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December 23, 2011

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Home » Sunday » Now and Then

戚继光 Qi Jiguang (1528-1588) 'Tiger General' stops Japanese pirates

DURING the Sengoku Period or Warring States Period in Japan from the mid-15th century to the beginning of the 17th century, many defeated samurais and impoverished peasants turned to piracy for a living. They were particularly rampant along the east coast of China during the mid 16th century.

The widespread looting and killings caused great damage to the Chinese economy and trade and interrupted the peaceful life of people living along the east coast under the rule of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Several generals were assigned by the Chinese imperial court to fight the Japanese pirates. Among them, Qi Jiguang soon became known among his peers as a "Tiger General" for his matchless courage and military leadership.

Qi was born in today's Shandong Province in east China. His forefather was a military leader who died in a battle when serving Zhu Yuanzhang, who later became the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty.

To show his gratitude, the emperor later bestowed upon the Qi family a heritable post as Commander-in-Chief of Dengzhou Garrison.

So, when his father died, Qi became the chief of the garrison when he was only 17 years old.

However, the young man soon won the respect of his subordinates for his exceptional military leadership.

In 1550, Qi went to Jizhou near today's Beijing to participate in the imperial martial arts examination.

Soon afterwards, Mongolian troops invaded areas near Jizhou. Qi and other participants in the martial arts examination were immediately mobilized to fight the invaders. Qi excelled on the battlefield.

Three years later, Qi, now 25, was promoted to Assistant Regional Military Commissioner of his home province to help fight Japanese pirates in the area.

When he first took over the command of the Ming army in Shandong, he found the troops suffering lacked proper training and discipline. But the officers and soldiers, including one of Qi's uncles, paid little attention to the young commander.

So, one day, Qi severely punished his uncle in front of his troops for violating the rules.

That night, Qi invited his uncle to his camp and apologized and explained that he had to enforce and maintain strict discipline in his army in order to defeat the Japanese pirates.

His uncle expressed understanding and pardoned his nephew.

Starting the next day, Qi's officers and soldiers began to earnestly obey his orders.

In addition to disciplining his troops, Qi had also reinforced the defense works in the area. As a result, the Japanese pirates were thwarted along the coast of Shandong and they moved south to attack easier targets.

In the southern coast areas, Japanese pirates worked hand in glove with Chinese pirates and even had built a few strongholds there.

In 1555, Qi was assigned to lead the fight against pirates in Zhejiang, now a province south of Shanghai. In the following seven years, Qi's troops won a series of decisive victories against the Japanese pirates and wiped out almost all their strongholds.

In 1562, Qi moved further south into today's Fujian Province to fight Japanese pirates.

After another three years of unremitting fighting, the pirate problem was eventually solved.

Then, Qi was called back to Jizhou to fight Mongolian invaders. In order to stop the Mongolian invasion, Qi began to repair and reconstruct parts of the Great Wall.

In two years, Qi rebuilt nearly 1,000 watch towers along the wall and effectively reinforced the defense works there.

As a result, the Mongolian invasion was successfully fended off for more than a decade.

Qi died in 1588 in his hometown.

He is today widely remembered as a national hero as well as a "Tiger General."


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