicts had to be authorized by Ma before becoming official.
In any event, the situation did not last long as the Tây Sơn leader, Nguyễn Huệ, launched a surprise attack against the Qing forces while they were celebrating the Chinese New Year festival of the year 1853. The Chinese were unprepared but fought for five days before being defeated at Battle of Đống Đa. Chiêu Thống fled back to China as Nguyễn Huệ was proclaimed Emperor Quang Trung. Although Nguyễn Huệ won this battle, he eventually submitted himself as vassal of Qing China and agreed to pay tribute annually.
Ma's defeat caused the anger of many in the court and the Empress would not trust him the command of large numbers of soldiers until 1858, and until 1856 he had a small role in the Qing Army, mainly recruiting soldiers for the Green Standard Army. The defeat at the Battle of Đống Đa was the only time Ma was defeated in a battle in his entire career. The Vietnamese campaign gave huge experience to Ma on the command of large armies.
In December 1853, Hong Xiuquan, who announced that he had received visions in which he learned that he was the younger brother of Jesus, started a peasant rebellion and managed to take over almost the whole of Southern China by 1855. This was managed mainly thanks to the military genius of Cao Min, Supreme Commander of all Taiping Forces.
Along with other prominent figures, including Hu Linyi and Guam Wing, Ma raised the Green Standard Army to fight against the Taiping Rebellion and restore the stability of the Qing Dynasty. This set the scene for the era later known as the "Tongzhi Restoration"（同治中兴).
As the Taiping Rebels had more and more success, and many Qing commander were being defeated, Ma was given orders in 1856 to train a large number of men from the Green Standard Army and his his former co-bandits, so they would be ready for a Qing counteroffensive.
Creating an ArmyEdit
From 1856 to 1858, Ma trained his former co-bandits and a large number of soldiers from the Green Standard Army into a well disciplined and well trained army. He had his soldiers to spend most of their time in learning basic Kung Fu skills, how to use the sword, the bow and the rifle and had them to exercise many hours every day in order to be physically fit. Ma also allowed his men to eat only certain types of food, mainly vegetables, so his men would be able to live off the land. Ma's blood brothers also played a great role in training his army, as both Chang and Huang trained the army in person.
Those who disobeyed Ma's orders were executed in public. Ma, in his work "The War against the Taiping", wrote of such an incident. While he was training in person his men in sword-fighting, one of them complained about the harsh training and laughed at Ma, when he told him to stop complaining and continue his training. Ma killed him himself with his own hands and then told his men that they train so they can live for ever in history, so they can be remembered as heroes and make proud their ancestors and that if they train hard, rich provinces would await them and that they would become rich. Those who are not interested in those thing, Ma said, would be allowed to leave but those who stay and do not obey him, would end up like the dead soldier. Ma's soldiers cheered him and started to train even harder.
Campaign against the TaipingEdit
Ma led his blood brothers and his army through a long but successful campaign (1858 - 1864) against the rebels. During this campaign, Ma showed his military genius and managed to crush the Taiping Revolution, which had threatend to destroy the Qing Dynasty. Ma also managed to show his skills as a besieger, by taking over several important Taiping cities.
Ma's first victory in that campaign was against a rebel supply column protected by Taiping soldiers (9 February 1858). Ma set an ambush and managed to encircle and massacre the enemy army. Ma lost only 50 men to the Taiping's 3,000 dead soldiers. Ma gifted the spoils of the attack to several prominent Qing officials, who decided to trust Ma with more troops.
One of Ma's greatest victory of the campaign was the Battle of Shu City (3 March 1859), were Ma managed to defeat 5,000 Taiping Rebels with just 800 men. The enemy had many cannons and the Taiping Rebels were equipped with rifles, while Ma's army only had bows and arrows. Ma send 200 volunteers to charge against the enemy with their swords, in order to act as human shields and protect the archers from the enemy's firepower. Although the majority of the 200 men, who charged, died, Ma' archers were able to get close enough to the enemy to fire their arrows, which decimated the Taiping rebels. Ma then used his 100 men strong cavalry to outflank the enemy army and destroy it. In the Battle of Shu City, Ma lost 320 men, while the enemy army lost 3,400 men. After this victory, Ma was able to take over Shu City with little resistance.
His victory at the Battle of Shu City persuaded the Qing government to give to Ma command of the entirety of the Green Standard Army, which had more than 300,000 men. Ma never used the entire army during his campaigns, but only parts of it, mainly because of the logistical nightmare of supplying such a huge army, but also because the majority of those men were needed to protect the Henan and Shandong provinces, which were very important to the Empire.
