RGC General Research Fund
The Ping-Liu-Li Uprising has been included in the history of the 1911 Revolution as a demonstration of massive support for secret society involvement in the revolution. As evidence, it is often said that supporters had been drawn from three counties (Pingxiang, Liuyang and Liling) in two provinces (Jiangxi and Hunan), under the leadership of the Gelao hui.
No-one has demonstrated what structure the Gelao hui embodied or how it could have mustered the numbers reported in contemporary records. On the contrary, doubts have been cast on those records and it is obvious the revolutionary party, the Tongmeng hui, had a vested interest in claiming mass support.
This project explores the possibility that the claim of popular support can be read in a different way. Mashi village, at which the uprising occurred, was so located that it spread across Pingxiang and Liuyang, and lay on the main route that went from Liling to Pingxiang. Mashi’s village temple, no less, lay in Pingxiang, and the theatrical stage across the road at which operas were performed lay in Liuyang. The interspersing of land (known in Qing documents as “flower planting” chahua) was common in villages on county boundaries. Any village crowd at Mashi’s temple festival would have included people from three counties and two provinces.
This project will also explore how popular memory might have misrepresented the presence of the Gelao hui. The Gelao hui is often said to be made up of lodges (tang). In the case of Ping-Liu-Li, popular memory recalls the “inner” and “outer” eight halls (nei ba tang and wai ba tang). In this project, I shall explore if that terminology might have been related to transport organizations between the town of Lukou and Xiangtan city which were known as “head offices” (zong). Mashi was located among villages that were engaged in the fire-cracker industry, and the fire-crackers had to be exported down the Lujiang river at Lukou to Xiangtan. Rather than a secret society, popular memory might well have recalled the well-known and vital transport networks of the area, which were not at all secret.