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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

And these being thrown into Korea


was, however, induced not to prosecute his quarrel with the Middle Kingdom, and he turned his anger entirely against Korea. Accordingly, on March 19, 1597, nine fresh corps were mobilized for oversea service, and these being thrown into Korea, brought the Japanese forces in that country to a total of 141,000 men. But the campaign was not at first resumed with activity proportionate to this great army. The Japanese commanders seem to have waited for some practical assurances that the command of the sea would not be again wrested from them; a natural precaution seeing that, after five years' war, Korea herself was no longer in a position to make any contributions to the commissariat of the invaders. It is a very interesting fact that, on this occasion, the Japanese victories at sea were as signal as their defeats had been in 1592. The Korean navy comprised the same vessels which were supposed to have proved so formidable five years previously, but the Japanese naval architects had risen to the level of the occasion, and the Korean fleet was well-nigh annihilated.

Meanwhile, the Chinese had sent a powerful army to southern Korea, and against these fresh forces the Japanese attacks were directed. Everywhere the invaders were victorious, and very soon the three southern provinces of the peninsula had been captured. No actual reverse was met with throughout, but an indecisive victory near Chiksan, in the north of the metropolitan province, rendered

it impossible for the Japanese to establish themselves in Seoul before the advent of winter, and they therefore judged it advisable to retire to their seaboard chain of entrenched camps. Early in 1598, a fresh army of forty thousand men reached Seoul from China, and for a moment the situation seemed to threaten disaster for the Japanese. Their strategy and desperate valour proved invincible, however, and the Kagoshima samurai won, on October 30, 1598, a victory so signal that the ears and noses of thirty-seven thousand Chinese heads were sent to Japan and buried under a tumulus near the temple of Daibutsu in Kyoto, where this terrible record, called Mimizuka (Mound of Ears), may be seen to-day.

Just about this time, intelligence of the death of Hideyoshi reached the Japanese commanders in Korea, and immediately an armistice was arranged. The withdrawal of the invading forces followed, not without some serious difficulties, and thus the six years' campaign terminated without any direct results except an immense loss of life and treasure and the reduction of the Korean peninsula to a state of desolation. It has been repeatedly pleaded for the wholly unprogressive state into which Korea thenceforth fell. But to conclude that a nation could be reduced by a six-years' war to three centuries of hopelessness and helplessness is to credit that nation with a very small measure of resilient capacity.


The war was not altogether without indirect results of some value to Japan. Among these may be cited the fact that, a few decades later, when the Tsing dynasty destroyed the Ming in China, subjugated Korea, and assumed a position analogous to that previously held by the Yuan, no attempt was made to defy Japan. The memory of her soldiers' achievements on the Korean battle-fields sufficed to protect her against foreign aggression. Another material result was that, in compliance with Hideyoshi's orders, the returning Japanese generals brought back many Korean art-artisans who contributed largely to the development of the ceramic industry. On no less than seven different kinds of now well-known porcelain and pottery in Japan did these experts exercise marked influence, and their efforts were specially timely in view of the great vogue then enjoyed by all utensils used in connexion with the tea ceremonial. It is not to be supposed, however, that these Korean artisans showed any superiority to the Japanese as artists. The improvements they introduced were almost entirely of a technical character. Another benefit derived by Japan from her contact with Korea at this time was the introduction of movable type. Up to this time the art of printing had been in a very primitive condition in Japan, and the first book printed with movable type made its appearance in the Bunroku era (1592-1595).

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