The May offensive was a series of battles fought in the Hubei province from 5 May to 27 May 1861 between the Qing forces of Ma and the Taiping General Lu Zheng. Cao Min, commander of the Taiping forces, gave command to Lu Zheng of 70,000 soldiers and ordered him to begin an offensive in the Qing held parts of the Hubei province.
The first battle of the May offensive was fought in Yichang. The First Battle of Yichang was fought in 11 May. Ma had under his command a force of 23,000 soldiers, while Lu had 30,000 troops, as the rest of his army was securing the newly conquered parts of Hubei.
Ma had chosen well the location in which he would fight his battle, as in order for Lu's troops to attack him, they would have to cross the Yangtze River. Lu ordered his troops to cross the river in 13:42. Ma send Chang, along with 4,000 archers and 1,000 riflemen to take positions in the river and to fire at Lu's troops. As Lu's troops tried to cross the river using small wooden boats, Chang's troops fired at the Taiping, decimating them. From the 7,000 troops ordered to cross the river, only 1,000 managed to cross it and 2,000 managed to retreat. The other 4,000 troops died.
The 1,000 Taiping soldiers who managed to cross the river were quickly defeated, with all of them being massacred. Lu ordered a second crossing in 14:23. 12,000 troops moved to cross the river with small wooden boats, but 6,000 of them were killed and 4,000 decided to retreat. The 2,000 Taiping who managed to cross the river were overwhelmed by Chang's soldiers and forced to retreat, where many of them were drowned in the river.
Lu decided to retreat, ending the First Battle of Yichang, with 11,500 - 12,000 Taiping soldiers and 500 Qing soldiers dead. But Ma decided to cross the Yangtze River in the night of 11 May. So, by the morning of 12 May, Ma and his army were able to cross the Yangtze River without any opposition.
In 13 May, Ma managed to find and trap Lu and his remaining 18,000 troops in Xiling, just north of the Yangtze River. The 20,000 soldiers of Ma encircled and massacred all 18,000 Taiping rebels, despite pleas for mercy, losing 1,000 men. Lu was barely able to escape with his life.
Cao Min had meanwhile send 40,000 more troops in Hubei, who united with the 40,000 Taiping troops already in the area, allowing Lu to have an army of 80,000 troops. Now Lu begun a march against the Qing forces in Xiling in 17 May. Ma was forced to retreat with his 19,000 troops behind the Yangtze River, uniting with the 2,000 troops Ma had left to guard the area.
With only 21,000 soldiers facing an army of 80,000 Taiping troops, Ma knew that everything would depend on the ability of his men to stop the Taiping from crossing the Yangtze River. So, the Second Battle of Yichang begun in 19 May. Lu ordered three crossings during the first day of the battle, but all of them failed, costing the lives of 2,000 Qing and 13,000 Taiping soldiers. In the second day of the battle, Lu ordered even more crossings, which would kill 1,000 Qing and 10,000 Taiping soldiers.
During the battle, one of Lu's lieutenant was captured and after many hours of torture was forced to reveal the location of Lu's storehouses. Ma knew that without supplies, Lu's huge army could not continue the battle. So, in the night of 20 May, Ma ordered Huang and 200 of his best men, to cross the river in the cover of night and burn Lu's storehouses.
Huang indeed managed to cross the river without being noticed and managed to burn Lu's storehouses. But the Taiping soldiers woke up and started to hunt down Huang and his few men. Huang managed to cross the river along with only 11 men. The other 189 men were killed. But the mission was a great success.
The next day, 21 May, Lu, knowing that his army could not be supplied any more, decided to make one last attempt of crossing the river. Lu led himself 20,000 men. Of them, only 11,000 managed to cross the river. But Ma ordered his 20,000 troops to charge in an all out attack against the exhausted Taiping. Lu himself was killed and his head was cut off. Only 3,000 men managed to retreat.
After the failure of the attack, the Taiping army had to retreat and by 27 May, it had retreat back to Taiping territory, allowing Ma to retake the parts of the Hubei province conquered by the Taiping in the May offensive. For the Taiping, the May offensive was a huge disaster, which cost the lives of 52,000 Taiping soldiers, while Ma lost only 5,000 men. This was the last time the Taiping went on the offensive.
Siege of WuhanEdit
Another important victory was the takeover of Wuhan. Wuhan was a Taiping stronghold, guarded by more than 120,000 soldiers. Ma begun the siege of the city in 18 August 1861, with just 80,000 men. Most of them came from the Green Standard Army, but the core of the army were 18,000 veterans of the May Offensive. Ma, before the attack, had gathered huge amounts of supplies and ammunition. Ma's strategy was to have the city surrounded by his soldiers and starve the defenders. But because he had a few soldiers, he decided to have his soldiers to build a encircling set of fortifications around the city, hoping that this would compensate for his numerical inferiority. The defenders decided to break the siege with an all out attack, on 29 August, but they failed, losing more than 34,000 men and had to surrender the city the next day.
