Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)
OBLIGATORY ADMINISTRATIVE STUFF: The original thread is here. If you'd like to make a comment, ask a question, or demand a refund, do it in that thread, not this one. I've cleaned things up a bit in this version and made some minor edits. This is the first half of the timeline, more or less; I'll post the second half later. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy it.
Excerpted from “Daoism in China: The Ming Years,” by Clifford Smith.
- Daoism flourished during the early Ming period. The most prominent exemplar of this trend was the Yongle Emperor’s decision in 1412 to rebuild the temple complex in the Wudang Mountains of northwest Hubei Province. It is unclear exactly what prompted this move on the part of the emperor; he was not an adherent of Daoism, which had been on the wane in the later years of the Yuan Dynasty. Many contemporary scholars have argued that Yongle, who usurped the throne from his nephew, wished to make a gesture to the Daoist faith - which his father, the Hongwu Emperor, had followed - in order to establish himself in the eyes of the populace as being under the protection of the gods. Whatever the reason may have been, vast amounts of manpower and money were poured into the reconstruction of the Wudang Temple complex. During a fifteen-year period between roughly 1412 and 1427 CE, no fewer than nine palaces, nine large temples, thirty-six nunneries, and seventy-two smaller temples were built on and around 武当山 (Wudang shan, or Mount Wudang, which is in fact a series of peaks). Yongle himself proclaimed Wudang as the “Great Mountain,” and announced that the patron deity of the complex would be 玄武 (Xuan Wu, or “Perfected Martiality”). While Xuan Wu is a patron deity of martial artists, much of Wudang Mountain’s current reputation as a hotbed of martial arts is inflated; most of the Daoist sages and priests that resided in the Wudang complex were practitioners of 内丹术 (nei dan shu, or “internal alchemy”), a variety of Daoism concerned foremost with harnessing meditation to unite the yin and yang energies and prolong life. Even after the passing of the Yongle Emperor, the Wudang complex retained its importance. Indeed, it was the subject of no fewer than three hundred and sixty-nine Imperial edicts during the years of the Northern Ming. In 1552 the Jiajing Emperor ordered the refurbishment of the complex, which took almost two years. Thousands of priests, sages, and their followers lived in and around the complex, which occupied almost four thousand hectares of land. (1)
Excerpted from “The Collapse of the Northern Ming,” by Russell Jones.
- Although the Northern Ming Dynasty had been in decline for at least a generation, their downfall and collapse was shockingly sudden. The reasons for the decline of the Northern Ming were many; the cause of their downfall was the Jurchen people of the north. Under the leadership of the dynamic Nurhaci Khan, the previously fractious Jurchen tribes were united; under the leadership of Nurhaci’s successor, the Hong Taiji, the Jurchens further expanded their power and threatened the Northern Ming capital of Beijing itself. Yet the final blow to the Northern Ming came not from the Jurchen but from Li Zicheng, the bandit leader whose forces had been growing in the mountain fastness of Shanxi Province for fifteen years. When Li moved on Beijing in April of 1644, capturing the city, he forced General Wu Sangui to abandon Shanhaiguan, the pass that blocked the Jurchens from China proper. With the border undefended the Jurchen invaders swept down past the Great Wall, taking Beijing for themselves in June.
With the capital taken and the Chongzhen Emperor dead - he had hung himself from a tree in Beihai Park - many Northern Ming loyalists fled to the four directions. Others, most notably Wu Sangui, signed on with the Jurchens, preferring the foreigners to the not-so-tender mercies of Li Zicheng. The Jurchens (also known as the Qing Dynasty) moved against Li Zicheng’s rebel forces first, judging them as the most proximate threat to their newly-won hegemony. Li first fled to Xi’an, where he was defeated by Qing forces in the spring of 1645; he then fled south, entering Hubei Province and crossing the Han River in an attempt to evade his pursuers. Elements of the Qing military caught up quickly, and after a brief battle, Li continued his flight south; he died in the summer.
The aforementioned “brief battle” would have been lost to history were it not for its location in the middle of the Wudang Mountain Daoist religious complex (2). Several hundred members of the community were killed, and the historic Purple Cloud Temple was utterly destroyed in the conflict. In the wake of the action, as the armies moved south, the assorted sages, priests, nuns, and followers gathered to ponder what they had seen and learned. All under Heaven was in chaos; of this there was no doubt. Barbarian invaders had defiled the land, and destroyed a sacred temple. The sages thought long and hard. At first, it seemed as though a policy of non-interference would be embraced. Yet gradually, a new consensus began to emerge. Blood had been shed on hallowed ground; a temple had been destroyed; what would be next? And after all, was it not an emperor of Great Ming who had consecrated this sacred ground? Did the residents of the Wudang complex not owe their allegiance to his successors? Eventually, a decision was reached. The rest is history . . .
Excerpted from “Fact Sheet #4, Introduction to Chinese History,” by Professor Scheherazade Wang. Department of Oriental Studies, Cambridge University.
- Legend holds that there were nine founding members of the 武当派 (Wudang pai, trans. Wudang Clique or Wu-Tang Clan), the secret society dedicated to overthrowing the Jurchen Qing Dynasty and restoring their predecessors the Ming Dynasty to the Dragon Throne. Due to the paucity of accurate records extant from the period in question, modern historians have had difficulty verifying the exact identities and number of the founders. While revisionist historians have cast doubt on whether at least four of the traditional nine founders actually existed, most scholars are of the opinion that these nine men existed in some form, although their exact roles are uncertain. Following is a list of the nine founders, each of whom is known exclusively by his nom de guerre. (NB: This material could very well show up on your final exam!)
日砸 (Ri Za): The leader of the Wu-Tang Clan, Ri Za (most often translated as “Sun Crusher” or “Sun Pulverizer,” a reference to his apocryphal statement “We will crush the invaders with the power of the sun”) was the main impetus behind the secret society’s creation. His leadership of the group was far from absolute; decisions were often made by committee. Yet he was clearly “first among equals,” as it were.
哥砸 (Ge Za): So named due to the fact that he was Ri Za’s older cousin (the character 哥 means “elder brother”). It is believed that Ge Za, perhaps resentful of the outsized influence that Ri Za held, chose his nom de guerre as a playful reminder that in some ways he was senior to the Wu-Tang Clan’s de facto leader.
谋人 (Mou Ren): “Stratagem Man,” or sometimes translated as “Method Man.” So named due to his role as the primary battlefield commander of the Wu-Tang Clan, and a reference to 谋功 (mou gong, or “Attack by Stratagem,” third chapter of The Art of War).
瑞空 (Rui Kong): Usually translated as “Auspicious Sky.” (Note that older systems of transliteration often render Rui Kong as Raekwon). His exact role in the Wu-Tang Clan is uncertain and often disputed.
鬼脸杀手 (Guilian Shashou): Translated as “Ghost-Face Killer,” or sometimes as “Devil-Face Killer,” a reference to the Qing, who were considered to be “Jurchen devils” by the Wu-Tang Clan. Ghost-Face Killer is also considered by modern historians to be the greatest practitioner of 说诗唱 (shuoshichang, or “spoken poem-song”), a style of spoken-word poem popularized by the Wu-Tang Clan. (More on this in the next lecture!)
查板 (Cha Ban): Usually translated as “Inspector of the Deck,” or “Deck Inspector.” A reference to his status as the commander and architect of the Wu-Tang Clan’s riverboat navy, and his supposed mania for keeping the deck of his boat spotless.
你道 (Ni Dao): Translated variously as “You are the Dao,” “You, Dao,” or archaically as “You God.” A notorious riddler, Ni Dao is reputed to have been a master of disguise and concealment.
屠杀师傅 (Tusha Shifu): Most commonly translated as “Master Killer.” A reference to Master Killer’s supposed status as an adept of martial arts and as the foremost practitioner of hand-to-hand combat among all the members of the Wu-Tang Clan.
老脏坏蛋 (Lao Zang Huaidan): Translated as “Old Filthy Scoundrel,” or alternatively as “Old Dirty Bastard.” Supposedly an itinerant hermit who refused to bathe, he was renowned for his erratic behavior and his ferocity in battle.
Ri Za, Ge Za, Stratagem Man, Rui Kong, Ghost-Face Killer, Inspector of the Deck, You Dao, Master Killer, and Old Filthy Scoundrel: they were the Wu-Tang Clan.
(1) This is all as per OTL.
(2) Here’s your POD. Li’s flight took him kind of close but not really near the Wudang complex in real life.
Excerpted from “The Story of the Glorious Sword of the Wu-Tang Clan,” by Gao Feiyang. (1)
- The fearsome and ruthless bandit king Shen Guang (2) made his encampment outside the town of Laohekou. He ruled over lands of a thousand li with vicious resolve. All the peasants and shopkeepers shrank before Shen Guang. His voracious hordes, that knew not the Dao, heaped injuries upon the people, who wished only to live in harmony with the land. It is said by the chroniclers that every tenth day Shen Guang would summon the people of Laohekou to the market square. That warlord would then order the beheading of five villagers, for no other reason than cruel caprice, and his war-bands would pass the remainder of the day drinking wine and kicking the severed heads around the market square for their own sport.
Huang Zhen, the General of the bandit king Shen Guang’s war-bands, said: “In the forests and mountains lives the Wu-Tang Clan. They are much beloved by the people, and take no conscious action in accordance with the Dao.”
The bandit king Shen Guang said: “Then they are not fearsome.”
Huang Zhen said: “Their warriors are masters of Shaolin shadowboxing, and the Great Sage Ri Za is guardian of the Wu-Tang Sword.”
Shen Guang said: “Shaolin shadowboxing and the Wu-Tang sword style! If what you say is true, the Wu-Tang Clan could be dangerous.”
The bandit king Shen Guang marshaled his war-bands and led them to the foot of Wudang Mountain. In accordance with the Dao, the Nine Masters of the Wu-Tang Clan took no conscious action. Thus nothing was left undone. The war-bands of Shen Guang attacked the hallowed temples of Wudang Mountain. Then the great war-chief Method Man led the Righteous and Purifying Army of the Wu-Tang Clan into the fray.
Shen Guang gave a shout. “Do you think your Wu-Tang Sword can defeat me?”
Then Method Man gave a shout. “On guard! I’ll let you try my Wu-Tang style!”
After that, Method Man smote Shen Guang and killed the bandit king. Thus the Wu-Tang Clan won the clash of arms, and defeated the bandit king Shen Guang. Ten thousand heads were taken. The Wu-Tang Clan fell to celebrating the great victory. Then Great Sage Ri Za gave a shout.
Ri Za said: “Remember the words of the Old Master. Sharp weapons are inauspicious instruments. Everyone hates them. Therefore the man of the Dao is not comfortable with them. Victory is never sweet.”
Then the warriors of the Wu-Tang Clan lowered their heads in recognition of the wisdom of Great Sage Ri Za.
Excerpted from “Disciples of the 36 Chambers: A New History of the Wu-Tang Clan,” by Lamont Hawkins.
- In government as well as in natural science, it is a truism that nature abhors a vacuum. As had so often been the case in the wake of dynastic collapse, the demise of the Northern Ming produced such a vacuum. As the new power, the Jurchen Qing Dynasty, rushed to consolidate their claims, a host of other actors scrambled to extract what they could from the confused situation. The concatenation of forces arrayed against the Qing can be crudely subdivided into three categories: bandits, princes and priests. Even after the death of Li Zicheng in 1645, peasant rebel armies continued to maraud across the countryside. These forces were especially strong in the West; the case of Zhang Xianzhong is but one example. In the south, Ming loyalists attempted to unite around a candidate who could return them to the Dragon Throne; the Prince of Fu was the first worthy to be handed this poisoned chalice. Meanwhile, new religious orders were emerging, bent on overthrowing the Qing and restoring the Ming to power. We will deal with the millenarian Buddhist White Lotus sect shortly; for now, let us turn our attention to the Wu-Tang Clan.
After forming the Wu-Tang Clan, the community of the Wudang Temple Complex first moved to secure the area around their base of operations. The passage of Li Zicheng’s retreating army and their Qing pursuers had caused great chaos in northwest Hubei, and a variety of footpads and small bandit groups had proliferated in the region. The Wu-Tang forces crushed these opponents easily, aided by their larger numbers and superior organization, and then moved into larger towns along the Hanshui River, including Danjiangkou and Laohekou. It seems that in general they were welcomed by the villagers and townspeople, who viewed the Wu-Tang as the means through which order could be restored and normal life resumed. The Wu-Tang complex was also a well-known presence in northwest Hubei, and the Wu-Tang’s status as locals rather than as outsiders further endeared them to their new subjects. And subjects was what they were, even if everyone was careful not to state the fact in so many words. Upon entering a town or village and assuming control, the Wu-Tang Clan would appoint a 圣 (sheng, or sage), who would administer the area as a magistrate of sorts. The sage would typically be a local Daoist luminary, or, if none existed, would be a member of the local landed elite.
The nerve center of Wu-Tang power was, quite naturally, Wudang Mountain itself. Here decisions were made by the governing authorities of the Wu-Tang Clan - Ri Za, Ge Za, Stratagem Man, Old Filthy Scoundrel, You Dao, Inspector of the Deck, Master Killer, Ghost-Face Killer, and Rui Kong. It is uncertain exactly how the decision-making process worked in the Clan’s earliest days; in early 1646, the system was revised and a three-tiered table of bureaucratic ranks was created. 小圣 (Xiaosheng, or Lesser Sage) controlled individual towns, 中圣 (Zhongsheng, or Middle Sage) controlled county-level areas, and 大圣 (Dasheng, or Great Sage) acted as roving troubleshooters, performing a role akin to that of the Imperial Censorate. At the top of the pyramid were the Nine Masters (九位师傅), each of whom had a clearly defined area of responsibility - Stratagem Man led the army, Inspector of the Deck the navy, Ghost-Face Killer served as the chief diplomat, etc. The Wu-Tang chose to focus on moving southward, as it was believed (correctly) that other Ming loyalists also lay in this direction, and throughout 1645 and 1646 extended their domains south towards the Chang River and the three cities of Wuchang, Hankou, and Hanyang (3), control of which was needed to shore up the increasingly strained finances of the Clan. It was their move towards these three cities that brought them to the attention of the Qing at last.
In the early months and even years of their ascent, the Wu-Tang Clan was aided immeasurably by the chaos that was the order of the day. It has become a popular parlor game among some of our more disreputable historians to speculate on what might have happened had the Qing moved swiftly to crush the Wu-Tang Clan. Naturally, what these “alternate historians” leave conveniently unsaid is the fact that it would have been the height of foolishness for the Qing to devote significant resources to crushing what was then a small religious order confined to northern Hubei. After all, they had many more pressing worries to occupy their minds. The loyalty of some of their greatest generals - notably Wu Sangui - was by no means assured. In Nanjing, the Southern Capital, Ming loyalists had gathered to name Zhu Yousong, Prince of Fu, as the Hongguang Emperor, first sovereign of the Southern Ming. And in the west, bandit leader Zhang Xianzhong had invaded and occupied the vast province of Sichuan, establishing a capital in the city of Chengdu and proclaiming himself as Hegemon-King of the State of Ba (巴国霸王). . .
