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  • Last time we spoke the Europeans licked their wounds after their nasty defeat to the Taku Forts. Elgin returned to China and a even larger coalition force now set itself on a warpath to march upon Beijing, but this time they went around the Taku Forts. They seized Kowloon, Chusan, Shanghai, Beitang, Tianjin, Danggu and then exacted their revenge upon the Taku Forts. The key to their success was the devastating Armstrong field gun which ripped asunder anything the Qing threw at them. Prince Seng lost the battle for Zhangjiawan utterly humiliating the Qing, but the great General did not simply call it quits, for now he reorganized the forces and put together a last stand at Baliqao. Could Prince Seng stop the European menace before they got to Beijing? Only time will tell.

    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 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.



    #23 This episode is Part 6 of the Second Opium War: The Burning of the Summer Palace

    Prince Seng and Prince Sengbao, the brother of Emperor Xianfeng had gathered a force of the Green Standard Army, reinforced by imperial guards of the 8 Banner Army, for a combined force nearly 30,000 strong. After their victory at Zhangjiawan, both Grant and Montauban were overly confident that they could simply march on Beijing. As they marched, the 101st regiment led by General Jamin arrived to increase their numbers. On the morning of September 21st as the European columns moved past Tongzhou they saw the Qing force in position in front of the Baliqao bridges. The Qing force was formidable with its left on the canal, reinforced by the village of Baliqao, another village in the center and a third on the far right. The road to Beijing passed through a rolling wooden terrain veering towards the canal and the Baliqao bridges. Seng had re-established order to his army and strengthened their resolve by bringing 100 guns and positioning them in the villages, on the other side of the canal and along his entire front. The Green Standard army were the majority, while the 8 Banner Army units were kept in reserve at the bridges. Seng also had of course a large cavalry force which was being led by Sengbao on their formation flanks.

    Grant kept inline with what he had done in the previous battle, he took the left while Montauban took the center and right to protect his flank. Montauban used the wooden terrain to hide his lack of numbers, sending the first column to hit the Qing center. General Jamin moved to Collineau’s right to hit the Qing left. Grant moved to the far left of Collineau hoping to flank the Qing. General Collineau took the advance guard consisting of the elite companies of the 101 and 12nd regiments, two companies of the 2nd Chasseuers a pied, an engineer detachment, two batteries of horse artillery and a battery of 4 pound foot artillery. Montauban and Jamin commanded the 101 regiment along with the 2nd Chasseurs a pied, a battery of 12 pounders and a Congreve rocket section.

    Collineau’s infantry sped through the woods towards the Qing center and their speed shocked Sengbao as he moved most of the cavalry from the wings to protect the center. The French advance guard moved into skirmish order forming a long line towards Baliqao. Montauban ordered Jamin to go forward as two large bodies of Qing cavalry, around 12,000 charged at each of the French columns. Collineau’s artillery rained hell into the Mongol and Manchu cavalry, while the elite company's rifle fired from secure locations along the sides of the main road. The accurate rifle fire took a massive toll on the cavalry, but Collineau soon found himself embroiled in hand to hand combat. Montauban and Jamin also used their artillery to devastating effect while their infantry formed two squares before the cavalry hit their position. The French 12 pound battery was positioned between Collineau and Jamin, continuously shelling the enemy. After some time the Qing cavalry broke off their attack having failed to break the French square formations or to overrun Collineau’s men. A brief lull allowed Montauban to re-form and advance upon the villages being defended by Green Standard battalions.

    Prince Sengbao and Seng did not renew their cavalry assaults, because Grants column was marching onto their right flank. The 101st stormed into the village of Oua-kaua-ye in the center scattering the defenders with each and suffering little casualties from the enemies artillery. Montauban followed this up by sending both brigades to march upon the village of Baliqao. Collineau advanced along a road with his elite companies firing upon Qing forces trying to hold the road towards the village. Large cannons in the streets and across the canal fired upon the french columns,but Jamin brought up his batteries to fire upon the cannons easily overwhelming them. The village and bridge of Baliqao were defended by the 8 banner army units and they did not falter nor give ground. Collineau brought up his artillery to form a crossfire with Jamins batteries slaughtering the 8 bannermen. Collineau then formed his forces into a column and stormed the village. Fighting raged on at close quarters for 30 minutes as Montauban led the 101st to Collineaus support securing the village. Suddenly a Qing messenger was sent from Sengbao to Montauban proclaiming that they had two captured colleagues, the French cleric named Abbe Duluc and the British Captain Brabazon of the royal artillery on one of the bridges and would execute them both if the Europeans did not halt their attack. Without pause Montauban pressed the attack. Collineau then reformed his command and rapidly advanced upon the bridge with the French batteries providing cover fire. Most of the Qing artillerymen were killed by European artillery and with them gone the rest of the 8 banner army men were forced to cede ground and the bridge was overwhelmed. The French bayonet charged across the bring as Qing troops leapt into the canal for their lives. Prince Sengbao made good on his threat and had Duluc and Brabazon executed and tossed over into the canal. The bridge was now in the French hands.

    Grant’s column dislodged the Green stand troops from their village while the British and Indian cavalry rolled up the line overwhelming the Qing cavalry trying to hold their ground. Grants line of attack brought him within sight of the bridge that cross the canal 1 mile west of Baliqao. The arrival of the British on Seng’s right flank collapsed his forces in the face of their attack and Seng was compelled to pull his army from the field before being trapped on the right side of the canal. The French claimed 3 dead 18 wounded, the British 2 dead and 29 wounded while the Qing had upto a possible 1500 casualties. The shocking triumph prompted Napoleon III to ennoble de Montauban, who would chose his place of victory for his new aristocratic title, Comte de Baliqao, joining the list of name-place conquerors like Scipio Africanus, the Duke of Marlborough or Germanicus. Over on the other Baliqao bridge General Hope was not enjoying the same easy going time the French had. Grant thought a horde of Mongol cavalry in the distance were French and didn't open fire. The mongols mistook this to mean Grants men were cowards and charged upon them. When the British realized it was the enemy they opened fire at close range and blew the Mongolians to pieces with Armstrong guns.

    Tongzhou surrendered without a fight, but still suffered the same fate as Zhangjiawan. They plundered the town and General Grant had 3 rapists flogged with 100 strokes by a cat o nine tails then hanged one of them, but all 3 of the said rapists happened to be coolies. The British claimed many of the rapes also came at the hands of Sikhs, but again these sources always seem to wash away the British and French from the bad stuff. Oh and the British and French placed blame at one another of course. One French soldier said of the plunder of Beitang “Quant aux anglais, ce sont nos maîtres: on ne trouve pas un clou où ils ont passé.” (“As for the English, they are our superiors [when it comes to looting]. You can’t find a nail where they have passed.” Prince Seng panicked after the last two obstacles to Beijing had fallen, Tongzhou and Zhangjiawan. Beijings only remained defense were its thick walls at 40 feet high and 60 feet thick, bristling with towers that housed defenders armed with more antique guns, bows and arrows and spears.

    Both Elgin and Gros pleaded with the military forces to hurry to Beijing as they feared the hostages might be massacred if they delayed. But General Grant refused to budge until all his heavy siege guns were shipped upriver from Tianjin to support their march on the great city. Elgin and Gros’s fears were not unplaced, Emperor Xianfeng had fled Beijing to go to Rehe, leaving his brother Prince Gong behind with orders to dig in and fight. Best Emperor Ever. Gong was 28 years old and a much more capable sibling. The European force made its way to Beijing where Elgin sent word to Gong they refused to negotiate with him until after the hostages were freed. But they also helped him save face by allowing him to blame the hostage taking on his subordinates. Gong was not moved by the gesture and sent word to withdraw from Beijing and then the prisoners would be released. If they began an assault of the city the prisoners would all be beheaded.

    On October 6th the heavy artillery needed to blast a hole in Beijing's walls arrived. Prince Gong’s position was…welll really bad. On top of literally being ditched there by the Emperor, most of the army had left with him as well. On the 5th Parkes and Loch were told their execution would take place the next morning and both prisoners were given paper and pens to write their last will and testaments. But by now the captives were far too important as political pawns than to be wasted away on executions. On the 7th the prisoners all heard the sound of gunfire and presumed the Europeans were bombarding the city meaning they were all going to die soon. They were actually mistaken the British were firing their guns in the air to let the French know their position because they were spreading out. On october the 6th the British and French agreed to march around the grand city from opposite directions and to meet at the Summer Palace just outside the walls. The two armies quickly lost contact with another. The French reached the Summer palace first finding out that its occupant, Emperor Xianfeng had fled with his 13 wives, a fraction of his harem. The French had expected the Emperors personal guard to defend the summer palace to the death, but everyone had fled. The only resistance they faced was 500 unarmed court eunuchs who screamed at them “don’t commit sacrilege! Don’t come within the sacred precincts!”. The French shot 20 of them on the spot sending the rest fleeing.

    The Summer Palace or as the Chinese called it “Yuanming Yuan” (the gardens of perfect brightness”, simply does not embody how grand it truly was. A more accurate term would have been Summer Palaces, since it was a complex of 2 hundred main building sets, in an 80 square mile park dotted with vermillion tents, artificial lakes and exquisite gardens. The interiors were all unique, one for example was Baroque audience chamber designed by Jesuit missionaries in the 17th century, two other baroque palaces with gold roofs were designed by the same Jesuit priests. Emperor Xianfeng had spent countless days on the lakes staging mock naval battles with miniature boats representing the Qing navy and the British. The emperor always won the naval battles. The Summer palace was not just an architectural marvel, it was a national treasure, a storehouse of centuries of tribute the Emperors of China had received from barbarians.

    De Montauban realized what a historical treasure was now laying in his possession and he tried to preserve the place by telling his senior staff quote “he counted on their honor to respect the palace and see that it was respected by others…until the English arrived”. But the sheer temptation of the priceless artifacts which lay littered across the palace floors proved an impossible temptation for the French. Montauban’s orders to not touch the treasures quickly fell apart. The French soldiers could not resist helping themselves to an Ali Baba’s worth of loot. Later in 1874 Montauban would find himself before a government committee set up to investigate the looting that took place that day. The General lied to his examiners saying the French soldiers had not participated in the looting. “I had sentries posted, and directed two officers with two companies of marine infantry to protect the palace from depredation and to allow nothing to be moved until the arrival of the English commanders. Thus there would be no pillage. Nothing had been touched in the Palace when the English arrived.” General Hope contradicted this testimony with eyewitness accounts. “It was pitiful to see the way in which everything was robbed. Only one room in the Palace was untouched. General de Montauban informed me he had reserved any valuables it might contain for equal division between the English and French”. Grant’s critique of Montauban not being able to control his troops is a bit hypocritical as he himself could not control his men. Despite apparently similar orders from Grant, the British soldiers found a cornucopia of loot to be had. Jewels lay scattered all over the Palaces. One French officer snatched a pearl necklace whose gems were the size of marbles and sold it in Hong Kong for 3000 pounds. De Montauban realized he was fighting against the impossible and just let his men take home souvenirs, he said, one prize per soldier, sureeeee. It’s said when the French left the palace at 10pm, their pockets bulged with stolen treasure.

    When the British infantry arrived on october 7th, they saw French tents piled high with jewels and other plunder, some French soldiers were casually walking around wearing jewels worth millions of Frances. Both generals simply gave up trying to establish order and by October 8th Grant demanded Montauban split the gold bars found in the palace 50/50 with the British. Grant tried to restore some order by ordering his men to render their plunder up for a public auction, the money did not go to charity. One British major turned in 8000 pounds worth of gold ingots alone. The auction listed countless Chinese art and artifacts, sculptures of gold and silver, thousands of bolts of imperial yellow silk and the list could go on forever. The 3 day auction netted nearly 100,000 pounds, ⅓ of which went to the officers and other ⅔’s to the NCOs. A private received 17 pounds, an officer 50. The French simply let their men keep what they had stolen. It was rumored that Baron Rothschild had an outstanding order with one French officer to buy anything he could at whatever price. De Montauban tried to mollify a conscious stricken general Grant by offering him a pair of gold and jade scepters as a gift for Queen Victoria, the other half was going to Napoleon III. Now the European armies did not show up to Beijing with baggage carts, but they soon managed to commandeer 300 local carriages to whisk off their treasure.

    When Elgin arrived to Beijing on October 7th he was mortified by the looting of the summer palace. On October 8th, Heng Chi an imperial commissioner assigned to treat with the invaders, visited Loch and Parkes. He treated them with respect, but also fed them lies like how the Emperor had a secret army of hundreds of thousands of men in Mongolia waiting to rescue the capital. He also tried pressing to them the fact the trade between their nations might fall apart. Then Heng Chi delivered to them a request from Prince Gong that they write a letter to Elgin urging him to end hostilities. Parkes declined to help, even though Heng said he might be executed if the men did not write the letter. Then Parkes stated “Although you would do the Allied forces but little injury by killing the few prisoners…you would by such an act bring down on yourselves a terrible vengeance.” Heng switched back to good cop again and said “You will be in no danger for the next two or three days.”. Back on september 29th, Loch and Parkes had been transferred to the Gaomiao temple in northern Beijing where their treatment took a 180. They were wined and dined at a 48 course meal banquet catered by a restaurant near the temple. The men were too ill to eat, but happily accepted a bath and new clothes. Parkes eventually wrote to Elgin “The Chinese authorities are now treating Loch and myself well. We are told that His Highness [Gong] is a man of decision and great intelligence, and I trust that under these circumstances, hostilities may be temporarily suspended to give opportunity for negotiation.” At the bottom of that said letter, Loch added in Hindustani that he was writing under duress and believed the Qing could not decipher the Hindu language. Elgin was happy to receive the letter but worried the hostages would be executed.

    Elgin was in a real pickle. He felt as trapped as the hostages. If he ordered the siege to commence the hostages might be executed. On October 8th orders arrived from Prince Gong to release the prisoners. The reason Gong did this was actually because orders were coming in from Emperor Xianfeng to execute them all in revenge for plundering the summer palace. Loch and Parkes were released first and it seems just their release alleviated Elgin and Gros’s stress to such an extent that they did not seem to care about the fate of the other 30-40 hostages still in the Qing hands. Less than 24 hours after Loch and Parkes were released the allies on October 9th positioned 13 field pieces opposite of the An Tung Gate, begun to dig trenches and posted a placard threatening bombardment if the gate did not open. Elgin gave the Qing until noon of October the 24th to open the gates to the city or the shelling would commence. And on october 24th, 5 minutes before noon the gate of An Tung cracked open a bit hesitatingly, then swung wide open. Without firing a single shot Elgen marched at the head of 500 men into Beijing as conquerors.

    The return of the remaining prisoners was not done promptly. 3 days after the An Tung Gate opened, a frenchman and 8 Sikhs were freed. Two days after that, 2 more Sikhs were freed both both men were almost dead and one did die the next day. In all 19 prisoners were freed, 10 others had died being forced to kneel in the courtyard of the summer palace for days without food or water, their hand bound by moistened ropes and leather straps that shrank and causing excruciating pain. The British and French found coffins with the bodies of the victims, one including The Times correspondent, Thomas Bowlby. Many of the freed prisoners described their ordeal. They said they had been bound with ropes or chains for days, exposed to the elements. Many got gangrene and their infections took their lives. The Sikh and British victims were interred in the Russian cemetery on october 17th without ceremony. The next day the French held an elaborate funeral and high mass for the deaths. The fate of the prisoners seemed to have pushed Elgin over the edge. He rattled his brain for a response to such a heinous crime. Elgin plotted a bloodless revenge in his mind, something to restore British honor through a symbolic act that would prevent the Qing from ever harming a contingent of European ambassadors in Beijing in the future. Elgin thought of a way to hurt the Chinese but not at the cost of any lives, he sought to burn down the Summer Palace, a place where many of the prisoners were tortured to death. Elgin wrote to his wife his decision was in his mind to hurt the Emperor’s home but spare the Chinese people. Jack Beeching had a rather interesting thing to say about Elgins decision, “Elgin’s decision to burn the Summer Palace at least meant that flesh-and-blood injuries done to people he knew intimately would for once be revenged, not as in war, upon other people—on helpless Chinese—but on inanimate objects, on redundant and expensive things. He had suffered all his life from his father’s costly obsession with works of art; now works of art would bear the brunt of his revenge.” Thus Elgin’s father had profited from the plunder of art and now Elgin was going to destroy art. Elgin also had pressing concerns, he faced a deadline imposed by General Grant, who warned him that a treaty must be concluded before Beijing's winter set in so the allies could return safely to their base at Tianjin. If they did not Grant warned Elgin that their supply lines were overextended and they would easily be severed off by the Qing forces. Prince Seng had been defeated, but his cavalry remained a constant threat and they could blockade the city off at any time.

    D-day for the burning of the summer palace was set to October 18th. A 27 year old captain in the Royal Engineers said this of the event

    We went out, and, after pillaging it, burned the whole place, destroying in a vandal-like manner most valuable property which [could] not be replaced for four millions. We got upward of £48 apiece prize money ... I have done well. The [local] people are very civil, but I think the grandees hate us, as they must after what we did the Palace. You can scarcely imagine the beauty and magnificence of the places we burnt. It made one's heart sore to burn them; in fact, these places were so large, and we were so pressed for time, that we could not plunder them carefully. Quantities of gold ornaments were burnt, considered as brass. It was wretchedly demoralising work for an army

    The destroyed the 800 acre complex of building and gardens where countless Chinese emperors had spent much of their time. There were so many ornate buildings on the grounds covering more than a square mile that it took 2 full days of burning, breaking and smashing to bring it down. Countless books, artifacts, centuries of history burned to ashes. I don’t think its controversial to say it ranks on par with the burning of the library of Alexandria (despite if you believe the library ever burnt down that is, listen to Our Fake History’s podcast for that one haha). It was a tragedy and the remains of the summer palace stand today as a monument of what once stood there, China is still trying to have the site placed on the list of UNESCO world heritage sites.

    On October 23rd, the Qing imperial treasury paid in full the increased indemnity fee of 500,000 taels to Britain and France. On October 24th Elgin met with Prince Gong at the board of Ceremonies to sign the new treaty of Peking. By this point Elgin had become a student of the Qing court protocols and used his knowledge to further humiliate Prince Gong and the court officials by arrived at the Board in a chair carried by 8 porters. According to tradition, only the Emperor had the right to that many porters. Now Elgin had learnt he was a target for assasination so he showed up with 500 troops and dispatched another 2000 troops to perform a triumph tour of Beijing. Lt Col Wolseley also performed a mine sweep of the meeting room before Elgin went. Elgin also ordered a huge artillery piece to be mounted on the An Tung gate, aimed directly at the city to ensure good behavior from the population. Prince Gong arrived to the board in a sedan chair bourn by 6 porters, something prescribed for his rank and when he saw Elgin’s 8 he knew immediately it was a direct insult towards his brother. Elgin also made sure to show up 2 hours late. The signing of the new treaty took on a sort of comedy. Elgin scared the hell out of the court officials when he screamed at them to “keep perfectly still”, because his Italian photographer, Signor Beato was taking a shot of the scene to preserve the Chinese humiliation. Bad lighting, doomed the Italians efforts and no photographic evidence of the signing was made available to the British press. By the way on the note of photography, the 2nd opium war is one of the first instances you have actual photos of some of the events. Over on my personal channel, the Pacific War Channel, I have rather long 45 minute~ episodes, 1 on the first opium war and 1 on the second. My episode on the second utilizes a lot of the photo’s taken and they are honestly incredible, especially the shots outside Beijing and the Taku Forts. So stating that it be awesome if you checked my episode out, or give the photos a google!

    So again the Qing were given a document to sign, not a treaty to negotiate, when Elgin presented the treaty to Prince Gong for his signature. The convention included an apology for the Emperor’s aggression, the British ambassador was granted a year round residency and 10 million in reparations were to be paid to Britain. Another port city was added to the list of those to be opened to trade and kowloon was to be handed over to Britain. After signing and being degraded, Prince Gong invited Elgin to a banquet in his honor and Elgin declined citing his fear the Qing would simply poison him, haha! The French version of the same treaty occurred the next day and Baron Gros was much more gracious. After signing the treaty Gross gave Gong a rare collection of French coins and an autographed photo of Napoleon III and the Empress Eugenie. Gross apologized for the burning of the summer palace, but did not mention the looting. Gross then accepted Prince Gong’s invitation to dinner and no one was poisoned.

    In December Elgen spent his time recuperating in Shanghai reading victorian romance novels and Darwin’s recent bestseller “On the Origin of the Species” which Elgin found to be audacious. In January he left China for good as Britain began the process for annexing Kowloon. Elgin returned to Britain a hero and received the new appointment as Viceroyalty of India, a position Lord Canning fought to get him. As the viceroy Elgin enjoyed the lucrative post for 20 months, but then he died of an aneurysm in november of 1864 in Calcutta, the same city Cantons viceroy Ye Mingchen died, perhaps a symbolic symmetry. Emperor Xianfeng died at 30 years old, only a year after the signing of the Convention of Peking which had humiliated him so much he secluded and anesthetized himself with opium, wine and of course his harem at Rehe. Emperor Xianfeng never returned to Beijing and refused to meet foreign ambassadors or even his own courtiers so deep it was said of his shame.

    Prince Seng the defacto commander in chief of the Qing military continued to suffer military setbacks and humiliations. At one point he led 23,000 infantry and cavalry to quell a violent tax revolt in Shandong province and was forced to beg European occupiers to return some of his guns he surrendered to them during the 2nd opium war. They ignored his pleas and the Prince ended up failing to suppress the rebellion. Queen Victoria had received one interesting gift from the summer palace, a small Pekinese dog that she named Lootie. The poor thing had been found wandering around the ruins of the Summer Palace, where a captain in the Wiltshire regiment rescued it and gave it to the Queen. The Queen also of course received a jade and gold scepter from General Hope.

    Both the first and second Opium war were fought largely because of the opium trade and British manufacturers. The conflict was an incredible pay off for Britain. Four years after the second opium war ended, Britain sold China ⅞’s of all the conquered nations imports, more than 100,000 pounds annually. Opium imports to China increased from 58,000 chests in 1859 to 105,000 chests by 1879. The British textiles which the Chinese rejected for their own silk eventually found a market, quadrupling from 113 million yards in 1856 to 448 million yards 25 years later. The Treaty of Tianjin basically made opium legal in China by setting the amount at which the Qing taxed it. The Qing court tried to fight the importation of opium by raising taxes on it. There were many attempts by officials in Britain to stop the opium trade, but it was far to profitable and those voices were quelled whenever they rose up. Eventually the Qing realized they could not stop the plague that was opium addiction, so they began to cultivate opium in large quantities within China to at least offset the British imports. Opium addiction became more and more rampant in China. In 1906 the Qing government forbade the sale of opium, but users over the age of 60 were exempted for a specific reason, Empress dowager Cixi was an opium addict herself. Opium cultivation and consumption thrived in the 1920’s and 1930’s under Chiang Kai-shek’s government. By the time of the 2nd sino Japanese war in 1937, 4 million Chinese, around 10 percent of the population were opium addicts. Over in British held Hong Kong 30% of the colony’s population were dependent on opium. The Japanese occupiers encouraged opium consumption to make the population more docile. Within a year of the communist takeover under Mao Zedong, dealers of opium were to be executed, some lucky ones got to go to Gulags. Users were treated more humanely and detoxed in hospitals.

    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 Chinese struggled for 150 years against opium. More than half a century of legislation by both Britain and China failed, while Mao’s totalitarian efficiency succeeded in half a generation. Ironically Mao Zedong enforced a policy and plan that had been first tried by a commissioner named Lin Zexu, go figure.



  • Last time we spoke the first time the British and French armada attacked the Taku forts it was a literal cake walk. Reminscent of the first opium war, the Qing cannons proved inept at hitting the European ships. Elgin’s coalition made their way to Tianjin where they were met by the Emperors emissaries who began the same old tired procrastination strategy. Elgin was simply fed up and left the job to his brother Bruce who thought he got the deal won and done, but little did they all know the Qing had no intention of following through with the new treaty. A rebellion broke out at Canton and now Bruce was left with a new coalition force to fight yet again to get to Beijing to force the Qing to heed the treaty. However this time the Taku Forts were led by Prince Seng and he served the Europeans a truly nasty defeat. The tides of war were turning in favor of the Qing dynasty.

    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 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.



    #22 This episode is Part 4 of the Second Opium War: The March to Beijing

    When news came back to Britain about the loss, Lord Derby’s government fell on June 10th 1859. Lord Palmerston returned to power at the age of 75 and wrote to the foreign office “We must in some way or other make the Chinese repent of the outrage. We might send a military-naval force to attack and occupy Peking.” Elgin sat in on a cabinet meeting as Palmerston had appointed him Postmaster-General in the new Whig government. Elgin proscribed a moderate response, fearing that if Britain toppled the Manchu government the new masters of China would become the Taiping who lets just say were not great friends to capitalism and especially not towards the opium trade. For those MP’s who still sought diplomacy, a recent event had hurt their cause.

    American ambassador John Ward made an attempt at diplomacy, agreeing to go to Beitang around 160 miles north of Beijing before heading to the capital. Yet instead of traveling in a sedan chair like any respectable Qing official, Ward accepted the humiliating Chinese offer to use a wooden cart without springs or a cushioned seat. The Chinese it turns out slyly told Ward this was the preferred method of transport the Russians took when in reality it was the typical transport for tribute bearers. Apparently the trip was so bumpy and painful, Ward chose to walk the last few miles. The Qing were delighted at the sight of the western representative entering Beijing on July 27th on foot like a common peasant. Ward like so many before him, ran into the kowtow situation. Ward said he was willing to bow but “I am accustomed to kneel only to God and women” to which some Qing court official said “but the emperor is God’. Another absolutely ridiculous war about the logistics of Kowtowing emerged. Ward was unwilling to do the full blown deal and kept trying to cut corners. The Qing officials asked if he could touch the floor with his fingertips instead of his head, he said no. They then asked if he could hide his legs behind a curtain so the emperor thought he was kneeling when in fact he wouldnt be. Many letters went back and forth trying to find a way to accommodate Ward’s kowtow, but at the last moment Emperor Xianfeng came out of an opium stupor and upon receiving the recent news about the grand victory at the Taku Forts demanded Ward do the full blown kowtow. The Emperor added, since the Americans decided to break neutrality at the Taku Forts it was the least Ward could do, ouch. If you can believe it, the kowtow argument went on for 14 days. The Emperor eventually ordered Ward and his entourage to be expelled from Beijing. Though this all looked horrible on the surface, in truth Ward went to Beitang without interference from the Emperor and signed a treaty with the Qing officials on August 15th of 1859. Wards success was due to the fact, unlike his British and French counterparts, America was not insistent on signing the treaty within the capital.

    The American experience made Bruce look bad and Palmerston was fed up with the Qing protocols, kowtowing and such. The British newspapers were calling for blood after hearing news about the Taku fort disaster. Yet the situation was delicate. 10% of Britains tax revenue came from the opium trade in China. As Elgin put it in a letter to a colleague “If you humiliate the Emperor beyond measure, if you seriously impair his influence over his own subjects, you kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. [You] throw the country into confusion and imperil the most lucrative trade you have in the world. I know that these opinions are not popular. The general notion is that if we use the bludgeon freely enough we can do anything in China. I hold the opposite view so strongly that I must give expression to it at whatever cost to myself.

    Then some international actions stirred things into motion. Italy suddenly seized the Austrian controlled territory of Lombardy. Rumors began to spread that France was mustering 12,000 infantry, two squadrons of cavalry, 6 batteries of artillery and 20 gunboats most likely to hit Beijing….or perhaps Britain. It does seem to all be hysteria, but one thing was for sure, the British needed to take action to secure their interests in China. The Foreign Secretary on October 29th ordered Bruce to demand an apology for the lives lost at the Taku forts, for unspecified reparations and an agreement to respect the terms of the Treaty of Tianjin. The Qing would be given 30 days to respond, no more tactical delays allowed, if they failed to meet the deadline Bruce would block the Bei He River. Bruce received the orders in January of 1860, but there were problems. The idea was to starve out Beijing, its been an idea tossed around a few times at this point. However blockading the Bei He river would result in just rice crop not getting north, those living in Beijing could simply sustain themselves on the other crops found abundantly at the time in the north, corn and beans for example. On top of this Admiral Hope needed to furnish the warships and it would take until April, thus Elgin began to showcase the issues and it was agreed to extend the deadline until March.

    The Qing responded surprisingly quickly to Bruce's ultimatum on April 5th with a no. Instead the Qing officials invited Bruce to negotiate with some imperial commissioners, not the Emperor and at Beitang. It seems the Qing remained ever emboldened by their victory at the Taku Forts, they also ended the response off by telling Bruce the barbarian representatives in the future should be more respectful, ompf. Bruce was out of his depth and many officials in Britain knew it. Instead of replacing Bruce outright they simply superseded him with another British emissary…his brother Elgin, double ompf. Thus Bruce was to remain in China to help his brother. Elgin had spent his entire time in Britain trying to stop the escalation to war and was extremely reluctant to take the diplomatic role again. None the less he felt he had to defend the treaty he had built and was being stamped upon. En route back to China, Elgin stopped in Paris at the Tuileries to speak the Napoleon III to ask what Frances territorial ambitions were in China. Napoleon III said the major drive was for Indo-China and that France was more than happy to leave Britain the pesky nation of China to deal with. If anything, weakening China would just help France more so in Indo-China, une gagnon-gagnon.

    Baron Gros caught up to Elgin en route to China and both steamed out of Sri Lanka aboard the Malabar. The pair were in for a real fun time, as a brutal storm hit their ship and it sunk taking with it Baron Gros’s uninsured plate and Elgin’s top secret instructions from Britain. Eglin and Gros were delayed 2 more weeks to retrieve their lost stuff, those documents Elgin had lost by the way held some brand new demands of China such as the annexation of Kowloon, something that might have distressed the French. Again, a rumor had been spread to London that Napoleon III sought to seize Kowloon. This prompted some panicky British officials such as our old friend Harry Parkes to negotiate a permanent lease over Kowloon with the Chinese Viceroy of Canton. In a bizarre fashion while the British forces were mustering for an expedition, this was occurring indifferently and the viceroy of Canton accused because he was bankrupt.