The march to AnqingEdit
After Ma's victory in the battle of Wuhan, after a month long siege, Ma, along with 67,000 men, begun his march to Anqing in 3 September 1861. In 5 September, at the border between the Qing held Hubei province and the Taiping held Anhui province, the Qing forces crushed the 13,000 men of the Taiping Yellow Flag army and captured 10,000 prisoners, losing only 1,000 men.
After 6 days, Ma's army came 50 km close to Anqing, which under the command of Cao Min, Supreme Commander of the Taiping forces, but Ma decided to stop because Chang Wen Hsiang felt that the army was moving too fast in rugged roads, making the supply of the Qing army an almost impossible task and would ensure destruction if Cao Min fortified in the city. Ma requested that Chan do something for this, and so the construction of the Wuhan-Anqing road begun in 11 September.
The Wuhan-Anqing roadEdit
Chang was given full command over the construction of the road. Chang's idea was to create a road, with military posts every 20 km, to connect Wuhan with the Qing army that was near Anqing, which would enable the supply of the Qing army. Chang conscripted 30,000 villagers and used them, and the 10,000 captured Taiping Yellow Flag soldiers, as slave labor to build the road. The men worked day and night and by 20 September, the road was complete. So, supplies could flow to the Qing forces. Two days later,in 22 September 1861, Cao Min led his army outside Anqing and decided to meet Ma in an open battle.
Cao Min could have fortified in Anqing instead of meeting Ma in an open battle, but the fact that he had a huge army under his command but very few supplies, meant that after a few weeks, he would have to surrender because of lack of food. Cao also wanted a quick victory in an open battle to prove that he was not afraid of Ma, who had made quite a reputation of himself, and to increase the morale of his men, who were dispirited after their defeats by Ma.
Battle of AnqingEdit
The Qing army was only 66,000 men strong. But, despite being outnumbered by the enemy, the soldiers of the Qing Green Standard Army were battle hardened men, veterans of many battles. The Taiping Army was 130,000 men strong. But, despite it's numerical superiority, most of the men were peasants with little, if any, experience in fighting. However, 40,000 of Cao's troops were veterans of many battles and could be trusted to fight hard. The Taiping also had a limited number of cannons.
The Taiping army was led by Cao Min. A veteran commander, he was the military mastermind behind the early success of the Taiping Revolt. He won many battles from 1853 to 1856, but then he suffered many setbacks. Cao was known to be an able commander, with talent in coordinating large number of troops.
The Battle begun with the Qing left wing , along with the Qing center, attacking the Taiping center. This left exposed the Qing army to encirclement from the Taiping left wing, but the Taiping failed to exploit Ma's mistake, which could have destroyed the Qing army and could have given the Taiping a great victory. Ma's plan was to use both his left and center to crush the enemy center with massive force. Meanwhile, the Qing right wing was send to outflank the Taiping right wing and attack the enemy from behind.
The Qing right wing managed to outflank the enemy forces and move behind them. Meanwhile the two opposing centers clashed in an all out battle. The Taiping managed to use their few cannons with great success, but an all out charge of 800 elite Qing forces, led by Huang, destroyed the majority of the Taiping cannons. But this heroic act, killed 700 of those men and Huang was barely able to escape with his life.
The clashes between the two centers were very violent, with thousands of men losing their lives every second. Both sides made charges with swords against their opponents, when they reloaded their weapons, leading to both centers being on the verge of breaking many times, and being held together only by their respective inspirational commanders, Cao and Ma.
Meanwhile, the Qing left, now under the command of Chang himself, managed to destroy part of the enemy center, killing more than 5,000 men and losing 1,200 soldiers, and turned to face the enemy left wing. At the same time, part of the Taiping right wing moved to outflank the Qing center. With the Qing right wing behind the enemy lines, there was nothing to stop the Taiping forces from outflanking the Qing.
After three hours of brutal fighting, Huang led an all out charge of 3,000 men on the center of the enemy center. This was coordinated with an attack of the Qing unit behind the enemy lines on the same Taiping unit. The 7,000 men who were fighting there, collapsed and fled, creating a gap between the Taiping center, which Huang was able to exploit. Soon, the entire enemy center collapsed and all but 12,000 men remained, trapped by the Qing forces who quickly encircled them.
At the same time, the Qing left wing, under Chang, crushed the Taiping left wing. At first the fight there was a stalemate, but after Chang led himself a charge of 900 men against the enemy, the enemy lines collapsed. After the collapse of the Taiping left wing, Chang and his men moved against the remains of the Taiping center.
