Wu Sangui (Chinese: 吳三桂; pinyin: Wú Sānguì; Wade–Giles: Wu San-kuei; courtesy name Changbai (長白) or Changbo (長伯); 1612 – 2 October 1678) was a Chinese military general who was instrumental in the fall of the Ming dynasty and the establishment of the Qing dynasty in 1644. He is considered by traditional scholars as a traitor to both the Ming and the Qing dynasty. In 1678, Wu declared himself the Emperor of China and the ruler of the "Great Zhou." However, his revolt was eventually quelled by the Kangxi Emperor of the Qing Dynasty.
|Emperor of the Great Zhou Dynasty|
|Reign||March 1678 – August 1678|
|Predecessor||None, Kangxi Emperor as Emperor of the Qing Dynasty|
|Prince of Zhou|
|Prince Who Pacifies the West|
Gaoyou, South Zhili, Ming dynasty, China
|Died||2 October 1678 (aged 65-66)|
Hengyang, Hunan, Qing dynasty, China
|Spouse||Empress Zhang |
|House||Great Zhou dynasty|
Wu was born in Gaoyou, Jiangsu province, to Wu Xiang and Lady Zu. His ancestral home was Gaoyou, Jiangsu. Wu Sangui's father and uncle fought in the battlefield day after day. Under this influence, Wu was shaped and polished by war in an early age and began to pay attention to war and political outcomes.[clarification needed]
In his early years, Wu Sangui was a student of Dong Qichang. It was the basic Confucian education that cultivated Wu Sangui's scholarliness, his 'imposing' appearance, and 'resourceful' way of thinking.
In 1627, the Chongzhen Emperor decided to restart the imperial examination system on his accession to the throne, and Wu Sangui successfully became a military first-degree scholar at the age of fifteen. He and his two brothers joined the army, and served as generals garrisoning the Daling River and Ningyuan in the army of general Zu Dashou.
In 1630, Wu Xiang was circled by Manchus troop when he was out gathering information about the enemy. Wu Sangui requested Zu Dashou, his maternal uncle, to fight with the Manchu troop to rescue his father, but he was denied. Therefore, Wu Sangui decided to rescue his father with an army of 20 people, chosen from his retinue of personal soldiers. The Manchus troop was bewildered by the Ming army of only 20 people, which gave Wu Sangui the chance to shoot and kill the general of the Manchus troop, and save his father. Upon returning, Zu Dashou came out of town to welcome them, and requested the higher authorities for Wu Sangui's promotion. Wu Sangui was promoted to the position of a guerrilla general, and he was no more than 20 years old by then.
Service under Ming DynastyEdit
In 1632, the Ming court transferred the Liaodong army to Shandong, aiming to pacify the rebel armies of Kong Youde. Wu Sangui, who was 22 years old at that time, served as a guerrilla general, and fought side by side with his father, Wu Xiang. Wu Sangui rose to the rank of deputy general and was promoted as full general in September of the same year. In September 1638, Wu served as a deputy general again.
At the beginning of 1639, as the situation in Liaodong became increasingly tense, the Ming court transferred general Hong Chengchou to be the governor general (Zong Du) of Jiliao, and Hong appointed Wu Sangui to be the general in-charge of training.
In October 1639, the Qing army of more than 10,000 men mounted the raids towards Ningyuan under the guidance of Duoduo and Haoge. Jin Guofeng, full general of Ningyuan, immediately led the troops to confront Qing army head on, but Jin was surrounded and killed by the Qing army. Wu Sangui took Jin's place as the full general of Ningyuan, and became a guardian general in the forefront of Liaodong.
In his youth, Wu Sangui was not only a valiant general, but also a born commander. Right after Wu served as the full general in Ningyuan, he trained the local army to be the strongest among all the towns in Liaodong. At that time, Ningyuan town stationed a total of 20,000 military forces. In order to enhance the combat power of the army, Wu selected 1,000 eminent soldiers to create a fearless battalion. The battalion was trained and commanded by Wu himself, which basically made these thousand men the bodyguards of Wu Sangui. They risked their lives and came to Wu's call at any time, through life and death. They were the core of the 20,000 troops in Ningyuan. It is this special formation and training that laid the foundation for Wu Sangui's military achievement in the days to come.
