Cigars, Coffins & Concubines: Dogmeat, China's Basest Warlord

By Ned Kelly, September 2, 2022

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On September 3, 1932 shots rang out on platform 3 of Jinan Railway Station, Shangdong province and a tall figure slumped to the ground. The dead man was the notorious Zhang Zongchang, dubbed by Time "China's basest warlord.”

He wasn’t merely one of the most brutal and ruthless, though, he was also one of the most colorful. A man of many monikers, he was known as the Dogmeat General, not because of his culinary tastes, but due to a fondness for the gambling game pai gow, which was known colloquially as ‘eating dog meat.’

Zhang was also known as the Three Don’t Knows, since he could never keep count of how much money, how many soldiers or how many concubines he had.

Zhang loved to lavish money on his family, friends and followers, and commanded great loyalty by treating his men well. His international cast of concubines – including Koreans, Japanese, Russians, French and Americans – were so numerous he could not remember their names, so they were simply given numbers.


Dogmeat liked a concubine... or nine. Image via Sina

Zhang’s army was said to number some 50,000, including 4,600 White Russian refugees, complete with pseudo-Tsarist uniforms and regalia, manning armored trains.

During one of his campaigns, Zhang publicly announced he would win a battle or come home in his coffin. When his troops were forced back, he was true to his word – being paraded through the streets, sitting in his coffin, and smoking a large cigar.

Victory came more often than defeat though. In April 1925 he conquered Shanghai and then Nanjing, and was subsequently appointed governor of Shandong (he still traveled to Shanghai for carousing and opium smoking sessions).

His rule was infamously corrupt, however, and it came back to haunt him: his assassin turned out to be the nephew of one of his many victims.


For more This Day in History stories, click here.

[Top image via Wikimedia Commons]

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