Out of Context: This is a Double-Blind What If, in which the original poster pretends to be from a different timeline, and postulates something that happened in real life (no Xi dynasty) as a "What If?" The commenters, also pretending, fill out the details of the Xi-dynasty timeline and make wild guesses about what a no-Xi timeline would look like. In Context: You bring up a valid point-- whether the Hsi dynasty was a century of imperial rule and a half-century of warlordism, or a half-century of imperial rule and a century of warlordism, is hard to know for sure. What is known is that the Shang-kung 賞功 Emperor (Chang Hsien-chung) died in 1678, his elder son Hsing-ch'ao 興朝 (Chang Tien-yang) in 1692, his younger son Chao-wu 昭武 (Chang Chieh-fo) in 1743, and the usurper Shang Ching-kwei in 1751. The jury is still out on which of these years is truly the Xi dynasty's last. OOC: Yeah, there's actually been a fair debate about the extent of his brutality. For one, he'd been active as a rebel since the 1620s, and for twenty years he ruled lands in Anhui, Henan, and Hubei without fucking shit up more than the usual Ming-collapse standards. The first few years of his rule in Sichuan (1644-47) also seem to have gone normally-- he minted coins, enlisted the help of local Ming officials, etc. However, diffuse groups of Ming loyalists and unaffiliated bandits continued to harass him, and his frenemy Li Zicheng had already taken Beijing. So he's now stuck in Sichuan, and Sichuan is unsafe... so he resolved to make it safe by terrorizing the opposition. But then, the sources for him killing millions come from Qing authors in the 1670s-- and the Qing elsewhere accuse him of killing 600 million, which is 4x China's population at the time. The newer theory on what exactly happened to Sichuan is that the Qing, after killing Zhang in 1647, were faced with the exact same problem (an ungovernable province filled with diffuse groups of enemies that can't all be defeated in one big pitched battle) and used more or less the same means to solve it. So instead of one guy killing millions in 3 years, it's probably more realistic that the confused fighting of several groups (Zhang, remnants of Zhang's defeated army, the Qing, Ming loyalists, the Three Feudatories) killed millions over 30 years. IC: Indeed, if Chang hsien-chung was to be killed by a stray cannonball at the Siege of Chungking, the immediate beneficiaries would be the Shun and Ming loyalists-- though I really wonder about the Ch'ing. The Jurchens are often cited as a possible dark horse, based on their excellent performance against Ming and Joseon armies through the 1610s and 1620s. But it seems they never really recovered from their Pyrrhic victory over Joseon in the campaign of 1636. The death of Prince Dorgon by Korean musket allowed Joseon's provincial armies to contest the siege of King Injo's hideout in Namhan Fortress, and heavily distressed his brother Abahai, ruler of the Jurchens and leader of the besieging army. The Jurchens still compelled the surrender of Injo and secured recognition as suzerains of Joseon, but after Abahai died of natural causes in 1643 a feud broke out between his brother Dodo and his son Hooge, while the powerful commanders Yelu, Jirgalang, and Daisan promised aid to both and delivered victory to neither. Perhaps the Jurchen war-machine could have been employed in a conquest of all Hwa-hsia; instead, it consumed itself. The departure of the Ming-defector bannermen back home to intervene in the Shun-Hsi contest for power through the 1650s marked the end of any imperial pretensions, and laid the foundations for the North Asian empire of the Taeyang.