Wuhan, China (1911 AD)
The Battle of Yangxia was the final great battle of the Xinhai Revolution. It led directly to the fall of the Qing Dynasty and the overthrow of the last emperor of China, a position that had been in existence for thousands of years. Actually a series of battles that took place in and around Wuhan, Yangxia was a pivotal moment in Chinese history, one that witnessed the end of the imperium and the beginning of four decades of chaos, revolution and civil war that ultimately ended with the emergence of a unified, communist government. The battle is commemorated in Wuhan by the Wuchang Uprising Memorial on the site where the revolutionary government was formed.
At the beginning of the 20th century, China was on the verge of anarchy. Humiliated in a series of wars against a coalition of foreign powers (the Opium Wars and the Boxer Rebellion), governed by the last child emperor of the dying Qing dynasty and torn apart by feuding warlords, China was poised to be torn to pieces. Out of this chaos, the Xinhai Revolution under Sun Yat-Sen and other leaders rose to restore order.
Although uprisings had been going on since 1895, full-blown hostilities did not break out until 1911. After an initial rebellion was crushed in Guangzhou in April, revolutionaries succeeded in taking the city of Wuchang in October. The Qing sent in forces to quell the uprising and retake the city. An initial assault failed to retake the train station. In November larger armies arrived.
The first clash came at Hankou. The Qing managed to retake this part of the city and burn it to the ground, inflicting severe casualties on the rebels in the process. However, while this was going on, provinces all over China were defecting, and reinforcements came swarming to the aid of the rebellion. This set the stage for the final engagement at Hanyang.
The street-to-street fighting was brutal, with heavy casualties on both sides, though the rebels had the worst of it. By the end of the month the revolutionaries had been driven from the city. In the end the battle proved to be a delaying action. Although the rebels lost, they bought other areas the necessary time to get organized. By the end of the year, huge territories of China, including Shanghai, were lost to the Qing. Although they were technically victorious, the imperium did not recover from Yangxia, and in 1912 the emperor was forced to abdicate.
The Battle of Yangxia took place over more than a month throughout Wuhan and the surrounding area. Because most of the combat was urban, most of the sites related to the battle or built over. However, on the site where the provisional government was formed, and where some of the early fighting took place is the Wuchang Uprising Memorial which serves as the main point of interest for the battle.
The Wuchang Uprising Memorial is in the center of Wuhan, approximately 200 hundred miles west of Shanghai. It is an open site, and there is no cost of admission. Web: www.cnto.org (official tourism website for China).