During the time the Expedition was preparing to leave New York, China was in turmoil. Yuan Shi-kai was president of the Republic, but the hope of his heart was to be emperor of China. For twenty years he had plotted for the throne; he had been emperor for one hundred miserable days; and now he was watching, impotently, his dream-castles crumble beneath his feet. Yuan was the strong man of his day, with more power, brains, and personality than any Chinese since Li-Hung Chang. He always had been a factor in his political world. His monarchial dream first took definite form as early as 1901 when he became viceroy of Chi-li, the province in which Peking is situated.

It was then that he began to modernize and get control of the army which is the great basis of political power in China. Properly speaking, there was not, and is not now, a Chinese national army. It is rather a collection of armies, each giving loyalty to a certain general, and he who secures the support of the various commanders controls the destiny of China's four hundred millions of people regardless of his official title.

Yuan was able to bind to himself the majority of the leading generals, and in 1911, when the Manchu dynasty was overthrown, his plots and intrigues began to bear fruit. By crafty juggling of the rebels and Manchus he managed to get himself elected president of the new republic, although he did not for a moment believe in the republican form of government. He was always a monarchist at heart but was perfectly willing to declare himself an ardent republican so long as such a declaration could be used as a stepping stone to the throne which he kept ever as his ultimate goal.

As president he ruled with a high hand. In 1913 there was a rebellion in protest against his official acts but he defeated the rebels, won over more of the older generals, and solidified the army for his own interests, making himself stronger than ever before.

At this time he might well have made a coup d'etat and proclaimed himself emperor with hardly a shadow of resistance, but with the hereditary caution of the Chinese he preferred to wait and plot and scheme. He wanted his position to be even more secure and to have it appear that he reluctantly accepted the throne as a patriotic duty at the insistent call of the people.

Yuan's ways for producing the proper public sentiment were typically Chinese but entirely effective, and he was making splendid progress, when in May, 1915, Japan put a spoke in his wheel of fortune by taking advantage of the European war and presenting the historical twenty-one demands, to most of which China agreed.

This delayed his plans only temporarily, and Yuan's agents pushed the work of making him emperor more actively than ever, with the result that the throne was tendered to him by the "unanimous vote of the people." To "save his face" he declined at first but at the second offer he "reluctantly" yielded and on December 12, 1915, became emperor of China.

But his triumph was short-lived, for eight days later tidings of unrest in Yuen-nan reached Peking. General Tsai-ao, a former military governor of the province, appeared in Yuen-nan Fu, the capital, and, on December 23, sent an ultimatum to Yuan stating that he must repudiate the monarchy and execute all those who had assisted him to gain the throne, otherwise Yuen-nan would secede; which it forthwith did on December 25.

Without doubt this rebellion was financed by the Japanese who had intimated to Yuan that the change from a republican form of government would not meet with their approval. The rebellion spread rapidly. On January 21, Kwei-chau Province, which adjoins Yuen-nan, seceded, and, on March 13, Kwang-si also announced its independence.

About this time the Museum authorities were becoming somewhat doubtful as to the advisability of proceeding with our Expedition. We had a long talk with Dr. Wellington Koo, the Chinese Minister to the United States, at the Biltmore Hotel in New York. Dr. Koo, while certain that the rebellion would be short-lived, strongly advised us to postpone our expedition until conditions became more settled. He offered to cable Peking for advice, but we, knowing how unwelcome to the government of the harassed Yuan would be a party of foreigners who wished to travel in the disturbed area, gratefully declined and determined to proceed regardless of conditions. We hoped that Yuan would be strong enough to crush this rebellion as he had that of 1913, but day by day, as we anxiously watched the papers, there came reports of other provinces dropping away from his standard.

On the Tenyo Maru we met the Honorable Charles Denby, an ex-American Consul-General at Shanghai and former adviser to Yuan Shi-kai when he was viceroy of Chi-li. Mr. Denby was interested in obtaining a road concession near Peking and was then on his way to see Yuan. His anxiety over the political situation was not less than ours and together we often paced the decks discussing what might happen; but every wireless report told of more desertions to the ranks of the rebels.

It seemed to be the beginning of the end, for Yuan had lost his nerve. He had decided to quit, and one hundred days after he became emperor elect he issued a mandate canceling the monarchy and restoring the republic. But the rebellious provinces were not satisfied and demanded that he get out altogether.

About this time we reached Peking, literally blown in by a tremendous dust storm which seemed an elemental manifestation of the human turmoil within the grim old walls. Our cousin, Commander Thomas Hutchins, Naval Attache of the American Legation, was awaiting us on the platform, holding his hat with one hand and wiping the dust from his eyes with the other.

The news we received from him was by no means comforting for in the Legation pessimism reigned supreme. The American Minister, Dr. Reinsch, was not enthusiastic about our going south regardless of conditions, but nevertheless he set about helping us to obtain the necessary vise for our passports.