    The international force sent to China was staggering, 18,000 men, 7000 being French. Because of Kowloon easily going over to Britain, this allowed Sikh cavalry to perform military exercises on their large arabian horses terrifying the locals. The Sikhs and British brought with them a terrifying new toy, the 25 pound Armstrong fieldgun. It held the accuracy of a rifle with the destructive power of a cannon. It was designed to scatter large armies by firing a shell that burst into 49 angular fragments, making it one of the most brutal antipersonnel weapon in existence. I can’t state it enough here, this one piece of military technology is what will destroy the Qing forces, it performed tremendously. The French were armed with an outdated Napoleon gun for their own artillery. 2500 Chinese coolies were hired by the British at 9$ a month + rations and 2 uniforms. Ironically crime in Hong Kong declined dramatically after the British left with these men, seems they got all the criminals on the island haha. General Sir James Hope Grant led the British forces and commanded a special loyalty from the Sikhs as they served under his fair leadership during the Indian revolt. Grant got the job, not because he was particularly gifted, just merely the closest General in the east.

    An allied force of 2000 British and 500 French were sent to seize Chusan island allowing them to assert dominance over the Yangtze and its critical use as a supply road to Beijing. The residents of Chusan were so traumatized from the last invasion they gave up without a fight. 50 miles north of Chusan was Shanghai whom welcomed the allies also without a fight because the mayor desperately needed help fighting off the Taiping rebels. The Taiping had recently seized Fuzhou and were on their way to claim the grand prize of Shanghai. The mayor of Shanghai pleaded with the Europeans to help despite the fact they literally were going to war with other parts of the Qing dynasty. The mayor offered to secretly report the ongoings of Beijing to the Europeans. The French counterpart to Grant, General Cousin de Montauban hated the chinese in general but really hated the Taiping rebels particularly because they were protestant. The French general wanted to annihilate the Taiping menace once and for all, but the British held the mans bloodlust back agreeing to use forces just to defend Shanghai against any Taiping invasion. Even Baron Gros went against his General agreeing with the British.

    At Shanghai the Europeans helped augment the outdated Chinese cannons that could not aim properly to be placed as swivel cannons on the walls, which could fire outward and inward, a notably helpful feature against residents who might lend their support to the Taiping. They sold some pieces of artillery to the delight of the mayor of Shanghai. As Elgin approached Shanghai he was falling further into a spiral of depression, he had this to write in his diary “If I had been anything but the greatest fool that the world ever saw I should never have been where I now am. I deserve to suffer for it, and no doubt I shall do so.” Meanwhile the guy was getting letters from the Whig government saying if he did not conclude the China mission by the next meeting of parliament, their government would most likely fall and it would be his fault. Rumors had spread in London that Elgin’s overly appeasement of the Chinese was dragging the conflict on.

    On July 26th, 150 British ships steamed up the northern coast to land near Beitang, just 8 miles north of the Taku Forts on the gulf of Zhili. The French fleet soon joined them and for 5 days they began to unload troops from more than 200 warships, if I was the Qing dynasty, already facing the Taiping horde I would be peeing my pants. None of the wall guns in Beitang fired upon the Europeans as they approached and as they opened the gates they soon figured out why, the garrison literally had run away. They also found out a lot of the wall mounted artillery turned out to be fakes made out of wood, and I just know theres a great embezzlement story for that one. The 20,000 residents of the city welcomed the invaders like liberators and even began to point out where the forces of the infamous Prince Seng had buried mines inside and outside the city. A lot of those kind residents were rewarded with rape and looting by the troops. It is alleged many of the women of Beitang escaped the rape by poisoning themselves with opium, strangaltion or drowning, my god. Many residents sought refuge fleeing to a fetid marsh outside the city. General Grant blamed the hired coolies who he said “were for the most part atrocious villains…the robberies and crimes they committed in the town were fearful”. But it is most certain all the groups present took part in the orgy of plunder and rape, war never changes. British Provost-Marshal Captain Con ordered 30 soldiers flogged for looting and military discipline was restored the next week.

    The march from Beitang to Tianjin was a mud filled nightmare, an advance company of 1000 British and 1000 French eventually crawled along a stone causeway for 4 miles until they finally spotted Tianjin in the distance and a large horde of Prince Seng’s cavalry blocking the way. As the Europeans drew closer, hundreds of Manchus, Han and Mongol cavalry became visible. Their sheer numbers were intimidating at first until the Europeans saw their weaponry. Most were utilizing bows and arrows, spears, some 18th century flintlocks and of course Gingalls. The allies lacked enough cavalry to fight even such an under equipped force and pulled back for the time being. A Qing commander upon seeing the Europeans peel back away sent a letter immediately to Beijing proclaiming a grand victory had already been won. Then on August the 12th of 1860, Grant assembled 800 cavalry to march around the Qing blockading the causeway and to take them from the rear. The main allied forced would hit the Qing head on using 3 Armstrong guns. When the frontal units were within a mile of the Qing horde they open fire with the Armstrongs. The Armstrong shells exploded and tore to piece the Qing cavalry, but the defenders were truly fearless, even as their comrades at either side were literally blown to pieces, they charged at the invaders. The Qing forces got within 450 yards when the effectiveness of the invaders guns simply halted them in their tracks, creating 25 minutes of terror. The suicidal valor of the Qing impressed many of their opponents, Major General Sir Robert Napier commanding the second division under Grant wrote “they bore unflinchingly for a considerable time such a fire as would have tried any troops in the world”. The Sikh riflemen gunned down the Qing with enfields and pistols while they were met mostly bow arrows. Lt Col G Wolseley recalled “never saw men come on so pluckily”. The better armed but widely outnumbered Sikhs managed to force the Qing to break and flee. The Punjab cavalry would have caused an even larger bloodbath pursuing the fleeing Qing, but the mud trapped their horses. Many of the Qing fled all the way to the safety of the Taku forts.

    At the same time Grant had launched an attack on the Qing cavalry guarding the causeway leading to Tianjin when quite an unfortunate event unfolded. A drunk Irish sergeant who had recently took too much rum that he was literally ordered to delivery to the troops and got lost and stumbled into what he thought was a pack of friendly Sikh cavalry, it turns out they were Manchu. The Manchu cavalrymen seized the man and a few unfortunate souls who were following him. The Manchu ordered the Europeans to kowtow and they all did except for a Scottish private named Moyse who was beheaded on the spot. The Irish sergeant and other survivors were allowed to make their way back to camp to tell the others what had happened and they got back safely a week later. Their story made it into The Times which published a poem about the man, though it got his nationality wrong, typical English “Let dusky Indians whine and kneel,/An English lad must die./And thus with eyes that would not shrink,/With knee to man unbent,/Unfaltering on its dreadful brink,/To his red grave he went.

    Two days after the kowtow incident the Europeans made their way up the causeway coming to a village called Sin-ho where they found the defenders had recently fled from. Further past the village was a large outpost called Danggu and unlike Sin-ho this was defended by Qing forces. Prince Seng had abandoned Danggu leaving behind Green standard troops. General de Montauban wanted to attack immediately, but Grant cautioned that the men needed rest. In a typical French-British rivalry fashion, de Montauban decided to attack without the British, but they found themselves quickly overwhelmed by the mud-walled fortification’s 45 wall cannons. This setback humiliated the French general who had personally led the assault, but it did not lessen up his pursuit for glory. De Montauban came up with a wild plan to attack all 4 of the Dagu forts at the same time. Grant insisted on singling out the most northern fort as it was the most vulnerable. De Montauban made a mention of the situation in his diary on August 20th “I shall nevertheless send a French land force to work conjointly with our allies. The object of my observations is, above all, to free myself from military responsibility with reference to my own government.” On August 14th, the British and French took Danggu using 36 guns and two rocket batteries before the infantry swept in. As one British Lt said to his commander “the Armstrong gun is a great success”. By taking Danggu, the Europeans were now in a great position to attack the northern most Dagu Fort that Grant had singled out, it was just a mile from Danggu across the Bei He River.

    There was a 6 day delay at this point as the Europeans were bringing the rest of their supplies and equipment along the causeway and the French garrison in Shanghai had a nasty situation leading them to burn some of the city’s suburbs in an effort to drive out Taiping rebels. On August 20th the Europeans set up 6 artillery batteries within half a mile of the northernmost Taku Fort and called in for 8 gunboats to attack it from the south. Just before sunrise of August 21st the Taku Fort opened fire on their position. The Europeans responded by performing a rolling forward bombardment all the way up to 500 yards from the Forts walls. The European Armstrongs, 8 inch mortars, 24 pound howitzers and French 12 inch cannons rayes absolutely smashed the forts wall cannons until the Qing were only left with Gingalls to operate. At 6:30am a powder magazine blew up inside the fort causing a massive explosion, but the defenders kept the fight on. Once the Europeans were 30 yards from the fort, a French force led by General Collineau began to scale the walls, but there was a moat in the way. The French General forced a detachment of coolies to stand in the moat up to their necks while supporting the scaling ladders on their shoulders for the French to climb up and my god is that a heinous act. Apparently Grant felt so terrible upon seeing what happened to the coolies that he gave them all an extra months salary as bonus. Once the French got atop the walls they launched bayonet charges that scattered the remaining defenders while the British blew a small hole in the forts wall allowing their own troops to charge single file through. The Qing commander of the fort showed more bravery than many of his men. When he was cornered he refused to surrender until an agitated Captain named Prynne of the royal marines pulled out his revolver and shot the man dead. Prynne then took the commanders peacock feather cap as a trophy of war. It took a few hours for the fort to be secured.

    The casualties were quite heavy, the British and French reported losing about 200 men, the Chinese were said to have over 1000 dead and another 1500 had fled the scene. 9000 surrendered to General Collineau, kneeling at his feet. The inside of the fort was a horror story. Thomas Bowlby described the devastation caused by the Armstrong guns to the defenders inside the fort “a mass of brains and blood smelling most foully”. Grant awarded 6 Victoria Crosses to celebrate the taking of the first Taku Fort. The taking of the northern most fort meant the other Taku forts were now uselessly outflanked, they had all been built to withstand attacks only from the river and were open from behind. The psychological effect was very apparent as within 5 hours, two emissaries from Heng Fu and the Viceroy of Zhili province turned up to negotiate. They were met by the ever xenophobic Harry Parkes who at this point was quite famous to the Chinese for being so xenophobic. Heng Fu’s emissaries offered to remove the booms blocking the Bei He River and to allow the European ships safe passage to Tianjin where peace negotiations could resume. Parkes proceeded to crumple heng fu’s letter and threw it right in the face of one of his emissaries, a man named Wang who happened to be an anglophile and fluent in English. Parkes he personally knew the guy, what an asshole. Parkes then began screaming that if the other 3 Taku Forts did not surrender within the next two hours they would suffer the same fate as the northern one. One European present at this parley described Parkes to be “harsh and unnecessarily violent towards Wang. This was not customary among European nations and the envoys should be treaty with the courtesy common to civilization”. Long before Parkes two hour screamfest had elapsed, white flags were already waving amongst the 3 other Taku forts without a single shot being fired.

    The path to Tianjin was now open and as of August 23rd, Grant took the armada unchallenged up to the riverway with the infantry as the cavalry made its way overland on the twin banks of the river. By August 27th the Europeans had an encampment just outside Tianjin and the ambassadors prepared to negotiate yet again. This time the Qing court sent the senior official Guilian who had previously negotiated the treaty of Tianjin, but this time he carried plenipotentiary powers. Elgin and Gros were notified of his authority beforehand and discussed amongst another the best strategy going forward. Both men presented new demands much harsher than the previous ones. The Qing were asked to make a formal apology for the casualties caused by the first battle of the Taku Forts in 1859; to pay double the original amount in reparations of 4 million taels of silver; the right to station ambassadors in the capital and to confirm the treaty of Tianjin. The Europeans would occupy Tianjin, which controlled the flow of food to Beijing, giving them the power to starve out the capital if the Qing did not agree. The Taku Forts would also be occupied and they demanded admission to Tongzhou, a suburb only 15 miles away from Beijing. Now Guiliang did indeed have carte blanche from Emperor Xianfeng, but he found the new terms so unacceptable he resorted to the classic Chinese ruse that he did not in fact have plenipotentiary which completely contradicted his original claims. Elgin recognized the classic Chinese stalling tactic because it had occurred so many times at this point. Elgin wrote in his diary “The blockheads have gone on negotiating with me just long enough to enable [Hope] Grant to bring all his army up to this point. Here we are with our base established in the heart of the country, in a capital climate, with abundance [food] around us, our army in excellent health, and these stupid people give me a snub which obliges me to break with them,” Elgin at the same time wrote to his wife “I am at war again! My idiotical Chinamen have taken to playing tricks, which give me an excellent excuse for carrying the army on to Pekin.” Thus Elgin and Gros both agreed the time had finally come to simply march on Beijing.

    After the fall of Beitang and the Taku forts came so easily, Prince Seng was prepared to commit suicide. However he was ordered to retreat north to the city of Tongzhou just outside Beijing. Tongzhou stood on the road between Tianjin and Beijing and it was there he would prepare a last stand. He had sent 10,000 of his infantry and 700 Cavalry from Danggu and 40,000 Mongolian troops towards Tongzhou where he was amassing an army of 60,000. His instructions were not to attack, but to simply ensure peace while protecting the capital. As the Europeans marched, the Emperor dispatched more envoys and countless letters to Elgin and Gros to delay them. They kept saying that Guiliang had been confused and that in fact the Emperor had accepted all the terms if the Europeans would just stop their advance they could ratify the treaty. It seemed the closer the European force got to Beijing the high the frequency of letters and envoys became. But Elgin was fed up with the Chinese delaying tactics and told them all they would not stop until they reached the suburb of Beijing, Tongzhou. Many of the frantic envoys made a counteroffer asking the Europeans to go to Hesewu which was between Tianjin and Beijing. Grant liked the offer because in truth, the military force was having a hard time keeping up their logistics. In a kind of humorous way, when Grant began to press Elgin about the logistical issue, Elgin began to blame the troops for quote “the difficulty of getting our army along is incredible; our men are so pampered that they do nothing for themselves and their necessities so great that we are almost immovable. I was disgusted to find out the troops refuse to drink their daily ration of grog unless it is iced.” I love the 19th century its so wild.

    On September 14th Elgin sent Harry Parkes and Thomas Wade to negotiate with two new emissaries the Emperor sent to Tongzhou. Their names were Zaiyuan and Muyin, Zaiyuan was also the emperor cousin and both men held real authority. On the very first day of negotiation at Tongzhou, after 8 hours of discussion which is light speed it seems for the Chinese, they accepted all terms. They also agreed to a protocol for ratification, the European forces would be allowed to advance to a place known as Zhengjiawan, just 6 miles from Tongzhou. From there Elgin would leave behind the majority of the forces and proceed to Tongzhou with an escort of 1000 men to sign the treaty. After that Elgin and his escort could continue to Beijing to meet Emperor Xianfeng for a formal ceremony of the treaty ratification. Harry Parkes traveled back to Elgin to report the great news and by September 17th he came back to Tongzhou to tell the Qing emissaries Elgin was preparing his arrival. However by the time Parkes got back, the Emperor had secretly instructed Prince Seng to destroy Elgins party when he came to sign the treaty. The Qing forces at Tongzhou were all hard at work preparing artillery batteries and surprise attack launching points such as millet coverings to conceal units. When Parkes began talking to the emissaries they suddenly began an argument about Elgin needing to Kowtow, it was all a ruse to delay. Prince Seng meanwhile counseled his Emperor to save face by going on a “hunting expedition” near the northern border. Seng did not want the Europeans to take the Emperor hostage, though there were many who believed it was actually a secret ploy to grab the dragon throne himself. Emperor Xianfangs concubine turned consort, Cixi urged him to remain in Beijing. The Emperor proposed to march out of the capital at the head of a huge army, make a feint attack at the European force and then flee to the safety of his hunting lodge at Rehe over 100 miles away near the Great Wall.

    The European military officials told Elgin and Gros to go to Tongzhou with such a small escort was suicide and they believed it to all be a trap. On september 18th as Parkes was riding back to Tianjin to report to Elgin, he noticed Prince Seng’s cavalry massing behind these rows of millets. The cavalry were beginning to occupy Zhengjiawan and now Parkes suspected it was all a trap. Parkes dispatched Henry Loch, Lord Elgin’s private secretary post-haste to rush back to Elgin and report all of this. Meanwhile Parkes alongside two Sikh’s returned to Tongzhou to confront Zaiyuan and Muyin. When Loch got to Elgin it turns out his warning was unnecessary, Grant had sent scouts who had spotted the force at Zhengjiawan. Loch showing true courage quickly rode back to Tongzhou to report back to Parkes with only a single body guard. Both men were captured by Qing cavalry units and they alongside Parkes were offered safe conduct to meet with Prince Seng too which they agreed, I mean they had no real choice. Once they reached Seng they were both arrested alongside 19 Sikh, Thomas Bowlby and 3 British officers.

    Parkes remained fearless as he confronted what he described to be “a acne plagued, short, fat Prince Seng”. Despite being in no position to reject such an order, Seng ordered Parkes to kowtow. Parkes refused and was met with his head being smashed into the marble floor multiple times. Qing soldiers pinned Parkes down as Seng screamed “You have gained two victories to our one. Twice you have dared to take the [Dagu] forts. Why does not that content you? I know your name, and that you instigate all the evil that your people commit. It is time that foreigners should be taught respect.” Parkes managed to free his head to look up at Seng and screamed “we came to you under the flag of truce and you promised safe conduct”. Seng laughed and had his men slam Parkes head back to the floor before he responded “write to your people and tell them to stop the attack”. Parkes replied “I cannot control or influence military movement in any way. I will not deceive your highness”. Suddenly European artillery could be heard and Seng ordered Parkes and the rest of the prisoners to be tossed into wooden carts and sent to Beijing. Parkes and Loch were shackled and incarcerated in the board of Punishments awaiting an execution. The prisoners hands were secured with leather straps that were moistened so they would shrink and cut into the victims wrists. Some of the POW’s were sent to the Summer palace for private inspection and public humiliation by the Emperor. It was Prince Seng’s intention to showcase these prisoners as such so the Qing who witnessed them would see they were not invincible and stop believing the Chinese could not win the war. The prisoners were forced to kneel in the palace courtyard, bound without food or water for 3 days. Their hands swelled and many became gangrenous. Disease and dehydration led to deaths. Parkes and Loch at the board of punishments were placed in separate cells and interrogated and tortured. After days of this they were demanded to write back to Elgin to plead for better terms.

    Meanwhile Prince Seng had his men continue to dig in and for the first time the Qing forces held a lot of firepower, 70 guns in all. Seng had a 3 mile wide force of cavalry at Zhangjiawan serving as a road block between the Europeans and Beijing. Seng had over 20,000 troops and. approaching them was a force of 1000 French and 2500 British. Yet again the Qing were relying upon bow and arrows for the mounted cavalry and antiquated firelock muskets and gingalls for the, versus the British Enfield rifle, French Minie gun and the deadly Armstrong guns. Seng was using a strategy of encirclement before going in for the kill, something more akin to medieval tactics that had the serious flaw of stretching Seng’s lines out making them easier for enemy penetration.

    The smaller European force fought its way forward to meet head on with the bulk of Sings army just outside Tongzhou on september 21. The swift Mongolian cavalry charged in a broad wave at the left flank of the approaching European force which was moving in three columns, cavalry to the left, artillery in the center and infantry to the right. The British and French cavalry quickly split and pulled aside as the artillery in the center wheeled their guns around to fire upon the incoming Mongolians. The Armstrong guns poured salvo after salvo deep into the ranks of the charging cavalry to terrifying effect. The Mongolians pulled up in confusion then the British cavalry of Sikh and Spahi being led by De Montauban smashed into Seng’s left flank, breaking through the lines and scattering them into a chaotic retreat. Then the true slaughter came as one British officer put it “Our artillery opened fire upon the retreating forces with good effect. Firing slowly, every Armstrong shell bursting amongst them and bringing down the enemy in clumps”. A Qing eye witness had this to say about the same event “Our cavalry went out in front, but they were Mongolian horsemen who had never seen battle before. As soon as they heard the sounds of the foreign cannons, they turned back. The foot soldiers behind them scattered ranks, and then everyone trampled one another.” French infantry assaulted the town of Zhangjiawan as Seng’s Mongolian cavalry’s ponies were being crushed by the larger Sikh and Spahi horses using their more advanced rifles. As De Montauban’s cavalry penetrated the Qing lines, they retaliated as best they could with gingalls and firelock rifles all the while Armstrongs kept blasting. When the Qing cavalry began to rout and flee the Sikh and Spahi chased them down bayoneting stragglers. Despite the absolute carnage of the artillery and bayonets, Seng lost only 1500 men during the battle, but the Europeans reported only losing 35, a staggering difference. By the end of the day the Qing forces were broken and their remnants were in a full retreat to Beijing.

    Elgin worried about the consequences of their victory writing in his diary “I rode out very early this morning, to see my General before he started, and to give him a hint about the looting which has been very bad here. He disapproves of it as much as I do”. General Grant had allowed the troops to sack Zhangjiawan, he considered it reparations rather than vengeance and thievery. Many of the women at Zhangjiawan feared rape, and many of the looting europeans were shocked to find countless women and children committing suicide by opium overdose. One man named Swinhoe recalled ‘the more conscious of them, beating their breasts, condemned the opium for its slow work, crying out, ‘let us die; we do not wish to live’”. Some British army surgeons began pumping the victims stomachs with such success only one of the victims still alive when the army got there died. Baron Gros shared Elgin’s disgust over the looting, he wrote in a communique to the French foreign minister “J’ai le coeur serré par les actes de vandalisme que j’ai vu commis par nos soldats, comme par nos alliés, charmés de pouvoir rejeter mutuellement les uns sur les autres les actes abominable dont ils se rendaient coupables.” (I was heartbroken by the acts of vandalism that I saw committed by our soldiers as well as by those of our allies, each delighted at the chance of heaping upon the other the blame for abominable deeds for which all deserved punishment.)” After the looting was done the force began to march towards Tongzhou. While the Europeans were marching over at Baliqao where 2 large bridge went over the Bei He River towards Beijing a Qing army was forming.

    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 coalition forces served Pring Seng a bunch of nasty defeats and it seems it was impossible to stop them from marching upon Beijing. All that was left in their path was the great bridges at Baliqao where Pring Seng would make his last stand.

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    Klik her for at forny feed.

  • Last time we spoke the reluctant Lord Elgin took up the job as the new emissary to China. Alongside his french counterpart Baron Gross, both men would overlook their military coalitions expedition in China to force the Qing emperor to abide by their treaty and some new demands. They began with a bombardment and occupation of the grand city of Canton and then Ye Mingchen was hunted down and arrested. Ye was replaced with a puppet named Pih-Kwei who would be nominally controlled by the European forces. Now the coalition would fight their way to Beijing to force an audience with Emperor Xianfeng, but something lied in their way, the famous Taku forts at the mouth of the Bei He River. Could the coalition fight past these legendary forts and strangle Beijing enough to get their demands met?

    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 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.



    #21 This episode is Part 3 of the Second Opium War: battles for the Taku Forts

    At high tide the Taku Forts were surrounded by water, the Bei He River became something like a natural moat. The entrance to the Bei He River was 200 yards in width, forcing the British and French warships into a bottleneck gauntlet with each shore holding 137 pieces of antiquated artillery. When the invaders arrived, the Qing forces quickly went to work creating earthwork walls with sandbags to bolster the defenses. The Qing forces presumed the European gunboats hulls were too deep and thus they would not risk entering the river until it was very high tide to avoid going aground. That presumption was a grave error as Seymour and Rigault were willing to risk it and mounted a surprise attack at 10am on May 20th. Elgin made one last ditch effort to get Tan to surrender peacefully, but Tan did not even bother to respond to Elgins message. Now in a similar fashion to the first opium war, as you might remember a large problem for the Qing was their outdated artillery. Their cannons were usually immobile, unable to aim at all degrees and angles. The Taku Fort cannons were aimed in such a way to hit warships at high tide, but the British-French force was going to attack during low tide. Alongside the Taku Forts cannons another defensive obstacle was a 7 inch thick boom made out of bamboo. The Europeans opened fire unleashed pure hell upon the forts and when the forts unleashed their own volley, literally all of their shots went over the European masts. To add insult to injury, the British sacrificed one of their ships, the Coromandel to ram into the boom which broke with ease. The Coromandal received a nasty gash in her hull, but the job had been done. As pieces of the boom floated away, the rest of the European armada began to steam through the gap while the Qing helplessly fired their cannons straight over their masts. The French ships Mitraille and Fusee alongside the British Cormorant fired upon 2 of the Taku Forts on the left bank while the French Avalance, Dragonne and British Nimrod fired upon the 3 forts on the right. The Chinese manning Gingalls had much better luck than the cannons, though it also came at the price of making the Europeans laugh watching men fall over from firing each shot. However not all was funny as Gingalls could be properly aimed unlike the cannons and managed to kill 5 British and 6 French while wounding another 61. Then tragedy happened when a gunpowder cache in one of the Taku forts accidentally exploded killing 100 Chinese. Alongside the invaders maelstrom of gunfire and the defenders despair at the futility of their cannons many began to panic. Even before many of the British and French forces began to land ashore, countless Qing forces were deserting the earthen parapet en masse. In desperation seeing his men flee, the Qing commander launched 50 fireboats stuffed with straw at the barbarian ships, only to see the fireships crash into the bank at the bend in the river. Not a single fireship was able to cause damage to the invaders. With the last ditch effort a complete failure, the commander of the Taku Forts went to the Temple of the Sea God and slashed his jugular vein with his sword killing himself.

    The Viceroy of Zhili province was banished to the desolate border territory with Russia in the north. As he packed his bags, Emperor Xianfeng condemned the Viceroy’s mismanagement of the Taku Fort defense as being “without plan or resource”. Elgin after witnessing the victory over the Taku Forts had a really interesting thing to say “Twenty-four determined men with revolvers, and a sufficient number of cartridges, might walk through China from one end to another.

    Back home in Britain Elgin was being praised and was rewarded likewise with carte blanche for all further military actions and negotiations. The new Prime Minister, Lord Derby, haha looks like those grand speeches worked out for him, well he sent Elgin a congratulatory dispatch “giving me latitude to do anything I choose, if only I will finish the affair.” The very same man who condemned British imperialism the year prior was now a warhawk. Lord Malmesbury became the new foreign minister replacing Lord Clarendon. Back in China, the European gunboats made their way up the Bei He River triumphantly towards the next Qing stronghold, Tianjin. Tianjin was around 30 miles away from Beijing. The 3 Plenipotentiaries stayed further behind at the Taku Forts for their own safety as Seymour and Rigault took the lead. As they steamed up the Bei He River, both the Fusee and Cormorant ran aground numerous time, but the Europeans found some very unlikely allies to help, the local Chinese. Turns out a lot of the populace absolutely hated their Manchu overlords and volunteered their tugboats free of charge to help the Europeans. Apparently when the Europeans tried to pay them many refused if it is to be believed.

    On June 4th the European armada arrived at Tianjin without any resistance along the way. The Qing defenders at Tianjin morale was so low they were at the point of surrender. There was also a rumor spreading around that Emperor Xianfeng had been overthrown and replaced by a new dynasty who was willing to simply sign a new treaty with the Europeans. Seymour and Rigault advised Elgin he should stay at the Taku Forts for security, but he disregarded this and came up to the war party on May 26th. Elgin wrote in his diary as he made his way up the river. “Through the night watches, when no Chinaman moves, when the junks cast anchor, we laboured on, cutting ruthlessly and recklessly through that glancing and startled river which, until the last few weeks, no stranger keel had ever furrowed. Whose work are we engaged in, when we burst thus with hideous violence and brutal energy into these darkest and most mysterious recesses of the traditions of the past? I wish I could answer that question in a manner satisfactory to myself. At the same time there is certainly not much to regret in the old civilisation which we are thus scattering to the winds. A dense population, timorous and pauperised, such would seem to be its chief product. “ The Plenipotentiaries were quite surprised when they were met outside Tianjin by a detachment of local Qing officials and merchants who came looking for opium. Yes these were those types of middle men folks who were used to bribes and the lucrative business of moving opium. Despite the rumors, Emperor Xianfeng had not been overthrown, but he was willing to negotiate with the Europeans. Emperor Xianfeng sent commissioners to Tianjin in the hope of stopping the European advance to Beijing. Meanwhile with Tianjin not putting up a fight, Elgin wrote in his diary “[I have] complete military command of the capital of China, without having broken off relations with the neutral powers, and without having interrupted, for a single day, our trade at the different ports of the Empire.” The Europeans were treated with the utmost respect and the lavish temple known as the Supreme Felicity was used as headquarters for the Europeans. The Europeans transformed the temple by creating a bowling alley, they used its myriad of altars for washbasins and placed vanity mirrors in front of statues of the gods. This cultural vandalized would be an appetizer for events in the future. Two emissaries were sent by Emperor Xianfeng, both were commissioners, the first was the 74 year old Guiliang, a senior military officer. The other was a 53 year old Mongolian military officer. They met with the Europeans at the Temple of Oceanic Influences southwest of Tianjin. Elgin arrived on June 4th alongside 50 Royal marines and a band from the warship Calcutta to add some muscle.

    The first meeting went…terribly. The commissioners had the authority to negotiate, but lacked carte blanche to finalize any deal. Elgin stormed out of the first meeting, completely blowing off this lavish buffet the Qing had set for the party to celebrate the new peace treaty. Elgin was well known to be courtes, but after spending 6 months in China had quickly learnt the only way to get Qing officials to act was to show some bravado. Elgin even wrote to his wife at the time “I have made up my mind, disgusting as the part is to me, to act the role of the ‘uncontrollably fierce barbarian.’” As Elgin stomped his feet walking off he made a threat that he would soon march upon Beijing, even though in truth the Europeans did not have the land forces to do so. Elgin left his brother to continue negotiations, Lord Frederick Bruce. One of Fredericks interpreters, Horatio Lay decided it was a good idea to use some Sturm und Drang and began to literally scream at the Qing commissioners whenever they talked about clauses in the new treaty. Lay even threatened to lay waste to Beijing and would slap the Emperor himself, this guy had some balls. Lay’s abuse of the two commissioners became so bad, the men went around his head to speak to Putiatin and the American envoy William Reed. Reed sent a letter to Elgin asking him to help rein in the tyrannical Lay, but Elgin ignored the letter, wow. Putiatin asked Gros whom he knew had grown very close to Elgin, to intercede, but Gros declined to do so as he feared it would alienate his friendship to Elgin. The Qing then resorted to bribery, they tried to give Lay a horse, but Lay did not change his aggressive stance.

