The Chinese Expedition

Originally Published in 1917

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As announced in the last issue of THE MUSEUM JOURNAL, Mr. Carl W. Bishop, leader of the Museum’s Chinese Expedition, arrived in Japan March 21st on his second tour of investigation. Three weeks were spent in research and study of Chinese art, including a trip to Sendai, which is a noted center of Japanese antiquities. Mr. Bishop visited a number of artificial caves of unknown age, known locally as Yezo-ana (or Ainu Caves), supposedly dating back to the Ainu period. He hazards an opinion that the caves were excavated by a colony of Buddhist monks, partly as shrines and partly as cells, perhaps not long after the conquest of the region by the Japanese in the Eighth Century.

Mr. Bishop reached Peking late in May only to find all China in a disturbed condition. In part this was due to the unsettled political situation, in part to an unusual drought and in great measure to the enhanced value of silver which had upset all commercial and financial calculations. Prices of all commodities had risen and labor costs naturally increased proportionately.

Under date of June 25th Mr. Bishop writes:

“During the first few days after my arrival in Peking I looked up a number of people who were in a position to give me information and advice. I had a very interesting interview with our Minister, Dr. Reinsch, who is a great friend of the Chinese. I explained to him the efforts being put forth by the University Museum to throw light on China’s past through the medium of archaeological research, and he very cordially promised to do everything in his power to further our efforts.

“I met Dr. Ferguson soon after my arrival, and learning that he and Dr. Bosch Reitz were going to the Lung Men grottoes, near the old Wei and Tang capital of Honan Fu, I arranged to go with them. We left Peking the 30th, going first to Kaifeng Fu, the old capital of the southern Sungs and the former seat of an ancient Jewish colony. While we were in Kaifeng the rebellion of the military leaders took place, but as there was no antiforeign element in the disorder we decided to go on to Honan Fu and visit the Lung Men grottoes. By the time we had got to Honan Fu the rebellion had taken the form of commandeering rolling stock on the railway for a move of troops on Peking, and Dr. Ferguson said we were in danger of being cut off indefinitely in this remote corner of Honan province. Consequently we cut our visit rather short, although I succeeded in getting some very fair photographs which will serve to illustrate the progress of Chinese sculpture.

“Upon our return to Peking on the 4th inst. I proposed a visit to the famous grottoes of Yün-kang, near Ta-t’ung Fu, in northern Shansi, which were excavated and carved during the early northern Wei, before the removal of the capital to Honan Fu. Mr. Bosch Reitz and I proceeded to Ta-t’ung Fu by rail and then on to the grottoes by cart, sleeping one night there in a temple and taking quantities of photographs. We found the place much more interesting than Lung Men, and I hope to visit it again and get additional notes and pictures.

“The heat here is something terrific, averaging well over a hundred, and with no prospects of alleviation before the beginning of September. It is much worse than I found it two years ago, I suppose on account of the lack of rain. The dust of course makes things much worse and sifts in everywhere.”

It was unfortunate for Mr. Bishop’s plans that the disturbed condition of the country made it impossible for him to commence his explorations in the interior but meanwhile he was engaged in preparations and in acquiring a better knowledge of the Chinese language. Then the counter-revolution broke out which lasted for a few days and collapsed. Mr. Bishop’s diary of events is so concise and at times so graphic that it is here (for the most part) reproduced.

“JULY 1. This morning about three o’clock Chang Hsun, the commander of the ‘pigtailed’ troops, restored the little Manchu emperor to the throne, and by police orders the old dragon flag is flying from every shop front. The prevailing impression is that the restoration will not be lasting.

“JULY 5. A mounted messenger from the Legation Guard came with a notice to prepare to take refuge in the Legation at a moment’s notice, so I got my papers, journals, photographs, firearms and ammunition packed up for instant removal. Spent the rest of the day at the Wagons Lits Hotel and the Club; refugees, foreign and native, flocking into the Legation Quarter with their goods, and even the courtyards crammed with campers. All communication with the outside cut, and everybody apprehensive. Republican troops reported on the way from Tientsin to oust the Imperialists, who have cut the railway.

“JULY 6. This evening a special train got through from Peking with American, Japanese, and French colonial troops, in all about 250, as a reinforcement for the Legations, and people feel much easier. Upham and I decided not to take refuge in the Legation Quarter, as we both had valuable stuff, including all my outfit, which we did not care to leave to looters, and which we would not be allowed to bring into the Quarter with us.