In March 1640, Hong Taiji appointed Jirgalang and Duoduo as left and right commander, respectively, marching towards the north of Jinzhou. They reestablished Yizhou, garrisoned the troops, opened up wasteland, grew food grain, and forbade any cultivation in the Ningjin area outside Shanhai Pass, aiming to siege Jinzhou step by step.
Battle of XingshanEdit
On 18 May 1640, Wu Sangui met with the first encounter battle with the Qing army in Xingshan. Jirgalang was leading 1,500 soldiers to accept the surrender of the Mongolian people, but they were spotted by general Liu Zhaoji when passing the garrison of the Ming army. Liu Zhaoji led 3,000 soldiers against the Qing army. At that time, Wu Sangui was stationed in Songshan. Wu brought 3,000 military force the moment he heard the news. From Jinzhou, Zu Dashou sent more than 700 soldiers as backup. At first, the Ming army seemed more powerful with superior numbers in military force. But, after the pursuit to Jiamashan, the Qing army was able to take advantage of their field operation ability and as a result, Wu Sangui was surrounded.
Valiant as Wu Sangui was, he was not able to withstand the repeated attacks from both Jirgalang and Duoduo. He fought a bloody battle with the Qing army, but he just couldn't break through the siege until Liu Zhaoji came to rescue. The Ming army casualties were more than 1,000, with deputy general Yanglun and Zhou Yanzhou dead, but Wu Sangui's braveness was still praised.
Battle of SongjinEdit
On 25 April 1641, the battle of Songjin broke out and the Ming army first began to strike. Wu Sangui led the strike himself and killed 10 enemies, defeating the attack of the Qing cavalry. After the battle, Wu Sangui ranked first in contributions among all the generals.
In June 1641, Hong Chengchou, together with Wu Sangui, returned to Songshan and garrisoned the northwest area. Prince Zheng Jirgalang raised several strikes, but was defeated repeatedly. The Ming army succeeded to surround the Qing army four times. Though the Qing army finally broke through the encirclement, the casualties were very high. Due of Wu Sangui's bravery, Ming army was in an active position. However, the Ming army itself paid a heavy price in spite of the fact that they repeatedly frustrated the Qing army's invasion towards Songshan and Xinshan.
On 20 August 1641, the Ming army attacked the Qing army camp. The battle of the two sides lasted the whole day, but the result was too close to call. However, Prince Ajige, unexpectedly captured the army provision in Bijia Mountain, which greatly undermined the stability of the Ming army. The battle continued on August 21, but it was still unfavorable to the Ming army.
On 9 August 1641, Datong full general Wang Pu lost the will to fight after a defeat. The moment the military meeting was over, before general Hong Chengchou gave orders, Wang fled with his troops, which completely disrupted the original break through plan. More surprisingly, Wu Sangui also fled in this chaotic break through. In contrast to his brave and valiant figure all along, Wu almost escaped at Wang's heel. At such a life or death moment, Wu revealed his selfish personality.
As the Ming army lost the combat power, the Qing army began to pursue. In a matter of a few days, more than 53,000 people and 7,400 horses of the Ming army were killed. They had no way to flee and no will to fight. Only 30,000 people fled back to Ningyuan.
Wu Sangui was the lucky one in the defeated army. It's not just that he was following Wang Pu closely in the first place, but also because he had a good retreat plan. When Hong Chengchou ordered to break through, Wu Sangui went back to his camp and discussed the strategy with his generals immediately. Finally, they decided to give up the small path, and fled back on the main road. As expected, the Qing army had only cut off the small path, while on the main road there were only Hong Taiji and his military troop with no more than 400 soldiers. Even worse, there were few generals at side. Seeing Wu Sangui charging fiercely, Hong Taiji demanded the army not to pursue. Even so, Hong thought highly of Wu, and considered him as the key to conquer the dynasty.