    The negotiations were taking very long, it was the typical Chinese strategy of procrastination. Elgin was becoming livid and wrote in his diary about Reed and Putiatin “These sneaking scoundrels do what they can to thwart me and then while affecting to support the Chinese act as their own worst enemies.” Elgin also felt British parliament had failed to back him up. Elgin received a letter from the new Foriegn minister Lord Malmesbury on April the 9th, berating him for not concluding the peace treaty in due time. “A Cabinet has been held today and it is our anxious wish to see this Chinese business settled if it can be done without loss of honour and commercial interests as at present enjoyed. Our reputation is sufficiently vindicated at Canton and we do not look at the chance of a war with the Chinese Empire without much apprehension. I trust therefore that you will not engage us in a contest of this sort if you can possibly avoid it.” The negotiations over the terms of the new treaty stretched for 3 weeks and the Qing were rejecting two clauses the British absolutely wanted: free passage throughout China and for a permanent British and French embassy at the Qing imperial court. The two commissioners stated that accepting either of these would cost the men their lives. Gros and Putiatin began arguing that the permanent embassy point was not critical as long as their ministers had access to Beijing in some form. After much arguing the commissioners conceded to the two points and thus the Treaty of Tianjin was formed. The Europeans made sure to add a clause they henceforth they would no longer be called barbarians in official communications and treaties, though it should be noted the term used by the Chinese literally just meant “those who don't speak Chinese”.

    The Treaty of Tianjin opened new ports for trade: Tianjin, Hangzhou and Nanjing. It should be noted the Qing were all too happy to toss Nanjing into the treaty as the Taiping were occupying it as their own capital. Perhaps if they were lucky, the Europeans would go to Nanjing, run into some trouble and attack the Taiping for them! Baron Gros raised concerns over the clauses as he argued Britain would have to bear even more military might to enforce the treaty. As Gros pointed out to Elgin, the Confucious principle, a promise made under duress does not need to be kept. Another item on the treaty clauses was the payment of 2 million taels of silver to Britain for the damage to their factories at Canton and another 2 million in general reparation. The French were to receive 2 million taels as well. Now the warnings Gros made concerned Elgin and he was having second thoughts. One major concern was the idea of extracting he enormous sums of money from what seemed to be an Empire on the verge of Bankruptcy. Elgin wrote back to the foreign minister, concerned that extracting the large sums of money would lead to the toppling of the Manchu rule “Everything we saw around us indicated the penury of the Treasury. To despair, by putting forward pecuniary claims which it could satisfy only by measures that would increase its unpopularity and extend the area of rebellion.” Elgin ended by saying the humiliating treaty would be a large beacon for the Taiping Rebels. William Reed recommended legalizing opium as a clause, arguing the tax revenue from it would benefit the Qing Empire. The British wanted a tariff of only 30 taels and the Cohong merchants supported this. Jardine & Matheson & co released a statement “The use of opium is not a curse, but a comfort and benefit to the hard-working Chinese.” Boy you can’t get any more gross than that one. The French for their part performed a study of the opium problem in China. Baron Gros found that users who smoked upto 8 pipes per day had a life expectancy of only 6 years. Casual consumers could expect around 20 years after starting to smoke it, many died around the age of 50 or so. Opium addicts were found to be spending 2/3 ‘s of their income to feed their addiction. The Russians and Americans agreed with the French that the opium trade was horrible. The French however have little to nothing to say about another form of trade they took part in with China, the “pig trade”, that being the enslavement of coolies. Now you have to hear this one, this is so symbolic of the event as a whole. The translator for the treaty took forever because he was an opium addict. You just can’t make this stuff up folks.

    The Russians agreed to the terms first on June 18th Putiantian signed off, making Elgin feel betrayed and abandoned because he still had qualms. What was really important to Russia was the border they shared with the Qing, it had been a source of much conflict. Thus Russia settled with a visiting ambassador to Beijing with no permanent status. Christianity received a formal toleration and the Russians got access to 2 more ports on Taiwan and Hainan. Five days later the Americans signed off on a similar agreement to the Russians. Both the Americans and Russians made sure to include the most favored nations clause in their treaties, which meant that whatever further concessions went to the British and French, they too would enjoy them. Thus the 2 nations who brought zero military aid and did basically nothing reaped the same benefits as the 2 nations shouldering everything, ain't that nice? Putiatin sent Elgin and Gros a copy of Russia’s treaty urging them not to topple the manchu rule with too many humiliating concessions. Reed made a similar appeal. Gros reached an agreement on june 23rd and did not hesitate to sign the treaty because he did not want to undercut Elgin’s negotiators, preferring to let them finish the job. The French also sought much less than Britain from the Chinese. A week after and the British had still not come to an agreement, Gros became impatient and sent Elgin a letter, that if the British did not sign soon the French would simply sail off.

    The British were stuck on two key issue; to have a permanent ambassador in Beijing and freedom to travel anywhere in China. The Chinese commissioners desperately sought the aid of Gros and Putiatin, indicating to them the Emperor was going to have them killed if they agreed to the two clauses. Elgin threatened to march on Beijing and it seems the commissioners were forced to give in. On June 26th the British Treaty of Tianjin was ratified. The Chinese would pay 5 million in war reparations, Christian missionaries would be allowed to work unhindered throughout China and 11 ports would be opened for trade. Taxes on imported goods would be set on a follow up meeting at Shanghai, and there 5% was agreed upon. Taxables goods would be silk, brocades and of course opium. The taxation agreement basically made opium legal in China, but without bringing the subject up. The Commissioners signed the treaty, but when they got back to Beijing, take a wild guess, the Emperor rejected the humiliating terms.

    Now Elgin failed to bring up the issue of the opium trade and its official legalization as were his instructions from Clarendon. Elgin probably felt since Clarendon lost his position he no longer had to respect the order. Clarendons successor Lord Malmesbury did not give a similar order. On July 3rd, 400 men and a naval band serenaded Elgin signing the Treaty of Tianjin at the Temple of Oceanic Influences under some paper lanterns. And despite the fact the commissioners, as they said it, were soon to be beheaded, they invited Elgin to a lavish dinner at the temple after the signing. At the dinner one of the commissioners, Hua Shan gave Elgin copies of some famous poetry. The next day, Baron Gross signed the French treaty but cheekily added some new demands that the commissioners were forced to abide by. He demanded the release of all Chinese christians imprisoned for their faith. Gros sent a triumphant report back home stating “Je suis heureux de pouvoir annoncer aujord-hui à Votre Excellence que la Chine s’ouvre enfin au Christianisme, source réelle de toute civilisation, et au commerce et à l’industrie des nations occidentales.” (“I am happy to be able to announce today to Your Excellence that China has at last opened itself to Christianity, the real source of all civilization, and to trade and the manufactures of the nations of the West.)”

    Back in Britain Elgins triumph was met with mixed reviews, though most were favorable. Elgins private secretary Laurence Oliphant, noted the impressive cost/benefit ratio of the casualties in his 1860 account of the campaign, ‘Narrative of the Earl of Elgin’s Mission to China and Japan’: “Hostilities with the Empire of China had terminated with a loss to the British arms of about twenty men killed in action...and a treaty had been signed far more intensive in its scope, and more subversive of imperial prejudices than that concluded fifteen years before, after a bloody and expensive war, which had been protracted over a period of two years.” Karl Marx, yes the Karl Marx, was working at the time as the European correspondent of the New York Tribune wrote a letter to his writing partner Friedrich Engels on some thoughts towards the conflict “The present Anglo-Chinese Treaty which in my opinion was worked out by Palmerston in conjunction with the Petersburg Cabinet and given to Lord Elgin to take with him on his journey is a mockery from beginning to end.” Karl Marx would have a lot more to say about the Taiping Rebellion, which is quite interesting given the rebellion is considered a proto marxist one. Elgin himself was quite depressed over the ordeal, he wrote this in his diary “I have an instinct in me which loves righteousness and hates iniquity and all this keeps me in a perpetual boil. Though I have been forced to act almost brutally I am China’s friend in almost all this.

    To try and raise the celebration somewhat, Elgin decided to take 5 ships up the Yangtze River as a demonstration of Britain's naval power and to discourage the Chinese from going back on the new treaty. However news of some raids against Canton forced him to pull be short. The new Viceroy of Canton named Huang had incited a rebellion rallying Canton residents to quote “Go forth in your myriads, then, and take vengeance on the enemies of your Sovereign, imbued with public spirit and fertile in expedients.” In July a group of Cantonese got their hands on some artillery and began to shell the British resident at Whampoa. The Cantonese mob followed this up by performing a raid after they heard about the humiliating terms of the treaty of Tianjin. During a short conference in Shanghai, Elgin demanded Viceroy Huang be removed. On top of the Canton problem, the two commissioners, Guiling and Hua Shan had reneged on the treaty clauses about allowing British ambassadors in Beijing. They sent a letter to Elgin stating that had agreed to such clauses under duress and suggested that future British ambassadors visit Beijing from time to time as diplomatic business warranted. They argued that because of large scale xenophobia in Beijing, they feared for the lives of any British dwelling there. Then 4 days later they added another excuse; they said that to allow British ambassadors to live in Beijing would generate fear and a loss of respect for the Qing government. Such further humiliation might very well topple the Manchu and allow the Taiping to take over. Elgin was somewhat swayed by the Taiping excuse and said he would pass their message onto his foreign officer. Elgin was also in a tough position as the fact a rebellion was occurring in Canton made it seem clear that guaranteeing the safety of British ambassadors in Beijing would not be an easy task. The French concurred with Elgin, that to have ambassadors in Beijing would be dangerous now. In the meantime Elgin had set up a 2 month survey of the Yangtze River using 2 gunboats to demonstrate Britains new right of travel throughout China. The idea had been to see if the local Chinese would obey the treaty clauses. Elgins tour wound up going past the Taiping capital of Nanjing and it is alleged a single cannon perched on a Nanjing wall fired upon Elgin’s ships. Elgin’s reprisal was pretty brutal, he sent a volley knocking out the Taiping cannon then ordered a 99 minute naval bombardment of Nanjing before sailing on. Eglin had planned to finish the trip by meeting with the Emperor and giving him a letter from Queen Victoria, but the worsening of the Canton situation forced him to pull back south.

    In February of 1859 Cantonese rebels ambushed and massacred 700 British marines around the countryside of Canton. In retaliation, General van Straubenzee, the military commander of 3000 troops in Canton, hunted down the headquarters of the rebels which they found at Shektsing a few miles south of the city and completely annihilated all those there and razed everything to the ground. The destruction of the rebel camp seems to have worked quite well as suddenly the Emperor sent word to ratify the treaty of Tianjin’s clauses and had Huang removed from power and demanded the rebels disband. While Elgin dealt with the renewed China problem, his brother Frederick Bruce returned to Britain with the signed Treaty of Tianjin. Lord Malmesbury rewarded Bruce by naming him the first ambassador to China, a post Elgin would have received, but he was too wary of the post given the circumstances now. Elgin left China in March of 1859, taking the chance to link up and meet his brother in Sri Lanka in April as Bruce was on his way back to China. Now Bruce was not lets say, as great as his brother. He had recently been the Lt-governor of Newfoundland, then the Colonial secretary of Hong Kong. In all honestly a lot of his appointments were merely a result of him being Elgin’s brother. But Bruce did have working knowledge of Chinese customs.

    Bruce arrived back at the mouth of the Bei He River on June 18th of 1859 alongside a force of 16 warships. Admiral Seymour had returned to London and was replaced by Rear-admiral James Hope. Unfortunately it seems Hope was even more racist and hated the Chinese more than Seymour. 3 days later the new American ambassador showed up John E Ward aboard a steamer, the Powhatan. The French representative, Anton de Bourbelon brought 2 warships with him as the French fleet had remained close by in Indo-China. Now Emperor Xianfeng wanted above all else to keep the Europeans the hell out of Beijing. The Emperor suggested right away that they ratify the new treaty at Shanghai, but all 3 of the European powers declined this. Many of the Emperors close advisors wanted to resist the foreigners taking up residence in Beijing. Some of these high ranking officials gave orders for 3 large bamboo booms, 3 feet thick to be strung across the Bei He river to block the foreigners advance. It looked like war was back on the menu and in a vain attempt Bruce tried writing a letter to Beijing politely asking the booms be removed. Well Bruce got no reply and this prompted Admiral Hope to ask permission to blow the booms apart. On June 21st, Hope sent captain Willes aboard a steamer to break through the first boom which went successfully, but the other 2 proved unbreakable. The British tried using some gunpowder but it just couldn't do the job, then to add insult to injury during the night the Qing repaired the first boom.

    On June 25th Bruce received a letter from the Viceroy of Zhili, Heng Fu. Heng suggested the ambassadors lodge at Beitang, around 8 miles north of Beijing, basically it was a face saving gesture. The British however were armed to the teeth and had just undergone 3 annoying and long years of negotiations and war and had no patience. Bruce told Admiral Hope to attack the booms again. That afternoon Hope took his flagship Plover and attempted ramming the boom, but this time hit ship was stopped cold. The Qing had learnt a lesson from the previous conflict and this time had made the 2nd and 3rd booms out of full sized tree trunks sling together with heavy chains. As the Plover staled and the other European gunships had to stop just before it, all of a sudden the forts portholes were cast aside to reveal a full complement of 40 cannons and they opened fire. The first salvo took the head right off Plovers bow gunner and 3 other sailors fell wounded. For 3 hours Plover was pulverized.

    Hope unwisely stood on his deck wearing a gold braid basically showing the Chinese he was a high ranking official. A Qing sharpshooter landed a shot hitting Hope in his thigh. Hope fell on deck and was bound up by a surgeon as the Qing retaliated. For a rather surprising change, the Qing cannons, though still immobile were better aimed and managed to blow Hope’s second in command and 8 other sailors to pieces, 22 others were wounded. Plovers hull eventually burst sinking the ship into the mud and this would lead to the deaths of countless crew. Hope believe it or not got up and rowed over to another ship, the Opossum and began standing on its deck in plain sight. Because of his thigh wound he had to hold onto a railing to hold himself upright and that said railing was hit by a Qing cannonball. The railing collapsed and Hope fell breaking several ribs, ouch. This prompted him to turn command over to Captain Shadwell. The Qing volleys managed to disable 5 of the invaders frontal gunships prompting Bruce to order 7 more which were 8 miles away to come forward and replace the damaged ones. By the evening, 5 British warships had been immobilized and 2 had run aground and one was a sitting duck for fort cannons.

    The fort guns went silent in the early evening and the British officers took it to mean that the forts garrisons had fled like they had in the previous year. The landing parties surged ahead as planned and that was when disaster struck again. It turned out to be a ruse to entice the landing parties to storm the beach. The landing party soon found out to their horror 2 trenches were dug in front of the walls, filled with water and mud and some large iron spikes behind them. That was bad, but immediately when the marines got off their barges the muddy banks seized their feet leaving them helpless as the forts unleashed carnage upon them. Those lucky enough to make it to the trenches found the muddy water was too thick to swim. Many men in despair clambered beside the base of a fort wall to escape the trenches and gunfire. The Qing began setting off fireworks to illuminate the trapped marines as they fired upon them.

    Although America said it would remain neutral, Commodore Josiah Tattnall aboard the USS Powhatan was trying to get past the booms as well when he ran into the conflict. Tattnal was a veteran of the war of 1812 and like pretty much any American at the time disliked the British. Tattnal received word that Hope had been shot and upon witnessing the horror show he suddenly cast neutrality to the wind. Tattnal was from Georgia, a loyal southerner with a lets say, strong sense of racial pride…yeah we will call it that. Whatever hate he held for the British was cast aside as he suddenly screamed out “blood is thicker than water, I’d be damned if I stood by and watched white men butchered before my eyes!”. Tattnals charge forward hardly turned the tide of battle, it amount mostly to him towing more British marines forward to their horrific death. Some of his men grabbed and operated some British guns firing at the fort while Tattnall personally tended to Hope. A single american died and the breach of neutrality could have caused a catastrophe, but one thing it did do was set a new tone for British-American friendship. As the London times wrote “Whatever may be the result of the fight, England will never forget the day when the deeds and words of kindly Americans sustained and comforted her stricken warriors on the waters of the Bei He.”

    Around 7pm, as the Qing set off fireworks to illuminate the area, Captain Shadwell with 50 royal marines and French seamen led by the French commander Tricault landed on some muddy flats outside one of the Taku forts. They clamored through knee deep mud as the defenders rained Gingall fire down upon them at short range. The British-Franco force found themselves literally stuck in the mud, unable to use their wall scaling ladders to get over the fort. Shadwell sent word back to his superior that he and his men were pinned down and requested reinforcements to storm the Taku walls. There was no more fighting men available however, he was eventually order to limp back to the ships. The British and French suffered high casualties. Shadwell was wounded, Tricault was dead, and of the 1000 men who took part in the battle around half were killed or wounded, 29 of them officers. Many men dragged themselves or limped through mud to get back to their ships. A lot of these men were veterans of the Crimean war and had never tasted such defeat. One veteran of the battle of Balaclava said he would rather have relived that battle three times over than suffer the Taku Forts again. The gunboats, Lee, Plover and Cormorant were disabled, the Kestrel sank.

    Admiral Hope sent a dispatch to the Admiralty showing his shock at how the Qing performed “Had the opposition they expected been that as usual in Chinese warfare, there is little doubt that the place would have been successfully carried at the point of the bayonet.” To try and save face, Bruce reported back to Britain that the sudden military prowess of the Qing forces at the Taku forts was because Russians were helping them. He alleged based on eyewitness testimony that some men in fur hats and European dress had been seen directing operations atop a Taku fort, it was mere bullshit. The real reason for the Qing victory was because of Prince Senggelinqin. Senggelinqin was a mongol cavalry commander that had helped the Qing crush a large army of Taiping rebels. He was a member of the Borjigin clan and the 26th generation descendant of Qasar, a brother to Genghis Khan. He led Qing forces to smash the Taiping during the Northern Expedition in the southern suburbs of Tianjin. When the Second Opium War broke out he was appointed Imperial commissioner in charge of the defense of Tianjin.

    Seng rejoiced in his well earned victory. He wrote back to the emperor acknowledging the British and French might return with more ships, but asserted confidently he would thrash them again and again “the pride and vainglory of the barbarians, already under severe trial, will immediately disappear. When that happens, China can then enjoy some decades of peace. The barbarians, already somewhat disillusioned and repentant, may lend themselves to persuasion and be brought under control. If they of their own accord should wholeheartedly become obedient, then peace would be secure and permanent.” The Emperor responded with caution “the foreigners may harbor secret designs and hide themselves around nearby islands, waiting for the arrival of more soldiers and ships for a surprise attack in the night or in a storm” Emperor Xianfeng still shared a sense of relief and expressed hope the foreigners needs for Chinese goods would mean that they could sort out their problems in Shanghai and that there would be no need for ambassadors in Beijing nor new treaties. Seng also pointed out during the battle the Americans got involved. “Although the starting of hostilities was by the English barbarians, France and America’s cooperation in the melee is also inescapable.” Seng based his claim off intelligence extracted from a Canadian POW named John Powers. John claimed to be a neutral American in an attempt to escape imprisonment. The Chinese did not free him and instead used him as proof the Americans had abandoned neutrality. Seng much like most Chinese at the time were weak on Western Geography and assumed Canada was part of the United States, sad Canadian noises. At one point an American missionary who spoke Chinese tried to explain to Seng the difference between English and French Canada and the United States, Seng described the experience in a letter to the Qing imperial court. “[The missionary] stated that America contained Englishmen and Frenchmen, and when there was fighting, the flag was the only criterion.” Eventually John was released after a month, the Qing simply did not want to add America to a list of growing enemies.

    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 battle for the Taku Fort was an absolute catastrophe resulting in humiliation for the Europeans for once. Prince Seng had a grand victory, perhaps now the foreign barbarians would learn their lesson and stop their war. Or perhaps the Europeans would like their wounds and come right back.

  • Last time we spoke Rear Admiral Seymour took the charge as he waged war first on the city of Canton to hunt down the seemingly tyrannical Ye Mingchen. Seymour took the city quickly and with ease, but knew he had no way to hold onto it so he opted to start capturing all the forts he could along the riverways. Meanwhile back in Britain, the politicians were raging over the entire conflict and what was to be the best course of action. The Torries and Whigs fought another to use the issue for their own interests and it seems the Torries might be successful at thwarting the need for another war with China, but not if the Whigs had anything to say about it. Now a new figure will come to the forefront to be placed in charge of the China issue and it will consume his life.

    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 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.



    #20 This episode is Part 2 of the Second Opium War: Lord Elgin’s reluctant War

    Now outside parliament, the British public was in a jingoistic mood after winning the Crimean War. Palmerston began to appeal to the masses on the basis of patriotism. Meanwhile the Prime Minister decided to appoint a plenipotentiary to carry out negotiations with the Qing court. The Duke of Newcastle was Palmerstons first choice, but he rejected the job as he knew it would be a thankless one and would earn him no favors. On March 13th, in the middle of a general election, Palmerston announced a new appointment for the new envoy to China. It was the popular Scotsman, former governor of Jamaica and British North America, James Bruce the Earl of Elgin, a direct descendant of Robert the Bruce.

    Lord Elgin was the son of a famous antiquarian who had notoriously preserved or better said vandalized, if you're Greek, parts of Ancient Athens by shipping them back to Britain. Yes the British museum issue. Elgin also sold these pieces of history in question to the British Museum at around 35,000 pounds in 1816 before going bankrupt and leaving England in exile to escape creditors. So yeah daddy was not a good person so to say. Ironically Elgin’s fathers actions would haunt him in this story, because he would perform a heinous act on a similar level. During the 3 day voting period that began on March 28th of 1857, the Whigs managed to return to office with a landslide victory. Turns out Palmerston had won the public over, alongside the Queen and now parliament.

    The day before Palmerston named Elgin the plenipotentiary to China, Elgin wrote to his wife “My Dearest, I have had a note from [Palmerston] followed by an interview. The proposal is to undertake a special mission of a few months’ duration to settle the important and difficult question now embarrassing us in the East and concentrating the attention of all the world. On what grounds can I decline? Not on political grounds for however opposed I might be to the Govt. that would be a reason to prevent them from making the offer, but not me from accepting it. The very mission of a Plenipotentiary is an admission that there are errors of policy to be repaired.” Elgin’s wife responded “Dearest, it was unexpected but if your conscience and feelings tell you to say yes I would not for the world dissuade you. God bless you my own darling. I promise you to do my best not to distress you. Forgive me if I can’t write more today. Your own ever Mary.” Now Lord Elgin had a very impressive career, as I said he had been the governor of Jamaica and the governor-general of British North America, I live in quebec and he is quite the figure here. There is a statue of him in front of the Quebec parliament building. Lord Elgin attempted to establish responsible government to Canada, wrestled issues of immigration to Canada and took a surprising stance during a French English conflict. You see there were rebellions in what was then Upper and Lower Canada over various colonial issues. Lord Elgin ended up compensating French Canadians who had suffered during the rebellions and this greatly pissed off his British colleagues. On top of that Elgin invited the leader of the lower Canada revolt, Papineau to dine with him at the governor-generals residence in Canada. An English mob began burning parliament buildings in montreal, Elgin was assaulted, but instead of calling in the military, Elgin got his family to safety and allowed civil authorities to restore order. Anyways Elgin did a lot in Canada such as setting up economic treaties with the US and such, he is a large figure in my countries history, though I’d argue not many Canadians are even aware of him haha. Canadian history can be, the best way to put it, a bit boring.

    Now back to the story at hand, Lord Elgin was a very well regarded figure for his capabilities and royal blood. But he also held a ton of debt from his father, the Greek artifact plunderer. Elgin was notably not xenophobic in a time when many British were. Elgin spoke English and French and was a highly educated man. The day before Elgin set off for China he was given detailed instructions from Lord Clarendon. Clarendon ordered Elgin that under no circumstance was he to try and retake Canton, a tall order since Bowring and Seymour were literally trying to do just that. Clarendon stated he was to acquire the right for Britain to send an ambassador to Beijing to conduct and direct negotiations with the Qing imperial court. He was to demand the opening of new ports of trade and to force the Qing government to adhere to the terms of the treaty of Nanjing. Military force was to be only a last resort if the Emperor refused and Elgin was urged to contain the military action to naval attacks only to save British lives. Elgin had his own demand, he wanted the British military forces in China to be under his sole command. Britain ended up giving Elgin joint command alongside Lt Generals Ashburnham and Seymour who could decide when and where to attack.

    Elgin made record time journeying to China by riding on the brand new railroad that cut across the Isthmus of Suez. From Suez he took a ship, rounding the coast of India in late May. Elgin came across troops who had been summoned from Bombay and Calcutta. Interesting side note, in May, Sepoy’s, those being Indian troops of the East India Company Army, stationed in Meerut performed a mutiny. They had refused to follow orders from the British officers and on May 10th, an entire garrison killed their officers, their families and any Europeans in the vicinity. Word spread of the mutiny resulting in similar outbreaks amongst other sepoy units. Within just a few days there was a widespread rebellion as some Indian prince joined, rallying against the British Raj. Northern India was ablaze with bloodshed and it looked like Britain was at threat of losing its greatest colony. Elgin arrived in Singapore on June 3rd where he was met with two letters from Lord Canning the governor general of india. The letters told Elgin the dire news and begged him to divert troops assigned to the China mission to come help in India. Canning was an old classmate of Elgin and said “If you send me troops they shall not be kept one hour more than is absolutely needed.” Elgin had no time to consult with Plamerston or Clarendon, as it would take 2 months to get word back to London. Without hesitation Elgin diverted 1700 men of the 90th regiment from Mauritius to help quell the rebellion. I obviously cant go into the Indian Rebellion of 1857, but just want to say if you get a chance do learnt about it, an absolutely horrible event. Around 150,000 Indians were killed in the rebellion with 100,000 of them being civilians. The British suffered around 6000 troops and 40,000 civilians killed. The British forces performed massacres and numerous atrocities in places like Delhi, Kanpur, Lucknow and Allahabad. On top of the war deaths, it is estimated up to a possible 800,000 Indians would die from famine and disease as well. A truly horrible event.

    Back to Elgin, he faced a period in Singapore where he had to await some troops from India to come over to China and during this period he began to study the China situation. Elgin visited an opium den in Singapore to witness the evil effects of the drug firsthand. He wrote this to his wife about the experience “They are wretched, dark places with little lamps. The opium looks like treacle, and the smokers are haggard and stupefied, except at the moment of inhaling, when an unnatural brightness sparkles from their eyes,” As a result of dispatching men to India to help Canning, Elgin now had to go to China aboard a single ship, the Shannon without any troops. He arrived in Hong Kong on July 2nd of 1857 and was welcomed warmly by the Chinese. Seymour was not all too pleased to find Elgin arriving without any troops. Seymour soon pressed Elgin to form an attack on Canton, handing to him a petition signed by 85 British opium merchants who all believed if Canton fell to the British, the Emperor would have to capitulate to all of their demands. Elgin did not give in to the pressure, though he also did not have the troops to carry out the task regardless.

    Elgin then began to brush shoulders with Harry Parkes and they did not get off on the right foot. Parks said of Elgin “He may be a man that suits the government well, very cautious, having ever before him [placating] Parliament, the world, the public, etc.” Parkes soon began a campaign against Elgin by sending a ton of letters back home criticizing Elgin for what he called “too generous a treatment of the Chinese”. As warhawkish as Seymour and Parkes could be, it was Bowring who really brought the heat. Bowring felt demoted by Elgin’s new position and began to work behind the scenes to bring Elgin down. Bowring also began to lecture Elgin on the imperative for full scale military action against Canton. “There is quite an explosion of public opinion as to the fatal mistake which would be committed by any movement upon Peking until the Cantonese question is settled. Many think such a movement might imperil the whole trade of China. I am quite of the opinion that any action which refers the Canton question to the Emperor would be a most injurious and embarrassing step.” Elgin for the most part ignored Bowring and opted instead for negotiations as were his instructions. Elgin also shared a concern it seems the other men did not, Elgin worried about tearing China apart. Elgin did not want to topple the Manchu rulers of China and throw the nation into some Balkanization hellscape which would only make things harder for Britain to deal with. The Taiping and their talk of banning private property scared Elgin, who knew Britain's trade would be hurt by such rule.

    In the end Elgin did not wait for his reinforcements from India, he instead went to India himself. Elgin gathered a small force of 400 marines and sailors aboard the 55 gun ship Shannon and sailed for Calcutta. Elgin made it to Calcutta on June 14th where he found the city abandoned by its European residents. Turned out there was a rumor the Sepoy’s were going to march into the city to slaughter the Europeans so they all fled, the rumor proved to be false however. Elgin was mortified by the situation in India. He was lambasted with horror stories of sexual atrocities committed against British subjects and mass hangings in reprisal. One Major Renard, ordered the execution of 12 Indians for allegedly turning their faces the wrong way as Renards troops marched past them. That same Major also allegedly burnt down every Indian village he passed and hung 42 villagers along the way. Elgin sent a letter back to his wife “I have seldom from man or woman since I came to the East heard a sentence that was reconcilable with the hypothesis that Christianity had come into the world. Detestation, contempt, ferocity, vengeance, whether Chinamen or Indians be the object.” Elgin hopped aboard the steamship Ava on september 20th to return to China.

