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One And Eternal
An Account of the Reunification of China

Hello! Welcome to my first, hopefully not abysmal, attempt at producing an AAR. I've always wanted to write one, but I've been both too daunted to do so, and never sure of a concept enough to try. Now, I've finally settled on one, and hopefully it'll be a fun ride.

For the AAR, I'll be using the Expanded China Mechanics mod, which has two optional bookmarks. One to divide the Ming into five rival states, and one to divide it into about 18. I'll be going with the latter bookmark, for maximum carnage. I'll be playing as the Ming, called the Bo in their much diminished standing, who are still ruled at the start by the young Zhengtong Emperor. They're surrounded by competing states, all with missions added by the mod to try and accelerate the reunification process. It makes for a nice big battle royale.

I'll be writing in a history book style, from the perspective of an Italian exile in the Court of a later Emperor. It will mostly be a true representation of events, but many things will be tweaked or otherwise "edited" to appeal more to the author's patron, especially with regards to the Ming Dynasty itself.

House Rules: I'll be trying to RP as much as possible. I'll avoid purposefully doing gamey things, though I'm not that good of a player anyway, so I doubt I can do much of that anyway. If something happens that horribly derails any plans I have, then I'll reload, though I'll keep that to an absolute minimum. I'll also be using the console at an unspecified future point to do something, but rest assured, that will probably harm me a -lot- more than help me. :D

With that said, I'll upload a prologue chapter detailing the recent history of China, and then I'll try to upload the first chapter proper within a day or two. Any feedback is much appreciated, as I don't really know what I'm doing, and I hope you enjoy!
 

Konnigratz

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One and Eternal
An Account of the Reunification of China
By Alessandro Carafa, Court Historian of the Yongchang Emperor

Part One: An Introduction

The Middle Kingdom – China, as it is known in the barbarous west – is a land with history stretching back thousands of years. China was ancient and prosperous when the ancient Roman Republic first rose, and where the mighty Roman civilisation fell, amidst the torrent of barbarian invasions, China stood strong, unwavering, and eternal.

Only once has a foreign family ever been recognised as Emperor, Sovereign of All Under Heaven. They were the Yuan, Mongols from the great northern steppe. Though they came as conquerors, in time, China conquered them, the greater Han civilisation wiping clean their barbarian roots. Thus it was that the Chinese people granted the Yuan Dynasty the Mandate of Heaven, and justly they ruled, until the reign of the Shundi Emperor. A good man, betrayed by incompetent and treasonous advisers, the reign of the Shundi Emperor was disastrous for China. Famine and natural disaster followed, as God turned from the Yuan. Rebellions became increasingly common, as the Han turned upon each other, and their Yuan overlords.


First Emperor of the Yuan, the Shizu Emperor​

From this crucible of chaos and violence, a great man was forged. Zhu Yuanzhang had experienced all the hardships a man could take, as he watched the mighty Yangtze swallow up his village, and his family succumb to poverty and disease. After years of destitute wandering, he came to know what it was that was causing the misery of the land – the ill rule of the Yuan. Quickly, he came to command his own army, under the banner of the great Red Turban revolt against the Yuan. He soon thereafter found himself the ruler of the great southern capital, Nanjing, where his reputation for good and just rule attracted people from all corners of the land.
From his power base in Nanjing, Zhu Yuanzhang quickly restored order to the rest of the Han lands. The Shundi Emperor, wisely seeing the reality of the situation, ceded the Mandate of Heaven to the new Emperor, and retreated northwards, back to the homelands of his ancestors.
Thus it was that the Yuan Dynasty ended, and the Ming Dynasty began. The new Emperor adopted the era name Hongwu, on the 23rd of January, in the Year of Our Lord, 1368. His just and benevolent reign restored stability to China, and the people accepted the Emperor as Heaven's Chosen. He ruled for 32 years, leaving behind a mighty military, a reformed Empire, and a hopeful people.

His eldest son, Zhu Biao, had predeceased him, and so he had commanded that the son of Biao, Zhu Yunwen, the Jianwen Emperor, would succeed him. Almost immediately, his wishes were ignored. The other sons of the Emperor squabbled over their father's throne, and brought misery to China. Only the Jianwen Emperor's uncle, Zhu Di remained loyal. Zhu Di led campaign after campaign to squash the rebellions against his nephew's rule. Meanwhile, the Jianwen Emperor grew increasingly paranoid, seeing assassins in every shadow, and knives in every sleeve. In time, he even grew to suspect the loyalty of Zhu Di, the bastion of his reign. While rebellion festered in the provinces, The Jianwen Emperor recalled his uncle to Nanjing, on charges on treason.

Loyal to the end, Zhu Di surrendered himself to his nephew, and, while proclaiming his innocence for all to hear, was executed, in the 8th Year of the Jianwen Emperor, 1406 A.D. With the loss of the lynchpin of his reign dead by his own hands, the rule of the Jianwen Emperor rapidly began to fray. Whilst nearly all of his uncles were dead or imprisoned, the chaos had fatally weakened central authority. On the fringes of the Empire, local warlords became more and more autonomous, gradually ruling their domains as though they were Emperor. As the madness of the Jianwen Emperor grew, territory closer and closer to the capital became lawless. The warlords began to fight amongst themselves for control of territory, while the Court of the Emperor was powerless. In 1417, after 19 years of madness, the Jianwen Emperor was strangled in his sleep by a Court Eunuch. The son of Zhu Di, Zhu Gaochi, was then proclaimed Emperor, taking the name of Hongxi. By that time, however, it was too late. Little of China recognised the authority of Nanjing, and it was deemed that, after a mere 44 years, the Ming had lost the Mandate of Heaven.

The Hongxi Emperor had inherited a Kingdom in anarchy. His authority was barely recognised outside the walls of Nanjing, and his court was in chaos. Feuding factions squabbled for his attention, each with different ideas on how to restore the Ming's fortunes. Many advocated trying to peacefully bring the regional warlords back into the fold. Many more still suggested that the Emperor should bide his time, to let the warlords tire themselves out, and then make a decision on what to do. One faction, however, the faction that would be the most prominent in the court of the Ming Dynasty for decades, was the so-called Militant Faction. A lose collection of generals, bureaucrats, and extremist Confucian and Buddhist orders, the Militants desired to see China purged of treason. The warlords were seen as dogs, guilty of heinous crimes against Heaven and Earth, and fit only for slaughter.


The Hongxi Emperor, initiator of the Great Reunification​

The Hongxi Emperor sided with the Militant faction, and using the still-formidable power of Nanjing and the fertile and densely populated land surrounding it, gradually began to claw back territory. Though he tragically died of a heart attack, only a mere 8 years into his reign, the mantle of Emperor was quickly and smoothly passed to his eldest son, Zhu Zhanji, who took the name Xuande for his era. He continued the work of his father, and the cities of Yangzhou, Zhenjiang, and Ningguo were reclaimed during his reign. In 1435, after a 10-year reign, he too passed into Heaven, to be succeeded by his infant son, Zhu Qizhen, the Zhengtong Emperor. The Zhengtong Emperor was a mere child of 8 years, and so authority fell to council of regents, with the de facto head of the council being the Minister of War, and Chancellor, Yue Jianpei. The rate of conquests slowed somewhat during the regency period, yet still progress was made, with the cities of Heifei and Anqing coming under Imperial control. Finally, on the 12th of November, 1444, The 8th Year of the Zhengtong Emperor, the Regency Council formally ceded all power to the Emperor himself. The Era of Reunification could begin in earnest.


The condition of the Middle Kingdom in 1444​
 
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Now here's an interesting start. How'd you split China up like that for the scenario? Just console commands?

I'll be tracking at any rate. :)
 

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Now here's an interesting start. How'd you split China up like that for the scenario? Just console commands?

I'll be tracking at any rate. :)
I'm using a mod I found on the workshop, found here: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=368236653. It's one of two alternate bookmarks, and by far the most chaotic of the two. :D
Here's the first chapter. It only covers 6 years, but it was definitely an exciting 6 years.

Part Two: The First Move

Upon the formal assumption of power, the Zhengtong Emperor summoned together the greatest of his ministers, so as to evaluate the status of the realm. To the other warlord states, the much-reduced Ming territories were known as Bo – the traitors already demoting the Empire to their own low status. Though diminished, the lands the Emperor controlled provided great potential. They sat astride the mighty Yangtze River, cradle of the Han, and the fertile and prosperous land offered great wealth. The region was densely populated, with food surpluses. The power and prestige offered by the control of Nanjing could also not be discounted. The city itself was colossal, with official records of the time measuring the population to be close to half a million, a city without equal in both China, and the world as a whole. Nanjing was a hub of early industry, particularly in textiles, and the Hanfu that the city crafted became the standard for the entirety of China's upper class, especially the warlords. Due to its position, Nanjing was also a valuable market city, with goods from the rest of the provinces flooding the stalls and shops of the city. With all this trade came tax revenue, making the Ming domain one of the wealthiest in anarchy-ridden China.


A court portrait of the Zhentong Emperor at a later age​

Her army, too, stood strong. Though no state in the Reunification Era could field the great armies of a hundred thousand men that existed in the past, the warring states did take great care to train a strong core of increasingly elite and professional soldiers, to be bolstered when required by a limited peasant levy. Commanded by Chancellor Yue, the Ming Army was particularly adept, comprised of 9,000 men total, 7,000 infantrymen, and 2,000 mounted. The Zhengtong Emperor immediately commanded that a further 4,000 men would be trained, half infantry, half cavalry. It would prove necessary.

Other powerful warlords had consolidated power close to the Imperial Capital. Most dangerous was the state that called itself the Wu, centered in Hangzhou. The Wu grew rich over early control of the sea trade, with a rapidly growing navy that maintained complete control over the nearby waters. “Tolls” were extracted from merchants sailing into or out of the Yangtze, and a not-insignificant portion of its wealth was gained from piracy and raiding – particularly upon the rapidly deteriorating Ashikaga Shogunate, a tributary of the Emperor. The Wu State rivalled the Ming domain in both wealth and military power, while completely outclassing it at sea.

To the north lay the second of the early domain's rivals. The State of Liang, taking its name from a long history of “proud” Chinese states founded during anarchy and chaos, commanded the delta of the Yellow River, which at the time flowed much further south than it does today. Liang ruled from the great city of Kaifeng, and commanded the rich farmlands of the Yellow River, providing an equal to the Empire in both wealth and military power.

