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  • Last time we spoke, the British government was walking a tight rope between getting their tea fix and not being banned from trade with China. When Britain ended the East India company’s monopoly over the China trade, they assumed they could not be implicated in the illegal opium trade and they were soon proved very very wrong. Britain had managed to fix their silver problem, but at the cost of draining China’s silver and that tight rope they were walking, well they fell. China was becoming chaotic again, revolts were likely to be on the horizon. The Qing dynasty had had enough of the situation and began to crack down in the 1830’s more and more so. Now China is sending one man who had proven he knew how to stop the opium trade and soon he would wage war on the illicit trade.

    This episode is Lin Zexu vs big opium

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on the history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    Lin Zexu gave the strongest and swiftest voice of approval and he was no ordinary official. Lin Zexu was the son of a schoolteacher and proved to be a great student. He passed the brutal competitive examination in Beijing in 1811 at the age of 26 emerging top of his class. Working as a judge in the 1820’s he earned a reputation for fairness and the nickname “Lin, Clear as heaven” or “Lin the Clear sky” which was a testament to his incorruptibility. Over the years of his work he earned great renown as a pragmatic administrator deeply versed in how to deal with water management and flood relief. He was a rare official who could be relied upon to put the welfare of the people ahead of his own gain. He was frankly, incorruptible and because of this, in 1838 he was Emperor Daoguangs favorite minister and reached a rank comparable to Deng Tingzhen in Canton while being 10 years younger than him. He was a beacon of honesty and virtue in a time when the Qing government was full of corruption. One and a million as they say.

    Lin Zexu’s primary concerns had always been domestic, he had no dealings with foreigners as that was exclusively a Canton issue. Foreign relations were very far from his mind and this shaped his way of thinking. His main concerns were with the Chinese, not the foreigners when tackling the problem of opium. Lin Zexu was quite conservative and his support for suppressing opium was based on his abiding faith in moral suasion. When Huang Juezi made his proposal it marked a turning point for Lin Zexu. He seized on the proposal almost like a religious crusade and immediately offered the Emperor a detailed action plan. He recommended the confiscation and destruction of opium pipes and other equipment for using the drug. Local moral campaigns, education campaigns to teach the evils of opium to the people and active suppression of opium dens and corrupt officials. He also recommended medical treatments to help addicts wean off opium. He described various elixirs used to combat opium addiction.

    One thing of interest to me as my first degree is in neurobehavioral science, Lin Zexu talked about giving patients a mix of small amounts of opium combined with herbs that would make the patients sick. This idea has been used in the field of addiction and can be effective. The Idea is based on operant conditioning, by linking to the act of taking opium with a negative stimulus you might get the patient to be more and more reluctant to take the drug. I will attest this in practice is a hit or miss depending on the drug or action. Anyways Lin Zexu’s action plan was quite formidable and was hitting the issue at the source at multiple angles.

    After sending his action plan to the Emperor, Lin Zexu took the initiative to test it out in his provinces of Hunan and Hubei. In august of 1838 he launched the campaign first setting out to hospitals to treat addicts. Then he jailed dealers, issued proclamations condemning the use of the drug and ordered local officials to round up and destroy whatever opium or opium using equipment they could find. Reports began to pour into Beijing about the success of Lin Zexu’s plan. Tens of thousands of pipes were and ounces of opium were confiscated. Mind you 10 thousands ounces of opium was around 10 chests worth, during a time when 30,000 chests were coming into China annually. The pipes and opium were burnt publicly, which was a crucial element to the plan as they needed to prove to the public they indeed were destroying the substance, otherwise the public would assume they were taking it for themselves! Lin Zexu’s reports to the Emperor were increasingly triumphant and their tone pressed the urgency to unleash the action plan outside Hunan and Hubei. In September of 1838 Lin Zexu declared opium to be the largest problem the Qing dynasty was facing. “Before opium was widespread, those who smoked it only harmed themselves. The punishments of canning and exile were enough to keep them in line. But when its evil influence has penetrated into the whole country, the effect is tremendous. Laws should be put into rigid enforcement. If left in a lax state, then after a few decades, there will be no soldier in this Central Empire to fight against invaders, nor money to bear the military expenses. I have the fear, that if the evil be suffered to grow at this critical moment there may be no more chance for remedy”.

    In October of 1838, the Daoguang Emperor was leaning heavily towards initiating the suppression campaign while some of his officials still believed he might legalize opium. Those same officials were feeding Charles Elliot stories that at any moment the substance would be legalized and this influenced his actions. Then on November the 8th a Manchu official named Qishan who was the governor general of Zhili province reported the largest drug bust in the history of the Qing empire to that point. The confiscated opium was found in Tianjin, not too far away from Beijing. Qishan stated the opium had come from Canton through the Cantonese traders who managed to ship it north through various means. The major drug bust indicated to the Qing court, perhaps they needed to perform the same action in Canton. Emperor Daoguang then made the decision to summon Lin Zexu to Beijing in December of 1838. After the meeting, Emperor Daoguang tasked Lin Zexu with a mission to obliterate the opium trade in Canton. Lin Zexu would travel south as an imperial commissioner, holding the power to act on behalf of the Emperor, answerable to no other local officials. He would have command over all naval forces at Canton and Deng Tingzhen would give him support. Thus in early January of 1839, while Charles Elliot expected legalization of opium to be declared at any moment, Lin Zexu made his way to end the illicit trade once and for all.

    Charles Elliot was being fed false information about the ongoing court battle over the opium question in China and he worried about his lack of authority over the British subjects in Canton. If the opium smugglers provoked a crisis under his watch, he was placed in quite a predicament. The British traders and Chinese did not actually know what Elliot’s authority was and on many occasions tried to pry the information out of him. The English newspapers for example repeatedly asked him to clarify what his authorization was, but he refused to ever answer. Elliots became increasingly concerned with British sailors getting into fights with local chinese and organized a naval police force to deal with the issue. Yet when he began doing this he was scolded by Palmerston for overstepping his authority. “You have no power of your own authority to make any such regulations. The establishment of a system of police at Whampoa within the dominions of the Emperor of China was in violation of the absolute right of sovereignty enjoyed by independent states”.

    By the early winter of 1839 it seemed governor general Deng Tingzhen’s ongoing efforts to crackdown on the Chinese opium smugglers was working. As noted by William Jardine “Not a broker to be seen, nor an Opium pipe; they have all vanished. The authorities are seizing smokers, dealers and shopkeepers innumerable. We must hope for better times and brisker deliveries”. Up to this point Deng Tingzhen limited his actions towards the Chinese and did not target any foreigners. Occasional shots were fired between government boats and foreign smuggling vessels, but nothing had gotten out of hand. Then on December 3rd, a small drug bust was performed and 2 Chinese workers were caught smuggling opium for a British merchant. In response to the incident, Deng Tingzhen decided to make an official statement to the foreign community. On december 12 a small force of Qing soldiers went to the gates of the foreign factories and hammered a wooden cross on the gate indicating they were about to execute a convicted Chinese opium dealer. The site of the execution was to be in front of the foreign factories, obviously Deng Tingzheng was sending a message to the foreigners, that they were responsible for the man's execution.

    Its hard to know who acted out first. Elliot was at Whampoa and did not witness the event to come and those involved on the British side said they had no involvement. Its been theorized British sailors may have perpetuated it, regardless some foreigners decided that the execution in front of their homes was too distrubed and began to tear down the gallows being erected. The local Chinese soldiers did nothing to resist, some even began to help tear it down. A crowd of Chinese formed to watch the event and its remained peaceful, until some rowdy British began shoving their way through the crowd. These British hit several Chinese with sticks and some threw rocks, as you can imagine soon fights began and a full riot burst. Several thousand Chinese came and began pelting the foreigner with rocks prompting the Chinese soldiers to intervene and escort the foreigners back into the factories. In the end the gallow was torn down, but the convicted Chinese smuggler was executed elsewhere.

    Palmerston demanded to know what had occurred, he was furious the British subjects had the audacity to get involved in Chinese affairs. “On what grounds did the traders imagine themselves entitled to interfere with the arrangements made by the Chinese officers of justice for carrying into effect, in a chinese town, the orders of their superior authorities”. Elliot was quite shaken by the situation. He knew he had to do something to thwart any further incident, but he had no real authority to do anything. He wrote back to Palmerston “that the danger and shame of the opium trade had reached a point where it was falling by rapid degrees into the hands of more and more desperate men”. Elliot then decided to take firm action, on december 18 he issued a proclamation ordering all British vessels carrying opium to depart the inner waters of Canton immediately. He had no authority to confiscate their cargoes, nor to arrest them and thus he fell back on the authority of the Qing government. If any British vessels refused, he would personally turn them over to the Chinese “Her Majesty’s Government will in no way interpose if the Chinese Government shall think fit to seize and confiscate the same”. Simultaneously he wrote the governor of Canton pledging his support for the campaign against opium.

    The opium traders were all very very pissed off. The superintendent, Elliot was supposed to protect them! James Matheson complained to the British press “that Elliot had adopted the novel course of assisting the Qing government in this, against his own countrymen! It appears to be the intention of Captain Elliot to offer himself as a kind of chief of the chinese preventive service”. Another execution of a convicted chinese opium smuggler took place in february of 1839, this time it was done much faster and with a large guard. William Jardine left Canton in late January of 1839, leaving Matheson to watch over the business. Enroute to Canton was Lin Zexu who was being counseled by many Qing officials. Qishan warned Lin Zexu not to start a war against the foreigners. Another official Gong Zizhen who was prolifically anti opium, advised that if Lin should try to shut off the source of opium directly at Canton, then both the foreign and Chinese dealers might start a revolt and China might not have sufficient military power to control them both. He recommended a gradual approach, first take action to reduce imports and only against the Chinese merchants and consumers while simultaneously increasing the military defenses at canton. He argued that China’s existing naval forces could not possibly match the British and that efforts should be made to increase coastal and inland defenses. With all that being complete, in time they would be able to shut off the foreign merchants completely. Enroute to Canton, Lin Zexu visited Bao Shichen a official who had written since the 1820’s on the subject of shutting down foreign trade to prevent the drain of silver from china. Bao Shichen told him “to clear a muddy stream you must purify the source. To put a law into effect you must first create order within”. Lin Zexu took this to mean he should first begin arresting all the government officials who had violated the ban on opium. Then he must completely shut off the flow of foreign opium imports coming into Canton. Bao Shichen would later state that Lin Zexu misunderstood him completely and that shutting down foreign trade was too dangerous.

    In March of 1839, Canton was anxious about Lin Zexu’s arrival. Everyone knew the great powers invested upon him, but nobody knew how he would use them. He arrived on March 10th and immediately struck hard. He began with mass arrests of the known Chinese smugglers and put up proclamations announcing his mission was to destroy the opium trade in its entirety. He ordered marchants to abandon the trade and for users to hand over their pipes to be smashed. Thousands of pounds of opium and tens of thousands of pipes were confiscated. In 3 months after his arrival, he would arrest 5 times the amount of people that Deng Tingzhen had done in his 2 year reign. As things were going along successfully with the Chinese affairs, Lin Zexu then decided to address the foreign merchants. On march 18 he issued an edict ordering the British merchants to surrender all of their opium to him and gave them 3 days to comply. The Hong merchants as the traditional mediators between the foreigners and the Qing government bore the heaviest blame and Lin Zexu began interrogating them all. Many were brought before him on their knees under threat of execution if they should lie.

    The foreign merchants initially made no efforts toward surrendering their opium, they all wanted to see how far Lin Zexu would actually go. Lin Zexu was not accustomed to being disobeyed and quickly lost his patience. By March 19 he announced that no foreign merchants would be allowed to leave the Canton factories until they gave up their opium and signed papers stating they would never trade the drug again in China under penalty of death. Boom. If they continued to defy him after the 3 day, he would execute Houqua and other Hong merchants on the morning of March 22. The Hong merchants all panicked and pleaded with the British merchants to help. The British caved in someone and agreed to hand over 1000 chests of opium on the morning of march 22. Word came that the amount of chests would not be enough and thus the British simply held back.

    Houqua and some other Hong merchants were paraded around the Canton square with iron collars and chains. Lin Zexu threatened to execute them if British merchants did not hand over the opium, but the deadline had passed and many were suspicious if Lin Zexu was bluffing. One person who did not think Lin Zexu was bluffing was Elliot who was in Macao when he heard of the situation. Elliot feared the British merchants would all be put on trial and executed. Elliot resolved to save them by standing up to the imperial commissioner, but also while trying to appease him. Elliot wrote to Palmerston “to save the merchants a firm tone and attitude was all that he needed to efuse the unjust and menacing disposition of the Imperial commissioner, but that he would also appease him by using his best efforts for fulfilling the reasonable purpose of the Qing government”.

    Elliot arrived at the Canton factories at sundown of March 24 in a rowboat in full captain's uniform with a cocked hat and his sword in hand. He proclaimed to the merchants “given the imminent hazard of life and property and the dark and violent natures of Lin Zexu’s threats, they should begin immediate preparations to evacuate the Canton factories. If Lin Zexu refused to grant them passage from Canton to Macao within 3 days, Elliot would conclude that the Chinese intended to hold them hostage. So long as their proceedings were moderate, defensible and just I will remain with you to my last gulp!”. That night Lin Zexu ordered all the Chinese staff in the factories to leave. The cooks, linguists, porters, servants and such all packed up and left. Then Lin Zexu shut off all supplies from entering the factories and surrounded them with soldiers. The foreign factories had become a prison for roughly 350 people, not all of whom were British. There were Americans, Parsis, some Dutch alongside the British. Lin Zexu was careful to order all guards to not provoke nor molest the foreigners, he wanted everything to be peaceful. Nobody was going to starve however, provisions were plentiful in the factories, however the merchants found cooking for themselves disastrous. One report came from the Americans who said Robert Frobes attempt at ham and eggs came out a hard black mass approximating the sole of a shoe.

    Elliot was terrified they were all going to starve or be executed. Elliot resolved that they had to cooperate with Lin Zexu and hand over all the opium for if they didn't, he feared they would all be executed. In the name of her majesty, Elliot ordered everyone to surrender the opium to him and in return he would sign a promissory note guaranteeing that the British government would pay them its fair market value. The offer seemed too good to be true to the merchants. The Qing authorities could at any moment seize all the opium by force and with it their tremendous losses. James Matheson said “our surrender is the most fortunate thing that could have happened”. Throughout the afternoon on march 27th, the merchants brought Elliot statements of the amount of opium under the control of their firms and he in turn signed notes of guarantee payments by the British government. All told the amount was 20, 283 chests with a market value of roughly 10 million dollars. There was one glaring problem with this solution, Elliot had absolutely no authority to do it.

    Elliots decision would turn out to be the crux of many events to come. Elliot had no authority nor any instructions to do what he did. It seems in hindsight it was a rash decision made in panic. From Elliots point of view he had to immediately save the lives of the British subjects and the overall trade relations between Britain and China. After making the choice he wrote to Palmerston “I am without doubt, that the safety of a great mass of human life hung upon my determination”. All the merchants who went along with it knew full well Elliots did not have the authority to purchase 10 million dollars worth of opium on behalf of the Crown, but because he had been so ambiguous in the past about his authority, they could all play coy that they went along with it believing he did have the authority. The signed document would give them a strong case against the British government for compensation if and when it came to that. Facing the choice of having their contraband seized by Elliot or Lin Zexu, it was a no brainer they had better chances dealing with their own government to get reimbursement. Both Elliot and the traders assumed there would be a compensation of sorts and with it the termination of the Indian Chinese opium trade for good. They had no idea how events in Britain would unfold as a result of all of this.

    And so Elliot wrote to Lin Zexu informing him he would be surrendering all of the opium, which would be the single largest seizure of opium recorded in Chinese history up to that point. Lin Zexu wrote to the emperor on april 12 1839 after the seizure detailing how enormous the success was. He got them to seize all the opium in a short time and they made little conflict over it, hell no military force was really necessary “naturally they were cowed into submission”. Lin Zexu recommended they show benevolence towards the foreigners, to forgive them of their past crimes and send them a large gift of livestock, since he imagined they were starving and they no longer had their trade to support them. Yet Lin Zexu did not immediately release them, Elliot was livid! Lin Zexu told Elliot they could only be granted to leave once ¾’s of the opium had been collected a process that would take weeks, possibly months. Elliot sent a secret dispatch to Palmerston begging him for a naval fleet “it appear to me, my lord, that the response to all these unjust violences should be made in the form of a swift and heavy blow, prefaced by one word of written communication”. Elliot further argued for naval blockade of Canton and the Yangtze River, the capture of Chusan island all followed up by a northern expedition to demand the “disgrace and punishment” of Lin Zexu and Deng Tingzhen. Emperor Daoguang should be forced to apologize for the “indignities heaped upon the Queen and to pay an indemnity to satisfy British losses. The Qing government must be made to understand its obligations to the rest of the world.

    It would take 6 weeks for all the opium to be collected and the Qing officials expected the opium to be sold off to reimburse the countless Chinese traders that had lost out. Emperor Daoguang however ordered Lin Zexu to destroy it all, and that is just what he did. I would like to mention at this time, I covered what is to come, the first Opium war on my personal channel, its a 45 minute or so documentary so please check it out it would mean a lot to me. But what I also want to let you know is there was a British/Chinese movie made on the Opium war called…the Opium War haha, which came out in 1997. I won't sugar coat it, not a amazing film by any measure, but the scene where Lin Zexu destroys the opium is quite impressive and does more merit to the story then me narrating it, so check it out if you would like! Over the course of 3 weeks in June, Lin Zexu destroyed the opium at a specially built site near the Tiger’s Mouth. An american missionary named Elijah Bridgeman witnessed it and there are artist renditions of the event. In rectangular pools around 7 feet deep the opium balls were crushed and tossed in. Chinese workers would stir the thick opium filled water into a froth then cover it all with lime and salt for a few days before casting it out to sea.

    Lord Palmerston learnt of the confiscated opium from the traders themselves before Elliots letter arrived. The letter that informed Palmerston was from James Matheson who was launching a campaign to make the government pay up. Suddenly petitions from all the merchants poured into Palmerstons office. A bunch of drug dealers were shaking down the British government to pay for their lost drugs. There was another major problem, since march of 1839 all trade with China had halted and there was no way to tell when it would open back up. Ships full of cotton textiles were stuck at Macao and tea shipments were stuck in Whampoa. All the non opium traders were petitioning Britain to do something and fast. Collectively the domestic manufacturers of goods that went to Canton held significant political power, much greater than the opium claimants. They demanded “prompt, vigorous and decided measures to reopen Canton and put the regular China trade on a more secure and permanent basis”. What they wanted was a treaty, done via force if necessary.

    William Jardine arrived in Britain in September right as the news from Canton was spilling in and began a lobbying campaign. For the british government the talk of the opium trade was embarrassing and they wished to make the entire matter disappear as quickly as possible. However the amount of money owed to the opium traders was enormous and the Treasury of England was in no state to compensate them. Palmerston was in a terrible situation and he brought the issue of China to a cabinet meeting at Windsor castle on October 1 of 1839. He was being bombarded by business lobbyists demanding action, Elliots letter pleading for help and the English press. Britain was involved in a war in the Ottoman Empire against Russia, with a dispute between Maine and New Brunswick and an invasion of Afghanistan thus all the ministers did not want to distract themselves too much with the China problem. Palmerston offered a quick solution, he tossed in front of the cabinet several maps of the Chinese coast and explained how a small British squadron could blockade China’s crucial ports and rivers to force the Qing government into submission. The plan was almost identical to a plan formulated by James Matheson in 1836 after Napiers death. The Prime minister Lord Melbourne was not so much concerned with the military aspect of the plan, but how were they going to pay the 10 million to the opium merchants, they had no financial resources to spare. They did not want to take on anymore government debt, the debt was already high after the Napoleonic wars. Also it was going to look terrible bad that the British government was paying off drug dealers. Then the solution came, the brand new secretary at war, Thomas Macaulay made a suggestion to Palmerston, a rather out of the box idea. Why not make China pay for it all.

    Palmerston put forward Macaulay’s idea and the cabinet agreed boom. The matter was settled, a naval squadron, not too large would be dispatched to obtain reparation from China for Lin Zexu’s taking of Elliot and the other British subjects hostage. On may 21st of 1839, Lin Zexu finally allowed the foreigners to leave Canton and Elliot ordered all British subjects to abandon the factories and go to macao. Despite this more tense events would follow.

    In early July there was a drunken melee in Hong Kong harbor. The comprador of the British ship Carnatic was arrested and the sailors of the Carnatic demanded his return, but the Chinese refused. Thus 30 sailors on July 12th from the Carnatic and Mangalore, both ships owned by Jardine Matheson & Co went ashore and to the village of Jianshazui on the Kowloon Peninsula. They all proceed to get drunk off Samshu, a fortified rice wine and vandalized the local temple and beat to death a man named Lin Weixi. Elliot was livid when he heard the news, he was trying to bide time in the hopes Britain was sending reinforcements. He immediately tried to rush to Jianshazui to bribe the family of the victim, but the bribery was to no avail. When Lin Zexu heard of the affair he demanded that the culprits be handed over for Chinese justice. At this time Lin Zexu he had just received new regulations from the Emperor that formully mandated the death sentence for opium users in China and for the first time also for foreigners who sold opium.The British assumed it was a death sentence to give the men up. Lin also put up postings that if any Chinese killed a foreigner unjustly they would be executed. Instead of giving up the men, Elliot called for a court of inquiry and charged 5 British sailors with riot and assault, but brought no murder or manslaughter chrages. Lin Zexu accused the British of denying China’s sovereignty by issuing a court of their own.

    Elliot then invited Lin Zexu to send government officials to observe a new trial for the said sailors, but Lin Zexu refused and promulgated an edict that forbade anyone from giving food or water to all the British citizens in China under penalty of death. The situation was growing more and more tense and Lin Zexu tossed Elliot a rope. On August 17 he ordered Elliot to hand over the murderer without specifiyng the perpetrators identity. Thus the idea was that Elliot could simply send whomever he wanted and the matter could be settled. From Elliots point of view however, to handover any British citizen would cause an uproar back home and he refused to do so.

    On August 24, an English passenger aboard a boat near Hong Kong was attacked at night. The Chinese stripped the man naked, cut off his ear and stuffed it in his mouth. Rumors began to spread that Lin Zexu was amassing thousands of soldiers to invade Macao. Then the Portuguese governor general of Macao, Don Adraio Accacio a Silveira Pinto told Elliot he had been ordered by the Chinese to expel the British from the colony. He also told Elliot that the Chinese were secretly forming a military force to seize all the British in Macao. That very same day 2 ships belonging to Jardine Matheson & Co arrived to Macao, the Harriet towing the Black Joke. Living up to its name, the Black Joke was covered in blood all over her decks and her crew was missing. The crew of the Harriet reported that unidentified Chinese had boarded the Black Joke as it passed the island of Lantao and massacred the entire crew except for a single sailor they had rescued. Governor Pinto was so alarmed by this development he simply ordered the British to leave immediately.

    Elliot finally took action. Elliot ordered all the British women and children to depart aboard some merchant ships and sail to Hong Kong Island. With no more hostages at stake Elliot now felt free to make a counterattack if necessary, but for now he would bide his time hoping that Britain was sending a squadron. His hopes were raised when a warship from India arrived, the Volage which held 26 cannons, she also brought with her news that another warship, the Hyacinth and 18 gunner was on its way shortly. Thus Elliot and all the men boarded the ships and sailed to the Kowloon peninsula and set up a flotilla just above Hong Kong island.

    Lin Zexu got a report of the exodus of Macao and felt he had finally won and wrote to Emperor Daoguang “no doubt they have on their ships a certain stock of dried provisions; but they will very soon find themselves without the heavy, greasy meat dishes for which they have such a passion”. On September 1 the Emperor sent Lin Zexu a letter asking if the rumors were true that the barbarians had purchased female children and used them in diabolical rites. Lin Zexu replied that the foreigners employed Chinese adults as plantation workers and miners and a few children, but he did not believe that any black magic was involved in their employment. The Emperor also asked if the confiscated opium contained human flesh which he theorized might explain the illicit drugs preternatural addictive powers. Lin had heard these ridiculous rumors before, but he could not contradict the Emperor as it amounted to Lese Majeste, so he replied that the opium may have contained flesh of crows that second handedly eat human flesh.

    After dealing with the Emperor letters which said a lot about the perspective of Beijing on the matter, Lin went to Macao to thank the Portuguese governor for his help. Then Lin Zezu learnt of the British flotilla at Hong Kong. Lin Zexu began to issue orders forbidding the supply of food or water to British ships under the penalty of death. Again the Chinese staff were removed and Chinese war junks began to surround the kowloon peninsula and Hong Kong harbor. Signs were raised stating that the wells and streams had been poisoned.

    Elliot tried one last ditch effort at diplomacy and took 3 ships, the 14 gun cutter Louisa, the 6 gun schooner Pearl and the 18 gun Volage to Kowloon to demand provisions. They soon ran into 3 anchored Chinese war junks who were blocking them from landing. Elliot sent an interpreter to demand they be allowed food and water. The Chinese captains refused to comply and Elliot said if they did not comply by 2pm that day he would be forced to bombard them. 2pm came with no indication of provisions being sent and no response from the Chinese. So Captain Henry Smith of the Volage fired on the nearest Chinese war junk and the first shot of the First Opium War had been made.

    According to Adam Elmslie a young superintendent clerk was witnessed the event Henry Smith ordered the volley and “The Junks then triced up their Boarding nettings, and came into action with us at half pistol shot; our guns were well served with grape and round shot; the first shot we gave them they opened a tremendous and well directed fire upon us, from all their Guns (each Junk had 10 Guns, and they brought all these over on the side which we engaged them on) ... The Junk's fire, Thank God! was not enough depressed, or ... none would have lived to tell the Story.—19 of their Guns we received in [the] mainsail,—the first Broadside I can assure you was not pleasant.”

    Thus the outdated cannons aboard the Chinese war junks were aimed too high completely missed all the British ships. The ships continued to exchange fire and the shore batteries opened fire to support the war junks. By 4:30pm the British had used up almost all their ammunition and made a getaway with the war junks in quik pursuit. Adam Elmslie had this to say when the fire fight recommenced.

    “The junks immediately made sail after the Louisa and at 4:45 [pm] they came up with the English vessels. We hove the vessel in stays on their starboard Beam, and the 'Pearl' on the larboard [portside] Bow of the van Junk, and gave them three such Broadsides that it made every Rope in the vessel grin again.—We loaded with Grape the fourth time, and gave them gun for gun.—The shrieking on board was dreadful, but it did not frighten me; this is the very first day I ever shed human blood, and I hope it will be the last”.

    During the second engagement the Chinese war junks retreated to their previous positions and the 3 British ships returned to the flotilla causing a stalemate. The captains of the Chinese war junks sent word to Lin Zexu of a great naval victory over the British claiming to have sunk a number of enemy ships and inflicting 50 casualties. The truth was there were no British casualties and no ships sunk however, in fact the Chinese had 2 killed and 6 wounded. Captain Henry of the Volage bagged Elliot to let him attack the Chinese war junks near Hong Kong harbor certain of victory, but Elliot refused fearing the outbreak of a wider battle and wanting the foreign ministers approval first before escalating things anymore. Despite the reported victory of the Chinese war junks, food and water was sent to the British ships.

    Lin Zexu was facing a personal and painful problem, an excruciating hernia. Chinese doctors were trying to help him to no avail, so Lin Zexu visited the office of one Dr. Peter Parker, no not spiderman, this was a Yale educated missionary. Parker fitted Lin Zexu with a truss that helped with the pain. After this Lin Zexu began reviewing the military situation at hand, at this time he wrote a poem about the battle of Kowloon “A vast display of Imperial might had shaken all the foreign tribes/And if they now confess their guilt we shall not be too hard on them.”. The Chinese began to war game while at Hong Kong the Hyacinth arrived to reinforce Elliots Flotilla. Lin Zexu continued to demand the surrender of the sailors who killed Lin Weixi, but as time went on the anger caused by the event had dissipated. Then a sailor allegedly drown from one of Jardine Mathesons & Co’s ships and the Chinese volunteered to let that dead sailor be identified as the murderer, case closed.

    Yet trade between Britain and China did not resume and Lin Zexu kept demanding all those who wished to trade in China sign the contract promising not to deal opium under penalty of death. Elliot told the traders not to sign the waivers and to simply sit tight for the time being as he waited for a British fleet. Some of the traders undercut his orders however and went ahead and signed the waiver and thus were allowed to trade legal cargo. One of these traders was Captain Warner of the British cargo ship Thomas Coutts and Lin Zexu was so impressed by the man he asked him to take a letter back to Britain for Queen Victoria. The letter was a remarkably frank document that explained the situation in Canton. It described all the evils of the opium trade and how it was hurting China and the response the Qing government was making to the opium crisis. It also stipulated how they could amend the situation to get rid of the opium menace and resume legal trade.

    Captain Warner alleges he made good on the promise to bring the letter, first to Lord Palmerston, but his office refused to receive the letter, and there is little evidence Queen Victoria read the letter in question. The Times of London did publish the letter however, it seems Captain Warner must have simply given it to them in the end. When Lin Zexu found out another British warship had joined the Flotilla he took action. He suddenly proclaimed the corpse of the drowned sailor was no longer sufficient for the murder of Lin Weixi and renewed his demands for the murders to be handed over. Failure to comply would result in the expulsion of the entire British colony.

    In the fall of 1839, 38 British trading vessels and 28 trading companies aboard them remained in Hong Kong harbor. Elliot begged the governor of Macao to let them come back, but he refused fearing the Portuguese would be dragged into what looked like an impending war. Then on October 20th, Elliot received a letter from Palmerston informing him that early next summer, 16 British warships with 4000 men were enroute to rescue the flotilla and to sit tight. However in the meantime more captains were signing the waiver and at the end of October Lin Zexu ordered all British ships to leave within 3 days time. Elliot set sail aboard the Volage with Hyacinth backing him up, for the Bogue as the British called it, it is also known as the Humen, it is a narrow strait in the Pearl River Delta. When Elliots ships reached Chuanbi near the mouth of the river on November 2nd, they came face to face with a Chinese fleet consisting of 15 war junks and 14 fire ships commanded by an old and revered Admiral named Guan Tianpei.

    Elliots ships came to a halt when he ran into Guan's fleet and they began to exchange a series of messages trying to ferret out the intentions of the other. Guan threatened to seize either ship if it was holding the murderer of Lin Weixi “All I want is the murderous barbarian who killed Lin Weixi. As soon as a time is named when he will be given up, my ships will return into the Bogue. Otherwise, by no means whatsoever shall I accede”. Elliot failed to persuade Guan that he was no threat and the admiral fleet began to maneuver into a position to attack the 2 British Warships. As this was occurring, the Royal Saxon arrived on the scene on its way to Canton. Elliot was anxious to not allow another Captain to sign the opium waiver and fired a warning shot across the Royal Saxon’s bows to prevent the ship from entering the river. Guan proceeded to anchor hit ships in between the British warships and the Royal Saxon. Captain Smith pleaded with Elliot to allow him to attack before it was too late and Elliot gave in. The 2 British warships closed in and began to fire their broadsides. The stationary guns aboard the Chinese war junks could not be aimed effectively and fired right over the British masts. One lucky British volley hit a war junks magazines causing it to explode tremendously and sink. This caused the Chinese captains to panic as the Volage continued to score hits at point blank range. 3 more junks were hit and sunk and some of the crews aboard other ships literally jumped overboard. The entire Chinese fleet baegan to scatter and flee, all except for one ship, Admiral Guan’s which suicidally stayed to return fire. Guan’s ship posed a minimal threat and Elliot impressed by the old Admiral’s courage, ordered Smith to stop the barrage and allow the damaged flagship of Admiral Guan to sail off. The Chinese fleet had 1 junk exploded, 3 sunk, countless damaged and the Volage sustained light damage to its sails while Hyacinth’s mast received a hit from a 12 pound cannon ball. 15 Chinese sailors were dead with 1 British wounded. The battle of Chuanbi was over and the way to Canton was now open.

    News of the sea battle reached England and the government remained in denial about the cause of the conflict IE: the opium trade. A group of lobbyists led by William Jardine began to pelt the British press to save the opium trade while simultaneously demanding the British government reimburse the opium merchants. Parliament began to debate how to go about the situation and there emerged an anti-war camp and a war camp. One anti war advocate, Sir William Ewart
    Gladstone said

    “Does he [Macaulay] know that the opium smuggled into
    China comes exclusively from British ports, that is, from

    Bengal and through Bombay? That we require no preventive

    service to put down this illegal traffic? We have only

    to stop the sailing of the smuggling vessels…it is a matter

    of certainty that if we stopped the exportation of opium

    from Bengal and broke up the depot at Lintin [near Canton]

    and checked the cultivation of it in Malwa [an Indian

    province] and put a moral stigma on it, we should greatly

    cripple if not extinguish the trade in it.

    They [the Chinese government] gave you notice to

    abandon your contraband trade. When they found you

    would not do so they had the right to drive you from their

    coasts on account of your obstinacy in persisting with this

    infamous and atrocious traffic…justice, in my opinion, is

    with them [the Chinese]; and whilst they, the Pagans, the

    semi-civilized barbarians have it on their side, we, the

    enlightened and civilized Christians, are pursuing objects

    at variance both with justice and with religion…a war

    more unjust in its origin, a war calculated in its progress to

    cover this country with a permanent disgrace, I do not

    know and I have not read of. Now, under the auspices of

    the noble Lord [Macaulay], that flag is become a pirate

    flag, to protect an infamous traffic.”

    Palmerston blamed the purchasers of the opium and not the sellers and that the effect of halting the opium exports to China would just drive Turkey and Persia to sell it instead.
    “I wonderwhat the House would have said to me if I had come down to it with a

    large naval estimate for a number of revenue cruisers…for the purpose of

    preserving the morals of the Chinese people, who were disposed to buy

    what other people were disposed to sell them?”

    After 3 days to debate the house of commons voted on April 9th of 1840 271 vs 262 to proceed for war. On 20 February 1840 Palmerston sent 2 letters, 1 to Elliot and 1 to Emperor Doaguang. The letter to the Emperor informed the Qing dynasty that Britain had already sent a military expeditionary force to the Chinese coast.

    These measures of hostility on the part of Great Britain against China are not only justified, but even rendered absolutely necessary, by the outrages which have been committed by the Chinese Authorities against British officers and Subjects, and these hostilities will not cease, until a satisfactory arrangement shall have been made by the Chinese Government.

    Palmerston’s letter to Elliot instructed him to set up a blockade of the Pearl River and forward the letter from Palmerston to Emperor Daoguang. After that Elliot was to capture the Chusan Islands, blockade the mouth of the Yangtze River, start negotiations with the Qing officials. Palmerston also issued a list of objectives that the British government wanted accomplished, with said objectives being

    Demand to be treated with the respect due to a royal envoy by the Qing authorities. Secure the right of the British superintendent to administer justice to British subjects in China. Seek recompense for destroyed British property. Gain most favoured trading status with the Chinese government. Request the right for foreigners to safely inhabit and own private property in China. Ensure that, if contraband is seized in accordance with Chinese law, no harm comes to the person(s) of British subjects carrying illicit goods in China. End the system by which British merchants are restricted to trading solely in Canton. Ask that the cities of Canton, Amoy, Shanghai, Ningpo, and the province of northern Formosa be freely opened to trade from all foreign powers. Secure island(s) along the Chinese coast that can be easily defended and provisioned, or exchange captured islands for favourable trading terms.

    It was left to Elliot as to how these objectives would be fulfilled, but noted that while negotiation would be a preferable outcome, he did not trust that diplomacy would succeed, writing;

    To sum up in a few words the result of this Instruction, you will see, from what I have stated, that the British Government demands from that of China satisfaction for the past and security for the future; and does not choose to trust to negotiation for obtaining either of these things; but has sent out a Naval and Military Force with orders to begin at once to take the Measures necessary for attaining the object in view.

    And so because of a drug cartel, run by some ruthless characters like Jardine & Matheson, Britain choose to go to war with the Qing Dynasty and begun a century of humiliation for China.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    The incorruptible Lin Zexu was the perfect man for the job of putting an end to the opium problem. However the nefarious opium dealers would not go down without a fight and in the end this all would result in the first opium war. Buckle up it's about to get messy.

  • Last time we spoke about the numerous attempts of Britain to open the markets of the Qing dynasty. First we talked about the disastrous and quite embarrassing Macartney mission to China which would begin a series of more and more bad relations. After Macartney’s mission came a significant increase in opium export to China via India on the part of the East India company. The British were literally and economically dependent on Chinese tea and were beginning to use nefarious methods to get their fix. Then came the Amherst mission which was even more of a catastrophe than the Macartney mission, the man did not even get to meet the Emperor. And so the Canton system of trade went unchanged, but for how long could this system manage the ever increasing demand from the British for more trade? Events are about to unfold which will see a entire nation swept up into a drug cartel.

    This episode is how to start a drug cartel in the 19th century

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on the history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.




    The year was 1830 and the 13 factories of Canton were rustling with business. The rules that governed the hundred or so foreigners who populated the factories were as strict as ever. After the Amherst mission George Staunton remained in Canton and took up a job working for the East India Company. What had changed the most since Staunton had come to Canton as a little boy was that competition was increasing. By 1830 the private traders taking up residence in the Canton foreign factories increased and they came from numerous nations such as India, Armenia, Britain, America and such. They were all competing with the East India Company which held a monopoly over British trade in Canton, but the private British traders now outnumbered the company 2 to 1. All of the private traders resented the company, as one scornful American put it “by its improper interferences and assumptions of superiority the company has earned the same dislike and unpopularity which a despotic and tyrannical government has entitled it to, in all other places where its influence extends”. The company was a mammoth, many of its armed vessels were at Canton, but it had become sluggish and slow to react. The trade between India and Canton which was making private merchants filthy rich was not being carried on the company’s ships, the reason being that that cargo was opium.

    Some private merchants built ships and anchored them 60 miles away from Canton on some outlying islands, not daring to come any closer to the port. They would station their “receiving ships” there at places like Lintin Island far away from the Canton authorities and these ships would act as floating warehouses for drug deals. Foreign vessels came from India with cargoes of opium and would stop at Lintin, offload their chests and then proceed to Canton with their cargo contained no contraband and thus clean for inspection. Their captains came to port and met with Hong merchants, though some dealt with black market merchants. After agreeing on a price, the foreign merchant took their payment for the opium and the Chinese dealers sent their own boats to Lintin to retrieve the shipments. The warehouse ships anchored at Lintin did not own the cargo, they were merely holding it for other unknown merchants who assumed the risks of getting it there. The Chinese smugglers then took the responsibility for the illicit drugs when they smuggled it into China. The Chinese smugglers also bribed government officials to ensure no inspections would be made at Lintin island or that such inspections would be announced in advance. One captain of a warehouse boat, Robert Bennet Forbes earned 800,000 dollars of today’s currency per year for these operations.

    The opium grew magnificently well in India and the East India Company would go bankrupt without the profit it gained from the illicit trade. Although the East India Company consistently avoided carrying opium to China on its own ships, that did not mean it did not take part in the trade network. The company dominated the opium supply within India and held auctions in Calcutta where it would sell to the smugglers. Everyone got a piece, the East India Company, the foreign smuggler and the Chinese merchants. The proceeds after all when said and done was payments of silver which were handed over to the East India Company’s treasury whom would give the smugglers in return bills to use in India or Britain. Thus the company would enjoy a constant flow of silver.

    Now the East India Company did its best to contain the cultivation of opium in India, but as time went by Indian entrepreneurs realized the massive gains that could be made and began to produce opium and ship it to ports on India’s coast. The East India Company needed to keep a tight lid on how much opium made it to Canton to ensure prices remained high and that the Qing dynasty did not crack down on the trade. But in their efforts to thwart the opium cultivators trying to compete with them, they ended up simply increasing production exponentially. The company literally began to buy out its competitors to try and control the production of opium, but by that point the price per chest of opium had dropped to nearly half its value. This would have a disastrous side effect. Up until this point in the 1820’s, opium remained an expensive luxury good, but with the price of it dropping soon the non wealthy in China began to purchase it and the trade expanded. By 1823 opium surpassed cotton as the largest Indian export to China. By 1828 opium was looking like the only commodity left that could reliably secure a profit for merchants in the area. 10,000 chests of opium made its way to Canton in 1828. By 1831 nearly 20,000 chests reached Canton, quadrupling the trade over the course of a decade. Those chests did not include another 8% coming from Turkey via American smugglers, nor western Chinese grown opium. Those nearly 20,000 chests, 18956 to be more precise were worth nearly 13 million at the time, making it the most lucrative commodity trade in the world.

    The independent traders, IE: smugglers formed their own community in Canton that rivaled the East India Company’s factory. Their leader was the infamous William Jardine, a Scot with a degree in medicine from Edinburgh. Jardine had come to Canton as a surgeon's mate for the East India Company in 1802. When he graduated to full surgeon he was given a small space in the ship to carry his own cargo. He soon found that an illicit trade in Canton would provide him more profit than his work in medicine. Thus in 1817 after working 15 years for the company he quit to become a free merchant. After 3 years of his new life as a trader he ran into a fellow scot of higher birth named James Matheson who had like him begun the illicit business. The 2 men complemented another, Matheson was 12 years younger, more outspoken and temperamental and quite a good writer. He also had social connections back home in Britain and a lot of money. Jardine was more reserved and had a better head for business, but it was Matheson who was more willing to take big risks. In 1823 Matheson tried to sell some opium in Canton and failed horribly, but his family’s wealth kept him afloat. In 1828 the 2 purchased a firm called Magniac & co and would rename it in 1832 to Jardine Matheson & Co. Stands to this very day.

    Their company began doing business with opium merchants in Bombay and elsewhere in India. They settled down to live in “creek factory”, just 2 doors down from the East India company factory. They opened a newspaper called the Canton register which began a campaign to abolish the East India Company’s monopoly in Canton. To allow their illicit business to work, Matheson got an appointment as a Danish consul and Jardine a Prussian consul. They both mingled with many of the big smugglers in Canton like a Parsi named Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy and competed with other companies such as the Russel & Co. The Russel & Co was an American firm which would end up handling 1/5 of the Indian opium coming into Canton, so do not believe this was exclusively a British enterprise.

    On the other side of this, the Qing government efforts to suppress the illicit trade were infrequent and half hearted in part because many officials were themselves involved in the business. Officials along the coast and those in Canton were many of the former corrupt officials that worked under Heshen and thus were not strangers to working the system. Despite its official illegal status, the Canton opium trades flourished. A Hong merchant named Wu Bingjian, but known to the foreigners as Houqua rose to prominence. As stated by Thomas Forbes in 1828 “Houqua as a man of business I consider the first in the country”. Houqua was the most influential trader in Canton. He was in his mid 60’s, had drooping eyes, a pointed goatee and a long neck. Houqua handled all the business of the East India Company’s factory in Canton along with other factories. He was revered by the foreign community for his honesty and business sense. Teas marked with his imprimatur were considered the best quality in the world. Houqua became a household name even in Britain and America and as it happens was likely the richest man in the world at one point. In the 1830’s the Americans estimated Houqua was worth perhaps 26 million. Houqua lived on an island across from Canton and in a spare office there John Murray Forbes worked for Houqua as his secretary. Forbes at the age of 18 would be chartering multiple ships loaded with Houquas tea and would receive a generous 10% commission.

    Now going back in time, in 1820, Emperor Jiaqing died and Emperor Daoguang took the throne. In 1810 Emperor Jiaqing revived his grandfather Emperor Yongheng’s opium ban and by 1813 despaired at how it was spreading amongst the elite, even within his own palace. Apparently imperial guards and Qing officials in the palace were abusers of it. After his death, Emperor Daoguang carried forward his fathers opposition to opium. He said early into his reign “Opium is a great harm to the customs and morals of the people”. He ordered an end to the coastal drug smuggling, targeting corrupt officials who were allowing opium to come into China. “If there are traitors who try to collect taxes off opium to enrich themselves, or wh personally smuggle it into the country, punish them immediately and severely in order to expunge this massing of insects”. The same year he made these edicts a large number of scholars from coastal provinces showed up to take the civil service examination in Beijing only to die of convulsions from opium withdrawals over the 3 day test. How many addicts there were is hard to estimate. In 1820 with nearly 5000 chests being imported each year that would support roughly 40,000 habitual users, less than a hundredth of a single percent of the population. But by 1830 opium usage was exponentially increasing, the Daoguang emperor’s initial concerns became full on alarm. He wrote an edict in January of 1830 “Opium is flooding into the interior, the multitude of users expands day by day, and there are more and more people who sell it; they are like fire and smoke, destroying our resources and harming our people. Each day is worse than the last”. The reports pouring in from provinces were shocking. From Zhili province a report read “there are opium smokers everywhere, especially in the government office. From the governor general all the way down through the ranks of officials and their subordinates, the ones who do not smoke opium are very few indeed”.

    In response the the growing reports, in 1831, the Daoguang emperor order greater efforts be made to suppress the opium smuggling. Yet despite his orders, Beijing was unable to exert control over the provinces so affected because the local kingpins were proving themselves to be better providers for the locals than the central government. It was the kingpins employing people, providing income, security and by far could strike fear upon the populace if they were angered. When government officials would show up to crack down in the provinces, village mobs would attack them and turn them right back. This made Daoguang and his court tred very carefully as they understood how a full on rebellion was very possible. Thus Daoguang advisers cautioned any general campaign to stamp out opium smoking, do not go after the petty commoners suffering from financial hardships and addiction, but instead focus on hindering the smugglers.

    Between 1831-1833 many minor conflicts occurred that would have amounted to nothing if it was not for the efforts of independent opium dealers looking to get rid of the East India Company. Of particular note was Jardine Matheson & Co who constantly wrote back to London the problems arising from allowing the company to hold a monopoly. Eventually the efforts of the smugglers paid off as in 1833 it was put to a vote to terminate the company's monopoly. By the autumn of 1833, news reached Canton that the East India company’s monopoly would not be renewed when its charter expired the following May. Not only would it lose its monopoly, the East India Company would also no longer be allowed by the British government to continue its trade with China. The East India Company that had dominated trade for more than 2 centuries in Canton would vanish.

    The Hong merchants were quite apprehensive at the news, it was not clear to them how the trade would now function. The Viceroy of Canton ordered the British to appoint a “tai pan” a chief executive who would be held accountable by Chinese officials for British trade conduct in Canton. The British government recognized the need to replace the role of the East India company with an alternative arrangement and agreed to create 3 superintendents of trade, a Chief superintendent, supported by 2 subordinates. “The Chief superintendent of trade would preside over a Court of Justice with criminal and admiralty jurisdiction for the trial of offenses committed by his majesty's subjects in the said dominions or on the high sea within a hundred miles from the coast of China”. Now if you read that closely you realize, Britain just stipulated claims of extraterritoriality within the territory of the Qing dynasty.

    Jardine and Matheson both worried the position of the superintendent would fall to George Stauton who arguably was the most qualified person for the job. But Staunton was an East India company man and they both worried he would bring with him the same bureaucracy that impeded upon the dealings of the independent merchants. Jardine and Matheson also took a hardline against Stauton between 1831-1833 trying to get the company abolished, he most likely would now return the favor. But to their joy, Staunton did not get the job, it went instead to William John Napier. Napier was a tall, redheaded and gallant captain of the Royal Navy and a veteran of the Napoleonic wars and fought in the legendary battle of Trafalgar. His qualifications and expertise in the trade of China amounted to nothing at all. Napier had zero experience in diplomacy, nor trade and he knew nothing about China. The cherry on top of all of this was that he was a proponent of free trade. He was to put it frankly, absolutely perfect for the smugglers.

    For Napier it seems he fantasied about the power he might be capable of wielding in China, a country he understood to be “an enormous Empire of 40,000,000 that hands only together by a spiders web. What a glorious thing it would be to station a naval squadron along the coast and how easily a gun brig would raise a revolution and cause them to open their ports to the trading world”. Napiers ambitions were known to some, such as Earl Grey who sent him a private letter politely asking Napier to “exercise the most careful discretion in all your dealings with the Chinese. Given the suspicious character of the Qing government and the Chinese people, nothing must be done to shock their prejudices or to excite their fears”. Lord Napier was expected above all to keep the peace at Canton and to do no harm to the trade relations between Britain and China. Earl Grey had told him in person “persuasion and conciliation should be the means employed rather than anything approaching to the tone of hostile and menacing language. In the very worst case, should this not work, you are to show submission for a time and wait for new instructions from Britain”. Thus Napier was forbidden from pursuing any aggressive action. Napier also received instructions from Lord Palmertson at the foriegn office which likewise told him much of what Earl Grey said. Palmertson said the highest priority was to avoid any conflict with the Chinese. It was desirable to establish a line of communication with Beijing, but Napier was not an ambassador and should not go to Beijing even if opportunity arose because he “might awaken fears, or offend the prejudices of the Qing government”. Palmertson also asked Napier to find out if it was possible to make a survey of the Chinese coast, but not to make a survey. Lastly Palmertson instructed Napier not to negotiate with the Qing officials at Canton. If the opportunity presented itself, Napier was to write back home and await instructions. Just before departing, Napier would ask to be supplied with plenipotentiary powers just in case an opportunity to meet the Emperor arose, and was flat out denied this.

    Napier sailed off from Plymouth on February 7 of 1834 on the 28 gunship Andromache, taking with him his wife and 2 daughters. While enroute, Napier read all that he could of the 2 previous missions particularly Amherst's notes about the status of China. Napier was excited to read about how Amherst described China as a nation oppressed by an alien dynasty and that the Han people wanted free trade. He became more and more convinced that his idea of sending a single squadron could force the Qing government to open every port in China to britain. He arrived at Macao on July 16 of 1834 and had instructions from Lord Palmertson to go straight to Canton and announce himself directly. This was an error on Palmertsons part as he obviously did not know that all foreigners were supposed to first go to Macao and await Chinese authority to come to Canton. This mistake would lead to terrible results.

    OnJuly 23 Napier sailed for Canton and got to the city on July 25. He went to the factory compound at Canton and read aloud his commission to all the British traders.Then he wrote a letter to announce his arrival to the governor general.

    The governor general was Lu Kun who refused to accept the letter because Napier had come to Canton unannounced without applying for a permit to enter Canton. Lu Kun said he had no idea why Napier was here, only that he had arrived on a warship and claimed to be in charge of British trade. Lu Kun was aware that Napiers arrival meant the East India companies role was ended in canton and that a new set of regulations for trade were going to be needed. However Lu Kun did not have the authority to establish any new regulations himself without orders from the emperor. So ironically both these men have the same issue. Lu Kun asked Houqua to meet with Napier to sound out the business and report back to him so they could inform Emperor Daoguang. On July 26 Houqua met with Napier and explained that the governor general required a Taipan to communicate and do trade, as they had done in the past. Napier brushed this off and said he preferred to communicate directly with the governor general. Napier ignored Houqua and sent a delegation of british merchants through canton to deliver his letter to Lu Kun. No Qing officials would dare accept the letter and Houqua pleaded with Napier to give him the letter so he could deliver it. Napier was insistent to directly address Lu Kun and refused. The next day, Houqua advised changing the letter into a petition implying Napier into a supplicant status. This greatly pissed off Napier. To add to Napiers anger, Lu Kun did not know what title to use for Napier so he wrote the term “yimu” meaning “headman” which was used for tribal chiefs and Napier’s staff translated this out of context to mean “barbarian eye”. This came off as derogatory for the British.

    Napier was making a large error, he thought he was dealing with China, but in reality he was only dealing with a single individual. That single individual, Lu Kun was in a position that should he disappoint the Emperor he would lose his job. All Lu Kun cared about was following protocol and not accidentally setting any new precedents. He had no authority to negotiate a new system of trade and to even border on that was to lose his job. Any of the former East India company veterans or many of the independent merchants could have easily explained this to Napier, but they didn't. Napier did not trust the former company staff and the independent merchants were vying for new trade negotiations. Napier ended up listening to the council of fellow Scots, Jardine and Matheson. Jardine and Matheson had gone to work on Napier from the very beginning helping him establish himself in Canton.

    By august 9th, Napier still was unable to get his letter delivered and was becoming furious. Napier wrote to Palmersson complaining about the situation and that the Chinese were demanding he leave Canton and return to Macao. Napier went on to showcase his personal views “His majesty's government should not be ruled by the ordinary forms prescribed among civilized people. Lu Kun is a presumptuous savage. He was an alien Manchu, like the Daoguang emperor himself whom were nothing more than intruders in the country. The real people of China, the Han Chinese all wanted British trade, it was just this illegitimate government that was holding them back. The Manchus may have been fierce and strong once upon a time, but now after generations of rule they were a wretched people, inconceivably degraded, unfit for action or exertion. The British would be best off using its military power to force the Manchu government to open China’s ports once and for all”. So in only 3 weeks the man sent to maintain peaceful trading relations was basically calling for war. On August 23 some Qing officials showed up sent by Lu Kun asking when Napier was going to return to Macao and Napier responded he would go entirely according to his own convenience.

    Napier felt the trade relations were now threatened and decided to take his case to the people. Napier was certain the independent merchants and local cantonese would rally to him because they all wanted free trade. He began creating posters declaring how“He had been insulted and humiliated by the corrupt governor general Lu Kun whose ignorance and obstinacy were allowing the Hong merchants to shut down Britain’s trade at Canton.Thousands of industrious Chinese who live by the European trade must suffer ruin and discomfort through the perversity of their Government. The only thing his people want is to trade with all China, on principles of mutual benefit, and that the British would never rest until they reached that goal”. The next day another poster went up, this one made by the Qing “a lawless foreign slave, Napier has issued a notice. We know not how such a dog barbarian of an outside nation as you, can have the audacious presumption to call yourself superintendent”. The poster also suggested cutting Napiers head off and displaying it on a stake.

    On the evening of september the 4th, as Napier was eating dinner with some guests, servants rushed in to warn him that armed men had appeared at the front gates. Napier went to the gates to see Qing soldiers had surrounded the factory building and an official was nailing an edict from the governor general to the factory wall as he announced the official shutdown of trade and ordered all Chinese employees of the factory to vacate immediately. Soon all the Chinese staff, servants, porters, guards and such left the factory, leaving Napier with just a handful of companions. Napier heard someone in the crowd say he was going to burn down the factory that very night and Napier knew action had to be taken.

    Napier called upon his 2 nearby gunboats, Andromache and Imogene, both 6th rate Royal Navy frigates with 54 guns between them. Napier believed under the circumstances he had sufficient reason to defy his orders from Britain and ordered the gunboats to force passage through the Tiger's Mouth. They were to deal with whatever resistance was made upon them and to take up positions in Whampoa and protect British subjects and their property. After ordering the ships off he addressed a letter to Lu Kun and the Hong merchants declaring “you have opened the preliminaries of war. His imperial majesty will not permit such folly, wickedness, and cruelty as you have been guilty of, since my arrival here, to go unpunished”. Unfortunately, the British governments actual response to Napiers call for war would not reach Canton until it was far too late. The British governments response was of course, to tell him to back down and to follow instructions and behave. “It is not by force and violence that his majesty intends to establish a commercial intercourse between his subjects and China”.

    The 2 warships forced their passage through the Tiger’s Mouth and exchanged fire with the Chinese forts that guarded it. Napiers 2 frigates unloaded more than 700 rounds into the Chinese forts, 2 British sailors were killed with 5 wounded.The forts were hammered into silence and thus ended what is called the Battle of the Bogue. The Chinese forts lacked the firepower that the British cannons held. The 2 warships proceeded to Whampoa, but the Chinese built heavy obstacles upriver, such as a large cable drawn across the river with hundreds of fire rafts loaded with gunpowder and a fleet of war junks to try and block the passage towards Canton. The 2 warships were not able to get close enough to Canton to be visible from the factories in it. The shock and awe that Napier had wanted to inflict did not come to fruition. The British merchants refused to followed Napiers lead, most simply wanted trade to resume, not a war. Jardine and Matheson were some of the very few who supported Napiers hardline stance, but most asked Napier to obey Lu Kun’s orders and to go to Macao immediately. Many of the merchants began to petition Napier complaining how much financial losses he was causing them. Meanwhile Lu Kun made it clear he had zero problems with the merchants, it was Napier alone as to why trade was shut down and that normal commerce would resume the second he left. Napier felt betrayed by his own people and was humiliated.

    Napier was quite alone in the empty factory building, out of reach from his 2 gunboats and the Qing were making sure no provisions reached the factory. He realized the consequences if British trade suffered serious harm from his personal actions and coincidentally he was beginning to become quite ill. Thus Napier backed down, on september 21 he ordered the 2 gunboats to pull out and he left Canton a broken man. Trade resumed to normal a fews days after his departure. Britain's first chief superintendent of trade, a proud veteran of Trafalgar and the Napoleonic wars had been brought to his knees by Lu Kun. After a 5 day trip under heavy Qing military escort, Napier arrived in Macao pale and feverish. He died 2 weeks later.

    The British public did not mourn the loss of Napier. The Duke of Wellington summed up their views by stating “the attempt to force upon the Chinese authorities at Canton an accustomed mode of communication with an authority of whose powers and of whose nature they had no knowledge had failed, as it is obvious that such an attempt must invariably fail, and lead again to national disgrace”. Jardine and Matheson alongside 85 other independent merchants all signed a petition to the new King of England William IV, demanding revenge for Napiers humiliations. Within China the situation was getting worse. Patronage, bribery and embezzlement were becoming the norm among civil officials. Opium was weaving its way through the fabric of Chinese society. In spite of Daoguang’s edicts to control the illicit drug the trade was growing exponentially. A major north south land transport route for opium emerged through Hunan province and with it some uprisings sprang up. The Qing government sent military forces to pacify the uprisings but ironically the soldiers that were sent were heavy users of opium and performed terribly. Forces which were sent to opium heavy regions would fall victim to the substance. The Chinese economy was falling into a depression. Grain prices deflated, driving down the income of farmers. Unemployment rose and the Qing government tax revenues were declining. Soon it became expensive to maintain public works like flood control which led to shoddy construction giving way to destructive episodes of flooding. With the flooding came agricultural failures and with that famines.

    China’s monetary system was collapsing, a major problem was the side effect of the opium trade, the exportation of silver. The Hong merchants paid for the opium with silver, but could not accept silver as payment for tea or silk because it would indicate that they had exported silver in the first place which was illegal. Thus silver was pouring out of China and not coming back in and on top of this, since the 1820 the worlds supply of silver had been coming from mines in Mexico and Peru, but national revolutions in Latin America had shut down those mines. The combination of these 2 factors had a disastrous effect on China.

    Silver was the international currency, but copper coins were an important part of China’s internal economy. A tael of silver was worth 1000 copper coins during normal times, moving such a large amount of copper was logistically unstable thus silver played a crucial role in China’s economy. Silver was the basis of tax payments, a medium for all long distance trade conducted within China and abroad. But copper was used as a medium for the local economies, the marketplace and menial wages. The income and savings for all the lower classes of China, farmers laborers, craftsmen was all paid in copper. As silver flooded out of China it became more and more valuable and this skewed its exchange with copper to the point of absolute mayhem. By 1830 a tael of silver was worth 1365 copper coins and soon it rose to 1600, then to 2000 by the late 1830’s. With the inflation came a need for higher taxes, but the lower class could not afford to pay them.

    The Qing court debated many ways to remedy the situation. Some said they should merely open ports to appease the traders, some went as far as saying they should simply lift the illegal status of opium so it could be traded accordingly and proper taxes could be levied. In the end Emperor Daoguang increased his hardline stance against opium. Now commoners and soldiers convicted of smoking opium would be punished with 100 lashes and 2 months in the cangue (plank of wood with their hands and neck inside). Even family members of opium users could be punished, such as a father failing to control his children from smoking it.

    Now when Britain got rid of the East India Company’s monopoly, the responsibility for the conduct of British opium traders in China shifted from the company to the British government itself. The government of Britain tried to pretend the trade did not exist, but the public was learning more and more about it, especially after the Napier affair. Back to Jardine & Matheson’s petitions to the king, they demanded a full fledged ambassador, backed up by a war fleet, to demand reparation for China’s apparent crimes. More and more letters came to Britain demanding war like action and that just a small force of 2 frigates and 3 or 4 armed vessels could blockade most of the sea trade for the Qing empire. “Intercepting its revenues in their progres to the capital, and taking possession of all the armed vessels of the country”. Such actions they argued would not see full scale war, it would just lead to more amenable trade relations. The new man to replace Napier was a longtime East India company man named John Davis. And to their misery he immediately rejected their demand for reparations and was adamantly against their free trade movement. Davis subscribed to the idea that China trade should be conducted with caution and respect. As Jardine & Matheson continuously called for war, Davis sent word back to Palmersson in Britain to ignore them. Davis was far more optimistic that Britain could find a peaceful way after the embarrassing Napier situation. Jardine & Matheson would not quit, and Matheson went back to Britain to drum up support for a punitive expedition against China.

    While Matheson held no significant influence over the British government, fortunately Lady Napier did whom he was pushing to rally support for the cause. He used Lady Napier to gain an audience with Lord Palmerston, but as much as he tried to persuade the man, Palmerston like many other officials believed the Canton trade would regain its balance naturally with time and noninterference. Before leaving to go back to China in 1836, Matheson created a hundred page pamphlet titled “the present position and prospects of the British trade with China”. The piece argued for the necessity of a british naval expedition to open China or trade would simply come to an end.

    Back in Canton, Davis appointed Charles Elliot as secretary to the committee of superintendents. Charles Elliot was a light haired, thin lipped captain in the Royal Navy. In 1830 he was appointed protector of slaves in British Guyana where his job was to investigate the most abusive practices of the British plantation owners and represent the interests of the slaves who suffered under them. The experience hardened Elliot into an abolitionist. Lord Palmerston saw him as a convenient person at the right time to take up the cause in China against opium and had sent him alongside Napier. Eliot was a calculating man, obsessed on how his actions would be interpreted back home in Britain, angling to improve his career. Davis took a strong liking to Elliot, he was flexible and not as headstrong as Napier. Davis also knew he was not expected to hold his position long, the chief superintendent should not be a former company man. Davis wanted to save face and resigned preemptively. When he resigned he lobbied for Elliot to be made the new superintendent. And thus Elliot got the job to his surprise.

    Elliot would likewise have a new governor general to deal with, Lu Kun died and was replaced by Deng Tingzhen. They started of on the right foot, Elliot presented his credentials as the new superintendent of trade at Macao and asked for permission to come to Canton. His polite and respectful approach was approved by the emperor and he was welcomed to Canton and took up residence at the old British factory. In Chinese he was referred to as Lingshi “consul” a respectable title that could not be confused with barbarian eye. In november of 1836, just 5 months after Elliots arrival, the Daoguang Emperor issued an edict banning both the importation and use of opium throughout China. Deng Tingzhen proclaimed “The smoke of opium is a deadly poison. Opium is nothing else but a flowing poison; that it leads to extravagant expenditure is a small evil, but as it utterly ruins the mind and morals of the people, it is a dreadful calamity.” The crackdown was immense, Qing forces under Deng chased down Chinese smugglers and destroyed their transport ships. They went after dealers on land breaking the supply lines leading the Chinese smugglers to demand higher and higher fees from the foreign traders to transport the opium.

    Jardine wrote letters back to Bombay stating the once flourishing opium traffic was falling apart “the Drug market is becoming worse every day owing to the extreme vigilance of the authorities, and we see no chance of amendment”. Though Elliot hate the opium trade he knew it was a evil necessity for Britain and feared an outbreak of violence between the Chinese government forces and the increasingly desperate British opium traders. Because the traders were resorting to more dramatic actions Elliot feared the honest traders in canton would soon face consequences because of the opium traders. Then the Hong merchants sent word to Elliot from the Emperor urging him to banish the British opium traders vessels from Canton, but Eliot pleaded that his government never gave him such authority. Elliots orders the Foreign Office were to make sure Britain’s drug of choice, tea, made it safely out of China and into the teacups of English drawing rooms for the ritual afternoon tea”. They were also to ensure the safety of British subjects in China. Without any authority to stop the opium smugglers he sought action that would at least thwart violence. Elliot wrote to Palmerston in 1837 asking if Britain could make a diplomatic intervention in China to reduce the risk of losing the tea commerce.

    Elliot, Deng Tingzhen the Chinese and independent merchants all were under the belief the Emperor was on the verge of declaring opium legalized. Indeed Deng and many other high ranking Qing officials had pressed the case for legalization for quite awhile and the Emperor had been showing a lot of interest in it as a solution for the silver crisis. Elliot proposed sending another ambassador accompanied by a peaceful naval force to argue in favor of legalizing opium. His thinking was that by displaying power, but not guns blazing, could in a respectful manner impress the Qing the importance of the tea trade to both nations. Elliot also had a lot of suggestions for the ambassador. For one that he should inform the emperor that half of the opium was coming from free areas of India that Britain did not control. Also that if Britain stopped its opium traders, other nations would simply fill its space. In light of such logic the only outcome had to be legalization of opium.

    Palmerston was aghast, Elliot of all people who was so against the illicit trade was now arguing on the side of the opium smugglers? Palmerston could not agree to such an idea to argue the cause of the smugglers to the emperor no, instead he proposed a “china courts bill” that would grant Elliot formal legal authority over the British subjects in China. He foresaw the creation of a British court of law in Canton, under the superintendent with jurisdiction over all British subjects 100 miles of the Chinese coast. Thus Elliot would have authority both in civil and criminal disputes. Palmerston hoped Elliot would be able to keep the free traders in line and banish the worst offenders, thus appeasing the Chinese. Palmerston never thought such an act would be seen by the Chinese as interfering with their own jurisdiction and authority. The bill was a complete breach of Chinese sovereignty, and thus when it went through parliament it was utterly destroyed.

    Meanwhile back on the Chinese side, Deng Tingzhen was continuing to make progress at crushing the opium trade. But then in 1838 a Qing official named Huang Juezi submitted a new method of crushing the opium trade and stopping the loss of silver. His proposal “thus, the way to defend against this calamity, lies not with foreign merchants but with the wicked chinese”. He argued it was impossible to block the opium by embargo and it risked foreign trade. To go after the traffickers had proven to be ineffective, because of the extremity of official corruption. Thus they should target the Chinese consumers. As he summed it up “if there were no common users of opium in China then there naturally would be no dealers, no traffickers and no international smuggling trade to drain silver out of China”. It was going to be an exceptionally harsh policy, but Emperor Daoguang was intrigued and brought the proposal to the court.

    The majority of officials were against it, but the vast majority were also against legalization. One official who was for Huang Juezi’s proposal was Lin Zexu the governor general of Hunan and Hubei provinces. Ah yes, for my Chinese listeners or those familiar with Chinese history, one of the most famous figures has emerged onto the stage.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    The British were walking a tightrope between getting their tea fix and not being banned from trade with China because of the Opium smuggling. Silver was flooding back into Britain while being drained from China and enough was enough for the Qing dynasty, now they would wage war on the illicit drug.

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  • Last time we spoke, the Qing dynasty had enjoyed the first half of the 18th century with relative ease and prosperity, however the end half and emergence of the 19th century would not be so fruitful. The White Lotus Rebellion of 1794-1804 took root during one of the most corrupt ridden times in Chinese history. One of China’s most corrupt figures and one of the richest men in history, Heshen was executed by the new Jiaqing Emperor. Then the Jiaqing Emperor had to quell the White Lotus menace which cost the empire a possible 100 million taels of silver. Despite being successful, the White Lotus rebellion would spread a seed of destruction for the Qing dynasty that would grow overtime and bloom into multiple revolts and rebellions. Now we look to another aspect of China during the early 19th century, its struggle against the looming threat of western greed.

    This episode is the A West meets East story

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on the history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    #11 The West meets East failure

    Now while the last podcast highlighted the corruption of Heshen and his long lasting effect on the Qing dynasty during the late half of the 18th century, I intentionally avoided speaking about something. That something was the envoys sent by Britain to China to open up trade relations. The rationale was that I wanted to highlight why the White Lotus came to be and the British envoy stories would have derailed it, but in actuality, the corruption, White Lotus rebellion and British envoys all simultaneously play a very important role in the downfall of the Qing Dynasty.

    So let us go back in time a bit to begin what is quite honestly the emergence of one of the largest drug cartel stories of all time.

    Lord George Macartney was a well seasoned diplomat with an extensive resume and a reputation for getting things done. He had that classic story of being raised in poverty, but rising to the top. He began his career as a barrister in England before entering the foreign service. He was no aristocrat, came from no significant family, thus earned his way through merit. His skills and intellect eventually landed him the appointment as an envoy to the Qing Dynasty to establish a British embassy in China. Up to this point in his life, everything he did was a success, but China would prove to be a hard nut to crack. In 1764 Macartney was knighted at the young age of 27 and sent as an envoy to russia. It was a rather scandalous rumor that he was sent as the envoy not merely for his skills and intellect, but because of his good looks as it was believed it would sway the Empress, Catherine the Great to the interests of Britain. After 3 years in Russia, Sir Macartney returned with the Empress's good affection, symbolized in a gem-studded snuff box. This bolstered Macartney into the social circles of the elites and by 1767 he was elected to Parliament and soon appointed the Chief Secretary of Ireland. After some years of service within the United Kingdom, Macartney sought out more adventure and took up a post as governor of the Caribbean Islands in the West Indies. He was soon awarded with the title of Bron and in 1780 received the appointment as governor of Madras India. He worked that office 6 years and became a viscount. Then in 1793 he sailed for one of the most illusive and exotic lands, that of China.

    Viscount Macartney was given a simple orders from George III: establish a British embassy in the capital and get permission for British ships to dock at ports besides Canton. Now you might be asking, whats the problem with Canton? Nothing, except for foreign barbarians it was the only port of access for all of China at this time. For those who have never heard of this, the Canton System which began in 1757 was a trade system of the Qing dynasty. The Qianlong Emperor faced numerous problems when he inherited the empire, one being the threat of foreign trade. While trade obviously is a beneficial thing, it can sometimes cause harm, as such the Qing dynasty had some worries about trade with foreign lands. For one thing, the intrusion of missionaries had caused some pretty brutal conflicts in China. After this Emperor Qianlong ordered his court to make some changes to foreign trade to thus stop more conflicts from occurring. He bottled necked all foreign trade to go through Canton and they were to deal exclusively with a group known as the Cohong merchants. The Cohong were granted a monopoly over the foreign trade, but were also the primary representative link between the Qing government and the outside world. There were strings attached of course, the Cohong merchants were to take on full responsibility for any foreign persons connected with a foreign ship that did trade. The Cohong were of course expected to pay taxes to the Qing government for all the trade being done, but by far and large they were able to control how they would levy such taxes. A perfect recipe for corruption.

    A event occured known as the Flint Affair, a situation in which a Englishman named James Flint serving the East India Company was repeatedly warned to remain in Canton, but in 1755 he went against the Qing administrative warnings and tried to establish trade in some ports in Zhejiang. He was caught and deported to Macau where he was imprisoned for a few years. The situation prompted Emperor Qianlong to enact 5 measures against the foreign barbarians who wished to trade.

    1) Trade by foreign barbarians in Canton is prohibited during the winter.

    2) Foreign barbarians coming to the city must reside in the foreign factories under the supervision and control of the Cohong.

    3) Chinese citizens are barred from borrowing capital from foreign barbarians and from employment by them.

    4) Chinese citizens must not attempt to gain information on the current market situation from foreign barbarians

    5) Inbound foreign barbarian vessels must anchor in the Whampoa Roads and await inspection by the authorities

    Trade with China was beginning to really boom, but it was being frustrated into the bottleneck of Canton. The British were very eager to open up more trade with China and Macartney had instructions to offer something to the Chinese to open up trade. He could offer to end the importation of opium from British held India, something that was officially illegal in the Qing dynasty, but in reality the Qing could not stop the illicit smuggling of it into China.

    On the morning of september 26, 1792 the HMS Lion a 64 gun ship of the line, cast off for China. When Macarney landed on the coast of China, all of his retinue and baggage were transferred to Chinese junks by the order of Emperor Qianlong before he was allowed to travel up the Bei He River enroute for Peking. His ship had a large sign tacked to its mast by the Qing officials with large black letters reading “tribute from the red barbarians”. Remember at this time in history, China was basically the pinnacle of civilization at least from its viewpoint. China had felt superior to the rest of the world for quite some time. Gunpowder, paper currency, eyeglasses and the printing press all were developed in China long before the west had acquired such things. As such the emperor of China did not receive ambassadors per say, as exchanging emissaries would denote equal rank amongst nations, for which China had no equal. Those who did come as emissaries were treated as tribute bearers and identified as foreign barbarians. From the perspective of the Chinese, foreign barbarians did not come to negotiate or make dealings, they came as subjects to pay homage and tribute.

    Macartney believed he was bringing gifts from one sovereign nation to another, but the Qing considered him to be a vassal paying tribute. The gifts he brought were the best of British technology: telescopes, brass howitzers, globes, clocks, musical instruments and an entire hot air balloon complete with a balloonist. That one always puzzled me by the way, did that mean the balloonist was just going to be some sort of lifetime servant? In all Macartney brought over 600 gifts for Emperor Qianlong and this all required an astonishing 99 wagons, 40 wheelbarrows drawn by over 200 horses and 3000 people. Macartney was instructed to display the gifts at the Emperor's summer palace before he would be given any chance at seeing Emperor Qianlong. The Qing court apparently were not that impressed with most of the gifts, though they did admire the wood pottery and were particularly interested when Macartney ignited sulfur matches. Unfortunately the hot air balloon never got a chance to take off. The viceroy of Pechili told Macartney that he would not be meeting the emperor in his palace, but in a yurt outside the Imperial hunting lodge in Rehe of the tartary lands. They would pass through the great wall and Macartney was astonished by it stating it to be “the most stupendous work of human hands, probably greater in extent than all of the other forts in the world put together. Its construction was a sign of not only a very powerful empire, but a very wise and virtuous nation”. They traveled into Manchuria until they reached the Emperor’s summer quarters on september 8th. The journey had nearly taken a year since they departed England in 1792 and the success or failure of the embassy would be decided in the matter of just mere days. They stopped a mile from the imperial summer residence to make themselves presentable.

    Macartney had prepared a colorful and grandiose outfit for the occasion as described by his valet “A suite of spotted mulberry velvet, with a diamond star, and his ribbon, over which he wore the full habit of the order of the Bath, with the hat and the plume of feathers, which form a part of it”. So try to imagine a man dressed up like a peacock, certainly it was going to leave an impression, which is what he wanted. The entourage formed a makeshift parade formation with as much British pomp that could be mustered. The British soldiers and cavalry led the way on foot followed by servants, musicians, scientists and other gentry. The parade arrived at 10am to their designated quarters, with no one at all to greet them. Macartney was bewildered, he had expected this famed Manchu man named Heshen to meet them. However Heshen was nowhere to be found, Macartney deduced he must be delayed for some reason and so they all simply waited. 6 hours passed by as they all stood there in formation waiting with no sign of an imperial official, thus they lost heart and went into the assigned residence to eat. In the end Macartney was forced to go find Heshen himself, quite an uncomfortable start to the venture. Over the course of several days the mountain of British gifts were exchanged. They presented things such as rugs to the Emperors representatives and in turn were given luxurious fabrics such as silk, jade, porcelain, lacquerware and large quantities of the finest tea, oh tea will play quite a role in all of this rest assured. The British tried to awe them with the products of their science, but soon were realizing something was not right.

    You see this entire process was confused. For the British they were trying to impress the Chinese to gain the ability to negotiate for more advantageous policies in the future, IE: gain the approval to open a permanent embassy in the capital. But for the Chinese the situation was literally just trade, they were trading goods they assumed the British would want to take home and sell. Nations like Vietnam and Korea would regularly come to pay tribute to the emperor for his approval which legitimized their governments. They came and performed the famous “kow tow” before the Emperor. For those who don’t know the “kow tow” is a ritual of 9 kneeling bows to the ground in 3 sets of 3 in the direction of the emperor. The envoys from places like Vietnam or Korea did this readily as their nations were official tributaries to China and thus the Emperor was the overarching figure for their nations as well as their own emperors. But when Macartney showed up he knew nothing of this entire process. Initially Macartney did not even realize he was supposed to prostrate himself before emperor and when this was explained to him he was unwilling to do it. Because despite the great admiration he had for the Qing Empire, he thought he was an envoy between 2 equal and sovereign nations, he assumed the King of England was on equal footing with Emperor Qianlong. Macartney had never done anything like the kow tow for his own king why should he for a foreign king?

    So Macartney expected what he considered a mere ceremony to be waved off and submitted a request for that to be so, which he alleged later he received approval for. But when he arrived at Jehol, Heshen denied ever seeing this request and insisted Macartney must perform the kow two before the emperor. Qing officials at the scene assured Macartney that it was just “a mere exterior and unmeaning ceremony” urging him on. Things began to get messy, Macartney said he would kow tow readily if a Qing official would do the same before a portrait he had brought of King George III. No Qing official would do it, so Macartney tried to compromise, what if he simply bent the knee and head once before Emperor Qianlong. To Mccartneys relief the proposal was accepted. A few more days went by, then on September 14th he was informed he could meet the emperor.

    Macartney got into his peacock suit and his entourage marched behind Macartney who was carried on a litter until they made it to the Emperor's ceremonial tent. Macartney entered, carrying a jeweled encrusted golden box containing a letter from King George III. In his own account, Macartney stated he knelt on one knee as agreed and presented the emperor the box and the emperor did not seem in the slightest to have made any commotion about the ritual not being performed. Macartney said “Emperor Qianlong’s eyes were full and clear and his countenance was open, despite the dark and gloomy demeanor we had expected to find”. Do not forget as I mentioned in the previous episode, at this point in time the Emperor was its pretty safe to say, very senile. The letter from George III was translated into Chinese carefully by European missionaries who made sure to take out any potentially offensive references, like for example anything about chrisianity. The letter spoke about how Emperor Qianlong “should live and rule for 10s of thousands of years and the word China was elevated one line above the rest of the text whenever it appeared and the name of the emperor was elevated 3 lines above the rest. The letters translation thus had been done in such a way it really did not conform to the letter between 2 equals anymore. Meanwhile while Emperor Qianlong read this, Macartney was simply awed by the tent they were in. In his words “the tapestries, carpets and rich draperies and lanterns were disposed with such harmony, the colors so artfully varied. It was as if he was inside a painting. The commanding feature of the ceremony was the calm dignity that sober pomp of asiatic greatness, which European refinements have not yet attained”. Macartney also went on to mention that he was also not the only envoy present in the tent. There were 6 Muslim enovys from tributary states near the Caspian sea an a Hindu envoy from Burma and they had allow performed the kow tow.

    Emperor Qianlong asked Heshen if any of the English could speak Chinese and the son of British diplomat George Staunton stepped forward. The 12 year old boy named George stepped towards the throne and according to his diary “I spoke some Chinese words to him and thanked him for the presents”. Emperor Qianlong was apparently charmed by this and took a purse from his own waist to give to him as a token of his esteem. That little boy became the first Englishman after James Flint to cross the wall of language between Britain and China and it would shape his life after. After the meeting, Macartney and his entourage were allowed to stay in Jehol for a few days and were fortunate enough to partake in the emperor's birthday banquet. On September 21st, disaster struck when a member of Macartney's entourage died, a gunner named Reid. It was the day before their departure date and apparently Reid had eaten 40 apples for breakfast, which I have to say is one of the most bizarre rationales for a death I've ever heard. Regardless, the Qing assumed off the bat the man died of some contagious disease and urged them all to leave with haste.