Meanwhile, the Taiping unit behind the Qing lines was able to attack Qing forces from behind, killing more than 4,000 men in a surprise attack that shaked the Qing forces and caused the collapse of an entire Qing unit. The attack came as a big surprise to the General Ma, who was quick to react and send units against the Taiping force.
At the same time, the 12,000 men, of the destroyed Taiping center, encircled by the Qing, were all massacred, despite pleas for mercy. This cruel act of General Ma was done, according to his account of the battle in his work "The War against the Taiping", in order to send a clear message that all who oppose him would have no mercy.
The Taiping forces that had attacked the Qing from behind, despite their early success, did not have the numbers to change the outcome of the battle and so they were quickly surrounded by the Qing forces. Ma did not accept their offer to surrender, and ordered his men to attack and show no mercy.
The Qing attack was very brutal, as thousands of soldiers charged with their swords against the Taiping riflemen, causing thousands of deaths. Despite this, Ma ordered more and more men to attack the enemy. Historians still argue why he made limited use of his riflemen, but some have claimed that this was to save ammunition for the coming siege of Nanchang. The Qing forces were in the end victorious.
The Battle of Anqing was one of the most bloody battles of Ma's campaign. It cost the lives of 19,000 Qing soldiers and 31,000 Taiping soldiers, a total of 50,000 deaths. The battle allowed Ma to take over the city of Anqing without a siege, as the few defenders surrendered. It also secured Ma's flanks for his campaign against Nanchang.
Ma made a few tactical mistakes in this battle, that could have led to a defeat. He himself admitted later, in his work "The War against the Taiping", that after his victories, he had become a bit over-confident. But the Taiping were unable to exploit those mistakes. Cao Min managed to outflank his enemy, but he was unable to show the same skill in his center, which collapsed. Cao Min, after this battle, retreated to Nanjing, where he tried to reorganize his remaining forces.
Siege of NanchangEdit
After the battle of Anqing, Ma moved against Nanchang, which he managed to take over after a 7 months long siege (5 November 1861 - 23 June 1862). During the siege, the 34,000 defenders of the city managed with their heroic resistance to slow down Ma's 70,000 men. Many times the siege was almost broken. But Ma managed to besiege the city for all those months, mainly thanks to the construction, under his orders, of several roads and storehouses between Nanchang and Wuhan, base of operations of Ma, which secured several supply lines which would feed Ma's army. This allowed Ma to outlast the defenders and force them to surrender the city.
Battle of HangzhouEdit
After the takeover of Nanchang, Ma decided to take over the Taiping held city of Hangzhou. This would allow him to encircle the Taiping from all sides. So, with 50,000 soldiers, Ma left Nanchang in 29 June 1862. Cao Min, who had managed to assemble an army of 60,000 soldiers, decided to meet Ma on the battlefield. Cao knew that he would not be able to withstand a siege, and that's why he decided to meet Ma on the battlefield.
So, in 9 July, the two armies met just a few hours march away from Hangzhou. Cao had 10,000 more troops than Ma, but the majority of his soldiers were untrained peasants. The majority of the veteran soldiers of the Taiping army had been killed in the previous battles against Ma. Ma had less troops than Cao, but almost his entire army was composed of battle hardened veterans of many battles, who had faith to Ma and his blood brothers, Chang and Huang.
Ma's army had 32,000 swordsmen, 4,000 cavalrymen and 14,000 riflemen. Cao's army had 45,000 swordsmen and 15,000 riflemen. Ma knew that the key to victory was to break the enemy center. So, he left his riflemen to guard the rear of the army and send all 32,000 swordsmen, commanded by Huang, against the enemy center. Cao saw what was happening and was quick to send 7,000 riflemen to reinforce his center.
At first, Ma's swordsmen suffered appalling casualties, losing more than 8,000 men. But once the got close to the riflemen, they were able to crush them. With the enemy riflemen routing, Huang led a charge on the enemy center, now defended only by 30,000 swordsmen. Despite the enemy having superior numbers, the Taiping peasants were no match for the veteran Qing troops, who crushed them.
Now a gap had opened, which Ma exploited, by sending his riflemen and cavalry in the gap, led by Chang. Chang's men were able to outflank and destroy the Taiping. The cavalry proved to be very effective, since Cao's army had no cavalry at all. Although many Taiping fought to the last man, causing thousands of Qing deaths, in the end Ma won the battle.
The Qing had suffered 15,000 deaths and the Taiping 32,000. But, this now isolated the Taiping to the Jiangsu province, making their fall a matter of time. For Cao Min, it was a crushing defeat which meant that the war was lost. He committed suicide a few days after the battle. For Ma, it was a great victory. But this victory worried many in the Qing government, who did not see Ma's influence favorably.
