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Identities in Crisis: Representations of Other and Self in Manchuria during the Plague Years of 1910–1911

Michael Corsi


     Within the context of statecraft, empire building, and the successful consolidation of territorial borders, stability within an empire can only be achieved by regulating the relationship between the imperial 'center' with its ethnographically diverse population. Successful multi-ethnic empires are able to produce a reliable internal framework for contrasting the dominant ethnic group (that is, that group most closely associated with the ruling-class ethnicity) against all other assimilated minorities within their territory. Additionally, the social and cultural antagonisms which frequently occur at the borders of two empires do much to radically reinforce identification of an ethnic "other," leading to the intensification of minority-biased prejudices and the reaffirmation of imperial ethnic superiority from within.1 At the geographic boundaries between different empires, ethnocentric self-affirmation within a society, which here may be called "ethno-chauvinism," becomes especially magnified. The imperial borderlands between early twentieth-century Russia and China provide us with one such example of how contact between two vastly different cultures influenced both foreign and self-identification.

The Dual Crisis of Plague and Ethno-Chauvinism in Manchuria

     Ethno-chauvinism can be understood as a mechanism of alienating people from other people on the condition of imagined boundaries which exist between them. Theoretically its effects can be seen any time different cultural groups come into contact with each other long enough for assumptions of dissimilarity to emerge between them followed by the formation of an unequal balance of power. However, this process becomes particularly acute during periods of crisis, when the obligations of emergency management amplify the perceived separation between different peoples and help to reinforce these same divisive boundaries. In the early twentieth-century, the Great Manchurian Plague epidemic provided just such an opportunity between Russia and China.

     The years 1910–1911 marked not only the final days of the declining Qing Empire but also the culmination of one of the worst outbreaks of pneumonic plague in modern history. The Great Manchurian Plague was one incidence of the larger Third Plague Pandemic (1866–1960), which originated in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan and spread to most of the globe, including China, Manchuria, Russia, India, South Africa, and California.2 Recent research by prominent historians of medicine has traced the Manchurian outbreak to a variant form which found its origins in Central Asia, and which migrated eastward into the Sino-Russian borderlands independently of the bubonic form that came from China.3 This variant form proved to be the most fatal, and by the summer of 1911 it had claimed anywhere between forty five and sixty thousand lives.

     A close study of the way the Russians and Chinese interfaced in Manchuria during the plague years is valuable for a few reasons. By the end of the nineteenth-century, both Russia and China were in possession of vast, multiethnic empires which expanded across massive landmasses.4 In 1896, a secret treaty of alliance was passed under the auspices of the Russian tsar Nicholas II and the Peking government, then under the control of the Qing dynasty. Under this treaty, Qing Peking gave permission to the Russian railway contractor to construct the last stretch of the Trans-Siberian railway, called the Chinese East Railway (CER), through the northern Chinese provinces of Heilongjiang and Jilin, located in Manchuria.5 This provision permitted Russian trains bound from Chita to move through Chinese territories, stopping on the way at checkpoints in Manzhouli and Harbin, to the terminal point of the railroad in the Russian port-city of Vladivostok. It also granted to the Russians the right to administer the vicinity and exploit the natural resources along the railway as they saw fit.

     Harbin was the provincial capital of the Chinese Heilongjiang province, and from the time of the secret treaty in 1896 to 1926, it was administered by the Russian government via the CER. This provided to Russia an autonomous economic and political locus in Chinese territory, which was only relinquished after 1926, when the Soviets passed control over to the Warlord Zhang Xueliang. Therefore, before this time, both within major Russian cities such as Harbin as well as along the rail line, Russian medical and provincial authorities had legal sanction to govern the area, enforce adherence to regulations, create and maintain quarantines, and punish offenders.

     Russian ethno-chauvinism became especially intense during the plague years, as can be seen in the provincial responses and the Russian commentaries on the Chinese inhabitants, which have been preserved in the many handbooks and newspapers that were printed during the period. The ensuing panic only became magnified as the bodies of the dead piled higher and higher in the streets. One contemporary observer of the situation reported that:

Human activity in this place seems to have completely died out; the streets are empty and deserted and all the houses are left desolate. Those who were not struck by the plague in the town itself fled terror-stricken and were overtaken by the black epidemic outside the town. The bazaars and markets are closed. Dogs alone roam in the streets, howling and feeding on the corpses of their former masters. The stench is horrible. The hospitals are abandoned. There are no ill people anymore and no medical men—all have died. Only on a few beds lie the dead bodies of those who expired last.6

This particular correspondent felt compelled to emphasize the gruesome expiration of life over all else. In another account, this time in regard to one of the first outbreaks of the larger pandemic, there is a similar despondency of tone:

The places were hit by the epidemic very strongly, so that even the corpses were not cleaned, and in many villages there remained unharvested bread, empty homes, as it killed all of the inhabitants. Those infected were not only people, but even pets: cats, dogs, rats; often the remaining masses fled from one village to another. The pigs especially suffered from the plague. Many Buddhists have stopped eating pork.7

This account took place in the context of the Dungan Revolt (1895–96), during which social dislocation, famine, mass exodus, warfare and death added to the cumulative misery and human toll.

     Given that the almost sixty thousand fatalities in Manchuria between 1910 and 1911 were caused exclusively by the plague, we gain a better sense of the urgency of a situation where the depressing reality of death was visible at every doorstep. Russian authorities on the ground scrambled to control the situation. In order to do so they were required to make decisions, issue orders, establish medical sanctions and regulations, create quarantines, enforce regimens of hygiene, and publish materials on the causes and consequences of the disease. And as the situation continued to deteriorate, imperial prejudices on both sides were telescoped while official publications became shamelessly more chauvinistic.

     The Chinese were not silent during the crisis either. In attempting to manage their own losses they too created an image of themselves which in some ways supported, while in other ways completely rejected, the one the Russians had created for them. This Chinese self-image was predicated on a number of different factors which could be located equally within China's cultural and historical traditions as well as more modern shifts in intellectual and scientific thought. For the former, one need only consult the several myths, stories, and fairy tales which helped shape the Chinese perception of death and the afterlife. The picture that emerged was much more complex than the patronizing views conveyed within the Russian materials.

     The most valuable piece of evidence available for understanding the Chinese scientific response to the plague and attempt at self-identification comes in the form of the autobiography left behind by China's premier specialist in epidemiology and infectious disease, the Malay-born doctor Wu Lien-Teh. Wu Lien-Teh served as China's representative to the International Plague Conference held in Mukden in April of 1911. Prior to this he had earned his B.A. from Cambridge University in 1899, and after his graduation was awarded a full scholarship to complete his clinical hours St. Mary's hospital in London. By 1905 he had successfully finished his coursework and was awarded his MD from Cambridge. In 1935, Wu was the first Malay to be nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine. His autobiography, Plague Fighter, recounts the events of his childhood and schooling while simultaneously providing invaluable information regarding the history of plague in China.

     His account is informative for two reasons. First, it helps to situate the Chinese medical system both before and after the plague, and sheds much light on the development of its increasingly cosmopolitan and modern character. China was anything but a passive recipient of European medical modernity. Wu Lien-Teh's description of Chinese imperial initiatives both before and after the plague were ambitious and far reaching. Among these were included the formation and maintenance of public hospitals prior to the outbreak and the foundation of the North Manchurian Plague Prevention Service, an institution which fought to ensure against future epidemics. In the Russian literature on China, these achievements are coolly dismissed in an attempt to diminish China's capacity for positive social reform or independent initiative. The second reason why Wu's autobiography is useful is because it refutes this pejorative attitude and shows that the Chinese had confidence in their own ability to handle the situation without the need for foreign intervention.

