Japanese Repel The Tartars
Author: Parker, Edward Harper

Japanese Repel The Tartars


Kublai Khan, the first of the Mongol emperors who reigned at Peking, and
Kameyama, the ninetieth emperor - as reputed - of Japan, are supposed to have
come to their respective thrones in the same year, 1260. At this period the
Japanese rulers (mikados) were mere puppets in the hands of their shoguns -
hereditary commanders-in-chief of the army - and the shoguns themselves were
tools of the regents of the Hojo dynasty.

Corea had lately been made tributary to the Tartar or Mongol power, when
some of the Coreans in the service of Kublai Khan suggested to him that his
way was now open to Japan, 1265. Next year Kublai selected a chief envoy
whose name, as Parker says, appears in Chinese characters precisely the same
as that of Sir Robert Hart, ^1 and whom the author of the narrative
immediately following, in order to avoid uncouth names, designates as "Hart."
By this envoy Kublai sent a letter to Japan, and this act was the beginning of
the execution of his designs against that country, formed upon the advice of
the Coreans. In this letter the Mongol Emperor called upon Japan to return to
the vassal duty which for centuries, he claimed, she had formerly owned to

[Footnote 1: A British diplomat who has been for many years director of the
imperial maritime customs of China.]

Edward Harper Parker

The King of Corea, who had meanwhile been instructed to show the road to
the Mongol mission, provided it with two high officers as escort. In 1267,
however, Hart and his staff returned to Peking from their wanderings, re
infecta, faithfully accompanied by their Corean guides, whose explanations as
to why the goal had not been reached were by no means satisfactory to Kublai.
The whole party was despatched once more to Corea, carrying with them to the
King positive instructions "to succeed better this time."

The wily King of Corea now adopted another tack. He pleaded that the
sea-route was beset with dangers to which it would be unseemly to expose the
person of an imperial envoy, but he accommodatingly sent the Emperor's letter
on to Japan by an envoy of his own. This Corean envoy was detained half a
year by the Japanese, but he had also to return empty-handed. Meanwhile the
King of Corea sent his own brother on a special mission to Kublai, to endeavor
to mollify his Tartar majesty.

In the autumn of 1268 Hart and his former assistant colleague were sent a
third time. As a surveying party had meanwhile been examining the sea-route
by way of Quelpaert Island, the mission was enabled to reach the Tsushima
Islands this time; but the local authority would not suffer them to land, or
at least to stay, nor were the letters accepted, as, in the opinion of the
Japanese, "the phraseology was not considered sufficiently modest." Once more
the unsuccessful mission returned to Peking, but on this occasion it was with
two Japanese "captives" - probably spies; for there is plenty of evidence that
even then the art was well understood in Japan. In the summer of 1269 it was
resolved to utilize these captives as a peg whereon to hang the conciliatory
and virtuous act of returning them. Coreans were intrusted with this mission;
but even this letter the Japanese declined to receive, and the envoys were
detained a considerable time in the official prisons at Dazai Fu (in

