Monday, 19 April 2010

Mannerheim and Paul Pelliot

Two years ago I bought a photograph in Musee Guimet in Paris, originally made of Paul Pelliot in January 1908 in Qomoul (Ha-Mi).

This photograph, taken by Charles Nouette shows Paul Pelliot surrounded by Yang Jinbang, the military mandarin and Liu Runtong, the civil mandarin and their escort.

Especially the comment of Paul Pelliot is very amusing as he writes: "Nous allons voir le mandarin civil et y trouvons aussi le mandarin militaire; ces deux bons vieux y passent leur temps a jouer aux cartes ensemble. [...] Tous deux essaient de se deshabituer de l'opium avec force de drogues..."

The intriguing figure, at first glance is the the person on the right as he looks familiar to a similar person on a photograph in the book "Ratsain halki Aasian" by Mannerheim.
Below is an enlargment of this person on the photo with Paul Pelliot:

This person, according to Paul Pelliot, the civil mandarin, Liu Runtong looks very familiar to a person on a photograph with Mannerheim:

This photograph was taken in March 1907 in the city of Aksu and shows Mannerheim with the daotai of Aksu to his right and the dshentai to his left.
An enlargment of the person to the left of Mannerheim shows that this person resembles Liu Runtong mainly because of the similar clothing and his mustache but at the other hand he looks definitely younger than the person on the photo of Paul Pelliot (which is from January 1908)

Furthermore, according to Mannerheim this person is the miltary mandarin Tan (and therefore not a civil mandarin)and the location (Aksu) is a long way from Ha-Mi.

Therefor we decided to look at photo's taken bij Mannerheim in Ha-Mi and found this particular photograph, taken in Ha-Mi of the dshentai of Barkul (the Mohammedan ruler of Ha-Mi), probably the person on the foreground to the right and the sietai (probably the person on the left).
In the text of the book a little more is explainded about the sietai by the mentioning by Mannerheim that the local commander is called "Sietai Jang".

This person, on the foreground (Sietai Jang)to the left must be Yang Jinbang, the military mandarin in the photo from Paul Pelliot.
A second photo from that meeting in Ha-Mi with Mannerheim shows a.o the guards of Sientai Jang who resemble the guards in the photo from Paul Pelliot(see below).

The relevance of this article is that there was a known direct link between both major players in "The Great Game", they travelled a part of the route even together but Paul Pelliot discovered what was still left of the treasures of Dun Huang (after Aurel Stein had been there first)and Mannerheim did not.
Although they travelled apart, they must have met a lot of the same players and rulers in this particular area.
The focus in the literature is logically on the documents and paintings of Dun Huang, who found them and who did not but the persons on the background are equally interesting especially when they resurface through photographs.

To learn more about the history of Paul Pelliot and Mannerheim, read the article below ( from

"In 1906 a French scientist Paul Pelliot asked for permission to start a scientific expedition from Russia to China. The estimated length of the expedition was two years and the route as follows: Tashkent - Kashgar - Kutsha - Lobnor - Shatshzhou - Shi-an-fu - Ta-tong-fu - Peking.

The objectives of the expedition were scientific: arhaeological, geographical, ethnograpic, linguistic, historical and biological.
In those days the Russian main staff considered it very important to acquire information about the Heavenly Empire, particularly about the conditions in the border areas. Measures were taken in western China to reorganize the army according to Japanese model, so that this territory could be colonized by the Chinese and joined more permanently to China proper. There were also active British interest spheres in the area, and Dalai Lama had been forced to take refuge in eastern Turkestan. With the consent of Foreign and War Ministries, the decision was made to take advantage of the Pelliot expedition and to acquire the permission of the French government to include a Russian officer as a "civilian" in the expedition. He was to be equipped with all kinds of means, appropriate for ethnological and biological research. According to various programmes, he was to assemble military intelligence about the western and northern border provinces of China, the reforms in the army and government and the military political situation as well as the march routes from Russia in the direction of Lanzhou and Peking.

The chief of the main staff, Palitshyn, chose Mannerheim to be the representative in the expedition, because he was acquainted with China, Pelliot knew him or at least knew about him, he was fluent in several languages, was of Finnish origin (and was able to use the Finnish passport instead of the Russian one) and met the other requirements that he would be confronted with. The final decision was reached in 1906. For his commanding mission Mannerheim was afforded two years’ salary in advance, the travelling costs from St Petersburg to Peking, money for equipment, and additional salary amounting to 15,000 francs a year. Nevertheless, the Finnish Colonel had to collect money for ethonological and historical research also from Finland. The trip eventually lasted for more than two years, and the general staff had to make corrections to their estimate.

Pelliot was favourably disposed towards Mannerheim’s participation in the expedition, but in addition to the permission of the French government, he required that the officer in question would be subordinated to him in all matters concerning the route and management of the expedition. All the arrangements were to be made in a fashion that would not arouse any suspicions or ill-will in the Chinese authorities. Pelliot asked for support and financial assistance for the expedition. In return, he promised that any observations and results of interest would be at the disposal of the Russians after the expedition.

Mannerheim travelled in the company of the French explorers from Tashkent to Kashgar, from July till October 1906. Louis Vaillant, a medical officer of the 2nd rank in the Colonial Army, and photographer Charles Nouette were also members of the expedition. The relations between Pelliot and Mannerheim were strained to the utmost in questions of finance and command. Mannerheim found Pelliot stingy and extremely particular about his position as the leader of the expedition. After some negotiations Mannerheim disengaged himself from the subordinate position and formed his own expedition soon after they had crossed the Chinese border. Despite the plans he had made, Mannerheim never caught up with Pelliot’s expedition during the two years the trip lasted.

According to the mission he had been given, Mannerheim became familiar with the military situation in China, made notes in his diary, took photographs and drew sketches of maps. The authorities were very willing to give him information. Mannerheim spent a month in the autumn of 1908 in the Russian embassy of Peking arranging his notes, and after his return wrote an extensive report on the journey. He was also given a chance to introduce the results of the expedition to the Emperor. The main idea was to occupy the provinces of Sinkiang and Gansu and to cut China in two. The report was printed in 1909 for official use in the Russian army."

Next time we will take a look at the photo's of Aurel Stein of that period and try to find familiar faces and persons and bring them back to life.

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