Manchu invasion of Korea

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Manchu invasion of Korea
Hangul 정묘호란
Hanja 丁卯胡亂
Revised Romanization Jeongmyo-Horan
McCune-Reischauer Chŏngmyo-Horan

The First Manchu invasion of Korea occurred in 1627, when Huang Taiji ( 皇太極) led the Manchu army against the Korean Joseon dynasty in retaliation for Korea’s support of the Ming forces. The Manchu marched deep into Korean territory and defeated Mao Wenlong (毛文龍), a Ming Mobile Corps Commander who was using an island off the Korean peninsula as a base for guerrilla warfare against the Manchu. Preoccupied with threats on their home front, the Manchu then offered Korea a peaceful settlement, which was soon accepted.

After the first invasion, officials of the Joseon Dynasty continued to defy the Manchu, particularly when Huang Taiji declared the new dynasty of Qing. In the winter of 1637, Huang Taiji himself led Manchu, Mongol, and Chinese forces in a Second Manchu invasion of Korea, blocked King Injo’s escape route, and forced him to surrender. This invasion was particularly devastating for Korea; the Mongol troops pillaged their cities, King Injo was forced to submit to Huang Taiji, and Korea became a tributary state of the Qing. The Manchu invasion and its aftermath inspired Korean scholars to study their own history and develop their own culture.

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First Manchu Invasion of Korea


In 1619, the Joseon Dynasty (조선 .朝鮮) of Korea sent 10,000 soldiers to support Ming ( 明朝) China’s attack on the Manchus' newly-proclaimed Later Jin ( 後金) dynasty under Nurhaci (努爾哈赤). The Korean General Gang Hong-rip( 강홍립. 姜弘立) eventually surrendered to Nurhaci, insisting that Korea did not hold anything against the Manchus and had sent reinforcements only to repay an obligation to Ming. Nurhaci and his son, Daišan (代善), had no interest in conquering Korea, and this policy continued until Nurhaci's death.

In Korea, the Western faction deposed the realist king, Gwanghaegun (광해군. 光海君), and installed King Injo ( 인조. 仁祖) in 1623. The Western faction adopted explicit pro-Ming, anti-Manchu policies. In addition, Ming Mobile Corps Commander Mao Wenlong (毛文龍) was engaged in guerrilla warfare against the Manchu, using an island off the Korean peninsula as his base.

The first Manchu expedition was triggered by Yi Gwal's(이괄。李适)rebellion against King Injo in 1624. The revolt was soon crushed, but remnants fled to Manchuria and strongly urged Huang Taiji to invade Korea.


In 1627, Huang Taiji (皇太極) dispatched Amin, Jirgalang, Ajige ( 阿濟格), and Yoto to Korea, guided by Gang Hong-rip (강홍립. 姜弘立) and other Koreans. The Korean army was ill-prepared to defend itself against the Manchu, having not yet recovered from the Seven-Year War against Japan. The Manchu were able to march deep into Korean territory and defeat Mao Wenlong's (毛文龍) troops, but failed to capture the commander. When the Manchus advanced southward to Hwangju, King Injo fled from Hanseong (Seoul) to Ganghwa Island (江華島) in panic.

Although they were in a dominant position, the Manchus pushed peace negotiations, probably because Huang Taiji was more concerned with the defense of his home territory. The Manchu offered peace to Korea, which soon accepted, despite the opposition of some anti-Manchu statesmen who failed to understand the strong position of Manchu forces. The following terms were agreed upon in a treaty on Ganghwa Island( 江華島):

  1. Korea was to abandon the Ming era name Tianqi (天啓).
  2. Korea would offer Yi Gak as a hostage, as a substitute for a royal prince.
  3. (Later) Jin and Korea would not violate each other's territory.

In the meantime, Amin, in Pyongyang, looted the city for days before he was ordered by Huang Taji to sign the peace agreement, which was more favorable to the Manchu than to Korea. After the four month expedition, the Manchu army withdrew to Mukden (Shenyang, 沈阳, in Chinese).


The two sides conducted postwar negotiations. The Manchu forced Korea to open markets near its borders, because the long conflict with Ming had brought economic hardship to the Manchu. Korea also returned the Jurchen Warka tribe (女眞) to Later Jin. The Manchu regularly exacted tribute from Korea.

The relationship between Joseon and Later Jin remained uncomfortable. While the first invasion was not as catastrophic to Korea as the second one, nine years later, would be, it was bitterly resented by Confucian statesmen and scholars, who believed that it was treachery for Korea to abandon Ming China after the Chinese had provided assistance against Japan during Seven-Year War. This resentment was ignited when Manchu demanded to change the terms of their diplomatic relationship with Korea from equality to a Suzerainty-Tributary relationship in 1636. The Korean Court, dominated by aggressively anti-Manchu officials, rejected the demand, and this led to the second Manchu invasion of Korea in 1636.

Second Manchu Invasion of Korea


After the first invasion, the Joseon Dynasty continued to defy the Manchu. Trade had deteriorated, and Korea refused to repatriate fugitives from Later Jin. In addition, Korea took a defiant attitude when Huang Taiji declared the new dynasty of Qing. Korean delegates refused to kowtow to Huang Taiji at the ceremony and threw away all diplomatic correspondence in which Huang Taiji was referred to as the emperor. The Manchu delegates to Korea, Inggūldai and Mafuta, received a cold reception in Hanseong (Seoul), with Korean soldiers lurking around them menacingly in the shadows. Shocked, the delegates fled back to Qing.