The Emperor wisely realised that, though they had the right idea, the totality of the Militant faction would only harm China in the long run. With this realisation, he sent forth diplomats to the warlord states of Qi, a state centered on the Shandong and Liaodong Peninsulas, and Min, a state that had consolidated the whole of Fujian Province under its control. In his embassy, the Emperor pledged to “acknowledge the autonomy and rights of the governors of Qi and Min, and accept them as his loyal servants.” The three states were under no illusion that these alliances would be permanent, but all three understood that they were required. Qi was threatened by both the Liang, and the barbarian hordes from the north – both Mongol and Jurchen, while Min contended with several other powerful warlords, including the Wu.

As the New Year celebrations approached in the year 1445, an unexpected party of emissaries arrived in Nanjing. King Sejong the Great of the Joseon Kingdom had not forgotten where his loyalties lay, and had sent a mission to re-establish ties with the Emperor. He offered his Kingdom as “eternal servants of the Emperor of Heaven”, and to seal the ties of friendship, he offered the hand of his daughter, the Princess Jeonghyeon. The Emperor readily accepted both alliance and marriage, and the New Year celebration served as a suitable time for a wedding. By all accounts, the Emperor was smitten with his new bride, and, breaking with Imperial tradition, took no concubines or other wives for the entirety of his life.

Then, in May that year, the warlords of Chu and Wuhan came to blows, with Wu siding with Wuhan. Sensing a perfect opportunity, the Emperor sent word to Min and Korea, and ordered his army into the Wu State. The two clashed in area outside the walls of Hangzhou, the already fertile fields further watered with the blood of the Han. The Wu army was well-trained and well-led, but God – and Chancellor Yue – was on the side of the Ming, and the Wu were scattered. Hangzhou was placed under siege by the Imperial Army, whilst the Min Warlord besieged Jinhua, and the Korean army landed in the Yangtze Delta, moving quickly to place Souzhou under investment. The days of the Wu, it seemed, were numbered.

Yet it was not their time. The Qi, in a panic, sent word to Nanjing. The Jurchen had launched a great invasion from the north, and had already broken through the Shanhai Pass. The Emperor honoured his alliance with the Qi warlord, and sent warships to harry and harass the barbarian horde, but could do little. The way north was blocked by the Liang, and the Emperor could not risk war, not while he also fought the Wu.

Meanwhile, in Nanjing, the Empress Jeonghyeon gave birth to a son in the last month of 1445. Even early on, the boy, given the name Zhu Youmo, was strong and clever, and was given the full attention of the Imperial Court.

Small bands of Wu soldiers, bolstered by the Huai State to the south, attempted to dislodge the Imperial Army from Hangzhou, but it was for nought. The city surrendered peacefully to the Emperor, and was spared a sacking. Souzhou, Huangshan, and Jinhua fell shortly after. The Wu Warlord fled south, knowing full well that the loss of this war would mean his and his family's certain death. He began levying peasants to throw at the Imperial Army, but his salvation would come from an unexpected direction.

The treacherous warlords in Yan and Liang had “graciously” allowed the Jurchen hordes free access to their lands, and had even provided a “gift” of gold and food to them as they passed (with the obvious stipulation that the Jurchen would not sack their own lands). So the barbarians travelled southwards, laying siege to the Qi lands in Shandong. Still more barbarians flooded south, crossing the Yellow river, then the Yangtze. The Emperor could not hope to fend off both the Jurchen and the Wu, and so he made a choice – peace, for a time, with the Wu. In return for peace, and a temporary truce, the Wu Warlord would agree to restore Souzhou to Ming control, pay an indemnity for the destruction caused by Wu soldiers, and personally travel to Nanjing to perform the kowtow before the Zhengtong Emperor. His armies scattered, his capital lost, and his honour in tatters, the Wu Warlord accepted the terms.

With one enemy taken care of, the Emperor could now focus on the Jurchen hordes, who came rushing forth to Souzhou, where the Imperial Army was still encamped. The Imperial Army, numbering 12,000 professional soldiers by this point, with a levy of 20,000 peasants in support, faced off against a Jurchen army three times its size. Like their Mongol cousins, the Jurchen were masters of the horse, and highly capable horse archers. Yet the courage, fortitude, and bravery of the Han, deftly guided by the hand of Chancellor Yue, proved unbreakable for the barbarian. Wave after wave crashed upon the Han line, and wave after wave was broken. The battle lasted for two whole days, and by the end, 90% of the Jurchen army lay dead outside Souzhou, with the Han losing a mere 3,000. The last scattered survivors were quickly tracked down by detachments of the Imperial Army. To show the barbarians that the Han would never accept their presence in China ever again, the Emperor ordered that all the captives, save for one, be blinded, castrated, and have their fingers cut off, to then be chained together and led back north to the Jurchens in Shandong by the one man who retained his eyes – though not his manhood or fingers. The show of force worked – the Jurchens quickly made peace with the Qi, accepting the “modest” gain of Shenyang, and retreating back north with all due haste.


The Battle of Souzhou, where the Jurchen Hordes were utterly crushed​

Within two years, the Ming had humbled their greatest rival, and destroyed a barbarian incursion into the heart of the Middle Kingdom. The Zhengtong Emperor knew that the momentum he had built had to be maintained, and so he quickly sent agents north, into territory controlled by the Liang. Meeting with the governors of Huai'an, Xuzhou, and Fengyang, the agents relayed the Emperor's proposal – they would retain their positions for their lifetimes, and forever after their families would be provided for by the Imperial government. In return, they would open the gates to their cities when the Ming moved against the Liang. All three readily accepted, as they all tired of the tendencies for despotism and cruelty that the Liang Warlord, Ying Chenhao, all-too-frequently exhibited. In the August of 1447, the Imperial Army crossed the Yangtze, and invaded the domains of the Liang.

The Liang armies initially outnumbered the Imperial Army. Further complicating matters was the proclamation by the neighbouring warlord state of Ning, that stated that any aggression by the “King of Bo” would be readily countered. The Emperor knew that he could not stand against both Liang and Ning, and so he ordered Chancellor Yue to move first against the Liang. The Emperor, short on funds, approached various wealthy merchants, including a prominent Jewish family, the Gao, to secure loans.

The Gao belonged to the so-called Kaifeng Jews, a population of Jews dating back a thousand years. The Kaifeng Jews were all-but indistinguishable from the Han as a whole, the only difference being their religion. Kaifeng, the capital of the State of Liang, had been their home for those thousand years, but Ying Chenhao had proven intolerant to the point of zealotry. He saw these Han, worshipping a foreign god from the far west, as a threat to his rule, and had instituted increasingly harsh measures against the community. The Gao family promised to loan a substantial sum of gold to the Emperor, provided he establish a Jewish quarter in Nanjing, and promise eternal tolerance for the faith. In return, the loan would be provided without interest. The Emperor readily agreed to the proposal, even appointing one of the family, Gao Zhongxian, as Minister of Works, responsible for various vital duties that kept the Empire functioning, including the construction and maintenance of infrastructure.

With the coffers filled, the Emperor used the gold to hire professional mercenaries, so as to bolster the Imperial Army. With this done, Chancellor Yue marched forth to Kaifeng with haste, meeting the Liang forces outside the wall in February of 1448, and vanquishing them. Yet Ying Chenhao managed to break away in good order with the majority of his forces, rushing southwards to the lands of his ally, the Ning. Chancellor Yue moved back eastwards, as Fengyang, Xuzhou, and Huai'an opened their gates as planned, pledging fealty to the Emperor. The Chancellor spent the rest of the year subduing the other cities along the eastern reaches of the Yellow River, before settling in for the winter. Both sides resupplied and replenished their forces, preparing for the coming of the spring.

As the snows melted, chaos erupted across the Yangtze and Yellow deltas. The Imperial Army and the combined Liang-Ning forces clashed numerous times, each bloody but inconclusive. Both sides bled heavily, and found it increasingly difficult to replace their professional soldiers. Peasant levies and mercenaries became increasingly commonplace. The Emperor, wisely seeing that they had reached a stalemate, began to send peace feelers out, but they were all harshly rebuffed by the Liang warlord. As 1449 turned into 1450, both sides were exhausted. Indebted and with barely any proper soldiers remaining, both sides continued the bloody slog between the rivers. Then, in August, the armies of the Yan, sensing the blood in the water, crossed the northern boundary of the Liang, placing Kaifeng under siege. Finally, Ying Chenhao realised that he could not hope to face two enemies at once, and so sent an offer of peace to the Zhengtong Emperor. It was a short offer; an acceptance of the territory currently held by the Emperor. In effect, this ceded the eastern half of the Liang domains, fatally weakening it.

The Emperor, and the Empire, celebrated. In less than 6 years, the amount of territory under the control of the rightful Ming Dynasty had doubled, and the two greatest warlords had been humiliated and devastated. Yet the Empire itself was in trouble. Her armies were worryingly depleted, almost fatally so, and she owed significant sums to various moneylenders and merchants. All across the Middle Kingdom, the warlords were on the move, engaging in brutal warfare to secure and increase their own power, with several already claiming themselves Emperor of China. The Zhengtong Emperor knew his domain had to rest and recuperate, but he also knew that it could not be done for long, lest another warlord come to eclipse all the rest.


The state of China in 1450, the 15th year of the Zhengtong Emperor. The western provinces are in flux, while the eastern ones are more stable, save for the reconquests of the Emperor.​
 
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RepublicanIV

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This is a very interesting read.

So I'm guessing the troop numbers are exaggerated? Also, will we have an 'explorer' show us the rest of Asia?

Can we see some stats and stuff?

These are the type of AARs that I like a lot (I do also really like other styles). Maps are put in when necessary and the history and roleplay isn't overloaded with some of the things that perhaps some other AAR writers do (I CBA to read the long ones TBH) while also maintaining a high level of quality, all in the name of an interesting and unique person in a very interesting and unique place.
 

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This is a very interesting read.

So I'm guessing the troop numbers are exaggerated? Also, will we have an 'explorer' show us the rest of Asia?

Can we see some stats and stuff?

