Nine Heavens, Four Seas: An East Asia Timeline

Interlude: A Night in Beijing


Interlude: A Night in Beijing

October 9th, 1680
Beijing, Great Zhou

It was late evening. Painted reddish orange by the eventide, the Forbidden Palace stood in its grandeur, completely recovered from the great fire seven years ago.

A man walked the outer palace, cutting through the Palace to reach its core. He was Wu Yingqi - uncle of the young emperor, general of Great Zhou, and the newly appointed King of Chu(楚王). A tall, bulky man with a confident posture, he was quite recognizable even from afar.

Wu felt fatigue resting in him. He had just returned from Jiangsu, where he had overseen the local garrison. Four years had passed since the Manchus were ousted out of China - four years of uneasy peace with the warlords of the south. For now, the conflicts at the front were mostly skirmishes and proxy wars between local warlords, but he could feel the tensions building up. Tomorrow, he would go forth to the court and report to the emperor - all those official works. But today, he would report to the emperor personally beforehand.

However, as he was about to enter the inner palace, he was blocked off by a small handful of guards, led by a man in a government official's uniform. The man stepped forward, facing Wu.

“What is it? I had requested to see His Highness himself, in person.” Wu frowned at the man in front of him. He knew the face well; the man’s name was Hu Guozhu, the Chancellor(宰相)[1] of Great Zhou. Appearing to be in his late fifties, Hu’s height and build was rather unremarkable, and Wu towered over him. Yet, Hu didn’t seem to be intimidated by Wu at all.

Wu didn't care to hide his grudges with Hu Guozhu. This old man was the only thing blocking him from grabbing China for himself. Once known throughout the imperial bureaucracy for his genius, Hu had served as one of Wu Sangui’s most important liteunants. When Great Zhou was proclaimed, he had been bestowed the position of Chancellor(宰相)[2] by the emperor. After the old emperor’s death, Hu didn’t hesistate to take advantage of the power vacuum; With his clever maneuvers, Hu was able to take over the royal court. Now, Hu had the emperor in his pocket, making him the de facto ruler of the China.

“I am sorry to inform you that the emperor is unwell today. He has ordered me, to hear from you, instead.” Hu accentuated his speech, word by word. Wu was confident that what Hu said was mostly bullshit, but orders were orders.

The two men sat alone in one of the countless drawing rooms of the Forbidden Palace. Dimly lit by lamplight, the room was enveloped with an uneasy silence.

“Foremost, I thank you for your ceaseless service to the Middle Kingdom and its emperor. I know that the recent months have been rough to you, with countless expeditions to all corners of China. I assure that you would be highly rewarded.” Wu nodded begrudgingly, constraining the urge to scoff at the man.

Both parties knew that Hu himself was behind all those needless expeditions. The situation at the front hadn’t escalated that much, at least for now. Yet, Hu had been sending Yingqi and other prominent generals off to the front, where little of note happened - to cut them off from Beijing while he snuffed their influence at the court.

“As one of our chief commanders, How is your opinion on the situation at the fronts?” Hu calmly asked, sipping a cup of green tea.

“Not good.” Wu replied. “People aren’t really fond of us, and local warlords aren't very cooperative - especially in the southern lands. And the armies of Fujian and Taiwan are stronger than expected. We definitely aren't going to trounce them like how Yinglin thinks." Some of his piers in the army, like his cousin Wu Yinglin, was fully confident that the Zhou army could crush the united southern warlords. Wu Yingqi didn't think so - it would be a long and tedious fight.

"Also, there are rumours that Zheng is allying himself with nations abroad, like Korea and the western barbarians. Although your spies would know better about that kinda stuff than me." Hu didn't comment to that.

“And that bastard Zhou Peigong. I have a lot to talk about him. Our late emperor mercifully bestowed him a second chance, and that ungrateful motherfucker now thinks he’s the king of Shandong or whatever. He would rather swallow a whole spear than spend a single day cooperating with me. We should have killed off that ungrateful rat back in Songshan. Only if…”

“I think we should keep it at that.” Hu Guozhu calmly cut off Wu’s rant. “The court is aware of the situation surrounding Governor-General Zhou. However, for now, he is too valuable of an asset to abandon. We will take care of it, so do not worry.”