    Back in China, Bowring had taken advantage of Elgin’s trip by making overtures to Ye Mingchen in violation of Britain's instructions that the Chinese viceroy should only deal with Elgin. When Elgin found out and confronted Bowring, Bowring simply denied it. A month after Elgin had arrived to China, his French counterpart arrived, Baron Gros. The French aristocrat quickly began to share Elgin’s hatred for Bowring upon meeting the man. Gros and Elgin both agreed to disagree with Bowring’s ideas from the offset. Gros and Elgin agreed the response to the arsenic bakery debacle and the murder of Father Chapedelaine, would be a well coordinated, measured and hopefully light on military deaths. Gros advocated for an attack upon Beijing, while Elgin urged for negotiation. However, foreign minister Clarendon chose another option. Clarendon sent Elgin a letter on October 14th supporting Bowrings ideas. Winter was fast approaching, and the Bei He River, the gateway to Beijing would be frozen before an allied army could reach the city gates. Thus Clarendon advocated for an attack on Canton. Elgin was forced to allow Bowring to take the lead.

    In november, William Reed, the new American Minister showed up aboard the 55 gun steamship Minnesota. Reed was instructed by his government that America would remain neutral in the inevitable conflict. Russia’s emissary, Count Euphemius Putiatin also arrived in november aboard the Amerika. Putiatin brought with him a proposal for China, if the emperor would give Manchuria to the Russians, the Tsar would help the Qing stamp out the Taiping Rebels once and for all. So each of the 4 nations brought their representatives looking to strike a deal with the Qing dynasty. In December of 1857, 3 ships carrying 2000 British soldiers from Calcutta sailed into Canton’s harbor followed by a French fleet led by Admiral Rigault de Genouilly. Elgin and Gros sent Ye Mingchen separate ultimatums. France demanded the murderers of Father Chapedelaine to be brought to justice, reparations and permission to operate unrestricted in Canton. Britain demanded compliance with the terms of the treaty of Nanjing; a permanent British ambassador in Beijing; and unspecified reparations for the loss of life and property. Elgin felt his demands were reasonable, but also knew full well they were unacceptable for the Emperor.

    Ye Mingchen believed the demands to be mere posturing rather than actual threats. He did not have the authority to satisfy the British and French ultimata. So he did nothing…well nothing is a strong word he actually began spending his time by beheading 400 Taiping and placed their heads on spikes atop Cantons walls. It seems perhaps Ye believed such actions would scare off the foreigners, because he had no real army or navy to back him up. Well his brutality against the Taiping sure backfired. The British enlisted 700 really enraged Hakka to man the artillery at the Dutch Folly which was across the Pearl River near the foreign factories. Hakka if you remember made up some of the Taiping ranks as they were a persecuted ethnic minority in Guangxi province. 8 British and 4 French steamships arrived to the scene to add extra military might.

    Ye Mingchen replied to the British and French in separate letters. To the British Ye stated, that in 1850 Sir George Bonham had agreed to give up access to Canton to avoid a war with the Qing dynasty. Ye heard that Bonham was given the Order of Bath and perhaps if Elgin did likewise he could also receive such a title. Ye was not aware that the title of Earl was high than that of Sir, but give the guy some credit for doing some homework on the foreign advisory. As for the treaty of Nanjing, Ye simply stated the Emperor declared the terms would be held inviolate for 10 millennium, it would be suicide to go against the Emperor. Ye sent a similar letter to the French and while he made these rather coy and cheeky remarks he did not seem to grasp the very real war threat going on. It may have been because he was too distracted by the Taiping rebellion, which to be brutally honest was a much more pressing concern, regardless Ye lacked any real strategy with how to deal with the foreign threat. When the British and French landed on Henan island, opposite of Canton of December 15th, Ye apparently made no move. The British and French disembarked without any resistance and found the strategic island undefended and without fortification. 200 Chinese war junks and sampans near Henan island fled as soon as the British and French had arrived.

    On December 21st, Elgin, Gros and Putiatin had a talk aboard the French flagship Audacieuse. They all agreed to give Ye Mingchen one more chance before the shelling of Canton began. They sent Ye a 2 day deadline to meet their demands. As they waited Elgin wrote in his diary “Canton the great city doomed I fear to destruction by the folly of its own rulers and the vanity and levity of ours.” While they waited for 2 days, Elgin and Gros discussed military organization. Admiral Seymour and Rigault would command sea forces, while land troops would be commanded by General Ashburnham. On paper the invaders seemed to be completely out gunned. Canton’s 6 mile wall circumference was 25 feet high and 20 feet wide. The allied force amounted to 800 men of the Indian Royal Sappers and Miners and the British 59th regiment of Foot, 2100 Royal marines, 1829 men of a British naval brigade and 950 men of the French Navy. The Qing forces were 30,000 strong at Canton, they were outnumbered 5 to 1. The Europeans did have one major tactical advantage however. The European ship born artillery had superior range and firepower compared to Cantons gun and their position on Henan island was within shelling distance of Canton.

    On December 22nd, Ye’s deadline ran out, but Elgin and Gros hesitated. On December 24th, perhaps because it was so close to Christmas they decided to give the Viceroy another 3 days to accept their terms, but Ye did not respond. On the evening of the 27th, the Europeans sent a reconnaissance team ashore a mile from the city's walls. On the morning of the 28th, the Anglo-Franco armada began shelling the city with artillery support from Henan. The bombardment went on for an entire day and on top of the shells, the europeans also fired incendiary rockets. It is alleged the Qing defenders only tossed back 2 shells. It is estimated the Chinese suffered almost 200 casualties to the shelling, while the incendiary rockets lit parts of Canton ablaze.While the day long shelling was raging on, 500 British and French forces landed and made their way through some rice paddies and came across a cemetery. At the cemetery Qing soldiers were taking up positions behind tombstones. Many of the Qing soldiers were armed with an 18th century weapon known as a Jingall. Now if you have a chance to google these, please do because they are comical to say the least. Its a muzzle loaded giant musket, the barrel is around 60 inches. Usually these were mount on walls, but they could be placed on tipods or on the shoulder of a comrade while you shoot it. Picture a comically big musket and thats basically what it looks like. In the west we call them “wall guns”, anyways they are extremely impractical. So for the Qing it took at minimum 2 men to fire one Jingall and usually when they fired them, the kick back knocked the men to the ground which provided quite the slapstick humor for the Europeans witnessing it. Many of the Qing soldiers also fired bow and arrow alongside some firelock muskets. On the other side, the British and French were using 19th century rifles, such as the British Enfield Rifle and French Minie rifle. Basically it was like Mike Tyson fighting an infant. The Europeans began to take up positions behind tombstones similar to the Qing. During the night the european formed an HQ in a temple on the cemetery grounds and apparently did nothing while some of their soldiers began to ransack the cemetery’s statuaries thinking they would find gems or gold inside them.

    Dawn of the next day, the Europeans woke up to a shocking sight. On the hills behind Canton emerged 1500 Qing soldiers. The Qing soldiers had fled the battle to go atop the hill and were simply staring at the Europeans like they were watching a sports game. It seems Ye’s brutality had caused a lot of dissatisfaction amongst the local populace and this resulted in quite the lackluster will to fight. At 9am Admiral Rigault personally led French troops towards the walls of canton carrying scaling ladders. The defenders on top of the walls provided little resistance, while some Chinese artillery on some nearby hills tried to shell the invaders. By 10am British and French flags were flying from the 5 story Pagoda near the walls. Alongside the wall climbing, the British stormed the East Gate of the city with ease. Over 4700 British, Indian alongside 950 French troops scaled the walls in total. Seymour and Rigault had stopped the shelling to allow the troops to get atop the walls and began to fire again, but Elgin quickly forced them to stop deeming it overkill. The death toll was incredibly lopsided, the French reported 3 men dead and 30 wounded, the British reported 13 men dead with around 83 wounded. The Qing suffered upto a possible 650 casualties.

    The allies set to work hunting Ye Mingchen who they believed was still hiding in the city. Ye’s second in command Pih-kwei came out suddenly making a proclamation that he would no longer associate himself with Ye Mingchen nor his disastrous policies. On New Years day, Elgin made a tour of Canton and noticed a lack of resistance, confirming to himself he made the right decision to halt the shelling. Then Elgin witnessed large scale looting. Elgin’s private secretary Laurence Oliphant noted “While honest Jack was flourishing down the street with a broad grin of triumph on his face, a bowl of goldfish under one arm and a cage of canary-birds under the other, honest Jean, with a demure countenance and no external display, was conveying his well-lined pockets to the waterside.” It seemed the French preferred to grab cash while the British sought out souvenirs. Elgin feared losing control of the men and ordered them to all stop looting, but he had no authority for the French forces. Upon seeing that the French were not halting their looting, the British soldiers soon rejoined the plundering spree. Elgin lamented the situation in his diary “My difficulty has been to prevent the wretched Cantonese from being plundered and bullied. There is a [Hindi] word called ‘loot’ which gives unfortunately a venial character to what would, in common English, be styled robbery. Add to this that there is no flogging in the French Army, so that it is impossible to punish men committing this class of offenses.” The son of Howqua and other Cohong merchants began to petition Elgin to do something to restore order and stop the plunder and destruction of Canton. Within mere days of the city's occupation, 90% of its inhabitants fled the city. One thing Elgin did not seem to mind though was “official expropriations” and sent one Colonel Lemon with a few Royal marines to Canton’s treasury where they seized 52 boxes of silver, 68 boxes of gold ingots and over a millions dollars worth in silver taels. This “legal plunder” wink wink, was put aboard the HMS Calcutta and sent post haste to India. After all, the war had to be paid for.

    On January 5th, over 8000 British and French marched through the gates of Canton unopposed. Harry Parkes grabbed a squad of 100 Royal Marines and rushed over to Ye Mingchens residence armed with a miniature of the man to identify him. This was quite the smart move, because many of Ye Mingchen’s subordinates had attempted to pass themselves off as the viceroy to protect him. Well the tactic provided results as they caught Ye as he was trying to climb over the rear wall of his residence. A marine seized Ye by his queue and dragged the man to a sedan chair enclosed with bars to humiliate him. The tiny prison was put aboard the steamship Inflexible to an audience of Europeans and many Hakka, including Taiping rebels who taunted the disgraced viceroy by making the slashing throat gesture. When the marines searching Ye’s residence they came across his letters back to the Qing court, giving them a ton of insight into how the Qing worked. That same day, Elgin and Gross named Ye’s second in command, Pih-Kwei the new governor of Canton, but he would be advised by the triumvirate of Parkes, Captain Martineau and Colonel Holloway. The 3 real powers behind Pih-Kwei were granted control of judiciary, and to vet edicts before they were promulgated. Each man spoke Chinese and would report to Clarendon. Elgin wrote to Clarendon to explain the situation “If Pih-kwei was removed or harshly dealt with we should be called upon to govern a city containing many hundred thousand inhabitants with hardly any means of communicating with the people.” The Europeans also created a police force for Canton to stop all the looting and restore confidence in the once great commercial city. Howqua, his son and the other Cohong merchants found the new situation with the Europeans a far better deal than what would occur if the Taiping took Canton.

    Pih-Kwei received secret instructions from Beijing on January 27th, ordering him to organize an army of civilians and kick the invaders out. He also received orders from Seymour to hand over 17 Chinese war junks to help fight off a Taiping fleet obstructing the Pearl River. On the 28th, 2 french warships, the Fusee and Mitraille both shelled Ye’s residence to further Ye’s punishment. Ye’s subordinates made attempts to rescue him from his prison, so Elgin sent Ye into exile to Calcutta on February 20th. In Calcutta Ye lived under house arrest for a year until he starved himself to death.

    Back over in Canton, the 70th Sepoy regiment arrived in March to reinforce Canton’s garrison. The Sepoys were delighted when they found out 200 Chinese servants were assigned to them as they had been dealing with a lot of racism. Notably the British called them the N word and the French killed 3 Sepoys claiming they were looting. No Europeans were ever shot for looting in Canton. Elgin, Seymour and Gross then took a naval squadron up north towards the mouth of the Bei He River by April 24th. The British, French and Russian plenipotentiaries sent a joint communique to the governor of Zhili province, Tan. Elgin, ever the pacifist, tried to negotiate a way out of further bloodshed writing to Tan to see if they could meet a minister duly authorized by Emperor Xianfeng. Tan performed the standard Chinese response, by stalling and claiming he didn't have the power to negotiate with them. Apparently in his letter response, he used larger characters for the Emperor than that of Queen Victoria which infuriated the British as it was yet again in violation of the terms to the treaty of Nanjing, that both nations be considered equal. Ironically if you think about it, the British and Qing were both so uptight about such status symbols and such. Tan sent another letter that indicated the Chinese position was shifting somewhat, iit offer some negotiation, opened some ports, granted religious freedom to Christians and agreed to pay reparations for the foreign factories being destroyed in 1856. Tan also said he passed on the Europeans request for an embassy in Beijing to the Emperor. What he did not tell them, was that the Emperor rejected that request outright. Putiatin in an attempt to avoid further bloodshed pleaded with the parties to accept this offer, but allegedly the French Foriegn office replied to him with a smirk “they are only Chinese lives”.

    On a bit of a side note, a rather remarkable thing occurred on the Russian side of this story at this time. The Archimandrite, named Palladius, something of a spiritual leader to a tiny population of Russians living in Beijing was granted permission by Emperor Xianfeng to visit the European fleet at the end of may. He was forced to travel in a sealed litter. Prior to leaving, Putiatin got word to the man ordering him to gather as much intelligence as he could traveling towards them. Palladius was able to peer through a small crack in the shutter and did his best to get details on the position of the Qing fleet. When Palladius arrived he brought with him great news, apparently Beijing was starving and the rambunctious life of the Emperor was catching up to him. Please note the Emperor was only 30 years old, guy must have really partied it up. Another thing the Emperor was doing was strongly contemplating leaving the country because he was terrified. Meanwhile Elgin’s anxiety was being lifted day by day as more warships arrived. By late May, the combined Anglo-French fleet was now 26 gunboats strong, preparing to take on the famous Taku Forts that guarded the mouth of the Bei He River. D-day was to be may 20th and the invaders were just 100 miles away from Beijing.

    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 reluctant Elgin had done it, they seized Canton and finally brought Ye Mingchen to British justice. The British French coalition was working its way slowly but surely to straggle Beijing and force its Emperor to abide by their demands.

  • Last time we spoke the horrifying trade of Poison and Pigs. The “Poison” referring to the still thriving opium trade and “pig” being the kidnapping of Chinese coolies. We also briefly talked about the rise of the Taiping rebels under Hong Xiuquan, the self proclaimed brother of Jesus Christ. The Taiping rebellion alongside the trade of Poison and Pigs was wreaking havoc upon the Qing dynasty and then to ignite the powder keg came a rather small event. The Arrow incident set into motion Ye Mingchen to butt heads with Harry Parkes and John Bowring and all 3 of these men would begin a duel that set into motion the kindling for another opium war. Soon things got completely out of hand and Rear Admiral Seymour was brought into the mix leading to him ordering the first official shots of what will become the second opium war.



    #19 This episode is Part 1 of the Second Opium War: Seymour’s onslaught

    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 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.

    Ye Mingchen upon learning of the threat immediately called upon Canton’s militia, but their response was not exactly enthusiastic. Unlike the previous Lin Zexu, a noble and very charismatic figure, Ye lacked public support and the rank and file soldiers often disregarded him. A large reason for this was because of the brutality he unleashed on the Taiping Rebels in the two provinces he ran. Ye’s two hundred warships while numerous, in the face of the British state of the art gunboats and steamers, were basically childs toys. Parkes sent Ye another demand: to grant British residents the right to live and work outside the factories. Ye refused the demand and on October 28th, the British sent the steamer Encounter to shell the rooftop of the vice regal residence. This action did drive some popularity for Ye as many began to say the viceroy was fearless and had remained in his courtyard reading a book as the shells missed him. Ye then upted the anty by placing a price on British heads from 30 to 100 dollars. Ye also placed a whopping 30,000 dollars for Parkes head.

    When Seymour came to Canton he found the Encounter moored off the city near the factories. He sent the Sampson and Barracouta to seize the Blenheim and Macao forts meeting no resistance. One of the British sailors named William Kennedy described the city “The river was alive with every kind of craft, from the little sampan, propelled by a single oar in the stern, to the heavy trading junk with her single iron-wood mast and mat sails. Numerous flower-boats belonging to wealthy mandarins were moored off the town, conspicuous by their gaudy paint, and crowded with laughing girls, who kept up an incessant chatter as they peeped out at the foreign devils!” The next day, Seymour seized the Bird’s nest fort and then the two Shameen forts guarding the passage. All of the guns they found in the forts were rendered unserviceable.

    When the bombardment of Canton had begun, a hole was made in Canton’s walls and this allowed a detachment of Royal Marines to land and get into the factory sector to protect the inhabitants. Chinese guns on the walls did not fire upon the invaders who all entered the city to an eerie silence. Some Chinese matchlocks did fire upon them but it seems many were antiquated and did no damage. W.t Bates, the captain of the HMS Actaeon planted the Union Jack atop Canton’s wall, and he was joined by an American envoy to Hong Kong, James Keenan who likewise was waving the Stars and Stripes. Now this is an interesting bit, because the US remained neutral during the conflict between China and Britain. James Keenan apparently was shit faced when he did this haha. The British began to move a large cannon through the wall breach and used it to further shell Ye’s residence.. The royal marines and sailors formed posts and barricades with field gun support around certain streets to guard against counter attacks. On October 25th the Chinese forces attacked the British pickets, but were easily repulsed, resulting in 14 casualties for them. On October 27th, the Encounter opened fire on Ye's poor residence as the Barracouta and Sulphur Creek shelled Chinese positions along the hills in the back of Canton. The British forces warned the Chinese civilians to evacuate themselves and their property. On october 28th, the British attacked again, this time from the Dutch Folly where they placed 2 large guns. The shelling of Cantons walls set fires within the city and the next morning the British began firing upon Chinese counter artillery being mounted on the opposite side of the Dutch Folly.

    Seymour then led a 400 man party personally to capture Ye’s residence, but they found it to be abandoned. Seymour reported “the Chinese troops offered little resistance beyond a scattered fire from the streets and houses”, two British were killed with 12 wounded. Seymour did not have nearly enough men to hold Canton, so he soon pulled back to a safer encampment outside the walls, but not before sending Ye a threat “The lives and property of the entire city are at my mercy, and could be destroyed by me at any moment,”. Ye sent an emissary to Parks with a truce offer, but Parkes rebuffed it by making vague threats about allying with the Taiping rebels. It was most likely a bluff, because Bowring personally loathed what he called “the Jacobin like God worshippers”. It seems even Ye knew this to be a bluff as well. Seymour continued his siege of Canton and managed to gain control of all the seagoing traffic in the gulf of Canton by chasing off all the Chinese war junks that came near. Seymour estimated it would take at least 5000 men to hold the city.

    Meanwhile Ye began to really saber rattle, making a proclamation to the residents of Canton to “preserve quiet minds, guard your property, but do not give way to alarm”. It should be noted Ye said this from a very safe hiding place. Well the Chinese and European residents gradually began to desert Canton as Seymour’s bombardment grew more intense and many had to flee for their lives. Snipers inside the city returned fire on the British using antiquated matchlocks, but it amounted to nothing. By the end of October, Ye finally agreed to parley with the British, but still refused to meet them in person, instead sending subordinates, which was most likely also a face saving insult to the British. Bowring demanded in person negotiations and sent Seymour a letter to toss at Ye “In the administration of all matters in China the rule adhered to is that which heaven shows is the right one to pursue: the chief consideration is the people. It is said in The Book of History, ‘Heaven sees as my people see; Heaven hears as my people hear.’ Is this not an additional reason why I should be unable to constrain the people? I must add that as it is the habit of Your Excellency’s nation to adore the spirit of Heaven, it behooves you in my opinion so much the more to conform in your actions to the principle given us by heaven. Let Your Excellency maturely consider this.

    On November the 6th the British seized the French Folly fort along the pearl river near Canton. Enroute to it they ran into a armada of 23 Chinese war junks, but easily sent them into a rout, but at the cost of 1 death and 4 wounded sailors. The battle lasted no more than an hour and Parkes described the defenders as “putting up a very hot resistance, the battle was exceeding creditable to the bravery of not just our men, but of the Chinese also”.

    Just before november the 12th, Seymour sent word to the Qing commanders garrisoning the bogue forts “The British Admiral wishes to spare life, and is not at war with the Chinese; and as it is necessary for him to hold possession of the Bogue Forts, until the conduct of the Viceroy Yeh can be referred to the Emperor of Pekin, one hour will be given for the purpose of clearing out; if this offer is at once accepted, boats will be permitted to pass to and from the main land and the Wantungs. In this case, the forts will remain uninjured, ready to be returned in the same state to the Chinese when these differences are over; and the rebels will neither be allowed to pass the Bogue Forts, nor to enter them whilst in our possession” Seymour waited an hour but received no answer. In truth the Qing commander of the forts could not give an answer, if he did he would be beheaded. On November 12th, a British squadron of 6 ships opened fire on the two Wangtong island forts which were both fully manned, holding over 200 guns. The Qing defenders tossed stink pots at the first Royal marines to enter the forts. The Chinese fired upon the invaders, but as soon as enough British had entered the forts the defenders fled to prepared escape boats. As Seymour described it “the battle was a considerable, though ill-directed resistance of about an hour or so”. The British had one death and 5 wounded aboard the HMS Nankin. The next day the British attacked and captured the Anunghoy forts, each holding 200 guns whereupon Seymour chided “there was some resistance”, there were no casualties.

    The Americans also got to have a go at the Qing at this time. The USS Portsmouth and USS Levant were sailing off the Chinese coast when they received news of the war. The two sloops of war were tasked with protecting American lives and to land 150 marines at Canton to do so. They made a peaceful landing and began to occupy the city. Commodore James Armstrong and Captain Henry Bell came aboard the USS Jacinto, landing additional forces in Canton. On November the 15th the American force withdrew from the city. As they were withdrawing, Commander Andrew Foote of the Portsmouth was rowing to his ship, but as he did so a Chinese garrison fired on his small boat a few times, nearly hitting him. The next day the US marines decided to retaliate against the Qing for what had occurred.

    The Steam frigate USS San Jacinto alongside the two slopes of war made their way up the Pearl River and launched an attack on Canton’s coastal forts, also known as the barrier forts. The USS Portsmouth was the first to fire upon the nearest fort on November 16th. For 2 hours the American bombardment harassed the forts until the forts stopped firing back. Before sending the marines to attack though, the Qing commander and American officials attempted diplomacy, but it failed to reach any result by November 20th. Commodore Armstrong ordered his ships to continue firing upon the forts. During the mayhem the USS Levant received 22 cannonball hits to her sail and hull. Under the cover of their naval bombardment, 287 American troops led by COmmander Andrew Foote landed unopposed. 50 marines led by Captain John Simms spearheaded the attack and they quickly captured the nearest fort and proceeded to unleash its 53 guns to attack the second nearest fort. When the Qing saw the fort was shooting at them they launched a counterattack of 3000 soldiers from Canton. The melee lasted until november 24th, until the combined efforts of the Americans on land and their naval squadron managed to push back the Qing army killing and wounding dozens. The Americans then seized 2 more of the forts and spiked 176 of their guns. It is alleged the Qing had around 250-500 casualties while the Americans suffered 22. The USS Levant lost a man and had 6 wounded during the cannon exchange. Afterwards Armstrong tried diplomacy again and signed an agreement of neutrality between the US and the Qing for the duration of the war. America would respect the agreement until another incident in 1859.

    In the meantime with the siege going on at Canton trade fell apart. Howqua and the other Cohong merchants faced ruin. On november 12th, the Cohong merchants pleaded with Parkes. Howqua explained their impossible position. He said they agreed the British should be allowed to live in Canton outside the factories, but they currently lacked enough firepower to enforce this. Parkes said of the Cohong groveling “Their weight as a class both with [the] authorities and people is far less than we suppose. The people, particularly the rural population, were opposed to our admission.” Nonetheless the Canton stalemate continued till november 17th, when Bowring left for Hong Kong. Bowring reported to the foreign minister lord Clarendon “I have exhausted all the means with which I could influence either the hopes or fears of this incarnation of ancient Chinese pride, ignorance and unteachableness.” The Taiping Rebels heard about the situation and offered military assistance to the British, but the British distrusted them. Towards the end of november a armada of rebel ships with 1500 men showed up to Canton hoping to coordinate an attack on the Qing. Instead the Taiping were met by a British fleet commanded by Captain Keith Stewart. But Parkes did use the Taiping offer to intimidate Ye, telling one of his assistants “partisans of the revolutionary factions had intimated their wish to cooperate in an attack on the city, but that the Admiral had declined all connection with their proceedings.” Parkes added to this that the British decision could change depending on Ye’s actions.

    Ye was making a mistake during all of this, he assumed because of the lack of British manpower that they also lacked resolve. So on November 28th Ye made another proclamation “The English barbarians have attacked the provincial city, and wounded and injured our soldiers and people. Wherefore I herewith distinctly command you to join together to exterminate them, killing them whenever you meet them, whether on shore or in their ships.”. By mid december Ye felt emboldened enough to order the destruction of the foreign factories, but also officially denied any involvement in it. At around midnight of December 14th, some Chinese bearing torches burnt the factories to the ground. The British tried to fight the fires, but were unable to extinguish them. All that remained of the foreign buildings were the British chapel and boathouse in the end. Parkes was in Hong Kong that night, but a member of his staff, Henry Lane died in the fire.

    Ye’s bounties prompted some atrocities to take place on december 29th. The chinese crew of the steamship Thistle, carrying mail from Hong Kong to Canton, mutinied en route and beheaded all 11 european passengers, aided by some other Chinese who had snuck aboard disguised as passengers. The Thistle was set on fire and found drifting into Canton harbor with the headless victims. The heads were brought for reward, at that point its alleged Ye was paying 100$ a head. The Chinese figured out a primitive but effective way of fighting the British. In January of 1857, the Qing launched a flotilla of fire ships containing over 8000 pounds of gunpowder against Seymour’s ships at harbor. The attack failed, but it certainly unnerved Seymor who never expected such retaliation. Seymour sailed out of Canton harbor with 2 ships, the Encounter and Niger and made way for the relative safety of Macao.

    Before making it to Macao, on January the 4th, Seymour took 9 ships to attack and capture the Macao Fort which was located on an islet around 3 miles south of Canton. The Qing threw 70 War junks at the force incorporating an array of strategies such as fire boats, regular naval cannon warfare and using smaller row boats to toss stink pots at the British vessels. The Qing were soon overwhelmed and had to give up on the naval battle, allowing Seymour to claim the fort. On January 15th, 400 residents in Hong Kong got extremely ill after eating bread from the local bakery. The doctors at the scene said it was arsenic poisoning, but the culprit had either not wanted the British to die or was too incompetent to know how to poison properly. Turns out he put so much arsenic in the dough that it forced the victims to throw up the poison and thus led to no fatalities. Bowring’s wife and children were some of the victims and Lady Bowring almost died. This led Bowring to write to the Colonial secretary Labouchere “I beg to apologize if anything should have been forgotten at this last moment. I am shaken by the effects of poison, every member of my family being at this moment suffering from this new attempt upon our lives”. The owner of the bakery went on trial despite the fact his own family was poisoned as well, luckily he was acquitted. Yet the British public demanded justice and they pointing their fingers at Ye Mingchen. Ye Mingchen at the time was hosting Napoleon III’s representative, the Comte de Courcy and said this to the man about the incident “Doubtless there are many Chinese whose hatred against the English has been much increased, but to poison people in this underhand manner is an act worthy of detestation. Whoever he is, the author of this poisoning is an abominable creature, but since he is in [Britishcontrolled] Hong Kong, I find it difficult to proceed against him.” Well the British police in Hong Kong arrested 52 of the Bakery’s employees as Bowring prevented a mob from lynching them. The arrested were jammed into a single room only 15 feet square for 19 days, the jailers simply did not have the space. The prison doctor eventually demanded they be moved to better quarters fearing an outbreak of plague might occur. The public went into a mass hysteria because of the poisoning event and a witch hunt began. It became almost comical, almost 500 arrests were made and some of the charges were simply “the man looked suspicious”. The native population of Hong Kong began to freak out and nearly half of them would leave to immigrate to Australia and California.

    The Arrow incident and Thistle massacre had provided Bowring a justification to increase hostilities. On January the 10th Bowring sent a letter to the Governor General of India, Lord Canning asking for reinforcements, because he thought Seymour’s expeditions in the Gulf of Canton were not providing results. What Bowring really wanted was to seize Canton, in his words “The gate of China is Canton, and unless we can force an entrance there, I believe the difficulties of obtaining any improved position in China will be almost invincible. The valor of H.M. naval forces [is] not able to take the city.” Bowring also stated he had spoken with Seymour and that both men agreed on the necessity for military aid in the form of at least 5000 men with a small amount of artillery. Back home in Britain, parliament anticipated Bowrings requests and on January 31st, before learning of the request Bowring had sent to Canning, ordered Canning to dispatch a regiment and artillery to Canton.

    On February 9th, the foreign minister ordered Seymour to seize the entrance to the Grand Canal which would effectively cut off the capital's rice supply. Beijing could be starved into submission since Seymour’s countless capturing of Forts and victories on the sea had not produced any real response from the Emperor. Bowring was given new orders to obtain new concessions, now Britain wanted; a permanent British ambassadorial presence at Beijing, even more ports and rivers open and the right for British commercial and missionary access to China’s interior. However back in Britain there was great concern for the cost of conflict with China. The Times estimated that a war with China may cost up to 10 million pounds in lost trade and tax revenues. Eventually the leader of the Tories brought a motion of no confidence against the Whig government and in particular against Palmerstons management of the conflict in China. On February 24th, the Tories denounced Bowring and Palmerstons as a quote “bald faced and illegal land grab and the usurpation of an independent nations sovereign powers”. The Torries leader, Earl of Derby said this “I am an advocate for the feeble defenselessness of China against the overpowering might of Great Britain. I am an advocate for weakness against power, for perplexed and bewildered barbarism against the arrogant demands of over-weaning self-styled civilization. The Arrow issue is the most despicable cause of war that has ever occured”. You know its kind of a meme today to mock Britain for being this evil empire for most of history, but instances like this that often go unheard that there were people trying to stop conflict. The more you know as they say. Derby called upon the conscience of the bishops in the House of Lords and his secular colleagues “to declare that they will not sanction the usurpation of the most awful prerogative of the Crown, the declaring of war; that they will not tolerate the destruction of the forts of a friendly country; that they will not tolerate the bombardment and the shelling of a commercial and open city”. Derby was met with a standing ovation for his speech.

