This Day In History: Small Sword Society Take Shanghai

By Ned Kelly, September 7, 2021

0 0

As the bloody Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864) spread from the south, a branch of the Triads known as the Small Sword Society (Xiao Dao Hui 小刀会 – named after the daggers they used in close combat) decided to take advantage of the situation with a power grab. After capturing Amoy – today's Xiamen – in 1853, a small body of the rebels advanced to Shanghai.

That year the Autumnal Sacrifice to Confucius fell on September 7, and when the gates of the walled Chinese city were opened early that morning, 600 men rushed in with the crowd, storming the Imperial offices, putting the city magistrate to death and the Taotai under house arrest.

Large numbers of Chinese gentry and merchants took refuge in the foreign concessions, which were regarded as the only safe places, giving rise to the prevalent longtang or shikumen-style housing which came to dominate Shanghai by the early 20th Century.

The Society established its headquarters in Yu Garden, at the heart of the old city. Their leader, Liu Lichuan – who had established the Society in Shanghai a few years previously – was an emaciated, opium smoking Cantonese ex-sugar broker. 

He spoke some English though, and proved capable – making peace and trading with the International Settlement (which the Society did not invade). Realizing they needed to cut off this supply, Qing imperial forces eventually built a huge wall blocking access to the Chinese city.

Isolated and under attack, the rebels evacuated on February 17, 1855, having occupied the city for 17 months. The imperial troops spent three days looting, almost entirely destroyed the eastern half of the city with fire, while any remaining rebels captured were executed on the spot.


A museum about the Small Sword Society's occupation of Shanghai can be found at their former command post - Dianchun Hall.

For more This Day in History stories, click here.

more news

This Day in History: PR China Admitted into the United Nations

On October 25, 1971, the PRC was admitted into the UN.

This Day in History: Queen Elizabeth II Visits China

Joined by gaffe-prone 'Great Wally of China' Prince Philip.

This Day In History: Mao Coins Communist Slogan Serve the People

Though death befalls all men alike, it may be weightier than Mount Tai or lighter than a feather...

This Day in History: The Central China Floods of 1931

The deadliest natural disaster ever recorded.

This Day in History: First NBA Team to Play Basketball in China

On August 24, 1979, the Washington Bullets became the first professional US sports team invited to China.

This Day in History: Shanghai Jews Fleeing Nazi Persecution

The total number Jews arriving at the open port of Shanghai by sea and land between November 1938 and 1941 is estimated at 20,000.

This Day in History: The 2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony

A look back at the first ever Olympics to be hosted in China.

This Day in History: The Founding of Shanghai’s Good 8th Company

The 8th Company of Shanghai Garrison, People's Liberation Army was founded on August 6, 1947, and since 1949 it has been stationed on Nanjing Lu.

0 User Comments

In Case You Missed It…

We're on WeChat!

Scan our QR Code at right or follow us at ThatsSuzhou for events, guides, giveaways and much more!

7 Days in Suzhou With thatsmags.com

Weekly updates to your email inbox every Wednesday

Subscribe

Download previous issues

Never miss an issue of That's Suzhou!

Visit the archives