Samuel R. Clarke wrote in “Among the Tribes of South-west China” published in 1911: The two characters that make up Kwei-chow (Guizhou) have been written since the 1400s mean “Precious or Honourable Region." But during the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220), the name was written with the character Kwei meaning ''demon” and thus would mean ''Demon Region," that is, “the region inhabited by demons” Sometimes it was written Kwei Fang, “demon place" or “land of demons." The inhabitants were also called Lo-s'i Kwei or ''Lo-si demons," which probably had reference to the spiral form in which some of them did up their hair. [Source: “Among the Tribes of South-west China” by Samuel R. Clarke (China Inland Mission, 1911). Clarke served as a missionary in China for 33 years, 20 of those in Guizhou]

What is now Guizhou was only constituted a province, with Guiyang as its capital, in the 1700s. Previous to that time that portion of the present province north of the Wu-kiang or ''Crow River" was part of the province of Sichuan. South of that river were semi-independent kingdoms: Yi or Lolo who call themselves Nuosu in the west, and Miao in the east. Hundreds of years previous to that time Chinese armies had marched into Guizhou and left garrisons in different places.

In the mid 1700s, when Roman Catholic missionaries made a map of the Empire, some parts of southern Guizhou were put down as occupied by Sen Miao or “Independent Miao." Evidently at that time some of the Miao were still independent, for if they had in any way admitted Chinese sovereignty they would not have been reckoned as Sen Miao. The various tribes within the Empire, and those on the border, are divided into Sen and Su tribes. Sen means “raw," and Su means “ripe “or “cooked” The independent tribes are “raw,”and those who acknowledge Chinese sovereignty are “cooked." There are no Miao, or any other tribe in Guizhou now, who claim to be independent. The last vestiges of independence passed away forty years ago when the latest Miao rebellion of any importance was put down after years of mutual slaughter. Talking recently with a Miao who remembered that time, he said, “Our people were worse than the Chinese and killed more women and children than they did."

The population of Guizhou is probably between seven and ten millions. In speaking of numbers, in the absence of trustworthy census returns, it must be understood that we are giving opinions formed from our own observation, influenced by the estimates of others who are as well qualified to judge as ourselves. In this way, then, we put the population of the province at between seven and ten millions, and reckon that one-half of these are Chinese and the rest mostly Miao and Bouyei.

Landscape and Waterways of Guizhou in the 1900s

Samuel R. Clarke wrote in “Among the Tribes of South-west China”: “Most of Guizhou is at least three thousand feet above sea-level, the altitude constantly increasing as the traveller goes west. When the traveller reaches the top of a high hill and looks about him, he frequently sees all around, as far as the eye can reach, an ocean of little hills, sometimes hundreds of them. They are of every conceivable shape, among which the pyramid and sugar-loaf shape are very common. Most of these hills are bare and barren, and there is little timber to be seen. The valleys between are for the most part narrow, and what might be called the plains are seldom very long or very broad. There are innumerable caves and caverns among these hills, some of which are very large. In some places streams, only fordable in certain parts, disappear into the bowels of the earth, and come out again a considerable distance away. There are many waterfalls to be seen, some of which after a heavy fall of rain are magnificent. Weining Lake, in the north-west, a large sheet of water fifty miles long and in some places nearly twenty miles broad, is 7000 feet above sea-level. We saw no boats and there appears to be no traffic on the lake. The hills are not exceedingly high, but they are everywhere. The province is a labyrinth of hills and valleys, and probably not one-fifth of the surface of it is cultivated or cultivable. [Source: “Among the Tribes of South-west China” by Samuel R. Clarke (China Inland Mission, 1911)]

There are very few waterways in Guizhou, as most of the streams only become navigable as they are leaving the province. The longest navigable river, the Chang-ki, is a branch of the Yiian River, and joins what is called the main stream from Chenyiian at the city of Kienyang Hun in Hunan. This stream, which flows through a region occupied for the most part by Heh Miao, is navigable when in flood almost to Tuyiin, and all the year round as far as Kai-U in the Tsingpinghsien district. The boatmen on this river are nearly all Heh Miao, who convey goods to and from Hungkiang in Hunan. This stream, however, in consequence of long and difficult rapids, is only navigable for small boats, whereas the Chenyiian branch is navigable for river boats of the largest size. This lack of waterways, and the fact that there is no road, as far as we know, in the province over which a wheeled vehicle could be drawn or driven, makes the conveyance of produce a costly undertaking. Everything has to be carried by coolies, or on the backs of ponies and mules, and consequently it doubles the cost of rice to carry it one hundred and twenty miles.

