Qing invasion of Joseon

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Qing invasion of Joseon
Part of Korean–Jurchen conflicts, Qing conquest of the Ming
Date9 December, 1636 – 30 January, 1637
LocationNorthern Korean Peninsula
Result Qing victory
Ming dynasty
Qing dynasty
Commanders and leaders
Im Gyeong-eop
Shin Gyeong-won
Hong Myeong-gu 
Kim Jun-yong
Min Yeong 
Shen Shikui 
Hong Taiji
Dodo (prince)
Hooge (prince)
Kong Youde
Geng Zhongming
Shang Kexi
Tatara Inggūldai
80,000~90,000 140,000
Casualties and losses
Estimated 50,000 Unknown
Qing invasion of Joseon
Revised Romanization Byeongja horan
McCune–Reischauer Pyŏngcha horan

The Qing invasion of Joseon occurred in the winter of 1636 when the newly established Manchu Qing dynasty invaded Korea's Joseon kingdom, establishing its status as the center of the Imperial Chinese tributary system and formally severing Joseon's relationship with the Ming dynasty. The invasion was preceded by the Later Jin invasion of Joseon in 1627.


The kingdom of Joseon continued to show ambivalence toward the Manchus after the Later Jin invasion of Joseon. Later Jin accused Joseon of harboring fugitives and supplying the Ming army with rations. In addition, Joseon did not recognize Hong Taiji's newly declared Qing dynasty. The Manchu delegates Inggūldai and Mafuta received a cold reception in Hanseong (Seoul, and King Injo of Joseon refused to meet with them or even send a letter, which shocked the delegates. A warlike message to Pyongan-do was also carelessly allowed to be seized by Inggūldai.

The beile (princes) were furious with Joseon's response to Qing overtures and proposed an immediate invasion of Joseon, but the Qing emperor Hong Taiji chose to conduct a raid against Ming first. After the successful operation against Ming, Hong Taiji turned towards Joseon and launched an attack in December 1636.

Prior to the invasion, Hong Taiji sent Abatai, Jirgalang, and Ajige to secure the coastal approaches to Korea, so that Ming could not send reinforcements.[1] The defected Ming mutineer Kong Youde, ennobled as the Qing's Prince Gongshun, joined the attacks on Ganghwa and Ka ("Pidao"). The defectors Geng Zhongming and Shang Kexi also played prominent roles in the Korean invasion.[1]

Diplomatic front[edit]

After the invasion of 1627, Joseon maintained a nominal but reluctant friendship with Later Jin. However, the series of events involving Joseon, Later Jin and Ming had deteriorated the relationship between them until the invasion began in 1636.

Defection of the Ming generals Kong and Geng[edit]

The beginning of the diplomatic collapse was the defection to Later Jin of the Ming generals Kong Youde and Geng Zhongming, who used to work for Mao Wenlong. Even with significant military strength (especially navy) under their command, they were more or less detached from the regular command structure of the Ming forces after the execution of Mao. They were stationed in Dengzhou after the Ming admiral Sun Yuanhua recognized their usefulness in the conflict with Later Jin. However, their soldiers mutinied as these two were marching to reinforce the Ming forces at the Battle of Dalinghe and Kong and Geng were raised to the leaders of the mutiny by their soldiers. Kong and Geng captured Dengzhou and nearby areas in Shandong. As the Ming forces attempted to quell the mutiny, they escaped to the sea and eventually defected to Later Jin through Yalu River along with 14,000 soldiers and 185 warships under their command. Later Jin government offered a highly favorable condition to Kong and Geng as their navy was crucial to its future war effort.[2][3]

During the process, the Joseon government received conflicting requests from Later Jin and Ming as they requested Joseon to supply Kong-Geng soldiers and the Ming quelling forces respectively. The letter of installation of King Injo's late father issued from the Ming government soon reached Joseon. This resulted in tilting them towards Ming and Joseon decided to supply Ming soldiers only. This gave Later Jin impression that Joseon would side with Ming when the decisive moments came and therefore should be taken care of accordingly. In addition, the naval strength Later Jin acquired gave its leaders confidence that they could easily strike Joseon leadership even if they evacuated to a nearby island such as Ganghwado. This provided Later Jin with military background in maintaining strong position against Joseon Korea.[4]

Inadequate war preparation of Joseon[edit]

Instead of invading Joseon immediately, from late 1633 to mid 1635, Later Jin set out to conquer nearby Ming and Mongolian territories with particular attention to Chahar Mongol tribe. While this period should have been the opportunity for the Joseon government to strengthen their defense, political situations stood in their way.

