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Ages of Conquest: a Kings and Generals Podcast

Jul 18, 2022

Last time we spoke, the Ming Dynasty had finally come to an end. After years of fighting, Li Zicheng had finally broken the Ming Dynasty and assumed the Dragon Throne, or sort of. As his rebel forces pillaged Beijing and Li Zicheng sought to establish his Shun Dynasty a rather large issue loomed, that of the Qing invaders. The Qing had bided their time waiting for the Ming Dynasty to rot from the inside before making their move. Li Zicheng took his army to go meet the foreign invader, but unbeknownst to him the remnants of the northern Ming military prefered to throw their lot in with the Qing rather than with him. Li Zicheng’s army was smashed at the battle of Shanhai pass. Prince Dorgon took the dragon throne to serve as regent for the infant Qing Emperor Shunzhi marking the emergence of a new Dynasty over China, and they all lived happily ever after. Of course not. 


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.


#6 This episode is the rise of the South Ming Regime


So perhaps a short recap of the end of the last series of episodes. The bandit army of Li Zicheng believed after taking Beijing that their revolution had succeeded and that they could all “live happily ever after”. They did not consider the threat in the north that was the Qing invaders. They had committed the mistake of arrogance and it cost them their newfound Shun Dynasty, it also would have future political and military consequences. The first Qing emperor was titled Shunzhi, meaning “smoothly ruling emperor”, however Prince Dorgon would act as his regent as he was only 5 years old. Thus at the offset, Prince Dorgon ordered the Han chinese civilians to leave inner Beijing city so he could resettle it was Manchu bannermen and establish some sort of order. Exceptions were made of course, remember countless Han defectors aided the Qing conquest and many would take up titles and positions within the new government. The Qing rulers were not naive, they knew opposition would be fierce if they did not incorporate Han chinese within their new hierarchy and thus the loyal Han Bannermen became the great administrators that allowed for the transition to run sort of smoothly. Some of the greatest Han bannermen that would aid the new administration would be Kong Youde, a long time defector, Shang Kexi and Geng Zhongming, who both would play very crucial roles much further into this story. Until 1658 the Qing would intentionally not install any Manchu or Mongol governors so as to make sure the transition worked. Yet also at the offset, the Qing did ruffle some feathers with a particular decision. In 1645 Prince Dorgon issued the infamous head shaving proclamation. Basically he ordered all subjects in China to shave their hair in the style of the Manchu, which is that of a long braided queue. You probably have seen countless movies showcasing this hairstyle, usually the men have a hat on and you see the long braid trailing under it. Now he proclaimed the punishment for those who did not perform the head shaving as that of any other rebel to the Qing, a death sentence. Now a ton of Han chinese shaved their head immediately to curry favor with Prince Dorgon and the new Qing dynasty. They were showered with titles and positions and such.The policy was something of a symbolic submission to the new dynasty and helped the Manchu from telling who was friend or foe. It also evoked the Confucian notion that the subjects of the Dynasty were like the adopted children of the Emperor and that they should look like their adoptive father. Regardless for many Han Chinese the head shaving order was humiliating, some sources I read deemed it a “loss of their manhood”. So as much as it helped the Qing see friend or foe, it also would be used as a symbol of resistance by those who refused to submit. As you can imagine it was inevitable that anti-Qing struggles would break out. From June of 1644 to the end of 1646, the remnants of the Dashun army of Li Zicheng and the Daxi army of Zhang Xianzhong spearheaded anti-qing movements. But unlike the failed Ming state, the Qing Dynasty possessed a powerful army, with high morale. 


Politically it made sense to go after Li Zicheng first, for one thing he was the closest. Hell Li Zicheng actually handed the Qing a great situation if you think about it, they could now avenge the regicide of Emperor Chongzhen and be seen as saviors. Thus from the get-go their top priority was to eradicate the Dashun army. Now I did briefly mention the fate of Li Zicheng in the last series, but I will need to reiterate it here again a bit so the story is cohesive. The Dashun army and Li Zicheng fled the west of the Beijing area and lost a ton of territory, but there was a deep anti-qing feeling in the population leading to overwhelming support for them. The Dashun army took up defensive positions in Taiyuan, Yan’an and Suide led by the commanders Chen Youngfu, Li Guo and Hao Yao respectifully. Li Zicheng retreated to Xi’an and decided to seize Hanchung, Gansu and Lanzhou to the south, ensuring the safety of the central Shaanxi area. From there he hoped to have a base of operations for anti-qing action. The Qing army went south along the Taihang Mountain range and occupied Pianguan where they planned to seize Taiyuan.The Dashun army resisted them and managed to defeat the Qing army in Jingjian, Xuanhua and Weizhou. But despite the Dasun army’s valiant efforts, it had a problem. The peasant regime in various areas had destroyed much land and resulted in a logistical nightmare. 