     This article, therefore, seeks to examine how frontier borderland imperial encounters and interpersonal social experiences proved foremost in crafting sensible ethnic images of the Chinese inhabitants in the Sino-Russian crossroads.8 From the Russian perspective, these images served as representations of China ab ovo usque ad mala, allowing ethnographers, scientists, imperial and municipal bureaucrats, and commoners to bolster Russian ethno-chauvinism through a unique blend of smug imperial superiority, if not outright xenophobia, and national self-affirming pride. I would like to address the strained attempts made by Russian elites to categorize and control minority populations at the very edge of its empire, specifically in regard to the management of medical emergency, a task I believe will add important yet previously unheard voices to the scholarly literature.9 The Great Manchurian Plague of 1910–1911 is an excellent lens through which to observe these developments, as the urgency of imminent crisis allowed for the unmediated expression of Russian prejudice.

     In illustrating the ways in which images of Chinese minorities living in Manchuria, as well as those on China in general, were produced, this article will also use first-hand scientific accounts as well as local Chinese newspapers to provide a better sense of how the Chinese perceived themselves during the period of reform thinking of the late-Qing monarchy. Some groundwork has already been laid in this area. Peter Zarrow has discussed how imported European principles of race helped to mold the way reformation intellectuals such as Liang Qichao situated both the Chinese Han people as well as non-Han minorities into scientific schemes of categorization and hierarchy.10 Additionally, Thomas Mullaney's close analysis of 1954 Ethnic Classification Project in Yunnan provides a good indication of the logic employed in making sense of China's highly variegated and numerous minzu populations in another remote province of the empire.11 This article strives to add to the work of these and other historians of ethnicity in China by providing an account of identity formation at the northern reaches of the empire, and within the context of trans-cultural contact between two different imperial regimes with very different opinions on Chinese identity.

Russia's Peculiar Orientalism

     By the time plague struck Manzhouli in late 1910, Russia was undergoing a drastic ideological and political transformation. Tsar Nicholas' dissolution of the first two state Dumas and their subsequent replacement with a majority, pro-monarchical representation added fuel to an already volatile conflagration which had been sweeping over Russian politics since before the 1905 Revolution. Nascent revolutionary parties and populists chided Nicholas and his administration for what they saw as exclusionary monarchist representation in politics as well as hyper-conservatism on the part of the bureaucracy. Eventually, public dissatisfaction with the imperial management of public affairs began to spill over into the professional sector of the state, drawing more and more Russian medical experts, scientists, psychologists, criminologists, and doctors into the revolutionary camp. As these professionals became increasingly radicalized, they began to voice their critiques more loudly with regard to the inadequacy of the imperial administration of health care and proper utilization of medical expertise.12 This "professional radicalization" profoundly shaped the increasingly tenuous relationship between the doctor and the state, and, correspondingly, how much these experts were willing to buy into orthodox imperial discourses about the East.

     David Schimmelpennick van der Oye has captured the eclectic disposition Russia has historically taken towards its eastern neighbors quite well. In regard to East Asia, including China, Korea, and Japan, Russian Orientalism was always a mixed bag.13 Contrasting narratives of the Orient emphasized both the connection between Russia's more religiously-directed sense of morality with Oriental religious exoticism as well as the more conservative imperial mission civilisatrice. The image of East Asia was far from a settled matter. The Russian attitude towards the Far East certainly became much more politically conservative after the humiliating outcome of the Russo-Japanese war of 1905. However, the enthusiasm with which disgruntled revolutionaries, Slavophiles looking for non-European models of modernization, and the growing cadre of "Asianists", whose writing painted the Far East as a place both magical and close to the Russian heart, envisaged China and the rest of the Oriental world ensured that there was no "one" Oriental discourse which informed all opinion and writing on the subject.

     This was the political milieu in which Russia's plague fighters found themselves during the dreadful years of 1910–1911. There was a cacophony of conflicting interests in Russia's Far East, all of which informed the politics of the antiplague measures taken as well as the shifting image of China which began to take hold in the Russian mind.14 There was definitely strong imperial investment in the consolidation of control over the Amur River, which one historian has described as being "a major redirection of the nation's attention to these remote territories in the Far East."15 But the sheer multiplicity of interests and opinions was such that no one perspective was capable of dominating another. The massive scale of the death and human suffering which Russian doctors faced on a day-to-day basis in Harbin weighed just as much on their appraisal of the situation as could any particular Oriental discourse which they may have been aware of. Ultimately, the image that they formed of the ill (bolevshii) was both influenced by this diversity of opinion as well as their own sense of compassion and duty as harbingers of medical science and treatment. The compassion they felt, to be sure, was predicated on their complete monopoly over medical knowledge, which, in the interest of expedient public health and efficacious treatment, provided justification for the exercise of power over the local population and the generation of a convenient image of the Chinese. However, given that the borderland doctors were themselves susceptible to perish from the disease, this representative domination of the Chinese in the Far East was combined with a genuine empathy with their suffering, and these two processes worked together to form a kind of domination-through-compassion which permeated the medical literature of the era. An overview of some prevailing opinions of the people who travelled through the Sino-Russian borderlands and saw this devastation first-hand will help illustrate this point.

The Institution of Medical Knowledge

     The use of preventative medicine and centralized healthcare as a means of conditioning knowledge and controlling the population was nothing new to imperial Russia. One of the best examples of the tendency for medical experts to use the specialization of knowledge to subjugate the population is provided by John T. Alexander. His account of the 1770 bubonic plague outbreak in Moscow showcases how medical knowledge was used to grant unrestricted authority to a minority of individuals over the rest of society, and how, over time, the repressiveness of this authority came to be despised by an increasingly restive urban population.16

More recently, Paula Michaels has written about the introduction of modern medicine to Kazakhstan, and how the Soviet government used its sovereignty of modern medical knowledge to destroyed primitive cultural customs in order to replace the local health system with one more complacent to imperial domination.17 This monopolization of medical knowledge qua power was exacerbated whenever experts from the medical institution worked hand in hand with the government to set norms and dictate policy over the marginalized imperial subjects. When an epidemic of plague broke out in the southeastern borderlands of the Soviet Union in the mid-1920's, Russia's premier epidemiologist, Danilo Zabolotnyi, the same individual who served as Russia's ambassador to the International Plague Conference in Mukden in the aftermath of the Great Manchurian Plague, worked together with the newly established People's Commissariat of Public Health to identify and eliminate what he saw as "plague epidemics threatening the state from its savage and ignorant southeastern flank."18

     What these cases have in common was the willingness of Russian medical experts, motivated out of the urgency of crisis and necessity for immediate action, to use their authority over a discreet and exclusive body of European medical knowledge to dictate the terms by which Russia would respond to local medical emergencies. As Dmitry Mikhel and others have shown, part of this response included the formation of an image of those deemed responsible for the cause and spread of disease throughout the empire. And, unfortunately, this image grew increasingly ugly the farther to the east the disease took place.

