100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

Archive for the category “Asia”

Mongolia and Tibet Sign Mutual Defense Treaty

Since 1813 Central Asia had been a area contested by England and Russia. While the conflict had been focused on Afghanistan in the 19th century by 1900 the contested area moved eastwards to Mongolia and Tibet. The British were afraid of a Russian invasion of their crown colony of India and also feared China as well. In 1902 the British Viceroy of India sent Major Francis Younghusband on an expedition to Tibet to settle a border dispute. This invasion led to a massacre where more than 5,000 Tibetans may have been killed against British casualties of five. Russia sent a secret agent to China to collect intelligence on the prospect of instituting reform and modernization. In 1907 the Anglo-Russian Agreement of  saw the two empires form an alliance to protect their regional interests against the growing strength and influence of Germany. Russia began to encourage Mongolian moves against China.

With the Chinese Revolution of October 1911 Mongol princes declared Mongolia’s independence from China. Russia provided the Mongols 15,000 rifles, 15,000 sabers and 7.5 million cartridges. In November 1912 Russia signed an agreement with Mongolia pledging to maintain Mongolia’s autonomy. Through its relationship with Mongolia Russia would be able to exercise direct influence in Tibetan affairs. Because Tibet was considered a buffer state situated on India’s northern frontier, Britain viewed Russia’s support for Mongolian autonomy as an attempt to expand Russian influence in the region and therefore a potential threat to their colonial interests there such as India and Afghanistan.

On January 11, 1913 Tibet and Mongolia signed a mutual defense treaty in which they proclaimed their independence from China. 19130111(4) Tibet and Mongolia “from now and for all time afford each other assistance against external dangers.”

$125 Million Loan For Chinese Railroads Approved

The Xinhai Revolution in China began in October 1911. Local Chinese businessmen who had invested in promoting railways were determined not to let central government officials profit from this new venture which the Qing royal family through the Prince Regent, father of the boy Emperor, arranged to be financed by foreign loans. Qing military efforts at suppression backfired and in October 1911, a revolt at Wuchang took place after a bomb exploded accidentally that implicated Imperial Army officers in Wuchang, China. Rather than wait to be arrested, the officers started a rebellion that spiraled out of control and resulted in the downfall of the Manchus that had ruled China for 300 years. But the railroads still were to be built and money was scarce in a fractured newly formed Republic of China.

On January 1, 1913 the “six powers” – Britain, the US, Germany, France, Russia and Japan – agreed to loan China $125 million to build it’s railways. The loan was part of the attempt by the major powers to maintain their grip over post-revolution China and control the economy by demanding direct oversight in revenue collection in certain Chinese industries.

1911 Chinese railroad bond offered in foreign markets that led to the Wuchang Revolt

1911 Chinese railroad bond offered in foreign markets that led to the Wuchang Revolt

Indian Lawyer Makes A Personal Statement In South Africa

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in Porbandar, Kathiawar Agency, British India in October 1869. The son of a senior government official, Gandhi was raised in a Hindu Bania community in coastal Gujarat. In May 1883 13-year-old Gandhi married in an arranged child marriage. In 1888 Gandhi traveled to London, England to study law at University College. Gandhi was called to the bar in June 1891 and then left London for India. His attempts at establishing a law practice in Bombay failed because he was too shy to speak up in court. n 1893 he accepted a year-long contract to a post in the Colony of Natal, South Africa then part of the British Empire.

Gandhi has spent the last 19 years in South Africa representing Indian clients in the colony where he also experienced the severe discrimination of being colored in a British colonial society. He was thrown off a train after refusing to move from the first-class. Travelling farther on by stagecoach he was beaten by a driver for refusing to move to make room for a European passenger. He was barred from several hotels and the magistrate of a Durban court ordered Gandhi to remove his turban, which he refused to do. These experiences awakened Gandhi’s awareness of social injustice and started him on a path of social activism. He helped the South African Indian community unite into a political force that fought for the right to vote and against mandatory alien registration cards. He urged Indians to defy the registration law and to suffer the punishments for doing so. Gandhi has been evolving a plan of non-violent protest Satyagraha (devotion to the truth),The community adopted this plan, and during the ensuing seven-year struggle thousands of Indians were jailed, flogged, or shot for striking, refusing to register, for burning their registration cards or engaging in other forms of non-violent resistance.Gopal Krishna Gokhale is one of the founding leaders working for Indian Independence. College educated he has great respect for English politics and believes strongly in non-violence and reform within existing government institutions. In 1912 Gokhale visited South Africa at Gandhi’s invitation. As a young barrister, Gandhi received personal guidance from Gokhale including a knowledge and understanding of India and the issues confronting common Indians. Gandhi describes Gokhale as “pure as crystal, gentle as a lamb, brave as a lion and chivalrous to a fault and the most perfect man in the political field.” Gandhi also realizes how separated he is from his Indian identity.

