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Ages of Conquest: a Kings and Generals Podcast

May 29, 2023

Last time we spoke about about the emerging war between Big brother China and Little brother Japan. Li Hongzhang struggled to do everything he possible could to thwart the outbreak of war with Japan, but he could not stop the inevitable. The Japanese began landing troops and soon seized King Gojong trying to force Korea to take up the reforms they wanted them to. Li Hongzhang tried to keep the Qing forces at a distance, but the Japanese would not stop reinforcing their position in Korea. Eventually Li Hongzhang decided to play with what he thought was a Japanese bluff, sending further reinforcements to Asan, but the IJN intercepted the transports and disaster struck. The IJN sank the Kowshing and other Qing vessels ushering in the first shots of the First Sino-Japanese War. The Genie was out of the bottle and could not be put back in.


#50 The First Sino-Japanese War of 1898-1895 Part 2: The battles of Seonghwan and Pyongyang


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

The battle of Pungdo and sinking of the Kowshing robbed the Qing of 1100 men and 12 pieces of artillery along with other war materials that were needed at Asan. It’s important also to remember the major differences between Japan and China when it came to their military forces. The Qing were composed of multiple different forces, as a journalist at Le Journal des debats politiques et litteraires said “there are chinese troops: there is no Chinese army, or rather there are as many armies as there are regions”. I know for those of you listening to the series I repeat the structure of the Qing military too often, but I imagine some people listening only joined us for the First Sino-Japanese War, so welcome and here is how the Qing military works. You have the 1) 8-banners army made up of Manchu, Mongol, Muslim and Han banners, 2) the Green Standard army which can be honestly seen more as a armed police force, made mostly because the 8-banners were very outdated 3) then there is the Yong Ying militias and hired mercenaries 4) lastly we have the foreign training army which are basically private armies held by grand officials like Li Hongzhang. The Yong-Ying’s were pretty much the bread and butter, serving as a kind of national guard and sent to hot spots within the empire where rebels would break out. Many of these Yong-Ying types received foreign training thus fall into that 4th category, making them like the cream of the crop. Overall Yong-Ying’s and well trained troops make up 10% of the total Qing forces, the Green standards make up the vast majority. Li Hongzhang like I said had a personal army, the Huai Army, created to fight the Taiping back in the 1860’s. They were the elites, but as Li aged, he lessened his oversee on them. Adding to Li’s age, the Qing court was reluctant to fund such an army, led by a Han no less, who might become too powerful and unseat their Manchu ruled dynasty. I mean they had good reason to worry, Li Hongzhang’s teacher Zeng Guofan got to a point he could have done this with his army, he just chose to retire instead, kind of a Sulla thing to do I always find. Now as you can see the Qing military is quite regional in nature with many warlord like figures controlling private armies and the Qing state controlling the less effective forces, it severely lacked unity. So to was the situation of the Qing navy. There were 4 autonomous squadrons: the Beiyang (northern), Nanyang (southern), Fujian and Guangdong. Only the Beiyang possessed a modern fleet based at Weihaiwei and under the control of Li Hongzhang, yes old Li had a lot of firepower. China’s arsenals and naval academics were the property of their province of origin and count not be counted on to supply other provinces in the event of…oh I dunno a war. We saw during the Sino-French War of 1884-1885 how this could led to disaster, when Li’s Beiyang fleet declined to help the Nanyang fleet. Well, that decision came to bite him right in the ass, as now it would be the Nanyang fleet who would ignore his calls for him. Even within the Beiyang fleet, the guns and ammunition were not standardized. Gunpowder was local and not appropriate for import guns resulting in logistical mayhem. The supply system was likewise very ad hoc and prone to flaws leading to the Beiyang squadron grossly undersupplied. Again another reason for all of this ridiculousness, was the Manchu not wanting the Han military to be strong enough to overthrow them. The Manchu deliberately prevented the creation of a unified national army, it was the basis of their strategy since they defeated the Ming dynasty. The German press would focus on the fundamental weaknesses of the Qing land forces and on the eve of the war an article stated this “the lack of a unified command. Each of the provincial armies was the personal creation of that province's governor. It is naturally in the interest of each [provincial] Viceroy to retain the fruit of his exertions for himself; in no case is he inclined to come to the assistance of a neighbour who is worse provided, and incur the danger of denuding his own province, for whose safety he is responsible with his head. The same system of individual responsibility applied down through the military ranks. It squelched initiative and promoted defensive rather than preemptive action. By this system, common action is virtually excluded." It really was a terrible system, backed by horrific punishment for failure. Punishments ranged from exile to cudgel blows to executions. If you failed to hold your position against an enemy attack you were decapitated. If you destroyed arms the Qing government gave you, you would receive a lethal number of cudgel blows. In an era of slow communications, this made things a nightmare for commanders in the field, you could not retreat because of decapitation and could not destroy your weapons to prevent them from falling into enemy hands. Basically Qing officers would be forced to go into battle as scheduled and stay there until victory or death. 