These are the type of AARs that I like a lot (I do also really like other styles). Maps are put in when necessary and the history and roleplay isn't overloaded with some of the things that perhaps some other AAR writers do (I CBA to read the long ones TBH) while also maintaining a high level of quality, all in the name of an interesting and unique person in a very interesting and unique place.
Thanks the feedback! Aye, the troop numbers are artificially inflated. Basically, any mention of a peasant levy is a fabrication. The number of "professional soldiers" is the number of troops I have in-game, and the numbers of Manchu tribesmen are artificially inflated in-character. Really, the army that hit me in Souzhou was smaller than my own army, and they nearly beat me due to superior morale, but that can't enter an official Imperial history now, can it? :D

I'll try to mention the greater world soon when I can fit it in, but for now, the turmoil in China is the main star of the show. And I have plans for an actual explorer at some point. Huang He might not have been on his great voyages in this timeline, but his spirit won't be absent.

Been feeling especially creative today, so here's another chapter! A bit more peaceful than the last one, but it had to be after the sorry state the last war left me. 0 manpower, 0 stability, three loans, negative income, 4k men total.

Part Three: Joy and Suffering

With the Yangtze and Yellow River deltas secured, the Zhengtong Emperor turned his attention to administration. He was a man who, while certainly great, knew his own weaknesses. He attempted to personally manage every facet of the Imperial administration for the next two years, successfully managing to repay every last ounce of gold owed to creditors, but he came to realise that the complex Chinese bureaucracy existed for a reason – China could not be governed by one man. With this in mind, in June of 1452, the Emperor instituted the largest government restructuring of recent times. The most immediate effect was the new composition of the Six Ministries, and especially the chief Ministers. Yue Jianpei resigned from his post as Minister of War, but retained his post as Imperial Chancellor, and the vacant spot was filled by Bai Wengui, a capable general, known especially for his logistical abilities. The new Minister of Revenue was Chen Xiang, a tax collector from the capital who had made a name for himself for being strict, but fair, in his collections. His efficiency had partly helped to pay off the Imperial loans, and he was now expected to make the tax system of the entire Empire as efficient as in Nanjing. Dong Youshan was appointed Minister of Personnel. Unusually, Dong had never served as an Imperial official before his appointment as Minister. Dong was the operator of a wealthy shipping company based in Souzhou, and it had a reputation for hiring and promoting people based purely on merit, not birth connections. The new Minister had even fired and disowned his own son for sheer incompetence, when he fell asleep with a lit candle in his hand, burning down a warehouse and losing hundreds of tonnes of goods in the process. In his role as Minister of Personnel, it was his task to ensure that the Imperial bureaucracy remained a meritocracy.

The other two new ministers were less impressive. Wen Shufan was a Confucian scholar, and had fled from the Kingdom of Dali in Yunnan, where a Han warlord had declared himself King, ruling over a non-Han population. To cement his reign, the King of Dali gradually implemented policies which made a new, strict creed of Theravada Buddhism the only religion tolerated within the Kingdom. The followers of the rest, be it Nestorian Christianity, Islam, or traditional Confucian philosophy, were harshly taxed, and had any rights stripped from them. Wen had fled to the court of the Emperor for this reason, and so was made Minister of Rites, responsible for all spiritual and religious matters, as well as Imperial ceremonies and the reception of Tributary envoys – currently only the Kingdom of Joseon, and the Ashikaga Shogunate. The last appointee was Qiao Jun, a senior and widely respected judge, known for routinely siding with the peasantry in disputes. He was made Minister of Justice. Gao Zhongxian remained Minister of Works, and during his tenure had proven himself highly capable, initiating a massive campaign to rebuild many roads and bridges that had fallen into disrepair during the anarchy.


Three of the new Ministers. Dong Youshan, left. Qiao Jun, middle. And Chen Xiang, right.​

The Imperial administration then moved on to tackling corruption amongst the government agencies. First was the rural tax collectors. The peasantry had become increasingly vocal at the shocking incidence of corruption with regards to rural tax collectors. They took arbitrary amounts from whoever they pleased, often citing new taxes that never actually existed. Together, the Ministry of Personnel and the Ministry of Revenue began to purge the corrupt officials, and replace them with new ones. In order to placate the peasantry further, the Zhentong Emperor even took a drastic step; proving himself as an Emperor of the people, he began travelling across the land, moving from village to village in a beautiful carriage of gold and crimson silk, pulled by a pair of Elephants. Everywhere he went, he listened to the grievances of the common folk, and freely gave gifts of food and gold to each and every village he visited.


The Emperor's Carriage, and his Escort​

It had also become apparent that the Imperial Army itself was not immune to corruption. There were widespread reports of the meritocracy within the army breaking down entirely, as officers promoted close friends and family to positions of prominence, regardless of capability. Requests for new equipment were often submitted to the Imperial government, yet during inspections, few, if any, of the men were given it. It was found that many officers were selling the equipment for their own gain, and indeed, it was noted by many at the time that the bandits and highwaymen in the countryside became shockingly well-supplied during this time. The Emperor and the Chancellor were in agreement; the army had to be purged of every single corrupt officer within it. Frequently, those officers were not hard to find. Many had elaborate town-houses built for themselves, with values far exceeding the pay of an Imperial military officer. Even more had grand estates in the countryside.

The result was exceedingly bloody. Every single officer found guilty of corruption, no matter how minor or inconsequential it happened to be, was sentenced to death, most often via Lingchi, death by a thousand cuts. The judgement, usually reserved only for the most severe of crimes, was justified by Chancellor Yue as follows; “Your actions have served only to make the Great Ming incapable of withstanding the predations of traitors, barbarians, and other demons who prey upon the weakness of the Middle Kingdom. Thus, you are all guilty of treason of the highest order, and you will be punished accordingly.”
It is estimated that more than 40% of the military officers were executed between 1452 and 1455. In time, this would greatly increase the efficiency and capability of the Imperial Army, but in the short term, it severely limited the Empire's capability to conduct a proper military campaign, as would be revealed in a few short years.

In 1454, the Ministry of Works had begun to expand the fortifications of Souzhou. A vital port city, and the gateway to the Yangtze itself, it was imperative that the city could defend itself in the event of an attack. Events forces the plans to be halted, however. On the third day of May the following year, a ship baring foodstuffs docked in port. By the end of the following day, a terrible malady had befallen hundreds of citizens. By the end of the week, thousands were sick. Acting quickly, the city governor used the city's garrison to quarantine the inflicted within a section of the port, killing any who tried to leave. The measure worked, though at a terrible cost. The affliction was halted, by everyone who fell sick was left to die, and for months afterwards, traders avoided docking in Souzhou, causing widespread misery to all residents.
Meanwhile, the Warlords of the south were on the move. Complex webs of alliances within the southern provinces had ensured that any wars that broke out would be large and exceptionally blood, and this one was no exception. The reason for the war has been lost to history, but what is known is that the Wu State had joined in. Imperial spies began to report that the army and levies of Wu had moved outside of the State's territory, and were campaigning somewhere in the Pearl River Delta. As more and more spies confirmed the earlier reports, the Emperor made his move.

With Chancellor Yue at the head, the Emperor ordered that two forces quickly move into the Wu State. The first force was the Imperial Army itself, numbering 10,000 strong once more, supplemented by a peasant levy of 15,000. The second force, also numbering 10,000 strong, with 10,000 peasants in support, was composed almost exclusively of mercenaries. While the majority of the mercenaries were Han, it is known that a significant portion, perhaps up to 20%, were Japanese, frequently the lesser sons of minor Daimyo, and Ronin, both with little prospects in their homeland. The force of mercenaries was commanded by Yang Zongren, a former warlord who had peacefully surrendered the city of Lianyungang to the Ming during the war against the Liang. On the 3rd of July, 1455, the second campaign against the Wu commenced.

It would prove to be a short war. Chancellor Yue invested the city of Huangshan, while General Yang besieged the city of Jiaxing, a short distance away from the Wu capital in Hangzhou. There was little resistance to the sieges. Jiaxing fell in October, and General Yang moved to besige Hangzhou itself. Huangshan held out through the winter, but surrendered after assurances that it would not be sacked. In July, word reached the Emperor that the Wu forces were rushing home. The Emperor did not believe the Imperial Army was ready for a protracted war just yet, and so sent word to the Wu Warlord that he would have peace, provided the cities of Huangshan and Jiaxing were officially ceded to the Ming, as well as a yearly “donation” of 10% of the taxes levied within the Wu domain for a decade. To the Wu, this deal seemed miraculous, and so they immediately accepted.

As soon as the ink had dried, a collection of city and provincial governors travelled to Nanjing, and presented a petition to the Emperor. They asked that corruption within the civil administration of the Empire be tackled just as thoroughly as the corruption within the military. They also asked that they be given more autonomy in dealing with corruption themselves, so as to ensure that any corrupt official could be removed and punished much more quickly. The Emperor wisely acceded to their request, giving them a fixed time limit of 5 years where their powers were increased. The Imperial government itself also began a campaign against civil corruption, and combed the bureaucracy top to bottom searching for any evidence of corruption. Though the numbers were not quite as severe as within the military, a significant number of officials were executed, temporarily making the government of the realm more difficult and unstable. The Ministries, however, would work overtime to procure and train people of merit to replace the executed traitors.

While the years between 1456 and 1460 undoubtedly strengthened the Empire in the long run, they were also years filled with tragedy. Late in December of 1456, Yang Zongren suddenly fell ill, and within a few days he was dead. The period between his death and the New Year festival was declared a time of mourning, and a grand funeral was held for the former warlord-turned-loyal servant in the Imperial Capital. His replacement as the second most senior general was Xie Shisheng, a rising star of the military, and also a close friend of the Emperor.

Then, in the August of 1458, the Dowager Empress Xiaogongzhang, mother of the Zhengtong Emperor, went to sleep one night and never woke up. The Empire once more went into mourning, and the Emperor attended court less and less frequently, prefering to remain inside his private residence with Empress Jeonghyeon and their son, the Crown Prince Youmo.


The Crown Prince Youmo on a hunt​

The Crown Prince, now nearing 13 years old, was already stronger and taller than his father. He had a quick mind, and was already displaying an interest in the affairs of state. He was also a keen hunter, and showed remarkable skill with both a bow and a spear. He asked his father to find a Mongol horse archer to train him, which his father duly did, and quickly became a master of both the horse alone, and horse archery.

Despite retreating from the everyday governance of the Empire, the Emperor continued to give out important directives when he saw fit to. With one such order, the government dispatched agents once more in the territory of the Liang warlord Ying Chenhao. Their aim was the same as last time; to sway the governors of the cities controlled by the Liang. In this, they were much less successful than the last time, yet in the span of two years, they had successfully convinced three governors – of Fuyang, Shangqui, and Runan – to abandon the Liang when the Imperial Army crossed the border.