Gopal Krishna Gokhale
On December 1, 1912 Mohandas Gandhi began the practice of wearing traditional clothing from India. Gandhi had worn traditional Western clothing fitting an attorney but for now will wear Indain attire at all times.
Gandhi in Western clothes
Gandhi in traditional Indian clothes

Hong Kong Governor Tries To Abolish Foreign Coins

Francis Henry May was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1860, the son of the Lord Chief-Justice of Ireland. In 1881 May entered the diplomatic service in Hong Kong. He was made Assistant Colonial Secretary in 1891 and Acting Colonial Treasurer in 1892. From 1893 to 1902 May was the Captain Superintendent of the Hong Kong Police Force and Superintendent Victoria Gaol and Fire Brigade. He held the position of Colonial Secretary for Hong Kong in 1902–1910 and was appointed Governor of Fiji and High Commissioner Western Pacific in 1910. In 1912 May was appointed Governor of Hong Kong. In July 1912 while at a ceremony near the Post Office Governor May was shot at be a would-be Chinese assassin. The bullet missed May and hit the chair he was sitting in. Soldiers immediately surrounded the governor and the shooter was seized. Since then he has traveled by car.

On November 18, 1912 Governor May directed the British colony’s two streetcar companies and the Star Ferry company to stop accepting Chinese coins for payment of its fares and to accept only Hong Kong coins in a effort to rid the colony of foreign coinage and currency. Since there are relatively few Hong Kong coins in circulation many passengers are unable to pay their fares. A public boycott of mass transportation is being organized in protest.

Hong Kong governor Francis Henry May

Typhoon Kills Over 1,000 In The Philippines

When sufficiently warm sea surface temperatures, atmospheric instability, high humidity in the lower to middle levels of the troposphere, enough Coriolis force to develop a low pressure center, a pre-existing low level focus or disturbance, and low vertical wind shear combine a cyclonic storm of devastating proportions can be created. In the eastern US there are called Cyclones or Hurricanes. In Asia they are called Typhoon from a Persian word meaning “great wind”. With the flimsy structures of most common people, these storms can be incredibly deadly.

On October 16, 1912 a typhoon in the Philippines killed over 1,000 people. There is extensive damage in Cebu, the Philippines 2nd largest city and many left homeless.

2 homes in Manila destroyed by typhoon
October 16, 1912

The Balkans Heat Up

The Ottoman Empire went to war with Italy in October 1911. Taking advantage of the Italo-Turkish conflict, the entire Balkans makes moves to reject Ottoman rule. Serbia form an alliance with Bulgaria in March 1912 and signed a military agreement with Greece in June 1912. Serbian King Nicola I Petrovic made a verbal agreement with the Bulgarian king regarding military support against the Ottoman Empire. In September 1912 Montenegro announced an agreement was signed stating that Serbia and Montenegro would support each other militarily in case of attack by Ottoman forces. Greece and Bulgaria strengthened their defense alliance with details for conditions and procedures for mobilization of their armed forces.

The Ottoman government decided to take a stand. It mobilized its European forces with 175,000 in the Western Army at Macedonia and 115,000 in the Eastern Army at Thrace. Greece has mobilized its army for war. These developments are heating up the Balkans and creating an atmosphere of war against the Ottoman Empire.

On October 2, 1912 Serbia, Montenegro, Greece and Bulgaria sent an ultimatum to Ottoman government in Constantinople over military movements in Macedonia and Thrace.

The Balkans – 1912

First Radio Transmission From Antarctica

The Australasian Antarctic Expedition was an Australasian scientific team that set out to explore part of Antarctica led by the Australian geologist Douglas Mawson, a veteran of other Antarctic voyages. The expedition departed for Macquarie Island in December 1911 aboard the Newfoundland sealing vessel Aurora.

On September 25, 1912 the first radio transmissions from Antarctica were made from a station on Macquarie Island set up by the Australasian Antarctic Expedition.

Australasian Antarctic Expedition – 1912

President Taft Secures Harbors In US Possessions

After the Spanish-American War of 1898 the US was left with possession in the Caribbean and in Asia that added to other island possessions such as Hawaii. Europe is in a naval arms race and other countries struggle to keep up. In an effort to protect these islands while the world’s naval forces grow, president Taft takes bold steps.

On September 23, 1912 US President Taft signed Executive Order 1613.


It is hereby ordered that the following named harbors, viz:
Tortugas, Florida;
Great Harbor, Culebra;
Guantanamo Naval Station, Cuba;
Pearl Harbor, Hawaii;
Subig Bay, Philippine Islands;
Kiska, Aleutian Islands;

are not, and that they shall not be made, sub-ports of entry for foreign vessels of commerce, and that said harbors shall not be visited by any commercial or privately owned vessel of foreign registry, nor by any foreign national vessel, except by special authority of the United States Navy Department in each case.