      In Manchuria, which was becoming a liability to maintain, tensions were high. As mentioned above, Russia held a variety of opinions on the East and its relation to Russian history and culture. From the imperial perspective, relations between Russia and China had become strained as a result of Russia's involvement in subduing the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, which it used as a pretext to claim suzerainty over all territory east of the Amur River and complete control over the port city of Vladivostok. Unfortunately, increasing Japanese aggression into Chinese territory made these concessions tenuous, and the vexing interference of U.S. Secretary of State John Hays' Open Door Policy made it clear that Russia's days of colonial occupation along the CER were numbered. At least politically, Manchuria was one part of the world which many Russians were feeling less and less motivated to be involved with. This was the context in which Russian doctors entered the scene. Manchuria was a remote and politically contentious extension of the empire, and if these doctors wanted to have any positive effect in putting a stop to the epidemic there, it was first and foremost critical that their assistants and the local people remain obsequious to medical authority. Moreover, this authority tended to be couched in the assumptions of European colonialism and modernity.

     The magnitude of the crisis facing Manchuria by the end of 1910 took most doctors by surprise. Eventually they recognized the need to supply more able-bodied men and women in order to assist the medical staff on the ground. In the process of recruitment, proper instruction of these individuals was paramount. One prominent handbook for physicians' assistants at the time was published by the travelling doctor Pyotr Viktorovich Shchusev', who already had exposure to the outbreak of plague and the enforcement of preventative measures during a related work trip to Turkestan. Shchusev's work, The Shortest Handbook: For Physicians Assistants and Personal Assistants of Antiplague Units Compiled during a Working Trip to the Far East in 1911, indicates the author's admiration for adherence to strict organizational protocol in the handling of quarantine and treatment as well as his respect for Western medicine. Early in the text, Shchusev' explains the prominence of the Western influence on the doctor by explaining that "European medicine teaches what the doctor's purpose is, who he will help, not only to treat sickness, but also to prevent its emergence."19 He further stresses the need for obedience when performing the duties of sanitation and administering care to plague patients in a series of "points" he lays out for physicians' assistants-in-training:

First point. It should be clearly aware, that by the main actors in the fight with plague are the doctors and government. Their instructions, based on experience and knowledge, must be performed accurately and without objection, in order to avoid damaging yourself and friends; then help will be reasonable. Whoever cannot do this will be ejected from among the assistants.

This point is clarified with a further admonition:

Fourth point. Knowing what kind of plague, how to protect yourself from it, and what the doctors and government are doing for protection against it, must spread this useful information among the people so that he can keep them unafraid of the medical personal, of the disinfection, of the quarantine, of the treatment, so that everyone does this for his own good. The point everyone knows, that, when there was not European trained doctors and scientists of bacteriology, the plague decimated not thousands, but millions of people.20

     Here Schusev' has clearly defined medicine as an institution of power, very much in Foucault's sense. On the one hand, medical knowledge was an article restricted entirely to the "doctors and government", was not to be questioned, and was to be spread throughout the region in an effort to condition the behavior of the local population. This spreading of information was, of course, to be choreographed entirely by the doctors and government themselves, stripping bare any agency that local Chinese plague victims may have had in determining their own treatment. On the other hand, the fact that the most admirable doctors be "European trained" played directly into the growing polemic which had been developing between Russia's institutional experts and the increasingly inept imperial bureaucracy since the mid-1850's.

     Shchusev's work, along with that of other publishing medical experts at this time, was not a simple apology of colonial interests in the Far East; there were, in fact, a variety of forces responsible for shaping the way in which responders to the crisis in Manchuria perceived and wrote about their experiences. An admiration of the achievements of European scientific progress was certainly among them. When describing the necessity of proper sanitation as a means of combating infection, Shchusev distinguishes between "visible" and "invisible" impurity, the former being that "which everyone knows."21 It was (of course) a reasonable conclusion that any rational person possessed the same conception of "visible" impurity, especially when a European version of sanitation and hygiene could be projected onto both European and non-European peoples. After such a normalization of perspective, the standards to which the Chinese could be held were reflected in the standard to which Europeans and European-trained specialists held themselves, regardless if any of these expectations were grounded in the common culture or shared history of the Chinese. There is no doubt that by this point in history China had already had extensive exposure to the axioms of Western science, medicine, and civilization, and was therefore able to interface with the Russian argument of European superiority from a position of familiarity.22 But it was the doctor's grasp of a very arcane, very exclusive body of knowledge which gave him the right to generate and enforce these normalizing principles over a people who gradually came to be subjugated under the institution of medicine and its application of power. The image which was crafted of the patient, no less the instinctively, non-integrable Chinese patient, was that of non-European, non-doctor, and, at least in terms which were purely materia medica, non-actor.

     Even so, not all Russian specialists in China chose to adopt a completely detached perspective on the situation. As most doctors writing on the outbreak in 1910–1911 had extensive experience working in places far from Russia's metropoles, it was natural that those who made first-hand observations of the destitution the plague wrought would be more sensitive to the suffering of those afflicted. Shchusev' had only a fleeting encounter with the plague in Manchuria toward its final stages of activity. Other writers, however, had more of a face-to-face interaction with the subjects of their work, and were able to generate native representation which tried to balance their ethno-chauvinistic presumptions with more of a sympathetic approach.

     Nikolai Vasil'evich Kirilov was one such person. Having worked extensively throughout the Russian Far East, Kirilov was well attuned to the needs of the peasants and commoners who lived in remote villages. He was in fact very dedicated to petitioning the imperial government on behalf of peasant grievances, and he helped to organize and conduct a large number of peasant's congresses throughout the countryside. For his political activism, Kirilov was jailed from 1908–1909, having been released just in time to publish Pestilence and Human Plague in the Far East, an account of his reflections of the plague in Russia's Far Eastern provinces and perhaps the most highly-detailed and evocative narrative produced on borderland plague at the time.23 What Kirilov produced was a unique combination of European medical elitism with a shared sense of communal sympathy.

     In Pestilence, Kirilov did not attempt to hide his disapproval of the measures taken by the Chinese government, including their implementation at the local level, to combat the plague and prevent its further dissemination down the CER rail line. He believed much of the knowledge of both the Chinese locals and doctors was established upon an insuperable edifice of superstition and myth, all of which was a dangerous hindrance to the implementation of effective measures based on Western empirical precepts of public health and hygiene, desperately needed in a region as backwards and underdeveloped as Manchuria.

     According to Kirilov, China lacked the basic technology and infrastructure to adequately prevent a worsening of the crisis. He contrasted this situation with the living conditions of modern Europe, where urban residents could rest easy knowing that they were well protected from the ravages of the unchecked spread of infectious diseases through the triumph of public health sanitation. Among other things, this success included the establishment of public hospitals in every major city, the lining of home basements and public courtyards with cement to prevent free movement of rodents, the strict regulation on "peddling" of public consumables such as fruits and vegetables, and even a reformation of urban public restrooms, which were to be constructed of "constantly flushing porcelain", with floors of glass or cement in a room which was constantly re-ventilated.24 Even the toilets were revamped by replacing the toilet seat with a special railing above the funnel slot, eliminating any potential for contact and keeping European bare bottoms uncontaminated across the continent.25

     However, Pestilence notes that in China these basic resources were unfortunately absent, which contributed to the overall poor health of the people there. "China has no hospitals at all, and are in no hurry to allocate them during the time of the plague."26 Epitomized here for all of Russia's scientific reading audience is the problem inherent in China: a complete paucity of medical infrastructure and the Chinese lack of incentive to do anything about it. In fact, Kirilov derisively described the on-the-ground responses of local magistrates to the plague as polluted with mysticism, which were heavily based on prayer, the beating of drums, and the rattles of flutes and whistles to magically solve China's illness. It mattered little to Kirilov that at the time the Chinese imperial government was working feverishly to modernize its healthcare system, build new hospitals, and provide for the general well-being of even its remotest provinces, a fact which will be explored in more detail below. For Russian doctors all that mattered was the validation of their authority as experts of all things medicine, which consequently inculcated them with authority over all of the regions and bodies which fell within this jurisdiction. Plague-ridden Manchuria was, of course, one such jurisdiction.

