Battle of Salsu

The Battle of Salsu was a major battle that occurred in the year 612 during the second campaign of the Goguryeo–Sui War between Goguryeo of Korea and Sui of China. Goguryeo won an overwhelming victory over the numerically superior Sui forces at Salsu River.

Battle of Salsu
Part of the Goguryeo–Sui War
Salsu River, present-day Cheongcheon River

Decisive Goguryeo victory,

Sui dynasty


Commanders and leaders
Yu Zhongwen
Yuwen Shu
Eulji Mundeok
305,000 (nominal)[2][3][4][5] 30,000
Casualties and losses
302,300 casualties[3][4][5][6] Unknown
Battle of Salsu
Traditional Chinese薩水之戰
Simplified Chinese萨水之战
Korean name
Revised RomanizationSalsu Daecheop
McCune–ReischauerSalsu Taech'ŏp


An old portrait of Eulji Mun-deok, the field marshal of Goguryeo during the second Goguryeo-Sui war

In 612, Emperor Yang of Sui invaded Goguryeo with well over one million men.[4][7] Unable to overcome the stalwart Goguryeo defense at Liaoyang/Yoyang, he dispatched 300,000 troops to Pyongyang, the capital of Goguryeo.

The Sui forces were unable to advance further due to the internal discord within the Sui Dynasty command, and the lack of supplies due to the secret disposal of the soldiers' personal equipment and munitions in the middle.[8] Goguryeo General Eulji Mundeok , who had been blocking the Sui forces for several months, noticed this.[9] He prepared to attack the Salsu River (Cheongcheon River) and caused damage while pretending to retreat deep into Goguryeo territory.[10] Eulji Mundeok had cut off the flow of water with a dam in advance, and when the Sui troops reached the river, the water level was shallow. When the unsuspecting Sui troops were halfway across the river, Eulji Mundeok opened the dam, causing the onslaught of water to drown thousands of enemy soldiers. The Goguryeo cavalry then charged the remaining Sui forces, inflicting enormous casualties.

The surviving Sui troops were forced to retreat at a breakneck pace to the Liaodong Peninsula to avoid being killed or captured. Many retreating soldiers died of disease or starvation as their army had exhausted their food supplies. This led to an overall campaign loss of all but 2,700 Sui troops out of 300,000 men.[4][5][11] The Battle of Salsu is listed among the most lethal "classical formation" battles in world history.

With a victory over Sui China at the Salsu River, Goguryeo eventually won the Goguryeo–Sui War, while the Sui dynasty, crippled by the enormous loss of manpower and resources as a result of its Korean campaigns, started to crumble from within and was finally brought down by internal strife, to be replaced soon thereafter by the Tang.


  1. ^ Zīzhì Tōngjiàn, Vol. 87.
  2. ^ "The Three Kingdoms". National Assembly of South Korea. Retrieved 2007-02-12.
  3. ^ a b Book of Sui, Vol. 60.
  4. ^ a b c d Lee, Ki-Baik (1984). A New History of Korea. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 47. ISBN 067461576X. "Koguryŏ was the first to open hostilities, with a bold assault across the Liao River against Liao-hsi, in 598. The Sui emperor, Wen Ti, launched a retaliatory attack on Koguryŏ but met with reverses and turned back in mid-course. Yang Ti, the next Sui emperor, proceeded in 612 to mount an invasion of unprecedented magnitude, marshalling a huge force said to number over a million men. And when his armies failed to take Liao-tung Fortress (modern Liao-yang), the anchor of Koguryŏ's first line of defense, he had a nearly a third of his forces, some 300,000 strong, break off the battle there and strike directly at the Koguryŏ capital of P'yŏngyang. But the Sui army was lured into a trap by the famed Koguryŏ commander Ŭlchi Mundŏk, and suffered a calamitous defeat at the Salsu (Ch'ŏngch'ŏn) River. It is said that only 2,700 of the 300,000 Sui soldiers who had crossed the Yalu survived to find their way back, and the Sui emperor now lifted the siege of Liao-tung Fortress and withdrew his forces to China proper. Yang Ti continued to send his armies against Koguryŏ but again without success, and before long his war-weakened empire crumbled."
  5. ^ a b c Nahm, Andrew C. (2005). A Panorama of 5000 Years: Korean History (Second revised ed.). Seoul: Hollym International Corporation. p. 18. ISBN 093087868X. "China, which had been split into many states since the early 3rd century, was reunified by the Sui dynasty at the end of the 6th century. Soon after that, Sui China mobilized a large number of troops and launched war against Koguryŏ. However, the people of Koguryŏ were united and they were able to repel the Chinese aggressors. In 612, Sui troops invaded Korea again, but Koguryŏ forces fought bravely and destroyed Sui troops everywhere. General Ŭlchi Mundŏk of Koguryŏ completely wiped out some 300,000 Sui troops which came across the Yalu River in the battles near the Salsu River (now Ch'ŏngch'ŏn River) with his ingenious military tactics. Only 2,700 Sui troops were able to flee from Korea. The Sui dynasty, which wasted so much energy and manpower in aggressive wars against Koguryŏ, fell in 618."
  6. ^ (in Korean) "Battle of Salsu", Encyclopædia Britannica Korean Edition Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "King Yeongyang (2)". KBS World Radio. Archived from the original on 25 April 2018. Retrieved 27 June 2016.
  8. ^ "살수대첩". (in Korean). Retrieved 2021-04-04.
  9. ^ "살수대첩". (in Korean). Retrieved 2021-04-04.
  10. ^ "살수대첩". (in Korean). Retrieved 2021-04-04.
  11. ^ "The forgotten glory of Koguryo". Association for Asian Research. Korea WebWeekly. Archived from the original on 28 February 2009. Retrieved 27 June 2016.