(1) This is a chronicle written by a Wu-Tang scribe, so it’s quite clearly biased. It’s intended to sound like a 17th century history, so it may seem a bit stilted.
(2) Not an OTL character. There were endless numbers of petty bandit leaders roving about during this time (Gao Feiyang vastly overstates the importance of Shen Guang). And while I’m not averse to doing research, I draw the line at digging through four hundred year old archives for the identity of minor bandits of northern Hubei.
(3) These 3 cities were later amalgamated to form Wuhan.
* Next up, a look at what megalomaniac warlord Zhang Xianzhong is up to. How crazy was he? Here’s how crazy:
天生万物以养人 (Heaven has brought forth numberless things for the support of Man)
人无一德以报天 (Man has not one virtue with which to recompense Heaven)
杀杀杀杀杀杀杀(Kill kill kill kill kill kill kill)
Excerpted from “The Yellow Tiger: A Biography of Zhang Xianzhong,” by Gary Grice.
- The peasant rebel leaders Li Zicheng and Zhang Xianzhong had been rivals for many years. Indeed, one perhaps apocryphal story holds that in 1635, when their combined forces sacked the Ming tombs located fifty kilometers outside of Beijing, they also captured a number of eunuch musicians who had been assigned to play music at the tombs. A dispute supposedly broke out between Li and Zhang over who would assume custody of these musicians. Li was the senior rebel leader and - perhaps more importantly - his army was bigger, so Zhang gave in, turning over the musicians. However, he had destroyed all of their instruments. Li then flew into a rage and had all of the hapless troubadours executed on the spot. Despite the long and bitter rivalry between the two, contemporary accounts report that after hearing of Li’s defeat and death in early 1645 Zhang sank into a deep depression. It was not out of love for his rival; rather, it was clear that he would be next. Zhang’s position was precarious. In addition to the Qing forces, he was also forced to deal with an active and vigorous opposition from Ming armies based in Anhui Province. Belatedly realizing that he could not hope to stand against the combined might of these two powerful foes, Zhang left his stronghold in the central Yangzi River valley and moved west, deep into the rugged fastness of Sichuan. He first seized the town of Chongqing before moving deeper into the countryside, eventually making his capital in the prosperous city of Chengdu. In March of 1645 Zhang formalized his conquest of Sichuan, declaring himself as the Hegemon-King (霸王, or Bawang) of a new nation, the State of Ba (巴国) (1). Intriguingly, the name hearkened back to the ancient state of the same appellation, which itself had been based in Sichuan.
In the early weeks and months of his reign, Zhang focused on arranging the internal structure and organization of his newly-created realm. A bureaucracy was established; it was mostly staffed by local scholars, many of whom were rather forcibly persuaded to take service with the new regime. Examinations, which were based on Confucian classics prior to the Great Awakening, were held, coinage was minted, and more than a hundred military camps and fortresses were constructed around Sichuan in preparation for the war that Zhang knew must come, whether it was to be against the Ming or the Qing. Additionally, Zhang divided responsibilities for the day-to-day affairs of the kingdom between his heretofore perpetually squabbling pair of adopted sons, Zhang Kewang and Zhang Dingguo (2). Kewang, a cautious and bookish sort, was given control of the State of Ba’s finances, while the more martially-minded Dingguo was named commander of the armed forces. Despite all of these measures, which created the nucleus of a functioning state, something was rotten in the State of Ba. It seemed, even to his closest confidants, as though Zhang Xianzhong was going slowly mad. The causes of Zhang’s psychological crisis - for this is what it was - are obviously unknown to us, but conjecture is not out of the question. Zhang had been at war for fifteen years continuously and was notoriously cruel and brutal. In Sichuan, suddenly he had no one to fight. Perhaps this inactivity, this time in which he could reflect on what he had done, caused the change in his state of mind . . .
Excerpted from “The Veritable Records of the State of Ba,” Vol. 1, edited by Wang Wei.
- In the fifth cycle of the Year of Establishment  the Hegemon-King grew discontented with the depthless iniquity of Man. It is said that he paced the halls of the Palace of Jade until even the Tiger grew weary [a reference to the Hour of the Tiger, 3-5 AM].
One day the Hegemon-King said to his ministers: “Man is fickle and cruel. What can be done to make him live in accordance with the will of Heaven?”
The Great Hall was silent.
Then the Hegemon-King went forth, and caused the thieves and adulterers and murderers and liars of the State of Ba to be brought before him (3). He cursed them, and ordered their heads removed and fed to the ravenous crows, and their corpses committed to the flame.
Then the Hegemon-King said: “Heaven has brought forth numberless things for the support of Man. Man has not one virtue with which to recompense Heaven. Kill kill kill kill kill kill kill.” Thus spoke the Hegemon-King, and his words were proclaimed on the Seven-Kill Stele (4).
The purge of the wicked continued for twenty days and twenty nights. Ten thousand heads were taken. The Hegemon-King was still discontented with the depthless iniquity of Man.
The Hegemon-King said: “It is incumbent upon Man to seek out the Kingdom of Heaven, and make restitution to the gods. Countless gifts have been laid at the feet of Man, who has kicked them aside. All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again. Thus it must be averted.” (5)
Then the Hegemon-King caused his Astronomers to be brought forth before him, so that they might tell him the location of the Kingdom of Heaven, so that the Hegemon-King might offer restitution to the gods on behalf of Man . . .
Excerpted from “The Yellow Tiger: A Biography of Zhang Xianzhong,” by Gary Grice.
- After roughly a month, the mass executions that Zhang had put in motion tailed off. It appears that the Hegemon-King had simply grown bored with the idea of putting his subjects to death en masse, and had hit upon a new idea in keeping with his obsessions of sin and redemption. He would find Heaven, and apologize to the gods on behalf of humanity. The royal astronomers were summoned, and it is here that history turned. For had their names been Wang Wei and Li Peng, who knows that would have happened? As it happens, their names were Ludovico Buglio and Gabriel de Magalhaes, both of the Society of Jesus (6). And while they could not tell the Hegemon-King how to find Heaven, they could tell him a story about who lived there . . .
Excerpted from “A Guide to Recognizing Your Roman Catholic Saints: The Annotated and Illustrated Edition,” by Elgin Turner.
Saint ZDISLAVA OF LEMBERK: (1220-1252). Beatified 28 August 1907, canonized 21 March 1995. Feast day January 1. Patronage: difficult marriages, people ridiculed for their piety, town of Lemberk.
Saint ZHANG XIANZHONG: (1601-1658). Beatified 1714, canonized 1755. Feast day April 4. Major shrine: Mausoleum of Tiancheng. Patronage: mountain climbers, astronomers, mortifiers of the flesh.
Saint ZITA: (1212-1272). Canonized 1696. Feast day April 27. Major shrine: Basilica di San Frediano, Lucca. Patronage: domestic servants, lost keys, rape victims, homemakers.
. . . . .
(1) This is all as per OTL except for Zhang’s title and the name of the new state. In real life, the nation was called 大西国 (Da xi guo, or “Great Western Kingdom”) and he declared himself the Dashun (大顺) Emperor. I admit that I don’t have any hard logic behind the new names . . . but I think that every timeline could use a Hegemon-King or two.
(2) They’re known OTL as Sun Kewang and Li Dingguo; after Zhang was killed, they reverted to their original family names. ITTL they’re still known by their adoptive father’s family name.
(3) What is left conveniently unsaid by our intrepid chronicler is that a lot of other people who didn’t do anything wrong suffered a rather gruesome fate as well.
(4) The Seven-Kill Stele may or may not have actually existed in real life (probably not).
(5) This is a departure from OTL, in which Zhang essentially continued wreaking havoc on Sichuan until he was killed by Qing forces in 1647. ITTL his madness is less pronounced - he’s less psychopathic batshit crazy and more mercurial whack job - and it also takes him in a different direction.
(6) As per OTL. Buglio and Magalhaes, the first Christians in Sichuan, had traveled there to do missionary work when Zhang moved in. OTL they were also made astronomers to the court, and then were essentially ignored. They somehow survived everything, and went back to Beijing after Zhang’s downfall.
Excerpted from “Missive to the Father-General of the Society of Jesus Concerning Some Recent Happenings in the Celestial Kingdom,” by Ludovico Buglio. 1655.
- . . . and so it came to pass that Fr. de Magalhaes and your humble correspondent, far from fulfilling our mission of spreading Christ’s word in the wild land of See-Chwan [Sichuan], found ourselves as court astronomers to the Hegemon-King of Ba [Zhang Xianzhong]. We were treated with a peculiar mixture of suspicion and indifference at first, which gradually dissipated as de Magalhaes, who had some facility with the language of the Celestial realm, made himself agreeable to our native captors, who fancied themselves as our employers as well . . .
For the first time since entering the Hegemon-King’s service in the spring of 1645, we were summoned before him in the autumn of that same year, ostensibly to answer some trifling query on the phases of the moon. In the brief glimpses we had heretofore seen of the Hegemon-King, he had appeared to be a kind and wise ruler, gentle of temper and ever with a calm visage (1). On our entrance to the great audience chamber, we were thus discomfited to observe His Majesty in the throes of a passionate fit; he rent his garments, tore his hair, and gnashed his teeth most piteously. Upon sighting your humble correspondent, he approached us and loudly demanded that we inform him as to the exact location of Heaven, and further, that we furnish His Majesty with some means of transportation, that he might voyage there, to converse with his heathen gods. Looking about, it was clear that even the King’s guards and advisers were horrified to see him in such condition, and they feared his great and terrible wrath. Your humble correspondent immediately surmised that the King was in the midst of a great spiritual crisis. His soul, lost in darkness, cried out, begging to be saved. Was this not our mission? I thanked the Lord for presenting his humble servant with an opportunity to lead the King of Ba into the nourishing light of Jesus Christ, then motioned to de Magalhaes to translate . . .
Excerpted from “The Yellow Tiger: A Biography of Zhang Xianzhong,” by Gary Grice.
- The old saw about how there is no greater zealot than a convert proved itself true in the case of Zhang Xianzhong, Hegemon-King of the State of Ba. Although few accounts other than Ludovico Buglio’s highly-biased tale of the meeting in which Zhang was converted survive, it is easy enough to see the attractiveness of Catholicism to a man who was consumed by thoughts of sin and redemption (2). Zhang took to his new faith like a fish to water. Naturally, he decided that everyone else in his kingdom should experience the wonders of Christianity as well. It was thus that a series of decrees were issued in the fall and winter of 1645 mandating the conversion to Christianity of every subject of the State of Ba. It is not without irony that Zhang’s decrees unquestionably did more to harm Chinese Christianity in the long run than they ever did to help it. The fundamental problem was that virtually no one in the entire kingdom, other than the missionaries de Magalhaes and Buglio (3), knew anything about this strange new religion which they were all now adherents of. After the conversion decrees, an enormous workshop was erected in Chengdu for the purpose of producing Bible translations; meanwhile, de Magalhaes and Buglio conducted massive seminars in the public square, where they would explain the basic tenets of Christianity to bewildered bureaucrats who had been ordered to educate the populace in their new faith. It is perhaps unsurprising that this madcap rush to embrace Christianity left Zhang’s subjects with a less than complete understanding of exactly what this new religion demanded of them. In many townships and counties, especially in the countryside, magistrates simply gave up on attempting to educate peasants in a religion that they did not understand themselves and simply ordered that the Christian God (in some places, the Holy Trinity) be blended into Chinese folk religion and worshipped along with the old gods (4). Furthermore, a seemingly endless series of typographical errors in the translated Bibles which administrators had been given for the edification of the populace caused confusion and misunderstanding, resulting in a bizarre mélange of heterodox sects developing, some of which still survive to this day. (For more information on this fascinating topic, Jean-Paul Morimoto’s The Rabbit Worshippers of Leshan is an informative and entertaining read).
It was only in the largest cities that Christianity was given a more rigorous introduction to the citizenry of Ba, at least in the initial months after Zhang Xianzhong’s conversion. It was also only in the largest cities that there are reports of significant disturbances in response to Christianity’s introduction; the incoherent and haphazard approach to evangelization in the countryside, as described above, produced more confusion than resentment among the rural populace. However, in the capital city of Chengdu, all existing temples were torn down in preparation for their replacement by Christian churches, a development that agitated large portions of the citizenry, who feared that the gods would curse them with catastrophes in response to the destruction of the temples. In several instances, riots broke out as demolition crews attempted to start their work and were assaulted by angry residents of temple-centered neighborhoods. Zhang responded by ordering troops from a military encampment outside Chengdu to enter the city and “pacify” the affected areas. Needless to say, the death toll was not inconsiderable. Later that winter, a system was introduced in Chengdu whereby only citizens who swore an oath to “embrace the one true God” were allowed to receive food from the city granaries, which was needed by many after a poor harvest season. Coercive measures such as these helped to stamp out much of the opposition to Christianity - which was disorganized and uncoordinated in any event - and in most places outside Chengdu, Christianity was introduced in a much less confrontational and obtrusive manner. In Chongqing, the second city of the State of Ba, the city magistrate chose simply to “repurpose” existing temples and shrines as Christian churches, removing any overt signs of non-Christian deities but in practice allowing traditional forms of worship to continue relatively unimpeded.
It was also in the spring of 1646 when Zhang Xianzhong began planning his next campaign. Many of his advisors favored a move south, into what they felt would be the lightly-defended terrain of Yunnan. Buglio and de Magalhaes, who had been elevated to the highest ranks at court and were consulted by Zhang on almost every decision of importance, favored an eastern campaign. They hoped that by striking a blow against the Qing and linking up with Southern Ming forces, Zhang - and Christianity - would be in a strong position when the Qing were defeated, as Buglio and de Magalhaes assumed was inevitable (5). Zhang had other ideas. Although his conversion to Christianity was sincere, he retained some of his more unorthodox ideas, and both Buglio and de Magalhaes valued their heads highly enough to dissuade them from more strongly disabusing Zhang of some rather heretical notions that he still held. Indeed, even though Zhang had been assured of his absolution and salvation through devotion to Jesus Christ, perhaps he thought it was all a bit too good to be true. He would not rest until he had found Heaven and spoken to God himself. It was for these reasons that Zhang finally decided that his armies would march neither south nor east in the spring of 1646. Instead, they would look to the west. Where better to find Heaven than the roof of the world, after all? Zhang Kewang remained in Chengdu as a caretaker regent, Zhang Dingguo was deputized to patrol the eastern border and guard against Qing incursions, and in May of 1646, Zhang Xianzhong marshaled his armies and invaded Tibet . . .
(1) It is uncertain whether Buglio was genuinely ignorant of the more bloodthirsty aspects of Zhang’s character, or was merely seeking to downplay them.
(2) “You mean that all I need to do is pray a bunch, and I can be assured of eternal happiness, even though I have murdered thousands of people? What a deal!”
