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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

They had to evacuate Pyong yang and retreat towards Seoul


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result was a foregone conclusion. Three thousand of the Chinese were killed, and the rest fled pele-mele across the Yalu. China now began to be seriously alarmed. She despatched to Pyong-yang an envoy named Chen Weiching--known in Japanese history as Chin Ikei--who was instructed not to conclude peace but only to make such overtures as might induce the Japanese to agree to an armistice, thus enabling the Chinese authorities to mobilize a sufficient force. Konishi Yukinaga fell into this trap. He agreed to an armistice of fifty days, during which the Japanese pledged themselves not to advance more than three miles northward of Pyong-yang while Chen proceeded to Peking to arrange terms of peace. It is very evident that had the Japanese seen any certain prospect of proceeding to the invasion of China, they would not have agreed to such an arrangement as this--an arrangement which guaranteed nothing except leisure for the mobilization of a strong Chinese army. It had, indeed, become plain to the Japanese commanders, after six months of operations in the peninsula, that the wisest course for them was to arrange a satisfactory peace.

The second force put in the field by China is estimated by the Jesuits and the Japanese at 200,000 men and at 51,000 by Korean history. Probably the truth lies midway between the two extremes. This powerful army moved across Manchuria in the dead of winter and hurled itself against Pyong-yang during the first week of February,

1593. The Japanese garrison at that place cannot have greatly exceeded twenty thousand men, for nearly one-half of its original number had been detached to hold a line of forts guarding the communications with Seoul. Neither Chinese nor Japanese history comments on the instructive fact that the arrival of this army under the walls of Pyong-yang was China's answer to her envoy's promise of a satisfactory peace, nor does it appear that any discredit attached to Chen Weiching for the deception he had practised; his competence as a negotiator was subsequently admitted without cavil. The Chinese, though their swords were much inferior to the Japanese weapon, possessed great superiority in field artillery and cavalry, as well as in the fact that their troopers wore iron mail which defied the keenest blade. Thus, after a severe fight which cost the Japanese twenty-three hundred men, they had to evacuate Pyong-yang and retreat towards Seoul, the army under Kato Kiyomasa retiring at the same time from the northeast and fighting its way back to the central route. Orders were then issued by the commander-in-chief, Ukita, for the whole of the Japanese forces in the north of the peninsula to concentrate in Seoul, but Kohayakawa, one of Hideyoshi's most trusted generals, whose name has occurred more than once in these annals, conducted a splendid covering movement at a place a few miles northward of Seoul, the result of which was that the Chinese fled in haste over the Injin, losing ten thousand men in their retreat.

But, though the Japanese had thus shaken off the pursuit, it was impossible for them to continue in occupation of Seoul. The conditions existing there were shocking. Widespread famine menaced, with its usual concomitant, pestilence. According to Korean history, the streets of the city and the roads in the suburbs were piled with corpses to a height of ten feet above the wall. The Japanese, therefore, made proposals of peace, and the Chinese agreed, on condition that the Japanese gave up two Korean princes held captive by them, and retired to the south coast of the peninsula. These terms were accepted, and on May 9, 1593, that is to say, 360 days after the landing of the invaders' van at Fusan, the evacuation of the Korean capital took place. The Chinese commanders showed great lack of enterprise. They failed to utilize the situation, and in October of the same year they withdrew from the peninsula all their troops except ten thousand men. Negotiations for permanent peace now commenced between the Governments of Japan and China, but while the pourparlers were in progress the most sanguinary incident of the whole war took place. During the early part of the campaign a Japanese attack had been beaten back from Chinju, which was reckoned the strongest fortress in Korea. Hideyoshi now ordered that the Japanese troops, before sailing for home, should rehabilitate their reputation by capturing this place, where the Koreans had mustered a strong army. The order was obeyed. Continuous assaults were delivered against the fortress during the space of nine days, and when it passed into Japanese possession the Koreans are said to have lost between sixty and seventy thousand men and the casualties on the Japanese side must have been almost as numerous.


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