Ten Great Campaigns

From Academic Kids

The Ten Great Campaigns were a series of wars fought during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor, much celebrated in the official Qing Dynasty annals. They included three to enlarge the area of Qing control in Central Asia: two against the Dzungars (1755-1757) and the pacification of Chinese Turkestan (1758-1759). The other seven campaigns were more in the nature of police actions on frontiers already established - two wars to suppress the Jinchuan rebels in Sichuan, another to suppress rebels in Taiwan (1787-1788), and four expeditions abroad to chastise the Burmese (1766-1788), the Vietnamese (1788-1789), and the warlike Gurkhas in Nepal on the border between Tibet and India (1790-1772), the last counting as two.


The Dzungars and pacification of Xinjiang

Of the ten campaigns, the final destruction of the Dzungars was the most significant. It secured the northern and western boundaries of Xinjiang and eliminated rivalry for control over the Dalai Lama in Tibet, and thereby the elimination of rival influence in Mongolia. It also led to the pacification of the Islamicised, Turkic-speaking southern half of Xinjiang immediately thereafter.

Suppression of the Jinchuan hill peoples

The suppression of the Jinchuan hill people was the costliest and most difficult, and also the most destructive. The Jinchuan (literally "Golden Stream") was northwest of Chengdu in western Sichuan. The tribal peoples there were related to the Tibetans of the Amdo. The first campaign in 1747-1849 was a simple affair; with little use of force the Manchu general induced the native chieftains to accept a peace plan, and departed.

Interethnic conflict brought the Manchus back after twenty years. The reresulting Qing expeditionary force as forced to fight a protracted war of attrition costing the Qing treasury several times the amounts expended on the earlier conquests of the Dzungars and Turkestan. The resisting tribes retreated to their stone towers and forts in steep mountains and could only be dislodged by European cannon. The Manchu generals were ruthless in annihilating the rebellious tribes, then reorganised the region in a military prefecture and repopulated it with more cooperative inhabitants.

The Gurkha campaigns

The Gurkha wars display the Qing court's continuing sensitivity to conditions in Tibet. The late 1760s saw the creation of a strong state in Nepal and the involvement in the region of a new foreign power, Britain, through their British East India Company. When the rash Gurkha rulers of Nepal decided to invade southern Tibet in 1788, they probably thought they would have British backing.

The two Manchu resident agents in Lhasa (Ambans) made no attempt at defense or resistance. Instead they took the child Panchen Lama to safety when the Nepalese troops came through and plundered the rich monastery at Shigatse on their way to Lhasa. Upon hearing of the first Nepalese incursions, the Qianlong Emperor commanded troops from Sichuan to proceed to Lhasa and restore order. By the time they reached southern Tibet, the Gurkhas had already withdrawn. This counted as the first of two wars with the Gurkhas.

In 1791 the Gurkhas returned in force. Qianlong urgently dispatched an army of 10,000. It was made up of around 6,000 Manchu and Mongol forces supplemented by tribal soldiers under the able general Fukang'an, with Hailancha as his deputy. They entered Tibet from Xining (Qinghai) in the north, shortening the march but making it in the dead of winter 1791-1792, crossing high mountain passes in deep snow and cold. They reached central Tibet in the summer of 1792 and within two or three months could report that they had won a decisive series of encounters that pushed the Gurkha armies across the crest of the Himalaya and back into the valley of Kathmandu. Fukang'an fought on into 1793, when he forced the battered Gurkhas to accept surrender on Manchu terms.

The victory of 1793, however, did not prevent repeated Nepalese incursions thereafter.

The Campaign in Vietnam

For most of her history, the Vietnamese rulers recognized the Chinese Emperor as their feudal lord, while ruling independently in their own land. This had been the case throughout the reign of the Latter Le Dynasty. This changed however when the brothers of Tay Son, leading a national uprising, defeated the feuding Trinh and Nguyen lords and overthrew the last Le ruler, Emperor Chieu Thong.

Emperor Chieu Thong fled to China and appealed to Emperor Qianlong for help. In 1788 a large Qing army was sent south to restore Le Chieu Thong to the throne. They succeeded in taking Thang Long (Hanoi) and putting Emperor Chieu Thong back in his place, but even many of his supporters were angered by their subservient position. Chieu Thong was treated as a vassal king by Qianlong and all edicts had to be authorized by the Qing before becoming official. In any event, the situation did not last long as the Tay Son leader, Nguyen Hue, launched a surprise attack against the Qing forces during the TÍt festival of 1789. The Chinese were unprepared but fought for five days before being defeated. Chieu Thong fled back to China as Nguyen Hue was proclaimed Emperor Quang Trung. The Chinese forces were allowed to return home honorably and the new Vietnamese ruler agreed to also recognize Emperor Qianlong as his nominal superior.

The Campaigns in perspective

In his later years, Qianlong referred to himself with the grandiose style name of "Old Man of the Ten Completed [Great Campaigns]" (十全老人). He also wrote an essay enumerating the victories in 1792 entitled "Record of Ten Completions" (十全记).


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