Wm. H. Taft.
The White House,
September 23, 1912

This effectively bars foreign ships, whether commercial or military, from the waters of Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor, Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay, and the Philippines’ Subic Bay. The entire island of Guam was ordered completely off limits effectively cutting its civilian population off from the outside world.

The 27th President of the United States
William Howard Taft

Typhoon Strikes Formosa, China

In 1602 the Netherlands signed a 21 year contract to the Dutch East Indies Company giving them a monopoly on running the colonies the Netherlands in Pacific Asia. Taito is on the southeast coast of Taiwan facing the Pacific Ocean. It is the county seat of Taitung County, on the island of Taiwan. The Netherlands briefly established a colony in 1624 giving the Dutch East Indies Company a base to harass Spanish and Portuguese interests. In 1661 a naval fleet of 200 ships led by a Ming loyalist Koxinga. He threw the Dutch out and declared himself King of Formosa. Imperial China did not like an independent local power any more than a foreign power. The Dutch licked their woulds and joined with the Qing dynasty to oust Koxinga in 1664. The forces of the Dutch East Indies Company grabbed a little piece of land, held it for 4 years then left Taiwan for good in 1668. Japan’s victory over the Qing Dynasty in the first Sino-Japanese war saw Taiwan ceded to Japan under the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895. It is under Japanese control in 1912.

When sufficiently warm sea surface temperatures, atmospheric instability, high humidity in the lower to middle levels of the troposphere, enough Coriolis force to develop a low pressure center, a pre-existing low level focus or disturbance, and low vertical wind shear combine a cyclonic storm of devastating proportions can be created. In the eastern US there are called Cyclones or Hurricanes. In Asia they are called Typhoon from a Persian word meaning “great wind”. With the flimsy structures of most common people, these storms can be incredibly deadly.On September 16, 1912 a typhoon with winds of more than 200 miles per hour struck the city of Taito on Taiwan. The winds killed 107 people, injured 293, and destroyed over 91,000 homes, all sailing craft as well as the rice and sugar crops.

Formosa – 1896
The Scottish Geographical Magazine
Published by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society and edited by James Geikie and W.A. Taylor. Volume XII, 1896

General Commits Suicide During Japanese Emperor’s Funeral

The Emperor Komei died in 1867 at 36 years old and his 16 year old son Mutsuhito became Emperor Meiji. With the guidance of reforming politicians, Emperor Meiji oversaw Japan becoming a modern power and overcame the warring lords who reluctantly acceded to his wishes. In July 1912 Emperor Meiji died after 44 years on the throne.

Crown Prince Yoshihito will become Emepror Taisho. His reign will begin the Taisho era.When the emperor Meiji died he was placed in a room when the Dowager Empress and others took their farewells before the body was placed in a coffin that night. All court activity was suspended for 5 days and daily rituals were held for the next two weeks. Members of the court treated him as if he were still living including bringing him 3 meals a day. On the 14th day the body was transferred to a mortuary hall and displayed with sacred objects including a sword. For the next 2 weeks the new emperor and others pay respect and on the 28th day the deceased emperor’s posthumous name is announced by the new emperor On the 30th day telegrams from world leaders are read aloud.On September 13, 1912 the new Emperor paid his respects for the last time and a ceremony enshrined his spirit in a room in the palace. In the evening the coffin is taken out and placed on a hearse pulled by 5 oxen. The mortuary parade consisted of 300 persons carrying torches, drums, gongs, banners, bows, shields, and lances. The procession was joined by an army band. The streets had been covered with sand and decorated with white-and-black cloths and lanterns. When the arrive at the funeral site a long procession of last rites, salutes, offerings, and funerary eulogies started.
General Nogi was a war hero who had defeated the Russian army in the Siege of Port Arthur in 1905 which helped Japan become the first Asian nation to defeat a Western power in war. 50,000 Japanese soldiers lost their lives in the 5month battle including General Nogi’s two sons.  On September 13, 1912 the night of the Emperor’s funeral General Noji has his picture taken standing in front of his home in dress uniform. Him and his wife entered their home where she tied her legs together and then committed seppuku, ritual suicide by cutting her jugular vein with a dagger. She had tied her legs to prevent her body from assuming an indecent posture in death. General Noji then committed seppuku by plunging a sword into his abdomen and pulling it horizontally. A second nearby quickly severed his head. After the Russo-Japanese war Noji had asked Emperor Meiji for permission to kill himself to atone for the huge number of casualties his troops had suffered, but the Emperor had refused to saying that the General would have to remain alive at least during the emperor’s own lifetime. With the Emperor’s death Noji felt he could regain his honor. The Japanese nation is shocked at Noji’s actions thinking they had left such rituals behind in the last century.

General Noji in full military dress before his ritual suicide
September 13, 1912

Post Navigation