Hsin-lu-fang means the “New furnace place," and, of course, it was new at one time. There are a number of copper mines here, with a more or less flourishing industry in pots and kettles carried on by the Chinese. There seem, at one time, to have been many copper mines in that district. Thirty miles from Ko-pu, on the way to Guiyang, is Ma-ku, once a flourishing Chinese town surrounded by copper mines, which we presume have panned out, as they are not worked now, and the town is a stagnant, dilapidated place. We noticed that the walls of some of the houses, and the garden walls, were built up of old earthen crucibles that had been used to smelt copper. There must have been millions of them, and all around the town were old derelict mines with heaps of crucibles. There must have been, at one time, large quantities of copper produced in that region.

Chinese in Guizhou in the 1900s

Clarke wrote in “Among the Tribes of South-west China”: “To a traveller passing through Guizhou, the Chinese would appear to greatly outnumber the non-Chinese. This is because the Chinese are mostly settled in the cities and towns, and in those districts which are nearer the cities and the great high-roads. Away from the cities and high-roads in the south-west and south-east, the non-Chinese greatly outnumber the Chinese. It must also be remembered that the Chungchia men, and some of the men of the other tribes, dress exactly the same as Chinese peasants, and by the traveller might be taken for Chinese.[Source: “Among the Tribes of South-west China” by Samuel R. Clarke (China Inland Mission, 1911)]

The Chinese of the province are divided into the Lao'han-ren and Keh-chia, that is, the ''Original or Old Chinese'' and the ''Immigrants.'' The immigrants are very many, and the Old Chinese very few. Some of the Old Chinese claim that their ancestors settled in the province as early as the eighth and ninth centuries of our era, and others as late as the fourteenth century. These were the soldiers left in the country as the results of early conquests and occupations, who married native women and settled down as cultivators of the soil. The descendants of these now form separate communities, speaking the old dialect their forebears brought into the country, or a modification of it, and able also to speak the mandarin dialect of the New Chinese. They are a sturdy industrious race who generally own the land they cultivate, but are regarded by the New Chinese much the same as the Miao and Bouyei.

Among these Old Chinese are the following: The P'u'ts'i or Tun-tsi) that is “Garrison people” in the Anshun prefecture: the Lapa-tsz in the western part of Anshun and in the Puanhsien district. The Chuan-chun-tst, so called because the women wear long skirts like Miao and Bouyei women, are found in Anshun, Weining, and Pingyiian districts. The Feng't'eo-ren or “Phoenix-headed,'' named from the style in which the women do their hair, are to be seen along the main road from Guiyang to Anshun. It is not possible at present to say how many of these Old Chinese there are, but we venture to think there are only several tens of thousands of them. There may be, however, in other parts of the province other of these garrison people whom we have not seen or recognised, and of whom we have never heard. Doubtless many of these Old Chinese have, in the course of time, been absorbed among the non-Chinese or among the New Chinese.

The New Chinese are the descendants of those who settled in Guizhou when and since it was constituted a province of the Empire. There can be no doubt that the earlier of these immigrants were from the province of Guangxi, and some of them at least were compelled to colonise Guizhou much against their will. Most of the Chinese now in the province would claim Guangxi as the old home of their family. But in recent years, we do not venture to say for how many, the immigrants have nearly all been from the provinces of Hunan and Sichuan, and mostly from Sichuan. Since we first entered the province thirty years ago there has been a constant stream of people, sometimes rising and falling, flowing into Guizhou from the populous province of Sichuan.

