Siege of Pyongyang (1593)

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Siege of Pyongyang
Part of the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592-1598)
Chinese cavalry and infantry attacking the walls of Pyongyang in 1593, from a Chinese painted screen in the Hizen-Nagoya castle museum
Date January 8th 1593
Location Pyongyang
Result Decisive Ming and Joseon victory
Japan Ming dynasty
Commanders and leaders
Konishi Yukinaga Ming
Li Rusong
Yang Hao
Li Rubai
Song Yingchang
Wu Weizhong
Zu Chengxun
Kim Myeong-won
Kim Eun-seong
Yu Seong-ryong
Yi Si-eon
30,000[1] Ming
8,000 soldiers
2,000 warrior monks[3]
Casualties and losses
1,560 killed in combat[4]
5,000 died from fires[5]
6,000 drowned[5]
796 killed[6]
1,492 wounded[7]
at least 240 killed

The Siege of Pyongyang was a military conflict fought between a combined Ming-Joseon force and Japanese forces during Japanese invasions of Korea. On 25 December 1592, the Ming dynasty's army assembled by the administrator Song Yingchang and led by the general Li Rusong crossed the Yalu river. After a number of small engagements with the Japanese, they successfully joined with Joseon forces and marched on Pyongyang. According to the letters of Song Yingchang, Ming forces that had entered Korea were roughly 36,000 strong. Combined with Joseon's forced, the army was a little over 40,000.

Japanese forces under the personal command of Konishi Yukinaga and the entire Japanese force's first division numbered roughly 18,000 in strength, and had spent the past few months setting up defenses in Pyongyang. However Japanese logistics were stretched thin due to the unforeseen success of their military in conquering Joseon. Supply lines were subjected to insurgent raiding, a problem made more complicated by the exploits of Yi Sunshin and his navy.


Arrival and attempts at negotiations[edit]

The allied forces arrived on the west side of Pyongyang on 5 January 1593.

The Ming sent Shen Weijing, who had previous experience dealing with the Japanese, to start negotiations with the enemy. Konishi Yukinaga, realizing his own forces' logistical difficulties, was more amenable to Li's offers than he otherwise would have been.

Over the next couple of days however, the parley turned into chaos as Li Rusong attempted to capture the Japanese leaders sent to the Ming camp by Konishi. After that the Japanese made a similar offer for Li to enter into the city and talk. Li had originally planned to storm the city and take them by surprise under false negotiations, but at the last minute bailed and decided to go with a direct assault.[8]


Another battle scene in the painted screen.

After negotiations broke down, some skirmishes were fought at Mount Morobung and the Japanese attempted a night raid on Ming positions, but failed.[9]

Early in the morning of January 8, Li Rusong ordered his forces to attack Pyongyang from three sides, with the primary focus on the west end led by Li Rusong himself.

The southern assault force was led by Zu Chengxun. His soldiers disguised themselves as Koreans to confuse the Japanese, as they thought lowly of the fighting capabilities of the Korean army.

The northern assault force was led by Wu Weizhong and his southern troops along with the Korean Monk warriors. Their objective was to take the high grounds on Mt. Morobung just north of the city.[10]

According to Chinese accounts, the Ming forces had fired off rocket arrows coated in dried excrement (毒火飛箭; dú huǒ fēi jiàn) early in the morning to create a stinking miasma which nauseated the defenders. Before the assault on the city began, they fired off another round of dung coated rocket arrows.

The north end directly stormed the Japanese position. Wu Weizhong was hit by a bullet to the chest but remained conscious and continued the attack.

On the southern end, the Japanese were confused by the disguised soldiers, and could not believe they would actually attack the city, given their poor opinions of Koreans. They were taken by surprise when the Ming army directly assaulted their position and were unable to prevent them from entering the city. However once they were inside, Ming troops were ambushed by Japanese troops and repulsed.

The heaviest fighting occurred on the western end. Li Rusong's horse was shot from under him and fell into a pit. Rusong's brother, Li Rumei, took an indirect arquebus shot to the helmet. Many of the allied generals personally scaled the siege ladders with their men and fought on the walls.[11]

Before noon, Konishi realized his forces were in disarray and troubled on all fronts. He decided to pull his men back into the citadel they had recently constructed. After retreating into their citadel, Konishi surveyed the battlefield and realized that the eastern walls were still open, so they retreated that night in haste and made a dash for Seoul. The retreat was hampered as they attempted to ford the Datung River and were hit by allied ambushes and artillery resulting in heavy casualties.