“You’d better be.” Wu said as he cut the conversation short and walked out of the room. He had little to say to such an insignificant man like Hu. He had actually thought high of the man, during the War of the Three Feudatories. Back when Hu actually fought at the frontline. Now that the war was over, Hu was no better than a eunuch, scheming behind the shadows instead of doing something worthy.

Wu headed to his building in the palace, he needed a good night's sleep. Although Hu Guozhu was at the helm for now, his dominance was far from solidated. There were many other powerful moguls and princes, and a lot of them weren't going to sit down and let Hu catastrate them. He would be pulling his own strings during his stay in Beijing. It seemed that the Zhou had turbulent times ahead of it, both inwards and outwards.

[1] The Chancellor refers to the highest-ranking position(s) of the Chinese imperial bureaucracy. The exact range of chancellor positions has changed throught history.
Chapter VIII: A Tale of Two Empires
Beans, in a flame that beanstalks feed,
Out from the pan cried.
“We have sprung from a single root,
What need you have to boil so hot?"

-Cao Zhi(曹植), <The Seven-Step Poem>

Chapter VIII: A Tale of Two Empires

When Zhengyun Emperor ascended to the throne as the second emperor of Great Zhou, the empire was ulready highly unstable and volatile.

The death of Emperor Zhaowu was like adding salt to injury. Although he may have been a traitor, Wu Sangui was a charismatic and influential man, capable of controlling his legion of advisors and generals. In contrast, Zhengyun was not in a great mental state, to say the least. Young Wu Shilin had lived all his life in the Forbidden city, as a captive to be used against his grandfather. The War of the Three Feudatories took everything from him - his father[1] was dead, his few friends either fled to Manchuria or was dead like his father, and he was surrounded by strangers who wanted to take advantage of 'the Emperor'.

With the old emperor dead and his successor weak, Great Zhou was engulfed in a power struggle between lieutenants of Wu Sangui. Eventually, General Hu Guozhu came out on top. Hu nominated himself as Chancellor, and ruled as the de facto ruler of China, with the powerless emperor in his pocket. What concerned Hu the most was, of course, the disloyal south. United under the leadership of Tungning, the southern warlords seemed more of a threat then they initially seemed. So instead, Hu kept trying to end the situation in a diplomatic way, by negotiating with the warlords to lay down their weapons.


△Portrait of Zheng Kezang.

In March of 1681, Zheng Jing passed away in the young age of 38. His successor was Zheng Kezang(鄭克藏), his 17-year-old son. Zheng Kezang had been managing Tungning’s internal affairs as Lord-Regent(監國) and was highly reputed. The young king's rule didn't start smoothly; General Feng Xifan(馮錫範) tried to assassinate Kezang and install Zheng Keshuang(鄭克塽), his son-in-law, as the new king. Since Keshuang was only 10 years old, Feng would be able to rule Tungning from the shadows. However, the plan was discovered, and Feng was executed in the end of the month[2]. Kezang saved his young half-brother's life, but Keshuang was pressured to leave the court and live the rest of his life as a buddhist monk.

After the change in regime, the Zhou court continuously contacted Zheng Kezang, hoping that the young king would be more open to a peaceful settlement. However, Kezang wasn't any bit less ambitious than his father and grandfather. Not afraid to walk the warpath, Zheng Kezang decided to utilize the greatest edge Tungning had against Zhou - legitimacy.

In September 5th of 1681, Zhu Shugui(朱术桂), the elder of the Ming royal family in exile, was crowned as Emperor Qingyi(慶義) of Great Ming in the city of Nanjing. At his coronation Emperor Qingyi made clear that he was inheriting the position of Emperor from the late Emperor Yongle(永曆), who was murdered by none other then Wu Sangui himself. Following his coronation ceremony was a grand feast, celebrating the return of the Great Ming. Emissaries from around the eastern visited the Nanjing Palace.

Afterwards, Emperor Qingyi crowned warlords loyal to him as kings. Geng Jingzhong was crowned as the King of Wu(吳王), and Shang Zhixin as the King of Yue(越王). In addition to being crowned as the King of Tungning(東寧王), Zheng Kezang was also crowned as the Imperial Chancellor(丞相) - a supreme position, second to only the Emperor himself. Although Nanjing was declared as the official capital, due to its proximity with the frontlines, the port city of Fuzhou(福州) served as the de facto capital instead.

With the rebirth of Great Ming, Zheng had crossed the line - a negotiation for a peaceful unification was now impossible. Only one Emperor and one Empire could exist under the same sky, and both empires knew that the only path left was the path of war.

