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Li Chengliang (Chinese: 李成梁; pinyin: Lǐ Chéngliáng; Korean: 이성량; 1526 - 1618) was a Ming dynasty general of Korean descent who was charged with maintaining peaceful relations with the Jurchen tribes. He was from a military family in Tielin which suffered from poverty during his childhood. It was not until he reached the age of 40 that he received an official appointment, but he eventually became Liaodong Regional Commander (Chinese:遼東總兵) with the backing of the Chief Grand Secretary Zhang Juzheng. Li served two terms as Liaodong Regional Commander. The first commission lasted 22 years, the second 8 years.
Military career against the Mongols
The Tuman Mongols migrated east and often harassed the Liaodong region. Li's first tenure as Liaodong Regional General saw five major victories against the Tuman Mongols.
- 1575 Wanli 3 (萬歷三年)Tuman Khan led over a hundred thousand cavalry troops to attack and pillage the Yizhou, Jinzhou(Chinese:锦州) region, but was defeated by Li.
- 1578 Wanli 6 (萬歷六年)Tuman Khan attacked again, this time in Liaoyang (Chinese:遼陽), but was defeated again.
- 1579 Wanli 7 (萬歷七年)Tuman Khan attacked Yizhou, Jinzhou (Chinese:錦州) region. and besieged Guangning (Chinese:廣寧 now 北寧), where Li once again scored a major victory.
- 1580 Wanli 8 (萬歷八年)Tuman Khan gathered 40,000 cavalry, each horse tailing a cattle and three sheeps. Li Chengliang emerged victorious once more.
- 1581 Wanli 9 (萬歷九年)Tuman Khan gathered nine tribes totaling a hundred thousand men and horse and attacked Liaodong (Chinese:遼東) with the intention of reaching Beijing.
Jianzhou Jurchen war
The Jianzhou Jurchen khan Wang Gao had frequently assaulted Ming cities and killed the commander at Fushun in 1573. The Ming engaged in a punitive expedition and drove Wang from his bastion into Hada territory, where he was captured by Wang Tai, khan of the Hunlun federation, and handed over to Li Chengliang, who executed him in 1575.
The death of Wang Gao resulted in a power struggle between the Jianzhou Jurchen tribes led by his three sons Atai, Nikan Wailan, and Gioccanga. In 1582 Atai raided Ming lands. Ming sent a punitive expedition in response.
In the battle, Li was in command of the Jianzhou Jurchen chieftains Giocangga and Taksi's forces, and Li had also intended to side with another Jianzhou Jurchen chieftain Nikan Wailan (Chinese:尼堪外蘭). When Giocangga and Taksi (Chinese:塔克世) abandoned Li to side with their relative Atai, Li thought they had mutinied and so left them behind in the midst of battle. When Atai was later defeated by Nikan Wailan, both Giocangga and Taksi were killed by Nikan Wailan in the aftermath. Li became the surrogate father of Taksi's son Nurhaci, later khan of the Later Jin, in his younger days. However Nurhaci later brought up Li Chengliang's behavior towards his father and grandfather as a point of grief with the Ming dynasty, believing that he had betrayed them and caused their deaths. The Ming policy on the Jurchen tribes during that period was to side with different tribes in each conflict to prevent a hegemon from appearing among them. So when Nurhaci asked the Ming to hand over Nikan Wailan, they refused. Nurhaci declared war on Nikan Wailan and killed him. Nurhaci then blamed Li Chengliang for the death of his father, which formed part of his Seven Grievances, the primary casus belli of the Later Jin and Manchu Qing dynasty in waging war against the Ming.
Of his nine sons, Li Rusong, Li Ruzhen, Li Rubai, Li Ruzhang and Li Rumei would rise to become full generals (Chinese:總兵) and four Li Ruzi, Li Ruwu, Li Rugui, and Li Runan would become accompanying generals (Chinese:參將) for the Ming.