Monday, February 27, 2006

The Tai invasion of Ming Yunnan (1386-1399) IV

After the Ming conquest of Yunnan, Tai leaders launched a series of counter-attacks against the Ming at Jin-chi, Jong-dong, and then Ding-bian (MSL 11 Mar 1396). An explicit chronology helps to untangle the complicated series of events that followed the conquest:

1382 - Conquest of Yunnan. Kunming taken.
1382 - Dali taken.
1382 - Tai chieftain Si Lun-fa submits at Jin-chi.
1383 - Jin-chi [Baoshan] attacked by Si Wa-fa.
1384 - Si Lun-fa’s tribute mission to the Ming court. Si Lun-fa is given extensive authority by the Ming over the Tai-Yunnan frontier.
1386/87 - Jing-dong attacked by Dao Si-lang
1386/87 - Ming counterattack defeated by Tai forces
1388 – Tai forces attack Moshale stockade
1388 – Ming counterattack. Tai leader Dao Si-lang defeated
1388 – Tai raids on Ding-bian
1388 – Ming defeat Tai coalition in battle. Tai side flees towards Dingbian and Jingdong.
1388 – Si Lun-fa is captured and is forced to pay indemnity and join Ming forces in internal police actions against other defiant rulers in Yunnan.

Traditional historiography attributes these post-conquest conflicts to the actions of the most prominent Tai leader Si Lun-fa, despite clear indications in some sources that subordinate Tai leaders may have acted independently. This interpretation of independent action by secondary Tai states is consistent with the endemic warfare found in the Tai-Yunnan frontier later on during the fifteenth century (and possibly before during the Yuan period as well).

In January 1386 Tai forces attacked Ming controlled Jingdong and the newly appointed Jingdong governor E-tao fled to a place named Baiyai Chuan in Dali. After the Tais attacked Jingdong, the governor of Yunnan Mu Ying, sent the official Feng Cheng to attack the Tai forces, but he was defeated, fog and bad weather playing a role in the defeat (MSL 2 Jan 1391; Liew Foon Ming, 1996, 165). Many of the Tai elite were still not under Si Lun-fa's control: "Zi-qing and other persons in Meng-hua Subprefecture still obstructed culture and would not submit. He thus proposed that these guards be established" (MSL 2 Jan 1391).

Following the humiliating defeat at Jingdong, the Chinese censor Li Yuanming was sent from the capital to Pingmian on the frontier to investigate the situation. Li Yuanming’s report displeased the emperor and in May 1387 claiming that he had been deceived by Si Lun-fa and the Tais and ordered military defences to be prepared and all communications to cease:

"Recently, the Censor Li Yuan-ming returned from Ping-mian. I have listened to his words and know of the deception and deceitfulness of the Bai-yi. Even in tens of thousands of their words, not one can be believed. I have observed that the man and the yi have rebelled and are watching, ready to make use of opportunities. They present a danger to our borders.”

“It is appropriate to build defences in the Jin-chi, Chu-xiong, Pin Dian, Lan-cang and Jiang-zhong circuits. They must have high walls and deep moats, firm palisades and many cannons for defence. When the yi come, they must not be fought with lightly, and deployment must be made as the situations dictate.”

“Last year, the central Yun-nan military commander sent people to the Bai-yi and these people demanded much property and goods. They did not consider the seriousness of the situation and, displaying their power, acted in a martial manner and ridiculed the various man. Also, because the Jing-jiang Prince was without abilities, the Da-li seal was used to issue orders. All of these acts were wrong and even insulting to the Emperor and embarrassing to the Court” (MSL 28 May 1387).

This imperial proclamation makes two assumptions which may not have have held in practice. First, that there was centralized and coordinated control and action among the leaders of secondary states in the frontier network of the Tai segmentary states. Second, it assumes that Ming intentions and expectations about the behavior of Tai states and leaders had been completely communicated from the Ming center to Tai leaders on the periphery. The emperor decides on diplomatic isolation as a solution:

“From now on, no-one is permitted to go to Ping-mian. It should be treated with coolness. If it sends a despatch, a brief response is to be made, but if it does not send any despatches, no actions are to be initiated. If they send tribute products, they are not to be received. Then in a few years, the territory of Lu-chuan will be included on the maps as part of the Empire. Ministers, you must firmly observe my words and must not be remiss in this!" (MSL 28 May 1387).

In the wake of this diplomatic isolation, the Tais or rather some faction or subset of the Tais in the frontier region, decided to attack. In February 1388 Tai forces attacked and took Mo-sha-le stockade in Malang-talang dian chieftainship, a position of strategic importance along the frontier (in modern-day Xinping, Eshan Yizu or Xinhua). Mu Ying sent Ning Zheng to uproot the Tais. Under the leadership of Dao Si-lang, the Tais gathered over 100,000 soldiers and 100 elephants, but were overwhelmed by the Chinese who killed over 1,500 including two generals and seized the Tai elephants and horses. The remaining troops fled (MSL 3 Jun 1396, MSL 13 Feb 1388, Cambridge; Liew Foon Ming, 1996, 165). After the defeat at Mo-sha-le stockade repeated raids were made on Ding-bian in Chu-xiong prefecture:

"The Xi-ping Marquis Mu Ying punished Si Lun-fa of the Bai-yi and pacified him. At this time, Si Lun-fa had raised a force of 300,000 men and over 100 elephants and had repeatedly attacked Ding-bian. He wanted to gain revenge for the Mo-sha-le campaign and his force was extremely violent. The newly-attached man and yi secretly formed alliances and they all had rebellious inclinations” (MSL 6 May 1388)."

There is evidence that the Tai leader Diao Si-lang acted independently from Si Lun-fa in waging this attack against Dingbian. Two passages from the Bai-yi Zhuan, a late-fourteenth century travel diary of a Ming diplomatic mission travelling through the Tai-Yunnan frontier, support this interpretation:

"In the bing-yin year [1386/87], they again [Tai forces] attacked Jing-dong. The following year, a subordinate named Diao Si-lang attacked Ding-bian. The Son of Heaven ordered the Xi-ping Marquis Mu Ying to take on command of the troops and destroy him. Diao Si-lang was captured and the Yi people submitted through fear…” (Wade, Bai-yi Zhuan, p. 2)."

"…Dao Si-lang did not obey your commands [the emperor] and plundered Ding-bian. While you were unable to bring an end to those hostilities, Heaven provided majesty to our border commanders and thereby Dao Silang and the others were immediately exterminated” (Wade, Bai-yi Zhuan, p. 11)"

Which Tai leaders were individually or collectively responsible for Tai military actions in the period following the Ming conquest (1382-1388) is not entirely clear, but by 1388 different Tai chieftains who may have been acting independently in the past are joining together into a centralized and more coordinated confederation. Along the lines of the Di Cosmo-Andreski model of state formation (see Fernquest, 2005b, 373-377) in the face of a rising crisis, the Tai-frontier is moving from a segmentary decentralized state to a more unified state.