The Korean court was dominated by the pro-war party, who, however, took no steps to increase their military power. To make matters worse, a warlike message to Pyong'ando fell into the hands of the Manchu delegate, Inggūldai.


In the winter, Huang Taiji himself led Manchu, Mongol, and Chinese Banners and a Mongol army of 120,000 to Korea. Dodo, (Prince Yu, 多鐸), the fifteenth son of Nurhaci and one of Dorgon's two full brothers, leading the vanguard, rushed to Hanseong to prevent King Injo from fleeing to Ganghwa Island (江華島) as Korean kings traditionally did. With his escape route to the island blocked, the king took refuge in the Namhansan fortress, which was immediately besieged by the Manchu army. The Korean army in the fortress suffered from a scarcity of food and ammunition. While Korean officials had unrealistic debates, Dorgon ( 多爾袞), the brother of Dodo, occupied Ganghwa Island in a single day, and captured the second son and consorts of King Injo. As the siege continued, the scarcity of food became more severe. Also, the strategic situation worsened, as several attempts to break the siege by Korean forces from other regions were foiled, and charges from the fortress yielded no success. This desperate situation forced Injo to make his submission. King Injo handed three pro-war officials over to Qing, as well as agreeing to the terms of peace:

  1. Korea became a tributary of the Qing Dynasty.
  2. Korea broke with the suzerain Ming.
  3. Korea offered the first and second sons of King Injo, and sons or brothers of ministers, as hostages.
  4. Korea was to pay tribute to Qing as she had done to Ming.
  5. Korea would serve in the war against Ming.
  6. Korea would offer troops and ships to attack an island.
  7. Qing would restrict the building of castles by Korea
  8. Qing would allow Korea to trade with Japan.

Hong Taiji set up a platform in Samjeondo, the upper reach of the Han River, and standing on this platform, he accepted King Injo's submission. King Injo kowtowed to Hong Taiji, who allegedly forced Injo to repeat the humiliating ritual eight times.


Northern and middle Korea was devastated by war. Although the Manchu army was strictly disciplined, the Mongol soldiers plundered Korean cities relentlessly.

In accordance with the terms of surrender, Korea sent troops to attack Pi Island at the mouth of the Yalu River.

Hong Taiji ordered Korea to erect a monument ( 삼전도비. 三田渡碑) in honor of the so-called "excellent virtues of the Manchu Emperor." In 1639, the monument was erected at Samjeondo, where the ceremony of submission had been conducted.

While officially yielding in obedience to the Qing Dynasty, privately Korea continued to have a defiant attitude towards the Manchu, whom they considered uncivilized barbarians. Korean scholars secretly used the Ming dynasty era name even after the Ming collapse, and thought that Korea was the legitimate successor of Ming civilization instead of the "barbaric" Qing. During the ten years of his reign, King Hyojong ( 효종. 孝宗, 1619-1659), the seventeenth king of the Joseon Dynasty, who had lived as a hostage for seven years in Mukden after the second Manchu invasion, and who succeeded Injo, made plans for an expedition to Qing called Bukbeol (北伐). His death on the eve of the expedition put an end to the plan

Beginning in 1639, and continuing until 1894, the Korean court trained a corps of professional Korean-Manchu translators. These replaced earlier interpreters of Jurchen, who had been trained using the Jurchen script. The official designation was changed from "Jurchen" to "Manchu" in 1667. The first textbooks for this purpose were drawn up by Sin Gye-am, who had also been an interpreter of Jurchen and transliterated old Jurchen textbooks for this purpose.

Until 1894, Korea remained a tributary of Qing China, even though the influence of Manchus decreased beginning late in the eighteenth century, as the Joseon Dynasty began to prosper once again and Qing China began to decline. The relationship was not fully severed until 1895, after the First Sino-Japanese War, when Japan forced Qing China to acknowledge the full independence of Korea. Japan intended to implement a plan to isolate Korea from China and then exploit and eventually invade her.

Cultural impact on Korea

During the first half of the seventeenth century, the Manchu invasions of the Korean peninsula and the subsequent establishment of the Qing dynasty in China provoked a new interest by the Chosôn elite in Korea’s own culture. Scholars and officials studied Korea's history, geography, agriculture, literature, and art. This new strain of research, now commonly termed sirhak, or "practical learning," was in vogue much of the time between 1600 and 1800. It was manifested in practical legislative measures that attempted to control and enhance the operation of the government bureaucracy and the lives of the general populace, especially the peasants. This interest in Korean culture gave rise to works of art exploring native vernacular language, geography, and social customs. Fiction written in han’gûl (Korean writing) were often authored by members of the lower classes and explored nontraditional themes. Eighteenth century "true-view" landscape painting and genre painting depicted famous sites in Korea and the daily lives of people. The production of ceramics, which had declined following the Japanese and Manchu invasions of the peninsula, had revived with fresh vigor and creativity by the second half of the seventeenth century. Despite mistrust and ambivalence, diplomatic and cultural exchanges with Japan and the Qing Dynasty continued, and significantly influenced the development of Chosôn culture.[1]


  1. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Korea, 1600–1800 C.E. Retrieved 8/23/2007

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Crossley, Pamela Kyle, Helen F. Siu, and Donald S. Sutton. 2006. Empire at the Margins Culture, Ethnicity, and Frontier in Early Modern China. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 1423745426
  • Elliott, Mark C. 2001. The Manchu Way: The Eight Banners and Ethnic Identity in Late Imperial China. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0804736065
  • Perdue, Peter C. 2005. China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. ISBN 067401684X
  • Waley-Cohen, Joanna. 2006. The Culture of War in China Empire and the Military under the Qing Dynasty. London: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 9781429453677


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