    Palmerston managed to influence Lord Shaftebury, a philanthropist and notorious critique of the opium trade, to join his side of the argument. Turns out the prime minister had bribed him by giving him control of the appointments of bishops, such appointments brought with them a cathedral, extensive lands and a salary from rent that allowed many Bishops to live like lords. Yet Shaftesburys conscious was troubled by the situation and he wrote in his diary “A sad result. Right or wrong, the government must be supported to bring these matters to a satisfactory close. Hope and believe that God, having employed [the Prime Minister] as an instrument of good, would maintain him. But his ways are inscrutable. Opium and Christianity could not enter China together.” Now Lord Clarendon had quite a battle on his hands with his opposition, Mr. Derby. Clarendon stood up to give a speech after Derby, but the standing ovation and cheers for Derby persisted heavily. The foreign secretary argued the Arrow was indeed a British vessel and decried the Emperor for not living up to the terms of the Treaty of Nanjing. Clarendon then made a case for military action “I fear that we must come to the conclusion that in dealing with a nation like the Chinese, if we intend to preserve any amicable or useful relations with them, we must make them sensible of the law of force, and must appeal to them in the manner which they alone can appreciate.” Some responses began to pour out such as the tory member, Lord Malmesbury who began to denounce Bowringer as a warmonger who was lying to both Seymour and Ye Mingchen. Lord Ellenborough a former governor general of India tossed at Bowring “that he had disregarded the instructions of four successive secretaries of state, supported, as I supposed he is by an influence with the government which I cannot comprehend”. Ellenborough began to condemn Britain's activities in China on the basis of economic loss. After two days of debate, Derby’s motion was put to a vote. It was 146 against 110, in favor of the current government.

    On the same day the Whigs won out in the house of lords, the commons took up the Arrow registration debate and Bowrings requests for reinforcements to invade Canton. Richard Cobden, a MP from Manchester and a adamant pacifist brought the issue to a motion of no confidence. Cobden argued the seizure of the Arrow was justified and a legitimate exercise of Chinese sovereignty while condemning Bowring’s and Seymou’rs actions. He addressed his colleagues stating Bowrings military actions threatened Britain's commerce in Canton. He ended his speech with this “Is not so venerable an empire as that deserving of some sympathy—at least of some justice—at the hands of conservative England?” The issue of the opium trade was brought up by other MP’s such as Gladstone and Samuel Gregson. Gladstone said “Your greatest and most valuable trade in China is in opium. It is a smuggling trade. It is in the worst, the most pernicious, demoralizing and destructive of all the contraband trades that are carried upon the surface of the globe.” Gladstone and some other MP’s called for negotiations and treaties rather than blockades and bombardments.

    The Whig rebuttal to the Torries came in the form of a speech from the Prime Minister. He argued that when the Qing forces seized the Arrow, they had pulled down the Union Jack. This seems to have enraged more people in the house of commons than the seizure of the Chinese crew, don’t be touching the Union Jack. Palmerston then made a speech rambled about how the opium trade had nothing to do with the situation at hand. But then went on to contradict himself by saying this “The existing restrictions on our commerce are one cause of that trade in opium to which [Cobden and Derby et al.] so dexterously alluded to…We can pay for our purchases only partly in goods, the rest we must pay in opium and silver.” The vote was made, and it came to 263 vs 247 to censure. Queen Victoria then 38 years old and pregnant with her 8th child, confided in her husband Prince Albert “I am grieved at the success of evil party motives, spit and the total lack of patriotism”.

    And so Palmerston dissolved Parliament and decried “there will be no change, and there can be no change, in the policy of the government with respect to China”. Palmerston continue to argue the Arrow was a British ship and that Ye Mingchen was a quote “An insolent barbarian wielding authority at Canton has violated the British flag, broken the engagements of treaties, offered rewards for the heads of British subjects in that part of China, and planned their destruction by murder, assassination and poisons. He is one of the most savage barbarians that ever disgraced a nation. Ye had been guilty of every crime which can degrade and debase human nature.” Kind of overkill don’t you think Palmerston? Palmerston then pointing fingers at the Torries saying their moral high ground was simply an act to force the Whig ministry to fall and not in fact to save China from Britain's war upon her. He then alleged there would be a massacre of all European residents in Canton if the house did not back the war.

    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.

    Rear Admiral Seymour led an onslaught against the city of Canton and multiple Qing forts along their riverways. The British politicians were racking their heads trying to figure out how to proceed, but in the end it seems war will be back on the menu.

  • Last time we spoke about the end of the infamous First Opium War of 1839-1842. The Qing tried to procrastinate as much as they could in the face of a goliath force wrecking havoc upon them. Their cannons were simply outmatched and as a result the British armada was easily brushing aside their war junks and fortifications. Many horrible battles were fought and countless Qing commanders took their own lives in shame after defeat. The closer the British forces got to Beijing the more desperate the Qing became and eventually Emperor Daoguang was forced to send diplomats to negotiate a peace. The result was the infamous treaty of Nanking a utter humiliation for the Qing dynasty, marking the beginning of the century of humiliation for China. Britain grabbed Hong Kong, the Qing would pay 6 million taels of silver in reparation. But the treaty made zero mention of why the war had occurred at all, Mr. Opium. Was Mr. Opium gone..no by no means was he.



    #18 This episode is The Trade of Poison and Pigs



    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.

    So the last time we left off, on October 12th of 1842, the last $6 million dollars of payment reached the British armada and they finally departed from Nanking. The tension between the Chinese and British was still raging however. In fact there would be another skirmish so to say. In november of 1842, opium merchants decided to bring their wives for a trip from Whampoa to Canton violated a Chinese taboo against mixing of sexes. The Chinese residents of Canton seized and burned the Union Jack flying over the British factory there. Defenders of the American factory shot 5 rioters before the Qing police managed to calm things down. Then the shipwrecked survivors of the Ann and Nerbuda were grabbed from jail and beheaded by angry Chinese. This pressed Pottinger to threaten retaliation and soon the viceroy of Canton, Yiliang rushed to the scene to arrest the ringleaders of the executions and sent them to Beijing to be punished.

    The British press, such as the Illustrated London News hailed the Treaty of Nanking as “It secures us a few round millions of dollars and no end of very refreshing tea. It gives an impetus to trade, cedes us one island in perpetuity, and in short puts that sort of climax to the war which satisfies our interests more than our vanity and rather gives over glory a preponderance to gain,”. Now just like the Treaty of Nanking itself, the press made zero mention of the reason for the war in the first place, Mr. Opium. Now with Hong Kong island in the hands of the British, it would be used as an offloading point for opium, go figure. Despite the horror of the war, the demand for the opium was still raging and thus the poisonous relationship between the two empires remained alive. Now not everyone in Britain was jubilant about the situation. The Times of London condemned the opium trade and criticized the treaty of Nanking quite a bit. They went a step further by calling the victors of the war “early victorian vikings” a nickname that would soon denote the raping and pillaging that would occur in the second opium war. Alongside this the Anglican Church members of the Tory party railed against opium. On January the 4th of 1843, Lord Aberdeen, the new boss of Pottingers foreign office told a British envoy to China “The British opium smugglers must receive no protection or support in the prosecution of this illegal speculation”. An order from the Council gave Pottinger the power to quote “forbid the opium traffic in Hong Kong”. For Pottinger’s part, he paid lip service to this by issuing lukewarm threats on August 1st of 1843 ““Opium being an article the traffic in which is well known to be declared illegal and contraband by the laws and Imperial Edicts of China, any person who may take such a step will do so at his own risk, and will, if a British subject, meet with no support or protection from HM Consuls or other officers.”. Officially, at the least and to what degree it mattered, there would be no more gunboat diplomacy nor gunboat protection for opium smugglers.

    Now as you can imagine there were those who saw the dollar bill signs such as Jardine & Matheson who could not help themselves. They were not alone, the British Exchequer also wanted to see tax revenues from the opium trade to balance the budget. At the time of the first opium war, the opium trade accounted for 10% of the Exchequers budget. James Matheson sent a letter to a colleague indicating he was untroubled by the status of parliament and Pottingers tiny threats because he knew it would come to nothing, “The Plenipotentiary [Pottinger] had published a most fiery Edict against smuggling, but I believe it is like the Chinese Edicts, meaning nothing, and only intended for the Saints [High Church Anglicans] in England. Sir Henry never means to act upon it, and no doubt privately considers it a good joke. At any rate, he allows the drug to be landed and stored at Hong Kong.”. And so the opium smugglers simply ignored their homelands attempts to stop them. The opium trade did not just continue it would increase.

    The end of the first Opium War was not the end at all to the opium problem. In fact British parliament was coming to the conclusion the only resolution to the issue was the legalization of opium in China. As countless had done before, many in parliament were shifting culpability to the users and their leaders rather than the dealers. Many blamed Emperor Daoguang, stating he did nothing to halt the distribution and use, which is simply a lie and a dumb one. The Opium smugglers and English textile manufacturers were purchasing the mouths of members of parliament to promote their interests.

    Now back to the “early victorian vikings”, the heroes of the war such as Sir Henry Pottinger well he was rewarded the grant post of Governor of Madras, and an annual pension of 1500 pounds. Charles Elliot was sent to the backwaters of Bermuda, Trinidad and in a rather symbolic fashion ended up in Napoleon's place of exile, St. Helena. Jardine & Matheson both left China and entered parliament as Whig supporters. Jardine died in 1843 to an undiagnosed and painful illness leaving Matheson to represent the seat of Ross and Cromartry in parliament from 1847-1868. Jardines death produced a bit of a myth that he was cursed from the opium trade, but Matheson lived to the ripe age of 91 so take that with a grain of salt. Jardine & Mathesons Qing counter party, Houqua died from diarrhea, so I guess ⅔ could be said to have some sort of curse on them. As for the heroic figure of Lin Zexu, his effigy became a cynosure at a museum with a plaque under his statue stating he destroyed 2.5 million dollars worth of British property without mentioning that the property was opium. The Emperor forgave Lin Zexu in 1845 and allowed him to return to service, but as for Yilibu the Emperor shunned his ass into exile.

    The Treaty of Nanking can be better seen as a truce, or perhaps in the same regard as the treaty of versailles. The interval between the two opium wars was that of an armed truce rather than a peace. After the first opium war, Opium began to get into the port of Shanghai, then onto the Yangtze river which provided a highway for it to infiltrate the Chinese hinterlands. The Chinese population were becoming more and more addicted to the substance as the British traders became more addicted to the profits. The grand vision of the English textiles penetrating China’s market turned out to be a complete waste. The Chinese preferred their own homespun cloth and failed to buy the British products while the British could not stop their increasing demand for Chinese silk and of course Tea. Now while the British addiction to Tea did not result in weeks of den dwelling and intoxication, they were still very much addicted and this contributed to another trade imbalance. Yes the silver was flowing again out of Britain and back to China, by 1857 the British would be paying China 15 million for silk and tea. Despite the enormous demand for Opium, the Chinese were spending 7 million on it, 1.5 million on cotton textiles from India and another 2 million from Britain still leaving Britain to owe back 4.5 million. And the Chinese policy of only accepting silver never changed.

    After the first Opium war, the illicit trade became known as the Poison trade. Around the same time another terrible commerce began nicknamed the Pig trade. The “pigs” in this case were referring to coolies who were either hired or literally kidnapped and forced into indentured servitude overseas. Britain had outlawed such practices back in 1807, but this did not stop the trade and it differed little from African slavery. Interesting thing to note here, the term “shanghaied” was born from this situation. When coolies were drugged up and thrown onto ships often from Shanghai, this is how that term was born. For the Chinese part, often the Qing officials would open up their jails and hand over prisoners. As indicated in a letter complaint to the foreign secretary, lord Malmesbury from a British official in Canton “iniquities scarcely exceeding those practiced on the African coast and on the African middle passage have not been wanting…the jails of China [have been] emptied to supply ‘labour’ to British colonies…hundreds [of coolies] gathered together in barracoons, stripped naked and stamped or painted with the letter C (California), P (Peru) or S (Sandwich Islands) on their breasts, according to destination.” Now the British wanted to keep the poison trade rolling, but the pig trade was really infuriating the Chinese. This led many of the opium merchants to push for action to be made to stop the pig trade. Powerful lobbies pushed the British parliament to enact the Chinese passenger act of 1855. While this act did not outlaw the trade of coolies, what it did do was codify and improve the conditions in which coolies could be transported to their place of labor.

    In 1850 the Daoguang Emperor died and within his will he begged for forgiveness for agreeing to sign the shameful treaty of Nanking. His fourth son became his successor, Xianfeng who was 19 at the time he took the dragon throne. Unlike his more industrious father, Xianfeng did not care much for government. Xianfeng was married to a Manchu princess, but he chose to spend the majority of his time with his concubines, one named Cixi who will become one of the most important figures in modern Chinese history. Cixi participated in the selection for wives for Xianfeng alongside 60 other candidates. She was one of the few candidates chosen to stay and Xianfeng became obsessed with her to the point he spent most of his time in bed with her while taking puffs from his opium pipe, oh yes the emperor even took up the illicit drug. Cixi ended up bearing his only son and this earned her the rank of co-empress with the title of Empress of the Western Palace, Xianfengs actual wife held the title of Empress of the eastern palace.

    As the mother heir, Cixi held enormous influence at the imperial court. Now going way far into the future, Emperor Xianfeng would die in 1861 after a very short life of overindulgence and he would leave his 6 year old son, Zaichun as his successor. A day before his death on his death bed he made an imperial edict that 8 men would act as a regency council to aid his son, later to be enthroned as the Tongzhi emperor. He gave the 8 men power of regency, but indicated their edict must be endorsed by the Noble Consort Yi and the Empress Consort Zhen, these being Empress Dowager Cixi and Empress dowager Ci’an. However Cixi performed a palace coup against the regency council and installed herself and Xianfengs first wife as co-regents, who would rule China until her son came of age. After the death of the co-empress, Cixi ruled China alone until 1908, yeah 1908, this woman was a monolith of modern Chinese history and not looked upon too favorably mind you. Cixi’s was an opium addict which is shocking given the incredible power grab moves she made and the amount of dominance she held over the Qing dynasty. Many historians believe she stuck to an opium maintenance dose that prevented both impairment and withdrawal. Anyways she will be a large part of the story in the future, but I just wanted to give you a taste of her now.

    Meanwhile in China countless disasters were occurring both man made and from mother nature. The high government office of the Qing dynasty which was filled by those who had to pass the rigorous imperial examinations, well that system had guaranteed the competence of the ruling class, but something had changed. Now anyone who had around 800 pounds could get around the examinations and this led a flood of mediocrities, albeit rich ones to come to power. These people proved to be unequal to the responsibilities they had simply purchased and the once industrious and highly educated Qing bureaucracy decayed rapidly. Adding to this was a horrible natural disaster. In 1856 the Huang He River overflowed and destroyed thousands of acres of rice paddies. The capital began to starve and with such a drastic problem came drastic solutions.

    As had happened to China countless times before, the decay of the Imperial court combined with famine amongst the people would lead to one if not the worst rebellion in human history. Now I would to stipulate this here, there is going to be two large events that will both require a number of episodes each, but both events overlap. The Taiping Rebellion of 1850-1864 and the second opium war of 1856-1860. I will be covering both separately and in depth, beginning with the second opium war than the Taiping Rebellion afterwards. However it's impossible to talk about one without the other, so I will sprinkle information here and there and apologize for the tease. Now the Taiping Rebellion is a colossal event in modern Chinese history. It began in the southeastern province of Guangxi. At its zenith the Taiping rebels controlled 17 provinces in south and central China. It was the most destructive civil war in human history causing massive hardship via military action, religio-political repress and retaliations and wide scale famine as a result of mother nature. All told the estimations for deaths because of this civil war are unreal, somewhere between 20 to 30 million people.

    Now like I said I will have an entire mini series on the Taiping Rebellion, so I will not be going into any fine detail, but for now I want to at least explain a bit about why it is going on in the background. The leader of the movement was a man named Hong Xiuquan, the 4th son of a hard working rural family in Guangdong. His family was Hakka, they are a minority group in southern China with a unique culture that differed from Han Chinese. Hong’s family did everything they could to get enough money so their son could get a good education and attempt to pass the first imperial examination in order to become part of the scholar-gentry class. Hong failed his first two attempts and was left humiliated so he left home and went to Canton where he hoped to continue his studies in order to pass a third time around. In Canton Hong came across Protestant missionaries and studied some of the bible under them. When Hong attempted the imperial exam for a third time he failed yet again and because of this he had a nervous breakdown. Hong began to suffer delirium and a series of dreams or what he called visions that would change his life and that of China. He found himself talking with an older bearded man with golden hair and a younger man whom he referred to as “elder brother”. The younger man gave him a magical sword and taught him how to slay demons. Now as I may have mentioned in a previous episode my first degree is in neurobehavioral sciences, but you don’t need a degree in the field of psychology to know Hong probably was schizophrenic. At first he did not associate these weird visions with anything else nor act out, instead he worked for 6 years as a village schoolteacher, still studying to give the imperial examination a 4th go. In 1843 Hong failed the imperial examination a 4th time and it broke him. His ambition to become a member of the scholar Gentry class was shattered and he suffered a full nervous breakdown. He apparently was catatonic for a month and would come out of this stupor sporadically screaming things like “kill the demons”. These demons he spoke of he later identified as the traditional Chinese gods and the Emperor of the Qing dynasty. As he gradually recovered from his breakdown, Hong began to reread Christian texts until he came to the sudden realization that the men in his visions were God and Jesus. With some quasi logically thinking, he began to explain to himself that he failed the imperial examination because he had a greater purpose and because he referred to Jesus as Elder brother in his dreams, he must be the brother of Jesus. Yes folks, Hong Xiuquan the self proclaimed brother of Jesus Christ.

    Hong returned to Canton in 1847 to study the bible more thoroughly under an american southern baptist missionary named Isaacher Roberts. Shortly after he relocated to eastern Guangxi in a rugged area known as Thistle mountain where he began preaching and developing a new doctrine. Many converts flocked to Hong, notably many Hakka’s and other minority groups, hell even triads joined in. The triads of course had inner motivations such as wanting to overthrow the Manchu and reclaim the ming dynasty. Hong afterall was saying they all had to destroy the demons and restore China on the path of righteousness. Now again I don’t want to get into the finer details, but in 1851 Hong began a rebellion using thousands of his converts known as the God Worshippers. Hong’s doctrine was that of opium abstinence and he attracted countless opium addicts to his flock and helped cure them of their addiction. In many ways the Taiping movement was something like a 12 step program for recovering addicts, but it also encompassed so much more. It including communalism, socialism, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor Robinhood mentality and it was quite Marxist. Hong had his forces take all the plunder and funds and pooled it in a common treasury shared equally by members of the collective. Hong advocated to abolish private ownership of land and impose the death penalty on those trying to hold onto their wealth. He also made a long list of taboos including alcohol, gambling, tobacco, prostitution, concubinage, the pig trade and other forms of slavery. And before any of you start screaming at your headphones, by far and large many including Hong did not follow these rules, like I said it was very Marxist, haha shots fired. Hong called his movement the Taiping Tianguo “heavenly kingdom of the great peace” and named himself the heavenly king.

    The Taiping talk of expropriating land scared the hell out of Beijing and even Queen Victoria who received news of the rebellion. The obvious actions took place, the emperor sent forces to quell the insurrection in guangxi province. The emperor sent Zhen Zuchen at the ripe age of 67 to exterminate the rebels. Zhen was a devout Buddhist, but he respected the god worshippers and targeted the Triads. By 1850 China had suffered 4 years of famine, right at the time the emperor began to escalate his attacks on the Taiping. Because of Zhen’s choice of only targeting triads, the emperor choose to bring out of retirement and disgrace none other than Lin Zexu. Lin Zexu was given the task of eliminated the Taiping, but at the ripe age of also 67 he died while en route to Guangxi. Lin Zexu never got his last hurrah chance to redeem himself. So by 1851 the Qing forces performed horribly and were repulsed from Thistle Mountain by the Taiping rebels who were armed with pikes and halberds for the most part. Cool side note, women fought alongside men for the Taiping and there was a real attempt at equality amongst the sexes, keyword attempt.

    Hong eventually adapted the ten commandments for Chinese sensibilities. He named the emperor a false god in his first commandment and added complete obedience to himself and his officers as the 4th. The commandments led Hongs rebel group to become a bonafide theocracy. By the fall of 1851 the Taiping ranks had grown to a whopping million, mostly built up from starving peasants fleeing famine torn areas of Guangxi. The Qing sent forces against them in Thistle mountain only to lose each time. Ironically a major reason the Taiping kept winning battles may have been because of their opium ban. Some sources estimate the Qing military engaging the rebels in this region may have been suffering 90% opium addiction rates, which is insane if thats true. Regardless by september 25th of 1851, Hong felt confident enough to move out and this led his army to conquer vast amounts of territory. By January 12th of 1853 Hong’s forces took the city of Wuchang after blowing up its gates and massacring all the Manchu people they could find deeming them demons. At this point Hong set his eyes on a very grand prize, the old capital of China, Nanjing. Nanjing was being defended by only 7000 Machus alongside 6000 Qing regulars. Hong tossed 80,000 men and women soldiers into a siege of Nanjing on february 28th and after two weeks they blew a hole it Nanjings walls. Now I don’t want to spoil anymore and honestly everything I brutally summarized will be covered much much more indepth, but what you need to know is Hong established his own capital, the heavenly kingdom in Nanjing. He builds up his forces even more, performs wide scale reforms and creates a very large administration. The Taiping become a very real threat to Beijing and honestly could have overthrown the Qing dynasty at multiple points. The Qing for their part in the later 1850’s were not only dealing with the bloodiest civil war the world had ever seen, but we’re fighting western forces cause the second opium war was raging. And that is what I am building towards folks, trying to lay this rather insane 3d chess table of stuff going on simultaneously.

    Now I said it before, but much like the Treaty of Versailles, the Treaty of Nanjing caused more problems than it solved and simply led to another war. China was humiliated by the conditions of the treaty, it surrendered her symbolic and practical forms of sovereignty to Britain. That bitterness was simmering since 1842 and like a powder keg would eventually explode in 1856. In february of 1856, a french priest named Abbe Auguste Chapdelaine, god the old french names are dreadful haha, well Abbe was converting a village called Xilin in the province of Guangxi, ironically in the center of the Taiping rebel control.

    So Mr Abbe was arrested and imprisoned, they tossed him in a cage and set it up in the village square. Chapdelaine was in violation of Chinese law because he was performing missionary work in China’s interior. Another thing that did not help his cause was the fact he shared the same beliefs as the Taiping…well I mean not exactly mind you he was a catholic and the Taiping were on a more protestant footing, but tomato tomato. In fact Mr Abbe and the other Catholic missionaries were appalled by the bastardized proto protestant movement of the Taiping and they actually supported the Qing rule. Abbe was at the wrong place and wrong time so to say. On February 29th of 1856, Abbe was beheaded, dismembered and eviscerated by his executioners whom the rather hysterical French press claimed later took pieces of Abbe and cooked it and ate it, specifically his heart. Historians agree that the cannibalism story here was most likely urban legend.

    The French representative at Canton, Comte de Courcy was powerless and furious. He began sending letters to Cantons viceroy, Ye Mingchen, but took no military action to avenge the death of the priest. It seems Ye Mingchen believed the French had no stomach for a fight, so he sent Comte an insulting reply to his letters explaining that that atrocity was a simple case of mistaken identity “Chapdelaine dressed and spoke like a Chinese, nobody thought him to be french”. Well the French would not be alone in their grievances with the Qing. On October 8th, the 127 ton lorcha, the Arrow, a hybrid ship, it had a British hull but Chinese junk sails, was registered in Hong Kong as a British vessel. But in reality it was owned by a Chinese merchant and manned by a crew of 14 Chinese. Well the Arrow docked in Canton with a cargo of rice from Macao en route for Hong Kong. The Arrow’s figurehead captain was a 21 year old Belfast native named Thomas Kennedy. His role on board was literally just to make the ship seem British owned and operated as British vessels held privileges because of the Treaty of Nanjing.

    Well on that day, Kennedy was not aboard the arrow, he had gone over to another lorcha captained by another figurehead captain named John Leach. Also aboard was Charles Earl, the captain of the Chusan. At 8am the friends were having breakfast when they noticed 2 large Qing warships flying the emperors flag, carrying 60 Qing marines, the ship was heading towards the Arrow. Qing officials boarded the Arrow and arrested her Chinese crew, bound them all and tossed them onto a Qing warship. Leach, Earl and Kennedy jumped into a sampan and rowed towards the warship. To make the situation a bit more fun, a Portuguese lorcha nearby stated later in testimony the Arrow had not had its Union Jack flying. Kennedy would claim the Qing marines pulled down the Union Jack. Regardless when Kennedy got to the warship he began protesting their seizure, but the Qing forces simply sent curses his way. Kennedy tried to smooth things over asking if just 2 of his crew could be allowed to stay on the Arrow as caretakers and the Qing officials agreed and handed 2 men over, but took the other 12 away.

    Now the Arrow might seem an unlikely prize for the Qing to seize since it was just carrying rice, but the Arrow had a dark past so to say. The Arrow had been built by the Chinese as a cargo ship, but it had been captured by pirates then recaptured by Cantons viceroy, Ye Mingchen who sold it at an auction to a comprador employed by a British firm. The comprador registered the Arrow as a British ship, but something the new owner did not look into was changing the existing crew of the ship which included 3 pirates. The Qing would use the presence of these pirates as a justification for seizing 12 of the crew. Later it would turn out the registration had also expired, so by that technicality it was not a British ship at the time also, don’t you hate getting pulled over? Kennedy went crying about the seizure to the acting British consul, Harry Parkes who was the consular official of 4 out of the 5 ports opened by the treaty of Nanjing. The problem of Arrow’s status did not deter Parkes who immediately went on the offensive. Parkes ranted about “the gross insult and violation of national rights the Chinese had committed”. Parkes began arguing about the treaty requiring the Chinese to first ask permission before arresting a Chinese citizen serving on a British registered ship. Parkes demanded that all 12 of the crew be handed over immediately. The Qing commander explained that one of the sailors was the father of a notorious pirate and suspected other of the crew to be pirates, hence he would hold them. When Parkes persisted in his demands, one of the Qing officials slapped him, uh oh.

    The humiliated Parkes, returned to the British consulate and wrote a letter to Ye Mingchen who ontop of being the viceroy of Canton was the viceroy of Guangxi, Guangdong and Imperial commissioner in charge of foreign affairs. “I hasten therefore to lay the case before your excellency Ye, confident that your superior judgment will lead you at once to admit that an insult so publicly committed must be equally publicly atoned. I therefore request your excellency that the men who have been carried away from the Arrow be returned by the captain to that vessel in my presence and if accused of any crime they may then be conveyed to the British consulate, were in conjunction with proper officers deputed by your excellency for the purpose, I shall be prepared to investigate the case”. Now Ye Mingchen was not the kind of Qing bureaucrat to whom adhered to lets say, the fine points of international law. Ye Mingchen had crushed the Taiping rebels within his two provinces of control with great brutality. He had executed every captured Taiping rebel along with their wives and children, sheesh. It is said in Canton alone the butchery was around 200 Taiping per day. Parkes also sent word to his superior, Sir John Bowring, the governor of Hong Kong. Parkes told him the crewmen were flying the Union Jack and deserved the same rights and protections as British subjects. Well Mr. Bowring was super excited at the opportunity that the Arrow’s seizure had provided, he sent word back to Parks “cannot we use the opportunity and carry the city question? If so, I will come up with the whole fleet”. That fleet would consist of 16 men of war and 3 steamships all docked at Hong Kong harbor. Bowring wanted to at least be given permission to move out of the factories and set up shop within Canton proper as pertaining to the treaty of Nanjing. However that part of the treaty was written out properly in English while the Chinese translation literally stated instead that the foreigners and Chinese should remain segregated. The justification for this, we shall call it translation error, was the fact the Qing officials argued there was a ton of xenophobia in Canton. If the British came to live amongst the Cantonese, some might attack or even kill the British, thus segregation was for their protection. Lord Palmerston had given orders not to push the issue of British housing in Canton because he did not think the risks were even worth the reward, but his representatives it seems ignored these orders.

    After two days, Ye Mingchen responded to Parkes letter stating he could free 9 out of the 12 crew, but insisted on keeping the remaining three because they were former pirates. As for the Arrow, Ye claimed the captured crew swore an oath that the ship was Chinese made and owned. Ye sent the 9 crew with the letter as a show of good faith. Now at this point it seems obvious Parkes was looking to make a diplomatic point more so than get back the crew cause he refused to accept custody of them. Instead Parkes sent another letter to Bowring in Hong Kong suggesting the British should retaliate by seizing a Chinese junk, particularly one that was involved in grabbing the arrow. On october 14th, the British gunboat Coramandel boarded a Chinese junk without a fight and towed it to Whampoa. Turns out the British did not really think things through, as the ship ended up being a private craft, not owned by the Qing government. Ye Mingchen simply ignored the matter. Bowring then took the chance to inspect the registration of the Arrow, something Parkes had failed to do. Bowring soon discovered Arrows registry as a British ship had expired on september 27th, so by that technicality, the Qing had not violated British territoriality by seizing her.

    Despite Bowring learning the truth of the matter, this did not change his determination to goad Ye Mingchen into action. Bowring told Parkes to write a letter to the viceroy again on october 21st. This time the letter was an ultimatum. Ye Mingchen was given 24 hours to free all 12 crewmen and to provide an official apology and promise to respect all British shipping in China. If Ye did not comply “her majesty’s naval officers will have recourse to force you to compel complete satisfaction”. Ye Mingchen was in a pickle, while he knew full well the British backed up their threats he also needed to save face. So Ye returned all of the crew, but refused to apologize and offered that in the future he would only consult with foreign interlopers over criminals like the Arrow’s pirates. Ye wrote to Parkes “Hereafter if any lawless characters conceal themselves on board foreign lorchas, you, the said Consul, shall of course be informed of the same by declaration in order that you may act with the Chinese authorities in the management of such affairs,”. Ye also however offered a compromise to avoid similar incidents in the future by adding “Hereafter, Chinese officers will on no account without reason seize and take into custody the people belonging to foreign lorchas, but when Chinese subjects build for themselves vessels, foreigners should not sell registers to them… for it will occasion confusion between native and foreign ships, and render it difficult to distinguish between them.”. Well Ye’s response was just what Parkes and Bowring needed to commence hostilities and that is just what they did.