(3) I’ve mentioned it already, but just to reiterate, de Magalhaes and Buglio are OTL characters. They were Jesuits who traveled to Sichuan as missionaries, were captured by Zhang’s invading forces, and spent a couple of years as court astronomers before the Qing destroyed Zhang’s armies.
(4) This may or may not have interesting consequences down the road.
(5) Buglio and de Magalhaes are cut off from the rest of China, so their plans regarding who to support are really just so much guesswork. In fact, other Jesuits are making inroads with the Qing, as future updates will make clear.
*Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait to hear about the adventures of Zhang Xianzhong in Tibet. Next I’ll start talking about the Southern Ming. Zheng Chenggong, enter stage left . . .
Excerpted from “Waning Brightness: The Empire of the Southern Ming,” by Maxwell S. Hammer.
- Even as Beijing fell and the body of the Chongzhen Emperor dangled from an elm tree in Beihai Park, the foundations were being laid in Nanjing for the continuation of the Ming Dynasty. The first task, of course, was to settle on a suitable candidate for Emperor. While the Chongzhen Emperor’s son and heir had perished amidst the chaos of the fall of Beijing, there were certainly no shortage of princes, and there was also an established procedure for the succession. Thus it was that in June of 1644, Zhu Yousong, the Prince of Fu, ascended to the throne as the Hongguang Emperor in Nanjing. Far too many modern historians choose to present this moment as the beginning of the Ming’s return to glory, or at least their return from obsolescence. In fact, the Hongguang Emperor’s nascent regime almost collapsed on numerous occasions and was plagued in its early years by myriad structural problems that impeded governance and the development of centralized authority. In particular, there were two persistent problems with the Southern Ming Empire that would repeatedly take it to the brink of disaster.
The first, and undoubtedly the most glaring, of these problems was that Hongguang was almost completely reliant on “generals” who in fact were little more than mercenary warlords. Indeed, the bulk of the forces available to the Southern Ming came from the personal armies of four of such men: Gao Jie, Huang Degong, Liu Liangzuo, and Liu Zeqing. Without their armies, the Southern Ming would be almost helpless against the waves of Manchu invaders sweeping down from the north. Yet life with Gao, Huang, Liu and Liu was no easy ride, either. Personal rivalries and petty squabbling were the order of the day among the so-called “guardian generals” of the Southern Ming. Although the Hongguang Emperor was largely dependent on the four great warlords to guard the approaches to Nanjing north of the Yangzi River, he also had to deal with the constant fear that one or more of the warlords would defect if given a sweet enough offer from the Qing, as so many other former loyalists had already done. If that was not enough, each of the four great warlords sent lackeys and relatives to intrigue at the imperial court in Nanjing, causing all manner of anger and ill-will. Not that the imperial court needed any help in generating those emotions . . .
Indeed, dissension at court was perhaps the single greatest factor contributing to the general climate of chaos and disorganization in the early days of the Southern Ming. Unfortunately for all concerned, the Hongguang Emperor’s advisers were preoccupied with fighting the battles of the previous generation, rather than focusing their attention on the Manchu crisis. The major conflict at court pitted the influential eunuchs, led by Ma Shiying, against the partisans of the Donglin faction, led by Minister of War Shi Kefa. His faction, which had been alternately praised and reviled over the last twenty-five years depending on who was in power at the time, had its roots in opposition to corrupt officials, most prominently railing against the excesses of the eunuchs. Needless to say, the eunuchs themselves did not take kindly to this criticism, and the court of the Hongguang Emperor was thus riven with factional disputes, as pro- and anti-eunuch coalitions coalesced around the persons of Ma Shiying and Shi Kefa, respectively. Ma had the better of the internecine conflict in the early months of the Southern Ming; it was he who ferried the then-Prince of Fu to Nanjing in a fleet he had commandeered during the fall of Beijing, and it was he who won the callow and indecisive emperor’s ear during the chaotic beginning of his reign. Shi Kefa retired from court sometime in the fall or winter of 1644, decamping to the city of Yangzhou to oversee the defenses there against the assault that he knew must surely come. For after some desultory negotiations, in which Hongguang had asked the Qing ever so politely to leave China and go back where they came from, and the Manchu regent Dorgon had responded with a counteroffer in which he generously offered to spare Hongguang’s life were he to surrender at once, it was clear that the two sides had very little to talk about. War was coming, and it seemed as though the bureaucrats and generals of the Southern Ming would be just as content with fighting each other as they would with fighting the Qing. It seemed as though the nascent Southern Ming was destined to be strangled in its cradle . . . (1)
(1) Everything here is as per OTL. Just setting the stage and providing some context.
Excerpted from “Righteous Lord of Nine Thousand Years: A Biography of Shi Kefa,” by Yuji Nakazawa.
- As 1644 gave way to 1645, the very survival of the Southern Ming was in the balance. Their fate teetered on a knife edge, and no one knew this better than Shi Kefa, who had been put in charge of military affairs and commanded the armies of the Hongguang Emperor from his base at Yangzhou. Shi’s task was far from an easy one; he had to deal with the endless squabbling of his immediate subordinates, the four “guardian generals,” as well as with a steady stream of defections to the Qing on the part of local sub-commanders. All the while, he was hampered by the disorganization and incoherency that characterized the Nanjing regime controlled by the Emperor’s chief eunuch adviser Ma Shiying, a man vastly more skilled at factional infighting than at formulating policy. Indeed, Shi himself had been sent to Yangzhou by Ma Shiying, because the latter did not want Shi anywhere near the inconstant and susceptible Hongguang Emperor. The two men had long been rivals; Shi was associated with the anti-corruption and anti-eunuch Donglin movement, and Ma, as mentioned, was himself a eunuch. For all of these reasons, Shi’s job was perhaps more akin to that of a cat herder than a commanding general; his greatest difficulty was getting his subordinates to move in the same direction. Yet despite all of this, Shi formulated a shockingly bold and aggressive battle plan in that cold and damp winter of 1644-5. Rather than let the Manchu armies come to him, Shi decided to go to them, hoping to win a decisive battle and break out north of the Yangzi River onto the Central Plain (1). In late February of 1645, Shi began his offensive, moving his army out of Yangzhou and linking up with Gao Jie, one of the “guardian generals” (2). Those two armies began their northern march on or about February 27th and moved towards the army commanded by the Manchu Prince Duoduo. Meanwhile, Shi ordered guardian generals Zuo Liangyu (3) and Huang Degong, who were based further west, to make threatening diversionary movements towards the other Manchu army in the region, this one commanded by the Prince Haoge. Shi’s objective was to descend quickly on Duoduo’s army and force it into combat before the Manchu prince saw the danger and moved to link up with his subordinate Haoge.
Duoduo dithered for two days before deciding that attempting to link up with Haoge was useless, and retreating from the advancing Southern Ming was unlikely to win him favor with the Prince Regent Dorgon, who ruled in Beijing until the child Shunzhi Emperor attained his majority. This left Duoduo with only one option - attack - and he did just that. The two sides met on March 5th in what has come to be known as the Battle of Huai’an, although the actual fighting probably took place more than ten kilometers east of the city itself. Reliable eyewitness accounts are few and far between, but it seems that sometime in the early afternoon, after several hours of combat, Shi Kefa succeeded in turning Duoduo’s right flank, and proceeded to neatly roll up the Manchu army. The casualties on both sides probably numbered in the tens of thousands, including Shi’s subordinate Zuo Liangyu. Meanwhile, Duoduo had the misfortune to be captured alive; he was sent in irons to Nanjing, where he made the acquaintance of the Hongguang Emperor’s eunuch torturers. The ultimate manner of his demise is disputed. Shi Kefa’s dramatic victory at Huai’an had numerous consequences, for both the victors and the vanquished. In Beijing, Regent Dorgon cursed and raged. The momentum of what seemed to be the unstoppable Manchu army had been halted in Jiangsu, and immediate measures had to be taken to prevent Shi Kefa from continuing north into Shandong. Dorgon turned to what was perhaps the most potent weapon in his arsenal, the former Ming general turned traitor Wu Sangui, who was recalled from his pacification campaign in eastern Gansu and ordered to defeat Shi by any means necessary. In reality, the situation was not quite as urgent as Dorgon believed it to be. Shi Kefa’s army was in no condition to advance anywhere, save perhaps to the infirmary. In fact, Shi withdrew to Yancheng three days after the Battle of Huai’an concluded, there to recuperate and to plot his next move. Meanwhile, the Prince Haoge’s army avoided engagement with Southern Ming forces; after receiving word of Duoduo’s defeat, Haoge decided to move further west and wait for Wu Sangui’s arrival before taking further action. He thus entered northern Hubei - and it was there that he met the Wu-Tang Clan . . .
Excerpted from “Waning Brightness: The Empire of the Southern Ming,” by Maxwell S. Hammer.
- After the victory at Huai’an, Shi Kefa was immediately beset by new crises that demanded attention. The first was caused by the death in battle of his subordinate, General Zuo Liangyu. With Zuo’s death, his army, which would perhaps be more accurately described as an armed mob, started to disintegrate, splintering into smaller bands and moving into the countryside to pillage and plunder. Shi attempted to reconstitute the army around a new commander, the former pirate Zheng Zhilong, whose charisma and élan managed to win the support of enough of Zuo’s sub-commanders to maintain the army’s viability as a fighting force. Still, Shi was forced to detach troops to hunt down the renegade splinter groups from Zuo’s army, which took time and distracted him from planning what he had hoped would be a new offensive north into Shandong. Of course, any thoughts of further advance were soon banished by events, which saw Shi’s army racing back south towards Nanjing itself.
For it was in the spring of 1645 that the internecine feuding of the Southern Ming court and generals finally came to a head. For months, those in disfavor had been slowly coalescing into a coherent group. They were many and varied, and included Donglin proponents, those who had called for the Prince of Lu to be crowned, and numerous other scholar-officials who had antagonized Ma Shiying. In April, they sent a memorial to Huang Degong, another of the “guardian generals,” asking him to intervene and “sweep away the parasites that cling to the Son of Heaven.” Huang complied with the petition in a manner bolder than anyone had expected. He left his post on April 19th and marched his army towards Nanjing, intending to “sweep away the parasites” with overwhelming force (4). Huang imagined himself as a champion of righteousness, and was thus surprised when he failed to pick up additional support on his march. Nevertheless, his army was more than sufficient to accomplish the task he had set out for it, and panic ensued in the Nanjing court. Shi Kefa was recalled from northern Jiangsu, and ordered to march south and destroy Huang’s army.
Shi was highly unenthusiastic about abandoning his hard-won position - all the more so given that he essentially agreed with Huang Degong’s position that the Hongguang Emperor was surrounded by corrupt and mendacious advisors. Shi attempted to drag his feet, but when a second order came from the Emperor himself, he reluctantly turned his army around and began marching it back south towards Nanjing. Clearly, the Southern Ming were in disarray, but the Manchus could not profit from their division. Wu Sangui had yet to arrive on the scene, and Haoge had his hands more than full in Hubei Province putting down the ferocious guerilla movement that had emerged. The Qing simply did not have the troops in position to take advantage of their rival’s weakness. In any event, Shi marched his troops south, although surviving records indicate that he was in no great rush to do so. It is unclear whether it would have made any difference had he hurried - his northern offensive had left him out of position to defend Nanjing - but he was two days slower than Huang Degong, whose forces entered the Southern Capital on May Day of 1645.
Huang immediately set to work cleansing the court after his arrival, capturing every eunuch he could lay his hands on and putting them to death at once. The Hongguang Emperor was put under guard, and coerced to sign a document naming Huang as his new Chief Minister. The Purge of the Eunuchs, as it is known, was as short-lived as its name suggests. For on May 3rd the army of Shi Kefa arrived. Huang’s forces, which had been busily drinking themselves into a stupor when not hunting down those whom their commander disapproved of, were in no condition to dress themselves, let alone fight a battle. Shi freed the emperor, was rewarded by being named the Chief Minister himself, and proceeded to more or less finish what Huang had started. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Still, after all of the shouting and bloodletting, the internal divisions in the court had been removed, and power was firmly consolidated in Shi’s hands. He thus began a more rigorous reorganization of the Southern Ming forces, while warily keeping an eye on the north, where Wu Sangui would soon make his presence felt . . .
(1) There’s some evidence to indicate that Shi actually wanted to pursue an offensive strategy OTL, but the divisions and infighting in the Ming court prevented him from doing it. Those divisions are still present ITTL, but the breaking point has basically been pushed back a few months, so Shi has a free hand for now.
(2) Gao Jie’s death in OTL has been butterflied away by Shi’s offensive, which changes the entire tactical situation in Jiangsu.
(3) I forgot to mention him in the last update, but Zuo is another of the “guardian generals,” who are more accurately described as warlords.
(4) Something very similar to this happened in OTL - although I’ve changed a few details - and was part of the reason why the Nanjing regime fell, as Shi had to leave Yangzhou, and when he returned the Qing armies were knocking on the door. ITTL, the Ming have enough breathing room to sort out their own divisions without being pressed too hard by the Qing, due to Shi’s victory at Huai’an.
Excerpted from “The Story of the Glorious Sword of the Wu-Tang Clan,” by Gao Feiyang. (1)
BOOK V: WU-TANG VERSUS THE GOLDEN PHOENIX
- In the fourth month of the first year of the reign of the Hongguang Emperor came the barbarian invaders to Hubei. Their army swarmed like ants over the surface of the land, and they inflicted ten thousand injuries and indignities upon the common people. They were filled with desire, and with longing for things that were not and could never be, and they knew not the joy of emptiness and the unconscious. So they caused things to be done that should not have been done. The Wu-Tang Clan resolved to destroy the barbarian general, and remove the scourge from the land. But the barbarian general was guarded by a warrior of fierce and unnatural power, named the Golden Phoenix. So the Nine Masters of the Wu-Tang Clan trekked to the Citadel of Thunder and Lightning, where the Golden Phoenix dwelled with ten thousand soldiers, and began the ferocious attack. They fell upon the barbarians with perfected martiality, destroying the foes without mercy.
Ri Za said, “Let us bring the raucous noise of war to the enemy!”
Inspector of the Deck said, “The Wu-Tang Clan is not a thing to be trifled with!”
The Nine Masters fought on. Ghost-Face Killer saw that Rui Kong was about to be attacked from behind by a host of the foe.
Then Ghost-Face Killer said, “Rui Kong! On guard! You had better protect your neck!”
So Rui Kong turned and slew the enemy with contemptuous ease. Then he said, “Shame on a barbarian for this cowardly action!”
During the battle the Wu-Tang Clan displayed no effort and took no conscious actions, in accordance with the Dao. Thus nothing was left undone. The Nine Masters vanquished the legion of foes, and arrived in a vast circular room, with ten thousand doors and ten thousand windows. You-God said, “This room is the Seventh Chamber. Inside we will find the Golden Phoenix.” So the Nine Masters entered.
Inside they found the Golden Phoenix. He stroked his mustache, and preened and strutted. Then he said, “There are nine of you, and I am but one. Which of you shall fight me honorably in chess-fighting?”
