Monday, January 09, 2006

Military Campaigns against Yunnan:
A Global Analysis

This paper reviews Chinese military campaigns against Yunnan from 475 BC to 1644 AD. It explains the large-scale geopolitical reasons for the Ming invasion of Yunnan. Something I missed by going at the history from the bottom-up
with the minutiae of the Ming Shi-lu. Before the Ming invasion of Yunnan in 1382:

"...the Mongols were still occupying the Mongolian Grassland, and could launch southern expeditions at any time they wished. More importantly, the Mongols still occupied Yunnan. If the Mongols attacked Ming China both from the north and from the southwest, the Ming court would have battles on two fronts. Therefore, in the 1370s, the Ming dynasty was facing a situation that was similar to what the Southern Song failed to cope with when Kublai Khan took over the Dali Kingdom. Such an international pattern pushed the Ming ruler to launch a campaign against Yunnan in order to avoid the fate of the Southern Song.

"The Mongol conquest of Dali was aimed at surrounding the Southern Song. Ming China’s decision to take over Yunnan was to avoid the fate of the Southern Song, fearing that the Mongols would repeat their thirteenth-century strategy. Therefore, before Yunnan became part of China, the northern states’ interest in Yunnan was because of Yunnan’s strategic location."

Primary source citations would be nice here as well as well a clear demarcation between original interpretations of the author and those of other historians. This interpretation of the Ming invasion of Yunnan in 1382 is not even cited in the Cambridge History of China, so I would assume that some scholars disagree.

Don't believe the historical details of the Dali campaign related here are in the Ming Shi-lu:

"In 1383, Zhu Yuanzhang dispatched Fu Youde, Lan Yu and Mu Ying to lead an expedition of over 300,000 soldiers. Soon the Ming army occupied Kunming, and eastern Yunnan was occupied. However, the Duan family had been semi-autonomous in the Dali area under the Yuan dynasty and thought this was a good opportunity to resume its former independent status. When Fu Youde wrote to ask the Duans to surrender, Duan Shi, the chief of the Duans, cited historical experience to legitimatize his claim of autonomy. He argued that the Dali area was a foreign kingdom during the Tang dynasty, and had been outside of the boundary demarcated by the jade axe during the Song period; furthermore, this region and its population were too small to be a prefecture of China, so there was no benefit for the Ming force to come, neither was there any loss if the Ming state gave up its military campaign. Duan Shi suggested that the Ming court follow the Tang and Song mode of management to rebuild a type of tribute relationship.138 Fu ignored this response and repeated his request. Duan was annoyed, and threatened the Ming generals in the second letter. He emphasized that the geographic and biological advantages for the military defense of Dali were so great that the Ming would likely repeat the disaster of previous Chinese expeditions.139 Fu was irritated and detained the Duan envoys. Duan Shi then wrote a third letter with a more “arrogant” tone. Fu realized that a peaceful negotiation did not work, so he launched an attack. The Duan power was eventually destroyed. However, rebellions led by local chieftains were not suppressed until a decade later (p. 52-3 citing as the source: Fang, Guoyu (1998 Yunnan Shiliao Congkan (Series of Historical Documents on Yunnan), Kunming: Yunnandaxue Chubanshe, 13 Vols, once again, it would be nice to know the primary sources here.)

Some notes about the paper's coverage of earlier history.

1. In early sections of the paper it is very difficult to follow the involvement of Yunnan in the complex historical narrative. In fact, the word "Yunnan" is only mentioned sporadically.

2. The paper explains the origin of the toponym "Dian" that is often used to refer to Yunnan. Dian was the name of the ancient state in the center of Yunnan with references dating as far back as the Warring States period (279BC).

3. Using the word "barbarians" to describe the various ethnic groups and states of Yunnan is still rather obnoxious even if you put quotes around it.

This is a chapter in the author's dissertation published as a 2004 working paper at the Asia Research Institute of the National University of Singapore.