    Meanwhile in Peking, the Balloonist/scientist Mr Dinwiddie had been busy prepared all the scientific instruments for demonstrations awaiting Emperor Qianlong’s return from Jehol at the end of september. He had begun filling a grand hall of the imperial palace outside the city of Beijing with globes, clocks, telescopes, the air pump for the balloon and such. He had signed a contract basically stating he could never return home and would be stuck as a foreigner in a small part of Beijing. Regardless he got everything ready for the emperor's visit. When the emperor came on October the 1st he showed no particular emotion as he toured the hall according to Dinwiddie. Upon looking through a telescope for roughly 2 minutes the emperor alleged stated “it was good enough to amuse children” and simply left. Heshen and other Qing officials came to see the wonders and showed a bit more interest. Unfortunately the hot air balloon demonstration was to be the grand finale in the course of a few days but never came to fruition, because all of a sudden on October the 6th the Emperor ordered all the British to leave. Everything was hastily packed up and every man by October 7th was being pushed out as the embassy mission was sent away from Peking. Once on the road out of Peking it dawned upon them all the embassy mission was a failure. As one British servant put it “we entered Peking like paupers; we remained in it like prisoners; and we quitted it like vagrants”.

    Macartney had no idea how much he had offended the emperor with his negotiations. Back on september 10th, 4 days before they met the Emperor, Qianlong was always fuming mad about the English ambassadors dragging of the feet about the kow tow. In fact at that time Emperor Qianlong simply told his officials he would keep the promise to have the meetings, but as far as he was concerned they best be gone afterwards. Qianlong prior had planned to have them stay a long time to enjoy the sights of Jehol but “given the presumption and self important display by the English ambassador, they should be sent from Jehol immediately after the banquet, given 2 days to get to Peking to pack up their belongs and go. When foreigners who come seeking audience with me are sincere and submissive then I always treat them with kindness. But if they come in arrogance they get nothing”. On October 3rd, just a few days before they were ordered out, Macartney received the official response to King George III’s letter, unfortunately it was in Chinese and he was unable to translate it for some time. It stated that the request for the British ambassador to remain at the capital was not consistent with the customs of the empire and therefore could not be allowed. And here is the kicker in regards to trade and the gifts he said “I accepted the gifts not because I wanted them, but merely, as tokens of your own affectionate regard for me. In truth the greatness and splendor of the Chinese empire have spread its fame far and wide, and as foreign nations, from a thousand parts of the world, crowd hither over mountains and seas, to pay us their homage and bring us the rarest and most precious offerings, what is it that we can want here? Strange and costly objects do not interest me. We possess all things. I set no value on objects strange or ingenious, and have no use for your countries manufactures”. Oomphf there was a second little part after that went “we have never needed trade with foreign countries to give us anything we lacked. Tea, porcelain and silk are essential needs for countries like England that do not have such things and out of grace the dynasty had long permitted foreign merchants to come to Canton to purchase these goods. To satisfy your needs and to allow you to benefit from our surplus. England is but one of many countries that comes to trade in Canton and if we were to give Britain special treatment, then we would have to give it to all the others as well”.

    Macartney was furious and wrote extensively enroute back home. “Can they be ignorant, that a couple of English frigates would be an overmatch for the whole naval force of their empire, that in half a summer they could totally destroy the navigation of their coasts and reduce the inhabitants of the maritime provinces, who subsist chiefly on fish, to absolute famine? We could destroy the Tiger’s mouth forts guarding the river passage to Canton with just half a dozen boardsides and annihilate the Canton trade that employs millions of Chinese”. Yet despite all his military bravado talk, if Britain were at this time to make any aggression against China it would immediately result in them shutting down their trade. If that was allowed to happen both the economies of Britain and British held India would suffer tremendous economic damage. Thus Macartney knew the best course of action was to be patient and try try and try again.

    So the Macartney mission ended in embarrassment. Macartney would tell those back in Britain “The empire of China is an old crazy first-rate man of war, which a fortunate succession of able and vigilant offers has contrived to keep afloat for these hundred and fifty years past; and to overawe their neighbors, merely by her bulk and appearance. She may perhaps not sink outright, she may drift some time as a wreck, and will then be dashed in pieces on the shore; but she can never be rebuilt on the old bottom”. Very dark and ominous words indeed. Prior to Macartney’s report those had this perception of China to be the model of stable and virtuous government. But Macartney ranted that “the tyranny of a handful of Tartars over more than 300 millions of Chinese. And those Chinese subjects would not suffer the odium of a foreign yoke for much longer. A revolution was coming”. Macartney would elaborate further on what he believed to be the socio-political situation in China. “I often perceived the ground to be hollow under a vast superstructure and in trees of the most stately and flourishing appearance I discovered symptoms of speedy decay. The huge population of Han Chinese were just recovering blows that had stunned them they are awaking from the political stupor they had been thrown into by the Tartar impression, and begin to feel their native energie revive. A slight collision might elicit fire from the flint, and spread the flames of revolt from one extremity of China to the other. I should not be surprised if its dislocation or dismemberment were to take place before my own dissolution”. Please take note this is all coming from a bitterly anger man who, yes traveled the country for months, but he had not seen the interior of China. He could not speak or read the language and knew nothing of the culture. And yet he was almost 100% prophetic in what would occur.

    Now as I went into with the past episode, the Qianlong Emperor was very old and going senile. When Macartney met with him, Qianlong had just turned 82 and had ruled for over 58 years an incredible reign. And despite the show the emperor had put on about never needing western trade, in reality he was deeply fascinated by western inventions. He cherished his collection of 70 British clocks and wrote poems about them and about western telescopes. Likewise he kept multiple western art pieces and employed many westerners in his court. Above all else he understood the value of China’s foreign trade at Canton, because a significant portion of the tariff income fed his imperial household. The canton trade was also a primary source of silver import of which China was the largest importer of silver since the 1600s. Foreigners came and were forced to trade with silver if they wanted tea or porcelain. Tea, Tea is the crucial component of this story.

    In 1664 King Charles II received 2 lbs of black, strange smelling leaves from China. Less than half a century later, tea became Britain's beverage of choice with an annual consumption of 12 million pounds per year. By 1785, Britain was importing 15 million lbs of tea per year from China. The people of Britain were literally addicted China’s tea, which might I add is a mild stimulant. More so the British government became economically dependent on tea and the Exchequer levied a 100 percent import tax upon it whoa. Although China purchased some British goods like clocks, it was nothing compared to the British need for tea. Between 1710 to 1759 the imbalance of trade was enormous, literally draining Britain of its silver, because that was after all the only form of payment China accepted. During this time, Britain paid 26 million in silver to China, but sold only 9 million in goods.

    Now lets talk a bit more about how this trade was being down in Canton. It was the East India Company who was given a monopoly over the tea trade in China. I mentioned the Cohong or sometimes called simply Hong merchants. They were directly in charge of the Canton trade, holding a monopoly over it. All western trade had to come through them, if you were a foreign ship, your cargo had to be guaranteed by a Hong merchant before it could sail up river to port Canton. Only a Hong merchant could rent you a warehouse or arrange for you any and all purchases for tea, silk and such. Personal relationships were thus key and having a friendship with any Hong merchant was immensely valuable. Hong merchants were accountable for the conduct of all foreing personnel. If some foreigner got drunk and beat up a local, the Hong merchant was held responsible, and this did in fact happen often. The Hong merchants were a small group, typically no more than a dozen any given time. As you can imagine with such a small group controlling the full trade between China and western nations, the opportunities for both sides merchants to become abundantly rich was enormous. However there was a ton of risk for the Hong since they took all the risk. Regardless the Hong merchants were some of the richest men in China, but they also went bankrupt regularly. Why was this, well because of their access to capital it made them primary targets for other government officials to squeeze.

    You see despite their monopoly on the trade, the Hong merchants were almost always in a precarious situation. Their appointment and finance was done via the Hoppo. Also the social status of merchants within traditional confucianism was very low and the Hong merchants were at the mercy of other Qing officials. This led the Hong merchants to be forced to pay numerous bribes to said officials. More often than naught to get an appointment as a Hong came with a literal downpayment for the officials who got you the job! The Hong merchants were squeezed left right and center by countless officials in a pecking system built upon corruption and greed.

    The senior superintendent of foreign trade at Canton was a Imperial customs commissioner known to the westerners as the “hoppo”. The hoppo reported directly to the board of revenue in Beijing and it was the Hoppo who was responsible for ensuring a proper flow of tariff income back to Beijing. The position of Hoppo was one of the greatest opportunities to get filthy rich.

    Before the White Lotus rebellion the Qing silver surplus was a whopping 70 million taels, but over the course of the war it is estimated the Qing treasury would pay something like 100 million taels in silver. Then came another disaster.

    The Napoleonic wars had a tremendous impact on the world, not limited to just the war itself. As the war grinding on, Britain was pressed for funds to finance its war against France and this led them to squeeze the East India Company harder. The British government began raising its tax on the company’s tea in 1795, then again in 1802 where it reached 50%, then again in 1806 to a whopping 96% and by 1819 it would be 100%. The growing British tax on the company’s tea led it to become a possible 1/10th of Britain's national revenue. As you can imagine with those numbers, the importance of maintaining the trade with Canton became a matter of national interest.

    While the Qing dynasty spent millions of taels mobilizing armies to quell the white lotus rebellion, the British likewise spent millions during its war against france. Britain would spend around 12 times more than its previous 22 year war with France and ran up a monstrous national debt. By the time Napoleon was defeated, Britain had doubled the size of the royal navy and it was the most powerful maritime force in the world. Britain acquired more territories to expand its enormous empire. By 1820 the British Empire would control roughly a quarter of the world's population, almost rivaling China. The emperor of China, Jiaqing was forced to slash the budgets of things such as the military after the internal rebellion was over. In expectation for an era of peace for the empire, the emperor effectively had to mortgage the future improvement of China’s military to simply stabilize the country.

    Now Britain's tea fix needed to be met, but its silver was depleted. The Napoleonic war and the American revolution had drained Britain of its silver reserve, how was Britain going to get the tea? The British needed to find something the Chinese were willing to pay for in silver and the British would find what that in Opium. The British were not the first importers of Opium into China. Arab merchants had been selling opium cultivated in what is modern day turkey since the middle ages. It was primarily used for medicinal purposes, such as being used as a constipation drug to stop diarrhea, quite a useful thing to have to fight off dysentery which reeks its ugly head during times of conflict. In 1659 the East India Company began to export it in limited quantities from Bengal India. The East India Company had a monopoly over the trade with India and tried to prevent the business of opium importing to China since it was illegal and could interfere with the company's legitimate trade. However to get tea required silver and when the silver began to dry up the East India Company’s tolerance for the illicit business began to loosen.

    In 1782 the East India Company turned its eyes away and allowed the export of 3450 chests of opium. Each chest for reference weighed around 170 lbs, about the size of a small footlocker. 2 ships carried the illegal cargo and enroute 1 of them was captured by the French with the other arrived in Macao. The Chinese merchants refused to purchase the illegal contraband until the price was dropped to 210$ per chest. To break even the British needed to sell a chest at around 500$, it was a complete disaster. The British merchants ended up dumping most of their cargo at a loss in Malaysia for a price of around 340$. There were no eager buyers for opium in China in 1782 and this showcases the lack of users or better said addicts. Nonetheless the Qing government made a decree in 1799 condemning the illicit trade “foreigners obviously derive the most solid profits and advantages, but that our countrymen should pursue this destructive and ensnaring vice is indeed odious and deplorable”. The East India Company proclaimed it was forbidding British ships to carry the illicit cargo, because remember they had to make sure the Canton market remained open to britain. Yet this did not stop the East India company from selling opium within India to independent British and Indian merchants who in turn might smuggle the drugs into China. Its not the East India company after all and the company could see no other way to acquire silver to buy the tea Britain needed.

    In 1773 opium earned the company 39,000 pounds, in 1793 opium earned them 250,000 pounds. The idea was working and the trade imbalance was soon shifting. By 1806 to 1809 China would pay out 7 million in silver for opium. During the first 2 decades of the 19th century opium addiction grew in China at a slow pace. The East India Company kept the price of the illicit substance artificially high, which meant only the upper class in China could afford it. The East India Company was doing its best not to antagonize the Qing government, IE: not rubbing their nose in the illicit trade, thus it did not increase imports and lower prices. Around 5000 chests were being sold per year and this stabilized the trade imbalance between Britain and China, no longer was Britain simply losing its silver to China, nor was China being depleted dry.

    Then a technological innovation in Britain completely shattered the equilibrium. The invention of the steam engine in the previous century resulted in the mechanized production of cotton. Soon England had flooded the market with mass produced textiles and the surplus of this found its way to a very eager Indian market. Those merchants paid for the product in cash, but how do you think they got the cash? Bingo opium cultivation and with it the need to sell more of it. So as a result more and more opium began to flood into China, but it still had to go through the bottleneck of Canton.

    Problems began to occur which affected the Canton trade. The Napoleonic wars began to send ripples throughout the world and one place that was affected was Macao in 1808. The British in Canton heard rumors that France was sending troops to occupy Macao. The British wanted to preemptively respond and sent a naval fleet under Rear Admiral William Drury in September of 1808. Drury sent a letter informing the Portuguese governor at Macao that he intended to occupy the city to which the governor refused him and began to appeal to the Chinese governor general for protection. On september 21st Drury landing 300 marines who quickly seized the shore batteries at Macao with no resistance being made by the Portuguese. However the Chinese governor general ordered a shutdown of the British trade in Canton, uh oh. The East India company had to pull full cargo ships out immediately and abandon their factory in Canton. Drury in response brought an additional 700 marines from India to occupy Macao. The Chinese governor general warned Drury if they did not withdraw, the fleet and all British residents in Macao would be cut off from food supplies. Drury panicked, he had not intended to start a war, nor were his orders remotely authorized to do so!

    When Emperor Jiaqing got news of the British invasion of Macao he was furious to say the least. Emperor Jiaqing issued an edict to the governor general in Canton “such a brutal eruption at Macao indicates an affrontery without limit. To invoke such a pretext is to freely insult the Chinese Empire. It is important in any case to raise considerable troops, attack the foreigners, and exterminate them. In this way, they will understand that the seas of China are forbidden to them!”. So the governor general ordered 8000 troops at Canton to man the coastal forts in the vicinity in preparation for war. Drury got the news of this and knew the Canton trade could be shut off for good stating “it would exclude the English forever, from the most advantageous monopoly it possesses in the Universe”. So Admiral Drury backed down, refusing to risk war with China. Drury took the marines out, but left some ships in the hope trade in Canton would soon be restored. And thus 6 days later the Qing governor general restored trade in Canton, phew crisis averted.

    Another rather unusual conflict occured when a British christian missionary named Thomas Manning attempted to enter into China by land. Manning had tried asking the Hoppo for permission to visit Beijing as a scientist envoy but it was refused as the Emperor had plenty of western scientists at his disposal. The frustrated Manning then began to climb aboard East India company ships going around Vietnam, to see if he could find a way to sneak into China via Vietnam roads. This did not pan out so he struck out at another place to get into China, Tibet. Manning went to Tibet pretending to be a Buddhist lama from India and would you believe it he got an audience with the Dalai Lama on december 17 of 1811. He climbed hundreds of steps and met with the Dalai Lama whom he described “His face was, I thought, poetically and effectively beautiful. He was of a gay and cheerful disposition; his beautiful mouth perpetually unbending into a graceful smile, which illuminated his whole countenance. Sometimes, particularly when he had looked at me, his smile almost approached a gentle laugh”. After meeting the Dalai Lama, Manning hoped to be granted permission to make the 1500 mile journey to Beijing, but this would not occur. In the holy city of Lhasa he was apprehended by the local Qing officials and quasi imprisoned until Emperor Jiaqing could be informed and send orders as to what to do. Orders finally came in February of 1812 to deport Manning and raise border security in response to this incursion.

    Then in 1813 problems reeked their ugly head yet again for British-Chinese relations. The Emperor had reduced the number of Hong merchants that the British were allowed to do business with. The larger issue at hand was the War of 1812 which brought with it conflict between Britain and American ships around the waters of Canton. At this time the Americans were second only to the British in the size of their commerce in Canton. The US lacked cruisers to convoy their merchant ships and thus began arming the merchants ships into privateers. The US ships also tried to simply avoid the British by not landing at the same time intervals, but all of this would not avoid conflict. In march of 1814 the British frigate Doris captured a 300 ton American privateer, the USS Hunter and took her to Macao as a prize. 2 months later the Doris hunted down the USS Russel up the Pearl River near the Whampia anchorage just a few miles shy of Whampoa city. They fired upon another while another US ships the Sphynx was boarded and captured. More raids continued from both sides and the conflict greatly angered the Chinese authorities. Eventually the Qing governor general cut off supplies and suspended trade with both nations demanding they behave themselves.

    The British merchants in Canton complained they had nothing to do with the Royal Navy, but the Chinese authorities would not hear it. Some minor conflicts occured in Canton and the British felt they had been wronged. The East India Company began to demand the British government send an embassy to remedy the entire situation. So Britain answered the plea and sent another embassy mission in 1816. Lord William Pitt Amherst, Earl Amherst of Arracan was born in 1773 in Bath. His father was General William Amherst and his uncle was Field Marshall Sir Jeffrey Amherst who had a distinguished military career including being the governor general of British north America after defeating Nouvelle France in 1760. Little Williams mother died and the widowed father would take care of William and his sister for awhile until in 1781 when he also died. William would end up living with his uncle in the Amherst estate in Montreal where I happen to live near. William would eventually go to oxford and became an accomplished linguist learning several languages. Eventually he landed a job as ambassador to Sicily and by the end of the Napleonic wars he was made a Privy Councillor. He proved to be able enough and was soon sent as Ambassador with Plenipotentiary to negotiate with the Qing Dynasty in 1816.

    The China Amherst encountered in 1816 was very different compared to the one Lord Macrtney had visited. The Emperor was Jiaqing, the dynasty had quelled the White Lotus Rebellion, quite a few smaller revolts and had a real problem with pirates along the coast. Emperor Jiaqing had a loose hold over the empire and was not about to let some foreign power further threaten it.

    Amherst was a bit of an odd choice to lead the mission. He was considered a dull, but well mannered man who was not very talented in public speaking. Neither brilliant nor particularly handsome, just hailed from an excellent family. Amherst brought with him 2 familiar faces, the former little boy who had courageously spoken to Emperor Qianlong, George Staunton, who was now an adult. George had been working for the East India Company in Canton and had mastered the Chinese language and learnt much of its culture. The second ws Thomas Manning after his great Tibet adventure. Amherst’s departure would be 6 months after the Duke of Wellington’s victory at Waterloo in June of 1815. Thus Amherst would be coming to China to inform them that the nearly continuous warfare between Britain and France for the past 22 years had finally come to an end. Amherst was instructed to make it clear to the Chinese that Great Britain was now the unrivaled dominant military power in Europe. The Amherst mission also was to remedy the Canton situation, but the perspective from Britain was quite off. They thought Emperor Jiaqing knew relatively not much about the ongoings in places like Canton, and if they simply came and complained about mistreatment that he would just offhand discipline the officials in Canton and place the British in a better position.The Emperor however was hardly oblivious to the ongoings in Canton, in fact he was paying a ton of attention to it. The Emperor had ordered investigation into the Canton situation over the past few years Emperor Jiaqing was particularly taking an interest into George Staunton who he viewed as a potential trouble maker in China, because the man had vast knowledge now of the language and culture and might induce more westerners to do the same. For certain the emperor was not pleased at all to find out Thomas Manning was coming as he had deported him and it was to be presumed Manning should never step foot back in China ever again. So the entourage was already doomed to fail.

    As the entourage made their way, Amherst reported that the Qing dynasty seemed to have declined significantly compared to what Macartney had reported long ago. The entourage had learnt of the White Lotus rebellion and how suppressing it nearly bankrupt the Qing government. The entourage became rather bold and instead of waiting at the island of Chusan, Amherst ships, accompanied by 2 East India Company surveying vessels divided themselves into task forces and went to work dropping the embassy team off at the White River. Soon some of the vessels began to explore the river networks going as far north to where the Great Wall meets the coast of Manchuria, sailed around the Liaodong Peninsula and parts of the Yalu river, very bold moves. They also took notes of the villages, populations and geology of their ventures. They particularly noted down the lack of military installations.

    Both the Amherst mission and the Qing court intended to use the Macartney mission as a precedent, but neither communicated how they should go about it. What really loomed over the entire affair was the issue of the Kow Tow. Now Amherst was coming into this with less radical requests than Macartney. They were not asking for a permanent ambassador at the capital, nor the opening of new ports. They just wanted some kind of provision for direct communication between the East India Company staff in Canton and a high ranking official in Beijing in order to circumvent the troubles they had been having with the Hoppo and governor general of canton. They also wanted to be allowed to do business with others aside from the Hong merchants. Officials from Beijing met with Amherst as soon as the British ships anchored at the mouth of the white river in early august. They escorted him along the way, but also asked him to Kowtow in front of a piece of yellow silk that represented the emperor. They wanted to see that the man understood how to do the kowtow. Amherst was given instructions from the British government simply to do what he thinks best in the situation of the kow towing issue, but to make sure the mission was a success. Thus the first time he was asked to do it he refused and stated that since Macartney did not kow tow why should he. The Qing officials were confused and said as far as they knew Macartney did kow tow to the emperor in 1793. Then they reminded Amherst the Emperor Jiaqing was present in 1793 and would have seen it occur, best he kow tow as well. George Staunton told Amherst they were mistaken and that he never saw Macartney kow tow. As you can imagine it was now a case of Emperor Jiaqing’s word against Staunton, a man the emperor did not like. Amherst was in a bad situation, so he simply stated he would do the kow tow when the time came, but stressed he would do it on one knee and not two. He tried to compromise by offering to kiss the emperors hand which utterly disgusted the Qing officials. The highest ranking Qing official escorting the foreigners was Heshitai, brother in law to Emperor Jaiqing. He told Amherst he had to bow on both knees or he would be expelled from the capital without audience.

    The entourage made it just a mile outside Beijing where crowds of spectators began assembling on the sides of the roads to see their approach. They made their way to the eastern gate at night and the massive walls astounded them. They road in springless wooden carts, a quite uncomfortable ride at that. Amherst was told his audience would take place immediately and in fact he was actually late for it. Amherst panicked he was not ready, he was fatigued and unkept, his baggage had not even arrived yet which held his coronation robes for the occasion. He did not even have the letter from the prince regent to be given to the Emperor! Heshitai told him he had to go now, but Amherst refused. Amherst demanded they be given time to clean up, gather their baggage and rest. Heshitai eventually got another Qing official to grab hold of Amherst and dragged him to see the emperor.

    It is here we get many conflicting stories about what goes down. In a classical one it is said, the Qing officials grab Amherst in the middle of the night when he is disoriented and try to force him to kow tow in a private room, hoping the half asleep man would just do it. Apparently Staunton grabs Amherst by the elbow before he can do the deed and they suddenly leave the place before seeing the emperor. A lot of unanswered questions to be sure.



    In another story the try to get Amherst to go see the emperor, but he simply refuses and him and his entourage basically fight their way out of their lodgings and leave on the evening of November 13. Regardless what is important to know is the British entourage and Emperor Jiaqing have no idea whats going on at all, they are both at the mercy of reports from the middle men, IE: the escort officials like Heshitai.

    During the slow journey back south to Canton, one of their ships, the Alceste had bombarded a Chinese fort guarding the Tiger’s Mouth river entrance to Canton! Dozens of shots were fired and it is said 47 Chinese soldiers were killed. The Alceste had returned from surveying the Pearl river when the captain Murray Maxwell requested permission to sail up to the Whampoa anchorage so it could make repairs on the ship before picking up Amherst’s entourage on their way back. Maxwell alleges he was taunted by the Qing representative to the governor general who told him that Amherst had been sent away from the capital without an audience. Murray Maxwell was thus denied permission to go to the Whampoa anchorage and was forced to wait on an outlying island. After a week of waiting, Maxwell had had it and decided to force up the river without permission. As soon as the Alceste began sailing it was confronted by a Chinese fleet and soon a fire fight. The Alceste began blasting away the Chinese coastal defenses, working her way up the river channel to get to Whampoa anchorage.

    Both the British entourage and Emperor Jiaqing were mystified as to what happened. The Emperor sent his personal doctor to see to Amherst whom he had assumed must be very sick for missing the meeting only to find out the man was perfectly healthy. After some investigation the Emperor realized the entire debacle was the fault of the escorting officials, above all Heshitai! It turns out the Emperor had been lied to by the escorting officials and fed false reports. The British blamed the emperor for the entire misadventure. The Emperor was livid by everything, but there was a saving grace to the embarrassment on his nation's part, the embarrassment of the Alceste ordeal. When the Alceste made it to Whampoa the governor generals welcomed the ship as if nothing had ever happened. The Emperor sent conciliatory edicts and gifts for the King of England. The Emperor also sent a letter to the king, but he had written it before his investigation of all the matters and thus wrote that he blamed Amherst for the entire ordeal.

    The mission was a catastrophe. Trade would continue unaffected, but now both nations had been humiliated. Now the Chinese would look with more suspicion at the British and the British hopes for extending trade outside the canton system were dashed. As quite a fitting end to the entire ordeal, the Alceste which was carrying Amherst and his retinue back to England slammed into a rock and sank. England's response to the Amherst mission was disappointment. The entire situation aided one group of people in Britain, those who sought to abolish the East India Company’s monopoly over the China trade. One major critic of the Amherst mission was Napoleon Bonaparte exiled on Saint Helena in 1817. He thought it was ridiculous that such an ordeal came about because the British fretted over kow towing. But he ended his statements with this “It would be the worst thing you have done for a number of years, to go to war with an immense empire like China, what might happen if the dragon, as it were, should be awakened? You would doubtless, at first, succeed…but you would teach them their own strength. They would be compelled to adopt measures to defend themselves against you; they would consider, and say, ‘we must try to make ourselves equal to this nation. Why should we suffer a people, so far away, to do as they please to us? We must build ships, we must put guns into them, we must render ourselves equal to them.’ They would get artificers, and ship builders, from France, and America, and even from London; they would build a fleet,and, in the course of time, defeat you.”

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    The attempts at opening up more trade with China were disastrous and embarrassing for Britain. She needed her tea fix, but her silver reserves were depleted and thus the East India Company began to deal in opium. How could this possibly all go wrong?

  • Last time we spoke, the Qing Dynasty faced the last real death throes of the Ming Dynasty. What is known as the Revolt of three Feudatories resulted in a war against Wu Sangui, Geng Jingzhong & Shang Zhixin. One by one each warlord fell to the Qing dynasty’s vast armies and with each defeat brought more territory and populace under the Qing yolk. However one last major enemy loomed, the Kingdom of Taiwan established by Koxinga. Koxinga’s descendent Zheng Keshuang would eventually be defeated and with his submission it seemed the Qing Dynasty would have eternal peace. However, the Qing’ enemies remained within and outside its borders at all times. Holding the new empire together would not be easy. The Qing empire, much like the great wall of China could be destroyed, brick by brick and only time would tell how that wall would hold.

    This episode is the White Lotus Rebellion

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on the history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.




    The revolt of the 3 feudatories had ended, Wu Sangui, Geng Jingzhong & Shang Zhixin were all defeated. The grandson of Koxinga, Zheng Keshuang was defeated, Taiwan was conquered and brought under the fold of the Qing dynasty. The Qing also managed to defend its borders from the external threat of the Tsardom of Russia. The Russians had ventured into border skirmishes around the Amur River valley, first in 1658 with the Battle of Hutong, in which a force of Manchu and Koreans overwhelmed a force of 500 Cossacks aboard 11 ships, sending them fleeing to Albazin. Albazin was a Russian settlement on the Amur River right along the Qing Dynasty’s border and it remained a point of conflict in the late 17th century. Since their defeat at the battle of Hutong, the Russians began a campaign of persuading nearby populaces to their cause rather than the Qing which became such a nuisance by 1685 that the Qing sent a force to lay siege to the settlement. In just one day the settlement garrisoned by 450 men surrendered, however a year later the Russians would return to the settlement looking to re-establish themselves. The Qing yet again besieged the settlement in 1686, however this time it was much bloodier. The Qing threw around 3000 men at Albazin which was garrisoned by 800, by the end of the ordeal it is said just 24 men survived within Albazin and the Qing lost perhaps 1500 casualties. In the greater scheme of things, it was just a small border clash, but the result was rather significant. The Russians had been acting rather boldly, because of all the strife going on between the Qing and Ming, but now that the Qing had consolidated their new empire they were more than capable of defending any encroachments, especially those in Manchuria,their native homelands. After defeating the Russians again at the Siege of Albazin, the Qing government sent letters to the Tsar suggesting they sign a peace treaty, because for quite a long time now, the Qing were dealing with an age old enemy, the Mongols, to be precise the Dzungar Mongols. Emperor Kangxi wished to rid the Russian nuisance from the Amur area which was the northern border so he could focus his army on the north-western problem that was the Dzungar Mongols. The Russians knew they could not hope to defend outposts as far as the Amur region and the idea of peace talks perked their interests as trade would be far more beneficial to them then border skirmishes. A treaty would be signed called the Treaty of Nerchinsk, which established trade between the 2 empires and relative peace for quite a long time. This was also the first treaty between the Tsardom of Russia and the Qing dynasty, so a bit of legitimizing for the new-ish regime.

    The Qing would have a hell of a time with the Dzungar Mongols which accumulated into what is known as the Dzungar-Qing war which almost went on for a hundred years. By the time the Qing would effectively end the wars with the Dzungar mongols, and all culminated in what is known as the Dzungar genocide. By the end of the wars in the 1750’s it is estimated that around 80% of the Dzungar population, something like 500-800 thousand people were killed. During the early 18th century, the Qianlong Emperor gave a directive stating “"Show no mercy at all to these rebels. Only the old and weak should be saved. Our previous military campaigns were too lenient. If we act as before, our troops will withdraw, and further trouble will occur. If a rebel is captured and his followers wish to surrender, he must personally come to the garrison, prostrate himself before the commander, and request surrender. If he only sends someone to request submission, it is undoubtedly a trick. Tell Tsengünjav to massacre these crafty Zunghars. Do not believe what they say."”. As you can imagine such directives led to the massacres of countless people. On Top of the killings, the remaining Dzungar peoples were forcefully relocated to places all over China. Reports from a QING scholar named Wei Yuan who lived almost 100 years after the events state that 30% of the Dzungar people were killed by the Qing military, 40% died of disease such as a smallpox epidemic, 20% fled to other places like Russia and modern day Kazakhstan. There are quite a few historians who argue the Qianlong Emperor simply engaged in a genocidal campaign. Regardless after this rather horrible and bloody ordeal, for the most part the Qing dynasty undergoes a period of relative peace, and I mean the word peace should be taken with a grain of salt, for all Chinese history I don’t think there is a single year some revolt or rebellion is not occurring.

    When Emperor Kangxi took the throne from 1661-1722 this began what is called the Qing Golden Age. His successor Emperor Yongzheng continued the golden age from 1723-1735 and was further succeeded by Emperor Qianlong who would rule from 1735-1796 which is seen as the peak of the Golden age. During this period China annexed most of Mongolia, northeast China, Xinjiang, Tibet and Taiwan, aside from Taiwan, its basically the borders of the very China we know today. China at this time amounted to over 32% of the worlds industrial output, its population soared past 100 million for the first time in history and soon grew to an enormous 300 million, hell I live in Canada and we barely have 38 million right now! Despite being such a colossus, China for the most part was quite isolated in its market. China allowed foreign trade through places like Macau, but it was quite limited in scope. Eventually it would be expanded upon.

    When the Qianlong Emperor took the throne he began numerous projects including the Ten Great Campaigns, which was a series of military campaigns that enlarged the empire to the extent I had mentioned previously. He put together the largest collection of books in Chinese history to that point known as the Siku Quanshu, “complete repository of the Four branches of Literature”. The exploration of the new world also brought riches in the form of new foods to China. The potato and peanut dramatically improved food supplies allowing for China’s population to boom.

    Now the upcoming episodes are going to specifically look at the emergence of European powers mingling with China. But this episode is going to be directed at an internal story, and one that is not often talked about. Stating that I will be glossing over some very very important events such as the journey of James Flint and the mission of Lord George Macartney, but rest assured those stories will be the very forefront after this one.

    In the spring of 1794, the HMS Lion departed from Macau for its long voyage back home to England and a rumor spread amongst its crew that in the mountainous counties of Shanxi province, that a “true master” had appeared. This so-called Master was said to be marked with the character for the sun upon his left hand and the character of the moon on his right. Together these characters formed the character “Ming”, dun dun dunnnn. According to another rumor, a giant boulder in the village of where this master was born had suddenly split open revealing a hidden scripture inside thar read:

    “A black wind will blow for a day and a night.

    It will destroy men beyond number.

    White bones will be piled into mountains, and

    Blood will flow to become an ocean”

    It was the telling of an apocalypse, and rumors sprang all through China that the only way to escape the destruction was to memorize that scripture from the boulder and to chant it. Oh and to begin stockpiling guns and other weapons and be ready to support the great master’s uprising against the Qing. It was said the “black wind” would hit in the spring of 1796 and it would destroy the world and usher in a new age. Zhang Zhengmo, a peasant living in Hubei province was one of many who believed the prophecy. At 32 years of age he had heard it told to him by a sect leader named Bai who explained to Zhang and many others that the True Master’s doctrine was part of the White Lotus teachings.

    The White Lotus sect had been around for hundreds of years, it was something like a marriage between Buddhism and Daoism. For the most part, the White Lotus sects amounted to nothing more than harmless people practicing a faith based on healing and protection from misfortune. The founder of the Ming dynasty Zhu Yuanzhang, joined a White Lotus Revolution that took shape in 1352 in Guangzhou. The revolution saw him taking firm control over the head of a rebellious army and he would go on to conquer Nanjing and take the title of Emperor Hongwu ushering in a new age. His title also held religious sentiment of the White Lotus. This religion however like many others held a prediction of an apocalypse and its followers believed that with it would come the second coming of Buddha who would return in the form of a bodhisattva named Maitreya to rid the world of corruption and suffering. Maitreya would destroy the corrupt government and the non believers and a utopia would be formed for those who helped bring upon the apocalypse.

    So put yourself in the shoes of the Manchu rulers of the new Qing dynasty. You hear these rumors going around and see the potential rebellion you might be seeing from this religious group. White Lotus groups had sprung uprisings countless times in history and hell the dynasty you just defeated was made by one of those uprisings! Back to Zhang Zhengmo, well he was a recent convert and Bai who was a traveling sect leader became his teacher who indoctrinated him in the True Master’s doctrine. Zhang donated money to the cause, not much, he was a peasant after all, but enough to start hoarding weapons. He then began to recruit other followers to become his students…you can see where this is going, think of a good old fashion MLM scam of today like herbalife or scientology haha except instead of toxic shakes or alien stories its people hoarding weapons to begin an apocalypse. So you can sort of get the picture, you become a follower, in the process you pay money to hoard weapons. Then you recruit other followers, rinse and repeat, soon you got yourself a rebellion cooking.

    Zhang Zhengmo lived in a part of China considered to be an internal frontier, wide mountain ranges along the points where Hubei, Shaanxi and Sichuan pressed against another, same types of places all the bandit armies would run up into when the Qing came after them. This particular region was known as the Han River Highlands, which fed into the Yangzi river, not a very hospitable area and thus less developed. It was dense with forest, hills and such, perfect for bandits to hang out in. The reason I am describing this area is to emphasize something that is going on in China. I mentioned the population boom, from 100-300 million, it was enormous. With so many people, the necessity for agricultural expansion was enormous as well. Most of the southern and eastern parts of China were being cleared out for crops, literally everywhere was getting gulped up by farms. More and more people were forced to move into areas like the Han River Highlands and all of this culminated in more and more competition between settlers over natural resources. Like with most frontier societies, this got violent very fast. The Han River Highlands were a pretty scary place to live in the late 18th century, there was just about no security because the government officials were all in other areas. Thus without much intervention, who could step in to marshall such places? The White Lotus thats who.

    The White Lotus promised safety for all of its followers and were more than happy to accept any settlers. By 1794 the Qing administration warily watched as regions such as the Han River Highlands had sects such as the White Lotus grow. Provincial authorities saw the potential risk of insurrection and began to work at dismantling such cells before they could cause trouble. A crackdown came in 1794 targeting groups based out of Sichuan, Shaanxi and Hubei. Emperor Qianlong made an edict in September ordering all captured sectarians to be punished according to the nature of their guilt. So for example, spiritual leaders would be executed by being cut into pieces, wozzors. Those who spread the White Lotus teachings would be beheaded. Mere followers, would be arrested and deported to Manchuria as slaves. All in all not a very subtle edict.

    So the local Qing officials set to work, first it was village headmen who organized forces to round up White Lotus members. Within a few months time they had arrested 20 teachers and over a hundred followers, and as you can imagine their methodology was brutal and would intensify the situation. There was not enough forces to get the job done so the local officials began to hire local thugs to go house to house. As you can imagine the thugs began to run amok, many began to threaten to arrest people if they didn't pay them off. So those who paid them off or somehow managed to prove they were not White Lotus members received placards that they could put on their doors marking them as “decent people”. Everyone else were open targets for abuse as they were suspected White Lotus members. When Zhang Zhengmo heard the officials going house to house he quickly abandoned his home and fled before inspectors could get him. He returned to his native county in the same province where he continued his mission to recruit more followers. By the late winter of 1796, it is estimated that Zhang had more than 1000 followers. Only 2 months before the planned date for the apocalypse or better called uprising, Zhang found out that local officials were mounting a new crackdown now in his native county. Fearing his arrest, Zhang prepared for their arrival, calling upon his followers and telling him the time had come.

    Zhang’s followers took to the roads where they joined up with other cells that other recruiters had grown. In only a few days more than 10,000 White Lotus members converged under the leadership of Zhang Zhengmo. They brought with them, swords, guns, gunpowder and other supplies necessary for waging a rebellion. They plundered villages for supplies and began conscripting the local populace, coercing them with food. This all mattered not to the White Lotus believers who were taught that non believers would all be destroyed when Buddha returned regardless, so who cares if they harm any of these people in the meantime. The worshipers and their indentured conscripts soon swelled to 20,000 and they began to create blockades along the roads and pathways and made their way to the hills. Zhang Zhengmo’s first HQ was to be a mountain estate of a very wealthy believer, but Zhang worried it was to undefendable and thus brought his force further into the mountains where he knew they could hold up better. A campment was built with thousands of shacks, white banners were spread out and the force began to adopt white headbands to identify themselves as legitimate rebels. Their weaponry was mostly swords, knives, though they did have 300 matchlock rifles and 6 chestnut wood cannons. They also had a ton of crossbows and a lot of poison tipped bolts. The defense of the mountain was typical guerilla stuff seen to this day, booby trapped paths, watch towers, makeshift landmines and people hidden around every nook and cranny.

    Despite all the preparation, Zhang Zhengmo was quite reluctant to take his newfound rebel army down the mountain side, fearing they would all be slaughtered by the Qing army who must surely be awaiting them. So they all dug in for months, only sending the occasional raiding party down to gather supplies. July came and Zhang received word the Qing were slowly closing in on the mountain. He had burned his name in the registers hoping that he might be able to make an escape and some of his followers began to see he was not the leader they thought him to be. They had been told he had met the True master, but many found out this was a lie. They looked to him for guidance, but all he could provide were cheap parlor tricks. When Zhang had called for the uprising he thought all of the White Lotus followers from miles all around would heed the cause. Yet after the first 10,000 flocked to him none others were found, he assumed everyone had been arrested and killed. They were trapped on this mountain, there was nowhere to escape to, there was no help coming. They held out another 2 months, but then in September the Qing broke their perimeter and arrested the lot of them. Zhang was to be executed, but before the deed a Qing interrogator demanded to know why he and his followers rebelled. “You are all peasants, you receive the blessings of the emperor. He relieves you of taxes and tribute grain. He relieves your debts. When there is a flood or a drought he gives you aid. You have a human heart, and you should feel gratitude and abide by the laws. So why, under the banner of these evil teachings, did you start a rebellion? In the end, what was it you wanted?”. Zhang replied “We have indeed received blessings from the emperor. We had warm clothes and could eat our fill. We were peasants, and we were grateful. It was at a time when I was ignorant, that I first began to practice this religion. It was only because I wanted to encourage people to do good deeds and to avoid misfortune. But then the investigations and arrests intensified, and I saw that when people who practiced our religion were captured, all of them were charged with heavy crimes. So I became afraid”. So he was nothing more than a peasant, who ignorantly was led astray and when the crackdown occurred he did what he did out of fear. It is the excuse given by countless peasant uprisings, reckless bursts of defiance towards an perceived malevolent empire, nothing too remarkable. Zhang’s force of 20,000 were brushed aside….and little did they know what had occurred all over China.

    The “black wind” uprising spread like wildfire. The vast range and appeal of the apocalyptic rumors that had pushed Zhang and his followers had only increased exponentially. From word of mouth through the province, uprisings began to all explode spontaneously through the hill countries of the Han River Highlands. Zhang had no idea, but it was his movement that became the spark to see the entire forest ablaze. By the time the Qing officials had dealt with Zhang Zhengmo’s camp, all of Hubei was engulfed in a wave of rebellion, and soon it spread to the neighboring provinces of Sichuan and Shaanxi. On february 9th of 1796, the first day of the lunar new year and just 6 days before Zhang Zhengmo began his uprising, Emperor Qianlong gave up the throne. The abdication had been planned for a very long time, all the way back to 1735 when Qianlong had given an edict that he planned to rule as long as high grandfather had. Emperor Kangxi had reigned for 61 years and Qianlong wanted to keep his word, but not entirely. While on the surface he did quote en quote abdicate on his 60th year as emperor, giving the throne to his son Jiaqing, in reality all he did was install a puppet. The calendars record the new year as Jiaqing Year 1, but within the capital it was truly Qianlong year 61. 2 calendars were kept, 2 sets of imperial annals with one referring to the supreme retired emperor Qianlong, who would continue to rule while his son kept the throne warm.

    It probably would have been better for China if Emperor Qianlong really did abdicate, for while his reign was impressive, his effectiveness was deteriorating with his age. A Korean diplomat in 1794 reported to his superiors that Emperor Qianlong had acted in a bizarre manner. He stated that the Emperor ordered breakfast immediately after eating breakfast on some occasions. Thus the implication here was that the Emperor was going senile. Later in 1797 a different Korean envoy reported that the Emperor seemed to be unable to remember what occurred during the morning of their meeting nor what they had done the day prior. With the emperor in a weakened state, factions within his court began to vie for power. One of Emperor Qianlong's closest court officials a man named Heshen began to act out in the emperors name. The more the Emperors mental health declined the more Heshen would speak on his behalf. As observed by the western George Staunton in 1790 “Heshen enjoyed, almost exclusivity, the confidence of the emperor. He might be said to possess, in fact, under the emperor, the whole power of the empire”. It just so happens, Heshen was one of the most corrupt officials in Chinese history during a particularly corrupt ridden time in Chinese history. Heshen treated large amounts of the Qing governments bureaucracy as his own personal patronage network. For example, he began to appoint officials into positions and expected them to pay him handsomely for such appointments. This led the officials to embezzle money to pay him back. In one example he appointed a man to the Yellow River Conservancy, which controlled the funding for flood control over China’s second longest river and the man embezzled over 6 million tales of silver each year to pay back Heshen. That money of course was required to help prevent the Yellow River from flooding and by the end of the 18th century about 1/10th of the government funds were actually used for flood prevention. As Heshen and others sucked up the money, the peasants on the floodplain suffered tremendously as the appointed official at the Yellow River Conservancy found it was in the best interests of everyone to allow the river to breach its dikes periodically, just to make sure the government funds kept pouring in. Heshen’s corruption was widely apparent to the court, but to make any accusations against him was a death sentence as he had the mouth of the emperor.

    Now back to the White Lotus rebellion, it was spreading as I said with great speed and this was greatly aided by government corruption. With the rampant corruption came a huge lack of government forces to respond to the initial uprisings. Skeleton garrisons in key locations such as Hubei allowed for the uprisings to spread like wildfire. The officials were caught off guard and massively unprepared. Across Hubei overwhelmed government forces tried to resist the rebels with whatever weapons they could muster, but soon began pleading other provinces for reinforcement. With such a lack of governmental forces to protect the common people, landowners resorted to raising private militias called “Xiangyong” (means local braves) which in turn began to simply plunder areas. As one witness reported “the so called militia soldiers just continued the work of stealing everything the refugees had left behind in their houses. There wasn’t an empty hand anywhere…if the White Lotus rebels are like an ordinary comb, the private militia are the fine-toothed one”. These militias killed, robbed and caused further havoc. To the government all of them were rebels and in turn this caused all the rebels to find common cause. The slogan “the officials oppress, and the people rebel” spread across multiple rebel groups, and at the forefront was the White Lotus. The Qing government began a cycle of violence, redoubled its efforts to extinguish the White Lotus sects, only to give justification to them to increase their rebellious activity.

    It is interesting to note the hiring of these militia’s will play a crucial role in the downfall of the Qing dynasty. Many scholars attribute the adoption of hired militia’s by the Qing government to being something like cutting off your limbs and eating them during starvation. The idea being that while the Qing could raise such militia’s to try and stamp out the endless rebellions that will occur during their dynasty’s reign, these were short term solutions and only hurt them in the long run. Hiring civilians in war showcased how the Qing standing armies were losing their fighting capability and greatly hurt the Qing treasuries. Regardless this will all be showcased much more in the future.

    Emperor Qianlong saw the uprisings as a local issue that should be dealt with by local forces. His focus was on internal unrest, not the problems of the frontier lands and so he denied requests for military aid. He kept telling provincial officials to use the resources they had to deal with the uprisings even though he held ample elite troops that could have swept in to restore the peace. What Emperor Qianlong did do however was send funds to the province to help as the government treasury was jam packed with silver during this age. Without the capitals troops to reinforce them, provincial officials began to follow the lead of the militia rebels and armed peasants to fight off the rebels. At the beginning of the uprising most frontier territories had government militias of just a few hundred, luckier ones perhaps a few thousand. But as the rebellion spread into neighboring provinces and the funds from Beijing poured in, the militia armies grew exponentially. By 1798, Hubei had nearly 400,000 militiamen registered on its books and Sichuan and Shaanxi each had comparably large militia forces. In the concert of the war against the rebels, the 3 provinces reported a total of 100,000 government soldiers and upto a possible million militiamen.

    The militiamen strategy proved to be very ineffective against the rebels, in fact the militias did more harm than good. Militiamen came from all walks of life, from farmers, to unemployed city folk to ruthless criminals. If you were a bandit, it was actually far more beneficial to join the militia which paid a salary about the same as a government soldier. These militiamen had no real allegiance beyond the salary they were paid so as the White Lotus watched the government hiring all of these people they simply offered them the same salary or more. By the later years of the uprising it turned out nearly half the White Lotus armies were made up of former militiamen! And if you were wondering what else than money could persuade these militiamen to join the White Lotus hear this. The governor general of Sichuan province reported with disgust that whenever government troops went into battle they simply quote “sent the militia to charge in ahead of them as they hung back where it was safe. If the militiamen got turned back by the rebels and started to run away, the government soldiers just ran after them”. On top of this, tons of false victories over the rebel armies were being reported when in reality, the government troops would just pretend to engage the rebels and continuously move their camps around. There was even reports that government forces would murder refugees from nearby villages and set up their mutilated bodies at their camps to make it look like they had caught rebels. The fact the government forces were really not engaging the rebel armies very much was so apparent one witness said “where the rebels are, there are no government forces; and where the government forces are, there are no rebels”.

    With the declining mental health of Emperor Qianlong growing worse, the campaign against the White Lotus fell into the hands of Heshen who was too busy using the opportunity to enrich himself. As emperor Qianlong obsessed over the reports of the rebel war, apparently barely sleeping while he read them day and night according to accounts from his son, well Heshen was doing his best to control which reports came to the emperor. Heshen made sure all the reports were fake victory stories making it seem that the entire campaign was going off without a hitch. Heshen had appointed his own personal goons to be in key military positions who in turn fed falsified victory reports for money or military honors in return. This went further to whitewash massacres done to the civilian population by the government armies. And of course the funds for the military were going to the goons who in turn paid tribute right back to Heshen, making sure they kept their positions regardless of how incompetent they were. For the first 3 years of the war, Heshen effectively controlled the central government's military funding. It would also turn out that the registry of over 300,000 militia soldiers recruited to fight the White Lotus did not exist and it was an embezzlement scheme. It gets even worse. Those militia soldiers who did exist and who died fighting the rebels, well the corrupt officials would embezzle their death benefits, so a ton of mourning families got nothing and this had the disgusting side effect of creating an incentive for corrupt officers to have more of their soldiers die on the battlefield. The Militia related expenses would claim at least half the war effort funding according to Jiaqing who discovered the racket. A scholar in Hubei said this of the situation

    “At first they nibbled away like worms, gradually taking more and more until they were gulping like whales. In the beginning, their embezzlements could be reckoned in hundreds and thousands of taels, but presently nothing less than ten thousand would attract notice. Soon amounts ran to scores of thousands, then to hundreds of thousands, then to millions.”



    Emperor Qianlong expected an easy victory over the White Lotus, but the war was not ending. After reading so many countless reports of victories over the rebels, Qianlong because frustrated and confused as to why the White Lotus rebels did not submit. By 1799, the cost of the war was reaching nearly 100 million taels of silver, an unbelievable sum that had completely exhausted the treasury surplus and there still was no end in sight. Emperor Qianlong spent his last years of life losing his mind to the rebellion and died in a position of helplessness with the treasury emptied. Jiaqing did not have an enviable start to his reign. He was a broad, fat man with a talent for archery and was left with a clean up job that was simply immense. He had been forced to suffer the indemnity of being enthroned in 1796 only to find out he was a puppet and that his father was not even in charge, it was Heshen. He was in his 40’s and quite powerless as long as his father remained alive. The day after Emperor Qianlong died in 1799, one of Jiaqings first major acts was to order the arrest of Heshen, boom. There was a swift and very publicized trial where the board of punishments found Heshen to be guilty of a long list of corruption related charges and the sentence would be death. Because Heshen held one of the highest ranks in the court he was allowed to strangle himself with a silk cord, a privilege considered more honorable than having your head cut off. Although the execution of Heshen was symbolically cathartic, it did little to stop the rot of corruption within the government. Heshen was blamed for just about all the sins of the time, as if he alone dragged the empire down…though one could argue he certainly provided a helping hand. All Heshens misdeeds were laid to bare and his enormous wealth was unimaginable.

    Heshen had a sprawling mansion of over 730 rooms. In his secondary residence there were 620 rooms. He held landholdings of over 120,000 acres of productive farmland. All the stories you can imagine were there, he had golden chopsticks, silver place settings for banquets, entire rooms filled with jewels, jade and other riches. He owned 10 banks, 10 pawnshops and millions upon millions of taels of silver hoarded into them. Apparently one wall in his main residence turned out to be filled with 5000 pounds of gold bullion if its to be believed. One extremely overexaggerated estimate his sum worth was around 800 million taels of silver, thats around 1.5 billion at the time, around 4 times the entire gross domestic product of the United States of America. More conservative estimates are at around 80 million taels of silver, which was more than the entire treasury surplus that preceded the White Lotus war and enough to make Heshen as wealthy as the Emperor!

    After dealing with Heshen, Jiaqing began a campaign against the corruption in the government. However, Jiaqing understood how an anti corruption campaign could fall into chaos and become a general purge, so he allowed it to peter out pretty quick. What did happen, was the Qing government saw a lot of old scores settled and factionalism rose amongst officials. The first order of business after dealing with Heshen was obviously the White Lotus war. The day after Qianlong's death, Jiaqing issued an edict naming the suppression of antigovernment religious sects as the dynasty's most urgent priority. Jiaqing rallied against the corrupt military officers accusing them of dragging out the war in order to fill their pockets. He laid blame for the insurrection upon the civil servants who extorted the peasants. “The peasants enjoy few fruits from their labor. So how can they possibly supply such insatiable demands? It is the local officials who provoked these rebellions”.

    Emperor Jiaqing began removing corrupt and incompetent military officials to try and replace them with better men, but the reality at the time was quite thin pickings. Most of the Manchu generals of his father or grandfathers generation were dead or far too old to lead. The younger generation were not born into the same world as their parents. If you’ve ever listened to Dan Carlin’s podcast and yes I am nothing but a mere fanboy, he often makes the analogy of how empires go soft. The old quasi proverb of old wooden shoes going up the stairs and soft silken sandals going down them. This new generation of Manchu did not live the hardened lifestyle of their ancestors, they were living in a world of luxury now. A ton of the younger generation were also tainted by the Heshen click. Yet there was a minority of great warriors and some of the old guard so to say that had won Emperor Qianlong some victories back in the day. The very best of them was a physically enduring Manchu named Eldemboo. At 51 years old in the year of 1799 he was selected to lead the White Lotus suppression. He was quite old, but experienced, ruthless and said to be incorruptible.

    Elemboo’s had been part of campaigns in the 1770’s to bring parts of the frontiers under the Qing Yolk. He fought the Burmese in southern Yunnan. He fought during the Tibetan rebellion in the1770’s, during a muslim uprising in Gansu in 1784, helped put down a rebellion in Taiwan in 1787 and served in the far west against the Gurkhas in Tibet and Nepal in the 1790s. By 1797 he was a Lt-general who had just succeeded in suppressing a Miao ethnic uprising in Hunan province. The campaign against the White Lotus faced a crucial problem, that of mobility. The rebels required little in terms of weaponry and could get pretty much anything on the go from just about any village. They did not construct elaborate camps, they were accustomed to the mountains and forests and could carry out guerilla warfare at a moments notice. The Qing military was another beast altogether. It required enormous logistical operations to move its food, matchlock muskets, ammunition, powder, bows and arrows, this all required carts and beasts of burden. Usually these logistics were not a problem, but for mountains and forest regions it was a nightmare. The rebels understood the advantage and made sure to take up positions in the worst possible places for such logistics.

    Because of these logistical problems the Qing forces had been simply setting up stations in fixed positions hoping to cast a net around rebel pockets. Many commanders simply did not have the stomach to march into forests or up mountain sides to chase an enemy that would use every obstacle against them. Eldemboo unlike his predecessor commanders not only was willing to venture into the forests and mountains, but was perfectly willing to endure the hardship of such ventures alongside his men. A new approach was necessary for the campaign. Eldemboo called for “jianbi qingye” “fortify the walls and clear the countryside”. The idea was two fold, first to separate the good peasants from those who would support the White Lotus, by concentrating them in places of safety ie, behind fortified encampments known as baozhai. In these Baozhai, some peasants would be trained as militia to defend their respective camps. The second idea was to clear the countryside, by moving all the grain harvest and food stores away and into the Baozhai where all the good peasants would be taking refuge. The hope was the rebels would eventually be unable to scavenge food from the emptied countryside and would be forced to come out of their hiding and fight the government forces on their terms.

    Under the command of Eldemboo, the jianbi qingye strategy was implemented throughout the war zone. Hundreds of fortified camps were in the wartorn provinces. The fortified camps held strong walls and deep moats. The militiamen would defend them and not be taken out on campaigns that earlier had caused so much havoc upon the populace. The new role of the militiamen was to protect their own families, neighbors and such and thus they were far less likely to fall into banditry. While the quote “good” population concentrated in their Baozhai, defended by their good militiamen, Eldemboo’s manchu and Han troops were now free to campaign at will through any wartorn province. Soon Eldemboo began producing a string of victories over the weakened rebel forces. By early 1803, Eldemboo’s campaign had moved into its final phase, a brutal mop up operation. The remnants of the broken rebels needed to be crushed and the demilitarization of all the militiamen needed to gradually begin.



    Emperor Jiaqing warned his generals not to relax in their campaigns prematurely. “Though the main disease is cured, there are boils and sores that remain. If even a single rebel is left alive, it would be enough for them to keep spreading and growing”. Emperor Jiaqing’s generals heeded his words and continued to ruthlessly crush the remnants of the rebels. A systematic program of pacification was enacted. The “good” populace was continuously resettled into the fortified cities, while the Qing forces pursued and exterminated the rebel guerrilla bands, though it should be noted they did give amnesty to many rebels who deserted. It was the combination of military and social policies that were winning the day. Qing administrators seized and destroyed all White Lotus scriptures they could find in the warzones. By the late summer of 1803, some of Jiaqing’s commanders reported back to him that after 8 years of extermination efforts against the White Lotus in the 3 provinces, it seemed for all intensive purposes the job was complete. In early 1804, Eldemboo traveled back to Beijing and returned his carved seal of authority to the Emperor, signifying that the war was over. It would be the last great victory of Eldemboo’s very long career. The next year at the age of 57 Eldemboo died and with him the last of that hardened generation. In 1805, Emperor Jiaqing was able to address the empire without the ongoing drain of resources due to the White Lotus War.

    It was a very bitter victory, most rebellions are. A chinese scholar wrote a few decades later that it was estimated that several hundred thousand rebels had been killed during the war. For the governmental forces, militiamen and countless civilians who died of war and starvation the scholar simply stated it could not be calculated. There was also no way to differentiate the White Lotus from the rebels as there were countless groups rebelling for differing reasons.

    A major problem with the White Lotus Rebellion aside from the death and horror was the loss of prestige for the Qing military. There was a sort of myth of invincibility for the Manchu warriors, hell they had conquered the Ming Dynasty afterall. But the scale of damage caused by the White Lotus Rebellion was eye opening, it took the Qing 8 years to quell it! And quell it is a strong word, for the White Lotus were not truly gone or anything, there would be sporadic revolts throughout the early 19th century, just not on the same scale as the 8 year war. The Manchu army of the early 19th century was not the same generation that once conquered the Ming. The wooden shoes were being cast off and silky slippers were starting to become the norm so to say for you Dan Carlin fans. To make everything much worse, the adoption of training and hiring militia’s would have a devastating effect on the Qing dynasty until its demise in the 20th century. This was not a unique problem for China, many empires fell for this same reason. Take example the Egyptian empire under the Ptolemy’s. Under the reign of Ptolemy IV Philophater the military was forced to hire local native Egyptians in large numbers for the first time to deal with the 4th Syrian war of 219-217BC. Prior to this war, the Ptolemiac empire had a military consisted mostly of Greeks and for a very important reason, they did not want to train or arm the native population who did not like them very much. When their backs were against the wall they trained around 30,000 native egyptians as Phalangites and hell it paid off during the battle of Raphia when they smashed the army of Antiochus III. The Ptolemies had finally ended what was an ongoing manpower problem. Oh and then the trained and armed Egyptians rebelled and created a separate kingdom that lasted 20 years. It was an enormous turning point in Ptolemaic history and a bitter lesson. For the Qing the hiring of militia armies will occur on countless occasions for countless reasons, but one thing is for sure it is part of a long list of reasons as to why the great dynasty will crumble.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    The once mighty Qing have proven to be not so mighty anymore. The 8 year White Lotus Rebellion was quelled, but at what cost to the empire? With the death of Eldemboo came also the deaths of a generation of strong warriors. And while this rebellion was going on, something else was afoot, this time not an internal issue, but a growing external one.

  • Last time we spoke, Sun Kewang, Li Dingguo and Emperor Yongli formed a sort of trinity that was chipping away at the Qing dynasty. Each man had his talents and combined they proved a formidable foe, but divided would they fall. Sun Kewang’s jealousy led him to butt heads with Li Dingguo undermining all the success they had made. When Sun Kewang was defeated a part of the trinity was gone and the forces of Li Dingguo and Emperor Yongli could not hope to stand against the Qing invaders as they marched into Yunnan. Emperor Yongli took flight to Burma forcing Li Dingguo to spend years trying to rescue him from the Burmese while fighting off the looming Qing menace. In the end even Li Dingguo could not stop the inevitable as he and Emperor Yongli fell. Now the Qing can face their last looming menace, the King of Taiwan, Koxinga.

    This episode is Koxinga & the revolt of the three feudatories

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on the history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.



    I have repeatedly said his name, in the west we know him as Koxinga, his actual name being Zheng Chenggong. It would be his marine forces that would fight the Qing Dynasty until the bitter end. He was born with the name Zheng Sen in 1624, in Hirado Japan, to Zheng Zhilong a chinese merchant and a Japanese woman named Tagawa Matsu. When Zheng was 7 years old, his father had business interests in Quanzhou and the family moved to Fujian province. His father would end up becoming one of the richest men in China and an Admiral under the Ming Dynasty. Zheng Zhilong operated a pirate fleet of over 800 ships along the coast from Japan to Vietnam. The Ming appointed him “admiral of the coastal seas” and he basically was tasked with repeling other pirates and the Dutch East Indies Company. The fruits of his labor wound him up grabbing over 60% of Fujian province land. Zheng Sen would pass the imperial examination at the age of 14 in 1638 becoming one of 12 Linshansheng of Nan’an. Linshansheng basically means the best of the best as students go. In Nan’an, Zheng married the niece of a Ming official named Dong Yangxian who was a Jinshi, meaning he held the highest imperial exam degree, so basically Zheng was brushing shoulders with giants so to say. In 1644 he studied at the imperial Nanking University.

    When the Qing captured Beijing, Zheng’s father, Zheng Zhilong continued to serve the Ming moving to Nanjing, then after the capture of Nanjing in 1645 accepted an offer to serve as commander in chief of the Ming forces working under the Prince of Tang in Fuzhou. It seems the war of resistance had gone to terribly for Zheng Zhilong because he became a turncoat in 1646, intentionally leaving the Zhejiang pass unguarded and allowed the Qing to capture Fuzhou. Zheng Zhilong defected to the Qing, but the Zheng army’s control lay firmly in his brothers and sons hands. That son, Zheng Sen refused to defect to the Qing and would take most of the Zheng army with him, causing problems. As for his wife Tagawa Matsu, it is alleged the Qing went to Anhai where she was residing in a castle, which I found particularly interesting since this is during the Sakoku period and it was illegal for Japanese to leave the country. Anyways its alleged the Qing marched upon the castle where she was and raped and or killed her. Other stories state she committed suicide while resisting the Qing. Regardless of the implications of her death, the Qing knew they could not trust Zheng Zhilong and would have him put under house arrest for many years until they executed him in 1661. It is said in 1646, while Zheng Sen was busy fighting off the Qing he managed to return to Quanzhou where he discovered his mother had been murdered or committed suicide because of the Qing and thus rebellion was firmly placed in his heart. I cant really get into it but there is an entire mythos around lady Tagawa and multiple perceptions on her and her legacy.

    When the Qing took Beijing and gave their head shaving proclamation, Zheng Sen refused and it is said his will was “as strong and firm as a mountain”. As I had said the Zheng army did not all follow Zheng Zhilong and defect with the Qing, many would follow Zheng Sen. Soon Zheng Sen recruited more followers and organized allied armies in Nan’an Guangdong. When Emperor Hongguang took the mantle, Zheng Sen flocked over to him in Nanking. When Emperor Hongguang was defeated and executed, Emperor Longwu rose up with support from Zheng’s father. Emperor Longwu established himself in Fuzhou and the natural defenses of Fujian allowed him to remain safe for some time. Emperor Longwu granted Zheng Sen the name Chenggong and the title of Koxinga “lord of the Imperial Surname”.

    In 1646 Koxinga led the Ming armies to resist the Qing, much to his fathers displeasure who wished for a more defensive stance. When the Qing finally broke into Fujian, as I mentioned Zheng Zhilong literally opened the door to them, leaving Emperor Longwu isolated agaisnt the Qing. After the Emperor Longwu was defeated and executed, the Qing approached Zheng Zhilong and got him to defect and secretly appointed him governor of Fujian and Guangdong. Despite the betrayal of his father, Koxinga chose to fight on and led Zheng Zhilong’s marine forces to attack Tong’an, Haicheng, Zhangfu and captured Quanzhou and Minan. Because the Qing never placed much emphasis on naval matters, Koxinga’s naval forces basically could pick and choose at will where to do amphibious assaults providing him with many successful raids. Zheng Zhilong would send letters to his son asking him to defect to the Qing like he did, but they were to no avail and Koxinga pledged his allegiance to the only remaining claimant to the throne the Emperor of flight Yongli. Before Koxinga could get to Emperor Yongli he as you guessed it began the process of fleeing and this basically resulted in Koxinga never being able to link up with him. As a result Koxinga chose to concentrate on the southeast coast of China where he could safely move via his naval forces. Koxinga’s army soon established its base of operations in Kinmen and Xiamen. Using his base of Kinmen and Xiamen, Koxinga established a marine trade network and the anti-Qing forces grew quickly. By 1652 Koxinga led a force of 100,000 to attack Haicheng, Changtai, Zhangzhou, Zhangfu amongst other places. He also greatly benefitted by working alongside the Daxi army. In 1653 Koxinga tried to coordinate with Li Dingguo’s army in Guangxi and deployed his navy southwards towards Chaozhou. The following year Li and Koxinga agreed to meet in Guangdong and attack Xinhui together, but this plan never came to fruition. Koxinga’s forces simply took too long to get there and Li Dingguo’s army was defeated and he had to retreat to Guangxi. In 1655, Koxinga attacked the coastal area of Fujian defeating several Qing armies. Koxinga and Li then planned a northern campaign where they would coordinate rear and frontal attacks upon the Qing.

    In may of 1656, the Qing sent Prince Jidu to attack Koxinga’s territory. Jidu’s forces attacked Kinmen island, Koxinga’s main base for training his troops. However a storm at sea battered the Qing ships and as a result they lost the battle against the Kinmen island. This also weakened Qing naval forces in the Fujian coastal area, opening many places for attacks by Koxinga. Then in 1658 the Qing armies carried large offensives against Li Dingguo in the southwestern area, prompting Koxinga to strike at the coastal areas in Zhejiang to try and relieve Li Dingguo’s forces. However Koxinga’s navy was hit by a hurricane at sea and they were forced to withdraw. This did not stop Koxinga from sending a large army to Zhoushan however, where he sought a base of operations to stage a siege of Nanjing. Koxinga however was quite eager and publicly proclaimed his intent to siege Nanjing, giving the Qing ample time and reason to prepare stronger defenses there.

    In 1659 Koxinga marched north alongside his colleague Zhang Huangyan capturing Guazhou and Zhenjing before they would besiege Nanjing. They sprang through the Yangtze River with their navy igniting resistance everywhere they went against the Qing. Koxinga’s naval operations in the Yangtze River would hinder Qing supply routes and effectively were starving Beijing out, stressing the hell out of the Qing court. If it is to be believed, an account by a French missionary in Beijing reported they court considered packing up and going back to Manchuria because of what was essential a naval blockade of Beijing. Things got so bad in Beijing the French missionary states the populace of Beijing was waiting to see who would win the siege of Nanjing and were looking to join that said winner. The Qing were reportedly terrified of Koxinga’s “iron troops” who were rumored to be invincible.

    The siege of Nanjing shocked the Qing, but Koxinga became cocky and in his arrogance he took his enemy lightly. He publicly announced to the populace all they had to do was to join his cause and that he would occupy Nanjing in short time. Koxinga believed that by taking Nanjing he could firmly blockade the grand canal and starve out Beijing forcing them to pack up and run back to Manchuria, if the sources I talked about before are to be believed, it looks like his plan was working. Lang Tingzuo the governor trapped in Nanjing began to negotiate with Koxinga and Zhang, but in truth he was biding time for the Qing forces to come to the rescue. Despite Koxinga’s best efforts besieging Nanjing, the city was never completely encircled and thus able to obtain supplies and reinforcements in the form of the Qing General Liang Huafeng. After 3 weeks of the siege, suddenly General Liang and his army burst out the gates of Nanjing in a cavalry charge as the Ming forces were busy partying and they were smashed. The entire Ming army fell into disarray and began to retreat back to their ships and Koxinga was forced to withdraw back to Xiamen. Meanwhile his colleague Zhang had taken a ton of their forces to hit Anhui and was now left high and dry. Zhang’s army was eventually and completely collapsed, but the commander was able to escape to Tiantai where he tried to form another resistance in the mountain range. He would fail to produce anything and by 1664 was captured and executed by the Qing.

    Koxinga had lost half his land army, his colleague and many other officers because of his arrogant attack on Nanjing. It seems Koxinga suffered tremendous psychological damage from the major defeat and the loss of so many members of his family. He was known to be quite mentally unstable and had a horrible temper and tendency to order executions at a whim. A Dutch doctor named Christian Beyer who treated him believed he may have been suffering from Syphilis, some other contemporaries believed his mentality was the result of his Japanese upbringing in the form of “samurai ideals on bravery” like laughing to showcase his anger and being prone to quick violence. According to Dr Li Yengyue, he stated Koxinga most likely suffered from depressive insanity.

    At this time Li Dingguo’s forces were being pushed further southwest and quite simply, the situation did not look good to say the least. This led Koxinga to gather all his officials in secret and tell them he now intended to occupy Taiwan and establish a base there from which they could all settle with their families in safety. He said that perhaps there they could unite all those who were loyal to the Ming and one day they would launch an attack on the Qing and fight the enemy without having to worry about the lives of their families. Thus when the Qing marched upon his stronghold of Xiamen in 1660, Koxinga instead of offering battle sailed off with over 400 war junks and 25,000 troops to Taiwan. Before the departure Koxinga had received a map of Taiwan from a Chinese merchant named He Bin who worked for the Dutch East India company.

    It was also during this time when Koxinga had the family of one of his admirals named Shi Lang killed because the admiral allegedly was planning to defect to the Qing, though some sources say he simply had disobeyed an order, sheesh. Regardless after the murder of his family admiral Shi Lang promptly sailed off to defect to the Qing. The Qing were very happy to receive Shi Lang as he held extensive naval experience and had a network of contacts in major trading ports all over east asia. He would become absolutely instrumental to the Qing naval buildup and would emerge late into this story and he held a blood feud with the Zheng family henceforth.

    Now the Chinese merchant who gave Koxinga the map, guided the Koxinga’s naval force to land on Wei Island and Haliao Island, thereby avoiding the artillery placements within the channel of Taiwan. Koxinga’s forces managed to land at Pengdu Taiwan in 1661 and Koxinga soon led his forces to attack Dutch colonists proclaiming to them "Hitherto this island had always belonged to China, and the Dutch had doubtless been permitted to live there, seeing that the Chinese did not require it for themselves; but requiring it now, it was only fair that Dutch strangers, who came from far regions, should give way to the masters of the island.". They marched to Leurmeng where they fought small groups of Taiwanese aborigines and Dutch resistance. In the bay of Lakjemuyse 3 Dutch ships attacked and destroyed several of Koxinga’s junks, but then one of his junks got a lucky shot off exploding a gunpowder supply aboard the Dutch flagship Hector sinking her. The 2 other Dutch warships, were not enough to fight off the large force of junks and had to flee.

    Here is an abridged account given by Frederick Coyett, the colonial governor of Dutch held Taiwan about Koxinga’s landing. The forces of Koxinga showed up armed with bows and arrows, others had shields and swords. Everyone was wearing coats of iron scales (by the way there is an artist rendition of the soldiers by a contemporary named Georg Franz Muller, worth checking out it looks awesome). The armor allowed for complete protection from a rifle bullet and allowed the wearer great mobility. Their archers were their best troops and their skill was so great it nearly eclipsed that of riflemen. They used shield men to form human walls and Koxinga had 2 companies of “black boys”, many of whom were former Dutch slaves that knew how to use rifles and muskets. They proved quite effective marksmen and caused a lot of harm to the Dutch in Taiwan.

    As Koxinga’s force charged in rows of 12 men and when they were near enough sent 3 volleys of fire uniformly. The storm of arrows that came forth upon the dutch seemed to darken the sky (a herodotus moment). The Dutch expected their return fire to send the enemy fleeing, but they did not, in fact the Chinese held firm against them and in short time the Dutch realized to their horror that Koxinga sent a squadron behind them and they attacked from the rear. While the Dutch proved courageous at the beginning of the battle, now they were stricken with fear and many Dutch riflemen tossed their rifles without even firing them and began to run. As they faltered and fled, the Chinese saw the disorder and pressed their attack more vigorously. The Chinese force charged and cut down the Dutch and the battle raged on until the Dutch captain Thomas Bedell and 180 of his men were slain.

    After defeating the Dutch force when they landed, Koxinga laid siege to the main fortress, Fort Zeelandia using some of his 100 cannons on hand. They outnumbered the garrison there 20 to 1 and the bombardment demolished the roof of the Dutch governors residence. The Dutch return fired from bastion forts killing hundreds of Koxinga’s men. Koxinga’s cannons proved ineffective against the walls, the Dutch governor wrote that after viewing the alignment of the Chinese cannons, he noticed they were placed quite badly, were unprotected and easy to hit with their own cannons. In the end the Chinese cannons only did some light damage to a few houses. Koxinga was shocked and enraged by the lack of damage to the fortresses walls and decided

    to give up the bombardment and simply to being starving the Dutch out. On April 4th Koxinga sent his army to besiege the smaller fortress of Fort Provintia, catching its commander Jacob Valentyn and his 140 men, completely off guard. Valentyn had to surrender without putting up much of a fight.

    By late May, news of the Siege of Fort Zeelandia reached Jakarta and the Dutch East India Company dispatched 12 ships with 700 soldiers to relieve the fort. The relief force ran into Koxinga’s naval blockade and they engaged in battle. However Koxinga had hundreds of war junks and as the Dutch ships tried to fire upon them their aim ended up being too high. Basically of the height difference between the Chinese war junks and Dutch ships, this made aiming the cannons difficult as they cant pivot downwards, so you have to rely upon distance calculations and that in turn is not easy when the enemy knows to just close in on you and are firing upon you. Some of the smaller Dutch ships tried to lure some of the Chinese war junks into a narrow strait with a feigned withdrawal. But as they were doing so, the wind suddenly seized on them, and with only paddles available the Chinese caught up to them and massacred their crews with pikes. It is also alleged the Chinese caught many Dutch lobed grenades using nets and tossed them right back at them, that sounds like a nasty game of hot potato. The Dutch flagship Koukercken was hit by a Chinese cannon after running around and quickly sunk. Another Dutch ship hit ashore and the crew had to run for their lives for Fort Zeelandia. The remaining Dutch fleet eventually scattered and withdrew, all in all they took 130 casualties. By December Koxinga was given reports that the garrison of Fort Zeelandia was losing morale and thus he decided to launch another large offensive, but was repelled again by superior Dutch cannons.

    By January 12th of 1662, Koxingas fleet began to help bombard the fort as his ground forces assaulted. With supplies running out and no sign of reinforcements, Governor Coyett hoisted the white flag and began to negotiate terms of surrender, finalizing them by february 1st. By February the 9th the Dutch left Taiwan and were allowed to take their personal belongings and provisions.

    Now this siege was honestly a pretty horrible affair aside from the normal war actions. Prisoners on both sides were subjected to some rather gruesome torture. A Dutch physician allegedly carried out a vivisection on a Chinese prisoner and there were reports that the Chinese amputated noses, ears, limbs and genitals of Dutch prisoners. Apparently the Chinese would stuff their mouths with amputated genitals and send the corpses back to Fort Zeelandia, some really messed up stuff. One Dutch prisoner, a missionary named Antonius Hambroek was sent as an envoy to Fort Zeelandia to ask for their surrender, if he failed he was to be killed. Hambroek went to the Fort where 2 of his daughters were residing and urged everyone to surrender, but they did not and thus he came back to Koxinga’s camp and was promptly beheaded. Another one of Hambroeks daughters had been captured prior to the siege and Koxinga made her a concubine. Other Dutch women and children that were captured prior to the siege were enslaved and sold to Chinese soldiers. 38 years of Dutch rule over Taiwan had ended and Koxinga would use Taiwan as a military base for Ming loyalists.

    The Taiwanese aboriginals played both sides during the conflict. For example when Koxinga’s men landed in Taiwan one tribal alliance known as the Kingdom of Middag invited Koxingas subordinate Chen Ze and his men to eat and rest with them only to kill them all in their sleep, allegedly 1500 soldiers. This was followed up by an ambush attack that would cost Koxinga the lives of 700 soldiers. More and more tribal attacks mounted and the brutality pushed Koxinga to offer the aboriginals amnesty and to help get rid of the Dutch. Many of the aboriginals were delighted by the chance to rid themselves of the Dutch and began to hunt Dutch colonists down, helped execute Dutch prisoners and burnt Dutch books used to educate them. Koxinga then rewarded the aboriginals with Ming clothes, made feasts for them, gave them countless gifts such as tobacco, farming tools and oxen and taught them new farming techniques.

    Koxinga had a large problem after his major victory, Taiwan's population was estimated to be no greater than 100,000, yet he brought with him almost 30,000 soldiers and their families, so food was going to run out and very quick. Thus Koxinga set to institute a tuntian policy, that being that soldiers would serve a dual role, that of warrior and farmer. All the rich and fertile lands the Dutch held were immediately cut up and distrubed to his higher ranking officers. Much of the aboriginal held territory on the eastern half of Taiwan would also be distributed to Koxinga’s men and I would imagine that was a bloody ordeal taking the land. Then Koxinga set his eyes on piracy performing raids against several locations near Taiwan such as the Philippines and even demanded the Spanish colonial government pay him tribute, threatening to attack Manila if they did not comply. The Spanish refused to pay any tribute and instead prepared the defenses of Manila. Koxinga’s naval force raided several coastal towns in the Philippines but before he could perform any real sort of invasion, in June of 1662 Koxinga suddenly died of malaria. Koxinga’s son Zheng Jing succeeded his father and became King of Tungning. Zheng wanted to continue his fathers planned invasion of the Philippines, but it turns out his fathers little war against the Dutch did not go unnoticed by the Qing.

    Back on the mainland, after Koxinga left and sailed for Taiwan, the Qing began to reimplemented the Haijin “sea ban” in 1647. The Haijin had been used in the past mostly to target Japanese piracy. Basically it was an attempt to force all sea trade coming in to be under strict regulation handled by Ming officials. The limited sea trade was to be “tributary missions” between the Ming dynasty and their vassals, such as Korea. Any private foreign trade was punishable by death and as you can imagine all this led up to was an increase in piracy and the formation of many smugglers along the eastern coast of china. The entire idea was to starve out Taiwan by denying them trade with the eastern coast of China. But when the Haijin was reimplemented it led to entire communities along the eatern Chinese coast to be uprooted from their native place and they were being deprived of their means of livelihood. So many communities simply had to get up and settle somewhere else where they could. This sent many coastal areas into chaos. This ironically led countless amounts of refugees from the eastern chinese coast to flee to Taiwan. Then in 1663 the Qing formed an alliance with the Dutch East India Company against the Ming loyalists in Fujian and Taiwan. The Dutch for their part sought the alliance simply to recapture Taiwan.

    In October of 1663 a combined fleet of Qing and Dutch attacked and captured Xiamen and Kinmen from the Ming loyalists. Then in 1664 the combined fleet attacked Zheng Jing’s navy but ended up losing because it was simply to immense. One of the Qing admirals, a certain Shi Lang, remember that guy, yeah he like I said held a blood grudge against Zheng’s family, well he advised the Qing that the Dutch were only aiding them so they could recapture Taiwan. He said that they did not really require the Dutch naval aid and that he could lead the Qing navy to take Taiwan back on his own. Thus the alliance fell apart.

    The Dutch who were probably very pissed off now then began raiding the Zhoushan Islands where they looted relics and killed Monks at a buddhist complex at Putuoshan in 1665, pretty mean thing to do. Zheng Jing’s navy attacked them for this, capturing and executing 34 Dutch sailors. In 1672 Zheng Jing would attack the Dutch again, managing to ambush the Dutch ship Cuylenburg in 1672 off the coast of northeastern Taiwan. So a bit of a long lasting war between the Dutch and Ming loyalists remains in the background.

