Ronglu (6 April 1836 – 11 April 1903), courtesy name Zhonghua, was a
Manchu political and military leader of the late Qing dynasty. He was
born in the
Guwalgiya clan, which was under the Plain White Banner of
the Manchu Eight Banners. Deeply favoured by Empress Dowager Cixi,
he served in a number of important civil and military positions in the
Qing government, including the Zongli Yamen, Grand Council, Grand
Secretary, Viceroy of Zhili, Beiyang Trade Minister, Secretary of
Defence, Nine Gates Infantry Commander, and
Wuwei Corps Commander.
He was also the maternal grandfather of Puyi, the last Emperor of
China and the Qing dynasty, through his daughter Youlan.
1 Early life and career
2 Mid career
3 Hundred Days' Reform
4 Boxer Rebellion
5 Later career and death
6 Relationship with Empress Dowager Cixi
7 Portrayal in media
8 See also
Early life and career
Ronglu was born in the Manchu
Guwalgiya clan, which was under the
Plain White Banner of the Manchu Eight Banners. His grandfather,
Tasiha (塔斯哈), served as an Imperial Resident in Kashgar. His
father, Changshou (長壽), was a zongbing (總兵; a military
Ronglu was a yinsheng (蔭生), a type of position awarded to civil
service candidates who successfully gained admission to the Imperial
Academy. He started his career in the Ministry of Works as a
yuanwailang (員外郎; assistant director) and was tasked with
constructing roads in
In the early years of the Tongzhi Emperor's reign (early 1860s), he
set up the Firearms Division and was rewarded with the position of a
jingtang (京堂; fifth grade magistrate). He was also appointed as a
flank commander (翼長) and zhuancao dachen (專操大臣) before
being transferred to be a zongbing (總兵) of the left flank. Through
Wenxiang's recommendation, he became the Vice Secretary (侍郎) of
the Ministry of Works. Later, he was reassigned to the Ministry of
Revenue and concurrently appointed as Minister of the Imperial
Tongzhi Emperor died in 1875 and was succeeded by his cousin, the
Guangxu Emperor. In the same year,
Ronglu became an infantry commander
(步軍統領). Three years later, he was reassigned to be a Left
Censor-in-Chief (左都御史) and Secretary of Works. In 1878,
Baoting (寶廷) wrote a memorial to the imperial court, pointing out
that certain officials concurrently held too many appointments, hence
Ronglu was relieved of his duties as Secretary of Works and Minister
of the Imperial Household Department.
Ronglu was initially accused of accepting bribes and was demoted by
two grades. He also offended Prince Chun, Baojun (寶鋆) and Shen
Guifen (沈桂芬) and was forced to retire in early 1879. However, in
1891, he was restored to the civil service and appointed as General of
Ronglu was recalled from
Xi'an to the capital
attend Empress Dowager Cixi's birthday celebrations. He was appointed
again as an infantry commander (步軍統領). During the First
Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895, Ronglu, along with Prince Gong and
Prince Qing, were in charge of military affairs. After the Qing and
Japanese empires reached a peace settlement,
Ronglu nominated Yuan
Shikai to oversee the creation and training of the New Army.
Ronglu was appointed as Secretary of Defence and Assistant
Grand Secretary (協辦大學士). He also proposed transferring Dong
Fuxiang and his Gansu Army to
Beijing to defend the capital and
enhance the training of the New Army.
Hundred Days' Reform
Ronglu was promoted to Grand Secretary (大學士) and
subsequently assumed the following additional appointments: Viceroy of
Zhili Province, Beiyang Trade Minister (北洋通商大臣), and Grand
Secretary of Wenyuan Cabinet (文淵閣大學士) overseeing the
Ministry of Justice. Around the time, a group of officials led by Kang
Tan Sitong planned to carry out a series of reforms and get
rid of conservative elements in the government. The Guangxu Emperor
supported the reformists.
Yuan Shikai was summoned from
Beijing and appointed as a Vice Secretary (侍郎).
Acting on the advice of Yang Chongyi (楊崇伊), Empress Dowager Cixi
interfered in the situation and launched the 1898 Coup against the
Ronglu was appointed to the Grand Council and sided with
the Empress Dowager in the coup. The reformists were defeated – six
of their leaders (including Tan Sitong) were executed – and the
Guangxu Emperor was placed under house arrest. After the coup, Ronglu
was relieved of his appointments as
Viceroy of Zhili
Viceroy of Zhili Province and
Beiyang Minister, and reappointed as Secretary of Defence to oversee
the Beiyang Army.
Ronglu was granted authority as Imperial Commissioner in
charge of military training (練兵欽差大臣) and put in command of
the military units led by Nie Shicheng, Dong Fuxiang, Song Qing and
Yuan Shikai. He established the Wuwei Corps, composed of five
divisions led by the four commanders and himself.
Around the time,
Empress Dowager Cixi
Empress Dowager Cixi had the intention of deposing
Guangxu Emperor and replacing him with Prince Duan's son Puzhuan
Ronglu was initially undecided on this issue,
but eventually he opposed the Empress Dowager's idea. She heeded his
advice and designated Puzhuan as "First Prince" (大阿哥) instead.
In 1900, when the
Boxer Rebellion broke out, Prince Duan and others
Empress Dowager Cixi
Empress Dowager Cixi to support the Boxers to
Dong Fuxiang led his Gansu Army to attack the
foreign legations in
Beijing but was unable to conquer the legations
despite a few months of siege.
Ronglu was unable to stop him. Prince
Duan and his followers continued to press the attacks against
foreigners and kill any official in the imperial court who opposed
Beijing fell to the forces of the Eight-Nation Alliance, Empress
Dowager Cixi and the
Guangxu Emperor fled to Xi'an.
to accompany them but was denied permission; instead, he was ordered
to remain in Beijing.