Early in the year 1270 a Manchu Tartar in Kublai's employ, named
Djuyaoka, who had already been employed as a kind of resident or adviser at
the court of the King of Corea, was despatched on a solemn mission to Japan,
having earnestly volunteered for his new service in spite of his gray hairs.
The King of Corea was again ordered to assist, and a Corean in Chinese employ,
named Hung Ts'a-k'iu (Marco Polo's Von-Sanichin), was told to demonstrate with
a fleet around the Liao-Tung and Corean peninsulas. The envoy is usually
called by his adopted Chinese name of Chao Liang-Pih. The mission landed in
the spring of 1271 at an island called Golden Ford, which, according to the
Chinese characters, ought, I suppose, to be pronounced Kananari in Japanese.
Here the strangers met with a very rough reception. he Tartar, however, kept
his head well during the various attempts which were made to frighten him; he
pointed out the historical precedents to be found in the annals of previous
Chinese dynasties, and firmly declined to surrender his credentials except at
the chief seat of government, and to the king or ruler in person. It seems
that even the Japanese now began to see that the "honest broker," Corea, was
playing false to both sides; at all events, they said that "Corea had reported
the imminence of a Chinese attack, whereas Kublai's language seemed to
deprecate war." Officials from head-quarters explained that "from ancient
times till now, no foreign envoy has ever gone east of the Dazai Fu." The
reply to this was: "If I cannot see your ruler, you had better take him my
head; but you shall not have my documents." The Japanese pleaded that it was
too far to the ruler's capital, but that in the mean time they would send
officers back with him to China. He was thereupon sent back to await events
at Tsushima, and, having remained there a year, he arrived back in Peking in
the summer of 1273. In escorting him to Tsushima, the Japanese had sent with
him a number of secondary officials to have an audience of Kublai; it appears
that the Japanese had been alarmed at the establishment of a Mongol garrison
at Kin Chow (I suppose the one near Port Arthur, then within Corean
dominions); and the Tartar envoy, during his stay in Tsushima, now sent on
these Japanese "envoys" (or spies) in advance, advising Kublai at the same
time to humor Japanese susceptibilities by removing the Kin Chow garrison.
The cabinet council suggested to Kublai that it would be a good thing to
explain to the Japanese envoys that the occupation of Kin Chow was "only
temporary," and would be removed so soon as the operations now in process
against Quelpaert were at an end. It is related that the "Japanese
interpreters" - which probably means Chinese accompanying the Japanese -
explained to Kublai that it was quite unnecessary to go round via Corea, and
that with a good wind it was possible to reach Japan in a very short time.
Kublai said, "Then I must think it over afresh." Late in the year 1273 the
same Tartar envoy was once more sent to Japan, but it is not stated by what
route or where he first landed; this time he really reached the Dazai Fu, or
capital of Chikuzen. In the same year, and possibly in connection with the
above mission, a Chinese general, Lu T'ung, with a force of forty thousand men
in nine hundred boats, defeated one hundred thousand Japanese - it is not
stated where. I am inclined to think, from the consonance of the word Liu and
the nine hundred boats, that this must be the affair mentioned lower down.
The Manchu Tartar envoy seems to have been a very sensible sort of man, for
not only did he bring back with him full details of the names and titles of
the Mikado and his ministers, descriptions of the cities and districts,
particulars of national customs, local products, etc., but also strongly
dissuaded Kublai from engaging in a useless war with Japan; and he also gave
some excellent advice to the celebrated Mongol general Bayen, who was just
then preparing to "finish off" the southern provinces of China. It may not be
generally known, but it is a fact that Bayen himself, in the late autumn of
1273, had been originally destined for the Japanese expedition, and the
prisoners captured at the first attack on Siaag-yang Fu (Marco Polo's Sa-yan
Fu) had already been handed over to him for service in Japan. The Mongol
history also gives a full copy of the letter sent to Japan on this occasion.
In it Kublai expresses his surprise at the persistent ignoring by Japan of his
successive missions; he charitably suggests that "perhaps the fresh troubles
and revolutions in Corea, which have now once more been settled, are more to
blame than your own deliberate intentions." The menace of war was a little
stronger than in the letter of 1266, but was still decently veiled and
somewhat guarded. Before starting, the Manchu had requested that the
etiquette to be observed at his audience with the ruler might be laid down.
The cabinet council, to be on the safe side, advised: "As the relative ranks
prevailing in the country are unknown to us, we have no definite etiquette to
specify." On the other hand, both Kublai and his ministers were much too sharp
to believe in the power of the "guard-house west of the Dazai Fu," and they
came to the sensible conclusion that the Japanese "envoys" were simply
war-spies sent by the supreme Japanese government itself.