In contrast the Japanese as described by the same German article as before "When three decades ago, Japan awoke out of the sleep of her isolation and attached herself to the civilisation of the West, her first care was the re-organisation of her army. The result may truly be called astonishing. The Japanese army is in reality a European force and any one of their army divisions, with the exception of the cavalry, which is small and would look badly mounted, might march through the streets of any town on the Continent, without, at first sight, being recognised as Oriental troops." Though obviously 19th century racist, it indeeds shows how Japan had what we would consider a modern army. The Times of London had this to say about them "They are brave, temperate, patient, and energetic, and though the Chinese might be made, under European officers, as fine soldiers as they are, at this moment they are about 200 years behind them; and, although the victory is not always to the strong, as found out in the Boer campaign, from every data that a soldier can judge by the Japanese should beat the Chinese in Korea with the greatest ease." Indeed the Japanese army was based on the Prussian model, with universal conscription and a standard term for service. They had Murata Type 18 Breech-loading rifles with the same type of ammunition, 75mm field guns and mountain pieces based on Krupp design. While the Qing scrambled for the right ammunition, when it could be found at all because of the rampant corruption involving embezzlement of military funds, the Japanese had excellent materials and logistical capabilities. 

The Japanese navy was based on the British and French, adopting the Jeune D'école doctrine. While the Qing had some large foreign purchased battleships, the Japanese focused on arming faster cruisers to combat them. Now the Japanese military strategy for this war was to first seize control of the sea so they could transport soldiers to the mainland at will. From there the IJA would invade Korea to expel the Chinese. Once Korea was occupied, Japan would strike at Weihaiwei which would provide naval access to Peking. This could be followed up with an invasion of Zhili province, though that notably would be an enormous task. The IJA invading forces would be in two groups; the 1st IJA under Yamagata Aritomo who would invade Korea and enter Manchuria from the north and the 2nd IJA under Marshal Oyama Iwao who would invade Manchuria from the south and attack the Liaodong Peninsula, hoping to meet the 1st IJA at Weihaiwei afterwards. 