Empress Dowager Cixi
Empress Dowager Cixi issued five imperial decrees. The first
Ronglu to "command various imperial forces, including the
Beijing Field Force, the Hushenying, with cavalry and the Wuwei Corps,
to suppress these rebels (Boxers), to intensify searching patrol; to
arrest and execute immediately all criminals with weapons who advocate
killing." The fourth decree ordered
Ronglu to "send efficient troops
Wuwei Corps swiftly, to the
Beijing Legation Quarter, to
protect all the diplomatic buildings."
Ronglu did not want to antagonise Empress Dowager Cixi, but was not
sympathetic towards the Boxers. Like the leading governors in the
south, he felt that it was foolish for the Qing Empire to take on all
the eight foreign powers at once. When Dong Fuxiang's Gansu Army was
eager to attack the legations,
Ronglu made sure that the siege was not
pressed home. The xenophobic Prince Duan, who was a close friend of
Dong Fuxiang, wanted Dong's forces to be equipped with artillery to
destroy the legations.
Ronglu blocked the transfer of artillery to
Dong Fuxiang, preventing him from destroying the legations. When
artillery was finally supplied to the Qing imperial forces and Boxers,
it was only done so in limited quantities.
Ronglu also kept
Nie Shicheng from finding out about an imperial
decree that ordered him to stop fighting the Boxers. Nie Shicheng
continued to fight the Boxers and killed many of them.
Nie Shicheng to protect foreigners and protect the railway
from attacks by the Boxers.
Ronglu had effectively derailed Prince
Duan's efforts to capture the legations, and as a result, saved the
foreigners inside. He was shocked that he was not welcome after the
war; however, the foreign powers did not demand that he, unlike Dong
Fuxiang, be punished.
Later career and death
In late 1900,
Empress Dowager Cixi
Empress Dowager Cixi summoned
Ronglu to Xi'an, where he
was warmly received. He was awarded a yellow jacket, a two-eyed
peacock feather, and a purple girdle. He escorted the Empress Dowager
Guangxu Emperor back to the capital later.
Ronglu was put in charge of the Ministry of Revenue. Later
that year, he supported the reforms proposed by
Liu Kunyi and Zhang
Zhidong in their memorial titled Jiang Chu Hui Zou Bian Fa San Zhe
(江楚會奏變法三折). In 1902, he was given additional honorary
appointments as Crown Prince's Grand Protector (太子太保) and
Grand Secretary of Wenhua Hall (文華殿大學士).
Ronglu died in 1903 and was posthumously granted the honorary
appointment of Grand Tutor (太傅). He was also awarded the
posthumous name "Wenzhong" (文忠) and posthumously enfeoffed as a
first class baron (一等男爵).
Relationship with Empress Dowager Cixi
Before Lady Yehenara (the future Empress Dowager Cixi) became a
consort of the Xianfeng Emperor,
Ronglu was allegedly in a romantic
relationship with her. During Empress Dowager Cixi's tenure as
regent of the Qing dynasty,
Ronglu joined the Empress Dowager's
conservative faction at the imperial court and opposed the Hundred
Days' Reform in 1898. The Empress Dowager always remembered Ronglu's
support for her, even when they were young, and rewarded him by
allowing his only surviving child, his daughter Youlan, to marry into
the imperial clan.
Through Youlan's marriage to Zaifeng (Prince Chun),
Ronglu was the
maternal grandfather of Puyi, the last emperor of the Qing dynasty.
Portrayal in media
Leo Genn portrayed Jung-lu (Ronglu) in the 1963 film 55 Days at
Feng Shaofeng also portrayed
Ronglu in the 2006 television
series Sigh of His Highness.
Imperial Decree of declaration of war against foreign powers
Imperial Decree on events leading to the signing of Boxer Protocol
Peking Field Force
^ Initially Ronglu's concubine, she became his official wife when
Ronglu's first wife died.
^ a b Woo, X.L. (2002). Empress Dowager Cixi: China's Last Dynasty and
the Long Reign of a Formidable Concubine. U.S.: Algora Publishing.
^ "荣禄与东南互保 [
Ronglu and the "Mutual Protection of
Southeast China"]". Douban (in Chinese). 14 July 2009. Retrieved 4
^ Zhang, Yufen (1 April 2010). "论晚清重臣荣禄 [Discussion on
Ronglu of the Late Qing Dynasty]". Douban (in Chinese).
Retrieved 4 December 2016.
^ Imperial Decree on Day Nineteen of May (lunar calendar).
^ Cohen, Paul A. (1997). Story in Three Keys: The Boxers as Event,
Experience, and Myth. Columbia University Press. p. 54.
^ Woo, X.L. (2002). Empress Dowager Cixi: China's Last Dynasty and the
Long Reign of a Formidable Concubine: Legends and Lives During the
Declining Days of the Qing Dynasty. U.S.: Algora Publishing.
p. 216. ISBN 1-892941-88-0.
^ Haw, Stephen G. (2007). Beijing: A Concise History. Taylor &
Francis. p. 94. ISBN 0-415-39906-8.
^ Xiang, Lanxin (2003). The Origins of the Boxer War: A Multinational
Study. Psychology Press. p. 235. ISBN 0-7007-1563-0.
^ Fleming, Peter (1990). The Siege at Peking: The Boxer Rebellion
(illustrated ed.). Dorset Press. p. 228.
^ Yu Deling (2008). Old Buddha (reprint ed.). Kessinger Publishing.
Hummel, Arthur William (1943). Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period
(1644–1912). Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing
Xu, Ke (1917). Qing Bai Lei Chao (清稗類鈔) (in Chinese).
Zhao, Erxun (1928).
Draft History of Qing (Qing Shi Gao) (in Chinese).
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