An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Yuefei jilüe 粵匪紀略

Aug 22, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Yuefei jilüe 粵匪紀略 "Military annals of the bandits from Guangdong" is the title of several privately written histories of the Taiping rebellion 太平 during the Qing period 清 (1644-1911). There are three books of this title, one written by Yao Xianzhi 姚憲之 (?-c. 1857), one by Xiao Shengyuan 蕭盛遠, and a third by Zhang Xiaoqiu 張曉秋.

Yao Xianzhi, courtesy name Dishan 滌山, hailed from Hangzhou 杭州, Zhejiang, and purchased the office of vice magistrate in Changqing 長清, Shandong. In 1853 he became magistrate of Ningyang 寧陽, just at the time when the troops of the Taiping invaded the provinces of Zhili and Shandong. He made use of earlier documents like Huang Shengcai gong ci 黃生才供詞 or the "Peking Gazette" Dichao 邸抄 to compile a loose report of the events. He called his draft Yuefei nanbei zirao jilüe 粵匪南北滋擾紀略 "Military annals of the vast disturbation by the Guangdong bandits in south and north".

In 1855 he was appointed magistrate of Laiyang 萊陽 and continued the work at his book, which was printed with the received title in the same year. The short book describes in detail the northern campaign of the Taiping and their final defeat at Fengguantun 馮官屯 (close to Liucheng 聊城, Shandong), as well as the battles at the Yangtze River in October 1854. The book suffers of numerous historiographical errors, especially concering the early phase of the Taiping insurgency. There is a manuscript version preserved in the Beijing Library 北京圖書館 with the title Manfen huibian 蠻氛匯編. It was republished in 1957 as part of the series Shandong jindaishi ziliao 山東近代史資料.

The circumstances of Xiao Shengyuan's life are not clear. He hailed from the secondary prefecture of Lianhua 蓮花廳, Jiangxi, and became a member of the staff of general Hecun 和春 (d. 1860) when the latter arrived from Guangxi to campaign in the provinces south of the Yangtze. Hecun made him circuit intendant of Lufeng 廬鳳道, Anhui. After the final extinction of the Taiping kingdom, Xiao wrote down his memories of the campaigns.

Xiao's book covers the time from 1850 to 1860 and describes the most important battles in the war against the Taiping in a reliable way and is thus a great help for the reconstruction of this period of war history. It records many details of the campaigns that are not included in other historiographical sources. These details later helped Hecun's opponents to destroy his powerful position. There is a manuscript of this book preserved in the Xiugeng Studio 修綆堂 in Beijing which served as the base for the reproduction in the series Taiping tianguo shiliao congbian jianji 太平天國史料叢編簡輯, published in 1961 by the Zhonghua shuju press 中華書局.

Zhang Xiaoqiu is likewise a relatively unknown writer. He hailed from Nanjing and finished his book in 1855. It includes detailed descriptions of the administrative system of the Taiping kingdom and its personalities, officials and functionaries. The book is therefore an important source on the political system of the Taiping rebels. It is only preserved in a draft form.

He Zhihu 何志虎 (1995). "Yuefei jilüe 粵匪紀略", in Guo Yisheng 郭毅生, Shi Shi 史式, ed. Taiping tianguo da cidian 太平天國大辭典 (Beijing: Zhongguo shehui kexue chubanshe), 978.
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰, eds. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 1, 920.
Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1987). Jianming Zhongguo guji cidian 簡明中國古籍辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 851.