After a year or so of constant skirmishes, The drums of war began ringing again in October of 1682. It was the Zhou Dynasty, superior in military power, who took on the offensive. The offensive took place in three fronts. Wu Yingqi would lead the Zhou main force of 150,000 men eastwards from the city Changsha, and march into Jiangxi. Afterward, he would trek southwards toward Ganzhou(赣州). The objective of Wu's forces was to sever the Ming territory into two and separate Guangdong from the rest of the empire. At the same time, Ma Xiong would lead his force of Guangxi and invade Guangdong from the west. The final stage of the campaign would be the two forces joining and taking Guangzhou. In addition, Zhou Peigong of Shandong led his forces and marched into Jiangsu, whose objective was to push Ming back to the Yangtze river.

Around the new year of 1683, the county of Guixian(贵县)[3] fell to Ma Xiong's forces. From there, Ma Xiong advanced eastwards along the Pearl River(珠江). However, his advance came to a stop around the Guangdong-Guangxi border, where the front turned into a stalemate. Meanwhile, Wu Yingqi ravaged the Ming forces in northern Jiangxi, laying siege to the city of Ji'an(吉安).

In order to divert the attention of Wu Yingqi's army, Great Ming launched a counterattack in Jiangxi. Supported by the Ming armada commanded by Shi Lang, Ming marines attacked cities in the Hubei-Jiangxi border region, threatening Wuchang and Nanchang. Although Wuchang was heavily protected by Zhou forces, Nanchang was more vulnerable. The Gan River(贛江), completely controlled by the Ming navy, flowed right through the city. Wu Yingqi had to divert his forces to help defend the city.

The Siege of Nanchang began in June of 1683. As preparation for the actual battle, Ming marines captured islands up and down the river, fortifying them into bases of operation. A few weeks later, Ming warships armed with English culverin began to bombard the city center. A series of brutal battles ensued, lasting for a whole month. Both sides suffered heavy losses, but the ultimate winner of the siege was Great Ming. Zhou generals thought that the city was too vulnerable of a position to defend, and pulled the troops out of the city.

At a similar date of Nanchang's fall, Wu Yingqi was able to take Ji'an. After the exchange of the two cities, the war dragged on for another year, without much losses or gains. The feuding inside Zhou army leadership severely hindered its capabilities. Wu Yingqi laid siege on Ganzhou, but the city withstood. To the south, the army of Guangxi captured the southern coastal areas, but had to abandon them due to Ming naval bombardments. The war ended in July of 1684, when a peasant rebellion broke out in Sichuan. Although the rebellion didn't deal a serious threat to the Zhou regime, the court had to call off the campaign to deal with the rebellion.

Overall, the campaign was considered a failure for Great Zhou. Although they were superior in military strength, Zhou’s gains in the war were mediocre, Zhou Peigong's army was the only force that achieved its objective; they took Taizhou(泰州) and reached the northern bank of the Yangtze river. The court placed the blame on Wu Yingqi, for failing to lead his army correctly. After the campaign, Wu was sidelined from the power struggle at the court.

This war between Zhou and Ming, named the Southern Expedition of 1682(壬戌南征), was the first of a series of campaigns Zhou launched against Ming in the 1680s. Collectively named the Southern Expeditions of Emperor Zhengyun(正韻南征), a total of 3 campaigns were launched, each in 1682-1684, 1687 and 1689-1691, along with half a dozen smaller operations. While the Zhou did gain a number of strategic positions and cities from the campaigns, they put a severe strain on the populace. Great Zhou was getting more and more unpopular among its peasants.

By the turn of the decade, the Zhou court had to begin rethinking their approach. Headed by General Ma Bao, a hardliner faction emerged, who criticized Hu Guozhu's way of dealing with the south. Ma Bao believed that Hu was timid, that he feared entering a decisive battle with the Zhou - and by acting timidly, he was only prolonging the suffering of the people. Instead, Ma proposed to raise a grand levy for one final expedition - one that will crush the usurpers of the south and bring China completely under Zhou rule.

[1] In case you forgot, this refers to Wu Yingxiong, who was killed in the Prelude during Yang Qilong's rebellion.

[2] IOTL, the plan succeeds and Zheng Keshuang is put on the throne instead. This incident became known as the Tungning Coup(東寧之變).

[3] This refers to modern-day Guigang IOTL.

