Siege of Weihaiwei, 1895 Ting Yuan Heroic Deeds "Peace" Essay in Chinese

Diameter 155 cm (5.083 feet); wheel revolvable
Photo taken by L Chor, July 1996

HE SINO-JAPANESE WAR OF 1894-1895 was fought over the control of Korea, nominally a tributary state of China at the time. China lost all battles on land and at sea. Major battles were the sea battle of the Yellow Sea, the siege of Pyongyang in Korea, and the siege of Weihaiwei. By the Treaty of Shimonoseki signed at Chun fan lou (Shunpanro in Japanese) in April 1895, China had to recognise the "independence" of Korea, cede Taiwan and neighbouring islands to Japan, and pay an indemnity of 0.23 billion taels of silver. The war was the first stage of Japan's continental policy of expansion.

The major concluding battle of the war was the siege of Weihaiwei in Shangdong peninsula in January and February 1895, during which Ting Yuan, flagship of the North Ocean Fleet of China, was hit by one or two torpedoes. Japanese soldiers subsequently boarded the badly damaged ship, took the steering wheel which fortunately was intact. Admiral ITO Sukeyuki (1843-1914) of the Japaese United Fleet later presented the steering wheel to Thomas B. Glover (1838-1911), an influential Scottish merchant in Japan at the time and founder of Kirin beer company. Thomas Glover was then advisor to the giant Mitsubishi shipping line the merchant ships of which were commissioned to transport army during the war. Probably because of this Glover received from Admiral Ito the steering wheel of Ting Yuan as a token of appreciation.

With ingenuity, Thomas Glover had a three-legged base fitted to the steering wheel of Ting Yuan, turning it into a revolving coffee table for his luxury harbour-side home, the Glover House, in the city of Nagasaki. Link to Glover Garden, Nagasaki

In the 1970s, this Ting Yuan coffee table was on public display in the living room of Glover House in Glover Garden, Nagasaki. It was removed to storage some time afterwards.

Ting Yuan is no more. Like so many historical ironies, because her steering wheel is a trophy in Japan, at least this pivotal piece which gave direction to the 7,400-ton ironclad turret ship has escaped the fate of becoming rotten wood undersea.

Words on the hub of the wheel
"With this Steering Wheel, Safe Sailing Guaranteed
Like an Eagle Flying for Ten Thousand Miles"
--- calligraphy by SAITO Makoto (1858-1936),
Navy Admiral & Prime Minister of Japan

Photo above taken by L Chor, July 1996

In July 1891, three years before the war, Admiral Ding Yuchang led Ting Yuan and seven warships of the North Ocean Fleet to visit Japan. Here Ting Yuan is at anchor in the harbour of Nagasaki. No one at the time would have ever dreamed that some years later her steering wheel would become a unique piece of furniture in the hillside residence of Thomas Glover which itself was overlooking the harbour.

Photo reproduced from Ichioku-nin no Showa shi (Tokyo: Mainichi Shinbunsha, 1977), vol. 13, p. 13.


The Gardener's interest in the flagship Ting Yuan was aroused by an illustrated essay on the Glover Garden in the book Ri ying xing written by the author Xiao Si (Professor W. L. Lo), who in our subsequent correspondence gave me most encouraging and heartening comments. The Gardener is also thankful to the Management of the Glover Garden in Nagasaki for their showing me the steering wheel which in 1996 was not on public display any more.




From the Gardener, Canada, December 1999. Revised July 2015.