First, a Ming envoy, Lu Weining visited Joseon in June 1634 to preside at the installation ceremony of their crown prince. However, the envoy requested excessive amount of bribe in return for the ceremony. In addition, quite a few merchants who attended the envoy sought to make a huge fortune by forcing unfair trades upon their Joseon counterparts. This envoy visit eventually cost Joseon more than 100,000 taels of silver.[5]

King Injo, who had successfully accomplished installations of both his parents and son with help from Ming, now attempted to relocate the memorial tablet of his late father into the Jongmyo Shrine. As his father has never ruled as the king, this attempt met with severe opposition from government officials, which lasted until early 1635. Adding to this, the mausoleum of King Seonjo was accidentally damaged in March 1635 and the political debate about its responsibility continued for the next few months. These political gridlocks prohibited Joseon from taking enough measure to prepare for a possible invasion from Later Jin.[6][7]

Further expansion of Later Jin[edit]

In the meantime, Later Jin gradually expanded its territory by occupying the Ming and Mongol regions and successfully conquered Chahar Mongol around August 1635. In the process, Hong Taiji obtained the royal seal of the Yuan Dynasty and this greatly boosted morale of the people of Later Jin and Hong Taiji himself. With added confidence, he transmitted a message to Joseon, pointing out the problems of their political gridlocks and suggesting a few courses of action for improvement. This was a tacit warning about any future movement of Joseon against the policy of Later Jin.[8]

Severance of diplomatic relations[edit]

In February 1636, Later Jin envoys led by Tatara Ingguldai visited Joseon Korea to participate in the funeral of their late Queen. However, as the envoys included 77 high-ranking officials from the recently conquered Mongolian tribes, the real purpose of the envoys was to boast the recent expansion of the Later Jin sphere of influence and examine the opinion of Joseon about the upcoming ascension of Hong Taiji as the "Emperor". The envoys informed King Injo about their ever-growing strength and requested celebration of Hong Taiji's ascension from Joseon.

This greatly shocked Joseon, however, as the Ming Emperor was the only legitimate emperor from their perspective. It was followed by extremely hostile opinions growing towards Later Jin in both government and non-government sectors. Envoys themselves had to go through life-threatening experience as Sungkyunkwan students called for execution of the envoys and fully armed soldiers loitered around the places in their itinerary. Finally, the envoys evacuated from Joseon and returned to Later Jin territory. Diplomatic relationship between Later Jin and Joseon was virtually severed.[9]

Hong Taiji became the emperor in April 1636 and changed the name of his country from Later Jin to Qing. Envoys from Joseon who were at the ceremony refused to bow to the emperor. Although the emperor spared them, the envoys had to carry his message on their way home. It included denunciation of the past Joseon activities that were against the interest of Later Jin/Qing and intention to invade Joseon unless they showed willingness to alter their policy by providing one of its princes as hostage.[10]

After confirming the message, hardliners against Qing gained voice in Joseon as they requested execution of the envoys for failing to immediately destroy the message in front of Hong Taiji. In June 1636, Joseon eventually transmitted the message to Qing, which blamed them for deteriorating relation between the two nations.[11]

Eve of battle[edit]

Now, preparation for war was all that remained for Joseon. Contrary to the heat of support for war, voices of officials who suggested viable plans and strategies were not taken seriously. King Injo, who was still afraid of head-on clash with the mighty Qing army, listened to the advice of Choi Myunggil and a Ming military advisor Huang Sunwu and decided to dispatch messengers to Shenyang in September 1636. Although the messengers gathered some intel about the situation of Shenyang, they were denied of a meeting with Hong Taiji. This further enraged hardliners in Joseon and led to dismissal of Choi Myunggil from the office. Although King Injo dispatched another team of messengers to Shenyang in early December, this was after the execution of the Qing plan to invade Joseon Korea on November 25th.[12]


On 9 December 1636, Hong Taiji led Manchu, Mongol, and Han Banners against Joseon. Chinese support was particularly evident in the army's artillery and naval contingents.[1]

Instead of engaging the forces of Im Gyeong Eop at the Baegma fortress in Uiju, Dodo, Dorgon and Hooge led a vanguard Mongol force straight to Hanseong to prevent King Injo from evacuating to Ganghwa Island like in the previous war. Hanseong's garrisons were defeated and the city was taken. Fifteen thousand troops were mobilized from the south to relieve the city, but they were defeated by Dorgon's army.

The king took refuge at the Namhan Mountain Fortress, which was immediately besieged by the Qing army. While Joseon officials were debating on a course of action, Dorgon occupied Ganghwa Island in a day and captured the second son and consorts of King Injo. Several attempts by Joseon forces from other regions to break the siege were foiled by Dodo and sorties from the fortress yielded no success. Meanwhile, Hong Taiji's units advanced to the Imjin River and waited for it to freeze so they could cross over.

