Last updated
Native name
OccupationPirate, warlord
Opponent(s) Spanish Empire, Ming dynasty
Traditional Chinese 林鳳
Simplified Chinese 林凤

Limahong, Lim Hong, or Lin Feng (Chinese :林鳳), well known as Ah Hong (Chinese :阿鳳) or Lim-A-Hong or Limahon (Chinese :林阿鳳), was a Chinese pirate and warlord who invaded the northern Philippine Islands in 1574. He built up a reputation for his constant raids to ports in Guangdong, Fujian and southern China. He is noted to have twice attempted, and failed, to invade the Spanish city of Manila in 1574.

Traditional Chinese characters Traditional Chinese characters

Traditional Chinese characters are Chinese characters in any character set that does not contain newly created characters or character substitutions performed after 1946. They are most commonly the characters in the standardized character sets of Taiwan, of Hong Kong and Macau. The modern shapes of traditional Chinese characters first appeared with the emergence of the clerical script during the Han Dynasty, and have been more or less stable since the 5th century.

The Han Chinese, Hanzu, Han people, are an East Asian ethnic group and nation native to China. They constitute the world's largest ethnic group, making up about 18% of the global population. The estimated 1.3 billion Han Chinese people are mostly concentrated in mainland China. In Taiwan they make about 95% of the population. People of Han Chinese descent also make up around 75% of the total population of Singapore.

A warlord is a leader able to exercise military, economic, and political control over a subnational territory within a sovereign state due to their ability to mobilize loyal armed forces. These armed forces, usually considered militias, are loyal to the warlord rather than to the state regime. Warlords have existed throughout much of history, albeit in a variety of different capacities within the political, economic, and social structure of states or ungoverned territories.



Wokou merchant-pirates became a serious problem along the China coast in the early 16th Century. Merchant-pirates such as Wang Zhi, Ye Zongman, Li Guangtou, and Xu Dong constructed large trading ships in Guangdong and Shuangyu, where they established clandestine trade relations between Japan and China. Aided by the Portuguese, pirate activities peaked between 1553 and 1561, and included a raid in 1556 consisting of more than 20,000. This clandestine trade extended to the Philippines, with Miguel López de Legazpi reporting in 1567, annual visits by Japanese and Chinese traders. Increased Chinese navy patrols forced pirates such as Lin Daoqian to escape to Luzon, although temporarily. [1]

<i>Wokou</i> pirates who raided the coastlines of China, Japan and Korea, of mixed ethnicities

Wokou were pirates who raided the coastlines of China and Korea from the 4th century to the 16th century. The wokou came from Japanese, Korean, and Chinese ethnicities which varied over time and raided the mainland from islands in the Sea of Japan and East China Sea. Wokou activity in Korea declined after the Gihae Eastern Expedition of the Joseon in 1419, but continued in Ming China and peaked during the Jiajing wokou raids in the mid-1500s, but Chinese reprisals and strong clamp downs on pirates by Japanese authorities saw the wokou virtually disappear by the 1600s.

Wang Zhi, art name Wufeng (五峰), was a Chinese pirate lord of the 16th century, one of the chief named and known figures among the wokou pirates prevalent during the reign of the Jiajing Emperor. Originally a salt merchant, Wang Zhi turned to smuggling during the Ming dynasty's period of maritime prohibitions banning all private overseas trade, and eventually became the head of a pirate syndicate stretching the East and South China Seas, from Japan to Thailand. Through his clandestine trade, he is credited for spreading European firearms throughout East Asia, and for his role in leading the first Europeans to reach Japan in 1543. However, he was also blamed for the ravages of the Jiajing wokou raids in China, for which he was executed in 1560 while trying to negotiate a relaxation of the Ming maritime prohibitions.

Guangdong Most populous province of the Peoples Republic of China

Guangdong is a coastal province in South China on the north shore of South China Sea. Its capital of the province is Guangzhou. With a population of 113.46 million across a total area of about 179,800 km2 (69,400 sq mi), Guangdong is the most populous province of China and the 15th-largest by area. Its economy is larger than that of any other province in the nation and the 6th largest sub-national economy in the world with a GDP size of 1.47 trillion US dollars in 2018. The Pearl River Delta Economic Zone, a Chinese megalopolis, is a core for high technology, manufacturing and foreign trade. Located in this zone are two of the four top Chinese cities and the top two Chinese prefecture-level cities by GDP; Guangzhou, the capital of the province, and Shenzhen, the first special economic zone in the country. These two are among the most populous and important cities in China, and have now become two of the world's most populous megacities.

