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More About General Liú Yǒngfú 劉永福
Just as Louis David managed to remain a government portrait painter before the French Revolution, through the Revolution, and after the dust settled, and just as Boticelli managed to remain a prominent Italian artist before, during, and after the reign of Savonarola, so in China Liú Yǒngfú 劉永福 (1837–1917) was himself a survivor through untoward and stormy events over a century ago.
The Tàipíng Period.
He was a general in the Tàipíng Rebellion (still called the "Heavenly Kingdom of the Great Peace" 太平天國 in Chinese, despite the millions of lives lost over it).
He fought on behalf of the rebels against the Qīng 清 emperor.
He lost and quickly surrendered.
But in the martial arts world he was said to be a high kicker.
The Qīng Anti-Imperialist Period
Having surrendered, he explained that he had never really liked the rebels anyway and he was actually a great patriot and had always loved the emperor.
Since he was a great patriot who had always loved the emperor, he and his troops were invited to join the Qīng government forces fighting the French in the Chinese protectorate of Vietnam, who were rambunctiously invading just then, as they did from time to time.
He lost, what with the French using firearms and all.
But he still kicked high.
The Táiwān Republic Period
In 1895 the emperor ceded Táiwān to Japan, and the island became part of the Empire of the Rising Sun, precipitating a rebellion and the founding of a short-lived "Taiwan Republic."
Liú turned up as the leader of his very own "Black Flag Army," resisting the Japanese occupation and engaging in occasional profitable pillaging and looting.
He explained that he had not really liked the Chinese emperor very much, and was happy to help rebels resist efforts to carry out His Majesty's will.
He lost, although he did pick up the sobriquet "Black Flag Liú" 黑旗劉.
Nobody said much about his kicking, but I understand that black flags (Taiwanese: ơ-khî-á 黑旗仔) are still a euphemism for split pants in some circles in Táiwān.
The Qīng Period
He returned to China, with his fellow split-pants soldiers.
He explained that he had always loved the emperor, had been mixed up with the Taiwan rebels only in an effort to restrain them, and had actually been happy to assist in the peaceful transfer of Táiwān to Japan.
He was proclaimed a great general.
The Sun Yat-sen Period
During the 1911 revolution, as the Qīng Dynasty was overthrown and the Republic of China was being founded, Liú explained that he was a heartfelt republican and had always hated the emperor, whom he found completely disgusting.
He was therefore pleased to add his Black Flags to something called the Guǎngdōng People's Group 廣東民團.
He was going to lose.
But at that moment Sun Yat-sen's honorary military governor (jìmíng tídū 記名提督), WǓ Quánměi 吳全美, invited a martial arts champion named HUÁNG Fēihóng 黃飛鴻 ("Huáng the Flying Goose" 1856-1925) to become the trainer of troops.
Sun's rebel troops all learned well, and the imperial forces collapsed before Liú had an opportunity to lose to them.
Sun Yat-sen was made president.
General Liú Yǒngfú was proclaimed a great hero (again).