Thankfully, I was able to find a half-finished draft of the chapter in the depth of my hard drive, and re-write the rest. I'm occupied with real life stuff right now, so the next chapter will probably come out after October 21th.
Chapter IX: Dzungaria Rising
Chapter IX: Dzungaria Rising

△Statue of Galdan Boshugtu Khan.​

To the north of China, beyond the great wall, lay the vast steppes of Mongolia. The Mongolian lands could be largely divided into two - Eastern Mongolia, home to the many Borjigin banners like Khalkha and Chahar, and Western Mongolia, which was inhabited by the Four Oirats.

The Oirats were a distant cousin of the Mongols, who became part of the Mongolian Empire during the rise of Genghis Khan. After the Mongolian Empire fell, after a series of conflicts, the Oirats fled westwards, where they formed the Oirat Confederation. The Oirat Confederation, also known as the Four Oirats, composed of four tribes - the Khoshut, Choros, Dorbet and the Torghut. Of the four, the Khoshut Banner was the biggest, ruling over Tibet, Kokonor and Lake Zaisan.

Erdeniin Galdan was born as the fourth son of Erdeni Batur Taiji, ruler of the Choros Banner. In the age of 7, he was sent to Lhasa, to study Buddhist texts under the 5th Dalai Lama. When his father died in 1653, a succession crisis took place - Erdeni Batur had nominated his third son Sengge as the new ruler, and his two older brothers Cecen and Zodba were not convinced. Galdan supported Sengge as was his fathers will. During the civil war that followed, Galdan largely stayed out of the conflict, instead focusing on his studies.

Although Galdan aspired to study the ways of Enlightenment and become a Lama himself, his royal lineage wouldn’t grant him such a peaceful life. In 1670, Sengge was murdered by his half-brothers in an attempt to steal the throne. Upon the call of his people, Galdan had to return to Dzungaria to avenge his brother’s death. At his return, the Choros people rejoiced - with many Choros nobles rebelling against Cecen and Zodba in favor of Galdan. What followed was a bloody conflict between the royal family, where the two usurpers were crushed by Galdan. After the end of the civil war, Galdan consolidated the position of the ruler of the Choros Banner.

During the feud, Galdan was supported by Ochirtu Sechen Khan, his grandfather-in-law. When Gushi Khan, the Khan of the Khoshuts, had passed, his realm split into three - Ochirtu Khan had inherited the Khoshut Banner who had not migrated south to Tibet. However, as Galdan’s influence grew stronger, Ochirtu Khan began to fear Galdan. In 1673, Danjin Hong Taiji, nephew of Ochirtu, turned on him and led his people to ally with Galdan. Eventually, Ochirtu allied with Choqur Ubashi, Galdan's uncle, and attacked Galdan. In 1676, Galdan defeated Ochirtu in a surprise attack, taking him prisoner. Ochirtu managed to escape and re-gather his forces, but was defeated again - he died in 1680 in captivity. Afterwards, Galdan was crowned as the ‘Boshugtu Khan’ of the Dzungars by the 5th Dalai Lama.

After the defeat of Ochirtu, with the remaining Dorbet and Khoid Banner succumbing to him, Galdan was able to bring the Four Oirats under one banner. Galdan allowed Danjin Hong Taiji to rule over the Khoshut Banner, and the people of Khoshut who had fled from Galdan returned one by one.[1] In the 1680s, while China was still undergoing internal conflict between the Ming and the Zhou, Galdan started his great conquering spree.

△Map of Asia in the early 17th century.

The first target of the Dzungar conquest was Kashgaria, which was ruled by the Yarkend Khanate - an Islamified descendant of the great Chagatai Khanate. At the time of the conquest, the power of the Chagatai Khans had since long been eclipsed by local rulers called Khojas, claiming themselves to be the descendant of the great prophet Mohammed. Earlier in the 17th century, the Khojas had broken into two feuding branches - the Afaqi, under Afaq Khoja, and the Ishaqi, under Ishaq Wali.

When Ishaq Wali allied with the Chagatai Ismail Khan to expel Afaq, he fled to Tibet and asked the 5th Dalai Lama to help him reclaim his just possessions. The Dalai Lama accepted this request, and called on Galdan. As though he was now a secular Khan instead of a monk, Galdan was still a deep believer of Buddhism, and agreed to intervene in the Lama's behalf. In 1678, Galdan led his army of 120,000 soldiers into Kashgaria, sweeping over the Yarkend resistance and killing Ismail Khan.