By November of 1644, the Qing army broke up into 2 forces, one was led by Prince Ajige who was appointed as the Jinyuan general, assisted by Generals Wu Sangui and Shang Kexi. Wu Sangui as you might remember is the man who literally opened the door to the Qing in order to defeat Li Zicheng and Shang Kexi was Ming general who defected and would prove to be quite the loyal ally. They marched through Datong enroute for Xi’an. The other force was led by Prince Dodo also known as Prince Yu assisted by Kong Youde and Geng Zhongming marched on Tonguan. Both armies planned to meet up at Xi’an  where Li Zicheng had fled and defeat his Dashun army there. Ajige’s army managed to capture Taiyuan, Pingyan and other cities, but paid heavily for it. Prince Yu’s army fought a vigorous battle with the Dashun in the area of Luoyang, Shaanzhou and Baoling until they reached the outskirts of Tongguan. The siege of Tongguan lasted a month with Li Zicheng commanding the troops personally, but to no avail. Meanwhile Ajige’s army conquered Yan’an and Shaanzhou and as a result Xi’an became the focal point for the Qing army to produce a hammer and anvil attack. By february 9th, Li Zicheng had to abandon Xi’an running south for the mountains of Shangluo. The Dashun army experienced tremendous defeats at the hands of the Qing, but still hundreds of thousands came rallying to the cause of resistance. Dashun armies led by Li Guo, Gao Yigong and Hao Yaoqi were stationed in the areas of Jing and Xiang while Li Zicheng and Liu Zongmin took up positions in Chengtian. The Dashun army also held Wuchang and at this point Li Zicheng knew the north-east was unstable, but he could ill afford to allow the southeast to fall into disarray. Li Zicheng south to seize the eastern part of Zhoudong and the Xuan areas to establish a base of operations against the Qing armies. By the end of May as the Dashun armies prepared to leave, the Qing army suddenly surprise attacked them from both land and sea. As a result the Dashun army had to abandon Wuchang and run further south to Tongshan. The battle was a grave one and Liu Zongmin was severely injured before being captured and died in battle. Morale broke down for the peasants as more and more Han officials began to collude with the Qing against the peasants. The Dashun army faced enemies from all sides and the anti-qing movement was deteriorating. Then as I stated in the previous episode, by June of 1645, Li Zicheng was ambushed when he tried to cross the Jiugong Mountains. How Li died is not exactly known, some say he hung himself after being surrounded by some angry peasants. Others say peasants beat him to death looking for food. What is known is that his corpse was badly mutilated when it was found. Li Zichengs body was sent south to Ming authorities who decaptitied it. 


Now Just a few weeks after Emperor Congzhen had committed suicide in Beijing, one of his Ming clasnmen Zhu Yousong known as Prince Fu arrived in Nanjing. Now there were a ton of Ming princes lying all about China, but it just so happened most of the surviving high court officials were in Nanjing and thus they began to debate who should take up the Dragon Throne. They eventually came to the conclusion Zhu Yousong would be best and asked him to step up.

So with the support of Ming loyalist bureaucrats and generals, Zhu Yongsong proclaimed himself an Emperor in Nanjing with the reign title of Hongguang meaning “great light”. This marked the creation of what is known as the South Ming Dynasty. Now Zhu Yongsong was chosen mostly because of his bloodline rather than character or ability. He was the eldest son of Wanli’s favorite son, a guy that Li Zicheng et al killed and ate if you remember rather gruesome stuff. His son Zhu Yongsong shared many of his fathers defects and he did not even really want the throne, he just happened to be in Nanjing and a prime candidate.