Chinese history does not explain why, amid the conflicting counsels
exposed above, and others mentioned in biographical chapters, Kublai decided
to attack Japan at the very moment when Bayen was marching upon South China;
but, anyway, during the year 1274, large numbers of Manchus were raised for
service in Japan, and placed under General Hung. (Sanichin may perhaps stand
for the Chinese word Tsiang-chun, or "general.") It appears that, toward the
end of that year, fifteen thousand men in nine hundred ships made a raid upon
some point in Japan; but, although " a victory" is claimed, no details
whatever are given beyond the facts that "our army showed a lack of order; the
arrows were exhausted; we achieved nothing beyond plundering." The three
islands raided were Tsushima, Iki, and one I cannot identify, described in
Chinese as I-man.

The Japanese annals confirm the attack upon Tsushima and Iki, adding that
the enemy slew all the males and carried off all the females in the two
islands, but were unsuccessful in their advance upon the Dazai Fu. The
enemy's general, Liu Fuheng, was slain; the enemy numbered thirty thousand.
The slain officer was, perhaps, a relative of Liu T'ung, who served again in

In the year 1275 two more envoys bearing Chinese names were sent with
letters to Japan, "but they also got no reply." The Japanese annals confirm
this, and add that "they came to discuss terms of peace, but their envoy, Tu
Shi-chung - whose name corresponds - was decapitated." This is true, but he
was not decapitated until 1280, and, as is well known to competent students,
Japanese history is always open to suspicion when it conflicts with Chinese,
and too often "touches up" from Chinese.

In 1277 some merchants from Japan appeared in China with a quantity of
gold, which they desired to exchange for copper cash. The following year the
"coast authorities" - probably meaning at Ningpo and Wenchow, where even now,
as I found in 1884, immense quantities of old Japanese copper cash are in
daily use - were instructed to permit Japanese trade. But preparations for
war still went on, and the head-quarters of the army were fixed at Liao-yang,
where General Kuropatkin fixed his more recently. Naval preparations were
particularly active during 1279, and Corea was invited to make arrangements
for boats to be built in that country, where timber was so plentiful -
evidently alluding to the Russian "concessions" on the Yalu. Large numbers of
ships were also constructed in Central China. During this year a defeated
Chinese general in Mongol employ, named Fan Wen-hu, advised that the war
against Japan should be postponed "until the result of our mission,
accompanied by the Japanese priest carrying our letters, shall be known." When
this priest was appointed, by whom, and to do what, there is nothing to show.
To a certain extent this enigmatical sentence is supported by the Japanese
annals, which announce that "in the summer of 1279 the Mongol generals Hia
Kwei and Fan Wen-hu came and sent aides-de-camp to Dazai Fu to discuss peace,
but Tokimune (the regent) had them decapitated at Hakata in Chikuzen."

Hia Kwei was certainly another defeated Chinese general, but I do not
think he ever went to Japan. It is in the spring of 1280 that the Chinese
record the execution by the Japanese of "Tu Shi-chung," etc. But it is quite
evident that Fan Wen-hu cannot possibly have been executed in 1279, for later
on, in 1280, after Hung Ts'a-k'iu and others had been appointed to the Japan
expedition, "it was decided to wait a little, and Fan Wen-hu was consulted as
to the best means of attack; meanwhile prisoners of war, criminals,
Mussulmans, etc., were enlisted, and volunteers were called for." It is
difficult to account for "Mussulmans" in such company, for the villanous
"Saracen" Achmat was just then at the height of his power. The King of Corea
meanwhile personally paid a visit to Peking, and gave the assurance that he
was raising thirty thousand extra soldiers to serve in the Japan war. Fan
Wen-hu was now placed in supreme command of one hundred thousand men. "The
King of Corea with ten thousand soldiers, fifteen thousand seamen, nine
hundred war-ships, and one hundred and ten thousand hundred-weight of grain,
proceeded against Japan. Hung Ts'a-k'iu and his colleagues were provided with
weapons, Corean armor, jackets, etc. The troops were given strict
instructions not to harass the inhabitants of Corea. Corean generals received
high rank, and the King was given extra honors."