     However, to look at Kirilov's depiction of China during the plague years as nothing more than a manifesto of the legitimacy of the doctor's guild to repress the mestnye narod, or local people, is to cheapen his full range of investment in the crisis. There is palpable emotional pulse throughout much of his writing, leading one to believe that his identification with the suffering inhabitants in Harbin elsewhere was more complicated than a mere dichotomy of interests between doctor and patient. This complicates the view of the overall Russian medical response in the Far East. Kirilov wrote with a genuine sense of compassion for the Chinese plague victims which went far beyond whatever expectations contemporary modernizing purists may have had of him.

     The point should be made here that Russia's doctors were little safer from the plague than were the mestnye narod in the inflicted cities and villages. A 1991 edition of the Krasnoe Znamia (Red Flag) newspaper reported that after the plague had subsided in May of 1911, 942 Russian medical workers had been killed.27 This number, though likely inflated, indicates that Russian doctors, feldshers (primary physician's assistants), and other medical personnel were also subject to the devastation of the disease. Given that only a few thousand such people were sent to deal with the epidemic, this is an extraordinarily high fatality rate. Kirilov's account is similarly interspaced with stories of heroic Russian doctors who gave their lives in the fight against the plague. If responders to the crisis were aware of such a risk to their life, it may have matured their capacity for compassion with local plague patients at a more fundamental level.

     Another part of Kirilov's compassion may have come from a recognition that China, like Russia, was no stranger to suffering. He expresses a deep understanding of this fact in Pestilence:

Of course, China knows panic concerning the plague. The horrible panic caused the population there to flee wherever their eyes could see, abandoning all of their affairs and their farms. But there flee entire families, usually into the mountains, where they construct a hut and live, so to say isolated, an entire month and more. Or they also flee to the water, construct junk on the river or on the lake.28

The terrible plight of these poor Chinese peasants would not have been lost to an individual who had spent the better part of his career traveling the countryside and interacting with the mestnye narod first-hand. In a way Kirilov's account is a complement to the rich Russian literary tradition of the late nineteenth-century; whether it be through Turgenev's apotheosis of the candid and free-natured spirit of the Russian peasant, the psychological melodrama of every one of Dostoevsky's tortured protagonists, or Tolstoy's attempt to capture the unimaginable cost of total war, Kirilov, like his predecessors, sought to highlight the pointless devastation of human life which had been brought upon Russian and China by the corruption of the modern world. Instead of war and revolution, Kirilov's agent of destruction was disease, and no man or woman was safe from its ravages.

     The section of Kirilov's manuscript concerning the contemporary plague and the response to it in China ends with an abrupt interrogative: "Kak zhe oni zhivut?," which in English directly translates to "How do they live?"29 However, the use of the Russian particle "zhe", which has no English equivalent, adds a connotative emphasis to the expression, tantamount to an exclamation in English such as "How can they possibly live like this!" As a strictly literary convention, it adds a deliberate ambiguity to the meaning of the text. It can be taken as a negative, as in, "How can these people live in such a repulsive manner!", or as an impassioned outcry, such as "How can these poor people stand such a situation!" This was most certainly the author's intention, and, given the content of the rest of the text, the statement adequately conveys his ambivalent attitudes of professional disparagement and moral outrage.

     It is with these seemingly conflicting approaches to the provision of healthcare in the Far East that Russia can be said to have exhibited a "peculiar Orientalism". To Russia's many medical agents, China was more than simply an inhospitable, primitive part of the world destined to cast in the misfortunes of barbarism and poverty. It was a place where real people experienced real hardships, and where the spectre of disease exacted a real human-toll. The doctors in the Far East could at least be somewhat sensitive to this reality, given their observations of the grave mortality at places like Harbin. Kirilov is at least one example of a person who acquired such a sensitivity.

     The compassion shown by some doctors to the rural population in China should not, however, be construed as an example of some form of empirical apostasy. Neither Shchusev', Kirilov, or any other medical authority of the period thought for one moment that it was acceptable to substitute what they saw as Chinse folk medicine for the effective measures and treatments prescribed by modern European methodologies. As representatives of this version of modernity in China, Russian doctors believed it fully within their right to enforce their version of healthcare anywhere in the world through the power institution created by the professionalization and modernization of medicine. The sympathetic mestnye narod, whose suffering elicited compassioned response, was unequivocally to be given no agency in the determination of its own treatment. Chinese plague victims were invariably portrayed as helpless and in need of immediate international relief. It was therefore left to the Chinese medical administration to prove that they were capable of managing the crisis in Manchuria with as much effectiveness as could any European interloper.

Plague, Chaos, and Eclectic Self-Awareness

     The maturation of our understanding of how Orientalism30 is employed by Western scholars as a methodology to discuss the rest of the world has led to important observations concerning the European tendency to create Western knowledge about the East rather than attempt to receive that knowledge impartially. However, Said's now intensely popular account of the 'Orient' has come under some criticism. gIn particular, in Orientalism Said focused almost exclusively on the hegemony of the colonial West, and the portrait of the Orient thereby created was manifested with relative ease and in the absence of any form of reciprocated antagonism.31 His argument appears to have made little effort to capture the multidirectional perception of knowledge, or even to acknowledge the significance of "Oriental" self-identification. A second limitation of Orientalism is that its focus is almost exclusively restricted to the Western mystification of the Middle East and Islam, without paying much attention to the rest of what should logically have fallen under Said's rubric of the "Orient". As a result, southeast and east Asia remain distant and obscure in the very text which was intended to point out the error in whitewashing their unique political, social, and cultural perspectives.

     From these observations, it follows that in order for a complete collection of scholarly literature on Europe's Orientalist perspective on the East to become a reality, more work must be done both on the European attitude toward the rest of Asia as well as Asia's own critical self-reflection. With respect to Chinese traditional medicine, the plague in Manchuria, and the imperial response, a balanced representation can only be achieved by looking at Chinese sources in addition to Russian medical handbooks and newspapers. A respectable secondary historiography exists on Chinese medicine from the early Qing period to the fall of the monarchy in 1911, and specialized studies have addressed the Manchurian plague, its causes, and consequences. Additionally, Chinese printed newspapers from the Periodical Press provide a glimpse into the popular response to plague politics and Russian interventionism in 1910–1911. These sources permit a non-unilateral approach to historians' understanding of the formation of late-imperial Chinese identity.