Although Afaq was re-instituted as the ruler of Yarkend, Kashgaria was now under the suzerainty of the Dzungars. Galdan chose not to intervene in Yarkend’s internal matters, letting Kashgaria govern itself with its own laws. Instead, Galdan imposed taxes on the silk road trade, and extracted vital resources from the state to fuel his campaign. Soon enough, Galdan was able to develop a system of manufacturing saltpeter and metal in masse. Unlike most tribes, who relied on foreign trade to obtain what little gunpowder they can get, this advantage was revolutionary. With Galdan's military prowess, the Dzungars, armed with chain mails and exceptional weaponry, became unmatched warriors on the steppes.

By the early 1680s, Galdan completely consolidate his rule over the famed oasis cities of East Turkestan. Afterwards, he marched west - into the territory of the Kazakh and the Kyrgyz. Tauke Khan of the Kazakhs allied with Kyrgyz tribes and tried to resist Galdan, but he was defeated. The Dzungars took many cities like Almaty and Taraz, and besieged the Kazakh Capital of Hazrat-e Turkestan in 1684. After half a year of siege, Tauke Khan agreed that the Kazakhs will pay a yearly tribute to the Dzungar Khanate.

By the mid-1680s, the Dzungars exerted its influence over all of Central Asia. The silk road saw its last golden age under the patronage of the Dzungar Khanate; With the Dzungars encouraging commerce along its dominions, the antiquital trade hubs of Central Asia were able to flourish. Slowly, the Dzungar Khanate began to transition into a multi-ethnic empire resembling that of the Mongolian Empire or the Qing; At the head of the empire was the Dzungar ruling class, maintaining their military lifestyle. The 'middle class' consisted of Cetral Asian traders, bringing wealth to the empire. Lastly, the Uyghurs and other folks maintained a domeistic lifestyle, sustaining the empire. The city of Ghulja, the seat of Galdan's rule, developed into a multinational city as one of the centers of the silk road. Towering Buddhist Temples were constructed, and merchants from Bukhara, Russia, Persia and the Ottoman Empire visited the city.

Meanwhile, Galdan aspired to unite the Oirat Federation into a single nation. He kept close ties with the Dalai Lama, and claimed himself to be the protector of the Buddhist faith. He also promoted the Todo Bichig, meaning 'Clear Script', as the official writing system of Dzungaria. Under Galdan's rule, a singular national identity was slowly forming between the Four Oirats.


△The Todo Bichig, shown above, became institutionalized as the 'national script' of the Oirats under Galdan.​

At the same time, Galdan began to interfere with the Khalkha Banners, with the grand dream to bring all the Mongols under one banner. Ever since he united the Oirats, Galdan was frequently under contract with Jashagtu Khan, who was another patron of Tibetan Buddhism. With the Dalai Lama mediating their alliance, the two Khans maintained an amicable relationship.

The Khalkha Mongols, occupying present-day Outer Mongolia, were divided into Left and Right Wings[2] - the Right Wing was comprised of the Jashagtu and Altyn Khanates, while the Left Wing had Tusiyetu and Setsen. The two biggest Khanates, Jashagtu and Tusiyetu, had been feuding since 1662 - after the death of the previous Jashagtu Khan, Tusiyetu Khan had intervened and took some of his people under his custody. Although the crisis was settled, Tusiyetu Khan had been refusing to give the people back to the new Jashagtu Khan.

In 1686, The Dalai Lama intervened and held a congress, hoping to make peace in Eastern Mongolia. However, the congress fell short, unable to make a settlement between the two Khanates. Moreover, Jebtsundamba Zanabazar, brother of Tusiyetu Khan and the Buddhist guru of Mongolia, used the congress in an attempt to assert his own authority in Mongolia; during the congress, he disrespected the Lama's representative and acted as if his status was equal to the Dalai Lama himself. This, of course, enraged Galdan Khan.


△Portrait of Jebtsundamba Zanabazar.​

The ripe opportunity for Galdan came in 1687, when Tusiyetu Khan finally invaded Jashagtu Khan's lands and killed him. During the invasion, Galdan's brother Dorji Gyab was also killed during battle. Infuriated, Galdan raised a levy of 70,000 men and led his army to invade Khalkha. Within the same year, he crushed Tusiyetu Khan’s army led by Jebtsundamba Zanabazar at the lower bank of the Hamir River. Tusiyetu was of no match to Galdan, and soon enough, he had to leave everything behind and flee eastwards. Afterwards, Galdan occupied Kharakorum and advanced southeast.