The breakthrough of Songshan caused the death of 52,000 members of the Ming elite army, which had greatly wounded the Ming dynasty. Wu Sangui, Wang Pu and any other generals who survived the battle could not escape the fate of being punished for fleeing and avoiding combat. Wu and Wang, particularly, got themselves sentence to death for violation against national law, due to their escape.
Promotion after the defeatEdit
However, only a few days later, Wu Sangui, who had just fled back to Ningyuan, received the imperial decree of the Chongzhen emperor. Surprisingly, Wu Sangui was promoted and ranked above all the full generals. This implied that Wu would not be punished even if he committed a crime, which was beyond comprehension for a large number of government officials. Even more surprising was the fact that, months later, when someone in the court called for an investigation to determine responsibility for the Songshan defeat, only Wang Pu was arrested while Wu Sangui still served as a governor general of Liaodong and garrisoned in Ningyuan. To this end, the results caused a public outcry in the Ming court.
In May 1642, the result of the Ming court's re-examination was death penalty to Wang Pu, and three levels demotion in rank to Wu Sangui. Wu served as full general in Ningyuan and was in charge of the training of the Liaodong army. 
Defection to QingEdit
Surrender to the Qing DynastyEdit
By February 1642, the Ming Dynasty had lost four of the eight vital cities beyond the Shanhaiguan Pass to the Manchu army. Ningyuan, where Wu Sangui was stationed, became the last defense for Beijing against the Manchu army. Hong Taiji repeatedly attempted to persuade Wu Sangui to surrender to no avail. Wu Sangui did not side with the Qing Dynasty until after the defensive capability of the Ming Dynasty had been greatly weakened with its political apparatus destroyed by the rebel armies of Li Zicheng's Shun dynasty.
In early 1644, Li Zicheng, the head of a peasant rebel army, launched his force from Xi'an for his final offensive northeast toward capital Beijing. The Chongzhen Emperor finally decided to abandon Ningyuan and call on Wu Sangui to return to Beijing to defend against the rebel army. Wu Sangui received the title Pingxi Bo (平西伯，translated as "Prince Who Pacifies the West") as he moved to face the peasant army.
At the time of Beijing's fall to Li Zicheng on 25 April 1644, Wu Sangui was in command of the largest fighting force under the Ming in northern China. Wu Sangui and his 40,000-man strong army were on the way to Beijing to come to the Chongzhen Emperor's aid but had received word of the emperor's suicide so they garrisoned the Shanhai Pass, the eastern terminus of the main Great Wall instead. He and his men were now caught between the rebels within the Great Wall and the Manchus without.
After the collapse of the Ming dynasty, Wu Sangui and his army became a vital military force in deciding the fate of China. Both Dorgon and Li Zicheng tried to gain support from Wu Sangui. Li Zicheng took a number of measures to secure his surrender, granting silver and gold, dukedom, and most crucially by capturing Wu's father Wu Xiang, and ordered the latter to write a letter persuading Wu Sangui to pledge allegiance to Li.
At first, Wu Sangui intended to surrender to Li Zicheng. But, when he heard of the predatory behavior of Li's army and the bad situation of his father, he changed plans. Instead, he killed Li's envoy. To save the life of his family, he wrote back to his father scolding him for his disloyalty, and claimed to be breaking relations with his father. Furthermore, he sent several generals to pretend to pledge allegiance to Li. He knew that his force alone was insufficient to fight Li Zicheng's main army. He wrote to Dorgon for military support under the condition of separate dominance of Ming and Manchus in southern and northern China, claiming to resume the Ming Dynasty. The Manchu prince-regent Dorgon determined that this was the opportunity to claim the Mandate of Heaven for the Qing. Dorgon made clear in his reply that the Manchus would help Wu Sangui, but Wu would have to submit to the Qing. Wu did not accept at first.
