An armada of British gunboats had descended upon imperial Chinese waters to demand the head of one man: the Viceroy of Sichuan province. It was under his governance that “an unprecedented anti-missionary riot” broke out for which the New York Times accused him as the instigator. Breaking the camel’s back was the bloody Gutian massacre, which claimed the lives of eleven British and Australian missionaries and sowed the seeds for the Boxer Rebellion five years later.
This is the biography of my great, great grandfather, the most influential and controversial Mandarin of Late Qing. To the Chinese, he was an intellectual, a decorated warrior and incorruptible official, but to the West he epitomized the worst elements of the Yellow Peril. ‘Stubborn Liu’, as his loyal subjects knew him, was the only Chinese leader willing to stand up to the encroaching western powers. A Jinshi of 1860, he was also a highly successful general who stamped out the Taipings in 1864, quashed the Nian uprising in 1868, and won the only battle of the Sino-French war in 1885, Liu survived to face his greatest test of all: the invading Christian missionaries. He would put a long and distinguished career on the line in order to preserve his nation’s identity.