Likewise, Limahon successfully attacked Shenquan in 1571, but was then defeated in 1572 at Chenghai, forcing him to flee to Luzon. The Chinese General Liu Yaohui sent a fleet that temporarily drove Limahon from his fortified trading base on Luzon, but by 1574, Limahon was pirating along the Chinese coast once again. [1]

Venturing once again back to Luzon, Limahon was able to capture a Chinese merchant ship engaged in trade with the Spanish. Robbing this merchant of his gold and silver, Limahon learned more gold and silver was to be gained from the Spanish further south, and in the words of Francisco de Sande, "there would be no one with whom to fight." Limahon's fleet of 62-70 ships, 3000 pirates, and 400 Japanese soldiers, set sail for Manila. Along the way, Limahon encountered a Spanish galiot, sent by Juan de Salcedo for provisions while his force of 100 men were in Vigan. The galiot was quickly overcome, the 22 Spanish aboard killed, and their falconet captured. Seeing Limahon's true intent, Salcedo sent an advance force onwards to Manila, warning of Limahon's approach, and assuring everyone that Salcedo was on his way to help. [2] [1]

Francisco de Sande Picón was the third Spanish governor and captain-general of the Philippines from August 25, 1575 to April 1580. He established the Royal City of Nueva Cáceres, now known as Naga City.

Galiot ship type

A galiot, galliot or galiote, was a small galley boat propelled by sail or oars. There are three different types of naval galiots that sailed on different seas.

Juan de Salcedo was a Spanish conquistador. He was born in Mexico in 1549 and he was the grandson of Miguel López de Legazpi and brother of Felipe de Salcedo. Salcedo was one of the soldiers who accompanied the Spanish colonization of the Philippines in 1565. He joined the Spanish military in 1564 for their exploration of the East Indies and the Pacific, at the age of 15. In 1567, Salcedo led an army of about 300 Spanish and Mexican soldiers and 600 Visayan (Filipino) allies along with Martín de Goiti for their conquest of Islamic Manila. There they fought a number of battles against the Muslim leaders, mainly against Tarik Sulayman. The Spanish officers, Mexican recruits and Filipino warriors coalesced in 1570 and 1571 to attack the Islamised areas of Luzon, for control of lands and settlements.

Attack on Manila

Arriving on Saint Andrew's Day eve, Limahon landed 700 of his men ashore the next day. Clad in cotton corselets with bamboo helmets, but armed with pikes, arquebusiers, battle axes, cutlasses and daggers, they proceeded barefoot towards the city, where they arrived by 10 AM. Fortunately for the defense of Manila, Limahon's men first had to deal with master of the camp Martin de Goiti, who gave his life defending his home. This delay allowed Captains Velasquez and Chacon to bring forward men with which to confront the pirates on the beach. After suffering 80 casualties to the Spanish 14, the Chinese retreated to their boats, making their way to Limahon who had set up base in the port of Cavite. Limahon decided to rest a day before proceeding with the attack. [2]

Saint Andrews Day Slavic and Scottish holiday

Saint Andrew's Day is the feast day of Saint Andrew. It is celebrated on 30 November. Saint Andrew's Day is Scotland's official national day. It is a national holiday in Romania. Saint Andrew is represented in the New Testament to be the disciple who introduced his brother, the Apostle Peter, to Jesus as the Messiah. He is the patron saint of Cyprus, Scotland, Greece, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, San Andres Island (Colombia), Saint Andrew (Barbados) and Tenerife.

Corselet foundation garment combining a brassiere and a corset

Historically a piece of plate armour covering the torso.

Pike (weapon) pole weapon

A pike is a pole weapon, a very long thrusting spear formerly used extensively by infantry. Pikes were used regularly in European warfare from the Late Middle Ages to the early 18th century, and were wielded by foot soldiers deployed in close quarters, until their replacement by the bayonet. The pike found extensive use with Landsknecht armies and Swiss mercenaries, who employed it as their main weapon and used it in pike square formations. A similar weapon, the sarissa, was also used by Alexander the Great's Macedonian phalanx infantry to great effect. Generally, a spear becomes a pike when it is too long to be wielded with one hand in combat.