Then the Old Dirty Bastard gave a shout, for his skill in the mysteries of chess-fighting was renowned. “My style is unbreakable! Prepare to be defeated most ignominiously,” he said.
So the warriors sat above the chessboard, and moved the pieces to and fro. After the sand had left the glass, they engaged in honorable combat, before returning to the chess match. But the Golden Phoenix was sly and treacherous. During the clash of minds, he furtively removed a knife, and attempted a quick strike.
The Old Dirty Bastard blocked the blow. Then he laughed. “Ha! I am the Old Dirty Bastard, alive and uncut!” Then he dealt the Golden Phoenix a mighty blow, stunning him, and the Nine Masters bound the foe and stood around him to render a final verdict.
Master Killer said, “It is not the Wu-Tang Clan who sits in judgment of you, Golden Phoenix. We have gone forth, to the towns and villages, and have done a survey of the common people, who have decided how you shall answer for your crimes.”
The Golden Phoenix sneered, again. “What do I care for the Han people?” So said he with contempt in his serpent’s voice.
Then Method Man gave a shout. “And the survey says - you are dead!” So he chopped off the Golden Phoenix’s head. Thus ended the battle.
Excerpted from “Disciples of the 36 Chambers: A New History of the Wu-Tang Clan,” by Lamont Hawkins.
- The Wu-Tang Clan’s struggle to overthrow the Qing and restore the Ming entered a new phase in May 1645, when the Manchu general and prince Haoge moved his army into Hubei following the events of the Battle of Huai’an (2). Previously, the only Qing forces stationed in Hubei had been small detachments; while larger armies had transited the province, their passage had been quick. Haoge, on the other hand, intended to stay in Hubei indefinitely, until at least Wu Sangui arrived from the west and a new battle strategy could be developed against the suddenly ascendant armies of the Southern Ming. This was thus the first chance for the Wu-Tang Clan to show their revolutionary chops and make an impression beyond the relatively small piece of northern and central Hubei in which they had operated up to this point. The early signs were not good. Almost immediately, the Clan broke out into factional infighting; although records are sketchy as to the personages involved in the debate, the crux of the argument centered on whether to attack the Manchu forces immediately or to wait, build up strength, and focus on a guerilla campaign. The Wu-Tang response was initially feeble and haphazard. Small units entered battle on their own initiative and were destroyed, while other warriors simply quit in disgust over the internal turmoil. The official chronicle of the Wu-Tang exploits, Story of the Glorious Sword of the Wu-Tang Clan, retreats into outright myth when discussing this period. Some historians have argued that the tale of “Wu-Tang vs. the Golden Phoenix” is in fact an extended metaphor on the need for the Clan to unite; this historian, frankly, doubts that the author (the mysterious “Gao Feiyang”) had the literary skills to pull such a rabbit out of his hat. The Clan simply bided their time during this period of debate, choosing not to openly display their power and force and thus avoiding a full-scale confrontation with Haoge’s army.
In any event, the strategy of doing nothing - what the Wu-Tang Clan was forced into during their internal debate - proved profitable after all. When Haoge issued decrees ordering all male Chinese to adopt the Manchu hairstyle (the “queue”), a pent-up dam of revolutionary sentiment, which had been building since the military occupation of Hubei began, burst suddenly and without warning (3). The Wu-Tang quickly took advantage, publicizing the decision, comprehensively denouncing the Manchus as “barbarian invaders,” and promising the restoration of the Ming. Throughout the summer of 1645, the Clan stepped up their guerrilla campaign while at the same time incorporating the new arrivals to the cause into their rapidly growing army. Then, in September, the Wu-Tang struck. A team of assassins infiltrated Wuchang and killed the Prince Haoge in his sleep. While the Manchu army was trying to decide what had hit them, Clan leadership called together their forces at Wudang Mountain, where formal ceremonies were held. Then the army marched out into the open for the first time, intending to destroy their opponents once and for all. Meanwhile, leadership of Haoge’s army had devolved to his subordinate, the Manchu general Tao Kua. His army had been bled dry throughout the summer by incessant guerilla warfare, and now the Prince Haoge himself had been assassinated. Tao Kua decided to simply cut his losses, and quitted Hubei forthwith, moving east into Anhui Province, where he linked up with Wu Sangui and the combined armies wintered in Zhengzhou. This left the Wu-Tang Clan ascendant - they had liberated Hubei. Celebrations broke out across the province, and a delegation of Wu-Tang leaders made the journey to Nanjing at the end of the year, intending to pay homage to the Hongguang Emperor and to incorporate their forces into his army. The summer and fall of 1645 mark the emergence of the Wu-Tang Clan into the open. No longer were they merely one in a long line of revolutionary bands - they had organized a mighty army and liberated a province. And there were still greater things to come . . .
(1) This chronicle was written by a Wu-Tang scribe in or around the mid-1660s. While it is at times useful to the historian, at other times it is less of a history and more of a myth. Readers should adopt a skeptical attitude when perusing this tale.
(2) As per the events of the last update.
(3) This happened in OTL, and it also ignited a revolutionary fervor in OTL as well. Hair may seem a small thing to fight over, but for many people, this confirmed dormant fears that the Manchu really were evil barbarian invaders - and that calls for revolution!
*All hail the victorious Wu-Tang Clan! WU-TANG! WU-TANG! WU-TANG! Next up, another Southern Ming update, which should finally get us to the end of 1645 for everyone. After that, it’s Zhang Xianzhong’s invasion of Tibet.
Excerpted from “Waning Brightness: The Empire of the Southern Ming,” by Maxwell S. Hammer.
- Although both the Southern Ming and the Qing had imagined that Shi Kefa’s victory at Huai’an would lead to an extended offensive north into Shandong and Henan, it never in fact materialized. Most critically, the Purge of the Eunuchs caused the planned Ming offensive to come to a crashing halt, as Shi’s troops were needed first to put down Huang Degong and then to cement Shi’s position as the new Chief Minister of the Hongguang Emperor (1). In the wake of Huang’s not-quite rebellion - it is difficult to settle on a name that adequately describes his actions, as he never intended to overthrow the emperor - the Southern Ming lost the initiative on the Central Plain, and the northern front stagnated until Wu Sangui’s arrival on the scene at the beginning of June. The Purge of the Eunuchs also had consequences other than depriving the Ming of the initiative; as Shi Kefa was needed in Nanjing to oversee the day-to-day affairs of government, the Southern Ming were also deprived of their most skilled battlefield commander. The summer campaign would make that point clear in painfully blunt fashion. In Shi’s absence, command of the forces in northern Jiangsu - the spearhead of the Ming armies and the sector that was almost assured to be the first recipient of Wu Sangui’s attention - devolved onto the capable person of Lu Zhenfei, a diligent and talented scholar-bureaucrat. Knowing that his skills lay in the administrative rather than the martial realm, Lu turned over command of the military to Zheng Zhilong, a former merchant and pirate and an associate of Lu’s for many years. While Zheng was indisputably bold, daring, and courageous, he was hampered in that the vast majority of his military experience had taken place at sea rather than on land. He was thus at a decisive disadvantage when pitted against the wily and seasoned campaigner Wu Sangui, a veteran of countless campaigns under both the Ming and now the Qing banner.
After allowing ample time for his troops to rest - they had made a forced march from Shaanxi in the mistaken belief that the Ming were about to threaten Shandong and perhaps even Beijing itself - Wu made his opening gambit in early July of 1645, surprising all parties by moving southwest into Anhui. The startled Zheng, who was assuming a frontal attack from Wu, was forced to leave his defensive emplacements behind and pursue the turncoat general. The two armies finally collided on July 17th outside the town of Bengbu. In the end, it was Wu’s cunning and guile that won the day. Although reliable records of the battle are scarce, several chroniclers state that Wu divided his army into two parts, engaged Zheng with the greater of the two, and then sent the smaller part around Zheng’s flank to attack him from the rear at the height of the battle. Whatever the tactics were, the Southern Ming were decisively defeated. Zheng Zhilong was captured alive, and in an unusual move, Wu Sangui chose to torture and to execute his defeated foe on the battlefield, rather than sending him in chains to Beijing, where he would no doubt have met the same fate in the end (2). Most historians cite this as the reason behind Zheng Chenggong’s fanatical opposition to the Qing, and it is difficult to refute the orthodox interpretation in this case; hearing of the brutal torture and death of one’s father would seem to make one less partial toward his killers. After the Battle of Bengbu Wu moved quickly south, investing Hefei less than two weeks after his initial triumph. Yet quick thinking on the part of the city magistrate prevented Wu from seizing the city without a fight, and he was forced to sit through a two month siege that finally ended with the capitulation and bloody sack of Hefei in early October. Wu’s army, which was rather battered by this point, attempted twice to cross the Yangzi River in mid and late October, only to be thrown back both times by determined Ming resistance. In November Wu quit his attempts and returned to Hefei, where he set up winter quarters and plotted his campaign of 1646, which he hoped would end with the capture of Nanjing and the destruction of the Southern Ming Dynasty . . .
Excerpted from “The Veritable Records of Ming.” (3)
SEVENTH MONTH OF THE FIRST YEAR OF THE REIGN OF THE HONGGUANG EMPEROR
The Ministry of Rites received a delegation of notables from Wuchang-in-Hubei. This delegation came to announce that Hubei had been cleansed of barbarian invaders, and entreated the Son of Heaven to once more extend the benevolence of his reign to Hubei. The delegation purports to represent the liberators of Hubei, styled the Wu-Tang Clan, and it was led by the envoys Ghost-Face Killer, Rui Kong, and Method Man. Petitioners made note of the endless beneficence and generosity shown to their order by the Hongwu and Jiajing Emperors, and stated that it was these expressions of imperial benevolence shown by bygone rulers that prompted their extraordinary actions on behalf of the Son of Heaven. The envoys brought tribute, consisting of numerous and sundry spoils of war taken from the barbarian invaders. This tribute was notated and recorded by the Sub-Minister of Protocol. The envoys were banqueted and rewarded in accordance with the precedents. Grand Councilor Shi Kefa conferred the title of Provincial Magistrate for Hubei on Ri Za, the leader of the liberators. The Emperor, in his boundless generosity, decreed that as a reward for the actions of the Wu-Tang Clan, eighty-eight new temples of the Daoist path would be constructed forthwith in his realm (4).
Excerpted from “Fact Sheet #4a, Introduction to Chinese History,” by Professor Scheherazade Wang. Department of Oriental Studies, Cambridge University.
- Following up on our previous discussions about the genesis of and mythology surrounding the anti-Qing religious society known as the Wu-Tang Clan, we now move on to examine that society’s impact on the broader Chinese culture. Again, all of these terms and concepts are fair game for the final exam.
说诗唱 (shuoshichang, or “spoken poem-song”): A seamless blend of poetry and song, shuoshichang is a uniquely Chinese art form that survives to the present day. The genre originated among Wu-Tang warriors as a pre-battle ritual: they would compose narrative poems extolling their fighting spirit and enumerating the tortures to be inflicted upon the foe. As the genre grew more complex, a set form emerged. For example, rhyme became an essential element of the shuoshichang, as it made for a more harmonious sound. Additionally, although it was acceptable to compose a shuoshichang in advance, those that were composed on the spot (“freestyle”) were more prized. Exemplars of the genre include Zhu Hongbo’s anti-materialist polemic “Taels Rule Everything Around Me,” and Qian Zhongshu’s lament “Severe Punishment.”
节奏口技 (jiezou kouji, or “vocal percussion”): Sometimes translated as “beat-boxing.” This art, which involves producing rhythmic drumming sounds with the mouth, is often used as a musical accompaniment to shuoshichang. It originated with the Wu-Tang Clan, and it is believed that the style developed due to the privations faced by the Clan in their early years. Since there were no percussion instruments to be found, and no time to make them, the Clan simply used their bodies to produce melodies that corresponded to their poem-songs.
(1) These events were described in more detail two updates ago, just in case you’ve forgotten.
(2) OTL he was also executed by the Qing, although in entirely different circumstances.
(3) The Veritable Records of Ming (明实录) was basically the record of each emperor’s reign. OTL, of course, it ended with the Chongzhen Emperor in 1644. ITTL, the Ming survive . . . indefinitely.
(4) Given the state of the Hongguang Emperor’s finances, the Wu-Tang Clan probably shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for these temples to actually be built. Still, it’s a nice gesture.
*As you can see, the Wu-Tang and Southern Ming story threads are starting to converge. More on them later, but in the next update we’ll return to the adventures of Zhang Xianzhong. As always, thanks for reading.
Excerpted from “The Yellow Tiger: A Biography of Zhang Xianzhong,” by Gary Grice.
- The invasion of Tibet, spurred on by Hegemon-King Zhang Xianzhong’s belief that Heaven could be found by climbing to the top of the highest mountain in that highest of lands, was, in the words of his spiritual advisor Ludovico Buglio, “a short and victorious war.” Buglio and his fellow Jesuit Gabriel de Magalhaes, who had converted the Hegemon-King to Christianity, had reason to be relieved; the entire expedition was more or less a lark, and the Jesuits were even more concerned that Zhang persisted in certain heretical notions, not the least of which was his belief that he could reach Heaven and speak with God and Jesus. Nevertheless, there were none in the State of Ba who dared question the wishes of the Hegemon-King, and thus the invasion of Tibet proceeded as planned in the spring of 1646. In the end, and wholly unsurprisingly, it was sheer weight of numbers that told the tale. Although the Dalai Lama’s army, primarily composed of Mongolian cavalry, was highly maneuverable, it was ill-suited to stop Zhang’s massive army as it marched straight for Drepung. The Army of Ba swatted away several Tibetan attacks as if they were so many mosquitoes and unceremoniously sacked the Tibetan capital in mid-May. Although the Dalai Lama survived, fleeing with a substantial force, the fall of Drepung largely spelled the end of organized resistance. Zhang continued on to Lhasa, where the Dalai Lama had been busy constructing what would have become the new capital of the Tibetan Empire. This city was not sacked; on the contrary, Zhang ordered the half-finished Potala Palace to be completed and renamed Lhasa as Tiancheng (天城, or City of Heaven). At this point, the Hegemon-King paused and divided his army; several segments were sent to the northern reaches of Tibet to survey the landscape, assert the authority of Ba, and compel obedience from the natives. Another segment of the army remained in Tiancheng, where they began to Christianize the Tibetans, with decidedly mixed results. Meanwhile, Zhang and a final detachment moved west, towards the Himalaya Mountains. Heaven beckoned . . .