Fear, Myth, and Superstition in China's Local Population

     In order to expostulate the Russian phantasmagoria which was indigenous Chinese medicine, it is first and foremost important to clarify that the Chinese in fact took death and disease very seriously. Upon the expiration of a family member, a proper burial of the body necessarily became a family matter which involved important acts of mourning, intimacy, and family-based rituals.32 Such rituals can be dated as early as pre-Qin dynasty China and represented a very old, very sacred, and very sentimental form of respect which a family could pay to the deceased. It appears that even the Russian authorities themselves were aware of the importance of burial to Chinese culture. Dr. N.V. Kirilov, in his account of the plague years in Manchuria, observed that "The main filial duty is to honorably bury his father, take his remains to his homeland, on his own piece of land, and there on the spot to worship his ashes."33

     Such expressions of filial loyalty and respect for ancestral heritage were certain to override the coldly scientific admonitions of the Russian medical authorities against these practices. China throughout the last half of the nineteenth-century was only partially influenced by the then dominant paradigms of European positivism and reductive science. This lack of investment made it difficult for new ideas on medicine and public health coming from the West to penetrate China's traditional historical consciousness. Carol Benedict has pointed out that, whereas in the modern European lexicon the word "plague" has the power to confer immediate emotions of devastation and horrific disaster upon its utterance, the Chinese did not even have a word for it until the end of the nineteenth-century. Instead, "plague" in China was subsumed into the larger category of Chinese epidemics (yi) or at best into that of major epidemics (dayi).34

     From the initial exodus of plague victims from Manzhouli in late 1910, the Russian and Chinese medical administration was forced to deal with the scores of dead bodies which continued to line the frost-bitten tracks of the CER and pile atop one another on temporary storage grounds in Fujiatian. The shortage of coffins for these people was a perpetual dilemma, and the dismal sight encouraged doctors on the ground to take action before these bodies had the chance to infect more people. Early in 1911 Wu Lien-Teh, described shortly, gained permission from the government in Peking, which had by this time become the Republican government, to carry out a mass cremation of the spate of unmanaged bodies and coffins in the interests of public sanitation.35 The Russian doctor Danilo Zabolotnyi used this decision, which the Chinese officials viewed as a necessary evil, as a pretext to exhume bodies which had already been buried for additional cremation. According to Dr. Wincenty Bogucki, medical superintendent of the Russian Anti-Plague Bureau in Harbin,

The council of doctors of the Antiplague Bureau had repeatedly pointed out the desirability of cremating the corpses, while not wishing to offend the religious feelings of the Chinese, who treat their dead with the utmost reverence. This question was solved in the affirmative only after repeated conferences with the Chinese authorities and their chief officers of the Fuchiatien anti-plague organization. It was then decided to begin with the cremating of the corpses, both of the recently dead as well as of old corpses which had been buried.36

Altogether 1416 more corpses were cremated, 1,002 of which had been dug up from their graves. This mass exhumation not only desecrated the remains of one thousand Chinese plague victims, it further led to the unearthing of several Chinese tombstones and the destruction of ancestral gravesites. These actions constituted a heinous violation of local sensibilities as well as good administration.

     The canon of Chinese mythology and storytelling, which forbade such egregious violations of eschatological reverence for the dead, ensured that the local population was in no mood to cooperate with municipal authorities in Harbin. Popular beliefs concerning the plague held that ancestor spirits and other external forces could manifest themselves in daily life to torment the souls of the living, and gradually these religious ideas "linked Confucian values with the idea of divine intervention."37 Those spirits whose remains had been defiled would hold entire towns and villages responsible for their opprobrium. Their retribution came in the form of poverty, plague, pestilence, and other misfortune. It is ironic, then, that the methods employed by the Russian doctors which were supposed to maintain order in the local population instead reinforced suspicion and led many in the towns and villages to resist foreign aid.

     Parochial mentalities such as these stood in contrast to the newer types of developmental narratives that Chinese intellectuals such as Yan Fu and Lu Xun had begun producing in the twentieth-century.38 Their desire to push China out of evolutionary arrest informed the politics and culture in which they found themselves, ensuring the destruction of centuries of supernatural explications of social calamity based on Confucianism and imperial tradition. Thus, Chinese, particularly northern-Manchu, self-identity during the plague years was multifarious, and varying interpretations of China's relative innocence regarding the crisis emerged depending on who was doing the talking. China's peasants, who were directly confronted with the horrors of the epidemic, saw themselves as victims of an oppressive, top-down imperial autocracy whose unfamiliar actions were only bringing more misery upon them.39 The journalists, doctors, and administrators of China's upper classes adopted more of a cosmopolitan position on the epidemic. However, even if they acknowledged China's relative backwardness to the rest of Europe as one possible cause of the severity of the affliction, these people still held a sanguine sentimentality that China could reform and correct its deficiencies from within.

The Perception of China's Elite

     The perspective on the plight in the countryside took on different dimensions from the security of Chinese metropoles such as Beijing and Shanghai. Far removed from the specter of death and famine which had become commonplace to the distressed masses in Fujiatian, China's well-off city-dwellers and government officials possessed a more detached view of the situation. It did not seem an outrageous admission to many newspaper columnists that China's ignorance of modern scientific technique, inadequate infrastructure, and generally conservative ideology may have contributed to its poor response to the plague in Manchuria. From this more self-critical approach, a tempered view of Chinese identity became observable, one which assumed responsibility for the slow and ineffective management of the situation while simultaneously placing a premium on the capability of China, and not the rest of the world, to come to terms with this, correct it, and initiate a more progressive, sophisticated solution.

     By January 1911, all of China recognized the severity of what was happening in northern Manchuria. Reporters for various newspapers who represented the public opinion in a number of large Chinese cities expressed their collective dismay at the lack of adequate preparation by local medical authorities in Harbin as well as the ignorant reactions of the peasants. For example, in an article from Shanghai, one writer noted that while the Russians had responded with haste, "…failure to regard it as seriously as the conditions warranted and the indifference of the Chinese in that region to all considerations of hygiene and to ordinary precautions against the disease allowed the plague to spread. It has now taken such a hold upon the country, that even the Chinese official has been stirred to action, while the people at large in their helplessness and ignorance either submit passively to its ravages or blindly seek to escape from the sphere of infection."40 Which "Chinese official" the author was referring to is an important question because the distinction that can be made between the view of the Russian and Chinese writers on the effectiveness of such officials tells much about each county's respective confidence in an independently acting China to settle her own affairs.

     In Kirilov's account, mention is made of the actions taken by the acting "Fudutun", or the head medical official, during a similar outbreak in the small town of Yingkou in 1899. After the arrival of plague and the decimation of the city's population, the Fudutun ordered the closing of markets and the termination of all work, followed by the premature celebration of the Chinese New Year accompanied by the smoke and blaze of firecrackers in the streets. The people believed that the plague, being associated with the previous year, would dissipate upon the commencement of the New Year, which gave cause for jubilation. Kirilov ends his account with an acerbic shake of the head: "It needs to be said that such naïve remedies did not scare the plague, and has not yielded useful results," followed by a reassuring jibe to his Russian audience that similar precautions taken in Yunnan met with similar failure.41 While both the Russian doctor and the Shanghai correspondent denounced the ineptitude of officials and residents at the site of infections, the latter at least posed the prospect of positive action through the stirring of the official to action. The Chinese publication was much less fatalistic about the efficacy of Chinese intervention.

