|Title||Prince of Xining (西寧王, 1650)
Prince of Jin (晋王, 1656)
As Zhang Xianzhong's general
Li was an adopted son of the rebel leader Zhang Xianzhong, and appointed a general in Zhang's army with the title General Pacifier of the West (安西將軍). After Zhang's death in 1646, he and other generals of Zhang's, including Sun Kewang (孫可望), held out in Guizhou, then took over Chongqing in Sichuan, then south through Zunyi to take Guiyang in Guizhou in 1647.
Resistance to Qing
Li had tried to form a united front with the rebels against the Manchu invasion, and became the most important military commander of the Yongli Emperor of the Southern Ming Dynasty. He and Sun Kewang first aided Ming loyalists by suppressing a rebellion in Yunnan in 1648, they then made strikes to stop the advance of the Qing army in Sichuan and Huguang.
In 1652 he led a list of successful campaigns in southern Huguang and eastern Guangxi. His troops took the city of Guilin, and the Qing general Kong Youde committed suicide. Li also occupied Hengzhou while his forces ambushed and killed the Manchu prince Nikan.
Li and Sun Kewang became embroiled in a power struggle.
In 1657, Sun attacked Li in eastern Yunnan, but his generals turned against him, and Sun was forced to retreat back to Guizhou. Sun then surrendered to the Qing authorities in December 1657, and urged the Qing to allow him to lead an attack on the Ming rebel forces. The Qing however chose to order Wu Sangui to push into Sichuan, and captured Chongqing and then Zunyi in Guizhou in 1658.
In December 1661 and the following January, Wu Sangui and the Manchu duke Aisingga entered Burma and defeated Li, who withdrew eastwards. Wu then demanded that the Burmese king hand over Yongli. The previous Burmese king Pindale who gave shelter to Yongli had by then been deposed by Pye Min, and the new king of Burma complied with Wu's demand. Yongli and his sons were handed over, and they were executed in Yunnanfu in May 1662. Li despaired upon hearing the news, and died in August 1662, near the border between Yunnan and Laos. His last words, said to his son, were: "Rather die in wilderness than surrender". His son then surrendered to the Qing.
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- “任死荒徼，勿降也” 《续编绥寇纪略》卷四《缅甸散》作“宁死荒外，毋降也”。《清史稿·李定国传》作“任死荒徼，毋降”。
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