    Now from the offset of his enthronement, Zheng Jing actually attempted to reconcile with the Qing, he sought to make Taiwan an autonomous state. Yet he refused their demands that he shave his head in the Manchu fashion nor would he pay tribute to the Qing dynasty. The Qing’s response initially as I had mentioned was a policy of trying to starve Taiwan out using the Haijin. This sent the populace of the southeastern coast into chaos and Zheng Jing continued to raid as the Qing really could not stop his larger navy. The Haijin like I said earlier had a disastrous and ironic effect. Soon there was a giant influx of the populace fleeing for Taiwan. Seeing the opportunity, Zheng promoted the immigration heavily and began proclaiming tons of promises and major opportunities for anyone who wished to immigrate to his kingdom. The enticement of land ownership and cultivation in exchange for military service suited many of the immigrant peasants quite fine, I mean for most there was simply no choice. And it was not just peasants who came, a ton of Ming loyalists used the opportunity to flee the mainland from persecution as well. All of this led to quite an enormous boom for Taiwan. A ton of reforms came into effect to meet the needs of the growing populace, agricultural, education, trade, industry and so on. Zheng’s main advisor, Chen Yonghua also helped introduce the deliberate cultivation of sugar cane and other cash crops which was further traded with Europeans who helped bring over machinery for mass sugar refining. The sugar economy allowed Taiwan to become economically self-sufficient and a booming relationship sprang with the British. Its funny how the British swoop in and steal all former Dutch things isnt it haha? The Qing tried to thwart all of this with the more intensive Haijin edict, but it only made the situation worse. It was not just Taiwan that was a thorn in their side, the head shaving order had caused a great influx of the populace to emigrate to other places than Taiwan, such as Jakarta and the Philippines. The Haijin and brief Qing-Dutch naval alliance had caused Zheng Jing to intensively exploit the lands of Taiwan and as you might guess this meant running into conflict with the aboriginals. The brutality grew gradually and Zheng’s kingdom would put down many aboriginal rebellions against his land grabbing and taxes. A series of conflicts with the Saisiyat people in particular left them absolutely decimated and they lost most of their land to Zheng's kingdom. Zheng Jing’s kingdom enjoyed a maritime trade network with the european colonies in the Pacific, Japan and SouthEast Asia.

    Now for over 19 years, Zheng tried to negotiate a peace with the now Kangxi emperor, as Emperor Shunzhi died of smallpox in 1661. Despite the peace talks, Zheng never gave up the cause of restoring the Ming Dynasty and one last hooray would occur. Going back to the mainland, when the Qing finally broke the last leaders of the South Ming regime, Li Dingguo, Sun Kewang and Emperor Yongli, they had managed to do this using a lot of Han chinese. It was only logical that they would install more and more Han Chinese to govern the territories that they conquered. Yet by installing certain Han and defected former Ming loyalists in parts of the realm with varying levels of authority led to a few warlords emerging. One was Shang Kexi, a former Ming general who defected very early on in 1634 and one of the most powerful generals to do so. He was given the title “pingnan wang” “prince who pacifies the south” and helped conquer the southern province of Guangdong. When the task was finished he was made governor of Guangdong holding full civil and military authority. By 1673, Shang Kexi was very old and asked permission from Emperor Kangxi to retire and go back to his homeland of Liaodong. Permission was granted and his son Shang Zhixin would take up the mantle of Prince of Pingnan. However, Shang Zhixin and his father would soon be embroiled into a revolt by the actions of others as we will soon see.

    Geng Zhongming was a Ming general who served under the Ming warlord Mao Wenlong “the sea king” if you listened to some earlier episodes. Well Geng Zhongming alongside Kong Youde ended up defecting to the Qing and aided in their conquest of the south. Geng Zhongming eventually died and his son Geng Jimao inherited his title of Jingnan Prince (which also means prince of pacifying the south just like pingnang wang) and aided in hunting down Li Dingguo and pacifying the southeast of China. Geng Jimao managed to get both his sons Geng Jingzhong and Zhaozhong to become court attendants under the Qing emperor Shunzhi and married Aisin Gioro women. His son Geng Jingzhong would inherit his fathers titles including the governorship of Fujian province and would become a warlord in Fujian which held a strong naval force.

    Wu Sangui who we know quite well was the Ming General who literally opened the door for the Qing to help destroy the forces of Li Zicheng, but this also led to the Qing taking Beijing. Now Wu’s career was a lengthy one, he helped defeat Li Zicheng who executed over 38 members of Wu’s family, so a large grudge there. For his service against Li, Wu was given the “Qin wang” Prince of Blood title and helped fight the Daxi army in the south alongside Shang Kexi. Wu had the absolutely horrifying job of pacifying Sichuan against the hordes of differing bandit armies and South Ming loyalists. Then Wu became instrumental in the fight against Sun, Li and Yongli eventually defeating them and bringing the far reaches of Yunnan under the Qing yolk. Now the Qing were uncomfortable placing Manchu bannermen so far away in Yunnan or Guizhou and thus the job was given to Wu. He was given the title of Pingxi Wang “Prince who pacifies the West” and control over Yunnan and Guizhou. Wu was granted permission by Emperor Shunzhi to appoint and promote his own officials as well as being given the rare privilege to have first dibs on warhorses before other Qing armies. By that point because of the war against Li Dingguo, Wu already had a large army at his control, around 60,000 men. The Qing were very wary of Wu, but his rule of Yunnan had thus far caused no headaches. Wu inevitably became a semi-independent warlord because of the great distance. All the money he received from taxation within Yunnan and that funds he received from Beijing were spent to expand his military primarily, guess why?

    So lets just summarize all of this. As a result of their great aid to the Qing defeating the South Ming regime, basically most of south China was handed over to 3 defected Ming generals.

    Basically they were awarded large fiefdoms within the Qing dynasty. Wu Sangui was granted governorship of Yunnan and Guizhou. Shang Kexi got Guangdong and Geng Zhongming got Fujian. Each man had their own military force and control over the taxation and other civil administration of their respective fiefs. In the 1660’s each man began to ask for Qing government subsidies to keep them loyal, averaging around 10 million taels of silver annually.

    Wu spent several million taels of silver building up his military, up to an estimated third of the Qing governments revenue from taxes. Geng Zhongming was quite a tyrant in his fiefdom and extorted the populace quite harshly before dying upon which his fiefdom fell to his son Geng Jimao and then to his son Geng Jingzhong as I mentioned. Shang Kexi ran a similar tyranny to Geng Zhongming in Guangdong and the combined 3 fiefs emptied the Qing treasury quite quickly. Another large issue was each man simply assumed and expected his feudaltory would be handed down to his offspring, but that was to be decided by the Qing Emperor not them.When Emperor Kangxi took the throne the 3 fief provinces had become financial burdens on the Qing government and their growing autonomous control of each province were becoming a major threat to the Qing dynasty.

    In 1673, Shang Kexi sent a memorial to Emperor Kangxi stating “I am already 70 years old and have become weak. I hope I can be allowed to go back to Liaodong, my home place, to spend my old age. In the past I was granted land and houses in Liaodong. I hope that your Majesty will grant the land and houses to me again. I will take some officers and soldiers and old people who have been under me, 4394 households all together, to go back with me. There are 24,375 men and women in all. I hope the department concerned will provide food for all these people on their way to Liaodong”.

    Emperor Kangxi replied “Since you sailed from the island to submit to our dynasty, you have worked very hard and established great contributions. You have garrisoned in Guangdong Province for many years. I know from your memorial that you are already 70 years old. You want to go back to Liaodong. You are very sincere in your memorial. From this I can see that you are respectful and submissive and have the overall interest at heart. I am very pleased about that. Now Guangdong Province has been pacified. I will order the Kings in charge of government affairs, court officials and the officials of the Ministry of Revenue and the Ministry of Defense to discuss how to arrange the migration and settlement of the officers and men under you. I will let you know when they have made a decision.”. Oh but there will of course be a catch, for 2 weeks later Emperor Kangxi received another letter ““In the memorial presented by Shang KeXi to Your Majesty he says that he is already old and ill. He asked Your Majesty’s permission to let his son Shang Zhi Xin to succeed his title of King of Pingnan. But now Shang KeXi is still alive. There is no precedent that the son can succeed his father’s title when his father is still alive. So it is not necessary to consider whether or not to allow his son to succeed his title.”. Emperor Kangxi agreed to this with some stipulations about numbers of military personnel and such.

    Then in July of 1673, Wu Sangui asked to be permitted to retire just like Shang Kexi and to be able to “settle down in some place”, the Emperor said he would speak to the court to arrange the migration. Then a week later, Geng Jingzhong asked the exact same thing and the Emperor said he would speak to the court. The court was divided on the issue, and against the majority in the court Emperor Kangxi decided to allow each man to have their wish. Wu Sangui was going to be given land in Guizhou, but he frantically sent word to Emperor Kangxi that he required a larger land because his officers families were many. It was a bit audacious and curious that Wu Sangui began with “settle down in some place” and turned it into “oh but I really need a much bigger place than that”, it was like he was asking for something he knew he could not have. It turns out, Wu Sangui had assumed when he asked permission to retire that the Qing court would instead try everything they could to persuade him not to retire and to stay in Yunnan. That way they might give him even more autonomy and money thus enabling him to continue building his autonomous state even more. When the emperor said yes to his request it must have been a real shock and to make matters worse for Wu, the emperor immediately began the process of migrating him and his men so he freaked out.

    So in 1673, Wu Sangui cut off his provinces connections to the Qing dynasty and began a rebellion under the banner of “Fǎn qīng fùmíng” “oppose the qing and restore the ming”. He was supported by his son Wu Shifan and other Ming loyalists in Yunnan, soon they all cut off their Manchu queues and he sent loyal commanders to garrison strategic passes into Yunnan.

    The provincial governor of Yunnan Zhu Guo Zhi refused to join him and so Wu had him assassinated. By 1678 Wu would declare a new dynasty, here we go again meme, giving himself the title King of Zhou and Great Marshal of the Expedition Army. And thus the Zhou dynasty was born. Wu Sangui ordered all of his followers to cut their Manchu queues and for all the banners to be white, and issued white military uniforms. The next order of business was sending word to Shang Kexi the Prince of Pingnan and Geng Jingzhong the Prince of Jingnan asking them to join the rebellion. Wu Sangui sent his loyal general Ma Bao to command a vanguard and march on Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou. All of Guizhou surrendered without a fight. Soon word got out of the rebellion and the colossal failure of Guizhou to defend itself. Emperor Kangxi immediately ordered the migration of Shang Kexi and Geng Jingzhong to be stopped and began to rally his army to meet the new threat. Generals from multiple provinces were assembled and estimates range quite a lot. Some say 500,000 some say up to a million troops, with the majority being Han Chinese of the Green Standard army were mustered. Emperor Kangxi promised any general who brought him Wu Sangui’s head would receive all the titles which Wu had held and any general that brought the heads of Wu’s generals would receive whatever titles those generals held, pretty big incentive. Emperor Kangxi also arrested and executed one of Wu Sangui’s sons who unfortunately was still in Beijing at the time named Wu Yingxiong.

    Wu Sangui’s army set out of Guizhou and attacked Yuanzhou of Hunan province. Next Chenzhou, then his army split up taking Hengzhou, Lizhou, Yuezhou and Changsha. Most of the governors simply fled for their lives. Then Wu’s army marched into Hubei province attacking Yichang, Xiangyang, Yunyang where he defeated multiple armies. Emperor Kangxi furiously ordered some of his generals to rush to Wuchang as it was strategically important and had to be defended. The southern Qing forces had not been prepared to face the well trained army of Wu Sangui and were falling like dominoes. To make matters worse many rallied to Wu Sangui’s cause, such as Sun Yanling, a general in Guangxi. Soon Wu’s army was in Sichuan causing havoc, everywhere Wu’s army went there were either military defeats for the Qing, retreats or defections.

    Then in March of 1674 Geng Jingzhong began a rebellion in Fujian declaring himself Grand General of All the Armies. Soon his forces took Yanping, Shaowu, Funing, Jianning and Tingzhou. Then Geng Jingzhong and Wu Sangui managed to form an agreement that they should combine forces and hit Jiangxi province together. At the same time Geng Jingzhong sent an envoy to our old friend Zheng Jing the king of Taiwan to come join the party by attacking prefectures and counties across the coast. Soon Geng Jingzhongs forces took Jiangshan, Pingyang, Wenzhou, Yueqing, Tiantai, Xianju and Chengxian. He defeated countless armies, rallied many to his cause and earned many defectors amassing an army of 100,000. Then he set out to attack Shaoxing, Ningpo, Huangyan, Jinhua before marching into Jiangxi province. From there Geng and wu took Guangxin, Jianchang, Raozhou, Kaihua, Shouchang, Chun’an, Huizhou, Wuyuan and Qimen. Thus his forces had hit the provinces of Fujian, Jiangxi, Zhejiang and Anhui. The Southeast of China was in utter chaos.

    Meanwhile Shang Kexi notified Emperor Kangxi of Geng Jingzhong’s rebellion early. Shang Kexi was loosely related to Geng Jingzhong, his son Shang Zhixin’s wife was Geng’s younger sister. Now that Geng Jingzhong was rebelling, he knew people would suspect he was going to rebel, but he did not want to. I mean hell the guy is 70 years old, he just wanted to retire. So he asked Emperor Kangxi if he could prove his loyalty by protecting Guangdong Province from the rebels and give his life in doing so. The Emperor was moved by this and ordered more units and money be made available to Shang Kexi for the task. Now remember, Shang Kexi was also the guy who got the confirmation that his son Shang Zhixin would inherit all he had, titles and all.

    When Wu Sangui began the rebellion, Emperor Kangxi was 20 years old and Wu assumed he was a “green horn” IE: a incompetant young man with no real experience and thus a push over. But very soon Wu Sangui would be facing the full might of the entire Qing Dynasty and he certainly began to regret his decision to rebel. When his army reached Lizhou he got word that the Emperor had executed his son Wu Yingxiong and his grandson. Allegedly he was eating a meal when a messenger told him this and he exclaimed “The young emperor is so capable! I am doomed to fail”. An odd quote to say the least given the circumstances, but thats how one of my sources put it….I’d rather think he’d shout in grief or something.

    Emperor Kangxi dispatched many Generals to help Shang Kexi attack the rebels occupying Yuezhou as Wu Sangui set up defenses there and sent expeditionary forces to march into Jiangxi province. The expeditionary forces took Nankang, Duchang and then Wu Sangui sent more expeditionary forces out of Changsha to hit Pingxiang, Anfu, Shanggao and Xinchang. Emperor Kangxi responded by throwing titles out to countless officials ordering them to suppress all the rebel forces spreading like wildfire, honestly I can’t list the mount of Princes that spring up. Countless Qing generals and governors fought and died to the rebel armies. By january of 1675 Emperor Kangxi ordered Grand General Yuele positioned in Yuanzhou to recapture Changsha. Yuele led his forces to take Nanchang, Shanggao, Xinchang, Donxiang, Wannian, Anren and Xincheng defeating countless rebels. When his force made it to Pingxiang they were repelled. At this point Wu Sangui ordered his men to build wooden fortresses to defend cities without natural defenses and to build log barriers to thwart cavalry, log obstacles in the rivers to thwart naval forces and traps everywhere. Then Wu Sangui told his troops he was going to cross the Yangtze River and break the dike near Jingzhou to immerse the city in water. While this was to occur he ordered some subordinates to attack Yunyang, Junzhou and Nanzhang.

    In 1676 Wu Sangui’s forces approached Guangdong and Shang Kexi was seriously ill leaving his son Shang Zhixin in charge of the defense. Many forces defected to Wu Sangui and allegedly in an effort to save his father, Shang Zhixin defected and became a grand general in Wu’s army.

    Ironically and rather tragically it seems the surrender broke Shang Kexi’s heart and he died. In December Shang Zhixin regretted his defection so much he sent a secret envoy to Emperor Kangxi begging to be allowed to defect back over to the Qing and Emperor Kangxi accepted him with open arms right back. Quite a few rebel generals began to defect back to the Qing and the Emperor kept a policy of extreme leniency hoping to win many over without bloodshed. These were after all his subjects and the emperor understood the need to avoid bloodshed whenever possible. Wu Sangui sent forces to attack Ji’an while Yuele made a second attempt attacking Pingxiang. Yuele’s forces had destroyed 12 enemy fortresses and killed more than 10,000 rebels before the rebel commander of Pingxiang fled. After taking Pingxiang, Yuele marched on Liling and Liuyang before finally attacking his tasked objective Changsha. Meanwhile Emperor Kangxi also dispatched forces into Zhejiang Province to attack Geng Jingzhong. In 1676 they attacked Wenzhou fighting fiercely and taking multiple fortresses. Despite a fierce month long siege, Wenzhou withstood the Qing and thus they bypassed it to march into Fujian province taking Jiangshan first. Meanwhile Zheng Jing’s force arrived at Xinghua Bay to attack Fuzhou, but Geng Jingzhong was at the end of his resources and ended up asking permission to defect to Emperor Kangxi. He asked Emperor Kangxi permission to show his newfound loyalty by attacking Zheng Jing’s invading force at Fuzhou. Emperor Kangxi accepted the offer and said he could resume his title of King of Jingnan if he was successful. The forces of Geng Jingzhong, heavily supported by the Qing army sent initially to defeat him mind you, easily defeated Zheng Jing’s force sending him packing back to Taiwan. A real game of thrones.

    By 1677 Wu Sangui’s army were facing stalemates all over the place and Yuele successfully captured Changsha. Then Ji’an fell as many of Wu’s men simply retreated. By 1678 Yuele recovered Pinjiang and Xiangyin defeating countless rebels and accepting many surrenders. Then Wu Sangui sent one of his most formidable generals Ma Bao to attack Yongxing and he died in battle failing to take the city. Wu Sangui was 67 years old, 6 years had passed since he began the rebellion. The vast territory he had taken in its peak was declining rapidly. His army was greatly weakened, but despite all of this many of his officials pleaded to him that he should officially declare himself emperor. So he proclaimed his reign title as Zhaowu meaning “demonstrating great military power” of the Zhou Dynasty in march, I guess go big or go home right. He made Hengzhou of Hunan Province the new capital and like all the rest before him began issuing titles and so forth. Then in august he was stricken with dysentery and was so ill he apparently could barely speak. He ordered his son Wu Shifan to come to Hengzhou, and by September 11th he was dead. Wu Shifan decided to take the mantle and chose the title reign of Honghua. When Emperor Kangxi got news of Wu Sangui’s death it was like a shark smelling blood in the water and he sent all his armies to crash upon Hunan, apparently the Emperor even considered leading the army he was that eager. Wu Shifan’s forces fled for their lives when the Qing armies marched into Hubei, disarray was soon rampant. Soon Yuele’s troops marched into Hunan and attacked Wugang which had a fairly stout defense of 20,000 troops. The battle was bloody, Wugangs commander was killed, his troops soon routed and the city fell. The rebel army’s morale was low, the Qing took Yuezhou, Changde, Hangzhou. It got to a point where the Qing faced more issues with logistics than they did in the actual fighting of the enemy. By 1680 the provinces of Hunan, Guizhou, Guangxi and Sichuan fell back to the Qing and Wu Shifan fled to Kunming.

    Once Wu Shifan was pressed into a corner in Yunnan province the Qing General Zhao Liangdong formed a 3 pronged attack strategy to hit Yunnan. The attack would be performed by Cai Yurong, Zhang Tai and Laita Giyesu. They each marched through Hunan, Guangxi and Sichuan respectfully taking territory as they did. Wu Shifan had no reinforcements and was greatly outnumbered. The Qing generals entered Yunnan and Kunming was besieged for months, but it still held firm. General Zhao Liang proposed they cut Wu Shifans supply route on Kunming lake and this provided quick results. The generals then led a fierce attack upon the city. But before they could capture Wu Shifan he had committed suicide. They decapitated his corpse and sent it back to Beijing. There lies just one more small story to end the tale.

    All the way back in 1674 Geng Jingzhong as we know sent an envoy to Taiwan to ask the help of Zheng Jing. Zheng Jing sailed to Siming, the south part of Xiamen in southeast Fujian province. His army then captured Tong’an and marched north to attack Quanzhou which was defended by Geng Jingzhongs army. Geng Jingzhongs men fled the scene after a quick battle and Zheng captured Quanzhou. From there he took Chaozhou, defeating more of Geng Jingzhong’s troops, making an enemy out of him. Then in 1675 Geng Jingzhong made peace with Zheng Jing, it seems it was all a misunderstanding and they began to collude. But in 1676 Geng Jingzhong surrendered to the Qing and personally asked to be tasked with defeating Zheng Jing, so perhaps there was something more personal going on between the 2. Well Zheng Jing began the new found war between them by besieging Quanzhou again. The siege lasted 2 months but he was unable to take it. Zheng Jing lifted the siege and instead attacked Fuzhou, but by now Qing forces were crashing into Fujian province. The forces fought for various cities such as Quanzhou, Tingzhou and Zhangzhou. In 1677 Zheng Jing laid siege again for a 3rd time to Quanzhou, but the Qing in the meantime had taken 10 counties back and were overwhelming Zheng Jings armies. He lifted the siege yet again and fled back to Siming, and by 1678 a Qing envoy showed up demanding his surrender. Emperor Kangxi followed this up by sending naval forces to Fujian to attack Kinmen island. Enroute a Qing naval force led by Wan Zhengse attacked Haitan island. During the ensuing battle 16 of Zheng Jing’s ships were destroyed with more than 3000 soldiers drowned. Zheng Jing’s admiral at the scene, Zhu Tiangui had to flee and Wan Zhengse pursued them. Soon Meizhou island, Nanri island, Pinghai county and Chongwu county were seized by the Qing naval forces. Then land forces and Wan Zhengse consolidated and attacked Zheng Jings forces in Xiamen. They smashed his army there, Zheng Jing tried to flee to Kinmen, but the Qing attacked it simultaneously forcing him to sail all the way back to Taiwan. In 1781 shortly after arriving in Tainan, Zheng Jing died of dissipation on march 17th.

    Zheng Jing’s eldest and illegitimate son Zheng Kezang was appointed as Supervisor of the state. Now Zheng Kezang was the next in line to take the throne, but this is where that “illegitimate” part comes up. Two political hungry officials hated Zheng Kezang, Feng Xifan the head of the bodyguards and Liu Guoxuan a high ranking military officer. Upon Zheng Jing’s death they both began to slandere Zheng Kezang as not being a biological son of Zheng Jing in front of the Queen Dowager Dong. They then launched a coup with the help of Zheng Jing’s brother Zheng Cong against Zheng Kezang, killing him and installing his 12 year old little brother Zheng Keshuang on the throne. Some real game of thrones shit. Meanwhile Emperor Kangxi and the Qing court heard about the coup and that a 12 year old emperor was just placed upon the throne and he realized the time was ripe to attack the politically divided and certainly weak island of Taiwan. Then a Qing court official recommended our old friend Shi Lang, the man who had a blood feud with Zheng's family, to command the entire Qing navy against Taiwan. Thus Shi Lang was made commander in chief of the naval force and ordered to take the Pengdu Islands and then Taiwan. Shi Lang rallied 20,000 crack troops and 300 warships for an invasion of Pengdu. Shi Lang also took the time to purchase a number of Dutch made cannons for his bigger ships. Liu Guoxuan of Taiwan knew the Qing would attack Pengdu first and sent a large force there to prepare it’s defenses.

    In june of 1683 Shi Lang's navy sailed out of Tongshan and captured a few small islands along the way to Pengdu. Now Shi Lang divided his force into smaller fleets before engaging the enemy. He sent one detachment to slip around the planned naval battle and land covertly near Liu Guoxuan’s base on Pengdu. Liu Guoxuan was no fool however and placed numerous cannons and troops along the beaches to thwart such attacks. On June 16th the battle of Pengdu commenced and many of Liu Guoxuan’s larger ships targeted the smaller fleets of Shi Lang encircled them. Seeing this unfold Shi Lang took his flagship personally in to break up the encirclements. As the battle raged, a stray arrow hit Shi Lang in the eye spraying blood everywhere, but Shi Lang fought on. Shi Lang managed to break an encirclement killing 3000 enemy soldiers and by June 18th captured Hujing island, just southwest of Pendu island proper and Tongpanyu island to its southwest. On June 22nd, Shi Lang organized multiple simultaneous attacks to throw the enemy off balance. He sent 50 warships to hit Jilongyu and Sijiaoshan situated on the west of Pengdu island. Another 50 warships to hit Niuxinwan Bay to attract the enemy's attention as he sailed off personally with 56 warships right through the center to hit Pengdu island proper. The enemy sent all their warships out to meet his separate forces and from 7am to 5pm they fought. The Qing managed to outflank and break the enemies formation, but they fought on tenaciously. In the end the Qing won a battle of attrition as they had significantly more ammunition than the rebel navy whom was forced to resort to boarding ships and melee fighting. Many rebel leaders chose not to surrender and went down fighting to the end in a blaze of gunfire and glory. Over 194 enemy warships were destroyed, more than 12,000 enemy soldiers were killed. Seeing he was going to lose the battle, Liu Guoxuan took his fastest ship and fled back to Taiwan. Shi Lang’s detachment that slipped past the battle landed ashore and were met with an onslaught of cannons and arrows from the beaches. However the Qing warships began to tip the scale in firepower breaking open pockets for amphibious assaults and soon the Qing soldiers were breaking through towards Liu Guoxuans base. The Qing defeated the garrison at the base and raised the Qing banner triumphantly.

    On july 15th, Zheng Keshuang sent envoys to Pengdu island to offer terms of surrender to Shi Lang. By August Shi Lang accepted their surrender in Taiwan and on August 18th, Zheng Keshuang and all his officers and officials shaved their heads in the Manchu style. They all then positioned themselves to face the direction of Beijing and bowed, Taiwan was now part of the Qing empire. Shi Lang was granted by Emperor Kangxi the title of General of Jinghai, Jinghai meaning “pacifying the sea”. Zheng Keshuang and his highest officials were escorted to Beijing and Zheng Keshuang was granted the title duke of Haicheng

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    The Qing war for unification was over, of course there would be countless rebellions during the reign of the Qing dynasty, but as for the threat of a Ming takeover that was not a thing of the past. A brand new world was emerging however, as the 19th century was soon rolling in and with it much much more devious trouble. For the century of humiliation was mere decades from commencing its ugly start.

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  • commander in charge of Huguang province, Prince Nikan. Meanwhile Qing princes Shang Kexi and Geng Jimao were dispatched to pacify Guangdong and Guangxi. Wu Sangui was ordered to pacify Sichuan, but was being tied down heavily in its northern sector, maybe he was fighting all the tigers.

    Wu had discovered that Sichuan was so devastated it made things ruinous for military campaigns. He lacked the resources to do much against the countless bandits armies and the newly emerged forces of Sun Kewangs which he referred to as a “poison overrunning the province”. The entire situation as Wu put it “Chengdu was a devastated ruin and all was empty around it. The dead and starving were everywhere and for hundreds of li there were no cooking fires but bandit gangs roamed allying with the ming freely. All of Sichuan is in the hands of bandits and their strategic situation has already improved greatly since their emergence. Without men or materiel where will I get the resources to recover land and extirpate [the bandits]?”

    Nonetheless in february of 1652, Wu and his subordinate Li Guohan made an offensive through the Jianmen “sword pass” all the way to Jiading. By april they captured Chongqing and by may northern Sichuan was considered fully pacified. Still Wu and Guohan had no illusions, the bandits and Ming defenses in the south remained dangerous, but the giddy young Qing Emperor assumed Sichuan as a whole was weakened and thought Wu would be able to assist Nikan in his mission. The young Qing emperor also sought to mass large armies to retake Yunnan and Guizhou after Sichuan was taken, quite a large order.

    A grandson of Nurhaci, Prince Nikan served with Prince Haoge in western China and held an assortment of administrative posts in the capital before he was appointed “Ding yuan da Jiangjun”, generalissimo in charge of pacifying the distant regions, following Kong Youdes death. Nikan proceeded into Huguang at the head of his army of 100,000. Like most Qing commanders, Prince Nikan was given orders to accept the surrender of anyone who submitted without a fight and that it was paramount to protect the people. Strict military regulations were to be enforced, forbidding the rape and pillaging of whom were supposed to be their subjects. Understandable, you can't go around abusing the people you want to govern after all. Nikan’s army marched to Guangxi to do battle with Li Dingguo and he was promised aid from Xi’an. The Qing military operations were consuming more than half the Qing governments revenue and they knew they should be cautious and secure taxable lands before venturing deep into the southwest again. Nikans forces successfully defeated Li Dingguo’s subordinates Ma Jinzhong at Yuezhou and Zhang Honggong at Changsha. Nikan pursued them west and encountered Li Dingguo’s scouts near Hengzhou. Nikan defeated some of Li’s forces at Hengzhou sending him on the run, but then Li set up an ambush near Qiyang where Nikan’s army sustained heavy casualties. Nikan pushed forward, with his vanguard running into another ambush near Yongzhou. Li feigned a retreat and soon Nikans army was stretched out widely into 3 groupings. Li then personally led his forces brandishing a great sword on horseback into battle. Nikan fought bravely but was overwhelmed and speared off his mount. Li severed Nikans head from its corpse and paraded it around before falling back to Wugang.

    The Qing were absolutely shocked, Emperor Shunzhi screamed “ “In our dynasty’s military history we’ve never suffered a loss like this!”. The Ming scholar and philosopher Huang Zongxi said of Li Dingguo’s victory “it was the most complete Ming victory since the Wanli reign.”. The prefect of Guilin said of Li’s victory ““The duke (Li) uses troops like a god. He’s a little Zhuge [Liang]. His laws and regulations are clear and strict without committing the slightest mistake, and he combines the strong and weak in his brigades with all knowing their roles. Thus the people practically fight to join him.” The Qing licked their wounds and now put the veteran collaborator Hong Chengchou in charge of all operations in the far south.

    Even though Li had managed to kill Prince Nikan, he was unable to take advantage of the great victory because his subordinates Feng Shuangli and Ma Jinzhong were still working for Sun Kewang in secrecy, undermining him. Soon much of Huguang fell right back into the hands of the Qing and Feng sent word to Sun to stoke his jealousy “I fear that from now on, Dingguo will be hard to control”. Sun tried to remedy his relationship with Li by offering him the title of Prince of Xining, but Li refused stating “Investitures come from the Son of Heaven. How can one prince enfoeff another?” thus Li was making the argument that only Emperor Yongli could bestow someone as prince outraging Sun, kind of ironic also given the fact it was an argument Sun had made himself, haha. Sun was publicly praising Li’s victories, while privately trying to destroy him. Sun sent countless letters summoning Li to “discuss strategy” but instead Li camped in Baoqing and ignored them. It turns out Li was being tipped off by Liu Wenxiu’s son that Sun was probably trying to assassinate him. Li worried not just for his life, but for his family who were all in Yunnan.

    Now it should be noted Li Dingguo’s armies success was primarily a result of his training programs and leadership. Li was an extremely capable military leader, he understood the limitations and strengths of his forces. For one thing he did not believe in sticking around in one place for too long, he knew the limitations of his logistics, such as a need for food. His experience as a bandit leader was of grave importance for the survival of his forces as most of their campaigns relied on moving into territories, securing resources and moving on. He also had a tendency to strike out fast without warning and leav before the Qing could consolidate on that position. Li made sure to build close ties with areas he led his forces into, trying to win over many, and this proved highly successful as unlike his former adoptive father, Li had always tried to limit atrocities. Li also heavily benefited from Yunnan specifically, he was running around with war elephants afterall, fearsome shock units, though very expensive to feed and maintain. It was said that the Qing feared Li and his “southern barbarian forces” as they were known.

    Estimates for the total troops available for the South Ming regime are most likely inflated but some sources claim Sun Kewang to have 800,000 men, Li Dingguo 400,000 and Liu Wenxiu 140,000. There is a breakdown of organizational structure as well when it comes to the South Ming armies. For mobile brigades (youji), each with a commander, consisting of 2 brigades (ying), which held around 1750 troops. Then there are 5 vice commanders (dusi) each with 350 troops, divided into 5 separate units of 70, further divided into 5 squads of 13. Now for a regular brigade each held 3000 troops with 10 battalions of 300, subdivided into 2 companies of 150 each. Lt’s led platoons of 30 men, sergeants squads of 10.

    The South Ming regime were bolstered heavily by minority troops which themselves brought a variety of differing weaponry and military tactics. Its hard to gauge, but some modern scholars estimate there was a ratio of 1 gun per 15 soldiers overall, but other scholars argue they had even more. As already mentioned we see a heavy use of Elephant cavalry amongst Li Dingguo’s forces, he also had unique firearms, repeating crossbows and specialized polearms. By the way if you ever have a chance to check out repeating crossbows going back to the ancient times of China, its worthwhile, they are awesome. There were the famous 3 eyed bird guns, western made cannons and much more. Li’s force particularly liked using cavalry, favoring the mobility, but horses were in short supply for Yunnan and Sichuan. The war elephants were typically in the frontlines with men firing guns atop their backs, which sounds absolutely awesome. Li Dingguo’s campaigns also came with horrifying consequences for the common folk, it is estimated up to a possibly million commoners were killed during the offensive in 1652 from war conditions and famine. Basically anywhere the Qing and Ming decided to do battle ruined the area, people were pressed into service, killed, pillaged, lost homes and farms and such leading to starvation, many refugees spread into other areas causing more and more problems.

    While northern Sichuan was being secured by the forces of Li Guoying and Wu Sangui, Sun Kewang decided to expand into northern Sichuan and sent Liu Wenxiu. The Qing attempted to hold Liu’s forces back, but the elephant cavalry proved extremely effective and soon they were pushed back towards Baoning. A large reason the Elephant cavalry was so successful was because they simply spooked the Qing horses, though for anyone who knows their Mongol war history, you can already see how using war elephants might prove disastrous. While horses are indeed spooked by elephants, horses mounted archers can quite easily spook elephants back by pelting them with arrows and flanking them. Regardless from many of the sources I am reading, this seems to not become the case until later on. Liu Wenxiu soon took Chongqing, Chengdu with the aid of his elephants and heavy cannons, he now felt the time was right to march on the Qing stronghold of Baoning. Liu besieged Baoning with 50,000 troops while another Ming commander, Wang Fuchen built floating bridges to cross the Ling River to cut off the escape from Baoning. Wu Sangui argued with Li Guoying that they should retreat to Hanzhong, but Li felt abandoning Baoning would mean the loss of Sichuan completely and that was unacceptable. Li then instructed Wu to place his troops in a position from which they could not escape. This tactic is known as “deadly ground”, the idea was by putting the forces in a life or death situation they would perform at their best. Sure hate to be those forces. Wu Sangui was still looking to retreat, but his colleagues basically told him he would get executed for doing so in Beijing. Abandoning Baoning would set the Qing pacification back for years and thus it was imperative to make this stand.

    Baoning was quite a defendable city, it held rivers on 3 sides and a mountain on its 4th. The Ming tried to use that mountain to fire muskets into the city but the range was too far. Liu kept up the pressure on 3 sides of the city while guarding against any relief forces incoming from the north. It was an overly aggressive stance leaving Liu’s forces thinly places about, but he had no choice but to take up an aggressive stance in the hopes of breaking the city faster since Liu did not have enough supplies for a long siege, neither did the Qing for that matter. It also seems Liu had his eyes fixated on the prize and may have been too eager. Afterall if he took Baoning it would mean he was the man who took all of Sichuan.

    It seems in his efforts to envelope Baoning Liu had left some gaps in his formations and Wu saw this. Liu had arrayed his 13 war elephant cavalry units in the front of the formation intending to use them as shock troops and to protect his more unarmored troops in the formations center. The problem was because the war elephants were in the front like this, the troops behind them could not see what was past the elephants, and elephants unlike horses dont move fast, thus the enemy would be able to maneuver quickly and the troops would not know where they would be hit in time. What made maters even worse was the fact these unarmored troops in the middle had their backs to the Ling River. Lius army consisted mostly of pikemen with rattan shields and some harquebusiers. They were arrayed on the 3 sides of the city, 4 ranks deep with elephants in front followed by pikemen and harquebusiers in the rear. The formation reassembled a crescent moon, stretching some 5 miles around the city. For those of you war gamers you can probably visualize the setup and see some of the issues. For example Liu would employ his elephants into a charge to smash the enemy’s cavalry, then open the lines for pikemen to finish them off followed by harquebusiers to shoot straddlers, a good plan? Problem, elephants are quite slow, what if the cavalry simply run around them?



    Wu told Zhang that if they could open a gap in the enemy's lines they might be able to win. Liu commanded an attack and Wu feigned a retreat near the Guanyin Temple which drew the Ming in pursuit. The pursuit separated some of the formation exposing the unarmored troops in the middle of Liu’s formation and Wu circled around the flanks concentrating fire up the weak middle. Next Wu’s cavalry smashed into some Pikemen formations pushing the enemy closer to the Ling River. Then Wu led his force against Liu Wenxiu, charging at the elephants, but they did not break. So Wu feigned another retreat, goading Liu into a chaotic pursuit. As Liu charged, Wu’s forces wheeled back around and hit them with a crossfire of arrows, remember what I said about Mongolian tactics. To make matters worse, Liu’s hasty pursuit saw him leaving behind many of the shield bearers, and thus they had no counter to the arrow fire. Liu’s forces began to rout and Liu himself was forced to escape by cutting a floating bridge at the head of nearly half his original force of 50,000. Now 10,000 of his men were on the other side of the Ling river, scrambling to get across and they were quickly slaughtered. The Elephants eventually panicked and scattered in their own right. Wu Sangui went on to claim his forces killed and captured more than 40,000 troops during the battle. Li Guoying claimed that no more than 1000 men managed to escape and that they had captured seals of authority, 3 elephants, over 2000 horses and a mountain of firearms. Liu would retreat all the way to Yunnan and be lambasted by Sun and demoted. Liu from then on would resent Sun and fell more into the fold of Li Dingguo. After the battle both Li Guoying and Wu Sangui sent forces wheeling around to pursue the Ming as they withdrew. Wu Sangui’s forces eventually stopped at Chengdu wrecking multiple Ming armies. Li Guoying began to consolidate his power in Sichuan, defeating and cornering Ming loyalist forces across the north and west of Sichuan. Li would go as far as to claim north and western Sichuan were fully pacified to Beijing.

    Meanwhile the Ming court was still fawning over Li Dingguo like fangirls of a Kpop band and gave him the title of Prince of Xining, really pissing off Sun Kewang. This pushed Sun Kewang to begin a military campaign going east in autumn of 1652 seeking to raise his military profile, but at the same time Hong Chengchou was sent to Hunan to pacify it. Hong did not take an aggressive stance and opted instead to restore the prosperity of the region. Sun’s campaign began with the capture of Chenzhou, where he smashed its east gate with his war elephants allowing his infantry to swarm into the city fighting bloody street to street warfare. Sun followed up the massacre, by executing tons of Qing officials and erecting piles of severed limbs to showcase it, so some old fashion Zhang Xianzhong stuff. Sun Kewang afterwards personally commanded his army to attack Baoqing alongside Feng Shuangli and Bai Wenxuan to his left and right. A veteran Qing commander named Tong Tulai held the city and upon seeing the banners of Sun Kewang in the middle formation order the concentration of his forces fire upon the center units. Both sides took equal and heavy casualties, but soon Sun Kewangs army broke and fled with Tong Tulai choosing not to pursue, probably learning a lesson from Prince Nikan’s demise.

    Sun’s defeat at Baoqing and Liu Wenxiu’s defeat at Baoning convinced many that Sun Kewang was an incompetant military leader and that he had wasted over 3 years training his forces for nothing. Thus ironically Sun Kewangs efforts to eclipse his rival, Li Dingguo had resulted in the exact opposite, making Li look even better. Sun then began to see the Ming royal family and its ties to Li Dingguo as a threat and he would take a course of action that would effectively doom the South Ming regime.

    Despite the setbacks to the strategic position of the South Ming regime in 1653 not all was entirely lost. Emperor Yongli was in a secure and stable position for once and the regime held Yunnan, Guizhou and southern Sichuan firmly. Sun Kewang had brought many Dashun,Da Xi and other bandit groups under their sphere of influence and more importantly under the control of one leader. There was even the possibility that the South Ming regime could eventually link up with the naval resistance led by Koxinga in the southeast coast, someone we will talk about later. The military successes of Li Dingguo gave the South Ming regime a huge morale boost and shocked the hell out of the Qing. But beneath the surface of all of this, things were not well internally for the Ming loyalists. As we saw countless times with the bickering amongst different factions in the South Ming regime, here again it will occur.

    Sun was ambitious and jealous of his colleagues, he also shared grotesque traits of his former master Zhang Xianzhong. Emperor Yongli on the other hand was weak willed and a coward who consistently sought his personal safety over all other concerns. He was a mere puppet, content with just being a symbol. Li Dingguo had risen from a peasant leader to become a genuine Ming loyalist who was both brave and charismatic, earning the hearts of many. He did not have the administrative skill like Sun Kewang, but he was a capable military leader who could take territory. In essence the 3 men together made a formidable team, each having something of use, administrative skill for Sun, military capability for Li and a symbol of authenticity in Yongli. But this would never come into reality and the real losers of this game of thrones, would as always be the common people.

    Sun Kewang from the early days of just being a bandit leader showed a very notable tendency to be sensitive to any criticism and would attack anyone who he thought slighted him. Li Dingguo was well aware that Sun planned to kill him as early as 1652, yet despite this Li tried to get Sun to work together but it only made Sun more angry and dangerous. Thus by 1653 Li began to move his forces further away from Sun before he might be enveloped. Li left Yongzhou with less than 50,000 loyal troops to Longhu Pass which allowed the Qing quickly snatch up Yongzhou as a result. From there Li went east, skirmishing sometimes with Sun troops and attacking Qing controlled cities. Li’s hope was if he managed to get closer to the eastern coast he might be able to join forces with Koxinga whom for his own part was open to the idea and trying his best to join up as well.

    In march of 1653, Li besieged Zhaoqing for weeks and despite heavy bombardments failed to take the city and was forced to move on and raid Guangxi. He attacked Guilin where he was wounded and forced to retreat when Qing relief forces came. As Li fought Qing forces in Guangdong and Guangxi throughout 1653, Sun Kewang dispatched Feng Shuangli to attack Li at Liuzhou. Li however, managed to ambush Feng’s forces and sent him fleeing. There is a story that as Feng tried to ford a river fleeing, Li supposedly saved him from drowning and thus Feng gave his loyalty to Li and returned to Sun’s camp waiting for the right moment to help Li defeat him. Li would take Guilin in late 1653 and the more actions he took the more Emperor Yongli’s court saw him as a better alternative to Sun as a military protector. Soon Emperor Yongli offered Li the same rank as Sun Kewang if he could rescue him from Sun’s house arrest situation. Li responded that he would be open to the idea of “escorting” Yongli to safety if he successfully took Guangdong. However, Ma Jixiang discovered these messages between Li and Yongli and gave word to Sun Kewang in January of 1654. Sun then accused Yongli of conspiring against him and initiated a plan to redistribute Li Dingguo’s wives and concubines in Yunnan among the other high ranking officers, but there was general dissatisfaction amongst his ranks. Almost a full blown mutiny had occurred at one point and thus his devious plan never came to fruition.

    On May 6, Sun executed what he called the 18 gentlemen of Anlong for allegedly conspiring against him. Their ringleader, Wu Zhenmin strangled himself while the others were publicly flayed and decapitated. Its been awhile since we had this gruesome stuff eh? It turns out when Yongli was accused he denied the conspiracy and threw all the 18 gentlemen under the bus to save himself. In spring of 1654, Sun with 370,000 troops prepared for another eastern campaign while Li Dingguo had launched his own into Guangdong hoping as always to link up with the infamous Koxinga. Li managed to push all the way to Gaozhou, located in the southeast of the province. Next he besieged Xinhui just a bit south of Guangzhou. While he besieged Xinhui he asked Koxinga for assistance, but this never came to fruition and thus the siege lagged into 1655. Li’s situation became very desperate, his men were soon reduced to eating their own horses. Then Qing reinforcements commanded by Shang Kexi arrived and despite Li having arrayed his cannons and elephants for defense the cannons allegedly were not working properly during the battle, allowing the Qing to take some high ground against him. Shang Kexi and his colleague Geng Jimao from the vantage point were able to outflank Li and cause his elephants to rout running through his own army causing massive chaos. Li had already lost countless thousand during the siege and the Qing attack simply broke them, they soon fled for their lives. Shang Kexi boasted “they scattered like rats before the might of the Qing”.

    Li fled back southwest with the remnants of his forces, around 10,000 men, with just 3 war elephants left and a possible 60-70 thousand refugees as he was pursued by the Qing. He was finally able to breathe when he destroyed a bridge behind himself stranding the Qing and managing to escape to Nanning. The Qing quickly grabbed up multiple cities and Li’s eastern campaign had ended in complete failure. With just a single battle at Xinhui, over 3 years of Ming victories had been swept away.

    Meanwhile Sun had launched an assault on Changde in the summer of 1655, bringing with him Liu Wenxiu who had tried to retire in dismay from his major defeat, but Sun would not allow this. When his forces got close to Changde they were ambushed by Qing forces and had to make a fighting retreat, losing 6 subsequent battles to them. Many of Sun’s forces fell to the Qing, starvation and disease. Feng Shuangli was wounded and some other 40 generals simply surrendered to the Qing in what became a catastrophic campaign. One thing made Hong Chengchou uneasy despite the great victories, the Ming forces under Sun seemed to be using riverine units to great effect. Thus Chengchou began to pressure the Qing to put more funding into naval capabilities. You see Sun and Li both had mastered using boats to move units quicker through river systems, as cavalry was scarce and their operations required fast mobility. The use of these riverine units alluded the Qing countless times as the Qing did not possess a great number of boats themselves nor plan to build too many.

    Throughout 1655 the Qing pushed through Guangxi defeating multiple bandit groups. Li Dingguo in the meantime was returning to Nanning in late 1655, but would soon flee when the Qing attacked the city in February of 1656. It became evident that Li Dingguo was edging closer and closer to Anlong to attempt a rescue of Emperor Yongli, prompting Sun Kewang to order the forceful movement of the emperor. He appointed his subordinate Bai Wenxuan for the task of moving the emperor, completely unaware that Bai was secretly working with Li Dingguo to relocate Emperor Yongli to Yunnan where Li had a powerbase. As Sun continued to campaign in eastern Sichuan, Li dingguo and Bai Wenxuan sent word to Emperor Yongli to try and convince the him to move to Yunnan. It was a major risk as Li only had 6000 troops under his control at the time and Sun had more than 50,000 garrisoning various places, many of which were in Yunnan. Li then tried to appeal to the Ming loyalism of the commanders scattered about, accusing Sun Kewang of quote “sinking to a depth from which he could not return to allegiance”. He also bribed the hell out of them. In turn Liu Wenxiu turned his back on Sun and made his way to join Li dingguo. Li then dispatched his subordinate Jin Tongwu to take Emperor Yongli to Yunnan in early 1656, but Sun Kewang sent some agents of his own to retrieve the emperor. So basically we are seeing a situation in which Li Dingguo and Sun Kewang are both trying to win the Ming loyalists to their respective side and portraying themselves as being the true savior of the Emperor. By the way if most of this story sounds oddly familiar to parts of the 3 Kingdoms stories its not a coincidence, all the characters were avid readers of those stories and were actively portraying the events as such.

    What ends up winning the day, was the cunning and deceptive alliance between Li dingguo and Bai Wenxuan, because despite all that was going on, it seems Sun still thought Bai Wenxuan was his loyal man helping move the emperor for him. At a crucial moment, Sun Kewang sent an army to apprehend the emperor and Bai Wenxuan stopped the force saying “The Son of Heaven is here. Kewang wants to be a murderous traitor. If you wish to do that which is right, how can you follow the commands of an evil murderer and thus counter the Way of Heaven?”.

    Meanwhile he was sending letters to Sun Kewang explaining that he would be delivering the Emperor to Guiyang in a few days and not to worry. This deception bought enough time for Li Dingguo and his smaller army to sneak into Anlong and convince 2 Ming commanders, Pang Tianshou and Ma Jixiang (yup Sun’s spy loyal man) to switch their allegiances to him. Li dingguo consolidated the forces with those of Ben Wenxuan and they began to escort Emperor Yongli out of Anlong on February 20th.

    It is said the populace lined up the roads and wept for joy as Emperor Yongli entered Yunnan alongside Li Dingguo. The emperor quickly occupied Sun Kewangs former residence in Kunming and once he felt safe and comfortable he began to distribute new titles and office to all those who aided his escape. Li Dingguo and Liu Wenxiu were named the Princes of Jin and Shu. Despite all of the craziness, Li Dingguo still hoped to bring Sun Kewang back into the fold and sent Liu Wenxiu back to Guiyang as an envoy. However Emperor Yongli advised Liu not to go in person, remembering the execution of the 18 gentlemen of Anlong, so instead Liu wrote a letter in blood to Sun Kewang. Li even sent out Sun’s servants and concubines and the deceptive Bai Wenxuan back to him in a show of good faith. Sun responded as you might guess, angrily, so he sent his own envoys in return as a sign of good faith. In truth he had sent spies such as Wang Ziqi and Zhang Hu, who to his delight sent back word quickly that Li Dingguo only had 20,000 troops. Thus Sun Kewang eagerly prepared for war against Li, not realizing many of his top commanders had changed their allegiances such as his subordinate, Zhang Hu, I guess he can be called a double agent. Bai Wenxuan for his part notified Li that peace was assuredly not an option. On top of this Sun had sent some agents throughout Guizhou and Yunnan to garrison positions and prepare for war which really tipped Li off. Li Dingguo and Liu Wenxiu each sent letters from Kunming to Koxinga hoping for cooperation but no responses came.

    During all of this, the Qing were consolidating their empire, especially in Sichuan. The skirmishes between Sun and Li had enabled the Qing to grab most of Southwest China. Yet Southern Sichuan was still extremely chaotic. Maimed people walked everywhere, corpses littered the fields, cannibalism was rampant and people were paying taxes to differing authorities. Sun Kewang still held considerable authority in Southern Sichuan. Li Guoying was promoted to governor general of Shaanxi and Sichuan in 1657 and the Qing hoped some martial law might speed up the pacification and end the nightmare that had reigned for over a decade at this point. Li Guoying pointing out that Sichuan contained a mishmash of refugees from all the ongoing wars. There were Eight banner troops, bandits, Ming loyalists, Dashun and Daxi remnants and all these groups made it very difficult to determine reliability and suitability for service under the Qing. Li Guoying thought increasing agricultural productivity would win over most and set to work doing so. Meanwhile Hong Chengchou was gathering forces and supplies in Huguang while promoting agricultural productivity. Thus both Li and Hong were running similar programs trying to win the hearts of the populace to their side.

    Now as I mentioned, the Qing took Nanning in 1656 and soon realized that Li Dingguo had slipped away to Anlong. The Qing commanders worried that their supply lines were stretched too thin and Hong Chengchou favored using Guilin as a main base of operations for enclosing the southwest. To Hong Chengchou the main threat was Emperor Yongli and his entourage because he held the most significant challenge to the Qing that of legitimacy. The Qing had word of the growing war between Li Dingguo and Sun Kewang and chose to allow Hong Chengchou to build up his forces and supplies for the time being and let the enemy rot a bit from within. The entire time the Ming were bickering, the Qing were amping up agricultural production in multiple provinces winning over more and more of the populace.

    In the summer of 1657 Sun and Li finally came after another. Sun with a 140,000 strong army marched upon Yunnan leaving Feng Shuangli to hold Guiyang. Li and Liu had around 50,000 troops and took up a position at Qujing building up wooden defenses there. By this point Li and Liu had persuaded many of Sun’s subordinates to turncoat using every means possible, but despite this they still feared the upcoming clash. Sun arrayed his force into 36 brigades once he hit the Yunnan border and made his way to the nearest city, Jiaoshui. When the 2 armies came 10 miles from each other, Sun placed Bai Wenxuan in his vanguard which would prove a disastrous mistake. Turns out Sun’s spies finally told him Bai Wenxuan was a turncoat, so Sun rightfully threw him in front, but unbeknownst to him Bai knew Sun knew and planned for this. Oh how the turntables? At the critical start of the battle Bai sent a signal and his troops wheeled around smashing into Sun’s other commanders, aided by another turncoat general. Before Sun could respond, the turncoat units were eliminating his loyal units 1 by 1. Sun panicked and sought to withdraw, but 2 of his loyal subordinates Ma Bao and Ma Weixing both promised they would capture Bai and Liu vowing to quote “eat Bai’s flesh for his betrayal. We outnumber them 10 to 1, when one person advances, we retreat. Are there no men among us?”. Thus Sun sent Mao Bao and another subordinate Zhang Sheng with 4000 troops to make a flanking maneuver while he drove straight into the vanguard himself. The outcome was catastrophic. Ma Weixing simply bolted away, Zhang fled towards Kunming hoping to switch sides and Ma Bao did not follow through because it turned out he was also a turncoat. There are even accounts that Ma Bao’s men were firing blanks to look like they were helping. To make matters worse, Li Dingguo was fed intel provided by Bai Wenxuan and personally led his units to hit Sun’s weakest spot. When Liu Wenxiu advanced, many of Sun’s subordinate began to chant “Welcome, Prince Jin! Welcome Prince Jin!” as they cast off their uniforms and defected. Soon banners of Li and Liu were filling the battleground, Sun was being undone by his own army. Even though Sun’s loyal forces still outnumbered the enemy 3-1 they quickly collapsed and Sun was forced to flee.

    Sun and just a few dozen followers fled through thick forests making their way to the nearest town which was named Puding…haha Puding, anyways of all people Ma Jinzhong was holding the town and he closed the gates on them. When Sun screamed at the gates he was the ruler of the realm, Ma retorted “The ruler of the realm left with an army of 160,000. Now there are only a few thousand. You are certainly bandits.” Next Sun and his followers ran to Guiyang with Liu hot on their heels. When Sun approached the gates of his old capital he found them barred by Feng Shuangli. Feng did however allow Sun to take his family and continue running and Sun also secretly ordered his followers to rape and kill the wife of Bai Wenxuan who was in Guiyangat the time. Soon Sun ran into an underling of Li Dingguo named Li Bengao. He said to Bengao “Bengao, is that my old companion? You’ve received my favor, but now you want to kill you ruler huh?” Bengao replied “As a court officer it is simple to know the duties of a lord and minister. Bengao does not kill his lord; I’ve come to kill the leader of bandits.”. But before Bengao could kill Sun, one of Sun’s followers snuck up and shot Bengao dead with an arrow. Sun decided enough was enough and to defect to the Qing and did so at Baoqing on December 19th of 1657. He cut his hair in the Manchu fashion and was invested as the Prince of Yi, but would not live too much longer as he died of illness in 1660, some allege he was executed secretly for having dealings with the Koxinga regime in Taiwan.

    Speaking of Koxinga, fresh from his victory over Sun, Li Dingguo yet again sent another letter to Koxinga asking if they could join forces and attack Nanjing, but this never came to be. Li Dingguo had a short lived victory as he soon had to perform mop up operations against Sun’s loyalists in Yunnan. Li reportedly lost upto 90% of his best commanders and troops simply cleaning up the remnants of Sun, leaving him with a terribly green force to resist the inevitable Qing invasion to come. To make matters worse Liu Wenxiu died of illness in late 1658. Li distrusted most of the commanders at his side as they had been Sun’s former commanders and without Liu he simply had too much to do by himself. Remember how Li kept trying to bring Sun Kewang back into the fold, despite the man was trying to kill him? Well you can see why here, despite Li being an incredible military leader, when it came to governance and state building, he simply was not very good at it. He was used to mobile armies, wandering the provinces and plundering while on the move. Sitting idle and trying to build up forces, taxation, production, even defenses works was sort of not his forte. Before L iu had died, on his deathbed he told Li he should flee and establish a new base of operations in Shaanxi or maybe sail down the Yangtze to join Koxinga. The loss of Liu was a hard one, as Li trusted pretty much no other former commanders under Sun, apart from Bai Wenxuan who proved quite helpful. Regardless Li strove on preparing what defenses he could.



    3 Qing armies advanced on Yunnan from 3 directions, planning to converge upon Kunming. Wu Sangui marched from Sichuan, Loto would march from Huguang, Jobeti from Guangxi and Hong Chengchou held overall command. At this time Hong Chengchou was quite old and his health was failing him so he could not take a field command. Just because he was old and ill did not mean he did not have some sneaky tricks however. Hong Chengchou sent a number of spies into Yunnan to gather intel and perform a misinformation campaign to lead Li Dingguo’s forces to believe the Qing were much further away than they were.

    Wu Sangui’s force departed Baoning and first came upon Chengdu which he described to be “a den of tigers, leopards, and bears”. The city was still a wasteland and it is estimated only 2% of the population was alive. Things proved to be just as bad in Chongqing, when Wu and his colleague Li Guohan approached the first things they saw were corpses and bones littering the roads. Unlike Chengdu, Wu’s force was hampered at Chongqing by bandit armies, but the Qing artillery proved enough to break them after several battles. It is said the Qing artillery blasted from shorelines filling the river with the bodies of bandits.

    The Qing armies advanced through Sichuan, Guangxi and Guizhou battling bandit armies everywhere they went. The more they advanced however, the more easily bandits surrendered and defections began to pour in. Loto captured Guiyang from Ma Jingzhong and within 3 months nearly all of Guizhou fell to the Qing. By 1658 most of the Ming resistance in Huguang and Jiangxi had been smashed with only some large bandit groups holding out. Thus it was decided in 1658 to finally march on Yunnan. Despite the field commanders eagerness, Hong Chengchou advised them all that they had thus far taken mostly empty or under armed cities and they only had a month or so supplies left. He cautioned them that they should advance slowly. Emperor Shunzhi received reports from Hong Chengchou and likewise ordered them to delay their advances so they could recover somewhat and supply up. Alongside this Emperor Shunzhi stressed the necessity to win over the populace as they conquered ““establish order out of chaos and rescue the people.”. Despite these orders, many scholars point out that this stage of the war was quite bloody on the side of the Qing and many commoners suffered.

    Meanwhile Li Dingguo had sent Bai Wenxuan to guard the Qixing Pass with 40,000 troops, Wu Zisheng to guard the route from Anlong and other units to the Pan River in the east where he planned to make a base of operations. Li was looking for a place to break away, considering Sichuan or even Vietnam, but the Qing had taken their time to envelop Yunnan forcing him into a corner. Li mobilized the army to go east to defend the approaches to Yunnan and won a few minor battles killing more than 10,000 Qing troops. Despite the victories, the Qing numerical superiority simply overwhelmed Li’s forces quickly and they soon had to pull back further into Yunnan.

    Li brought his forces to Shuanghekou and Jobtei climbed a nearby mountain to study Li’s army formation, searching for signs of weakness. When the battle commenced, Li’s forces launched a cannonade, but the wind suddenly blew all the smoke from the cannonade into his battle lines faces. On Top of the blinding effect the smoke lit tall grass on fire all amongst his army. His army had to pull back and in the disarray, allowing Jobtei to outflank Li catching him in a pincer forcing Li to flee. Li’s army fled to Kunming destroying bridges as they did to delay the Qing forces. Meanwhile Wu Sangui had intel on an alternate route to get past Bai Wenxuans forces at Qixing Pass and managed to get behind him forcing Bai’s force to flee to Zhanyi. The initial campaign to defend Yunnan was a colossal failure. Li lost an estimated 30-40 thousand men, most of them his few surviving veterans with whom held more than 10 years of experience fighting battles from Sichuan to Guangdong. 30 officers were gone, most of his war elephants were also gone and the Qing were now marching on Qujing. Li sent words back to Kunming urging Emperor Yongli to flee. Li would make it back to Kunming by January 5th 1659 and the court of Yongli began to plan their next place to make a stand. Li favored a retreat into Sichuan in the hope of joining some large bandit armies they had friendly connections with. Others in the court argued it was too dangerous and that there was little offensive potential in Sichuan. Many argued they should flee west through Yunnan into Burma. Others said they should flee into Vietnam and perhaps sail out to join Koxinga. But as they debated it turned out the Qing foresaw some of their actions and blocked the way into Vietnam and in the end the decision was made to flee west into Burma.

    The royal entourage was around 4300 men that departed Kunming. Li ordered everything that could not be carried to be torched, but the people lamented him for this and he soon changed his mind about the torching. Before leaving he told the people of Kunming “We have stayed in Yunnan for many years and we regard you people as a father regards his sons. But now national affairs have reached dire proportions and the court must move. You may share our hardships together. For I fear that when the Qing troops arrive, they will kill, loot, and rape, and it will be difficult to escape. If you do not flee with his majesty, you should each get far away quickly. Those who don’t have only themselves to blame”. This drove the city's populace to abandon the city while weeping for the doom that was brought upon them. The march was a rough one, food became scarce and many died of starvation and disease. They eventually made it to Yongchang in early 1659 as the Qing hit Kunming and to their great surprise found it was fully intact and supplies were everywhere to be found. Li’s change of heart on the torching would cost him greatly as the Qing forces recovered several months of supplies in Kunming. Meanwhile some of the Emperors entourage did not want to go west such as Ai Chengye who instead sought to establish ambushes for the Qing, hoping to join Li and the emperor later. Bai Wenxuan began to establish defenses between Dali and Yongchang to delay the Qing as well. It was decided to cover Emperor Yongli’s flight, Bai would hold the rearguard while Li rode with the Emperors entourage.

    The Qing continued their advance as Bai Wenxuan tried to delay them but suffered multiple defeats and lost countless soldiers, officers and elephants. Meanwhile Li destroyed the bridge at Lancang River hoping to further delay the Qing, but the Qing were very efficient at building rafts and crossed each river with ease. The Qing would reach Yongchang in March of 1659 and proceed to plunder it heavily. Li and Bai held a council of war and Li argued they should try to fight a decisive battle in Yunnan, but Bai argued that Emperor Yongli’s safety was more important.

    Regardless Li was adamant about fighting and set up multiple ambushes along the mountain range of Mount Mopan west of the Nu River. With only 6000 troops against around 12,000 of a Qing vanguard, Li felt he could do some damage. He split his forces into 3 groups stationed them in ambush sites to hit the vanguard of Wu Sangui. Wu Sangui’s vanguard had been having a few easy days with no real excitement so he was marching with a loose formation into the mountain range not expecting an attack. The ambush signal was triggered and Wu immediately ordered a retreat as all hell broke loose and cannons and arrows rained down upon his men. Combat raged all over the mountain range and Li Dingguo got shrapnel into his face as he directed the battle. The fighting went on for half a day seeing corpses pill up on both sides like mountains. In the end Li made a fighting withdrawal. The Ming forces ended up losing a third of their total numbers while inflicting upto 10,000 casualties upon the Qing. After the battle Wu Sangui remarked that Li Dingguo and Bai Wenxuan were indeed great military commanders and they should tread lightly.

    The carnage in the mountains bought more time for Emperor Yongli to continue to move into Burma. Li and a few thousand troops fled south camping at Menggen inside Burma and Bai Wenxuan camped at Mubang. When Li and Bai entered Burma they took care not to attack any Burmese forces they were with the Emperor afterall. As for Emperor Yongli when the entourage entered the Burmese border, the royal party was disarmed by local border guards and apprehended. They were taken by boat over the Irrawaddy river to the capital city of Ava. By this time their entourage was nothing more than 1478 members of which only 600 or so were allowed to be on the boats, the rest had to walk it through thick jungle. Hundreds died to disease while trekking the jungles, some went south to Siam instead, others ended up being captured as slaves. Emperor Yongli’s party made it to Ava, completely unaware Li and Bai were trying to find them and one of his court officials was sending word to them that Emperor Yongli had instead fled to Fujian. Over the next 2 years, Li and Bai under the believe that Emperor Yongli was kidnapped, and perhaps he was for all intensive purposes, began to make repeated rescue efforts.

    Meanwhile the Qing consolidated their position in Yunnan and their enormous occupational force was exacerbating the province, soon famine spread. For both the populace of Yunnan and the Qing forces the situation was growing quite dire. The costs for garrisoning Yunnan was estimated to exceed the entire military revenue for the empire, over 9 million taels of silver. The situation grew worse when Li Dingguo began to work with local chieftains to form rebellions against the Qing menace. The trouble of banditry and rebellions would plague the Qing in Yunnan for months far into 1661. While some Qing commanders like Wu Sangui pushed for apprehending Emperor Yongli as soon as possible, Hong Chengchou favored a gradual pacification of Yunnan before campaigning. Hong had seen the countless failures in Guangxi, Sichuan and Guizhou and understood the need to win the hearts of the populace so that victory would be less costly.

    Meanwhile back in Burma, Bai Wenxuan advanced towards Ava trying to rescue Emperor Yongli who he assumed had been kidnapped. This led the Burmese forces to treat both Bai and Li’s small armies as threats. Bai and Li consolidated their armies and defeated a Burmese force killing several thousand. After defeating the Burmese force they negotiated a 3 day truce asking for the Burmese to hand over the emperor. After 3 days instead of handing him over the Burmese sent another army to attack them and they were swiftly defeated. When they demanded the Emperor be handed over again the Burmese commander said “Now how can we send [Yongli] to you? You have the temerity to attack our city, but the land and water [i.e., terrain] don’t favor you. We can hold out for two to three years without fear.”. Thus they continued to march on Ava and besieged it, prompting the king of Burma to amass over 150,000 troops with 100 war elephants to defend the capital. The entire time Li and Bai both tried to write countless letters to the emperor failing countless times, but then one letter got through in 1661 and Yongli responded ““Use unorthodox troops to rescue me.”. Thus they did just that, they made a direct attack on the city preparing to cross the Irrawaddy to hit the walls of Ava. That night they opened fire with their heavy cannons and began building floating bridges.

    As you can imagine the Ming forces were outnumbered by something like 10 to 1 and certainly outgunned or better said out elephanted. Regardless of their numbers the Burmese using the cover of night, to cut the bridges to Ava forcing the Ming forces to pull back. Then in april of 1661 a Burmese army of 150,000 with apparently 1000 war elephants showed up and gave battle, that number has to be inflated, 1000 war elephants what is this the siege of Minas Tirith? Anyways it is said, Li Dingguo went forth to the front of battle with a large sword and grabbed an elephants tusk as he hacked its trunk off. The elephant fled afterwards making Li the largest bad ass I’ve ever heard of, and that poor elephant. It is also said Bai Wenxuan managed to perform a rear flank attack killing thousands and drove the Burmese army back, which must of been incredible given the disparity of numbers, 10,000 guys managed to defeat an army of 150,000 and 1000 elephants, yeah. The Ming proceeded to continue building the fleet of boats and rafts after the battle and besieged Ava yet again. The Burmese sent word they would release Yongli if the siege was lifted, I am pretty confused writing about this one, its as if the Burmese army was a paper army or something. I mean this Ming force is 10,000 or less how are they managing to defeat the capital of Burma?. Regardless the Burmese did not hand over the emperor and instead began to construct more defenses in Ava.

    Meanwhile the Qing sent letters to Li and Bai to defect to the Qing as they were mobilizing their own assault on Burma to grab Yongli. In june of 1661 the King of Burma, Pindale was executed and replaced by his brother, Pye Min who assumed a more aggressive stance against the Ming forces. For his enthronement there was a “water spirit” ceremony and an official of Yongli’s court, Mu Tianbo was chosen to be sacrificed. Mu Tianbo fought ferociously, killing a few guards before being executed. After this Emperor Yongli lost all hope and lamented “The Dowager Empress is sick again and it looks like I will be unable to go back [to China] because the Tartars are coming to kill me. So please return the Dowager Empress’s bones to her old home. Now it’s obvious that I’ve been duped by traitorous ministers. If only I had invested Bai Wenxuan as a Prince of the Blood and Ma Bao as a secondary prince and followed the counsel of the meritorious officials, then I wouldn’t have these regrets. Still playing the part of the Son of Heaven, he also expressed regret at the fate of his loyal subjects in Yunnan, who were reportedly suffering at the hands of Wu Sangui and Hong Chengchou.”

    When Bai and Li heard of the execution they panicked and launched one final attack on Ava. This time they tried to use their 16 boats to get across to the city, but their force was driven back after only 3 days of combat and they lost 11 boats in the process. Now Li and Bai lamented in despair for their situation was very dire. Since the Ming had entered Burma the Burmese government began opening up talks with the Qing hoping to curry favor. This facilitated the Qing march into Burma with a 100,000 strong force in 1661. The Qing immediately sought to separate the forces of Li and Bai as they advanced towards Ava. The Qing had already sent word to the Burmese King that if Yongli was not handed over immediately, Ava would be besieged. As the Qing closed in, Emperor Yongli sent a letter to Wu Sangui begging for his life, but Wu ignored it. When the Qing arrived at Ava, the Burmese told Emperor Yongli Li Dingguo was taking him away to safety as they delivered the emperor straight into the hands of the Qing. Emperor Yongli was brought to Kunming and executed on may 19th 1662 on a small hill overlooking Green Lake. Yongli and his wife were strangled and their ashes were poured around the Lotus Pond in Kunming. Wu Sangui allegedly felt remorse for not trying to save Emperor Yongli, though his story is not quite done.

    Li Dingguo and Bai Wenxuan fled north trying to decide their next move, but they knew they stood no chance against the Qing force. Wu Sangui surrounded their camp and Bai lamented “I’ve disappointed my emperor, and I’ve let down Prince Jin.”. Bai then surrendered to Wu Sangui’s subordinate Ma Bao who happened to be an old friend of his. Li Dingguo was given false word that Emperor Yongli escaped, but required him for rescue. By this point Li had only 5000 or so men and could do little to nothing. Li fled east, hoping as you guessed it, to jin Koxinga, the man I keep naming but never speak much about. Li tried to flee to Vietnam and slipped past the Qing who were much more preoccupied moving Emperor Yongli back to Kunming. Despite the fact Li Dingguo evaded the Qing menace, as he fled through the thick Burmese jungles he was stricken, as were his men with disease. On his death bed just as he got word that Emperor Yongli had been executed, Li Dingguo died on August 10th 1662.

    He died telling his remaining son to never submit to the Qing and he would be remembered as one of the great loyalist heroes in Chinese history.

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    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    The last pretender to the Dragon throne, Emperor Yongli has been executed and adoptive offspring of Zhang Xianzhong have fallen likewise. Yunnan and the rest of south China is being consolidated into the Qing empire, all that remains is a few bandit groups, or was that all? I’ve mentioned his name countless times, but one problem still remains for the Qing, Koxinga over in Taiwan.

  • Last time we spoke about the harrowing tale of what could be one of the most evil leaders in human history, depending of course which sources you read about him. Indeed Zhang Xianzhong, regardless if he was fully, half or less guilty of the crimes against humanity laid against his name, has gone down in Chinese history as a significant figure. The people of Sichuan underwent a horror and it would take two full centuries for Sichuan to regain its lost population. Thus with the fall of Zhang Xianzhong, Li Zicheng and countless South Ming claimants to the throne, who was left for the remnants of the former to rally around? Well one of the self proclaimed Emperors to the South Ming regime was still alive and….fleeing. Emperor Yongli now had an opportunity to harness the scattered Dashun, Daxi and other Ming loyalists to his cause.

    This episode is the Flight & Fight of Emperor Yongli

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on the history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    Well after a rather horrifying episode dedicated just to Zhang Xianzhong’s regime in Sichuan we now come back to the South Ming regime. Now while Zhang Xianzhong was busy turning Sichuan into a cemetery, the South Ming Loyalists were engaged in a life or death struggle for central and southeast China. A series of Ming claimants to the dragon throne rose and fell. Li Zicheng and Zhang Xianzhong are both dead leaving their Dashun and Daxi followers in a power vacuum to be swallowed up by mere Banditry, or perhaps defecting to the Qing or Ming. As for the largest victims, the common people, they were once again caught in the middle, soon to be subjugated to war, famine and general hardship. As one scholar one put it “The long conquest of central and south China required armed struggle in county after county, community after community, forcing countless people to face the grim choices on their own doorsteps.”.

    When the Qing took Beijing, they faced multiple enemies. Li Zicheng fled west and the South Ming Regime sprang up in the south. It meant the Qing would be forced to divide their forces, resources and attention. But their enemies were not only not cooperating, they we’re all fighting another. Hell the South Ming Regime was arguably fighting another more than the Qing at many points. It made sense to take out Li Zicheng first of course, he was an easier target since the Qing smashed his army, and there was the bonus of looking like they were avenging the regicide of Emperor Chongzhen. In the meantime the South Ming Regime was killing itself allowing the Qing to kick the door to the rotting structure and soon a bunch of South Ming self proclaimed Emperors were defeated one by one. Yet when they got to Emperor Yongli…well he kept fleeing. Then they diverted their attention to Zhang Xianzhong and took him out, probably for the betterment of humanity. Now so many remnants of Dashun, Daxi, other Ming loyalist military groups and other bandit armies were roaming around. Many warlords sprang up taking control over them. What would happen if someone began to win over all these free chess pieces so to say to their side of the war?

    Now we are going to go back to Emperor Yongli’s situation. As I had mentioned 2 episodes ago Qu Shishi had argued with Emperor Yongli that they needed to make a stand, and one would be made at Guilin. Qu Shisi said to the Emperor ““If you want to defend Yue, you should stay in Yue. If you abandon Yue, then Yue will be imperiled. If we take one step forward, then the people will take one step forward. But if we flee far away in a single day, the people will also flee far in a day. If we run, then we cannot defend [territory]. How can we attract people to our cause?”. Well Emperor Yongli fled regardless for the 4th or 5th time I lost count at this point, Qu Shishi stayed behind at Guilin. Qu Shisi understood the necessity not to abandon cities so easily so as to rally more forces to the cause. He had seen the previous South Ming Regimes collapse because they abandoned bases too swiftly, undermining their causes.

    Qu Shisi was accompanied by Jiao Lian and they would defend Guilin from multiple Qing attacks in April and June of 1647. During the first assault Jiao had led the defense of the city facing greater numbers and having lesser firearms at his disposal. Despite the deficiency in firearms Jiao’s forces defended Guilin using sword and bow to great effect. Several hundred Qinq archer cavalry charged Guilin and pelted the defenders with arrows, one of them striking Jiao, but he kept fighting and held the south gate against the invaders. This inspired his troops and soon they charged out the south gate against the Qing force, smashing many troops of the Red banner. The Qing had to flee, and Jiao’s men chased them killing thousands.Eventually Jiao and his men went too far and were surrounded and outnumbered by the Qing who wheeled around on them. It is said Jiao screamed and struck the invaders with his spear, raining blood and flesh all over as he and his men hacked their way out of the encirclement. They fought for some miles, just a force of 300 men against thousands but managed to make it back to Guilin.

    This minor victory prompted Qu and Jiao to stress the tactical and strategic importance of Guilin and Wuzhou, urging Emperor Yongli to return and to make Guilin a base of operations. Meanwhile Emperor Yongli was being escorted by Liu Chengyin, an ambitious career military man who was nicknamed “the Iron Club” who protected him in western Huguang. For 3 months no rations were delivered to Guilin and when the Qing learnt about its supply issues they attacked again, this time at the Wenchang gate. Jiao charged out against the enemy covered by some western cannons given to him by some catholic missionary friends. The cannons cut the Qing forces to ribbons, killing hundreds as Jiao charged out to fight them in the fields. The fighting went on for 2 days with the cannons never stopping and although the Qing regrouped to attack again they were smashed so much they had to make a retreat, being pursued yet again by Jiao’s forces losing thousands of men. For this victory, Jiao was made military commissioner in chief of the left, military superintendent of Guangxi, and the Earl of Xining. Liu “Iron Club” Chengyin, it seems had been holding Emperor Yongli under house arrest at Wugang the entire time and this began to look really bad. In May of 1647, the Qing captured Baoqing and in a series of battles defeated Liu Chengyin. Emperor Yongli barely was able to escape, sometimes only being just a few miles ahead of Qing scouts. Emperor Yongli made his way through the Guni Pass to Liuzhou, but soon had to reroute to Xiangzhou. By this point locals were shooting arrows at his royal barge, not a good look at all. After the constant urging of Qu Shishi, Emperor Yongli finally decided to return to Guilin by the end of 1647.

    The Qing found they were having a hard time pacifying southern and western Huguang province, it held rough terrain and a large number of enemies. Bandit groups were operating by both land and water in numbers ranging from hundreds to thousands. To make matters worse the bandits had multiple spies working within the Qing giving them warning of their movements, allowing them to hide into mountains and forests when needed. Han bannerman Luo Xiujin argued that despite their victories, the enemy would always escape their clutches via mountains. The Qing like their Ming counterparts, were having the exact same problems dealing with confrontations with wandering bandits, particularly in the rugged border country between provinces. Qing officials complained repeatedly of ambushes in mountain passes and heavy casualties. There were also reports that such ambush attacks were making common cause with the Ming loyalists, and this was certainly concerning. The Qing were realizing that the Ming could offer legitimation to bandit groups and use them to ware the Qing down.

    In Autumn of 1647, after the Qing attacked Yongzhou, after 10 days of combat, the Ming suddenly charged out of the city and pushed the Qing to flee near Quanzhou where they managed to defeat Qing commander Geng Zhongming forcing him to flee for miles. This was considered the first military triumph for Emperor Yongli’s regime.

    By early 1648, the Qing seized Quanzhou and managed to defeat some Ming forces near Guilin who routed. The forces who had routed ended up fleeing to Guilin and they quickly set about looting the city before further fleeing. Qu Shishi remained stern as some of his fellow Ming commanders looted, burned and fled Guilin as the situation deteriorated. Guilin soon fell into a mutiny as the city was engulfed in flames. Qu refused to leave his post but was wounded and had to leave the city by river. When the Qing prince Jirgalang heard of the problems in Guilin he seized the opportunity to assault the city. This prompted, I guess the 6th flight of Emperor Yongli at this point. Qu Shishi was urging the Emperor to stay as Jiao came rushing from Pringle to help, but Qing forces blocked his route to Guilin. Qu urged the emperor “Victory or defeat is still unsure. But if your plan is to run away, then how can this place not be in danger?” Yongli replied, “Surely my minister does not want to see the Altars of State and Grain perish?”.

    Qu tried to gather forces and calm things down to defend Guilin as the enemy approached, while Jiao kept fighting to get to the city. Soon Jiao found himself surrounded and fought with his spear courageously, buying enough time for the Ming commander Hu Yiqing to show up from the east joining the fight with his cavalry. It is said, Hu Yiqing had his horses manes clipped in such a way that the Qing thought they were riding bulls and proclaimed “This bull- riding monster is not easy to stand up against!”. The cavalry of Hu managed to smash the Qing force, sending them fleeing for a few miles. Despite all of this, Emperor Jongli continued to flee all the way to Nanning, much to the outrage of Qu Shishi “How can you flee every time the wind blows two hundred li away? How can the people take heart if their leader is so tremulous?”. His words had no effect on the Emperor, in only 18 months Yongli had traveled over 1800 miles across 3 provinces, spending no more than 4 months in any given place. This led to waves of defections, and the court of Yongli began to discuss where would be the best place to set up a base of operation.

    Despite the flights of Yongli, in 1648 the Ming had some major successes. Ma Jinzhong took back Changde, He Tengjiao took back Quanzhou and this drove many to the Ming cause, even Yongzhou was taken back after a 3 month siege. Riding the wave of victories, the Ming took Hengzhou and they also began to capture valuable supplies, horses and other war materials. This all forced Qu Shishi to yet again urge Emperor Yongli to go back to Guilin and this time make it his capital. Qu’s reasoning was quite sound, Guilin was centrally located in a resource rich area along a river. It was easy to communicate with other sectors and coordinate offensive campaigns. But time and time again Emperor Yongli refused and this had a damaging effect on morale. Soon Ming commanders recaptured Xiangyang and Yichang and this led Emperor Yongli to feel secure enough to return to Zhaoqing, which he hoped to turn into a base of operation. At this point Yongli and many in his court thought that a Ming restoration was truly possible and they now sought to push north of the Yangzi and seize Nanjing and Kaifeng. Sun Kewang had opened up negotiations with their regime and it was expected that he could be relied upon. Qu Shishi for his part argued that now they could push east from Sichuan and north cutting Qing supply lines from Hugaung. Things would all take a dramatic turn for the worse however.