A message was sent to Injo stating that, to protect his family and his ancestral shrines, he needed to surrender. As the fortress was about to capitulate, Injo surrendered. The surrendering delegation was received at the Han River, where Injo turned over his Ming seals of investiture and three pro-war officers to Qing, as well as agreeing to the following terms of peace:[13][14]

  1. Joseon stops using the Ming era name as well as abandon using the Ming seal, imperial patent, and jade books.
  2. Joseon offers the first and second sons of King Injo as well as the sons or brothers of ministers as hostages.
  3. Joseon accepts the Qing calendar.
  4. Joseon treats Qing as sovereign tributary overlord.
  5. Joseon sends troops and supplies to assist Qing in the war against Ming.
  6. Joseon offers warships for transporting Qing soldiers.
  7. The ministers of both Joseon and Qing become related in marriages.
  8. Joseon denies refugees from Qing territory.
  9. Joseon is not allowed to build castles.

Hong Taiji set up a platform in Samjeondo in the upper reach of the Han River.[15] At the top of the platform he accepted King Injo's submission. King Injo kowtowed to Hong Taiji, who allegedly forced Injo to repeat the humiliating ritual many times.[16] A monument in honor of the so-called excellent virtues of the Manchu Emperor was erected at Samjeondo, where the ceremony of submission had been conducted. In accordance with the terms of surrender, Joseon sent troops to attack Ka Island at the mouth of the Yalu River.

Shen Shikui was well ensconced in Ka Island's fortifications and hammered his attackers with heavy cannon for over a month. In the end, Ming and Korean defectors including Kong Youde landed 70 boats on the eastern side of the island and drew out his garrison in that direction. On the next morning, however, he found that the Qing—"who seem to have flown"—had landed to his rear in the northwest corner of the island in the middle of the night. Shen refused to surrender, but was overrun and beheaded by Ajige. Official reports put the casualties as at least 10,000, with few survivors. The Ming general Yang Sichang then withdrew the remaining Ming forces in Korea to Denglai in northern Shandong.[1]


Joseon general Im Gyeong Eop, who was in charge of defending the Baegma fortress on the Qing-Joseon border, made his way down to Hanseong and ambushed a group of Qing soldiers making their return home, beheading its general Yaochui (要槌, nephew of Hong Taiji) in the process. As he was not aware of the surrender at the time, he was let go without any punishment by Hong Taiji who was greatly impressed by Im's courageous efforts on behalf of his kingdom. Im had requested military support from Hanseong at the beginning of the war (which never came) and planned to invade Mukden himself.

Many Korean women were kidnapped and were raped at the hand of the Qing forces, and as a result were unwelcomed by their families even if they were released by the Qing after being ransomed.[17] In 1648 Joseon was forced to provide several of their royal princesses as concubines to the Qing regent Prince Dorgon.[18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25] In 1650 Dorgon married the Joseon Princess Uisun (義順公主).[26] The Princess' name in Korean was Uisun and she was Prince Yi Kaeyoon's (Kumrimgoon) daughter.[27] Dorgon married two Joseon princesses at Lianshan.[28]

Koreans continued to harbor a defiant attitude towards the Qing dynasty in private while they officially yielded obedience and sentiments of Manchu barbarity continued to pervade Korean discourse. Joseon scholars secretly used Ming era names even after that dynasty's collapse and many thought that Joseon should have been the legitimate successor of the Ming dynasty and Chinese civilization instead of the "barbaric" Qing. Despite the peace treaty forbidding construction of castles, castles were erected around Seoul and northern region. Hyojong of Joseon lived as a hostage for seven years in Mukden until he succeeded Injo. Hyojong planned an invasion of Qing called Bukbeol (북벌, 北伐, Northern expedition) during his ten years on the Joseon throne, though the plan died with his death on the eve of the expedition.

From 1639 until 1894, the Joseon court trained corps of professional Korean-Manchu translators. These replaced earlier interpreters of Jurchen, who had been trained using the Jurchen script. The official designation was changed from "Jurchen" to "Manchu" in 1667. The first textbooks for this purpose were drawn up by Shin Gye-am, who had also been an interpreter of Jurchen and transliterated old Jurchen textbooks for this purpose.

Until 1894, Joseon remained a tributary state of the Qing dynasty, even though Manchu influence in Korea decreased from the late 18th century as Joseon began to prosper once again. The Empire of Japan forced the Qing dynasty to acknowledge the end of China's tributary relationship with Korea after the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), and opened up Japanese influence in Korean affairs. Japan would later invade and annex Korea in the early 20th century.

An interesting historical note that historian Ji-Young Lee has brought up is that for much of Joseon's historical discourse following the invasion, the Manchu invasion was seen as a more important event than the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–98), which while devastating, had not ended in complete defeat for Joseon. The defeat at the hands of 'barbarian' Manchus and the humiliation of the Joseon king as well as severance with their neighbor, the Ming dynasty, had a profound psychological impact on contemporary Korean society. The Japanese invasions, in contrast, had not created a fundamental change in the Ming world order which Joseon had been a part of. It was only after the rise of Japan during the 19th century and the following invasion and annexation of Korea that the 16th century Japanese invasions by Hideyoshi Toyotomi superseded the Qing invasion in significance.

