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Ages of Conquest: a Kings and Generals Podcast

Aug 22, 2022

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


This episode is Koxinga & the revolt of the three feudatories


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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