Foreigners awarded official rank in Late Imperial China

From the China History Forum this question: Does anyone know of instances where a foreigner (westerner or an Asian not under imperial authority) was awarded or earned an official rank?
My reply: Frederick Townsend Ward of the Ever Victorious Army (1860-1864) was given a mandarin red button (2nd grade, or 1st grade; coral buttons) and the rank of Green Standard Colonel [Fu-chiang 副將] in the Qing army (Smith, Mandarins and Mercenaries, 1978).

Both Ward and Henry Burgevine of the Ever Victorious Army (1860-1864) received at the same time the button of the fourth class, and Ward a peacock’s feather. Only nine days later a further decree gave both the button of the third class (Morse, Intern’l Relations of the Chinese Empire, 1918).

Commander P. A. Nevue d’Aiguebelle of the [French] Ever Triumphant Army was conferred the brevet rank of titu 提督, “general,” and the distinction of the Yellow Jacket.(Morse, Intern’l Relations of the Chinese Empire, 1918).

Prosper Giquel, also of the Ever Triumphant Army, was given the rank of tsungping 總兵, “brigadier general.” (Morse, Intern’l Relations of the Chinese Empire, 1918)

Off the top of my head, I do not recall other Western officers fighting against the Taiping who received imperial rank, but there were other foreign contingents – The “Ever-” this and that – and it’s not unlikely they also received rank, as that was a common tactic of the mandarins to reward and control the unruly Westerners. The Taiping also gave out ranks, to people like Lindley, but there is little documentation that I have found that mentions such.

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3 Responses to Foreigners awarded official rank in Late Imperial China

  1. Ashley Etchells-Butler says:

    The most successful commander of the EVA was Charles George Gordon, an English engineer, who went undefeated in the field during the time he was in command. He was awarded the yellow jacket along with many other honours.

    • James Lande says:

      Not having followed Gordon that closely, I can’t speak to his record in the field with authority; I read in Mossman’s book about Gordon’s Private Diary of several defeats of the force in 1864, on the advance toward Nanking. Still, judging from contemporary accounts, there’s no denying that the force initiated and developed by Ward was improved substantially by the military discipline Gordon and his cadre of British professional officers brought to the enterprise, and that Gordon’s advancement in rank and other rewards, including the huang-ma-gua, were well deserved.

      • Ashley Etchells-Butler says:

        Yes actually I think you’re correct, although as far as I remember Gordon wasn’t personally present at those times – the EVA took it upon themselves to press on & suffered for it while Gordon was back in Quinsan dealing with a rebel force which had unexpectedly appeared (though I could be slightly wrong). I only mentioned it in passing as I saw Gordon wasn’t in your post about foreigners receiving honours – and I find it hard to pass up an opportunity to rabbit on about Gordon – although saying that I don’t know if he was under “imperial authority” per say or not. He certainly didn’t act like it! Haven’t yet read Mossman but I have it on order at the moment. An interesting period!

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