The British Consulate building in Zhenjiang is now part of the museum.
It's a solid brick building, and it shows the date of 1890. A board inside the museum explains that the former structure was burnt down in 1889. (The batteries had run out in my camera when I found it, so I don't have a picture.)
The British library has an electronic newspaper archive
going back way before this date, so it's possible to find articles about the riots. You have to pay to read most of them, but The Graphic
is free. Zhenjiang was then known as "Chinkiang" (some vinegar bottles still show that name) so that's the thing to search for.
The first report is from March 23rd, where it says
Life in the Chinese Treaty Ports is not altogether peaceful for foreigners even now, as the recent riot at Chinkiang showed. The foreign community carried on extensive business, and appeared perfectly safe, even though numbers of disbanded soldiers hung about the native city with little to do. However, a misunderstanding between a Chinaman and a Sikh policeman on the foreign Concession caused a street-row early in February, the crowd grew infuriated, and an attack was made on the police station, whose inmates fled for their lives. Then the mob attacked neighbouring foreign houses and offices and set fire to the British Consulate, the Consul with his family escaping by a back door. His wife fled barefoot, not having time to put on her shoes. The other foreign residents followed suit, some seventy-five in all, with no chance of saving any property, and managed to get on board the hulk Cadiz in the harbour, whilst the mob sacked various European chapels, clubs, &c. The Chinese tried to board the hulk, but were beaten off, and the refugees were subsequently transferred to a mail steamer which arrived in the nick of time. The Chinese authorities did little to allay the riot, the chief officials were away on a holiday, while the small force of soldiery sent to the Concession to keep order either ran away or fraternised with the rioters. A British gunboat was summoned from Shanghai, but did not arrive very quickly. Happily only one foreigner was injured, although another is reported missing.
That mostly agrees with what I remember of the account given at the museum. One discrepancy is the original argument is described here as involving a Sikh policeman, but English soldiers at the museum. They also point out at the museum that the soldiers were wrong to beat the Chinese pedlar. I entirely believed that story. I could imagine drunk English soldiers getting into a squabble with a Chinese man, who was probably walking very slowly in front of them, or trying to sell them something they didn't want. But no, it was a Sikh all the time, who was very unlikely to be English I would have thought.
There are more details in an illustrated article of May 4th. Why don't I transcribe that one as well?
Early in February last, a terrible riot occurred at Chinkiang, a port on the Yangtsze River. For some time past it appears that bad blood has existed between the Sikh Police (who are employed by the Municipal Council of the Foreign Concession, ad are nicknamed by the populace "Red Heads," on account of their red turbans), and the inhabitants of the native city. Some of these policemen were accused of ill-treating a man who is variously described as a street-beggar and an interpreter employed at the American Consulate. The man fell down as if dead, but on being examined by a doctor and a police inspector was pronounced to be shamming. However, the mob declared that he had been killed, and at once commenced a furious attack on the Station. The few constables who were within fled for their lives ; whereupon the infuriated crowd poured in, and pulled the building to pieces, scarcely leaving one stone upon another. Then, after smashing the windows of the houses of some Members of the Municipal Council (the occupants all having escaped), the mob turned towards the British Consulate, which is on a bluff overlooking the Settlement. The Consul, Mr. Mansfield, his wife, and two young children, had barely time to fly, when the building was in flames, the rioters piling up the inflammable stuff all round it. Everything was destroyed, the building and its contents being reduced to a heap of ashes. The American Consulate was next attacked, but as it was surrounded by Chinese houses it was not set on fire. It was, however, stripped of everything moveable. The local authorities seem to have behaved with great apathy, for they sent only a few unarmed soldiers to quell the riot, and these men are said to have sympathised with the mob, and joined in the work of destruction. By this time the disturbance had reached enormous proportions ; private houses, chapels, and warehouses being set on fire. Meanwhile the foreign residents, among whom were a dozen ladies and some twenty children, fled for their lives. They were hotly pursued by the mob, but managed to get on board a foreign hulk lying in the river, and from thence were transferred to a foreign steamer, which had opportunely arrived. All this occurred on February 6th. Assistance shortly arrived: H.M.S. Mutine had been telegraphed for from Shanghai, but before she came the ladies and children had been transferred in a Chinese steamer to that city. The authorities now poured troops into Chinkiang and order was soon restored. We may mention that the town was full of famine-refugees, but they are not supposed to have had any share in the riots. Indeed, Mr. Mansfield had been most active in collecting funds, and distributing relief. . .
