Discussion:
The Shun Dynasty
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s***@yahoo.com
2006-10-30 18:34:10 UTC
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POD: 1644.

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
generals.

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
month.

So, simple obvious POD: have Li not offend Wu. Wu stays loyal, the
frontier stays closed, Li keeps his throne.

Now what?

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.

Thoughts?


Doug M.
b***@eve.albany.edu
2006-10-30 20:29:59 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@yahoo.com
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.
Perhaps Li and his descendants manage to hold on in the south, ala
Sung? IIRC OTL the Manchus took a while to establish their direct
control in the area: Wu and the other two leaders of the "Three
Feudatories" made a fair bid to establish their independence from
Manchu rule.

(More likely, IMHO, Li and the Ming claimants diffuse their energies
fighting each other and the Manchus take the whole shebang.)

Bruce
JBodi
2006-10-31 02:27:59 UTC
Permalink
Post by s***@yahoo.com
POD: 1644.
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.
[cut]
The trouble is that Li seems to have been little better than a bandit
when it came right down to it. And the officials he'd recruited
couldn't keep him and his men in line. His men went on a murderous
looting rampage and mocked the officials who tried to effect a proper
dynastic handover. He purged officials he could have used, and seemed
more interested in torturing people to discover where they'd hidden
their wealth than establishing a new order.

To win Li'd need to get (and listen to) better help, such that he can
appear as the better alternative to the Manchus.

There's Wu Sangui, but Mote says Wu fought Li's forces and made
approaches to the Manchu in late May, before he'd heard of his father's
death at Li's hands [Mote 816-18]. So alt-Li would have some serious
politicking to do in early 1644 - perhaps most plausibly, he could pick
the low-cunning route and send Wu's father north with a caravan full of
family members and bribes. With Wu, Li has a chance of staving off the
Manchus for a bit but I'm not convinced he's Emperor material. Perhaps
Wu can arrange for a targetted surfeit of har gau and take over the
Shun himself.

There's also Hong Chengchou. He was governor in Shanxi and had whumped
Li but good several times before being transferred to the Manchurian
front and captured. He played a major role in turning Wu. Suppose an
alt, better, Li makes a decent impression on Hong, and he defects (it
would have to be a MUCH better impression). Hong and Li together
convince Wu to shore up the passes, and are able to provide useful
support.

My preference is for a departure that makes Li a worthier leader or
puts Wu in charge - he did well enough in our timeline, after all.
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