“JULY 7. Fighting yesterday southwest of town, and reported that the Imperialists are being driven back on Peking. Upham and I volunteered to ride out and try to see what was actually going on ; meant to ride around left wing of Imperialists and get in touch with Republicans, but found former extending much further east than anyone thought, and were turned back, though treated courteously.

“JULY 10. Saw Dr. Cather, the post surgeon, as I have never fully recovered from the touch of the sun that I got on June 28th; he prescribed for me, and would take nothing, as he said he was an old University of Pennsylvania man, and glad to help on anything connected with the University.

“JULY 12. Awakened about 4:30 A.M. by heavy firing, the Republican troops having attacked the Temple of Heaven and Chang Hsun’s residence in the Forbidden City. Mr. Upham and I at once ordered breakfast and then went up on the city wall to see what was going on. It was a pretty sight, with shrapnel bursting, two aeroplanes circling overhead, horse and foot dodging among the streets in the Chinese city, and rifles, machine guns, and artillery going off incessantly. Stray bullets flew all about, and hardly a compound in town but was struck.

“Early in the engagement the Imperialists holding the outer tower of the Chien-Men, the great south gate, turned a machine gun on us foreigners on the wall and there were several casualties, one man receiving four wounds, while another will probably die ; nearly all those hit were Americans. Legation Quarter closed and barricaded, and guards all on duty, with machine guns ready for action. Stopped at the Hotel on my way home and after lunch took a nap. When I awoke the firing had ceased, and I learned eventually that the `pigtails’ had surrendered at the Temple of Heaven about eleven, upon which Chang Hsun fled to the Dutch Legation, and his men in the Forbidden City fought until about two thirty, and then surrendered also. Considering the amount of ammunition expended, the casualties were surprisingly low. It speaks well for both sides that there was no looting and practically no interference with non-combatants save what these brought on themselves by getting too close to the firing. Martial law this evening, but everything quiet.

“JULY 13. Went around getting photographs of the scenes of yesterday’s fighting. Chang Hsun’s palace a perfect wreck, having been shelled and then burnt; the ruins were still smoking, and all around, both inside and in the street, were cartridges, broken weapons, bloody caps and boots, dead horses, furniture, papers, and debris of all kinds. I believe I got some very good photographs, although they are not yet developed. Although the counter-revolution was of short duration political conditions remained more or less uncertain. Fortunately the long drought was broken but in many cases the damage to crops by flood was as severe as that by the heat. A trip to Shanghai in search of some ancient and rare books on Chinese art was successful.”

In a letter dated August 14 Mr. Bishop writes:

“Yesterday I received a most cordial note from Professor Sayce, who is summering at Miyanoshita, a hill resort in the Mt. Fuji region, inviting me to come and see him, and to accompany him on a visit to the famous old ninth century monasteries at Mt. Koya (Koya-san) in the mountains south of Kyoto. They are reputed, I think with good cause, to have been founded by the Japanses monk Kobo Daishi, who was, if tradition is correct, an Admirable Crichton, a Michael Angelo, and an Apostle Paul rolled into one. At least it is pretty certain that he studied in China during the great T’ang period, in the very region which I plan to visit this fall, and that he brought back with him valuable manuscripts. Professor Sayce writes, ‘Dr. Kuroito, of the Institute of Historical Compilation, is to come too, in order to establish a museum for the conservation of monastery “treasures.”‘ Undoubtedly the occasion will be an important and an interesting one, and I hope that nothing will occur to keep me from being one of the party.

“Among other things I have been diligent in securing as fine a collection of photographs of all kinds as possible, particularly with a view to making slides. For one thing, I have adopted the plan of carrying with me a box of water colors, and roughly coloring prints on the spot, to serve as guides in coloring the slides themselves. In this way I hope to have a large number of slides to serve as adjuncts to talks on a large variety of topics calculated to interest the public in connection with our work.”

If Mr. Bishop has been enabled to carry out his plans, he is now actively engaged in exploring the ancient art centers of the interior.

Cite This Article

"The Chinese Expedition." The Museum Journal VIII, no. 3 (September, 1917): 197-201. Accessed February 22, 2024. https://www.penn.museum/sites/journal/617/


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