     What is even more revealing was the willingness of some Shanghai publicists to fire back at the ethno-chauvinism of the Russian publications. Another article in the North-China Daily News describes a strike in which over 3,000 CER laborers refused to work because the administration refused to send their families back home to Russia.42 In the same publication, another article detailed the carelessness of one Russian soldier guarding a settlement in Changchun. In attempting to keep himself warm, the soldier imbibed a good deal of vodka and passed out next to the body of a deceased Chinese plague victim. The article playfully concludes with a quip: "Strange to relate that none of them [the Russian soldiers on guard duty] caught the plague, and the Russian soldier now believes that vodka is a good preventative."43 In an ironic reversal of the common colonizer-colonized discourse, this Shanghai periodical managed to turn some of the demeaning Russian imagery of ignorant Chinese peasants back on itself through a spirited tongue-in-cheek caricature of the Russian vodka-drinking stereotype. Even in the urban reading milieu, the forces of Chinese identity-crafting came not without a little bite.

     Perhaps the most valuable resource available to assess the medical thought of China's upper-classes is the account left by one of China's foremost medical experts of the early twentieth-century, Wu Lien-Teh. Wu Lien-Teh was the assistant director of the Imperial Army Medical College in Tientsin and China's main representative to the Mukden international plague conference convened in 1911.44 Combined with information gathered from newspapers and the official report of the plague conference, Wu's autobiography provides invaluable information regarding the history of plague in China as well as the measures taken to safeguard China's rural and urban populations.

     Wu was not overly enthusiastic in his assessment of China's response to the situation in the north. He believed that Manchuria in particular and China in general were too backwards in both knowledge and acceptance of modern scientific applications of germ theory and preventative epidemiology in order to fully accept the measures which were then being employed in Harbin; this decidedly pro-Western position makes sense given his Cambridge education. In regards to Oriental45 wisdom, Wu did not try to hide his disappointment: "Although, the Manchus and most of the high officials then holding office in the capital had old-fashioned ideas and knew little of the immense progress made by western countries in medical and scientific achievements…" It was similarly difficult to convince the taotai, or the circuit superintendent below the provincial level, and laypeople of the air-born nature of the disease: "… but it was not always easy to convince persons who lack the foundations of modern knowledge and of science."46 Wu further criticized the local response when discussing the difficulties he and the Chinese medical staff faced given the lack of available infrastructure for quarantine in Harbin:

They were further handicapped by the attitude of both the officials and the public. The former did not seem to realise how serious the situation was, while the latter showed an apathy or a fatalism, so typical of the east, that was most discouraging to those who were trying their best to help them. It needed something startlingly tragic to jot these people out of their lethargy (emphasis added).47

This is one of his most telling entries, because with it one can see that Wu identified more with the laboratories of St. Mary's Hospital than with the backward peoples of the "east".

     Although Wu may have been Westernized to a significant extent during his time overseas, he still saw the potential in China to shape its own future and recognized the positive advancements which were daily being made in preventative and recuperative public health policy. In particular he saw the great strides being made in the development of national infrastructure by the beginning of the twentieth-century. When relating China's achievements in the construction of hospitals throughout the areas affected by plague after the epidemic, Wu begins his commentary by asserting that "The year 1905 saw a great movement among all classes of Chinese to follow the progressive ways of the world."48 In fact, through the joint cooperation of Qing Peking government with Wu and his staff of officials, more than one million Chinese dollars49 were invested into new hospitals, sanitation stations, quarantine buildings, and additional equipment in every major city or town impacted by the plague, including Harbin, Manzhouli, Lahasusu, Sansing, Taheiho, Newchwang, Tsitsihar, Shanghai, Amoy, Tangku, Wuhan, and Chinwangtao.50 Wu marveled at the resourcefulness and integrity of the Chinese officials responsible for managing a concrete, progressive development of China's underfunded colonial borderlands, expressing that "one has to admit that no finer or more courteous types of gentlemen existed in China, and such men as Tieh Liang, Yin Chang, Prince Chun, His Liang, could not be equaled anywhere in the world for their courtesy and kindness to strangers and juniors."51

     Another way in which China was able to demonstrate the progressiveness of its modernizing medical platform was the creation of the North Manchurian Plague Prevention Service, established shortly after the plague had subsided in 1911. Wu Lien-Teh, appointed director of the Service upon its formation, said that "Though the terrible epidemic of pneumonic plague which invaded Manchuria and north China in 1910–11 exacted a toll of 60,000 lives and caused monetary losses estimated at 100 million dollars, yet it definitely brought some good in its train, for it laid the foundation stone for systematic public health work in China."52 This "systematic public health work" took the form of the Service, which was astonishingly successful at organizing governmental funds in order to prevent future outbreaks. From 1912 until its eventual dismantlement in 1931, the Service operated with skill and efficiency in both norther and southern China, and managed to put down two major outbreaks of cholera, in 1919 and 1926, a reoccurrence of the pneumonic plague in 1920–21, and a local case of bubonic plague in 1928–1930.53 Sick patients in various regions in China were treated in a sympathetic and apolitical way; Chinese, Bolshevik, Kolchakist, Hunghutzu, and even Japanese patients were shown equality and fairness by Wu's skilled medical staff, and would later admire the sympathy these men and women had for human suffering regardless of their national or political affiliations.

     The Service was a success not only for Wu and his team but also for the image of Chinese modernity in general. In 1915, the Minister of Republican Peking, apprised of the organization's recent humanitarian accomplishments, concluded that "The Service is generally considered one of the most excellently organized parts of the Chinese government."54 The Service was certainly a triumph of Chinese medical modernity, the tremendously increased talent which the Peking Republican government had for organizing, funding, and supporting its burgeoning medical sector, and the perseverance and compassion of Wu Lien-Teh and the entire cadre of medical professionals operating in China. Such an accomplishment provided not only Wu and his team, but for all citizens throughout the empire, an icon of both international success and national pride which helped to create a more positive image of China in the mind of its people.

     Hopefully in this brief survey of Chinese self-understanding I have laid to rest some of Said's reservations. Taking particular caution against Eurocentric Orientalist prescriptions55 this section has attempted to include the voices, in whatever way possible, of China from both the upper classes as well as the peasantry and victims of the epidemic.56 This can be done with fidelity only in the former case, as personal reflections and sources from China's poor population are scarce. Therefore, while conclusions can be drawn directly from the words of the elite concerning their appraisal of Chinese identity, an understanding of local self-ascription can, unfortunately, only be surmised through second-hand observation.

     A heterogeneous picture has become visible, with elements of both self-pity as well as self-satisfaction. The important point here is that China was not merely a passive recipient of Western modernity and medical innovation, but was rather an active participant in the international scientific discourse and one of the leading countries in directing future anti-epidemic efforts. This initiative gave Chinese doctors, medical and government officials, and urban dwellers a sense of accomplishment which served to dispel the disparaging image of Chinese primitiveness propagated by the ethno-chauvinistic objective of Russian rhetoric. After the dust had settled, China could look at herself as both victim and victor, but certainly capable of managing her own affairs.


