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Patronage and Personal Bonds in the Early Nineteenth Century Green Standards

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Yang Yuchun and His Protégés( 1795-1840)

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By 1840, a cohort of Chinese officers with strong personal bonds, forged through shared experiences of war and the patronage of a powerful commander named Yang Yuchun (1762-1837), had come to dominate the upper ranks of the Green Standards, the largely Chinese branch of the Qing (1644-1911) military. This article looks at how these bonds emerged during the Miao Revolt (1795) and White Lotus War (1796-1804) and then were consolidated during Yang Yuchun’s lengthy tenures as provincial commander-in-chief of Guyuan and then Shaan-Gan governor-general. It also explores the discourse through which officers validated the cultivation of personal bonds in the face of a military system designed to prevent the formation of personal loyalties. The article argues that the image of the Green Standards as a largely impersonal military force, in contrast with the “personal armies” of the Taiping War period (1850-1864), needs to be reconsidered.

Affiliations: 1: College of Wooster


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