    On october 23rd, Parkes ordered Rear Admiral Michael Seymour to seize and destroy the 4 barrier forts 5 miles south of Canton on the pearl river. The Coromandal was the first to fire upon one of the forts, the first shot of the second opium war. Two of the forts fired back on the British fleet before ultimately surrendering. 5 Chinese defenders died and they would be the first casualties of the war. Rear Admiral Seymour placed blame on the Chinese for the casualties reporting to Parkes “loss of four or five killed on the part of the Chinese [was] solely arising from their ill-judged resistance to our force.”. Seymours easy victory bolstered Parkes war mongering and drove him to bring the war straight to Ye Mingchen. Parkes wrote to Seymour “should Ye still be contumacious, I think that the residence of his excellency, which is not far from the waterside, should also in that case feel the effects of bombardment”. Yes this guy was pretty much an asshole.

    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.

    Well things got out of hand pretty quickly. The arrow incident while small in scale was just a match to ignite a growing powder keg. As Gandalf said “the board is set, the pieces are moving”. The second opium war had begun.

  • Last time we spoke, the ironclad steam warship Nemesis had made a name for herself wrecking havoc upon the Qing navy. Lin Zexu was dismissed and Qishan began negotiations with the British. Hong Kong island was now under British occupation, Chuanbi fell to the British and it seems a treaty would be ratified but both the Emperor Daoguang and Britain's parliament rejected it forcing Britain to continue its war. The British attacked the Bogue, the First Bar island, Whampoa Island and soon Qishan was rushed to Beijing and cast into chains by the Emperor. Then the British attacked Canton hoping to force the Qing government to come to a deal. Emperor Daoguang was being fed false reports from his officials of the ongoing war, but how long could they delude him until everyone realized this was a serious war?



    This episode is the First Opium War Part 3: treaty of nanjing

    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 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.

    As usual the reports coming back to the emperor were embezzled. It was said the British were stopped at the walls of Canton by the army of General Fang and repelled. In fact, on top of the Qing forces beating back the British it was said a peasant militia had killed thousands of British forcing them to flee Canton. Some went further than this and said the British expedition was on its last legs. Yishan’s report to the Emperor said “the barbarians had begged the chief general that he would implore the great Emperor in their behalf, that he would have mercy upon them, and cause their debts to be repaid them, and graciously permit them to carry on their commerce, when they would immediately withdraw their ships from the Bocca Tigris, and never dare again to raise any disturbance."The Qing court urged the emperor to build upon the great victory and to bring an even larger army into the field against the barbarians.

    Now that the factory quarter was secure, Elliot turned his attention back to Amoy, but he still had a large problem. The British force was full on facing an epidemic of malaria and dysentery causing numerous casualties. The British warships were becoming hospitals for the countless decimated troops. Elliot had to take the force to Hong Kong island to treat the men. On July 21 of 1841 while Elliot was forming plans to attack Amoy a merchantman from India arrived with opium and a copy of the Canton Press. The newspaper read that Elliot had been dismissed by Palmerston on April 30th of 1841! It turned out the British press had vilified Elliot for making truces with the Chinese instead of pushing for a decisive victory. The Canton truce was lambasted because the 6 million was just a fraction of their demands. Elliot sent word back to Palmerston to ask why he was being dismissed and got a reply. “Throughout the whole course of your proceedings, you seem to have considered that my instructions were waste paper, which you might treat with entire disregard, and that you were at full liberty to deal with the interests of your country according to your own fancy.”. Elliot would make a public statement “it has been popularly objected to me that I have cared too much for the Chinese. But I submit that it has been caring more for lasting British honour and substantial British interests to protect a helpless and friendly people”.

    Even Queen victoria made a statement about Elliot when she wrote to her uncle King Leopold of Belgium “All we wanted might have been got, if it had not been for the unaccountably strange conduct of Charles Elliot, who completely disobeyed his instructions and trie to get the lowest terms he could”. Sir Henry Pottinger, a diplomat and veteran of the Afghan wars replaced Elliot as superintendent of Trade and given an annual salary of 6000 pounds, twice that of Elliots to rub it in. Sir William Parker was also sent to be commander in chief and both he and Pottinger held impressive resumes and vast military experience. Pottinger served during the Napoleonic wars as a cabin boy at the age of 12 and then later joined the Indian army. Parker at the age of 31 retired with the rank of captain and a large fortune in prize money from the French ships he captured during the Napoleonic wars. Parker had been spending 15 years on his estate in Litchfield as a gentleman farmer before being called out of retirement by Palmerston.

    Parker and Pottinger arrived in August of 1841 and were met graciously by Charles Elliot before he left with his family back home to England. The opium smugglers were delighted to finally be rid of Charles Elliot and his moralistic distaste for the opium trade. They had hoped the new guys would be more amenable than Elliot and were in for quite a shock. One of the first things Pottinger did was tell the residents of Canton “could allow no consideration connected with mercantile pursuits…to interfere with the strong measures which he might deem necessary, and if they put either themselves or their property in the power of the Chinese authorities, it must be clearly understood to be at their own risk and peril.”. While Elliot was argued to be a Sinophile, Pottinger was the very opposite a Sinophobe. Pottinger did not have any understanding of Chinese culture nor their protocol for saving face in dealings. When the governor of canton came to greet Pottinger in Macao, Pottinger simply sent a subordinate to meet the man insulting him greatly.

    On August 21 of 1841 the British armada was 32 ships strong, with 4 regiments of over 27,000 men aboard them. Pottinger left 1350 men to garrison Hong Kong and sailed for Amoy (present day Xiamen). Amoy was a granite island around 300 miles north of Macao and not really of any value, it was quite barren, but it was closer to Beijing and thus a threat to Emperor Daoguang. Amoy had been fortified by the Qing recently, they built a few batteries on Gulangyu island which lies just off the coast of Amoy and they prepared defenses all along Amoy’s coast. Amoys coast held 96 embrasures and over 200 cannons to defend its harbor. Then the Qing sent a force to garrison it, adding an additional 42 cannons and 10,000 troops. Gulangyu island’s batteries had 76 cannons including some more modern artillery smuggled over from singapore.

    The British armada first made contact with Gulangyu island as it protected the approach to Amoy and the Druid, Blonde and Modeste blasted its fortifications from 400 yards away. As was typical of this war, the cannons at Amoy and Gulangyu were antiquated and in fixed positions. To give you a visual idea of the issue, these cannons could not swivel well, they were basically fixed to the ground, greatly hampering range and accuracy. Thus when the British ships began to bombard them they could not effectively return fire. After 90 minutes of bombardment, the Qing cannons went silent and the British began landing troops without any opposition. Major General Gough disembarked from Nemesis by 3:45pm as Amoy’s batteries were neutralized and 26 chinese war junks in the harbor were put out of commission. Despite the ferocity of the British bombardment , Amoy’s fortresses cannons began opening fire upon the troops and Gough personally led a bayonet charge towards the fortresses southern wall.

    The Qing soldiers on the fort began to fire their matchlocks at the British but were overwhelmed by the enemy's gunfire. Soon many of the Qing soldiers routed and when the Qing commander realized the situation was hopeless he marched straight into the sea committing suicide by drowning himself. The reports going back to Emperor Daoguang were “that the Manchu commander rushed out to drive back the assailants as they landed, fell into the water and died” sort of a positive spin on the story. The British forces scaled the forts walls and opened its gates. Inside the fort the British found a large number of opium pipes lying beside the cannons its alleged. When the British found Amoy’s treasury they found a record indicating that there were thousands of silver taels, but none were to be found. It turned out the Qing officials had snuck the silver out before the British arrived. Pottinger took no time ordering the armada to refit and continue sailing north, now he wanted to make up for Elliot’s giving away of Chusan.

    On September 25 of 1841, the armada assembled to attack the fort of Dinghai on Chusan for a second time. Dinghai was much better fortified than Amoy and held more cannons. Dinghai’s garrison was commanded by General Keo who had a large number of Gingalls. Gingalls are quite interesting and a bit comical to look at. Google one up and you will understand immediately, try to imagine a giant gun that takes a tripod and 2 men to fire. The gingall was one of the most used weapons by the Qing during this part of the century and it was not very effective against the British. The defenders of Dinghai put up an impressive resistance as noted by the British. The British sent the 55th foot to assault them and took the Dinghai fort, losing 2 men with 28 wounded. When General Keo knew the British had won the battle he slit his own throat. The British found 100 iron guns, 36 outdated brass cannons and 540 gingalls in the fort indicated the capability of the Qing military. Pottinger wrote back to Palmerston to make his resolve adamantly clear “under no circumstance will Dinghai and its dependencies be restored to the Qing government, until the whole of the demands of England are not only complied with, but carried into full effect”.

    Catastrophe hit again when the British ship Nerbudda transporting some British and Indian soldiers went aground off Taiwan. The British soldiers fled in lifeboats leaving the Indians behind who spent 5 days on ship until dehydration and starvation forced them to go ashore on rafts. The Qing forces in Taiwan seized them and imprisoned them. In march, an opium ship named the Ann also went aground on Taiwan and 14 of her survivors were imprisoned alongside the Indians from Nerbudda. The Qing officials were desperate for good news and sent reportes to the Emperor that a large naval battle had been won at Taiwan and 2 ships were sunk. Emperor Daoguang was delighted and rewarded the Taiwan officials with honors and silver.

    Meanwhile the British armada left a garrison at Dinghai and sailed for Jintai which lies 10 miles east of the mainland. They began to bombard Jintai’s forts on October 10 and it proved to be a difficult task as its forts were atop a large cliff. Around 4000 Qing troops garrisoned the city, quite a few were Mongol bannermen. Major General Gough sent a force of 15000 men to flank the fort on the cliff while Wellesley and Blenhem covered their march with bombardment. By the afternoon the British had 3 men dead and 16 wounded, but as they allegedly killed several hundred Chinese. Jintai was taken by the late afternoon and the Qing commander Yukien attempted to drown himself, but having failed to do so committed suicide by overdosing on opium. The British captured around 150 cannons and noticed amongst the majority which were antiquated, the usual sort they kept finding, a few were state of the art. The Qing were replicating the British style cannons it seemed. Many prisoners were taken, but Gough had to let them go; he simply did not have enough men to spare to guard them. Yet before letting the POW’s go, the British attempted a rather heinous act. The British marines used their jackknives to cut off the Manchu queues of the Qing prisoners as take away gifts. Before too many of these marines were able to do so, to the credit of Gough he ran to the scene to stop the act.

    After securing Jintai, the British sent Nemesis up the Yung River and soon discovered it was crossable and that they could navigate it to get to Ningbo. On October 13th, the British armada landed troops on Ningbo 10 miles southeast of Jintai. Ningbo’s gates opened for them without a fight as the Royal Irish band played “saint patrick's day in the morning”. The British found the building that held the prisoners from the Kite and burned down the prison. Pottinger wrote to Palmerston that he “looked forward with considerable satisfaction to plundering Ningbo as a reprisal for the maltreatment there of British prisoners” and that is just what he did. The British looted 160,000 in funds and placed a 10% taxation on its citizens. Pottinger also confiscated provisions, Chinese ships, property and the main Pagoda’s bell as a prize sent back to India. The Qing authorities left Ningbo and the British failed to set up any form of police and thus many looters ran rampant, Chinese and British alike. Gough and Parker were livid at the conditions, the inhabitants of Ningbo had opened the gates without a fight and should be left unmolested. They both argued Pottinger was allowing British honour to be stained at Ningbo.

    Now while a lot of these victories seemed easy they were also pyrrhic in nature. Disease continuously reared its ugly head reducing the British troops. Every place they occupied had to be garrisoned and now they were down to 700 able men and had to winter in Ningbo. The humiliated and pissed off citizens of Ningbo began hurling rocks at the occupiers. Soon it became very apparent police were needed at Ningbo and thus a Qing official was set up as the chief of police named Yu Dechang. In reality the British were having Yu Dechang compile a list of the wealthiest residents of Ningbo so they could extort them for more money. Yu was also doing something else, he was spying for the Qing military who was currently massing troops outside Ningbo to retake the city!

    Emperor Daoguang had taken up action as soon as reports came that Ningbo had fallen. He sent his cousin Prince Yijing to recruit an army to “drive the English into the sea”. Prince Yijing was a 48 year old general and a honored veteran of wars against Muslim rebels in Xinjiang province from a decade earlier. Yijing brought with him quite an unlikely band of literary scholars whose expertise lay in confucian teachings and not the art of war. The scholars also happened to be rampant opium addicts and were deemed by the British later to be “weekend warriors”.

    On march 10th of 1842, Yijing had a force of 5000, mostly ill trained intellectual types. When they came to the gate of Ningbo they were met with a head impaled on a pike and a sign reading “this is the head of the Manchu official Lu Tai-lai who came here to obtain military information”. Prince Yijing was enraged and ordered his men to scale the walls and charge the center of the city. However the British had spies of their own who had warned them of the incoming assault force. The British had deliberately left the city's western city gate quasi open in order to give the impression they did not mean to defend it. In truth the western gate had been mined heavily and when the Qing rushed to it, the mines exploded killing many. Over in the southern gate the Qing pushed back some British defenders all the way up to the city center. British soldiers reported that the Qing attacks appeared to be visibly impaired by opium, including their 2nd in command General Zhang Yingyun who was leading the rearguard once the city was breached. In the city center Major General Gough with 150 men and a field artillery piece met Zhang’s force with massive gunfire. The artillery piece, a single howitzer tore the Qing troops to pieces at such a close range. Corpses began to pile apparently 15 feet high blocking the streets if you believe British sources. Not all of the Qing were these intellectual types by the way, there was a volunteer force of 150 aboriginal Chinese from Golden River. This group were not using matchlocks and instead pikes,swords and spears which were their favored weapons traditionally. The 150 unfortunate and very brave souls had rushed the British position and were completely annihilated. The British lost 5 men and reported to have inflicted up to 600 casualties upon the Qing. Bei Qingjiao a literary scholar with the Qing forces reported Zhang to behaving bizarrely during the battle in the city center. Bei reported that Zhang was commanding with an opium pipe in his mouth and collapsed in a narcotic daze. When his men began to rout, Zhang also abandoned the fight by crawling onto a litter and fleeing.

    It was also reported the Qing forces had devised a rather comical military tactic during this battle. In order to destroy the British warships, some of the Qing wanted to throw monkeys holding firecrackers at the ships to set them ablaze. This was not the first time the idea was thought of during the first opium war by the way, though there is little evidence it ever occurred. There was also an idea put forward to sent Chinese merchants with smallpox contaminated meat to weakened the British prior to the attack, but General Yijing vetoed this plan deeming it to be too unethical.

    The battle had a devastating psychological effect on the Qing military. They had suffered nearly 600 casualties and taken nearly no British down with them. The Qing commanders were realizing the British technological superiority was too significant and a defeatist mindset began to set into the Qing military as a whole. For failing to retake Ningbo, Emperor Daoguang sentenced Prince Yijing to death. Prince Yijing would escape death and instead was exiled to Turkestan.

    When the Qing forces made their retreat from Ningbo and sent over 270 Chinese vessels to blockade Jintai, but it seems the commander of that force, Chen Tingchen did not want to risk an invasion and never landed troops. Instead they found a British shipwreck and salvaged pieces from it to sent to Beijing as proof they had won a great naval victory. Having failed to take Ningbo, the Qing began to poison its food supply which prompted the British to attack a village named Tzeki just up the river in retaliation where many Qing soldiers had fled to.

    Pottinger returned to Hong Kong in February of 1842 and found the city transformed since he last saw it. Now it really looked like a westernized city, there was a four mile road, 2 dozen brothels and builders busy constructing everywhere. The tea trade was continuing in Canton and so was the opium trade. It was estimated every 4th ship that stopped at Hong Kong was carrying opium at this point. Another 100 ships were sent to China carrying thousands of troops. Gough went from having a force of 3000 to 10,000. By may of 1842 the hostilities would fire up again.

    On may 18th, the British were sailing further north edging closer to Beijing to put pressure on the Emperor and came across Chapu, a town 75 miles northwest of Chusan island. Major General Gough divided his force of 2220 men into 3 groups with a right and left wing and artillery in the center. The British force landed on Chapu without resistance until they reached a joss house further inland. There were 300 Chinese barricaded inside the joss house who refused to surrender and fired upon the British inflicting casualties. The fight over the joss house went on for many hours as the British stormed parts of Chapu city bombarding its walls with artillery. Gough lost one of his senior officer Lt Colonel Nicholas Tomlinson who died leading a breaching party of the 18th Royal Irish storming the city. Aside from the Joss house fight and the initial breaches the battle went over quite well for the British as the Qing defenders had only seriously guarded one side of the city walls. In Goughs words after the battle “the enemy were completely taken by surprise as usual, they were unprepared for anything except a frontal attack. They gave way on all sides and took to flight, with the exception of a body of some 300 Tartar troops who seized a small joss-house and held it with indomitable pluck and perseverance”.

    The Royal Irish were infuriated at the loss of their commander and wanted to kill POW’s, but British officers intervened. Instead the POW’s were subjugated to having their Manchu queues tied up together in groups of 8 to 10 men and marched in public after the city was officially captured. Despite this many POW’s were bayoneted. When the British found the main Qing barracks they found a horrid scene. The Manchu had a military tradition of not being taken alive and a large force of Manchu had committed suicide after poisoning their wives and children. Black and bloated faces were seen alongside soldiers with slit throats. The British reported 13 dead and 52 wounded taking the city while the Qing they claimed lost thousands.

    Next the British sailed forth to attack Wusong which lay at the mouth of the Yangtze River. By taking Wusong they would be able to cut off the important second capital of Nanking from its riverway. They believed taking Nanking would bring the Qing to the bargaining table and would be easier than an attack on Beijing itself. They could also take Shanghai and cut its tax revenue to Beijing. On June 13th, the British armada made it to Wusong after being fired upon by forts along the Huangbu river, an estuary of the Yangtze which caused 3 deaths. They laid anchor off Wusong and began naval bombardments of its port on June 16th. After a few hours the Qing forts stopped returning fire and the British began landing troops to assault them. As was becoming typical, the Qing defenders had mostly fled during the cannon exchange but some stayed put to meet the invaders such as the Qing commander Chen Huacheng. Chen would go down fighting to the end as the British scaled the fort walls and occupied them. Hundreds of Qing soldiers were killed during the invasion and bombardments and by the late evening Wusong was occupied in full.

    On June 19th, the British marched on Shanghai just a few miles south of Wusong. They found no sign of the enemy there, just 2 pieces of artillery left on the city's walls. The invaders scaled the walls and opened the gates as its residents fled the city. The residents of Shanghai bribed the British with 300,000 dollars to prevent looting, but the British officers simply let their men plunder. An eyewitness saw some of this pillaging go down. A wealthy and respected Qing official named Cao was living in a walled home with a courtyard in the suburbs of Shanghai when some British soldiers kicked down his front door. They began to loot the man's entire food supply and demanded of Cao to show them where he was hiding his silver. They put a knife to his throat and shouted “fan ping! Fan ping!” meaning “foreign cakes” an idiom for silver. Despite their belief the man was hiding silver about, they did not find any. Cao and his family lost all their food and to make matters worse after a few days some Chinese looters came by and stole some food Cao’s family had found. Cao was forced to go door to door begging for food to feed his family, but the city had been picked clean. Cao himself wrote “foreigners have contented themselves with loot and rape, but as the city fell without resistance there has been no general slaughter. They are pressing the people into their service to do all their heavy work, such as shifting gun emplacements and gunpowder. They take anyone, buddhist monks, notables, and well known people”.

    Despite Shanghai's commercial and strategic importance, the British only occupied it for a week before marching towards Nanking. By taking Nanking they hoped to end the entire war, but between them and Nanking was the walled city of Zhengjiang around 50 miles west of Nanking.

    Zhengjiang held around 1583 bannerman and 2700 Green Standard Army troops and by mid july the British were blockading the route between the Yangtze river and the grand canal. On the morning of July 21 the British landed 4 brigades and attacked Zhengjiang from 3 different directions. The 1st brigade of 2310 soldiers and supported by an artillery brigade made a frontal assault attacking a Qing army in front of Zhengjiang’s walls. The 2nd Brigade of 1832 men attacked Zhengjiangs western gate supported by a naval bombardment. The 3rd brigade consisting of 2155 soldiers attacked the northern gate.

    At 7am the British 3rd brigade landed at Beigu mountain and its grenadiers charges the north gate as bannermen atop Zhengjaings walls fired down upon them using gingalls mounted on tripods. The 3rd brigade managed to set up artillery battered the defenders atop the walls who in the haste were trying to fire back with their own artillery. After an hour the artillery of the bannermen were knocked out and the British grenadiers bayonet charged the gate and scaled the walls bringing the fight to the wall tops.

    The British 1st brigade landed and took some highlands near Jinshan and by 8am began to attack the Green standard army stationed outside the walls of Zhengjiang. When the 1st brigade began to battle the Green standard army, the British 2nd brigade stormed the western gate as the armada naval bombarded its walls. There were many houses in front of the western gate which the British occupied and fired from at the wall top defenders. The bannermen atop the walls desperately fired using gingalls upon the invaders but could not stop the British grenadiers from reaching the gate. British engineers blew up bombs using gunpowder at the west gate and it was soon breached.

    The Green Standard army occupied with the 1st british brigade saw the city had been breached and fires were emerging. They assumed the city was a lost cause and the commander of the Green standard army ordered a retreat. Within the city the street fighting was fierce and the British third and second brigades managed to fight towards another pincering the bannermen within the city. The Manchu commander of the bannermen, General Hailin ordered the Manchu to kill themselves rather than fall to the enemy. Again families were poisoned and soldiers strangled or slit their throats. General Hailin gathered up all his court papers into a pile, sat upon the pile and lit himself on fire. Pottinger wrote of this scene “he was worthy of a nobler and better fate”. The non Manchu residents of the city did not share this view however as before his death General Hailin ordered all the non manchu residents executed on charges of treason. I am hardly qualified to explain this, but just know the animosity between the Manchu and Han Chinese at this time was particularly bitter. A poet named Zhu Shiyun who lived on the outskirts of Zhengjiang city gave an account of this event. Of General Hailin he wrote “Hailin was in a very excited state. All over the town he arrested harmless people on the ground that they were in league with the enemy. He handed them over to the Prefect to imprison and flog. It was only at the four gates that he had a cannon pointing outwards. Inside the city his whole activity consisted in arresting passersby on suspicion of their being traitors. Whenever women or children saw Manchu soldiers, they fled in terror, upon which the soldiers ran after them and slew them, announcing to Hailin that they had disposed of traitors , for which he gave them rewards. The Barbarians different and the same were now on both sides of the gates”. The British had around 40 dead, a hundred wounded and allege they killed perhaps a thousand Chinese.

    In contrast to the Manchu led horror, public opinion in the city improved of the invaders on July 24th when the British hung a rapist and looter from their own ranks. They hung placards to the men warning anyone would face the same fate for such crimes. It should be said, both these men happened to be Indian, a noticeable pattern in this war, the blaming of everything upon Indian soldiers. By August 16, a proclamation was made officially forbidding looting oh and on September the 5th opium was proclaimed fully legal and traded to the residents.

    Major General Gough used his artillery to blast holes in Zhengjians walls before taking the army to march onwards, making sure the city could be easily retaken later if need be. With the capture of Zhengjiang, the British gained control over the traffic upon the Yangtze river. The British quickly blockaded the Grand Canal paralyzing the region. The governor of Nanking, Yilibu sent word to the emperor summing up the situation “The Yangtze River is a region like a throat, at which the whole situation of the country is determined. Now they have already cut off our salt and grain transportation and stopped the communication of merchants and travelers. That is not a disease like ringworm, but a trouble in our heart and stomach.”. In addition to all of that, the path to march upon Nanking was now wide open. After that it was Beijing that could be marched upon!

    Emperor Daoguang appointed Yilibu and a Manchu court official named Qiying to negotiate with the British. The emperor gave Qiying plenipotentiary power and ordered both men to do anything necessary to halt the British advance before it reached Beijing. Meanwhile the British were marching towards Nanking with naval forces sailing the river threatening to bombard the city. Yilibu quickly raised the white flag before a shot could be fired. Unlike previous Qing officials, both Yilibu and Qiying recognized the impending disaster should they embellish reports to the emperor. No they knew they had to tell him straight what was occuring to make sure they were not caught doing anything that would bite them in the ass later so to say. One of their first reports back to Emperor Daoguang to explain the situation in Nanking read “should we fail to ease the situation by soothing the barbarians, they will run over our country like beasts, doing anything they like”.

    Yilibu approached the British displaying the typical arrogance the British had become accustomed to in China. Yilibu sent a low ranking soldier to meet Pottinger. Pottinger as you might remember was …well an asshole honesty, a complete sinophobe who knew not much about the rigid Qing protocol and its hierarchical nature, but he knew when he was being insulted. Pottinger declined the low ranking solider and demanded to meet with Yilibu himself, whom he assumed held plenipotentiary power. Pottinger accused the Qing of performing the same ruse they did with Elliot countless times, making promises without the emperors authority so they could just back out of them later. While Yilibu hesitated, Pottinger made a point by ordering attacks on local villages along the Yangtze river. Yilibu did not hold plenipotentiary power however and the Emperor quickly dispatched a seal to give it to him when Yilibu pleaded for it. As Yilibu stalled waiting for the seal, Pottinger brought up the steam warship Queen and trained her guns on the walls of Nanking and began setting up 18 howitzers on the beach to rain hell into the city. Yilibu panicked and sent his subordinate Zhang Xi to meet the British aboard the Queen.

    Zhang Xi took a very aggressive stance with Pottinger demanding he stop his threatening actions or else. Pottinger replied he would attack Beijing after Nanking fell, a blunt message. Zhang Xi retorted that the British military successes were only due to the kindness and forbearance of the Emperor saying “who cannot bear to kill or injure human creatures. But if pushed too far would arm every inhabitant of the great empire to fight off the invaders”. The interpreter Thom looked at Zhang Xi and objected to saying his message to Pottinger and Zhang Xi screamed while pounding the table with his fists an spitting on the floor “you kill people everywhere, plunder goods, and act like rascals; that is very disgraceful; how can you say you are not rebellious?”. Zhang Xi was escorted off the ship after his outburst which honestly could have made the British attack Nanking at any moment, kinda a loose cannon of an official. Luckily on August 9th, Yilibu received the seal of plenipotentiary power just as the British brought Cornwallis into firing range of the city walls and landed troops to camp outside them.

    On August 11, Yilibu offered 3 million off the bat to postpone the British attack upon Nanking, he even said Qiying would bring it himself to Queen Victoria. Pottinger agreed to postpone and begin negotiations. Yilibu then began the classic Chinese ploy of procrastination instead of negotiation. He hoped to weary the enemy down. When Pottinger sent Yilibu a treaty, he pretended to examine it, but in truth was just biding time. Then the British told him they would commence attacks on August 13th. Yilibu was cornered now, he begrudgingly made an appearance aboard the Queen and promised to begin serious negotiations if the British called off the attack. Yilibu and other emissaries met for 4 days traveling back and forth from ship to shore until Yilibu agreed to terms. However despite his potentiary powers, Yilibu argued he still had to send a copy of the treaty to the Emperor for approval. Basically the terms were so terrible he knew he was facing death if he just signed off on them. The British understood Yilibu’s predicament and allowed for this, then they invited him and his colleagues aboard Cornwallis on August 20th to wine and dine them. They served the Chinese tea and cherry brandy and Yilibu and Qiying put on a show of Qing manners by bowing before a painting of Queen Victoria. Macartney, Napier and Amherst probably smiling from their graves.

    While Yilibu awaited Beijing’s approval, Pottingers spoke to him about the opium trade. At first Yilibu refused to discuss the subject all together, until Pottinger told the interpreter to tell him the meeting would be kept secret. Then Yilibu explained the decades of hardship opium had brought upon the Qing dynasty and suggested a common solution. Why could the British simply stop the production of the crop in its held parts of India? Pottinger replied that the Americans, French or some other nation would simply take up the business and added “If your people are virtuous, they will desist from the evil practice; and if your officers are incorruptible, and obey their orders, no opium can enter your country.”. Yilibu quickly realized the opium issue was a deal breaker and dropped the matter.

    Yilibu was under terrible stress, while he was dealing with the British he was simultaneously receiving orders from Beijing to not meet with the British until they sailed away from Nanking. Yilibu ignored these imperial edicts and continued negotiations which was quite brave of him. When the British demanded Fuzhou be opened to British trade, Beijing ordered him not to allow it, but Yilibu ignored that order, also accepting the term.

    The result of the negotiations was the Treaty of Nanking and it represented a total diplomatic defeat for the Qing dynasty. The original demand for 6 million in reparations for the 20,000 chests of confiscated opium and the cost for Britain's war reparations ballooned to a sum of 21 million. That was half of China’s yearly tax revenues back then. Yilibu accepted the amount to be paid in installments. The British gained everything they wanted except for the legalization of the opium trade in China. Despite written instructions from Lord Palmerston to “strongly impress upon the Chinese plenipotentiaries how much it would be to the interest of that Government to legalize the trade,” Pottinger did not press upon the issue after receiving a message from Emperor Daoguang through Yilibu “gainseeking and corrupt men will for profit and sensuality defeat my wishes, but nothing will induce me to derive revenue from the vice and misery of my people.”. The Emperor Daoguang refused to agree to a formal recognition of the treaty and sent another letter to Yilibu to give Pottinger “Our nations have been united by friendly commercial intercourse for 200 years. How then, at this time, are our relations so suddenly changed, as to be the cause of a national quarrel from the spreading of the opium poison? Multitudes of our Chinese subjects consume it, wasting their property and destroying their lives. How is it possible for us to refrain from forbidding our people to use it?”. The Qing government did not want to admit publicly that a shocking amount of the Chinese population were suffering from opium addiction.