Popular culture[edit]

  • Novel: Namhan sanseong by South Korean novelist Kim Hoon. It is based on the second invasion.[29]
  • 2009: musical, Namhansanseong, based on the novel of the same name, but focuses on the lives of common people and their spirit of survival during harsh situations. It stars Yesung of boy band Super Junior as villain "Jung Myung-soo", a servant-turned-interpreter. It was shown from 9 October to 14 November at Seongnam Arts Center Opera House.[30]
  • 2011 South Korean movie War of the Arrows is based on event which Choi Nam yi risked his life to save his sister.
  • The 2017 movie The Fortress is based on real historical events during the Qing Invasion of Joseon.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d Swope (2014), p. 115.
  2. ^ Han, Myungki (2008-02-27). "Re-reading Byeongja Horan" (60).
  3. ^ Han, Myungki (2008-03-05). "Re-reading Byeongja Horan" (61).
  4. ^ Han, Myungki (2008-03-12). "Re-reading Byeongja Horan" (62).
  5. ^ Han, Myungki (2008-03-19). "Re-reading Byeongja Horan" (63).
  6. ^ Han, Myungki (2008-03-26). "Re-reading Byeongja Horan" (64).
  7. ^ Han, Myungki (2008-04-02). "Re-reading Byeongja Horan" (65).
  8. ^ Han, Myungki (2008-04-23). "Re-reading Byeongja Horan" (68).
  9. ^ Han, Myungki (2008-04-30). "Re-reading Byeongja Horan" (69).
  10. ^ Han, Myungki (2008-05-07). "Re-reading Byeongja Horan" (70).
  11. ^ Han, Myungki (2008-05-21). "Re-reading Byeongja Horan" (72).
  12. ^ Han, Myungki (2008-05-28). "Re-reading Byeongja Horan" (73).
  13. ^ Korean language http://sillok.history.go.kr/inspection/insp_king.jsp?id=kpa_11501028_004&tabid=k&mTree=0&inResult=0&indextype=1
  14. ^ Chinese language http://sillok.history.go.kr/inspection/insp_king.jsp?id=wpa_11501028_004&tabid=w&mTree=0&inResult=0&indextype=1
  15. ^ Hong-s?k O (2009). Traditional Korean Villages. Ewha Womans University Press. pp. 109–. ISBN 978-89-7300-784-4.
  16. ^ Jae-eun Kang (2006). The Land of Scholars: Two Thousand Years of Korean Confucianism. Homa & Sekey Books. pp. 328–. ISBN 978-1-931907-30-9.
  17. ^ Pae-yong Yi (2008). Women in Korean History 한국 역사 속의 여성들. Ewha Womans University Press. pp. 114–. ISBN 978-89-7300-772-1.
  18. ^ Thackeray, Frank W.; editors, John E. Findling, (2012). Events that formed the modern world : from the European Renaissance through the War on Terror. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO. p. 200. ISBN 1598849018.
  19. ^ Hummel, edited by Arthur W. (1991). Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing period : (1644 - 1912) (Repr. ed.). Taipei: SMC Publ. p. 217. ISBN 9789576380662.
  20. ^ Hummel, edited by Arthur W. (1991). Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing period : (1644 - 1912) (Repr. ed.). Taipei: SMC Publ. p. 217. ISBN 9789576380662.
  21. ^ Library of Congress. Orientalia Division (1943). Hummel, Arthur William, ed. 清代名人傳略: 1644-1912 (reprint ed.). 經文書局. p. 217.
  22. ^ Jr, Frederic Wakeman, (1985). The great enterprise : the Manchu reconstruction of imperial order in seventeenth-century China (Book on demand. ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 892. ISBN 9780520048041.
  23. ^ Dawson, Raymond Stanley (1972). Imperial China (illustrated ed.). Hutchinson. p. 275.
  24. ^ Dawson, Raymond Stanley (1976). Imperial China (illustrated ed.). Penguin. p. 306.
  25. ^ DORGON
  26. ^ 梨大史學會 (Korea) (1968). 梨大史苑, Volume 7. 梨大史學會. p. 105.
  27. ^ The annals of the Joseon princesses.
  28. ^ Kwan, Ling Li. Transl. by David (1995). Son of Heaven (1. ed.). Beijing: Chinese Literature Press. p. 217. ISBN 9787507102888.
  29. ^ Koh Young-aah "Musicals hope for seasonal bounce" Korea Herald. 30 March 2010. Retrieved 2012-03-30
  30. ^ "2 Super Junior members cast for musical" Asiae. 15 September 2009. Retrieved 2012-04-17