The language spoken by the Chinese of Guizhou is good Mandarin, more like the dialect of Peking than that of Nanking, and much better mandarin than that spoken in many parts of Hunan. As one might expect, it is most like the Chinese spoken in Sichuan, and a man from Guizhou would be easily understood in north and central China where the Mandarin dialect is spoken.

Non-Chinese in Guizhou in the 1900s

The non-Chinese of Guizhou in the 1900s were primarily are the Miao, Lao, Gelao and Bouyei. Clarke wrote: “The non-Chinese are nearly all of them cultivators of the soil, and live, as a rule, not on the land they cultivate, but, for the sake of mutual protection, in hamlets and villages. These villages are sometimes surrounded by a wall, and sometimes by a stockade of plaited bamboos, but most of them have no sort of protection. [Source: “Among the Tribes of South-west China” by Samuel R. Clarke (China Inland Mission, 1911)]

On market-days, which are held generally once in six days, the market-places are crowded by the men and women of different tribes, which, by reason of the varied and picturesque costumes of the women, present an animated and interesting spectacle. These markets or fairs are mostly held in the towns and villages, but some of them are held in outof-the-way places where no houses are to be seen. Here the people sell their live-stock and farm produce, and buy such necessaries as they cannot produce or make for themselves. At some of the markets we have visited, the tribespeople outnumber the Chinese by ten to one, but in some places it is the other way about.

If we estimate the population of Guizhou at eight million, half of these as Chinese and the rest as Miao, Bouyei and Yi l-chia, we shall not be far from the truth. The Bouyei are probably as numerous as the Miao and Yi together, and the Miao much more numerous than the Yi or Lolo. The Yi are only to be found in the west and northwest, and even there are still outnumbered by the Miao. The Miao were probably in what is now called Guizhou before the Bouyei, and in most parts of it before the Yi.

Languages in Guizhou in the 1900s

Clarke wrote: “As mentioned above, all the languages spoken in Guizhou are syllabic and tonic, but the Miao language appears to be more like the Chinese or, at all events, more like Mandarin Chinese than those spoken by the Gelao, Bouyei, or Yi. Naturally in all these languages there are words manifestly borrowed from the Chinese: but leaving out such words, there seem more resemblances between the Chinese and Miao words than between the Chinese and any of the others, or between Miao and any of the others. [Source: “Among the Tribes of South-west China” by Samuel R. Clarke (China Inland Mission, 1911)]

Of the non-Chinese languages spoken in Guizhou we know Heh Miao and Bouyei best, and it is worthy of note that in both of these, as a rule, the adjective comes after the noun, whereas in Chinese the adjective comes before the noun. There are also other marked pecuUarities which differentiate these languages from the Chinese and from one another, but for the most part the syntax of all these languages is very much the same, that is to say, there are no conjugations, no declensions, and no inflexion of words. Like Mandarin Chinese, none of the Miao dialects we know have any final consonants other than “n" and ** ng,” They have, however, some initial sounds which are not found in Chinese, among which may be noted the “LZ “of the Welsh among the Heh Miao and also among the Yi. This initial sound in some of the Miao dialects changes to “ Kl “ and “Bir

The Bouyei, besides the final *'n** and “ngy" have also as finals k, m, p, and t. The Heh Miao have eight tones, and some of the other dialects probably as many, though we have heard of some which have only four. The Bouyei have six tones. How many the Yi and Gelao have we are not able to say. The student has to study these languages some time before he can decide how many tones they use. Of course, all these people utter all the various tones correctly for their own dialects, but are quite unable to say how many tones there are. There are, moreover, in some of these tones such fine gradations of pitch and inflection that only the practised ear can distinguish between them.

