Qing invasion of Joseon

Last updated
Qing invasion of Joseon
Part of Korean–Jurchen conflicts, Qing conquest of the Ming
1636 invasion of Korea.png
Date9 December, 1636 – 30 January, 1637
Result Qing victory
Flag of the king of Joseon.svg Joseon
Seal of Ming dynasty.svg Ming Dynasty
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg  Qing Empire
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the king of Joseon.svg Im Gyeong-eop
Flag of the king of Joseon.svg Shin Gyeong-won
Flag of the king of Joseon.svg Hong Myeong-gu  
Flag of the king of Joseon.svg Kim Jun-yong
Flag of the king of Joseon.svg Min Yeong  
Flag of the king of Joseon.svg Shen Shikui 
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Hong Taiji
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Dorgon
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Ajige
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Dodo
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Hooge
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Oboi
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Kong Youde
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Geng Zhongming
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Shang Kexi
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Shi Tingzhu
Flag of the Qing Dynasty (1889-1912).svg Inggūldai
80,000~90,000[ citation needed ] 100,000 [1]
Casualties and losses
Unknown 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-led Qing dynasty invaded the Joseon dynasty, 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 grain. 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. [2]

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. At one point the Qing forces under Ajige got as close to Beijing as the Marco Polo Bridge. Although they were ultimately repelled, the raid made it clear Ming defenses no longer fully capable of securing their borders. After the successful operation against Ming, Hong Taiji turned towards Joseon and launched an attack in December 1636. [2]

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. [3] 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. [3]

Diplomatic front

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

Defection of the Ming generals Kong and Geng

Having previously defected to the Later Jin by the end of the Wuqiao mutiny, Kong Youde and Geng Zhongming assisted the Manchus with sizable forces numbering 14,000 soldiers and 185 warships under their command. Appreciating usefulness of their navy in future war effort, Later Jin offered a highly favorable terms of service to Kong and Geng and their forces. [4]

Joseon received conflicting requests for aid from both Later Jin and Ming during the mutiny. An official letter of installation of King Injo's late father (Jeongwongun) from the Ming government resulted in Joseon siding with the Ming and supplying Ming soldiers only. This gave Later Jin the impression that Joseon would side with Ming when in decisive engagements. Suppressing Joseon became a prerequisite for a future successful campaign against Ming. In addition, the naval strength of the Ming defectors gave Later Jin 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 a strong position against Joseon Korea. [5]

Inadequate war preparation of Joseon

First, a Ming envoy, Lu Weining visited Joseon in June 1634 to preside at the installation ceremony of the crown prince of Joseon. However, the envoy requested excessive amount of bribe in return for the ceremony. In addition, quite a few Ming 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. [6]

Having accomplished installations of both his father Jeongwongun and his son with help from Ming, King Injo now attempted to relocate the memorial tablet of his late father into the Jongmyo Shrine. As Jeongwongun 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. [7] [8]

Severance of diplomatic relations

In February 1636, Later Jin envoys led by 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, 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 their execution and fully armed soldiers loitered around the places in the itinerary of the envoys. Finally, the envoys wore forced to evacuate from Joseon and return 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 Joseon 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. The message also declared intention of invading 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. They even requested execution of the envoys for failing to immediately destroy the message in front of Hong Taiji himself. In June 1636, Joseon eventually transmitted their message to Qing, which blamed Qing for deteriorating relation between the two nations. [11]

Eve of battle

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 in part 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 peace seeking messengers to Shenyang in September 1636. Although the messengers gathered some intel about the situation of Shenyang, they were denied of any 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 in a three pronged attack on Joseon. Chinese support was particularly evident in the army's artillery and naval contingents. [3]

Im Gyeong Eop with 3,000 men at the Baengma fortress in Uiju successfully held off attacks by the 30,000 strong western division led by Dodo. Dodo decided not to take the fortress and passed it instead. Similarly elsewhere Manchu forces of the main division under Hong Taiji bypassed northern Joseon fortresses as well. 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. On 14 December, 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. [1]

The king, along with 13,800 soldiers, took refuge at the Namhan Mountain Fortress, which did not have enough provisions stockpiled for such a large number of people. [13] Hong Taiji's main division, 70,000 strong laid siege to the fortress. Provincial forces from around the country began moving in to relieve Injo and his small retinue of defenders. Forces under Hong Myeonggu and Yu Lim, 5,000 strong, engaged 6,000 Manchus on 28 January. The Manchu cavalry attempted frontal assaults several times but were turned back by heavy musket fire. Eventually they circumnavigated a mountain and ambushed Hong's troops from the rear, defeating them. Protected by the mountainous terrain, Yu's forces fared better and successfully decimated the Manchu forces after defeating their attacks several times throughout the day. The Joseon troops within the fortress, which consisted of both capital and prefectural armies, also successfully defended the fortress against Manchu assaults, forcing their actions to be relegated to small-scale clashes for a few weeks. [14]

Despite working on tight rations by January of 1637, the Joseon defenders were able to effectively counter Manchu siegeworks with sorties and even managed to blow up the powder magazine of an artillery battery that was assailing the East Gate of the fortress, killing its commander and many soldiers. Some walls crumbled under repeated bombardment, but were repaired overnight. Despite their successes, Dorgon occupied Ganghwa Island on 27 January, and captured the second son and consorts of King Injo. He surrendered the day after. [15]

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:

  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. [16] 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. [17] 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. [3]


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. [18] In 1648 Joseon was forced to provide several of their royal princesses as concubines to the Qing regent Prince Dorgon. [19] [20] [21] [22] In 1650 Dorgon married the Joseon Princess Uisun (義順公主), the daughter of Prince Geumnim who had to be adopted by Grand Prince Bongnim, the future king Hyojong, beforehand. [23] [24] Dorgon married two Joseon princesses at Lianshan. [25]

Joseon general Im Gyeong Eop, who was in charge of defending the Baengma 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.

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 a corps of professional Korean-Manchu translators. They replaced earlier interpreters of Jurchen, who had been trained using textbooks in the Jurchen script. Joseon's first textbooks of Manchu were drawn up by Shin Gye-am, who had previously been an interpreter of Jurchen, and transliterated old Jurchen textbooks into the Manchu script. [26] Shin's adapted textbooks, completed in 1639, were used for the yeokgwa qualifying examinations until 1684. [26] The Manchu examination replaced the Jurchen examination, and the examination's official title was not changed from "Jurchen" to "Manchu" until 1667. [26]

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.

See also

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