Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Ming invasion and conquest of Yunnan (1380-1383) II

In 1380 the Ming emperor changed his policy towards Yunnan. In the founding of the previous Yuan dynasty, Yunnan’s location had been of strategic importance and now figured into Ming geopolitical strategy. The Yuan had conquered the Dali region in Yunnan in order to surround the Southern Song, the last remnants of the Song dynasty. Remnants of the Mongol Yuan dynasty now remained as a threat for the Ming:

"...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" (Bin Yang, 2004, Military Campaigns against Yunnan: A Global Analysis, National University of Singapore working paper, 51-52, 54).

Citing a precedent in the Han dynasty for tighter control, a military expedition was organized to conquer Yunnan:

"The Emperor thus ordered the various generals to select and deploy troops and gave them, in advance, cloth and paper money for their clothing needs. A total of 249,100 people were involved and they were provided with 344,390 bolts of cloth and over 408,980 ding of paper money" (MSL 20 Aug 1380).

In September 1381 Fu You-de was appointed commander of Yunnan expeditionary forces with Lan Yu and Mu Ying, well-hardened veterans of early Ming campaigns in the Mongol north, as his assistants. The expeditionary forces were split into a larger force and a smaller diversionary force :

"The campaign army comprised 300,000 troops. The emperor ordered the main force to approach the region through Ch’e-chou and Yuan-chou prefectures (respectively, modern Yuan-ling and Chi-chiang, Hunan) in Hu-kuang province and to advance to P'u ting (near An-shun in Kweichow province). From P’u-ting they were to proceed down the 'throat of Yunnan' to Chu-ching, about 125 kilometers northeast of Kun-ming in Yunnan province. A smaller force was to march from Yung-ning (near modern Hsu-yung hsien in Szechuan) to Wu-sa (modern Wei-ning, western Kweichow). The emperor calculated that the main army would take K’un-ming easily while the smaller force to the north would draw off defending forces. After the fall of K’un-ming, the main army was to send relief immediately to the smaller army at Wu-sa, while the bulk of the main army marched directly to Ta-li" (Cambridge Ming History, 144, also see MSL 18 Sep 1381, Comment: This would be wonderful to see in Google Earth).

Yunnan was quickly taken:

"Fu Yu-te’s army reached Hu-kuang in October. In December he sent the smaller force to Yung-ning and Wu-sa, while he led the larger forces as planned into Yunnan. Balaswarmi sent 100,000 troops to guard Chu-ching, but Fu Yu-te and Mu Ying captured the enemy general and 20,000 of his troops. Fu Yu-te then quickly led a smaller force to aid the army at Wu-sa, while Lan Yu and Mu Ying hastened toward K’un-ming. On 6 January 1382, Balaswarmi, who had fled his city, burned his princely robes, drove his wife to her death in a lake and then committed suicide together with his chief ministers" (Cambridge Ming History, 144-46; Liew Foon Ming, 1986, 162-63).

By February 1382 the Ming had extended its control over the area surrounding the capital of Yunnan at modern day Kunming and a further expedition was sent to Dali. The Duan family had ruled over the Dali region with a high degree of autonomy during the Yuan dynasty and tried to hold the Ming off and maintain this autonomy. They were finally defeated in battle and sent into exile at the Ming capital in Nanjing (Bin Yang, 2004, 52-3, citing as source: Fang, Guoyu (1998) Yunnan Shiliao Congkan (Series of Historical Documents on Yunnan), Kunming: Yunnandaxue Chubanshe, 13 Vols).

A powerful Tai ruler Si Lun-fa submits (1382)

A powerful Tai chieftain named Si Lun-fa ruled over an area along the Tai-Yunnan frontier which the Chinese called Pingmian:

"From Da-li in Yun-nan, one passes through Jin-chi and then arrives there…During the Yuan dynasty, it was regularly subordinate to Ava-Burma. They have walled towns with outlying suburbs, both containing buildings and houses. The people all live in multi-storied houses. Their products are elephants and horses. Both officials and the people shave their heads like monks. When coming or going, they ride on elephants. In the earlier dynasties, they did not have contact with China. It was only in the Yuan dynasty that an envoy was sent to pacify and instruct them and they came to offer tribute" (MSL 21 Aug 1384).

The political situation along the Tai-Yunnan frontier was chaotic and fragmented. Leadership passed hands frequently and often violently among members of the Tai ruling clans. In 1348-49 the Yuan general Da-shi-ba-du-lu was sent to subdue the Tai ruler Si Ke-fa who was aggressively raiding the domains of neighboring Tai chieftains. The Yuan general was not successful and Si Ke-fa continued his raids, sending his son Man-sa to the Yuan court to pay allegiance, but the court reported that "while he accepted the court’s calendar and offered tribute, his clothing, paraphernalia and systems remained like those of a king" (Wade, 1996, Bai-yi Zhuan, p. 1).