Traveling in Guizhou in the 1900s

Describing a journey by the missionary James R. Adam in Guizhou, Clarke wrote: “Towards the end of July 1908 some of the Miao Christians came in from Ko-pu to escort Mr. Adam back to their district. The missionary party consisted of Mr. Adam, Teacher Tsao, B.A., Evangelist Chin, and nine Miao men. About twelve miles from Anshun they were overtaken by a heavy thunderstorm, and when the rain comes down in Guizhou it knows how to do so. Very soon every member of the party was wet through, and all the bedding and food-baskets were thoroughly soaked. At Tinglan, however, a few miles farther on, was an out-station in a Chinese walled town, where after resting a while and refreshing themselves with tea and cakes they continued their journey. Darkness overtook them before they finished the stage, and after a wearisome climb up steep hills, they put up for the night at a dismal little wayside inn. All the inns are dismal in that part of the country, but some of them superlatively so, and this was one of them. Shelter and rice for the men could be had, but no corn or grass for the ponies, so those tired Miao men, after carrying their loads for nearly thirty miles over mountain roads, quietly stole out and, without letting Mr. Adam know, cut grass on the hill-sides for the animals. It was very late when, after a short service, they lay down to rest. [Source: “Among the Tribes of South-west China” by Samuel R. Clarke (China Inland Mission, 1911)]

Next morning they resumed their journey, and passed through Ta-ngai-chio, a large markettown on the high-road, which would be a good centre for an out-station. While crossing a small stream, the Miao men who carried the food-basket let it fall into the water, so that the bread and everything else in the basket was spoiled. That night they put up at an inn called the “Old Eagles' Nest,'' an airy sort of place, open on all four sides to any wind that might blow. However, they had a roof over their heads and that was something. While the supper was being prepared, the missionary band had an evening service, the subject of their meditations being “ Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world."

The travellers were now getting into the Miao district, and at four o'clock in the morning they were again on the move." For a while "Our company included a number of Miao brethren and sisters returning to their homes. Some had come three or four days' journey, and all on foot: some carrying their babies, and all bearing their bedding. Some quite small children walked all the way: other small toddlers bravely trotted beside their elders until tired, and then secured a lift, picka-back, from one or other of the party...They stopped for lunch at a place called “Pig Market," and here fell in with two Miao Christians, carpenters, who were on their way to Heo-er-kuan to make new seats for the chapel. These had lunch with the travellers, and afterwards helped the men to carry their loads. On Monday morning the party resumed their journey and reached HsinJu-fang. On the way, while crossing a swollen river, Mr. Tsao's pony incontinently rolled in the stream, and the rider was thrown into the water. He rolled over and over several times, but was at length dragged out, none the worse for his bath.

The journey from Hsin-lu-fang returning to Ko-pu was through lovely mountain scenery, but not without mishap. Evangelist Chin was riding a strange pony on a very narrow path along a precipitous hill-side, when his sun-hat caught in the branch of a tree, and his pony, taking fright, fell over the ledge, and, in falling, knocked over a Miao man carrying a basket. The poor fellow rolled down the hill-side about forty feet, and the pony and Chin rolled after him a little way. Fortunately no one was much injured, though it might easily have been otherwise. It is marvellous how ponies especially and men can roll down precipices and not be seriously hurt.

Most of the days, our way was sometimes along very narrow paths, winding round the slopes of steep hills, where no man with the least respect for himself would trust any legs but his own. My pony was a borrowed one, and had an unspeakably silly habit of stumbling on to his knees and nose several times a day without any sort of provocation. On such occasions I felt an almost irresistible impulse to go over his head, but I never entirely gave way to it! Mr. Adam also, who rode his own pony, and a much better one than mine, was constantly compelled to dismount. But it was amazing to see Mr. Tsao ride over some of the places. The sight of him often brought my heart into my throat, and kept it there, till he was safely over. I was not the only one who felt like that about it. My servant, a Heh Miao boy from Panghai, remarked after one of these dangerous feats of horsemanship, ''It is Mr. Tsao who rides the pony, and I who am afraid.'' Whether it was fearlessness or laziness that kept Mr. Tsao in the saddle, I do not know. There were some places, however, where even he had to dismount. There were also many steep hills up which no man with any moral sense could ride a pony, and no man with any common sense would venture to ride down. Consequently very much of our travelling had to be done on foot, dragging the ponies after us. As some of these stages were very long, I was sometimes so stiff and sore at night that I could not sleep.

