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his own doings in the excitement of a foreign war, or impelled by his natural ambition, he resolved to prosecute an enterprise which would have the effect of extending both the influence and the power of his country, still young as an independent kingdom among the states of Eastern Asia.
It was in the year 1592 that Fashiba availed himself of the disorder prevailing in Corea from the weakness and incapacity of its king, Lipan, to begin his schemes of foreign conquest by seizing the important harbour of Fushan, which was the most conveniently situated landing-place for troops coming from the Japanese archipelago. Fushan offered no resistance, and the hold which the Japanese then obtained on it has never since been completely relaxed. Having thus secured a gateway into this kingdom, Fashiba poured troops through it with the object of overrunning the country, and of adding it to his dominions. The Japanese continued their advance opposed, but not retarded, by the rude forces of the Corean king, and the capital itself surrendered without a blow. The Japanese are said to have behaved with great brutality; all who attempted opposition were put to the sword, and the ancient burial-place of the Corean kings was desecrated. Lipan filed before the invaders to China, where he implored the assistance of the Ming Emperor to drive out this fierce people, who might fairly be regarded as a common foe.
There was no hesitation at the Chinese Court in arriving at the decision that this unprovoked act of aggression on the part of the Japanese must be resisted at all costs. It acquired double force from the remembrance of unpunished descents on the Chinese mainland, and it needed only common sense to perceive that the presence of a numerous and fairly disciplined army in Corea constituted a standing peril of the most serious character to the peace of mind and security of the Emperor at Pekin. An army was, therefore, at once assembled in compliance with the request of Lipan, and sent through Leaoutung to encounter the Japanese.
Flushed with its easy success, the Japanese army marched rapidly northwards, and, undeterred by the report that the Chinese Emperor had resolved to support the cause of Lipan
A JAPANESE VICTORY.
with all his power, it reached the town of Pingyang, which opened its gates without any attempt on the part of its garrison to stand a siege. By this time the first detachments of the Chinese army had entered Corea, and were marching towards Pingyangi from the north. The Japanese went out to meet them, and a general action soon commenced. In this encounter the Japanese were victorious, but it does not appear that the loss of the Chinese was more than nominal. The latter attributed the reverse to the impetuosity of one of their commanders, who crossed a river in his front without support. The Japanese at once fell upon his brigade when it was separated from the main body, and they declared that they almost exterminated it.
This victory only served to show more clearly the serious character of this Japanese invasion, and to nerve the Pekin Government to make greater sacrifices. A lull ensued in the campaign; for, while the Chinese were hurrying up more troops, the Japanese, either from the deficiency of supplies, or in the hope of obtaining reinforcements from Fushan, retreated for a short distance. For one moment the peace party at Pekin, which was led by Chesin, the President of the Tribunal for War, obtained the upper hand, and the despatch of the large reinforcements demanded by the general commanding in Corea, and required by the occasion, was deferred. An attempt to carry on secret negotiations, and to arrange the terms of an amicable settlement of the quarrel by means of an emissary who had volunteered for the work, failed to attain its object, or only had the effect of revealing the exorbitant nature of the Japanese pretensions.
Then the despatch of fresh troops was no longer delayed, and the army which had distinguished itself at the siege of Ninghia, and against the rebel Popai, was ordered to march against the Japanese. The charge of the war was entrusted to Li Jusong, the same general who had pacified the NorthWest; and Wanleh's commander, advancing by way of Kaichow, crossed the Yaloo river, which the Japanese had demanded as a frontier. The Japanese army was commanded by a general named Hingchang, under the immediate orders of the King Fashiba in person. Hitherto the Japanese had always been prompt to act on the offensive ; but now, in face of a force so superior to their own, they felt compelled to stand on their defence. Li Jusong was not the man to waste time in unnecessary delays when the task entrusted to him was one of such vital importance, and immediately after his arrival he began his attack on Pingyang. The Japanese fought well, and repulsed the first onset of their opponents. By a feint, however, the Chinese commander attracted the attention of the defenders of Pingyang to one portion of the wall, while he delivered his main attack on the opposite quarter. The Japanese continued to make a brave defence, but availed themselves of the coming on of night to evacuate the town, and to withdraw across the Datong river. The Chinese pursued them for a short distance, but the Japanese made good their retreat without serious loss.