For both nations the only efficient way to deploy troops to Korea was via the sea. There could be no war if Japan could not ferry her troops, and for China despite sharing landmass, the situation was arguably the same. China had the railway line between Tianjin to the cost and north to Shanhaiguan, but that was as good as it got, it did not reach the Korean border. The road system in Manchuria was terrible adding to the logistical issue. Japan’s military got the Japan mail steamship company to lend her 90 steamships to transport the troops to alleviate other warships for military tasks. On the other side, the Chinese merchant fleet which was about ⅓ the size of Japans barely helped them. An article from Berlin’s Neue Preussische Zeitung stating “China has 40 troop transports versus Japan’s 450”. It was obvious to all, controlling the sea would win the war. The Pall Mall Gazette interviewed a long-time resident of Japan who predicted the war would be won at sea, stating "Which ever side holds the chief commercial ports of Korea...with the capital, completely controls the country. If Japan succeeds at the outset in sweeping the Chinese from those waters...she wins the key to the whole situation. It would be impossible for China to send up troops since the land route entailed an enormous distance where provisioning and feeding a large army would be unmanageable even for a well-organized European nation." Despite all of this, the Chinese leadership believed they held time on their side and that a war of attrition would see them victorious. They also had considerable assets in the Beiyang fleet, such as their two great ironclad battleships, the Dingyuan and Zhenyuan. However the Qing warships were overagged and basically obsolete. The ships were ill maintained, their crews lacked discipline. The Qing ships were much slower than the Japanese. The Qing battleships main armament was short barreled guns in twin barbettes mounted in echelon which could only fire in restricted arcs. Their short barrels meant their shells had a low muzzle velocity, poor penetration and terrible accuracy at long range. The Japanese emphasized quick firing guns, quicker ships and would outfire the Qing dramatically. There is honestly a litany of issues with the Beiyang fleet, take the signals books issued to it, they were all written in English, a language very few Beiyang officers understood. Regardless, I do not want to delve too much on the Beiyang fleet here, because that is certainly going to come about later.

When the Japanese began landing forces at Chemulpo, Li Hongzhang had missed a key opportunity to destroy their transports. He made a crucial strategic error, ordering his fleet to sortie east of the Yalu-River, away from the Korean Peninsula. Basically he was trying to minimize any risk to his precious two battleships. He opted to use his fleet to deter attacks and help the Qing convoys of troops. His mindset was that of a “prevent-defeat strategy”, he sought to preserve his navy, this decision ceded the initiative to the Japanese. Now the Japanese could choose the timing and location of hostilities. Obviously Li believed time was on his side and that eventually they would overwhelm the Japanese with pure numbers. He was prolonging as much as he could, there was also a belief the winter months would hurt the Japanese, while the Manchu warriors would hold a distinct advantage. 

Now as a result of Li Hongzhang trying to thwart further conflict, the Qing had deliberately encamped their forces outside Seoul. General Ye Zhichao had 3000 men stationed at Seonghwan and another 1000 at his HQ in Cheonan, just a bit northeast of Asan. He had been hunkering down awaiting the arrival of reinforcements, but the battle of Pungdo and loss of the Kowshing delivered an enormous setback to this. Major General Oshima had roughly 4000 men with him and he began to march upon Asan from Seoul. Ye Zhichao was very aware of this and had his men erected forts, dug trenches, made earthworks, and flooded surrounding rice paddies. Ze Zhichao planned a pincer attack against Seoul, by massing troops at Pyongyang in the north and Asan in the south.

The Japanese divided their forces to make a night attack: a small diversionary force would engage the Qing at the front while the main bulk would march upon their rear flank. The diversionary force consisted of 4 companies of infantry with one engineer who began their attack on the night of July 28th. Meanwhile 9 companies of infantry, 1 cavalry and a battalion of artillery snuck around the Qing defensive lines by crossing the Ansong river. The Qing fought hard but were unable to hold out. The Qing forces at Seonghwan had to flee for their lives back to Asan which was 10 miles southwest, and in doing so they left a large amount of weapons and supplies. The Japanese pursued them to Asan where further disaster struck the Chinese. Despite spending over 3 weeks fortifying the area, it seems their defeat at Seonghwan had broken their morale, as the Qing forces at Asan literally fled upon seeing the Japanese approaching the city. As a result the Japanese took Asan the next day. The Chinese were estimated to have 500 casualties while serving the Japanese 34 deaths and 54 wounded. The Chinese survivors fled towards Pyongyang, which would be a brutal 26 day march as they had to detour widely to avoid being hit by Japanese forces coming out of Seoul.