The original aim Hongguangs regime was to take revenge and suppress the bandit armies. Indeed Emperor Hongguangs court proclaimed the regime was formed to “ally with the Tartars to pacify the bandits”. Hongguang’s new regime possessed quite a lot of military power. There was the grand secretary, Ma Shiying who  was the greatest pusher of Zhu Yongsong onto the throne and held a powerful war fleet. There was Shi Kefa the minister of war in Nanjing who further appointed the “sizhen” “Four guardian bastions” who would defend 4 territories; Huang Degong would defend Luzhou, Gao Jie held Sizhou, Liu Liangzuo held Fenyang and Liu Zeqing held Huan’an. All 4 were vested in titles of nobility, which would create a dangerous precedent for our entire story. Each man had an army of 20-30 thousands soldiers. All of this was established to protect the area of Nanjing from the Dashun armies. They also were preparing a northern expedition to eradicate the Dashun forces once and for all. The Hongguang regime seemed to not view the entrance of the Qing invaders as the main threat, most likely because the Qing went straight to work quelling the peasant rebels. In response to the Nanjing regime springing up out of nowhere, the Qing Dynasty chose to compromise for the time being while they consolidated further support for their own regime. They also quickly realized the Nanjing regime was extremely incompetent. 


When the news spread of the death of Li Zicheng to Nanjing, the ruler proclaimed Wu Sangui as Ji lord protector. The Nanjing regime even sought to send Wu Sangui millions of taels of silver by sea as reward for “borrowing the Qing army” to defeat the peasant army, yes burrow. It seems the court of Nanjing thought that Wu Sangui could be bought back over to the Ming side. It is alleged that regent Dorgon proclaimed in July that the country should not belong to one person and thus the Hongguan regime made an imperial edict declaring its existence to Hebei and Shandong. They became known as the South Ming regime and they immediately began to send emissaries to Beijing for peace talks. They sent countless gold, silver as tribute and ceded territory to try and earn pledges that the Qing army would not march southwards upon them. They also strongly suggested cooperative action against the bandit armies. 


The Hongguang regime was a product of conflict amongst big Ming warlords. There was a Zuo Liangyu bloc which began a campaign of suppression against Daxi bandit armies in Wuhan. Gao Jie, Huang Degong and Liu Liangzuo each held their respective areas north of the Yangtze River in the Jianghuai area. Each warlord had territory and an army, they began to snatch land from each other and this all hurt the common people. In each territory, 30 thousand soldiers needed to be drafted, 200 thousand kg’s of rice handed over, 400 thousand liangs of silver turned in. The soldiers and civilians often fell into conflict with another, the civilians saw the military as thieves and the military saw the civilians as rebels, a vicious cycle. While some of the warlords proclaimed they were stamping out bandit armies, they were in truth attacking fellow warlords. 


Meanwhile the South Ming regime was placing its entire hope in compromising with the Qing and only when messengers began to arrive who were sent to the Qing back, stating that peace talks were going nowhere and that a Qing army was preparing to march south did some officials begin to make other plans. Shi Kefa amongst many others began to realize that if peace could not be secured, warfare would be the only course of action. Emperor Hongguang for his part was nothing more than a puppet, being controlled by the warlords. He was busy drinking, eating and spending time with his harem without thinking too much about how to deal with the Qing threat seriously. 


One serious problem Shi Kefa faced was the bickering amongst the warlords such as the 4 guardian generals. Shi Kefa went to Yangzhou in 1645 to try and smooth relations between the guardian generals. Yet as he began talks with them they did not stop their plundering of another's territories. Then in 1645 the Qing army began to move south occupying Tongguan and Xi’an forcing Dashun armies to flee south requiring the Ming warlord Zuo Liangyu to be dispatched out to suppress them. As the Qing kept moving, this pushed the Dashun armies, which Ming armies like Zuo Liangyu’s would have to chase, and thus the Ming were further weakened. On top of this issue, Zuo Liangyu hated Grand Secretary Mu Shiying and for good reason the man was clearly using the emperor like a puppet and taking more power each day. Thus Zuo proclaimed he would get rid of Ma Shiying’s influence in the court. All of this internal bickering is happening with the Qing literally pounding on the door of their regime.


