A Dragon’s Head and a Serpent’s Tail: Ming China and the by Kenneth M. Swope

By Kenneth M. Swope

The invasion of Korea by means of eastern troops in may possibly of 1592 was once no traditional army day trip: it was once one of many decisive occasions in Asian historical past and the main tragic for the Korean peninsula till the mid-twentieth century. eastern overlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi expected conquering Korea, Ming China, and finally all of Asia; yet Korea’s entice China’s Emperor Wanli for advice caused a six-year warfare related to millions of infantrymen and encompassing the total quarter. For Japan, the warfare used to be “a dragon’s head by means of a serpent’s tail”: a powerful starting without genuine ending.

Kenneth M. Swope has undertaken the 1st full-length scholarly research in English of this crucial clash. Drawing on Korean, jap, and particularly chinese language resources, he corrects the Japan-centered viewpoint of earlier money owed and depicts Wanli now not because the self-indulgent ruler of obtained interpretations yet quite one actively engaged in army affairs—and involved specially with rescuing China’s shopper kingdom of Korea. He places the Ming in a extra lively gentle, detailing chinese language siege battle, the advance and deployment of leading edge army applied sciences, and the naval battles that marked the climax of the warfare. He additionally explains the war’s repercussions outdoors the army sphere—particularly the dynamics of intraregional international relations in the shadow of the chinese language tributary system.

What Swope calls the 1st nice East Asian conflict marked either the emergence of Japan’s wish to expand its sphere of impact to the chinese language mainland and an army revival of China’s dedication to protecting its pursuits in Northeast Asia. Swope’s account bargains new perception not just into the background of war in Asia but in addition right into a clash that reverberates in diplomacy to this day.

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Questions unsurprisingly arose in Beijing, and Li was charged with both collusion and cowardice in battle, even though he actually received word to retreat from Supreme Commander Yang Hao (d. 1629) and was merely following orders when attacked. Rather than face these charges, Li Rubo hanged himself and was posthumously rehabilitated by Emperor Chongzhen (r. Swope FM-End 10/19/09 3:39 PM Page 15 EMPEROR WANLI AND THE MILITARY REVIVAL OF THE MING 15 broader scope of late Ming military developments.

Wanli was pivotal in making both policy and strategic decisions in these operations. His success was grounded in the appointment of competent military officers to key posts and in retaining them even when jealous civil rivals impeached them for trivial offenses. Wanli also repeatedly bestowed the ceremonial double-edged sword (bao jian) upon commanders in the field, giving them full authorization to do as they saw fit without having to memorialize the throne first. 25 In marked contrast to standard portrayals that cast Wanli as irresolute, covetous, and self-indulgent, the emperor took an active interest in the action in Korea from the outset and made the decision to send troops and supplies.

Another assault that night failed, and the rebels started executing prisoners in retaliation. 47 A few days later one of the rebel leaders explored the possibility of negotiations. Meanwhile the Ming had learned of the Japanese invasion of Korea and their occupation of most of the peninsula. Wei Xueceng’s policy of buying off the Mongols with titles and avoiding a lengthy struggle in Ningxia frustrated Wanli. The emperor continued to blast Wei, charging that he was always listening to the timid and the foolish and that his pacification plan was an incredible disgrace.

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