Bandits in Guizhou in the 1900s

Clarke wrote: There are many secret society men, and men who will do anything but work for a living, all over China. These make the most of every rumour, and stir up trouble that it may give them an opportunity for plunder. This is why local rebellions are so numerous in China. These men helped to spread the rumours, and did all they could to terrify the people. Rev. Samuel Pollard of the United Methodist Mission, who spent a lot of time visiting Miao villages, relates one incident which shows how these bad characters act, and the real danger there is when such rumours are rife. He says: “In one district where there were no Miao living some bad fellows assiduously spread the rumour that the foreigners and Miao were about to rebel. One wet night, when all were in bed asleep, these bad characters rushed into the village with the cry — ' The murdering Miao are at hand, escape for your lives.' The poor people were in great distress, and in the wet and darkness fled towards some neighbouring woods. To reach this shelter they had to cross a stream, which was in flood, and a number of women and children were washed away and drowned. The men who raised the cry looted the village in the absence of the terrified inhabitants. Justice, however, overtook them later on."

The harvest of 1900 in that part of Guizhou was bad, and the price of rice and other foodstuffs went up considerably. In consequence of this, the number of local robbers increased, and these went all over the district stealing rice and other things that came in their way. On the night of 14th November about two hundred of these robbers attacked Kai-U, a sub-district city of three or four hundred families, seventeen miles from Tsingpinghsien, the district city, and twenty miles from Panghai. They killed a captain and a corporal, wounded Wang the subdistrict magistrate and one of his secretaries, set fire to the houses, of which more than one hundred were burned down, and, loaded with booty, made off in the morning towards the Lui-kung Mountains in the Tankiang district, whence they had come. On the way to the Lui-kung Mountains they passed Sang-lang, a hamlet of about eighty Chinese and Miao famihes, eight miles from Kaili, and compelled the people of that place to give them breakfast. In that hamlet were thirtyfour Miao families that professed themselves Christians. [Source:“Among the Tribes of South-west China” by Samuel R. Clarke (China Inland Mission, 1911)]

When the news of this outrage reached the provincial capital, the officials there made the most of it, for the sake of the promotion they might get for putting down a dangerous rebellion. The official reports made out that there were about four hundred rebels, that above one hundred and fifty people had been killed or burned to death, and that twenty-nine of the rebels had been killed in the fighting. They also reported that three contingents of troops had taken up strategic positions surrounding the rebels and cutting off their retreat, two of which contingents were pure inventions. As a matter of fact, as soon as the robbers had carried off their booty from Kaili and passed Sang-lang, most of them dispersed, and there was no fighting except at Lui-kung-shan, where some of them were captured. All the soldiers had to do when they arrived was to hunt the robbers and execute those they caught.

Bandits Attack on a Guizhou Village in the 1900s

Clarke wrote: “On the 26th day of the 2nd moon (Spring 1907) Mr. Pollard with a Miao Christian visited Hsin-tien-tze. They went first to Kao-ch'iao, a Miao village, and preached there. When it was evening, they heard the thundering noise of cannon, and thought at first it was done to calm the fears of a sick man. Then Mr. Pollard said, “Does it not sound as if they were killing some one? Do you not know that the headmen have already collected and are reviewing their body-guards?” "By and by some of these people, with weapons in their hands, came to the door, and calling out, asked why the teacher had come to Wu-san-lao-lin. They also cried, ‘Come out! ' ' Come out! ' Mr. Pollard replied, ‘Will my elder brother come in and sit down? ' Then, restraining his feelings, he asked Wang-mao, the Miao Christian, what was the matter. Wangmao replied, “They want to kill us.” [Source:“Among the Tribes of South-west China” by Samuel R. Clarke (China Inland Mission, 1911)]

“By this time the vagabonds had surrounded the Miao village, and commanded Wang-mao to take the teacher and make him ride out of the village. They also commanded the teacher, saying, “Ride out, do not fear, we do not hold knives and spears to kill you.' The teacher said, ‘In this region, in the deep forest, are wild beasts: I travel usually on foot and do not ride a horse.' Then all the vagabonds violently demanded horses, and beat Wang-mao. The teacher said, ‘If God wishes us to go to heaven to-night, how can we avoid this cup? '