We wished first to go to Foochow, in Fukien Province, where we were to hunt tiger until Mr. Heller joined us in July for the expedition into Yuen-nan. Fukien was still loyal to Yuan, but the strong Japanese influence in this province, which is directly opposite the island of Formosa, was causing considerable uneasiness in Peking.

We were armed with telegrams from Mr. C.R. Kellogg, of the Anglo-Chinese College, with whom we were to stay while in Foochow, assuring us that all was quiet in the province, and through the influence of Dr. Reinsch, the Chinese Foreign Office vised our passports. The huge red stamp which was affixed to them was an amusing example of Chinese "face saving." First came the seal of Yuan's impotent dynasty of Hung Hsien, signifying "Brilliant Prosperity," and directly upon it was placed the stamp of the Chinese Republic. One was almost as legible as the other and thus the Foreign Office saved its face in whichever direction the shifting cards of political destiny should fall.

At a luncheon given by Dr. Reinsch at the Embassy in Peking, we met Admiral von Hintze, the German Minister, who had recently completed an adventurous trip from Germany to China. He was Minister to Mexico at the beginning of the war but had returned to Berlin incognito through England to ask the Kaiser for active sea service. The Emperor was greatly elated over von Hintze's performance and offered him the appointment of Minister to China if he could reach Peking in the same way that he had traveled to Berlin. Von Hintze therefore shipped as supercargo on a Scandinavian tramp steamer and arrived safely at Shanghai, where he assumed all the pomp of a foreign diplomat and proceeded to the capital.

The Americans were in a rather difficult position at this time because of the international complications, and social intercourse was extremely limited. Dinner guests had to be chosen with the greatest care and one was very likely to meet exactly the same people wherever one went.

Peking is a place never to be forgotten by one who has shared its social life. In the midst of one of the most picturesque, most historical, and most romantic cities of the world there is a cosmopolitan community that enjoys itself to the utmost. Its talk is all of horses, polo, racing, shooting, dinners, and dances, with the interesting background of Chinese politics, in which things are never dull. There is always a rebellion of some kind to furnish delightful thrills, and one never can tell when a new political bomb will be projected from the mysterious gates of the Forbidden City.

We spent a week in Peking and regretfully left by rail for Shanghai. En route we passed through Tsinan-fu where the previous night serious fighting had occurred in which Japanese soldiers had joined with the rebels against Yuan's troops. On every side there was evidence of Japan's efforts against him. In the foreign quarter of Shanghai just behind the residence of Mr. Sammons, the American Consul-General, one of Yuan's leading officers had been openly murdered, and Japanese were directly concerned in the plot. We were told that it was very difficult at that time to lease houses in the foreign concession because wealthy Chinese who feared the wrath of one party or the other were eager to pay almost any rent to obtain the protection of that quarter of the city.

A short time later it became known to a few that Yuan was seriously ill. He was suffering from Bright's disease with its consequent weakness, loss of mental alertness, and lack of concentration. French doctors were called in, but Yuan's wives insisted upon treating him with concoctions of their own, and on June 6, shortly after three o'clock in the morning, he died.

Even on his death-bed Yuan endeavored to save his face before the country, and his last words were a reiteration of what he knew no one believed. The story of his death is told in the China Press of June 7, 1916:

    According to news from the President's palace the condition of Yuan
    became critical at three o'clock in the morning. Yuan asked for his old
    confidential friend, Hsu Shih-chang, who came immediately. On the
    arrival of Hsu, Yuan was extremely weak, but entirely conscious.

    With tears in his eyes, Yuan assured his old friend that he had never
    had any personal ambition for an emperor's crown; he had been deceived
    by his entourage over the true state of public opinion and thus had
    sincerely believed the people wished for the restoration of the
    monarchy. The desire of the South for his resignation he had not wished
    to follow for fear that general anarchy would break out all over China.
    Now that he felt death approaching he asked Hsu to make his last words
    known to the public.

    In the temporary residence of President Li Yuan-hung, situated in the
    Yung-chan-hu-tung (East City) and formerly owned by Yang Tu, the
    prominent monarchist, the formal transfer of the power to Li-Yuan-hung
    took place this morning at ten o'clock. Yuan Chi-jui, Secretary of
    State and Premier, as well as all the members of the cabinet, Prince Pu
    Lun as chairman of the State Council, and other high officials were

    The officials, wearing ceremonial dress, were received by Li-Yuan-hung
    in the main hall and made three bows to the new president, which were
    returned by the latter. The same ceremony will take place at two
    o'clock, when all the high military officials will assemble at the
    President's residence.

    The Cabinet, in a circular telegram has informed all the provinces that
    Vice-President Li-Yuan-hung, in accordance with the constitution, has
    become president of the Chinese Republic (Chung-hua-min-kuo) from the
    seventh instance.

So ended Yuan Shi-kai's great plot to make himself an emperor over four hundred millions of people, a plot which could only have been carried out in China. He failed, and the once valiant warrior died in the humiliation of defeat, leaving thirty-two wives, forty children and his country in political chaos.