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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 jap troops in may well of 1592 was once no usual army day trip: it was once one of many decisive occasions in Asian background and the main tragic for the Korean peninsula until eventually the mid-twentieth century. eastern overlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi estimated conquering Korea, Ming China, and at last all of Asia; yet Korea’s attract China’s Emperor Wanli for information brought on a six-year warfare related to millions of infantrymen and encompassing the total zone. For Japan, the battle was once “a dragon’s head via a serpent’s tail”: a magnificent starting without actual ending.

Kenneth M. Swope has undertaken the 1st full-length scholarly learn in English of this significant clash. Drawing on Korean, jap, and particularly chinese language resources, he corrects the Japan-centered viewpoint of prior money owed and depicts Wanli now not because the self-indulgent ruler of got interpretations yet really one actively engaged in army affairs—and involved in particular with rescuing China’s patron nation of Korea. He places the Ming in a extra energetic gentle, detailing chinese language siege conflict, the improvement 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 open air 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 warfare marked either the emergence of Japan’s wish to expand its sphere of effect to the chinese language mainland and an army revival of China’s dedication to protecting its pursuits in Northeast Asia. Swope’s account deals new perception not just into the heritage of war in Asia but additionally right into a clash that reverberates in diplomacy to this day.

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Additional info for A Dragon’s Head and a Serpent’s Tail: Ming China and the First Great East Asian War, 1592–1598

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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.

It is interesting to consider this development in light of mercenary use elsewhere. 23 Ming officials often complained that such troops never trained, ignored all regulations, and frequently caused local problems, including riots. But others recognized that mercenaries, if properly trained and led, could be much more effective in battle than peasant conscripts. As in contemporary Europe, where the most effective fighting forces typically used mercenary Swiss infantry, if the state could afford them (and with the massive influx of foreign silver into China, the Ming could pay for such services), mercenaries constituted the more desirable option, though as was the case in Europe, they continued to serve alongside rural recruits and conscripts.

Ming officials continuously sought to improve the effectiveness of their forces while endeavoring to meet a bewildering variety of military challenges. While the Ming period is often lauded as being one of the most stable and peaceful in all of Chinese history, historian Fan Zhongyi identifies some 275 large and small wars the Ming engaged in from 1368 to 1643, not counting the final wars of resistance against the Manchus. 12 foreign wars per year during that period. ”11 Such activity necessitated constant advances in military technologies, most notably in firearms.

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