The victory confounded columnists who all came to a similar conclusion that “the Chinese forces fight badly and are ill equipped”. A reporter for the Yokohama based Japan Weekly Mail had this to say : "The Chinese are indeed skilled in the art of running away. As they fled they generally cast off their uniforms and donning the clothes of Koreans made the best of their way to what they considered safe places. The directions toward which they fled are unmistakably indicated by the cast-off uniforms. Even the Vice-commander of the Chinese troops appears to have been tempted to avail himself of this method, for his uniform was left behind in camp." It would be a theme played out during this war. The Qing forces would take the habit of disguising themselves as civilians to escape battles. This would unfortunately result in many Japanese troops not trusting Chinese civilians near battlefields leading to atrocities. It is plain to see why Qing troops did this, as we have already seen, retreating was met with extremely harsh punishment, you were better off trying to escape into the crowd. A commander from the Shanghai based North-China Herald had a different take on the battle of Seonghwan "The Chinese have retired from the Yashan [Asan] district after several day's heavy fighting, 10,000 Japanese against 3,500 Chinese. In the first days, the Japanese met with a sharp reverse and severe losses, the Chinese loss being unimportant. On July 29th the Chinese withdrew, leaving the camp in charge of a guard of 300 men, who were attacked and captured by an overwhelming force of Japanese before dawn. The guard was killed. The Japanese lost 500 men, found only heavy baggage in the camp, and took no prisoners, many Chinese noncombatants in the vicinity being slain."

Despite such claims, the Japanese had not engaged a small guard at Asan, it was the main body of Qing forces. The Qing had been handily defeated and alongside the men lost a ton of equipment. The Qing court had no way of knowing any of this however, because of the cell like structure of their military, who would simply report back to them victories or very minor defeats. In fact on August 3rd, General Ye Zhichao was congratulated in an imperial decree for quote “killing over 2000 Woren”, he received bonus payment for himself and his troops. Later on when the Qing court figured out what really happened, General Ye would escape decapitation only because he used the bonus payments to pay off officials to speak on his behalf. 

From the offset of the war the Qing government had a policy of publicizing false war bulletins, but the realities of what was actually happening on the battlefields could not be concealed from the western viewers. Every battle was reported a Chinese triumph in China and this actually was very reminiscent of our tale of the French-Sino War. A small article sprang up from a British reporter in Shanghai stating this "I read somewhere during the Franco-Chinese war [of 1884-5] the native papers of Shanghai reported the death of Admiral Courbet thirty-seven times, while the number of the killed among the French, according to these reliable (?) sheets reached 1,600,000. The amount of falsehood which these papers have poured forth since the commencement of the 'War of Pygmies and Pigtails' is simply astounding. O, that the word liar' had the same force in Chinese as in English for no other purpose than to enable one to tell a celestial, You are a liar!'" There are a wide variety of reasons the Qing government pumped up the propaganda this way. Ironically a major reason was because of their policy of decapitating defeated commanders. The Qing court officials also had barely any real knowledge of what was going on because 1) all the commanders were sending false reports back to them and 2) when defeated commanders were brought back to Beijing, they were beheaded so fast they never got to make real reports of what occurred on the battlefield. The court would only really begin to figure things out in times of war when the battles got closer to Beijing! And above all else, the Qing court could not allow the bad reports to get to the Han public out of fear they would rise up to topple their Manchu rule, something that remained their top obsession throughout the Dynasties lifetime. 

After the defeat at Asan a rumor emerged that the Emperor had demoted Li Hongzhang by stripping him of the Order of the Yellow Riding Jacket. Many speculated Li was demoted because he failed to thwart war. Regardless Li Hongzhangs presumed demotion cast a shadow over his ability to perform official dealings. Li Hongzhang would tragically become a very useful Han scapegoat for the Qing dynasty. 