     In no way should this analysis of borderland identity formation be taken as axiomatic of all of Russian and Chinese society. If there is any universal logic we may uncover by investigating the severity and consequences of the Great Manchurian Plague, and indeed most other medical emergencies, it is this: when placed into situations of extreme crisis, both historical and modern participants in the struggle for life tend to behave in unpredictable ways, and their actions tend to be more reflective of the immediacy of the circumstances than of any overarching social or political influences which may be acting upon them. At first sight this may seem to be a relatively guarded conclusion, with reason grounded in the obvious tendency towards social disorganization and political chaos peoples and societies have historically demonstrated when their survival is at stake. But we have already proven this rule. Not every Russian commentator was categorically insensitive to the Chinese plight, which the sympathetic writings of Kirilov demonstrate. Other doctors displayed similar empathy, such as the Chinese-speaking Baron Roger Budberg, who believed it his duty to provide emotional relief to dying Chinese plague patients during their final hours in whatever way he could.57 Similarly, the waning and increasingly powerless Qing monarchy seemed to have little time to care for the suffering of its people in the uppermost margins of its empire, which might have shown how the cheapness of human life was reflected in the eyes of China's magistrates. It is this milieu of conflicting urban vs. rural, imperial vs. colonized, and scientific vs. humanistic approaches to the devastation which ravaged Manchuria unabated for six months which makes the study of identity formation during this period so fascinating.

     Historians of modern medicine, particularly those who look at the influence of epidemics and contagious diseases, have convincingly shown the likelihood that outbreaks of serious illnesses and national pandemics can foster political and social upheaval. They have equally focused their attention on the brutality involved in both the enforcement of national preventative measures as well as the local responses to these.58 In the case of Manchuria, the collection of medical texts and doctors' first-hand accounts made possible the creation of a more unified image of the region and its people, from which historians of the plague could craft an appropriate narrative to describe the political and social responses there.

     A dichotomous picture emerged in Russia which depicted China as helpless and in desperate need of Russian foreign intervention. This intervention was to come with the modernizing application of European medicine. China responded to these allegations with publications of its own which portrayed it as an independent, functional nation in the emerging modern world, quite capable of handling its own problems. Unfortunately, even if the Russian medical authorities in Harbin expressed genuine feelings of compassion for the plague victims they came into contact with, their sentimentality was always predicated on the condition of their superior knowledge and capability to bring about a definitive end to the epidemic. Thus, the medical conversation which emerged both during the plague and in its aftermath may be epitomized as a competition between the discourse of helplessness and of autonomy.

     But here again we do not want to oversimplify the issue. To admit a kind of predominance of this adversarial dichotomy of discourse is to imply that Russia was fully invested in creating a medicalized portrait of the native Chinese person at all, or that China was equally concerned with negating what was being said about it. This was a time in which both monarchies were facing serious challenges to the legitimacy of their authority and were on the brink of collapse. Additionally, if (at least at the time) China was looked at as lagging behind Russia and the rest of Europe in terms of its economic and scientific modernity, Russia was itself not a superpower, with an grossly underdeveloped heavy-industry sector very much reliant on European foreign investment. In fact Russia might have been considered the "weakest link" in an imagined chain of capitalist development which ran eastward from the most economically advanced countries of Western Europe and terminated at the Ural Mountains, Russia's eastern-most European extension.59 Accordingly, there had existed in Russia the tendency to look at Asia as the one part of the world in which its positivistic hegemony was indisputable.

     For their part, the Chinese were aware of the belittling attitude Europeans had of Asia. But as many historians of China have pointed out, there were multifarious internal dynamics in the late-imperial Chinese bureaucracy and society which played just as much of a role in forming a Chinese self-image as did European opinions about it.60  Thus historians of the epidemic seeking to understand borderland-identity crafting must complement their knowledge of the transnational interface between Russia and China with the internal mechanics of management and power which also motivated their behavior. The ways in which each nation imagined both citizen and subject at the edges of empire was reflected as a discourse of both "other" and "self". The study of the Great Manchurian Plague allows for a revelation of these discourses during a period of time in which their realities were unmasked and magnified by crisis.

Michael J. Corsi is currently a Master's Candidate at the University of Hawaii at Manoā. His field of study is late Imperial and Soviet Russia, and his research focuses on the history of Russian medicine and the growth of professional classes throughout the revolutionary period. He can be contacted at


1 Frederic Barth has argued that certain preconceived "boundaries" that exist between people are cultural, and are used to explicitly set one ethnic unit against another in a logical and dynamic way. "When defined as an ascriptive and exclusive group, the nature of continuity of ethnic units is clear: it depends on the maintenance of a boundary." Frederic Barth, "Introduction" in Ethnic Groups and Boundaries: The Social Organization of Cultural Difference (Illinois: Waveland Press, Inc., 1969), 14.

2 Carol Benedict has done exceptional work in outlining the origins, spread, and responses to this plague from the remote regions of Yunnan in her book, Bubonic Plague in Nineteenth-Century China, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996).

3 William C. Summers, The Great Manchurian Plague of 19101911: The Geopolitics of an Epidemic Disease, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012), 125–129. Summers, who earned his PhD in molecular biology from the University of Wisconsin, contends that particular subgroup, or "biovar", of the plague bacillus Yersinia pestis which affected the region in Manchuria was not the same as the orientalis biovar which spread from Hong Kong across the Atlantic to California and southwest into India and eventually Africa. His research suggests that rather that a secondary biovar, microtus, which locates its ancestral origins in Central Asia, was responsible for the Manchurian epidemic.

4 For a further discussion of the ethnic composition of these empires, see Andreas Kappeler, The Russian Empire: A Multiethnic History, (Pearson Education Limited, 2001) and Pamela Kyle Crossley, Helen F. Siu, and Donald S. Sutton, Empire at the Margins: Culture, Ethnicity, and Frontier in Early Modern China, (Berkley: University of California Press, 2005), both of which have received positive reviews and provide a valuable overview.

5 Rosemary K.I. Quested, "Matey" Imperialists? The Tsarist Russians in Manchuria, 18951917, (Hong Kong: University of Hong Kong, 1982), 22.

6 Correspondent in China, "Notes from China," Lancet I (1911), 775, taken from William Summers, 1.

7 N. V. Kirilov, Morovaia iazva ili liudskaia chuma na dalnem vostok, (Vladivostok: 1910), 46.

8 It needs to be emphasized here, however, that the "Chinese inhabitants" of the Russian Far East is a category that encompasses an extremely wide range of different ethnic groups. Manchuria and the environs surrounding it is home to a large number of different nomadic, semi-nomadic, and settled peoples including the Buriats, Baskirs, Mongols, and transient groups of traders and colonial prospectors from Germany, Russia, Korea, and Japan.  Similarly, the Chinese themselves were not one unified, homogenous group, and the region under consideration contained members of both the ethnic Manchu and Han Chinese peoples. However, throughout the remainder of this text, I will employ the vocabulary utilized in the Russian medical publications, which made little attempt to distinguish between these different peoples and instead conceptualized them all as the "Chinese inhabitants" or "victims".

9 There have been, however, a few attempts to describe Russian empire building and the question of ethnicity in East Asia. See, for example, Mark Bassin, Imperial Visions: Nationalist Imagination and Geographical Expansion in the Russian Far East, 18401865 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999) and Nicholas V. Riasanovsky, "Asia through Russia's Eyes" in Russia and Asia; Essays on the Influence of Russia on the Asian Peoples, (Stanford, Hoover Institution Press, 1972).

10 Peter Zarrow After Empire: The Conceptual Transformation of the Chinese State, 18851924, (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2012), 147–180.