In 1281 the generals Hung Ts'a-k'iu and Hintu (a Ouigour Turk) went in
command of a naval force of forty thousand men via "Kin Chouin Corea." Another
force of one hundred thousand men was sent across the sea from modern Ningpo
and Tinghai, the two forces arranging to meet at the islands of Iki and

Alouhan (a Mongol) and Fan Wen-hu received in anticipation the honorary
titles of "Left and Right Governors of Japan province"; and when they and the
other generals took leave of Kublai, the Emperor said: "As they had sent us
envoys first, we also sent envoys thither; but then they kept our envoys, and
would not let them go; hence I send you, gentlemen, on this errand. I
understand the Chinese say that when you take another people's country, you
need to get both the people and the land. If you go and slay all the people,
and only secure the land, what use is that? There is another matter, upon
which I feel truly anxious - that is, I fear want of harmony among you,
gentlemen! If the natives of that country come to discuss any matter with
you, gentlemen, you should join your minds for one common plan, and reply as
though one mouth only had to speak."

When the army, after a week's sail from Tinghai, reached the islands of
Ku-tsi (off Masanpho) and Tsushima, some Japanese stranded fishermen were
caught and forced to sketch a map of the localities; and meanwhile it had been
agreed that the island of Iki was a better rendezvous than "Kin Chou in
Corea," on account of the then prevailing winds. From the Japanese sailors'
sketch it appeared that a little west of the Dazai Fu was the island of
Hirado, which, being surrounded on all sides with plenty of water, afforded a
good anchorage for the ships. It was decided - subject, apparently, to
Kublai's approval - to occupy Hirado first, and then summon General Hung,
etc., from Iki, to join in a general attack. Kublai replied by the messenger
in effect: "I cannot judge here of the situation there. I presume Alouhan and
his colleagues ought to know, and they must decide for themselves."

Meanwhile Alouhan - written also Alahan - had fallen sick, and died at
Ningpo, and another Mongol, named Atahai - written also Antahai - was sent to
replace him. Now comes the sudden collapse of the whole expedition, recorded,
unfortunately, in most laconic and unsatisfactory terms.

I give the various extracts in extenso:

1. Chapter on Japan. - "Eighth moon. The generals, having before coming
in sight of the enemy lost their entire force, got back. They said that,
'having reached Japan, they wished to attack Dazai Fu, but that a violent wind
smashed the ships. That they were still bent on discussing operations, when
three of the commanders [Chinese names] declined to accept their orders any
more, and made off. The provincial staff conveyed the rest of the army to Hoh
P'u [probably = Masanpho], whence they were dismissed back to their homes.'
But one of the defeated soldiers, who succeeded in escaping home, gave the
following account: 'The imperial armies in the 6th moon put to sea. In the 7th
moon they reached Hirado Island, and then moved to Five Dragon Mountains [the
Japanese pronunciation would be Go-riu Shima, or Yama, and perhaps it means
the Goto Islands]. On the 1st of the 8th moon the wind smashed the ships. On
the 5th day Fan Wen-hu and the other generals each made selection of the
soundest and best boats, and got into them, and abandoned the soldiers, to the
number of over one hundred thousand, at the foot of the hills. The soldiers
then agreed to select the centurion Chang as general in command, and styled
him "General Chang," submitting themselves to his orders. They were just
engaged in cutting down trees to make boats to come back in, when, on the 7th
day, the Japanese came and gave battle. All were killed except 20,000 or
30,000 who were carried off prisoners. On the 9th day these got to the Eight
Horn Islands [the Japanese pronunciation would be Hakkaku Shima], where all
the Mongols, Coreans, and men of Han [=North China] were massacred. As it was
understood that the newly recruited army consisted of men of T'ang
[=Cantonese, etc.], they were not killed, but turned into slaves, of whom
deponent was one. The trouble arose from want of harmony and subordination in
the general staff, in consequence of which they abandoned the troops and
returned. After some time two other stragglers got back; that is out of a
host of 100,000 only three ever returned.'"