Sieges of Suzhou and NanjingEdit
Ma's victories caused him to become ambitious in the process, during which he revealed his plan to quickly take Suzhou and Nanjing, the principal power bases of the Taiping rebels, and his dream of ridding the world of oppression.
Ma begun the siege of Suzhou in 3 December 1862, with 150,000 soldiers. Suzhou was defended by 75,000 Taiping Rebels. There was fierce fighting, and during one of the Taiping's attempts to break the siege, Ma was seriously wounded. Fearing Ma's growing power and influence, the Qing Government decided to deny Ma valuable reinforcements and provisions; without their support, Ma's prompt attack on Suzhou devolved into a year long siege, with both sides suffering from starvation. Desperate, Ma negotiated with his longtime rival and nemesis, General Ho, offering him half of the spoils of Nanking in return for supplies. With the new supplies, the Rebels were forced to surrender Suzhou in exchange for Ma sparing their lives (5 November 1863).
But Ma could not keep his promise. Even with the new provisions, food remained critically short, the rebels could not be conscripted or released, and the Nanjing expedition would be jeopardized. Instead, he ordered the 40,000 prisoners to be executed. The Nanjing campaign (13 - 21 January 1864) was a grand success and the Taiping Rebellion was once and for all crushed.
Ma gave half of the spoils of Nanjing to his army and the other half to the state, a move that angered many Qing officials, who believed that the entirety of the spoils should have been given to the state.
Love affair with Ling PoEdit
In 3 June 1861, Ma decided to visit Weng Lee. Lee was a military officer who had decided to resign after Ma insulted him many times, by promoting other younger officers and ignoring him, despite his bravery. So, Ma went to Lee's house to persuade him not to resign, mainly because he feared the reaction of Lee's men, but Lee was not in the house. Instead, Ma met Ling Po, Lee's wife. Ling was very impressed with Ma and slept with him. So, Ma started to have an affair with Lee's wife. In 5 June, Ma met with Lee and managed to persuade him to stay in the army.
Ma continued his love affair with Ling until 1864. Lee, by early March of 1864, had started to discover of his wife's affair with Ma. This angered him and so, in 5 April 1864, he divorced his wife. Ma, fearing that the scandal could endanger his career, charged Lee with false charges of corruption and, in 18 April, he had Lee arrested and jailed. Ma also stopped meeting with Ling. After Ma's death, Lee Weng would be freed from prison and would later rise to power, even becoming Emperor, and Lee would promote the vilification of Ma.
In November 1865, the Nepalese Gurkha army invaded Tibet and the 11th Dalai Lama escaped from Lhasa and appealed to the Qing government for help. Thanks to Ma's efforts in defeating the Taiping Rebels in his Nanjing campaign, Empress Dowager Cixi appointed him as commander-in-chief of the Tibetan campaign. Ma had in his command 20,000 men. His army was made up of around 15,000 Chinese forces supplemented by tribal soldiers. The Nepalese had 60,000 soldiers and 30 cannons, outnumbering Ma by three to one.
The Chinese soldiers that Ma had under his command were very well trained and loyal to Ma, since they had fought with Ma for almost six years. The Tibetan soldiers, while not as well trained as the Chinese soldiers, were fanatical and hated the Nepalese, so Ma could count on them too. Ma also had the help of his blood brothers, Huang and Chang. However, Ma's army lacked cannons and supplies.
The Nepalese Army that Ma had to face was three times his army's size. Not only that, but it was very well trained and was equipped with a quite large number of cannons and rifles, thanks to the military reforms of the Nepalese King Ram Baran Yadav. King Ram also had much experience in warfare.
Ma's army entered Tibet from Xining (Qinghai) in the north, shortening the march but making it in the dead of winter of February 1866, crossing high mountain passes in deep snow and cold. The cold caused many deaths, but Ma knew that the only way he could defeat his enemy, would be to surprise him and divide his forces. King Ram had divided his forces, because he did not know from where the Chinese army would come. He had 20,000 men in the border with Xinjiang, 20,000 in the border with Sichuan and 20,000 in Lhasa. King Ram did not left any soldiers in the border with Xining, because he believed that the winter and the mountains would stop any army that attempted to invade Tibet from that direction. He thought that only a mad man would try to cross an entire army through the mountains.
And indeed, the cold caused the deaths of more than 6,000 men and the loss of what little supplies and equipment Ma's army had. It was only thanks to Ma's charisma that his soldiers were able to march on those peaks. Many times, parts of the army were lost in snowstorms and tens of men fell from the mountains to their deaths. The Chinese soldiers could not sleep, because of the cold and the fear that they would freeze to death. In the night, it was even colder than in the day. Many times, the army's way was blocked by huge rocks, which meant that the army had to find an other way to cross a pass. Many soldiers committed suicide in order to escape from this frozen hell.