“The vagabonds did not fully understand Miao words, and ordered the teacher to go first to the headman's (laird's) place. The mountain path was difficult, the teacher's strength was not sufficient for it, and he constantly slipped down. All the vagabonds pressed backwards and forwards on the hill-side, beating him confusedly. The leader said, ‘Kill him: what can they do to you and me? ' They took him forward towards the headman's house, and the teacher, who was very weak, was hardly able to stand. The vagabonds then pushed him down a precipice and beat him. One said, ‘Let us kill him ': another said, ‘Let us beat him and put him to the question ' (i.e. let us examine him by torture). And yet another said, “Let us beat him till he is half dead, and then take him away and try him.' Thereupon they stripped him and ill-treated him cruelly.

"Wang-mao was afraid the vagabonds would recognise him, so he escaped naked and wounded, and travelling slowly by night, reached Hsintien-tze when the day had already dawned. Wang's neighbours, Chu and Yang, wept when they saw him, and at once went off to the Yunshan Yamen to inform the magistrate. The district magistrate Ch'en would not at first believe their story, and Shi-li swore that if he were making a wrong complaint he would consent to be beheaded. The magistrate at once took soldiers and apprehended the leader of the vagabonds. Dr. Lin (Savin) and Pastor Ho (Hicks), when they heard Wang-mao's news, at once went to the Brigadier-Generars place and laid an information, and then, travelling day and night, went to Kao-ch'iao to rescue the teacher. Dr. Lin found his wounds were very serious, so that he could not be moved. After two days they carefully carried the teacher back, and nursed him so that his wounds might heal."

Market Dispute in the 1900s

Clarke wrote: Markets in that district are held once every six days, and the market-place in that neighbourhood was the village of Panghai. There was a tax of a teacupful of rice for every bushel of rice sold on the market, which went to the village temple: there were also light taxes on nearly all the produce sold, which went to the headmen: and people on the street received a small rent for allowing vendors to open stalls in front of their houses. On the other side of the river was a level stretch of wide pebbly shore in every way suitable for a market-place, and to avoid the impositions of the Chinese, the Miao suggested that the market should be held there. Naturally the Chinese opposed this suggestion. The Miao, however, boycotted the Panghai village, and as seven-eighths of the people who attended the market were Miao, the market was held on the shore. [Source:“Among the Tribes of South-west China” by Samuel R. Clarke (China Inland Mission, 1911)]

The Chinese at length appealed to the Tsingpinghsien magistrate, who came down to investigate and settle the matter. His decision was soon manifest, for he sent his runners across the river to burn the few booths that had been erected there. There were not more than half a dozen of them, bare poles supporting a roof of straw, and ten dollars would have more than covered the cost of them all. This was in the spring of 1898. We were in the Miao village at the time, and saw the booths burning. The Miao of all the region round about were enraged, threatened to have their revenge, and bided their time.

Things were very unsettled in all that district, and there were many disquieting rumours about. The local robber bands were much more numerous and bolder than usual, plundering Chinese and Miao impartially, and both Chinese and Miao were in a state of panic....On his return to the Mission station, he learned that a few days previously the disaffected Miao and some Miao robber bands had seized and looted Panghai. Either designedly or inadvertently the place had been set on fire, and the whole village, containing two or three hundred houses, Chinese and Miao, had been burned to the ground. The countryside for many miles around was now thoroughly alarmed: many of the Chinese fled to the cities, while the peaceable Miao had retired to distant and more inaccessible places. Only three men remained in the Miao village, and these merely stayed as an outpost to see what the robbers would do next, and how the Chinese soldiers would behave when they came upon the scene. The teacher of the boys' school, P'an Si-yin, the only convert who had been baptized, had remained in charge of the station. Mrs. P'an, the wife of the native evangelist, had removed to her mother's village, taking her two children with her, and P'an Sheo-shan found his home deserted. A day or two after Mr. Fleming's return, a military officer with a few soldiers arrived and took up their quarters in the village. These were even more threatening to Mr. Fleming than the robbers, and so he decided to return to Guiyang.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons, CNN

Text Source: “Among the Tribes of South-west China” by Samuel R. Clarke (China Inland Mission, 1911)

Updated in September 2022

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