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Chinese soldiers in 1899-1901. Left: two infantrymen of the New Imperial Army. Front: drum major of the regular army. Seated on the trunk: field artilleryman. Right: Boxers.

Boxer Rebellion troops during the Boxer Rebellion.

The New Armies (Traditional Chinese: 新軍, Simplified Chinese: 新军; Pinyin: Xīnjūn, Manchu: Ice cooha), more fully called the Newly Created Army ( Xinjian Lujun[lower-alpha 1][lower-alpha 2]) was the modernized army corps formed under the Qing Dynasty in December 1895, following its defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War. It was envisioned as militia fully trained and equipped according to Western standards.

Formation and expansion[]

There was a foreunner to the effort of modernizing the Chinese army, created before the end of the Sino-Japanese War: in February 1895, the Qing court assembled its Dingwu or the Pacification Army ( Dingwu jun), consisting of 10 battalions or ying (), totaling 4,750 men. This was initially organized by Hu Yufen (zh) aided by German advisor Constantin von Hanneken[1][2][lower-alpha 3]

The command of this Pacification Army was turned over to Yuan Shikai by mid-December 1895,[3][lower-alpha 4][lower-alpha 5] and within a few months[4] was renamed the Newly Created Army ( Xinjian Lujun) and expanded to 7,000 men.[1][3] (Yuan's Newly Created Army was later to become the Guards Army's Right Division (Wuwei Youjun).[3][5])

The Newly Created Army (or simply the New Army) that was 7,000 men strong then became the most formidable of the three army groups stationed near Beijing and proved effective against the Boxers in Shandong province. Yuan refused to obey the Imperial Court's orders to halt his suppression of the Boxers when the Eight-Nation Alliance invaded China during the rebellion and refused to obey orders to fight the alliance. Instead Yuan helped the Alliance in their anti Boxer campaign after the fall of Beijing and killed tens of thousands.

The New Army was gradually expanded and upgraded in the following years. Yuan became increasingly disrespectful of the dynasty and only loyal to the party from which he benefited; his defection to Cixi against Guangxu Emperor was a major blow to the Hundred Days' Reform. After 1900, Yuan's troops were the only militia that the Qing court could rely on amidst revolutionary uprisings throughout China.

Renaming and revolution[]

The successful example of the new army was followed in other provinces. The New Army of Yuan was renamed the Beiyang Army on June 25, 1902 after Yuan was officially promoted to the "Minister of Beiyang". By the end of the dynasty in 1911, most provinces had established sizable new armies; however, Yuan's army was still most powerful, comprising six groups and numbering more than 75,000 men. The Qing unified all of China's armies into one force, the "Chinese Army", which was commonly still called the New Army. Two-thirds of the Chinese Army was Yuan's Beiyang Army.

During the Xinhai Revolution, most of the non-Beiyang forces as well as some Beiyang units in the Chinese Army revolted against the Qing. Yuan led the Beiyang Army into opposing the revolution while also negotiating for the Qing's surrender and his ascendency to the presidency of the new republic.

Politics and modernization[]

Yuan kept a tight grip on the command of the army after its establishment by installing officials only loyal to him; however, after his death in 1916, the army groups were quickly fragmented into four major forces of combative warlords, according to the locations of garrisons. These army groups and generals played different roles in the politics of the Republic of China until the establishment of the People's Republic of China following the Communist Party of China's victory in the Chinese Civil War.

One of the most important legacies of the New Army was the professionalization of the military and perhaps introduction of militarism to China. Previously, almost any male could join and soldiers were mostly poor, landless and illiterate peasants. The New Armies moved beyond the personalized recruitment and patronage of Zeng Guofan and Zuo Zongtang, which had been successful in the mid-century uprisings, but seemed discredited in the face of modern armies in Japan and the West. The New Army began screening volunteers and created modern military academies to train officers. The modernization and professionalization of the New Army impressed many in the gentry class to join. The young Chiang Kai-shek, for instance, briefly attended Yuan's Baoding Military Academy, which thus influenced him in forming his Whampoa Academy, which trained a succeeding generation of soldiers. Yuan and his successors equated military dominance of the political sphere with national survival. The political army would become a dominant force in China for much of the twentieth century.

Notable figures of Beiyang[]

See also[]

Explanatory notes[]

  1. Chinese: 新建陸軍; pinyin: Xīnjìan Lùjūn; Wade–Giles: Hsin-chien lu-chün
  2. Also translated as "Newly Established Army" (Chi 1976, p. 13)
  3. As to the man-count figures, "3000 infantrymen, 1000 artillery men, 250 cavalry men, and 500 engineers, a total of 4750 men" is given by Chien-Nung Li,[2] although "more than five thousand men" is given by Wang 1995, pp. 69. If engineers are excluded as non-combatants the figure may round down to 4,000, as given by Chi 1976, p. 13.
  4. On December 8, 1895, Empress Dowager Cixi passed down the edict
  5. Yuan was at this time the taotai (zh) or intendant of several provinces.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Wang 1995, pp. 69
  2. 2.0 2.1 Li 1956, p. 184
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Purcell 2010, p. 28
  4. Chi 1976, p. 13
  5. Wang 1995, pp. 71, quote:"In May 1899, Yuan Shikai, commander of China's strongest army, the Wuwei Youjun or the Right Division (new name for Yuan's Newly Created Army) of the Guards Army [Note: The Guards Army or Wuwei Jun included Left, Right, Front, Rear, and Center Divisions;"


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