The remainder of this campaign was occupied in desultory fighting, the result of which was generally favourable to the Chinese. In one skirmish, however, the successes of the war were nearly all lost by the narrow escape of Li Jusong from capture. He only succeeded in extricating himself from his perilous position by the prodigies of valour performed by himself and his chosen body-guard. Shortly after this affair the Chinese army was withdrawn from the neighbourhood of the capital to which it had advanced, and took up its quarters at Kaiching, where it awaited the arrival of further reinforcements and the abatement of the floods, which had rendered the low-lying country impassable for troops.
The following campaign commenced with a brilliant achievement, of which all the credit was due to Li Jusong. The Japanese had collected vast stores of grain and other necessaries in a small town near the capital, and Li Jusong succeeded in surprising the place, and in burning all the stores on which the Japanese commanders mainly depended for the support of their troops. This great disaster necessitated their withdrawal from Hangchang or Seoul, which the Chinese immediately occupied; but the Japanese still showed a bold front, and Li Jusong did not consider it prudent to attack them. They continued their retreat unmolested to
WAR IN COREA.
the harbour of Fushan, where they were in direct communication with their feet and their own country.
Both sides were now tired of the war which had brought no practical benefit to either, and which had entailed an immense amount of loss and suffering on both. The Japanese first gave signs of a desire for peace by releasing the Corean magnates who were prisoners in their hands; and Chesin, the Chinese President of War, at once despatched an order from Pekin for the suspension of hostilities. Alone among the members of the Imperial Council, Chesin was in favour of recognizing Fashiba as King of Japan, but his influence was so great that he carried his point. As soon as this important matter was settled in favour of Fashiba's pretensions, the negotiations progressed at a rapid pace. Gifts were exchanged. A Japanese envoy was honourably received at Pekin, and another Chinese official visited the Japanese camp. Fashiba expressed himself perfectly satisfied with the concessions of the Chinese, and returned the courtesy of their recognition of his sovereignty by the despatch of costly presents, which the recipients accepted out of vanity, or from deep motives of policy, as a form of tribute. But although the main current of these negotiations flowed on satisfactorily enough, the actual relations of the two armies and their commanders in Corea were far from being equally satisfactory; and they were further complicated by the wiles of the intriguer, Chin Weiking, who had again been entrusted with the task of personally conducting the progress of the negotiations.
All might yet have ended satisfactorily, for the selfseeking aims of Chin Weiking were beginning to be realized at Pekin, when an unfortunate step on the part of the Corean king undid everything that had been accomplished, and reopened the whole question. The envoy whom he sent as a messenger of peace to felicitate Fashiba on the assumption of the royal title of Tycoon of Japan, was discovered to be an official of very inferior rank, and Fashiba showed no hesitation in resenting this act as a personal affront, and as a slight cast upon his dignity. In 1597 he ordered a fresh fleet of two hundred sail to proceed to sea, and made other open preparations for the renewal of his enterprise against Corea. These measures arrested the progress of the negotiations, and roused the indignation of the Chinese cabinet. Both Chesin and Chin Weiking were disgraced and placed in confinement; and preparations were made for the prosecution of the war on an extensive scale.
Li Jusong was not, however, entrusted with the command, and, although a very large army was concentrated on the Yaloo river, nothing was effected. The Chinese and Japanese remained facing each other without being able to gain any advantage or willing to risk the consequences of a reverse. But if the balance of superiority remained doubtful on land, there was no uncertainty at sea; there the Japanese superiority was incontestable, and their navy swept the China seas and plundered the coasts of Fuhkien and Chekiang with impunity. The whole of the year 1597 was passed in desultory fighting, but the differences and jealousies of the Chinese commanders prevented their deriving any advantage from their greater numbers. Indeed, they suffered a distinct reverse at the siege of Weichan, a small town on the coast; but this untoward result was due to the sudden appearance of the redoubtable Japanese fleet. Although reinforcements were repeatedly sent from China, the incapacity of the commanders was so great that the Japanese were able to keep the field, and to all appearance possessed the advantage over the Chinese. The end of the struggle, which had continued during the winter of 1597-8, was apparently as far off as ever when the news came of the sudden death of Fashiba. This put a summary end to the contest, as the Japanese troops were immediately withdrawn. The Chinese army also evacuated the country, and, with the restoration of the native dynasty, the kingdom of Corea returned to its primitive existence, and sank again into a state of semi-darkness.
One further act alone remained to mark the termination of a war which, so far as practical results went, had been literally barren of achievement to all concerned in it; and
* The Japanese returned with an enormous quantity of booty, and, Mr. Mounsey (“Satsuma Rebellion,” 1880, pp. 56, 57) says, with the ears of 10,000 Coreans. They also retained their hold upon Fushan.