Ming forces began to be attacked by the Qing as they marched south and many simply surrendered.The Qing sent Prince Yu to lead his army out of Xi’an to the east and his force soon captured Xuzhou, a strategically important Ming territory and word soon came to Hongguang. The court of Hongguang freaked out looking to their strongmen to resist the Qing invaders, but the warlords of the South Ming Regime were so corrupt and too busy attacking another to pay attention. Gao Jie who possessed the largest army out of the guardian generals was assassinated by another Ming general named Xu Dingguo who tricked him using the oldest trick in the book, a banquet. Xu Dingguo was planning on surrendering to the Qing and invited Gao Jie to a dinner, got him very drunk and using some very beautiful prostitutes managed to kill him during the night. The army of Gao Jie retaliated against the city of Suizhou, but by that time the army of Xu Dingguo had fled and surrendered to the Qing army. When word spread of Gao Jie’s death, the other warlords stormed into his territory to divide up his army. In the meantime grand secretary Ma Shiying wanted to continue his dominance of the South Ming Court and was struggling against Zuo Liangyu for power. On may 8th, Zuo’s army began a battle agaisn’t Ma Shiying’s in Anqing, while the Qing army crossed the Huai River and marched on Suizhou. The 2 warlords were shocked by the news and forced to flee south, leaving poor Shi Kefa with the untenable position of defending against the Qing.


You see, Shi Kefa early on had asked to be dispatched to the north to supervise defenses on the border. But due to the warlords fighting another, the Ming general was unable to establish a strong defense. Then Emperor Hongguang ordered, cough cough it is actually Ma Shiying, ordered Shi Kefa to divert his forces from the northern border which the Qing were about to attack, to instead go west and attack Zuo Liangyu. Ironically at this point Zuo Liangyu had died of illness unbeknownst to Ma Shiying, and his son Zuo Menggeng was engaging the enemy. Because of all this anarchy, the Qing saw the route was open to Yangzhou which was something of a bulwark for Nanjing and marched towards it. 


Facing the Qing invaders completely alone, the Shi Kefa army was forced to retreat from their northern positions to Yangzhou. His army only made it within days of the city becoming besieged by Prince Yu’s army on the 13th of april. Thus Yangzhou was besieged and Emperor Hongguang called on all his officials as to what should be done. Yet many of the officials were too busy attacking another. Some in the court said they had to send reinforcements to help Shi Kefa and pointed fingers at Ma Shiying for intentionally retreating his forces from the Qing areas to retaliate against Zuo Liangyu. It was at that moment that Allegedly Ma sent proclaimed that he would rather the Qing killed the emperor and all the Ming officials rather than they all be killed by the treacherous Zuo Liangui. Ma went on to make edicts that anyone who dared talk about guarding the Huai area would be sentenced to death by him. Apparently even the Emperor dared not speak up. Thus Shi Kefa who was pleading for help was completely ignored. The warlords continued their fight as the Qing were literally banging on the gates. Prince Yu sent a letter to Shi Kefa asking for his surrender, but Shi Kefa replied “My life is tied to the city. I would rather die than betray my heart”.  On April 24th the Qing army's cannons had broken the walls of Yangzhou and the city fell during the night. Shi Kefa attempted suicide by slitting his own throat, but failed to do so. It is alleged, he asked his subordinate Shi Dewei to kill him, but Shi Dewei refused even when Shi Kefa screamed “Im the military inspector Si, quickly Kill me!”. Thus Shi Kefa was captured by Prince Yu who tried to persuade him to surrender and serve him stating “we sent you a letter politely asking for your surrender, but you refused. Now that you’ve fulfilled your loyalty and righteousness, you should take on a new important responsibility, help me conquer Jiangnan”. Shi Kefa responded "I fall together with the city. My decision will not change. Even if I'm torn to pieces, my feelings will be as sweet as maltose. But do not harm the thousands of lives in Yangzhou!" Thus Shi Kefa was put to death, as his subordinate Liu Zhaoji led the rest of the soldiers and civilians of the city to resist the Qing, pelting them with arrows.


Prince Yu, furious about the heavy casualties his force took upon entering the city, ordered the entire city put to the sword. The tale of this is known as the Yangzhou massacre and according to an account given by the contemporary Wang Xiuchu, the event was a 10 day massacre in which up to 800,000 people were killed. Most modern scholars consider that number to be an exaggeration, but what is not an exaggeration is the hardship felt by the poor souls of the city. Here is an excerpt from Wang Xiuchu’s account:


Several dozen people were herded like sheep or goats. Any who lagged were flogged or killed outright. The women were bound together at the necks with a heavy rope—strung one to another like pearls. Stumbling with each step, they were covered with mud. Babies lay everywhere on the ground. The organs of those trampled like turf under horses' hooves or people's feet were smeared in the dirt, and the crying of those still alive filled the whole outdoors. Every gutter or pond we passed was stacked with corpses, pillowing each others arms and legs. Their blood had flowed into the water, and the combination of green and red was producing a spectrum of colours. The canals, too, had been filled to level with dead bodies.

