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 city
Result Korean and Chinese allied forces victory
Japanese army


Ming Dynasty allies
Commanders and leaders
Konishi Yukinaga

Kim Myeong-won
Kim Eun-seong
Yu Seong-ryong
Yi Si-eon

Li Rusong
Yang Hao
Li Rubai
Song Yingchang
Wu Weizhong
Zu Chengxun
About 18,000

8,000 soldiers 2,000 warrior monks[1]


30,000+ soldiers[2]
Casualties and losses
11,250+ killed[citation needed]

at least 240 killed

796 killed[3]

The Siege of Pyongyang was a battle fought between the Ming-Korea alliance and Japanese forces during Japanese invasions of Korea. On December 25, 1592, the Ming army assembled by the administrator Song Yingchang and led by the general Li Rusong crossed the Yalu river and after a number of small engagements with the Japanese, they met with Joseon forces and together marched towards PyongYang. According to the letters of Song Yingchang (經略復國要編; Jīng lüè fù guó yào biān) the Ming forces that crossed at the time were roughly 36,000 in strength. The two sides combined for a little over 40,000.

The Japanese forces were led by Konishi Yukinaga and the entire army of the first division. They were roughly 18,000 in strength, and had spent the past few months setting up defenses within the area. However the Japanese forces at the time were stretched thin and their supply lines were overexposed to the numerous insurgents in Korea, a problem made more complicated by the exploit of Yi Sunshin and his navy. Pyongyang was at the very front of their deployment and was in dire supply situation.


Arrival and attempts at negotiations[edit]

The allied forces arrived at Pyongyang on 5 January 1593, at the west end of the Pyongyang.

The Ming had previously sent their diplomat Shen Weijing to start negotiations with the Japanese in the previous months, and he was present in the army as well. He was sent forth again when the army reached the walls to make attempts at parley. Konishi Yukinaga, realizing their own trouble with logistics, was therefore also agreeable to Li's offer for talks.

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 but failed, and after that the Japanese made a similar offer for Li to enter into the city and talk. Li had originally considered a plan where they would agree and storm into the city and take them by surprise, but at the last minute bailed on the plan and decided to go with a direct assault.[4]


Another battle scene in the painted screen.

After the barter broke down, there were some initial skirmishes at Mount Morobung and the Japanese also attempted a night raid on the Ming position that failed.[5]

Early in the morning of January 8, Li Rusong ordered his forces to attack; their plan was a three-sided assault, with the primary focus on the west end led by Li Rusong himself.

The southern end was led by Zu Chengxun; his forces were mostly Ming forces disguised as Korean soldiers, this was because the Japanese did not think highly of the fighting abilities of the Koreans, to confuse the Japanese defenders, while the North end 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.[6]

According to Chinese accounts, the Ming forces had fired off poisonous rocket arrows early in the morning (called 毒火飛箭; dú huǒ fēi jiàn) to create a stink cloud in the city and nauseate the defenders (those incendiary arrows were mostly carrying dried excrement) before the full assault, they fired off huge volleys of incendiary rocket arrows into the city along with artillery barrage before the all out assault commenced.

The fighting was fierce on all fronts; on the north end they directly stormed the Japanese position, Wu Weizhong was hit by a bullet to the chest but managed to continue commanding.

On the southern end, the Japanese were confused by the disguised soldiers and thought that the allied forces were not going to actually attack from that side (as the reputation of the Chosen court army was quite poor at this time). However, they were taken by surprise by the army, which was revealed to mostly consist of Ming soldiers and attacked the Japanese's position. Still, as they were attempting to enter the city streets, the Chinese were hit by ambushes and beaten back.

The western end was where the heaviest fighting occurred, Li Rusong's horse was shot from under him and briefly fell into a pit, Li Rumei (Li Rusong's brother) took an indirect arquebus shot to the helmet. Many of the allied generals climbed up the ladders with their men and fought on the walls.[7]

Before noon, with his forces in trouble on all fronts, Konishi decided to pull his men back into the citadel they had recently constructed.

Encircled in the citadel, Konishi realized that the eastern end of the walls were still open, and at night they retreated out on haste and made a dash for Seoul; however as they were attempting to ford the Datung River they were hit by further allied ambushes and artillery resulting in more 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 simply would dare come near their fortifications inside the city, while Korean sources are even more confusing, Yu Seong-ryong's Jingborok stated both versions, as first 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 let the Japanese force slip.,[8] while others said that Li Rusong ordered them not to let the Japanese retreat.

This battle probably saw the largest use of artillery in the 16th century, as the Chinese had amassed an arsenal of 200 pieces of various types of artillery, including rocket arrows, breech-loading cannon and several large caliber "Great General" cannons (Although Song Yingchang's letter claimed that the Great Generals did not reach Pyongyang in time as they had intended). Both armies used state of the art firearms and cannons.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kim, Samuel Dukhae. The Korean Monk-soldiers in the Imjin wars
  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. ^ Song Yingchang letters. on 1/20 clearly states the official casualty estimate as 796
  4. ^ 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。
  5. ^ History of Ming chapter 238 是夜,襲如柏營,擊卻之
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ 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
  8. ^ Yu Seong-Ryong, JingBorok chapter 3 page 5 and page 6


  • 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.