After moving steadily west for several weeks through Shigatse, Zhang and company finally began to arrive at the Himalayan foothills. Here, the expedition faced its first problem. How on earth were they to ascertain which of the monstrous peaks before them was the biggest one? Miraculously enough, it appears that they actually hit on the right one; although it is impossible to be completely certain, examination of the expedition’s chronicles suggests that they did indeed attempt to summit Mt. Zhumulangma in July of 1646 (1). Yaks and guides were commandeered from the surrounding villages and a base camp was constructed in preparation for what Zhang firmly believed would be his ascent into Heaven. They were to find that if the mountain was indeed the path to Heaven, then God was not in the mood to receive visitors. Early attempts to scout out a path to the summit were stymied by avalanches, storms, and altitude sickness respectively; on the fourth attempt as many as fifty climbers died in a massive storm which left them stranded. Zhang remained undaunted; in what is undoubtedly the most famous exchange from the expedition’s official chronicle, the Tale of Voyaging to the Roof of the World, his loyal secretary Zhu Feng asked his monarch if it was possible that the mountain was not in fact the pathway to Heaven. Zhang allowed that perhaps it was not, yet insisted that the summit must be reached nonetheless. When Zhu Feng inquired as to why this was the case, why the top must be reached no matter the cost, Zhang grandly replied: “因为它就在那里” (yinwei ta jiu zai nali, or, “Because it is there”). On the fifth attempt the Hegemon-King himself joined the team, which went farther than any of the previous four. Yet like the others, it ended not with a bang but a whimper; Zhang fell into a crevasse. Somehow he survived - a rope was sent down and the Hegemon-King was dragged back to the surface - but the quest to reach Heaven had ended. For the rest of his life, Zhang would walk with a limp, and he would always be susceptible to chills. The experience only deepened his growing Christianity (2), and as he was carried back to Tiancheng in a litter, his thoughts centered on spreading the faith . . .
Excerpted from “Tragedy and Triumph: The Story of Lobsang Gyatso, 5th Dalai Lama,” by Darryl Hill.
- Before his thirtieth birthday, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso had already proved his great worth on many occasions. He had conquered Shigatse and Kham; he had pacified Amdo; he had asserted the dominance of the Gelugpa sect; indeed, he had unified Tibet under his rule. He was thus shocked and horrified beyond measure when Zhang Xianzhong’s Army of Ba swept through his lands, destroying his kingdom in what seemed a blink of the eye. In truth, although the Dalai Lama had been completely unprepared for the invasion (3), it is unlikely that much would have changed even had he been aware of the coming onslaught. The force of arms arrayed against Tibet was simply too much to be overcome, and it was a scant few months after the invaders entered his empire that the Dalai Lama found himself fleeing in a most undignified manner. All was not totally lost, however. The Dalai Lama had managed to gather around his person a formidable force of several thousand Mongol cavalry, the flower of his armed forces; his plan was to ride north to their homeland and rally there. However, as it so happened, Zhang’s forces were operating to the north in strength, and the Dalai Lama’s men narrowly escaped the invader’s clutches on several occasions. In despair, Lobsang Gyatso gave up and ordered his men to move south, rather than north. None of the cavalrymen he commanded would ever see Mongolia again. For that matter, he would never see Tibet again. Yet the Dalai Lama’s future proved to be brighter than anyone could possibly have guessed . . .
For several months, the Dalai Lama and his troops moved slowly south and east, generally following the line of the Lancang (Mekong) River wherever they could, although they had to deviate at points due to impassable terrain. At some point in the autumn of 1646, the Dalai Lama arrived at Dali, in Yunnan. At this point Yunnan, a rugged border province, was in a sort of no-man’s-land at the time: the Southern Ming did not have enough troops to send any of them traipsing off to the frontier, while Zhang Xianzhong’s forces were either in Tibet or guarding the western border against attacks from either the Ming or the Qing, who themselves were nowhere near Yunnan. Thus, government in Yunnan was largely nonexistent; in many cases it was conducted on the township level by magistrates left over from the Ming, who treated individual towns and villages as their private fiefs, more or less. Naturally, the entrance of the Dalai Lama and his several thousand cavalry auxiliaries rather upset the balance that had existed in Yunnan up to that point. The Dalai Lama quickly took over the town of Dali, using it as his base of operations - it would later become his capital - and issuing a call to all Buddhists to join him. This strategy met with mixed success, while the deployment of his cavalry squadrons resulted in yet more additions to Gyatso’s rapidly growing realm. It was in these, the early stages of his resurgence, that the Dalai Lama truly came into his element as a master diplomat and statesman: he cut deals with local magistrates, who added their fiefs to his rule; he enticed whole tribes to convert to Buddhism with the power of his preaching; he mercilessly crushed other tribes that resisted the Eightfold Path. It was with shocking speed - aided both by the lack of any great power in the area and his own fierce resolve - that the Dalai Lama carved out a new state for himself in Yunnan. It was a state that was built around his person and around Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) Buddhism. This was so much the case, in fact, that the Dalai Lama’s new state rather quickly became known in Chinese as Huangmaoguo (黄帽国, or “Yellow Hat Land”). From the ashes of his defeat in Tibet, the Dalai Lama had risen as if he was a phoenix. And in 1648, after consolidating his power over the entirety of Yunnan, he looked to expand his nascent state’s borders. Wary of the power of Ba and of the Southern Ming, he did not go north, nor did he go east. Rather, the Dalai Lama’s forces moved south . . .
(1) Also known as Mount Everest.
(2) The circumstances of Zhang’s conversion to Christianity are explained in previous posts.
(3) Of course, there was no reason for him to be prepared for it. As I’ve tried to indicate, invading Tibet didn’t make much sense objectively, but Zhang Xianzhong has his own rationale for doing things.
*Meet the Dalai Lama and his angry Buddhist empire in Yunnan! As you can see, they will be headed into Southeast Asia soon, which will kick off all kinds of chaos. Butterflies galore, etc. Stay tuned for the details, although in the next update we’re going back to the Southern Ming. As always, thanks for reading.
Excerpted from “The Ming-Qing Wars,” by A.Q. Khan.
- 1646 looked as though it would be a pivotal year in the conflict that had torn China in two. Wu Sangui was poised for another attempt on the Southern Ming capital of Nanjing, while Shi Kefa rallied the loyalist forces and looked to prevent the turncoat general from crossing the Yangzi River. In April, the battle was joined, as Wu left his winter quarters in Hefei and moved his army south. After consultations with his generals, Shi Kefa opted for a defensive strategy; he elected not to give battle to the Qing general north of the Yangzi River, and instead concentrate his forces so as to prevent Wu’s army from crossing the Yangzi, without which Nanjing could not be captured. Initially Wu drove straight for the Ming capital, attempting to cross the river near Jinhekou, barely twenty kilometers south of Nanjing itself. Yet this most direct of approaches played straight into the defenders’ hands, and the Qing armies failed to cross the Chang successfully. Wu Sangui, having been denied once, opted to pursue a more circuitous route. He moved southwest, hoping to cross the Chang further upstream at an undefended ford and then swing back towards Nanjing, pulling the Ming defensive lines out of position and striking their capital city from the rear (1). The Qing forces moved at a forced march, stealing a march on their Ming counterparts, and made for the small town of Shiqiao, which had been chosen as an ideal crossing point due to the shallow water and large sandbar in the middle of the river near the town. When Wu Sangui and his army arrived, there were no Ming troops to be found, and the plan seemed to have been a smashing success. Boats were commandeered from the surrounding villages for animals and the high command, while the mass of the army waded through the thick and murky water, scarcely more than a hundred and fifty centimeters deep at its highest point. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, the riverboat navy of the Wu-Tang Clan arrived.
Excerpted from “The Story of the Glorious Sword of the Wu-Tang Clan,” by Gao Feiyang.
- Inspector of the Deck did not organize his forces, nor did he make grand plans. As he was a servant of the Dao, Inspector of the Deck took no conscious action. Thus, he was perfectly prepared (2). The Thrice-Damned Traitor, ever a master of lies and deceit, attempted to avoid honorable combat by the expedient of sneaking his foul host across the Mother of Rivers at an out-of-the-way location. Yet he could not fool Inspector of the Deck, who learned of the Thrice-Damned Traitor’s movements and sprang into action with fearsome and noble alacrity.
“Brothers!” said Inspector of the Deck to the boatmen and warriors of the Wu-Tang Clan. “Let us stain the river red with the blood of the enemy!”
Then the Glorious Armada (3) fell upon the foe, who were unprepared for the righteous rage of the Wu-Tang Clan. When they saw the Glorious Armada approach, they wept piteously, gnashed their teeth, and rent their garments, for they knew that their end had come. The Thrice-Damned Traitor, filth-encrusted vermin that he was, fled ignominiously at the first sign of combat, slinking back from whence he came. For the rest of the infidel host there was no mercy. Ten thousand heads were taken. There was much rejoicing.
After the great victory, Inspector of the Deck and his warriors celebrated with vigor. As the campfires crackled in the night, the warriors began beat-boxing, and Inspector of the Deck rose to perform a free-style poem-song.
Inspector of the Deck gave a shout. “The Wu-Tang Clan is ferocious and fearsome! With great fury we strike, and then are gone. With a will of Iron, we pummel the foe!”
Then there was a great shouting and clamor. The warriors spoke with one voice in approval. From this point, they marched under the Iron Flag of the Wu-Tang Clan.
Excerpted from “The Ming-Qing Wars,” by A.Q. Khan.
- Wu Sangui’s second attempt to cross the Yangzi River met with no more success than the first one, as partisans from the anti-Qing sect Wu-Tang Clan appeared on rowboats and barges, bringing the operation to an abrupt and unsatisfactory conclusion. A disgusted Wu formulated a new plan; he intended to march the army back through Anhui and onto the Central Plain of Jiangsu, where he would be able to strike at cities north of the river with impunity and hopefully draw the Ming defenders out into the open where they could be fought with more success. Yet this plan, and indeed the entire war itself, was preempted by a message from the Manchu Prince Regent Dorgon, which reached Nanjing in mid-June of 1646. The Qing wanted peace. While it was an abrupt turnaround from their position of 1644, when they had haughtily dismissed a Ming diplomatic mission, the Manchus found themselves in a more precarious position two years later. Popular discontent, which had been relatively muted since the Manchu conquest, boiled over in early 1646 when the Qing abruptly ordered all Han Chinese men to adopt the traditional Manchu hairstyle at once on pain of death (4). This decree served as a catalyst for anti-Manchu sentiment, and before long the Qing found themselves beset on all sides by dissidents and rebels. Prince Regent Dorgon refused to compromise, famously declaring “Keep your hair and don’t keep your head, or keep your head and don’t keep your hair” (留发不留头，留头不留发). There was absolutely no unity or cohesion to the rebels, who were united by nothing other than a general dislike of the Qing. Yet they were a growing problem for the Manchus. In Shandong, the Elm Garden Army (榆园军, Yu yuan jun), a loose agglomeration of bandits and peasants, terrorized Manchus from Qingdao to Qufu; in Hebei, the Eight Dragons Army (八龙军, Ba long jun) threatened Beijing itself at one point (5). Furthermore, and perhaps even more troubling, the Hui Muslim communities in Shaanxi and Gansu rose in revolt as well. It was this urgent need to pacify their newly-won dominions that forced the Qing to the negotiating table in the summer of 1646.
Peace was a welcome prospect for the Southern Ming as well. Even after the Purge of the Eunuchs and the installation of Shi Kefa as the Hongguang Emperor’s Chief Minister, there was a great deal of internal dissension and conflict in the Ming ranks. Moreover, the ultimate loyalty of a worrying number of their troops was highly suspect, as was the loyalty of a worrying number of the generals who commanded those troops. The Southern Ming saw the Qing peace overture as a chance to rest and reorganize their forces. The general Ming mindset also favored a peace with the Manchu; oddly enough from a modern perspective, they considered Zhang Xianzhong the greater threat (6). Thus it was that both sides were eager to come to an arrangement that would end the war - at least for now - and enable both the Qing and the Ming to focus on what they each regarded as the greater short-term threat to their hegemony. After scarcely a month of negotiations, the Treaty of Suzhou was signed in late July of 1646. The Ming paid a relatively substantial bribe to the Qing, in return for which the Manchus withdrew from Anhui and Jiangsu Provinces altogether (7); additionally, it was agreed that the Qing would give the Ming a free hand in the southwest, while the Ming would extend the same courtesy to their Qing counterparts in the northwest. As previously noted, neither side viewed the treaty as worth much more than the paper it was printed on. With peace secured, the Qing were free to devote their attention to pacifying the north. The Ming, meanwhile, looked first to bring the southwest under control and to quell the ever-present grumbling at court. For not everyone was happy with the peace . . .
Excerpted from “Spending the Night at Yunmen Temple,” by Wu Ming. (8)
Zheng Sen, son of the martyred general Zheng Zhilong, was in a ferocious rage. He paced back and forth in the small audience chamber, moaned with anguish, and clawed at his eyes.
“How can this be?” he said, voice rising in a wail. “How can we leave our work against the barbarian invaders unfinished? I will never raise my hand in anger against the Han people!”
Shi Kefa struggled mightily to avoid rolling his eyes, barely succeeding. He forced himself to sound stern rather than amused. “You will do what your Emperor tells you to do, Young Zheng,” he said. “That is what your father before you would have done.”
Zheng’s mutters faded into a resentful silence. Shi smiled, hoping to placate the young firebrand. “As it so happens,” he said, “you will not be asked to raise your hand against the Han people. You have been chosen to carry out another task.”
Zheng visibly perked up at this news. “Am I to march on Beijing itself and destroy the Manchu hordes once and for all?” he asked hopefully.
“No,” said Shi, shifting in his seat. “It has come to the court’s attention that the bandit king Zhang Xianzhong is guided and advised by red-haired barbarians from the far West. For too long we have indulged these devils from beyond the sea. Now you will redress the situation. Sail to Taiwan, and thence to Aomen. Remove the barbarian scourge, and bring these islands back into association with the Dragon Throne. Do this and we will make you the Great Barbarian-Subduing Admiral, Lord of Five Thousand Years.” (9)
In the corner of the room, the Emperor stirred for the first time. He was engrossed in painting; attempting to imitate the style of Ni Zan, he made each brushstroke with the greatest of care. Without looking up, he spoke. “Indeed, we will even grant you a new name,” he said. “To celebrate your success, you shall henceforth be Zheng Chenggong.”
Zheng knocked his head on the floor three times, then stood and regarded the emperor with awe. “All that I do in this world,” he said, “I do for the Son of Heaven.”
The Emperor abruptly stood, picked up his small dog, and marched over to the window. “Yes,” he said abstractly, still staring into the distance. “And so you shall. Find the barbarians. Leave none alive.”
(1) Geography lesson aside, it boils down to this: Wu Sangui is on one side of the river, and Nanjing is on the other side. And it’s a big river . . .
(2) I’ve hit this note a few times. It’s a reference to the Daoist concept of 无为 (wuwei), which translates as something like “non-conscious action.” It’s a bit difficult, but the idea revolves around not acting with undue thought, but moving in harmony with Nature and the universe. Or something to that effect.
(3) A bit of hyperbole. It’s mostly commandeered fishing boats.
(4) As per OTL.
(5) The Elm Garden Army actually existed; the Eight Dragons Army I just made up.
(6) Again as per OTL; initially the Ming hoped to form an alliance with the Qing against Zhang Xianzhong, Li Zicheng, etc. This was because barbarians invading from the north were as regular an occurrence as the sun rising in the east. From the Ming point of view, this was normal and could be dealt with. A bandit army taking over Sichuan (and Tibet ITTL), on the other hand, was highly irregular.