After Si Ke-fa’s death several members of the ruling clan held power for relatively short periods of time. First, leadership passed to Si Ke-fa’s son Zhao Bing-fa. After a relatively long eight year reign, Si Ke-fa’s other son Tai-bian assumed power. Tai-bian was murdered by his paternal uncle after only a year. The uncle, Zhao Xiao-fa, became ruler, but was in turn murdered by bandits just one year later. Si Wa-fa, the younger brother of Zhao Xiao-fa, assumed power. In the year following the pacification of Yunnan in 1382:

"Si Wa-fa attacked Jin-chi [modern-day Bao Shan]. During that winter Si Wa-fa hunted in Zhelan and Nan-dian. His subordinate Da-lu-fang and others abruptly established Si Lun-fa, the son of Man-sa, as ruler, and killed Si Wa-fa while he was away" (Wade’s Bai-yi Zhuan, p. 1, 11; compare MSL 11 Mar 1396 which has Si Lun-fa attack Jin-chi, Jing-dong, and Ding-bian).

Jin-chi has been established as a garrison to control the Tai-Yunnan frontier during the early Yuan dynasty (Wade, 1996, Bai-yi Zhuan, p. 1). Now it played a pivotal role as a staging point for expeditions into the frontier region.

In 1382 when Si Lun-fa heard that Dali had been taken, he marched to Jinchi and quickly submitted to the Ming (Liew Foon Ming, 1996, 163). In April 1382 Pingmian was made into an indigenous autonomous region and Si Lun-fa was appointed governor. In August 1384 Si Lun-fa sent a tribute mission to the Ming court in Nanjing under the leadership of Dao Ling-meng. The seal of authority issued to Pingmian by the previous Yuan court was surrendered and Pingmian was promoted to a higher level of indigenous autonomous region. In September the adjacent Tai state of Luchuan was merged with Pingmian and given to Si Lun-fa. During the Yuan dynasty, Luchuan and Pingmian had been separate: "two route commands were separately established, one to control each part" (MSL 14 Sep 1384, MSL 21 Aug 1384).

In 1383 the initial conquest of Yunnan was brought to an end and the military commanders Fu You-de and Lan Yu were called back to the capital. Mu Ying was left as the hereditary military governor of Yunnan (Cambridge, 146) and Gao Zheng was stationed with troops at Chu-xiong (MSL 5 Feb 1384). Altogether 160 people were escorted back to the capital including two former officials of the Yuan court in Yunnan, Guan-yin-bao and Liu Che-che-bu-hua together with chieftains from Yunnan including one named Duan Shi. Those escorted back presented 170 horses to the Ming emperor and received paper money and clothing in return. Guan-yin-bao was appointed as commandant of Jin-chi and was given the name Li Guan (MSL 30 Mar 1383).

Steps were also taken to ensure a food supply for the large Chinese garrisons that remained in Yunnan after the campaigns. An envoy was sent from the Ming capital to Annam, in modern-day northern Vietnam, with a request for grain. Grain (5,000 shi) was sent to Shui-wei on the Lin-an border of Yunnan. The Annam ruler Pan, in a display of magnanimity, refused to accept the gifts of gold and silks sent by the Chinese court (MSL 5 Aug 1384). The provincial government of Yunnan used their salt monopoly to ensure that the supply of rice in Yunnan was adequate:

"Under the old precedents, merchants brought rice to Jin-chi [Baoshan] and for every dou, they were given one yin of salt. This was allowed to ensure grain supplies. Thus the merchants collected there and the supplies were more than sufficient. Later, officials did not allow the transport of grain and the merchants rarely went there. Thus, the troops now have no means of ration supply. It is requested that the old system be followed" (MSL 4 Feb 1386, my italics).

The "old precedent" of using salt for military rice procurement must have been effective in the early 1380’s when Ming forces had just newly arrived in Yunnan. The food supply in Yunnan was not sufficient to support the population increase that followed the establishment of Ming garrisons. Yunnan was endowed with a more than adequate salt supply though.

The Chinese court took measures to curb corruption. Chinese administrators who were appointed from outside Yunnan were provided with adequate means of support, so they didn’t have to resort to bribery which could have been a cause of resentment and rebellion among the local inhabitants:

"Those who have inherited posts have long lived in their territories and they have their own stores and means of livelihood. It is thus not necessary to provide them with salaries and allowances. Those who are appointed have generally come to sojourn (流寓) in these areas and because they have won the support of the local people we are employing them for a time. If we do not give them salaries, they will have no means of sustaining a livelihood. The law officials are more likely to accept bribes (MSL 2 Dec 1384).

By 1384 the Ming had established a modicum of control over Yunnan, a control that would soon be challenged by the Tai chieftain Si Lun-fa.