Now while the loss at Asan meant the Qing plan to perform a pincer attack against Seoul was lost, it certainly did not mean the loss of Korea however. The bulk of Qing forces were stationed at Pyongyang, the old capital of Korea. The city sat on the right bank of the Taedong River which was large enough to provide a shipping route to the sea. Holding Pyongyang was imperative, it defended the approach to the Yalu river and behind that lay Manchuria, Qing soil. Pyongyang was surrounded by the wide river to the east and south, with cliffs along the river banks, mountains to the north and the massive city with fortified walls that could prolong a siege. The Qing seemed to hold all the major advantages, they had been massing troops and supplies and constructing fortifications at Pyongyang for almost 2 months. Altogether the Qing had 13,000 troops dispersed at 27 forts surrounded by trenches and moats. The majority of the Qing troops also arrived to Pyongyang by boat, while the Japanese all have to trek overland, via miserable Korean roadways crossing mountains and rivers. The Qing had invested a lot in Pyongyang because they were not just defending the city, they intended to recapture the rest of Korea using it as a main base, thus it was given their most modern equipment. Some Qing troops would carry American Winchester rifles, they had in total four artillery pieces, 6 machine guns and 28 mountain guns. On paper this looked wonderful for them, however there were serious problems.

The reality of the situation was summed up just prior to the battle by the Pall Mall Gazette s "from more than one source agree that the Chinese army in Northern Korea is in a deplorable condition. The generals are said to be grossly incompetent, the minor officers discontented and disheartened, and the rank and file exhausted and dispirited. What roads there were a month ago have been washed away by floods. Transport through Manchuria to Korea is impossible; guns, ammunition, and food stores are blocked, and spoiling all along the long route southward. Food is becoming scarcer every day at the front.” The four Chinese commanders at Pyongyang each commanded their own army, but none adequately coordinated with the others. When the Japanese attacked, they did parcel out static defensive sectors, but this became more of a hindrance than help. Their plan was very simple: if their lines failed to hold out at Pyongyang, surely they would be able to hold out at Yalu….yes great plan. The Qing commanders in the field had no real worst-case scenario plans. Weak logistics and organization plagued the Qing forces throughout the war. 

Now for the Japanese, Pyongyang held symbolic importance going all the way back to Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s invasion during the 16th century. After the victory at Seonghwan, the Japanese held a reinforced brigade about 8000 strong within Korea led by General Oshima. Around 7000 of these troops were concentrated around Seoul and Chemulpo. The Japanese controlled southern Korea and it was time to expel the Chinese from it completely. The Japanese had 4 routes to march upon Pyongyang from; one via Chemulpo; one from Pusan; one from Wonsan and another done amphibiously, by landing on the eastern coast near the mouth of the Taedong River. The Japanese were hard pressed for time, as every day could see more Qing forces marching into Korea from Manchuria. Thus the route from Pusan was rejected and they opted for sending the bulk of their forces to march from CHemulpo on the west coast and two smaller forces from Wonsan on the east. The idea to land forces at the mouth of the Taedong river was not rejected outright, but they were going to only consider it as a last resort. 

The Chemulpo force would be the 1st Army led by Marshal Yamagata Aritomo consisting of the 5th provisional Hiroshima division led by Lt General Nozu Michitsura and the 3rd provisional Nagoya division led by General Katsura Taro. Although Aritomo held overall command, he did not land at Chemulpo until September 12th, thus Lt General Nozu commanded the 1st Army against Pyongyang. His Wonson column was led by Colonel Sato Tadashi; another from Sangnyong was led by Major General Tatsumi Naobumi with the Combined Brigade led by Major General Oshima Yoshimasa. Nozu's plan was for the combined brigade to make a frontal assault from the south, while his main division attacked from the southwest and flanking maneuvers would be carried out by the two columns. 