The plan was to launch the invasion in the Spring of 1461, yet in November 1460, that plan was in tatters. That month, the titan of the Imperial Court, Yue Jianpei, Chancellor of the Middle Kingdom, and Super Commander of the Imperial Army, fell deathly ill. He lingered two months, dying in January 1461, at the age of 83. Yue had been a young man when the Hongwu Emperor still reigned. He was a loyal servant of the Empire, and had both kept the early reign of the Zhengtong Emperor secure, and had been something of a father figure to the young Emperor. The Emperor appointed Xie Shisheng to the position of Chancellor, trusting his friend to carry out his wishes, and retreated further into isolation.


The Imperial Chancellor, Yue Jianpei. His death was felt by the entire court​

1461 passed quietly. The Minister of War, Bai Wengui, retired quietly after 9 years of service. His replacement was Yang Gang, an officer with a well-earned reputation as a man who could turn a green peasant boy into an elite soldier. Under his oversight, the Imperial Army's training regime would become increasingly more efficient, and rigorous. More men, of a higher standard of training, would find themselves serving the Empire during his tenure as Minister.

Throughout the entire year, the Emperor left his residence only once. A powerful faction of merchants within the court had petitioned him to loosen the restrictions placed on people crossing the borders of the domain the Empire controlled. The Emperor, visibly exhausted, bluntly reminded the grouping of merchants that China was at war with “rebels, traitors and murderers, who seek to destroy heaven and earth together.” With his judgement passed, he retreated once more.

Then, as the New Year festivities approached in 1462, the Emperor emerged from his chambers. To the court, he had never looked older than he did then. Only 34 years old, his once jet-black hair was rapidly fading, now more grey than black. The court sensed something different, however. The Emperor was more forceful and authoritative than ever. On the first day of his return, he ordered a mobilisation of the army, and the hiring of mercenaries. On the second day, he announced that he would take personal command of the army in the forthcoming campaign. Immediately after the New Year celebrations were concluded, the Emperor ordered the Imperial Army into the domain of the Liang. One group, the Golden Army, would be led by himself and the Crown Prince. The other, the Jade Army, would be led by Chancellor Xie.

The Liang had vanquished the Yan, and had even taken territory from that state. Yet they were severely weakened, from both that war, and the earlier clash with the Empire. The Golden Army marched on Kaifeng, putting the majority of the Liang army to the sword in one quick battle. The Zhengtong Emperor proved himself an able commander during the battle, and his side suffered few casualties.

However, the Liang had one ace up their sleeve. The warlord Ying Chenhao had been close to the most powerful Jurchen chieftain ever since he had allowed them to pass through his territory and attack the Empire at Souzhou, and had even wed one of the chieftain's daughters. This chieftain, Aisingioro Cungsan, declared that he would "stand beside his ally and son-in-law, Ying Chenhao, King of Liang, in his struggle against the tyrannical King of Bo. Together, we shall destroy the false king who thinks himself Emperor of the Middle Kingdom.” Spies in the north reported that a great host of Jurchen riders was on the move, striking south at lightning pace.

The struggle that would come to be known as the Fuyang Conflict, a war that would threaten to destroy everything the Zhengtong Emperor had worked for, had begun.
 
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RepublicanIV

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Regardless of the chronicler's biases, could we perhaps consider the numbers as true? I mean China's gigantic population would certainly allow for battles like that against the Jurchen to happen.

Is Japan really your vassal or is that just RP purposes?

Is it possible if at points we have summaries of the events of the past chapters?

Also, maps please!
 
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eliaspays

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Really liking this AAR, the writing is excellent! Subbed.
 

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Regardless of the chronicler's biases, could we perhaps consider the numbers as true? I mean China's gigantic population would certainly allow for battles like that against the Jurchen to happen.

Is Japan really your vassal or is that just RP purposes?

Is it possible if at points we have summaries of the events of the past chapters?

Also, maps please!
The prime reason I'm inflating the numbers for the story is because, aye, China is very, very populous. EU4's tiny troop numbers in China are understandably low for game mechanics to work properly, but they don't make much sense. As the story progresses and more of China comes back under Ming control, the numbers presented in the story will increase a lot, much higher than what the game represents. :D
Japan is only a vassal for RP purposes. The Ashikaga Shogunate was a Tributary of the Ming from 1401 in reality, and story-wise, the Emperor still regards Japan as subservient, even if it hasn't sent envoys lately. The only tributary that continues to pay homage to the Emperor is Joseon Korea.
I think I might post an OOC update at the end of each Emperor's reign (unless they barely do anything), summing up everything that happened.
And a map is coming up right at the end of this update! :D

Really liking this AAR, the writing is excellent! Subbed.
Welcome aboard! Thanks for the feedback. I hope it continues to the standard it's been so far!

The next update is focused almost purely on the war with Liang and Jiangzhou. I made the mistake of expecting Jiangzhou to be stuck in Manchuria, since they didn't have military access, but apparently they got to their ally anyway. The war went very poorly, as you'll see. :p

Part Four: The Fanyang Conflict

The Jurchen army moved rapidly, reaching Liang lands in early May. They met the remnant of Ying Chenhao's forces outside the city of Handan, and from there marched south. The Emperor had word of this movement, and sent word to Chancellor Xie to regroup with his army at Shangqiu. In June, the combined Jurchen and Liang army crossed the Yellow River north of Shangqiu, meeting the Imperial Army on the 16th of of the month.

The Imperial Army numbered 20,000 professional troops, with a further levy of 40,000 peasants in support. The Liang contingent was reduced to 3,000 professionals, bolstered by an emergency levy of 18,000 barely-trained peasants. The bulk of the enemy army was composed of Jurchens – 40,000 of them, all highly trained and capable of great slaughter. They clashed in the fertile farmland between the city and the river.

The Emperor arranged his forces to defend, believing that the Jurchens would immediately rush into an all-out attack. Instead, however, the Jurchen swirled before the Imperial lines, launching volley after volley of arrows into the massed troops. The brave Ming troops stood strong, yet the peasants, poorly armoured and ill-disciplined, began to waver. At that point, Aisingioro Cungsan ordered his ally and the Liang troops to charge. Though outnumbered, the Liang troops tied down a significant number of the Emperor's soldiers, allowing the Jurchen cavalry to flank around on both sides, slamming into the Imperial lines.

A brutal melee ensued. The Liang troops were steadily cut to pieces, but the Jurchens proved much more tenacious. Slowly but surely, the Imperial army was ground further and further down. The Imperial peasant troops began to break, leaving only the professional soldiers. They held for hours, yet eventually the decision was made – the army would break south, and retreat.


The Battle of Shangqui. It was the most significant defeat for the Ming in the Era of Reunification​

By all accounts, the retreat was orderly. The Jurchens tried to prevent it, but were savagely beaten in return. The Imperial Army left 35,000 dead. The majority of the casualties were peasants, but the Army had lost half of its professional core. The Jurchen-Liang army also paid heavily, Of the 21,000 troops the Liang brought to Shangqiu, only 2,000 left alive. The Jurchen were also badly bloodied, leaving 20,000 of their best riders to fertilise the farmlands of the Yellow River. The Imperial army limped southwards, crossing the Yangtze and encamping outside Nanjing.

The Emperor once more secured loans to facilitate the hiring of mercenaries, and more peasants were drafted. He also received word that the Min Warlord, Wu Minzheng, who had so-far been a staunch Imperial ally, was marching north to aid the Emperor with an army of 10,000. For three months following the Battle of Shangqiu, the Emperor regrouped, preparing to cross back into Liang territory once more.

The Jurchen moved first. Another nomad horde had joined Aisingioro Cunsang, led by his son Aisingioro Tolo. Together, they marched into the Imperial domain, and crossed the Yangtze River at Anqing. At Anqing, the Jurchen came upon a small, newly-raised Imperial force, and swiftly attacked. The force, 5,000 strong, was utterly annihilated, not a single man living to tell the tale. Chieftain Aisingioro refused to allow his men any rest, and moved east, to Nanjing. The speed of the Jurchen was so great, that the Emperor and his Court did not even know the barbarians had crossed the Yangtze. On the 2nd of September, the horde fell upon the recuperating Imperial Army south of Nanjing.

The First Battle of Nanjing was a disaster for the Empire, but not in terms of casualties. The ferocity of the first assault caused the newly-raised and poorly-trained peasant levy to break and flee to the safety of Nanjing. They spread terror and fear where they went, and a sudden spree of looting and arson began in the city. This chaos would prove a great opportunity for the Crown Prince.

The battle was a loss for the Emperor's forces, but he managed to retreat in good order, with the majority of his troops. They travelled south-west, encamping at Huangshan to await the arrival of Min reinforcements. The Jurchen invested Nanjing, rapidly constructing siege engines and ladders, using onagers and mangonels to deny the river to shipping.

Within the walls, the Crown Prince, with the aid of Minister of War Yang, restored the peace using the Palace Guards. All men within Nanjing were conscripted to defend it, and Minister Yang set about using his expertise to train them. When the assault came on the 16th of September, the defenders stood ready for it, and easily repulsed the barbarians. The Jurchen paid a heavily toll for their assault, and did not attempt to storm the walls again.


The Siege of Nanjing in 1462. The city would surely have been taken were it not for the heroic actions of the Crown Prince and War Minister​

With Min reinforcements secured, the Imperial Army marched northwards to relieve Nanjing. On the 3rd of October, amidst a torrential downpour, the Ming-Min army attacked the Jurchens. The battle was a bloody slaughter, a chaotic melee more than an organised engagement. The barbarians fought with bravery and ferocity, but in the end it was the Emperor and his army who emerged victorious. The Jurchen army, which had been reduced to 25,000 men by the time of the battle, took heavy casualties, and fled north, leaving 18,000 corpses behind. The Emperor and his Min allies also paid greatly, losing 13,000 men out of the 24,000 they had before the battle.

Nanjing, however, was saved. The Emperor entered the city in a great procession and then, in a grand ceremony, awarded the Crown Prince and the Minister of War for their service. Crown Prince Youmo was granted the title “Prince of Anhui”, and Minister Yang was given two titles – Defender of the State, and Brave and Loyal Duke – alongside a granting of a large fief in Jiangsu Province.

Ainsingioro Cunsang and Ainsingioro Tolo had both survived the battle, and had retreating north into Liang territory once more. Meanwhile, the Imperial army rested once more outside of Nanjing. They would remain there throughout the autumn and winter. More loans were taken for the hiring of more mercenaries, and peasants were conscripted after the harvest, to be trained until the spring.