Then fires started everywhere, and the thatched houses...caught fire and were soon engulfed in flames...Those who had hidden themselves beneath the houses were forced to rush out from the heat of the fire, and as soon as they came out, in nine cases out of ten, they were put to death on the spot. On the other hand, those who had stayed in the houses—were burned to death within the closely shuttered doors and no one could tell how many had died from the pile of charred bones that remained afterwards”

After the Qing were finished pillaging Yangzhou, they crossed the Yangtze River and captured Zhenjing which was one of the last gateway’s to Nanjing. Apparently in the dead of night, a very drunk Emperor Hongguang then fled from Nanjing to Wuhu under the protection of Huang Degong, his chief general. This left the South Ming court in chaos, some officials fled, while others prepared to pay tribute and surrender to the Qing. Li Chengdong and Liu Liangzuo surrendered to the Qing early on, Zuo Liangyu and Gao Jie were both dead leaving 23,000 defenders to guard Nanjing without any real leadership. 


The betrayal and deaths of the warlords handed over the entire northwestern zone of the South Ming regime to the Qing. Ma Shiying then brought to Nanjing troops from the western provinces made out of non-Han Chinese indigenous fierce tribal warriors called the "Sichuan" soldiers to defend Nanjing against the Qing. Rather ironically the tribal warriors were deemed "barbarians" and slaughtered by the Han Chinese citizens of Nanjing. Mind you the person who was in charge of defending Nanjing was Zuo Liangyu so as you can imagine he probably had a heavy hand to play turning everyone against Ma Shiyang. It also turns out Zuo Liangyu and many citizens of Nanjing had decided to peacefully defect and turn over the city to the Qing when Emperor Hongguang abandoned them. Allegedly the citizens screamed out "These are the son and daughter-in-law of the traitorous minister Ma Shiying!" while parading the daughter-in-law and son of Ma Shiying as they stormed Ma Shiying's house. Thus when the Qing marched upon the city of Nanjing the defenders mostly threw down their weapons and by June 8th the South Ming Regime of Emperor Hongguang had collapsed. Zho Menggeng surrendered to the Qing, Huang Degong was killed fighting the Qing and for all it was on paper, perhaps upto a million men strong, the regime simply fell to pieces. Liu Zuoliang who had surrendered to the Qing managed to capture the fleeing Emperor Hongguang and sent him under escort back to Nanjing. It is said the citizens spat on him and cursed him and even threw rocks at him as he made his way along the street. Emperor Hongguang would die a year later in Beijing. The South Ming regime of Hongguang had not even lasted a full year and made one of the most pitiful attempts at trying to resist the Qing army.  It also exploited its own people and caused a ton of suffering, which will be the main theme of this entire story.


Within a year of their new Dynasty, the Qing armies had defeated Li Zicheng and his Dashun armies. They had destroyed the South Ming regime of Hongguang and had taken over the northern  half of China. Yet this was just to be the beginning of the seizure of national power. The bloody suppression of the bandit armies, the plundering and killing, alongside the coercive policies led the Manchu people into a lot of conflict with the Han majority. As the Qing armies continued to march south many Han rose up in defiance still. The Qing had a powerful and skillful military, but even they could not hope to control all of China with just military force. Emperor Hongguang was not going to be the last guy to proclaim himself an emperor and try to rally the Ming to his cause, not by a long shot.


In July of 1645 Prince Lu established a power base in Shaoxing and even proclaimed himself a regent. From there he created his own regime that soon held control over Shoxing, Ningbo, Wenzhou and Taizhou. With the support of the local populace and taking advantage of the rough terrain of the Qiantang River, his forces led by Fang Guo’an and Wang Zhiren fought the Qing off. However they were merely defending their territory, not seeking to confront the Qing army. 

So  unfortunately for Prince Lu, before he could even toss around any reign title or proclaim a new Dynasty, the Qing showed up to the gates of Shaoxing and he had to surrender. 


