Altai, also known as Altai, covers an area of 110,000 square kilometers and is located in northernmost part of Xinjiang, bordering Outer Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Russia. Altai Krai is common name of Altai Mountains, Russia includes State of Altai and Republic of Altai. The Altai Territory of China is only a part of Altai Territory. Although area of Altai Krai is less than one-tenth that of Xinjiang, it is a treasure land. It is rich in water resources, with 56 large and small rivers, known as "water tower" of Xinjiang.
Xinjiang was called "Western regions" in ancient times, but Altai Territory in ancient times did not belong to western regions. During Han Dynasty, it belonged to "right land" of Xiongnu, and during Eastern Han Dynasty, it was fiefdom of King Huyan, a strong northern Xiongnu tribe. After decline of Xiongnu, they were successively under jurisdiction of Xianbei, Ruan, Turkic, Tile, Ge Luolu, Miaoga, Khitan, and other ethnic groups. During Mongol period, Naimans and other tribes lived here. During Ming Dynasty, it belonged to Moxi Mongolia. During Qing Dynasty, Minister of Hobdo Affairs and Minister of Hobdo Affairs were placed under jurisdiction of General Uliasutai, which is today Outer Mongolia.
Location of Altai Territory
At end of Qing Dynasty, Russia continued to expand into Central Asia and forced Qing Dynasty to sign treaties such as "Report on Survey and Division of North-Western Frontier", according to which territory of Qihe and part of Altai Territory to Russia. After that, Russia continued to infiltrate forces into Outer Mongolia. After fall of Qing Dynasty, Outer Mongolia became independent with Russian support. Eventually, China and Russia signed "Sino-Russian-Mongolian Agreement" of 1915, which stipulated that suzerainty of Outer Mongolia belonged to China, but was entitled to autonomy. China cannot station troops in Outer Mongolia. This made Outer Mongolia effectively controlled by Russia.
At that time, Beiyang government sent Chen Lu and Chen Yi to a base in Outer Mongolia. In 1917, Tsarist Russian Empire collapsed due to First World War, and princes and nobles of Outer Mongolia hoped to seize opportunity to shake off Russian control and return to China. Chen Yi saw that time was favorable for China, so he telegraphed Beiyang government to send troops to Outer Mongolia. At Chen Yi's repeated requests, Beiyang government finally sent troops to Outer Mongolia in 1918 and returned Tangnu Wulianghai.
After that, he strongly demanded that Altai Territory be annexed to Xinjiang. It turned out that during Qianlong period, Turkhut tribe, one of Western Mongols, returned to east, Qianlong settled them in Xinjiang, and some of them settled in Altai region, which belonged to Outer Mongolia. After fall of Qing Dynasty, Outer Mongolia became independent and Turgut tribe was unwilling to follow independence of Outer Mongolia. At that time, Russia continued to expand here. After return of Outer Mongolia, Altai Territory was separated into a separate administrative region. Chen Yi believes that Altai Territory is isolated and helpless and can be annexed to Russia at any moment. Therefore, he demanded that Altai Territory be included in Xinjiang.
In 1918 and 1919, he presented Beiyang government with two documents containing thousands of words, and demonstrated in detail "ten benefits" of transfer of Altai to Xinjiang, as well as "second danger" of internal strife and external troubles that Altai faced. Eventually Beiyang government agreed with him. On June 1, 1919, Altai Territory was included in province of Xinjiang.
This measure by Chen Yi really saved some land for China. Thereafter, Xu Shuzheng led an army into Outer Mongolia, causing Chen Yi's efforts to rebuild Outer Mongolia to be lost. Xu Shuzheng was arrogant in Outer Mongolia and created serious ethnic conflicts. What he did caused Mongol prince to lose confidence in Republic of China. He left and Outer Mongolia became virtually independent with help of Soviet Union. However, due to fact that Altai Territory was assigned to province of Xinjiang, Altai Territory may remain within territory of China.
Chen Yi looks like Zuo Zongtang in Republic of China, but he is a man of letters. He looks more like Ban Chao from Eastern Han Dynasty - throws down his pen and joins army. He made a great contribution to protection of borders of China, but now few people know him, and his reputation was crushed by another Chen Yi, and he became unknown.