There are contradictions among the different sources on how the Japanese left the city. Ming sources generally state that it was part of the battle plan to leave a part of the city open so the Japanese defenders would be less inclined to fight to the death. A few Japanese sources cite that the ally forces did not dare come near their fortifications inside the city. Korean sources are even more confusing as Yu Seong-ryong's Jingborok contained both the Ming and Japanese versions of events. He writes that the Li Rusong ordered the ally forces to not press the attack, and then later wrote that the Korean general Yi Il was punished because Li Rusong was angry that he had let the Japanese forces slip.,[12] while others said that Li Rusong ordered them not to let the Japanese retreat.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Swope 2009, p. 153.
  2. ^ Song Yingchang's letter on 12/12 1592, with detailed reference on the precise number of soldiers, who's leading, and from where. the total soldier listed was 31897. possibly with a couple thousand more unaccounted for Retinue soldiers
  3. ^ Kim, Samuel Dukhae. The Korean Monk-soldiers in the Imjin wars
  4. ^ The history of Ming chapter 238 倭砲矢如雨,軍少卻。如松斬先退者以徇。募死士,援鉤梯直上。倭方輕南面朝鮮軍,承訓等乃卸裝露明甲。倭大驚,急分兵捍拒,如松已督副將楊元等軍自小西門先登,如柏等亦從大西門入。火器併發,煙焰蔽空。惟忠中砲傷胸,猶奮呼督戰。如松馬斃於砲,易馬馳,墮塹,躍而上,麾兵益進。將士無不一當百,遂克之。獲首功千二百有奇。倭退保風月樓。夜半,行長渡大同江,遁還龍山。甯及參將查大受率精卒三千潛伏東江間道,複斬級三百六十
  5. ^ a b Swope 2009, p. 156.
  6. ^ Song Yingchang letters. on 1/20 clearly states the official casualty estimate as 796
  7. ^ Swope 2009, p. 157.
  8. ^ The History of Ming Chapter 238 二十一年正月四日,師次肅寧館。行長以為封使將至,遣牙將二十人來迎,如松檄遊擊李寧生縛之。倭猝起格鬥,僅獲三人,餘走還。行長大駭,複遣所親信小西飛來謁,如松慰遣之。六日,次平壤。行長猶以為封使也,踔風月樓以待,群倭花衣夾道迎。如松分佈諸軍,抵平壤城,諸將逡巡未入,形大露,倭悉登陴拒守。
  9. ^ History of Ming chapter 238 是夜,襲如柏營,擊卻之
  10. ^ The history of Ming chapter 238 以倭素易朝鮮軍,令副將祖承訓詭為其裝,潛伏西南。令遊擊吳惟忠攻迄北牡丹峰。而如松親提大軍直抵城下,攻其東南
  11. ^ The history of Ming chapter 238 倭砲矢如雨,軍少卻。如松斬先退者以徇。募死士,援鉤梯直上。倭方輕南面朝鮮軍,承訓等乃卸裝露明甲。倭大驚,急分兵捍拒,如松已督副將楊元等軍自小西門先登,如柏等亦從大西門入。火器併發,煙焰蔽空。惟忠中砲傷胸,猶奮呼督戰。如松馬斃於砲,易馬馳,墮塹,躍而上,麾兵益進。將士無不一當百,遂克之。獲首功千二百有奇。倭退保風月樓。夜半,行長渡大同江,遁還龍山。甯及參將查大受率精卒三千潛伏東江間道,複斬級三百六十
  12. ^ Yu Seong-Ryong, JingBorok chapter 3 page 5 and page 6


  • Swope, Kenneth (2009), A Dragon's Head and a Serpent's Tail: Ming China and the First Great East Asian War, 1592–1598 (Campaigns and Commanders Series), University of Oklahoma Press 


  • 經略復國要編 宋應昌 著 (the collection of letters by Song Yingchang)
  • 明史 (Official history of Ming)
  • 宣祖實錄 (the Annals of King Seonjo)
  • Kim, Samuel Dukhae. The Korean Monk-soldiers in the Imjin wars, Columbia University PHD 1978
  • Yu Seong-ryong, Jingborok.