2006-10-30 18:34:10 UTC
China's Ming dynasty has slowly collapsed over several generations of
misgovernment, famine, and rebellion. In the 1630s, a peasant named Li
Zicheng became first a bandit, then a rebel, then a rebel general; by
1644 he controls five provinces and can advance on the capital. The
last Ming Emperor hangs himself in despair. Li Zicheng, born a humble
shepherd, is the master of China.
Now: OTL the late Emperor had ordered one General Wu, commander of the
frontier forces, back to the capital to defend it. Wu lacked
enthusiasm, either because he didn't think much of the Ming Emperor, or
because he didn't want to denude the frontier of troops... the Manchu
were waiting just across the border, after all.
So when Wu heard the news of the Emperor's death, he was willing enough
to turn back, and hand over the frontier command to one of Li's
But then Li had a sudden and deadly attack of stupidity. He captured
Wu's father and handed over his favorite concubine -- wife, perhaps --
to another general.
Enraged, Wu attacked Li's general by surprise and took back the
frontier fortresses. Then he allied himself with the Manchu.
To make a complicated story short, there was a huge pitched battle
involving a couple of hundred thousand men, and at the end of it Li was
fleeing, Wu's forces were decimated and the Manchu had won all. They
marched to Beijing, the Manchu leader Dorgon declared his nephew to be
Emperor of China, and the Manchu or Qing Dynasty had begun.
Li died a few weeks later. For all his scheming and struggling, he
gained the dubious honor of being the sole Emperor of China's
shortest-lived dynasty: the Shun Dynasty, which lasted just over a
So, simple obvious POD: have Li not offend Wu. Wu stays loyal, the
frontier stays closed, Li keeps his throne.
Well... Li has an uphill road before him. He has more legitimacy than
any Manchu, but that's not saying much; there are still plenty of male
relatives of the Ming Imperial line around. Shun China still has most
of the institutional problems of Ming China. And he still has to deal
with the the Manchu, who are the greatest military threat to China
since Genghis Khan and his sons. ISTM the most likely outcome is that
the Shun Dynasty lasts a decade or two, and then the Manchus conquer --
much as iOTL, just a bit later.
But maybe not. The last Ming Emperors were real pieces of work -- each
meaner, fatter, and crazier than the last. Surely Li could do better.
And the Ming-Shun transition would have to be easier than the
Ming-Qing, which OTL dragged on for 30 years of war and rebellion.