Li Zicheng sent two armies to attack the pass but Wu's battle-hardened troops defeated them easily on May 5 and May 10. In order to secure his position, Li was determined to destroy Wu's army. On May 18, he personally led 60,000 troops out of Beijing to attack Wu. He arrived on the May 21, and defeated Wu Sangui. The next day, Wu wrote to Dorgon for help again. Dorgon took the opportunity to force Wu Sangui to surrender, and Wu had little choice but to accept. On 22 April 1644, Wu opened the gates of the Great Wall of China at Shanhai Pass to let Qing forces into China proper, forming an alliance with the Manchus. Wu ordered his soldiers to wear a white cloth attached to their armor, to distinguish them from Li Zicheng's forces. Together, Wu's army and the Qing forces defeated the Shun rebels. Having defeated Li's main army, the Qing marched into Beijing unopposed and enthroned the young Shunzhi Emperor in the Forbidden City. Since then, Wu Sangui pledged allegiance to the Qing dynasty.
Li Zicheng held a grudge against Wu for his faithlessness, so he executed thirty-eight members of the Wu household, including Wu's father, whose head was displayed from the city wall. Enraged, Wu Sangui hardened his resolve to resist the new regime, and twice defeated the Shun vanguard led by Tang Tong on May 3 and May 10. In June 1645, Wu Sangui captured Yulin and Yan'an, at the same time Li Zicheng was killed by a local head of village in Tongshan county, Hubei Province.
Suppressing the rebellion in ShanxiEdit
Wu Sangui surrendered to the Qing dynasty and received the title of Pingxi Wang. Post the surrender, he remained anxious for the fear of being suspected by the Qing dynasty was always haunting him.
In October 1644, Wu Sangui received orders to suppress the peasant army. At that time, Li Zicheng still held Shanxi, Hubei, Henan and other areas, and was resurrecting his troops to rise up again. Wu Sangui, together with Shang Kexi, led the troops to Shanxi against the rebellion army under the guidance of Ajige, the General of Jingyuan appointed by the prince regent Dorgon. From October to the following early August when he returned to Beijing, Wu Sangui fought on the front lines against the peasant army, and achieved great success.
In 1645, the Qing court rewarded Wu Sangui with the title of Qin Wang (Prince) and ordered him to garrison Jinzhou. The title Qin Wang means that he was in high position. However, it also showed a sense of restraint from the court in transferring Wu to Jinzhou, because after the Qing army entered the Shanhai Pass, Jinzhou has lost its position as an important military town and became an insignificant military rear. Moreover, along with the large number of Manchu and Han people migrating into the central China, it had been sparsely populated and desolate around Jinzhou. Hence, Wu Sangui felt perplexed and upset.
On 19 August 1645, before Wu Sangui returned to Liaodong from Beijing, he submitted his request to the Qing imperial court to take off his title as Qin Wang (Prince). After giving up his title, he began to make efforts to consolidate his strength by demanding troops, territory, compensation, and reward for generals under his command, which were all granted by the Qing imperial court.
In July 1646, when Wu Sangui was summoned by the emperor, the Qing court granted him a total of 10 horses and 20,000 silver as extra reward, but he wasn't pleased at all because while the army of Kong Youde, Geng Jingzhong, and Shang Kexi had been fighting against the South Ming Dynasty in Hunan and Guangxi since 1646, Wu had been set aside for three years since he returned to Jinzhou in 1645.
Suppressing the rebellion in SichuanEdit
In 1648, the rebellion against the Qing dynasty affecting the whole country reached its climax. In the western battlefield, Jiang Xiang, the full general of Datong, waged rebellion in Shanxi, while in the south Jin Shenghuan and Li Chengdong also rebelled in Nanchang and Guangzhou, which caused a dramatic change in military situation.
The rebellion from the Han surrendered generals greatly shocked the Qing Dynasty rulers. They came to realize the significant role of these surrendered generals to the control of central China, as well as importance of the strategy 'utilizing Han to rule Han'. Thus, Wu Sangui thrived again in this situation.
At the beginning of 1648, the Qing imperial court ordered Wu Sanzhu to move his family west, and garrisoned Hanzhong as Pingxi Wang with Chief General (Du Tong) of the Eight Banners Moergen and Li Weihan. In less than one year, Wu Sangui pacified the rebellion in most regions of Shanxi and reversed the situation in the northwest. After that, Wu Sangui still kept winning and charged at the head of the troop in every battle, proving his loyalty to the Qing dynasty by his actions. After four years of hard struggle, peace finally came to the Shaanxi province. Wu was praised for his contribution by the Qing imperial court and that became the starting point of his rise in status.