    One of the Ming’s commanders, Li Chixin who was a former commander under Li Zicheng had been continuously stating in public that Li Zicheng was the former emperor, making quite a bit of trouble. Li then requested permission to take Changsha and Yuezhou on his own. He managed to defeat the Qing commander Xu Yong and marched north to assault Changsha where Xu Yong had retreated. He killed thousands, captured boats, horses and other war materials and word spread of his great success. However the people of Changsha, did not see Li Chixin as their liberator, in fact they threw their lot in with Xu Yong to defend their city. Let us not forget, Li Chixin like many other former commanders of the Dashun or Daxi bandit armies had a reputation of course, who knows what populaces thought of him. Thus Li Chixins command boat when approaching the city was struck by a cannon ball and he lost over 1000 men. Xu Yong was hit by an arrow, but this did not stop him from rallying the defense of the city atop the walls. Li kept up the pressure with his siege ladders, artillery and sappers. But Xu Yong fired arrows, cannons down upon the enemy and led men into the tunnels to attack the Ming sappers costing Li Chixin some thousand men. Then Xu Yong sent secret attacks with boats on the Xiang river and they hit Li’s flanks forcing him to retreat.

    When Li Chixin was defeated at Changsha he was order to simply move on and relieve forces at Nanchang, but he ended he only went as far as Chaling and hunkered down. In the meantime the two Ming commanders, Du Yinxi and He Tengjiao were forming plans in Xiangtan. Du decided he would head east to rescue Jiangxi while He would try to go to Nanjing linking up with other Ming loyalists there. As part of their campaigns, Li Chixin was appointed vice minister of war and supreme commander of Shandong and Henan, while other commanders received supreme commands over other areas. But nothing came of these appointments as the Qing quickly advanced and hit He Tengjiao as he was departing from Xiangtan. He tried to find allies to help him out, but none could do anything, thus Prince Jirgalang was able to defeat He and took him as a hostage. Prince Jirgalang knew He Tengjiao had quite a lot of military capability and spent many days trying to get He to defect, but it was to no avail. Eventually Prince Jirgalang ordered his execution, or He committed suicide, no report is sure of his fate. When He Tengjiao was dead, many of his men fled to join Qu Shisi at Guilin. Another issue however was the countless “Loyal and True” who were under He Tengjiao’s command, since his death they were now without any semblance of order. Bandits will be bandits and soon they were looting and pillaging everyone.

    The Qing soon besieged Nanchang and took it in short time, thus dramatically collapsing the Ming control in Huguang. Many Ming commanders defected to the Qing and Emperor Yongli put Qu Shishi in charge of defending the Huguang-Jiangxi Guangdong corridor, but at this point the Qing held the Fujian coast and much of Huguang. By 1649, Li Chixin’s troops began to scatter and plunder the area as the Qing pursued them. Eventually Li’s forces plundered their way back north earning the moniker “white felt bandits” for the way they dressed. It was hoped by the Ming that they could still coerce Li Chixin and his white felt bandits to return back into the fold, but Li Chixin would die of illness in Guangxi in the late year. The white felt bandits soon scattered off and fell into pillaging under new commanders mostly in Huguang and Sichuan provinces.

    As the Ming forces collapsed at Yongzhou in late 1649, Qu Shishi said in anguish “For 2 years I’ve tried to create a bulwark, and in a single morning everything has collapsed. How can it be believed that Heaven if for the Ming?”. With the death of He Tengjiao and the absolute collapse of the South Ming regime’s position in Huguang, Emperor Yongli, you guessed it, fled Zhaoqing for Wuzhou in early 1650. Thus the South Ming regime was barely a thing in Huguang anymore. Now Qu Shisi began begging the emperor to stay in Zhaoqing stating Yuedong has lots of rivers alongside mountains; [even] good cavalry cannot unite in the wilderness [to attack here]. Since the time [Li] Chengdong returned to allegiance, this has been the secure area. Its resources and tax base are abundant, ten times that of Yuexi, and both competent officials and troops north and south are connected, and we can strengthen ourselves from within and defend ourselves from outside enemies. Moreover, Zhaoqing is one thousand li from Shao[xing]. With stout crossbows mounted on the walls and entrenched brigades in defense, we can wait for royal rescue troops to come from the four [directions]. Wherever we can go, the bandits can go as well. Although the realm is vast, there is only one boundary. If we retreat an inch, we lose an inch; if we retreat a foot, we lose a foot. Now if the court hears of danger and climbs aboard a boat in the middle of the night, where can you go?”.

    As you probably guessed, Yongli did not listen and continued his flight. Qing commander Kong Youde, remember that guy all the way back from the very first episodes? Well he sent Qu Shisi a letter, trying to get him to surrender. Kong Youde had been battling the Loyal and True throughout the southwest smashing many of their armies. Qu allegedly burned the letter and killed the messenger. Meanwhile back in Sichuan, Sun Kewang had begun his own program of state building and was beginning to ask the South Ming Regime to install him as a Ming Prince.

    Following in his former master's gruesome footsteps, Sun looted Guizhou and severed hands, ears and noses of those who resisted, apparently only 30% of the populace was left alive. Sun set to work training his troops for months, made deals with local cities to establish economic relations all while simultaneously harassing local Ming armies. His forces eventually captured the provincial capital of Guiyang and its surrounding area and he soon began to set up a new entire new regime. But just as Sun was settling down he received word of an extraordinary opportunity unfolding in Yunnan. Thus he and his Da Xi commanders marched southwest entering Yunnan, entering a new dawn for them all.

    The collapse of the Ming dynasty at Beijing and that of the Hongguang South Ming regime in Nanjing had led the people of Yunnan to revolt against their former Ming leaders. Yunnan was one of the very last places conquered by the Ming Dynasty in the late 14th century and it remained relatively the same it had been prior. It had a huge aboriginal population governed by chieftains in a system called the Tulsi system. Yunnan thus was always a bit of a quasi-feudal state controlled by the strongest chieftains. Once the Ming Dynasty fell, the chieftains began to fight another for dominance. The Chieftain family that had the largest influence historically because of their relationship with the Ming royal family was known as the Mu clan. The Mu clan was pretty oppressive to the people and even more so when the Ming collapsed. When Hongguang’s regime fell, most in Yunnan began to view the Mu clan as being weak and many other clans began to attack them. One clan, the Wu clan to make this all sound more confusing, was rising to prominence at the time and challenged the Mu clan. The Wu had limited military power and the Mu quelled their challenge fairly easily. But the challenge simply encouraged more and more clans to rise up and a leader named Sha Dingzhou used the opportunity. Sha was a military officer for a chieftain who died and Sha managed to get a stronghold of the clan. While the Mu’s and Wu’s fought, Sha began a campaign that extended to the Vietnamese border. Then Sha tried a coup against the Mu after they quelled the Wu. Sha’s force stormed the Mu palace and burnt it down, killing many in the capital of Yunnanfu. This began a war between Sha and the Mu clan for several months with Sha gaining control of the east of Yunnan. However Mu’s forces and other chieftains were fighting a war of attrition and likely would win, thus Sha sought external help.

    Sha Dingzhou sent a letter to Sun Kewang “inviting” him to come to the rescue of Yunnan in 1647. Unfortunately, this would be a very very big mistake. Sun Kewang claimed to be the brother in law to Mu Tianbo and declared he would avenge his sister’s family. Sun Kewang showed up with 100,000 battled hardened veterans who saw a force of just a few thousand disorganized local units under Sha’s command. Sun Kewang defeated Sha’s army easily and piled corpses in the streets of the first city they took, immersing the city in 3 to 4 inches of blood so it is said.

    Sun then took Quijing, a city he expected to simply open up the gates and submit to him as he had just massacred a previous city sending fear throughout the region. They chose to not submit and fired cannons upon the invaders. Soon Sun’s men tossed up a cloud of ladders and swarming over the walls of Quijing like ants. Sun’s men rounded up all those in the city and severed hands

    Sun then ordered his fellow adopted brothers Liu Wenxiu to the west and Li Dingguo to the east to kill all those who would not submit. Sha Dingzhou tried to send armies to attack the invaders where he could, but every army was defeated with ease. Sha would proclaim to all his confidence with his army, but secretly he was pulling his hair out knowing soon Sun would take the province.

    Sun eventually marched on Yannanfu and smashed the Sha army defending it, but rather than immediately occupying the city, Sun Kewang instead announced he was going to restore the Jiao clan, that being his sister's clan who was married to a Mu husband. By this point Liu Wenxiu and Li Dingguo had spread a ton of fear into the populace with their campaigns in the east. Despite Yannanfu having a tiny garrison within it, the city was simply falling apart because of low supplies as Sun Kewang’s army simply surrounded it and waited. Thus after a few months the gates of Yunnanfu opened and Sun’s forces entered the city. Soon Sun Kewang began to proclaim all those who fled the city should come back, or they would soon be killed as rebels. All the wives within Yunnanfu who lost husbands were given to Sun’s men. Then he began to force the children to work cutting grass and collecting firewood. Girls of the age 10 and up were forced into drama troupes, some put into brothels. Boys 12 to 20 years of age were castrated. The adult men were killed and their bodies were tossed into the wilderness. Many former Ming officials were killed or they themselves committed suicide. To restore a semblance of order, Sun began practices employed by Zhang Xianzhong such as prohibited fires at night amongst many other rules which could earn a citizen of Yunnanfu a beating or execution depending on the rule. Yunnanfu was basically becoming a Chengdu 2.0, but perhaps not nearly as bad. Then Sun sent his armies to scour the countryside of the city killing many. It was estimated that perhaps half the population of Yunnanfu was dead. It was even alleged that coffin makers ran out of wood in Yunnanfu. Within a month, Sun’s forces began to conscript laborers to cultivate enough food for the army to survive. Many homes around the city were razed to make for space for Sun’s army training grounds any who resisted were killed. Sun eventually established order through fear, but realized that in Yunnan you required the support of the Tulsi system to truly control the province, so he soon began to establish relations with all the chieftains. Those who resisted of course were threatened.

    Sun then began calling himself Ping Dong Wang “Prince who pacifies the East” which was met with animosity from his adoptive brothers. Sun began to place royal titles on everyone, but kept his position elevated from his adoptive brothers who were supposed to all be equal. The 3 other brothers all recognized Sun Kewang nominally as the leader, but had agreed they should all have equal rankings. Li Dingguo began to argue they should all be equal as things were with Zhang Xianzhong, which angered Sun. Sun then publicly punished Li Dingguo, though Liu Wenxiu and Ai Nengqi would manage to get the punishment lightened. Regardless Li Dingguo was livid stating ““We are brothers. How dare you strike me? Since the death of our father we have been like hands and feet with no ruler among us, yet now we are to honor you as superior? If this is how things are going to be from now on, how can we live together in peace?”. It is alleged Sun went to Li in private and told him he had to do it publicly because if not there could be a mutiny. Sun then tried to make amends with Li, tasking him with hunting down and killing Sha Dingzhou who was on the run.

    Sha had run to Lin’an and had held out against the forces of Liu Wenxiu for quite a few months. When Li Dingguo’s force showed up the defenders of Lin’an showered them with gunfire, but Li being a veteran commander easily broke their walls in no time using gunpowder. Sha’s forces were shocked by the speed and efficiency of Li’s army as they quickly overwhelmed the city. The entire city was torched in a single day, it is said 78 thousand were massacred. Sha and his family managed to escape to a nearby town called Ami. After the massacre at Lin’an, Li Dingguo was noted to not again perform such horrible acts against civilians, it seems he was trying to build himself a reputation afterwards that he was not like Zhang Xianzhong or Sun Kewang. In early 1648, Li Dingguo surrounded the town of Ami, cutting off its water supply. After 20 days, the defenders with Sha Dingzhou ran out of water and Li began sapping Ami’s walls. Li then invited Sha to a fake banquet making it seem they would allow Sha to defect and take up a grand position in the new regime. The effect led many of the defenders to defect who soon simply opened the gates to Li’s men. Li was brought to Sha and his family and instead of the banquet he promised he had the entire household brought to Yunnanfu and flayed alive. Li’s successes were extravagant, showing his extreme capability as a military leader. Unfortunately they also bolstered Li Dingguo as a great leader and Sun Kewang began to become quite jealous of this.

    Once Sun Kewangs army had secured enough food to sustain themselves for a year, they began government building efforts. Taxes began, agricultural reform, mines were opened, weapons manufacturing, the works. The weather proved great during that year and the harvests did very well, mines produced salt, gold, silver, iron and copper and the faith in the government rose up. In fact Sun had done better than some of the former Ming officials had in the past and he soon began to mint coins, print paper notes and open new roads, which all helped reduce conflict in the province. Within a year Sun’s government was gathering much praise and the people were quite content. Things were really looking good and Sun began to explore the idea of formally uniting with the Ming to resist the Qing. Sun had heard the reports about how well the Loyal and True bandits had done under the Ming regime and thought his regime might benefit from this relationship as well. This would help Sun and his inner circle gain legitimacy and at the time it looked like the Ming were doing well. However old dogs can't learn too many new tricks, and Sun’s administration still held some Zhang like favorites, like harsh punishments such as decapitation, flaying and flogging. Though Sun disregarded the policy of rewarding soldiers for body counts, so there was that.

    But Sun Kewang was not content, he continued to make it more apparent that his position was more and more elevated compared to his adoptive brothers. He began to erect an ancestral temple for Zhang Xianzhong and referred to him as Taizu and linking himself to Zhang. Then he asked Emperor Yongli to invest with the Ming title of prince of blood “qin wang”. Ai Nengqi was perplexed by this and said ““I can name myself prince. What’s the point?” Li Dingguo also added, “We haven’t conquered an inch of territory, so how can we accept enfeoffment from the court?”. Sun explained to them that only an investiture from the Ming court was legitimate and that after he was invested with the title they would all refer to him as “you highness”. As you can imagine this would also most certainly help Sun alleviate himself over another rising star, Li Dingguo who was highly popular as a field commander. Li was appointed with the major responsibility of training the troops and was noted to share hardships with the men and always led from the front gaining their respect. Li was what you call a soldier's soldier. Li Dingguo soon established 5 rules for his army; done kill people, dont commit arson, dont commit rape, dont steal livestock and dont take money from peasants. Given how soldiers usually acted in this time in history, the response of the populace was ecstasy.

    In the summer of 1649, Sun dispatched his court official Yang Weizhi as his emissary to Yongli’s court to ask for the investiture of Prince of Qin and offered to fight the Qing on their behalf. By this time Sun had relocated his operations in Guizhou as it was more centrally located, leaving Li Dingguo in Yunnan to train the military. For Emperor Yongli’s court the request was quite disturbing, to make Sun a blood prince might put him in line for the throne. Many in the Ming court had no illusions about Sun Kewang, they thought he was trying to vie for the dragon throne himself. The title of Prince of Qin was normally reserved for the royal family. The court was divided, Qu Shisi called for Sun’s execution, many argued Sun was nothing more than a bandit. But they were in a terrible situation, suffering many military defeats at the hands of the Qing. Eventually the court consented to giving Sun the lesser title of Duke of Jingguo. Yang Weizhi was terrified of relaying the response to Sun who might simply execute him for failing to get the title Sun wanted and made a stop at Wuzhou before returned to Guizhou. In Wuzhou Yang met with Du Yinxi who advised him to simply forge a document to make Sun think he received a better title than what he had been given. Thus with Du Yinxi’s help they forged a document stating Sun was invested with the title of Prince of Pingaliao. Meanwhile another official in the Ming court forged another document stating Sun was being invested with the Prince of Qin title he had originally asked for. Turns out that official, named Chen Bangfu wanted to curry favor with Sun. All of this was done without the awareness of Yonglis court of course.

    Thus the first to arrive in Guizhou was the envoy with Chen Bangfu’s forgery and Sun was absolutely delighted upon seeing it. Then Yang Weizhi showed up with his forgery of the Prince of Pingliao title, enraged Sun Kewang. Then yes as you might imagine, a real envoy from Yongli’s court arrived and Sun found out the truth that he actually received the Duke of Ingguo title, really really pissing him off. To add insult to injury, his 3 other adoptive brothers were also given titles by that envoy of Yongli

    In his rage, Sun sent more emissaries to Yongli who offered him the title of Prince of Yi, but Sun refused this, demanding the title he originally requested. In the meantime Ai Nengqi died as a result of a poisoned crossbow bolt while he was pacifying a rebellious region. He had been ambushed in a forest and his army was significantly battered. He had managed to return to Yunnanfu, but the doctors there could do little to nothing to stop the poison. His army was handed over to Sun Kewangs command, significantly increasing his power. Thus the first of the adoptive children of Zhang Xianzhong was dead, and he would not be the last.



    Now all the way back in Sichuan the struggle raged on between the Ming loyalists and the Qing. The Qing had sent commander Li Guoying into Sichuan on a pacification campaign and as he entered the wasteland that once was Sichuan he said “For a thousand li there is no smoke [from cooking fires] and on account of the depredations of the bandit gangs, the value of rice is greater than that of pearls.”. His forces occupied Baoning in northern Sichuan where he was attacked multiple times by bandit armies such as the Kuidong bandits, Tan Hong and others. Li eventually rode out of Baoning and attacked the bandit armies fast and hard sending them fleeing into the countryside. Soon his army took Shunqing and he began to stock up supplies in preparation for a gradual march south. In spring of 1647 he marched into Chengdu and lamented at the ghastly scene, he said to those around him“Chengdu has been down a hard road. Where are all the people?”. Bones were strewn everywhere, and there was no sign of life to be seen. He was given reports that the people of Chengdu had first fled to Yazhou and ate grass and wild plants until they starved so much they resorted to cannibalism. Li left Zheng Desheng as commander of Chengdu which must have been the worst appointment ever, but soon his troops starved, killed their commander and fled back north. Li got a report that 1330 of the 1390 men assigned to Zheng Desheng died of starvation or disease. Even Li himself was quite ill through 1647-1648 and he was hampered by bandit attacks and a very stretched supply line. Reports flooded in that every fortress was ridden with hundreds of sick and starving troops. All the garrisons the Qing commander would set up in Sichuan amounted to a few hundred starving men. The starvation did not allow him to perform a sufficient offensive, the situation became so dire most of the Qing forces had to withdraw from Sichuan with a meager force left occupying Baoning. It was not just the starvation and disease alone they had to worry about, anywhere the Qing set up shop, bandit armies emerged to harass them.

    Later on in 1650, the pacification commissioner of Sichuan Zhang Chun made a report that gives quite a lot of insight. He began by describing Sichuan as a den of tigers and that of the Yao-Huang bandits. One could travel for a great distance without seeing any smoke from cooking fires. He estimated that 2-3% of the population in Sichuan was still alive. He laid blame upon the destruction caused by the Yao-Huang bandits, while leaving out that of the Qing’s actions and goes on to talk about man-eating tigers found everywhere. People in Sichuan were terrified to travel just because of tiger attacks. He claimed that in one distinct of a previous population of 506, 228 people were killed by tigers, 55 died of illness and 223 were left alive. He ended the report stating “Many people escaped the clutches of bandits only to end up in the mouths of tigers”. Wow I am just trying to imagine, surviving the horrors of Zhang Xianzhong, then the war between the Qing and Ming and now you got tigers everywhere eating people yikes.

    Li Guoying immediately began demanding assistance, and Qing emperor Shunzhi began to promise supplies would be on their way from places like Shaanxi. But all supplies were quickly used up and Li still had little in terms of soldiers. Li kept arguing that as his enemies grew larger in Sichuan his forces grew smaller. The problem was the supplies and men quickly starved and got sick because there was no foundation within Sichuan to feed them. Basically it was like putting bandaids upon bandaids upon even more bandaids for a large wound that needed a doctor to fix it. Thus the situation forced Li to develop a new plan which was “tuantian” “to nourish the troops, soothe the people, and allow for both offensive and defensive warfare”. He sent Qing officials into the countryside to investigate and promote agricultural productivity. As for his army he sent them throughout the north and east of Sichuan, killing and capturing thousands of bandit armies, many part of the Yao-Huang bandits. But like always, bandits could run and hide in mountains, and thats just what they did. It was estimated by Li that upto 100,000 Yao-Huang bandits could be in Sichuan.

    By 1649, Li was promoted to minister of war and vice censor in chief of the right with jurisdiction over the armies of Sichuan. He had multiple victories, one was dislodging Liu Wenxiu from Chongqing where he killed many Daxi. If you remember way back when, Emperor Yongli dispatched a distant family member named Zhu Rongfan to Sichuan in 1647. Zhu Rongfan began parading around as a Prince of Chu, though in reality he wasn't and amassed 100,000 followers forming a base in Kuizhou. His forces fought the Qing and scored quite a few victories, but in reality they were just a bunch of opportunistic bandits. Then Zhu Rongfan picked a fight with the Ming loyalist commander Yang Zhan who brought the Ming attention upon him. As you might have guessed, he was preparing to proclaim himself emperor as one does and South Ming officials began to investigate the situation. When pressed by them Zhu claimed to be acting on behalf of Emperor Yongli and that he was merely suppressing bandits. They also accused him of trying to claim himself as an heir apparent despite not being a prince of blood. Zhu then tried to make a getaway but was caught by other officials in 1649 who executed him.

    Meanwhile the situation in Sichuan kept growing worse and worse. Just because the tyrant Zhang Xianzhong was dead did not mean his lasting effects on the province were gone. In the midst of the war between bandits, Qing and Ming, the common people were starving and dying. Rice was selling at unbelievably inflated rates. Dogs ate human flesh and lurked in city streets. Most cities were empty though because tigers and wolves were prowling them. It was reported that bandits were robbing graves and that people were resorting to cannibalism en masse. Many people fled to mountains away from the threat of other people or tigers. Lighting a fire became like a death sentence inviting anyone to attack you. Disgusting euphemisms began to be said because of all the cannibalism such as “poor man’s broth / xia geng” “surplus lamb / yang rao” “scorched bones / gu yang”. On top of the famine were the terrible diseases which there were many. “Big head plague” as it was called was when one's head erupted in red boils, it was associated with the chills, fever, swelling of the head and neck and was very contagious. There was a similar disease known as “frog fever” where the boils were more so on the shoulders and back. Then there was “horse eye” a sickness when one's eyes became big and yellow. It is also assumed the Qing brought smallpox with them and this invested the south.

    By autumn of 1649 most of north and western Sichuan was pacified and a quarter of the province under nominal control of the Qing. In Southern Sichuan the South Ming loyalist Yang Zhan had held control for quite awhile, aided greatly by the hoard of treasure he salvaged from Zhang Xianzhong’s naval catastrophe in 1646. He was capable of feeding his own troops and thousands of refugees who stormed over to him. Despite all his good fortune, he had to contest with warlords in Sichuan named Li Qiande, Wu Dading and Yuan Tao. The 3 warlords invited Yang to a banquet, its always a banquet eh? And yup, they poisoned his wine, typical. After killing Yang they divided his treasure and troops and southern sichuan yet again fell into chaos.

    As this all went down, word spread and Sun Kewang, similar to how he took the opportunity with Yunnan’s turmoil came back to Sichuan when he heard the south was fractured.

    Sun seeking to put further pressure on Emperor Yongli to invest him as a Prince of Qin, sent Liu Wenxiu and Bai Wenxuan with 200,000 to avenge Yang Zhan. Sun’s forces made quick work of the warlords and bandit leaders in southern Sichuan taking several cities.Yuan and Wu were captured and sent back to Sun who mocked them saying he would enroll them as regular soldiers in his army. Wu actually did end up serving in Sun’s military and for quite a long time. Yuan managed to escape and flee but was caught and killed by Liu Wenxiu. Li Qiande drowned himself when Liu Wenxiu caught up to him. Sun’s forces killed countless warlords, bandit leaders and such. Now Sun’s army even had elephant cavalry from Yunnan. Many simply submitted to Sun Kewang joining his forces and growing his power.

    Meanwhile Li Guoying had initially profited heavily from the death of Yang Zhan, but saw with horror the force of Sun Kewang sweep through the province like a swarm. Li Guoying pleaded with Emperor Shunzhi for more troops to combat the warlord in the south and was promised a mix of Han and Manchu troops under the control of Wu Sangui. Yet even with the extra forces, now the Loyal and Trust, Kuidong bandits, Yao-Huang bandits and other groups were flocking to Sun Kewangs banner and the south of Sichuan was just a minefield of trouble. Sun asserted his control from Guizhou and began building it up similar to what he did in Yunnan and in a short time the southwest of Sichuan became an armed camp designed specifically to resist the Qing.

    Kong Youde was made prince in charge of rectifying the south in 1649 and alongside the Manchu prince Jirgalang both were dispatched and in 1650 they took Longhu, Wugang and Jingzhou. Through their efforts they took 50,000 surrendered Ming troops and many officers and moved to take Quanzhou and then entered Guangxi. Qu Shishi tried desperately to rally troops to defend Guilin, but all efforts were in vain and no significant numbers came. Qu refused to leave as all his colleagues urged him to do so. In november of 1650, Kong Youde’s army surrounded Guilin. To help defend the city, Qu Shishi was aided by the Ming official Zhang Tonchang a who had served the Shaowu Emperor and aided in defeating Zhu Rongfan. He had a Fu Manchu style mustache, was loved and respected by his men for being fearless in battle. When Zhang arrived Qu said to him “I have been entrusted with staying to defend [Guilin]. So I should die here. Those without such responsibilities can flee. The frontier has already been lost. How can I think of easily fleeing?” Zhang replied that he was impressed and called Qu a true gentleman, requesting permission to die alongside him, saying, “If it’s to be death, then we die together.”Qu was delighted, and the two shared wine. Qu gave his seals of office to another official to send to Yongli. So a sort of bromance if you were.

    Kong Youde repeatedly offered Qu and Zhang the chance to defect, but both men refused. Kong then wined and dined them, trying to win them over but to no avail. Zhang spat back at Kong “You are no more than a dog or a sheep. You disgrace the former Sage, and you deserve to die for your crimes!” You’re nothing more than the slave who used to carry a bedpan in Mao Wenlong’s house! How dare you sully the name of the Sage.”. For this Zhangs feet were severed, but Kong still did not kill him. He kept insisting the Qing were better for all and gave stories of his 20 years as a soldier. Then Kong tried to have their own family members come and talk sense into them, but still it was to no avail. Both men were eventually imprisoned and wrote depressing and falistic poems during the captivity before being executed outside Windy Cave at the foot of the celestial crane peak in what is called today, Diecai Shan (folded Brocade hill) public park. Kong Youde allowed proper burials for the two and soon took up residence in the mansion of the former Ming Prince of Jingjiang. Now Guilin and nearby Pingle were in Qing hands. Kong Youde sought to secure Guangxi by 1651, but he was also itching to face Sun Kewang in the west.

    In the wake of Qu and Zhang’s deaths, Yongli fled to Nanning, hahahahaha this guy. With a more vulnerable Emperor Yongli now in Nanning, Sun Kewang saw an opportunity to establish greater control over him. Sun Kewang sent him welcoming parties, offering him military protection and boasted of how powerful and wonderful he was.

    After annoying Yongli enough he was finally invested as the Prince of Qin, though he had already taken to calling himself “guozhu” “ruler of the realm” and had been making appointments on his own authority at Guiyang. Once a bandit, always a bandit as they say. He was absolutely delighted by the news and renamed Yunnanfu Kunming and Yunnan as Yunxing province. Then he dubbed his personal troops the “jiaqianjun” “royal vanguard”. Li Dingguo and Liu Wenxiu retained their old titles and sat at Sun’s left and right side begrudgingly. Yang Weizhi, the poor guy who had to bear bad news and was punished harshly for it managed to become grand secretary at Emperor Yongli’s court and would subsequently try to impeach Sun. Sun responded by having his thugs bring Yang to Guiyang and upon his arrival screamed “Traitorous bandits like you will never be anything else.”. Sun had Yang beaten and dragged through the streets and was trampled to death by horses. His loss was felt heavy by many, particularly by Li Dingguo and Liu Wenxiu who had become close friends with him. They took his corpse and buried him with a ceremony. With Yang well out of the way, Sun began to construct an imperial palace in Guiyang and used imperial forms of address in his decrees and instructions. Any officials who resisted him were trampled to death by horses. Only Liu Wenxiu and Li Dingguo were exempt from calling Sun “guozhu”. He minted his own coins and constructed more ancestral temples, making further links to Zhang Xianzhong. Sun then declared his state the “Later Ming” regime. His ascension ceremony was attended by 100 officials on July 3rd 1651.

    Meanwhile the Qing captured Pingle and Qingyuan as well as other towns along the Huguang-Guangxi border. Jiao Lian was captured by the Qing who tried to persuade him to join them, but he opted for suicide. Emperor Yongli feeling pressured, you guessed it, fled Nanning. This time he and his court debated whether they should flee to Fujian or Vietnam. Most wanted to go east arguing they should join up with Sun Kewang. But Emperor Yongli thought the coast was too distant and the travel too dangerous, for the time being they would camp at Xixing. But as the Qing took Nanning, Emperor Yongli fled again, almost being caught by the Qing who were within just a few miles of his entourage. This prompted Emperor Yongli to accept Sun Kewangs offer of protection. At the beginning of 1652, Sun ordered his subordinate Lt. Genge Sanpin with 3000 troops to escort Emperor Yongli to Anlong. By the time Emperor Yongli arrived his entourage was down to 2900 members. Sun figured the location was convenient for the court of Yongli as it lay in conjunction with Yunnan, Guizhou and Guangdong provinces. It was also close enough to Guiyang for Sun to keep an eye on the Emperor. Sun then set himself up as Yongl’s military protector, but refused to personally greet Yongli on the principle that quote “2 dragons cannot see one another”. Thus Anlong became the ostensible Ming capital, but in reality it was just a safe place where Sun could keep the Emperor while he pursued his own objectives.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    So the great and horrifying father Zhang Xianzhong is dead, but his 4 adoptive sons quickly took over the family business and are causing mayhem. Sun Kewang emerged the largest brother and soon built himself an empire, matching that of the fleeing Emperor Yongli. Now Kewang had Emperor Yongli basically under house arrest, or better said kidnapped, all was his for the taking, what stood in his way, but the might of the Qing dynasty?

  • Last time we spoke, the Qing took Beijing and immediately set out a campaign to destroy the nemesis of the Ming and man who had broken them, Li Zicheng. The Qing smashed his Dashun army and caught the bandit leader ending his life. Yet as they did so a new threat emerged, that of the South Ming Regime. A few Ming princes took the Dragon Throne, each bickering with the next until the Qing smashed each one. Last left standing was Emperor Yongli, who promptly fled for his life at every sight of the Qing enemy. With the South Ming regime on the ropes, the Qing began to focus on quelling the hundreds of peasant uprisings against their new state. But the more they suppressed the peasants, the more the peasants fought on even harder. Now we will tell the horrifying tale, of a man who many of the peasants flocked to, and with that I actually think I will give the audience a graphic content warning.

    This episode is the holocaust of Zhang Xianzhong

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on world war two and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    Before I start I would just like to make a little acknowledgement. To those listeners who learnt of the man I am about to talk about in the education system of mainland China, I apologize if my take on him does not mirror exactly what you might have learnt. I do not in anyway pretend what I am telling is the facts at all. I read 2 vastly differing accounts of Zhang Xianzhong and I mean vastttttly different. One portrays him as a peasant revolutionary who fought for the rights of the peasant class and was misconstrued later on by the Qing who placed blame upon him for crimes against humanity they performed during the unification period. That account was written by a Chinese historian of the PRC and I will just outright say it, it was written more so for political ideology than history in my opinion. Another source I read was by a renowned Historian of Chinese history and he states that Zhang was undeniably responsible for an unreal amount of crimes against humanity. The truth is probably a gray, I did my best to use both sources anyways on with the show.

    Ok so way back when many episodes back you might remember the name Zhang Xianzhong. He was basically the rival to Li Zicheng. Li Zicheng and his Dashun army managed to take Beijing, while Zhang Xianzhong and his Daxi army moved further southeast, fortunately for him considering the Qing blew the door open. Zhang Xianzhong’s operations at the offset were brutal to say the least, he had a reputation for cruelty. He also acquired some of the best military bandit leaders under his banner. One was named Sun Kewang, a native of Yanchang, and although he had a peasant upbringing, he knew how to read and write which proved very valuable. There was also Li Dingguo who was a tall and sturdy man, kept himself clean at all times and was extremely gifted in leading armies. He ended up being one of Zhang Xianzhong’s most trusted commanders who was able to restrain Zhang or his other colleagues when necessary. It is said while others raped and butchered cities after taking them, Li Dingguo prefered to avoid these activities and restrained his men. Then there was Liu Wenxiu and Ai Nengqi, each not as famous as the previous two, but equally were formidable commanders who earned the loyalty of their men.

    In the year 1643, Zhang Xianzhong entered a new phase of his career. He had gained valuable experience in both siege and naval warfare, moving beyond commanding just a mere bandit army. He led some 100,000 or so men and was regarded on an equal level to Li Zicheng, the de facto largest bandit army leader. Unlike Li Zicheng however, Zhang was not as successful at building a regime and tending to just pillage and move on. Now the last time we mentioned Zhang Xianzhong he was raping and pillaging Hunan province. He had a bit of a dilemma, he had plans to take Nanjing, the secondary capital of the Ming, but Li Zicheng and the Ming commander Zuo Liangyu made it impossible to get near Nanjing. Zhang’s forces though enormous at this point, some estimates indicating possibly half a million were under him, were taking heavy casualties. With so many men, he was concerned primarily with how to feed his army and he began to speak to his commanders. They all spoke to him about “heaven’s storehouse”, a name given to Sichuan province. Many of the commanders pointed out the geography of Sichuan and how it would prove a better base of operations against Li Zicheng’s Dashun forces. Thus Zhang Xianzhong abandoned Changsha which he had been occupying for some time and moved with his army upon Sichuan province. And here is the horrifying story of what happened to the people of Sichuan.

    In 1644 Zhang camped in western Huguang capturing Xianyang and dozens of towns in its vicinity. Rumors spread in Sichuan that Zhang Xianzhong was leading an army 400,000 strong to sweep the province at any moment. The South Ming officials in Sichuan had completely ignored their own defenses. They lacked supplies because of a shortage of funds, corruption was rampant in all levels of government, they bickered amongst another and there were barely any disciplined troops to make much of a stand. As a result Chongqing was left with only 3000 troops to defend it. To make matters worse, like many cities in Sichuan, Chongqing had been infiltrated by bandit spies serving as the “eyes and ears” of Zhang's men.

    The defense of Sichuan's capital, Chengdu was commanded by Zeng Ying. Zeng Ying was a large imposing man with a huge mustache, greatly feared by his enemies for his spirit and conviction in battle. Zeng Ying and his Ming general colleagues fought many battles against Zhang’s invading forces. Zeng won a significant battle at Zhongzhou killing over 1000 of Zhang's bandits and sinking 100 boats, but overall the Ming were simply outnumbered and out gunned in Sichuan. Over the course of quite a few battles it is estimated the Ming loyalist armies would lose up to 100,000 men. Zhang eventually dislodged Zeng armies from Fuzhou where Zeng was wounded by arrows. Ming fronts began to collapse and Zeng had to withdraw Wangjiang pass, killing many during his retreat. With Zeng gone, Chongqing was open for the taking. Zhang’s vanguard was 100,000 strong backed by 200,000 in reserve. He began his attack on Chongqing with probes while he built floating bridges. Zhang was eager to take Chongqinq as by this point in time, he received word that Li Zicheng had captured Beijing, and in Zhang’s mind it was only a matter of time before Li Zicheng turned his army upon Sichuan.

    Once he had constructed 100 boats his men sailed force with great yellow banners proclaiming dengqing Chuan yue” “quelling the disturbances in sichuan”. As told by

    Historian James Parsons “the rebels converged on Chongqing from 2 directions: 1 force continued the advance up the Yangtze, and another, under Zhang’s personal command went overlord and approached the city from the west. The magistrate of Chongqing, Chen Shiqi, was undoubtedly demoralized by the fall of Beijing to Li Zicheng and the suicide of the Chongzhen empror. He made no attempt to defend the approaches to the city, apparently because he was afraid that his troops would flee if he allowed them outside the city walls. Thus, in July 1644, Chongqing was completely surrounded. The outcome of the content was apparent, for Zhangs forces outnumbered the defenders, and he had by now acquired great skill in attacking walled towns. But fighting continued for several days with both sides using cannon as well as the more conventional, and probably more effective, bows and arrows. Finally the rebels succeeded in digging a large hole in the wall and filling it with gunpowder, which was exploded by a means of a fire arrow. Thus they were able to gain entrance to the city and all resistance was overcome on July 25, 1644”.

    As the walls fell, the invaders swarme in like ants and the Ming defenders tried to repel them leading to blood street fighting, but all were cut down. The magistrate and commander of the defenses of Chongqing, Chen Shiqi was captured by Zhang who offered him the opportunity to surrender and join him. Chen spat “if a petty little official of the seventh grade doesn't fear death, how can I, who am still a court official of the second grade and a high frontier minister, submit to you a bandit?”. Zhang in fury tortured Chen before having him publically flayed. In the words of the Jesuit priest Gabriel de Magalhaens who heard the story secondhand “they begin the butchery with the toes until they complete it at the top of the head, cutting off small pieces of flesh, some smaller and some larger depending on the orders of the tyrant, which ranged ordinarily from 300, 500, 1000 and 10,000 pieces, a butchery so inhumane, prolonged from sunrise to sunset on one man”. The bloodbath of Chongqing is one of the most infamous moments of Zhang’s rather dark career. Zhang began taunting Prince Rui asking if he was fiercer than Li Zicheng before telling him that heaven gave him a message in the form of lightning that he had to kill him an thus he executed him. Then it is said he ordered all the defenders of the city, 37,000 soldiers to have their sword arms severed off, though those who submitted peacefully “merely” had their ears, noses or hands cut off. Some accounts state Zhang severed the left arms of the women in the city so that couples would be matched sets, wow. Tales of people being strung up to walls and trees and used as target practice are told, countless thousand were butchered filling the rivers with blood. Its hard to gauge what's exaggeration or not in these tales, but one thing is for sure, Zhang killed a significant amount of people for both strategic and psychological purposes. As seen countless time in history, engaging in one great atrocity might well convince others to submit without fighting, thus preserving resources and allowing someone like Zhang to capture cities intact further down the road. But in the case of Zhang, this behavior seems to persist and more and more massacres will occur. It should be noted that Li Dingguo and Sun Kewang were said to try and curb Zhang’s murderous side when possible.

    After Chongqing, Zhang’s forces fanned out and attacked the localities, and in a short time 47 districts and prefectures fell to his men. Many independent bandit groups such as the Yao-Huang bandits would come to join his forces bolstering him by another 50,000 men. Then Zhang set his eyes upon Chengdu which he thought would make a perfect capital for his new regime. At Chengdu Prince Shu made the same mistake as his cousin, Prince Rui at Chongqing, he sat upon his treasure rather than spend it to bolster the cities defenses. The city’s defenses were organized by Liu Jiachong and Yang Zhang who raised a force no larger than 10,000. They dug moats, repaired walls and trained the troops as best they could.

    Zhang’s troops approached Chengdu from 3 directions. At this point, the official Shen Yunzuo, fed up with the greed and incompetence of Prince Shu, gave up trying to press the prince for funds and raised a funds from other officials instead acquiring enough to hire a mercenary force of 2000 troops. They would not make much of a difference. As with Chongqing, Zhang first offered the city a chance to submit sending envoys ahead, but the envoys were executed. Li Dingguo pushed Zhang to slip some spies into the city to learn of its defenses which proved very useful. Zhang’s army hit the city from all 4 sides on the first day. The initial assault of ladders was repulsed by the commander Liu Zhibo. Soon Zhang’s men set to the old strategy of finding weak points along the walls and setting sappers in to use gunpowder to blow them up. Always reminds me of the Scene in Peter Jackson’s LOTR two towers, sorry had to say it. As the charges went off , several parts of the walls collapsed and the bandit soldiers clambered through the breaches. The Prince of Shu tried to escape but failed, so he drowned himself in an old well when he heard the rebels had entered the city.



    It is alleged Zhang Xianzhong began to systematically massacre the population of Chengdu for 3 days, though the numbers are disputed. Reports of bodies being tossed into the river or left on the streets to rot made for a horrific scene. But a lot of accounts also state that after the 3 days some sort of order was established. Some scholars argue Zhang’s generals began to protest all the killing, such as Sun Kewang who said to Zhang “My king has fought battles for over a decade and has repeatedly slaughtered without acquiring an inch of territory to defend. Your generals and soldiers can no longer follow this way of thinking. Now we’d risk ten thousand deaths to see the completion of our king’s enterprise. But if you kill the masses, who will be left to implement your plans? I beg my king to put up your sword and spare the common people from death.”. Eventually the other generals joined in to convince Zhang to make Chengdu his new capital and stop killing its populace. Soon Zhang proclaimed himself emperor Da Shun. This of course was ironically the same title as Li Zicheng who was of course his former rival. His kingdom was called “Da Xiguo” the great western kingdom and Chengdu was renamed Xijing “western capital”.

    Zhang then appointed special titles for his 4 adopted sons as he called them. Sun Kewang was made “pingdong Jiangjun” generalissimo who pacifies the east in charge of conquering Shandong, Liaodong, the coast and Korea. Li Dinggou was generalissimo of the west in charge of conquering western Sichuan and Tibet. Liu Wenxiu was generalissimo of the south in charge of conquering Guizhou, Yunnan, Burma, Thailand and Southeast Asia. Last was Ai Nengqi generalissimo of the north in charge of conquering all northern provinces and Mongolia. Pretty ridiculous tasks, but the more you learn of Zhang Xianzhong, who might I add talked to himself in third person, heard and saw things no one else could, well it makes more sense.



    Zhang restricted his entire military into 120 camps and appointed countless commanders with 5 chief military commissions similar to the Ming Dynasty military structure. His force is loosely estimated to have grown at this point to 600,000 to a possible million strong. With such incredibly high numbers of mouths, a ton of feeding was required and this is the crux of a horrid story. Zhang soon had to form an intensively strict government designed specifically to maximize resource acquisition and find any semblance of sedition. Districts were organized into units which were expected to inform Zhang’s authorities if there was any seditious talk or activity, failure to do so could result in execution of that person and or their entire families.

    Light punishments could be a good old flogging, for example if you enter the wrong door or face the wrong direction during certain events. Then if you were caught lets say hoarding anything, well you could expect a ear, nose, a hand or foot cut off, so a more moderate punishment? If you did something a bit worse than that, there was decapitation, even worse crimes met with slower deaths, dismemberment for example. If you did something really bad, Zhang’s favorite was to flay someone alive. It is said the outer walls of Zhang’s palace were decorated with flayed skins of offenders and piles of severed body parts, divided by type amassed in front of his residence…remember that last part because oh boy it comes around later.

    Zhang had secret police everywhere, strict curfews were enforced, people required travel passes and if anyone was caught messing about it was a quick execution. The populace could be arrested and questioned for anything. It is alleged from the year 1644 to 1647 the land of Sichuan was drenched in blood. Yet despite the horror, Zhang apparently had plans for a peaceful administration of Sichuan. Seals of office were used, government organs operated all the while the citizens were threatened with death if they fled or resisted. Zhang set his army to work, hunting any Ming royal family members or supporters who were to be brought back to Chengdu, for some gruesome endings I imagine. His army fanned out into the countryside scouring for resources, anything that could be eaten or traded for food. It was reported that all cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs and even rats if it's to be believed were scavenged by his armies. Commoners were forbidden to hoard livestock or valuables and you can imagine how many would die as a result. It is alleged that Zhang “deemed a day without killing a wasted day” and he began to refer to himself as “heaven’s executioner” claiming he had a divine mission to kill. Now I want to make another point like I did at the beginning of this episode. Modern Chinese historians stress the positive aspects of Zhang’s regim, after all if you read between the lines you see how he was redistributed wealth and …well…for the most part the higher classes were the ones being squeezed the most, cause the peasants could only offer so much. There were many aspects of his government that seemed like they worked, surely everyone was kept in line. Zhang was extremely paranoid, we are talking Stalin levels here, he tried to control everything. His army was enormous and their tasks were even larger than them, this required an incredible amount of resources, which shows an incredible amount of capability…however it was done in quite a horrifying and irresponsible way. Regardless many of these modern Chinese scholars argue the merit for Zhang's promotion of the peasant class, one could see great revolutionary here. But their arguments are laid out with endless excuses for what is a known fact, one of the most insane death tolls imaginable for the people of Sichuan. They say, it was the Qing invaders who eventually show up, other bandit groups, climate problems and drought, which might I add is true, the climate at this time is responsible for unbelievable famine and death. But why do we face so many sources telling of unbelievable atrocities performed by a man, who quite frantically is seen to be the harbinger of doom. Anyways I wanted to give some of their side in this, cause from here on, its going to heavily skew to the anti-Zhang side. A Jesuit priest who was with Zhang had this to say of his early reign and I find it a bit revealing “His wisdom and perceptiveness are vast and exceed that of most people. He is certainly capable of governing a state.” “He began to govern at first with such liberality, justice, and greatness that all were taken by him; however, this benignity did not endure, because little by little he began taking off his human disguise and showing his ugly countenance of cruelty.” “So immense was this man’s ferociousness that from the beginning of the world right up to the present day there has never existed a tyrant so wild and so inhuman.”.

    Zhang made claims to those around him that he could see entities, ghosts or spirits if you were, because of his capacity as the Son of Heaven. At times these entities or better said heavenly spirits told him to commit slaughter. He would also go on to say the people he killed sometimes came back to speak to him and in his frustration he could not kill the entities.

    After only a month of establishing his new Kingdom, matters began to spiral out of control. This would lead to 2 years which would go down in the annals of Chinese history as some of the bloodiest and in Sichuan, Zhang would earn the moniker “the butcher”. Between 1646 and 1649, Sichuan which some called “heaven’s storehouse” would become a charnel house. Zhang’s forces lashed out all over Sichuan hunting anyone down who did not hand over food, funds or anything else necessary for the regime. Anyone who tried to flee Zhang proclaimed “would be regarded as a rebel in the eyes of the law”. He proclaimed to the countryside that he would punish bad officials and reassess land taxation for the peasants which did swing some of the peasants to him. Despite his best efforts to fleece the rich, there was such general chaos that tax collection or the conduct of official business was in quite disarray. Despite all of this his forces for at least the first month of the regime remained quite disciplined and many prohibitions were in place to stop looting, rape and pillage. But many historians argue this was the work of his subordinates trying to build local level support and not so much Zhang himself.

    Four different regimes were competing for Sichuan, Zhang’s regime, Li Zichengs Dashun kingdom based at Xi’an, the Qing regime in Beijing and the Hongguang South Ming Regime in Nanjing. Zhang’s northern forces managed to repel Li Zicheng’s incursions on multiple occasions, the Qing were not yet this far south, but the South Ming regime remained a constant thorn. The South Ming loyalists were fighting back tooth and nail against the Zhang’s Da Xi army on all frontiers. The Ming loyalist commander Yang Zhan soon established a base of operations in southern Sichuan. He inspired the locals to help resist Zhang Xianzhong’s regime and harassed multiple cities under Zhang’s control. Southern Sichuan soon became a hotbed for resistance against Zhang’s rule furthering others to do the same. Another fire was the Ming commander Zeng Ying who also began raising forces in resistance and reclaiming some lost territory. Zeng Ying managed to recapture Chongqing and greatly bolstered its strength. To add to this injury, other bandit groups such as the Yao-Huang bandits within Sichuan began to rebel against Zhang in retaliation for his massacres upon the people. Some estimates suggest the Yao-Huang bandits numbers in Sichuan could had been up to 100,000, so this was no minor issue. Soon Xuzhou fell to the Ming loyalists and the more Zhang lost the more furious he became and unhinged. He soon sent his commanders with orders to indiscriminately kill, which was not a popular policy for them. Zhang had local militias rising up against him, Ming loyalist armies and soon the Qing would descend upon Sichuan.

    On March 8th of 1645 he suddenly began multiple campaigns in all directions as Zhang declared his intention to recover vast lost territory. His 4 great generals went off in their respective directions. Liu Wenxiu was sent to pacify Chongqing, Sun Kewang and Ma Yuanli were sent into the north and Ai Nengqi was sent into the south. It is said by the time their eradication campaigns had finished ““One could travel for a thousand li and see only red earth and in ten thousand homes there was no smoke [from cooking fires]. Travelers encountered no one living in Shu; there was land but no people, and the environment made it hard to stay there.” Ai Nengqi won a few battles in the vicinity of Yazhou, driving the Ming forces further south, but it was only temporary as they kept coming right back recapturing lost territory. Its said half the residents of Yazhou died at the hands of Ai Nengqi’s army before the Ming retook the city. Liu Wenxiu with a force of 30,000 men hit Chongqing by land and water, but Zeng Ying sent 2 riverine units and land forces pincer attacking Liu’s main force at Duogongcheng and smashed his army, apparently 3000 of Liu’s men would survive. Zeng Ying was promoted vice commander and made an earl of Jinpingkou by Prince Fu for the great victory and his forces allegedly grew to 100,000. This was the first major defeat for Zhang Xianzhong in Sichuan. Xuzhou was captured soon by other Ming loyalists, taking the lives of 2000 Daxi soldiers. One of Zhangs commanders, Feng Shuangli retook Xuzhou only to lose it again to Yang Zhan who burnt Feng’s boats not allowing him to retreat and killing most of his forces. Yang Zhan would follow this up by ambushing a force led by Zhang XianZhong's younger brother, capturing tons of men, money and supplies. With the booty in hand he soon hired 8000 more mercenaries and many spies to send into Zhang’s armies to cause mayhem. Even Buddhist monasteries began joining the resistance against Zhang in Sichuan.

    Zhang was livid at the reports and sent more and more forces out to kill indiscriminately. Zhang began to form repeated conferences with his advisers and noted that Chongqing needed to be rid of the Ming so that Zhang could refocus his attention upon the Dashun army in the north and the Qing even further north of them. By this point Zhang only really controlled an area of 30 miles around Chengdu. As he faced more and more defeats, his fury grew and massacres mounted. Corpses piled outside the offices of the Ministry of War as Zhang vented his rage. He began to purge his eunuch cohort, killing 280 out of a possible 300, possibly because he suspected them of being spies for his enemies. The courtyards and grassy areas around the palace were said to be stained with blood and the stench of rotting flesh. Official appointments became death sentences.

    By the time Zhang’s armies had finished their campaigns which can be better described as eradication campaigns all he had really done was create more and more resistance. As his enemies multiplied so did his paranoia. This is where you find a ton of sources talking about Zhang seeing and hearing things. In the early part of 1645 it is said he was seeing headless ghosts stalking the halls of his palace, he claimed at one point to one of his advisers that one of the ghosts stole food from his plate…perhaps a starving servant? He complained that he kept hearing the cries of those flayed outside his halls at night. It was around this time where Zhang became fixated with what he called his divine mission to slaughter. He claimed to receive directions from a “tianshu” “divine book” that only he could read and understand. He would rant “There are too many commoners in China, and their wickedness is unchecked. Therefore the Lord of Heaven has sent old Zhang to the world to kill people. . . . I want to fulfill the charge of Heaven, so my plan is to kill all the evil people in China.”. He told the populace of Sichuan to cleanse themselves lest he be forced to do it for them “His majesty is truly acting on behalf of Heaven. All of you, officials and commoners alike, must wash your hearts and cleanse your thoughts in order to avoid Heaven’s wrath.”. It was after stating this to the Sichuan populace that we get that famous line he told his subordinate Wang Zhaolin about how “if a day went by and he did not kill somebody, then he was really unhappy”. How much of this is real and what is exaggerated or blemishing of character I leave up to you, but man does it make for a hell of a story.

    It’s frowned upon to give psychology diagnosis for people too far back in history who we cant really know how they were like, secondary sources and all. Even myself with a degree in neuroscience, not sure if I ever mentioned that hear on the podcast, bit bizarre to hear, my first degree is neuroscience and my second is in history, don't ask long story there. Anyways Zhang’s condition based on these sources indicates he was at minimum suffering from paranoid delusions if not full blown schizophrenia. His apparent delight in the torture and murder of so many also indicats typical behaviors of anti-social personality disorder aka psychopathy.

    Another account form the Portuguese Jesuit Gabriel De Magalhaens tells us “It seems that he ate and drank with greater gusto when people were being skinned alive or being cut up into pieces in his presence and at the same time that the pieces of human flesh were being cut off and dropping to the ground, he would be cutting up and eating the meat on his plate. And while the blood dripped, he drank his wine.”Things got so bad in Chengdu that Li Dingguo and Sun Kewang complained the capital had become a cemetery.

    Things got much worse when Zhang began the practice of having soldiers submit severed body parts for rewards and promotions. Apparently Zhang was enticed by this practice because of a subordinate under Sun Kewang who showed up with 1700 hands to show his work. Chengdu became a scene of horror as shipments of hands, ears, and noses started coming in and piling up around the city. As one could imagine, with so many body parts came scavengers and soon the city became filled with scavengers such as wolves, leopards and tigers.

    Now a lot of modern scholars point at Zhang’s insanity leading to the desolation of Sichuan, but there is also another aspect I have mentioned. Zhang had an enormous army that required an enormous amount of food. Zhang was estimated to have a force of 600,000 to a possible million which required nearly twice what all of Sichuan's annual crop yields could manage. As the old saying goes, killing the chicken to get the eggs led to disaster. Zhang’s men might have killed many on their own accord simply to acquire food and yes if you were wondering there were widespread reports of cannibalism. As seen with so many tyrants throughout history, the policy of killing to overawe reached a breaking point. Local bandits, Ming Loyalists and commoners were resisting all over in greater numbers. Da Xi soldiers and officials alike were being killed wherever they went. Zhang’s armies would systematically come to places, “pacify” them and as soon as they left the areas were in the words of Li Dingguo “as soon as we leave these righteous armies spring up. The officials we appoint are killed one by one and after 3 or 4 months they are all dead. If the previous dynasty had not tried to do this to us, we never would have survived. So we must prioritize protecting the people”. What could make matters worse for Zhang you might imagine, how about the new enemy finally reaching the scene, the Qing. The Qing finally managed to kill Li Zicheng and his Dashun army, well most of them defected to the Ming loyalists. At the same time the Qing also defeated Zuo Liangyu who would defect to them. Zuo Liangyu’s defection bolstered the Qing with 100,000 troops, 40,000 boats and soon Henan, Huguang and Jiangxi were looking like easy grabs for them. Yet in order to take these places it was viewed that Sichuan required pacification as Zhang Xianzhong was a major menace with his giant army.

    In 1645 the Dorgon sent emissaries to persuade Zhang Xianzhong to surrender proclaiming “everything Zhang Xianzhong’s army had done during the Ming Dynasty was over, let bygones be bygones”. Provided Zhang Xianzhong and his army surrender, he would be appointed an official and his children would enjoy honor and wealth within the Qing dynasty. Well Zhang Xianzong chose to adopt a wait and see attitude, not surrendering, to no surprise the Qing were not too happy. Sun Kewang and some other generals began to complain to Zhang that the massacres of the population were creating more enemies and pushing them into the arms of the Ming and Qing. Zhang retorted simply that those who resisted must be slaughtered.

    In the beginning of 1646 the Qing sent an expedition against Zhang Xianzhong, but it never reached Sichuan as it got held up by various Ming loyalist armies along the way. Then the Qing sent a 2nd expedition led by the Prince of Suqin, Haoge and Wu Sangui to march south and attack the Daxi army in Sichuan.

    Now as bad as Zhang has been to the people of Sichuan thus far, it was at this point with the Qing coming to his doorstep where Zhang performed some of the most horrible atrocities against the people of Sichuan. Our portuguese man on the ground, Magalhaen claimed that Zhang’s hatred for the people of Sichuan stemmed from his belief that their perfidy had undermined his campaign in Hanzhong the previous year. For whatever reason, Zhang resolved to kill all Sichuanese people. Specifics are hard to gauge, but it is estimated Zhang would kill 140,000 people in only 4 days. Just to showcase again the character that was Zhang during his regime in Sichuan, here is a little story.

    Zhang was known for his cruelty and horribly stories are attributed to him, such as Shu Bi’s story about Zhang’s “heavenly-candles”. The story goes that Zhang got sick and vowed that if he recovered from his illness he would offer 2 heavenly candles as a sacrifice. No one understood what he meant at the time, but when he recovered, he ordered the small bound feet of many women to be cut off and placed in 2 large piles. The feet of one of his favorite concubines were unusually small and he had them served and placed at the very top of each large pile. Oil was poured on the piles and they were ignited fulfilling his vow to offer 2 heavenly candles. Have to say I’ve read some gruesome things but this one was particularly gross. According to Shu Bi Well that was just 1 story, during Zhang’s rule in Sichuan, now let us talk about how he quote “engaged in one of the most hair-raising genocides in imperial history”.

    When word came that the Qing were sending an army against him in Sichuan, Zhang ordered the massacre of all Sichuanese people. Zhang had people skinned alive, with their bodies stuffed with straw and sent ahead to their home villages to spread terror. People were killed for the slightest offenses, like not cutting weeds in their courtyards or miscopying characters in official documents. Some people were simply pulled off the streets and executed for allegedly using seditious words like “defeat” in public. Magalheans wrote this of the decaying situation “There was no exchange among friends, no one visited anyone; even though they were relatives there could be no conversation between two men under pain of being skinned alive immediately. When doors were shut for the night, so were mouths. If a door was left open or a fire kindled in one’s house, if one word were spoken, punishment was swift, not just for the culprit, but for those living in the ten neighboring houses on both sides of the guilty one’s house. Parents accused children and children their parents, and those who did this were highly praised by the Tyrant. If a large group of people were talking together even though there were the mandarins living in the royal palace, spies would immediately arrive on the scene, if they weren’t already there, and ask what was being discussed. This caused such horror and fear that these men no longer resembled living men but mute statues and portraits of death itself.”.

    People were killed indiscriminately if seen outside their homes after dark. Women were being raped enmasse. If you had a lock on any of your doors, you died, if a Dr failed to cure any of Zhang’s official, they died, if you failed to show travel papers you died, you get the picture. At one point someone lit a literary temple on fire and Zhang took this as an omen that he must kill all scholars in Chengdu…..cause of course. When Sun Kewang heard the order to kill all scholars he said “The intellectuals are scattered all over. How can we kill them all?”. Well here is a story of how Zhang figured out how to solve that problem.

    During 1 incident it is said he organized an imperial examination at the Qingyang Daoist Temple under the guise he was recruiting scholars for his regime's new administration, only to have the an estimated 5 to 23 thousand candidates butchered. Apparently they entered through the east gate of the temple and were “processed” out of the west gate. Bodies were tossed into the nearby river and their exam writings were “piled up like a mountain in front of the temple”. Zhang followed this up by inviting Buddhist monks for ordination ceremonies at temples only to kill them. People were tied to horses to be torn apart at the blast of a cannon. Zhang men went into the countryside to purge and at Qiongzhou alone, Liu Wenxiu reportedly killed 10,000 refugees and 1000 Buddhist and Daoist monks. It was said that for 50 miles around Qiongzhou “the plains were awash with flesh and blood”. Another incident alleged Zhang killed 4975 out of his 5000 corut eunuchs because 1 of them used his given name at a banquet, that one I have a hard time believing, but these are the stories I read.

    On january 8th of 1646 Zhang held a military conference and said that the massacre of the entire populace of Chengdu would commence the very next day “not a single person will be spared”. Accounts say the river of Chengdu was crimson red with blood and rose several feet up on the city walls. It got so bad, Zhang had to order his men to go in boats downriver from Chengdu to unclog it and the smell of decaying flesh filled the air for miles, imagine doing that job. Sun Kewang wrote of the massacres “This truncates our wishes. After all weren’t our years of rebellion on behalf of the peasants? Now we’re roaming back east and for what? If our fatherly king acts like this, then he’s really not pondering things deeply. Our fatherly king should regard the peasants of Sichuan like his head, like the trunk of looting heaven’s storehouse his body. Now if you’ve already cut off your hands and feet, how can the head survive? What kind of state has a king without subjects? Is this not only a king in name?”. After a couple of days of massacre, Zhang summoned all his court ministers, separating the Sichuanese from the rest and executed the Sichuanese ones. Chengdu was virtually empty by the end of the year and Zhang’s armies fanned out into the countryside. All the while he proclaimed his forces were preparing to face against the Qing. Some have made comparisons to this moment to that of Hitler pursuing the holocaust while neglecting his military aims during the last years of WW2. Zhang was fixated on the extermination of the people of Sichuan over all other goals it seems. Some accounts go as far as to claim Zhang had fetuses ripped out of the womb and children rounded up for systematic executions. Mountains of hands and feet piled up outside Zhang’s palace in Chengdu “like Mount Fenghuang”. Zhang is said to have been seen stalking his palace at night with his sword trying to kill ghosts. Zhang told advisors he was seeing disembodied hands stealing food from his plates, headless females playing instruments in rooms and all the while he heard the cries of the dead. Zhang began to believe Chengdu itself was haunted and had all his highest ranking officials flogged to break the curse.

    Zhang had begun a new military program where his soldiers could be promoted based on how many limbs they brought to him. Feet, hands, heads, ears and noses were stacked in separate piles and Zhang would supposedly gather the severed heads together for banquets. Promotions and ranks for his soldiers were based on the number submitted. 200 pairs of hands and feet got a rank of squad commander, 1700 pairs could get you promoted from vice commander to commander. If 1 soldier killed hundreds in a single day, he could be promoted to supreme commander. According to Shun records for 4 months in 1646 alone, Sun Kewang, Liu Wenxiu, Ai Nengqi and Li Dingguo each killed around 10 million people, an exaggeration of course. Records state they razed up to 8 towns a day seeking grisly trophies. Anyone above the age of 3 was said to be subject to attack. Zhang would even kill disloyal soldiers, and it is said “that the trail of corpses extended for seventy li north and south of Chengdu and the “lands ran red with blood and bones piled up like mountains.”.

    Jesuits in Sichuan claim that Zhang left the city in the summer of 1646 for a military campaign and spent 40 days on a killing spree in the countryside before returning to Chengdu and killing 25 out of 30 of his high officials, including his minister of war. Civilians were rounded up and killed in the central park in Chengdu. Children were cut to pieces, and officials were flogged without reason. Zhang then ordered his soldiers to kill their own wives and daughters so they would be less encumbered by them in the upcoming campaign. To set an example he killed 23 of his 300 serving maids and concubines. People were killed for drinking tea, soldiers were flayed for trying to flee, mandarins were killed for sleeping at a banquet, and more servants were killed for smoking tobacco. Hoarding a single tael meant decapitation, hoarding ten meant death by flaying. Some were even cut open and their skin stretched to resemble bird’s wings.

    The modern Chinese scholar Zheng Guanglu estimates that from 1.8 to 2 million people died in Sichuan between 1644 to 1645 out of a total population of around 3 to 3.6 million. He concluded that 1 million died as a result of direct military operation and the rest died from starvation, disease, marauding wildlife eeeek, and other factors. 40-50% of the Sichuanese population had been killed in just a few short years. Sichuan would see up to 75% of its population decline from death and people fleeing. It was a combination of the massacres and also drought and famine that led to the flight. This by the way occurred before and after Zhang, many Chinese scholars argue it may have been the Qing armies who performed many of the atrocities that may have been attributed to Zhang. For example in Chengdu a stele (stone carving) known as the Seven kill stele holds the inscription
    Heaven brings forth innumerable things to nurture man.

    Man has nothing good with which to recompense Heaven.

    Kill. Kill. Kill. Kill. Kill. Kill. Kill.”

    In the summer of 1646, Zhang was receiving word of the military situation from Li Dingguo and Sun Kewang that both the Ming loyalists and the Qing were making significant inroads. Zhang had spent too much time and effort on his insane butchering of the people and not enough against the Ming loyalists. The Ming loyalists controlled south and east Sichuan now, the most fertile and productive areas. They drained Zhang’s resources and drew the attention of the Qing towards Sichuan. They also controlled Chongqing which was the transport hub of the province especially by river.

    Zhang gathered his officials and proclaimed “I’ve been in Sichuan for two years, but the Sichuanese haven’t accepted my kindness, nor do they dread my awesomeness. The more I pacify, the more they rebel. As I consider what I can do, I’ve decided to abandon Sichuan and go to Shaanxi [lit. leave Shu for Qin] so I can take Chang’an [Xi’an] and use it as a springboard for recovering the central plain. This was my base of origins before, and my generals and soldiers are all folk of Qin. I can rely on Qin as the place to strengthen my troops and war horses. So my master plan is to return to Shaanxi and then follow the river south into Huguang and then come back into Sichuan.”. Sun Kewang argued they should not so easily abandon Sichuan and that they should begin extending relief to its people, in his words “replace killing with kindness”. With that perhaps they could restore a new government, to throw away all they had done in Sichuan would be such a waste. Li Dingguo concurred with his colleague and this forced Zhang to think a bit more on his decision. However in the end Zhang concluded he would follow through with what he proclaimed. Thus Zhang prepared a sortie, spending months gathering all the treasure he could find or loot from all around stored on boats. He then ordered Chengdu burnt to the ground, which also allegedly took months. Zhang began to send out boats filled up with treasure and sent his 600,000 strong army forth by land and river southeast. Zhang made a rather bizarre strategic error and decided to attack Yang Zhang and seize his controlled territory, despite being hampered by his treasure and massive numbers of refugees.

    Well Yang Zhan who had countless spies amongst Zhang’s forces found out about Zhangs plan and ambushed him by land and river at Jiangkou near Pengshan. Yang managed to cut Zhangs fleet off from the shore and set fires to his boats. The battle almost immediately turned into a rout with most of Zhang’s navy being sunk to the bottom of the river. It is said Yang Zhan would spend months salvaging tens of thousands of taels worth of treasure and supplies from the bottom of the river. Yang would use all of his new found funds to pay his own army and help refugees in southern Sichuan. Yang pursued Zhangs forces all the way to Hanzhou, but upon seeing the scene of rotting corpses everywhere he apparently turned back in horror, who can blame him. Zhang then attempted to take back Chongqing but was defeated by Zeng Ying yet again. It was around this time, Zhang’s commanders began to lose the stomach for his campaigning and many deserted. This also prompted as you can imagine, Zhang to kill those who seemed to be faltering. He had 13,000 of his followers executed and apparently Liu Wenxiu captured 6000 soldiers trying to desert and flayed them alive.

    Zhangs Da Xi army moved east, but he left many subordinate commanders to garrison key locals, but most were defeated by Ming loyalist armies. Zhang’s army was so large and difficult to feed that he soon feared illness would spread amongst them and apparently he ordered his 4 great generals to kill anyone who looked sick. Allegedly this would see 4000 of his men butchered by their own commanders. Zhang reached Shunqing and besieged the city for 3 days before Zhang’s cannons broke its walls and he burnt the city to the ground killing an estimated 100,000 people inside. When his army continued to march on, he sent forces into the mountains and forests to forage for food and any who came back without a required quota of food each day were executed.

    Zhang then made his way to Mount Fenghuang located outside the city of Xichong. He attacked a fortified mountain stockade which was garrisoned by 2000 troops. Once he took the mountain he began to construct defensive works and built boats to try and head southeast on Haguang. But then his massive army ran out of food and he sent them fanning out to plunder, starting a wide array of massacres. It is at this point we get a lot of accounts of cannibalism amongst the troops. It is alleged Zhang had more visions telling him to kill more people and that at some points he was killing 10 to 20 thousand per day, beginning with Sichuanese, but soon people from Huguang and then Shaanxi. Supposedly he is said to have killed half of his own men in under 2 months, which has to be exaggerated. It is reported some of his advisers would often find Zhang talking to himself saying things like “Heaven has instructed me to kill. I dare not avoid killing.”.

    Around the time Zhang and his army occupied Xizhou, Emperor Yongli took the throne at Zhaoqing and Emperor Shaowu at Guangzhou. Thus the Qing had plenty of work on their hands with the south east and soon appointed Prince Haoge to focus his attention on defeating Zhang Xianzhong.

    Prince Haoge soon captured Xi’an and continued to march south into Sichuan. The Qing began proclaiming to all the areas the occupied that no one was to be killed and that they would protect them. As you can imagine many of the populace fled into the arms of the Qing immediately. One of Zhang's commanders Liu Jinzhong had an army of mostly Sichuanese who for understandable reasons did not want to butcher Sichuanese people and he decided to defect to the Qing, most likely fearing for his life. Liu Jinzhong fled north and met with Prince Haoge telling him the exact location of Zhang. Liu told him “to save the people from fire and water” and that he would guide Prince Haoge and his men to Zhang personally. Thus Prince Haoge and Liu’s armies marched together into northern Sichuan finding roads strewn with bones. This prompted Prine Haoge to ask Liu if all of Sichuan was like this and Liu sighed and replied “For years Sichuan has endured the local bandits Yao and Huang and been trampled underfoot and since been subjected to the massacres of my old lord Xianzhong.”. Haoge replied “As soon as we encounter Huang, Yao, and the Zhang bandits, we must extinguish them immediately so as to alleviate the people’s suffering.”. In early January of 1647, Prince Haoge was led by Liu to Mount Fenghuang and Prince Haoege sent his most elite bannermen as a vanguard to find Zhang Xianzhong.



    Zhang got word of the incoming Qing force and initially disbelieved his own scouts, in fact he killed them. He then exclaimed “The Awe of the Eighth Great King encompasses the realm and my name resounds over the Four Seas. Who comes here to die? I will personally go forth to greet them.”. Then Zhang emerged from his tent, grabbed a spear, mounted his horse and went to investigate with only 10 men. They reached the Taiyang Creek and saw enemy troops on the other side of the creek. As Zhang galloped into view, Liu allegedly pointed him out to he Qing force, prompting a Qing archer to shoot Zhang through his torso with a single arrow killing him. Prince Haoge recovered the body and decapitated it, cut him up and burned all the pieces on the spot. It is alleged when they cut Zhang's body open he had a heart that was as black as ink and that he had no liver. Stories told of strange thorns growing in the spot of Zhang Xianzhongs deaths and that a black tiger guarded his gravesite. OhhhhhHHhhHHH.

    One of Zhang’s men fled back to the army camp, relating what had happened. Upon hearing of Zhang’s death, Zhang’s surviving commanders immediately served under Sun Kewang who became the de-facto leader. They attacked Chongqing and managed to take this city this time and killed Zeng Ying. It seems Zeng Ying had finally made a tactical error and underestimated their force going out to fight them in the field and lost. Sun Kewang did not stay long in Chongqing, fearing the Qing pursuit and fled south taking Qijiang where Sun Kewang attempted to reorganize the Da Xi army and resurrect some form of government. They then marched on Zunyi and it is here, the former bandit army of Zhang Xianzhong had a change of heart. They began to join forces with the Ming loyalists, moving even further south to Guizhou. The Qing for their part had to abandon the pursuit rather quite owing to lack of supplies as Sichuan was a barren wasteland. They soon pulled up to Baoning where they butchered 10,000 of Zhang’s former men.

    Meanwhile the hardship of Sichuan would go on for many years. Famine was rampant in Sichuan as a result of Zhang's chaos. It was said “women of good families offered their bodies in exchange for food but could find no takers”. The land of Sichuan was desolate, people resorted to cannibalism and allegedly human flesh was sold by vendors and that bandits were making “lamb stew” out of their victims. There were tales of people looting coffins of the recently deceased for flesh. One source lamented “because of the long period of disorder, the cattle were all gone, so people replaced cattle”. Disease and pestilence sprang up everywhere as a result of malnutrition. Recorded illnesses such as “big head boils, horse eye disease, horse trot disease” were reported. Apparently in Sichuan the number of tigers increased 100 fold as did packs of wolves and wild dogs…so yeah on top of everything else imagine being chased by a tiger while your family is starving?


    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

  • Last time we spoke, the Ming Dynasty had finally come to an end. After years of fighting, Li Zicheng had finally broken the Ming Dynasty and assumed the Dragon Throne, or sort of. As his rebel forces pillaged Beijing and Li Zicheng sought to establish his Shun Dynasty a rather large issue loomed, that of the Qing invaders. The Qing had bided their time waiting for the Ming Dynasty to rot from the inside before making their move. Li Zicheng took his army to go meet the foreign invader, but unbeknownst to him the remnants of the northern Ming military prefered to throw their lot in with the Qing rather than with him. Li Zicheng’s army was smashed at the battle of Shanhai pass. Prince Dorgon took the dragon throne to serve as regent for the infant Qing Emperor Shunzhi marking the emergence of a new Dynasty over China, and they all lived happily ever after. Of course not.

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on the history of asia and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    #6 This episode is the rise of the South Ming Regime

    So perhaps a short recap of the end of the last series of episodes. The bandit army of Li Zicheng believed after taking Beijing that their revolution had succeeded and that they could all “live happily ever after”. They did not consider the threat in the north that was the Qing invaders. They had committed the mistake of arrogance and it cost them their newfound Shun Dynasty, it also would have future political and military consequences. The first Qing emperor was titled Shunzhi, meaning “smoothly ruling emperor”, however Prince Dorgon would act as his regent as he was only 5 years old. Thus at the offset, Prince Dorgon ordered the Han chinese civilians to leave inner Beijing city so he could resettle it was Manchu bannermen and establish some sort of order. Exceptions were made of course, remember countless Han defectors aided the Qing conquest and many would take up titles and positions within the new government. The Qing rulers were not naive, they knew opposition would be fierce if they did not incorporate Han chinese within their new hierarchy and thus the loyal Han Bannermen became the great administrators that allowed for the transition to run sort of smoothly. Some of the greatest Han bannermen that would aid the new administration would be Kong Youde, a long time defector, Shang Kexi and Geng Zhongming, who both would play very crucial roles much further into this story. Until 1658 the Qing would intentionally not install any Manchu or Mongol governors so as to make sure the transition worked. Yet also at the offset, the Qing did ruffle some feathers with a particular decision. In 1645 Prince Dorgon issued the infamous head shaving proclamation. Basically he ordered all subjects in China to shave their hair in the style of the Manchu, which is that of a long braided queue. You probably have seen countless movies showcasing this hairstyle, usually the men have a hat on and you see the long braid trailing under it. Now he proclaimed the punishment for those who did not perform the head shaving as that of any other rebel to the Qing, a death sentence. Now a ton of Han chinese shaved their head immediately to curry favor with Prince Dorgon and the new Qing dynasty. They were showered with titles and positions and such.The policy was something of a symbolic submission to the new dynasty and helped the Manchu from telling who was friend or foe. It also evoked the Confucian notion that the subjects of the Dynasty were like the adopted children of the Emperor and that they should look like their adoptive father. Regardless for many Han Chinese the head shaving order was humiliating, some sources I read deemed it a “loss of their manhood”. So as much as it helped the Qing see friend or foe, it also would be used as a symbol of resistance by those who refused to submit. As you can imagine it was inevitable that anti-Qing struggles would break out. From June of 1644 to the end of 1646, the remnants of the Dashun army of Li Zicheng and the Daxi army of Zhang Xianzhong spearheaded anti-qing movements. But unlike the failed Ming state, the Qing Dynasty possessed a powerful army, with high morale.

    Politically it made sense to go after Li Zicheng first, for one thing he was the closest. Hell Li Zicheng actually handed the Qing a great situation if you think about it, they could now avenge the regicide of Emperor Chongzhen and be seen as saviors. Thus from the get-go their top priority was to eradicate the Dashun army. Now I did briefly mention the fate of Li Zicheng in the last series, but I will need to reiterate it here again a bit so the story is cohesive. The Dashun army and Li Zicheng fled the west of the Beijing area and lost a ton of territory, but there was a deep anti-qing feeling in the population leading to overwhelming support for them. The Dashun army took up defensive positions in Taiyuan, Yan’an and Suide led by the commanders Chen Youngfu, Li Guo and Hao Yao respectifully. Li Zicheng retreated to Xi’an and decided to seize Hanchung, Gansu and Lanzhou to the south, ensuring the safety of the central Shaanxi area. From there he hoped to have a base of operations for anti-qing action. The Qing army went south along the Taihang Mountain range and occupied Pianguan where they planned to seize Taiyuan.The Dashun army resisted them and managed to defeat the Qing army in Jingjian, Xuanhua and Weizhou. But despite the Dasun army’s valiant efforts, it had a problem. The peasant regime in various areas had destroyed much land and resulted in a logistical nightmare.

    By November of 1644, the Qing army broke up into 2 forces, one was led by Prince Ajige who was appointed as the Jinyuan general, assisted by Generals Wu Sangui and Shang Kexi. Wu Sangui as you might remember is the man who literally opened the door to the Qing in order to defeat Li Zicheng and Shang Kexi was Ming general who defected and would prove to be quite the loyal ally. They marched through Datong enroute for Xi’an. The other force was led by Prince Dodo also known as Prince Yu assisted by Kong Youde and Geng Zhongming marched on Tonguan. Both armies planned to meet up at Xi’an where Li Zicheng had fled and defeat his Dashun army there. Ajige’s army managed to capture Taiyuan, Pingyan and other cities, but paid heavily for it. Prince Yu’s army fought a vigorous battle with the Dashun in the area of Luoyang, Shaanzhou and Baoling until they reached the outskirts of Tongguan. The siege of Tongguan lasted a month with Li Zicheng commanding the troops personally, but to no avail. Meanwhile Ajige’s army conquered Yan’an and Shaanzhou and as a result Xi’an became the focal point for the Qing army to produce a hammer and anvil attack. By february 9th, Li Zicheng had to abandon Xi’an running south for the mountains of Shangluo. The Dashun army experienced tremendous defeats at the hands of the Qing, but still hundreds of thousands came rallying to the cause of resistance. Dashun armies led by Li Guo, Gao Yigong and Hao Yaoqi were stationed in the areas of Jing and Xiang while Li Zicheng and Liu Zongmin took up positions in Chengtian. The Dashun army also held Wuchang and at this point Li Zicheng knew the north-east was unstable, but he could ill afford to allow the southeast to fall into disarray. Li Zicheng south to seize the eastern part of Zhoudong and the Xuan areas to establish a base of operations against the Qing armies. By the end of May as the Dashun armies prepared to leave, the Qing army suddenly surprise attacked them from both land and sea. As a result the Dashun army had to abandon Wuchang and run further south to Tongshan. The battle was a grave one and Liu Zongmin was severely injured before being captured and died in battle. Morale broke down for the peasants as more and more Han officials began to collude with the Qing against the peasants. The Dashun army faced enemies from all sides and the anti-qing movement was deteriorating. Then as I stated in the previous episode, by June of 1645, Li Zicheng was ambushed when he tried to cross the Jiugong Mountains. How Li died is not exactly known, some say he hung himself after being surrounded by some angry peasants. Others say peasants beat him to death looking for food. What is known is that his corpse was badly mutilated when it was found. Li Zichengs body was sent south to Ming authorities who decaptitied it.

    Now Just a few weeks after Emperor Congzhen had committed suicide in Beijing, one of his Ming clasnmen Zhu Yousong known as Prince Fu arrived in Nanjing. Now there were a ton of Ming princes lying all about China, but it just so happened most of the surviving high court officials were in Nanjing and thus they began to debate who should take up the Dragon Throne. They eventually came to the conclusion Zhu Yousong would be best and asked him to step up.

    So with the support of Ming loyalist bureaucrats and generals, Zhu Yongsong proclaimed himself an Emperor in Nanjing with the reign title of Hongguang meaning “great light”. This marked the creation of what is known as the South Ming Dynasty. Now Zhu Yongsong was chosen mostly because of his bloodline rather than character or ability. He was the eldest son of Wanli’s favorite son, a guy that Li Zicheng et al killed and ate if you remember rather gruesome stuff. His son Zhu Yongsong shared many of his fathers defects and he did not even really want the throne, he just happened to be in Nanjing and a prime candidate.