Much like the warlords, Prince Lu was too busy actively fighting against imperial family members such as the Prince of Tang, Zhu Yujian. When the Qing captured Nanjing, Zhu Yujian had fled to Hangzhou and at the behest of many of his officials ascended to the Ming throne in Fuzhou proclaiming himself Emperor Longwu meaning “plentiful and martial”. Now neither Prince Lu nor Emperor Longwu were even aware of another at first, it just so happens they figured out their situation when Emperor Longwu had sent regency letters to Shaoxing. Upon hearing of the regency of Prince Lu, Emperor Longwu demanded he step down, but the court of Prince Lu demanded he stand up to the challenge. Now neither side actually sent armies to fight another, instead they simply bickered about who needed to step down. Regardless this meant they were not cooperating or coordinating with another and who benefits from that, the Qing ofcourse. Bickering against Emperor Longwu deeply impacted Prince Lu’s forces capability at defending against the Qing and alongside this in July of 1646 because of a drought the Qiantang river became shallow allowing the Qing army to simply cross it and march on Shaoxing. The army of Fang Guo’an fled at the mere sight of the Qing and soon everything fell into chaos. Fang Guo’an and his forces surrendered to the Qing and Prince Lu tried to flee for his life, but the Qing literally got to his gates by that point. The quasi regime if you can call it that had not even existed for a year before its collapse. 


Meanwhile Emperor Longwu held control over Jianning, Tianxing, Yanping, Xinghua, Zhangzhou, Quanzhou, Shaowu and Tingzhou. This was the region of Fujian and luckily for the new regime, its geographical position was on the margin of the Qing’s empire, cut off from the heartland by several mountain ranges. His military sent 100,000 troops to defender the towns with another 100,000 set to suppress the enemy. Unfortunately for Emperor Longwu the military was not fully under his control. A large part of his military forces were loyal to the powerful warlord named Zheng Zhilong. Zheng also went by the name Yiguan, he used to be a pirate leader and was offered amnesty by the Ming dynasty. He had been a governor and military officer possessing up to 30000 troops while controlling significant maritime trade. Merchant ships coming and going from Japan and SouthEast Asia had to obtain his permission and pay taxes to him. This had made him the formidable warlord of Fujian by the time the Qing were spreading through China. The reason he chose to support the Longwu regime was because he wanted to take this opportunity to gain political influence and expand his own power further inland. So needless to say, Zheng Zhilong was not the most devout Ming loyalist. The Longwu emperor would have another ace up his sleeve, though like Zhen Zhilong not a very trustworthy one. A group known as the Loyal and True Brigades emerged. They were former Dashun leaders who had wandered leaderless after Li Zicheng died. They ran into the army of He Tengjiao who instead of simply smashing them, shared wine with the bandit leaders and asked them to join the Ming loyalists. They agreed to do so under his banner, greatly increasing his numbers, up to an estimated 200,000. He Tengjiao was showered with titles and gifts from Emperor Longwu for bringing so many to the cause, but as you can imagine taking in bandit leaders would have dire side effects. In reality, these bandit leaders and their armies were not really submitting under the Ming, nor were any really that loyal. It was just a means to an end, an allegiance and many of these bandit armies would simply go on to become bandits again. The precedent however was set, the South Ming Regime would continuously employ former bandit leaders, even installing some with titles which would hurt them further down the road. 


While so many Ming loyalist armies fought the Qing armies on the border territory of Fujian and other areas, Zheng Zhilong made sure to hold back near the coast, despite having the most formidable force with abundant provisions. When the Qing armies approached Zhejiang and Fujian, Zheng Zhilong thought the Longwu regime could do him no more good. In order to maintain his power in Fujian and keep his tremendous wealth he decided to simply defect to the Qing. On top of this, something that is said all too often but gets disregarded occurred. Terrible weather led to terrible harvests which lead to starvation affected the troops and civilians alike.


Still in places like western Huguang the Loyal and True were unleashed upon the Qing invaders and they won several battles. But when the Qing crossed the Xianxia Mountains, Zheng Zhilong withdrew all his forces. The Qing army marched straight through the area encountering no defense and entered Fuzhou with ease. The civil and military officials of the Longwu regime fled for their lives or surrendered, no one really put up a fight. Zheng Zhilong shaved his hair for the Manchu queue and surrendered. He was sent to Beijing. A foreign missionary who witnessed the collapse of the Longwu regime stated “Emperor Longwu acted as if he was a cowardly sheep and fled with his mighty army. The word mighty here referred to the large number of the callous people. But his escape could not save his life. When the swift Qing army caught up with him, they shot these stupid sheep with arrows”. Longwu had no children and had adopted Zheng Zhilong’s son Zheng Chenggong and when Zheng Zhilong surrendered and left for Beijing, this left his army to be inherited by Zheng Chenggong and his uncle. Zheng Chenggong goes by another name in the west, Koxinga and will play a crucial role in this story later.