(7) For clarity’s sake, I’m using the modern names for places, rather than what they actually would have been called at the time.
(8) This book was written by a eunuch who survived the purge, and is a lightly fictionalized account of the early years of the Southern Ming court.
(9) Shi and the Emperor could not care less about the vagaries of barbarian religious doctrine. Catholic? Protestant? Who cares?
Excerpted from “Fact Sheet #4b, Introduction to Chinese History,” by Professor Scheherazade Wang. Department of Oriental Studies, Cambridge University.
CHINA AND THE WEST: THE INVASIONS OF TAIWAN AND AOMEN (MACAU), 1646
- The invasion of Taiwan by Zheng Chenggong (or Zheng Sen, as he was then known) in 1646 has been endlessly retold in virtually every medium imaginable. If you haven’t read Cao Xianzu’s Twelve Conquests of the Grand Admiral, you’ve probably seen Kenji Lazard’s masterpiece Ten Thousand Splendid Suns, or read Pieter van der Horst’s The Island. The moving and ultimately doomed love between Zheng Chenggong and Eleanor Stuyvesant has captivated readers of all ages and nationalities for centuries. Yet for the modern historian, who deals in facts rather than in legends, the first question we must ask when considering the invasion of Taiwan is simple. Why did it happen?
From a strategic perspective, the decision to detach a vast fleet and send it off to conquer a remote and unimportant island seems bizarre, even foolish perhaps. After the cessation of hostilities between the Ming and the Jurchens, it was patently obvious that the proximate threat to Ming power lay to the west, in the person of Hegemon-King Zhang Xianzhong and his State of Ba. In this context, the invasion and conquest of Taiwan (and the smaller island of Aomen, which had heretofore been leased to the Portuguese) was nothing more than a costly and time-consuming distraction. Surviving documents and personal statements from the Ming court in Nanjing indicate that the orders for the dispatch of Zheng Chenggong’s fleet were issued mostly founded on Ming apprehension and fears of Christianity. Word had long since reached Nanjing of Zhang Xianzhong’s conversion to Christianity and of his Jesuit advisors, Ludovico Buglio and Gabriel de Magalhaes. The Southern Ming not only feared that Aomen and Taiwan would become breeding grounds for Zhang supporters and act as a festering sore in the Empire’s side, but they also harbored wild fantasies of invasion forces setting forth from those islands to strike a blow for Christianity and Zhang Xianzhong. Never mind that the Dutch were Protestant, and that the Portuguese on Aomen had heard only vague rumors of the Jesuits to their northwest. Sometimes conspiracy theories can launch a thousand ships . . .
Excerpted from “The Great Undertaking: The Ming Invasions of Taiwan and Aomen,” by Anthony Judd.
- Due to the wretched decline in educational standards and the general uselessness of youth, it has become a popular delusion that Zheng Chenggong’s fleet invaded both Taiwan and Aomen. One supposes this is preferable to another tale this author has heard from many a graduate student, who have contrived to forget the fact of Aomen’s existence! Let us set the record straight. The invasion of Aomen was wholly the responsibility of Li Guangrong, Viceroy of Guangdong Province; the great distance between Taiwan and Aomen militated against any one man commanding the invasion of both islands. In contrast to the stout resistance put up by the Dutch on Taiwan, the invasion of Aomen proved to be something of a cakewalk for the Southern Ming. On or about the night of September 4, 1646, Li’s invasion force set out in junks and fishing boats and traversed the narrow strait that separated Aomen from the town of Zhuhai and the mainland. What happened next belongs more in the annals of farce than it does in those of military history . . .
Excerpted from “Report to His Majesty King Joao IV, from Governor-General Manuel Ferrara, late of the Island of Macau, sent from Goa,” written in approximately December of 1646. (2)
- It being an uneventful Thursday night, the garrison of Guia Fortress, having said their prayers and commended Your Majesty to God, retired for the night, excepting those who watched the walls. Due to the wretched and unforgiveable negligence of the watchmen (3), who in Your Majesty’s name have already been subjected to the firmest of discipline, rest assured, no cry rang out from the battlements when the Celestial hordes fell upon our redoubts. Your Majesty’s humble servant had been perusing the ledgers and planning exercises for the morrow (4) when my servant burst in, shouting incomprehensibly about a host of Celestials at the door. Surrounded by the cream of our forces (5), and clad in solemn livery (6), I made my way to the Plaza to discover a throng of Chinese inside the gates, armed to the teeth and reeking of blood. Their leader was a tall man of stern countenance, who was introduced to me as Viceroy Li. As the introductions were made, I asked my men how they had allowed this travesty to happen, and what could have possessed them to transgress against my stern orders to keep a careful watch. Fearful of my wrath and cognizant of how deeply they had failed Your Majesty’s trust, the watch mumbled a few contemptible phrases about the night and fog obscuring their vision. I had little time to chastise my wayward flock; through his translator, Viceroy Li demanded my attention. The viceroy brandished a scroll, covered in the indecipherable chicken-scratch that the Celestials use for writing, and through his translator proclaimed, “Due to regrettable and unforeseen circumstances beyond the control of His Imperial Majesty the Hongguang Emperor, we must inform you that your lease has been canceled immediately. Kindly gather your belongings and depart forthwith.”
I protested at great length against the outrageous injustice done to Your Majesty, but to no avail. The enemy horde, which far outnumbered our poor force (Your Majesty will no doubt recall that in my last report I made mention of the need for reinforcement of our positions on Macau) rattled their spears and shook their muskets, and we were compelled to pile onto the trading vessels in port. Scarcely more than an hour after the heathen beguiled his way into our fortress, we were bound for Goa, where thanks to a fair wind and the grace of Almighty God we have tarried these past few weeks. I humbly commend myself to Your Majesty’s good favor, and beg leave to ask for further instructions . . .
Excerpted from “The Great Undertaking: The Ming Invasions of Taiwan and Aomen,” by Anthony Judd.
- In contrast to the almost-laughable denouement of the invasion of Aomen, the invasion of Taiwan proved to be a lengthy and protracted affair. Zheng Chenggong, who hoped to earn the title of “Great Barbarian-Subduing Admiral, Lord of Five Thousand Years” that had been promised him in the event of a successful conquest of Taiwan, landed his troops near the site of modern-day Tainan City and made straight for Fort Zeelandia, the beating heart of Dutch Taiwan. Yet the men of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) were a great deal more competent than their Portuguese counterparts on Aomen. Zheng’s landing did not go unnoticed, and though Chinese and native tribesmen of Taiwan flocked to his banners, the walls of Fort Zeelandia were sturdy and their defenders were stout. After a brief attempt at negotiation, both sides settled in for a protracted siege, as it soon became clear that Zheng’s strength was not sufficient to force a breach in the wall via force of arms. As fall dragged on into winter, and as the year of 1646 gave way to 1647, the Dutch defenders held out, waiting for reinforcements that would never come . . .
(2) I don’t know what the actual Governor-General’s name was, or even if his title was “Governor-General,” and I am far too lazy to find out.
(3) Read: they were drunk.
(4) Read: he was asleep.
(5) Read: he was surrounded by his mistresses.
(6) Read: he was wearing his pajamas.
Next up: life in the State of Ba, with special reference to the rabbit-worshippers of Leshan. As always, thanks for reading.
Excerpted from “The Yellow Tiger: A Biography of Zhang Xianzhong,” by Gary Grice.
- Zhang Xianzhong’s expedition to Tibet was viewed as a vast success by everyone save for that mercurial monarch himself. Tibet had been conquered, after all, and more territory had been added to the State of Ba, as had more souls who could be saved. Yet Zhang viewed the entire campaign as nothing more than a miserable failure. After all, it was not temporal considerations that had motivated him, nor was it even the hope of winning more converts to Christianity. From his perspective, he had failed to reach Heaven and speak with God, and nothing else really mattered in the final analysis. The Tibetan campaign had physical costs for Zhang, as well; after his accident during the failed attempt to summit Mount Zhumulangma (1), the Hegemon-King would for the rest of his life be frail and sickly. In his weakened state, he was much more susceptible to persuasion by his advisers, who to a man were simply relieved that the Tibetan expedition had not ended in total disaster. Unlike prior to the Tibetan expedition, when they were divided and Zhang had his way through sheer force of will, the generals, bureaucrats, and priests of the State of Ba were broadly in agreement as to the course that the kingdom should pursue in 1647. Almost all were in favor of a campaign to the southeast. For the generals, who saw the Ming as the greatest threat, this plan represented a chance to take the battle to the main enemy. For the bureaucrats, who were forever counting taels and worrying about finances, a southeastern expedition offered the possibility of capturing a port and ending Ba’s status as a landlocked country, thus giving the kingdom an opportunity for increased revenue via trade. For the priests, most notably Ludovico Buglio and Gabriel de Magalhaes, a move to the southeast and the capture of a port would allow for contact with Westerners (2) and for word to be spread of Zhang’s conversion to Christianity. The Hegemon-King assented to the advice of his ministers, and in April of 1647 a host set out from Chongqing under the command of his adopted son, Zhang Dingguo.
Dingguo’s plan was to strike through Guizhou and into Guangxi; assuming initial success, he could either move east along the Xi River or continue south towards Nanning and Hainan Island (3). He set out at a quick pace and achieved both tactical and strategic surprise. Zunyi fell in May, and by mid-June Dingguo’s army was nearing Guiyang itself. The Ming were hampered during the Guizhou-Guangxi Campaign by several factors, but two loomed the largest. In preparation for their strike against Ba, which was to commence in the early summer, large-scale troop movements had taken place with the goal of amassing forces in Hubei so as to strike at Chongqing. The Guizhou front was relatively bare as a result, and when news came of Dingguo’s strike, the Ming general Gao Jie panicked and sent a portion of his army chasing after the invaders from Ba, rather than launching his attack on schedule (which would have caused Ba no small amount of problems, as the bulk of their forces were heading south and in no condition to turn around and make a forced march back to Chongqing). Additionally, those troops that were in the field for the Ming in Guizhou were of dubious quality and loyalty at best. In one famous instance, the commander of a Ming garrison opened the gates and laid out a feast for the conquering army of Ba, noting that he would “bill them later.” In the end, Dingguo’s army was slowed not by the Ming but by local villagers. It had been ordered that all who resided in land seized by the army of Ba were to be converted to Christianity by any means necessary. While Dingguo himself had opposed this plan, influential clerics had pushed hard for it, and the Hegemon-King had taken their side in the end. The result was that, as Dingguo pushed south, his supply lines came under increasing attack from local guerillas, mostly comprised from elements of the indigenous Miao population (4). As the advance slowed, more Ming troops began to arrive on the scene, and the summer ended with Guiyang in ruins and neither side in firm possession of the upper hand. Stalemate seemed to be the order of the day . . .
Excerpted from “The Rabbit Worshippers of Leshan,” by Jean-Paul Morimoto.
- Of all the bizarre sects that proliferated in the State of Ba after that nation’s madcap rush to embrace Christianity, none has proven to be more fascinating or influential than the Rabbit Worshippers of Leshan, formally known as the Church of Christ, Rabbit (基督兔子教会). The rise of the Rabbit Worshippers, and indeed of the other numerous heresies and distortions of Christianity that flourished in the State of Ba, can largely be traced to Zhang Xianzhong’s decree that mandated the conversion to Christianity of every citizen in the nation. In the frantic haste to instruct local officials in the tenets of Christianity and to mass produce Bibles - it is estimated that two-thirds of the plunder from the sack of Drepung in Tibet went to paying printers’ fees - it was inevitable that some mistakes would pop up. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that many of the local officials who were charged with making conversion to Christianity a reality on the county and village level had next to no idea what Christianity was, and moreover were not inclined to care overly much. This was the impetus for the numerous sects that attempted to simply stuff some bits and pieces of Christianity in with pre-existing Chinese folk deities; even today, it is not uncommon in rural parts of Sichuan to see a temple to Cai Shen and Jesus Christ together. Christianity’s assimilation into the social fabric of the State of Ba was to take much more time than either Zhang Xianzhong or his Jesuit advisors hoped.
As for the Rabbit Worshippers of Leshan, it was truly a bizarre confluence of factors that led to the emergence of that sect. The situation developed as follows: sometime in late 1646, a shipment of several hundred Bibles made its way to Leshan, in what is now south-central Sichuan Province. As previously noted, misprints and typographical errors were common in these hastily made Bibles. However, this particular batch was unique. In every single one of the five hundred and sixty-three Bibles that were shipped to the Leshan region, there was a single error that had presumably occurred during transcription. All references to the Twelve Apostles (十二徒, shi’er tu) had been replaced with references to Twelve Rabbits (十二兔, shi’er tu). The situation was only exacerbated by the actions of the local magistrate, Zhang Guanzhong, a tireless, diligent, and not overly bright administrator. Zhang took the Gospel as, well, as Gospel, and traveled from village to village preaching about Jesus and the Twelve Rabbits - Pi De Rabbit, An De Rabbit, Ya Ming Rabbit, Yue Han Rabbit, Fei Li Rabbit, Ba Duo Rabbit, Ma Tai Rabbit, Duo Ma Rabbit, A-Fei’s son Ya Ming Rabbit, You Da Rabbit, and Christ’s betrayer Zhou Dasi Rabbit, who sold Jesus to the Western Barbarians for twenty taels (it was to be several years before this was revised to read twenty carrots). The heretical sect might very well have perished in its infancy; Magistrate Zhang’s whole-hearted adoption of “Christianity” and his insistence on the extirpation of traditional forms of religion was not common in the countryside, and officials who attempted such a tactic were often run out of town on a rail. Yet the Rabbit Worshippers were saved from death in the cradle by one man - Geng Changsuo, the largest landowner and richest man in the Leshan region. Geng, who longed to win favors and advancement for himself and his lineage, seems to have calculated that he could achieve this goal through slavish and lavish devotion to the Hegemon-King’s chosen religion. It was thus that Geng mobilized his vast network of both clan members, tenants, debtors, and business partners, and alternately ordered, persuaded, and wheedled them into accepting Christianity. It was thus that the famous Geng Family Temple was erected in Leshan, featuring the world-famous mural of the Last Supper, with Jesus surrounded at a wide circular table by the Twelve Rabbits. Yet unfortunately for Geng Changsuo, Zhang Guanzhong, and indeed everyone in the greater Leshan region, the Hegemon-King’s vision of Christianity most decidedly did not include rabbits . . .
(1) Also known as Mt. Everest. The attempt to summit the mountain was described in a previous update; someday I’ll go back and add more details.
(2) Buglio and de Magalhaes aren’t aware of the capture of Aomen (Macau) by Southern Ming forces and the expulsion of the Portuguese. Not that it really matters - with a port, they can send a ship to Goa, and thence onwards. And they’ve already send parties by land . . .
(3) As noted before, I’m using modern place names instead of the ones that were used in the seventeenth century to save everyone a few headaches.