11 Thomas Mullaney, Coming to Terms with the Nation: Ethnic Classification in Modern China, (Berkley: University of California Press, 2011.

12 Frances L. Bernstein, Christopher Burton, and Dan Healy, ed., Soviet Medicine: Culture, Practice, and Science (Illinois: Northern Illinois University Press, 2010), 10.

13 David Schimmelpennick van der Oye, Russian Orientalism: Asia in the Russian Mind from Peter the Great to the Emigration (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010), 224–240.

14 William C. Summers provides an excellent overview of how economic interests and international colonial policy in China played a critical part in shaping the handling of the situation in The Great Manchurian Plague of 19101911.

15 Mark Bassin, Imperial Visions: Nationalist Imagination and Geographical Expansion in the Russian Far East, 18401865 (Cambridge University Press, 1999), 2.

16 John T. Alexander, Bubonic Plague in Early Modern Russia: Public Health & Urban Disaster. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980.

17 Paula A. Michael, Curative Powers: Medicine and Empire in Stalin's Central Asia, (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003).

18 Dmitry Mikhel, "Fighting Plague in Southeast European Russia, 1917–1925: A Case Study in Early Soviet Medicine" in Soviet Medicine: Culture, Practice, and Science (Illinois: Northern Illinois University Press, 2010), 66.

19 Pyotr Shchusev, Kratchaishee rukovodstvo dlia pomoshchnikov vrachei i sluzhashchago personala protivochumnykh otriadov, (Vladivostok: "Dalenaia Okrana", 1911), 7.

20 Ibid, 16.

21 Ibid, 17.

22 Ruth Rogaski does an excellent job highlighting some of the most influential encroachments of European medical modernity from the mid-19th century onward in Hygienic Modernity. John Fitzgerald similarly discusses the argument adopted by revolutionaries such as Sun Yatsen that revolutionary change could be accomplished in China only if China's lower classes could be convinced to assume better care of their personal hygiene and etiquette so as to fall more in line with sensibilities conforming to Western standards in Awakening China: Politics, Culture, and Class in the Nationalist Revolution (Sanford: Stanford University Press, 1996).

23 Information concerning Kirilov's revolutionary past can be found in Riudenko, Iu.T., Entsiklopediia Zabaikal'ia, Kirilov, N.V., (accessed Feb. 22, 2017).

24 Kirilov, Morovaia iazva, 34–36.

25 Ibid, 36.

26 Ibid, 48.

27 "Chumagon", Krasnoe Znamia, March 30, 1991.

28 Kirilov, Morovaia iazva, 56.

29 Ibid, 60.

30 As described by Said, Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1979).

31 See for example, Homi Bhabha, "The Other Question: Difference, Discrimination, and the Discourse of Colonialism" in Out There: Marginalization and Contemporary Cultures, ed. Russell Ferguson, et. al. (New York: MIT Press, 1990), 71–89, and Arturo Escobar, Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), 11.

32 Ruth Rogaski, Hygienic Modernity: Meanings of Health and Disease in Treaty-Port China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), 177.

33 Kirilov, Morovaia iazva, 51.

34 Carol Benedict, Bubonic Plague in Nineteenth-Century China (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1996) 7–8.

35 Wu Lien-Teh, Plague Fighter: The Autobiography of a Modern Chinese Physician (Cambridge: W. Heffer & Sons LTD: 1959) 29.

36 Robert Strong, Report of the International Plague Conference Held at Mukden, April 1911 (Manilla: Bureau of Printing: 1912) 205.

37 Carol Benedict, Bubonic Plague in Nineteenth-Century China (Stanford, Stanford University Press: 1996), 110.

38 Andrew F. Jones, Developmental Fairy Tales: Evolutionary Thinking and Modern Chinese Culture (Cambridge, Harvard University Press: 2011), 1–27.

39 A note must be made that, due to the paucity of primary-sources from Harbin and other affected areas, either because of peasant illiteracy or a general lack of preservation, I am making this conclusion entirely from second-hand Russian primary sources and from English-language secondary sources on the Chinese peasantry. The conclusion here mentioned is admittedly tenuous and could be strengthened with the accretion of more victim-narratives and other first-hand accounts to the scholarly database.

40 Anonymous Correspondent, "Plague in Manchuria," The North-China Daily News, Jan. 19, 1911. A note must be made here regarding the veracity of these newspaper sources to the actual opinions of Chinese living in the cities. The North-China Daily News was an English-language British operated newspaper published out of Shanghai founded by the British auctioneer Henry Shearman. It was produced largely for an English-speaking audience and became one of the most influential newspapers in Britain at the time regarding politics and society in China. It would be easy to write off the editorials and articles in this paper, as with others which will be cited in this section, as nothing more than reflections of British prejudice and propaganda against its Chinese colonial possessions. However, such a view is overly narrow and limits the full spectrum of discourse which the periodical represented. It is my belief that, at least to some extent, the North-China Daily News and other foreign-language newspapers published in China must have reflected the opinions and sentimentalities of the urban population to some extent.

41 Kirilov, Morovaia iazva, 54.

42 Anonymous Correspondent, "Panic-Stricken Workmen," The North-China Daily News, Feb. 2, 1911.

43 Anonymous Correspondent, "Notes," The North-China Daily News, Feb. 2, 1911.

44 Robert Strong, Report, 1912.

45 In Said's sense.

46 Wu Lien-Teh, Plague Fighter, 10,12.

47 Ibid, 18.

48 Ibid, 448.

49 Yuan, of course, but Wu refers to them as "Chinese dollars" in his autobiography.

50 Wu Lien-Teh, Plague Fighter, 469.

51 Ibid, 449.

52 Ibid, 375.

53 Carl F. Nathan, Plague Prevention and Politics in Manchuria, 19101931 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967), 64–72.

54 Minister P.S. Reinsch's dispatch No. 795 from Peking, October 23, 1915, NA, 158.931/209, taken from Carl Nathan, Plague Prevention, 42.

55 Adroitly exemplified in Said by Balfour's refusal to let the subaltern Egyptian subject "speak for himself".

56 Said, Orientalism, 33.

57 Mark Gamsa, "The Epidemic of Pneumonic Plague in Manchuria 1910–1911", The Past and Present Society No. 190 (February 2006), 158.

58 The rich historiography on the influence of disease on Russian social stability has been treated very thoroughly by John T. Alexander in his Bubonic Plague in Early Modern Russia: Public Health & Urban Disaster and Charlotte E. Henze in Disease, Health Care and Government in Late Imperial Russia: Life and Death on the Volga, 18231914. Alexander's focus, in part, rests on the moribund quarantine system in Moscow during outbreak and how its implementation led to social revolt. Henze directly states in her monograph "Russia's cholera outbreak of 1892 undoubtedly confirms Asa Briggs's and Louis Chevalier's insight that Asiatic cholera provides a fruitful means of exploring life and living conditions in a given society (pg. 3)." Ruth Rogaski's Hygienic Modernity provides one of the richest accounts of the effects of late imperial medicine on colonial Chinese society. Of particular interest is her focus on the problematic and often times patronizing implementation of the Japanese rendition of eisei in Tianjin.

59 Alexander Gerschenkron, Economic Backwardness in Historical Perspective (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1962).

60 Paul A. Cohen, "Toward a China-Centered History of China," Discovering History in China: American Historical Writing on the Recent Chinese Past (Columbia University Press, 1984), 149–198.

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