Empire in Asia

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The Tientsin Convention, 1885

The Convention was an attempt to reduce tension in Korea after the Gapsin Coup occurred, pitting the pro-Chinese conservative party against the pro-Japanese Korean progressive clique, in 1884. Given that China and Japan maintained considerable influence over Korea, this stirred serious political and military tension. The main content of the Convention was to ensure the withdrawal of both Chinese and Japanese troops from the Korean domain within four months, and also assure that the two countries would not dispatch military advisers to assist the Korean national army’s modernization. In addition, it was agreed that each country would previously notify the other if it sent troops back into Korea. The document indicates the real beginning of deteriorating relations and strategic competition between Qing China and Meiji Japan, as the latter steadily increased in power and ambition.

Convention of Tientsin — April 18, 1885











大清国特派全権大臣太子太伝文華殿大学士北洋通商大臣 兵部尚書直隷総督一等粛毅伯爵李


画押蓋印の日より起り4箇月を以て期とし、 限内に各々数を尽して撤回するを行い、以て両国滋端の虞あることを免る。




大清国特派全権大臣太子太伝文華殿大学士北洋通商大臣 兵部尚書直隷総督一等粛毅伯爵李


        Ito, Ambassador Extraordinary of the Great Empire of Japan, Minister of State and of the Imperial Household, First Class of the Order of the Rising Sun, and Count of the Empire;

        Li, Special Plenipotentiary of the Great Empire of China, Grand Guardian of the Heir Apparent, Senior Grand Secretary of State, Superintendent of the North Sea Trade, President of the Board of War, Viceroy of Chihli, and Count Shinu-ki [Su-i] of the First Rank;

        In obedience to the decrees which each of them respectively is bound to obey, after conference held, have agreed upon a Convention with a view to preserving and promoting friendly relations (between the two Great Empires), the articles of which are set down in order as follows: —

        It is hereby agreed that China shall withdraw her troops now stationed in Corea, and that Japan shall withdraw hers stationed therein for the protection of her Legation.  The specific term for effecting the same shall be four months, commencing from the date of the signing and sealing of this Convention, within which terms they shall respectively accomplish the withdrawal of the whole number of each of their troops, in order to avoid effectively any complications between the respective countries: the Chinese troops shall embark from Masan-po, and the Japanese from the port of Ninsen.

        The said respective Powers mutually agree to invite the King of Corea to instruct and drill a sufficient armed force, that she may herself assure her public security, and to invite him to engage into his service an officer or officers from amongst those of a third Power, who shall be entrusted with the instruction of the said force.  The respective Powers also bind themselves, each to the other, henceforth not to send any of their own officers to Corea for the purpose of giving said instruction.

        In case [of] any disturbances of a grave nature occurring in Corea which necessitates the respective countries, or either of them, to send troops to Corea, it is hereby understood that they shall give, each to the other, previous notice in writing of their intention so to do, and that after the matter is settled they shall withdraw their troops and not further station them there.

        Signed and sealed this 18th day of the 4th month of the 18th year of Meiji (Japanese calendar).

        The 4th day of the 3rd moon of the 11th year of Kocho [Kuang Hsü] (Chinese calendar).

                    (Signed and sealed)                        ITO,

                                                                        Ambassador Extraordinary of the Great Empire of Japan, etc., etc., etc.

                     (Signed and sealed)                        LI,

                                                                        Special Plenipotentiary of the Great Empire of China, etc., etc., etc. 

United States Department of State. Index to the executive documents of the House of Representatives for the first session of the forty-ninth Congress, 1885-1886. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1885-1886. pp. 563-564

A complete and original version of the Tientsin Convention, written in Chinese and Japanese, is available here.

Annotated by Miriam Kaminishi