Peasant War of 1628-45

Peasant War of 1628-45


in China, a large antifeudal uprising by the Chinese peasantry that led to the overthrow of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). During the 1620’s, when peas-ants were driven off the land in massive numbers, there were almost continual peasant and urban uprisings. Particularly significant uprisings occurred in 1628, in the province of Shensi, where ten insurgent detachments were organized and operated successfully.

In summer 1631, 36 insurgent detachments united for a joint attack on Peking, the imperial capital. Defeated by government troops in 1632, the rebels moved out of Shansi province south-ward, through the provinces of Honan, Hupeh, and Szechwan. Between 1633 and 1638 they mounted campaigns, stirring up rebellions throughout the territory between the Yangtze and Huang Ho valleys. The rebels slew feudal lords, government officials, and moneylenders.

The movement’s leaders included the peasant commanders Kao Yin-hsiang, Chang Hsien-chung, and Li Tzu-ch’eng. In 1636, Kao Yin-hsiang was captured by government troops and killed. In 1638 government troops managed to rout the main insurgent forces. However, from 1640 to 1644 there was a new upsurge in the movement. The rebels submitted to the unified command of Li Tzu-ch’eng, and strict discipline was observed among the troops. By order of Li Tzu-Ch’eng, it was forbidden to hoard property, and pillage and violence against the population were punishable by death. In areas occupied by the rebels, land was distributed to the peasants.

On Apr. 25, 1644, the peasant army entered Peking. The last emperor of the Ming dynasty (Ssu Tsung) committed suicide. That same year, insurgent forces under the leadership of Chang Hsien-chung seized the province of Szechwan. In creating a new governmental authority, the rebels used the form of a feudal monarchy. Li Tzu-ch’eng was proclaimed emperor and his sup-porters received high titles, but, in reality, power belonged to the military council.

The Chinese feudal lords, after suffering defeat, called upon the military antagonists of China, the Manchus, for aid in 1644. In June 1644 the rebels abandoned Peking and began retreating west to Shansi and thence to Shensi and Hupeh, where they were routed by the Manchu and troops of the Chinese commander Wu San-kuei. Li Tzu-ch’eng perished in summer 1645. The rebels were defeated in Szechwan in 1647; Chang Hsien-chung perished. The supporters of Li Tzu-ch’eng and Chang Hsienchung formed an alliance with patriotic representatives of the ruling class, and their detachments fought in the protracted war of the Chinese people against the alliance of the Manchus and the Chinese feudal lords.


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