After the New Year of 1463, the Imperial Army marched north once again. The Liang had once again raised a force to oppose the Emperor, with the Jurchens continuing to aid them. Throughout the spring, summer, and autumn months of that year, the Imperial army and the Liang-Jurchen forces clashed numerous times, in battles major and minor. The battles of the First Caozhi, Zhoukou, Second Fuyang, and Minquan, were just some of the most significant ones. The Empire won the majority of the battles, but many men were lost, and the Imperial Army was steadily bled down. The Emperor retreated back into his own territory, encamping for the winter at Hefei.

When the spring came, the Imperial Army once again moved into the territory of the Liang. More battles were fought with the Liang-Jurchen forces, yet it was noted that the composition of the enemy became increasingly Liang-dominated. Even Ainsingioro Cunsang was not present. Steadily, the opposition was exterminated, and by June of 1464, the Emperor felt confident enough to lay siege to the Liang's cities.

The Emperor had expected the governors of Fuyang, Shangqui, and Runan to hand over their cities peacefully, as had been agreed, but when they arrived, they found the gates of all three firmly closed. The Emperor, besieging Fuyang, asked the governor for a parley. At it, he enquired as to why he resisted, when it had been agreed that the city would be turned over. The governor replied, to the astonishment of the Emperor, that the defeats at Shangqiu and Nanjing had proven the Emperor had truly lost the Mandate of Heaven. With that, the parley was over, and the siege began in earnest.

Meanwhile, the other warlords were not idle. In July, the Yan invaded the Qi. The Qi, still officially allies with the Emperor, sent an envoy to ask for aid. However, it was not phrased as a humble request for assistance by a superior, but a demand by an equal. The Emperor, outraged at the insolence, informed the envoy that the Qi would stand alone.

Fuyang did not hold out long. In September, the walls were breached, and within no time the city was taken. The Emperor commanded that it was to be sacked, as punishment for the city's support for “barbarians and traitors”. He then moved onto Runan, continuing the siege through a mild winter. In February, 1465, it too fell and, like Fuyang, was mercilessly sacked. Shangqui, which was besieged by the Min, fell in May, though was spared a sacking by the Min's warlord, who did not wish to anger the Emperor by destroying his future land without his permission.

In March, the Emperor moved to Kaifeng, besieging it. The Min joined him in late May and, in November, the city walls were reduced to dust, and the city was seized. The Emperor commanded his troops to show restraint, and he himself marched into the city. He travelled to the Jewish district, and, fulfilling his promise to the Gao family, declared that a new district in Nanjing was open for them to settle in. He promise that their homes would be provided by the Imperial government for free, and they would receive a tax break for a period of five years while they settled in, provided they begin moving that day. If they stayed, he warned, they would likely fall victim to the “predations of a conquering army”. Unsurprisingly, every family within the district began the trek southwards to Nanjing. The Emperor provided an escort of troops to make sure they remained safe, as scores of bandits prowled the war-torn countryside.

With the Kaifeng Jews relocated, the Zhengtong Emperor gave the order. “Let the rebel Ying Chenhao rule over a city of ash and corpses.” Kaifeng, one of the Ancient Capitals of China, and once home to half a million souls, was sacked in a five-day orgy of violence. After the five days, the Emperor returned to Fuyang, where he received word that Ying Chenhao wished to make peace. The Emperor made his demand clear; acceptance of the cities the Emperor currently occupied, minus Kaifeng, which was still a smouldering husk. The Emperor also asked for a hostage, to be released in 10 years, provided the Liang warlord behaved. On the 5th of January, 1466, Ying Chenhao agreed to the terms, surrendering his lands, and his second son, to the Emperor.


Kaifeng during the Qingming Festival. The Sack of Kaifeng remains the most infamous moment of the Zhengtong Emperor's reign​

After installing new governors in the newly reconquered lands, the Emperor returned to the capital. In contrast to the last war with the Liang, the Emperor decreed that there would no celebrations. He retreated to his private residence once more, leaving governance once more to the Chancellor, the Ministers, and, for the first time, the Crown Prince Youmo, now 20 years old.

China was not the only place that suffered chaos and bloodshed. The Ashikaga Shogunate was failing rapidly. The current Shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, was a kindly man, known for his mild manner and forgiving personality. His ambitious, unruly Daimyo openly mocked him, even in his presence, yet he did nothing. Eventually, the most ambitious of his Daimyo, Hosokawa Katsumoto, repudiated his allegiance to the Shogun, declaring that he would serve “only the Heavenly Emperor, true Lord of Japan, and not some up-jumped servant.” The Daimyo, who controlled the entirety of Shikoku and half of Kyushu from his castle in Naniwa, made move to march of Kyoto with an army of 30,000 men. Opposing him was the combined might of Japan, led by the Ouchi Daimyo, Ouchi Namahiro, who commanded 50,000 men. Both forces met on the 4th of March, 1465, outside the town of Takata, in Aki Province.

The Battle of Takata was a bloody affair, and ultimately, a pointless one. The day before, on the 3rd, during his evening meal, the Shogun was reported to have coughed once, then was suddenly dead. He was succeeded by his son, Ashikaga Iemitsu, a young man of 18 years. Takata ended in a stalemate, as both sides retreated in good order, leaving 25,000 dead, most of them the Shogun's men. Hosokawa Katsumoto had been grazed by an arrow, and the wound was rapidly becoming infected. He ordered his men to return to Shikoku while he healed. He never would. The infection claimed his life on the 22nd of May, leaving his 15 year old son to succeed him as Daimyo. His son, just as headstrong and proud as his father was, also refused to acknowledge the Shogun. No military action came of it, but tensions remained high on both sides. The Shogun then offended his principal Daimyo, Ouchi Namahiro, by refusing to marry his daughter. The Daimyo returned to his home in Yamaguchi, still sending taxes to Kyoto, but vowing to never raise a single man to fight for the Shogun.


China in 1466, following the Fanyang Conflict. A power was rising in the western provinces, one that made the Empire increasingly nervous...​
 
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Part Five: An Absentee Emperor

With the war over, and the Emperor a hermit for all intents and purposes, the Crown Prince and the Ministers took stock of the Empire. They called for reports from all the provinces, even the ones in rebellion. While the war raged with the Jurchen and Liang, the self-proclaimed Emperor of Shu, Liu Houxi, had expanded rapidly, even seizing the city of Wuchang on the Empire's western frontier in the latter months of 1465. The Empire's agents reported that the governor of Wuchang was unhappy with the rule of Liu Houxi, and was amicable to defection. With that, the Crown Prince ordered the agents to return to Wuchang, and begin convincing the governor.

Domestically, the ruling council received worrying news. An envoy had been arrested on suspicion of espionage. It was revealed that he was in the employ of the warlord of Wu, and worse, he was carrying written documents explaining the much diminished capabilities of the Imperial Army. After some "investigation", it was revealed that he had obtained the information from the Emperor's brother, Zhu Qiyu. Prince Qiyu, the titular Prince of Zhenjiang, was well-known for being friendly and talkative, well beyond what was acceptable for a Prince of the Imperial Dynasty. The Crown Prince brought the matter to the attention of his father, who pardoned his beloved brother. However, two days later, on the 14th of August, 1466, the Prince of Zhenjiang was found dead in his bed, having went to sleep as normal the previous night. He was given a grand state funeral, and buried in the Imperial mausoleum complex on the outskirts of Nanjing.

The Empire also continued the anti-corruption initiative previously spearheaded by the Emperor. Throughout 1466 and 1467, many officers were found guilty of treason related to corruption, and were quickly executed. The territories seized from Liang were also successfully integrated during this period, and the cities quickly recovered from the sackings inflicted during the war. Finally, by the end of 1467, the last of the loans taken to cover the war were repaid, and the Empire settled in for a period of rest and recuperation.

The absence of the Zhengtong Emperor, however, led to whispers throughout the Empire. Many began to suggest that he was not acting as an Emperor was expected to, and should be replaced by Crown Prince Youmo. Any vocal expressions of this sentiment were quickly silenced by Imperial Officials, but they did damage the image of the Emperor within his domain.

The months passed by without incident, and nothing of note is recorded as happening during 1468 and the first seven months of 1469. However, on the 9th of August, 1469, Chancellor Xie Shisheng died suddenly, of unknown causes. The Emperor ordered that his friend be given an elaborate funeral; he, however, did not attend. It is said that for the rest of the year, the Emperor could often be heard weeping within his chambers, yet refusing any company save for his wife and son. The Crown Prince assumed the Chancellorship, granting him legitimate power within the Imperial bureaucracy.

Normalcy returned to the Empire following Chancellor Xie's death. Dong Youshan, the Minister of Personnel, died of old age in the spring of 1470. He was replaced by his brother, Dong Guan, who unlike Youshan had a long history of Imperial service. The great King of Joseon, Sejong, died in the early days of 1471, to be replaced by his son, Yi Suk, who took the regal name Munjong.

The rest of the world did not remain inactive, however. In June, 1471, the remnant Mongol Empire breached the Great Wall, in the north-west. They overran the entire northern half of the warlord state of Gansu, including the city of Liangzhou. With it, came control over the Haxi Corridor and the northern part of the Silk Road. Despite the increasing irrelevance of the Silk Road, control over the vital pass gave the Mongols increased wealth, and allowed them to become a greater threat to the Middle Kingdom. In response to this, the governing council negotiated an alliance with the warlord of the State of Chu, Mi Wenshi, to the west.

Life continued as normal within the Ming domains. Yang Gang, Minister of War and Defender of the State, died of old age in May 1473. Childless, the Minister's fief in Jiangsu returned to Imperial control. He was replaced by Han Hong, a general beloved by the men who served him. He was known for giving himself no more than his men, and he camped with them, ate with them, drank with them, and mourned with them. It was hoped that he would increase the morale and fighting spirit of the army, which largely worked. The council also sought to regain control over the seas, and ordered the construction of seven colossal vessels, the largest yet seen in China. These gargantuan vessels, more floating fortress than common ship, were exceptionally expensive to build, but it was deemed a worthy use of the Imperial treasury. When completed, it would make the Ming navy the most powerful in all of East Asia.