On September 15th approximately 10,000 Japanese troops made a three-pronged attack on Pyongyang. At 4:30am on the 15th, the attack began from the east with an artillery barrage on the forts along the west bank of the Taedong river to divert the Chinese attention from the main attack. The Japanese feigned an attack from the south while Nozu and Oshima performed flanking maneuvers to deliver a massive blow from the north. The Japanese army’s main bulk designated to hit from the southwest would actually not end up participating in the main attack that broke through the principal Chinese fortifications. The fighting was fierce, with the Chinese launching repeated cavalry charges, igniting prearranged blazes, picture the scene from the last samurai if you saw that amazing film, by the way I did a review of it on the pacific war channel hint hint. The Japanese found themselves in blazes of fire and repeatedly being charged upon by cavalry units and while it was certainly valiant and showcased the bravery of the Qing forces, it was unbelievably stupid. The Qing had not taken advantage of the natural barrier that was the Taedong river and literally charged into the field, instead of forcing the Japanese to march through a muddy nightmare. There was no attempt to attack the Japanese columns as they crossed the river when they were extremely vulnerable. The Japanese had utterly failed to prepare the necessary equipment for crossing the Taedong river, they had no pontoon bridges so they ended up just stealing Korean river boats to ferry troops in secret. This was an enormous opportunity to smash the Japanese, but the Qing utterly failed to grab it. 

The Japanese successfully deceived the Chinese as to where their main attack was coming from. The 24 hour long battle saw heavy rain, causing massive amounts of mud for the Japanese to march through. The Japanese artillery was too far back initially to be effective, leading the vanguard troops who had taken the first line of Qing defense, some earthworks to abandon them in the morning. This ironically caused the Qing to begin writing reports to the Chinese press that they had already won the battle and that the Japanese were even fleeing. In reality the Columns from Wonsan and Sangnyong had seized the major fortress at Moktan-tei, due north of Pyongyang, giving the Japanese a position to bring their artillery to bare upon the city walls. Once their artillery began raining hell from Moktan-tei the Qing’s defensive position was shattered and they offered their surrender at 4:30 on the 15th. 

During the night many Qing forces tried to flee for the coast and border town of Wiju along the lower reaches of the Yalu river. Japanese snipers killed large numbers of the fleeing Chinese as they did. As a result of the surrender, in the morning two Japanese columns entered the northern gate of the city unopposed, but because there was no way to communicate this with rest of the forces, the main bulk of the Japanese army continued its attack against the city’s west gate. Later that day they would find it all undefended to their surprise. Later that morning the Combined brigade entered the city through the south gate. After seizing control of the city it was estimated the Qing casualties were around 2000 killed with 4000 wounded while the Japanese only reported 102 deaths and 433 wounded. 700 Chinese were taken prisoner, many escaped north fleeing for the Yalu.

Many believed “the flower of the Chinese army was all but annihilated at Pyongyang”, indeed Li Hongzhang’s elite Huai army with the best equipment had lost there. Though there was also rumors in China that Li Hongzhang actually held back his best troops. A reporter at the Japan Weekly Mail had this to say : "What resistance was made could not have been very great. This is the more surprising, as the Chinese took possession of the city on the 4th of August and had ample time to thoroughly entrench themselves." Commander of the British Royal Artillery at Colchester, Colonel J.F Maurice had this to say about the battle "Field Marshal Yamagata has conducted the campaign in the most brilliant manner, and his tactics would not have disgraced a Western general." One article from the North China Herald noted the ethnic loyalties that did not look too good for the Manchu “ Troops under the Moslem general Zuo Baogui had fought very well until he had perished in combat. In contrast, the Manchu troops have hitherto proved themselves utterly untrustworthy. The Jilin Manchus are far more intent on hunting for something to fill their opium pipes, than on doing anything to uphold the dynasty which has pampered them for so long a time that they seem to have concluded that the dynasty exists for their special benefit. The forces of the Jilin division remained under the separate command of a Manchu general. The Manchu forces at Pyongyang "retreated almost intact" rather than fight."