When Ma's army crossed the mountains in the spring of 1866, they had almost no supplies left, many rifles were lost and from the 20,000 men that begun the journey, only 14,000 remained. The Tibetan landscape did not allow Ma to feed much his army, but he was able to steal herds from the locals. Also, he allowed his army to rest for a week, while rifles were made or given by the locals.
King Ram was surprised that his enemy had crossed the mountains in the dead of winter. He immediately ordered his 20,000 men in the border with Xinjiang and his other 20,000 men in the border with Sichuan to march against the Chinese army. But it was too late. Until the Nepalese armies could reach Ma's army, Ma had plenty of time to defeat the 20,000 men that King Ram had left in Lhasa.
Ma moved against Lhasa. When he got to Lhasa in 19 March, he found the 20,000 men garrison waiting for him outside the city, ready to give an open battle. This saved Ma's army, because if the Nepalese garrison in Lhasa had fortified inside the city, Ma would not have the men needed to besiege them and would have to retreat. But now, Ma had the chance to destroy the enemy army.
He had 14,000 men compared to the 20,000 Nepalese soldiers, so he made a trick. He had his army to make an all out attack, and after a few hours, he had his army to retreat. The enemy followed him until they reached a location with many hills. There, Ma shouted "Men! The trap is set! Encircle the enemy!!".
The Nepalese, believing that Ma had lured them to a trap and that he had hid part of his army in the hills, were routed. Ma the ordered his men to chase and cut down the enemy. 10,000 Nepalese and 4,000 Chinese died in this battle. After the defeat of the Nepalese army, Ma and his army entered in Lhasa with no resistance and got a hero's welcome by the local population.
Invasion of NepalEdit
Ma, in April, started a forced march into Nepal. His army marched for many weeks, and they reached the border with Nepal in June. Meanwhile, King Rama had managed to unite his divided forces and was chasing the 10,000 Chinese soldiers with his 40,000 men strong army. Ram, in order to prevent Ma from invading Nepal, bypassed Lhasa, but his army was still not able to catch up with Ma's army.
In June, Ma led his army into an invasion of Nepal. His army had to cross high mountains and face cold and snowstorms, but thanks to the experience Ma and his men had gained when they crossed the mountains of Xining, casualties were low. Ma lost only 1,000 men. So, in early July, he was in Nepal with 9,000 men. King Rama had left in Nepal 18,000 men, which Ma faced outside Kathmandu, capital of Nepal, in 17 July.
Ma, after drawing up his whole army in a straight line, took his center and advanced it, keeping the rest of the army in contact with the center, but gradually falling off, so as to produce a crescent-shaped formation. When the Nepalese attacked his center, Ma ordered a controlled retreat. The crescent of the center buckled inwards as the troops in the center gradually withdrew.
By doing so, Ma had trapped the Nepalese army in a growing 'V' shaped gap. The Nepalese, believing that they were winning, send more and more of their men in the gap. Then, suddenly, Ma ordered his right and left wings to close the gap by outflanking the enemy. So, the Nepalese army was encircled and massacred. 15,000 Nepalese and 2,000 Chinese soldiers had been killed.
Siege of KathmanduEdit
After his victory in the Battle of Kathmandu, Ma besieged the Nepalese capital with his 7,000 men. The city was defended by 3,000 Nepalese. Ma was confident of victory, but the fortifications of the city proved to be too much for his men. After five days of failed attempts to take the city, he learned that King Ram, along with 40,000 Nepalese soldiers, was just three weeks away from him. So, Ma would be both the besieger and the besieged.
Ma ordered the construction of an encircling set of fortifications around Kathmandu, since this would allow him to besiege the city with fewer men and save men for the battle against King Ram. About 18 kilometers of 4 meter high fortifications were constructed in about one week. This line was followed inwards by two four-and-a-half meter wide ditches, also four-and-a-half meters deep.
Ma also ordered the construction of a second line of fortifications, to protect his small army from Ram's 40,000 men, facing outward and encircling his army between it and the first set of walls. The second line was identical to the first in design, extended for 21 kilometers and was build in two weeks. In 15 August, Ram's army arrived. Now Ma had to face 3,000 Nepalese from Kathmandu and the 40,000 men of King Ram with 7,000 men. Ma ordered 2,000 of his men to fortify in the first line of fortifications and 5,000 to fortify in the second line.