A rendition of one of the Ming's great warships. The design would be continually improved for centuries, and remains in limited use to this day as a Treasure Ship.​

Outside of the Ming domain, armies were on the move. The Chu invaded the Shu, hoping to crush the latter before it became too powerful. Chu envoys assured the council that no Imperial assistance would be necessary. To the north, Joseon Korea invaded the Jiangzhou Jurchens, now led by Aisingioro Tolo. Aisingioro Cunsang had died in 1467, and his son was proving to be far less capable a ruler. Before he died, Cunsang had seized the remnant of the Liaodong Peninsula from the Qi, cutting Korea off from the rest of China by land. King Munjong sought to change that. In the war, the Korean army proved to be far superior to the Jurchens, and trounced them on ever occasion. After a short two years, peace was negotiated in 1475, giving Korea control over Hetu'ala, one of the Jurchen's chief cities, and restoring Liaodong, minus Shenyang, to the Qi.

Just as peace between the Jurchen and the Koreans was achieved, the Imperial council received an emissary from the Chu. The Shu had entered into an alliance with the Mongols, and had invited them southwards. The Crown Prince immediately ordered the Jade Army over the Ming-Shu border, and Wuchang was besieged. The Siege of Wuchang lasted between March and November, and was ended not by force of arms, but by the betrayal of the Chu. Without consulting the Imperial Government, the Chu had negotiated a peace with the Shu, signing it in the closing days of November 1475. In the peace, the Chu gained control of Yuanling, Yichuan, and, most offensively, Wuchang – a city the Chu had promised the Emperor. The snub offended the Imperial government great. Half the Ministers favoured war with the Chu, half favoured peace. The tie was broken by the Crown Prince, who publically decreed that the Chu were forgiven for their transgressions. The decree harmed relations between the two, yet the alliance held.

Instead, the council turned its attention southwards. The Wu were ruled by a new warlord, Qian Jianti, who had declared himself Emperor of Wu in Hangzhou in 1474. He had annexed the neighbouring State of Ning in the early months of 1476, to the great distress of the neighbouring warlords, and the great anger of the Imperial Court. The Jade and Golden Armies were moved to the border of the Wu State, more troops were raised, and a levy of peasants from the villages south of Yangtze was instituted. Envoys were also sent north, to the much-diminished warlord state of Tang, centred in Nanyang.

Tang was unusual for the warlord states in the Era of Reunification, as it was ruled by a woman. The woman, formerly a lowly peasant girl, had attracted a massive following in western Henan Province, and had seized the city of Henan in 1442, only 18 years old. She was crowned Queen of Tang, and adopted the name of Wu Zetian, who had been China's only sovereign Empress. Despite early success, the Tang were slowly stripped of land by neighbouring warlords, all of whom were alarmed that the success of the lowliest of peasants, and a woman at that, could triggered waved of unrest within their own territories. By the beginning of 1479, the Tang were reduced to the city and environs of Nanyang, and so accepted the Imperial envoys willingly. A bargain was struck; Wu Zetian would pledge eternal fealty to the Emperor, and cease calling herself the Queen of Tang. In return, Nanyang would be given unprecedented authority for a period of no less than ten years, and the former Queen's family would be provided for by the Imperial Government for evermore.


A later image of Wu Zetian, "Queen of Tang". All images of her look strikingly similar to the ancient Empress​

With the submission of Nanyang secured, the Crown Prince ordered the invasion of Wu, in July 1479. The Yue, to the south, supported the Wu, while the warlords of Chu and Min aided the Emperor's forces. The Koreans also affirmed their support, and dispatched a small expeditionary force to help. One Wu army was immediately crushed at Hangzhou, but another had invaded Huangshan. The Golden Army moved to expel them, but poor leadership (the Crown Prince was leading the force in Hangzhou) led to a shocking defeat, as the general in charge led his forces over a boggy swamp and was cut to pieces. In August, the Korean expedition finally routed the Wu forced in Hangshuan, doing so with much smaller numbers, further proving the capability of the Korean Kingdom.

More skirmishes and battles followed, with the sheer weight of numbers on the Emperor's side proving unbeatable. The Imperial domain itself had 23,000 professional soldiers, accompanied by a levy of 50,000 peasants. The Chu had 10,000 professional soldiers and 30,000 peasants, while the Min also had 10,000 professionals and 26,000 peasants, and the Korean expedition was composed of 8,000 of the Joseon's most elite troops. In contrast, the Wu struggled to field 12,000 professionals, and had to suffice with a massed, hurried levy of 35,000 peasants. Their allies, the Yue, had 15,000 elite soldiers under their command, with another 20,000 peasants levied as support. Outnumbered almost two to one, the war was a foregone loss for the Wu and Yue.

Fortress after fortress fell with little resistance. The last hope of the Wu-Yue alliance was dashed in April 1481, outside Anqing, as they mustered 40,000 soldiers against a Ming-Min-Korean force of 120,000. The Wu-Yue troops were utterly annihilated, with the Koreans in particular inflicting significant casualties.

While the war was ongoing, the Emperor made his last appearance in the Royal Court. He decreed that a current Imperial Palace was unworthy of the Ming, and should be replaced by one even grander. His proposal, dubbed the Zhijing Cheng, or Forbidden City, was designed to awe the rest of the world at the might and splendour of the Imperial dynasty. Loans were secured and architects were hired. Construction began in August 1481, and would not be completed in his lifetime.


A painting of the Forbidden City of Nanjing. When completed, it would be the largest Palace in the world​

Also at court, the Minister of Revenue, Chen Xiang, had retired in February 1482, due to ill health. His replacement was an unorthodox choice – a charismatic itinerant preacher known as Luo Xunquan. Luo was a Nestorian, a branch of Christianity that had been declared heretical a thousand years before. However, the Nestorian Church had flourished in the east, especially within the Middle Kingdom, until the Hongwu Emperor had ejected Christians from his Empire. The collapse of the first Empire had led to a resurgence in Nestorianism, and during Luo's time as Minister Nestorianism would become further entrenched, with permission granted for a Nestorian metropolitan see to be established in Nanjing in 1485.

Then, in the March of 1482, the Imperial Court received troubling news. In Japan, the Shogun had finally exterminated the Hosokawa, and had brought the rest of his squabbling Daimyo to heel. The Shogun then sent an envoy to Nanjing, declaring himself as equal to the Emperor, and elevating his Emperor higher than any other man. The message was clear – the Shogun considered Japan to be the centre of civilisation, not the Middle Kingdom. The message provoked both laughter and outrage. Japan had always been backwards, a land barely above barbarism, populated by a people who shamelessly stole the culture of the Tang Dynasty and claimed it for their own. When the Crown Prince, still campaigning in Wu, heard of this, he vowed that the one day, the Shogun would be humbled before the true Heavenly Sovereign.

The war continued at a steady pace, with the citadels of the Wu dwindling by the day. In June 1483, the Yue negotiated an exit, ceding control of Hainan Island to the Min in exchange for peace. The war continued for another six months, before the Wu finally agreed to peace. In return for their continued “independence”, the Wu would cede the regions of Nanchang, Poyang, Jinhua, and Shaoxin to Ming control. The Wu would be left with a divided territory, the main area under their control being seperated from the capital in Hangzhou by Ming territory. In the power vacuum that existed in Ji'an and Ganzhou, a new State of Ning was declared, led by former Wu soldier, Shan Yijun. Immediately, Shan Yijun pledged fealty to the Emperor on the same terms as Wu Zetian and her Tang state. This also conveniently snubbed the Chu, who had designs on Ji'an and Ganzhou themselves. The Imperial Army withdrew, beginning to consolidate control over the new provinces. However, on the 5th of March, 1484, tragedy struck.

It is said that the morning was just like any other. The Empress woke early, as she was wont to do, and spoke with her husband. She took a stroll through the Royal Gardens for a few hours, then returned to her chambers. She thought her husband had fallen asleep again and, thinking it was time he should be up, tried to wake him. She was still trying at noon, loudly weeping, when the servants found her. The Zhengtong Emperor was dead, in the 49th year of his reign, at the age of 57.

Crown Prince Youmo was immediately proclaimed Emperor of the Middle Kingdom. The new governor of Nanyang, a man named Du Bangzhou, proclaimed himself Emperor in opposition, an insane gesture that was quashed almost instantly. “Emperor” Du's army was composed of 7,000 easily duped peasants he had bribed into following him. The Jade Army was encamped nearby, still backed by a peasant levy, with 50,000 men. The rebellion lasted less than 3 days, with Du's head decorating the walls of Nanyang by the 9th of March.

On the 10th of March, in a colossally extravagant ceremony, Zhu Youmo was officially crowned Emperor. He took the name of "Obedient to Heaven" for his era. The reign of the Tianshun Emperor had begun.


East Asia in the 1st year of the Tianshun Emperor's reign. The Ming domain was the strongest in the Middle Kingdom, yet danger still lurked close - especially from so-called allies​
 
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I took effort to get my login details to this forum back just to thank you and hope you're going to keep updating it, I absolutely love this extensive report about the extremely interesting chinese. You got my attention!! :)
 

RepublicanIV

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Well that was interesting.

TBH at this rate it will take a few emperors more to take over all of China in the name of the Ming.

Will Bo be renamed Ming after reunification?

Also, when will non Chinese or Mongol nations play a role in the story?

Great stuff though.
 

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Interesting even though I didn't read the whole thing. At least I'm subbed :p
 

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I took effort to get my login details to this forum back just to thank you and hope you're going to keep updating it, I absolutely love this extensive report about the extremely interesting chinese. You got my attention!! :)
I appreciate that you went to all that effort just to comment! :D
I'll definitely be continuing. Going to have a tiny out-of-character update summing up the reign of the Zhengtong Emperor, and the world at large, with plenty of maps, then I'll start working on the first few years of the Tiangshun Emperor's reign!

Well that was interesting.

TBH at this rate it will take a few emperors more to take over all of China in the name of the Ming.

Will Bo be renamed Ming after reunification?

Also, when will non Chinese or Mongol nations play a role in the story?

Great stuff though.
Aye, it'll take a while. The speed of conquest increases as I get stronger, and I have missions that give me claims (the AI had those too), as well as a modifier in effect while China is divided that reduces coring cost. But China is still stupidly wealthy and expensive to take and core, so it's not quick.

The mod lets me form the Ming again when I reach admin level 10. It's a little while off, but now that I don't have a rubbish Emperor (the last one was 1/1/1) I should get monarch points quicker.

And as for non-Chinese and Mongols... we'll just need to see. :p Korea is frequently involved, and Japan just rivalled me (that bit about the Shogun proclaiming himself the Emperor's equal). Dali is sort of half-Chinese half-Indochinese, and Dai Viet is starting to get increasingly expansionist. And it won't be too long before European ships start appearing off my coast.