2. Chapter on the Ouigour General, Siang-wei. - "In 1281 the sea-force of
100,000 men under Fan Wen-hu, etc., took seven days and nights to reach Bamboo
Island [the Japanese pronunciation would be Chikushima; perhaps is another
form of Tsushima], where they effected a junction with the forces of the
provincial staff from Liao-yang. It was the intention to first attack the
Dazai Fu, but there was vacillation and indecision. On the 1st day of the 8th
moon a great typhoon raged, and 60 or 70 per cent. of the army perished. The
Emperor was furious, etc."

3. Chapter on Li T'ing, a Shan Tung man, who was on Fan Wen-hu's staff.
"In 1281 the army encamped on Bamboo Island, but, a storm arising, the vessels
were all smashed. Li T'ing escaped ashore on a piece of wreckage, collected
the remains of the host, and returned via Corea to Peking. Only 10 to 20 per
cent. of the soldiers escaped alive [apparently referring to the 40,000, not
to the 100,000]."

4. Chapter on the Chih-Li-man-Chang-Hi. - "He accompanied Fan Wen-hu and
Li T'ing with the naval force which crossed the sea against Japan. Chang Hi,
on arrival, at once left his boats, and set to work intrenching on the island
of Hirado. He also kept his war-ships at anchor at a cable's length from each
other, so as to avoid the destructive action of wind and waves. When the
great typhoon arose in the 8th moon, the galleons of Fan and Li were all
smashed; only Chang Hi's escaped uninjured. When Fan Wen-hu, etc., suggested
going back, Chang Hi said: 'Half the soldiers are drowned, but those who have
escaped death are all sturdy troops. Surely it is better for us to take
advantage of this moment, before they have begun to think regretfully of home,
to live on the enemy's country and advance?' Fan Wen-hu, etc., would not agree
to this and said: 'When we see the Emperor, we will bear all the blame; you
have no share in it.' Chang Hi gave them a number of his boats. At that
instant there were 4,000 soldiers encamped on Hirado Island without any boats.
Chang Hi said, 'How can I bear to leave them?' And then he jettisoned all the
seventy horses in the boats in order to enable them to get back. When they
got to Peking, Fan Wen-hu, etc., were all disgraced. Only Chang Hi escaped

5. Chapter on Ch'u Ting, an An Hwei man. - "He was with Fan Wen-hu's
force when the sudden storm arose. His craft was smashed, but Ch'u Ting got
hold of a piece of wreckage, and drifted about for three days and three
nights, until he fell in with Fan Wen-hu's ship at a certain island, and was
thus able to get to Kin Chou in Corea. The soldiers encamped in the Hoh P'u
bay also drifted in, and were collected and taken home by him."

Chapter on Hung Tsun-k'i, alias Hung Ts'a-k'iu, a Corean of ancient
Chinese descent. - "[After recounting how Kublai placed him in charge of the
well-disposed Corean troops, how he served in the Corean and Quelpaert
campaigns, and against Japan in 1274 and 1277, the Mongol History goes on:] In
1281, in company with Hintu [a Ouigour], he led a naval force of 40,000 men
via Kin Chou and Hoh-P'u in Corea to join the 100,000 men coming by sea from
Ningpo under Fan Wen-hu. Forces were joined at the Iki, Hirado, and other
islands of Japan; but before the hostile forces were encountered, in the 8th
month, a storm smashed the ships, and he returned."

Extract from Japanese Riokuji, or Historical Handbook. - "In the 5th moon
of 1281 the Mongols raided us on a wholesale scale. Our troops were
unsuccessful in resisting them at Iki and Tsushima. The enemy advanced and
occupied Five Dragon Mountains in Hizen. The Hojo-tandai led the troops
bravely to the fight. The enemy retired upon Takashima. In the intercalary
7th moon a great wind blew. The enemy's war-ships were all broken to pieces.
Our troops energetically attacked and cut them up, the sea being covered with
prostrate corpses. Of the Mongol army of 100,000 only three men got back
alive. Henceforward the Mongols were unable to pry about our coasts again."


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