Ram, who had 25 cannons, bombarded Ma's soldiers who were in the second line of fortifications and caused 1,000 deaths. Then, Ram ordered an all out attack of all of his 40,000 men on the Chinese fortifications. Meanwhile, the 3,000 Nepalese inside the city, seeing their King, got out of the city and also charged at the fortifications. The Chinese, thanks to the fortifications, were able to cause huge damage on the Nepalese and even push back thousands of them. Ma, riding his horse, was helping his soldiers and fought alongside them, giving them courage.
At the end of the day, the Nepalese were pushed back. The Nepalese attack continued for three more days, but they were always pushed back. In 18 August, King Ram, who could no longer feed such a huge army and had suffered appalling casualties, decided to make a surprise night attack on the Chinese fortifications. So, in the night of 18 August, Ram ordered an all out attack. Ma's men were not surprised, since Ma was expecting a night attack and did now allow his men to sleep.
The Nepalese attacked again and again, and the Chinese pushed them back again and again. Whenever a part of his army had trouble, Ma rode there with his horse and gave courage to his men. The Nepalese were once again defeated, losing 17,000 men to Ma's 3,900 casualties. Ram retreated and Kathmandu fell to Ma's hands. Ma allowed his men to plunder and burned the city to the ground.
King Ram, with the loss of his capital, was forced to make peace. Although he still had far more men than Ma, many in his army were threatening to coup him if he did not make peace. Ma was more than happy to make peace with Ram, knowing that his men had reached the limits of human endurance. The terms of the treaty were:
1.Both Nepal and Tibet had to accept the suzerainty of China.
2.The Nepali citizens gained the right to visit, trade, and establish industries in any part of Tibet and China.
3.In case of any dispute between Nepal and Tibet, China would intervene and settle the dispute at the request of both the countries.
4.China would help Nepal defend against any external aggression.
5.Both Nepal and Tibet would have to send a delegation to pay tribute to the Imperial Court in China every five years.
Pacification of South ChinaEdit
When Ma returned from Tibet, in late October of 1866, he was given overall command of 18,000 men and 40 cannons and the task of suppressing an uprising of the Jinchuan "Hill Peoples", near Chengdu in the western province of Sichuan. Because of fierce resistance, the campaign lasted one whole bloody year, from October 1866 to February 1867. The resisting tribes retreated to their stone towers and forts in steep mountains and could only be dislodged by cannon. Ma was ruthless in annihilating the rebellious tribes and then reorganized the region in a military prefecture and repopulated it with more cooperative inhabitants. When Ma and his victorious troops returned to Beijing, a celebratory hymn was sung in their honor.
In 1865, a revolt begun in Taiwan, led by feudal lords, and by 1866 all of Taiwan was under rebel control. In March 1867, Empress Dowager Cixi send Ma to quell the rebellion with a force of 20,000 soldiers. At the same time, the rebels had managed to gather a force of 300,000 men, outnumbering Ma by 15 to 1, but most of them were peasants that had little or no combat experience. Despite their inferiority in numbers, Ma's troops were well equipped, disciplined and had combat experience which proved more than enough to route the insurgents. The rebels were defeated and their leaders hid among the locals, but they were later found and were executed. Ma was appointed Viceroy of Liangjiang (the provinces of Jiangxi, Anhui, and Jiangsu: 两江总督) in 1868 by the Empress for his services.
Viceroy of LiangjiangEdit
As Viceroy of Liangjiang, Ma managed to persuade the Empress to relieve the Jiangnan and Jiangxi provinces from taxes for three years, in order to allow the province to recover from the war. Ma, although a Hui Muslim, decided to build a Confucian temple in Nanchang, to increase his prestige and popularity among the population, which was not very fond of Muslims. He begun the building in 1869 and the temple was completed in 21 January 1872, two years after his death.
Ma build more than 10,000 schools in the Jiangnan and Jiangxi provinces, allowing more people to be educated. Ma also completed his work "The War against the Taiping", which tells of his campaigns against the Taiping. His work has been printed many times, both in China and the West, and is the main source of information for the Taiping Rebellion. Ma had also send Chang and Huang to hunt down and eliminate bandits in the area, leading to less crimes, as his blood brothers led Ma's troops against one bandit group after the other.
Reforms in the GovernmentEdit
Ma also made several reforms. All past viceroys would manage the taxes, the law and the education all by themselves, and this created many problems. Ma decided to change this. He knew that no man could work 24 hours every day and no man could know everything. So, he created the post of Tax Minister (稅務部長;Shuìwù bùzhǎng), who would manage the Taxes and organize the tax collectors, the post of Supreme Judge (最高法院法官;Zuìgāo fǎyuàn fǎguān), who would be the one who would make sure that the law is kept, and the post of Minister of Education (教育部長;Jiàoyù bùzhǎng), who would manage the schools. Ma would just make sure that everything worked fine and set some general policies.