Interesting even though I didn't read the whole thing. At least I'm subbed :p
Thanks! Glad to have you along for the ride. :D
 
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Just read again my comment and I think it's a bit unclear so I wanted to say that I would need time to read the whole thing :D (don't mind that comment anyway since you did not take it bad :p )

What are your endgoals BTW ? Unification of China is obvious but apart from that ? Reestablish the Chinese tributaries system in a stronger way ? Pursue the Tang adventures in Tarim Bassin ?
 

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Just read again my comment and I think it's a bit unclear so I wanted to say that I would need time to read the whole thing :D (don't mind that comment anyway since you did not take it bad :p )

What are your endgoals BTW ? Unification of China is obvious but apart from that ? Reestablish the Chinese tributaries system in a stronger way ? Pursue the Tang adventures in Tarim Bassin ?
It's no problem. Just knowing someone intends to read it eventually makes me happy enough. :D

Endgame wise... I'm hoping to colonise Taiwan and the Phillipines, and secure my place as the dominant power in Asia at the very least. So that means keeping the Europeans out of my backyard. I want to expand into Manchuria, and colonise/conquer the Siberian coast. Can't have Europeans take territory anywhere near me. After that... sky's the limit! I think the mod lets me discard the faction system if I reach a certain tech level, even without westernisation.

Also, on reflection, the world hasn't really changed enough in 40 years to make an update worthwhile. Also, I think it'll detract a bit from the magic if I show parts of the world that the court doesn't have intel on. :p I'll start working on the proper update, and instead, I'll have a tiny little summary and some stats here:
Technology wise, we're sitting at 3Admin, 4Diplo, and 4Military. Because the Zhengtong Emperor had a 1 in all his stats, we're relatively behind. Thankfully, the other warlords are equally terrible, and most have similar tech levels to me.
We've went from 5 provinces, to 18. Our land forcelimits have increased from 13, to 25, and naval now sits at 18.
We're in a decent place financially, though we're currently running on a deficit, due to loss replenishment from the last war. Because of the Palace building, a loan had to be taken. Hopefully it'll be paid off shortly.
We have the Tang and Ning as our vassals. Korea, Min, and Chu are our allies. Rival wise, I have Liang, Wu, and Japan marked as rivals, and they all have me as rivals too.
And for the top bar stats: At the ascension of the Tianshun Emperor, we currently have 50 ducats (-2.38 per month due to replenishment), 8,383 manpower out of 19,310, +1 stability, +72 Prestige, 80 Legitimacy, and +25 Power Projection.
Most of my expansion has been taking advantage of the other warlords being in wars. Not the bravest of moves, but it's been effective. :D
So overall, there are problems, but we're in a reasonably good state. It helps that most of my enemies are in a worse state than I am. Except Japan. They're currently annexing Hokkaido, and have the rest of their vassals on a tight leash.
 

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Part Six: Obedient to Heaven

The Tianshun Emperor had effectively been the true power in the Middle Kingdom for 18 years. Now, however, he could command with his own authority, rather than that of his father. Many in his court, especially the Militant faction, called for an immediate repudiation of the alliance with the Chu, and an invasion to reclaim Wuchang. The Emperor ignored them, calling for peace instead; the army was depleted, he reasoned, and required some time to replenish itself and rearm. Shortly after this, a seditious rumour spread around the court, decrying the Emperor as a bastard, a product of the infidelity of Dowager Empress Jeonghyeon. Naturally, this greatly hurt the Dowager Empress, who dearly loved her beloved husband, and the unchecked spread of the rumour hurt the prestige of the Emperor. In the end, the rumour was found to have originated from the mouth of a particularly aggressive officer, one who wanted constant, unceasing war. He was quickly sentenced to death, with Lingchi the method chosen, as a message to any who would slander his Radiant Highness.


The Tianshun Emperor. He would be remembered as one of China's greatest Emperors, both for his exploits and his reforms​

Meanwhile, to the north, the warlord state of Yan was once again engaged in a ferocious war with the former Imperial ally of Qi. Ultimately, the Yan proved triumphant, and annexed the entirety of the Qi in May of 1484. The Emperor would have liked to invade the overly-ambitious warlord at that very moment, but the Yan were allied with Joseon Korea, a staunch Imperial ally, in an effort to ward off the Jurchen. The Emperor did not want to force the Korean King to choose between two allies, and so settled with a warning. He sent an envoy to the Yan capital, warning the warlord that any further expansion would be contested with Imperial arms.

The early years of the Tianshun Emperor were quiet, peaceful, and prosperous for the Empire. In June 1485, the Emperor ordered a massive construction project within Souzhou, with the brand new Grand Market being the centrepiece. When completed, all manner of goods flowed into the marketplace, with traders from all over Asia coming to try and purchase the bountiful yields of the Middle Kingdom. It would transform Souzhou into one of China's wealthiest cities, to the benefit of the entire realm. To protect the new trade wealth of the Emperor's domain, a massive programme was begun to train naval officers capable to crewing and commanding the Emperor's new ships. The first of these officers would be deemed fit in late 1486. The Mercantile faction also used the Emperor's new-found interest in trade to try to address the strict border policy of the Empire. The Emperor, like his father before him, once again refused to change the policy, reminding them that the words of his father were just as true now as they were 15 years ago.

The early rumblings of war began in late 1487. In September, the Emperor publicly proclaimed the repudiation of the Chu alliance. Plans were drafted for an invasion of the Chu domain, but exactly a year later, in September 1488, the Liang invaded the Yan, ostensibly to halt their expansion. The Emperor commanded that his army be moved to the Liang-Yan border, and made preparations for war. The last of the loans were repaid, and, after the negotiated 10 year period, the process to reintegrate the former Tang state into the Imperial government was begun. Then, in January 1489, the Emperor gave the order. The Imperial armies were on the move – into Liang territory. The Golden Army was led by a reasonably competent man, Qin Xingui. The Jade Army was led by the Emperor's brother, Crown Prince Zhu Youcheng. Kaifeng was immediately placed under siege by the Jade Army, and the Golden Army moved to besiege Luoyang. The Imperial army was the largest it had been since the rise of the warlords; 30,000 professional soldiers, supported by 80,000 levied peasants.

Once again, the Jiangzhou Jurchen announced their support of Liang, even under a new warlord. The new Liang Warlord, Ying Dong, had a reputation for being somewhat weak-willed, and he was widely seen as a puppet – especially since his court seemed filled with Jurchen nobility, remnants of his mother's people who travelled with her from the north. Yet for a while, nothing came of it. The Liang were busy in Yan territory, and the sieges of Kaifeng and Luoyang proceeding without trouble. In May 1489, Han Hong, Minister of War, died peacefully in his sleep. The entirety of the Imperial Army mourned for him, as it had lost one of its own. He was replaced by another general – Su Shangbing, a man renowned for his masterful recruitment campaigns. Many young Han men were swayed by his words, and the Imperial Army would swell in recruits under his Ministry.

In August 1489, a combined Liang-Jurchen army, numbering some 60,000, attempted to relieve the siege of Kaifeng. Word was sent to Luoyang, and the Golden Army lifted the siege of that city, marching quickly to aid the Crown Prince. The Battle of Kaifeng would signal the last hurrah of the Liang, and their complete and total loss at the hands of the Crown Prince consigned them to their fate. The war, however, would not be over so quickly. Liang cities proved stubborn, and every siege of the war would be a long, drawn-out affair.

While 1490 was quiet in the Liang territories, domestically, it was anything but. The implementation of Imperial law and governance in the city of Nanyang continued at pace, and by the summer of 1490, the city was indistinguishable to any other city under the Emperor's authority. The former Queen of Tang, Wu Zetian, would remain as governor of Nanyang until her death in 1498, at age 74. Her son, Wu Jian, would succeed her as governor, and the Wu family would remains popular and well-loved in Nanyang to this day. At court, an argument would highlight the relationship between the Emperor and his servants. The Emperor proposed a new tax upon “foreign” houses of worship – mainly mosques, synagogues, and churches. Minister Luo, in charge of Revenue, publicly and loudly disagreed with this. He argued that increased taxes would force the religions underground, or out of China entirely. He instead lobbied for reduced taxes on houses on worship, reasoning that if the Emperor did so, he would be seen as a great ally of those faiths, and would be able to count on their absolute support and loyalty. To question the Emperor was taboo, but to do it so loudly and publicly was seen as seditious. Many in the court expected the Minister to be put to death, but the Emperor was wiser than that. He recognised that he was not infallible, and wisely listened to the advice of his minister. Despite the damage it did to the Emperor's personal prestige, the Ministers proposal went into effect. In time, it would prove highly successful, and the Muslims, Jews and Christians of the Empire would prove to be the Emperor's most loyal subjects, often contributing financially to the realm's coffers.

Perhaps most importantly, in November 1490, the Emperor announced the formation of a new Imperial bureau. Named the “Bureau of Barbarian Relations”, the mission of the new organisation was to establish Imperial supremacy in all lands that did not recognise it. The first order of the new bureau was to send an expedition to a small island to the south, within the Southern Sea. This island, known historically as Yizhou, was teeming with hostile Nanman tribes, and never before had any Chinese dynasty attempted to conquer it. The expedition landed on the northern side of the island, and established a small settlement. Upon contact with the north tribes, the first word they heard was “Tayouan”, apparently meaning “foreigner” in their savage tongue. In a short period of time, that first word was adopted and adapted by the settlers, and from there came the present name of the island; Taiwan.


An painting by an early settler depicting the native tribesmen of Taiwan, known as Nanman, "Southern Barbarians"​

The war with Liang continued, quiet as ever. With Kaifeng and Luoyang fell in early 1491, with Ying Dong taking refuge in Daming, to the north. The Imperial armies ignored the warlord for now, and moved west, into the territory of the Gansu warlord, who had pledged his support to the Liang. However, in 1491, general Qin Xingui died suddenly. His replacement was Zu Zhaiju, a highly capable general known for his personal bravado and masterful command of the charge.

The first expedition to Taiwan ended in failure in the summer of 1491, as the various Nanman tribes of the north banded together and launched an attack on the settlement. The settlement was utterly wiped out, with one man kept alive and sent back to Nanjing. The intent of the Barbarians seems to have been to scare the Emperor and prevent him from making any more attempts at settlement and conquest, but it did the opposite; immediately, another expedition was sent, much larger this time, and with a detachment of professional soldiers from the Liang campaign. By October, the tribes had either been exterminated or tamed, and the new settlement, known as Taibei-shi, was rapidly growing.