In December of 1646 the little brother of Emperor Longwu, the new Prince of Tang, Zhu Yuyue, proclaimed himself Emperor in Guangzhou, his title of reign was Shaowu. When the Qing forces captured Fuzhou and killed the Longwu Emperor, Zhu Yuyue had fled to Guangzhou and several high officials pressured him to take the throne. Unfortunately for him just a few days later the Prince of Yongming, Zhu Youlang also proclaimed himself emperor at Zhaoqing taking the title of Yongli which means perpetual calendar. Zhu Youlang was the grandson of Wanli and held a stronger claim to the throne than Zhu Yuyue. The Ming provincial governor of Guangxi, Qu Shisi who had served under both Hongguang and Longwu, championed Zhu Youlang early on claiming he had “dragon countenance” and a great character for rule.  Yet,according to some surviving sources, Zhu Youlang was said to be quite weak of body and spirit, and even his own mother urged against his enthronement “My son is soft and benevolent and lacks the talent to bring order to chaos. I wish you could choose someone else” ouch, Jeb Bush much? But as usually occurs, bloodlines won out over merit.


Now of all the Ming Princes to take up the dragon throne, Yongli’s tenure would be the longest during this period. Yet it was also characterized by the same problems as the rest, rampant factionalism, indecisive leadership and an overreliance upon warlord military figures whose interests would more often than naught trump over his own. One of Emperor Yongli’s first actions was to put He Tengjiao in charge of military affairs hoping he could rein in the Loyal and True who were not full on looting the hell out of the country side, bandits will be bandits afterall. Emperor Yongli then went a step further and began instilling titles upon the former bandit leaders, most likely fearing if he did not persuade them to his side they would join Emperor Shaowu or the Qing. This precedent would further hurt his reign down the road.


As you can imagine both new regimes began claiming to be the legitimate successor to the South Ming Dynasty as a whole and inevitably fell into war with another. They would be so consumed by this that neither regime would do much of anything to thwart the Qing invaders. Well as the war between the 2 emperors raged, in only 40 days of proclamation, Shaowu’s forces were completely smashed at Guangzhou by the Qing and Emperor Shaowu was captured in January and committed suicide. Thus to start off his new regime, just a month or so after taking the throne Emperor Yongli would flee, not a good start. The Qing who smashed Emperor Shaowu had marched onwards and entered Guangzhou, prompting Emperor Yongli to fear for his life and flee from Zhaoqing going 170 kilometers upriver to Wuzhou. Emperor Yongli was abandoned by many members of his court and I would say rightfully so given his cowardly actions. Would you know it, the Qing army simply kept marching, as one does closer and closer to Wuzhou and guess what Emperor Yongli did, yes he fled again, this time to Guilin and even more court officials abandoned him. It was at Guilin where he made a distant relative, Zhu Rongfan Vice Minister of War and vice censor in chief and supreme commander of Sichuan and Huguang, yes the old practice of tossing a ton of different hats onto a single person. In 1647 Zhu Rongan would soon declare himself regent and cause a ton of chaos in Sichuan. 


The Qing having blown right through Guangdong with incredible speed were fast approaching Guilin, prompting, you guessed it, Yongli to flee now to Quanzhou. Many in Yongli’s court had reasoned that Quanzhou was an ideal area to have better access to the war efforts of the Loyal and True brigades. But Qu Shishi repeatedly argued they should make a stand at Guilin. ““If you want to defend Yue, you should stay in Yue. If you abandon Yue, then Yue will be imperiled. If we take one step forward, then the people will take one step forward. But if we flee far away in a single day, the people will also flee far in a day. If we run, then we cannot defend [territory]. How can we attract people to our cause?”. Qu Shishi believed they needed a stable base of operations in order to attract troops for more broad based support. He also kept arguing the previous south Ming regimes had all abandoned bases too swiftly and thus undermined their causes. We will come back to this, but now we need to look at another large aspect of the war for unification, the problem of the bandit armies and how suppressing them causes further problems. This is sort of a more micro look at how at the more local levels, certain groups of people would rise up to fight off the Qing invaders. 