    The original aim Hongguangs regime was to take revenge and suppress the bandit armies. Indeed Emperor Hongguangs court proclaimed the regime was formed to “ally with the Tartars to pacify the bandits”. Hongguang’s new regime possessed quite a lot of military power. There was the grand secretary, Ma Shiying who was the greatest pusher of Zhu Yongsong onto the throne and held a powerful war fleet. There was Shi Kefa the minister of war in Nanjing who further appointed the “sizhen” “Four guardian bastions” who would defend 4 territories; Huang Degong would defend Luzhou, Gao Jie held Sizhou, Liu Liangzuo held Fenyang and Liu Zeqing held Huan’an. All 4 were vested in titles of nobility, which would create a dangerous precedent for our entire story. Each man had an army of 20-30 thousands soldiers. All of this was established to protect the area of Nanjing from the Dashun armies. They also were preparing a northern expedition to eradicate the Dashun forces once and for all. The Hongguang regime seemed to not view the entrance of the Qing invaders as the main threat, most likely because the Qing went straight to work quelling the peasant rebels. In response to the Nanjing regime springing up out of nowhere, the Qing Dynasty chose to compromise for the time being while they consolidated further support for their own regime. They also quickly realized the Nanjing regime was extremely incompetent.

    When the news spread of the death of Li Zicheng to Nanjing, the ruler proclaimed Wu Sangui as Ji lord protector. The Nanjing regime even sought to send Wu Sangui millions of taels of silver by sea as reward for “borrowing the Qing army” to defeat the peasant army, yes burrow. It seems the court of Nanjing thought that Wu Sangui could be bought back over to the Ming side. It is alleged that regent Dorgon proclaimed in July that the country should not belong to one person and thus the Hongguan regime made an imperial edict declaring its existence to Hebei and Shandong. They became known as the South Ming regime and they immediately began to send emissaries to Beijing for peace talks. They sent countless gold, silver as tribute and ceded territory to try and earn pledges that the Qing army would not march southwards upon them. They also strongly suggested cooperative action against the bandit armies.

    The Hongguang regime was a product of conflict amongst big Ming warlords. There was a Zuo Liangyu bloc which began a campaign of suppression against Daxi bandit armies in Wuhan. Gao Jie, Huang Degong and Liu Liangzuo each held their respective areas north of the Yangtze River in the Jianghuai area. Each warlord had territory and an army, they began to snatch land from each other and this all hurt the common people. In each territory, 30 thousand soldiers needed to be drafted, 200 thousand kg’s of rice handed over, 400 thousand liangs of silver turned in. The soldiers and civilians often fell into conflict with another, the civilians saw the military as thieves and the military saw the civilians as rebels, a vicious cycle. While some of the warlords proclaimed they were stamping out bandit armies, they were in truth attacking fellow warlords.

    Meanwhile the South Ming regime was placing its entire hope in compromising with the Qing and only when messengers began to arrive who were sent to the Qing back, stating that peace talks were going nowhere and that a Qing army was preparing to march south did some officials begin to make other plans. Shi Kefa amongst many others began to realize that if peace could not be secured, warfare would be the only course of action. Emperor Hongguang for his part was nothing more than a puppet, being controlled by the warlords. He was busy drinking, eating and spending time with his harem without thinking too much about how to deal with the Qing threat seriously.

    One serious problem Shi Kefa faced was the bickering amongst the warlords such as the 4 guardian generals. Shi Kefa went to Yangzhou in 1645 to try and smooth relations between the guardian generals. Yet as he began talks with them they did not stop their plundering of another's territories. Then in 1645 the Qing army began to move south occupying Tongguan and Xi’an forcing Dashun armies to flee south requiring the Ming warlord Zuo Liangyu to be dispatched out to suppress them. As the Qing kept moving, this pushed the Dashun armies, which Ming armies like Zuo Liangyu’s would have to chase, and thus the Ming were further weakened. On top of this issue, Zuo Liangyu hated Grand Secretary Mu Shiying and for good reason the man was clearly using the emperor like a puppet and taking more power each day. Thus Zuo proclaimed he would get rid of Ma Shiying’s influence in the court. All of this internal bickering is happening with the Qing literally pounding on the door of their regime.

    Ming forces began to be attacked by the Qing as they marched south and many simply surrendered.The Qing sent Prince Yu to lead his army out of Xi’an to the east and his force soon captured Xuzhou, a strategically important Ming territory and word soon came to Hongguang. The court of Hongguang freaked out looking to their strongmen to resist the Qing invaders, but the warlords of the South Ming Regime were so corrupt and too busy attacking another to pay attention. Gao Jie who possessed the largest army out of the guardian generals was assassinated by another Ming general named Xu Dingguo who tricked him using the oldest trick in the book, a banquet. Xu Dingguo was planning on surrendering to the Qing and invited Gao Jie to a dinner, got him very drunk and using some very beautiful prostitutes managed to kill him during the night. The army of Gao Jie retaliated against the city of Suizhou, but by that time the army of Xu Dingguo had fled and surrendered to the Qing army. When word spread of Gao Jie’s death, the other warlords stormed into his territory to divide up his army. In the meantime grand secretary Ma Shiying wanted to continue his dominance of the South Ming Court and was struggling against Zuo Liangyu for power. On may 8th, Zuo’s army began a battle agaisn’t Ma Shiying’s in Anqing, while the Qing army crossed the Huai River and marched on Suizhou. The 2 warlords were shocked by the news and forced to flee south, leaving poor Shi Kefa with the untenable position of defending against the Qing.

    You see, Shi Kefa early on had asked to be dispatched to the north to supervise defenses on the border. But due to the warlords fighting another, the Ming general was unable to establish a strong defense. Then Emperor Hongguang ordered, cough cough it is actually Ma Shiying, ordered Shi Kefa to divert his forces from the northern border which the Qing were about to attack, to instead go west and attack Zuo Liangyu. Ironically at this point Zuo Liangyu had died of illness unbeknownst to Ma Shiying, and his son Zuo Menggeng was engaging the enemy. Because of all this anarchy, the Qing saw the route was open to Yangzhou which was something of a bulwark for Nanjing and marched towards it.

    Facing the Qing invaders completely alone, the Shi Kefa army was forced to retreat from their northern positions to Yangzhou. His army only made it within days of the city becoming besieged by Prince Yu’s army on the 13th of april. Thus Yangzhou was besieged and Emperor Hongguang called on all his officials as to what should be done. Yet many of the officials were too busy attacking another. Some in the court said they had to send reinforcements to help Shi Kefa and pointed fingers at Ma Shiying for intentionally retreating his forces from the Qing areas to retaliate against Zuo Liangyu. It was at that moment that Allegedly Ma sent proclaimed that he would rather the Qing killed the emperor and all the Ming officials rather than they all be killed by the treacherous Zuo Liangui. Ma went on to make edicts that anyone who dared talk about guarding the Huai area would be sentenced to death by him. Apparently even the Emperor dared not speak up. Thus Shi Kefa who was pleading for help was completely ignored. The warlords continued their fight as the Qing were literally banging on the gates. Prince Yu sent a letter to Shi Kefa asking for his surrender, but Shi Kefa replied “My life is tied to the city. I would rather die than betray my heart”. On April 24th the Qing army's cannons had broken the walls of Yangzhou and the city fell during the night. Shi Kefa attempted suicide by slitting his own throat, but failed to do so. It is alleged, he asked his subordinate Shi Dewei to kill him, but Shi Dewei refused even when Shi Kefa screamed “Im the military inspector Si, quickly Kill me!”. Thus Shi Kefa was captured by Prince Yu who tried to persuade him to surrender and serve him stating “we sent you a letter politely asking for your surrender, but you refused. Now that you’ve fulfilled your loyalty and righteousness, you should take on a new important responsibility, help me conquer Jiangnan”. Shi Kefa responded "I fall together with the city. My decision will not change. Even if I'm torn to pieces, my feelings will be as sweet as maltose. But do not harm the thousands of lives in Yangzhou!" Thus Shi Kefa was put to death, as his subordinate Liu Zhaoji led the rest of the soldiers and civilians of the city to resist the Qing, pelting them with arrows.

    Prince Yu, furious about the heavy casualties his force took upon entering the city, ordered the entire city put to the sword. The tale of this is known as the Yangzhou massacre and according to an account given by the contemporary Wang Xiuchu, the event was a 10 day massacre in which up to 800,000 people were killed. Most modern scholars consider that number to be an exaggeration, but what is not an exaggeration is the hardship felt by the poor souls of the city. Here is an excerpt from Wang Xiuchu’s account:

    Several dozen people were herded like sheep or goats. Any who lagged were flogged or killed outright. The women were bound together at the necks with a heavy rope—strung one to another like pearls. Stumbling with each step, they were covered with mud. Babies lay everywhere on the ground. The organs of those trampled like turf under horses' hooves or people's feet were smeared in the dirt, and the crying of those still alive filled the whole outdoors. Every gutter or pond we passed was stacked with corpses, pillowing each others arms and legs. Their blood had flowed into the water, and the combination of green and red was producing a spectrum of colours. The canals, too, had been filled to level with dead bodies.

    Then fires started everywhere, and the thatched houses...caught fire and were soon engulfed in flames...Those who had hidden themselves beneath the houses were forced to rush out from the heat of the fire, and as soon as they came out, in nine cases out of ten, they were put to death on the spot. On the other hand, those who had stayed in the houses—were burned to death within the closely shuttered doors and no one could tell how many had died from the pile of charred bones that remained afterwards”

    After the Qing were finished pillaging Yangzhou, they crossed the Yangtze River and captured Zhenjing which was one of the last gateway’s to Nanjing. Apparently in the dead of night, a very drunk Emperor Hongguang then fled from Nanjing to Wuhu under the protection of Huang Degong, his chief general. This left the South Ming court in chaos, some officials fled, while others prepared to pay tribute and surrender to the Qing. Li Chengdong and Liu Liangzuo surrendered to the Qing early on, Zuo Liangyu and Gao Jie were both dead leaving 23,000 defenders to guard Nanjing without any real leadership.

    The betrayal and deaths of the warlords handed over the entire northwestern zone of the South Ming regime to the Qing. Ma Shiying then brought to Nanjing troops from the western provinces made out of non-Han Chinese indigenous fierce tribal warriors called the "Sichuan" soldiers to defend Nanjing against the Qing. Rather ironically the tribal warriors were deemed "barbarians" and slaughtered by the Han Chinese citizens of Nanjing. Mind you the person who was in charge of defending Nanjing was Zuo Liangyu so as you can imagine he probably had a heavy hand to play turning everyone against Ma Shiyang. It also turns out Zuo Liangyu and many citizens of Nanjing had decided to peacefully defect and turn over the city to the Qing when Emperor Hongguang abandoned them. Allegedly the citizens screamed out "These are the son and daughter-in-law of the traitorous minister Ma Shiying!" while parading the daughter-in-law and son of Ma Shiying as they stormed Ma Shiying's house. Thus when the Qing marched upon the city of Nanjing the defenders mostly threw down their weapons and by June 8th the South Ming Regime of Emperor Hongguang had collapsed. Zho Menggeng surrendered to the Qing, Huang Degong was killed fighting the Qing and for all it was on paper, perhaps upto a million men strong, the regime simply fell to pieces. Liu Zuoliang who had surrendered to the Qing managed to capture the fleeing Emperor Hongguang and sent him under escort back to Nanjing. It is said the citizens spat on him and cursed him and even threw rocks at him as he made his way along the street. Emperor Hongguang would die a year later in Beijing. The South Ming regime of Hongguang had not even lasted a full year and made one of the most pitiful attempts at trying to resist the Qing army. It also exploited its own people and caused a ton of suffering, which will be the main theme of this entire story.

    Within a year of their new Dynasty, the Qing armies had defeated Li Zicheng and his Dashun armies. They had destroyed the South Ming regime of Hongguang and had taken over the northern half of China. Yet this was just to be the beginning of the seizure of national power. The bloody suppression of the bandit armies, the plundering and killing, alongside the coercive policies led the Manchu people into a lot of conflict with the Han majority. As the Qing armies continued to march south many Han rose up in defiance still. The Qing had a powerful and skillful military, but even they could not hope to control all of China with just military force. Emperor Hongguang was not going to be the last guy to proclaim himself an emperor and try to rally the Ming to his cause, not by a long shot.

    In July of 1645 Prince Lu established a power base in Shaoxing and even proclaimed himself a regent. From there he created his own regime that soon held control over Shoxing, Ningbo, Wenzhou and Taizhou. With the support of the local populace and taking advantage of the rough terrain of the Qiantang River, his forces led by Fang Guo’an and Wang Zhiren fought the Qing off. However they were merely defending their territory, not seeking to confront the Qing army.

    So unfortunately for Prince Lu, before he could even toss around any reign title or proclaim a new Dynasty, the Qing showed up to the gates of Shaoxing and he had to surrender.

    Much like the warlords, Prince Lu was too busy actively fighting against imperial family members such as the Prince of Tang, Zhu Yujian. When the Qing captured Nanjing, Zhu Yujian had fled to Hangzhou and at the behest of many of his officials ascended to the Ming throne in Fuzhou proclaiming himself Emperor Longwu meaning “plentiful and martial”. Now neither Prince Lu nor Emperor Longwu were even aware of another at first, it just so happens they figured out their situation when Emperor Longwu had sent regency letters to Shaoxing. Upon hearing of the regency of Prince Lu, Emperor Longwu demanded he step down, but the court of Prince Lu demanded he stand up to the challenge. Now neither side actually sent armies to fight another, instead they simply bickered about who needed to step down. Regardless this meant they were not cooperating or coordinating with another and who benefits from that, the Qing ofcourse. Bickering against Emperor Longwu deeply impacted Prince Lu’s forces capability at defending against the Qing and alongside this in July of 1646 because of a drought the Qiantang river became shallow allowing the Qing army to simply cross it and march on Shaoxing. The army of Fang Guo’an fled at the mere sight of the Qing and soon everything fell into chaos. Fang Guo’an and his forces surrendered to the Qing and Prince Lu tried to flee for his life, but the Qing literally got to his gates by that point. The quasi regime if you can call it that had not even existed for a year before its collapse.

    Meanwhile Emperor Longwu held control over Jianning, Tianxing, Yanping, Xinghua, Zhangzhou, Quanzhou, Shaowu and Tingzhou. This was the region of Fujian and luckily for the new regime, its geographical position was on the margin of the Qing’s empire, cut off from the heartland by several mountain ranges. His military sent 100,000 troops to defender the towns with another 100,000 set to suppress the enemy. Unfortunately for Emperor Longwu the military was not fully under his control. A large part of his military forces were loyal to the powerful warlord named Zheng Zhilong. Zheng also went by the name Yiguan, he used to be a pirate leader and was offered amnesty by the Ming dynasty. He had been a governor and military officer possessing up to 30000 troops while controlling significant maritime trade. Merchant ships coming and going from Japan and SouthEast Asia had to obtain his permission and pay taxes to him. This had made him the formidable warlord of Fujian by the time the Qing were spreading through China. The reason he chose to support the Longwu regime was because he wanted to take this opportunity to gain political influence and expand his own power further inland. So needless to say, Zheng Zhilong was not the most devout Ming loyalist. The Longwu emperor would have another ace up his sleeve, though like Zhen Zhilong not a very trustworthy one. A group known as the Loyal and True Brigades emerged. They were former Dashun leaders who had wandered leaderless after Li Zicheng died. They ran into the army of He Tengjiao who instead of simply smashing them, shared wine with the bandit leaders and asked them to join the Ming loyalists. They agreed to do so under his banner, greatly increasing his numbers, up to an estimated 200,000. He Tengjiao was showered with titles and gifts from Emperor Longwu for bringing so many to the cause, but as you can imagine taking in bandit leaders would have dire side effects. In reality, these bandit leaders and their armies were not really submitting under the Ming, nor were any really that loyal. It was just a means to an end, an allegiance and many of these bandit armies would simply go on to become bandits again. The precedent however was set, the South Ming Regime would continuously employ former bandit leaders, even installing some with titles which would hurt them further down the road.

    While so many Ming loyalist armies fought the Qing armies on the border territory of Fujian and other areas, Zheng Zhilong made sure to hold back near the coast, despite having the most formidable force with abundant provisions. When the Qing armies approached Zhejiang and Fujian, Zheng Zhilong thought the Longwu regime could do him no more good. In order to maintain his power in Fujian and keep his tremendous wealth he decided to simply defect to the Qing. On top of this, something that is said all too often but gets disregarded occurred. Terrible weather led to terrible harvests which lead to starvation affected the troops and civilians alike.

    Still in places like western Huguang the Loyal and True were unleashed upon the Qing invaders and they won several battles. But when the Qing crossed the Xianxia Mountains, Zheng Zhilong withdrew all his forces. The Qing army marched straight through the area encountering no defense and entered Fuzhou with ease. The civil and military officials of the Longwu regime fled for their lives or surrendered, no one really put up a fight. Zheng Zhilong shaved his hair for the Manchu queue and surrendered. He was sent to Beijing. A foreign missionary who witnessed the collapse of the Longwu regime stated “Emperor Longwu acted as if he was a cowardly sheep and fled with his mighty army. The word mighty here referred to the large number of the callous people. But his escape could not save his life. When the swift Qing army caught up with him, they shot these stupid sheep with arrows”. Longwu had no children and had adopted Zheng Zhilong’s son Zheng Chenggong and when Zheng Zhilong surrendered and left for Beijing, this left his army to be inherited by Zheng Chenggong and his uncle. Zheng Chenggong goes by another name in the west, Koxinga and will play a crucial role in this story later.

    In December of 1646 the little brother of Emperor Longwu, the new Prince of Tang, Zhu Yuyue, proclaimed himself Emperor in Guangzhou, his title of reign was Shaowu. When the Qing forces captured Fuzhou and killed the Longwu Emperor, Zhu Yuyue had fled to Guangzhou and several high officials pressured him to take the throne. Unfortunately for him just a few days later the Prince of Yongming, Zhu Youlang also proclaimed himself emperor at Zhaoqing taking the title of Yongli which means perpetual calendar. Zhu Youlang was the grandson of Wanli and held a stronger claim to the throne than Zhu Yuyue. The Ming provincial governor of Guangxi, Qu Shisi who had served under both Hongguang and Longwu, championed Zhu Youlang early on claiming he had “dragon countenance” and a great character for rule. Yet,according to some surviving sources, Zhu Youlang was said to be quite weak of body and spirit, and even his own mother urged against his enthronement “My son is soft and benevolent and lacks the talent to bring order to chaos. I wish you could choose someone else” ouch, Jeb Bush much? But as usually occurs, bloodlines won out over merit.

    Now of all the Ming Princes to take up the dragon throne, Yongli’s tenure would be the longest during this period. Yet it was also characterized by the same problems as the rest, rampant factionalism, indecisive leadership and an overreliance upon warlord military figures whose interests would more often than naught trump over his own. One of Emperor Yongli’s first actions was to put He Tengjiao in charge of military affairs hoping he could rein in the Loyal and True who were not full on looting the hell out of the country side, bandits will be bandits afterall. Emperor Yongli then went a step further and began instilling titles upon the former bandit leaders, most likely fearing if he did not persuade them to his side they would join Emperor Shaowu or the Qing. This precedent would further hurt his reign down the road.

    As you can imagine both new regimes began claiming to be the legitimate successor to the South Ming Dynasty as a whole and inevitably fell into war with another. They would be so consumed by this that neither regime would do much of anything to thwart the Qing invaders. Well as the war between the 2 emperors raged, in only 40 days of proclamation, Shaowu’s forces were completely smashed at Guangzhou by the Qing and Emperor Shaowu was captured in January and committed suicide. Thus to start off his new regime, just a month or so after taking the throne Emperor Yongli would flee, not a good start. The Qing who smashed Emperor Shaowu had marched onwards and entered Guangzhou, prompting Emperor Yongli to fear for his life and flee from Zhaoqing going 170 kilometers upriver to Wuzhou. Emperor Yongli was abandoned by many members of his court and I would say rightfully so given his cowardly actions. Would you know it, the Qing army simply kept marching, as one does closer and closer to Wuzhou and guess what Emperor Yongli did, yes he fled again, this time to Guilin and even more court officials abandoned him. It was at Guilin where he made a distant relative, Zhu Rongfan Vice Minister of War and vice censor in chief and supreme commander of Sichuan and Huguang, yes the old practice of tossing a ton of different hats onto a single person. In 1647 Zhu Rongan would soon declare himself regent and cause a ton of chaos in Sichuan.

    The Qing having blown right through Guangdong with incredible speed were fast approaching Guilin, prompting, you guessed it, Yongli to flee now to Quanzhou. Many in Yongli’s court had reasoned that Quanzhou was an ideal area to have better access to the war efforts of the Loyal and True brigades. But Qu Shishi repeatedly argued they should make a stand at Guilin. ““If you want to defend Yue, you should stay in Yue. If you abandon Yue, then Yue will be imperiled. If we take one step forward, then the people will take one step forward. But if we flee far away in a single day, the people will also flee far in a day. If we run, then we cannot defend [territory]. How can we attract people to our cause?”. Qu Shishi believed they needed a stable base of operations in order to attract troops for more broad based support. He also kept arguing the previous south Ming regimes had all abandoned bases too swiftly and thus undermined their causes. We will come back to this, but now we need to look at another large aspect of the war for unification, the problem of the bandit armies and how suppressing them causes further problems. This is sort of a more micro look at how at the more local levels, certain groups of people would rise up to fight off the Qing invaders.

    The Qing army scored a series of victories south of the Yangtze River and the southeast coastal regions. They defeated quite a few South Ming regimes and Dashun and Daxi armies. But with each victory came cities being burned, plundering, murder all contributing to the further suffering of the common people. With so many people suffering came more and more revolts. People south of the Yangtze and southeast coast regions continued to resist the Qing. Peasant revolutionary organizations which had developed even before the Qing were growing exponentially. In august and september of 1646, 20,000 strong peasant armies from Liyan, Jintan and Xinghua began to cooperate with the South Ming regime to besiege Nanjing. This was quite an incredible feat, it was the secondary capital after all. The peasant armies launched several attacks causing quite a lot of anxiety for the Qing rulers, but they never managed to take Nanjing. These anti-qing actions however spread like wildfire to the Taihu area. There under the leadership of Zhang San, a mass of poor farmers, and fishermen began an organized insurrection. They kidnapped the children of rich families, hid them in the mountains and began demanding ransoms which they took to pay for soldiers and provisions. This type of uprising then sprang in the area of Suzhou and Songjiang encouraged more and more people to struggle against the Qing rule. One Taihu peasant army that participated was named the “White Head Army”, because they wore white headcloths. They managed to overthrow Wujiang, attacked Haiyan, Zhejiang and Jiashan gaining considerable fame. But like so many, they were eventually smashed by the Qing armies and their leader Wu Risheng was killed. Still under the overall leadership of Zhang San, farmers and fishermen of Taihu continued to fight and captured Yixing and fought forces in Suzhou and Changzhou. The Qing kept defeating their forces again and again, but more kept springing up and thus the White Head Army became a banner of resistance in the area south of the Yangtze River.

    When the imperial edict was given out by the Qing government that everyone should style their hair in the Manchu fashion it was stipulated that in 10 days of the edict that all should comply. The order was basically “keep your hair or your head”. Several anti-qing forces rose up claiming they would rather die than shave their heads and they began a campaign of anti hair shaving. Movements were seen in countless cities, but the anti-shaving movement became most violent in Jiangyin. Jiangyin was a prosperous city with 3 rivers and 5 lakes. It was also the gateway to Suzhou, Songjiang, Zhejiang, Fujian and Nanjing. Yan Yingyuan, a low level Ming official and a historical grapher was appointed as a commander of a rebel army in Jiangyin. Yan organized the army and deployed a pretty effective defense. The Qing sent up to 240,000 soldiers to fight the rebels, but peasants from over 18 miles away were coming to the city to fight and when they did they abandoned their farm work, hurting the overall agriculture production of the area. The peasants were quite disorganized and many times had no idea what they were doing, but they did not give up, and the Qing began to seriously worry about this. Jiangyin held out against about 10,000 Qing troops for 83 days during a fierce siege. When the city wall was finally breached on 9 October 1645, the Qing army led by the northern Chinese Ming defector Liu Liangzuo, was ordered to "fill the city with corpses before you sheathe your swords," It is estimated his army massacred a entire population, of between 74,000 and 100,000 people. Despite the brutality, local people in nearby areas did not stop. The city of Jiading which was southeast of Jiangyin had a large scale anti hair shaving revolt rise up led by Huang Chunyao and Hou Tongzeng. The Jianding people firmly guarded their city from 3 successive Qing attacks. At Songjiang armies led by Chen Zilong and Xia Yunyi began to rebel. Both cities would see similar massacres like Jiangyin. More uprising sprang up in Kunshan, Maoshan, Huizhou and countless other places. The Qing dynasty hated these revolts because the outcome was always going to be the same thing, dead potential subjects, ruined cities and devastated agricultural production.

    So as you can see, local level organizations, IE: rebel uprisings were honestly Dynasty breaking mechanisms if they were allowed to continuously grow. Perhaps you as the Qing dynasty, smash a few of these before they get too big, but what happens if one does get too big? As the Qing quelled more and more peasant uprisings and moved further south of the Yangtze river, an old enemy of the Ming was becoming more and more powerful. As a result of Li Zicheng’s death, the Qing brutal suppression of peasants and the incompetent disorganized state of the South Ming Dynasty, many peasants fled into the arms of Zhang Xianzhong.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    Alrighty so we’ve gotten a taste of the situation right after Beijing fell to the Qing, things did not go so “happily ever after”. Yet the Qing smashed Li Zicheng and quite a few self proclaimed Emperors to the new South Ming Dynasty. The fleeing emperor Yongli was still kicking, but who next could possibly hope to challenge the Qing at this point? One of the arguably most evil men in history could, just you wait.

  • Last time we spoke, Yang Sichang had enacted his “ten-sided net” plan and won a multitude of victories over rebels. However this plan proved to be a disaster overall and cost the Ming Dynasty more than it did any good. Now Li Zicheng had established himself as the de facto largest rebel leader amongst others who now held entire armies at their command. The Ming dynasty was rotting from within and its actions to prevent the rot simply delayed or sometimes even made it worse. With the allocation of so many resources to the northwest and center of China to deal with the rebels, the Ming northeastern frontier was weaker than ever. Seeing the absolute turmoil from within, the Qing soon realized they could allow the rebels to do much of the heavy lifting for them for now it was time for the Qing to overthrow one of the greatest dynasties in history.

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on world war two and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    This episode is the fall of the Ming Dynasty

    As things only worsened within the Ming dynasty, soon the Qing would make their move in one of the most decisive engagements fought between the 2 empires. Given the Ming's recent ability to withstand the Qing raids over the past few years, the Ming Court remained a bit more optimistic that the northeast could hold out. Hong Chengchou continuously argued they should remain defensive despite many in the Ming court pushing for offensive operations. Despite this, the Qing were making massive efforts at digging trenches for some upcoming sieges. By some estimates some trenches were 8 feet deep and 6 feet wide, dug in several rows. The siege efforts represented an evolution in Qing warfare, many differing groups were being employed and specialization was being seen. For example Koreans were manning many of the firearms and Mongols were used more for mobile warfare. At Jinzhou some Ming relief forces began to advance and upon hearing the firing of their guns, the defenders burst out of the south gate. The Ming engaged the Qing who had sent 7000 cavalry to hit them. A fierce battle was fought, but the Qing were able to move their cannons and used them to devastate the Ming. The defenders were badly hurt, having 738 dead and 793 wounded, but the Qing eventually turned away by nightfall. Despite this being a slight victory for the Ming, they had only months worth of supplies and were advised by Zu Dashou not to enter any battles lightly. But the Ming Court kept demanding more offensive operations, pushing Hong Chengchou to go forth with a force of 60,000 in July of 1641 to hit the Qing. The Qing forces were around Mount Rufeng, due south of Jinzhou. When Dorgon heard the report of 60,000 Ming incoming he urgently sent a message to Hung for aid. Hung told Dorgon to stand firm and sent him 3000 cavalry immediately to help out. Estimates vary, but its possible the Qing had up to 100,000 men in many elevated positions amongst all the siege works. When Hung arrived to the scene he stated “They say Hong Chengchou knows how to use troops. I can see that those aren’t empty claims. My generals should be concerned”. Some of Hong’s commanders advised a retreat, stating their supply was short, but Hong stated “now today we have this opportunity and although our food supplies are growing short, you should listen to the order of your officers. If you defend, you may die, but if you don’t fight, then you’ll still die, but only in battle do you have any hope of a favorable outcome”. Thus Hong led the attack personally against Hung’s forces. This is getting a big confusing eh with the Hung and Hong? Hong’s left and right flanks advanced haphazardly and were quickly routed by the Qing. The next day the Ming left flank panicked and fled, trampling into another and abandoning many weapons and supplies while falling victim to more Qing ambushes along the way. Over 50,000 Ming troops were lost, literally being driven into the sea. Of the left flank it is said barely 200 men survived, being ambushed all the way to Ningyuan. The left flank commander, Wang Pu would be executed for this terrible conduct. Hong Chengchou and the right flank made a fighting retreat all the way to Songshan with only 10,000 troops. Hong vowed to hold Songshan to the death with these forces, but now Jinzhou was more isolated and thus in grave danger. As the Ming dug in further, Hung told his forces all they had to do was sever the Ming supply lines and defend the coast, because the Ming were short on food and soon would fall apart. Hung returned to Shenyang and left the siege in the hands of his commanders, Dodo, Jirgalang an Abatai. Upon hearing the news, Chongzhen ordered Hong to fight to the death if necessary to protect Songshan. As the siege continued the defenders pleaded with the court to send supplies while they had only a single bowl of rice per day to survive on. Things did not fare much better for the besiegers who were also low on food supplies. It would actually be Songshan that turned itself over to the Qing before Jinzhou, in march of 1642. At Jinzhou the defenders eventually resorted to cannibalism and this finally prompted Zu Dashou to surrender the city to the Qing. Next Tashan fell with 7000 of its defenders being massacred. Xingshan fell afterwards peacefully. Many of the Ming commanders were brought to Shenyang. Eventually Hong Chengchou after refusing to eat for several days agreed to defect to the Qing, becoming the newest most prominent Ming to do so. Hong Chengchou joined the Yellow banner, working under Dorgon.

    These victories, now called the battle of Song-Jin allowed the Qing to acquire a ton of war equipment. They got their hands on 3683 cannons and 1515 various guns. Now it seemed the Qing had the necessary technological tools capable of toppling the Ming Dynasty. Hong Chongzhen just before the fall of Songshan and Jinzhou proposed opening up peace talks with the Qing. But knowing the emperor's temper, Hong had sent 2 envoys secretly and by the time they reached the Qing Songshan and Jinzhou had already fallen. Nonetheless the talks occurred and the Qing in a great position demanded territorial concessions, 1 million taels of silver per year in tribute and would pull their troops back away from Ningyuan as a gesture of good faith. The 2 states would be made equals and exchange ministers to conclude the agreements. All of this was relayed to Chongzhen who assembled his court who were deeply divided over the matter. On one hand agreeing to this would stabilize the frontier and allow the Ming to devote all their resources to deal with the rebels. But on the other hand, it was dangerous to publicly announce that the Ming dynasty was now treating with the Qing. The court decided not to go through with it and the envoys left Shenyang, thus from that point onwards no real peace talks would occur again between the 2 dynasties.

    The Qing brushed this off, because now they understood how strong their position was. The conquest of the Ming dynasty was now a reality if they so desired it. Hung held a conference with his advisers who all came to the conclusion that peasant rebellion within the Ming Dynasty they had all had reports of could do much of the heavy lifting. Hung would continue his raids to plunder more supplies and booty, but he also ordered his men not to rape or plunder indiscriminately. In september of 1642, the Qing sent 50,000 troops hitting Ming defenses along the Great wall, winning a series of minor battles. Then they assaulted Dongchang but were repulsed by its defenders led by Liu Zeing. Despite the minor setback, they would eventually capture Dongchang 3 months later. It turned out the defenses of places in Shandong were oriented towards the sea and the defenders were equipped and trained to counter attacks from that direction, thus they were not as prepared for cavalry attacks. The Qing then attacked Jining, where Prince Lu courageously led the defense, but the city soon fell and Prince Lu commited suicide. Ming Grand secretary Zhou Yanru then told the emperor he would lead relief troops himself. He did, and they routed quickly and were defeated, though he would send reports back to Beijing stating he had won a great victory. Zhou also had not been in the actual battlefield, but rather dining at banquets with friends while simultaneously sending a stream of victory reports to the Ming court. He was not alone in this, many other Ming officials were lying or over exaggerating their war efforts, not wanting to face the wrath of the Emperor’s temper.

    During the raids into Nan Zhili, Shandong and Henan in 1642-1643 the Ming records estimated the Qing had attacked 3 superior prefectures, 18 regular prefectures, 67 counties and 88 towns. They had captured almost 400,000 people, 321,000 livestock, 12,000 taels of gold and 2.2 million taels of silver, a colossal sum. Alongside all of this they of course got their hands on more firearms. Matters were even worse than the plundering however, as the Qing raided more and more starving refugees fled into Shandong and Liaodong burdening local officials. Just about nothing the Ming did could hinder the Qing, until one thing put a dent in the Qing attacks, Hung Taiji died in August of 1643. Historians think it was a stroke that killed the great ruler.

    On the rebel front, in October of 1642, the great city of Kaifeng in Henan, once a former capital of China was completely destroyed by a man-made flood. The flood submerged the city and its estimated 80% of its population died, over 370,000 people. This would be a setback not only for the Ming, but also for Li Zicheng who had hoped to use its capture as a springboard for his ultimate goal, a thrust at Beijing. After the capture of Luoyang, Li had grown more aware of the necessity for a strategic base of operations so he could hit the capital. Kaifeng was not just a strategic place it also was a symbolic one, as mentioned it was a previous capital.

    Li Zichengs forces had actually assaulted Kaifeng a few times between 1641-1642, but each time they were repulsed and decided to attack other cities and return. By mid july of 1642, famine was spreading with Kaifeng and Li’s forces had returned to try again. They expanded defensive moats around the city to siege and wait them out. Then they got the bright idea of utilizing the Yellow River to flood out the defenders. On july 29th, an impatient Li Zicheng killed a subordinate who proposed the idea of using the river, as his efforts to do so had not yet worked. The moats had only filled up with 5 inches of water. Then on August the 10th, the defenders of the city burst out to try and make a decisive victory against the rebels. The battle was ferocious and Li Zicheng fought in the very thick of it pushing the defenders back into the city. Kaifengs walls were beginning to crumble, food was scarce and no relief armies were able to come to its aid. The usual reports of people resorting to cannibalism began, thus things were quite dire. This got the defenders to think of anyway to escape this plight, one idea was to use the river. Water levels had risen to around 4 feet deep and heavy rains were adding to this. The defenders hoped that by diverting the river, it might provide them with fish and other food sources. The commander of kaifeng in desperation sent 3000 of his best troops out in the middle of the night to cut the dikes, but his men were caught and turned back. Then in the middle of the night on october 7th, the defenders were awakened by a great roar and the river suddenly came crashing right into the city. The rebels pulled back and watched the enormous power of the river doing all the work for them. Historians are not 100% sure if the rebels had ultimately cut down the dikes or perhaps heavy rains simply collapsed them. But in any case, the river smashed through the Cao gate in the north, sweeping everything before it and rushed out the south gate. People desperately climbed towers to avoid the raging waters or made rafts. The commander of the city built some 20 boats to evacuate, Prince Zhou and other high officials, as most commoners were forced to cling to tree branches and debris praying for rescue.By dawn of october 10th, the city was fully submerged. The rebels looted what was left of the city, but it was in such a sorry state there was no point trying to occupy it as a base of operations. Thus a disappointed Li Zicheng turned further south. It was a catastrophe for the Ming, Kaifeng was a base of operations used to coordinate defensive efforts for all of Henan and specifically to protect the southern approach to Beijing. Now as Li Zichengs forces moved south, also in august of 1642, Zhang Xianzhong was embarking on a new venture. His force had been camped in Lake Chao not too far from Luzhou where he began to recruit and train a naval force. Zhang planned to attack Nanjing via the Yangtze river. For Li Zicheng, he was turning his attention towards Nanyang where Sun Chuanting was leading Ming troops. Li and Sun’s forces clashed a few times, but Li was able to bait, ambush and eventually force Sun’s forces to retreat towards Shaanxi and the Tong Pass. This allowed Li to hit the last position of Ming strength left in Henan, Runing.

    Runing was defended by commander Yang Wenyue with only 3000 troops. Yang also happened to be an old rival of Li’s who had fought him a few times outside Kaifeng. As soon as the rebels approached the city, the defenders began to break and fled. Apparently the defenders threw corpses over their walls into the moat in desperation. When Li Zicheng entered the city he faced the captured Yang and said to him “Master is an important official of the dynasty who will not submit to us. But now that we’ve caught you, what is your wish?” Yang replied “I myself, without any soldiers, only want to kill you. So today I’ll die at you hands. What else can I say?”.Yang was then executed in front of the Sanyi temple. Li Zicheng followed this all up by taking Xiangyang, De’an and Chentian in early 1643. At Xiangyang, Li took new steps to building up his new order. He took the residence of Prince Xiang and made the prince and his siblings earls. Prince Xiangyang was renamed Xiangjing and Li took the title of “Long Accumulated Worshiping Heaven Leading-in-Righteousness Generalissimo”, and thank god he decided to shorten that all down to commander in chief. His secondhand man, Luo Rucai took the title “generalissimo whose virtue and awe pacifies the people on behalf of heaven”, what is with these guys and these ridiculously long titles? At this point Li Zichengs force began taking all men they captured between the ages of 15-40 and enrolled them in the army, and soon they were a goliath 600,000 man strong force. A few months later, Li Zicheng adopted the title of Prince of Xinshun and began procedures for taking future cities. Now if defenders resisted for 1 day, 30% of them would be killed, if resistance lasted 2 days, 70% would be killed and if after 3 days all would die. When Chongzhen heard reports about this he was utterly disgusted. Zhang Xianzhong also upted his anty by renaming and reclassifying captured towns and prefectures in Central China even when he did even not hold them. To add to the Ming’s misery, some of Zuo Lingyu’s subordinates attempted a mutiny to take Nanjing, raising a ton of tension. Zuo was eventually able to quell the mutiny, but it distracted him and his forces from Zhang’s operations.

    At the beginning of 1643, Zhang remained the only rebel leader not directly subordinate to Li Zicheng. Zhang knew the danger posed by this and started to consolidate and legitimize his own power lest he be swallowed up by Li. Thus Zhang decided to attack Nanjing and as we mentioned he built some naval power to do so. In may Zhang’s force moved into eastern Huguang capturing several cities and he soon renamed himself Prince of Xin Shun. Then Zhang targeted the capital of Huguang, Wuchang. Many of Wuchangs forces were former mutineers under Zuo Lingyu’s. The city's defenses did not fare too well to say the least and fell by July the 15th. In the chaos of its capture, thousands were massacred by Zhang’s men and thousands more drowning in the local river. Prince of Chu himself was drowned in a bamboo cage by Zhang’s orders. The river was allegedly so full of corpses that the fish were unfit for consumption months after. Zhang took all the captured men between 15-20 enrolled them as soldiers and killed the rest in quite a grisly manner. He renamed the city Tianshoufu meaning “received from heaven” and the capital of his new Western Kingdom. Zhang then elevated the late Prince Chu’s younger brother to a position of nobility within his new order. Zhang went on to make all these proclamations and promises of restructuring so much, but he only really ended up occupying the city for barely a month before being chased off by Zuo Liangyu. As he withdrew he torched the city, I guess so long for all that? When Li Zicheng got report of all these ongoings he decided to place 1000 taels for Zhang's head, demonstrating the emerging rivalry. Zhang moved on to occupy Yezhou then used his boats to strike at Changsha. Like the poor souls of Wuchang, the defenders of Changsha did not take notice of the incoming rebel force and did not make any strong defensive points along the city's northern approach. When Zhang approached the city’s gates he demanded their surrender and a brief effort was made by the defenders to repel them. Knowing it was fruitless, the commander of Changsha asked if he could give his life in return for the sparing of the people. Zhang accepted this, it is said the commander's eyes remained clear and bright and he did not cry out as he was cut to pieces. The Ming Court was feeling helpless towards the declining situation, now both the frontier and interior were in utter chaos. Officials were being impeached left right and center and some executed. More and more officials poured into the imperial palace as the Emperor demanded solutions.

    In spring of 1643, Li Zicheng began to consolidate his movement by eliminating rival subordinates. The first to go was Ge Guoyan after he secretly met with Luo Rucai which prompted suspicion from Li. Li then invited Ge to a banquet, got him very drunk and killed him, thus taking all of Ge’s forces as his own. Subordinates Zuo Jinwang and He Yilong were dispersed, in a similar fashion. And even Luo Rucai would face elimination, it seems he had grown to popular despite the fact, unlike Zhang he never expanded his political goals and prefered the life of a wandering bandit. There is some evidence to suggest Li took out Luo because rumor had it the Ming were trying to get Luo to kill Li and defect. Luo did not fall for the banquet affair, but later would be killed by a death squad sent by Li whom caught Luo asleep with his forces in camp. Luo’s forces would be taken by Li who continued his purge, which prompted some subordinates to defect to the Ming. The great purging did not go unnoticed prompting Zhang to send Li gifts, probably hoping to get on his good side, but Li sent nothing in return.

    In autumn of 1643, the Ming made a large offensive against Li Zicheng. The emperor ordered Sun Chuanting to conduct an operation in Henan towards the east to crush Li once and for all. The problem for a long time though was most military strength was in the northeast thwarting off the Qing, but now it seems the court decided to divert considerable resources from the northeast in the hopes of destroying Li Zicheng in Henan. Sun Chuanting was not loved by the local gentry in Shaanxi because he raised many taxes to pay for local defenses, despite them being successful. These gentry thought if they allowed Sun to lead Ming armies away from his defensive positions, he would no longer bother them with more taxation, so they supported the idea. Sun opposed the operation for many reasons, firstmost he thought his defensive plans were bearing fruit in Shaanxi. If Li’s army swelled, their supply lines would become problematic and with winter on everyone's heels, Sun figured Li’s army's morale would eventually break and they would have to go west, falling upon Sun’s defenses. Sun was also concerned with supplying his force in the event of an offensive operation as in the past this proved to be fatal. He advised waiting until the following spring, but was completely ignored as all the gentry were now pushing for the operation. Sun eventually had to bow to local gentry and court pressures to lead the offensive, remarking “this is the path to ruin” as he did so. Sun marched down the yellow river valley gathering Ming remnant forces in Luoyang. Sun then ordered Zuo Liangyu to take a force and advance from Jiangxi and strike south upon Runing, hoping they could perform a pincer attack. However Zuo’s force was still recovering from being smashed the year earlier and had to refuse this order, something increasingly being done by commanders in the field. So Sun had to advance alone and managed to smash a rebel force at Ruzhou to the utter delight of the Ming court. They were all jubilant, except for the Vice minister of War, Zhng Fengyi who reminded them the rebels might be feinting an illusion of weakness to lure Sun into a trap. Well Sun soon won victories at Baofeng and Jia pushing the rebels further towards Xiangcheng. Despite the victories, Sun was facing the very problems he had foreseen. His troops were running low on supplies, and years upon years of scorched earth tactics had devastated the agriculture of Henan. Thus Sun’s troops were at the mercy of neighboring provinces for food supplies but the officials in those regions were either unable or unwilling to send the provisions. At that point Sun’s 2 subordinate commanders argued if they should go back on the defensive or continue with the offense. Sun had a spy within Li Zichengs camp telling him that Li force was on the ropes, thus Sun decided they would continue. As November hit, things got really bad, supplies worsened and Sun troops began to raid local towns or eat their own horses. The rearguard of his army then got cut off by forces under Li who spread rumors to them that Ming relief forces were not coming to their aid. This all panicked the men and the rear began to rout. Upon seeing the chaos, Sun ordered a general retreat and told his subordinates Gao Jie to protect their rear and for Bai Guang’en to lay ambushes to cover the retreat. Bai took his forces and simply bolted for the Tong Pass. Unfortunately for his almost complete infantry force, do remember they began eating all their horses afterall, well Li’s cavalry found them and smashed them to pieces. Sun’s army was soon routed losing 40,000 men and abandoning an incredible amount of weaponry to the rebels. Sun tried to make a stand at the Tong Pass but his forces crumbled to the rebels. Bai Guang’en not only got his force smashed, but he ended up defecting to Li and became a commander for him. Sun proceeded to retreat up the Weir River valley where he would fight a final battle at Weinan and he would die with his men. Gao Jie took his remaining forces and fled north, leaving Beijing completely open to attack. All of this convinced Li that the time was ripe to declare his intent to overthrow the Ming dynasty and formally establish his own regime which would be at Xi’an.

    While that was going down, Zuo Liangyu was fighting Zhang Xianzhong’s forces further south. Although Zuo’s men managed to recapture Xiangyang and Nanyang, Zhang as we mentioned had taken Changsha and now fortified it. The fighting between Zuo and Zhang would continue and before long Zhang found himself setting up in Sichuan where he established his Great Kingdom of the West. It was there as I mentioned that he took Yang Sichang’s corpse and desecrated it. Back in Beijing, the court now made Yu Yingui supreme commander of Shaanxi. And Yu was very skeptical about any effort to turn the tide at this point, well no duh.

    With Sun Chuanting dead, Li Zicheng had several options laid bare to him. One of his subordinates advised him to take Hebei’s capital next, another said they should loop around Jinling to get supplies and hit Beijing, others suggested taking a position in Henan and capturing further cities to draw more troops then go across Shanxi to hit Beijing. In the end Li liked the last plan which was advised by his subordinate Gu Junen. Yet before Li would set out to do all of this he wanted to create his own administration in Xi’an. He also decided the attack on Beijing would be done from 2 directions. Li and his subordinate Liu Zongmin would advance on Beijing from the northwest, first heading from Xi’an and seizing Ming garrisons along the way through Shaanxi and the Great Wall at Juyong pass. His other subordinate Liu Fanglian would advance from the south, crossing through Henan to hit Beijing.

    Xi’an was protected by some of the largest walls in all of China and would fall without a single fight as one of its leading officials was working with the rebels. At Xi’an Li made the Prince of Qin an administrator and renamed the city Chang’an, recalling its Tang dynasty name. Li followed this up by adopting many Tang Dynasty names for office positions and cities to add legitimacy to his own name and movement. Li also began wearing dragon robes and began to distribute wealth to the people. Li’s armies fanned out and conquered numerous places renaming them. One place they took was his hometown of Mizhi which he renamed Tianbao “protected by Heaven” and he began to construct a palace there. On New Years day of 1644, Li Zicheng declared his rival Shun Dynasty within the city of Xi’an, now called Chang’an. Li took the reign title, Yongchang meaning “eternal prosperity”. Li then attacked the last remaining Ming stronghold in Shaanxi, that of Yulin. The fighting was fierce, but Li’s cannons broke its walls. Next to fall was Ningxia, and Qingyang where Liu Zongmin suffered an astounding 30,000 casualties but took the city. Guyuan was handed over to Bai Guang’en without a fight and soon the rebels were marching towards Gansu. Meanwhile Beijing was in full panic, some even advising a retreat to the second capital of Nanjing. In response to Li's march, the court dispatched commanders to various routes going to the capital to hinder Li. Li Mingrui the Hanlin Academy lecturer advised the emperor in front of the court that he should have a quote “southern tour to Nanjing wherein by virtue of the monarch leaving the capital like a dragon rising or a tiger leaping the masses would spontaneously rise to quell the rebels”. Emperor Chongzhen made no note of this at court, but in private told Li he agreed but feared what would befall the Ming subjects if they learnt the Emperor was fleeing to Nanjing. They then secretly went over the logistics of how to get the Emperor to Nanjing safely. Li suggested taking men from the 8 prefectures around the capital rather than any from the northeast which would look like they are abandoning territory to the Qing. In the midst of these plans another advisor came forward, Grand Secretary Li Jiantai who argued they should raise 1 million taels of silver to recruit and fund an army to take Shanxi back. The Emperor pressed him on this and Li stated he would work with the scholar Shi Long to gather supporters from all over the northwest. The Emperor in absolute desperation liked this plan and gave the go, giving Li the double edged sword of authority. It is claimed the force that was sent out was 100,000 strong. The problem was all these men was that they were in the words of a modern scholar “dandies, spoiled rich kids, space fillers and incompetents”. Around half the force deserted after marching only 30 miles and returned to Beijing. Before any serious fighting ever occurred most of the force simply scattered. Just 3 days after the army left Beijing, the Emperor asked his Minister of War about Li’s whereabouts and the official had no idea prompting Chongzhen to exclaim “how can my Minister of War not know this?”. At this point the Emperor sat down with an official to look at the numbers. The officials told him the rebels claimed to have a 1 million man strong army, but reassured him it was probably around 100,000. Then he gave the emperor a sobering account that the Ming forces around Beijing were around 80,000 strong, but only around 30,000 of them could be somewhat trusted and of that only 3000 really trusted. It was at this point the emperor revisited the southern tour idea in private while putting on a face in public that he would not leave Beijing.

    News from the front indicated Shun forces had just captured Taiyuan and Datong where they killed another Ming prince. Then the Shun took Xuanfu whose defenders simply turned the city over and the populace welcomed the Shun with cheers and burning incense. Then Changping fell in March without much of a fight. When the Emperor received news of Changping’s capture he got up during a court meeting and simply walked out. It is alleged he paced around the forbidden city screaming out “my minister have failed me! Failed me!”. Li Zicheng sent envoys to Beijing asking for the city to be handed over without a fight and offering a deal with the emperor whereby he would be recognized as a prince and together they would face the Qing. This offer would mean that Li would be formally be made a Prince of Shun and all territory in the northwest would be his. Second the Shun would receive a tribute of 1 million taels. Third the Shun would not take orders from Chongzhen, but would help fight the Qing and assist in quelling other rebels. Emperor Chongzhen did not accept the proposal. Chongzhen ordered many of his children to flee south and issued a directive for all his civil officials to kill themselves since they had failed to save the dynasty.

    When the rebels began to attack the gates of Beijing, the defenders fired powder shots as they had all reached an agreement with rebel agents. Li Zicheng made great efforts to break the will of the defenders at Beijing before his approach. On the afternoon of April the 24th, one of Emperor Chongzhen’s eunuchs gave the orders to open the city gates. Li promised the people of Beijing amnesty to all those who surrendered. Emperor Chongzhen appointed Liu Wenbing in charge of rallying the populace to defend the city to which Liu replied “If your majesty cannot do it, then how can I?”. The Emperor then went to the Qianqing palace in the forbidden city and told the empress “All is lost. As you are the Mother of All Under Heaven, you should die” she replied “I have followed your highness for 18 years and I will die without a word; today we die together with the altars of state and we will have no more regrets”. The emperor ordered the royal family remaining in Beijing to commit suicide and for the younger ones to try and escape. The empress and many other members were able to commit suicide, but Chongzhens youngest daughter Zhaowang he had to kill himself with a sword. Allegedly, Chongzhen by this point was so utterly drunk, he accidentally cut Zhaowang’s arm off in the process and left her to die in a pool of her own blood. It is also furthermore rumored she would survive the wound and would live out the rest of her life as a buddhist nun. Chongzhen and his faithful eunuch servant, Wang Cheng’en went to the base of Coal Hill and hung themselves from a tree. The Emperor left a suicide note reading in part “My inadequate virtues and weak flesh have invited punishment from Heaven. Now the treacherous rebels are invading the capital. My officials have caused all this! I must die but I am ashamed to face my ancestors. Therefore I take off my crown and cover my face with my hair. Rebels! You can dismember my body, but do not harm the common people!”.

    As the Emperor lay dead, several eunuchs of the Ming Court, alongside the Minister of War, Zhang Jinyan welcomed Li Zicheng into the city. Li Zicheng initially prohibited his men from plundering Beijing, but it was not too long until the populace was subjected to rape and looting. Afterall how could Li Zicheng stop his men from the ultimate prize that was Beijing. The Shun Dynasty was beginning to be established, but unfortunately for Li Zicheng there loomed a rather large problem at hand. That problem was in the form of the Qing empires forces at the doorstep of the now dead Ming dynasty.

    Li Zicheng had a major problem, the Qing had bided their time waiting for a moment to strike and it was coming any minute now. Li Zicheng’s only hope to hold them off would be to try and rush to the northeast and win over as many of the Ming defenders in the area as possible and bolster them up. In May Li Zicheng had to set forth from Beijing to meet the enemy in the northeast, leaving his subordinate Niu Jinxing in command of Beijing. Over in Shanhaiguan was commander Wu Sangui who was very unsure what to do. Then Wu learnt that the forces of Li Zicheng had abused members of his family back home and decided he would defect to the Qing. Li Zicheng heard reports of Wu’s resolve and begrudgingly sent a small force quickly to attack Wu who engaged that said force around Yongping. Wu smashed the force to pieces and fled back to Shanhaiguan. Now enraged, Li and Liu went forth with an army of around 100,000 to crush Wu. Now Wu realized the Qing military were most likely better off than the rebels and after some lengthy negotiations with Prince Dorgon, Wu arranged to allow the Qing to enter China proper through Shanhaiguan unmolested in exchange for their assistance in defeating the treacherous Li Zicheng. It seems Wu believed he might be able to score himself as the next ruler of the Ming state or atleast become a Prince under the Qing. Dorgon was quite suspicious of Wu however. The offer suited the Qing of course, it would allow them to look like they were avenging the Ming Dynasty against the rebels. Before Wu had come forward, Dorgon had been planning an attack on Beijing by coming through inner mongolia, but now the alliance solved that problem entirely.

    A Qing force of 140,000 came to Shanhaiguan and joined forces with Wu’s. Dorgon ordered Wu to take his army as a vanguard for their combined force. Dorgon’s thinking was by doing so Wu’s men would take the brunt of the hard fighting and this would ensure after their victory that his forces would not be strong enough to stand up to them if he had a change of heart. Li Zicheng had set out with 100,000 men, but many of his commanders were recent turncoats such as Tang Tong and Bai Guang’en. Also for many of the rebels, the ultimate goal had been achieved, they looted Beijing, many did not have the mind to continue fighting. Li Zicheng’s ultimate mistake however was not that he was engaging in combat with Wu or the Qing, but that it never occurred to him that they would join forces.

    In late May the Wu/Qing and Shun forces would do battle on a field just outside Shanhaiguan. Shanhaiguan had 3 outlying castles guarding the interior approach and Wu had prepared his main defensive line at the west bank of Shihe. 40,000 Shun troops crashed into Wu’s main defensive line and Wu motioned his forces back into the main castle while simultaneously sending 20,000 men to the north and west to cut off the Shun’s escape routes. In the initial clashes the battle was fairly even, with both Wu and the Shun losing considerable amounts of men. Wu grew concerned that the Qing were merely going to allow his force to be smashed to pieces and then sweep in afterwards, and he had every right to think this, they most likely were doing just that. Despite the odds, Wu’s force seemed to be turning the tide somewhat and this prompted Dorgon to send 2 waves of 20,000 cavalry to envelop the Shun. The next day, Wu led a charge against the Shun formation but they repulsed him right back into the castle pass. Then the Qing cavalry of the White banner led by Ajige and Dodo smashed into the Shun. Wu’s men saw the Shun morale crumble and charged upon them again, bursting out of the castle. Li Zicheng was directing the battle from a high tower position and upon seeing the cavalry, he simply assumed them to be Wu’s forces. dust clouds made by the charging cavalry made it very hard to see what was going on, but as the battle heated up more, Li began to see swarms of arrows raining down on his men and he realized these were Manchu people, he screamed out “the tartars have come!”. The Shun force collapsed, many were driven towards the sea and drowned. The Shun force retreated scattered, with many running back to Beijing. Li and his forces then fled as fast as they could for Beijing where they staged a very quick enthronement ceremony for Li where as he declared himself emperor. Then Li and his army plundered Beijing and most of the rebel left the city the day after, carrying off their loot.

    Prince Dorgon, serving as a regent for the child Emperor of the Qing, Shunzhi, entered Beijing in May of 1644 seeing all the rebel armies flee before his men. He announced to the populace they were now under Qing rule as Li Zicheng fled west to Xi’an. Over the next 6 months, Li’s authority would disintegrate throughout all the territories he had conquered. Ming loyalists, some semi-independent warlords and the Qing swallowed up everything in sight. Eventually Li found himself in the summer of 1645 being pursued by the Qing prince Ajige to the vicinity of Mount Jiugong. How Li died is not exactly known, some say he hung himself after being surrounded by some angry peasants. Others say peasants beat him to death looking for food. What is known is that his corpse was badly mutilated when it was found. Li Zichengs body was sent south to Ming authorities who decaptitied it. Our old friend Zhang Xianzhong was in Sichuan and would hold out until 1647. Ming loyalists in the south would hold out on the mainland until 1662, ironically many of Zhang Xianzhong’s subordinates would be their commanders. Some Ming loyalists famously would hold out in Taiwan until 1683 still trying to reclaim the dragon throne for the Ming.

    History marks the fall of the Ming dynasty to be in 1644 with the death of Emperor Chongzhen. Many historians argue various reasons for why the Ming Dynasty ultimately fell. One history stated quote “could no longer manage its resources, utilize its strengths, and maintain its focus.”.

    And indeed the Ming Dynasty fell as a result of gradual political, strategic and tactical errors that simply grew so large they could not be overcome. Given proper leadership, delegation of authority and allocation of resources, the Ming Dynasty most likely could have survived. The fall of the Ming dynasty has captivated people for centuries, for it was one of the wealthiest, most powerful and prosperous empire in the world, yet it fell to peasant rebels and some unified tribal peoples of the steppe, how? As is seen with most of China’s history, the fall of the Ming is seen in terms of a dynastic cycle, whereby a dynasty eventually becomes so corrupt it simply collapses upon itself and another more diligent government thats over. It is of course not as so simple as that as any of you who lasted this long can already imagine. There are various reasons for its downfall. Take for example the unbelievable factionalism of the Ming bureaucracy which in turn politicized just about every aspect of the government. By the end of its rule it certainly seemed the politics were trumping the military when it came to defending themselves. Then these problems were only made worse when more and more competent officials were jailed or executed and more and more incompetent officials were the only ones left to fill roles. The last emperor Chongzhen certainly did not make things any easier, such as when he forced Sun Chuanting to go out into the field against Li Zicheng. Also the issue of climate was striking, during the 17th century the world was witnessing what we call the last of the little ice ages. The era was marked by less solar activity and tons of volcanic eruptions that shot into the atmosphere darkened the skies. The global temperatures got cooler by around 1.-2 degrees right around 1640 in the midst of many violent upheavals. Hell remember that story about the island of Juehua being attacked because the waters had frozen allowing Nurhaci’s men to cross them? It was much to the shock of the defenders and for good reason, sometimes climate can have an incredible effect on such events. The amount of natural disasters and droughts which led to wide scale famines had an enormous effect on producing the sort of situation that allowed such a large rebellion to take place. Personally having studied quite a bit about the Taiping Rebellion that will occur in the 19th century, its all quite fascinatingly similar. And trust me the fall of the Ming dynasty is quite foreshadowing.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    So at long last the Ming dynasty has fallen and now we have the Qing dynasty taking its seat upon the dragon throne. I thought it to be very important to explain how the Ming fell, because in many ways it will mirror how the next dynasty will fall. Stating that the Qing dynasty certainly took note of what befell the Ming and made their primary endeavor to root out corruption. But ironically it would be just that which would destroy them as well.

  • Last time we spoke, the death of Nurhaci led to the rise of his grandson Hung Taiji. The Sea King Mao Wenlong was finally caught lying about his military achievements and even secretly negotiating with the Jin. Mao’s rival Yuan Chonghuan took little time to get rid of Mao, thus riding himself of the man stealing his limelight. Unfortunately it was not long when Yuan would fall victim to a sneaky ploy of Hung Taiji and was executed under the false pretense that he was a turncoat like Mao. Hung managed to gain some very valuable Ming defectors and upgraded his military with new cannons and naval units. Then Hung proclaimed his people to be the Manchu under a brand new Qing dynasty as he conquered all of Korea. With the Koreans now giving him tribute, he soon turned his gaze towards the Ming, with some new toys in hand.

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on world war two and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    This episode is The Rebellion of Li Zicheng



    In early 1634, one man, Chen Qiyu, was instilled with an incredible amount of power. He was made Supreme commander of Shaanxi, Shanxi, Henan, Huguang and Sichuan. The Ming Court had realized the required authority necessary to coordinate operations against the wandering bandit menace. Droughts, famine, even cannibalism was seen all over, driving peasants to swell the ranks of bandits who soon became rebel armies. So many officials in numerous provinces complained they lacked the resources necessary to feed their troops, distribute relief or quell rebellions. In turn when they would fail, they would be dismissed, leading to a further shortage of competent men to manage the terrible situation. In the area between Shaanxi and Henan, over 200,000 rebels began taking smaller towns and killing local officials. The rebels would routinely attack smaller towns, usually in groups of 10,000 and perform atrocities against officials. They would avoid any open battles with Ming forces, always on the move. Then all the prominent rebel leaders got together for a meeting, which would be a rather dramatic turning point. The overarching leader amongst them was Li Zicheng who would make many key decisions for them all. They decided to divide their forces and strike out simultaneously in all directions. The most successful of these groups would be the Rebel leaders Zhang Xianzhong and Gao Yingxiang who hit Nan Zhili. Enroute to their target, their troops carried around banners declaring themselves followers of the True Primal Dragon Emperor and thus they were identifying themselves as something more than just mere bandits. They marched through Henan on their way into Nan Zhili, looting the town of Fengyang. There they killed over 4000 Ming officials and civilians performing some heinous atrocities, some stating they even ripped fetuses out of pregnant women. They razed everything to the ground and looted the place for days. Once they were done, Gao headed west and Zhang went east to attack Luzhou. Defending Luzhou was commander Wu Dapo who deployed peasants and troops to defend the town. He set up cannons atop walls and stockpiled large logs to be thrown at the rebels. Then as the bandits got close, his forces opened fire killing around a 1000 of them.Yet such local competent commanders were increasingly becoming rare and the Emperor continuously resorted to dispatching eunuchs wherever he could to resolve matters. These eunuchs of course were not military men and many had ulterior motives. The bandits were moving further south freaking out the Ming Court and Emperor. Drastic measures were enforced such as rushing 43,000 troops from other theaters, such as from the northeast where the Qing could strike at any moment. In the wake of the absolute disaster at Fengyang, Hong Chengchou was given the task to crush the rebels within 6 months time and the emperor followed this up by pledging almost 1 million taels worth of supplies for the task. Despite all these major efforts, Hong had far too few troops, too much ground to cover and far little time.

    The rebels roamed freely, prompting one official in Henan to state “the villages are bereft of people, white bones fill the wilderness and at night the crying of ghosts can be heard everywhere”. Rice inflation was so high, it is alleged people were buying human flesh of the deceased in markets. The rebel groups were demonstrating more and more tactical awareness. They began burning crops in certain areas to deny food supplies to pursuing Ming forces. Gao Yinxiang besieged Guangzhou with a force of possibly 70,000 and used many heavy cannons. Gao followed this up by attacking Taozhou, dangerously close to the secondary capital of the Ming, Nanjing. His forces would crush a Ming army in Song and Henan before he returned to Shaanxi in 1636. The rebels and Ming officials would go back and forth with countless battles and one Ming official realized the rebellions now needed to be quelled as a first priority. The Minister of War Yang Sichang stated the rebels were a “disease of the heart” and that the capital region must be protected from the spreading poison of the rebels. The frontier war with the Manchu he deemed to be like the arms of a person, not necessary for survival, but the heart was. Yang saw the greatest danger being in Shaanxi, Henan, Huguang and Jiangbei. He thought the empire required a bold new strategy to restore state control of the central plains. Once this was achieved, then they could turn their attention towards the Manchu threat. Yang’s plan was to become known as “shi ian zhi wang” the Ten-sided net. Like most grand proposals during this time, it looked amazing on paper and would be a catastrophic failure.

    By 1637 the scope of the rebellions had expanded greatly and the center of its activity was shifting from south and east closer to the capital and the agricultural heartland of the Ming dynasty. Thus Yang proscribed the construction of more defenses along the frontier, hoping to bolster everything aside from troops. He wanted to keep around just 50,000 troops outside the Great Wall, thinking it would be a sufficient deterrent against the Manchu. The idea was, if the 50,000 were attacked by Manchu invaders, they could buy enough time for reinforcements to come. In the meantime they could even open up peace talks with the Manchu simply to buy more time for what he really wanted to do, quell the rebellions once and force all. There was quite an uproar in the Ming Court over the idea of opening peace talks with the Manchu, but it would begrudgingly be done. Some others in the court advised opening up trade markets with their Mongol allies to procure horses, hoping to drive a wedge between the Manchu and their Mongol allies. Ming intelligence at the time suggested the Mongolia frontier situation was a hot spot not just between the Ming and Manchu, but also between the Manchu and certain Mongol groups. The idea as stated by one official was “to use barbarians to control barbarians”.

    Yang believed given adequate supplies, how many times have I stated that one at this point, given adequate supplies the soldiers could be fed and would fight, and in turn would be able to depend on the populace accordingly. Once the populace felt safe, they would direct their allegiance to the Ming government and be less inclined to join rebel groups. Then with the populace, they could form militias and finally cut off, isolate and stave out the rebel groups. Yang then prescribed punishment and even execution for Ming officials who were derelict in their duties. This was the “ten-sided net” strategy. Yang said Shaanxi, Henan, Huguang and Jiangbei would have 4 lines of defense, each with a pacification commissioner assigned. At Yansui, Shaanxi, Shandong, Jiangnan, Jiangxi and Sichuan would be 6 auxiliary lines of defense, each also assigned pacification commissioners. Those commissioners would be directing both defensive and offensive operations. Through their efforts they would gradually close in around rebel positions until all were trapped, then killed or captured. Defense was the primary function of it all. Once the net closed in on the rebels, the Ming would employ “clearing the fields and strengthening the walls” as a general strategy. Thus with heavily defended cities and no supplies available to them, the rebels would eventually be forced to surrender. 2 supreme commanders, the Zongli and Zongdu would smash the enemy wherever possible, while the rest of the officials would act more locally. The Zongli and Zongdu’s troops would be elite troops with better mobility. Yang estimated they would need 10,000 troops in key defensive posts and around 30,000 for each supreme commander. In total they would require 120,000 troops, of which 36,000 would be mounted. Overall, the problem should be resolved in a matter of just 6 months, sure. Now to equip and supply all these troops it was estimated to cost 2.8 million taels. How were they going to pay for all this, taxes taxes taxes. Yang argued they could increase the land tax by about 12 ounces of grain to bring in an extra 1.9 million taels and get another 400,000 via special taxes on surplus lands. 200,000 from postal revenues and the rest perhaps by raising the sales tax a bit. There was a ton of debate in the Court over all this, but Yang got his way. The plan was a go though it certainly had its critics. One major critic against Yang and his plan was Sun Chuanting, the Grand coordinator of Shaanxi. Sun argued countless problems with the ten-sided net plan. First he argued the funds and manpower for it were highly unrealistic “how can the state raise an extra 2.8 million tales when they’ve already spent more than 1 million taels in extra revenues”. Sun re-iterated this argument asking where the troops would even come from and how the hell would he manage to do all this in just 6 months. Sun also stated the seasons when this would take place were not the same seasons the bandits usually were at large. There was also the issue of terrain, the rebels could still flee to mountains and forests, which large Ming armies would lose them in. Sun said many more troops would actually be required for this plan and those officials appointed needed to not only be competent, but also very knowledgeable at the local levels. Sun characterized the plan to be more of an “empty net strategy”. But like most critics, hell the majority of our politicians today to boot, Sun had no alternative plan. I am sure any of you in the audience can already see one of the largest issues with this plan, that of taxation. The peasants are rebelling because there is no food or funds in their regions, so the plan is to further tax them to stop them from rebelling? This issue did not go unnoticed, the Emperor stated himself “leadership and money needs to come from the gentry, not the masses. Suppressing the bandits requires a big campaign which requires lots of troops. The money can’t come from the people, but should come from the treasury, but the treasury is empty”.



    Xiong Wencan, a man who gained a reputation for quelling rebels was appointed as one of the supreme commanders, alongside Hong Chengchou. Out in the field, Xiong and Hong managed to achieve many victories against the rebels, Hong even managed to defeat Li Zicheng, one of the biggest rebel leaders at large. But these victories did not amount to peace for the populace. Many of the pacifications armies would loot and rape as they drove the rebels into the mountains. As is expected, Ming commanders would not venture deep into mountains, fearing rebel ambushes. Ming forces won numerous battles, claiming the lives of thousands of rebels, but were never able to eliminate the enemy entirely from any given region. At one point, the rebel leader Zhang Xianzhong was defeated in battle and had to surrender. This prompted some Ming officials to discuss the idea of using Zhang Xianzhong to kill other rebel leaders. Most officials deemed the idea completely insane and it was soon disregarded. While the discussions were going on however, Xiong Wencan allegedly gave Zhang 20,000 men to help maintain local order. This eye opening moment prompted Yang Sichang to become more more personally involved in the campaign, not liking how his subordinates were simply doing things on their own and some not even following direct orders. Yang also vowed to the emperor it would all be done by the winter of 1638. Yang then berated field commanders to obey the authority of the Ming officials. Winter of 1638 came with no significant results, and Yang asked the emperor to replace him, but was refused. This prompted Yang to make a list of officials who he deemed deserved punishment for lack of action during the campaign, one of the most notable was Hong Chengchou who seemed to be making no ground. Many officials were punished, except for Hong who the emperor personally liked and protected.

    There were many unforeseen problems, such as local officials hiding resources and bribing the tax agents who came looking for funds. Natural disasters plagued China as well. Locust plagues hit and caused more famines in Henan, Suzhou and Shandong forcing more and more peasants to scrounge for food and many Earthquakes hit Sichuan. More and more the strong joined the rebels and the weak starved to death. Yang himself seemed to not even be following the ten-sided net strategy anymore by 1638. Yang began to prioritize certain regions over others, rather than keeping the net closing overall and when the Emperor questioned him, Yang would argue it was too difficult to coordinate the officials. As I mentioned many of the sub commanders and other officials were beginning to not heed orders and it was becoming a noticeable problem. And of course Yang gave the old, lack of troops, lack of supplies speech. All in all, rebels were certainly being killed or captured and many of their leaders were falling, its not like the Ming were not making headway. Yang was even beginning to feel some confidence that the plan was working and proposed grabbing another million taels for the plan and famine relief. Then disaster would strike.

    As I previously mentioned, part of the plan was to open up peace talks with the Qing, to bide more time to finish off the rebels. In 1638, the Ming were not looking so good and the Manchu’s were coming off multiple war victories making them not too willing to talk about peace. Some in the Ming Court thought they should negotiate making Hung Tiaji a tributary prince, Yang Sichang pushed for this heavily. Yuan Chongzhen held a meeting with many officials over the state of the frontier defenses. They lacked firepower and many competent commanders were busy with the rebels. In the end as a result of the circumstances the Emperor ruled in favor of offering to make Hung Taiji a tributary prince. Meanwhile Qing nobles such as Dorgon, Kong, Geng and Shang began raiding Ming territroy outside the great wall. Then Dorgon had a lucky encounter at a large redoubt near the Great Wall and annihilated the force in it and proceeded across the border and approached the Yellow River. Zu Dashou alerted the capital and demanded relief forces to rush over. The Ming Court debated on what action to take, Yang Sichang advocated for negotiations, while others urged for battle. One commander Lu Xiangsheng argued with Yang “If you discard war but talk of negotiations,you nourish disaster and bring disgrace to the country. Who doesn’t know this? What’s the point of my receiving the double-edged sword from the emperor if I don’t exert myself in battle”. Yang’s rebuttal to this was to sneakily transfer troops from Lu Xiangsheng to another commander named Gao Qiqian, leaving Lu with only 20,000 men. The Emperor for his part was outraged by the Qing threat to his capital yet again and yelled at Yang in front of the Court. It seemed the Emperor was most angry about the idea that those around him thought he personally believed peace talks were the best choice of action, as he did not think they were. The Emperor then ordered Lu Xiangsheng to pursue the enemy and for Gao Qiqian to defend Shanhaiguan. The Emperor sent 40,000 taels to Lu as a reward and stated “Peace talks were the idea of the outer court officials. The Emperor personally favors wars”.

    The Qing attacked Gaoyang, where the now 76 year old and retired Sun Chenzong was. He, alongside his whole family participated in the defense of the city. The city fell after 3 days, poor Chenzong and 19 of his family members perished. Lu Xiangsheng pushed for a counter attack, but Gao Qiqian argued they would be better to take up defensive positions. Lu’s forces were fighting the enemy at Baoding, but had no rations left. Lu pleaded with his men to continue fighting “you and I have all received the blessings of the state. In this calamity we may not avoid death, but there is no calamity in which we might not attain life!”. His men resolved to fight on to delay the enemy, praying for relief forces to come. Gao’s forces were only 15 miles away when they received a plea from Lu to come help, Gao did not reply. Lu’s force was surrounded near the Gaoshui bridge outside Jiazhuang, they then engaged the enemy. The battle lasted 6 hours with cannons, guns and arrows flying off. Lu’s sub commanders pleaded to try and break out of the encirclement, but Lu demanded they all make a last stand. Lu would die from 4 arrows and 3 sword blows, allegedly after taking 10 men with him. The Qing took Changping, Jizhou, Pinggu and reached the outskirts of Jinan by January of 1639. Jinan city would fall and be razed to the ground, and the Ming Prince Zhang Bingwen would die from arrow fire in street fighting as the defenders fled. Dorgon then raided some territory around Tianjin before heading back east. By the time any significant Ming relief forces came to bear down on the Qing they were already making a withdrawal. The Qing raids had lasted 5 months, they hit 53 cities of which they captured 8. They fought 57 battles defeating 33 Ming divisions and captured an incredible 473,000 Ming, 4000 taels of gold and nearly a million taels of silver. Over 100 Ming officers were killed and sadly 150,000 civilians. The Ming Court responded first with the execution of 32 officials deemed to have allowed the situation to get out of hand. Yang Sichang was impeached, but managed to avoid execution. Competent commanders who were quelling the rebels were transferred to the northeast to prepare new defenses against future Qing attacks leaving the northwest to fester with more rebellions.

    A little while back I mentioned the talk of using the surrendered rebel leader Zhang Xianzhong to help kill other rebel leaders. Well this whole time he was in Gucheng training a so-called militia and making promises to the Ming that he would help pacify all of Huguang. He had erected customs houses on the Han river to collect transit taxes, under the guise they were to help defend Gucheng. He was also bribing officials and local administrators left right and center, effectively having them firmly in his hands. Meanwhile Xiong Wencan was still performing offensive operations against the rebels, while the Ming Court in late 1638 falsely believed the rebels were largely quelled. Then Zhang Xinazhong, to the surprise of no one, began rebelling with that so-called militia group he had been training. It should come to no surprise, Zhang’s efforts the whole time were in preparation for future rebelling. He had extorted money through the transit tax schemes and used the funds to reinforce the walls of the town where he settled his garrison. On top of bribing so many officials to turn an blind eye to his actions, upon re-commencing with the rebellion, he sent a release of records of all the corrupt officials who dealt with him and made it public, leading to more and more executions. Zhang’s force joined up with another rebel leader's force namd Luo Rucai and they soon began to attack Fangxian which fought them for over a week before its gates were opened. The rebels plundered Fangxian and then casually moved into the mountains near the Shaanxi border. The man who had captured Zhang in the first place, Xiong Wencan was berated for all of this of course. Xiong sent Zuo Liangyu to pursue the rebels, but Zuo’s force would be ambushed in the mountains, taking 10,000 casualties and having to retreat. It was one of the greatest rebel victories, they had not only killed a large number of Ming soldiers, his force also got their hands on a ton of war supplies and Zuo’s official seals of authority.

    The disgraced and severely deranked Yang Sichang demanded to be allowed to deal with the problem and was reappointed minister of war, Grand secretary, Supreme Commander of Bandit pacification and bestowed the double edged sword of authority in 1639, wow talk about the kitchen sink of appointments. The Emperor agreed to give Yang 5 million taels to wipe the rebels out once and for all and pretty much gave Yang carte blanche for how to operate. Apparently the Emperor even personally served Yang wine at a later banquet and gave him a handwritten poem, what a fall and rise moment. Xiong was impeached of course for his incompetence and even being accused of taking bribes from Zhang Xianzhong. Yang had a 6 step plan now to stop the spread of the rebels. First, taxes would be used to raise local troops with military farms established to feed them. Second, town walls would be improved, Third mercenaries would be hired to help train local militias. Fourth all cities would have firearms mounted on their walls. Fifth the government needed to improve famine relief efforts. And sixth they needed river forces to stop rebel boats and advocated for bringing troops from neighboring regions to help encircle the rebels. As you can imagine, the funding for all of this came from what else, new taxes. Surprisingly, Zuo Liangyu was appointed Bandit Pacifying General despite his enormous defeat to Zhang. Zuo from the offset would also believe he was being held back by Yang, who kept him in a defensive position and denying him any opportunity to get revenge upon Zhang.

    Despite the efforts, the rebels remained on the rise, now Luo Rucai and Zhang Xianzhong commanded a force of 100,000 by the fall of 1639. Yang decided to surround Zhang’s stronghold of Gucheng, as Chongzhen berated him demanding to know how long this would all take. Throughout 1639-1640 the Ming seemed to be piling up victories over the rebels and even Zhang Xianzhong had fled into Sichuan being pursued by a very angry Zuo Liangyu. Yang ordered Zuo to stop pursuing him, but Zuo ignored the order and managed to encircle Zhang near Mount Manao. There he made a major victory, inflicting 3500 casualties, captured several commanders and also Zhang’s wives and concubines. Zuo seemingly exonerated himself, but Zhang managed to escape further west into Sichuan, not to mention Yang was not too happy he disobeyed orders. Yang, as was typical of Ming officials, sought to limit those he saw as a rising rival such as Zuo. So Yang recommended another general, He Renlong to be invested with Zuo’s title, which would prove to be a serious mistake. Yang’s recommendation fell dead, and now he had alienated both Zuo and He. Zuo then turned to pursue Zhang who was beginning a rampage throughout Sichuan. Many Ming soldiers began deserting at this time, prompting Yang to more desperate acts, such as recruiting Shaolin monks at the Temple in Henan. Soon all of Sichuan was in trouble as tons of cities were taken by rebels or simply abandoned. Famines forced peasants to cannibalism and thus many joined the rebels, soon Yang yet again asked to be relieved of his post, but the emperor responded by sending 200,000 taels for famine relief instead.

    Because of Yang’s strategy to coordinate regional defenses, many local communities were left largely to fend for themselves against the wandering rebels. Zhang and Luo’s combined forces struck several cities in Sichuan. Yang was pushed to relocate his HQ to Chongqing where he could be closer to the fighting. He then began to place a bounty on Zhang’s head and announced clemency for other rebels if they brought him Zhang's head. To make matters worse, the Ming court increasingly became frustrated with Yang’s inability to achieve results with his numerous disputes with his subordinates whom all were rallying against him, stating he was incompetent and should be replaced. To all of this Zhng Xianzhong wrote a poem mocking Yang “Before we had coordinator Shao Who often came forth and danced with me Then came the armies who would not fight But followed me around But now we have good commander Yang Who graciously leaves me a three day road!”. The rebels took Luzhou in December of 1640 and fled at the first sight of Ming troops trying to encircle them. Yang was desperate and ordered all his commanders to assemble at Yunyang and to mount one more campaign to crush the rebels once and for all. Yet by this point many of the commanders were simply ignoring Yang’s orders. For example Zuo Liangyu headed east trying to stop rebels from escaping into Shaanxi and He Renglong had gone west doing a similar operation. Yang was lashing out at the commanders arguing with so much terrain to cover it was now better to go on the offense than defense, but all the commanders ignored him. Then Yang’s fears were realized when Zhang Xianzhong managed to capture Ming Prince Xiang at Xiangyang. Zhang’s men had plundered some seals of office from Ming forces and used them to get into the town. Now Zhang occupied the prince's seat in his palace. Zhang allegedly poured the prince some wine at the palace and demanded of Xiang “I wish to have the head of Yang Sichang, but he is far away in Laikou, so now I’ll have to borrow the prince’s head in his stead. This will cause Sichang to suffer the full penalty of the law for having lost his princely fief. Now the prince should use all his strength to finish his wine”. Zhang then tied prince Xiang to the palace wall and lit him and his concubines on fire. Zhang then distributed some 150,000 taels from the prince’s treasury to the people, but it should be noted his men also performed horrible atrocities upon the people as well. They cut several hands, feet, ears and noses from random civilians when they captured towns in the area. Now the rebel army moved east taking even more towns, even Guangzhou.