Facing the advance of Galdan, the Princes of Eastern Mongolia were torn over where to turn to. Russia and Great Zhou were great empires, but they were not believers of the true faith, and they demanded vassalization in turn for their help. The Manchus did believe in Buddhism, but they were pre-occupied with their own matters and were not in a position to intervene. Eventually, the princes of East Mongolia failed to come to an agreement, and scattered for their own lives. Tsewang Shab, heir to the dead Zashagtu Khan, defected to Galdan with Altyn Khan. The Chahars under Abunai Khan seeked protection of Great Zhou. Other various banners fled to Russian or Manchurian lands - in the end, only a handful of people remained to stand alongside Tusiyetu against Galdan.

With nowhere else to turn to, Tusiyetu Khan led his allies for a last stand against Galdan's force. The fateful battle took place in Zamyn-Uud, located in the border region between Khalkha and Chahar. The fate of the Battle of Zamyn-Uud was already decided before its start - it was quite clear that Tusiyetu's force could not match Galdan's, and the army fell into disarray as soon as the battle started. Afterwards, Tusiyetu fled with only a few dozen men, and was killed a few weeks later over a disagreement with his liteunants.

By the end of 1690, Galdan Khan had unified nearly all of Mongolia under his rule. After the defeat of Tusiyetu Khan, Khalkha was divided between those who supported Galdan during his invasion. Not having descended from the Chinggisid 'Golden Lineage', Galdan Khan instead sought his legitimacy from his status as the loyal servant of the Dalai Lama and protector of Buddhism. He utilized the captured Jebtsundamba Zanabazar. As the 'Bogd Gegeen(Highest Enlightened Saint)' of Mongolian Buddhism, Jebtsundamba was universally respected in Khalkha. Thus, instead of imprisonating or executing him, Galdan urged Jebtsundamba to spread Buddhism and the authority of the Dalai Lama further among the Khalkha Banners.

With Khalkha under his control, Galdan’s realm spread from Kazakhstan to the western edge of Manchuria. In less than 20 years of his reign, Dzungaria saw itself rise from a loose confederation of tribes to a great empire. However, Galdan still wasn’t sated; He wanted himself to be remembered as the greatest ruler Mongolia ever had, a Great Khan that would rival Genghis Khan himself.

And thus, he looked southward beyond the Great Wall - to China.

[1] This is the ‘main’ PoD that determins the fate of Galdan. IOTL, Galdan was zealous in his attempt to concentrate the power of his realm to him, with many assassination attempts on his piers and subordinates. This, combined with the fatigue of continued war, led to continuous rebellions during the later half of his reigns, and his ultimate downfall. Compared to this, ITTL, Galdan respects the authority of his allies more, instead trying to bring his realm together by appealing to an Oirat national identity and Buddhist unity. This in turn keeps Galdan's empire whole during his conquest.

[2] Traditionally, when referring to Mongolian 'Wing's, right means west and left means east. So the Right Wing of Khalkha was located in Western Khalkha, adjacent to the Oirats.
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And so Heaven spared the Dzungars from Qianlong's wrath. While we are on the subject of the Qing, it seems that Galdan Khan wants to emulate their objective.
As you could have guessed, real life matters have gotten between me and my work for the last few weeks, and I haven't been able to find the time nor energy to update this TL.
However, I have not given up this Timeline at all. I'll release an update before the end of 2023, at least.
Godspeed, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.
Chapter X: The Feud of the Banners
Chapter X: The Feud of the Banners


△ Mukden Palace, the expelled Qing Dynasty's seat of power.

For three short decades, Great Qing had reigned supreme over the lands of orient as the Celestial Empire. Once seemed to be eternal, the glory was lost overnight with the assassination of Emperor Kangxi. What followed was a gruesome freefall - In just four years, Great Qing was expatriated from mainland China by a grand coalition. Now, Qing was a waning power, facing existential threats from in and out.

By the time of Kangxi's short rule, almost every Manchurian had resettled in Beijing or other various garrisons throughout China, leaving Manchuria nearly devoid of people. With Great Zhou's reconquest of mainland China, over a million people had to evacuate from China to resettle in Manchuria, which of course had disastrous consequences. Many Manchurians starved to death, fled to other lands, or resorted to banditry and pillaging.