In the early part of 1492, a massive fort-building program was begun in Nanjing. The city, an island of stability in a sea of chaos and war, had been a beacon for refugees and migrants from all over China. The population of the capital in 1444 had been around 490,000. Now, less than 50 years later, it had ballooned to 975,000, according to official records. The new walls were designed to protect the new sections of the city, with room for further growth also planned in to the construction. The Crown Prince also returned to the capital at this time, complaining of frequent headaches and nosebleeds. His condition would worsen for several months, eventually going completely blind. Then, on the 16th of July, 1492, the Emperor's brother passed into Heaven. Publicly, the Emperor was a rock; stoic and strong. In private, he was greatly saddened, though he refused to allow himself to slide into the same melancholy that had gripped his father. It did, however, present a problem for the Emperor. Prince Youcheng was the only other brother of the Emperor, due to the Zhengtong Emperor only taking one wife. The Tianshun Emperor had taken three, yet this was still unusual for an Emperor, as he was expected to take enough concubines to secure the succession. The Emperor's three wives were plagued with fertility issues, yet he refused to discard any of them, or take another; two were childhood friends of his, daughters of important ministers who had grown up in the court, and the last was the daughter of Wu Zetian. He had four living sons, the eldest of which was only 2 years old, and all were weak and sickly, and not expected to survive childhood. The Emperor was already 48 years old, and it seemed likely that a succession crisis was on the horizon. The court anxiously hoped for the birth of a strong heir, with Minister Luo in particular gathering the Christians, Jews and Muslims of Nanjing together, to pray for God's blessing.

In late 1492, the stagnation of the Liang campaign finally broke. September saw the Gansu forced out of the war, with their warlord forced to recognise the superiority of the Emperor's army before his own court, but nothing else. In February 1493, a large-scale reorganisation of the Imperial Army was begun, with new training and equipment the main efforts. In short order, the results would be shown; Daming fell in July of that year, and the Liang warlord was subjugated once and for all. Like the Tang and Ning, he would be allowed 10 years of limited autonomy. His daughter was taken as a hostage, to ensure his good behaviour, and a loyal general was placed in command of his army.
With peace returning to the Ming domain, the following years passed by relatively uneventfully. In March 1494, Taibei-shi officially reached a population of 10,000. They sent a request for more funding and people to expand to other settlements, and the Emperor heartily agreed, sending a large fleet, filled with people, weapons, food, and trade goods to the island. Conflict with the Nanman natives resumed shortly afterwards, but the sheer weight of people and soldiers now present on Taiwan would overpower any barbarian attempt to eject the Han presence.

The Emperor also began a dramatic reform of the Imperial Examination system, introducing numerous new sections of the exam that were devoted to more technical knowledge; mathematics, financial knowledge, chemistry and architecture. In the short term, it reduced the number of bureaucrats who passed the examination, but in the long term, it ensured China would have a surplus of well-trained and knowledgeable officials. In later years, the system would be further reformed, with the previous highest degree, the Jinshi, replaced by numerous specialised ranks devoted to a respective field of study. The Emperor also ordered the construction of more Imperial Academy's throughout the territory he controlled, helping to increase the amount of candidates going through the examination system.

The year 1500 marked a significant milestone for the religions of Abraham within the Middle Kingdom. For centuries, the practitioners of those religions had lived within China, and for centuries their ideas had spread. In many cases, the practitioners of those religions were indistinguishable from any Taoist or Buddhist Han, differing only in their faith. So, on the 27th of February, 1500, the Tianshun Emperor officially proclaimed what would be called the Edict of Tolerance. All faiths were to be regarded as “Chinese”, and the ever-present threat of expulsion (as what the Hongwu Emperor decreed with regards to Christians) was silenced for good.


An image of Guanyin, who increasingly began to be equated to the Virgin Mary amongst Chinese Christians, just one of many trends that marked the increasingly Sinicisation of Abrahamic faiths​

Reform continued in other matters. The reorganisation of the military continued, with a particular emphasis on cavalry reform. The performance of the Jurchen horse archers had proven the superiority of such a unit, just as the Mongols had two centuries before. With regards to infantry, gunpowder weapons began to become ever-more prominent, with the ranged component of the Imperial Army being up to 40% musketeer by 1500.
These reforms were immediately put into good use. As winter turned to spring in 1502, the Emperor ordered the invasion of the Wu. The Golden Army put the much-smaller Wu army to the sword outside of Ningbo, and laid siege to the city. The Jade Army moved south, placing Wenzhou under siege, while the Imperial Navy, with the new battleships, blockaded Hangzhou Bay. Meanwhile, the Emperor received word that the Yue intended to support their long-held alliance with the Wu. The Ning and Min would keep the Yue armies contained to the south, allowing the sieges to continue uninterrupted.

The settlement of Taiwan was proceeding rapidly. There was a government-funded campaign to encourage increased settlement between 1500 and 1504. By the end of 1504, there were at least 60,000 settlers on the northern third of the island, many of those settlers fleeing Hefei, which suffered an outbreak of the Plague in 1502. With so many people now living there, the Emperor decreed that the island of Taiwan would now constitute a new Imperial Province, also named Taiwan, with the city of Taibei-shi becoming both the capital of the province, and the seat of the smaller Taibei Prefecture, composed of the northern third of the island. With the province established, focus for settlement moved onto the middle third of the island, with government support increasing.

1503 was a year of great scandal abroad. The Shogun of Japan, Ashikaga Iemitsu, had died in 1498, and was succeeded by his brother, Ashikaga Yoshinori, the second Shogun to bare that name. Yoshinori was a vain man, full of pride. The Emperors of Japan had begun to chafe under the Shogun's control, and the increasingly hostile relationship with China was a particular sore spot. A new Emperor, Go-Kashiwabara, had been crowned in 1500, and almost immediately the Emperor and the Shogun were at each others' throats. This continued for 3 years when, suddenly, on the 2nd of December, 1503, the Shogun and his armies stormed the Imperial Palace in Kyoto, then proceeded to butcher the Emperor and his entire family. Amidst the bodies of the slaughtered Imperial family, the Shogun had himself crowned Yoshinori-tenno, first of a new line of Emperors. With one evil act, the House of Yamato, a line that had existed unbroken for two millennia, was wiped out. Immediately, the strongest Daimyo rose in revolt, and Japan was once more plunged into civil war.


"Emperor" Yoshinori. A wicked, evil man, his vile actions would leave a lasting legacy on Chinese relations with Japan​

Back in China, the campaign against Wu remained quiet. Yue had largely ceased contesting the Emperor's allies, and the entirety of the Wu state had been occupied by the end of 1504. Also by the end of that year, the former Ning state had become another part of the Ming domain, with the former warlord's personal army absorbed into the Imperial one. In early 1505, the last battle of the war would be fought – at sea. The Battle of Taiwan, as it would become known, was the first large test of the new Imperial battleships. Outnumbered by a swarm of Yue and Wu ships, the gargantuan ships made their power felt. Armed with primitive cannons and Hwacha, an early rocket-launching platform designed by the Korean Kingdom, the Ming fleet smashed the combined Wu-Yue one into driftwood.

With his realm in tatters, and his fleet evaporated, the warlord of Yue, Supphan Gui, travelled northwards to Nanjing. There, prostrated himself before the Emperor, and offered terms for peace. He would provide a significant portion of his yearly income to the Emperor, and offer his son and heir as a hostage. He also offered the Emperor two gifts, to show his offer was well-meant; a large sum of gold, and Qian Gungming, the warlord of Wu, who had fled to the court of his ally. The Emperor allowed warlord Supphan to leave, and decreed that the Yue and the Empire were at peace. Qian Gungming would not be so fortunate. He was quickly sentenced to death, by Lingchi as per usual, and the Emperor officially proclaimed the annexation of all Wu lands. While merely acknowledging the situation at hand, it did have the effect of producing utter terror for the other warlords; the Wu were gone, and the Liang were servants of the Emperor. The two most potent enemies of the Ming were gone, and the road to reunification was entirely open now.


The Middle Kingdom in 1505. The Empire stood strong, but many of the warlords were also increasing in strength​
 
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RepublicanIV

Captain
Oct 3, 2013
416
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I feel that this is too easy for you. Bo/Ming should've had a lot more difficulties. Nonetheless you are doing a great job and this AAR is one of my favourites.

Three requests:

Take over Japan

Keep Korea safe, around, decently sized and your ally (they deserve it)

Retake all Ming territory held by the Oirats.

Also, do you have cores on your old territory or not?

If you had played as another warlord would you have been able to form Ming or not? Is Bo the only one with the faction system?
 

Konnigratz

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I feel that this is too easy for you. Bo/Ming should've had a lot more difficulties. Nonetheless you are doing a great job and this AAR is one of my favourites.

Three requests:

Take over Japan

Keep Korea safe, around, decently sized and your ally (they deserve it)

Retake all Ming territory held by the Oirats.

Also, do you have cores on your old territory or not?

If you had played as another warlord would you have been able to form Ming or not? Is Bo the only one with the faction system?
It has been relatively easy so far, minus a couple of scares with the Jurchens early on. Though I have been -very- careful with my wars. I could've easily been stomped a few times, but I've been waiting until other wars happen, and my enemy's allies get unwilling to assist. I've been a coward, basically!
Japan is definitely on my list. I'm hopeful Korea will never betray me, but currently they're also in a strong alliance with the Yan. If they -do- end up betraying me, I think I might conquer them and release them as a permanent vassal. And the Oirats... the Mongols definitely aren't being allowed independence when I'm strong enough to deal with them.
I don't have any more cores on land I don't hold. I'll get claims on a few provinces when I form Ming, but that's still a good few tech levels off.
The mod adds 5 formable dynasty tags, depending on where your capital is. With my capital in the south-east, I can form Ming. Wu and Liang could, too, I believe. The other warlords could form any of the 4 other states. They all also have a government form unique to those small, dissolved Chinese states, one that allows a faction system. So I'm not the only one dealing with it. That might have something to do with my victories so-far. I've been sitting with the Militant faction in control for the entire run so far. The AI might not be so wise. :p

Thanks for continuing to follow! It means a lot. ^^
 

RepublicanIV

Captain
Oct 3, 2013
416
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So what are your plans for Japan? Will the Shogun revolt be quashed?