So, there may have been more than one of them involved, but both Graphic
accounts identify the policemen as Sikhs.
There's no mention of Chinese casualties. The Chinese account is that the crowd was fired on while they were gathering outside the Consulate. We have to assume some of them were hurt.
It's clear that there was also an American Consulate at the time. At Pearl Buck's Former Residence, they say that the American Consulate is more recent than the British one, and it's now a museum building, in the dominating position as seen from the gates (and the Chinese settlement):
I think that building is more recent than the British one of 1890. I can't see a fire from that building spreading to any Chinese houses. There must have been another American Consulate there in 1889. (Probably in the same place.) It must have been smaller than the British Consulate in 1875, judging by the following piece in The Graphic
from June 26th.
Some Chinese soldiers having insulted the United States Consul and his wife at Chinkiang, two of them were arrested and confined to the British Consulate. A mob collected round the house and attempted a rescue, but the disturbance was ultimately quelled by the authorities. The British and American Consuls at Shanghai and their respective vessels of war have gone to Chinkiang, but the demands for reparation have already been partially satisfied by the authorities.
It's interesting that they link the paying of reparations to the arrival of gunboats in the city. There were extensive reparations paid after the 1899 riots that paid for the new building for the British Consulate. We can imagine the political wrangling that must have gone on. The treatment of this unnamed man, who may have been shamming, by the policemen was intended to show that they were in charge. The behaviour of the crowd, the riots, and the fact that the Chinese authorities seem to have turned a blind eye or two, shows that the foreigners were inherently vulnerable, surrounded by overwhelming numbers of native Chinese. Then the British authorities ask for reparations and the Chinese authorities have to give in. The reality is that the foreigners were in the stronger position. The Graphic
, on July 6th 1889, describes the ceremony that demonstrated foreign dominance to the local people.
China has made formal amends to England and the United States for the late riots at Chinkiang by paying homage to the British and American flags on the site of the disturbance. All the Chinkiang officials went in Sate to the American Consulate, which was looted but not burnt during the riots—more fortunate than its next door neighbour, the British Consulate. The English and American Colony received the officials, together with a detachment from the British man-of-war Swift, and the British Standard and the American Stars and Stripes were then solemnly hoisted aloft amid three volleys from the Chinese troops and salutes from the fort. Celestials and foreigners afterwards toasted their respective nations in an amiable repast at the United States' Consulate.
I don't know what the legal basis for reparations was. Whether a Treaty Port, a Concession, or a Colony, it was clearly under foreign administration. That probably means Chinese law didn't apply inside it. I don't think the Chinese invited the Sikh policemen over, anyway. So how does a riot inside it become the Chinese government's responsibility? The presence of those warships must have been decisive.
The new British Consulate is a covert fortress. It's made of brick, so it won't burn, and there are narrow steps leading up to the office, at the top of the hill. If a crowd attacked it, they'd have to line up to go up the stairs, which could have been barricaded, and a few men with guns would have been able to hold them off. The office is also at a prime location at the top of the hill, with a view right across the river, so that you could sit there with a telescope and see what ships were going past. Unfortunately, what with my batteries being flat, I didn't get pictures to illustrate this. Here, though, is a picture from where I think the foreign settlement was:
The offices are right at the top of the hill. (They may be more recent buildings than the building I verified as 1890.) As an Englishman, I can see exactly why this spot was chosen. You can see the Chinese district, the foreign settlement, and the river. From behind the walls of the Consulate, you directly overlook the traffic going past from the docks, further up this street:
(Note the groove in the middle so you can pull a wheelbarrow up the hill. The same design works for bicycles.)
The American consulate, though next door, seems to be sited for a different reason: it looks imposing from the Chinese area.
Here, for atmosphere, is another picture from in or near the foreign settlement:
One of the banners is for the Hengshun vinegar shop. Another picture showing the work they're doing to turn the former settlement into a tourist area, and that they managed to attract a foreign tourist:
There was one board up around here revealing it to be the former British Concession. I don't think there was any mention of the Americans. Maybe the British were running that Municipal Council. The policemen were obviously imported by the British Empire.
I think that's it. If there's anything I forgot, maybe I'll tag it on when I write about these famine victims who kept turning up.