Battle of Palikao

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Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. The Battle of Palikao (French: Le Combat de Palikao, Chinese: 八里橋之戰; pinyin: Bālǐqiáo zhī zhàn; literally: "Battle of the Eight-Mile Bridge") was fought at the bridge of Palikao by Anglo-French forces against the Qing Empire during the Second Opium War on the morning of 21 September 1860. It allowed Western forces to take the capital Beijing and eventually defeat the Qing Empire.[1]


The Anglo French force had been trying for two years to get to Peking, in 1858 the signing of a peace treaty stopped the potential visit after capturing the Taku Forts that defended the river, which were returned to the Qing army. In 1859 an armed attempt to enter the river was stopped by barriers across the river that resulted in a dramatic defeat of the Anglo French forces when they tried to take the forts from the river direction.

Sailing from Hong Kong in July, the capture of the Taku Forts on 21 August 1860 had opened up the river route to Peking, the Chinese authorities at the fort had capitulated all 22 forts along the river as far as Tientsin, including that town.[2]:514

The aim of the allied French-British expedition was to compel the Chinese government at Peking to observe the trade treaties signed between their governments at Tiajian (Tientsin) in 1858, which included allowing the British to continue the opium trade in China. Lieutenant General Sir Hope Grant[3] was the British commander with Charles Cousin-Montauban, Comte de Palikao in charge of the French.


The combined Anglo-French force marched in a leisurely manner from the Taku Forts, with the French on one side of the river, the British on the other. Tianjin was reached on 1 September 1860 and negotiations were opened with Peking.[2]:514

The negotiators, led by Sir James Hope Grant under a flag of truce, were captured by the Qing forces which led to an immediate cessation of negotiations.[2]:514

The army advanced from Tianjin with a cavalry screen and when they reached Chang-Kia-Wan they met a large Chinese army with a five-mile front.[4] There was a skirmish between cavalry, then with the allied artillery silencing the Chinese artillery, the Chinese army scattered and retired.[4]

Two days later, on 20 September the cavalry discovered the Chinese army in a strong position in front of a canal connecting Peking with the Pei-Ho river, with two bridges at Baliqiao. The allied army attacked frontally and the cavalry attacked from the left forcing the Chinese back over the two bridges.[4] Trapped by the canal the Anglo-French force inflicted massive losses on the Qing army. Beijing was invaded thereafter.[5]

On the Qing side, Sengge Rinchen's troops, including elite Mongolian cavalry, were completely annihilated after several doomed frontal charges against concentrated firepower from the allied forces.


With the Qing army devastated, the Xianfeng Emperor fled the capital, leaving his brother, Prince Gong, to be in charge of negotiations.

Negotiations centered around the release of the prisoners, The talks failed and on 11 October engineers threw up works and batteries to break through the walls of Peking. Everything was ready that evening when at 11.30 pm the gate opened and the city surrendered.[2]:514

The prisoners had been taken to the Ministry of Justice (or Board of Punishments) in Beijing, where they were confined and tortured. Parkes and Loch were returned with 14 other survivors. Twenty British, French and Indian captives died. Their bodies were barely recognisable.[6]

The Anglo-French forces entered Beijing. Anglo-French troops in Beijing began looting the Summer Palace and the Old Summer Palace. Harry Smith Parkes and the surviving diplomatic prisoners had been freed, Lord Elgin ordered the Summer Palaces be burnt down, starting on 18 October. The destruction of the Forbidden City was even discussed, as proposed by Elgin to discourage the Qing Empire from using kidnapping as a bargaining tool, and to exact revenge for the mistreatment of their prisoners.[7]

The French troops were led by Charles Guillaume Cousin-Montauban, who was then awarded the title of "Count of Palikao" and a decade later, was made the 31st prime minister by Napoléon III.

In the Treaty of Tientsin, the Qing court agreed to all Western demands, including the payment of indemnities and the acceptance of foreign diplomats at the imperial court in Beijing. Because neither Qing nor Western diplomats discussed the opium trade, the treaty effectively liberalized it.


  1. Mourre 1968, p. 500
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  3. Grant, Sir James Hope in Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th edition
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found.
  5. Boulger 1893, p. 383
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  • Boulger, Demetrius Charles (1893). China. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 1-4179-1627-3.
  • de Saint-Amand, Imbert; Martin, Elizabeth Gilbert (1912). Napoleon III at the Height of His Power. Charles Scribner's Sons.
  • Mourre, Michel (1968). Dictionnaire D'histoire Universelle. Éditions universitaires.

Further reading

  • Luxembourg, Rosa The Accumulation of Capital Chapter 28: The introduction of the commodity economy [1]

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