The Qing army scored a series of victories south of the Yangtze River and the southeast coastal regions. They defeated quite a few South Ming regimes and Dashun and Daxi armies. But with each victory came cities being burned, plundering, murder all contributing to the further suffering of the common people. With so many people suffering came more and more revolts. People south of the Yangtze and southeast coast regions continued to resist the Qing. Peasant revolutionary organizations which had developed even before the Qing were growing exponentially. In august and september of 1646, 20,000 strong peasant armies from Liyan, Jintan and Xinghua began to cooperate with the South Ming regime to besiege Nanjing. This was quite an incredible feat, it was the secondary capital after all. The peasant armies launched several attacks causing quite a lot of anxiety for the Qing rulers, but they never managed to take Nanjing. These anti-qing actions however spread like wildfire to the Taihu area. There under the leadership of Zhang San, a mass of poor farmers, and fishermen began an organized insurrection. They kidnapped the children of rich families, hid them in the mountains and began demanding ransoms which they took to pay for soldiers and provisions. This type of uprising then sprang in the area of Suzhou and Songjiang encouraged more and more people to struggle against the Qing rule. One Taihu peasant army that participated was named the “White Head Army”, because they wore white headcloths. They managed to overthrow Wujiang, attacked Haiyan, Zhejiang and Jiashan gaining considerable fame. But like so many, they were eventually smashed by the Qing armies and their leader Wu Risheng was killed. Still under the overall leadership of Zhang San, farmers and fishermen of Taihu continued to fight and captured Yixing and fought forces in Suzhou and Changzhou. The Qing kept defeating their forces again and again, but more kept springing up and thus the White Head Army became a banner of resistance in the area south of the Yangtze River.


When the imperial edict was given out by the Qing government that everyone should style their hair in the Manchu fashion it was stipulated that in 10 days of the edict that all should comply. The order was basically “keep your hair or your head”. Several anti-qing forces rose up claiming they would rather die than shave their heads and they began a campaign of anti hair shaving. Movements were seen in countless cities, but the anti-shaving movement became most violent in Jiangyin. Jiangyin was a prosperous city with 3 rivers and 5 lakes. It was also the gateway to Suzhou, Songjiang, Zhejiang, Fujian and Nanjing. Yan Yingyuan, a low level Ming official and a historical grapher was appointed as a commander of a rebel army in Jiangyin. Yan organized the army and deployed a pretty effective defense. The Qing sent up to 240,000 soldiers to fight the rebels, but peasants from over 18 miles away were coming to the city to fight and when they did they abandoned their farm work, hurting the overall agriculture production of the area. The peasants were quite disorganized and many times had no idea what they were doing, but they did not give up, and the Qing began to seriously worry about this.  Jiangyin held out against about 10,000 Qing troops for 83 days during a fierce siege. When the city wall was finally breached on 9 October 1645, the Qing army led by the northern Chinese Ming defector Liu Liangzuo, was  ordered to "fill the city with corpses before you sheathe your swords," It is estimated his army massacred a entire population, of  between 74,000 and 100,000 people. Despite the brutality, local people in nearby areas did not stop. The city of Jiading which was southeast of Jiangyin had a large scale anti hair shaving revolt rise up led by Huang Chunyao and Hou Tongzeng. The Jianding people firmly guarded their city from 3 successive Qing attacks. At Songjiang armies led by Chen Zilong and Xia Yunyi began to rebel. Both cities would see similar massacres like Jiangyin. More uprising sprang up in Kunshan, Maoshan, Huizhou and countless other places. The Qing dynasty hated these revolts because the outcome was always going to be the same thing, dead potential subjects, ruined cities and devastated agricultural production. 


So as you can see, local level organizations, IE: rebel uprisings were honestly Dynasty breaking mechanisms if they were allowed to continuously grow. Perhaps you as the Qing dynasty, smash a few of these before they get too big, but what happens if one does get too big? As the Qing quelled more and more peasant uprisings and moved further south of the Yangtze river, an old enemy of the Ming was becoming more and more powerful. As a result of Li Zicheng’s death, the Qing brutal suppression of peasants and the incompetent disorganized state of the South Ming Dynasty, many peasants fled into the arms of Zhang Xianzhong. 


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Alrighty so we’ve gotten a taste of the situation right after Beijing fell to the Qing, things did not go so “happily ever after”. Yet the Qing smashed Li Zicheng and quite a few self proclaimed Emperors to the new South Ming Dynasty. The fleeing emperor Yongli was still kicking, but who next could possibly hope to challenge the Qing at this point? One of the arguably most evil men in history could, just you wait.