    Upon hearing the news Yang was livid with the commanders, who all defended themselves stating they were guarding against raids from Li Zicheng’s rebel army from the north. To add insult to injury, Li Zichengs forces did strike from the north hitting Luoyang and managed to capture the extraordinary fat Prince Fu and his grandson. By contemporary accounts, its estimated Prine Fu may have been over 400 pounds and was quite reviled by the local populace. Prince Fu kowtowed before Li, begging for his life. Li of course killed him and then distributed a lot of his wealth to the people of Luoyang stating to them “the prince and the wealthy stripped away the flesh of the people and had no regard for the life or death of the common folk. I've killed him on your behalf”. Allegedly, Li and his sub commanders then stripped flesh from Prince Fu and consumed it with wine as a cruel pun. For taking Luoyang, Li became the foremost rebel leader and the term “dashing Prince” began to be associated with him. Luo Rucai similarly held the title “generalissimo chosen by heaven to pacify the people”.

    Yang fell into despair believing all was lost, now he sent a letter to the emperor asking for his own execution. Yang eventually stopped eating and died in march of 1641. Zhang Xianzhong would later capture Yang’s ancestral home of Wuling and dig up his grave and desecrate Yang’s corpse. Yang’s demise truly illustrates the many problems of the late Ming politics and Military situation. All too often, sweeping authority was bestowed on civil officials who lacked military experience. The ten-sided net strategy was doomed from the beginning. The main problem with it was that of resource allocation. If perhaps the Manchu threat had been contained in the northeast, then maybe Yang ould have mustered the forces and resources necessary to beat the rebels. But the entire time there was a fight over resources between the Manchu problem or the Rebel problem, and many in the Court did not know which one was the largest threat. The numerous natural disasters that led to wide scale famines did not help at all and were only made worse by Yang’s lack of military experience. While the Ming forces pretty much always bested the Rebels during battle, the rebels enjoyed superior mobility and easily disappeared when needed.

    For the remainder of 1641 the Ming tried to fight off the rebels in central China. Ding Qirui replaced Yang Sichang and Fu Zonglong was appointed Vice Minister of War and Supreme commander of Shaanxi. Li Zicheng had risen to be the most powerful rebel leader with Zhang Xianzhong and Luo Rucai beneath him, but all held significant reputations and status. As a result of all the battles to destroy the rebels, now the rebels had earned significant battle experience, technological expertise and a ton of weapons. The Ming were losing their technological edge in war against the rebels.

    After the Qing raid into Shandong, the Qing launched a probe attack on Songshan in March of 1639. A Qing force of 30,000 approached Songshan and were met with 37 heavy cannon fire which repulsed the invaders quite quickly. Hung realized the Ming were not yet ready to abandon their defenses outside the Great Wall so easily. Plans for defending the Liaodong region continued, but at this point Ming officials feared to advance any plan for war in fear of failing and being punished for it. It goes without saying the Emperor’s temper was pretty high at this point and one was likely to be executed or atleast lose significant status for such ventures if they did not pan out. As the war against the rebels intensified in western and central China, the Qing began to make more noise in Liaodong. Ningyuan remained a thorn in Hung Taiji’s side, alongside Songshan and Jinzhou for over a decade now. Since early 1640, the Qing began setting up military farms in preparation for future attacks on Ming territory. The Joseon dynasty was now also helping the war effort by sending food supplies by ship to Xiaolinghe and Dalinghe. Many war plans were brought to Hung by his commanders, and eventually one would be approved. The plan was to capture Songshan and Jinzhou which were thought to be the key to take Shanhaiguan. The war planners argued that previous raids had failed against Shonghan and Jinzhou because the Ming held Shanhai-son jin corridor, but if that was severed, the Qing could consolidate all Liaodong and then hit China proper. Now the Ming were not sitting by idle, they saw the Qing build up and knew a massive invasion was incoming. The Ming also rightfully deduced an attack would be made on Songshan and Jinzhou so both were heavily fortified and prepared for sieges.

    The Qing first made their attack on Jinzhou in may of 1640. The Qing began to dig trenches around the city preparing for a very long siege. By March of 1641, Zu Dashous sent a messenger outside the walls of Jinzhou stating to the Qing forces “we’ve got enough food to last 2-3 years. It will be a long siege; will you be able to hold out that long to outlast us?”. The Qing replied “we aren’t lifting the siege, whether it lasts 2-3 or even 4-5 years. How are you going to keep getting food?”. The back and forth talk seemed to unsettle the Ming’s Mongol allies at Jinzhou who began to negotiate with the Qing separately. This drove Zu to panic somewhat and go out and strike up a battle with the Qing, but was beaten back into the city. The Qing began to hack their way through the first layers of the city defenses as the Ming continuously sent relief forces from Xingshan, but all were being ambushed and defeated. Then in April of 1641, the Qing assaulted the outpost of Chayeshan. The Qing bombarded it with large cannons and arquebuses. The soldiers and a small force of monks there fought back as best they could using spears, boulders and incendiaries. Soon the Qing overwhelmed the outpost with firepower and razed it to the ground. Then in May of 1641 the Ming engaged a Qing force just outside Xingshan led by Wu Sangui. Wu’s force was outmaneuvered despite having a lot of cavalry and encircled by the Qing commanders Dodo and Jirgalang. The Ming lost a few thousand men and several commanders fled, only to then get caught up in another engagement around Liangmashan just a few miles from Jinzhou. At Liangmashan the Ming dug in and tried to bait a force of 3000 Qing into a fight, but the Qing did not take the bait. More fighting occurred outside various outposts and the Ming kept driving off Qing raiders who in turn would just wait until night time to hit walls with siege ladders. Songshan resisted a 37 day long siege under heavy Qing fire, until a Ming relief force arrived. The Qing were camped a few miles due east of Songshan and had to fend off multiple Ming strikes against them. It seemed all the outposts and major walled cities were managing to hold off the Qing. The Qing strategy of bombarding them and trying to draw them out into decisive battles in the field was not working. It seemed the Ming still enjoyed the edge when it came to firepower, but Ming scouts were sending concerning reports that the Qing were busy building a ton of weapon carts and ships at Shenyang. It was clear that a purely defensive war would not be enough. The Ming commanders began to analyze the situation and they discussed the importance of trying to force a decisive battle that might allow them to retake Liaodong. They believed if they could dictate the place and style of combat then they might stand a chance. The Ming also began to get reports that Korean ships were transporting Qing soldiers in the Bohai Gulf which raised the concern the Qing might sever their sea supply lines. This all accumulated into a major war planning session in april of 1641. The Ming commanders held a conference at Ningyuan and decided they needed to break the Qing encirclement of Songshan and Jinzhou. Wu Sangui would lead an initial attack followed up by Zu Dashou from Jinzhou. They ended up clashing with a Qing cavalry force of about 8000, sending the Qing fleeing with their superior cannons. The battle was embarrassing for the Qing, and the commander of the force, Jirgalang was replaced by Hung’s brother Dorgon from that point on. It was also around this time the rebels armies had captured and killed the 2 Ming princes and Yang Sichang suicide. All the northeast outposts and cities were demanding further relief forces and supplies, but the Ming court decided to focus on the increasing rebel problem and thus the northeast would just have to rely on what had on hand.

    In the summer of 1641, Hung renewed the efforts against Jinzhou and Songshan. The Qing erected their siege weapons, dug moats and trenches around the cities to thwart any relief or supply efforts and dispatched mobile forces to hit anyone outside walls. Chongzhen did not want to send any significant force against the Qing, believing by autumn the Qing would become weakened through attrition. The Emperor did not agree with this plan however and sent the Minister of War Chen Xinjia and Zhang Ruoqi to goad Chongzhen into action. Chen began attacking Chongzhen for what he argued was his lack of faith in the Ming forces. The same factionalism that had plagued the Ming for decades was soon going to force a catastrophe.

    Meanwhile, since the death of Yang Sichang, the rebel leader Li Zicheng’s ambitions were growing each day. He was now recognized as a charismatic leader and quite the military genius. The way in which he dealt with Prince Fu had gained him a lot of notoriety with the populace since he was handing out money and food. Li then gained the attention of some gentry, one notable one was named Li Yan. Li Yan joined Li and advised him “you must take capturing the hearts of all the people under heaven as the root. If you don’t kill people, then you’ll win their hearts”. This seems to have had a profound effect on Li as he began to do just that. Li also began a program of making popular slogans for his rebel movement, one went like this “Kill your oxen and sheep. And prepare your wine and spirits.Open your gates and welcome the Dashing Prince. When the Dashing Prince comes. You won’t be paying taxes”. A man after my own heart and wallet, if I must say. Shortly after Li Zicheng began changing how his force rebelled, more gentry joined him such as Niu Jinxing and a midget sorcerer named Song Xiance. Yes a Midget sorcerer. Song Xiance was a native of Guide in Henan. He walked with a limp because of a bad right foot and was known by locals as Son the Child. His reputation as a sorcerer came from the fact he went around telling fortunes and casting divinations, which was something seen throughout Chinese history for midgets. Well one of these fortunes he told was that of Li Zicheng who he predicted would have his 18th grandson assuming the imperial throne and that his name would also be Li. So as Li Zicheng enjoyed popular support and expanded his movement, other rebel leaders continued to rampage throughout western and central China. Widespread famine and more people resorting to cannibalism swelled the rebel armies ranks. The situation dramatically changed in august of 1641 when Luo Rucai broke off from Zhang Xianzhong and joined up with Li Zicheng in Henan. Alongside Luo other smaller rebel leaders also joined Li and Li took this newfound force to attack Xincai along the Henan - Nan Zhili border. The commander at Xincai was Fu Zonlong who managed to beat back the rebels with cannons, but the rebel hoards kept coming. Fu then sent word to He Renlong and Li Quoqi asking the 2 commanders for help, but both complained it was not possible to cut through the rebel lines to get to Xincai. Li began to step up the siege and Fu’s defenders were soon running low on food. It is alleged, Fu’s forces were forced to eat the corpses of slain rebels. When the gunpowder ran out Fu had no other choice but to attack the rebels. Fu led 6000 men out at night to attack the rebels and managed to kill an estimated 1000 rebels before breaking out of the encirclement. They fled for their lives being chased by rebel forces and Fu was eventually captured. The rebels then tried to use Fu to open the gates of Xincai. When he was marched in front of the gate he screamed out “I am the commander of Shaanxi and though I have fallen into rebel hands and there are rebels on all sides of me, I will never serve you. I am a high official. If you wish to kill me, then kill me. How can I not sacrifice my life rather than help you bandits deceive those in the city?”. With all of that said, the rebels beat him to the ground, cut off his nose and Fu would die from his wounds, Xincai would soon after.

    Zuo Liangyu would attack Li and Luo’s force, driving them in the direction of Henan. From there the rebels would target Nanyang in November of 1641. Nanyang was defended by Meng Ruhu who died trying to defend the city. When Nanyang fell, Li burnt down the residence of Prince Tang furthering his personal war against the Ming monarchy. After this Li began to occupy towns in southwestern Henan much to the dismay of the Ming Court. The Ming Court appointed Sun Chuanting straight out of jail, to be the new Supreme Commander of the 3 Frontiers. By the way I have not made much mention of it, but so many officials were jailed for failing their jobs, only to later be reappointed to that same job or another job and taken out of jail, it really was chaotic.

    At this time the Ming official Wang Qiaonian decided to attack Xiangcheng in central Henan which had recently fallen to rebels. Wang led 10,000 well trained troops to take the city and found it relatively undefended, little did he know the rebels had moved on early. Unfortunately, once the rebels heard of Wang taking Xiangcheng they soon returned and surrounded the city. Wang along with many of his men would be killed in street fighting over the city. Zhang Xianzhong made an assault on Shucheng in southwestern Nan Zhili in march of 1642 which fell quite easily after a 3 day siege. Zhang changed the city’s name to Desheng meaning “attained victory”. Over the next few months, Li Zicheng and Luo Rucai continued to raise hell in Henan, he rebel forces were rotting the Ming Dynasty to its core.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    The Ming dynasty was like a roast beef rotting from the inside while being carved up from the outside. Droughts, famines and terrible administration led so many starving and wartorn peasants to join rebel groups and now Li Zicheng emerged the largest rebel leader amongst others who now held entire armies at their command. Yang Sichang began the disastrous “ten sided net plan” which resulted in many victories over the rebels, but at terrible costs. The more the Ming allocated resources towards quelling the rebels in the northwest and center of China, the weaker their northeastern frontier became, ripe for the plucking for Hung Taiji. Now Hung focused his attention on long term sieges of major Ming held fortresses outside the Great Walls, but once those fell he could attack China proper.

  • Last time we spoke, Xiong Tingbi had created a grand defensive strategy that paved the way for the defeat of the Jin invaders. However he was soon impeached and executed, a victim to his rivals in the Ming Court. Despite this his defensive strategy would live on with the appointment of Sun Chengzong. We also talked about the rise of the Sea King Mao Wenlong and how his crazy antics impressed the Ming Court. Yet something was not right about Mao Wenlong’s victories, they simply did not add up. Then at the last hour when all hope seemed to be lost for the lonesome commander, Yuan Chonghuan at the fortress of Ningyuan a miracle happened. The cannon expert managed to not only defeat the Jin invaders at Ningyuan, he also managed to kill the great Khan Nurhaci. With the death of Nurhaci, what will the Jin empire do next?

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on world war two and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    This episode is Wrath of Hung

    In the wake of Nurhaci’s death, his son Hung Taiji became the new Khan of the Jin Empire. Hung faced many rivals amongst his own relatives when he took power. Interestingly enough Hung began his Khanhood by flirting with some peace talks with the Ming. Hung laid out 2 conditions for peace, the first that the Ming should send tribute to the Jin, the second that a border be fixed at Shanhaiguan. In return the Jin would also send the Ming tributary gifts, thus the Jin would be below the Ming Emperor, but above the Ming officials, honestly a fair arrangement. Emperor Tianqi warned his officials not to enter peace talks lightly, but did seem to heed to offers. Now historians think Hung was perhaps doing all of this merely to raise his own authority in the grander scheme of things. To talk the way he was to the Ming Dynasty really elevated the status of the Jin. Another major reason historians argue as to why Hung began these peace talks was to buy time for a new operation. Somewhat as a result of the Sea King Mao’s ventures, raiding on the Bohai coast drew attention to the unfortunate land due south east of it, Korea. Hung chose to invade Korea to secure his flank for anticipated attacks on the western Ming front. The Ming held an overwhelming advantage in resources and some of those resources such as food came from Korea. By defeating Korea, Hung could extract tribute, such as much needed food supplies from the koreas and stop it from getting into the Ming’s hands. The Korean’s for their part were aiding and abetting the sea king Mao by shielding many of his raiders within Korea. Though they did this begrudgingly might I add as they did not trust Mao.

    The Jin sent 30,000 troops over the Korean border in 1627 easily overrunning the border towns. When they advanced on Uiji, Mao fled into the Bohai gulf with some of his forces. Soon the Jin captured Anju, Pyongyang and were quickly crossing the Taedong River. The battle for Anju was very intense and when the defenders knew they were going to be beaten they allegedly blew themselves up with gunpowder. As soon as the word got out of the invasion, the Ming dispatched a relief force to help the Koreans. Meanwhile the royal family of Korea fled to Kanghwa island and tried desperately to bribe the Jin to stop. Hung was amenable to this and left only 1000 Jurchen and 200 Mongols at Uiji and 300 Jurchen and 1000 Mongos at the Fortress of Zhenjiang, allegedly to guard against raids by Mao. After this point, the Joseon Dynasty now had a tributary relationship under the Jin state. The relationship was that of an older brother and younger brother unlike the Ming-Joseon tributary relationship which was more like that of a father and son. Hung also pressed the king of Korea to stop trade with the Ming. Meanwhile Yuan Chonghuan was impeached at once because many in the Ming Court perceived him to have been duped by the Jin when entering into peace talks, while the Jin were simply biding time to invade Korea.

    Hung next struck out at Jinzhou not too far away from the island of Juehua. Hung led 40,000 troops against the city which held 30,000 defenders under the commander Zhao Shuaijiao. Emperor Tianqi immediately ordered a relief force of 30,000 to rush to its aid as Hung’s army began their siege. The Jin scaled the walls of Jinzhou with siege ladders as the defenders rained arrows, rocks and cannonfire upon them. The battle raged for over 12 hours until the Jin pulled back to their camp. Zhao allegedly shouted out over the walls “You can keep attacking the city but we’re not coming out!”. Enraged, Hung would continue the attacks upon the city for several days, but it did not fall. Hung in frustration took some of his forces back to probe nearby Ningyuan where there was an advancing Ming column out in the open field. The Ming column attacked the Jin as the wall cannons of Ningyuan aided them, forcing the Jin to flee back to their camp beside Jinzhou. Despite this the Ming did not come over to his camp, thus Hung resumed the attack on Jinzhou despite the advice to not do so by some of his sub commanders and for his efforts the Jin received thousands of casualties. Hung in frustration simply continued to attack Jinzhou, now from a different side of the walls. The Jin corpses began to pile up and finally Hung gave the orders to retreat after losing 2-3 thousand men. The battle became known as the Great Ming victory of Ning-jin. Hung learnt a painful but valuable lesson from all of this.

    Taking a look back at the situation in Korea, the Korean were very leery of the Jin, but also of Mao Wenlong whose adventurism got them into the terrible situation they were in. The Joseon Court was divided as to how best to deal with the Jin-Ming situation. Some thought Korea had no place in the Jin-Ming war, others argued the very preservation of the Joseon Dynasty was owed to the Ming. The Ming eventually installed a new King named Injo in Korea and began to twist his wrist to their side. They wanted Korea to cut off ties with the Jin and to adopt a more pro-Ming policy. This of course meant working with Mao Wenlong who they deeply distrusted. The Koreans continued to report that Mao was exaggerating his claimed fights against the Jin and was actually spending most of his time hiding on islands. They also lamented over Mao’s army consuming a ton of Korean food rations while achieving little in return. Yet whenever they made these statements to the Ming court, Mao would also come along with some Jin heads to showcase his achievements. Still there were those in the Ming Court growing wary of Mao, theorizing he might be actually working with the Jin and planning to rebel against the Ming. Mao continued to demand more and more supplies from the Koreans to feed refugees fleeing from the Jin state, a process that had begun when Nurhaci died, quite a few inside the Jin territory fled. The Koreans acquiesced, handing over provisions, but Mao stated it was not enough. Mao then began to open up markets on his islands and offered to protect merchants willing to trade there. Then he attempted to produce his very own coinage with metals extracted from Korea. THENNN he asked the Joseon Court to make fewer tributary missions to the Ming and instead help build up his trade monopoly in the gulf. Well the Ming began to see the illicit trading going on. Then in 1627, Emperor Tianqi died and was succeeded by his younger brother, Zhu Youjian, becoming Emperor Chongzhen. When Chongzhen took the throne he felt he had 2 major problems: 1 the court needed a cleansing of the enormous power of the eunuchs and their supporters, 2 Liaodong needed to be pacified. His first act as emperor was to recall the Eunuch military inspectors from the frontiers. This led one of the Eunuchs favorite supportive commanders, Wei Zhongxian to believe he was soon going to be arrested soon and thus he hung himself. I have not stated it too much at this point, but a large issue that was growing was the dispatching of Eunuchs as military inspectors all around China. The Eunuchs began to be quite meddlesome and their authority kept growing. Then the emperor set about micromanaging everything and demanded his officials bring him all reports. It seemed from the offset, unlike his predecessor, this Emperor was going to be a very active ruler. But this would have an adverse affect. In his efforts to stop factionalism with the dynasty, the new Emperor who tried to control everything made it much harder for any policies to be implemented. In turn this actually contributed to making it more factional, as every sign of possible failure was pounced upon by enemy factions on another. The emperor also would have a bad tendency to execute competent officials for minor setbacks.

    With the new emperor came the reappointment of Yuan Chonghuan as Censor in chief of the right. He was also given supreme command of military affairs in the northeast. Yuan proclaimed to the emperor that he could recover all of Liaodong in just 5 years time if they implemented his defensive strategy that he had been using before being impeached. He advocated that the people in the Jin state were starving and now fleeing as a result, the best course of action was to “use the people of Liaodong to defend Liaodong and the land of Liaodong to nourish the people”. While the Emperor fully endorsed his plans, Yuan would unfortunately only receive around 40% of the funding he asked for. Reduced funding was a problem everywhere in the frontier, many places faced multiple mutinies.

    Upon his appointment Yuan first turned his attention to the sea king Mao, he wanted to evaluate the troops strength of Bohai so they could better coordinate their operations. Mao told him that he had 28,000 serviceable men, but not enough food supplies to support them. Now while Mao was telling Yuan this, Yuan was receiving reports from an informant with the Jin that Mao was secretly negotiating with them. Thus Yuan resolved to act decisively. Yuan began to funnel supplies through his own bases, curtailing Pidao, the stronghold of Mao. Now it is theorized Mao had been in secret talks with the Jin as early as 1622, but Nurhaci had died before any concrete agreements were made. Hung Taiji did not trust Mao and broke talks off when he launched his invasion into Korea. But after his setback in 1627 at Ningyuan, Hung Taiji realized he lacked the strength to fully engage the Ming and the Jin were also very low on food supplies, leading to many refugees fleeing to none other than Mao. So this led Hung to open up talks again with Mao, and by 1628 Mao was pretty fearful his charade with the Ming was in jeopardy. And he was certainly right about that, as Yuan finally resolved to pay Mao a personal visit bringing with him a significant contingent of loyal troops. Yuan met with Mao and asked him to relocate to a base closer to China proper rather than Korea and to coordinate operations with him. Mao protested against this stating it was important he kept near Korea to keep them in the fold, which was the very opposite of what he was actually doing. Now for a few days, Yuan would keep persisting to try and meet with Mao and ask him to come closer into the fold with him and other Ming officials, and Mao would continuously find reasons not to do so. Each day, Yuan would hand out gifts and rewards to Mao’s soldiers. Then one day Yuan began asking Mao’s officers their surnames and they kept answering “Mao”, which Yuan found very curious. He then asked them how they could complain about rations when they had been sent ample supplies from Ningyuan. He proceeded to ask where had all the supplies gone to, to which the men began to weep and bow before Yuan. Yuan then berated Mao for squandering funds without overseeing all he had been entrusted with concluding “where has all the money we sent you from Ningyuan gone?”. Mao protested upon which Yuan said “You can till look me in the eye, but how can you resist the imposition of national law as imposed by the sagacious son of heaven as derived from heaven with brave martiality. “You were given the authority of a general. But now you, Mao Wenlong, have treacherously raised yourself to the level of a lord, amassed soldiers, siphoned off rations, slaughtered the refugees of Liaodong, despoiled Korea, harassed Denglai, carried out illicit commerce, looted and plundered commoners’ boats, changed people’s names, and violated the people’s sons and daughters. These are the crimes for which you will be put to death.”. Mao pleaded for his life and Yuan turned to his commanders and asked them if they disagreed with the charges adding “if you don't think I should kill him, then you may come forward and kill me”. No man budged at this, and Yuan took up a double edged sword and decapitated Mao in front of them all stating “The punishment was only for Mao Wenlong. The rest of you have committed no crimes”. Then Yuan presided over a funeral for Mao stating “ “Yesterday I killed you by the order of the emperor; this was in accordance with the Court’s law, but today I offer you oblations and this is in accordance with my own personal feelings.”. Thus ended the great sea king Mao Wenlong, who might I add was stealing all the limelight from Yuan’s great achievement at Ningyuan. Yuan divided the 28,000 former troops of Mao into 4 wings, with 1 wing given to a son of Mao named Mao Chenglu. He disbursed money to all the soldiers making sure they were properly organized and paid. Yuan then set out to Korea to report to them his execution of Mao. While the Koreans shed no tears for the death of Mao, the man who had caused them some much trouble, many were concerned with what his death would mean for Korea.

    Another problem loomed for the Ming dynasty was occurring in the northwest. Since 1627 a widespread drought had hit Shaanxi. Food prices skyrocketed, people began to starve and many fell into banditry. For the past 60 years or so, not a single year went by without at least 1 natural disaster occuring. To add insult to injury, because the Ming were so preoccupied with the Jin in the northeast, most funding and supplies also went there. Peasant rebellions began rising up, one under Wang Jiayin who assembled a large force of starving peasants to raid parts of the Great Wall. Soon army deserters joined the ranks and before long all of Shaanxi was falling into chaos. Wang Jiayin held some 5-6 thousand followers, one of them being Zhang Xianzhong, someone who would deeply impact the future. The Ming sent forces to quell the rebellion, but the rebels would simply flee into the mountains, and re-emerge later to raid more. The Ming eventually appointed Yang He as supreme commander of the 3 border regions of Shaanxi. He identified the key problems in the northwest to be 1) supply issues, 2) constant threat of Mongol raids and 3) dereliction of duty by local officials. His answer was to improve the administration and to try and pacify the rebels by encouraging them to surrender in exchange for food or agricultural opportunities. Meanwhile officials in other areas were simply employing Mongol allies to help smash rebel forces which did a lot to dissuade rebels from surrendering overall. Seeing the looming problem, the Emperor ordered famine relief to be sent to Shaanxi, but this would not stop the rebellions from springing up more and more. Eventually Yang He was impeached for his apparent too light of a touch approach and was replaced by Hong Chengchou.

    Back to the warfront, in 1629 the Jin began an invasion of Da’ankou and Zunhua, bolstered by their Mongol allies. The Jin forces first captured Jizhou with the aid of Ming fifth columnists. The commander of Jizhou had his own men turn on him, trying to force him to surrender, he refused and his men soon were routed and he alongside them fell to the rain of arrows. Sun Chengzong was appointed Minister of War and given command of the armies at Tongzhou as Man Gui prepared a force of 5000 to face the Jin at Shunyi. Man’s force were soon driven back towards Deshengmen. Hou Shilu’s force was nearby and was routed, leaving Man on his own. Man enjoyed a lot of artillery support from the walls, but his forces were ironically hit by friendly fire and had to pull back within the cities walls losing over 40% of his troops, yikes. Now the Jin were a threat to Deshengmen, so Yuan Chonghuan turned his focus northeast, taking tons of forces from garrisons all over to drive the Jin away. Yuan's efforts won out and they did push the Jin back and now Yuan began to strengthen the defenses at the city. At Deshengmen the Jin re-commenced their attacks, managing to kill Man Gui and routed Zu Dashou’s army who fled east. More Ming forces tried to push the Jin back around the Marco Polo Bridge but it was a disaster, the men routed yet again and many Ming commanders were captured. As more and more troops were plucked from the west to meet the invaders, a general panic began to emerge in the capital. Ming officials were being executed left right and center and many of the relief forces being sent to the northeast were looting Ming cities enroute to Beijing. Yongping fell to the Jin in 1930 and the Jin just kept coming. There were quite a few setbacks at this point, many fortresses managed to fight off the Jin. Hung Taiji sent some letters to Yuan Chongzhen trying to come to some terms, but received no replies. Hung eventually decided to take his forces back to Shenyang leaving behind some of his commanders to occupy the newly conquered cities. Now the Ming attempted to gather forces near Luanzhou and Yongping to launch a counter attack.

    Yuan Chonghuan then was impeached, because it was believed by some in the Ming Court that he was secretly working with the Jin. Turns out Hung Taiji had leaked false information to Ming Court officials about him working with Yuan. It did not help Yuan’s cause that he had recently executed the sea king, who was still loved by many officials. Also that friendly fire that hit the forces of Man Gui, was done by Yuan’s forces, and they happened to also be rivals, so there was an air of conspiracy going around. Thus Yuan was tossed into jail while his forces were actually doing quite well by this point, driving the Jin back past the Great Wall. Eventually the Ming forces reached the fortress of Luanzhou in mid 1630 as the Jin tried to slow them down via diplomacy. The Ming forces brought with them heavy artillery and now it was the Jin desperately trying to hold onto a fortress while being besieged. The Jin utilized all the tactics they had seen the Ming use: tossing burning pots of oil, rocks and logs, using cannons, amongst other defenses. The Ming’s artillery however was so fierce, the Jin knew they had to try something else. Thus a Jin forces came rushing out of the eastern gate trying to attack a force led by Zu Dashou, but they were met with intense crossbow fire and had to flee back into the city. The Jin were so low on ammunition, that allegedly they began to use severed heads as projectiles, eeek. Eventually it was incendiaries being lobbed over and fire arrows that smoked the Jin out of the city, who had to flee. In turn 4 more large walled cities and 12 fortresses were taken back by the Ming in 1630, with over 3300 Jin troops captured.

    But by no means was the Jin excursion in any way a failure, they had plundered a considerable amount and the raiding had exposed many weaknesses in the Ming’s ability to wage wage. For one thing, Hung Taiji’s sneaky ploy against Yuan that got him impeached simply by sending false information, proved the Ming were quite incompetent and perhaps more efficient commanders could be taken off the board using similar tactics. In the wake of the invasion, for the Ming a debate began to brew as to how best to defend the capital if it came to that. One idea was to employ more Portuguese cannons, and in 1930 they would get their hands on 30 new ones from Goncalbo Teixeria Correa. However some in the Court were suspicious of the westerners and thought they might be working for the Jin. Regardless, a few Portuguese would end up training Ming forces in gunnery and how to create the cannons. One major supporter of utilizing the Portuguese knowledge and weaponry was Xu Guangqi who further proposed a new style brigade; outfitted with new wheeled wagons pulling cannons alongside a considerable specialized infantry gunnery force. The Ming also began to put pressure on the Bohai coast by putting to use their naval units to link up with their Korean allies. Their idea was to open up a new front by using coastal defenses, perhaps by mustering troops from Lushun and the many islands in the gulf.

    Meanwhile the poor imprisoned Yuan Chonghuan was executed via dismemberment in the marketplace, and many saw him as a “fall guy” for the Jin excursions of 1630. As for the man he executed, Mao Wenlong had a long lasting effect on the Bohai region even after his death. It seemed now the gulf had become the focal point for Sino-Korea relations and joint military operations. The Jin took notice of this and realized the best way to prevent the two dynasties from cooperation would be to sever their communication/transport network. The Jin required legitimization of their state and a major component of that was to exact tribute from other places like Korea. Mao for his part brought so much bad attention to the Jin Korea border and after his death, his former forces continued to be a problem for the Ming. They continued to beg for supplies while doing little militarily in return. Then in late 1630, a revolt occurred on Pidao island led by Liu Xingzhi, to which the Ming tried to appease him and his forces by sending supplies, but the Jin were able to stop them from getting out of Lushun. Eventually the Ming did manage to get supplies to Liu Xingzhi and talked him down, but the underlying problem still loomed.

    With the competent Yuan Chonghuan taken out of the picture and the Korean flank secured, Hung Tiaji now decided to hit the important fortress of Dalinghe. Dalinghe was the most forward Ming base in Liaodong and the largest threat to the Jin capital of Shenyang, yeah did I ever mention the capital was back at Shenyang? The Jin capital moves around a lot hard to keep track of. Dalinghe had been heavily fortified, with 13, 800 troops as a garrison and many more on the way. Hung Taiji had intel, that the Ming were undergoing a massive construction project at Dalinghe to reinforce it even more and was eager to hit it before it became too well defended. Another large worry was that if Dalinghe was made impenetrable, it might entice the Ming-Joseon to consolidate more trade and resources into the region thus kicking the Jin out. In preparation for the attack, Hung created his first ever, entirely Han divisions, whom would eventually become the Han banners. Leading them was Tong Yangxing who was tasked with overseeing the construction of 40 Western style cannons. By 1631, Tong’s efforts were greatly rewarded as he was given command over all Han under the Jin state. In July of 1631, Hung’s army of 80,000 reached Dalinghe and began to construct a large network of siege weapons. Hung took to heart how his father Nurhaci had died at Ningyuan, knowing suicidal frontal assaults were no longer the way to go about things. Hung’s siege weapons were soon set upon the Ming defensive towers. Tong’s oversaw the red cannons: Ie: western style cannons, as they would smash Dalinghe’s most vulnerable posts. Meanwhile Hung took some forces to Jinzhou to guard against Ming relief forces. The Jin siege weapons devastated the outlying defense towers in under a week. One of the commanders of Dalinghe, Zu Dashou led a couple of sorties, inflicting considerable casualties but being forced back into the city each time. When some Ming relief forces showed up, Tong’s red cannon force defeated 2 small armies at Songshan and Jinzhou. Hung also defeated a relief army later on at Jinzhou. Now Hung needed to try something to get the Dalinghe defenders to come out, so he began circulating false reports of Ming relief forces being on the way and requiring their assistance. Zu Dashou fell for this ploy and came out, and was immediately ambushed but managed to crawl back into the city. Another relief force of 40,000 tried to help the city in August, but were easily turned back at Changshan.

    The siege would enter a new phase when Hung began sending letters to Zu Dashou trying to get him to defect. In one letter Hung said “Who does not desire peace but rather wished for war? Now that our peace talks have been severed, I want to strengthen my state, to extend happiness and prosperity; this is my wish. If the general believes I am sincere, please send a reply”. Well Zu Dashou replied he would die in defense of Dalinghe, buuuuut that he also feared for the safety of his family should the city fall. This prompted Hung to pledge he would not kill anyone stating “the slaughter of people in Liaodong happened during Nurhaci’s reign but we are different. In my state we make use of soldiers. Those who should be punished are punished. Those who can be of use are employed. As some can tell you, my kindness is great. For those who submit you can rest assured that my kines will be extended”. Rations in Dalinghe were running out, so much aso that people began to eat horses and then if its to be believed resorted to cannibalism as well. Meanwhile Beijing was wondering what was happening, while those in Dalinghe wondered why no relief forces were showing up. The situation was hopeless and Zu Dashou surrendered.

    The people within Dalinghe had suffered 80 days of starvation, it is estimated 11,632 people were left alive when it was captured. In exchange for his life and his families, Zu pledged allegiance to Hung and would assist him in taking Jinzhou and Songshan. Zu Dashou was showered with gifts and even shared wine with Hung as they planned their attack on Jinzhou. Zu Dashou’s plan was that he alongside 350 men would go on ahead pretending to be refugees to get inside Jinzhou and open the gates for Hung. As you might have guessed, instead Zu Dashou rejoined the Ming and requested a dismissal from his post for failing at Dalinghe. So he pulled a fast one on Hung to save his family and men from death. Despite that, Hung had acquired a lot of firearms at Dalinghe which accelerated their growing firearms program. Hung told Tong to manufacture as many new cannons as possible, stating “even 1 hundred cannon were not too many and even 100,000 catties of gunpowder was still too little”. The Jin cannon industry secretly began to flourish under the oversight of Tong, though he would die in 1632 and be succeeded by Shi Tingzhu, another Ming defector.

    With the firearms program being built, Hung also began to develop his army structure more. He organized a left and right wing led by Ming defectors, Kong Youde and Geng Zhongming. The story of how both these Ming defected will be told shortly as they are key players. Both these men had convinced Hung to create Han banners to augment his army and thus these forces they commanded became artillery wings, expanded into 4 units which eventually evolved to become the Han banner of the 8 banner army.

    Meanwhile the Ming Court was quite dismayed by the loss of Dalinghe. Yuan Chongzhen advised constructing more defenses and reinforcing the northeast to prevent further Jin incursions. But a problem was brewing from within yet again. A rebellion had emerged under the leadership of a man named Luo Rucai in the northwest and a subordinate of the late Mao Wenlong named Kong Youde was performing a mutiny.

    As I mentioned previously, the revolt on Pidao under Liu Xingzhi was somewhat quelled, but not extinguished. When Mao was executed, all of his former men began to factionalize, despite the efforts of Ming officials to wrangle them into the fold. Many of Mao’s subordinate officers were given command of the forces, but none of them panned out. All the former commanders under Mao fought to take control of the force while simultaneously struggling to get supplies from the Ming/Joseon/ or even Jin. The Ming tried to transfer many of these commanders around to thwart the mutinies, one man they moved to Shandong was Kong Youde. Kong ended up commanding one of the relief forces sent to help Dalinghe. The force he was given was undersupplied and not at all happy about. Thus enroute to Dalinghe, they looted Ming towns and soon a mutiny had sprung up. The mutineers turned their attention to the port of Dengzhou and Laizhou in January of 1632. Kong’s small force of men enjoyed some success as they had a good amount of firearms, thus they were able to plunder parts of Shandong. Soon the mutineers were a full on rebel group fighting off Ming forces and were working with Mao Chenglu, a son of the sea king who had forces on some islands in Bohai. Kong began to siege Dengzhou and Laizhou while his force of 15,000 rebels simultaneously fanned out to plunder Shandong. The Ming dispatched commanders to stamp out Kong’s rebellion, but Kong had access to the sea which allowed his forces to fight off quite a lot of Ming armies. Kong eventually managed to take Dengzhou and deceived the commander of Laizhou to come out and negotiate with him, where he promptly assassinated him. This prompted Yuan Chongzhen to enact a policy of extermination against Kong’s rebellion. Relief armies rallied up at Changyi and advanced on the rebels at Dengzhou smashing an army that was outside the city there. Parts of the relief army then marched on the rebels besieging Laizhou, prompting Kong to lead 3000 men out of Dengzhou to try and save them. Kong’s force was then caught between the defending forces at Laizhou and the relief army, forces to abandon a lot of their weapons and retreat back to Dengzhou. Kong’s forces tried to fight in the field again, but a decisive battle was won by the Ming at Baima where they killed 13,000 rebels. Now the Ming surrounded and besieged Dengzhou, but Dengzhou was also a port and the Ming had trouble naval blockading it, as Kong had friends helping him in the Bohai gulf. Regardless, Kong's forces held out for 4 months and resorted to cannibalism. Kong planned a breakout, but was caught in an ambush and forced back to Dengzhou in December. This prompted Kong to try and flee via the sea in February of 1633. The Ming pressed on trying to capture islands in the gulf and capture Kong, but he kept evading them. Eventually Kong and one of his fellow commanders Geng Zhongming defected to the Jin. Kong was made a marshal and Geng a commander. Yuan Chongzhen hailed all of this to be a major victory for the Ming, they had quelled a rebellion successfully, however the other side of the coin was that Kong and Geng would be vital to the expanding of the Jin. Hung Taiji took his 2 new allies and had them help him retake the port city of Lushun. Kong and Geng advised Hung that he should attack Lushun with a joint land-sea operation, which would be a first for the Jin. Thus in 1634, the Jin hit Lushun from the land, being repulsed by Lushun formidable cannons, but soon the Ming defenders ran low on ammunition. Then attacks came from the sea and with the simultaneous fronts battering the city, Lushun fell. Now the Jin held a strategic port and could use it to root out Ming power in the Bohai gulf. Hung followed this up by sending a letter to Pidao trying to get its commander to defect.

    Meanwhile in the northwest, the successor to Yang He, Hong Chengchou set to work thwarting growing rebellions. Hong proved to have a much firmer hand than He and scored repeated victories over bandits in the early years of his appointment. Hong dished out bonuses to soldiers based on the number of bandits killed which as you would imagine resulted in the slaughter of many bandits as well as commoners. Despite Hong’s efforts, by late 1631 there were an estimated 200,000 bandits still at large, then the following year it would grow to be 300,000 in Shanxi alone. 3 rebellion leaders would emerge here who would play major roles for the next 15 years, Zhang Xianzhong, Li Zicheng and Lao Huihui. In 1632, the Ming Court dispatched the censor, Wu Sheng to investigate the situation in Shaanxi. Wu reported the problem to be starvation and privation. Many commanders were reduced to eating grass and bandit leaders were strolling around with official Ming seals of authority to which he referred to them as “official bandits”. Basically it was bandits who were pacified by the late Yang He who were continuing banditry but under the guise they were changed men. Wu advised the emperor to enact a campaign of extermination and that's just what he did. 200, 000 taels were allocated to help agriculture and sooth the starvation and edits were made that all rebels would be henceforth exterminated. A major issue for the Ming was that the bandits were increasingly enlisting in the Ming military as soon as they had nowhere to plunder. Then after a while in the army, they would desert and return to banditry. This turned into a vicious cycle where the bandits would take advantage of the military troop transfers, to find new regions to plunder, particularly the Liaodong frontier. To make matters so much worse, most of these bandits knew another and were able to form larger rebellions all over the place. Rebels began to hit major cities, and when Ming armies came after them they would simply flee into the countryside. In turn pursuing the rebels left more cities vulnerable to attack.

    In mid 1634, Hung Taiji resumed his invasion of China. This time his forces went through Mongolia with his Mongol allies by his side. They advanced in 4 wings towards Shouzhou, Xuanfu, Datong and the Yellow River. The primary purpose of the assaults was to test Ming readiness and continue to chip away at the morale of the local populaces, exposing the Ming’s inability to protect its subjects. Over the course of 50 days, dozens of Ming fortresses and towns were attacked with various degrees of success. While they performed these operations they sent word to the Ming that they were simply trying to earn recognition as an equal neighboring state, but received no replies. Some officials did reply to the Jin however and this led the Emperor to fall into a state of paranoia that his dynasty was full of traitors. Thus more officials were exiled or executed by the end of 1634. A lot of the time it was Ming officials simplifying trying to opt out rivals that led to this. As bad as things were getting for the Ming, they did manage to grab a few victories and this led them to believe if properly outfitted and led, they could stand up to the Jin threat, especially if it was them dictating the circumstances of battles. But the Ming were hampered by lack of troops, lack of training and lack of supplies, the usual.

    Beginning in 1635, Hung Taiji began the practice of designating the Jurchen peoples as the Manchu, forbidding the term Jurchen. The origin of the term “Manchu” is still argued to this day. Some believe the term arose from the word for “river”, others say it is linked to efforts made by Hung to venerate his father, who claimed to be the reincarnation of the bodhisattva Manjusri. That one in effect may have been an effort by Hung to establish himself as a multi ethnic ruler. Regardless, calling themselves Manchu imbued a sense of unity and significantly departed from the past. It also provided a sort of mythos, or ancient identity befitting a state. Hung purged Daisan, who he saw as a rival amongst the Jurchen nobles. Hung then had a major victory over the Great Khan Ligdan, leader of the Chahar Mongols, making himself the heir to the Chinggisid line. While he consolidated his inner circle, Hung saw his peace talks with the Ming not coming to fruition and resolved yet again, to invade the Ming. But what was different now, was Hung was now in a position to challenge the Ming on a whole new level, he was about to adopt a dynastic name. He chose the term Qing, meaning “pure” and sent the message to the King of Korea, Injo in early 1636, requesting recognition of the new state. The Joseon dynasty refused to meet with the Qing envoy’s. On top of this the Joseon dynasty was supplying the Ming with rice and other supplies, despite previous agreements with the Jin to not do so. Hung was furious and mobilized an invasion force. But instead of attacking Korea outright, he instead sent investigators to find out why they would not recognize his state and in the meantime set out to attack the Ming. The attack was led by Hung’s brother Ajige and this time they hit Shanxi, razing towns west of its capital. There was a ton of back and forth, but by August, the Manchu’s were driven back east, by a commander named Lu Xiangsheng. Lu was promoted to supreme commander of both Xuanda and Shaanxi and soon recovered many lost towns to the Manchu. Still the Manchu forces got as close as the Marco Polo Bridge and began probing attacks on Shanhaiguan, but were repulsed. The Emperor freaked out, demanding to know from his officials how the Manchu had got so close to Beijing. For the Qing, it was like any other raid they had made countless times over the years. They acquired plentiful booty and further weakened their rival. Now Hung could turn his attention to the pesky koreans.

    The second invasion of Korea would be much bloodier than the first. To prevent the Ming from sending aid, Ajige and other Qing commanders were sent a month ahead to secure the coastal approaches to Korea. In december of 1636 the invasion commenced and Hung went to Zhenjiang to personally direct operations. The Qing commanders, Dorgon, a brother to Hung and Haoge led Mongol wings that swept in towards Seoul. The invasion was quick and overwhelmed the guards of the Joseon capital. Dorgon’s wing defeated 15,000 troops sending other Korean armies to flee. Kong Youde who was now made Prince Gongshun since the creation of the Qing struck out by sea against Kanghwa island and Pidao. The Qing now boasted 70 ships commanded by countless Ming and Joseon defectors hitting the islands with cannon barrages. The Ming lost an estimated 10,000 men trying to defend Pidao. The Joseon King fled to the mountain fortress of Namhan, trying to order his armies into battle as the Qing ransacked Seoul. More and more Korean armies tried to repel the invaders, but to no avail. Soon the Qing forces were setting up a siege of Namhan, when the King began to make peace talks. In the meantime Dorgon had captured the Kings concubines and children from Kanghwa island and displayed them before the army. The Qing used this to threaten the King to capitulate if he wished to save his family. King Injo relented and sent a minister to surrender at the Han River. King Injo sent a son to the Qing as a hostage and turned over his Ming seals of investiture. Hung stated to the Koreans, henceforth their relationship would be that of elder and younger brothers. The Koreans were ordered to now submit tribute as they had done for the Ming, but now to the Qing. They were also ordered to provide boats for the Qing war effort, which was to be a real game changer. In turn the Qing would not harm or loot the subjects of the Joseon dynasty. Now the Ming had lost this important vassal and the Qing had secured their flank and acquired a much needed new source of war supplies. The Qing dynasty was emerging with a real bang.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    With Nurhaci’s death at the legendary battle of Ningyuan, now Hung Taiji was the great Khan. The pesky Sea King Mao Wenlong proved to be faking much of his famed achievements and may have been a turn coat to boot. Yuan Chonghuan got his chance to take out Mao and take his turn in the sunlight unmolested by his rival anymore, but would ironically fall victim to being called a turn coat himself and be executed. As the Ming lost more and more competent commanders, a new problem emerged and it was internal rather than external. Peasant bandits were spreading in Shaanxi and full on rebellions were soon emerging. Hung Taiji got his hands on some very useful Ming defectors and the military underwent numerous upgrades. Hung Taiji proclaimed his people to be the Manchu under the new Qing dynasty as he defeated all of Korea forcing their tribute to go to the Qing rather than the Ming. Now Hung set his eyes on trying out his new toys upon the Ming.

  • Last time we spoke, the Yuan Dynasty lost their hold over China as a result of famines and a rebellion led by Zhu Yuanzhang that eventually toppled them. Now the Ming Dynasty stood as a marvel to the world achieving great wonders, but how long would it prosper? The Ming Dynasty’s first Emperors began their reign hampered by paranoia, leading to bloodshed. Eventually it seemed all was going well for the new Dynasty, but then an external threat came to the door in the form of Japan. The Imjin War of 1592-1598 saw the Ming Dynasty quelling the Japanese challenge at their status as the supreme military power in East Asia, but it also weakened them, opened the door for the Jurchen Chieftain Nurhaci to establish a new state and wage war upon them. Now Nurhaci had won a great victory over 4 Ming armies, what would he do next and how would the Ming stop him?

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on world war two and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    This episode is the Ming strike back

    After Nurhaci had shocked the Ming Court by defeating the 4 armies they sent to destroy him, they now realized they required bigger actions. The Ming Court appointed Xiong Tingbi as “Jinglue” the Military Affairs Commissioner of Liaodong. Xiong was a veteran, a very skilled commander, an intelligent negotiator and interestingly an ambidextrous archer. He was one of the very few Ming officials who had both civil and military skills. Xiong began his work by taking an account of his forces and the enemy. There was supposed to be roughly 180,000 Ming soldiers in the region, but Xiong’s personal inspectors found only 90,000 and of which many were unfit for war. Xiong estimated Nurhaci to have around 100,000 men, so this prompted him to request 1.2 million taels of silver from the Ministry Revenue to pump up the Liaodong defense. This soon escalated into a back and forth situation, prompting Xiong to argue that the bureaucrats were not investing enough funds to actually put up a real defense of Liaodong. In the end the Ministers of War and Revenue coughed up around half what he asked for. This would be a recurring theme until the end of the Ming dynasty.

    Xiong’s strategy was to establish extremely stout defenses instead of sending large forces out in the field to face the Jin. He also sought to “sooth the hearts and minds of the people”, emphasizing a psychological aspect of the war. What was meant by this was that Xiong was displaying to the Emperor that they needed the people of Liao to know they were valued subjects, because too many were becoming unhappy and as a result defected to the Jin. Xiong also realized having failed to secure enough funds he needed to find his own and thus they would “use the people of Liao to defend Liao and by using the resources of Liao to support Liao”.

    Xiong realized the only real avantage the Ming held over the Jin, was that of firepower.

    Thus Xiong wanted to formulate his defensive plans based around taking advantage of that. He quickly began using the funds to build up the moats and walls for the fortresses, build cannons and firearms and paid for the relocation of over 180,000 additional troops from other regions to defend a southern line between Fushun and Fort Zhenjiang. He also built up a system of beacons and watch towers which provided communication and coordination for the defensive efforts, cant help but visualize the beacons of Gondor haha.

    Xiong’s defensive strategy was to not meet the Jin in the open field and allow them to fall upon his fortifications. Thus he would not ride out to meet the invaders, but bide time and gradually recover lost territory through attrition. This would all start from Fushun and Qinghe, he also hoped to eventually gain some assistance from Mongols in the north and Koreans from the east thereby forcing the Jin into a multi front war. Xiong perceived Shenyang to have land too open and thus too difficult to defend so he argued against fortifying it much. This gave fuel to other rival officials to criticize him for this, stating he was simply abandoning it. Unsurprisingly given the Ming political climate, Xiong’s plans were attacked by many officials. One of the largest critics was Yang Sichang who said it was too difficult to fund and transport many of the troops Xiong wanted and that this would lead to heavy tax hikes and burdens for the commoners. Then as more territory fell to the Jin, Yang criticized Xiong's strategy stating “who even dares to stand up to the enemy. If good rewards are bestowed, then certainly there will be bravery”. It seemed unlike many of his colleagues, Xiong understood the Ming could win a defensive war by not trying to meet the enemy on the field. In fact once he began his defensive campaign, the Jin attacks decreased somewhat.

    Xiong would end up serving around a year with the full backing of Emperor Wanli who personally liked him, until he died on August 18th of 1620. At the end of his life, Emperor Wanli blamed the civil and military officials' inability to cooperate for the debacle in Liaodong. With the passing of Emperor Wanli, very little moments of military glory would befall the Ming’s future. Emperor Wanli was succeeded by Emperor Taichang who died barely a month into his term of possibly dysentery and was succeeded by Emperor Tianqi. As the transition process between the emperors was carrying on, many officials who had grievances against Xiong began to make their moves. They began to berate the high costs of his defenses, slandered his accomplishments and accused Xiong of losing territory and being a coward. An impeachment process began against Xiong and he did not want to face even worse scrutiny that could possibly lead to dire consequences so he quit his job. The position of Military Affairs Commissioner for Liaodong fell to Yang Sichang, one of the main officials slandering him; this also would become a recurring theme. A man named Yuan Yingtai was made Minister of War and Commissioner of Liao affairs. When Emperor Tianqi taking the throne and with Xiong out of the picture, suddenly the decision to reinforce Shenyang was made. As you might remember, Xiong thought it was not a good place to establish defenses. Yuan Yingtai was confident he could take more aggressive actions unlike his predecessor. He also sought to bolster the Ming strength with Mongol allies whom he personally trusted more than the inhabitants of Liaodong. You see, as a result Han defectors because of the Jin attacks, and just because of general history, the people of Liaodong were perceived by many to be somewhat untrustworthy. Thus he began promising several Mongol chieftains monetary rewards in exchange for their aid. Some of Yuan's colleagues feared what would happen with all the Mongols after they defeated the Jin stating “it was like opening the chicken coop to welcome the wolf and the tiger”. Despite all the worry Yuan persuaded the new Emperor to give 3 million taels to begin hiring Mongols, though much like in all aspects of the Ming dynasty at this point, the logistics of that money being dispursed properly by local officials was going to have issues.

    Nurhaci’s forces invaded the Liaodong region in the February of 1621 commencing with a siege against the fortress of Fengjibao due east of Shenyang. The forts defenses were commanded by General Li Bingchen and the cannons along its walls proved to be quite deadly, so Nurhaci took the easy route and simply surrounded the fortress at a safe distance waiting to starve them out. Eventually Li Bingchen alongside 200 soldiers came out and engaged the nearest Jin force managing to inflict some casualties, then they ran for their lives back to the fort as the Jin forces chased after them. During the chase, 1 Jin officer was killed by cannon fire, so Nurhaci pulled back the men to safety. The next day, Li Bingchen came out, but this time with 2000 men trying to engage the Jin. This time they were absolutely broken by the Jin and scattered in defeat, Li Bingchen himself was forced to flee away, and so the fortress was taken. Now the path to Shenyang was wide open. It is somewhat ironic to note, the removal of the defensive Xiong Tingbi and the appointment of the more aggressive Yuan Yingtai was what really facilitated Nurhaci’s attacks on Liaoyang and soon Shenyang. If you recall, Xiong did not want to defend Shenyang, deeming it indefensible. Yuan Yingtai did not share this view.

    After taking Fengjibao, Nurhacis army continued its march towards Shenyang, but he wanted to hit the city before winter had broken. Nurhaci’s scouts reported to him that Shenyang was quite heavily fortified with many cannons and firearms. Not wanting to needlessly sacrifice men, Nurhaci opted to establish a base camp on the banks of the Hun River and ordered his men to conduct raids and pillage the surrounding area to push the Shenyang defenders to sortie against them in the open field. There were 2 major commanders at Shenyang, He Shixian and You Shigong. Well Nurhaci’s raiding proved to be successful, as He Shixian, suddenly came rushing out with 1000 soldiers to attack a smaller Jin raiding party and allegedly he was quite drunk as well.

    They were quickly surrounded and forced to try and fight their way back to the west gate of Shenyang. Many of He Shixian’s men desperately urged him to flee to Liaoyang and to this he apparently said “How can I as the General not remain to defend the City?”. You Shigong saw He Shixian’s plight as he and his forces tried desperately to reach the west gate. Thus You Shigong tried to come out with his own force to save him, but He Shixian by that point had taken 4 arrows into his back and died. You Shigong’s forces were then surrounded and completely annihilated. Nurhaci’s men then scaled the walls of the city using siege ladders. As they were scaling the walls however a Ming relief column commanded by Chen Ce was spotted around the Hun River, so Nurhaci personally led some Banner men to attack them. Chen Ce’s heavy armored Pike infantry tried to make a solid formation against the Jin cavalry, but were outflanked and pushed right into the Hun River, many drowning in their heavy armor. Another relief column showed up behind them and engaged a force of 200 Jin which were quickly pulled back. Nurhaci then rallied them alongside his son Daisan and killed possibly 3000 of the Ming forces as they chased them out of the area.

    Shenyang’s morale broke upon seeing their presumed rescuers all fail and soon the Jin captured the city. After hearing that Shenyang had fallen, a Ming army of 50,000 was set to besiege and recapture the city. Scouts brought news of this to Nurhaci who stated that they must keep the momentum going, so he grabbed his bannerman and rushed out to confront the Ming force on the open field before they could set up their entrenchments around Shenyang. The Ming army was taken by surprise and only able to position their guns and fire a few times before the Jin cavalry was upon them. Nurhaci’s men made a pincer attack forcing the Ming to rout. Nurhaci would

    further this up, by simultaneously attacking and defeating yet another relief force dispatched from Liaoyang. The battle was quite significant as it marked the first time that Nurhaci had captured a significant walled city. All the previous victories were smaller fortresses and market towns. Capturing Shenyang was a huge achievement not by its lonesome, it also meant the Jin had a springboard to capture Liaoyang and perhaps control the whole region now. Liaoyang at this point was considered the lynchpin of Ming defenses, it had been heavily fortified with heavy firearms on its walls and an abundant garrison. Nurhaci was also given word that Yuan Yingtai’s headquarters were located at Liaoyang.

    Thus Nurhaci’s force immediately began to march upon Liaoyang and camped a couple miles outside the walled city. They began their siege of the city by cutting off its main water supply, sapping the eastern wall of the city and constructing siege weapons. Nurhaci also suspected relief armies would soon embark to assist Liaoyang, so he tasked 4 banners to intercept any that might try. Once the Ming defenders saw the siege weapons being constructed, this prompted them to send out a force of 30,000 troops who quickly set up their own lines and fired guns and catapults upon the invaders. The Ming defector and now commander, Li Yongfang utilized his own cannons upon the Ming force drawing their attention while a smaller Jin force snuck around them. That Jin force then made a desperate attack upon the bridge leading into the walled city under heavy Ming cannonfire. They were able to take the Wujing Gate and cut down the bridge severing the 30,000 strong Ming force outside. The Ming desperately tried to flee back into the city realizing they had been cut off, but now the invaders were charging on their heels pushing them into the cities moat, the very moat that was supposed to protect them! It is said quote “the defenders corpses eventually piled up so much within the moat that the water turned crimson red”. The Jin forces then began to employ floating bridges across the moat. A relief corps from Shandong arrived to the scene, but the 4 Banner’s dispatched just for the possibility were able to turn them back. Meanwhile the wall defenders rained fire arrows and pots full of fiery substances, but it would be to no avail as 2 walls soon crumbled. As the walls fell, the defenders began to panic and tried to flee only to come face to face with more Jin attackers and be pushed back to die within the moats. From the first day of the siege, Yuan Yingtai personally led the troops. To his despair, a Jin cannon had managed to hit the Ming Powder stores, which took out a vast amount of their supply. To add insult to injury, the Mongol allies they had within the city were plundering it instead of aiding in the defense. Yuan Yingtai was standing in a tower watching the destruction fall before him. Once he say the banner troops breach the walls he lit his watch tower on fire committing suicide. It is alleged before he did this, he welcomed the invaders waving some burned incense shouting “wansui” Long Life before he lit himself on fire.

    The Jin followed up the taking of Liaoyang by occupying all the defenses east of the Liao River, over 70 fortified towns and garrisons. It is estimated 70,000 Ming soldiers perished and the Ming relief forces from the south had only taken perhaps 2 to 3 thousand Jin forces down trying to save the region. A lot of the fortified cities would do well initially in battles, but they all seemed to run out of ammunition or gunpowder and eventually would fall as a result. Adding to this, with every city taken by the Jin, more and more of the Ming’s Mongol allies defected to the Jin cause.

    The situation prompted Nurhaci to send a letter to the King of the Joseon Dynasty pressing him to renounce his allegiance to the Ming and to turn over all the Ming refugees who fled into Korea. Nurhaci began to restore many Ming officials to their former ranks and titles, but now under service to the Jin state. As was becoming more standard practice, Nurhaci also gave orders to his forces to leave the Ming commoners unmolested. And yet again, Nurhaci moved his capital now to Liaoyang and held a victory feast 3 months later in the new capital.

    It was at this point Nurhaci began to do more state building and put on hold the further invasion of Ming territory. He wanted to draw more subjects over to his side from the Ming and he did this by initiating new laws, taxes and practices designed to protect all peoples, specifically Han chinese. Meanwhile the Ming Court were scratching their heads trying to figure out why Shenyang and Liaoyang fell. A lot of reasons were given such as: Yuan Yingtai lacking practical military experience, the Ming officials were all uncoordinated, the Ming soldiers abandoned the fortresses too fast sometimes before there was even a breach in any wall and perhaps there was just a general lack of discipline in the military ranks. Thus the Ming Court made motions to improve the military training and searched for more capable commanders. Xue Guoyong was appointed Vice Minister of War and the Jinglue of Liaodong. Wang Huazhen was appointed Xunfu, the vice censor in chief of the right and touring pacification commissioner of Guangning, wow what a long title. Oh and its not just a long title, there was a real issue beginning to brew with the Ming Court appointing too many responsibilities onto single officials. Indeed the Ming bureaucracy was ripe with incompetence as it was with corruption. Often Ming officials would compete for resources or formulate countervailing strategies in the field. In the absence of a strong overseer, gridlocks formed often. While the Tianqi Emperor secluded himself and did not put his foot down enough on the Ming officials, Nurhaci was always in the field holding direct command of his forces. This would prove to be a distinct advantage leading to the Ming downfall. This would also end up the case with Xue Guoyong, who began his job…by really not advocating any particular policy. Though on the plus side, this led to a more defensive strategy.

    Now Wang Huazhen however favored an aggressive policy using both land and sea operations against the Jin. The Ming Court then tried to figure out the best place to hold the line, most thought the best would be the west bank of the Liao River. Thus the city of Guangning was going to be heavily fortified and Xiong Tingbi was recalled to service. Xiong immediately recommensed with his original defense strategy using Guangning as the focal point. He fortified positions along the Sancha River and made sure Denglai and Tianjin would be able to launch both land and naval relief operations. Xiong asked for 300,000 men to execute the new defensive plan but would only receive around 260,000. To make matters worse, Wang Huazhen began dispersing these forces to garrison multiple sites rather than concentrate the bulk at Guanging as Xiong planned. As I said countervailing strategies in the field.

    To add to the chaos that was the Ming Court there was a rather famous upcoming star named Mao Wenlong. Mao had established a base of operations on the island of Pidao near the mouth of the Yalu River and he made a series of raids into Jin territory, sometimes aided by Korean units. This would push the Jin to make expeditions within Korea to try and capture Mao and also had the double effect of influencing the Ming Court. As I have mentioned, the overall strategy was now defensive, but these daring raids by Mao were pushing those in the Court to adopt more and more aggressive policies. Mao became something of a lynchpin for the aggressive camp in the ourt, despite the fact Mao was only leading around 200 men with 4 boats. Mao did manage to strike at the fortress of Zhenjiang showcasing how much of a pest he could be to the Jin. Meanwhile Xiong and Wang argued against each other over their defense vs offense strategies and now Wang had fuel for his side of the argument, that of Mao. Thus the Court eventually gave way to Wang who unleashed Mao upon the Jin. The Ming Court agreed to allow upto 50,000 men to be sent by sea to Liaodong to capture Zhenjiang and once it was secured their Korean allies might augment it as well. Xiong argued it was too early for such ventures but that was not headed as Wang rebutted by stating he had over 400,000 Mongol allies ready to act. Thus Mao disembarked under the cover of darkness to attack Zhenjiang. Mao had secured some 5th columnists inside who opened the gates for his Ming forces and the Jin garrison was forced to flee. Mao held the fortress with his men and even repulsed a Jin counter attack of some thousand troops. Then attack after attack after attack came, and Mao feared being surrounded and was forced to cast off back to Pidao island. As soon as Mao left, Nurhaci ordered his forces to raze Zhenjiang to the ground, not ever wanting to deal with the pesky situation again.

    Now while this was a major victory for Mao it also held dire consequences. First it had dislocated a lot of people from Korea and Liaodong and they would most likely defect to the Jin. Second it began the rise of semi-independent military figures in the Bohai gulf region. Third, it shook the confidence of the Jin and pushed them to continue the invasion sooner. Mao’s achievements also did little to anything in regards to retaking territory. The Ming Court however were now more than ever bolstered towards Wang's aggressive strategy and were now poised to launch an operation into Liaodong. Mao was appointed “zongbing guan” Commander of Dongjiang and ordered to coordinate an attack on the Jin rear alongside the Korean allies, so the Ming forces from the west would not have all attention put on them. Mao immediately demanded 50,000 troops and to make a deadly pincer attack. It also seems everything had really gone to Mao’s head as he began referring to himself as an independent “hai wang” (sea king) in the Bohai region. Mao began to boast that with only 40,000 men he could recapture all of Liaodong and those threats did not go unnoticed by Nurhaci. Nurhaci would begin a long process of courting Mao try to strike a deal with him secretly.

    Now while the Jin invasions were definitely a primary threat to the Ming Dynasty, problems from within the empire would also contribute to its downfall. One major one would be known as the She-An Rebellion of 1621.

    To finance the war efforts in Liaodong, provinces like Guizhou and Sichuan were required to send troops, war supplies, grain and a hell of a lot of money. This led to a lot of discontent and some disastrous situations. A aboriginal chieftain named She Chongming had agreed to send grain and 20,000 troops to Liaodong for the war effort. Well She showed up to the provincial capital, Chongqing with the grain and the 20,000 troops including all their families, making the total number over 80,000. The local governor informed them that the Ming only required the warriors and ordered the families to return home while simultaneously refusing to provide them food rations for the trip back. And so She killed the governor, many other officials and assaulted Chongqing. Well apparently this was all part of the plan and She quickly proclaimed the formation of the Kingdom of Shu, that being in reference to the ancient people of Sichuan.

    Soon 100,000 locals defected to the cause of conquering Sichuan. The rebellion spread like wildfire from Sichuan, Guizhou, Zunyi and eventually petered out at Chengdu which was unsuccessfully besieged for over 102 days. In the meantime the Ming forces were able to reclaim Chongqing after a month of fighting. Then following in She’s footsteps, another aboriginal chieftain named An Bangyan tried to get out of paying some taxes by asking to send troops instead to Liaodong. The Ming official rejected the request and An joined the rebellion stating it was “in order to reclaim his ancestors glory”. She and An combined their forces and marched on the city of Guiyang in Guizhou with an army estimated to be up to 300,000 strong. Guiyang city only had 5000 soldiers, but the indigenous army was unable to penetrate the city’s wall defenses, it turns out they went about their attack only one gate at a time. The siege lasted 296 days and barely 200 of the city’s defenders survived. Many of the cities inhabitants were forced to resort to cannibalism, some even went atop the city gates to show the attackers the acts of cannibalism to show their resolve. In 1623 a Ming relief force was sent to quell the rebellion and were ambushed resulting in the death of a possible 40,000 troops. The commander on scene then pleaded for an additional 200,000 troops and 3 million taels worth of war supplies to stop the rebellion. The government periodically would send forces to fight the rebels over the course of many years, but the rebellion persisted. Then in 1629 both She and An would be killed on the battlefield and the Ming finally managed to quell the rebellion. In all the rebellion required possibly a million Ming troops and cost up to 35 million taels of silver, over 12,000 per day. The fact the rebellion lasted so long showcases the enormous dissatisfaction the common people felt about the Ming rule in the South West. Now it goes without saying this was an enormous cost on both human life and for the finances of the ailing dynasty, but lets not forget all the people and money spent in the south west of China was also not being spent in the North East against the Jin raiders.

    Taking our focus back to the northeast, Ming forces at the fortress in Xiping had managed to repulse a Jin assault. The commander of Fortress Xiping was Luo Yiquan, who prefered sticking inside the fortress rather than open field combat. Luo’s forces defended the city fiercely, his cannons inflicted heavy casualties upon the Jin forces, so much so that when Li Yongfang asked him to surrender, Luo simply cursed him out as a traitor. It is said quote “that so many of Jin's corpses piled up that it reached the top of the walls and that Luo himself could not wield his bow at one point as a result of so much blood streaming into his eyes”. Yet like so many other Ming fortresses, there was a finite amount of gunpowder and ammunition. When Luo ran out he apparently turned in the direction of Beijing, bowed and said “Your minister has exhausted himself” before slitting his throat. Luo’s remaining garrison of 3000 were slaughtered when Nurhaci’s men took the fortress. Xiong was furious at Wang’s inability to hold Xiping, stating “where has all your big talk of peacetime gone?”. Well it turns out Wang had indeed sent a relief force of 30,000 men, but they arrived late and were ambushed by the Jin perhaps losing a third in battle.

    Now when the reports began to pour in that Luo’s forces were giving the Jin hell at fortress Xiping, this seemed to have emboldened Wang Huazhen who appointed Sun Degong to follow up the successful repulse and take the fight to the Jin on the field. Sun Degong began this mission by cutting a deal with Nurhaci promising to help turn over Guangning. When Xiping fell, Sun ran to Guangning and began telling everyone impending doom was on the way. This prompted Wang’s Mongol allies to begin plundering everywhere. Thus the city was emptied and Sun was able to turn it over neatly to Nurhaci. Wang had originally been at Guangning, but quickly fled to the outskirts of Dalinghe where he ran into none other than Xiong Tingbi who berated him “You said you could completely pacify Liao with 60,000 troops so what happened?”. Wang now agreed that Xiong's defensive strategy was the best option and both men told their forces to begin a scorched earth policy as they retreated in shame towards Shanhaiguan.

    As for Sun Degong he earned a place in Nurhaci’s army as a mobile corps commander attached to the White Banner. Sun helped Nurhaci’s sons Daisan and Hung Taiji furthermore to take Yizhou, killing a garrison of 3000 there. With the loss of Guangning the Ming had lost a central staging point to recover territory in Liaodong. Both Xiong and Wang were impeached and each executed, Xiong in 1625, Wang in 1632. Xiong seems to be quite the victim in all of this and many felt he should not have been executed. But Xiong had made quite a few enemies over the years and lacked enough powerful friends to save him. His loss would be one of many terrible losses for the ailing dynasty. With the loss of Guangning, many in the court were now convinced of the necessity to create a second front to distract Nurhaci. Thus the sea king, Mao Wenlong was appointed commander in charge of pacifying Liao and instructed to cooperate with the new jinglue, Sun Chengzong. Sun Chengzong enjoyed a good relationship with the emperor and managed to convince him to appoint several men, 2 important ones being Sun Yuanhua and Yuan Chonghuan. Sun began his job by fortifying the Ming defense perimeter. Similar to Xiong, Sun favored a defensive approach. Sun made an effort to caution the Ming court not to overemphasize minor defeats or victories, but rather to always keep up a stout defense and win this war by outlasting. To Sun, the major issue at hand was that many in the court who held most of the power had no knowledge of military matters. Sun gave Yuan Chonghuan the job of Inspector of the Army at Shanhaiguan, so that he could train and establish defensive preparations.

    Sun dispatched many Ming officials to inspect the state of defenses. Their findings indicated that Ningyuan, located due southwest of Guangning was the best place for an advance base and that the walls could be extended as far out as Shanhaiguan. Sun also recognized that since the beginning of the conflict, the Ming were at an extreme disadvantage in the open field, something new needed to be done. Ming rulers had long understood the importance of firearms for war, they had proved crucial in the 3 great campaigns of the Wanli Emperor in the 1590’s afterall. Thus Sun called for 130,000 additional troops to face the Jin and directed the Ministry of Works to construct 300 “caitiff exterminating cannons”, 1000 100character cannons and 7000 niao chongs, sometimes denoted as arquebuses. The Jin had defeated the Ming countless times because of the superior mobility of their large amount of cavalry, allowing them to lure the Ming into killing fields and terrain that best suited them. Now the Ming were turning to outside sources to aid their war effort.

    The Portuguese colony on Macau was consulted to aid in the training of gunnery and soon experts were made such as Sun Yuanhua who would claim to have trained 8000 men in firearms in under 3 months time. As one Jesuit stated at the time “These guns were highly esteemed and carried to the frontiers against the Tartars; who were not knowing of this new invention, and coming on many together in a close body received such a slaughter from an iron piece that they were not only put to flight at that time, but went on ever after with more caution”. Sun called for the adopting of western methods for the casting and deployment of cannonry and urged the building of cannon platforms and other wall defense structures to complement them. Sun Yuanhua was appointed the rank of jishi and would train countless in gunnery. Now at this time in history some of these western made cannons are theorized to have a range of around 2-3 miles. A 7000 lb gun which could fire a 32 lb shot would have an effective range of about 2000 feet but could max out at 7000. It is estimated that the Ministry of Works manufactured around 25,000 cannons of various sorts, 6500 muskets, 8000 or so smaller guns and around 4000 Culverines from 1618-1622. Alongside the swords, spears, arrows and such this all is estimated to have cost the Ming Dynasty 21 million taels. That's a staggering amount, greatly showing the extent of the Ming Dynasties resources when push came to shove. The Ming would also receive 26 additional cannons from the Portuguese between 1623-1625 of which 11 were placed in Shanhaiguan.

    The sea king, Mao Wenlong continued to press for funds and the assistance of Korea as he waged war on the Jin. Mao made another daring night attack, his time on Jinzhou where he managed to steal 1014 cannons and guns, a ton of gunpowder and other war supplies for the use of his ships. To the Ming, taking such supplies from the Jin was a great war effort, so they kept supporting Mao. Over the next few years, Mao would lead small units against isolated Jin fortresses, raiding from the coast. The entire time he made these ventures, he would continuously complain about needing further funds, but the Koreans, some of whom were assisting him warned the court that he was exaggerating a lot of his victories. The Koreans even warned the Ming court that Mao might be holding secret talks with Nurhaci.

    Sun did not favor a withdrawal of Ming forces all the way to Shanhaiguan,which many commanders were advocating for, instead he argued that they use Ningyuan as a staging point of defense and for the future springboard to take territory back. He also wanted to stress the problems he saw looming in the Ming Court, so he made this statement to them “The frontier situation is dire. Troops have been amassed, but not trained and military supplies have not arrived. You need generals to lead the troops but civil officials to coordinate training. Generals must oversee ranks, but a civil offi cial must determine their use. You must use military offi cials to defend the frontiers but every day they should consult with civil officials in their tent. So the frontier should be entrusted to a xunfu and a jinglue and the decision to attack or defend should emanate from the court.”.

    Sun further argued that raising troops was not enough and that they would need more adequate funds much to the lamentations of the court who cried there was no money to spend due to the She-An rebellion. The Emperor eventually handed over 30,000 taels, which was not very much. Now the new strategy was to hold Ningyuan and the islands of Bohai to force the Jin to divide their strength. They would use Mao Wenlong as a vanguard who could perform land or sea operations. Alongside this many in the court were also in favor of hiring more Mongols, because in their words Mongols might be “more cost effective than paying, feeding, training, and supplying soldiers recruited from the interior”. Well to this Sun unveiled his trump card, a bold new plan, in his words to quote “use the people of Liao to defend Liao and the soil of Liao to support the troops of Liao”. His plan was to establish military farms in the rich soil of Liao which could be garrisoned by 100,000 local Liao people. They would become regular full time soldiers who could defend major fortresses in Liao. The idea was quite good on paper, by doing everything local, the defenders of Liao were less likely to plunder their own neighbors and would be more likely to fight off invaders for what they now had. Sun’s plan was given the greenlight and in 1622 he began implementing training programs in the use of firearms with the aid of Yuan Chonghuan. Liao locals were enlisted for building projects and military jobs. Brigades were organized and the land cultivation expanded all across liao. Sun recommended they build 5 new walled cities and 13 forts for protecting the people of Liao. All of this work in turn helped revive the great Ming project called tuntian, which was a agricultural farm system designed to feed all the troops in the empire, but it had been waning over the centuries. By 1623 Sun was given additional honorific titles and 100,000 taels as reward for his efforts to restore discipline and order within the region of Liao. After 4 years in office, Sun had recaptured 9 major cities, 45 fortresses, trained 110,000 new troops and a massive amount of arms production.Yet despite his great success, Sun was also acquiring jealous enemies within the Ming court such as the eunuch Wei Zhongxian. Wei Zhongxian had been incriminated by some officials that were friends to Sun and he held a grievance towards them all. Alongside this the Jin had begun raids south of the Great Wall and recaptured the city of Lushun in 1625. Sun's successes made his rivals quite jealous and his enemies did not stop at just attacking him, they went after his proteges also. Eventually Wei Zhongxian and his allies managed to pressure Sun to retire and he was replaced by Gao Di in late 1625.

    In the meantime, there had been problems in Korea and the Sea King Mao was arguing they needed to do more to support their Korean allies stating “although weak, Korea is still on our border and can be useful in helping us resist the Jin. Therefore we cannot simply abandon Korea. Every person who returns to being a Ming subject is one less potential Jin soldier”. The idea of Korea falling into the orbit of the Jin frightened the court and Wei Zhongxian argued they should support Mao. At the same time, former predecessor and successor to Sun, Yuan Chonghuan was growing increasingly frustrated by Mao’s antics.

    After the blunders at the battle of Sarhu and Guangning, Yuan Chonghuan was tasked with the defense of Shanhaiguan in 1622. Before he went to the frontlines he actually visited the imprisoned Xiong Tingbi before his execution. Xiong asked Yuan what his strategy would be, to which Yuan stated “first defend, then fight”. Xiong was pleased at the similar mindset and advised him for the rest of the day. By 1624 Yuan was helping build the new defensive lines around Songshan, Xingshan, Dalinghe and Jinzhou. Then some of the Ming Court began to argue that the Ming forces should be pulled further back to which Yuan protested “In the art of war you advance, not retreat. Three cities have already been recovered; we can’t lightly cast them away! If these places are disturbed, everything will fall apart and we won’t be able to hold the passes. Now if we select a capable general to guard them, certainly we won’t need to deliberate further”. When Sun was replaced, Gao Di did not agree with Yuan on the issue and made orders to abandon the cities. Despite the orders however, Yuan refused to withdraw stating “I have been entrusted with the defense of the Ningyuan region. Should I need to, I’ll die for it, but I certainly won’t abandon it!”. Thus Yuan began to prepare Ningyuan for an onslaught all by his lonesome.

    Nurhaci noticed the Ming pulling back forces and saw that Ningyuan was becoming isolated, so what better place to attack? Now throughout the conflict, though Nurhaci’s forces were winning victory after victory, Ming cannons proved to inflict quite a toll upon them. Nurhaci wanted to create a new strategy to help against the cannons. So his forces would now stretch animal hides over military carts and send them first in to draw fire, then follow this up with infantry and cavalry strikes to goad out defenders from the forts. In early 1626 Nurhaci’s forces arrived at Ningyuan where he tried to convince them to surrender. He sent the message to Yuan Chonghuan stating he would overrun his city with a force of over 200,000. Yuan replied that he knew the great Khan only had 130,000 troops and that he and his fellow commanders were prepared to die to the last man defending Ningyuan. He also left the ancient maxim quote “Those who seek life will die, but those who welcome death will live”.

    As we mentioned, Ningyuan’s walls had quite a few western made cannons and Yuan had ordered the torching of all the nearby buildings around the city to not offer anything to the invaders. Well trained Fujianese gunners were put on cannon detail and the word was sent out to Shanhaiguan calling for reinforcements. Yuan had a total garrison of 20,000 men with sub commanders assigned specific roles. Man Gui was in charge of wall defenses, Zu Dashou the south gate, Zhu Mei the north gate and Zuo fufen the west gate. The night before the battle Yuan conducted a blood pact, the defenders would defend the city to the death, any who fled would be executed. The Jin setup came northwest of the city, testing the range of the Ming cannons. Nurhaci’s scouts reported the southwest corner of the city to be the weakest point. Nurhaci personally led the charge and brandished his sword in the air. Yuan ordered his men to hold fire until the enemy was within a close range. Nurhaci’s reinforced military carts rolled forward, but his forces reverted to their original way of fighting and pushed forward of the carts. It seems the Jin hoped to use the same tactics they usually did, run past the cannon fire while goading the defenders out. The Ming did not come out however, they pelted the cavalry with cannonfire and incendiary bombs and poison bombs were lobed over the walls. The Jin forces then tried to attack another corner of the city, but were hit with a ton of burning oil and more incendiary bombs which destroyed a lot of their seige equipment. One strategist on the wall had even come up with the idea of tossing bed sheets covered in gunpowder and oil over the attackers and hitting it with fire arrows. This eventually caused a sea of fire to erupt around the walled city engulfing the Jin’s frontal infantry. By the evening the battle was still raging on and parts of the walls were on fire. Around 10pm Nurhaci ordered the men to pull back, finally sending an angry message to his commander Li Yongfang “You said this city would be easy to take. How can it be this difficult to attack?”. The next day the Jin launched similar attacks and got similar results, something obviously needed to change. There was a nearby island called Juehua which held the major granary for Ningyuan. The defenses on the island were a bit more relaxed because the Ming assumed the invaders had no boats, unfortunately the water had frozen enough for men to cross. Nurhaci dispatched a force who crossed the river and massacred thousands while destroying the granary. Estimates place the dead defenders of Juehua to be up to 16,000.

