Kangxi’s Edict Regarding Wu Sangui (1674)

WU SANGUI (1612-1678)—A Ming general who allowed the Manchu army to pass through the Great Wall and capture Beijing. He later revolted against the Qing and declared himself emperor of the new Zhou dynasty. He died of dysentery in 1678.

THREE FEUDATORIES—

Areas granted by the early Manchu emperors in southern China to three Chinese generals—Wu Sangui, Geng Jingzhong, and Shang Zhixin—who aided in the Manchu's early conquest of China.

All three later rebelled against the Qing rulers with the last rebel forces defeated in 1683.

With the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) in free fall, Chinese General Wu Sangui, in 1644, made the fateful choice to allow Manchu forces free passage through the Shanhaiguan Pass, a pivotal gateway in the Great Wall northeast of Beijing. This deed has forever since marked Wu Sangui as one of China's greatest traitors. Having proven his allegiance to the Qing court, he joined the Qing in a series of military campaigns against Ming loyalists and rebel armies. In return, the Qing rewarded Wu Sangui with numerous high titles, monetary payments, and ultimately a command over the southwestern provinces of Yunnan and Guizhou as one of the Three Feudatories. While there, his growing dissatisfaction with the central court led to his slow appropriation of power. The young Kangxi emperor was skeptical of Wu Sangui's loyalty, but there were few officials willing to step into the breach and challenge Wu. Few people were surprised then, when Wu Sangui, in 1674, dropped all pretense and openly revolted against the Qing. The following edict reflects the Kangxi emperor's resolve to siviftly and completely overwhelm Wu Sangui's kingdom. Before the Qing armies could defeat him, however, Wu Sangui died a painful death from dysentery. Soon thereafter, the Qing armies defeated the last of the rebel armies and finally incorporated southwest China into the Qing empire—nearly four decades after its founding.

Questions

  • 1. What does the emperor suggest motivated Wu Sangui to rebel?
  • 2. How does the edict seek to show the strength of the Qing (and conversely the weakness of Wu Sangui)?

To the civil and military officials, people, indigenous chieftains, and the ethnic peoples of Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou:

Rebel Wu Sangui initially surrendered to us due to his father's unnatural death. The late emperor rewarded his military service by bestowing a noble title for him and his decedents. What an honor. I bestowed upon him the title of prince due to his military successes in Yunnan. Such a promotion and imperial reward was rare in history.

Unfortunately, Wu Sangui was sly and untrustworthy. Such imperial honors and favors gave rise to total arrogance and betrayal. In the seventh month of Kangxi's twelfth year [September 1673], he asked to retire. Accepting his request at face value, and considering he was old and had fought long and over great distances, I allowed his retirement. I ordered offices to prepare the proper transfer of power while specifically sending officials to carry out my orders. I treated Wu Sangui considerately and honorably. But Wu Sangui rebelled and readily turned his back on the court's gracious treatment establishing an independent center of power. He collaborated with the Zheng Jiaolin to rebel together, disturbing people lives, which angered gods and people.

As a result, I have now stripped him of his noble titles and dispatched generals and armies to wipe him out. If Wu Sangui attempts to flee, Mongolian soldiers will be sent to capture and return him. I am now ordering the Dalai Lama to send soldiers into border areas in Sichuan. When the soldiers arrive, local officials and people ought to surrender and shave their foreheads [in submission], and quickly prepare supplies for the soldiers. Those who voluntarily lay down their arms and surrender their cities should be reported to military leader Dalai Batulu Taiji who will record and compensate them for their actions. Those who refuse to surrender or to offer supplies will be vanquished. When the [Qing] generals arrive, the [Dalai Lama's] military accomplishments should be clearly recorded and rewarded before returning home.

I am dispatching this edict to clearly inform my loyal subjects that even those who might have previously been forced into rebelling will be pardoned without fear of further prosecution as long as they show remorse for their crimes and wholeheartedly surrender. The Dalai Lama's military forces must implement strict discipline and prevent any disturbance. You all should remain law-abiding and your actions not raise any suspicions and cause regrettable behavior.

Announce and follow my orders!

Imperial decree

3rd day, 8th month, 13th year of the Kangxi reign.

 
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