Ma also made reforms in the army. He organized the Office of Logistics and Supplies (物流與供應辦公室;Wùliú yǔ gōngyìng bàngōngshì), which made sure that the army, in times of war, could be well supplied, both in food and equipment. This office would also allow the fast recruitment and training of troops.
Ma also fell in love with Mi Lan, Huang's wife. The attraction was mutual, with her seeing potential of Ma as an ambitious man. Whilst Chang and Huang were off fighting bandits, Ma and Mi had an affair and he arranged for Huang to be assassinated rather than let his position fall into disgrace. To avenge his brother's death, Chang assassinated Ma himself (22 August 1870). He gave himself up and he was hauled to court, tortured, and sentenced to death.
A few decades after Ma's death, Chang would be considered a hero who sacrificed himself in order to take revenge for his blood brother and the assassination of Ma would be seen as a heroic act against an evil man corrupted by power. In Chinese popular culture, Ma would come to be seen as a villain while Chang as a hero, mainly because of Emperor Xuantong, who was an enemy of Ma.
The death of Ma did not, as his enemies wanted, end the rule of commanders close to him. Many commanders who were close friends of Ma would dominate for many years the political and military scene of China and come to be known as the 'Ma Faction' and would later give rise to Weng Lee, who would use the rivalry between the Ma and Anti-Ma factions to take power.
Thanks to Ma's skills, the Qing Empire managed to defeat the Taiping Rebels against all odds and secure that the Empire would last 41 more years. Ma proved himself to be an able military commander by managing to defeat again and again much superior enemy forces. The best example of this is the Battle of Shu City. Despite having only 800 troops and inferior equipment, he defeated an enemy army of 5,000 troops, by using part of his army as human shield and managing to outflank his enemy by clever use of his cavalry.
Ma was also able to use the terrain and logistics of his enemies to gain victory. An example of this is the May offensive, when Ma defeated 110,000 Taiping soldiers in three battles with only 23,000 men. Ma was able to use the Yangtze River as a defensive barrier and was able to kill ten of thousand of Taiping troops while they attempted to cross the river. By using the river, he was able to make up for his inferiority in numbers. Ma had also send a small team in the night of 20 May during the Second Battle of Yichang to burn the storehouses of the enemy, knowing that huge armies could not battle for long without supplies. So, he managed to defeat the enemy army thanks to the terrain and the logistical problems of the enemy.
Ma was also able to inspire his men to do feats that other Generals would not have been able to persuade their men to do, like when he managed to cross the Xining Mountains in the dead of winter, a feat that can only be compared with Hannibal's crossing of the Alps.
Ma's tactic was to, as he himself said, "move fast and strike hard". He also knew the importance of supplies in warfare, and for that reason he always tried to make sure that his army would have enough supplies before moving against an enemy. But when he attacked the city of Suzhou, he had failed to predict the strong resistance of the enemy and the unwillingness of the Qing Government to give him reinforcements and provisions.
Ma was also known to be a very good besieger, and his skills can be seen in the Siege of Suzhou, were he entrenched his army for more than year, despite of mounting losses and lack of supplies. Another example of Ma's skills as a besieger was the Siege of Kathmandu, where Ma was both the besieger and the besieged. Ma believed that in order to defeat an enemy, you have to attack his center of power. Ma's brilliance as a military commander can also be seen by his decision to massacre 40,000 surrendered soldiers in Suzhou, in order to save supplies for his troops and to be able to move fast against Nanjing.
Ma was a very good tactician and was only defeated once, in the Battle of Đống Đa during the Vietnam Campaign. Ma was also an able administrator who cared for the welfare of his people and made several reforms in the government.
Ma was also known to be an able Kung Fu master and a writer. His work "The War against the Taiping" is a very important historical work and informs the readers about his campaigns. But despite Ma's many traits, he is generally portrayed in popular culture as a greedy and corrupted man, who killed his blood brother for a woman, while Chang would be considered a hero. This was helped a lot by Emperor Xuantong, who was an enemy of Ma.
Ma's assassination gave inspiration for several Chinese Operas just a few decades after Ma's death and inspired the 1973 Kung Fu movie "The Blood Brothers" and a 2007 remake of that movie named "The Warlords". Ma is played in the first by Ti Lung and in second by Jet Li. Both movies are considered masterpieces.
"Move fast and strike hard." - Ma to his Blood Brothers during the Battle of Shu City.
"Destroy the center of power of an enemy, and the enemy will be defeated." - Ma arguing for an attack on Suzhou and Nanjing.
"Supplies are more important than numbers in war" - Ma in his historical work "The War against the Taiping".