    Then Nurhaci yet again brandished his sword and personally led an attack upon the walls, and then disaster struck. One of the Portuguese-made cannons struck near Nurhaci giving him over 30 wounds. Nurhaci was soon taken out of the combat zone and Yuan sent a letter asking the well-being of the Khan, something traditionally done by Ming commanders. Nurhaci reportedly replied back with insults calling Yuan a treacherous man. Now there are a few different stories, but one states Nurhaci died 2 days later of the wounds on September 30th, some others state it to be later on. Regardless at the age of 67 he died, wow, think about that guy at 67 waving a sword around on a horse in battle? This was the first major defeat for Nurhaci, though later Qing records would state he only lost something like 500 men. The Ming reports stated that it was in the figure of a few thousand and Yuan sent 269 heads back to Beijing. The Ming court was overwhelmed with joy by this moment, the Emperor himself exclaimed “that 10 years of defeat had been erased in a single day”. In the meantime, the sea king Mao was still receiving a lot of press coverage for his raids in the Bohai coast and this seems to have frustrated Yuan or atleast made him jealous of the spotlight not only being on him. Yuan began advocating for a mixed strategy of offense and defense, to gradually retake territory from Ningyuan to Lushun. Yuan urged the Ming Court that his way of war would work best and that Mao’s wreckless adventures were only provoking the Jin to strike elsewhere where they could do more damage. Needless to say, the tiger that was Nurhaci was dead, so now what would the Jin do?

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    Xiong Tingbi created a defensive strategy to defeat the Jin menace and despite his impeachment and execution, his legacy carried on with certain Ming commanders. The rise of the sea king Mao Wenlong seems to have the court gushing like fan girls over the countless victories he has won, but reports from others are suggesting he might be exaggerating his victories, or perhaps making them up? Sun Chengzong proved to be a very gifted commander initiating new military strategies that bore fruit despite being forced into retirement by his court enemies. Then at the last hour when all hope was lost and all on his lonesome, Yuan Chonghuan the cannon expert managed to turn the tides at Ningyuan by dealing a death blow to Nurhaci’s army and Nurhaci himself. The Jin are leaderless, who will take the throne and what comes next?



  • Long Intro

    China is one of the world’s four ancient civilizations, alongside Mesopotamia, the Indus valley and Egypt. It has a written history dating as far back as the Shang Dynasty, that's around 1600 BC, over 3000 years ago! Now as you can also imagine you are not getting the full rundown of the entire history of China, it’s simply too immense for the overall story we are getting into. The story I want to tell has been termed by scholars, “the century of humiliation” dating 1839 until 1949. During this period China or better called the Qing Dynasty and later Republic of China faced terrible and humiliating subjugation by Western powers and the Empire of Japan.The story we are going to begin today is one of pain and hardship, but it is also a tale of endurance and resilience that created the China we see today.

    This is the Fall and Rise of China Podcast



    I am going to let you in on a little secret, I myself am quite new to the vast history of China. As some of you listeners might already know, I am the writer and narrator of the Pacific War Podcast week by week. I specialize in the Pacific War and Japanese history and I ventured into a journey to explain everything that is the Pacific War of 1937-1945 when I began my personal Channel called the Pacific War Channel on Youtube. Yet when I sat down to begin writing about the history of Tokugawa Japan and how Japan would find itself on a path towards virtual oblivion, I thought to myself, well what about China? This is when I fell down a rabbit hole that is 19th century China. I immediately fell in love with it. I am a westerner, a Canadian, this was knowledge not usually told on my side of the world. So I thought, what are the most important events that made the China we see emerging during the Pacific War, or to be more accurate the Second Sino-Japanese War? I fell upon the first opium war, by the time I read a few books on that, it was the second opium war, then the Taiping Rebellion, the Nian Rebellion, the Boxer rebellion, the list goes on and on. 19th Century China is one of the most fascinating albeit traumatic episodes of human history and has everything to do with the formation of the China we see today. The term a century of humiliation or 100 years of humiliation is how many Chinese historians describe the time period between the First Opium War and the end of the Chinese Civil War. I do not speak the language nor have a full understanding of the culture, I am a lifelong learner and continue to educate myself on the history of one of the most ancient peoples of our world. This will be a long and honestly difficult story to tell, but I welcome you to join me on this journey.

    Stating all that I want to begin our journey explaining how the Ming Dynasty fell and the Qing Dynasty rose up.

    This episode is the rise of Nurhaci

    Welcome to the Fall and Rise of China Podcast, I am your dutiful host Craig Watson. But, before we start I want to also remind you this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Perhaps you want to learn more about the history of Asia? Kings and Generals have an assortment of episodes on world war two and much more so go give them a look over on Youtube. So please subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry for some more history related content, over on my channel, the Pacific War Channel where I cover the history of China and Japan from the 19th century until the end of the Pacific War.

    The Ming-Qing transition is a story filled with drama and corruption, heroes and villains, traitors and martyrs. Peasant rebellions, corrupt politicians and terrifying invaders would eventually collapse what was the Ming dynasty.

    The Ming Dynasty was the ruling dynasty of China between 1368 and 1644. It would be the last dynasty to be ruled by Han Chinese. They had overthrown the Mongol led Yuan dynasty of 1271-1368 which fell for a plethora of reasons such as class conflict caused by heavy taxation and ethnic conflicts. During the entire history of China, there is always room for rebellions, and quite a number of Han revolts would occur such as the Red Turban rebellion beginning in 1351. Now amongst these many rebellions taking place there was Zhu Yuanzhang a man born into a impoverished peasant family in Zhongli county, present day Fengyang of Anhui Province. He had 7 older siblings, of which several were sold off by his parents because there was not enough food to go around. When he was 16, a severe drought ruined his family’s harvest and this was accompanied by a plague that took the lives of both his parents and all his siblings, save for one brother. Around this time the Yellow River dykes had flooded causing a widespread famine. More than 7 million people would starve as a result of the drought and famine in central and northern China. The now orphan Zhu would then dedicate his life to become a buddhist monk at the Huangjue Monastery near Fenyang to avoid starvation, which was a common practice of the poor. Then the monastery where he lived was destroyed by an army suppressing a rebellion. I would say enough had been enough for Zhu because this prompted him in 1352 to join a local rebel group associated with the White Lotus Society against the Yuan Dynasty. So he began to live a life as a bandit, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor as it's said. The leader of the rebel group was a man named Guo Zixing who led an attack to capture Haozhou. Zuo became his second in command and took on the name Zhu Yuanzhang. Guo quickly began to see the rising star that was Zhu as a rival, but would eventually die in 1355, leaving Zhu to take leadership of the rebel army. Zhu attacked and captured towns and cities in eastern China and as Zhu did this he also found scholars who could educate him. This allowed Zhu to learn the principles of good governance and soon his abilities were beginning to show. This local rebel group in turn eventually joined the larger Red Turban Army rebels against the Yuan Dynasty. Eventually young Zhu rose through the ranks and would emerge the leader of the rebellion. Zhu early on ordered the scholars in his ranks to portray him as a national leader against the Mongols rathan that just a popular rebel. In 1356 Zhu’s forces captured the strategic city of Nanjing which would become the future capital of the Ming Dynasty. Zhu would then emerge as the national leader against the Mongols, though he had rivals such as Chen Youliang based in Wuchang and Zhang Shicheng based in Pingjiang. Both rivals declared themselves leaders of new dynasties, Chen as emperor of the Han dynasty, Zhang as a prince of the Zhou dynasty. Zhu managed to defeat Chen’s naval forces at Lake Poyang in 1363 and Chen would die with the destruction of that fleet. With the conquest of Chen’s holdings at Wuhang, Hubei, Hunan and Jiangxi, Zhu soon proclaimed himself a Prince of Wu. Then Zhu was able to capture Zhang Shicheng who committed suicide, after this many rebel groups fell into submission. After continuing the fight against the Yuan and other warlords until 1368 when he then proclaimed himself emperor of the Ming Dynasty adopting the name Hongwu meaning “vastly martial”, though he is more correctly referred to as the Taizu emperor.

    Emperor Hongwu sent out his armies to conquer the north while provinces in China submitted to his rule. The northwest was first to fall, followed by the southwest and by 1382 unification would be complete. Under his rule, the Mongol bureaucracy that had dominated the Yuan dynasty were replaced with Han Chinese officials. He re-instituted the imperial Examination, something that had roots going as far back as the Three Kingdoms period. He began major projects such as a long city wall around Nanjing. Now Hongwu was a very paranoid, cruel and even irrational ruler and this would increase as he aged. Upon taking power he immediately transformed the palace guards into a quasi secret police force and began a massive campaign to root out anyone who might threaten his authority. Hongwu set his secret police to work which resulted in a 14 year campaign of terror. In 1380, the prime minister Hu Weiyong was found to be plotting a coup to take the throne, he would be executed alongside 30,000 or so officials. Hongwu would abolish the prime minister and chancellor roles in government. Yet this did not satisfy him and 2 subsequent campaigns would occur resulting in the killing of 70,000 other people ranging from government officials all the way down to servants, your typical new emperor stuff.

    Emperor Hongwu began a process of stationing members of his royal family all across the empire. He did after all have 26 sons, wow, and those who survived long enough became princes and were assigned a territory and military to rule. This system he built up would have some dire consequences down the road. Now just because Hongwu had overthrown the Mongol led Yuan dynasty and drove them up north, but this did not mean they were gone. Zhu envisioned early into his reign a border policy where mobile armies along the northern frontier would guard against the Mongol threat. Adding to this he wanted 8 outer garrisons near the steppe and a system of forts and other defensive structures. The inner line of this defense would end up being the Ming Great Wall, part of the Great Wall of China. Manchuria and parts of outer mongolia remained under the control of Mongols and they held what is called the Northern Yuan dynasty. They too would be conquered by Hongwu’s forces and after the emperor's death would be “complacent”, though they would claim to still be the legitimate heirs to the throne. Speaking of heirs to the throne, Hongwu would eventually die and he was succeeded by his 15 year old grandson Zhu Yunwen who would take up the title Jianwen Emperor in 1398.

    Now Hongwu had chosen Zhu Yunwen to succeed him, but as is common throughout history, there would be someone else who would vie for the position. Now following somewhat in his grandfather's footsteps, the Jianwen Emperor began his emperorship by trying to limit the power of those who could threaten him, IE: his family. One of the first edicts he would make was for his uncles to remain in their respective territories, while he simultaneously began to effectively reduce their military capabilities. The first uncle he threw proposals at held the largest territory and most powerful military, he was Zhu Di the Prince of Yan and he simply refused the proposals. Then Jianwen arrested one uncle on treason charges, stripped his family of their royal status and exiled them. Jianwen followed this up by doing the same thing to 4 more uncles. Well as you can imagine a rift began to emerge between the families being targeted and that of Jianwen, so the Prince of Yan, Zhu Di who was the eldest surviving uncle and had the most formidable military assumed leadership amongst the targeted families. This prompted Jianwan to appoint several officials to go to current day Beijing where Zhu Di was stationed to stop his uncle from allegedly planning a coup. Zhu Di feinted being ill to illude the officials, but they reported back to the Emperor they thought a coup was about to occur. Thus the emperor gave the order to arrest his uncle at court, but a official at court leaked this information to Zhu Di.

    Zhu Di soon began a rebellion against his nephew which led to a 3 year civil war (also known as the Jingnan Rebellion). This all cultivated in the end with Zhu Di personally leading his forces to take the imperial palace in Nanjing. Allegedly, Emperor Jianwen set the imperial palace on fire in his own despair. His body was never located and it is alleged he may have made an escape and went into exile. Zhu Di regardless held a imperial funeral for his nephew and was crowned the new Yongle Emperor which means “perpetual happiness”.

    The Reign of Yongle is considered a second founding of the Ming Dynasty because of the enormous amount of achievements made. Nanjing was demoted to a secondary capital and now Beijing was made the main one. Yongle began the construction of the Imperial City and Forbidden City employing hundreds of thousands of workers. He decided to build a treasure fleet in 1403 and from 1405 to 1433 there were 7 maritime expeditions undertaken by the Ming treasure fleet. The ambitious project resulted in the construction of upto almost 3000 ships and expanded the Chinese tributary system to other countries as far as India, the Persian Gulf and east coast of Africa. An entire podcast could be dedicated to the Ming treasure voyages alone.

    Yongle would stage 5 giant campaigns against the Mongols and Oirats north of the Great Wall which in turn would lead to more building up of the Great Wall of China throughout the 15th to 16th century. Indeed Emperor Yongle's efforts allowed the empire to be stable and prosperous for a century before it began to weaken. After Yongle the 6th & 8th Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Emperor Zhengtong and yes you heard that right 6th and 8th allow me to explain. Emperor Zhengtong was encouraged by an influential court eunuch named Wang Zhen to lead a force personally to face off against the Oirats of the Northern Yuan dynasty leaving his half-brother Zhu Qiyu in charge temporarily. The Oirats had begun a 3 pronged invasion of the Ming dynasty At the age of 21, Emperor Zhengtong personally led the battle of Tumu Fortress against the Oirat leader, Esen Taishi. He lost one of the most humiliating battles in Chinese history, some rather ridiculous sources state half a million Ming forces fell to a Oirat cavalry force of just 20,000. Zhengtong was captured by Esen Taishi and held for ransom leading to what is called the Tumu Crisis. In the meantime his brother took the throne as the Jingtai Emperor. Zhengtong would eventually be released in the year of 1450 and return home, only to be put under immediate house arrest by the Jingtai Emperor for 7 years. Jingtai would be succeeded by Zhengtons son as the Chenghua Emperor, but Jingtai stripped him of his royal title and installed his own son as heir. That son died and the Jingtai Emperor would follow soon as the former Zhengtong Emperor led a palace coup against him. The Zhengtong emperor seized the throne and changed his regnal name to Tianshun meaning “obedience to Heaven”, then he demoted Jingtai to the status of a Prince and ruled for around 7 years. So yeah that's how you become Emperor twice apparently.

    The Ming Dynasty was a very impressive empire and would be one of the most stable and longest ruling periods in Chinese history. Many enormous achievements were made by the Ming, as I mentioned they built up a large part of the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City and led 7 massive voyages with the treasure fleet, but there was much much more. They created woodblock color printing and China’s first metal movable type printing created by the Ming scholar Hua Sui in 1490. The first book printed using the technique was Zhu Chen Zou Yi. Alongside that the most comprehensible medical book ever written by Li Shizhen in 1578 about traditional Chinese Medicine, Compendium of Materia Medica (Bencao Gangmu). Another book was published during the Ming period and was called “Journey to the West” in 1592 by Wu Cheng’en and is considered one of the 4 great classical novels of Chinese literature. It built upon the accounts of the pilgrimage of the Tang Dynasty’s Buddhist monk Xuanzang who traveled to Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent searching for sutras.

    The economy of the Ming Dynasty was the largest in the world, following in the steps of the Han and Song periods to become known as one of China’s 3 golden ages. With a massive agricultural surplus, porcelain goods and silk led to silver pouring into China. Speaking of porcelain it was one of the most loved exports of the Ming as they had perfected the technique built up during the Tang Dynasty. The blue and white porcelain became extremely popular in Europe. Speaking of Europe, while the Ming made such incredible achievements, one department they did less well in seems to be in terms of scientific discovery. The Ming Dynasty was characterized to be generally conservative and very inward looking, hard to blame them though when they were basically one of if not the pillars of the world. The west and east were not as isolated as one would think and the Ming by no means opened any relatively new relations with the west. For example there is evidence to support that Roman merchants during the reign of Marcus Aurelius had ventured as far as the Han capital city of Luoyang. Yet it would only be much later in history when one particular group made some waves in Ming China and that would be the Portuguese in the 16th century. The first to land on Lintin Island in May of 1513 was the Portuguese explorer Jorge Alvares which was the first time Europeans made contact with China via the sea route around the Cape of Good Hope. Then in 1516, the cousin of the famous Christopher Columbus, Rafael Perestrello became the first known European explorer to land by sea and trade in Guangzhou. The Portuguese would follow this up by attempting an inland delegation in the name of Manuel 1st of Portugal to the court of the Zhengde Emperor. Unfortunately for them the Zhengde Emperor would die in 1521 as they awaited an audience and they ended up being quasi blamed for the Emperor's death and would all be imprisoned for life. Rather hilariously one Simao de Andrade, the brother to the ambassador sent as a delegation, began to rile up the Chinese belief that the Portuguese were trying to kidnap Chinese children, allegedly to cook and eat them. There has been speculations this was all based on the idea Simao was purchasing and or kidnapping chinese children to take them as slaves. Well one thing led to another and the Ming Dynasty found itself enveloped in a small naval battle with the Portuguese naval force of Diogo Calvoin 1521. The Naval battle of Tunmen was the result of the Portuguese sailing up the river to Guangzhou without permission. Allegedly the Portuguese gave a cannon salute when they reached Guangzhou and this friendly gesture was quite alarming to the locals. Well while things were pretty cool for a bit, but then the delegation situation had gone sour at roughly and an edict was made to evict the Portuguese too which the Portuguese refused to comply with. The Portuguese cannons had superior range, but they were easily surrounded by a hoard of ships and the 5 Caravels were forced to use some bad weather to their advantage to flee the scene. By the way the slave purchasing / child kidnapper Simao continued for decades to do business in Xiamen and Ningbo. Eventually he ran into some trouble when he did what he did best, steal children and the locals banded together to slaughter him and those working with him.

    Despite this, let's call it minor setback, the Portuguese continued to do limited trade along the Fujian coastline with the help of some rather corrupt local Ming merchants. By 1529 the Portuguese were sending annual trade missions to Shangchuan Island and by the 1550’s the Portuguese established firmer feat in Macau where they established a trade colony. The Portuguese even began to help the Chinese fight off the hundreds of pirate ships running havok in the area. They then followed this up by fighting off the Dutch later in the 17th century. This of course would not stop the great Dutch maritime empire from eventually taking over, though the Portuguese found a very lucrative business in becoming middle men when the Japanese were banned from trade with China. The Portuguese would take Chinese silk, hock it for Japanese silver and presto, quite a good hussle.

    Things were looking good for the Ming dynasty, but troubles loomed around every corner. One of those corners we hinted to just a bit, that being the Japanese. Japan had stopped sending tribute missions to China in 838 when it was the Tang Dynasty. 6 centuries later, between 1403-1547 the Ming Dynasty was quite powerful and the Japanese shogunate was relatively weak. The founder of the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang demanded Japan resume its tributary relationship with China if Japan wanted to trade with China. Japan agreed to recommence the tributary relationship with China believing that the trade would be beneficial and that China’s recognition of the shogun as a partner would help to strengthen the shogunate. Thus the tributary relationship continued as of 1403 and it would be almost a century until Japan abandoned it again.

    Speaking of Japan, by 1590, Japan's Warring states struggles came to an end when Toyotomi Hideoyosih emerged victorious and unified the nation. Yet soon the ailing leader of Japan, for a platitude of reasons decided to try and invade the Ming Dynasty, but to do so he would need to go through Korea. Historians argue one of the main reasons for the invasion of Korea was so Hideyoshi could keep his troops occupied as he may have feared them returning home would result in another domestic conflict. Hideyoshi did not study his enemy nor the territory his forces would be fighting upon. It really seemed Hideyoshi was in afit of egomania after unifying Japan and became convinced he would be able to conquer China. Now I cannot go into what is collectively known as the Imjin War of 1592-1598, but if you are interested you can check out King’s and Generals over at Youtube where they have a few episodes on the event including: Imjin War: Beginning of the Japanese invasion of Korea / Imjin War: Rise of admiral Yi Sun-sin / Noryang Straits 1598.

    What you need to know is that Hideyoshi asked, or rather ordered the Joseon Dynasty to allow his forces safe passage to go and invade their allies and protector, the Ming Dynasty. The Koreans gave a prompt no and did not stop Hideyoshi from transporting around 160,000 warriors to Pusan with the intention of marching them through Korea, then Manchuria and straight towards Beijing. This all would see Japan invading and fighting against the Joseon and Ming forces in 2 separate campaigns. Now initially the war went quite well for the Japanese, the Koreans were not prepared and the few thousand Chinese troops dispatched to help them, got stomped around the Yalu river. Well the Ming Emperor Wanli, surprised by the failure of his forces, decided to toss a much larger number of men, very much to the shock of the Japanese. The combined forces of the Ming and Joseon dynasty managed to push the Japanese out of the Korean peninsula. A cool fact of this war by the way was how the Koreans designed these armored warships known as turtle ships which held a ton of firepower. The turtle ships under the command of Admiral Yi Sun-sin out maneuvered the Japanese ships and decimated them, thus thwarting the Japanese from sending anymore troopships over to Korea. In the end the Ming Dynasty had quelled the Japanese challenge at their status as the supreme military power in East Asia and also affirmed that the Ming were willing to protect their tributary states like the Joseon Dynasty. The Japanese by some estimates lost ⅓ their troops during the first year of the war. The cost of the war came at a steep price, it is estimated around 250-300 thousand died, perhaps 100,000 Japanese, 185,000 Koreans and 29,000 Chinese. And while that is truly horrible, the monetary costs were also quite steep, estimates put it in the range of up to 26,000,000 ounces of silver for the Ming Dynasty. Overall the war was a lose-lose situation for Japan, China and Korea. Yet it seems this war had a side effect that would prove to be one of the many nails that would be smashed into what was to become the Ming Dynasty’s coffin. For while this venture played out down south in Korea, its effects rippled back all the way up to the Ming Dynasty’s northern realm.

    During this time period there were 3 major Jurchen tribes, the Wild Jurchens who lived in the most northern part of Manchuria. The Haixi Jurchens, who lived along the Haixi river and the Jianzhou Jurchen, who lives along the Mudan River in the region of Changbaishan. Jerchen by the way is something like a collective name for these people, their ancestors went by another name, the Manchu. They were semi-nomadic people and heavily influenced by their neighboring Mongols. A Jianzhou Jurchen named Nurhaci had lost both his father Taksi and grandfather Giocangga, when a rival Jurchen chieftain named Nikan Wailan attacked them at Gure in 1582. Nurhaci demanded that the Ming hand over Nikan Wailan to him for execution, but they refused and went as far as considering to declare Nikan Wailan as new Khan of all the Jurchens, believing this would keep them all divided. It goes without saying Nikan Wailan forces were supported by the Ming. The Ming were utilizing the same strategy that had been done since the ancient times to deal with the peoples of the steppe, foster rivalries amongst the tribes and keep them disunified.

    It is said that Nurhaci was a gifted mounted archer from youth, could speak multiple languages, and loved to read Chinese literature such as Shuihu Zhuan “water margin” and Sanguo Yanyi “romance of the 3 kingdoms”. At the age of 25 Nurhaci avenged his father and grandfather’s deaths by defeating Nikan Wailan in battle in 1587 sending him fleeing to the Ming for protection. The Ming would eventually execute him years later, but this would not satisfy Nurhaci. In 1589 the Ming Dynasty appointed Nurhaci as the Paramount Chieftain of the Yalu Region. It seems the Ming Dynasty believed that Nurhaci’s tribe was too weak to unify the other tribes and become a threat to them, thus fulfilling their strategy of keeping them disunified. Then Nurhaci managed to defeat a coalition of over 9 rival tribes, one of which was the Yehe tribe during the battle of Gure. In 1591, Nurhaci had consolidated a large swathe of territory stretching from Fushun to the Yalu River and this provoked the Yehe tribes who sent a force of over 30,000 against him. Nurhaci’s men were able to turn back the Yehe menace and while Nurhaci continued to rally tribes under his command, the Imjin War began.

    As the Japanese were invading Korea, the rising Jurchen leader had some limited engagements against the Japanese along the border of Korea and Manchuria. This led Nurhaci to offer assistance to the Ming and Joseon dynasties for the Imjin War effort. But both the Ming and Joseon dynasty’s would refuse his offer however, especially the Joseon who stated “to accept such assistance from northern barbarians would be disgraceful”. Now the Imjin War indirectly weakened the Ming Dynasty’s position in Manchuria and gave the now rather insulted Jurchen leader Nurhaci an opportunity to expand his influence and territory. Nurhaci began to conquer and consolidate the unrelated tribes surrounding Manchuria. In 1599 Nurhaci had his trusted scholar Erdeni create a system of writing using the traditional Mongolian alphabet that laid out the foundation of what would become the Manchu alphabet. The Manchu as a people by the way are hard to really define and have been referred to as simply Jurchens, Tatars given who is speaking about them and what time period it is. In reality the Manchu is a rather broad umbrella for a few different groups of people in the large area of Manchuria and the term Manchu was chosen specially to create a sort of legitimate ancestry by those who eventually would bear its name.

    In 1601 Nurhaci began to develop the Manchu military which became the banner system later on seen in the Qing dynasty. The banners derived from the niru “arrow” , a designation for a small Jurchen hunting band. This led to the organization of cavalry and infantry companies of around 300 men with subdivisions of 75. These units eventually evolved into differing banners, yellow, white, red and blue at first, then this increased to a total of 8 later on. If you have never seen the 8 banner army uniforms from the late Qing Dynasty, I highly recommend googling it. Absolutely awesome to see, unique colors for the armor and everything. Now the banner system was not purely military, it also became the established social hierarchy of what was to be a new state. Its important to note during his unifying efforts, Nurhaci also acquired a vast amount of Han Chinese defectors and with them Ming knowledge and technology such as firearms. A lot of these Han Chinese would be married to Manchu women to form marriage alliances.The idea behind it was to take the tribe system and use it as building blocks for a military bureaucracy. This in turn also acted as a method of creating an administrative structure of the future Manchu people. Nurhaci built up his new empire's economy via mining and trade and managed to accumulate a lot of silver from tributary missions to the Ming Dynasty.

    In 1607 Nurhaci declared himself the Kundulun Khan over what he proclaimed to be the Jin State, named after the former Jurchen led Great Jin Dynasty. Now this was also done to assert divine lineage to the Jin Dynasty of the 12th century and in some ways was an implied challenge towards the Ming Dynasty. Indeed, Nurhaci even began to publicly refer to the Ming Dynasty as merely the “Southern Dynasty”, implying equality with his new state. So it seems the Ming Dynasty had greatly miscalculated Nurhaci and now they had quite a threat bearing down upon them. In 1610 Nurhaci broke relations with the Ming imperial court and in 1618 he demanded they pay him tribute and sent them what is legendary known as the “seven grievances”. This was a list of 7 terrible acts the Ming Dynasty had performed against Nurhaci personally and that of the Manchu people, basically a highlight reel of everything they did to try and stop the tribes from unifying. Smack dab as number 1 by the way was supporting the man who killed Nurhaci’s father and grandfather. The seven grievances also acted as a formal declaration of war against the Ming Dynasty. To think one day your financing the murder of some small tribal leaders, next thing you know their offspring has raised a new national peoples to take you out?

    A confederacy of Jurchen tribes referred to as the Hulun tribes gradually began to recognize Nurhaci’s authority, but some took more convincing so to say. The Jurchen tribes of the Hada, Hoifa, Ula were all defeated and assimilated by 1613, but then there remained one last Jurchen tribe that would not submit and it was one of the most formidable, the Yehe. In 1618 the Yehe leader Gintaisi united with the Ming Dynasty to combat the newly emerged threat that was Nurhaci.

    As it would turn out, the flashpoint for the conflict that would ultimately lead to the downfall of the Ming Dynasty would occur at a frontier town in the northeast. The town held one of the 18 key fortresses established by the founder of the Ming, Emperor Hongwu. The first official battle with the Ming Dynasty would occur in Fushun. Fushun was located on the Hun River just east of Shenyang. Nurhaci sent a letter to the Yehe at Fushun stating “If there is a battle then the arrows shot by our soldiers will strike all in sight. If you are hit, you will surely die. Your strength cannot withstand. Even though you die in battle, there is no profit. If you come out and surrender, our soldiers will not enter the city. The soldiers attached to you will be given complete protection. But suppose our soldiers do attack and enter. The old and young inside the city will surely be in jeopardy, your official salaries will be taken away and your ranks will soon be reduced [for losing the battle]... If you submit without fighting I will not change your great doro (guiding principles; Ch., li yi) at all. I will let you live just as you did before. I will promote not only the people with great knowledge and foresight but also many other people, give them daughters in marriage and care for them. I will give you a higher position than you have and treat you like one of my officials of the first degree”.

    In addition to being the first official military challenge to the Ming Authority, Fushun was connected to Nurhaci’s strategy of assimilating the remaining rival Jurchen tribes such as the Haixi. Fushun also happened to be quite isolated and not as well-protected as the other great fortress cities. Commanding the defenses of Fushun was Li Yong Fang who had around 1200 men under him. Nurhaci would throw 20,000 at the city, but before he did this he sent around 50 men disguised as horse traders into the city. These 50 infiltrators opened the gates to Nurhaci’s men who soon poured in. Li Yongfangs was horrified by the scene as several of his subordinates rushed to give their lives facing the invaders. Li Yongfang was captured and brought before Nurhaci who said to him “I know you are a man of many talents and have had many experiences and my state is in search of talent, as we are lacking in capable officials and are looking to employ capable generals. What purpose will your death serve? But if you surrender, you and all you soldiers will be safe”.

    Li Yong fang agreed to surrender if the people would be spared. Nurhaci honored this promise, in the end around 590 Ming soldiers died during the attack. Li Yongfang soon became a general under Nurhaci and even married one of his granddaughters. Li Yongfang became the first prominent Ming commander to defect and this would set a precedent for many many more. A large reason Ming officials like Li Yongfang defected was because they were not going to be forced to give up their own culture and customs.

    After capturing the Fortress of Fushun, Nurhaci left 4000 men to guard it and now turned his attention to another fortress in Qinghecheng or known simply as Qinghe. The outraged Ming Court did not waste any time sending a counter attack to take back Fushun. The Ming dispatched commander Zhang Chengyin with 10,000 men to recapture the city. Zhang led the men and besieged the city, digging trenches and raining hell upon its walls using cannon and firearms. Nurhaci’s sons Hung Taiji and Daisan took the force of 4000 men outside the city and to the shock of the besiegers charged directly upon them. It is estimated only 20% of the Ming force survived this devastating attack, and the rest fled or were captured.

    The Ming Court was stunned by the loss of Fushun and knew it was not the only Fortress that would be attacked. Thus they dispatched an expeditionary force of 5000 men with 2 commanders, Li Rubai, the commander of Liaodong and Yang Hao the Military affairs commissioner to support the region, beginning with Qinghe. Both men were personally liked by Emperor Wanli, but both also had undergone scandals during the Imjin War when they messed up during a siege battle. With the new reinforcements brought over by the 2 commanders, Qinghe now had a garrison 6400 strong. Before leaving to help other areas, Yang Hao advised the commander of the Qinghe fortress, Zou Chuxian that he should lay an ambush out for the invaders, perhaps in the mountain pass nearby where they could take advantage of Ming firearms. Zou did not heed this and opted instead to remain within the fortress.

    The reinforcing of the Qinghe fortress would prove to be fruitless. The defenders fired their cannons, hurled large boulders and logs and tossed hot oil all inflicting heavy casualties upon Nurhaci’s men, but despite all of this the besiegers were able to take a corner wall as the defenders were busy loading their cannons. The siege quickly turned into bloody street to street fighting and with it the complete slaughter of the city’s forces. Zou and his subordinates perished alongside most within the city. This prompted the Ming court to place a price over Nurhaci’s head, 10,000 taels of silver. It is apparent, the Ming were not prepared to face the challenge pressed upon them by someone like Nurhaci. They had failed to anticipate Nurhaci’s state-building efforts and now the fruits of his work were bearing witness.

    With the fall of Qinghe and the surrounding towns, the Ming Court now dispatched a large force of 100,000 men to attack Nurhaci’s forces. Yang Hao formulated the strategy for the grand operation, they would divide into 4 groups of around 30,000 men each and approach Nurhaci’s stronghold of Hetu Ala from 4 different directions and surround it. Ma Lin would lead the northern group coming from Kaiyuan. Du Song from the west coming from Fushun. Li Rubo would come from southwest through the Yau Pass. Last, Liu Ting (also known as Big Sword Liu) would come from the Southeast from Kuandian supported by a 13,000 strong Joseon Dynasty Expeditionary force commanded by Gang Hong-rip. Despite all the planning, Yang Hao did not believe their forces had adequate training nor the supplies for the venture.

    It is estimated that Nurhaci had around 60,000 men at this time. Nurhaci also had amazing scouts that provided him with great intelligence of the Ming plans and he decided the best course of action was to concentrate all of his forces together and pick off each Ming group one by one. Thus he sent small detachments of around 500 men each to intercept Liu Tin, Ma Lin and Li Rubo to misdirect them, while he would take the main force and smash Du Song, whom he deemed the greatest threat out of the 4 groups. To beat Du Song, Nurhaci snuck 15,000 of his men in the forested mountains near Sarhu for an ambush.

    Du Song’s force of around 30,000 set forth from Fushun which they had recently recaptured with ease as it was left undefended. Du Song was frustrated by this and wanted to face the enemy and finally found them when he came across the Hun River and saw a Jin force on the other side.

    Du Song took 10,000 of his men to cross the river and attack, so that a beachhead could be formed and thus providing adequate room for a safe transfer of the rest of his forces and equipment. So he left behind the other 20,000 men with the war equipment who would follow them once the Jin force were pushed back. When Du Song’s men were halfway across the river, Nurhaci sprung a trap. It turns out Nurhaci had ordered his forces to prepare the breaking of dams, and at the moment Du Song’s 10,000 men got half way in, well they broke them. The Ming forces in disarray had to flee back from the raging water, abandoning a ton of their equipment. Now Du Song’s force had to go from offense to defense, erecting 2 camps on the opposite side of the river frantically. Those troops Nurhaci snuck in the forested mountains then came down upon the camp that held Du Song and Nurhaci himself personally led 6 banners to attack the camp as well.

    Nurhaci’s forces much like that of Ghenghis Khan’s, came in with horse backed archers to pelt the defenders. The Ming Musketeers divided themselves into 2-3 rows, taking turns to fire their guns and reload, known as “repeated fire”, basically a more rustic version of what you see during something like the revolutionary wars of America. Some of theses guns by the way are known as Zhuifeng Qiang “windchasing” guns. They are around 5 feet long and shoot fairly large lead bullets. With one of these you can probably hit something within 40 feet away effectively. So you must be thinking, well the Ming Musketeers must have shot the Jin cavalry up like a turkey shoot, but you would be wrong. Interesting little side note here, the bow and arrow historically has trumped firearms honestly until the invention of the repeating rifle and revolver. If you know something about the Aboriginal wars in the America’s, it was this innovation that finally allowed militaries to defeat peoples like the Comanche. Until those were invented, horseback archers would be able to get off far too many shots by the time people using firearms could shoot and reload. And thats basically what happened, Nurhaci’s horseback archers pelted the Ming Musketeers and began flanking them, until they began to break formation and soon fled. After this Nurhaci besieged the other camp at Jilin Cliff. Soon the Jin’s had surrounded the force there and Du Song alongside 2 other generals were killed during the slaughter. It was said that “corpses piled up like a mountain and the fields were drenched in blood”.

    Upon hearing that Nurhaci had annihilated the force under Du Song, the inbound force led by Ma Lin coming from a northern position chose to be much more cautious. Ma Lin’s 30,000 men soon found the fleeing remnants of Du Song’s force and quickly incorporated them into his own force. He then formed 3 camps at Xiangjiayan and fortified them with trenches and cannons. Nurhaci’s sent a 1000 men to prod the defenses of the main camp that held Ma Lin’s command and also to draw its attention. The 1000 men dismounted and moved forward cautiously, drawing the Ming gunfire their way.

    Once Nurhaci had a good idea of the layout of their defenses, he sent in a joint infantry-cavalry assault to make a swift attack upon a weakest point on Ma Lin’s camp. The Ming Musketeers could barely get off more than a single volley before the Jin horse riding warriors descended upon them. The front lines were being cut to pieces and soon the entire army’s morale broke and several men were routed. Commander Ma Lin barely escaped with his life and many of his officers died in a nearby river turning it quote “crimson with their blood”. The other 2 camps fell in a similar fashion. Thus Nurhaci had just annihilated 2 out of the 4 incoming armies and took some 4000 of his forces to Hetu Ala to recuperate their strength.

    Yang Hao saw the absolute mayhem occurring and ordered the remaining forces to retreat and regroup, but the force coming in from the east led by Big Sword Liu Ting never got the orders. Now unlike his colleagues, Liu Ting was actually having some success against some Jin expeditionary parties. The 13,000 Joseon Expeditionary force was with Liu Ting consisting of 10,000 Musketeers and 3000 archers were proving themselves very capable warriors. He managed to capture a few fortresses, killed 2 Jin generals and inflicted a few thousand casualties. Nurhaci then decided to do something rather cunning: he slipped some saboteurs into Liu Ting’s army. These saboteurs pretended to be messengers from Du Song, stating his force was already besieging Hetu Ala and desperately needed assistance for the final victory. Liu Ting proceeded to respond by increasing his army’s speed to rush to Hetu Ala. Because of the increased speed they were going, Liu Ting’s force became very stretched out and now there were practically 2 divided groups. Around 18 miles from Hetu Ala, Liu Ting’s frontal force was ambushed in the Abudali Pass. This allowed 2 of Nurhaci’s son’s Daisan and Hong Taiji to both make cavalry charges one after the other into the front of Liu Ting’s force. These back to back charges inflicted heavy casualties, and they soon managed to surround the Ming force, exacting an estimated 10,000 casualties upon them. It also claimed the life of Liu Ting who was said to go down killing several Jin with him, must have been waving around a pretty big sword. By the way I tried quite hard to find out how the nickname came about and failed to find anything concrete, if anyone knows let me know perhaps by commenting on one of my Youtube episodes!

    The Korean Musketeers performed quite well, but the archers, it is alleged, fired without arrowheads, because the Joseon Dynasty intended to keep a neutrality with the newly emerged Jin people. The Joseon Musketeers were eventually overwhelmed by the Jin cavalry, because they lacked spearmen in their formations to thwart off the charges, something they would improve upon later down the road. Gang Hong-rip ended up surrendering the remaining 4500 of his forces. Those who survived later captivity were eventually allowed to return to their homeland. Gang Hong-rip was proficient in the Jurchen language and was held hostage. Interestingly, once the battle was won and done, Nurhaci went back to Hetu Ala to celebrate and one of the first things he did afterwards was send a message to the King of the Joseon Dynasty asking why they sent an expeditionary force to aid the Mings. The king tried to play it cool and sent a letter of congratulations for the victory, but made sure not to write anything that recognized the Jin state. It seemed the Joseon dynasty was now stuck between the Ming-Jin conflict and this would hold dire consequences later.

    Li Rubo had received the message to retreat from Yang Hao, so he was able to avoid disaster, losing around 1000 troops before getting out to safety. Overall it is estimated that the Ming lost some 45,000 troops, 28,000 horses and a ton of war equipment. The Jin claimed to have only lost 200 men, but better estimations put them at losing around 5000. The Ming Court was rocked by this loss and ordered the arrest of Yang Hao, sending the Embroidered Uniform Guard after him; those are essentially the Emperor’s secret police. Li Rubo was impeached, because there were rumors he had only survived because he had a personal relationship with Nurhaci. Li Rubo would commit suicide before his trial and Yang Hao would rot in prison for almost a decade before being executed.

    I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

    Nurhaci did not stop after defeating the 4 armies, he continued to raise hell by capturing Kaiyuan, Tieling and Xicheng without breaking much of a sweat. Hell Nurhaci was said to have braved a hail of arrows when he personally led the assault on the east wall of Xicheng. Over in Chahar, some of Nurhaci’s subjects were defeated at Guangning and this would lead to ongoing troubles between the Jin and Chahar mongols for 15 years. Now Xicheng was the last bastion of Nurhaci’s Yehe Jurchen rivals, so now he looked towards more empire building activities. Alongside his advisors they began to plan the conquest of Shenyang and perhaps to establish a new Jin Capital in its place.

  • For the final episode on the Mongol Empire, we take you, our dear listeners, in a quick survey of the final years of Chinggisid rule in Mongolia, after the Yuan Dynasty was forced from China in 1368, until the Manchu conquests in the seventeenth century. This will help bridge the gap with the next series in this podcast, and serve as an afterword to this season. I’m your host David, and this is Kings and Generals: Ages of Conquest.

    We detailed in previous episodes the final years of the Mongol Yuan Dynasty in China, which culminated with Töghön Temür Khaan fleeing his capital of Dadu to Mongolia. With the Yuan rulers ousted, the new Ming Dynasty, ruled by the Chinese warlord Zhu Yuanzhang now styled the Hongwu Emperor, seized Dadu. Dadu was renamed to Beiping, “northern peace,” and would soon to Beijing, “northern capital.” The Ming, under its early emperors, was a highly militarized state with what’s often described as an oppressively strong government. The Hongwu Emperor, though recognizing that the Mongols had had the Mandate of Heaven, had settled on one key flaw which allowed corruption and poor governance to settle in. That is, that the Yuan Khans simply did not have enough authority within their government, which had been augmented by Töghön Temür Khaan’s debauchery. The lords of the Yuan state simply had too much more power in comparison to the Yuan Emperor. The Ming solution to that, was to, at least in early years of the dynasty, ensure there were few checks on the might of the Ming Emperor. This would lead to intense control over society and its own oppression, but that’s another matter.

    The flight of the Yuan rulers back into the steppe was neither the end of the Yuan, nor of the Mongol threat, and the Ming knew this. The flight of 1368, and Töghön Temür’s death in 1370, was hardly the end of war, as Ming and Yuan forces raided back and forced over the frontier repeatedly. The Ming led continued assaults into Mongolia itself, on one occasion sacking the much reduced former Mongol capital of Qaraqorum. But the Hongwu Emperor’s forces met defeats in Mongolia in 1372, and his armies were forced back in humiliating, destructive routs. The Hongwu Emperor continued to send armies into Mongolia throughout the 1380s, but finally recognized the stalemate. He had solidified rule over China, defeated the last of Yuan holdouts, but in the steppes his armies could be drawn out, starved and crushed by the Mongols. It was better to fall back to military garrisons along the frontier to launch counter attacks, rather than waste more resources in the steppes. Frustratingly, the sons of Töghön Temür continued to claim the right to rule China, and refused to recognize that the Ming now held the Mandate of Heaven. Ming historians from this point on refer to the Yuan in Mongolia as the Northern Yuan, though the Yuan Khaans themselves saw their rule as continuing unabated.

    In the early fifteenth century, the ascension of the Hongwu Emperor’s son, Zhu Di, known as the Yongle Emperor, brought renewed conflict. The Yongle Emperor personally led some of these campaigns, and when he met the Mongols in battle he was victorious, aided by the prodigious usage of gunpowder weapons. But in the final campaigns, the strong man of the Northern Yuan, a fellow named Arughtai, increasingly favoured avoiding direct engagement with the Ming entirely. The Yongle Emperor’s ambitions were thus thwarted, and the threat of starvation and isolation in the steppes forced his withdrawal. It was on one of these withdrawals in 1424 that the Yongle Empire succumbed to illness, and with him died the last skilled military emperor of the Ming.

    The arrival of the Yuan nobility back to the steppe brought with it its own problems, for the sinicized elite accustomed to the finery of great Dadu found life in Mongolia difficult and unrefined. The local lords in Mongolia, having long since felt abandoned by Dadu, did not easily abide the new arrivals or their demands for troops. The Dadu refugees also were decidedly much too Chinese for the liking of Mongolia’s local elite. Many of the Mongolian leaders were descendants of Ariq Böke or Chinggis Khan’s brothers, those who felt they had been left out of the power and resources of the empire. The upheaval brought on by the constant Ming attacks in eastern and central Mongolia at the same time did no favours to the position of the Yuan. On Töghön Temür’s death in 1370, he was succeeded by his son, the much more capable Ayushiridara. Ayushiridara Khaan and his skilled general Koko Temür led effective counter attacks against the Ming, and even succeeded in gaining lost territory, though Ayushiridara’s son Maidiribala was captured by the Ming. On Ayushiridara’s death in 1378, the Ming released Maidiribala back to Mongolia to influence the election, for Maidiribala had been well treated and was seen as favourably disposed to the Ming. But Ayushiridara was succeeded by his brother Tögüs Temür, who continued war with the Ming and interfering along the border. After a series of battles, in 1388 Tögüs Temür was defeated near Buyur Lake in northern Mongolia. Though he escaped, the depowered Tögüs Temür Khaan was soon murdered by a distant relation named Yesüder. With the death of Tögüs Temür Khaan, the unbroken succession of the house of Khubilai came to an end. Now various lords within the Northern Yuan declared their independence, sought peace with the Ming or fought for the Chinggisid throne. As was the usual case when this occurred, khans now rapidly ascended to the throne only to soon be killed or ousted. Their order remains confused, their identities uncertain, and many were little more than figure heads for puppet masters. One of the most notable and longest lasting of these Mongol puppet masters was Arughtai. Until his death in 1434, Arughtai remained the most powerful man in the Northern Yuan court, fighting against the Ming, the Oirats and other rivals to power, but never able to reassert Yan hegemony over all of Mongolia.

    This infighting in the Yuan court greatly benefitted one party in western Mongolia. These were the Oirat, or western Mongols, assembled in a political union known by its clever name, the Four Oirat. While they had been subjects to the Great Khan, their local lords were not Chinggisids, and had enjoyed a great degree of autonomy in the recent decades before the Yuan expulsion. The arrival of the Great Khans from China brought interference in their internal matters, demands for troops and supplies which caused resentment. The turmoil brought on the wars with the Ming and the succession struggles led to the Oirat leadership to challenge the Great Khans. In 1399, Ugechi Khasakha of the Khoit Oirat and Batula, son-in-law to the Khan, killed the Great Khan Elbeg, beginning open warfare between the Oirat and the Yuan. When Ugechi Khasakha assassinated Elbeg Khan’s son Gün-Temür in 1402, the Oirat leader assumed supreme power in Mongolia and the title of Guilichi Khaan. By 1408 his former ally, Batula, ousted Ugechi Khaskha and assumed power himself, while Arughtai elected another of Elbeg Khan’s sons, Bunyashiri, as Khaan. While this civil war was ongoing, the Ming continued to interfere, by granting imperial titles and supplies to other Oirat factions to strengthen them against the Khaan, coupled with invasions of Mongolia itself by the Yongle Emperor. On other occasions, in order to prevent the Oirat from becoming too powerful, the Ming would send troops and supplies to aid the Yuan Khans against the Oirat.

    After the Yongle Emperor’s death in 1424, Ming meddling in Mongolia slackened. With this, the Oirat leader Toghon Chingsang, son of Batula, gradually succeeded in taking control over eastern Mongolia. A skilled politician and diplomat, he maintained good ties with neighbours outside Mongolia, like the Ming and the Jurchen, while strengthening his control over the Mongols and finding rival puppets to install on the Yuan throne. Toghon and his son Esen defeated and executed Arughtai in 1434, and then the rival Chinggisid Khan in 1438. With this, Toghon took effective control of Mongolia. Through marriage alliance and diplomacy he took most of the rest too. With a new puppet Khaan on the throne, Toghon was made the taishi, derived originally from the Chinese Grand Preceptor. Toghon died soon after this, and was succeeded to the position of taishi by his son Esen. Hence, the influential Esen Taishi came to dominate Mongolia.

    A skilled general beyond even his father, by the time Esen Taishi took control at the start of the 1440s he had campaigned as far west as Moghulistan and back. He held onto power with an iron hand and cooperative khaans, crushing rebellions and bringing the Jurchen in Manchuria and cities of what’s now northwestern China’s Gansu province under his rule. Ming armies into the steppe were defeated; the Ming generals and emperors could no longer hold a candle to the might of the Yongle Emperor.

    Struggling to contain Esen Taishi’s expansion militarily or politically, the Ming tried a new strategy: economic warfare. During Toghon Taishi’s period, trade had flowed relatively easily between Mongolia and the Ming, with horses, livestock and furs coming from Mongol lands and manufactured goods and materials from China. Envoys had travelled freely, but the Mongols had also learned to take advantage of Ming gift giving to envoys. Mongol embassies arriving with several thousands persons in tow, which all had to be housed, fed and gifted at the expense of the Ming court. The Ming demanded that Esen Taishi restrict these embassies to only a few hundred men, which Esen felt as an insult. Though forbidden by the Ming, in exchange for horses, border guards and other lords near the frontier traded weapons and armour to the Mongols. Though Esen Taishi would have preferred to maintain good relations and continue profiting off of the Ming, the Ming’s harsher treatment of his envoys and efforts to shut down the trade over the border either pushed Esen too far, or served as a useful pretext for war. Mongol attacks on the north began, and the inexperienced, overconfident and poorly advised Zhengtong Emperor, a great-grandson of the Yongle Emperor, marched from Beijing to face the Mongols in battle. In August 1449, the Mongol-Oirat forces outmaneuvered the Ming and then inflicted a crushing defeat upon them at the Tumu Fort, and captured the Zhengtong Emperor. With his captive in tow, Esen Taishi laid siege to Beijing itself and raided the northern countryside, though called off the campaign and eventually freed his imperial prisoner, hoping he would cause trouble with the new Ming emperor who had been installed.

    The Tumu Crisis, as it came to be known, was a huge embarrassment for the Ming, and put an end to any belief that the Ming could continue to work offensively against the Mongols. While that had been possible in the careful military structure under the Yongle Emperor, after his death the Ming imperial and military infrastructure lacked the ability or the will to carry out such campaigns, yet had retained the misplaced confidence in their ability to do so. Esen Taishi had just poked through that lie with a hundred thousand arrows. Now turning to the defensive, the Ming renewed an age-old strategy against the nomads: building border fortifications to impede their movement. So began the steady construction of the Great Wall of China as it exists today, beginning first north of Beijing and in time crawling along the entire Mongol frontier.

    In turn, the Tumu crisis did not help Esen Taishi’s leadership. His puppet khan, Taisun, began to conspire against him, and they met in battle in 1452. Victorious, Esen Taishi sought to do away with the puppets altogether and rule as khan in his own right, until his assassination in 1455. The height of Oirat domination over the Chinggisids thus passed, and for the next decades contenders to the Chinggisid throne fought against Oirat efforts to reassert their hegemony. What followed was more warfare, great and petty, until Mongolia was reunified again under Chinggisid leadership in the early 1500s by Batu-Möngke Dayan Khaan, more usually known as Dayan Khaan. Raised to office and aided throughout his reign by his skilled mother-in-law/wife Mandukhai Khatun, after years of fighting against Oirats, other Mongols and the Ming, by 1510 Dayan Khaan succeeded in controlling all of Mongolia. He appointed his sons and commanders to head new administrative units; removed the lords who stood against him, reconfirmed those who supported him, and divided the population of Mongolia into 6 tümens, made up of 54 otogs.

    The Dayan Khaanid 1500s was much more stable compared to the century before. It’s not clear how long Dayan Khaan reigned for, with some putting his death in the 1540s, or before 1520. One consequence of his reign was dividing the empire between his sons, assigning them to the various tümed across Mongolia, with one intended as an overarching khan. But his power waned as that of the aristocrats’ grew, and at the end of the 1540s a grandson of Dayan Khan, Altan Khan, usurped power. This ushered in another period of centralization and military authority, as Altan Khan led attacks against the Kazakhs, Oirats and the Ming. In one of his most notable exploits, in 1550 he attacked Beijing itself and set its outskirts aflame. The Ming Emperor was forced into a peace treaty which heavily favoured the Mongols and provided them gifts and advantageous trade terms; a far cry from the offensive might the Yongle Emperor had once employed.

    One of the most lasting consequences of Altan Khan was the promotion of Buddhism in Mongolia, for Altan Khan and his third wife, Jönggen Khatun, were its great patrons. Though Buddhism had a presence in Mongolia for centuries, it had never been a large or significant one. The late thirteenth century saw some flourishing of the faith among the elite, which continued in the following centuries. In the 1570s Altan Khan and his Khatun invited to Mongolia the Third Dalai Lama, Sonam Gyatso; except, he was not yet called the Dalai Lama. This title was bestowed upon Sonam Gyatso by Altan Khan, coming from the Mongolian word Dalai, meaning Ocean. The Dalai Lama was thus the oceanic, or universal, lama, and the title was posthumously applied to Sonam Gyatso’s two previous reincarnations. After Sonam Gyatso’s death in 1588, the Fourth Dalai Lama was a great-grandson of Altan Khan, and thereby a descendant of Chinggis Khan.

    The official, dedicated patronage of Buddhism by Altan Khan and his successors allowed it to spread across Mongolia as it never had before. Altan Khan even took materials from the ruins of the once imperial capital of Qaraqorum to build a monastery nearby, known as the Erdene Zuu which still stands today. Anti-shamanic efforts by the succeeding khans and the new Buddhist clergy reduced the influence of the shamans, and the building of monasteries across Mongolia was the start of the powerful Buddhist Lamas who would, in time, rule large swathes of the country. It was not a quick or perfect transformation; Mongolian sources speak of efforts to replace the traditional Mongol shamanist-animism well into the seventeenth century, and even today shamans can still be consulted in Mongolia.

    From the conversion of the Northern Yuan and its people, Buddhism spread to the remaining independent Oirats, who the Yuan had steadily pushed from their base in western Mongolia. Part of the Oirats travelled far west in one of the final great steppe-migrations; these were the Kalmyks, who made their way west of the Caspian Sea, displacing and ruling over the Nogai Horde. This Kalmyk Khanate was conquered by the Russians in the early eighteenth century, and today they remain largely in Russia’s republic of Kalmykia, which contains the only notable Buddhist population in Europe. Meanwhile, the left wing of the Oirat confederation, known in Mongolian as the dzün gar, went on to establish, in the early seventeenth century, what is normally considered the final steppe empire; the Dzungar Khanate. They ruled that ill-defined region of Moghulistan, known after them as Dzungaria, where today the border of China, Kazakhstan and Kirghizstan meet. The Dzungars would be a fierce foe against Qing Dynasty expansion into Central Asia, and fought constantine against their neighbours in Tibet, Mongolia proper and westwards against the Kazakhs. Ultimately the Dzungars met utter destruction at the hands of the Qing Dynasty in the mid-eighteenth century, an event known as the Dzungar Genocide. The state itself was not merely dismantled, but in its heartland in the Dzungar Basin, its Mongolian speaking population was exterminated and then their lands given to Qing soldiers.

    After Altan Khan’s death in the 1570s, the final period of Mongol unity under a Chinggisid khan passed. The succeeding khans of the lineage of Dayan Khaan could not regain their authority after Altan Khan’s usurpation and minimization of them. The lords of the tümed, the regional divisions, had grown in power and independence. In 1604, a descendant of Dayan Khaan was to become the last Chinggisid in Mongolia to have real power. This was Ligdan Khaan, whose thirty year reign saw the end of Mongolian independence for the next four hundred years. So weak had the position of Great Khan grown compared to other tümed leaders, that Ligdan’s rivals disparagingly called him only the Khan of the Chakhar Mongols —corresponding roughly to today’s Inner Mongolia— rather than Great Khan. His greatest foe came from the east; the Jurchen had been unified and made resurgent. Their leader, Nurhaci, had declared himself Khan of a new Jin Dynasty. It was as if the Mongols’ old foes had returned from the grave. Nurhaci led repeated attacks against Ligdan Khaan, and allied with his rivals in Mongolia.

    Ligdan Khaan was hounded and pursued, and last minute reforms and promises he made could not arrest his fate. In 1634, he died of smallpox in what is now Gansu. His son, Ejei Khaan, was quickly forced to surrender to Nurhaci’s son and successor, Hong Taiji, who declared both a new name for the Jurchen, and a new dynasty; now they were the Manchu, masters of the Qing Dynasty, the final imperial dynasty to rule China. With Ejei at his side, Hong Taiji took the submission of most of the Mongols. Many accompanied him in his conquest of China following the collapse of the Ming Dynasty in 1644, and Mongols remained important part of Qing armies even in the wars against the Dzungars. The Manchu, descendents of the Jurchen Jin Dynasty which had fallen to the Mongols in 1234, had in turn conquered both dynasties which had emerged from the Yuan. Ejei Khaan spent the remainder of his life a humbled prince in the Qing court, while his younger brother, Abunai, led a revolt in 1675 against Qing rule, which was swiftly crushed, Abunai killed and many Borjigin in the Chahar lands of southern Mongolia executed.

    And so, Chinggisid rule in Mongolia passed into memory. Not all Borjigon were killed; an aristocracy of Dayan Khanid descent remained in Mongolia until the twentieth century, when most were lost in Soviet purges. But effective rule of Mongolia remained in the hands of the Qing Dynasty, their appointees, or Buddhist clergy who became feudal lords in their own right. And yet, Chinggis Khan’s memory could not be dislodged. The Qing Emperors appealed to it when it came to controlling the Mongols, and after the start of Qing rule, new chronicles began to be written in Mongolia, in the same Uighur script Chinggis had adopted 400 years prior. With the rediscovery of sections of the Secret History of the Mongols in the seventeenth century, the past and the present of Mongolia could be reunited. In the Erden-yin Tobchi of Sayang Sechen, for example, chapters of the Secret History were combined with the Buddhist teaching which now permeated the Mongol world. Chinggis Khan’s confrontation with the Tangut King now involved them both transforming into animals, with Chinggis’ victory complete with his transformation into the very sky itself. But even here, the story begins just as it did in the Secret History; a blue-grey wolf, and a fallow deer, from whose line would come the boy, Temüjin, born clutching a blood clot in his fist the size of a knuckle bone.

    Our next series picks up with the conquests of the rise of the Manchu Qing Dynasty, and its conquest of China, so be sure to subscribe to the Kings and Generals Podcast to follow. If you enjoyed this and want to help us continue bringing you great content, please consider supporting us on Patreon at www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals , or share this with your friends and leave reviews on the podcast catcher of your choice. This series was researched and written by Jack Wilson. You can hear more of his discussions on the Mongols at his channel on Youtube, the Jackmeister: Mongol History. This series was narrated by David Schroeder, host of the Cold War on Youtube. This has been Kings and Generals: Ages of Conquest, Season 2: The Mongol Conquests. Thank you for listening, and we’ll catch you on the next one.

  • From the heart of the Mongolian steppe, to North China’s loess plateaus; from the rugged edges of Northern India, to the hot sands of Syria and the Levant, to humid jungles in southeastern Asia, rocky islands off the coast of Japan, the high peaks of the Caucasus, Himalayas, Altai, Tien Shan and Carpathian Mountains, to the frozen rivers in Rus’ granting access to Eastern Europe, and everywhere in between. Our series on the Mongol Empire has taken you across Eurasia, meeting all sorts of figures; the brutal Tamerlane, the indefatigable Sultan Baybars, the brave if shortsighted Jalal al-Din Mingburnu and his foolish father Muhammad Khwarezmshah; the cunning Jia Sidao, the silver-tongued Qiu Chuji, the thorough scholar Rashid al-Din, and travellers like John de Plano Carpini, William of Rubruck, and Ibn Battuta, to the exhausted but noble-hearted Yelü Chücai. And of course, the Mongols themselves: the powerful Öz Beğ, Khan of the Golden Horde; the thorough and pious convert Ghazan Il-Khan; the scheming Du’a of the Chagatais, the stout Qaidu Khan of the Ögedaids, to the Great Khans of the thirteenth century, the most powerful of men; Khubilai, whose hands scrambled for more until his body and empire failed his ambitions; his brother Möngke, whose steely determination sought to solidify the empire at all costs, no matter the bloodshed; Güyük, a reluctant and unfortunate man to ascend to the throne; his mother Törögene, whose fierce will forced her son to that same throne; Ögedai, a drunk who despite his failings built the infrastructure of the empire. And of course, Chinggis himself; once a scared boy in the steppes, turned into the greatest conqueror of them all. Today we end our journey with the Empire of the Great Khans, and reflect on the passage of the Chinggisids. I’m your host David, and this is Kings and Generals, Ages of Conquest.

    Back in our first episode, we highlighted certain trends to look for over the course of this series. The first emphasized looking for the middle ground between the Mongols as inherently evil or good forces, but as people whose expansion was rooted in historical events and personages. The second was the struggles that came with the management of a world empire, and the need to rely on non-Mongolian subject peoples—Chinese, Central Asian Muslims, Persians, Turks and others. The third was the struggle for the purpose of the empire; should it be continued conquest, or consolidation and serving the needs of the imperial princes. This was the balance between the Khan and his central government, or the Chinggisid and military aristocrats. The fourth was the steady assimilation, particularly Turkification, of the Mongols outside of Mongolia, as Mongolian was replaced as the language of administration, legitimacy and finally, among the ruling family itself, even while retaining the Mongolian imperial ideology.

    Regarding the first theme, we have sought to highlight in our many discussions of sources their often complicated, conflicting portrayals or events and persons. While authors like Ibn al-Athir, Nasawi and Juzjani had little good to say about the Mongols or Chinggis Khan, and fit well with the popular model the destructive brute, we’ve also looked at many sources which had more positive portrayals of the khans. Some of these are rather obvious, imperial-produced sources such as the Secret History of the Mongols, but even sources from outside the empire could give glowing reviews of Chinggis Khan. For instance, the fourteenth century English writer Geoffrey Chaucer, in the Squire’s Tale of his famous Canterbury Tales, opens with the following lines:

    At Tzarev in the land of Tartary

    There dwelt a king at war with Muscovy

    Which brought the death of many a doughty man

    This noble king was known as Cambuskan

    And in his time enjoyed such great renown

    That nowhere in that region up or down

    Was one so excellent in everything;

    Nothing he lacked belonging to a king.

    Written at the same time as Toqtamish Khan of the Golden Horde was fighting for control of that Khanate, here Chaucher remembered Chinggis Khan not as a bloodthirsty barbarian, but as a monarch embodying all ideal qualities of kingship. Chaucer continues thusly;

    As to the faith in which he had been born

    He kept such loyalties as he had sworn,

    Then he was powerful and wise and brave,

    Compassionate and just, and if he gave

    His word he kept it, being honourable,

    The same to all, benevolent, and stable

    As is a circle’s centre; and in fight

    As emulous as any squire or knight.

    Young personable, fresh and fortunate,

    Maintaining such a kingliness of state

    There never was his match in mortal man,

    This noble king, this Tartar Cambuskan.

    For writers in fourteenth century England, obviously distant from the Mongol Empire itself, it was not unbecoming to idealize the portrayal of Chinggis Khan. This is not to say that Chaucher’s description is accurate, or necessarily reflects any actual qualities about the man or any of his descendants. But rather, it reflects historical perception. How an individual is perceived by contemporaries, history, and modern people often bears little resemblance to actual details of the individual. Instead, people will contort an image for whatever use suits their current purposes, context and political climate. Thus, warlords from the late imperial, and post-Mongol world styled Chinggis’ image to suit their needs. In Central Asia Chinggisid descent remained one of the most prestigious, and necessary, requirements for rulership up until the nineteenth century in some areas. This was problematic though with the spread of Islam, given that Chinggis Khan’s actual life produced very few episodes to nicely accommodate an Islamic narrative. Certain Persian writings during the Ilkhanate sought to fix this by making Chinggis a Muslim in all but name. On the tomb of Tamerlane, an inscription likely added during the reign of his grandson Ulugh Beğ, makes Tamerlane a descendant of both the Prophet Muhammad and of Chinggis Khan. Later post-imperial authors had a more direct solution; simply making Chinggis Khan outright a Muslim. As the destruction of the conquests slipped further back in time, this became easier and easier to accomplish.

    Religion was not the only aspect which can be molded, for Chinggis’ very status as a Mongol becomes malleable in state efforts to construct national mythos, in both medieval and modern settings. Today, you can find countries where official propaganda, or influential theorists, incorporate Chinggis into the desired story of their nation-state. In China, there remains a significant Mongolian population, largely in what the Chinese call the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, the land south of the Gobi desert but north of the mountains which divide it from the North China plain. The Chinese government has taken to presenting China’s non-Han peoples, Mongols among them, more or less as Chinese minority peoples and actively encourages their adoption of the state-language, Mandarin, and Han Chinese culture. In this view, the Mongol conquests are sometimes presented as a period of national reunification rather than foreign conquest. The efforts of Khubilai Khaan to legitimize the Yuan Dynasty based on Chinese dynastic legal precedent becomes the quote-on-quote “historical evidence,” that Chinggis Khan was actually Chinese, or that in fact, the Mongol conquerors were fully assimilated into the Chinese population and culture. The borders of the Yuan Dynasty served to justify later Chinese territorial claims in Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Manchuria, Tibet and Yunnan; places that were, before the Mongols, inconsistently in the Chinese sphere of influence, but since the conquests have often remained dominated by empires based in China. Not coincidentally, such narratives serve to support the narrative of 5,000 years of a continuous Chinese Empire, and remove the sting that may accompany the embarrassment of being conquered by perceived barbarians.

    Likewise, various Turkic peoples, most notably Kazakhs, Tatars, and Anatolian Turks, have sought to claim Chinggis as their own, and there are even groups in Korea and Japan that will argue that Chinggis was actually one of theirs. The Japanese version has Chinggis as the Samurai Minamoto no Yoshitsune, who faked his death and fled Japan for the steppe! Khubilai’s later invasions of Japan again become not foreign assaults, but attempts at national reunification or the efforts by Yoshitsune’s descendants to return home. And of course, fringe groups even in Europe and Russia which, refusing to believe a barbarian horseman could conquer such great states, insist that Chinggis was actually a red-haired, green-eyed man of European ancestry. Such claims often include vague references to the mummies of the Tarim Basin, who bore some features associated with Caucasian populations. The fact that these mummies pre-date Chinggis by millenia is often conveniently left out. All of these people care much more about ethnic categorization than Chinggis himself likely ever did.

    Just as religion or ethnicity can be forced to fit certain agendas, so too can portrayal as barbarian or saviour. In Mongolia today, Chinggis Khan’s unification of the Mongols, his introduction of a writing system, religious tolerance, laws and stability are most heavily emphasized. For building a post-soviet national identity, obviously these are useful attributes to appeal to for the desired national character. But the Mongolian governmet also tends to gloss over the aspects less appreciated in the twenty-first century: namely, the destruction of people and property on a massive scale, mass-rapes, towers of skulls and wars of conquest. The fact that Mongolia’s two neighbours, Russia and China, suffered particularly under Mongol onslaughts, also avoids some diplomatic hurdles to step past these military aspects. For most of the twentieth century during Mongolia’s years as a Soviet satellite state, Chinggis was largely pushed aside, framed as a feudal lord. Instead, Mongolia’s hero of the 1921 socialist revolution, Damdin Sükhbaatar, became the preferred national icon. After Mongolia was democratized in the 1990s after the fall of the USSR, Chinggis Khan has seen a massive resurgence in popularity. Today, Chinggis and Sükhbaatar remain national icons, with monuments to both throughout the country. Outside Mongolia’s parliament, the main square has changed names from Sükhbaatar to Chinggis Square, and since back to Sükhbaatar square. An equestrian statue to Sükhbaatar sits in the middle of that square. More than a few foreign observers had mistakenly called this a statue of Chinggis. In fact, only a few metres away from the equestrian statue of Sükhbaatar sits a massive Chinggis Khan on a throne flanked by his generals, at the top of the steps leading into Mongolia’s parliament. In a way it is metaphorical. No matter how prominent any later hero of Mongolia may be, he will always stand in the shadow of Chinggis Khan. And that’s not even mentioning the 40 metre tall silver monstrosity about 50 kilometres outside of Ulaanbaatar. Speaking of state narratives, much of the cost for this statue was covered by the company owned by Khaltmaagin Battulga, a former professional sambo wrestler who from 2017-2021 served as the fifth President of Mongolia.

    Outside of Mongolia though, Chinggis and the Mongol Empire remain a top-point of reference to paint someone in the most unfavourable light. One of the highest level cases of recent years was when the President of Iraq, the late Saddam Hussein, compared former US President George W. Bush to Hülegü, Chinggis’ grandson and conqueror of Baghdad. The American bombing and capture of Baghdad, and ensuing tragedies that Iraq as suffered in the aftermath of the campaign, have only solidified the connection for a number of Muslims. Meanwhile Russian television and education tend to present the Mongols in a style comparable to Zack Snyder’s film 300, such as the 2017 Russian film Легенда о Коловрате [Legenda O Kolovrate], also known as Furious. Like the Spartans in the film or Frank Miller’s graphic novel, the Rus’ soldiers are presented as formidable warriors fighting monstrous, untrained hordes from the east. Only through sheer numbers or trickery do the disgusting Orientals overcome the pasty-white heroes of the story— though few of the heroes in the Russian films have Scottish accents. Russia has turned the so-called Tatar Yoke into a catch-all to explain any perceived deficiencies compared to western Europe, from government absolutism to alcoholism. Not only the Russians have employed the comparison: “scratch a Russian and you’ll find a Tatar,” Napoleon Bonaparte is supposed to have quipped. And in 2018 the Wall Street Journal released a particularly poorly written article, which compared the political machinations of current president Vladimir Putin as “Russia’s turn to its Asian past,” accompanied by vague comparisons to the Mongols and an awful portrait of Putin drawn in Mongolian armour. In contrast, the Russian Defence Minister, at the time of writing, is Sergei Shoigu, a fellow of Tuvan descent who is alleged to enjoy comparisons of himself to Sübe’edei, the great Mongol general popularly, though inaccurately, portrayed as a Tuvan. The 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, essentially a good old-fashioned war of conquests accompanied by war crimes and destruction of cities, has also earned many comparisons to the Mongol conquests by many online commentators. Though unlike the Russians, the Mongols actually took Kyiv.

    Somewhat surprisingly, most cinematic portrayals of Chinggis himself lean towards sympathetic or heroic. One of the most recent is a 2018 Chinese film entitled Genghis Khan in English, which features a slim Chinese model in the titular role, and one of his few depictions without any facial hair. In that film he battles a bunch of skeletons and monsters, and it could be best described as “not very good,” as our series researcher can, unfortunately, attest. One popular portrayal is the 2007 film Mongol, directed by Sergei Bodrov and starring a Japanese actor in the role of Chinggis. That actor, by the way, went on to play one of Thor’s buddies in the Marvel movies. Here, Chinggis is a quiet, rather thoughtful figure, in a film which emphasizes the brutal childhood he suffered from. Another sympathetic portrayal, and one perhaps the most popular in Mongolia, is the 2004 Inner Mongolian series where Ba Sen, an actor who claims descent from Chagatai and appeared in the previously two mentioned films, plays the role of Chinggis.

    Hollywood does not tend to portray Chinggis Khan or the Mongols in films at all, but when it does, it really goes for a swing and a miss. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure has Chinggis essentially only a step above a cave-man in that film. Other Hollywood endeavours are infamous for having non-Asian actors in the role, such as Egyptian-born Omar Shariff in 1965’s Genghis Khan, Marvin Miller in 1951’s The Golden Horde and the most infamous of them all, the cowboy John Wayne in 1956’s The Conqueror. That film’s theatrical release poster bears the tasteful tagline of, “I am Temujin…barbarian… I fight! I love! I conquer… like a Barbarian!” The film was also produced by Howard Hughes, founder of Playboy Magazine, and was filmed near a nuclear testing site. As you may suspect, that film bears as much resemblance to the historical events as an opium-induced fever dream.

    The appearance and depiction of Chinggis and his successors varies wildly. The internet today loves the stories of Chinggis being the ancestor of millions of people, and killing so many people that it changed the earth’s climate. The articles that made both of these claims though, rested on shaky evidence. In the first, which we dedicated an entire episode of this podcast too, the study claimed that high rates of a certain haplotype among the Hazara of Afghanistan demonstrated that Chinggis himself bore that haplotype, and Chinggis was extrapolated to be the ancestor of other peoples bearing such a haplotype. But the historical sources indicate Chinggis and his immediate descendants spent little time in Afghanistan, and the associated Haplotype was probably one associated with various populations leaving Mongolia over centuries, rather than specifically Chinggis himself. Likewise, the study which spawned the claim that the Mongols killed enough people to cool the climate, firstly did not make that claim itself, but moreso incorrectly made the Mongol conquests last from 1206 to 1380, and presented it as an almost two-century period of population decline brought on by Mongolian campaigns; despite the fact that the major destructive Mongolian military campaigns largely halted after 1279. While campaigns continued after that, they were never on the level of the great-campaigns of conquest. Thus it’s irresponsible to claim that any atmospheric carbon loss over the fourteenth century was brought on by continued Mongol military efforts.

    What these two popular descriptions lend themselves to, is one of extremes. The internet loves extremes of anything. For instance, since 1999 the Internet has always sought to outdo itself in declaring the latest Star Wars product to actually be the worst thing ever made. And the Mongol Empire, as history’s largest contiguous land-empire, responsible for immense destruction and long-ranging campaigns and forced migrations, can easily slot in this ‘extreme manner.’ A “top-ten” list where the author writes about how the Mongols were the most extreme and destructive and badass thing ever, repeating the same 10 facts, probably gets released on the internet every other month. Just as national-myth makers in Ulaanbaatar, Beijing and Moscow set how to portray the Mongol Empire in the way most suited to them, so too does the internet and its writers choose an aspect of the empire to emphasis; be it religious tolerance, free-trade, brutality, multi-culturalism, Islam, clash of civilizations, human impact on climate, the territorial expanse of a certain country or its national identity, or whatever argument the author hopes to make.

    The Mongol Empire though remains in the past, and should be treated, and learned about, as such. The events which led to the rise, expansion and fall of the Mongol Empire do not fit into nice, sweeping modern narratives, but their own historical context and situation. The Mongol Empire was not predetermined to ever expand out of Mongolia, or to break apart in 1260; had Chinggis Khan been struck by an arrow outside the walls of Zhongdu, or Möngke lived another ten years, in both cases the empire, and indeed the world, would look dramatically different. History is not the things which ought to be or needed to happen or were supposed to happen; it is the things that did happen, and those things did not occur simply for the purposes of the modern world to exist. A million choices by hundreds of millions of individuals, affected by climate and geography with a healthy dose of luck and happenstance, resulted in the world as we know it. Reading backwards from the present to understand the course of the Mongol Empire, and attempting to make it fit into the political narratives we like today, only does a disservice to history. It should be seen not as a virtuous force bringing continental peace justified by easier trade, nor as a demonic horde, but as an event within human history, in which real humans took part, where great tragedy occured in the pursuit of empire.

    History is not just written by the victor of the actual battles; as we’ve detailed across this series, we have no shortage of historical sources on the Mongol Empire; imperial approved sources, sources by travellers passing through the empire, to sources written by the peoples the Mongols crushed. Instead, the history learned in schools and passed down through historical memory and media is built on top of preferred state narratives, those made today and in the past.

    Our series on the Mongol Empire concludes next week with a final afterward on Mongolia after 1368, so be sure to subscribe to the Kings and Generals podcast to follow. If you enjoyed this was want to help us keep bringing you great content, then consider supporting us on patreon at www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. This episode was researched and written by our series historian, Jack Wilson. I’m your host David, and we’ll catch you on the next one.



  • With the devastating invasion of the Emir Temür, better known as Tamerlane, in 1395, the Golden Horde had suffered a grievous wound. Its armies were dealt crushing defeats; its Khan Toqtamish was sent fleeing for his life; and the major cities of the Horde had all been sacked by the Timurids. The Horde was now held together with a wish and prayer, and in the hands of the powerful lord Edigü. Today in our final episode on the Golden Horde, we take you through its slow breakup in the century after Tamerlane’s attack. I’m your host David, and this is Kings and Generals: Ages of Conquest.

    We should note that the fall of the Golden Horde was not a single moment or event. 1380, 1395, 1480 or 1502 are not simply switches where the Golden Horde ceased to exist. Rather, it was a centuries long process, with edges of the empire breaking away or being reclaimed, while multiple claimants for power fought each other and sometimes succeeded in reunifying parts or all of the khanates. Rather than a sudden collapse, it was more like waves ebbing to and fro with the tide, and as they withdraw, they pull back a bit further each time, only to in time not return at all.

    The Golden Horde of the fifteenth century was a very different beast from the one Öz Beg had ruled in the early fourteenth century. Steadily, though not immediately the cities of the steppe along rivers like the Volga diminished in size and were largely abandoned. Even Sarai, thoroughly sacked by Tamerlane, remained the nominal capital and continued to be fought over for generations. The overland international trade networks which had once so enriched the Jochid khans dried up as the route across Asia became too dangerous, and the merchants who still made the trek were redirected elsewhere. Rounds of bubonic plague still struck on occasion, and with the end of the medieval warm period, the steppe environment itself steadily became less accommodating with colder winters and less productive grasslands. It was not the end to animal husbandry or even agriculture in the steppe, but it was no longer the great, organized system enjoyed by the Jochids in their heyday. Political instability marked the region accordingly; whereas from Batu until the 1360s the Jochid Khans had maintained peace throughout the steppes, now rival claimants raided or invaded each other, at times annually. While Tamerlane did not end the Golden Horde, his attack aggravated and worsened these problems. The ten years of relative peace Toqtamish had overseen as khan had simply not been long enough to recover from the previous two decades of troubles, and now each problem reared its ugly head once more.

    After Tamerlane’s withdrawal in 1396, he left the state reeling in his wake. Toqtamish Khan had survived, but his armies were broken. Tamerlane had installed a new khan, Quyurchuq, a son of Urus Khan, but Quyurchuq had little authority without Tamerlane’s presence. Edigü, a non-Chinggisid lord and leader of the Manghit peoples, quickly maneuvered Quyurchuq Khan out of the way, and installed his own puppet, a distant relation of Toqtamish named Temür Qutlugh. Edigü was a wily figure, a skilled politician and one of the wealthiest, most powerful lords within the Golden Horde. Long had he fought Toqtamish, first alongside Urus Khan, and then alongside Tamerlane. Once Tamerlane began to withdraw from the Horde for the final time, Edigü promptly betrayed him and began gathering his own forces to overthrow Tamerlane’s puppet.

    Edigü, as a non-Chinggisid, could not claim the title of khan himself. But by making the khans dependent on him for power and military support, Edigü could hold real authority over the realm. As beylerbeyi, Edigü commanded immense influence among the qarachu families; that is, the non-Chinggisid military elite, those generally bore the title of beğ (pronounced as bey). Every khan that Edigü would enthrone had to confirm Edigü as beylerbeyi, the bey of beys; which Khan Temür Qutlugh promptly did. This gave Edigü an institution position akin to vizier or commander-in-chief, “advising” the khan to do exactly what Edigü wished. In turn the khan continued to function in a more ceremonial role and remained official head-of-state, and his name continued to be minted on coinage. No matter how powerful Edigü might be, in the steppes the prestige of Chinggisid rulership was too strong to be cast aside, and attempting to rule in his own right would have presumably resulted in open rebellion against him. Almost two hundred years since Chinggis Khan’s death, his spectre still loomed large over Asia.

    Edigü and Temür Qutlugh’s confirmation took place not a moment too soon, for Toqtamish and his sons were in the midst of collecting forces to retake the khanate. Assisted by the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Vytautas the Great, Toqtamish and his Lithuanian allies invaded the Golden Horde in 1399, only to be defeated but Temür Qutlugh Khan and Edigü at the Vorskla River in 1399. The battle solidified Edigü’s dominance, with Vytautas’ army annihilated, many Lithuanian princes killed and both Vytautas and Toqtamish sent fleeing for their lives. Though Toqtamish continued to seek the throne until his death in 1406, it was clear that Edigü was too strong to be ousted so quickly. And lest Temür Qutlugh Khan have grown too haughty after such a victory, he died in unclear circumstances soon after the battle. Edigü then enthroned Temür Qutlugh’s brother, Shadi Beğ, as khan.