In the meantime, the Spanish were able to build a defensive palisade, and Salcedo arrived with 50 men. By day break on the third day, Limahon's entire fleet appeared offshore and fired three volleys before putting men ashore to attack the Spanish fort. About 80 chinese were able to enter the fort, but were immediately killed, forcing another Chinese retreat, but not before they were able to burn the San Agustin Church and a galley. The Spanish also had to deal with a Moro revolt at the same time, after two Moro leaders were killed while in a Spanish prison. [2]

Palisade defensive structure; typically a fence or wall made from wooden stakes

A palisade, sometimes called a stakewall or a paling, is typically a fence or wall made from iron or wooden stakes, or tree trunks and used as a defensive structure or enclosure.

San Agustin Church (Manila) Church in Manila, Philippines

San Agustin Church, also known as the Archdiocesan Shrine of Nuestra Señora de Consolacion y Correa or the Immaculate Conception Parish, is a Roman Catholic church under the auspices of The Order of St. Augustine, located inside the historic walled city of Intramuros in Manila. Completed in 1607, it is the oldest stone church in the country.

Galley Ship mainly propelled by oars

A galley is a type of ship that is propelled mainly by rowing. The galley is characterized by its long, slender hull, shallow draft and low freeboard. Virtually all types of galleys had sails that could be used in favorable winds, but human strength was always the primary method of propulsion. This allowed galleys to navigate independently of winds and currents. The galley originated among the seafaring civilizations around the Mediterranean Sea in the late second millennium BC and remained in use in various forms until the early 19th century in warfare, trade and piracy.

Yet, Limahon's men retreated once again, and his fleet set sail for Ylocos, leaving behind more than 200 Chinese dead. Consequently, the Moro revolt quickly ended. The Spanish suffered 3 dead and several wounded. [2]

Limahong in Pangasinan

Limahon retreated to Pangasinan, where he decided to settle, building a fort and counter fort. The fort walls were made from palm logs, while the counter fort used palm planks. Limahon was able to seize several nearby village chiefs, forcing the villagers to provide him with provisions. [2]

Juan de Salcedo was made master of camp, a fort was built to better protect Manila, and plans were made to send an expedition against Limahon. Salcedo's expedition of 256 men, with 2500 native allies, set sail on 23 March 1575, with 59 vessels commanded by Captains Chacon, Chaves, Ribera, and Ramirez. They arrived at Pangasinan on Holy Wednesday, 30 March/ [2]

Salcedo set about blockading the Agno River, landing men and artillery. He then sent Captains Pedro de Chaves and Chacon up the river in 9 small boats, with 8 men each, to capture any Chinese boats. Salcedo also sent Capt. Ribera and 28 men to assault Limahon's fort from the land side. At the same time, 35 Chinese vessels were departing in a search for provisions, and when Limahon's men caught sight of the Spanish, they panicked, and fled to their fort. Thus, the Chinese abandoned their vessels to the Spanish, who promptly burned them. [2]

In the meantime, Capt. Ribera succeeded in gaining entrance to Limahon's fort capturing 100 women and children. Yet, the approach of night forced the Spanish to retreat. The Chinese were able to regroup and a long 4 month siege ensued. Limahon made use of the time to build 30 ships within his fort. On 4 Aug., Limahon set sail and made good his escape. [2]

Shortly before the escape of Limahong, a Chinese fleet under Wang Wanggao (王望高; known in Spanish sources as Omocon), arrived to spy on Limahon. Once Wang saw that Limahon was besieged, Wang departed for China with the news, taking along some of the Spanish, including some friars. [2] [1]


Limahong, and remnants of his forces, were able to join up with Li Mao and Chen Dele to pirate the South China coast in 1589. After which, no more was heard from him. [1]

Limahong's legacy to Pangasinan

Former Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos claimed to be a descendant of Limahong. [3] [4]

References and further reading

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Kenji, Igawa (2010). Antony, Robert (ed.). at the Crossroads: Limahon and Wako in Sixteenth-Century Philippines, in Elusive Pirates, Persavie Smugglers. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press. pp. 78–82. ISBN   9789888028115.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Sande, Francisco de (2004). Blair, E.H.; Robertson, J.A. (eds.). Relation of the Filipinas Islands: Manila, June 7, 1576. In The Philippine Islands 1493-1898, Vol. 4 of 55 1576-1582. Project Gutenberg EBook. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  3. White, Lynn (2014). Philippine Politics: Possibilities and Problems in a Localist Democracy.
  4. Mijares (1976) , p. 255.

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