(4) The Miao, known more commonly in English as the Hmong, OTL would rise up in large-scale revolt in the eighteenth century. They were never terribly comfortable with being ruled by Chinese, and they’re even less comfortable with being converted to Christianity.
*Next up: a schism in the Wu-Tang Clan, rebellions against the Qing, and Wu Sangui does what Wu Sangui does best. As always, thanks for reading.
Excerpted from “Fact Sheet #4c, Introduction to Chinese History,” by Professor Scheherazade Wang. Department of Oriental Studies, Cambridge University.
- Han Chinese resistance to the Jurchen (or Manchu) Qing Dynasty intensified after the initiation of several laws, including the famous ordinance requiring all Chinese men to adopt the Manchu hairstyle, which in the eyes of the Han population placed the Manchus in the role of foreign conquerors imposing their cultural norms on the Chinese people. A plethora of local resistance movements sprang up in response. Interestingly enough, the Wu-Tang Clan, undoubtedly the largest and most organized anti-Qing movement, played only a small role in this phase of the resistance. Why? The Clan was in the midst of infighting between the Thirty-Six Chambers Clique and the Eight Diagrams Clique . . .
Thirty-Six Chambers Clique (三十六厢派): This faction represented the so-called establishment of the Wu-Tang Clan, as most of the Nine Masters (Ri Za, Ge Za, Stratagem Man, Old Dirty Bastard, You Dao, Inspector of the Deck, Master Killer, Ghost-Face Killer, and Rui Kong) were supporters of the Thirty-Six Chambers. Based on ancient scriptures that told of an unstoppable warrior who had advanced through each of the fabled thirty-six chambers of Shaolin, this faction was highly martial and aggressive, arguing that it was time to take the battle to the Jurchen invaders and throw them out of China once and for all. The most famous spoken poem-song to espouse Thirty-Six Chambers principles is undoubtedly “Wu-Tang Clan Is Not A Thing To Be Trifled With,” a collaboration between Ri Za, Stratagem Man, and Inspector of the Deck. The first stanza is included below . . .
I am tossing, enforcing,
My style is awesome
Causing more factional feuds than Zhang Sun
And the survey said - you’re dead
Fatal flying Wu-Tang sword chops off your barbarian head
Hey, who was that? Aiya, the Wu-Tang is back!
Making barbarians go OH NO, like small frightened cats
We fear no one, oh no, here comes
The Wu-Tang Nine Masters, killers to the eardrum! (1)
Eight Diagrams Clique (八卦派): Also known as the “Eight Trigrams Clique.” This faction, comprised mostly of older members of the Wu-Tang Clan and scholars, believed that the Clan’s military mission was largely at an end, given the removal of the Manchus from Hubei and its restoration to Ming control. They believed that the Clan should return to their roots as a mystical Daoist society and foreswear the use of arms, focusing instead on divination and geomancy oriented around the ancient ba gua (eight diagrams) and the wu xing (five elements). Supporters of the Eight Diagrams Clique thus opposed the continuation of the Wu-Tang Clan’s role in the resistance movements against the Jurchen Qing Dynasty. The most prominent leader associated with this faction was Jia Badan (嘉八旦, archaically translated as Cappadonna).
Yet while the Eight Diagrams Clique and the Thirty-Six Chambers Clique bickered and argued, some members of the Clan took matters into their own hands, setting out to join the resistance against the Qing on their own or with a small group. For one of the most famous Clan members, this proved to be fatal . . .
Excerpted from “The Story of the Glorious Sword of the Wu-Tang Clan,” by Gao Feiyang. (2)
- The Old Dirty Bastard said, “The Jurchen barbarians have not yet been driven from all-under-Heaven. Thus it is our duty to make them feel endless pain.” So the Old Dirty Bastard and his acolytes set forth. They included the Young Dirty Bastard, the Fat Dirty Bastard, the Tall Dirty Bastard, the Lame Dirty Bastard, the Unlucky Dirty Bastard, the Laughing Dirty Bastard, and the Lecherous Dirty Bastard. They marched for a thousand li, until they came upon a vast barbarian encampment, in which there were not less than ten thousand men. Shouting a fearsome war-cry, the Old Dirty Bastard led his acolytes into the midst of the barbarian foe.
The glorious battle commenced. The barbarian invaders were weak, and cowardly, and did not possess the spirit of martial valor, so they shrieked and fled before the mighty onslaught of the Wu-Tang Clan and their Shaolin style. The Old Dirty Bastard strode up to the barbarian commander and said, “I challenge you to honorable combat! May the Glorious Sword of the Wu-Tang strike a blow to your entrails!” The foul fiend hissed menacingly and attacked. The Old Dirty Bastard drove him back with consummate skill and valor. Yet just as he was preparing to deliver the killing blow, he was stabbed in the back by a cowardly barbarian wielding a poisoned blade. Even in his agony, the Old Dirty Bastard defeated the foe.
After the battle, the Old Dirty Bastard’s acolytes gathered round him on the field, soaked with the blood of the vanquished enemy. The Lame Dirty Bastard said, “Glorious Sage Old Dirty Bastard, grant us some words of wisdom to live by.”
The Old Dirty Bastard sat up weakly and coughed out a mouthful of blood. He said, “Protect your neck.” Then he died. Upon hearing the ill news, Great Sage Ri Za was greatly distraught. He summoned twelve beat-boxers to his chambers and began a free-style spoken poem-song in the memory of his fallen comrade:
I picked him up, then I held him by his head
His eyes shut, that is when I knew he was -
Aiya! How do I say goodbye?
It is always the good ones that have to die
Memories in the corner of my mind
Flashbacks, I was laughing all the time
I taught him all about the Dao and the world
But I wish I had a chance to say these few words
After laughter, comes tears (3)
So perished the Old Dirty Bastard.
Excerpted from “The Three Betrayals of General Wu Sangui,” by Albrecht Balboa.
- With the outbreak of peace between the Ming and Qing Dynasties in the summer of 1646, General Wu Sangui was recalled from the front by his Qing masters and sent northwest to put down the revolts that were brewing in the Shanxi-Henan-Shaanxi area. A polyglot mixture of revolutionaries had risen in opposition to the Qing, and Wu was charged with the task of ending the rebellions and calming the troubled waters in the west. Wu made his base at Xi’an, in Shaanxi, and during the early months of 1647 he appeared to be following his orders, sending numerous detachments out into the countryside to search for the bandit forces that had proliferated in the region. Yet as spring moved into summer, Wu re-examined his position. The Ming were resurgent; the Qing, meanwhile, were seemingly in the throes of death by a thousand cuts. All the while, the mercurial Zhang Xianzhong lurked to the west. In point of fact, the Qing really were not in terribly dire straits. The Ming and the State of Ba seemed content to beat each other into pieces during that year of 1647, and the rebellions that had sprung up in Qing-controlled China were disorganized and localized to the point where they could be isolated and put down one by one. Clearly, Wu Sangui did not share this interpretation of the strategic situation.
Wu made no open moves in defiance of the Qing in 1647, but in retrospect it was clear that he had fixed upon the idea, perhaps from the moment that the Treaty of Yangzhou was signed. He attempted to co-opt the rebellious elements, convincing some to join his banners and dealing harshly with the others. The General also attempted to expand the area under his control, moving troops repeatedly into Ningxia and Gansu to “deal with rebel incursions.” Beset as they were by indigenous rebellions, the Qing were largely content to let Wu do as he pleased, especially since he seemed to be having so much success restoring order to the northwest. During his silent campaign to build up support in preparation for an assault on the Qing, Wu tried to win over the support of local civil and religious leaders to his cause. He found it in a rather unlikely fashion . . .
Excerpted from “Xi’an Tourist Tips,” http://travelinchina.com/xianinaday
Xi’an - Formerly known as Chang’an, capital of China during the Tang Dynasty, today Xi’an is most well known as the home of the Terracotta Army of Qin Shi Huangdi. But Xi’an isn’t just the Terracotta Army - there are many other attractions to marvel at in this ancient city.
Visitors should not miss the Great Mosque, located in the Old Quarter, which is dominated by an eighty-meter high statue of the great Sultan Wu Sangui . . .
(1) I was going to write a version in Chinese that rhymed as well. I’ve been trying to convince myself ever since that I have a life.
(2) Again, this is not a historical document, but a contemporary account of the feats of the Wu-Tang Clan, and should not be read literally.
(3) Based on this song.
*Next up: the end of the Ming siege of Taiwan and Zhang Xianzhong’s invasion of Guizhou and Guangxi, plus the Dalai Lama’s Angry Buddhist Kingdom in Yunnan heads south. It should be exciting. As always, thanks for reading.
Excerpted from “The Yellow Tiger: A Biography of Zhang Xianzhong,” by Gary Grice.
- While the State of Ba’s offensive into Ming-held Guizhou and Guangxi had begun promisingly, with Zhang Dingguo’s troops reaching the gates of Guiyang scarce months after the beginning of the campaign, operations began to stagnate in the fall of 1647, as the Ming defenders regained their equilibrium and the Army of Ba came under increasing pressure from indigenous Miao guerilla forces. The Miao, who fiercely opposed any efforts to convert them to Christianity, threatened to cut off Dingguo’s supply lines and were a constant thorn in his side. Meanwhile, the Ming general Gao Jie had marshaled his forces and was able to halt the advance of the Army of Ba at Guiyang, which was in ruins by the end of the year. Thus pressed by both Ming and Miao, the tide turned on the Guizhou front and the Army of Ba found itself falling back, defeated outside Xiuwen in August, at Santai in October, and at Shui’an in November. By the beginning of 1648, the Army of Ba’s offensive had been completely reversed, and now it was the Ming forces that were threatening to take the fight to their enemies and enter Sichuan. Zhang Xianzhong, the Hegemon-King of the State of Ba, reportedly flew into a violent rage on hearing of the repeated defeats dealt to his forces; he ordered his adopted son Zhang Dingguo, the commander of the army, back to Chengdu. In previous days, Dingguo would undoubtedly have met his death in a painful and gruesome fashion, but the new, Christian Zhang Xianzhong was a kind and forgiving man. Dingguo was ordered to undergo fifty days and fifty nights of self-mortification and “scourging of the flesh,” a method of penitence Zhang had hit upon after being informed of medieval flagellants (1). His other adopted son, Zhang Kewang, was sent from Chengdu to assume command of the battered and beleaguered army. Kewang possessed not a shred of martial talent, and we can only guess what would have happened had the Ming pursued the offensive. As it happened, their attention was drawn elsewhere in 1649, when Wu Sangui rebelled and the Second Ming-Qing War broke out early in that year . . .
Excerpted from “The Great Undertaking: The Ming Invasions of Taiwan and Aomen,” by Anthony Judd.
- The siege of Fort Zeelandia, the center of the Dutch East India Company’s presence on Taiwan, began in late October of 1646. It dragged on through that fall, into the winter, continued in spring of 1647, and rolled on into the summer of that year. Needless to say, the slow pace did not please the commander of the besieging Ming forces, Zheng Chenggong (or Zheng Sen, as he was then known). Nor did it please the Hongguang Emperor and his right-hand man, Shi Kefa, who had hoped for a speedier resolution to the siege (2). Desperate to win the title of “Great Barbarian-Subduing Admiral, Lord of Five Thousand Years” (大尅夷将五千岁) that had been promised to him should he find victory, and even more desperate to continue in the good graces of the Emperor and the court at Nanjing, Zheng tried everything he could possibly think of to put an end to the Dutch resistance and seize Taiwan for the glory of Great Ming. In the end, victory came courtesy of a most unlikely source. The Dutch lieutenant-governor of Taiwan, Jan Stuyvesant, had brought his seventeen-year-old daughter Eleanor with him after the death of her mother and the lack of any suitable relatives to raise her; the plan was for her to travel with him for a few years and then return to the Netherlands and find a husband (3). Life has a way of intervening with plans, however, and Eleanor Stuyvesant wound up in Fort Zeelandia during the siege. During her daily walk on the ramparts, she had occasion to gaze upon Zheng, commanding the Ming armies in his raised pavilion, and he had occasion to gaze upon her. Without a word passing between them the two became infatuated, and Zheng even entered into “negotiations” with the Dutch solely as a way of corresponding with his paramour. Although it is unknown if they ever had a face-to-face meeting, messages were clearly passed between Zheng and Stuyvesant, and it was in these letters that he persuaded her to open the gates to the fortress so that the two of them could be together. And so, one night in late August of 1647, she opened a little-known side door to the fortress and Zheng’s troops came rushing in.
It was likely that Zheng intended to capture the fortress with as little bloodshed as possible and to send the defenders in ships to Batavia, much as the Ming did to the Portuguese defenders of Macau. Yet his troops, fired up with bloodlust and angry after the long siege, disregarded any orders that they might have been given and massacred Fort Zeelandia’s defenders to the last man. The last man - not the last woman. Eleanor Stuyvesant was the only survivor, but when she finally met Zheng in person, she was inconsolable, accusing him of cheating and deceiving her into being a party to the death of her father and the other defenders of the fort. Distraught, she jumped to her death from the watchtower of the fort two days after it fell to the Ming. Zheng accepted with grace the plaudits and awards that were bestowed upon him in the wake of his victory, but inside he burned with shame and regret (4). He remained on Taiwan for the remainder of 1647 as that island’s first Ming Viceroy, conducting a survey of the land and population and beginning to build up Taiwan’s port facilities so that could fulfill its intended role as a trade center. It was not until the outbreak of the Second Ming-Qing War that he returned to battle . . .
Excerpted from “The Story of the Glorious Sword of the Wu-Tang Clan,” by Gao Feiyang.
- With the death of the Old Dirty Bastard, a great sadness fell over all of the warriors and sages of the Wu-Tang Clan. As the first of the Nine Masters to fall in battle, he was justly praised and venerated by the assembled multitudes. It was ordered that nineteen temples be erected in his honor throughout the land, and for many days and nights there was much sorrow and weeping. On the tenth day after the passing of the Old Dirty Bastard, the Ghost-Face Killer entered the Hall of the Purple Phoenix on Wudang Mountain to address the warriors who had gathered there. They were idle and listless, uncertain what to do after the death of such a great warrior. The Ghost-Face Killer climbed the steps to the great altar and looked around. Then he gave a shout.
The Ghost-Face Killer said: “The Old Dirty Bastard fought and perished to rid all-under-Heaven of the barbarian scourge. Shall we let his sacrifice pass in vain?”
The warriors cried out, with one voice, “No, No!”
Ghost-Face Killer said: “Then let us cease our endless bickering and squabbling. Let us end our petty feuds and jealousies, and rededicate ourselves to the great undertaking. We are all disciples of the thirty-six chambers of Shaolin style! We shall never rest until every last barbarian has been driven from our lands!” (5)
There was a great roar of agreement from the warriors.
Then the Ghost-Face Killer lifted a jug of wine, opened it, and let it spill onto the ground. He said, “Join me, brothers! Pour one out for the Old Dirty Bastard!”