    Under Edigü’s stewardship, efforts were made to stabilize the Golden Horde. He retook Khwarezm after Tamerlane’s death, often raided the Rus’ principalities and laid siege to Moscow in 1408, sparing the city in exchange for a ransom of 3,000 rubles. Some economic recovery is indicated from the restarting of mints in some of the Horde’s major cities. A considerable quantity of coinage entered the markets, some of it quite high quality, a sign of Edigü’s effort to jump-start the economy. To help legitimize himself in light of his lack of Chinggisid credentials, Edigü made himself the standard bearer of Islamization of the remainder of the nomadic population, continuing the process begun by Özbeg. He went as far as to claim descent from the sufi shaykh Baba Tükles, a mythical figure who in popular legend had converted Özbeg to Islam. As in turn Baba Tükles was supposed to be descended from the Caliphs, this gave Edigü an ancient, if almost entirely fictitious, pedigree. Still, descent from the successors of Muhammad was useful when portraying oneself as an almighty Muslim monarch and a champion of Islam.

    But powerful as Edigü was, his might was not supreme. His puppet khan Shadi Beğ did not enjoy being a puppet and sought to remove Edigü from the scene. Learning of the plot, Edigü routed and chased Shadi Beğ from the Horde. He then enthroned Shadi Beğ’s nephew, Bulad, a son of the late Temür Qutlugh. This relationship was likewise fraught; according to the Rus’ Nikonian Chronicle, Edigü had to rush to lift his siege of Moscow when he learned that Bulad had grown irate at Edigü. When Bulad died in 1410, Edigü then enthroned Bulad’s brother Temür. Khan Temür proved even less amenable to Edigü, for upon becoming khan Temür refused to confirm Edigü as beylerbeyi, the institution which gave Edigü his power. Edigü’s supporters abandoned him as Temür sought to capture him, his armies pursuing Edigü to Khwarezm. Nearly was Edigü’s life forfeit, until he was saved by an unlikely source; Jalal al-Din, known to the Rus’ as the Zeleni Sultan, and a son of the late Toqtamish Khan. Jalal al-Din had aided Duke Vytautas of Lithuania against the Teutonic Order at the famous battle of Grünwald in 1410, and in turn for his support was provided troops to assist him in reclaiming the Horde. While Temür Khan’s armies had Edigü under siege in Khwarezm, the khan himself was killed by Jalal al-Din bin Toqtamish. News of it reached Temür Khan’s generals, who lost heart and dissipated while Jalal al-Din was enthroned as Khan in Sarai, inadvertently saving Edigü’s life.

    After years of dreaming for the position and restoring his family to honour, Jalal al-Din Khan had accomplished his greatest desire, and could begin the hunt for Edigü… until he was murdered by his brother, Qibaq, in October 1412. Another brother, Kerim Berdi, took the throne, while Qibaq, backed by Vyautas of Lithuania, challenged him for it. The only thing which had held these brothers together had been their father and the quest for the throne; with the throne now theirs, they tore themselves apart for it.

    The 1410s and 20s went on in this fashion, highly reminiscent of the tumultuous 1360s and 70s. Kerim Berdi killed Qibaq in battle, only for both Edigü and Vytautas to declare new khans. Vytautas had another of Toqtamish’s sons, Jabbar Berdi, declared khan in Vilnius, while Edigü chose another Tuqa-Temürid, Chekre. Cherke seized Sarai, only for Jabbar Berdi to kill Kerim Berdi, take Sarai and chase out Edigü’s candidate. And that situation lasted until one of Kerim Berdi’s sons, Sayyid Ahmad I, was declared khan and threw out Jabbar Berdi. And the pattern continued, with Vytautas and Edigü both declaring new khans immediately upon learning the news. This went on until 1419, when one of the last of Toqtamish’s sons, Kadir Berdi, and Edigü himself, were finally killed in battle.

    The 1420s proved no better in the aftermath of Edigü’s death. A man named Muhammad was enthroned as Khan, but his identity in uncertain, and could possibly be a number of notable Chinggisids who bore the name. In the 1420s the khan in Sarai became just one khan amongst several, and so passed a bewildering number of khans, the order and lengths of the reigns of which are a continuous subject of debate. While more ambitious khans dreamed of reinvigorating the Horde, the borders of the state broke away, with the Timurids, for instance, retaking Khwarezm. The situation stabilized slightly over the 1430s as three main powers emerged; east of the Ural river, Abu’l Khayr Khan, founder of the Uzbek Khanate; Küchük Muhammad Khan, a grandson of Temür Qutlugh, in the Volga steppe, and Sayyid Ahmed II Khan, another Tuqa-Temürid, west of the Don River. Küchük Muhammad’s nearly twenty year reign, from 1435-1459, is when scholarship begins to call the state the Great Horde, to distinguish it from its neighbours, the newly emerging successor khanates.

    While Küchük Muhammad is usually designated the most ‘legitimate’ khan of the Golde Horde, at least in scholarship, each of the competing khans in these years saw themselves as the actual ruler of the Horde. Each tended to demand the Rus’ princes pay tribute to them, a source of much confusion and fear for the Rus’, who watched closely the political developments. The Rus’ were not idle spectators or skillfully playing off the khans, for they spent much of these years locked in their own lengthy civil wars. The Grand Prince, Vasili II Vasilivich, still had to flee his capital due to Mongol attacks, and was even captured by troops of Ulugh Muhammad Khan. Regularly, the Rus’ still paid annual tribute to the Khan of the Great Horde.

    But even the relatively calm 1430s were no salve for the unity of the Horde, and the fragmentation continued, with both the emergence of more Chinggisid and non-Chinggisid polities. Kazan, in the lands of the Volga Bulghars, became an independent realm under the heirs of Ulugh Muhammad Khan, who had been khan of the Golden Horde until his ouster in 1438. Along the Ural River emerged the Nogai Horde under the sons of Edigü. As Edigü’s sons belonged to the Manghit clan, the ruling strata of the Nogai Horde, you will sometimes see this Horde called the Manghit yurt or ulus. North of the Nogais emerged a proper Khanate of Sibir, or Siberian Khanate, ruled by a branch of the Shibanids. In 1459 on the death of Küchük Muhammad, Khan of the Great Horde, he sought to divide the khanate between his sons Mahmud and Ahmad. But Ahmad soon chased out Mahmud, who fled to Hajji Tarkhan, modern Astrakhan at the Volga Delta. Mahmud and his sons turned Astrakhan into their powerbase, and in turn its own independent khanate. In the far east, the newly emerged Uzbek Khanate fell into internal fighting after the death of Abu’l Khayr Khan, which led to a group of young princes breaking off and founding the rival Kazakh Khanate in the 1450s. In 1442, Crimea and the surrounding steppes came under the rule of Sayyid Ahmad II Khan’s nephew, Hajji Giray, establishing the Crimean Khanate’s long ruling Giray Dynasty. Hajji Giray, and his son Mengli Giray, dedicated their lives to the hatred of the heirs of Küchük Muhammad, whose line monopolized the position of Khans of the ever declining Great Horde. For over twenty years, Hajji Giray fought repeatedly with Küchük Muhammad’s son, Ahmad Khan. Ahmad enjoyed few successes; his alliance with Poland against the Crimean Khan brought little help, while the Nogais and other khanates and Hordes bordering him raided his lands, splitting his attention in every direction. His situation was further hampered with the obstinence of the new Grand Prince of the Rus’, Ivan III of Moscow.

    Ivan III brought Moscow out of its lengthy period of civil war, and renewed the drive to dominate the other principalities. Like his predecessors, Ivan III had recognized the overlordship of the Khan. But he also recognized the reality of the situation, for he maintained diplomacy with the other emerging khans, particularly the Crimean. From the 1440s onwards there had been gaps in the deliverance of Rus’ tribute to the Horde, becoming ever more spotty upon Ivan’s official ascension in 1462, culminating in 1471 when Ivan ceased the payment of tribute altogether. Ahmad Khan frequently sent messengers to Ivan demanding the resumption of the tribute, or for Ivan to come and reaffirm his submission in person. The ever more frustrated Ahmad Khan, surrounded and beleaguered by powerful rivals, needed this Rus’ tribute. His first march on Moscow in 1472 was aborted, and ordered another attack on Ivan in 1480 in cooperation with his Polish ally, King Casimir IV. Ivan III did not back down, and sent his army to repel the khan. The two foes faced off across the Ugra River over the summer and into the autumn of 1480. Khan Ahmad waited in vain for Casimir, who never arrived. Arrows were shot, arquebuses were fired; Ivan worried the river would soon freeze and allow Ahmad free passage, but Ahmad retreated first, downtrodden his ally had failed to show. His son Murteza raided Moscow territory as they withdrew, and Ahmad was murdered the next year.

    So ended the Great Stand on the Ugra River, a much overemphasized staring contest. Only centuries later did chronicles see it as an epoch in the independence of the Rus’. It did not directly affect either parties’ standing, and to contemporaries was simply another scuffle amidst hundreds. Twenty years later after the Ugra stand, Ivan sent a message to Ahmad’s son and successor, Shaykh Ahmad Khan, inquiring about resuming their earlier relationship in the midst of a fierce round of struggle with Lithuania. From 1474 to 1685, Moscow sent annual tributes, under the name of pominki, to the Crimean Khans. But raids and attacks by the khans were no longer as devastating as they had once been, with the expansion of better defensive networks by the Rus’, including more stone fortifications and ever-improving firearms technology. Seemingly, the armies of the Khans no longer came with such overwhelming forces, and the chronicles which once spoke of Toqta’s brother Duden handily destroying 14 cities across Rus’, begin to describe the Rus’ repelling or pursuing Tatar raiders. Assaults on cities, such as Ahmad’s brother Mahmud Khan’s failed siege of Ryazan’ in 1460, were beaten back with heavy losses on the part of the attackers. In other cases, the Khans fell prey to other khans; Mahmud’s 1465 attack on Rus’ was intercepted by an army of the Crimean Khan Hajji Giray, who often allied with Moscow against the Great Horde. The khans of the Horde no longer enjoyed a monopoly on military power. Instead of masters of the steppe, they were now members within a political system, facing off with rivals of comparable power, while their own might had shrunk considerably. The khan could no longer unilaterally oppose his will.

    After Ahmad Khan’s death in 1481, his sons attempted to act as co-rulers but were soon at each other’s throats, further weakening the Great Horde while their rivals grew in might. Shaykh Ahmad bin Ahmad Khan emerged the victor. While he had aspirations of reuniting the Horde, his efforts proved futile. Shaykh Ahmad Khan’s reign proved to be one of disaster. His cousin in Astrakhan openly defied him; Ivan III of Moscow allied with Mengli Giray of Crimea against the Great Horde. In an effort to outflank Moscow and Crimea, Shaykh Ahmad sought to restore the military alliance with Lithuania, but no great support ever came of it. Rounds of plague and bad seasons further harmed the Horde’s cities, pasture lands and crops; harsh winters and poor grazing resulted in the deaths of thousands of horses almost every year of the 1490s. Famine weakened his forces, destroyed his herds and caused thousands to flee to neighbouring khanates. By the start of the sixteenth century Shaykh Ahmad was desperate, and in winter 1501 he led his underfed and weakened army in one last gamble, seeking to push west of the Dnieper for greener pasture. But he was trapped in a vicious snowstorm, and cut off from the rest of his forces. His demoralized army suffered for months, and began to trickle off to the territory of the Crimean Khan, Mengli Giray. Shaykh Ahmad suffered his own personal losses; already depressed from the failure of the Lithuanians to arrive, Shaykh Ahmad watched the last of his brothers fall ill and die. As Mengli Giray summoned the entirety of his forces to crush the khan, Shaykh Ahmad’s will finally broke when his own wife abandoned him with much of his family and most of his remaining troops— to join Mengli Giray. When Mengli Giray met Ahmad near the Dnieper in June 1502, the Khan of the Great Horde, who in the time of Özbeg was allegedly capable of raising 300,000 men, was caught with a paltry 20,000. Chased from the field, his palace ordu looted, Shaykh Ahmad Khan spent the rest of his life on the run, and spent much of his last twenty years in Lithuania a political prisoner. So, according to traditional scholarship, did the humiliating career of the final Khan of the Great Horde end, and traditionally 1502 serves as the end date for the Golden Horde.

    However, in recent decades this view has been challenged. Historians like Leslie Collins have demonstrated thoroughly how after 1502 Mengli Giray dramatically grew in strength and began to style himself as Great Khan of the Great Horde; a claim recognized in diplomacy by his Ottoman overlord, the Rus’, the Poles and the Lithuanians. What is now argued is that, to contemporaries, the Great Horde did not end in 1502; the throne was simply taken by another branch of the dynasty, as it had so many times before. Absorbing the remnants of the Great Horde’s lands, troops and wealth, the power of the Crimean Khans grew considerably as they expanded eastwards into the former heart of Shaykh Ahmad Khan’s realm. By the 1520s under Mengli’s son, Mehmed, their influence stretched past the Volga as they put candidates onto the thrones of Kazan and Astrakhan. In a sense, the Horde was briefly reestablished. However, Mehmed was killed by Nogais in 1523, who then raided as far as Crimea, precipitating years of internal fighting for the Crimean throne and leading to the Ottomans taking greater control over the Crimean succession. Meanwhile without a common enemy in the form of the Great Horde the Crimean alliance with Moscow quickly frayed. The Princes of Moscow, now masters of Rus’, were eager to gain access to the Volga trade, and take advantage of the weakness of the Volga Khanates, particularly under Ivan IV and his crusade-minded advisers. In 1552 the first khanate, Kazan, fell to Ivan’s armies; Astrakhan followed in 1554. It is Ivan IV, by the way, who is popularly known as Ivan Grozny, or Ivan the Terrible, and who in 1547 took the imperial title of Tsar, a derivation of Latin Caesar. During the dominance of the Golden Horde, Tsar had been the title reserved for the Khans, whereas the Rus’ princes were knyaz. What Ivan was signalling, in a way, was that the now the Prince of Moscow had replaced the Jochid khan as master of the Rus’.

    The powerful Crimean Khan Devlet I Giray sought to halt Moscow’s expansion, with yearly raids and in 1571, even succeeded in capturing and burning down Moscow. This brief victory was followed by a humiliating defeat at Molodni the next year. The Crimean Khans reluctantly ceded control of the former eastern lands of the Golden Horde to Moscow. This last campaign proved to be the final great success of steppe armies over the Rus’. In the following decades, the Russian Tsardom soon stretched deep into Siberia. The continuous warfare of the fourteen and fifteenth centuries, coupled with epidemics and environmental stresses, left for the Russians nothing but depopulated, weakened khanates to pick off one by one; only to the south, in the great steppe, did the Crimean Khans armies stop Russian expansion; an expansion halted, as much as anything, by logistical difficulties in crossing the steppe, and threat of Ottoman support for the Crimean Khanate, rather than any military capability on the part of the Crimeans. Though the Crimean Khanate launched continuous raids on the southern frontier of Muscovy, Lithuania, Poland and assisted the Ottomans in campaigns into Eastern and Central Europe, they were no longer unassailable. Raids sent on Moscow’s order, or undertaken by the fiercely Cossack hosts who now roamed the steppes, now penetrated into the Crimean peninsula itself.

    Still, they clung on. Over the 1700s the Russian Empire steadily encroached and isolated Crimea, while Ottoman support became ever more tepid. Only in 1783 was the Crimean Khanate finally annexed by Empress Catherine the Great, shortly after the Russians had essentially ended its political independence. The final Crimean Khan, Şahin Giray, was executed a few years later by the Ottomans. When the Kazakh Khanates were finally dissolved by the Russians in the following century, so with them went the last vestiges of the Golden Horde, and the Mongol Empire.

    So ends our history of the Golden Horde, and in turn the Mongol Empire. Be sure to turn in next week as we wrap up our series on the Chinggisid empire, and leave you with considerations for the start of our next series, so be sure to subscribe to the Kings and Generals Podcast to follow. If you enjoyed this and would like to help us continue bringing you great content, consider supporting us on patreon at www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. This episode was researched and written by our series historian, Jack Wilson. I’m your host David, and we’ll catch you on the next one.

  • After two decades of anarchy, one man appeared from the darkness to restore the Golden Horde to its might: this was Toqtamish. Just as the candle may spark up just before it goes out, Toqtamish seemed poised to right the wrongs of the previous decades, and reaffirm the power of the Golden Horde over its subjects, and thus bring about further centuries of greatness. But then came Temür, Toqtamish’s former patron, turned greatest enemy. I’m your host David, and this is Kings and Generals: Age of Conquest.

    While our series on the Golden Horde has so far focused on the descendants of Batu Khan, the khans of the Golden Horde until the start of 1360s, the other descendants of Jochi’s many other sons had their own appanages within the khanate. Of the fourteen named sons of Jochi, by the late fourteenth century there were two of these lineages left who held any might. These were the lines of Shiban, Jochi’s fifth son, and Toqa-Temür, Jochi’s youngest son. As the house of Batu and Orda went extinct in the middle of the fourteenth century, the torch of rulership was passed between these lineages. It seems both lineages were largely based in the eastern part of the khanate, in the Blue Horde or the ulus of Orda. The Shibanids held lands in what was to become the Khanate of Sibir, named for the fortress of the same name. The heart of this territory was the upper Irtysh River, and if the name of Sibir sounds familiar, that’s because in time it gave its name to Siberia. The Toqa-Temürids meanwhile seem to have generally ranged east of the Ural river, across the Kazakh steppes.

    In the chaos that followed Berdi Beğ Khan’s death in 1359, it was representatives of the Shibanids who first moved west to claim the throne in Sarai. When Orda’s line died out in the 1360s, the Toqa-Temürids were the ones on the scene to usurp the ulus in the Blue Horde lands, though it was not a secure power base. The order of khans is a matter of great contention: reigns were brief, and various sources often offer contradictory information, which is often further contradicted with the dates given on coinage in the period. What is clear is that the Blue Horde contenders quickly, if not immediately, saw their conflict and their state as independent of the wars for Sarai ongoing at the same time. The Blue Horde was now separate, once more, from the Golden.

    One of the earliest figures to seize the vacant throne of the Ordaids was Qara-Nogai, a Toqa-Temürid. In the early 1360s he was elected khan in Sighnaq, the Blue Horde administrative capital, located on the lower reaches of Syr Darya River near the Aral Sea. His reign was brief, but after some years of conflict members of his family continued to claim the throne; the most notable of these was Urus Khan, whose reign is usually dated to beginning in 1368.

    Urus Khan was a real strong man— and not a descendant of Orda, as newer research has demonstrated. In the decade of his reign Urus established a firm hold on power and firm military backing. Rivals for the throne were violently killed or exiled, and around 1372 he even led an army to take Sarai and declare himself Khan of the Golden Horde, though he soon abandoned the city. Nonetheless he exercised a monopoly on power in the Blue Horde which made it considerably more stable than the ongoing troubles in the Golden Horde, which was too much even for Urus to exert control over. But such was his influence that his sons and descendants continued to be prominent players for decades. Two sons, Quyurchuq and Ulugh Muhammad, later became khans of the Golden Horde, while the latter established the Khanate of Kazan; a grandson of Urus, Baraq, also became Khan of the Golden Horde, while Urus’ great-grandchildren established the Kazakh Khanate. It should not be a surprise then that some historians suggest that Urus should be identified with Alash Khan, the legendary founder of the Kazakhs from whom all khans were descended. Descent from Urus, in effect, became a new form of legitimacy after the fourteenth century.

    As mentioned, Urus took to killing and exiling his rivals to power. These were often fellow Toqa-Temürids. One such fellow who he had killed was his cousin, Toy-Khwaja. In the aftermath, Toy-Khwaja’s son was forced to flee; this is our first introduction to Toqtamish. Toy-Khwaja must have been quite the rival and had some following, for Toqtamish never had much trouble finding supporters for himself. One source indicates Toqtamish’s mother was a high ranking lady of the Sufi-Qonggirads, a dynasty which had recently established its quasi-independence from the Blue Horde at Urgench and now ruled Khwarezm. A young and courageous warrior, if not the most tactically skilled, Prince Toqtamish deeply desired both revenge and power. Urus Khan’s horsemen pursued him, and Toqtamish fled for his life right out of the steppe, crossing the Syr Darya River to seek shelter with a new rising power: Aksak Temür as the Turks of the time knew him; he’d prefer to be known as Emir Temür Güregen, son-in-law to the house of Chinggis and sahib-i qiran, “lord of the Auspicious Conjunction.” Persians knew him as Temür-i Lang, and today we know him best as Tamerlane. Since half the people in this period are named some variation of Temür, to help make it easier to tell everyone apart we’ll stick with his popular moniker of Tamerlane.

    Since the beginning of the 1360s, Tamerlane had fought for power in the ruins of the western half of the Chagatai Khanate. By spring 1370 he had succeeded in becoming master of Transoxania. As a non-Chinggisid, Tamerlane could not bear the title of khan or rule in his own right over nomads. Thus his official title was Emir, presenting himself as the protector of his new puppet khan, a descendant of Ögedai. From this basis the Timürid empire began to expand.

    When Toqtamish fled to the domains of Tamerlane around 1375, the Emir’s attention was still mostly local. His campaigns into Iran had not yet begun, and instead he alternated between attacking the Sufi-Qonggirads in Khwarezm, and Qamar al-Din, the ruler of the eastern Chagatai lands, or Moghulistan as it was commonly known at the time. Undoubtedly, Tamerlane held a wary eye to his northern border; Urus Khan and his horsemen posed a real threat to Tamerlane, in a way none of his other neighbours did. Thus when a young, pliable claimant to the throne of Urus arrived in his court, Tamerlane was more than willing to oblige. Should Toqtamish control the Blue Horde, then Tamerlane needn’t worry over that border and could turn his attention elsewhere. Toqtamish was received in Tamerlane’s court with high honours and respect, and granted Otrar and other lands along the Syr Darya as patrimony, in addition to troops, horses and supplies. Not coincidentally, Otrar was within spitting distance of Sighnaq. Tamerlane had given Toqtamish a platform to seize the Blue Horde.

    Toqtamish quickly began raiding the lands of Urus, building his reputation as a warrior and charismatic leader. But Urus was no fool and quickly had an army sent after Toqtamish, under the command of a son, Qutlugh Buqa. Despite fierce effort on Toqtamish’s part, and the death of Qutlugh Buqa in the fighting, Toqtamish was defeated and sent back to Tamerlane. The Emir provided Toqtamish another army, only for Toqtamish to again be defeated when another of Urus’ armies came seeking to avenge Qutlugh Buqa. This time, according to the Timurid historian Yazdi, Toqtamish was so thoroughly beaten down that he ditched his armour and swam across the Syr Darya River to save his life, and returned to Tamerlane naked and humbled. Not long after came a representative of Urus, named Edigü, a powerful bey within the Blue Horde and head of the Manghit people. Edigü bore Urus’ message demanding Tamerlane handover Toqtamish; was it not right for the father to avenge the son? What right did Tamerlane have to hold such a fugitive?

    Tamerlane refused to handover Toqtamish— whatever Tamerlaner’s faults, and there were many, he had given his word as overlord to protect the young prince. Some authors go as far as to present an almost father/son dynamic between them. It’s not impossible; Tamerlane had gone through his own period of qazaqliq, the Turkic term for when a prince was reduced to a state of near brigandage, a freebooter fighting for every scrap. It’s the etymological basis, by the way, for both the Turkic Kazakh and the Cossacks of the Pontic steppes. Tamerlane may have sympathized with the fierce, proud Toqtamish, in contrast with his own sons who tended to range from lazy to unreliable. Tamerlane’s own favoured son and heir, his second son Jahangir Mirza, died about this time in 1376 or 7, leaving his father stricken with grief. Toqtamish may have filled in the gap, and as Toqtamish himself had lost his father, it’s not difficult to imagine Toqtamish valuing Tamerlane's presence greatly. Of course, it may simply have been convenience on the part of both parties.

    With Tamerlane’s refusal to hand over Toqtamish, Urus Khan led an army against them. Tamerlane raised one in response, with Toqtamish in the vanguard. Skirmishing ensued, and nearly did the full forces clash, had not, according to Yazdi, a vicious rainstorm kept the armies apart. They returned to their respective realms. The dramatic confrontation between the two great warlords of Central Asia was averted when, likely in 1378, Urus Khan suddenly died, followed in quick succession by the chief of his sons, Toqta Caya.

    In a mad dash, Tamerlane sent Toqtamish with an army to Sighnaq, and had him finally declared khan. Tamerlane returned comfortably to his capital of Samarkand, only to learn that Toqtamish had again been ousted, when another of Urus Khan’s sons, Temür Malik, had declared himself khan and raised an army. Once more Tamerlane reinforced Toqtamish, though now Toqtamish was able to gather more support of his own. Finally Temür Malik Khan was overcome, and Toqtamish firmly emplaced as Khan of the Blue Horde. Not coincidentally, from this point onwards Tamerlane was able to secure his frontiers and begin his southern conquests into Iran, which would hold his attention for the rest of the 1380s.

    The new Khan, Toqtamish, set about confirming the support of the pillars of his new realm. The Shibanids of Sibir, and the Sufi-Qonggirads of Khwarezm, despite their capital of Urgench being sacked by Tamerlane in 1379, were important suppliers of troops for Toqtamish. Numerous beys and princes came over to pledge allegiance to him. Toqtamish either convinced them of his divine support, or richly rewarded them, and succeeded in breaking even some factions. The Manghit leader Edigü, for instance, found that his brother ‘Isa Beğ became a staunch ally of Toqtamish Khan. Edigü’s sister had been married to Urus Khan’s son, the late Temür Malik Khan, and despite the latter’s defeat Edigü remained a powerful and prominent figure within the Horde, controlling a great swath of pasture east of the Ural and Emba Rivers. To bring him over, or at least stop his active resistance, Toqtamish provided Edigü tarkhan, or tax-exempt, status and granted him more lands.

    With his rear secured, Toqtamish had not a moment to lose. His intentions were clear. Toqtamish was not aiming to just succeed his father, or Urus Khan, or be merely Khan of the Blue Horde. He had much bigger dreams. He idolized Öz Beg Khan and the glory days of the united ulus. Beyond that though, outside of Mongolia proper, Toqtamish was effectively the only Chinggisid monarch who held power in his own name. The Yuan Khans had been pushed from China, and their power restricted to the Mongol homeland, and their attention focused on battling Ming Dynasty incursions into the steppe. In the west, all other Chinggisids were puppets or minor princelings. Toqtamish therefore presented himself not just as heir to Özbeg and Jani Beg, or of Batu and Jochi, but as the heir to Chinggis Khan. For the rest of his life Toqtamish remained the most powerful single member of the house of Chinggis, and styled himself not as khan, but as khagan, Great Khan. And for that, he needed Sarai.

    Quickly, but carefully, he made his way onto the Jochid capital, winning over allies or defeating foes as he went, before taking the city in 1380. Only one great enemy remained, and that was the western beylerbeyi, Mamai. There was not a moment to waste once Mamai suffered defeat at Kulikovo against the Prince of Moscow in September 1380. As Mamai retreated to his base in the steppes north of Crima, Toqtamish granted yarliqs to the Italians in the Crimea to confirm and expand their privileges, trapping Mamai between them. Toqtamish unleashed a full assault on Mamai and crushed his power in a decisive engagement along the Kalka River. In the aftermath Toqtamish took Mamai’s camp, his treasury, his wives and beys, and the rest of his troops. Mamai fled for his life, making his way to Caffa, where the Genoese took him captive and executed him in the name of Toqtamish Khaan.

    By 1381 Toqtamish was master of the Golden Horde, and set about reminding everyone of the order of things. The Rus’ princes reaffirmed their submission, with even Dmitri Donskoi, the victor of Kulikovo, promptly sending gifts for Toqtamish, his wives and his princes. But their tardiness in submitting in person brought Toqtamish to shorten the leash. The Rus’ had grown too haughty over the last two decades, and Toqtamish surprised them with a sudden and horrific onslaught. The Prince of Ryazan’ saved his city with a last moment surrender. Other cities were not so lucky. Dmitri Donskoi had hoped to raise an army, but losses after Kulikovo were too great, the princes unwilling to follow Dmitri to such certain doom. In the end Dmitri was forced to flee Moscow before Toqtamish encircled the city. After three days, on the 26th of August 1382, the city was stormed, sacked and burned. Numerous others followed suit.

    Dmitri Donskoi was forced to send his son Vasili as hostage to the Horde, and paid heavy tribute. Once more Moscow minted coins in the name of the Khan, and once more Dmitri collected taxes for him too. Though Dmitri had his revenge on the Prince of Ryazan’ with a vicious attack, the victor of Kulikovo died in 1389, only thirty years old.

    Now master of the lands of Jochi, Toqtamish set about re-strengthening the Horde. The internal stability, as the Horde enjoyed 10 years of relative peace after Toqtamish took Sarai, did wonders for internal trade and movement, coupled with the lessening of the plague impact. He enacted monetary reforms, expanding the centres which minted coins and a lighter standard for silver dirhams, which in the opinion of researchers like Nedashkovsky, was a recognition and response to inflation. When the bey Bekbulat tried to declare himself khan in Crimea, Toqtamish was able to come to agreement with him and reach a peaceable solution. Khwarezm and its Sufi-Qonggirad Dynasty, which Tamerlane had considered his subjects, now recognized Toqtamish as overlord and minted coins in his name from 1381 onwards. On the western frontier, the loss of lands to Lithuania was halted when Toqtamish won a victory over the Lithuanians at Poltava in 1382, and forced them to continue paying tribute for the lands they had already taken from the Horde. From Toqtamish’s point-of-view, this was essentially making them his vassals, though the Lithuanians did not quite see it like this. Nonetheless, the Khan retained generally stable relations with the states along his border.

    Toqtamish also looked abroad. In distant Moghulistan Toqtamish established relations with Qamar al-Din, the effective ruler of the eastern Chagatai lands. In 1385 he opened contact with the Mamluks of Egypt, the first time in ten years diplomatic contact was made. He did not make the mistake of invading Azerbaijan, but instead formed a treaty of friendship with its ruler, Sultan Ahmad Jalayir. And this became quite the issue, for shortly after this treatment was made, Tamerlane invaded Azerbaijan and forced Ahmad Jalayir to flee Tabriz.

    Perhaps Tamerlane had been unaware of the treaty between Toqtamish and Sultan Ahmad, but it seems to have been the evolution of the ever-more fraught relationship between the two. Toqtamish Khan and Emir Tamerlane were already on roads to argument with both claiming the lands of Khwarezm. Tamerlane, now with a puppet Il-Khan, made a show of restoring the former lands of the Ilkhanate; just as Toqtamish was making a claim to restoring former Jochid lands in the Caucasus. But there was another ideological aspect at play. As we’ve emphasized already, Toqtamish was very proud of his Chinggisid ancestry, and appears to have a particular disgust for pretensions of non-Chinggisids to rule. Tamerlane’s presentation of himself as a supreme lord, while also walking around with a bundle of Chinggisid puppets, was an insult Toqtamish could not idly abide. The Golden Horde and Timurid empire lay beside each other like two sharks, in a tank too tight for the both of them. Both rulers simply may have seen confrontation as inevitable, the presentations of both stretching past what the other anticipated, and both expected antagonism.

    It was Toqtamish who launched the first blow. After Timurid forces withdrew from Azerbaijan, Toqtamish attacked in late 1386, taking Baku, Tabriz, and Nakhchivan. Then in 1387, Toqtamish spun around the Caspian and Aral Seas, and in conjunction with Qamar al-Din of Moghulistan, Toqtamish took Tashkent and Qarshi before besieging Bukhara and Tamerlane’s capital of Samarkand.

    Once Toqtamish withdrew, Tamerlane quickly retook Khwarezm, sacking Urgench in 1388 with a massacre to invoke those of Chinggis Khan. Immediate reprisals against Toqtamish were halted by rebellions in Khurasan and a retaliatory campaign in Moghulistan against Qamar al-Din. Once dealt with, Tamerlane could begin extensive preparations for an invasion of the Golden Horde, spending months assembling a large army and supplies collected from across his empire. After a series of feints, Tamerlane set out unexpectedly early in January 1391. Eyeing Tamerlane after several months of marching, Toqtamish felt he knew Tamerlane’s plan. Anticipating that the Emir would cross the Ural River at Kurk-qul, Toqtamish ordered his army to gather there. In one of the surprise maneuvers he so loved, Tamerlane darted in a different direction; before Toqtamish’s full force had even gathered, he learned Tamerlane had crossed further upriver. Toqtamish retreated lest he be outflanked, and his forces who arrived late were set upon by the Timurids.

    But despite this, Tamerlane was playing in Toqtamish’s lands, and was no man of the steppe. Toqtamish drew Tamerlane deeper into the steppe, and in the process began to starve his large army. Parties sent out to forage were ambushed by Toqtamish’s warriors, and the Khan tried to burn the grasslands before the Timurids, though the wet spring hampered this. Knowing his starving men would soon be at their limit, Tamerlane rallied with men with a large hunting expedition and glamourous review of the troops, while sending his son, Omar-Sheikh Mirza with 20,000 swift riders to overtake Toqtamish and force him to battle, allowing the main force to catch up to the Khan. The ploy worked, and Toqtamish was forced to draw up at the Kondurcha River on June 18th, 1391.

    The two massive armies arrayed themselves in large, crescent formations. Both forces were largely horse archers, light and heavy cavalry, with Tamerlane bringing infantry from his Central Asian cities and as far as Badakhshan, and Toqtamish infantry from the Horde’s urban centers. Tamerlane strengthened his wings with units staggered behind them to protect against encirclement, and commanded the rearguard behind the centre. The Golden Horde struck first, attacking across the entire front, Toqtamish himself leading repeated charges. However, some of Toqtamish’s flank commanders retreated, either due to treachery or miscommunication. With the Horde now stretched thin, Tamerlane ordered a counter charge against Toqtamish’s left and centre, which broke and the rest retreated. Though the field was won, Toqtamish and much of his army had escaped. Deprived of a total victory, Tamerlane withdrew, but not before appointing another Toqa-Temürid Temür Qutlugh, as khan, with the wily Edigü empowered too.

    With Tamerlane spending the next few years darting hither and yon across Iran, Toqtamish recoupled his strength, and planned the next bout. When the Prince of Moscow, Dmitri Donskoi’s son Vasili, wished to annex the city of Nizhnii Novgorod, he delivered a large bribe to Toqtamish which the khan was happy to put to use. Gifts and messengers went across the world as Toqtamish built an anti-Timurid alliance. Old allies like the Mamluks and Jalayirids, but also other Turkic states with whom the Horde had had no ties with before, such as the Ottomans and Qaraqoyunlu, the so-called Black Sheep Turkomans. Tamerlane was hardly blind to it, and engaged in his own diplomacy to dissuade such a coalition from forming. But Tamerlane’s political capital was spent. Watching Tamerlane’s movement, Toqtamish placed his own army north of the Caucasus. The two sent envoys to one another in a final diplomatic effort, to no avail, and Tamerlane marched into the steppe in the first months of 1395.

    This time he caught Toqtamish along the Terek River in April 1395, near Grozny in Chechnya. The Golden Horde controlled the north bank of the closest ford and unwilling to storm it, Tamerlane marched upstream, with Toqtamish mirroring him for three days. According to a Spanish envoy to Tamerlane’s court, Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo, on the third night, the women and servants in Temur’s camp donned armour and continued on, while the main force swiftly doubled back in the darkness and crossed the now unguarded ford. It didn’t take Toqtamish long to discover the ruse, but it was too late: Tamerlane’s army deployed on their side late on April 14th. Anticipating a night attack, Tamerlane ordered a moat dug around his camp. Toqtamish’s forces skirmished along the edges of the moat, playing instruments and shouting, keeping Temur’s army up with expectations of an assault. But Toqtamish held the main army back, resting them.

    On the morning of the 15th, they formed up. Again they brought massive armies, and Tamerlane increased the size of his rearguard in expectation of encirclement. Toqtamish opened the battle, his right falling upon Temur’s left rearguard. Tamerlane ordered the left wing to assist, and the Golden Horde’s right retreated. Eager to press the assault, Tamerlane’s left pursued, leaving the security of the main army and were drawn into a feigned retreat. Surrounded, the Timurid left was decimated, the survivors colliding with Tamerlane’s lines as a Jochid charge followed up. Battle order was lost. Tamerlane retreated to the fortified camp, Toqtamish’s troops in hot pursuit and nearly captured the emir. With Tamerlane himself now under threat, his commanders acted promptly, forcing wagons together in an impromptu stockade. They held off the Horde long enough for the remainder of the army to form back up, and by evening counterattacked and forced back the Jochids, until nightfall separated them. So ended the first day of battle.

    Discipline and composure were reestablished that night and the armies drew up early on the 16th. Toqtamish’s army again began the battle, his left flank forcing back Tamerlane’s vanguard, and soon Temur’s right was nearly overcome as well. One commander ordered large shields forced into the ground, and from behind this barricade Tamerlane’s archers dismounted and shot at the approaching Tatars, halting their advance. Temur reinforced them with several units from his bodyguard, repulsing the Jochids under this volley of arrows.

    The second day ended better than the first for Tamerlane, but the old emir knew Toqtamish had him matched. That evening he made overtures to a discontented emir in Toqtamish’s camp, Aktau, promising him rewards for promoting intrigue. By morning Aktau had abandoned the battlefield, making his way in time to Anatolia. Toqtamish was disheartened but determined, and formed up again, his left wing weaker with Aktau’s absence. Toqtamish’s centre and flanks all attacked Tamerlane, but Tamerlane had built up his forces on the right, and broke through the weakened Jochid left. Hard fighting continued until evening, Toqtamish valiantly trying to save the left and prevent encirclement, but Temur had the better of the day. Defeated, Toqtamish had an orderly retreat planned, sending one commander to the Caucasus in an effort to harass Tamerlane’s rear. This gave Toqtamish enough time to escape while Temur crushed this army. However, Toqtamish could not rally another army, leaving his cities isolated before the might of Tamerlane.

    Tamerlane pursued Toqtamish, but upon losing him decided to prevent Toqtamish from ever having strength to raise another army again. He then set about systematically dismantling the economy of the Golden Horde, thoroughly sacking every single one of the major cities of the steppe; from the Crimea trade cities, where only Caffa, due to a timely bribe escaped judgment. Tana, Ukek, Sarai to Hajji Tarkhan and more all were brought to ruin on Tamerlane’s order, left smoldering husks as his army moved past. Despite some popular claims, Moscow was not attacked; the Rus’ chronicles indicate only the town of ‘Elets suffered the wrath of the Emir. He declared another of Urus Khan’s sons, Quyurchuq as Khan, and was convinced by Edigü to grant him yarliq to collect and summon his peoples; but realized too late that Edigü had tricked him, and used Tamerlane’s patent and the vacuum of power to carve out his own lands.

    By the summer of 1396, the steppe environment and some sort of epidemic was wreaking havoc on Tamerlane’s troops, and he ordered the withdrawal to Samarkand, carrying with it the loot and treasures of the Golden Horde. The Horde’s cities and trade had struggled through the upheavals of the fourteenth century, but Tamerlane had just delivered a death blow from which they would not recover.

    Toqtamish was not done yet. For the next ten years he continued to seek to reclaim his throne, but now faced a stiff opponent in the form of Edigü. Ridding himself of Tamerlane’s puppet, Edigü reenthroned Temür Qutlugh, in time followed by a host of other puppets, and directed the effort to crush Toqtamish once and for all. But as a man well accustomed to defeat and bouncing back from it, Toqtamish proved remarkably hard to kill, and simply would not take “no” for an answer. The most notable effort came in 1399. After allying with Vytautas the Great, Grand Duke of Lithuania, the two launched a joint-invasion of the Golden Horde. At the Vorskla River in 1399, Edigü and Temür Qutlugh inflicted a crushing defeat on the army of Vytautas and Toqtamish. Many Lithuanian princes were killed, and the fleeing Duke was chased as far as Kyiv, where only after hefty ransom was the city and its refugees spared. The Toqtamish-Lithuanian alliance continued though, and Toqtamish’s son Jalal al-Din fought alongside Vytautas at the famous battle of Grünwald, or Tannenburg, against the Teutonic Order in 1410. Today, the Lipka Tatars in Lithuania and Poland are their distant descendants.

    By 1405, the humbled Toqtamish was in Siberia, and reached out to his former mentor, Tamerlane. Tamerlane was then in the midst of a march on China, wintering in Otrar, and it seems his old heart was warmed by Toqtamish’s offer of cooperation against Edigü. But nothing was to come of it; the old emir died that winter, and the next year Toqtamish fell in a skirmish against the forces of Edigü.

    So ended the life of Toqtamish Khan, the final powerful khan over the whole of the Golden Horde. Though not a truly transformative or administrative monarch, the fact he instilled any sort of stability over the Horde, and led a remarkable effort at unifying it before its final disintegration, left him a powerful legacy. In later Turkic histories Toqtamish is one of the most popular Jochid khans, and over the next century he was benchmark for others who wished to unify the Horde. In 1509, the Crimean Khan Mengli Giray, when sending a large army against Astrakhan during his own bid to reunify the Horde, is reported to have said “I shall be a Toqtamish.”


    And perhaps Toqtamish would have been successful, had he not faced Tamerlane in battle, perhaps the only man at the time with the strength to overcome the might of the Golden Horde. And for that, the Golden Horde paid dearly. Our next, and final episode on the Golden Horde, deals with its final disintegration, so be sure to subscribe to the Kings and Generals Podcast to follow. If you enjoyed this and would like to help us continue bringing you great content, consider supporting us on patreon at www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. This episode was researched and written by our series historian, Jack Wilson. I’m your host David, and we’ll catch you on the next one.

  • “The impure and proud Mamai, Lord of the Volga Horde, ruled over the entire Horde, and he slew many lords and khans and he set up a khan according to his own will. He was, however, in great confusion, and everybody distrusted him because he killed many lords and nobles in his Horde. He even killed his own khan, and although he had a khan, this khan of the Horde was ruler in name only, for it was he, himself, who was ruler and master of all. When he learned that the Tatars loved their khan he became afraid that the khan would assume the power from him. Therefore he killed him and all who were faithful to him and those who loved him.”

    So the Rus’ Nikonian Chronicle describes the situation in the Golden Horde at the end of the 1370s. Thirty years after the death of Özbeg Khan, the Golden Horde underwent another, much more violent transformation. During the reign of Özbeg’s son Jani Beg from 1342 to 1357, he had kept the Golden Horde sailing through rough waters as the overland Asian trade began to unravel and the Black Death ravaged his cities. But with Jani Beg’s death in 1357, possibly at the hands of his own son Berdi Beg, the good fortune of the Golden Horde came to a sudden and bloody end. Now the Horde was to enter two decades of anarchy; the bulghaq, the topic of today’s episode. I’m your host David, and this is Kings and Generals: Ages of Conquest.

    In 1357, Jani Beg had just returned from his successful conquest of what is now Azerbaijan, when he suddenly died. According to a contemporary writer, al-Ahari, his son Berdi Beg was, at the time of his father’s death, still in the Azerbaijani lands. But sources such as the later Nikonian Chronicle have Berdi Beg convinced by a cunning emir to strangle his father himself after bringing numerous princes into an alliance with him. The widespread impression seems to have been that he organized his father’s murder, even if the most contemporary sources do not place Berdi Beg there himself. After Berdi Beg left Azerbaijan, the region was lost, seized by the Jalayirids of Baghdad.

    Berdi Beg in quick order, with the backing of his grandmother Taydula, was proclaimed Khan of the Golden Horde. But feeling he faced threats, real or imagined, the new khan’s first actions were violence. Echoing his father and grandfather, Berdi Beg had his brothers murdered: 12 of them, by one count. For one infant brother, Berdi Beg is alleged to have done the deed with his own bare hands, despite the pleadings of grandmother Taydula Khatun. A number of other high ranking princes and officials too met their deaths on Berdi Beg’s order.

    Berdi Beg’s actions did little to engender love to the new monarch, for whom Heaven seemed to show little favour. The Horde’s trade had declined tremendously in these years. Cities starved and shrunk, as they lost access to international trade, were depopulated by the Black Death and local farmland suffered. The mid-fourteenth century saw the Little Ice Age strike and undo the system built up by the Jochids over the last century. Decreased rainfall over much of the steppe, and likely over-grazing from ever larger herds needed to support cities, when combined resulted in the rapid aridisation across the region. Much of the grassland simply could not sustain the great herds any longer. Almost paradoxically, the Caspian Sea was rising and causing increased flooding along the lower reaches of the Volga, which inundated cities and farmland in the Horde’s most densely populated region.

    The great cities of the Horde saw their population drop rapidly, and the material wealth evaporated without the trade or population to sustain it. The Horde’s elites who had enriched themselves off it were frightened, angered and uncertain. Berdi Beg’s efforts did little to improve things; he is known, for instance, to have raised trade duties on imports to their highest level ever recorded in the Golden Horde: 5%. And an especially virulent wave of the plague in 1359 really topped things off.

    His legitimacy already in doubt due to widespread rumours of having murdered his own father, the generally respected Jani Beg, it should not be a surprise that Berdi Beg’s rule was on thin ice. After only two years on the throne, Berdi Beg, grandson of mighty Özbeg, was murdered. The exact circumstances are unclear; the Nikonian Chronicle puts the blame on the same beg who had urged Berdi Beg to kill his father. The murder of Berdi Beg Khan in 1359 did not, however, improve things very much.

    On Berdi Beg’s death, the throne was taken by Qulpa, a fellow who is variously identified as a brother or cousin of Berdi Beg. Qulpa was not long to enjoy the throne. After six months, Qulpa and his two sons, curiously with the very Rus’ Christian names of Ivan and Mikhail, were all in turn murdered, this time by Nawruz, a brother of Qulpa. Still, the Rus’ princes came to pay homage to Nawruz, and momentarily things looked like they might settle. That is, until Khidr came. Khidr ruled an appanage east of the Ural River, and was no descendant of Batu, but of another son of Jochi, named Shiban. In some accounts, he was invited by Taydula Khatun. But he simply may have seen a chance to throw his hat in the ring. Only months after he took the throne, Nawruz and his son were killed by Khidr, who became the new khan of the Golden Horde. So ended the line of Batu Khan, having ruled the western steppes for a century. The purging of the Batuid lineage with every succession since Toqta and Nogai’s coup in 1291 had reached its final outcome, with Nawruz and his sons the final known male descendants. With the exception of Berke, all the khans of the Golden Horde until that time had been a descendent of Batu. Now, Khidr Khan’s actions had essentially opened the succession to any possible claimant. And boy, did it.

    Within a year Khidr was dead, and over the next twenty years the Jochid throne effectively became the most violent game of musical chairs. Over this period, some 25 khans, possibly more, were declared in Sarai, of varying lineages. Some ruled for two or three years, while many ruled only months. Most of these figures are known only by their names. Some are known only by coinage; in one year, 6 different khans minted coins in Sarai.

    The consequences were legion. The economic woes worsened as cities were now sacked by opposing forces. For the first time, we see archaeological evidence for fortifications around the Horde’s cities in the steppe. A number of cities were outright abandoned. In the west, the condominium with Lithuania was abandoned as the Lithuanian dukes immediately seized the western lands, and in short order the Lithuanian principality extended to the Black Sea coast line. In 1362 under Duke Ol’gerd the Lithuanians won a battle over a Mongol army at the Battle of Blue Waters. In the aftermath, everything between the Dnieper and Dniester came under Lithuanian control, although at least for Podolia, in south-western Ukraine, the Lithuanians continued to pay the tribute to the Mongols well into the fifteenth century. Moldova and other Balkan regions declared independence, while the local nomadic leaders seem to have also stopped heeding the word of Sarai.

    East of the Ural River, the Blue Horde, ruled by the line of Batu’s older brother Orda, too faced its own troubles. The lineage of Orda became extinct in the 1360s and saw its own succession troubles. The khans in the Blue Horde, by the end of the decade, stopped minting coins with the name of the Sarai khans, and started doing so in their own names. The Blue Horde was thus independent once again.

    The princes of the Rus’ stopped making the trips to the Horde to declare their allegiance, for it simply became too dangerous. Rus’ princes were now being robbed and held captive by the rival Jochid powers when they made the trip through the steppe. And with the khans being overturned every few months it was now far too dangerous a trip to make so regularly. However the Rus’ lands were not to be ignored, as certain Jochid princes and contenders for power, having lost access to the trade they had one relied upon, were now turning evermore to the Rus’ as a source of income and loot.

    The khan’s authority decreased further, as many khans did not rule themselves, but were puppets for non-Chinggisid powerbrokers. And the chief of these was Mamai, a powerful military commander based in the steppes near Crimea. As he was no descendant of Chinggis, Mamai had no right to claim the title of khan himself, though he held prestige as beylerbeyi and married a daughter of Berdi Beg. But that didn’t mean he could not put someone amenable to his interests on the throne. The first of these fellows was Abdullah, who was alleged to be a son of either Özbeg Khan or his son Tini Beg. He simply may have come from another corollary branch of the lineage, who Mamai had found convenient to play up. That was hardly unusual, as supposed lost sons of Özbeg, Tini Beg and Jani Beg continued to pop up, such as another claimant, Kildi Beg, in 1361.

    Abdullah Khan was enthroned in Sarai in 1361, and Mamai returned to his Crimean pastures soon after. But Abdullah was quickly ousted by rivals in Sarai and fled back to Mamai. This was to be a regular pattern over the 1360s. Every few years Mamai would march with an army, enthrone Abdullah and return, only for Abdullah to be tossed out or flee when another claimant came a-knockin’, or the nobles in Sarai declared someone else khan. The final attempt resulted in Abdullah’s death in 1370, upon which Mamai empowered a princess in Sarai, named Tulun Bey. Her exact identity is uncertain. It is commonly assumed that she was the Chinggisid princess who Mamai had also married, a daughter of Berdi Beg Khan. If this is the case, then she was the last to rule from the line of Batu. But she was quickly switched out by Mamai, and replaced with another of Mamai’s puppet. And so this pattern continued until 1380, with Mamai’s candidates thrown out every few years, and then installed a year or two later. It’s caused an endless amount of work for historians to try and determine the order and lengths of reigns of all these khans.

    It was well known at large that the Khan was a figurehead for Mamai. As the Rus’ Nikon Chronicle states, “At that time in Mamai’s Horde there was a khan, but he had no power by comparison with Mamai, and was khan in nothing but the title. Even this title, however, was meaningless because all glory and all action were Mamai’s. There was much trouble in the Horde and many Tatar lords had killed each other, lost their heads and died at sword’s points. Thus, little by little, the Horde’s great power was wasted away.”

    Mamai’s intrigues did not merely extend to Sarai, but to the Rus’ lands as well, as the Sarai Khans sought revenue from Rus’ taxes, and Mamai intervened to earn them himself. In one of these conspiracies, Mamai granted the yarliq, or patent, to the Grand Principality of Vladimir, the chief of the Rus’ princes, to the young Prince of Moscow Dmitri Ivanovich. Or as he’s better known to posterity, Dmitri Donskoi.

    Dmitri was a grandson of Ivan I Kalita, the grandson of Alexander Nevsky who had worked so well with Özbeg Khan and began Moscow’s rise to prominence. Ivan Kalita had monopolized the position of Grand Prince, the chief tax collector of the Rus’, until his death. Upon that, it went to his son Simeon, who died of plague, and then to Dmitri’s father, Ivan II Ivanovich, who died in 1359 as the Horde’s troubles began. Only 9 years old when his father died, Dmitri could not rely on the Khans’ support as his fathers had.

    We’ve discussed this matter over previous episodes, but it bears reiterating here. The top title in the Rus’ lands was the Grand Prince of Vladimir. Whoever held this was the #1 prince in the Rus’, and collected taxes for the khans— skimming off the top for himself, of course, but also giving him great influence among the Rus’. While initially the khans had just appointed whoever the Rus’ princes elected as Grand Prince, during Özbeg’s reign the khans assumed the right to rescind and appoint the Grand Prince at will. And the Princes of Moscow, a lesser branch of the Riurikid lineage, quite desired it but held no right to the title without the khan’s backing. And so a relationship was formed, wherein the Princes of Moscow became the most scrupulous enactors of the khan’s will, in order to retain the titles to both Moscow and the Grand Principality, as well as the khan’s military support as protection. And correspondingly, from the 1320s onwards Moscow grew in wealth and power, to the displeasure of the other Rus’ princes, who saw the Moscow line as upstarts with no right to the Grand title.

    Flashing forward to 1360, Khan Nawruz took both the Moscow title and the Grand Principality away from young Dmitri, only for it to be returned in 1362 when the new Khan in Sarai granted both back to him. Mamai saw his opportunity here, and also granted Dmitri the patent for the Grand Principality. The rival in Sarai quickly rescinded his support for Dmitri. Without support from either the Khan or other Rus’ princes the young Prince of Moscow could only seek the assistance of Mamai.

    Mamai gained himself an excellent source of revenue in the young Dmitri, who turned out to be a very capable hand, while for Dmitri Mamai’s armies gave him security he would not have otherwise as a youth on the throne. With the loss of the overland trade, the income from the Rus’ was more important than ever, and Mamai was happy to earn it, and Dmitri did his best to deliver on time. But Dmitri was not passive, and wanted to secure his own base lest the whims of Mamai shift. Through diplomacy, marriage alliances and military threats, Dmitri steadily built his support among the Rus’ princes, and incorporated other smaller principalities under Moscow’s rule. For the first time, the city of Moscow itself received stone walls on Dmitri’s order, which proved their worth in repelling an attack by Lithuania and the rival city of Tver’ in 1368.

    Mamai had use for Dmitri only as long as he provided tribute, so when the Hanseatic League disrupted trade to Dmitri’s territories in the late 1360s, thereby preventing Dmitri from collecting the silver for Mamai, Mamai rescinded the patent to the Grand Principality and gave it to Dmitri’s rival Mikhail Aleksandrovich of Tver’ in 1370. Yet Mikhail proved even worse at sending tribute, and when Dmitri personally presented himself to Mamai to pay homage, accompanied by a great many gifts, Mamai returned him the Grand Princely title. The situation repeated in late 1374 when the Hanseatic League cut the silver export to Novgorod. Mamai once again gave the Grand Princely title to Mikhail of Tver’, but due to plague and Mamai’s failed attempt to control the Volga trade routes, he was unable to support Mikhail militarily. Dmitri in the meantime had built up Moscow’s military and alliances, and in Mamai’s absence forced Mikhail to surrender. Confident in his abilities, Dmitri then took his army to the Volga, asserting Moscow’s authority as far as Bulghar in 1377.

    Mamai was not pleased at this development, a threat to his income while an even greater threat loomed on the horizon. Far to the east in the Blue Horde lands, a powerful Chinggisid Prince named Toqtamish, backed by the Central Asian warlord Temür, was rapidly growing in power. The eye of Toqtamish was drifting to Sarai, and he dreamed of assuming leadership of the Golden Horde. Doing so was a threat of unification which would entail a collision with Mamai. Mamai thus needed to prepare for the inevitable battle, but to do this he needed the resources of the Rus’ tribute. And to that, he needed Dmitri to play nice with him. In August 1378 a force in Mamai’s service was sent to collect the tribute. Dmitri set out, nervously, to meet it head on, intercepting it near the Vozha River. Dmitri’s force held firm under their attack, and succeeded in flanking the Mongols. In an attempt to withdraw across the Vozha River, many of the Mongols were killed, and Dmitri looted their abandoned camp.

    Such was the first real victory an army of the Rus’ had ever had over a force of the Golden Horde in battle, though Dmitri gained little from this victory and neither force was large. But Mamai was furious. The next year he ordered a larger, retaliatory attack on the Ryazan’ land, causing great destruction, burning several cities. Oleg, Prince of Ryazan’ fled before him. The Rus’ paid dearly for their effort.

    In 1378, the same year as the defeat on the Vozha, more alarming news came from the east. Toqtamish had now taken Sarai, and proclaimed himself Khan. Confrontation was imminent, and Mamai could not face Toqtamish with Dmitri rebelling in his rear. If Toqtamish and Dmitri allied, then Mamai would be surrounded by foes. Mamai needed resources to face Toqtamish, and he needed revenue to do that, and Dmitri, as chief tax collector of the Russian principalities and controlling much of the Volga trade, was directly undermining that. It was time for Mamai to confront Dmitri himself. Over the next year, Mamai organized an alliance with Grand Duke Jagailo of Lithuania and Prince Oleg of Ryazan. He called up troops from the Alans, the Circassians, and the Genoese as mercenaries. We are told in the Nikon Chronicle that Mamai furiously studied Batu’s conquest of the Rus’, trying to learn his tactics and strategy. It got to the point that allegedly, Mamai began to see himself as a second Batu, feeling superior to all others and his own men calling him “Great Khan.”

    In 1380, Mamai was ready. He ordered Dmitri to deliver a higher amount of tribute than ever, even greater than what had been paid during the times of Özbeg and Jani Beg. The message was a stalling tactic, as Mamai made preparations to march on Moscow with Jagailo and Oleg, hoping to crush Dmitri of Moscow between the three of them.

    In Moscow, Dmitri quickly organized all the military forces of the Principalities that he could. Surprisingly, most principalities, except Tver’, Novgorod or those aiding Mamai, answered Dmitri’s call for aid. Dmitri’s efforts to build Moscow’s influence now bore fruit, as for the first time in their history, the Rus’ offered something of a united front against the Mongols. The ascendency of Moscow over the other cities had begun, but first they had to stand against Mamai.

    In September 1380 in a field on the upper Don River called Kulikovo, Mamai and the Ryazan forces waited for the Lithuanians. In a sign of poor scouting, on the 9th of September Mamai’s army was shocked to see the arrival of Dmitri and the Rus’ host crossing the Don. Dmitri’s goal was simple; defeat Mamai in the field, before the Lithuanians could arrive and overwhelm him. One of the most famous battles in Russian history was about to begin.

    Numbers for the two armies are uncertain, with Dmitri leading perhaps as many as 30,000 Rus’ troops from across the principalities, while Mamai likely had a slightly larger force, consisting of Mongol-Turkic, that is Tatar, cavalry, Circassians, Rus’ from Ryazan and Genoese mercenaries. Battle began with a clash of champions; the Rus’ monk Peresvet, and a Tatar named variously Chelübei or Temür Mirza. They charged one another on horseback, lances before them. At the collision both were run through and killed, though Perevet’s body is supposed to have stayed in the saddle the longer.

    Battle then commenced. It was across a wide front, extending the Rus’ lines thin but ravines and streams hampered the full deployment of Mamai’s cavalry. Fighting went on for hours, with Mamai’s troops holding the upper hand. Skilled Tatar cavalry and arrows took their toll on the Rus’ and both sides tired over the course of the day. Dmitri had given his standard to another to hold, and when that man fell, the Rus’ wavered. Dmitri himself disappeared in the clash, supposedly wounded and knocked unconscious. Mamai appeared on the verge of victory and kept his forces engaged. Yet one final trick was left to be put in play. Dmitri’s cousin, Vladimir of Serpukhov, was kept in reserve with the Rus’ princely cavalry. As both sides were at exhaustion, the freshly deployed Rus’ cavalry charged from their hiding place in the trees and into the flank of Mamai’s army. Mamai could only watch as his overworked, exhausted army routed, and he too fled. Learning of Mamai’s defeat, the Lithuanians rapidly withdrew before ever making contact. So ended the battle on the Kulikovo field.

    Dmitri had led the Rus’ to defeat a major Mongol army in the field, and for his victory he was given the epithet Donskoi, meaning “of the Don.” While today this battle stands tall in Russian popular memory as a struggle for independence, in reality it led to little immediate change for the Rus’ or to Moscow’s standing. Our main sources come decades after the event and reflect how the battle’s stature had grown with retellings. While the more heroic and famous elements of the battle may have little basis in reality, such as the duel before the battle, the general course of events is probably accurate enough. Whether it was as great a defeat for Mamai as popularly imagined is unknown, nor can we know Mamai for certain was even present. Mamai’s losses are likely greatly overstated, since the next year he was able to raise another army rapidly, suggesting a small clash may have been turned into a grand duel. Arguments that Kulikovo never actually happened due to a lack of archaeological evidence cannot be sustained, as it is rare indeed for archaeological evidence to survive of a medieval battle. Little of the valuable metal equipment was ever left on site, usually quickly scavenged, while bodies were taken away for respectful burials or disintegrated before they could be preserved in the earth. The slightly earlier battle of Bannockburn in Scotland, for instance, though tracked to a relatively small area, has left almost no presence archaeologically speaking.

    The real victor at Kulikovo was not Dmitri, but Toqtamish. After Kulikovo Mamai had strength enough to raise another army, and fought Toqtamish on the Kalka River. There Mamai was defeated for the final time. He was soon captured and executed by Toqtamish or by Genoese in Crimea when he fled there. Either way, Dmitri had succeeded in weakening Toqtamish’s main rival for rule of the Golden Horde, and the new Khan was ready to assert his authority. So ended the Tale of Mamai.

    Our next episode takes you through the reign of Toqtamish, as we enter the final period of the Golden Horde, so be sure to subscribe to the Kings and Generals Podcast to follow. If you enjoyed this and would like to help us continue bringing you great content, consider supporting us on patreon at www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. This episode was researched and written by our series historian, Jack Wilson. I’m your host David, and we’ll catch you on the next one.

  • The death of Özbeg, Khan of the Golden Horde, in 1341 marked the end of an era for the Jochid Khanate. The thirty year reign of Özbeg had been one of relative internal stability; a stability his successors were not to enjoy. Bloody succession struggles, plague and economic woe were now to be the news of the day within the Horde. And it was Özbeg’s sons Tini Beg and Jani Beg Khan who were to face the front of it. Today we take you through the reigns of Özbeg’s sons, the eve of the great anarchy which would rip asunder at the very foundation of the Golden Horde. I’m your host David, and this is Kings and Generals: Ages of Conquest.

    Özbeg Khan, during his long life, seems to have initially desired his eldest son Temür to succeed him. Having violently purged the Jochid lineage upon his own accession in 1313, Özbeg had the luxury to decide on a successor. But Temür’s death around 1330 left Özbeg bereaved, and forced him to make due with his other two sons, Tini Beg and Jani Beg. Born to his wife Taydula Khatun, Tini Beg and Jani Beg were well educated princes. Ibn Battuta noted numerous islamic advisors for both princes, and Jani Beg is specifically described as knowledgeable in Islamic laws. Their names both came from Turkic and Persian words for “spirit,” making them “lords of the spirit.” Tini Beg, as the elder, was preferred by Özbeg to succeed him. During his trip to the Golden Horde, Ibn Battuta describes Özbeg showering Tini Beg in preferences and honours for this purpose. Additionally, Ibn Battuta describes Tini Beg as one of the most handsome of men. There is slight indication that Özbeg and Tini Beg fell out towards the end of his life, when Jani Beg’s name begins to appear alongside Özbeg’s on coinage, suggesting perhaps the second son was being groomed to be heir.

    On Özbeg’s death in late 1341, Tini Beg still maneuvered his way onto the throne, likely to the displeasure of Jani Beg. We know little of his reign. There is some suggestion that he was not a Muslim, and had some close links with Franciscans, whom he sent as his envoys to the Pope. One of the earliest pieces of surviving Golden Horde literature dates to his reign, too; a Turkic language poem by the Horde poet Qutb, adapting the Persian language “Khosrow and Shirin” by Nizami. Dedicated to Tini Beg and his wife, it remains a fascinating, if brief, look at the courtly life and social structure of the Horde in the mid-fourteenth century.

    We can tell you little else of Tini Beg’s reign with any certainty. Jani Beg never took kindly to Tini Beg’s ascension; we may suspect he felt that Tini Beg had stolen the throne from him. The order of events is conflicting in the sources; potentially their mother, Taydula, preferred Jani Beg and whispered into his ear while Jani Beg’s Islamic advisers may have encouraged him, in reaction to the possibly non-Muslim Tini Beg’s enthronement. In some versions, Jani Beg first kills one of their brothers, Khidr Beg, in very uncertain circumstances. In Tini Beg’s anger, he raises an army to confront his brother Jani Beg, only to be defeated in battle, taken captive and executed. In other versions, Jani Beg only kills Khidr Beg after Tini Beg’s death. The fact of the fratricide of two of his brothers though, is well attested.

    So, Jani Beg became Khan in 1342. There can be little doubt of Jani Beg’s islam. We are told he even set out orders for his troops to all don turbans and cloaks. Neither could there be any hesitation among the Rus’ princes about recognizing Jani Beg’s rule; one of Jani Beg’s first orders was sending an army to install a new prince in Pereiaslavl’. The meaning was clear. Jani Beg was going to continue his father’s policy of firm mastery over the Rus’. In quick order the Rus’ princes all travelled to the Horde to recognize Jani Beg’s overlordship; the Grand Prince, now Simeon Ivanovich, too made clear his subservience to Jani Beg Khan. Simeon was a close ally to the Khan, and over his reign made regular trips to the Horde, always returning with gifts, honours and Jani Beg’s favour. A smart move, lest the Khan remove him from his post. In doing so, they continued the slow if steady consolidation of Moscow’s influence regarding the other Rus’ cities.

    There is also indication that Jani Beg held loftier pretensions. By the start of Jani Beg’s reign, he was essentially the last remaining Chinggisid khan with authority. The Blue Horde khans were his vassals, and the Chagatai Khanate and Ilkhanate were either divided or dissolved. In the Yuan Dynasty, with whom contact was infrequent, the Great Khan Töghön Temür was a figurehead in comparison to his Chancellors. In reaction, it seems to an extent Jani Beg went about presenting himself not just as successors to Özbeg, but the rightful heir to Chinggis Khan. Not Jani Beg was not just the Jochid Khan, but the supreme Khan. Özbeg himself seems to have used in some instances the title of “khan of khans,” as did Jani Beg. In letters to the Ilkhanid successors in the Caucasus, Jani Beg calls himself the “khan of the three ulusus,” and references to “great Khan,” as a Jochid title continued among his successors for centuries. A subtle shift in ideology, but one indicating a recognition, perhaps, that the Mongol Empire was dead, and now the Jochid Khan was supreme monarch by the grace of Eternal Heaven.

    Jani Beg did not quite share Özbeg’s tolerance to other religions. While he mellowed later in his reign, initially Jani Beg seemed rather set on reducing privileges enjoyed by Franciscans and the Orthodox Church in Rus’, normally a strong supporter of Mongol rule. “Idol temples,” —that is, Buddhist or shamanist sites— were specified for destruction. And as we will see shortly, Jani Beg reacted with particular ire when Christians within his empire caused trouble. But even this animosity should not be too overstated; there is no recorded attempt by Jani Beg, or other Jochid khans, to try and convert the Rus’ and other Christian populations to Islam. In the 1350s a Rus’ Metropolitan, Alexii, healed the eyes of Jani Beg’s mother, Taydula, for which he earned great reward. On Jani Beg’s death in 1357 the Rus’ Nikonian Chronicle describes the late Jani Beg as a friend to Christians, a monarch who had given the Rus’ many privileges. We might suspect that Jani Beg took the throne with a zealousness to prove his Islamic bona fides, and cooled in this fervour as the years passed.

    Unfortunately for the Italian merchants in the Horde, in 1343 Jani Beg was still very much full of zeal. That year, the second of Jani Beg’s reign, news came to him of a murder of a Mongol notable in Tana. Tana was the Italian name for Azov, a trading community Özbeg had granted to the Venetians on the mouth of the Don River, nestled on the edge of the Azov Sea east of the Crimea. In September of 1343, an argument between an Italian and a Mongol, Hajji ‘Umar, resulted in the Italians murdering him in the street. Jani Beg was white hot with rage directed at the Italians. His father Özbeg had generally handled the Italian traders relatively well, playing them off each other and making the Golden Horde a good deal of money. Initially, Jani Beg had reconfirmed the privileges of the Italians. However, Jani Beg took umbrage with the autonomy of the port cities, and felt they had too much control over the Jochid state’s trade. The Italians’ continued dealing in nomadic slaves may also have frustrated the Khan. After the poor relationship between Özbeg and the Mamluk Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad, Jani Beg basically let the relationship with the Mamluks die. With the disintegration of the Ilkhanate, there was little need for such worthless allies, as far as Jani Beg was concerned. He only sent two embassies to the Mamluks; one alerting them of his enthronement, and one informing them of his conquest of Tabriz. There was no interest or desire to allow the Mamluks their continued access to Qipchap troops, and little patience for Italians selling perfectly good potential warriors to distant Egypt. Not surprisingly, it is about this time that Circassians were gaining prominence as the source of Mamluks in Egypt.

    The murder of the Mongol in Tana was either the final straw, or simply a good pretence to rid himself of the Italians, and perhaps put his own men in charge of the trade. No more could the Italians enrich themselves at the expense of the Horde! In quick order Jani Beg had the westerners in the Black Sea trade cities of Tana and Solkhat expelled or killed, and an army bearing down on Caffa in 1343. As the chief of the port cities, and the primary Geneose settlement, Caffa was the prize of the campaign. But it would be no easy nut to crack. Caffa’s harbour allowed it to be resupplied by sea no matter how strong the land blockade. Caffa had also learned lessons from sieges suffered during the reign of Toqta Khan thirty years prior. The city walls were stout, its supplies well stocked. Khan Jani Beg found the city withstood his initial assaults over 1343 and 1344. On one occasion a night foray resulted in the Genoese burning down Jani Beg’s siege machines. All Jani Beg could do was cut it off by land, for the Genoese could continue to bring in provisions.

    A further issue had developed too. While the Venetian-Genoese rivalry was normally strong, in the midst of this emergency they had put aside their differences, the Venetians seeking shelter in Caffa and the city-states putting a trade embargo on the Golden Horde. Recall in our previous episodes, how we described the ways in which the economy of the Golden Horde relied on the overland Asian trade. Much of this funneled through the Golden Horde’s Black Sea coastline, and booned with the relative stability of inner-Asian travel. But by the 1340s, this economic system was already reeling with the collapse of the Ilkhanate and Chagatai Khanate, and now with this embargo due to the war with Genoa and Venice, the Horde was effectively cut out of the international trade routes. As early as 1344, a Franciscan observer remarked in a letter that protests were breaking out in the Horde’s city with the unintended economic strangulation. The consequences were felt across Europe, with the doubling of the prices of silk and spices. The Horde was a major grain exporter for much of the Black Sea region, and the war was now resulting in famine in Constantinople, as Jani Beg prevented Italian access to the grain harvests.

    In an effort to bring about a resolution, Jani Beg needed a new ploy. He found just the ticket. In an unusual for any Mongol khan, with the exception of Khubilai, Jani Beg decided to build a navy. Harbouring it in the Sea of Azov, Jani Beg was going to attack Caffa land and sea, or at least choke it out. Unfortunately for Jani Beg, such an effort could not go unnoticed as sailors, labourers and materials were called into the region. Once the Genoese learned of it in 1345, a specialty raiding fleet was organized in Genoa, sailed across the Mediterranean and literally dashed Jani Beg’s dreams to pieces; the Golden Horde’s fledgling navy was nipped in the bud, burnt and sunk.

    Jani Beg was denied his swift victory. In 1346 he maintained siege lines but undertook no assaults, and in 1347 concluded separate treaties with Genoa and Venice. Once more the Genoese were able to sail their cargo out of Caffa’s harbour, and the Venetians returned to their colony at Tana. The entire campaign in the end was nought but an expensive failure, returning to status quo ante bellum. The situation remained tense, particularly when Genoese and Venetian rivalry reasserted itself, and not until the late 1350s do things appear to have normalized, and Caffa remained the preeminent trade center of the northern Black Sea coast. But by then, a much more significant crisis now faced the international market, in the form of that intolerable little bugaboo, Yersinia pestis. Or as you may know it by its more colloquial name, the Black Death.

    Wherever its origins were, the Black Death had reached the Golden Horde’s cities by 1346, travelling along the Central Asian trade lines. It likely began ravaging Jani Beg’s army outside of Caffa in 1346, and it is here that we get one of the most infamous cases of biological warfare ever recorded, wherein Jani Beg ordered his troops to catapult the plague bodies of their fallen men into Caffa, causing it to spread among the defenders. Fleeing Genoese thus took it back to Europe with them. The rest, as they say, is history.

    Except maybe it’s not. There’s a number of issues with this popular story. Firstly, it’s described in only a single, by Gabriele de Mussi, who was not an eyewitness. At the time of the siege, de Mussi was in northern Italy, and may have only learned of the information, at-best secondhand, but perhaps only after it passed through multiple informants. The manuscript itself is a matter of question: not only do no other medieval accounts reference Jani Beg launching corpses like this, but no other source mentions de Mussi’s account in particular. In fact, it was unknown until it was discovered in the mid-19th century in what is now Poland! The document itself shows a poor understanding of the chronology, which is suspect for a supposedly educated lawyer like de Mussi. Caffa appears depopulated and abandoned by the end of the siege, though this was far from the case; it also portrays ships coming directly to Genoa from Caffa and spreading the plague thusly. But we know this to be false: the siege ended in 1346, but plague did not come to Genoa until early 1348, and from ships which had come from Sicily. As you probably know, not a lot of plague victims managed two years with it.

    Further issues come from the logic presented in the text. The Mongols’ deep reverence for their own dead, compounded by their conversion to Islam means that launching the bodies of their own fellows into Caffa seems an extraordinary taboo in their culture to break. In fact, there are effectively no historical anecdotes of an army tossing bodies of its own men into a city in order to spread plague; you’ll find very few cultures in history in which soldiers would be willing to disrespect the bodies of their fallen comrades in such a manner. It’s one thing to do it to bodies of the enemy, but the desecration of friends and allies is another matter entirely. The Mongols had a very well established reaction to disease outbreaks; leaving a site entirely, rather than stopping to continually handle the plague bodies. This makes a prolonged proximity to plague victims in order to load them into trebuchets even more unlikely. There have also been arguments that this would be a very ineffective means to actually spread plague! We can even comment on the fact that, had Caffa been so decimated, why did the Mongols not simply overrun it?

    Suffice to say, very few modern scholars accept de Mussi’s version of events, if the manuscript is even authentic. At best, we might wonder if the Mongols had thrown bodies of prisoners, or even animals, into the city at some point during the siege, which through a game of telephone turned into lobbing thousands of Mongol cadavers into Caffa, as de Mussi suggests. An accidental conflation of timelines and events in the midst of monumental horror of the Black Death is an understandable mistake to make.

    The more likely explanation is that the citizens of Caffa picked up the plague after the siege ended. Either looting the abandoned Mongol siege camp, or when the blockade was lifted and trade restarted with the Golden Horde. With the plague already running rampant in the Horde’s cities, it was only a matter of time before it entered Caffa through normal means. The port of Caffa began sending ships out for trade again in spring 1347; by the late summer, the plague was in Constantinople, and by early 1348 in Genoa. Caffa may very well have been the launching point for the plague into the Mediterranean, but the launching point for plague into Caffa was probably not a Mongol siege weapon.

    We have very little information on the effect the Black Death had on the Golden Horde. It seems to have had, just as it did everywhere, a devastating impact on urban centres. As we already established, there were a number of great cities in the steppes which had grown rich on the trans-continental trade. They had already been hurting in previous years with the fall of the other khanates and the Black Sea embargo; now the plague seemed a mortal blow. The only references we have are vague mentions of thousands upon thousands of losses in these cities. The Rus’ Nikonian Chronicle states that so many died in the Horde’s cities, that there was noone left to bury them.

    For the nomadic population, plague seems to have had a lesser impact. Steppe nomads essentially had a cultural system of quarantine for sick persons; gers would be marked off, and none allowed to enter which a sick person was inside. Those who had been in the presence of a person who died in a ger were forbidden from the khan’s presence entirely. Areas where infected animals or persons were seen were strictly avoided. Such systems remain in place even in modern Mongolia, where Yersinis pestis occurs normally in some animal populations. There, the normally sparse population allows the disease to be avoided like the plague. And it seems it proved beneficial for the Mongols; while Jani Beg had around a dozen children alive by the time of his death, at the same time in the Rus’ principalities numerous princes, notables and even the Grand Prince, Simeon, succumbed to the plague.

    Yet most assuredly, the 1340s and 50s marked a downward path for the Horde. While occupied with the Crimean venture, Jani Beg’s western bordering was further slipping from his grasp. In 1345 a Mongol army was defeated by the Hungarian King, Louis the Great. Lithuania continued its expansion into Galicia-Volhynia in competition with the Polish King Casimir III. Jani Beg was frustrated by them, and his mood proved fickle. Initially he granted consent for Casimir’s campaigning in Galicia against the Lithaunains, but then in the early 1350s Mongol troops raided as far as Lublin. In the end, Jani Beg ceded control of Galicia to Poland, and Volhynia to the Lithuanians, in exchange for the continuation of tribute for rights to both lands. While raids by Tatar troops would follow irregularly, Jani Beg’s reign marks the surrendering of the western frontier of the Golden Horde.

    Sinking the resources and men of his empire into Crimea, meant Jani Beg had been unable to take advantage of the disintegration of the Ilkhanate. Though we might wonder if this was in part a reluctance to press that frontier, given the troubles his father had faced attempting to do so. It was not until the end of the 1350s that Jani Beg finally threw his weight against the Ilkhanate’s successors. For years, individuals had fled the Chobanid state to the Golden Horde, bringing news of the poor rulership of Malik Ashraf. For a bit more context, check out episode 58 of this podcast for these post-Ilkhanid states. But in short, the Chobanids were a non-Chinggisid dynasty based in what is now Azerbaijan. Their final ruler was Malik Ashraf, a cruel and violent man who alienated essentially everyone he could. Jani Beg must have felt that the greatly weakened Malik Ashraf would be a pushover. His intentions were clear in the letter he sent to Malik Ashraf in Tabriz:

    “I am coming to take possession of the ulus of Hülagü. You are the son of Choban whose name was in the yarligh of the four uluses. Today three uluses are under my command and I also wish to appoint you emir of the ulus; get up and come to meet me.” At best, as a non-Chinggisid, Malik Ashraf could rule as a governor on behalf of a khan. Malik Ashraf asserted in his response that this is what he was doing, ruling on behalf of Hülagü’s line. The fact that Malik Ashraf by that point had no Ilkhanid puppet khan was glossed over. Additionally, Malik Ashraf sought to ease worries among his men by stating that as the ruler of the lands of Berke, Jani Beg had no right to the lands of Hülegü. Such an argument did little good as Jani Beg’s host entered the Caucasus in 1357. After a single battle the Chobanid army disintegrated, and the fleeing Malik Ashraf was caught and executed. After almost a century of on and off warfare, Tabriz finally came under Jochid rule. Jani Beg was victorious as none of his ancestors had been. After years of reverses, difficulties and other trials, Jani Beg finally had his great victory. He appointed his son Berdi Beg as governor of the region, and returned triumphant to the Golden Horde… only to die two months later. The blame is usually attributed to Berdi Beg, who in various sources was convinced into the action by poison-tongued emirs. In one account, Berdi Beg strangles his father himself. Berdi Beg quickly followed this up with murdering many of his brothers, including one who was only eight months old. He is alleged to have killed this one with his own hands. This, as we will see next week, was very far from being the end of the killing.

    So ended the reign of Jani Beg Khan, and with it, the golden age of the Horde. Jani Beg appears as an almost pale imitation of Öz Beg, ambitious enough for the throne, but not the man to steer the ship in a time of crisis. He wasted men and resources on his effort to expel the Italians, and achieved nothing for the outburst, preventing him from sooner seizing opportunity in the Caucasus. The Black Death and unraveling of the overland trade was of course outside of his power, but Jani Beg’s clumsy hand did nothing to assuage the situation. The fact that he did not face a real threat to his power until 1357 though, speaks to the strength of the Jochid political system that it could essentially coast through these years without major disaster. Such a thing could not be said of Berdi Beg’s reign, or those who were soon to follow him, as the Golden Horde entered its period of bulqhaq: anarchy. Our next episodes will detail the steady collapse of the Golden Horde, so be sure to subscribe to the Kings and Generals Podcast to follow. If you enjoyed this and would like to help us continue bringing you great content, consider supporting us on patreon at www.patreon.com/kingsandgenerals. This episode was researched and written by our series historian, Jack Wilson. I’m your host David, and we’ll catch you on the next one.