    On August 27th of 1842 Beijing approved what it thought to be the complete text of the treaty of nanking. The draft was signed on August 29th aboard the Cornwallis and Yilibu was so sick he had to be carried onto the British ship to sign it. The signatories, Yilibu, Qiying, Parker, Gough and Pottinger gathered in the cabin of Cornwallis as the seals were fixed. A lunch was served afterwards as the Qing banner and Union Jack flew on Cornwallis's masts. Qiying insisted on stuffing Pottinger’s mouth with a candied plum at dessert time stating it was a Manchu custom and symbol of agreement. An English crewmember who witnessed this said “I shall never forget Sir Henry's face determined resignation”. The Qing left after lunch and despite Qiyings playfulness with the plums it masked their despair at the terms of the treaty. The British had agreed to give back Chusan and Amoy after the reparations were paid in full. They demanded access for trade and permanent residence at the ports of Canton, Amoy, Fuzhou, Ningbo and Shanghai. Each port had to have a British consular official and the limited trade through the Cohong system was to be abolished. The pretense that Britain was a tributary inferior nation to the Qing dynasty was to be abolished and now they were to be treated as equal nations. Hong Kong island was to be a permanent British colony and Nanking would be blockaded by Britain's armada until the first reparation payment of 6 million was paid. Yilibu was so terrified of the Emperor he sent an edited version of the Treaty of Nanking to Beijing omitting the points the Emperor and screamed not to allow.

    The British flotilla at Nanking remained for several weeks until the British crews began to all get sick. By october 12 of 1842 the 6 million was paid and the British fleet departed Nanking. Those shipwrecked prisoners from the Ann and Nerbudda would become unfortunate victims. The Daoguang emperor ordered their execution and on August 10th the captives were taken 3 miles outside the city walls and executed. As reported in the Chinese repository a publication in Canton All the rest—one hundred and ninety-seven [prisoners]—were placed at small distances from each other on their knees, their feet in irons and hands manacled behind their backs, thus waiting for the executioners, who went round, and with a kind of two-handed sword cut off their heads without being laid on a block. Afterwards their bodies were all thrown into one grave, and their heads stuck up in cages on the seashore.

    Pottinger threatened retaliation for the massacre but the governor of Canton Yiliang said he arrested the ring leaders and they would be punished at Beijing for their crimes. Back in Britain the Treaty of Nanking was hailed, the Illustrated London News crowned “it secures us a few round millions of dollars and no end of very refreshing tea. It gives an impetus to trade, cedes us one island in perpetuity, and in short puts that sort of climax to the war which satisfies our interests more than our vanity and rather gives over glory a preponderance to gain,”. The London Times hailed it and the British fleet “early victorian vikings”.

    Much like the Treaty, the press made no mention of the reason why the war occurred, ie the illicit opium trade. Now Hong Kong island would fill its function as an offloading point for opium. Despite the Qing governments best efforts, demand in China rose for opium and it continued to flood into China. Many in the British parliament wanted to abolish the trade and many tried. In the end most paid lip service to it. An Order in Council gave Pottinger the power to “forbid the opium traffic in Hong Kong.” Pottinger paid lip service by issuing a lukewarm threat on August 1, 1843: “Opium being an article the traffic in which is well known to be declared illegal and contraband by the laws and Imperial Edicts of China, any person who may take such a step will do so at his own risk, and will, if a British subject, meet with no support or protection from HM Consuls or other officers.” The Opium merchants ignored Britain's sanctions and efforts to stop them were laughable. The Opium trade continued to thrive in China and the end of the First Opium war had done nothing to end the controversy over the illegal trade. Jardine and Mathson both left China and entered parliament as staunch Whig supporters. Their Chinese counterpart Howqua died of diarrhea a year after the signing of the treaty of nanking. Howqua most likely died the richest man on Earth at the time. Lin Zexu was eventually forgiven by the Emperor in 1845 and assigned a new post but died near Canton in 1850 before he could return to service. Emperor Daoguangs wrath over the treaty of Nanking fell unevenly. Qiying was still in his favor, while Yilibu was sent into exile in chains.

    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.

    And so the Qing dynasty sued for peace, but at what cost? The underlying problem had not changed, that of Opium. Could China rid itself of the illicit substance or what conflict rear its ugly head yet again?

  • Last time we spoke, Lin Zexu’s efforts against opium were not going well enough and he was losing favor with Emperor Daoguang and it seems his aggressive actions had brought war upon the Qing dynasty. The British warships proved too formidable, their cannons superior and the Qing were losing territory such as Chusan Island. Even the mighty Dagu forts were no match for the British warships who sailed through Chinese waters uncontested. Qishan began talks with the British, telling them Lin Zexu might be fired at any moment and that he would most likely be his replacement. Elliot faced a hostage crisis yet again with the captives from the Kite being held in Ningbo and had to negotiate a ceasefire in the meantime, but now Britain's most powerful weapon had just arrived in China, the Nemesis.



    This episode is the First Opium War Part 2: The Nemesis Terror

    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 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 emergence of Steam power in the 19th century is somewhat comparable to the emergence of nuclear power in the 20th century. Its power would make its worldwide debut during the First Opium War. The 660 ton steam warship Nemesis was launched in 1839 and arrived in China at the height of the Ningbo prisoner crisis. Nemesis had an iron hull giving it outstanding armor for its time. The coal consumption for the Nemesis was an absolute nightmare and this made it journey from Britain to China quite a slow process as it had to make numerous coal stops. Nemesis arrived to Macao on November 25 of 1840 and soon crossed the Gulf of Canton to sent anchor in Danggu, awaiting the arrival of the man of war Melville. Nemesis arrived at the perfect time to intimidate the Qing as Qishan and the 2 Elliots negotiated. The 3 men would meet aboard the Melville outside Canton harbor on November 29th and Qishan offered some promising news. Governor General Lin Zexu had finally been fired by Emperor Daoguang as a result of not fully eradicating the Opium trade. The Emperor had said to Lin Zexu “Externally you wanted to stop the trade, but it has not been stopped. Internally you wanted to wipe out the outlaws, but they are not cleared away. This has caused the waves of confusion to arise and a thousand interminable disorders. In fact you have been as if your arms were tied, without knowing what to do. It appears that you are no better than a wooden image” ouch. Lin Zexu tried to make his case to the Emperor stating the barbarians were being ruined by dysentery and malaria and predicted they would be unable to maintain the troops so far from their home and soon have to depart. Lin Zexu begged Emperor Daoguang not to give into the barbarians. They would best deploy the military rather than diplomacy. “The more they get the more they demand, and if we do not overcome them by force of arms there will be no end to our troubles. Moreover there is every probability that if the English are not dealt with, other foreigners will soon begin to copy and even outdo them”. Emperor Daoguang angrily replied to this “if anyone is copying, it is you, who are trying to frighten me, just as the English try to frighten you!”.

    And so, Lin Zexu left Canton in disgrace, but while enroute to Beijing he was given orders to return to Canton to assist Qishan in negotiations with the barbarians. The 2 Elliots when hearing about Lin Zexu’s dismissal were quite relieved, they assumed this meant the Emperor was planning to make peace. Charles Elliots at this time would also lose the help of his cousin George Elliot as George had developed heart problems and had to sail back to England. For the negotiations at Canton, Elliot wanted to bring some more intimidation so he gathered some warships and more troops at Canton. Qishan began negotiations on December 4th, by apologizing for the cannon attack on the British by the Bogue forts and as I said previously handed over poor old Stanton. Elliot began negotiations by demanding 4 ports be opened to trade, Shanghai, Ningbo, Fuzhou and Amoy. He also demanded the surrender of an unspecified island, reimbursement for the confiscated opium chest and of course reparations for the war itself, quite a large pill to swallow. Elliot was also hoping such demands would be met quickly, because the British began to fear both France and Russia would begin joining into the war and plying for their own share in its spoils. Qishan agreed to pay 5 million over the course of 12 years, Elliot however wanted 7 million in 6 years and the surrender of at least Amoy and Chusan. The men eventually agreed to 6 million, but Qishan refused any territorial demands. Elliot resorted to threats “there are large forces collected here, and delays must breed amongst them a very great impatience”. Soon Elliot began ordering his troops to go ashore and perform military drills and target practice.

    At the beginning of 1841 negotiations were still stagnant. Then a rumor spread that the Emperor had chosen war and Elliot decided to prepare. On January 5th of 1841, Elliot informed Qishan that if an agreement was not reached within 2 days he would recommence war at 8am on July the 7th. Well no agreement came and Elliot made do with his threat.

    On the morning of July 7th, a force of 1500, soldiers, marines and sailors aboard Madagascar, Enterprize and Nemesis landed at the mouth of the Canton River. Their escort force 4 sailing and 4 steam warships began to bombard the Chuanbi Fort and the walls of Tyocoktow Fort across from Chuanbi. When the 8000 Chinese defenders in the forts saw the British ships they initially screamed at them and waved flags in defiance while they opened fire from their batteries. However the Chinese cannons were all tied down and could not be properly aimed at the invaders and thus after 20 minutes of firing at the barbarians they stopped. When they stopped firing the British took advantage of the cease fire and 2 companies of marines scaled over the walls of the Chuanbi earthen walls at 9:30am. The muddy flats in front of the fort made dragging the artillery pieces a nightmare as the men looked up at the forts to see Qing soldiers screaming and waving flags at them. Yet the British bombardment was targeting the Chinese cannons and soon they were getting knocked out one by one. Many of the Qing soldiers were told the British killed all their prisoners and thus many resisted to the bitter end. A British officer said of the carnage “a frightful scene of slaughter ensued, despite the efforts of the British officers to restrain their men”. By 11am, the Qing banner was lowered by the British whom raised the Union Jack in its place. The British reported they had killed 600 Qing soldiers and took another 100 prisoner. The British reported 30 casualties of their own, but as they put it, not because of any Chinese defender, no only because of accidental explosions from their own overheated artillery pieces. Many Qing defenders fled the city, but Major Pratt of the 26th regiment flanked their retreat forcing many back into the forts. The British warships continued to shell the city killing numerous defenders. Once it looked like Chuanbi was simmering down, the British ships began to fire upon 11 Chinese war junks anchored at the mouth of the river using Congreve rockets. One British officer who witnessed this stated The very first rocket fired from the Nemesis was seen to enter the large junk ... and almost the instant afterwards it blew up with a terrific explosion, launching into eternity every soul on board, and pouring forth its blaze like the mighty rush of fire from a volcano. The instantaneous destruction of the huge body seemed appalling to both sides engaged. The smoke, and flame, and thunder of the explosion, with the broken fragments falling round, and even portions of dissevered bodies scattering as they fell, were enough to strike with awe, if not fear, the stoutest heart that looked upon it”. Both the Chinese artillery on top of the forts as well as the Chinese war junks did not return fire. Instead the defenders were fleeing or jumping overboard to get away from the naval bombardments. The British fired muskets at them as they did so killing many. Inside one of the forts many Qing defenders were becoming burned and horribly disfigured because they antiquated matchlocks gunpowder would often explode on them. The British gunfire only added to their misery. A staff officer who took part in the battle wrote later in life “The slaughter of fugitives is unpleasant, but we are such a handful in the face of so wide a country and so large a force that we should be swept away if we did not deal our enemy a sharp lesson whenever we came in contact.”. As the British warships bombarded the Chinese War junks the Chinese captains fell into a rout scattering into Anson’s Bay just east of Chuanbi. There, the nightmare ship, Nemesis went forward by itself attacking over 15 Chinese war junks. An extremely lucky congreve rocket fired from Nemesis hit one of the war junks powder magazines exploding it to pieces. The 14 other war junks witnessing this continued to scatter and many of their crew jumped overboard to escape. Nemesis did not pursue them any longer and instead steamed up river torching a few war junks as it went along and seizing others before rejoining the armada.

    3 more fort remained operation near Chuanbi and next day the British began to prepare their ships to bombard them, but a white flag was lifted over them and a messenger arrived telling the British Admiral Guan was requesting a 3 day ceasefire so he could speak with Qishan. Charles Elliot was quite mortified by the massacre of Chuanbi and accepted the 3 day cease fire. Elliots soldiers however were livid with this decision and wanted to simply march on Canton. To alleviate the men, Elliot ordered them to demolish the walls of Chuanbi and the Tycocktow forts. Qishan then met with Elliot to negotiate at the Lotus Flower Wall due south of Canton city. Elliot brought with him a show of force, 56 royal marine, a 15 member fife and drum band and Captain Rosamel commander of a French corvette named Danaide. Inviting the French captain was a diplomatic courtesy and a method of keeping an eye on the French whom the British like I said feared might take a shot at the spoils of war. Qishan performed the customary wining and dining of Elliot and his entourage and eventually they began their diplomacy again. By January 20th they agreed to what has become known as the Chuanbi Convention. The British agreed to purchase Hong Kong island for 6 million and the Chinese would pay 6 million for the war reparations, sort of a swap in other words. Both nations would exchange ambassadors and now contact between the nations would be direct and official, no more tributary status. Above all else trade would resume and the British would hand over all the forts and places they had captured, including Chusan island. Qishan presumed Emperor Daoguang and his Qing court would agree to these terms and even made plans to exhort the 6 million in reparations directly from the Hong merchants to sweeten the deal. Elliot had to assume Britain would be pleased, because messages took a long time to get back home, but in fact Palmerston and others in Parliament were quite livid Elliot did not get the 20,000 opium chest amount and the war reparation amount they had demanded. The British foreign minister said of the Chaunbi settlement “after all, our naval power is so strong that we can tell the Emperor what we mean to hold, rather than that he should say what we would cede”.Emperor Daoguang was so pised off when he found out about the Hong Kong cession he recalled Qishan immediately to Beijing and ordered the execution of Charles Elliot. Elliot would eventually received word from Parliament about the Chuanbi convention and the it turned out the British government refused to ratify the agreement, uh oh.

    On the same day the Chuanbi convention was signed, January 20th of 1841, Emperor Daoguang ordered Qishan to stop negotiations with the barbarians, because he was sending reinforcements to Canton from the interior. Thousands of Qing troops were enroute under the command of a 70 year old general named Yang Fang. Yang Fang was so old, it was alleged he was deaf and had to give his men orders in writing. The Emperor also sent with him his cousin Yishan as a new diplomat. Charles Elliot was completely aloof at the looming conflict, nor the Emperor's rejection of the Chuanbi agreement. On January 26th Lt Colonel George Burell occupied Hong Kong island in accordance with the Chuanbi agreement. Similar to the Chusan island situation, Elliot allowed opium to be stored on Hong Kong island. In a letter at the time from Matheson to Jardine he mentioned “Elliot says that he sees no objection to our storing opium there, and as soon as the Chinese New Year holidays are over I shall set about building”. Soon Matheson began building an enormous stone fortress in Hong Kong and moved the companies HQ there.

    Hong Kong became a brilliant new jewel in the crown of her Majesty. It held a deep harbor and a very small population that would not give too much trouble. The British were overjoyed to leave the malaria dysentery filled nightmare of Chusan for Hong Kong. By February 1st, Charles Elliot proclaimed Hong Kong island an official British territory and its residents subjects under the crown, something the Chuanbi convention never stipulated.

    Elliot met Qishan again, this time at a place called Second Bar, a small island 20 miles southeast of Canton to put the imperial seal upon the Convention of Chuanbi. Qishan informed Elliot that he had been fired and that the Emperor was pissed off like hell much to the shock of Elliot. Qing soldiers began to mass around the Bogue and as noted by Commodore James Bremmer in his military dispatch “I must confess that from this moment my faith in the sincerity of the Chinese Commissioner was completely destroyed, my doubts were also strengthened by the reports of the Officers I sent up to the place of meeting, who stated that military works on a great scale were in progress, troops collected on the heights, and camps protected by entrenchments, arising on both sides of the river, and that the island of North Wangtong had become a mass of cannon”

    Elliot decided yet again to take up arms. On february 26, the Modeste, Druid, Wellesley, Queen and Melville began to bombard the forts on Wangtong and Anunghoi island on the Bogue. There were 3 forts on Anunghoi island holding 42, 60 and 40 cannons atop them each. The warship Blenheim alongside Melville, Queen, and four rocket boats approached the southernmost fort, dropped anchor 600 yards away, and fired their broadsides. The Melville approached five minutes later and within 400 yards of the fort, and fired broadsides in quick succession. A British officer who witnessed the scene said "The firing of these ships was most splendid: nothing could withstand their deadly aim ... One or two shot were sufficient for the 'dragon-hearted' defenders of the north fort, who, 'letting' off their guns, fled up the hills." The 3 forts cannons were stationary guns set at such a high elevation that when they return fired they were only able to hit the topsails of the British ships. The Chinese return fire lasted only 15 minutes, by 1:20 pm the forts stopped returning fire and 300 Royal Marines stormed the forts. By 1:30 pm, the 3 forts were captured 250 killed or wounded in Anunghoy.

    Over on Wangtong island there was 40 gun fort on its western side called Yong’an Fort. Between this fort and the forts on Anunghoi was a large boom chain cable to stop warships and passage could not be made until all the forts were taken. Commodore Bremer aboard his flagship Wellesley alongside 7 other warships began to bombard the fort and its batteries and in less than an hour the Chinese stopped firing back. By 1:30pm Major Thomas Simson Pratt commanded 1037 troops to storm the beach of the island. In the words of British officer Edward Belcher “Opposition there was none. The unfortunate Chinese literally crammed the trenches, begging or mercy. I wish I could add that it was granted”. Belcher also alleges some Indian soldiers would begin executing prisoners when he personally tried to stop them “two were shot down whilst holding my shirt, and my gig’s crew, perceiving, my danger, dragged me away exclaiming ‘they will shoot you next sir!”. There were around 2000 Qing defenders on the island and it is estimated 250 were killed and or wounded. The British claim to have only 5 casualties. When the British and Indian force entered the forts they found that the defenders had most likely fled the moment the battle began. Within 2 hours, the forts on Anunghoi and Wangtong were seized with minimal effort. Charles Elliot stated he had almost died in the battle from a Chinese cannonball that nearly hit him as he sat reclined in a hammock on the deck of his ship. You can’t make that stuff up…or perhaps you really can if you are the British during the 19th century trying to show off. Honestly folks, when I give reports from this war, a lot of it comes from British primary sources and I can assure you they are embellishing the shit out of it. A thousand Chinese were taken prisoner. Admiral Guan’s body lay among the defenders, a bayonet in his chest. The British gave the old warrior a cannon salute from the warship Blenheim when his family retrieved the body and sailed off with it. With the fall of the Bogue forts, the mouth of the Canton River and the gateway to Canton belonged to the British. Lin Zexu wrote of the event "I got home at the Hour of the Monkey [that is 3 p.m.] ... and when night came heard that the Bogue forts and those on Wangtong Island were being invested, preparatory to attack, by the English rebels. I at once went with Deng to Qishan's office and at the Hour of the Rat [that is 11 p.m.] we heard that the Wangtong, Yung-an and Kung-ku forts have fallen. All night I could not sleep."

    On February 27, Elliot made his way up the Canton River aboard Nemesis when they came across the warship Cambridge which was in trouble. Cambridge had been captured and surrounded by Chinese War junks. When Nemesis alongside some other British steamers approached, the Chinese war junks opened fired on them. When the British ships managed to maneuver into a position where they could fire broadsides they sent a tremendous volley. Added to the shells were congreve rockets which set fires to many of the war junks. The Cambridge was also opening fire upon the British as Chinese crews were operating her. The British bombardment after an hour soon sent the ships scattering about and many of their crews jumped overboard. On the sides of the river were some earthworks defense with batteries and British troops began to land and stormed their positions. Captain Thomas Herbert of warship Calliope said of the event “I landed with the seamen and marines and stormed the works, driving before us upwards of 2 thousand of their best troops, and killing nearly 300”. Lt John Elliot Bingham of the Modeste wrote “As the enemy fled before Lt Stranshams party, they attempted to cross a deep branch of the river in which numbers of them perished and many were shot”. Thus the British claimed to have killed 300 Chinese during this battle near the First Bar Island on the Pearl River at the cost of losing 1 man with a couple wounded. The day after the battle Lin Zexu wrote "I hear that yesterday the English rebels broke resistance at Wu-yung. The regulars from Hunan were stationed there, and had heavy losses, their Commander Hsiang-fu being also among the killed."

    After the battle was over the British realized they could not tow the Cambridge, so Elliot ordered the ship scuttled. During the firing upon the Chinese war junks, a British sailor died when his musket exploded in his hands. Elliot awaited some other ships and men before continuing to sail towards Canton.

    On March the 2nd, Commodore Bremer dispatched a force to prod Whampoa Island which held a battery of around 25 cannons and had around 250 Qing troops defending it. The smaller naval force of 3 British warships bombarded the island destroying the cannons and defensive structures with ease. The marines who stormed the island reported around 20 dead defenders and lost a man to grapeshot. Lin Zexu wrote in his diary on the day of the battle “I hear that the English rebel ships have already forced their way to the fort at Lieh-te. Early in the morning I went to talk things over at the General office in the Monastery of the Giant Buddha”.

    As the armada made its approach to the city the 10,000 civilians fled, including Lin Zexu’s family. An American merchant in Canton wrote of the scene “Canton never looked so desolate. The hatred of those who had not fled registered in their faces. They scowl upon every one of us in a way indicative of a greater dislike than I have ever before observed”. Cantons harbor was too shallow for the Nemesis to dock, so Elliot took her completely alone up the Canton river and back down destroying apparently a few forts and 9 Chinese war junks. If that is to be believed, Nemesis truly lived up to its name wow.

    Poor Qishan was again recalled to Beijing to be punished. He was not only recalled, but arrested and cast into chains. He made it to Beijing by March 12th and his entire fortune of 425,000 acres of land, 135,000 ounces of gold and 10 million in cash was taken from him by Emperor Daoguang. Luckily for Qishan his death sentence was reversed by the Emperor to just hard labor at a military encampment near China’s northernmost border with Russia. Lin Zexu did not receive blame for the military blunders and instead remained in power at Canton. The reason as to why this came to be might be because Lin Zexu was as guilty as every other Qing official in sending the Emperor very embellished stories about the war. “Our regular troops sank 2 of their dinghies and shattered the mainmast of one of their warhips after which they retired”. Like the other officials playing broken telephone, Lin Zexu also feared the Emperors wrath and for good reason. By March 13, the rest of the British armada arrived outside Canton and began to blow all the Chinese ships to pieces within the harbor. The armada also bombarded the city's walls knocking out its cannons. On march 19, British marines and sailors landed near the foreign factories district forcing Chinese defenders there to pull back giving no resistance. The next day the British occupied their old English factory and planted the Union Jack back upon its roof.

    Our old friend Houqua came to Elliot at the English factory begging for a truce on behalf of General Fang. Elliot greeted Houque kindly and agreed, he also told everyone in Canton that trade was to be restored. The months of the opium smugglers were watering at this, but Elliot then dictated that all the opium found on any British ship was to be confiscated. Elliot was trying to make it known they were here for the tea trade and to show Britain was going to be on its best behavior. Unbeknownst to Elliot, the truce was a feint. For the next few days, the British watched Chinese ships full of Qing soldiers sail past the factories vantage point.

    Despite Elliots talk of confiscating all opium, the smugglers were more bold than ever. With the British armada as armed guards, the smuggler ships came in some carrying more than 1000 chests each! Elliot was furious and tried to stop the opium vessels from unloading their cargo in Canton, but the merchants simply ignored him. Elliot feared getting chewed up by members at parliament if he molested the dealers anymore, knowing full well parliament had a ton of opium lobbyists working full time. Its actually scarily like current governments today. Some, albeit I bet a few politicians in the congress/senates/parliaments of large nations today actually want to put a stop to the worlds most horrible troubles, but lobbyists are a powerful force and when your political job is at stack…well like Mr. Elliot, how much do you put your neck out on the line? Also Elliot had greater issues to worry about, when the British took back the factory the Qing officials set a price upon the heads of any British citizen and a king's ransom of 50,000 for Elliot's head.

    Ever since the first battle at the Bogue, Qishan and Lin were both sending reports to Emperor Daoguang about how the war was going. Lin Zexu was sending amazing tales of Qing victories, all fabrications. Qishan was sending report, of how corrupt the Qing military had become and how it had fallen to such lengths it could not hope to match the barbarians. Qishan counseled strategic surrender and hinted towards resuming the opium trade. Well we all know what happened to Qishan for his more honest words on military matters. General Yang Fang also urged the Emperor to allow the opium trade to continue arguing that if the British occupied themselves with making money, they would have little time or any desire for war. The Emperor replied to General Fang “If trade were the solution to the problem, why would it be necessary to transfer and dispatch generals and troops?”. Emperor Daoguang ordered General Fang and his colleagues Ishand and Longwen to take back Hong Kong island. By late March, Elliot had decided the next target was to be Amoy, around 400 miles northeast of Canton. Elliot thought it would be a good time to attack Amoy in May, but in the meantime he fell quite ill while in Macao. In the meantime he was receiving intelligence reports from Canton that the city was being surrounded by more and more Qing troops. It seemed General Fang was amassing forces trying to bring the British back to the peace table. Elliot headed the show of military might by putting off the Amoy plans and concentrating on arming Canton.

    On May 11th, Elliot took Nemesis over to Canton and quickly saw the Chinese were building fortifications outfitted with new cannons. He also saw the Chinese navy was increasing its presence in the area. To that end he sent a letter to the governor asking they cease military preparations but received no word back. On May 21st, Elliot ordered the British and even urged the Americans to leave the factory quarter. All of the British quickly left, just a few Americans stayed and in less than 24 hours the factory quarter was shelled by the Chinese military from the opposite side of the river. The Chinese then began sending fireboats from the river at the nearby British warships. Elliot had Nemesis begin bombarding the Chinese war junks nearby which were using the fireships as cover. The fireships failed to hit any of the British vessels and instead ran into shorelines setting parts of Canton ablaze. Nemesis began firing on fortifications and Chinese artillery positions and by the morning the battle over the sea dissipated.

    On May 25th, Nemesis escorting 70 other vessels full of thousands of troops made its way to Tsingpu, 2 miles northwest of Canton proper. Tsingpu had a natural harbor from which the British formed a beach head to assemble its forces and equipment. The military strategy involved multiple ships bombarding differing parts of Cantons defenses and 2 invasion forces. The first force which I will call right force was led by the warship Atalanta consisting of 330 men of the 26th Cameronians, Madras Artillery and some Engineers. They were going to bombard the south walls of Canton while they landed troops at the factory quarter to occupy it. The other force was that of Nemesis which landed at Tsingpu, designated as left force consisting of 6000 men with various troops such as the 49th foot, 27th Madras infantry, some Bengal Volunteers and 380 Royal marines.

    Leading left force was Major General Hugh Gough whom performed a reconnaissance of the area and said “the heights to the north of Canton were crowned by 4 strong forts and the city walls, which run over the southern extremity of these heights, appeared to be about 3 miles and a half distant”. Basically if you had a map, which can be found of this battle the left force has landed northwest of Canton. To its east lies various hills and forts that protect the approach to the large wall defense of Canton city. There were 4 large forts each holding various cannons and troops.

    Gough’s force at 3am was being fired upon by the 2 most western forts of the 4. Then the British managed to place their artillery, 12 pounder howitzers, 9 pounder artillery pieces, half a pound mortars and a ton of Congreve rockets. The British began to fire back upon the 2 western first and cover of fire, Lt Colonel Morris of the 49th advanced up a hill towards the nearest fort, while Major General Burrell led the 18th royal Irish to support his flank. While this was occurring, the Qing sent a large force to hit the right flank, but General Gough saw this coming and ordered some royal marines to close the flank up. With their land based artillery and warships bombarding, the left force was able to capture all 4 forts taking light casualties and when they occupied the forts they held a vantage point looking into Canton city.

    On may the 25th Goughs force began setting up around these 4 forts, they saw an incoming force coming from the northeast of around 4000 Qing soldiers. They were advancing through an open paddy field and attacked the British 49th at 3pm. The 49th were putting up a good fight, but then General Yang Fang showed up to the scene rallying the troops trying to overwhelm the 49th. Gough quickly ordered the 18th division with some royal marines to reinforce the 49th position and placed Major General Burrell in charge of repelling the enemy. The fighting was intense, but the British force managed to rout the enemy and in turn burnt down their military encampments.

    By the early morning of may 26th, Gough had prepared his men for an invasion of Canton’s city walls, but at 10:00am a white flag appeared overhead. Gough sent the British interpreter Thoms to find out what the Qing wanted. The Qing envoy begged for hostilities to end, Gough agreed to a ceasefire, but said through Thoms that he would only negotiate with the commander of the Qing forces in Canton. "I had it explained that, as General commanding the British, I would treat with none but the General commanding the Chinese troops, that we came before Canton much against the wishes of the British nation, but that repeated insults and breaches of faith had compelled us to make the present movement, and that I would cease from hostilities for two hours to enable their General to meet me and Sir Le Fleming Senhouse.". No Qing commander came forward, so Gough resumed preparations to attack Cantons walls. Then 7am the next morning, just as the British artillery was getting ready to fire, another white flag was raised and some Qing soldiers were shouting the name of Charles Elliot. It turned out the reason they were shouting this was because Elliot had been negotiating with the Qing during the course of the battle.

    Now since may the 26 Major General Gough was in a standstill position. His forces were occupying those 4 forts north of Canton city’s walls and his transport ships were over at the beach head some 5 miles west of him. So there was Gough with 6000 soldiers just loitering about in the blazing hot sun, basically in the middle of some paddy fields north of Canton. You wont hear from this from my main source which I will add seems to be quite skewed to the British side, but a minor incident occurred. A local villager named Wei Shaoguang accused a British soldier had raped his wife. The local village populace became enraged and soon a crowd of over 10,000 began swarming around the British position. They were armed with pikes, swords and all the common village weapons you can think of. To make matters worse for some of the British, many of their muskets were sodden because of the marshy paddy field geography and were failing to fire when villagers attacked. A 2 hour long siege occurred and the British had to withdraw to one of the western forts which was soon surrounded. Gough sent word to the governor of Canton Yu Baochun telling him if the villagers did not stop the siege his force would commence an attack upon Canton city. Yu tried to stop the villagers, only to be labeled a traitor to the people of Canton. It sounds like a lackluster event, but it actually is the beginning of a larger issue. The villagers had taken matters into their own hands to deal with the foreign invaders because they saw their Qing government appeasing them. This feeling that the Qing were weak or not doing enough would feed into multiple movements that would later break the Qing dynasty.