To make matters worse, the Qing Imperial Court in Mukden was still caught up in its succession crisis. After Emperor Kangxi’s assassination in December 1673, instead of the young Prince Yinzhi being crowned as the next emperor, Great Qing’s throne had been left vacant. This was due to the plot of high-ranking bureaucrat Hesri Songgotu, whose daughter Empress Xiaochengren had an unborn infant in her womb. Betting on the chance that the baby would be a boy and therefore a Prince, Songgotu had used his influence to postpone the matter of succession.

Songgotu’s bargain proved to have paid off when Prince Yinreng was born in June 1674. Now the head of the Hesri clan had a newfound objective - to crown his grandson as the Emperor of Great Qing. To contain the Hesri power from growing too strong, a number of clans of Great Qing allied to put Prince Yinzhi on the throne. This alliance was headed by Nara Mingju of the Yehe Nara Clan, who served as the Lord-Regent of Great Qing.
Qing Royal Family.png
So, by 1678, when Wu Sangui and Zheng Jing were having a standoff in China, Mukden was also completely tearing itself apart. Both Songgotu and Mingju tried to persuade different houses into their side.

In January of 1678, Songgotu impeached Mingju from the position of Lord-Regent, blaming his blunders to be the fault of Great Qing's expulsion from China. Mingju had had hawkish policies regarding the Three Feudatories, and it was he who pushed the late Emperor Kangxi to directly abolish the Three Feudatories. After the War of the Three Feudatories began, Mingju failed his duty of stabilizing the empire and quenching the traitors, proving himself to be unfit for his position. Whether the fault lies with Mingju's capabilities or the infight caused by Songgotu himself was up to debate, but other members of the Imperial Court sided with Songgotu, and Mingju was stripped of his title.

With the position of Lord-Regent vacant, instead of appointing a new regent, the Court decided that the Deliberative Council of Princes and Ministers(議政王大臣會議) should directly govern the empire. At the Council's first convention after Mingju's impeachment, Songgotu put forwards the matter of succession, ready to crown his grandson the emperor. Both Songgotu and the anti-Songgotu coalition fully mobilized their political connections. In the end, the convention was a deadlock between the two candidates - the members could not come to an agreement and, and the convention ended in disarray.


△ Standard of the Plain Yellow Banner, which the Yehe Nara clan is a a part of.

Disappointed at the result of the convention, Songgotu decided to act decisively. From all around Manchuria, the Banner Army loyal to Songgotu and his allies began to mobilize. At the same time, Songgotu convened another assembly, this time excluding the key members of Mingju's faction. Before Mingju could react, the improvised assembly voted unanimously to elect Yinreng as the successor to Emperor Kangxi.

Mingju was first pleased at the news, because he thought that Songgotu's reckless decisions would turn the neutral faction away from him. And although Mingju's prediction was initially right, one by one, Songgotu managed to sway influential members into supporting the new emperor. As defeat approached, the anti-Songgotu coalition also mobilized their Bannermen, and tension rose in the streets. The first shots were fired when soldiers of the Plain Yellow Banner supporting Mingju tried to enter the Mukden Palace. Soon enough, Mukden was embroiled on a civil war.

The empire fell into further disarray as the Bannermen clashed against each other in the streets of Mukden. By May 1678, what became known as the Feud of Mukden(盛京事變) came to an end. Thanks to leaders like Prince Yolo from the Plain Blue Banner and General Laita from the Plain White Banner, Songgotu's force triumphed over Mingju's force. Afterwards, Prince Yinzhi's supporters fled eastwards.

In June 1678, after the situation settled in Mukden, Prince Yinreng rose to the Manchurian Throne as Emperor Guanghu(光護) in the age of four. Empress Xiaochengren served as the regent of the young emperor. But not much had changed - in the reshuffled Imperial Court, Hesri Songgotu found members of the royal family and other powerful houses weary of his power. Prince Yinzhi's force also vied to return as the rightful heir to the throne. The feud was nowhere near over for the Manchus.

So, after two whole months, here is another chapter, this time covering the Manchu exiles. The next chapter probably won't take nearly as much...

If you have any questions on the timeline, don't hesitate to post it - it would be my pleasure to answer. And also, happy new year!
Happy new year, glad to see this TL continuing. Manchuria is in disarray, perhaps it is time for Joseon to restore the glories of old Goguryeo and Balhae.