In 1652, the Daxi army became the main force rebelling against the Qing Dynasty. The situation was severe that general Kong Youde and Ni Kan died while Li Dingguo and Liu Wenxiu's troop marched into Sichuan. It was only at this time, the Qing imperial court summoned Wu Sangui to suppress the Daxi rebellion army in Sichuan. However, unlike the Southern campaign army, such as Kong Youde, Wu Sangui was being watched by general Li Guohan, a trusted follower of the imperial court. Wu wasn't able to free himself from surveillance until a few years later when Li Guohan died in the army. Hence, Wu Sangui enhanced his military strength rapidly through a large number of surrender from the enemies.
In 1660, the Qing army split into three parts, marched into the Yunnan province and eliminated the South Ming Dynasty, which achieved the preliminary unification of the mainland. Nevertheless, the imperial court still faced a number of serious military and political threats. Yongli Emperor of South Ming Dynasty and Li Dingguo of the Daxi army retreated to Burma, and they still kept certain influence in Yunnan. It was inconvenient for the Eight Banners soldiers to garrison the Yunnan Guizhou border area, for it was extremely far away from the capital. As a result, out of frustration, the imperial court could only approve the proposal by Hong Chengchou to withdraw the soldiers, and keep Wu Sangui garrisoning the border, and give him the corresponding power. Therefore, Wu Sangui not only owned a huge army, but also controlled the vast territory.
In 1661, the green-flag army under the jurisdiction of Wu Sangui numbered 60,000, while Shang Kexi and Geng Jimao had only 7,500 ad 7,000 soldiers in their army. Wu Sangui planned to garrison permanently and was preparing to make the border area his own. However, Yunnan was not stable at that time, for new surrendered soldiers were still being skeptical. Moreover, the Daxi army who had been developing Yunnan over decades shared a close relationship with various minority nationalities. Thus, a lot of Tusi leaders refused to accept the rule of Wu Sangui, which led to a series of rebellions. The existence of Yongli Emperor of South Ming Dynasty and Li Dingguo's army was regarded as a great threat to Wu Sangui. Therefore, Wu Sangui was actively preparing for the elimination by force to consolidate his rule. He exaggerated the status, spread rumors and submitted his proposal to the court, urging the invasion into Burma. Finally, the imperial court granted the invasion.
In June 1662, Yongli Emperor of the South Ming Dynasty was captured and killed, while Li Dingguo died of illness. In the next few years, Wu Sangui led his army from the northwest to the southwest border, which performed meritorious deeds for the dominance over the whole country of Qing Dynasty.
Loyalty and revoltEdit
After he defeated the remnant forces consisting of Ming loyalists in southwestern China, he was rewarded with the title of Pingxi Wang (平西王; translated as "Prince Who Pacifies the West" or "King Who Pacifies the West") with a fief in Yunnan by the Qing imperial court. It had been extremely rare for someone outside of the imperial clan, especially a non-Manchu, to be granted the title of Wang. Those who were not members of the imperial clan and awarded the title were called Yixing Wang ( literally meaning "kings with other family names") or known as "vassal kings". It was believed that these vassal kings usually came to a bad end, largely because they were not trusted by emperors as members of the clan.
At the end of 1662, Guizhou province came under the jurisdiction of Wu Sangui. Meanwhile, Wu Sangui's son, Wu Yingxiong (Wu Shifan's father), married Princess Jianning, the 14th daughter of the Kangxi Emperor's grandfather Hong Taiji. She was Fulin's (the Shunzhi Emperor's) sister.
Wu was not trusted by the Qing imperial court, but he was still able to rule Yunnan with little or no interference. This was because the Manchus, an ethnic minority, needed time after their prolonged conquest to figure out how to impose the rule of a dynasty of a very small minority on the vast Han-Chinese society they held in their hands. In fact, as a semi-independent ruler in the distant southwest, he was seen as an asset to the Qing court, and for much of his rule, he received massive annual subsidies from the central government. This money, as well as the long period of stability, was spent by Wu in bolstering his army in the southwest, in preparation for an eventual clash with the Qing Dynasty.