The warriors lifted their cups and poured them out onto the ground in memory of the great warrior. Thus ended the struggle between the Thirty-Six Chambers Clique and the Eight Diagrams Clique.
(1) Whoever told Zhang Xianzhong about flagellation will definitely regret it before all is said and done, that much I can guarantee. Whips will be at a premium in the State of Ba before too long.
(2) OTL Zheng’s invasion of Taiwan was a long, protracted, and messy affair, and I can’t really see any reason why this timeline’s version of that incident would play out much differently.
(3) Not a real person. In fact, this chain of events is highly likely, if not flat-out implausible, but I hope you’ll allow me the dramatic license. Every timeline is improved with a story of doomed love, I’ve always felt.
(4) Recall that Zheng’s father has already been killed by the Qing in a rather unpleasant fashion, so Zheng Chenggong isn’t in the best state of mind right now. Which may or may not be important down the road.
(5) This hearkens back to the internecine feuding in the Wu-Tang Clan described in the last post; as you can see, the 36 Chambers Clique looks to be emerging from the mix on top.
*Sadly, I couldn’t fit the Dalai Lama and his Angry Buddhist Kingdom into this post. It will be in the next update, rest assured. We’re all done with 1647, but things are about to get even more wild than they are already. As always, thanks for reading.
Excerpted from “Tragedy and Triumph: The Story of Lobsang Gyatso, 5th Dalai Lama,” by Darryl Hill.
- After his flight from Tibet, the Dalai Lama concentrated on building a state in Yunnan, from which he hoped he could one day return home at the head of a victorious army (1). This hope was not to be realized - yet in many ways, he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. The first years in Yunnan were spent consolidating control over that rugged province and assimilating the varied ethnic groups into a coherent whole. The process was not without its difficulties; many of the inhabitants of Yunnan were Muslim, and it was they in particular who resisted conversion to Gelugpa Buddhism. Broadly, the Dalai Lama pursued a strategy oriented around the twin poles of conciliation and confrontation during this initial period. He attempted to make deals with individual headmen and leaders of local tribes, offering them various inducements in exchange for swearing allegiance to him and converting to Gelugpa Buddhism. This carrot was twinned with a sizable stick: should the local leaders refuse, troops loyal to the Dalai Lama would simply descend on the offending villages and burn them to the ground. The Dalai Lama faced little organized military resistance from local elements during this period of consolidation. In part, this was because the core of his armed force - Mongolian cavalry that had accompanied him in the flight from Tibet - was qualitatively superior by several orders of magnitude to any local Yunnanese force. Additionally, Yunnan’s rugged terrain and underdeveloped transport network, as well as the high degree of heterogeneity present among the tribes living in that region, hindered any attempts at organized resistance to Lamaist rule in Yunnan. During the years between 1645 and 1647, the majority of those who attempted active resistance to the Dalai Lama were either killed or forced to flee. A steady stream of refugees trickled across the long and porous border that separated Yunnan from Lan Xang, Toungoo, and Trinh-controlled Dai Viet, in many cases aggravating already existent ethnic tensions in these polities (2). Ironically, the Dalai Lama was to benefit from this when he launched his southern campaigns, which began in 1648 . . .
Excerpted from “What’s In A Name? Adventures in Historiography,” by Rupert von Pfarffenpfuffel.
- The name of a nation rarely comes organically; often, it is the result of a set of conscious choices and subject to repeated revision. Such is the case with the Lamaist kingdom in southwest China that was established by the 5th Dalai Lama after his flight from Tibet in 1645. The Dalai Lama himself attempted to establish Tibetan as the language of his newly-won kingdom, and gave it the official name of ‘Khor ‘Das Kyi Snang Cha, which translates roughly as “the manifest aspect of samsara and nirvana” (3). However, this appellation found little favor both in Yunnan and outside of it (4). Most Yunnanese continued to speak their native languages, eschewing Tibetan, and many of them simply continued to speak of their home country as Yunnan, as it had been known before. In China, Yunnan continued to be the generally used name for the Lamaist kingdom as well, although over time it came to be replaced in popular consciousness by two variants. Many called the new nation 新藏 (Xin Zang, or “New Tibet”), as something of a nod to the Dalai Lama’s origins and his conscious attempt to maintain a recognizably Tibetan idea at the core of the state. However, the most popular name for the Lama’s kingdom came from the variant of Buddhism that he espoused, the Gelugpa sect, which was often referred to as the “Yellow Hat School” in opposition to the older “Red Hat” schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Thus, the Dalai Lama’s kingdom of Tibet-in-Yunnan came to be known as Huangmaoguo (黄帽国, or “Country of the Yellow Hats”). In English, the predominant name is simply Huangmao, which is sometimes archaically rendered as Hwang-Mo. Whatever one wishes to call this state, one cannot deny the impact that it had on history . . .
Excerpted from “Armies of Buddha: The Southern Expeditions of the 5th Dalai Lama,” by Angela Haynesworth.
- In the spring of 1648, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, 5th Dalai Lama, former ruler of Tibet and current ruler of Yunnan, marched his armies southeast into the kingdom of Dai Nam. That prosperous nation had for twenty years been in the grip of civil war between the House of Trinh, which controlled the northern portion of the nation, and the House of Nguyen, which ruled in the south (5). Both houses were focused solely on defeating the other one and neither looked to the north. It proved to be a fatal mistake. In April of 1648, Lamaist troops poured over the border into Lao Cai district, quickly seizing it and the neighboring district of Ha Giang. The Lamaist troops were not alone in their endeavours; the Dalai Lama had made a deal with the House of Mac, who at one point had controlled most of north-central Dai Nam but had steadily been reduced until they controlled only one province, that being Cao Bang. The Dalai Lama agreed to confirm Mac Kinh Vu as the ruler of Cao Bang, in return for the Mac becoming vassals of Lamaist Yunnan, and thus the Mac added their power to the Lamaist forces. Trinh Trang, the beleaguered ruler of Trinh-controlled Dai Nam, attempted to respond to this threat, redeploying his forces in a new defensive orientation and reinforcing the cities of Nghia Lo, Bac Giang, and Chi Linh in an attempt to protect his capital of Ha Noi and buy time for his armies to regroup and regain control of the strategic situation. At first, the strategy appeared to be working; the Lamaist legions were halted in pitched battles in Thai Nguyen and Tuyen Qiang Provinces during early June. The situation changed yet again in July, when the House of Nguyen, seeing an opportunity to vanquish their hated rivals once and for all, sallied forth in strength from their stronghold in the south. Marching north from Hue, the Nguyen forces quickly defeated Trinh resistance at the border, due in part to the massive redeployment of Trinh forces from the southern front to the north that had occurred after the Lamaist invasion.
The combination of attackers from the north and the south was simply too much for the Trinh Lords to deal with, and their rule over northern Dai Nam rapidly began to collapse. Yet another frantic redeployment of troops - this time to the south to counter the new Nguyen threat - achieved little save to ensure that it was the Lamaist forces that would be in control of the bulk of northern Dai Nam after the war, rather than the Nguyen. Trinh Trang committed suicide in August, with Lamaist forces on his very doorstop, and organized resistance virtually ceased after that point. Small-scale resistance continued for some time, especially in the west, where these movements were given the support of the Federation of Lan Xang, who were wary of the new power to their north. As for Dai Nam itself, the vast majority of formerly Trinh-controlled territory passed to the Dalai Lama, whose rule extended to Lam Son Province. The Nguyen came away with some territorial gains, extending their rule into Quang Binh and Ha Tinh Provinces, but now they were left alone to face the Lamaist threat. For no one truly thought that Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso’s mission of conquest had ended yet . . .
(1) I’ve previously discussed the Dalai Lama’s flight from Tibet and takeover of Yunnan in this update.
(2) Most of these refugees are Muslim, and most of the nations mentioned are going through difficult times at this point in history. The influx of new people will not exactly act as a stabilizing force.
(3) Caveat: I don’t know any Tibetan, and I have no idea whether this is actually a suitable name for a country. Found it with an online dictionary. I’m totally open to changing it, and any suggestions or ideas would be more than welcome.
(4) Because you try pronouncing ‘Khor ‘Das Kyi Snang Cha.
(5) This part is all as per OTL. In real life the war between the Trinh and the Nguyen went on in fits and spurts for something like forty years before the Trinh finally won.
Excerpted from “The Three Betrayals of General Wu Sangui,” by Albrecht Balboa.
- Wu Sangui, secure in his overlordship of the West, spent most of 1647 preparing for his rebellion against the Qing - a rebellion that would have been almost certain to fail. In the end, Wu simply could not marshal enough support from the areas that he controlled for his rebellion to be a success. Given that he was already viewed as a traitor to the Ming, he found it virtually impossible to win many anti-Qing elements to his banners; although there was no other force in the west that could oppose him, it is likely that he would have been hampered by resistance at home even as he attempted to launch attacks against the Manchus. In the end, Wu did win the support of a large portion of the populace in the west, and did indeed rebel against the Qing. Yet it took a great personal tragedy and an altogether improbable religious conversion to make it happen. In July of 1647, Chen Yuanyuan, Wu’s concubine of many years and the love of his life, died suddenly of a seasonal flu (1). The great general was distraught. It is said that for three weeks after the death of Chen he remained closeted in his chambers, refusing all food and drink. But eventually he did emerge, and in the end it took a surprisingly short time for Wu Sangui to find love again. Her name was Ma Yingying, she was seventeen years old, and she was a prostitute. None of this bothered Wu overly much; he soon took her as his concubine and spent all hours with Ma, besotted by her youth and beauty. It was to be through his teenage concubine, of all people, that Wu would find the key to his rebellion. For Ma, like many of her surname, was Muslim (2). Sadly, records of Ma and Wu’s pillow talk are not available to the contemporary historian. It is clear that she was persuasive as well as beautiful, though, for sometime in the winter of 1647 Wu Sangui secretly converted to Islam.
Although surviving testimonials from contemporary sources indicate that Wu certainly appeared sincere about his newfound faith in Islam, he quickly realized the possibilities that came along with his new religion. Muslims constituted a large minority of the population in the Chinese west (3), and they were a group that was not terribly fond of the Qing due to proscriptions that the Manchus had placed on butchering cows (a traditional Muslim occupation) as well as banning the construction of mosques throughout their domains. While Wu tried to keep his conversion to Islam a secret, for fear that the Qing regent Prince Dorgon would interpret it as a sign of disloyalty to the Manchus, throughout the year of 1648 he played host to a seemingly endless assortment of Muslim notables from Henan to Gansu, telling them of his conversion and attempting to persuade them that he would represent their interests against the Qing Dynasty. It seems that most of the imams and mullahs who made the long journey to Wu’s encampment outside Xi’an were persuaded, given what eventually transpired. Wu had originally intended to begin his rebellion in 1648, but after his conversion spent most of that year making overtures to the Muslim community and persuading them to support him. The entire operation was conducted with shocking openness; had the Manchus bothered to look closely at Wu’s actions, or even bothered to listen to the reports of their informants stationed in his headquarters, it would have been blatantly clear that something was rotten in the province of Shaanxi. Yet the Qing failed to scrutinize Wu, and he was permitted to continue his project of gathering support and preparing for rebellion unhampered by his ostensible masters. In retrospect, this seems like unforgivable negligence on the part of the Manchus. A more charitable observer would note that in 1648, Wu Sangui was the least of their worries. He had to all appearances successfully pacified the western provinces, while in the east, rebellions continued to rage against the Qing, and there was seemingly no end in sight . . .
Excerpted from “Disciples of the 36 Chambers: A New History of the Wu-Tang Clan,” by Lamont Hawkins.
- In the aftermath of the Old Dirty Bastard’s death, the schism between the Thirty-Six Chambers Clique and the Eight Diagrams Clique came to an end, with the Thirty-Six Chambers faction in ascendance. Motivated by hopes of revenge for one of the Nine Masters, the Wu-Tang Clan went back to war in earnest, infiltrating a myriad of warriors across the long border between Ming and Qing-controlled territory in 1647 and 1648. Wu-Tang warriors of this period typically operated in small groups of between ten and twenty-five members; they concentrated on spreading the Wu-Tang brand of revolutionary Daoism to villagers and making contact with local rebel groups who opposed the Qing. In the end, the year 1648 showed with brutal clarity the strengths - and the fatal weaknesses - of the anti-Qing rebel movements. Although there were hundreds of rebel groups that existed in Qing-controlled territory, many of them were no more than bandits who primarily preyed on the local citizenry. Additionally, factional feuds and internal infighting among rebel groups kept them fragmented and disorganized, which all but eliminated the chance of a truly popular uprising against the Qing. Indeed, despite admonitions from the Wu-Tang Clan to focus on the main enemy, many rebel groups in Qing-controlled territory hated each other more than they hated the Manchus . . .
Excerpted from “Rebels in the Forest,” by Yao Shuibian. (4)
- There was the East Side, and there was the West Side, and the two sides were at war. They had much in common - a passionate hatred of the usurping Jurchen and a desire to return all-under-Heaven to the rule of the Han. The two groups were both from Shandong, and both lived in the shadow of Mount Tai, one on the east side and one on the west. Yet they were implacably opposed to each other, and so East Side and West Side fought without respite or end.
So thought the Notorious Big Brother (ed. note: 臭名大哥, chouming da ge, sometimes translated as the Notorious Big One, or as Big Notorious), as he gazed out from atop Twelve Dragons Pass into the narrow gorge below. His mind swirled and twisted, caught up in endless iterations of plots and stratagems, all aimed at destroying the West Siders and their leader, the charismatic Tu Pake (ed. note: 土怕客, tu pake, sometimes transliterated as Tu-Pac). Once they had been friends, brothers even, sharing rice wine and joyfully making plans for the better days that were sure to lie ahead. Now they were the most bitter of enemies. How had it happened? What had gone wrong? The Notorious Big One wondered briefly, dismissed these thoughts as counterproductive, and was returning to his plans of destruction when he heard a great gasping and wheezing from behind. He turned, and without surprise beheld his second-in-command, Puff-Father (ed. note: 喷爸爸, pen baba, sometimes translated as Puff Daddy) (5).
Puff-Fathersaid: “A group of West Siders is moving towards Luzhou Village, led by Doctor Du Lei. It is said that the Snooping Dog accompanies them, and that the war-band shouts insults and calumnies at your person.”
The Notorious Big One roared a challenge into the sky. “East Side until I die!” he shouted, though only the birds and the trees could hear . . .
(1) An OTL character, but not an OTL death. In real life Chen lived until 1681.
(2) It’s short for Muhammad, thus there are numerous Chinese Muslims with that surname.
(3) Exactly how much of the population they were at this time is unclear. Obviously detailed statistics do not exist, and much of the Muslim population in these areas was wiped out in the Panthay Rebellion, which doesn’t make things easier. I’m assuming that Muslims make up between 1/4 and 1/3 of the population in Wu’s fief.
(4) ITTL this is a novel of some renown describing the adventures of two anti-Qing bandit/rebel groups in Shandong Province.
(5) I can provide overly detailed descriptions for how these names have some small amount of plausibility if you want to hear the gruesome details.