    Then on May 29th, General Fang broke the ceasefire and ordered his men to suddenly attack, shouting “exterminate the rebels!”. Fire rafts were launched at the nearby British warships docked at Whampoa, but failed to do any damage. Stinkpots were tossed at British warships and some war junks tried using grappling hooks to board them. Some of Fang’s forces broke into the factory quarter and began to pillage it. The British in response sent ships up the Pearl River to bombard the walls of Canton, but no soldiers were sent in to invade the city. The secret reason as to why was because at this point the British troops were being decimated by dysentery. In reality the British had some 2500 able fighting men to face off against a possible Qing force of 20,000 within Canton city. Luckily for the British their warships bombardments were enough to draw out a truce agreement.

    Now the Qing agreed to pay 6 million in the course of 7 days if the British promised not to sack Canton. The Qing military would pull back at least 60 miles from Canton and the British would pull back to the Bogue and occupy the forts there. There still remained major issues, the status of the opium trade and that of Hong Kong island, trade was still not resumed and the compensation for the 20,000 opium chests confiscated. The British knew the situation was tense and ignored these issues for now to allow Canton to normalize again. The British also made sure to avoid mentions of a military victory over the Chinese as they wanted the Emperor to save face and thus be more likely to accept their deal.

    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 attacked Chaunbi, Bogue, the First Bar island, Whampoa Island and now Canton in their war to bring the Qing government to meet their demands. It seemed by taking Canton a treaty might be formed at long last and perhaps peace could be restored.

  • Last time we spoke, Lin Zexu had brought the foreign barbarians to their knees and Elliot was forced to hand over 20,000 chests of opium. Lin zexu destroyed the illicit substance riding his nation of its filth. Elliot made a terrible error when he told the opium merchants the British government would compensate them for the confiscated contraband. This would all lead to Captain Henry Smith of the Volage firing the first shot of the First Opium War. Britain was in a financial bind, they needed their tea fix and China was closing off trade to them. How was Britain going to compensate the opium merchants and open up China to keep the tea flowing?

    That is when Thomas Macaulay made the suggestion to Lord Palmerston, a rather out of the box idea. Why not make China pay for it all.



    This episode is the First Opium War Part 1

    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’s attempt to send a letter to Queen Victoria proved to be a failure, no one cared. But back in China Lin Zexu’s war against Opium earned him a promotion. He went from high commissioner to taking Deng Tingzhen’s title as Governor-General. This seems to have bolstered Lin Zexu’s resolve to deal with the foreign barbarians as he wrote at the time “Only by knowing their strengths and their weaknesses can we find the right to restrain them”. Lin Zexu shared his countrymens contempt for the foreigners, but he knew he had to learn more about this enemy in order to defeat them. Lin Zexu was a scholar and had a practical mindset for how to go about the task. Lin Zexu began by buying the British warship Cambridge for use to the Chinese navy and anchored it around the mouth of the Canton River. The only problem was that Elliot made sure to order all of Cambridge's cannons removed before it was sold and the Chinese sailors were unable to properly sail the vessel, thus it was literally towed to the canton river.

    By spring of 1840, there were only a few small limited battles between the Chinese junks and some British vessels still attempting to smuggle opium into canton. Elliot decided the first course of action was to map the Yangtze river so he could provide good intelligence to the incoming British force. He sent a ship from Jardine Matheson & Co called the Hellas, unbeknownst to Elliot, Matheson told its captain Frederick Jauncey to try and sell opium while they navigated the Yangtze to hedge his profits. The Hellas ran into trouble on May 22nd of 1840 when Captain Jauncey ran into what he originally thought were just a few Chinese merchant ships, but were in fact 8 war junks. They opened fire on Hellas and attempted to ram and board her, but Hellas was able to keep the fire fight at a distance until some strong wind picked up allowing Hellas to make an escape. Captain Jauncey earned a broken jaw and almost lost an eye during the battle and a few of his crew were hurt, but there were no fatalities. By the end of May the Hellas limped back to Macao for some medical treatment. On June the 8th, a Chinese fleet of fireships loaded to the brim with gunpowder were sent into the British ships anchored at Capsingmum some 45 miles east of Macao. Many of the British vessels fled for their lives, but the warships, Volage, Druid and Hyacinth rushed forward to stop the fireship attack. They used grappling hooks to tie up the fireships from a distance and towed them away from the rest of the British flotilla thus saving them all. The next day, the long awaited British force Palmerston promised finally arrived in Chinese waters. There was a scarcity of sailors hindering what could be amassed for hte China expeditionary force, due to the ongoing wars and other operations against the French in the mediterranean sea and the forces of Mohammed Ali in Egypt. By the end of June 17 men of war had assembled including 3 line of battle ships, the Wellesley, Melville and Blenheim. The East India Company also lent a hand providing 4 armed merchantmen steamers, the Enterprize, Madagascar, Atalanta and Queen. Following behind the force was 27 troopships carrying the 18th Royal Irish, the 49th Bengal Volunteers, the 26th Cameronians,a corps of Bengal engineers, and another corps of Madras sappers and miners. On its way to catch up to this force was British most devastating weapon, a brand new ocean-going Iron warship, the first of its kind named Nemesis. She was launched in 1839 and deployed to China as her first operation. She was powered by 2 60 horsepower Forrester engines and armed with 2 pivot mounted 32 pounders and 6 6pounder guns. She had watertight bulkhead, the first to be used for a warship at the time enabling her to survive a lot of hull damage. It goes without saying this one warship will have a daunting part to play in this story and the Chinese would nickname her “devil ship”.

    The British armada did not just bring military assistance, it also was secretly carrying more opium, because of course why not. Over 10 thousand chests were snuck away aboard the ships ready to flood the Chinese market. The large British naval presence would allow the smugglers to offload their opium at Lintin during broad daylight with impunity. The armada gathered itself at Singapore to devise a strategy going forward. There in Singapore, the marines practiced amphibious assaults while Chinese war junks in the distance observed from a distance. By June 1 of 1840 enough warships had gathered at Singapore to launch the invasion of the Qing dynasty. So on June 16 the first ship, a steamer named Madagascar entered the Gulf of Canton followed a bit later by a large part of the armada. Aboard the Wellesley, captain Elliot met with the commander of the expeditionary force, Commodore Sir J. J Gordon Bremer and they discussed strategy. Jardine had made a proposal, to commit some warships to blockade the entire eastern and southern coasts of China and seize the island of Chusan. Jardine argued they should also blockade the mouth of the Bei He River which flowed into the Yangtze, the waterway for food and other shipments directly to Beijing. Chusan island was a critical depot for the Qing, more than a quarter million ton of grain pass through it to go to Beijing to feed the capital. Depriving the capital of a major food source and revenue would bring the Chinese to a peace settlement and thus a British victory.

    The British Admiralty’s Sir John Barrow thought Jardine’s proposal was too much, threatening the Qing capital would just result in the Chinese digging in deeper to defend themselves and not bring them to the peace table. Barrow argued they should focus around the gulf of canton, shell the city and seize Hong Kong. Charles Elliot argued a middle ground: take Canton then sail up the Bei He river to threaten Beijing. Elliot also argued they could instead attack Shanghai because attacking such a prominent city would make the Qing lose face and intimidate them. Another man who had just arrived was Elliot’s cousin, Admiral Sir George Elliot who had been given co-plenipotentiary powers. He brought with him a peace treaty with orders to make the Qing government agree to every article of it and to continue the way until it was done.

    Sir George Elliot arrived in the later part of 1840 and ordered a blockade of the Gulf of Canton using 5 warships while he and the rest of the armada sailed north. The British merchants were disappointed, they expected a direct assault upon Canton, they had hoped to open the city back up for trade. Both Elliot’s got aboard the Wellesley as the armada made its approach towards Chusan. George Elliot also had with him a letter from Palmerston to inform the emperor Britain intended to blockade and seize various Chinese ports as a response to the Qing siege of the Canton factories. Palmerston also cheekily added that if the Emperor wanted to stop the opium trade he should probably convince his people to stop smoking opium. At the end of the letter Palmerston added that to avoid “unpleasantness” the Emperor was invited to send a delegation to a shipboard meeting with the two Elliots who most likely would park their warships at the mouth of the Bei He River. The Elliots gave the letter to a Captain named Thomas Bourchier whom went ashore with a white flag at Namoy just 300 miles north of Canton. As Thomas entered the harbor some Qing officials came aboard. Thomas explained to them that the armada meant to bombard the city if they did not respect the white flag. As he explained this to them, along the coast a ton of Chinese began to form a crowd near his boat so he sailed off. With his ship a few hundreds yards away from the shore he waited to see what the Chinese would do. Then Thomas noticed cannons being mounted on a nearby fort. Thomas sent his translator named Robert Thom on a small raft with a large placard repeating what retaliation the Chinese could expect if they fired upon his ship. Thom also began to shout the orders at the crowd along the beach, but they simply screamed insults in return. Then some of the people on the beach began to swim out towards Thom’s boat and some arrows and gunshots were fired at him. Suddenly one of the cannons from the fort fired and some nearby chinese junks joined them all aiming for poor Thom. Thom dashed back to Captain Thomas and reported to him what had happened. Captain Thomas responded by sending another letter explaining that the British government had no quarrel with the Chinese people, only their emperor. He sent the letter with a courier in another small raft and as it approached the shore the mob rose up yet again and soon gunfire was going off. It is alleged after this Captain Thomas literally threw a message in a bottle before sailing off towards Canton.

    By July 1st the armada anchored in the harbor of Dinghai on Chusan Island. Dinghai held around 40,000 inhabitants within a 5 sided 22 feet high wall city. It held many towers and was surrounded on all 4 sides by a canal. The city had 16 hundred defenders, but in reality they were all just some fishermen, sailors and quickly raised up militiamen armed with spears, bows and some matchlocks. There were also 12 chinese war junks that had followed the British armada keeping a safe distance. The British noticed one of the Chinese war junks had a banner indicated a high Qing official was aboard and they signaled they wanted to talk. The Chinese war junks invited a British delegation aboard their flagship. Commodore Bremer went aboard with his interpreter and met with the Qing commander of the Chusan garrison. Bremer did not mash words he was quite blunt demanding the “surrender Chusan or face the consequences”. The Qing host was not intimidated however and sent the British back to their boats. When the British were back aboard their vessels, instead of blasting the chinese war junks, well they simply invited the Chinese aboard the Wellesley to wine and dine them. In the 1997 movie “the opium war” this scene is quite well done, I highly recommend watching it. So the Qing officials dined and one Qing officer even analyzed some of the 74 guns aboard Wellesley. That officer was quoted to say “it is very true you are strong and I am weak. Still I must fight”. After dinner, Commodore Bremer demanded their surrender again and gave them 24 hours to comply. The Chinese in the meantime ran ashore and began to stuff a ton of sandbags with rice and other things to strengthen the defenses around Dinghai’s walls.

    The 24 hours passed and Bremer brought the Wellesley closer to the shore, but he had to wait for some more reinforcements to arrive to launch an amphibious assault. By 2pm on July 5th, 6 British warships arrived to the scene and Bremer fired a single cannon targeting a tower on a small fort. The Qing fired a single cannon in response, which led Bremer to start shooting volley’s every 10 minutes. As the maelstrom was going on, Lt Colonel George Burrell led the 18th Brigade in an amphibious landing. Suddenly the Chinese stop firing just as the 18th brigade landed ashore. The British took the situation by storm and began bombarding the Chinese war junks to pieces and Dingshai’s fort towers. Lord Jocelyn, a military secretary said of the scene. “The Crashing of timber, falling houses and groans of men resounded from the shore. Even after the bombardment ceased, a few shots were still heard from the unscathed junks. We landed on a deserted beach, a few dead bodies, bows and arrows; broken spears and guns remaining the sole occupants of the field”. The 18th brigade found no resistance on the beach. The Qing defenders had fled almost as soon as the first cannons had gone off. A Qing commander on scene, Brigadier Zhang had refused to give up the fight, but had both his legs blown off by cannonade and had to be whisked away on a litter. The local magistrate and some of his subordinates watched in horror as the defenders departed and they all committed suicide.

    A detachment of the 18th brigade set up 8 9 pounder artillery pieces and some howitzers on a hill which had a vantage point overlooking the city of Dinghai. They then began to shell the now defenseless inhabitants forcing countless to flee for their lives. The British reported not a single casualty during the volley exchange nor the beach assault. Lord Jocelyn described the planting of the Union Jack by the Joss house in Dinghai “the first European banner that has floated as conqueror over the flowery land”.

    The city of Dinghai was a mile from the shoreline and Colonel Burell slowly marched his men to its formidable walls as artillery rained hell upon them. The residents of Dinghai responded with their own artillery forcing Colonel Burrell to hold back his men from a distance and wait it out until the next day to assault the city. During that lull the British soldiers found some samshu in a local fishing village and proceeded to get drunk as hell and looted the fishing village during the night. An Indian soldier said of the incident “A more complete pillage could not be conceived. The plunder ceased only when there was nothing to take or destroy”. The artillery was going on throughout the night and at around midnight of British 9 pounders hit a gunpowder deposit inside Dinghai turning the city into an inferno.

    The next morning the British saw most of the defenders were fleeing and sent a detachment of 12 men to approach the south wall to prod it. There was no resistance so the men began to climb the rice bag defenses that had been piled almost 2 stories high in front of the wall. Within minutes they were over the top and could see the city that once held 40,000 people was all but deserted. Lord Jocelyn said of the city “The main street was nearly deserted, except here and there, where the frightened people were performing the kow-tow as we passed. On most of the houses was placarded "Spare our lives;" and on entering the jos-houses were seen men, women, and children, on their knees, burning incense to the gods; and although protection was promised [to] them, their dread appeared in no matter relieved.”

    The British reported that perhaps 2000 Chinese died, which is complete nonsense, the Chinese state something like 25 died so the actual number is somewhere in between, quite a large range I know. The British themselves might have lost up to 19 men. They found a ton of antiquated weapons and armor as they looted the city such as padded cotton jackets which displayed the disparity between the 2 forces. Robert Thom who witnesses the looting said “No one has been killed in cold blood that I am aware of, and only one or two cases of rape occurred perpetrated it is said by the sepoys”. By the way a lot of the primary sources for this war will lay blame on the Indian soldiers for misconduct and take it was a grain of salt. I am not saying it did not happen, it most certainly did, but the idea that the British redcoats were not taking part in such ventures seems dubious.

    By Jul 11th, Jardine and Matheson reached Chusan and found out Admiral Elliot was forbidding their opium ships from landing on the island. Yet they pressed their team of smugglers to persist and against Elliots wishes unloaded opium. Chusan would become a storehouse for opium and by November of 1840 43 opium smuggling ships were using Chusan as an offloading point. 12,000 chests of opium would be brought to Chusan by the end of the year.

    Chusan island would also bring quite a lot of misery to the British. Colonel Burrell refused to allow his troops to occupy the abandoned city of Dinghai fearing repercussions from the Chinese and instead kept his men in a particularly malaria infested paddy field. With the scorching heat and an order that all men keep their top buttons on their uniforms fastened almost 500 men would die to malaria and dysentery. A lot of variables were at work, bad provisions, too much Samshu, stagnant water and the most evil culprit, malaria invested mosquitos took a heavy toll on the British. By October, only 2036 out of 3650 troops would be fit for duty. By december more than 5000 men were admitted to hospitals and 448 deaths would occur. If anyone knows the story of Japan’s invasion of Taiwan in the 19th century, it really reminds me of that ordeal. Taking an island by force and with incredible ease, only to fall victim to brutal mother nature. On july 27th, Elliot had gathered many warships at Dinghai and felt he had enough firepower to proceed 500 miles north to Beijing.

    A week after Dinghai fell, Beijing got the word. However this is where a large problem would emerge for the Qing dynasty. The Emperor was given word through Qing officials, and if the news was bad, the officials would fear enraging the Emperor and more often than naught falsify what they told him. In this case the officials downplayed the severity of the incursion. They told him of alleged weaknesses of the foreign invaders. The governor of Jiangsu Province lying at the mouth of the Yangtze River, Yukien told the Emperor “take our fort at Woosung. From the bottom upward there is the stone base, then the clay base, and finally the fort itself. It is even elevation far above the level of the barbarian ships. If they shoot upward, their bullet will go down and consequently lose force. Moreover the barbarians are stiff and their legs straight. The latter, further bound with cloth, can scarcely stretch at will. Once fallen down, they cannot again stand up. It is fatal to fighting on land”. Yukien would also make remarks about how the barbarians lacked bows and arrows. While this might come off as humorous, I bring it up for important reasons. The Emperor will continuously be given these sort of reports, downplaying of events such as battles, made up stories about victories over the British and much more. The Emperor will be reacting accordingly based on the information he is given and this will be quite the crux of the entire war.

    The British armada approached the mouth of the Bei He River in a course of 10 days and was only 75 miles southwest of Beijing. However at the mouth of the Bei He River lied one of the Qing dynasty’s most formidable defenses, known as the Dagu forts. 2 Dagu forts guarded the mouth, though to Elliot they looked pretty decrepit and deserted. Elliot was still trying to find a Qing official who would take Palmerstons letter to the Emperor and at the mouth he saw several Chinese war junks. Elliot sent a man with the letter to the war junks and the commander of the warships replied that he would send the letter to a higher ranking Qing official who was only a short distance away. Thus Elliot waited to see what would occur and it turned out the Qing official was Qishan, the governor of Chihli province. Qishan sent word to Elliot that his letter was sent directly to the Emperor, but that Elliot would need to wait for a reply.

    On May 13 of 1840, one of Qishans subordinates came aboard the Wellesley providing the British with food and water and this was followed up for several days with more gifts. Then Elliot was told the Emperor had officially received the letter, but it would be regretfully another 10 days or so for the Qing court to discuss with the Emperor the letters contents. Do not forget, the story I spoke of about the malaria and dysentery outbreak on Chusan was raging by this point and thus Elliot decided it best to scatter the armada in search of cleaner water because the Chusan wells seemed to be the culprit at the time. Some of the ships went hundreds of miles away in search of water and as this all occurred, 10 days had come and gone. When all of the armada regrouped with their fresh water reserves, Elliot decided they needed to speed up the Qing courts process. Elliot ordered the warships Madagascar and Modeste to begin firing at some forts on Chusans outskirts, but before the shelling could begin a messenger from Qishan suddenly appeared. Elliot was invited to meet with Qishan in 3 days time. The meeting would be on july 30th and the location was a fort in southern Chusan. Qishan brought gifts and food with him for the British and had a flotilla built up so the British would not have to walk in mud to the fort. Elliot, Qishan and Jocelyn had a large dinner and then they discussed the Palmerston letter for over 6 hours. Qishan during the meeting made a mention of the precedent set by the Macartney and Amherst missions, that of the tributary system. Elliot insisted both men were not tributaries, but ambassadors holding equal status to the Emperor. Qishan could feel the tension in the room and changed the subject, he pointed out that the occupation of Chusan island was unacceptable for the Emperor. Elliot understood and said the British occupation was temporary, they were merely using it as a base of operations. Then the largest looming subject emerged, Opium. Qishan demanded a promise from Queen Victoria that Britain would stop exporting opium to China. Similar to Lin Zexu, the Qing had a difficult time understanding the representatives of authority for other nations and assumed Queen Victoria held a similar position to their Emperor. Elliot said plainly that he did not have the authority to grant such a concession and then made the remark “if the Chinese wanted the opium trade to end, they should stop using it”. Elliot also made a remark that most of the Opium was coming from other sources outside British influence, but he had little evidence to support this. Qishan swallowed this resentfully but did not quibble over it. Instead Qishan moved to the subject of reparations as Palmerston had demanded compensation for the 20,000 seized opium chests and for war reparations for Britain who was invading China! Qishan flat out called these demands ludicrous, when he said this, Elliot began to write something on Palmerstons letter and when Qishan asked him what he was writing Elliot replied “I am writing what is your opinion on the matter, because many of the Emperor other officials might have differing ones”.

    Qishan then began to explain to Elliot that Lin Zexu had fallen out of favor with the Qing court and that Qishan agreed with the British that Lin Zexu had mistreated them and employed unnecessary violence. Qishan made a remark that the Emperor was most likely going to fire Lin Zexu and punish him. It seems Qishan was hinting to Elliot that he might be replacing Lin Zexu as his successor and with it plenipotentiary powers. So you get the idea here, Qishan is basically hinting while nothing can be done right now, perhaps when he is in charge he will help the British out. Qishan also kept stating that the British should go to Canton, as it was the center of foreign trade and a much more logical and practical place for them to go to further negotiations. But both Elliot and Qishan knew why he was stating this repeatedly, he wanted the British to get as far away from the Emperor as possible.

    George Elliot informed Charles Elliot that he felt the armada was quite vulnerable sitting in Bei He Bay and urged him to end the negotiations and leave. Likewise upon hearing the news that Lin Zexu was going to be dismissed soon, Charles Elliot agreed and they too the armada and sailed away. This rather abrupt partie however gave the Chinese the impression the barbarians were done with the war all together. As you can imagine many Qing officials began telling Beijing this. As you can also imagine the British departure was only temporary.

    By September of 1840 the British armada re-emerged at the mouth of the Bei He River. The Elliots had order the armada to up the pressure on the Qing and Charles Elliot had written a note to Palmerston at this time “It is notorious that the Daoguang Emperor entertains the utmost dread of our enterprising spirit”. What he meant by this, was by sending periodic naval patrols he was trying to scare the shit out of Beijing.

    Back over in Canton, despite the incredible efforts of Lin Zexu, the opium trade was still rearing its ugly head. Since Jardine & Matheson were now able to shove their contraband on Chusan island it began to flood right back into the Canton market. By the fall of 1840 6500 chests had gotten through the Canton trade from Jardine & Matheson Co alone. Many hundreds of others were flooding in from the other independent smugglers and despite the severity of punishment for using the substance, there was still an enormous demand. The Elliots of course banned the trade of opium on Chusan, but they were not morons, they knew it was simply going to Canton in the end. Of course they were allowing the trade to go on, they were after all quite broke. The Elliots had no other way of raising money to continue the war effort other than relying on the sale of opium. Both Elliots understood the fiscal dependency they had on the opium smugglers and the prohibition of its sale on the island of Chusan was merely symbolic, a way of keeping face, so typically british. Thus vessels were allowed to offload opium near Chusan with zero interference from the British armada, which in turn was patrolling the waters thus protecting the opium dealers in the end. The hope in the end was by symbolically banning the substance at Chusan, perhaps this would alleviate the Emperor while simultaneously allowing the condonation of revenue for the war effort by allowing its trade to ports like Canton.

    Over in Beijing, Emperor Daoguang hesitated over Lin Zexu, he was not yet comfortable dismissing him. This embolden Lin Zexu, whom began to crack down even more so on the Chinese opium consumers. Lin Zexu put out an edict limiting the amount of time opium addicts had to wean themselves off the drug “while the period is not yet closed, you are living victims. When it shall have expired, then you will be dead victims”. Yet despite his efforts Lin Zexu could do little against the opium vessels which were being protected by the British armada making patrols in the Gulf of Canton, Amoy, Chusan and the Mouths of the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers. Then to the horror of the Chinese the British began seizing Chinese ships along the coast and taking their cargo to sell and finance the war effort. Imagine how cash strapped a nation has to be to start performing this sort of looting. Between June and July of 1840 the British armada had seized 7 large trading vessels plundering their cargo. In retaliation the Chinese raised a price for the heads of any British military personnel at 100$ for a soldier taken alive, 20$ for a corpse, $5000 for a British captain and for a British ship 10,000$, cha ching. Things got out of hand quite quickly, Chinese desperate to make some coin turned to attacking European and American civilians such a missionaries. Gangs of Chinese would hunt them down beating them nearly to death. On August the 5th, Vincent Stanton a tutor of a British merchants children alongside a missionary named David Abeel made the terrible decision to go swimming in Macao’ bay. Stanton was kidnapped and brought to Canton. Until this point Macao was seen as the last safe spot in China for foreigners, but the kidnapping of Stanton broke that. Adding to everyone's fears, 8 Chinese war junks docked at Macao sending the Portuguese colony into a frenzy.

    It turns out Stanton's kidnapping was masterminded by Lin Zexu, it was psychological warfare. He was not able to go after the British warships, but he was able to target anyone on land. The Governor general of Macao, Pinto pleaded with Lin Zexu to return the man, but it came to nothing. The British felt they had lost face, Stanton was one of theirs and they had even tried allowing the Portuguese aid the situation to no avail. 2 weeks after Stantons kidnapping the British had had enough. 4 British warships from the Armada were sent to Macaos Casilha Bay alongside 400 soldiers. The British warships opened fire upon the Chinese war junks whom returned fire. However the Chinese war junks cannons were old and obsolete, they could not match the range the British were firing from. The Chinese crews began to panic when their return fire was literally only matching half the distance of the British and soon jumped ship. Meanwhile the british warships simply continued to rain hell upon the war junks. As noted by British officer “The [Chinese] junks, which were aground in the inner harbour, were utterly useless, for none of their guns could be brought to bear, though several of the thirty-two pound shots of the ships found their way over the bank, much to the consternation of the occupants of the junks." The Chinese crews tried to establish a defense on the coast, but the British soldiers overwhelmed them with musket fire. The Chinese war junks still intact made a break for it, as the rest of the Chinese fled into the fortifications. The British warships battered the walls of Macaos fortifications until their batteries stopped returning fire and the British and Indian soldiers soon scaled the walls. By 5pm the Chinese routed inside the Macao fortifications as the British set fire to multiple barracks. In the end the Chinese suffered upto 60 dead with 120 wounded and the British reported only 4 wounded, but take the number with a grain of salt. In Beijing Qing officials told Emperor Daoguang there had been a major victory at Macao and that many British were dead and multiple British warships laid at the bottom of Casilha Bay. These Qing officials were court officials who were received false reports from the military at Macao. Its sort of like the game broken telephone, where every link embellishes the story to make it more and more positive. All the Chinese soldiers began to abandon Macao and no more Chinese War junks came to its harbor. In the eyes of the Portuguese and British they had saved Macao, in the eyes of poor Stanton…well he was imprisoned in Canton.

    The Stanton kidnapping distressed the foreign community in China, but there was another incident that scared the shit out of them. A french missionary named Father Jean Gabriel Perboyre was illegally operating in Hubei Province and got captured in September of 1839. He was tortured and interrogated for over a year and on September 11th of 1840 he was executed publicly at Wuchang. The priest was killed by strangulation, but the Qing authorities decided to place his body on a cross after his death. This set a panic into the foreign community as others were likewise captured and killed and the British on Chusan island were falling victim to malaria, dysentery and starvation, because all the food on Chusan had dried up. They began to eat moldy rice from Chusans stockpiles and bread made from worm ridden flour stuck aboard their ships for quite a long time. It is alleged that the pickled beets and pork on the British warships was so rancid even the iron-stomachs of the British couldn't tolerate it. The drinking water likewise was a source of disease, contaminated by the local sewers. The interpreter Thom wrote a letter to Matheson stating “even the natives hold their noses because of the waters smell. Unless we can manage to get the canal and town cleared out, I fear that we shall be getting some contagious distemper among us. The climate moreover is moist and mosquitoes swarm in amazing numbers. Let no man come here without mosquito curtains else he will bitterly repent of it”. The British did not realize the mosquitoes were the culprit of their malaria nightmare as the belief at the time for europeans was that malaria came from rotten vegetables. The dysentry killed more people than the malaria however, coming from the horrid food and water situation. 12 soldiers died in August, the next month 24, while 250 were hospitalized and by mid september a third of the force was too sick to fight. Being a specialist in the Pacific War I do have to say what amazing parallels this will play out for the Japanese and Americans in the island hoping warfare. Not fun to battle the elements, malaria and a terrible provision situation.

    Then there was horrible incident when a commercial ship called the Kite ran aground on a sandbank on september 15th. The Captain named John Nobles lost his 5 month year old baby, and he, his wife and 26 crew members clinging to the boats wreckage until a Chinese war junk captured them. All of them were put in chains and imprisoned at Ningbo. They were placed in wooden cage, the wife of John Nobles stated “mine was scarcely a yard high, a little more than three quarters of a yard long, and a little more than half a yard broad. The door opened from the top. Into these we were lifted, the chain around our necks being locked to the cover. THey put a long piece of bamboo through the middle, a man took either end, and in this manner we were jolted from city to city to suffer the insults of the rabble, the cries from whom were awful”. Some of captured crew were beat to death, 3 men died of dysentery and those who were Indian amongst them were treated extra harshly. One of the English prisoners believed the Chinese treated the Indians worse, because they ate their rice with their fingers which angered them.

    When Charles Elliot heard the news of the captives from the Kite he was mortified, particularly because one of the prisoners was a woman! He went to Ningbo aboard the Atalanta to negotiation their release and was immediately told, all the prisoners could go if the British gave back Chusan. The British did not say no, but did nothing to indicate they would hand over Chusan, so the Chinese began to threaten to kill the prisoners. This prompted the Charles Elliot to demand a meeting with Qishan at Chinhai only 10 miles away from the prison at Ningbo. Elliot stated to Qishan if the prisoners were not handed over he would end the peace talks outright. Qishan played some hard ball demanding Chusan returned, but eventually a compromise was made. Elliot agreed to stop British ships from seizing Chinese vessels and blockading the ports and in return the Chinese would still hold the prisoners, but they would improve their living conditions. To show good faith, Qishan released poor old Stanton from his prison in Canton and handed him over to Elliot. The situation did not satisfy the British, but while they danced around with diplomacy, more and more troops from India were being brought to Chusan and the most fearsome weapon Britain had at its disposal had just arrived, the Nemesis.

    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.

    Lin Zexu’s efforts against opium were not going well enough and was losing favor with Emperor Daoguang, the British were winning battles and taking territory. How will the Qing Dynasty rid themselves of the invaders? Join us next time to find out.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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    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.