Wu Sangui in Yunnan, along with Shang Kexi in Guangdong, and Geng Jinghong in Fujian - the three great Chinese military allies of the Manchus who had pursued the rebels and the Southern Ming pretenders became a financial burden of the central government, even powerful, virtually autonomous princedoms which threaten the stability of Qing dynasty. The Kangxi Emperor decided to make Wu Sangui and two other princes who had been rewarded with large fiefs in southern and western China move from their lands to resettle in Manchuria. In 1673, Shang Kexi requested a permission to retire and return to his homeland in the north and the Kangxi emperor permitted the request at once. Forced into an awkward situation, Wu Sangui and Geng Jingzhong requested the same tentatively shortly afterwards. Kangxi emperor radically decided to revoke the three vassal states at once, and permitted their request, overriding all objections.
Driven by interests, the three revolted and thus began the eight-year-long civil war known as the Revolt of the Three Feudatories. Before the rebellion, Wu Sangui send a confidant to Beijing to pick up Wu Yingxiong, his son and young emperor's uncle-in-law, but his son disagreed with him. The confidant could only get back Wu Shipan, Wu Yingxiong's son of concubine. On 28 December 1673, Wu Sangui killed Zhu Guozhi, the governor of Yunnan, rebelled in the name of “against the alien and rebuilding Ming dynasty”. On 7 January 1674, 62 year old Wu Sangui led troops from Yunnan to the northern expedition, and took the whole territory of Guizhou province without any loss. Wu Yingxiong and his sons with Princess Jianning was executed by the Kangxi Emperor soon after his father's rebellion. Shortly afterwards, Wu Sangui founded the Zhou dynasty of his own. Till April 1674, Wu Sangui's army quickly occupied Hunan, Hubei, Sichuan, and Guangxi. In the next 2 years, Geng Jingzhong, Wang Fuchen, and Shang Zhixin successively rose in rebellion. Wu Sangui's rebellion expanded into the Revolt of the Three Feudatories. By April 1676, the rebel force possessed 11 provinces (Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan, Shanxi, Gansu, Hunan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Fujian, Zhejiang, and Jiangxi). For a moment, the situation was very good for Wu Sangui.
Unexpectedly, Wu Sangui stopped his marching and stayed at the south of Yangzi river for three months because of a shortage of troops and financial resources, which gave the Kangxi emperor a chance to assemble his forces. Wang Fuchen, Geng Jingzhong, and Shang Zhixin surrendered one after another under the attack of Qing force.
In 1678, Wu Sangui went a step further and declared himself the emperor of the "Great Zhou Dynasty", with the era name of Zhaowu. He established his capital at Hengzhou (present-day Hengyang, Hunan). When he died in October 1678, Wu's grandson, Wu Shifan, took over command of his forces and continued the struggle. The remnants of Wu's armies were defeated soon thereafter in December 1681 and Wu Shifan committed suicide. Wu Sangui's son-in-law was sent to Beijing with Wu Shifan's head. The Kangxi Emperor had Wu Sangui's corpse scattered across the provinces of China.
In popular cultureEdit
In contemporary China, Wu has often been regarded as a traitor and an opportunist, due to his betrayal of both the Ming and Qing dynasties. However, more sympathetic characterizations are sometimes voiced, and it is clear that Wu's romance with and love for his concubine, Chen Yuanyuan, remains one of the classic love stories in Chinese history.
Wu's early life and military career are portrayed in a more positive light in the CCTV television series titled The Affaire in the Swing Age, in which he is shown to be forced into making the fateful decisions which have made him famous.
Wuxia writer Louis Cha's novel The Deer and the Cauldron portrays Wu as a powerful nemesis to the Kangxi Emperor, who sends the protagonist of the novel, Wei Xiaobao, to scout out Wu's forces in Yunnan.
Great Zhou Dynasty (1678–1681)Edit
|Convention: use personal name|
|Temple names||Family name and first name||Period of reign||Era name|
|Tai Zu||Wú Sānguì||March 1678 – August 1678||Zhāowǔ|
|Wú Shìfán||August 1678 – 1681||Hónghuà|
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