Indeed the Muslim General Zuo Baogui, a Shandong citizen died in action from Japanese artillery and a memorial was constructed for him. It did not look good for the Manchu, and countless Han readers would have been ignited with bitterness about this. At Pyongyang it was reported, the Qing left behind 35 good field guns, hundreds of magazine rifles, hundreds of breechloaders, 2000 tents and 1700 horses. The magazine rifles were noted to be superior to the Japanese Murata rifles. Hallmarks of the Qing campaign for the war were present at Pyongyang; the abandonment of large quantities of war supplies; the looting and abuse of local civilian populations; the torture and mutilations of POW’s and the use of civilian attire to flee the scene. up the abandoned supplies. The New York Times described the fleeing Chinese as "only too apparent. Rifles, swords, and ammunition, which they had thrown away in their haste to escape, were constantly being found. The fugitives had acted the part of bandits. Villages had been pillaged and afterwards set on fire. Farms had been destroyed and all the stored produce burned. The Korean natives who had resisted the robbers had been ruthlessly slaughtered. Many bodies were found hacked with spear thrusts. The whole line of retreat was one scene of desolation."According to a reporter at Moskovskie vedomosti, "The people fear Chinese soldiers much more than the invasion by the Japanese." The Qing troops had little choice but to plunder or starve because their military’s logistics were frankly a joke. Plunder was the only solution for the Chinese soldier while the Japanese soldier had a modern logistical line keeping them going. 

Western observations were notably disgusting with how the Qing treated POW’s, after all many nations had signed the August 22nd 1864 Geneva convention mandating the protection of POW’s. But in retrospect, the Qing could not even take care of their own forces let alone the mouths of the enemy. There was also the issue of how the Qing had an official reward system built on payment per head. However that does not explain the wide ranging atrocities committed such as disembowelment, removal of facial features, extraction of livers, cutting off of penises and so on. The Qing penal code held insurrection to be “the worst of the ten abominations” and the Chinese most likely considered the Japanese actions to be basically an insurrection against their confucian order meriting the most severe punishments. Punishments under the penal code short of execution included cangue, handcuffs, shackles, caning, ankle crushers, finger crushers, the Chinese rack and the ever favorite prolong kneeling on chains. A lot of the horror was due to the Chinese views of their own cultural supremacy and disgust for barbarians. The American secretary of state ordered his consul in Shanghai to hand over to the Qing authorities two Japanese found spying. The Qing officials promised no harm would come to them, but we are left with this account. “The tortures included kneeling on chains while their captors stood on their legs, the removal of fingernails, the crushing of tongues, the pouring of boiling water on their handcuffed wrists until the metal reached the bone, the smashing of their groins, and decapitation just before they expired from all the other abuses”

The Japanese coming off the bad publicity of the Kowshing incident took the opportunity to earn recognition from the west by showcasing how their modern Japanese medical units treated the Chinese POW’s with utmost care. The Japanese military transported around 600 POW’s to Tokyo, 111 of whom were sick or wounded who notably received top quality care. A correspondent from The Japan Weekly Mail had this to say "What has proved a thousand times more interesting to me is the way the Chinese prisoners and wounded have been treated, and for this I hardly know how to express my admiration...I had some conversation with a captured commander. He said he could not understand the meaning of the Japanese kindness...I went from there to the hospital for wounded Chinese. They were treated exactly as if they were Japanese...I do not see how Japan can be refused the place she rightly claims among the civilized nations of the world." Again, this is from a Japanese correspondent. After the battle of Pyongyang, there would be scant to no reports about the welfare of Qing POW’s. Diaries from Japanese soldiers after the war would indicate the Japanese were not interested in taking POW’s since they would just burden their supply lines as they marched deeper into Manchuria.

I would like to take this time to remind you all that this podcast is only made possible through the efforts of Kings and Generals over at Youtube. Please go subscribe to Kings and Generals over at Youtube and to continue helping us produce this content please check out If you are still hungry after that, give my personal channel a look over at The Pacific War Channel at Youtube, it would mean a lot to me.

The battles of Seonghwan and Pyongyang have caused the Qing forces to flee all the way to the last existing natural barrier before Manchuria, the Yalu River. While the Qing be able to stop the Japanese from marching upon their land?