The First Ever Chinese Medal

The “Warrior Merit Medal”, issued by China in 1860 (in gold, handmade, also available in silver). This handmade gold medal for meritorious deeds and achievements was manufactured in 1860. As of today, it is the first documented medal manufactured and issued by China.

In the beginning of 1860, Taip’ing Rebels waged the War of Hangchow and swept across Kiangsoo and Chekiang provinces with crushing force. After Lord Chung—Li Hsiu-ch’eng of Taip’ing Rebels totally routed the barracks in South of Yangtze River, Taip’ing Rebels’ eastern conquest embarked on Shanghai. In an effort to hold Shanghai, a local officer named Wu-hsi, along with others, organized the Frederick Townsend Ward Foreign Army Corps. The Corps employed about 200 Euro-American and Southeast Asian mercenaries on June 2nd, 1860. In the middle of July, this army launched a successful surprise attack on Songchiang. Since then, comprador-gentry in Shanghai managed to keep private mercenary troops of their own. Between August 18 and 21, 1860, as Li Hsiu-ch’eng and his 3,000 rebels were marching into Shanghai, 900 British and French soldiers united force with Qing soldiers and fought back. The rebels were forced to retreat. This type of handmade gold medals for meritorious deeds and achievements and other silver ones were speculated to be granted by the local government of Shanghai to foreign soldiers who had rendered outstanding service in the war.

On January 3, 1862, foreign taxpayers in Shanghai Concession organized the so-called “Foreign Army Defense Association”. Ten days later, gentry in Shanghai founded “Shanghai Sino-Foreign Army Defense Bureau”. When Taip’ing Rebels leashed two attacks on Shanghai in 1862, Qing military forces stationed in Shanghai, British and French soldiers, the Frederick Townsend Ward Foreign Army Corps, and the Huai Army rushed to the rescue of Shanghai in April, 1862 under the command of Li Hung-chang. The joint forces routed the attacking Taip’ing Rebels. During this period, the medals for meritorious deeds and achievements awarded to foreign soldiers for their outstanding service were speculated to be the gold or silver ones custom made overseas by machine.

[article source: China Qing Dynasty Medals 中國清代徽章 ISBN: 978-0-9781539-3-9]

Frederick Townsend Ward, commander of the Ever-Victorious Army.

Old city walls of Shanghai during 1860s.

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