Battle of Kunyang

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Battle of Kunyang
Part of the Lülin Rebellion
Date 23 AD
Location Kunyang, Henan
Result Decisive Lülin victory
Belligerents
Xin Dynasty Lülin
Commanders and leaders
Wang Yi, Wang Xun† Liu Xiu
Strength
430,000 ~10,000
Casualties and losses
Heavy Minimal

The Battle of Kunyang (昆陽之戰) was fought between June–July in 23AD, between the resurgent Han and Xin forces. The Han forces (Lülin) were led by Liu Xiu, while the far more numerous Xin were led by Wang Yi and Wang Xun (王尋). Wang Xun was killed during a foolish attack on Liu's force with a small contingent of his force, and the Han forces disrupted the remainder of the Xin army, forcing Wang Yi to retreat. This was the decisive battle that led to the fall of the Xin Dynasty.

Background[edit]

By the end of the Xin Dynasty, peasants all over the country rebelled against Wang Mang for the years of his incompetent rule. Calls for the reestablishment of the Han Dynasty, which Wang Mang overthrew, were on the rise. Heeding these voices, the leaders of the rebellions supported Liu Xuan to be the emperor of the new Han Dynasty.

Xin Emperor Wang Mang decided that he must crush the newly constituted Han regime before it gained momentum, and sent his cousin Wang Yi and his prime minister Wang Xun, with what he considered to be an overwhelming force of several hundred thousand men, to attack the Han forces. The Han forces were split in two — one led by Wang Feng, Wang Chang, and Liu Xiu; while the other, the majority of which was led by Liu Yan. Wang Feng, Wang Chang, and Liu Xiu soon took the castles of Kunyang (昆陽), Dingling (定陵), and Yanxian (郾縣). Liu Xiu's forces had started attacking Yangguan (陽關), but after hearing of the arrival of the main Xin forces, he decided to retreat to Kunyang. The 9,000 rebels in Kunyang, vastly outnumbered by the Xin force, initially wanted to scatter and retreat to Jingzhou, but Liu Xiu opposed it. He advocated that they guard Kunyang securely, since a scattered army would be easy prey. Liu Xiu promised to gather all other available troops in surrounding areas and attack the Xin forces from the outside. After initially rejecting Liu Xiu's idea, the rebels eventually agreed.

The battle[edit]

With the Xin forces approaching Kunyang from the north, Liu Xiu led 13 horsemen out of Kunyang at night to rally for reinforcements from Dingling and Yanxian.

The Xin commander, Wang Yi, confident of his overwhelming numbers, stated that his army would "annihilate all in his path, massacre the town, and dance in its blood", and laid siege to the town. Faced with siege towers and tunnels dug under its castle walls, Kunyang's defenses held on until Liu Xiu returned with 10,000 footmen and cavalry on July 7.[1] By then, the Xin forces' morale was dropping while the Han forces' morale was booming with Liu's return. Liu Xiu took this chance to lead 1,000 men to engage the Xin forces, while another brigade of 3,000 marched around to the rear of the Xin army and attacked the Xin's main camp. Wang Yi, still underestimating the Han forces, led 10,000 men with Wang Xun to meet the enemy, while ordering the rest of his troops to stand their ground unless he ordered them to attack. Once they engaged in battle, however, after minor losses, the other units were hesitant to assist them, and Liu Xiu killed Wang Xun in battle. Once that happened, the Han forces inside Kunyang burst out of the city and attacked the other Xin units, and the much larger Xin forces suffered a total collapse. Adding to the misery of the Xin forces was a sudden rainstorm which caused a flash flood, drowning many of the fleeing men.

Aftermath[edit]

Unable to gather most of his men, Wang Yi had to withdraw with the remaining several thousand men back to Luoyang. Once the news about the battle of Kunyang spread throughout the empire, the people rose everywhere else simultaneously, often killing the local government officials and claiming to be officials under the new Han regime. Within a month, almost the entire empire slipped out of Xin control.

Eventually, Liu Xiu brought China back into Han rule.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Crespigny, 558.

References[edit]

  • Crespigny, Rafe de. (2007). A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23–220 AD). Leiden: Koninklijke Brill. ISBN 90-04-15605-4.
  • This article uses the translation of the corresponding Chinese-language article, retrieved on August 18, 2006.